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Title: Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall
Author: Major, Charles, 1856-1913
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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[Illustration]



Mary Pickford Edition

Dorothy Vernon of
Haddon Hall

BY

CHARLES MAJOR

AUTHOR OF
WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER,
YOLANDA, ETC.


ILLUSTRATED WITH
SCENES FROM THE PHOTOPLAY

GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS NEW YORK

Made in the United States of America

Set up and electrotyped. Published April, 1908


Printed in U.S.A.



To My Wife



CONTENTS

                                                     Page

A TOUCH OF BLACK MAGIC                                  1

CHAPTER
   I. I RIDE SOWN TO HADDON                             3
  II. THE IRON, THE SEED, THE CLOUD, AND THE RAIN      19
 III. THE PITCHER GOES TO THE WELL                     35
  IV. THE GOLDEN HEART                                 62
   V. MINE ENEMY'S ROOF-TREE                           91
  VI. A DANGEROUS TRIP TO DERBY-TOWN                  108
 VII. TRIBULATION IN HADDON                           130
VIII. MALCOLM NO. 2                                   163
  IX. A TRYST AT BOWLING GREEN GATE                   181
   X. THOMAS THE MAN-SERVANT                          211
  XI. THE COST MARK OF JOY                            239
 XII. THE LEICESTER POSSIBILITY                       260
XIII. PROUD DAYS FOR THE OLD HALL                     281
 XIV. MARY STUART                                     302
  XV. LIGHT                                           333
 XVI. LEICESTER WAITS AT THE STILE                    360



A TOUCH OF BLACK MAGIC


I draw the wizard's circle upon the sands, and blue flames spring from its
circumference. I describe an inner circle, and green flames come
responsive to my words of magic. I touch the common centre of both with my
wand, and red flames, like adders' tongues, leap from the earth. Over
these flames I place my caldron filled with the blood of a new-killed doe,
and as it boils I speak my incantations and make my mystic signs and
passes, watching the blood-red mist as it rises to meet the spirits of
Air. I chant my conjurations as I learned them from the Great Key of
Solomon, and while I speak, the ruddy fumes take human forms. Out of the
dark, fathomless Past--the Past of near four hundred years ago--comes a
goodly company of simple, pompous folk all having a touch of childish
savagery which shows itself in the fierceness of their love and of their
hate.

The fairest castle-château in all England's great domain, the walls and
halls of which were builded in the depths of time, takes on again its
olden form quick with quivering life, and from the gates of Eagle Tower
issues my quaint and radiant company. Some are clad in gold lace, silks,
and taffetas; some wear leather, buckram and clanking steel. While the
caldron boils, their cloud-forms grow ever more distinct and definite,
till at length I can trace their every feature. I see the color of their
eyes. I discern the shades of their hair. Some heads are streaked with
gray; others are glossy with the sheen of youth. As a climax to my
conjurations I speak the word of all words magical, "Dorothy," and lo! as
though God had said, "Let there be light," a fair, radiant girl steps from
the portals of Haddon Hall and illumines all my ancient company so that I
may see even the workings of their hearts.

They, and the events of their lives, their joys and sorrows, their virtues
and sins, their hatreds, jealousies, and loves--the seven numbers in the
total sum of life--pass before me as in a panorama, moving when I bid them
move, pausing when I bid them pause, speaking when I bid them speak, and
alas! fading back into the dim gray limbo of the past long, long ere I
would have them go.

But hark! my radiant shades are about to speak. The play is about to
begin.



Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall



CHAPTER I

I RIDE DOWN TO HADDON


Since I play no mean part in the events of this chronicle, a few words
concerning my own history previous to the opening of the story I am about
to tell you will surely not be amiss, and they may help you to a better
understanding of my narrative.

To begin with an unimportant fact--unimportant, that is, to you--my name
is Malcolm François de Lorraine Vernon. My father was cousin-german to Sir
George Vernon, at and near whose home, Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, occurred
the events which will furnish my theme.

Of the ancient lineage of the house of Vernon I need not speak. You
already know that the family is one of the oldest in England, and while it
is not of the highest nobility, it is quite gentle and noble enough to
please those who bear its honored name. My mother boasted nobler blood
than that of the Vernons. She was of the princely French house of Guise--a
niece and ward to the Great Duke, for whose sake I was named.

My father, being a younger brother, sought adventure in the land of
France, where his handsome person and engaging manner won the smiles of
Dame Fortune and my mother at one and the same cast. In due time I was
born, and upon the day following that great event my father died. On the
day of his burial my poor mother, unable to find in me either compensation
or consolation for the loss of her child's father, also died, of a broken
heart, it was said. But God was right, as usual, in taking my parents; for
I should have brought them no happiness, unless perchance they could have
moulded my life to a better form than it has had--a doubtful chance, since
our great virtues and our chief faults are born and die with us. My
faults, alas! have been many and great. In my youth I knew but one virtue:
to love my friend; and that was strong within me. How fortunate for us it
would be if we could begin our life in wisdom and end it in simplicity,
instead of the reverse which now obtains!

I remained with my granduncle, the Great Duke, and was brought up amid the
fighting, vice, and piety of his sumptuous court. I was trained to arms,
and at an early age became Esquire in Waiting to his Grace of Guise. Most
of my days between my fifteenth and twenty-fifth years were spent in the
wars. At the age of twenty-five I returned to the château, there to reside
as my uncle's representative, and to endure the ennui of peace. At the
château I found a fair, tall girl, fifteen years of age: Mary Stuart,
Queen of Scotland, soon afterward Queen of France and rightful heiress to
the English throne. The ennui of peace, did I say? Soon I had no fear of
its depressing effect, for Mary Stuart was one of those women near whose
fascinations peace does not thrive. When I found her at the château, my
martial ardor lost its warmth. Another sort of flame took up its home in
my heart, and no power could have turned me to the wars again.

Ah! what a gay, delightful life, tinctured with bitterness, we led in the
grand old château, and looking back at it how heartless, godless, and
empty it seems. Do not from these words conclude that I am a fanatic, nor
that I shall pour into your ears a ranter's tale; for cant is more to be
despised even than godlessness; but during the period of my life of which
I shall write I learned--but what I learned I shall in due time tell you.

While at the court of Guise I, like many another man, conceived for Mary
Stuart a passion which lay heavy upon my heart for many years. Sweethearts
I had by the scores, but she held my longings from all of them until I
felt the touch of a pure woman's love, and then--but again I am going
beyond my story.

I did not doubt, nor do I hesitate to say, that my passion was returned by
Mary with a fervor which she felt for no other lover; but she was a queen,
and I, compared with her, was nobody. For this difference of rank I have
since had good cause to be thankful. Great beauty is diffusive in its
tendency. Like the sun, it cannot shine for one alone. Still, it burns and
dazzles the one as if it shone for him and for no other; and he who basks
in its rays need have no fear of the ennui of peace.

The time came when I tasted the unutterable bitterness of Mary's marriage
to a simpering fool, Francis II., whom she loathed, notwithstanding absurd
stories of their sweet courtship and love.

After her marriage to Francis, Mary became hard and callous of heart, and
all the world knows her sad history. The stories of Darnley, Rizzio, and
Bothwell will be rich morsels, I suppose, for the morbid minds of men and
women so long as books are read and scandal is loved.

Ah, well, that was long ago; so long ago that now as I write it seems but
a shadow upon the horizon of time.

And so it happened that Francis died, and when the queen went back to
Scotland to ascend her native throne, I went with her, and mothlike
hovered near the blaze that burned but did not warm me.

Then in the course of time came the Darnley tragedy. I saw Rizzio killed.
Gods! what a scene for hell was that! Then followed the Bothwell
disgrace, the queen's imprisonment at Lochleven, and my own flight from
Scotland to save my head.

You will hear of Mary again in this history, and still clinging to her you
will find that same strange fatality which during all her life brought
evils upon her that were infectious to her friends and wrought their ruin.

One evening, in the autumn of the year 1567, I was sitting moodily before
my fire in the town of Dundee, brooding over Mary's disgraceful liaison
with Bothwell. I had solemnly resolved that I would see her never again,
and that I would turn my back upon the evil life I had led for so many
years, and would seek to acquire that quiescence of nature which is
necessary to an endurable old age. A tumultuous soul in the breast of an
old man breeds torture, but age, with the heart at rest, I have found is
the best season of life.

In the midst of my gloomy thoughts and good resolves my friend, Sir Thomas
Douglas, entered my room without warning and in great agitation.

"Are you alone?" he asked hurriedly, in a low voice.

"Save for your welcome presence, Sir Thomas," I answered, offering my
hand.

"The queen has been seized," he whispered, "and warrants for high treason
have been issued against many of her friends--you among the number.
Officers are now coming to serve the writ. I rode hither in all haste to
warn you. Lose not a moment, but flee for your life. The Earl of Murray
will be made regent to-morrow."

"My servant? My horse?" I responded.

"Do not wait. Go at once. I shall try to send a horse for you to Craig's
ferry. If I fail, cross the firth without one. Here is a purse. The queen
sends it to you. Go! Go!"

I acted upon the advice, of Sir Thomas and hurried into the street,
snatching up my hat, cloak, and sword as I went. Night had fallen, and
darkness and rain, which at first I was inclined to curse, proved to be my
friends. I sought the back streets and alleys and walked rapidly toward
the west gates of the city. Upon arriving at the gates I found them
closed. I aroused the warden, and with the artful argument of gold had
almost persuaded him to let me pass. My evident eagerness was my undoing,
for in the hope of obtaining more gold the warden delayed opening the
gates till two men approached on horseback, and, dismounting, demanded my
surrender.

I laughed and said: "Two against one! Gentlemen, I am caught." I then drew
my sword as if to offer it to them. My action threw the men off their
guard, and when I said, "Here it is," I gave it to the one standing near
me, but I gave it to him point first and in the heart.

It was a terrible thing to do, and bordered so closely on a broken parole
that I was troubled in conscience. I had not, however, given my parole,
nor had I surrendered; and if I had done so--if a man may take another's
life in self-defence, may he not lie to save himself?

The other man shot at me with his fusil, but missed. He then drew his
sword; but he was no match for me, and soon I left him sprawling on the
ground, dead or alive, I knew not which.

At the time of which I write I was thirty-five years of age, and since my
fifteenth birthday my occupations had been arms and the ladies--two arts
requiring constant use if one would remain expert in their practice.

I escaped, and ran along the wall to a deep breach which had been left
unrepaired. Over the sharp rocks I clambered, and at the risk of breaking
my neck I jumped off the wall into the moat, which was almost dry. Dawn
was breaking when I found a place to ascend from the moat, and I hastened
to the fields and forests, where all day and all night long I wandered
without food or drink. Two hours before sunrise next morning I reached
Craig's Ferry. The horse sent by Douglas awaited me, but the ferry-master
had been prohibited from carrying passengers across the firth, and I could
not take the horse in a small boat. In truth, I was in great alarm lest I
should be unable to cross, but I walked up the Tay a short distance, and
found a fisherman, who agreed to take me over in his frail craft. Hardly
had we started when another boat put out from shore in pursuit of us. We
made all sail, but our pursuers overtook us when we were within half a
furlong of the south bank, and as there were four men in the other boat,
all armed with fusils, I peaceably stepped into their craft and handed my
sword to their captain.

I seated myself on one of the thwarts well forward in the boat. By my side
was a heavy iron boat-hook. I had noticed that all the occupants of the
boat, except the fisherman who sailed her, wore armor; and when I saw the
boat-hook, a diabolical thought entered my mind and I immediately acted
upon its suggestion. Noiselessly I grasped the hook, and with its point
pried loose a board in the bottom of the boat, first having removed my
boots, cloak, and doublet. When the board was loosened I pressed my heel
against it with all the force I could muster, and through an opening six
inches broad and four feet long came a flood of water that swamped the
boat before one could utter twenty words. I heard a cry from one of the
men: "The dog has scuttled the boat. Shoot him!" At the same instant the
blaze and noise of two fusils broke the still blackness of the night, but
I was overboard and the powder and lead were wasted. The next moment the
boat sank in ten fathoms of water, and with it went the men in armor. I
hope the fisherman saved himself. I have often wondered if even the law of
self-preservation justified my act. It is an awful thing to inflict death,
but it is worse to endure it, and I feel sure that I am foolish to allow
my conscience to trouble me for the sake of those who would have led me
back to the scaffold.

I fear you will think that six dead men in less than as many pages make a
record of bloodshed giving promise of terrible things to come, but I am
glad I can reassure you on that point. Although there may be some good
fighting ahead of us, I believe the last man has been killed of whom I
shall chronicle--the last, that is, in fight or battle.

In truth, the history which you are about to read is not my own. It is the
story of a beautiful, wilful girl, who was madly in love with the one man
in all the world whom she should have avoided--as girls are wont to be.
This perverse tendency, philosophers tell us, is owing to the fact that
the unattainable is strangely alluring to womankind. I, being a man, shall
not, of course, dwell upon the foibles of my own sex. It were a foolish
candor.

As I said, there will be some good fighting ahead of us, for love and
battle usually go together. One must have warm, rich blood to do either
well; and, save religion, there is no source more fruitful of quarrels and
death than that passion which is the source of life.

You, of course, know without the telling, that I reached land safely after
I scuttled the boat, else I should not be writing this forty years
afterwards.

The sun had risen when I waded ashore. I was swordless, coatless, hatless,
and bootless; but I carried a well-filled purse in my belt. Up to that
time I had given no thought to my ultimate destination; but being for the
moment safe, I pondered the question and determined to make my way to
Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, where I was sure a warm welcome would await me
from my cousin, Sir George Vernon. How I found a peasant's cottage,
purchased a poor horse and a few coarse garments, and how in the disguise
of a peasant I rode southward to the English border, avoiding the cities
and the main highways, might interest you; but I am eager to come to my
story, and I will not tell you of my perilous journey.

One frosty morning, after many hairbreadth escapes, I found myself well
within the English border, and turned my horse's head toward the city of
Carlisle. There I purchased a fine charger. I bought clothing fit for a
gentleman, a new sword, a hand-fusil, a breastplate, and a steel-lined
cap, and feeling once again like a man rather than like a half-drowned
rat, I turned southward for Derbyshire and Haddon Hall.

When I left Scotland I had no fear of meeting danger in England; but at
Carlisle I learned that Elizabeth held no favor toward Scottish refugees.
I also learned that the direct road from Carlisle to Haddon, by way of
Buxton, was infested with English spies who were on the watch for friends
of the deposed Scottish queen. Several Scotchmen had been arrested, and it
was the general opinion that upon one pretext or another they would be
hanged. I therefore chose a circuitous road leading to the town of Derby,
which lay south of Haddon at a distance of six or seven leagues. It would
be safer for me to arrive at Haddon travelling from the south than from
the north. Thus, after many days, I rode into Derby-town and stabled my
horse at the Royal Arms.

I called for supper, and while I was waiting for my joint of beef a
stranger entered the room and gave his orders in a free, offhand manner
that stamped him a person of quality.

The night outside was cold. While the stranger and I sat before the fire
we caught its infectious warmth, and when he showed a disposition to talk,
I gladly fell in with his humor. Soon we were filling our glasses from the
same bowl of punch, and we seemed to be on good terms with each other. But
when God breathed into the human body a part of himself, by some
mischance He permitted the devil to slip into the tongue and loosen it. My
tongue, which ordinarily was fairly well behaved, upon this occasion
quickly brought me into trouble.

I told you that the stranger and I seemed to be upon good terms. And so we
were until I, forgetting for the moment Elizabeth's hatred of Mary's
friends, and hoping to learn the stranger's name and quality, said:--

"My name is Vernon--Sir Malcolm Vernon, knight by the hand of Queen Mary
of Scotland and of France." This remark, of course, required that my
companion should in return make known his name and degree; but in place of
so doing he at once drew away from me and sat in silence. I was older than
he, and it had seemed to me quite proper and right that I should make the
first advance. But instantly after I had spoken I regretted my words. I
remembered not only my danger, being a Scottish refugee, but I also
bethought me that I had betrayed myself. Aside from those causes of
uneasiness, the stranger's conduct was an insult which I was in duty bound
not to overlook. Neither was I inclined to do so, for I loved to fight. In
truth, I loved all things evil.

"I regret, sir," said I, after a moment or two of embarrassing silence,
"having imparted information that seems to annoy you. The Vernons, whom
you may not know, are your equals in blood, it matters not who you are."

"I know of the Vernons," he replied coldly, "and I well know that they are
of good blood and lineage. As for wealth, I am told Sir George could
easily buy the estates of any six men in Derbyshire."

"You know Sir George?" I asked despite myself.

"I do not know him, I am glad to say," returned the stranger.

"By God, sir, you shall answer-"

"At your pleasure, Sir Malcolm."

"My pleasure is now," I retorted eagerly.

I threw off my doublet and pushed the table and chairs against the wall to
make room for the fight; but the stranger, who had not drawn his sword,
said:--

"I have eaten nothing since morning, and I am as hungry as a wolf. I would
prefer to fight after supper; but if you insist--"

"I do insist," I replied. "Perhaps you will not care for supper when I
have--"

"That may be true," he interrupted; "but before we begin I think it right
to tell you, without at all meaning to boast of my skill, that I can kill
you if I wish to do so. Therefore you must see that the result of our
fight will be disagreeable to you in any case. You will die, or you will
owe me your life."

His cool impertinence angered me beyond endurance. He to speak of killing
me, one of the best swordsmen in France, where the art of sword-play is
really an art! The English are but bunglers with a gentleman's blade, and
should restrict themselves to pike and quarterstaff.

"Results be damned!" I answered. "I can kill you if I wish." Then it
occurred to me that I really did not wish to kill the handsome young
fellow toward whom I felt an irresistible attraction.

I continued: "But I prefer that you should owe me your life. I do not wish
to kill you. Guard!"

My opponent did not lift his sword, but smilingly said:--

"Then why do you insist upon fighting? I certainly do not wish to kill
you. In truth, I would be inclined to like you if you were not a Vernon."

"Damn your insolence! Guard! or I will run you through where you stand," I
answered angrily.

"But why do we fight?" insisted the stubborn fellow, with a coolness that
showed he was not one whit in fear of me.

"You should know," I replied, dropping my sword-point to the floor, and
forgetting for the moment the cause of our quarrel. "I--I do not."

"Then let us not fight," he answered, "until we have discovered the matter
of our disagreement."

At this remark neither of us could resist smiling. I had not fought since
months before, save for a moment at the gates of Dundee, and I was loath
to miss the opportunity, so I remained in thought during the space of half
a minute and remembered our cause of war.

"Oh! I recall the reason for our fighting," I replied, "and a good one it
was. You offered affront to the name of Sir George Vernon, and insultingly
refused me the courtesy of your name after I had done you the honor to
tell you mine."

"I did not tell you my name," replied the stranger, "because I believed
you would not care to hear it; and I said I was glad not to know Sir
George Vernon because--because he is my father's enemy. I am Sir John
Manners. My father is Lord Rutland."

Then it was my turn to recede. "You certainly are right. I do not care to
hear your name."

I put my sword in its scabbard and drew the table back to its former
place. Sir John stood in hesitation for a moment or two, and then said:--

"Sir Malcolm, may we not declare a truce for to-night? There is nothing
personal in the enmity between us."

"Nothing," I answered, staring at the fire, half regretful that we bore
each other enmity at all.

"You hate me, or believe you do," said Manners, "because your father's
cousin hates my father; and I try to make myself believe that I hate you
because my father hates your father's cousin. Are we not both mistaken?"

I was quick to anger and to fight, but no man's heart was more sensitive
than mine to the fair touch of a kind word.

"I am not mistaken, Sir John, when I say that I do not hate you," I
answered.

"Nor do I hate you, Sir Malcolm. Will you give me your hand?"

"Gladly," I responded, and I offered my hand to the enemy of my house.

"Landlord," I cried, "bring us two bottles of your best sack. The best in
the house, mind you."

After our amicable understanding, Sir John and myself were very
comfortable together, and when the sack and roast beef, for which the
Royal Arms was justly famous, were brought in, we sat down to an enjoyable
meal.

After supper Sir John lighted a small roll or stick made from the leaves
of tobacco. The stick was called a cigarro, and I, proud not to be behind
him in new-fashioned, gentlemanly accomplishments, called to the landlord
for a pipe. Manners interrupted me when I gave the order and offered me a
cigarro which I gladly accepted.

Despite my effort to reassure myself, I could not quite throw off a
feeling of uneasiness whenever I thought of the manner in which I had
betrayed to Sir John the fact that I was a friend to Mary Stuart. I knew
that treachery was not native to English blood, and my knowledge of
mankind had told me that the vice could not live in Sir John Manners's
heart. But he had told me of his residence at the court of Elizabeth, and
I feared trouble might come to me from the possession of so dangerous a
piece of knowledge by an enemy of my house.

I did not speak my thoughts upon the matter, and we sat the evening
through discussing many subjects. We warmed toward each other and became
quite confidential. I feel ashamed when I admit that one of my many sins
was an excessive indulgence in wine. While I was not a drunkard, I was
given to my cups sometimes in a degree both dangerous and disgraceful; and
during the evening of which I have just spoken I talked to Sir John with a
freedom that afterward made me blush, although my indiscretion brought me
no greater trouble.

My outburst of confidence was prompted by Sir John's voluntary assurance
that I need fear nothing from having told him that I was a friend of Queen
Mary. The Scottish queen's name had been mentioned, and Sir John had
said--

"I take it, Sir Malcolm, that you are newly arrived in England, and I feel
sure you will accept the advice I am about to offer in the kindly spirit
in which it is meant. I deem it unsafe for you to speak of Queen Mary's
friendship in the open manner you have used toward me. Her friends are not
welcome visitors to England, and I fear evil will befall those who come to
us as refugees. You need have no fear that I will betray you. Your secret
is safe with me. I will give you hostage. I also am Queen Mary's friend. I
would not, of course, favor her against the interest of our own queen. To
Elizabeth I am and always shall be loyal; but the unfortunate Scottish
queen has my sympathy in her troubles, and I should be glad to help her. I
hear she is most beautiful and gentle in person."

Thus you see the influence of Mary's beauty reached from Edinburgh to
London. A few months only were to pass till this conversation was to be
recalled by each of us, and the baneful influence of Mary's beauty upon
all whom it touched was to be shown more fatally than had appeared even in
my own case. In truth, my reason for speaking so fully concerning the,
Scottish queen and myself will be apparent to you in good time.

When we were about to part for the night, I asked Sir John, "What road do
you travel to-morrow?"

"I am going to Rutland Castle by way of Rowsley," he answered.

"I, too, travel by Rowsley to Haddon Hall. Shall we not extend our truce
over the morrow and ride together as far as Rowsley?" I asked.

"I shall be glad to make the truce perpetual," he replied laughingly.

"So shall I," was my response.

Thus we sealed our compact and knitted out of the warp and woof of enmity
a friendship which became a great joy and a sweet grief to each of us.

That night I lay for hours thinking of the past and wondering about the
future. I had tasted the sweets--all flavored with bitterness--of court
life. Women, wine, gambling, and fighting had given me the best of all the
evils they had to offer. Was I now to drop that valorous life, which men
so ardently seek, and was I to take up a browsing, kinelike existence at
Haddon Hall, there to drone away my remaining days in fat'ning, peace, and
quietude? I could not answer my own question, but this I knew: that Sir
George Vernon was held in high esteem by Elizabeth, and I felt that his
house was, perhaps, the only spot in England where my head could safely
lie. I also had other plans concerning Sir George and his household which
I regret to say I imparted to Sir John in the sack-prompted outpouring of
my confidence. The plans of which I shall now speak had been growing in
favor with me for several months previous to my enforced departure from
Scotland, and that event had almost determined me to adopt them. Almost, I
say, for when I approached Haddon Hall I wavered in my resolution.

At the time when I had last visited Sir George at Haddon, his daughter
Dorothy--Sir George called her Doll--was a slipshod girl of twelve. She
was exceedingly plain, and gave promise of always so remaining. Sir
George, who had no son, was anxious that his vast estates should remain
in the Vernon name. He had upon the occasion of my last visit intimated to
me that when Doll should become old enough to marry, and I, perchance, had
had my fill of knocking about the world, a marriage might be brought about
between us which would enable him to leave his estates to his daughter and
still to retain the much-loved Vernon name for his descendants.

Owing to Doll's rusty red hair, slim shanks, and freckled face, the
proposition had not struck me with favor, yet to please Sir George I had
feigned acquiescence, and had said that when the time should come, we
would talk it over. Before my flight from Scotland I had often thought of
Sir George's proposition made six or seven years before. My love for Mary
Stuart had dimmed the light of other beauties in my eyes, and I had never
married. For many months before my flight, however, I had not been
permitted to bask in the light of Mary's smiles to the extent of my
wishes. Younger men, among them Darnley, who was but eighteen years of
age, were preferred to me, and I had begun to consider the advisability of
an orderly retreat from the Scottish court before my lustre should be
entirely dimmed. It is said that a man is young so long as he is strong,
and I was strong as in the days of my youth. My cheeks were fresh, my eyes
were bright, and my hair was red as when I was twenty, and without a
thread of gray. Stills my temperament was more exacting and serious, and
the thought of becoming settled for life, or rather for old age and death,
was growing in favor with me. With that thought came always a suggestion
of slim, freckled Dorothy and Sir George's offer. She held out to me
wealth and position, a peaceful home for my old age, and a grave with a
pompous, pious epitaph at Bakewell church, in death.

When I was compelled to leave Scotland, circumstances forced me to a
decision, and my resolution was quickly taken. I would go to Derbyshire
and would marry Dorothy. I did not expect ever again to feel great love
for a woman. The fuse, I thought, had burned out when I loved Mary Stuart.
One woman, I believed, was like another to me, and Dorothy would answer as
well as any for my wife. I could and would be kind to her, and that alone
in time would make me fond. It is true, my affection would be of a fashion
more comfortable than exciting; but who, having passed his galloping
youth, will contemn the joys that come from making others happy? I believe
there is no person, past the age of forty, at all given to pondering the
whys of life, who will gainsay that the joy we give to others is our chief
source of happiness. Why, then, should not a wise man, through purely
selfish motives, begin early to cultivate the gentle art of giving joy?

But the fates were to work out the destinies of Dorothy and myself without
our assistance. Self-willed, arrogant creatures are those same fates, but
they save us a deal of trouble by assuming our responsibilities.



CHAPTER II

THE IRON, THE SEED, THE CLOUD, AND THE RAIN


The morning following my meeting with Manners, he and I made an early
start. An hour before noon we rode into the town of Rowsley and halted at
The Peacock for dinner.

When we entered the courtyard of the inn we saw three ladies warmly
wrapped in rich furs leave a ponderous coach and walk to the inn door,
which they entered. One of them was an elderly lady whom I recognized as
my cousin, Lady Dorothy Crawford, sister to Sir George Vernon. The second
was a tall, beautiful girl, with an exquisite ivory-like complexion and a
wonderful crown of fluffy red hair which encircled her head like a halo of
sunlit glory. I could compare its wondrous lustre to no color save that of
molten gold deeply alloyed with copper. But that comparison tells you
nothing. I can find no simile with which to describe the beauties of its
shades and tints. It was red, but it also was golden, as if the enamoured
sun had gilded every hair with its radiance. In all my life I had never
seen anything so beautiful as this tall girl's hair. Still, it was the
Vernon red. My cousin, Sir George, and many Vernons had hair of the same
color. Yet the girl's hair differed from all other I had ever seen. It had
a light and a lustre of its own which was as distinct from the ordinary
Vernon red, although that is very good and we are proud of it, as the
sheen of gold is from the glitter of brass. I knew by the girl's hair
that she was my cousin, Dorothy Vernon, whom I reluctantly had come to
wed.

I asked myself, "Can this be the plain, freckled girl I knew seven years
ago?" Compared with her beauty even Mary Stuart's was pale as the vapid
moon at dawn. The girl seemed to be the incarnated spirit of universal
life and light, and I had condescendingly come to marry this goddess. I
felt a dash of contemptuous pity for my complacent self.

In my cogitations concerning marriage with Dorothy Vernon, I had not at
all taken into consideration her personal inclination. A girl, after all,
is but the chattel of her father, and must, perforce, if needs be, marry
the man who is chosen for her. But leaving parental authority out of the
question, a girl with brick-red hair and a multitude of freckles need not
be considered when an agreeable, handsome man offers himself as a husband.
She usually is willing to the point of eagerness. That is the manner in
which I had thought about Dorothy Vernon, if I considered her at all. But
when a man is about to offer himself to a goddess, he is apt to pause. In
such a case there are always two sides to the question, and nine chances
to one the goddess will coolly take possession of both. When I saw Dorothy
in the courtyard of The Peacock, I instantly knew that she was a girl to
be taken into account in all matters wherein she was personally concerned.
Her every feature, every poise and gesture, unconsciously bore the stamp
of "I will" or "I will not."

Walking by Dorothy's side, holding her hand, was a fair young woman whose
hair was black, and whose skin was of the white, clear complexion such as
we see in the faces of nuns. She walked with a hesitating, cautious step,
and clung to Dorothy, who was gentle and attentive to her. But of this
fair, pale girl I have so much to say in the pages to come that I shall
not further describe her here.

When the ladies had entered the inn, my companion and I dismounted, and
Manners exclaimed:--

"Did you see the glorious girl who but now entered the inn door? Gods! I
never before saw such beauty."

"Yes," I replied, "I know her."

"How fortunate I am," said Sir John. "Perhaps I may induce you to present
me to her. At least you will tell me her name, that I may seek her
acquaintance by the usual means. I am not susceptible, but by my faith,
I--I--she looked at me from the door-steps, and when I caught her eyes it
seemed--that is, I saw--or I felt a stream of burning life enter my soul,
and--but you will think I am a fool. I know I am a fool. But I feel as if
I were--as if I had been bewitched in one little second of time, and by a
single glance from a pair of brown eyes. You certainly will think I am a
fool, but you cannot understand--"

"Why can't I understand?" I asked indignantly. "The thing you have seen
and felt has been in this world long enough for every man to understand.
Eve used it upon Adam. I can't understand? Damme, sir, do you think I am a
clod? I have felt it fifty times."

"Not--" began Sir John, hesitatingly.

"Nonsense!" I replied. "You, too, will have the same experience fifty
times again before you are my age."

"But the lady," said Sir John, "tell me of her. Will you--can you present
me to her? If not, will you tell me who she is?"

I remained for a moment in thought, wondering if it were right for me to
tell him that the girl whom he so much admired was the daughter of his
father's enemy. I could see no way of keeping Dorothy's name from him, so
I determined to tell him.

"She is my cousin, Mistress Dorothy Vernon," I said. "The eldest is Lady
Dorothy Crawford. The beautiful, pale girl I do not know."

"I am sorry," returned Sir John; "she is the lady whom you have come to
marry, is she not?"

"Y-e-s," said I, hesitatingly.

"You certainly are to be congratulated," returned Manners.

"I doubt if I shall marry her," I replied.

"Why?" asked Manners.

"For many reasons, chief among which is her beauty."

"That is an unusual reason for declining a woman," responded Sir John,
with a low laugh.

"I think it is quite usual," I replied, having in mind the difficulty with
which great beauties are won. But I continued, "A woman of moderate beauty
makes a safer wife, and in the long run is more comforting than one who is
too attractive."

"You are a philosopher, Sir Malcolm," said Manners, laughingly.

"And a liar," I muttered to myself. I felt sure, however, that I should
never marry Dorothy Vernon, and I do not mind telling you, even at this
early stage in my history, that I was right in my premonition. I did not
marry her.

"I suppose I shall now be compelled to give you up to your relatives,"
said Manners.

"Yes," I returned, "we must say good-by for the present; but if we do not
meet again, it shall not be for the lack of my wishing. Your father and
Sir George would feel deeply injured, should they learn of our friendship,
therefore--"

"You are quite right," he interrupted. "It is better that no one should
know of it. Nevertheless, between you and me let there be no feud."

"The secrecy of our friendship will give it zest," said I. "That is true,
but 'good wine needs no bush.' You will not mention my name to the
ladies?"

"No, if you wish that I shall not."

"I do so wish."

When the stable boys had taken our horses, I gave my hand to Sir John,
after which we entered the inn and treated each other as strangers.

Soon after I had washed the stains of travel from my hands and face, I
sent the maid to my cousins, asking that I might be permitted to pay my
devotions, and Dorothy came to the tap-room in response to my message.

When she entered she ran to me with outstretched hands and a gleam of
welcome in her eyes. We had been rare friends when she was a child.

"Ah, Cousin Malcolm, what a fine surprise you have given us!" she
exclaimed, clasping both my hands and offering me her cheek to kiss.
"Father's delight will be beyond measure when he sees you."

"As mine now is," I responded, gazing at her from head to foot and
drinking in her beauty with my eyes. "Doll! Doll! What a splendid girl you
have become. Who would have thought that--that--" I hesitated, realizing
that I was rapidly getting myself into trouble.

"Say it. Say it, cousin! I know what is in your mind. Rusty red hair,
angular shoulders, sharp elbows, freckles thickly set as stars upon a
clear night, and so large and brown that they fairly twinkled. Great
staring green eyes. Awkward!--" And she threw up her hands in mimic horror
at the remembrance. "No one could have supposed that such a girl would
have become--that is, you know," she continued confusedly, "could have
changed. I haven't a freckle now," and she lifted her face that I might
prove the truth of her words by examination, and perhaps that I might also
observe her beauty.

Neither did I waste the opportunity. I dwelt longingly upon the wondrous
red golden hair which fringed her low broad forehead, and upon the heavy
black eyebrows, the pencilled points of whose curves almost touched
across the nose. I saw the rose-tinted ivory of her skin and the long jet
lashes curving in a great sweep from her full white lids, and I thought
full sure that Venus herself was before me. My gaze halted for a moment at
the long eyes which changed chameleon-like with the shifting light, and
varied with her moods from deep fathomless green to violet, and from
violet to soft voluptuous brown, but in all their tints beaming forth a
lustre that would have stirred the soul of an anchorite. Then I noted the
beauty of her clean-cut saucy nose and the red arch of her lips, slightly
parted for the purpose of showing her teeth. But I could not stop long to
dwell upon any one especial feature, for there were still to be seen her
divine round chin, her large white throat, and the infinite grace in poise
and curve of her strong young form. I dared not pause nor waste my time if
I were to see it all, for such a girl as Dorothy waits no man's
leisure--that is, unless she wishes to wait. In such case there is no
moving her, and patience becomes to her a delightful virtue.

After my prolonged scrutiny Dorothy lowered her face and said
laughingly:--

"Now come, cousin, tell me the truth. Who would have thought it possible?"

"Not I, Doll, not I, if you will pardon me the frankness."

"Oh, that is easily done." Then with a merry ripple of laughter, "It is
much easier, I fancy, for a woman to speak of the time when she was plain
than to refer to the time when--when she was beautiful. What an absurd
speech that is for me to make," she said confusedly.

"I certainly did not expect to find so great a change," said I. "Why,
Doll, you are wondrous, glorious, beautiful. I can't find words--"

"Then don't try, Cousin Malcolm," she said with a smile that fringed her
mouth in dimples. "Don't try. You will make me vain."

"You are that already, Doll," I answered, to tease her.

"I fear I am, cousin--vain as a man. But don't call me Doll. I am tall
enough to be called Dorothy."

She straightened herself up to her full height, and stepping close to my
side, said: "I am as tall as you. I will now try to make you vain. You
look just as young and as handsome as when I last saw you and so ardently
admired your waving black mustachio and your curling chin beard."

"Did you admire them, Doll--Dorothy?" I asked, hoping, though with little
faith, that the admiration might still continue.

"Oh, prodigiously," she answered with unassuring candor. "Prodigiously.
Now who is vain, Cousin Malcolm François de Lorraine Vernon?"

"I," I responded, shrugging my shoulders and confessing by compulsion.

"But you must remember," she continued provokingly, "that a girl of twelve
is very immature in her judgment and will fall in love with any man who
allows her to look upon him twice."

"Then I am to believe that the fire begins very early to burn in the
feminine heart," I responded.

"With birth, my cousin, with birth," she replied; "but in my heart it
burned itself out upon your curling beard at the mature age of twelve."

"And you have never been in love since that time, Doll--Dorothy?" I asked
with more earnestness in my heart than in my voice.

"No, no; by the Virgin, no! Not even in the shadow of a thought. And by
the help of the Virgin I hope I never shall be; for when it comes to me,
mark my word, cousin, there will be trouble in Derbyshire."

"By my soul, I believe you speak the truth," I answered, little dreaming
how quickly our joint prophecy would come true.

I then asked Dorothy to tell me about her father.

"Father is well in health," she said. "In mind he has been much troubled
and disturbed. Last month he lost the lawsuit against detestable old Lord
Rutland. He was much angered by the loss, and has been moody and morose in
brooding over it ever since. He tries, poor father, to find relief from
his troubles, and--and I fear takes too much liquor. Rutland and his
friends swore to one lie upon another, and father believes that the judge
who tried the case was bribed. Father intends to appeal to Parliament, but
even in Parliament he fears he cannot obtain justice. Lord Rutland's
son--a disreputable fellow, who for many years has lived at court--is a
favorite with the queen, and his acquaintance with her Majesty and with
the lords will be to father's prejudice."

"I have always believed that your father stood in the queen's good
graces?" I said interrogatively.

"So he does, but I have been told that this son of Lord Rutland, whom I
have never seen, has the beauty of--of the devil, and exercises a great
influence over her Majesty and her friends. The young man is not known in
this neighborhood, for he has never deigned to leave the court; but Lady
Cavendish tells me he has all the fascinations of Satan. I would that
Satan had him."

"The feud still lives between Vernon and Rutland?" I asked.

"Yes, and it will continue to live so long as an ounce of blood can hold a
pound of hatred," said the girl, with flashing eyes and hard lips. "I love
to hate the accursed race. They have wronged our house for three
generations, and my father has suffered greater injury at their hands than
any of our name. Let us not talk of the hateful subject."

We changed the topic. I had expected Dorothy to invite me to go with her
to meet Lady Crawford, but the girl seemed disinclined to leave the
tap-room. The Peacock was her father's property, and the host and hostess
were her friends after the manner of persons in their degree. Therefore
Dorothy felt at liberty to visit the tap-room quite as freely as if it had
been the kitchen of Haddon Hall.

During our conversation I had frequently noticed Dorothy glancing slyly in
the direction of the fireplace; but my back was turned that way, and I did
not know, nor did it at first occur to me to wonder what attracted her
attention. Soon she began to lose the thread of our conversation, and made
inappropriate, tardy replies to my remarks. The glances toward the
fireplace increased in number and duration, and her efforts to pay
attention to what I was saying became painful failures.

After a little time she said: "Is it not cool here? Let us go over to the
fireplace where it is warmer."

I turned to go with her, and at once saw that it was not the fire in the
fireplace which had attracted Dorothy, but quite a different sort of
flame. In short, much to my consternation, I discovered that it was
nothing less than my handsome new-found friend, Sir John Manners, toward
whom Dorothy had been glancing.

We walked over to the fireplace, and one of the fires, Sir John, moved
away. But the girl turned her face that she might see him in his new
position. The movement, I confess, looked bold to the point of brazenness;
but if the movement was bold, what shall I say of her glances and the
expression of her face? She seemed unable to take her eager eyes from the
stranger, or to think of anything but him, and after a few moments she did
not try. Soon she stopped talking entirely and did not even hear what I
was saying. I, too, became silent, and after a long pause the girl
asked:--

"Cousin, who is the gentleman with whom you were travelling?"

I was piqued by Dorothy's conduct, and answered rather curtly: "He is a
stranger. I picked him up at Derby, and we rode here together."

A pause followed, awkward in its duration.

"Did you--not--learn--his--name?" asked Dorothy, hesitatingly.

"Yes," I replied.

Then came another pause, broken by the girl, who spoke in a quick,
imperious tone touched with irritation:--

"Well, what is it?"

"It is better that I do not tell you," I answered. "It was quite by
accident that we met. Neither of us knew the other. Please do not ask me
to tell you his name."

"Oh, but you make me all the more eager to learn. Mystery, you know, is
intolerable to a woman, except in the unravelling. Come, tell me! Tell me!
Not, of course, that I really care a farthing to know--but the mystery! A
mystery drives me wild. Tell me, please do, Cousin Malcolm."

She certainly was posing for the stranger's benefit, and was doing all in
her power, while coaxing me, to display her charms, graces, and pretty
little ways. Her attitude and conduct spoke as plainly as the spring
bird's song speaks to its mate. Yet Dorothy's manner did not seem bold.
Even to me it appeared modest, beautiful, and necessary. She seemed to act
under compulsion. She would laugh, for the purpose, no doubt, of showing
her dimples and her teeth, and would lean her head to one side pigeon-wise
to display her eyes to the best advantage, and then would she shyly glance
toward Sir John to see if he was watching her. It was shameless, but it
could not be helped by Dorothy nor any one else. After a few moments of
mute pleading by the girl, broken now and then by, "Please, please," I
said:--

"If you give to me your promise that you will never speak of this matter
to any person, I will tell you the gentleman's name. I would not for a
great deal have your father know that I have held conversation with him
even for a moment, though at the time I did not know who he was."

"Oh, this is delightful! He must be some famous, dashing highwayman. I
promise, of course I promise--faithfully." She was glancing constantly
toward Manners, and her face was bright with smiles and eager with
anticipation.

"He is worse than a highwayman, I regret to say. The gentleman toward whom
you are so ardently glancing is--Sir John Manners."

A shock of pain passed over Dorothy's face, followed by a hard, repellent
expression that was almost ugly.

"Let us go to Aunt Dorothy," she said, as she turned and walked across the
room toward the door.

When we had closed the door of the tap-room behind us Dorothy said
angrily:--

"Tell me, cousin, how you, a Vernon, came to be in his company?"

"I told you that I met him quite by accident at the Royal Arms in
Derby-town. We became friends before either knew the other's name. After
chance had disclosed our identities, he asked for a truce to our feud
until the morrow; and he was so gentle and open in his conduct that I
could not and would not refuse his proffered olive branch. In truth,
whatever faults may be attributable to Lord Rutland,--and I am sure he
deserves all the evil you have spoken of him,--his son, Sir John, is a
noble gentleman, else I have been reading the book of human nature all my
life in vain. Perhaps he is in no way to blame for his father's conduct
He may have had no part in it"

"Perhaps he has not," said Dorothy, musingly.

It was not a pleasant task for me to praise Sir John, but my sense of
justice impelled me to do so. I tried to make myself feel injured and
chagrined because of Dorothy's manner toward him; for you must remember I
had arranged with myself to marry this girl, but I could not work my
feelings into a state of indignation against the heir to Rutland. The
truth is, my hope of winning Dorothy had evaporated upon the first sight
of her, like the volatile essence it really was. I cannot tell you why,
but I at once seemed to realize that all the thought and labor which I had
devoted to the arduous task of arranging with myself this marriage was
labor lost. So I frankly told her my kindly feelings for Sir John, and
gave her my high estimate of his character.

I continued: "You see, Dorothy, I could not so easily explain to your
father my association with Sir John, and I hope you will not speak of it
to any one, lest the news should reach Sir George's ears."

"I will not speak of it," she returned, sighing faintly. "After all, it is
not his fault that his father is such a villain. He doesn't look like his
father, does he?"

"I cannot say. I never saw Lord Rutland," I replied.

"He is the most villanous-looking--" but she broke off the sentence and
stood for a moment in revery. We were in the darkened passage, and Dorothy
had taken my hand. That little act in another woman of course would have
led to a demonstration on my part, but in this girl it seemed so entirely
natural and candid that it was a complete bar to undue familiarity. In
truth, I had no such tendency, for the childish act spoke of an innocence
and faith that were very sweet to me who all my life had lived among men
and women who laughed at those simple virtues. The simple conditions of
life are all that are worth striving for. They come to us fresh from
Nature and from Nature's God. The complex are but concoctions of man after
recipes in the devil's alchemy. So much gold, so much ambition, so much
lust. Mix well. Product: so much vexation.

"He must resemble his mother," said Dorothy, after a long pause. "Poor
fellow! His mother is dead. He is like me in that respect. I wonder if his
father's villanies trouble him?"

"I think they must trouble him. He seems to be sad," said I, intending to
be ironical.

My reply was taken seriously.

"I am sorry for him," she said, "it is not right to hate even our enemies.
The Book tells us that."

"Yet you hate Lord Rutland," said I, amused and provoked.

Unexpected and dangerous symptoms were rapidly developing in the perverse
girl, and trouble was brewing "in Derbyshire."

The adjective perverse, by the way, usually is superfluous when used to
modify the noun girl.

"Yet you hate Lord Rutland," I repeated.

"Why, y-e-s," she responded. "I cannot help that, but you know it would be
very wrong to--to hate all his family. To hate him is bad enough."

I soon began to fear that I had praised Sir John overmuch.

"I think Sir John is all there is of Lord Rutland's family," I said,
alarmed yet amused at Dorothy's search for an excuse not to hate my
new-found friend.

"Well," she continued after a pause, throwing her head to one side, "I am
sorry there are no more of that family not to hate."

"Dorothy! Dorothy!" I exclaimed. "What has come over you? You surprise
me."

"Yes," she answered, with a little sigh, "I certainly have surprised
myself by--by my willingness to forgive those who have injured my house. I
did not know there was so much--so much good in me."

"Mistress Pharisee," thought I, "you are a hypocrite."

Again intending to be ironical, I said, "Shall I fetch him from the
tap-room and present him to you?"

Once more my irony was lost upon the girl. Evidently that sort of humor
was not my strong point.

"No, no," she responded indignantly, "I would not speak to him for--"
Again she broke her sentence abruptly, and after a little pause, short in
itself but amply long for a girl like Dorothy to change her mind two score
times, she continued: "It would not be for the best. What think you,
Cousin Malcolm?"

"Surely the girl has gone mad," thought I. Her voice was soft and
conciliating as if to say, "I trust entirely to your mature, superior
judgment."

My judgment coincided emphatically with her words, and I said: "I spoke
only in jest. It certainly would not be right. It would be all wrong if
you were to meet him."

"That is true," the girl responded with firmness, "but--but no real harm
could come of it," she continued, laughing nervously. "He could not strike
me nor bite me. Of course it would be unpleasant for me to meet him, and
as there is no need--I am curious to know what one of his race is like.
It's the only reason that would induce me to consent. Of course you know
there could be no other reason for me to wish--that is, you know--to be
willing to meet him. Of course you know."

"Certainly," I replied, still clinging to my unsuccessful irony. "I will
tell you all I know about him, so that you may understand what he is
like. As for his personal appearance, you saw him, did you not?"

I thought surely that piece of irony would not fail, but it did, and I
have seldom since attempted to use that form of humor.

"Yes--oh, yes, I saw him for a moment."

"But I will not present him to you, Dorothy, however much you may wish to
meet him," I said positively.

"It is almost an insult, Cousin Malcolm, for you to say that I wish to
meet him," she answered in well-feigned indignation.

The French blood in my veins moved me to shrug my shoulders. I could do
nothing else. With all my knowledge of womankind this girl had sent me to
sea.

But what shall we say of Dorothy's conduct? I fancy I can hear you mutter,
"This Dorothy Vernon must have been a bold, immodest, brazen girl."
Nothing of the sort. Dare you of the cold blood--if perchance there be any
with that curse in their veins who read these lines--dare you, I say, lift
your voice against the blessed heat in others which is but a greater,
stronger, warmer spark of God's own soul than you possess or than you can
comprehend? "Evil often comes of it," I hear you say. That I freely admit;
and evil comes from eating too much bread, and from hearing too much
preaching. But the universe, from the humblest blade of grass to the
infinite essence of God, exists because of that warmth which the mawkish
world contemns. Is the iron immodest when it creeps to the lodestone and
clings to its side? Is the hen bird brazen when she flutters to her mate
responsive to his compelling woo-song? Is the seed immodest when it sinks
into the ground and swells with budding life? Is the cloud bold when it
softens into rain and falls to earth because it has no other choice? or is
it brazen when it nestles for a time on the bosom of heaven's arched dome
and sinking into the fathomless depths of a blue black infinity ceases to
be itself? Is the human soul immodest when, drawn by a force it cannot
resist, it seeks a stronger soul which absorbs its ego as the blue sky
absorbs the floating cloud, as the warm earth swells the seed, as the
magnet draws the iron? All these are of one quality. The iron, the seed,
the cloud, and the soul of man are _what_ they are, do _what_ they do,
love as they love, live as they live, and die as they die because they
must--because they have no other choice. We think we are free because at
times we act as we please, forgetting that God gives us the "please," and
that every act of our being is but the result of a dictated motive.
Dorothy was not immodest. This was her case. She was the iron, the seed,
the cloud, and the rain. You, too, are the iron, the seed, the cloud, and
the rain. It is only human vanity which prompts you to believe that you
are yourself and that you are free. Do you find any freedom in this world
save that which you fondly believe to exist within yourself? Self! There
is but one self, God. I have been told that the people of the East call
Him Brahma. The word, it is said, means "Breath," "Inspiration," "All." I
have felt that the beautiful pagan thought has truth in it; but my
conscience and my priest tell me rather to cling to truths I have than to
fly to others that I know not of. As a result, I shall probably die
orthodox and mistaken.



CHAPTER III

THE PITCHER GOES TO THE WELL.


Dorothy and I went to the inn parlors, where I received a cordial welcome
from my cousin, Lady Crawford. After our greeting, Dorothy came toward me
leading the fair, pale girl whom I had seen in the courtyard.

"Madge, this is my cousin, Malcolm Vernon," said Dorothy. "He was a dear
friend of my childhood and is much beloved by my father. Lady Magdalene
Stanley, cousin," and she placed the girl's soft white hand in mine. There
was a peculiar hesitancy in the girl's manner which puzzled me. She did
not look at me when Dorothy placed her hand in mine, but kept her eyes
cast down, the long, black lashes resting upon the fair curves of her
cheek like a shadow on the snow. She murmured a salutation, and when I
made a remark that called for a response, she lifted her eyes but seemed
not to look at me. Unconsciously I turned my face toward Dorothy, who
closed her eyes and formed with her lips the word "blind."

I retained the girl's hand, and she did not withdraw it. When I caught
Dorothy's unspoken word I led Lady Madge to a chair and asked if I might
sit beside her.

"Certainly," she answered smilingly; "you know I am blind, but I can hear
and speak, and I enjoy having persons I like sit near me that I may touch
them now and then while we talk. If I could only see!" she exclaimed.
Still, there was no tone of complaint in her voice and very little even of
regret. The girl's eyes were of a deep blue and were entirely without scar
or other evidence of blindness, except that they did not seem to see. I
afterward learned that her affliction had come upon her as the result of
illness when she was a child. She was niece to the Earl of Derby, and
Dorothy's mother had been her aunt. She owned a small estate and had lived
at Haddon Hall five or six years because of the love that existed between
her and Dorothy. A strong man instinctively longs to cherish that which
needs his strength, and perhaps it was the girl's helplessness that first
appealed to me. Perhaps it was her rare, peculiar beauty, speaking
eloquently of virtue such as I had never known, that touched me. I cannot
say what the impelling cause was, but this I know: my heart went out in
pity to her, and all that was good within me--good, which I had never
before suspected--stirred in my soul, and my past life seemed black and
barren beyond endurance. Even Dorothy's marvellous beauty lacked the
subtle quality which this simple blind girl possessed. The first step in
regeneration is to see one's faults; the second is to regret them; the
third is to quit them. The first and second steps constitute repentance;
the second and third regeneration. One hour within the radius of Madge
Stanley's influence brought me to repentance. But repentance is an
everyday virtue. Should I ever achieve regeneration? That is one of the
questions this history will answer. To me, Madge Stanley's passive force
was the strongest influence for good that had ever impinged on my life.
With respect to her, morally, I was the iron, the seed, the cloud, and the
rain, for she, acting unconsciously, moved me with neither knowledge nor
volition on my part.

Soon after my arrival at the ladies' parlor dinner was served, and after
dinner a Persian merchant was ushered in, closely followed by his
servants bearing bales of rare Eastern fabrics. A visit and a dinner at
the inn were little events that made a break in the monotony of life at
the Hall, and the ladies preferred to visit the merchant, who was stopping
at The Peacock for a time, rather than to have him take his wares to
Haddon.

While Lady Crawford and Dorothy were revelling in Persian silks, satins,
and gold cloths, I sat by Lady Madge and was more than content that we
were left to ourselves. My mind, however, was as far from thoughts of
gallantry as if she had been a black-veiled nun. I believe I have not told
you that I was of the Holy Catholic Faith. My religion, I may say, has
always been more nominal and political than spiritual, although there ran
through it a strong vein of inherited tendencies and superstitions which
were highly colored by contempt for heresy and heretics. I was Catholic by
habit. But if I analyzed my supposed religious belief, I found that I had
none save a hatred for heresy. Heretics, as a rule, were low-born persons,
vulgarly moral, and as I had always thought, despisedly hypocritical.
Madge Stanley, however, was a Protestant, and that fact shook the
structure of my old mistakes to its foundation, and left me religionless.

After the Persian merchant had packed his bales and departed, Dorothy and
Lady Crawford joined Madge and me near the fireplace. Soon Dorothy went
over to the window and stood there gazing into the courtyard. After a few
minutes Lady Crawford said, "Dorothy, had we not better order Dawson to
bring out the horses and coach?" Will Dawson was Sir George's forester.
Lady Crawford repeated her question, but Dorothy was too intently watching
the scene in the courtyard to hear. I went over to her, and looking out at
the window discovered the object of Dorothy's rapt attention. There is no
need for me to tell you who it was. Irony, as you know, and as I had
learned, was harmless against this thick-skinned nymph. Of course I had no
authority to scold her, so I laughed. The object of Dorothy's attention
was about to mount his horse. He was drawing on his gauntleted gloves and
held between his teeth a cigarro. He certainly presented a handsome figure
for the eyes of an ardent girl to rest upon while he stood beneath the
window, clothed in a fashionable Paris-made suit of brown, doublet,
trunks, and hose. His high-topped boots were polished till they shone, and
his broad-rimmed hat, of soft beaver, was surmounted by a flowing plume.
Even I, who had no especial taste nor love for masculine beauty, felt my
sense of the beautiful strongly moved by the attractive picture my
new-found friend presented. His dress, manner, and bearing, polished by
the friction of life at a luxurious court, must have appeared god-like to
Dorothy. She had never travelled farther from home than Buxton and
Derby-town, and had met only the half-rustic men belonging to the
surrounding gentry and nobility of Derbyshire, Nottingham, and Stafford.
She had met but few even of them, and their lives had been spent chiefly
in drinking, hunting, and gambling--accomplishments that do not fine down
the texture of a man's nature or fit him for a lady's bower. Sir John
Manners was a revelation to Dorothy; and she, poor girl, was bewildered
and bewitched by him.

When John had mounted and was moving away, he looked up to the window
where Dorothy stood, and a light came to her eyes and a smile to her face
which no man who knows the sum of two and two can ever mistake if he but
once sees it.

When I saw the light in Dorothy's eyes, I knew that all the hatred that
was ever born from all the feuds that had ever lived since the quarrelling
race of man began its feuds in Eden could not make Dorothy Vernon hate the
son of her father's enemy.

"I was--was--watching him draw smoke through the--the little stick which
he holds in his mouth, and--and blow it out again," said Dorothy, in
explanation of her attitude. She blushed painfully and continued, "I hope
you do not think--"

"I do not think," I answered. "I would not think of thinking."

"Of course not," she responded, with a forced smile, as she watched Sir
John pass out of sight under the arch of the innyard gate. I did not
think. I knew. And the sequel, so full of trouble, soon proved that I was
right. After John had passed through the gate, Dorothy was willing to go
home; and when Will Dawson brought the great coach to the inn door, I
mounted my horse and rode beside the ladies to Haddon Hall, two miles
north from Rowsley.

I shall not stop to tell you of the warm welcome given me by Sir George
Vernon, nor of his delight when I briefly told him my misfortunes in
Scotland--misfortunes that had brought me to Haddon Hall. Nor shall I
describe the great boar's head supper given in my honor, at which there
were twenty men who could have put me under the table. I thought I knew
something of the art of drinking, but at that supper I soon found I was a
mere tippler compared with these country guzzlers. At that feast I learned
also that Dorothy, when she had hinted concerning Sir George's excessive
drinking, had told the truth. He, being the host, drank with all his
guests. Near midnight he grew distressingly drunk, talkative, and violent,
and when toward morning he was carried from the room by his servants, the
company broke up. Those who could do so reeled home; those who could not
walk at all were put to bed by the retainers at Haddon Hall. I had chosen
my bedroom high up in Eagle Tower. At table I had tried to remain sober.
That, however, was an impossible task, for at the upper end of the hail
there was a wrist-ring placed in the wainscoting at a height of ten or
twelve inches above the head of an ordinary man, and if he refused to
drink as much as the other guests thought he should, his wrist was
fastened above his head in the ring, and the liquor which he should have
poured down his throat was poured down his sleeve. Therefore to avoid this
species of rustic sport I drank much more than was good for me. When the
feast closed I thought I was sober enough to go to my room unassisted; so
I took a candle, and with a great show of self-confidence climbed the
spiral stone stairway to the door of my room. The threshold of my door was
two or three feet above the steps of the stairway, and after I had
contemplated the distance for a few minutes, I concluded that it would not
be safe for me to attempt to climb into my sleeping apartments without
help. Accordingly I sat down upon the step on which I had been standing,
placed my candle beside me, called loudly for a servant, received no
response, and fell asleep only to be awakened by one of Sir George's
retainers coming downstairs next morning.

After that supper, in rapid succession, followed hunting and drinking,
feasting and dancing in my honor. At the dances the pipers furnished the
music, or, I should rather say, the noise. Their miserable wailings
reminded me of Scotland. After all, thought I, is the insidious, polished
vice of France worse than the hoggish, uncouth practices of Scotland and
of English country life? I could not endure the latter, so I asked Sir
George, on the pretext of ill health, to allow me to refuse invitations to
other houses, and I insisted that he should give no more entertainments at
Haddon Hall on my account. Sir George eagerly acquiesced in all my wishes.
In truth, I was treated like an honored guest and a member of the family,
and I congratulated myself that my life had fallen in such pleasant lines.
Dorothy and Madge became my constant companions, for Sir George's time
was occupied chiefly with his estates and with his duties as magistrate. A
feeling of rest and contentment came over me, and my past life drifted
back of me like an ever receding cloud.

Thus passed the months of October and November.

In the meantime events in Scotland and in England proved my wisdom in
seeking a home at Haddon Hall, and showed me how great was my good fortune
in finding it.

Queen Mary was a prisoner at Lochleven Castle, and her brother Murray had
beheaded many of her friends. Elizabeth, hating Mary as only a plain,
envious woman can hate one who is transcendently beautiful, had, upon
different pretexts, seized many of Mary's friends who had fled to England
for sanctuary, and some of them had suffered imprisonment or death.

Elizabeth, in many instances, had good cause for her attitude toward
Mary's friends, since plots were hatching thick and fast to liberate Mary
from Lochleven; and many such plots, undoubtedly, had for their chief end
the deposition of Elizabeth, and the enthronement of Mary as Queen of
England.

As a strict matter of law, Mary was rightful heir to the English throne,
and Elizabeth was an usurper. Parliament, at Henry's request, had declared
that Elizabeth, his issue by Anne Boleyn, was illegitimate, and that being
true, Mary was next in line of descent. The Catholics of England took that
stand, and Mary's beauty and powers of fascination had won for her friends
even in the personal household of the Virgin Queen. Small cause for wonder
was it that Elizabeth, knowing all these facts, looked with suspicion and
fear upon Mary's refugee friends.

The English queen well knew that Sir George Vernon was her friend,
therefore his house and his friendship were my sanctuary, without which
my days certainly would have been numbered in the land of Elizabeth, and
their number would have been small. I was dependent on Sir George not only
for a roof to shelter me, but for my very life. I speak of these things
that you may know some of the many imperative reasons why I desired to
please and conciliate my cousin. In addition to those reasons, I soon grew
to love Sir George, not only because of his kindness to me, but because he
was a lovable man. He was generous, just, and frank, and although at times
he was violent almost to the point of temporary madness, his heart was
usually gentle, and was as easily touched by kindness as it was quickly
moved to cruelty by injury, fancied or actual. I have never known a more
cruel, tender man than he. You will see him in each of his natures before
you have finished this history. But you must judge him only after you have
considered his times, which were forty years ago, his surroundings, and
his blood.

During those two months remarkable changes occurred within the walls of
Haddon, chief of which were in myself, and, alas! in Dorothy.

My pilgrimage to Haddon, as you already know, had been made for the
purpose of marrying my fair cousin; for I did not, at the time I left
Scotland, suppose I should need Sir George's protection against Elizabeth.
When I met Dorothy at Rowsley, my desire to marry her became personal, in
addition to the mercenary motives with which I had originally started. But
I quickly recognized the fact that the girl was beyond my reach. I knew I
could not win her love, even though I had a thousand years to try for it;
and I would not accept her hand in marriage solely at her father's
command. I also soon learned that Dorothy was the child of her father,
gentle, loving, and tender beyond the naming, but also wilful, violent,
and fierce to the extent that no command could influence her.

First I shall speak of the change within myself. I will soon be done with
so much "I" and "me," and you shall have Dorothy to your heart's content,
or trouble, I know not which.

Soon after my arrival at Haddon Hall the sun ushered in one of those
wonderful days known only to the English autumn, when the hush of Nature's
drowsiness, just before her long winter's sleep, imparts its soft
restfulness to man, as if it were a lotus feast. Dorothy was
ostentatiously busy with her household matters, and was consulting with
butler, cook, and steward. Sir George had ridden out to superintend his
men at work, and I, wandering aimlessly about the hail, came upon Madge
Stanley sitting in the chaplain's room with folded hands.

"Lady Madge, will you go with me for a walk this beautiful morning?" I
asked.

"Gladly would I go, Sir Malcolm," she responded, a smile brightening her
face and quickly fading away, "but I--I cannot walk in unfamiliar places.
I should fail. You would have to lead me by the hand, and that, I fear,
would mar the pleasure of your walk."

"Indeed, it would not, Lady Madge. I should enjoy my walk all the more."

"If you really wish me to go, I shall be delighted," she responded, as the
brightness came again to her face. "I sometimes grow weary, and, I
confess, a little sad sitting alone when Dorothy cannot be with me. Aunt
Dorothy, now that she has her magnifying glasses,--spectacles, I think
they are called,--devotes all her time to reading, and dislikes to be
interrupted."

"I wish it very much," I said, surprised by the real eagerness of my
desire, and unconsciously endeavoring to keep out of the tones of my voice
a part of that eagerness.

"I shall take you at your word," she said. "I will go to my room to get my
hat and cloak."

She rose and began to grope her way toward the door, holding out her
white, expressive hands in front of her. It was pitiful and beautiful to
see her, and my emotions welled up in my throat till I could hardly speak.

"Permit me to give you my hand," I said huskily. How I longed to carry
her! Every man with the right sort of a heart in his breast has a touch of
the mother instinct in him; but, alas I only a touch. Ah, wondrous and
glorious womanhood! If you had naught but the mother instinct to lift you
above your masters by the hand of man-made laws, those masters were still
unworthy to tie the strings of your shoes.

"Thank you," said the girl, as she clasped my hand, and moved with
confidence by my side. "This is so much better than the dreadful fear of
falling. Even through these rooms where I have lived for many years I feel
safe only in a few places,--on the stairs, and in my rooms, which are also
Dorothy's. When Dorothy changes the position of a piece of furniture in
the Hall, she leads me to it several times that I may learn just where it
is. A long time ago she changed the position of a chair and did not tell
me. I fell against it and was hurt. Dorothy wept bitterly over the mishap,
and she has never since failed to tell me of such changes. I cannot make
you know how kind and tender Dorothy is to me. I feel that I should die
without her, and I know she would grieve terribly were we to part."

I could not answer. What a very woman you will think I was! I, who could
laugh while I ran my sword through a man's heart, could hardly restrain my
tears for pity of this beautiful blind girl.

"Thank you; that will do," she said, when we came to the foot of the great
staircase. "I can now go to my rooms alone."

When she reached the top she hesitated and groped for a moment; then she
turned and called laughingly to me while I stood at the bottom of the
steps, "I know the way perfectly well, but to go alone in any place is not
like being led."

"There are many ways in which one may be led, Lady Madge," I answered
aloud. Then I said to myself, "That girl will lead you to Heaven, Malcolm,
if you will permit her to do so."

But thirty-five years of evil life are hard to neutralize. There is but
one subtle elixir that can do it--love; and I had not thought of that
magic remedy with respect to Madge.

I hurriedly fetched my hat and returned to the foot of the staircase.
Within a minute or two Madge came down stairs holding up the skirt of her
gown with one hand, while she grasped the banister with the other. As I
watched her descending I was enraptured with her beauty. Even the
marvellous vital beauty of Dorothy could not compare with this girl's
fair, pale loveliness. It seemed to be almost a profanation for me to
admire the sweet oval of her face. Upon her alabaster skin, the black
eyebrows, the long lashes, the faint blue veins and the curving red lips
stood in exquisite relief. While she was descending the stairs, I caught a
gleam of her round, snowy forearm and wrist; and when my eyes sought the
perfect curves of her form disclosed by the clinging silk gown she wore, I
felt that I had sinned in looking upon her, and I was almost glad she
could not see the shame which was in my face.

"Cousin Malcolm, are you waiting?" she asked from midway in the staircase.

"Yes, I am at the foot of the steps," I answered.

"I called you 'Cousin Malcolm,'" she said, holding out her hand when she
came near me. "Pardon me; it was a slip of the tongue. I hear 'Cousin
Malcolm' so frequently from Dorothy that the name is familiar to me."

"I shall be proud if you will call me 'Cousin Malcolm' always. I like the
name better than any that you can use."

"If you wish it," she said, in sweet, simple candor, "I will call you
'Cousin Malcolm,' and you may call me 'Cousin Madge' or 'Madge,' just as
you please."

"'Cousin Madge' it shall be; that is a compact," I answered, as I opened
the door and we walked out into the fresh air of the bright October
morning.

"That will stand for our first compact; we are progressing famously," she
said, with a low laugh of delight.

Ah, to think that the blind can laugh. God is good.

We walked out past the stables and the cottage, and crossed the river on
the great stone bridge. Then we took our way down the babbling Wye,
keeping close to its banks, while the dancing waters and even the gleaming
pebbles seemed to dimple and smile as they softly sang their song of
welcome to the fair kindred spirit who had come to visit them. If we
wandered from the banks for but a moment, the waters seemed to struggle
and turn in their course until they were again by her side, and then would
they gently flow and murmur their contentment as they travelled forward to
the sea, full of the memory of her sweet presence. And during all that
time I led her by the hand. I tell you, friends, 'tis sweet to write of
it.

When we returned we crossed the Wye by the stone footbridge and entered
the garden below the terrace at the corner postern. We remained for an
hour resting upon the terrace balustrade, and before we went indoors Madge
again spoke of Dorothy.

"I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed this walk, nor how thankful I
am to you for taking me," she said.

I did not interrupt her by replying, for I loved to hear her talk.

"Dorothy sometimes takes me with her for a short walk, but I seldom have
that pleasure. Walking is too slow for Dorothy. She is so strong and full
of life. She delights to ride her mare Dolcy. Have you seen Dolcy?"

"No," I responded.

"You must see her at once. She is the most beautiful animal in the world.
Though small of limb, she is swift as the wind, and as easy as a cradle in
her gaits. She is mettlesome and fiery, but full of affection. She often
kisses Dorothy. Mare and rider are finely mated. Dorothy is the most
perfect woman, and Dolcy is the most perfect mare. 'The two D's,' we call
them. But Dorothy says we must be careful not to put a--a dash between
them," she said with a laugh and a blush.

Then I led Madge into the hall, and she was blithe and happy as if the
blessed light of day were in her eyes. It was in her soul, and that, after
all, is where it brings the greatest good.

After that morning, Madge and I frequently walked out when the days were
pleasant. The autumn was mild, well into winter time, and by the end of
November the transparent cheeks of the blind girl held an exquisite tinge
of color, and her form had a new grace from the strength she had acquired
in exercise. We had grown to be dear friends, and the touch of her hand
was a pleasure for which I waited eagerly from day to day. Again I say
thoughts of love for her had never entered my mind. Perhaps their absence
was because of my feeling that they could not possibly exist in her heart
for me.

One evening in November, after the servants had all gone to bed, Sir
George and I went to the kitchen to drink a hot punch before retiring for
the night. I drank a moderate bowl and sat in a large chair before the
fire, smoking a pipe of tobacco, while Sir George drank brandy toddy at
the massive oak table in the middle of the room.

Sir George was rapidly growing drunk. He said: "Dawson tells me that the
queen's officers arrested another of Mary Stuart's damned French friends
at Derby-town yesterday,--Count somebody; I can't pronounce their
miserable names."

"Can you not remember his name?" I asked. "He may be a friend of mine." My
remark was intended to remind Sir George that his language was offensive
to me.

"That is true, Malcolm," responded Sir George. "I beg your pardon. I meant
to speak ill only of Mary's meddlesome friends, who are doing more injury
than good to their queen's cause by their plotting."

I replied: "No one can regret these plots more than I do. They certainly
will work great injury to the cause they are intended to help. But I fear
many innocent men are made to suffer for the few guilty ones. Without your
protection, for which I cannot sufficiently thank you, my life here would
probably be of short duration. After my misfortunes in Scotland, I know
not what I should have done had it not been for your generous welcome. I
lost all in Scotland, and it would now be impossible for me to go to
France. An attempt on my part to escape would result in my arrest. Fortune
certainly has turned her capricious back upon me, with the one exception
that she has left me your friendship."

"Malcolm, my boy," said Sir George, drawing his chair toward me, "that
which you consider your loss is my great gain. I am growing old, and if
you, who have seen so much of the gay world, will be content to live with
us and share our dulness and our cares, I shall be the happiest man in
England."

"I thank you more than I can tell," I said, careful not to commit myself
to any course.

"Barring my quarrel with the cursed race of Manners," continued Sir
George, "I have little to trouble me; and if you will remain with us, I
thank God I may leave the feud in good hands. Would that I were young
again only for a day that I might call that scoundrel Rutland and his imp
of a son to account in the only manner whereby an honest man may have
justice of a thief. There are but two of them, Malcolm,--father and
son,--and if they were dead, the damned race would be extinct."

I believe that Sir George Vernon when sober could not have spoken in that
fashion even of his enemies.

I found difficulty in replying to my cousin's remarks, so I said
evasively:--

"I certainly am the most fortunate of men to find so warm a welcome from
you, and so good a home as that which I have at Haddon Hall. When I met
Dorothy at the inn, I knew at once by her kindness that my friends of old
were still true to me. I was almost stunned by Dorothy's beauty."

My mention of Dorothy was unintentional and unfortunate. I had shied from
the subject upon several previous occasions, but Sir George was
continually trying to lead up to it. This time my lack of forethought
saved him the trouble.

"Do you really think that Doll is very beautiful--so very beautiful? Do
you really think so, Malcolm?" said the old gentleman, rubbing his hands
in pride and pleasure.

"Surprisingly beautiful," I answered, seeking hurriedly through my mind
for an excuse to turn the conversation. I had within two months learned
one vital fact: beautiful as Dorothy was, I did not want her for my wife,
and I could not have had her even were I dying for love. The more I
learned of Dorothy and myself during the autumn through which I had just
passed--and I had learned more of myself than I had been able to discover
in the thirty-five previous years of my life--the more clearly I saw the
utter unfitness of marriage between us.

"In all your travels," asked Sir George, leaning his elbows upon his
knees and looking at his feet between his hands, "in all your travels and
court life have you ever seen a woman who was so beautiful as my girl
Doll?"

His pride in Dorothy at times had a tinge of egotism and selfishness. It
seemed to be almost the pride of possession and ownership. "My girl!" The
expression and the tone in which the words were spoken sounded as if he
had said: "My fine horse," "My beautiful Hall," or "My grand estates."
Dorothy was his property. Still, he loved the girl passionately. She was
dearer to him than all his horses, cattle, halls, and estates put
together, and he loved even them to excess. He loved all that he
possessed; whatever was his was the best of the sort. Such a love is apt
to grow up in the breasts of men who have descended from a long line of
proprietary ancestors, and with all its materialism it has in it
possibilities of great good. The sturdy, unflinching patriotism of the
English people springs from this source. The thought, "That which I
possess is the best," has beauty and use in it, though it leads men to
treat other men, and, alas! women, as mere chattels. All this was passing
through my mind, and I forgot to answer Sir George's question.

"Have you ever seen a woman more beautiful than Doll?" he again asked.

"I certainly have never seen one whose beauty may even be compared with
Dorothy's," I answered.

"And she is young, too," continued Sir George; "she is not yet nineteen."

"That is very young," I answered, not knowing what else to say.

"And she will be rich some day. Very rich. I am called 'King of the Peak,'
you know, and there are not three estates in Derbyshire which, if
combined, would equal mine."

"That is true, cousin," I answered, "and I rejoice in your good fortune."

"Dorothy will have it all one of these days--all, all," continued my
cousin, still looking at his feet.

After a long pause, during which Sir George took several libations from
his bowl of toddy, he cleared his throat and said, "So Dorothy is the most
beautiful girl and the richest heiress you know?"

"Indeed she is," I responded, knowing full well what he was leading up to.
Realizing that in spite of me he would now speak his mind, I made no
attempt to turn the current of the conversation.

After another long pause, and after several more draughts from the bowl,
my old friend and would-be benefactor said: "You may remember a little
conversation between us when you were last at Haddon six or seven years
ago, about--about Dorothy? You remember?"

I, of course, dared not pretend that I had forgotten.

"Yes, I remember," I responded.

"What do you think of the proposition by this time?" asked Sir George.
"Dorothy and all she will inherit shall be yours--"

"Stop, stop, Sir George!" I exclaimed. "You do not know what you say. No
one but a prince or a great peer of the realm is worthy of aspiring to
Dorothy's hand. When she is ready to marry you should take her to London
court, where she can make her choice from among the nobles of our land.
There is not a marriageable duke or earl in England who would not eagerly
seek the girl for a wife. My dear cousin, your generosity overwhelms me,
but it must not be thought of. I am utterly unworthy of her in person,
age, and position. No! no!"

"But listen to me, Malcolm," responded Sir George. "Your modesty, which,
in truth, I did not know you possessed, is pleasing to me; but I have
reasons of my own for wishing that you should marry Dorothy. I want my
estates to remain in the Vernon name, and one day you or your children
will make my house and my name noble. You and Dorothy shall go to court,
and between you--damme! if you can't win a dukedom, I am no prophet. You
would not object to change your faith, would you?"

"Oh, no," I responded, "of course I should not object to that."

"Of course not. I knew you were no fool," said Sir George. "Age! why, you
are only thirty-five years old--little more than a matured boy. I prefer
you to any man in England for Dorothy's husband."

"You overwhelm me with your kindness," I returned, feeling that I was
being stranded on a very dangerous shore, amidst wealth and beauty.

"Tut, tut, there's no kindness in it," returned my cousin. "I do not offer
you Dorothy's hand from an unselfish motive. I have told you one motive,
but there is another, and a little condition besides, Malcolm." The brandy
Sir George had been drinking had sent the devil to his brain.

"What is the condition?" I asked, overjoyed to hear that there was one.

The old man leaned toward me and a fierce blackness overclouded his face.
"I am told, Malcolm, that you have few equals in swordsmanship, and that
the duello is not new to you. Is it true?"

"I believe I may say it is true," I answered. "I have fought successfully
with some of the most noted duellists of--"

"Enough, enough! Now, this is the condition, Malcolm,--a welcome one to
you, I am sure; a welcome one to any brave man." His eyes gleamed with
fire and hatred. "Quarrel with Rutland and his son and kill both of them."

I felt like recoiling from the old fiend. I had often quarrelled and
fought, but, thank God, never in cold blood and with deliberate intent to
do murder.

"Then Dorothy and all I possess shall be yours," said Sir George. "The old
one will be an easy victim. The young one, they say, prides himself on his
prowess. I do not know with what cause, I have never seen him fight. In
fact, I have never seen the fellow at all. He has lived at London court
since he was a child, and has seldom, if ever, visited this part of the
country. He was a page both to Edward VI. and to Queen Mary. Why Elizabeth
keeps the damned traitor at court to plot against her is more than I can
understand. Do the conditions suit you, Malcolm?" asked Sir George,
piercing me with his eyes.

I did not respond, and he continued: "All I ask is your promise to kill
Rutland and his son at the first opportunity. I care not how. The marriage
may come off at once. It can't take place too soon to please me."

I could not answer for a time. The power to speak and to think had left
me. To accept Sir George's offer was out of the question. To refuse it
would be to give offence beyond reparation to my only friend, and you know
what that would have meant to me. My refuge was Dorothy. I knew, however
willing I might be or might appear to be, Dorothy would save me the
trouble and danger of refusing her hand. So I said:--

"We have not consulted Dorothy. Perhaps her inclinations--"

"Doll's inclinations be damned. I have always been kind and indulgent to
her, and she is a dutiful, obedient daughter. My wish and command in this
affair will furnish inclinations enough for Doll."

"But, Sir George," I remonstrated, "I would not accept the hand of Dorothy
nor of any woman unless she desired it. I could not. I could not."

"If Doll consents, I am to understand that you accept?" asked Sir George.

I saw no way out of the dilemma, and to gain time I said, "Few men in
their right mind would refuse so flattering an offer unless there were a
most potent reason, and I--I--"

"Good! good! I shall go to bed happy to-night for the first time in years.
The Rutlands will soon be out of my path."

There is a self-acting retribution in our evil passions which never fails
to operate. One who hates must suffer, and Sir George for years had paid
the penalty night and day, unconscious that his pain was of his own
making.

Before we parted I said, "This is a delicate matter, with reference to
Dorothy, and I insist that you give me time to win, if possible, her
kindly regard before you express to her your wish."

"Nonsense, nonsense, Malcolm! I'll tell the girl about it in the morning,
and save you the trouble. The women will want to make some new gowns
and--"

"But," I interrupted emphatically, "I will not have it so. It is every
man's sweet privilege to woo the woman of his choice in his own way. It is
not a trouble to me; it is a pleasure, and it is every woman's right to be
wooed by the man who seeks her. I again insist that I only shall speak to
Dorothy on this subject. At least, I demand that I be allowed to speak
first."

"That's all damned nonsense," responded Sir George; "but if you will have
it so, well and good. Take your own course. I suppose it's the fashion at
court. The good old country way suits me. A girl's father tells her whom
she is to marry, and, by gad, she does it without a word and is glad to
get a man. English girls obey their parents. They know what to expect if
they don't--the lash, by God and the dungeon under the keep. Your
roundabout method is all right for tenants and peasants; but among people
who possess estates and who control vast interests, girls are--girls
are--Well, they are born and brought up to obey and to help forward the
interests of their houses." The old man was growing very drunk, and after
a long pause he continued: "Have your own way, Malcolm, but don't waste
time. Now that the matter is settled, I want to get it off my hands
quickly."

"I shall speak to Dorothy on the subject at the first favorable
opportunity," I responded; "but I warn you, Sir George, that if Dorothy
proves disinclined to marry me, I will not accept her hand."

"Never fear for Doll; she will be all right," and we parted.

Doll all right! Had he only known how very far from "all right" Dorothy
was, he would have slept little that night.

This brings me to the other change of which I spoke--the change in
Dorothy. Change? It was a metamorphosis.

A fortnight after the scene at The Peacock I accidentally discovered a
drawing made by Dorothy of a man with a cigarro in his mouth. The girl
snatched the paper from my hands and blushed convincingly.

"It is a caricature of--of him," she said. She smiled, and evidently was
willing to talk upon the subject of "him." I declined the topic.

This happened a month or more previous to my conversation with Sir George
concerning Dorothy. A few days after my discovery of the cigarro picture,
Dorothy and I were out on the terrace together. Frequently when she was
with me she would try to lead the conversation to the topic which I well
knew was in her mind, if not in her heart, at all times. She would speak
of our first meeting at The Peacock, and would use every artifice to
induce me to bring up the subject which she was eager to discuss, but I
always failed her. On the day mentioned when we were together on the
terrace, after repeated failures to induce me to speak upon the desired
topic, she said, "I suppose you never meet--meet--him when you ride out?"

"Whom, Dorothy?" I asked.

"The gentleman with the cigarro," she responded, laughing nervously.

"No," I answered, "I know nothing of him."

The subject was dropped.

At another time she said, "He was in the village--Overhaddon--yesterday."

Then I knew who "him" was.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"Jennie Faxton, the farrier's daughter, told me. She often comes to the
Hall to serve me. She likes to act as my maid, and is devoted to me."

"Did he send any word to you?" I asked at a venture. The girl blushed and
hung her head. "N-o," she responded.

"What was it, Dorothy?" I asked gently. "You may trust me."

"He sent no word to me," the girl responded. "Jennie said she heard two
gentlemen talking about me in front of the farrier's shop, and one of them
said something about--oh, I don't know what it was. I can't tell you. It
was all nonsense, and of course he did not mean it."

"Tell me all, Dorothy," I said, seeing that she really wanted to speak.

"Oh, he said something about having seen Sir George Vernon's daughter at
Rowsley, and--and--I can't tell you what he said, I am too full of shame."
If her cheeks told the truth, she certainly was "full of shame."

"Tell me all, sweet cousin; I am sorry for you," I said. She raised her
eyes to mine in quick surprise with a look of suspicion.

"You may trust me, Dorothy. I say it again, you may trust me."

"He spoke of my beauty and called it marvellous," said the girl. "He said
that in all the world there was not another woman--oh, I can't tell you."

"Yes, yes, go on, Dorothy," I insisted.

"He said," she continued, "that he could think of nothing else but me day
or night since he had first seen me at Rowsley--that I had bewitched him
and--and--Then the other gentleman said, 'John, don't play with fire; it
will burn you. Nothing good can come of it for you.'"

"Did Jennie know who the gentleman was?" I asked.

"No," returned Dorothy.

"How do you know who he was?"

"Jennie described him," she said.

"How did she describe him?" I asked.

"She said he was--he was the handsomest man in the world and--and that he
affected her so powerfully she fell in love with him in spite of herself.
The little devil, to dare! You see that describes him perfectly."

I laughed outright, and the girl blushed painfully.

"It does describe him," she said petulantly. "You know it does. No one can
gainsay that he is wonderfully, dangerously handsome. I believe the woman
does not live who could refrain from feasting her eyes on his noble
beauty. I wonder if I shall ever again--again." Tears were in her voice
and almost in her eyes.

"Dorothy! My God, Dorothy!" I exclaimed in terror.

"Yes! yes! My God, Dorothy!" she responded, covering her face with her
hands and sighing deeply, as she dropped her head and left me.

Yes, yes, my God, Dorothy! The helpless iron and the terrible loadstone!
The passive seed! The dissolving cloud and the falling rain!

Less than a week after the above conversation, Dorothy, Madge, and I were
riding from Yulegrave Church up to the village of Overhaddon, which lies
one mile across the hills from Haddon Hall. My horse had cast a shoe, and
we stopped at Faxton's shop to have him shod. The town well is in the
middle of an open space called by the villagers "The Open," around which
are clustered the half-dozen houses and shops that constitute the village.
The girls were mounted, and I was standing beside them in front of the
farrier's, waiting for my horse. Jennie Faxton, a wild, unkempt girl of
sixteen, was standing in silent admiration near Dorothy. Our backs were
turned toward the well. Suddenly a light came into Jennie's face, and she
plucked Dorothy by the skirt of her habit.

"Look, mistress, look! Look there by the well!" said Jennie in a whisper.
Dorothy looked toward the well. I also turned my head and beheld my
friend, Sir John, holding a bucket of water for his horse to drink. I had
not seen him since we parted at The Peacock, and I did not show that I
recognized him. I feared to betray our friendship to the villagers. They,
however, did not know Sir John, and I need not have been so cautious. But
Dorothy and Madge were with me, and of course I dared not make any
demonstration of acquaintanceship with the enemy of our house.

Dorothy watched John closely, and when he was ready to mount she struck
her horse with the whip, and boldly rode to the well.

"May I ask you to give my mare water?" she said.

"Certainly. Ah, I beg pardon. I did not understand," answered Sir John,
confusedly. John, the polished, self-poised courtier, felt the confusion
of a country rustic in the presence of this wonderful girl, whose
knowledge of life had been acquired within the precincts of Haddon Hall.
Yet the inexperienced girl was self-poised and unconfused, while the wits
of the courtier, who had often calmly flattered the queen, had all gone
wool-gathering.

She repeated her request.

"Certainly," returned John, "I--I knew what you said--but--but you
surprise me."

"Yes," said brazen Dorothy, "I have surprised myself."

John, in his haste to satisfy Dolcy's thirst, dashed the water against the
skirt of Dorothy's habit, and was profuse in his apologies.

"Do not mention it," said Dorothy. "I like a damp habit. The wind cannot
so easily blow it about," and she laughed as she shook the garment to free
it of the water. Dolcy refused to drink, and Dorothy having no excuse to
linger at the well, drew up her reins and prepared to leave. While doing
so, she said:--

"Do you often come to Overhaddon?" Her eager eyes shone like red coals,
and looking at John, she awaited smilingly his response.

"Seldom," answered John; "not often. I mean every day--that is, if I may
come."

"Any one may come to the village whenever he wishes to do so," responded
Dorothy, laughing too plainly at Sir John's confusion. "Is it seldom, or
not often, or every day that you come?" In her overconfidence she was
chaffing him. He caught the tone, and looked quickly into the girl's eyes.
Her gaze could not stand against John's for a moment, and the long lashes
drooped to shade her eyes from the fierce light of his.

"I said I would come to Overhaddon every day," he returned; "and although
I must have appeared very foolish in my confusion, you cannot
misunderstand the full meaning of my words."

In John's boldness and in the ring of his voice Dorothy felt the touch of
her master, against whom she well knew all the poor force she could muster
would be utterly helpless. She was frightened, and said:--

"I--I must go. Good-by."

When she rode away from him she thought: "I believed because of his
confusion that I was the stronger. I could not stand against him for a
moment. Holy Virgin! what have I done, and to what am I coming?"

You may now understand the magnitude of the task which Sir George had set
for me when he bade me marry his daughter and kill the Rutlands. I might
perform the last-named feat, but dragon fighting would be mere child's
play compared with the first, while the girl's heart was filled with the
image of another man.

I walked forward to meet Dorothy, leaving Madge near the farrier's shop.

"Dorothy, are you mad? What have you been doing?" I asked.

"Could you not see?" she answered, under her breath, casting a look of
warning toward Madge and a glance of defiance at me. "Are you, too, blind?
Could you not see what I was doing?"

"Yes," I responded.

"Then why do you ask?"

As I went back to Madge I saw John ride out of the village by the south
road. I afterward learned that he rode gloomily back to Rutland Castle
cursing himself for a fool. His duty to his father, which with him was a
strong motive, his family pride, his self love, his sense of caution, all
told him that he was walking open-eyed into trouble. He had tried to
remain away from the vicinity of Haddon Hall, but, despite his
self-respect and self-restraint, he had made several visits to Rowsley and
to Overhaddon, and at one time had ridden to Bakewell, passing Haddon
Hall on his way thither. He had as much business in the moon as at
Overhaddon, yet he told Dorothy he would be at the village every day, and
she, it seemed, was only too willing to give him opportunities to transact
his momentous affairs.

As the floating cloud to the fathomless blue, as the seed to the earth, as
the iron to the lodestone, so was Dorothy unto John.

Thus you see our beautiful pitcher went to the well and was broken.



CHAPTER IV

THE GOLDEN HEART


The day after Dorothy's first meeting with Manners at Overhaddon she was
restless and nervous, and about the hour of three in the afternoon she
mounted Dolcy and rode toward Bakewell. That direction, I was sure, she
took for the purpose of misleading us at the Hall, and I felt confident
she would, when once out of sight, head her mare straight for Overhaddon.
Within an hour Dorothy was home again, and very ill-tempered.

The next day she rode out in the morning. I asked her if I should ride
with her, and the emphatic "No" with which she answered me left no room
for doubt in my mind concerning her desire for my company or her
destination. Again she returned within an hour and hurried to her
apartments. Shortly afterward Madge asked me what Dorothy was weeping
about; and although in my own mind I was confident of the cause of
Dorothy's tears, I, of course, did not give Madge a hint of my suspicion.
Yet I then knew, quite as well as I now know, that John, notwithstanding
the important business which he said would bring him to Overhaddon every
day, had forced himself to remain at home, and Dorothy, in consequence,
suffered from anger and wounded pride. She had twice ridden to Overhaddon
to meet him. She had done for his sake that which she knew she should have
left undone, and he had refused the offering. A smarting conscience, an
aching heart, and a breast full of anger were Dorothy's rewards for her
evil doing. The day after her second futile trip to Overhaddon, I, to test
her, spoke of John. She turned upon me with the black look of a fury, and
hurled her words at me.

"Never again speak his despised name in my hearing. Curse him and his
whole race."

"Now what has he been doing?" I asked.

"I tell you, I will not speak of him, nor will I listen to you," and she
dashed away from me like a fiery whirlwind.

Four or five days later the girl rode out again upon Dolcy. She was away
from home for four long hours, and when she returned she was so gentle,
sweet, and happy that she was willing to kiss every one in the household
from Welch, the butcher, to Sir George. She was radiant. She clung to
Madge and to me, and sang and romped through the house like Dorothy of
old.

Madge said, "I am so glad you are feeling better, Dorothy." Then, speaking
to me: "She has been ill for several days. She could not sleep."

Dorothy looked quickly over to me, gave a little shrug to her shoulders,
bent forward her face, which was red with blushing, and kissed Madge
lingeringly upon the lips.

The events of Dorothy's trip I soon learned from her.

The little scene between Dorothy, Madge, and myself, after Dorothy's
joyful return, occurred a week before the momentous conversation between
Sir George and me concerning my union with his house. Ten days after Sir
George had offered me his daughter and his lands, he brought up the
subject again. He and I were walking on the ridge of Bowling Green Hill.

"I am glad you are making such fair progress with Doll," said Sir George.
"Have you yet spoken to her upon the subject?"

I was surprised to hear that I had made any progress. In fact, I did not
know that I had taken a single step. I was curious to learn in what the
progress consisted, so I said:--

"I have not spoken to Dorothy yet concerning the marriage, and I fear that
I have made no progress at all. She certainly is friendly enough to me,
but--"

"I should say that the gift from you she exhibited would indicate
considerable progress," said Sir George, casting an expressive glance
toward me.

"What gift?" I stupidly inquired.

"The golden heart, you rascal. She said you told her it had belonged to
your mother."

"Holy Mother of Truth!" thought I, "pray give your especial care to my
cousin Dorothy. She needs it."

Sir George thrust at my side with his thumb and continued:--

"Don't deny it, Malcolm. Damme, you are as shy as a boy in this matter.
But perhaps you know better than I how to go at her. I was thinking only
the other day that your course was probably the right one. Doll, I
suspect, has a dash of her old father's temper, and she may prove a little
troublesome unless we let her think she is having her own way. Oh, there
is nothing like knowing how to handle them, Malcolm. Just let them think
they are having their own way and--and save trouble. Doll may have more of
her father in her than I suspect, and perhaps it is well for us to move
slowly. You will be able to judge, but you must not move too slowly. If in
the end she should prove stubborn, we will break her will or break her
neck. I would rather have a daughter in Bakewell churchyard than a wilful,
stubborn, disobedient huzzy in Haddon Hall."

[Illustration]

Sir George had been drinking, and my slip concerning the gift passed
unnoticed by him.

"I am sure you well know how to proceed in this matter, but don't be too
cautious, Malcolm; the best woman living loves to be stormed."

"Trust me," I answered, "I shall speak--" and my words unconsciously sank
away to thought, as thought often, and inconveniently at times, grows into
words.

"Dorothy, Dorothy," said the thoughts again and again, "where came you by
the golden heart?" and "where learned you so villanously to lie?"

"From love," was the response, whispered by the sighing winds. "From love,
that makes men and women like unto gods and teaches them the tricks of
devils." "From love," murmured the dry rustling leaves and the rugged
trees. "From love," sighed the fleecy clouds as they floated in the sweet
restful azure of the vaulted sky. "From love," cried the mighty sun as he
poured his light and heat upon the eager world to give it life. I would
not give a fig for a woman, however, who would not lie herself black in
the face for the sake of her lover, and I am glad that it is a virtue few
women lack. One who would scorn to lie under all other circumstances
would--but you understand. I suppose that Dorothy had never before uttered
a real lie. She hated all that was evil and loved all that was good till
love came a-teaching.

I quickly invented an excuse to leave Sir George, and returned to the Hall
to seek Dorothy. I found her and asked her to accompany me for a few
minutes that I might speak with her privately. We went out upon the
terrace and I at once began:--

"You should tell me when I present you gifts that I may not cause trouble
by my ignorance nor show surprise when I suddenly learn what I have done.
You see when a man gives a lady a gift and he does not know it, he is apt
to--"

"Holy Virgin!" exclaimed Dorothy, pale with fear and consternation. "Did
you--"

"No, I did not betray you, but I came perilously near it."

"I--I wanted to tell you about it. I tried several times to do so--I did
so long to tell somebody, but I could not bring myself to speak. I was
full of shame, yet I was proud and happy, for all that happened was good
and pure and sacred. You are not a woman; you cannot know--"

"But I do know. I know that you saw Manners the other day, and that he
gave you a golden heart."

"How did you know? Did any one--"

"Tell me? No. I knew it when you returned after five hours' absence,
looking radiant as the sun."

"Oh!" the girl exclaimed, with a startled movement.

"I also knew," I continued, "that at other times when you rode out upon
Dolcy you had not seen him."

"How did you know?" she asked, with quick-coming breath.

"By your ill-humor," I answered.

"I knew it was so. I felt that everybody knew all that I had been doing. I
could almost see father and Madge and you--even the servants--reading the
wickedness written upon my heart. I knew that I could hide it from
nobody." Tears were very near the girl's eyes.

"We cannot help thinking that our guilty consciences, through which we see
so plainly our own evil, are transparent to all the world. In that fact
lies an evil-doer's greatest danger," said I, preacher fashion; "but you
need have no fear. What you have done I believe is suspected by no one
save me."

A deep sigh of relief rose from the girl's heaving breast.

"Well," she began, "I will tell you all about it, and I am only too glad
to do so. It is heavy, Malcolm, heavy on my conscience. But I would not
be rid of it for all the kingdoms of the earth."

"A moment since you told me that your conduct was good and pure and
sacred, and now you tell me that it is heavy on your conscience. Does one
grieve, Dorothy, for the sake of that which is good and pure and sacred?"

"I cannot answer your question," she replied. "I am no priest. But this I
know: I have done no evil, and my conscience nevertheless is sore. Solve
me the riddle, Malcolm, if you can."

"I cannot solve your riddle, Dorothy," I replied; "but I feel sure it will
be far safer for each of us if you will tell me all that happens
hereafter."

"I am sure you are right," she responded; "but some secrets are so
delicious that we love to suck their sweets alone. I believe, however,
your advice is good, and I will tell you all that has happened, though I
cannot look you in the face while doing it." She hesitated a moment, and
her face was red with tell-tale blushes. She continued, "I have acted most
unmaidenly."

"Unmaidenly perhaps, but not unwomanly," said I.

"I thank you," she said, interrupting my sentence. It probably was well
that she did so, for I was about to add, "To act womanly often means to
get yourself into mischief and your friends into as much trouble as
possible." Had I finished my remark, she would not have thanked me.

"Well," said the girl, beginning her laggard narrative, "after we saw--saw
him at Overhaddon, you know, I went to the village on each of three
days--"

"Yes, I know that also," I said.

"How did you--but never mind. I did not see him, and when I returned home
I felt angry and hurt and--and--but never mind that either. One day I
found him, and I at once rode to the well where he was standing by his
horse. He drew water for Dolcy, but the perverse mare would not drink."

"A characteristic of her sex," I muttered.

"What did you say?" asked the girl.

"Nothing."

She continued: "He seemed constrained and distant in his manner, but I
knew, that is, I thought--I mean I felt--oh, you know--he looked as if he
were glad to see me and I--I, oh, God! I was so glad and happy to see him
that I could hardly restrain myself to act at all maidenly. He must have
heard my heart beat. I thought he was in trouble. He seemed to have
something he wished to say to me."

"He doubtless had a great deal he wished to say to you," said I, again
tempted to futile irony.

"I was sure he had something to say," the girl returned seriously. "He was
in trouble. I knew that he was, and I longed to help him."

"What trouble?" I inquired.

"Oh, I don't know. I forgot to ask, but he looked troubled."

"Doubtless he was troubled," I responded. "He had sufficient cause for
trouble," I finished the sentence to myself with the words, "in you."

"What was the cause of his trouble?" she hastily asked, turning her face
toward me.

"I do not know certainly," I answered in a tone of irony which should have
pierced an oak board, while the girl listened and looked at me eagerly;
"but I might guess."

"What was it? What was it? Let me hear you guess," she asked.

"You," I responded laconically.

"I!" she exclaimed in surprise.

"Yes, you," I responded with emphasis. "You would bring trouble to any
man, but to Sir John Manners--well, if he intends to keep up these
meetings with you it would be better for his peace and happiness that he
should get him a house in hell, for he would live there more happily than
on this earth."

"That is a foolish, senseless remark, Malcolm," the girl replied, tossing
her head with a show of anger in her eyes. "This is no time to jest." I
suppose I could not have convinced her that I was not jesting.

"At first we did not speak to each other even to say good day, but stood
by the well in silence for a very long time. The village people were
staring at us, and I felt that every window had a hundred faces in it, and
every face a hundred eyes."

"You imagined that," said I, "because of your guilty conscience."

"Perhaps so. But it seemed to me that we stood by the well in silence a
very long time. You see, Cousin Malcolm, I was not the one who should
speak first. I had done more than my part in going to meet him."

"Decidedly so," said I, interrupting the interesting narrative.

"When I could bear the gaze of the villagers no longer, I drew up my reins
and started to leave The Open by the north road. After Dolcy had climbed
halfway up North Hill, which as you know overlooks the village, I turned
my head and saw Sir John still standing by the well, resting his hand upon
his horse's mane. He was watching me. I grew angry, and determined that he
should follow me, even if I had to call him. So I drew Dolcy to a stand.
Was not that bold in me? But wait, there is worse to come, Malcolm. He did
not move, but stood like a statue looking toward me. I knew that he wanted
to come, so after a little time I--I beckoned to him and--and then he came
like a thunderbolt. Oh! it was delicious. I put Dolcy to a gallop, for
when he started toward me I was frightened. Besides I did not want him to
overtake me till we were out of the village. But when once he had started,
he did not wait. He was as swift now as he had been slow, and my heart
throbbed and triumphed because of his eagerness, though in truth I was
afraid of him. Dolcy, you know, is very fleet, and when I touched her with
the whip she soon put half a mile between me and the village. Then I
brought her to a walk and--and he quickly overtook me.

"When he came up to me he said: 'I feared to follow you, though I ardently
wished to do so. I dreaded to tell you my name lest you should hate me.
Sir Malcolm at The Peacock said he would not disclose to you my identity.
I am John Manners. Our fathers are enemies.'

"Then I said to him, 'That is the reason I wish to talk to you. I wished
you to come to meet me because I wanted to tell you that I regret and
deplore the feud between our fathers.'--'Ah, you wished me to come?' he
asked.--'Of course I did,' I answered, 'else why should I be here?'--'No
one regrets the feud between our houses so deeply as I,' replied Sir John.
'I can think of nothing else by day, nor can I dream of anything else by
night. It is the greatest cause for grief and sorrow that has ever come
into my life.' You see, Cousin Malcolm," the girl continued, "I was right.
His father's conduct does trouble him. Isn't he noble and broad-minded to
see the evil of his father's ways?"

I did not tell the girl that Sir John's regret for the feud between the
houses of Manners and Vernon grew out of the fact that it separated him
from her; nor did I tell her that he did not grieve over his "father's
ways."

I asked, "Did Sir John tell you that he grieved because of his father's
ill-doing?"

"N-o, not in set terms, but--that, of course, would have been very hard
for him to say. I told you what he said, and there could be no other
meaning to his words."

"Of course not," I responded.

"No, and I fairly longed to reach out my hand and clutch him,
because--because I was so sorry for him."

"Was sorrow your only feeling?" I asked.

The girl looked at me for a moment, and her eyes filled with tears. Then
she sobbed gently and said, "Oh, Cousin Malcolm, you are so old and so
wise." ("Thank you," thought I, "a second Daniel come to judgment at
thirty-five; or Solomon and Methuselah in one.") She continued: "Tell me,
tell me, what is this terrible thing that has come upon me. I seem to be
living in a dream. I am burning with a fever, and a heavy weight is here
upon my breast. I cannot sleep at night. I can do nothing but long and
yearn for--for I know not what--till at times it seems that some
frightful, unseen monster is slowly drawing the heart out of my bosom. I
think of--of him at all times, and I try to recall his face, and the tones
of his voice until, Cousin Malcolm, I tell you I am almost mad. I call
upon the Holy Virgin hour by hour to pity me; but she is pure, and cannot
know what I feel. I hate and loathe myself. To what am I coming? Where
will it all end? Yet I can do nothing to save myself. I am powerless
against this terrible feeling. I cannot even resolve to resist it. It came
upon me mildly that day at The Peacock Inn, when I first saw him, and it
grows deeper and stronger day by day, and, alas! night by night. I seem to
have lost myself. In some strange way I feel as if I had sunk into
him--that he had absorbed me."

"The iron, the seed, the cloud, and the rain," thought I.

"I believed," continued the girl, "that if he would exert his will I might
have relief; but there again I find trouble, for I cannot bring myself to
ask him to will it. The feeling within me is like a sore heart: painful as
it is, I must keep it. Without it I fear I could not live."

After this outburst there was a long pause during which she walked by my
side, seemingly unconscious that I was near her. I had known for some time
that Dorothy was interested in Manners; but I was not prepared to see such
a volcano of passion. I need not descant upon the evils and dangers of the
situation. The thought that first came to me was that Sir George would
surely kill his daughter before he would allow her to marry a son of
Rutland. I was revolving in my mind how I should set about to mend the
matter when Dorothy again spoke.

"Tell me, Cousin Malcolm, can a man throw a spell over a woman and bewitch
her?"

"I do not know. I have never heard of a man witch," I responded.

"No?" asked the girl.

"But," I continued, "I do know that a woman may bewitch a man. John
Manners, I doubt not, could also testify knowingly on the subject by this
time."

"Oh, do you think he is bewitched?" cried Dorothy, grasping my arm and
looking eagerly into my face. "If I could bewitch him, I would do it. I
would deal with the devil gladly to learn the art. I would not care for my
soul. I do not fear the future. The present is a thousand-fold dearer to
me than either the past or the future. I care not what comes hereafter. I
want him now. Ah, Malcolm, pity my shame."

She covered her face with her hands, and after a moment continued: "I am
not myself. I belong not to myself. But if I knew that he also suffers, I
do believe my pain would be less."

"I think you may set your heart at rest upon that point," I answered. "He,
doubtless, also suffers."

"I hope so," she responded, unconscious of the selfish wish she had
expressed. "If he does not, I know not what will be my fate."

I saw that I had made a mistake in assuring her that John also suffered,
and I determined to correct it later on, if possible.

Dorothy was silent, and I said, "You have not told me about the golden
heart."

"I will tell you," she answered. "We rode for two hours or more, and
talked of the weather and the scenery, until there was nothing more to be
said concerning either. Then Sir John told me of the court in London,
where he has always lived, and of the queen whose hair, he says, is red,
but not at all like mine. I wondered if he would speak of the beauty of my
hair, but he did not. He only looked at it. Then he told me about the
Scottish queen whom he once met when he was on an embassy to Edinburgh. He
described her marvellous beauty, and I believe he sympathizes with her
cause--that is, with her cause in Scotland. He says she has no good cause
in England. He is true to our queen. Well--well he talked so interestingly
that I could have listened a whole month--yes, all my life."

"I suppose you could," I said.

"Yes," she continued, "but I could not remain longer from home, and when I
left him he asked me to accept a keepsake which had belonged to his
mother, as a token that there should be no feud between him and me." And
she drew from her bosom a golden heart studded with diamonds and pierced
by a white silver arrow.

"I, of course, accepted it, then we said 'good-by,' and I put Dolcy to a
gallop that she might speedily take me out of temptation."

"Have you ridden to Overhaddon for the purpose of seeing Manners many
times since he gave you the heart?" I queried.

"What would you call 'many times'?" she asked, drooping her head.

"Every day?" I said interrogatively. She nodded. "Yes. But I have seen
him only once since the day when he gave me the heart."

Nothing I could say would do justice to the subject, so I remained silent.

"But you have not yet told me how your father came to know of the golden
heart," I said.

"It was this way: One morning while I was looking at the heart, father
came upon me suddenly before I could conceal it. He asked me to tell him
how I came by the jewel, and in my fright and confusion I could think of
nothing else to say, so I told him you had given it to me. He promised not
to speak to you about the heart, but he did not keep his word. He seemed
pleased."

"Doubtless he was pleased," said I, hoping to lead up to the subject so
near to Sir George's heart, but now farther than ever from mine.

The girl unsuspectingly helped me.

"Father asked if you had spoken upon a subject of great interest to him
and to yourself, and I told him you had not. 'When he does speak,' said
father most kindly, 'I want you to grant his request'--and I will grant
it, Cousin Malcolm." She looked in my face and continued: "I will grant
your request, whatever it may be. You are the dearest friend I have in the
world, and mine is the most loving and lovable father that girl ever had.
It almost breaks my heart when I think of his suffering should he learn of
what I have done--that which I just told to you." She walked beside me
meditatively for a moment and said, "To-morrow I will return Sir John's
gift and I will never see him again."

I felt sure that by to-morrow she would have repented of her repentance;
but I soon discovered that I had given her much more time than she needed
to perform that trifling feminine gymnastic, for with the next breath she
said:--

"I have no means of returning the heart. I must see him once more and I
will give--give it--it--back to--to him, and will tell him that I can see
him never again." She scarcely had sufficient resolution to finish telling
her intention. Whence, then, would come the will to put it in action?
Forty thieves could not have stolen the heart from her, though she thought
she was honest when she said she would take it to him.

"Dorothy," said I, seriously but kindly, "have you and Sir John spoken
of--"

She evidently knew that I meant to say "of love," for she interrupted me.

"N-o, but surely he knows. And I--I think--at least I hope with all my
heart that--"

"I will take the heart to Sir John," said I, interrupting her angrily,
"and you need not see him again. He has acted like a fool and a knave. He
is a villain, Dorothy, and I will tell him as much in the most emphatic
terms I have at my command."

"Dare you speak against him or to him upon the subject!" she exclaimed,
her eyes blazing with anger; "you--you asked for my confidence and I gave
it. You said I might trust you and I did so, and now you show me that I am
a fool indeed. Traitor!"

"My dear cousin," said I, seeing that she spoke the truth in charging me
with bad faith, "your secret is safe with me. I swear it by my knighthood.
You may trust me. I spoke in anger. But Sir John has acted badly. That you
cannot gainsay. You, too, have done great evil. That also you cannot
gainsay."

"No," said the girl, dejectedly, "I cannot deny it; but the greatest evil
is yet to come."

"You must do something," I continued. "You must take some decisive step
that will break this connection, and you must take the step at once if you
would save yourself from the frightful evil that is in store for you.
Forgive me for what I said, sweet cousin. My angry words sprang from my
love for you and my fear for your future."

No girl's heart was more tender to the influence of kindness than
Dorothy's. No heart was more obdurate to unkindness or peremptory command.

My words softened her at once, and she tried to smother the anger I had
aroused. But she did not entirely succeed, and a spark remained which in a
moment or two created a disastrous conflagration. You shall hear.

She walked by my side in silence for a little time, and then spoke in a
low, slightly sullen tone which told of her effort to smother her
resentment.

"I do trust you, Cousin Malcolm. What is it that you wish to ask of me?
Your request is granted before it is made."

"Do not be too sure of that, Dorothy," I replied. "It is a request your
father ardently desires me to make, and I do not know how to speak to you
concerning the subject in the way I wish."

I could not ask her to marry me, and tell her with the same breath that I
did not want her for my wife. I felt I must wait for a further opportunity
to say that I spoke only because her father had required me to do so, and
that circumstances forced me to put the burden of refusal upon her. I well
knew that she would refuse me, and then I intended to explain.

"Why, what is it all about?" asked the girl in surprise, suspecting, I
believe, what was to follow.

"It is this: your father is anxious that his vast estates shall not pass
out of the family name, and he wishes you to be my wife, so that your
children may bear the loved name of Vernon."

I could not have chosen a more inauspicious time to speak. She looked at
me for an instant in surprise, turning to scorn. Then she spoke in tones
of withering contempt.

"Tell my father that I shall never bear a child by the name of Vernon. I
would rather go barren to my grave. Ah! that is why Sir John Manners is a
villain? That is why a decisive step should be taken? That is why you come
to my father's house a-fortune-hunting? After you have squandered your
patrimony and have spent a dissolute youth in profligacy, after the women
of the class you have known will have no more of you but choose younger
men, you who are old enough to be my father come here and seek your
fortune, as your father sought his, by marriage. I do not believe that my
father wishes me to--to marry you. You have wheedled him into giving his
consent when he was in his cups. But even if he wished it with all his
heart, I would not marry you." Then she turned and walked rapidly toward
the Hall.

Her fierce words angered me; for in the light of my real intentions her
scorn was uncalled for, and her language was insulting beyond endurance.
For a moment or two the hot blood rushed to my brain and rendered me
incapable of intelligent thought. But as Dorothy walked from me I realized
that something must be done at once to put myself right with her. When my
fit of temper had cooled, and when I considered that the girl did not know
my real intentions, I could not help acknowledging that in view of all
that had just passed between us concerning Sir John Manners, and, in fact,
in view of all that she had seen and could see, her anger was justifiable.

I called to her: "Dorothy, wait a moment. You have not heard all I have to
say."

She hastened her pace. A few rapid strides brought me to her side. I was
provoked, not at her words, for they were almost justifiable, but because
she would not stop to hear me. I grasped her rudely by the arm and
said:--

"Listen till I have finished."

"I will not," she answered viciously. "Do not touch me."

I still held her by the arm and said: "I do not wish to marry you. I spoke
only because your father desired me to do so, and because my refusal to
speak would have offended him beyond any power of mine to make amends. I
could not tell you that I did not wish you for my wife until you had given
me an opportunity. I was forced to throw the burden of refusal upon you."

"That is but a ruse--a transparent, flimsy ruse," responded the stubborn,
angry girl, endeavoring to draw her arm from my grasp.

"It is not a ruse," I answered. "If you will listen to me and will help me
by acting as I suggest, we may between us bring your father to our way of
thinking, and I may still be able to retain his friendship."

"What is your great plan?" asked Dorothy, in a voice such as one might
expect to hear from a piece of ice.

"I have formed no plan as yet," I replied, "although I have thought of
several. Until we can determine upon one, I suggest that you permit me to
say to your father that I have asked you to be my wife, and that the
subject has come upon you so suddenly that you wish a short time,--a
fortnight or a month--in which to consider your answer."

"That is but a ruse, I say, to gain time," she answered contemptuously. "I
do not wish one moment in which to consider. You already have my answer. I
should think you had had enough. Do you desire more of the same sort? A
little of such treatment should go a long way with a man possessed of one
spark of honor or self-respect."

Her language would have angered a sheep.

"If you will not listen to me," I answered, thoroughly aroused and
careless of consequences, "go to your father. Tell him I asked you to be
my wife, and that you scorned my suit. Then take the consequences. He has
always been gentle and tender to you because there has been no conflict.
Cross his desires, and you will learn a fact of which you have never
dreamed. You have seen the manner in which he treats others who oppose
him. You will learn that with you, too, he can be one of the cruelest and
most violent of men."

"You slander my father. I will go to him as you advise and will tell him
that I would not marry you if you wore the English crown. I, myself, will
tell him of my meeting with Sir John Manners rather than allow you the
pleasure of doing so. He will be angry, but he will pity me."

"For God's sake, Dorothy, do not tell your father of your meetings at
Overhaddon. He would kill you. Have you lived in the same house with him
all these years and do you not better know his character than to think
that you may go to him with the tale you have just told me, and that he
will forgive you? Feel as you will toward me, but believe me when I swear
to you by my knighthood that I will betray to no person what you have this
day divulged to me."

Dorothy made no reply, but turned from me and rapidly walked toward the
Hall. I followed at a short distance, and all my anger was displaced by
fear for her. When we reached the Hall she quickly sought her father and
approached him in her old free manner, full of confidence in her influence
over him.

"Father, this man"--waving her hand toward me--"has come to Haddon Hall
a-fortune-hunting. He has asked me to be his wife, and says you wish me to
accept him."

"Yes, Doll, I certainly wish it with all my heart," returned Sir George,
affectionately, taking his daughter's hand.

"Then you need wish it no longer, for I will not marry him."

"What?" demanded her father, springing to his feet.

"I will not. I will not. I will not."

"You will if I command you to do so, you damned insolent wench," answered
Sir George, hoarsely. Dorothy's eyes opened in wonder.

"Do not deceive yourself, father, for one moment," she retorted
contemptuously. "He has come here in sheep's clothing and has adroitly
laid his plans to convince you that I should marry him, but--"

"He has done nothing of the sort," answered Sir George, growing more angry
every moment, but endeavoring to be calm. "Nothing of the sort. Many years
ago I spoke to him on this subject, which is very dear to my heart. The
project has been dear to me ever since you were a child. When I again
broached it to Malcolm a fortnight or more since I feared from his manner
that he was averse to the scheme. I had tried several times to speak to
him about it, but he warded me off, and when I did speak, I feared that he
was not inclined to it."

"Yes," interrupted the headstrong girl, apparently bent upon destroying
both of us. "He pretended that he did not wish to marry me. He said he
wished me to give a sham consent for the purpose of gaining time till we
might hit upon some plan by which we could change your mind. He said he
had no desire nor intention to marry me. It was but a poor, lame ruse on
his part."

During Dorothy's recital Sir George turned his face from her to me. When
she had finished speaking, he looked at me for a moment and said:--

"Does my daughter speak the truth? Did you say--"

"Yes," I promptly replied, "I have no intention of marrying your
daughter." Then hoping to place myself before Sir George in a better
light, I continued: "I could not accept the hand of a lady against her
will. I told you as much when we conversed on the subject."

"What?" exclaimed Sir George, furious with anger. "You too? You whom I
have befriended?"

"I told you, Sir George, I would not marry Dorothy without her free
consent. No gentleman of honor would accept the enforced compliance of a
woman."

"But Doll says that you told her you had no intention of marrying her even
should she consent," replied Sir George.

"I don't know that I spoke those exact words," I replied, "but you may
consider them said."

"You damned, ungrateful, treacherous hound!" stormed Sir George. "You
listened to me when I offered you my daughter's hand, and you pretended to
consent without at the time having any intention of doing so."

"That, I suppose, is true, Sir George," said I, making a masterful effort
against anger. "That is true, for I knew that Dorothy would not consent;
and had I been inclined to the marriage, I repeat, I would marry no woman
against her will. No gentleman would do it."

My remark threw Sir George into a paroxysm of rage.

"I did it, you cur, you dog, you--you traitorous, ungrateful--I did it."

"Then, Sir George," said I, interrupting him, for I was no longer able to
restrain my anger, "you were a cowardly poltroon."

"This to me in my house!" he cried, grasping a chair with which to strike
me. Dorothy came between us.

"Yes," said I, "and as much more as you wish to hear." I stood my ground,
and Sir George put down the chair.

"Leave my house at once," he said in a whisper of rage.

"If you are on my premises in one hour from now I will have you flogged
from my door by the butcher."

"What have I done?" cried Dorothy. "What have I done?"

"Your regrets come late, Mistress Vernon," said I.

"She shall have more to regret," said Sir George, sullenly. "Go to your
room, you brazen, disobedient huzzy, and if you leave it without my
permission, by God, I will have you whipped till you bleed. I will teach
you to say 'I won't' when I say 'you shall.' God curse my soul, if I don't
make you repent this day!"

As I left the room Dorothy was in tears, and Sir George was walking the
floor in a towering rage. The girl had learned that I was right in what I
had told her concerning her father's violent temper.

I went at once to my room in Eagle Tower and collected my few belongings
in a bundle. Pitifully small it was, I tell you.

Where I should go I knew not, and where I should remain I knew even less,
for my purse held only a few shillings--the remnant of the money Queen
Mary had sent to me by the hand of Sir Thomas Douglas. England was as
unsafe for me as Scotland; but how I might travel to France without money,
and how I might without a pass evade Elizabeth's officers who guarded
every English port, even were I supplied with gold, were problems for
which I had no solution.

There were but two persons in Haddon Hall to whom I cared to say farewell.
They were Lady Madge and Will Dawson. The latter was a Scot, and was
attached to the cause of Queen Mary. He and I had become friends, and on
several occasions we had talked confidentially over Mary's sad plight.

When my bundle was packed, I sought Madge and found her in the gallery
near the foot of the great staircase. She knew my step and rose to greet
me with a bright smile.

"I have come to say good-by to you, Cousin Madge," said I. The smile
vanished from her face.

"You are not going to leave Haddon Hall?" she asked.

"Yes, and forever," I responded. "Sir George has ordered me to go."

"No, no," she exclaimed. "I cannot believe it. I supposed that you and my
uncle were friends. What has happened? Tell me if you can--if you wish.
Let me touch your hand," and as she held out her hands, I gladly grasped
them.

I have never seen anything more beautiful than Madge Stanley's hands. They
were not small, but their shape, from the fair, round forearm and wrist to
the ends of the fingers was worthy of a sculptor's dream. Beyond their
physical beauty there was an expression in them which would have belonged
to her eyes had she possessed the sense of sight. The flood of her vital
energy had for so many years been directed toward her hands as a
substitute for her lost eyesight that their sensitiveness showed itself
not only in an infinite variety of delicate gestures and movements,
changing with her changing moods, but they had an expression of their own,
such as we look for in the eyes. I had gazed upon her hands so often, and
had studied so carefully their varying expression, discernible both to my
sight and to my touch, that I could read her mind through them as we read
the emotions of others through the countenance. The "feel" of her hands,
if I may use the word, I can in no way describe. Its effect on me was
magical. The happiest moments I have ever known were those when I held the
fair blind girl by the hand and strolled upon the great terrace or
followed the babbling winding course of dear old Wye, and drank in the
elixir of all that is good and pure from the cup of her sweet, unconscious
influence.

Madge, too, had found happiness in our strolling. She had also found
health and strength, and, marvellous to say, there had come to her a
slight improvement in vision. She had always been able to distinguish
sunlight from darkness, but with renewed strength had come the power dimly
to discern dark objects in a strong light, and even that small change for
the better had brought unspeakable gladness to her heart. She said she
owed it all to me. A faint pink had spread itself in her cheeks and a
plumpness had been imparted to her form which gave to her ethereal beauty
a touch of the material. Nor was this to be regretted, for no man can
adequately make love to a woman who has too much of the angel in her. You
must not think, however, that I had been making love to Madge. On the
contrary, I again say, the thought had never entered my mind. Neither at
that time had I even suspected that she would listen to me upon the great
theme. I had in my self-analysis assigned many reasons other than love for
my tenderness toward her; but when I was about to depart, and she
impulsively gave me her hands, I, believing that I was grasping them for
the last time, felt the conviction come upon me that she was dearer to me
than all else in life.

"Do you want to tell me why my uncle has driven you from Haddon?" she
asked.

"He wished me to ask Dorothy to be my wife," I returned.

"And you?" she queried.

"I did so."

Instantly the girl withdrew her hands from mine and stepped back from me.
Then I had another revelation. I knew what she meant and felt. Her hands
told me all, even had there been no expression in her movement and in her
face.

"Dorothy refused," I continued, "and her father desired to force her into
compliance. I would not be a party to the transaction, and Sir George
ordered me to leave his house."

After a moment of painful silence Madge said:--"I do not wonder that you
should wish to marry Dorothy. She--she must be very beautiful."

"I do not wish to marry Dorothy," said I. I heard a slight noise back of
me, but gave it no heed. "And I should not have married her had she
consented. I knew that Dorothy would refuse me, therefore I promised Sir
George that I would ask her to be my wife. Sir George had always been my
friend, and should I refuse to comply with his wishes, I well knew he
would be my enemy. He is bitterly angry against me now; but when he
becomes calm, he will see wherein he has wronged me. I asked Dorothy to
help me, but she would not listen to my plan."

"--and now she begs your forgiveness," cried Dorothy, as she ran weeping
to me, and took my hand most humbly.

"Dorothy! Dorothy!" I exclaimed.

"What frightful evil have I brought upon you?" said she. "Where can you
go? What will you do?"

"I know not," I answered. "I shall probably go to the Tower of London when
Queen Elizabeth's officers learn of my quarrel with Sir George. But I will
try to escape to France."

"Have you money?" asked Madge, tightly holding one of my hands.

"A small sum," I answered.

"How much have you? Tell me. Tell me how much have you," insisted Madge,
clinging to my hand and speaking with a force that would brook no refusal.

"A very little sum, I am sorry to say; only a few shillings," I
responded.

She quickly withdrew her hand from mine and began to remove the baubles
from her ears and the brooch from her throat. Then she nervously stripped
the rings from her fingers and held out the little handful of jewels
toward me, groping for my hands.

"Take these, Malcolm. Take these, and wait here till I return." She turned
toward the staircase, but in her confusion she missed it, and before I
could reach her, she struck against the great newel post.

"God pity me," she said, as I took her hand. "I wish I were dead. Please
lead me to the staircase, Cousin Malcolm. Thank you."

She was weeping gently when she started up the steps, and I knew that she
was going to fetch me her little treasure of gold.

Madge held up the skirt of her gown with one hand while she grasped the
banister with the other. She was halfway up when Dorothy, whose generous
impulses needed only to be prompted, ran nimbly and was about to pass her
on the staircase when Madge grasped her gown.

"Please don't, Dorothy. Please do not. I beg you, do not forestall me. Let
me do this. Let me. You have all else to make you happy. Don't take this
from me only because you can see and can walk faster than I."

Dorothy did not stop, but hurried past her. Madge sank upon the steps and
covered her face with her hands. Then she came gropingly back to me just
as Dorothy returned.

"Take these, Cousin Malcolm," cried Dorothy. "Here are a few stones of
great value. They belonged to my mother."

Madge was sitting dejectedly upon the lowest step of the staircase.
Dorothy held her jewel-box toward me, and in the midst of the diamonds and
gold I saw the heart John Manners had given her. I did not take the box.

"Do you offer me this, too--even this?" I said, lifting the heart from the
box by its chain.--"Yes, yes," cried Dorothy, "even that, gladly, gladly."
I replaced it in the box.

Then spoke Madge, while she tried to check the falling tears:--"Dorothy,
you are a cruel, selfish girl."

"Oh, Madge," cried Dorothy, stepping to her side and taking her hand. "How
can you speak so unkindly to me?"

"You have everything good," interrupted Madge. "You have beauty, wealth,
eyesight, and yet you would not leave to me the joy of helping him. I
could not see, and you hurried past me that you might be first to give him
the help of which I was the first to think."

Dorothy was surprised at the outburst from Madge, and kneeled by her side.

"We may both help Cousin Malcolm," she said.

"No, no," responded Madge, angrily. "Your jewels are more than enough. He
would have no need of my poor offering."

I took Madge's hand and said, "I shall accept help from no one but you,
Madge; from no one but you."

"I will go to our rooms for your box," said Dorothy, who had begun to see
the trouble. "I will fetch it for you."

"No, I will fetch it," answered Madge. She arose, and I led her to the
foot of the staircase. When she returned she held in her hands a purse and
a little box of jewels. These she offered to me, but I took only the
purse, saying: "I accept the purse. It contains more money than I shall
need. From its weight I should say there are twenty gold pounds sterling."

"Twenty-five," answered Madge. "I have saved them, believing that the
time might come when they would be of great use to me. I did not know the
joy I was saving for myself."

Tears came to my eyes, and Dorothy wept silently.

"Will you not take the jewels also?" asked Madge.

"No," I responded; "the purse will more than pay my expenses to France,
where I have wealthy relatives. There I may have my mother's estate for
the asking, and I can repay you the gold. I can never repay your
kindness."

"I hope you will never offer to repay the gold," said Madge.

"I will not," I gladly answered.

"As to the kindness," she said, "you have paid me in advance for that
many, many times over."

I then said farewell, promising to send letters telling of my fortune. As
I was leaving I bent forward and kissed Madge upon the forehead, while she
gently pressed my hand, but did not speak a word.

"Cousin Malcolm," said Dorothy, who held my other hand, "you are a strong,
gentle, noble man, and I want you to say that you forgive me."

"I do forgive you, Dorothy, from my heart. I could not blame you if I
wished to do so, for you did not know what you were doing."

"Not to know is sometimes the greatest of sins," answered Dorothy. I bent
forward to kiss her cheek in token of my full forgiveness, but she gave me
her lips and said: "I shall never again be guilty of not knowing that you
are good and true and noble, Cousin Malcolm, and I shall never again doubt
your wisdom or your good faith when you speak to me." She did doubt me
afterward, but I fear her doubt was with good cause. I shall tell you of
it in the proper place.

Then I forced myself to leave my fair friends and went to the gateway
under Eagle Tower, where I found Will Dawson waiting for me with my horse.

"Sir George ordered me to bring your horse," said Will. "He seemed much
excited. Has anything disagreeable happened? Are you leaving us? I see you
wear your steel cap and breastplate and are carrying your bundle."

"Yes, Will, your master has quarrelled with me and I must leave his
house."

"But where do you go, Sir Malcolm? You remember that of which we talked?
In England no place but Haddon Hall will be safe for you, and the ports
are so closely guarded that you will certainly be arrested if you try to
sail for France."

"I know all that only too well, Will. But I must go, and I will try to
escape to France. If you wish to communicate with me, I may be found by
addressing a letter in care of the Duc de Guise."

"If I can ever be of help to you," said Will, "personally, or in that
other matter, Queen Mary, you understand,--you have only to call on me."

"I thank you, Will," I returned, "I shall probably accept your kind offer
sooner than you anticipate. Do you know Jennie Faxton, the ferrier's
daughter?"

"I do," he responded.

"I believe she may be trusted," I said.

"Indeed, I believe she is true as any steel in her father's shop," Will
responded.

"Good-by, Will, you may hear from me soon."

I mounted and rode back of the terrace, taking my way along the Wye toward
Rowsley. When I turned and looked back, I saw Dorothy standing upon the
terrace. By her side, dressed in white, stood Madge. Her hand was covering
her eyes. A step or two below them on the terrace staircase stood Will
Dawson. They were three stanch friends, although one of them had brought
my troubles upon me. After all, I was leaving Haddon Hall well garrisoned.
My heart also was well garrisoned with a faithful troop of pain. But I
shall write no more of that time. It was too full of bitterness.



CHAPTER V

MINE ENEMY'S ROOF-TREE


I rode down the Wye to Rowsley, and by the will of my horse rather than by
any intention of my own took the road up through Lathkil Dale. I had
determined if possible to reach the city of Chester, and thence to ride
down into Wales, hoping to find on the rough Welsh coast a fishing boat or
a smuggler's craft that would carry me to France. In truth, I cared little
whether I went to the Tower or to France, since in either case I felt that
I had looked my last upon Haddon Hall, and had spoken farewell to the only
person in all the world for whom I really cared. My ride from Haddon gave
me time for deliberate thought, and I fully agreed with myself upon two
propositions. First, I became thoroughly conscious of my real feeling
toward Madge, and secondly, I was convinced that her kindness and her
peculiar attitude toward me when I parted from her were but the promptings
of a tender heart stirred by pity for my unfortunate situation, rather
than what I thought when I said farewell to her. The sweet Wye and the
beautiful Lathkil whispered to me as I rode beside their banks, but in
their murmurings I heard only the music of her voice. The sun shone
brightly, but its blessed light only served to remind me of the beautiful
girl whom I had left in darkness. The light were worthless to me if I
could not share it with her. What a mooning lout was I!

All my life I had been a philosopher, and as I rode from Haddon, beneath
all my gloominess there ran a current of amusement which brought to my
lips an ill-formed, half-born laugh when I thought of the plight and
condition in which I, by candid self-communion, found myself. Five years
before that time I had left France, and had cast behind me all the fair
possibilities for noble achievement which were offered to me in that land,
that I might follow the fortunes of a woman whom I thought I loved. Before
my exile from her side I had begun to fear that my idol was but a thing of
stone; and now that I had learned to know myself, and to see her as she
really was, I realized that I had been worshipping naught but clay for lo,
these many years. There was only this consolation in the thought for me:
every man at some time in his life is a fool--made such by a woman. It is
given to but few men to have for their fool-maker the rightful queen of
three kingdoms. All that was left to me of my life of devotion was a
shame-faced pride in the quality of my fool-maker. "Then," thought I, "I
have at last turned to be my own fool-maker." But I suppose it had been
written in the book of fate that I should ride from Haddon a lovelorn
youth of thirty-five, and I certainly was fulfilling my destiny to the
letter.

I continued to ride up the Lathkil until I came to a fork in the road. One
branch led to the northwest, the other toward the southwest. I was at a
loss which direction to take, and I left the choice to my horse, in whose
wisdom and judgement I had more confidence than in my own. My horse,
refusing the responsibility, stopped. So there we stood like an equestrian
statue arguing with itself until I saw a horseman riding toward me from
the direction of Overhaddon. When he approached I recognized Sir John
Manners. He looked as woebegone as I felt, and I could not help laughing
at the pair of us, for I knew that his trouble was akin to mine. The pain
of love is ludicrous to all save those who feel it. Even to them it is
laughable in others. A love-full heart has no room for that sort of
charity which pities for kinship's sake.

"What is the trouble with you, Sir John, that you look so downcast?" said
I, offering my hand.

"Ah," he answered, forcing a poor look of cheerfulness into his face, "Sir
Malcolm, I am glad to see you. Do I look downcast?"

"As forlorn as a lover who has missed seeing his sweetheart," I responded,
guessing the cause of Sir John's despondency.

"I have no sweetheart, therefore missing her could not have made me
downcast," he replied.

"So you really did miss her?" I queried. "She was detained at Haddon Hall,
Sir John, to bid me farewell."

"I do not understand--" began Sir John, growing cold in his bearing.

"I understand quite well," I answered. "Dorothy told me all to-day. You
need keep nothing from me. The golden heart brought her into trouble, and
made mischief for me of which I cannot see the end. I will tell you the
story while we ride. I am seeking my way to Chester, that I may, if
possible, sail for France. This fork in the road has brought me to a
standstill, and my horse refuses to decide which route we shall take.
Perhaps you will direct us."

"Gladly. The road to the southwest--the one I shall take--is the most
direct route to Chester. But tell me, how comes it that you are leaving
Haddon Hall? I thought you had gone there to marry-" He stopped speaking,
and a smile stole into his eyes.

"Let us ride forward together, and I will tell you about it," said I.

While we travelled I told Sir John the circumstances of my departure from
Haddon Hall, concealing nothing save that which touched Madge Stanley. I
then spoke of my dangerous position in England, and told him of my great
desire to reach my mother's people in France.

"You will find difficulty and danger in escaping to France at this time,"
said Sir John, "the guard at the ports is very strong and strict, and your
greatest risk will be at the moment when you try to embark without a
passport."

"That is true," I responded; "but I know of nothing else that I can do."

"Come with me to Rutland Castle," said Sir John. "You may there find
refuge until such time as you can go to France. I will gladly furnish you
money which you may repay at your pleasure, and I may soon be able to
procure a passport for you."

I thanked him, but said I did not see my way clear to accept his kind
offer.

"You are unknown in the neighborhood of Rutland," he continued, "and you
may easily remain incognito." Although his offer was greatly to my liking,
I suggested several objections, chief among which was the distaste Lord
Rutland might feel toward one of my name. I would not, of course, consent
that my identity should be concealed from him. But to be brief--an almost
impossible achievement for me, it seems--Sir John assured me of his
father's welcome, and it was arranged between us that I should take my
baptismal name, François de Lorraine, and passing for a French gentleman
on a visit to England, should go to Rutland with my friend. So it happened
through the strange workings of fate that I found help and refuge under my
enemy's roof-tree.

Kind old Lord Rutland welcomed me, as his son had foretold, and I was
convinced ere I had passed an hour under his roof that the feud between
him and Sir George was of the latter's brewing.

The happenings in Haddon Hall while I lived at Rutland I knew, of course,
only by the mouth of others; but for convenience in telling I shall speak
of them as if I had seen and heard all that took place. I may now say once
for all that I shall take that liberty throughout this entire history.

On the morning of the day after my departure from Haddon, Jennie Faxton
went to visit Dorothy and gave her a piece of information, small in
itself, but large in its effect upon that ardent young lady. Will
Fletcher, the arrow-maker at Overhaddon, had observed Dorothy's movements
in connection with Manners; and although Fletcher did not know who Sir
John was, that fact added to his curiosity and righteous indignation.

"It do be right that some one should tell the King of the Peak as how his
daughter is carrying on with a young man who does come here every day or
two to meet her, and I do intend to tell Sir George if she put not a stop
to it," said Fletcher to some of his gossips in Yulegrave churchyard one
Sunday afternoon.

Dorothy notified John, Jennie being the messenger, of Will's observations,
visual and verbal, and designated another place for meeting,--the gate
east of Bowling Green Hill. This gate was part of a wall on the east side
of the Haddon estates adjoining the lands of the house of Devonshire which
lay to the eastward. It was a secluded spot in the heart of the forest
half a mile distant from Haddon Hall.

Sir George, for a fortnight or more after my disappearance, enforced his
decree of imprisonment against Dorothy, and she, being unable to leave the
Hall, could not go to Bowling Green Gate to meet Sir John. Before I had
learned of the new trysting-place John had ridden thither several evenings
to meet Dorothy, but had found only Jennie bearing her mistress's excuses.
I supposed his journeyings had been to Overhaddon; but I did not press his
confidence, nor did he give it.

Sir George's treatment of Dorothy had taught her that the citadel of her
father's wrath could be stormed only by gentleness, and an opportunity was
soon presented in which she used that effective engine of feminine warfare
to her great advantage.

As I have told you, Sir George was very rich. No man, either noble or
gentle, in Derbyshire or in any of the adjoining counties, possessed so
great an estate or so beautiful a hall as did he. In France we would have
called Haddon Hall a grand château.

Sir George's deceased wife had been a sister to the Earl of Derby, who
lived at the time of which I am now writing. The earl had a son, James,
who was heir to the title and to the estates of his father. The son was a
dissipated, rustic clown--almost a simpleton. He had the vulgarity of a
stable boy and the vices of a courtier. His associates were chosen from
the ranks of gamesters, ruffians, and tavern maids. Still, he was a scion
of one of the greatest families of England's nobility.

After Sir George's trouble with Dorothy, growing out of his desire that I
should wed her, the King of the Peak had begun to feel that in his
beautiful daughter he had upon his hands a commodity that might at any
time cause him trouble. He therefore determined to marry her to some
eligible gentleman as quickly as possible, and to place the heavy
responsibility of managing her in the hands of a husband. The stubborn
violence of Sir George's nature, the rough side of which had never before
been shown to Dorothy, in her became adroit wilfulness of a quality that
no masculine mind may compass. But her life had been so entirely
undisturbed by opposing influences that her father, firm in the belief
that no one in his household would dare to thwart his will, had remained
in dangerous ignorance of the latent trouble which pervaded his daughter
from the soles of her shapely feet to the top of her glory-crowned head.

Sir George, in casting about for a son-in-law, had hit upon the heir to
the house of Derby as a suitable match for his child, and had entered into
an alliance offensive and defensive with the earl against the common
enemy, Dorothy. The two fathers had partly agreed that the heir to Derby
should wed the heiress of Haddon. The heir, although he had never seen his
cousin except when she was a plain, unattractive girl, was entirely
willing for the match, but the heiress--well, she had not been consulted,
and everybody connected with the affair instinctively knew there would be
trouble in that quarter. Sir George, however, had determined that Dorothy
should do her part in case the contract of marriage should be agreed upon
between the heads of the houses. He had fully resolved to assert the
majesty of the law vested in him as a father and to compel Dorothy to do
his bidding, if there were efficacy in force and chastisement. At the time
when Sir George spoke to Dorothy about the Derby marriage, she had been a
prisoner for a fortnight or more, and had learned that her only hope
against her father lay in cunning. So she wept, and begged for time in
which to consider the answer she would give to Lord Derby's request. She
begged for two months, or even one month, in which to bring herself to
accede to her father's commands.

"You have always been so kind and good to me, father, that I shall try to
obey if you and the earl eventually agree upon terms," she said tearfully,
having no intention whatever of trying to do anything but disobey.

"Try!" stormed Sir George. "Try to obey me! By God, girl, I say you shall
obey!"

"Oh, father, I am so young. I have not seen my cousin for years. I do not
want to leave you, and I have never thought twice of any man. Do not drive
me from you."

Sir George, eager to crush in the outset any disposition to oppose his
will, grew violent and threatened his daughter with dire punishment if she
were not docile and obedient.

Then said rare Dorothy:--

"It would indeed be a great match." Greater than ever will happen, she
thought. "I should be a countess." She strutted across the room with head
up and with dilating nostrils. The truth was, she desired to gain her
liberty once more that she might go to John, and was ready to promise
anything to achieve that end. "What sort of a countess would I make,
father?"

"A glorious countess, Doll, a glorious countess," said her father,
laughing. "You are a good girl to obey me so readily."

"Oh, but I have not obeyed you yet," returned Dorothy, fearing that her
father might be suspicious of a too ready acquiescence.

"But you will obey me," answered Sir George, half in command and half in
entreaty.

"There are not many girls who would refuse the coronet of a countess." She
then seated herself upon her father's knee and kissed him, while Sir
George laughed softly over his easy victory.

Blessed is the man who does not know when he is beaten.

Seeing her father's kindly humor, Dorothy said:--

"Father, do you still wish me to remain a prisoner in my rooms?"

"If you promise to be a good, obedient daughter," returned Sir George,
"you shall have your liberty."

"I have always been that, father, and I am too old to learn otherwise,"
answered this girl, whose father had taught her deception by his violence.
You may drive men, but you cannot drive any woman who is worth possessing.
You may for a time think you drive her, but in the end she will have her
way.

Dorothy's first act of obedience after regaining liberty was to send a
letter to Manners by the hand of Jennie Faxton.

John received the letter in the evening, and all next day he passed the
time whistling, singing, and looking now and again at his horologue. He
walked about the castle like a happy wolf in a pen. He did not tell me
there was a project on foot, with Dorothy as the objective, but I knew it,
and waited with some impatience for the outcome.

Long before the appointed time, which was sunset, John galloped forth for
Bowling Green Gate with joy and anticipation in his heart and pain in his
conscience. As he rode, he resolved again and again that the interview
toward which he was hastening should be the last he would have with
Dorothy. But when he pictured the girl to himself, and thought upon her
marvellous beauty and infinite winsomeness, his conscience was drowned in
his longing, and he resolved that he would postpone resolving until the
morrow.

John hitched his horse near the gate and stood looking between the massive
iron bars toward Haddon Hall, whose turrets could be seen through the
leafless boughs of the trees. The sun was sinking perilously low, thought
John, and with each moment his heart also sank, while his good resolutions
showed the flimsy fibre of their fabric and were rent asunder by the fear
that she might not come. As the moments dragged on and she did not come, a
hundred alarms tormented him. First among these was a dread that she might
have made resolves such as had sprung up so plenteously in him, and that
she might have been strong enough to act upon them and to remain at home.
But he was mistaken in the girl. Such resolutions as he had been making
and breaking had never come to her at all. The difference between the man
and the woman was this: he resolved in his mind not to see her and failed
in keeping to his resolution; while she resolved in her heart to see
him--resolved that nothing in heaven or earth or the other place could
keep her from seeing him, and succeeded in carrying out her resolution.
The intuitive resolve, the one that does not know it is a resolution, is
the sort before which obstacles fall like corn before the sickle.

After John had waited a weary time, the form of the girl appeared above
the crest of the hill. She was holding up the skirt of her gown, and
glided over the earth so rapidly that she appeared to be running. Beat!
beat! oh, heart of John, if there is aught in womanhood to make you throb;
if there is aught in infinite grace and winsomeness; if there is aught in
perfect harmony of color and form and movement; if there is aught of
beauty, in God's power to create that can set you pulsing, beat! for the
fairest creature of His hand is hastening to greet you. The wind had
dishevelled her hair and it was blowing in fluffy curls of golden red
about her face. Her cheeks were slightly flushed with joy and exercise,
her red lips were parted, and her eyes--but I am wasting words. As for
John's heart it almost smothered him with its beating. He had never before
supposed that he could experience such violent throbbing within his breast
and live. But at last she was at the gate, in all her exquisite beauty and
winsomeness, and something must be done to make the heart conform to the
usages of good society. She, too, was in trouble with her breathing, but
John thought that her trouble was owing to exertion. However that may have
been, nothing in heaven or earth was ever so beautiful, so radiant, so
graceful, or so fair as this girl who had come to give herself to John. It
seems that I cannot take myself away from the attractive theme.

"Ah, Sir John, you did come," said the girl, joyously.

"Yes," John succeeded in replying, after an effort, "and you--I thank you,
gracious lady, for coming. I do not deserve--" the heart again asserted
itself, and Dorothy stood by the gate with downcast eyes, waiting to learn
what it was that John did not deserve. She thought he deserved everything
good.

"I fear I have caused you fatigue," said John, again thinking, and with
good reason, that he was a fool.

The English language, which he had always supposed to be his mother
tongue, had deserted him as if it were his step-mother. After all, the
difficulty, as John subsequently said, was that Dorothy's beauty had
deprived him of the power to think. He could only see. He was entirely
disorganized by a girl whom he could have carried away in his arms.

"I feel no fatigue," replied Dorothy.

"I feared that in climbing the hill you had lost your breath," answered
disorganized John.

"So I did," she returned. Then she gave a great sigh and said, "Now I am
all right again."

All right? So is the morning sun, so is the arching rainbow, and so are
the flitting lights of the north in midwinter. All are "all right" because
God made them, as He made Dorothy, perfect, each after its kind.

A long, uneasy pause ensued. Dorothy felt the embarrassing silence less
than John, and could have helped him greatly had she wished to do so. But
she had made the advances at their former meetings, and as she had told
me, she "had done a great deal more than her part in going to meet him."
Therefore she determined that he should do his own wooing thenceforward.
She had graciously given him all the opportunity he had any right to ask.

While journeying to Bowling Green Gate, John had formulated many true and
beautiful sentiments of a personal nature which he intended expressing to
Dorothy; but when the opportunity came for him to speak, the weather, his
horse, Dorothy's mare Dolcy, the queens of England and Scotland were the
only subjects on which he could induce his tongue to perform, even
moderately well.

Dorothy listened attentively while John on the opposite side of the gate
discoursed limpingly on the above-named themes; and although in former
interviews she had found those topics quite interesting, upon that
occasion she had come to Bowling Green Gate to listen to something else
and was piqued not to hear it. After ten or fifteen minutes she said
demurely:--

"I may not remain here longer. I shall be missed at the Hall. I regained
my liberty but yesterday, and father will be suspicious of me during the
next few days. I must be watchful and must have a care of my behavior."

John summoned his wits and might have spoken his mind freely had he not
feared to say too much. Despite Dorothy's witchery, honor, conscience, and
prudence still bore weight with him, and they all dictated that he should
cling to the shreds of his resolution and not allow matters to go too far
between him and this fascinating girl. He was much in love with her; but
Dorothy had reached at a bound a height to which he was still climbing.
Soon John, also, was to reach the pinnacle whence honor, conscience, and
prudence were to be banished.

"I fear I must now leave you," said Dorothy, as darkness began to gather.

"I hope I may soon see you again," said John.

"Sometime I will see you if--if I can," she answered with downcast eyes.
"It is seldom I can leave the Hall alone, but I shall try to come here at
sunset some future day." John's silence upon a certain theme had given
offence.

"I cannot tell you how greatly I thank you," cried John.

"I will say adieu," said Dorothy, as she offered him her hand through the
bars of the gate. John raised the hand gallantly to his lips, and when she
had withdrawn it there seemed no reason for her to remain. But she stood
for a moment hesitatingly. Then she stooped to reach into her pocket while
she daintily lifted the skirt of her gown with the other hand and from the
pocket drew forth a great iron key.

"I brought this key, thinking that you might wish to unlock the gate--and
come to--to this side. I had great difficulty in taking it from the
forester's closet, where it has been hanging for a hundred years or more."

She showed John the key, returned it to her pocket, made a courtesy, and
moved slowly away, walking backward.

"Mistress Vernon," cried John, "I beg you to let me have the key."

"It is too late, now," said the girl, with downcast eyes. "Darkness is
rapidly falling, and I must return to the Hall."

John began to climb the gate, but she stopped him. He had thrown away his
opportunity.

"Please do not follow me, Sir John," said she, still moving backward. "I
must not remain longer."

"Only for one moment," pleaded John.

"No," the girl responded, "I--I may, perhaps, bring the key when I come
again. I am glad, Sir John, that you came to meet me this evening." She
courtesied, and then hurried away toward Haddon Hall. Twice she looked
backward and waved her hand, and John stood watching her through the bars
till her form was lost to view beneath the crest of Bowling Green Hill.

"'I brought this key, thinking that you might wish to unlock the gate and
come to this side,'" muttered John, quoting the girl's words. "Compared
with you, John Manners, there is no other fool in this world." Then
meditatively: "I wonder if she feels toward me as I feel toward her?
Surely she does. What other reason could bring her here to meet me unless
she is a brazen, wanton creature who is for every man." Then came a
jealous thought that hurt him like the piercing of a knife. It lasted but
a moment, however, and he continued muttering to himself: "If she loves me
and will be my wife, I will--I will ... In God's name what will I do? If I
were to marry her, old Vernon would kill her, and I--I should kill my
father."

Then John mounted his horse and rode homeward the unhappiest happy man in
England. He had made perilous strides toward that pinnacle sans honor,
sans caution, sans conscience, sans everything but love.

That evening while we were walking on the battlements, smoking, John told
me of his interview with Dorothy and extolled her beauty, grace, and
winsomeness which, in truth, as you know, were matchless. But when he
spoke of "her sweet, shy modesty," I came near to laughing in his face.

"Did she not write a letter asking you to meet her?" I asked.

"Why--y-e-s," returned John.

"And," I continued, "has she not from the first sought you?"

"It almost seems to be so," answered John, "but notwithstanding the fact
that one might say--might call--that one might feel that her conduct
is--that it might be--you know, well--it might be called by some persons
not knowing all the facts in the case, immodest--I hate to use the word
with reference to her--yet it does not appear to me to have been at all
immodest in Mistress Vernon, and, Sir Malcolm, I should be deeply offended
were any of my friends to intimate--"

"Now, John," I returned, laughing at him, "you could not, if you wished,
make me quarrel with you; and if you desire it, I will freely avow my firm
belief in the fact that my cousin Dorothy is the flower of modesty. Does
that better suit you?"

I could easily see that my bantering words did not suit him at all; but I
laughed at him, and he could not find it in his heart to show his
ill-feeling.

"I will not quarrel with you," he returned; "but in plain words, I do not
like the tone in which you speak of her. It hurts me, and I do not believe
you would wilfully give me pain."

"Indeed, I would not," I answered seriously.

"Mistress Vernon's conduct toward me," John continued, "has been gracious.
There has been no immodesty nor boldness in it."

I laughed again and said: "I make my humble apologies to her Majesty,
Queen Dorothy. But in all earnestness, Sir John, you are right: Dorothy is
modest and pure. As for her conduct toward you, there is a royal quality
about beauty such as my cousin possesses which gives an air of
graciousness to acts that in a plainer girl would seem bold. Beauty, like
royalty, has its own prerogatives."

For a fortnight after the adventures just related, John, in pursuance of
his oft-repeated resolution not to see Dorothy, rode every evening to
Bowling Green Gate; but during that time he failed to see her, and the
resolutions, with each failure, became weaker and fewer.

One evening, after many disappointments, John came to my room bearing in
his hands a letter which he said Jennie Faxton had delivered to him at
Bowling Green Gate.

"Mistress Vernon," said John, "and Lady Madge Stanley will ride to
Derby-town to-morrow. They will go in the Haddon Hall coach, and Dawson
will drive. Mistress Vernon writes to me thus:--

    "'To SIR JOHN MANNERS:--

    "'My good wishes and my kind greeting. Lady Madge Stanley, my good
    aunt, Lady Crawford, and myself do intend journeying to Derby-town
    to-morrow. My aunt, Lady Crawford, is slightly ill, and although I
    should much regret to see her sickness grow greater, yet if ill she
    must be, I do hope that her worst day will be upon the morrow, in
    which case she could not accompany Lady Madge and me. I shall nurse my
    good aunt carefully this day, and shall importune her to take
    plentifully of physic that she may quickly recover her health--after
    to-morrow. Should a gentleman ask of Will Dawson, who will be in the
    tap-room of the Royal Arms at eleven o'clock of the morning, Dawson
    will be glad to inform the gentleman concerning Lady Crawford's
    health. Let us hope that the physic will cure Lady Crawford--by the
    day after to-morrow at furthest. The said Will Dawson may be trusted.
    With great respect,

    DOROTHY VERNON.'"

"I suppose the gentleman will be solicitous concerning Lady Crawford's
health to-morrow morning at eleven o'clock," said I.

"The gentleman is now solicitous concerning Lady Crawford's health,"
answered John, laughingly. "Was there ever a lady more fair and gracious
than Mistress Vernon?"

I smiled with a superior air at John's weakness, being, as you know,
entirely free from his complaint myself, and John continued:--

"Perhaps you would call Mistress Dorothy bold for sending me this letter?"

"It is redolent with shyness," I answered. "But would you really wish poor
Lady Crawford to be ill that you might witness Mistress Dorothy's
modesty?"

"Please don't jest on that subject," said John, seriously. "I would wish
anything, I fear, that would bring me an opportunity to see her, to look
upon her face, and to hear her voice. For her I believe I would sacrifice
every one who is dear to me. One day she shall be mine--mine at whatever
cost--if she will be. If she will be. Ah, there is the rub! If she will
be. I dare not hope for that."

"I think," said I, "that you really have some little cause to hope."

"You speak in the same tone again. Malcolm, you do not understand her. She
might love me to the extent that I sometimes hope; but her father and mine
would never consent to our union, and she, I fear, could not be induced to
marry me under those conditions. Do not put the hope into my heart."

"You only now said she should be yours some day," I answered.

"So she shall," returned John, "so she shall."

"But Lady Madge is to be with her to-morrow," said I, my own heart beating
with an ardent wish and a new-born hope, "and you may be unable, after
all, to see Mistress Dorothy."

"That is true," replied John. "I do not know how she will arrange matters,
but I have faith in her ingenuity."

Well might he have faith, for Dorothy was possessed of that sort of a will
which usually finds a way.

"If you wish me to go with you to Derby-town, I will do so. Perhaps I may
be able to entertain Lady Madge while you have a word with Dorothy. What
think you of the plan?" I asked.

"If you will go with me, Malcolm, I shall thank you with all my heart."

And so it was agreed between us that we should both go to Derby-town for
the purpose of inquiring about Lady Crawford's health, though for me the
expedition was full of hazard.



CHAPTER VI

A DANGEROUS TRIP TO DERBY-TOWN


The next morning broke brightly, but soon clouds began to gather and a
storm seemed imminent. We feared that the gloomy prospect of the sky might
keep Dorothy and Madge at home, but long before the appointed hour John
and I were at the Royal Arms watching eagerly for the Haddon coach. At the
inn we occupied a room from which we could look into the courtyard, and at
the window we stood alternating between exaltation and despair.

When my cogitations turned upon myself--a palpitating youth of
thirty-five, waiting with beating heart for a simple blind girl little
more than half my age; and when I remembered how for years I had laughed
at the tenderness of the fairest women of the French and Scottish
courts--I could not help saying to myself, "Poor fool! you have achieved
an early second childhood." But when I recalled Madge in all her beauty,
purity, and helplessness, my cynicism left me, and I, who had enjoyed all
of life's ambitious possibilities, calmly reached the conclusion that it
is sometimes a blessed privilege to be a fool. While I dwelt on thoughts
of Madge, all the latent good within me came uppermost. There is latent
good in every man, though it may remain latent all his life. Good
resolves, pure thoughts, and noble aspirations--new sensations to me, I
blush to confess--bubbled in my heart, and I made a mental prayer, "If
this is folly, may God banish wisdom." What is there, after all is said,
in wisdom, that men should seek it? Has it ever brought happiness to its
possessor? I am an old man at this writing. I have tasted all the cups of
life, and from the fulness of my experience I tell you that the simple
life is the only one wherein happiness is found. When you permit your
heart and your mind to grow complex and wise, you make nooks and crannies
for wretchedness to lodge in. Innocence is Nature's wisdom; knowledge is
man's folly.

An hour before noon our patience was rewarded when we saw the Haddon Hall
coach drive into the courtyard with Dawson on the box. I tried to make
myself believe that I did not wish Lady Crawford were ill. But there is
little profit in too close scrutiny of our deep-seated motives, and in
this case I found no comfort in self-examination. I really did wish that
Aunt Dorothy were ill.

My motive studying, however, was brought to a joyous end when I saw Will
Dawson close the coach door after Madge and Dorothy had alighted.

How wondrously beautiful they were! Had we lived in the days when Olympus
ruled the world, John surely would have had a god for his rival. Dorothy
seemed luminous, so radiant was she with the fire of life. As for Madge,
had I beheld a corona hovering over her head I should have thought it in
all respects a natural and appropriate phenomenon--so fair and saintlike
did she appear to me. Her warm white furs and her clinging gown of soft
light-colored woollen stuff seemed to be a saint's robe, and her dainty
little hat, fashioned with ermine about the edge of the rim--well, that
was the corona, and I was ready to worship.

Dorothy, as befitted her, wore a blaze of harmonious colors and looked
like the spirit of life and youth. I wish I could cease rhapsodizing over
those two girls, but I cannot. You may pass over it as you read, if you do
not like it.

"Ye gods! did ever a creature so perfect as she tread the earth?" asked
John, meaning, of course, Dorothy.

"No," answered I, meaning, of course, Madge.

The girls entered the inn, and John and I descended to the tap-room for
the purpose of consulting Will Dawson concerning the state of Aunt
Dorothy's health.

When we entered the tap-room Will was standing near the fireplace with a
mug of hot punch in his hand. When I touched him, he almost dropped the
mug so great was his surprise at seeing me.

"Sir Mal--" he began to say, but I stopped him by a gesture. He instantly
recovered his composure and appeared not to recognize me.

I spoke in broken English, for, as you know, I belong more to France than
to any other country. "I am Sir François de Lorraine," said I. "I wish to
inquire if Lady Crawford is in good health?"

"Her ladyship is ill, sir, I am sorry to say," responded Will, taking off
his hat. "Mistress Vernon and Lady Madge Stanley are at the inn. If you
wish to inquire more particularly concerning Lady Crawford's health, I
will ask them if they wish to receive you. They are in the parlor."

Will was the king of trumps!

"Say to them," said I, "that Sir François de Lorraine--mark the name
carefully, please--and his friend desire to make inquiry concerning Lady
Crawford's health, and would deem it a great honor should the ladies grant
them an interview."

Will's countenance was as expressionless as the face upon the mug from
which he had been drinking. "I shall inform the ladies of your honor's
request." He thereupon placed the half-emptied mug upon the fire-shelf
and left the room.

When Will announced his errand to the girls, Dorothy said in surprise:--

"Sir François de Lorraine? That is the name of the Grand Duc de Guise, but
surely--Describe him to me, Will."

"He is about your height, Mistress Dorothy, and is very handsome,"
responded Will.

The latter part of Will's description placed me under obligation to him to
the extent of a gold pound sterling.

"Ah, it is John!" thought Dorothy, forgetting the fact that John was a
great deal taller than she, but feeling that Will's description of "very
handsome" could apply to only one man in the world. "He has taken
Malcolm's name." Then she said, "Bring him to us, Will. But who is the
friend? Do you know him? Tell me his appearance."

"I did not notice the other gentleman," replied Will, "and I can tell you
nothing of him."

"Will, you are a very stupid man. But bring the gentlemen here." Dorothy
had taken Will into her confidence to the extent of telling him that a
gentleman would arrive at the Royal Arms who would inquire for Lady
Crawford's health, and that she, Dorothy, would fully inform the gentleman
upon that interesting topic. Will may have had suspicions of his own, but
if so, he kept them to himself, and at least did not know that the
gentleman whom his mistress expected to see was Sir John Manners. Neither
did he suspect that fact. Dawson had never seen Manners, and did not know
he was in the neighborhood of Derby. The fact was concealed from Dawson by
Dorothy not so much because she doubted him, but for the reason that she
wished him to be able truthfully to plead innocence in case trouble should
grow out of the Derby-town escapade.

"I wonder why John did not come alone?" thought Dorothy. "This friend of
his will be a great hindrance."

Dorothy ran to the mirror and hurriedly gave a few touches to her hair,
pressing it lightly with her soft flexible fingers here, and tucking in a
stray curl there, which for beauty's sake should have been allowed to hang
loose. She was standing at the pier-glass trying to see the back of her
head when Will knocked to announce our arrival.

"Come," said Dorothy.

Will opened the door and held it for us to pass in. Madge was seated near
the fire. When we entered Dorothy was standing with great dignity in the
centre of the floor, not of course intending to make an exhibition of
delight over John in the presence of a stranger. But when she saw that I
was the stranger, she ran to me with outstretched hands.

"Good morning, Mistress Vernon," said I, in mock ceremoniousness.

"Oh, Malcolm! Malcolm!" cried Madge, quickly rising from her chair. "You
are cruel, Dorothy, to surprise me in this fashion."

"I, too, am surprised. I did not know that Malcolm was coming," replied
Dorothy, turning to give welcome to John. Then I stepped to Madge's side
and took her hands, but all I could say was "Madge! Madge!" and all she
said was "Malcolm! Malcolm!" yet we seemed to understand each other.

John and Dorothy were likewise stricken with a paucity of words, but they
also doubtless understood each other. After a moment or two there fell
upon me a shower of questions from Dorothy.

"Did you not go to France? How happens it that you are in Derby-town?
Where did you meet Sir John? What a delightful surprise you have given us!
Nothing was wanting to make us happy but your presence."

"I am so happy that it frightens me," said Dorothy in ecstasy. "Trouble
will come, I am sure. One extreme always follows another. The pendulum
always swings as far back as it goes forward. But we are happy now, aren't
we, Madge? I intend to remain so while I can. The pendulum may swing as
far backward as it chooses hereafter. Sufficient to the day is the evil
thereof. Sometimes the joy is almost sufficient, isn't it, Madge?"

"The evil is more than sufficient some days," answered Madge.

"Come, Madge, don't be foreboding."

"Dorothy, I have not met the other gentleman," said Madge.

"Ah, pardon me. In my surprise I forgot to present you. Lady Madge
Stanley, let me present Sir John Manners."

"Sir John Manners!" cried Madge, taking a step backward. Her surprise was
so great that she forgot to acknowledge the introduction. "Dorothy, what
means this?" she continued.

"It means," replied Dorothy, nervously, "that Sir John is my very dear
friend. I will explain it to you at another time."

We stood silently for a few moments, and John said:--

"I hope I may find favor in your heart, Lady Madge. I wish to greet you
with my sincere homage."

"Sir John, I am glad to greet you, but I fear the pendulum of which
Dorothy spoke will swing very far backward erelong."

"Let it swing as far back as it chooses," answered Dorothy, with a toss of
her head, "I am ready to buy and to pay for happiness. That seems to be
the only means whereby we may have it. I am ready to buy it with pain any
day, and am willing to pay upon demand. Pain passes away; joy lasts
forever."

"I know," said Sir John, addressing Madge, "I know it is not prudent for
Malcolm and me to be here to-day; but imprudent things seem to be the most
delightful."

"For men, Sir John," returned Madge. "Upon women they leave their mark."

"I fear you are right," he answered. "I had not thought of my visit in
that light. For Mistress Vernon's sake it is better that I do not remain
in Derby."

"For Mistress Vernon's sake you shall remain," cried that impetuous young
woman, clutching John's arm.

After a time, Dorothy wishing to visit one of the shops to make purchases,
it was agreed between us that we should all walk out. Neither Dorothy nor
Madge had ever before visited Derby-town. John and I had visited the place
but once; that was upon the occasion of our first meeting. No one in the
town knew us, and we felt safe in venturing forth into the streets. So we
helped Dorothy and Madge to don their furs, and out we went happier and
more reckless than four people have any good right to be. But before
setting out I went to the tap-room and ordered dinner.

I found the host and directed him to prepare a dozen partridges in a pie,
a haunch of venison, a few links of German sausage, and a capon. The host
informed me that he had in his pantry a barrel of roots called potatoes
which had been sent to him by a sea-captain who had recently returned from
the new world. He hurried away and brought a potato for inspection. It was
of a gray brown color and near the size of an egg. The landlord assured me
that it was delicious when baked, and I ordered four, at the cost of a
crown each. I understand that my Lord Raleigh claims to have brought the
first potatoes and tobacco into England in '85; but I know that I smoked
tobacco in '66, and I saw potatoes at the Royal Arms in Derby-town in '67.
I also ordered another new dish for our famous dinner. It was a brown
beverage called coffee. The berries from which the beverage is made mine
host showed to me, and said they had been brought to him by a sea-faring
man from Arabia. I ordered a pot of the drink at a cost of three crowns. I
have heard it said that coffee was not known in Europe or in England till
it was introduced by Rawolf in '73, but I saw it at the Royal Arms in '67.
In addition to this list, I ordered for our drinking sweet wine from
Madeira and red wine from Burgundy. The latter-named wine had begun to
grow in favor at the French court when I left France five years before. It
was little liked in England. All these dainties were rare at the time of
which I write; but they have since grown into considerable use, and I
doubt not, as we progress in luxury, they will become common articles of
food upon the tables of the rich. Prongs, or forks, as they are called,
which by some are used in cutting and eating one's food at table, I also
predict will become implements of daily use. It is really a filthy
fashion, which we have, of handling food with our fingers. The Italians
have used forks for some time, but our preachers speak against them,
saying God has given us our fingers with which to eat, and that it is
impious to thwart his purposes by the use of forks. The preachers will
probably retard the general use of forks among the common people.

After I had given my order for dinner we started out on our ramble through
Derby-town.

Shortly after we left the inn we divided into couples for the ostensible
reason that we did not wish to attract too much attention--Dorothy and
John, Madge and I! Our real reason for separating was--but you understand.

Madge's hand lay like a span of snow upon my arm, and--but this time I
will restrain my tendency to rhapsodize.

We walked out through those parts of the town which were little used, and
Madge talked freely and happily.

She fairly babbled, and to me her voice was like the murmurings of the
rivers that flowed out of paradise.

We had agreed with John and Dorothy to meet them at the Royal Arms in one
hour, and that time had almost passed when Madge and I turned our faces
toward the inn.

When we were within a short distance of our hostelry we saw a crowd
gathered around a young man who was standing on a box. He was speaking in
a mournful, lugubrious voice and accompanied his words with violent
gesticulations. Out of curiosity we stopped to listen, and learned that
religion was our orator's theme.

I turned to a man standing near me and asked:--

"Who is the fellow speaking?"

"The pious man is Robert Brown. He is exhorting in the name of the Lord of
Hosts."

"The pious Robert Brown?" I queried, "exhorting in the name of--of the
Lord of where, did you say?"

"Hosts," laconically responded my friend, while listening intently to the
words of Brown.

"Hosts, say you? Who is he?" I asked of my interesting neighbor. "I know
him not."

"Doubtless you know Him not," responded the man, evidently annoyed at my
interruption and my flippancy.

After a moment or two I, desiring to know more concerning the orator,
asked:--

"Robert Brown, say you?"

"Even he," came the response. "It will be good for your soul if you but
listen to him in a prayerful mood. He is a young man upon whom the Spirit
hath descended plenteously."

"The Spirit?" I asked.

"Ay," returned my neighbor.

I could not extract another word from him, so I had the worst of the
encounter.

We had been standing there but a short time when the young exhorter
descended from his improvised pulpit and passed among the crowd for the
purpose of collecting money. His harangue had appeared ridiculous to me,
but Madge seemed interested in his discourse. She said:--

"He is very earnest, Malcolm," and at once my heart went out to the young
enthusiast upon the box. One kind word from Madge, and I was the fellow's
friend for life. I would have remained his friend had he permitted me that
high privilege. But that he would not do. When he came to me, I dropped
into his hat a small silver piece which shone brightly among a few black
copper coins. My liberal contribution did not induce him to kindness, but,
on the contrary, it attracted his attention to the giver. He looked at the
silver coin, and then turning his solemn gaze upon me, eyed me insolently
from head to foot. While doing so a look of profound disgust spread over
his mournful countenance. After a calm survey of my person, which to me
was uncomfortably long, he turned to the bystanders, and in the same
high-pitched, lugubrious voice which he had used when exhorting, said:--

"Brethren, here behold ye the type of anti-Christ," and he waved his thin
hand toward me much to my amusement and annoyance. "Here," said he, "we
find the leading strings to all that is iniquitous--vanity. It is
betokened in his velvets, satins, and laces. Think ye, young man," he
said, turning to me, "that such vanities are not an abomination in the
eyes of the God of Israel?"

"I believe that the God of Israel cares nothing about my apparel," I
replied, more amused than angered. He paid no attention to my remark.

"And this young woman," he continued, pointing to Madge, "this young
woman, daughter of the Roman harlot, no doubt, she also is arrayed in
silks, taffetas, and fine cloth. Look ye, friends, upon this abominable
collar of Satan; this ruff of fine linen, all smeared in the devil's own
liquor, starch. Her vanity is an offence in the nostrils of God's people."

As he spoke he stretched forth his hand and caught in his clawlike grasp
the dainty white ruff that encircled Madge's neck. When I saw his act, my
first impulse was to run him through, and I drew my sword half from its
scabbard with that purpose. But he was not the sort of a man upon whom I
could use my blade. He was hardly more than a boy--a wild, half-crazed
fanatic, whose reason, if he had ever possessed any, had been lost in the
Charybdis of his zeal. He honestly thought it was his duty to insult
persons who apparently disagreed with him. Such a method of proselyting is
really a powerful means of persuasion among certain classes, and it has
always been used by men who have successfully founded permanent religious
sects. To plant successfully a religious thought or system requires more
violent aggression than to conquer a nation.

Since I could not run the fellow through, I drew back my arm, and striking
as lightly as possible, I laid our zealous friend sprawling on his back.
Thus had I the honor of knocking down the founder of the Brownists.

If I mistake not, the time will come, if these men are allowed to harangue
the populace, when the kings of England will be unable to accomplish the
feat of knocking down Brown's followers. Heresies, like noxious weeds,
grow without cultivation, and thrive best on barren soil. Or shall I say
that, like the goodly vine, they bear better fruit when pruned? I cannot
fully decide this question for myself; but I admire these sturdy fanatics
who so passionately love their own faith, and so bitterly hate all others,
and I am almost prepared to say that each new heresy brings to the world a
better orthodoxy.

For a little time after my encounter with Brown, all my skill was needed
to ward off the frantic hero. He quickly rose to his feet, and, with the
help of his friends, seemed determined to spread the gospel by tearing me
to pieces. My sword point kept the rabble at a respectful distance for a
while, but they crowded closely upon me, and I should have been compelled
to kill some of them had I not been reënforced by two men who came to my
help and laid about them most joyfully with their quarterstaffs. A few
broken heads stemmed for a moment the torrent of religious enthusiasm, and
during a pause in the hostilities I hurriedly retreated with Madge,
ungratefully leaving my valiant allies to reap the full reward of victory
should the fortunes of war favor them.

Madge was terribly frightened, and with her by my side I, of course, would
not have remained to fight the redoubtable Bayard himself.

We hurried forward, but before we reached the inn we were overtaken by our
allies whom we had abandoned. Our friends were young men. One wore a rich,
half-rustic habit, and the other was dressed as a horse boy. Both were
intoxicated. I had been thankful for their help; but I did not want their
company.

"How now, Cousin Madge?" said our richly dressed ally. "What in the
devil's name has brought you into this street broil?"

"Ah, Cousin James, is it you?" replied the trembling girl.

"Yes, but who is your friend that so cleverly unloaded his quarrel upon
us? Hell's fires! but they were like a swarm of wasps. Who is your friend,
Madge?"

"Sir Malcolm Vernon," replied Madge. "Let me present you, Sir Malcolm, to
my cousin, Lord James Stanley."

I offered my hand to his Lordship, and said:--

"I thank you much for your timely help. I should not have deserted you had
I not felt that my first duty was to extricate Lady Madge from the
disagreeable situation. We must hasten away from here, or the mad rabble
will follow us."

"Right you are, my hearty," returned Stanley, slapping me on the shoulder.
"Of course you had to get the wench away. Where do you go? We will bear
you company."

I longed to pay the fellow for his help by knocking him down; but the
possibilities of trouble ahead of us were already too great, and I forced
myself to be content with the prowess already achieved.

"But you have not told me what brought you into the broil," asked his
Lordship, as we walked toward the inn.

"Sir Malcolm and I were walking out to see the town and--"

"To see the town? By gad, that's good, Cousin Madge. How much of it did
you see? You are as blind as an owl at noon," answered his Lordship.

"Alas! I am blind," returned Madge, clinging closely to me, and shrinking
from her cousin's terrible jest. I could not think of anything
sufficiently holy and sacred upon which to vow my vengeance against this
fellow, if the time should ever come when I dared take it.

"Are you alone with this--this gentleman?" asked his Lordship, grasping
Madge by the arm.

"No," returned Madge, "Dorothy is with us."

"She is among the shops," I volunteered reluctantly.

"Dorothy? Dorothy Vernon? By gad, Tod, we are in luck. I must see the
wench I am to marry," said his Lordship, speaking to his companion, the
stable boy. "So Dorothy is with you, is she, cousin? I haven't seen her
for years. They say she is a handsome filly now. By gad, she had room to
improve, for she was plain enough, to frighten rats away from a barn when
I last saw her. We will go to the inn and see for ourselves, won't we,
Tod? Dad's word won't satisfy us when it comes to the matter of marrying,
will it, Tod?"

Tod was the drunken stable boy who had assisted his Lordship and me in
our battle with the Brownists.

I was at a loss what course to pursue. I was forced to submit to this
fellow's company, and to endure patiently his insolence. But John and
Dorothy would soon return, and there is no need that I should explain the
dangers of the predicament which would then ensue.

When we were within a few yards of the inn door I looked backward and saw
Dorothy and John approaching us. I held up my hand warningly. John caught
my meaning, and instantly leaving Dorothy's side, entered an adjacent
shop. My movement had attracted Stanley's attention, and he turned in the
direction I had been looking. When he saw Dorothy, he turned again to me
and asked:--

"Is that Dorothy Vernon?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Look at her, Tod!" exclaimed my lord, "look at her, Tod! The dad was
right about her, after all. I thought the old man was hoaxing me when he
told me that she was beautiful. Holy Virgin, Tod, did you ever see
anything so handsome? I will take her quick enough; I will take her. Dad
won't need to tease me. I'm willing."

Dorothy approached to within a few yards of us, and my Lord Stanley
stepped forward to meet her.

"Ye don't know me, do ye?" said Stanley.

Dorothy was frightened and quickly stepped to my side.

"I--I believe not," responded Dorothy.

"Lord James Stanley," murmured Madge, who knew of the approaching Stanley
marriage.

"Madge is right," returned. Stanley, grinning foolishly. "I am your cousin
James, but not so much of a cousin that I cannot be more than cousin,
heh?" He laughed boisterously, and winking at Tod, thrust his thumb into
that worthy's ribs. "Say, Tod, something more than cousin; that's the
thing, isn't it, Tod?"

John was standing half-concealed at the door of the shop in which he had
sought refuge. Dorothy well knew the peril of the situation, and when I
frowned at her warningly, she caught the hint that she should not resent
Stanley's words, however insulting and irritating they might become.

"Let us go to the inn," said Dorothy.

"That's the thing to do. Let us go to the inn and have dinner," said
Stanley. "It's two hours past dinner time now, and I'm almost famished.
We'll have a famous dinner. Come, cousin," said he, addressing Dorothy.
"We'll have kidneys and tripe and--"

"We do not want dinner," said Dorothy. "We must return home at once. Sir
Malcolm, will you order Dawson to bring out the coach?"

We went to the inn parlor, and I, loath to do so, left the ladies with
Stanley and his horse-boy friend while I sought Dawson for the purpose of
telling him to fetch the coach with all haste.

"We have not dined," said the forester.

"We shall not dine," I answered. "Fetch the coach with all the haste you
can make." The bystanders in the tap-room were listening, and I continued,
"A storm is brewing, and we must hasten home."

True enough, a storm was brewing.

When I left Dawson, I hurriedly found John and told him we were preparing
to leave the inn, and that we would expect him to overtake us on the road
to Rowsley.

I returned to the ladies in the parlor and found them standing near the
window. Stanley had tried to kiss Dorothy, and she had slapped his face.
Fortunately he had taken the blow good-humoredly, and was pouring into her
unwilling ear a fusillade of boorish compliments when. I entered the
parlor.

I said, "The coach is ready."

The ladies moved toward the door. "I am going to ride with you, my
beauty," said his Lordship.

"That you shall not do," retorted Dorothy, with blazing eyes.

"That I will do," he answered. "The roads are free to all, and you cannot
keep me from following you."

Dorothy was aware of her predicament, and I too saw it, but could find no
way out of it. I was troubled a moment; but my fear was needless, for
Dorothy was equal to the occasion.

"We should like your company, Cousin Stanley," replied Dorothy, without a
trace of anger in her manner, "but we cannot let you ride with us in the
face of the storm that is brewing."

"We won't mind the storm, will we, Tod? We are going with our cousin."

"If you insist upon being so kind to us," said Dorothy, "you may come. But
I have changed my mind about dinner. I am very hungry, and we accept your
invitation."

"Now you are coming around nicely," said Lord James, joyfully. "We like
that, don't we, Tod?"

Tod had been silent under all circumstances.

Dorothy continued: "Madge and I will drive in the coach to one or two of
the shops, and we shall return in one hour. Meantime, Cousin Stanley, we
wish you to have a fine dinner prepared for us, and we promise to do ample
justice to the fare."

"She'll never come back," said silent Tod, without moving a muscle.

"How about it, cousin?" asked Stanley. "Tod says you'll never come back;
he means that you are trying to give us the slip."

"Never fear, Cousin Stanley," she returned, "I am too eager for dinner
not to come back. If you fail to have a well-loaded table for me, I shall
never speak to you again."

We then went to the coach, and as the ladies entered it Dorothy said aloud
to Dawson:--

"Drive to Conn's shop."

I heard Tod say to his worthy master:--

"She's a slippin' ye."

"You're a fool, Tod. Don't you see she wants me more than she wants the
dinner, and she's hungry, too."

"Don't see," retorted his laconic friend.

Of course when the coach was well away from the inn, Dawson received new
instructions, and took the road to Rowsley. When the ladies had departed,
I went to the tap-room with Stanley, and after paying the host for the
coffee, the potatoes, and the dinner which alas! we had not tasted, I
ordered a great bowl of sack and proceeded to drink with my allies in the
hope that I might make them too drunk to follow us. Within half an hour I
discovered that I was laboring at a hopeless task. There was great danger
that I would be the first to succumb; so I, expressing a wish to sleep off
the liquor before the ladies should return, made my escape from the
tap-room, mounted my horse, and galloped furiously after Dorothy and
Madge. John was riding by the coach when I overtook it.

It was two hours past noon when I came up with John and the girls. Snow
had been falling softly earlier in the afternoon, but as the day advanced
the storm grew in violence. A cold, bleak wind was blowing from the north,
and by reason of the weather and because of the ill condition of the
roads, the progress of the coach was so slow that darkness overtook us
before we had finished half of our journey to Rowsley. Upon the fall of
night the storm increased in violence, and the snow came in piercing,
horizontal shafts which stung like the prick of a needle.

At the hour of six--I but guessed the time--John and I, who were riding
at the rear of the coach, heard close on our heels the trampling of
horses. I rode forward to Dawson, who was in the coach box, and told him
to drive with all the speed he could make. I informed him that some one
was following us, and that I feared highwaymen were on our track.

Hardly had I finished speaking to Dawson when I heard the report of a
hand-fusil, back of the coach, near the spot where I had left John. I
quickly drew my sword, though it was a task of no small labor, owing to
the numbness of my fingers. I breathed along the blade to warm it, and
then I hastened to John, whom I found in a desperate conflict with three
ruffians. No better swordsman than John ever drew blade, and he was
holding his ground in the darkness right gallantly. When I rode to his
rescue, another hand-fusil was discharged, and then another, and I knew
that we need have no more fear from bullets, for the three men had
discharged their weapons, and they could not reload while John and I were
engaging them. I heard the bullets tell upon the coach, and I heard the
girls screaming lustily. I feared they had been wounded, but you may be
sure I had no leisure to learn the truth. Three against two was terrible
odds in the dark, where brute force and luck go for more than skill. We
fought desperately for a while, but in the end we succeeded in beating off
the highwaymen. When we had finished with the knaves who had attacked us,
we quickly overtook our party. We were calling Dawson to stop when we saw
the coach, careening with the slant of the hill, topple over, and fall to
the bottom of a little precipice five or six feet in height. We at once
dismounted and jumped down the declivity to the coach, which lay on its
side, almost covered by drifted snow. The pole had broken in the fall, and
the horses were standing on the road. We first saw Dawson. He was
swearing like a Dutchman, and when we had dragged him from his snowy
grave, we opened the coach door, lifted out the ladies, and seated them
upon the uppermost side of the coach. They were only slightly bruised, but
what they lacked in bruises they made up in fright. In respect to the
latter it were needless for me to attempt a description.

We can laugh about it now and speak lightly concerning the adventure, and,
as a matter of truth, the humor of the situation appealed to me even then.
But imagine yourself in the predicament, and you will save me the trouble
of setting forth its real terrors.

The snow was up to our belts, and we did not at first know how we were to
extricate the ladies. John and Dawson, however, climbed to the road, and I
carried Dorothy and Madge to the little precipice where the two men at the
top lifted them from my arms. The coach was broken, and when I climbed to
the road, John, Dawson, and myself held a council of war against the
storm. Dawson said we were three good miles from Rowsley, and that he knew
of no house nearer than the village at which we could find shelter. We
could not stand in the road and freeze, so I got the blankets and robes
from the coach and made riding pads for Dorothy and Madge. These we
strapped upon the broad backs of the coach horses, and then assisted the
ladies to mount. I walked by the side of Madge, and John performed the
same agreeable duty for Dorothy. Dawson went ahead of us, riding my horse
and leading John's; and thus we travelled to Rowsley, half dead and nearly
frozen, over the longest three miles in the kingdom.

John left us before entering the village, and took the road to Rutland,
intending to stop for the night at a cottage two miles distant, upon his
father's estates. I was to follow Sir John when the ladies were safely
lodged at The Peacock.

It was agreed between us that nothing should be said concerning the
presence of any man save Dawson and myself in our party.

When John left us, I rode to The Peacock with Dorothy and Madge, and while
I was bidding them good-by my violent cousin, Sir George, entered the inn.
Dorothy ran to her father and briefly related the adventures of the night,
dwelling with undeserved emphasis upon the help I had rendered. She told
her father--the statement was literally true--that she had met me at the
Royal Arms, where I was stopping, and that she had, through fear of the
storm and in dread of highwaymen, asked me to ride beside their coach to
Rowsley.

When I saw Sir George enter the room, I expected to have trouble with him;
but after he had spoken with Dorothy, much to my surprise, he offered me
his hand and said:--

"I thank you, Malcolm, for the help you have rendered my girls, and I am
glad you have come back to us."

"I have not come back to you, Sir George," said I, withholding my hand. "I
met Mistress Vernon and Lady Madge at the Royal Arms, and escorted them to
Rowsley for reasons which she has just given to you. I was about to depart
when you entered."

"Tut, tut! Malcolm, you will come with us to Haddon Hall."

"To be ordered away again, Sir George?" I asked.

"I did not order you to go. You left in a childish fit of anger. Why in
the devil's name did you run away so quickly? Could you not have given a
man time to cool off? You treated me very badly, Malcolm."

"Sir George, you certainly know--"

"I know nothing of the sort. Now I want not another word from you. Damme!
I say, not another word. If I ever ordered you to leave Haddon Hall, I
didn't know what I was doing," cried Sir George, heartily.

"But you may again not know," said I.

"Now, Malcolm, don't be a greater fool than I was. If I say I did not
order you to leave Haddon Hall, can't you take me at my word? My age and
my love for you should induce you to let me ease my conscience, if I can.
If the same illusion should ever come over you again--that is, if you
should ever again imagine that I am ordering you to leave Haddon
Hall--well, just tell me to go to the devil. I have been punished enough
already, man. Come home with us. Here is Dorothy, whom I love better than
I love myself. In anger I might say the same thing to her that I said to
you, but--Nonsense, Malcolm, don't be a fool. Come home with us. Haddon is
your home as freely as it is the home of Dorothy, Madge, and myself."

The old gentleman's voice trembled, and I could not withstand the double
force of his kindness and my desire. So it came about that when Madge held
out her fair hand appealingly to me, and when Dorothy said, "Please come
home with us, Cousin Malcolm," I offered my hand to Sir George, and with
feeling said, "Let us make this promise to each other: that nothing
hereafter shall come between us."

"I gladly promise," responded the generous, impulsive old man. "Dorothy,
Madge, and you are all in this world whom I love. Nothing shall make
trouble between us. Whatever happens, we will each forgive."

The old gentleman was in his kindest, softest mood.

"Let us remember the words," said I.

"I give my hand and my word upon it," cried Sir George.

How easy it is to stake the future upon a present impulse. But when the
time for reckoning comes,--when the future becomes the present,--it is
sometimes hard to pay the priceless present for the squandered past. Next
morning we all rode home to Haddon,--how sweet the words sound even at
this distance of time!--and there was rejoicing in the Hall as if the
prodigal had returned.

In the evening I came upon Madge unawares. She was softly singing a
plaintive little love song. I did not disturb her, and as I stole away
again I said to myself, "God is good." A realization of that great truth
had of late been growing upon me. When once we thoroughly learn it, life
takes on a different color.



CHAPTER VII

TRIBULATION IN HADDON


After I had left Haddon at Sir George's tempestuous order, he had remained
in a state of furious anger against Dorothy and myself for a fortnight or
more. But after her adroit conversation with him concerning the Stanley
marriage, wherein she neither promised nor refused, and after she learned
that she could more easily cajole her father than command him, Dorothy
easily ensconced herself again in his warm heart, and took me into that
capacious abode along with her.

Then came the trip to Derby, whereby his serene Lordship, James Stanley,
had been enabled to see Dorothy and to fall in love with her winsome
beauty, and whereby I was brought back to Haddon. Thereafter came events
crowding so rapidly one upon the heels of another that I scarce know where
to begin the telling of them. I shall not stop to say, "Sir George told me
this," or "Madge, Dorothy, or John told me that," but I shall write as if
I had personal knowledge of all that happened. After all, the important
fact is that I know the truth concerning matters whereof I write, and of
that you may rest with surety.

The snow lay upon the ground for a fortnight after the storm in which we
rode from Derby, but at the end of that time it melted, and the sun shone
with the brilliancy and warmth of springtide. So warm and genial was the
weather that the trees, flowers, and shrubs were cozened into budding
forth. The buds were withered by a killing frost which came upon us later
in the season at a time when the spring should have been abroad in all her
graciousness, and that year was called the year of the leafless summer.

One afternoon Sir George received a distinguished guest in the person of
the Earl of Derby, and the two old gentlemen remained closeted together
for several hours. That night at supper, after the ladies had risen from
table, Sir George dismissed the servants saying that he wished to speak to
me in private. I feared that he intended again bringing forward the
subject of marriage with Dorothy, but he soon relieved my mind.

"The Earl of Derby was here to-day. He has asked for Doll's hand in
marriage with his eldest son and heir, Lord James Stanley, and I have
granted the request."

"Indeed," I responded, with marvellous intelligence. I could say nothing
more, but I thought--in truth I knew--that it did not lie within the power
of any man in or out of England to dispose of Dorothy Vernon's hand in
marriage to Lord James Stanley. Her father might make a murderess out of
her, but Countess of Derby, never.

Sir George continued, "The general terms of the marriage contract have
been agreed upon by the earl and me, and the lawyers will do the rest."

"What is your feeling in the matter?" I asked aimlessly.

"My feeling?" cried Sir George. "Why, sir, my feeling is that the girl
shall marry Stanley just as soon as arrangements can be made for the
wedding ceremony. The young fellow, it seems, saw Doll at Derby-town the
day you came home, and since then he is eager, his father tells me, for
the union. He is coming to see her when I give my permission, and I will
send him word at as early a date as propriety will admit. I must not let
them be seen together too soon, you know. There might be a hitch in the
marriage negotiations. The earl is a tight one in business matters, and
might drive a hard bargain with me should I allow his son to place Doll in
a false position before the marriage contract is signed." He little knew
how certainly Dorothy herself would avoid that disaster.

He took a long draught from his mug of toddy and winked knowingly at me,
saying, "I am too wise for that."

"Have you told Dorothy?" I asked.

"No," he replied, "I have not exactly told her. I had a talk with her a
few days ago on the subject, though the earl and I had not, at that time,
entirely agreed upon the terms, and I did not know that we should agree.
But I told her of the pending negotiations, because I wished to prepare
her for the signing of the contract; and also, by gad, Malcolm, I wanted
to make the girl understand at the outset that I will have no trifling
with my commands in this matter. I made that feature of the case very
plain, you may rest assured. She understands me fully, and although at
first she was a little inclined to fight, she soon--she soon--well, she
knuckled under gracefully when she found she must."

"Did she consent to the marriage?" I asked, well knowing that even if she
had consented in words, she had no thought of doing so in deed.

"Y-e-s," returned Sir George, hesitatingly.

"I congratulate you," I replied.

"I shall grieve to lose Doll," the old man slowly continued with
perceptible signs of emotion. "I shall grieve to lose my girl, but I am
anxious to have the wedding over. You see, Malcolm, of late I have noticed
signs of wilfulness in Doll that can be more easily handled by a husband
than by a father. Marriage and children anchor a woman, you know. In
truth, I have opened my eyes to the fact that Doll is growing dangerous.
I'gad, the other day I thought she was a child, but suddenly I learn she
is a woman. I had not before noticed the change. Beauty and wilfulness,
such as the girl has of late developed, are powers not to be
underestimated by wise men. There is hell in them, Malcolm, I tell you
there is hell in them." Sir George meditatively snuffed the candle with
his fingers and continued: "If a horse once learns that he can kick--sell
him. Only yesterday, as I said, Doll was a child, and now, by Jove, she is
a full-blown woman, and I catch myself standing in awe of her and calling
her Dorothy. Yes, damme, standing in awe of my own child! That will never
do, you know. What has wrought the change? And, after all, what is the
change? I can't define it, but there has been a great one."

He was in a revery and spoke more to himself than to me. "Yesterday she
was my child--she was a child, and now--and now--she is--she is--Why the
devil didn't you take her, Malcolm?" cried the old man, awakening. "But
there, never mind; that is all past and gone, and the future Earl of Derby
will be a great match for her."

"Do you know the future Earl of Derby?" I asked. "Have you ever seen him?"

"No," Sir George replied. "I hear he is rather wild and uncouth, but--"

"My dear cousin," said I, interrupting him, "he is a vulgar, drunken
clown, whose associates have always been stable boys, tavern maids, and
those who are worse than either."

"What?" cried Sir George, hotly, the liquor having reached his brain. "You
won't have Doll yourself, and you won't consent to another--damme, would
you have the girl wither into spinsterhood? How, sir, dare you interfere?"

"I withdraw all I said, Sir George," I replied hastily. "I have not a word
to say against the match. I thought--"

"Well, damn you, sir, don't think."

"You said you wished to consult me about the affair, and I supposed--"

"Don't suppose either," replied Sir George, sullenly. "Supposing and
thinking have hanged many a man. I didn't wish to consult you. I simply
wanted to tell you of the projected marriage." Then after a moment of
half-maudlin, sullen silence he continued, "Go to bed, Malcolm, go to bed,
or we'll be quarrelling again."

I was glad enough to go to bed, for my cousin was growing drunk, and drink
made a demon of this man, whose violence when sober was tempered by a
heart full of tenderness and love.

Next morning Sir George was feeling irritable from the effects of the
brandy he had drunk over night. At breakfast, in the presence of Lady
Crawford, Madge, and myself, he abruptly informed Dorothy that he was
about to give that young goddess to Lord James Stanley for his wife. He
told her of the arrangement he had made the day before with the Earl of
Derby. Lady Crawford looked toward her brother in surprise, and Madge
pushed her chair a little way back from the table with a startled
movement. Dorothy sprang to her feet, her eyes flashing fire and her
breast rising and falling like the storm-wrought pulsing of the sea. I
coughed warningly and placed my finger on my lips, making the sign of
silence to Dorothy. The girl made a wondrous and beautiful struggle
against her wrath, and in a moment all signs of ill-temper disappeared,
and her face took on an expression of sweet meekness which did not belong
there of right. She quietly sat down again, and when I looked at her, I
would have sworn that Griselda in the flesh was sitting opposite me. Sir
George was right. "Ways such as the girl had of late developed were
dangerous." Hell was in them to an extent little dreamed of by her father.
Breakfast was finished in silence. Dorothy did not come down to dinner at
noon, but Sir George did not mark her absence. At supper her place was
still vacant.

"Where is Doll?" cried Sir George, angrily. He had been drinking heavily
during the afternoon. "Where is Doll?" he demanded.

"She is on the terrace," answered Madge. "She said she did not want
supper."

"Tell your mistress to come to supper," said Sir George, speaking to one
of the servants. "You will find her on the terrace."

The servant left the room, but soon returned, saying that Mistress Dorothy
wanted no supper.

"Tell her to come to the table whether she wants supper or not. Tell her I
will put a stop to her moping about the place like a surly vixen," growled
Sir George.

"Don't send such a message by a servant," pleaded Lady Crawford.

"Then take it to her yourself, Dorothy," exclaimed her brother.

Dorothy returned with her aunt and meekly took her place at the table.

"I will have none of your moping and pouting," said Sir George, as Dorothy
was taking her chair.

The girl made no reply, but she did not eat.

"Eat your supper," her father commanded. "I tell you I will have no--"

"You would not have me eat if I am not hungry, would you, father?" she
asked softly.

"I'd have you hungry, you perverse wench."

"Then make me an appetite," returned the girl. I never heard more ominous
tones fall from human lips. They betokened a mood in which one could
easily do murder in cold blood, and I was surprised that Sir George did
not take warning and remain silent.

"I cannot make an appetite for you, fool," he replied testily.

"Then you cannot make me eat," retorted Dorothy.

"Ah, you would answer me, would you, you brazen, insolent huzzy," cried
her father, angrily.

Dorothy held up her hand warningly to Sir George, and uttered the one
word, "Father." Her voice sounded like the clear, low ring of steel as I
have heard it in the stillness of sunrise during a duel to the death.
Madge gently placed her hand in Dorothy's, but the caress met no response.

"Go to your room," answered Sir George.

Dorothy rose to her feet and spoke calmly: "I have not said that I would
disobey you in regard to this marriage which you have sought for me; and
your harshness, father, grows out of your effort to reconcile your
conscience with the outrage you would put upon your own flesh and
blood--your only child."

"Suffering God!" cried Sir George, frenzied with anger and drink. "Am I to
endure such insolence from my own child? The lawyers will be here
to-morrow. The contract will be signed, and, thank God, I shall soon be
rid of you. I'll place you in the hands of one who will break your
damnable will and curb your vixenish temper." Then he turned to Lady
Crawford. "Dorothy, if there is anything to do in the way of gowns and
women's trumpery in preparation for the wedding, begin at once, for the
ceremony shall come off within a fortnight."

This was beyond Dorothy's power to endure. Madge felt the storm coming and
clutched her by the arm in an effort to stop her, but nothing could have
done that.

"I marry Lord Stanley?" she asked in low, bell-like tones, full of
contempt and disdain. "Marry that creature? Father, you don't know me."

"By God, I know myself," retorted Sir George, "and I say--"

"Now hear me, father," she interrupted in a manner that silenced even
him. She bent forward, resting one fair hand upon the table, while she
held out her other arm bared to the elbow. "Hear what I say and take it
for the truth as if it had come from Holy Writ. I will open the veins in
this arm and will strew my blood in a gapless circle around Haddon Hall so
that you shall tread upon it whenever you go forth into the day or into
the night before I will marry the drunken idiot with whom you would curse
me. Ay, I will do more. I will kill you, if need be, should you try to
force him on me. Now, father, we understand each other. At least you
cannot fail to understand me. For the last time I warn you. Beware of me."

She gently pushed the chair back from the table, quietly adjusted the
sleeve which she had drawn upward from her wrist, and slowly walked out of
the room, softly humming the refrain of a roundelay. There was no trace of
excitement about the girl. Her brain was acting with the ease and
precision of a perfectly constructed machine. Sir George, by his violence
and cruelty, had made a fiend of this strong, passionate, tender heart.
That was all.

The supper, of course, was quickly finished, and the ladies left the room.

Sir George took to his bottle and remained with it till his servants put
him to bed. I slipped away from him and smoked a pipe in front of the
kitchen fire. Then I went early to my bed in Eagle Tower.

Dorothy went to her apartments. There she lay upon her bed, and for a time
her heart was like flint. Soon she thought of her precious golden heart
pierced with a silver arrow, and tears came to her eyes as she drew the
priceless treasure from her breast and breathed upon it a prayer to the
God of love for help. Her heart was soft again, soft only as hers could
be, and peace came to her as she pressed John's golden heart to her lips
and murmured over and over the words, "My love, my love, my love," and
murmuring fell asleep.

I wonder how many of the countless women of this world found peace,
comfort, and ecstasy in breathing those magic words yesterday? How many
have found them to-day? How many will find them to-morrow? No one can
tell; but this I know, they come to every woman at some time in her life,
righteously or unrighteously, as surely as her heart pulses.

That evening Jennie Faxton bore a letter to John, informing him of the
projected Stanley marriage. It asked him to meet the writer at Bowling
Green Gate, and begged him to help her if he could.

The small and intermittent remnants of conscience, sense of duty, and
caution which still remained in John's head--I will not say in John's
heart, for that was full to overflowing with something else--were quickly
banished by the unwelcome news in Dorothy's letter. His first impulse was
to kill Stanley; but John Manners was not an assassin, and a duel would
make public all he wished to conceal. He wished to conceal, among other
things, his presence at Rutland. He had two reasons for so desiring. First
in point of time was the urgent purpose with which he had come to
Derbyshire. That purpose was to further a plan for the rescue of Mary
Stuart and to bring her incognito to Rutland Castle as a refuge until
Elizabeth could be persuaded to receive her. Of this plan I knew nothing
till after the disastrous attempt to carry it out, of which I shall
hereafter tell you. The other reason why John wished his presence at
Rutland unknown was that if he were supposed to be in London, no one would
suspect him of knowing Dorothy Vernon.

You must remember there had been no overt love-making between John and
Dorothy up to that time. The scene at the gate approached perilously near
it, but the line between concealment and confession had not been crossed.
Mind you, I say there had been no love-making _between_ them. While
Dorothy had gone as far in that direction as a maiden should dare go--and
to tell the exact truth, a great deal farther--John had remained almost
silent for reasons already given you. He also felt a fear of the girl, and
failed to see in her conduct those signs of intense love which would have
been plainly discernible had not his perceptions been blinded by the fury
of his own infatuation. He had placed a curb on his passion and did not
really know its strength and power until he learned that another man was
soon to possess the girl he loved. Then life held but one purpose for him.
Thus, you see that when Dorothy was moaning, "My love, my love," and was
kissing the golden heart, she was taking a great deal for granted.
Perhaps, however, she better understood John's feeling for her than did he
himself. A woman's sixth sense, intuition, is a great help to her in such
cases. Perhaps the girl knew with intuitive confidence that her passion
was returned; and perhaps at first she found John's receptive mode of
wooing sweeter far than an aggressive attack would have been. It may be
also there was more of the serpent's cunning than of reticence in John's
conduct. He knew well the ways of women, and perhaps he realized that if
he would allow Dorothy to manage the entire affair she would do his wooing
for him much better than he could do it for himself. If you are a man, try
the plan upon the next woman whom you seek to win. If she happens to be
one who has full confidence in her charms, you will be surprised at the
result. Women lacking that confidence are restrained by fear and doubt.
But in no case have I much faith in the hammer-and-tongs process at the
opening of a campaign. Later on, of course--but you doubtless are quite as
well informed concerning this important subject as I. There is, however,
so much blundering in that branch of science that I have a mind to endow a
college at Oxford or at Paris in which shall be taught the gentle,
universally needed art of making love. What a noble attendance such a
college would draw. But I have wandered wofully from my story.

I must go back a short time in my narrative. A few days before my return
to Haddon Hall the great iron key to the gate in the wall east of Bowling
Green Hill was missed from the forester's closet where it had hung for a
century or more. Bowling Green Hill, as you know, is eastward from Haddon
Hall a distance of the fourth part of a mile, and the gate is east of the
hill about the same distance or less. A wall is built upon the east line
of the Haddon estate, and east of the wall lies a great trackless forest
belonging to the house of Devonshire. In olden times there had been a road
from Bakewell to Rowsley along the east side of the wall; but before Sir
George's seizin the road had been abandoned and the gate was not used. It
stood in a secluded, unfrequented spot, and Dorothy thought herself very
shrewd in choosing it for a trysting-place.

But as I told you, one day the key was missed. It was of no value or use,
and at first nothing was thought of its loss; but from time to time the
fact that it could not be found was spoken of as curious. All the servants
had been questioned in vain, and the loss of the key to Bowling Green Gate
soon took on the dignity of a mystery--a mystery soon to be solved, alas!
to Dorothy's undoing.

The afternoon of the day following the terrible scene between Sir George
and his daughter at the supper table, Dorothy rode forth alone upon her
mare Dolcy. From the window of my room in Eagle Tower I saw her go down
the west side of the Wye toward Rowsley. I ascended to the roof of the
tower, and from that elevation I saw her cross the river, and soon she was
lost to sight in the forest. At that time I knew nothing of the new
trysting-place, but I felt sure that Dorothy had gone out to seek John.
The sun shone brightly, and its gentle warmth enticed me to remain upon
the tower battlements, to muse, and to dream. I fetched my pipe and
tobacco from my room. I had been smoking at intervals for several months,
but had not entirely learned to like the weed, because of a slight nausea
which it invariably caused me to feel. But I thought by practice now and
again to inure myself to the habit, which was then so new and fashionable
among modish gentlemen. While I smoked I mused upon the past and present,
and tried to peer into the future--a fruitless task wherein we waste much
valuable time; a vain striving, like Eve's, after forbidden knowledge,
which, should we possess it, would destroy the little remnant of Eden
still existing on earth. Could we look forward only to our joys, a
knowledge of the future might be good to have; but imagine, if you can,
the horror of anticipating evils to come.

After a short time, a lotuslike dreaminess stole over me, and past and
future seemed to blend in a supreme present of contentment and rest. Then
I knew I had wooed and won Tobacco and that thenceforth I had at hand an
ever ready solace in time of trouble. At the end of an hour my dreaming
was disturbed by voices, which came distinctly up to me from the base of
the tower. I leaned over the battlements to listen, and what I heard gave
me alarm and concern such as all the tobacco in the world could not
assuage. I looked down the dizzy heights of Eagle Tower and saw Sir George
in conversation with Ben Shaw, a woodman. I had not heard the words first
spoken between them.

"Ay, ay, Sir George," said Ben, "they be there, by Bowling Green Gate,
now. I saw them twenty minutes since,--Mistress Vernon and a gentleman."

"Perhaps the gentleman is Sir Malcolm," answered my cousin. I drew back
from the battlements, and the woodman replied, "Perhaps he be, but I doubt
it."

There had been a partial reconciliation--sincere on Sir George's part, but
false and hollow on Dorothy's--which Madge had brought about between
father and daughter that morning. Sir George, who was sober and repentant
of his harshness, was inclined to be tender to Dorothy, though he still
insisted in the matter of the Stanley marriage. Dorothy's anger had
cooled, and cunning had taken its place. Sir George had asked her to
forgive him for the hard words he had spoken, and she had again led him to
believe that she would be dutiful and obedient. It is hard to determine,
as a question of right and wrong, whether Dorothy is to be condemned or
justified in the woful deception she practised upon her father. To use a
plain, ugly word, she lied to him without hesitation or pain of
conscience. Still, we must remember that, forty years ago, girls were
frequently forced, regardless of cries and piteous agony, into marriages
to which death would have been preferable. They were flogged into
obedience, imprisoned and starved into obedience, and alas! they were
sometimes killed in the course of punishment for disobedience by men of
Sir George's school and temper. I could give you at least one instance in
which a fair girl met her death from punishment inflicted by her father
because she would not consent to wed the man of his choice. Can we blame
Dorothy if she would lie or rob or do murder to avoid a fate which to her
would have been worse than death? When you find yourself condemning her,
now or hereafter in this history, if you are a man ask yourself this
question: "If I had a sweetheart in Dorothy's sad case, should I not wish
her to do as she did? Should I not wish, if it were possible by any
means, that she should save herself from the worst of fates, and should
save me from the agony of losing her to such a man as Sir George had
selected for Dorothy's husband? Is it not a sin to disobey the law of
self-preservation actively or passively?" Answer these questions as you
choose. As for myself, I say God bless Dorothy for lying. Perhaps I am in
error. Perhaps I am not. I but tell you the story of Dorothy as it
happened, and I am a poor hand at solving questions of right and wrong
where a beautiful woman is concerned. To my thinking, she usually is in
the right. In any case, she is sure to have the benefit of the doubt.

When Sir George heard the woodman's story, he started hurriedly toward
Bowling Green Gate.

Now I shall tell you of Dorothy's adventures after I saw her cross the
Wye.

When she reached the gate, John was waiting for her.

"Ah, Sir John, I am so glad you are here. That is, I am glad you are here
before I arrived--good even," said the girl, confusedly. Her heart again
was beating in a provoking manner, and her breath would not come with ease
and regularity. The rapid progress of the malady with which she was
afflicted or blessed was plainly discernible since the last meeting with
my friend, Sir John. That is, it would have been plain to any one but
John, whose ailment had taken a fatal turn and had progressed to the
ante-mortem state of blindness. By the help of the stimulating hope and
fear which Dorothy's letter had brought to him, he had planned an
elaborate conversation, and had determined to speak decisive words. He
hoped to receive from her the answer for which he longed; but his heart
and breath seemed to have conspired with Dorothy to make
intercommunication troublesome.

"I received your gracious letter, Mistress Vernon, and I thank you. I
was--I am--that is, my thanks are more than I--I can express."

"So I see," said the girl, half amused at John's condition, although it
was but little worse than her own. This universal malady, love, never
takes its blind form in women. It opens their eyes. Under its influence
they can see the truth through a millstone. The girl's heart jumped with
joy when she saw John's truth-telling manner, and composure quickly came
to her relief, though she still feigned confusion because she wished him
to see the truth in her as she had seen it in him. She well knew of his
blindness, and had almost begun to fear lest she would eventually be
compelled to tell him in words that which she so ardently wished him to
see for himself. She thought John was the blindest of his sex; but she
was, to a certain extent, mistaken. John was blind, as you already know,
but his reticence was not all due to a lack of sight. He at least had
reached the condition of a well-developed hope. He hoped the girl cared
for him. He would have fully believed it had it not been for the
difficulty he found in convincing himself that a goddess like Dorothy
could care for a man so unworthy as himself. Most modest persons are
self-respecting. That was John's condition; he was not vain.

"Jennie brought me your letter also," said the girl, laughing because she
was happy, though her merriment somewhat disconcerted John.

"It told me," she continued, "that you would come. I have it here in my
pocket--and--and the gate key." She determined this time to introduce the
key early in the engagement. "But I feared you might not want to come."
The cunning, the boldness, and the humility of the serpent was in the
girl. "That is, you know, I thought--perhaps--that is, I feared that you
might not come. Your father might have been ill, or you might have changed
your mind after you wrote the letter."

"No," answered John, whose face was beaming with joy. Here, truly, was a
goddess who could make the blind to see if she were but given a little
time.

"Do you mean that your father is not ill, or that you did not change your
mind?" asked Dorothy, whose face, as it should have been after such a
speech, was bent low while she struggled with the great iron key,
entangled in the pocket of her gown.

"I mean that I have not changed my mind," said John, who felt that the
time to speak had come. "There has been no change in me other than a new
access of eagerness with every hour, and a new longing to see you and to
hear your voice."

Dorothy felt a great thrill pass through her breast, and she knew that the
reward of her labors was at hand.

"Certainly," said the self-complacent girl, hardly conscious of her words,
so great was the joyous tumult in her heart, "I should have known."

There was another pause devoted to the key, with bended head. "But--but
you might have changed your mind," she continued, "and I might not have
known it, for, you see, I did not know your former state of mind; you have
never told me." Her tongue had led her further than she had intended to
go, and she blushed painfully, and I think, considering her words,
appropriately.

"My letter told you my state of mind. At least it told you of my intention
to come. I--I fear that I do not understand you," said John.

"I mean," she replied, with a saucy, fluttering little laugh as she looked
up from her conflict with the entangled key, "I mean that--that you don't
know what I mean. But here is the key at last, and--and--you may, if you
wish, come to this side of the gate."

She stepped forward to unlock the gate with an air that seemed to say,
"Now, John, you shall have a clear field."

But to her surprise she found that the lock had been removed. That
discovery brought back to John his wandering wits.

"Mistress Dorothy," he cried in tones of alarm, "I must not remain here.
We are suspected and are sure to be discovered. Your father has set a trap
for us. I care not for myself, but I would not bring upon you the trouble
and distress which would surely follow discovery. Let us quickly choose
another place and time of meeting. I pray you, sweet lady, meet me
to-morrow at this time near the white cliff back of Lathkil mill. I have
that to say to you which is the very blood of my heart. I must now leave
you at once."

He took her hand, and kissing it, started to leave through the open gate.

The girl caught his arm to detain him. "Say it now, John, say it now. I
have dreamed of it by night and by day. You know all, and I know all, and
I long to hear from your lips the words that will break down all barriers
between us." She had been carried away by the mad onrush of her passion.
She was the iron, the seed, the cloud, and the rain, and she spoke because
she could not help it.

"I will speak, Dorothy, God help me! God help me, I will speak!" said
John, as he caught the girl to his breast in a fierce embrace. "I love
you, I love you! God Himself only knows how deeply, how passionately! I do
not know. I cannot fathom its depths. With all my heart and soul, with
every drop of blood that pulses through my veins, I love you--I adore you.
Give me your lips, my beauty, my Aphrodite, my queen!"

"There--they--are, John,--there they are. They are--all yours--all
yours--now! Oh, God! my blood is on fire." She buried her face on his
breast for shame, that he might not see her burning eyes and her scarlet
cheeks. Then after a time she cared not what he saw, and she lifted her
lips to his, a voluntary offering. The supreme emotions of the moment
drove all other consciousness from their souls.

"Tell me, Dorothy, that you will be my wife. Tell me, tell me!" cried
John.

"I will, I will, oh, how gladly, how gladly!"

"Tell me that no power on earth can force you to marry Lord Stanley. Tell
me that you will marry no man but me; that you will wait--wait for me
till--"

"I will marry no man but you, John, no man but you," said the girl,
whisperingly. Her head was thrown back from his breast that she might look
into his eyes, and that he might see the truth in hers. "I am all yours.
But oh, John, I cannot wait--I cannot! Do not ask me to wait. It would
kill me. I wear the golden heart you gave me, John," she continued, as she
nestled closer in his embrace. "I wear the golden heart always. It is
never from me, even for one little moment. I bear it always upon my heart,
John. Here it is." She drew from her breast the golden heart and kissed
it. Then she pressed it to his lips, and said: "I kiss it twenty times in
the day and in the night; ay, a hundred times. I do not know how often;
but now I kiss your real heart, John," and she kissed his breast, and then
stood tiptoe to lift her lips to his.

There was no room left now in John's heart for doubt that Dorothy Vernon
was his own forever and forever. She had convinced him beyond the reach of
fear or doubt. John forgot the lockless gate. He forgot everything but
Dorothy, and cruel time passed with a rapidity of which they were
unconscious. They were, however, brought back to consciousness by hearing
a long blast from the forester's bugle, and John immediately retreated
through the gate.

Dorothy then closed the gate and hastily seated herself upon a stone
bench against the Haddon side of the wall. She quickly assumed an attitude
of listless repose, and Dolcy, who was nibbling at the grass near by,
doubtless supposed that her mistress had come to Bowling Green Gate to
rest because it was a secluded place, and because she desired to be alone.

Dorothy's attitude was not assumed one moment too soon, for hardly was her
gown arranged with due regard to carelessness when Sir George's form rose
above the crest of Bowling Green Hill. In a few minutes he was standing in
front of his daughter, red with anger. Dorothy's face wore a look of calm
innocence, which I believe would have deceived Solomon himself,
notwithstanding that great man's experience with the sex. It did more to
throw Sir George off the scent than any words the girl could have spoken.

"Who has been with you?" demanded Sir George, angrily.

"When, father?" queried the girl, listlessly resting her head against the
wall.

"Now, this afternoon. Who has been with you? Ben Shaw said that a man was
here. He said that he saw a man with you less than half an hour since."

That piece of information was startling to Dorothy, but no trace of
surprise was visible in her manner or in her voice. She turned listlessly
and brushed a dry leaf from her gown. Then she looked calmly up into her
father's face and said laconically, but to the point:--

"Ben lied." To herself she said, "Ben shall also suffer."

"I do not believe that Ben lied," said Sir George. "I, myself, saw a man
go away from here."

That was crowding the girl into close quarters, but she did not flinch.

"Which way did he go, father?" she asked, with a fine show of carelessness
in her manner, but with a feeling of excruciating fear in her breast. She
well knew the wisdom of the maxim, "Never confess."

"He went northward," answered Sir George.

"Inside the wall?" asked Dorothy, beginning again to breathe freely, for
she knew that John had ridden southward.

"Inside the wall, of course," her father replied. "Do you suppose I could
see him through the stone wall? One should be able to see through a stone
wall to keep good watch on you."

"You might have thought you saw him through the wall," answered the girl.
"I sometimes think of late, father, that you are losing your mind. You
drink too much brandy, my dear father. Oh, wouldn't it be dreadful if you
were to lose your mind?" She rose as she spoke, and going to her father
began to stroke him gently with her hand. She looked into his face with
real affection; for when she deceived him, she loved him best as a partial
atonement for her ill-doing.

"Wouldn't that be dreadful?" she continued, while Sir George stood lost in
bewilderment. "Wouldn't that be dreadful for my dear old father to lose
his mind? But I really think it must be coming to pass. A great change has
of late come over you, father. You have for the first time in your life
been unkind to me and suspicious. Father, do you realize that you insult
your daughter when you accuse her of having been in this secluded place
with a man? You would punish another for speaking so against my fair
name."

"But, Dorothy," Sir George replied, feeling as if he were in the wrong,
"Ben Shaw said that he saw you here with a man, and I saw a man pass
toward Bakewell. Who was he? I command you to tell me his name."

Dorothy knew that her father must have seen a man near the gate, but who
he was she could not imagine. John surely was beyond the wall and well out
of sight on his way to Rowsley before her father reached the crest of
Bowling Green Hill. But it was evident that Shaw had seen John. Evidence
that a man had been at the gate was too strong to be successfully
contradicted. Facts that cannot be successfully contradicted had better be
frankly admitted. Dorothy sought through her mind for an admission that
would not admit, and soon hit upon a plan which, shrewd as it seemed to
be, soon brought her to grief.

"Perhaps you saw Cousin Malcolm," said Dorothy, as the result of her
mental search. "He passed here a little time since and stopped for a
moment to talk. Perhaps you saw Malcolm, father. You would not find fault
with me because he was here, would you?"

"Dorothy, my daughter," said Sir George, hesitatingly, "are you telling me
the truth?"

Then the fair girl lifted up her beautiful head, and standing erect at her
full height (it pains me to tell you this) said: "Father, I am a Vernon. I
would not lie."

Her manner was so truthlike that Sir George was almost convinced.

He said, "I believe you."

Her father's confidence touched her keenly; but not to the point of
repentance, I hardly need say.

Dorothy then grew anxious to return to the Hall that she might prepare me
to answer whatever idle questions her father should put to me. She took
Dolcy's rein, and leading the mare with one hand while she rested the
other upon her father's arm, walked gayly across Bowling Green down to the
Hall, very happy because of her lucky escape.

But a lie is always full of latent retribution.

I was sitting in the kitchen, dreamily watching the huge fire when Dorothy
and her father entered.

"Ah, Malcolm, are you here?" asked Sir George in a peculiar tone of
surprise for which I could see no reason.

"I thought you were walking."

I was smoking. I took my pipe from my lips and said, "No, I am helping old
Bess and Jennie with supper."

"Have you not been walking?" asked Sir George.

There was an odd expression on his face when I looked up to him, and I was
surprised at his persistent inquiry concerning so trivial a matter. But
Sir George's expression, agitated as it was, still was calm when compared
with that of Dorothy, who stood a step or two behind her father. Not only
was her face expressive, but her hands, her feet, her whole body were
convulsed in an effort to express something which, for the life of me, I
could not understand. Her wonderful eyes wore an expression, only too
readable, of terror and pleading. She moved her hands rapidly and stamped
her foot. During this pantomime she was forming words with her lips and
nodding her head affirmatively. Her efforts at expression were lost upon
me, and I could only respond with a blank stare of astonishment. The
expression on my face caused Sir George to turn in the direction of my
gaze, and he did so just in time to catch Dorothy in the midst of a mighty
pantomimic effort at mute communication.

"Why in the devil's name are you making those grimaces?" demanded Sir
George.

"I wasn't making grimaces--I--I think I was about to sneeze," replied
Dorothy.

"Do you think I am blind?" stormed Sir George. "Perhaps I am losing my
mind? You are trying to tell Malcolm to say that he was with you at
Bowling Green Gate. Losing my mind, am I? Damme, I'll show you that if I
am losing my mind I have not lost my authority in my own house."

"Now, father, what is all this storming about?" asked the girl, coaxingly,
as she boldly put her hands upon her father's shoulders and turned her
face in all its wondrous beauty and childish innocence of expression up to
his. "Ask Malcolm to tell you whatever you wish to know." She was sure
that her father had told me what she had been so anxious to communicate,
and she felt certain that I would not betray her. She knew that I, whose
only virtues were that I loved my friend and despised a lie, would
willingly bear false witness for her sake. She was right. I had caught the
truth of the situation from Sir George, and I quickly determined to
perjure my soul, if need be, to help Dorothy. I cannot describe the
influence this girl at times exerted over me. When under its spell I
seemed to be a creature of her will, and my power to act voluntarily was
paralyzed by a strange force emanating from her marvellous vitality. I
cannot describe it. I tell you only the incontestable fact, and you may
make out of it whatever you can. I shall again in the course of this
history have occasion to speak of Dorothy's strange power, and how it was
exerted over no less a person than Queen Elizabeth.

"Ask Malcolm," repeated the girl, leaning coaxingly upon her father's
breast. But I was saved from uttering the lie I was willing to tell; for,
in place of asking me, as his daughter had desired, Sir George demanded
excitedly of Dorothy, "What have you in your pocket that strikes against
my knee?"

"Mother of Heaven!" exclaimed Dorothy in a whisper, quickly stepping back
from her father and slowly lifting her skirt while she reached toward her
pocket. Her manner was that of one almost bereft of consciousness by
sudden fright, and an expression of helplessness came over her face which
filled my heart with pity. She stood during a long tedious moment holding
with one hand the uplifted skirt, while with the other she clutched the
key in her pocket.

"What have you in your pocket?" demanded Sir George with a terrible oath.
"Bring it out, girl. Bring it out, I tell you." Dorothy started to run
from the room, but her father caught her by the wrist and violently drew
her to him. "Bring it out, huzzy; it's the key to Bowling Green Gate. Ah,
I've lost my mind, have I? Blood of Christ! I have not lost my mind yet,
but I soon shall lose it at this rate," and he certainly looked as if he
would.

Poor frightened Dorothy was trying to take the key from her pocket, but
she was too slow to please her angry father, so he grasped the gown and
tore a great rent whereby the pocket was opened from top to bottom.
Dorothy still held the key in her hand, but upon the floor lay a piece of
white paper which had fallen out through the rent Sir George had made in
the gown. He divined the truth as if by inspiration. The note, he felt
sure, was from Dorothy's unknown lover. He did not move nor speak for a
time, and she stood as if paralyzed by fear. She slowly turned her face
from her father to me, and in a low tone spoke my name, "Malcolm." Her
voice was hardly louder than a whisper, but so piteous a cry for help I
have never heard from human lips. Then she stooped, intending to take the
letter from the floor, and Sir George drew back his arm as if he would
strike her with his clenched hand. She recoiled from him in terror, and he
took up the letter, unfolded it, and began to read:--

"Most gracious lady, I thank you for your letter, and with God's help I
will meet you at Bowling Green Gate--." The girl could endure no more. She
sprang with a scream toward her father and tried to snatch the letter. Sir
George drew back, holding firmly to the paper. She followed him
frantically, not to be thrown off, and succeeded in clutching the letter.
Sir George violently thrust her from him. In the scuffle that ensued the
letter was torn, and the lower portion of the sheet remained in Dorothy's
hand. She ran to the fireplace, intending to thrust the fragment into the
fire, but she feared that her father might rescue it from the ashes. She
glanced at the piece of paper, and saw that the part she had succeeded in
snatching from her father bore John's name. Sir George strode hurriedly
across the room toward her and she ran to me.

"Malcolm! Malcolm!" she cried in terror. The cry was like a shriek. Then I
saw her put the paper in her mouth. When she reached me she threw herself
upon my breast and clung to me with her arms about my neck. She trembled
as a single leaf among the thousands that deck a full-leaved tree may
tremble upon a still day, moved by a convulsive force within itself. While
she clung to me her glorious bust rose and fell piteously, and her
wondrous eyes dilated and shone with a marvellous light. The expression
was the output of her godlike vitality, strung to its greatest tension.
Her face was pale, but terror dominated all the emotions it expressed. Her
fear, however, was not for herself. The girl, who would have snapped her
fingers at death, saw in the discovery which her father was trying to
make, loss to her of more than life. That which she had possessed for less
than one brief hour was about to be taken from her. She had not enjoyed
even one little moment alone in which to brood her new-found love, and to
caress the sweet thought of it. The girl had but a brief instant of rest
in my arms till Sir George dragged her from me by his terrible strength.

"Where is the paper?" he cried in rage. "It contained the fellow's
signature."

"I have swallowed it, father, and you must cut me open to find it.
Doubtless that would be a pleasant task for you," answered Dorothy, who
was comparatively calm now that she knew her father could not discover
John's name. I believe Sir George in his frenzy would have killed the girl
had he then learned that the letter was from John Manners.

"I command you to tell me this fellow's name," said Sir George, with a
calmness born of tempest. Dorothy did not answer, and Sir George continued
"I now understand how you came by the golden heart. You lied to me and
told me that Malcolm had given it to you. Lie upon lie. In God's name I
swear that I would rather father a thief than a liar."

"I did give her the heart, Sir George," I said, interrupting him. "It was
my mother's." I had caught the lying infection. But Sir George, in his
violence, was a person to incite lies. He of course had good cause for his
anger. Dorothy had lied to him. Of that there could be no doubt; but her
deception was provoked by his own conduct and by the masterful love that
had come upon her. I truly believe that prior to the time of her meeting
with Manners she had never spoken an untruth, nor since that time I also
believe, except when driven to do so by the same motive. Dorothy was not a
thief, but I am sure she would have stolen for the sake of her lover. She
was gentle and tender to a degree that only a woman can attain; but I
believe she would have done murder in cold blood for the sake of her love.
Some few women there are in whose hearts God has placed so great an ocean
of love that when it reaches its flood all other attributes of heart and
soul and mind are ingulfed in its mighty flow. Of this rare class was
Dorothy.

"God is love," says the Book.

"The universe is God," says the philosopher. "Therefore," as the
mathematician would say, "love is the universe." To that proposition
Dorothy was a corollary.

The servants were standing open-eyed about us in the kitchen.

"Let us go to the dining hall," I suggested. Sir George led the way by the
stone steps to the screens, and from the screens to the small banquet
hail, and I followed, leading Dorothy by the hand.

The moment of respite from her father's furious attack gave her time in
which to collect her scattered senses.

When we reached the banquet hall, and after I had closed the door, Sir
George turned upon his daughter, and with oath upon oath demanded to know
the name of her lover. Dorothy stood looking to the floor and said
nothing. Sir George strode furiously to and fro across the room.

"Curse the day you were born, you wanton huzzy. Curse you! curse you! Tell
me the name of the man who wrote this letter," he cried, holding toward
her the fragment of paper. "Tell me his name or, I swear it before God, I
swear it upon my knighthood, I will have you flogged in the upper court
till you bleed. I would do it if you were fifty times my child."

Then Dorothy awakened. The girl was herself again. Now it was only for
herself she had to fear.

Her heart kept saying, "This for his sake, this for his sake." Out of her
love came fortitude, and out of her fortitude came action.

Her father's oath had hardly been spoken till the girl tore her bodice
from her shoulders. She threw the garment to the floor and said:--

"I am ready for the whip, I am ready. Who is to do the deed, father, you
or the butcher? It must be done. You have sworn it, and I swear before God
and by my maidenhood that I will not tell you the name of the man who
wrote the letter. I love him, and before I will tell you his name or
forego his love for me, or before I will abate one jot or tittle of my
love for him, I will gladly die by the whip in your hand. I am ready for
the whip, father. I am ready. Let us have it over quickly."

The girl, whose shoulders were bare, took a few steps toward the door
leading to the upper court, but Sir George did not move. I was deeply
affected by the terrible scene, and I determined to prevent the flogging
if to do so should cost Sir George's life at my hands. I would have
killed him ere he should have laid a single lash of the whip upon
Dorothy's back.

"Father," continued the terrible girl, "are you not going to flog me?
Remember your oaths. Surely you would not be forsworn before God and upon
your knighthood. A forsworn Christian? A forsworn knight? A forsworn
Vernon? The lash, father, the lash--I am eager for it."

Sir George stood in silence, and Dorothy continued to move toward the
door. Her face was turned backward over her shoulder to her father, and
she whispered the words, "Forsworn, forsworn, forsworn!"

As she put her hand on the latch the piteous old man held forth his arms
toward her and in a wail of agony cried: "Doll! Doll! My daughter! My
child! God help me!"

He covered his face with his hands, his great form shook for a moment as
the tree trembles before the fall, and he fell prone to the floor sobbing
forth the anguish of which his soul was full.

In an instant Dorothy was by her father's side holding his head upon her
lap. She covered his face with her kisses, and while the tears streamed
from her eyes she spoke incoherent words of love and repentance.

"I will tell you all, father; I will tell you all. I will give him up; I
will see him never again. I will try not to love him. Oh, father, forgive
me, forgive me. I will never again deceive you so long as I live."

Truly the fate of an overoath is that it shall be broken. When one swears
to do too much, one performs too little.

I helped Sir George rise to his feet.

Dorothy, full of tenderness and in tears, tried to take his hand, but he
repulsed her rudely, and uttering terrible oaths coupled with her name
quitted the room with tottering steps.

When her father had gone Dorothy stood in revery for a little time, and
then looking toward the door through which her father had just passed, she
spoke as if to herself: "He does not know. How fortunate!"

"But you said you would tell him," I suggested. "You said you would give
him up."

Dorothy was in a deep revery. She took her bodice from the floor and
mechanically put it on.

"I know I said I would tell my father, and I offered to give--give him
up," she replied; "but I will do neither. Father would not meet my love
with love. He would not forgive me, nor would he accept my repentance when
it was he who should have repented. I was alarmed and grieved for father's
sake when I said that I would tell him about--about John, and would give
him up." She was silent and thoughtful for a little time. "Give him up?"
she cried defiantly. "No, not for my soul; not for ten thousand thousand
souls. When my father refused my love, he threw away the only opportunity
he shall ever have to learn from me John's name. That I swear, and I shall
never be forsworn. I asked father's forgiveness when he should have begged
for mine. Whip me in the courtyard, would he, till I should bleed! Yet I
was willing to forgive him, and he would not accept my forgiveness. I was
willing to forego John, who is more than life to me; but my father would
not accept my sacrifice. Truly will I never be so great a fool the second
time. Malcolm, I will not remain here to be the victim of another insult
such as my father put upon me to-day. There is no law, human or divine,
that gives to a parent the right to treat his daughter as my father has
used me. Before this day my conscience smote me when I deceived him, and I
suffered pain if I but thought of my father. But now, thanks to his
cruelty, I may be happy without remorse. Malcolm, if you betray me, I
will--I will kill you if I must follow you over the world to do it."

"Do you think that I deserve that threat from you, Dorothy?" I asked.

"No, no, my dear friend, forgive me. I trust you," and she caught up my
hand and kissed it gently.

Dorothy and I remained in the banquet hail, seated upon the stone bench
under the blazoned window.

Soon Sir George returned, closely followed by two men, one of whom bore
manacles such as were used to secure prisoners in the dungeon. Sir George
did not speak. He turned to the men and motioned with his hand toward
Dorothy. I sprang to my feet, intending to interfere by force, if need be,
to prevent the outrage; but before I could speak Lady Crawford hurriedly
entered the hall and ran to Sir George's side.

"Brother," she said, "old Bess has just told me that you have given orders
for Dorothy's confinement in the dungeon. I could not believe Bess; but
these men with irons lead me to suspect that you really intend.--"

"Do not interfere in affairs that do not concern you," replied Sir George,
sullenly.

"But this does concern me greatly," said Aunt Dorothy, "and if you send
Doll to the dungeon, Madge and I will leave your house and will proclaim
your act to all England."

"The girl has disobeyed me and has lied to me, and--"

"I care not what she has done, I shall leave your house and disown you for
my brother if you perpetrate this outrage upon my niece. She is dear to me
as if she were my own child. Have I not brought her up since babyhood? If
you carry out this order, brother, I will leave Haddon Hall forever."

"And I'll go with her," cried old Bess, who stood at the door of the
screens.

"And I, too," said Dawson, who was one of the men who had entered with Sir
George.

"And I," cried the other man, throwing the manacles to the floor, "I will
leave your service."

Sir George took up the manacles and moved toward Dorothy.

"You may all go, every cursed one of you. I rule my own house, and I will
have no rebels in it. When I have finished with this perverse wench, I'll
not wait for you to go. I'll drive you all out and you may go to--"

He was approaching Dorothy, but I stepped in front of him.

"This must not be, Sir George," said I, sternly. "I shall not leave Haddon
Hall, and I fear you not. I shall remain here to protect your daughter and
you from your own violence. You cannot put me out of Haddon Hall; I will
not go."

"Why cannot I put you out of Haddon Hail?" retorted Sir George, whose rage
by that time was frightful to behold.

"Because, sir, I am a better man and a better swordsman than you are, and
because you have not on all your estates a servant nor a retainer who will
not join me against you when I tell them the cause I champion."

Dawson and his fellow stepped to my side significantly, and Sir George
raised the iron manacles as if intending to strike me. I did not move. At
the same moment Madge entered the room.

"Where is my uncle?" she asked.

Old Bess led her to Sir George. She spoke not a word, but placed her arms
gently about his neck and drew his face down to hers. Then she kissed him
softly upon the lips and said:--

"My uncle has never in all his life spoken in aught but kindness to me,
and now I beg him to be kind to Dorothy."

The heavy manacles fell clanking to the floor. Sir George placed his hand
caressingly upon Madge's head and turned from Dorothy.

[Illustration]

Lady Crawford then approached her brother and put her hand upon his arm,
saying:--

"Come with me, George, that I may speak to you in private."

She moved toward the door by which she had entered, and Madge quietly took
her uncle's hand and led him after Lady Crawford. Within five minutes Sir
George, Aunt Dorothy, and Madge returned to the room.

"Dorothy?" said Madge in a low voice.

"Here I am, Madge," murmured Dorothy, who was sitting on the bench by the
blazoned window. Madge walked gropingly over to her cousin and sat by her
side, taking her hand. Then Lady Crawford spoke to Dorothy:--

"Your father wishes me to say that you must go to your apartments in
Entrance Tower, and that you shall not leave them without his consent. He
also insists that I say to you if you make resistance or objection to this
decree, or if you attempt to escape, he will cause you to be manacled and
confined in the dungeon, and that no persuasion upon our part will lead
him from his purpose."

"Which shall it be?" asked Sir George, directing his question to Lady
Crawford.

Dorothy lifted her eyebrows, bit the corner of her lip, shrugged her
shoulders, and said:--

"Indeed, it makes no difference to me where you send me, father; I am
willing to do whatever will give you the greatest happiness. If you
consult my wishes, you will have me whipped in the courtyard till I bleed.
I should enjoy that more than anything else you can do. Ah, how tender is
the love of a father! It passeth understanding."

"Come to your apartments, Dorothy," said Lady Crawford, anxious to
separate the belligerents. "I have given your father my word of honor that
I will guard you and will keep you prisoner in your rooms. Do you not pity
me? I gave my promise only to save you from the dungeon, and painful as
the task will be, I will keep my word to your father."

"Which shall it be, father?" asked Dorothy. "You shall finish the task you
began. I shall not help you in your good work by making choice. You shall
choose my place of imprisonment. Where shall it be? Shall I go to my rooms
or to the dungeon?"

"Go to your rooms," answered Sir George, "and let me never see--" but Sir
George did not finish the sentence. He hurriedly left the hall, and
Dorothy cheerfully went to imprisonment in Entrance Tower.



CHAPTER VIII

MALCOLM No. 2


Sir George had done a bad day's work. He had hardened Dorothy's heart
against himself and had made it more tender toward John. Since her father
had treated her so cruelly, she felt she was at liberty to give her heart
to John without stint. So when once she was alone in her room the
flood-gates of her heart were opened, and she poured forth the ineffable
tenderness and the passionate longings with which she was filled. With
solitude came the memory of John's words and John's kisses. She recalled
every movement, every word, every tone, every sensation. She gave her soul
unbridled license to feast with joyous ecstasy upon the thrilling
memories. All thoughts of her father's cruelty were drowned in a sea of
bliss. She forgot him. In truth, she forgot everything but her love and
her lover. That evening, after she had assisted Madge to prepare for bed,
as was her custom, Dorothy stood before her mirror making her toilet for
the night. In the flood of her newly found ecstasy she soon forgot that
Madge was in the room.

Dorothy stood before her mirror with her face near to its polished
surface, that she might scrutinize every feature, and, if possible, verify
John's words.

"He called me 'my beauty' twice," she thought, "and 'my Aphrodite' once."
Then her thoughts grew into unconscious words, and she spoke aloud:--

"I wish he could see me now." And she blushed at the thought, as she
should have done. "He acted as if he meant all he said," she thought. "I
know he meant it. I trust him entirely. But if he should change? Holy
Mother, I believe I should die. But I do believe him. He would not lie,
even though he is not a Vernon."

With thoughts of the scene between herself and her father at the gate,
there came a low laugh, half of amusement, half of contentment, and the
laugh meant a great deal that was to be regretted; it showed a sad change
in Dorothy's heart. But yesterday the memory of her deceit would have
filled her with grief. To-night she laughed at it. Ah, Sir George!
Pitiable old man! While your daughter laughs, you sigh and groan and moan,
and your heart aches with pain and impotent rage. Even drink fails to
bring comfort to you. I say impotent rage, because Dorothy is out of your
reach, and as surely as the sun rises in the east she is lost to you
forever. The years of protection and tender love which you have given to
her go for nothing. Now comes the son of your mortal enemy, and you are
but an obstruction in her path. Your existence is forgotten while she
revels in the memory of his words, his embraces, and his lips. She laughs
while you suffer, in obedience to the fate that Heaven has decreed for
those who bring children into this world.

Who is to blame for the pitiable mite which children give in return for a
parent's flood of love? I do not know, but of this I am sure: if parents
would cease to feel that they own their children in common with their
horses, their estates, and their cattle; if they would not, as many do in
varying degrees, treat their children as their property, the return of
love would be far more adequate than it is.

Dorothy stood before her mirror plaiting her hair. Her head was turned
backward a little to one side that she might more easily reach the great
red golden skein. In that entrancing attitude the reflection of the nether
lip of which John had spoken so fondly came distinctly to Dorothy's
notice. She paused in the braiding of her hair and held her face close to
the mirror that she might inspect the lip, whose beauty John had so
ardently admired. She turned her face from one side to the other that she
might view it from all points, and then she thrust it forward with a
pouting movement that would have set the soul of a mummy pulsing if he had
ever been a man. She stood for a moment in contemplation of the full red
lip, and then resting her hands upon the top of the mirror table leaned
forward and kissed its reflected image.

Again forgetfulness fell upon her and her thoughts grew into words.

"He was surely right concerning my lower lip," she said, speaking to
herself. Then without the least apparent relevance, "He had been smoking."
Again her words broke her revery, and she took up the unfinished braid of
hair. When she did so, she caught a glimpse of her arm which was as
perfectly rounded as the fairest marble of Phidias. She stretched the arm
to its full length that the mirror might reflect its entire beauty. Again
she thought aloud: "I wish he could see my arm. Perhaps some day--" But
the words ceased, and in their place came a flush that spread from her
hair to her full white throat, and she quickly turned the mirror away so
that even it should not behold her beauty.

You see after all is told Dorothy was modest.

She finished her toilet without the aid of her mirror; but before she
extinguished the candle she stole one more fleeting glance at its polished
surface, and again came the thought, "Perhaps some day--" Then she covered
the candle, and amid enfolding darkness lay down beside Madge, full of
thoughts and sensations that made her tremble; for they were strange to
her, and she knew not what they meant.

Dorothy thought that Madge was asleep, but after a few minutes the latter
said:--

"Tell me, Dorothy, who was on fire?"

"Who was on fire?" asked Dorothy in surprise. "What do you mean, Madge?"

"I hope they have not been trying to burn any one," said Madge.

"What do you mean?" again asked Dorothy.

"You said 'He had been smoking,'" responded Madge.

"Oh," laughed Dorothy, "that is too comical. Of course not, dear one. I
was speaking of--of a man who had been smoking tobacco, as Malcolm does."
Then she explained the process of tobacco smoking.

"Yes, I know," answered Madge. "I saw Malcolm's pipe. That is, I held it
in my hands for a moment while he explained to me its use."

Silence ensued for a moment, and Madge again spoke:--

"What was it he said about your lower lip, and who was he? I did not learn
why Uncle George wished to confine you in the dungeon. I am so sorry that
this trouble has come upon you."

"Trouble, Madge?" returned Dorothy. "Truly, you do not understand. No
trouble has come upon me. The greatest happiness of my life has come to
pass. Don't pity me. Envy me. My happiness is so sweet and so great that
it frightens me."

"How can you be happy while your father treats you so cruelly?" asked
Madge.

"His conduct makes it possible for my happiness to be complete," returned
Dorothy. "If he were kind to me, I should be unhappy, but his cruelty
leaves me free to be as happy as I may. For my imprisonment in this room I
care not a farthing. It does not trouble me, for when I wish to see--see
him again, I shall do so. I don't know at this time just how I shall
effect it; but be sure, sweet one, I shall find a way." There was no doubt
in Madge's mind that Dorothy would find a way.

"Who is he, Dorothy? You may trust me. Is he the gentleman whom we met at
Derby-town?"

"Yes," answered Dorothy, "he is Sir John Manners."

"Dorothy!" exclaimed Madge in tones of fear.

"It could not be worse, could it, Madge?" said Dorothy.

"Oh, Dorothy!" was the only response.

"You will not betray me?" asked Dorothy, whose alarm made her suspicious.

"You know whether or not I will betray you," answered Madge.

"Indeed, I know, else I should not have told you my secret. Oh, you should
see him, Madge; he is the most beautiful person living. The poor soft
beauty of the fairest woman grows pale beside him. You cannot know how
wonderfully beautiful a man may be. You have never seen one."

"Yes, I have seen many men, and I well remember their appearance. I was
twelve years old, you know, when I lost my sight."

"But, Madge," said Dorothy, out of the fulness of her newly acquired
knowledge, "a girl of twelve cannot see a man."

"No woman sees with her eyes the man whom she loves," answered Madge,
quietly.

"How does she see him?" queried Dorothy.

"With her heart."

"Have you, too, learned that fact?" asked Dorothy.

Madge hesitated for a moment and murmured "Yes."

"Who is he, dear one?" whispered Dorothy.

"I may not tell even you, Dorothy," replied Madge, "because it can come
to nothing. The love is all on my part."

Dorothy insisted, but Madge begged her not to ask for her secret.

"Please don't even make a guess concerning him," said Madge. "It is my
shame and my joy."

It looked as if this malady which had fallen upon Dorothy were like the
plague that infects a whole family if one but catch it.

Dorothy, though curious, was generous, and remained content with Madge's
promise that she should be the first one to hear the sweet story if ever
the time should come to tell it.

"When did you see him?" asked Madge, who was more willing to receive than
to impart intelligence concerning affairs of the heart.

"To-day," answered Dorothy. Then she told Madge about the scenes at the
gate and described what had happened between her and Sir George in the
kitchen and banquet hall.

"How could you tell your father such a falsehood?" asked Madge in
consternation.

"It was very easy. You see I had to do it. I never lied until recently.
But oh, Madge, this is a terrible thing to come upon a girl!" "This" was
somewhat indefinite, but Madge understood, and perhaps it will be clear to
you what Dorothy meant. The girl continued: "She forgets all else. It will
drive her to do anything, however wicked. For some strange cause, under
its influence she does not feel the wrong she does. It acts upon a girl's
sense of right and wrong as poppy juice acts on pain. Before it came upon
me in--in such terrible force, I believe I should have become ill had I
told my father a falsehood. I might have equivocated, or I might have
evaded the truth in some slight degree, but I could not have told a lie.
But now it is as easy as winking."

"And I fear, Dorothy," responded Madge, "that winking is very easy for
you."

"Yes," answered candid Dorothy with a sigh.

"It must be a very great evil," said Madge, deploringly.

"One might well believe so," answered Dorothy, "but it is not. One
instinctively knows it to be the essence of all that is good."

Madge asked, "Did Sir John tell you that--that he--"

"Yes," said Dorothy, covering her face even from the flickering rays of
the rushlight.

"Did you tell him?"

"Yes," came in reply from under the coverlet.

After a short silence Dorothy uncovered her face.

"Yes," she said boldly, "I told him plainly; nor did I feel shame in so
doing. It must be that this strange love makes one brazen. You, Madge,
would die with shame had you sought any man as I have sought John. I would
not for worlds tell you how bold and over-eager I have been."

"Oh, Dorothy!" was all the answer Madge gave.

"You would say 'Oh, Dorothy,' many times if you knew all." Another pause
ensued, after which Madge asked:--

"How did you know he had been smoking?"

"I--I tasted it," responded Dorothy.

"How could you taste it? I hope you did not smoke?" returned Madge in
wonderment.

Dorothy smothered a little laugh, made two or three vain attempts to
explain, tenderly put her arms about Madge's neck and kissed her.

"Oh, Dorothy, that certainly was wrong," returned Madge, although she had
some doubts in her own mind upon the point.

"Well, if it is wrong," answered Dorothy, sighing, "I don't care to live."

"Dorothy, I fear you are an immodest girl," said Madge.

"I fear I am, but I don't care--John, John, John!"

"How came he to speak of your lower lip?" asked Madge. "It certainly is
very beautiful; but how came he to speak of it?"

"It was after--after--once," responded Dorothy.

"And your arm," continued remorseless Madge, "how came he to speak of it?
You surely did not--"

"No, no, Madge; I hope you do not think I would show him my arm. I have
not come to that. I have a poor remnant of modesty left; but the Holy
Mother only knows how long it will last. No, he did not speak of my arm."

"You spoke of your arm when you were before the mirror," responded Madge,
"and you said, 'Perhaps some day--'"

"Oh, don't, Madge. Please spare me. I indeed fear I am very wicked. I will
say a little prayer to the Virgin to-night. She will hear me, even If I am
wicked; and she will help me to become good and modest again."

The girls went to sleep, and Dorothy dreamed "John, John, John," and
slumbered happily.

That part of the building of Haddon Hall which lies to the northward, west
of the kitchen, consists of rooms according to the following plan:--

The two rooms in Entrance Tower over the great doors at the northwest
corner of Haddon Hall were occupied by Dorothy and Madge. The west room
overlooking the Wye was their parlor. The next room to the east was their
bedroom. The room next their bedroom was occupied by Lady Crawford. Beyond
that was Sir George's bedroom, and east of his room was one occupied by
the pages and two retainers. To enter Dorothy's apartments one must pass
through all the other rooms I have mentioned. Her windows were twenty-five
feet from the ground and were barred with iron. After Dorothy's sentence
of imprisonment, Lady Crawford, or some trusted person in her place, was
always on guard in Aunt Dorothy's room to prevent Dorothy's escape, and
guards were also stationed in the retainer's room for the same purpose. I
tell you this that you may understand the difficulties Dorothy would have
to overcome before she could see John, as she declared to Madge she would.
But my opinion is that there are no limits to the resources of a wilful
girl. Dorothy saw Manners. The plan she conceived to bring about the
desired end was so seemingly impossible, and her execution of it was so
adroit and daring, that I believe it will of itself Interest you in the
telling, aside from the bearing it has upon this history. No sane man
would have deemed it possible, but this wilful girl carried it to
fruition. She saw no chance of failure. To her it seemed a simple, easy
matter. Therefore she said with confidence and truth, "I will see him when
I wish to."

Let me tell you of it.

During Dorothy's imprisonment I spent an hour or two each evening with her
and Madge at their parlor in the tower. The windows of the room, as I have
told you, faced westward, overlooking the Wye, and disclosed the
beautiful, undulating scenery of Overhaddon Hill in the distance.

One afternoon when Madge was not present Dorothy asked me to bring her a
complete suit of my garments,--boots, hose, trunks, waistcoat, and
doublet. I laughed, and asked her what she wanted with them, but she
refused to tell me. She insisted, however, and I promised to fetch the
garments to her. Accordingly the next evening I delivered the bundle to
her hands. Within a week she returned them all, saving the boots. Those
she kept--for what reason I could not guess.

Lady Crawford, by command of Sir George, carried in her reticule the key
of the door which opened from her own room into Sir George's apartments,
and the door was always kept locked.

Dorothy had made several attempts to obtain possession of the key, with
intent, I believe, of making a bold dash for liberty. But Aunt Dorothy,
mindful of Sir George's wrath and fearing him above all men, acted
faithfully her part of gaoler. She smiled, half in sadness, when she told
me of the girl's simplicity in thinking she could hoodwink a person of
Lady Crawford's age, experience, and wisdom. The old lady took great pride
in her own acuteness. The distasteful task of gaoler, however, pained good
Aunt Dorothy, whose simplicity was, in truth, no match for Dorothy's
love-quickened cunning. But Aunt Dorothy's sense of duty and her fear of
Sir George impelled her to keep good and conscientious guard.

One afternoon near the hour of sunset I knocked for admission at Lady
Crawford's door. When I had entered she locked the door carefully after
me, and replaced the key in the reticule which hung at her girdle.

I exchanged a few words with her Ladyship, and entered Dorothy's bedroom,
where I left my cloak, hat, and sword. The girls were in the parlor. When
I left Lady Crawford she again took her chair near the candle, put on her
great bone-rimmed spectacles, and was soon lost to the world in the pages
of "Sir Philip de Comynges." The dear old lady was near-sighted and was
slightly deaf. Dorothy's bedroom, like Lady Crawford's apartments, was in
deep shadow. In it there was no candle.

My two fair friends were seated in one of the west windows watching the
sunset. They rose, and each gave me her hand and welcomed me with the rare
smiles I had learned to expect from them. I drew a chair near to the
window and we talked and laughed together merrily for a few minutes. After
a little time Dorothy excused herself, saying that she would leave Madge
and me while she went into the bedroom to make a change in her apparel.

Madge and I sat for a few minutes at the window, and I said, "You have not
been out to-day for exercise."

I had ridden to Derby with Sir George and had gone directly on my return
to see my two young friends. Sir George had not returned.

"Will you walk with me about the room?" I asked. My real reason for making
the suggestion was that I longed to clasp her hand, and to feel its
velvety touch, since I should lead her if we walked.

She quickly rose in answer to my invitation and offered me her hand. As we
walked to and fro a deep, sweet contentment filled my heart, and I felt
that any words my lips could coin would but mar the ineffable silence.

Never shall I forget the soft light of that gloaming as the darkening red
rays of the sinking sun shot through the panelled window across the floor
and illumined the tapestry upon the opposite wall.

The tapestries of Haddon Hall are among the most beautiful in England, and
the picture upon which the sun's rays fell was that of a lover kneeling at
the feet of his mistress. Madge and I passed and repassed the illumined
scene, and while it was softly fading into shadow a great flood of tender
love for the girl whose soft hand I held swept over my heart. It was the
noblest motive I had ever felt.

Moved by an impulse I could not resist, I stopped in our walk, and falling
to my knee pressed her hand ardently to my lips. Madge did not withdraw
her hand, nor did she attempt to raise me. She stood in passive silence.
The sun's rays had risen as the sun had sunk, and the light was falling
like a holy radiance from the gates of paradise upon the girl's head. I
looked upward, and never in my eyes had woman's face appeared so fair and
saintlike. She seemed to see me and to feel the silent outpouring of my
affection. I rose to my feet, and clasping both her hands spoke only her
name "Madge."

She answered simply, "Malcolm, is it possible?" And her face, illumined by
the sunlight and by the love-god, told me all else. Then I gently took her
to my arms and kissed her lips again and again and again, and Madge by no
sign nor gesture said me nay. She breathed a happy sigh, her head fell
upon my breast, and all else of good that the world could offer compared
with her was dross to me.

We again took our places by the window, since now I might hold her hand
without an excuse. By the window we sat, speaking little, through the
happiest hour of my I life. How dearly do I love to write about it, and to
lave my soul in the sweet aromatic essence of its memory. But my
rhapsodies must have an end.

When Dorothy left me with Madge at the window she entered her bedroom and
quickly arrayed herself in garments which were facsimiles of those I had
lent her. Then she put her feet into my boots and donned my hat and cloak.
She drew my gauntleted gloves over her hands, buckled my sword to her slim
waist, pulled down the broad rim of my soft beaver hat over her face, and
turned up the collar of my cloak. Then she adjusted about her chin and
upper lip a black chin beard and moustachio, which she had in some manner
contrived to make, and, in short, prepared to enact the role of Malcolm
Vernon before her watchful gaoler, Aunt Dorothy.

While sitting silently with Madge I heard the clanking of my sword against
the oak floor in Dorothy's bedroom. I supposed she had been toying with it
and had let it fall. She was much of a child, and nothing could escape her
curiosity. Then I heard the door open into Aunt Dorothy's apartments. I
whispered to Madge requesting her to remain silently by the window, and
then I stepped softly over to the door leading into the bedroom. I
noiselessly opened the door and entered. From my dark hiding-place in
Dorothy's bedroom I witnessed a scene in Aunt Dorothy's room which filled
me with wonder and suppressed laughter. Striding about in the
shadow-darkened portions of Lady Crawford's apartment was my other self,
Malcolm No. 2, created from the flesh and substance of Dorothy Vernon.

The sunlight was yet abroad, though into Lady Crawford's room its slanting
rays but dimly entered at that hour, and the apartment was in deep shadow,
save for the light of one flickering candle, close to the flame of which
the old lady was holding the pages of the book she was laboriously
perusing.

The girl held her hand over her mouth trumpet-wise that her voice might be
deepened, and the swagger with which she strode about the room was the
most graceful and ludicrous movement I ever beheld. I wondered if she
thought she was imitating my walk, and I vowed that if her step were a
copy of mine, I would straightway amend my pace.

"What do you read, Lady Crawford?" said my cloak and hat, in tones that
certainly were marvellously good imitations of my voice.

"What do you say, Malcolm?" asked the deaf old lady, too gentle to show
the ill-humor she felt because of the interruption to her reading.

"I asked what do you read?" repeated Dorothy.

"The 'Chronicle of Sir Philip de Comynges,'" responded Lady Crawford.
"Have you read it? It is a rare and interesting history."

"Ah, indeed, it is a rare book, a rare book. I have read it many times."
There was no need for that little fabrication, and it nearly brought
Dorothy into trouble.

"What part of the 'Chronicle' do you best like?" asked Aunt Dorothy,
perhaps for lack of anything else to say. Here was trouble already for
Malcolm No. 2.

"That is hard for me to say. I so well like it all. Perhaps--ah--perhaps I
prefer the--the ah--the middle portion."

"Ah, you like that part which tells the story of Mary of Burgundy,"
returned Aunt Dorothy. "Oh, Malcolm, I know upon what theme you are always
thinking--the ladies, the ladies."

"Can the fair Lady Crawford chide me for that?" my second self responded
in a gallant style of which I was really proud. "She who has caused so
much of that sort of thought surely must know that a gentleman's mind
cannot be better employed than--"

"Malcolm, you are incorrigible. But it is well for a gentleman to keep in
practice in such matters, even though he have but an old lady to practise
on."

"They like it, even if it be only practice, don't they?" said Dorothy,
full of the spirit of mischief.

"I thank you for nothing, Sir Malcolm Vernon," retorted Aunt Dorothy with
a toss of her head. "I surely don't value your practice, as you call it,
one little farthing's worth."

But Malcolm No. 2, though mischievously inclined, was much quicker of wit
than Malcolm No. 1, and she easily extricated herself.

"I meant that gentlemen like it, Lady Crawford."

"Oh!" replied Lady Crawford, again taking up her book. "I have been
reading Sir Philip's account of the death of your fair Mary of Burgundy.
Do you remember the cause of her death?"

Malcolm No. 2, who had read Sir Philip so many times, was compelled to
admit that he did not remember the cause of Mary's death.

"You did not read the book with attention," replied Lady Crawford. "Sir
Philip says that Mary of Burgundy died from an excess of modesty."

"That disease will never depopulate England," was the answer that came
from my garments, much to my chagrin.

"Sir Malcolm," exclaimed the old lady, "I never before heard so ungallant
a speech from your lips."--"And," thought I, "she never will hear its like
from me."

"Modesty," continued Lady Crawford, "may not be valued so highly by young
women nowadays as it was in the time of my youth, but--"

"I am sure it is not," interrupted Dorothy.

"But," continued Lady Crawford, "the young women of England are modest and
seemly in their conduct, and they do not deserve to be spoken of in
ungallant jest."

I trembled lest Dorothy should ruin my reputation for gallantry.

"Do you not," said Lady Crawford, "consider Dorothy and Madge to be
modest, well-behaved maidens?"

"Madge! Ah, surely she is all that a maiden should be. She is a saint, but
as to Dorothy--well, my dear Lady Crawford, I predict another end for her
than death from modesty. I thank Heaven the disease in its mild form does
not kill. Dorothy has it mildly," then under her breath, "if at all."

The girl's sense of humor had vanquished her caution, and for the moment
it caused her to forget even the reason for her disguise.

"You do not speak fairly of your cousin Dorothy," retorted Lady Crawford.
"She is a modest girl, and I love her deeply."

"Her father would not agree with you," replied Dorothy.

"Perhaps not," responded the aunt. "Her father's conduct causes me great
pain and grief."

"It also causes me pain," said Dorothy, sighing.

"But, Malcolm," continued the old lady, putting down her book and turning
with quickened interest toward my other self, "who, suppose you, is the
man with whom Dorothy has become so strangely entangled?"

"I cannot tell for the life of me," answered Malcolm No. 2. "Surely a
modest girl would not act as she does."

"Surely a modest girl would," replied Aunt Dorothy, testily. "Malcolm, you
know nothing of women."

"Spoken with truth," thought I.

The old lady continued: "Modesty and love have nothing whatever to do with
each other. When love comes in at the door, modesty flies out at the
window. I do pity my niece with all my heart, and in good truth I wish I
could help her, though of course I would not have her know my feeling. I
feign severity toward her, but I do not hesitate to tell you that I am
greatly interested in her romance. She surely is deeply in love."

"That is a true word, Aunt Dorothy," said the lovelorn young woman. "I am
sure she is fathoms deep in love."

"Nothing," said Lady Crawford, "but a great passion would have impelled
her to act as she did. Why, even Mary of Burgundy, with all her modesty,
won the husband she wanted, ay, and had him at the cost of half her rich
domain."

"I wonder if Dorothy will ever have the man she wants?" said Malcolm,
sighing in a manner entirely new to him.

"No," answered the old lady, "I fear there is no hope for Dorothy. I
wonder who he is? Her father intends that she shall soon marry Lord
Stanley. Sir George told me as much this morning when he started for
Derby-town to arrange for the signing of the marriage contract within a
day or two. He had a talk yesterday with Dorothy. She, I believe, has
surrendered to the inevitable, and again there is good feeling between her
and my brother."

Dorothy tossed her head expressively.

"It is a good match," continued Lady Crawford, "a good match, Malcolm. I
pity Dorothy; but it is my duty to guard her, and I shall do it
faithfully."

"My dear Lady Crawford," said my hat and cloak, "your words and feelings
do great credit to your heart. But have you ever thought that your niece
is a very wilful girl, and that she is full of disturbing expedients? Now
I am willing to wager my beard that she will, sooner than you suspect, see
her lover. And I am also willing to lay a wager that she will marry the
man of her choice despite all the watchfulness of her father and yourself.
Keep close guard over her, my lady, or she will escape."

Lady Crawford laughed. "She shall not escape. Have no fear of that,
Malcolm. The key to the door is always safely locked in my reticule. No
girl can outwit me. I am too old to be caught unawares by a mere child
like Dorothy. It makes me laugh, Malcolm--although I am sore at heart for
Dorothy's sake--it makes me laugh, with a touch of tears, when I think of
poor simple Dorothy's many little artifices to gain possession of this
key. They are amusing and pathetic. Poor child! But I am too old to be
duped by a girl, Malcolm, I am too old. She has no chance to escape."

I said to myself: "No one has ever become too old to be duped by a girl
who is in love. Her wits grow keen as the otter's fur grows thick for the
winter's need. I do not know your niece's plan; but if I mistake not, Aunt
Dorothy, you will in one respect, at least, soon be rejuvenated."

"I am sure Lady Crawford is right in what she says," spoke my other self,
"and Sir George is fortunate in having for his daughter a guardian who
cannot be hoodwinked and who is true to a distasteful trust. I would the
trouble were over and that Dorothy were well married."

"So wish I, Malcolm, with all my heart," replied Aunt Dorothy.

After a brief pause in the conversation Malcolm No. 2 said:--

"I must now take my leave. Will you kindly unlock the door and permit me
to say good night?"

"If you must go," answered my lady, glad enough to be left alone with her
beloved Sir Philip. Then she unlocked the door.

"Keep good watch, my dear aunt," said Malcolm. "I greatly fear that
Dorothy--" but the door closed on the remainder of the sentence and on
Dorothy Vernon.

"Nonsense!" ejaculated the old lady somewhat impatiently. "Why should he
fear for Dorothy? I hope I shall not again be disturbed." And soon she was
deep in the pages of her book.



CHAPTER IX

A TRYST AT BOWLING GREEN GATE


I was at a loss what course to pursue, and I remained for a moment in
puzzling thought. I went back to Madge, and after closing the door, told
her of all I had seen. She could not advise me, and of course she was
deeply troubled and concerned. After deliberating, I determined to speak
to Aunt Dorothy that she might know what had happened. So I opened the
door and walked into Lady Crawford's presence. After viewing my lady's
back for a short time, I said:--

"I cannot find my hat, cloak, and sword. I left them in Dorothy's bedroom.
Has any one been here since I entered?"

The old lady turned quickly upon me, "Since you entered?" she cried in
wonderment and consternation. "Since you left, you mean. Did you not leave
this room a few minutes ago? What means this? How found you entrance
without the key?"

"I did not leave this room, Aunt Dorothy; you see I am here," I responded.

"Who did leave? Your wraith? Some one--Dorothy!" screamed the old lady in
terror. "That girl!!--Holy Virgin! where is she?"

Lady Crawford hastened to Dorothy's room and returned to me in great
agitation.

"Were you in the plot?" she demanded angrily.

"No more than were you, Lady Crawford," I replied, telling the exact
truth. If I were accessory to Dorothy's crime, it was only as a witness
and Aunt Dorothy had seen as much as I.

I continued: "Dorothy left Lady Madge and me at the window, saying she
wished to make a change in her garments. I was watching the sunset and
talking with Lady Madge."

Lady Crawford, being full of concern about the main event,--Dorothy's
escape,--was easily satisfied that I was not accessory before the fact.

"What shall I do, Malcolm? What shall I do? Help me, quickly. My brother
will return in the morning--perhaps he will return to-night--and he will
not believe that I have not intentionally permitted Dorothy to leave the
Hall. I have of late said so much to him on behalf of the girl that he
suspects me already of being in sympathy with her. He will not believe me
when I tell him that I have been duped. The ungrateful, selfish girl! How
could she so unkindly return my affection!"

The old lady began to weep.

I did not believe that Dorothy intended to leave Haddon Hall permanently.
I felt confident she had gone out only to meet John, and was sure she
would soon return. On the strength of that opinion I said: "If you fear
that Sir George will not believe you--he certainly will blame you--would
it not be better to admit Dorothy quietly when she returns and say nothing
to any one concerning the escapade? I will remain here in these rooms, and
when she returns I will depart, and the guards will never suspect that
Dorothy has left the Hall."

"If she will but return," wailed Aunt Dorothy, "I shall be only too glad
to admit her and to keep silent."

"I am sure she will," I answered. "Leave orders with the guard at Sir
George's door to admit me at any time during the night, and Dorothy will
come in without being recognized. Her disguise must be very complete if
she could deceive you."

"Indeed, her disguise is complete," replied the tearful old lady.

Dorothy's disguise was so complete and her resemblance to me had been so
well contrived that she met with no opposition from the guards in the
retainer's room nor from the porter. She walked out upon the terrace where
she strolled for a short time. Then she climbed over the wall at the stile
back of the terrace and took her way up Bowling Green Hill toward the
gate. She sauntered leisurely until she was out of sight of the Hall. Then
gathering up her cloak and sword she sped along the steep path to the hill
crest and thence to the gate.

Soon after the first day of her imprisonment she had sent a letter to John
by the hand of Jennie Faxton, acquainting him with the details of all that
had happened. In her letter, among much else, she said:--

"My true love, I beg you to haunt with your presence Bowling Green Gate
each day at the hour of sunset. I cannot tell you when I shall be there to
meet you, or surely I would do so now. But be there I will. Let no doubt
of that disturb your mind. It does not lie in the power of man to keep me
from you. That is, it lies in the power of but one man, you, my love and
my lord, and I fear not that you will use your power to that end. So it is
that I beg you to wait for me at sunset hour each day near by Bowling
Green Gate. You may be caused to wait for me a long weary time; but one
day, sooner or later, I shall go to you, and then--ah, then, if it be in
my power to reward your patience, you shall have no cause for complaint."

When Dorothy reached the gate she found it securely locked. She peered
eagerly through the bars, hoping to see John. She tried to shake the
heavy iron structure to assure herself that it could not be opened.

"Ah, well," she sighed, "I suppose the reason love laughs at locksmiths is
because he--or she--can climb."

Then she climbed the gate and sprang to the ground on the Devonshire side
of the wall.

"What will John think when he sees me in this attire?" she said half
aloud. "Malcolm's cloak serves but poorly to cover me, and I shall instead
be covered with shame and confusion when John comes. I fear he will think
I have disgraced myself." Then, with a sigh, "But necessity knows no
raiment."

She strode about near the gate for a few minutes, wishing that she were
indeed a man, save for one fact: if she were not a woman, John would not
love her, and, above all, she could not love John. The fact that she could
and did love John appealed to Dorothy as the highest, sweetest privilege
that Heaven or earth could offer to a human being.

The sun had sunk in the west, and his faint parting glory was but dimly to
be seen upon a few small clouds that floated above Overhaddon Hill. The
moon was past its half; and the stars, still yellow and pale from the
lingering glare of day, waited eagerly to give their twinkling help in
lighting the night. The forest near the gate was dense, and withal the
fading light of the sun and the dawning beams of the moon and stars, deep
shadow enveloped Dorothy and all the scene about her. The girl was
disappointed when she did not see Manners, but she was not vexed. There
was but one person in all the world toward whom she held a patient, humble
attitude--John. If he, in his greatness, goodness, and condescension,
deigned to come and meet so poor a person as Dorothy Vernon, she would be
thankful and happy; if he did not come, she would be sorrowful. His will
was her will, and she would come again and again until she should find
him waiting for her, and he should stoop to lift her into heaven.

If there is a place in all the earth where red warm blood counts for its
full value, it is in a pure woman's veins. Through self-fear it brings to
her a proud reserve toward all mankind till the right one comes. Toward
him it brings an eager humbleness that is the essence and the life of
Heaven and of love. Poets may praise snowy women as they will, but the
compelling woman is she of the warm blood. The snowy woman is the lifeless
seed, the rainless cloud, the unmagnetic lodestone, the drossful iron. The
great laws of nature affect her but passively. If there is aught in the
saying of the ancients, "The best only in nature can survive," the day of
her extermination will come. Fire is as chaste as snow, and infinitely
more comforting.

Dorothy's patience was not to be tried for long. Five minutes after she
had climbed the gate she beheld John riding toward her from the direction
of Rowsley, and her heart beat with thrill upon thrill of joy. She felt
that the crowning moment of her life was at hand. By the help of a subtle
sense--familiar spirit to her love perhaps--she knew that John would ask
her to go with him and to be his wife, despite all the Rutlands and
Vernons dead, living, or to be born. The thought of refusing him never
entered her mind. Queen Nature was on the throne in the fulness of power,
and Dorothy, in perfect attune with her great sovereign, was fulfilling
her destiny in accordance with the laws to which her drossless being was
entirely amenable.

Many times had the fear come to her that Sir John Manners, who was heir to
the great earldom of Rutland,--he who was so great, so good, and so
beautiful,--might feel that his duty to his house past, present, and
future, and the obligations of his position among the grand nobles of the
realm, should deter him from a marriage against which so many good reasons
could be urged. But this evening her familiar spirit whispered to her that
she need not fear, and her heart was filled with joy and certainty. John
dismounted and tethered his horse at a short distance from the gate. He
approached Dorothy, but halted when he beheld a man instead of the girl
whom he longed to meet. His hesitancy surprised Dorothy, who, in her
eagerness, had forgotten her male attire. She soon saw, however, that he
did not recognize her, and she determined, in a spirit of mischief, to
maintain her incognito till he should penetrate her disguise.

She turned her back on John and sauntered leisurely about, whistling
softly. She pretended to be unconscious of his presence, and John, who
felt that the field was his by the divine right of love, walked to the
gate and looked through the bars toward Bowling Green. He stood at the
gate for a short time with indifference in his manner and irritation in
his heart. He, too, tried to hum a tune, but failed. Then he tried to
whistle, but his musical efforts were abortive. There was no music in him.
A moment before his heart had been full of harmony; but when he found a
man instead of his sweetheart, the harmony quickly turned to rasping
discord.

John was not a patient man, and his impatience was apt to take the form of
words and actions. A little aimless stalking about at the gate was more
than enough for him, so he stepped toward the intruder and lifted his hat.

"I beg your pardon," he said, "I thought when first I saw you that you
were Sir Malcolm Vernon. I fancied you bore resemblance to him. I see that
I was in error."

"Yes, in error," answered my beard.

Again the two gentlemen walked around each other with great amusement on
the part of one, and with ever increasing vexation on the part of the
other.

Soon John said, "May I ask whom have I the honor to address?"

"Certainly, you may ask," was the response.

A silence ensued during which Dorothy again turned her back on John and
walked a few paces away from him. John's patience was rapidly oozing, and
when the unknown intruder again turned in his direction, John said with
all the gentleness then at his command:--

"Well, sir, I do ask."

"Your curiosity is flattering," said the girl.

"Pardon me, sir," returned John. "My curiosity is not intended to be
flattering. I--"

"I hope it is not intended to be insulting, sir?" asked my hat and cloak.

"That, sir, all depends upon yourself," retorted John, warmly. Then after
an instant of thought, he continued in tones of conciliation:--

"I have an engagement of a private nature at this place. In short, I hope
to meet a--a friend here within a few minutes and I feel sure that under
the circumstances so gallant a gentleman as yourself will act with due
consideration for the feelings of another. I hope and believe that you
will do as you would be done by."

"Certainly, certainly," responded the gallant. "I find no fault at all
with your presence. Please take no account whatever of me. I assure you I
shall not be in the least disturbed."

John was somewhat disconcerted.

"Perhaps you will not be disturbed," replied John, struggling to keep down
his temper, "but I fear you do not understand me. I hope to meet a--a lady
and--"

"I hope also to meet a--a friend," the fellow said; "but I assure you we
shall in no way conflict."

"May I ask," queried John, "if you expect to meet a gentleman or a lady?"

"Certainly you may ask," was the girl's irritating reply.

"Well, well, sir, I do ask," said John. "Furthermore, I demand to know
whom you expect to meet at this place."

"That, of course, sir, is no business of yours."

"But I shall make it my affair. I expect to meet a lady here, my
sweetheart." The girl's heart jumped with joy. "And if you have any of the
feelings of a gentleman, you must know that your presence will be
intolerable to me."

"Perhaps it will be, my dear sir, but I have as good a right here as you
or any other. If you must know all about my affairs, I tell you I, too,
hope to meet my sweetheart at this place. In fact, I know I shall meet my
sweetheart, and, my good fellow, I beg to inform you that a stranger's
presence would be very annoying to me."

John was at his wit's end. He must quickly do or say something to persuade
this stubborn fellow to leave. If Dorothy should come and see two persons
at the gate she, of course, would return to the Hall. Jennie Faxton, who
knew that the garments were finished, had told Sir John that he might
reasonably expect to see Dorothy at the gate on that evening, for Sir
George had gone to Derby-town, presumably to remain over night.

In sheer desperation John said, "I was here first, and I claim the
ground."

"That is not true," replied the other. "I have been waiting here for
you--I mean for the person I am to meet--" Dorothy thought she had
betrayed herself, and that John would surely recognize her. "I had been
waiting full five minutes before you arrived."

John's blindness in failing to recognize Dorothy is past my understanding.
He explained it to me afterward by saying that his eagerness to see
Dorothy, and his fear, nay almost certainty, that she could not come,
coupled with the hope which Jennie Faxton had given him, had so completely
occupied his mind that other subjects received but slight consideration.

"But I--I have been here before this night to meet--"

"And I have been here to meet--quite as often as you, I hope," retorted
Dorothy.

They say that love blinds a man. It must also have deafened John, since he
did not recognize his sweetheart's voice.

"It may be true that you have been here before this evening," retorted
John, angrily; "but you shall not remain here now. If you wish to save
yourself trouble, leave at once. If you stalk about in the forest, I will
run you through and leave you for the crows to pick."

"I have no intention of leaving, and if I were to do so you would regret
it; by my beard, you would regret it," answered the girl, pleased to see
John in his overbearing, commanding mood. His stupidity was past
comprehension.

"Defend yourself," said John, drawing his sword.

"Now he will surely know the truth," thought Dorothy, but she said: "I am
much younger than you, and am not so large and strong. I am unskilled in
the use of a sword, and therefore am I no match for Sir John Manners than
whom, I have heard, there is no better swordsman, stronger arm, nor braver
heart in England."

"You flatter me, my friend," returned John, forced into a good humor
against his will; "but you must leave. He who cannot defend himself must
yield; it is the law of nature and of men."

John advanced toward Dorothy, who retreated stepping backward, holding her
arm over her face.

"I am ready to yield if you wish. In fact, I am eager to yield--more eager
than you can know," she cried.

"It is well," answered John, putting his sword in sheath.

"But," continued Dorothy, "I will not go away."

"Then you must fight," said John.

"I tell you again I am willing, nay, eager to yield to you, but I also
tell you I cannot fight in the way you would have me. In other ways
perhaps I can fight quite as well as anybody. But really, I am ashamed to
draw my sword, since to do so would show you how poorly I am equipped to
defend myself under your great laws of nature and of man. Again, I wish to
assure you that I am more than eager to yield; but I cannot fight you, and
I will not go away."

The wonder never ceases that John did not recognize her. She took no pains
to hide her identity, and after a few moments of concealment she was
anxious that John should discover her under my garments.

"I would know his voice," she thought, "did he wear all the petticoats in
Derbyshire."

"What shall I do with you?" cried John, amused and irritated. "I cannot
strike you."

"No, of course you would not murder me in cold blood," answered Dorothy,
laughing heartily. She was sure her laughter would open John's eyes.

"I cannot carry you away," said John.

"I would come back again, if you did," answered the irrepressible fellow.

"I suppose you would," returned John, sullenly. "In the devil's name, tell
me what you will do. Can I not beg you to go?"

"Now, Sir John, you have touched me. I make you this offer: you expect
Mistress Vernon to come from the Hall--"

"What do you know about Mistress Vernon?" cried John. "By God, I will--"

"Now don't grow angry, Sir John, and please don't swear in my presence.
You expect her, I say, to come from the Hall. What I propose is this: you
shall stand by the gate and watch for Doll--oh, I mean Mistress
Vernon--and I will stand here behind the wall where she cannot see me.
When she comes in sight--though in truth I don't think she will come, and
I believe were she under your very nose you would not see her--you shall
tell me and I will leave at once; that is, if you wish me to leave. After
you see Dorothy Vernon if you still wish me to go, I pledge my faith no
power can keep me. Now is not that fair? I like you very much, and I want
to remain here, if you will permit me, and talk to you for a little
time--till you see Doll Vernon."

"Doll Vernon, fellow? How dare you so speak of her?" demanded John, hotly.

"Your pardon and her pardon, I beg; Mistress Vernon, soon to be Countess
of Derbyshire. By the way, I wager you a gold pound sterling that by the
time you see Doll Vernon--Mistress Vernon, I pray your pardon--you will
have grown so fond of me that you will not permit me to leave you." She
thought after that speech he could not help but know her; but John's skull
was like an oaken board that night. Nothing could penetrate it. He began
to fancy that his companion was a simple witless person who had escaped
from his keepers.

"Will you take the wager?" asked Dorothy.

"Nonsense!" was the only reply John deigned to give to so foolish a
proposition.

"Then will you agree that I shall remain at the gate till Doll--Mistress
Vernon comes?"

"I suppose I shall have to make the best terms possible with you," he
returned. "You are an amusing fellow and as perverse as a woman."

"I knew you would soon learn to like me," she responded. "The first step
toward a man's affection is to amuse him. That old saw which says the road
to a man's heart is through his stomach, is a sad mistake. Amusement is
the highway to a man's affections."

"It is better that one laugh with us than at us. There is a vast
difference in the two methods," answered John, contemptuously.

"You dare to laugh at me," cried Dorothy, grasping the hilt of her sword,
and pretending to be angry. John waved her off with his hand, and
laughingly said, "Little you know concerning the way to a man's heart, and
no doubt less of the way to a woman's."

"I, perhaps, know more about it than you would believe," returned Malcolm
No. 2.

"If you know aught of the latter subject, it is more than I would
suppose," said John. "It is absurd to say that a woman can love a man who
is unable to defend himself."

"A vain man thinks that women care only for men of his own pattern,"
retorted Dorothy. "Women love a strong arm, it is true, but they also love
a strong heart, and you see I am not at all afraid of you, even though you
have twice my strength. There are as many sorts of bravery, Sir John,
as--as there are hairs in my beard."

"That is not many," interrupted John.

"And," continued the girl, "I believe, John,--Sir John,--you possess all
the kinds of bravery that are good."

"You flatter me," said John.

"Yes," returned Dorothy, "that was my intent."

After that unflattering remark there came a pause. Then the girl continued
somewhat hesitatingly: "Doubtless many women, Sir John, have seen your
virtues more clearly than even I see them. Women have a keener perception
of masculine virtues than--than we have."

Dorothy paused, and her heart beat with a quickened throb while she
awaited his reply. A new field of discovery was opening up to her and a
new use for her disguise.

John made no reply, but the persistent girl pursued her new line of
attack.

[Illustration]

"Surely Sir John Manners has had many sweethearts," said Dorothy, in
flattering tones. There were rocks and shoals ahead for John's love barge.
"Many, many, I am sure," the girl persisted.

"Ah, a few, a few, I admit," John like a fool replied. Dorothy was
accumulating disagreeable information rapidly.

"While you were at London court," said she, "the fine ladies must have
sought you in great numbers--I am sure they did."

"Perhaps, oh, perhaps," returned John. "One cannot always remember such
affairs." His craft was headed for the rocks. Had he observed Dorothy's
face, he would have seen the storm a-brewing.

"To how many women, Sir John, have you lost your heart, and at various
times how many have lost their hearts to you?" asked the persistent
girl.--"What a senseless question," returned John. "A dozen times or more;
perhaps a score or two score times. I cannot tell the exact number. I did
not keep an account."

Dorothy did not know whether she wanted to weep or be angry. Pique and a
flash of temper, however, saved her from tears, and she said, "You are so
brave and handsome that you must have found it a very easy task--much
easier than it would be for me--to convince those confiding ones of your
affection?"

"Yes," replied John, plunging full sail upon the breakers, "I admit that
usually they have been quite easy to convince. I am naturally bold, and I
suppose that perhaps--that is, I may possibly have a persuasive trick
about me."

Shades of good men who have blundered into ruin over the path of petty
vanity, save this man! But no, Dorothy must drink the bitter cup of
knowledge to the dregs.

"And you have been false to all of these women? she said.

"Ah, well, you know--the devil take it! A man can't be true to a score of
women," replied John.

"I am sure none of them wished you to be true," the girl answered,
restraining her tears with great difficulty.

At that point in the conversation John began to suspect from the manner
and shapeliness of his companion that a woman had disguised herself in
man's attire. Yet it did not once occur to him that Dorothy's fair form
was concealed within the disguise. He attempted to lift my soft beaver
hat, the broad rim of which hid Dorothy's face, but to that she made a
decided objection, and John continued: "By my soul I believe you are a
woman. Your walk"--Dorothy thought she had been swaggering like a
veritable swash-buckler--"your voice, the curves of your form, all betray
you." Dorothy gathered the cloak closely about her.

"I would know more of you," said John, and he stepped toward the now
interesting stranger. But she drew away from him, and told him to keep
hands off.

"Oh, I am right. You are a woman," said John.

Dorothy had maintained the disguise longer than she wished, and was
willing that John should discover her identity. At first it had been rare
sport to dupe him; but the latter part of her conversation had given her
no pleasure. She was angry, jealous, and hurt by what she had learned.

"Yes," she answered, "I admit that I am a--a woman. Now I must go."

"Stay but one moment," pleaded John, whose curiosity and gallantry were
aroused. "I will watch for Mistress Vernon, and when she appears, then you
may go."

"I told you that you would want me to remain," said the girl with a sigh.
She was almost ready to weep. Then she thought: "I little dreamed I was
coming here for this. I will carry the disguise a little farther, and
will, perhaps, learn enough to--to break my heart."

She was soon to learn all she wanted to know and a great deal more.

"Come sit by me on this stone," said John, coaxingly. The girl complied,
and drew the cloak over her knees.

"Tell me why you are here," he asked.

"To meet a gentleman," she replied, with low-bent face.

"Tell me your name," John asked, as he drew my glove from her passive
hand. John held the hand in his, and after examining it in the dim light
saw that it was a great deal more than good to look upon. Then he lifted
it to his lips and said:

"Since our sweethearts have disappointed us, may we not console ourselves
with each other?" He placed his arm around the girl's waist and drew her
yielding form toward him. Dorothy, unobserved by John, removed the false
beard and moustachio, and when John put his arm about her waist and leaned
forward to kiss the fair accommodating neighbor she could restrain her
tears no longer and said:--

"That would be no consolation for me, John; that would be no consolation
for me. How can you? How can you?"

She rose to her feet and covered her face with her hands in a paroxysm of
weeping. John, too, sprang to his feet, you may be sure. "Dorothy! God
help me! I am the king of fools. Curse this hour in which I have thrown
away my heaven. You must hate and despise me, fool, fool that I am."

John knew that it were worse than useless for him to attempt an
explanation. The first thought that flashed through his mind was, to tell
the girl that he had only pretended not to know her. He thought he would
try to make her believe that he had been turning her trick upon herself;
but he was wise in his day and generation, and did not seek refuge in that
falsehood.

The girl would never have forgiven him for that.

"The only amends I can make," he said, in very dolefulness, "is that I may
never let you see my face again."

"That will not help matters," sobbed Dorothy.

"I know it will not," returned John. "Nothing can help me. I can remain
here no longer. I must leave you. I cannot even ask you to say farewell.
Mistress Vernon, you do not despise me half so bitterly as I despise
myself."

Dorothy was one of those rare natures to whom love comes but once. It had
come to her and had engulfed her whole being. To part with it would be
like parting with life itself. It was her tyrant, her master. It was her
ego. She could no more throw it off than she could expel herself from her
own existence. All this she knew full well, for she had analyzed her
conditions, and her reason had joined with all her other faculties in
giving her a clear concept of the truth. She knew she belonged to John
Manners for life and for eternity. She also knew that the chance of seeing
him soon again was very slight, and to part from him now in aught but
kindness would almost kill her.

Before John had recognized Dorothy he certainly had acted like a fool, but
with the shock of recognition came wisdom. All the learning of the
ancients and all the cunning of the prince of darkness could not have
taught him a wiser word with which to make his peace, "I may never let you
see my face again." That was more to be feared by Dorothy than even John's
inconstancy.

Her heart was full of trouble. "I do not know what I wish," she said
simply. "Give me a little time to think."

John's heart leaped with joy, but he remained silent.

Dorothy continued: "Oh, that I had remained at home. I would to God I had
never seen Derby-town nor you."

John in the fulness of his wisdom did not interrupt her.

"To think that I have thus made a fool of myself about a man who has
given his heart to a score of women."

"This is torture," moaned John, in real pain.

"But," continued Dorothy, "I could not remain away from this place when I
had the opportunity to come to you. I felt that I must come. I felt that I
should die if I did not. And you are so false. I wish I were dead. A
moment ago, had I been another woman, you would have kissed her. You
thought I was another woman."

John's wisdom stood by him nobly. He knew he could neither explain
successfully nor beg forgiveness. He simply said: "I cannot remain and
look you in the face. If I dare make any request, it is that despite all
you have heard from my lips you will still believe that I love you, and
that in all my life I have never loved any one so dearly. There is no
other woman for me."

"You doubtless spoke the same false words to the other two score women,"
said Dorothy. Tears and sobs were playing sad havoc with her powers of
speech.

"Farewell, Mistress Vernon," replied John. "I should be shameless if I
dared ask you to believe any word I can utter. Forget, if possible, that I
ever existed; forget me that you may not despise me. I am unworthy to
dwell even in the smallest of your thoughts. I am altogether base and
contemptible."

"N-o-o," sighed Dorothy, poutingly, while she bent low her head and toyed
with the gold lace of my cloak.

"Farewell," said John. He took a step or two backward from her.

"You are over-eager to leave, it seems to me," said the girl in an injured
tone. "I wonder that you came at all." John's heart was singing hosanna.
He, however, maintained his voice at a mournful pitch and said: "I must
go. I can no longer endure to remain." While he spoke he moved toward his
horse, and his head was bowed with real shame as he thought of the
pitiable fool he had made of himself. Dorothy saw him going from her, and
she called to him softly and reluctantly, "John."

He did not hear her, or perhaps he thought best to pretend that he did not
hear, and as he moved from her the girl became desperate. Modesty,
resentment, insulted womanhood and injured pride were all swept away by
the stream of her mighty love, and she cried again, this time without
hesitancy or reluctance, "John, John." She started to run toward him, but
my cloak was in her way, and the sword tripped her feet. In her fear lest
John might leave her, she unclasped the sword-belt from her waist and
snatched the cloak from her shoulders. Freed from these hindrances, she
ran toward John.

"John, do not leave me. Do not leave me." As she spoke, she reached an
open space among the trees and John turned toward her. Her hat had fallen
off, and the red golden threads of her hair, freed from their fastenings,
streamed behind her. Never before had a vision of such exquisite
loveliness sped through the moonbeams. So entrancing was her beauty to
John that he stood motionless in admiration. He did not go to meet her as
he should have done, and perhaps as he would have done had his senses not
been wrapped in benumbing wonderment. His eyes were unable to interpret to
his brain all her marvellous beauty, and his other senses abandoning their
proper functions had hastened to the assistance of his sight He saw, he
heard, he felt her loveliness. Thus occupied he did not move, so Dorothy
ran to him and fell upon his breast.

"You did not come to meet me," she sobbed. "You made me come all the way,
to forgive you. Cruel, cruel!"

John held the girl in his arms, but he did not dare to kiss her, and his
self-denial soon brought its reward. He had not expected that she would
come a beggar to him. The most he had dared to hope was that she would
listen to his prayer for forgiveness. With all his worldly wisdom John had
not learned the fact that inconstancy does not destroy love in the one who
suffers by reason of it; nor did he know of the exquisite pain-touched
happiness which comes to a gentle, passionate heart such as Dorothy's from
the mere act of forgiving.

"Is it possible you can forgive me for the miserable lies I have uttered?"
asked John, almost unconscious of the words he was speaking. "Is it
possible you can forgive me for uttering those lies, Dorothy?" he
repeated.

She laid her head upon his breast, and softly passing her hand over the
lace of his doublet, whispered:--

"If I could believe they were lies, I could easily forgive you," she
answered between low sobs and soft sighs. Though she was a woman, the
sweet essence of childhood was in her heart.

"But you cannot believe me, even when I tell you that I spoke not the
truth," answered John, with growing faith in his system of passive
repentance. Again came the sighs, and a few struggling, childish sobs.

"It is easy for us to believe that which we long to believe," she said.
Then she turned her face upward to him, and John's reward was altogether
disproportioned to the self-denial he had exercised a few minutes before.
She rewarded him far beyond his deserts; and after a pause she said
mischievously:--

"You told me that you were a bold man with women, and I know that at least
that part of what you said was untrue, for you are a bashful man, John,
you are downright bashful. It is I who have been bold. You were too timid
to woo me, and I so longed for you that I--I--was not timid."

"For God's sake, Dorothy, I beg you to have pity and to make no jest of
me. Your kindness almost kills me, and your ridicule--"

"There, there, John," whispered the girl, "I will never again make a jest
of you if it gives you pain. Tell me, John, tell me truly, was it all
false--that which you told me about the other women?"

There had been more truth in John's bragging than he cared to confess. He
feared and loathed a lie; so he said evasively, but with perfect truth:--

"You must know, my goddess. If you do not know without the telling that I
love you with all my being; if you do not know that there is for me and
ever will be no woman but you in all the world; if you do not know that
you have stolen my soul and that I live only in your presence, all that I
can say will avail nothing toward convincing you. I am almost crazed with
love for you, and with pain and torture. For the love of God let me leave
you that I may hide my face."

"Never," cried the girl, clasping her hands about his neck and pressing
her lips gently upon his. "Never. There, that will soothe you, won't it,
John?"

It did soothe him, and in the next moment, John, almost frenzied with joy,
hurt the girl by the violence of his embraces; but she, woman-like, found
her heaven in the pain.

They went back to the stone bench beside the gate, and after a little time
Dorothy said:--

"But tell me, John, would you have kissed the other woman? Would you
really have done it?"

John's honesty certainly was good policy in that instance. The adroit girl
had set a trap for him.

"I suppose I would," answered John, with a groan.

"It hurts me to hear the fact," said Dorothy, sighing; "but it pleases me
to hear the truth. I know all else you tell me is true. I was trying you
when I asked the question, for I certainly knew what you intended to do. A
woman instinctively knows when a man is going to--to--when anything of
that sort is about to happen."

"How does she know?" asked John.

Rocks and breakers ahead for Dorothy.

"I cannot tell you," replied the girl, naïvely, "but she knows."

"Perhaps it is the awakened desire in her own heart which forewarns her,"
said John, stealthily seeking from Dorothy a truth that would pain him
should he learn it.

"I suppose that is partly the source of her knowledge," replied the
knowing one, with a great show of innocence in her manner. John was in no
position to ask impertinent questions, nor had he any right to grow angry
at unpleasant discoveries; but he did both, although for a time he
suppressed the latter.

"You believe she is sure to know, do you?" he asked.

"Usually," she replied. "Of course there are times when--when it happens
so suddenly that--"

John angrily sprang to his feet, took a few hurried steps in front of
Dorothy, who remained demurely seated with her eyes cast down, and then
again he took his place beside her on the stone bench. He was trembling
with anger and jealousy. The devil was in the girl that night for
mischief.

"I suppose you speak from the fulness of your experience," demanded John,
in tones that would have been insulting had they not been pleasing to the
girl. She had seen the drift of John's questions at an early stage of the
conversation, and his easily aroused jealousy was good proof to her of his
affection. After all, she was in no danger from rocks and breakers. She
well knew the currents, eddies, rocks, and shoals of the sea she was
navigating, although she had never before sailed it. Her fore-mothers, all
the way back to Eve, had been making charts of those particular waters for
her especial benefit. Why do we, a slow-moving, cumbersome army of men,
continue to do battle with the foe at whose hands defeat is always our
portion?

"Experience?" queried Dorothy, her head turned to one side in a
half-contemplative attitude. "Experience? Of course that is the only way
we learn anything."

John again sprang to his feet, and again he sat down beside the girl. He
had so recently received forgiveness for his own sins that he dared not be
unforgiving toward Dorothy. He did not speak, and she remained silent,
willing to allow time for the situation to take its full effect. The
wisdom of the serpent is black ignorance compared with the cunning of a
girl in Dorothy's situation. God gives her wit for the occasion as He
gives the cat soft paws, sharp claws, and nimbleness. She was teaching
John a lesson he would never forget. She was binding him to her with hoops
of steel.

"I know that I have not the right to ask," said John, suppressing his
emotions, "but may I know merely as a matter of trivial information--may I
know the name of--of the person--this fellow with whom you have had so
full an experience? God curse him! Tell me his name." He caught the girl
violently by both arms as if he would shake the truth out of her. He was
unconsciously making full amends for the faults he had committed earlier
in the evening. The girl made no answer. John's powers of self-restraint,
which were not of the strongest order, were exhausted, and he again sprang
to his feet and stood towering before her in a passion. "Tell me his
name," he said hoarsely. "I demand it. I will not rest till I kill him."

"If you would kill him, I surely will not tell you his name. In truth, I
admit I am very fond of him."

"Speak not another word to me till you tell me his name," stormed John. I
feel sorry for John when I think of the part he played in this interview;
but every man knows well his condition.

"I care not," continued John, "in what manner I have offended you, nor
does my debt of gratitude to you for your generosity in forgiving my sins
weigh one scruple against this you have told me. No man, unless he were a
poor clown, would endure it; and I tell you now, with all my love for you,
I will not--I will not!"

Dorothy was beginning to fear him. She of course did not fear personal
violence; but after all, while he was slower than she, he was much
stronger every way, and when aroused, his strength imposed itself upon her
and she feared to play him any farther.

"Sit beside me, John, and I will tell you his name," said the girl,
looking up to him, and then casting down her eyes. A dimpling smile was
playing about her lips.

"No, I will not sit by you," replied John, angrily. She partly rose, and
taking him by the arm drew him to her side.

"Tell me his name," again demanded John, sitting rigidly by Dorothy. "Tell
me his name."

"Will you kill him?" she asked.

"That I will," he answered. "Of that you may rest assured."

"If you kill him, John, it will break my heart; for to do so, you must
commit suicide. There is no other man but you, John. With you I had my
first, last, and only experience."

John, of course, was speechless. He had received only what he deserved. I
freely admit he played the part of a fool during this entire interview
with Dorothy, and he was more fully convinced of the fact than either you
or I can be. I do not like to have a fool for the hero of my history; but
this being a history and not a romance, I must tell you of events just as
they happened, and of persons exactly as they were, else my conscience
will smite me for untruthfulness. Dorothy's last assault was too much for
John. He could neither parry nor thrust.

Her heart was full of mirth and gladness.

"None other but you, John," she repeated, leaning forward in front of him,
and looking up into his eyes. A ray of moonlight stealing its way between
the forest boughs fell upon her upturned face and caused it to glow with a
goddess-like radiance.

"None but you, John. There never has been and there never shall be
another."

When John's consciousness returned he said, "Dorothy, can you love such a
fool as I?"

"That I can and that I do with all my heart," she returned.

"And can you forgive me for this last fault--for doubting you?"

"That is easily done," she answered softly, "because doubt is the child of
love."

"But you do not doubt me?" he replied.

"N-o-o," she answered somewhat haltingly; "but I--I am a woman."

"And a woman's heart is the home of faith," said John, reverentially.

"Y-e-s," she responded, still not quite sure of her ground. "Sometimes it
is the home of too much faith, but faith, like virtue, is its own reward.
Few persons are false to one who gives a blind, unquestioning faith. Even
a poor degree of honor responds to it in kind."

"Dorothy, I am so unworthy of you that I stand abashed in your presence,"
replied John.

"No, you are not unworthy of me. We don't look for unmixed good in men,"
said the girl with a mischievous little laugh. Then seriously: "Those
virtues you have are so great and so strong, John, that my poor little
virtues, while they perhaps are more numerous than yours, are but weak
things by comparison. In truth, there are some faults in men which we
women do not--do not altogether dislike. They cause us--they make us--oh,
I cannot express exactly what I mean. They make us more eager perhaps. A
too constant man is like an overstrong sweet: he cloys us. The faults I
speak of hurt us; but we thrive on them. Women enjoy pain now and then.
Malcolm was telling me the other day that the wise people of the East have
a saying: 'Without shadow there can be no light; without death there can
be no life; without suffering there can be no joy.' Surely is that saying
true of women. She who suffers naught enjoys naught. When a woman becomes
passive, John, she is but a clod. Pain gives us a vent--a vent for
something, I know not what it is; but this I know, we are happier for it."

"I fear, Dorothy, that I have given you too much 'vent,' as you call it,"
said John.

"No, no," she replied. "That was nothing. My great vent is that I can pour
out my love upon you, John, without stint. Now that I know you are mine, I
have some one whom I can deluge with it. Do you know, John, I believe that
when God made me He collected together the requisite portions of reason,
imagination, and will,--there was a great plenty of will, John,--and all
the other ingredients that go to make a human being. But after He had
gotten them all together there was still a great space left to be filled,
and He just threw in an immensity of love with which to complete me.
Therefore, John, am I not in true proportion. There is too much love in
me, and it wells up at times and overflows my heart. How thankful I should
be that I may pour it upon you and that it will not be wasted. How good
you are to give me the sweet privilege."

"How thankful should I be, Dorothy. I have never known you till this
night. I am unworthy--"

"Not another word of that sort, John," she interrupted, covering his mouth
with her hand.

They stood for a long time talking a deal of celestial nonsense which I
shall not give you. I fear I have already given you too much of what John
and Dorothy did and said in this very sentimental interview. But in no
other way can I so well make you to know the persons of whom I write. I
might have said Dorothy was so and so, and John was such and such. I might
have analyzed them in long, dull pages of minute description; but it is
that which persons do and say that gives us true concept of their
characters; what others say about them is little else than a mere
statement that black is black and white is white. But to my story again.

Dorothy by her beauty had won John's admiration when first he beheld her.
When he met her afterward, her charms of mind and her thousand winsome
ways moved him deeply. But upon the evening of which I am now telling you
he beheld for the first time her grand burning soul, and he saw her pure
heart filled to overflowing with its dangerous burden of love, right from
the hands of God Himself, as the girl had said. John was of a coarser
fibre than she who had put him up for her idol; but his sensibilities were
keen, and at their awakening he saw clearly the worth of the priceless
treasure which propitious fate had given him in the love of Dorothy, and
he sat humbly at her feet. Yet she knew it not, but sat humbly at John's
feet the happiest woman in all the world because of her great good fortune
in having a demi-god upon whom she could lavish the untold wealth of her
heart. If you are a woman, pray God that He may touch your eyes with
Dorothy's blessed blindness. There is a heaven in the dark for you, if you
can find it.

I must leave the scene, though I am loath to do so. Seldom do we catch a
glimpse of a human soul, and more seldom still does it show itself like a
gust of God's breath upon the deep of eternity as it did that night in
Dorothy.

After a time John said: "I have your promise to be my wife. Do you still
wish to keep it?"

"What an absurd question, John," replied the girl, laughing softly and
contentedly. "Why else am I here? Tell me, think you, John, should I be
here if I were not willing and eager to--to keep that promise?"

"Will you go with me notwithstanding your father's hatred of my house?" he
asked.

"Ah, truly that I will, John," she answered; "surely you know I will go
with you."

"Let us go at once. Let us lose not a moment. We have already delayed too
long," cried John in eager ecstasy.

"Not to-night, John; I cannot go to-night," she pleaded. "Think of my
attire," and she drew my cloak more closely about her. "I cannot go with
you this time. My father is angry with me because of you, although he does
not know who you are. Is it not famous to have a lover in secret of whom
nobody knows? Father is angry with me, and as I told you in my letter, he
keeps me a prisoner in my rooms. Aunt Dorothy stands guard over me. The
dear, simple old soul! She told me, thinking I was Malcolm, that she was
too old to be duped by a girl! Oh, it was too comical!" And she threw back
her head and gave forth a peal of laughter that John was reluctantly
compelled to silence. "I would so delight to tell you of the scene when I
was in Aunt Dorothy's room impersonating Malcolm; but I have so much else
to say of more importance that I know I shall not tell the half. When you
have left me, I shall remember what I most wished to say but forgot."

"No, John," she continued seriously, "my father has been cruel to me, and
I try to make myself think I do not love him; but I fail, for I do love
him." Tears were welling up in her eyes and stifling her voice. In a
moment she continued: "It would kill him, John, were I to go with you
now. I _will_ go with you soon,--I give you my solemn promise to that--but
I cannot go now,--not now. I cannot leave him and the others. With all his
cruelty to me, I love him, John, next to you. He will not come to see me
nor will he speak to me. Think of that." The tears that had welled up to
her eyes fell in a piteous stream over her cheeks. "Aunt Dorothy and
Madge," she continued, "are so dear to me that the thought of leaving them
is torture. But I will go with you some day, John, some day soon, I
promise you. They have always been kind and gentle to me, and I love them
and my father and my dear home where I was born and where my sweet mother
died--and Dolcy--I love them all so dearly that I must prepare myself to
leave them, John, even to go with you. The heart strings of my whole life
bind me to them. Forgive me, John, forgive me. You must think of the grief
and pain I shall yet pass through to go to you. It is as I told you: we
women reach heaven only through purgatory. I must forsake all else I love
when I go to you. All, all! All that has been dear to me in life I must
forsake for--for that which is dearer to me than life itself. I promise,
John, to go with you, but--but forgive me. I cannot go to-night."

"Nor can I ask it of you, Dorothy," said John. "The sacrifice would be all
on one side. I should forego nothing, and I should receive all. You would
forego everything, and God help me, you would receive nothing worth
having. I am unworthy--"

"Not that word, John," cried Dorothy, again covering his mouth with--well,
not with her hand. "I shall give up a great deal," she continued, "and I
know I shall suffer. I suffer even now when I think of it, for you must
remember that I am rooted to my home and to the dear ones it shelters; but
I will soon make the exchange, John; I shall make it gladly when the time
comes, because--because I feel that I could not live if I did not make
it."

"My father has already consented to our marriage," said John. "I told him
to-day all that had passed between you and me. He, of course, was greatly
pained at first; but when I told him of your perfections, he said that if
you and I were dear to each other, he would offer no opposition, but would
welcome you to his heart."

"Is your father that--that sort of a man?" asked Dorothy, half in revery.
"I have always heard--" and she hesitated.

"I know," replied John, "that you have heard much evil of my father,
but--let us not talk on that theme. You will know him some day, and you
may judge him for yourself. When will you go with me, Dorothy?"

"Soon, very soon, John," she answered. "You know father intends that I
shall marry Lord Stanley. _I_ intend otherwise. The more father hurries
this marriage with my beautiful cousin the sooner I shall be--be
your--that is, you know, the sooner I shall go with you."

"You will not allow your father to force you to marry Lord Stanley?" asked
John, frightened by the thought.

"Ah," cried the girl, softly, "you know I told you that God had put into
me a great plenty of will. Father calls it wilfulness; but whichever it
is, it stands me in good hand now. You don't know how much I have of it!
You never will know until I am your--your--wife." The last word was spoken
in a soft, hesitating whisper, and her head sought shamefaced refuge on
John's breast. Of course the magic word "wife" on Dorothy's lips aroused
John to action, and--but a cloud at that moment passed over the moon and
kindly obscured the scene.

"You do not blame me, John," said Dorothy, "because I cannot go with you
to-night? You do not blame me?"

"Indeed I do not, my goddess," answered John. "You will soon be mine. I
shall await your pleasure and your own time, and when you choose to come
to me--ah, then--" And the kindly cloud came back to the moon.



CHAPTER X

THOMAS THE MAN SERVANT


After a great effort of self-denial John told Dorothy it was time for her
to return to the Hall, and he walked with her down Bowling Green Hill to
the wall back of the terrace garden.

Dorothy stood for a moment on the stile at the old stone wall, and John,
clasping her hand, said:--

"You will perhaps see me sooner than you expect," and then the cloud
considerately floated over the moon again, and John hurried away up
Bowling Green Hill.

Dorothy crossed the terrace garden, going toward the door since known as
"Dorothy's Postern." She had reached the top of the postern steps when she
heard her father's voice, beyond the north wall of the terrace garden well
up toward Bowling Green Hill. John, she knew, was at that moment climbing
the hill. Immediately following the sound of her father's voice she heard
another voice--that of her father's retainer, Sir John Guild. Then came
the word "Halt!" quickly followed by the report of a fusil, and the sharp
clinking of swords upon the hillside. She ran back to the wall, and saw
the dimly outlined forms of four men. One of them was John, who was
retreating up the hill. The others were following him. Sir George and Sir
John Guild had unexpectedly returned from Derby. They had left their
horses with the stable boys and were walking toward the kitchen door when
Sir George noticed a man pass from behind the corner of the terrace
garden wall and proceed up Bowling Green Hill. The man of course was John.
Immediately Sir George and Guild, accompanied by a servant who was with
them, started in pursuit of the intruder, and a moment afterward Dorothy
heard her father's voice and the discharge of the fusil. She climbed to
the top of the stile, filled with an agony of fear. Sir George was fifteen
or twenty yards in advance of his companion, and when John saw that his
pursuers were attacking him singly, he turned and quickly ran back to meet
the warlike King of the Peak. By a few adroit turns with his sword John
disarmed his antagonist, and rushing in upon him easily threw him to the
ground by a wrestler's trick. Guild and the servant by that time were
within six yards of Sir George and John.

"Stop!" cried Manners, "your master is on the ground at my feet. My sword
point is at his heart. Make but one step toward me and Sir George Vernon
will be a dead man."

Guild and the servant halted instantly.

"What are your terms?" cried Guild, speaking with the haste which he well
knew was necessary if he would save his master's life.

"My terms are easy," answered John. "All I ask is that you allow me to
depart in peace. I am here on no harmful errand, and I demand that I may
depart and that I be not followed nor spied upon by any one."

"You may depart in peace," said Guild. "No one will follow you; no one
will spy upon you. To this I pledge my knightly word in the name of Christ
my Saviour."

John at once took his way unmolested up the hill and rode home with his
heart full of fear lest his tryst with Dorothy had been discovered.

Guild and the servant assisted Sir George to rise, and the three started
down the hill toward the stile where Dorothy was standing. She was hidden
from them, however, by the wall. Jennie Faxton, who had been on guard
while John and Dorothy were at the gate, at Dorothy's suggestion stood on
top of the stile where she could easily be seen by Sir George when he
approached.

"When my father comes here and questions you," said Dorothy to Jennie
Faxton, "tell him that the man whom he attacked was your sweetheart."

"Never fear, mistress," responded Jennie. "I will have a fine story for
the master."

Dorothy crouched inside the wall under the shadow of a bush, and Jennie
waited on the top of the stile. Sir George, thinking the girl was Dorothy,
lost no time in approaching her. He caught her roughly by the arm and
turned her around that he might see her face.

"By God, Guild," he muttered, "I have made a mistake. I thought the girl
was Doll."

He left instantly and followed Guild and the servant to the kitchen door.
When Sir George left the stile, Dorothy hastened back to the postern of
which she had the key, and hurried toward her room. She reached the door
of her father's room just in time to see Sir George and Guild enter it.
They saw her, and supposed her to be myself. If she hesitated, she was
lost. But Dorothy never hesitated. To think, with her, was to act. She did
not of course know that I was still in her apartments. She took the
chance, however, and boldly followed Sir John Guild into her father's
room. There she paused for a moment that she might not appear to be in too
great haste, and then entered Aunt Dorothy's room where I was seated,
waiting for her.

"Dorothy, my dear child," exclaimed Lady Crawford, clasping her arms about
Dorothy's neck.

"There is no time to waste in sentiment, Aunt Dorothy," responded the
girl. "Here are your sword and cloak, Malcolm. I thank you for their use.
Don them quickly." I did so, and walked into Sir George's room, where that
worthy old gentleman was dressing a slight wound in the hand. I stopped to
speak with him; but he seemed disinclined to talk, and I left the room. He
soon went to the upper court, and I presently followed him.

Dorothy changed her garments, and she, Lady Crawford, and Madge also came
to the upper court. The braziers in the courtyard had been lighted and
cast a glare over two score half-clothed men and women who had been
aroused from their beds by the commotion of the conflict on the hillside.
Upon the upper steps of the courtyard stood Sir George and Jennie Faxton.

"Who was the man you were with?" roughly demanded Sir George of the
trembling Jennie. Jennie's trembling was assumed for the occasion.

"I will not tell you his name," she replied with tears. "He is my
sweetheart, and I will never come to the Hall again. Matters have come to
a pretty pass when a maiden cannot speak with her sweetheart at the stile
without he is set upon and beaten as if he were a hedgehog. My father is
your leal henchman, and his daughter deserves better treatment at your
hands than you have given me."

"There, there!" said Sir George, placing his hand upon her head. "I was in
the wrong. I did not know you had a sweetheart who wore a sword. When I
saw you at the stile, I was sure you were another. I am glad I was wrong."
So was Dorothy glad.

"Everybody be off to bed," said Sir George. "Ben Shaw, see that the
braziers are all blackened."

Dorothy, Madge, and Lady Crawford returned to the latter's room, and Sir
George and I entered after them. He was evidently softened in heart by the
night's adventures and by the mistake he supposed he had made.

A selfish man grows hard toward those whom he injures. A generous heart
grows tender. Sir George was generous, and the injustice he thought he had
done to Dorothy made him eager to offer amends. The active evil in all Sir
George's wrong-doing was the fact that he conscientiously thought he was
in the right. Many a man has gone to hell backward--with his face honestly
toward heaven. Sir George had not spoken to Dorothy since the scene
wherein the key to Bowling Green Gate played so important a part.

"Doll," said Sir George, "I thought you were at the stile with a man. I
was mistaken. It was the Faxton girl. I beg your pardon, my daughter. I
did you wrong."

"You do me wrong in many matters, father," replied Dorothy.

"Perhaps I do," her father returned, "perhaps I do, but I mean for the
best. I seek your happiness."

"You take strange measures at times, father, to bring about my happiness,"
she replied.

"Whom God loveth He chasteneth," replied Sir George, dolefully.

"That manner of loving may be well enough for God," retorted Dorothy with
no thought of irreverence, "but for man it is dangerous. Whom man loves he
should cherish. A man who has a good, obedient daughter--one who loves
him--will not imprison her, and, above all, he will not refuse to speak to
her, nor will he cause her to suffer and to weep for lack of that love
which is her right. A man has no right to bring a girl into this world and
then cause her to suffer as you--as you--"

She ceased speaking and sought refuge in silent feminine eloquence--tears.
One would have sworn she had been grievously injured that night.

"But I am older than you, Doll, and I know what is best for your
happiness," said Sir George.

"There are some things, father, which a girl knows with better, surer
knowledge than the oldest man living. Solomon was wise because he had so
many wives from whom he could absorb wisdom."

"Ah, well!" answered Sir George, smiling in spite of himself, "you will
have the last word."

"Confess, father," she retorted quickly, "that you want the last word
yourself."

"Perhaps I do want it, but I'll never have it," returned Sir George; "kiss
me, Doll, and be my child again."

"That I will right gladly," she answered, throwing her arms about her
father's neck and kissing him with real affection. Then Sir George said
good night and started to leave. At the door he stopped, and stood for a
little time in thought.

"Dorothy," said he, speaking to Lady Crawford, "I relieve you of your duty
as a guard over Doll. She may go and come when she chooses."

"I thank you, George," said Aunt Dorothy. "The task has been painful to
me."

Dorothy went to her father and kissed him again, and Sir George departed.

When the door was closed, Lady Crawford breathed a great sigh and said: "I
thank Heaven, Dorothy, he does not know that you have been out of your
room. How could you treat me so cruelly? How could you deceive me?"

"That, Aunt Dorothy," replied the niece, "is because you are not old
enough yet to be a match for a girl who is--who is in love."

"Shame upon you, Dorothy!" said Lady Crawford. "Shame upon you, to act as
you did, and now to speak so plainly about being in love! Malcolm said you
were not a modest girl, and I am beginning to believe him."

"Did Malcolm speak so ill of me?" asked Dorothy, turning toward me with a
smile in her eyes.

"My lady aunt," said I, turning to Lady Crawford, "when did I say that
Dorothy was an immodest girl?"

"You did not say it," the old lady admitted. "Dorothy herself said it, and
she proves her words to be true by speaking so boldly of her feelings
toward this--this strange man. And she speaks before Madge, too."

"Perhaps Madge is in the same sort of trouble. Who knows?" cried Dorothy,
laughing heartily. Madge blushed painfully. "But," continued Dorothy,
seriously, "I am not ashamed of it; I am proud of it. For what else, my
dear aunt, was I created but to be in love? Tell me, dear aunt, for what
else was I created?"

"Perhaps you are right," returned the old lady, who in fact was
sentimentally inclined.

"The chief end of woman, after all, is to love," said Dorothy. "What would
become of the human race if it were not?"

"Child, child," cried the aunt, "where learned you such things?"

"They were written upon my mother's breast," continued Dorothy, "and I
learned them when I took in my life with her milk. I pray they may be
written upon my breast some day, if God in His goodness shall ever bless
me with a baby girl. A man child could not read the words."

"Dorothy, Dorothy!" cried Lady Crawford, "you shock me. You pain me."

"Again I ask," responded Dorothy, "for what else was I created? I tell
you, Aunt Dorothy, the world decrees that women shall remain in ignorance,
or in pretended ignorance--in silence at least--regarding the things
concerning which they have the greatest need to be wise and talkative."

"At your age, Dorothy, I did not have half your wisdom on the subject,"
answered Lady Crawford.

"Tell me, my sweet Aunt Dorothy, were you really in a state of ignorance
such as you would have me believe?"

"Well," responded the old lady, hesitatingly, "I did not speak of such
matters."

"Why, aunt, did you not?" asked Dorothy. "Were you ashamed of what God had
done? Were you ashamed of His great purpose in creating you a woman, and
in creating your mother and your mother's mother before you?"

"No, no, child; no, no. But I cannot argue with you. Perhaps you are
right," said Aunt Dorothy.

"Then tell me, dear aunt, that I am not immodest and bold when I speak
concerning that of which my heart is full to overflowing. God put it
there, aunt, not I. Surely I am not immodest by reason of His act."

"No, no, my sweet child," returned Aunt Dorothy, beginning to weep softly.
"No, no, you are not immodest. You are worth a thousand weak fools such as
I was at your age."

Poor Aunt Dorothy had been forced into a marriage which had wrecked her
life. Dorothy's words opened her aunt's eyes to the fact that the girl
whom she so dearly loved was being thrust by Sir George into the same
wretched fate through which she had dragged her own suffering heart for so
many years. From that hour she was Dorothy's ally.

"Good night, Malcolm," said Lady Crawford, offering me her hand. I kissed
it tenderly; then I kissed the sweet old lady's cheek and said:--

"I love you with all my heart, Aunt Dorothy."

"I thank you, Malcolm," she returned.

I took my leave, and soon Madge went to her room, leaving Dorothy and Lady
Crawford together.

When Madge had gone the two Dorothys, one at each end of life, spanned the
long years that separated them, and became one in heart by reason of a
heartache common to both.

Lady Crawford seated herself and Dorothy knelt by her chair.

"Tell me, Dorothy," said the old lady, "tell me, do you love this man so
tenderly, so passionately that you cannot give him up?"

"Ah, my dear aunt," the girl responded, "words cannot tell. You cannot
know what I feel."

"Alas! I know only too well, my child. I, too, loved a man when I was your
age, and none but God knows what I suffered when I was forced by my
parents and the priests to give him up, and to wed one whom--God help
me--I loathed."

"Oh, my sweet aunt!" cried Dorothy softly, throwing her arms about the old
lady's neck and kissing her cheek. "How terribly you must have suffered!"

"Yes," responded Lady Crawford, "and I am resolved you shall not endure
the same fate. I hope the man who has won your love is worthy of you. Do
not tell me his name, for I do not wish to practise greater deception
toward your father than I must. But you may tell me of his station in
life, and of his person, that I may know he is not unworthy of you."

"His station in life," answered Dorothy, "is far better than mine. In
person he is handsome beyond any woman's wildest dream of manly beauty. In
character he is noble, generous, and good. He is far beyond my deserts,
Aunt Dorothy."

"Then why does he not seek your hand from your father?" asked the aunt.

"That I may not tell you, Aunt Dorothy," returned the girl, "unless you
would have me tell you his name, and that I dare not do. Although he is
vastly my superior in station, in blood, and in character, still my father
would kill me before he would permit me to marry this man of my choice;
and I, dear aunt, fear I shall die if I have him not."

Light slowly dawned upon Aunt Dorothy's mind, and she exclaimed in a
terrified whisper:--

"My God, child, is it he?"

"Yes," responded the girl, "yes, it is he."

"Do not speak his name, Dorothy," the old lady said. "Do not speak his
name. So long as you do not tell me, I cannot know with certainty who he
is." After a pause Aunt Dorothy continued, "Perhaps, child, it was his
father whom I loved and was compelled to give up."

"May the blessed Virgin pity us, sweet aunt," cried Dorothy, caressingly.

"And help us," returned Lady Crawford. "I, too, shall help you," she
continued. "It will be through no fault of mine if your life is wasted as
mine has been."

Dorothy kissed her aunt and retired.

Next morning when Dorothy arose a song came from her heart as it comes
from the skylark when it sees the sun at dawn--because it cannot help
singing. It awakened Aunt Dorothy, and she began to live her life anew, in
brightness, as she steeped her soul in the youth and joyousness of Dorothy
Vernon's song.

I have spoken before in this chronicle of Will Dawson. He was a Conformer.
Possibly it was by reason of his religious faith that he did not share the
general enmity that existed in Haddon Hall against the house of Rutland.
He did not, at the time of which I speak, know Sir John Manners, and he
did not suspect that the heir to Rutland was the man who had of late been
causing so much trouble to the house of Vernon. At least, if he did
suspect it, no one knew of his suspicions.

Sir George made a great effort to learn who the mysterious interloper was,
but he wholly failed to obtain any clew to his identity. He had jumped to
the conclusion that Dorothy's mysterious lover was a man of low degree. He
had taken for granted that he was an adventurer whose station and person
precluded him from openly wooing his daughter. He did not know that the
heir to Rutland was in the Derbyshire country; for John, after his first
meeting with Dorothy, had carefully concealed his presence from everybody
save the inmates of Rutland. In fact, his mission to Rutland required
secrecy, and the Rutland servants and retainers were given to understand
as much. Even had Sir George known of John's presence at Rutland, the old
gentleman's mind could not have compassed the thought that Dorothy, who,
he believed, hated the race of Manners with an intensity equalled only by
his own feelings, could be induced to exchange a word with a member of the
house. His uncertainty was not the least of his troubles; and although
Dorothy had full liberty to come and go at will, her father kept constant
watch over her. As a matter of fact, Sir George had given Dorothy liberty
partly for the purpose of watching her, and he hoped to discover thereby
and, if possible, to capture the man who had brought trouble to his
household. Sir George had once hanged a man to a tree on Bowling Green
Hill by no other authority than his own desire. That execution was the
last in England under the old Saxon law of Infangthef and Outfangthef. Sir
George had been summoned before Parliament for the deed; but the writ had
issued against the King of the Peak, and that being only a sobriquet, was
neither Sir George's name nor his title. So the writ was quashed, and the
high-handed act of personal justice was not farther investigated by the
authorities. Should my cousin capture his daughter's lover, there would
certainly be another execution under the old Saxon law. So you see that my
friend Manners was tickling death with a straw for Dorothy's sake.

One day Dawson approached Sir George and told him that a man sought
employment in the household of Haddon Hall. Sir George placed great
confidence in his forester; so he told Dawson to employ the man if his
services were needed. The new servant proved to be a fine, strong fellow,
having a great shock of carrot-colored hair and a bushy beard of rusty
red.

Dawson engaged the newcomer, and assigned to him the duty of kindling the
fires in the family apartments of the Hall. The name of the new servant
was Thomas Thompson, a name that Dorothy soon abbreviated to Tom-Tom.

One day she said to him, by way of opening the acquaintance, "Thomas, you
and I should be good friends; we have so much in common."

"Thank you, my lady," responded Thomas, greatly pleased. "I hope we shall
be good friends; indeed, indeed I do, but I cannot tell wherein I am so
fortunate as to have anything in common with your Ladyship. What is it,
may I ask, of which we have so much in common?"

"So much hair," responded Dorothy, laughing.

"It were blasphemy, lady, to compare my hair with yours," returned Thomas.
"Your hair, I make sure, is such as the blessed Virgin had. I ask your
pardon for speaking so plainly; but your words put the thought into my
mind, and perhaps they gave me license to speak."

Thomas was on his knees, placing wood upon the fire.

"Thomas," returned Dorothy, "you need never apologize to a lady for making
so fine a speech. I declare a courtier could not have made a better one."

"Perhaps I have lived among courtiers, lady," said Thomas.

"I doubt not," replied Dorothy, derisively. "You would have me believe you
are above your station. It is the way with all new servants. I suppose
you have seen fine company and better days."

"I have never seen finer company than now, and I have never known better
days than this," responded courtier Thomas. Dorothy thought he was
presuming on her condescension, and was about to tell him so when he
continued: "The servants at Haddon Hall are gentlefolk compared with
servants at other places where I have worked, and I desire nothing more
than to find favor in Sir George's eyes. I would do anything to achieve
that end."

Dorothy was not entirely reassured by Thomas's closing words; but even if
they were presumptuous, she admired his wit in giving them an inoffensive
turn. From that day forth the acquaintance grew between the servant and
mistress until it reached the point of familiarity at which Dorothy dubbed
him Tom-Tom.

Frequently Dorothy was startled by remarks made by Thomas, having in them
a strong dash of familiarity; but he always gave to his words a harmless
turn before she could resent them. At times, however, she was not quite
sure of his intention.

Within a week after Thomas's advent to the hall, Dorothy began to suspect
that the new servant looked upon her with eyes of great favor. She
frequently caught him watching her, and at such times his eyes, which
Dorothy thought were really very fine, would glow with an ardor all too
evident. His manner was cause for amusement rather than concern, and since
she felt kindly toward the new servant, she thought to create a faithful
ally by treating him graciously. She might, she thought, need Thomas's
help when the time should come for her to leave Haddon Hall with John, if
that happy time should ever come. She did not realize that the most
dangerous, watchful enemy to her cherished scheme would be a man who was
himself in love with her, even though he were a servant, and she looked on
Thomas's evident infatuation with a smile. She did not once think that in
the end it might cause her great trouble, so she accepted his mute
admiration, and thought to make use of it later on. To Tom, therefore,
Dorothy was gracious.

John had sent word to Dorothy, by Jennie Faxton, that he had gone to
London, and would be there for a fortnight or more.

Sir George had given permission to his daughter to ride out whenever she
wished to do so, but he had ordered that Dawson or I should follow in the
capacity of spy, and Dorothy knew of the censorship, though she pretended
ignorance of it. So long as John was in London she did not care who
followed her; but I well knew that when Manners should return, Dorothy
would again begin manoeuvring, and that by some cunning trick she would
see him.

[Illustration]

One afternoon I was temporarily absent from the Hall and Dorothy wished to
ride. Dawson was engaged, and when Dorothy had departed, he ordered Tom to
ride after his mistress at a respectful distance. Nearly a fortnight had
passed since John had gone to London, and when Dorothy rode forth that
afternoon she was beginning to hope he might have returned, and that by
some delightful possibility he might then be loitering about the old
trysting-place at Bowling Green Gate. There was a half-unconscious
conviction in her heart that he would be there. She determined therefore,
to ride toward Rowsley, to cross the Wye at her former fording-place, and
to go up to Bowling Green Gate on the Devonshire side of the Haddon wall.
She had no reason, other than the feeling born of her wishes, to believe
that John would be there; but she loved the spot for the sake of the
memories which hovered about it. She well knew that some one would follow
her from the Hall; but she felt sure that in case the spy proved to be
Dawson or myself, she could easily arrange matters to her satisfaction, if
by good fortune she should find her lover at the gate.

Tom rode so far behind his mistress that she could not determine who was
following her. Whenever she brought Dolcy to a walk, Tom-Tom also walked
his horse. When Dorothy galloped, he galloped; but after Dorothy had
crossed the Wye and had taken the wall over into the Devonshire lands, Tom
also crossed the river and wall and quickly rode to her side. He uncovered
and bowed low with a familiarity of manner that startled her. The act of
riding up to her and the manner in which he took his place by her side
were presumptuous to the point of insolence, and his attitude, although
not openly offensive, was slightly alarming. She put Dolcy to a gallop;
but the servant who, she thought, was presuming on her former
graciousness, kept close at Dolcy's heels. The man was a stranger, and she
knew nothing of his character. She was alone in the forest with him, and
she did not know to what length his absurd passion for her might lead him.
She was alarmed, but she despised cowardice, although she knew herself to
be a coward, and she determined to ride to the gate, which was but a short
distance ahead of her. She resolved that if the insolent fellow continued
his familiarity, she would teach him a lesson he would never forget. When
she was within a short distance of the gate she sprang from Dolcy and
handed her rein to her servant. John was not there, but she went to the
gate in the hope that a letter might be hidden beneath the stone bench
where Jennie was wont to find them in times past. Dorothy found no letter,
but she could not resist the temptation to sit down upon the bench where
he and she had sat, and to dream over the happy moments she had spent
there. Tom, instead of holding the horses, hitched them, and walked toward
Dorothy. That act on the part of her servant was effrontery of the most
insolent sort. Will Dawson himself would not have dared do such a thing.
It filled her with alarm, and as Tom approached she was trying to
determine in what manner she would crush him. But when the audacious
Thomas, having reached the gate, seated himself beside his mistress on the
stone bench, the girl sprang to her feet in fright and indignation. She
began to realize the extent of her foolhardiness in going to that secluded
spot with a stranger.

"How dare you approach me in this insolent fashion?" cried Dorothy,
breathless with fear.

"Mistress Vernon," responded Thomas, looking boldly up into her pale face,
"I wager you a gold pound sterling that if you permit me to remain here by
your side ten minutes you will be unwilling--"

"John, John!" cried the girl, exultantly. Tom snatched the red beard from
his face, and Dorothy, after one fleeting, luminous look into his eyes,
fell upon her knees and buried her face in her hands. She wept, and John,
bending over the kneeling girl, kissed her sunlit hair.

"Cruel, cruel," sobbed Dorothy. Then she lifted her head and clasped her
hands about his neck. "Is it not strange," she continued, "that I should
have felt so sure of seeing you? My reason kept telling me that my hopes
were absurd, but a stronger feeling full of the breath of certainty seemed
to assure me that you would be here. It impelled me to come, though I
feared you after we crossed the wall. But reason, fear, and caution were
powerless to keep me away."

"You did not know my voice," said John, "nor did you penetrate my
disguise. You once said that you would recognize me though I wore all the
petticoats in Derbyshire."

"Please don't jest with me now," pleaded Dorothy. "I cannot bear it. Great
joy is harder to endure than great grief. Why did you not reveal yourself
to me at the Hall?" she asked plaintively.

"I found no opportunity," returned John, "others were always present."

I shall tell you nothing that followed. It is no affair of yours nor of
mine.

They were overjoyed in being together once more. Neither of them seemed to
realize that John, while living under Sir George's roof, was facing death
every moment. To Dorothy, the fact that John, who was heir to one of
England's noblest houses, was willing for her sake to become a servant, to
do a servant's work, and to receive the indignities constantly put upon a
servant, appealed most powerfully. It added to her feeling for him a
tenderness which is not necessarily a part of passionate love.

It is needless for me to tell you that while John performed faithfully the
duty of keeping bright the fires in Haddon Hall, he did not neglect the
other flame--the one in Dorothy's heart--for the sake of whose warmth he
had assumed the leathern garb of servitude and had placed his head in the
lion's mouth.

At first he and Dorothy used great caution in exchanging words and
glances, but familiarity with danger breeds contempt for it. So they
utilized every opportunity that niggard chance offered, and blinded by
their great longing soon began to make opportunities for speech with each
other, thereby bringing trouble to Dorothy and deadly peril to John. Of
that I shall soon tell you.

During the period of John's service in Haddon Hall negotiations for
Dorothy's marriage with Lord Stanley were progressing slowly but surely.
Arrangements for the marriage settlement by the Stanleys, and for
Dorothy's dower to be given by Sir George, were matters that the King of
the Peak approached boldly as he would have met any other affair of
business. But the Earl of Derby, whose mind moved slowly, desiring that a
generous portion of the Vernon wealth should be transferred with Dorothy
to the Stanley holdings without the delay incident to Sir George's death,
put off signing the articles of marriage in his effort to augment the cash
payment. In truth, the great wealth which Dorothy would bring to the house
of Stanley was the earl's real reason for desiring her marriage with his
son. The earl was heavily in debt, and his estate stood in dire need of
help.

Sir George, though attracted by the high nobility of the house of Stanley,
did not relish the thought that the wealth he had accumulated by his own
efforts, and the Vernon estates which had come down to him through
centuries, should go to pay Lord Derby's debts. He therefore insisted that
Dorothy's dower should be her separate estate, and demanded that it should
remain untouched and untouchable by either of the Stanleys. That
arrangement did not suit my lord earl, and although the son since he had
seen Dorothy at Derby-town was eager to possess the beautiful girl, his
father did not share his ardor. Lawyers were called in who looked
expensively wise, but they accomplished the purpose for which they were
employed. An agreement of marriage was made and was drawn up on an
imposing piece of parchment, brave with ribbons, pompous with seals, and
fair in clerkly penmanship.

One day Sir George showed me the copy of the contract which had been
prepared for him. That evening at the cost of much labor he and I went
over the indenture word for word, and when we had finished Sir George
thought it was very good indeed. He seemed to think that all difficulties
in the way of the marriage were overcome when the agreement that lay
before us on the table had been achieved between him and the earl. I knew
Sir George's troubles had only begun; for I was aware of a fact which it
seemed impossible for him to learn, though of late Dorothy had given him
much teaching thereto. I knew that he had transmitted to his daughter a
large portion of his own fierce, stubborn, unbreakable will, and that in
her it existed in its most deadly form--the feminine. To me after supper
that night was assigned the task of reading and rereading many times to
Sir George the contents of the beautiful parchment. When I would read a
clause that particularly pleased my cousin, he insisted on celebrating the
event by drinking a mug of liquor drawn from a huge leather stoup which
sat upon the table between us. By the time I had made several readings of
the interesting document the characters began to mingle in a way that did
not impart ease and clearness to my style. Some of the strange
combinations which I and the liquor extracted from amid the seals and
ribbons puzzled Sir George not a little. But with each new libation he
found new clauses and fresh causes for self-congratulation, though to
speak exact truth I more than once married Sir George to the Earl of
Derby, and in my profanity gave Lord James Stanley to the devil to have
and to hold.

Sir George was rapidly falling before his mighty enemy, drink, and I was
not far behind him, though I admit the fault with shame. My cousin for a
while was mightily pleased with the contract; but when the liquor had
brought him to a point where he was entirely candid with himself, he let
slip the fact that after all there was regret at the bottom of the goblet,
metaphorically and actually. Before his final surrender to drink he
dropped the immediate consideration of the contract and said:--

"Malcolm, I have in my time known many fools, but if you will permit an
old man, who loves you dearly, to make a plain statement of his
conviction--"

"Certainly," I interrupted.

"It would be a great relief to me," he continued, "to say that I believe
you to be the greatest fool the good God ever permitted to live."

"I am sure, Sir George, that your condescending flattery is very
pleasing," I said.

Sir George, unmindful of my remark, continued, "Your disease is not
usually a deadly malady, as a look about you will easily show; but,
Malcolm, if you were one whit more of a fool, you certainly would perish."

I was not offended, for I knew that my cousin meant no offence.

"Then, Sir George, if the time ever comes when I wish to commit suicide, I
have always at hand an easy, painless mode of death. I shall become only a
little more of a fool." I laughingly said, "I will do my utmost to absorb
a little wisdom now and then as a preventive."

"Never a bit of wisdom will you ever absorb. A man who would refuse a girl
whose wealth and beauty are as great as Dorothy's, is past all hope. I
often awaken in the dark corners of the night when a man's troubles stalk
about his bed like livid demons; and when I think that all of this evil
which has come up between Dorothy and me, and all of this cursed
estrangement which is eating out my heart could have been averted if you
had consented to marry her, I cannot but feel--"

"But, Sir George," I interrupted, "it was Dorothy, not I, who refused. She
could never have been brought to marry me."

"Don't tell me, Malcolm; don't tell me," cried the old man, angrily. Drink
had made Sir George sullen and violent. It made me happy at first; but
with liquor in excess there always came to me a sort of frenzy.

"Don't tell me," continued Sir George. "There never lived a Vernon who
couldn't win a woman if he would try. But put all that aside. She would
have obeyed me. I would have forced her to marry you, and she would have
thanked me afterward."

"You could never have forced her to marry me," I replied.

"But that I could and that I would have done," said Sir George. "The like
is done every day. Girls in these modern times are all perverse, but they
are made to yield. Take the cases of Sir Thomas Mobley, Sir Grant Rhodas,
and William Kimm. Their daughters all refused to marry the men chosen for
them, but the wenches were made to yield. If I had a daughter who refused
to obey me, I would break her; I would break her. Yes, by God, I would
break her if I had to kill her," and the old man brought his clenched hand
down upon the oak table with a crash. His eyes glared frightfully, and his
face bore a forbidding expression which boded no good for Dorothy.

"She will make trouble in this matter," Sir George continued, tapping the
parchment with his middle finger.

"She will make trouble about this; but, by God, Malcolm, she shall obey
me."

He struck the oaken table another great blow with his fist, and glared
fiercely across at me.

"Lord Wyatt had trouble with his daughter when he made the marriage with
Devonshire," continued Sir George.

"A damned good match it was, too, for the girl. But she had her heart set
on young Gillman, and she refused to obey her father. She refused, by God,
point blank, to obey her father. She refused to obey the man who had given
her life. What did Wyatt do? He was a man who knew what a child owes to
its father, and, by God, Malcolm, after trying every other means to bring
the wench to her senses, after he had tried persuasion, after having in
two priests and a bishop to show her how badly she was acting, and after
he had tried to reason with her, he whipped her; yes, he whipped her till
she bled--till she bled, Malcolm, I tell you. Ah, Wyatt knew what is due
from a child to its parents. The whipping failed to bring the perverse
huzzy to obedience, so Wyatt threw her into a dungeon and starved her
till--till--"

"Till she died," I interrupted.

"Yes, till she died," mumbled Sir George, sullenly, "till she died, and it
served her right, by God, served her right."

The old man was growing very drunk, and everything was beginning to
appear distorted to me. Sir George rose to his feet, leaned toward me with
glaring eyes, struck the table a terrible blow with his fist, and said:--

"By the blood of God I swear that if Doll refuses to marry Stanley, and
persists in her refusal, I'll whip her. Wyatt is a man after my own heart.
I'll starve her. I'll kill her. Ay, if I loved her ten thousand times more
than I do, I would kill her or she should obey me."

Then dawned upon me a vision of terrible possibilities. I was sure Sir
George could not force Dorothy to marry against her will; but I feared
lest he might kill her in his effort to "break her." I do not mean that I
feared he would kill her by a direct act, unless he should do so in a
moment of frenzy induced by drink and passion, but I did fear for the
results of the breaking process. The like had often happened. It had
happened in the case of Wyatt's daughter. Dorothy under the intoxicating
influence of her passion might become so possessed by the spirit of a
martyr that she could calmly take a flogging, but my belief was that
should matters proceed to that extreme, should Sir George flog his
daughter, the chords of her highly strung nature would snap under the
tension, and she would die. I loved Dorothy for the sake of her fierce,
passionate, tender heart, and because she loved me; and even in my sober,
reflective moments I had resolved that my life, ay, and Sir George's life
also, should stand between the girl and the lash. If in calmness I could
deliberately form such a resolution, imagine the effect on my
liquor-crazed brain of Sir George's words and the vista of horrors they
disclosed. I was intoxicated. I was drunk. I say it with shame; and on
hearing Sir George's threat my half-frenzied imagination ran riot into the
foreboding future.

All the candles, save one tottering wick, were dead in their sockets, and
the room was filled with lowering phantom-like shadows from oaken floor
to grimy vaulted roof beams. Sir George, hardly conscious of what he did
and said, all his evil passions quickened with drink, leaned his hands
upon the table and glared across at me. He seemed to be the incarnation of
rage and ferocity, to so great a pitch had he wrought himself. The
sputtering candle feebly flickered, and seemed to give its dim light only
that the darksome shadows might flit and hover about us like vampires on
the scent of blood. A cold perspiration induced by a nameless fear came
upon me, and in that dark future to which my heated imagination travelled
I saw, as if revealed by black magic, fair, sweet, generous Dorothy,
standing piteously upon Bowling Green hillside. Over her drooping form
there hung in air a monster cloudlike image of her father holding in its
hand a deadly bludgeon. So black, so horrid was this shadow-demon that I
sprang from my chair with a frightful oath, and shrieked:--

"Hell is made for man because of his cruelty to woman."

Sir George had sunk into his chair. Liquor had finished its work, and the
old man, resting his head upon his folded arms, leaned forward on the
table. He was drunk--dead to the world. How long I stood in frenzied
stupor gazing at shadow-stricken Dorothy upon the hillside I do not know.
It must have been several minutes. Blood of Christ, how vividly I remember
the vision! The sunny radiance of the girl's hair was darkened and dead.
Her bending attitude was one of abject grief. Her hands covered her face,
and she was the image of woe. Suddenly she lifted her head with the quick
impulsive movement so familiar in her, and with a cry eloquent as a
child's wail for its mother called, "John," and held out her arms
imploringly toward the dim shadowy form of her lover standing upon the
hill crest. Then John's form began to fade, and as its shadowy essence
grew dim, despair slowly stole like a mask of death over Dorothy's face.
She stood for a moment gazing vacantly into space. Then she fell to the
ground, the shadow of her father hovering over her prostrate form, and the
words, "Dead, dead, dead," came to me in horrifying whispers from every
dancing shadow-demon in the room.

In trying to locate the whispers as they reverberated from floor to oaken
rafters, I turned and saw Sir George. He looked as if he were dead.

"Why should you not be dead in fact?" I cried. "You would kill your
daughter. Why should I not kill you? That will solve the whole question."

I revelled in the thought; I drank it in; I nursed it; I cuddled it; I
kissed it. Nature's brutish love for murder had deluged my soul. I put my
hand to my side for the purpose of drawing my sword or my knife. I had
neither with me. Then I remember staggering toward the fireplace to get
one of the fire-irons with which to kill my cousin. I remember that when I
grasped the fire-iron, by the strange working of habit I employed it for
the moment in its proper use; and as I began to stir the embers on the
hearth, my original purpose was forgotten. That moment of habit-wrought
forgetfulness saved me and saved Sir George's life. I remember that I sank
into the chair in front of the fireplace, holding the iron, and I thank
God that I remember nothing more.

During the night the servants aroused me, and I staggered up the stone
stairway of Eagle Tower and clambered into my room.

The next morning I awakened feeling ill. There was a taste in my mouth as
If I had been chewing a piece of the devil's boot over night. I wanted no
breakfast, so I climbed to the top of the tower, hoping the fresh morning
breeze might cool my head and cleanse my mouth. For a moment or two I
stood on the tower roof bareheaded and open-mouthed while I drank in the
fresh, purifying air. The sweet draught helped me physically; but all the
winds of Boreas could not have blown out of my head the vision of the
previous night. The question, "Was it prophetic?" kept ringing in my ears,
answerless save by a superstitious feeling of fear. Then the horrid
thought that I had only by a mere chance missed becoming a murderer came
upon me, and again was crowded from my mind by the memory of Dorothy and
the hovering spectre which had hung over her head on Bowling Green
hillside.

I walked to the north side of the tower and on looking down the first
person I saw was our new servant, Thomas, holding two horses at the
mounting stand. One of them was Dolcy, and I, feeling that a brisk ride
with Dorothy would help me to throw off my wretchedness, quickly descended
the tower stairs, stopped at my room for my hat and cloak, and walked
around to the mounting block. Dorothy was going to ride, and I supposed
she would prefer me to the new servant as a companion.

I asked Thomas if his mistress were going out for a ride, and he replied
affirmatively.

"Who is to accompany her?" I asked.

"She gave orders for me to go with her," he answered.

"Very well," I responded, "take your horse back to the stable and fetch
mine." The man hesitated, and twice he began to make reply, but finally he
said:--

"Very well, Sir Malcolm."

He hitched Dolcy to the ring in the mounting block and started back toward
the stable leading his own horse. At that moment Dorothy came out of the
tower gate, dressed for the ride. Surely no woman was ever more beautiful
than she that morning.

"Tom-Tom, where are you taking the horse?" she cried.

"To the stable, Mistress," answered the servant. "Sir Malcolm says he will
go with you."

Dorothy's joyousness vanished. From radiant brightness her expression
changed in the twinkling of an eye to a look of disappointment so
sorrowful that I at once knew there was some great reason why she did not
wish me to ride with her. I could not divine the reason, neither did I
try. I quickly said to Thomas:--

"Do not bring my horse. If Mistress Vernon will excuse me, I shall not
ride with her this morning. I forgot for the moment that I had not
breakfasted."

Again came to Dorothy's face the radiant look of joy as if to affirm what
it had already told me. I looked toward Thomas, and his eyes, too, were
alight. I could make nothing of it. Thomas was a fine-looking fellow,
notwithstanding his preposterous hair and beard; but I felt sure there
could be no understanding between the man and his mistress.

When Thomas and Dorothy had mounted, she timidly ventured to say:--

"We are sorry, Cousin Malcolm, that you cannot ride with us."

She did not give me an opportunity to change my mind, but struck Dolcy a
sharp blow with her whip that sent the spirited mare galloping toward the
dove-cote, and Thomas quickly followed at a respectful distance. From the
dove-cote Dorothy took the path down the Wye toward Rowsley. I, of course,
connected her strange conduct with John. When a young woman who is well
balanced physically, mentally, and morally acts in a strange, unusual
manner, you may depend on it there is a man somewhere behind her motive.

I knew that John was in London. Only the night before I had received word
from Rutland Castle that he had not returned, and that he was not expected
home for many days.

So I concluded that John could not be behind my fair cousin's motive. I
tried to stop guessing at the riddle Dorothy had set me, but my effort was
useless. I wondered and thought and guessed, but I brought to myself only
the answer, "Great is the mystery of womanhood."

After Dorothy had ridden away I again climbed to the top of Eagle Tower
and saw the riders cross the Wye at Dorothy's former fording-place, and
take the wall. I then did a thing that fills me with shame when I think of
it. For the only time in my whole life I acted the part of a spy. I
hurried to Bowling Green Gate, and horror upon horror, there I beheld my
cousin Dorothy in the arms of Thomas, the man-servant. I do not know why
the truth of Thomas's identity did not dawn upon me, but it did not, and I
stole away from the gate, thinking that Dorothy, after all, was no better
than the other women I had known at various times in my life, and I
resolved to tell John what I had seen. You must remember that the women I
had known were of the courts of Mary Stuart and of Guise, and the less we
say about them the better. God pity them! Prior to my acquaintance with
Dorothy and Madge I had always considered a man to be a fool who would put
his faith in womankind. To me women were as good as men,--no better, no
worse. But with my knowledge of those two girls there had grown up in me a
faith in woman's virtue which in my opinion is man's greatest comforter;
the lack of it his greatest torment.

I went back to Eagle Tower and stood at my window looking down the Wye,
hoping soon to see Dorothy returning home. I did not feel jealousy in the
sense that a lover would feel it; but there was a pain in my heart, a
mingling of grief, anger, and resentment because Dorothy had destroyed not
only my faith in her, but, alas! my sweet, new-born faith in womankind.
Through her fault I had fallen again to my old, black belief that virtue
was only another name for the lack of opportunity. It is easy for a man
who has never known virtue in woman to bear and forbear the lack of it;
but when once he has known the priceless treasure, doubt becomes
excruciating pain.

After an hour or two Dorothy and her servant appeared at the ford and took
the path up the Wye toward Haddon. Thomas was riding a short distance
behind his accommodating mistress, and as they approached the Hall, I
recognized something familiar in his figure. At first, the feeling of
recognition was indistinct, but when the riders drew near, something about
the man--his poise on the horse, a trick with the rein or a turn with his
stirrup, I could not tell what it was--startled me like a flash in the
dark, and the word "John!" sprang to my lips. The wonder of the thing
drove out of my mind all power to think. I could only feel happy, so I lay
down upon my bed and soon dropped off to sleep.

When I awakened I was rapt in peace, for I had again found my treasured
faith in womankind. I had hardly dared include Madge in my backsliding,
but I had come perilously near doing it, and the thought of my narrow
escape from such perfidy frightened me. I have never taken the risk since
that day. I would not believe the testimony of my own eyes against the
evidence of my faith in Madge.

I knew that Thomas was Sir John Manners, and yet I did not know it
certainly. I determined, if possible, to remain in partial ignorance,
hoping that I might with some small show of truth be able to plead
ignorance should Sir George accuse me of bad faith in having failed to
tell him of John's presence in Haddon Hall. That Sir George would sooner
or later discover Thomas's identity I had little doubt. That he would kill
him should he once have him in his power, I had no doubt at all. Hence,
although I had awakened in peace concerning Dorothy, you may understand
that I awakened to trouble concerning John.



CHAPTER XI

THE COST MARK OF JOY


Peace had been restored between Dorothy and her father. At least an
armistice had been tacitly declared. But, owing to Dorothy's knowledge of
her father's intention that she should marry Lord Stanley, and because of
Sir George's feeling that Dorothy had determined to do nothing of the
sort, the belligerent powers maintained a defensive attitude which
rendered an absolute reconciliation impossible. They were ready for war at
a moment's notice.

The strangest part of their relation was the failure of each to comprehend
and fully to realize the full strength of the other's purpose. Dorothy
could not bring herself to believe that her father, who had until within
the last few weeks, been kind and indulgent to her, seriously intended to
force her into marriage with a creature so despicable as Stanley. In fact,
she did not believe that her father could offer lasting resistance to her
ardent desire in any matter. Such an untoward happening had never befallen
her. Dorothy had learned to believe from agreeable experience that it was
a crime in any one, bordering on treason, to thwart her ardent desires. It
is true she had in certain events, been compelled to coax and even to weep
gently. On a few extreme occasions she had been forced to do a little
storming in order to have her own way; but that any presumptuous
individuals should resist her will after the storming had been resorted
to was an event of such recent happening in her life that she had not
grown familiar with the thought of it. Therefore, while she felt that her
father might seriously annoy her with the Stanley project, and while she
realized that she might be compelled to resort to the storming process in
a degree thitherto uncalled for, she believed that the storm she would
raise would blow her father entirely out of his absurd and utterly
untenable position. On the other hand, while Sir George anticipated
trouble with Dorothy, he had never been able to believe that she would
absolutely refuse to obey him. In those olden times--now nearly half a
century past--filial disobedience was rare. The refusal of a child to obey
a parent, and especially the refusal of a daughter to obey her father in
the matter of marriage, was then looked upon as a crime and was frequently
punished in a way which amounted to barbarous ferocity. Sons, being of the
privileged side of humanity, might occasionally disobey with impunity, but
woe to the poor girl who dared set up a will of her own. A man who could
not compel obedience from his daughter was looked upon as a poor weakling,
and contempt was his portion in the eyes of his fellow-men--in the eyes of
his fellow-brutes, I should like to say.

Growing out of such conditions was the firm belief on the part of Sir
George that Dorothy would in the end obey him; but if by any hard chance
she should be guilty of the high crime of disobedience--Well! Sir George
intended to prevent the crime. Perhaps mere stubborness and fear of the
contempt in which he would be held by his friends in case he were defeated
by his own daughter were no small parts of Sir George's desire to carry
through the enterprise in which he had embarked with the Stanleys.
Although there was no doubt in Sir George's mind that he would eventually
conquer in the conflict with Dorothy, he had a profound respect for the
power of his antagonist to do temporary battle, and he did not care to
enter into actual hostilities until hostilities should become actually
necessary.

Therefore, upon the second day after I had read the beribboned, besealed
contract to Sir George, he sent an advance guard toward the enemy's line.
He placed the ornamental piece of parchment in Lady Crawford's hands and
directed her to give it to Dorothy.

But before I tell you of the parchment I must relate a scene that occurred
in Aunt Dorothy's room a few hours after I recognized John as he rode up
the Wye with Dorothy. It was late in the afternoon of the day after I read
the contract to Sir George and saw the horrid vision on Bowling Green.

I was sitting with Madge at the west window of Dorothy's parlor. We were
watching the sun as it sank in splendor beneath Overhaddon Hill.

I should like first to tell you a few words--only a few, I pray
you--concerning Madge and myself. I will.

I have just said that Madge and I were watching the sun at the west
window, and I told you but the truth, for Madge had learned to see with my
eyes. Gladly would I have given them to her outright, and willingly would
I have lived in darkness could I have given light to her. She gave light
to me--the light of truth, of purity, and of exalted motive. There had
been no words spoken by Madge nor me to any one concerning the strange and
holy chain that was welding itself about us, save the partial confession
which she had whispered to Dorothy. But notwithstanding our silence, our
friends in the Hall understood that Madge and I were very dear to each
other. I, of course, saw a great deal of her; but it was the evening hour
at the west window to which I longingly looked forward all the day. I am
no poet, nor do my words and thoughts come with the rhythmic flow and
eloquent imagery of one to whom the talent of poesy is given. But during
those evening hours it seemed that with the soft touch of Madge's hand
there ran through me a current of infectious dreaming which kindled my
soul till thoughts of beauty came to my mind and words of music sprang to
my lips such as I had always considered not to be in me. It was not I who
spoke; it was Madge who saw with my eyes and spoke with my voice. To my
vision, swayed by Madge's subtle influence, the landscape became a thing
of moving beauty and of life, and the floating clouds became a panorama of
ever shifting pictures. I, inspired by her, described so eloquently the
wonders I saw that she, too, could see them. Now a flock of white-winged
angels rested on the low-hung azure of the sky, watching the glory of
Phoebus as he drove his fiery steeds over the western edge of the world.
Again, Mount Olympus would grow before my eyes, and I would plainly see
Jove sitting upon his burnished throne, while gods and goddesses floated
at his feet and revelled on the fleecy mountain sides. Then would
mountain, gods, and goddesses dissolve,--as in fact they did dissolve ages
ago before the eyes of millions who had thought them real,--and in their
places perhaps would come a procession of golden-maned lions, at the
description of which would Madge take pretended fright. Again, would I see
Madge herself in flowing white robes made of the stuff from which fleecy
clouds are wrought. All these wonders would I describe, and when I would
come to tell her of the fair cloud image of herself I would seize the
joyous chance to make her understand in some faint degree how altogether
lovely in my eyes the vision was. Then would she smile and softly press my
hand and say:--

"Malcolm, it must be some one else you see in the cloud," though she was
pleased.

But when the hour was done then came the crowning moment of the day, for
as I would rise to take my leave, if perchance we were alone, she would
give herself to my arms for one fleeting instant and willingly would her
lips await--but there are moments too sacred for aught save holy thought.
The theme is sweet to me, but I must go back to Dorothy and tell you of
the scene I have promised you.

As I have already said, it was the evening following that upon which I had
read the marriage contract to Sir George, and had seen the vision on the
hillside. Madge and I were sitting at the west window. Dorothy, in
kindness to us, was sitting alone by the fireside in Lady Crawford's
chamber. Thomas entered the room with an armful of fagots, which he
deposited in the fagot-holder. He was about to replenish the fire, but
Dorothy thrust him aside, and said:--

"You shall kindle no more fires for me. At least you shall not do so when
no one else is by. It pains me that you, at whose feet I am unworthy to
kneel, should be my servant"

Thereupon she took in her hands the fagot John had been holding. He
offered to prevent her, but she said:--

"Please, John, let me do this."

The doors were open, and we heard all that was said by Dorothy and Tom.
Madge grasped my hand in surprise and fear.

"Please, John," said Dorothy, "if it gives me pleasure to be your servant,
you should not wish to deny me. There lives but one person whom I would
serve. There, John, I will give you another, and you shall let me do as I
will."

Dorothy, still holding the fagot in her hands, pressed it against John's
breast and gently pushed him backward toward a large armchair, in which
she had been sitting by the west side of the fireplace.

"You sit there, John, and we will make believe that this is our house, and
that you have just come in very cold from a ride, and that I am making a
fine fire to warm you. Isn't it pleasant, John? There, you sit and warm
yourself--my--my--husband," she said laughingly. "It is fine sport even to
play at. There is one fagot on the fire," she said, as she threw the wood
upon the embers, causing them to fly in all directions. John started up to
brush the scattered embers back into the fireplace, but Dorothy stopped
him.

"I will put them all back," she said. "You know you are cold and very
tired. You have been overseeing the tenantry and have been hunting. Will
you have a howl of punch, my--my husband?" and she laughed again and
kissed him as she passed to the holder for another fagot.

"I much prefer that to punch," said John, laughing softly. "Have you
more?"

"Thousands of them, John, thousands of them." She rippled forth a little
laugh and continued: "I occupy my time nowadays in making them that I may
always have a great supply when we are--that is, you know, when you--when
the time comes that you may require a great many to keep you in good
humor." Again came the laugh, merry and clear as the tinkle of sterling
silver.

She laughed again within a minute or two; but when the second laugh came,
it sounded like a knell.

Dorothy delighted to be dressed in the latest fashion. Upon this occasion
she wore a skirt vast in width, of a pattern then much in vogue. The
sleeves also were preposterously large, in accordance with the custom of
the times. About her neck a beautiful white linen ruff stood out at least
the eighth part of an ell. The day had been damp and cold, and the room in
which she had been sitting was chilly. For that reason, most fortunately,
she had thrown over her shoulders a wide sable cloak broad enough to
enfold her many times and long enough to reach nearly to her knees:
Dorothy thus arrayed was standing in front of John's chair. She had just
spoken the words "good humor," when the door leading to her father's room
opened and in walked Sir George. She and her ample skirts and broad
sleeves were between John and the door. Not one brief instant did Dorothy
waste in thought. Had she paused to put in motion the machinery of reason,
John would have been lost. Thomas sitting in Lady Crawford's chair and
Dorothy standing beside him would have told Sir George all he needed to
know. He might not have discovered John's identity, but a rope and a tree
in Bowling Green would quickly have closed the chapter of Dorothy's
mysterious love affair. Dorothy, however, did not stop to reason nor to
think. She simply acted without preliminary thought, as the rose unfolds
or as the lightning strikes. She quietly sat down upon John's knees,
leaned closely back against him, spread out the ample folds of her skirt,
threw the lower parts of her broad cape over her shoulders and across the
back of the chair, and Sir John Manners was invisible to mortal eyes.

"Come in, father," said Dorothy, in dulcet tones that should have betrayed
her.

"I heard you laughing and talking," said Sir George, "and I wondered who
was with you."

"I was talking to Madge and Malcolm who are in the other room," replied
Dorothy.

"Did not Thomas come in with fagots?" asked Sir George.

"I think he is replenishing the fire in the parlor, father, or he may have
gone out. I did not notice. Do you want him?"

"I do not especially want him," Sir George answered.

"When he finishes in the parlor I will tell him that you want him," said
Dorothy.

"Very well," replied Sir George.

He returned to his room, but he did not close the door.

The moment her father's back was turned Dorothy called:--

"Tom--Tom, father wants you," and instantly Thomas was standing
deferentially by her side, and she was seated in the great chair. It was a
rapid change, I assure you. But a man's life and his fortune for good or
ill often hang upon a tiny peg--a second of time protruding from the wall
of eternity. It serves him briefly; but if he be ready for the vital
instant, it may serve him well.

"Yes, mistress," said Thomas, "I go to him at once."

John left the room and closed the door as he passed out. Then it was that
Dorothy's laugh sounded like the chilling tones of a knell. It was the
laugh of one almost distraught. She came to Madge and me laughing, but the
laugh quickly changed to convulsive sobs. The strain of the brief moment
during which her father had been in Lady Crawford's room had been too
great for even her strong nerves to bear. She tottered and would have
fallen had I not caught her. I carried her to the bed, and Madge called
Lady Crawford. Dorothy had swooned.

When she wakened she said dreamily:--

"I shall always keep this cloak and gown."

Aunt Dorothy thought the words were but the incoherent utterances of a
dimly conscious mind, but I knew they were the deliberate expression of a
justly grateful heart.

The following evening trouble came about over the matter of the marriage
contract.

You remember I told you that Sir George had sent Lady Crawford as an
advance guard to place the parchment in the enemy's hands. But the advance
guard feared the enemy and therefore did not deliver the contract directly
to Dorothy. She placed it conspicuously upon the table, knowing well that
her niece's curiosity would soon prompt an examination.

I was sitting before the fire in Aunt Dorothy's room, talking to Madge
when Lady Crawford entered, placed the parchment on the table, and took a
chair by my side. Soon Dorothy entered the room. The roll of parchment,
brave with ribbons, was lying on the table. It attracted her attention at
once, and she took it in her hands.

"What is this?" she asked carelessly. Her action was prompted entirely by
idle curiosity. That, by the way, was no small motive with Dorothy. She
had the curiosity of a young doe. Receiving no answer, she untied the
ribbons and unrolled the parchment to investigate its contents for
herself. When the parchment was unrolled, she began to read:--

"In the name of God, amen. This indenture of agreement, looking to union
in the holy bonds of marriage between the Right Honorable Lord James
Stanley of the first part, and Mistress Dorothy Vernon of Haddon of the
second part--"

She read no farther. She crumpled the beautiful parchment in her hands,
walked over to the fire, and quietly placed the sacred instrument in the
midst of the flames. Then she turned away with a sneer of contempt upon
her face and--again I grieve to tell you this--said:--

"In the name of God, amen. May this indenture be damned."

"Dorothy!" exclaimed Lady Crawford, horrified at her niece's profanity. "I
feel shame for your impious words."

"I don't care what you feel, aunt," retorted Dorothy, with a dangerous
glint in her eyes. "Feel as you wish, I meant what I said, and I will say
it again if you would like to hear it. I will say it to father when I see
him. Now, Aunt Dorothy, I love you and I love my father, but I give you
fair warning there is trouble ahead for any one who crosses me in this
matter."

She certainly looked as if she spoke the truth. Then she hummed a tune
under her breath--a dangerous signal in Dorothy at certain times. Soon the
humming turned to whistling. Whistling in those olden days was looked upon
as a species of crime in a girl.

Dorothy stood by the window for a short time and then taking up an
embroidery frame, drew a chair nearer to the light and began to work at
her embroidery. In a moment or two she stopped whistling, and we could
almost feel the silence in the room. Madge, of course, only partly knew
what had happened, and her face wore an expression of expectant, anxious
inquiry. Aunt Dorothy looked at me, and I looked at the fire. The
parchment burned slowly. Lady Crawford, from a sense of duty to Sir George
and perhaps from politic reasons, made two or three attempts to speak, and
after five minutes of painful silence she brought herself to say:--

"Dorothy, your father left the contract here for you to read. He will be
angry when he learns what you have done. Such disobedience is sure to--"

"Not another word from you," screamed Dorothy, springing like a tigress
from her chair. "Not another word from you or I will--I will scratch you.
I will kill some one. Don't speak to me. Can't you see that I am trying to
calm myself for an interview with father? An angry brain is full of
blunders. I want to make none. I will settle this affair with father. No
one else, not even you, Aunt Dorothy, shall interfere." The girl turned to
the window, stood beating a tattoo upon the glass for a moment or two,
then went over to Lady Crawford and knelt by her side. She put her arms
about Aunt Dorothy's neck, softly kissed her, and said:--

"Forgive me, dear aunt; forgive me. I am almost crazed with my troubles. I
love you dearly indeed, indeed I do."

Madge gropingly went to Dorothy's side and took her hand. Dorothy kissed
Madge's hand and rose to her feet.

"Where is my father?" asked Dorothy, to whom a repentant feeling toward
Lady Crawford had brought partial calmness. "I will go to him immediately
and will have this matter over. We might as well understand each other at
once. Father seems very dull at understanding me. But he shall know me
better before long."

Sir George may have respected the strength of his adversary, but Dorothy
had no respect for the strength of her foe. She was eager for the fray.
When she had a disagreeable thing to do, she always wanted to do it
quickly.

Dorothy was saved the trouble of seeking her father, for at that moment he
entered the room.

"You are welcome, father," said Dorothy in cold, defiant tones. "You have
come just in time to see the last flickering flame of your fine marriage
contract." She led him to the fireplace. "Does it not make a beautiful
smoke and blaze?"

"Did you dare--"

"Ay, that I did," replied Dorothy.

"You dared?" again asked her father, unable to believe the evidence of his
eyes.

"Ay, so I said; that I did," again said Dorothy.

"By the death of Christ--" began Sir George.

"Now be careful, father, about your oaths," the girl interrupted. "You
must not forget the last batch you made and broke."

Dorothy's words and manner maddened Sir George. The expression of her
whole person, from her feet to her hair, breathed defiance. The poise of
her body and of her limbs, the wild glint in her eyes, and the turn of her
head, all told eloquently that Sir George had no chance to win and that
Dorothy was an unconquerable foe. It is a wonder he did not learn in that
one moment that he could never bring his daughter to marry Lord Stanley.

"I will imprison you," cried Sir George, gasping with rage.

"Very well," responded Dorothy, smilingly. "You kept me prisoner for a
fortnight. I did not ask you to liberate me. I am ready to go back to my
apartments."

"But now you shall go to the dungeon," her father said.

"Ah, the dungeon!" cried the girl, as if she were delighted at the
thought. "The dungeon! Very well, again. I am ready to go to the dungeon.
You may keep me there the remainder of my natural life. I cannot prevent
you from doing that, but you cannot force me to marry Lord Stanley."

"I will starve you until you obey me!" retorted her father. "I will starve
you!"

"That, again, you may easily do, my dear father; but again I tell you I
will never marry Stanley. If you think I fear to die, try to kill me. I do
not fear death. You have it not in your power to make me fear you or
anything you can do. You may kill me, but I thank God it requires my
consent for my marriage to Stanley, and I swear before God that never
shall be given."

The girl's terrible will and calm determination staggered Sir George, and
by its force beat down even his strong will. The infuriated old man
wavered a moment and said:--

"Fool, I seek only your happiness in this marriage. Only your happiness.
Why will you not consent to it?"

I thought the battle was over, and that Dorothy was the victor. She
thought so, too, but was not great enough to bear her triumph silently.
She kept on talking and carried her attack too far.

"And I refuse to obey because of my happiness. I refuse because I hate
Lord Stanley, and because, as you already know, I love another man."

When she spoke the words "because I love another man," the cold, defiant
expression of her face changed to one of ecstasy.

"I will have you to the dungeon this very hour, you brazen huzzy," cried
Sir George.

"How often, father, shall I repeat that I am ready to go to the dungeon? I
am eager to obey you in all things save one."

"You shall have your wish," returned Sir George. "Would that you had died
ere you had disgraced your house with a low-bred dog whose name you are
ashamed to utter."

"Father, there has been no disgrace," Dorothy answered, and her words bore
the ring of truth.

"You have been meeting the fellow at secluded spots in the forest--how
frequently you have met him God only knows--and you lied to me when you
were discovered at Bowling Green Gate."

"I would do it again gladly if I but had the chance," answered the girl,
who by that time was reckless of consequences.

"But the chance you shall not have," retorted Sir George.

"Do not be too sure, father," replied Dorothy. She was unable to resist
the temptation to mystify him. "I may see him before another hour. I will
lay you this wager, father, if I do not within one hour see the man--the
man whom I love--I will marry Lord Stanley. If I see him within that time
you shall permit me to marry him. I have seen him two score times since
the day you surprised me at the gate."

That was a dangerous admission for the girl to make, and she soon
regretted it with all her heart. Truly she was right. An angry brain is
full of blunders.

Of course Dorothy's words, which were so full of meaning to Madge and me,
meant little to Sir George. He looked upon them only as irritating
insolence on her part. A few minutes later, however, they became full of
significance.

Sir George seemed to have forgotten the Stanley marriage and the burning
of the contract in his quarrel with Dorothy over her unknown lover.

Conceive, if you can, the situation in Haddon Hall at that time. There was
love-drunk Dorothy, proud of the skill which had enabled her to outwit her
wrathful father. There was Sir George, whose mental condition, inflamed by
constant drinking, bordered on frenzy because he felt that his child, whom
he had so tenderly loved from the day of her birth, had disgraced herself
with a low-born wretch whom she refused to name. And there, under the same
roof, lived the man who was the root and source of all the trouble. A
pretty kettle of fish!

"The wager, father, will you take it?" eagerly asked Dorothy.

Sir George, who thought that her words were spoken only to anger him,
waved her off with his hands and said:--

"I have reason to believe that I know the wretch for whose sake you have
disgraced yourself. You may be sure that I shall soon know him with
certainty. When I do, I will quickly have him in my power. Then I will
hang him to a tree on Bowling Green, and you shall see the low-born dog
die."

"He is better born than any of our house," retorted Dorothy, who had lost
all sense of caution. "Ay, he is better born than any with whom we claim
kin."

Sir George stood in open-eyed wonder, and Dorothy continued: "You cannot
keep him from me. I shall see him, and I will have him despite you. I tell
you again, I have seen him two score times since you tried to spy upon us
at Bowling Green Gate, and I will see him whenever I choose, and I will
wed him when I am ready to do so. You cannot prevent it. You can only be
forsworn, oath upon oath; and if I were you, I would stop swearing."

Sir George, as was usual with him in those sad times, was inflamed with
drink, and Dorothy's conduct, I must admit, was maddening. In the midst of
her taunting Thomas stepped into the room bearing an armful of fagots. Sir
George turned to him and said:--

"Go and tell Welch to bring a set of manacles."

"For Mistress Dorothy?" Thomas asked, surprised into the exclamation.

"Curse you, do you mean to bandy words with me, you scum?" cried Sir
George.

He snatched a fagot from John and drew back his arm to strike him. John
took one step back from Sir George and one step nearer to Dorothy.

"Yes, Thomas," said Dorothy, sneeringly, "bring Welch with the manacles
for me. My dear father would put me in the dungeon out of the reach of
other men, so that he may keep me safely for my unknown lover. Go, Thomas.
Go, else father will again be forsworn before Christ and upon his
knighthood."

"This before a servant! I'll gag you, you hellish vixen," cried Sir
George. Then I am sure he knew not what he did. "Curse you!" he cried, as
he held the fagot upraised and rushed upon Dorothy. John, with his arms
full of fagots, could not avert the blow which certainly would have killed
the girl, but he could take it. He sprang between Dorothy and her father,
the fagot fell upon his head, and he sank to the floor. In his fall John's
wig dropped off, and when the blood began to flow from the wound Dorothy
kneeled beside his prostrate form. She snatched the great bush of false
beard from his face and fell to kissing his lips and his hands in a
paroxysm of passionate love and grief. Her kisses she knew to be a panacea
for all ills John could be heir to, and she thought they would heal even
the wound her father had given, and stop the frightful outpouring of
John's life-blood. The poor girl, oblivious of all save her wounded
lover, murmured piteously:--

"John, John, speak to me; 'tis Dorothy." She placed her lips near his ear
and whispered: "'Tis Dorothy, John. Speak to her." But she received no
response. Then came a wild light to her eyes and she cried aloud: "John,
'tis Dorothy. Open your eyes. Speak to me, John! oh, for God's sake speak
to me! Give some little sign that you live," but John was silent. "My God,
my God! Help, help! Will no one help me save this man? See you not that
his life is flowing away? This agony will kill me. John, my lover, my
lord, speak to me. Ah, his heart, his heart! I will know." She tore from
his breast the leathern doublet and placed her ear over his heart. "Thank
God, it beats!" she cried in a frenzied whisper, as she kissed his breast
and turned her ear again to hear his heart's welcome throbbing. Then she
tried to lift him in her arms and succeeded in placing his head in her
lap. It was a piteous scene. God save me from witnessing another like it.

After Dorothy lifted John's head to her lap he began to breathe
perceptibly, and the girl's agitation passed away as she gently stroked
his hair and kissed him over and over again, softly whispering her love to
his unresponsive ear in a gentle frenzy of ineffable tenderness such as
was never before seen in this world, I do believe. I wish with all my
heart that I were a maker of pictures so that I might draw for you the
scene which is as clear and vivid in every detail to my eyes now as it was
upon that awful day in Haddon Hall. There lay John upon the floor and by
his side knelt Dorothy. His head was resting in her lap. Over them stood
Sir George with the murderous fagot raised, as if he intended again to
strike. I had sprung to his side and was standing by him, intending to
fell him to the floor should he attempt to repeat the blow upon either
Dorothy or John. Across from Sir George and me, that is, upon the opposite
side of Dorothy and John, stood Lady Crawford and Madge, who clung to each
other in terror. The silence was heavy, save when broken by Dorothy's sobs
and whispered ejaculations to John. Sir George's terrible deed had
deprived all of us, including himself, of the power to speak. I feared to
move from his side lest he should strike again. After a long agony of
silence he angrily threw the fagot away from him and asked:--

"Who is this fellow? Can any one tell me?"

Only Madge, Dorothy, and I could have given him true answer. By some
strange power of divination Madge had learned all that had happened, and
she knew as well as I the name of the man who lay upon the floor battling
with death. Neither Madge nor I answered.

"Who is this fellow?" again demanded Sir George.

Dorothy lifted her face toward her father.

"He is the man whom you seek, father," she answered, in a low, tearful
voice. "He is my lover; he is my life; he is my soul, and if you have
murdered him in your attempt to kill your own child, all England shall
hear of it and you shall hang. He is worth more in the eyes of the queen
than we and all our kindred. You know not whom you have killed."

Sir George's act had sobered him.

"I did not intend to kill him--in that manner," said Sir George, dropping
his words absent-mindedly. "I hoped to hang him. Where is Dawson? Some one
fetch Dawson."

Several of the servants had gathered about the open door in the next room,
and in obedience to Sir George's command one of them went to seek the
forester. I feared that John would die from the effects of the blow; but I
also knew from experience that a man's head may receive very hard knocks
and life still remain. Should John recover and should Sir George learn
his name, I was sure that my violent cousin would again attempt the
personal administration of justice and would hang him, under the old Saxon
law. In that event Parliament would not be so easily pacified as upon the
occasion of the former hanging at Haddon; and I knew that if John should
die by my cousin's hand, Sir George would pay for the act with his life
and his estates. Fearing that Sir George might learn through Dawson of
John's identity, I started out in search of Will to have a word with him
before he could see his master. I felt sure that for many reasons Will
would be inclined to save John; but to what extent his fidelity to the
cause of his master might counteract his resentment of Sir George's act, I
did not know. I suspected that Dawson was privy to John's presence in
Haddon Hall, but I was not sure of it, so I wished to prepare the forester
for his interview with Sir George and to give him a hint of my plans for
securing John's safety, in the event he should not die in Aunt Dorothy's
room.

When I opened the door in the Northwest Tower I saw Dawson coming toward
the Hall from the dove-cote, and I hastened forward to meet him. It was
pitiful that so good a man as Sir George Vernon was, should have been
surrounded in his own house by real friends who were also traitors. That
was the condition of affairs in Haddon Hall, and I felt that I was the
chief offender. The evil, however, was all of Sir George's making. Tyranny
is the father of treason.

When I met Dawson I said: "Will, do you know who Tom-Tom is?"

The forester hesitated for a moment, and said, "Well, Sir Malcolm, I
suppose he is Thomas--"

"No, no, Will, tell me the truth. Do you know that he is--or perhaps by
this time I should say he was--Sir John Manners?"

[Illustration]

"Was?" cried Will. "Great God! Has Sir George discovered--is he dead? If
he is dead, it will be a sad day for Sir George and for Haddon Hall. Tell
me quickly."

I at once knew Will Dawson was in the secret. I answered:--

"I hope he is not dead. Sir George attempted to strike Dorothy with a
fagot, but Thomas stepped in front of her and received the blow. He is
lying almost, if not quite, dead in Lady Crawford's room. Sir George knows
nothing about him, save that he is Dorothy's lover. But should Thomas
revive I feel sure my cousin will hang him in the morning unless steps are
taken to prevent the deed."

"Sir Malcolm, if you will stand by me," said Dawson, "Sir George will not
hang him."

"I certainly will stand by you, Dawson. Have no doubt on that score. Sir
George intends to cast John into the dungeon, and should he do so I want
you to send Jennie Faxton to Rutland and have her tell the Rutlanders to
rescue John to-night. To-morrow morning I fear will be too late. Be on
your guard, Will. Do not allow Sir George to discover that you have any
feeling in this matter. Above all, lead him from the possibility of
learning that Thomas is Sir John Manners. I will contrive to admit the
Rutland men at midnight."

I hastened with Dawson back to the Hall, where we found the situation as I
had left it. John's head was lying on Dorothy's lap, and she was trying to
dress his wound with pieces of linen torn from her clothing. Sir George
was pacing to and fro across the room, breaking forth at times in curses
against Dorothy because of her relations with a servant.

When Dawson and I entered the room, Sir George spoke angrily to Will:--

"Who is this fellow? You employed him. Who is he?"

"He gave me his name as Thomas Thompson," returned Will, "and he brought
me a favorable letter of recommendation from Danford."

Danford was forester to the Duke of Devonshire, and lived at Chatsworth.

"There was naught in the letter save that he was a good servant and an
honest man. That is all we can ask of any man."

"But who is he?" again demanded Sir George.

"Your worship may perhaps learn from Danford more than I can tell you,"
replied the forester, adroitly avoiding a lie.

"Think of it, Malcolm," said Sir George, speaking to me. "Think of it. My
daughter, my only child, seeks for her husband this low-born serving man.
I have always been sure that the fellow would prove to be such." Then he
turned to Dawson: "Throw the fellow into the dungeon. If he lives till
morning, I will have him hanged. To the dungeon with him."

Sir George waved his hand toward Dawson and Tom Welch, and then stepped
aside. Will made an effort to hide his feelings, and without a word or
gesture that could betray him, he and Welch lifted John to carry him away.
Then it was piteous to see Dorothy. She clung to John and begged that he
might be left with her. Sir George violently thrust her away from John's
side, but she, still upon her knees, grasped her father's hand and cried
out in agony:--

"Father, let me remain with him. If you have ever felt love for me, and if
my love for you has ever touched one tender spot in your heart, pity me
now and leave this man with me, or let me go with him. I beg you, father;
I plead; I implore. He may be dying. We know not. In this hour of my agony
be merciful to me."

But Sir George rudely repulsed her and left the room, following Welch and
Dawson, who bore John's unconscious form between them. Dorothy rose to her
feet screaming and tried to follow John. I, fearing that in her frenzy of
grief she might divulge John's name, caught her in my arms and detained
her by force. She turned upon me savagely and struck me in her effort to
escape. She called me traitor, villain, dog, but I lifted her in my arms
and carried her struggling to her bedroom. I wanted to tell her of the
plans which Dawson and I had made, but I feared to do so, lest she might
in some way betray them, so I left her in the room with Lady Crawford and
Madge. I told Lady Crawford to detain Dorothy at all hazards, and I
whispered to Madge asking her to tell Dorothy that I would look to John's
comfort and safety. I then hastily followed Sir George, Dawson, and Welch,
and in a few moments I saw them leave John, bleeding and senseless, upon
the dungeon floor. When Sir George's back was turned, Dawson by my orders
brought the surgeon from the stable where he had been working with the
horses. The surgeon bound up the wound in John's head and told me, to my
great joy, that it was not fatal. Then he administered a reviving potion
and soon consciousness returned. I whispered to John that Dawson and I
would not forsake him, and, fearing discovery by Sir George, hurriedly
left the dungeon.

I believe there is a certain amount of grief and sorrow which comes with
every great joy to give it a cost mark whereby we may always know its
value. The love between Dorothy and John indeed was marked in plain
figures of high denominations.



CHAPTER XII

THE LEICESTER POSSIBILITY


On Leaving the dungeon I sought Madge, and after I had whispered a word to
her from my heart I asked her to tell Dorothy the encouraging words of the
surgeon, and also to tell her that she should not be angry with me until
she was sure she had good cause. I dared not send a more explicit message,
and I dared not go to Dorothy, for Sir George was in a suspicious mood and
I feared ruin not only for myself but for John, should my violent cousin
suspect me of sympathy with his daughter and her lover.

I also sought Aunt Dorothy and whispered a word to her of which you shall
hear more presently.

"Ah, I cannot do it," cried the trembling old lady in response to my
whispered request. "I cannot do it."

"But you must, Aunt Dorothy," I responded. "Upon it depend three lives:
Sir George's, Dorothy's, and her lover's. You must do it."

"I will try," she replied.

"That assurance will not suit me," I responded. "You must promise upon
your salvation that you will not fail me."

"I promise upon my salvation," replied Aunt Dorothy.

That evening of course we did not see the ladies at supper. Sir George and
I ate in silence until my cousin became talkative from drink. Then he
spoke bitterly of Dorothy's conduct, and bore with emphasis upon the fact
that the lover to whom Dorothy had stooped was a low-born serving man.

"But Dorothy declares he is noble," I responded.

"She has lied to me so often that I do not believe a word she says,"
returned Sir George.

He swore oath upon oath that the wretch should hang in the morning, and
for the purpose of carrying into effect his intention he called in Joe the
butcher and told him to make all things ready for the execution.

I did not attempt to thwart his purpose by word or gesture, knowing it
would be useless, but hoped that John would be out of his reach long ere
the cock would crow his first greeting to the morrow's sun.

After Sir George had drunk far into the night the servants helped him to
bed, and he carried with him the key to the dungeon together with the keys
to all the outer doors and gates of Haddon Hall, as was his custom. The
keys were in a bunch, held together by an iron ring, and Sir George always
kept them under his pillow at night.

I sought my bed in Eagle Tower and lay down in my clothes to rest and
wait. The window of my room was open.

Within an hour after midnight I heard the hooting of an owl. The doleful
sound came up to me from the direction of the stone footbridge at the
southwest corner of the Hall below the chapel. I went to my window and
looked out over the courts and terrace. Haddon Hall and all things in and
about it were wrapped in slumbrous silence. I waited, and again I heard
the hooting of the owl. Noiselessly leaving my room I descended the stone
steps to an unused apartment in the tower from which a window opened upon
the roof of the north wing of the Hall. Along that roof I crept with bared
feet, till I reached another roof, the battlements of which at the lowest
point were not more than twenty feet from the ground. Thence I clambered
down to a window cornice five or six feet lower, and jumped, at the risk
of my limbs, the remaining distance of fifteen or sixteen feet to the soft
sod beneath. I ran with all haste, took my stand under Aunt Dorothy's
window, and whistled softly. The window casing opened and I heard the
great bunch of keys jingling and clinking against the stone wall as Aunt
Dorothy paid them out to me by means of a cord. After I had secured the
keys I called in a whisper to Lady Crawford and directed her to leave the
cord hanging from the window. I also told her to remain in readiness to
draw up the keys when they should have served their purpose. Then I took
them and ran to the stone footbridge where I found four Rutland men who
had come in response to the message Dawson had sent by Jennie Faxton. Two
of the men went with me, and we entered the lower garden by the southwest
postern. Thence we crept noiselessly to the terrace and made our entrance
into the Hall by "Dorothy's Postern." I had in my life engaged in many
questionable and dangerous enterprises, but this was my first attempt at
house-breaking. To say that I was nervous would but poorly define the
state of my feelings. Since that day I have respected the high calling of
burglary and regard with favor the daring knights of the skeleton key. I
was frightened. I, who would feel no fear had I to fight a dozen men,
trembled with fright during this adventure. The deathlike silence and the
darkness in familiar places seemed uncanny to me. The very chairs and
tables appeared to be sleeping, and I was fearful lest they should awaken.
I cannot describe to you how I was affected. Whether it was fear or awe or
a smiting conscience I cannot say, but my teeth chattered as if they were
in the mouth of a fool, and my knees quaked as if they supported a coward.
Still I knew I was doing my duty, though one's conscience sometimes smites
him when his reason tells him he is acting righteously. It is more
dangerous to possess a sensitive conscience which cannot be made to hear
reason than to have none at all. But I will make short my account of that
night's doings. The two Rutland men and I groped our way to the dungeon
and carried forth John, who was weak from loss of blood. I told them to
lock the door of the Hall as they passed out and to attach the keys to the
cord hanging from Lady Crawford's window. Then I climbed to my room again,
feeling in conscience like a criminal because I had done the best act of
my life.

Early next morning I was awakened by a great noise in the upper court.
When I looked out at my window I beheld Sir George. He was half dressed
and was angrily questioning the servants and retainers. I knew that he had
discovered John's escape, but I did not know all, nor did I know the
worst. I dressed and went to the kitchen, where I bathed my hands and
face. There I learned that the keys to the hall had been stolen from under
Sir George's pillow, and that the prisoner had escaped from the dungeon.
Old Bess, the cook, nodded her head wisely and whispered to me the words,
"Good for Mistress Doll."

Bess's unsought confidence alarmed me. I did not relish the thought that
Bess nor any one else should believe me to be in sympathy with Dorothy,
and I said:--

"If Mistress Vernon had aught to do with last night's affairs, she should
be full of shame. I will not believe that she knew of it at all. My
opinion is that one of the servants was bribed by some person interested
in Tom-Tom's escape."

"Believe nothing of the sort," retorted Bess. "It is the mistress and not
the servant who stole the keys and liberated Tom-Tom. But the question is,
who may Tom-Tom be? and the servants' hall is full of it. We are not
uncertain as to the manner of his escape. Some of the servants do say that
the Earl of Leicester be now visiting the Duke of Devonshire; and some
also do say that his Lordship be fond of disguises in his gallantry. They
do also say that the queen is in love with him, and that he must disguise
himself when he woos elsewhere, or she be's famously jealous. It would be
a pretty mess the master has brought us all into should Tom-Tom prove to
be my lord Earl of Leicester. We'd all hang and to hell."

"Bess, that tongue of yours will cost you your head one of these good
times," I remarked, while I rubbed my face with the towel.

"I would sooner lose my head," retorted Bess, "than have my mouth shut by
fear. I know, Sir Malcolm, that I'll not die till my time comes; but
please the good God when my time does come I will try to die talking."

"That you will," said I.

"True word, Sir Malcolm," she answered, and I left her in possession of
the field.

I went into the courtyard, and when Sir George saw me he said, "Malcolm,
come with me to my room; I want a word with you."

We went to his room.

"I suppose you know of the fellow's escape last night?" he said.

"Yes," I replied, "Bess told me about it in the kitchen."

It seemed to me that my words said, "I did it."

"Not only was the fellow liberated," said my cousin, "but the keys to all
the outer gates and doors of the Hall have been stolen and carried away.
Can you help me unravel this affair?"

"Do you suspect any one of having stolen the keys?" I asked.

"I know, of course, that Dorothy did it. Who her accomplices were, if any
she had, I do not know. I have catechized the servants, but the question
is bottomless to me."

"Have you spoken to Dorothy on the subject?" I asked.

"No," he replied, "but I have sent word to her by the Faxton girl that I
am going to see her at once. Come with me."

We went into Lady Crawford's room. She was ill and in bed. I did not
wonder that she was ill after the experiences of the previous night. Sir
George asked her if she had heard or seen Dorothy pass through her room
during the night. She said:--

"Dorothy did not pass through this room last night. I did not once close
my eyes in sleep, and I should have seen her had she been here at all."

Sir George entered Dorothy's bedroom, and Lady Crawford beckoned me to go
to her side.

"I waited till sunrise," she said, "that I might draw up the keys."

"Hush!" said I, "the cord?"

"I burned it," she replied.

Then I followed Sir George into Dorothy's room. Madge was dressed for the
day, and Dorothy, who had been helping her, was making her own toilet. Her
hair hung loose and fell like a cataract of sunshine over her bare
shoulders. But no words that I can write would give you a conception of
her wondrous beauty, and I shall not waste them in the attempt. When we
entered the room she was standing at the mirror. She turned, comb in hand,
toward Sir George and said:--

"I suppose, father, you will accuse me of liberating Thomas."

"You must know that I will accuse you," replied Sir George.

"Then, father, for once you will accuse me falsely. I am overjoyed that he
has escaped, and I certainly should have tried to liberate him had I
thought it possible to do so. But I did not do it, though to tell you the
truth I am sorry I did not."

"I do not believe you," her father replied.

"I knew you would not believe me," answered Dorothy. "Had I liberated him
I should probably have lied to you about it; therefore, I wonder not that
you should disbelieve me. But I tell you again upon my salvation that I
know nothing of the stealing of the keys nor of Tom-Tom's escape. Believe
me or not, I shall deny it no more."

Madge gropingly went to Sir George's side, and he tenderly put his arms
about her, saying:--

"I would that you were my daughter." Madge took his hand caressingly.

"Uncle, I want to tell you that Dorothy speaks the truth," she said. "I
have been with her every moment since the terrible scene of yesterday
evening. Neither Dorothy nor I closed our eyes in sleep all night long.
She lay through the dark hours moaning, and I tried to comfort her. Our
door was locked, and it was opened only by your messenger who brought the
good news of Tom-Tom's escape. I say good news, uncle, because his escape
has saved you from the stain of murder. You are too brave a man to do
murder, uncle."

"How dare you," said Sir George, taking his arm from Madge's waist, "how
dare you defend--"

"Now, uncle, I beg you pause and take a moment's thought," said Madge,
interrupting him. "You have never spoken unkindly to me."

"Nor will I, Madge, so long as I live. I know there is not a lie in you,
and I am sure you believe to be true all you tell me, but Dorothy has
deceived you by some adroit trick."

"If she deceived me, she is a witch," retorted Madge, laughing softly.

"That I am almost ready to believe is the case," said Sir George.
Dorothy, who was combing her hair at the mirror, laughed softly and
said:--

"My broomstick is under the bed, father."

Sir George went into Lady Crawford's room and shut the door, leaving me
with the girls.

When her father had left, Dorothy turned upon me with fire in her eyes:--

"Malcolm Vernon, if you ever lay hands upon me again as you did last
night, I will--I will scratch you. You pretended to be his friend and
mine, but for a cowardly fear of my father you came between us and you
carried me to this room by force. Then you locked the door and--and"--

"Did not Madge give you my message?" I asked, interrupting her.

"Yes, but did you not force me away from him when, through my fault, he
was almost at death's door?"

"Have your own way, Dorothy," I said. "There lives not, I hope, another
woman in the world so unreasoning and perverse as you."

She tossed her head contemptuously and continued to comb her hair.

"How, suppose you," I asked, addressing Dorothy's back, as if I were
seeking information, "how, suppose you, the Rutland people learned that
John was confined in the Haddon dungeon, and how did they come by the
keys?"

The girl turned for a moment, and a light came to her anger-clouded face
as the rainbow steals across the blackened sky.

"Malcolm, Malcolm," she cried, and she ran to me with her bare arms
outstretched.

"Did you liberate him?" she asked. "How did you get the keys?"

"I know nothing of it, Dorothy, nothing," I replied.

"Swear it, Malcolm, swear it," she said.

"I will swear to nothing," I said, unclasping her arms from my neck.

"Then I will kiss you," she answered, "for you are my dear good brother,
and never so long as I live will I again doubt you."

But she did before long doubt me again, and with good cause.

Dorothy being in a gentle humor; I took advantage of the opportunity to
warn her against betraying John's name to her father. I also told her to
ask her father's forgiveness, and advised her to feign consent to the
Stanley marriage. Matters had reached a point where some remedy, however
desperate, must be applied.

Many persons, I fear, will condemn me for advising Dorothy to deceive her
father; but what would you have had me do? Should I have told her to marry
Stanley? Certainly not. Had I done so, my advice would have availed
nothing. Should I have advised her to antagonize her father, thereby
keeping alive his wrath, bringing trouble to herself and bitter regret to
him? Certainly not. The only course left for me to advise was the least of
three evils--a lie. Three evils must be very great indeed when a lie is
the least of them. In the vast army of evils with which this world swarms
the lie usually occupies a proud position in the front rank. But at times
conditions arise when, coward-like, he slinks to the rear and evils
greater than he take precedence. In such sad case I found Dorothy, and I
sought help from my old enemy, the lie. Dorothy agreed with me and
consented to do all in her power to deceive her father, and what she could
not do to that end was not worth doing.

Dorothy was anxious about John's condition, and sent Jennie Faxton to
Bowling Green, hoping a letter would be there for her. Jennie soon
returned with a letter, and Dorothy once more was full of song, for
John's letter told her that he was fairly well and that he would by some
means see her soon again despite all opposition.

"At our next meeting, my fair mistress," John said in the letter, "you
must be ready to come with me. I will wait no longer for you. In fairness
to me and to yourself you shall not ask me to wait. I will accept no more
excuses. You must come with me when next we meet."

"Ah, well," said Dorothy to Madge, "if I must go with him, I must. Why did
he not talk in that fashion when we rode out together the last time? I
like to be made to do what I want to do. He was foolish not to make me
consent, or better still would it have been had he taken the reins of my
horse and ridden off with me, with or against my will. I might have
screamed, and I might have fought him, but I could not have hurt him, and
he would have had his way, and--and," with a sigh, "I should have had my
way."

After a brief pause devoted to thought, she continued:--

"If I were a man and were wooing a woman, I would first learn what she
wanted to do and then--and then, by my word, I would make her do it."

I went from Dorothy's room to breakfast, where I found Sir George. I took
my seat at the table and he said:--

"Who, in God's name, suppose you, could have taken the keys from my
pillow?"

"Is there any one whom you suspect?" I asked for lack of anything else to
say.

"I at first thought, of course, that Dorothy had taken them," he answered.
"But Madge would not lie, neither would my sister. Dorothy would not
hesitate to lie herself blue in the face, but for some reason I believed
her when she told me she knew nothing of the affair. Her words sounded
like truth for once."

"I think, Sir George," said I, "you should have left off 'for once.'
Dorothy is not a liar. She has spoken falsely to you only because she
fears you. I am sure that a lie is hateful to her."

"Malcolm, I wish I could have your faith," he responded. "By the way,
Malcolm, have you ever seen the Earl of Leicester?"

"I saw him only once. He visited Scotland during the ceremonies at Queen
Mary's return from France. I saw him once, and then but briefly. Why do
you ask?"

"It is whispered among the servants," said Sir George, "that Leicester is
at Chatsworth in disguise."

Chatsworth was the home of the Duke of Devonshire, and was but a short
distance from Haddon. After Sir George spoke, I remembered the words of
old Bess.

"Still, I do not know why you ask." I said.

"My reason is this," replied Sir George; "Dorothy declared the fellow was
of noble blood. It is said that Leicester loves gallant adventure
incognito. He fears her Majesty's jealousy if in such matters he acts
openly. You remember the sad case of Mistress Robsart. I wonder what
became of the girl? He made way with her in some murderous fashion, I am
sure." Sir George remained in revery for a moment, and then the poor old
man cried in tones of distress: "Malcolm, if that fellow whom I struck
last night was Leicester, and if he has been trying his hellish tricks on
my Doll I--I should pity her; I should not abuse her. I may have been
wrong. If he has wronged Doll--if he has wronged my girl, I will pursue
him to the ends of the earth for vengeance. That is why I ask if you have
ever seen the Earl of Leicester. Was the man who lay upon the floor last
night Robert Dudley? If it were he, and if I had known it, I would have
beaten him to death then and there. Poor Doll!"

Any one hearing the old man speak would easily have known that Doll was
all that life held for him to love.

"I do not distinctly remember Leicester's face," I answered, "but since
you speak of it, I believe there is a resemblance between him and the man
we called Thomas. But even were it he, Sir George, you need have no fear
for Dorothy. She of all women is able and willing to protect herself."

"I will go to Dorothy and ask her to tell me the truth. Come with me."

We again went to Dorothy's room. She had, since I last saw her, received
the letter from John of which I have spoken, and when we entered her
parlor where she and Madge were eating breakfast we found her very happy.
As a result she was willing and eager to act upon my advice.

She rose and turned toward her father.

"You told me, Doll, that the fellow was of noble blood. Did you speak the
truth?"

"Yes, father, I spoke the truth. There is no nobler blood in England than
his, save that of our royal queen. In that you may believe me, father, for
I speak the truth."

Sir George remained silent for a moment and then said:--

"If the man is he whom I believe him to be he can have no true purpose
with you. Tell me, my child--the truth will bring no reproaches from
me--tell me, has he misused you in any way?"

"No, father, before God, he has been a true gentleman to me."

The poor old man struggled for a moment with his emotions; then tears came
to his eyes and he covered his face with his hands as he started to leave
the room.

Dorothy ran to him and clasped her arms about his neck. Those two, father
and child, were surely of one blood as shown in the storms of violence and
tenderness by which their natures were alternately swept.

"Father, you may believe me; you do believe me," said Dorothy.
"Furthermore, I tell you that this man has treated me with all courtesy,
nay, more: he has treated me with all the reverence he would have shown
our queen."

"He can have no true purpose with you, Doll," said Sir George, who felt
sure that Leicester was the man.

"But he has, father, a true purpose with me. He would make me his wife
to-day would I consent."

"Why then does he not seek you openly?"

"That he cannot do," Dorothy responded hesitatingly.

"Tell me, Doll, who is the man?" asked Sir George.

I was standing behind him and Dorothy's face was turned toward me. She
hesitated, and I knew by her expression that she was about to tell all.
Sir George, I believe, would have killed her had she done so. I placed my
finger on my lips and shook my head.

Dorothy said: "That I cannot tell you, father. You are wasting words in
asking me."

"Is it because of his wish that you refuse to tell me his name?" asked Sir
George. I nodded my head.

"Yes, father," softly responded Dorothy in the old dangerous, dulcet
tones.

"That is enough; I know who the man is."

Dorothy kissed her father. He returned the caress, much to my surprise,
and left the room.

When I turned to follow Sir George I glanced toward Dorothy. Her eyes were
like two moons, so full were they of wonderment and inquiry.

I stopped with Sir George in his room. He was meditative and sad.

"I believe my Doll has told me the truth," he said.

"Have no doubt of it, Sir George," I replied.

"But what good intent can Leicester have toward my girl?" he asked.

"Of that I cannot say," I replied; "but my dear cousin, of this fact be
sure: if he have evil intent toward Dorothy, he will fail."

"But there was the Robsart girl," he replied.

"Ay," said I, "but Dorothy Vernon is not Amy Robsart. Have no fear of your
daughter. She is proof against both villany and craft. Had she been in
Mistress Robsart's place, Leicester would not have deserted her. Dorothy
is the sort of woman men do not desert. What say you to the fact that
Leicester might wish to make her his wife?"

"He may purpose to do so secretly, as in the case of the Robsart girl,"
returned Sir George. "Go, Malcolm, and ask her if he is willing to make
her his wife before the world."

I was glad of an opportunity for a word with Dorothy, so I hastily went to
her. I told her of the Leicester phase of the situation, and I also told
her that her father had asked me if the man whom she loved was willing to
make her his wife before the world.

"Tell my father," said she, "that I will be no man's wife save before all
the world. A man who will not acknowledge me never shall possess me."

I went back to Sir George and delivered the message word for word.

"She is a strange, strong girl, isn't she, Malcolm?" said her father.

"She is her father's child," I replied.

"By my spurs she is. She should have been a man," said Sir George, with a
twinkle of admiration in his eyes. He admired a good fight even though he
were beaten in it.

It is easy to be good when we are happy. Dorothy, the great disturber,
was both. Therefore, peace reigned once more in Haddon Hall.

Letters frequently passed between John and Dorothy by the hand of Jennie
Faxton, but John made no attempt to meet his sweetheart. He and Dorothy
were biding their time.

A fortnight passed during which Cupid confined his operations to Madge and
myself. For her sweet sake he was gracious and strewed our path with
roses. I should delight to tell you of our wooing. She a fair young
creature of eighteen, I a palpitating youth of thirty-five. I should love
to tell you of Madge's promise to be my wife, and of the announcement in
the Hall of our betrothal; but there was little of interest in it to any
one save ourselves, and I fear lest you should find it very sentimental
and dull indeed. I should love to tell you also of the delightful walks
which Madge and I took together along the sweet old Wye and upon the crest
of Bowling Green; but above all would I love to tell you of the delicate
rose tints that came to her cheek, and how most curiously at times, when
my sweetheart's health was bounding, the blessed light of day would
penetrate the darkened windows of her eyes, and how upon such occasions
she would cry out joyously, "Oh, Malcolm, I can dimly see." I say I should
love to tell you about all those joyous happenings, but after all I fear I
should shrink from doing so in detail, for the feelings and sayings of our
own hearts are sacred to us. It is much easier to tell of the love affairs
of others.

A fortnight or three weeks passed quietly in Haddon Hall. Sir George had
the notion firmly fixed in his head that the man whom Dorothy had been
meeting held honorable intentions toward the girl. He did her the justice
to believe that by reason of her strength and purity she would tolerate
none other. At times he felt sure that the man was Leicester, and again
he flouted the thought as impossible. If it were Leicester, and if he
wished to marry Dorothy, Sir George thought the match certainly would be
illustrious. Halting between the questions, "Is he Leicester?" and "Is he
not Leicester?" Sir George did not press the Stanley nuptials, nor did he
insist upon the signing of the contract. Dorothy received from her father
full permission to go where and when she wished. But her father's
willingness to give her liberty excited her suspicions. She knew he would
permit her to leave the Hall only that he might watch her, and, if
possible, entrap her and John. Therefore, she rode out only with Madge and
me, and sought no opportunity to see her lover. It may be that her
passiveness was partly due to the fact that she knew her next meeting with
John would mean farewell to Haddon Hall. She well knew she was void of
resistance when in John's hands. And his letter had told her frankly what
he would expect from her when next they should meet. She was eager to go
to him; but the old habit of love for home and its sweet associations and
her returning affection for her father, now that he was kind to her, were
strong cords entwining her tender heart, which she could not break
suddenly even for the sake of the greater joy.

One day Dorothy received from John a letter telling her he would on the
following morning start for the Scottish border with the purpose of
meeting the queen of Scotland. A plan had been formed among Mary's friends
in Scotland to rescue her from Lochleven Castle, where she was a prisoner,
and to bring her incognito to Rutland. John had been chosen to escort her
from the English border to his father's castle. From thence, when the
opportunity should arise, she was to escape to France, or make her peace
with Elizabeth. The adventure was full of peril both for her Scottish and
English friends. The Scottish regent Murray surely would hang all the
conspirators whom he might capture, and Elizabeth would probably inflict
summary punishment upon any of her subjects whom she could convict of
complicity in the plot.

In connection with this scheme to rescue Mary it was said there was also
another conspiracy. There appeared to be a plot within a plot which had
for its end the enthronement of Mary in Elizabeth's stead.

The Rutlands knew nothing of this subplot.

Elizabeth had once or twice expressed sympathy with her Scottish cousin.
She had said in John's presence that while she could not for reasons of
state _invite_ Mary to seek refuge in England, still if Mary would come
uninvited she would be welcomed. Therefore, John thought he was acting in
accord with the English queen's secret wish when he went to Rutland with
the purpose of being in readiness to meet Mary at the Scottish border.

There were two elements in Elizabeth's character on which John had not
counted. One was her royal prerogative to speak words she did not mean;
and the other was the universal feminine privilege to change her mind. Our
queen did not want Mary to visit England, nor had she any knowledge of the
plot to induce that event. She did, however, fear that Mary's unwise
friends among the Catholics cherished the purpose of making Mary queen of
England. Although John had heard faint rumors of such a plot, he had been
given to understand that Mary had no share in it, and he believed that the
adventure in which he was about to embark had for its only purpose her
liberation from a cruel and unjust imprisonment. Her cause appealed to
John's chivalrous nature as it appealed to so many other good though
mistaken men who sought to give help to the Scottish queen, and brought
only grief to her and ruin to themselves.

Dorothy had heard at various times just enough of these plots to fill her
heart with alarm when she learned that John was about to be engaged in
them. Her trouble was twofold. She feared lest personal injury or death
might befall John; and jealousy, that shame of love, gnawed at her heart
despite her efforts to drive it away.

"Is she so marvellously beautiful?" Dorothy asked of me over and over
again, referring to Mary Stuart. "Is she such a marvel of beauty and
fascination that all men fall before her?"

"That usually is the result," I replied. "I have never known her to smile
upon a man who did not at once respond by falling upon his knees to her."

My reply certainly was not comforting.

"Ah, then, I am lost," she responded, with a tremulous sigh. "Is--is she
prone to smile on men and--and--to grow fond of them?"

"I should say, Dorothy, that both the smiling and the fondness have become
a habit with her."

"Then she will be sure to choose John from among all men. He is so
glorious and perfect and beautiful that she will be eager to--to--O God! I
wish he had not gone to fetch her."

"You need have no fear," I said reassuringly. "While Mary Stuart is
marvellously beautiful and fascinating, there is at least one woman who
excels her. Above all, that woman is pure and chaste."

"Who is she, that one woman, Malcolm? Who is she?" asked the girl, leaning
forward in her chair and looking at me eagerly with burning eyes.

"You are already a vain girl, Dorothy, and I shall not tell you who that
one woman is," I answered laughingly.

"No, no, Malcolm, I am not vain in this matter. It is of too great moment
to me for the petty vice of vanity to have any part in it. You do not
understand me. I care not for my beauty, save for his sake. I long to be
more beautiful, more fascinating, and more attractive than she--than any
woman living--only because I long to hold John--to keep him from her, from
all others. I have seen so little of the world that I must be sadly
lacking in those arts which please men, and I long to possess the beauty
of the angels, and the fascinations of Satan that I may hold John, hold
him, hold him, hold him. That I may hold him so sure and fast that it will
be impossible for him to break from me. At times, I almost wish he were
blind; then he could see no other woman. Ah, am I not a wicked, selfish
girl? But I will not allow myself to become jealous. He is all mine, isn't
he, Malcolm?" She spoke with nervous energy, and tears were ready to
spring from her eyes.

"He is all yours, Dorothy," I answered, "all yours, as surely as that
death will some day come to all of us. Promise me, Dorothy, that you will
never again allow a jealous thought to enter your heart. You have no cause
for jealousy, nor will you ever have. If you permit that hateful passion
to take possession of you, it will bring ruin in its wake."

"It was, indeed, foolish in me," cried Dorothy, springing to her feet and
clasping her hands tightly; "and I promise never again to feel jealousy.
Malcolm, its faintest touch tears and gnaws at my heart and racks me with
agony. But I will drive it out of me. Under its influence I am not
responsible for my acts. It would quickly turn me mad. I promise, oh, I
swear, that I never will allow it to come to me again."

Poor Dorothy's time of madness was not far distant nor was the evil that
was to follow in its wake.

John in writing to Dorothy concerning his journey to Scotland had
unhesitatingly intrusted to her keeping his honor, and, unwittingly, his
life. It did not once occur to him that she could, under any conditions,
betray him. I trusted her as John did until I saw her vivid flash of
burning jealousy. But by the light of that flash I saw that should the
girl, with or without reason, become convinced that Mary Stuart was her
rival, she would quickly make Derbyshire the warmest locality in
Christendom, and John's life might pay the cost of her folly. Dorothy
would brook no rival--no, not for a single hour. Should she become jealous
she would at once be swept beyond the influence of reason or the care for
consequences. It were safer to arouse a sleeping devil than Dorothy
Vernon's jealousy. Now about the time of John's journey to the Scottish
border, two matters of importance arose at Haddon Hall. One bore directly
upon Dorothy, namely, the renewal by the Stanleys of their suit for her
hand. The other was the announcement by the queen that she would soon do
Sir George Vernon the honor of spending a fortnight under the roof of
Haddon Hall. Each event was of great importance to the King of the Peak.
He had concluded that Thomas, the man-servant, was not the Earl of
Leicester in disguise, and when the Earl of Derby again came forward with
his marriage project, Sir George fell back into his old hardness toward
Dorothy, and she prepared her armament, offensive and defensive, for
instant use if need should arise. I again began my machinations, since I
can call my double dealing by no other name. I induced Dorothy to agree to
meet the earl and his son James. Without promising positively to marry
Lord Stanley, she, at my suggestion, led her father to believe she was
ready to yield to his wishes. By this course she gained time and liberty,
and kept peace with her father. Since you have seen the evils that war
brought to Haddon, you well know how desirable peace was. In time of war
all Haddon was a field of carnage and unrest. In time of peace the dear
old Hall was an ideal home. I persuaded Sir George not to insist on a
positive promise from Dorothy, and I advised him to allow her yielding
mood to grow upon her. I assured him evasively that she would eventually
succumb to his paternal authority and love.

What an inherent love we all have for meddling in the affairs of others,
and what a delicious zest we find in faithfully applying our surplus
energies to business that is not strictly our own! I had become a part of
the Sir George-Dorothy-John affair, and I was like the man who caught the
bear: I could not loose my hold.



CHAPTER XIII

PROUD DAYS FOR THE OLD HALL


Of course the queen's approaching visit threw Haddon Hall into a frenzy of
scrubbing and furbishing. Aunt Dorothy was the busiest woman in England.
Floors were newly polished. Draperies were taken down and were carefully
washed with mysterious concoctions warranted to remove dirt without injury
to color. Superfine wax was bought in great boxes, and candles were made
for all the chandeliers and candelabra in the house. Perfumed oil was
purchased for the lamp in the state bedroom. Elizabeth, by the way, when
she came, did not like the odor of the oil, and with an oath tossed both
the oil and the lamp out of the window. The fattest sheep, kine, and hogs
were chosen from the flocks and were brought in to be stall-fed in such
numbers that one might have supposed we were expecting an ogress who could
eat an ox at a meal. Pipers and dancers were engaged, and a merry fool was
brought down from London. At last the eventful day came and with it came
our queen. She brought with her a hundred yeomen of her guard and a score
of ladies and gentlemen. Among the latter was the Earl of Leicester, who
was the queen's prime favorite.

Prior to the queen's announcement of her intention to visit Haddon Sir
George had, with Dorothy's tacit consent, fixed a day upon which the Earl
of Derby and his son, Lord James, should be received at the Hall for the
purpose of signing the marriage contract. Dorothy, of course, had no
intention of signing the contract, but she put off the evil hour of
refusal as far as possible, hoping something might occur in the meantime
to help her out of the dilemma. Something did occur at the last moment. I
am eager to tell you about it, but it must wait its turn. Truly would the
story of this ingenious girl's life make a romance if it were written by a
poet. In her Guinevere and Elaine were moulded into one person with the
tenderness, purity, and fierceness of each.

To postpone further the time of the Stanley visit, Dorothy suggested that
the betrothal should take place in the presence of the queen. Sir George
acquiesced, and in his heart grew less eager for the Stanley match as
Dorothy apparently became more tractable. He was, however, engaged with
the earl to an extent that forbade withdrawal, even had he been sure that
he wished to withdraw.

At the time of which I speak the Earl of Leicester was the most exalted
subject of the realm. He was ardently devoted to the cause of the ladies,
and, although he had fixed his hope on Elizabeth and longed for a seat
beside her on the throne, his inflammable heart was constantly catching
fire from other eyes. He, of course, made desperate efforts to conceal
these manifold conflagrations from the queen, but the inflammable tow of
his heart was always bringing him into trouble with his fiery mistress.

The earl's first glance toward Dorothy was full of admiration. The second
glance was full of conflagration. The second day of the queen's residence
in Haddon I was astonished, grieved, and angered to see that our girl had
turned her powerful batteries upon the earl with the evident purpose of
conquest. At times her long lashes would fall before him, and again her
great luminous eyes would open wide, shedding a soft radiance which no man
could withstand. Once I saw her walking alone with him upon the terrace.
Her head was drooped shamelessly, and the earl was ardent though restless,
being fearful of the queen. I boiled with rage against Dorothy, but by a
strong effort I did not boil over until I had better cause. The better
cause came later.

I failed to tell you of a brief conversation which occurred between Sir
George and me after my cousin first saw the Earl of Leicester. Sir George
had gallantly led the queen to her apartments, and I had conducted
Leicester and several of the gentlemen to their various rooms. Sir George
and I met at the staircase after we had quitted our guests.

He said: "Malcolm, that fellow Thomas whom I knocked in the head looked no
more like Leicester than I do. Why did you tell me there was resemblance?"

"I do not know," I answered. "Perhaps your words suggested the thought of
a resemblance. Perhaps I had lost all memory of Leicester's features. I
cannot answer your question."

Then an expression of anger came to Sir George's face, and he said:--

"I believe Dorothy lied to me when she said that the fellow Thomas was of
noble blood."

The next day a servant reported that Thomas had been seen loitering near
Bowling Green Gate, and Sir George ordered Dorothy not to leave the Hall
without his permission.

Dorothy replied to her father's command, "I shall obey you, father."

To me there was a note of danger in her voice. Such docile submissiveness
was not natural to the girl. Of course all appearance of harshness toward
Dorothy was suppressed by Sir George during the queen's visit to the Hall.
In truth, he had no reason to be harsh, for Dorothy was a meek,
submissive, and obedient daughter. Her meekness, however, as you may well
surmise, was but the forerunner of dire rebellion.

The fourth day of the queen's presence at Haddon Hall was the one
appointed for the visit of the Stanleys, and Sir George thought to make a
great event of the betrothal by having the queen act as a witness to the
marriage contract. As the day approached Sir George became thoughtful,
while Dorothy grew gleeful. The girl was frequently seen with Leicester,
and Sir George could not help noticing that nobleman's pronounced
admiration for his daughter. These exhibitions of gallantry were never
made in the presence of the queen. The morning of the day when the
Stanleys were expected Sir George called me to his room for a private
consultation. The old gentleman was in a state of excitement, not unmixed
with perplexity and trouble.

He said, "I have great and good news to impart to you, Malcolm; yet I am
in a dilemma growing out of it."

"Tell me the good news first, Sir George," I replied. "The dilemma may
wait."

"Is Doll a very beautiful girl?" he asked eagerly.

"I believe she is the most beautiful woman in the world," I answered.

"Good, good," he replied, rubbing his hands. "Is she so fascinating,
brilliant, and attractive, think you--of course I speak in jest--but think
you she might vie with the court ladies for beauty, and think you she
might attract--for the sake of illustration I will say--might she attract
a man like Leicester?"

"Unless I am much mistaken," I answered, "Leicester is over his ears in
love with the girl now."

"Ah, do you believe so, Malcolm?" replied Sir George, laughing and
slapping his thigh, as he walked to and fro across the room. "You have
seen so much of that sort of thing that you should know it when it comes
under your nose. Eh, Malcolm, eh?"

"I should suppose that any one, however inexperienced in such matters,
could easily see Leicester's infatuation for Dorothy. If you wish me to
tell you what I really believe--"

"I do, I do," interrupted Sir George.

"I should say," I continued, "that Dorothy has deliberately gone in for
conquest. Leave the girl to herself, Sir George. She can conduct the
campaign without help from any one. She understands the art of such
warfare as well as if she were a veteran."

"Gad, but she does, but she does. I believe she could give Venus herself
some good points in the matter. But let me tell you, Malcolm,"--the old
man dropped his voice to a whisper,--"I questioned Doll this morning, and
she confessed that Leicester had spoken words of love to her. Would it not
be a great match for our house?"

He said "our house," mind you, not "our Doll." I might call his condition
of mind patrimonial selfishness. Simple old man! He did not know that
words of love are not necessarily words of marriage.

"Has Leicester spoken to you?" I asked in alarm for John's sake.

"No, no, he has not spoken," returned my cousin; "for that, of course, he
must have the queen's consent. But he will speak, I am sure, all in good
time, Malcolm, all in good time."

"How about the Stanleys?" I asked. "They will be here this afternoon."

"That's the devil's finger in the matter," cried Sir George. "That's where
my dilemma lies. How shall I put them off, and still retain them in case
nothing should come from Leicester? Besides, I am in honor bound to the
earl."

"I have a plan," I replied. "You carry out your part of the agreement
with the earl, but let Dorothy, at the last moment, refuse to give her
consent. Let her ask for more time, on the plea that she does not know her
mind. I will suggest to her, if you wish, the part she is to play; but I
will conceal from her the fact that you are a party to it."

"No," said the old man, "that would be bad faith toward the earl." After a
pause he continued doubtingly: "No, do not speak to Doll. I believe she
needs no suggestions in the matter. I fear that mischief is in her mind
already. Her easy acquiescence in my wishes have of late had a suspicious
appearance. No, don't speak to her, Malcolm. If ever there lived a girl
who could be perverse and wilful on her own account, without help from any
one, it is my girl Doll. God bless you, man, if she but knew that I wanted
her to reject Stanley, she would have him in spite of hell itself. I
wonder what she means by her docility and obedience? No, don't speak a
word to her on the subject. Let her believe I am serious regarding this
marriage, and she will have some plan of her own to raise the devil. I
have been expecting signs of it every day. I had determined not to bear
with her perversity, but now that the Leicester possibility has come up
we'll leave Doll to work out her own salvation, Malcolm. Don't interfere.
No man living can teach that girl a new trick in deviltry. Gods, Malcolm!
I am curious to know what she will be doing, for she certainly will be
doing something rather than sign that contract of betrothal."

"But suppose out of obedience to you she should sign the contract?" I
asked.

"Malcolm, you don't know Doll," he replied. Then, after a pause, "Neither
do I. I wish she were well married."

When I left Sir George, I found Dorothy in close consultation with the
queen and two of her ladies. I heard the name of Lord James Stanley spoken
amid suppressed laughter, and I suspected Dorothy had on foot some prank
touching that young man, to which her Majesty was a party.

After dinner the Stanleys came a-wooing. The party consisted of father,
son, and four retainers, who looked as if they had been preserved in
alcohol for the occasion, so red were their faces.

The Earl of Derby was a fine old gentleman of the rural type. His noble
son was an uncouth rustic, who had no thought above a stable boy or tavern
maid, nor any ambition above horse trading. His attire was a wonder to
behold. He wore a ruff of stupendous proportions. His trunks were so
puffed out and preposterous in size that they looked like a great painted
knot on a tree; and the many-colored splendors of his sleeves, his hat,
his hose, and his shoes were dazzling to the eye. Add to this wondrous
raiment feet and hands that could not be satisfactorily disposed of, and
an unrest of manner painful to behold, and you may possibly conceive the
grandiose absurdity of Dorothy's wooer. The sight of him almost made Sir
George ill; and his entrance into the long gallery, where the queen was
seated with her ladies and gentlemen, and Sir George and his friends
standing about her, was a signal for laughter in which her Majesty openly
joined.

I shall not lead you through the tedious ceremony of presentation and
introduction, nor shall I tell you of the pompous manner in which one of
the earl's retinue, a lawyer, read the marriage contract. The fact that
the contract was read without the presence of Dorothy, whom it so nearly
concerned, was significant of the small consideration which at that time
was given to a girl's consent. When all was ready for the signing, Dorothy
was summoned.

Sir George stood beside the Stanleys, and his nervousness was painfully
apparent. Two servants opened the great doors at the end of the long
gallery, and Dorothy, holding up the skirt of her gown, bounded into the
room. She kneeled to the queen, and turned toward her uncle Stanley and
her lover-cousin with a low bow. Then she courtesied and said--

"Good even, uncle, and how do you do, cousin. Have you come to inspect me,
and, perchance, to buy?"

Sir George's face bore an expression of mingled shame, wonder, and alarm,
and the queen and her suite laughed behind their fans.

"It is well," continued Dorothy. "Here am I, ready for inspection."
Thereupon she began to disrobe herself before the entire company.
Leicester laughed outright, and the queen and her ladies suppressed their
merriment for a moment, and then sent forth peals of laughter without
restraint. Sir George stepped toward the girl and raised his hand
warningly, but the queen interposed:--

"Silence, Sir George, I command you;" and Sir George retreated to his
former place beside the Earl of Derby. Dorothy first removed her bodice,
showing her shoulders and a part of her arms, clothed in the fashion of a
tavern maid.

Leicester, who stood by me, whispered, "God never made anything more
beautiful than Mistress Vernon's arms."

Sir George again spoke angrily, "Doll, what are you doing?" But the queen
by a wave of her hand commanded silence. Then the girl put her hands
behind her, and loosened the belt which held her skirt in place. The skirt
fell to the floor, and out of it bounded Dorothy in the short gown of a
maid.

"You will be better able to judge of me in this costume, cousin," said
Dorothy. "It will be more familiar to you than the gowns which ladies
wear."

"I will retract," said Leicester, whispering to me, and gazing ardently
at Dorothy's ankles. "God has made something more beautiful than Mistress
Vernon's arms. By Venus! I suppose that in His omnipotence He might be
able to create something more beautiful than her ankles, but up to this
time He has not vouchsafed to me a vision of it. Ah! did any one ever
behold such strength, such perfect symmetry, such--St. George! the gypsy
doesn't live who can dance like that."

Sure enough, Dorothy was dancing. The pipers in the balcony had burst
forth in a ribald jig of a tune, and the girl was whirling in a wild,
weird, and wondrous dance before her lover-cousin. Sir George ordered the
pipers to cease playing; but again Elizabeth, who was filled with mirth,
interrupted, and the music pealed forth in wanton volumes which flooded
the gallery. Dorothy danced like an elfin gypsy to the inspiring strains.
Soon her dance changed to wondrous imitations of the movements of a horse.
She walked sedately around in an ever increasing circle; she trotted and
paced; she gave the single foot and racked; she galloped, slowly for a
while, and then the gallop merged into a furious run which sent the blood
of her audience thrilling through their veins with delight. The wondrous
ease and grace, and the marvellous strength and quickness of her
movements, cannot be described. I had never before thought the human body
capable of such grace and agility as she displayed.

After her dance was finished she stepped in front of her cousin and
delivered herself as follows:--

"I am sound from ear tip to fetlock. There is not a blemish in me."

"No, by my faith, I will swear there is not!" cried the Earl of Leicester.

"I have good wind," continued Dorothy, "two good eyes. By night or by day
I can see everything within the range of my vision, and a great deal that
is not. I shy, at times, when an uncouth object suddenly comes upon me. I
am warranted gentle if properly handled, but otherwise it is unsafe to
curry my heels."

Sir George could no longer restrain himself, and again tried to prevent
Dorothy from proceeding with her terrible insult to the Stanleys. The
queen, however, was determined to see the end of the frolic, and she
said:--

"Proceed, Mistress Vernon, proceed."

Dorothy, nothing loath, continued: "As for my disposition, it might be
better. It probably will improve with age, if it doesn't grow worse. I
have all the gaits a horse should have. I am four years old, I have never
been trained to work double, and I think I never shall be. What think you?
Now what have you to offer in exchange? Step out and let me see you move."

She took the poor youth by the hand and led him to the middle of the
floor.

"How old are you? Show me your teeth," she said. The heir to Derby smiled
uneasily, and drew his hand across his nose.

"Ah, you have a touch of the distemper, I see. Are you subject to it?"

Stanley smiled, and the earl said:--

"Sir George, this insult has gone far enough."

"Stand back, my Lord Derby," said the queen. "Do not interfere with this
interesting barter."

The earl reluctantly lapsed into silence. He remembered the insult of her
Majesty's words all his life.

"Now step off," said Dorothy to Lord James.

The young man stood in helpless confusion. Dorothy took a step backward
from him, and after watching Stanley a moment said:--

"What! You can neither trot, pace, nor gallop? I don't believe you can
even walk alone." Then she turned toward Sir George. A smile was on her
lips, but a look from hell was in her eyes as she said:--

"Father, take a lesson from this day. I gave you fair warning. Bring me no
more scurvy cobs for barter nor trade." Then she turned to the Earl of
Derby and to her cousin Lord James, made a deep courtesy, and said:--

"You can have no barter with me. Good day."

She ran from the room, and a great peal of laughter from all save Sir
George and the Stanleys followed her as she passed out through the double
door. When the laughter had subsided, the Earl of Derby turned to Sir
George and said:--

"Sir George, this insult is unbearable, and I shall expect satisfaction
for it." Then he turned to the queen: "I beg that your Majesty will give
me leave to depart with my son."

"Granted," answered Elizabeth, and father and son started to leave the
room, moving backward toward the great doors. Sir George asked the earl
and Lord Stanley to remain, and in the presence of the company who had
witnessed the insult, he in the humblest manner made abject apology for
the treatment his distinguished guests had received at the hands of his
daughter. He very honestly and in all truth disclaimed any sympathy with
Dorothy's conduct, and offered, as the only reparation he could make, to
punish her in some way befitting the offence. Then he conducted the guests
to the mounting block near the entrance tower and saw them depart. Dorothy
had solved her father's dilemma with a vengeance.

Sir George was not sure that he wanted to be angry at Dorothy, though he
felt it was a duty he owed to himself and to the Stanleys. He had wished
that the girl would in some manner defer the signing of the contract, but
he had not wanted her to refuse young Stanley's hand in a manner so
insulting that the match would be broken off altogether.

As the day progressed, and as Sir George pondered over Dorothy's conduct,
he grew more inclined to anger; but during the afternoon she kept well
under the queen's wing, and he found no opportunity to give vent to his
ill-temper.

Late that night he called me to his room. He had been drinking during the
evening and was poised between good-humored hilarity and ill-tempered
ferocity. The latter condition was usually the result of his libations.
When I entered the room it was evident he was amused.

"Did you ever hear or see such brazen effrontery?" he asked, referring to
Dorothy's treatment of the Stanleys. "Is there another girl on earth who
would have conceived the absurd thought, or, having conceived it, would
have dared to carry it out?"

I took a chair and replied, "I think there is not another."

"I hope not," continued Sir George. He sat in thought for a moment, and
then broke forth into a great laugh. When he had finished laughing he
said: "I admit it was laughable and--and pretty--beautiful. Damme, I
didn't know the girl could do it, Malcolm! I didn't know she had it in
her. There is not another girl living could have carried the frolic
through." Then he spoke seriously, "But I will make her smart for it when
the queen leaves Haddon."

"Sir George, if you will allow me to suggest what I feel on the subject, I
would say that you have no reason whatever for desiring to make Dorothy
smart. She may have deeper designs than we can see."

"What designs do you suppose she can have? Tell me, Malcolm," asked Sir
George.

I remained silent for a moment, hardly knowing how to express my thought.
"Certainly she could not have appeared to a better advantage than in her
tavern maid's costume," I said.

"That is true," answered Sir George. "Though she is my own daughter, I
must admit that I have never seen any woman so beautiful as she." The old
gentleman laughed softly for a moment and said: "But wasn't it brazen?
Wasn't it shameless? I have always given the girl credit for modesty,
but--damme, damme--"

"Her beauty in the tavern maid's costume fired Leicester's heart as
nothing else could have done," I said. "He stood by my side, and was in
raptures over her charms."

Sir George mused a moment and said something about the "Leicester
possibility," which I knew to be an impossibility, and before I left him
he had determined to allow the matter to drop for the present. "I am
making a damned pretty mess of the whole affair, I fear, Malcolm," he
said.

"You don't seem to be clearing it up, Sir George," I responded.

After talking over some arrangements for the queen's entertainment, I said
good night, and left my cousin brooding over as complicated a problem as
man ever tried to solve.

The next morning I told Dorothy how her father felt with respect to the
"Leicester possibility." She laughed and said:--

"I will encourage father in that matter, and," with a saucy twinkle in her
eye, "incidentally I will not discourage my proud lord of Leicester. I
will make the most of the situation, fear not, Malcolm."

"I do not fear," said I, emphatically.

There it was: the full-blown spirit of conquest, strong even in a
love-full heart. God breathed into Adam the breath of life; but into Eve
he breathed the love of conquest, and it has been growing stronger in the
hearts of her daughters with each recurring generation.

"How about John?" I asked.

"Oh, John?" she answered, throwing her head contemplatively to one side.
"He is amply able to protect his own interests. I could not be really
untrue to him if I wished to be. It is I who am troubled on the score of
infidelity. John will be with the most beautiful queen--" She broke off in
the midst of her sentence, and her face became clouded with an expression
of anger and hatred. "God curse her! I wish she were dead, dead, dead.
There! you know how I feel toward your English-French-Scottish beauty.
Curse the mongrel--" She halted before the ugly word she was about to use;
but her eyes were like glowing embers, and her cheeks were flushed by the
heat of anger.

"Did you not promise me, Dorothy, that you would not again allow yourself
to become jealous of Queen Mary?" I asked.

"Yes, I promised, but I cannot prevent the jealousy, and I do not intend
to try. I hate her, and I love to hate her."

"Why should you hate her?" I asked. "If John remains true to you, there is
certainly no cause for you to hate any one. If he should be untrue to you,
you should hate him."

"Hate him?" she exclaimed. "That, indeed, is pretty reasoning. If he
should be untrue to me, I should of course hate her. I could not hate him.
I did not make myself love him. I would never have been so great a fool as
to bring that pain upon myself intentionally. I suppose no girl would
deliberately make herself love a man and bring into her heart so great an
agony. I feel toward John as I do, because I must; and I hate your
Scottish mongrel because I must. I tell you, Malcolm, when she comes to
Rutland, if I hear of her trying any of her wanton tricks on John there
will be trouble--mark my words!"

"I ask you to promise me this, Dorothy: that you will do nothing
concerning John and Queen Mary without first speaking to me."

She paced across the room angrily. "I promise you nothing, Malcolm, save
that I shall not allow that woman to come between John and me. That I
promise you, on my oath."

Dorothy continued to shed her luminous smiles on Leicester, though she was
careful not to shine in the queen's presence. My lord was dazzled by the
smiles, and continually sought opportunities to bask in their dangerous
light. As a result of this smiling and basking the great London
heart-breaker was soon helplessly caught in the toils of Doll, the country
maiden. She played him as an angler plays a trout. The most experienced
court coquette could not have done the part better than did this girl,
whose knowledge of the subject was wholly intuitive, for her life had all
been spent amid the green hills and groves of Derbyshire. She so managed
the affair that her father should see enough of Leicester's preference to
keep alive in Sir George's mind the hope for the "Leicester possibility."
Those words had become with her a phrase slyly to play upon.

One afternoon when the sun was graciously warm and bright, I induced Madge
to walk with me upon the terrace, that I might for a few moments feel the
touch of her hand and hear her whispered words. We took a seat by a large
holly bush, which effectually concealed us from view. We had been there
but a few moments when we heard footsteps approaching. Looking between the
branches of the holly bush I saw Dorothy and Leicester coming toward us
from the north end of the terrace. Dorothy's eyes were cast down demurely,
and her head hung in the attitude of a shy, modest girl, who listens
timidly to words that are music in her ears. Never have I seen an attitude
more indicative of the receptive mood than that which Dorothy assumed
toward Leicester.

"Ah," thought I, "poor John has given his heart and has risked his life
for the sake of Doll, and Doll is a miserable coquette."

But there was conduct still more objectionable to come from Dorothy.

Unconscious of our presence, Leicester said, "My fair beauty, my Venus,
here is a settle under this holly bush, well hidden from prying eyes. It
invites us. Will you sit here with me for one happy moment, and give me a
taste of Paradise?"

"I fear I should not sit with you, my lord, however much I--may--may wish
to do so. My father or the queen might observe us." The black lashes fell
upon the fair cheek, and the red golden head with its crown of glory hung
forward convincingly.

"You false jade," thought I.

"I ask for but one moment," pleaded Leicester. "The queen sleeps at this
time after dinner, and perhaps your father would not object if you were to
grant this little favor to the first nobleman of the realm."

"You do not know my father, my lord. He is very strict regarding my
conduct," murmured the drooping head.

"I ask for but one little moment," continued the earl, "in which to tell
you that you have filled my heart with adoration and love."

"I should not listen to you, my lord. Were I mindful of my happiness, I
should return to the Hall at once," said the drooping lashes and hanging
head.

"You lying wench," thought I. By that time I was thoroughly angered.

"Only one little moment on the settle," pleaded Leicester, "that I may
speak to you that which I wish so ardently to say."

"Can you not speak while we walk, my lord?" asked Dorothy.

I felt a bitter desire to curse the girl.

"It is difficult for me to speak while we walk," said Leicester,
cautiously taking the girl's hand; so she permitted him to lead her to the
settle under the holly bush, on the opposite side of which Madge and I
were sitting.

The earl retained the hand for a moment after he and Dorothy were seated,
but she gently drew it away and moved a little distance from his Lordship.
Still, her eyes were drooped, her head hung low, and her bosom actually
heaved as if with emotion.

"I will tell John of your shamelessness," I said to myself. "He shall feel
no more heartaches for you--you wanton huzzy."

Then Leicester poured forth his passion most eloquently. Poesy, verse, and
rhetoric all came to help him in his wooing. Now and then the girl would
respond to his ardor with "Please, my lord," or "I pray you, my lord," and
when he would try to take her hand she would say, "I beg you, my lord, do
not." But Leicester evidently thought that the "do not" meant "do," for
soon he began to steal his arm about her waist, and she was so slow in
stopping him that I thought she was going to submit. She, however, arose
gently to her feet and said:--

"My lord, I must return to the Hall. I may not longer remain here with
you."

The earl caught her hand and endeavored to kiss it, but she adroitly
prevented him, and stepping out into the path, started slowly toward the
Hall. She turned her head slightly toward Leicester in a mute but eloquent
invitation, and he quickly followed her.

I watched the pair walk up the terrace. They descended the steps to the
garden, and from thence they entered the Hall by way of the porch.

"Was it not very wicked in Dorothy to listen to such words from
Leicester?" asked Madge. "I do not at all understand her."

Madge, of course, knew only a part of what had happened, and a very small
part at that, for she had not seen Dorothy. Madge and I returned to the
Hall, and we went at once to Dorothy's room, hoping to see her, and
intending to tell her our opinion of the shameless manner in which she had
acted.

Dorothy was in her room alone when we entered. She clapped her hands, ran
to the door, bolted it, and bounded back toward us.

"I have the greatest news to tell you," she cried laughingly,--"the
greatest news and the greatest sport of which you ever heard. My lord
Leicester is in love with me."

"Indeed, that is very fine," I responded; but my irony met its usual fate.
She did not see it.

"Yes," continued Dorothy, brimming over with mirth, "you should have heard
him pleading with me a few moments since upon the terrace."

"We did hear him," said Madge.

"You heard him? Where? How?" Her eyes were wide with wonder.

"We were on the opposite side of the holly bush from you," I answered. "We
heard him and we saw you."

"Did you? Good. I am glad of it," said Dorothy.

"Yes, we saw and we heard all, and we think that your conduct was
shameless," I responded severely.

"Shameless?" demanded Dorothy. "Now pray tell me what I did or said that
was shameless.".

I was at a loss to define the wrong in her conduct, for it had been of an
intangible quality which in itself was nothing, but notwithstanding meant
a great deal.

"You permitted him to hold your hand," I said, trying to fix on something
real with which to accuse her.

"I did nothing of the sort," said Dorothy, laughingly. "He caught my hand
several times, but I withdrew it from him"

I knew she spoke the truth regarding her hand, so I tried again.

"You--you hung your head and kept your eyes cast down, and you looked--"

"Oh, I hung my head, I cast down my eyes, and I looked?" she answered,
laughing heartily. "Pray let me ask you, Master Fault-finder, for what use
else are heads and eyes made?"

I was not prepared to say that the uses to which Dorothy had put her head
and eyes were not some of the purposes for which they were created. They
are good purposes, too, I admit, although I would not have conceded as
much to Dorothy. I knew the girl would soon wheedle me into her way of
thinking, so I took a bold stand and said:--

"It is my intention to tell John about your conduct with Leicester, and I
shall learn for what purpose he thinks eyes and heads are created."

"Tell John?" cried Dorothy. "Of course you may tell John. He well knows
the purposes of heads and eyes, and their proper uses. He has told me many
times his opinion on the subject." She laughed for a moment, and then
continued: "I, too, shall tell John all that happened or shall happen
between Lord Leicester and me. I wish I could tell him now. How I wish I
could tell him now." A soft light came to her eyes, and she repeated
huskily: "If I might tell him now; if I might tell him now. Why, Malcolm,
I despise Leicester. He is a poor, weak fool. He has no more force nor
strength than I have. He is not a man. He is no more attractive than a
woman. He wanted to kiss me. He begged me to give him but one. It is but a
poor kiss which a man gets by begging. Think you I would give him one? Had
he but touched my lips, think you I would ever allow John to soil himself
again by kissing them? Fear not, Malcolm. Fear not for John nor for me.
No man will ever receive from me a favor, the granting of which would make
me unfit to be John's--John's wife. I have paid too dearly for him to
throw him away for a penny whistle that I do not want." Then she grew
earnest, with a touch of anger: "Leicester! What reason, suppose you,
Malcolm, have I for treating him as I do? Think you I act from sheer
wantonness? If there were one little spot of that fault upon my soul, I
would tear myself from John, though I should die for it."

Her laughing mood had passed away, and I feared to say that I could see no
reason other than coquetry for her conduct, I feared the red-haired
tigress would scratch my eyes out.

"I have wanted to see you," she continued, "that I might tell you of my
plans and of the way they are working out, but now since you have spoken
to me in this manner, Sir Malcolm François de Lorraine Vernon, I shall
tell you nothing. You suspect me. Therefore, you shall wait with the rest
of the world to learn my purposes. You may tell John all you have seen and
heard. I care not how quickly you do it." Then with a sigh: "I pray God it
may be very soon. He will wish for no explanation, and he shall one day
have in me a rich reward for his faith."

"Do you trust him as he trusts you?" I asked, "and would you demand an
explanation were he to act toward Mary Stuart as you have acted toward
Leicester?"

"He could not act toward her as I did toward Lord Leicester," she said
thoughtfully. Then after a moment she laughingly continued: "John
can't--he can't hang his head and--droop his eyes and look."

"But if--" I began.

"I want no more of your hellish 'ifs,'" cried the girl in sudden fury. "If
John were to--to look at that Scottish mongrel as I looked at Leicester, I
would--I would kill the royal wanton. I would kill her if it cost my
life. Now, for God's sake, leave me. You see the state into which you
have wrought me." I left Madge with Dorothy and walked out upon Bowling
Green to ponder on the events that were passing before me.

From the time we learned that John had gone to fetch the Scottish queen I
had fears lest Dorothy's inflammable jealousy might cause trouble, and now
those fears were rapidly transforming themselves into a feeling of
certainty. There is nothing in life so sweet and so dangerous as the love
of a hot-blooded woman.

I soon saw Dorothy again. "Tell me," said I, in conciliation, "tell me,
please, what is your reason for acting as you do toward Leicester, and why
should you look differently upon similar conduct on John's part?"

"I will not tell you my plans," she responded,--"not now, at least.
Perhaps I shall do so when I have recovered from my ill-temper. It is hard
for me to give my reasons for feeling differently about like conduct on
John's part. Perhaps I feel as I do because--because--It is this way:
While I might do little things--mere nothings--such as I have done--it
would be impossible for me to do any act of unfaithfulness to John. Oh, it
could not be. But with him, he--he--well, he is a man and--and--oh, don't
talk to me! Don't talk to me! You are driving me mad. Out of my sight! Out
of my room! Holy Virgin! I shall die before I have him; I know I shall."

There it was again. The thought of Mary Stuart drove her wild. Dorothy
threw herself on her face upon the bed, and Madge went over and sat by her
side to soothe her. I, with a feeling of guilt, so adroit had been
Dorothy's defence, left the girls and went to my room in the tower to
unravel, by the help of my pipe, the tangled web of woman's
incomprehensibility. I failed, as many another man had failed before me,
and as men will continue to fail to the end of time.



CHAPTER XIV

MARY STUART


And now I come to an event in this history which I find difficult to place
before you in its true light. For Dorothy's sake I wish I might omit it
altogether. But in true justice to her and for the purpose of making you
see clearly the enormity of her fault and the palliating excuses therefor,
if any there were, I shall pause briefly to show the condition of affairs
at the time of which I am about to write--a time when Dorothy's madness
brought us to the most terrible straits and plunged us into deepest
tribulations.

Although I have been unable to show you as much of John as I have wished
you to see, you nevertheless must know that he, whose nature was not like
the shallow brook but was rather of the quality of a deep, slow-moving
river, had caught from Dorothy an infection of love from which he would
never recover. His soul was steeped in the delicious essence of the girl.
I would also call your attention to the conditions under which his passion
for Dorothy had arisen. It is true he received the shaft when first he saw
her at the Royal Arms in Derby-town, but the shaft had come from Dorothy's
eyes. Afterward she certainly had done her full part in the wooing. It was
for her sake, after she had drawn him on to love her, that he became a
servant in Haddon Hall. For her sake he faced death at the hands of her
father. And it was through her mad fault that the evil came upon him of
which I shall now tell you. That she paid for her fault in suffering does
not excuse her, since pain is but the latter half of evil.

During the term of Elizabeth's residence in Haddon Hall John returned to
Rutland with Queen Mary Stuart, whose escape from Lochleven had excited
all England. The country was full of rumors that Mary was coming to
England not so much for sanctuary as to be on the ground ready to accept
the English crown when her opportunity to do so should occur. The
Catholics, a large and powerful party, flushed with their triumphs under
the "Bloody Queen," were believed to sympathize with Mary's cause.
Although Elizabeth said little on the subject, she felt deeply, and she
feared trouble should the Scottish queen enter her dominion. Another cause
of annoyance to Elizabeth was the memory that Leicester had once been
deeply impressed with Mary's charms, and had sought her hand in marriage.
Elizabeth's prohibition alone had prevented the match. That thought
rankled in Elizabeth's heart, and she hated Mary, although her hatred, as
in all other cases, was tempered with justice and mercy. This great queen
had the brain of a man with its motives, and the heart of a woman with its
emotions.

When news of Mary's escape reached London, Cecil came in great haste to
Haddon. During a consultation with Elizabeth he advised her to seize Mary,
should she enter England, and to check the plots made in Mary's behalf by
executing the principal friends of the Scottish queen. He insistently
demanded that Elizabeth should keep Mary under lock and key, should she be
so fortunate as to obtain possession of her person, and that the men who
were instrumental in bringing her into England should be arraigned for
high treason.

John certainly had been instrumental in bringing her into England, and if
Cecil's advice were taken by the queen, John's head would pay the forfeit
for his chivalric help to Mary.

Elizabeth was loath to act on this advice, but Cecil worked upon her fears
and jealousies until her mind and her heart were in accord, and she gave
secret orders that his advice should be carried out. Troops were sent to
the Scottish border to watch for the coming of the fugitive queen. But
Mary was already ensconced, safely, as she thought, in Rutland Castle
under the assumed name of Lady Blanche. Her presence at Rutland was, of
course, guarded as a great secret.

Dorothy's mind dwelt frequently upon the fact that John and the beautiful
young Scottish queen lived under the same roof, for John had written to
Dorothy immediately after his return. Nothing so propagates itself as
jealousy. There were in Haddon Hall two hearts in which this
self-propagating process was rapidly progressing--Elizabeth's and
Dorothy's. Each had for the cause of her jealousy the same woman.

One night, soon after Cecil had obtained from Elizabeth the order for
Mary's arrest, Dorothy, on retiring to her room at a late hour found
Jennie Faxton waiting for her with a precious letter from John. Dorothy
drank in the tenderness of John's letter as the thirsty earth absorbs the
rain; but her joy was neutralized by frequent references to the woman who
she feared might become her rival. One-half of what she feared, she was
sure had been accomplished: that is, Mary's half. She knew in her heart
that the young queen would certainly grow fond of John. That was a
foregone conclusion. No woman could be with him and escape that fate,
thought Dorothy. Her hope as to the other half-John's part-rested solely
upon her faith in John, which was really great, and her confidence in her
own charms and in her own power to hold him, which in truth, and with good
reason, was not small, Dorothy went to bed, and Jennie, following her
usual custom, when at Haddon, lay upon the floor in the same room. John's
letter, with all its tenderness, had thrown Dorothy into an inquisitive
frame of mind. After an hour or two of restless tossing upon the bed she
fell asleep, but soon after midnight she awakened, and in her drowsy
condition the devil himself played upon the strings of her dream-charged
imagination. After a time she sprang from the bed, lighted a candle at the
rush light, and read John's letter in a tremor of dream-wrought fear. Then
she aroused Jennie Faxton and asked:--

"When were you at Rutland?"

"I spent yesterday and to-day there, mistress," answered Jennie.

"Did you see a strange lady?" asked Dorothy.

"Oh, yes, mistress, I did see her three or four times," answered Jennie.
"Lady Blanche is her name, and she be a cousin of Sir John's. She do come,
they say, from France, and do speak only in the tongue of that country."

"I--I suppose that this--this Lady Blanche and--and Sir John are very good
friends? Did you--did you--often see them together?" asked Dorothy. She
felt guilty in questioning Jennie for the purpose of spying upon her
lover. She knew that John would not pry into her conduct.

"Indeed, yes, mistress," returned Jennie, who admired John greatly from
her lowly sphere, and who for her own sake as well as Dorothy's was
jealous of Queen Mary. "They do walk together a great deal on the
ramparts, and the white snaky lady do look up into Sir John's face like
this"--here Jennie assumed a lovelorn expression. "And--and once,
mistress, I thought--I thought--"

"Yes, yes, Jesu!" hissed Dorothy, clutching Jennie by the arm, "you
thought, you thought. Tell me! Tell me! What in hell's name did you think?
Speak quickly, wench."

"I be not sure, mistress, but I thought I saw his arm about her waist one
evening on the ramparts. It was dark, and for sure I could not tell,
but--"

"God's curse upon the white huzzy!" screamed Dorothy. "God's curse upon
her! She is stealing him from me, and I am helpless."

She clasped her hands over the top of her head and ran to and fro across
the room uttering inarticulate cries of agony. Then she sat upon the
bedside and threw herself into Madge's arms, crying under her breath: "My
God! My God! Think of it, Madge. I have given him my heart, my soul, O
merciful God, my love--all that I have worth giving, and now comes this
white wretch, and because she is a queen and was sired in hell she tries
to steal him from me and coaxes him to put his arm around her waist."

"Don't feel that way about it, Dorothy," said Madge, soothingly. "I know
Sir John can explain it all to you when you see him. He is true to you, I
am sure."

"True to me, Madge! How can he be true to me if she coaxes him to woo her
and if he puts his arm--I am losing him; I know it. I--I--O God, Madge, I
am smothering; I am strangling! Holy Virgin! I believe I am about to die."
She threw herself upon the bed by Madge's side, clutching her throat and
breast, and her grand woman's form tossed and struggled as if she were in
convulsions.

"Holy mother!" she cried, "take this frightful agony from my breast.
Snatch this terrible love from my heart. God! If you have pity, give it
now. Help me! Help me! Ah, how deeply I love. I never loved him so much as
I do at this awful moment. Save me from doing that which is in my heart.
If I could have him for only one little portion of a minute. But that is
denied me whose right it is, and is given to her who has no right. Ah,
God is not just. If he were he would strike her dead. I hate her and I
hate--hate him."

She arose to a sitting posture on the edge of the bed and held out her
arms toward Madge.

"Madge," she continued, frenzied by the thought, "his arm was around her
waist. That was early in the evening. Holy Virgin! What may be happening
now?"

Dorothy sprang from the bed and staggered about the room with her hands
upon her throbbing temples.

"I cannot bear this agony. God give me strength." Soon she began to gasp
for breath. "I can--see--them now--together, together. I hate her; I hate
him. My love has turned bitter. What can I do? What can I do? I will do
it. I will. I will disturb their sweet rest. If I cannot have him, she
shall not. I'll tell the queen, I'll tell the queen."

Dorothy acted on her resolution the moment it was taken, and at once began
to unbolt the door.

"Stay, Dorothy, stay!" cried Madge. "Think on what you are about to do. It
will cost John his life. Come to me for one moment, Dorothy, I pray you."
Madge arose from the bed and began groping her way toward Dorothy, who was
unbolting the door.

Madge could have calmed the tempest-tossed sea as easily as she could have
induced Dorothy to pause in her mad frenzy. Jennie Faxton, almost
paralyzed by fear of the storm she had raised, stood in the corner of the
room trembling and speechless. Dorothy was out of the room before poor
blind Madge could reach her. The frenzied girl was dressed only in her
night robes and her glorious hair hung dishevelled down to her waist. She
ran through the rooms of Lady Crawford and those occupied by her father
and the retainers. Then she sped down the long gallery and up the steps to
Elizabeth's apartment.

She knocked violently at the queen's door.

"Who comes?" demanded one of her Majesty's ladies.

"I, Dorothy," was the response. "I wish to speak to her Majesty at once
upon a matter of great importance to her."

Elizabeth ordered her ladies to admit Dorothy, and the girl ran to the
queen, who had half arisen in her bed.

"You must have affairs of great moment, indeed," cried Elizabeth, testily,
"if they induce you to disturb me in this manner."

"Of great moment, indeed, your Majesty," replied Dorothy, endeavoring to
be calm, "of moment to you and to me. Mary Stuart is in England at this
instant trying to steal your crown and my lover. She is now sleeping
within five leagues of this place. God only knows what she is doing. Let
us waste no time, your Majesty."

The girl was growing wilder every second.

"Let us go--you and I--and seize this wanton creature. You to save your
crown; I to save my lover and--my life."

"Where is she?" demanded Elizabeth, sharply. "Cease prattling about your
lover. She would steal both my lover and my crown if she could. Where is
she?"

"She is at Rutland Castle, your Majesty," answered Dorothy.

"Ah, the Duke of Rutland and his son John," said Elizabeth. "I have been
warned of them. Send for my Lord Cecil and Sir William St. Loe."

Sir William was in command of the yeoman guards.

"Is Sir John Manners your lover?" asked Elizabeth, turning to Dorothy.

"Yes," answered the girl.

"You may soon seek another," replied the queen, significantly.

Her Majesty's words seemed to awaken Dorothy from her stupor of frenzy,
and she foresaw the result of her act. Then came upon her a reaction worse
than death.

"You may depart," said the queen to Dorothy, and the girl went back to
her room hardly conscious that she was moving.

At times we cannot help feeling that love came to the human breast through
a drop of venom shot from the serpent's tongue into the heart of Eve.
Again we believe it to be a spark from God's own soul. Who will solve me
this riddle?

Soon the hard, cold ringing of arms, and the tramp of mailed feet
resounded through Haddon Hall, and the doom-like din reached Dorothy's
room in the tones of a clanging knell. There seemed to be a frightful
rhythm in the chaos of sounds which repeated over and over again the
words: "John will die, John will die," though the full import of her act
and its results did nor for a little time entirely penetrate her
consciousness. She remembered the queen's words, "You may soon seek
another." Elizabeth plainly meant that John was a traitor, and that John
would die for his treason. The clanking words, "John will die, John will
die," bore upon the girl's ears in ever increasing volume until the agony
she suffered deadened her power to think. She wandered aimlessly about the
room, trying to collect her senses, but her mind was a blank. After a few
minutes she ran back to the queen, having an undefined purpose of doing
something to avert the consequences of her mad act. She at first thought
to tell the queen that the Information she had given concerning Mary
Stuart's presence in Rutland was false, but she well knew that a lie
seldom succeeds; and in this case, even through her clouded mentality, she
could see that a lie would surely fail. She determined to beg the queen to
spare John's life. She did not know exactly what she would do, but she
hoped by the time she should reach the queen's room to hit upon some plan
that would save him. When she knocked at Elizabeth's door it was locked
against her. Her Majesty was in consultation with Cecil, Sir William St.
Loe, and a few other gentlemen, among whom was Sir George Vernon.

Dorothy well knew there was no help for John if her father were of the
queen's council. She insisted upon seeing the queen, but was rudely
repulsed. By the time she again reached her room full consciousness had
returned, and agony such as she had never before dreamed of overwhelmed
her soul. Many of us have felt the same sort of pain when awakened
suddenly to the fact that words we have spoken easily may not, by our
utmost efforts, be recalled, though we would gladly give our life itself
to have them back. If suffering can atone for sin, Dorothy bought her
indulgence within one hour after sinning. But suffering cannot atone for
sin; it is only a part of it--the result.

"Arise, Madge, and dress," said Dorothy, gently. "I have made a terrible
mistake. I have committed a frightful crime. I have betrayed John to
death. Ah, help me, Madge, if you can. Pray God to help me. He will listen
to you. I fear to pray to Him. He would turn my prayers to curses. I am
lost." She fell for a moment upon the bed and placed her head on Madge's
breast murmuring, "If I could but die."

"All may turn out better than it now appears," said Madge. "Quiet yourself
and let us consider what may be done to arrest the evil of your--your
act."

"Nothing can be done, nothing," wailed Dorothy, as she arose from the bed
and began to dress. "Please arise, Madge, and dress yourself. Here are
your garments and your gown."

They hastily dressed without speaking, and Dorothy began again to pace the
floor.

"He will die hating me," said Dorothy. "If he could live I willingly would
give him to the--the Scottish woman. Then I could die and my suffering
would cease. I must have been mad when I went to the queen. He trusted me
with his honor and his life, and I, traitress that I am, have betrayed
both. Ah, well, when he dies I also shall die. There is comfort at least
in that thought. How helpless I am."

She could not weep. It seemed as if there were not a tear in her. All was
hard, dry, burning agony. She again fell upon the bed and moaned piteously
for a little time, wringing her hands and uttering frantic ejaculatory
prayers for help.

"My mind seems to have forsaken me," she said hoarsely to Madge. "I cannot
think. What noise is that?"

She paused and listened for a moment. Then she went to the north window
and opened the casement.

"The yeoman guards from Bakewell are coming," she said. "I recognize them
by the light of their flambeaux. They are entering the gate at the
dove-cote."

A part of the queen's guard had been quartered in the village of Bakewell.

Dorothy stood at the window for a moment and said: "The other guards are
here under our window and are ready to march to Rutland. There is Lord
Cecil, and Sir William St. Loe, and Malcolm, and there is my father. Now
they are off to meet the other yeomen at the dove-cote. The stable boys
are lighting their torches and flambeaux. They are going to murder John,
and I have sent them."

Dorothy covered her face with her hands and slowly walked to and fro
across the room.

"Call Malcolm," said Madge. "Perhaps he can help us. Lead me to the
window, Dorothy, and I will call him." Dorothy led Madge to the window,
and above the din of arms I heard her soft voice calling, "Malcolm,
Malcolm."

The order to march had been given before Madge called, but I sought Sir
William and told him I would return to the Hall to get another sword and
would soon overtake him on the road to Rutland.

I then hastened to Dorothy's room. I was ignorant of the means whereby
Elizabeth had learned of Mary's presence at Rutland. The queen had told no
one how the information reached her. The fact that Mary was in England was
all sufficient for Cecil, and he proceeded to execute the order Elizabeth
had given for Mary's arrest, without asking or desiring any explanation.
I, of course, was in great distress for John's sake, since I knew that he
would be attainted of treason. I had sought in vain some plan whereby I
might help him, but found none. I, myself, being a Scottish refugee,
occupied no safe position, and my slightest act toward helping John or
Mary would be construed against me.

When I entered Dorothy's room, she ran to me and said: "Can you help me,
Malcolm? Can you help me save him from this terrible evil which I have
brought upon him?"

"How did you bring the evil upon him?" I asked, in astonishment. "It was
not your fault that he brought Mary Stuart to--"

"No, no," she answered; "but I told the queen she was at Rutland."

"You told the queen?" I exclaimed, unwilling to believe my ears. "You
told--How--why--why did you tell her?"

"I do not know why I told her," she replied. "I was mad with--with
jealousy. You warned me against it, but I did not heed you. Jennie Faxton
told me that she saw John and--but all that does not matter now. I will
tell you hereafter if I live. What we must now do is to save him--to save
him if we can. Try to devise some plan. Think--think, Malcolm."

My first thought was to ride to Rutland Castle and give the alarm. Sir
George would lead the yeomen thither by the shortest route--the road by
way of Rowsley. There was another route leading up the Lathkil through the
dale, and thence by a road turning southward to Rutland. That road was
longer by a league than the one Sir George would take, but I could put my
horse to his greatest speed, and I might be able to reach the castle in
time to enable John and Mary to escape. I considered the question a
moment. My own life certainly would pay the forfeit in case of failure;
but my love for John and, I confess it with shame, the memory of my old
tenderness for Mary impelled me to take the risk. I explained the plan
upon which I was thinking, and told them of my determination. When I did
so, Madge grasped me by the arm to detain me, and Dorothy fell upon her
knees and kissed my hand.

I said, "I must start at once; for, ride as I may, I fear the yeomen will
reach Rutland gates before I can get there."

"But If the guards should be at the gates when you arrive, or if you
should be missed by Cecil, you, a Scottish refugee and a friend of Queen
Mary, would be suspected of treason, and you would lose your life," said
Madge, who was filled with alarm for my sake.

"That is true," I replied; "but I can think of no other way whereby John
can possibly be saved."

Dorothy stood for a moment in deep thought, and said:--

"I will ride to Rutland by way of Lathkil Dale--I will ride in place of
you, Malcolm. It is my duty and my privilege to do this if I can."

I saw the truth of her words, and felt that since Dorothy had wrought the
evil, it was clearly her duty to remedy it if she could. If she should
fail, no evil consequences would fall upon her. If I should fail, it would
cost me my life; and while I desired to save John, still I wished to save
myself. Though my conduct may not have been chivalric, still I was willing
that Dorothy should go in my place, and I told her so. I offered to ride
with her as far as a certain cross-road a league distant from Rutland
Castle. There I would leave her, and go across the country to meet the
yeomen on the road they had taken. I could join them before they reached
Rutland, and my absence during the earlier portion of the march would not
be remarked, or if noticed it could easily be explained.

This plan was agreed upon, and after the guards had passed out at
Dove-cote Gate and were well down toward Rowsley, I rode out from the
Hall, and waited for Dorothy at an appointed spot near Overhaddon.

Immediately after my departure Dolcy was saddled, and soon Dorothy rode
furiously up to me. Away we sped, Dorothy and I, by Yulegrave church, down
into the dale, and up the river. Never shall I forget that mad ride. Heavy
rains had recently fallen, and the road in places was almost impassable.
The rivers were in flood, but when Dorothy and I reached the ford, the
girl did not stop to consider the danger ahead of her. I heard her
whisper, "On, Dolcy, on," and I heard the sharp "whisp" of the whip as she
struck the trembling, fearful mare, and urged her into the dark flood.
Dolcy hesitated, but Dorothy struck her again and again with the whip and
softly cried, "On, Dolcy, on." Then mare and rider plunged into the
swollen river, and I, of course, followed them. The water was so deep that
our horses were compelled to swim, and when we reached the opposite side
of the river we had drifted with the current a distance of at least three
hundred yards below the road. We climbed the cliff by a sheep path. How
Dorothy did it I do not know; and how I succeeded in following her I know
even less. When we reached the top of the cliff, Dorothy started off at
full gallop, leading the way, and again I followed. The sheep path
leading up the river to the road followed close the edge of the cliff,
where a false step by the horse would mean death to both horse and rider.
But Dorothy feared not, or knew not, the danger, and I caught her ever
whispered cry,--"On, Dolcy, on; on, Dolcy, on." Ashamed to fall behind,
yet fearing to ride at such a pace on such a path, I urged my horse
forward. He was a fine, strong, mettlesome brute, and I succeeded in
keeping the girl's dim form in sight. The moon, which was rapidly sinking
westward, still gave us light through rifts in the black bank of floating
clouds, else that ride over the sheep path by the cliff would have been
our last journey in the flesh.

Soon we reached the main road turning southward. It was a series of rough
rocks and mudholes, and Dorothy and Dolcy shot forward upon it with the
speed of the tempest, to undo, if possible, the evil which a dozen words,
untimely spoken, had wrought. I urged my horse until his head was close by
Dolcy's tail, and ever and anon could I hear the whispered cry,--"On,
Dolcy, on; on, Dolcy, sweet Dolcy, good Dolcy; on, my pet, on."

No word was spoken between Dorothy and me; but I could hear Dolcy panting
with her mighty effort, and amid the noise of splashing water and the
thud, thud, thud of our horses' hoofs came always back to me from
Dorothy's lips the sad, sad cry, full of agony and longing,--"On, Dolcy,
on; on Dolcy, on."

The road we took led us over steep hills and down through dark,
shadow-crowded ravines; but up hill, down hill, and on the level the
terrible girl before me plunged forward with unabated headlong fury until
I thought surely the flesh of horse, man, and woman could endure the
strain not one moment longer. But the horses, the woman, and--though I say
it who should not--the man were of God's best handiwork, and the cords of
our lives did not snap. One thought, and only one, held possession of the
girl, and the matter of her own life or death had no place in her mind.

When we reached the cross-road where I was to leave her, we halted while I
instructed Dorothy concerning the road she should follow from that point
to Rutland, and directed her how to proceed when she should arrive at the
castle gate. She eagerly listened for a moment or two, then grew
impatient, and told me to hasten in my speech, since there was no time to
lose. Then she fearlessly dashed away alone into the black night; and as I
watched her fair form fade into the shadows, the haunting cry came faintly
back to me,--"On, Dolcy, on; on, Dolcy on," and I was sick at heart. I was
loath to leave her thus in the inky gloom. The moon had sunk for the
night, and the clouds had banked up without a rift against the hidden
stars; but I could give her no further help, and my life would pay the
forfeit should I accompany her. She had brought the evil upon herself. She
was the iron, the seed, the cloud, and the rain. She was fulfilling her
destiny. She was doing that which she must do: nothing more, nothing less.
She was filling her little niche in the universal moment. She was a part
of the infinite kaleidoscope--a fate-charged, fate-moved, fragile piece of
glass which might be crushed to atoms in the twinkling of an eye, in the
sounding of a trump.

After leaving Dorothy I rode across the country and soon overtook the
yeoman guard whom I joined unobserved. Then I marched with them, all too
rapidly to suit me, to Rutland. The little army had travelled with greater
speed than I had expected, and I soon began to fear that Dorothy would not
reach Rutland Castle in time to enable its inmates to escape.

Within half an hour from the time I joined the yeomen we saw the dim
outlines of the castle, and Sir William St. Loe gave the command to hurry
forward. Cecil, Sir William, Sir George, and myself rode in advance of the
column. As we approached the castle by the road leading directly to the
gate from the north, I saw for a moment upon the top of the hill west of
the castle gate the forms of Dorothy and Dolcy in dim silhouette against
the sky. Then I saw them plunge madly down the hill toward the gate. I
fancied I could hear the girl whispering in frenzied hoarseness,--"On,
Dolcy, on," and I thought I could catch the panting of the mare. At the
foot of the hill, less than one hundred yards from the gate, poor Dolcy,
unable to take another step, dropped to the ground. Dolcy had gone on to
her death. She had filled her little niche in the universe and had died at
her post Dorothy plunged forward over the mare's head, and a cry of alarm
came from my lips despite me. I was sure the girl had been killed. She,
however, instantly sprang to her feet. Her hair was flying behind her and
she ran toward the gate crying: "John, John, fly for your life!" And then
she fell prone upon the ground and did not rise.

We had all seen the mare fall, and had seen the girl run forward toward
the gates and fall before reaching them. Cecil and Sir William rode to the
spot where Dorothy lay, and dismounted.

In a moment Sir William called to Sir George:--

"The lady is your daughter, Mistress Dorothy."

"What in hell's name brings her here?" cried Sir George, hurriedly riding
forward, "and how came she?"

I followed speedily, and the piteous sight filled my eyes with tears. I
cannot describe it adequately to you, though I shall see it vividly to the
end of my days. Dorothy had received a slight wound upon the temple, and
blood was trickling down her face upon her neck and ruff. Her hair had
fallen from its fastenings. She had lost her hat, and her gown was torn in
shreds and covered with mud. I lifted the half-conscious girl to her feet
and supported her; then with my kerchief I bound up the wound upon her
temple.

"Poor Dolcy," she said, almost incoherently, "I have killed her and I have
failed--I have failed. Now I am ready to die. Would that I had died with
Dolcy. Let me lie down here, Malcolm,--let me lie down."

I still held her in my arms and supported her half-fainting form.

"Why are you here?" demanded Sir George.

"To die," responded Dorothy.

"To die? Damned nonsense!" returned her father.

"How came you here, you fool?"

"On Dolcy. She is dead," returned Dorothy.

"Were you not at Haddon when we left there?" asked her father.

"Yes," she replied.

"Did you pass us on the road?" he asked.

"How came you here?" Sir George insisted.

"Oh, I flew hither. I am a witch. Don't question me, father. I am in no
temper to listen to you. I warn you once and for all, keep away from me;
beware of me. I have a dagger in my bosom. Go and do the work you came to
do; but remember this, father, if harm comes to him I will take my own
life, and my blood shall be upon your soul."

"My God, Malcolm, what does she mean?" asked Sir George, touched with fear
by the strength of his daughter's threat. "Has she lost her wits?"

"No," the girl quickly responded, "I have only just found them."

Sir George continued to question Dorothy, but he received no further
response from her. She simply held up the palm of her hand warningly
toward him, and the gesture was as eloquent as an oration. She leaned
against me, and covered her face with her hands, while her form shook and
trembled as if with a palsy.

Cecil and Sir William St. Loe then went toward the gate, and Sir George
said to me:--

"I must go with them. You remain with Doll, and see that she is taken
home. Procure a horse for her. If she is unable to ride, make a litter, or
perhaps there is a coach in the castle; if so, take possession of it. Take
her home by some means when we return. What, think you, could have brought
her here?"

I evaded the question by replying, "I will probably be able to get a coach
in the castle, Sir George. Leave Dorothy with me."

Soon, by the command of Sir William, the yeomen rode to the right and to
the left for the purpose of surrounding the castle, and then I heard Cecil
at the gates demanding:--

"Open in the name of the queen."

"Let us go to the gates," said Dorothy, "that we may hear what they say
and see what they do. Will they kill him here, think you?" she asked,
looking wildly into my face.

The flambeaux on the castle gate and those which the link-boys had brought
with them from Haddon were lighted, and the scene in front of the gate was
all aglow.

"No, no, my sweet one," I answered, "perhaps they will not kill him at
all. Certainly they will not kill him now. They must try him first."

I tried to dissuade her from going to the gates, but she insisted, and I
helped her to walk forward.

When Dorothy and I reached the gates, we found that Cecil and Lord Rutland
were holding a consultation through the parley-window. The portcullis was
still down, and the gates were closed; but soon the portcullis was
raised, a postern was opened from within, and Sir William entered the
castle with two score of the yeomen guards.

Sir George approached and again plied Dorothy with questions, but she
would not speak. One would have thought from her attitude that she was
deaf and dumb. She seemed unconscious of her father's presence.

"She has lost her mind," said Sir George, in tones of deep trouble, "and I
know not what to do."

"Leave her with me for a time, cousin. I am sure she will be better if we
do not question her now."

Then Dorothy seemed to awaken. "Malcolm is right, father. Leave me for a
time, I pray you."

Sir George left us, and waited with a party of yeomen a short distance
from the gate for the return of Sir William with his prisoners.

Dorothy and I sat upon a stone bench, near the postern through which Sir
William and the guardsmen had entered, but neither of us spoke.

After a long, weary time of waiting Sir William came out of the castle
through the postern, and with him came Mary Stuart. My heart jumped when I
saw her in the glare of the flambeaux, and the spirit of my dead love for
her came begging admission to my heart. I cannot describe my sensations
when I beheld her, but this I knew, that my love for her was dead past
resurrection.

Following Mary came Lord Rutland, and immediately following his Lordship
walked John. When he stepped through the postern, Dorothy sprang to her
feet and ran to him with a cry, "John, John!"

He looked at her in surprise, and stepped toward her with evident intent
to embrace her. His act was probably the result of an involuntary impulse,
for he stopped before he reached the girl.

[Illustration]

Sir George had gone at Sir William's request to arrange the guards for
the return march.

Dorothy and John were standing within two yards of each other.

"Do not touch me," cried Dorothy, "save to strike me If you will. The evil
which has come upon you is of my doing. I betrayed you to the queen."

I saw Mary turn quickly toward the girl when she uttered those words.

"I was insane when I did it," continued Dorothy. "They will take your
life, John. But when you die I also shall die. It is a poor reparation, I
know, but it is the only one I can make."

"I do not understand you, Dorothy," said John. "Why should you betray me?"

"I cannot tell you," she answered. "All I know is that I did betray you
and I hardly know how I did it. It all seems like a dream--like a fearful
monster of the night. There is no need for me to explain. I betrayed you
and now I suffer for it, more a thousand-fold than you can possibly
suffer. I offer no excuse. I have none. I simply betrayed you, and ask
only that I may die with you."

Then was manifest in John's heart the noblest quality which God has given
to man-charity, strengthened by reason. His face glowed with a light that
seemed saintlike, and a grand look of ineffable love and pity came to his
eyes. He seemed as if by inspiration to understand all that Dorothy had
felt and done, and he knew that if she had betrayed him she had done it at
a time when she was not responsible for her acts. He stepped quickly to
the girl's side, and caring naught that we all should see him, caught her
to his breast. He held her in his arms, and the light of the flambeaux
fell upon her upturned face.

"Dorothy," he said, "it matters not what you have done; you are my only
love. I ask no explanation. If you have betrayed me to death, though I
hope it will not come to that evil, you did not do it because you did not
love me."

"No, no, John, you know that," sobbed the girl.

"I do know it, Dorothy; I know all that I wish to know. You would not
intentionally bring evil upon me while you love me."

"Ah, that I do, John; only God knows how deeply, how desperately. My love
was the cause--my love was my curse--it was your curse."

"Do not weep, Dorothy," said John, interrupting her. "I would that I could
take all your suffering upon myself. Do not weep."

Dorothy buried her face upon his breast and tears came to her relief. She
was not alone in her weeping, for there stood I like a very woman, and by
my side stood rough old Sir William. Tears were coursing down the bronzed
cheek of the grand old warrior like drops of glistening dew upon the
harrowed face of a mountain rock. When I saw Sir William's tears, I could
no longer restrain my emotions, and I frankly tell you that I made a
spectacle of myself in full view of the queen's yeoman guard.

Sir George approached our little group, and when he saw Dorothy in John's
arms, he broke forth into oaths and stepped toward her intending to force
her away. But John held up the palm of his free hand warningly toward Sir
George, and drawing the girl's drooping form close to his breast he spoke
calmly:--

"Old man, if you but lay a finger on this girl, I will kill you where you
stand. No power on earth can save you."

There was a tone in John's voice that forced even Sir George to pause.
Then Sir George turned to me.

"This is the man who was in my house. He is the man who called himself
Thomas. Do you know him?"

Dorothy saved me from the humiliation of an answer.

She took one step from John's side and held him by the hand while she
spoke.

"Father," she said, "this man is Sir John Manners. Now you may understand
why he could not seek my hand openly, and you also know why I could not
tell you his name." She again turned to John, and he put his arm about
her. You can imagine much better that I can describe Sir George's fury. He
snatched a halberd from the hands of a yeoman who was standing near by and
started toward John and Dorothy. Thereupon the hard old warrior, Sir
William St. Loe, whose heart one would surely say was the last place where
sentiment could dwell, performed a little act of virtue which will balance
many a page on the debtor side of his ledger of life, he lifted his sword
and scabbard and struck Sir George's outstretched hand, causing the
halberd to fall to the ground.

"Don't touch the girl," cried Sir William, hoarsely.

"She is my daughter," retorted Sir George, who was stunned mentally as
well as physically by Sir William's blow.

"I care not whose daughter she is," returned Sir William. "You shall not
touch her. If you make but one other attempt, I will use my blade upon
you."

Sir William and John had been warm friends at London court, and the old
captain of the guards quickly guessed the true situation when he saw
Dorothy run to John's arms.

"Sir, you shall answer for this," said Sir George, angrily, to Sir
William.

"With pleasure," returned Sir William. "I will give you satisfaction
whenever you wish it, save this present time. I am too busy now."

Blessed old Sir William! You have been dead these many winters; and were I
a priest, I would say a mass for your soul gratis every day in the year.

"Did the girl betray us?" asked Queen Mary.

No one answered her question. Then she turned toward Sir John and touched
him upon the shoulder. He turned his face toward her, signifying that he
was listening.

"Who is this girl?" Mary demanded.

"My sweetheart, my affianced wife," John answered.

"She says she betrayed us," the queen responded.

"Yes," said John.

"Did you trust her with knowledge of our presence in Rutland?" Mary
demanded angrily.

"I did," he answered.

"You were a fool," said Mary.

"I know it," responded John.

"You certainly bear her no resentment for her treason," said Mary.

"I certainly do not," quietly answered John. "Her suffering is greater
than mine. Can you not see that it is?"

"It is your privilege," said Mary, scornfully, "to intrust your own
secrets to whomsoever you may choose for your confidant, and it is quite
saintlike in you to forgive this person for betraying you; but what think
you of the hard case in which her treason and your folly have placed me?"

"That is my greatest grief, save for Dorothy," answered John, softly.
Lived there ever a man possessed of broader charity or deeper love than
John? God surely made him of gold dust, not of common clay.

Queen Mary stepped away from John in disgust, and when she turned she saw
me for the first time. She started and was about to speak, but I placed my
fingers warningly upon my lips and she remained silent.

"Where do you take us, Sir William?" asked John.

"To Haddon Hall. There you will await the commands of the queen."

"How came you here?" John asked gently of Dorothy.

"I rode Dolcy," she whispered. "She dropped dead at the foot of the hill.
Yonder she lies. I came up the Lathkil by the long road, and I hoped that
I might reach you in time to give warning. When the guard left Haddon I
realized the evil that would come upon you by reason of my base betrayal."
Here she broke down and for a moment could not proceed in the narrative.
She soon recovered and continued: "Then I mounted Dolcy, and tried to
reach here by way of the long road. Poor Dolcy seemed to understand my
trouble and my despair, and she brought me with all the speed that a horse
could make; but the road was too long and too rough; and she failed, and I
failed. Would that I could have died in her place. She gave her life in
trying to remedy my fault."

Dorothy again began to weep, and John tenderly whispered:--

"All will yet come right" Then he kissed her before us all, and handed her
to me saying, "Care for her, I pray you, sir."

John spoke a few words to Sir William, and in a moment they both went back
to the castle.

In a short time the gates were opened, and the Rutland coach drawn by four
horses emerged from the castle grounds. Sir William then directed Mary and
Dorothy to enter the coach and requested me to ride with them to Haddon
Hall.

The yeoman guards were in marching order, and I took my seat in the coach.
The fates surely were in a humorous mood when they threw Dorothy, Queen
Mary, and myself together. Pause for a moment and consider the situation.
You know all the facts and you can analyze it as well as I. I could not
help laughing at the fantastic trick of destiny.

Soon after I entered the coach Sir William gave the word, and the yeomen
with Lord Rutland and John moved forward on the road to Haddon.

The coach at once followed the guard and a score of yeomen followed us.

Queen Mary occupied the back seat of the coach, and Dorothy and I sat upon
the front seat facing her.

Dorothy was exhausted, and her head lay upon my shoulder. Now and again
she would softly moan and sob, but she said nothing. After a few minutes
of silence Queen Mary spoke:--

"Why did you betray me, you miserable wretch? Why did you betray me?"

Dorothy did not answer. Mary continued:--

"Have I ever injured you in any manner? Have I ever harmed you by thought,
word, or deed?"

Dorothy's only answer was a sob.

"Perhaps you are a canting fanatic, and it may be that you hate me for the
sake of that which you call the love of God?"

"No, no, madam," I said, "that was not the reason."

"Do you know the reason, Malcolm?" asked Mary, addressing me for the first
time. My name upon her lips had a strange effect on me. It was like the
wafting to my nostrils of a sweet forgotten odor, or the falling upon my
ears of a tender refrain of bygone days. Her voice in uttering my name
thrilled me, and I hated myself for my weakness.

I told Mary that I did not know Dorothy's reasons, and she continued:--

"Malcolm, you were not a party to my betrayal for the sake of revenging
yourself on me?"

"God forbid!" I answered. "Sir John Manners will assure you of my
innocence. I rode with Mistress Vernon to a cross-road within a league of
Rutland, hoping thereby to assist her to give you and Sir John the alarm."

My admission soon brought me into trouble.

"I alone am to blame," said Dorothy, faintly.

"I can easily believe you," said Mary, sharply. "Did you expect to injure
me?"

No answer came from Dorothy.

"If you expect to injure me," Mary continued, "you will be disappointed. I
am a queen, and my Cousin Elizabeth would not dare to harm me, even though
she might wish to do so. We are of the same blood, and she will not wish
to do me injury. Your doting lover will probably lose his head for
bringing me to England without his queen's consent. He is her subject. I
am not. I wish you joy of the trouble you have brought upon him and upon
yourself."

"Upon him!" cried Dorothy.

"Yes, upon him," continued Mary, relishing the torture she was inflicting.
"You will enjoy seeing him beheaded, will you not, you fool, you huzzy,
you wretch? I hope his death will haunt you till the end of your days."

Poor Dorothy, leaning against me, said faintly:--

"It will--it will. You--you devil."

The girl was almost dead from exhaustion and anguish, but she would have
been dead indeed had she lacked the power to strike back. I believe had it
not been for Dorothy's physical weakness she would have silenced Mary with
her hands.

After a little time Dorothy's heavy breathing indicated that she had
fallen asleep. Her head rested upon my shoulder, and the delicious perfume
of her hair and the sweet warm breath from her lips were almost
intoxicating even to me, though I was not in love with her. How great must
their effect have been coming upon John hot from her intense young soul!

As the link-boys passed the coach some and some with their flambeaux I
could see Dorothy's sweet pale face, almost hidden in the tangled golden
red hair which fell in floods about her. The perfect oval of her cheek,
the long wet lashes, the arched eyebrows, the low broad forehead, the
straight nose, the saucy chin--all presented a picture of beauty and
pathos sufficient to soften a heart of stone. Mary had no heart of any
sort, therefore she was not moved to pity. That emotion, I am sure, she
never felt from the first to the last day of her life. She continued to
probe Dorothy's wound until I told her the girl was asleep. I changed
Dorothy's position and placed her head against the corner cushion of the
coach that she might rest more comfortably. She did not awaken when I
moved her. She slept and looked like a child. For a little time after I
had changed Dorothy's position Mary and I sat in silence. She was the
first to speak. She leaned forward and placing her hands upon mine,
whispered my name:--

"Malcolm!"

After a brief silence I said:--

"What would you, your Majesty?"

"Not 'your Majesty'" said Mary, softly, "but Mary, as of old."

She remained for a moment with her hand upon my knee, and then
whispered:--

"Will you not sit by me, Malcolm?"

I believe that Mary Stuart's voice was the charm wherewith she fascinated
men. I resisted to my utmost strength, but that seemed to be little more
than utter weakness; so I took a seat by her side, and she gently placed
her hand in mine. The warm touch of her strong, delicate fingers gave me a
familiar thrill. She asked me to tell her of my wanderings since I had
left Scotland, and I briefly related all my adventures. I told her of my
home at Haddon Hall and of the welcome given me by my cousin, Sir George.

"Malcolm, have you forgotten?" she whispered, leaning gently against me.
"Have you forgotten our old-time vows and love? Have you forgotten all
that passed between us in the dear old château, when I gave to you my
virgin love, fresh from my virgin heart?" I sighed and tried to harden my
heart to her blandishments, for I knew she wished to use me and was
tempting me to that end. She continued, "I was then only fourteen years
old--ten years ago. You said that you loved me and I believed you. You
could not doubt, after the proof I gave to you, that my heart was all
yours. We were happy, oh, so happy. Do you remember, Malcolm?"

She brought her face close to mine while she spoke, and pressed my hand
upon her breast.

My reason told me that it was but the song of the siren she was singing to
my ears. My memory told me that she had been false to me twice two score
times, and I knew full well she would again be false to me, or to any
other man whom she could use for her purposes, and that she cared not the
price at which she purchased him. Bear in mind, you who would blame me for
my fall, that this woman not only was transcendently beautiful and fatally
fascinating, but she was a queen and had held undisputed sway over my
heart for more years than I could accurately number. As I said, added to
all her beauty, she was a queen. If you have never known royalty, you
cannot understand its enthralling power.

"I remember it all, madam," I replied, trying to hold myself away from
her. "It is fresh to me as if it all had happened yesterday." The queen
drew my arm closely to her side and nestled her cheek for an instant upon
my shoulder.

"I remember also," I continued, "your marriage with Darnley when I had
your promise that you would marry me; and, shame upon shame, I remember
your marriage with Darnley's murderer, Bothwell."

"Cruel, cruel, Malcolm," she said. "You well know the overpowering
reasons of state which impelled me to sacrifice my own happiness by
marrying Darnley. I told you at the time that I hated the marriage more
than I dreaded death. But I longed to quiet the factions in Scotland, and
I hoped to save my poor bleeding people from the evils of war. You know I
hated Darnley. You know I loved you. You knew then and you know now that
you are the only man who has ever possessed my heart. You know that my
words are true. You know that you, alone, have had my love since the time
when I was a child."

"And Rizzio?" I asked.

"Ah, Malcolm," she answered tearfully, "I hope you, of all men, do not
believe that I ever gave a thought of love to Rizzio. He was to me like my
pet monkey or my favorite falcon. He was a beautiful, gentle, harmless
soul. I loved him for his music. He worshipped me as did my spaniel."

Still I was determined that her blandishments should not move me.

"And Bothwell?" I asked.

"That is past endurance from you, Malcolm," she said, beginning to weep.
"You know I was brutally abducted and was forced into marriage with him.
He was an outlaw, an outcast. He was an uncouth brute whom any woman would
loathe. I was in his power, and I feigned acquiescence only that I might
escape and achieve vengeance upon him. Tell me, Malcolm, tell me,"
continued Mary, placing her arms about my neck and clinging to me, "tell
me, you, to whom I gave my maiden's love, you who have my woman's heart,
tell me, do you believe that I could willingly have married Bothwell, even
though my heart had not been filled with the image of you, who are strong,
gentle, and beautiful?"

You, if you are a man, may think that in my place you would have resisted
the attack of this beautiful queen, but if so you think--pardon me, my
friend--you are a fool. Under the spell of her magic influence I wavered
in the conviction which had long since come upon me, that I had for years
been her fool and her dupe. I forgot the former lessons I had learned from
her perfidy. I forgot my manhood. I forgot all of good that had of late
grown up in me. God help me, I forgot even Madge.

"If I could only believe you, Mary," I answered, growing insane under the
influence of her fascinations, "If I could only believe you."

"Give me your lips, Malcolm," she whispered, "give me your lips.--Again,
my Malcolm.--Ah, now you believe me."

The lying logic of a wanton kiss is irresistible. I was drunk and, alas! I
was convinced. When I think of that time, Samson is my only
comfort--Samson and a few hundred million other fools, who like Samson and
me have been wheedled, kissed, and duped into misery and ruin.

I said: "I do believe you, Mary. I beg you to forgive me for having
doubted you. You have been traduced and brutally misused."

"It is sweet to hear you speak those words. But it is better to think that
at last we have come together with nothing to part us save that I am a
prisoner in the hands of my vindictive, jealous cousin. I thank God that
my kingdom of Scotland has been taken from me. I ever hated the Scots.
They are an ignorant, unkempt, wry-necked, stubborn, filthy race. But,
above all, my crown stood between you and me. I may now be a woman, and
were it not for Elizabeth, you and I could yet find solace in each other
for all our past sufferings. Malcolm, I have a sweet thought. If I could
escape to fair, beautiful France, all would be happiness for us. You could
claim your mother's estates in the balmy south, and we might live upon
them. Help me, my Malcolm, to escape, and your reward shall be greater and
sweeter than man ever before received from woman."

I struggled against her blandishments for a moment, but I was lost.

"You shall escape and I will go with you," said I. Man needs to make but
one little prayer to God, "Lead me not into temptation." That prayer
answered, all else of good will follow.

The morning sun had just begun to rise over Bowling Green Hill and the
shadows of the night were fleeing before his lances, when our cavalcade
entered the grounds of Haddon at the dove-cote. If there were two suns
revolving about the earth, one to shine upon us by night and one by day,
much evil would be averted. Men do evil in the dark because others cannot
see them; they think evil in the dark because they cannot see themselves.

With the first faint gray of dawn there came to me thoughts of Madge. I
had forgotten her, but her familiar spirit, the light, brought me back to
its fair mistress.

When our coach reached the stone bridge I looked up to the Hall and saw
Madge standing at the open casement of the tower window. She had been
watching there all night, I learned, hoping for our speedy and safe
return, and had been warned of our approach by the noise of the tramping
guard. I drew back from the coach window, feeling that I was an evil shade
slinking away before the spirit of light.



CHAPTER XV

LIGHT


Dorothy had awakened while we were entering Rowsley, and I was glad that
Mary could not touch me again.

When our coach reached the stone steps of the entrance tower we found Sir
George, Lady Crawford, and Madge waiting to receive us. The steps and the
path leading to them had been carpeted with soft rugs, and Mary, although
a prisoner, was received with ceremonies befitting her rank. It was a
proud day for Sir George when the roof of his beautiful Hall sheltered the
two most famous queens of christendom.

Sir George assisted Mary from the coach most graciously, and in knightly
fashion led her to Lady Crawford and Madge, who were standing at the foot
of the tower steps. Due presentations were made, and the ladies of Haddon
having kissed the queen's hand, Mary went into the Hall upon the arm of
his Majesty, the King of the Peak, who stepped forward most proudly.

His resentment against Dorothy was for the moment neutralized by the great
honor of which his house and himself were the recipients.

John and Lord Rutland were taken to the dungeon.

I assisted Dorothy from the coach and led her to Madge, who was waiting
for us upon the lowest of the steps leading to the entrance tower doorway.
Dorothy took Madge's outstretched hand; but Madge, by some strange
instinct, knowing of my presence, turned her face toward me. I could not
lift my eyes to her face, nor could I endure to remain in her presence.
While we were ascending the steps she held out her hand to me and said:--

"Is all well with you, Malcolm?" Her voice was full of tender concern, and
it pained me to the heart to hear her speak kindly to me, who was so
unworthy of her smallest thought.

"Yes, Lady--yes, Madge," I responded; but she knew from the tones of my
voice that all was not right with me.

"I fear, Malcolm, that you do not tell me the truth. You will come to me
soon?" she asked.

"I may not be able to go to you soon," I answered, "but I will do so at
the first opportunity."

The torture of her kindness was almost unbearable to me. One touch of her
hand, one tone of her rare voice, had made me loathe myself. The powers of
evil cannot stand for one moment in a fair conflict with the powers of
good. I felt that I, alone, was to blame for my treason to Madge; but
despite my effort at self-condemnation there was an under-consciousness
that Mary Stuart was to blame, and I hated her accordingly. Although
Madge's presence hurt me, it was not because I wished to conceal my
conduct from her. I knew that I could be happy again only after I had
confessed to her and had received forgiveness.

Madge, who was blind of sight, led Dorothy, who was piteously blind of
soul, and the two girls went to their apartments.

Curiosity is not foreign even to the royal female breast, and while Mary
Stuart was entering Haddon Hall, I saw the luminous head of the Virgin
Queen peeked out at a casement on the second floor watching her rival with
all the curiosity of a Dutch woman sitting by her window mirror.

I went to my room in Eagle Tower, fell upon my bed, and abandoned myself
to an anguish of soul which was almost luxurious. I shall not tease you
with the details of my mental and moral processes. I hung in the balance a
long time undetermined what course I should pursue. The difference between
the influence of Mary and the effect wrought by Madge was the difference
between the intoxication and the exhilaration of wine. Following the
intoxication of Mary's presence ever came a torturing reaction, while the
exhilarating influence of Madge gave health and strength. I chose the
latter. I have always been glad I reached that determination without the
aid of any impulse outside of myself; for events soon happened which again
drove all faith in Mary from my heart forever. Those events would have
forced me to abandon my trust in her; but mind you, I took my good resolve
from inclination rather than necessity before I learned of Mary's perfidy.

The events of the night had exhausted Dorothy, and she was confined to her
bed by illness for the first time in her life. She believed that she was
dying, and she did not want to live. I did not go to her apartments. Madge
remained with her, and I, coward-like, feared to face the girl to whom I
had been untrue.

Dorothy's one and only desire, of course, was to see John, but that desire
for a time seemed impossible of accomplishment.

Elizabeth, Cecil, Leicester, and Sir William St. Loe were in secret
consultation many times during three or four days and nights. Occasionally
Sir George was called into their councils, and that flattering attention
so wrought upon the old man's pride that he was a slave to the queen's
slightest wish, and was more tyrannical and dictatorial than ever before
to all the rest of mankind. There were, however, two persons besides the
queen before whom Sir George was gracious: one of these was Mary Stuart,
whose powers of fascination had been brought to bear upon the King of the
Peak most effectively. The other was Leicester, to whom, as my cousin
expressed it, he hoped to dispose of that troublesome and disturbing
body--Dorothy. These influences, together with the fact that his enemies
of Rutland were in the Haddon dungeon, had given Sir George a spleen-vent,
and Dorothy, even in the face of her father's discovery that Manners was
her mysterious lover, had for once a respite from Sir George's just and
mighty wrath.

The purpose of Elizabeth's many councils of war was to devise some means
of obtaining from John and his father, information concerning the plot,
which had resulted in bringing Mary Stuart into England. The ultimate
purpose of Mary's visit, Elizabeth's counsellors firmly believed to be the
dethronement of the English queen and the enthronement of her Scottish
cousin. Elizabeth, in her heart, felt confident that John and his father
were not parties to the treasonable plot, although she had been warned
against each of them. Cecil and Sir William St. Loe also secretly held to
that opinion, though neither of them expressed it, Elizabeth was conscious
of having given to John while at London court an intimation that she would
be willing that Mary should visit England. Of such intimation Cecil and
Sir William had no knowledge, though they, together with many persons of
the Court, believed that Elizabeth was not entirely averse to Mary's
presence.

Lord Rutland and John were questioned by Cecil in the hope of obtaining
some hints which might lead to the detection of those concerned in the
chief plot, provided such plot existed. But Lord Rutland knew nothing of
the affair except that John had brought the Scottish queen from Scotland,
and John persisted in the statement that he had no confederate and that he
knew nothing of any plot to place Mary upon the English throne.

John said: "I received from Queen Mary's friends in Scotland letters
asking me to meet her on the border, and requesting me to conduct her to
my father's castle. Those letters mentioned no Englishman but myself, and
they stated that Queen Mary's flight to England was to be undertaken with
the tacit consent of our gracious queen. That fact, the letters told me,
our queen wished should not be known. There were reasons of state, the
letters said, which made it impolitic for our queen openly to invite Queen
Mary to seek sanctuary in England. I received those letters before I left
Westminster. Upon the day when I received them, I heard our gracious queen
say that she would gladly invite Queen Mary to England, were it not for
the fact that such an invitation would cause trouble between her and the
regent, Murray. Her Majesty at the same time intimated that she would be
glad if Mary Stuart should come to England uninvited." John turned to
Elizabeth, "I beg your Majesty, in justice, to ratify my words." Elizabeth
hesitated for a moment after John's appeal; but her love of justice came
to her rescue and she hung her head as she said, "You are right, Sir
John." Then she looked her counsellors in the face and said, "I well
remember that I so expressed myself."

"In truth," said John, "I having only an hour before received the letter
from Scotland, believed that your Majesty's words were meant for my ear. I
felt that your Majesty knew of the letters, and I thought that I should be
carrying out your royal wishes should I bring Queen Mary into England
without your knowledge."

The queen responded: "I then felt that I wished Queen Mary to seek refuge
in my kingdom, but so many untoward events have transpired since I spoke
on the subject at Westminster that I have good cause to change my mind,
though I easily understand how you might have been misled by my words."

"I am sure," replied John, "that your Majesty has had good cause to change
your mind; but I protest in all sincerity that I considered the Scottish
letters to be a command from my queen."

Elizabeth was a strange combination of paradoxes. No one could be truer
than she to a fixed determination once taken. No one could be swayed by
doubt so easily as she to change her mind sixty times in the space of a
minute. During one moment she was minded to liberate John and Lord
Rutland; in the next she determined to hold them in prison, hoping to
learn from them some substantial fact concerning the plot which, since
Mary's arrival in England, had become a nightmare to her. But, with all
her vagaries the Virgin Queen surely loved justice. That quality, alone,
makes a sovereign great. Elizabeth, like her mother, Anne Boleyn, had
great faith in her personal beauty; like her father, she had unbounded
confidence in her powers of mind. She took great pride in the ease with
which she controlled persons. She believed that no one was so adroit as
Elizabeth Tudor in extracting secrets from others, and in unravelling
mysterious situations, nor so cunning in hunting out plots and in running
down plotters. In all such matters she delighted to act secretly and
alone.

During the numerous councils held at Haddon, Elizabeth allowed Cecil to
question John to his heart's content; but while she listened she
formulated a plan of her own which she was sure would be effective in
extracting all the truth from John, if all the truth had not already been
extracted. Elizabeth kept her cherished plan to herself. It was this:--

She would visit Dorothy, whom she knew to be ill, and would by her subtle
art steal from John's sweetheart all that the girl knew of the case. If
John had told Dorothy part of the affair concerning Mary Stuart, he had
probably told her all, and Elizabeth felt confident that she could easily
pump the girl dry. She did not know Dorothy. Accordingly our queen,
Elizabeth, the adroit, went to Dorothy's room under the pretence of paying
the girl a gracious visit. Dorothy wished to arise and receive her royal
guest, but Elizabeth said gently:--

"Do not arise, Dorothy; rest quietly, and I will sit here beside you on
the bed. I have come to tell you that you must recover your health at
once. We miss you greatly in the Hall."

No one could be more gracious than Elizabeth when the humor was upon her;
though, in truth, the humor was often lacking.

"Let us send all save you and me from the room," said the queen, "that we
may have a quiet little chat together."

All who were in the room save Dorothy and Elizabeth of course departed at
once.

When the door was closed, the queen said: "I wish to thank you for telling
me of the presence of her Scottish Majesty at Rutland. You know there is a
plot on foot to steal my throne from me."

"God forbid that there should be such a plot," replied Dorothy, resting
upon her elbow in the bed.

"I fear it is only too true that there is such a plot," returned
Elizabeth, "and I owe you a great debt of gratitude for warning me of the
Scottish queen's presence in my kingdom."

"I hope the danger will be averted from your Majesty," said Dorothy; "but
that which I did will cause my death--it will kill me. No human being ever
before has lived through the agony I have suffered since that terrible
night. I was a traitress. I betrayed the man who is dearer to me than my
immortal soul. He says that he forgives me, but your Majesty knows that my
fault is beyond forgiveness."

"Sir John is a noble gentleman, child," said the queen. "I hope that he is
loyal to me, but I fear--I fear."

"Do not doubt, do not fear, my queen," returned Dorothy, eagerly; "there
is nothing false in him."

"Do you love him deeply, little one?" asked the queen.

"No words can tell you my love for him," answered the girl. "I feel shame
to say that he has taken even the holy God's place in my heart. Perhaps it
is for that sin that God now punishes me."

"Fear not on that score, Dorothy," replied the queen. "God will not punish
you for feeling the love which He Himself has put into your heart. I would
willingly give my crown could I feel such love for a worthy man who would
in return love me for myself. But I cannot feel, nor can I have faith.
Self-interest, which is so dominant in all men, frightens me, and I doubt
their vows."

"Surely, any man would love you for your own sake," said Dorothy,
tenderly.

"It may be that you speak truly, child; but I cannot know when men's vows
are true nor when they are false. The real trouble is within myself. If I
could but feel truly, I could interpret truthfully."

"Ah, your Majesty," interrupted Dorothy, "you do not know the thing for
which you are wishing; it is a torture worse than death; it is an ecstasy
sweeter than heaven. It is killing me. I pity you, though you are a queen,
if you have never felt it."

"Would you do anything I might ask of you, if you could thereby save Sir
John's life?" asked the queen.

"Ah, I would gladly give my soul to save him," responded Dorothy, with
tears in her eyes and eagerness in her voice. "Oh, my queen, do not lead
me to hope, and then plunge me again into despair. Give me no
encouragement unless you mean to free him. As for my part, take my life
and spare John's. Kill me by torture, burn me at the stake, stretch me
upon the rack till my joints are severed and my flesh is torn asunder. Let
me die by inches, my queen; but spare him, oh, spare him, and do with me
as you will. Ask from me what you wish. Gladly will I do all that you may
demand; gladly will I welcome death and call it sweet, if I can thereby
save him. The faint hope your Majesty's words hold out makes me strong
again. Come, come, take my life; take all that I can give. Give me him."

"Do you believe that I am an ogress thirsting for blood, Dorothy, that you
offer me your life for his? You can purchase Sir John's life at a much
smaller cost." Dorothy rose to the queen with a cry, and put her arms
about her neck. "You may purchase his freedom," continued the queen, "and
you may serve your loving queen at one and the same time, if you wish to
do so."

Dorothy had sunk back into the bed, and Elizabeth was sitting close by her
side; but when the queen spoke she turned her head on the pillow and
kissed the royal hand which was resting upon the coverlid.

"Ah, you are so good, so true, and so beautiful," said Dorothy.

Her familiarity toward the queen was sweet to the woman, to whom it was
new.

Dorothy did not thank the queen for her graciousness. She did not reply
directly to her offer. She simply said:--

"John has told me many times that he was first attracted to me because I
resembled you."

The girl had ample faith in her own beauty, and knew full well the subtle
flattery which lay in her words. "He said," she continued, "that my hair
in some faint degree resembled yours, but he said it was not of so
beautiful a hue. I have loved my hair ever since the day he told me that
it resembled your Majesty's." The girl leaned forward toward the queen and
gently kissed the royal locks. They no more resembled Dorothy's hair than
brick dust resembles the sheen of gold.

The queen glanced at the reflection of her hair in the mirror and it
flatly contradicted Dorothy. But the girl's words were backed by
Elizabeth's vanity, and the adroit flattery went home.

"Ah, my child," exclaimed her Majesty softly, as she leaned forward and
kissed Dorothy's fair cheek.

Dorothy wept gently for a moment and familiarly rested her face upon the
queen's breast. Then she entwined her white arms about Elizabeth's neck
and turned her glorious eyes up to the queen's face that her Majesty might
behold their wondrous beauty and feel the flattery of the words she was
about to utter.

"He said also," continued Dorothy, "that my eyes in some slight degree
resembled your Majesty's, but he qualified his compliment by telling
me--he did not exactly tell me that my eyes were not so large and
brilliant as your Majesty's, for he was making love to me, and of course
he would not have dared to say that my eyes were not the most perfect on
earth; but he did say that--at least I know that he meant--that my eyes,
while they resembled yours, were hardly so glorious, and--and I am very
jealous of your Majesty. John will be leaving me to worship at your feet."

Elizabeth's eyes were good enough. The French called them "marcassin,"
that is, wild boar's eyes. They were little and sparkling; they were not
luminous and large like Dorothy's, and the girl's flattery was rank.
Elizabeth, however, saw Dorothy's eyes and believed her words rather than
the reply of the lying mirror, and her Majesty's heart was soft from the
girl's kneading. Consider, I pray you, the serpent-like wisdom displayed
by Dorothy's method of attack upon the queen. She did not ask for John's
liberty. She did not seek it. She sought only to place John softly on
Elizabeth's heart. Some natures absorb flattery as the desert sands absorb
the unfrequent rain, and Elizabeth--but I will speak no ill of her. She is
the greatest and the best sovereign England has ever had. May God send to
my beloved country others like her. She had many small shortcomings; but I
have noticed that those persons who spend their evil energies in little
faults have less force left for greater ones. I will show you a mystery:
Little faults are personally more disagreeable and rasping to us than
great ones. Like flying grains of sand upon a windy day, they vex us
constantly. Great faults come like an avalanche, but they come less
frequently, and we often admire their possessor, who sooner or later is
apt to become our destroyer.

"I can hardly tell you," said Dorothy in response to a question by
Elizabeth, "I can hardly tell you why I informed your Majesty of Queen
Mary's presence at Rutland. I did it partly for love of your Majesty and
partly because I was jealous of that white, plain woman from Scotland."

"She is not a plain woman, is she?" said Elizabeth, delighted to hear Mary
of Scotland so spoken of for once. One way to flatter some women is to
berate those whom they despise or fear. Elizabeth loved Dorothy better for
the hatred which the girl bore to Mary. Both stood upon a broad plane of
mutual sympathy-jealousy of the same woman. It united the queen and the
maiden in a common heart-touching cause.

Dorothy's confidence grew apace. "She is plain," replied Dorothy,
poutingly. "She appears plain, colorless, and repulsive by the side of
your Majesty."

"No, no, Dorothy, that cannot be," returned Queen Elizabeth, gently
patting. Dorothy's cheek and glancing stealthily at the reflection of her
own face in the mirror. At this point Dorothy considered that the time had
come for a direct attack.

"Your Majesty need have no fear of a plot to place Queen Mary upon your
throne. The English people would not endure her wicked pale face for a
moment."

"But there is such a plot in existence," said Elizabeth.

"What you say may be true," returned Dorothy; "but, your Majesty, John is
not in the plot, and he knows nothing of it."

"I hope--I believe--he is not in the plot," said Elizabeth, "but I fear--"

The girl kissed the sleeve of Elizabeth's gown, and then she drew the
queen closer to her and kissed her hair and her face.

"Ah, my beauteous queen," said Dorothy, "I thank you for those words. You
must know that John loves you, and is your loyal subject. Take pity upon
me. Help me. Hold out your gracious hand and lift me from my despair."

Dorothy slipped from the bed and fell on her knees, burying her face in
the queen's lap.

Elizabeth was touched by the girl's appeal, and caressingly stroked her
hair, as she said: "I believe he is innocent, but I fear he knows or
suspects others who harbor treasonable designs. Tell me, Dorothy, do you
know of any such persons? If you can tell me their names, you will serve
your queen, and will save your lover. No harm shall come to Sir John, and
no one save myself shall have knowledge of any word that you may speak. If
I do not learn the names of the traitors through you or through Sir John,
I may be compelled to hold him a prisoner until I discover them. If
through you I learn them, Sir John shall go free at once."

"Gladly, for your Majesty's sake alone would I tell you the names of such
traitorous men, did I know them;" replied Dorothy, "and thrice gladly
would I do so if I might thereby liberate John. Your Majesty must see that
these motives are strong enough to induce me to speak if I knew aught to
tell you. I would betray the whole world to save him, of that you may be
sure. But alas! I know no man whom I can betray. John told me nothing of
his expedition to the Scottish border save what was in two letters which
he sent to me. One of these I received before he left Rutland, and the
other after his return."

She fetched the letters to the queen, who read them carefully.

"Perhaps if I were to see him, he might, upon my importunity, tell me all
he knows concerning the affair and those connected with it if he knows
anything more than he has already told," said Dorothy, by a great effort
suppressing her eagerness. "I am sure, your Majesty, he would tell me all
Should he tell me the names of any persons connected with any treasonable
plot, I will certainly tell you. It would be base in me again to betray
John's confidence; but your Majesty has promised me his life and liberty,
and to obtain those I would do anything, however evil it might be. If I
may see John, I promise to learn all that he knows, if he knows anything;
and I also promise to tell you word for word all that he says."

The girl felt safe in making these promises, since she was sure that John
knew nothing of a treasonable character.

The queen, thinking that she had adroitly led Dorothy up to making the
offer, said, "I accept the conditions. Be in readiness to visit Sir John,
upon my command."

Thus the compact was sealed, and the queen, who thought herself wise, was
used by the girl, who thought herself simple.

For the purpose of hiding her exultation, Dorothy appeared to be ill, but
when the queen passed out at the door and closed it behind her, the girl
sprang from the bed and danced around the room as if she were a
bear-baiter. From the depths of despair she flew to the pinnacle of hope.
She knew, however, that she must conceal her happiness; therefore she went
back to bed and waited impatiently the summons of Elizabeth requiring her
to go to John.

But now I must pause to tell you of my troubles which followed so swiftly
upon the heels of my fault that I was fairly stunned by them. My narrative
will be brief, and I shall soon bring you back again to Dorothy.

Queen Mary had no sooner arrived at Haddon Hall than she opened an attack
upon Leicester, somewhat after the same plan, I suppose, which she had
followed with me in the coach. She could no more easily resist inviting
homage from men than a swallow can refrain from flying. Thus, from
inclination and policy, she sought Leicester and endeavored by the
pleasant paths of her blandishments to lead him to her cause. There can be
no doubt concerning Leicester's wishes in the premises. Had Mary's cause
held elements of success, he would have joined her; but he feared
Elizabeth, and he hoped some day to share her throne. He would, however,
prefer to share the throne with Mary.

Mary told him of her plans and hopes. She told him that I had ridden with
Dorothy for the purpose of rescuing John and herself, and that I had
promised to help her to escape to France. She told him she would use me
for her tool in making her escape, and would discard me when once she
should be safe out of England. Then would come Leicester's turn. Then
should my lord have his recompense, and together they would regain the
Scottish crown.

How deeply Leicester became engaged in the plot I cannot say, but this I
know: through fear of Elizabeth, or for the purpose of winning her favor,
he unfolded to our queen all the details of Mary's scheme, together with
the full story of my ride with Dorothy to Rutland, and my return with
Dorothy and Mary in the coach. Thereupon Mary was placed under strict
guard. The story spread quickly through the Hall, and Dawson brought it to
me. On hearing it, my first thought was of Madge. I knew it would soon
reach her. Therefore I determined to go to her at once and make a clean
breast of all my perfidy. Had I done so sooner, I should at least have had
the benefit of an honest, voluntary confession; but my conscience had made
a coward of me, and the woman who had been my curse for years had so
completely disturbed my mind that I should have been quite as well off
without any at all. It led me from one mistake into another.

After Dawson told me that my miserable story was known throughout the
Hall, I sought Madge, and found her with Aunt Dorothy. She was weeping,
and I at once knew that I was too late with my confession. I spoke her
name, "Madge," and stood by her side awaiting her reply.

"Is it true, Malcolm?" she asked. "I cannot believe it till I hear it from
your lips."

"It was true," I responded. "I promised to help Queen Mary escape, and I
promised to go with her; but within one hour of the time when I gave my
word I regretted it as I have never regretted anything else in all my
life. I resolved that, while I should, according to my promise, help the
Scottish queen escape, I would not go with her. I resolved to wait here at
Haddon to tell all to you and to our queen, and then I would patiently
take my just punishment from each. My doom from the queen, I believed,
would probably be death; but I feared more your--God help me! It is
useless for me to speak." Here I broke down and fell upon my knees,
crying, "Madge, Madge, pity me, pity me! Forgive me if you can, and, if
our queen decrees it, I shall die happy."

In my desperation I caught the girl's hand, but she drew it quickly from
me, and said:--

"Do not touch me!"

She arose to her feet, and groped her way to her bedroom. We were in Aunt
Dorothy's room. I watched Madge as she sought with her outstretched hand
the doorway; and when she passed slowly through it, the sun of my life
seemed to turn black. Just as Madge passed from the room, Sir William St.
Loe, with two yeomen, entered by Sir George's door and placed irons upon
my wrist and ankles. I was led by Sir William to the dungeon, and no word
was spoken by either of us.

I had never in my life feared death, and now I felt that I would welcome
it. When a man is convinced that his life is useless, through the dire
disaster that he is a fool, he values it little, and is even more than
willing to lose it.

Then there were three of us in the dungeon,--John, Lord Rutland, and
myself; and we were all there because we had meddled in the affairs of
others, and because Dorothy had inherited from Eve a capacity for insane,
unreasoning jealousy.

Lord Rutland was sitting on the ground in a corner of the dungeon. John,
by the help of a projecting stone in the masonry, had climbed to the small
grated opening which served to admit a few straggling rays of light into
the dungeon's gloom. He was gazing out upon the fair day, whose beauty he
feared would soon fade away from him forever.

Elizabeth's coldness had given him no hope. It had taken all hope from his
father.

The opening of the door attracted John's attention, and he turned his face
toward me when I entered. He had been looking toward the light, and his
eyes, unaccustomed for the moment to the darkness, failed at first to
recognize of me. When the dungeon door had closed behind me, he sprang
down from his perch by the window, and came toward me with outstretched
hands. He said sorrowfully:--

"Malcolm, have I brought you here, too? Why are you in irons? It seems
that I am destined to bring calamity upon all whom I love."

"It is a long story," I replied laughingly. "I will tell it to you when
the time begins to drag; but I tell you now it is through no fault of
yours that I am here. No one is to blame for my misfortune but myself."
Then I continued bitterly, "Unless it be the good God who created me a
fool."

John went to his father's side and said:--

"Sir Malcolm is here, father. Will you not rise and greet him?"

John's voice aroused his father, and the old lord came to the little patch
of light in which I was standing and said: "A terrible evil has fallen
upon us, Sir Malcolm, and without our fault. I grieve to learn that you
also are entangled in the web. The future looks very dark."

"Cheer up, father," said John, taking the old man's hand. "Light will soon
come; I am sure it will."

"I have tried all my life to be a just man," said Lord Rutland. "I have
failed at times, I fear, but I have tried. That is all any man can do. I
pray that God in His mercy will soon send light to you, John, whatever of
darkness there may be in store for me."

I thought, "He will surely answer this just man's prayer," and almost
before the thought was completed the dungeon door turned upon its hinges
and a great light came with glorious refulgence through the open
portal--Dorothy.

"John!"

Never before did one word express so much of mingled joy and grief. Fear
and confidence, and, greater than all, love unutterable were blended in
its eloquent tones. She sprang to John as the lightning leaps from cloud
to cloud, and he caught her to his heart. He gently kissed her hair, her
face being hidden in the folds of his doublet.

"Let me kneel, John, let me kneel," she murmured.

"No, Dorothy, no," he responded, holding her closely in his arms.

"But one moment, John," she pleased.

"No, no; let me see your eyes, sweet one," said John, trying to turn her
face upward toward his own.

"I cannot yet, John, I cannot. Please let me kneel for one little moment
at your feet."

John saw that the girl would find relief in self-abasement, so he relaxed
his arms, and she sank to her knees upon the dungeon floor. She wept
softly for a moment, and then throwing back her head with her old
impulsive manner looked up into his face.

"Oh, forgive me, John! Forgive me! Not that I deserve your forgiveness,
but because you pity me."

"I forgave you long ago, Dorothy. You had my full forgiveness before you
asked it."

He lifted the weeping girl to her feet and the two clung together in
silence. After a pause Dorothy spoke:--

"You have not asked me, John, why I betrayed you."

"I want to know nothing, Dorothy, save that you love me."

"That you already know. But you cannot know how much I love you. I myself
don't know. John, I seem to have turned all to love. 'However much there
is of me, that much there is of love for you. As the salt is in every drop
of the sea, so love is in every part of my being; but John," she
continued, drooping her head and speaking regretfully, "the salt in the
sea is not unmixed with many things hurtful." Her face blushed with shame
and she continued limpingly: "And my love is not--is not without evil. Oh,
John, I feel deep shame in telling you, but my love is terribly jealous.
At times a jealousy comes over me so fierce and so distracting that under
its influence I am mad, John, mad. I then see nothing in its true light;
my eyes seem filled with--with blood, and all things appear red or black
and--and--oh! John, I pray you never again cause me jealousy. It makes a
demon of me."

You may well know that John was nonplussed.

"I cause you jealousy?" he asked in surprise. "When did I--" But Dorothy
interrupted him, her eyes flashing darkly and a note of fierceness in her
voice. He saw for himself the effects of jealousy upon her.

"That white--white Scottish wanton! God's curse be upon her! She tried to
steal you from me."

"Perhaps she did," replied John, smilingly, "of that I do not know. But
this I do know, and you, Dorothy, must know it too henceforth and for all
time to come. No woman can steal my love from you. Since I gave you my
troth I have been true to you; I have not been false even in one little
thought."

"I feel sure, John, that you have not been untrue to me," said the girl
with a faint smile playing about her lips; "but--but you remember the
strange woman at Bowling Green Gate whom you would have--"

"Dorothy, I hope you have not come to my dungeon for the purpose of making
me more wretched than I already am?"

"No, no, John, forgive me," she cried softly; "but John, I hate her, I
hate her! and I want you to promise that you too will hate her."

"I promise," said John, "though, you have had no cause for jealousy of
Queen Mary."

"Perhaps--not," she replied hesitatingly. "I have never thought," the
girl continued poutingly, "that you did anything of which I should be
jealous; but she--she--oh, I hate her! Let us not talk about her. Jennie
Faxton told me--I will talk about her, and you shall not stop me--Jennie
Faxton told me that the white woman made love to you and caused you to put
your arm about her waist one evening on the battlements and-"

"Jennie told you a lie," said John.

"Now don't interrupt me," the girl cried nervously, almost ready for
tears, "and I will try to tell you all. Jennie told me the--the white
woman looked up to you this fashion," and the languishing look she gave
John in imitation of Queen Mary was so beautiful and comical that he could
do nothing but laugh and cover her face with kisses, then laugh again and
love the girl more deeply and yet more deeply with each new breath he
drew. Dorothy was not sure whether she wanted to laugh or to cry, so she
did both.

"Jennie told me in the middle of the night," continued Dorothy, "when all
things seem so vivid and appear so distorted and--and that terrible
blinding jealousy of which I told you came upon me and drove me mad. I
really thought, John, that I should die of the agony. Oh, John, if you
could know the anguish I suffered that night you would pity me; you would
not blame me."

"I do not blame you, Dorothy."

"No, no, there-" she kissed him softly, and quickly continued: "I felt
that I must separate her from you at all cost. I would have done murder to
accomplish my purpose. Some demon whispered to me, 'Tell Queen Elizabeth,'
and--and oh, John, let me kneel again."

"No, no, Dorothy, let us talk of something else," said John, soothingly.

"In one moment, John. I thought only of the evil that would come to
her--her of Scotland. I did not think of the trouble I would bring to
you, John, until the queen, after asking me if you were my lover, said
angrily: 'You may soon seek another.' Then, John, I knew that I had also
brought evil upon you. Then I _did_ suffer. I tried to reach Rutland, and
you know all else that happened on that terrible night. Now John, you know
all--all. I have withheld nothing. I have, confessed all, and I feel that
a great weight is taken from my heart. You will not hate me, will you,
John?"

He caught the girl to his breast and tried to turn her face toward his.

"I could not hate you if I would," he replied, with quick-coming breath,
"and God knows I would not. To love you is the sweetest joy in life," and
he softly kissed the great lustrous eyes till they closed as if in sleep.
Then he fiercely sought the rich red lips, waiting soft and passive for
his caresses, while the fair head fell back upon the bend of his elbow in
a languorous, half-conscious sweet surrender to his will. Lord Rutland and
I had turned our backs on the shameless pair, and were busily discussing
the prospect for the coming season's crops.

Remember, please, that Dorothy spoke to John of Jennie Faxton. Her doing
so soon bore bitter fruit for me.

Dorothy had been too busy with John to notice any one else, but he soon
presented her to his father. After the old lord had gallantly kissed her
hand, she turned scornfully to me and said:--

"So you fell a victim to her wanton wiles? If it were not for Madge's
sake, I could wish you might hang."

"You need not balk your kindly desire for Madge's sake," I answered. "She
cares little about my fate. I fear she will never forgive me."

"One cannot tell what a woman will do," Dorothy replied. "She is apt to
make a great fool of herself when it comes to forgiving the man she
loves."

"Men at times have something to forgive," I retorted, looking with a
smile toward John. The girl made no reply, but took John's hand and looked
at him as if to say, "John, please don't let this horrid man abuse me."

"But Madge no longer cares for me," I continued, wishing to talk upon the
theme, "and your words do not apply to her."

The girl turned her back disdainfully on me and said, "You seem to be
quite as easily duped by the woman who loves you and says she doesn't as
by the one who does not care for you but says she does."

"Damn that girl's tongue!" thought I; but her words, though biting,
carried joy to my heart and light to my soul.

After exchanging a few words with Lord Rutland, Dorothy turned to John and
said:--

"Tell me upon your knightly honor, John, do you know aught of a wicked,
treasonable plot to put the Scottish woman on the English throne?"

I quickly placed my finger on my lips and touched my ear to indicate that
their words would be overheard; for a listening-tube connected the dungeon
with Sir George's closet.

"Before the holy God, upon my knighthood, by the sacred love we bear each
other, I swear I know of no such plot," answered John. "I would be the
first to tell our good queen did I suspect its existence."

Dorothy and John continued talking upon the subject of the plot, but were
soon interrupted by a warning knock upon the dungeon door.

Lord Rutland, whose heart was like twenty-two carat gold, soft, pure, and
precious, kissed Dorothy's hand when she was about to leave, and said:
"Dear lady, grieve not for our sake. I can easily see that more pain has
come to you than to us. I thank you for the great fearless love you bear
my son. It has brought him trouble, but it is worth its cost. You have my
forgiveness freely, and I pray God's choicest benediction may be with
you." She kissed the old lord and said, "I hope some day to make you love
me."

"That will be an easy task," said his Lordship, gallantly. Dorothy was
about to leave. Just at the doorway she remembered the chief purpose of
her visit; so she ran back to John, put her hand over his mouth to insure
silence, and whispered in his ear.

On hearing Dorothy's whispered words, signs of joy were so apparent in
John's face that they could not be mistaken. He said nothing, but kissed
her hand and she hurriedly left the dungeon.

After the dungeon door closed upon Dorothy, John went to his father and
whispered a few words to him. Then he came to me, and in the same
secretive manner said:--

"The queen has promised Dorothy our liberty." I was not at all sure that
"our liberty" included me,--I greatly doubted it,--but I was glad for the
sake of my friends, and, in truth, cared little for myself.

Dorothy went from our dungeon to the queen, and that afternoon, according
to promise, Elizabeth gave orders for the release of John and his father.
Sir George, of course, was greatly chagrined when his enemies slipped from
his grasp; but he dared not show his ill humor in the presence of the
queen nor to any one who would be apt to enlighten her Majesty on the
subject.

Dorothy did not know the hour when her lover would leave Haddon; but she
sat patiently at her window till at last John and Lord Rutland appeared.
She called to Madge, telling her of the joyous event, and Madge, asked:--

"Is Malcolm with them?"

"No," replied Dorothy, "he has been left in the dungeon, where he
deserves to remain."

After a short pause, Madge said:--

"If John had acted toward the Scottish queen as Malcolm did, would you
forgive him?"

"Yes, of course. I would forgive him anything."

"Then why shall we not forgive Malcolm?" asked Madge.

"Because he is not John," was the absurd reply.

"No," said Madge, promptly; "but he is 'John' to me."

"That is true," responded Dorothy, "and I will forgive him if you will."

"I don't believe it makes much difference to Malcolm whether or not you
forgive him," said Madge, who was provoked at Dorothy's condescending
offer. "My forgiveness, I hope, is what he desires."

"That is true, Madge," replied Dorothy, laughingly; "but may not I, also,
forgive him?"

"If you choose," responded Madge, quietly; "as for me, I know not what I
wish to do."

You remember that Dorothy during her visit to the dungeon spoke of Jennie
Faxton. The girl's name reached Sir George's ear through the
listening-tube and she was at once brought in and put to the question.

Jennie, contrary to her wont, became frightened and told all she knew
concerning John and Dorothy, including my part in their affairs. In Sir
George's mind, my bad faith to him was a greater crime than my treason to
Elizabeth, and he at once went to the queen with his tale of woe.

Elizabeth, the most sentimental of women, had heard from Dorothy the story
of her tempestuous love, and also of mine, and the queen was greatly
interested in the situation.

I will try to be brief.

Through the influence of Dorothy and Madge, as I afterward learned, and
by the help of a good word from Cecil, the queen was induced to order my
liberation on condition that I should thenceforth reside in France. So one
morning, three days after John's departure from Haddon, I was overjoyed to
hear the words, "You are free."

I did not know that Jennie Faxton had given Sir George her large stock of
disturbing information concerning my connection with the affairs of
Dorothy and John. So when I left the dungeon, I, supposing that my stormy
cousin would be glad to forgive me if Queen Elizabeth would, sought and
found him in Aunt Dorothy's room. Lady Crawford and Sir George were
sitting near the fire and Madge was standing near the door in the next
room beyond. When I entered, Sir George sprang to his feet and cried out
angrily:--

"You traitorous dog, the queen has seen fit to liberate you, and I cannot
interfere with her orders; but if you do not leave my Hall at once I shall
set the hounds on you. Your effects will be sent to The Peacock, and the
sooner you quit England the safer you will be." There was of course
nothing for me to do but to go.

"You once told me, Sir George--you remember our interview at The
Peacock--that if you should ever again order me to leave Haddon, I should
tell you to go to the devil. I now take advantage of your kind permission,
and will also say farewell."

I kissed Aunt Dorothy's cheek, took my leave, and sought Cecil, from whom
I obtained a passport to France. Then I asked Dawson to fetch my horse.

I longed to see Madge before I left Haddon, but I knew that my desire
could not be gratified; so I determined to stop at Rowsley and send back a
letter to her which Dawson undertook to deliver. In my letter I would ask
Madge's permission to return for her from France and to take her home
with me as my wife. After I had despatched my letter I would wait at The
Peacock for an answer.

Sore at heart, I bade good-by to Dawson, mounted my horse, and turned his
head toward the Dove-cote Gate. As I rode under Dorothy's window she was
sitting there. The casement was open, for the day was mild, although the
season was little past midwinter. I heard her call to Madge, and then she
called to me:--

"Farewell, Malcolm! Forgive me for what I said to you in the dungeon. I
was wrong, as usual. Forgive me, and God bless you. Farewell!"

While Dorothy was speaking, and before I replied, Madge came to the open
casement and called:--

"Wait for me, Malcolm, I am going down to you."

Great joy is a wonderful purifier, and Madge's cry finished the work of
the past few months and made a good man of me, who all my life before had
known little else than evil.

Soon Madge's horse was led by a groom to the mounting block, and in a few
minutes she emerged gropingly from the great door of Entrance Tower.
Dorothy was again a prisoner in her rooms and could not come down to bid
me farewell. Madge mounted, and the groom led her horse to me and placed
the reins in my hands.

"Is it you, Malcolm?" asked Madge.

"Yes," I responded, in a voice husky with emotion. "I cannot thank you
enough for coming to say farewell. You have forgiven me?"

"Yes," responded Madge, almost in tears, "but I have not come to say
farewell."

I did not understand her meaning.

"Are you going to ride part of the way with me--perhaps to Rowsley?" I
asked, hardly daring to hope for so much.

"To France, Malcolm, if you wish to take me," she responded murmuringly.

For a little time I could not feel the happiness that had come upon me in
so great a flood. But when I had collected my scattered senses, I said:--

"I thank God that He has turned your heart again to me. May I feel His
righteous anger if ever I give you cause to regret the step you are
taking."

"I shall never regret it, Malcolm," she answered softly, as she held out
her hand to me.

Then we rode by the dove-cote, out from Haddon Hall, never to see its
walls again.

We went to Rutland, whence after a fortnight we journeyed to France. There
I received my mother's estates, and never for one moment, to my knowledge,
has Madge regretted having intrusted her life and happiness to me. I need
not speak for myself.

Our home is among the warm, sunlit, vine-covered hills of southern France,
and we care not for the joys of golden streets so long as God in His
goodness vouchsafes to us our earthly paradise. Age, with the heart at
peace, is the fairest season of life; and love, leavened of God, robs even
approaching death of his sting and makes for us a broad flower-strewn path
from the tempestuous sea of time to the calm, sweet ocean of eternity.



CHAPTER XVI

LEICESTER WAITS AT THE STILE


I shall now tell you of the happenings in Haddon Hall during the fortnight
we spent at Rutland before our departure for France.

We left Dorothy, you will remember, a prisoner in her rooms.

After John had gone Sir George's wrath began to gather, and Dorothy was
not permitted to depart from the Hall for even a walk upon the terrace,
nor could she leave her own apartments save when the queen requested her
presence.

A few days after my departure from Haddon, Sir George sent Dawson out
through the adjoining country to invite the nobility and gentry to a grand
ball to be given at the Hall in honor of Queen Elizabeth. Queen Mary had
been sent a prisoner to Chatsworth.

Tom Shaw, the most famous piper of his times, and a choice company of
musicians to play with him were hired for the occasion, and, in short, the
event was so glorious that its wonders have been sung in minstrelsy
throughout Derbyshire ever since.

Dorothy's imprisonment saddened Leicester's heart, and he longed to see
her, for her beauty had touched him nearly. Accordingly, the earl one day
intimated to Sir George his wish in terms that almost bespoke an intention
to ask for the girl's hand when upon proper opportunity the queen's
consent might be sought and perchance obtained. His equivocal words did
not induce Sir George to grant a meeting by which Dorothy might be
compromised; but a robust hope for the ultimate accomplishment of the
"Leicester possibility" was aroused in the breast of the King of the Peak,
and from hope he could, and soon did, easily step to faith. He saw that
the earl was a handsome man, and he believed, at least he hoped, that the
fascinating lord might, if he were given an opportunity, woo Dorothy's
heart away from the hated scion of a hated race. Sir George, therefore,
after several interviews with the earl, grew anxious to give his Lordship
an opportunity to win her. But both Sir George and my lord feared
Elizabeth's displeasure, and the meeting between Leicester and the girl
seemed difficult to contrive. Sir George felt confident that Dorothy
could, if she would, easily capture the great lord in a few private
interviews; but would she? Dorothy gave her father no encouragement in the
matter, and took pains to shun Leicester rather than to seek him.

As Dorothy grew unwilling, Leicester and Sir George grew eager, until at
length the latter felt that it was almost time to exert his parental
authority. He told Aunt Dorothy his feeling on the subject, and she told
her niece. It was impossible to know from what source Dorothy might draw
inspiration for mischief. It came to her with her father's half-command
regarding Leicester.

Winter had again asserted itself. The weather was bitter cold and snow
covered the ground to the depth of a horse's fetlock.

The eventful night of the grand ball arrived, and Dorothy's heart throbbed
till she thought surely it would burst.

At nightfall guests began to arrive, and Sir George, hospitable soul that
he was, grew boisterous with good humor and delight.

The rare old battlements of Haddon were ablaze with flambeaux, and inside
the rooms were alight with waxen tapers. The long gallery was brilliant
with the smiles of bejewelled beauty, and laughter, song, and merriment
filled the grand old Hall from terrace to Entrance Tower. Dorothy, of
course, was brought down from her prison to grace the occasion with a
beauty which none could rival. Her garments were of soft, clinging,
bright-colored silks and snowy laces, and all who saw her agreed that a
creature more radiant never greeted the eye of man.

When the guests had all arrived, the pipers in the balcony burst forth in
heart-swelling strains of music, and every foot in the room longed for the
dance to begin.

I should like to tell you how Elizabeth most graciously opened the ball
with his Majesty, the King of the Peak, amid the plaudits of worshipping
subjects, and I should enjoy describing the riotous glory which
followed,--for although I was not there, I know intimately all that
happened,--but I will balk my desire and tell you only of those things
which touched Dorothy.

Leicester, of course, danced with her, and during a pause in the figure,
the girl in response to pleadings which she had adroitly incited,
reluctantly promised to grant the earl the private interview he so much
desired if he could suggest some means for bringing it about. Leicester
was in raptures over her complaisance and glowed with triumph and
delightful anticipation. But he could think of no satisfactory plan
whereby his hopes might be brought to a happy fruition. He proposed
several, but all seemed impracticable to the coy girl, and she rejected
them. After many futile attempts he said:--

"I can suggest no good plan, mistress. I pray you, gracious lady,
therefore, make full to overflowing the measure of your generosity, and
tell me how it may be accomplished."

Dorothy hung her head as if in great shame and said: "I fear, my lord, we
had better abandon the project for a time. Upon another occasion
perhaps--"

"No, no," interrupted the earl, pleadingly, "do not so grievously
disappoint me. My heart yearns to have you to myself for one little moment
where spying eyes cannot see nor prying ears hear. It is cruel in you to
raise my hopes only to cast them down. I beg you, tell me if you know in
what manner I may meet you privately."

After a long pause, Dorothy with downcast eyes said, "I am full of shame,
my lord, to consent to this meeting, and then find the way to it,
but--but--" ("Yes, yes, my Venus, my gracious one," interrupted the
earl)--"but if my father would permit me to--to leave the Hall for a few
minutes, I might--oh, it is impossible, my lord. I must not think of it."

"I pray you, I beg you," pleaded Leicester. "Tell me, at least, what you
might do if your father would permit you to leave the Hall. I would gladly
fall to my knees, were it not for the assembled company."

With reluctance in her manner and gladness in her heart, the girl said:--

"If my father would permit me to leave the Hall, I might--only for a
moment, meet you at the stile, in the northeast corner of the garden back
of the terrace half an hour hence. But he would not permit me, and--and,
my lord, I ought not to go even should father consent."

"I will ask your father's permission for you. I will seek him at once,"
said the eager earl.

"No, no, my lord, I pray you, do not," murmured Dorothy, with distracting
little troubled wrinkles in her forehead. Her trouble was more for fear
lest he would not than for dread that he would.

"I will, I will," cried his Lordship, softly; "I insist, and you shall not
gainsay me."

The girl's only assent was silence, but that was sufficient for so
enterprising a gallant as the noble Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. So
he at once went to seek Sir George.

The old gentleman, although anxious to give Leicester a chance to press
his suit with Dorothy, at first refused, but Leicester said:--

"My intentions are honorable, Sir George. If I can win your daughter's
heart, it is my wish, if the queen's consent can be obtained, to ask
Mistress Vernon's hand in marriage."

Sir George's breast swelled with pride and satisfaction, for Leicester's
words were as near an offer of marriage as it was in his power to make. So
the earl received, for Dorothy, permission to leave the Hall, and eagerly
carried it to her.

"Your father consents gladly," said the earl. "Will you meet me half an
hour hence at the stile?"

"Yes," murmured the girl, with shamelessly cast down eyes and drooping
head. Leicester bowed himself away, and fully fifteen minutes before the
appointed time left the Hall to wait in the cold at the stile for Dorothy.

Before the expiration of the tedious half hour our meek maiden went to her
father and with deep modesty and affected shame said:--

"Father, is it your wish that I go out of the Hall for a few minutes to
meet--to meet--" She apparently could not finish the sentence, so modest
and shame-faced was she.

"Yes, Doll, I wish you to go on this condition: if Leicester asks you to
marry him, you shall consent to be his wife."

"I promise, father," replied the dutiful girl, "if Lord Leicester asks me
this night, I will be his wife."

"That is well, child, that is well. Once more you are my good, obedient
daughter, and I love you. Wear your sable cloak, Doll; the weather is very
cold out of doors."

Her father's solicitude touched her nearly, and she gently led him to a
secluded alcove near by, threw her arms about his neck, and kissed him
passionately. The girl's affection was sweet to the old man who had been
without it so long, and his eyes grew moist as he returned her caresses.
Dorothy's eyes also were filled with tears. Her throat was choked with
sobs, and her heart was sore with pain. Poor young heart! Poor old man!

Soon after Dorothy had spoken with her father she left the Hall by
Dorothy's Postern. She was wrapped in her sable cloak--the one that had
saved John's life in Aunt Dorothy's room; but instead of going across the
garden to the stile where Lord Leicester was waiting, which was north and
east of the terrace, she sped southward down the terrace and did not stop
till she reached the steps which led westward to the lower garden. She
stood on the terrace till she saw a man running toward her from the
postern in the southwest corner of the lower garden. Then down the steps
she sped with winged feet, and outstretching her arms, fell upon the man's
breast, whispering: "John, my love! John, my love!"

As for the man--well, during the first minute or two he wasted no time in
speech.

When he spoke he said:--

"We must not tarry here. Horses are waiting at the south end of the
footbridge. Let us hasten away at once."

Then happened the strangest of all the strange things I have had to record
of this strange, fierce, tender, and at time almost half-savage girl.

Dorothy for months had longed for that moment. Her heart had almost burst
with joy when a new-born hope for it was suggested by the opportunities of
the ball and her father's desire touching my lord of Leicester. But now
that the longed-for moment was at hand, the tender heart, which had so
anxiously awaited it, failed, and the girl broke down weeping
hysterically.

"Oh, John, you have forgiven so many faults in me," she said between
sobs, "that I know you will forgive me when I tell you I cannot go with
you to-night. I thought I could and I so intended when I came out here to
meet you. But oh, John, my dearest love, I cannot go; I cannot go. Another
time I will go with you, John. I promise that I will go with you soon,
very soon, John; but I cannot go now, oh, I cannot. You will forgive me,
won't you, John? You will forgive me?"

"No," cried John in no uncertain tones, "I will not forgive you. I will
take you. If you cry out, I will silence you." Thereupon he rudely took
the girl in his arms and ran with her toward the garden gate near the
north end of the stone footbridge.

"John, John!" she cried in terror. But he placed his hand over her mouth
and forced her to remain silent till they were past the south wall. Then
he removed his hand and she screamed and struggled against him with all
her might. Strong as she was, her strength was no match for John's, and
her struggles were in vain.

John, with his stolen bride, hurriedly crossed the footbridge and ran to
the men who were holding the horses. There he placed Dorothy on her feet
and said with a touch of anger:--

"Will you mount of your own will or shall I put you in the saddle?"

"I'll mount of my own will, John," she replied submissively, "and John,
I--I thank you, I thank you for--for--" she stopped speaking and toyed
with the tufts of fur that hung from the edges of her cloak.

"For what, my love? For what do you thank me?" asked John after a little
pause.

"For making--me--do--what I--I longed to do. My conscience would not let
me do it of my own free will."

Then tears came from her eyes in a great flood, and throwing her arms
about John's neck she gave him herself and her heart to keep forever and
forever.

And Leicester was shivering at the stile! The girl had forgotten even the
existence of the greatest lord in the realm.

My wife, Lord Rutland, and I waited in the watch-room above the castle
gates for the coming of Dorothy and John; and when they came--but I will
not try to describe the scene. It were a vain effort. Tears and laughter
well compounded make the sweetest joy; grief and joy the truest happiness;
happiness and pain the grandest soul, and none of these may be described.
We may analyze them, and may take them part from part; but, like love,
they cannot be compounded. We may know all the component parts, but when
we try to create these great emotions in description, we lack the subtle
compounding flux to unite the ingredients, and after all is done, we have
simply said that black is black and that white is white.

Next day, in the morning, Madge and I started for our new home in France.
We rode up the hill down which poor Dolcy took her last fatal plunge, and
when we reached the crest, we paused to look back. Standing on the
battlements, waving a kerchief in farewell to us, was the golden-crowned
form of a girl. Soon she covered her face with her kerchief, and we knew
she was weeping Then we, also, wept as we turned away from the fair
picture; and since that far-off morning--forty long, long years ago--we
have not seen the face nor heard the voice of our sweet, tender friend.
Forty years! What an eternity it is if we tear it into minutes!



L'ENVOI


The fire ceases to burn; the flames are sucked back into the earth; the
doe's blood has boiled away; the caldron cools, and my shadowy friends--so
real to me--whom I love with a passionate tenderness beyond my power to
express, have sunk into the dread black bank of the past, and my poor,
weak wand is powerless to recall them for the space of even one fleeting
moment. So I must say farewell to them; but all my life I shall carry a
heart full of tender love and pain for the fairest, fiercest, gentlest,
weakest, strongest of them all--Dorothy Vernon.



MALCOLM POSSIBLY IN ERROR


Malcolm Vernon is the only writer on the life of Dorothy Vernon who speaks
of Rutland Castle. All others writing on the subject say that Belvoir
Castle was the home of the Earl of Rutland.

No other writer mentions the proposed marriage, spoken of by Malcolm,
between Dorothy and Lord Derby's son. They do, however, say that Dorothy
had an elder sister who married a Stanley, but died childless, leaving
Dorothy sole heiress to Sir George Vernon's vast estate.

All writers agree with Malcolm upon the main fact that brave Dorothy
eloped with John Manners and brought to him the fair estate of Haddon,
which their descendant, the present Duke of Rutland, now possesses.

No other writer speaks of Mary Stuart having been at Haddon, and many
chroniclers disagree with Malcolm as to the exact date of her imprisonment
in Lochleven and her escape.

In all other essential respects the history of Dorothy Vernon as told by
Malcolm agrees with other accounts of her life.

I do not pretend to reconcile the differences between these great
historical authorities, but I confess to considerable faith in Malcolm.





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