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Title: The Castle Inn
Author: Weyman, Stanley John, 1855-1928
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Castle Inn" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE CASTLE INN


BY

STANLEY J. WEYMAN

Author of "A Gentleman of France," "Under the Red Robe,"
"The House of the Wolf," etc.

ILLUSTRATED BY

WALTER APPLETON CLARK

1898



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I. A KNIGHT-ERRANT.
CHAPTER II. A MISADVENTURE.
CHAPTER III. TUTOR AND PUPILS--OLD STYLE.
CHAPTER IV. PEEPING TOM OF WALLINGFORD.
CHAPTER V. THE MEETING.
CHAPTER VI. A FISH OUT OF WATER.
CHAPTER VII. ACHILLES AND BRISEIS.
CHAPTER VIII. THE OLD BATH ROAD.
CHAPTER IX. ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON.
CHAPTER X. MOTHER AND SON.
CHAPTER XI. DR. ADDINGTON.
CHAPTER XII. JULIA.
CHAPTER XIII. A SPOILED CHILD.
CHAPTER XIV. A GOOD MAN'S DILEMMA.
CHAPTER XV. AMORIS INTEGRATIO.
CHAPTER XVI. THE BLACK FAN.
CHAPTER XVII. MR. FISHWICK, THE ARBITER.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE PURSUIT.
CHAPTER XIX. AN UNWILLING ALLY.
CHAPTER XX. THE EMPTY POST-CHAISE.
CHAPTER XXI. IN THE CARRIAGE.
CHAPTER XXII. FACILIS DESCENSUS.
CHAPTER XXIII. BULLY POMEROY.
CHAPTER XXIV. CUTTING FOR THE QUEEN.
CHAPTER XXV. LORD ALMERIC'S SUIT.
CHAPTER XXVI. BOON COMPANIONS.
CHAPTER XXVII. MR. FISHWICK'S DISCOVERY.
CHAPTER XXVIII. A ROUGH AWAKENING.
CHAPTER XXIX. MR. POMEROY'S PLAN.
CHAPTER XXX. A GREEK GIFT.
CHAPTER XXXI. THE INN AT CHIPPENHAM.
CHAPTER XXXII. CHANCE MEDLEY.
CHAPTER XXXIII. IN THE CARRIAGE.
CHAPTER XXXIV. BAD NEWS.
CHAPTER XXXV. DORMITAT HOMERUS.
CHAPTER XXXVI. THE ATTORNEY SPEAKS.
CHAPTER XXXVII. A HANDSOME ALLOWANCE.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE CLERK OF THE LEASES.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


THE ANSWER WAS A BLINDING FLASH OF LIGHT AND A SHOT.
'TOMMY, WHO IS--THIS--FELLOW?' HE CRIED.
'YOUR LADYSHIP'S MOST HUMBLE SERVANT,' HE SAID.
HE WOULD FALL SILENT IN JULIA'S COMPANY.
'AND DRINK HER, YOU ENVIOUS BEGGARS! DRINK HER!'
ON THE THRESHOLD, ... STOOD MR. DUNBOROUGH.



THE CASTLE INN


CHAPTER I

A KNIGHT-ERRANT


About a hundred and thirty years ago, when the third George, whom our
grandfathers knew in his blind dotage, was a young and sturdy
bridegroom; when old Q., whom 1810 found peering from his balcony in
Piccadilly, deaf, toothless, and a skeleton, was that gay and lively
spark, the Earl of March; when _bore_ and _boreish_ were words of _haut
ton_, unknown to the vulgar, and the price of a borough was 5,000_l_.;
when gibbets still served for sign-posts, and railways were not and
highwaymen were--to be more exact, in the early spring of the year 1767,
a travelling chariot-and-four drew up about five in the evening before
the inn at Wheatley Bridge, a short stage from Oxford on the Oxford
road. A gig and a couple of post-chaises, attended by the customary
group of stablemen, topers, and gossips already stood before the house,
but these were quickly deserted in favour of the more important
equipage. The drawers in their aprons trooped out, but the landlord,
foreseeing a rich harvest, was first at the door of the carriage, and
opened it with a bow such as is rarely seen in these days.

'Will your lordship please to alight?' he said.

'No, rascal!' cried one of those within. 'Shut the door!'

'You wish fresh horses, my lord?' the obsequious host replied. 'Of
course. They shall be--'

'We wish nothing,' was the brisk answer. 'D'ye hear? Shut the door, and
go to the devil!'

Puzzled, but obedient, the landlord fell back on the servants, who had
descended from their seat in front and were beating their hands one on
another, for the March evening was chill. 'What is up, gentlemen?'
he said.

'Nothing. But we will put something down, by your leave,' they answered.

'Won't they do the same?' He cocked his thumb in the direction of the
carriage.

'No. You have such an infernal bad road, the dice roll,' was the answer.
'They will finish their game in quiet. That is all. Lord, how your folks
stare! Have they never seen a lord before?'

'Who is it?' the landlord asked eagerly. 'I thought I knew his Grace's
face.'

Before the servant could answer or satisfy his inquisitiveness, the door
of the carriage was opened in haste, and the landlord sprang to offer
his shoulder. A tall young man whose shaped riding-coat failed to hide
that which his jewelled hands and small French hat would alone have
betrayed--that he was dressed in the height of fashion--stepped down. A
room and a bottle of your best claret,' he said. 'And bring me ink and
a pen.'

'Immediately, my lord. This way, my lord. Your lordship will perhaps
honour me by dining here?'

'Lord, no! Do you think I want to be poisoned?' was the frank answer.
And looking about him with languid curiosity, the young peer, followed
by a companion, lounged into the house.

The third traveller--for three there were--by a gesture directed the
servant to close the carriage door, and, keeping his seat, gazed
sleepily through the window. The loitering crowd, standing at a
respectful distance, returned his glances with interest, until an empty
post-chaise, approaching from the direction of Oxford, rattled up
noisily and split the group asunder. As the steaming horses stopped
within a few paces of the chariot, the gentleman seated in the latter
saw one of the ostlers go up to the post-chaise and heard him say, 'Soon
back, Jimmie?'

'Ay, and I ha' been stopped too,' the postboy answered as he dropped his
reins.

'No!' in a tone of surprise. 'Was it Black Jack?'

'Not he. 'Twas a woman!'

A murmur of astonishment greeted the answer. The postboy grinned, and
sitting easily in his pad prepared to enjoy the situation. 'Ay, a
woman!' he said. 'And a rare pair of eyes to that. What do you think she
wanted, lads?'

'The stuff, of course.'

'Not she. Wanted one of them I took'--and he jerked his elbow
contemptuously in the direction whence he had come--'to fight a duel for
her. One of they! Said, was he Mr. Berkeley, and would he risk his life
for a woman.'

The head ostler stared. 'Lord! and who was it he was to fight?' he asked
at last.

'She did not say. Her spark maybe, that has jilted her.'

'And would they, Jimmie?'

'They? Shoo! They were Methodists,' the postboy answered contemptuously,
'Scratch wigs and snuff-colour. If she had not been next door to a Bess
of Bedlam and in a main tantrum, she would have seen that. But "Are you
Mr. Berkeley?" she says, all on fire like. And "Will you fight for a
woman?" And when they shrieked out, banged the door on them. But I tell
you she was a pretty piece as you'd wish to see. If she had asked me, I
would not have said no to her.' And he grinned.

The gentleman in the chariot opened a window. 'Where did she stop you,
my man?' he asked idly.

'Half a mile this side of Oxford, your worship,' the postboy answered,
knuckling his forehead. 'Seemed to me, sir, she was a play actress. She
had that sort of way with her.'

The gentleman nodded and closed the window. The night had so far set in
that they had brought out lights; as he sat back, one of these, hung in
the carriage, shone on his features and betrayed that he was smiling. In
this mood his face lost the air of affected refinement--which was then
the mode, and went perfectly with a wig and ruffles--and appeared in its
true cast, plain and strong, yet not uncomely. His features lacked the
insipid regularity which, where all shaved, passed for masculine beauty;
the nose ended largely, the cheek-bones were high, and the chin
projected. But from the risk and even the edge of ugliness it was saved
by a pair of grey eyes, keen, humorous, and kindly, and a smile that
showed the eyes at their best. Of late those eyes had been known to
express weariness and satiety; the man was tiring of the round of costly
follies and aimless amusements in which he passed his life. But at
twenty-six pepper is still hot in the mouth, and Sir George Soane
continued to drink, game, and fribble, though the first pungent flavour
of those delights had vanished, and the things themselves began to
pall upon him.

When he had sat thus ten minutes, smiling at intervals, a stir about the
door announced that his companions were returning. The landlord preceded
them, and was rewarded for his pains with half a guinea; the crowd with
a shower of small silver. The postillions cracked their whips, the
horses started forward, and amid a shrill hurrah my lord's carriage
rolled away from the door.

'Now, who casts?' the peer cried briskly, arranging himself in his
seat. 'George, I'll set you. The old stakes?'

'No, I am done for to-night,' Sir George answered yawning without
disguise.

'What! crabbed, dear lad?'

'Ay, set Berkeley, my lord. He's a better match for you.'

'And be robbed by the first highwayman we meet? No, no! I told you, if I
was to go down to this damp hole of mine--fancy living a hundred miles
from White's! I should die if I could not game every day--you were to
play with me, and Berkeley was to ensure my purse.'

'He would as soon take it,' Sir George answered languidly, gazing
through the glass.

'Sooner, by--!' cried the third traveller, a saturnine, dark-faced man
of thirty-four or more, who sat with his back to the horses, and toyed
with a pistol that lay on the seat beside him. 'I'm content if your
lordship is.'

'Then have at you! Call the main, Colonel. You may be the devil among
the highwaymen--that was Selwyn's joke, was it not?--but I'll see the
colour of your money.'

'Beware of him. He _doved_ March,' Sir George said indifferently.

'He won't strip me,' cried the young lord. 'Five is the main. Five to
four he throws crabs! Will you take, George?'

Soane did not answer, and the two, absorbed in the rattle of the dice
and the turns of their beloved hazard, presently forgot him; his
lordship being the deepest player in London and as fit a successor to
the luckless Lord Mountford as one drop of water to another. Thus left
to himself, and as effectually screened from remark as if he sat alone,
Sir George devoted himself to an eager scrutiny of the night, looking
first through one window and then through the other; in which he
persevered though darkness had fallen so completely that only the hedges
showed in the lamplight, gliding giddily by in endless walls of white.
On a sudden he dropped the glass with an exclamation, and thrust out
his head.

'Pull up!' he cried. 'I want to descend.'

The young lord uttered a peevish exclamation. 'What is to do?' he
continued, glancing round; then, instantly returning to the dice, 'if it
is my purse they want, say Berkeley is here. That will scare them. What
are you doing, George?'

'Wait a minute,' was the answer; and in a twinkling Soane was out, and
was ordering the servant, who had climbed down, to close the door. This
effected, he strode back along the road to a spot where a figure,
cloaked, and hooded, was just visible, lurking on the fringe of the
lamplight. As he approached it, he raised his hat with an exaggeration
of politeness.

'Madam,' he said, 'you asked for me, I believe?'

The woman--for a woman it was, though he could see no more of her than a
pale face, staring set and Gorgon-like from under the hood--did not
answer at once. Then, 'Who are you?' she said.

'Colonel Berkeley,' he answered with assurance, and again saluted her.

'Who killed the highwayman at Hounslow last Christmas?' she cried.

'The same, madam.'

'And shot Farnham Joe at Roehampton?'

'Yes, madam. And much at your service.'

'We shall see,' she answered, her voice savagely dubious. 'At least you
are a gentleman and can use a pistol? But are you willing to risk
something for justice' sake?'

'And the sake of your _beaux yeux_, madam?' he answered, a laugh in his
voice. 'Yes.'

'You mean it?'

'Prove me,' he answered.

His tone was light; but the woman, who seemed to labour under strong
emotion, either failed to notice this or was content to put up with it.
'Then send on your carriage,' she said.

His jaw fell at that, and had there been light by which to see him he
would have looked foolish. At last, 'Are we to walk?' he said.

'Those are the lights of Oxford,' she answered. 'We shall be there in
ten minutes.'

'Oh, very well,' he said, 'A moment, if you please.'

She waited while he went to the carriage and told the astonished
servants to leave his baggage at the Mitre; this understood, he put in
his head and announced to his host that he would come on next day. 'Your
lordship must excuse me to-night,' he said.

'What is up?' my lord asked, without raising his eyes or turning his
head. He had taken the box and thrown nicks three times running, at five
guineas the cast; and was in the seventh heaven. 'Ha! five is the main.
Now you are in it, Colonel. What did you say, George? Not coming!
What is it?'

'An adventure.'

'What! a petticoat?'

'Yes,' Sir George answered, smirking.

'Well, you find 'em in odd places. Take care of yourself. But shut the
door, that is a good fellow. There is a d----d draught.'

Sir George complied, and, nodding to the servants, walked back to the
woman. As he reached her the carriage with its lights whirled away, and
left them in darkness.

Soane wondered if he were not a fool for his pains, and advanced a step
nearer to conviction when the woman with an impatient 'Come!' started
along the road; moving at a smart pace in the direction which the
chariot had taken, and betraying so little shyness or timidity as to
seem unconscious of his company. The neighbourhood of Oxford is low and
flat, and except where a few lights marked the outskirts of the city a
wall of darkness shut them in, permitting nothing to be seen that lay
more than a few paces away. A grey drift of clouds, luminous in
comparison with the gloom about them, moved slowly overhead, and out of
the night the raving of a farm-dog or the creaking of a dry bough came
to the ear with melancholy effect.

The fine gentleman of that day had no taste for the wild, the rugged, or
the lonely. He lived too near the times when those words spelled danger.
He found at Almack's his most romantic scene, at Ranelagh his _terra
incognita_, in the gardens of Versailles his ideal of the charming and
picturesque. Sir George, no exception to the rule, shivered as he looked
round. He began to experience a revulsion of spirits; and to consider
that, for a gentleman who owned Lord Chatham for a patron, and was even
now on his roundabout way to join that minister--for a gentleman whose
fortune, though crippled and impaired, was still tolerable, and who,
where it had suffered, might look with confidence to see it made good at
the public expense--or to what end patrons or ministers?--he began to
reflect, I say, that for such an one to exchange a peer's coach and good
company for a night trudge at a woman's heels was a folly, better
befitting a boy at school than a man of his years. Not that he had ever
been so wild as to contemplate anything serious; or from the first had
entertained the most remote intention of brawling in an unknown cause.
That was an extravagance beyond him; and he doubted if the girl really
had it in her mind. The only adventure he had proposed, when he left
the carriage, was one of gallantry; it was the only adventure then in
vogue. And for that, now the time was come, and the _incognita_ and he
were as much alone as the most ardent lover could wish, he felt
singularly disinclined.

True, the outline of her cloak, and the indications of a slender,
well-formed shape which it permitted to escape, satisfied him that the
postboy had not deceived him; but that his companion was both young and
handsome. And with this and his bargain it was to be supposed he would
be content. But the pure matter-of-factness of the girl's manner, her
silence, and her uncompromising attitude, as she walked by his side,
cooled whatever ardour her beauty and the reflection that he had
jockeyed Berkeley were calculated to arouse; and it was with an effort
that he presently lessened the distance between them.

'Et vera incessu patuit dea!' he said, speaking in the tone between jest
and earnest which he had used before. '"And all the goddess in her step
appears." Which means that you have the prettiest walk in the world, my
dear--but whither are you taking me?'

She went steadily on, not deigning an answer.

'But--my charmer, let us parley,' he remonstrated, striving to maintain
a light tone. 'In a minute we shall be in the town and--'

'I thought that we understood one another,' she answered curtly, still
continuing to walk, and to look straight before her; in which position
her hood, hid her face. 'I am taking you where I want you.'

'Oh, very well,' he said, shrugging his shoulders. But under his breath
he muttered, 'By heaven, I believe that the pretty fool really
thinks--that I am going to fight for her!'

To a man who had supped at White's the night before, and knew his age to
be the _âge des philosophes_, it seemed the wildest fancy in the world.
And his distaste grew. But to break off and leave her--at any rate until
he had put it beyond question that she had no underthought--to break off
and leave her after placing himself in a situation so humiliating, was
too much for the pride of a Macaroni. The lines of her head and figure
too, half guessed and half revealed, and wholly light and graceful, had
caught his fancy and created a desire to subjugate her. Reluctantly,
therefore, he continued to walk beside her, over Magdalen Bridge, and
thence by a path which, skirting the city, ran across the low wooded
meadows at the back of Merton.

A little to the right the squat tower of the college loomed against the
lighter rack of clouds, and rising amid the dark lines of trees that
beautify that part of the outskirts, formed a _coup d'oeil_ sufficiently
impressive. Here and there, in such of the chamber windows as looked
over the meadows, lights twinkled cheerfully; emboldened by which, yet
avoiding their scope, pairs of lovers of the commoner class sneaked to
and fro under the trees. Whether the presence of these recalled early
memories which Sir George's fastidiousness found unpalatable, or he felt
his fashion, smirched by the vulgarity of this Venus-walk, his
impatience grew; and was not far from bursting forth when his guide
turned sharply into an alley behind the cathedral, and, after threading
a lane of mean houses, entered a small court.

The place, though poor and narrow, was not squalid. Sir George could see
so much by the light which shone from a window and fell on a group of
five or six persons, who stood about the nearest door and talked in low,
excited voices. He had a good view of one man's face, and read in it
gloom and anger. Then the group made way for the girl, eyeing her, as he
thought, with pity and a sort of deference; and cursing the folly that
had brought him into such a place and situation, wondering what on
earth it all meant or in what it would end, he followed her into
the house.

She opened a door on the right-hand side of the narrow passage, and led
the way into a long, low room. For a moment he saw no more than two
lights on a distant table, and kneeling at a chair beside them a woman
with grey dishevelled hair, who seemed to be praying, her face hidden.
Then his gaze, sinking instinctively, fell on a low bed between him and
the woman; and there rested on a white sheet, and on the solemn
outlines--so certain in their rigidity, so unmistakable by human
eyes--of a body laid out for burial.



CHAPTER II

A MISADVENTURE

To be brought up short in an amorous quest by such a sight as that was a
shock alike to Soane's better nature and his worse dignity. The former
moved him to stand silent and abashed, the latter to ask with an
indignant curse why he had been brought to that place. And the latter
lower instinct prevailed. But when he raised his head to put the
question with the necessary spirt of temper, he found that the girl had
left his side and passed to the other hand of the dead; where, the hood
thrown back from her face, she stood looking at him with such a gloomy
fire in her eyes as it needed but a word, a touch, a glance to kindle
into a blaze.

At the moment, however, he thought less of this than of the beauty of
the face which he saw for the first time. It was a southern face, finely
moulded, dark and passionate, full-lipped, yet wide of brow, with a
generous breadth between the eyes. Seldom had he seen a woman more
beautiful; and he stood silent, the words he had been about to speak
dying stillborn on his lips.

Yet she seemed to understand them; she answered them. 'Why have I
brought you here?' she cried, her voice trembling; and she pointed to
the bed. 'Because he is--he was my father. And he lies there. And
because the man who killed him goes free. And I would--I would kill
_him_! Do you hear me? I would kill him!'

Sir George tried to free his mind from the influence of her passion and
her eyes, from the nightmare of the room and the body, and to see things
in a sane light. 'But--my good girl,' he said, slowly and not unkindly,
'I know nothing about it. Nothing. I am a stranger here.'

'For that reason I brought you here,' she retorted.

'But--I cannot interfere,' he answered, shaking his head. 'There is the
law. You must apply to it. The law will punish the man if he has
done wrong.'

'But the law will _not_ punish him!' she cried with scorn. 'The law? The
law is your law, the law of the rich. And he'--she pointed to the
bed--'was poor and a servant. And the man who killed him was his master.
So he goes free--of the law!'

'But if he killed him?' Sir George muttered lamely.

'He did!' she cried between her teeth. 'And I would have you kill him!'

He shook his head. 'My good girl,' he said kindly, 'you are distraught.
You are not yourself. Or you would know a gentleman does not do
these things.'

'A gentleman!' she retorted, her smouldering rage flaming up at last.
'No; but I will tell you what he does. He kills a man to save his purse!
Or his honour! Or for a mis-word at cards! Or the lie given in drink! He
will run a man through in a dark room, with no one to see fair play! But
for drawing his sword to help a woman, or avenge a wrong, a gentleman--a
gentleman does not do these things. It is true! And may--'

'Oh, have done, have done, my dear!' cried a wailing, tearful voice; and
Sir George, almost cowed by the girl's fierce words and the fiercer
execration that was on her lips, hailed the intervention with relief.
The woman whom he had seen on her knees had risen and now approached the
girl, showing a face wrinkled, worn, and plain, but not ignoble; and for
the time lifted above the commonplace by the tears that rained down it.
'Oh, my lovey, have done,' she cried. 'And let the gentleman go. To kill
another will not help him that is dead. Nor us that are left alone!'

'It will not help him!' the girl answered, shrilly and wildly; and her
eyes, leaving Soane, strayed round the room as if she were that moment
awakened and missed some one. 'No! But is he to be murdered, and no one
suffer? Is he to die and no one pay? He who had a smile for us, go in or
out, and never a harsh word or thought; who never did any man wrong or
wished any man ill? Yet he lies there! Oh, mother, mother,' she
continued, her voice broken on a sudden by a tremor of pain, 'we are
alone! We are alone! We shall never see him come in at that door again!'

The old woman sobbed helplessly and made no answer; on which the girl,
with a gesture as simple as it was beautiful, drew the grey head to her
shoulder. Then she looked at Sir George. 'Go,' she said; but he saw that
the tears were welling up in her eyes, and that her frame was beginning
to tremble. 'Go! I was not myself--a while ago--when I fetched you. Go,
sir, and leave us.'

Moved by the abrupt change, as well as by her beauty, Sir George
lingered; muttering that perhaps he could help her in another way. But
she shook her head, once and again; and, instinctively respecting the
grief which had found at length its proper vent, he turned and, softly
lifting the latch, went out into the court.

The night air cooled his brow, and recalled him to sober earnest and the
eighteenth century. In the room which he had left, he had marked nothing
out of the common except the girl. The mother, the furniture, the very
bed on which the dead man lay, all were appropriate, and such as he
would expect to find in the house of his under-steward. But the girl?
The girl was gloriously handsome; and as eccentric as she was
beautiful. Sir George's head turned and his eyes glowed as he thought of
her. He considered what a story he could make of it at White's; and he
put up his spying-glass, and looked through it to see if the towers of
the cathedral still overhung the court. 'Gad, sir!' he said aloud,
rehearsing the story, as much to get rid of an unfashionable sensation
he had in his throat as in pure whimsy, 'I was surprised to find that it
was Oxford. It should have been Granada, or Bagdad, or Florence! I give
you my word, the houris that the Montagu saw in the Hammam at Stamboul
were nothing to her!'

The persons through whom he had passed on his way to the door were still
standing before the house. Glancing back when he had reached the mouth
of the court, he saw that they were watching him; and, obeying a sudden
impulse of curiosity, he turned on his heel and signed to the nearest to
come to him. 'Here, my man,' he said, 'a word with you.'

The fellow moved towards him reluctantly, and with suspicion. 'Who is it
lies dead there?' Sir George asked.

'Your honour knows,' the man answered cautiously.

'No, I don't.'

'Then you will be the only one in Oxford that does not,' the fellow
replied, eyeing him oddly.

'Maybe,' Soane answered with impatience. 'Take it so, and answer the
question,'

'It is Masterson, that was the porter at Pembroke.'

'Ah! And how did he die?'

'That is asking,' the man answered, looking shiftily about. 'And it is
an ill business, and I want no trouble. Oh, well'--he continued, as Sir
George put something in his hand--'thank your honour, I'll drink your
health. Yes, it is Masterson, poor man, sure enough; and two days ago
he was as well as you or I--saving your presence. He was on the gate
that evening, and there was a supper on one of the staircases: all the
bloods of the College, your honour will understand. About an hour before
midnight the Master sent him to tell the gentlemen he could not sleep
for the noise. After that it is not known just what happened, but the
party had him in and gave him wine; and whether he went then and
returned again when the company were gone is a question. Any way, he was
found in the morning, cold and dead at the foot of the stairs, and his
neck broken. It is said by some a trap was laid for him on the
staircase. And if it was,' the man continued, after a pause, his true
feeling finding sudden vent, 'it is a black shame that the law does not
punish it! But the coroner brought it in an accident.'

Sir George shrugged his shoulders. Then, moved by curiosity and a desire
to learn something about the girl, 'His daughter takes it hardly,'
he said.

The man grunted. 'Ah,' he said, 'maybe she has need to. Your honour does
not come from him?'

'From Whom? I come from no one.'

'To be sure, sir, I was forgetting. But, seeing you with her--but there,
you are a stranger.'

Soane would have liked to ask him his meaning, but felt that he had
condescended enough. He bade the man a curt good-night, therefore, and
turning away passed quickly into St. Aldate's Street. Thence it was but
a step to the Mitre, where he found his baggage and servant
awaiting him.

In those days distinctions of dress were still clear and unmistakable.
Between the peruke--often forty guineas' worth--the tie-wig, the
scratch, and the man who went content with a little powder, the
intervals were measurable. Ruffles cost five pounds a pair; and velvets
and silks, cut probably in Paris, were morning wear. Moreover, the
dress of the man who lost or won his thousand in a night at Almack's,
and was equally well known at Madame du Deffand's in Paris and at
Holland House, differed as much from the dress of the ordinary
well-to-do gentleman as that again differed from the lawyer's or the
doctor's. The Mitre, therefore, saw in Sir George a very fine gentleman
indeed, set him down to an excellent supper in its best room, and
promised a post-chaise-and-four for the following morning--all with much
bowing and scraping, and much mention of my lord to whose house he would
post. For in those days, if a fine gentleman was a very fine gentleman,
a peer was also a peer. Quite recently they had ventured to hang one;
but with apologies, a landau-and-six, and a silken halter.

Sir George would not have had the least pretension to be the glass of
fashion and the mould of form, which St. James's Street considered him,
if he had failed to give a large share of his thoughts while he supped
to the beautiful woman he had quitted. He knew very well what steps Lord
March or Tom Hervey would take, were either in his place; and though he
had no greater taste for an irregular life than became a man in his
station who was neither a Methodist nor Lord Dartmouth, he allowed his
thoughts to dwell, perhaps longer than was prudent, on the girl's
perfections, and on what might have been were his heart a little harder,
or the not over-rigid rule which he observed a trifle less stringent.
The father was dead. The girl was poor: probably her ideal of a gallant
was a College beau, in second-hand lace and stained linen, drunk on ale
in the forenoon. Was it likely that the fortress would hold out long, or
that the maiden's heart would prove to be more obdurate than Danäe's?

Soane, considering these things and his self-denial, grew irritable over
his Chambertin. He pictured Lord March's friend, the Rena, and found
this girl immeasurably before her. He painted the sensation she would
make and the fashion he could give her, and vowed that she was a Gunning
with sense and wit added; to sum up all, he blamed himself for a saint
and a Scipio. Then, late as it was, he sent for the landlord, and to get
rid of his thoughts, or in pursuance of them, inquired of that worthy if
Mr. Thomasson was in residence at Pembroke.

'Yes, Sir George, he is,' the landlord answered; and asked if he should
send for his reverence.

'No,' Soane commanded. 'If there is a chair to be had, I will go to
him.'

'There is one below, at your honour's service. And the men are waiting.'

So Sir George, with the landlord, lighting him and his man attending
with his cloak, descended the stairs in state, entered the sedan, and
was carried off to Pembroke.



CHAPTER III

TUTOR AND PUPILS--OLD STYLE

Doctor Samuel Johnson, of Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, had at this
time some name in the world; but not to the pitch that persons entering
Pembroke College hastened to pay reverence to the second floor over the
gateway, which he had vacated thirty years earlier--as persons do now.
Their gaze, as a rule, rose no higher than the first-floor oriel, where
the shapely white shoulder of a Parian statue, enhanced by a background
of dark-blue silken hanging, caught the wandering eye. What this lacked
of luxury and mystery was made up--almost to the Medmenham point in the
eyes of the city--by the gleam of girandoles, and the glow, rather felt
than seen, of Titian-copies in Florence frames. Sir George, borne along
in his chair, peered up at this well-known window--well-known, since in
the Oxford of 1767 a man's rooms were furnished if he had tables and
chairs, store of beef and October, an apple-pie and Common Room
port--and seeing the casement brilliantly lighted, smiled a trifle
contemptuously.

'The Reverend Frederick is not much changed,' he muttered. 'Lord, what a
beast it was! And how we hazed him! Ah! At home, is he?'--this to the
servant, as the man lifted the head of the chair. 'Yes, I will go up.'

To tell the truth, the Reverend Frederick Thomasson had so keen a scent
for Gold Tufts or aught akin to them, that it would have been strange
if the instinct had not kept him at home; as a magnet, though unseen,
attracts the needle. The same prepossession brought him, as soon as he
heard of his visitor's approach, hurrying to the head of the stairs;
where, if he had had his way, he would have clasped the baronet in his
arms, slobbered over him, after the mode of Paris--for that was a trick
of his--and perhaps even wept on his shoulder. But Soane, who knew his
ways, coolly defeated the manoeuvre by fending him off with his cane;
and the Reverend Frederick was reduced to raising his eyes and hands to
heaven in token of the joy which filled him at the sight of his
old pupil.

'Lord! Sir George, I am inexpressibly happy!' he cried. 'My dear sir, my
very dear sir, welcome to my poor rooms! This is joy indeed! Gaudeamus!
Gaudeamus! To see you once more, fresh from the groves of Arthur's and
the scenes of your triumphs! Pardon me, my dear sir, I must and will
shake you by the hand again!' And succeeding at last in seizing Sir
George's hand, he fondled and patted it in both of his--which were fat
and white--the while with every mark of emotion he led him into
the room.

'Gad!' said Sir George, standing and looking round. 'And where is she,
Tommy?'

'That old name! What a pleasure it is to hear it!' cried the tutor,
affecting to touch his eyes with the corner of a dainty handkerchief; as
if the gratification he mentioned were too much for his feelings.

'But, seriously, Tommy, where is she?' Soane persisted, still looking
round with a grin.

'My dear Sir George! My honoured friend! But you would always have your
joke.'

'And, plainly, Tommy, is all this frippery yours?'

'Tut, tut!' Mr. Thomasson remonstrated. 'And no man with a finer taste.
I have heard Mr. Walpole say that with a little training no man would
excel Sir George Soane as a connoisseur. An exquisite eye! A nice
discrimination! A--'

'Now, Tommy, to how many people have you said that?' Sir George
retorted, dropping into a chair, and coolly staring about him. 'But,
there, have done, and tell me about yourself. Who is the last sprig of
nobility you have been training in the way it should grow?'

'The last pupil who honoured me,' the Reverend Frederick answered, 'as
you are so kind as to ask after my poor concerns, Sir George, was my
Lord E----'s son. We went to Paris, Marseilles, Genoa, Florence; visited
the mighty monuments of Rome, and came home by way of Venice, Milan, and
Turin. I treasure the copy of Tintoretto which you see there, and these
bronzes, as memorials of my lord's munificence. I brought them back
with me.'

'And what did my lord's son bring back?' Sir George asked, cruelly. 'A
Midianitish woman?'

'My honoured friend!' Mr. Thomasson remonstrated. 'But your wit was
always mordant--mordant! Too keen for us poor folk!'

'D'ye remember the inn at Cologne, Tommy?' Sir George continued,
mischievously reminiscent. 'And Lord Tony arriving with his charmer? And
you giving up your room to her? And the trick we played you at Calais,
where we passed the little French dancer on you for Madame la Marquise
de Personne?'

Mr. Thomasson winced, and a tinge of colour rose in his fat pale face.
'Boys, boys!' he said, with an airy gesture. 'You had an uncommon fancy
even then, Sir George, though you were but a year from school! Ah, those
were charming days! Great days!'

'And nights!' said Sir George, lying back in his chair and looking at
the other with eyes half shut, and insolence half veiled. 'Do you
remember the faro bank at Florence, Tommy, and the three hundred livres
you lost to that old harridan, Lady Harrington? Pearls cast before swine
you styled them, I remember.'

'Lord, Sir George!' Mr. Thomasson cried, vastly horrified. 'How can you
say such a thing? Your excellent memory plays you false.'

'It does,' Soane answered, smiling sardonically. 'I remember. It was
seed sown for the harvest, you called it--in your liquor. And that
touches me. Do you mind the night Fitzhugh made you so prodigiously
drunk at Bonn, Tommy? And we put you in the kneading-trough, and the
servants found you and shifted you to the horse-trough? Gad! you would
have died of laughter if you could have seen yourself when we rescued
you, lank and dripping, with your wig like a sponge!'

'It must have been--uncommonly diverting!' the Reverend Frederick
stammered; and he smiled widely, but with a lack of heart. This time
there could be no doubt of the pinkness that overspread his face.

'Diverting? I tell you it would have made old Dartmouth laugh!' Sir
George said, bluntly.

'Ha, ha! Perhaps it would. Perhaps it would. Not that I have the honour
of his lordship's acquaintance.'

'No? Well, he would not suit you, Tommy. I would not seek it.'

The Reverend Frederick looked doubtful, as weighing the possibility of
anything that bore the name of lord being alien from him. From this
reflection, however, he was roused by a new sally on Soane's part. 'But,
crib me! you are very fine to-night, Mr. Thomasson,' he said, staring
about him afresh. 'Ten o'clock, and you are lighted as for a drum! What
is afoot?'

The tutor smirked and rubbed his hands. 'Well, I--I was expecting a
visitor, Sir George.'

'Ah, you dog! She is not here, but you are expecting her.'

Mr. Thomasson grinned; the jest flattered him. Nevertheless he hastened
to exonerate himself. 'It is not Venus I am expecting, but Mars,' he
said with a simper. 'The Honourable Mr. Dunborough, son to my Lord
Dunborough, and the same whose meritorious services at the Havanna you,
my dear friend, doubtless remember. He is now cultivating in peace the
gifts which in war--'

'Sufficed to keep him out of danger!' Sir George said bluntly. 'So he is
your last sprig, is he? He should be well seasoned.'

'He is four-and-twenty,' Mr. Thomasson answered, pluming himself and
speaking in his softest tones. 'And the most charming, I assure you, the
most debonair of men. But do I hear a noise?'

'Yes,' said Sir George, listening. 'I hear something.'

Mr. Thomasson rose. 'What--what is it, I wonder?' he said, a trifle
nervously. A dull sound, as of a hive of bees stirred to anger, was
becoming audible.

'Devil if I know!' Sir George answered. 'Open the window.'

But the Reverend Frederick, after approaching the window with the
intention of doing so, seemed disinclined to go nearer, and hovered
about it. 'Really,' he said, no longer hiding his discomposure. 'I fear
that it is something--something in the nature of a riot. I fear that
that which I anticipated has happened. If my honourable friend had only
taken my advice and remained here!' And he wrung his hands
without disguise.

'Why, what has he to do with it?' Soane asked, curiously.

'He--he had an accident the other night,' Mr. Thomasson answered. 'A
monstrous nuisance for him. He and his noble friend, Lord Almeric
Doyley, played a little trick on a--on one of the College servants. The
clumsy fellow--it is marvellous how awkward that class of persons
is--fell down the stairs and hurt himself.'

'Seriously?'

'Somewhat. Indeed--in fact he is dead. And now there is a kind of
feeling about it in the town. I persuaded Mr. Dunborough to take up his
quarters here for the night, but he is so spirited he would dine abroad.
Now I fear, I really fear, he may be in trouble!'

'If it is he they are hooting in St. Aldate's,' Sir George answered
drily, 'I should say he was in trouble! But in my time the gownsmen
would have sallied out and brought him off before this. And given those
yelpers a cracked crown or two!'

The roar of voices in the narrow streets was growing clearer and more
threatening. 'Ye-es?' said the Reverend Frederick, moving about the
room, distracted between his anxiety and his respect for his companion.
'Perhaps so. But there is a monstrous low, vulgar set in College
nowadays; a man of spirit has no chance with them. Yesterday they had
the insolence to break into my noble friend's rooms and throw his
furniture out of window! And, I vow, would have gone on to--but Lord!
this is frightful! What a shocking howling! My dear sir, my very dear
Sir George,' Mr. Thomasson continued, his voice tremulous and his fat
cheeks grown on a sudden loose and flabby, 'do you think that there is
any danger?'

'Danger?' Sir George answered, with cruel relish--he had gone to the
window, and was looking out. 'Well, I should say that Madam Venus there
would certainly have to stand shot. If you are wise you will put out
some of those candles. They are entering the lane now. Gad, Tommy, if
they think your lad of spirit is here, I would not give much for your
window-glass!'

Mr. Thomasson, who had hastened to take the advice, and had extinguished
all the candles but one, thus reducing the room to partial darkness,
wrung his hands and moaned for answer. 'Where are the proctors?' he
said. 'Where are the constables? Where are the--Oh, dear, dear, this is
dreadful!'

And certainly, even in a man of firmer courage a little trepidation
might have been pardoned. As the unseen crowd, struggling and jostling,
poured from the roadway of St. Aldate's into the narrow confines of
Pembroke Lane, the sound of its hooting gathered sudden volume, and from
an intermittent murmur, as of a remote sea, swelled in a moment into a
roar of menace. And as a mob is capable of deeds from which the members
who compose it would severally shrink, as nothing is so pitiless,
nothing so unreasoning, so in the sound of its voice is a note that
appals all but the hardiest. Soane was no coward. A year before he had
been present at the siege of Bedford House by the Spitalfields weavers,
where swords were drawn and much blood was spilled, while the gentlemen
of the clubs and coffee-houses looked on as at a play; but even he felt
a slackening of the pulse as he listened. And with the Reverend
Frederick it was different. He was not framed for danger. When the
smoking glare of the links which the ringleaders carried began to dance
and flicker on the opposite houses, he looked about him with a wild eye,
and had already taken two steps towards the door, when it opened.

It admitted two men about Sir George's age, or a little younger. One,
after glancing round, passed hurriedly to the window and looked out; the
other sank into the nearest chair, and, fanning himself with his hat,
muttered a querulous oath.

'My dear lord!' cried the Reverend Frederick, hastening to his
side--and it is noteworthy that he forgot even his panic in the old
habit of reverence--'What an escape! To think that a life so valuable as
your lordship's should lie at the mercy of those wretches! I shudder at
the thought of what might have happened.'

'Fan me, Tommy' was the answer. And Lord Almeric, an excessively pale,
excessively thin young man, handed his hat with a gesture of exhaustion
to the obsequious tutor. 'Fan me; that is a good soul. Positively I am
suffocated with the smell of those creatures! Worse than horses, I
assure you. There, again! What a pother about a common fellow! 'Pon
honour, I don't know what the world is coming to!'

'Nor I,' Mr. Thomasson answered, hanging over him with assiduity and
concern on his countenance. 'It is not to be comprehended.'

'No, 'pon honour it is not!' my lord agreed. And then, feeling a little
recovered, 'Dunborough,' he asked, 'what are they doing?'

'Hanging you, my dear fellow!' the other answered from the window, where
he had taken his place within a pace of Soane, but without discovering
him. He spoke in the full boisterous tone of one in perfect health and
spirits, perfectly satisfied with himself, and perfectly heedless
of others.

'Oh, I say, you are joking?' my lord answered. 'Hanging me? Oh, ah! I
see. In effigy!'

'And your humble servant,' said Mr. Dunborough. 'I tell you, Tommy, we
had a near run for it. Curse their impudence, they made us sweat. For a
very little I would give the rascals something to howl for.'

Perhaps he meant no more than to put a bold face on it before his
creatures. But unluckily the rabble, which had come provided with a cart
and gallows, a hangman, and a paunchy, red-faced fellow in canonicals,
and which hitherto had busied itself with the mock execution, found
leisure at this moment to look up at the window. Catching sight of the
object of their anger, they vented their rage in a roar of execration,
so much louder than all that had gone before that it brought the
sentence which Mr. Thomasson was uttering to a quavering end. But the
demonstration, far from intimidating Mr. Dunborough, provoked him to
fury. Turning from the sea of brandished hands and upturned faces, he
strode to a table, and in a moment returned. The window was open, he
flung it wider, and stood erect, in full view of the mob.

The sight produced a momentary silence, of which he took advantage.
'Now, you tailors, begone!' he cried harshly. 'To your hovels, and leave
gentlemen to their wine, or it will be the worse for you. Come, march!
We have had enough of your fooling, and are tired of it.'

The answer was a shout of 'Cain!' and 'Murderer!' One voice cried
'Ferrers!' and this caught the fancy of the crowd. In a moment a hundred
were crying, 'Ay, Ferrers! Come down, and we'll Ferrers you!'

He stood a moment irresolute, glaring at them; then something struck and
shattered a pane of the window beside him, and the fetid smell of a bad
egg filled the room. At the sound Mr. Thomasson uttered a cry and shrank
farther into the darkness, while Lord Almeric rose hastily and looked
about for a refuge. But Mr. Dunborough did not flinch.

'D----n you, you rascals, you will have it, will you?' he cried; and in
the darkness a sharp click was heard. He raised his hand. A shriek in
the street below answered the movement; some who stood nearest saw that
he held a pistol and gave the information to others, and there was a
wild rush to escape. But before the hammer dropped, a hand closed on
his, and Soane, crying, 'Are you mad, sir?' dragged him back.

Dunborough had not entertained the least idea that any one stood near
him, and the surprise was as complete as the check. After an instinctive
attempt to wrench away his hand, he stood glaring at the person who held
him. 'Curse you!' he said. 'Who are you? And what do you mean?'

'Not to sit by and see murder done,' Sir George answered firmly.
'To-morrow you will thank me.'

'For the present I'll thank you to release my hand,' the other retorted
in a freezing tone. Nevertheless, Sir George thought that the delay had
sobered him, and complied. 'Much obliged to you,' Dunborough continued.
'Now perhaps you will walk into the next room, where there is a light,
and we can be free from that scum.'

Mr. Thomasson had already set the example of a prudent retreat thither;
and Lord Almeric, with a feeble, 'Lord, this is very surprising! But I
think that the gentleman is right, Dunny,' was hovering in the doorway.
Sir George signed to Mr. Dunborough to go first, but he would not, and
Soane, shrugging his shoulders, preceded him.

The room into which they all crowded was no more than a closet,
containing a dusty bureau propped on three legs, a few books, and Mr.
Thomasson's robes, boots, and wig-stand. It was so small that when they
were all in it, they stood perforce close together, and had the air of
persons sheltering from a storm. This nearness, the glare of the lamp on
their faces, and the mean surroundings gave a kind of added force to Mr.
Dunborough's rage. For a moment after entering he could not speak; he
had dined largely, and sat long after dinner; and his face was suffused
with blood. But then, 'Tommy, who is--this--fellow?' he cried, blurting
out the words as if each must be the last.

'Good heavens!' cried the tutor, shocked at the low appellation.' Mr.
Dunborough! Mr. Dunborough! You mistake. My dear sir, my dear friend,
you do not understand. This is Sir George Soane, whose name must be
known to you. Permit me to introduce him.'

'Then take that for a meddler and a coxcomb, Sir George Soane!' cried
the angry man; and quick as thought he struck Sir George, who was at
elbows with him, lightly in the face.

Sir George stepped back, his face crimson. 'You are not sober, sir!' he
said.

'Is not that enough?' cried the other, drowning both Mr. Thomasson's
exclamation of horror and Lord Almeric's protest of, 'Oh, but I say, you
know--' under the volume of his voice. 'You have a sword, sir, and I
presume you know how to use it. If there is not space here, there is a
room below, and I am at your service. You will not wipe that off by
rubbing it,' he added coarsely.

Sir George dropped his hand from his face as if it stung him. 'Mr.
Dunborough,' he said trembling--but it was with passion, 'if I thought
you were sober and would not repent to-morrow what you have done
to-night--'

'You would do fine things,' Dunborough retorted. 'Come, sir, a truce to
your impertinence! You have meddled with me, and you must maintain it.
Must I strike you again?'

'I will not meet you to-night,' Sir George answered firmly. 'I will be
neither Lord Byron nor his victim. These gentlemen will bear me out so
far. For the rest, if you are of the same mind to-morrow, it will be for
me and not for you to ask a meeting.'

'At your service, sir,' Mr. Dunborough said, with a sarcastic bow. 'But
suppose, to save trouble in the morning, we fix time and place now.'

'Eight--in Magdalen Fields,' Soane answered curtly. 'If I do not hear
from you, I am staying at the Mitre Inn. Mr. Thomasson, I bid you
good-night. My lord, your servant.'

And with that, and though Mr. Thomasson, wringing his hands over what
had occurred and the injury to himself that might come of it, attempted
some feeble remonstrances, Sir George bowed sternly, took his hat and
went down. He found his chair at the foot of the stairs, but in
consideration of the crowd he would not use it. The college porters,
indeed, pressed him to wait, and demurred to opening even the wicket.
But he had carried forbearance to the verge, and dreaded the least
appearance of timidity; and, insisting, got his way. The rabble admired
so fine a gentleman, and so resolute a bearing, gave place to him with a
jest, and let him pass unmolested down the lane.

It was well that they did, for he had come to the end of his patience.
One man steps out of a carriage, picks up a handkerchief, and lives to
wear a Crown. Another takes the same step; it lands him in a low
squabble from which he may extricate himself with safety, but scarcely
with an accession of credit. Sir George belonged to the inner circle of
fashion, to which neither rank nor wealth, nor parts, nor power, of
necessity admitted. In the sphere in which he moved, men seldom
quarrelled and as seldom fought. Of easiest habit among themselves, they
left bad manners and the duello to political adventurers and cubbish
peers, or to the gentlemen of the quarter sessions and the local
ordinary. It was with a mighty disgust, therefore, that Sir George
considered alike the predicament into which a caprice had hurried him,
and the insufferable young Hector whom fate had made his antagonist.
They would laugh at White's. They would make a jest of it over the cakes
and fruit at Betty's. Selwyn would turn a quip. And yet the thing was
beyond a joke. He must be a target first and a butt afterwards--if any
afterwards there were.

As he entered the Mitre, sick with chagrin, and telling himself he might
have known that something of this kind would come of stooping to vulgar
company, he bethought him--for the first time in an hour--of the girl.
'Lord!' he said, thinking of her request, her passion, and her splendid
eyes; and he stood. For the _âge des philosophes_, destiny seemed to be
taking too large a part in the play. This must be the very man with whom
she had striven to embroil him!

His servant's voice broke in on his thoughts. 'At what hour will your
honour please to be called?' he asked, as he carried off the laced
coat and wig.

Soane stifled a groan. 'Called?' he said. 'At half-past six. Don't
stare, booby! Half-past six, I said. And do you go now, I'll shift for
myself. But first put out my despatch-case, and see there is pen and
ink. It's done? Then be off, and when you come in the morning bring the
landlord and another with you.'

The man lingered. 'Will your honour want horses?' he said.

'I don't know. Yes! No! Well, not until noon. And where is my sword?'

'I was taking it down to clean it, sir.'

'Then don't take it; I will look to it myself. And mind you, call me at
the time I said.'



CHAPTER IV

PEEPING TOM OF WALLINGFORD

To be an attorney-at-law, avid of practice and getting none; to be
called Peeping Tom of Wallingford, in the place where you would fain
trot about busy and respected; to be the sole support of an old mother,
and to be come almost to the toe of the stocking--these circumstances
might seem to indicate an existence and prospects bare, not to say arid.
Eventually they presented themselves in that light to the person most
nearly concerned--by name Mr. Peter Fishwick; and moving him to grasp at
the forlorn hope presented by a vacant stewardship at one of the
colleges, brought him by coach to Oxford. There he spent three days and
his penultimate guineas in canvassing, begging, bowing, and smirking;
and on the fourth, which happened to be the very day of Sir George's
arrival in the city, was duly and handsomely defeated without the honour
of a vote.

Mr. Fishwick had expected no other result; and so far all was well. But
he had a mother, and that mother entertained a fond belief that local
jealousy and nothing else kept down her son in the place of his birth.
She had built high hopes on this expedition; she had thought that the
Oxford gentlemen would be prompt to recognise his merit; and for her
sake the sharp-featured lawyer went back to the Mitre a rueful man. He
had taken a lodging there with intent to dazzle the town, and not
because his means were equal to it; and already the bill weighed upon
him. By nature as cheerful a gossip as ever wore a scratch wig and lived
to be inquisitive, he sat mum through the evening, and barely listened
while the landlord talked big of his guest upstairs, his curricle and
fashion, the sums he lost at White's, and the plate in his
dressing-case.

Nevertheless the lawyer would not have been Peter Fishwick if he had not
presently felt the stirrings of curiosity, or, thus incited, failed to
be on the move between the stairs and the landing when Sir George came
in and passed up. The attorney's ears were as sharp as a ferret's nose,
and he was notably long in lighting his humble dip at a candle which by
chance stood outside Sir George's door. Hence it happened that
Soane--who after dismissing his servant had gone for a moment into the
adjacent chamber--heard a slight noise in the room he had left; and,
returning quickly to learn what it was, found no one, but observed the
outer door shake as if some one tried it. His suspicions aroused, he was
still staring at the door when it moved again, opened a very little way,
and before his astonished eyes admitted a small man in a faded black
suit, who, as soon as he had squeezed himself in, stood bowing with a
kind of desperate audacity.

'Hallo!' said Sir George, staring anew. 'What do you want, my man?'

The intruder advanced a pace or two, and nervously crumpled his hat in
his hands. 'If your honour pleases,' he said, a smile feebly
propitiative appearing in his face, 'I shall be glad to be of service
to you.'

'Of service?' said Sir George, staring in perplexity. 'To me?'

'In the way of my profession,' the little man answered, fixing Sir
George with two eyes as bright as birds'; which eyes somewhat redeemed
his small keen features. 'Your honour was about to make your will.' 'My
will?' Sir George cried, amazed; 'I was about to--' and then in an
outburst of rage, 'and if I was--what the devil business is it of
yours?' he cried. 'And who are you, sir?'

The little man spread out his hands in deprecation. 'I?' he said. 'I am
an attorney, sir, and everybody's business is my business.'

Sir George gasped. 'You are an attorney!' he cried. 'And--and
everybody's business is your business! By God, this is too much!' And
seizing the bell-rope he was about to overwhelm the man of law with a
torrent of abuse, before he had him put out, when the absurdity of the
appeal and perhaps a happy touch in Peter's last answer struck him; he
held his hand, and hesitated. Then, 'What is your name, sir?' he
said sternly.

'Peter Fishwick,' the attorney answered humbly.

'And how the devil did you know--that I wanted to make a will?'

'I was going upstairs,' the lawyer explained. 'And the door was ajar.'

'And you listened?'

'I wanted to hear,' said Peter with simplicity.

'But what did you hear, sir?' Soane retorted, scarcely able to repress a
smile.

'I heard your honour tell your servant to lay out pen and paper, and to
bring the landlord and another upstairs when he called you in the
morning. And I heard you bid him leave your sword. And putting two and
two together, respected sir, 'Peter continued manfully,' and knowing
that it is only of a will you need three witnesses, I said to myself,
being an attorney--'

'And everybody's business being your business,' Sir George muttered
irritably.

'To be sure, sir--it is a will, I said, he is for making. And with your
honour's leave,' Peter concluded with spirit, I'll make it.'

'Confound your impudence,' Sir George answered, and stared at him,
marvelling at the little man's shrewdness.

Peter smiled in a sickly fashion. 'If your honour would but allow me?'
he said. He saw a great chance slipping from him, and his voice was
plaintive.

It moved Sir George to compassion. 'Where is your practice?' he asked
ungraciously.

The attorney felt a surprising inclination to candour. 'At Wallingford,'
he said, 'it should be. But--' and there he stopped, shrugging his
shoulders, and leaving the rest unsaid.

'_Can_ you make a will?' Sir George retorted.

'No man better,' said Peter with confidence; and on the instant he drew
a chair to the table, seized the pen, and bent the nib on his thumbnail;
then he said briskly, 'I wait your commands, sir.'

Sir George stared in some embarrassment--he had not expected to be taken
so literally; but, after a moment's hesitation, reflecting that to write
down his wishes with his own hand would give him more trouble, and that
he might as well trust this stranger as that, he accepted the situation.
'Take down what I wish, then,' he said. 'Put it into form afterwards,
and bring it to me when I rise. Can you be secret?'

'Try me,' Peter answered with enthusiasm. 'For a good client I would
bite off my tongue.'

'Very well, then, listen!' Sir George said. And presently, after some
humming and thinking, 'I wish to leave all my real property to the
eldest son of my uncle, Anthony Soane,' he continued.

'Right, sir. Child already in existence, I presume? Not that it is
absolutely necessary,' the attorney continued glibly. 'But--'

'I do not know,' said Sir George.

'Ah!' said the lawyer, raising his pen and knitting his brows while he
looked very learnedly into vacancy. 'The child is expected, but you have
not yet heard, sir, that--'

'I know nothing about the child, nor whether there is a child,' Sir
George answered testily. 'My uncle may be dead, unmarried, or alive and
married--what difference does it make?'

'Certainty is very necessary in these things,' Peter replied severely.
The pen in his hand, he became a different man. 'Your uncle, Mr. Anthony
Soane, as I understand, is alive?'

'He disappeared in the Scotch troubles in '45,' Sir George reluctantly
explained, 'was disinherited in favour of my father, sir, and has not
since been heard from.'

The attorney grew rigid with alertness; he was like nothing so much as a
dog, expectant at a rat-hole. 'Attainted?' he said.

'No!' said Sir George.

'Outlawed?'

'No.'

The attorney collapsed: no rat in the hole. 'Dear me, dear me, what a
sad story!' he said; and then remembering that his client had profited,
'but out of evil--ahem! As I understand, sir, you wish all your real
property, including the capital mansion house and demesne, to go to the
eldest son of your uncle Mr. Anthony Soane in tail, remainder to the
second son in tail, and, failing sons, to daughters--the usual
settlement, in a word, sir.'

'Yes.'

'No exceptions, sir.'

'None.'

'Very good,' the attorney answered with the air of a man satisfied so
far. 'And failing issue of your uncle? To whom then, Sir George?'

'To the Earl of Chatham.'

Mr. Fishwick jumped in his seat; then bowed profoundly.

'Indeed! Indeed! How very interesting!' he murmured under his breath.
'Very remarkable! Very remarkable, and flattering.'

Sir George stooped to explain. 'I have no near relations,' he said
shortly. 'Lord Chatham--he was then Mr. Pitt--was the executor of my
grandfather's will, is connected with me by marriage, and at one time
acted as my guardian.'

Mr. Fishwick licked his lips as if he tasted something very good. This
was business indeed! These were names with a vengeance! His face shone
with satisfaction; he acquired a sudden stiffness of the spine. 'Very
good, sir,' he said. 'Ve--ry good,' he said. 'In fee simple, I
understand?'

'Yes.'

'Precisely. Precisely; no uses or trusts? No. Unnecessary of course.
Then as to personalty, Sir George?'

'A legacy of five hundred guineas to George Augustus Selwyn, Esquire, of
Matson, Gloucestershire. One of the same amount to Sir Charles Bunbury,
Baronet. Five hundred guineas to each of my executors; and to each of
these four a mourning ring.'

'Certainly, sir. All very noble gifts!' And Mr. Fishwick smacked his
lips.

For a moment Sir George looked his offence; then seeing that the
attorney's ecstasy was real and unaffected, he smiled. 'To my
land-steward two hundred guineas,' he said; 'to my house-steward one
hundred guineas, to the housekeeper at Estcombe an annuity of twenty
guineas. Ten guineas and a suit of mourning to each of my upper
servants not already mentioned, and the rest of my personalty--'

'After payment of debts and funeral and testamentary expenses,' the
lawyer murmured, writing busily.

Sir George started at the words, and stared thoughtfully before him: he
was silent so long that the lawyer recalled his attention by gently
repeating, 'And the residue, honoured sir?'

'To the Thatched House Society for the relief of small debtors,' Sir
George answered, between a sigh and a smile. And added, 'They will not
gain much by it, poor devils!'

Mr. Fishwick with a rather downcast air noted the bequest. 'And that is
all, sir, I think?' he said with his head on one side. 'Except the
appointment of executors.'

'No,' Sir George answered curtly. 'It is not all. Take this down and be
careful. As to the trust fund of fifty thousand pounds'--the attorney
gasped, and his eyes shone as he seized the pen anew. 'Take this down
carefully, man, I say,' Sir George continued. 'As to the trust fund left
by my grandfather's will to my uncle Anthony Soane or his heirs
conditionally on his or their returning to their allegiance and claiming
it within the space of twenty-one years from the date of his will, the
interest in the meantime to be paid to me for my benefit, and the
principal sum, failing such return, to become mine as fully as if it had
vested in me from the beginning--'

'Ah!' said the attorney, scribbling fast, and with distended cheeks.

'I leave the said fund to go with the land.'

'To go with the land,' the lawyer repeated as he wrote the words. 'Fifty
thousand pounds! Prodigious! Prodigious! Might I ask, sir, the date of
your respected grandfather's will?'

'December, 1746,' Sir George answered.

'The term has then nine months to run?'

'Yes.'

'With submission, then it comes to this,' the lawyer answered
thoughtfully, marking off the points with his pen in the air. 'In the
event of--of this will operating--all, or nearly all of your property,
Sir George, goes to your uncle's heirs in tail--if to be found--and
failing issue of his body to my Lord Chatham?'

'Those are my intentions.'

'Precisely, sir,' the lawyer answered, glancing at the clock. 'And they
shall be carried out. But--ahem! Do I understand, sir, that in the event
of a claimant making good his claim before the expiration of the nine
months, you stand to lose this stupendous, this magnificent sum--even in
your lifetime?'

'I do,' Sir George answered grimly. 'But there will be enough left to
pay your bill.'

Peter stretched out his hands in protest, then, feeling that this was
unprofessional, he seized the pen. 'Will you please to honour me with
the names of the executors, sir?' he said.

'Dr. Addington, of Harley Street.'

'Yes, sir.'

'And Mr. Dagge, of Lincoln's Inn Fields, attorney-at-law.'

'It is an honour to be in any way associated with him,' the lawyer
muttered, as he wrote the name with a flourish. 'His lordship's man of
business, I believe. And now you may have your mind at ease, sir,' he
continued. 'I will put this into form before I sleep, and will wait on
you for your signature--shall I say at--'

'At a quarter before eight,' said Soane. 'You will be private?'

'Of course, sir. It is my business to be private. I wish you a very good
night.'

The attorney longed to refer to the coming meeting, and to his sincere
hope that his new patron would leave the ground unscathed. But a duel
was so alien from the lawyer's walk in life, that he knew nothing of the
punctilios, and he felt a delicacy. Tamely to wish a man a safe issue
seemed to be a common compliment incommensurate with the occasion; and a
bathos. So, after a moment of hesitation, he gathered up his papers, and
tip-toed out of the room with an absurd exaggeration of respect, and a
heart bounding jubilant under his flapped waistcoat.

Left to himself, Sir George heaved a sigh, and, resting his head on his
hand, stared long and gloomily at the candles. 'Well, better be run
through by this clown,' he muttered after a while, 'than live to put a
pistol to my own head like Mountford and Bland. Or Scarborough, or poor
Bolton. It is not likely, and I wish that little pettifogger had not put
it into my head; but if a cousin were to appear now, or before the time
is up, I should be in Queer Street. Estcombe is dipped: and of the money
I raised, there is no more at the agent's than I have lost in a night at
Quinze! D----n White's and that is all about it. And d----n it, I shall,
and finely, if old Anthony's lad turn up and sweep off the three
thousand a year that is left. Umph, if I am to have a steady hand
to-morrow I must get to bed. What unholy chance brought me into
this scrape?'



CHAPTER V

THE MEETING

Sir George awoke next morning, and, after a few lazy moments of
semi-consciousness, remembered what was before him, it is not to be
denied that he felt a chill. He lay awhile, thinking of the past and the
future--or the no future--in a way he seldom thought, and with a
seriousness for which the life he had hitherto led had left him little
time and less inclination.

But he was young; he had a digestion as yet unimpaired, and nerves still
strong; and when he emerged an hour later and, more soberly dressed than
was his wont, proceeded down the High Street towards the Cherwell
Bridge, his spirits were at their normal level. The spring sunshine
which gilded the pinnacles of Magdalen tower, and shone cool and
pleasant on a score of hoary fronts, wrought gaily on him also. The
milksellers and such early folk were abroad, and filled the street with
their cries; he sniffed the fresh air, and smiled at the good humour and
morning faces that everywhere greeted him; and d----d White's anew, and
vowed to live cleanly henceforth, and forswear Pam. In a word, the man
was of such a courage that in his good resolutions he forgot his errand,
and whence they arose; and it was with a start that, as he approached
the gate leading to the college meadows, he marked a chair in waiting,
and beside it Mr. Peter Fishwick, from whom he had parted at the Mitre
ten minutes before.

Soane did not know whether the attorney had preceded him or followed
him: the intrusion was the same, and flushed with annoyance, he strode
to him to mark his sense of it. But Peter, being addressed, wore his
sharpest business air, and was entirely unconscious of offence. 'I have
merely purveyed a surgeon,' he said, indicating a young man who stood
beside him. 'I could not learn that you had provided one, sir.'

'Oh!' Sir George answered, somewhat taken aback, 'this is the
gentleman.'

'Yes, sir.'

Soane was in the act of saluting the stranger, when a party of two or
three persons came up behind, and had much ado not to jostle them in the
gateway. It consisted of Mr. Dunborough, Lord Almeric, and two other
gentlemen; one of these, an elderly man, who wore black and hair-powder,
and carried a gold-topped cane, had a smug and well-pleased expression,
that indicated his stake in the meeting to be purely altruistic. The two
companies exchanged salutes.

On this followed a little struggle to give precedence at the gate, but
eventually all went through. 'If we turn to the right,' some one
observed, 'there is a convenient place. No, this way, my lord.'

'Oh Lord, I have such a head this morning!' his lordship answered; and
he looked by no means happy. 'I am all of a twitter! It is so confounded
early, too. See here: cannot this be--?'

The gentleman who had spoken before drowned his voice. 'Will this do,
sir?' he said, raising his hat, and addressing Sir George. The party had
reached a smooth glade or lawn encompassed by thick shrubs, and to all
appearance a hundred miles from a street. A fairy-ring of verdure,
glittering with sunlight and dewdrops, and tuneful with the songs of
birds, it seemed a morsel of paradise dropped from the cool blue of
heaven. Sir George felt a momentary tightening of the throat as he
surveyed its pure brilliance, and then a sudden growing anger against
the fool who had brought him thither.

'You have no second?' said the stranger.

'No,' he answered curtly; 'I think we have witnesses enough.'

'Still--if the matter can be accommodated?'

'It can,' Soane answered, standing stiffly before them. 'But only by an
unreserved apology on Mr. Dunborough's part. He struck me. I have no
more to say.'

'I do not offer the apology,' Mr. Dunborough rejoined, with a
horse-laugh. 'So we may as well go on, Jerry. I did not come here
to talk.'

'I have brought pistols,' his second said, disregarding the sneer. 'But
my principal, though the challenged party, is willing to waive the
choice of weapons.'

'Pistols will do for me,' Sir George answered.

'One shot, at a word. If ineffective, you will take to your swords,' the
second continued; and he pushed back his wig and wiped his forehead, as
if his employment were not altogether to his taste. A duel was a fine
thing--at a distance. He wished, however, that he had some one with whom
to share the responsibility, now it was come to the point; and he cast a
peevish look at Lord Almeric. But his lordship was, as he had candidly
said, 'all of a twitter,' and offered no help.

'I suppose that I am to load,' the unlucky second continued. 'That being
so, you, Sir George, must have the choice of pistols.'

Sir George bowed assent, and, going a little aside, removed his hat,
wig, and cravat; and was about to button his coat to his throat, when he
observed that Mr. Dunborough was stripping to his shirt. Too proud not
to follow the example, though prudence suggested that the white linen
made him a fair mark, he stripped also, and in a trice the two, kicking
off their shoes, moved to the positions assigned to them; and in their
breeches and laced lawn shirts, their throats bare, confronted
one another.

'Sir George, have you no one to represent you?' cried the second again,
grown querulous under the burden. His name, it seemed, was Morris. He
was a major in the Oxfordshire Militia.

Soane answered with impatience. 'I have no second,' he said, 'but my
surgeon will be a competent witness.'

'Ah! to be sure!' Major Morris answered, with a sigh of relief. 'That is
so. Then, gentlemen, I shall give the signal by saying One, two, three!
Be good enough to fire together at the word Three! Do you understand?'

'Yes,' said Mr. Dunborough. And 'Yes,' Sir George said more slowly.

'Then, now, be ready! Prepare to fire! One! two! th--'

'Stay!' flashed Mr. Dunborough, while the word still hung in the air.
'You have not given us our pistols,' he continued, with an oath.

'What?' cried the second, staring.

'Man, you have not given us our pistols.'

The major was covered with confusion. 'God bless my soul! I have not!'
he cried; while Lord Almeric giggled hysterically. 'Dear me! dear me! it
is very trying to be alone!' He threw his hat and wig on the grass, and
again wiped his brow, and took up the pistols. 'Sir George? Thank you.
Mr. Dunborough, here is yours.' Then: 'Now, are you ready? Thank you.'

He retreated to his place again. 'Are you ready, gentlemen? Are you
quite ready?' he repeated anxiously, amid a breathless silence. 'One!
two! _three_!'

Sir George's pistol exploded at the word; the hammer of the other
clicked futile in the pan. The spectators, staring, and expecting to see
one fall, saw Mr. Dunborough start and make a half turn. Before they had
time to draw any conclusion he flung his pistol a dozen paces away, and
cursed his second. 'D----n you, Morris!' he cried shrilly; 'you put no
powder in the pan, you hound! But come on, sir,' he continued,
addressing Sir George, 'I have this left.' And rapidly changing his
sword from his left hand, in which he had hitherto held it, to his
right, he rushed upon his opponent with the utmost fury, as if he would
bear him down by main force.

'Stay!' Sir George cried; and, instead of meeting him, avoided his first
rush by stepping aside two paces. 'Stay, sir,' he repeated; 'I owe you a
shot! Prime afresh. Reload, sir, and--'

But Dunborough, blind and deaf with passion, broke in on him unheeding,
and as if he carried no weapon; and crying furiously, 'Guard yourself!'
plunged his half-shortened sword at the lower part of Sir George's body.
The spectators held their breath and winced; the assault was so sudden,
so determined, that it seemed that nothing could save Sir George from a
thrust thus delivered. He did escape, however, by a bound, quick as a
cat's; but the point of Dunborough's weapon ripped up his breeches on
the hip, the hilt rapped against the bone, and the two men came together
bodily. For a moment they wrestled, and seemed to be going to fight
like beasts.

Then Sir George, his left forearm under the other's chin, flung him
three paces away; and shifting his sword into his right hand--hitherto
he had been unable to change it--he stopped Dunborough's savage rush
with the point, and beat him off and kept him off--parrying his lunges,
and doing his utmost the while to avoid dealing him a fatal wound. Soane
was so much the better swordsman--as was immediately apparent to all
the onlookers--that he no longer feared for himself; all his fears were
for his opponent, the fire and fury of whose attacks he could not
explain to himself, until he found them flagging; and flagging so fast
that he sought a reason. Then Dunborough's point beginning to waver, and
his feet to slip, Sir George's eyes were opened; he discerned a crimson
patch spread and spread on the other's side--where unnoticed Dunborough
had kept his hand--and with a cry for help he sprang forward in time to
catch the falling man in his arms.

As the others ran in, the surgeons quickly and silently, Lord Almeric
more slowly, and with exclamations, Sir George lowered his burden gently
to the ground. The instant it was done, Morris touched his arm and
signed to him to stand back. 'You can do no good, Sir George,' he urged.
'He is in skilful hands. He would have it; it was his own fault. I can
bear witness that you did your best not to touch him.'

'I did not touch him,' Soane muttered.

The second looked his astonishment. 'How?' he said. 'You don't mean to
say that he is not wounded? See there!' And he pointed to the blood
which dyed the shirt. They were cutting the linen away.

'It was the pistol,' Sir George answered.

Major Morris's face fell, and he groaned. 'Good G--d!' he said, staring
before him. 'What a position I am in! I suppose--I suppose, sir, his
pistol was not primed?'

'I am afraid not,' Soane answered.

He was still in his shirt, and bareheaded; but as he spoke one of
several onlookers, whom the clatter of steel had drawn to the spot,
brought his coat and waistcoat, and held them while he put them on.
Another handed his hat and wig, a third brought his shoes and knelt and
buckled them; a fourth his kerchief. All these services he accepted
freely, and was unconscious of them--as unconscious as he was of the
eager deference, the morbid interest, with which they waited on him,
eyed him, and stared at him. His own thoughts, eyes, attention, were
fixed on the group about the fallen man; and when the elder surgeon
glanced over his shoulder, as wanting help, he strode to them.

'If we had a chair here, and could move him at once,' the smug gentleman
whispered, 'I think we might do.'

'I have a chair. It is at the gate,' his colleague answered.

'Have you? A good thought of yours!'

'The credit should lie--with my employer,' the younger man answered in a
low voice. 'It was his thought; here it comes. Sir George, will you be
good enough--' But then, seeing the baronet's look of mute anxiety, he
broke off. 'It is dangerous, but there is hope--fair hope,' he answered.
'Do you, my dear sir, go to your inn, and I will send thither when he is
safely housed. You can do no good here, and your presence may excite him
when he recovers from the swoon.'

Sir George, seeing the wisdom of the advice, nodded assent; and
remarking for the first time the sensation of which he was the centre,
was glad to make the best of his way towards the gates. He had barely
reached them--without shaking off a knot of the more curious, who still
hung on his footsteps--when Lord Almeric, breathless and agitated, came
up with him.

'You are for France, I suppose?' his lordship panted. And then, without
waiting for an answer: 'What would you advise me to do?' he babbled.
'Eh? What do you think? It will be the devil and all for me, you know.'

Sir George looked askance at him, contempt in his eye. 'I cannot advise
you,' he said. 'For my part, my lord, I remain here.'

His lordship was quite taken aback. 'No, you don't?' he said. 'Remain
here!--You don't mean it,'

'I usually mean--what I say,' Soane answered in a tone that he thought
must close the conversation.

But Lord Almeric kept up with him. 'Ay, but will you?' he babbled in
vacuous admiration. 'Will you really stay here? Now that is uncommon
bold of you! I should not have thought of that--of staying here, I mean.
I should go to France till the thing blew over. I don't know that I
shall not do so now. Don't you think I should be wise, Sir George? My
position, you know. It is uncommon low, is a trial, and--'

Sir George halted so abruptly that will-he, nill-he, the other went on a
few paces. 'My lord, you should know your own affairs best,' he said in
a freezing tone. 'And, as I desire to be alone, I wish your lordship a
very good day.'

My lord had never been so much astonished in his life. 'Oh, good
morning,' he said, staring vacantly, 'good morning!' but by the time he
had framed the words, Sir George was a dozen paces away.

It was an age when great ladies wept out of wounded vanity or for a loss
at cards--yet made a show of their children lying in state; when men
entertained the wits and made their wills in company, before they bowed
a graceful exit from the room and life. Doubtless people felt, feared,
hoped, and perspired as they do now, and had their ambitions apart from
Pam and the loo table. Nay, Rousseau was printing. But the 'Nouvelle
Héloïse,' though it was beginning to be read, had not yet set the mode
of sensibility, or sent those to rave of nature who all their lives had
known nothing but art. The suppression of feeling, or rather the
cultivation of no feeling, was still the mark of a gentleman; his
maxim; honoured alike at Medmenham and Marly, to enjoy--to enjoy, be the
cost to others what it might.

Bred in such a school, Sir George should have viewed what had happened
with polite indifference, and put himself out no further than was
courteous, or might serve to set him right with a jury, if the worst
came to the worst. But, whether because he was of a kindlier stuff than
the common sort of fashionables, or was too young to be quite spoiled,
he took the thing that had occurred with unexpected heaviness; and,
reaching his inn, hastened to his room to escape alike the curiosity
that dogged him and the sympathy that, for a fine gentleman, is never
far to seek. To do him justice, his anxiety was not for himself, or the
consequences to himself, which at the worst were not likely to exceed a
nominal verdict of manslaughter, and at the best would be an acquittal;
the former had been Lord Byron's lot, the latter Mr. Brown's, and each
had killed his man. Sir George had more _savoir faire_ than to trouble
himself about this; but about his opponent and his fate he felt a
haunting--and, as Lord Almeric would have said, a low--concern that
would let him neither rest nor sit. In particular, when he remembered
the trifle from which all had arisen, he felt remorse and sorrow; which
grew to the point of horror when he recalled the last look which
Dunborough, swooning and helpless, had cast in his face.

In one of these paroxysms he was walking the room when the elder
surgeon, who had attended his opponent to the field, was announced.
Soane still retained so much of his life habit as to show an unmoved
front; the man of the scalpel thought him hard and felt himself
repelled; and though he had come from the sick-room hot-foot and laden
with good news, descended to a profound apology for the intrusion.

'But I thought that you might like to hear, sir,' he continued, nursing
his hat, and speaking as if the matter were of little moment, 'that Mr.
Dunborough is as--as well as can be expected. A serious case--I might
call it a most serious case,' he continued, puffing out his cheeks. 'But
with care--with care I think we may restore him. I cannot say more
than that.'

'Has the ball been extracted?'

'It has, and so far well. And the chair being on the spot, Sir George,
so that he was moved without a moment's delay--for which I believe we
have to thank Mr.--Mr.--'

'Fishwick,' Soane suggested.

'To be sure--_that_ is so much gained. Which reminds me,' the smug
gentleman continued, 'that Mr. Attorney begged me to convey his duty and
inform you that he had made the needful arrangements and provided bail,
so that you are at liberty to leave, Sir George, at any hour.'

'Ah!' Soane said, marvelling somewhat. 'I shall stay here, nevertheless,
until I hear that Mr. Dunborough is out of danger.'

'An impulse that does you credit, sir,' the surgeon said impressively.
'These affairs, alas! are very greatly to be de--'

'They are d--d inconvenient,' Sir George drawled. 'He is not out of
danger yet, I suppose?'

The surgeon stared and puffed anew. 'Certainly not, sir,' he said.

'Ah! And where have you placed him?'

'The Honourable Mr.--, the sufferer?'

'To be sure! Who else, man?' Soane asked impatiently.

'In some rooms at Magdalen,' the doctor answered, breathing hard. And
then, 'Is it your wish that I should report to you to-morrow, sir?'

'You will oblige me. Thank you. Good-day.'



CHAPTER VI

A FISH OUT OF WATER

Sir George spent a long day in his own company, and heedless that on the
surgeon's authority he passed abroad for a hard man and a dashed
unfeeling fellow, dined on Lord Lyttelton's 'Life of King Henry the
Second,' which was a new book in those days, and the fashion; and supped
on gloom and good resolutions. He proposed to call and inquire after his
antagonist at a decent hour in the morning, and if the report proved
favourable, to go on to Lord----'s in the afternoon.

But his suspense was curtailed, and his inquiries were converted into a
matter of courtesy, by a visit which he received after breakfast from
Mr. Thomasson. A glance at the tutor's smiling, unctuous face was
enough. Mr. Thomasson also had had his dark hour--since to be mixed up
with, a fashionable fracas was one thing, and to lose a valuable and
influential pupil, the apple of his mother's eye, was another; but it
was past, and he gushed over with gratulations.

'My dear Sir George,' he cried, running forward and extending his hands,
'how can I express my thankfulness for your escape? I am told that the
poor dear fellow fought with a fury perfectly superhuman, and had you
given ground must have ran you through a dozen times. Let us be thankful
that the result was otherwise.' And he cast up his eyes.

'I am,' Sir George said, regarding him rather grimly. 'I do not know
that Mr. Dunborough shares the feeling.'

'The dear man!' the tutor answered, not a whit abashed. 'But he is
better. The surgeon has extracted the ball and pronounces him out
of danger.'

'I am glad to hear it,' Soane answered heartily. 'Then, now I can get
away.'

'_À volonté_!' cried Mr. Thomasson in his happiest vein. And then with a
roguish air, which some very young men found captivating, but which his
present companion stomached with difficulty, 'I will not say that you
have come off the better, after all, Sir George,' he continued.

'Ah!'

'No,' said the tutor roguishly. 'Tut-tut. These young men! They will at
a woman by hook or crook.'

'So?' Sir George said coldly. 'And the latest instance?'

'His Chloe--and a very obdurate, disdainful Chloe at that--has come to
nurse him,' the tutor answered, grinning. 'The prettiest high-stepping
piece you ever saw, Sir George--that I will swear!--and would do you no
discredit in London. It would make your mouth water to see her. But he
could never move her; never was such a prude. Two days ago he thought he
had lost her for good and all--there was that accident, you understand.
And now a little blood lost--and she is at his pillow!'

Sir George reddened at a sudden thought he had. 'And her father
unburied!' he cried, rising to his feet. This Macaroni was human,
after all.

Mr. Thomasson stared in astonishment. 'You know?' he said. 'Oh fie, Sir
George, have you been hunting already? Fie! Fie! And all London to
choose from!'

But Sir George simply repeated, 'And her father not buried, man?'

'Yes,' Mr. Thomasson answered with simplicity. 'He was buried this
morning. Oh, that is all right.'

'This morning? And the girl went from that--to Dunborough's bedside?'
Sir George exclaimed in indignation.

'It was a piece of the oddest luck,' Mr. Thomasson answered, smirking,
and not in the least comprehending the other's feeling. 'He was lodged
in Magdalen yesterday; this morning a messenger was despatched to
Pembroke for clothes and such-like for him. The girl's mother has always
nursed in Pembroke, and they sent for her to help. But she was that
minute home from the burial, and would not go. Then up steps the girl
and "I'll go," says she--heaven knows why or what took her, except the
contrariness of woman. However, there she is! D'ye see?' And Mr.
Thomasson winked.

'Tommy,' said Sir George, staring at him, 'I see that you're a d--d
rascal!'

The tutor, easy and smiling, protested. 'Fie, Sir George,' he said.
'What harm is in it? To tend the sick, my dear sir, is a holy office.
And if in this case harm come of it--' and he spread out his hands
and paused.

'As you know it will,' Sir George cried impulsively.

But Mr. Thomasson shrugged his shoulders. 'On the contrary, I know
nothing,' he answered. 'But--if it does, Mr. Dunborough's position is
such that--hem! Well, we are men of the world, Sir George, and the girl
might do worse.'

Sir George had heard the sentiment before, and without debate or
protest. Now it disgusted him. 'Faugh, man!' he said, rising. 'Have
done! You sicken me. Go and bore Lord Almeric--if he has not gone to
Paris to save his ridiculous skin!'

But Mr. Thomasson, who had borne abuse of himself with Christian
meekness, could not hear that unmoved. 'My dear Sir George, my dear
friend,' he urged very seriously, and with a shocked face, 'you should
not say things like that of his lordship. You really should not! My lord
is a most excellent and--'

'Pure ass!' said Soane with irritation. 'And I wish you would go and
divert him instead of boring me.'

'Dear, dear, Sir George!' Mr. Thomasson wailed. 'But you do not mean it?
And I brought you such good news, as I thought. One might--one really
might suppose that you wished our poor friend the worst.'

'I wish him no worse a friend!' Sir George responded sharply; and then,
heedless of his visitor's protestations and excuses and offers of
assistance, would see him to the door.

It was more easy, however, to be rid of him--the fine gentleman of the
time standing on scant ceremony with his inferiors--than of the
annoyance, the smart, the vexation, his news left behind him. Sir George
was not in love. He would have laughed at the notion. The girl was
absolutely and immeasurably below him; a girl of the people. He had seen
her once only. In reason, therefore--and polite good breeding enforced
the demand--he should have viewed Mr. Dunborough's conquest with easy
indifference, and complimented him with a jest founded on the prowess of
Mars and the smiles of Venus.

But the girl's rare beauty had caught Sir George's fancy; the scene in
which he had taken part with her had captivated an imagination not
easily inveigled. On the top of these impressions had come a period of
good resolutions prescribed by imminent danger; and on the top of that
twenty-four hours of solitude--a thing rare in the life he led. Result,
that Sir George, picturing the girl's fate, her proud, passionate face,
and her future, felt a sting at once selfish and unselfish, a pang at
once generous and vicious. Perhaps at the bottom of his irritation lay
the feeling that if she was to be any man's prey she might be his. But
on the whole his feelings were surprisingly honest; they had their root
in a better nature, that, deep sunk under the surface of breeding and
habit, had been wholesomely stirred by the events of the last few days.

Still, the good and the evil in the man were so far in conflict that,
had he been asked as he walked to Magdalen what he proposed to do should
he get speech with the girl, it is probable he would not have known what
to answer. Courtesy, nay, decency required that he should, inquire after
his antagonist. If he saw the girl--and he had a sneaking desire to see
her--well. If he did not see her--still well; there was an end of a
foolish imbroglio, which had occupied him too long already. In an hour
he could be in his post-chaise, and a mile out of town.

As it chanced, the surgeons in attendance on Dunborough had enjoined
quiet, and forbidden visitors. The staircase on which the rooms lay--a
bare, dusty, unfurnished place--was deserted; and the girl herself
opened the door to him, her finger on her lips. He looked for a blush
and a glance of meaning, a little play of conscious eyes and hands, a
something of remembrance and coquetry; and had his hat ready in his hand
and a smile on his lips. But she had neither smile nor blush for him; on
the contrary, when the dim light that entered the dingy staircase
disclosed who awaited her, she drew back a pace with a look of dislike
and embarrassment.

'My good girl,' he said, speaking on the spur of the moment--for the
reception took him aback--'what is it? What is the matter?'

She did not answer, but looked at him with solemn eyes, condemning him.

Even so Sir George was not blind to the whiteness of her throat, to the
heavy coils of her dark hair, and the smooth beauty of her brow. And
suddenly he thought he understood; and a chill ran through him. 'My
G--d!' he said, startled; 'he is not dead?'

She closed the door behind her, and stood, her hand on the latch. 'No,
he is not dead,' she said stiffly, voice and look alike repellent. 'But
he has not you to thank for that.'

'Eh?'

'How can you come here with that face,' she continued with sudden
passion--and he began to find her eyes intolerable--'and ask for him?
You who--fie, sir! Go home! Go home and thank God that you have not his
blood upon your hands--you--who might to-day be Cain!'

He gasped. 'Good Lord!' he said unaffectedly. And then, 'Why, you are
the girl who yesterday would have me kill him!' he cried with
indignation; 'who came out of town to meet me, brought me in, and would
have matched me with him as coolly as ever sportsman set cock in pit!
Ay, you! And now you blame me! My girl, blame yourself! Call yourself
Cain, if you please!'

'I do,' she said unblenching. 'But I have my excuse. God forgive me none
the less!' Her eyes filled as she said it. 'I had and have my excuse.
But you--a gentleman! What part had you in this? Who were you to kill
your fellow-creature--at the word of a distraught girl?'

Sir George saw his opening and jumped for it viciously. 'I fear you
honour me too much,' he said, in the tone of elaborate politeness, which
was most likely to embarrass a woman in her position. 'Most certainly
you do, if you are really under the impression that I fought Mr.
Dunborough on your account, my girl!'

'Did you not?' she stammered; and the new-born doubt in her eyes
betrayed her trouble.

'Mr. Dunborough struck me, because I would not let him fire on the
crowd,' Sir George explained, blandly raising his quizzing glass, but
not using it. 'That was why I fought him. And that is my excuse. You
see, my dear,' he continued familiarly, 'we have each an excuse. But I
am not a hypocrite.'

'Why do you call me that?' she exclaimed; distress and shame at the
mistake she had made contending with her anger.

'Because, my pretty Methodist,' he answered coolly, 'your hate and your
love are too near neighbours. Cursing and nursing, killing and billing,
come not so nigh one another in my vocabulary. But with women--some
women--it is different.'

Her cheeks burned with shame, but her eyes flashed passion. 'If I were a
lady,' she cried, her voice low but intense, 'you would not dare to
insult me.'

'If you were a lady,' he retorted with easy insolence, 'I would kiss you
and make you my wife, my dear. In the meantime, and as you are not--give
up nursing young sparks and go home to your mother. Don't roam the roads
at night, and avoid travelling-chariots as you would the devil. Or the
next knight-errant you light upon may prove something ruder
than--Captain Berkeley!'

'You are not Captain Berkeley?'

'No.'

She stared at him, breathing hard. Then, 'I was a fool, and I pay for it
in insult,' she said.

'Be a fool no longer then,' he retorted, his good-humour restored by the
success of his badinage; 'and no man will have the right to insult you,
_ma belle_.'

'I will never give _you_ the right!' she cried with intention.

'It is rather a question of Mr. Dunborough,' he answered, smiling
superior, and flirting his spy-glass to and fro with his fingers. 'Say
the same to him, and--but are you going, my queen? What, without
ceremony?'

'I am not a lady, and _noblesse oblige_ does not apply to me,' she
cried. And she closed the door in his face--sharply, yet without noise.

He went down the stairs a step at a time--thinking. 'Now, I wonder where
she got that!' he muttered. '_Noblesse oblige_! And well applied too!'
Again, 'Lord, what beasts we men are!' he thought. 'Insult? I suppose I
did insult her; but I had to do that or kiss her. And she earned it, the
little firebrand!' Then standing and looking along the High--he had
reached the College gates--'D--n Dunborough! She is too good for him!
For a very little--it would be mean, it would be low, it would be cursed
low--but for two pence I would speak to her mother and cheat him. She is
too good to be ruined by that coarse-tongued boaster! Though I suppose
she fancies him. I suppose he is an Adonis to her! Faugh! Tommy, my
lord, and Dunborough! What a crew!'

The good and evil, spleen and patience, which he had displayed in his
interview with the girl rode him still; for at the door of the Mitre he
paused, went in, came out, and paused again. He seemed to be unable to
decide what he would do; but in the end he pursued his way along the
street with a clouded brow, and in five minutes found himself at the
door of the mean house in the court, whence the porter of Pembroke had
gone out night and morning. Here he knocked, and stood. In a moment the
door was opened, but to his astonishment by Mr. Fishwick.

Either the attorney shared his surprise, or had another and more serious
cause for emotion; for his perky face turned red, and his manner as he
stood holding the door half-open, and gaping at the visitor, was that of
a man taken in the act, and thoroughly ashamed of himself. Sir George
might have wondered what was afoot, if he had not espied over the
lawyer's shoulder a round wooden table littered with papers, and
guessed that Mr. Fishwick was doing the widow's business--a theory which
Mr. Fishwick's first words, on recovering himself, bore out.

'I am here--on business,' he said, cringing and rubbing his hands. 'I
don't--I don't think that you can object, Sir George.'

'I?' said Soane, staring at him in astonishment and some contempt. 'My
good man, what has it to do with me? You got my letter?'

'And the draft, Sir George!' Mr. Fishwick bowed low. 'Certainly,
certainly, sir. Too much honoured. Which, as I understood, put an end to
any--I mean it not offensively, honoured sir--to any connection
between us?'

Sir George nodded. 'I have my own lawyers in London,' he said stiffly.
'I thought I made it clear that I did not need your services further.'

Mr. Fishwick rubbed his hands. 'I have that from your own lips, Sir
George,' he said. 'Mrs. Masterson, my good woman, you heard that?'

Sir George glowered at him. 'Lord, man?' he said. 'Why so much about
nothing? What on earth has this woman to do with it?'

Mr. Fishwick trembled with excitement. 'Mrs. Masterson, you will not
answer,' he stammered.

Sir George first stared, then cursed his impudence; then, remembering
that after all this was not his business, or that on which he had come,
and being one of those obstinates whom opposition but precipitates to
their ends, 'Hark ye, man, stand aside,' he said. 'I did not come here
to talk to you. And do you, my good woman, attend to me a moment. I have
a word to say about your daughter.'

'Not a word! Mrs. Masterson,' the attorney cried his eyes almost
bursting from his head with excitement.

Sir George was thunderstruck. "Is the man an idiot?" he exclaimed,
staring at him. And then, "I'll tell you what it is, Mr. Fishwick, or
whatever your name is--a little more of this, and I shall lay my cane
across your back."

"I am in my duty," the attorney answered, dancing on his feet.

"Then you will suffer in it!" Sir George retorted. "With better men. So
do not try me too far. I am here to say a word to this woman which I
would rather say alone."

"Never," said the attorney, bubbling, "with my good will!"

Soane lost patience at that. "D--n you!" he cried. "Will you be quiet?"
And made a cut at him with his cane. Fortunately the lawyer evaded it
with nimbleness; and having escaped to a safe distance hastened to cry,
"No malice! I bear you no malice, sir!" with so little breath and so
much good-nature that Sir George recovered his balance. "Confound you,
man!" he continued. "Why am I not to speak? I came here to tell this
good woman that if she has a care for this girl the sooner she takes her
from where she is the better! And you cannot let me put a word in."

"You came for that, sir?"

"For what else, fool?"

"I was wrong," said the attorney humbly. "I did not understand. Allow me
to say, sir, that I am entirely of your opinion. The young lady--I mean
she shall be removed to-morrow. It--the whole arrangement is
improper--highly improper."

"Why, you go as fast now as you went slowly before," Sir George said,
observing him curiously.

Mr. Fishwick smiled after a sickly fashion. "I did not understand, sir,"
he said. "But it is most unsuitable, most unsuitable. She shall return
to-morrow at the latest."

Sir George, who had said what he had to say, nodded, grunted, and went
away; feeling that he had performed an unpleasant--and somewhat
doubtful--duty under most adverse circumstances. He could not in the
least comprehend the attorney's strange behaviour; but after some
contemptuous reflection, of which nothing came, he dismissed it as one
of the low things to which he had exposed himself by venturing out of
the charmed circle in which he lived. He hoped that the painful series
was now at an end, stepped into his post-chaise, amid the reverent
salaams of the Mitre, the landlord holding the door; and in a few
minutes had rattled over Folly Bridge, and left Oxford behind him.



CHAPTER VII

ACHILLES AND BRISEIS

The honourable Mr. Dunborough's collapse arising rather from loss of
blood than from an injury to a vital part, he was sufficiently recovered
even on the day after the meeting to appreciate his nurse's presence.
Twice he was heard to chuckle without apparent cause; once he strove,
but failed, to detain her hand; while the feeble winks which from time
to time he bestowed on Mr. Thomasson when her back was towards him were
attributed by that gentleman, who should have known the patient, to
reflections closely connected with her charms.

His rage was great, therefore, when three days after the duel, he awoke,
missed her, and found in her place the senior bedmaker of Magdalen--a
worthy woman, learned in simples and with hands of horn, but far from
beautiful. This good person he saluted with a vigour which proved him
already far on the road to recovery; and when he was tired of swearing,
he wept and threw his nightcap at her. Finally, between one and the
other, and neither availing to bring back his Briseis, he fell into a
fever; which, as he was kept happed up in a box-bed, in a close room,
with every window shut and every draught kept off by stuffy
curtains--such was the fate of sick men then--bade fair to postpone his
recovery to a very distant date.

In this plight he sent one day for Mr. Thomasson, who had the nominal
care of the young gentleman; and the tutor being brought from the club
tavern in the Corn Market which he occasionally condescended to
frequent, the invalid broke to him his resolution.

'See here, Tommy,' he said in a voice weak but vicious. 'You have got to
get her back. I will not be poisoned by this musty old witch
any longer.'

'But if she will not come?' said Mr. Thomasson sadly.

'The little fool threw up the sponge when she came before,' the patient
answered, tossing restlessly. 'And she will come again, with a little
pressure. Lord, I know the women! So should you.'

'She came before because--well, I do not quite know why she came,' Mr.
Thomasson confessed.

'Any way, you have got to get her back.'

The tutor remonstrated, 'My dear good man,' he said unctuously, 'you
don't think of my position. I am a man of the world, I know--'

'All of it, my Macaroni!'

'But I cannot be--be mixed up in such a matter as this, my dear sir.'

'All the same, you have got to get her,' was the stubborn answer. 'Or I
write to my lady and tell her you kept mum about my wound. And you will
not like that, my tulip.'

On that point he was right; for if there was a person in the world of
whom Mr. Thomasson stood in especial awe, it was of Lady Dunborough. My
lord, the author of 'Pomaria Britannica' and 'The Elegant Art of
Pomiculture as applied to Landscape Gardening,' was a quantity he could
safely neglect. Beyond his yew-walks and his orchards his lordship was a
cipher. He had proved too respectable even for the peerage; and of late
had cheerfully resigned all his affairs into the hands of his wife,
formerly the Lady Michal M'Intosh, a penniless beauty, with the pride of
a Scotchwoman and the temper of a Hervey. Her enemies said that my lady
had tripped in the merry days of George the Second, and now made up for
past easiness by present hardness. Her friends--but it must be confessed
her ladyship had no friends.

Be that as it might, Mr. Thomasson had refrained from summoning her to
her son's bedside; partly because the surgeons had quickly pronounced
the wound a trifle, much more because the little he had seen of her
ladyship had left him no taste to see more. He knew, however, that the
omission would weigh heavily against him were it known; and as he had
hopes from my lady's aristocratic connections, and need in certain
difficulties of all the aid he could muster, he found the threat not one
to be sneezed at. His laugh betrayed this.

However, he tried to put the best face on the matter. 'You won't do
that,' he said. 'She would spoil sport, my friend. Her ladyship is no
fool, and would not suffer your little amusements.'

'She is no fool,' Mr. Dunborough replied with emphasis. 'As you will
find, Tommy, if she comes to Oxford, and learns certain things. It will
be farewell to your chance of having that milksop of a Marquis for
a pupil!'

Now, it was one of Mr. Thomasson's highest ambitions at this time to
have the young Marquis of Carmarthen entrusted to him; and Lady
Dunborough was connected with the family, and, it was said, had interest
there. He was silent.

'You see,' Mr. Dunborough continued, marking with a chuckle the effect
his words had produced, 'you have got to get her.'

Mr. Thomasson did not admit that that was so, but he writhed in his
chair; and presently he took his leave and went away, his plump pale
face gloomy and the crow's feet showing plain at the corners of his
eyes. He had given no promise; but that evening a messenger from the
college requested Mrs. Masterson to attend at his rooms on the
following morning.

She did not go. At the appointed hour, however, there came a knock on
the tutor's door, and that gentleman, who had sent his servant out of
the way, found Mr. Fishwick on the landing. 'Tut-tut!' said the don with
some brusqueness, his hand still on the door; 'do you want me?' He had
seen the attorney after the duel, and in the confusion attendant on the
injured man's removal; and knew him by sight, but no farther.

'I--hem--I think you wished to see Mrs. Masterson?' was Mr. Fishwick's
answer, and the lawyer, but with all humility, made as if he
would enter.

The tutor, however, barred the way. 'I wished to see Mrs. Masterson,' he
said drily, and with his coldest air of authority. 'But who are you?'

'I am here on her behalf,' Mr. Fishwick answered, meekly pressing his
hat in his hands.

'On her behalf?' said Mr. Thomasson stiffly. 'Is she ill?'

'No, sir, I do not know that she is ill.'

'Then I do not understand,' Mr. Thomasson answered in his most dignified
tone. 'Are you aware that the woman is in the position of a college
servant, inhabiting a cottage the property of the college? And liable to
be turned out at the college will?'

'It may be so,' said the attorney.

'Then, if you please, what is the meaning of her absence when requested
by one of the Fellows of the college to attend?'

'I am here to represent her,' said Mr. Fishwick.

'Represent her! Represent a college laundress! Pooh! I never heard of
such a thing.'

'But, sir, I am her legal adviser, and--'

'Legal adviser!' Mr. Thomasson retorted, turning purple--he was really
puzzled. 'A bedmaker with a legal adviser! It's the height of impudence!
Begone, sir, and take it from me, that the best advice you can give her
is to attend me within the hour.'

Mr. Fishwick looked rather blue. 'If it has nothing to do with her
property,' he said reluctantly, and as if he had gone too far.

'Property!' said Mr. Thomasson, gasping.

'Or her affairs.'

'Affairs!' the tutor cried. 'I never heard of a bedmaker having
affairs.'

'Well,' said the lawyer doggedly, and with the air of a man goaded into
telling what he wished to conceal, 'she is leaving Oxford. That is
the fact.'

'Oh!' said Mr. Thomasson, falling on a sudden into the minor key. 'And
her daughter?'

'And her daughter.'

'That is unfortunate,' the tutor answered, thoughtfully rubbing his
hands. 'The truth is--the girl proved so good a nurse in the case of my
noble friend who was injured the other day--my lord Viscount
Dunborough's son, a most valuable life--that since she absented herself,
he has not made the same progress. And as I am responsible for him--'

'She should never have attended him!' the attorney answered with
unexpected sharpness.

'Indeed! And why not, may I ask?' the tutor inquired.

Mr. Fishwick did not answer the question. Instead, 'She would not have
gone to him in the first instance,' he said, 'but that she was under a
misapprehension.'

'A misapprehension?'

'She thought that the duel lay at her door,' the attorney answered; 'and
in that belief was impelled to do what she could to undo the
consequences. Romantic, but a most improper step!'

'Improper!' said the tutor, much ruffled. 'And why, sir?'

'Most improper,' the attorney repeated in a dry, business-like tone. 'I
am instructed that the gentleman had for weeks past paid her attentions
which, his station considered, could scarcely be honourable, and of
which she had more than once expressed her dislike. Under those
circumstances, to expose her to his suit--but no more need be said,' the
attorney added, breaking off and taking a pinch of snuff with great
enjoyment, 'as she is leaving the city.'

Mr. Thomasson had much ado to mask his chagrin under a show of
contemptuous incredulity. 'The wench has too fine a conceit of herself!'
he blurted out. 'Hark you, sir--this is a fable! I wonder you dare to
put it about. A gentleman of the station of my lord Dunborough's son
does not condescend to the gutter!'

'I will convey the remark to my client,' said the attorney, bristling
all over.

'Client!' Mr. Thomasson retorted, trembling with rage--for he saw the
advantage he had given the enemy. 'Since when had laundry maids lawyers?
Client! Pho! Begone, sir! You are abusive. I'll have you looked up on
the rolls. I'll have your name taken!'

'I would not talk of names if I were you,' cried Mr. Fishwick, reddening
in his turn with rage. 'Men give a name to what you are doing this
morning, and it is not a pleasant one. It is to be hoped, sir, that Mr.
Dunborough pays you well for your services!'

'You--insolent rascal!' the tutor stammered, losing in a moment all his
dignity and becoming a pale flabby man, with the spite and the terror of
crime in his face. 'You--begone! Begone, sir.'

'Willingly,' said the attorney, swelling with defiance. 'You may tell
your principal that when he means marriage, he may come to us. Not
before. I take my leave, sir. Good morning.' And with that he strutted
out and marched slowly and majestically down the stairs.

He bore off the honours of war. Mr. Thomasson, left among his Titian
copies, his gleaming Venuses, and velvet curtains, was a sorry thing.
The man who preserves a cloak of outward decency has always this
vulnerable spot; strip him, and he sees himself as others see or may see
him, and views his ugliness with griping qualms. Mr. Thomasson bore the
exposure awhile, sitting white and shaking in a chair, seeing himself
and seeing the end, and, like the devils, believing and trembling. Then
he rose and staggered to a little cupboard, the door of which was
adorned with a pretty Greek motto, and a hovering Cupid painted in a
blue sky; whence he filled himself a glass of cordial. A second glass
followed; this restored the colour to his cheeks and the brightness to
his eyes. He shivered; then smacked his lips and began to reflect what
face he should put upon it when he went to report to his pupil.

In deciding that point he made a mistake. Unluckily for himself and
others, in the version which he chose he was careful to include all
matters likely to arouse Dunborough's resentment; in particular he laid
malicious stress upon the attorney's scornful words about a marriage.
This, however--and perhaps the care he took to repeat it--had an
unlooked-for result. Mr. Dunborough began by cursing the rogue's
impudence, and did it with all the heat his best friend could desire.
But, being confined to his room, haunted by the vision of his flame, yet
debarred from any attempt to see her, his mood presently changed; his
heart became as water, and he fell into a maudlin state about her.
Dwelling constantly on memories of his Briseis--whose name, by the way,
was Julia--having her shape and complexion, her gentle touch and her
smile, always in his mind, while he was unable in the body to see so
much as the hem of her gown, Achilles grew weaker in will as he grew
stronger in body. Headstrong and reckless by nature, unaccustomed to
thwart a desire or deny himself a gratification, Mr. Dunborough began to
contemplate paying even the last price for her; and one day, about three
weeks after the duel, dropped a word which frightened Mr. Thomasson.

He was well enough by this time to be up, and was looking through one
window while the tutor lounged in the seat of another. On a sudden
'Lord!' said he, with a laugh that broke off short in the middle. 'What
was the queer catch that fellow sang last night? About a bailiff's
daughter. Well, why not a porter's daughter?'

'Because you are neither young enough, nor old enough, nor mad enough!'
said Mr. Thomasson cynically, supposing the other meant nothing.

'It is she that would be mad,' the young gentleman answered, with a grim
chuckle. 'I should take it out of her sooner or later. And, after all,
she is as good as Lady Macclesfield or Lady Falmouth! As good? She is
better, the saucy baggage! By the Lord, I have a good mind to do it!'

Mr. Thomasson sat dumbfounded. At length, 'You are jesting! You cannot
mean it,' he said.

'If it is marriage or nothing--and, hang her, she is as cold as a church
pillar--I do mean it,' the gentleman answered viciously; 'and so would
you if you were not an old insensible sinner! Think of her ankle, man!
Think of her waist! I never saw a waist to compare with it! Even in the
Havanna! She is a pearl! She is a jewel! She is incomparable!'

'And a porter's daughter!'

'Faugh, I don't believe it.' And he took his oath on the point.

'You make me sick!' Mr. Thomasson said; and meant it. Then, 'My dear
friend, I see how it is,' he continued. 'You have the fever on you
still, or you would not dream of such things.'

'But I do dream of her--every night, confound her!' Mr. Dunborough said;
and he groaned like a love-sick boy. 'Oh, hang it, Tommy,' he continued
plaintively, 'she has a kind of look in her eyes when she is
pleased--that makes you think of dewy mornings when you were a boy and
went fishing.'

'It _is_ the fever!' Mr. Thomasson said, with conviction. 'It is heavy
on him still.' Then, more seriously, 'My very dear sir,' he continued,
'do you know that if you had your will you would be miserable within the
week. Remember--

     ''Tis tumult, disorder, 'tis loathing and hate;
     Caprice gives it birth, and contempt is its fate!'

'Gad, Tommy!' said Mr. Dunborough, aghast with admiration at the aptness
of the lines. 'That is uncommon clever of you! But I shall do it all the
same,' he continued, in a tone of melancholy foresight. 'I know I shall.
I am a fool, a particular fool. But I shall do it. Marry in haste and
repent at leisure!'

'A porter's daughter become Lady Dunborough!' cried Mr. Thomasson with
scathing sarcasm.

'Oh yes, my tulip,' Mr. Dunborough answered with gloomy meaning. 'But
there have been worse. I know what I know. See Collins's Peerage, volume
4, page 242: "Married firstly Sarah, widow of Colonel John Clark, of
Exeter, in the county of Devon"--all a hum, Tommy! If they had said
spinster, of Bridewell, in the county of Middlesex, 'twould have been
as true! I know what I know.'

After that Mr. Thomasson went out of Magdalen, feeling that the world
was turning round with him. If Dunborough were capable of such a step as
this--Dunborough, who had seen life and service, and of whose past he
knew a good deal--where was he to place dependence? How was he to trust
even the worst of his acquaintances? The matter shook the pillars of the
tutor's house, and filled him with honest disgust.

Moreover, it frightened him. In certain circumstances he might have
found his advantage in fostering such a _mésalliance_. But here, not
only had he reason to think himself distasteful to the young lady whose
elevation was in prospect, but he retained too vivid a recollection of
Lady Dunborough to hope that that lady would forget or forgive him!
Moreover, at the present moment he was much straitened for money;
difficulties of long standing were coming to a climax. Venuses and
Titian copies have to be paid for. The tutor, scared by the prospect, to
which he had lately opened his eyes, saw in early preferment or a
wealthy pupil his only way of escape. And in Lady Dunborough lay his
main hope, which a catastrophe of this nature would inevitably shatter.
That evening he sent his servant to learn what he could of the
Mastersons' movements.

The man brought word that they had left the town that morning; that the
cottage was closed, and the key had been deposited at the college gates.

'Did you learn their destination?' the tutor asked, trimming his
fingernails with an appearance of indifference.

The servant said he had not; and after adding the common gossip of the
court, that Masterson had left money, and the widow had gone to her own
people, concluded, 'But they were very close after Masterson's death,
and the neighbours saw little of them. There was a lawyer in and out, a
stranger; and it is thought he was to marry the girl, and that that had
set them a bit above their position, sir.'

'That will do,' said the tutor. 'I want to hear no gossip,' And, hiding
his joy, he went off hot-foot to communicate the news to his pupil.

But Mr. Dunborough laughed in his face. 'Pooh!' he said. 'I know where
they are.'

'You know? Then where are they?' Thomasson asked.

'Ah, my good Tommy, that is telling.'

'Well,' Mr. Thomasson answered, with an assumption of dignity. 'At any
rate they are gone. And you must allow me to say that I am glad of
it--for your sake!'

'That is as may be,' Mr. Dunborough answered. And he took his first
airing in a sedan next day. After that he grew so reticent about his
affairs, and so truculent when the tutor tried to sound him, that Mr.
Thomasson was at his wits' end to discern what was afoot. For some time,
however, he got no clue. Then, going to Dunborough's rooms one day, he
found them empty, and, bribing the servant, learned that his master had
gone to Wallingford. And the man told him his suspicions. Mr. Thomasson
was aghast; and by that day's post--after much searching of heart and
long pondering into which scale he should throw his weight--he
despatched the following letter to Lady Dunborough:

'HONOURED MADAM,--The peculiar care I have of that distinguished and
excellent gentleman, your son, no less than the profound duty I owe to
my lord and your ladyship, induces me to a step which I cannot regard
without misgiving; since, once known, it must deprive me of the
influence with Mr. Dunborough which I have now the felicity to enjoy,
and which, heightened by the affection he is so good as to bestow on me,
renders his society the most agreeable in the world. Nevertheless, and
though considerations of this sort cannot but have weight with me, I am
not able to be silent, nor allow your honoured repose among the storied
oaks of Papworth to be roughly shattered by a blow that may still be
averted by skill and conduct.

'For particulars, Madam, the young gentleman--I say it with regret--has
of late been drawn into a connection with a girl of low origin and
suitable behaviour, Not that your ladyship is to think me so wanting in
_savoir-faire_ as to trouble your ears with this, were it all; but the
person concerned--who (I need scarcely tell one so familiar with Mr.
Dunborough's amiable disposition) is solely to blame--has the wit to
affect virtue, and by means of this pretence, often resorted to by
creatures of that class, has led my generous but misguided pupil to the
point of matrimony. Your ladyship shudders? Alas! it is so. I have
learned within the hour that he has followed her to Wallingford, whither
she has withdrawn herself, doubtless to augment his passion; I am forced
to conclude that nothing short of your ladyship's presence and advice
can now stay his purpose. In that belief, and with the most profound
regret, I pen these lines; and respectfully awaiting the favour of your
ladyship's commands, which shall ever evoke my instant compliance,

'I have the honour to be while I live, Madam,

Your ladyship's most humble obedient servant,

'FREDERICK THOMASSON.

'_Nota bene_.--I do not commend the advantage of silence in regard to
this communication, this being patent to your ladyship's sagacity.'



CHAPTER VIII

THE OLD BATH ROAD

In the year 1757--to go back ten years from the spring with which we are
dealing--the ordinary Englishman was a Balbus despairing of the State.
No phrase was then more common on English lips, or in English ears, than
the statement that the days of England's greatness were numbered, and
were fast running out. Unwitting the wider sphere about to open before
them, men dwelt fondly on the glories of the past. The old babbled of
Marlborough's wars, of the entrance of Prince Eugene into London, of
choirs draped in flags, and steeples reeling giddily for Ramillies and
Blenheim. The young listened, and sighed to think that the day had been,
and was not, when England gave the law to Europe, and John Churchill's
warder set troops moving from Hamburg to the Alps.

On the top of such triumphs, and the famous reign of good Queen Anne,
had ensued forty years of peace, broken only by one inglorious war. The
peace did its work: it settled the dynasty, and filled the purse; but
men, considering it, whispered of effeminacy and degeneracy, and the
like, as men will to the end of time. And when the clouds, long sighted
on the political horizon, began to roll up, they looked fearfully abroad
and doubted and trembled; and doubted and trembled the more because in
home affairs all patriotism, all party-spirit, all thought of things
higher than ribbon or place or pension, seemed to be dead among public
men. The Tories, long deprived of power, and discredited by the taint or
suspicion of Jacobitism, counted for nothing. The Whigs, agreed on all
points of principle, and split into sections, the Ins and Outs, solely
by the fact that all could not enjoy places and pensions at once, the
supply being unequal to the demand--had come to regard politics as
purely a game; a kind of licensed hazard played for titles, orders, and
emoluments, by certain families who had the _entrée_ to the public table
by virtue of the part they had played in settling the succession.

Into the midst of this state of things, this world of despondency,
mediocrity, selfishness, and chicanery, and at the precise crisis when
the disasters which attended the opening campaigns of the Seven Years'
War--and particularly the loss of Minorca--seemed to confirm the
gloomiest prognostications of the most hopeless pessimists, came William
Pitt; and in eighteen months changed the face of the world, not for his
generation only, but for ours. Indifferent as an administrator, mediocre
as a financier, passionate, haughty, headstrong, with many of the worst
faults of an orator, he was still a man with ideals--a patriot among
placemen, pure where all were corrupt. And the effect of his touch was
magical. By infusing his own spirit, his own patriotism, his own belief
in his country, and his own belief in himself, into those who worked
with him--ay, and into the better half of England--he wrought a
seeming miracle.

See, for instance, what Mr. Walpole wrote to Sir Horace Mann in
September, 1757. 'For how many years,' he says, 'have I been telling you
that your country was mad, that your country was undone! It does not
grow wiser, it does not grow more prosperous! ... How do you behave on
these lamentable occasions? Oh, believe me, it is comfortable to have an
island to hide one's head in! ...' Again he writes in the same month,'
'It is time for England to slip her own cables, and float away into some
unknown ocean.'

With these compare a letter dated November, 1759. 'Indeed,' he says to
the same correspondent, 'one is forced to ask every morning what victory
there is, for fear of missing one.' And he wrote with reason. India,
Canada, Belleisle, the Mississippi, the Philippines, the Havanna,
Martinique, Guadaloupe--there was no end to our conquests. Wolfe fell in
the arms of victory, Clive came home the satrap of sovereigns; but day
by day ships sailed in and couriers spurred abroad with the news that a
new world and a nascent empire were ours. Until men's heads reeled and
maps failed them, as they asked each morning 'What new land, to-day?'
Until those who had despaired of England awoke and rubbed their
eyes--awoke to find three nations at her feet, and the dawn of a new and
wider day breaking in the sky.

And what of the minister? They called him the Great Commoner, the
heaven-born statesman; they showered gold boxes upon him; they bore him
through the city, the centre of frantic thousands, to the effacement
even of the sovereign. Where he went all heads were bared; while he
walked the rooms at Bath and drank the water, all stood; his very sedan,
built with a boot to accommodate his gouty foot, was a show followed and
watched wherever it moved. A man he had never seen left him a house and
three thousand pounds a year; this one, that one, the other one,
legacies. In a word, for a year or two he was the idol of the
nation--the first great People's Minister.

Then, the crisis over, the old system lifted its head again; the
mediocrities returned; and, thwarted by envious rivals and a jealous
king, Pitt placed the crown alike on his services and his popularity by
resigning power when he could no longer dictate the policy which he
knew to be right. Nor were events slow to prove his wisdom. The war with
Spain which he would have declared, Spain declared. The treasure fleet
which he would have seized, escaped us. Finally, the peace when it came
redounded to his credit, for in the main it secured his conquests--to
the disgrace of his enemies, since more might have been obtained.

Such was the man who, restored to office and lately created an earl by
the title of Chatham, lay ill at Bath in the spring of '67. The passage
of time, the course of events, the ravages of gout, in a degree the
acceptance of a title, had robbed his popularity of its first gloss. But
his name was still a name to conjure with in England. He was still the
idol of the City. Crowds still ran to see him where he passed. His gaunt
figure racked with gout, his eagle nose, his piercing eyes, were still
England's picture of a minister. His curricle, his troop of servants,
the very state he kept, the ceremony with which he travelled, all
pleased the popular fancy. When it was known that he was well enough to
leave Bath, and would lie a night at the Castle Inn at Marlborough, his
suite requiring twenty rooms, even that great hostelry, then reputed one
of the best, as it was certainly the most splendid in England, and
capable, it was said, of serving a dinner of twenty-four covers on
silver, was in an uproar. The landlord, who knew the tastes of half the
peerage, and which bin Lord Sandwich preferred, and which Mr. Rigby, in
which rooms the Duchess or Lady Betty liked to lie, what Mr. Walpole
took with his supper, and which shades the Princess Amelia preferred for
her card-table--even he, who had taken his glass of wine with a score of
dukes, from Cumberland the Great to Bedford the Little, was put to it;
the notice being short, and the house somewhat full.

Fortunately the Castle Inn, on the road between London and the west,
was a place of call, not of residence. Formerly a favourite residence of
the Seymour family, and built, if tradition does not lie, by a pupil of
Inigo Jones, it stood--and for the house, still stands--in a snug fold
of the downs, at the end of the long High Street of Marlborough; at the
precise point where the route to Salisbury debouches from the Old Bath
Road. A long-fronted, stately mansion of brick, bosomed in trees, and
jealous of its historic past--it had sheltered William of Orange--it
presented to the north and the road, from which it was distant some
hundred yards, a grand pillared portico flanked by projecting wings. At
that portico, and before those long rows of shapely windows, forty
coaches, we are told, changed horses every day. Beside the western wing
of the house a green sugarloaf mound, reputed to be of Druidical origin,
rose above the trees; it was accessible by a steep winding path, and
crowned at the date of this story by a curious summer-house. Travellers
from the west who merely passed on the coach, caught, if they looked
back as they entered the town, a glimpse of groves and lawns laid out by
the best taste of the day, between the southern front and the river. To
these a doorway and a flight of stone steps, corresponding in position
with the portico in the middle of the north front, conducted the
visitor, who, if a man of feeling, was equally surprised and charmed to
find in these shady retreats, stretching to the banks of the Kennet, a
silence and beauty excelled in few noblemen's gardens. In a word, while
the north front of the house hummed with the revolving wheels, and
echoed the chatter of half the fashionable world bound for the Bath or
the great western port of Bristol, the south front reflected the taste
of that Lady Hertford who had made these glades and trim walks her
principal hobby.

With all its charms, however, the traveller, as we have said, stayed
there but a night or so. Those in the house, therefore, would move on,
and so room could be made. And so room was made; and two days later, a
little after sunset, amid a spasm of final preparation, and with a great
parade of arrival, the earl's procession, curricle, chariot, coaches,
chaises, and footmen, rolled in from the west. In a trice lights flashed
everywhere, in the road, at the windows, on the mound, among the trees;
the crowd thickened--every place seemed peopled with the Pitt liveries.
Women, vowing that they were cramped to death, called languidly for
chaise-doors to be opened; and men who had already descended, and were
stretching their limbs in the road, ran to open them. This was in the
rear of the procession; in front, where the throng of townsfolk closed
most thickly round the earl's travelling chariot, was a sudden baring of
heads, as the door of the coach was opened. The landlord, bowing lower
than he had ever bowed to the proud Duke of Somerset, offered his
shoulder. And then men waited and bent nearer; and nothing happening,
looked at one another in surprise. Still no one issued; instead,
something which the nearest could not catch was said, and a tall lady,
closely hooded, stepped stiffly out and pointed to the house. On which
the landlord and two or three servants hurried in; and all was
expectation.

The men were out again in a moment, bearing a great chair, which they
set with nicety at the door of the carriage. This done, the gapers saw
what they had come to see. For an instant, the face that all England
knew and all Europe feared--but blanched, strained, and drawn with
pain--showed in the opening. For a second the crowd was gratified with a
glimpse of a gaunt form, a star and ribbon; then, with a groan heard far
through the awestruck silence, the invalid sank heavily into the chair,
and was borne swiftly and silently into the house.

Men looked at one another; but the fact was better than their fears. My
lord, after leaving Bath, had had a fresh attack of the gout; and when
he would be able to proceed on his journey only Dr. Addington, his
physician, whose gold-headed cane, great wig, and starched aspect did
not foster curiosity, could pretend to say. Perhaps Mr. Smith, the
landlord, was as much concerned as any; when he learned the state of the
case, he fell to mental arithmetic with the assistance of his fingers,
and at times looked blank. Counting up the earl and his gentleman, and
his gentleman's gentleman, and his secretary, and his private secretary,
and his physician, and his three friends and their gentlemen, and my
lady and her woman, and the children and nurses, and a crowd of others,
he could not see where to-morrow's travellers were to lie, supposing the
minister remained. However, in the end, he set that aside as a question
for to-morrow; and having seen Mr. Rigby's favourite bin opened (for Dr.
Addington was a connoisseur), and reviewed the cooks dishing up the
belated dinner--which an endless chain of servants carried to the
different apartments--he followed to the principal dining-room, where
the minister's company were assembled; and between the intervals of
carving and seeing that his guests ate to their liking, enjoyed the
conversation, and, when invited, joined in it with tact and
self-respect. As became a host of the old school.

By this time lights blazed in every window of the great mansion; the
open doors emitted a fragrant glow of warmth and welcome; the rattle of
plates and hum of voices could be heard in the road a hundred paces
away. But outside and about the stables the hubbub had somewhat
subsided, the road had grown quiet, and the last townsfolk had
withdrawn, when a little after seven the lamps of a carriage appeared
in the High Street, approaching from the town. It swept round the
church, turned the flank of the house, and in a twinkling drew up before
the pillars.

'Hilloa! House!' cried the postillion. 'House!' And, cracking his whip
on his boot, he looked up at the rows of lighted windows.

A man and a maid who travelled outside climbed down. As the man opened
the carriage door, a servant bustled out of the house. 'Do you want
fresh horses?' said he, in a kind of aside to the footman.

'No--rooms!' the man answered bluntly.

Before the other could reply, 'What is this?' cried a shrewish voice
from the interior of the carriage. 'Hoity toity! This is a nice way of
receiving company! You, fellow, go to your master and say that I
am here.'

'Say that the Lady Dunborough is here,' an unctuous voice repeated, 'and
requires rooms, dinners, fire, and the best he has. And do you be
quick, fellow!'

The speaker was Mr. Thomasson, or rather Mr. Thomasson plus the
importance which comes of travelling with a viscountess. This, and
perhaps the cramped state of his limbs, made him a little long in
descending. 'Will your ladyship wait? or will you allow me to have the
honour of assisting you to descend?' he continued, shivering slightly
from the cold. To tell the truth, he was not enjoying his honour on
cheap terms. Save the last hour, her ladyship's tongue had gone without
ceasing, and Mr. Thomasson was sorely in need of refreshment.

'Descend? No!' was the tart answer. 'Let the man come! Sho! Times are
changed since I was here last. I had not to wait then, or break my shins
in the dark! Has the impudent fellow gone in?'

He had, but at this came out again, bearing lights before his master.
The host, with the civility which marked landlords in those days--the
halcyon days of inns--hurried down the steps to the carriage. 'Dear me!
Dear me! I am most unhappy!' he exclaimed. 'Had I known your ladyship
was travelling, some arrangement should have been made. I declare, my
lady, I would not have had this happen for twenty pounds! But--'

'But what, man! What is the man mouthing about?' she cried impatiently.

'I am full,' he said, extending his palms to express his despair.' The
Earl of Chatham and his lordship's company travelling from Bath occupy
all the west wing and the greater part of the house; and I have
positively no rooms fit for your ladyship's use. I am grieved,
desolated, to have to say this to a person in your ladyship's position,'
he continued glibly, 'and an esteemed customer, but--' and again he
extended his hands.

'A fig for your desolation!' her ladyship cried rudely. 'It don't help
me, Smith.'

'But your ladyship sees how it is.'

'I am hanged if I do!' she retorted, and used an expression too coarse
for modern print. 'But I suppose that there is another house, man.'

'Certainly, my lady--several,' the landlord answered, with a gesture of
deprecation. 'But all full. And the accommodation not of a kind to suit
your ladyship's tastes.'

'Then--what are we to do?' she asked with angry shrillness.

'We have fresh horses,' he ventured to suggest. 'The road is good, and
in four hours, or four and a half at the most, your ladyship might be in
Bath, where there is an abundance of good lodgings.'

'Bless the man!' cried the angry peeress. 'Does he think I have a skin
of leather to stand this jolting and shaking? Four hours more! I'll lie
in my carriage first!'

A small rain was beginning to fall, and the night promised to be wet as
well as cold. Mr. Thomasson, who had spent the last hour, while his
companion slept, in visions of the sumptuous dinner, neat wines, and
good beds that awaited him at the Castle Inn, cast a despairing glance
at the doorway, whence issued a fragrance that made his mouth water.
'Oh, positively,' he cried, addressing the landlord, 'something must be
done, my good man. For myself, I can sleep in a chair if her ladyship
can anyway be accommodated.'

'Well,' said the landlord dubiously, 'if her ladyship could allow her
woman to lie with her?'

'Bless the man! Why did you not say that at once?' cried my lady. 'Oh,
she may come!' This last in a voice that promised little comfort for
the maid.

'And if the reverend gentleman--would put up with a couch below stairs?'

'Yes, yes,' said Mr. Thomasson; but faintly, now it came to the point.

'Then I think I can manage--if your ladyship will not object to sup with
some guests who have just arrived, and are now sitting down? Friends of
Sir George Soane,' the landlord hastened to add, 'whom your ladyship
probably knows.'

'Drat the man!--too well!' Lady Dunborough answered, making a wry face.
For by this time she had heard all about the duel. 'He has nearly cost
me dear! But, there--if we must, we must. Let me get my tooth in the
dinner, and I won't stand on my company.' And she proceeded to descend,
and, the landlord going before her, entered the house.

In those days people were not so punctilious in certain directions as
they now are. My lady put off her French hood and travelling cloak in
the lobby of the east wing, gave her piled-up hair a twitch this way and
that, unfastened her fan from her waist, and sailed in to supper, her
maid carrying her gloves and scent-bottle behind her. The tutor, who
wore no gloves, was a little longer. But having washed his hands at a
pump in the scullery, and dried them on a roller-towel--with no sense
that the apparatus was deficient--he tucked his hat under his arm and,
handling his snuff-box, tripped after her as hastily as vanity and an
elegant demeanour permitted.

He found her in the act of joining, with an air of vast condescension, a
party of three; two of whom her stately salute had already frozen in
their places. These two, a slight perky man of middle age, and a
frightened rustic-looking woman in homely black--who, by the way, sat
with her mouth, open and her knife and fork resting points upward on the
table--could do nothing but stare. The third, a handsome girl, very
simply dressed, returned her ladyship's gaze with mingled interest
and timidity.

My lady noticed this, and the girl's elegant air and shape, and set down
the other two for her duenna and her guardian's man of business. Aware
that Sir George Soane had no sister, she scented scandal, and lost not a
moment in opening the trenches.

'And how far have you come to-day, child?' she asked with condescension,
as soon as she had taken her seat.

'From Reading, madam,' the girl answered in a voice low and restrained.
Her manner was somewhat awkward, and she had a shy air, as if her
surroundings were new to her, But Lady Dunborough was more and more
impressed with her beauty, and a natural air of refinement that was not
to be mistaken.

'The roads are insufferably crowded,' said the peeress. 'They are
intolerable!'

'I am afraid you suffered some inconvenience,' the girl answered
timidly.

At that moment Mr. Thomasson entered. He treated the strangers to a
distant bow, and, without looking at them, took his seat with a
nonchalant ease, becoming a man who travelled with viscountesses, and
was at home in the best company. The table had his first hungry glance.
He espied roast and cold, a pair of smoking ducklings just set on, a
dish of trout, a round of beef, a pigeon-pie, and hot rolls. Relieved,
he heaved a sigh of satisfaction.

''Pon honour this is not so bad!' he said. 'It is not what your ladyship
is accustomed to, but at a pinch it will do. It will do!'

He was not unwilling that the strangers should know his companion's
rank, and he stole a glance at them, as he spoke, to see what impression
it made. Alas! the deeper impression was made on himself. For a moment
he stared; the next he sprang to his feet with an oath plain and strong.

'Drat the man!' cried my lady in wrath. He had come near to oversetting
her plate. 'What flea has bitten you now?'

'Do you know--who these people are?' Mr. Thomasson stammered, trembling
with rage; and, resting both hands on the back of his chair, he glared
now at them and now at Lady Dunborough. He could be truculent where he
had nothing to fear; and he was truculent now.

'These people?' my lady drawled in surprise; and she inspected them
through her quizzing-glass as coolly as if they were specimens of a rare
order submitted to her notice. 'Not in the least, my good man. Who are
they? Should I know them?'

'They are--'

But the little man, whose seat happened to be opposite the tutor's, had
risen to his feet by this time; and at that word cut him short. 'Sir!'
he cried in a flutter of agitation. 'Have a care! Have a care what you
say! I am a lawyer, and I warn you that anything defamatory
will--will be--'

'Pooh!' said Mr. Thomasson. 'Don't try to browbeat me, sir. These
persons are impostors, Lady Dunborough! Impostors!' he continued. 'In
this house, at any rate. They have no right to be here!'

'You shall pay for this!' shrieked Mr. Fishwick. For he it was.

'I will ring the bell,' the tutor continued in a high tone, 'and have
them removed. They have no more to do with Sir George Soane, whose name
they appear to have taken, than your ladyship has.'

'Have a care! Have a care, sir,' cried the lawyer, trembling.

'Or than I have!' persisted Mr. Thomasson hardily, and with his head in
the air; 'and no right or title to be anywhere but in the servants'
room. That is their proper place. Lady Dunborough,' he continued, his
eyes darting severity at the three culprits, 'are you aware that this
young person whom you have been so kind as to notice is--is--'

'Oh, Gadzooks, man, come to the point!' cried her ladyship, with one eye
on the victuals.

'No, I will not shame her publicly,' said Mr. Thomasson, swelling with
virtuous self-restraint. 'But if your ladyship would honour me with two
words apart?'

Lady Dunborough rose, muttering impatiently; and Mr. Thomasson, with the
air of a just man in a parable, led her a little aside; but so that the
three who remained at the table might still feel that his eye and his
reprehension rested on them. He spoke a few words to her ladyship;
whereon she uttered a faint cry, and stiffened. A moment and she turned
and came back to the table, her face crimson, her headdress nodding.
She looked at the girl, who had just risen to her feet.

'You baggage!' she hissed, 'begone! Out of this house! How dare you sit
in my presence?' And she pointed to the door.



CHAPTER IX

ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON

The scene presented by the room at this moment was sufficiently
singular. The waiters, drawn to the spot by the fury of my lady's tone,
peered in at the half-opened door, and asking one another what the
fracas was about, thought so; and softly called to others to witness it.
On one side of the table rose Lady Dunborough, grim and venomous; on the
other the girl stood virtually alone--for the elder woman had fallen to
weeping helplessly, and the attorney seemed to be unequal to this new
combatant. Even so, and though her face betrayed trouble and some
irresolution, she did not blench, but faced her accuser with a slowly
rising passion that overcame her shyness.

'Madam,' she said, 'I did not clearly catch your name. Am I right in
supposing that you are Lady Dunborough?'

The peeress swallowed her rage with difficulty. 'Go!' she cried, and
pointed afresh to the door. 'How dare you bandy words with me? Do you
hear me? Go!'

'I am not going at your bidding,' the girl answered slowly. 'Why do you
speak to me like that?' And then, 'You have no right to speak to me in
that way!' she continued, in a flush of indignation.

'You impudent creature!' Lady Dunborough cried. 'You shameless,
abandoned baggage! Who brought you in out of the streets? You, a
kitchen-wench, to be sitting at this table smiling at your betters!
I'll--Ring the bell! Ring the bell, fool!' she continued impetuously,
and scathed Mr. Thomasson with a look. 'Fetch the landlord, and let me
see this impudent hussy thrown out! Ay, madam, I suppose you are here
waiting for my son; but you have caught me instead, and I'll be
bound. I'll--'

'You'll disgrace yourself,' the girl retorted with quiet pride. But she
was very white. 'I know nothing of your son.'

'A fig for the lie, mistress!' cried the old harridan; and added, as was
too much the fashion in those days, a word we cannot print. The Duchess
of Northumberland had the greater name for coarseness; but Lady
Dunborough's tongue was known in town. 'Ay, that smartens you, does it?
'she continued with cruel delight; for the girl had winced as from a
blow. 'But here comes the landlord, and now out you go. Ay, into the
streets, mistress! Hoity-toity, that dirt like you should sit at tables!
Go wash the dishes, slut!'

There was not a waiter who saw the younger woman's shame who did not
long to choke the viscountess. As for the attorney, though he had vague
fears of privilege before his eyes, and was clogged by the sex of the
assailant, he could remain silent no longer.

'My lady,' he cried, in a tone of trembling desperation, 'you will--you
will repent this! You don't know what you are doing. I tell you that
to-morrow--'

'What is this?' said a quiet voice. It was the landlord's; he spoke as
he pushed his way through the group at the door. 'Has your ladyship some
complaint to make?' he continued civilly, his eye taking in the
scene--even to the elder woman, who through her tears kept muttering,
'Deary, we ought not to have come here! I told him we ought not to come
here!' And then, before her ladyship could reply, 'Is this the
party--that have Sir George Soane's rooms?' he continued, turning to
the nearest servant.

Lady Dunborough answered for the man. 'Ay!' she said, pitiless in her
triumph. 'They are! And know no more of Soane than the hair of my head!
They are a party of fly-by-nights; and for this fine madam, she is a
kitchen dish-washer at Oxford! And the commonest, lowest slut that--'

'Your ladyship has said enough,' the landlord interposed, moved by pity
or the girl's beauty. 'I know already that there has been some mistake
here, and that these persons have no right to the rooms they occupy. Sir
George Soane has alighted within the last few minutes--'

'And knows nothing of them!' my lady cried, clapping her hands in
triumph.

'That is so,' the landlord answered ominously. Then, turning to the
bewildered attorney, 'For you, sir,' he continued, 'if you have anything
to say, be good enough to speak. On the face of it, this is a dirty
trick you have played me.'

'Trick?' cried the attorney.

'Ay, trick, man. But before I send for the constable--'

'The constable?' shrieked Mr. Fishwick. Truth to tell, it had been his
own idea to storm the splendours of the Castle Inn; and for certain
reasons he had carried it in the teeth of his companions' remonstrances.
Now between the suddenness of the onslaught made on them, the
strangeness of the surroundings, Sir George's inopportune arrival, and
the scornful grins of the servants who thronged the doorway, he was
cowed. For a moment his wonted sharpness deserted him; he faltered and
changed colour. 'I don't know what you mean,' he said. 'I gave--I gave
the name of Soane; and you--you assigned me the rooms. I thought it
particularly civil, sir, and was even troubled about the expense--'

'Is your name Soane?' Mr. Smith asked with blunt-ness; he grew more
suspicious as the other's embarrassment increased.

'No,' Mr. Fishwick admitted reluctantly. 'But this young lady's name--'

'Is Soane?'

'Yes.'

Mr. Thomasson stepped forward, grim as fate. 'That is not true,' he said
coldly. 'I am a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, at present in
attendance on her ladyship; and I identify this person'--he pointed to
the girl--'as the daughter of a late servant of the College, and this
woman as her mother. I have no doubt that the last thing they expected
to find in this place was one who knew them.'

The landlord nodded. 'Joe,' he said, turning to a servant, 'fetch the
constable. You will find him at the Falcon.'

'That is talking!' cried my lady, clapping her hands gleefully. 'That is
talking!' And then addressing the girl, 'Now, madam,' she said, 'I'll
have your pride pulled down! If I don't have you in the stocks for this,
tease my back!'

There was a snigger at that, in the background, by the door; and a crush
to get in and see how the rogues took their exposure; for my lady's
shrill voice could be heard in the hall, and half the inn was running to
listen. Mrs. Masterson, who had collapsed at the mention of the
constable, and could now do nothing but moan and weep, and the attorney,
who spluttered vain threats in a voice quavering between fear and
passion evoked little sympathy. But the girl, who through all remained
silent, white, and defiant, who faced all, the fingers of one hand
drumming on the table before her, and her fine eyes brooding scornfully
on the crowd, drew from more than one the compliment of a quicker breath
and a choking throat. She was the handsomest piece they had seen, they
muttered, for many a day--as alien, from the other two as light from
darkness; and it is not in man's nature to see beauty humiliated, and
feel no unpleasant emotion. If there was to be a scene, and she did not
go quietly--in that case more than one in the front rank, who read the
pride in her eyes, wished he were elsewhere.

Suddenly the crowd about the door heaved. It opened slowly, and a voice,
airy and indifferent, was heard remarking, 'Ah! These are the people,
are they? Poor devils! 'Then a pause; and then, in a tone of
unmistakable surprise, 'Hallo!' the newcomer cried as he emerged and
stared at the scene before him. 'What is this?'

The attorney almost fell on his knees. 'Sir George!' he screamed. 'My
dear Sir George! Honoured sir, believe me I am innocent of any
ill-meaning.'

'Tut-tut!' said Sir George, who might have just stepped out of his
dressing-closet instead of his carriage, so perfect was his array, from
the ruffles that fell gracefully over his wrists to the cravat that
supported his chin. 'Tut-tut! Lord, man, what is the meaning of this?'

'We are going to see,' the landlord answered drily, forestalling the
lawyer's reply. 'I have sent for the constable, Sir George.'

'But, Sir George, you'll speak for us?' Mr. Fishwick cried piteously,
cutting the other short in his turn. 'You will speak for us? You know
me. You know that I am a respectable man. Oh, dear me, if this were told
in Wallingford!' he continued; 'and I have a mother aged seventy! It is
a mistake--a pure mistake, as I am prepared to prove. I appeal to you,
sir. Both I and my friends--'

He was stopped on that word; and very strangely. The girl turned on him,
her cheeks scarlet. 'For shame!' she cried with indignation that seemed
to her hearers inexplicable. 'Be silent, will you?'

Sir George stared with the others. 'Oh!' said Lady Dunborough, 'so you
have found your voice, have you, miss--now that there is a
gentleman here?'

'But--what is it all about?' Sir George asked.

'They took your rooms, sir,' the landlord explained respectfully.

'Pooh! is that all?' Soane answered contemptuously. What moved him he
could not tell; but in his mind he had chosen his side. He did not like
Lady Dunborough.

'But they are not,' the landlord objected, 'they are not the persons
they say they are, Sir George.'

'Chut!' said Soane carelessly. 'I know this person, at any rate. He is
respectable enough. I don't understand it at all. Oh, is that you,
Thomasson?'

Mr. Thomasson had fallen back a pace on Sir George's entrance; but being
recognised he came forward. 'I think that you will acknowledge, my dear
sir,' he said persuasively--and his tone was very different from that
which he had taken ten minutes earlier--'that at any rate--they are not
proper persons to sit down with her ladyship.'

'But why should they sit down with her?' said Sir George the
fashionable, slightly raising his eyebrows.

'Hem--Sir George, this is Lady Dunborough,' replied Mr. Thomasson, not a
little embarrassed.

Soane's eyes twinkled as he returned the viscountess's glance. But he
bowed profoundly, and with a sweep of his hat that made the rustics
stare. 'Your ladyship's most humble servant,' he said. 'Allow me to hope
that Mr. Dunborough is perfectly recovered. Believe me, I greatly
regretted his mischance.'

But Lady Dunborough was not so foolish as to receive his overtures
according to the letter. She saw plainly that he had chosen his
side--the impertinent fop, with his airs and graces!--and she was not to
be propitiated. 'Pray leave my son's name apart,' she answered, tossing
her head contemptuously. 'After what has happened, sir, I prefer not to
discuss him with you.'

Sir George raised his eyebrows, and bowed as profoundly as before. 'That
is entirely as your ladyship pleases,' he said. Nevertheless he was not
accustomed to be snubbed, and he set a trifle to her account.

'But for that creature,' she continued, trembling with passion, 'I will
not sleep under the same roof with her.'

Sir George simpered. 'I am sorry for that,' he said. 'For I am afraid
that the Falcon in the town is not the stamp of house to suit your
ladyship.'

The viscountess gasped. 'I should like to know why you champion her,'
she cried violently. 'I suppose you came here to meet her.'

'Alas, madam, I am not so happy,' he answered--with such blandness that
a servant by the door choked, and had to be hustled out in disgrace.
'But since Miss--er--Masterson is here, I shall be glad to place my
rooms at her--mother's disposal.'

'There are no rooms,' said the landlord. Between the two he was growing
bewildered.

'There are mine,' said Sir George drily.

'But for yourself, Sir George?'

'Oh, never mind me, my good man. I am here to meet Lord Chatham, and
some of his people will accommodate me.'

'Well, of course,' Mr. Smith answered, rubbing his hands dubiously--for
he had sent for the constable--'of course, Sir George--if you wish it.
I did not understand for whom the rooms were ordered, or--or this
unpleasantness would not have arisen.'

'To be sure,' Sir George drawled good-naturedly. 'Give the constable
half-a-crown, Smith, and charge it to me.' And he turned on his heel.

But at this appearance of a happy issue, Lady Dunborough's rage and
chagrin, which had been rising higher and higher with each word of the
dialogue, could no longer be restrained. In an awful voice, and with a
port of such majesty that an ordinary man must have shaken in his shoes
before her towering headdress, 'Am I to understand,' she cried, 'that,
after all that has been said about these persons, you propose to
harbour them?'

The landlord looked particularly miserable; luckily he was saved from
the necessity of replying by an unexpected intervention.

'We are much obliged to your ladyship,' the girl behind the table said,
speaking rapidly, but in a voice rather sarcastic than vehement. 'There
were reasons why I thought it impossible that we should accept this
gentleman's offer. But the words you have applied to me, and the spirit
in which your ladyship has dealt with me, make it impossible for us to
withdraw and lie under the--the vile imputations, you have chosen to
cast upon me. For that reason,' she continued with spirit, her face
instinct with indignation, 'I do accept from this gentleman--and with
gratitude--what I would fain refuse. And if it be any matter to your
ladyship, you have only your unmannerly words to thank for it.'

'Ho! ho!' the viscountess cried in affected contempt. 'Are we to be
called in question by creatures like these? You vixen! I spit upon you!'

Mr. Thomasson smiled in a sickly fashion. For one thing, he began to
feel hungry; he had not supped. For another, he wished that he had kept
his mouth shut, or had never left Oxford. With a downcast air, 'I think
it might be better,' he said, 'if your ladyship were to withdraw from
this company.'

But her ladyship was at that moment as dangerous as a tigress. 'You
think?' she cried. 'You think? I think you are a fool!'

A snigger from the doorway gave point to the words; on which Lady
Dunborough turned wrathfully in that direction. But the prudent landlord
had slipped away, Sir George also had retired, and the servants and
others, concluding the sport was at an end, were fast dispersing. She
saw that redress was not to be had, but that in a moment she would be
left alone with her foes; and though she was bursting with spite, the
prospect had no charms for her. For the time she had failed; nothing she
could say would now alter that. Moreover her ladyship was vaguely
conscious that in the girl, who still stood pitilessly behind the table,
as expecting her to withdraw, she had met her match. The beautiful face
and proud eyes that regarded her so steadfastly had a certain terror for
the battered great lady, who had all to lose in a conflict, and saw
dimly that coarse words had no power to hurt her adversary.

So Lady Dunborough, after a moment's hesitation, determined to yield the
field. Gathering her skirts about her with a last gesture of contempt,
she sailed towards the door, resolved not to demean herself by a single
word. But halfway across the room her resolution, which had nearly cost
her a fit, gave way. She turned, and withering the three travellers with
a glance, 'You--you abandoned creature!' she cried. 'I'll see you in the
stocks yet!' And she swept from the room.

Alas! the girl laughed: and my lady heard her!

Perhaps it was that; perhaps it was the fact that she had not dined,
and was leaving her supper behind her; perhaps it was only a general
exasperation rendered her ladyship deaf. From one cause or another she
lost something which her woman said to her--with no small appearance of
excitement--as they crossed the hall. The maid said it again, but with
no better success; and pressing nearer to say it a third time, when they
were halfway up the stairs, she had the misfortune to step on her
mistress's train. The viscountess turned in a fury, and slapped
her cheek.

'You clumsy slut!' she cried. 'Will that teach you to be more careful?'

The woman shrank away, one side of her face deep red, her eyes
glittering. Doubtless the pain was sharp; and though the thing had
happened before, it had never happened in public. But she suppressed her
feelings, and answered whimpering, 'If your ladyship pleases, I wished
to tell you that Mr. Dunborough is here.'

'Mr. Dunborough? Here?' the viscountess stammered.

'Yes, my lady, I saw him alighting as we passed the door.'



CHAPTER X

MOTHER AND SON

Lady Dunborough stood, as if turned to stone by the news. In the great
hall below, a throng of servants, the Pitt livery prominent among them,
were hurrying to and fro, with a clatter of dishes and plates, a
ceaseless calling of orders, a buzz of talk, and now and then a wrangle.
But the lobby and staircase of the west wing, on the first floor of
which she stood--and where the great man lay, at the end of a softly
lighted passage, his door guarded by a man and a woman seated motionless
in chairs beside it--were silent by comparison; the bulk of the guests
were still at supper or busy in the east or inferior wing; and my lady
had a moment to think, to trace the consequences of this inopportune
arrival, and to curse, now more bitterly than before, the failure of her
attempt to eject the girl from the house.

However, she was not a woman to lie down to her antagonists, and in the
depth of her stupor she had a thought. Her brow relaxed; she clutched
the maid's arm. 'Quick,' she whispered, 'go and fetch Mr. Thomasson--he
is somewhere below. Bring him here, but do not let Mr. Dunborough see
you as you pass! Quick, woman--run!'

The maid flew on her errand, leaving her mistress to listen and fret on
the stairs, in a state of suspense almost unbearable. She caught her
son's voice in the entrance hall, from which stately arched doorways led
to the side lobbies; but happily he was still at the door, engaged in
railing at a servant; and so far all was well. At any moment, however,
he might stride into the middle of the busy group in the hall; and then
if he saw Thomasson before the tutor had had his lesson, the trick, if
not the game, was lost. Her ladyship, scarcely breathing, hung over the
balustrade, and at length had the satisfaction of seeing Thomasson and
the woman enter the lobby at the foot of the stairs. In a trice the
tutor, looking scared, and a trifle sulky--for he had been taken from
his meat--stood at her side.

Lady Dunborough drew a breath of relief, and by a sign bade the maid
begone. 'You know who is below?' she whispered.

Mr. Thomasson nodded. 'I thought it was what you wished,' he said, with
something in his tone as near mutiny as he dared venture. 'I understood
that your ladyship desired to overtake him and reason with him.'

'But with the girl here?' she muttered. And yet it was true. Before she
had seen this girl, she had fancied the task of turning her son to be
well within her powers. Now she gravely doubted the issue; nay, was
inclined to think all lost if the pair met. She told the tutor this, in
curt phrase; and continued: 'So, do you go down, man, at once, and meet
him at the door; and tell him that I am here--he will discover that for
himself--but that the hussy is not here. Say she is at Bath or--or
anywhere you please.'

Mr. Thomasson hesitated. 'He will see her,' he said.

'Why should he see her?' my lady retorted. 'The house is full. He must
presently go elsewhere. Put him on a false scent, and he will go after
her hot-foot, and not find her. And in a week he will be wiser.'

'It is dangerous,' Mr. Thomasson faltered, his eyes wandering uneasily.

'So am I,' the viscountess answered in a passion. 'And mind you,
Thomasson,' she continued fiercely, 'you have got to side with me now!
Cross me, and you shall have neither the living nor my good word; and
without my word you may whistle for your sucking lord! But do my
bidding, help me to checkmate this baggage, and I'll see you have both.
Why, man, rather than let him marry her, I'd pay you to marry her! I'd
rather pay down a couple of thousand pounds, and the living too. D'ye
hear me? But it won't come to that if you do my bidding.'

Still Mr. Thomasson hesitated, shrinking from the task proposed, not
because he must lie to execute it, but because he must lie to
Dunborough, and would suffer for it, were he found out. On the other
hand, the bribe was large; the red gabled house, set in its little park,
and as good as a squire's, the hundred-acre glebe, the fat tithes and
Easter dues--to say nothing of the promised pupil and freedom from his
money troubles--tempted him sorely. He paused; and while he hesitated he
was lost. For Mr. Dunborough, with the landlord beside him, entered the
side-hall, booted, spurred, and in his horseman's coat; and looked up
and saw the pair at the head of the staircase. His face, gloomy and
discontented before, grew darker. He slapped his muddy boot with his
whip, and, quitting the landlord without ceremony, in three strides was
up the stairs. He did not condescend to Mr. Thomasson, but turned to the
viscountess.

'Well, madam,' he said with a sneer.' Your humble servant. This is an
unforeseen honour! I did not expect to meet you here.'

'I expected to meet _you_,' my lady answered with meaning.

'Glad to give you the pleasure,' he said, sneering again. He was
evidently in the worst of tempers.' May I ask what has set _you_
travelling?' he continued.

'Why, naught but your folly!' the viscountess cried.

'Thank you for nothing, my lady,' he said. 'I suppose your spy
there'--and he scowled at the tutor, whose knees shook under him--'has
set you on this. Well, there is time. I'll settle accounts with him
by-and-by.'

'Lord, my dear sir,' Mr. Thomasson cried faintly, 'you don't know your
friends!'

'Don't I? I think I am beginning to find them out,' Mr. Dunborough
answered, slapping his boot ominously, 'and my enemies!' At which the
tutor trembled afresh.

'Never mind him,' quoth my lady. 'Attend to me, Dunborough. Is it a lie,
or is it not, that you are going to disgrace yourself the way I
have heard?'

'Disgrace myself?' cried Mr. Dunborough hotly.

'Ay, disgrace yourself.'

'I'll flay the man that says it!'

'You can't flay me,' her ladyship retorted with corresponding spirit.'
You impudent, good-for-nothing fellow! D'you hear me? You are an
impudent, good-for-nothing fellow, Dunborough, for all your airs and
graces! Come, you don't swagger over me, my lad! And as sure as you do
this that I hear of, you'll smart for it. There are Lorton and
Swanton--my lord can do as he pleases with _them_, and they'll go from
you; and your cousin Meg, ugly and long in the tooth as she is, shall
have them! You may put this beggar's wench in my chair, but you shall
smart for it as long as you live!'

'I'll marry whom I like!' he said.

'Then you'll buy her dear,' cried my lady, ashake with rage.

'Dear or cheap, I'll have her!' he answered, inflamed by opposition and
the discovery that the tutor had betrayed him. 'I shall go to her now!
She is here.'

'That is a lie!' cried Lady Dunborough. 'Lie number one.'

'She is in the house at this moment!' he cried obstinately. 'And I shall
go to her.'

'She is at Bath,' said my lady, unmoved. 'Ask Thomasson, if you do not
believe me.'

'She is not here,' said the tutor with an effort.

'Dunborough, you'll outface the devil when you meet him!' my lady
added--for a closing shot. She knew how to carry the war into the
enemy's country.

He glared at her, uncertain what to believe. 'I'll see for myself,' he
said at last; but sullenly, and as if he foresaw a check.

He was in the act of turning to carry out his intention, when Lady
Dunborough, with great presence of mind, called to a servant who was
passing the foot of the stairs. The man came. 'Go and fetch this
gentleman the book,' she said imperiously, 'with the people's names.
Bring it here. I want to see it.'

The man went, and in a moment returned with it. She signed to him to
give it to Mr. Dunborough. 'See for yourself,' she said contemptuously.

She calculated, and very shrewdly, that as the lawyer and his companions
had given the name of Soane and taken possession of Sir George's rooms,
only the name of Soane would appear in the book. And so it turned out.
Mr. Dunborough sought in vain for the name of Masterson or for a party
of three, resembling the one he pursued; he found only the name of Sir
George Soane entered when the rooms were ordered.

'Oh!' he said with an execration. 'He is here, is he? Wish you joy of
him, my lady! Very well, I go on. Good night, madam!' The viscountess
knew that opposition would stiffen him. 'Stop!' she cried.

But he was already in the hall, ordering fresh saddle-horses for himself
and his man. My lady heard the order, and stood listening. Mr. Thomasson
heard it, and stood quaking. At any moment the door of the room in which
the girl was supping might open--it was adjacent to the hall--and she
come out, and the two would meet. Nor did the suspense last a moment or
two only. Fresh horses could not be ready in a minute, even in those
times, when day and night post-horses stood harnessed in the stalls.
Even Mr. Dunborough could not be served in a moment. So he roared for a
pint of claret and a crust, sent one servant flying this way, and
another that, hectored up and down the entrance, to the admiration of
the peeping chambermaids; and for a while added much to the bustle. Once
in those minutes the fateful door did open, but it emitted only a
waiter. And in the end, Mr. Dunborough's horses being announced, he
strode out, his spurs ringing on the steps, and the viscountess heard
him clatter away into the night, and drew a deep breath of relief. For a
day or two, at any rate, she was saved. For the time, the machinations
of the creature below stairs were baffled.



CHAPTER XI

DR. ADDINGTON

It did not occur to Lady Dunborough to ask herself seriously how a girl
in the Mastersons' position came to be in such quarters as the Castle
Inn, and to have a middle-aged and apparently respectable attorney for a
travelling companion. Or, if her ladyship did ask herself those
questions, she was content with the solution, which the tutor out of his
knowledge of human nature had suggested; namely, that the girl, wily as
she was beautiful, knew that a retreat in good order, flanked after the
fashion of her betters by duenna and man of business, doubled her
virtue; and by so much improved her value, and her chance of catching
Mr. Dunborough and a coronet.

There was one in the house, however, who did set himself these riddles,
and was at a loss for an answer. Sir George Soane, supping with Dr.
Addington, the earl's physician, found his attention wander from the
conversation, and more than once came near to stating the problem which
troubled him. The cosy room, in which the two sat, lay at the bottom of
a snug passage leading off the principal corridor of the west wing; and
was as remote from the stir and bustle of the more public part of the
house as the silent movements of Sir George's servant were from the
clumsy haste of the helpers whom the pressure of the moment had
compelled the landlord to call in.

The physician had taken his supper earlier, but was gourmet enough to
follow, now with an approving word, and now with a sigh, the different
stages of Sir George's meal. In public, a starched, dry man, the ideal
of a fashionable London doctor of the severer type, he was in private a
benevolent and easy friend; a judge of port, and one who commended it to
others; and a man of some weight in the political world. In his early
days he had been a mad doctor; and at Batson's he could still disconcert
the impertinent by a shrewd glance, learned and practised among those
unfortunates.

With such qualifications, Dr. Addington was not slow to perceive Sir
George's absence of mind; and presuming on old friendship--he had
attended the younger man from boyhood--he began to probe for the cause.
Raising his half-filled glass to the light, and rolling the last
mouthful on his tongue, 'I am afraid,' he said, 'that what I heard in
town was true?'

'What was it?' Soane asked, rousing himself.

'I heard, Sir George, that my Lady Hazard had proved an inconstant
mistress of late?'

'Yes. Hang the jade! And yet--we could not live without her!'

'They are saying that you lost three thousand to my Lord March, the
night before you left town?'

'Halve it.'

'Indeed? Still--an expensive mistress?'

'Can you direct me to a cheap one?' Sir George said rather crustily.

'No. But doesn't it occur to you a wife with money--might be cheaper?'
the doctor asked with a twinkle in his eye.

Sir George shrugged his shoulders for answer, and turning from the
table--the servant had withdrawn--brushed the crumbs from his breeches,
and sat staring at the lire, his glass in his hand. 'I suppose--it will
come to that presently,' he said, sipping his wine.

'Very soon,' the doctor answered, drily, 'unless I am in error.'

Sir George looked at him. 'Come, doctor!' he said. 'You know something!
What is it?'

'I know that it is town talk that you lost seven thousand last season;
and God knows how many thousands in the three seasons before it!'

'Well, one must live,' Sir George answered lightly.

'But not at that rate.'

'In that state of life, doctor, into which God has been pleased--you
know the rest.'

'In that state of life into which the devil!' retorted the doctor with
heat.' If I thought that my boy would ever grow up to do nothing better
than--than--but there, forgive me. I grow warm when I think of the old
trees, and the old pictures, and the old Halls that you fine gentlemen
at White's squander in a night! Why, I know of a little place in
Oxfordshire, which, were it mine by inheritance--as it is my
brother's--I would not stake against a Canons or a Petworth!'

'And Stavordale would stake it against a bootjack--rather than not play
at all!' Sir George answered complacently.

'The more fool he!' snapped the doctor.

'So I think.'

'Eh?'

'So I think,' Sir George answered coolly. 'But one must be in the
fashion, doctor.'

'One must be in the Fleet!' the doctor retorted. 'To be in the fashion
you'll ruin yourself! If you have not done it already,' he continued
with something like a groan. 'There, pass the bottle. I have not
patience with you. One of these fine days you will awake to find
yourself in the Rules.'

'Doctor,' Soane answered, returning to his point, 'you know something.'

'Well--'

'You know why my lord sent for me.'

'And what if I do?' Dr. Addington answered, looking thoughtfully through
his wine. 'To tell the truth, I do, Sir George, I do, and I wish I did
not; for the news I have is not of the best. There is a claimant to that
money come forward. I do not know his name or anything about him; but
his lordship thinks seriously of the matter. I am not sure,' the doctor
continued, with his professional air, and as if his patient in the other
room were alone in his mind, 'that the vexation attending it has not
precipitated this attack. I'm not--at all--sure of it. And Lady Chatham
certainly thinks so.'

Sir George was some time silent. Then, with a fair show of indifference,
'And who is the claimant?' he asked.

'That I don't know,' Dr. Addington answered. 'He purports, I suppose, to
be your uncle's heir. But I do know that his attorney has forwarded
copies of documents to his lordship, and that Lord Chatham thinks the
matter of serious import.'

'The worse for me,' said Sir George, forcing a yawn. 'As you say,
doctor, your news is not of the best.'

'Nor, I hope, of the worst,' the physician answered with feeling. 'The
estate is entailed?'

Sir George shook his head. 'No,' he said. 'It is mortgaged. But that is
not the same thing.'

The doctor's face showed genuine distress. 'Ah, my friend, you should
not have done that,' he said reproachfully. 'A property that has been in
the family--why, since--'

'My great-grandfather the stay-maker's time,' Sir George answered
flippantly, as he emptied his glass. 'You know Selwyn's last upon that?
It came by bones, and it is going by bones.'

'God forbid!' said the physician, rubbing his gold-rimmed glasses with
an air of kindly vexation, not unmixed with perplexity. 'If I thought
that my boy would ever come to--to--'

'Buzz the gold-headed cane?' Sir George said gravely. 'Yes, doctor, what
would you do?'

But the physician, instead of answering, looked fixedly at him, nodded,
and turned away. 'You would deceive some, Sir George,' he said quietly,
'but you do not deceive me. When a man who is not jocular by nature
makes two jokes in as many minutes, he is hard hit.'

'Insight?' drawled Sir George lazily. 'Or instinct.'

'Experience among madmen--some would call it,' the doctor retorted with
warmth. 'But it is not. It is what you fine gentlemen at White's have no
part in! Good feeling.'

'Ah!' said Soane; and then a different look came into his face. He
stooped and poked the fire. 'Pardon me, doctor,' he said soberly. 'You
are a good fellow. It is--well, of course, it's a blow. If your news be
true, I stand to lose fifty thousand; and shall be worth about as much
as a Nabob spends yearly on his liveries.'

Dr. Addington, in evident distress, thrust back his wig. 'Is it as bad
as that?' he said. 'Dear, dear, I did not dream of this.'

'Nor I,' Sir George said drily. 'Or I should not have betted with
March.'

'And the old house!' the doctor continued, more and more moved. 'I don't
know one more comfortable.'

'You must buy it,' said Soane. 'I have spared the timber, and there is a
little of the old wine left.'

'Dear, dear!' the doctor answered; and his sigh said more than the
words. Apparently it was also more effectual in moving Sir George. He
rose and began to pace the room, choosing a part where his face evaded
the light of the candles that stood in heavy silver sconces on the dark
mahogany. Presently he laughed, but the laugh was mirthless.

'It is quite the Rake's Progress,' he said, pausing before one of
Hogarth's prints which hung on the wall. 'Perhaps I have been a little
less of a fool and a little more of a rogue than my prototype; but the
end is the same. D----n me, I am sorry for the servants, doctor--though
I dare swear that they have robbed me right and left. It is a pity that
clumsy fool, Dunborough, did not get home when he had the chance the
other day.'

The doctor took snuff, put up his box, filled his glass and emptied it
before he spoke. Then, 'No, no, Sir George, it has not come to that
yet,' he said heartily. 'There is only one thing for it now. They must
do something for you.' And he also rose to his feet, and stood with his
back to the fire, looking at his companion.

'Who?' Soane asked, though he knew very well what the other meant.

'The Government,' said the doctor. 'The mission to Turin is likely to be
vacant by-and-by. Or, if that be too much to ask, a consulship, say at
Genoa or Leghorn, might be found, and serve for a stepping-stone to
Florence. Sir Horace has done well there, and you--'

'Might toady a Grand-duke and bear-lead sucking peers--as well as
another!' Soane answered with a gesture of disgust. 'Ugh, one might as
well be Thomasson and ruin boys. No, doctor, that will not do. I had
sooner hang myself at once, as poor Fanny Braddock did at Bath, or put a
pistol to my head like Bland!'

'God forbid!' said the doctor solemnly.

Sir George shrugged his shoulders, but little by little his face lost
its hardness. 'Yes, God forbid,' he said gently. 'But it is odd. There
is poor Tavistock with a pretty wife and two children, and another
coming; and Woburn and thirty thousand a year to inherit, broke his neck
last week with the hounds; and I, who have nothing to inherit, why
nothing hurts me!'

Dr. Addington disregarded his words.

'They must do something for you at home then,' he said, firmly set on
his benevolent designs. 'In the Mint or the Customs. There should not be
the least difficulty about it. You must speak to his lordship, and it is
not to be supposed that he will refuse.'

Sir George grunted, and might have expressed his doubts, but at that
moment the sound of voices raised in altercation penetrated the room
from the passage. A second later, while the two stood listening,
arrested by the noise, the door was thrown open with such violence that
the candles flickered in the draught. Two persons appeared on the
threshold, the one striving to make his way in, the other to resist
the invasion.

The former was our friend Mr. Fishwick, who having succeeded in pushing
past his antagonist, stared round the room with a mixture of
astonishment and chagrin. 'But--this is _not_ his lordship's room!' he
cried. 'I tell you, I will see his lordship!' he continued. 'I have
business with him, and--' here his gaze alighted on Sir George, and he
stood confounded.

Dr. Addington took advantage of the pause. 'Watkins,' he said in an
awful voice, 'what is the meaning of this unmannerly intrusion? And who
is this person?'

'He persisted that he must see his lordship,' the servant, a sleek,
respectable man in black, answered. 'And rather than have words about it
at his lordship's door--which I would not for twice the likes of him!'
he added with a malevolent glance at the attorney--'I brought him here.
I believe he is mad. I told him it was out of the question, if he was
the king of England or my lord duke. But he would have it that he had an
appointment.'

'So I have!' cried Mr. Fishwick with heat and an excited gesture. 'I
have an appointment with Lord Chatham. I should have been with his
lordship at nine o'clock.'

'An appointment? At this time of night?' Dr. Addington returned with a
freezing mien. 'With Lord Chatham? And who may you please to be, sir,
who claim this privilege?'

'My name is Fishwick, sir, and I am an attorney,' our friend replied.

'A mad attorney?' Dr. Addington answered, affecting to hear him amiss.

'No more mad, sir, than you are!' Mr. Fishwick retorted, kindling at the
insinuation. 'Do you comprehend me, sir? I come by appointment. My lord
has been so good as to send for me, and I defy any one to close his
door on me!'

'Are you aware, sir,' said the doctor, frowning under his wig with the
port of an indignant Jupiter, 'what hour it is? It is ten o'clock.'

'It may be ten o'clock or it may be eleven o'clock,' the attorney
answered doggedly. 'But his lordship has honoured me with a summons, and
see him I must. I insist on seeing him.'

'You may insist or not as you please,' said Dr. Addington
contemptuously. 'You will not see him. Watkins,' he continued, 'what is
this cock-and-bull story of a summons? Has his lordship sent for
any one?'

'About nine o'clock he said that he would see Sir George Soane if he was
in the house,' Watkins answered. 'I did not know that Sir George was
here, and I sent the message to his apartments by one of the men.'

'Well,' said Dr. Addington in his coldest manner, 'what has that to do
with this gentleman?'

'I think I can tell you,' Sir George said, intervening with a smile.
'His party have the rooms that were reserved for me. And doubtless by an
error the message which was intended for me was delivered to him.'

'Ah!' said Dr. Addington gruffly. 'I understand.'

Alas! poor Mr. Fishwick understood too; and his face, as the truth
dawned on him, was one of the most comical sights ever seen. A nervous,
sanguine man, the attorney had been immensely elated by the honour paid
to him; he had thought his cause won and his fortune made. The downfall
was proportionate: in a second his pomp and importance were gone, and he
stood before them timidly rubbing one hand on another. Yet even in the
ridiculous position in which the mistake placed him--in the wrong and
with all his heroics wasted--he retained a sort of manliness. 'Dear me,
dear me,' he said, his jaw fallen, 'I--Your most humble servant, sir! I
offer a thousand apologies for the intrusion! But having business with
his lordship, and receiving the message,' he continued in a tone of
pathetic regret, 'it was natural I should think it was intended for me.
I can say no more than that I humbly crave pardon for intruding on you,
honourable gentlemen, over your wine.'

Dr. Addington bowed stiffly; he was not the man to forgive a liberty.
But Sir George had a kindly impulse. In spite of himself, he could not
refrain from liking the little man who so strangely haunted his steps.
There was a spare glass on the table. He pushed it and the bottle
towards Mr. Fishwick.

'There is no harm done,' he said kindly. 'A glass of wine with you,
sir.'

Mr. Fishwick in his surprise and nervousness, dropped his hat, picked
it up, and dropped it again; finally he let it lie while he filled his
glass. His hand shook; he was unaccountably agitated. But he managed to
acquit himself fairly, and with a 'Greatly honoured, Sir George.
Good-night, gentlemen,' he disappeared.

'What is his business with Lord Chatham?' Dr. Addington asked rather
coldly. It was plain that he did not approve of Sir George's
condescension.

'I have no notion,' Soane answered, yawning. 'But he has got a very
pretty girl with him. Whether she is laying traps for Dunborough--'

'The viscountess's son?'

'Just so--I cannot say. But that is the old harridan's account of it.'

'Is she here too?'

'Lord, yes; and they had no end of a quarrel downstairs. There is a
story about the girl and Dunborough. I'll tell it you some time.'

'I began to think--he was here on your business,' said the doctor.

'He? Oh, no,' Sir George answered without suspicion, and turned to look
for his candlestick. 'I suppose that he is in the case I am in--wants
something and comes to the fountain of honour to get it.'

And bidding the other good-night, he went to bed; not to sleep, but to
lie awake and reckon and calculate, and add a charge here to interest
there, and set both against income, and find nothing remain.

He had sneered at the old home because it had been in his family only so
many generations. But there is this of evil in an old house--it is bad
to live in, but worse to part from. Sir George, straining his eyes in
the darkness, saw the long avenue of elms and the rooks' nests, and the
startled birds circling overhead; and at the end of the vista the wide
doorway, _aed. temp._ Jac. 1--saw it all more lucidly than he had seen
it since the September morning when he traversed it, a boy of fourteen,
with his first gun on his arm. Well, it was gone; but he was Sir George,
macaroni and fashionable, arbiter of elections at White's, and great at
Almack's, more powerful in his sphere than a belted earl! But, then,
that was gone too, with the money--and--and what was left? Sir George
groaned and turned on his pillow and thought of Bland and Fanny
Braddock. He wondered if any one had ever left the Castle by the suicide
door, and, to escape his thoughts, lit a candle and read 'La Belle
Héloïse,' which he had in his mail.



CHAPTER XII

JULIA

It is certain that if Sir George Soane had borne any other name, the
girl, after the conversation which had taken place between them on the
dingy staircase at Oxford, must have hated him. There is a kind of
condescension from man to woman, in which the man says, 'My good girl,
not for me--but do take care of yourself,' which a woman of the least
pride finds to be of all modes of treatment the most shameful and the
most humiliating. The masterful overtures of such a lover as Dunborough,
who would take all by storm, are still natural, though they lack
respect; a woman would be courted, and sometimes would be courted in the
old rough fashion. But, for the other mode of treatment, she may be a
Grizel, or as patient--a short course of that will sharpen not only her
tongue, but her fingernails.

Yet this, or something like it, Julia, who was far from being the most
patient woman in the world, had suffered at Sir George's hands;
believing at the time that he was some one else, or, rather, being
ignorant then and for just an hour afterwards that such a person as Sir
George Soane existed. Enlightened on this point and on some others
connected with it (which a sagacious reader may divine for himself) the
girl's first feeling in face of the astonishing future opening before
her had been one of spiteful exultation. She hated him, and he would
suffer. She hated him with all her heart and strength, and he would
suffer. There were balm and sweet satisfaction in the thought.

But presently, dwelling on the matter, she began to relent. The very
completeness of the revenge which she had in prospect robbed her of her
satisfaction. The man was so dependent on her, so deeply indebted to
her, must suffer so much by reason of her, that the maternal instinct,
which is said to be developed even in half-grown girls, took him under
its protection; and when that scene occurred in the public room of the
Castle Inn and he stood forward to shield her (albeit in an arrogant,
careless, half-insolent way that must have wounded her in other
circumstances), she was not content to forgive him only--with a smile;
but long after her companion had fallen asleep, Julia sat brooding over
the fire, her arms clasped about her knees; now reading the embers with
parted lips and shining eyes, and now sighing gently--for 'la femme
propose, mais Dieu dispose.' And nothing is certain.

After this, it may not have been pure accident that cast her in Sir
George's way when he strolled out of the house next morning. A coach had
come in, and was changing horses before the porch. The passengers were
moving to and fro before the house, grooms and horse-boys were shouting
and hissing, the guard was throwing out parcels. Soane passed through
the bustle, and, strolling to the end of the High Street, saw the girl
seated on a low parapet of the bridge that, near the end of the inn
gardens, carries the Salisbury road over the Kennet. She wore a plain
riding-coat, such as ladies then affected when they travelled and would
avoid their hoops and patches. A little hood covered her hair, which,
undressed and unpowdered, hung in a club behind; and she held up a plain
fan between her complexion and the sun.

Her seat, though quiet and remote from the bustle--for the Salisbury
road is the less frequented of the two roads--was in view of the gates
leading to the Inn; and her extreme beauty, which was that of expression
as well as feature, made her a mark for a dozen furtive eyes, of which
she affected to be unconscious. But as soon as Sir George's gaze fell on
her, her look met his frankly and she smiled; and then again her eyes
dropped and studied the road before her, and she blushed in a way Soane
found enchanting. He had been going into the town, but he turned and
went to her and sat down on the bridge beside her, almost with the air
of an old acquaintance. He opened the conversation by saying that it was
a prodigious fine day; she agreed. That the Downs were uncommonly
healthy; she said the same. And then there was silence.

'Well?' he said after a while; and he looked at her.

'Well?' she answered in the same tone. And she looked at him over the
edge of her fan, her eyes laughing.

'How did you sleep, child?' he asked; while he thought, 'Lord! How
handsome she is!'

'Perfectly, sir,' she answered, 'thanks to your excellency's kindness.'

Her voice as well as her eyes laughed. He stared at her, wondering at
the change in her. 'You are lively this morning,' he said.

'I cannot say the same of you, Sir George,' she answered. 'When you came
out, and before you saw me, your face was as long as a coach-horse's.'

Sir George winced. He knew where his thoughts had been. 'That was before
I saw you, child,' he said. 'In your company--'

'You are scarcely more lively,' she answered saucily. 'Do you flatter
yourself that you are?'

Sir George was astonished. He was aware that the girl lacked neither wit
nor quickness; but hitherto he had found her passionate at one time,
difficult and _farouche_ at another, at no time playful or coquettish.
Here, and this morning, she did not seem to be the same woman. She spoke
with ease, laughed with the heart as well as the lips, met his eyes with
freedom and without embarrassment, countered his sallies with
sportiveness--in a word, carried herself towards him as though she were
an equal; precisely as Lady Betty and the Honourable Fanny carried
themselves. He stared at her.

And she, seeing the look, laughed in pure happiness, knowing what was in
his mind, and knowing her own mind very well. 'I puzzle you?' she said.

'You do,' he answered. 'What are you doing here? And why have you taken
up with that lawyer? And why are you dressed, child--'

'Like this?' she said, rising, and sitting down again. 'You think it is
above my station?'

He shrugged his shoulders, declining to put his views into words;
instead, 'What does it all mean?' he said.

'What do you suppose?' she asked, averting her eyes for the first time.

'Well, of course--you may be here to meet Dunborough,' he answered
bluntly. 'His mother seems to think that he is going to marry you.'

'And what do you think, sir?'

'I?' said Sir George, reverting to the easy, half-insolent tone she
hated. And he tapped his Paris snuff-box and spoke with tantalising
slowness. 'Well, if that be the case, I should advise you to see that
Mr. Dunborough's surplice--covers a parson.'

She sat still and silent for a full half-minute after he had spoken.
Then she rose without a word, and without looking at him; and, walking
away to the farther end of the bridge, sat down there with her shoulder
turned to him.

Soane felt himself rebuffed, and for a moment let his anger get the
better of him. 'D--n the girl, I only spoke for her own good!' he
muttered; then reflecting that if he followed her she might remove again
and make him ridiculous, he rose to go into the house. But apparently
that was not what she wished. He was scarcely on his legs before she
turned her head, saw that he was going, and imperiously beckoned to him.

He went to her, wondering as much at her audacity as her pettishness.
When he reached her, 'Sir George,' she said, retaining her seat and
looking gravely at him, while he stood before her like a boy undergoing
correction, 'you have twice insulted me--once in Oxford when, believing
Mr. Dunborough's hurt lay at my door, I was doing what I could to repair
it; and again to-day. If you wish to see more of me, you must refrain
from doing so a third time. You know, a third time--you know what a
third time does. And more--one moment, if you please. I must ask you to
treat me differently. I make no claim to be a gentlewoman, but my
condition is altered. A relation has left me a--a fortune, and when I
met you here last night I was on my way to Bath to claim it.'

Sir George passed from the surprise into which the first part of this
speech had thrown him, to surprise still greater. At last, 'I am vastly
glad to hear it,' he said. 'For most of us it is easier to drop a
fortune than to find one.'

'Is it?' she said, and laughed musically, Then, moving her skirt to show
him that he might sit down, 'Well, I suppose it is. You have no
experience of that, I hope, sir?'

He nodded.

'The gaming-table?' she said.

'Not this time,' he answered, wondering why he told her. 'I had a
grandfather, who made a will. He had a fancy to wrap up a bombshell in
the will. Now--the shell has burst.'

'I am sorry,' she said; and was silent a moment. At length, 'Does it
make--any great difference to you?' she asked naïvely.

Sir George looked at her as if he were studying her appearance. Then,
'Yes, child, it does,' he said.

She hesitated, but seemed to make up her mind. 'I have never asked you
where you live,' she said softly; 'have you no house in the country?'

He suppressed something between an oath and a groan. 'Yes,' he said, 'I
have a house.'

'What do you call it?'

'Estcombe Hall. It is in Wiltshire, not far from here.'

She looked at her fan, and idly flapped it open, and again closed it in
the air. 'Is it a fine place?' she said carelessly.

'I suppose so,' he answered, wincing.

'With trees, and gardens, and woods?'

'Yes.'

'And water?'

'Yes. There is a river.'

'You used to fish in it as a boy?'

'Yes.'

'Estcombe! it is a pretty name. And shall you lose it?'

But that was too much for Soane's equanimity. 'Oh, d--n the girl!' he
cried, rising abruptly, but sitting down again. Then, as she recoiled,
in anger real or affected, 'I beg your pardon,' he said formally.
'But--it is not the custom to ask so many questions upon
private matters.'

'Really, Sir George?' she said, receiving the information gravely, and
raising her eyebrows. 'Then Estcombe is your Mr. Dunborough, is it?'

'If you will,' he said, almost sullenly.

'But you love it,' she answered, studying her fan, 'and I do not
love--Mr. Dunborough!'

Marvelling at her coolness and the nimbleness of her wit, he turned so
that he looked her full in the face. 'Miss Masterson,' he said, 'you are
too clever for me. Will you tell me where you learned so much? 'Fore
Gad, you might have been at Mrs. Chapone's, the way you talk.'

'Mrs. Chapone's?' she said.

'A learned lady,' he explained.

'I was at a school,' she answered simply, 'until I was fifteen. A
godfather, whom I never knew, left money to my father to be spent on my
schooling.'

'Lord!' he said. 'And where were you at school?'

'At Worcester.'

'And what have you done since?--if I may ask.'

'I have been at home. I should have taught children, or gone into
service as a waiting-woman; but my father would keep me with him. Now I
am glad of it, as this money has come to me.'

'Lord! it is a perfect romance!' he exclaimed. And on the instant he
fancied that he had the key to the mystery, and her beauty. She was
illegitimate--a rich man's child! 'Gad, Mr. Richardson should hear of
it,' he continued with more than his usual energy. 'Pamela--why you
might be Pamela!'

'That if you please,' she said quickly, 'for certainly I shall never be
Clarissa.'

Sir George laughed. 'With such charms it is better not to be too sure!'
he answered. And he looked at her furtively and looked away again. A
coach bound eastwards came out of the gates; but it had little of his
attention, though he seemed to be watching the bustle. He was thinking
that if he sat much longer with this strange girl, he was a lost man.
And then again he thought--what did it matter? If the best he had to
expect was exile on a pittance, a consulship at Genoa, a governorship at
Guadeloupe, where would he find a more beautiful, a wittier, a gayer
companion? And for her birth--a fico! His great-grandfather had made
money in stays; and the money was gone! No doubt there would be gibing
at White's, and shrugging at Almack's; but a fico, too, for that--it
would not hurt him at Guadeloupe, and little at Genoa. And then on a
sudden the fortune of which she had talked came into his head, and he
smiled. It might be a thousand; or two, three, four, at most five
thousand. A fortune! He smiled and looked at her.

He found her gazing steadily at him, her chin on her hand. Being caught,
she reddened and looked, away. He took the man's privilege, and
continued to gaze, and she to flush; and presently, 'What are you
looking at?' she said, moving uneasily.

'A most beautiful face,' he answered, with the note of sincerity in his
voice which a woman's ear never fails to appreciate.

She rose and curtsied low, perhaps to hide the tell-tale pleasure in her
eyes. 'Thank you, sir,' she said. And she drew back as if she intended
to leave him.

'But you are not--you are not offended, Julia?'

'Julia?' she answered, smiling. 'No, but I think it is time I relieved
your Highness from attendance. For one thing, I am not quite sure
whether that pretty flattery was addressed to Clarissa--or to Pamela.
And for another,' she continued more coldly, seeing Sir George wince
under this first stroke--he was far from having his mind made up--'I see
Lady Dunborough watching us from the windows at the corner of the house.
And I would not for worlds relieve her ladyship's anxiety by seeming
unfaithful to her son.'

'You can be spiteful, then?' Soane said, laughing.

'I can--and grateful,' she answered. 'In proof of which I am going to
make a strange request, Sir George. Do not misunderstand it. And yet--it
is only that before you leave here--whatever be the circumstances under
which you leave--you will see me for five minutes.'

Sir George stared, bowed, and muttered 'Too happy.' Then observing, or
fancying he observed, that she was anxious to be rid of him, he took his
leave and went into the house.

For a man who had descended the stairs an hour before, hipped to the
last degree, with his mind on a pistol, it must be confessed that he
went up with a light step; albeit, in a mighty obfuscation, as Dr.
Johnson might have put it. A kinder smile, more honest eyes he swore he
had never seen, even in a plain face. Her very blushes, of which the
memory set his _blasé_ blood dancing to a faster time, were a character
in themselves. But--he wondered. She had made such advances, been so
friendly, dropped such hints--he wondered. He was fresh from the
masquerades, from Mrs. Cornely's assemblies, Lord March's converse, the
Chudleigh's fantasies; the girl had made an appointment--he wondered.

For all that, one thing was unmistakable. Life, as he went up the
stairs, had taken on another and a brighter colour; was fuller, brisker,
more generous. From a spare garret with one poor casement it had grown
in an hour into a palace, vague indeed, but full of rich vistas and rosy
distances and quivering delights. The corridor upstairs, which at his
going out had filled him with distaste--there were boots in it, and
water-cans--was now the Passage Beautiful; for he might meet her there.
The day which, when he rose, had lain before him dull and
monotonous--since Lord Chatham was too ill to see him, and he had no one
with whom to game--was now full-furnished with interest, and hung with
recollections--recollections of conscious eyes and the sweetest lips in
the world. In a word, Julia had succeeded in that which she had set
herself to do. Sir George might wonder. He was none the less in love.



CHAPTER XIII

A SPOILED CHILD

Julia was right in fancying that she saw Lady Dunborough's face at one
of the windows in the south-east corner of the house. Those windows
commanded both the Marlborough High Street and the Salisbury road,
welcomed alike the London and the Salisbury coach, overlooked the
loungers at the entrance to the town, and supervised most details of the
incoming and outgoing worlds. Lady Dunborough had not been up and about
half-an-hour before she remarked these advantages. In an hour her
ladyship was installed in that suite, which, though in the east wing,
was commonly reckoned to be one of the best in the house. Heaven knows
how she did it. There is a pertinacity, shameless and violent, which
gains its ends, be the crowd between never so dense. It is possible that
Mr. Smith would have ousted her had he dared. It is possible he had to
pay forfeit to the rightful tenants, and in private cursed her for an
old jade and a brimstone. But when a viscountess sits herself down in
the middle of a room and declines to budge, she cannot with decency be
taken up like a sack of hops and dumped in the passage.

Her ladyship, therefore, won, and had the pleasure of viewing from the
coveted window the scene between Julia and Sir George; a scene which
gave her the profoundest satisfaction. What she could not see--her eyes
were no longer all that they had been--she imagined. In five minutes
she had torn up the last rag of the girl's character, and proved her as
bad as the worst woman that ever rode down Cheapside in a cart. Lady
Dunborough was not mealy-mouthed, nor one of those who mince matters.

'What did I tell you?' she cried. 'She will be on with that stuck-up
before night, and be gone with morning. If Dunborough comes back he may
whistle for her!'

Mr. Thomasson did not doubt that her ladyship was right. But he spoke
with indifferent spirit. He had had a bad night, had lain anywhere, and
dressed nowhere, and was chilly and unkempt. Apart from the awe in which
he stood of her ladyship, he would have returned to Oxford by the first
coach that morning.

'Dear me!' Lady Dunborough announced presently. 'I declare he is leaving
her! Lord, how the slut ogles him! She is a shameless baggage if ever
there was one; and ruddled to the eyes, as I can see from here. I hope
the white may kill her! Well, I'll be bound it won't be long before he
is to her again! My fine gentleman is like the rest of them--a damned
impudent fellow!'

Mr. Thomasson turned up his eyes. 'There was something a little
odd--does not your lady think so?'--he ventured to say, 'in her taking
possession of Sir George's rooms as she did.'

'Did I not say so? Did I not say that very thing?'

'It seems to prove an understanding between them before they met here
last night.'

'I'll take my oath on it!' her ladyship cried with energy. Then in a
tone of exultation she continued, 'Ah! here he is again, as I thought!
And come round by the street to mask the matter! He has down beside her
again. Oh, he is limed, he is limed!' my lady continued, as she searched
for her spying-glass, that she might miss no wit of the love-making.

The tutor was all complacence. 'It proves that your ladyship's
stratagem,' he said, 'was to the point last night.'

'Oh, Dunborough will live to thank me for that!' she answered.
'Gadzooks, he will! It is first come first served with these madams.
This will open his eyes if anything will.'

'Still--it is to be hoped she will leave before he returns,' Mr.
Thomasson said, with a slight shiver of anticipation. He knew Mr.
Dunborough's temper.

'Maybe,' my lady answered. 'But even if she does not--' There she broke
of, and stood peering through the window. And suddenly, 'Lord's sake!'
she shrieked, 'what is this?'

The fury of her tone, no less than the expletive--which we have ventured
to soften--startled Mr. Thomasson to his feet. Approaching the window in
trepidation--for her ladyship's wrath was impartial, and as often
alighted on the wrong head as the right--the tutor saw that she had
dropped her quizzing-glass, and was striving with shaking hands--but
without averting her eyes from the scene outside--to recover and
readjust it. Curious as well as alarmed, he drew up to her, and, looking
over her shoulder, discerned the seat and Julia; and, alas! seated on
the bench beside Julia, not Sir George Soane, as my lady's indifferent
sight, prompted by her wishes, had persuaded her, but Mr. Dunborough!

The tutor gasped. 'Oh, dear!' he said, looking round, as if for a way of
retreat. 'This is--this is most unfortunate.'

My lady in her wrath did not heed him. Shaking her fist at her
unconscious son, 'You rascal!' she cried. 'You paltry, impudent fellow!
You would do it before my eyes, would you? Oh, I would like to have the
brooming of you! And that minx! Go down you,' she continued, turning
fiercely on the trembling, wretched Thomasson--'go down this instant,
sir, and--and interrupt them! Don't stand gaping there, but down to
them, booby, without the loss of a moment! And bring him up before the
word is said. Bring him up, do you hear?'

'Bring him up?' said Mr. Thomasson, his breath coming quickly. 'I?'

'Yes, you! Who else?'

'I--I--but, my dear lady, he is--he can be very violent,' the unhappy
tutor faltered, his teeth chattering, and his cheek flabby with fright.
'I have known him--and perhaps it would be better, considering my sacred
office, to--to--'

'To what, craven?' her ladyship cried furiously.

'To leave him awhile--I mean to leave him and presently--'

Lady Dunborough's comment was a swinging blow, which the tutor hardly
avoided by springing back. Unfortunately this placed her ladyship
between him and the door; and it is not likely that he would have
escaped her cane a second time, if his wits, and a slice of good
fortune, had not come to his assistance. In the midst of his palpitating
'There, there, my lady! My dear good lady!' his tune changed on a sudden
to 'See; they are parting! They are parting already. And--and I think--I
really think--indeed, my lady, I am sure that she has refused him! She
has not accepted him?'

'Refused him!' Lady Dunborough ejaculated in scorn. Nevertheless she
lowered the cane and, raising her glass, addressed herself to the
window. 'Not accepted him? Bosh, man!'

'But if Sir George had proposed to her before?' the tutor suggested.
'There--oh, he is coming in! He has--he has seen us.'

It was too true. Mr. Dunborough, approaching the door with a lowering
face, had looked up as if to see what witnesses there were to his
discomfiture. His eyes met his mother's. She shook her fist at him. 'Ay,
he has,' she said, her tone more moderate. 'And, Lord, it must be as you
say! He is in a fine temper, if I am any judge.'

'I think,' said Mr. Thomasson, looking round, 'I had better--better
leave--your ladyship to see him alone.'

'No,' said my lady firmly.

'But--but Mr. Dunborough,' the tutor pleaded, 'may like to see you
alone. Yes, I am sure I had better go.'

'No,' said my lady more decisively; and she laid her hand on the hapless
tutor's arm.

'But--but if your ladyship is afraid of--of his violence,' Mr. Thomasson
stuttered, 'it will be better, surely, for me to call some--some of the
servants.'

'Afraid?' Lady Dunborough cried, supremely contemptuous. 'Do you think I
am afraid of my own son? And such a son! A poor puppet,' she continued,
purposely raising her voice as a step sounded outside, and Mr.
Dunborough, flinging open the door, appeared like an angry Jove on the
threshold, 'who is fooled by every ruddled woman he meets! Ay, sir, I
mean you! You! Oh, I am not to be browbeaten, Dunborough!' she went on;
'and I will trouble you not to kick my furniture, you unmannerly puppy.
And out or in's no matter, but shut the door after you.'

Mr. Dunborough was understood to curse everybody; after which he fell
into the chair that stood next the door, and, sticking his hands into
his breeches-pockets, glared at my lady, his face flushed and sombre.

'Hoity-toity! are these manners?' said she. 'Do you see this reverend
gentleman?'

'Ay, and G--d--him!' cried Mr. Dunborough, with a very strong
expletive; 'but I'll make him smart for it by-and-by. You have ruined me
among you.'

'Saved you, you mean,' said Lady Dunborough with complacency, 'if you
are worth saving--which, mind you, I very much doubt, Dunborough.'

'If I had seen her last night,' he answered, drawing a long breath, 'it
would have been different. For that I have to thank you two. You sent me
to lie at Bath and thought you had got rid of me. But I am back, and
I'll remember it, my lady! I'll remember you too, you lying sneak!'

'You common, low fellow!' said my lady.

'Ay, talk away!' said he; and then no more, but stared at the floor
before him, his jaw set, and his brow as black as a thunder-cloud. He
was a powerful man, and, with that face, a dangerous man. For he was
honestly in love; the love was coarse, brutal, headlong, a passion to
curse the woman who accepted it; but it was not the less love for that.
On the contrary, it was such a fever as fills the veins with fire and
drives a man to desperate things; as was proved by his next words.

'You have ruined me among you,' he said, his tone dull and thick, like
that of a man in drink. 'If I had seen her last night, there is no
knowing but what she would have had me. She would have jumped at it. You
tell me why not! But she is different this morning. There is a change in
her. Gad, my lady,' with a bitter laugh, 'she is as good a lady as you,
and better! And I'd have used her gently. Now I shall carry her off. And
if she crosses me I will wring her handsome neck!'

It is noticeable that he did not adduce any reason why the night had
changed her. Only he had got it firmly into his head that, but for the
delay they had caused, all would be well. Nothing could move him
from this.

'Now I shall run away with her,' he repeated.

'She won't go with you,' my lady cried with scorn.

'I sha'n't ask her,' he answered. 'When there is no choice she will come
to it. I tell you I shall carry her off. And if I am taken and hanged
for it, I'll be hanged at Papworth--before your window.'

'You poor simpleton!' she said. 'Go home to your father.'

'All right, my lady,' he answered, without lifting his eyes from the
carpet. 'Now you know. It will be your doing. I shall force her off, and
if I am taken and hanged I will be hanged at Papworth. You took fine
pains last night, but I'll take pains to-day. If I don't have her I
shall never have a wife. But I will have her.'

'Fools cry for the moon,' said my lady. 'Any way, get out of my room.
You are a fine talker, but I warrant you will take care of your neck.'

'I shall carry her off and marry her,' he repeated, his chin sunk on his
breast, his hand rattling the money in his pocket.

'It is a distance to Gretna,' she answered. 'You'll be nearer it outside
my door, my lad. So be stepping, will you? And if you take my advice,
you will go to my lord.'

'All right; you know,' he said sullenly. 'For that sneak there, if he
comes in my way, I'll break every bone in his body. Good-day, my lady.
When I see you again I will have Miss with me.'

'Like enough; but not Madam,' she retorted. 'You are not such a fool as
that comes to. And there is the Act besides!'

That was her parting shot; for all the feeling she had shown, from the
opening to the close of the interview, she might have been his worst
enemy. Yet after a fashion, and as a part of herself, she did love him;
which was proved by her first words after the door had closed upon him.

'Lord!' she said uneasily. 'I hope he will play no Ferrers tricks, and
disgrace us all. He is a black desperate fellow, is Dunborough, when he
is roused.'

The crestfallen tutor could not in a moment recover himself; but he
managed to say that he did not think Mr. Dunborough suspected Sir
George; and that even if he did, the men had fought once, in which case
there was less risk of a second encounter.

'You don't know him,' my lady answered, 'if you say that. But it is not
that I mean. He'll do some wild thing about carrying her off. From a boy
he would have his toy. I've whipped him till the blood ran, and he's
gone to it.'

'But without her consent,' said Mr. Thomasson, 'it would not be
possible.'

'I mistrust him,' the viscountess answered. 'So do you go and find this
baggage, and drop a word to her--to go in company you understand. Lord!
he might marry her that way yet. For once away she would have to marry
him--ay, and he to marry her to save his neck. And fine fools we
should look.'

'It's--it's a most surprising, wonderful thing she did not take him,'
said the tutor thoughtfully.

'It's God's mercy and her madness,' quoth the viscountess piously. 'She
may yet. And I would rather give you a bit of a living to marry her--ay,
I would, Thomasson--than be saddled with such a besom!'

Mr. Thomasson cast a sickly glance at her ladyship. The evening before,
when the danger seemed imminent, she had named two thousand pounds and a
living. Tonight, the living. To-morrow--what? For the living had been
promised all along and in any case. Whereas now, a remote and impossible
contingency was attached to it. Alas! the tutor saw very clearly that my
lady's promises were pie-crust, made to be broken.

She caught the look, but attributed it to another cause. 'What do you
fear, man?' she said. 'Sho! he is out of the house by this time.'

Mr. Thomasson would not have ventured far on that assurance, but he had
himself seen Mr. Dunborough leave the house and pass to the stables; and
anxious to escape for a time from his terrible patroness, he professed
himself ready. Knowing where the rooms, which the girl's party occupied,
lay, in the west wing, he did not call a servant, but went through the
house to them and knocked at the door.

He got no answer, so gently opened the door and peeped in. He discovered
a pleasant airy apartment, looking by two windows over a little grass
plot that flanked the house on that side, and lay under the shadow of
the great Druid mound. The room showed signs of occupancy--a lady's
cloak cast over a chair, a great litter of papers on the table. But for
the moment it was empty.

He was drawing back, satisfied with his survey, when he caught the sound
of a heavy tread in the corridor behind him. He turned; to his horror he
discerned Mr. Dunborough striding towards him, a whip in one hand, and
in the other a note; probably the note was for this very room. At the
same moment Mr. Dunborough caught sight of the tutor, and bore down on
him with a view halloa. Mr. Thomasson's hair rose, his knees shook under
him, he all but sank down where he was. Fortunately at the last moment
his better angel came to his assistance. His hand was still on the latch
of the door; to open it, to dart inside, and to shoot the bolt were the
work of a second. Trembling he heard Mr. Dunborough come up and slash
the door with his whip, and then, contented with this demonstration,
pass on, after shouting through the panels that the tutor need not
flatter himself--he would catch him by-and-by.

Mr. Thomasson devoutly hoped he would not; and, sweating at every pore,
sat down to recover himself. Though all was quiet, he suspected the
enemy of lying in wait; and rather than run into his arms was prepared
to stay where he was, at any risk of discovery by the occupants. Or
there might be another exit. Going to one of the windows to ascertain
this, he found that there was; an outside staircase of stone affording
egress to the grass plot. He might go that way; but no!--at the base of
the Druid mound he perceived a group of townsfolk and rustics staring at
the flank of the building--staring apparently at him. He recoiled; then
he remembered that Lord Chatham's rooms lay in that wing, and also
looked over the gardens. Doubtless the countryfolk were watching in the
hope that the great man would show himself at a window, or that, at the
worst, they might see the crumbs shaken from a tablecloth he had used.

This alone would have deterred the tutor from a retreat so public:
besides, he saw something which placed him at his ease. Beyond the group
of watchers he espied three people strolling at their leisure, their
backs towards him. His sight was better than Lady Dunborough's; and he
had no difficulty in making out the three to be Julia, her mother, and
the attorney. They were moving towards the Bath road. Freed from the
fear of interruption, he heaved a sigh of relief, and, choosing the most
comfortable chair, sat down on it.

It chanced to stand by the table, and on the table, as has been said,
lay a vast litter of papers. Mr. Thomasson's elbow rested on one. He
went to move it; in the act he read the heading: 'This is the last will
and testament of me Sir Anthony Cornelius Soane, baronet, of Estcombe
Hall, in the county of Wilts.'

'Tut-tut!' said the tutor. 'That is not Soane's will, that is his
grandfather's.' And between idleness and curiosity, not unmingled with
surprise, he read the will to the end. Beside it lay three or four
narrow slips; he examined these, and found them to be extracts from a
register. Apparently some one was trying to claim under the will; but
Mr. Thomasson did not follow the steps or analyse the pedigree--his mind
was engrossed by perplexity on another point. His thoughts might have
been summed up in the lines--

     'Not that the things themselves are rich or rare,
     The wonder's how the devil they got there'--

in a word, how came the papers to be in that room? 'These must be
Soane's rooms,' he muttered at last, looking about him. 'And yet--that's
a woman's cloak. And that old cowskin bag is not Sir George's. It is
odd. Ah! What is this?'

This was a paper, written and folded brief-wise, and indorsed:
'Statement of the Claimant's case for the worshipful consideration of
the Eight Honourable the Earl of Chatham and others the trustees of the
Estcombe Hall Estate. Without Prejudice.'

'So!' said the tutor. 'This may be intelligible.' And having assured
himself by a furtive glance through the window that the owners of the
room were not returning, he settled himself to peruse it. When he again
looked up, which was at a point about one-third of the way through the
document, his face wore a look of rapt, incredulous, fatuous
astonishment.



CHAPTER XIV

A GOOD MAN'S DILEMMA

Ten minutes later Mr. Thomasson slid back the bolt, and opening the
door, glanced furtively up and down the passage. Seeing no one, he came
out, closed the door behind him, and humming an air from the 'Buona
Figlinola,' which was then the fashion, returned slowly, and with
apparent deliberation, to the east wing. There he hastened to hide
himself in a small closet of a chamber, which he had that morning
secured on the second floor, and having bolted the door behind him, he
plumped down on the scanty bed, and stared at the wall, he was the prey
of a vast amazement.

'Jupiter!' he muttered at last, 'what a--a Pactolus I have missed! Three
months ago, two months ago, she would have gone on her knees to marry
me! And with all that money--Lord! I would have died Bishop of Oxford.
It is monstrous! Positively, I am fit to kill myself when I think
of it!'

He paused awhile to roll the morsel on the palate of his imagination,
and found that the pathos of it almost moved him to tears. But before
long he fell from the clouds to more practical matters. The secret was
his, but what was he going to do with it? Where make his market of it?
One by one he considered all the persons concerned. To begin with, there
was her ladyship. But the knowledge did not greatly affect the
viscountess, and he did not trust her. He dismissed the thought of
applying to her. It was the same with Dunborough; money or no money was
all one to him, he would take the girl if he could get her. He was
dismissed as equally hopeless. Soane came next; but Sir George either
knew the secret, or must know it soon; and though his was a case the
tutor pondered long, he discerned no profit he could claim from him.
Moreover, he had not much stomach for driving a bargain with the
baronet; so in the end Sir George too was set aside.

There remained only the Buona Figliuola--the girl herself. 'I might pay
my court to her,' the tutor thought, 'but she would have a spite against
me for last night's work, and I doubt I could not do much. To be sure, I
might put her on her guard against Dunborough, and trust to her
gratitude; but it is ten to one she would not believe me. Or I could let
him play his trick--if he is fool enough to put his neck in a noose--and
step in and save her at the last moment. Ah!' Mr. Thomasson continued,
looking up to the ceiling in a flabby ecstasy of appreciation, 'If I had
the courage! That were a game to play indeed, Frederick Thomasson!'

It was, but it was hazardous; and the schemer rose and walked the floor,
striving to discover a safer mode of founding his claim. He found none,
however; and presently, with a wry face, he took out a letter which he
had received on the eve of his departure from Oxford--a letter from a
dun, threatening process and arrest. The sum was one which a year's
stipend of a fat living would discharge; and until the receipt of the
letter the tutor, long familiar with embarrassment, had taken the matter
lightly. But the letter was to the point, and meant business--a spunging
house and the Fleet; and with the cold shade of the Rules in immediate
prospect, Mr. Thomasson saw himself at his wits' end. He thought and
thought, and presently despair bred in him a bastard courage.

Buoyed up by this he tried to picture the scene; the lonely road, the
carriage, the shrieking girl, the ruffians looking fearfully up and down
as they strove to silence her; and himself running to the rescue; as Mr.
Burchell ran with the big stick, in Mr. Goldsmith's novel, which he had
read a few months before. Then the struggle. He saw himself
knocked--well, pushed down; after all, with care, he might play a fine
part without much risk. The men might fly either at sight of him, or
when he drew nearer and added his shouts to the girl's cries; or--or
some one else might come up, by chance or summoned by the uproar! In a
minute it would be over; in a minute--and what a rich reward he
might reap.

Nevertheless he did not feel sure he would be able to do it. His heart
thumped, and his smile grew sickly, and he passed his tongue again and
again over his dry lips, as he thought of the venture. But do it or not
when the time came, he would at least give himself the chance. He would
attend the girl wherever she went, dog her, watch her, hang on her
skirts; so, if the thing happened, he would be at hand, and if he had
the courage, would save her.

'It should--it should stand me in a thousand!' he muttered, wiping his
damp brow, 'and that would put me on my legs.'

He put her gratitude at that; and it was a great sum, a rich bribe. He
thought of the money lovingly, and of the feat with trembling, and took
his hat and unlocked his door and went downstairs. He spied about him
cautiously until he learned that Mr. Dunborough had departed; then he
went boldly to the stables, and inquired and found that the gentleman
had started for Bristol in a post-chaise. 'In a middling black temper,'
the ostler added, 'saving your reverence's presence.'

That ascertained, the tutor needed no more. He knew that Dunborough, on
his way to foreign service, had lain ten days in Bristol, whistling for
a wind; that he had landed there also on his return, and made--on his
own authority--some queer friends there. Bristol, too, was the port for
the plantations; a slave-mart under the rose, with the roughest of all
the English seatown populations. There were houses at Bristol where
crimping was the least of the crimes committed; in the docks, where the
great ships, laden with sugar and tobacco, sailed in and out in their
seasons, lay sloops and skippers, ready to carry all comers, criminal
and victim alike, beyond the reach of the law. The very name gave Mr.
Thomasson pause; he could have done with Gretna--which Lord Hardwicke's
Marriage Act had lately raised to importance--or Berwick, or Harwich, or
Dover. But Bristol had a grisly sound. From Marlborough it lay no more
than forty miles away by the Chippenham and Marshfield road; a
post-chaise and four stout horses might cover the distance in
four hours.

He felt, as he sneaked into the house, that the die was cast. The other
intended to do it then. And that meant--'Oh, Lord,' he muttered, wiping
his brow, 'I shall never dare! If he is there himself, I shall never
dare!' As he crawled upstairs he went hot one moment and shivered the
next; and did not know whether he was glad or sorry that the chance
would be his to take.

Fortunately, on reaching the first floor he remembered that Lady
Dunborough had requested him to convey her compliments to Dr. Addington,
with an inquiry how Lord Chatham did. The tutor felt that a commonplace
interview of this kind would settle his nerves; and having learned the
position of Dr. Addington's apartments, he found his way down the snug
passage of which we know and knocked at the door. A voice, disagreeably
raised, was speaking on the other side of the door, but paused at the
sound of his knock. Some one said 'Come in,' and he entered.

He found Dr. Addington standing on the hearth, stiff as a poker, and
swelling with dignity. Facing him stood Mr. Fishwick. The attorney,
flustered and excited, cast a look at Mr. Thomasson as if his entrance
were an added grievance; but that done, went on with his complaint.

'I tell you, sir,' he said, 'I do not understand this. His lordship was
able to travel yesterday, and last evening he was well enough to see Sir
George Soane.'

'He did not see him,' the physician answered stiffly. There is no class
which extends less indulgence to another than the higher grade of
professional men to the lower grade. While to Sir George Mr. Fishwick
was an odd little man, comic, and not altogether inestimable, to Dr.
Addington he was an anathema.

'I said only, sir, that he was well enough to see him,' the lawyer
retorted querulously. 'Be that as it may, his lordship was not seriously
ill yesterday. To-day I have business of the utmost importance with him,
and am willing to wait upon him at any hour. Nevertheless you tell me
that I cannot see him to-day, nor to-morrow--'

'Nor in all probability the next day,' the doctor answered grimly.

Mr. Fishwick's voice rose almost to a shriek. 'Nor the next day?' he
cried.

'No, nor the next day, so far as I can judge.'

'But I must see him! I tell you, sir, I must see him,' the lawyer
ejaculated. 'I have the most important business with him!'

'The most important?'

'The most important!'

'My dear sir,' Dr. Addington said, raising his hand and clearly near the
end of his patience, 'my answer is that you shall see him--when he is
well enough to be seen, and chooses to see you, and not before! For
myself, whether you see him now or never see him, is no business of
mine. But it _is_ my business to be sure that his lordship does not risk
a life which is of inestimable value to his country.'

'But--but yesterday he was well enough to travel!' murmured the lawyer,
somewhat awed. 'I--I do not like this!'

The doctor looked at the door.

'I--I believe I am being kept from his lordship!' Mr. Fishwick
persisted, stuttering nervously. 'And there are people whose interest it
is to keep me from his lordship. I warn you, sir, that if anything
happens in the meantime--'

The doctor rang the bell.

'I shall hold you responsible!' Mr. Fishwick cried passionately. 'I
consider this a most mysterious illness. I repeat, I--'

But apparently that was the last straw. 'Mysterious?' the doctor cried,
his face purple with indignation. 'Leave the room, sir! You are not
sane, sir! By God, you ought to be shut up, sir! You ought not to be
allowed to go about. Do you think that you are the only person who wants
to see His Majesty's Minister? Here is a courier come to-day from His
Grace the Duke of Grafton, and to-morrow there will be a score, and a
king's messenger from His Majesty among them--and all this trouble is
given by a miserable, little, paltry, petti--Begone, sir, before I say
too much!' he continued trembling with anger. And then to the servant,
'John, the door! the door! And see that this person does not trouble me
again. Be good enough to communicate in writing, sir, if you have
anything to say.'

With which poor Mr. Fishwick was hustled out, protesting but not
convinced. It is seldom the better side of human nature that lawyers
see; nor is an attorney's office, or a barrister's chamber, the soil in
which a luxuriant crop of confidence is grown. In common with many
persons of warm feelings, but narrow education, Mr. Fishwick was ready
to believe on the smallest evidence--or on no evidence at all--that the
rich and powerful were leagued against his client; that justice, if he
were not very sharp, would be denied him; that the heavy purse had a
knack of outweighing the righteous cause, even in England and in the
eighteenth century. And the fact that all his hopes were staked on this
case, that all his resources were embarked in it, that it had fallen, as
it were, from heaven into his hands--wherefore the greater the pity if
things went amiss--rendered him peculiarly captious and impracticable.
After this every day, nay, every hour, that passed without bringing him
to Lord Chatham's presence augmented his suspense and doubled his
anxiety. To be put off, not one day, but two days, three days--what
might not happen in three days!--was a thing intolerable, insufferable;
a thing to bring the heavens down in pity on his head! What wonder if he
rebelled hourly; and being routed, as we have seen him routed, muttered
dark hints in Julia's ear, and, snubbed in that quarter also, had no
resource but to shut himself up in his sleeping-place, and there brood
miserably over his suspicions and surmises?

Even when the lapse of twenty-four hours brought the swarm of couriers,
messengers, and expresses which Dr. Addington had foretold; when the
High Street of Marlborough--a name henceforth written on the page of
history--became but a slowly moving line of coaches and chariots bearing
the select of the county to wait on the great Minister; when the little
town itself began to throb with unusual life, and to take on airs of
fashion, by reason of the crowd that lay in it; when the Duke of
Grafton himself was reported to be but a stage distant, and there
detained by the Earl's express refusal to see him; when the very _KING_,
it was rumoured, was coming on the same business; when, in a word, it
became evident that the eyes of half England were turned to the Castle
Inn at Marlborough, where England's great statesman lay helpless, and
gave no sign, though the wheels of state creaked and all but stood
still--even then Mr. Fishwick refused to be satisfied, declined to be
comforted. In place of viewing this stir and bustle, this coming and
going as a perfect confirmation of Dr. Addington's statement, and a
proof of his integrity, he looked askance at it. He saw in it a
demonstration of the powers ranked against him and the principalities he
had to combat; he felt, in face of it, how weak, how poor, how
insignificant he was; and at one time despaired, and at another was in a
frenzy, at one time wearied Julia with prophecies of treachery, at
another poured his forebodings into the more sympathetic bosom of the
elder woman. The reader may laugh; but if he has ever staked his all on
a cast, if he has taken up a hand of twelve trumps, only to hear the
ominous word 'misdeal!' he will find something in Mr. Fishwick's
attitude neither unnatural nor blameworthy.



CHAPTER XV

AMORIS INTEGRATIO

During the early days of the Minister's illness, when, as we have seen,
all the political world of England were turning their coaches and six
towards the Castle Inn, it came to be the custom for Julia to go every
morning to the little bridge over the Kennet, thence to watch the
panorama of departures and arrivals; and for Sir George to join her
there without excuse or explanation, and as if, indeed, nothing in the
world were more natural. As the Earl's illness continued to detain all
who desired to see him--from the Duke of Grafton's parliamentary
secretary to the humblest aspirant to a tide-waitership--Soane was not
the only one who had time on his hands and sought to while it away in
the company of the fair. The shades of Preshute churchyard, which lies
in the bosom of the trees, not three bowshots from the Castle Inn and
hard by the Kennet, formed the chosen haunt of one couple. A second pair
favoured a seat situate on the west side of the Castle Mound, and well
protected by shrubs from the gaze of the vulgar. And there were others.

These Corydons, however, were at ease; they basked free from care in the
smiles of their Celias. But Soane, in his philandering, had to do with
black care that would be ever at his elbow; black care, that always when
he was not with Julia, and sometimes while he talked to her, would jog
his thoughts, and draw a veil before the future. The prospect of losing
Estcombe, of seeing the family Lares broken and cast out, and the
family stem, tender and young, yet not ungracious, snapped off short,
wrung a heart that belied his cold exterior. Moreover, when all these
had been sacrificed, he was his own judge how far he could without means
pursue the life which he was living. Suspense, anxiety, sordid
calculation were ever twitching his sleeve, and would have his
attention. Was the claim a valid claim, and must it prevail? If it
prevailed, how was he to live; and where, and on what? Would the
Minister grant his suit for a place or a pension? Should he prefer that
suit, or might he still by one deep night and one great hand at hazard
win back the thirty thousand guineas he had lost in five years?

Such questions, troubling him whether he would or no, and forcing
themselves on his attention when they were least welcome, ruffled at
last the outward composure on which as a man of fashion he plumed
himself. He would fall silent in Julia's company, and turning his eyes
from her, in unworthy forgetfulness, would trace patterns in the dust
with his cane, or stare by the minute together at the quiet stream that
moved sluggishly beneath them.

On these occasions she made no attempt to rouse him. But when he again
awoke to the world, to the coach passing in its cloud of dust, or the
gaping urchin, or the clang of the distant dinner-bell, he would find
her considering him with an enigmatical smile, that lay in the region
between amusement and pity; her shapely chin resting on her hand, and
the lace falling from the whitest wrist in the world. One day the smile
lasted so long, was so strange and dubious, and so full of a weird
intelligence, that it chilled him; it crept to his bones, disconcerted
him, and set him wondering. The uneasy questions that had haunted him at
the first, recurred. Why was this girl so facile, who had seemed so
proud, and whose full lips curved so naturally? Was she really won, or
was she with some hidden motive only playing with him? The notion was
not flattering to a fine gentleman's vanity; and in any other case he
would have given himself credit for conquest. But he had discovered that
this girl was not as other girls; and then there was that puzzling
smile. He had surprised it half a dozen times before.

'What is it?' he said abruptly, holding her eyes with his. This time he
was determined to clear up the matter.

'What?' she asked in apparent innocence. But she coloured, and he saw
that she understood.

'What does your smile mean, Pulcherrima?'

'Only--that I was reading your thoughts, Sir George,' she answered. 'And
they were not of me.'

'Impossible!' he said. I vow, Julia--'

'Don't vow,' she answered quickly, 'or when you vow--some other time--I
may not be able to believe you! You were not thinking of me, Sir George,
but of your home, and the avenue of which you told me, and the elms in
which the rooks lived, and the river in which you used to fish. You were
wondering to whom they would go, and who would possess them, and who
would be born in the room in which you were born, and who would die in
the room in which your father died.'

'You are a witch!' he said, a spasm of pain crossing his face.

'Thank you,' she answered, looking at him over her fan. 'Last time you
said, "D--n the girl!" It is clear I am improving your manners, Sir
George. You are now so polite, that presently you will consult me.'

So she could read his very thoughts! Could set him on the rack! Could
perceive when pain and not irritation underlay the oath or the
compliment. He was always discovering something new in her; something
that piqued his curiosity, and kept him amused. 'Suppose I consult you
now?' he said.

She swung her fan to and fro, playing with it childishly, looking at the
light through it, and again dropping it until it hung from her wrist by
a ribbon. 'As your highness pleases,' she said at last. 'Only I warn
you, that I am not the Bottle Conjuror.'

'No, for you are here, and he was not there,' Sir George answered,
affecting to speak in jest. 'But tell me; what shall I do in this case?
A claim is made against me.'

'It's the bomb,' she said, 'that burst, Sir George, is it not?'

'The same. The point is, shall I resist the claim, or shall I yield to
it? What do you say, ma'am?'

She tossed up her fan and caught it deftly, and looked to him for
admiration. Then, 'It depends,' she said. 'Is it a large claim?'

'It is a claim--for all I have,' he answered slowly. It was the first
time he had confessed that to any one, except to himself in the
night watches.

If he thought to touch her, he succeeded. If he had fancied her
unfeeling before, he did so no longer. She was red one minute and pale
the next, and the tears came into her eyes. 'Oh,' she cried, her breast
heaving, 'you should not have told me! Oh, why did you tell me?' And she
rose hurriedly as if to leave him; and then sat down again, the fan
quivering in her hand.

'But you said you would advise me!' he answered in surprise.

'I! Oh, no! no!' she cried.

'But you must!' he persisted, more deeply moved than he would show. 'I
want your advice. I want to know how the case looks to another. It is a
simple question. Shall I fight, Julia, or shall I yield to the claim?'

'Fight or yield?' she said, her voice broken by agitation. 'Shall you
fight or yield? You ask me?'

'Yes.'

'Then fight! Fight!' she answered, with surprising emotion: and she rose
again to her feet. And again sat down. 'Fight them to the last, Sir
George!' she cried breathlessly. 'Let the creatures have nothing! Not a
penny! Not an acre!'

'But--if it is a righteous claim?' he said, amazed at her excitement.

'Righteous?' she answered passionately. 'How can a claim be righteous
that takes all that a man has?'

He nodded, and studied the road awhile, thinking less of her advice than
of the strange fervour with which she had given it. At the end of a
minute he was surprised to hear her laugh. He felt hurt, and looked up
to learn the reason; and was astounded to find her smiling at him as
lightly and gaily as if nothing had occurred to interrupt her most
whimsical mood; as if the question he had put to her had not been put,
or were a farce, a jest, a mere pastime!

'Sho, Sir George,' she said, 'how silly you must think me to proffer you
advice; and with an air as if the sky were falling? Do you forgive me?'

'I forgive you _that_,' Sir George answered. But, poor fellow, he winced
under her sudden change of tone.

'That is well,' she said confidently. 'And there again, do you know you
are changed; you would not have said that a week ago. I have most
certainly improved your manners.'

Sir George made an effort to answer her in the same strain. 'Well, I
should improve,' he said. 'I come very regularly to school. Do you know
how many days we have sat here, _ma belle_?'

A faint colour tinged her cheek. 'If I do not, that dreadful Mr.
Thomasson does,' she answered. 'I believe he never lets me go out of his
sight. And for what you say about days--what are days, or even weeks,
when it is a question of reforming a rake, Sir George? Who was it you
named to me yesterday,' she continued archly, but with her eyes on the
toe of her shoe which projected from her dress, 'who carried the
gentleman into the country when he had lost I don't know how many
thousand pounds? And kept him there out of harm's way?'

'It was Lady Carlisle,' Sir George answered drily; 'and the gentleman
was her husband.'

It was Julia's turn to draw figures in the dust of the roadway, which
she did very industriously; and the two were silent for quite a long
time, while some one's heart bumped as if it would choke her. At
length--'He was not quite ruined, was he?' she said, with elaborate
carelessness; her voice was a little thick--perhaps by reason of
the bumping.

'Lord, no!' said Sir George. 'And I am, you see.'

'While I am not your wife!' she answered; and flashed her eyes on him in
sudden petulance; and then, 'Well, perhaps if my lady had her choice--to
be wife to a rake can be no bed of roses, Sir George! While to be wife
to a ruined rake--perhaps to be wife to a man who, if he were not
ruined, would treat you as the dirt beneath his feet, beneath his
notice, beneath--'

She did not seem to be able to finish the sentence, but rose choking,
her face scarlet. He rose more slowly. 'Lord!' he said humbly, looking
at her in astonishment, 'what has come to you suddenly? What has made
you angry with me, child?'

'Child?' she exclaimed. 'Am I a child? You play with me as if I were!'

'Play with you?' Sir George said, dumfounded; he was quite taken aback
by her sudden vehemence. 'My dear girl, I cannot understand you. I am
not playing with you. If any one is playing, it is you. Sometimes--I
wonder whether you hate me or love me. Sometimes I am happy enough to
think the one; sometimes--I think the other--'

'It has never struck you,' she said, speaking with her head high, and in
her harshest and most scornful tone, 'that I may do neither the one nor
the other, but be pleased to kill my time with you--since I must stay
here until my lawyer has done his business?'

'Oh!' said Soane, staring helplessly at the angry beauty, 'if that be
all--'

'That is all!' she cried. 'Do you understand? That is all.'

He bowed gravely. 'Then I am glad that I have been of use to you. That
at least,' he said.

'Thank you,' she said drily. 'I am going into the house now. I need not
trouble you farther.'

And sweeping him a curtsey that might have done honour to a duchess, she
turned and sailed away, the picture of disdain. But when her face was
safe from his gaze and he could no longer see them, her eyes filled with
tears of shame and vexation; she had to bite her trembling lip to keep
them back. Presently she slackened her speed and almost stopped--then
hurried on, when she thought that she heard him following. But he did
not overtake her, and Julia's step grew slow again, and slower until she
reached the portico.

Between love and pride, hope and shame, she had a hard fight; happily a
coach was unloading, and she could stand and feign interest in the
passengers. Two young fellows fresh from Bath took fire at her eyes; but
one who stared too markedly she withered with a look, and, if the truth
be told, her fingers tingled for his ears. Her own ears were on the
alert, directed backwards like a hare's. Would he never come? Was he
really so simple, so abominably stupid, so little versed in woman's
ways? Or was he playing with her? Perhaps, he had gone into the town? Or
trudged up the Salisbury road; if so, and if she did not see him now,
she might not meet him until the next morning; and who could say what
might happen in the interval? True, he had promised that he would not
leave Marlborough without seeing her; but things had altered between
them since then.

At last--at last, when she felt that her pride would allow her to stay
no longer, and she was on the point of going in, the sound of his step
cut short her misery. She waited, her heart beating quickly, to hear his
voice at her elbow. Presently she heard it, but he was speaking to
another; to a coarse rough man, half servant half loafer, who had joined
him, and was in the act of giving him a note. Julia, outwardly cool,
inwardly on tenterhooks, saw so much out of the corner of her eye, and
that the two, while they spoke, were looking at her. Then the man fell
back, and Sir George, purposely averting his gaze and walking like a man
heavy in thought, went by her; he passed through the little crowd about
the coach, and was on the point of disappearing through the entrance,
when she hurried after him and called his name.

He turned, between the pillars, and saw her. 'A word with you, if you
please,' she said. Her tone was icy, her manner freezing.

Sir George bowed. 'This way, if you please,' she continued imperiously;
and preceded him across the hall and through the opposite door and down
the steps to the gardens, that had once been Lady Hertford's delight.
Nor did she pause or look at him until they were halfway across the
lawn; then she turned, and with a perfect change of face and manner,
smiling divinely in the sunlight,

     'Easy her motion seemed, serene her air,'

she held out her hand.

'You have come--to beg my pardon, I hope?' she said.

The smile she bestowed on him was an April smile, the brighter for the
tears that lurked behind it; but Soane did not know that, nor, had he
known it, would it have availed him. He was utterly dazzled, conquered,
subjugated by her beauty. 'Willingly,' he said. 'But for what?'

'Oh, for--everything!' she answered with supreme assurance.

'I ask your divinity's pardon for everything,' he said obediently.

'It is granted,' she answered. 'And--I shall see you to-morrow, Sir
George?'

'To-morrow?' he said. 'Alas, no; I shall be away to-morrow.'

He had eyes; and the startling fashion in which the light died out of
her face, and left it grey and colourless, was not lost on him. But her
voice remained steady, almost indifferent. 'Oh!' she said, 'you are
going?' And she raised her eyebrows.

'Yes,' he answered; 'I have to go to Estcombe.'

She tried to force a laugh, but failed. 'And you do not return? We shall
not see you again?' she said.

'It lies with you,' he answered slowly. 'I am returning to-morrow
evening by the Bath road. Will you come and meet me, Julia--say, as far
as the Manton turning? It's on your favourite road. I know you stroll
there every evening. I shall be there a little after five. If you come
to-morrow, I shall know that, notwithstanding your hard words, you will
take in hand the reforming of a rake--and a ruined rake, Julia. If you
do not come--'

He hesitated. She had to turn away her head that he might not see the
light that had returned to her eyes. 'Well, what then?' she said softly.

'I do not know.'

'But Lady Carlisle was his wife,' she whispered, with a swift sidelong
shot from eyes instantly averted. 'And--you remember what you said to
me--at Oxford? That if I were a lady, you would make me your wife. I am
not a lady, Sir George.'

'I did not say that,' Sir George answered quickly.

'No! What then?'

'You know very well,' he retorted with malice.

All of her cheek and neck that he could see turned scarlet. 'Well, at
any rate,' she said, 'let us be sure now that you are talking not to
Clarissa but to Pamela?'

'I am talking to neither,' he answered manfully. And he stood erect, his
hat in his hand; they were almost of a height. 'I am talking to the most
beautiful woman in the world,' he said, 'whom I also believe to be the
most virtuous--and whom I hope to make my wife. Shall it be so, Julia?'

She was trembling excessively; she used her fan that he might not see
how her hand shook. 'I--I will tell you to-morrow,' she murmured
breathlessly. 'At Manton Corner.'

'Now! Now!' he said.

But she cried 'No, to-morrow,' and fled from him into the house, deaf,
as she passed through the hall, to the clatter of dishes and the cries
of the waiters and the rattle of orders; for she had the singing of
larks in her ears, and her heart rose on the throb of the song, rose
until she felt that she must either cry or die--of very happiness.



CHAPTER XVI

THE BLACK FAN

I believe that Sir George, riding soberly to Estcombe in the morning,
was not guiltless of looking back in spirit. Probably there are few men
who, when the binding word has been said and the final step taken, do
not feel a revulsion of mind, and for a moment question the wisdom of
their choice. A more beautiful wife he could not wish; she was fair of
face and faultless in shape, as beautiful as a Churchill or a Gunning.
And in all honesty, and in spite of the undoubted advances she had made
to him, he believed her to be good and virtuous. But her birth, her
quality, or rather her lack of quality, her connections, these were
things to cry him pause, to bid him reflect; until the thought--mean and
unworthy, but not unnatural--that he was ruined, and what did it matter
whom he wedded? came to him, and he touched his horse with the spur and
cantered on by upland, down and clump, by Avebury, and Yatesbury, and
Compton Bassett, until he came to his home.

Returning in the afternoon, sad at starting, but less sad with every
added mile that separated him from the house to which he had bidden
farewell in his heart--and which, much as he prized it now, he had not
visited twice a year while it was his--it was another matter. He thought
little of the future; of the past not at all. The present was sufficient
for him. In an hour, in half an hour, in ten minutes, he would see her,
would hold her hands in his, would hear her say that she loved him,
would look unreproved into the depths of her proud eyes, would see them
sink before his. Not a regret now for White's! Or the gaming table! Or
Mrs. Cornelys' and Betty's! Gone the _blasé_ insouciance of St. James's.
The whole man was set on his mistress. Ruined, he had naught but her to
look forward to, and he hungered for her. He cantered through Avebury,
six miles short of Marlborough, and saw not one house. Through West
Kennet, where his shadow went long and thin before him; through Fyfield,
where he well-nigh ran into a post-chaise, which seemed to be in as
great a hurry to go west as he was to go east; under the Devil's Den,
and by Clatford cross-lanes, nor drew rein until--as the sun sank
finally behind him, leaving the downs cold and grey--he came in sight of
Manton Corner.

Then, that no look of shy happiness, no downward quiver of the maiden
eyelids might be lost--for the morsel, now it was within his grasp, was
one to linger over and dwell on--Sir George, his own eyes shining with
eagerness, walked his horse forward, his gaze greedily seeking the
flutter of her kerchief or the welcome of her hand. Would she be at the
meeting of the roads--shrinking aside behind the bend, her eyes laughing
to greet him? No, he saw as he drew nearer that she was not there. Then
he knew where she would be; she would be waiting for him on the
foot-bridge in the lane, fifty yards from the high-road, yet within
sight of it. She would have her lover come so far--to win her. The
subtlety was like her, and pleased him.

But she was not there, nor was she to be seen elsewhere in the lane; for
this descended a gentle slope until it plunged, still under his eyes,
among the thatched roofs and quaint cottages of the village, whence the
smoke of the evening meal rose blue among the trees. Soane's eyes
returned to the main road; he expected to hear her laugh, and see her
emerge at his elbow. But the length of the highway lay empty before, and
empty behind; and all was silent. He began to look blank. A solitary
house, which had been an inn, but was now unoccupied, stood in the angle
formed by Manton Lane and the road; he scrutinised it. The big doors
leading to the stable-yard were ajar; but he looked in and she was not
there, though he noted that horses had stood there lately. For the rest,
the house was closed and shuttered, as he had seen it that morning, and
every day for days past.

Was it possible that she had changed her mind? That she had played or
was playing him false? His heart said no. Nevertheless he felt a chill
and a degree of disillusion as he rode down the lane to the foot-bridge;
and over it, and on as far as the first house of the village. Still he
saw nothing of her; and he turned. Riding back his search was rewarded
with a discovery. Beside the ditch, at the corner where the road and
lane met, and lying in such a position that it was not visible from the
highway, but only from the lower ground of the lane, lay a plain
black fan.

Sir George sprang down, picked it up, and saw that it was Julia's; and
still possessed by the idea that she was playing him a trick he kissed
it, and looked sharply round, hoping to detect her laughing face.
Without result; then at last he began to feel misgiving. The road under
the downs was growing dim and shadowy; the ten minutes he had lingered
had stolen away the warmth and colour of the day. The camps and
tree-clumps stood black on the hills, the blacker for the creeping mist
that stole beside the river where he stood. In another ten minutes night
would fall in the valley. Sir George, his heart sinking under those
vague and apparently foolish alarms which are among the penalties of
affection, mounted his horse, stood in his stirrups, and called her
name--'Julia! Julia!'--not loudly, but so that if she were within fifty
yards of him she must hear.

He listened. His ear caught a confused babel of voices in the direction
of Marlborough; but only the empty house, echoing 'Julia!' answered him.
Not that he waited long for an answer; something in the dreary aspect of
the evening struck cold to his heart, and touching his horse with the
spur, he dashed off at a hand-gallop. Meeting the Bristol night-wagon
beyond the bend of the road he was by it in a second. Nevertheless, the
bells ringing at the horses' necks, the cracking whips, the tilt
lurching white through the dusk somewhat reassured him. Reducing his
pace, and a little ashamed of his fears, he entered the inn grounds by
the stable entrance, threw his reins to a man--who seemed to have
something to say, but did not say it--and walked off to the porch. He
had been a fool to entertain such fears; in a minute he would see Julia.

Even as he thought these thoughts, he might have seen--had he looked
that way--half a dozen men on foot and horseback, bustling out with
lanterns through the great gates. Their voices reached him mellowed by
distance; but immersed in thinking where he should find Julia, and what
he should say to her, he crossed the roadway without heeding a commotion
which in such a place was not unusual. On the contrary, the long lighted
front of the house, the hum of life that rose from it, the sharp voices
of a knot of men who stood a little on one side, arguing eagerly and all
at once, went far to dissipate such of his fears as the pace of his
horse had left. Beyond doubt Julia, finding herself in solitude, had
grown alarmed and had returned, fancying him late; perhaps pouting
because he had not forestalled the time!

But the moment he passed through the doorway his ear caught that buzz
of excited voices, raised in all parts and in every key, that betokens
disaster. And with a sudden chill at his heart, as of a cold hand
gripping it, he stood, and looked down the hall. It was well perhaps
that he had that moment of preparation, those few seconds in which to
steady himself, before the full sense of what had happened struck him.

The lighted hall was thronged and in an uproar. A busy place, of much
coming and going it ever was. Now the floor was crowded in every part
with two or three score persons, all speaking, gesticulating, advising
at once. Here a dozen men were proving something; there another group
were controverting it; while twice as many listened, wide-eyed and
open-mouthed, or in their turn dashed into the babel. That something
very serious had happened Sir George could not doubt. Once he caught the
name of Lord Chatham, and the statement that he was worse, and he
fancied that that was it. But the next moment the speaker added loudly,
'Oh, he cannot be told! He is not to be told! The doctor has gone to
him! I tell you, he is worse to-day!' And this, giving the lie to that
idea, revived his fears. His eyes passing quickly over the crowd, looked
everywhere for Julia; he found her nowhere. He touched the nearest man
on the arm, and asked him what had happened.

The person he addressed was about to reply when an agitated figure, wig
awry, cravat loosened, eyes staring, forced itself through the crowd,
and, flinging itself on Sir George, clutched him by the open breast of
his green riding-coat. It was Mr. Fishwick, but Mr. Fishwick
transfigured by a great fright, his face grey, his cheeks trembling. For
a moment such was his excitement he could not speak. Then 'Where is
she?' he stuttered, almost shaking Sir George on his feet. 'What have
you done with her, you--you villain?' Soane, with misgivings gnawing at
his heart, was in no patient mood. In a blaze of passion he flung the
attorney from him. 'You madman!' he said; 'what idiocy is this?'

Mr. Fishwick fell heavily against a stout gentleman in splashed boots
and an old-fashioned Ramillies, who fortunately for the attorney,
blocked the way to the wall. Even so the shock was no light one. But,
breathless and giddy as he was the lawyer returned instantly to the
charge. 'I denounce you!' he cried furiously. 'I denounce this man! You,
and you,' he continued, appealing with frantic gestures to those next
him, 'mark what I say! She is the claimant to his estates--estates he
holds on sufferance! To-morrow justice would have been done, and
to-night he has kidnapped her. All he has is hers, I tell you, and he
has kidnapped her. I denounce him! I--'

'What Bedlam stuff is this?' Sir George cried hoarsely; and he looked
round the ring of curious starers, the sweat standing on his brow. Every
eye in the hall was upon him, and there was a great silence; for the
accusation to which the lawyer gave tongue had been buzzed and bruited
since the first cry of alarm roused the house. 'What stuff is this?' he
repeated, his head giddy with the sense of that which Mr. Fishwick had
said. 'Who--who is it has been kidnapped? Speak! D--n you! Will no
one speak?'

'Your cousin,' the lawyer answered. 'Your cousin, who claims--'

'Softly, man--softly,' said the landlord, coming forward and laying his
hand on the lawyer's shoulder. 'And we shall the sooner know what to do.
Briefly, Sir George,' he continued, 'the young lady who has been in your
company the last day or two was seized and carried off in a post-chaise
half an hour ago, as I am told--maybe a little more--from Manton
Corner. For the rest, which this gentleman says, about who she is and
her claim--which it does not seem to me can be true and your honour not
know it--it is news to me. But, as I understand it, Sir George, he
alleges that the young lady who has disappeared lays claim to your
honour's estates at Estcombe.'

'At Estcombe?'

'Yes, sir.'

Sir George did not reply, but stood staring at the man, his mind divided
between two thoughts. The first that this was the solution of the many
things that had puzzled him in Julia; at once the explanation of her
sudden amiability, her new-born forwardness, the mysterious fortune into
which she had come, and of her education and her strange past. She was
his cousin, the unknown claimant! She was his cousin, and--

He awoke with a start, dragged away by the second thought--hard
following on the first. 'From Manton Corner?' he cried, his voice keen,
his eye terrible. 'Who saw it?'

'One of the servants,' the landlord answered, 'who had gone to the top
of the Mound to clean the mirrors in the summer-house. Here, you,' he
continued, beckoning to a man who limped forward reluctantly from one of
the side passages in which he had been standing, 'show yourself, and
tell this gentleman the story you told me.'

'If it please your honour,' the fellow whimpered, 'it was no fault of
mine. I ran down to give the alarm as soon as I saw what was doing--they
were forcing her into the carriage then--but I was in such a hurry I
fell and rolled to the bottom of the Mound, and was that dazed and
shaken it was five minutes before I could find any one.'

'How many were there?' Sir George asked. There was an ugly light in his
eyes and his cheeks burned. But he spoke with calmness.

'Two I saw, and there may have been more. The chaise had been waiting in
the yard of the empty house at the corner, the old Nag's Head. I saw it
come out. That was the first thing I did see. And then the lady.'

'Did she seem to be unwilling?' the man in the Ramillies asked. 'Did she
scream?'

'Ay, she screamed right enough,' the fellow answered lumpishly. 'I heard
her, though the noise came faint-like. It is a good distance, your
honour'll mind, and some would not have seen what I saw.'

'And she struggled?'

'Ay, sir, she did. They were having a business with her when I left, I
can tell you.'

The picture was too much for Sir George. Gripping the landlord's
shoulder so fiercely that Smith winced and cried out, 'And you have
heard this man,' he said, 'and you chatter here? Fools! This is no
matter for words, but for horses and pistols! Get me a horse and
pistols--and tell my servant. Are you so many dolls? D--n you,
sir'--this to Mr. Fishwick--'stand out of my way!'



CHAPTER XVII

MR. FISHWICK, THE ARBITER

Mr. Fishwick, who had stepped forward with a vague notion of detaining
him, fell back. Sir George's stern aspect, which bore witness to the
passions that raged in a heart at that moment cruelly divided, did not
encourage interference; and though one or two muttered, no one moved.
There is little doubt that he would have passed out without delay,
mounted, and gone in pursuit--with what result in the direction of
altering the issue, it is impossible to state--if an obstacle had not
been cast in his way by an unexpected hand.

In every crowd, the old proverb has it, there are a knave and a fool.
Between Sir George bursting with passion, and the door by which he had
entered and to which he turned, stood Lady Dunborough. Her ladyship had
been one of the first to hear the news and to take the alarm; it is safe
to say, also, that for obvious reasons--and setting aside the lawyer and
Sir George--she was of all present the person most powerfully affected
by the news of the outrage. But she had succeeded in concealing alike
her fears and her interest; she had exclaimed with others--neither more
nor less; and had hinted, in common with three-fourths of the ladies
present, that the minx's cries were forced, and her _bonne fortune_
sufficiently to her mind. In a word she had comported herself so fitly
that if there was one person in the hall whose opinion was likely to
carry weight, as being coolly and impartially formed, it was
her ladyship.

When she stepped forward therefore, and threw herself between Sir George
and the door--still more when, with an intrepid gesture, she cried
'Stay, sir; we have not done with you yet,' there was a sensation. As
the crowd pressed up to see and hear what passed, her accusing finger
pointed steadily to Sir George's breast. 'What is that you have there?'
she continued. 'That which peeps from your breast pocket, sir?'

Sir George, who, furious as he was, could go no farther without coming
in contact with her ladyship, smothered an oath. 'Madam,' he said,
'let me pass.'

'Not until you explain how you came by that fan,' she answered sturdily;
and held her ground.

'Fan?' he cried savagely. 'What fan?'

Unfortunately the passions that had swept through his mind during the
last few minutes, the discovery he had made, and the flood of pity that
would let him think of nothing but the girl--the girl carried away
screaming and helpless, a prey to he knew not whom--left in his mind
scant room for trifles. He had clean forgotten the fan. But the crowd
gave him no credit for this; and some murmured, and some exchanged
glances, when he asked 'What fan?' Still more when my lady rejoined,
'The fan in your breast,' and drew it out and all saw it, was there a
plain and general feeling against him.

Unheeding, he stared at the fan with grief-stricken eyes. 'I picked it
up in the road,' he muttered, as much to himself as to them.

'It is hers?'

'Yes,' he said, holding it reverently. 'She must have dropped it--in the
struggle!' And then 'My God!' he continued fiercely, the sight of the
fan bringing the truth more vividly before him, 'Let me pass! Or I
shall be doing some one a mischief! Madam, let me pass, I say!'

His tone was such that an ordinary woman must have given way to him; but
the viscountess had her reasons for being staunch. 'No,' she said
stoutly, 'not until these gentlemen have heard more. You have her fan,
which she took out an hour ago. She went to meet you--that we know from
this person'--she indicated Mr. Fishwick; 'and to meet you at your
request. The time, at sunset, the place, the corner of Manton Lane. And
what is the upshot? At that corner, at sunset, persons and a carriage
were waiting to carry her off. Who besides you knew that she would be
there?' Lady Dunborough continued, driving home the point with her
finger. 'Who besides you knew the time? And that being so, as soon as
they are safely away with her, you walk in here with an innocent face
and her fan in your pocket, and know naught about it! For shame! for
shame! Sir George! You will have us think we see the Cock Lane Ghost
next. For my part,' her ladyship continued ironically, 'I would as soon
believe in the rabbit-woman.'

'Let me pass, madam,' Sir George cried between his teeth. 'If you were
not a woman--'

'You would do something dreadful,' Lady Dunborough answered mockingly.
'Nevertheless, I shall be much mistaken, sir, if some of these gentlemen
have not a word to say in the matter.'

Her ladyship's glance fell, as she spoke, on the stout red-faced
gentleman in the splashed boots and Ramillies, who had asked two
questions of the servant; and who, to judge by the attention with which
he followed my lady's words, was not proof against the charm which
invests a viscountess. If she looked at him with intention, she reckoned
well; for, as neatly as if the matter had been concerted between them,
he stepped forward and took up the ball.

'Sir George,' he said, puffing out his cheeks, 'her ladyship is quite
right. I--I am sorry to interfere, but you know me, and what my position
is on the Rota. And I do not think I can stand by any longer--which
might be _adaerere culpae_. This is a serious case, and I doubt I shall
not be justified in allowing you to depart without some more definite
explanation. Abduction, you know, is not bailable. You are a Justice
yourself, Sir George, and must know that. If this person therefore--who
I understand is an attorney--desires to lay a sworn information, I
must take it.'

'In heaven's name, sir,' Soane cried desperately, 'take it! Take what
you please, but let me take the road.'

'Ah, but that is what I doubt, sir, I cannot do,' the Justice answered.
'Mark you, there is motive, Sir George, and _praesentia in loco_,' he
continued, swelling with his own learning. 'And you have a _partem
delicti_ on you. And, moreover, abduction is a special kind of case,
seeing that if the _participes criminis_ are free the _femme sole_,
sometimes called the _femina capta_, is in greater danger. In fact, it
is a continuing crime. An information being sworn therefore--'

'It has not been sworn yet!' Sir George retorted fiercely. 'And I warn
you that any one who lays a hand on me shall rue it. God, man!' he
continued, horror in his voice, 'cannot you understand that while you
prate here they are carrying her off, and that time is everything?'

'Some persons have gone in pursuit,' the landlord answered with intent
to soothe.

'Just so; some persons have gone in pursuit,' the Justice echoed with
dull satisfaction. 'And you, if you went, could do no more than they can
do. Besides, Sir George, the law must be obeyed. The sole point is'--he
turned to Mr. Fishwick, who through all had stood by, his face distorted
by grief and perplexity--'do you wish, sir, to swear the information?'

Mrs. Masterson had fainted at the first alarm and been carried to her
room. Apart from her, it is probable that only Sir George and Mr.
Fishwick really entered into the horror of the girl's position, realised
the possible value of minutes, or felt genuine and poignant grief at
what had occurred. On the decision of one of these two the freedom of
the other now depended, and the conclusion seemed foregone. Ten minutes
earlier Mr. Fishwick, carried away by the first sight of Sir George, and
by the rage of an honest man who saw a helpless woman ruined, had been
violent enough; Soane's possession of the fan--not then known to
him--was calculated to corroborate his suspicions. The Justice in
appealing to him felt sure of support; and was much astonished when Mr.
Fishwick, in place of assenting, passed his hand across his brow, and
stared at the speaker as if he had suddenly lost the power of speech.

In truth, the lawyer, harried by the expectant gaze of the room, and the
Justice's impatience, was divided between a natural generosity, which
was one of his oddities, and a suspicion born of his profession. He
liked Sir George; his smaller manhood went out in admiration to the
other's splendid personality. On the other hand, he had viewed Soane's
approaches to his client with misgiving. He had scented a trap here and
a bait there, and a dozen times, while dwelling on Dr. Addington's
postponements and delays, he had accused the two of collusion and of
some deep-laid chicanery. Between these feelings he had now to decide,
and to decide in such a tumult of anxiety and dismay as almost deprived
him of the power to think.

On the one hand, the evidence and inferences against Sir George pressed
him strongly. On the other, he had seen enough of the futile haste of
the ostlers and stable-helps, who had gone in pursuit, to hope little
from them; while from Sir George, were he honest, everything was to be
expected. In his final decision we may believe what he said afterwards,
that he was determined by neither of these considerations, but by his
old dislike of Lady Dunborough! For after a long silence, during which
he seemed to be a dozen times on the point of speaking and as often
disappointed his audience, he announced his determination in that sense.
'No, sir; I--I will not!' he stammered, 'or rather I will not--on a
condition.'

'Condition!' the Justice growled, in disgust.

'Yes,' the lawyer answered staunchly; 'that Sir George, if he be going
in pursuit of them, permit me to go with him. I--I can ride, or at least
I can sit on a horse,' Mr. Fishwick continued bravely; 'and I am
ready to go.'

'Oh, la!' said Lady Dunborough, spitting on the floor--for there were
ladies who did such things in those days--'I think they are all in it
together. And the fair cousin too! Cousin be hanged!' she added with a
shrill ill-natured laugh; 'I have heard that before.'

But Sir George took no notice of her words. 'Come, if you choose,' he
cried, addressing the lawyer. 'But I do not wait for you. And now,
madam, if your interference is at an end--'

'And what if it is not?' she cried, insolently grimacing in his face.
She had gained half an hour, and it might save her son. To persist
farther might betray him, yet she was loth to give way. 'What if it is
not?' she repeated.

'I go out by the other door,' Sir George answered promptly, and, suiting
the action to the word, he turned on his heel, strode through the crowd,
which subserviently made way for him, and in a twinkling he had passed
through the garden door, with Mr. Fishwick, hat in hand, hurrying at
his heels.

The moment they were gone, the babel, suppressed while the altercation
lasted, rose again, loud as before. It is not every day that the busiest
inn or the most experienced traveller has to do with an elopement, to
say nothing of an abduction. While a large section of the ladies, seated
together in a corner, tee-hee'd and tossed their heads, sneered at Miss
and her screams, and warranted she knew all about it, and had her jacket
and night-rail in her pocket, another party laid all to Sir George,
swore by the viscountess, and quoted the masked uncle who made away with
his nephew to get his estate. One or two indeed--and, if the chronicler
is to be candid, one or two only, out of as many scores--proved that
they possessed both imagination and charity. These sat apart, scared and
affrighted by their thoughts; or stared with set eyes and flushed faces
on the picture they would fain have avoided. But they were young and had
seen little of the world.

On their part the men talked fast and loud, at one time laughed, and at
another dropped a curse--their form of pity; quoted the route and the
inns, and weighed the chances of Devizes or Bath, Bristol or Salisbury;
vaguely suggested highwaymen, an old lover, Mrs. Cornelys' ballet; and
finally trooped out to stand in the road and listen, question the
passers-by, and hear what the parish constable had to say of it. All
except one very old man, who kept his seat and from time to time
muttered, 'Lord, what a shape she had! What a shape she had!' until he
dissolved in maudlin tears.

Meanwhile a woman lay upstairs, tossing in passionate grief and tended
by servants; who, more pitiful than their mistresses, stole to her to
comfort her. And three men rode steadily along the western road.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE PURSUIT

The attorney was brave with a coward's great bravery; he was afraid, but
he went on. As he climbed into his saddle in the stable-yard, the
muttering ostlers standing round, and the yellow-flaring light of the
lanthorns stretching fingers into the darkness, he could have wept for
himself. Beyond the gates and the immediate bustle of the yard lay
night, the road, and dimly-guessed violences; the meeting of man with
man, the rush to grips under some dark wood, or where the moonlight fell
cold on the heath. The prospect terrified; at the mere thought the
lawyer dropped the reins and nervously gathered them. And he had another
fear, and one more immediate. He was no horseman, and he trembled lest
Sir George, the moment the gates were passed, should go off in a
reckless gallop. Already he felt his horse heave and sidle under him, in
a fashion that brought his heart into his mouth; and he was ready to cry
for quarter. But the absurdity of the request where time was everything,
the journey black earnest, and its issue life and death, struck him, and
heroically he closed his mouth. Yet, at the remembrance that these
things were, he fell into a fresh panic.

However, for a time there was to be no galloping. Sir George when all
were up took a lanthorn from the nearest man, and bidding one of the
others run at his stirrup, led the way into the road, where he fell into
a sharp trot, his servant and Mr. Fishwick following. The attorney
bumped in his saddle, but kept his stirrups and gradually found his
hands and eyesight. The trot brought them to Manton Corner and the empty
house; where Sir George pulled up and dismounted. Giving his reins to
the stable-boy, he thrust open the doors of the yard and entered,
holding up his lanthorn, his spurs clinking on the stones and his
skirts swaying.

'But she--they cannot be here?' the lawyer ejaculated, his teeth
chattering.

Sir George, busy stooping and peering about the yard, which was
grass-grown and surrounded by walls, made no answer; and the other two,
as well as Mr. Fishwick, wondered what he would be at. But in a moment
they knew. He stooped and took up a small object, smelt it, and held it
out to them. 'What is that?' he asked curtly.

The stable-man who was holding his horse stared at it. 'Negro-head, your
honour,' he said. 'It is sailors' tobacco.'

'Who uses it about here?'

'Nobody to my knowing.'

'They are from Bristol, then,' Soane answered. And then 'Make way!' he
continued, addressing the other two who blocked the gateway; and
springing into his saddle he pressed his horse between them, his
stirrups dangling. He turned sharp to the left, and leaving the
stable-man to stare after them, the lanthorn swaying in his hand, he led
the way westward at the same steady trot.

The chase had begun. More than that, Mr. Fishwick was beginning to feel
the excitement of it; the ring of the horses' shoes on the hard road,
the rush of the night air past his ears exhilarated him. He began to
feel confidence in his leader, and confidence breeds courage. Bristol?
Then Bristol let it be. And then on top of this, his spirits being more
composed, came a rush of rage and indignation at thought of the girl.
The lawyer clutched his whip, and, reckless of consequences, dug his
heels into his horse, and for the moment, in the heat of his wrath,
longed to be up with the villains, to strike a blow at them. If his
courage lasted, Mr. Fishwick might show them a man yet--when the
time came!

Trot-trot, trot-trot through the darkness under the stars, the trees
black masses that shot up beside the road and vanished as soon as seen,
the downs grey misty outlines that continually fenced them in and went
with them; and always in the van Sir George, a grim silent shape with
face set immovably forward. They worked up Fyfield hill, and thence,
looking back, bade farewell to the faint light that hung above
Marlborough. Dropping into the bottom they cluntered over the wooden
bridge and by Overton steeple--a dim outline on the left--and cantering
up Avebury hill eased their horses through Little Kennet. Gathering
speed again they swept through Beckhampton village, where the Bath road
falls off to the left, and breasting the high downs towards Yatesbury,
they trotted on to Cheril.

Here on the hills the sky hung low overhead, and the wind sweeping chill
and drear across the upland was full of a melancholy soughing. The
world, it seemed to one of them, was uncreate, gone, and non-existent;
only this remained--the shadowy downs stretching on every side to
infinity, and three shadowy riders plodding across them; all shadowy,
all unreal until a bell-wether got up under the horses' heads, and with
a confused rush and scurry of feet a hundred Southdowns scampered into
the grey unknown.

Mr. Fishwick found it terrible, rugged, wild, a night foray. His heart
began to sink again. He was sore too, sweating, and fit to drop from his
saddle with the unwonted exertion.

And what of Sir George, hurled suddenly out of his age and world--the
age _des philosophes_, and the smooth world of White's and Lord
March--into this quagmire of feeling, this night of struggle upon the
Wiltshire downs? A few hours earlier he had ridden the same road, and
the prize he now stood in danger of losing had seemed--God forgive
him!--of doubtful value. Now, as he thought of her, his heart melted in
a fire of love and pity: of love that conjured up a thousand pictures of
her eyes, her lips, her smile, her shape--all presently dashed by night
and reality; of pity that swelled his breast to bursting, set his eyes
burning and his brain throbbing--a pity near akin to rage.

Even so, he would not allow himself to dwell on the worst. He had formed
his opinion of the abduction; if it proved correct he believed that he
should be in time to save her from that. But from the misery of
suspense, of fear, of humiliation, from the touch of rough hands and the
shame of coarse eyes, from these things--and alone they kindled his
blood into flame--he was powerless to save her!

Lady Dunborough could no longer have accused him of airs and graces.
Breeding, habit, the custom of the gaming-table, the pride of caste
availed to mask his passions under a veil of reserve, but were powerless
to quell them. What was more remarkable, so set was he on the one object
of recovering his mistress and putting an end to the state of terror in
which he pictured her--ignorant what her fate would be, and dreading the
worst--he gave hardly a thought to the astounding discovery which the
lawyer had made to him. He asked him no questions, turned to him for no
explanations. Those might come later; for the moment he thought not of
his cousin, but of his mistress. The smiles that had brightened the dull
passages of the inn, the figure that had glorified the quiet streets,
the eyes that had now invited and now repelled him, these were become so
many sharp thorns in his heart, so many goads urging him onward.

It was nine when they saw the lights of Calne below them, and trotting
and stumbling down the hill, clattered eagerly into the town. A moment's
delay in front of the inn, where their questions speedily gathered a
crowd, and they had news of the chaise: it had passed through the town
two hours before without changing horses. The canvas blinds were down or
there were shutters; which, the ostler who gave them the information,
could not say. But the fact that the carriage was closed had struck him,
and together with the omission to take fresh horses, had awakened his
suspicions.

By the time this was told a dozen were round them, listening
open-mouthed; and cheered by the lights and company Mr. Fishwick grew
brave again. But Sir George allowed no respite: in five minutes they
were clear of the houses and riding hard for Chippenham, the next stage
on the Bristol road; Sir George's horse cantering free, the lawyer's
groaning as it bumped across Studley bridge and its rider caught the
pale gleam of the water below. On through the village they swept, past
Brumhill Lane-end, thence over the crest where the road branches south
to Devizes, and down the last slope. The moon rose as they passed the
fourth milestone out of Calne; another five minutes and they drew up,
the horses panting and hanging their heads, in the main street of
Chippenham.

A coach--one of the night coaches out of Bristol--was standing before
the inn, the horses smoking, the lamps flaring cheerfully, a crowd round
it; the driver had just unbuckled his reins and flung them either way.
Sir George pushed his horse up to the splinter-bar and hailed him,
asking whether he had met a closed chaise and four travelling Bristol
way at speed.

'A closed chaise and four?' the man answered, looking down at the
party; and then recognising Sir George, 'I beg your honour's pardon,' he
said. 'Here, Jeremy,' to the guard--while the stable-man and helpers
paused to listen or stared at the heaving flanks of the riders'
horses--'did we meet a closed chaise and four to-night?'

'We met a chaise and four at Cold Aston,' the guard answered,
ruminating. 'But 'twas Squire Norris's of Sheldon, and there was no one
but the Squire in it. And a chaise and four at Marshfield, but that was
a burying party from Batheaston, going home very merry. No other, closed
or open, that I can mind, sir, this side of Dungeon Cross, and that is
but two miles out of Bristol.'

'They are an hour and a half in front of us!' Sir George cried eagerly.
'Will a guinea improve your memory?'

Ay, sir, but 'twon't make it,' the coachman answered, grinning. 'Jeremy
is right. I mind no others. What will your honour want with them?'

'They have carried off a young lady!' Mr. Fishwick cried shrilly. 'Sir
George's kinswoman!'

'To be sure?' ejaculated the driver, amid a murmur of astonishment; and
the crowd which had grown since their arrival pressed nearer to listen.
'Where from, sir, if I may make so bold?'

'From the Castle at Marlborough.'

Dear me, dear me, there is audaciousness, if you like! And you ha'
followed them so far, sir?'

Sir George nodded and turned to the crowd. 'A guinea for news!' he
cried. 'Who saw them go through Chippenham!'

He had not long to wait for the answer. 'They never went through
Chipnam!' a thick voice hiccoughed from the rear of the press.

'They came this way out of Calne,' Sir George retorted, singling the
speaker out, and signing to the people to make way that he might get
at him.

'Ay, but they never--came to Chipnam,' the fellow answered, leering at
him with drunken wisdom. 'D'you see that, master?'

'Which way, then?' Soane cried impatiently. 'Which way did they go?'

But the man only lurched a step nearer. 'That's telling!' he said with a
beery smile. 'You want to be--as wise as I be!'

Jeremy, the guard, seized him by the collar and shook him. 'You drunken
fool!' he said. 'D'ye know that this is Sir George Soane of Estcombe?
Answer him, you swine, or you'll be in the cage in a one, two!'

'You let me be,' the man whined, straggling to release himself. 'It's no
business of yours,' Let me be, master!'

Sir George raised his whip in his wrath, but lowered it again with a
groan. 'Can no one make him speak?' he said, looking round. The man was
staggering and lurching in the guard's grasp.

'His wife, but she is to Marshfield, nursing her sister,' answered one.
'But give him his guinea, Sir George. 'Twill save time maybe.'

Soane flung it to him. 'There!' he said. 'Now speak!'

'That'sh better,' the man muttered. 'That's talking! Now I'll tell you.
You go back to Devizes Corner--corner of the road to De-vizes--you
understand? There was a car--car--carriage there without lights an hour
back. It was waiting under the hedge. I saw it, and I--I know
what's what!'

Sir George flung a guinea to the guard, and wheeled his horse about. In
the act of turning his eye fell on the lawyer's steed, which, chosen for
sobriety rather than staying powers, was on the point of foundering.
'Get another,' he cried, 'and follow!'

Mr. Fishwick uttered a wail of despair. To be left to follow--to follow
alone, in the dark, through unknown roads, with scarce a clue and on a
strange horse--the prospect might have appalled a hardier soul. He was
saved from it by Sir George's servant, a stolid silent man, who might be
warranted to ride twenty miles without speaking. 'Here, take mine, sir,'
he said. 'I must stop to get a lanthorn; we shall need one now. Do you
go with his honour.'

Mr. Fishwick slid down and was hoisted into the other's saddle. By the
time this was done Sir George was almost lost in the gloom eat the
farther end of the street. But anything rather than be left behind. The
lawyer laid on his whip in a way that would have astonished him a few
hours before, and overtook his leader as he emerged from the town. They
rode without speaking until they had retraced their steps to the foot of
the hill, and could discern a little higher on the ascent the turn
for Devizes.

It is possible that Sir George hoped to find the chaise still lurking in
the shelter of the hedge; for as he rode up to the corner he drew a
pistol from his holster, and took his horse by the head. If so, he was
disappointed. The moon had risen high and its cold light disclosed the
whole width of the roadway, leaving no place in which even a dog could
lie hidden. Nor as far as the eye could travel along the pale strip of
road that ran southward was any movement or sign of life.

Sir George dropped from his saddle, and stooping, sought for proof of
the toper's story. He had no difficulty in finding it. There were the
deep narrow ruts which the wheels of a chaise, long stationary, had made
in the turf at the side of the road; and south of them was a plat of
poached ground where the horses had stood and shifted their feet
uneasily. He walked forward, and by the moonlight traced the dusty
indents of the wheels until they exchanged the sward for the hard road.
There they were lost in other tracks, but the inference was plain. The
chaise had gone south to Devizes.

For the first time Sir George felt the full horror of uncertainty. He
climbed into his saddle and sat looking across the waste with eyes of
misery, asking himself whither and for what? Whither had they taken her,
and why? The Bristol road once left, his theory was at fault; he had no
clue, and felt, where time was life and more than life, the slough of
horrible conjecture rise to his very lips.

Only one thing, one certain thing remained--the road; the pale ribbon
running southward under the stars. He must cling to that. The chaise had
gone that way, and though the double might be no more than a trick to
throw pursuers off the trail, though the first dark lane, the first
roadside tavern, the first farmhouse among the woods might have
swallowed the unhappy girl and the wretches who held her in their power,
what other clue had he? What other chance but to track the chaise that
way, though every check, every minute of uncertainty, of thought, of
hesitation--and a hundred such there must be in a tithe of the
miles--racked him with fears and dreadful surmises?

There was no other. The wind sweeping across the hill on the western
extremity of which he stood, looking over the lower ground about the
Avon, brought the distant howl of a dog to his ears, and chilled his
blood heated with riding. An owl beating the coverts for mice sailed
overhead; a hare rustled through the fence. The stars above were awake;
in the intense silence of the upland he could almost hear the great
spheres throb as they swept through space! But the human world slept,
and while it slept what work of darkness might not be doing? That
scream, shrill and ear-piercing, that suddenly rent the night--thank
God, it was only a rabbit's death-cry, but it left the sweat on his
brow! After that he could, he would, wait for nothing and no man.
Lanthorn or no lanthorn, he must be moving. He raised his whip, then let
it fall again as his ear caught far away the first faint hoof-beats of a
horse travelling the road at headlong speed.

The sound was very distant at first, but it grew rapidly, and presently
filled the night. It came from the direction of Chippenham. Mr.
Fishwick, who had not dared to interrupt his companion's calculations,
heard the sound with relief; and looking for the first gleam of the
lanthorn, wondered how the servant, riding at that pace, kept it alight,
and whether the man had news that he galloped so furiously. But Sir
George sat arrested in his saddle, listening, listening intently; until
the rider was within a hundred yards or less. Then, as his ear told him
that the horse was slackening, he seized Mr. Fishwick's rein, and
backing their horses nearer the hedge, once more drew a pistol from
his holster.

The startled lawyer discerned what he did, looked in his face, and saw
that his eyes were glittering with excitement. But having no ear for
hoof-beats Mr. Fishwick did not understand what was afoot, until the
rider appeared at the road-end, and coming plump upon them, drew rein.

Then Sir George's voice rang out, stern and ominous. 'Good evening, Mr.
Dunborough,' he said, and raised his hat. 'Well met! We are travelling
the same road, and, if you please, will do the rest of our journey
together.'



CHAPTER XIX

AN UNWILLING ALLY

Under the smoothness of Sir George's words, under the subtle mockery of
his manner, throbbed a volcano of passion and vengeance. But this was
for the lawyer only, even as he alone saw the moonlight gleam faintly on
the pistol barrel that lurked behind his companion's thigh. For Mr.
Dunborough, it would be hard to imagine a man more completely taken by
surprise. He swore one great oath, for he saw, at least, that the
meeting boded him 110 good; then he sat motionless in his saddle, his
left hand on the pommel, his right held stiffly by his side. The moon,
which of the two hung a little at Sir George's back, shone only on the
lower part of Dunborough's face, and by leaving his eyes in the shadow
of his hat, gave the others to conjecture what he would do next. It is
probable that Sir George, whose hand and pistol were ready, was
indifferent; perhaps would have hailed with satisfaction an excuse for
vengeance. But Mr. Fishwick, the pacific witness of this strange
meeting, awaited the issue with staring eyes, his heart in his mouth;
and was mightily relieved when the silence, which the heavy breathing of
Mr. Dunborough's horse did but intensify, was broken on the last comer's
side, by nothing worse than a constrained laugh.

'Travel together?' he said, with an awkward assumption of jauntiness,
'that depends on the road we are going.'

'Oh, we are going the same road,' Sir George answered, in the mocking
tone he had used before.

'You are very clever,' Mr. Dunborough retorted, striving to hide his
uneasiness; 'but if you know that, sir, you have the advantage of me.'

'I have,' said Sir George, and laughed rudely.

Dunborough stared, finding in the other's manner fresh cause for
misgiving. At last, 'As you please,' he said contemptuously. 'I am for
Calne. The road is public. You may travel by it.'

'We are not going to Calne,' said Sir George.

Mr. Dunborough swore. 'You are d----d impertinent!' he said, reining
back his horse, 'and may go to the devil your own way. For me, I am
going to Calne.'

'No,' said Sir George, 'you are not going to Calne. She has not gone
Calne way.'

Mr. Dunborough drew in his breath quickly. Hitherto he had been
uncertain what the other knew, and how far the meeting was accidental;
now, forgetful what his words implied and anxious only to say something
that might cover his embarrassment, 'Oh,' he said, 'you are--you are in
search of her?'

'Yes,' said Sir George mockingly. 'We are in search of her. And we want
to know where she is.'

'Where she is?'

'Yes, where she is. That is it; where she is. You were to meet her here,
you know. You are late and she has gone. But you will know whither.'

Mr. Dunborough stared; then in a tempest of wrath and chagrin, 'D----n
you!' he cried furiously. 'As you know so much, you can find out
the rest!'

'I could,' said Sir George slowly. 'But I prefer that you should help
me. And you will.'

'Will what?'

'Will help me, sir,' Sir George answered quickly, 'to find the lady we
are seeking.'

'I'll be hanged if I will,' Dunborough cried, raging and furious.

'You'll be hanged if you won't,' Sir George said in a changed tone; and
he laughed contemptuously. 'Hanged by the neck until you are dead, Mr.
Dunborough--if money can bring it about. You fool,' he continued, with a
sudden flash of the ferocity that had from the first underlain his
sarcasm, 'we have got enough from your own lips to hang you, and if more
be wanted, your people will peach on you. You have put your neck into
the halter, and there is only one way, if one, in which you can take it
out. Think, man; think before you speak again,' he continued savagely,
'for my patience is nearly at an end, and I would sooner see you hang
than not. And look you, leave your reins alone, for if you try to turn,
by G--d, I'll shoot you like the dog you are!'

Whether he thought the advice good or bad, Mr. Dunborough took it; and
there was a long silence. In the distance the hoof-beats of the
servant's horse, approaching from the direction of Chippenham, broke the
stillness of the moonlit country; but round the three men who sat
motionless in their saddles, glaring at one another and awaiting the
word for action, was a kind of barrier, a breathlessness born of
expectation. At length Dunborough spoke.

'What do you want?' he said in a low tone, his voice confessing his
defeat. 'If she is not here, I do not know where she is.'

'That is for you,' Sir George answered with a grim coolness that
astonished Mr. Fishwick. 'It is not I who will hang if aught happen
to her.'

Again there was silence. Then in a voice choked with rage Mr. Dunborough
cried, 'But if I do not know?'

'The worse for you,' said Sir George. He was sorely tempted to put the
muzzle of a pistol to the other's head and risk all. But he fancied that
he knew his man, and that in this way only could he be effectually
cowed; and he restrained himself.

'She should be here--that is all I know. She should have been here,' Mr.
Dunborough continued sulkily, 'at eight.'

'Why here?'

'The fools would not take her through Chippenham without me. Now you
know.'

'It is ten, now.'

'Well, curse you,' the younger man answered, flaring up again, 'could I
help it if my horse fell? Do you think I should be sitting here to be
rough-ridden by you if it were not for this?' He raised his right arm,
or rather his shoulder, with a stiff movement; they saw that the arm was
bound to his side. 'But for that she would be in Bristol by now,' he
continued disdainfully, 'and you might whistle for her. But, Lord, here
is a pother about a college-wench!'

'College-wench, sir?' the lawyer cried scarcely controlling his
indignation. 'She is Sir George Soane's cousin. I'd have you know that!'

'And my promised wife,' Sir George said, with grim-ness.

Dunborough cried out in his astonishment. 'It is a lie!' he said.

'As you please,' Sir George answered.

At that, a chill such as he had never known gripped Mr. Dunborough's
heart. He had thought himself in an unpleasant fix before; and that to
escape scot free he must eat humble pie with a bad grace. But on this a
secret terror, such as sometimes takes possession of a bold man who
finds himself helpless and in peril seized on him. Given arms and the
chance to use them, he would have led the forlornest of hopes, charged a
battery, or fired a magazine. But the species of danger in which he now
found himself--with a gallows and a silk rope in prospect, his fate to
be determined by the very scoundrels he had hired--shook even his
obstinacy. He looked about him; Sir George's servant had come up and was
waiting a little apart.

Mr. Dunborough found his lips dry, his throat husky. 'What do you want?'
he muttered, his voice changed. 'I have told you all I know. Likely
enough they have taken her back to get themselves out of the scrape.'

'They have not,' said the lawyer. 'We have come that way, and must have
met them.'

'They may be in Chippenham?'

'They are not. We have inquired.'

'Then they must have taken this road. Curse you, don't you see that I
cannot get out of my saddle to look?' he continued ferociously.

'They have gone this way. Have you any devil's shop--any house of call
down the road?' Sir George asked, signing to the servant to draw nearer.

'Not I.'

'Then we must track them. If they dared not face Chippenham, they will
not venture through Devizes. It is possible that they are making for
Bristol by cross-roads. There is a bridge over the Avon near Laycock
Abbey, somewhere on our right, and a road that way through
Pewsey Forest.'

'That will be it,' cried Mr. Dunborough, slapping his thigh. 'That is
their game, depend upon it.'

Sir George did not answer him, but nodded to the servant. 'Go on with
the light,' he said. 'Try every turning for wheels, but lose no time.
This gentleman will accompany us, but I will wait on him.'

The man obeyed quickly, the lawyer going with him. The other two
brought up the rear, and in that order they started, riding in silence.
For a mile or more the servant held the road at a steady trot; then
signing to those behind him to halt, he pulled up at the mouth of a
by-road leading westwards from the highway. He moved the light once or
twice across the ground, and cried that the wheels had gone that way;
then got briskly to his saddle and swung along the lane at a trot, the
others following in single file, Sir George last.

So far they had maintained a fair pace. But the party had not proceeded
a quarter of a mile along the lane before the trot became a walk. Clouds
had come over the face of the moon; the night had grown dark. The riders
were no longer on the open downs, but in a narrow by-road, running
across wastes and through thick coppices, the ground sloping sharply to
the Avon. In one place the track was so closely shadowed by trees as to
be as dark as a pit. In another it ran, unfenced, across a heath studded
with water-pools, whence the startled moor-fowl squattered up unseen.
Everywhere they stumbled: once a horse fell. Over such ground,
founderous and scored knee-deep with ruts, it was plain that no wheeled
carriage could move at speed; and the pursuers had this to cheer them.
But the darkness of the night, the dreary glimpses of wood and water,
which met the eye when the moon for a moment emerged, the solitude of
this forest tract, the muffled tread of the horses' feet, the very
moaning of the wind among the trees, suggested ideas and misgivings
which Sir George strove in vain to suppress. Why had the scoundrels gone
this way? Were they really bound for Bristol? Or for some den of
villainy, some thieves' house in the old forest?

At times these fears stung him out of all patience, and he cried to the
man with the light to go faster, faster! Again, the whole seemed
unreal, and the shadowy woods and gleaming water-pools, the stumbling
horses, the fear, the danger, grew to be the creatures of a disordered
fancy. It was an immense joy to him when, at the end of an hour, the
lawyer cried, 'The road! the road!' and one by one the riders emerged
with grunts of relief on a sound causeway. To make sure that the pursued
had nowhere evaded them, the tracks of the chaise-wheels were sought and
found, and forward the four went again. Presently they plunged through a
brook, and this passed, were on Laycock bridge before they knew it, and
across the Avon, and mounting the slope on the other side by
Laycock Abbey.

There were houses abutting on the road here, black overhanging masses
against a grey sky, and the riders looked, wavered, and drew rein.
Before any spoke, however, an unseen shutter creaked open, and a voice
from the darkness cried, 'Hallo!'

Sir George found speech to answer. 'Yes,' he said, 'what is it?' The
lawyer was out of breath, and clinging to the mane in sheer weariness.

'Be you after a chaise driving to the devil?'

'Yes, yes,' Sir George answered eagerly. 'Has it passed, my man?'

'Ay, sure, Corsham way, for Bath most like, I knew 'twould be followed.
Is't a murder, gentlemen?'

'Yes,' Sir George cried hurriedly, 'and worse! How far ahead are they?'

'About half an hour, no more, and whipping and spurring as if the old
one was after them. My old woman's sick, and the apothecary from--'

'Is it straight on?'

'Ay, to be sure, straight on--and the apothecary from Corsham, as I was
saying, he said, said he, as soon as he saw her--'

But his listeners were away again; the old man's words were lost in the
scramble and clatter of the horses' shoes as they sprang forward. In a
moment the stillness and the dark shapes of the houses were exchanged
for the open country, the rush of wind in the riders' faces, and the
pounding of hoofs on the hard road. For a brief while the sky cleared
and the moon shone out, and they rode as easily as in the day. At the
pace at which they were moving Sir George calculated that they must come
up with the fugitives in an hour or less; but the reckoning was no
sooner made than the horses, jaded by the heavy ground through which
they had struggled, began to flag and droop their heads; the pace grew
less and less; and though Sir George whipped and spurred, Corsham Corner
was reached, and Pickwick Village on the Bath road, and still they saw
no chaise ahead.

It was past midnight, and it seemed to some that they had been riding an
eternity; yet even these roused at sight of the great western highway.
The night coaches had long gone eastwards, and the road, so busy by day,
stretched before them dim, shadowy, and empty, as solitary in the
darkness as the remotest lane. But the knowledge that Bath lay at the
end of it--and no more than nine miles away--and that there they could
procure aid, fresh horses and willing helpers, put new life even into
the most weary. Even Mr. Fishwick, now groaning with fatigue and now
crying 'Oh dear! oh dear!' as he bumped, in a way that at another time
must have drawn laughter from a stone, took heart of grace; while Sir
George settled down to a dogged jog that had something ferocious in its
determination. If he could not trot, he would amble; if he could not
amble, he would walk; if his horse could not walk, he would go on his
feet. He still kept eye and ear bent forward, but in effect he had given
up hope of overtaking the quarry before it reached Bath; and he was
taken by surprise when the servant, who rode first and had eased his
horse to a walk at the foot of Haslebury Hill, drew rein and cried to
the others to listen.

For a moment the heavy breathing of the four horses covered all other
sounds. Then in the darkness and the distance, on the summit of the rise
before them, a wheel creaked as it grated over a stone. A few seconds
and the sound was repeated; then all was silent. The chaise had passed
over the crest and was descending the other side.

Oblivious of everything except that Julia was within his reach,
forgetful even of Dunborough by whose side he had ridden all night--in
silence but with many a look askance--Sir George drove his horse
forward, scrambled and trotted desperately up the hill, and, gaining the
summit a score of yards in front of his companions, crossed the brow and
drew rein to listen. He had not been mistaken. He could hear the wheels
creaking, and the wheelers stumbling and slipping in the darkness below
him; and with a cry he launched his horse down the descent.

Whether the people with the chaise heard the cry or not, they appeared
to take the alarm at that moment. He heard a whip crack, the carriage
bound forward, the horses break into a reckless canter. But if they
recked little he recked less; already he was plunging down the hill
after them, his beast almost pitching on its head with every stride. The
huntsman knows, however, that many stumbles go to a fall. The bottom was
gained in safety by both, and across the flat they went, the chaise
bounding and rattling behind the scared horses. Now Sir George had a
glimpse of the black mass through the gloom, now it seemed to be gaining
on him, now it was gone, and now again he drew up to it and the dim
outline bulked bigger and plainer, and bigger and plainer, until he was
close upon it, and the cracking whips and the shouts of the postboys
rose above the din of hoofs and wheels. The carriage was swaying
perilously, but Sir George saw that the ground was rising, and that up
the hill he must win; and, taking his horse by the head, he lifted it on
by sheer strength until his stirrup was abreast of the hind wheels. A
moment, and he made out the bobbing figure of the leading postboy, and,
drawing his pistol, cried to him to stop.

The answer was a blinding flash of light and a shot. Sir George's horse
swerved to the right, and plunging headlong into the ditch, flung its
rider six paces over its head.

The servant and Mr. Dunborough were no more than forty yards behind him
when he fell; in five seconds the man had sprung from his saddle, let
his horse go, and was at his master's side. There were trees there, and
the darkness in the shadow, where Sir George lay across the roots of one
of them, was intense. The man could not see his face, nor how he lay,
nor if he was injured; and calling and getting no answer, he took fright
and cried to Mr. Dunborough to get help.

But Mr. Dunborough had ridden straight on without pausing or drawing
rein, and the man, finding himself deserted, wrung his hands in terror.
He had only Mr. Fishwick to look to for help, and he was some way
behind. Trembling, the servant knelt and groped for his master's face;
to his joy, before he had found it, Sir George gasped, moved, and sat
up; and, muttering an incoherent word or two, in a minute had recovered
himself sufficiently to rise with help. He had fallen clear of the horse
on the edge of the ditch, and the shock had taken his breath; otherwise
he was rather shaken than hurt.

As soon as his wits and wind came back to him, 'Why--why have you not
followed?' he gasped.

''Twill be all right, sir. All right, sir,' the servant answered,
thinking only of him.

'But after them, man, after them. Where is Fishwick?'

'Coming, sir, he is coming,' the man answered, to soothe him; and
remained where he was. Sir George was so shaken that he could not yet
stand alone, and the servant did not know what to think. 'Are you sure
you are not hurt, sir?' he continued anxiously.

'No, no! And Mr. Dunborough? Is he behind?'

'He rode on after them, sir.'

'Rode on after them?'

'Yes, sir, he did not stop.'

'He has gone on--after them?' Sir George cried.

'But--' and with that it flashed on him, and on the servant, and on Mr.
Fishwick, who had just jogged up and dismounted, what had happened. The
carriage and Julia--Julia still in the hands of her captors--were gone.
And with them was gone Mr. Dunborough! Gone far out of hearing; for as
the three stood together in the blackness of the trees, unable to see
one another's faces, the night was silent round them. The rattle of
wheels, the hoof-beats of horses had died away in the distance.



CHAPTER XX

THE EMPTY POST-CHAISE

It was one of those positions which try a man to the uttermost; and it
was to Sir George's credit that, duped and defeated, astonishingly
tricked in the moment of success, and physically shaken by his fall, he
neither broke into execrations nor shod unmanly tears. He groaned, it is
true, and his arm pressed more heavily on the servant's shoulder, as he
listened and listened in vain for sign or so and of the runaways. But he
still commanded himself, and in face of how great a misfortune! A more
futile, a more wretched end to an expedition it was impossible to
conceive. The villains had out-paced, out-fought, and out-manoeuvred
him; and even now were rolling merrily on to Bath, while he, who a few
minutes before had held the game in his hands, lay belated here without
horses and without hope, in a wretched plight, his every moment
embittered by the thought of his mistress's fate.

In such crises--to give the devil his due--the lessons of the
gaming-table, dearly bought as they are, stand a man in stead. Sir
George's fancy pictured Julia a prisoner, trembling and dishevelled,
perhaps gagged and bound by the coarse hands of the brutes who had her
in their power; and the picture was one to drive a helpless man mad. Had
he dwelt on it long and done nothing it must have crazed him. But in his
life he had lost and won great sums at a coup, and learned to do the
one and the other with the same smile--it was the point of pride, the
form of his time and class. While Mr. Fishwick, therefore, wrung his
hands and lamented, and the servant swore, Sir George's heart bled
indeed, but it was silently and inwardly; and meanwhile he thought,
calculated the odds, and the distance to Bath and the distance to
Bristol, noted the time; and finally, and with sudden energy, called on
the men to be moving. 'We must get to Bath,' he said. 'We will be
upsides with the villains yet. But we must get to Bath. What horses
have we?'

Mr. Fishwick, who up to this point had played his part like a man,
wailed that his horse was dead lame and could not stir a step. The
lawyer was sore, stiff, and beyond belief weary; and this last mishap,
this terrible buffet from the hand of Fortune, left him cowed and
spiritless.

'Horses or no horses, we must get to Bath,' Sir George answered
feverishly.

On this the servant made an attempt to drag Sir George's mount from the
ditch, but the poor beast would not budge, and in the darkness it was
impossible to discover whether it was wounded or not. Mr. Fishwick's was
dead lame; the man's had wandered away. It proved that there was nothing
for it but to walk. Dejectedly, the three took the road and trudged
wearily through the darkness. They would reach Bathford village, the man
believed, in a mile and a half.

That settled, not a word was said, for who could give any comfort? Now
and then, as they plodded up the hill beyond Kingsdown, the servant
uttered a low curse and Sir George groaned, while Mr. Fishwick sighed in
sheer exhaustion. It was a strange and dreary position for men whose
ordinary lives ran through the lighted places of the world. The wind
swept sadly over the dark fields. The mud clung to the squelching,
dragging boots; now Mr. Fishwick was within an ace of the ditch on one
side, now on the other, and now he brought up heavily against one of his
companions. At length the servant gave him an arm, and thus linked
together they reached the crest of the hill, and after taking a moment
to breathe, began the descent.

They were within two or three hundred paces of Bathford and the bridge
over the Avon when the servant cried out that some one was awake in the
village, for he saw a light. A little nearer and all saw the light,
which grew larger as they approached but was sometimes obscured.
Finally, when they were within a hundred yards of it, they discovered
that it proceeded not from a window but from a lanthorn set down in the
village street, and surrounded by five or six persons whose movements to
and fro caused the temporary eclipses they noticed. What the men were
doing was not at once clear; but in the background rose the dark mass of
a post-chaise, and seeing that--and one other thing--Sir George uttered
a low exclamation and felt for his hilt.

The other thing was Mr. Dunborough, who, seated at his ease on the step
of the post-chaise, appeared to be telling a story, while he nursed his
injured arm. His audience, who seemed to have been lately roused from
their beds--for they were half-dressed--were so deeply engrossed in what
he was narrating that the approach of our party was unnoticed; and Sir
George was in the middle of the circle, his hand on the speaker's
shoulder, and his point at his breast, before a man could move in
his defence.

'You villain!' Soane cried, all the misery, all the labour, all the
fears of the night turning his blood to fire, 'you shall pay me now! Let
a man stir, and I will spit you like the dog you are! Where is she?
Where is she? For, by Heaven, if you do not give her up, I will kill you
with my own hand!'

Mr. Dunborough, his eyes on the other's face, laughed.

That laugh startled Sir George more than the fiercest movement, the
wildest oath. His point wavered and dropped. 'My God!' he cried, staring
at Dunborough. 'What is it? What do you mean?'

'That is better,' Mr. Dunborough said, nodding complacently but not
moving a finger. 'Keep to that and we shall deal.'

'What is it, man? What does it mean?' Sir George repeated. He was all of
a tremble and could scarcely stand.

'Better and better,' said Mr. Dunborough, nodding his approval. 'Keep to
that, and your mouth shut, and you shall know all that I know. It is
precious little at best. I spurred and they spurred, I spurred and they
spurred--there you have it. When I got up and shouted to them to stop, I
suppose they took me for you and thought I should stick to them and take
them in Bath. So they put on the pace a bit, and drew ahead as they came
to the houses here, and then began to pull in, recognising me as I
thought. But when I came up, fit and ready to curse their heads off for
giving me so much trouble, the fools had cut the leaders' traces and
were off with them, and left me the old rattle-trap there.'

Sir George's face lightened; he took two steps forward and laid his hand
on the chaise door.

'Just so,' said Mr. Dunborough nodding coolly. 'That was my idea. I did
the same. But, Lord, what their game is I don't know! It was empty.'

'Empty!' Sir George cried.

'As empty as it is now,' Mr. Dunborough answered, shrugging his
shoulders. 'As empty as a bad nut! If you are not satisfied, look for
yourself,' he continued, rising that Sir George might come at the door.

Soane with a sharp movement plucked the door of the chaise open, and
called hoarsely for a light. A big dingy man in a wrap-rascal coat,
which left his brawny neck exposed and betrayed that under the coat he
wore only his shirt, held up a lanthorn. Its light was scarcely needed.
Sir George's hand, not less than, his eyes, told him that the carriage,
a big roomy post-chaise, well-cushioned and padded, was empty.

Aghast and incredulous, Soane turned on Mr. Dunborough. 'You know
better,' he said furiously. 'She was here, and you sent her on
with them!'

Mr. Dunborough pointed to the man in the wrap-rascal. 'That man was up
as soon as I was,' he said. 'Ask him if you don't believe me. He opened
the chaise door.'

Sir George turned to the man, who, removing the shining leather cap that
marked him for a smith, slowly scratched his head. The other men pressed
up behind him to hear, the group growing larger every moment as one and
another, awakened by the light and hubbub, came out of his house and
joined it. Even women were beginning to appear on the outskirts of the
crowd, their heads muffled in hoods and mobs.

'The carriage was empty, sure enough, your honour,' the smith said;
'there is no manner of doubt about that. I heard the wheels coming, and
looked out and saw it stop and the men go off. There was no woman
with them.'

'How many were they?' Soane asked sharply. The man seemed honest.

'Well, there were two went off with the horses,' the smith answered,
'and two again slipped off on foot by the lane 'tween the houses there.
I saw no more, your honour, and there were no more.'

'Are you sure,' Sir George asked eagerly, 'that no one of the four was a
woman?'

The smith grinned. 'How am I to know?' he answered with a chuckle.
'That's none of my business. All I can say is, they were all dressed
man fashion. And they all went willing, for they went one by one, as
you may say.'

'Two on foot?'

'By the lane there. I never said no otherwise. Seemingly they were the
two on the carriage.'

'And you saw no lady?' Sir George persisted, still incredulous.

'There was no lady,' the man answered simply. 'I came out, and the
gentleman there was swearing and trying the door. I forced it with my
chisel, and you may see the mark on the break of the lock now.'

'Then we have been tricked,' Sir George cried furiously. 'We have
followed the wrong carriage.'

'Not you, sir,' the smith answered. 'Twas fitted up for the job, or I
should not have had to force the door. If 'twere not got ready for a job
of this kind, why a half-inch shutter inside the canvas blinds, and the
bolt outside, 'swell as a lock? Mark that door! D'you ever see the like
of that on an honest carriage? Why, 'tis naught but a prison!'

He held up the light inside the carriage, and Sir George, the crowd
pressing forward to look over his shoulder, saw that it was as the man
said. Sir George saw something more--and pounced on it greedily. At the
foot of the doorway, between the floor of the carriage and the straw mat
that covered it, the corner of a black silk kerchief showed. How it came
to be in that position, whether it had been kicked thither by accident
or thrust under the mat on purpose, it was impossible to say. But there
it was, and as Sir George held it up to the lanthorn--jealously
interposing himself between it and the curious eyes of the crowd--he
felt something hard inside the folds and saw that the corners were
knotted. He uttered an exclamation.

'More room, good people, more room!' he cried.

'Your honour ha' got something?' said the smith; and then to the crowd,
'Here, you--keep back, will you?' he continued, 'and give the gentleman
room to breathe. Or will you ha' the constable fetched?'

'I be here!' cried a weakly voice from the skirts of the crowd.

'Ay, so be Easter,' the smith retorted gruffly, as a puny atomy of a man
with a stick and lanthorn was pushed with difficulty to the front. 'But
so being you are here, supposing you put Joe Hincks a foot or two back,
and let the gentleman have elbow-room.'

There was a laugh at this, for Joe Hincks was a giant a little taller
than the smith. None the less, the hint had the desired effect. The
crowd fell back a little. Meanwhile, Sir George, the general attention
diverted from him, had untied the knot. When the smith turned to him
again, it was to find him staring with a blank face at a plain black
snuff-box, which was all he had found in the kerchief.

'Sakes!' cried the smith, 'whose is that?'

'I don't know,' Sir George answered grimly, and shot a glance of
suspicion at Mr. Dunborough, who was leaning against the fore-wheel.

But that gentleman shrugged his shoulders. 'You need not look at me,' he
said. 'It is not my box; I have mine here.'

'Whose is it?'

Mr. Dunborough raised his eyebrows and did not answer.

'Do you know?' Sir George persisted fiercely.

'No, I don't. I know no more about it than you do.'

'Maybe the lady took snuff?' the smith said cautiously.

Many ladies did, but not this one; and Sir George sniffed his contempt.
He turned the box over and over in his hand. It was a plain, black box,
of smooth enamel, about two inches long.

'I believe I have seen one like it,' said Mr. Dunborough, yawning. 'But
I'm hanged if I can tell where.'

'Has your honour looked inside?' the smith asked. 'Maybe there is a note
in it.'

Sir George cut him short with an exclamation, and held the box up to the
light. 'There is something scratched on it,' he said.

There was. When he held the box close to the lanthorn, words rudely
scratched on the enamel, as if with the point of a pin, became visible;
visible, but not immediately legible, so scratchy were the letters and
imperfectly formed the strokes. It was not until the fourth or fifth
time of reading that Sir George made out the following scrawl:

'Take to Fishwick, Castle, Marlboro'. Help! Julia.'

Sir George swore. The box, with its pitiful, scarce articulate cry,
brought the girl's helpless position, her distress, her terror, more
clearly to his mind than all that had gone before. Nor to his mind only,
but to his heart; he scarcely asked himself why the appeal was made to
another, or whence came this box--which was plainly a man's, and still
had snuff in it--or even whither she had been so completely spirited
away that there remained of her no more than this, and the black
kerchief, and about the carriage a fragrance of her--perceptible only by
a lover's senses. A whirl of pity and rage--pity for her, rage against
her captors--swept such questions from his mind. He was shaken by gusty
impulses, now to strike Mr. Dunborough across his smirking face, now to
give some frenzied order, now to do some foolish act that must expose
him to disgrace. He had much ado not to break into hysterical weeping,
or into a torrent of frantic oaths. The exertions of the night,
following on a day spent in the saddle, the tortures of fear and
suspense, this last disappointment, the shock of his fall--had all told
on him; and it was well that at this crisis Mr. Fishwick was at
his elbow.

For the lawyer saw his face and read it aright, and interposing
suggested an adjournment to the inn; adding that while they talked the
matter over and refreshed themselves, a messenger could go to Bath and
bring back new horses; in that way they might still be in Bristol by
eight in the morning.

'Bristol!' Sir George muttered, passing his hand across his brow.
'Bristol! But--she is not with them. We don't know where she is.'

Mr. Fishwick was himself sick with fatigue, but he knew what to do and
did it. He passed his arm through Sir George's, and signed to the smith
to lead the way to the inn. The man did so, the crowd made way for them,
Mr. Dunborough and the servant followed; in less than a minute the three
gentlemen stood together in the sanded tap-room at the tavern. The
landlord hurried in and hung a lamp on a hook in the whitewashed wall;
its glare fell strongly on their features, and for the first time that
night showed the three to one another.

Even in that poor place, the light had seldom fallen on persons in a
more pitiable plight. Of the three, Sir George alone stood erect, his
glittering eyes and twitching nostrils belying the deadly pallor of his
face. He was splashed with mud from head to foot, his coat was plastered
where he had fallen, his cravat was torn and open at the throat. He
still held his naked sword in his hand; apparently he had forgotten that
he held it. Mr. Dunborough was in scarce better condition. White and
shaken, his hand bound to his side, he had dropped at once into a chair,
and sat, his free hand plunged into his breeches pocket, his head sunk
on his breast. Mr. Fishwick, a pale image of himself, his knees
trembling with exhaustion, leaned against the wall. The adventures of
the night had let none of the travellers escape.

The landlord and his wife could be heard in the kitchen drawing ale and
clattering plates, while the voices of the constable and his gossips,
drawling their wonder and surmises, filled the passage. Sir George was
the first to speak.

'Bristol!' he said dully. 'Why Bristol?'

'Because the villains who have escaped us here,' the lawyer answered,
'we shall find there. And they will know what has become of her.'

'But shall we find them?'

'Mr. Dunborough will find them.'

'Ha!' said Sir George, with a sombre glance. 'So he will.'

Mr. Dunborough spoke with sudden fury. 'I wish to Heaven,' he said,
'that I had never heard the girl's name. How do I know where she is!'

'You will have to know,' Sir George muttered between his teeth.

'Fine talk!' Mr. Dunborough retorted, with a faint attempt at a sneer,
'when you know as well as I do that I have no more idea where the girl
is or what has become of her than that snuff-box. And d--n me!' he
continued sharply, his eyes on the box, which Sir George still held in
his hand, 'whose is the snuff-box, and how did she get it? That is what
I want to know? And why did she leave it in the carriage? If we had
found it dropped in the road now, and that kerchief round it, I could
understand that! But in the carriage. Pho! I believe I am not the only
one in this!'



CHAPTER XXI

IN THE CARRIAGE

The man whose work had taken him that evening to the summit of the
Druid's Mound, and whose tale roused the Castle Inn ten minutes later,
had seen aright. But he had not seen all. Had he waited another minute,
he would have marked a fresh actor appear at Manton Corner, would have
witnessed the _dénouement_ of the scene, and had that to tell when he
descended, which must have allayed in a degree, not only the general
alarm, but Sir George's private apprehensions.

It is when the mind is braced to meet a known emergency that it falls
the easiest prey to the unexpected. Julia was no coward. But as she
loitered along the lane beyond Préshute churchyard in the gentle hour
before sunset, her whole being was set on the coming of the lover for
whom she waited. As she thought over the avowal she would make to him,
and conned the words she would speak to him, the girl's cheeks, though
she believed herself alone, burned with happy blushes; her breath came
more quickly, her body swayed involuntarily in the direction whence he,
who had chosen and honoured her, would come! The soft glow which
overspread the heights, as the sun went down and left the vale to peace
and rest, was not more real or more pure than the happiness that
thrilled her. Her heart overflowed in a tender ecstasy, as she thanked
God, and her lover. In the peace that lay around her, she who had
flouted Sir George, not once or twice, who had mocked and tormented
him, in fancy kissed his feet.

In such a mood as this she had neither eyes nor ears for aught but the
coming of her lover. When she reached the corner, jealous that none but
he should see the happy shining of her eyes--nor he until he stood
beside her--she turned to walk back; in a luxury of anticipation. Her
lot was wonderful to her. She sang in her heart that she was blessed
among women.

And then, without the least warning, the grating of a stone even, or the
sound of a footstep, a violent grip encircled her waist from behind;
something thick, rough, suffocating, fell on her head and eyes,
enveloped and blinded her. The shock of the surprise was so great that
for a moment breath and even the instinct of resistance failed her; and
she had been forced several steps, in what direction she had no idea,
before sense and horror awoke together, and wresting herself, by the
supreme effort of an active girl, from the grasp that confined her, she
freed her mouth sufficiently to scream.

Twice and shrilly; then, before she could entirely rid her head of the
folds that blinded her, a remorseless grip closed on her neck, and
another round her waist; and choking and terrified, vainly struggling
and fighting, she felt herself pushed along. Coarse voices, imprecating
vengeance on her if she screamed, again, sounded in her ears: and then
for a moment her course was stayed. She fancied that she heard a shout,
the rush and scramble of feet in the road, new curses and imprecations.
The grasp on her waist relaxed, and seizing her opportunity she strove
with the strength of despair to wrest herself from the hands that still
held the covering over her head. Instead, she felt herself lifted up,
something struck her sharply on the knee; the next moment she fell
violently and all huddled up on--it might have been the ground, for all
she knew; it really was the seat of a carriage.

The shock was no slight one, but she struggled to her feet, and heard,
as she tore the covering from her head, a report as of a pistol shot.
The next moment she lost her footing, and fell back. She alighted on the
place from which she had raised herself, and was not hurt. But the jolt,
which had jerked her from her feet, and the subsequent motion, disclosed
the truth. Before she had entirely released her head from the folds of
the cloak, she knew that she was in a carriage, whirled along behind
swift horses; and that the peril was real, and not of the moment,
momentary!

This was horror enough. But it was not all. One wild look round, and her
eyes began to penetrate the gloom of the closely shut carriage--and she
shrank into her corner. She checked the rising sob that preluded a storm
of rage and tears, stayed the frenzied impulse to shriek, to beat on the
doors, to do anything that might scare the villains; she sat frozen,
staring, motionless. For on the seat beside her, almost touching her,
was a man.

In the dim light it was not easy to make out more than his figure. He
sat huddled up in his corner, his wig awry, one hand to his face; gazing
at her, she fancied, between his fingers, enjoying the play of her rage,
her agitation, her disorder. He did not move or speak when she
discovered him, but in the circumstances that he was a man was enough.
The violence with which she had been treated, the audacity of such an
outrage in daylight and on the highway, the closed and darkened
carriage, the speed at which they travelled, all were grounds for alarm
as serious as a woman could feel; and Julia, though she was a brave
woman, felt a sudden horror come over her. None the less was her mind
made up; if the man moved nearer to her, if he stretched out so much as
his hand towards her, she would tear his face with her fingers. She sat
with them on her lap and felt them as steel to do her bidding.

The carriage rumbled on, and still he did not move. From her corner she
watched him, her eyes glittering with excitement, her breath coming
quick and short. Would he never move? In truth not three minutes had
elapsed since she discovered him beside her; but it seemed to her that
she had sat there an age watching him; ay, three ages. The light was dim
and untrustworthy, stealing in through a crack here and a crevice there.
The carriage swayed and shook with the speed at which it travelled. More
than once she thought that the man's hand, which rested on the seat
beside him, a fat white hand, hateful, dubious, was moving, moving
slowly and stealthily along the cushion towards her; and she waited
shuddering, a scream on her lips. The same terror which, a while before,
had frozen the cry in her throat, now tried her in another way. She
longed to speak, to shriek, to stand up, to break in one way or any way
the hideous silence, the spell that bound her. Every moment the strain
on her nerves grew tenser, the fear lest she should swoon, more
immediate, more appalling; and still the man sat in his corner,
motionless, peeping at her through his fingers, leering and biding
his time.

It was horrible, and it seemed endless. If she had had a weapon it would
have been better. But she had only her bare hands and her despair; and
she might swoon. At last the carriage swerved sharply to one side, and
jolted over a stone; and the man lurched nearer to her, and--and moaned!

Julia drew a deep breath and leaned forward, scarcely able to believe
her ears. But the man moaned again; and then, as if the shaking had
roused him from a state of stupor, sat up slowly in his corner; she saw,
peering more closely at him, that he had been strangely huddled before.
At last he lowered his hand from his face and disclosed his features. It
was--her astonishment was immense--it was Mr. Thomasson!

In her surprise Julia uttered a cry. The tutor opened his eyes and
looked languidly at her; muttered something incoherent about his head,
and shut his eyes again, letting his chin fall on his breast.

But the girl was in a mood only one degree removed from frenzy. She
leaned forward and shook his arm. 'Mr. Thomasson!' she cried. 'Mr.
Thomasson!'

Apparently the name and the touch were more effectual. He opened his
eyes and sat up with a start of recognition, feigned or real. On his
temple just under the edge of his wig, which was awry, was a slight cut.
He felt it gingerly with his fingers, glanced at them, and finding them
stained with blood, shuddered. 'I am afraid--I am hurt,' he muttered.

His languor and her excitement went ill together. She doubted he was
pretending, and had a hundred ill-defined, half-formed suspicions of
him. Was it possible that he--he had dared to contrive this? Or was he
employed by others--by another? 'Who hurt you?' she cried sharply. At
least she was not afraid of him.

He pointed in the direction of the horses. 'They did,' he said stupidly.
'I saw it from the lane and ran to help you. The man I seized struck
me--here. Then, I suppose they feared I should raise the country on
them. And they forced me in--I don't well remember how.'

'And that is all you know?' she cried imperiously.

His look convinced her. 'Then help me now!' she replied, rising
impetuously to her feet, and steadying herself by setting one hand
against the back of the carriage. 'Shout! Scream! Threaten them! Don't
you see that every yard we are carried puts us farther in their power?
Shout!--do you hear?'

'They will murder us!' he protested faintly. His cheeks were pale; his
face wore a scared look, and he trembled visibly.

'Let them!' she answered passionately, beating on the nearest door.
'Better that than be in their hands. Help! Help! Help here!'

Her shrieks rose above the rumble of the wheels and the steady trampling
of the horses; she added to the noise by kicking and beating on the door
with the fury of a mad woman. Mr. Thomasson had had enough of violence
for that day; and shrank from anything that might bring on him the fresh
wrath of his captors. But a moment's reflection showed him that if he
allowed himself to be carried on he would, sooner or later, find himself
face to face with Mr. Dunborough; and, in any case, that it was now his
interest to stand by his companion; and presently he too fell to
shouting and drumming on the panels. There was a quaver, indeed, in his
'Help! Help!' that a little betrayed the man; but in the determined
clamour which she raised and continued to maintain, it passed
well enough.

'If we meet any one--they must hear us!' she gasped, presently, pausing
a moment to take breath. 'Which way are we going?'

'Towards Calne, I think,' he answered, continuing to drum on the door in
the intervals of speech. 'In the street we must be heard.'

'Help! Help!' she screamed, still more recklessly. She was growing
hoarse, and the prospect terrified her. 'Do you hear? Stop, villains!
Help! Help! Help!'

'Murder!' Mr. Thomasson shouted, seconding her with voice and fist.
'Murder! Murder!'

But in the last word, despite his valiant determination to throw in his
lot with her, was a sudden, most audible, quaver. The carriage was
beginning to draw up; and that which he had imperiously demanded a
moment before, he now as urgently dreaded. Not so Julia; her natural
courage had returned, and the moment the vehicle came to a standstill
and the door was opened, she flung herself towards it. The next instant
she was pushed forcibly back by the muzzle of a huge horse-pistol which
a man outside clapped to her breast; while the glare of the bull's-eye
lanthorn which he thrust in her face blinded her.

The man uttered the most horrid imprecations. 'You noisy slut,' he
growled, shoving his face, hideous in its crape mask, into the coach,
and speaking in a voice husky with liquor, 'will you stop your whining?
Or must I blow you to pieces with my Toby? For you, you white-livered
sneak,' he continued, addressing the tutor, 'give me any more of your
piping and I'll cut out your tongue! Who is hurting you, I'd like to
know! As for you, my fine lady, have a care of your skin, for if I pull
you out into the road it will be the worse for you! D'ye hear me? he
continued, with a volley of savage oaths. 'A little more of your music,
and I'll have you out and strip the clothes off your back! You don't
hang me for nothing. D--n you, we are three miles from anywhere, and I
have a mind to gag you, whether or no! And I will too, if you so much as
open your squeaker again!'

'Let me go,' she cried faintly. 'Let me go.'

'Oh, you will be let go fast enough--the other side of the water,' he
answered, with a villainous laugh. 'I'm bail to that. In the meantime
keep a still tongue, or it will be the worse for you! Once out of
Bristol, and you may pipe as you like!'

The girl fell back in her corner with a low wail of despair. The man
seeing the effect he had wrought, laughed his triumph, and in sheer
brutality passed his light once or twice across her face. Then he closed
the door with a crash and mounted; the carriage bounded forward again,
and in a trice was travelling onward as rapidly as before.

Night had set in, and darkness, a darkness that could almost be felt,
reigned in the interior of the chaise. Neither of the travellers could
now see the other, though they sat within arm's length. The tutor, as
soon as they were well started, and his nerves, shaken by the man's
threats, permitted him to think of anything save his own safety, began
to wonder that his companion, who had been so forward before, did not
now speak; to look for her to speak, and to find the darkness and this
silence, which left him to feed on his fears, strangely uncomfortable.
He could almost believe that she was no longer there. At length, unable
to bear it longer, he spoke.

'I suppose you know,' he said--he was growing vexed with the girl who
had brought him into this peril--'who is at the bottom of this?'

She did not answer, or rather she answered only by a sudden burst of
weeping; not the light, facile weeping of a woman crossed or
over-fretted, or frightened; but the convulsive heart-rending sobbing of
utter grief and abandonment.

The tutor heard, and was at first astonished, then alarmed. 'My dear,
good girl, don't cry like that,' he said awkwardly. 'Don't! I--I don't
understand it. You--you frighten me. You--you really should not. I only
asked you if you knew whose work this was.'

'I know! I know only too well!' she cried passionately. 'God help me!
God help all women!'

Mr. Thomasson wondered whether she referred to the future and her own
fate. In that case, her complete surrender to despair seemed strange,
seemed even inexplicable, in one who a few minutes before had shown a
spirit above a woman's. Or did she know something that he did not know?
Something that caused this sudden collapse. The thought increased his
uneasiness; the coward dreads everything, and his nerves were shaken.
'Pish! pish!' he said pettishly. 'You should not give way like that! You
should not, you must not give way!'

'And why not?' she cried, arresting her sobs. There was a ring of
expectation in her voice, a hoping against hope. He fancied that she had
lowered her hands and was peering at him.

'Because we--we may yet contrive something' he answered lamely. 'We--we
may be rescued. Indeed--I am sure we shall be rescued,' he continued,
fighting his fears as well as hers.

'And what if we are?' she cried with a passion that took him aback.
'What if we are? What better am I if we are rescued? Oh, I would have
done anything for him! I would have died for him!' she continued wildly.
'And he has done this for me. I would have given him all, all freely,
for no return if he would have it so; and this is his requital! This is
the way he has gone to get it. Oh, vile! vile!'

Mr. Thomasson started. Metaphorically, he was no longer in the dark. She
fancied that Sir George, Sir George whom she loved, was the contriver of
this villainy. She thought that Sir George--Sir George, her cousin--was
the abductor; that she was being carried off, not for her own sake, but
as an obstacle to be removed from his path. The conception took the
tutor's breath away; he was even staggered for the moment, it agreed as
well with one part of the facts. And when an instant later his own
certain information came to his aid and showed him its unreality, and he
would have blurted out the truth--he hesitated. The words were on the
tip of his tongue, the sentence was arranged, but he hesitated.

Why? Simply because he was Mr. Thomasson, and it was not in his nature
to do the thing that lay before him until he had considered whether it
might not profit him to do something else. In this case the bare
statement that Mr. Dunborough, and not Sir George, was the author of the
outrage, would go for little with her. If he proceeded to his reasons he
might convince her; but he would also fix himself with a fore-knowledge
of the danger--a fore-knowledge which he had not imparted to her, and
which must sensibly detract from the merit of the service he had already
and undoubtedly performed.

This was a risk; and there was a farther consideration. Why give Mr.
Dunborough new ground for complaint by discovering him? True, at Bristol
she would learn the truth. But if she did not reach Bristol? If they
were overtaken midway? In that case the tutor saw possibilities, if he
kept his mouth shut--possibilities of profit at Mr. Dunborough's hands.

In intervals between fits of alarm--when the carriage seemed to be about
to halt--he turned these things over. He could hear the girl weeping in
her corner, quietly, but in a heart-broken manner; and continually,
while he thought and she wept, and an impenetrable curtain of darkness
hid the one from the other, the chaise held on its course up-hill and
down-hill, now bumping and rattling behind flying horses, and now
rumbling and straining up Yatesbury Downs.

At last he broke the silence. 'What makes you think,' he said, 'that it
is Sir George has done this?'

She did not answer or stop weeping for a while. Then, 'He was to meet me
at sunset, at the Corner,' she said. 'Who else knew that I should be
there? Tell me that.'

'But if he is at the bottom of this, where is he?' he hazarded. 'If he
would play the villain with you--'

'He would play the thief,' she cried passionately, 'as he has played the
hypocrite. Oh, it is vile! vile!'

'But--I don't understand,' Mr. Thomasson stammered; he was willing to
hear all he could.

'His fortune, his lands, all he has in the world are mine!' she cried.
'Mine! And he goes this way to recover them! But I could forgive him
that, ah, I could forgive him that, but I cannot forgive him--'

'What?' he said.

'His love!' she cried fiercely. 'That I will never forgive him! Never!'

He knew that she spoke, as she had wept, more freely for the darkness.
He fancied that she was writhing on her seat, that she was tearing her
handkerchief with her hands. 'But--it may not be he,' he said after a
silence broken only by the rumble of wheels and the steady trampling of
the horses.

'It is!' she cried. 'It is!'

'It may not--'

'I say it is!' she repeated in a kind of fury of rage, shame, and
impatience. 'Do you think that I who loved him, I whom he fooled to the
top of my pride, judge him too harshly? I tell you if an angel from
heaven had witnessed against him I would have laughed the tale to scorn.
But I have seen--I have seen with my own eyes. The man who came to the
door and threatened us had lost a joint of the forefinger. Yesterday I
saw that man with _him_; I saw the hand that held the pistol to-day give
_him_ a note yesterday. I saw _him_ read the note, and I saw him point
me out to the man who bore it--that he might know to-day whom he was to
seize! Oh shame! Shame on him!' And she burst into fresh weeping.

At that moment the chaise, which had been proceeding for some time at a
more sober pace, swerved sharply to one side; it appeared to sweep round
a corner, jolted over a rough patch of ground, and came to a stand.



CHAPTER XXII

FACILIS DESCENSUS

Let not those who would judge her harshly forget that Julia, to an
impulsive and passionate nature, added a special and notable
disadvantage. She had been educated in a sphere alien from that in which
she now moved. A girl, brought up as Sir George's cousin and among her
equals, would have known him to be incapable of treachery as black as
this. Such a girl, certified of his love, not only by his words and
looks but by her own self-respect and pride, would have shut her eyes to
the most pregnant facts and the most cogent inferences; and scorned all
her senses, one by one, rather than believe him guilty. She would have
felt, rightly or wrongly, that the thing was impossible; and would have
believed everything in the world, yes, everything, possible or
impossible--yet never that he had lied when he told her that he
loved her.

But Julia had been bred in a lower condition, not far removed from that
of the Pamela to whose good fortune she had humbly likened her own;
among people who regarded a Macaroni or a man of fashion as a wolf ever
seeking to devour. To distrust a gentleman and repel his advances had
been one of the first lessons instilled into her opening mind; nor had
she more than emerged from childhood before she knew that a laced coat
forewent destruction, and held the wearer of it a cozener, who in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred kept no faith with a woman beneath
him, but lived only to break hearts and bring grey hairs to the grave.

Out of this fixed belief she had been jolted by the upheaval that placed
her on a level with Sir George. Persuaded that the convention no longer
applied to herself, she had given the rein to her fancy and her girlish
romance, no less than to her generosity; she had indulged in delicious
visions, and seen them grow real; nor probably in all St. James's was
there a happier woman than Julia when she found herself possessed of
this lover of the prohibited class; who to the charms and attractions,
the nice-ness and refinement, which she had been bred to consider beyond
her reach, added a devotion, the more delightful--since he believed her
to be only what she seemed--as it lay in her power to reward it amply.
Some women would have swooned with joy over such a conquest effected in
such circumstances. What wonder that Julia was deaf to the warnings and
surmises of Mr. Fishwick, whom delay and the magnitude of the stakes
rendered suspicious, as well as to the misgivings of old Mrs. Masterson,
slow to grasp a new order of things? It would have been strange had she
listened to either, when youth, and wealth, and love all beckoned
one way.

But now, now in the horror and darkness of the post-chaise, the lawyer's
warnings and the old woman's misgivings returned on her with crushing
weight; and more and heavier than these, her old belief in the
heartlessness, the perfidy of the man of rank. At the statement that a
man of the class with whom she had commonly mixed could so smile, while
he played the villain, as to deceive not only her eyes but her
heart--she would have laughed. But on the mind that lay behind the
smooth and elegant mask of a _gentleman's_ face she had no lights; or
only the old lights which showed it desperately wicked. Applying these
to the circumstances, what a lurid glare they shed on his behaviour!
How quickly, how suspiciously quickly, had he succumbed to her charms!
How abruptly had his insouciance changed to devotion, his impertinence
to respect! How obtuse, how strangely dull had he been in the matter of
her claims and her identity! Finally, with what a smiling visage had he
lured her to her doom, showed her to his tools, settled to a nicety the
least detail of the crime!

More weighty than any one fact, the thing he had said to her on the
staircase at Oxford came back to her mind. 'If you were a lady,' he had
lisped in smiling insolence, 'I would kiss you and make you my wife.' In
face of those words, she had been rash enough to think that she could
bend him, ignorant that she was more than she seemed, to her purpose.
She had quoted those very words to him when she had had it in her mind
to surrender--the sweetest surrender in the world. And all the time he
had been fooling her to the top of her bent. All the time he had known
who she was and been plotting against her devilishly--appointing hour
and place and--and it was all over.

It was all over. The sunny visions of love and joy were done! It was all
over. When the sharp, fierce pain of the knife had done its worst, the
consciousness of that remained a dead weight on her brain. When the
paroxysm of weeping had worn itself out, yet brought no relief to her
passionate nature, a kind of apathy succeeded. She cared nothing where
she was or what became of her; the worst had happened, the worst been
suffered. To be betrayed, cruelly, heartlessly, without scruple or care
by those we love--is there a sharper pain than this? She had suffered
that, she was suffering it still. What did the rest matter?

Mr. Thomasson might have undeceived her, but the sudden stoppage of the
chaise had left no place in the tutor's mind for aught but terror. At
any moment, now the chaise was at a stand, the door might open and he be
hauled out to meet the fury of his pupil's eye, and feel the smart of
his brutal whip. It needed no more to sharpen Mr. Thomasson's long
ears--his eyes were useless; but for a time crouching in his corner and
scarce daring to breathe, he heard only the confused muttering of
several men talking at a distance. Presently the speakers came nearer,
he caught the click of flint on steel, and a bright gleam of light
entered the chaise through a crack in one of the shutters. The men had
lighted a lamp.

It was only a slender shaft that entered, but it fell athwart the girl's
face and showed him her closed eyes. She lay back in her corner, her
cheeks colourless, an expression of dull, hopeless suffering stamped on
her features. She did not move or open her eyes, and the tutor dared not
speak lest his words should be heard outside. But he looked, having
nothing to check him, and looked; and in spite of his fears and his
preoccupation, the longer he looked the deeper was the impression which
her beauty made on his senses.

He could hear no more of the men's talk than muttered grumblings
plentifully bestrewn with curses; and wonder what was forward and why
they remained inactive grew more and more upon him. At length he rose
and applied his eyes to the crack that admitted the light; but he could
distinguish nothing outside, the lamp, which was close to the window,
blinding him. At times he caught the clink of a bottle, and fancied that
the men were supping; but he knew nothing for certain, and by-and-by the
light was put out. A brief--and agonising--period of silence followed,
during which he thought that he caught the distant tramp of horses; but
he had heard the same sound before, it might be the beating of his
heart, and before he could decide, oaths and exclamations broke the
silence, and there was a sudden bustle. In less than a minute the chaise
lurched forward, a whip cracked, and they took the road again.

The tutor breathed more freely, and, rid of the fear of being overheard,
regained a little of his unctuousness. 'My dear good lady,' he said,
moving a trifle nearer to Julia, and even making a timid plunge for her
hand, 'you must not give way. I protest you must not give way. Depend on
me! Depend on me, and all will be well. I--oh dear, what a bump!
I'--this as he retreated precipitately to his corner--'I fear we are
stopping!'

They were, but only for an instant, that the lamps might be lighted.
Then the chaise rolled on again, but from the way in which it jolted and
bounded, shaking its passengers this way and that, it was evident that
it no longer kept the main road. The moment this became clear to Mr.
Thomasson his courage vanished as suddenly as it had appeared.

'Where are they taking us?' he cried, rising and sitting down again; and
peering first this way and then the other. 'My G--d, we are undone! We
shall be murdered--I know we shall! Oh dear! what a jolt! They are
taking us to some cut-throat place! There again! Didn't you feel it?
Don't you understand, woman? Oh, Lord,' he continued, piteously wringing
his hands, 'why did I mix myself up with this trouble?'

She did not answer, and enraged by her silence and insensibility, the
cowardly tutor could have found it in his heart to strike her.
Fortunately the ray of light which now penetrated the carriage suggested
an idea which he hastened to carry out. He had no paper, and, given
paper, he had no ink; but falling back on what he had, he lugged out his
snuff-box and pen-knife, and holding the box in the ray of light, and
himself as still as the road permitted, he set to work, laboriously and
with set teeth, to scrawl on the bottom of the box the message of which
we know. To address it to Mr. Fishwick and sign it Julia were natural
precautions, since he knew that the girl, and not he, would be the
object of pursuit. When he had finished his task, which was no light
one--the road growing worse and the carriage shaking more and more--he
went to thrust the box under the door, which fitted ill at the bottom.
But stooping to remove the straw, he reflected that probably the road
they were in was a country lane, where the box would be difficult to
find; and in a voice trembling with fear and impatience, he called to
the girl to give him her black kerchief.

She did not ask him why or for what, but complied without opening her
eyes. No words could have described her state more eloquently.

He wrapped the thing loosely in the kerchief--which he calculated would
catch the passing eye more easily than the box--and knotted the ends
together. But when he went to push the package under the door, it proved
too bulky; and, with an exclamation of rage, he untied it, and made it
up anew and more tightly. At last he thought that he had got it right,
and he stooped to feel for the crack; but the carriage, which had been
travelling more and more heavily and slowly, came to a sudden
standstill, and in a panic he sat up, dropping the box and thrusting the
straw over it with his foot.

He had scarcely done this when the door was opened, and the masked man,
who had threatened them before, thrust in his head. 'Come out!' he said
curtly, addressing the tutor, who was the nearer. 'And be sharp
about it!'

But Mr. Thomasson's eyes, peering through the doorway, sought in vain
the least sign of house or village. Beyond the yellow glare cast by the
lamp on the wet road, he saw nothing but darkness, night, and the gloomy
shapes of trees; and he hung back. 'No,' he said, his voice quavering
with fear. 'I--my good man, if you will promise--'

The man swore a frightful oath. 'None of your tongue!' he cried, 'but
out with you unless you want your throat cut. You cursed, whining,
psalm-singing sniveller, you don't know when you are well off'! Out
with you!'

Mr. Thomasson waited for no more, but stumbled out, shaking with fright.

'And you!' the ruffian continued, addressing the girl, 'unless you want
to be thrown out the same way you were thrown in! The sooner I see your
back, my sulky Madam, the better I shall be pleased. No more meddling
with petticoats for me! This comes of working with fine gentlemen,
say I!'

Julia was but half roused. 'Am. I--to get out?' she said dully.

'Ay you are! By G--d, you are a cool one!' the man continued, watching
her in a kind of admiration, as she rose and stepped by him like one in
a dream. 'And a pretty one for all your temper! The master is not here,
but the man is; and if--'

'Stow it, you fool!' cried a voice from the darkness, 'and get aboard!'

'Who said anything else?' the ruffian retorted, but with a look that,
had Julia been more sensible of it, must have chilled her blood. 'Who
said anything else? So there you are, both of you, and none the worse,
I'll take my davy! Lash away, Tim! Make the beggars fly!'

As he uttered the last words he sprang on the wheel, and before the
tutor could believe his good fortune, or feel assured that there was not
some cruel deceit playing on him, the carriage splashed up the mud, and
rattled away. In a trice the lights grew small and were gone, and the
two were left standing side by side in the darkness. On one hand a mass
of trees rose high above them, blotting out the grey sky; on the other
the faint outline of a low wall appeared to divide the lane in which
they stood--the mud rising rapidly about their shoes--from a flat aguish
expanse over which the night hung low.

It was a strange position, but neither of the two felt this to the fall;
Mr. Thomasson in his thankfulness that at any cost he had eluded Mr.
Dunborough's vengeance, Julia because at the moment she cared not what
became of her. Naturally, however, Mr. Thomasson, whose satisfaction
knew no drawback save that of their present condition, and who had to
congratulate himself on a risk safely run, and a good friend gained, was
the first to speak.

'My dear young lady,' he said, in an insinuating tone very different
from that in which he had called for her kerchief, 'I vow I am more
thankful than I can say, that I was able to come to your assistance! I
shudder to think what those ruffians might not have done had you been
alone, and--and unprotected! Now I trust all danger is over. We have
only to find a house in which we can pass the night, and to-morrow we
may laugh at our troubles!'

She turned her head towards him, 'Laugh?' she said, and a sob took her
in the throat.

He felt himself set back; then remembered the delusion under which she
lay, and went to dispel it--pompously. But his evil angel was at his
shoulder; again at the last moment he hesitated. Something in the
despondency of the girl's figure, in the hopelessness of her tone, in
the intensity of the grief that choked her utterance, wrought with the
remembrance of her beauty and her disorder in the coach, to set his
crafty mind working in a new direction. He saw that she was for the time
utterly hopeless; utterly heedless what became of herself. That would
not last; but his cunning told him that with returning sensibility would
come pique, resentment, the desire to be avenged. In such a case one man
was sometimes as good as another. It was impossible to say what she
might not do or be induced to do, if full advantage were taken of a
moment so exceptional. Fifty thousand pounds! And her fresh young
beauty! What an opening it was! The way lay far from clear, the means
were to find; but faint heart never won fair lady, and Mr. Thomasson had
known strange things come to pass.

He was quick to choose his part. 'Come, child,' he said, assuming a kind
of paternal authority. 'At least we must find a roof. We cannot spend
the night here.'

'No,' she said dully, 'I suppose not.'

'So--shall we go this way?'

'As you please,' she answered.

They started, but had not moved far along the miry road before she spoke
again. 'Do you know,' she asked drearily, 'why they set us down?'

He was puzzled himself as to that, but, 'They may have thought that the
pursuit was gaining on them,' he answered, 'and become alarmed.' Which
was in part the truth; though Mr. Dunborough's failure to appear at the
rendezvous had been the main factor in determining the men.

'Pursuit?' she said. 'Who would pursue us?'

'Mr. Fishwick,' he suggested.

'Ah!' she answered bitterly; 'he might. If I had listened to him! If I
had--but it is over now.'

'I wish we could see a light,' Mr. Thomasson said, anxiously looking
into the darkness, 'or a house of any kind. I wonder where we are.' She
did not speak.

'I do not know--even what time it is,' he continued pettishly; and he
shivered. 'Take care!' She had stumbled and nearly fallen. 'Will you be
pleased to take my arm, and we shall be able to proceed more quickly. I
am afraid that your feet are wet.'

Absorbed in her thoughts she did not answer.

'However the ground is rising,' he said. 'By-and-by it will be drier
under foot.'

They were an odd couple to be trudging a strange road, in an unknown
country, at the dark hour of the night. The stars must have twinkled to
see them. Mr. Thomasson began to own the influence of solitude, and
longed to pat the hand she had passed through his arm--it was the sort
of caress that came natural to him; but for the time discretion withheld
him. He had another temptation: to refer to the past, to the old past at
the College, to the part he had taken at the inn, to make some sort of
apology; but again discretion intervened, and he went on in silence.

As he had said, the ground was rising; but the outlook was cheerless
enough, until the moon on a sudden emerged from a bank of cloud and
disclosed the landscape. Mr. Thomasson uttered a cry of relief. Fifty
paces before them the low wall on the right of the lane was broken by a
pillared gateway, whence the dark thread of an avenue trending across
the moonlit flat seemed to point the way to a house.

The tutor pushed the gate open. 'Diana favours you, child,' he said,
with a smirk which was lost on Julia. 'It was well she emerged when she
did, for now in a few minutes we shall be safe under a roof. 'Tis a
gentleman's house too, unless I mistake.'

A more timid or a more suspicious woman might have refused to leave the
road, or to tempt the chances of the dark avenue, in his company. But
Julia, whose thoughts were bitterly employed, complied without thought
or hesitation, perhaps unconsciously. The gate swung to behind them, and
they plodded a hundred yards between the trees arm in arm; then one and
then a second light twinkled out in front. These as they approached were
found to proceed from two windows in the ground floor of a large house.
The travellers had not advanced many paces towards them before the peaks
of three gables rose above them, vandyking the sky and docking the last
sparse branches of the elms.

Mr. Thomasson's exclamation of relief, as he surveyed the building, was
cut short by the harsh rattle of a chain, followed by the roar of a
watch-dog, as it bounded from the kennel; in a second a horrid raving
and baying, as of a score of hounds, awoke the night. The startled tutor
came near to dropping his companion's hand, but fortunately the
threshold, dimly pillared and doubtfully Palladian, was near, and
resisting the impulse to put himself back to back with the girl--for the
protection of his calves rather than her skirts--the reverend gentleman
hurried to occupy it. Once in that coign of refuge, he hammered on the
door with the energy of a frightened man.

When his anxiety permitted him to pause, a voice made itself heard
within, cursing the dogs and roaring for Jarvey. A line of a hunting
song, bawled at the top of a musical voice and ending in a shrill 'View
Halloa!' followed; then 'To them, beauties; to them!' and the crash of
an overturned chair. Again the house echoed with 'Jarvey, Jarvey!' on
top of which the door opened and an elderly man-servant, with his wig
set on askew, his waistcoat unbuttoned, and his mouth twisted into a
tipsy smile, confronted the wanderers.



CHAPTER XXIII

BULLY POMEROY

The man held a candle in a hand that wavered and strewed tallow
broadcast; the light from this for a moment dazzled the visitors. Then
the draught of air extinguished it, and looking over the servant's
shoulder--he was short and squat--Mr. Thomasson's anxious eyes had a
glimpse of a spacious old-fashioned hall, panelled and furnished in oak,
with here a blazon, and there antlers or a stuffed head. At the farther
end of the hall a wide easy staircase rose, to branch at the first
landing into two flights, that returning formed a gallery round the
apartment. Between the door and the foot of the staircase, in the warm
glow of an unseen fire, stood a small heavily-carved oak table, with
Jacobean legs, like stuffed trunk-hose. This was strewn with cards,
liquors, glasses, and a china punch-bowl; but especially with cards,
which lay everywhere, not only on the table, but in heaps and batches
beneath and around it, where the careless hands of the players had
flung them.

Yet, for all these cards, the players were only two. One, a man
something under forty, in a peach coat and black satin breeches, sat on
the edge of the table, his eyes on the door and his chair lying at his
feet. It was his voice that had shouted for Jarvey and that now saluted
the arrivals with a boisterous 'Two to one in guineas, it's a catchpoll!
D'ye take me, my lord?'--the while he drummed merrily with his heels on
a leg of the table. His companion, an exhausted young man, thin and
pale, remained in his chair, which he had tilted on its hinder feet; and
contented himself with staring at the doorway.

The latter was our old friend, Lord Almeric Doyley; but neither he nor
Mr. Thomasson knew one another, until the tutor had advanced some paces
into the room. Then, as the gentleman in the peach coat cried, 'Curse
me, if it isn't a parson! The bet's off! Off!' Lord Almeric dropped his
hand of cards on the table, and opening his mouth gasped in a paroxysm
of dismay.

'Oh, Lord,' he exclaimed, at last. 'Hold me, some one! If it isn't
Tommy! Oh, I say,' he continued, rising and speaking in a tone of
querulous remonstrance, 'you have not come to tell me the old man's
gone! And I'd pitted him against Bedford to live to--to--but it's like
him! It is like him, and monstrous unfeeling. I vow and protest it is!
Eh! oh, it is not that! Hal--loa!'

He paused there, his astonishment greater even than that which he had
felt on recognising the tutor. His eye had lighted on Julia, whose
figure was now visible on the threshold.

His companion did not notice this. He was busy identifying the tutor.
'Gad! it is old Thomasson!' he cried, for he too had been at Pembroke.
'_And_ a petticoat! _And_ a petticoat!' he repeated. 'Well, I am spun!'

The tutor raised his hands in astonishment. 'Lord!' he said, with a fair
show of enthusiasm, 'do I really see my old friend and pupil, Mr.
Pomeroy of Bastwick?'

'Who put the cat in your valise? When you got to London--kittens? You
do, Tommy.'

'I thought so!' Mr. Thomasson answered effusively. 'I was sure of it! I
never forget a face when my--my heart has once gone out to it! And you,
my dear, my very dear Lord Almeric, there is no danger I shall ever--'

'But, crib me, Tommy,' Lord Almeric shrieked, cutting him short without
ceremony, so great was his astonishment, 'it's the Little Masterson!'

'You old fox!' Mr. Pomeroy chimed in, shaking his finger at the tutor
with leering solemnity; he, belonging to an older generation at the
College, did not know her. Then, 'The Little Masterson, is it?' he
continued, advancing to the girl, and saluting her with mock ceremony.
'Among friends, I suppose? Well, my dear, for the future be pleased to
count me among them. Welcome to my poor house! And here's to bettering
your taste--for, fie, my love, old men are naughty. Have naught to do
with them!' And he laughed wickedly. He was a tall, heavy man, with a
hard, bullying, sneering face; a Dunborough grown older.

'Hush! my good sir. Hush!' Mr. Thomasson cried anxiously, after making
more than one futile effort to stop him. Between his respect for his
companion, and the deference in which he held a lord, the tutor was in
agony. 'My good sir, my dear Lord Almeric, you are in error,' he
continued strenuously. 'You mistake, I assure you, you mistake--'

'Do we, by Gad!' Mr. Pomeroy cried, winking at Julia.' Well, you and I,
my dear, don't, do we? We understand one another very well.'

The girl only answered by a fierce look of contempt. But Mr. Thomasson
was in despair. 'You do not, indeed!' he cried, almost wringing his
hands. 'This lady has lately come into a--a fortune, and to-night was
carried off by some villains from the Castle Inn at Marlborough in a--in
a post-chaise. I was fortunately on the spot to give her such protection
as I could, but the villains overpowered me, and to prevent my giving
the alarm, as I take it, bundled me into the chaise with her.'

'Oh, come,' said Mr. Pomeroy, grinning. 'You don't expect us to swallow
that?'

'It is true, as I live,' the tutor protested. 'Every word of it.'

'Then how come you here?'

'Not far from your gate, for no reason that I can understand, they
turned us out, and made off.'

'Honest Abraham?' Lord Almeric asked; he had listened open-mouthed.

'Every word of it,' the tutor answered.

'Then, my dear, if you have a fortune, sit down,' cried Mr. Pomeroy; and
seizing a chair he handed it with exaggerated gallantry to Julia, who
still remained near the door, frowning darkly at the trio; neither
ashamed nor abashed, but proudly and coldly contemptuous. 'Make yourself
at home, my pretty,' he continued familiarly, 'for if you have a fortune
it is the only one in this house, and a monstrous uncommon thing. Is it
not, my lord?'

'Lord! I vow it is!' the other drawled; and then, taking advantage of
the moment when Julia's attention was engaged elsewhere--she dumbly
refused to sit, 'Where is Dunborough?' my lord muttered.

'Heaven knows,' Mr. Thomasson whispered, with a wink that postponed
inquiry. 'What is more to the purpose,' he continued aloud, 'if I may
venture to make the suggestion to your lordship and Mr. Pomeroy, Miss
Masterson has been much distressed and fatigued this evening. If there
is a respectable elderly woman in the house, therefore, to whose care
you could entrust her for the night, it were well.'

'There is old Mother Olney,' Mr. Pomeroy answered, assenting with a
readier grace than the tutor expected, 'who locked herself up an hour
ago for fear of us young bloods. She should be old and ugly enough! Here
you, Jarvey, go and kick in her outworks, and bid her come down.'

'Better still, if I may suggest it,' said the tutor, who was above all
things anxious to be rid of the girl before too much was said--'Might
not your servant take Miss above stairs to this good woman--who will
doubtless see to her comfort? Miss Masterson has gone through some
surprising adventures this evening, and I think it were better if you
allowed her to withdraw at once, Mr. Pomeroy.'

'Jarvey, take the lady,' Mr. Pomeroy cried. 'A sweet pretty toad she is.
Here's to your eyes and fortune, child!' he continued with an impudent
grin; and filling his glass he pledged her as she passed.

After that he stood watching while Mr. Thomasson opened the door and
bowed her out; and this done and the door closed after her, 'Lord, what
ceremony!' he said, with an ugly sneer. 'Is't real, man, or are you
bubbling her? And what is this Cock-lane story of a chaise and the rest?
Out with it, unless you want to be tossed in a blanket.'

'True, upon my honour!' Mr. Thomasson asseverated.

'Oh, but Tommy, the fortune?' Lord Almeric protested seriously. 'I vow
you are sharping us.'

'True too, my lord, as I hope to be saved!'

'True? Oh, but it is too monstrous absurd,' my lord wailed. 'The Little
Masterson? As pretty a little tit as was to be found in all Oxford. The
Little Masterson a fortune?'

'She has eyes and a shape,' Mr. Pomeroy admitted generously. 'For the
rest, what is the figure, Mr. Thomasson?' he continued. 'There are
fortunes and fortunes.'

Mr. Thomasson looked at the gallery above, and thence, and slyly, to
his companions and back again to the gallery; and swallowed something
that rose in his throat. At length he seemed to make up his mind to
speak the truth, though when he did so it was in a voice little above a
whisper. 'Fifty thousand,' he said, and looked guiltily round him.

Lord Almeric rose from his chair as if on springs. 'Oh, I protest!' he
said. 'You are roasting us. Fifty thousand! It's a bite?'

But Mr. Thomasson nodded. 'Fifty thousand,' he repeated softly. 'Fifty
thousand.'

'Pounds?' gasped my lord. 'The Little Masterson?'

The tutor nodded again; and without asking leave, with a dogged air
unlike his ordinary bearing when he was in the company of those above
him, he drew a decanter towards him, and filling a glass with a shaking
hand raised it to his lips and emptied it. The three were on their feet
round the table, on which several candles, luridly lighting up their
faces, still burned; while others had flickered down, and smoked in the
guttering sockets, among the empty bottles and the litter of cards. In
one corner of the table the lees of wine had run upon the oak, and
dripped to the floor, and formed a pool, in which a broken glass lay in
fragments beside the overturned chair. An observant eye might have found
on the panels below the gallery the vacant nails and dusty lines whence
Lelys and Knellers, Cuyps and Hondekoeters had looked down on two
generations of Pomeroys. But in the main the disorder of the scene
centred in the small table and the three men standing round it; a
lighted group, islanded in the shadows of the hall.

Mr. Pomeroy waited with impatience until Mr. Thomasson lowered his
glass. Then, 'Let us have the story,' he said. 'A guinea to a China
orange the fool is tricking us.'

The tutor shook his head, and turned to Lord Almeric. 'You know Sir
George Soane,' he said. 'Well, my lord, she is his cousin.'

'Oh, tally, tally!' my lord cried. 'You--you are romancing, Tommy!'

'And under the will of Sir George's grandfather she takes fifty thousand
pounds, if she make good her claim within a certain time from to-day.'

'Oh, I say, you are romancing!' my lord repeated, more feebly. 'You
know, you really should not! It is too uncommon absurd, Tommy.'

'It's true!' said Mr. Thomasson.

'What? That this porter's wench at Pembroke has fifty thousand pounds?'
cried Mr. Pomeroy. 'She is the porter's wench, isn't she?' he continued.
Something had sobered him. His eyes shone, and the veins stood out on
his forehead. But his manner was concise and harsh, and to the point.

Mr. Thomasson. glanced at him stealthily, as one gamester scrutinises
another over the cards. 'She is Masterson, the porter's,
foster-child,' he said.

'But is it certain that she has the money?' the other cried rudely. 'Is
it true, man? How do you know? Is it public property?'

'No,' Mr. Thomasson answered, 'it is not public property. But it is
certain and it is true!' Then, after a moment's hesitation, 'I saw some
papers--by accident,' he said, his eyes on the gallery.

'Oh, d--n your accident!' Mr. Pomeroy cried brutally. 'You are very fine
to-night. You were not used to be a Methodist! Hang it, man, we know
you,' he continued violently, 'and this is not all! This does not bring
you and the girl tramping the country, knocking at doors at midnight
with Cock-lane stories of chaises and abductions. Come to it, man, or--'

'Oh, I say,' Lord Almeric protested weakly. 'Tommy is an honest man in
his way, and you are too stiff with him.'

'D--n him! my lord; let him come to the point then,' Mr. Pomeroy
retorted savagely. 'Is she in the way to get the money?'

'She is,' said the tutor sullenly.

'Then what brings her here--with you, of all people?'

'I will tell you if you will give me time, Mr. Pomeroy,' the tutor said
plaintively. And he proceeded to describe in some detail all that had
happened, from the _fons et origo mali_--Mr. Dunborough's passion for
the girl--to the stay at the Castle Inn, the abduction at Manton Corner,
the strange night journey in the chaise, and the stranger release.

When he had done, 'Sir George was the girl's fancy-man, then?' Pomeroy
said, in the harsh overbearing tone he had suddenly adopted.

The tutor nodded.

'And she thinks he has tricked her?'

'But for that and the humour she is in,' Mr. Thomasson answered, with a
subtle glance at the other's face, 'you and I might talk here till
Doomsday, and be none the better, Mr. Pomeroy.'

His frankness provoked Mr. Pomeroy to greater frankness. 'Consume your
impertinence!' he cried. 'Speak for yourself.'

'She is not that kind of woman,' said Mr. Thomasson firmly.

'Kind of woman?' cried Mr. Pomeroy furiously. 'I am this kind of man.
Oh, d--n you! If you want plain speaking you shall have it! She has
fifty thousand, and she is in my house; well, I am this kind of man!
I'll not let that money go out of the house without having a fling at
it! It is the devil's luck has sent her here, and it will be my folly
will send her away--if she goes. Which she does not if I am the kind of
man I think I am. So there for you! There's plain speaking.'

'You don't know her,' Mr. Thomasson answered doggedly. 'Mr. Dunborough
is a gentleman of mettle, and he could not bend her.'

'She was not in his house!' the other retorted, with a grim laugh. Then,
in a lower, if not more amicable tone, 'Look here, man,' he continued,
'd'ye mean to say that you had not something of this kind in your mind
when you knocked at this door?'

'I!' Mr. Thomasson cried, virtuously indignant.

'Ay, you! Do you mean to say you did not see that here was a chance in a
hundred? In a thousand? Ay, in a million? Fifty thousand pounds is not
found in the road any day?'

Mr. Thomasson grinned in a sickly fashion. 'I know that,' he said.

'Well, what is your idea? What do you want?'

The tutor did not answer on the instant, but after stealing one or two
furtive glances at Lord Almeric, looked down at the table, a nervous
smile distorting his mouth. At length, 'I want--her,' he said; and
passed his tongue furtively over his lips.

'The girl?'

'Yes.'

'Oh Lord!' said Mr. Pomeroy, in a voice of disgust.

But the ice broken, Mr. Thomasson had more to say. 'Why not?' he said
plaintively. 'I brought her here--with all submission. I know her,
and--and am a friend of hers. If she is fair game for any one, she is
fair game for me. I have run a risk for her,' he continued pathetically,
and touched his brow, where the slight cut he had received in the
struggle with Dunborough's men showed below the border of his wig,
'and--and for that matter, Mr. Pomeroy is not the only man who has
bailiffs to avoid.'

'Stuff me, Tommy, if I am not of your opinion!' cried Lord Almeric. And
he struck the table with unusual energy.

Pomeroy turned on him in surprise as great as his disgust. 'What?' he
cried. 'You would give the girl and her money--fifty thousand--to this
old hunks!'

'I? Not I! I would have her myself!' his lordship answered stoutly.
'Come, Pomeroy, you have won three hundred of me, and if I am not to
take a hand at this, I shall think it low! Monstrous low I shall think
it!' he repeated in the tone of an injured person. 'You know. Pom, I
want money as well as another--want it devilish bad--'

'You have not been a Sabbatarian, as I was for two months last year,'
Mr. Pomeroy retorted, somewhat cooled by this wholesale rising among his
allies, 'and walked out Sundays only for fear of the catchpolls.'

'No, but--'

'But I am not now, either. Is that it? Why, d'ye think, because I
pouched six hundred of Flitney's, and three of yours, and set the mare
going again, it will last for ever?'

'No, but fair's fair, and if I am not in this, it is low. It is low,
Pom,' Lord Almeric continued, sticking to his point with abnormal
spirit. 'And here is Tommy will tell you the same. You have had three
hundred of me--'

'At cards, dear lad; at cards,' Mr. Pomeroy answered easily. 'But this
is not cards. Besides,' he continued, shrugging his shoulders and
pouncing on the argument, 'we cannot all marry the girl!'

'I don't know,' my lord answered, passing his fingers tenderly through
his wig. 'I--I don't commit myself to that.'

'Well, at any rate, we cannot all have the money!' Pomeroy replied,
with sufficient impatience.

'But we can all try! Can't we, Tommy?'

Mr. Thomasson's face, when the question was put to him in that form, was
a curious study. Mr. Pomeroy had spoken aright when he called it a
chance in a hundred, in a thousand, in a million. It was a chance, at
any rate, that was not likely to come in Mr. Thomasson's way again.
True, he appreciated more correctly than the others the obstacles in the
way of success--the girl's strong will and wayward temper; but he knew
also the humour which had now taken hold of her, and how likely it was
that it might lead her to strange lengths if the right man spoke at the
right moment.

The very fact that Mr. Pomeroy had seen the chance and gauged the
possibilities, gave them a more solid aspect and a greater reality in
the tutor's mind. Each moment that passed left him less willing to
resign pretensions which were no longer the shadowy creatures of the
brain, but had acquired the aspect of solid claims--claims made his by
skill and exertion.

But if he defied Mr. Pomeroy, how would he stand? The girl's position in
this solitary house, apart from her friends, was half the battle; in a
sneaking way, though he shrank from facing the fact, he knew that she
was at their mercy; as much at their mercy as if they had planned the
abduction from the first. Without Mr. Pomeroy, therefore, the master of
the house and the strongest spirit of the three--

He got no farther, for at this point Lord Almeric repeated his question;
and the tutor, meeting Pomeroy's bullying eye, found it necessary to say
something. 'Certainly,' he stammered at a venture, 'we can all try, my
lord. Why not?'

'Ay, why not?' said Lord Almeric. 'Why not try?'

'Try? But how are you going to try?' Mr. Pomeroy responded with a
jeering laugh. 'I tell you, we cannot all marry the girl.'

Lord Almeric burst in a sudden fit of chuckling. 'I vow and protest I
have it!' he cried. 'We'll play for her! Don't you see, Pom? We'll cut
for her! Ha! Ha! That is surprising clever of me; don't you think? We'll
play for her!'



CHAPTER XXIV

CUTTING FOR THE QUEEN

It was a suggestion so purely in the spirit of a day when men betted on
every contingency, public or private, decorous or the reverse, from the
fecundity of a sister to the longevity of a sire, that it sounded less
indecent in the cars of Lord Almeric's companions than it does in ours.
Mr. Thomasson indeed, who was only so far a gamester as every man who
had pretensions to be a gentleman was one at that time, and who had
seldom, since the days of Lady Harrington's faro bank, staked more than
he could afford, hesitated and looked dubious. But Mr. Pomeroy, a
reckless and hardened gambler, gave a boisterous assent, and in the face
of that the tutor's objections went for nothing. In a trice, all the
cards and half the glasses were swept pell mell to the floor, a new pack
was torn open, the candles were snuffed, and Mr. Pomeroy, smacking him
on the back, was bidding him draw up.

'Sit down, man! Sit down!' cried that gentleman, who had regained his
jovial humour as quickly as he had lost it, and whom the prospect of the
stake appeared to intoxicate. 'May I burn if I ever played for a girl
before! Hang it! man, look cheerful, We'll toast her first--and a
daintier bit never swam in a bowl--and play for her afterwards! Come, no
heel-taps, my lord. Drink her! Drink her! Here's to the Mistress of
Bastwick!'

'Lady Almeric Doyley!' my lord cried, rising, and bowing with his hand
to his heart, while he ogled the door through which she had disappeared.
'I drink you! Here's to your pretty face, my dear!'

'Mrs. Thomasson!' cried the tutor, 'I drink to you. But--'

'But what shall it be, you mean?' Pomeroy cried briskly. 'Loo, Quinze,
Faro, Lansquenet? Or cribbage, all-fours, put, Mr. Parson, if you like!
It's all one to me. Name your game and I am your man!'

'Then let us shuffle and cut, and the highest takes,' said the tutor.

'Sho! man, where is the sport in that?' Pomeroy cried, receiving the
suggestion with disgust.

'It is what Lord Almeric proposed,' Mr. Thomasson answered. The two
glasses of wine he had taken had given him courage. 'I am no player, and
at games of skill I am no match for you.'

A shadow crossed Mr. Pomeroy's face; but he recovered himself
immediately. 'As you please,' he said, shrugging his shoulders with a
show of carelessness. 'I'll match any man at anything. Let's to it!'

But the tutor kept his hands on the cards, which lay in a heap face
downwards on the table. 'There is a thing to be settled,' he said,
hesitating somewhat, 'before we draw. If she will not take the
winner--what then?'

'What then?'

'Yes, what then?'

Mr. Pomeroy grinned. 'Why, then number two will try his luck with her,
and if he fail, number three! There, my bully boy, that is settled. It
seems simple enough, don't it?'

'But how long is each to have?' the tutor asked in a low voice. The
three were bending over the cards, their faces near one another. Lord
Almeric's eyes turned from one to the other of the speakers.

'How long?' Mr. Pomeroy answered, raising his eyebrows. 'Ah. Well,
let's say--what do you think? Two days?'

'And if the first fail, two days for the second?'

'There will be no second if I am first,' Pomeroy answered grimly.

'But otherwise,' the tutor persisted; 'two days for the second?'

Bully Pomeroy nodded.

'But then, the question is, can we keep her here?'

'Four days?'

'Yes.'

Mr. Pomeroy laughed harshly. 'Ay,' he said, 'or six if needs be and I
lose. You may leave that to me. We'll shift her to the nursery
to-morrow.'

'The nursery?' my lord said, and stared.

'The windows are barred. Now do you understand?'

The tutor turned a shade paler, and his eyes sank slyly to the table.
'There'll--there'll be no violence, of course,' he said, his voice a
trifle unsteady.

'Violence? Oh, no, there will be no violence,' Mr. Pomeroy answered with
an unpleasant sneer. And they all laughed; Mr. Thomasson tremulously,
Lord Almeric as if he scarcely entered into the other's meaning and
laughed that he might not seem outside it. Then, 'There is another thing
that must not be,' Pomeroy continued, tapping softly on the table with
his forefinger, as much to command attention as to emphasise his words,
'and that is peaching! Peaching! We'll have no Jeremy Twitcher here, if
you please.'

'No, no!' Mr. Thomasson stammered. 'Of course not.'

'No, damme!' said my lord grandly. 'No peaching!'

'No,' Mr. Pomeroy said, glancing keenly from one to the other, 'and by
token I have a thought that will cure it. D'ye see here, my lord! What
do you say to the losers taking five thousand each out of Madam's money?
That should bind all together if anything will--though I say it that
will have to pay it,' he continued boastfully.

My lord was full of admiration. 'Uncommon handsome!' he said. 'Pom, that
does you credit. You have a head! I always said you had a head!'

'You are agreeable to that, my lord?'

'Burn me, if I am not.'

'Then shake hands upon it. And what say you, Parson?'

Mr. Thomasson proffered an assent fully as enthusiastic as Lord
Almeric's, but for a different reason. The tutor's nerves, never strong,
were none the better for the rough treatment he had undergone, his long
drive, and his longer fast. He had taken enough wine to obscure remoter
terrors, but not the image of Mr. Dunborough--_impiger, iracundus,
inexorabilis, acer_--Dunborough doubly and trebly offended! That image
recurred when the glass was not at his lips; and behind it, sometimes
the angry spectre of Sir George, sometimes the face of the girl, blazing
with rage, slaying him with the lightning of her contempt.

He thought that it would not suit him ill, therefore, though it was a
sacrifice, if Mr. Pomeroy took the fortune, the wife, and the risk--and
five thousand only fell to him. True, the risk, apart from that of Mr.
Dunborough's vengeance, might be small; no one of the three had had act
or part in the abduction of the girl. True, too, in the atmosphere of
this unfamiliar house--into which he had been transported as suddenly as
Bedreddin Hassan to the palace in the fairy tale--with the fumes of wine
and the glamour of beauty in his head, he was in a mood to minimise even
that risk. But under the jovial good-fellowship which Mr. Pomeroy
affected, and strove to instil into the party, he discerned at odd
moments a something sinister that turned his craven heart to water and
loosened the joints of his knees.

The lights and cards and jests, the toasts and laughter were a mask that
sometimes slipped and let him see the death's head that grinned behind
it. They were three men, alone with the girl in a country house, of
which the reputation, Mr. Thomasson had a shrewd idea, was no better
than its master's. No one outside knew that she was there; as far as her
friends were concerned, she had vanished from the earth. She was a
woman, and she was in their power. What was to prevent them bending her
to their purpose?

It is probable that had she been of their rank from the beginning, bred
and trained, as well as born, a Soane, it would not have occurred even
to a broken and desperate man to frame so audacious a plan. But
scruples grew weak, and virtue--the virtue of Vauxhall and the
masquerades--languished where it was a question of a woman who a month
before had been fair game for undergraduate gallantry, and who now
carried fifty thousand pounds in her hand.

Mr. Pomeroy's next words showed that this aspect of the case was in his
mind. 'Damme, she ought to be glad to marry any one of us!' he said, as
he packed the cards and handed them to the others that each might
shuffle them. 'If she is not, the worse for her! We'll put her on bread
and water until she sees reason!'

'D'you think Dunborough knew, Tommy?' said Lord Almeric, grinning at the
thought of his friend's disappointment. 'That she had the money?'

Dunborough's name turned the tutor grave. He shook his head.

'He'll be monstrous mad! Monstrous!' Lord Almeric said with a chuckle;
the wine he had drunk was beginning to affect him. 'He has paid the
postboys and we ride. Well, are you ready? Ready all? Hallo! Who is to
draw first?'

'Let's draw for first,' said Mr. Pomeroy. 'All together!'

'All together!'

     'For it's hey, derry down, and it's over the lea.
     And it's out with the fox in the dawning!'

sang my lord in an uncertain voice. And then, 'Lord! I've a d----d
deuce! Tommy has it! Tommy's Pam has it! No, by Gad! Pomeroy, you have
won it! Your Queen takes!'

'And I shall take the Queen!' quoth Mr. Pomeroy. Then ceremoniously, 'My
first draw, I think?'

'Yes,' said Mr. Thomasson nervously.

'Yes,' said Lord Almeric, gloating with flushed face on the blind backs
of the cards as they lay in a long row before him. 'Draw away!'

'Then here's for a wife and five thousand a year!' cried Pomeroy. 'One,
two, three--oh, hang and sink the cards!' he continued with a violent
execration, as he flung down the card he had drawn. 'Seven's the main! I
have no luck! Now, Mr. Parson, get on! Can you do better?'

Mr. Thomasson, a damp flush on his brow, chose his card gingerly, and
turned it with trembling fingers. Mr. Pomeroy greeted it with a savage
oath, Lord Almeric with a yell of tipsy laughter. It was an eight.

'It is bad to be crabbed, but to be crabbed by a smug like you!' Mr.
Pomeroy cried churlishly. Then, 'Go on, man!' he said to his lordship.
'Don't keep us all night.'

Lord Almeric, thus adjured, turned a card with a flourish. It was a
King!

'Fal-lal-lal, lal-lal-la!' he sang, rising with a sweep of the arm that
brought down two candlesticks. Then, seizing a glass and filling it from
the punch-bowl, 'Here's your health once more, my lady. And drink her,
you envious beggars! Drink her! You shall throw the stocking for us.
Lord, we'll have a right royal wedding! And then--'

'Don't you forget the five thousand,' said Pomeroy sulkily. He kept his
seat, his hands thrust deep into his breeches pockets; he looked the
picture of disappointment.

'Not I, dear lad! Not I! Lord, it is as safe as if your banker had it.
Just as safe!'

'Umph! She has not taken you yet!' Pomeroy muttered, watching him; and
his face relaxed. 'No, hang me! she has not!' he continued in a tone but
half audible. 'And it is even betting she will not. She might take you
drunk, but d--n me if she will take you sober!' And, cheered by the
reflection, he pulled the bowl to him, and, filling a glass, 'Here's to
her, my lord,' he said, raising it to his lips. 'But remember you have
only two days.'

'Two days!' my lord cried, reeling slightly; the last glass had been too
much for him. 'We'll be married in two days. See if we are not.'

'The Act notwithstanding?' Mr. Pomeroy said, with a sneer.

'Oh, sink the Act!' his lordship retorted. 'But where's--where's the
door? I shall go,' he continued, gazing vacantly about him, 'go to her
at once, and tell her--tell her I shall marry her! You--you fellows are
hiding the door! You are--you are all jealous! Oh, yes! Such a shape and
such eyes! You are jealous, hang you!'

Mr. Pomeroy leaned forward and leered at the tutor. 'Shall we let him
go?' he whispered. 'It will mend somebody's chance. What say you,
Parson? You stand next. Make it six thousand instead of five, and I'll
see to it.'

'Let me go to her!' my lord hiccoughed. He was standing, holding by the
back of a chair. 'I tell you--I--where is she? You are jealous! That's
what you are! Jealous! She is fond of me--pretty charmer--and I shall
go to her!'

But Mr. Thomasson shook his head; not so much because he shrank from the
outrage which the other contemplated with a grin, as because he now
wished Lord Almeric to succeed. He thought it possible and even likely
that the girl, dazzled by his title, would be willing to take the young
sprig of nobility. And the influence of the Doyley family was great.

He shook his head therefore, and Mr. Pomeroy rebuffed, solaced himself
with a couple of glasses of punch. After that, Mr. Thomasson pleaded
fatigue as his reason for declining to take a hand at any game whatever,
and my lord continuing to maunder and flourish and stagger, the host
reluctantly suggested bed; and going to the door bawled for Jarvey and
his lordship's man. They came, but were found to be incapable of
standing when apart. The tutor and Mr. Pomeroy, therefore, took my lord
by the arms and partly shoved and partly supported him to his room.

There was a second bed in the chamber. 'You had better tumble in there,
Parson,' said Mr. Pomeroy. 'What say you? Will't do?'

'Finely,' Tommy answered. 'I am obliged to you.' And when they had
jointly loosened his lordship's cravat, and removed his wig and set the
cool jug of small beer within his reach, Mr. Pomeroy bade the other a
curt good-night, and took himself off.

Mr. Thomasson waited until his footsteps ceased to echo in the gallery,
and then, he scarcely knew why, he furtively opened the door and peeped
out. All was dark; and save for the regular tick of the pendulum on the
stairs, the house was still. Mr. Thomasson, wondering which way Julia's
room lay, stood listening until a stair creaked; and then, retiring
precipitately, locked his door. Lord Almeric, in the gloom of the green
moreen curtains that draped his huge four-poster, had fallen into a
drunken slumber. The shadow of his wig, which Pomeroy had clapped on the
wig-stand by the bed, nodded on the wall, as the draught moved the
tails. Mr. Thomasson shivered, and, removing the candle--as was his
prudent habit of nights--to the hearth, muttered that a goose was
walking over his grave, undressed quickly, and jumped into bed.



CHAPTER XXV

LORD ALMERIC'S SUIT

When Julia awoke in the morning, without start or shock, to the dreary
consciousness of all she had lost, she was still under the influence of
the despair which had settled on her spirits overnight, and had run like
a dark stain through her troubled dreams. Fatigue of body and lassitude
of mind, the natural consequences of the passion and excitement of her
adventure, combined to deaden her faculties. She rose aching in all her
limbs--yet most at heart--and wearily dressed herself; but neither saw
nor heeded the objects round her. The room to which poor puzzled Mrs.
Olney had hastily consigned her looked over a sunny stretch of park,
sprinkled with gnarled thorn-trees that poorly filled the places of the
oaks and chestnuts which the gaming-table had consumed. Still, the
outlook pleased the eye, nor was the chamber itself lacking in
liveliness. The panels on the walls, wherein needlework cockatoos and
flamingoes, wrought under Queen Anne, strutted in the care of needlework
black-boys, were faded and dull; but the pleasant white dimity with
which the bed was hung relieved and lightened them.

To Julia it was all one. Wrapped in bitter thoughts and reminiscences,
her bosom heaving from time to time with ill-restrained grief, she gave
no thought to such things, or even to her position, until Mrs. Olney
appeared and informed her that breakfast awaited her in another room.

Then, 'Can I not take it here?' she asked, shrinking painfully from the
prospect of meeting any one.

'Here?' Mrs. Olney repeated. The housekeeper never closed her mouth,
except when she spoke; for which reason, perhaps, her face faithfully
mirrored the weakness of her mind.

'Yes,' said Julia. 'Can I not take it here, if you please? I suppose--we
shall have to start by-and-by?' she added, shivering.

'By-and-by, ma'am?' Mrs. Olney answered. 'Oh, yes.'

'Then I can have it here.'

'Oh, yes, if you please to follow me, ma'am.' And she held the door
open.

Julia shrugged her shoulders, and, contesting the matter no further,
followed the good woman along a corridor and through a door which shut
off a second and shorter passage. From this three doors opened,
apparently into as many apartments. Mrs. Olney threw one wide and
ushered her into a room damp-smelling, and hung with drab, but of good
size and otherwise comfortable. The windows looked over a neglected
Dutch garden, which was so rankly overgrown that the box hedges scarce
rose above the wilderness of parterres. Beyond this, and divided from it
by a deep-sunk fence, a pool fringed with sedges and marsh-weeds carried
the eye to an alder thicket that closed the prospect.

Julia, in her relief on finding that the table was laid for one only,
paid no heed to the outlook or to the bars that crossed the windows, but
sank into a chair and mechanically ate and drank. Apprised after a while
that Mrs. Olney had returned and was watching her with fatuous
good-nature, she asked her if she knew at what hour she was to leave.

'To leave?' said the housekeeper, whose almost invariable custom it was
to repeat the last words addressed to her. 'Oh, yes, to leave.
Of course.'

'But at what time?' Julia asked, wondering whether the woman was as dull
as she seemed.

'Yes, at what time?' Then after a pause and with a phenomenal effort, 'I
will go and see--if you please.'

She returned presently. 'There are no horses,' she said. 'When they are
ready the gentleman will let you know.'

'They have sent for some?'

'Sent for some,' repeated Mrs. Olney, and nodded, but whether in assent
or imbecility it was hard to say.

After that Julia troubled her no more, but rising from her meal had
recourse to the window and her own thoughts. These were in unison with
the neglected garden and the sullen pool, which even the sunshine failed
to enliven. Her heart was torn between the sense of Sir George's
treachery--which now benumbed her brain and now awoke it to a fury of
resentment--and fond memories of words and looks and gestures, that
shook her very frame and left her sick--love-sick and trembling. She did
not look forward or form plans; nor, in the dull lethargy in which she
was for the most part sunk, was she aware of the passage of time until
Mrs. Olney came in with mouth and eyes a little wider than usual, and
announced that the gentleman was coming up.

Julia supposed that the woman referred to Mr. Thomasson; and, recalled
to the necessity of returning to Marlborough, she gave a reluctant
permission. Great was her astonishment when, a moment later, not the
tutor, but Lord Almeric, fanning himself with a laced handkerchief and
carrying his little French hat under his arm, appeared on the threshold,
and entered simpering and bowing. He was extravagantly dressed in a
mixed silk coat, pink satin waistcoat, and a mushroom stock, with
breeches of silver net and white silk stockings; and had a large pearl
pin thrust through his wig. Unhappily, his splendour, designed to
captivate the porter's daughter, only served to exhibit more plainly the
nerveless hand and sickly cheeks which he owed to last night's debauch.

Apparently he was aware of this, for his first words were, 'Oh, Lord!
What a twitter I am in! I vow and protest, ma'am, I don't know where you
get your roses of a morning. But I wish you would give me the secret.'

'Sir!' she said, interrupting him, surprise in her face. 'Or'--with a
momentary flush of confusion--'I should say, my lord, surely there must
be some mistake here.'

'None, I dare swear,' Lord Almeric answered, bowing gallantly. 'But I am
in such a twitter'--he dropped his hat and picked it up again--'I hardly
know what I am saying. To be sure, I was devilish cut last night! I hope
nothing was said to--to--oh, Lord! I mean I hope you were not much
incommoded by the night air, ma'am.'

'The night air has not hurt me, I thank you,' said Julia, who did not
take the trouble to hide her impatience.

However, my lord, nothing daunted, expressed himself monstrously glad to
hear it; monstrously glad. And after looking about him and humming and
hawing, 'Won't you sit?' he said, with a killing glance.

'I am leaving immediately,' Julia answered, and declined with coldness
the chair which he pushed forward. At another time his foppish dress
might have moved her to smiles, or his feebleness and vapid oaths to
pity. This morning she needed her pity for herself, and was in no
smiling mood. Her world had crashed around her; she would sit and weep
among the ruins, and this butterfly insect flitted between. After a
moment, as he did not speak, 'I will not detain your lordship,' she
continued, curtseying frigidly.

'Cruel beauty!' my lord answered, dropping his hat and clasping his
hands in an attitude. And then, to her astonishment, 'Look, ma'am,' he
cried with animation, 'look, I beseech you, on the least worthy of your
admirers and deign to listen to him. Listen to him while--and don't, oh,
I say, don't stare at me like that,' he continued hurriedly,
plaintiveness suddenly taking the place of grandiloquence. 'I vow and
protest I am in earnest.'

'Then you must be mad!' Julia cried in great wrath. 'You can have no
other excuse, sir, for talking to me like that!'

'Excuse!' he cried rapturously. 'Your eyes are my excuse, your lips,
your shape! Whom would they not madden, ma'am? Whom would they not
charm--insanitate--intoxicate? What man of sensibility, seeing them at
an immeasurable distance, would not hasten to lay his homage at the feet
of so divine, so perfect a creature, whom even to see is to taste of
bliss! Deign, madam, to--Oh, I say, you don't mean to say you are really
of--offended?' Lord Almeric stuttered in amazement, again falling
lamentably from the standard of address which he had conned while his
man was shaving him. 'You--you--look here--'

'You must be mad!' Julia cried, her eyes flashing lightning on the
unhappy beau. 'If you do not leave me, I will call for some one to put
you out! How dare you insult me? If there were a bell I could reach--'

Lord Almeric stared in the utmost perplexity; and fallen from his high
horse, alighted on a kind of dignity. 'Madam,' he said with a little bow
and a strut, ''tis the first time an offer of marriage from one of my
family has been called an insult! And I don't understand it. Hang me! If
we have married fools, we have married high!'

It was Julia's turn to be overwhelmed with confusion. Having nothing
less in her mind than marriage, and least of all an offer of marriage
from such a person, she had set down all he had said to impudence and
her unguarded situation. Apprised of his meaning, she experienced a
degree of shame, and muttered that she had not understood; she craved
his pardon.

'Beauty asks and beauty has!' Lord Almeric answered, bowing and kissing
the tips of his fingers, his self-esteem perfectly restored.

Julia frowned. 'You cannot be in earnest,' she said.

'Never more in earnest in my life!' he replied. 'Say the word--say
you'll have me,' he continued, pressing his little hat to his breast and
gazing over it with melting looks, 'most adorable of your sex, and I'll
call up Pomeroy, I'll call up Tommy, the old woman, too, if you choose,
and tell 'em, tell 'em all.'

'I must be dreaming,' Julia murmured, gazing at him in a kind of
fascination.

'Then if to dream is to assent, dream on, fair love!' his lordship
spouted with a grand air. And then, 'Hang it! that's--that's rather
clever of me,' he continued. 'And I mean it too! Oh, depend upon it,
there's nothing that a man won't think of when he's in love! And I am
fallen confoundedly in love with--with you, ma'am.'

'But very suddenly,' Julia replied. She was beginning to recover from
her amazement.

'You don't think that I am sincere?' he protested plaintively. 'You
doubt me! Then--'he advanced a pace towards her with hat and arms
extended, 'let the eloquence of a--a feeling heart plead for me; a
heart, too--yes, too sensible of your charms, and--and your many merits,
ma'am! Yes, most adorable of your sex. But there,' he added, breaking
off abruptly, 'I said that before, didn't I? Yes. Lord! what a memory I
have got! I am all of a twitter. I was so cut last night, I don't know
what I am saying.'

'That I believe,' Julia said with chilling severity.

'Eh, but--but you do believe I am in earnest?' he cried anxiously.
'Shall I kneel to you? Shall I call up the servants and tell them? Shall
I swear that I mean honourably? Lord! I am no Mr. Thornhill! I'll make
it as public as you like,' he continued eagerly. 'I'll send for
a bishop--'

'Spare me the bishop,' Julia rejoined with a faint smile, 'and any
farther appeals. They come, I am convinced, my lord, rather from your
head than your heart.'

'Oh, Lord, no!' he cried.

'Oh, Lord, yes,' she answered with a spice of her old archness. 'I may
have a tolerable opinion of my own attractions--women commonly have, it
is said. But I am not so foolish, my lord, as to suppose that on the
three or four occasions on which I have seen you I can have gained your
heart. To what I am to attribute your sudden--shall I call it whim or
fancy--' Julia continued with a faint blush, 'I do not know. I am
willing to suppose that you do not mean to insult me.'

Lord Almeric denied it with a woeful face.

'Or to deceive me. I am willing to suppose,' she repeated, stopping him
by a gesture as he tried to speak, 'that you are in earnest for the
time, my lord, in desiring to make me your wife, strange and sudden as
the desire appears. It is a great honour, but it is one which I must as
earnestly and positively decline.'

'Why?' he cried, gaping, and then, 'O 'swounds, ma'am, you don't mean
it?' he continued piteously. 'Not have me? Not have me? And why?'

'Because,' she said modestly, 'I do not love you, my lord.'

'Oh, but--but when we are married,' he answered eagerly, rallying his
scattered forces, 'when we are one, sweet maid--'

'That time will never come,' she replied cruelly. And then gloom
overspreading her face, 'I shall never marry, my lord. If it be any
consolation to you, no one shall be preferred to you.'

'Oh, but, damme, the desert air and all that!' Lord Almeric cried,
fanning himself violently with his hat. 'I--oh, you mustn't talk like
that, you know. Lord! you might be some queer old put of a dowager!' And
then, with a burst of sincere feeling, for his little heart was inflamed
by her beauty, and his manhood--or such of it as had survived the
lessons of Vauxhall, and Mr. Thomasson--rose in arms at sight of her
trouble, 'See here, child,' he said in his natural voice, 'say yes, and
I'll swear I'll be kind to you! Sink me if I am not! And, mind you,
you'll be my lady. You'll to Ranelagh and the masquerades with the best.
You shall have your box at the opera and the King's House; you shall
have your frolic in the pit when you please, and your own money for loo
and brag, and keep your own woman and have her as ugly as the bearded
lady, for what I care--I want nobody's lips but yours, sweet, if you'll
be kind. And, so help me, I'll stop at one bottle, my lady, and play as
small as a Churchwarden's club! And, Lord, I don't see why we should not
be as happy together as James and Betty!'

She shook her head; but kindly, with tears in her eyes and a trembling
lip. She was thinking of another who might have given her all this, or
as much as was to her taste; one with whom she had looked to be as happy
as any James and Betty. 'It is impossible, my lord,' she said.

'Honest Abraham?' he cried, very downcast.

'Oh, yes, yes!'

'S'help me, you are melting!'

'No, no!' she cried, 'it is not--it is not that! It is impossible, I
tell you. You don't know what you ask,' she continued, struggling with
the emotion that almost mastered her.

'But, curse me, I know what I want!' he answered gloomily. 'You may go
farther and fare worse! Lord, I swear you may. I'd be kind to you, and
it is not everybody would be that!'

She had turned from him that he might not see her face, and she did not
answer. He waited a moment, twiddling his hat; his face was overcast,
his mood hung between spite and pity. At last, 'Well, 'tisn't my fault,'
he said; and then relenting again, 'But there, I know what women
are--vapours one day, kissing the next. I'll try again, my lady. I am
not proud.'

She flung him a gesture that meant assent, dissent, dismissal, as he
pleased to interpret it. He took it to mean the first, and muttering,
'Well, well, have it your own way. I'll go for this time. But hang all
prudes, say I,' he withdrew reluctantly, and slowly closed the door
on her.

As soon as he was gone the tempest, which Julia's pride had enabled her
to stern for a time, broke forth in a passion of tears and sobs, and,
throwing herself on the shabby window-seat, she gave free vent to her
grief. The happy future which the little bean had dangled before her
eyes, absurdly as he had fashioned and bedecked it, reminded her all too
sharply of that which she had promised herself with one, in whose
affections she had fancied herself secure, despite the attacks of the
prettiest Abigail in the world. How fondly had her fancy depicted life
with him! With what happy blushes, what joyful tremors! And now? What
wonder that at the thought a fresh burst of grief convulsed her frame,
or that she presently passed from the extremity of grief to the
extremity of rage, and, realising anew Sir George's heartless desertion
and more cruel perfidy, rubbed her tear-stained face in the dusty chintz
of the window-seat--that had known so many childish sorrows--and there
choked the fierce, hysterical words that rose to her lips?

Or what wonder that her next thought was revenge? She sat up, with her
back to the window and the unkempt garden, whence the light stole
through the disordered masses of her hair; her face to the empty room.
Revenge? Yes, she could punish him; she could take this money from him,
she could pursue him with a woman's unrelenting spite, she could hound
him from the country, she could have all but his life. But none of these
things would restore her maiden pride; would remove from her the stain
of his false love, or rebut the insolent taunt of the eyes to which she
had bowed herself captive. If she could so beat him with his own weapons
that he should doubt his conquest, doubt her love; if she could effect
that, there was no method she would not adopt, no way she would
not take.

Pique in a woman's mind, even in the mind of the best, finds a rival the
tool readiest to hand. A wave of crimson swept across Julia's pale face,
and she stood up on her feet. Lady Almeric! Lady Almeric Doyley! Here
was a revenge, the fittest of revenges, ready to her hand, if she could
bring herself to take it. What if, in the same hour in which he heard
that his plan had gone amiss, he heard that she was to marry another?
and such another that marry almost whom he might she would take
precedence of his wife. That last was a small thought, a petty thought,
worthy of a smaller mind than Julia's; but she was a woman, and
passionate, and the charms of such a revenge in the general, came home
to her. It would show him that others valued what he had cast away; it
would convince him--she hoped, him I yet, alas! she doubted--that she
had taken his suit as lightly as he had meant it. It would give her a
home, a place, a settled position in the world.

She followed it no farther; perhaps because she would act on impulse
rather than on reason, blindly rather than on foresight. In haste, with
trembling fingers, she set a chair below the broken, frayed end of a
bell-rope that hung on the wall. Reaching it, as if she feared her
resolution might fail before the event, she pulled and pulled
frantically, until hurrying footsteps came along the passage, and Mrs.
Olney with a foolish face of alarm entered the room.

'Fetch--tell the gentleman to come back,' Julia cried, breathing
quickly.

'To come back?'

'Yes! The gentleman who was here now.'

'Oh, yes, the gentleman,' Mrs. Olney murmured. 'Your ladyship wishes
him?'

Julia's very brow turned crimson; but her resolution held. 'Yes, I wish
to see him,' she said imperiously. 'Tell him to come to me!'

She stood erect, panting and defiant, her eyes on the door while the
woman went to do her bidding--waited erect, refusing to think, her face
set hard, until far down the outer passage--Mrs. Olney had left the door
open--the sound of shuffling feet and a shrill prattle of words heralded
Lord Almeric's return. Presently he came tripping in with a smirk and a
bow, the inevitable little hat under his arm. Before he had recovered
the breath the ascent of the stairs had cost him, he was in an attitude
that made the best of his white silk stockings.

'See at your feet the most obedient of your slaves, ma'am!' he cried.
'To hear was to obey, to obey was to fly! If it's Pitt's diamond you
need, or Lady Mary's soap-box, or a new conundrum, or--hang it all! I
cannot think of anything else, but command me! I'll forth and get it,
stap me if I won't!'

'My lord, it is nothing of that kind,' Julia answered, her voice steady,
though her cheeks burned.

'Eh? what? It's not!' he babbled. 'Then what is it? Command me, whatever
it is.'

'I believe, my lord,' she said, smiling faintly, 'that a woman is always
privileged to change her mind--once.'

My lord stared. Then, gathering her meaning as much from her heightened
colour as from her words, 'What!' he screamed. 'Eh? O Lord! Do you mean
that you will have me? Eh? Have you sent for me for that? Do you really
mean that?' And he fumbled for his spy-glass that he might see her face
more clearly.

'I mean,' Julia began; and then, more firmly, 'Yes, I do mean that,' she
said, 'if you are of the same mind, my lord, as you were half an
hour ago.'

'Crikey, but I am!' Lord Almeric cried, fairly skipping in his joy. 'By
jingo! I am! Here's to you, my lady! Here's to you, ducky! Oh, Lord! but
I was fit to kill myself five minutes ago, and those fellows would have
done naught but roast me. And now I am in the seventh heaven. Ho! ho!'
he continued, with a comical pirouette of triumph, 'he laughs best who
laughs last. But there, you are not afraid of me, pretty? You'll let me
buss you?'

But Julia, with a face grown suddenly white, shrank back and held out
her hand.

'Sakes! but to seal the bargain, child,' he remonstrated, trying to get
near her.

She forced a faint smile, and, still retreating, gave him her hand to
kiss. 'Seal it on that,' she said graciously. Then, 'Your lordship will
pardon me, I am sure. I am not very well, and--and yesterday has shaken
me. Will you be so good as to leave me now, until to-morrow?'

'To-morrow!' he cried. 'To-morrow! Why, it is an age! An eternity!'

But she was determined to have until to-morrow--God knows why. And, with
a little firmness, she persuaded him, and he went.



CHAPTER XXVI

BOON COMPANIONS

Lord Almeric flew down the stairs on the wings of triumph, rehearsing at
each corner the words in which he would announce his conquest. He found
his host and the tutor sitting together in the parlour, in the middle of
a game of shilling hazard; which they were playing, the former with as
much enjoyment and the latter with as much good-humour as consisted with
the fact that Mr. Pomeroy was losing, and Mr. Thomasson played against
his will. The weather had changed for the worse since morning. The sky
was leaden, the trees were dripping, the rain hung in rows of drops
along the rails that flanked the avenue. Mr. Pomeroy cursed the damp
hole he owned and sighed for town and the Cocoa Tree. The tutor wished
he were quit of the company--and his debts. And both were so far from
suspecting what had happened upstairs, though the tutor had his hopes,
that Mr. Pomeroy was offering three to one against his friend, when Lord
Almeric danced in upon them.

'Give me joy!' he cried breathless. 'D'you hear, Pom? She'll take me,
and I have bussed her! March could not have done it quicker! She's mine,
and the pool! She is mine! Give me joy!'

Mr. Thomasson lost not a minute in rising and shaking him by the hand.
'My dear lord,' he said, in a voice rendered unusually rich and mellow
by the prospect of five thousand pounds, 'you make me infinitely happy.
You do indeed! I give your lordship joy! I assure you that it will ever
be a matter of the deepest satisfaction to me that I was the cause under
Providence of her presence here! A fine woman, my lord, and a--a
commensurate fortune!'

'A fine woman? Gad! you'd say so if you had held her in your arms!'
cried my lord, strutting and lying.

'I am sure,' Mr. Thomasson hastened to say, 'your lordship is every way
to be congratulated.'

'Gad! you'd say so, Tommy!' the other repeated with a wink. He was in
the seventh heaven of delight.

So far all went swimmingly, neither of them remarking that Mr. Pomeroy
kept silence. But at this point the tutor, whose temper it was to be
uneasy unless all were on his side, happened to turn, saw that he kept
his seat, and was struck with the blackness of his look. Anxious to
smooth over any unpleasantness, and to recall him to the requirements of
the occasion, 'Come, Mr. Pomeroy,' he cried jestingly, 'shall we drink
her ladyship, or is it too early in the day?'

Bully Pomeroy thrust his hands deep into his breeches pockets and did
not budge. ''Twill be time to drink her when the ring is on!' he said,
with an ugly sneer.

'Oh, I vow and protest that's ungenteel,' my lord complained. 'I vow and
protest it is!' he repeated querulously. 'See here, Pom, if you had won
her I'd not treat you like this!'

'Your lordship has not won her yet,' was the churlish answer.

'But she has said it, I tell you. She said she'd have me.'

'She won't be the first woman has altered her mind, nor the last,' Mr.
Pomeroy retorted with an oath. 'You may be amazing sure of that, my
lord.' And muttering something about a woman and a fool being near akin,
he spurned a dog out of his way, overset a chair, and strode cursing
from the room.

Lord Almeric stared after him, his face a queer mixture of vanity and
dismay. At last, 'Strikes me, Tommy, he's uncommon hard hit,' he said,
with a simper. 'He must have made surprising sure of her. Ah!' he
continued with a chuckle, as he passed his hand delicately over his
well-curled wig, and glanced at a narrow black-framed mirror that stood
between the windows. 'He is a bit too old for the women, is Pom. They
run to something lighter in hand. Besides, there's a--a way with the
pretty creatures, if you take me, and Pom has not got it. Now I flatter
myself I have, Tommy, and Julia--it is a sweet name, Julia, don't you
think?--Julia is of that way of thinking. Lord! I know women,' his
lordship continued, beaming the happier the longer he talked. 'It is not
what a man has, or what he has done, or even his taste in a coat or a
wig--though, mind you, a French friseur does a deal to help men to
_bonnes fortunes_--but it is a sort of a way one has. The silly
creatures cannot stand against it.'

Mr. Thomasson hastened to agree, and to vouch her future ladyship's
flame in proof of my lord's prowess. But the tutor was a timid man; and
the more perfect the contentment with which he viewed the turn things
had taken, and the more nearly within his grasp seemed his five
thousand, the graver was the misgiving with which he regarded Mr.
Pomeroy's attitude. He had no notion what shape that gentleman's
hostility might take, nor how far his truculence might aspire. But he
guessed that Lord Almeric's victory had convinced the elder man that his
task would have been easy had the cards favoured him; and when a little
later in the day he saw Pomeroy walking in the park in the drenching
rain, his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his wrap-rascal and his
chin bent on his breast, he trembled. He knew that when men of Mr.
Pomeroy's class take to thinking, some one is likely to lose.

At dinner the tutor's fears were temporarily lulled. Mr. Pomeroy put in
a sulky appearance, but his gloom, it was presently manifest, was due to
the burden of an apology; which, being lamely offered and readily
accepted, he relapsed into his ordinary brusque and reckless mood,
swearing that they would have the lady down and drink her, or if that
were not pleasing, 'Damme, we'll drink her any way!' he continued. 'I
was a toad this morning. No offence meant, my lord. Lover's license, you
know. You can afford to be generous, having won the pool.'

'And the maid,' my lord said with a simper. 'Burn me! you are a good
fellow, Pom. Give me your hand. You shall see her after dinner. She said
to-morrow; but, hang me! I'll to her this evening.'

Mr. Pomeroy expressed himself properly gratified, adding demurely that
he would play no tricks.

'No, hang me! no tricks!' my lord cried somewhat alarmed. 'Not that--'

'Not that I am likely to displace your lordship, her affections once
gained,' said Mr. Pomeroy.

He lowered his face to hide a smile of bitter derision, but he might
have spared his pains; for Lord Almeric, never very wise, was blinded by
vanity. 'No, I should think not,' he said, with a conceit which came
near to deserving the other's contempt. 'I should think not, Tommy. Give
me twenty minutes of a start, as Jack Wilkes says, and you may follow as
you please. I rather fancy I brought down the bird at the first shot?'

'Certainly, my lord.'

'I did, didn't I?'

'Most certainly, your lordship did,' repeated the obsequious tutor;
who, basking in the smiles of his host's good-humour, began to think
that things would run smoothly after all. So the lady was toasted, and
toasted again. Nay, so great was Mr. Pomeroy's complaisance and so easy
his mood, he must needs have up three or four bottles of Brooks and
Hellier that had lain in the cellar half a century--the last of a
batch--and give her a third time in bumpers and no heel-taps.

But that opened Mr. Thomasson's eyes. He saw that Pomeroy had reverted
to his idea of the night before, and was bent on making the young fop
drunk, and exposing him in that state to his mistress; perhaps had the
notion of pushing him on some rudeness that, unless she proved very
compliant indeed, must ruin him for ever with her. Three was their
dinner hour; it was not yet four, yet already the young lord was flushed
and a little flustered, talked fast, swore at Jarvey, and bragged of the
girl lightly and without reserve. By six o'clock, if something were not
done, he would be unmanageable.

The tutor stood in no little awe of his host. He had tremors down his
back when he thought of his violence; nor was this dogged persistence in
a design, as cruel as it was cunning, calculated to lessen the feeling.
But he had five thousand pounds at stake, a fortune on which he had been
pluming himself since noon; it was no time for hesitation. They were
dining in the hall at the table at which they had played cards the night
before, Jarvey and Lord Almeric's servant attending them. Between the
table and the staircase was a screen. The next time Lord Almeric's glass
was filled, the tutor, in reaching something, upset the glass and its
contents over his own breeches, and amid the laughter of the other two
retired behind the screen to be wiped. There he slipped a crown into the
servant's hand, and whispered him to keep his master sober and he should
have another.

Mr. Pomeroy saw nothing and heard nothing, and for a time suspected
nothing. The servant was a crafty fellow, a London rascal, deft at
whipping away full bottles. He was an age finding a clean glass, and
slow in drawing the next cork. He filled the host's bumper, and Mr.
Thomasson's, and had but half a glass for his master. The next bottle he
impudently pronounced corked, and when Pomeroy cursed him for a liar,
brought him some in an unwashed glass that had been used for Bordeaux.
The wine was condemned, and went out; and though Pomeroy, with
unflagging spirits, roared to Jarvey to open the other bottles, the
butler had got the office, and was slow to bring them. The cheese came
and went, and left Lord Almeric cooler than it found him. The tutor was
overjoyed at the success of his tactics.

But when the board was cleared, and the bottles were set on, and the men
withdrawn, Bully Pomeroy began to push what remained of the Brooks and
Hellier after a fashion that boded an early defeat to the tutor's
precautions. It was in vain Thomasson clung to the bottle and sometimes
returned it Hertfordshire fashion. The only result was that Mr. Pomeroy
smelt a rat, gave Lord Almeric a back-hander, and sent the bottle on
again, with a grin that told the tutor he was understood.

After that Mr. Thomasson had the choice between sitting still and taking
his own part. It was neck or nothing. Lord Almeric was already
hiccoughing and would soon be talking thickly. The next time the bottle
came round, the tutor retained it, and when Lord Almeric reached, for
it, 'No, my lord,' he said, laughing; 'Venus first and Bacchus
afterwards. Your lordship has to wait on the lady. When you come down,
with Mr. Pomeroy's leave, we'll crack another bottle.'

My lord withdrew his hand more readily than the other had hoped. 'Right,
Tommy,' he said. 'I'll wait till I come down. What's that song, "Rich
the treasure, sweet the pleasure, sweet is pleasure after pain"? Oh, no,
damme! I don't mean that,' he continued. 'No. How does it go?'

Mr. Pomeroy thrust the bottle into his hands, looking daggers the while
at the tutor. 'Take another glass,' he cried boisterously. ''Swounds,
the girl will like you the better for it.'

'D'ye think so, Pom? Honest?'

'Sure of it. 'Twill give you spirit, my lord.'

'So it will.'

'At her and kiss her! Are you going to be governed all your life by that
whey-faced old Methodist? Or be your own man? Tell me that.'

'My lord, there's fifty thousand pounds upon it,' Thomasson said, his
face red. And he pushed back the bottle. The setting sun, peeping a
moment through the rain clouds and the low-browed lattice windows, flung
an angry yellow light on the board and the three flushed faces round it.
'Fifty thousand pounds,' repeated Mr. Thomasson firmly.

'Damme! so there is!' my lord answered, settling his chin in his cravat
and dusting the crumbs from his breeches. 'I'll take no more. So there!'

'I thought your lordship was a good-humoured man and no flincher,' Mr.
Pomeroy retorted with a sneer.

'Oh, I vow and protest--if you put it that way,' the weakling answered,
once more extending his hand, the fingers of which closed lovingly round
the bottle, 'I cannot refuse. Positively I cannot.'

'Fifty thousand pounds!' the tutor said, shrugging his shoulders.

Lord Almeric drew back his hand.

'Why, she'll like you the better!' Pomeroy cried fiercely, as he thrust
the bottle to him again. 'D'you think a woman doesn't love an easy
husband? And wouldn't rather have a good fellow than a thread-paper?'

'Mr. Pomeroy! Mr. Pomeroy!' the tutor said. Such words used of a lord
shocked him.

'A milksop! A thing of curds and whey!'

'After marriage, yes,' the tutor muttered, pitching his voice cleverly
in Lord Almeric's ear, and winking as he leant towards him. 'But your
lordship has a great stake in't; and to abstain one night--why, sure, my
lord, it's a small thing to do for a fine woman and a fortune.'

'Hang me! so it is!' Lord Almeric answered. 'You are a good friend to
me, Tommy.' And he flung his glass crashing into the fireplace. 'No,
Pom; you'd bubble me. You want the pretty charmer yourself. But I'll be
hanged if you shall have her. I'll walk, my boy, I'll walk, and at six
I'll go to her, and take you too. And mind you, no tricks, Pom. Lord! I
know women as well as I know my own head in the glass. You don't
bite me.'

Pomeroy, with a face like thunder, did not answer; and Lord Almeric,
walking a little unsteadily, went to the door, and a moment later became
visible through one of the windows. He stood awhile, his back towards
them, now sniffing the evening air, and now, with due regard to his
mixed silk coat, taking a pinch of snuff.

Mr. Thomasson, his heart beating, wished he had had the courage to go
with him. But this would have been to break with his host beyond
mending; and it was now too late. He was still seeking a propitiatory
phrase with which to break the oppressive silence, when Pomeroy
anticipated him.

'You think yourself vastly clever, Mr. Tutor,' he growled, his voice
hoarse with anger. 'You think a bird in the hand is worth two in the
bush, I see.'

'Ten in the bush,' Mr. Thomasson answered, affecting an easiness he did
not feel. 'Ten fives are fifty.'

'Two in the bush I said, and two in the bush I mean,' the other
retorted, his voice still low. 'Take it or leave it,' he continued, with
a muttered oath and a swift side glance at the windows, through which
Lord Almeric was still visible, walking slowly to and fro, and often
standing. 'If you want it firm, I'll put it in black and white. Ten
thousand, or security, the day after we come from church.'

The tutor was silent a moment. Then, 'It is too far in the bush,' he
answered in a low voice. 'I am willing enough to serve you, Mr. Pomeroy.
I assure you, my dear sir, I desire nothing better. But if--if his
lordship were dismissed, you'd be as far off as ever. And I should lose
my bird in hand.'

'She took him. Why should she not take me?'

'He has--no offence--a title, Mr. Pomeroy.'

'And is a fool.'

Mr. Thomasson raised his hands in deprecation. Such a saying, spoken of
a lord, really offended him. But his words went to another point.
'Besides, it's a marriage-brocage contract, and void,' he muttered.
'Void in law.'

'You don't trust me?'

''Twould be of no use, Mr. Pomeroy,' the tutor answered, gently shaking
his head, and avoiding the issue presented to him. 'You could not
persuade her. She was in such a humour to-day, my lord had special
advantages. Break it off between them, and she'll come to herself. And
she is wilful--Lord! you don't know her! Petruchio could not tame her.'

'I know nothing about Petruchio,' Mr. Pomeroy answered grimly. 'Nor who
the gentleman was. But I've ways of my own. You can leave that to me.'

But Mr. Thomasson, who had only parleyed out of compliance, took fright
at that, and rose from the table, shaking his head.

'You won't do it?' Mr. Pomeroy said.

The tutor shook his head again, with a sickly smile. ''Tis too far in
the bush,' he said.

'Ten thousand,' Mr. Pomeroy persisted, his eyes on the other's face.
'Man,' he continued forcibly, 'Do you think you will ever have such a
chance again? Ten thousand! Why, 'tis eight hundred a year. 'Tis a
gentleman's fortune.'

For a moment Mr. Thomasson did waver. Then he put the temptation from
him, and shook his head. 'You must pardon me, Mr. Pomeroy,' he said. 'I
cannot do it.'

'Will not!' Pomeroy cried harshly. 'Will not!' And would have said more,
but at that moment Jarvey entered behind him.

'Please, your honour,' the man said, 'the lady would see my lord.'

'Oh!' Pomeroy answered coarsely, 'she is impatient, is she? Devil take
her for me! And him too!' And he sat sulkily in his place.

But the interruption suited Mr. Thomasson perfectly. He went to the
outer door, and, opening it, called Lord Almeric, who, hearing what was
afoot, hurried in.

'Sent for me!' he cried, pressing his hat to his breast. 'Dear
creature!' and he kissed his fingers to the gallery. 'Positively she is
the daintiest, sweetest morsel ever wore a petticoat! I vow and protest
I am in love with her! It were brutal not to be, and she so fond! I'll
to her at once! Tell her I fly! I stay for a dash of bergamot, and I am
with her!'

'I thought that you were going to take us with you,' said Mr. Pomeroy,
watching him sourly.

'I will! 'Pon honour, I will!' replied the delighted beau. 'But she
will soon find a way to dismiss you, the cunning baggage! and then,
"Sweet is pleasure after pain." Ha! Ha! I have it aright this time.
Sweet is Plea--oh! the doting rascal! But let us to her! I vow, if she
is not civil to you, I'll--I'll be cold to her!'



CHAPTER XXVII

MR. FISHWICK'S DISCOVERY

We left Sir George Soane and his companions stranded in the little
alehouse at Bathford, waiting through the small hours of the night for a
conveyance to carry them forward to Bristol. Soap and water, a good
meal, and a brief dog's sleep, in which Soane had no share--he spent the
night walking up and down--and from which Mr. Fishwick was continually
starting with cries and moanings, did something to put them in better
plight, if in no better temper. When the dawn came, and with it the
chaise-and-four for which they had sent to Bath, they issued forth
haggard and unshaven, but resolute; and long before the shops in Bristol
had begun to look for custom, the three, with Sir George's servant,
descended before the old Bush Inn, near the Docks.

The attorney held strongly the opinion that they should not waste a
second before seeking the persons whom Mr. Dunborough had employed; the
least delay, he urged, and the men might be gone into hiding. But on
this a wrangle took place, in the empty street before the half-roused
inn; with a milk-girl and a couple of drunken sailors for witnesses. Mr.
Dunborough, who was of the party will-he, nill-he, and asked nothing
better than to take out in churlishness the pressure put upon him, stood
firmly to it, he would take no more than one person to the men. He would
take Sir George, if he pleased, but he would take no one else.

'I'll have no lawyer to make evidence!' he cried boastfully. 'And I'll
take no one but on terms. I'll have no Jemmy Twitcher with me.
That's flat.'

Mr. Fishwick in a great rage was for insisting; but Sir George stopped
him. 'On what terms?' he asked the other.

'If the girl be unharmed, we go unharmed. One and all!' Mr. Dunborough
answered. 'Damme!' he continued with a great show of bravado, 'do you
think I am going to peach on 'em? Not I. There's the offer, take it or
leave it.'

Sir George might have broken down his opposition by the same arguments
addressed to his safety which had brought him so far. But time was
everything, and Soane was on fire to know the best or worst. 'Agreed!'
he cried. 'Lead the way, sir! And do you, Mr. Fishwick, await me here.'

'We must have time,' Mr. Dunborough grumbled, hesitating, and looking
askance at the attorney--he hated him. 'I can't answer for an hour or
two. I know a place, and I know another place, and there is another
place. And they may be at one or another, or the other. D'you see?'

'I see that it is your business,' Sir George answered with a glance,
before which the other's eyes fell. 'Wait until noon, Mr. Fishwick. If
we have not returned at that hour, be good enough to swear an
information against this gentleman, and set the constables to work.'

Mr. Dunborough muttered that it lay on Sir George's head if ill came of
it; but that said, swung sulkily on his heel. Mr. Fishwick, when the two
were some way down the street, ran after Soane, and asked in a whisper
if his pistols were primed; when he returned satisfied on that point,
the servant, whom he had left at the door of the inn, had vanished. The
lawyer made a shrewd guess that he would have an eye to his master's
safety, and retired into the house with less misgiving.

He got his breakfast early, and afterwards dozed awhile, resting his
aching bones in a corner of the coffee-room. It was nine and after, and
the tide of life was roaring through the channels of the city when he
roused himself, and to divert his suspense and fend off his growing
stiffness went out to look about him. All was new to him, but he soon
wearied of the main streets, where huge drays laden with puncheons of
rum and bales of tobacco threatened to crush him, and tarry seamen,
their whiskers hanging in ringlets, jostled him at every crossing.
Turning aside into a quiet court he stood to stare at a humble wedding
which was leaving a church. He watched the party out of sight, and then,
the church-door standing open, he took the fancy to stroll into the
building. He looked about him at the maze of dusty green-cushioned pews
with little alleys winding hither and thither among them; at the great
three-decker with its huge sounding-board; at the royal escutcheon, and
the faded tables of the law, and was about to leave as aimlessly as he
had entered, when he espied the open vestry door. Popping in his head,
his eye fell on a folio bound in sheepskin, that lay open on a chest, a
pen and ink beside it.

The attorney was in that state of fatigue of body and languor of mind in
which the least trifle amuses. He tip-toed in, his hat in his hand, and
licking his lips as he thought of the law-cases that lay enshrined
between those covers, he perused a couple of entries with a kind of
professional enthusiasm. He was beginning a third, which, being by a
different hand, was a little hard to decipher, when a black gown that
hung on a hook over against him swung noiselessly outward from the wall,
and a little old man emerged from the doorway which it masked.

The lawyer, who was stooping over the register, raised himself
guiltily. 'Hallo!' he said, to cover his confusion.

'Hallo!' the old man answered with a wintry smile. 'A shilling, if you
please.' And he held out his hand.

'Oh!' said Mr. Fishwick, much chap-fallen, 'I was only just--looking out
of curiosity.'

'It is a shilling to look,' the newcomer retorted with a chuckle. 'Only
one year, I think? Just so, anno domini seventeen hundred and
sixty-seven. A shilling, if you please.'

Mr. Fishwick hesitated, but in the end professional pride swayed him, he
drew out the coin, and grudgingly handed it over. 'Well,' he said, 'it
is a shilling for nothing. But, I suppose, as you have caught me, I
must pay.'

'I've caught a many that way,' the old fellow answered as he pouched the
shilling. 'But there, I do a lot of work upon them. There is not a
better register kept anywhere than that, nor a parish clerk that knows
more about his register than I do, though I say it that should not. It
is clear and clean from old Henry Eighth, with never a break except at
the time of the siege, and, by the way, there is an entry about that
that you could see for another shilling. No? Well, if you would like to
see a year for nothing--No? Now, I know a lad, an attorney's clerk here,
name of Chatterton, would give his ears for the offer. Perhaps your name
is Smith?' the old fellow continued, looking curiously at Mr. Fishwick.
'If it is, you may like to know that the name of Smith is in the
register of burials just three hundred-and eighty-three times--was last
Friday! Oh, it is not Smith? Well, if it is Brown, it is there two
hundred and seventy times--and one over!'

'That is an odd thought of yours,' said the lawyer, staring at the
conceit.

'So many have said,' the old man chuckled. 'But it is not Brown? Jones,
perhaps? That comes two hundred and--Oh, it is not Jones?'

'It is a name you won't be likely to have once, let alone four hundred
times!' the lawyer answered, with a little pride--heaven knows why.

'What may it be, then?' the clerk asked, fairly put on his mettle. And
he drew out a pair of glasses, and settling them on his forehead looked
fixedly at his companion.

'Fishwick.'

'Fishwick! Fishwick? Well, it is not a common name, and I cannot speak
to it at this moment. But if it is here, I'll wager I'll find it for
you. D'you see, I have them here in alphabet order,' he continued,
bustling with an important air to a cupboard in the wall, whence he
produced a thick folio bound in roughened calf. 'Ay, here's Fishwick, in
the burial book, do you see, volume two, page seventeen, anno domini
1750, seventeen years gone, that is. Will you see it? 'Twill be only a
shilling. There's many pays out of curiosity to see their names.'

Mr. Fishwick shook his head.

'Dods! man, you shall!' the old clerk cried generously; and turned the
pages. 'You shall see it for what you have paid. Here you are.
"_Fourteenth of September, William Fishwick, aged eighty-one, barber,
West Quay, died the eleventh of the month_." No, man, you are looking
too low. Higher on the page! Here 'tis, do you see? Eh--what is it?
What's the matter with you?'

'Nothing,' Mr. Fishwick muttered. But he continued to stare at the page
with a face struck suddenly sallow, while the hand that rested on the
corner of the book shook as with the ague.

'Nothing?' the old man said, staring suspiciously at him. 'I do believe
it is something. I do believe it is money. Well, it is five shillings to
extract. So there!'

That seemed to change Mr. Fishwick's view. 'It might be money,' he
confessed, still speaking thickly, and as if his tongue were too large
for his mouth. 'It might be,' he repeated. 'But--I am not very well this
morning. Do you think you could get me a glass of water?'

'None of that!' the old man retorted sharply, with a sudden look of
alarm. 'I would not leave you alone with that book at this moment for
all the shillings I have taken! So if you want water you've got to
get it.'

'I am better now,' Mr. Fishwick answered. But the sweat that stood on
his brow went far to belie his words. 'I--yes, I think I'll take an
extract. Sixty-one, was he?'

'Eighty-one, eighty-one, it says. There's pen and ink, but you'll please
to give me five shillings before you write. Thank you kindly. Lord save
us, but that is not the one. You're taking out the one above it.'

'I'll have 'em all--for identification,' Mr. Fishwick replied, wiping
his forehead nervously.

'Sho! You have no need.'

'I think I will.'

'What, all?'

'Well, the one before and the one after.'

'Dods! man, but that will be fifteen shillings!' the clerk cried, aghast
at such extravagance.

'You'll only charge for the entry I want?' the lawyer said with an
effort.

'Well--we'll say five shillings for the other two.'

Mr. Fishwick closed with the offer, and with a hand which was still
unsteady paid the money and extracted the entries. Then he took his hat,
and hurriedly, his eyes averted, turned to go.

'If it's money,' the old clerk said, staring at him as if he could
never satisfy his inquisitiveness, 'you'll not forget me?'

'If it's money,' Mr. Fishwick said with a ghastly smile, 'it shall be
some in your pocket.'

'Thank you kindly. Thank you kindly, sir! Now who would ha' thought when
you stepped in here you were stepping into fortune, so to speak?'

'Just so,' Mr. Fishwick answered, a spasm distorting his face. 'Who'd
have thought it? Good morning!'

'And good-luck!' the clerk bawled after him. 'Good-luck!'

Mr. Fishwick fluttered a hand backward, but made no answer. His first
object was to escape from the court; this done, he plunged through a
stream of traffic, and having covered his trail, went on rapidly,
seeking a quiet corner. He found one in a square among some warehouses,
and standing, pulled out the copy he had made from the register. It was
neither on the first nor the second entry, however, that his eyes
dwelled, while the hand that held the paper shook as with the ague. It
was the third fascinated him:--

'_September 19th,_' it ran, '_at the Bee in Steep Street, Julia,
daughter of Anthony and Julia Soane of Estcombe, aged three, and buried
the 21st of the month_.'

Mr. Fishwick read it thrice, his lips quivering; then he slowly drew
from a separate pocket a little sheaf of papers, frayed at the corners,
and soiled with much and loving handling. He selected from these a slip;
it was one of those which Mr. Thomasson had surprised on the table in
the room at the Castle Inn. It was a copy of the attestation of birth
'of Julia, daughter of Anthony Soane, of Estcombe, England, and Julie
his wife'; the date, August, 1747; the place, Dunquerque.

The Attorney drew a long quivering breath, and put the papers up again,
the packet in the place from which he had taken it, the extract from the
Bristol register in another pocket. Then, after drawing one or two more
sighs as if his heart were going out of him, he looked dismally upwards
as in protest against heaven. At length he turned and went back to the
thoroughfare, and there, with a strangely humble air, asked a passer-by
the nearest way to Steep Street.

The man directed him; the place was near at hand. In two minutes Mr.
Fishwick found himself at the door of a small but decent grocer's shop,
over the portal of which a gilded bee seemed to prognosticate more
business than the fact performed. An elderly woman, stout and
comfortable-looking, was behind the counter. Eyeing the attorney as he
came forward, she asked him what she could do for him, and before he
could answer reached for the snuff canister.

He took the hint, requested an ounce of the best Scotch and Havannah
mixed, and while she weighed it, asked her how long she had lived there.

'Twenty-six years, sir,' she answered heartily, 'Old Style. For the New,
I don't hold with it nor them that meddle with things above them. I am
sure it brought me no profit,' she continued, rubbing her nose. 'I have
buried a good husband and two children since they gave it us!'

'Still, I suppose people died Old Style?' the lawyer ventured.

'Well, well, may be.'

'There was a death in this house seventeen years gone this September,'
he said, 'if I remember rightly.'

The woman pushed away the snuff and stared at him. 'Two, for the matter
of that,' she said sharply. 'But should I remember you?'

'No.'

'Then, if I may make so bold, what is't to you?' she retorted. 'Do you
come from Jim Masterson?'

'He is dead,' Mr. Fishwick answered.

She threw up her hands. 'Lord! And he a young man, so to speak! Poor
Jim! Poor Jim! It is ten years and more--ay, more--since I heard from
him. And the child? Is that dead too?'

'No, the child is alive,' the lawyer answered, speaking at a venture, 'I
am here on her behalf, to make some inquiries about her kinsfolk.'

The woman's honest red face softened and grew motherly. 'You may
inquire,' she said, 'you'll learn no more than I can tell you. There is
no one left that's kin to her. The father was a poor Frenchman, a
monsieur that taught the quality about here; the mother was one of his
people--she came from Canterbury, where I am told there are French and
to spare. But according to her account she had no kin left. He died the
year after the child was born, and she came to lodge with me, and lived
by teaching, as he had; but 'twas a poor livelihood, you may say, and
when she sickened, she died--just as a candle goes out.'

'When?' Mr. Fishwick asked, his eyes glued to the woman's face.

'The week Jim Masterson came to see us bringing the child from foreign
parts--that was buried with her. 'Twas said his child took the fever
from her and got its death that way. But I don't know. I don't know. It
is true they had not brought in the New Style then; but--'

'You knew him before? Masterson, I mean?'

'Why, he had courted me!' was the good-tempered answer. 'You don't know
much if you don't know that. Then my good man came along and I liked him
better, and Jim went into service and married Oxfordshire way. But when
he came to Bristol after his journey in foreign parts, 'twas natural he
should come to see me; and my husband, who was always easy, would keep
him a day or two--more's the pity, for in twenty-four hours the child he
had with him began to sicken, and died. And never was man in such a
taking, though he swore the child was not his, but one he had adopted to
serve a gentleman in trouble; and because his wife had none. Any way, it
was buried along with my lodger, and nothing would serve but he must
adopt the child she had left. It seemed ordained-like, they being of an
age, and all. And I had two children to care for, and was looking for
another that never came; and the mother had left no more than buried her
with a little help. So he took it with him, and we heard from him once
or twice, how it fared, and that his wife took to it, and the like; and
then--well, writing's a burden. But,' with renewed interest, 'she's a
well-grown girl by now, I guess?'

'Yes,' the attorney answered absently, 'she--she's a well-grown girl.'

'And is poor Jim's wife alive?'

'Yes.'

'Ah,' the good woman answered, looking thoughtfully into the street.' If
she were not--I'd think about taking to the girl myself. It's lonely at
times without chick or child. And there's the shop to tend. She could
help with that.'

The attorney winced. He was looking ill; wretchedly ill. But he had his
back to the light, and she remarked nothing save that he seemed to be a
sombre sort of body and poor company. 'What was the Frenchman's name?'
he asked after a pause.

'Parry,' said she. And then, sharply, 'Don't they call her by it?'

'It has an English sound,' he said doubtfully, evading her question.

'That is the way he called it. But it was spelled Pare, just Pare.'

'Ah,' said Mr. Fishwick. 'That explains it.' He wondered miserably why
he had asked what did not in the least matter; since, if she were not a
Soane, it mattered not who she was. After an interval he recovered
himself with a sigh. 'Well, thank you,' he continued, 'I am much obliged
to you. And now--for the moment--good-morning, ma'am. I must wish you
good-morning,' he repeated, hurriedly; and took up his snuff.

'But that is not all?' the good woman exclaimed in astonishment. 'At any
rate you'll leave your name?'

Mr. Fishwick pursed up his lips and stared at her gloomily. 'Name?' he
said at last. 'Yes, ma'am, certainly. Brown. Mr. Peter Brown, the--the
Poultry--'

'The Poultry!' she cried, gaping at him helplessly.

'Yes, the Poultry, London. Mr. Peter Brown, the Poultry, London. And now
I have other business and shall--shall return another day. I must wish
you good-morning, ma'am, Good-morning.' And thrusting his face into his
hat, Mr. Fishwick bundled precipitately into the street, and with
singular recklessness made haste to plunge into the thickest of the
traffic, leaving the good woman in a state of amazement.

Nevertheless, he reached the inn safely. When Mr. Dunborough returned
from a futile search, his failure in which condemned him to another
twenty-four hours in that company, the first thing he saw was the
attorney's gloomy face awaiting them in a dark corner of the
coffee-room. The sight reproached him subtly, he knew not why; he was in
the worst of tempers, and, for want of a better outlet, he vented his
spleen on the lawyer's head.

'D--n you!' he cried, brutally. 'Your hang-dog phiz is enough to spoil
any sport! Hang me if I believe that there is such another mumping,
whining, whimpering sneak in the 'varsal world! D'you think any one
will have luck with your tallow face within a mile of him?' Then
longing, but not daring, to turn his wrath on Sir George, 'What do you
bring him for?' he cried.

'For my convenience,' Sir George retorted, with a look of contempt that
for the time silenced the other. And that said, Soane proceeded to
explain to Mr. Fishwick, who had answered not a word, that the rogues
had got into hiding; but that by means of persons known to Mr.
Dunborough it was hoped that they would be heard from that evening or
the next. Then, struck by the attorney's sickly face, 'I am afraid you
are not well, Mr. Fishwick,' Sir George continued, more kindly. 'The
night has been too much for you. I would advise you to lie down for a
few hours and take some rest. If anything is heard I will send word
to you.'

Mr. Fishwick thanked him, without meeting his eyes; and after a minute
or two retired. Sir George looked after him, and pondered a little on
the change in his manner. Through the stress of the night Mr. Fishwick
had shown himself alert and eager, ready and not lacking in spirit; now
he had depression written large on his face, and walked and bore himself
like a man sinking under a load of despondency.

All that day the messenger from the slums was expected but did not come;
and between the two men who sat downstairs, strange relations prevailed.
Sir George did not venture to let the other out of his sight; yet there
were times when they came to the verge of blows, and nothing but the
knowledge of Sir George's swordsmanship kept Mr. Dunborough's temper
within bounds. At dinner, at which Sir George insisted that the attorney
should sit down with them, Dunborough drank his two bottles of wine, and
in his cups fell into a strain peculiarly provoking.

'Lord! you make me sick,' he said. 'All this pother about a girl that a
month ago your high mightiness would not have looked at in the street.
You are vastly virtuous now, and sneer at me; but, damme! which of us
loves the girl best? Take away her money, and will you marry her? I'd 'a
done it, without a rag to her back. But take away her money, and will
you do the same, Mr. Virtuous?'

Sir George listening darkly, and putting a great restraint on himself,
did not answer. Mr. Fishwick waited a moment, then got up suddenly, and
hurried from the room--with a movement so abrupt that he left his
wine-glass in fragments on the floor.



CHAPTER XXVIII

A ROUGH AWAKENING

Lord Almeric continued to vapour and romance as he mounted the stairs.
Mr. Pomeroy attended, sneering, at his heels. The tutor followed, and
longed to separate them. He had his fears for the one and of the other,
and was relieved when his lordship at the last moment hung back, and
with a foolish chuckle proposed a plan that did more honour to his
vanity than his taste.

'Hist!' he whispered. 'Do you two stop outside a minute, and you'll hear
how kind she'll be to me! I'll leave the door ajar, and then in a minute
do you come in and roast her! Lord, 'twill be as good as a play!'

Mr. Pomeroy shrugged his shoulders. 'As you please,' he growled. 'But I
have known a man go to shear and be shorn!'

Lord Almeric smiled loftily, and waiting for no more, winked to them,
turned the handle of the door, and simpered in.

Had Mr. Thomasson entered with him, the tutor would have seen at a
glance that he had wasted his fears; and that whatever trouble
threatened brooded in a different quarter. The girl, her face a blaze of
excitement and shame and eagerness, stood in the recess of the farther
window seat, as far from the door as she could go; her attitude the
attitude of one driven into a corner. And from that alone her lover
should have taken warning. But Lord Almeric saw nothing, feared nothing.
Crying 'Most lovely Julia!' he tripped forward to embrace her, and, the
wine emboldening him, was about to clasp her in his arms, when she
checked him by a gesture unmistakable even by a man in his
flustered state.

'My lord,' she said hurriedly, yet in a tone of pleading--and her head
hung a little, and her cheeks began to flame. 'I ask your forgiveness
for having sent for you. Alas, I have also to ask your forgiveness for a
more serious fault. One--one which you may find it less easy to pardon,'
she added, her courage failing.

'Try me!' the little beau answered with ardour; and he struck an
attitude. 'What would I not forgive to the loveliest of her sex?' And
under cover of his words he made a second attempt to come within
reach of her.

She waved him back. 'No!' she said. 'You do not understand me.'

'Understand?' he cried effusively. 'I understand enough to--but why, my
Chloe, these alarms, this bashfulness? Sure,' he spouted,

     'How can I see you, and not love,
       While you as Opening East are fair?
     While cold as Northern Blasts you prove,
       How can I love and not despair?'

And then, in wonder at his own readiness, 'S'help me! that's uncommon
clever of me,' he said. 'But when a man is in love with the most
beautiful of her sex--'

'My lord!' she cried, stamping the floor in her impatience. 'I have
something serious to say to you. Must I ask you to return to me at
another time? Or will you be good enough to listen to me now?'

'Sho, if you wish it, child,' he said lightly, taking out his snuff-box.
'And to be sure there is time enough. But between us two, sweet--'

'There is nothing between us!' she cried, impetuously snatching at the
word. 'That is what I wanted to tell you. I made a mistake when I said
that there should be. I was mad; I was wicked, if you like. Do you hear
me, my lord?' she continued passionately. 'It was a mistake. I did not
know what I was doing. And, now I do understand, I take it back.'

Lord Almeric gasped. He heard the words, but the meaning seemed
incredible, inconceivable; the misfortune, if he heard aright, was too
terrible; the humiliation too overwhelming! He had brought
listeners--and for this! 'Understand?' he cried, looking at her in a
confused, chap-fallen way. 'Hang me if I do understand! You don't mean
to say--Oh, it is impossible, stuff me! it is. You don't mean that--that
you'll not have me? After all that has come and gone, ma'am?'

She shook her head; pitying him, blaming herself, for the plight in
which she had placed him. 'I sent for you, my lord,' she said humbly,
'that I might tell you at once. I could not rest until I had told you. I
did what I could. And, believe me, I am very, very sorry.'

'But do you mean--that you--you jilt me?' he cried, still fighting off
the dreadful truth.

'Not jilt!' she said, shivering.

'That you won't have me?'

She nodded.

'After--after saying you would?' he wailed.

'I cannot,' she answered. Then, 'Cannot you understand?' she cried, her
face scarlet. 'I did not know until--until you went to kiss me.'

'But--oh, I say--but you love me?' he protested.

'No, my lord,' she said firmly. 'No. And there, you must do me the
justice to acknowledge that I never said I did.'

He dashed his hat on the floor: he was almost weeping. 'Oh, damme!' he
cried, 'a woman should not--should not treat a man like this. It's low.
It's cruel! It's--'

A knock on the door stopped him. Recollection of the listeners, whom he
had momentarily forgotten, revived, and overwhelmed him. With an oath he
sprang to shut the door, but before he could intervene Mr. Pomeroy
appeared smiling on the threshold; and behind him the reluctant tutor.

Lord Almeric swore, and Julia, affronted by the presence of strangers at
such a time, drew back, frowning. But Bully Pomeroy would see nothing.
'A thousand pardons if I intrude,' he said, bowing this way and that,
that he might hide a lurking grin. 'But his lordship was good enough to
say a while ago, that he would present us to the lady who had consented
to make him happy. We little thought last night, ma'am, that so much
beauty and so much goodness were reserved for one of us.'

Lord Almeric looked ready to cry. Julia, darkly red, was certain that
they had overheard; she stood glaring at the intruders, her foot tapping
the floor. No one answered, and Mr. Pomeroy, after looking from one to
the other in assumed surprise, pretended to hit on the reason. 'Oh, I
see; I spoil sport!' he cried with coarse joviality. 'Curse me if I
meant to! I fear we have come _mal à propos,_ my lord, and the sooner we
are gone the better.

     'And though she found his usage rough,
     Yet in a man 'twas well enough!'

he hummed, with his head on one side and an impudent leer. 'We are
interrupting the turtledoves, Mr. Thomasson, and had better be gone.'

'Curse you! Why did you ever come?' my lord cried furiously. 'But she
won't have me. So there! Now you know.'

Mr. Pomeroy struck an attitude of astonishment.

'Won't have you?' he cried, 'Oh, stap me! you are biting us.'

'I'm not! And you know it!' the poor little blood answered, tears of
vexation in his eyes. 'You know it, and you are roasting me!'

'Know it?' Mr. Pomeroy answered in tones of righteous indignation. 'I
know it? So far from knowing it, my dear lord, I cannot believe it! I
understood that the lady had given you her word.'

'So she did.'

'Then I cannot believe that a lady would anywhere, much less under my
roof, take it back. Madam, there must be some mistake here,' Mr. Pomeroy
continued warmly. 'It is intolerable that a man of his lordship's rank
should be so treated. I'm forsworn if he has not mistaken you.'

'He does not mistake me now,' she answered, trembling and blushing
painfully. 'What error there was I have explained to him.'

'But, damme--'

'Sir!' she said with awakening spirit, her eyes sparkling. 'What has
happened is between his lordship and myself. Interference on the part of
any one else is an intrusion, and I shall treat it as such. His lordship
understood--'

'Curse me! He does not look as if he understood,' Mr. Pomeroy cried,
allowing his native coarseness to peep through. 'Sink me, ma'am, there
is a limit to prudishness. Fine words butter no parsnips. You plighted
your troth to my guest, and I'll not see him thrown over i' this
fashion. These airs and graces are out of place. I suppose a man has
some rights under his own roof, and when his guest is jilted before his
eyes'--here Mr. Pomeroy frowned like Jove--'it is well you should know,
ma'am, that a woman no more than a man can play fast and loose at
pleasure.'

She looked at him with disdain. 'Then the sooner I leave your roof the
better, sir,' she said.

'Not so fast there, either,' he answered with an unpleasant smile. 'You
came to it when you chose, and you will leave it when we choose; and
that is flat, my girl. This morning, when my lord did you the honour to
ask you, you gave him your word. Perhaps to-morrow morning you'll be of
the same mind again. Any way, you will wait until to-morrow and see.'

'I shall not wait on your pleasure,' she cried, stung to rage.

'You will wait on it, ma'am! Or 'twill be the worse for you.'

Burning with indignation she turned to the other two, her breath coming
quick. But Mr. Thomasson gazed gloomily at the floor, and would not meet
her eyes; and Lord Almeric, who had thrown himself into a chair, was
glowering sulkily at his shoes. 'Do you mean,' she cried, 'that you will
dare to detain me, sir?'

'If you put it so,' Pomeroy answered, grinning, 'I think I dare take it
on myself.'

His voice full of mockery, his insolent eyes, stung her to the quick. 'I
will see if that be so,' she cried, fearlessly advancing on him. 'Lay a
finger on me if you dare! I am going out. Make way, sir.'

'You are not going out!' he cried between his teeth. And held his ground
in front of her.

She advanced until she was within touch of him, then her courage failed
her; they stood a second or two gazing at one another, the girl with
heaving breast and cheeks burning with indignation, the man with cynical
watchfulness. Suddenly, shrinking from actual contact with him, she
sprang aside, and was at the door before he could intercept her. But
with a rapid movement he turned on his heel, seized her round the waist
before she could open the door, dragged her shrieking from it, and with
an oath--and not without an effort--flung her panting and breathless
into the window-seat. 'There!' he cried ferociously, his blood fired by
the struggle; 'lie there! And behave yourself, my lady, or I'll find
means to quiet you. For you,' he continued, turning fiercely on the
tutor, whose face the sudden scuffle and the girl's screams had blanched
to the hue of paper, 'did you never hear a woman squeak before? And you,
my lord? Are you so dainty? But, to be sure, 'tis your lordship's
mistress,' he continued ironically. 'Your pardon. I forgot that. I
should not have handled her so roughly. However, she is none the worse,
and 'twill bring her to reason.'

But the struggle and the girl's cries had shaken my lord's nerves. 'D--n
you!' he cried hysterically, and with a stamp of the foot, 'you should
not have done that.'

'Pooh, pooh,' Mr. Pomeroy answered lightly. 'Do you leave it to me, my
lord. She does not know her own mind. 'Twill help her to find it. And
now, if you'll take my advice, you'll leave her to a night's
reflection.'

But Lord Almeric only repeated, 'You should not have done that.'

Mr. Pomeroy's face showed his scorn for the man whom a cry or two and a
struggling woman had frightened. Yet he affected to see art in it. 'I
understand. And it is the right line to take,' he said; and he laughed
unpleasantly. 'No doubt it will be put to your lordship's credit. But
now, my lord,' he continued, 'let us go. You will see she will have come
to her senses by to-morrow.'

The girl had remained passive since her defeat. But at this she rose
from the window-seat where she had crouched, slaying them with furious
glances. 'My lord,' she cried passionately, 'if you are a man, if you
are a gentleman--you'll not suffer this.'

But Lord Almeric, who had recovered from his temporary panic, and was
as angry with her as with Pomeroy, shrugged his shoulders. 'Oh, I don't
know,' he said resentfully. 'It has naught to do with me, ma'am. I don't
want you kept, but you have behaved uncommon low to me; uncommon low.
And 'twill do you good to think on it. Stap me, it will!'

And he turned on his heel and sneaked out.

Mr. Pomeroy laughed insolently. 'There is still Tommy,' he said. 'Try
him. See what he'll say to you. It amuses me to hear you plead, my dear;
you put so much spirit into it. As my lord said, before we came in, 'tis
as good as a play.'

She flung him a look of scorn, but did not answer. For Mr. Thomasson, he
shuffled his feet uncomfortably. 'There are no horses,' he faltered,
cursing his indiscreet companion. 'Mr. Pomeroy means well, I know. And
as there are no horses, even if nothing prevented you, you could not go
to-night, you see.'

Mr. Pomeroy burst into a shout of laughter and clapped the stammering
tutor (fallen miserably between two stools) on the back. 'There's a
champion for you!' he cried. 'Beauty in distress! Lord! how it fires his
blood and turns his look to flame! What! going, Tommy?' he continued, as
Mr. Thomasson, unable to bear his raillery or the girl's fiery scorn,
turned and fled ignobly. 'Well, my pretty dear, I see we are to be left
alone. And, damme! quite right too, for we are the only man and the only
woman of the party, and should come to an understanding.'

Julia looked at him with shuddering abhorrence. They were alone; the
sound of the tutor's retreating footsteps was growing faint. She pointed
to the door. 'If you do not go,' she cried, her voice shaking with rage,
'I will rouse the house! I will call your people! Do you hear me? I
will so cry to your servants that you shall not for shame dare to keep
me! I will break this window and cry for help?'

'And what do you think I should be doing meanwhile?' he retorted with an
ugly leer. 'I thought I had shown you that two could play at that game.
But there, child, I like your spirit! I love you for it! You are a girl
after my own heart, and, damme! we'll live to laugh at those two old
women yet!'

She shrank farther from him with an expression of loathing. He saw the
look, and scowled, but for the moment he kept his temper. 'Fie! the
Little Masterson playing the grand lady!' he said. 'But there, you are
too handsome to be crossed, my dear. You shall have your own way
to-night, and I'll come and talk to you to-morrow, when your head is
cooler and those two fools are out of the way. And if we quarrel then,
my beauty, we can but kiss and make it up. Look on me as your friend,'
he added, with a leer from which she shrank, 'and I vow you'll not
repent it.'

She did not answer, she only pointed to the door, and finding that he
could draw nothing from her, he went at last. On the threshold he
turned, met her eyes with a grin of meaning, and took the key from the
inside of the lock. She heard him insert it on the outside, and turn it,
and had to grip one hand with the other to stay the scream that arose in
her throat. She was brave beyond most women; but the ease with which he
had mastered her, the humiliation of contact with him, the conviction of
her helplessness in his grasp lay on her still. They filled her with
fear; which grew more definite as the light, already low in the corners
of the room, began to fail, and the shadows thickened about the dingy
furniture, and she crouched alone against the barred window, listening
for the first tread of a coming foot--and dreading the night.



CHAPTER XXIX

MR. POMEROY'S PLAN

Mr. Pomeroy chuckled as he went down the stairs. Things had gone so well
for him, he owed it to himself to see that they went better, he had
mounted with a firm determination to effect a breach even if it cost him
my lord's enmity. He descended, the breach made, the prize open to
competition, and my lord obliged by friendly offices and
unselfish service.

Mr. Pomeroy smiled. 'She is a saucy baggage,' he muttered, 'but I've
tamed worse. 'Tis the first step is hard, and I have taken that. Now to
deal with Mother Olney. If she were not such a fool, or if I could be
rid of her and Jarvey, and put in the Tamplins, all's done. But she'd
talk! The kitchen wench need know nothing; for visitors, there are none
in this damp old hole. Win over Mother Olney and the Parson--and I don't
see where I can fail. The wench is here, safe and tight, and bread and
water, damp and loneliness will do a great deal. She don't deserve
better treatment, hang her impudence!'

But when he appeared in the hall an hour later, his gloomy face told a
different story. 'Where's Doyley?' he growled; and stumbled over a dog,
kicked it howling into a corner. 'Has he gone to bed?'

The tutor, brooding sulkily over his wine, looked up. 'Yes,' he said, as
rudely as he dared--he was sick with disappointment. 'He is going in
the morning.'

'And a good riddance!' Pomeroy cried with an oath. 'He's off it, is he?
He gives up?'

The tutor nodded gloomily. 'His lordship is not the man,' he said, with
an attempt at his former manner, 'to--to--'

'To win the odd trick unless he holds six trumps,' Mr. Pomeroy cried.
'No, by God! he is not. You are right, Parson. But so much the better
for you and me!'

Mr. Thomasson sniffed. 'I don't follow you,' he said stiffly.

'Don't you? You weren't so dull years ago,' Mr. Pomeroy answered,
filling a glass as he stood. He held it in his hand and looked over it
at the other, who, ill at ease, fidgeted in his chair, 'You could put
two and two together then, Parson, and you can put five and five
together now. They make ten--thousand.'

'I don't follow you,' the tutor repeated, steadfastly looking away from
him.

'Why? Nothing is changed since we talked--except that he is out of it!
And that that is done for me for nothing, which I offered you five
thousand to do. But I am generous, Tommy. I am generous.'

'The next chance is mine,' Mr. Thomasson cried, with a glance of spite.

Mr. Pomeroy, looking down at him, laughed--a galling laugh. 'Lord!
Tommy, that was a hundred years ago,' he said contemptuously.

'You said nothing was changed!'

'Nothing is changed in my case,' Mr. Pomeroy answered confidently,
'except for the better. In your case everything is changed--for the
worse. Did you take her part upstairs? Are your hands clean now? Does
she see through you or does she not? Or, put it in another way, my
friend. It is your turn; what are you going to do?'

'Go,' the tutor answered viciously. 'And glad to be quit.'

Mr. Pomeroy sat down opposite him. 'No, you'll not go,' he said in a low
voice; and drinking off half his wine, set down the glass and regarded
the other over it. 'Five and five are ten, Tommy. You are no fool, and I
am no fool.'

'I am not such a fool as to put my neck in a noose,' the tutor retorted.
'And there is no other way of coming at what you want, Mr. Pomeroy.'

'There are twenty,' Pomeroy returned coolly. 'And, mark you, if I fail,
you are spun, whether you help rue or no. You are blown on, or I can
blow on you! You'll get nothing for your cut on the head.'

'And what shall I get if I stay?'

'I have told you.'

'The gallows.'

'No, Tommy. Eight hundred a year.'

Mr. Thomasson sneered incredulously, and having made it plain that he
refused to think--thought! He had risked so much in this enterprise,
gone through so much; and to lose it all! He cursed the girl's
fickleness, her coyness, her obstinacy! He hated her. And do what he
might for her now, he doubted if he could cozen her or get much from
her. Yet in that lay his only chance, apart from Mr. Pomeroy. His eye
was cunning and his tone sly when he spoke.

'You forget one thing,' he said. 'I have only to open my lips after I
leave.'

'And I am nicked?' Mr. Pomeroy answered. 'True. And you will get a
hundred guineas, and have a worse than Dunborough at your heels.'

The tutor wiped his brow. 'What do you want?' he whispered.

'That old hag of a housekeeper has turned rusty,' Pomeroy answered.
'She has got it into her head something is going to be done to the girl.
I sounded her and I cannot trust her. I could send her packing, but
Jarvey is not much better, and talks when he is drunk. The girl must be
got from here.'

Mr. Thomasson raised his eyebrows scornfully.

'You need not sneer, you fool!' Pomeroy cried with a little spirt of
rage.' 'Tis no harder than to get her here.'

'Where will you take her?'

'To Tamplin's farm by the river. There, you are no wiser, but you may
trust me. I can hang the man, and the woman is no better. They have done
this sort of thing before. Once get her there, and, sink me! she'll be
glad to see the parson!'

The tutor shuddered. The water was growing very deep. 'I'll have no part
in it!' he said hoarsely. 'No part in it, so help me God!'

'There's no part for you!' Mr. Pomeroy answered with grim patience.
'Your part is to thwart me.'

Mr. Thomasson, half risen from his chair, sat down again. 'What do you
mean?' he muttered.

'You are her friend. Your part is to help her to escape. You're to sneak
to her room to-morrow, and tell her that you'll steal the key when I'm
drunk after dinner. You'll bid her be ready at eleven, and you'll let
her out, and have a chaise waiting at the end of the avenue. The chaise
will be there, you'll put her in, you'll go back to the house. I suppose
you see it now?'

The tutor stared in wonder. 'She'll get away,' he said.

'Half a mile,' Mr. Pomeroy answered drily, as he filled his glass.' Then
I shall stop the chaise--with a pistol if you like, jump in--a merry
surprise for the nymph; and before twelve we shall be at Tamplin's. And
you'll be free of it.'

Mr. Thomasson pondered, his face flushed, his eyes moist. 'I think you
are the devil!' he said at last.

'Is it a bargain? And see here. His lordship has gone silly on the girl.
You can tell him before he leaves what you are going to do. He'll leave
easy, and you'll have an evidence--of your good intentions!' Mr. Pomeroy
added with a chuckle. 'Is it a bargain?'

'I'll not do it!' Mr. Thomasson cried faintly. 'I'll not do it!'

But he sat down again, their heads came together across the table; they
talked long in low voices. Presently Mr. Pomeroy fetched pen and paper
from a table in one of the windows; where they lay along with one or two
odd volumes of Crebillon, a tattered Hoyle on whist, and Foote's jest
book. A note was written and handed over, and the two rose.

Mr. Thomasson would have liked to say a word before they parted as to no
violence being contemplated or used; something smug and fair-seeming
that would go to show that his right hand did not understand what his
left was doing. But even his impudence was unequal to the task, and with
a shamefaced good-night he secured the memorandum in his pocket-book and
sneaked up to bed.

He had every opportunity of carrying out Pomeroy's suggestion to make
Lord Almeric his confidant. For when he entered the chamber which they
shared, he found his lordship awake, tossing and turning in the shade of
the green moreen curtains; in a pitiable state between chagrin and rage.
But the tutor's nerve failed him. He had few scruples--it was not that;
but he was weary and sick at heart, and for that night he felt that he
had done enough. So to all my lord's inquiries he answered as sleepily
as consisted with respect, until the effect which he did not wish to
produce was produced. The young roué's suspicions were aroused, and on
a sudden he sat up in bed, his nightcap quivering on his head.

'Tommy!' he cried feverishly. 'What is afoot downstairs? Now, do you
tell me the truth.'

'Nothing,' Mr. Thomasson answered soothingly.

'Because--well, she's played it uncommon low on me, uncommon low she's
played it,' my lord complained pathetically; 'but fair is fair, and
willing's willing! And I'll not see her hurt. Pom's none too nice, I
know, but he's got to understand that. I'm none of your Methodists,
Tommy, as you are aware, no one more so! But, s'help me! no one shall
lay a hand on her against her will!'

'My dear lord, no one is going to!' the tutor answered, quaking in his
bed.

'That is understood, is it? Because it had better be!' the little lord
continued with unusual vigour. 'I vow I have no cause to stand up for
her. She's a d--d saucy baggage, and has treated me with--with d--d
disrespect. But, oh Lord! Tommy, I'd have been a good husband to her. I
would indeed. And been kind to her. And now--she's made a fool of me!
She's made a fool of me!'

And my lord took off his nightcap, and wiped his eyes with it.



CHAPTER XXX

A GREEK GIFT

Julia, left alone, and locked in the room, passed such a night as a girl
instructed in the world's ways might have been expected to pass in her
position, and after the rough treatment of the afternoon. The room grew
dark, the dismal garden and weedy pool that closed the prospect faded
from sight; and still as she crouched by the barred window, or listened
breathless at the door, all that part of the house lay silent. Not a
sound of life came to the ear.

By turns she resented and welcomed this. At one time, pacing the floor
in a fit of rage and indignation, she was ready to dash herself against
the door, or scream and scream and scream until some one came to her. At
another the recollection of Pomeroy's sneering smile, of his insolent
grasp, revived to chill and terrify her; and she hid in the darkest
corner, hugged the solitude, and, scarcely daring to breathe, prayed
that the silence might endure for ever.

But the hours in the dark room were long and cold; and at times the
fever of rage and fear left her in the chill. Of this came another phase
through which she passed, as the night wore on and nothing happened. Her
thoughts reverted to him who should have been her protector, but had
become her betrayer--and by his treachery had plunged her into this
misery; and on a sudden a doubt of his guilt flashed into her mind and
blinded her by its brilliance. Had she done him an injustice? Had the
abduction been, after all, concerted not by him but by Mr. Thomasson and
his confederates? The setting down near Pomeroy's gate, the reception at
his house, the rough, hasty suit paid to her--were these all parts of a
drama cunningly arranged to mystify her? And was he innocent? Was _he_
still her lover, true, faithful, almost her husband?

If she could think so! She rose, and softly walked the floor in the
darkness, tears raining down her face. Oh, if she could be sure of it!
At the thought, the thought only, she glowed from head to foot with
happy shame. And fear? If this were so, if his love were still hers, and
hers the only fault--of doubting him, she feared nothing! Nothing! She
felt her way to a tray in the corner where her last meal remained
untasted, and ate and drank humbly, and for him. She might need
her strength.

She had finished, and was groping her return to the window-seat, when a
faint rustle as of some one moving on the other side of the door caught
her ear. She had fancied herself brave enough an instant before, but in
the darkness a great horror of fear came on her. She stood rooted to the
spot; and heard the noise again. It was followed by the sound of a hand
passed stealthily over the panels; a hand seeking, as she thought, for
the key; and she could have shrieked in her helplessness. But while she
stood, her face turned to stone, came instant relief, A voice, subdued
in fear, whispered, 'Hist, ma'am, hist! Are you asleep?'

She could have fallen on her knees in her thankfulness. 'No! no!' she
cried eagerly. 'Who is it?'

'It is me--Olney!' was the answer. 'Keep a heart, ma'am! They are gone
to bed. You are quite safe.'

'Can you let me out?' Julia cried. 'Oh, let me out!'

'Let you out?'

'Yes, yes! Let me out? Please let me out.'

'God forbid, ma'am!' was the horrified answer. 'He'd kill me. And he has
the key. But--'

'Yes? yes?'

'Keep your heart up, ma'am, for Jarvey'll not see you hurt; nor will I.
You may sleep easy. And good-night!'

She stole away before Julia could answer; but she left comfort. In a
glow of thankfulness the girl pushed a chair against the door, and,
wrapping herself for warmth in the folds of the shabby curtains, lay
down on the window seat. She was willing to sleep now, but the agitation
of her thoughts, the whirl of fear and hope that prevailed in them, as
she went again and again over the old ground, kept her long awake. The
moon had risen and run its course, decking the old garden with a solemn
beauty as of death, and was beginning to retreat before the dawn, when
Julia slept at last.

When she awoke it was broad daylight. A moment she gazed upwards,
wondering where she was; the next a harsh grating sound, and the echo of
a mocking laugh brought her to her feet in a panic of remembrance.

The key was still turning in the lock--she saw it move, saw it
withdrawn; but the room was empty. And while she stood staring and
listening heavy footsteps retired along the passage. The chair which she
had set against the door had been pushed back, and milk and bread stood
on the floor beside it.

She drew a deep breath; he had been there. But her worst terrors had
passed with the night. The sun was shining, filling her with scorn of
her gaoler. She panted to be face to face with him, that she might cover
him with ridicule, overwhelm him with the shafts of her woman's wit, and
show him how little she feared and how greatly she despised him.

But he did not appear; the hours passed slowly, and with the afternoon
came a clouded sky, and weariness and reaction of spirits; fatigue of
body, and something like illness; and on that a great terror. If they
drugged her in her food? The thought was like a knife in the girl's
heart, and while she still writhed on it, her ear caught the creak of a
board in the passage, and a furtive tread that came, and softly went
again, and once more returned. She stood, her heart beating; and fancied
she heard the sound of breathing on the other side of the door. Then her
eye alighted on a something white at the foot of the door, that had not
been there a minute earlier. It was a tiny note. While she gazed at it
the footsteps stole away again.

She pounced on the note and opened it, thinking it might be from Mrs.
Olney. But the opening lines smacked of other modes of speech than hers;
and though Julia had no experience of Mr. Thomasson's epistolary style,
she felt no surprise when she found the initials F.T. appended to
the message.

'Madam,' it ran. 'You are in danger here, and I in no less of being held
to account for acts which my heart abhors. Openly to oppose myself to
Mr. P.--the course my soul dictates--were dangerous for us both, and
another must be found. If he drink deep to-night, I will, heaven
assisting, purloin the key, and release you at ten, or as soon after as
may be. Jarvey, who is honest, and fears the turn things are taking,
will have a carriage waiting in the road. Be ready, hide this, and when
you are free, though I seek no return for services attended by much
risk, yet if you desire to find one, an easy way may appear of
requiting,

'Madam, your devoted, obedient servant, F.T.'

Julia's face glowed. 'He cannot do even a kind act as it should be
done,' she thought. 'But once away it will be easy to reward him. At
worst he shall tell me how I came to be set down here.'

She spent the rest of the day divided between anxiety on that point--for
Mr. Thomasson's intervention went some way to weaken the theory she had
built up with so much joy--and impatience for night to come and put an
end to her suspense. She was now as much concerned to escape the ordeal
of Mr. Pomeroy's visit as she had been earlier in the day to see him.
And she had her wish. He did not come; she fancied he might be willing
to let the dullness and loneliness, the monotony and silence of her
prison, work their effect on her mind.

Night, as welcome to-day as it had been yesterday unwelcome, fell at
last, and hid the dingy familiar room, the worn furniture, the dusky
outlook. She counted the minutes, and before it was nine by the clock
was the prey of impatience, thinking the time past and gone and the
tutor a poor deceiver. Ten was midnight to her; she hoped against hope,
walking her narrow bounds in the darkness. Eleven found her lying on her
face on the floor, heaving dry sobs of despair, her hair dishevelled.
And then, on a sudden she sprang up; the key was grating in the lock!
While she stared, half demented, scarcely believing her happiness, Mr.
Thomasson appeared on the threshold, his head--he wore no wig--muffled
in a woman's shawl, a shaded lanthorn in his hand.

'Come!' he said. 'There is not a moment to be lost.'

'Oh!' she cried hysterically, yet kept her shaking voice low; 'I thought
you were not coming. I thought it was all over.'

'I am late,' he answered nervously; his face was pale, his shifty eyes
avoided hers.' It is eleven o'clock, but I could not get the key before.
Follow me closely and silently, child; and in a few minutes you will
be safe.'

'Heaven bless you!' she cried, weeping. And would have taken his hand.

But at that he turned from her so abruptly that she marvelled, for she
had not judged him a man averse from thanks. But setting his manner down
to the danger and the need of haste, she took the hint and controlling
her feelings, prepared to follow him in silence. Holding the lanthorn so
that its light fell on the floor he listened an instant, then led the
way on tip-toe down the dim corridor. The house was hushed round them;
if a board creaked under their feet, it seemed to her scared ears a
pistol shot. At the entrance to the gallery which was partly illumined
by lights still burning in the hall below, the tutor paused anew an
instant to listen, then turned quickly from it, and by a narrow passage
on the right gained a back staircase. Descending the steep stairs he
guided her by devious turnings through dingy offices and servants'
quarters until they stood in safety before an outer door. To withdraw
the bar that secured it, while she held the lanthorn, was for the tutor
the work of an instant. They passed through, and he closed the door
softly behind them.

After the confinement of her prison, the night air that blew on her
temples was rapture to Julia; for it breathed of freedom. She turned her
face up to the dark boughs that met and interlaced above her head, and
whispered her thankfulness. Then, obedient to Mr. Thomasson's impatient
gesture, she hastened to follow him along a dank narrow path that
skirted the wall of the house for a few yards, then turned off among
the trees.

They had left the wall no more than a dozen paces behind them, when Mr.
Thomasson paused, as in doubt, and raised his light. They were in a
little beech-coppice that grew close up to the walls of the servants'
offices. The light showed the dark shining trunks, running in solemn
rows this way and that; and more than one path trodden smooth across the
roots. The lanthorn disclosed no more, but apparently this was enough
for Mr. Thomasson. He pursued the path he had chosen, and less than a
minute's walking brought them to the avenue.

Julia drew a breath of relief and looked behind and before. 'Where is
the carriage?' she whispered, shivering with excitement.

The tutor before he answered raised his lanthorn thrice to the level of
his head, as if to make sure of his position. Then, 'In the road,' he
answered. 'And the sooner you are in it the better, child, for I must
return and replace the key before he sobers. Or 'twill, be worse for
me,' he added snappishly, 'than for you.'

'You are not coming with me? 'she exclaimed in surprise.

'No, I--I can't quarrel with him,' he answered hurriedly. 'I--I am under
obligations to him. And once in the carriage you'll be safe.'

'Then please to tell me this,' Julia rejoined, her breath a little
short. 'Mr. Thomasson, did you know anything of my being carried off
before it took place?'

'I?' he cried effusively. 'Did I know?'

'I mean--were you employed--to bring me to Mr. Pomeroy's?'

'I employed? To bring you to Mr. Pomeroy's? Good heavens! ma'am, what do
you take me for?' the tutor cried in righteous indignation. 'No, ma'am,
certainly not! I am not that kind of man!' And then blurting out the
truth in his surprise, 'Why, 'twas Mr. Dunborough!' he said. 'And like
him too! Heaven keep us from him!'

'Mr. Dunborough?' she exclaimed.

'Yes, yes.'

'Oh,' she said, in a helpless, foolish kind of way. 'It was Mr.
Dunborough, was it?' And she begged his pardon. And did it too so
humbly, in a voice so broken by feeling and gratitude, that, bad man as
he was, his soul revolted from the work he was upon; and for an instant,
he stood still, the lanthorn swinging in his hand.

She misinterpreted the movement. 'Are we right?' she said, anxiously.
'You don't think that we are out of the road?' Though the night was
dark, and it was difficult to discern, anything beyond the circle of
light thrown by the lanthorn, it struck her that the avenue they were
traversing was not the one by which she had approached the house two
nights before. The trees seemed to stand farther from one another and to
be smaller. Or was it her fancy?

But it was not that had moved him to stand; for in a moment, with a
curious sound between a groan and a curse he led the way on, without
answering her. Fifty paces brought them to the gate and the road.
Thomasson held up his lanthorn and looked over the gate.

'Where is the carriage?' she whispered, startled by the darkness and
silence.

'It should be here,' he answered, his voice betraying his perplexity.
'It should be here at this gate. But I--I don't see it.'

'Would it have lights?' she asked anxiously. He had opened the gate by
this time, and as she spoke they passed through, and stood together
looking up and down the road. The moon was obscured, and the lanthorn's
rays were of little use to find a carriage which was not there.

'It should be here, and it should have lights,' he said in evident
dismay. 'I don't know what to think of it. I--ha! What is that? It is
coming, I think. Yes, I hear it. The coachman must have drawn off a
little for some reason, and now he has seen the lanthorn.'

He had only the sound of wheels to go upon, but he proved to be right;
she uttered a sigh of relief as the twin lights of a carriage apparently
approaching round a bend of the road broke upon them. The lights drew
near and nearer, and the tutor waved his lamp. For a second the driver
appeared to be going to pass them; then, as Mr. Thomasson again waved
his lanthorn and shouted, he drew up.

'Halloa!' he said.

Mr. Thomasson did not answer, but with a trembling hand opened the door
and thrust the girl in. 'God bless you!' she murmured; 'and--' He
slammed the door, cutting short the sentence.

'Well?' the driver said, looking down at him, his face in shadow; 'I
am--'

'Go on!' Mr. Thomasson cried peremptorily, and waving his lanthorn
again, startled the horses; which plunged away wildly, the man tugging
vainly at the reins. The tutor fancied that, as it started, he caught a
faint scream from the inside of the chaise, but he set it down to fright
caused by the sudden jerk; and, after he had stood long enough to assure
himself that the carriage was keeping the road, he turned to retrace his
steps to the house.

He was feeling for the latch of the gate--his thoughts no pleasant ones,
for the devil pays scant measure--when his ear was surprised by a new
sound of wheels approaching from the direction whence the chaise had
come. He stood to listen, thinking he heard an echo; but in a second or
two he saw lights approaching through the night precisely as the other
lights had approached. Once seen they came on swiftly, and he was still
standing gaping in wonder when a carriage and pair, a postboy riding and
a servant sitting outside, swept by, dazzling him a moment; the next it
was gone, whirled away into the darkness.



CHAPTER XXXI

THE INN AT CHIPPENHAM

The road which passed before the gates at Bastwick was not a highway,
and Mr. Thomasson stood a full minute, staring after the carriage, and
wondering what chance brought a traveller that way at that hour.
Presently it occurred to him that one of Mr. Pomeroy's neighbours might
have dined abroad, have sat late over the wine, and be now returning;
and that so the incident might admit of the most innocent explanation.
Yet it left him uneasy. Until the last hum of wheels died in the
distance he stood listening and thinking. Then he turned from the gate,
and with a shiver betook himself towards the house. He had done
his part.

Or had he? The road was not ten paces behind him, when a cry rent the
darkness, and he paused to listen. He caught the sound of hasty
footsteps crossing the open ground on his right, and apparently
approaching; and he raised his lanthorn in alarm. The next moment a dark
form vaulted the railings that fenced the avenue on that side, sprang on
the affrighted tutor, and, seizing him violently by the collar, shook
him to and fro as a terrier shakes a rat.

It was Mr. Pomeroy, beside himself with rage. 'What have you done with
her?' he cried. 'You treacherous hound! Answer, or by heaven I shall
choke you!'

'Done--done with whom?' the tutor gasped, striving to free himself.
'Mr. Pomeroy, I am not--what does this--mean?'

'With her? With the girl?'

'She is--I have put her in the carriage! I swear I have! Oh!' he
shrieked, as Mr. Pomeroy, in a fresh access of passion, gripped his
throat and squeezed it. 'I have put her in the carriage, I tell you! I
have done everything you told me!'

'In the carriage? What carriage? In what carriage?'

'The one that was there.'

'At the gate?'

'Yes, yes.'

'You fool! You imbecile!' Mr. Pomeroy roared, as he shook him with all
his strength. 'The carriage is at the other gate.'

Mr. Thomasson gasped, partly with surprise, partly under the influence
of Pomeroy's violence. 'At the other gate?' he faltered. 'But--there was
a carriage here. I saw it. I put her in it. Not a minute ago!'

'Then, by heaven, it was your carriage, and you have betrayed me,'
Pomeroy retorted; and shook his trembling victim until his teeth
chattered and his eyes protruded. 'I thought I heard wheels and I came
to see. If you don't tell me the truth this instant,' he continued
furiously, 'I'll have the life out of you.'

'It is the truth,' Mr. Thomasson stammered, blubbering with fright. 'It
was a carriage that came up--and stopped. I thought it was yours, and I
put her in. And it went on.'

'A lie, man--a lie!'

'I swear it is true! I swear it is! If it were not should I be going
back to the house? Should I be going to face you?' Mr. Thomasson
protested.

The argument impressed Pomeroy; his grasp relaxed. 'The devil is in it,
then!' he muttered. 'For no one else could have set a carriage at that
gate at that minute! Anyway, I'll know. Come on!' he continued
recklessly snatching up the lanthorn, which had fallen on its side and
was not extinguished. 'We'll after her! By the Lord, we'll after her.
They don't trick me so easily!'

The tutor ventured a terrified remonstrance, but Mr. Pomeroy, deaf to
his entreaties and arguments, bundled him over the fence, and, gripping
his arm, hurried him as fast as his feet would carry him across the
sward to the other gate. A carriage, its lamps burning brightly, stood
in the road. Mr. Pomeroy exchanged a few curt words with the driver,
thrust in the tutor, and followed himself. On the instant the vehicle
dashed away, the coachman cracking his whip and shouting oaths at
his horses.

The hedges flew by, pale glimmering walls in the lamplight; the mud flew
up and splashed Mr. Pomeroy's face; still he hung out of the window, his
hand on the fastening of the door, and a brace of pistols on the ledge
before him; while the tutor, shuddering at these preparations, hoping
against hope that they would overtake no one, cowered in the farther
corner. With every turn of the road or swerve of the horses Pomeroy
expected to see the fugitives' lights. Unaware or oblivious that the
carriage he was pursuing had the start of him by so much that at top
speed he could scarcely look to overtake it under the hour, his rage
increased with every disappointment. Although the pace at which they
travelled over a rough road was such as to fill the tutor with instant
terror and urgent thoughts of death--although first one lamp was
extinguished and then another, and the carriage swung so violently as
from moment to moment to threaten an overturn, Mr. Pomeroy never ceased
to hang out of the window, to yell at the horses and upbraid the driver.

And with all, the labour seemed to be wasted. With wrath and a volley of
curses he saw the lights of Chippenham appear in front, and still no
sign of the pursued. Five minutes later the carriage awoke the echoes in
the main street of the sleeping town, and Mr. Thomasson drew a deep
breath of relief as it came to a stand.

Not so Mr. Pomeroy. He dashed the door open and sprang out, prepared to
overwhelm the driver with reproaches. The man anticipated him. 'They are
here,' he said with a sulky gesture.

'Here? Where?'

A man in a watchman's coat, and carrying a staff and lanthorn--of whom
the driver had already asked a question--came heavily round, from the
off-side of the carriage. 'There is a chaise and pair just come in from
the Melksham Road,' he said, 'and gone to the Angel, if that is what you
want, your honour.'

'A lady with them?'

'I saw none, but there might be.'

'How long ago?'

'Ten minutes.'

'We're right!' Mr. Pomeroy cried with a jubilant oath, and turning back
to the door of the carriage, slipped the pistols into his skirt pockets.
'Come,' he said to Thomasson. 'And do you,' he continued, addressing his
driver, who was no other than the respectable Tamplin, 'follow at a
walking pace. Have they ordered on?' he asked, slipping a crown into the
night-watchman's hand.

'I think not, your honour,' the man answered. 'I believe they are
staying.'

With a word of satisfaction Mr. Pomeroy hurried his unwilling companion
towards the inn. The streets were dark; only an oil lamp or two burned
at distant points. But the darkness of the town was noon-day light in
comparison of the gloom which reigned in Mr. Thomasson's mind. In the
grasp of this headstrong man, whose temper rendered him blind to
obstacles and heedless of danger, the tutor felt himself swept along,
as incapable of resistance as the leaf that is borne upon the stream. It
was not until they turned into the open space before the Angel, and
perceived a light in the doorway of the inn that despair gave him
courage to remonstrate.

Then the risk and folly of the course they were pursuing struck him so
forcibly that he grew frantic. He clutched Mr. Pomeroy's sleeve, and
dragging him aside out of earshot of Tamplin, who was following them,
'This is madness!' he urged vehemently. 'Sheer madness! Have you
considered, Mr. Pomeroy? If she is here, what claim have we to interfere
with her? What authority over her? What title to force her away? If we
had overtaken her on the road, in the country, it might have been one
thing. But here--'

'Here?' Mr. Pomeroy retorted, his face dark, his under-jaw thrust out
hard as a rock. 'And why not here?'

'Because--why, because she will appeal to the people.'

'What people?'

'The people who have brought her hither.'

'And what is their right to her?' Mr. Pomeroy retorted, with a brutal
oath.

'The people at the inn, then.'

'Well, and what is their right? But--I see your point, parson! Damme,
you are a cunning one. I had not thought of that. She'll appeal to them,
will she? Then she shall be my sister, run off from her home! Ha! Ha! Or
no, my lad,' he continued, chuckling savagely, and slapping the tutor on
the back; 'they know me here, and that I have no sister. She shall be
your daughter!' And while Mr. Thomasson stared aghast, Pomeroy laughed
recklessly. 'She shall be your daughter, man! My guest, and run off with
an Irish ensign! Oh, by Gad, we'll nick her! Come on!'

Mr. Thomasson shuddered. It seemed to him the wildest scheme--a folly
beyond speech. Resisting the hand with which Pomeroy would have impelled
him towards the lighted doorway, 'I will have nothing to do with it!' he
cried, with all the firmness he could muster. 'Nothing! Nothing!'

'A minute ago you might have gone to the devil!' Mr. Pomeroy answered
grimly, 'and welcome! Now, I want you. And, by heaven, if you don't
stand by me I'll break your back! Who is there here who is likely to
know you? Or what have you to fear?'

'She'll expose us!' Mr. Thomasson whimpered. 'She'll tell them!'

'Who'll believe her?' the other answered with supreme contempt. 'Which
is the more credible story--hers about a lost heir, or ours? Come on,
I say!'

Mr. Thomasson had been far from anticipating a risk of this kind when he
entered on his career of scheming. But he stood in mortal terror of his
companion, whose reckless passions were fully aroused; and after a brief
resistance he succumbed. Still protesting, he allowed himself to be
urged past the open doors of the inn-yard--in the black depths of which
the gleam of a lanthorn, and the form of a man moving to and fro,
indicated that the strangers' horses were not yet bedded--and up the
hospitable steps of the Angel Inn.

A solitary candle burning in a room on the right of the hall, guided
their feet that way. Its light disclosed a red-curtained snuggery, well
furnished with kegs and jolly-bodied jars, and rows of bottles; and in
the middle of this cheerful profusion the landlord himself, stooping
over a bottle of port, which he was lovingly decanting. His array, a
horseman's coat worn over night-gear, with bare feet thrust into
slippers, proved him newly risen from bed; but the hum of voices and
clatter of plates which came from the neighbouring kitchen were signs
that, late as it was, the good inn was not caught napping.

The host heard their steps behind him, but crying 'Coming, gentlemen,
coming!' finished his task before he turned. Then 'Lord save us!' he
ejaculated, staring at them--the empty bottle in one hand, the decanter
in the other. 'Why, the road's alive to-night! I beg your honour's
pardon, I am sure, and yours, sir! I thought 'twas one of the gentlemen
that arrived, awhile ago--come down to see why supper lagged. Squire
Pomeroy, to be sure! What can I do for you, gentlemen? The fire is
scarce out in the Hertford, and shall be rekindled at once?'

Mr. Pomeroy silenced him by a gesture. 'No,' he said; 'we are not
staying. But you have some guests here, who arrived half an hour ago?'

'To be sure, your honour. The same I was naming.' 'Is there a young lady
with them?'

The landlord looked hard at him. 'A young lady?' he said.

'Yes! Are you deaf, man?' Pomeroy retorted wrathfully, his impatience
getting the better of him. 'Is there a young lady with them? That is
what I asked.'

But the landlord still stared; and it was only after an appreciable
interval that he answered cautiously: 'Well, to be sure, I am not--I am
not certain. I saw none, sir. But I only saw the gentlemen when they had
gone upstairs. William admitted them, and rang up the stables. A young
lady?' he continued, rubbing his head as if the question perplexed him.
'May I ask, is't some one your honour is seeking?'

'Damme, man, should I ask if it weren't?' Mr. Pomeroy retorted angrily.
'If you must know, it is this gentleman's daughter, who has run away
from her friends.'

'Dear, dear!'

'And taken up with a beggarly Irishman!'

The landlord stared from one to the other in great perplexity. 'Dear
me!' he said. 'That is sad! The gentleman's daughter!' And he looked at
Mr. Thomasson, whose fat sallow face was sullenness itself. Then,
remembering his manners, 'Well, to be sure, I'll go and learn,' he
continued briskly. 'Charles!' to a half-dressed waiter, who at that
moment appeared at the foot of the stairs, 'set lights in the Yarmouth
and draw these gentlemen what they require. I'll not be many minutes,
Mr. Pomeroy.'

He hurried up the narrow staircase, and an instant later appeared on the
threshold of a room in which sat two gentlemen, facing one another in
silence before a hastily-kindled fire. They had travelled together from
Bristol, cheek by jowl in a post-chaise, exchanging scarce as many words
as they had traversed miles. But patience, whether it be of the sullen
or the dignified cast, has its limits; and these two, their tempers
exasperated by a chilly journey taken fasting, had come very near to the
end of sufferance. Fortunately, at the moment Mr. Dunborough--for he was
the one--made the discovery that he could not endure Sir George's
impassive face for so much as the hundredth part of another minute--and
in consequence was having recourse to his invention for the most brutal
remark with which to provoke him--the port and the landlord arrived
together; and William, who had carried up the cold beef and stewed
kidneys by another staircase, was heard on the landing. The host helped
to place the dishes on the table. Then he shut out his assistant.

'By your leave, Sir George,' he said diffidently. 'But the young lady
you were inquiring for? Might I ask--?'

He paused as if he feared to give offence. Sir George laid down his
knife and fork and looked at him. Mr. Dunborough did the same. 'Yes,
yes, man,' Soane said. 'Have you heard anything? Out with it!'

'Well, sir, it is only--I was going to ask if her father lived in these
parts.'

'Her father?'

'Yes, sir.'

Mr. Dunborough burst into rude laughter. 'Oh, Lord!' he said. 'Are we
grown so proper of a sudden? Her father, damme!'

Sir George shot a glance of disdain at him. Then, 'My good fellow,' he
said to the host, 'her father has been dead these fifteen years.'

The landlord reddened, annoyed by the way Mr. Dunborough had taken him.
'The gentleman mistakes me, Sir George,' he said stiffly. 'I did not ask
out of curiosity, as you, who know me, can guess; but to be plain, your
honour, there are two gentlemen below stairs, just come in; and what
beats me, though I did not tell them so, they are also in search of a
young lady.'

'Indeed?' Sir George answered, looking gravely at him. 'Probably they
are from the Castle Inn at Marlborough, and are inquiring for the lady
we are seeking.'

'So I should have thought,' the landlord answered, nodding sagely; 'but
one of the gentlemen says he is her father, and the other--'

Sir George stared. 'Yes?' he said, 'What of the other?'

'Is Mr. Pomeroy of Bastwick,' the host replied, lowering his voice.
'Doubtless your honour knows him?'

'By name.'

'He has naught to do with the young lady?'

'Nothing in the world.'

'I ask because--well, I don't like to speak ill of the quality, or of
those by whom one lives, Sir George; but he has not got the best name
in the county; and there have been wild doings at Bastwick of late, and
writs and bailiffs and worse. So I did not up and tell him all I knew.'

On a sudden Dunborough spoke. 'He was at College, at Pembroke,' he said.
'Doyley knows him. He'd know Tommy too; and we know Tommy is with the
girl, and that they were both dropped Laycock way. Hang me, if I don't
think there is something in this!' he continued, thrusting his feet into
slippers: his boots were drying on the hearth. 'Thomasson is rogue
enough for anything! See here, man,' he went on, rising and flinging
down his napkin; 'do you go down and draw them into the hall, so that I
can hear their voices. And I will come to the head of the stairs. Where
is Bastwick?'

'Between here and Melksham, but a bit off the road, sir.'

'It would not be far from Laycock?'

'No, your honour; I should think it would be within two or three miles
of it. They are both on the flat the other side of the river.'

'Go down! go down!' Mr. Dunborough answered. 'And pump him, man! Set him
talking. I believe we have run the old fox to earth. It will be our
fault if we don't find the vixen!'



CHAPTER XXXII

CHANCE MEDLEY

By this time the arrival of a second pair of travellers hard on the
heels of the first had roused the inn to full activity. Half-dressed
servants flitted this way and that through the narrow passages, setting
night-caps in the chambers, or bringing up clean snuffers and snuff
trays. One was away to the buttery, to draw ale for the driver, another
to the kitchen with William's orders to the cook. Lights began to shine
in the hall and behind the diamond panes of the low-browed windows; a
pleasant hum, a subdued bustle, filled the hospitable house.

On entering the Yarmouth, however, the landlord was surprised to find
only the clergyman awaiting him. Mr. Pomeroy, irritated by his long
absence, had gone to the stables to learn what he could from the
postboy. The landlord was nearer indeed than he knew to finding no one;
for when he entered, Mr. Thomasson, unable to suppress his fears, was on
his feet; another ten seconds, and the tutor would have fled
panic-stricken from the house.

The host did not suspect this, but Mr. Thomasson thought he did; and the
thought added to his confusion. 'I--I was coming to ask what had
happened to you,' he stammered. 'You will understand, I am very anxious
to get news.'

'To be sure, sir,' the landlord answered comfortably. 'Will you step
this way, and I think we shall be able to ascertain something
for certain?'

But the tutor did not like his tone; moreover, he felt safer in the
room than in the public hall. He shrank back. 'I--I think I will wait
here until Mr. Pomeroy returns,' he said.

The landlord raised his eyebrows. 'I thought you were anxious, sir,' he
retorted, 'to get news?'

'So I am, very anxious!' Mr. Thomasson replied, with a touch of the
stiffness that marked his manner to those below him. 'Still, I think I
had better wait here. Or, no, no!' he cried, afraid to stand out, 'I
will come with you. But, you see, if she is not here, I am anxious to go
in search of her as quickly as possible, where--wherever she is.'

'To be sure, that is natural,' the landlord answered, holding the door
open that the clergyman might pass out, 'seeing that you are her father,
sir. I think you said you were her father?' he continued, as Mr.
Thomasson, with a scared look round the hall, emerged from the room.

'Ye--yes,' the tutor faltered; and wished himself in the street. 'At
least--I am her step-father.'

'Oh, her step-father!'

'Yes,' Mr. Thomasson answered, faintly. How he cursed the folly that had
put him in this false position! How much more strongly he would have
cursed it, had he known what it was cast that dark shadow, as of a
lurking man, on the upper part of the stairs!

'Just so,' the landlord answered, as he paused at the foot of the
staircase. 'And, if you please--what might your name be, sir?'

A cold sweat rose on the tutor's brow; he looked helplessly towards the
door. If he gave his name and the matter were followed up, he would be
traced, and it was impossible to say what might not come of it. At last,
'Mr. Thomas,' he said, with a sneaking guilty look.

'Mr. Thomas, your reverence?'

'Yes.'

'And the young lady's name would be Thomas, then?'

'N-no,' Mr. Thomasson faltered. 'No. Her name--you see,' he continued,
with a sickly smile, 'she is my step-daughter.'

'To be sure, your reverence. So I understood. And her name?'

The tutor glowered at his persecutor. 'I protest, you are monstrous
inquisitive,' he said, with a sudden sorry air of offence. 'But, if you
must know, her name is Masterson; and she has left her friends to
join--to join a--an Irish adventurer.'

It was unfortunately said; the more as the tutor in order to keep his
eye on the door, by which he expected Mr. Pomeroy to re-enter, had
turned his back on the staircase. The lie was scarcely off his lips when
a heavy hand fell on his shoulder, and, twisting him round with a jerk,
brought him face to face with an old friend. The tutor's eyes met those
of Mr. Dunborough, he uttered one low shriek, and turned as white as
paper. He knew that Nemesis had overtaken him.

But not how heavy a Nemesis! For he could not know that the landlord of
the Angel owned a restive colt, and no farther back than the last fair
had bought a new whip; nor that that very whip lay at this moment where
the landlord had dropped it, on a chest so near to Mr. Dunborough's hand
that the tutor never knew how he became possessed of it. Only he saw it
imminent, and would have fallen in sheer terror, his coward's knees
giving way under him, if Mr. Dunborough had not driven him back against
the wall with a violence that jarred the teeth in his head.

'You liar!' the infuriated listener cried; 'you lying toad!' and shook
him afresh with each sentence. 'She has run away from her friends, has
she? With an Irish adventurer, eh? And you are her father? And your name
is Thomas? Thomas, eh! Well, if you do not this instant tell me where
she is, I'll Thomas you! Now, come! One! Two! Three!'

In the last words seemed a faint promise of mercy; alas! it was
fallacious. Mr. Thomasson, the lash impending over him, had time to
utter one cry; no more. Then the landlord's supple cutting-whip, wielded
by a vigorous hand, wound round the tenderest part of his legs--for at
the critical instant Mr. Dunborough dragged him from the wall--and with
a gasping shriek of pain, pain such as he had not felt since boyhood,
Mr. Thomasson leapt into the air. As soon as his breath returned, he
strove frantically to throw himself down; but struggle as he might, pour
forth screams, prayers, execrations, as he might, all was vain. The hour
of requital had come. The cruel lash fell again and again, raising great
wheals on his pampered body: now he clutched Mr. Dunborough's arm only
to be shaken off; now he grovelled on the floor; now he was plucked up
again, now an ill-directed cut marked his cheek. Twice the landlord, in
pity and fear for the man's life, tried to catch Mr. Dunborough's arm
and stay the punishment; once William did the same--for ten seconds of
this had filled the hall with staring servants. But Mr. Dunborough's arm
and the whirling whip kept all at a distance; nor was it until a
tender-hearted housemaid ran in at risk of her beauty, and clutched his
wrist and hung on it, that he tossed the whip away, and allowed Mr.
Thomasson to drop, a limp moaning rag on the floor.

'For shame!' the girl cried hysterically. 'You blackguard! You cruel
blackguard!'

''Tis he's the blackguard, my dear!' the honourable Mr. Dunborough
answered, panting, but in the best of tempers. 'Bring me a tankard of
something; and put that rubbish outside, landlord. He has got no more
than he deserved, my dear.'

Mr. Thomasson uttered a moan, and one of the waiters stooping over him
asked him if he could stand. He answered only by a faint groan, and the
man raising his eyebrows, looked gravely at the landlord; who, recovered
from the astonishment into which the fury and suddenness of the assault
had thrown him, turned his indignation on Mr. Dunborough.

'I am surprised at you, sir,' he cried, rubbing his hands with vexation.
'I did not think a gentleman in Sir George's company would act like
this! And in a respectable house! For shame, sir! For shame! Do, some of
you,' he continued to the servants, 'take this gentleman to his room and
put him to bed. And softly with him, do you hear?'

'I think he has swooned,' the man answered, who had stooped over him.

The landlord wrung his hands. 'Fie, sir--for shame!' he said. 'Stay,
Charles; I'll fetch some brandy.'

He bustled away to do so, and to acquaint Sir George; who through all,
and though from his open door he had gathered what was happening, had
resolutely held aloof. The landlord, as he went out, unconsciously
evaded Mr. Pomeroy who entered at the same moment from the street.
Ignorant of what was forward--for his companion's cries had not reached
the stables--Pomeroy advanced at his ease and was surprised to find the
hall, which he had left empty, occupied by a chattering crowd of
half-dressed servants; some bending over the prostrate man with lights,
some muttering their pity or suggesting remedies; while others again
glanced askance at the victor, who, out of bravado rather than for any
better reason, maintained his place at the foot of the stairs, and now
and then called to them 'to rub him--they would not rub that off!'

Mr. Pomeroy did not at first see the fallen man, so thick was the press
round him. Then some one moved, and he did; and the thing that had
happened bursting on him, his face, gloomy before, grew black as a
thunder-cloud. He flung the nearest to either side, that he might see
the better; and, as they recoiled, 'Who has done this?' he cried in a
voice low but harsh with rage. 'Whose work is this?' And standing over
the tutor he turned himself, looking from one to another.

But the servants knew his reputation, and shrank panic-stricken from his
eye; and for a moment no one answered. Then Mr. Dunborough, who,
whatever his faults, was not a coward, took the word. 'Whose work is
it?' he answered with assumed carelessness. 'It is my work. Have you any
fault to find with it?'

'Twenty, puppy!' the elder man retorted, foaming with rage. And then,
'Have I said enough, or do you want me to say more?' he cried.

'Quite enough,' Mr. Dunborough answered calmly. He had wreaked the worst
of his rage on the unlucky tutor. 'When you are sober I'll talk to you.'

Mr. Pomeroy with a frightful oath cursed his impudence. 'I believe I
have to pay you for more than this!' he panted. 'Is it you who decoyed a
girl from my house to-night?'

Mr. Dunborough laughed aloud. 'No, but it was I sent her there,' he
said. He had the advantage of knowledge. 'And if I had brought her away
again, it would have been nothing to you.'

The answer staggered Bully Pomeroy in the midst of his rage.

'Who are you?' he cried.

'Ask your friend there!' Dunborough retorted with disdain. 'I've
written my name on him! It should be pretty plain to read'; and he
turned on his heel to go upstairs.

Pomeroy took two steps forward, laid his hand on the other's shoulder,
and, big man as he was, turned him round. 'Will you give me
satisfaction?' he cried.

Dunborough's eyes met his. 'So that is your tone, is it?' he said
slowly; and he reached for the tankard of ale that had been brought to
him, and that now stood on a chest at the foot of the stairs.

But Mr. Pomeroy's hand was on the pot first; in a second its contents
were in Dunborough's face and dripping from his cravat. 'Now will you
fight?' Bully Pomeroy cried; and as if he knew his man, and that he had
done enough, he turned his back on the stairs and strode first into
the Yarmouth.

Two or three women screamed as they saw the liquor thrown, and a waiter
ran for the landlord. A second drawer, more courageous, cried,
'Gentlemen, gentlemen--for God's sake, gentlemen!' and threw himself
between the younger man and the door of the room. But Dunborough, his
face flushed with anger, took him by the shoulder, and sent him
spinning; then with an oath he followed the other into the Yarmouth, and
slammed the door in the faces of the crowd. They heard the key turned.

'My God!' the waiter who had interfered cried, his face white, 'there
will be murder done!' And he sped away for the kitchen poker that he
might break in the door. He had known such a case before. Another ran to
seek the gentleman upstairs. The others drew round the door and stooped
to listen; a moment, and the sound they feared reached their ears--the
grinding of steel, the trampling of leaping feet, now a yell and now a
taunting laugh. The sounds were too much for one of the men who heard
them: he beat on the door with his fists. 'Gentlemen!' he cried, his
voice quavering, 'for the Lord's sake don't, gentlemen! Don't!' On which
one of the women who had shrieked fell on the floor in wild hysterics.

That brought to a pitch the horror without the room, where lights shone
on frightened faces and huddled forms. In the height of it the landlord
and Sir George appeared. The woman's screams were so violent that it was
rather from the attitude of the group about the door than from anything
they could hear that the two took in the position. The instant they did
so Sir George signed to the servants to stand aside, and drew back to
hurl himself against the door. A cry that the poker was come, and that
with this they could burst the lock with ease, stayed him just in
time--and fortunately; for as they went to adjust the point of the tool
between the lock and the jamb the nearest man cried 'Hush!' and raised
his hand, the door creaked, and in a moment opened inwards. On the
threshold, supporting himself by the door, stood Mr. Dunborough, his
face damp and pale, his eyes furtive and full of a strange horror. He
looked at Sir George.

'He's got it!' he muttered in a hoarse whisper. 'You had better--get a
surgeon. You'll bear me out,' he continued, looking round eagerly, 'he
began it. He flung it in my face. By God--it may go near to hanging me!'

Sir George and the landlord pushed by him and went in. The room was
lighted by one candle, burning smokily on the high mantelshelf; the
other lay overturned and extinguished in the folds of a tablecloth which
had been dragged to the floor. On a wooden chair beside the bare table
sat Mr. Pomeroy, huddled chin to breast, his left hand pressed to his
side, his right still resting on the hilt of his small-sword. His face
was the colour of chalk, and a little froth stood on his lips; but his
eyes, turned slightly upwards, still followed his rival with a grim
fixed stare. Sir George marked the crimson stain on his lips, and
raising his hand for silence--for the servants were beginning to crowd
in with exclamations of horror--knelt down beside the chair, ready to
support him in case of need. "They are fetching a surgeon," he said. "He
will be here in a minute."

Mr. Pomeroy's eyes left the door, through which Dunborough had
disappeared, and for a few seconds they dwelt unwinking on Sir George:
but for a while he said nothing. At length, "Too late," he whispered.
"It was my boots--I slipped, or I'd have gone through him. I'm done. Pay
Tamplin--five pounds I owe him."

Soane saw that it was only a matter of minutes, and he signed to the
landlord, who was beginning to lament, to be silent.

"If you can tell me where the girl is--in two words," he said gently,
"will you try to do so?"

The dying man's eyes roved over the ring of faces. "I don't know," he
whispered, so faintly that Soane had to bring his ear very near his
lips. "The parson--was to have got her to Tamplin's--for me. He put her
in the wrong carriage. He's paid. And--I'm paid."

With the last word the small-sword fell clinking to the floor. The dying
man drew himself up, and seemed to press his hand more and more tightly
to his side. For a brief second a look of horror--as if the
consciousness of his position dawned on his brain--awoke in his eyes.
Then he beat it down. "Tamplin's staunch," he muttered. "I must stand by
Tamplin. I owe--pay him five pounds for--"

A gush of blood stopped his utterance. He gasped and with a groan but no
articulate word fell forward in Soane's arms. Bully Pomeroy had lost his
last stake!

Not this time the spare thousands the old squire, good saving man, had
left on bond and mortgage; not this time the copious thousands he had
raised himself for spendthrift uses: nor the old oaks his
great-grand-sire had planted to celebrate His Majesty's glorious
Restoration: nor the Lelys and Knellers that great-grand-sire's son,
shrewd old connoisseur, commissioned: not this time the few hundreds
hardly squeezed of late from charge and jointure, or wrung from the
unwilling hands of friends--but life; life, and who shall say what
besides life!



CHAPTER XXXIII

IN THE CARRIAGE

Mr. Thomasson was mistaken in supposing that it was the jerk, caused by
the horses' start, which drew from Julia the scream he heard as the
carriage bounded forward and whirled into the night. The girl, indeed,
was in no mood to be lightly scared; she had gone through too much. But
as, believing herself alone, she sank back on the seat--at the moment
that the horses plunged forward--her hand, extended to save herself,
touched another hand: and the sudden contact in the dark, conveying to
her the certainty that she had a companion, with all the possibilities
the fact conjured up, more than excused an involuntary cry.

The answer, as she recoiled, expecting the worst, was a sound between a
sigh and a grunt; followed by silence. The coachman had got the horses
in hand again, and was driving slowly; perhaps he expected to be
stopped. She sat as far into her corner as she could, listening and
staring, enraged rather than frightened. The lamps shed no light into
the interior of the carriage, she had to trust entirely to her ears;
and, gradually, while she sat shuddering, awaiting she knew not what,
there stole on her senses, mingling with the roll of the wheels, a sound
the least expected in the world--a snore!

Irritated, puzzled, she stretched out a hand and touched a sleeve, a
man's sleeve; and at that, remembering how she had sat and wasted fears
on Mr. Thomasson before she knew who he was, she gave herself entirely
to anger. 'Who is it?' she cried sharply. 'What are you doing here?'

The snoring ceased, the man turned himself in his corner. 'Are we
there?' he murmured drowsily; and, before she could answer, was
asleep again.

The absurdity of the position pricked her. Was she always to be
travelling in dark carriages beside men who mocked her? In her
impatience she shook the man violently. 'Who are you? What are you doing
here?' she cried again.

The unseen roused himself. 'Eh?' he exclaimed. 'Who--who spoke? I--oh,
dear, dear, I must have been dreaming. I thought I heard--'

'Mr. Fishwick!' she cried; her voice breaking between tears and
laughter. 'Mr. Fishwick!' And she stretched out her hands, and found
his, and shook and held them in her joy.

The lawyer heard and felt; but, newly roused from sleep, unable to see
her, unable to understand how she came to be by his side in the
post-chaise, he shrank from her. He was dumbfounded. His mind ran on
ghosts and voices; and he was not to be satisfied until he had stopped
the carriage, and with trembling fingers brought a lamp, that he might
see her with his eyes. That done, the little attorney fairly wept
for joy.

'That I should be the one to find you!' he cried. 'That I should be the
one to bring you back! Even now I can hardly believe that you are here!
Where have you been, child? Lord bless us, we have seen strange things!'

'It was Mr. Dunborough!' she cried with indignation.

'I know, I know,' he said. 'He is behind with Sir George Soane. Sir
George and I followed you. We met him, and Sir George compelled him to
accompany us.'

'Compelled him?' she said.

'Ay, with a pistol to his head,' the lawyer answered; and chuckled and
leapt in his seat--for he had re-entered the carriage--at the
remembrance. 'Oh, Lord, I declare I have lived a year in the last two
days. And to think that I should be the one to bring you back!' he
repeated. 'To bring you back! But there, what happened to you? I know
that they set you down in the road. We learned that at Bristol this
afternoon from the villains who carried you off.'

She told him how they had found. Mr. Pomeroy's house, and taken shelter
there, and--

'You have been there until now?' he said in amazement. 'At a gentleman's
house? But did you not think, child, that we should be anxious? Were
there no horses? No servants? Didn't you think of sending word to
Marlborough?'

'He was a villain,' she answered, shuddering. Brave as she was, Mr.
Pomeroy had succeeded in frightening her. 'He would not let me go. And
if Mr. Thomasson had not stolen the key of the room and released me, and
brought me to the gate to-night, and put me in with you--'

'But how did he know that I was passing?' Mr. Fishwick cried, thrusting
back his wig and rubbing his head in perplexity. He could not yet
believe that it was chance and only chance had brought them together.

And she was equally ignorant. 'I don't know,' she said. 'He only told
me--that he would have a carriage waiting at the gate.'

'And why did he not come with you?'

'He said--I think he said he was under obligations to Mr. Pomeroy.'

'Pomeroy? Pomeroy?' the lawyer repeated slowly. 'But sure, my dear, if
he was a villain, still, having the clergyman with you you should have
been safe. This Mr. Pomeroy was not in the same case as Mr. Dunborough.
He could not have been deep in love after knowing you a dozen hours.'

'I think,' she said, but mechanically, as if her mind ran on something
else, 'that he knew who I was, and wished to make me marry him.'

'Who you were!' Mr. Fishwick repeated; and--and he groaned.

The sudden check was strange, and Julia should have remarked it. But she
did not; and after a short silence, 'How could he know?' Mr. Fishwick
asked faintly.

'I don't know,' she answered, in the same absent manner. Then with an
effort which was apparent in her tone, 'Lord Almeric Doyley was there,'
she said. 'He was there too.'

'Ah!' the lawyer replied, accepting the fact with remarkable apathy.
Perhaps his thoughts also were far away. 'He was there, was he?'

'Yes,' she said. 'He was there, and he--' then, in a changed tone, 'Did
you say that Sir George was behind us?'

'He should be,' he answered; and, occupied as she was with her own
trouble, she was struck with the gloom of the attorney's tone. 'We
settled,' he continued, 'as soon as we learned where the men had left
you, that I should start for Calne and make inquiries there, and they
should start an hour later for Chippenham and do the same there. Which
reminds me that we should be nearing Calne. You would like to
rest there?'

'I would rather go forward to Marlborough,' she answered feverishly, 'if
you could send to Chippenham to tell them I am safe? I would rather go
back at once, and quietly.'

'To be sure,' he said, patting her hand. 'To be sure, to be sure,' he
repeated, his voice shaking as if he wrestled with some emotion.
'You'll he glad to be with--with your mother.'

Julia wondered a little at his tone, but in the main he had described
her feelings. She had gone through so many things that, courageous as
she was, she longed for rest and a little time to think. She assented in
silence therefore, and, wonderful to relate, he fell silent too, and
remained so until they reached Calne. There the inn was roused; a
messenger was despatched to Chippenham; and while a relay of horses was
prepared he made her enter the house and eat and drink. Had he stayed at
that, and preserved when he re-entered the carriage the discreet silence
he had maintained before, it is probable that she would have fallen
asleep in sheer weariness, and deferred to the calmer hours of the
morning the problem that occupied her. But as they settled themselves in
their corners, and the carriage rolled out of the town, the attorney
muttered that he did not doubt Sir George would be at Marlborough to
breakfast. This set the girl's mind running. She moved restlessly, and
presently, 'When did you hear what had happened to me?' she asked.

'A few minutes after you were carried off,' he answered; 'but until Sir
George appeared, a quarter of an hour later, nothing was done.'

'And he started in pursuit?' To hear it gave her a delicious thrill
between pain and pleasure.

'Well, at first, to confess the truth,' Mr. Fishwick answered humbly, 'I
thought it was his doing, and--'

'You did?' she cried in surprise.

'Yes, I did; even I did. And until we met Mr. Dunborough, and Sir George
got the truth from him--I had no certainty. More shame to me!'

She bit her lips to keep back the confession that rose to them, and for
a little while was silent. Then, to his astonishment, 'Will he ever
forgive me?' she cried, her voice tremulous. 'How shall I tell him? I
was mad--I must have been mad.'

'My dear child,' the attorney answered in alarm, 'compose yourself. What
is it? What is the matter?'

'I, too thought it was he! I, even I. I thought that he wanted to rid
himself of me,' she cried, pouring forth her confession in shame and
abasement. 'There! I can hardly bear to tell you in the dark, and how
shall I tell him in the light?'

'Tut-tut!' Mr. Fishwick answered. 'What need to tell any one? Thoughts
are free.'

'Oh, but'--she laughed hysterically--'I was not free, and I--what do you
think I did?' She was growing more and more excited.

'Tut-tut!' the lawyer said. 'What matter?'

'I promised--to marry some one else.'

'Good Lord!' he said. The words were forced from him.

'Some one else!' she repeated. 'I was asked to be my lady, and it
tempted me! Think! It tempted me,' she continued with a second laugh,
bitterly contemptuous. 'Oh, what a worm--what a thing I am! It tempted
me. To be my lady, and to have my jewels, and to go to Ranelagh and the
masquerades! To have my box at the King's House and my frolic in the
pit! And my woman as ugly as I liked--if he might have my lips! Think of
it, think of it! That anyone should be so low! Or no, no, no!' she cried
in a different tone. 'Don't believe me! I am not that! I am not so vile!
But I thought he had tricked me, I thought he had cheated me, I thought
that this was his work, and I was mad! I think I was mad!'

'Dear, dear,' Mr. Fishwick said rubbing his head. His tone was
sympathetic; yet, strange to relate, there was no real smack of sorrow
in it. Nay, an acute ear might have caught a note of relief, of hope,
almost of eagerness. 'Dear, dear, to be sure!' he continued; 'I
suppose--it was Lord Almeric Doyley, the nobleman I saw at Oxford?'

'Yes!'

'And you don't know what to do, child?'

'To do?' she exclaimed.

'Which--I mean which you shall accept. Really,' Mr. Fishwick continued,
his brain succumbing to a kind of vertigo as he caught himself balancing
the pretensions of Sir George and Lord Almeric, 'it is a very remarkable
position for any young lady to enjoy, however born. Such a choice--'

'Choice!' she cried fiercely, out of the darkness. 'There is no choice.
Don't you understand? I told him No, no, no, a thousand times No!'

Mr. Fishwick sighed. 'But I understood you to say,' he answered meekly,
'that you did not know what to do.'

'How to tell Sir George! How to tell him.'

Mr. Fishwick was silent a moment. Then he said earnestly, 'I would not
tell him. Take my advice, child. No harm has been done. You said No to
the other.'

'I said Yes,' she retorted.

'But I thought--'

'And then I said No,' she cried, between tears and foolish laughter.
'Cannot you understand?'

Mr. Fishwick could not; but, 'Anyway, do not tell him,' he said. 'There
is no need, and before marriage men think much of that at which they
laugh afterwards.'

'And much of a woman of whom they think nothing afterwards,' she
answered.

'Yet do not tell him,' he pleaded. From the sound of his voice she knew
that he was leaning forward. 'Or at least wait. Take the advice of one
older than you, who knows the world, and wait.'

'And talk to him, listen to him, smile on his suit with a lie in my
heart? Never?' she cried. Then with a new strange pride, a faint touch
of stateliness in her tone, 'You forget who I am, Mr. Fishwick,' she
said. 'I am as much a Soane as he is, and it becomes me to--to remember
that. Believe me, I would far rather resign all hope of entering his
house, though I love him, than enter it with a secret in my heart.'

Mr. Fishwick groaned. He told himself that this would be the last straw.
This would give Sir George the handle he needed. She would never enter
that house.

'I have not been true to him,' she said. 'But I will be true now.'

'The truth is--is very costly,' Mr. Fishwick murmured almost under his
breath. 'I don't know that poor people can always afford it, child.'

'For shame!' she cried hotly. 'For shame! But there,' she continued, 'I
know you do not mean it. I know that what you bid me do you would not do
yourself. Would you have sold my cause, would you have hidden the truth
for thousands? If Sir George had come to you to bribe you, would you
have taken anything? Any sum, however large? I know you would not. My
life on it, you would not. You are an honest man,' she cried warmly.

The honest man was silent awhile. Presently he looked out of the
carriage. The moon had risen over Savernake; by its light he saw that
they were passing Manton village. In the vale on the right the tower of
Preshute Church, lifting its head from a dark bower of trees, spoke a
solemn language, seconding hers. 'God bless you!' he said in a low
voice. 'God bless you.'

A minute later the horses swerved to the right, and half a dozen lights
keeping vigil in the Castle Inn gleamed out along the dark front. The
post-chaise rolled across the open, and drew up before the door.
Julia's strange journey was over. Its stages, sombre in the retrospect,
rose before her as she stepped from the carriage: yet, had she known
all, the memories at which she shuddered would have worn a darker hue.
But it was not until a late hour of the following morning that even the
lawyer heard what had happened at Chippenham.



CHAPTEK XXXIV

BAD NEWS

The attorney entered the Mastersons' room a little before eleven next
morning; Julia was there, and Mrs. Masterson. The latter on seeing him
held up her hands in dismay. 'Lord's wakes, Mr. Fishwick!' the good
woman cried, 'why, you are the ghost of yourself! Adventuring does not
suit you, that's certain. But I don't wonder. I am sure I have not slept
a wink these three nights that I have not dreamt of Bessy Canning and
that horrid old Squires; which, she did it without a doubt. Don't go to
say you've bad news this morning.'

Certain it was that Mr. Fishwick looked woefully depressed. The night's
sleep, which had restored the roses to Julia's cheeks and the light to
her eyes, had done nothing for him; or perhaps he had not slept. His
eyes avoided the girl's look of inquiry. 'I've no news this morning,' he
said awkwardly. 'And yet I have news.'

'Bad?' the girl said, nodding her comprehension; and her colour slowly
faded.

'Bad,' he said gravely, looking down at the table.

Julia took her fostermother's hand in hers, and patted it; they were
sitting side by side. The elder woman, whose face was still furrowed by
the tears she had shed in her bereavement, began to tremble. 'Tell us,'
the girl said bravely. 'What is it?'

'God help me,' Mr. Fishwick answered, his face quivering. 'I don't know
how I shall tell you. I don't indeed. But I must.' Then, in a voice
harsh with pain, 'Child, I have made a mistake,' he cried. 'I am wrong,
I was wrong, I have been wrong from the beginning. God help me! And God
help us all!'

The elder woman broke into frightened weeping. The younger grew pale and
paler: grew presently white to the lips. Still her eyes met his, and did
not flinch. 'Is it--about our case?' she whispered.

'Yes! Oh, my dear, will you ever forgive me?'

'About my birth?'

He nodded.

'I am not Julia Soane? Is that it?'

He nodded again.

'Not a Soane--at all?'

'No; God forgive me, no!'

She continued to hold the weeping woman's hand in hers, and to look at
him; but for a long minute she seemed not even to breathe. Then in a
voice that, notwithstanding the effort she made, sounded harsh in his
ears, 'Tell me all,' she muttered. 'I suppose--you have found
something!'

'I have,' he said. He looked old, and worn, and shabby; and was at once
the surest and the saddest corroboration of his own tidings. 'Two days
ago I found, by accident, in a church at Bristol, the death certificate
of the--of the child.'

'Julia Soane?'

'Yes.'

'But then--who am I?' she asked, her eyes growing wild: the world was
turning, turning with her.

'Her husband,' he answered, nodding towards Mrs. Masterson, 'adopted a
child in place of the dead one, and said nothing. Whether he intended to
pass it off for the child entrusted to him, I don't know. He never made
any attempt to do so. Perhaps,' the lawyer continued drearily, 'he had
it in his mind, and when the time came his heart failed him.'

'And I am that child?'

Mr. Fishwick looked away guiltily, passing his tongue over his lips. He
was the picture of shame and remorse.

'Yes,' he said. 'Your father and mother were French. He was a teacher of
French at Bristol, his wife French from Canterbury. No relations
are known.'

'My name?' she asked, smiling piteously.

'Paré,' he said, spelling it. And he added, 'They call it Parry.'

She looked round the room in a kind of terror, not unmixed with wonder.
To that room they had retired to review their plans on their first
arrival at the Castle Inn--when all smiled on them. Thither they had
fled for refuge after the brush with Lady Dunborough and the rencontre
with Sir George. To that room she had betaken herself in the first flush
and triumph of Sir George's suit; and there, surrounded by the same
objects on which she now gazed, she had sat, rapt in rosy visions,
through the livelong day preceding her abduction. Then she had been a
gentlewoman, an heiress, the bride in prospect of a gallant
gentleman. Now?

What wonder that, as she looked round in dumb misery, recognising these
things, her eyes grew wild again; or that the shrinking lawyer expected
an outburst. It came, but from another quarter. The old woman rose and
trembling pointed a palsied finger at him. 'Yo' eat your words!' she
said. 'Yo' eat your words and seem to like them. But didn't yo' tell me
no farther back than this day five weeks that the law was clear? Didn't
yo' tell me it was certain? Yo' tell me that!'

'I did! God forgive me,' Mr. Fishwick murmured from the depths of his
abasement.

'Didn't yo' tell me fifty times, and fifty times to that, that the case
was clear?' the old woman continued relentlessly. 'That there were
thousands and thousands to be had for the asking? And her right besides,
that no one could cheat her of, no more than me of the things my
man left me?'

'I did, God forgive me!' the lawyer said.

'But yo' did cheat me!' she continued with quavering insistence, her
withered face faintly pink. 'Where is the home yo' ha' broken up? Where
are the things my man left me? Where's the bit that should ha' kept me
from the parish? Where's the fifty-two pounds yo' sold all for and ha'
spent on us, living where's no place for us, at our betters' table? Yo'
ha' broken my heart! Yo' ha' laid up sorrow and suffering for the girl
that is dearer to me than my heart. Yo' ha' done all that, and yo' can
come to me smoothly, and tell me yo' ha' made a mistake. Yo' are a
rogue, and, what maybe is worse, I mistrust me yo' are a fool!'

'Mother! mother!' the girl cried.

'He is a fool!' the old woman repeated, eyeing him with a dreadful
sternness. 'Or he would ha' kept his mistake to himself. Who knows of
it? Or why should he be telling them? 'Tis for them to find out, not for
him! Yo' call yourself a lawyer? Yo' are a fool!' And she sat down in a
palsy of senile passion. 'Yo' are a fool! And yo' ha' ruined us!'

Mr. Fishwick groaned, but made no reply. He had not the spirit to defend
himself. But Julia, as if all through which she had gone since the day
of her reputed father's death had led her to this point, only that she
might show the stuff of which she was wrought, rose to the emergency.

'Mother,' she said firmly, her hand resting on the older woman's
shoulder, 'you are wrong--you are quite wrong. He would have ruined us
indeed, he would have ruined us hopelessly and for ever, if he had kept
silence! He has never been so good a friend to us as he has shown
himself to-day, and I thank him for his courage. And I honour him!' She
held out her hand to Mr. Fishwick, who having pressed it, his face
working ominously, retired to the window.

'But, my deary, what will yo' do?' Mrs. Masterson cried peevishly. 'He
ha' ruined us!'

'What I should have done if we had never made this mistake,' Julia
answered bravely; though her lips trembled and her face was white, and
in her heart she knew that hers was but a mockery of courage, that must
fail her the moment she was alone. 'We are but fifty pounds worse
than we were.'

'Fifty pounds!' the old woman cried aghast. 'Yo' talk easily of fifty
pounds. And, Lord knows, it is soon spent here. But where will yo'
get another?'

'Well, well,' the girl answered patiently, 'that is true. Yet we must
make the best of it. Let us make the best of it,' she continued,
appealing to them bravely, yet with tears in her voice. 'We are all
losers together. Let us bear it together. I have lost most,' she
continued, her voice trembling. Fifty pounds? Oh, God! what was fifty
pounds to what she had lost. 'But perhaps I deserve it. I was too ready
to leave you, mother. I was too ready to--to take up with new things
and--and richer things, and forget those who had been kin to me and kind
to me all my life. Perhaps this is my punishment. You have lost your
all, but that we will get again. And our friend here--he, too,
has lost.'

Mr. Fishwick, standing, dogged and downcast, by the window, did not say
what he had lost, but his thoughts went to his old mother at Wallingford
and the empty stocking, and the weekly letters he had sent her for a
month past, letters full of his golden prospects, and the great case of
Soane _v_. Soane, and the grand things that were to come of it. What a
home-coming was now in store for him, his last guinea spent, his hopes
wrecked, and Wallingford to be faced!

There was a brief silence. Mrs. Masterson sobbed querulously, or now and
again uttered a wailing complaint: the other two stood sank in bitter
retrospect. Presently, 'What must we do?' Julia asked in a faint voice.'
I mean, what step must we take? Will you let them know?'

'I will see them,' Mr. Fishwick answered, wincing at the note of pain in
her voice. 'I--I was sent for this morning, for twelve o'clock. It is a
quarter to eleven now.'

She looked at him, startled, a spot of red in each cheek. 'We must go
away,' she said hurriedly, 'while we have money. Can we do better than
return to Oxford?'

The attorney felt sure that at the worst Sir George would do something
for her: that Mrs. Masterson need not lament for her fifty pounds. But
he had the delicacy to ignore this. 'I don't know,' he said mournfully.
'I dare not advise. You'd be sorry, Miss Julia--any one would be sorry
who knew what I have gone through. I've suffered--I can't tell you what
I have suffered--the last twenty-four hours! I shall never have any
opinion of myself again. Never!'

Julia sighed. 'We must cut a month out of our lives,' she murmured. But
it was something else she meant--a month out of her heart!



CHAPTER XXXV

DORMITAT HOMERUS

If Julia's return in the middle of the night balked the curiosity of
some who would fain have had her set down at the door that they might
enjoy her confusion as she passed through the portico, it had the
advantage, appreciated by others, of leaving room for conjecture. Before
breakfast her return was known from, one end of the Castle Inn to the
other; within half an hour a score had private information. Sir George
had brought her back, after marrying her at Salisbury. The attorney had
brought her back, and both were in custody, charged with stealing Sir
George's title-deeds. Mr. Thomasson had brought her back; he had wedded
her at Calne, the reverend gentleman himself performing the ceremony
with a curtain-ring at a quarter before midnight, in the presence of two
chambermaids, in a room hung with drab moreen. Sir George's servant had
brought her back; he was the rogue in the play; it was Lady Harriet
Wentworth and footman Sturgeon over again. She had come back in a
Flemish hat and a white cloth Joseph with black facings; she had come
back in her night-rail; she had come back in a tabby gauze, with a lace
head and lappets. Nor were there wanting other rumours, of an
after-dinner Wilkes-and-Lord-Sandwich flavour, which we refrain from
detailing; but which the Castle Inn, after the mode of the eighteenth
century, discussed with freedom in a mixed company.

Of all these reports and the excitement which they created in an
assemblage weary of waiting on the great man's recovery and in straits
for entertainment, the attorney knew nothing until he set forth to keep
the appointment in Lord Chatham's apartments; which, long the object of
desire, now set his teeth on edge. Nor need he have learned much of them
then; for he had only to cross the lobby of the east wing, and was in
view of the hall barely three seconds. But, unluckily, Lady Dunborough,
cackling shrewishly with a kindred dowager, caught sight of him as he
passed; and in a trice her old limbs bore her in pursuit. Mr. Fishwick
heard his name called, had the weakness to turn, and too late found that
he had fallen into the clutches of his ancient enemy.

The absence of her son's name from the current rumours had relieved the
Viscountess of her worst fears, and left her free to enjoy herself.
Seeing his dismay, 'La, man! I am not going to eat you!' she cried; for
the lawyer, nervous and profoundly dispirited, really shrank before her.
'So you have brought back your fine madam, I hear? And made an honest
woman of her!'

Mr. Fishwick glared at her, but did not answer.

'I knew what would come of pushing out of your place, my lad!' she
continued, nodding complacently. 'It wasn't likely she'd behave herself.
When the master is away the man will play, and the maid too. I mind me
perfectly of the groom. A saucy fellow and a match for her; 'tis to be
hoped he'll beat some sense into her. Was she tied up at Calne?'

'No!' Mr. Fishwick blurted, wincing under her words; which hurt him a
hundred times more sharply than if the girl had been what he had thought
her. Then he might have laughed at the sneer and the spite that dictated
it. Now--something like this all the world would say.

The Viscountess eyed him cunningly, her head on one side. 'Was it at
Salisbury, then?' she cried. 'Wherever 'twas. I hear she had need of
haste. Or was it at Bristol? D'you hear me speak to you, man?' she
continued impatiently. 'Out with it.'

'At neither,' he cried.

My lady's eyes sparkled with rage. 'Hoity-toity!' she answered. 'D'you
say No to me in that fashion? I'll thank you to mend your manners,
Fishwick, and remember to whom you are speaking. Hark ye, sirrah, is she
Sir George's cousin or is she not?'

'She is not, my lady,' the attorney muttered miserably.

'But she is married?'

'No,' he said; and with that, unable to bear more, he turned to fly.

She caught him by the sleeve. 'Not married?' she cried, grinning with
ill-natured glee. 'Not married? And been of three days with a man! Lord,
'tis a story as bald as Granby! She ought to be whipped, the hussy! Do
you hear? She ought to the Roundhouse, and you with her, sirrah, for
passing her of on us!'

But that was more than the attorney, his awe of the peerage
notwithstanding, could put up with. 'God forgive you!' he cried. 'God
forgive you, ma'am, your hard heart!'

She was astonished. 'You impudent fellow!' she exclaimed. 'What do you
know of God? And how dare you name Him in the same breath with me? D'you
think He'd have people of quality be Methodists and live as the like of
you? God, indeed! Hang your impudence! I say, she should to the
Roundhouse--and you, too, for a vagabond! And so you shall!'

The lawyer shook with rage. 'The less your ladyship talks of the
Roundhouse,' he answered, his voice trembling, 'the better! There's one
is in it now who may go farther and fare worse--to your sorrow,
my lady!'

You rogue!' she cried. 'Do you threaten me?'

'I threaten no one,' he answered. 'But your son, Mr. Dunborough, killed
a man last night, and lies in custody at Chippenham at this very time! I
say no more, my lady!'

He had said enough. My lady glared; then began to shake in her turn. Yet
her spirit was not easily quelled; 'You lie!' she cried shrilly, the
stick, with which she vainly strove to steady herself, rattling on the
floor.' Who dares to say that my son has killed a man?'

'It is known,' the attorney answered.

'Who--who is it?'

'Mr. Pomeroy of Bastwick, a gentleman living near Calne.'

'In a duel! 'Twas in a duel, you lying fool!' she retorted hoarsely.
'You are trying to scare me! Say 'twas in a duel and I--I'll
forgive you.'

'They shut themselves up in a room, and there were no seconds,' the
lawyer answered, beginning to pity her. 'I believe that Mr. Pomeroy gave
the provocation, and that may bring your ladyship's son off. But, on the
other hand--'

'On the other hand, what? What?' she muttered.

'Mr. Dunborough had horsewhipped a man that was in the other's company.'

'A man?'

'It was Mr. Thomasson.'

Her ladyship's hands went up. Perhaps she remembered that but for her
the tutor would not have been there. Then 'Sink you! I wish he had
flogged you all!' she shrieked, and, turning stiffly, she went mumbling
and cursing down the stairs, the lace lappets of her head trembling,
and her gold-headed cane now thumping the floor, now waving uncertainly
in the air.

       *       *       *       *       *

A quarter of an hour earlier, in the apartments for which Mr. Fishwick
was bound when her ladyship intercepted him, two men stood talking at a
window. The room was the best in the Castle Inn--a lofty panelled
chamber with a southern aspect looking upon the smooth sward and
sweet-briar hedges of Lady Hertford's terrace, and commanding beyond
these a distant view of the wooded slopes of Savernake. The men spoke in
subdued tones, and more than once looked towards the door of an adjacent
room, as if they feared to disturb some one.

'My dear Sir George,' the elder said, after he had listened patiently to
a lengthy relation, in the course of which he took snuff a dozen times,
'your mind is quite made up, I suppose?'

'Absolutely.'

'Well, it is a remarkable series of events; a--most remarkable series,'
Dr. Addington answered with professional gravity. 'And certainly, if the
lady is all you paint her--and she seems to set you young bloods on
fire--no ending could well be more satisfactory. With the addition of a
comfortable place in the Stamps or the Pipe Office, if we can take his
lordship the right way--it should do. It should do handsomely. But',
with a keen glance at his companion, 'even without that--you know that
he is still far from well?'

'I know that all the world is of one of two opinions,' Sir George
answered, smiling. 'The first, that his lordship ails nothing save
politically; the other, that he is at death's door and will not have
it known.'

The physician shrugged his shoulders contemptuously. 'Neither is true,'
he said. 'The simple fact is, he has the gout; and the gout is an odd
thing, Sir George, as you'll know one of these days,' with another sharp
glance at his companion. 'It flies here and there, and everywhere.'

'And where is it now?' Soane asked innocently.

'It has gone to his head,' Addington answered, in a tone so studiously
jejune that Sir George glanced at him. The doctor, however, appeared
unaware of the look, and merely continued: 'So, if he does not take
things quite as you wish, Sir George, you'll--but here his
lordship comes!'

The doctor thought that he had sufficiently prepared Soane for a change
in his patron's appearance. Nevertheless, the younger man was greatly
shocked when through the door, obsequiously opened--and held open while
a man might count fifty, so that eye and mind grew expectant--the great
statesman, the People's Minister at length appeared. For the stooping
figure that moved to a chair only by virtue of a servant's arm, and
seemed the taller for its feebleness, for dragging legs and shrunken,
frame and features sharpened by illness and darkened by the great peruke
it was the Earl's fashion to wear, he was in a degree prepared. But for
the languid expression of the face that had been so eloquent, for the
lacklustre eyes and the dulness of mind that noticed little and heeded
less, he was not prepared; and these were so marked and so unlike the
great minister--

     'A daring pilot in extremity
     Pleased with the danger when the waves went high'

--so unlike the man whose eagle gaze had fluttered Courts and imposed
the law on Senates, that it was only the presence of Lady Chatham, who
followed her lord, a book and cushion in her hands, that repressed the
exclamation which rose to Sir George's lips. So complete was the change
indeed that, as far as the Earl was concerned, he might have uttered it!
His lordship, led to the head of the table, sank without a word into the
chair placed for him, and propping his elbow on the table and his head
on his hand, groaned aloud.

Lady Chatham compressed her lips with evident annoyance as she took her
stand behind her husband's chair; it was plain from the glance she cast
at Soane that she resented the presence of a witness. Even Dr.
Addington, with his professional _sang-froid_ and his knowledge of the
invalid's actual state, was put out of countenance for a moment. Then he
signed to Sir George to be silent, and to the servant to withdraw.

At last Lord Chatham spoke. 'This business?' he said in a hollow voice
and without uncovering his eyes, 'is it to be settled now?'

'If your lordship pleases,' the doctor answered in a subdued tone.

'Sir George Soane is there?'

'Yes.'

'Sir George,' the Earl said with an evident effort, 'I am sorry I cannot
receive you better.'

'My lord, as it is I am deeply indebted to your kindness.'

'Dagge finds no flaw in their case,' Lord Chatham continued
apathetically. 'Her ladyship has read his report to me. If Sir George
likes to contest the claim, it is his right.'

'I do not propose to do so.'

Sir George had not this time subdued his voice to the doctor's pitch;
and the Earl, whose nerves seemed alive to the slightest sound, winced
visibly. 'That is your affair,' he answered querulously. 'At any rate
the trustees do not propose to do so.'

Sir George, speaking with more caution, replied that he acquiesced; and
then for a few seconds there was silence in the room, his lordship
continuing to sit in the same attitude of profound melancholy, and the
others to look at him with compassion, which they vainly strove to
dissemble. At last, in a voice little above a whisper, the Earl asked if
the man was there.

'He waits your lordship's pleasure,' Dr. Addington answered. 'But before
he is admitted,' the physician continued diffidently and with a manifest
effort, 'may I say a word, my lord, as to the position in which this
places Sir George Soane?'

'I was told this morning,' Lord Chatham answered, in the same muffled
tone, 'that a match had been arranged between the parties, and that
things would remain as they were. It seemed to me, sir, a prudent
arrangement.'

Sir George was about to answer, but Dr. Addington made a sign to him to
be silent. 'That is so,' the physician replied smoothly. 'But your
lordship is versed in Sir George Soane's affairs, and knows that he must
now go to his wife almost empty-handed. In these circumstances it has
occurred rather to his friends than to himself, and indeed I speak
against his will and by sufferance only, that--that, in a word,
my lord--'

Lord Chatham lowered his hand as Dr. Addington paused. A faint flush
darkened his lean aquiline features, set a moment before in the mould of
hopeless depression. 'What?' he said. And he raised himself sharply in
his chair. 'What has occurred to his friends?'

'That some provision might be made for him, my lord.'

'From the public purse?' the Earl cried in a startling tone. 'Is that
your meaning, sir?' And, with the look in his eyes which had been more
dreaded by the Rigbys and Dodingtons of his party than the most
scathing rebuke from the lips of another, he fixed the unlucky doctor
where he stood. 'Is that your proposal, sir?' he repeated.

The physician saw too late that he had ventured farther than his
interest would support him; and he quailed. On the other hand, it is
possible he had been neither so confident before, nor was so entirely
crushed now, as appeared. 'Well, my lord, it did occur to me,' he
stammered, 'as not inconsistent with the public welfare.'

'The public welfare!' the minister cried in biting accents. 'The public
plunder, sir, you mean! It were not inconsistent with that to quarter on
the nation as many ruined gentlemen as you please! But you mistake if
you bring the business to me to do--you mistake. I have dispersed
thirteen millions of His Majesty's money in a year, and would have spent
as much again and as much to that, had the affairs of this nation
required it; but the gentleman is wrong if he thinks it has gone to my
friends. My hands are clean,' his lordship continued with an expressive
gesture. 'I have said, in another place, none of it sticks to them.
_Virtute me involvo_!' And then, in a lower tone, but still with a note
of austerity in his voice, M rejoice to think,' he continued, 'that the
gentleman was not himself the author of this application. I rejoice to
think that it did not come from him. These things have been done freely;
it concerns me not to deny it; but since I had to do with His Majesty's
exchequer, less freely. And that only concerns me!'

Sir George Soane bit his lip. He felt keenly the humiliation of his
position. But it was so evident that the Earl was not himself--so
evident that the tirade to which he had just listened was one of those
outbursts, noble in sentiment, but verging on the impracticable and the
ostentatious, in which Lord Chatham was prone to indulge in his weaker
moments, that he felt little inclination to resent it. Yet to let it
pass unnoticed was impossible.

'My lord,' he said firmly, but with respect, 'it is permitted to all to
make an application which the custom of the time has sanctioned. That is
the extent of my action--at the highest. The propriety of granting such
requests is another matter and rests with your lordship. I have nothing
to do with that.'

The Earl appeared to be as easily disarmed as he had been lightly
aroused. 'Good lad! good lad!' he muttered. 'Addington is a fool!' Then
drowsily, as his head sunk on his hand again, 'The man may enter. I will
tell him!'



CHAPTER XXXVI

THE ATTORNEY SPEAKS

It was into an atmosphere highly charged, therefore, in which the
lightning had scarcely ceased to play, and might at any moment dart its
fires anew, that Mr. Fishwick was introduced. The lawyer did not know
this; yet it was to be expected that without that knowledge he would
bear himself but ill in the company in which he now found himself. But
the task which he had come to perform raised him above himself;
moreover, there is a point of depression at which timidity ceases, and
he had reached this point. Admitted by Dr. Addington, he looked round,
bowed stiffly to the physician, and lowly and with humility to Lord
Chatham and her ladyship; then, taking his stand at the foot of the
table, he produced his papers with an air of modest self-possession.

Lord Chatham did not look up, but he saw what was passing. 'We have no
need of documents,' he said in the frigid tone which marked his dealings
with all save a very few. 'Your client's suit is allowed, sir, so far as
the trustees are concerned. That is all it boots me to say.'

'I humbly thank your lordship,' the attorney answered, speaking with an
air of propriety which surprised Sir George. 'Yet I have with due
submission to crave your lordship's leave to say somewhat.'

'There is no need,' the Earl answered, 'the claim being allowed, sir.'

'It is on that point, my lord.'

The Earl, his eyes smouldering, looked his displeasure, but controlled
himself. 'What is it?' he said irritably.

'Some days ago, I made a singular discovery, my lord,' the attorney
answered sorrowfully. 'I felt it necessary to communicate it to my
client, and I am directed by her to convey it to your lordship and to
all others concerned.' And the lawyer bowed slightly to Sir
George Soane.

Lord Chatham raised his head, and for the first time since the
attorney's entrance looked at him with a peevish attention. 'If we are
to go into this, Dagge should be here,' he said impatiently. 'Or your
lawyer, Sir George.' with a look as fretful in that direction. 'Well,
man, what is it?'

'My lord,' Mr. Fish wick answered, 'I desire first to impress upon your
lordship and Sir George Soane that this claim was set on foot in good
faith on the part of my client, and on my part; and, as far as I was
concerned, with no desire to promote useless litigation. That was the
position up to Tuesday last, the day on which the lady was forcibly
carried off. I repeat, my lord, that on that day I had no more doubt of
the justice of our claim than I have to-day that the sky is above us.
But on Wednesday I happened in a strange way--at Bristol, my lord,
whither but for that abduction I might never have gone in my life--on a
discovery, which by my client's direction I am here to communicate.'

'Do you mean, sir,' the Earl said with sudden acumen, a note of keen
surprise in his voice, 'that you are here--to abandon your claim?'

'My client's claim,' the attorney answered with a sorrowful look. 'Yes,
my lord, I am.'

For an instant there was profound silence in the room; the astonishment
was as deep as it was general. At last, 'are the papers which were
submitted to Mr. Dagge--are they forgeries then?' the Earl asked.

'No, my lord; the papers are genuine,' the attorney answered. 'But my
client, although the identification seemed to be complete, is not the
person indicated in them.' And succinctly, but with sufficient
clearness, the attorney narrated his chance visit to the church, the
discovery of the entry in the register, and the story told by the good
woman at the 'Golden Bee.' 'Your lordship will perceive,' he concluded,
'that, apart from the exchange of the children, the claim was good. The
identification of the infant whom the porter presented to his wife with
the child handed to him by his late master three weeks earlier seemed to
be placed beyond doubt by every argument from probability. But the child
was not the child,' he added with a sigh. And, forgetting for the moment
the presence in which he stood, Mr. Fishwick allowed the despondency he
felt to appear in his face and figure.

There was a prolonged silence. 'Sir!' Lord Chatham said at last--Sir
George Soane, with his eyes on the floor and a deep flush on his face,
seemed to be thunderstruck by this sudden change of front--'it appears
to me that you are a very honest man! Yet let me ask you. Did it never
occur to you to conceal the fact?'

'Frankly, my lord, it did,' the attorney answered gloomily, 'for a day.
Then I remembered a thing my father used to say to us, "Don't put
molasses in the punch!" And I was afraid.'

'Don't put molasses in the punch!' his lordship ejaculated, with a
lively expression of astonishment. 'Are you mad, sir?'

'No, my lord and gentlemen,' Mr. Fishwick answered hurriedly.' But it
means--don't help Providence, which can very well help itself. The thing
was too big for me, my lord, and my client too honest. I thought, if it
came out afterwards, the last state might be worse than the first.
And--I could not see my way to keep it from her; and that is the truth,'
he added candidly.

The statesman nodded. Then,

     '_Dissimulare etiam sperasti, perfide tantum
     Posse nefas, tacitusque meam subducere terram_?'

he muttered in low yet sonorous tones.

Mr. Fishwick stared. 'I beg your lordship's pardon,' he said. 'I do not
quite understand.'

'There is no need. And that is the whole truth, sir, is it?'

'Yes, my lord, it is.'

'Very good. Very good,' Lord Chatham replied, pushing away the papers
which the attorney in the heat of his argument had thrust before him.
'Then there is an end of the matter as far as the trustees are
concerned. Sir George, you have nothing to say, I take it?'

'No, I thank you, my lord--nothing here,' Soane answered vaguely. His
face continued to wear the dark flush which had overspread it a few
minutes before. 'This, I need not say, is an absolute surprise to
me,' he added.

'Just so. It is an extraordinary story. Well, good-morning, sir,' his
lordship continued, addressing the attorney. 'I believe you have done
your duty. I believe you have behaved very honestly. You will hear
from me.'

Mr. Fishwick knew that he was dismissed, but after a glance aside, which
showed him Sir George standing in a brown study, he lingered. 'If your
lordship,' he said desperately, 'could see your way to do anything--for
my client?'

'For your client? Why?' the Earl cried, with a sudden return of his
gouty peevishness. 'Why, sir--why?'

'She has been drawn,' the lawyer muttered 'out of the position in which
she lived, by an error, not her own, my lord.'

'Yours!'

'Yes, my lord.'

'And why drawn?' the Earl continued regarding him severely. 'I will tell
you, sir. Because you were not content to await the result of
investigation, but must needs thrust yourself in the public eye! You
must needs assume a position before it was granted! No, sir, I allow you
honest; I allow you to be well-meaning; but your conduct has been
indiscreet, and your client must pay for it. Moreover, I am in the
position of a trustee, and can do nothing. You may go, sir.'

After that Mr. Fishwick had no choice but to withdraw. He did so; and a
moment later Sir George, after paying his respects, followed him. Dr.
Addington was clear-sighted enough to fear that his friend had gone
after the lawyer, and, as soon as he decently could, he went himself in
pursuit. He was relieved to find Sir George alone, pacing the floor of
the room they shared.

The physician took care to hide his real motive and his distrust of
Soane's discretion under a show of heartiness. 'My dear Sir George, I
congratulate you!' he cried, shaking the other effusively by the hand.
'Believe me, 'tis by far the completest way out of the difficulty; and
though I am sorry for the--for the young lady, who seems to have behaved
very honestly--well, time brings its repentances as well as its
revenges. It is possible the match would have done tolerably well,
assuming you to be equal in birth and fortune. But even then 'twas a
risk; 'twas a risk, my dear sir! And now--'

'It is not to be thought of, I suppose?' Sir George said; and he looked
at the other interrogatively.

'Good Lord, no!' the physician answered. 'No, no, no!' he added
weightily.

Sir George nodded, and, turning, looked thoughtfully through the window.
His face still wore a flush. 'Yet something must be done for her,' he
said in a low voice. 'I can't let her here, read that.'

Dr. Addington took the open letter the other handed to him, and, eyeing
it with a frown while he fixed his glasses, afterwards proceeded to
peruse it.

'Sir,' it ran--it was pitifully short--'when I sought you I deemed
myself other than I am. Were I to seek you now I should be other than I
deem myself. We met abruptly, and can part after the same fashion. This
from one who claims to be no more than your well-wisher.--JULIA.'

The doctor laid it down and took a pinch of snuff. 'Good girl!' he
muttered. 'Good girl. That--that confirms me. You must do something for
her, Sir George. Has she--how did you get that, by the way?'

'I found it on the table. I made inquiry, and heard that she left
Marlboro' an hour gone.'

'For?'

'I could not learn.'

'Good girl! Good girl! Yes, certainly you must do something for her.'

'You think so?' Sir George said, with a sudden queer look at the doctor,
'Even you?'

'Even I! An allowance of--I was going to suggest fifty guineas a year,'
Dr. Addington continued impulsively. 'Now, after reading that letter, I
say a hundred. It is not too much, Sir George! 'Fore Gad, it is not too
much. But--'

'But what?'

The physician paused to take an elaborate pinch of snuff. 'You'll
forgive me,' he answered. 'But before this about her birth came out, I
fancied that you were doing, or going about to do the girl no good. Now,
my dear Sir George, I am not strait-laced,' the doctor continued,
dusting the snuff from the lappets of his coat, 'and I know very well
what your friend, my Lord March, would do in the circumstances. And you
have lived much, with him, and think yourself, I dare swear, no better.
But you are, my dear sir--you are, though you may not know it. You are
wondering what I am at? Inclined to take offence, eh? Well, she's a good
girl, Sir George'--he tapped the letter, which lay on the table beside
him--'too good for that! And you'll not lay it on your conscience,
I hope.'

'I will not,' Sir George said quietly.

'Good lad!' Dr. Addington muttered, in the tone Lord Chatham had used;
for it is hard to be much with the great without trying on their shoes.
'Good lad! Good lad!'

Soane did not appear to notice the tone. 'You think an allowance of a
hundred guineas enough?' he said, and looked at the other.

'I think it very handsome,' the doctor answered. 'D----d handsome.'

'Good!' Sir George rejoined. 'Then she shall have that allowance;' and
after staring awhile at the table he nodded assent to his thoughts
and went out.



CHAPTER XXXVII

A HANDSOME ALLOWANCE

The physician might not have deemed his friend so sensible--or so
insensible--had he known that the young man proposed to make the offer
of that allowance in person. Nor to Sir George Soane himself, when he
alighted five days later before The George Inn at Wallingford, did the
offer seem the light and easy thing,

     'Of smiles and tears compact,'

it had appeared at Marlborough. He recalled old clashes of wit, and here
and there a spark struck out between them, that, alighting on the flesh,
had burned him. Meanwhile the arrival of so fine a gentleman, travelling
in a post-chaise and four, drew a crowd about the inn. To give the
idlers time to disperse, as well as to remove the stains of the road, he
entered the house, and, having bespoken dinner and the best rooms,
inquired the way to Mr. Fishwick the attorney's. By this time his
servant had blabbed his name; and the story of the duel at Oxford being
known, with some faint savour of his fashion, the landlord was his most
obedient, and would fain have guided his honour to the place cap
in hand.

Rid of him, and informed that the house he sought was neighbour on the
farther side, of the Three Tuns, near the bridge, Sir George strolled
down the long clean street that leads past Blackstone's Church, then in
the building, to the river; Sinodun Hill and the Berkshire Downs,
speaking evening peace, behind him. He paused before a dozen neat houses
with brass knockers and painted shutters, and took each in turn for the
lawyer's. But when he came to the real Mr. Fishwick's, and found it a
mere cottage, white and decent, but no more than a cottage, he thought
that he was mistaken. Then the name of 'Mr. Peter Fishwick,
Attorney-at-Law,' not in the glory of brass, but painted in white
letters on the green door, undeceived him; and, opening the wicket of
the tiny garden, he knocked with the head of his cane on the door.

The appearance of a stately gentleman in a laced coat and a sword,
waiting outside Fishwick's, opened half the doors in the street; but not
that one at which Sir George stood. He had to knock again and again
before he heard voices whispering inside. At last a step came tapping
down the bricked passage, a bolt was withdrawn, and an old woman, in a
coarse brown dress and a starched mob, looked out. She betrayed no
surprise on seeing so grand a gentleman, but told his honour, before he
could speak, that the lawyer was not at home.

'It is not Mr. Fishwick I want to see,' Sir George answered civilly.
Through the brick passage he had a glimpse, as through a funnel, of
green leaves climbing on a tiny treillage, and of a broken urn on a
scrap of sward. 'You have a young lady staying here?' he continued.

The old woman's stiff grey eyebrows grew together. 'No!' she said
sharply. 'Nothing of the kind!'

'A Miss Masterson.'

'No' she snapped, her face more and more forbidding. 'We have no Misses
here, and no baggages for fine gentlemen! You have come to the wrong
house!' And she tried to shut the door in his face.

He was puzzled and a little affronted; but he set his foot between the
door and the post, and balked her. 'One moment, my good woman,' he
said. 'This is Mr. Fishwick's, is it not?'

'Ay, 'tis,' she answered, breathing hard with indignation. 'But if it is
him your honour wants to see, you must come when he is at home. He is
not at home to-day.'

'I don't want to see him,' Sir George said. 'I want to speak to the
young lady who is staying here.'

'And I tell you that there is no young lady staying here!' she retorted
wrathfully. 'There is no soul in the house but me and my serving girl,
and she's at the wash-tub. It is more like the Three Tuns you want!
There's a flaunting gipsy-girl there if you like--but the less said
about her the better.'

Sir George stood and stared at the woman. At last, on a sudden
suspicion, 'Is your servant from Oxford?' he said.

She seemed to consider him before she answered. 'Well, if she is?' she
said grudgingly. 'What then?'

'Is her name Masterson?'

Again she seemed to hesitate. At last, 'May be and may be not!' she
snapped, with a sniff of contempt.

He saw that it was, and for an instant the hesitation was on his side.
Then, 'Let me come in!' he said abruptly. 'You are doing your son's
client little good by this!' And when she had slowly and grudgingly made
way for him to enter, and the door was shut behind him, 'Where is she?'
he asked almost savagely. 'Take me to her!'

The old dame muttered something unintelligible. Then, 'She's in the back
part,' she said, 'but she'll not wish to see you. Don't blame me if she
pins a clout to your skirts.'

Yet she moved aside, and the way lay open--down the brick passage. It
must be confessed that for an instant, just one instant, Sir George
wavered, his face hot; for the third part of a second the dread of the
ridiculous, the temptation to turn and go as he had come were on him.
Nor need he, for this, forfeit our sympathies, or cease to be a hero. It
was the age, be it remembered, of the artificial. Nature, swathed in
perukes and ruffles, powder and patches, and stifled under a hundred
studied airs and grimaces, had much ado to breathe. Yet it did breathe;
and Sir George, after that brief hesitation, did go on. Three steps
carried him down the passage. Another, and the broken urn and tiny
treillage brought him up short, but on the greensward, in the sunlight,
with the air of heaven fanning his brow. The garden was a very
duodecimo; a single glance showed him its whole extent--and Julia.

She was not at the wash-tub, as the old lady had said; but on her knees,
scouring a step that led to a side-door, her drugget gown pinned up
about her. She raised her head as he appeared, and met his gaze
defiantly, her face flushing red with shame or some kindred feeling. He
was struck by a strange likeness between her hard look and the frown
with which the old woman at the door had received him; and this, or
something in the misfit of her gown, or the glimpse he had of a stocking
grotesquely fine in comparison of the stuff from which it peeped--or
perhaps the cleanliness of the step she was scouring, since he seemed to
instant, just one instant, Sir George wavered, his face hot; for the
third part of a second the dread of the ridiculous, the temptation to
turn and go as he had come were on him. Nor need he, for this, forfeit
our sympathies, or cease to be a hero. It was the age, be it remembered,
of the artificial. Nature, swathed in perukes and ruffles, powder and
patches, and stifled under a hundred studied airs and grimaces, had much
ado to breathe. Yet it did breathe; and Sir George, after that brief
hesitation, did go on. Three steps carried him down the passage.
Another, and the broken urn and tiny treillage brought him up short, but
on the greensward, in the sunlight, with the air of heaven fanning his
brow. The garden was a very duodecimo; a single glance showed him its
whole extent--and Julia.

She was not at the wash-tub, as the old lady had said; but on her knees,
scouring a step that led to a side-door, her drugget gown pinned up
about her. She raised her head as he appeared, and met his gaze
defiantly, her face flushing red with shame or some kindred feeling. He
was struck by a strange likeness between her hard look and the frown
with which the old woman at the door had received him; and this, or
something in the misfit of her gown, or the glimpse he had of a stocking
grotesquely fine in comparison of the stuff from which it peeped--or
perhaps the cleanliness of the step she was scouring, since he seemed to
see everything without looking at it--put an idea into his head. He
checked the exclamation that sprang to his lips; and as she rose to her
feet he saluted her with an easy smile. 'I have found you, child,' he
said. 'Did you think you had hidden yourself?'

She met his gaze sullenly. 'You have found me to no purpose,' she said.
Her tone matched her look.

The look and the words together awoke an odd pang in his heart. He had
seen her arch, pitiful, wrathful, contemptuous, even kind; but never
sullen. The new mood gave him the measure of her heart; but his tone
lost nothing of its airiness. 'I hope not,' he said, 'for we think you
have behaved vastly well in the matter, child. Remarkably well! And
that, let me tell you, is not only my own sentiment, but the opinion of
my friends who perfectly approve of the arrangement I have come to
propose. You may accept it, therefore, without the least scruple.'

'Arrangement?' she muttered. Her cheeks, darkly red a moment before,
began to fade.

'Yes,' he said. 'I hope you will think it not ungenerous. It will rid
you of the need to do this--sort of thing, and put you--put you in a
comfortable position. Of course, you know,' he continued in a tone of
patronage, under which her heart burned if her cheeks did not, 'that a
good deal of water has run under the bridge since we talked in the
garden at Marlborough? That things are changed.'

Her eyelids quivered under the cruel stroke. But her only answer was,
'They are.' Yet she wondered how and why; for if she had thought herself
an heiress, he had not--then.

'You admit it, I am sure?' he persisted.

'Yes,' she answered resolutely.

'And that to--to resume, in fact, the old terms would be--impossible,'

'Quite impossible.' Her tone was as hard as his was easy.

'I thought so,' Sir George continued complacently. 'Still, I could not,
of course, leave you here, child. As I have said, my friends think that
something should be done for you; and I am only too happy to do it. I
have consulted them, and we have talked the matter over. By the way,'
with a look round, 'perhaps your mother should be here--Mrs. Masterson,
I mean? Is she in the house?'

'No,' she answered, her face flaming scarlet; for pride had conquered
pain. She hated him. Oh, how she hated him and the hideous dress which
in her foolish dream--when, hearing him at the door, she had looked for
something very different--she had hurriedly put on; and the loose tangle
of hair which she had dragged with trembling fingers from its club so
that it now hung sluttishly over her ear. She longed, as she had never
longed before, to confront him in all her beauty; to be able to say to
him, 'Choose where you will, can you buy form or face like this?'
Instead she stood before him, prisoned in this shapeless dress, a
slattern, a drab, a thing whereat to curl the lip.

'Well, I am sorry she is not here,' he resumed. 'It would have given
a--a kind of legality to the offer,' he continued with an easy laugh.
'To tell you the truth, the amount was not fixed by me, but by my
friend, Dr. Addington, who interested himself in your behalf. He thought
that an allowance of a hundred guineas a year, child, properly secured,
would place you in comfort, and--and obviate all this,' with a negligent
wave of the hand that took in the garden and the half-scoured stone, 'at
the same time,' he added, 'that it would not be unworthy of the donor.'
And he bowed, smiling.

'A hundred guineas?' she said slowly. 'A year?'

'Yes.'

'Properly secured?'

'To be sure, child.'

'On your word?' with a sudden glance at him. 'Of course, I could not ask
better security! Surely, sir, there's but one thing to be said. 'Tis too
generous, too handsome!'

'Tut-tut!' he answered, wondering at her way of taking it.

'Far too handsome--seeing that I have no claim on you, Sir George, and
have only put you to great expense.'

'Pooh! Pooh!'

'And--trouble. A vast deal of trouble,' she repeated in an odd tone of
raillery, while her eyes, grown hard and mocking, raked him mercilessly.
'So much for so little! I could not--I could not accept it. A hundred
guineas a year, Sir George, from one in your position to one in mine,
would only lay me open to the tongue of slander. You had better
say--fifty.'

'Oh, no!'

'Or--thirty, I am sure thirty were ample! Say thirty guineas a year,
dear sir; and leave me my character.'

'Nonsense,' he answered, a trifle discomfited. Strange, she was seizing
her old position. The weapon he had wrought for her punishment was being
turned against himself.

'Or, I don't know that thirty is not too much!' she continued, her eyes
unnaturally bright, her voice keen as a razor.' 'Twould have been enough
if offered through your lawyers. But at your own mouth, Sir George, ten
shillings a week should do, and handsomely! Which reminds me--it was a
kind thought to come yourself to see me; I wonder why you did.'

'Well,' he said, 'to be frank, it was Dr. Addington--'

'Oh, Dr. Addington--Dr. Addington suggested it! Because I fancied--it
could not give you pleasure to see me like this?' she continued with a
flashing eye, her passion for a brief moment breaking forth. 'Or to go
back a month or two and call me child? Or to speak to me as to your
chambermaid? Or even to give me ten shillings a week?'

'No,' he said gravely; 'perhaps not, my dear.'

She winced and her eyes flashed; but she controlled herself. 'Still, I
shall take your ten shillings a week,' she said. 'And--and is that all?
Or is there anything else?'

'Only this,' he said firmly. 'You'll please to remember that the ten
shillings a week is of your own choosing. You'll do me that justice at
least. A hundred guineas a year was the allowance I proposed. And--I bet
a guinea you ask for it, my dear, before the year is out!'

She was like a tigress outraged; she writhed under the insult. And yet,
because to give vent to her rage were also to bare her heart to his
eyes, she had to restrain herself, and endure even this with a scarlet
cheek. She had thought to shame him by accepting the money he offered;
by accepting it in the barest form. The shame was hers; it did not seem
to touch him a whit. At last, 'You are mistaken,' she answered, in a
voice she strove to render steady. 'I shall not! And now, if there is
nothing more, sir--'

'There is,' he said. 'Are you sufficiently punished?'

She looked at him wildly--suddenly, irresistibly compelled to do so by a
new tone in his voice. 'Punished!' she stammered, almost inaudibly.
'For what?'

'Do you not know?'

'No,' she muttered, her heart fluttering strangely.

'For this travesty,' he answered; and coolly, as he stood before her, he
twitched the sleeve of her shapeless gown, looking masterfully down at
her the while, so that her eyes fell before his. 'Did you think it kind
to me or fair to me,' he continued, almost sternly, 'to make that
difficult, Julia, which my honour required, and which you knew that my
honour required? Which, if I had not come to do, you would have despised
me in your heart, and presently with your lips? Did you think it fair
to widen the distance between us by this--this piece of play-acting?
Give me your hand.'

She obeyed, trembling, tongue-tied. He held it an instant, looked at it,
and dropped it almost contemptuously. 'It has not cleaned that step
before,' he said. 'Now put up your hair.'

She did so with shaking fingers, her cheeks pale, tears oozing from
under her lowered eyelashes. He devoured her with his gaze.

'Now go to your room,' he said. 'Take off that rag and come to me
properly dressed.'

'How?' she whispered.

'As my wife.'

'It is impossible,' she cried with a gesture of despair; 'It is
impossible.'

'Is that the answer you would have given me at Manton Corner?'

'Oh no, no!' she cried. 'But everything is changed.'

'Nothing is changed.'

'You said so,' she retorted feverishly. 'You said that it was changed!'

'And have you, too, told the whole truth?' he retorted. 'Go, silly
child! If you are determined to play Pamela to the end, at least you
shall play it in other guise than this. 'Tis impossible to touch you!
And yet, if you stand long and tempt me, I vow, sweet, I shall fall!'

To his astonishment she burst into hysterical laughter. 'I thought men
wooed--with promises!' she cried. 'Why don't you tell me I shall have my
jewels; and my box at the Opera and the King's House? And go to Vauxhall
and the Masquerades? And have my frolic in the pit with the best? And
keep my own woman as ugly as I please? He did; and I said Yes to him!
Why don't you say the same?'

Sir George was prepared for almost anything, but not for that. His face
grew dark. 'He did? Who did?' he asked grimly, his eyes on her face.

'Lord Almeric! And I said Yes to him--for three hours.'

'Lord Almeric?'

'Yes! For three hours,' she answered with a laugh, half hysterical, half
despairing. 'If you must know, I thought you had carried me off to--to
get rid of my claim--and me! I thought--I thought you had only been
playing with me,' she continued, involuntarily betraying by her tone how
deep had been her misery. 'I was only Pamela, and 'twas cheaper, I
thought, to send me to the Plantations than to marry me.'

'And Lord Almeric offered you marriage?'

'I might have been my lady,' she cried in bitter abasement. 'Yes.'

'And you accepted him?'

'Yes! Yes, I accepted him.'

'And then--'Pon honour, ma'am, you are good at surprises. I fear I don't
follow the course of events,' Sir George said icily.

'Then I changed my mind--the same day,' she replied. She was shaking on
her feet with emotion; but in his jealousy he had no pity on her
weakness. 'You know, a woman may change her mind once, Sir George,' she
added with a feeble smile.

'I find that I don't know as much about women--as I thought I did,' Sir
George answered grimly. 'You seem, ma'am, to be much sought after. One
man can hardly hope to own you. Pray have you any other affairs
to confess?'

'I have told you--all,' she said.

His face dark, he hung a moment between love and anger; looking at her.
Then, 'Did he kiss you?' he said between his teeth. 'No!' she
cried fiercely.

'You swear it?'

She flashed a look at him.

But he had no mercy. 'Why not?' he persisted, moving a step nearer her.
'You were betrothed to him. You engaged yourself to him, ma'am.
Why not?'

'Because--I did not love him,' she answered so faintly he scarcely
heard.

He drew a deep breath. 'May I kiss you?' he said.

She looked long at him, her face quivering between tears and smiles, a
great joy dawning in the depths of her eyes. 'If my lord wills,' she
said at last, 'when I have done his bidding and--and changed--and
dressed as--'

But he did not wait.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE CLERK OF THE LEASES

When Sir George left the house, an hour later, it happened that the
first person he met in the street was Mr. Fishwick. For a day or two
after the conference at the Castle Inn the attorney had gone about, his
ears on the stretch to catch the coming footstep. The air round him
quivered with expectation. Something would happen. Sir George would do
something. But with each day that passed eventless, the hope and
expectation grew weaker; the care with which the attorney avoided his
guest's eyes, more marked; until by noon of this day he had made up his
mind that if Sir George came at all, it would be as the wolf and not as
the sheep-dog. While Julia, proud and mute, was resolving that if her
lover came she would save him from himself by showing him how far he had
to stoop, the attorney in the sourness of defeat and a barren
prospect--for he scarcely knew which way to turn for a guinea--was
resolving that the ewe-lamb must be guarded and all precautions taken
to that end.

When he saw the gentleman issue from his door therefore, still more when
Sir George with a kindly smile held out his hand, a condescension which
the attorney could not remember that he had ever extended to him before,
Mr. Fishwick's prudence took fright. 'Too much honoured, Sir George,' he
said, bowing low. Then stiffly, and looking from his visitor to the
house and back again, 'But, pardon me, sir, if there is any matter of
business, any offer to be made to my client, it were well, I think--if
it were made through me.'

I thank you,' Sir George answered. 'I do not think that there is
anything more to be done. I have made my offer.'

'Oh!' the lawyer cried.

'And it has been accepted,' Soane continued, smiling at his dismay. 'I
believe that you have been a good friend to your client, Mr. Fishwick. I
shall be obliged if you will allow her to remain under your roof until
to-morrow, when she has consented to honour me by becoming my wife.'

'Your wife?' Mr. Fishwick ejaculated, his face a picture of surprise.
'To-morrow?'

'I brought a licence with me,' Sir George answered. 'I am now on my way
to secure the services of a clergyman.'

The tears stood in Mr. Fishwick's eyes, and his voice shook. 'I
felicitate you, sir,' he said, taking off his hat. 'God bless you, sir.
Sir George, you are a very noble gentleman!' And then, remembering
himself, he hastened to beg the gentleman's pardon for the liberty he
had taken.

Sir George nodded kindly. 'There is a letter for you in the house, Mr.
Fishwick,' he said, 'which I was asked to convey to you. For the
present, good-day.'

Mr. Fishwick stood and watched him go with eyes wide with astonishment;
nor was it until he had passed from sight that the lawyer turned and
went into his house. On a bench in the passage he found a letter. It was
formally directed after the fashion of those days 'To Mr. Peter
Fishwick, Attorney at Law, at Wallingford in Berkshire, by favour of Sir
George Soane of Estcombe, Baronet.'

'Lord save us, 'tis an honour,' the attorney muttered. 'What is it?' and
with shaking hands he cut the thread that confined the packet. The
letter, penned by Dr. Addington, was to this effect:

'Sir,--I am directed by the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham, Lord
Keeper of His Majesty's Privy Seal, to convey to you his lordship's
approbation of the conduct displayed by you in a late transaction. His
lordship, acknowledging no higher claim to employment than probity, nor
any more important duty in the disposition of patronage than the reward
of integrity, desires me to intimate that the office of Clerk of the
Leases in the Forest of Dean, which is vacant and has been placed at his
command, is open for your acceptance. He is informed that the emoluments
of the office arising from fees amount in good years to five hundred
pounds, and in bad years seldom fall below four hundred.

His lordship has made me the channel of this communication, that I may
take the opportunity of expressing my regret that a misunderstanding at
one time arose between us. Accept, sir, this friendly assurance of a
change of sentiment, and allow me to

     'Have the honour to be, sir,
          'Your obedient servant,
               'J. Addington.'

'Clerk of the Leases--in the Forest of Dean--have been known in bad
years--to fall to four hundred!' Mr. Fishwick ejaculated, his eyes like
saucers. 'Oh, Lord, I am dreaming! I must be dreaming! If I don't get my
cravat untied, I shall have a lit! Four hundred in bad years! It's
a--oh, it's incredible! They'll not believe it! I vow they'll not
believe it!'

But when he turned to seek them, he saw that they had stolen a march on
him, that they knew it already and believed it! Between him and the tiny
plot of grass, the urn, and the espalier, which, still caught the last
beams of the setting sun, he surprised two happy faces spying on his
joy--the one beaming through a hundred puckers with a mother's tearful
pride; the other, the most beautiful in the world, and now softened and
elevated by every happy emotion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Dunborough stood his trial at the next Salisbury assizes, and, being
acquitted of the murder of Mr. Pomeroy, was found guilty of
manslaughter. He pleaded his clergy, went through the formality of being
branded in the hand with a cold iron, and was discharged on payment of
his fees. He lived to be the fifth Viscount Dunborough, a man neither
much worse nor much better than his neighbours; and dying at a moderate
age--in his bed, of gout in the stomach--escaped the misfortune which
awaited some of his friends; who, living beyond the common span, found
themselves shunned by a world which could find no worse to say of them
than that they lived in their age as all men of fashion had lived in
their youth.

Mr. Thomasson was less fortunate. Bully Pomeroy's dying words and the
evidence of the man Tamplin were not enough to bring the crime home to
him. But representations were made to his college, and steps were taken
to compel him to resign his Fellowship. Before these came to an issue,
he was arrested for debt, and thrown into the Fleet. There he lingered
for a time, sinking into a lower and lower state of degradation, and
making ever more and more piteous appeals to the noble pupils who owed
so much of their knowledge of the world to his guidance. Beyond this
point his career is not to be traced, but it is improbable that it was
either creditable to him or edifying to his friends.

To-day the old Bath road is silent, or echoes only the fierce note of
the cyclist's bell. The coaches and curricles, wigs and hoops, bolstered
saddles and carriers' waggons are gone with the beaux and fine ladies
and gentlemen's gentlemen whose environment they were; and the Castle
Inn is no longer an inn. Under the wide eaves that sheltered the love
passages of Sir George and Julia, in the panelled halls that echoed the
steps of Dutch William and Duke Chandos, through the noble rooms that a
Seymour built that Seymours might be born and die under their frescoed
ceilings, the voices of boys and tutors now sound. The boys are divided
from the men of that day by four generations, the tutors from the man we
have depicted, by a moral gulf infinitely greater. Yet is the change in
a sense outward only; for where the heart of youth beats, there, and not
behind fans or masks, the 'Stand!' of the highwayman, or the 'Charge!'
of the hero, lurks the high romance.

Nor on the outside is all changed at the Castle Inn. Those who in this
quiet lap of the Wiltshire Downs are busy moulding the life of the
future are reverent of the past. The old house stands stately,
high-roofed, almost unaltered, its great pillared portico before it;
hard by are the Druids' Mound, and Preshute Church in the lap of trees.
Much water has run under the bridge that spans the Kennet since Sir
George and Julia sat on the parapet and watched the Salisbury coach come
in; the bridge that was of wood is of brick--but there it is, and the
Kennet still flows under it, watering the lawns and flowering shrubs
that Lady Hertford loved. Still can we trace in fancy the sweet-briar
hedge and the border of pinks which she planted by the trim canal; and a
bowshot from the great school can lose all knowledge of the present in
the crowding memories which the Duelling Green and the Bowling Alley,
trodden by the men and women of a past generation, awaken in the mind.





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search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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