Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: A Reputed Changeling - Or Three Seventh Years Two Centuries Ago
Author: Yonge, Charlotte Mary, 1823-1901
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 "A Reputed Changeling - Or Three Seventh Years Two Centuries Ago" ***

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



A REPUTED CHANGELING, or, THREE SEVENTH YEARS TWO CENTURIES AGO



PREFACE


I do not think I have here forced the hand of history except by
giving Portchester to two imaginary Rectors, and by a little
injustice to her whom Princess Anne termed 'the brick-bat woman.'

The trial is not according to present rules, but precedents for its
irregularities are to be found in the doings of the seventeenth
century, notably in the trial of Spencer Cowper by the same Judge
Hatsel, and I have done my best to represent the habits of those
country gentry who were not infected by the evils of the later
Stewart reigns.

There is some doubt as to the proper spelling of Portchester, but,
judging by analogy, the t ought not to be omitted.

C. M. YONGE. 2d May 1889.



CHAPTER I: THE EXPERIENCES OF GOODY MADGE


"Dear Madam, think me not to blame;
Invisible the fairy came.
Your precious babe is hence conveyed,
And in its place a changeling laid.
Where are the father's mouth and nose,
The mother's eyes as black as sloes?
See here, a shocking awkward creature,
That speaks a fool in every feature."

GAY.

"He is an ugly ill-favoured boy--just like Riquet a la Houppe."

"That he is!  Do you not know that he is a changeling?"

Such were the words of two little girls walking home from a school
for young ladies kept, at the Cathedral city of Winchester, by two
Frenchwomen of quality, refugees from the persecutions preluding the
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and who enlivened the studies of
their pupils with the Contes de Commere L'Oie.

The first speaker was Anne Jacobina Woodford, who had recently come
with her mother, the widow of a brave naval officer, to live with
her uncle, the Prebendary then in residence.  The other was Lucy
Archfield, daughter to a knight, whose home was a few miles from
Portchester, Dr. Woodford's parish on the southern coast of
Hampshire.

In the seventeenth century, when roads were mere ditches often
impassable, and country-houses frequently became entirely isolated
in the winter, it was usual with the wealthier county families to
move into their local capital, where some owned mansions and others
hired prebendal houses, or went into lodgings in the roomy dwellings
of the superior tradesmen.  For the elders this was the season of
social intercourse, for the young people, of education.

The two girls, who were about eight years old, had struck up a rapid
friendship, and were walking hand in hand to the Close attended by
the nurse in charge of Mistress Lucy.  This little lady wore a black
silk hood and cape, trimmed with light brown fur, and lined with
pink, while Anne Woodford, being still in mourning for her father,
was wrapped in a black cloak, unrelieved except by the white border
of her round cap, fringed by fair curls, contrasting with her brown
eyes.  She was taller and had a more upright bearing of head and
neck, with more promise of beauty than her companion, who was much
more countrified and would not have been taken for the child of
higher station.

They had traversed the graveyard of the Cathedral, and were passing
through a narrow archway known as the Slype, between the south-
western angle of the Cathedral and a heavy mass of old masonry
forming part of the garden wall of the present abode of the
Archfield family, when suddenly both children stumbled and fell,
while an elfish peal of laughter sounded behind them.

Lucy came down uppermost, and was scarcely hurt, but Anne had fallen
prone, striking her chin on the ground, so as to make her bite her
lip, and bruising knees and elbows severely.  Nurse detected the
cause of the fall so as to avoid it herself.  It was a cord fastened
across the archway, close to the ground, and another shout of
derision greeted the discovery; while Lucy, regaining her feet,
beheld for a moment a weird exulting grimace on a visage peeping
over a neighbouring headstone.

"It is he! it is he!  The wicked imp!  There's no peace for him!  I
say," she screamed, "see if you don't get a sound flogging!" and she
clenched her little fist as the provoking "Ho! ho! ho!" rang farther
and farther off.  "Don't cry, Anne dear; the Dean and Chapter shall
take order with him, and he shall be soundly beaten.  Are you hurt?
O nurse, her mouth is all blood."

"I hope she has not broken a tooth," said nurse, who had been
attending to the sobbing child.  "Come in, my lamb, we will wash
your face, and make you well."

Anne, blinded with tears, jarred, bruised, bleeding, and bewildered,
submitted to be led by kind nurse the more willingly because she
knew that her mother, together with all the quality, were at Sir
Thomas Charnock's.  They had dined at the fashionable hour of two,
and were to stay till supper-time, the elders playing at Ombre, the
juniors dancing.  As a rule the ordinary clergy did not associate
with the county families, but Dr. Woodford was of good birth and a
royal chaplain, and his deceased brother had been a favourite
officer of the Duke of York, and had been so severely wounded by his
side in the battle of Southwold as to be permanently disabled.
Indeed Anne Jacobina was godchild to the Duke and his first Duchess,
whose favoured attendant her mother had been.  Thus Mrs. Woodford
was in great request, and though she had not hitherto gone into
company since her widowhood, she had yielded to Lady Charnock's
entreaty that she would come and show her how to deal with that
strange new Chinese infusion, a costly packet of which had been
brought to her from town by Sir Thomas, as the Queen's favourite
beverage, wherewith the ladies of the place were to be regaled and
astonished.

It had been already arranged that the two little girls should spend
the evening together, and as they entered the garden before the
house a rude voice exclaimed, "Holloa!  London Nan whimpering.  Has
my fine lady met a spider or a cow?" and a big rough lad of twelve,
in a college gown, spread out his arms, and danced up and down in
the doorway to bar the entrance.

"Don't, Sedley," said a sturdy but more gentlemanlike lad of the
same age, thrusting him aside.  "Is she hurt?  What is it?"

"That spiteful imp, Peregrine Oakshott," said Lucy passionately.
"He had a cord across the Slype to trip us up.  I heard him laughing
like a hobgoblin, and saw him too, grinning over a tombstone like
the malicious elf he is."

The college boy uttered a horse laugh, which made Lucy cry, "Cousin
Sedley, you are as bad!" but the other boy was saying, "Don't cry,
Anne None-so-pretty.  I'll give it him well!  Though I'm younger,
I'm bigger, and I'll show him reason for not meddling with my little
sweetheart."

"Have with you then!" shouted Sedley, ready for a fray on whatever
pretext, and off they rushed, as nurse led little Anne up the broad
shallow steps of the dark oak staircase, but Lucy stood laughing
with exultation in the intended vengeance, as her brother took down
her father's hunting-whip.

"He must be wellnigh a fiend to play such wicked pranks under the
very Minster!" she said.

"And a rascal of a Whig, and that's worse," added Charles; "but I'll
have it out of him!"

"Take care, Charley; if you offend him, and he does really belong to
those--those creatures"--Lucy lowered her voice--"who knows what
they might do to you?"

Charles laughed long and loud.  "I'll take care of that," he said,
swinging out at the door.  "Elf or no elf, he shall learn what it is
to play off his tricks on _my_ sister and my little sweetheart."

Lucy betook herself to the nursery, where Anne was being comforted,
her bleeding lip washed with essence, and repaired with a pinch of
beaver from a hat, and her other bruises healed with lily leaves
steeped in strong waters.

"Charley is gone to serve him out!" announced Lucy as the sovereign
remedy.

"Oh, but perhaps he did not mean it," Anne tried to say.

"Mean it?  Small question of that, the cankered young slip!  Nurse,
do you think those he belongs to can do Charley any harm if he
angers them?"

"I cannot say, missie.  Only 'tis well we be not at home, or there
might be elf knots in the horses' manes to-night.  I doubt me
whether _that sort_ can do much hurt here, seeing as 'tis holy
ground."

"But is he really a changeling?  I thought there were no such things
as--"

"Hist, hist, Missie Anne!" cried the dame; "'tis not good to name
them."

"Oh, but we are on the Minster ground, nurse," said Lucy, trembling
a little however, looking over her shoulder, and coming closer to
the old servant.

"Why do they think so?" asked Anne.  "Is it because he is so ugly
and mischievous and rude?  Not like boys in London."

"Prithee, nurse, tell her the tale," entreated Lucy, who had made
large eyes over it many a time before.

"Ay, and who should tell you all about it save me, who had it all
from Goody Madge Bulpett, as saw it all!"

"Goody Madge!  It was she that came when poor little Kitty was born
and died," suggested Lucy, as Anne, laying her aching head upon
nurse's knees, prepared to listen to the story.

"Well, deary darlings, you see poor Madam Oakshott never had her
health since the Great Fire in London, when she was biding with her
kinsfolk to be near Major Oakshott, who had got into trouble about
some of his nonconforming doings.  The poor lady had a mortal fright
before she could be got out of Gracechurch Street as was all of a
blaze, and she was so afeard of her husband being burnt as he lay in
Newgate that she could scarce be got away, and whether it was that,
or that she caught cold lying out in a tent on Highgate Hill, she
has never had a day's health since."

"And the gentleman--her husband?" asked Anne.

"They all broke prison, poor fellows, as they had need to do, and
the Major's time was nearly up.  He made himself busy in saving and
helping the folk in the streets; and his brother, Sir Peregrine, who
was thick with the King, and is in foreign parts now, took the
chance to speak of the poor lady's plight and say it would be the
death of her if he could not get his discharge, and his Majesty,
bless his kind heart, gave the order at once.  So they took madam
home to the Chace, but she has been but an ailing body ever since."

"But the fairy, the fairy, how did she change the babe?" cried Anne.

"Hush, hush, dearie! name them not.  I am coming to it all in good
time.  I was telling you how the poor lady failed and pined from
that hour, and was like to die.  My gossip Madge told me how when,
next Midsummer, this unlucky babe was born they had to take him from
her chamber at once because any sound of crying made her start in
her sleep, and shriek that she heard a poor child wailing who had
been left in a burning house.  Moll Owens, the hind's wife, a comely
lass, was to nurse him, and they had him at once to her in the
nursery, where was the elder child, two years old, Master Oliver, as
you know well, Mistress Lucy, a fine-grown, sturdy little Turk as
ever was."

"Yes, I know him," answered Lucy; "and if his brother's a
changeling, he is a bear!  The Whig bear is what Charley calls him."

"Well, what does that child do but trot out of the nursery, and try
to scramble down the stairs.--Never tell me but that they you wot of
trained him out--not that they had power over a Christian child, but
that they might work their will on the little one.  So they must
needs trip him up, so that he rolled down the stair hollering and
squalling all the way enough to bring the house down, and his poor
lady mother, she woke up in a fit.  The womenfolk ran, Molly and
all, she being but a slip of a girl herself and giddy-pated, and
when they came back after quieting Master Oliver, the babe was
changed."

"Then they didn't see the--"

"Hush, hush, missie! no one never sees 'em or they couldn't do
nothing.  They cannot, if a body is looking.  But what had been as
likely a child before as you would wish to handle was gone!  The
poor little mouth was all of a twist, and his eyelid drooped, and he
never ceased mourn, mourn, mourn, wail, wail, wail, day and night,
and whatever food he took he never was satisfied, but pined and
peaked and dwined from day to day, so as his little legs was like
knitting pins.  The lady was nigh upon death as it seemed, so that
no one took note of the child at first, but when Madge had time to
look at him, she saw how it was, as plain as plain could be, and
told his father.  But men are unbelieving, my dears, and always
think they know better than them as has the best right, and Major
Oakshott would hear of no such thing, only if the boy was like to
die, he must be christened.  Well, Madge knew that sometimes they
flee at touch of holy water, but no; though the thing mourned and
moaned enough to curdle your blood and screeched out when the water
touched him, there he was the same puny little canker.  So when
madam was better, and began to fret over the child that was nigh
upon three months old, and no bigger than a newborn babe, Madge up
and told her how it was, and the way to get her own again."

"What was that, nurse?"

"There be different ways, my dear.  Madge always held to breaking
five and twenty eggs and have a pot boiling on a good sea-coal fire
with the poker in it red hot, and then drop the shells in one by
one, in sight of the creature in the cradle.  Presently it will up
and ask whatever you are about.  Then you gets the poker in your
hand as you says, "A-brewing of egg shells."  Then it says, "I'm
forty hundred years old and odd, and yet I never heard of a-brewing
of egg shells."  Then you ups with the poker and at him to thrust it
down his ugly throat, and there's a hissing and a whirling, and he
is snatched away, and the real darling, all plump and rosy, is put
back in the cradle."

"And did they?"

"No, my dears.  Madam was that soft-hearted she could not bring her
mind to it, though they promised her not to touch him unless he
spoke.  But nigh on two years later, Master Robert was born, as fine
and lusty and straight-limbed as a chrisom could be, while the other
could not walk a step, but sat himself about on the floor, a-moaning
and a-fretting with the legs of him for all the world like the
drumsticks of a fowl, and his hands like claws, and his face wizened
up like an old gaffer of a hundred, or the jackanapes that Martin
Boats'n brought from Barbary.  So after a while madam saw the rights
of it, and gave consent that means should be taken as Madge and
other wise folk would have it; but he was too old by that time for
the egg shells, for he could talk, talk, and ask questions enough to
drive you wild.  So they took him out under the privet hedge, Madge
and her gossip Deborah Clint, and had got his clothes off to flog
him with nettles till they changed him, when the ill-favoured elf
began to squall and shriek like a whole litter of pigs, and as ill
luck would have it, the master was within hearing, though they had
watched him safe off to one of his own 'venticles, but it seems
there had been warning that the justices were on the look-out, so
home he came.  And behold, the thing that never knew the use of his
feet before, ups and flies at him, and lays hold of his leg,
hollering out, "Sir, father, don't let them," and what not.  So then
it was all over with them, as though that were not proof enow what
manner of thing it was!  Madge tried to put him off with washing
with yarbs being good for the limbs, but when he saw that Deb was
there, he saith, saith he, as grim as may be, "Thou shalt not suffer
a witch to live," which was hard, for she is but a white witch; and
he stormed and raved at them with Bible texts, and then he vowed
(men are so headstrong, my dears) that if ever he ketched them at it
again, he would see Deb burnt for a witch at the stake, and Madge
hung for the murder of the child, and he is well known to be a man
of his word.  So they had to leave him to abide by his bargain, and
a sore handful he has of it."

Anne drew a long sigh and asked whether the real boy in fairyland
would never come back.

"There's no telling, missie dear.  Some say they are bound there for
ever and a day, some that they as holds 'em are bound to bring them
back for a night once in seven years, and in the old times if they
was sprinkled with holy water, and crossed, they would stay, but
there's no such thing as holy water now, save among the Papists, and
if one knew the way to cross oneself, it would be as much as one's
life was worth."

"If Peregrine was to die," suggested Lucy.

"Bless your heart, dearie, he'll never die!  When the true one's
time comes, you'll see, if so be you be alive to see it, as Heaven
grant, he will go off like the flame of a candle and nothing be left
in his place but a bit of a withered sting nettle.  But come, my
sweetings, 'tis time I got your supper.  I'll put some nice rosy-
cheeked apples down to roast, to be soft for Mistress Woodford's
sore mouth."

Before the apples were roasted, Charles Archfield and his cousin,
the colleger Sedley Archfield, a big boy in a black cloth gown, came
in with news of having--together with the other boys, including
Oliver and Robert Oakshott--hunted Peregrine all round the Close,
but he ran like a lapwing, and when they had pinned him up in the
corner by Dr. Ken's house, he slipped through their fingers up the
ivy, and grinned at them over the wall like the imp he was.  Noll
said it was always the way, he was no more to be caught than a bit
of thistledown, but Sedley meant to call out all the college boys
and hunt and bait him down like a badger on 'Hills.'



CHAPTER II: HIGH TREASON


"Whate'er it be that is within his reach,
The filching trick he doth his fingers teach."

Robin Badfellow.

There was often a considerable distance between children and their
parents in the seventeenth century, but Anne Woodford, as the only
child of her widowed mother, was as solace, comfort, and companion;
and on her pillow in early morning the child poured forth in grave
earnest the entire story of the changeling, asking whether he could
not be "taken to good Dr. Ken, or the Dean, or the Bishop to be ex--
ex--what is it, mother?  Not whipped with nettles.  Oh no! nor burnt
with red hot pokers, but have holy words said so that the right one
may come back."

"My dear child, did you really believe that old nurse's tale?"

"O madam, she _knew_ it.  The other old woman saw it!  I always
thought fairies and elves were only in tales, but Lucy's nurse knows
it is true.  And _he_ is not a bit like other lads, mamma dear.  He
is lean and small, and his eyes are of different colours, look two
ways at once, and his mouth goes awry when he speaks, and he laughs
just like--like a fiend.  Lucy and I call him Riquet a la Houppe,
because he is just like the picture in Mademoiselle's book, with a
great stubbly bunch of hair sticking out on one side, and though he
walks a little lame, he can hop and skip like a grasshopper, faster
than any of the boys, and leap up a wall in a moment, and grin--oh
most frightfully.  Have you ever seen him, mamma?"

"I think so.  I saw a poor boy, who seemed to me to have had a
stroke of some sort when he was an infant."

"But, madam, that would not make him so spiteful and malicious!"

"If every one is against him and treats him as a wicked mischievous
elf, it is only too likely to make him bitter and spiteful.  Nay,
Anne, if you come back stuffed with old wives' tales, I shall not
allow you to go home with Lucy Archfield."

The threat silenced Anne, who was a grave and rather silent little
person, and when she mentioned it to her friend, the answer was,
"Did you tell your mother?  If I had told mine, I should have been
whipped for repeating lying tales."

"Oh then you don't believe it!"

"It must be true, for Madge knew it.  But that's the way always if
one lets out that one knows more than they think."

"It is not the way with my mother," stoutly said Anne, drawing up
her dignified little head.  And she kept her resolution, for though
a little excited by her first taste of lively youthful
companionship, she was naturally a thoughtful reticent child, with a
character advanced by companionship with her mother as an only
child, through a great sorrow.  Thus she was in every respect more
developed than her contemporary Lucy, who regarded her with wonder
as well as affection, and she was the object of the boyish devotion
of Charley, who often defended her from his cousin Sedley's
endeavours to put down what he considered upstart airs in a little
nobody from London.  Sedley teased and baited every weak thing in
his way, and Lucy had been his chief butt till Anne Woodford's
unconscious dignity and more cultivated manners excited his utmost
spleen.

Lucy might be incredulous, but she was eager to tell that when her
cousin Sedley Archfield was going back to 'chambers,' down from the
Close gate came the imp on his shoulders in the twilight and twisted
both legs round his neck, holding tight on in spite of plunges,
pinches, and endeavours to scrape him off against the wall, which
were frustrated or retaliated by hair pulling, choking, till just
ere entering the college gateway, where Sedley looked to get his
revenge among his fellows, he found his shoulders free, and heard
"Ho! ho! ho!" from the top of a wall close at hand.  All the more
was the young people's faith in the changeling story confirmed, and
child-world was in those days even more impenetrable to their elders
than at present.

Changeling or no, it was certain that Peregrine Oakshott was the
plague of the Close, where his father, an ex-officer of the
Parliamentary army, had unwillingly hired a house for the winter,
for the sake of medical treatment for his wife, a sufferer from a
complication of ailments.  Oakwood, his home, was about five miles
from Dr. Woodford's living of Portchester, and as the families would
thus be country neighbours, Mrs. Woodford thought it well to begin
the acquaintance at Winchester.  While knocking at the door of the
house on the opposite side of the Close, she was aware of an elfish
visage peering from an upper window.  There was the queer mop of
dark hair, the squinting light eyes, the contorted grin crooking the
mouth, the odd sallow face, making her quite glad to get out of
sight of the strange grimaces which grew every moment more hideous.

Mrs. Oakshott sat in an arm-chair beside a large fire in a
wainscotted room, with a folding-screen shutting off the window.
Her spinning-wheel was near, but it was only too plain that 'feeble
was the hand, and silly the thread.'  She bent her head in its
wadded black velvet hood, but excused herself from rising, as she
was crippled by rheumatic pains.  She had evidently once been a
pretty little person, innocent and inane, and her face had become
like that of a withered baby, piteous in its expression of pain and
weariness, but otherwise somewhat vacant.  At first, indeed, there
was a look of alarm.  Perhaps she expected every visitor to come
with a complaint of her unlucky Peregrine, but when Mrs. Woodford
spoke cheerfully of being her neighbour in the country, she was
evidently relieved and even gratified, prattling in a soft plaintive
tone about her sufferings and the various remedies, ranging from
woodlice rolled into natural pills, and grease off the church bells,
to diamond dust and Goa stones, since, as she said, there was no
cost to which Major Oakshott would not go for her benefit.  He had
even procured for her a pound of the Queen's new Chinese herb, and
it certainly was as nauseous as could be wished, when boiled in
milk, but she was told that was not the way it was taken at my Lady
Charnock's.  She was quite animated when Mrs. Woodford offered to
show her how to prepare it.

Therewith the master of the house came in, and the aspect of affairs
changed.  He was a tall, dark, grave man, plainly though handsomely
dressed, and in a gentlemanly way making it evident that visits to
his wife were not welcome.  He said that her health never permitted
her to go abroad, and that his poor house contained nothing that
could please a Court lady.  Mrs. Oakshott shrank into herself, and
became shy and silent, and Mrs. Woodford felt constrained to take
leave, courteously conducted to the door by her unwilling host.

She had not taken many steps before she was startled by a sharp
shower from a squirt coming sidelong like a blow on her cheek and
surprising her into a low cry, which was heard by the Major, so that
he hastened out, exclaiming, "Madam, I trust that you are not hurt."

"Oh no, sir!  It is nothing--not a stone--only water!" she said,
wiping it with her handkerchief.

"I am grieved and ashamed at the evil pranks of my unhappy son, but
he shall suffer for it."

"Nay, sir, I pray you.  It was only childish mischief."

He had not waited to hear her pleadings, and before she was half
across the Close he had overtaken her, dragging the cowering
struggling boy in his powerful grasp.

"Now, Peregrine," he commanded, "let me instantly hear you ask the
lady's pardon for your dastardly trick.  Or--!" and his other hand
was raised for a blow.

"I am sure he is sorry," said Mrs. Woodford, making a motion to ward
off the stroke, and as the queer eyes glanced up at her in wondering
inquiry, she laid her hand on the bony shoulder, saying, "I know you
did not mean to hurt me.  You are sorry, are you not?"

"Ay," the boy muttered, and she saw a look of surprise on his
father's face.

"There," she said, "he has made his amends, and surely that may
suffice."

"Nay, madam, it would be a weak and ungodly tenderness that would
spare to drive forth the evil spirit which possesses the child by
the use of the rod.  I should fail in my duty alike to God and man,"
he added, in reply to a fresh gesture of intercession, "did I not
teach him what it is to insult a lady at mine own door."

Mrs. Woodford could only go away, heartily sorry for the boy.  From
that time, however, both she and her little daughter were untouched
by his tricks, though every one else had some complaint.  Peas were
shot from unknown recesses at venerable canons, mice darted out
before shrieking ladies, frogs' clammy forms descended on the nape
of their necks, hedgehogs were curled up on their chairs, and though
Peregrine Oakshott was not often caught in the act, no mischief ever
took place that was not attributed to him; and it was popularly
believed in the Close that his father flogged him every morning for
what he was about to do, and his tutor repeated the castigation
every evening for what he had done, besides interludes at each
detection.

Perhaps frequent usage had toughened his skin, or he had become
expert in wriggling from the full force of the blow, or else, as
many believed, the elfish nature was impervious; for he was as ready
as ever for a trick the moment he was released, like, as his brother
said, the dog Keeper, who, with a slaughtered chick hung round his
neck in penance, rushed murderously upon the rest of the brood.

Yet Mrs. Woodford, on her way through the Cathedral nave, was aware
of something leaning against one of the great columns, crouching
together so that the dark head, supported on the arms, rested
against the pillar which fluted the pier.  The organ was pealing
softly and plaintively, and the little gray coat seemed to heave as
with a sob.  She stood, impelled to offer to take him with her into
the choir, but a verger, spying him, began rating him in a tone fit
for expelling a dog, "Come, master, none of your pranks here!  Be
not you ashamed of yourself to be lying in wait for godly folk on
their way to prayers?  If I catch you here again the Dean shall hear
of it, and you shall smart for it."

Mrs. Woodford began, "He was only hearkening to the music," but she
caught such a look of malignity cast upon the verger as perfectly
appalled her, and in another moment the boy had dashed, head over
heels, out at the nearest door.

The next report that reached her related how a cloud of lime had
suddenly descended from a broken arch of the cloister on the solemn
verger, on his way to escort the Dean to the Minster, powdering his
wig, whitening his black gown from collar to hem, and not a little
endangering his eyesight.

The culprit eluded all pursuit on this occasion; but Mrs. Woodford
soon after was told that the Major had caught Peregrine listening at
the little south door of the choir, had collared him, and flogged
him worse than ever, for being seduced by the sounds of the popish
and idolatrous worship, and had told all his sons that the like
chastisement awaited them if they presumed to cross the threshold of
the steeple house.

Nevertheless the Senior Prefect of the college boys, when about to
come out of the Cathedral on Sunday morning, found his gown pinned
with a skewer so fast to the seat that he was only set free at the
expense of a rent.  Public opinion decided that the deed had been
done by the imp of Oakshott, and accordingly the whole of the
Wykeham scholars set on him with hue and cry the first time they saw
him outside the Close, and hunted him as far as St. Cross, where he
suddenly and utterly vanished from their sight.

Mrs. Woodford agreed with Anne that it was a very strange story.
For how could he have been in the Cathedral at service time when it
was well known that Major Oakshott had all his family together at
his own form of worship in his house?  Anne, who had been in hopes
that her mother would be thus convinced of his supernatural powers,
looked disappointed, but she had afterwards to confess that Charles
Archfield had found out that it was his cousin Sedley Archfield who
had played the audacious trick, in revenge for a well-merited
tunding from the Prefect.

"And then saddled it on young Oakshott?" asked her mother.

"Charley says one such matter more or less makes no odds to the Whig
ape; but I cannot endure Sedley Archfield, mamma."

"If he lets another lad bear the blame of his malice he cannot
indeed be a good lad."

"So Charley and Lucy say," returned Anne.  "We shall be glad to be
away from Winchester, for while Peregrine Oakshott torments slyly,
Sedley Archfield loves to frighten us openly, and to hurt us to see
how much we can bear, and if Charley tries to stand up for us,
Sedley calls him a puny wench, and a milksop, and knocks him down.
But, dear madam, pray do not tell what I have said to her ladyship,
for there is no knowing what Sedley would do to us."

"My little maid has not known before what boys can be!"

"No; but indeed Charles Archfield is quite different, almost as if
he had been bred in London.  He is a very gentleman.  He never is
rude to any girl, and he is courteous and gentle and kind.  He
gathered walnuts for us yesterday, and cracked all mine, and I am to
make him a purse with two of the shells."

Mrs. Woodford smiled, but there was a short thrill of anxiety in her
motherly heart as her glance brought up a deeper colour into Anne's
cheeks.  There was a reserve to bring that glow, for the child knew
that if she durst say that Charles called her his little sweetheart
and wife, and that the walnut-shell purse would be kept as a token,
she should be laughed at as a silly child, perhaps forbidden to make
it, or else her uncle might hear and make a joke of it.  It was not
exactly disingenuousness, but rather the first dawn of maidenly
reserve and modesty that reddened her cheek in a manner her mother
did not fail to observe.

Yet it was with more amusement than misgiving, for children played
at courtship like other games in mimicry of being grown up, and a
baronet's only son was in point of fact almost as much out of the
reach of a sea captain's daughter and clergyman's niece as a prince
of the blood royal; and Master Archfield would probably be
contracted long before he could choose for himself, for his family
were not likely to take into account that if Captain Woodford had
not been too severely wounded to come forward after the battle of
Southwold Bay he would have been knighted.  On the strength of which
Anne, as her companions sometimes said, gave herself in consequence
more airs than Mistress Lucy ever did.

Sedley, a poor cousin, a destitute cavalier's orphan, who had been
placed on the foundation at Winchester College in hopes that he
might be provided for in the Church, would have been far more on her
level, and indeed Lady Archfield, a notable matchmaker, had already
hinted how suitable such a thing would be.  However, the present
school character of Master Sedley, as well as her own observations,
by no means inclined Mrs. Woodford towards the boy, large limbed and
comely faced, but with a bullying, scowling air that did not augur
well for his wife or his parish.

Whether it were this lad's threats, or more likely, the fact that
all the Close was on the alert, Peregrine's exploits were less
frequent there, and began to extend to the outskirts of the city.
There were some fine yew trees on the southern borders, towards the
chalk down, with massive dark foliage upon stout ruddy branches,
among which Peregrine, armed with a fishing-rod, line, and hook, sat
perched, angling for what might be caught from unconscious
passengers along a path which led beneath.

From a market-woman's basket he abstracted thus a fowl!  His "Ho!
ho! ho!" startled her into looking up, and seeing it apparently
resuscitated, and hovering aloft.  Full of dismay, she hurried
shrieking away to tell the story of the bewitched chick at the
market-cross among her gossips.

His next capture was a chop from a butcher boy's tray, but this
involved more peril, for with a fierce oath that he would be
revenged on the Whiggish imp, the lad darted at the tree, in vain,
however, for Peregrine had dropped down on the other side, and crept
unseen to another bush, where he lay perdu, under the thick green
branches, rod and all, while the youth, swearing and growling, was
shaking his former refuge.

As soon as the coast was clear he went back to his post, and
presently was aware of three gentlemen advancing over the down,
pointing, measuring, and surveying.  One was small and slight, as
simply dressed as a gentleman of the period could be; another was
clad in a gay coat with a good deal of fluttering ribbon and rich
lace; the third, a tall well-made man, had a plain walking suit,
surmounted by a flowing periwig and plumed beaver.  Coming close
beneath Peregrine's tree, and standing with their backs to it, they
eagerly conversed.  "Such a cascade will drown the honours of the
Versailles fountains, if only the water can be raised to such a
height.  Are you sure of it, Wren?"

"As certain as hydraulics can make me, sir," and the lesser man
began drawing lines with his stick in the dust of the path in
demonstration.

The opportunity was irresistible, and the hook from above deftly
caught the band of the feathered hat of the taller man, slowly and
steadily drawing it up, entirely unperceived by the owner, on whose
wig it had rested, and who was bending over the dust-traced diagram
in absorbed attention.  Peregrine deferred his hobgoblin laughter,
for success emboldened him farther.  Detaching the hat from his
hook, and depositing it safely in a fork of the tree, he next
cautiously let down his line, and contrived to get a strong hold of
one of the black locks on the top of the wig, just as the wearer was
observing, "Oliver's Battery, eh?  A cupola with a light to be seen
out at sea?  Our sailors will make another St. Christopher of you!
Ha! what's this'"

For feeling as if a branch were touching the structure on his head,
he had stepped forward, thus favouring Peregrine's manoeuvres so
that the wig dangled in the air, suddenly disclosing the bare skull
of a very dark man, with such marked features that it needed not the
gentlemen's outcry to show the boy who was the victim of his
mischief.

"What imp is there?" cried the King, spying up into the tree, while
his attendant drew his sword, "How now?" as Peregrine half climbed,
half tumbled down, bringing hat and wig with him, and, whether by
design or accident, fell at his feet.  "Will nothing content you but
royal game?" he continued laughing, as Sir Christopher Wren helped
him to resume his wig.  "Why, what a shrimp it is! a mere goblin
sprite!  What's thy name, master wag?"

"Peregrine Oakshott, so please you," the boy answered, raising
himself with a face scared indeed, but retaining its queer
impishness.  "Sir, I never guessed--"

"Young rogue! have you our licence to waylay our loyal subjects?"
demanded the King, with an affected fierceness.  "Know you not 'tis
rank treason to discrown our sacred Majesty, far more to dishevel or
destroy our locks?  Why!  I might behead you on the spot."  To his
great amazement the boy, with an eager face and clasped hands,
exclaimed, "O sir!  Oh, please your Majesty, do so."

"Do so!" exclaimed the King astounded.  "Didst hear what I said?"

"Yes, sir!  You said it was a beheading matter, and I'm willing,
sir."

"Of all the petitions that ever were made to me, this is the
strangest!" exclaimed Charles.  "An urchin like this weary of life!
What next?  So," with a wink to his companions, "Peregrine Oakshott,
we condemn thee for high treason against our most sacred Majesty's
beaver and periwig, and sentence thee to die by having thine head
severed from thy body.  Kneel down, open thy collar, bare thy neck.
Ay, so, lay thy neck across that bough.  Killigrew, do thy duty."

To the general surprise, the boy complied with all these directions,
never flinching nor showing sign of fear, except that his lips were
set and his cheek whitened.  As he knelt, with closed eyes, the flat
cold blade descended on his neck, the tension relaxed, and he sank!

"Hold!" cried the King.  "It is gone too far!  He has surely not
carried out the jest by dying on our hands."

"No, no, sir," said Wren, after a moment's alarm, "he has only
swooned.  Has any one here a flask of wine to revive him?"

Several gentlemen had come up, and as Peregrine stirred, some wine
was held to his lips, and he presently asked in a faint voice, "Is
this fairyland?"

"Not yet, my lad," said Charles, "whatever it may be when Wren's
work is done."

The boy opened his eyes, and as he beheld the same face, and the too
familiar sky and trees, he sighed heavily, and said, "Then it is all
the same!  O sir, would you but have cut off my head in good
earnest, I might be at home again!"

"Home! what means the elf?"

"An elf!  That is what they say I am--changed in the cradle," said
Peregrine, incited to confidence by the good-natured eyes, "and I
thought if I were close on death mine own people might take me home,
and bring back the right one."

"He really believes it!" exclaimed Charles much diverted.  "Tell me,
good Master Elf, who is thy father, I mean not my brother Oberon,
but him of the right one, as thou sayst."

"Mr. Robert Oakshott of Oakwood, sir," said Peregrine.

"A sturdy squire of the country party," said the King.  "I am much
minded to secure the lad for an elfin page," he added aside to
Killigrew.  "There's a fund of excellent humour and drollery in
those queer eyes of his!  So, Sir Hobgoblin, if you are proof
against cold steel, I know not what is to be done with you.  Get you
back, and devise some other mode of finding your way home to
fairyland."

Peregrine said not a word of his adventure, so that the surprise of
his family was the greater when overtures were made through Sir
Christopher Wren for his appointment as a royal page.

"I would as soon send my son at once to be a page to Beelzebub,"
returned Major Oakshott.

And though Sir Christopher did not return the answer exactly in
those terms, he would not say that the Puritan Major did not judge
rightly.



CHAPTER III: THE FAIRY KING


"She's turned her right and round about,
   And thrice she blew on a grass-green horn,
And she sware by the moon and the stars above
   That she'd gar me rue the day I was born."

Old Ballad of Alison Cross.

Dr. Woodford's parish was Portchester, where stood the fine old
royal castle at present ungarrisoned, and partly dismantled in the
recent troubles, on a chalk peninsula, a spur from Portsdown,
projecting above the alluvial flats, and even into the harbour,
whose waves at high tide laved the walls.  The church and churchyard
were within the ample circuit of the fortifications, about two
furlongs distant from the main building, where rose the mighty
Norman keep, above the inner court, with a gate tower at this date,
only inhabited by an old soldier as porter with his family.  A
massive square tower at each angle of the huge wall likewise defied
decay.

It was on Midsummer eve, that nearly about sundown, Dr. Woodford was
summoned by the severe illness of the gatekeeper's old father, and
his sister-in-law went with him to attempt what her skill could
accomplish for the old man's relief.

They were detained there till the sun had long set, though the air,
saturated with his redness, was full of soft twilight, while the
moon, scarcely past the full, was just high enough to silver the
quiet sea, and throw the shadow of the battlements and towers on the
sward whitened with dew.

After the close atmosphere of the sickroom the freshness was
welcome, and Mrs. Woodford, once a friend of Katherine Phillips,
'the Matchless Orinda,' had an eye and a soul to appreciate the
beauty, and she even murmured the lines of Il Penseroso as she leant
on the arm of her brother-in-law, who, in his turn, thought of
Homer.

Suddenly, as they stood in the shadow, they were aware of a small,
slight, fantastic figure in the midst of the grass-grown court,
where there was a large green mushroom circle or fairy ring.  On the
borders of this ring it paused with an air of disappointment.  Then
entering it stood still, took off the hat, whose lopsided appearance
had given so strange an outline, and bowed four times in opposite
directions, when, as the face was turned towards the spectators,
invisible in the dark shadow, the lady recognised Peregrine
Oakshott.  She pressed the Doctor's arm, and they both stood still
watching the boy bathing his hand in the dew, and washing his face
with it, then kneeling on one knee, and clasping his hands, as he
cried aloud in a piteous chant--

"Fairy mother, fairy mother!  Oh, come, come and take me home!  My
very life is sore to me.  They all hate me!  My brothers and the
servants, every one of them.  And my father and tutor say I am
possessed with an evil spirit, and I am beaten daily, and more than
daily.  I can never, never get a good word from living soul!  This
is the second seven years, and Midsummer night!  Oh, bring the other
back again!  I'm weary, I'm weary!  Good elves, good elves, take me
home.  Fairy mother!  Come, come, come!"  Shutting his eyes he
seemed to be in a state of intense expectation.  Tears filled Mrs.
Woodford's eyes.  The Doctor moved forward, but no sooner did the
boy become conscious of human presence than he started up, and fled
wildly towards a postern door, but no sooner had he disappeared in
the shadow than there was a cry and a fall.

"Poor child!" exclaimed Dr. Woodford, "he has fallen down the steps
to the vault.  It is a dangerous pitfall."

They both hurried to the place, and found the boy lying on the steps
leading down to the vault, but motionless, and when they succeeded
in lifting him up, he was quite unconscious, having evidently struck
his head against the mouth of the vault.

"We must carry him home between us," said Mrs. Woodford.  "That will
be better than rousing Miles Gateward, and making a coil."

Dr. Woodford, however, took the entire weight, which he declared to
be very slight.  "No one would think the poor child fourteen years
old," he observed, "yet did he not speak of a second seven?"

"True," said Mrs. Woodford, "he was born after the Great Fire of
London, which, as I have good cause to know, was in the year '66."

There was still little sign of revival about the boy when he had
been carried into the Parsonage, undressed and laid in the Doctor's
own bed, only a few moans when he was handled, and on his thin,
sharp features there was a piteous look of sadness entirely unlike
his ordinary expression of malignant fun, and which went to the kind
hearts of the Doctor and Mrs. Woodford.  After exhausting their own
remedies, as soon as the early daylight was available Dr. Woodford
called up a couple of servants, and sent one into Portsmouth for a
surgeon, and another to Oakwood to the parents.

The doctor was the first to arrive, though not till the morning was
well advanced.  He found that three ribs were broken against the
edge of the stone step, and the head severely injured, and having
had sufficient experience in the navy to be a reasonably safe
practitioner, he did nothing worse than bleed the patient, and
declared that absolute rest was the only hope of recovery.

He was being regaled with cold roast pig and ale when Major Oakshott
rode up to the door.  Four horses were dragging the great lumbering
coach over Portsdown hill, but he had gone on before, to thank Dr.
and Mrs. Woodford for their care of his unfortunate son, and to make
preparations for his transport home under the care of his wife's own
woman, who was coming in the coach in the stead of the invalid lady.

"Nay, sir.  Master Brent here has a word to say to that matter,"
replied the Doctor.

"Truly, sir, I have," said the surgeon; "in his present state it is
as much as your son's life is worth to move him."

"Be that as it may seem to man, he is in the hand of Heaven, and he
ought to be at home, whether for life or death."

"For death it will assuredly be, sir, if he be jolted and shaken
along the Portsdown roads--yea, I question whether you would get him
to Oakwood alive," said Brent, with naval roughness.

"Indeed, sir," added Mrs. Woodford, "Mrs. Oakshott may be assured of
my giving him as tender care as though he were mine own son."

"I am beholden to you, madam," said the Major; "I know your
kindliness of heart; but in good sooth, the unhappy and rebellious
lad merits chastisement rather than pity, since what should he be
doing at this distance from home, where he was shut up for his
misdemeanours, save fleeing like the Prodigal of the parable, or
else planning another of his malicious pranks, as I greatly fear, on
you or your daughter, madam.  If so, he hath fallen into the pit
that he made for others."

The impulse was to tell what had occurred, but the surgeon's
presence, and the dread of making all worse for the poor boy checked
both the hosts, and Mrs. Woodford only declared that since the day
of the apology he had never molested her or her little girl.

"Still," said the Major, "it is not possible to leave him in a
stranger's house, where at any moment the evil spirit that is in him
may break forth."

"Come and see him, and judge," said Dr. Woodford.

When the father beheld the deathly face and motionless form, stern
as he was, he was greatly shocked.  His heavy tread caused a moan,
and when he said "What, Perry, how now?" there was a painful
shrinking and twitching, which the surgeon greeted as evidence of
returning animation, but which made him almost drag the Major out of
the room for fear of immediate consequences.

Major Oakshott, and still more the servant, who had arrived in the
coach and come upstairs, could not but be convinced that removal was
not to be thought of.  The maid was, moreover, too necessary to her
mistress to be left to undertake the nursing, much to her master's
regret, but to the joy of Mrs. Woodford, who felt certain that by
far the best chance for the poor boy was in his entire separation
from all associations with the home where he had evidently suffered
so much.

There was, perhaps, nothing except the pageship at Court that could
have gone more against Major Oakshott's principles than to leave his
son in the house of a prelatical minister, but alternative there was
none, and he could only express how much he was beholden to the Dr.
and Mrs. Woodford.

All their desire was that he would remain at a distance, for during
the long and weary watch they had to keep over the half-conscious
lad, the sound of a voice or even a horse's tread from Oakwood
occasioned moans and restlessness.  The Major rode over, or sent his
sons, or a servant daily to inquire during the first fortnight,
except on the Sundays, and on each of these the patient made a step
towards improvement.

At first he lay in a dull, death-like stupor, only groaning if
disturbed, but by and by there was a babbling murmur of words, and
soon the sound of his brother's loud voice at the door, demanding
from the saddle how it went to-day with Peregrine, caused a shriek
of terror and such a fit of trembling that Mrs. Woodford had to go
out and make a personal request that Oliver would never again speak
under the window.  To her great relief, when the balance between
life and death had decidedly turned, the inquiries became less
frequent, and could often be forestalled by sending messengers to
Oakwood.

The boy usually lay still all day in the darkened room, only showing
pain at light or noise, but at night he often talked and rambled a
good deal.  Sometimes it was Greek or Latin, sometimes whole
chapters of Scripture, either denunciating portions or genealogies
from the First Book of Chronicles, the polysyllabic names pouring
from his mouth whenever he was particularly oppressed or suffering,
so that when Mrs. Woodford had with some difficulty made out what
they were, she concluded that they had been set as tasks of penance.

At other times Peregrine talked as if he absolutely believed himself
in fairyland, accepting a strawberry or cherry as elfin food,
promising a tester in Anne's shoe when she helped to change his
pillow, or conversing in the style of Puck, or Robin Goodfellow, on
intended pranks.  Often he fancied himself the lubber fiend resting
at the fire his hairy strength, and watching for cock-crow as the
signal for flinging out-of-doors.  It was wonderful how in the grim
and strict Puritanical household he could have imbibed so much fairy
lore, but he must have eagerly assimilated and recollected whatever
he heard, holding them as tidings from his true kith and kin; and,
indeed, when he was running on thus, Mrs. Woodford sometimes felt a
certain awe and chill, as of the preternatural, and could hardly
believe that he belonged to ordinary human nature.  Either she or
the Doctor always took the night-watch after the talking mood set
in, for they could not judge of the effect it might have on any of
the servants.  Indeed they sometimes doubted whether this were not
the beginning of permanent insanity, as the delusion seemed to
strengthen with symptoms of recovery.

"Then," said Dr. Woodford, "Heaven help the poor lad!"

For sad indeed was the lot in those days of even the most harmless
lunatic.

"Yet," said the lady, "I scarcely think anything can be worse than
what he undergoes at home.  When I hear the terror and misery of his
voice, I doubt whether we did him any true kindness by hindering his
father from killing him outright by the shaking of his old coach."

"Nay, sister, we strove to do our duty, though it may be we have
taken on ourselves a further charge."



CHAPTER IV: IMP OR NO IMP


"But wist I of a woman bold
   Who thrice my brow durst sign,
I might regain my mortal mould,
   As fair a form as thine."

SCOTT.

At last came a wakening with intelligence in the eyes.  In the
summer morning light that streamed through the chinks of the
shutters Mrs. Woodford perceived the glance of inquiry, and when she
brought some cool drink, a rational though feeble voice asked those
first questions, "Who? and where?"

"I am Mrs. Woodford, my dear child.  You remember me at Winchester.
You are at Portchester.  You fell down and hurt yourself, but you
are getting better."

She was grieved to see the look of utter disappointment and
weariness that overspread the features, and the boy hardly spoke
again all day.  There was much drowsiness, but also depression, and
more than once Mrs. Woodford detected tears, but at other times he
received her attentions with smiles and looks of wondering
gratitude, as though ordinary kindness and solicitude were so new to
him that he did not know what to make of them, and perhaps was
afraid of breaking a happy dream by saying too much.

The surgeon saw him, and declared him so much better that he might
soon be taken home, recommending his sitting up for a little while
as a first stage.  Peregrine, however, seemed far from being
cheered, and showed himself so unwilling to undergo the fatigue of
being dressed, even when good Dr. Woodford had brought up his own
large chair--the only approach to an easy one in the house--that the
proposal was dropped, and he was left in peace for the rest of the
day.

In the evening Mrs. Woodford was sitting by the window, letting her
needlework drop as the light faded, and just beginning to doze, when
her repose was broken by a voice saying "Madam."

"Yes, Peregrine."

"Come near, I pray.  Will you tell no one?"

"No; what is it?"

In so low a tone that she had to bend over him:  "Do you know how
the Papists cross themselves?"

"Yes, I have seen the Queen's confessor and some of the ladies make
the sign."

"Dear lady, you have been very good to me!  If you would only cross
me thrice, and not be afraid!  They could not hurt you!"

"Who?  What do you mean?" she asked, for fairy lore had not become a
popular study, but comprehension came when he said in an awe-
stricken voice, "You know what I am."

"I know there have been old wives' tales about you, my poor boy, but
surely you do not believe them yourself."

"Ah! if you will not believe them, there is no hope.  I might have
known.  You were so good to me;" and he hid his face.

She took his unwilling hand and said, "Be you what you will, my poor
child, I am sorry for you, for I see you are very unhappy.  Come,
tell me all."

"Nay, then you would be like the rest," said Peregrine, "and I could
not bear that," and he wrung her hand.

"Perhaps not," she said gently, "for I know that a story is afloat
that you were changed in your cradle, and that there are folk
ignorant enough to believe it."

"They all _know_ it," he said impressively.  "My mother and brothers
and all the servants.  Every soul knows it except my father and Mr.
Horncastle, and they will never hear a word, but will have it that I
am possessed with a spirit of evil that is to be flogged out of me.
Goody Madge and Moll Owens, they knew how it was at the first, and
would fain have forced them--mine own people--to take me home, and
bring the other back, but my father found it out and hindered them."

"To save your life."

"Much good does my life do me!  Every one hates or fears me.  No one
has a word for me.  Every mischance is laid on me.  When the kitchen
wench broke a crock, it was because I looked at it.  If the keeper
misses a deer, he swears at Master Perry!  Oliver and Robert will
not let me touch a thing of theirs; they bait me for a moon-calf,
and grin when I am beaten for their doings.  Even my mother quakes
and trembles when I come near, and thinks I give her the creeps.  As
to my father and tutor, it is ever the rod with them, though I can
learn my tasks far better than those jolter-heads Noll and Robin.  I
never heard so many kind words in all my life as you have given me
since I have been lying here!"

He stopped in a sort of awe, for tears fell from her eyes, and she
kissed his forehead.

"Will you not help me, good madam?" he entreated.  "I went down to
Goody Madge, and she said there was a chance for me every seven
years.  The first went by, but this is my fourteenth year.  I had a
hope when the King spoke of beheading me, but he was only in jest,
as I might have known.  Then methought I would try what Midsummer
night in the fairy ring would do, but that was in vain; and now you,
who could cross me if you would, will not believe.  Oh, will you not
make the trial?"

"Alas!  Peregrine, supposing I could do it in good faith, would you
become a mere tricksy sprite, a thing of the elements, and yield up
your hopes as a Christian soul, a child of God and heir of Heaven?"

"My father says I am an heir of hell."

"No, no, never," she cried, shuddering at his quiet way of saying
it.  "You are flesh and blood, christened, and with the hope set
before you."

"The christening came too late," he said.  "O lady, you who are so
good and pitiful, let my mother get back her true Peregrine--a
straight-limbed, comely dullard, such as would be welcome to her.
She would bless and thank you, and for me, to be a Will-of-the-wisp,
or what not, would be far better than the life I lead.  Never did I
know what my mother calls peace till I lay here."

"Ah, Peregrine, poor lad, your value for peace and for my poor
kindness proves that you have a human heart and are no elf."

"Indeed, I meant to flit about and give you good dreams, and keep
off all that could hurt or frighten you," he said earnestly.

"Only the human soul could feel so, dear boy," she answered
tenderly.

"And you _really_ disbelieve--the other," he said wistfully.

"This is what I verily believe, my child:  that there were causes to
make you weakly, and that you may have had some palsy stroke or
convulsive fit perhaps at the moment you were left alone.  Such
would explain much of your oddness of face, which made the ignorant
nurses deem you changed; and thus it was only your father who, by
God's mercy, saved you from a miserable death, to become, as I
trust, a good and true man, and servant of God."  Then answering a
hopeless groan, she added, "Yes, it is harder for you than for many.
I see that these silly servants have so nurtured you in this belief
that you have never even thought it worth while to strive for
goodness, but supposed tricksomeness and waywardness a part of your
nature."

"The only pleasure in life is paying folk off," said Peregrine, with
a glitter in his eye.  "It serves them right."

"And thus," she said sadly, "you have gone on hating and spiting,
deeming yourself a goblin without hope or aim; but now you feel that
you have a Christian soul you will strive with evil, you will so
love as to win love, you will pray and conquer."

"My father and Mr. Horncastle pray," said Peregrine bitterly.  "I
hate it!  They go on for ever, past all bearing; I _must_ do
something--stand on my head, pluck some one's stool away, or tickle
Robin with a straw, if I am birched the next moment.  That's the
goblin."

"Yet you love the Minster music."

"Ay!  Father calls it rank Popery.  I listened many a time he never
guessed, hid away in the Holy Hole, or within old Bishop Wykeham's
little house."

"Ah, Peregrine, could an imp of evil brook to lie hidden in the Holy
Hole behind the very altar?" said Mrs. Woodford.  "But I hear Nick
bringing in supper, and I must leave you for the present.  God in
His mercy bless you, His poor child, and lead you in His ways."

As she went Peregrine muttered, "Is that a prayer?  It is not like
father's."

She was anxious to consult her brother-in-law on the strange mood of
her patient.  She found that he had heard more than he had told her
of what Major Oakshott deemed the hopeless wickedness of his son,
the antics at prayers, the hatred of everything good, the spiteful
tricks that were the family torment.  No doubt much was due to the
boy's entire belief in his own elfship, and these two good people
seriously considered how to save him from himself.

"If we could only keep him here," said Mrs. Woodford, "I think we
might bring him to have some faith and love in God and man."

"You could, dear sister," said the Doctor, smiling affectionately;
"but Major Oakshott would never leave his son in our house.  He
abhors our principles too much, and besides, it is too near home.
All the servants have heard rumours of this cruel fable, and would
ascribe the least misadventure to his goblin origin.  I must ride
over to Oakwood and endeavour to induce his father to remove him to
safe and judicious keeping."

Some days, however, elapsed before Dr. Woodford could do this, and
in the meantime the good lady did her best to infuse into her poor
young guest the sense that he had a human soul, responsible for his
actions, and with hope set before him, and that he was not a mere
frolicsome and malicious sprite, the creature of unreasoning
impulse.

It was a matter only to be attempted by gentle hints, for though
reared in a strictly religious household, Peregrine's ears seemed to
have been absolutely closed, partly by nursery ideas of his own
exclusion from the pale of humanity, partly by the harsh treatment
that he was continually bringing on himself.  Preachings and prayers
to him only meant a time of intolerable restraint, usually ending in
disgrace and punishment; Scripture and the Westminster Catechism
contained a collection of tasks more tedious and irksome than the
Latin and Greek Grammar; Sunday was his worst day of the week, and
these repugnances, as he had been taught to believe, were so many
proofs that he was a being beyond the power of grace.

Mrs. Woodford scrupled to leave him to any one else on this first
Sunday of his recovered consciousness, and in hopes of keeping him
quiet through fatigue, she contrived that it should be the first day
of his being dressed, and seated in the arm-chair, resting against
cushions beside the open window, whence he could watch the church-
goers, Anne in her little white cap, with her book in one hand, and
a posy in the other, tripping demurely beside her uncle, stately in
gown, cassock, and scarlet hood.

Peregrine could not refrain from boasting to his hostess how he had
once grimaced from outside the church window at Havant, and at the
women shrieking that the fiend was there.  She would not smile, and
shook her head sadly, so that he said, "I would never do so here."

"Nor anywhere, I hope."

Whereupon, thinking better to please the churchwoman, he related
how, when imprisoned for popping a toad into the soup, he had
escaped over the leads, and had beaten a drum outside the barn,
during a discourse of the godly tinker, John Bunyan, tramping and
rattling so that all thought the troopers were come, and rushed out,
tumbling one over the other, while he yelled out his "Ho! ho! ho!"
from the haystack where he had hidden.

"When you feel how kind and loving God is," said Mrs. Woodford
gravely, "you will not like to disturb those who are doing Him
honour."

"Is He kind?" asked Peregrine.  "I thought He was all wrath and
anger."

She replied, "The Lord is loving unto every man, and His mercy is
over all His works."

He made no answer.  If he were sullen, this subsided into
sleepiness, and when he awoke he found the lady on her knees going
through the service with her Prayer-book.  She encountered his
wistful eyes, but no remark was made, though on her return from
fetching him some broth, she found him peeping into her book, which
he laid down hastily, as though afraid of detection.

She had to go down to the Sunday dinner, where, according to good
old custom, half a dozen of the poor and aged were regaled with the
parish priest and his household.  There she heard inquiries and
remarks showing how widely spread and deeply rooted was the notion
of Peregrine's elfish extraction.  If Daddy Hoskins did ask after
the poor young gentleman as if he were a human being, the three old
dames present shook their heads, and while the more bashful only
groaned, Granny Perkins demanded, "Well, now, my lady, do he eat and
sleep like other folk?"

"Exactly, granny, now that he's mending in health."

"And don't he turn and writhe when there's prayers?"

Mrs. Woodford deposed to having observed no such demonstrations.

"Think of that now!  Lauk-a-daisy!  I've heard tell by my nevvy
Davy, as is turnspit at Oak'ood, as how when there's prayers and
expounding by Master Horncastle, as is a godly man, saving his
Reverence's presence, he have seen him, have Davy--Master Perry, as
they calls him, a-twisted round with his heels on the chair, and his
head where his heels should be, and a grin on his face enough to
give one a turn."

"Did Davy never see a mischievous boy fidgeting at prayers?" asked
the Doctor, who was nearer than she thought.  "If so, he has been
luckier than I have been."

There was a laugh, out of deference to the clergyman, but the old
woman held to her point.  "Begging your Reverence's pardon, sir,
there be more in this than we knows.  They says up at Oakwood,
there's no peace in the place for the spite of him, and when they
thinks he is safe locked into his chamber, there he be a-clogging of
the spit, or changing sugar into pepper, or making the stool break
down under one.  Oh, he be a strange one, sir, or summat worse.  I
have heerd him myself hollaing 'Ho! ho! ho!' on the downs enough to
make one's flesh creep."

"I will tell you what he is, dame," said the Doctor gravely.  "He is
a poor child who had a fit in his cradle, and whom all around have
joined in driving to folly, evil, and despair through your foolish
superstitions.  He is my guest, and I will have no more said against
him at my table."

The village gossips might be silenced by awe of the parson, but
their opinion was unshaken; and Silas Hewlett, a weather-beaten
sailor with a wooden leg, was bold enough to answer, "Ay, ay, sir,
you parsons and gentlefolk don't believe naught; but you've not seen
what I have with my own two bodily eyes--" and this of course was
the prelude to the history of an encounter with a mermaid, which
alternated with the Flying Dutchman and a combat with the Moors, as
regular entertainment at the Sunday meal.

When Mrs. Woodford went upstairs she was met by the servant Nicolas,
declaring that she might get whom she would to wait on that there
moon-calf, he would not go neist the spiteful thing, and exhibiting
a swollen finger, stung by a dead wasp, which Peregrine had
cunningly disposed on the edge of his empty plate.

She soothed the man's wrath, and healed his wound as best she might,
ere returning to her patient, who looked at her with an impish grin
on his lips, and yet human deprecation in his eyes.  Feeling
unprepared for discussion, she merely asked whether the dinner had
been relished, and sat down to her book; but there was a grave,
sorrowful expression on her countenance, and, after an interval of
lying back uneasily in his chair, he exclaimed, "It is of no use; I
could not help it.  It is my nature."

"It is the nature of many lads to be mischievous," she answered;
"but grace can cure them."

Therewith she began to read aloud.  She had bought the Pilgrim's
Progress (the first part) from a hawker, and she was glad to have at
hand something that could hardly be condemned as frivolous or
prelatical.  The spell of the marvellous book fell on Peregrine; he
listened intently, and craved ever to hear more, not being yet able
to read without pain and dizziness.  He was struck by hearing that
the dream of Christian's adventures had visited that same tinker,
whose congregation his own wicked practices had broken up.

"He would take me for one of the hobgoblins that beset Master
Christian."

"Nay," said Mrs. Woodford, "he would say you were Christian
floundering in the Slough of Despond, and deeming yourself one of
its efts or tadpoles."

He made no answer, but on the whole behaved so well that the next
day Mrs. Woodford ventured to bring her little daughter in after
having extracted a promise that there should be no tricks nor
teasing, a pledge honourably kept.

Anne did not like the prospect of the interview.  "Oh, ma'am, don't
leave me alone with him!" she said.  "Do you know what he did to
Mistress Martha Browning, his own cousin, you know, who lives at
Emsworth with her aunt?  He put a horsehair slily round her glass of
wine, and tipped it over her best gray taffeta, and her aunt whipped
her for the stain.  She never would say it was his doing, and yet he
goes on teasing her the same as ever, though his brother Oliver
found it out, and thrashed him for it:  you know Oliver is to marry
Mistress Martha."

"My dear child, where did you hear all this?" asked Mrs. Woodford,
rather overwhelmed with this flood of gossip from her usually quiet
daughter.

"Lucy told me, mamma.  She heard it from Sedley, who says he does
not wonder at any one serving out Martha Browning, for she is as
ugly as sin."

"Hush, hush, Anne!  Such sayings do not become a young maid.  This
poor lad has scarce known kindness.  Every one's hand has been
against him, and so his hand has been against every one.  I want my
little daughter to be brave enough not to pain and anger him by
shrinking from him as if he were not like other people.  We must
teach him to be happy before we can teach him to be good."

"Madam, I will try," said the child, with a great gulp; "only if you
would be pleased not to leave me alone with him the first time!"

This Mrs. Woodford promised.  At first the boy lay and looked at
Anne as if she were a rare curiosity brought for his examination,
and it took all her resolution, even to a heroic exertion of
childish fortitude, not to flinch under the gaze of those queer
eyes.  However, Mrs. Woodford diverted the glances by producing a
box of spillekins, and in the interest of the game the children
became better acquainted.

Over their next day's game Mrs. Woodford left them, and Anne became
at ease since Peregrine never attempted any tricks.  She taught him
to play at draughts, the elders thinking it expedient not to doubt
whether such vanities were permissible at Oakwood.

Soon there was such merriment between them that the kind Doctor said
it did his heart good to hear the boy's hearty natural laugh in lieu
of the "Ho! ho! ho!" of malice or derision.

They were odd conversations that used to take place between that boy
and girl.  The King's offer of a pageship had oozed out in the
Oakshott family, and Peregrine greatly resented the refusal, which
he naturally attributed to his father's Whiggery and spite at all
things agreeable, and he was fond of discussing his wrongs and
longings with Anne, who, from her childish point of view, thought
the walls of Portchester and the sluggish creek a very bad exchange
for her enjoyments at Greenwich, where she had lived during her
father's years of broken health, after he had been disabled at
Southwold by a wound which had prevented his being knighted by the
Duke of York for his daring in the excitement of the critical
moment, a fact which Mistress Anne never forgot, though she only
knew it by hearsay, as it happened a few weeks after she was born,
and her father always averred that he was thankful to have missed
the barren and expensive honour, and that the _worst_ which had come
of his exploit was the royal sponsorship to his little maid.

Anne had, however, been the pet of her father's old friends, the sea
captains, had played with the little Evelyns under the yew hedges of
Says Court, had been taken to London to behold the Lord Mayor's show
and more than one Court pageant, had been sometimes at the palaces
as the plaything of the Ladies Mary and Anne of York, had been more
than once kissed by their father, the Duke, and called a pretty
little poppet, and had even shared with them a notable game at romps
with their good-natured uncle the King, when she had actually caught
him at Blind-man's-buff!

Ignorant as she was of evil, her old surroundings appeared to her
delightful, and Peregrine, bred in a Puritan home, was at fourteen
not much more advanced than she was in the meaning of the vices and
corruptions that he heard inveighed against in general or scriptural
terms at home, and was only too ready to believe that all that his
father proscribed must be enchanting.  Thus they built castles
together about brilliant lives at a Court of which they knew as
little as of that at Timbuctoo.

There was another Court, however, of which Peregrine seemed to know
all the details, namely, that of King Oberon and Queen Mab.  How
much was village lore picked up from Moll Owens and her kind, or how
much was the work of his own imagination, no one could tell,
probably not himself, certainly not Anne.  When he appeared on
intimate terms with Hip, Nip, and Skip, and described catching Daddy
Long Legs to make a fence with his legs, or dwelt upon a terrible
fight between two armies of elves mounted on grasshoppers and
crickets, and armed with lances tipped with stings of bees and
wasps, she would exclaim, "Is it true, Perry?" and he would wink his
green eye and look at her with his yellow one till she hardly knew
where she was.

He would tell of his putting a hornet in a sluttish maid's shoe,
which was credible, if scarcely meriting that elfish laughter which
made his auditor shrink, but when he told of dancing over the mud
banks with a lantern, like a Will-of-the-wisp, till he lured boats
to get stranded, or horsemen to get stuck, in the hopeless mud, Anne
never questioned the possibility, but listened with wide open eyes,
and a restrained shudder, feeling as if under a spell.  That
mysterious childish feeling which dreads even what common sense
forbids the calmer mind to believe, made her credit Peregrine, for
the time at least, with strange affinities to the underground folk,
and kept her under a strange fascination, half attraction, half
repulsion, which made her feel as if she must obey and follow him if
he turned those eyes on her, whether she were willing or not.

Nor did she ever tell her mother of these conversations.  She had
been rebuked once for repeating nurse's story of the changeling, and
again for her shrinking from him; and this was quite enough in an
essentially reserved, as well as proud and sensitive, nature, to
prevent further confidences on a subject which she knew would be
treated as a foolish fancy, bringing both herself and her companion
into trouble.



CHAPTER V: PEREGRINE'S HOME


"For, at a word, be it understood,
He was always for ill and never for good."

SCOTT.

A week had passed since any of the family from Oakwood had come to
make inquiries after the convalescent at Portchester, when Dr.
Woodford mounted his sleek, sober-paced pad, and accompanied by a
groom, rode over to make his report and tender his counsel to Major
Oakshott.  He arrived just as the great bell was clanging to summon
the family to the mid-day meal, since he had reckoned on the Squire
being more amenable as a 'full man,' especially towards a guest, and
he was well aware that the Major was thoroughly a gentleman in
behaviour even to those with whom he differed in politics and
religion.

Accordingly there was a ready welcome at the door of the old red
house, which was somewhat gloomy looking, being on the north side of
the hill, and a good deal stifled with trees.  In a brief interval
the Doctor found himself seated beside the pale languid lady at the
head of the long table, placed in a large hall, wainscotted with the
blackest of oak, which seemed to absorb into itself all the light
from the windows, large enough indeed but heavily mullioned, and
with almost as much of leading as of octagons and lozenges--greenish
glass--in them, while the coats of arms, repeated in upper portions
and at the intersections of beams and rafters, were not more
cheerful, being sable chevrons on an argent field.  The crest, a
horse shoe, was indeed azure, but the blue of this and of the coats
of the serving-men only deepened the thunderous effect of the black.
Strangely, however, among these sad-coloured men there moved a
figure entirely differently.  A negro, white turbaned, and with his
blue livery of a lighter shade, of fantastic make and relieved by a
great deal of white and shining silver, so as to have an entirely
different effect.

He placed himself behind the chair of Dr. Woodford's opposite
neighbour, a shrewd business-like looking gentleman, soberly but
handsomely dressed, with a certain foreign cut about his clothes,
and a cravat of rich Flemish lace.  He was presented to the Doctor
as Major Oakshott's brother, Sir Peregrine.  The rest of the party
consisted of Oliver and Robert, sturdy, ruddy lads of fifteen and
twelve, and their tutor, Mr. Horncastle, an elderly man, who twenty
years before had resigned his living because he could not bring
himself to accept all the Liturgy.

While Sir Peregrine courteously relieved his sister-in-law of the
trouble of carving the gammon of bacon which accompanied the veal
which her husband was helping, Dr. Woodford informed her of her
son's progress towards recovery.

"Ah," she said, "I knew you had come to tell us that he is ready to
be brought home;" and her tone was fretful.

"We are greatly beholden to you, sir," said the Major from the
bottom of the table.  "The boy shall be fetched home immediately."

"Not so, sir, as yet, I beg of you.  Neither his head nor his side
can brook the journey for at least another week, and indeed my good
sister Woodford will hardly know how to part with her patient."

"She will not long be of that mind after Master Perry gets to his
feet again," muttered the chaplain.

"Indeed no," chimed in the mother.  "There will be no more peace in
the house when he is come back."

"I assure you, madam," said Dr. Woodford, "that he has been a very
good child, grateful and obedient, nor have I heard any complaints."

"Your kindness, or else that of Mrs. Woodford, carries you far,
sir," answered his host.

"What?  Is my nephew and namesake so peevish a scapegrace?" demanded
the visitor.

On which anecdotes broke forth from all quarters.  Peregrine had
greased the already slippery oak stairs, had exchanged Oliver's
careful exercise for a ribald broadsheet, had filled Mr.
Horncastle's pipe with gunpowder, and mixed snuff with the chocolate
specially prepared for the peculiar godly guest Dame Priscilla
Waller.  Every one had something to adduce, even the serving-men
behind the chairs; and if Oliver and Robert did not add their quota,
it was because absolute silence at meals was the rule for nonage.
However, the subject was evidently distasteful to the father, who
changed the conversation by asking his brother questions about the
young Prince of Orange and the Grand Pensionary De Witt.  For the
gentleman had been acting as English attache to the Embassy at the
Hague, whence he had come on affairs of State to London, and after
being knighted by Charles, had newly arrived at the old home, which
he had scarcely seen since his brother's marriage.  Dr. Woodford
enjoyed his conversation, and his information on foreign politics,
and the Major, though now and then protesting, was evidently proud
of his brother.

When grace had been pronounced by the chaplain the lady withdrew to
her parlour, the two boys, each with an obeisance and request for
permission, departed for an hour's recreation, and Dr. Woodford
intimated that he wished for some conversation with his host
respecting the boy Peregrine.

"Let us discuss it here," said Major Oakshott, turning towards a
small table set in the deep bay window, and garnished with wine,
fruit, and long slender glasses.  "Good Mr. Horncastle," he added,
as he motioned his guest to one of the four seats, "is with me in
all that concerns my children, and I desire my brother's counsel
respecting the untoward lad with whom it has pleased Heaven to
afflict me."

When the glasses had been filled with claret Dr. Woodford uttered a
diplomatic compliment on the healthful and robust appearance of the
eldest and youngest sons, and asked whether any cause had been
assigned for the difference between them and the intermediate
brother.

"None, sir," returned the father with a sigh, "save the will of the
Almighty to visit us for our sins with a son who has thus far shown
himself one of the marred vessels doomed to be broken by the potter.
It may be in order to humble me and prove me that this hath been
laid upon me."

The chaplain groaned acquiescence, but there was vexation in the
brother's face.

"Sir," said the Doctor, "it is my opinion and that of my sister-in-
law, an excellent, discreet, and devout woman, that the poor child
would give you more cause for hope if the belief had not become
fixed in his mind that he is really and truly a fairy elf--yes, in
very sooth--a changeling!"

All the auditors broke out into exclamations that it was impossible
that a boy of fourteen could entertain so absurd an idea, and the
tutor evidently thought it a fresh proof of depravity that he should
thus have tried to deceive his kind hosts.

In proof that Peregrine veritably believed it himself, Dr. Woodford
related what he had witnessed on Midsummer night, mentioning how in
delirium the boy had evidently believed himself in fairyland, and
how disappointed he had been, on regaining his senses, to find
himself on common earth; telling also of the adventure with the
King, which Sir Christopher Wren had described to him, but of which
Major Oakshott was unaware, though it explained the offer of the
pageship.  He was a good deal struck by these revelations, proving
misery that he had never suspected, though, as he said, he had often
pleaded, "Why will ye revolt more and more? ye _will_ be stricken
more and more."

"Have you ever sought his confidence?" asked the travelled brother,
a question evidently scarcely understood, for the reply was, "I have
always required of my sons to speak the truth, nor have they failed
of late years save this unfortunate Peregrine."

"And," said Sir Peregrine, "if the unlucky lad actually supposes
himself to be no human being, admonitions and chastisements would
naturally be vain."

"I cannot believe it," exclaimed the Major.  "'Tis true, as I now
remember, I once came on a couple of beldames, my wife's nurse and
another, who has since been ducked for witchcraft, and found them
about to flog the babe with nettles, and lay him in the thorn hedge
because he was a sickly child, whom, forsooth, they took to be a
changeling; but I forbade the profane folly to be ever again
mentioned in my household, nor did I ever hear thereof again."

"There are a good many more things mentioned in a household,
brother, than the master is wont to hear of," remarked Sir
Peregrine.

Dr. Woodford then begged as a personal favour for an individual
examination of the family and servants on their opinion.  The master
was reluctant thus, as he expressed it, to go a-fooling, but his
brother backed the Doctor up, and further prevented a general
assembly to put one another to shame, but insisted on the witnesses
being called in one by one.  Oliver, the first summoned, was
beginning to be somewhat less overawed by his father than in his
earlier boyhood.  To the inquiry what he thought of his brother
Peregrine, he made a tentative sort of reply, that he was a strange
fellow, who never could keep out of disgrace.

"That is not the question," said his father.  "I am almost ashamed
to speak it!  Do you--nay, have you ever supposed him to be a--" he
really could not bring out the word.

"A changeling, sir?" returned Oliver.  "I do not believe so now,
knowing that it is impossible, but as a child I always did."

"Who durst possess you with so foolish and profane a falsehood?"

"Every one, sir.  I cannot recollect the time when I did not as
entirely deem Peregrine a changeling elf as that Robin was my own
brother.  He believes so himself."

"You have never striven to disabuse him."

"Indeed, sir, he would scarce have listened to me had I done go;
besides, to tell the truth, it has only been of late, since I have
been older, and have studied more, that I have come to perceive the
folly of it."

Major Oakshott groaned, and bade him call Robert without saying
wherefore.  The little fellow came in, somewhat frightened, and when
asked the question that had been put to his elder, his face lighted
up, and he exclaimed, "Oh, have they brought him back again?"

"Whom?"

"Our real brother, sir, who was carried off to fairyland!"

"Who told you so, Robert?"

He looked puzzled, and said, "Sir, they all know it.  Molly Owens,
that was his foster-mother, saw the fairies bear him off on a
broomstick up the chimney."

"Robert, no lying!"

The boy was only restrained from tears by fear of his father, and
just managed to say, "'Tis what they all say, and Perry knows."

"Knows!" muttered Major Oakshott in despair, but the uncle, drawing
Robin towards him, extracted that Perry had been seen flying out of
the loft window, when he had been locked up--Robin had never seen it
himself, but the maids had often done so.  Moreover, there was proof
positive, in the mark on Oliver's head, where he had nearly killed
himself by tumbling downstairs, being lured by the fairies while
they stole away the babe.

The Major could not listen with patience.  "A boy of that age to
repeat such blasphemous nonsense!" he exclaimed; and Robert,
restraining with difficulty his sobs of terror, was dismissed to
fetch the butler.

The old Ironside who now appeared would not avouch his own disbelief
in the identity of Master Peregrine, being, as he said, a man who
had studied his Bible, listened to godly preachers, and seen the
world; but he had no hesitation in declaring that almost every other
soul in the household believed in it as firmly as in the Gospel,
certainly all the women, and probably all the men, nor was there any
doubt that the young gentleman conducted himself more like a goblin
than the son of pious Christian parents.  In effect both the
clergyman and the Diplomate could not help suspecting that in other
company the worthy butler's disavowal of all share in the
superstition might have been less absolute.

"After this," said Major Oakshott with a sigh, "it seems useless to
carry the inquiry farther."

"What says my sister Oakshott?" inquired Sir Peregrine.  "She!  Poor
soul, she is too feeble to be fretted," said her husband.  "She has
never been the same woman since the Fire of London, and it would be
vain to vex her with questions.  She would be of one mind while I
spoke to her, and another while her women were pouring their tales
into her ear.  Methinks I now understand why she has always seemed
to shrink from this unfortunate child, and to fear rather than love
him."

"Even so, sir," added the tutor.  "Much is explained that I never
before understood.  The question is how to deal with him under this
fresh light.  I will, so please your honour, assemble the family
this very night, and expound to them that such superstitions are
contrary to the very word of Scripture."

"Much good will that do," muttered the knight.

"I should humbly suggest," put in Dr. Woodford, "that the best hope
for the poor lad would be to place him where these foolish tales
were unknown, and he could start afresh on the same terms with other
youths."

"There is no school in accordance with my principles," said the
Squire gloomily.  "Godly men who hold the faith as I do are
inhibited by the powers that be from teaching in schools."

"And," said his brother, "you hold these principles as more
important than the causing your son to be bred up a human being
instead of being pointed at and rendered hopeless as a demon."

"I am bound to do so," said the Major.

"Surely," said Dr. Woodford, "some scholar might be found, either
here or in Holland, who might share your opinions, and could receive
the boy without incurring penalties for opening a school without
license."

"It is a matter for prayer and consideration," said Major Oakshott.
"Meantime, reverend sir, I thank you most heartily for the goodness
with which you have treated my untoward son, and likewise for having
opened my eyes to the root of his freakishness."

The Doctor understood this as dismissal, and asked for his horse,
intimating, however, that he would gladly keep the boy till some
arrangement had been decided upon.  Then he rode home to tell his
sister-in-law that he had done his best, and that he thought it a
fortunate conjunction that the travelled brother had been present.



CHAPTER VI: A RELAPSE


"A tell-tale in their company
   They never could endure,
And whoso kept not secretly
   Their pranks was punished sure.
It was a just and Christian deed
   To pinch such black and blue;
Oh, how the commonwealth doth need
   Such justices as you!"

BISHOP CORBETT.

Several days passed, during which there could be no doubt that
Peregrine Oakshott knew how to behave himself, not merely to grown-
up people, but to little Anne, who had entirely lost her dread of
him, and accepted him as a playfellow.  He was able to join the
family meals, and sit in the pleasant garden, shaded by the walls of
the old castle, as well as by its own apple-trees, and looking out
on the little bay in front, at full tide as smooth and shining as a
lake.

There, while Anne did her task of spinning or of white seam, Mrs.
Woodford would tell the children stories, or read to them from the
Pilgrim's Progress, a wonderful romance to both.  Peregrine, still
tamed by weakness, would lie on the grass at her feet, in a tranquil
bliss such as he had never known before, and his fairy romances to
Anne were becoming mitigated, when one day a big coach came along
the road from Fareham, with two boys riding beside it, escorting
Lady Archfield and Mistress Lucy.

The lady was come to study Mrs. Woodford's recipe for preserved
cherries, the young people, Charles, Lucy, and their cousin Sedley,
now at home for the summer holidays, to spend an afternoon with
Mistress Anne.

Great was Lady Archfield's surprise at finding that Major Oakshott's
cross-grained slip of a boy was still at Portchester.

"If you were forced to take him in for very charity when he was
hurt," she said, "I should have thought you would have been rid of
him as soon as he could leave his bed."

"The road to Oakwood is too rough for broken ribs as yet," said Mrs.
Woodford, "nor is the poor boy ready for discipline."

"Ay, I fancy that Major Oakshott is a bitter Puritan in his own
house; but no discipline could be too harsh for such a boy as that,
according to all that I hear," said her ladyship, "nor does he look
as if much were amiss with him so far as may be judged of features
so strange and writhen."

"He is nearly well, but not yet strong, and we are keeping him here
till his father has decided on what is best for him."

"You even trust him with your little maid!  And alone!  I wonder at
you, madam."

"Indeed, my lady, I have seen no harm come of it.  He is gentle and
kind with Anne, and I think she softens him."

Still Mrs. Woodford would gladly not have been bound to her colander
and preserving-pan in her still-room, where her guest's housewifely
mind found great scope for inquiry and comment, lasting for nearly
two hours.

When at length the operations were over, and numerous little pots of
jam tied up as specimens for the Archfield family to taste at home,
the children were not in sight.  No doubt, said Mrs. Woodford, they
would be playing in the castle court, and the visitor accompanied
her thither in some anxiety about broken walls and steps, but they
were not in sight, nor did calls bring them.

The children had gone out together, Anne feeling altogether at ease
and natural with congenial playmates.  Even Sedley's tortures were
preferable to Peregrine's attentions, since the first were only the
tyranny of a graceless boy, the other gave her an indescribable
sense of strangeness from which these ordinary mundane comrades were
a relief and protection.

However, Charles and Sedley rushed off to see a young colt in which
they were interested, and Lucy, in spite of her first shrinking,
found Peregrine better company than she could have expected, when he
assisted in swinging her and Anne by turns under the old ash tree.

When the other two were seen approaching, the swinging girl hastily
sprang out, only too well aware what Sedley's method of swinging
would be.  Then as the boys came up followed inquiries why Peregrine
had not joined them, and jests in schoolboy taste ensued as to elf-
locks in the horses' manes, and inquiries when he had last ridden to
a witch's sabbath.  Little Anne, in duty bound, made her protest,
but this only incited Charles to add his word to the teasing, till
Lucy joined in the laugh.

By and by, as they loitered along, they came to the Doctor's little
boat, and there was a proposal to get in and rock.  Lucy refused,
out of respect for her company attire, and Anne could not leave her,
so the two young ladies turned away with arms round each other's
waists, Lucy demonstratively rejoicing to be quit of the troublesome
boys.

Before they had gone far an eldritch shout of laughter was responded
to by a burst of furious dismay and imprecation.  The boat with the
two boys was drifting out to sea, and Peregrine capering wildly on
the shore, but in another instant he had vanished into the castle.

Anne had presence of mind enough to rush to the nearest fisherman's
cottage, and send him out to bring them back, and it was at this
juncture that the two mothers arrived on the scene.  There was
little real danger.  A rope was thrown and caught, and after about
half an hour of watching they were safely landed, but the tide had
ebbed so far that they had to take off their shoes and stockings and
wade through the mud.  They were open-mouthed against the imp who
had enticed them to rock in the boat, then in one second had cut the
painter, bounded out, and sent them adrift with his mocking 'Ho! ho!
ho!'  Sedley Archfield clenched his fists, and gazed round wildly in
search of the goblin to chastise him soundly, and Charles was ready
to rush all over the castle in search of him.

"Two to one!" cried Anne, "and he so small; you would never be so
cowardly."

"As if he were like an honest fellow," said Charley.  "A goblin like
that has his odds against a dozen of us."

"I'd teach him, if I could but catch him," cried Sedley.

"I told you," said Anne, "that he would be good if you would let him
alone and not plague him."

"Now, Anne," said Charles, as he sat putting on his stockings, "how
could I stand being cast off for that hobgoblin, that looks as if he
had been cut out of a root of yew with a blunt knife, and all
crooked!  I that always was your sweetheart, to see you consorting
with a mis-shapen squinting Whig of a Nonconformist like that."

"Nonconformist!  I'll Nonconform him indeed," added Sedley.  "I wish
I had the wringing of his neck."

"Now is not that hard!" said Anne; "a poor lad who has been very
sick, and that every one baits and spurns."

"Serve him right," said Sedley; "he shall have more of the same
sauce!"

"I think he has cast his spell on Anne," added Charles, "or how can
she stand up for him?"

"My mamma bade me be kind to him."

"Kind!  I would as lief be kind to a toad!" put in Lucy.

"To see you kind to him makes me sick," exclaimed Charles.  "You see
what comes of it."

"It did not come of my kindness, but of your unkindness," reasoned
Anne.

"I told you so," said Charles.  "You would have been best pleased if
we had been carried out to sea and drowned!"

Anne burst into tears and disavowed any such intention, and Charles
was protesting that he would only forgive her on condition of her
never showing any kindness to Peregrine again, when a sudden shower
of sand and pebbles descended, one of them hitting Sedley pretty
sharply on the ear.  The boys sprang up with a howl of imprecation
and vengeance, but no one was to be seen, only 'Ho! ho! ho!'
resounded from the battlements.  Off they rushed headlong, but the
nearest door was in a square tower a good way off, and when they
reached it the door defied their efforts of frantic rage, whilst
another shower descended on them from above, accompanied by the
usual shout.  But while they were dashing off in quest of another
entrance they were met by a servant sent to summon them to return
home.  Coach and horses were at the door, and Lady Archfield was in
haste to get them away, declaring that she should not think their
lives safe near that fiendish monster.  Considering that Sedley was
nearly twice as big as Peregrine, and Charles a strong well-grown
lad, this was a tribute to his preternatural powers.

Very unwillingly they went, and if Lady Archfield had not kept a
strict watch from her coach window, they would certainly have turned
back to revenge the pranks played on them.  The last view of them
showed Sedley turning round shaking his whip and clenching his teeth
in defiance.  Mrs. Woodford was greatly concerned, especially as
Peregrine could not be found and did not appear at supper.

"Had he run away to sea?" the usual course of refractory lads at
Portchester, but for so slight a creature only half recovered it did
not seem probable.  It was more likely that he had gone home, and
that Mrs. Woodford felt as somewhat a mortifying idea.  However, on
looking into his chamber, as she sought her own, she beheld him in
bed, with his face turned into the pillow, whether asleep or
feigning slumber there was no knowing.

Later, she heard sounds that induced her to go and look at him.  He
was starting, moaning, and babbling in his sleep.  But with morning
all his old nature seemed to have returned.

There was a hedgehog in Anne's bowl of milk, Mrs. Woodford's poultry
were cackling hysterically at an unfortunate kitten suspended from
an apple tree and let down and drawn up among them.  The three-
legged stool of the old waiting-woman 'toppled down headlong' as
though by the hands of Puck, and even on Anne's arms certain black
and blue marks of nails were discovered, and when her mother
examined her on them she only cried and begged not to be made to
answer.

And while Dr. Woodford was dozing in his chair as usual after the
noonday dinner Mrs. Woodford actually detected a hook suspended from
a horsehair descending in the direction of his big horn spectacles,
and quietly moving across to frustrate the attempt, she unearthed
Peregrine on a chair angling from behind the window curtain.

She did not speak, but fixed her calm eyes on him with a look of
sad, grave disappointment as she wound up the line.  In a few
seconds the boy had thrown himself at her feet, rolling as if in
pain, and sobbing out, "'Tis all of no use!  Let me alone."

Nevertheless he obeyed the hushing gesture of her hand, and held his
breath, as she led him out to the garden-seat, where they had spent
so many happy quiet hours.  Then he flung himself down and repeated
his exclamation, half piteous, half defiant.  "Leave me alone!
Leave me alone!  It has me!  It is all of no use."

"What has you, my poor child?"

"The evil spirit.  You will have it that I'm not one of--one of
them--so it must be as my father says, that I am possessed--the evil
spirit.  I was at peace with you--so happy--happier than ever I was
before--and now--those boys.  It has me again--I could not help it--
I've even hurt her--Mistress Anne.  Let me alone--send me home--to
be scorned, and shunned, and brow-beaten--and as bad as ever--then
at least she will be safe from me."

All this came out between sobs such that Mrs. Woodford could not
attempt to speak, but she kept her hand on him, and at last she
said, when he could hear her:  "Every one of us has to fight with an
evil spirit, and when we are not on our guard he is but too apt to
take advantage of us."

The boy rather sullenly repeated that it was of no use to fight
against his.

"Indeed!  Nay.  Were you ever so much grieved before at having let
him have the mastery?"

"No--but no one ever was good to me before."

"Yes; all about you lived under a cruel error, and you helped them
in it.  But if you had not a better nature in you, my poor child,
you would not be happy here and thankful for what we can do for
you."

"I was like some one else here," said Peregrine, picking a daisy to
pieces, "but they stirred it all up.  And at home I shall be just
the same as ever I was."

She longed to tell him that there was hope of a change in his life,
but she durst not till it was more certain, so she said--

"There was One who came to conquer the evil spirit and the evil
nature, and to give each one of us the power to get the victory.
The harder the victory, the more glorious!" and her eyes sparkled at
the thought.

He caught a moment's glow, then fell back.  "For those that are
chosen," he said.

"You are chosen--you were chosen by your baptism.  You have the
stirrings of good within you.  You can win and beat back the evil
side of you in Christ's strength, if you will ask for it, and go on
in His might."

The boy groaned.  Mrs. Woodford knew that the great point with him
would be to teach him to hope and to pray, but the very name of
prayer had been rendered so distasteful to him that she scarce durst
press the subject by name, and her heart sank at the thought of
sending him home again, but she was glad to be interrupted, and said
no more.

At night, however, she heard sounds of moaning and stifled babbling
that reminded her of his times of delirium, and going into his room
she found him tossing and groaning so that it was manifestly a
kindness to wake him; but her gentle touch occasioned a scream of
terror, and he started aside with open glassy eyes, crying, "Oh take
me not!"

"My dear boy!  It is I.  Perry, do you not know me?"

"Oh, madam!" in infinite relief, "it is you.  I thought--I thought I
was in elfland and that they were paying me for the tithe to hell;"
and he still shuddered all over.

"No elf--no elf, dear boy; a christened boy--God's child, and under
His care;" and she began the 121st Psalm.

"Oh, but I am not under His shadow!  The Evil One has had me again!
He will have me.  Aren't those his claws?  He will have me!"

"Never, my child, if you will cry to God for help.  Say this with
me, 'Lord, be Thou my keeper.'"

He did so, and grew more quiet, and she began to repeat Dr. Ken's
evening hymn, which had become known in manuscript in Winchester.
It soothed him, and she thought he was dropping off to sleep, but no
sooner did she move than he started with "There it is again--the
black wings--the claws--" then while awake, "Say it again!  Oh, say
it again.  Fold me in your prayers--you can pray."  She went back to
the verse, and he became quiet, but her next attempt to leave him
caused an entreaty that she would remain, nor could she quit him
till the dawn, happily very early, was dispelling the terrors of the
night, and then, when he had himself murmured once--

"Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of darkness me molest,"

he fell asleep at last, with a softer look on his pinched face.
Poor boy, would that verse be his first step to prayer and
deliverance from his own too real enemy?



CHAPTER VII: THE ENVOY


"I then did ask of her, her changeling child."

Midsummer Night's Dream.

Mrs. Woodford was too good a housewife to allow herself any extra
rest on account of her vigil, and she had just put her Juneating
apple-tart into the oven when Anne rushed into the kitchen with the
warning that there was a grand gentleman getting off his horse at
the gateway, and speaking to her uncle--she thought it must be
Peregrine's uncle.

Mrs. Woodford was of the same opinion, and asked where Peregrine
was.

"Fast asleep in the window-seat of the parlour, mother!  I did not
waken him, for he looked so tired."

"That was right, my little maiden," said Mrs. Woodford, hastily
washing her hands, taking off her cooking apron, letting down her
black gown from its pocket holes, and arranging her veil-like
widow's coif, after which, in full trim for company, she sallied out
to the front door, to avert, if possible, the wakening of the boy,
whom she wished to appear to the best advantage.

She met in the garden her brother-in-law, and Sir Peregrine
Oakshott, on being presented to her, made such a bow as had seldom
been seen in those parts, as he politely said that he was the bearer
of his brother's thanks for her care of his nephew.

Mrs. Woodford explained that the boy had had so bad a night that it
would be well not to break his present sleep, and invited the guest
to walk in the garden or sit in the Doctor's study or in the shade
of the castle wall.

This last was what he preferred, and there they seated themselves,
with a green slope before them down to the pale gray creek, and the
hill beyond lying in the summer sunshine.

"I have been long in coming hither," said the knight, "partly on
account of letters on affairs of State, and partly likewise because
I desired to come alone, thinking that I might better understand how
it is with the lad without the presence of his father or brothers."

"I am very glad you have so done, sir."

"Then, madam, I entreat of you to speak freely and tell me your
opinion of him without reserve.  You need not fear offence by
speaking of the mode in which they have treated him at home.  My
poor brother has meant to do his duty, but he has stood so far aloof
from his sons that he has dealt with them in ignorance, and their
mother, between sickliness and timidity, is a mere prey to the folly
of her gossips.  So speak plainly, madam, I beg of you."

Mrs. Woodford did speak plainly of the boy's rooted belief in his
own elfish origin, and how when arguing against it she had found the
alternative even sadder and more hopeless, how well he comported
himself as long as he was treated as a human and rational being, but
how the taunts and jests of the young Archfields had renewed all the
mischief, to the poor fellow's own remorse and despair.

Sir Peregrine listened with only a word of comment, or question now
and then, like a man of the world well used to hearing all before he
committed himself, and the description was only just ended when the
clang of the warning dinner-bell sounded and they rose; but as they
were passing the window of the dining-parlour a shriek of Anne's
startled them all, and as they sprang forward, Mrs. Woodford first,
Peregrine's voice was heard, "No, no, Anne, don't be afraid.  It is
for me he is come; I knew he would."

Something in a strange language was heard.  A black face with round
eyes and gleaming teeth might be seen bending forward.  Anne gave
another shriek, but was heard crying, "No, no!  Get away, sir.  He
is our Lord Christ's!  He is!  You can't! you shan't have him."

And Anne was seen standing over Peregrine, who had dropped
shuddering and nearly fainting on the floor, while she stood
valiantly up warding off the advance of him whom she took for the
Prince of Darkness, and in her excitement not at first aware of
those who were come to her aid at the window.  In one second the
negro was saying something which his master answered, and sent him
off.  Mrs. Woodford had called out, "Don't be afraid, dear children.
'Tis Sir Peregrine's black servant"; and the Doctor, "Foolish
children!  What is this nonsense?"  A moment or two more and they
were in the room, Anne, all trembling, flying up to her mother and
hiding her face against her between fright and shame at not having
thought of the black servant, and the while they lifted up
Peregrine, who, as he met his kind friend's eyes, said faintly, "Is
he gone?  Was it the dream again?"

"It was your uncle's blackamoor servant," said Mrs. Woodford.  "You
woke up, and no wonder you were startled.  Come with me, both of
you, and make you ready for dinner."

Peregrine had rather collapsed than fainted, for he was able to walk
with her hand on his shoulder, and Sir Peregrine understood her sign
and did not attempt to accost either of the children, though as the
Doctor took him to his chamber he expressed his admiration of the
little maiden.

"That's the right woman," he said, "losing herself when there is one
to guard.  Nay, sir, she needs no excuse.  Such a spirit may well
redeem a child's mistake."

Mrs. Woodford had reassured the children, so that they were more
than half ashamed, though scarce willing to reappear when she had
made Peregrine wash his face and hands, smooth the hair ruffled in
his nap, freshly tying his little cravat and the ribbons on his
shoes and at his knees.  To make his hair into anything but elf
locks, or to obliterate the bristly tuft that made him like Riquet,
was impossible, illness had made him additionally lean and sallow,
and his keen eyes, under their black contracted brows and dark
lashes, showed all the more the curious variation in their tints,
and with an obliquity that varied according to the state of the
nerves.  There was a satirical mischievous cast in the mould of the
face, though individually the features were not amiss except for
their thinness, and in fact the unpleasantness of the expression had
insensibly been softened during this last month, and there was
nothing repellent, though much that was quaint, in the slight
figure, with the indescribably one-sided air, and stature more
befitting ten than fourteen years.  What would the visitor think of
him?  The Doctor called to him, "Come, Peregrine, your uncle, Sir
Peregrine Oakshott, has been good enough to come over to see you."

Peregrine had been well trained enough in that bitter school of home
to make a correct bow, though his feelings were betrayed by his
yellow eye going almost out of sight.

"My namesake--your father will not let me say my godson," said Sir
Peregrine smiling.  "We ought to be good friends."

The boy looked up.  Perhaps he had never been greeted in so human a
manner before, and there was something confiding in the way those
bony fingers of his rested a moment in his uncle's clasp.

"And this is your little daughter, madam, Peregrine's kind playmate?
You may well be proud of her valour," said the knight, while Anne
made her courtesy, which he, in the custom of the day, returned with
a kiss; and she, who had been mortally ashamed of her terror,
marvelled at his praise.

The pair of fowls were by this time on the table, and good manners
required silence on the part of the children, but while Sir
Peregrine explained that he had been appointed by his Majesty as
Envoy to the Elector of Brandenburg, and gave various interesting
particulars of foreign life, Mrs. Woodford saw that he was keeping a
quiet watch over his nephew's habits at table, and she was thankful
that when unmoved by any wayward spirit of mischief they were quite
beyond reproach.  Something of the refinement of his poor mother's
tastes must have been inherited by Peregrine, for a certain
daintiness of taste and habit had probably added to his discomforts
in the austere, not to say rude simplicity imposed upon the children
of the family.

When the meal was over the children were dismissed to the garden,
but bidden to keep within call, in case Sir Peregrine should wish to
see his nephew again.  The others repaired again to the garden seat,
with wine and fruit, but the knight begged Mrs. Woodford not to
leave them.

"I am satisfied," he said.  "The boy shows gentle blood and
breeding.  There was cause enough for fright without cowardice, and
there is not, what I was led to fear, such uncouthness or
ungainliness as should hinder me from having him with me."

"Oh, sir, is that your purpose?" cried the lady, almost as eagerly
as if it had been high preferment for her own child.

"I had thought thereon," said the envoy.  "There is reason that he
should be my charge, and my brother is like to give a ready consent,
since he is sorely perplexed what to do with this poor untoward
slip."

"He would be less untoward were he happier," said Mrs. Woodford.
"Indeed, sir, I do not think you will repent it, if--" and she
paused.

"What would you say, madam?"

"If only all your honour's household are absolutely ignorant of all
these tales."

"That can well be, madam.  I have only one body-servant with me,
this unlucky blackamoor, who speaks nothing save Dutch.  I had
already thought of leaving my grooms here, and returning to London
by sea, and this could well be done, and would cut off all channels
of gossiping.  The boy is, the chaplain tells me, quick-witted, and
a fair scholar for his years, and I can find good schooling for
him."

"When his head is able to bear it," said Mrs. Woodford.

"Truly, sir," added the Doctor, "you are doing a good work, and I
trust that the boy will requite you worthily."

"I tell your reverence," said Sir Peregrine, "crooked stick though
they term him, I had ten times rather have the dealing with him than
with those comely great lubbers his brothers!  The question now is,
shall I tell him what is in store for him?"

"I should say," returned Dr. Woodford, "that provided it is certain
that the intention can be carried out, nothing would be so good for
him as hope.  Do you not say so, sister?"

"Indeed I do," she replied.  "I believe that he would be a very
different boy if he were relieved from the misery he suffers at home
and requites by mischievous pranks.  I do not say he will or can be
a good lad at once, but if your honour can have patience with him, I
do believe there is that in him which can be turned to good.  If he
only can believe in the better nature and higher guidings, and pray,
and not give himself up in despair."  She had tears in her eyes.

"My good madam, I can believe it all," said Sir Peregrine.  "Short
of being supposed an elf, I have gone through the same, and it was
not my good father's fault that I did not loathe the very name of
preaching or prayer.  But I had a mother who knew how to deal with
me, whereas this poor child's mother, I am sure, believes in her
secret heart that he is none of hers, though she has enough sense
not to dare to avow it.  Alas!  I cannot give the boy the woman's
tending by which you have already wrought so much," and Mrs.
Woodford remembered to have heard that his wife had died at
Rotterdam, "but I can treat him like a human being, I hope indeed as
a son; and, at any rate, there will be no one to remind him of these
old wives' tales."

"I can only say that I am heartily rejoiced," said Mrs. Woodford.

So Peregrine was summoned, and shambled up, his eyes showing that he
expected a trying interview, and, moreover, with a certain twinkle
of mischief or perverseness in their corners.

"Soh! my lad, we ought to be better acquainted," said the uncle.
"D'ye know what our name means?"

"Peregrinus, a vagabond," responded the boy.

"Eh!  The translation may be correct, but 'tis scarce the most
complimentary.  I wonder now if you, like me, were born on a
Wednesday.  'Wednesday's child has far to go.'"

"No.  I was born on a Sunday, and if to see goblins and oafs--"

"Nay, I read it, 'Sunday's child is full of grace.'"

Peregrine's mouth twitched ironically, but his uncle continued,
"Look you, my boy, what say you to fulfilling the augury of your
name with me.  His Majesty has ordered me off again to represent the
British name to the Elector of Brandenburg, and I have a mind to
carry you with me.  What do you say?"

If any one expected Peregrine to be overjoyed his demeanour was
disappointing.  He shuffled with his feet, and after two or three
"Ehs?" from his uncle, he mumbled, "I don't care," and then shrank
together, as one prepared for the stripe with the riding-whip which
such a rude answer merited:  but his uncle had, as a diplomate,
learnt a good deal of patience, and he said, "Ha! don't care to
leave home and brothers.  Eh?"

Peregrine's chin went down, and there was no answer; his hair
dropped over his heavy brow.

"See, boy, this is no jest," said his uncle.  "You are too big to be
told that 'I'll put you into my pocket and carry you off.'  I am in
earnest."

Peregrine looked up, and with one sudden flash surveyed his uncle.
His lips trembled, but he did not speak.

"It is sudden," said the knight to the other two.  "See, boy, I am
not about to take you away with me now.  In a week or ten days' time
I start for London; and there we will fit you out for Konigsberg or
Berlin, and I trust we shall make a man of you, and a good man.
Your tutor tells me you have excellent parts, and I mean that you
shall do me credit."

Dr. Woodford could not help telling the lad that he ought to thank
his uncle, whereat he scowled; but Sir Peregrine said, "He is not
ready for that yet.  Wait till he feels he has something to thank me
for."

So Peregrine was dismissed, and his friends exclaimed with some
wonder and annoyance that the boy who had been willing to be
decapitated to put an end to his wretchedness, should be so
reluctant to accept such an offer, but Sir Peregrine only laughed,
and said--

"The lad has pith in him!  I like him better than if he came like a
spaniel to my foot.  But I will say no more till I fully have my
brother's consent.  No one knows what crooks there may be in folks'
minds."

He took his leave, and presently Mrs. Woodford had a fresh surprise.
She found this strange boy lying flat on the grass, sobbing as if
his heart would break, and when she tried to soothe and comfort him
it was very hard to get a word from him; but at last, as she asked,
"And does it grieve you so much to leave home?" the answer was--

"No, no! not home!"

"What is it, then?  What are you sorry to leave?"

"Oh, _you_ don't know! you and Anne--the only ones that ever were
good to me--and drove away--_it_."

"Nay, my dear boy.  Your uncle means to be good to you."

"No, no.  No one ever will be like you and Anne.  Oh, let me stay
with you, or they will have me at last!"

He was too much shaken, in his still half-recovered state, by the
events of these last days, to be reasoned with.  Mrs. Woodford was
afraid he would work himself into delirium, and could only soothe
him into a calmer state.  She found from Anne that the children had
some vague hopes of his being allowed to remain at Portchester, and
that this was the ground of his disappointment, since he seemed to
be attaching himself to them as the first who had ever touched his
heart or opened to him a gleam of better things.

By the next day, however, he was in a quieter and more reasonable
state, and Mrs. Woodford was able to have a long talk with him.  She
represented that the difference of opinions made it almost certain
that his father would never consent to his remaining under her roof,
and that even if this were possible, Portchester was far too much
infected with the folly from which he had suffered so much; and his
uncle would take care that no one he would meet should ever hear of
it.

"There's little good in that," said the boy moodily.  "I'm a thing
they'll jibe at and bait any way."

"I do not see that, if you take pains with yourself.  Your uncle
said you showed blood and breeding, and when you are better dressed,
and with him, no one will dare to mock his Excellency's nephew.
Depend upon it, Peregrine, this is the fresh start that you need."

"If you were there--"

"My boy, you must not ask for what is impossible.  You must learn to
conquer in God's strength, not mine."

All, however, that passed may not here be narrated, and it
apparently left that wayward spirit unconvinced.  Nevertheless, when
on the second day Major Oakshott himself came over with his brother,
and informed Peregrine that his uncle was good enough to undertake
the charge of him, and to see that he was bred up in godly ways in a
Protestant land, free from prelacy and superstition, the boy seemed
reconciled to his fate.  Major Oakshott spoke more kindly than usual
to him, being free from fresh irritation at his misdemeanours; but
even thus there was a contrast with the gentler, more persuasive
tones of the diplomatist, and no doubt this tended to increase
Peregrine's willingness to be thus handed over.

The next question was whether he should go home first, but both the
uncle and the friends were averse to his remaining there, amid the
unavoidable gossip and chatter of the household, and it was
therefore decided that he should only ride over with Dr. Woodford
for an hour or two to take leave of his mother and brothers.

This settled, Mrs. Woodford found him much easier to deal with.  He
had really, through his midnight invocation of the fairies, obtained
an opening into a new world, and he was ready to believe that with
no one to twit him with being a changeling or worse, he could avoid
perpetual disgrace and punishment and live at peace.  Nor was he
unwilling to promise Mrs. Woodford to say daily, and especially when
tempted, one or two brief collects and ejaculations which she
selected to teach him, as being as unlike as possible to the long
extempore exercises which had made him hate the very name of prayer.
The Doctor gave him a Greek Testament, as being least connected with
unpleasant recollections.

"And," entreated Peregrine humbly, in a low voice to Mrs. Woodford
on his last Sunday evening, "may I not have something of yours, to
lay hold of, and remember you if--when--the evil spirit tries to lay
hold of me again?"

She would fain have given him a prayer-book, but she knew that would
be treason to his father, and with tears in her eyes and something
of a pang, she gave him a tiny miniature of herself, which had been
her husband's companion at sea, and hung it round his neck with the
chain of her own hair that had always held it.

"It will always keep my heart warm," said Peregrine, as he hid it
under his vest.  There was a shade of disappointment on Anne's face
when he showed it to her, for she had almost deemed it her own.

"Never mind, Anne," he said; "I am coming back a knight like my
uncle to marry you, and then it will be yours again."

"I--I'm not going to wed you--I have another sweetheart," added Anne
in haste, lest he should think she scorned him.

"Oh, that lubberly Charles Archfield!  No fear of him.  He is
promised long ago to some little babe of quality in London.  You may
whistle for him.  So you'd better wait for me."

"It is not true.  You only say it to plague me."

"It's as true as Gospel!  I heard Sir Philip telling one of the big
black gowns one day in the Close, when I was sitting up in a tree
overhead, how they had fixed a marriage between his son and his old
friend's daughter, who would have ever so many estates.  So I'd give
that"--snapping his fingers--"for your chances of being my Lady
Archfield in the salt mud at Fareham."

"I shall ask Lucy.  It is not kind of you, Perry, when you are just
going away."

"Come, come, don't cry, Anne."

"But I knew Charley ever so long first, and--"

"Oh, yes.  Maids always like straight, comely, dull fellows, I know
that.  But as you can't have Charles Archfield, I mean to have you,
Anne--for I shall look to you as the only one as can ever make a
good man of me!  Ay--your mother--I'd wed her if I could, but as I
can't, I mean to have you, Anne Woodford."

"I don't mean to have you!  I shall go to Court, and marry some
noble earl or gentleman!  Why do you laugh and make that face,
Peregrine? you know my father was almost a knight--"

"Nobody is long with you without knowing that!" retorted Peregrine;
"but a miss is as good as a mile, and you will find the earls and
the lords will think so, and be fain to take the crooked stick at
last!"

Mistress Anne tossed her head--and Peregrine returned a grimace.
Nevertheless they parted with a kiss, and for some time the thought
of Peregrine haunted the little girl with a strange, fateful
feeling, between aversion and attraction, which wore off, as a folly
of her childhood, with her growth in years.



CHAPTER VIII: THE RETURN


"I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in
France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behaviour everywhere."

Merchant of Venice.

It was autumn, but in the year 1687, when again Lucy Archfield and
Anne Jacobina Woodford were pacing the broad gravel walk along the
south side of the nave of Winchester Cathedral.  Lucy, in spite of
her brocade skirt and handsome gown of blue velvet tucked up over
it, was still devoid of any look of distinction, but was a round-
faced, blooming, cheerful maiden, of that ladylike thoroughly
countrified type happily frequent in English girlhood throughout all
time.

Anne, or Jacobina, as she tried to be called, towered above her
head, and had never lost that tincture of courtly grace that early
breeding had given her, and though her skirt was of gray wool, and
the upper gown of cherry tabinet, she wore both with an air that
made them seem more choice and stylish than those of her companion,
while the simple braids and curls of her brown hair set off an
unusually handsome face, pale and clear in complexion, with regular
features, fine arched eyebrows over clear brown eyes, a short chin,
and a mouth of perfect outline, but capable of looking very
resolute.

Altogether she looked fit for a Court atmosphere, and perhaps she
was not without hopes of it, for Dr. Woodford had become a royal
chaplain under Charles II, and was now continued in the same office;
and though this was a sinecure as regarded the present King, yet
Tory and High Church views were as much in the ascendant as they
could be under a Romanist king, and there were hopes of a canonry at
Windsor or Westminster, or even higher preferment still, if he were
not reckoned too staunch an Anglican.  That Mrs. Woodford's health
had been failing for many months past would, her sanguine daughter
thought, be remedied by being nearer the best physicians in London,
which had been quitted with regret.  Meantime Lucy's first
experiences of wedding festivities were to be heard.  For the
Archfield family had just returned from celebrating the marriage of
the heir.  Long ago Anne Jacobina had learnt to reckon Master
Charles's pledges of affection among the sports and follies of
childhood, and the strange sense of disappointment and shame with
which she recollected them had perhaps added to her natural reserve,
and made her feel it due to maidenly dignity to listen with zest to
the account of the bride, who was to be brought to supper at Doctor
Woodford's that eve.

"She is a pretty little thing," said Lucy, "but my mother was much
concerned to find her so mere a child, and would not, if she had
seen her, have consented to the marriage for two years to come,
except for the sake of having her in our own hands."

"I thought she was sixteen."

"Barely fifteen, my dear, and far younger than we were at that age.
She cried because her woman said she must leave her old doll behind
her; and when my brother declared that she should have anything she
liked, she danced about, and kissed him, and made him kiss its
wooden face with half the paint rubbed off."

"He did?"

"Oh, yes!  She is like a pretty fresh plaything to him, and they go
about together just like big Towzer and little Frisk at home.  He is
very much amused with her, and she thinks him the finest possession
that ever came in her way."

"Well, so he is."

"That is true; but somehow it is scarcely like husband and wife; and
my mother fears that she may be sickly, for she is so small and
slight that it seems as if you could blow her away, and so white
that you would think she had no blood, except when a little heat
brings the purest rose colour to her cheek, and that, my lady says,
betokens weakliness.  You know, of course, that she is an orphan;
her father died of a wasting consumption, and her mother not long
after, when she was a yearling babe.  It was her grandfather who was
my father's friend in the old cavalier days, and wrote to propose
the contract to my brother not long before his death, when she was
but five years old.  The pity was that she was not sent to us at
once, for the old lord, her grand-uncle, never heeded or cared for
her, but left her to servants, who petted her, but understood
nothing of care of her health or her education, so that the only
wonder is that she is alive or so sweet and winning as she is.  She
can hardly read without spelling, and I had to make copies for her
of Alice Fitzhubert, to show her how to sign the book.  All she knew
she learnt from the old steward, and only when she liked.  My father
laughs and is amused, but my lady sighs, and hopes her portion is
not dearly bought."

"Is not she to be a great heiress?"

"Not of the bulk of the lands--they go to heirs male; but there is
much besides, enough to make Charles a richer man than our father.
I wonder what you will think of her.  My mother is longing to talk
her over with Mrs Woodford."

"And my mother is longing to see my lady."

"I fear she is still but poorly."

"We think she will be much better when we get home," said Anne.  "I
am sure she is stronger, for she walked round the Close yesterday,
and was scarcely tired."

"But tell me, Anne, is it true that poor Master Oliver Oakshott is
dead of smallpox?"

"Quite true.  Poor young gentleman, he was to have married that
cousin of his mother's, Mistress Martha Browning, living at
Emsworth.  She came on a visit, and they think she brought the
infection, for she sickened at once, and though she had it
favourably, is much disfigured.  Master Oliver caught it and died in
three days, and all the house were down with it.  They say poor Mrs.
Oakshott forgot her ailments and went to and fro among them all.  My
mother would have gone to help in their need if she had been as well
as she used to be."

"How is it with the other son?  He was a personable youth enough.  I
saw him at the ship launch in the spring, and thought both lads
would fain have staid for the dance on board but for their grim old
father."

"You saw Robert, but he is not the elder."

"What?  Is that shocking impish urchin whom we used to call Riquet
with the tuft, older than he?"

"Certainly he is.  He writes from time to time to my mother, and
seems to be doing well with his uncle."

"I cannot believe he would come to good.  Do you remember his
sending my brother and cousin adrift in the boat?"

"I think that was in great part the fault of your cousin for mocking
and tormenting him."

"Sedley Archfield was a bad boy!  There's no denying that.  I am
afraid he had good reason for running away from college."

"Have you heard of him since?"

"Yes; he has been serving with the Life-guards in Scotland, and
mayhap he will come home and see us.  My father wishes to see
whether he is worthy to have a troop procured by money or favour for
him, and if they are recalled to the camp at November it will be an
opportunity.  But see--who is coming through the Slype?"

"My uncle.  And who is with him?"

Dr. Woodford advanced, and with him a small slender figure in black.
As the broad hat with sable plume was doffed with a sweep on
approaching the ladies, a dark head and peculiar countenance
appeared, while the Doctor said, "Here is an old acquaintance, young
ladies, whom I met dismounting at the White Hart, and have brought
home with me."

"Mr. Peregrine Oakshott!" exclaimed Anne, feeling bound to offer in
welcome a hand, which he kissed after the custom of the day, while
Lucy dropped a low and formal courtesy, and being already close to
the gate of the house occupied by her family, took her leave till
supper-time.

Even in the few steps before reaching home Anne was able to perceive
that a being very unlike the imp of seven years ago had returned,
though still short in stature and very slight, with long dark hair
hanging straight enough to suggest elf-locks, but his figure was
well proportioned, and had a finished air of high breeding and
training.  His riding suit was point device, from the ostrich
feather in his hat, to the toes of his well made boots, and his
sword knew its place, as well as did those of the gentlemen that
Anne remembered at the Duke of York's when she was a little child.
His thin, marked face was the reverse of handsome, but it was keen,
shrewd, perhaps satirical, and the remarkable eyes were very bright
under dark eyebrows and lashes, and the thin lips, devoid of hair,
showed fine white teeth when parted by a smile of gladness--at the
meeting--though he was concerned to hear that Mrs. Woodford had been
very ill all the last spring, and had by no means regained her
former health, and even in the few words that passed it might be
gathered that Anne was far more hopeful than her uncle.

She did indeed look greatly changed, though her countenance was
sweeter than ever, as she rose from her seat by the fire and held
out her arms to receive the newcomer with a motherly embrace, while
the expression of joy and affection was such as could never once
have seemed likely to sit on Peregrine Oakshott's features.  They
were left together, for Anne had the final touches to put to the
supper, and Dr. Woodford was sent for to speak to one of the
Cathedral staff.

Peregrine explained that he was on his way home, his father having
recalled him on his brother's death, but he hoped soon to rejoin his
uncle, whose secretary he now was.  They had been for the last few
months in London, and were thence to be sent on an embassy to the
young Czar of Muscovy, an expedition to which he looked forward with
eager curiosity.  Mrs. Woodford hoped that all danger of infection
at Oakwood was at an end.

"There is none for me, madam," he said, with a curious writhed
smile.  "Did you not know that they thought they were rid of me when
I took the disease at seven years old, and lay in the loft over the
hen-house with Molly Owens to tend me? and I believe it was thought
to be fairy work that I came out of it no more unsightly than
before."

"You are seeking for compliments, Peregrine; you are greatly
improved."

"Crooked sticks can be pruned and trained," he responded, with a
courteous bow.

"You are a travelled man.  Let me see, how many countries have you
seen?"

"A year at Berlin and Konigsberg--strange places enough, specially
the last, two among the scholars and high roofs of Leyden, half a
year at Versailles and Paris, another year at Turin, whence back for
another half year to wait on old King Louis, then to the Hague, and
the last three months at Court.  Not much like buying and selling
cows, or growing wheat on the slopes, or lying out on a cold
winter's night to shoot a few wild fowl; and I have you to thank for
it, my first and best friend!"

"Nay, your uncle is surely your best."

"Never would he have picked up the poor crooked stick save for you,
madam.  Moreover, you gave me my talisman," and he laid his hand on
his breast; "it is your face that speaks to me and calls me back
when the elf, or whatever it is, has got the mastery of me."

Somewhat startled, Mrs. Woodford would have asked what he meant, but
that intelligence was brought that Mr. Oakshott's man had brought
his mail, so that he had to repair to his room.  Mrs. Woodford had
kept up some correspondence with him, for which his uncle's position
as envoy afforded unusual facilities, and she knew that on the whole
he had been a very different being from what he was at home.  Once,
indeed, his uncle had written to the Doctor to express his full
satisfaction in the lad, on whom he seemed to look like a son, but
from some subsequent letters she had an impression that he had got
into trouble of some sort while at the University of Leyden, and she
was afraid that she must accept the belief that the wild elfish
spirit, as he called it, was by no means extinct in him, any more,
she said to herself, than temptation is in any human creature.  The
question is, What is there to contend therewith?

The guests were, however, about to assemble.  The Doctor, in black
velvet cap and stately silken cassock, sash, and gown, sailed down
to receive them, and again greeted Peregrine, who emerged in black
velvet and satin, delicate muslin cravat and cuffs, dainty silk
stockings and rosetted shoes, in a style such as made the far taller
and handsomer Charles Archfield, in spite of gay scarlet coat,
embroidered flowery vest, rich laced cravat, and thick shining brown
curls, look a mere big schoolboy, almost bumpkin-like in contrast.
However, no one did look at anything but the little creature who
could just reach to hang upon that resplendent bridegroom's arm.
She was in glistening white brocade, too stiff and cumbrous for so
tiny a figure, yet together with the diamonds glistening on her head
and breast giving her the likeness of a fairy queen.  The whiteness
was almost startling, for the neck and arms were like pearl in tint,
the hair flowing in full curls on her shoulders was like shining
flax or pale silk just unwound from the cocoon, and the only relief
of colour was the deep blue of the eyes, the delicate tint of the
lips, and the tender rosy flush that was called up by her
presentation to her hosts by stout old Sir Philip, in plum-coloured
coat and full-bottomed wig, though she did not blush half as much as
the husband of nineteen in his new character.  Indeed, had it not
been for her childish prettiness, her giggle would have been
unpleasing to more than Lady Archfield, who, broad and matronly,
gave a courtesy and critical glance at Peregrine before subsiding
into a seat beside Mrs. Woodford.

Lucy stood among a few other young people from the Close, watching
for Anne, who came in, trim and bright, though still somewhat
reddened in face and arms from her last attentions to the supper--an
elaborate meal on such occasions, though lighter than the mid-day
repast.  There were standing pies of game, lobster and oyster
patties, creams, jellies, and other confections, on which Sir Philip
and his lady highly complimented Anne, who had been engaged on them
for at least a couple of days, her mother being no longer able to
assist except by advice.

"See, daughter Alice, you will learn one day to build up a jelly as
well as to eat it," said Sir Philip good-humouredly, whereat the
small lady pouted a little and said--

"Bet lets me make shapes of the dough, but I won't stir the pans and
get to look like a turkey-cock."

"Ah, ha! and you have always done what you liked, my little madam?"

"Of course, sir! and so I shall," she answered, drawing up her
pretty little head, while Lady Archfield gave hers a boding shake.

"Time, and life, and wifehood teach lessons," murmured Mrs. Woodford
in consolation, and the Doctor changed the subject by asking
Peregrine whether the ladies abroad were given to housewifery.

"The German dames make a great ado about their Wirthschaft, as they
call it," was the reply, "but as to the result!  Pah!  I know not
how we should have fared had not Hans, my uncle's black, been an
excellent cook; but it was in Paris that we were exquisitely
regaled, and our maitre d'hotel would discourse on ragouts and
entremets till one felt as if his were the first of the sciences."

"So it is to a Frenchman," growled Sir Philip.  "French and
Frenchifications are all the rage nowadays, but what will your
father say to your science, my young spark?"

The gesture of head and shoulder that replied had certainly been
caught at Paris.  Mrs. Woodford rushed into the breach, asking about
the Princess of Orange, whom she had often seen as a child.

"A stately and sightly dame is she, madam," Peregrine answered,
"towering high above her little mynheer, who outwardly excels her in
naught save the length of nose, and has the manners of a boor."

"The Prince of Orange is the hope of the country," said Sir Philip
severely.

Peregrine's face wore a queer satirical look, which provoked Sir
Philip into saying, "Speak up, sir! what d'ye mean?  We don't
understand French grins here."

"Nor does he, nor French courtesies either," said Peregrine.

"So much the better!" exclaimed the baronet.

Here the little clear voice broke in, "O Mr. Oakshott, if I had but
known you were coming, you might have brought me a French doll in
the latest fashion."

"I should have been most happy, madam," returned Peregrine; "but
unfortunately I am six months from Paris, and besides, his honour
might object lest a French doll should contaminate the Dutch
puppets."

"But oh, sir, is it true that French dolls have real hair that will
curl?"

"Don't be foolish," muttered Charles impatiently; and she drew up
her head and made an indescribably droll moue of disgust at him.

Supper ended, the party broke up into old and young, the two elder
gentlemen sadly discussing politics over their tall glasses of wine,
the matrons talking over the wedding and Lady Archfield's stay in
London at the parlour fire, and the young folk in a window, waiting
for the fiddler and a few more of the young people who were to join
them in the dance.

The Archfield ladies had kissed the hand of the Queen, and agreed
with Peregrine in admiration of her beauty and grace, though they
did not go so far as he did, especially when he declared that her
eyes were as soft as Mistress Anne's, and nearly of the same
exquisite brown, which made the damsel blush and experience a
revival of the old feeling of her childhood, as if he put her under
a spell.

He went on to say that he had had the good fortune to pick up and
restore to Queen Mary Beatrice a gold and coral rosary which she had
dropped on her way to St. James's Palace from Whitehall.  She
thanked him graciously, letting him kiss her hand, and asking him if
he were of the true Church.  "Imagine my father's feelings," he
added, "when she said, 'Ah! but you will be ere long; I give it you
as a pledge.'"

He produced the rosary, handing it first to Anne, who admired the
beautiful filigree work, but it was almost snatched from her by Mrs.
Archfield, who wound it twice on her tiny wrist, tried to get it
over her head, and did everything but ask for it, till her husband,
turning round, said roughly, "Give it back, madam.  We want no
Popish toys here."

Lucy put in a hasty question whether Master Oakshott had seen much
sport, and this led to a spirited description of the homely earnest
of wild boar hunting under the great Elector of Brandenburg, in
contrast with the splendours of la chasse aux sangliers at
Fontainebleau with the green and gold uniforms, the fanfares on the
curled horns, the ladies in their coaches, forced to attend whether
ill or well, the very boars themselves too well bred not to conform
to the sport of the great idol of France.  And again, he showed the
diamond sleeve buttons, the trophies of a sort of bazaar held at
Marly, where the stalls were kept by the Dauphin, Monsieur, the Duke
of Maine, Madame de Maintenon, and the rest, where the purchases
were winnings at Ombre, made not with coin but with nominal sums,
and other games at cards, and all was given away that was not
purchased.  And again the levees, when the King's wig was handed
through the curtains on a stick.  Peregrine's profane mimicry of the
stately march of Louis Quatorze, and the cringing obeisances of his
courtiers, together with their strutting majesty towards their own
inferiors, convulsed all with merriment; and the bride shrieked out,
"Do it again!  Oh, I shall die of laughing!"

It was very girlish, with a silvery ring, but the elder ladies
looked round, and the bridegroom muttered 'Mountebank.'

The fiddler arrived at that moment, and the young people paired off,
the young couple naturally together, and Peregrine, to the surprise
and perhaps discomfiture of more than one visitor, securing Anne's
hand.  The young lady pupils of Madame knew their steps, and Lucy
danced correctly, Anne with an easy, stately grace, Charles
Archfield performed his devoir seriously, his little wife frisked
with childish glee, evidently quite untaught, but Peregrine's light
narrow feet sprang, pointed themselves, and bounded with trained
agility, set off by the tight blackness of his suit.  He was like
one of the grotesque figures shaped in black paper, or as Sir
Philip, looking in from the dining-parlour, observed, "like a light-
heeled French fop."

As a rule partners retained one another all the evening, but little
Mrs. Archfield knew no etiquette, and maybe her husband had pushed
and pulled her into place a little more authoritatively than she
quite approved, for she shook him off, and turning round to
Peregrine exclaimed--

"Now, I will dance with you!  You do leap and hop so high and
trippingly!  Never mind her; she is only a parson's niece!"

"Madam!" exclaimed Charles, in a tone of surprised displeasure; but
she only nodded archly at him, and said, "I must dance with him; he
can jump so high."

"Let her have her way," whispered Lucy, "she is but a child, and it
will be better not to make a pother."

He yielded, though with visible annoyance, asking Anne if she would
put up with a poor deserted swain, and as he led her off muttering,
"That fellow's friskiness is like to be taken out of him at
Oakwood."

Meanwhile the small creature had taken possession of her chosen
partner, who, so far as size went, was far better suited to her than
any of the other men present.  They were dancing something original
and unpremeditated, with twirls and springs, sweeps and bends,
bounds and footings, just as the little lady's fancy prompted,
perhaps guided in some degree by her partner's experience of
national dances.  White and black, they figured about, she with
floating sheeny hair and glistening robes, he trim and tight and
jetty, like fairy and imp!  It was so droll and pretty that talkers
and dancers alike paused to watch them in a strange fascination,
till at last, quite breathless and pink as a moss rosebud, Alice
dropped upon a chair near her husband.  He stood grim, stiff, and
vexed, all the more because Peregrine had taken her fan and was
using it so as to make it wave like butterfly's wings, while poor
Charles looked, as the Doctor whispered to his father, far more
inclined to lay it about her ears.

Sir Philip laughed heartily, for both he and the Doctor had been so
much entranced and amused as to be far more diverted at the lad's
discomfiture than scandalised at the bride's escapade, which they
viewed as child's play.

Perhaps, however, he was somewhat comforted by her later
observation, "He is as ugly as Old Nick, and looks like always
laughing at you; but I wish you could dance like him, Mr. Archfield,
only then you wouldn't be my dear old great big husband, or so
beautiful to look at.  Oh, yes, to be sure, he is nothing but a
skipjack such as one makes out of a chicken bone!"

And Anne meanwhile was exclaiming to her mother, "Oh, madam! how
could they do such a thing?  How could they make poor Charley marry
that foolish ill-mannered little creature?"

"Hush, daughter, you must drop that childish name," said Mrs.
Woodford gravely.

Anne blushed.  "I forgot, madam, but I am so sorry for him."

"There is no reason for uneasiness, my dear.  She is a mere child,
and under such hands as Lady Archfield she is sure to improve.  It
is far better that she should be so young, as it will be the more
easy to mould her."

"I hope there is any stuff in her to be moulded," sighed the maiden.

"My dear child," returned her mother, "I cannot permit you to talk
in this manner.  Yes, I know Mr. Archfield has been as a brother to
you, but even his sister ought not to allow herself to discuss or
dwell on what she deems the shortcomings of his wife."

The mother in her prudence had silenced the girl; but none the less
did each fall asleep with a sad and foreboding heart.  She knew her
child to be good and well principled, but those early days of notice
and petting from the young Princesses of the House of York had never
faded from the childish mind, and although Anne was dutiful,
cheerful, and outwardly contented, the mother often suspected that
over the spinning-wheel or embroidery frame she indulged in day
dreams of heroism, promotion, and grandeur, which might either fade
away in a happy life of domestic duty or become temptations.

Before going away next morning Peregrine entreated that Mistress
Anne might have the Queen's rosary, but her mother decidedly
refused.  "It ought to be an heirloom in your family," said she.

He threw up his hands with one of his strange gestures.



CHAPTER IX: ON HIS TRAVELS


"For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do."

ISAAC WATTS.

Peregrine went off in good spirits, promising a visit on his return
to London, of which he seemed to have no doubt; but no more was
heard of him for ten days.  At the end of that time the Portsmouth
carrier conveyed the following note to Winchester:--

HONOURED AND REVEREND SIR--Seven years since your arguments and
intercession induced my father to consent to what I hoped had
been the rescue of me, body and soul.  I know not whether to ask
of your goodness to make the same endeavour again.  My father
declares that nothing shall induce him again to let me go abroad
with my uncle, and persists in declaring that the compact has
been broken by our visits to Papist lands, nor will aught that I
can say persuade him that the Muscovite abhors the Pope quite as
much as he can.  He likewise deems that having unfortunately
become his heir, I must needs remain at home to thin the timber
and watch the ploughmen; and when I have besought him to let me
yield my place to Robert he replies that I am playing the part of
Esau.  I have written to my uncle, who has been a true father to
me, and would be loth to part from me for his own sake as well as
mine but I know not whether he will be able to prevail; and I
entreat of you, reverend sir, to add your persuasions, for I well
know that it would be my perdition to remain bound where I am.

Commend me to Mrs. Woodford and Mistress Anne.  I trust that the
former is in better health.--I remain, reverend sir, Your humble
servant to command, PEREGRINE OAKSHOTT.

Given at Oakwood House,
This 10th of October 1687.

This was very bad news, but Dr. Woodford knew not how to interfere;
moreover, being in course at the Cathedral, he could not absent
himself long enough for an expedition to Oakwood, through wintry
roads in short days.  He could only write an encouraging letter to
the poor lad, and likewise one to Mr. Horncastle, who under the
Indulgence had a chapel of his own.  The Doctor had kept up the
acquaintance formed by Peregrine's accident, and had come to regard
him with much esteem, and as likely to exercise a wholesome
influence upon his patron.  Nothing more was heard for a week, and
then came another visitor to the Doctor's door, Sir Peregrine
himself, on his way down, at considerable inconvenience, to
endeavour to prevail with his brother to allow him to retain his
nephew in his suite.

"Surely," he said, "my brother had enough of camps in his youth to
understand that his son will be none the worse squire for having
gone a little beyond Hampshire bogs, and learnt what the world is
made of."

"I cannot tell," said Dr. Woodford; "I have my fears that he thinks
the less known of the world the better."

"That might answer with a heavy clod of a lad such as the poor youth
who is gone, and such as, for his own sake and my brother's, I trust
the younger one is, fruges consumere natus; but as for this boy,
dulness and vacancy are precisely what would be the ruin of him.
Let my brother keep Master Robert at home, and give him Oakwood; I
will provide for Perry as I always promised to do."

"If he is wise he will accept the offer," said Dr. Woodford; "but
'tis hard to be wise for others."

"Nothing harder, sir.  I would that I had gone home with Perry, but
mine audience of his Majesty was fixed for the ensuing week, and my
brother's summons was peremptory."

"I trust your honour will prevail," said Mrs. Woodford gently.  "You
have effected a mighty change in the poor boy, and I can well
believe that he is as a son to you."

"Well, madam, yes--as sons go," said the knight in a somewhat
disappointing tone.

She looked at him anxiously, and ventured to murmur a hope so very
like an inquiry, and so full of solicitous hope, that it actually
unlocked the envoy's reserve, and he said, "Ah, madam, you have been
the best mother that the poor youth has ever had!  I will speak
freely to you, for should I fail in overcoming my brother's
prejudices, you will be able to do more for him than any one else,
and I know you will be absolutely secret."

Mrs. Woodford sighed, with forebodings of not long being able to aid
any one in this world, but still she listened with earnest interest
and sympathy.

"Yes, madam, you implanted in him that which yet may conquer his
strange nature.  Your name is as it were a charm to conjure up his
better spirit."

"Of course," she said, "I never durst hope, that he could be tamed
and under control all at once, but--" and she paused.

"He has improved--vastly improved," said the uncle.  "Indeed, when
first I took him with me, while he was still weak, and moreover much
overcome by sea-sickness, while all was strange to him, and he was
relieved by not finding himself treated as an outcast, I verily
thought him meeker than other urchins, and that the outcry against
him was unmerited.  But no sooner had we got to Berlin, and while I
was as yet too busy to provide either masters or occupations for my
young gentleman, than he did indeed make me feel that I had charge
of a young imp, and that if I did not watch the better, it might be
a case of war with his Spanish Majesty.  For would you believe it,
his envoy's gardens joined ours, and what must my young master do,
but sit atop of our wall, making grimaces at the dons and donnas as
they paced the walks, and pelting them from time to time with
walnuts.  Well, I was mindful of your counsel, and did not flog him,
nor let my chaplain do so, though I know the good man's fingers
itched to be at him; but I reasoned with him on the harm he was
doing me, and would you believe it, the poor lad burst into tears,
and implored me to give him something to do, to save him from his
own spirit.  I set him to write out and translate a long roll of
Latin despatches sent up by that pedant Court in Hungary, and I
declare to you I had no more trouble with him till next he was left
idle.  I gave him tutors, and he studied with fervour, and made
progress at which they were amazed.  He learnt the High Dutch faster
than any other of my people, and could soon jabber away in it with
the best of the Elector's folk, and I began to think I had a nephew
who would do me no small credit.  I sent him to perfect his studies
at Leyden, but shall I confess it to you? it was to find that no
master nor discipline could keep him out of the riotings and
quarrels of the worse sort of students.  Nay, I found him laid by
with a rapier thrust in the side from a duel, for no better cause
than biting his thumb at a Scots law student in chapel, his apology
being that to sit through a Dutch sermon drove him crazy.  'Tis not
that he is not trustworthy.  Find employment for the restless demon
that is in him, and all is well with him; moreover, he is full of
wit and humour, and beguiles a long journey or tedious evening at an
inn better than any comrade I ever knew, extracting mirth from all
around, even the very discomforts, and searching to the quick all
that is to be seen.  But if left to himself, the restless demon that
preys on him is sure to set him to something incalculable.  At Turin
it set him to scraping acquaintance with a Capuchin friar, a dirty
rogue whom I would have kept on the opposite side of the street.
That was his graver mood; but what more must he do, but borrow or
steal, I know not how, the ghastly robes of the Confraternity of
Death--the white garb and peaked cap with two holes for the eyes,
wherewith men of all degrees disguise themselves while doing the
pious work of bearing the dead to the grave.  None suspected him,
for the disguise is complete, and a duke may walk unknown beside a
water-carrier, bearing the corpse of a cobbler.  All would have been
well, but that at the very brink of the grave the boy's fiend--'tis
his own word--impelled him to break forth into his wild "Ho! ho!
ho!" with an eldritch shriek, and slipping out of his cerements,
dash off headlong over the wall of the cemetery.  He was not
followed.  I believe the poor body belonged to a fellow whose
salvation was more than doubtful in spite of all the priests could
do, and that the bearers really took him for the foul fiend.  It was
not till a week or two after that the ring of his voice and laugh
caused him to be recognised by one of the Duke of Savoy's gentlemen,
happily a prudent man, loth to cause a tumult against one of my
suite, and he told me all privately in warning.  Ay, and when I
spoke to Peregrine, I found him thoroughly penitent at having
insulted the dead; he had been unhappy ever since, and had actually
bestowed his last pocket-piece on the widow.  He made handsome
apologies in good Italian, which he had picked up as fast as the
German, to the gentleman, who promised that it should go no farther,
and kept his word.  It was the solemnity, Peregrine assured me, that
brought back all the intolerableness of the preachings at home, and
awoke the same demon."

"How long ago was this, sir?"

"About eighteen months."

"And has all been well since?"

"Fairly well.  He has had fuller and more responsible work to do for
me, his turn for languages making him a most valuable secretary; and
in the French Court, really the most perilous of all to a young
man's virtue, he behaved himself well.  It is not debauchery that he
has a taste for, but he must be doing something, and if wholesome
occupations do not stay his appetite, he will be doing mischief.  He
brought on himself a very serious rebuke from the Prince of Orange,
churlishly and roughly given, I allow, but fully merited, for making
grimaces at his acquaintance among the young officers at a military
inspection.  Heaven help the lad if he be left with his father,
whose most lively notion of innocent sport is scratching the heads
of his hogs!"

Nothing could be said in answer save earnest wishes that the knight
might persuade his brother.  Mrs. Woodford wished her brother-in-law
to go with him to add force to his remonstrance; but on the whole it
was thought better to leave the family to themselves, Dr. Woodford
only writing to Major Oakshott, as well as to the youth himself.

The result was anxiously watched for, and in another week, earlier
in the day than Mrs. Woodford was able to leave her room, Sir
Peregrine's horses stopped at the door, and as Anne ascertained by a
peep from the window, he was only accompanied by his servants.

"Yes," he said to the Doctor in his vexation, "one would really
think that by force of eating Southdown mutton my poor brother had
acquired the brains of one of his own rams!  I declare 'tis a
piteous sight to see a man resolute on ruining his son and breaking
his own heart all for conscience sake!"

"Say you so, sir!  I had hoped that the sight of what you have made
of your nephew might have had some effect."

"All the effect it has produced is to make him more determined to
take him from me.  The Hampshire mind abhors foreign breeding, and
the old Cromwellian spirit thinks good manners sprung from the
world, and wit from the Evil One!"

"I can quite believe that Peregrine's courtly airs are not welcomed
here; I could see what our good neighbour, Sir Philip Archfield,
thought of them; but whereas no power on earth could make the young
gentleman a steady-going clownish youth after his father's heart,
methought he might prefer his present polish to impishness."

"So I told him, but I might as well have talked to the horse block.
It is his duty, quotha, to breed his heir up in godly simplicity!"

"Simplicity is all very well to begin with, but once flown, it
cannot be restored."

"And that is what my brother cannot see.  Well, my poor boy must be
left to his fate.  There is no help for it, and all I can hope is
that you, sir, and the ladies, will stand his friend, and do what
may lie in your power to make him patient and render his life less
intolerable."

"Indeed, sir, we will do what we can; I wish that I could hope that
it would be of much service."

"My brother has more respect for your advice than perhaps you
suppose; and to you, madam, the poor lad looks with earnest
gratitude.  Nay, even his mother reaps the benefit of the respect
with which you have inspired him.  Peregrine treats her with a
gentleness and attention such as she never knew before from her bear
cubs.  Poor soul!  I think she likes it, though it somewhat
perplexes her, and she thinks it all French manners.  There is one
more favour, your reverence, which I scarce dare lay before you.
You have seen my black boy Hans?"

"He was with you at Oakwood seven years ago."

"Even so.  I bought the poor fellow when a mere child from a Dutch
skipper who had used him scurvily, and he has grown up as faithful
as a very spaniel, and mightily useful too, not only as body
servant, but he can cook as well as any French maitre d'hotel, froth
chocolate, and make the best coffee I ever tasted; is as honest as
the day, and, I believe, would lay down his life for Peregrine or
me.  I shall be cruelly at a loss without him, but a physician I met
in London tells me it would be no better than murder to take the
poor rogue to so cold a country as Muscovy.  I would leave him to
wait on Perry, but they will not hear of it at Oakwood.  My sister-
in-law wellnigh had a fit every time she looked at him when I was
there before, and I found, moreover, that even when I was at hand,
the servants jeered at the poor blackamoor, gave him his meals
apart, and only the refuse of their own, so that he would fare but
ill if I left him to their mercy.  I had thought of offering him to
Mr. Evelyn of Says Court, who would no doubt use him well, but it
was Peregrine who suggested that if you of your goodness would
receive the poor fellow, they could sometimes meet, and that would
cheer his heart, and he really is far from a useless knave, but is
worth two of any serving-men I ever saw."

To take an additional man-servant was by no means such a great
proposal as it would be in most houses at present.  Men swarmed in
much larger proportion than maids in all families of condition, and
the Doctor was wealthy enough for one--more or less--to make little
difference, but the question was asked as to what wages Hans should
receive.

The knight laughed.  "Wages, poor lad, what should he do with them?
He is but a slave, I tell you.  Meat, clothes, and fire, that is all
he needs, and I will so deal with him that he will serve you in all
faithfulness and obedience.  He can speak English enough to know
what you bid him do, but not enough for chatter with the servants."

So the agreement was made, and poor Hans was to be sent down by the
Portsmouth coach together with Peregrine's luggage.



CHAPTER X: THE MENAGERIE


"The head remains unchanged within,
   Nor altered much the face,
It still retains its native grin,
   And all its old grimace.

"Men with contempt the brute surveyed,
   Nor would a name bestow,
But women liked the motley beast,
   And called the thing a beau."

The Monkies, MERRICK.

The Woodford family did not long remain at Winchester.  Anne
declared the cold to be harming her mother, and became very anxious
to bring her to the milder sea breezes of Portchester, and though
Mrs. Woodford had little expectation that any place would make much
difference to her, she was willing to return to the quiet and repose
of her home under the castle walls beside the tranquil sea.

Thus they travelled back, as soon as the Doctor's Residence was
ended, plodding through the heavy chalk roads as well as the big
horses could drag the cumbrous coach up and down the hills, only
halting for much needed rest at Sir Philip Archfield's red house,
round three sides of a quadrangle, the fourth with a low wall backed
by a row of poplar trees, looking out on the alternate mud and
sluggish waters of Fareham creek, but with a beautiful garden behind
the house.

The welcome was hearty.  Lady Archfield at once conducted Mrs.
Woodford to her own bedroom, where she was to rest and be served
apart, and Anne disrobed her of her wraps, covered her upon the bed,
and at her hostess's desire was explaining what refreshment would
best suit her, when there was a shrill voice at the door:  "I want
Mistress Anne!  I want to show her my clothes and jewels."

"Coming, child, she is coming when she has attended to her mother,"
responded the lady.  "White wine, or red, did you say, Anne, and a
little ginger?"

"Is she never coming?" was again the call; and Lady Archfield
muttering, "Was there ever such an impatient poppet?" released Anne,
who was instantly pounced upon by young Mrs. Archfield.  Linking her
arm into that of her visitor, and thrusting Lucy into the
background, the little heiress proceeded to her own wainscotted
bedroom, bare according to modern views, but very luxurious
according to those of the seventeenth century, and with the toilette
apparatus, scanty indeed, but of solid silver, and with a lavish
amount of perfumery.  Her 'own woman' was in waiting to display and
refold the whole wedding wardrobe, brocade, satin, taffetas,
cambric, Valenciennes, and point d'Alencon.  Anne had to admire each
in detail, and then to give full meed to the whole casket of jewels,
numerous and dazzling as befitted a constellation of heirlooms upon
one small head.  They were beautiful, but it was wearisome to repeat
'Vastly pretty!' 'How exquisite!' 'That becomes you very well,'
almost mechanically, when Lucy was standing about all the time,
longing to exchange the girlish confidences that were burning to
come forth.  'Young Madam,' as every one called her in those times
when Christian names were at a discount, seemed to be jealous of
attention to any one else, and the instant she saw the guest attempt
to converse with her sister-in-law peremptorily interrupted, almost
as if affronted.

Perhaps if Anne had enjoyed freedom of speech with Lucy she would
not have learnt as much as did her mother, for the young are often
more scrupulous as to confidences than their seniors, who view them
as still children, and freely discuss their affairs among
themselves.

So Lady Archfield poured out her troubles:  how her daughter-in-law
refused employment, and disdained instruction in needlework,
housewifery, or any domestic art, how she jangled the spinnet, but
would not learn music, and was unoccupied, fretful, and exacting, a
burthen to herself and every one else, and treating Lucy as the
slave of her whims and humours.  As to such discipline as mothers-
in-law were wont to exercise upon young wives, the least restraint
or contradiction provoked such a tempest of passion as to shake the
tiny, delicate frame to a degree that alarmed the good old matron
for the consequences.  Her health was a continual difficulty, for
her constitution was very frail, every imprudence cost her
suffering, and yet any check to her impulses as to food, exertion,
or encountering weather was met by a spoilt child's resentment.
Moreover, her young husband, and even his father, always thought the
ladies were hard upon her, and would not have her vexed; and as
their presence always brightened and restrained her, they never
understood the full amount of her petulance and waywardness, and
when they found her out of spirits, or out of temper, they charged
all on her ailments or on want of consideration from her mother and
sister-in-law.

Poor Lady Archfield, it was trying for her that her husband should
be nearly as blind as his son.  The young husband was wonderfully
tender, indulgent, and patient with the little creature, but it
would not be easy to say whether the affection were not a good deal
like that for his dog or his horse, as something absolutely his own,
with which no one else had a right to interfere.  It was a relief to
the family that she always wanted to be out of doors with him
whenever the weather permitted, nay, often when it was far from
suitable to so fragile a being; but if she came home aching and
crying ever so much with chill or fatigue, even if she had to keep
her bed afterwards, she was equally determined to rush out as soon
as she was up again, and as angry as ever at remonstrance.

Charles was gone to try a horse; and as the remains of the effects
of her last imprudence had prevented her accompanying him, the
arrival of the guests had been a welcome diversion to the monotony
of the morning.

He was, however, at home again by the time the dinner-bell summoned
the younger ladies from the inspection of the trinkets and the
gentlemen from the live stock, all to sit round the heavy oaken
table draped with the whitest of napery, spun by Lady Archfield in
her maiden days, and loaded with substantial joints, succeeded by
delicacies manufactured by herself and Lucy.

As to the horse, Charles was fairly satisfied, but 'that fellow,
young Oakshott, had been after him, and had the refusal.'

"Don't you be outbid, Mr. Archfield," exclaimed the wife.  "What is
the matter of a few guineas to us?"

"Little fear," replied Charles.  "The old Major is scarcely like to
pay down twenty gold caroluses, but if he should, the bay is his."

"Oh, but why not offer thirty?" she cried.

Charles laughed.  "That would be a scurvy trick, sweetheart, and if
Peregrine be a crooked stick, we need not be crooked too."

"I was about to ask," said the Doctor, "whether you had heard aught
of that same young gentleman."

"I have seen him where I never desire to see him again," said Sir
Philip, "riding as though he would be the death of the poor hounds."

"Nick Huntsman swears that he bewitches them," said Charles, "for
they always lose the scent when he is in the field, but I believe
'tis the wry looks of him that throw them all out."

"And I say," cried the inconsistent bride, "that 'tis all jealousy
that puts the gentlemen beside themselves, because none of them can
dance, nor make a bow, nor hand a cup of chocolate, nor open a gate
on horseback like him."

"What does a man on horseback want with opening gates?" exclaimed
Charles.

"That's your manners, sir," said young Madam with a laugh.  "What's
the poor lady to do while her cavalier flies over and leaves her in
the lurch?"

Her husband did not like the general laugh, and muttered, "You know
what I mean well enough."

"Yes, so do I!  To fumble at the fastening till your poor beast can
bear it no longer and swerves aside, and I sit waiting a good half
hour before you bring down your pride enough to alight and open it."

"All because you _would_ send Will home for your mask."

"You would like to have had my poor little face one blister with the
glare of sun and sea."

"Blisters don't come at this time of the year."

"No, nor to those who have no complexion to lose," she cried, with a
triumphant look at the two maidens, who certainly had not the lilies
nor the roses that she believed herself to have, though, in truth,
her imprudences had left her paler and less pretty than at
Winchester.

If this were the style of the matrimonial conversations, Anne again
grieved for her old playfellow, and she perceived that Lucy looked
uncomfortable; but there was no getting a moment's private
conversation with her before the coach was brought round again for
the completion of the journey.  All that neighbourhood had a very
bad reputation as the haunt of lawless characters, prone to
violence; and though among mere smugglers there was little danger of
an attack on persons well known like the Woodford family, they were
often joined by far more desperate men from the seaport, so that it
was never desirable to be out of doors after dark.

The journey proved to have been too much for Mrs. Woodford's
strength, and for some days she was so ill that Anne never left the
house; but she rallied again, and on coming downstairs became very
anxious that her daughter should not be more confined by attendance
than was wholesome, and insisted on every opportunity of change or
amusement being taken.

One day as Anne was in the garden she was surprised by Peregrine
dashing up on horseback.

"You would not take the Queen's rosary before," he said.  "You must
now, to save it.  My father has smelt it out.  He says it is
teraphim!  Micah--Rachel, what not, are quoted against it.  He would
have smashed it into fragments, but that Martha Browning said it
would be a pretty bracelet.  I'd sooner see it smashed than on her
red fist.  To think of her giving in to such vanities!  But he said
she might have it, only to be new strung.  When he was gone she
said, 'I don't really want the thing, but it was hard you should
lose the Queen's keepsake.  Can you bestow it safely?'  I said I
could, and brought it hither.  Keep it, Anne, I pray."

Anne hesitated, and referred it to her mother upstairs.

"Tell him," she said, "that we will keep it in trust for him as a
royal gift."

Peregrine was disappointed, but had to be content.

A Dutch vessel from the East Indies had brought home sundry strange
animals, which were exhibited at the Jolly Mariner at Portsmouth,
and thus announced on a bill printed on execrable paper, brought out
to Portchester by some of the market people:--

"An Ellefante twice the Bignesse of an Ocks, the Trunke or Probosces
whereof can pick up a Needle or roote up an Ellum Tree.  Also the
Royale Tyger, the same as has slaine and devoured seven yonge Gentoo
babes, three men, and two women at the township at Chuttergong, nie
to Bombay, in the Eastern Indies.  Also the sacred Ape, worshipped
by the heathen of the Indies, the Dancing Serpent which weareth
Spectacles, and whose Bite is instantly mortal, with other rare
Fish, Fowle, Idols and the like.  All to be seene at the Charge of
one Groat per head."

Mrs. Woodford declared herself to be extremely desirous that her
daughter should see and bring home an account of all these marvels,
and though Anne had no great inclination to face the tiger with the
formidable appetite, she could not refuse to accompany her uncle.

The Jolly Mariner stood in one of the foulest and narrowest of the
streets of the unsavoury seaport, and Dr. Woodford sighed, and
fumed, and wished for a good pipe of tobacco more than once as he
hesitated to try to force a way for his niece through the throng
round the entrance to the stable-yard of the Jolly Mariner,
apparently too rough to pay respect to gown and cassock.  Anne clung
to his arm, ready to give up the struggle, but a voice said, "Allow
me, sir.  Mistress Anne, deign to take my arm."

It was Peregrine Oakshott with his brother Robert, and she could
hardly tell how in a few seconds she had been squeezed through the
crowd, and stood in the inn-yard, in a comparatively free space, for
a groat was a prohibitory charge to the vulgar.

"Peregrine!  Master Oakshott!"  They heard an exclamation of
pleasure, at which Peregrine shrugged his shoulders and looked
expressively at Anne, before turning to receive the salutations of
an elderly gentleman and a tall young woman, very plainly but
handsomely clad in mourning deeper than his own.  She was of a tall,
gaunt, angular figure, and a face that never could have been
handsome, and now bore evident traces of smallpox in redness and
pits.

Dr. Woodford knew the guardian Mr. Browning, and his ward Mistress
Martha and Mistress Anne Jacobina were presented to one another.
The former gave a good-humoured smile, as if perfectly unconscious
of her own want of beauty, and declared she had hoped to meet all
the rest here, especially Mistress Anne Woodford, of whom she had
heard so much.  There was just a little patronage about the tone
which repelled the proud spirit that was in Anne, and in spite of
the ordinary dread and repulsion she felt for Peregrine, she was
naughty enough to have the feeling of a successful beauty when
Peregrine most manifestly turned away from the heiress in her silk
and velvet to do the honours of the exhibition to the parson's
niece.

The elephant was fastened by the leg to a post, which perhaps he
could have pulled up, had he thought it worth his while, but he was
well contented to wave his trunk about and extend its clever finger
to receive contributions of cakes and apples, and he was too well
amused to resort to any strong measures.  The tiger, to Anne's
relief, proved to be only a stuffed specimen.  Peregrine, who had
seen a good many foreign animals in Holland, where the Dutch
captains were in the habit of bringing curiosities home for the
delectation of their families in their Lusthausen, was a very
amusing companion, having much to tell about bird and beast, while
Robert stood staring with open mouth.  The long-legged secretary and
the beautiful doves were, however, only stuffed, but Anne was much
entertained at second hand with the relation of the numerous
objects, which on the word of a Leyden merchant had been known to
disappear in the former bird's capacious crop, and with stories of
the graceful dancing of the cobra, though she was not sorry that the
present specimen was only visible in a bottle of arrack, where his
spectacled hood was scarcely apparent.  Presently a well known
shrill young voice was heard.  "Yes, yes, I know I shall swoon at
that terrible tiger!  Oh, don't!  I can't come any farther."

"Why, you would come, madam," said Charles.

"Yes, yes! but--oh, there's a two-tailed monster!  I know it is the
tiger!  It is moving!  I shall die if you take me any farther."

"Plague upon your folly, madam!  It is only the elephant," said a
gruffer, rude voice.

"Oh, it is dreadful!  'Tis like a mountain!  I can't!  Oh no, I
can't!"

"Come, madam, you have brought us thus far, you must come on, and
not make fools of us all," said Charles's voice.  "There's nothing
to hurt you."

Anne, understanding the distress and perplexity, here turned back to
the passage into the court, and began persuasively to explain to
little Mrs. Archfield that the tiger was dead, and only a skin, and
that the elephant was the mildest of beasts, till she coaxed forward
that small personage, who had of course never really intended to
turn back, supported and guarded as she was by her husband, and
likewise by a tall, glittering figure in big boots and a handsome
scarlet uniform and white feather who claimed her attention as he
strode into the court.  "Ha!  Mistress Anne and the Doctor on my
life.  What, don't you know me?"

"Master Sedley Archfield!" said the Doctor; "welcome home, sir!
'Tis a meeting of old acquaintance.  You and this gentleman are both
so much altered that it is no wonder if you do not recognise one
another at once."

"No fear of Mr. Perry Oakshott not being recognised," said Sedley
Archfield, holding out his hand, but with a certain sneer in his
rough voice that brought Peregrine's eyebrows together.  "Kenspeckle
enough, as the fools of Whigs say in Scotland."

"Are you long from Scotland, sir?" asked Dr. Woodford, by way of
preventing personalities.

"Oh ay, sir; these six months and more.  There's not much more sport
to be had since the fools of Cameronians have been pretty well got
under, and 'tis no loss to be at Hounslow."

"And oh, what a fright!" exclaimed Mrs. Archfield, catching sight of
the heiress.  "Keep her away!  She makes me ill."

They were glad to divert her attention to feeding the elephant, and
she was coquetting a little about making up her mind to approach
even the defunct tiger, while she insisted on having the number of
his victims counted over to her.  Anne asked for Lucy, to whom she
wanted to show the pigeons, but was answered that, "my lady wanted
Lucy at home over some matter of jellies and blancmanges."

Charles shrugged his shoulders a little and Sedley grumbled to Anne.
"The little vixen sets her heart on cates that she won't lay a
finger to make, and poor Lucy is like to be no better than a cook-
maid, while they won't cross her, for fear of her tantrums."

At that instant piercing screams, shriek upon shriek, rang through
the court, and turning hastily round, Anne beheld a little monkey
perched on Mrs. Archfield's head, having apparently leapt thither
from the pole to which it was chained.

The keeper was not in sight, being in fact employed over a sale of
some commodities within.  There was a general springing to the
rescue.  Charles tried to take the creature off, Sedley tugged at
the chain fastened to a belt round its body, but the monkey held
tight by the curls on the lady's forehead with its hands, and
crossed its legs round her neck, clasping the hands so that the
effect of the attempts of her husband and his cousin was only to
throttle her, so that she could no longer scream and was almost in a
fit, when on Peregrine holding out a nut and speaking coaxingly in
Dutch, the monkey unloosed its hold, and with another bound was on
his arm.  He stood caressing and feeding it, talking to it in the
same tongue, while it made little squeaks and chatterings, evidently
delighted, though its mournful old man's visage still had the same
piteous expression.  There was something most grotesque and almost
weird in the sight of Peregrine's queer figure toying with its odd
hands which seemed to be in black gloves, and the strange language
he talked to it added to the uncanny effect.  Even the Doctor felt
it as he stood watching, and would have muttered 'Birds of a
feather,' but that the words were spoken more gruffly and plainly by
Sedley Archfield, who said something about the Devil and his dam,
which the good Doctor did not choose to hear, and only said to
Peregrine, "You know how to deal with the jackanapes."

"I have seen some at Leyden, sir.  This is a pretty little beast."

Pretty!  There was a recoil in horror, for the creature looked to
the crowd demoniacal.  Something the same was the sensation of
Charles, who, assisted by Anne and Martha, had been rather carrying
than leading his wife into the inn parlour, where she immediately
had a fit of hysterics--vapours, as they called it--bringing all the
women of the inn about her, while Martha and Anne soothed her as
best they could, and he was reduced to helplessly leaning out at the
bay window.

When the sobs and cries subsided, under cold water and essences
without and strong waters within, and the little lady in Martha's
strong arms, between the matronly coaxing of the fat hostess and the
kind soothings of the two young ladies, had been restored to
something of equanimity, Mistress Martha laid her down and said with
the utmost good humour and placidity to the young husband, "Now I'll
go, sir.  She is better now, but the sight of my face might set her
off again."

"Oh, do not say so, madam.  We are infinitely obliged.  Let her
thank you."

But Martha shook her hand and laughed, turning to leave the room, so
that he was fain to give her his arm and escort her back to her
guardian.

Then ensued a scream.  "Where's he going?  Mr. Archfield, don't
leave me."

"He is only taking Mistress Browning back to her guardian," said
Anne.

"Eh? oh, how can he?  A hideous fright!" she cried.

To say the truth, she was rather pleased to have had such a dreadful
adventure, and to have made such a commotion, though she protested
that she must go home directly, and could never bear the sight of
those dreadful monsters again, or she should die on the spot.

"But," said she, when the coach was at the door, and Anne had
restored her dress to its dainty gaiety, "I must thank Master
Peregrine for taking off that horrible jackanapes."

"Small thanks to him," said Charles crossly.  "I wager it was all
his doing out of mere spite."

"He is too good a beau ever to spite _me_," said Mrs. Alice, her
head a little on one side.

"Then to show off what he could do with the beast--Satan's imp, like
himself."

"No, no, Mr. Archfield," pleaded Anne, "that was impossible; I saw
him myself.  He was with that sailor-looking man measuring the
height of the secretary bird."

"I believe you are always looking after him," grumbled Charles.  "I
can't guess what all the women see in him to be always gazing after
him."

"Because he is so charmingly ugly," laughed the young wife, tripping
out in utter forgetfulness that she was to die if she went near the
beasts again.  She met Peregrine half way across the yard with
outstretched hands, exclaiming--

"O Mr. Oakshott! it was so good in you to take away that nasty
beast."

"I am glad, madam, to have been of use," said Peregrine, bowing and
smiling, a smile that might explain something of his fascination.
"The poor brute was only drawn, as all of our kind are.  He wanted
to see so sweet a lady nearer.  He is quite harmless.  Will you
stroke him?  See, there he sits, gazing after you.  Will you give
him a cake and make friends?"

"No, no, madam, it cannot be; it is too much," grumbled Charles; and
though Alice had backed at first, perhaps for the pleasure of
teasing him, or for that of being the centre of observation,
actually, with all manner of pretty airs and graces, she let herself
be led forward, lay a timid hand on the monkey's head, and put a
cake in its black fingers, while all the time Peregrine held it fast
and talked Dutch to it; and Charles Archfield hardly contained his
rage, though Anne endeavoured to argue the impossibility of
Peregrine's having incited the attack; and Sedley blustered that
they ought to interfere and make the fellow know the reason why.
However, Charles had sense enough to know that though he might
exhale his vexation in grumbling, he had no valid cause for
quarrelling with young Oakshott, so he contented himself with black
looks and grudging thanks, as he was obliged to let Peregrine hand
his wife into her carriage amid her nods and becks and wreathed
smiles.

They would have taken Dr. Woodford and his niece home in the coach,
but Anne had an errand in the town, and preferred to return by boat.
She wanted some oranges and Turkey figs to allay her mother's
constant thirst, and Peregrine begged permission to accompany them,
saying that he knew where to find the best and cheapest.
Accordingly he took them to a tiny cellar, in an alley by the boat
camber, where the Portugal oranges certainly looked riper and were
cheaper than any that Anne had found before; but there seemed to be
an odd sort of understanding between Peregrine and the withered old
weather-beaten sailor who sold them, such as rather puzzled the
Doctor.

"I hope these are not contraband," he said to Peregrine, when the
oranges had been packed in the basket of the servant who followed
them.

Peregrine shrugged his shoulders.

"Living is hard, sir.  Ask no questions."

The Doctor looked tempted to turn back with the fruit, but such
doubts were viewed as ultra scruples, and would hardly have been
entertained even by a magistrate such as Sir Philip Archfield.

It was not a time for questions, and Peregrine remained with them
till they embarked at the point, asking to be commended to Mrs.
Woodford, and hoping soon to come and see both her and poor Hans, he
left them.



CHAPTER XI: PROPOSALS


"Hear me, ye venerable core,
   As counsel for poor mortals,
That frequent pass douce Wisdom's door
   For glaikit Folly's portals;
I for their thoughtless, careless sakes
   Would here propose defences,
Their doucie tricks, their black mistakes,
   Their failings and mischances."

BURNS.

For seven years Anne Woodford had kept Lucy Archfield's birthday
with her, and there was no refusing now, though there was more and
more unwillingness to leave Mrs. Woodford, whose declining state
became so increasingly apparent that even the loving daughter could
no longer be blind to it.

The coach was sent over to fetch Mistress Anne to Fareham, and the
invalid was left, comfortably installed in her easy-chair by the
parlour fire, with a little table by her side, holding a hand-bell,
a divided orange, a glass of toast and water, and the Bible and
Prayer-book, wherein lay her chief studies, together with a little
needlework, which still amused her feeble hands.  The Doctor,
divided between his parish, his study, and his garden, had promised
to look in from time to time.

Presently, however, the door was gently tapped, and on her call
"Come in," Hans, all one grin, admitted Peregrine Oakshott, bowing
low in his foreign, courteous manner, and entreating her to excuse
his intrusion, "For truly, madam, in your goodness is my only hope."

Then he knelt on one knee and kissed the hand she held out to him,
while desiring him to speak freely to her.

"Nay, madam, I fear I shall startle you, when I lay before you the
only chance that can aid me to overcome the demon that is in me."

"My poor--"

"Call me your boy, as when I was here seven years ago.  Let me sit
at your feet as then and listen to me."

"Indeed I will, my dear boy," and she laid her hand on his dark
head.  "Tell me all that is in your heart."

"Ah, dear lady, that is not soon done!  You and Mistress Anne, as
you well know, first awoke me from my firm belief that I was none
other than an elf, and yet there have since been times when I have
doubted whether it were not indeed the truth."

"Nay, Peregrine, at years of discretion you should have outgrown old
wives' tales."

"Better be an elf at once--a soulless creature of the elements--than
the sport of an evil spirit doomed to perdition," he bitterly
exclaimed.

"Hush, hush!  You know not what you are saying!"

"I know it too well, madam!  There are times when I long and wish
after goodness--nay, when Heaven seems open to me--and I resolve and
strive after a perfect life; but again comes the wild, passionate
dragging, as it were, into all that at other moments I most loathe
and abhor, and I become no more my own master.  Ah!"

There was misery in his voice, and he clutched the long hair on each
side of his face with his hands.

"St. Paul felt the same," said Mrs. Woodford gently.

"'Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?'  Ay, ay! how
many times have I not groaned that forth!  And so, if that Father at
Turin were right, I am but as Paul was when he was Saul.  Madam, is
it not possible that I was never truly baptized?" he cried eagerly.

"Impossible, Peregrine.  Was not Mr. Horncastle chaplain when you
were born?  Yes; and I have heard my brother say that both he and
your father held the same views as the Church upon baptism."

"So I thought; but Father Geronimo says that at the best it was but
heretical baptism, and belike hastily and ineffectually performed."

"Put that aside, Peregrine.  It is only a temptation and
allurement."

"It is an allurement you know not how strong," said the poor youth.
"Could I only bring myself to believe all that Father Geronimo does,
and fall down before his Madonnas and saints, then could I hope for
a new nature, and scourge away the old"--he set his teeth as he
spoke--"till naught remains of the elf or demon, be it what it
will."

"Ah, Peregrine, scourging will not do it, but grace will, and that
grace is indeed yours, as is proved by these higher aspirations."

"I tell you, madam, that if I live on as I am doing now, grace will
be utterly stifled, if it ever abode in me at all.  Every hour that
I live, pent in by intolerable forms and immeasurable dulness, the
maddening temper gains on me!  Nay, I have had to rush out at night
and swear a dozen round oaths before I could compose myself to sit
down to the endless supper.  Ah, I shock you, madam! but that's not
the worst I am driven to do."

"Nor the way to bring the better spirit, my poor youth.  Oh, that
you would pray instead of swearing!"

"I cannot pray at Oakwood.  My father and Mr. Horncastle drive away
all the prayers that ever were in me, and I mean nothing, even
though I keep my word to you."

"I am glad you do that.  While I know you are doing so, I shall
still believe the better angel will triumph."

"How can aught triumph but hatred and disgust where I am pinned
down?  Listen, madam, and hear if good spirits have any chance.  We
break our fast, ere the sun is up, on chunks of yesterday's half-
dressed beef and mutton.  If I am seen seeking for a morsel not half
raw, I am rated for dainty French tastes; and the same with the sour
smallest of beer.  I know now what always made me ill-tempered as a
child, and I avoid it, but at the expense of sneers on my French
breeding, even though my drink be fair water; for wine, look you, is
a sinful expense, save for after dinner, and frothed chocolate for a
man is an invention of Satan.  The meal is sauced either with blame
of me, messages from the farm-folk, or Bob's exploits in the chase.
Then my father goes his rounds on the farm, and would fain have me
with him to stand knee-deep in mire watching the plough, or feeling
each greasy and odorous old sheep in turn to see if it be ready for
the knife, or gloating over the bullocks or swine, or exchanging
auguries with Thomas Vokes on this or that crop.  Faugh!  And I am
told I shall never be good for a country gentleman if I contemn such
matters!  I say I have no mind to be a country gentleman, whereby I
am told of Esau till I am sick of his very name."

"But surely you have not always to follow on this round?"

"Oh no!  I may go out birding with Bob, who is about as lively as an
old jackass, or meet the country boobies for a hunt, and be pointed
at as the Frenchman, and left to ride alone; or there's mine own
chamber, when the maids do not see fit to turn me out with their
pails and besoms, as they do at least twice a week--I sit there in
my cloak and furs (by the way, I am chidden for an effeminate fop if
ever I am seen in them).  I would give myself to books, as my uncle
counselled, but what think you?  By ill hap Bob, coming in to ask
some question, found me studying the Divina Commedia of Dante
Alighieri, and hit upon one of the engravings representing the
torments of purgatory.  What must he do but report it, and
immediately a hue and cry arises that I am being corrupted with
Popish books.  In vain do I tell them that their admirable John
Milton, the only poet save Sternhold and Hopkins that my father
deems not absolute pagan, knew, loved, and borrowed from Dante.  All
my books are turned over as ruthlessly as ever Don Quixote's by the
curate and the barber, and whatever Mr. Horncastle's erudition
cannot vouch for is summarily handed over to the kitchen wench to
light the fires.  The best of it is that they have left me my
classics, as though old Terence and Lucan were lesser heathens than
the great Florentine.  However, I have bribed the young maid, and
rescued my Dante and Boiardo with small damage, but I dare not read
them save with door locked."

Mrs. Woodford could scarcely shake her head at the disobedience, and
she asked if there were really no other varieties.

"Such as fencing with that lubber Robert, and trying to bend his
stiff limbs to the noble art of l'escrime.  But that is after dinner
work.  There is the mountain of half-raw flesh to be consumed first,
and then my father, with Mr. Horncastle and Bob discuss on what they
call the news--happy if a poor rogue has been caught by Tom
Constable stealing faggots.  'Tis argument for a week--almost equal
to the price of a fat mutton at Portsmouth.  My father and the
minister nod in due time over their ale-cup, and Bob and I go our
ways till dark, or till the house bell rings for prayers and
exposition.  Well, dear good lady, I will not grieve you by telling
you how often they make me wish to be again the imp devoid of every
shred of self-respect, and too much inured to flogging to heed what
my antics might bring on me."

"I am glad you have that shred of self respect; I hope indeed it is
some higher respect."

"Well, I can never believe that Heaven meant to be served by mortal
dullness.  Seven years have only made old Horncastle blow his horn
to the same note, only more drearily."

"I can see indeed that it is a great trial to one used to the life
of foreign Courts and to interest in great affairs like you, my poor
Peregrine; but what can I say but to entreat you to be patient, try
to find interest, and endeavour to win your father's confidence so
that he may accord you more liberty?  Did I not hear that your
attention made your mother's life happier?"

Peregrine laughed.  "My mother!  She has never seen aught but
boorishness all her life, and any departure therefrom seems to her
unnatural.  I believe she is as much afraid of my courtesy as ever
she was of my mischief, and that in her secret heart she still
believes me a changeling.  No, Madam Woodford, there is but one way
to save me from the frenzy that comes over me."

"Your father has already been entreated to let you join your uncle."

"I know it--I know it; but if it were impossible before, that
discovery of Dante has made it impossibilissimo, as the Italian
would say, to deal with him now.  There is a better way.  Give me
the good angel who has always counteracted the evil one.  Give me
Mistress Anne!"

"Anne, my Anne!" exclaimed Mrs. Woodford in dismay.  "O Peregrine,
it cannot be!"

"I knew that would be your first word," said Peregrine, "but verily,
madam, I would not ask it but that I know that I should be another
man with her by my side, and that she would have nothing to fear
from the evil that dies at her approach."

"Ah, Peregrine! you think so now; but no man can be sure of himself
with any mere human care.  Besides, my child is not of degree to
match with you.  Your father would justly be angered if we took
advantage of your attachment to us to encourage you in an
inclination he could never approve."

"I tell you, madam--yes, I must tell you all--my madness and my ruin
will be completed if I am left to my father's will.  I know what is
hanging over me.  He is only waiting till I am of age--at Midsummer,
and the year of mourning is over for poor Oliver--I am sure no one
mourns for him more heartily than I--to bind me to Martha Browning.
If she would only bring the plague, or something worse than
smallpox, to put an end to it at once!"

"But that would make any such scheme all the more impossible."

"Listen, madam; do but hear me.  Even as children the very sight of
Martha Browning's solemn face"--Peregrine drew his countenance down
into a portentous length--"her horror at the slightest word or
sport, her stiff broomstick carriage, all impelled me to the most
impish tricks.  And now--letting alone that pock-marks have seamed
her grim face till she is as ugly as Alecto--she is a Precisian of
the Precisians.  I declare our household is in her eyes sinfully
free!  If she can hammer out a text of Scripture, and write her name
in characters as big and gawky as herself, 'tis as far as her
education has carried her, save in pickling, preserving, stitchery,
and clear starching, the only arts not sinful in her eyes.  If I am
to have a broomstick, I had rather ride off on one at once to the
Witches' Sabbath on the Wartburg than be tied to one for life."

"I should think she would scarce accept you."

"There's no such hope.  She has been bred up to regard one of us as
her lot, and she would accept me without a murmur if I were
Beelzebub himself, horns and tail and all!  Why, she ogles me with
her gooseberry eyes already, and treats me as a chattel of her own."

"Hush, hush, Peregrine!  I cannot have you talk thus.  If your
father had such designs, it would be unworthy of us to favour you in
crossing them."

"Nay, madam, he hath never expressed them as yet.  Only my mother
and brother both refer to his purpose, and if I could show myself
contracted to a young lady of good birth and education, he cannot
gainsay; it might yet save me from what I will not and cannot
endure.  Not that such is by any means my chief and only motive.  I
have loved Mistress Anne with all my heart ever since she shone upon
me like a being from a better world when I lay sick here.  She has
the same power of hushing the wild goblin within me as you have,
madam.  I am another man with her, as I am with you.  It is my only
hope!  Give me that hope, and I shall be able to endure patiently.--
Ah! what have I done?  Have I said too much?"

He had talked longer and more eagerly than would have been good for
the invalid even if the topic had been less agitating, and the
emotion caused by this unexpected complication, consternation at the
difficulties she foresaw, and the present difficulty of framing a
reply, were altogether too much for Mrs. Woodford.  She turned
deadly white, and gasped for breath, so that Peregrine, in terror,
dashed off in search of the maids, exclaiming that their mistress
was in a swoon.

The Doctor came out of his study much distressed, and in Anne's
absence the household was almost helpless in giving the succours in
which she had always been the foremost.  Peregrine lingered about in
remorse and despair, offering to fetch her or to go for the doctor,
and finally took the latter course, thereto impelled by the angry
words of the old cook, an enemy of his in former days.

"No better? no, sir, nor 'tis not your fault if ever she be.  You've
been and frought her nigh to death with your terrifying ways."

Peregrine was Hampshire man enough to know that to terrify only
meant to tease, but he was in no mood to justify himself to old
Patience, so he galloped off to Portsmouth, and only returned with
the doctor to hear that Madam Woodford was in bed, and her daughter
with her.  She was somewhat better, but still very ill, and it was
plain that this was no moment for pressing his suit even had it not
been time for him to return home.  Going to fetch the doctor might
be accepted as a valid reason for missing the evening exhortation
and prayer, but there were mistrustful looks that galled him.

Anne's return was more beneficial to Mrs. Woodford than the doctor's
visit, and the girl was still too ignorant of all that her mother's
attacks of spasms and subsequent weakness implied to be as much
alarmed as to depress her hopes.  Yet Mrs. Woodford, lying awake in
the night, detected that her daughter was restless and unhappy, and
asked what ailed her, and how the visit had gone off.

"You do not wish me to speak of such things, madam," was the answer.

"Tell me all that is in your heart, my child."

It all came out with the vehemence of a reserved nature when the
flood is loosed.  'Young Madam' had been more than usually peevish
and exacting, jealous perhaps at Lucy's being the heroine of the
day, and fretful over a cold which confined her to the house, how
she worried and harassed all around her with her whims, megrims and
complaints could only too well be imagined, and how the entire
pleasure of the day was destroyed.  Lucy was never allowed a
minute's conversation with her friend without being interrupted by a
whine and complaints of unkindness and neglect.

Lady Archfield's ill-usage, as the young wife was pleased to call
every kind of restriction, was the favourite theme next to the
daughter-in law's own finery, her ailments, and her notions of the
treatment befitting her.

And young Mr. Archfield himself, while handing his old friend out to
the carriage that had fetched her, could not help confiding to her
that he was nearly beside himself.  His mother meant to be kind, but
expected too much from one so brought up, and his wife--what could
be done for her?  She made herself miserable here, and every one
else likewise.  Yet even if his father would consent, she was
utterly unfit to be mistress of a house of her own; and poor Charles
could only utter imprecations on the guardians who could have had no
idea how a young woman ought to be brought up.  It was worse than an
ill-trained hound."

Mrs. Woodford heard what she extracted from her daughter with grief
and alarm, and not only for her friends.

"Indeed, my dear child," she said, "you must prevent such
confidences.  They are very dangerous things respecting married
people."

"It was all in a few moments, mamma, and I could not stop him.  He
is so unhappy;" and Anne's voice revealed tears.

"The more reason why you should avoid hearing what he will soon be
very sorry you have heard.  Were he not a mere lad himself, it would
be as inexcusable as it is imprudent thus to speak of the troubles
and annoyances that often beset the first year of wedded life.  I am
sorry for the poor youth, who means no harm nor disloyalty, and is
only treating you as his old companion and playmate; but he has no
right thus to talk of his wife, above all to a young maiden too
inexperienced to counsel him, and if he should attempt to do so
again, promise me, my daughter, that you will silence him--if by no
other means, by telling him so."

"I promise!" said Anne, choking back her tears and lifting her head.
"I am sure I never want to go to Fareham again while that Lieutenant
Sedley Archfield is there.  If those be army manners, they are what
I cannot endure.  He is altogether mean and hateful, above all when
he scoffs at Master Oakshott."

"I am afraid a great many do so, child, and that he often gives some
occasion," put in Mrs. Woodford, a little uneasy that this should be
the offence.

"He is better than Sedley Archfield, be he what he will, madam,"
said the girl.  "He never pays those compliments, those insolent
disgusting compliments, such as he--that Sedley, I mean--when he
found me alone in the hall, and I had to keep him at bay from trying
to kiss me, only Mr. Archfield--Charley--came down the stairs before
he was aware, and called out, 'I will thank you to behave yourself
to a lady in my father's house.'  And then he, Sedley, sneered 'The
Parson's niece!' with such a laugh, mother, I shall never get it out
of my ears.  As if I were not as well born as he!"

"That is not quite the way to take it, my child.  I had rather you
stood on your maidenly dignity and discretion than on your birth.  I
trust he will soon be away."

"I fear he will not, mamma, for I heard say the troop are coming
down to be under the Duke of Berwick at Portsmouth."

"Then, dear daughter, it is the less mishap that you should be thus
closely confined by loving attendance on me.  Now, goodnight.
Compose yourself to sleep, and think no more of these troubles."

Nevertheless mother and daughter lay long awake, side by side, that
night; the daughter in all the flutter of nerves induced by offended
yet flattered feeling--hating the compliment, yet feeling that it
was a compliment to the features that she was beginning to value.
She was substantially a good, well-principled maiden, modest and
discreet, with much dignified reserve, yet it was impossible that
she should not have seen heads turned to look at her in Portsmouth,
and know that she was admired above her contemporaries, so that even
if it brought her inconvenience it was agreeable.  Besides, her
heart was beating with pity for the Archfields.  The elder ones
might have only themselves to blame, but it was very hard for poor
Charles to have been blindly coupled to a being who did not know how
to value him, still harder that there should be blame for a
confidence where neither meant any harm--blame that made her blush
on her pillow with indignant shame.

Perhaps Mrs. Woodford divined these thoughts, for she too meditated
deeply on the perils of her fair young daughter, and in the morning
could not leave her room.  In the course of the day she heard that
Master Peregrine Oakshott had been to inquire for her, and was not
surprised when her brother-in-law sought an interview with her.  The
gulf between the hierarchy and squirearchy was sufficient for a
marriage to be thought a mesalliance, and it was with a smile at the
folly as well as with a certain displeased pity that Dr. Woodford
mentioned the proposal so vehemently pressed upon him by Peregrine
Oakshott for his niece's hand.

"Poor boy!" said Mrs. Woodford, "it is a great misfortune.  You
forbade him of course to speak of such a thing."

"I told him that I could not imagine how he could think us capable
of entertaining any such proposal without his father's consent.  He
seems to have hoped that to pledge himself to us might extort
sanction from his father, not seeing that it would be a highly
improper measure, and would only incense the Major."

"All the more that the Major wishes to pass on Mistress Martha
Browning to him, poor fellow."

"He did not tell me so."

Mrs. Woodford related what he had said to her, and the Doctor could
not but observe:  "The poor Major! his whole treatment of that
unfortunate youth is as if he were resolved to drive him to
distraction.  But even if the Major were ever so willing, I doubt
whether Master Peregrine be the husband you would choose for our
little maid."

"Assuredly not, poor fellow! though if she loved him as he loves
her--which happily she does not--I should scarce dare to stand in
the way, lest she should be the appointed instrument for his good."

"He assured me that he had never directly addressed her."

"No, and I trust he never will.  Not that she is ever like to love
him, although she does not shrink from him quite as much as others
do.  Yet there is a strain of ambition in my child's nature that
might make her seek the elevation.  But, my good brother, for this
and other reasons we must find another home for my poor child when I
am gone.  Nay, brother, do not look at me thus; you know as well as
I do that I can scarcely look to see the spring come in, and I would
fain take this opportunity of speaking to you concerning my dear
daughter.  No one can be a kinder father to her than you, and I
would most gladly leave her to cheer and tend you, but as things
stand around us she can scarce remain here without a mother's
watchfulness.  She is guarded now by her strict attendance on my
infirmity, but when I am gone how will it be?"

"She is as good and discreet a maiden as parent could wish."

"Good and discreet as far as her knowledge and experience go, but
that is not enough.  On the one hand, there is a certain wild temper
about that young Master Oakshott such as makes me never know what he
might attempt if, as he says, his father should drive him to
desperation, and this is a lonely place, with the sea close at
hand."

"Lady Archfield would gladly take charge of her."

Mrs. Woodford here related what Anne had said of Sedley's insolence,
but this the Doctor thought little of, not quite believing in the
regiment coming into the neighbourhood, and Mrs. Woodford most
unwillingly was forced to mention her further unwillingness that her
daughter should be made a party to the troubles caused by the silly
young wife of her old playfellow.

"What more?" said the Doctor, holding up his hands.  "I never
thought a discreet young maid could be such a care, but I suppose
that is the price we pay for her good looks.  Three of them, eh?
What is it that you propose?"

"I should like to place her in the household of some godly and
kindly lady, who would watch over her and probably provide for her
marriage.  That, as you know, was my own course, and I was very
happy in Lady Sandwich's family, till I made the acquaintance of
your dear and honoured brother, and my greater happiness began.  The
first day that I am able I will write to some of my earlier friends,
such as Mrs. Evelyn and Mrs. Pepys, and again there is Mistress
Eleanor Wall, who, I hear, is married to Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe,
and who might accept my daughter for my sake.  She is a warm,
loving, open-hearted creature of Irish blood, and would certainly be
kind to her."

There was no indignity in such a plan.  Most ladies of rank or
quality entertained one or more young women of the clerical or
professional classes as companions, governesses, or ladies' maids,
as the case might be.  They were not classed with the servants, but
had their share of the society and amusements of the house, and a
fair chance of marriage in their own degree, though the comfort of
their situation varied a good deal according to the amiability of
their mistress, from that of a confidential friend to a white slave
and souffre douleur.

Dr. Woodford had no cause to object except his own loss of his
niece's society and return to bachelor life, after the eight years
of companionship which he had enjoyed; but such complications as
were induced by the presence of an attractive young girl were, as he
allowed, beyond him, and he acquiesced with a sigh in the judgment
of the mother, whom he had always esteemed so highly.

The letters were written, and in due time received kind replies.
Mrs. Evelyn proposed that the young gentlewoman should come and stay
with her till some situation should offer itself, and Lady
Oglethorpe, a warm-hearted Irishwoman, deeply attached to the Queen,
declared her intention of speaking to the King or the Princess Anne
on the first opportunity of the daughter of the brave Captain
Woodford.  There might very possibly be a nursery appointment to be
had either at the Cockpit or at Whitehall in the course of the year.

This was much more than Mrs. Woodford had desired.  She had far
rather have placed her daughter immediately under some kind matronly
lady in a private household; but she knew that her good friend was
always eager to promise to the utmost of her possible power.  She
did not talk much of this to her daughter, only telling her that the
kind ladies had promised to befriend her, and find a situation for
her; and Anne was too much shocked to find her mother actually
making such arrangements to enter upon any inquiries.  The
perception that her mother was looking forward to passing away so
soon entirely overset her; she would not think about it, would not
admit the bare idea of the loss.  Only there lurked at the bottom of
her heart the feeling that when the crash had come, and desolation
had over taken her, it would be more dreary at Portchester than
anywhere else; and there might be infinite possibilities beyond for
the King's godchild, almost a knight's daughter.

The next time that Mrs. Woodford heard that Major Oakshott was at
the door inquiring for her health, she begged as a favour that he
would come and see her.

The good gentleman came upstairs treading gently in his heavy boots,
as one accustomed to an invalid chamber.

"I am sorry to see you thus, madam," he said, as she held out her
wasted hand and thanked him.  "Did you desire spiritual
consolations?  There are times when our needs pass far beyond
prescribed forms and ordinances."

"I am thankful for the prayers of good men," said Mrs. Woodford;
"but for truth's sake I must tell you that this was not foremost in
my mind when I begged for this favour."

He was evidently disappointed, for he was producing from his pocket
the little stout black-bound Bible, which, by a dent in one of the
lids, bore witness of having been with him in his campaigns; and
perhaps half-diplomatically, as well as with a yearning for oneness
of spirit, she gratified him by requesting him to read and pray.

With all his rigidity he was too truly pious a man for his
ministrations to contain anything in which, Churchwoman as she was,
she could not join with all her heart, and feel comforting; but ere
he was about to rise from his knees she said, "One prayer for your
son, sir."

A few fervent words were spoken on behalf of the wandering sheep,
while tears glistened in the old man's eyes, and fell fast from
those of the lady, and then he said, "Ah, madam! have I not wrestled
in prayer for my poor boy?"

"I am sure you have, sir.  I know you have a deep fatherly love for
him, and therefore I sent to speak to you as a dying woman."

"And I will gladly hear you, for you have always been good to him,
and, as I confess, have done him more good--if good can be called
the apparent improvement in one unregenerate--than any other."

"Except his uncle," said Mrs. Woodford.  "I fear it is vain to say
that I think the best hope of his becoming a good and valuable man,
a comfort and not a sorrow to yourself, would be to let him even now
rejoin Sir Peregrine."

"That cannot be, madam.  My brother has not kept to the
understanding on which I entrusted the lad to him, but has carried
him into worldly and debauched company, such as has made the sober
and godly habits of his home distasteful to him, and has further
taken him into Popish lands, where he has become infected with their
abominations to a greater extent than I can yet fathom."

Mrs. Woodford sighed and felt hopeless.  "I see your view of the
matter, sir.  Yet may I suggest that it is hard for a young man to
find wholesome occupation such as may guard him from temptation on
an estate where the master is active and sufficient like yourself?"

"Protection from temptation must come from within, madam," replied
the Major; "but I so far agree with you that in due time, when he
has attained his twenty-first year, I trust he will be wedded to his
cousin, a virtuous and pious young maiden, and will have the
management of her property, which is larger than my own."

"But if--if--sir, the marriage were distasteful to him, could it be
for the happiness and welfare of either?"

"The boy has been complaining to you?  Nay, madam, I blame you not.
You have ever been the boy's best friend according to knowledge; but
he ought to know that his honour and mine are engaged.  It is true
that Mistress Martha is not a Court beauty, such as his eyes have
unhappily learnt to admire, but I am acting verily for his true
good.  'Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain.'"

"Most true, sir; but let me say one more word.  I fear, I greatly
fear, that all young spirits brook not compulsion."

"That means, they will not bow their stiff necks to the yoke."

"Ah, sir! but on the other hand, 'Fathers, provoke not your children
to wrath.'  Forgive me, sir; I spoke but out of true affection to
your son, and the fear that what may seem to him severity may not
drive him to some extremity that might grieve you."

"No forgiveness is needed, madam.  I thank you for your interest in
him, and for your plain speaking according to your lights.  I can
but act according to those vouchsafed unto me."

"And we both agree in praying for his true good," said Mrs.
Woodford.

And with a mutual blessing they parted, Mrs. Woodford deeply sorry
for both father and son, for whom she had done what she could.

It was her last interview with any one outside the house.  Another
attack of spasms brought the end, during the east winds of March, so
suddenly as to leave no time for farewells or last words.  When she
was laid to rest in the little churchyard within the castle walls,
no one showed such overwhelming tokens of grief as Peregrine
Oakshott, who lingered about the grave after the Doctor had taken
his niece home, and was found lying upon it late in the evening,
exhausted with weeping.

Yet Sedley Archfield, whose regiment had, after all, been sent to
Portsmouth, reported that he had spent the very next afternoon at a
cock-fight, ending in a carouse with various naval and military
officers at a tavern, not drinking, but contributing to the mirth by
foreign songs, tricks, and jests.



CHAPTER XII: THE ONE HOPE


   "There's some fearful tie
Between me and that spirit world, which God
Brands with His terrors on my troubled mind."

KINGSLEY.

The final blow had fallen upon Anne Woodford so suddenly that for
the first few days she moved about as one in a dream.  Lady
Archfield came to her on the first day, and showed her motherly
kindness, and Lucy was with her as much as was possible under the
exactions of young Madam, who was just sufficiently unwell to resent
attention being paid to any other living creature.  She further
developed a jealousy of Lucy's affection for any other friend such
as led to a squabble between her and her husband, and made her
mother-in-law unwillingly acquiesce in the expediency of Anne's
being farther off.

And indeed Anne herself felt so utterly forlorn and desolate that an
impatience of the place came over her.  She was indeed fond of her
uncle, but he was much absorbed in his studies, his parish, and in
anxious correspondence on the state of the Church, and was scarcely
a companion to her, and without her mother to engross her love and
attention, and cut off from the Archfields as she now was, there was
little to counterbalance the restless feeling that London and the
precincts of the Court were her natural element.  So she wrote her
letters according to her mother's desire, and waited anxiously for
the replies, feeling as if anything would be preferable to her
present unhappiness and solitude.

The answers came in due time.  Mrs. Evelyn promised to try to find a
virtuous and godly lady who would be willing to receive Mistress
Anne Woodford into her family, and Lady Oglethorpe wrote with vaguer
promises of high preferment, which excited Anne's imagination during
those lonely hours that she had to spend while her strict mourning,
after the custom of the time, secluded her from all visitors.

Meantime, in that anxious spring of 1688, when the Church of England
was looking to her defences, the Doctor could not be much at home,
and when he had time to listen to private affairs, he heard reports
which did not please him of Peregrine Oakshott.  That the young men
in the county all abhorred his fine foreign airs was no serious
evil, though it might be suspected that his sharp ironical tongue
had quite as much to do with their dislike as his greater refinement
of manner.

His father was reported to be very seriously displeased with him,
for he openly expressed contempt of the precise ways of the
household, and absented himself in a manner that could scarcely be
attributed to aught but the licentious indulgences of the time; and
as he seldom mingled in the amusements of the young country
gentlemen, it was only too probable that he found a lower grade of
companions in Portsmouth.  Moreover his talk, random though it might
be, offended all the Whig opinions of his father.  He talked with
the dogmatism of the traveller of the glories of Louis XIV, and
broadly avowed his views that the grandeur of the nation was best
established under a king who asked no questions of people or
Parliament, 'that senseless set of chattering pies,' as he was
reported to have called the House of Commons.

He sang the praises of the gracious and graceful Queen Mary
Beatrice, and derided 'the dried-up Orange stick,' as he called the
hope of the Protestants; nor did he scruple to pronounce Popery the
faith of chivalrous gentlemen, far preferable to the whining of
sullen Whiggery.  No one could tell how far all this was genuine
opinion, or simply delight in contradiction, especially of his
father, who was in a constant state of irritation at the son whom he
could so little manage.

And in the height of the wrath of the whole of the magistracy at the
expulsion of their lord-lieutenant, the Earl of Gainsborough, and
the substitution of the young Duke of Berwick, what must Peregrine
do but argue in high praise of that youth, whom he had several times
seen and admired.  And when not a gentleman in the neighbourhood
chose to greet the intruder when he arrived as governor of
Portsmouth, Peregrine actually rode in to see him, and dined with
him.  Words cannot express the Major's anger and shame at such
consorting with a person, whom alike, on account of parentage,
religion, and education, he regarded as a son of perdition.  Yet
Peregrine would only coolly reply that he knew many a Protestant who
would hardly compare favourably with young Berwick.

It was an anxious period that spring of 1688.  The order to read the
King's Declaration of Indulgence from the pulpit had come as a
thunder-clap upon the clergy.  The English Church had only known
rest for twenty-eight years, and now, by this unconstitutional
assumption of prerogative, she seemed about to be given up to be the
prey of Romanists on the one hand and Nonconformists on the other;
though for the present the latter were so persuaded that the
Indulgence was merely a disguised advance of Rome that they were not
at all grateful, expecting, as Mr. Horncastle observed, only to be
the last devoured, and he was as much determined as was Dr. Woodford
not to announce it from his pulpit, whatever might be the
consequence; the latter thus resigning all hopes of promotion.

News letters, public and private, were eagerly scanned.  Though the
diocesan, Bishop Mew, took no active part in the petition called a
libel, being an extremely aged man, the imprisonment of Ken, so
deeply endeared to Hampshire hearts when Canon of Winchester and
Rector of Brighstone, and with the Bloody Assize and the execution
of Alice Lisle fresh in men's memories, there could not but be
extreme anxiety.

In the midst arrived the tidings that a son had been born to the
king--a son instantly baptized by a Roman Catholic priest, and no
doubt destined by James to rivet the fetters of Rome upon the
kingdom, destroying at once the hope of his elder sister's
accession.  Loyal Churchmen like the Archfields still hoped,
recollecting how many infants had been born in the royal family only
to die; but at Oakwood the Major and his chaplain shook their heads,
and spoke of warming pans, to the vehement displeasure of Peregrine,
who was sure to respond that the Queen was an angel, and that the
Whigs credited every one with their own sly tricks.

The Major groaned, and things seemed to have reached a pass very
like open enmity between father and son, though Peregrine still
lived at home, and reports were rife that the year of mourning for
his brother being expired, he was, as soon as he came of age, to be
married to Mistress Martha Browning, and have an establishment of
his own at Emsworth.

Under these circumstances, it was with much satisfaction that Dr.
Woodford said to his niece:  "Child, here is an excellent offer for
you.  Lady Russell, who you know has returned to live at Stratton,
has heard you mentioned by Lady Mildmay.  She has just married her
eldest daughter, and needs a companion to the other, and has been
told of you as able to speak French and Italian, and otherwise well
trained.  What! do you not relish the proposal?"

"Why, sir, would not my entering such a house do you harm at Court,
and lessen your chance of preferment?"

"Think not of _that_, my child."

"Besides," added Anne, "since Lady Oglethorpe has written, it would
not be fitting to engage myself elsewhere before hearing from her
again."

"You think so, Anne.  Lady Russell's would be a far safer, better
home for you than the Court."

Anne knew it, but the thought of that widowed home depressed her.
It might, she thought, be as dull as Oakwood, and there would be
infinite chances of preferment at Court.  What she said, however,
was:  "It was by my mother's wish that I applied to Lady
Oglethorpe."

"That is true, child.  Yet I cannot but believe that if she had
known of Lady Russell's offer, she would gladly and thankfully have
accepted it."

So said the secret voice within the girl herself, but she did not
yet yield to it.  "Perhaps she would, sir," she answered, "if the
other proposal were not made.  'Tis a Whig household though."

"A Whig household is a safer one than a Popish one," answered the
Doctor.  "Lady Russell is, by all they tell me, a very saint upon
earth."

Shall it be owned?  Anne thought of Oakwood, and was not attracted
towards a saint upon earth.  "How soon was the answer to be given?"
she asked.

"I believe she would wish you to meet her at Winchester next week,
when, if you pleased her, you might return with her to Stratton."

The Doctor hoped that Lady Oglethorpe's application might fail, but
before the week was over she forwarded the definite appointment of
Mistress Anne Jacobina Woodford as one of the rockers of his Royal
Highness the Prince of Wales, his Majesty having been graciously
pleased to remember her father's services and his own sponsorship.
"If your friends consider the office somewhat beneath you," wrote
Lady Oglethorpe, "it is still open to you to decline it."

"Oh no; I would certainly not decline it!" cried Anne.  "I could not
possibly do so; could I, sir?"

"Lady Oglethorpe says you might," returned the Doctor; "and for my
part, niece, I should prefer the office of a gouvernante to that of
a rocker."

"Ah, but it is to a Prince!" said Anne.  "It is the way to something
further."

"And what may that something further be?  That is the question,"
said her uncle.  "I will not control you, my child, for the
application to this Court lady was by the wish of your good mother,
who knew her well, but I own that I should be far more at rest on
your account if you were in a place of less temptation."

"The Court is very different from what it was in the last King's
time," pleaded Anne.

"In some degree it may be; but on the other hand, the influence
which may have purified it is of the religion that I fear may be a
seduction."

"Oh no, never, uncle; nothing could make me a Papist."

"Do not be over confident, Anne.  Those who run into temptation are
apt to be left to themselves."

"Indeed, sir, I cannot think that the course my mother shaped for me
can be a running into temptation."

"Well, Anne, as I say, I cannot withstand you, since it was your
mother who requested Lady Oglethorpe's patronage for you, though I
tell you sincerely that I believe that had the two courses been set
before her she would have chosen the safer and more private one.

"Nay but, dear sir," still pleaded the maiden, "what would become of
your chances of preferment if it were known that you had placed me
with Lord Russell's widow in preference to the Queen?"

"Let not that weigh with you one moment, child.  I believe that no
staunch friend of our Protestant Church will be preferred by his
Majesty; nay, while the Archbishop and my saintly friend of Bath and
Wells are persecuted, I should be ashamed to think of promotion.
Spurn the thought from you, child."

"Nay, 'twas only love for you, dear uncle."

"I know it, child.  I am not displeased, only think it over, and
pray over it, since the post will not go out until to-morrow."

Anne did think, but not quite as her uncle intended.  The
remembrance of the good-natured young Princesses, the large stately
rooms, the brilliant dresses, the radiance of wax lights, had
floated before her eyes ever since her removal from Chelsea to the
quieter regions of Winchester, and she had longed to get back to
them.  She really loved her uncle, and whatever he might say, she
longed to push his advancement, and thought his unselfish abnegation
the greater reason for working for him; and in spite of knowing well
that it was only a dull back-stair appointment, she could look to
the notice of Princess Anne, when once within her reach, and
further, with the confidence of youth, believed that she had that
within her which would make her way upwards, and enable her to
confer promotion, honour, and dignity, on all her friends.  Her
uncle should be a Bishop, Charles a Peer (fancy his wife being under
obligations to the parson's niece!), Lucy should have a perfect
husband, and an appointment should be found for poor Peregrine which
his father could not gainsay.  It was her bounden duty not to throw
away such advantages; besides loyalty to her Royal godfather could
not permit his offer to be rejected, and her mother, when writing to
Lady Oglethorpe, must surely have had some such expectation.  Nor
should she be entirely cut off from her uncle, who was a Royal
chaplain; and this was some consolation to the good Doctor when he
found her purpose fixed, and made arrangements for her to travel up
to town in company with Lady Worsley of Gatcombe, whom she was to
meet at Southampton on the 1st of July.

Meantime the Doctor did his best to arm his niece against the
allurements to Romanism that he feared would be held out.  Lady
Oglethorpe and other friends had assured him of the matronly care of
Lady Powys and Lady Strickland to guard their department from all
evil; but he did fear these religious influences and Anne, resolute
to resist all, perhaps not afraid of the conflict, was willing to
arm herself for defence, and listened readily.  She was no less
anxious to provide for her uncle's comfort in his absence, and many
small matters of housewifery that had stood over for some time were
now to be purchased, as well as a few needments for her own outfit,
although much was left for the counsel of her patroness in the
matter of garments.

Accordingly her uncle rode in with her to Portsmouth on a shopping
expedition, and as the streets of the seaport were scarcely safe for
a young woman without an escort, he carried a little book in his
pocket wherewith he beguiled the time that she spent in the
selection of his frying-pans, fire-irons, and the like, and her own
gloves and kerchiefs.  They dined at the 'ordinary' at the inn, and
there Dr. Woodford met his great friends Mr. Stanbury of Botley, and
Mr. Worsley of Gatcombe, in the Isle of Wight, who both, like him,
were opposed to the reading of the Declaration of Indulgence, as
unconstitutional, and deeply anxious as to the fate of the greatly
beloved Bishop of Bath and Wells.  It was inevitable that they
should fall into deep and earnest council together, and when dinner
was over they agreed to adjourn to the house of a friend learned in
ecclesiastical law to hunt up the rights of the case, leaving Anne
to await them in a private room at the Spotted Dog, shown to her by
the landlady.

Anne well knew what such a meeting betided, and with a certain
prevision, had armed herself with some knotting, wherewith she sat
down in a bay window overlooking the street, whence she could see
market-women going home with empty baskets, pigs being reluctantly
driven down to provision ships in the harbour, barrels of biscuit,
salt meat, or beer, being rolled down for the same purpose, sailors
in loose knee-breeches, and soldiers in tall peaked caps and cross-
belts, and officers of each service moving in different directions.
She sat there day-dreaming, feeling secure in her loneliness, and
presently saw a slight figure, daintily clad in gray and black, who
catching her eye made an eager gesture, doffing his plumed hat and
bowing low to her.  She returned his salute, and thought he passed
on, but in another minute she was startled to find him at her side,
exclaiming:  "This is the occasion I have longed and sought for,
Mistress Anne; I bless and thank the fates."

"I am glad to see you once more before I depart," said Anne, holding
out her hand as frankly as she could to the old playfellow whom she
always thought ill-treated, but whom she could never meet without a
certain shudder.

"Then it is true?" he exclaimed.

"Yes; I am to go up with Lady Worsley from Southampton next week."

"Ah!" he cried, "but must that be?" and she felt his strange power,
so that she drew into herself and said haughtily--

"My dear mother wished me to be with her friends, nor can the King's
appointment be neglected, though of course I am extremely grieved to
go."

"And you are dazzled with all these gewgaws of Court life, no
doubt?"

"I shall not be much in the way of gewgaws just yet," said Anne
drily.  "It will be dull enough in some back room of Whitehall or
St. James's."

"Say you so.  You will wish yourself back--you, the lady of my
heart--mine own good angel!  Hear me.  Say but the word, and your
home will be mine, to say nothing of your own most devoted servant."

"Hush, hush, sir!  I cannot hear this," said Anne, anxiously
glancing down the street in hopes of seeing her uncle approaching.

"Nay, but listen!  This is my only hope--my only chance--I must
speak--you doom me to you know not what if you will not hear me!"

"Indeed, sir, I neither will nor ought!"

"Ought!  Ought!  Ought you not to save a fellow-creature from
distraction and destruction?  One who has loved and looked to you
ever since you and that saint your mother lifted me out of the
misery of my childhood."

Then as she looked softened he went on:  "You, you are my one hope.
No one else can lift me out of the reach of the demon that has beset
me even since I was born."

"That is profane," she said, the more severe for the growing
attraction of repulsion.

"What do I care?  It is true!  What was I till you and your mother
took pity on the wild imp?  My old nurse said a change would come to
me every seven years.  That blessed change came just seven years
ago.  Give me what will make a more blessed--a more saving change--
or there will be one as much for the worse."

"But--I could not.  No! you must see for yourself that I could not--
even if I would," she faltered, really pitying now, and unwilling to
give more pain than she could help.

"Could not?  It should be possible.  I know how to bring it about.
Give me but your promise, and I will make you mine--ay, and I will
make myself as worthy of you as man can be of saint-like maid."

"No--no!  This is very wrong--you are pledged already--"

"No such thing--believe no such tale.  My promise has never been
given to that grim hag of my father's choice--no, nor should be
forced from me by the rack.  Look you here.  Let me take this hand,
call in the woman of the house, give me your word, and my father
will own his power to bind me to Martha is at an end."

"Oh, no!  It would be a sin--never.  Besides--" said Anne, holding
her hands tightly clasped behind her in alarm, lest against her will
she should let them be seized, and trying to find words to tell him
how little she felt disposed to trust her heart and herself to one
whom she might indeed pity, but with a sort of shrinking as from
something not quite human.  Perhaps he dreaded her 'besides'--for he
cut her short.

"It would save ten thousand greater sins.  See, here are two ways
before us.  Either give me your word, your precious word, go silent
to London, leave me to struggle it out with my father and your uncle
and follow you.  Hope and trust will be enough to bear me through
the battle without, and within deafen the demon of my nature, and
render me patient of my intolerable life till I have conquered and
can bring you home."

Her tongue faltered as she tried to say such a secret unsanctioned
engagement would be treachery, but he cut off the words.

"You have not heard me out.  There is another way.  I know those who
will aid me.  We can meet in early dawn, be wedded in one of these
churches in all secrecy and haste, and I would carry you at once to
my uncle, who, as you well know, would welcome you as a daughter.
Or, better still, we would to those fair lands I have scarce seen,
but where I could make my way with sword or pen with you to inspire
me.  I have the means.  My uncle left this with me.  Speak!  It is
death or life to me."

This last proposal was thoroughly alarming, and Anne retreated,
drawing herself to her full height, and speaking with the dignity
that concealed considerable terror.

"No, indeed, sir.  You ought to know better than to utter such
proposals.  One who can make such schemes can certainly obtain no
respect nor regard from the lady he addresses.  Let me pass"--for
she was penned up in the bay window--"I shall seek the landlady till
my uncle returns."

"Nay, Mistress Anne, do not fear me.  Do not drive me to utter
despair.  Oh, pardon me!  Nothing but utter desperation could drive
me to have thus spoken; but how can I help using every effort to win
her whose very look and presence is bliss!  Nothing else soothes and
calms me; nothing else so silences the demon and wakens the better
part of my nature.  Have you no pity upon a miserable wretch, who
will be dragged down to his doom without your helping hand?"

He flung himself on his knee before her, and tried to grasp her
hand.

"Indeed, I am sorry for you, Master Oakshott," said Anne,
compassionate, but still retreating as far as the window would let
her; "but you are mistaken.  If this power be in me, which I cannot
quite believe--yes, I see what you want to say, but if I did what I
know to be wrong, I should lose it at once; God's grace can save you
without me."

"I will not ask you to do what you call wrong; no, nor to transgress
any of the ties you respect, you, whose home is so unlike mine; only
tell me that I may have hope, that if I deserve you, I may win you;
that you could grant me--wretched me--a share of your affection."

This was hardest of all; mingled pity and repugnance, truth and
compassion strove within the maiden as well as the strange influence
of those extraordinary eyes.  She was almost as much afraid of
herself as of her suitor.  At last she managed to say, "I am very
sorry for you; I grieve from my heart for your troubles; I should be
very glad to hear of your welfare and anything good of you, but--"

"But, but--I see--it is mere frenzy in me to think the blighted elf
can aspire to be aught but loathsome to any lady--only, at least,
tell me you love no one else."

"No, certainly not," she said, as if his eyes drew it forcibly from
her.

"Then you cannot hinder me from making you my guiding star--hoping
that if yet I can--"

"There's my uncle!" exclaimed Anne, in a tone of infinite relief.
"Stand up, Mr. Oakshott, compose yourself.  Of course I cannot
hinder your thinking about me, if it will do you any good, but there
are better things to think about which would conquer evil and make
you happy more effectually."

He snatched her hand and kissed it, nor did she withhold it, since
she really pitied him, and knew that her uncle was near, and all
would soon be over.

Peregrine dashed away by another door as Dr. Woodford's foot was on
the stairs.  "I have ordered the horses," he began.  "They told me
young Oakshott was here."

"He was, but he is gone;" and she could not quite conceal her
agitation.

"Crimson cheeks, my young mistress?  Ah, the foolish fellow!  You do
not care for him, I trust?"

"No, indeed, poor fellow.  What, did you know, sir?"

"Know.  Yes, truly--and your mother likewise, Anne.  It was one
cause of her wishing to send you to safer keeping than mine seems to
be.  My young spark made his proposals to us both, though we would
not disturb your mind therewith, not knowing how he would have dealt
with his father, nor viewing him, for all he is heir to Oakwood, as
a desirable match in himself.  I am glad to see you have sense and
discretion to be of the same mind, my maid."

"I cannot but grieve for his sad condition, sir," replied Anne, "but
as for anything more--it would make me shudder to think of it--he is
still too like Robin Goodfellow."

"That's my good girl," said her uncle.  "And do you know, child,
there are the best hopes for the Bishops.  There's a gentleman come
down but now from London, who says 'twas like a triumph as the
Bishops sat in their barge on the way to the Tower; crowds swarming
along the banks, begging for their blessing, and they waving it with
tears in their eyes.  The King will be a mere madman if he dares to
touch a hair of their heads.  Well, when I was a lad, Bishops were
sent to the Tower by the people; I little thought to live to see
them sent thither by the King."

All the way home Dr. Woodford talked of the trial, beginning perhaps
to regret that his niece must go to the very focus of Roman
influence in England, where there seemed to be little scruple as to
the mode of conversion.  Would it be possible to alter her
destination? was his thought, when he rose the next day, but loyalty
stood in the way, and that very afternoon another event happened
which made it evident that the poor girl must leave Portchester as
soon as possible.

She had gone out with him to take leave of some old cottagers in the
village, and he finding himself detained to minister to a case of
unexpected illness, allowed her to go home alone for about a quarter
of a mile along the white sunny road at the foot of Portsdown, with
the castle full in view at one end, and the cottage where he was at
the other.  Many a time previously had she trodden it alone, but she
had not reckoned on two officers coming swaggering from a cross road
down the hill, one of them Sedley Archfield, who immediately called
out, "Ha, ha! my pretty maid, no wench goes by without paying toll;"
and they spread their arms across the road so as to arrest her.

"Sir," said Anne, drawing herself up with dignity, "you mistake--"

"Not a whit, my dear; no exemption here;" and there was a horse
laugh, and an endeavour to seize her, as she stepped back, feeling
that in quietness lay her best chance of repelling them, adding--

"My uncle is close by."

"The more cause for haste;" and they began to close upon her.  But
at that moment Peregrine Oakshott, leaping from his horse, was among
them, with the cry--

"Dastards! insulting a lady."

"Lady, forsooth! the parson's niece."

In a few seconds--very long seconds to her--her flying feet had
brought her back to the cottage, where she burst in with--"Pardon,
pardon, sir; come quick; there are swords drawn; there will be
bloodshed if you do not come."

He obeyed the summons without further query, for when all men wore
swords the neighbourhood of a garrison were only too liable to such
encounters outside.  There was no need for her to gasp out more;
from the very cottage door he could see the need of haste, for the
swords were actually flashing, and the two young men in position to
fight.  Anne shook her head, unable to do more than sign her thanks
to the good woman of the cottage, who offered her a seat.  She leant
against the door, and watched as her uncle, sending his voice before
him, called on them to desist.

There was a start, then each drew back and held down his weapon, but
with a menacing gesture on one side, a shrug of the shoulders on the
other, which impelled the Doctor to use double speed in the fear
that the parting might be with a challenge reserved.

He was in time to stand warning, and arguing that if he pardoned the
slighting words and condoned the insult to his niece, no one had a
right to exact vengeance; and in truth, whatever were his arguments,
he so dealt with the two young men as to force them into shaking
hands before they separated, though with a contemptuous look on
either side--a scowl from Sedley, a sneer from Peregrine, boding ill
for the future, and making him sigh.

"Ah! sister, sister, you judged aright.  Would that I could have
sent the maid sooner away rather than that all this ill blood should
have been bred.  Yet I may only be sending her to greater temptation
and danger.  But she is a good maiden; God bless her and keep her
here and there, now and for evermore, as I trust He keepeth our good
Dr. Ken in this sore strait.  The trial may even now be over.  Ah,
my child, here you are!  Frightened were you by that rude fellow?
Nay, I believe you were almost equally terrified by him who came to
the rescue.  You will soon be out of their reach, my dear."

"Yes, that is one great comfort in going," sighed Anne.  One
comfort--yes--though she would not have stayed had the choice been
given her now.  And shall the thought be told that flashed over her
and coloured her cheeks with a sort of shame yet of pleasure, "I
surely must have power over men!  I know mother would say it is a
terrible danger one way, and a great gift another.  I will not
misuse it; but what will it bring me?  Or am I only a rustic beauty
after all, who will be nobody elsewhere?"

Still heartily she wished that her rescuer had been any one else in
the wide world.  It was almost uncanny that he should have sprung
out of the earth at such a moment.



CHAPTER XIII: THE BONFIRE


"From Eddystone to Berwick bounds,
   From Lynn to Milford Bay,
That time of slumber was as
   Bright and busy as the day;
For swift to east and swift to west
   The fiery herald sped,
High on St. Michael's Mount it shone:
   It shone on Beachy Head."

MACAULAY.

Doctor Woodford and his niece had not long reached their own door
when the clatter of a horse's hoofs was heard, and Charles Archfield
was seen, waving his hat and shouting 'Hurrah!' before he came near
enough to speak,

"Good news, I see!" said the Doctor.

"Good news indeed!  Not guilty!  Express rode from Westminster Hall
with the news at ten o'clock this morning.  All acquitted.
Expresses could hardly get away for the hurrahing of the people.
Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" cried the young man, throwing up his hat,
while Doctor Woodford, taking off his own, gave graver, deeper
thanks that justice was yet in England, that these noble and
honoured confessors were safe, and that the King had been saved from
further injustice and violence to the Church.

"We are to have a bonfire on Portsdown hill," added Charles.  "They
will be all round the country, in the Island, and everywhere.  My
father is rid one way to spread the tidings, and give orders.  I'm
going on into Portsmouth, to see after tar barrels.  You'll be
there, sir, and you, Anne?"  There was a moment's hesitation after
the day's encounters, but he added, "My mother is going, and my
little Madam, and Lucy.  They will call for you in the coach if you
will be at Ryder's cottage at nine o'clock.  It will not be dark
enough to light up till ten, so there will be time to get a noble
pile ready.  Come, Anne, 'tis Lucy's last chance of seeing you--so
strange as you have made yourself of late."

This plea decided Anne, who had been on the point of declaring that
she should have an excellent view from the top of the keep.
However, not only did she long to see Lucy again, but the enthusiasm
was contagious, and there was an attraction in the centre of popular
rejoicing that drew both her and her uncle, nor could there be a
doubt of her being sufficiently protected when among the Archfield
ladies.  So the arrangement was accepted, and then there was the
cry--

"Hark! the Havant bells!  Ay! and the Cosham!  Portsmouth is pealing
out.  That's Alverstoke.  They know it there.  A salute!  Another."

"Scarce loyal from the King's ships," said the Doctor, smiling.

"Nay, 'tis only loyalty to rejoice that the King can't make a fool
of himself.  So my father says," rejoined Charles.

And that seemed to be the mood of all England.  When Anne and her
uncle set forth in the summer sunset light the great hill above them
was dark with the multitudes thronging around the huge pyre rising
in the midst.  They rested for some minutes at the cottage indicated
before the arrival of Sir Philip, who rode up accompanying the coach
in which his three ladies were seated, and which was quite large
enough to receive Dr. Woodford and Mistress Anne.  Charles was in
the throng, in the midst of most of the younger gentlemen of the
neighbourhood, and a good many of the naval and military officers,
directing the arrangement of the pile.

What a scene it was, as seen even from the windows of the coach
where the ladies remained, for the multitude of sailors, soldiers,
town and village people, though all unanimous, were far too
tumultuous for them to venture beyond their open door, especially as
little Mrs. Archfield was very far from well, and nothing but her
eagerness for amusement could have brought her hither, and of course
she could not be left.  Probably she knew as little of the real
bearings of the case or the cause of rejoicing as did the boys who
pervaded everything with their squibs, and were only restrained from
firing them in the faces of the horses by wholesome fear of the big
whips of the coachman and outriders who stood at the horses' heads.

It was hardly yet dark when the match was put to the shavings, and
to the sound of the loud 'Hurrahs!' and cries of 'Long live the
Bishops!'  'Down with the Pope!' the flame kindled, crackled, and
leapt up, while a responsive fire was seen on St. Catherine's Down
in the Isle of Wight, and northward, eastward, westward, on every
available point, each new light greeted by fresh acclamations, as it
shone out against the summer night sky, while the ships in the
harbour showed their lights, reflected in the sea, as the sky grew
darker.  Then came a procession of sailors and other rough folk,
bearing between poles a chair with a stuffed figure with a kind of
tiara, followed by others with scarlet hats and capes, and with
reiterated shouts of 'Down with the Pope!' these were hurled into
the fire with deafening hurrahs, their more gorgeous trappings being
cleverly twitched off at the last moment, as part of the properties
for the 5th of November.

Little Mrs. Archfield clapped her hands and screamed with delight as
each fresh blaze shot up, and chattered with all her might,
sometimes about some lace and perfumes which she wanted Anne to
procure for her in London at the sign of the Flower Pot, sometimes
grumbling at her husband having gone off to the midst of the party
closest to the fire, "Just like Mr. Archfield, always leaving her to
herself," but generally very well amused, especially when a group of
gentlemen, officers, and county neighbours gathered round the open
door talking to the ladies within.

Peregrine was there with his hands in his pockets, and a queer
ironical smile writhing his features.  He was asked if his father
and brother were present.

"Not my father," he replied.  "He has a logical mind.  Martha is up
here with her guardian, and I am keeping out of her way, and my
brother is full in the thick of the fray.  A bonfire is a bonfire to
most folks, were it to roast their grandsire!"

"Oh, fie, Mr. Oakshott, how you do talk!" laughed Mrs. Archfield.

"Nay, but you rejoice in the escape of the good Bishops," put in
Lucy.

"For what?" asked Peregrine.  "For refusing to say live and let
live?"

"Not against letting _live_, but against saying so
unconstitutionally, my young friend," said Dr. Woodford, "or
tyrannising over our consciences."

Generally Peregrine was more respectful to Dr. Woodford than to any
one else; but there seemed to be a reckless bitterness about him on
that night, and he said, "I marvel with what face those same Eight
Reverend Seigniors will preach against the French King."

"Sir," thrust in Sedley Archfield, "I am not to hear opprobrious
epithets applied to the Bishops."

"What was the opprobrium?" lazily demanded Peregrine, and in spite
of his unpopularity, the laugh was with him.  Sedley grew more
angry.

"You likened them to the French King--"

"The most splendid monarch in Europe," said Peregrine coolly.

"A Frenchman!" quoth one of the young squires with withering
contempt.

"He has that ill fortune, sir," said Peregrine.  "Mayhap he would be
sensible of the disadvantage, if he evened himself with some of my
reasonable countrymen."

"Do you mean that for an insult, sir?" exclaimed Sedley Archfield,
striding forward.

"As you please," said Peregrine.  "To me it had the sound of
compliment."

"Oh la! they'll fight," cried Mrs. Archfield.  "Don't let them!
Where's the Doctor?  Where's Sir Philip?"

"Hush, my dear," said Lady Archfield; "these gentlemen would not
fall out close to us."

Dr. Woodford was out of sight, having been drawn into controversy
with a fellow-clergyman on the limits of toleration.  Anne looked
anxiously for him, but with provoking coolness Peregrine presently
said, "There's no crowd near, and if you will step out, the fires on
the farther hills are to be seen well from the knoll hard by."

He spoke chiefly to Anne, but even if she had not a kind of
shrinking from trusting herself with him in this strange wild scene,
she would have been prevented by Mrs. Archfield's eager cry--

"Oh, I'll come, let me come!  I'm so weary of sitting here.  Thank
you, Master Oakshott."

Lady Archfield's remonstrance was lost as Peregrine helped the
little lady out, and there was nothing for it but to follow her, as
close as might be, as she hung on her cavalier's arm chattering, and
now and then giving little screams of delight or alarm.  Lady
Archfield and her daughter each was instantly squired, but Mistress
Woodford, a nobody, was left to keep as near them as she could, and
gaze at the sparks of light of the beacons in the distance, thinking
how changed the morrow would be to her.

Presently a figure approached, and Charles Archfield's voice said,
"Is that you, Anne?  Did I hear my wife's voice?"

"Yes, she is there."

"And with that imp of evil!  I would his own folk had him!" muttered
Charles, dashing forward with "How now, madam? you were not to leave
the coach!"

She laughed exultingly.  "Ha, sir! see what comes of leaving me to
better cavaliers, while you run after your fire!  I should have seen
nothing but for Master Oakshott."

"Come with me now," said Charles; "you ought not to be standing here
in the dew."

"Ha, ha! what a jealous master," she said; but she put her arm into
his, saying with a courtesy, "Thank you, Master Oakshott, lords must
be obeyed.  I should have been still buried in the old coach but for
you."

Peregrine fell back to Anne.  "That blaze is at St. Helen's," he
began.  "That--what! will you not wait a moment?"

"No, no!  They will want to be going home."

"And have you forgotten that it is only just over Midsummer?  This
is the week of my third seventh--the moment for change.  O Anne!
make it a change for the better.  Say the word, and the die will be
cast.  All is ready!  Come!"

He tried to take her hand, but the vehemence of his words, spoken
under his breath, terrified her, and with a hasty "No, no! you know
not what you talk of," she hastened after her friends, and was glad
to find herself in the safe haven of the interior of the coach.

Ere long they drove down the hill, and at the place of parting were
set down, the last words in Anne's ears being Mrs. Archfield's
injunctions not to forget the orange flower-water at the sign of the
Flower Pot, drowning Lucy's tearful farewells.

As they walked away in the moonlight a figure was seen in the
distance.

"Is that Peregrine Oakshott?" asked the Doctor.  "That young man is
in a desperate mood, ready to put a quarrel on any one.  I hope no
harm will come of it."



CHAPTER XIV: GATHERING MOUSE-EAR


"I heard the groans, I marked the tears,
   I saw the wound his bosom bore."

SCOTT.

After such an evening it was not easy to fall asleep, and Anne
tossed about, heated, restless, and uneasy, feeling that to remain
at home was impossible, yet less satisfied about her future
prospects, and doubtful whether she had not done herself harm by
attending last night's rejoicings, and hoping that nothing would
happen to reveal her presence there.

She was glad that the night was not longer, and resolved to take
advantage of the early morning to fulfil a commission of Lady
Oglethorpe, whose elder children, Lewis and Theophilus, had the
whooping-cough.  Mouse-ear, namely, the little sulphur-coloured
hawk-weed, was, and still is, accounted a specific, and Anne had
been requested to bring a supply--a thing easily done, since it grew
plentifully in the court of the castle.

She dressed herself in haste, made some of her preparations for the
journey, and let herself out of the house, going first for one last
look at her mother's green grave in the dewy churchyard, and
gathering from it a daisy, which she put into her bosom, then in the
fair morning freshness, and exhilaration of the rising sun, crossing
the wide tilt-yard, among haycocks waiting to be tossed, and
arriving at the court within, filling her basket between the
churchyard and the gateway tower and keep, when standing up for a
moment she was extremely startled to see Peregrine Oakshott's
unmistakable figure entering at the postern of the court.

With vague fears of his intentions, and instinctive terror of
meeting him alone, heightened by that dread of his power, she flew
in at the great bailey tower door, hoping that he had not seen her,
but tolerably secure that even if he had, and should pursue her, she
was sufficiently superior in knowledge of the stairs and passages to
baffle him, and make her way along the battlements to the tower at
the corner of the court nearest the parsonage, where there was a
turret stair by which she could escape.

Up the broken stairs she went, shutting behind her every available
door in the chambers and passages, but not as quickly as she wished,
since attention to her feet was needful in the ruinous state of
steps and walls.  Through those massive walls she could hear nothing
distinctly, but she fancied voices and a cry, making her seek more
intricate windings, nor did she dare to look out till she had gained
a thick screen of bushy ivy at the corner of the turret, where a
little door opened on the broad summit of the battlemented wall.

Then, what horror was it that she beheld?  Or was it a dream?  She
even passed her hands over her face and looked again.  Peregrine and
Charles, yes, it was Charles Archfield, were fighting with swords in
the court beneath.  She gave a shriek, in a wild hope of parting
them, but at that instant she saw Peregrine fall, and with the
impulse of rushing to aid she hurried down, impeded however by
stumbles, and by the doors, she herself had shut, and when she
emerged, she saw only Charles, standing like one dazed and white as
death.

"O Mr Archfield! where is he?  What have you done?"  The young man
pointed to the opening of the vault.  Then, speaking with an effort,
"He was quite dead; my sword went through him.  He forced it on me--
he was pursuing you.  I withstood him--and--"

He gasped heavily as the words came one by one.  She trembled
exceedingly, and would have looked into the vault, with, "Are you
quite sure?" but he grasped her hand and withheld her.

"Only too sure!  Yes, I have done it!  It could not be helped.  I
would give myself up at once, but, Anne, there is my wife.  They
tell me any shock would kill her as she is now.  I should be double
murderer.  Will you keep the secret, Anne, always my friend?  And
'twas for you."

"Indeed, indeed, I will not betray you.  I go away in two hours,"
said Anne; and he caught her hand.  "But oh!" and she pointed to the
blood on the grass, then with sudden thought, "Heap the hay over
it," running to fill her arms with the lately-cut grass.

He mechanically did the same, and then they stood for a moment, awe-
stricken.

"God forgive me!" said the poor young man.  "How to hide it I hardly
know, but for _her_ sake, ah--'twas that brought me here.  She could
not rest last night till I had promised to be here early enough in
the morning to give you a piece of sarcenet to be matched in London.
Where is it?  Ah!  I forget.  It seems to be ages ago that she was
insisting that I should ride over so as to be in time."

"Lucy must write," said Anne, "O Charley! wipe that dreadful sword,
look like yourself.  I am going in a couple of hours.  There is no
fear of me! but oh! that you should have done such a thing! and
through me!"

"Hush! hush! don't talk.  I must be gone ere folks are about.  My
horse is outside."  He wrung her hand and kissed it, forgetting to
give her the pattern, and Anne, still stunned, walked back to the
parsonage, her one thought how to control herself so as to guard
Charles's secret.

It must be remembered that in the generation succeeding that which
had fought a long civil war, and when duels were common assertions
of honour and self-respect among young gentlemen, homicide was not
so exceptional and heinous an offence in ordinary eyes as when a
higher value has come to be set on life, and acts of violence are
far less frequent.

Charles had drawn his sword in fair fight, and in her own defence,
and thus it was natural that Anne Woodford should think of his deed,
certainly with a shudder, but with more of pity than of horror, and
with gratitude that made her feel bound to do her utmost to guard
him from the consequences; also there was a sense of relief, and
perhaps a feeling as if the victim were scarcely a human creature
like others.  It never occurred to her till some time after to
recollect it would have had an unpleasant sound that she had been
the occasion of such an 'unseemly brawl' between two young men, one
of them a married man.  When the thought occurred to her it made the
blood rash hotly to her cheeks.

It was well for her that the pain of leaving home and the bustle of
preparation concealed that she had suffered a great shock, and
accounted for her not being able to taste any breakfast beyond a
draught of milk.  Her ears were intent all the time to perceive any
token whether the haymakers had come into the court and had
discovered any trace of the ghastly thing in the vault, and she
hardly heard the kind words of her uncle or the coaxings of his old
housekeeper.  She dreaded especially the sight of Hans, so fondly
attached to his master's nephew, and it was with a sense of infinite
relief--instead of the tender grief otherwise natural--that she was
seated in the boat for Portsmouth, and her uncle believing her to be
crying, left her undisturbed till she had composed herself to wear
the front that she knew was needful, however her heart might throb
beneath it, and as their boat threaded its way through the ships,
even then numerous, she looked wistfully up at the tall tower of the
castle, with earnest prayers for the living, and a longing she durst
not utter, to ask her uncle whether it were right to pray for the
poor strange, struggling soul, always so cruelly misunderstood, and
now so summarily dismissed from the world of trial.

Yet presently there was a revulsion of feeling as she was roused
from her meditations by the coxswain's answer to her uncle, who had
asked what was a smart, swift little smack, which after receiving
something from a boat, began stretching her wings and making all
sail for the Isle of Wight.

The men looked significant and hesitated.

"Smugglers, eh?  Traders in French brandy?" asked the Doctor.

"Well, your reverence, so they says.  They be a rough lot out there
by at the back of the Island."

"There would be small harm in letting a poor man get a drink of
spirits cheap to warm his heart," said one of the other men; "but
they say as how 'tis a very nest of 'em out there, and that's how no
one can ever pitch on the highwaymen, such as robbed Farmer Vine
t'other day a coming home from market."

"They do say," added the other, "that there's them as ought to know
better that is thick with them.  There's that young master up at
Oakwood--that crooked slip as they used to say was a changeling--
gets out o' window o' nights and sails with them."

"He has nought to do with the robberies, they say," added the
coxswain; "but I could tell of many a young spark who has gone out
with the fair traders for the sport's sake, and because gentle folk
don't know what to do with their time."

"And they do say the young chap is kept uncommon tight at home."

Here the sight of a vessel of war coming in changed the topic, but
it had given Anne something more to think of.  Peregrine had spoken
of means arranged for making her his own.  Could that smuggling
yacht have anything to do with them?  He could hardly have reckoned
on meeting her alone in the morning, but he might have attempted to
find her thus--or failing that, he might have run down the boat.  If
so, she had a great deliverance to be thankful for, and Charles's
timely appearance had been a great blessing.  But Peregrine! poor
Peregrine! it became doubly terrible that he should have perished on
the eve of such a deed.  It was cruel to entertain such thoughts of
the dead, yet it was equally impossible not to feel comfort in being
rid for ever of one who had certainly justified the vague alarm
which he had always excited in her.  She could not grieve for him
now that the first shock was over, but she must suppress all tokens
of her extreme anxiety on account of Charles Archfield.

Thus she was landed at Portsmouth, and walked up the street to the
Spotted Dog, where Lady Worsley was taking an early noonchine before
starting for London, having crossed from the little fishing village
of Ryde.  Here Anne parted with her uncle, who promised an early
letter, though she could hardly restrain a shudder at the thought of
the tidings that it might contain.



CHAPTER XV: NEWS FROM FAREHAM


"My soul its secret hath, my life too hath its mystery.
Hopeless the evil is, I have not told its history."

JEAN INGELOW.

Lady Worsley was a handsome, commanding old dame, who soon made her
charge feel the social gulf between a county magnate and a
clergyman's niece.  She decidedly thought that Mistress Anne
Jacobina held her head too high for her position, and was, moreover,
conceited of an unfortunate amount of good looks.

Therefore the good lady did her best to repress these dangerous
tendencies by making the girl sit on the back seat with two maids,
and uttering long lectures on humility, modesty, and discretion
which made the blood of the sea-captain's daughter boil with
indignation.

Yet she always carried with her the dread of being pursued and
called upon to accuse Charles Archfield of Peregrine's death.  It
was a perpetual cloud, dispersed, indeed, for a time by the events
of the day, but returning at night, when not only was the combat
acted over again, but when she fell asleep it was only to be pursued
by Peregrine through endless vaulted dens of darkness, or, what was
far worse, to be trying to hide a stream of blood that could never
be stanched.

It was no wonder that she looked pale in the morning, and felt so
tired and dejected as to make her sensible that she was cast loose
from home and friends when no one troubled her with remarks or
inquiries such as she could hardly have answered.  However, when, on
the evening of the second day's journey, Anne was set down at Sir
Theophilus Oglethorpe's house at Westminster, she met with a very
different reception.

Lady Oglethorpe, a handsome, warm-hearted Irish woman, met her at
once in the hall with outstretched hands, and a kiss on each cheek.

"Come in, my dear, my poor orphan, the daughter of one who was very
dear to me!  Ah, how you have grown!  I could never have thought
this was the little Anne I recollect.  You shall come up to your
chamber at once, and rest you, and make ready for supper, by the
time Sir Theophilus comes in from attending the King."

Anne found herself installed in a fresh-smelling wainscotted room,
where a glass of wine and some cake was ready for her, and where she
made herself ready, feeling exhilarated in spirits as she performed
her toilette, putting on her black evening dress, and refreshing the
curls of her brown hair.  It was a simple dress of deep mourning,
but it became her well, and the two or three gentlemen who had come
in to supper with Sir Theophilus evidently admired her greatly, and
complimented her on having a situation at Court, which was all that
Lady Oglethorpe mentioned.

"Child," she said afterwards, when they were in private, "if I had
known what you looked like I would have sought a different position
for you.  But, there, to get one's foot--were it but the toe of
one's shoe--in at Court is the great point after all, the rest must
come after.  I warrant me you are well educated too.  Can you speak
French?"

"Oh yes, madam, and Italian, and dance and play on the spinnet.  I
was with two French ladies at Winchester every winter who taught
such things."

"Well, well, mayhap we may get you promoted to a sub-governess's
place--though your religion is against you.  You are not a Catholic--
eh?"

"No, your ladyship."

"That's the only road to favour nowadays, though for the name of the
thing they may have a Protestant or two.  You are the King's
godchild too, so he will expect it the more from you.  However, we
may find a better path.  You have not left your heart in the
country, eh?"

Anne blushed and denied it.

"You will be mewed up close enough in the nursery," ran on Lady
Oglethorpe.  "Lady Powys keeps close discipline there, and I expect
she will be disconcerted to see how fine a fish I have brought to
her net; but we will see--we will see how matters go.  But, my dear,
have you no coloured clothes?  There is no appearing in the Royal
household in private mourning.  It might daunt the Prince's spirits
in his cradle!" and she laughed, though Anne felt much annoyed at
thus disregarding her mother, as well as at the heavy expense.
However, there was no help for it; the gowns and laces hidden in the
bottom of her mails were disinterred, and the former were for the
most part condemned, so that she had to submit to a fresh outfit, in
which Lady Oglethorpe heartily interested herself, but which drained
the purse that the Canon had amply supplied.

These arrangements were not complete when the first letter from home
arrived, and was opened with a beating heart, and furtive glances as
of one who feared to see the contents, but they were by no means
what she expected.

I hope you have arrived safely in London, and that you are not
displeased with your first taste of life in a Court.  Neither
town nor country is exempt from sorrow and death.  I was summoned
only on the second day after your departure to share in the
sorrows at Archfield, where the poor young wife died early on
Friday morning, leaving a living infant, a son, who, I hope, may
prove a blessing to them, if he is spared, which can scarcely be
expected.  The poor young man, and indeed all the family, are in
the utmost distress, and truly there were circumstances that
render the event more than usually deplorable, and for which he
blames himself exceedingly, even to despair.  It appears that the
poor young gentlewoman wished to add some trifle to the numerous
commissions with which she was entrusting you on the night of the
bonfire, and that she could not be pacified except by her husband
undertaking to ride over to give the patterns and the orders to
you before your setting forth.  You said nothing of having seen
him--nor do I see how it was possible that you could have done
so, seeing that you only left your chamber just before the
breakfast that you never tasted, my poor child.  He never
returned till long after noon, and what with fretting after him,
and disappointment, that happened which Lady Archfield had always
apprehended, and the poor fragile young creature worked herself
into a state which ended before midnight in the birth of a puny
babe, and her own death shortly after.  She wanted two months of
completing her sixteenth year, and was of so frail a constitution
that Dr. Brown had never much hope of her surviving the birth of
her child.  It was a cruel thing to marry her thus early, ungrown
in body or mind, but she had no one to care for her before she
was brought hither.  The blame, as I tell Sir Philip, and would
fain persuade poor Charles, is really with those who bred her up
so uncontrolled as to be the victim of her humours; but the
unhappy youth will listen to no consolation.  He calls himself a
murderer, shuts himself up, and for the most part will see and
speak to no one, but if forced by his father's command to unlock
his chamber door, returns at once to sit with his head hidden in
his arms crossed upon the table, and if father, mother, or sister
strive to rouse him and obtain answer from him, he will only
murmur forth, "I should only make it worse if I did."  It is
piteous to see a youth so utterly overcome, and truly I think his
condition is a greater distress to our good friends than the loss
of the poor young wife.  They asked him what name he would have
given to his child, but all the answer they could get was, "As
you will, only not mine;" and in the enforced absence of my
brother of Fareham I baptized him Philip.  The funeral will take
place to-morrow, and Sir Philip proposes immediately after to
take his son to Oxford, and there endeavour to find a tutor of
mature age and of prudence, with whom he may either study at New
College or be sent on the grand tour.  It is the only notion that
the poor lad has seemed willing to entertain, as if to get away
from his misery, and I cannot but think it well for him.  He is
not yet twenty, and may, as it were, begin life again the wiser
and the better man for his present extreme sorrow.  Lady
Archfield is greatly wrapped up in the care of the babe, who, I
fear, is in danger of being killed by overcare, if by nothing
else, though truly all is in the hands of God.  I have scarce
quitted the afflicted family since I was summoned to them on
Friday, since Sir Philip has no one else on whom to depend for
comfort or counsel; and if I can obtain the services of Mr. Ellis
from Portsmouth for a few Sundays, I shall ride with him to
Oxford to assist in the choice of a tutor to go abroad with Mr.
Archfield.

One interruption however I had, namely, from Major Oakshott, who
came in great perturbation to ask what was the last I had seen of
his son Peregrine.  It appears that the unfortunate young man
never returned home after the bonfire on Portsdown Hill, where
his brother Robert lost sight of him, and after waiting as long
as he durst, returned home alone.  It has become known that after
parting with us high words passed between him and Lieutenant
Sedley Archfield, insomuch that after the unhappy fashion of
these times, blood was demanded, and early in the morning Sedley
sent the friend who was to act as second to bear the challenge to
young Oakshott.  You can conceive the reception that he was
likely to receive at Oakwood; but it was then discovered that
Peregrine had not been in his bed all night, nor had any one seen
or heard of him.  Sedley boasts loudly that the youngster has
fled the country for fear of him, and truly things have that
appearance, although to my mind Peregrine was far from wanting in
spirit or courage.  But, as he had not received the cartel, he
might not have deemed his honour engaged to await it, and I
incline to the belief that he is on his way to his uncle in
Muscovy, driven thereto by his dread of the marriage with the
gentlewoman whom he holds in so much aversion.  I have striven to
console his father by the assurance that such tidings of him will
surely arrive in due time, but the Major is bitterly grieved, and
is galled by the accusation of cowardice.  "He could not even be
true to his own maxims of worldly honour," says the poor
gentleman.  "So true it is that only by grace we stand fast."
The which is true enough, but the poor gentleman unwittingly did
his best to make grace unacceptable in his son's eyes.  I trust
soon to hear again of you, my dear child.  I rejoice that Lady
Oglethorpe is so good to you, and I hope that in the palace you
will guard first your faith and then your discretion.  And so
praying always for your welfare, alike spiritual and temporal.--
Your loving uncle, JNO.  WOODFORD.

Truly it was well that Anne had secluded herself to read this
letter.

So the actual cause for which poor Charles Archfield had entreated
silence was at an end.  The very evil he had apprehended had come to
pass, and she could well understand how, on his return in a horror-
stricken, distracted state of mind, the childish petulance of his
wife had worried him into loss of temper, so that he hardly knew
what he said.  And what must not his agony of remorse be?  She could
scarcely imagine how he had avoided confessing all as a mere relief
to his mind, but then she reflected that when he called himself a
murderer the words were taken in another sense, and no questions
asked, nor would he be willing to add such grief and shame to his
parents' present burthen, especially as no suspicion existed.

That Peregrine's fate had not been discovered greatly relieved her.
She believed the vault to go down to a considerable depth after a
first platform of stone near the opening, and it was generally
avoided as the haunt of hobgoblins, fairies, or evil beings, so that
no one was likely to be in its immediate neighbourhood after the hay
was carried, so that there might have been nothing to attract any
one to the near neighbourhood and thus lead to the discovery.  If
not made by this time, Charles would be far away, and there was
nothing to connect him with the deed.  No one save herself had even
known of his having been near the castle that morning.  How strange
that the only persons aware of that terrible secret should be so far
separated from one another that they could exchange no confidences;
and each was compelled to absolute silence.  For as long as no one
else was suspected, Anne felt her part must be not to betray
Charles, though the bare possibility of the accusation of another
was agony to her.

She wrote her condolences in due form to Fareham, and in due time
was answered by Lucy Archfield.  The letter was full of details
about the infant, who seemed to absorb her and her mother, and to be
as likely to live as any child of those days ever was--and it was in
his favour that his grandmother and her old nurse had better notions
of management than most of her contemporaries.  In spite of all that
Lucy said of her brother's overwhelming grief, and the melancholy of
thus parting with him, there was a strain of cheerfulness throughout
the letter, betraying that the poor young wife of less than a year
was no very great loss to the peace and comfort of the family.  The
letter ended with--

There is a report that Sir Peregrine Oakshott is dead in Muscovy.
Nothing has been heard of that unfortunate young man at Oakwood.
If he be gone in quest of his uncle, I wonder what will become of
him?  However, nurse will have it that this being the third
seventh year of his life, the fairies have carried off their
changeling--you remember how she told us the story of his being
changed as an infant, when we were children at Winchester; she
believes it as much as ever, and never let little Philip out of
her sight before he was baptized.  I ask her, if the changeling
be gone, where is the true Peregrine? but she only wags her head
in answer.

A day or two later Anne heard from her uncle from Oxford.  He was
extremely grieved at the condition of his beloved alma mater, with a
Roman Catholic Master reigning at University College, a doctor from
the Sorbonne and Fellows to match, inflicted by military force on
Magdalen, whose lawful children had been ejected with a violence
beyond anything that the colleges had suffered even in the time of
the Rebellion.  If things went on as they were, he pronounced Oxford
would be no better than a Popish seminary:  and he had the more
readily induced his old friend to consent to Charles's desire not to
remain there as a student, but to go abroad with Mr. Fellowes, one
of the expelled fellows of Magdalen, a clergyman of mature age, but
a man of the world, who had already acted as a travelling tutor.
Considering that the young widower was not yet twenty, and that all
his wife's wealth would be in his hands, also that his cousin Sedley
formed a dangerous link with the questionable diversions of the
garrison at Portsmouth, both father and friend felt that it was well
that he should be out of reach, and have other occupations for the
present.

Change of scene had, Dr. Woodford said, brightened the poor youth,
and he was showing more interest in passing events, but probably he
would never again be the light-hearted boy they used to know.

Anne could well believe it.



CHAPTER XVI: A ROYAL NURSERY


"The duty that I owe unto your Majesty
I seal upon the lips of this sweet babe."

King Richard III.

It was not till the Queen had moved from St. James's, where her son
had been born, to take up her abode at Whitehall, that Lady
Oglethorpe was considered to be disinfected from her children's
whooping-cough, and could conduct Mistress Anne Jacobina Woodford to
her new situation.

Anne remembered the place from times past, as she followed the lady
up the broad stairs to the state rooms, where the child was daily
carried for inspection by the nation to whom, it was assumed, he was
so welcome, but who, on the contrary, regarded him with the utmost
dislike and suspicion.

Whitehall was, in those days, free to all the world, and though
sentries in the Life-guards' uniform with huge grenadier caps were
posted here and there, every one walked up and down.  Members of
Parliament and fine gentlemen in embroidered coats and flowing wigs
came to exchange news; country cousins came to stare and wonder,
some to admire, some to whisper their disbelief in the Prince's
identity; clergy in gown, cassock, and bands came to win what they
could in a losing cause; and one or two other clergy, who were
looked at askance, whose dress had a foreign air, and whose tonsure
could be detected as they threaded their way with quick, gliding
steps to the King's closet.

Lady Oglethorpe, as one to the manner born, made her way through the
midst of this throng in the magnificent gallery, and Anne followed
her closely, conscious of words of admiration and inquiries who she
was.  Into the Prince's presence chamber, in fact his day-nursery,
they came, and a sweet and gentle-looking lady met them, and
embraced Lady Oglethorpe, who made known Mistress Woodford to Lady
Strickland, of Sizergh, the second governess, as the fourth rocker
who had been appointed.

"You are welcome, Miss Woodford," said the lady, looking at Anne's
high, handsome head and well-bred action in courtesying, with a
shade of surprise.  "You are young, but I trust you are discreet.
There is much need thereof."

Following to a kind of alcove, raised by a step or two, Anne found
herself before a half-circle of ladies and gentlemen round a chair
of state, in front of which stood a nurse, with an infant in her
arms, holding him to be caressed and inspected by the lady on the
throne.  Her beautiful soft dark eyes and hair, and an ivory
complexion, with her dignified and graceful bearing, her long,
slender throat and exquisite figure, were not so much concealed as
enhanced by the simple mob cap and 'night-gown,' as it was then the
fashion to call a morning wrapper, which she wore, and Anne's first
impression was that no wonder Peregrine raved about her.  Poor
Peregrine! that very thought came like a stab, as, after courtesying
low, she stood at the end of the long room--silent, and observing.

A few gentlemen waited by the opposite door, but not coming far into
the apartment, and Lady Oglethorpe was announced by one of them.
The space was so great that Anne could not hear the words, and she
only saw the gracious smile and greeting as Lady Oglethorpe knelt
and kissed the Queen's hand.  After a long conversation between the
mothers, during which Lady Oglethorpe was accommodated with a
cushion, Anne was beckoned forward, and was named to the Queen, who
honoured her with an inclination of the head and a few low murmured
words.

Then there was an announcement of 'His Majesty,' and Anne, following
the general example of standing back with low obeisances, beheld the
tall active figure and dark heavy countenance of her Royal
godfather, under his great black, heavily-curled wig.  He returned
Lady Oglethorpe's greeting, and his face lighted up with a pleasant
smile that greatly changed the expression as he took his child into
his arms for a few moments; but the little one began to cry,
whereupon he was carried off, and the King began to consult Lady
Oglethorpe upon the water-gruel on which the poor little Prince was
being reared, and of which she emphatically disapproved.

Before he left the room, however, Lady Oglethorpe took care to
present to him his god-daughter, Mistress Anne Jacobina Woodford,
and very low was the girl's obeisance before him, but with far more
fright and shyness than before the sweet-faced Queen.

"Oh ay!" he said, "I remember honest Will Woodford.  He did good
service at Southwold.  I wish he had left a son like him.  Have you
a brother, young mistress?"

"No, please your Majesty, I am an only child."

"More's the pity," he said kindly, and with a smile brightening his
heavy features.  "'Tis too good a breed to die out.  You are
Catholic?"

"I am bred in the English Church, so please your Majesty."

His Majesty was evidently less pleased than before, but he only
said, "Ha! and my godchild!  We must amend that," and waved her
aside.

The royal interview over, the newcomer was presented to the State
Governess, the Countess of Powys, a fair and gracious matron, who
was, however, almost as far removed from her as the Queen.  Then she
was called on to take a solemn oath before the Master of the
Household, of dutiful loyalty to the Prince.

Mrs. Labadie was head nurse as well as being wife to the King's
French valet.  She was a kindly, portly Englishwoman, who seemed
wrapped up in her charge, and she greeted her new subordinate in a
friendly way, which, however, seemed strange in one who at home
would have been of an inferior degree, expressed hopes of her
steadiness and discretion, and called to Miss Dunord to show Miss
Woodford her chamber.  The abbreviation Miss sounded familiar and
unsuitable, but it had just come into use for younger spinsters,
though officially they were still termed Mistress.

Mistress or Miss Dunord was sallow and gray-eyed, somewhat older
than Anne, and looking thoroughly French, though her English was
perfect.  She was entirely dressed in blue and white, and had a
rosary and cross at her girdle.  "This way," she said, tripping up a
steep wooden stair.  "We sleep above.  'Tis a huge, awkward place.
Her Majesty calls it the biggest and most uncomfortable palace she
ever was in."

Opening a heavy door, she showed a room of considerable size, hung
with faded frayed tapestry, and containing two huge bedsteads, with
four heavy posts, and canopies of wood, as near boxes as could well
be.  Privacy was a luxury not ordinarily coveted, and the
arrangement did not surprise Anne, though she could have wished that
on that summer day curtains and tapestry had been less fusty.  Two
young women were busy over a dress spread on one of the beds, and
with French ease and grace the guide said, "Here is our new
colleague, Miss Jacobina Woodford.  Let me present Miss Hester
Bridgeman and Miss Jane Humphreys."

"Miss Woodford is welcome," said Miss Bridgeman, a keen, brown,
lively, somewhat anxious-looking person, courtesying and holding out
her hand, and her example was followed by Jane Humphreys, a stout,
rosy, commonplace girl.

"Oh!  I am glad," this last cried.  "Now I shall have a bedfellow."

This Anne was the less sorry for, as she saw that the bed of the
other two was furnished with a holy water stoup and a little shrine
with a waxen Madonna.  There was only one looking-glass among the
four, and not much apparatus either for washing or the toilet, but
Miss Bridgeman believed that they would soon go to Richmond, where
things would be more comfortable.  Then she turned to consult Miss
Dunord on her endeavour to improve the trimmings of a dress of Miss
Humphreys.

"Yes, I know you are always in Our Lady's colours, Pauline, but you
have a pretty taste, and can convince Jane that rose colour and
scarlet cannot go together."

"My father chose the ribbons," said Jane, as if that were
unanswerable.

"City taste," said Miss Bridgeman.

"They are pretty, very pretty with anything else," observed Pauline,
with more tact.  "See, now, with your white embroidered petticoat
and the gray train they are ravishing--and the scarlet coat will
enliven the black."

There was further a little murmur about what a Mr. Hopkins admired,
but it was lost in the arrival of Miss Woodford's mails.

They clustered round, as eager as a set of schoolgirls, over Anne's
dresses.  Happily even the extreme of fashion had not then become
ungraceful.

"Her Majesty will not have the loose drapery that folks used to
wear," said Hester Bridgeman.

"No," said Pauline; "it was all very well for those who could
dispose it with an artless negligence, but for some I could name, it
was as though they had tumbled it on with a hay-fork and had their
hair tousled by being tickled in the hay."

"Now we have the tight bodice with plenty of muslin and lace, the
gown open below to show the petticoat," said Hester; "and to my mind
it is more decorous."

"Decorum was not the vogue then," laughed Pauline, "perhaps it will
be now.  Oh, what lovely lace! real Flanders, on my word!  Where did
you get it, Miss Woodford?"

"It was my mother's."

"And this?  Why, 'tis old French point, you should hang it to your
sleeves."

"My Lady Archfield gave it to me in case I should need it."

"Ah!  I see you have good friends and are a person of some
condition," put in Hester Bridgeman.  "I shall be happy to consort
with you.  Let us--"

Anne courtesied, and at the moment a bell was heard, Pauline at once
crossed herself and fell on her knees before the small shrine with a
figure of the Blessed Virgin, and Hester, breaking off her words,
followed her example; but Jane Humphreys stood twisting the corner
of her apron.

In a very short time, almost before Anne had recovered from her
bewilderment, the other two were up and chattering again.

"You are not a Catholic?" demanded Miss Bridgeman.

"I was bred in the Church," said Anne.

"And you the King's godchild!" exclaimed Pauline.  "But we shall
soon amend that and make a convert of you like Miss Bridgeman
there."

Anne shook her head, but was glad to ask, "And what means the bell
that is ringing now?"

"That is the supper bell.  It rings just after the Angelus," said
Hester.  "No, it is not ours.  The great folks, Lady Powys, Lady
Strickland, and the rest sup first.  We have the dishes after them,
with Nurses Labadie and Royer and the rest--no bad ones either.
They are allowed five dishes and two bottles of wine apiece, and
they always leave plenty for us, and it is served hot too."

The preparations for going down to the second table now absorbed the
party.

As Hester said, the fare at this second table was not to be
despised.  It was a formal meal shared with the two nurses and the
two pages of the backstairs.  Not the lads usually associated with
the term, but men of mature age, and of gentle, though not noble,
birth and breeding; and there were likewise the attendants of the
King and Queen of the same grade, such as Mr. Labadie, the King's
valet, some English, but besides these, Dusian, the Queen's French
page, and Signer and Signora Turini, who had come with her from
Modena, Pere Giverlai, her confessor, and another priest.  Pere
Giverlai said grace, and the conversation went on briskly between
the elders, the younger ones being supposed to hold their peace.

Their dishes went in reversion to the inferior class of servants,
laundress, sempstress, chambermaids, and the like, who had much more
liberty than their betters, and not such a lack of occupation as
Anne soon perceived that she should suffer from.

There was, however, a great muster of all the Prince's
establishment, who stood round, as many as could, with little
garments in their hands, while he was solemnly undressed and laid in
his richly inlaid and carved cradle--over which Pere Giverlai
pronounced a Latin benediction.

The nursery establishment was then released, except one of the
nurses, who was to sleep or wake on a couch by his side, and one of
the rockers.  These damsels had, two at a time, to divide the night
between them, one being always at hand to keep the food warm, touch
the rocker at need with her foot, or call up the nurse on duty if
the child awoke, but not presume herself to handle his little Royal
Highness.

It was the night when Mistresses Dunord and Bridgeman were due, and
Anne followed Jane Humphreys to her room, asking a little about the
duties of the morrow.

"We must be dressed before seven," said the girl.  "One of us will
be left on duty while the others go to Mass.  I am glad you are a
Protestant, Miss Woodford, for the Catholics put everything on me
that they can."

"We must do our best to help and strengthen each other," said Anne.

"It is very hard," said Jane; "and the priests are always at me!  I
would change as Hester Bridgeman has done, but that I know it would
break my grand-dame's heart.  My father might not care so much, if I
got advancement, but I believe it would kill my grandmother."

"Advancement! oh, but faith comes first," exclaimed Anne, recalling
the warning.

"Hester says one religion is as good as another to get to Heaven
by," murmured Jane.

"Not if we deny our own for the world's sake," said Anne.  "Is the
chapel here a Popish one?"

"No; the Queen has an Oratory, but the Popish chapel is at St.
James's--across the Park.  The Protestant one is here at Whitehall,
and there are daily prayers at nine o'clock, and on Sunday music
with three fiddlers, and my grandmother says it might almost as well
be Popish at once."

"Did your grandmother bring you up?"

"Yes.  My mother died when I was seven years old, and my grandmother
bred us all up.  You should hear her talk of the good old times
before the Kings came back and there were no Bishops and no book
prayers--but my father says we must swim with the stream, or he
would not have got any custom at his coffee-house."

"Is that his calling?"

"Ay!  No one has a better set of guests than in the Golden Lamb.
The place is full.  The great Dr. Hammond sees his patients there,
and it is all one buzz of the wits.  It was because of that that my
Lord Sunderland made interest, and got me here.  How did you come?"

Anne briefly explained, and Jane broke out--

"Then you will be my friend, and we will tell each other all our
secrets.  You are a Protestant too.  You will be mine, and not
Bridgeman's or Dunord's--I hate them."

In point of fact Anne did not feel much attracted by the proffer of
friendship, and she certainly did not intend to tell Jane Humphreys
all her secrets, nor to vow enmity to the other colleagues, but she
gravely answered that she trusted they would be friends and help to
maintain one another's faith.  She was relieved that Miss Bridgeman
here came in to take her first turn of rest till she was to be
called up at one o'clock.

As Jane Humphreys had predicted, Mrs. Royer and Anne alone were left
in charge of the nursling while every one went to morning Mass.
Then followed breakfast and the levee of his Royal Highness, lasting
as on the previous day till dinner-time; and the afternoon was as
before, except that the day was fine enough for the child to be
carried out with all his attendants behind him to take the air in
the private gardens.

If this was to be the whole course of life at the palace, Anne began
to feel that she had made a great mistake.  She was by no means
attracted by her companions, though Miss Bridgeman decided that she
must know persons of condition, and made overtures of friendship, to
be sealed by calling one another Oriana and Portia.  She did not
approve of such common names as Princess Anne and Lady Churchill
used--Mrs. Morley and Mrs. Freeman!  They must have something better
than what was used by the Cockpit folks, and she was sure that her
dear Portia would soon be of the only true faith.



CHAPTER XVII: MACHINATIONS


"Baby born to woe."

F. T. PALGRAVE.

When Anne Woodford began to wake from the constant thought of the
grief and horror she had left at Portchester, and to feel more alive
to her surroundings and less as if they were a kind of dream, in
which she only mechanically took her part, one thing impressed
itself on her gradually, and that was disappointment.  If the
previous shock had not blunted all her hopes and aspirations,
perhaps she would have felt it sooner and more keenly; but she could
not help realising that she had put herself into an inferior
position whence there did not seem to be the promotion she had once
anticipated.  Her companion rockers were of an inferior grade to
herself.  Jane Humphreys was a harmless but silly girl, not much
wiser, though less spoilt, than poor little Madam, and full of
Cockney vulgarities.  Education was unfashionable just then, and
though Hester Bridgeman was bettor born and bred, being the daughter
of an attorney in the city, she was not much better instructed, and
had no pursuits except that of her own advantage.  Pauline Dunord
was by far the best of the three, but she seemed to live a life
apart, taking very little interest in her companions or anything
around her except her devotions and the bringing them over to her
Church.  The nursery was quite a separate establishment; there was
no mingling with the guests of royalty, who were only seen in
excited peeps from the window, or when solemnly introduced to the
presence chamber to pay their respects to the Prince.  As to books,
the only secular one that Anne saw while at Whitehall was an odd
volume of Parthenissa.  The late King's summary of the Roman
controversy was to be had in plenty, and nothing was more evident
than that the only road to favour or promotion was in being thereby
convinced.

"Don't throw it down as if it were a hot chestnut," said her Oriana.
"That's what they all do at first, but they come to it at last."

Anne made no answer, but a pang smote her as she thought of her
uncle's warnings.  Yet surely she might hope for other modes of
prospering, she who was certainly by far the best looking and best
educated of all the four, not that this served her much in her
present company, and those of higher rank did not notice her at all.
Princess Anne would surely recollect her, and then she might be safe
in a Protestant household, where her uncle would be happy about her.

The Princess had been at Bath when first she arrived, but at the end
of a week preparations were made at the Cockpit, a sort of appendage
to Whitehall, where the Prince and Princess of Denmark lived, and in
due time there was a visit to the nursery.  Standing in full
ceremony behind Lady Powys, Anne saw the plump face and form she
recollected in the florid bloom of a young matron, not without a
certain royal dignity in the pose of the head, though in grace and
beauty far surpassed by the tall, elegant figure and face of Lady
Churchill, whose bright blue eyes seemed to be taking in everything
everywhere.  Anne's heart began to beat high at the sight of a once
familiar face, and with hopes of a really kind word from one who as
an elder girl had made much of the pretty little plaything.  The
Princess Anne's countenance was, however, less good-natured than
usual; her mouth was made up to a sullen expression, and when her
brother was shown to her she did not hold out her arms to him nor
vouchsafe a kiss.

The Queen looked at her wistfully, asking--

"Is he not like the King?"

"Humph!" returned Princess Anne, "I see no likeness to any living
soul of our family."

"Nay, but see his little nails," said the Queen, spreading the tiny
hand over her finger.  "See how like your father's they are framed!
My treasure, you can clasp me!"

"My brother, Edgar!  He was the beauty," said the Princess.  "_He_
was exactly like my father; but there's no judging of anything so
puny as this!"

"He was very suffering last week, the poor little angel," said the
mother sadly; "but they say this water-gruel is very nourishing, and
not so heavy as milk."

"It does not look as if it agreed with him," said the Princess.
"Poor little mammet!  Did I hear that you had the little Woodford
here?  Is that you, girl?"

Anne courtesied herself forward.

"Ay, I remember you.  I never forget a face, and you have grown up
fair enough.  Where's your mother?"

"I lost her last February, so please your Royal Highness."

"Oh!  She was a good woman.  Why did she not send you to me?  Well,
well!  Come to my toilette to-morrow."

So Princess Anne swept away in her rich blue brocade.  Her behest
was obeyed, of course, though it was evidently displeasing to the
nursery authorities, and Lady Strickland gave a warning to be
discreet and to avoid gossip with the Cockpit folks.

Anne could not but be excited.  Perhaps the Princess would ask for
her, and take her into the number of her own attendants, where she
would no longer be in a Romish household, and would certainly be in
a higher position.  Why, she remembered that very Lady Churchill as
Sarah Jennings in no better a position than she could justly aspire
to.  Her coming to Court would thus be truly justified.

The Princess sat in a silken wrapper, called a night-gown, in her
chamber, which had a richly-curtained bed in the alcove, and a
toilet-table with a splendid Venetian mirror, and a good deal of
silver sparkling on it, while a strange mixture of perfumes came
from the various boxes and bottles.  Ladies and tirewomen stood in
attendance; a little black boy in a turban and gold-embroidered
dress held a salver with her chocolate cup; a cockatoo soliloquised
in low whispers in the window; a monkey was chained to a pole at a
safe distance from him; a French friseur was manipulating the
Princess's profuse brown hair with his tongs; and a needy-looking,
pale thin man, in a semi-clerical suit, was half-reading, half-
declaiming a poem, in which 'Fair Anna' seemed mixed up with Juno,
Ceres, and other classical folk, but to which she was evidently
paying very little attention.

"Ah! there you are, little one.  Thank you, Master--what's name;
that is enough.  'Tis a fine poem, but I never can remember which is
which of all your gods and goddesses.  Oh yes, I accept the
dedication.  Give him a couple of guineas, Ellis; it will serve him
for board and lodging for a fortnight, poor wretch!" Then, after
giving a smooth, well-shaped white hand to be kissed, and inviting
her visitor to a cushion at her feet, she began a long series of
questions, kindly ones at first, though of the minute gossiping
kind, and extending to the Archfields, for poor young Madam had been
of the rank about which royalty knew everything in those days.  The
inquiries were extremely minute, and the comments what from any one
else, Anne would have thought vulgar, especially in the presence of
the hairdresser, but her namesake observed her blush and hesitation,
and said, "Oh, never mind a creature like that.  He is French,
besides, and does not understand a word we say."

Anne, looking over the Princess's head, feared that she saw a
twinkle in the man's eye, and could only look down and try to ignore
him through the catechism that ensued, on when she came to
Whitehall, on the Prince of Wales's health, the management of him,
and all the circumstances connected with his birth.

Very glad was Anne that she knew nothing, and had not picked up any
information as to what had happened before she came to the palace.
As to the present, Lady Strickland's warning and her own sense of
honour kept her reticent to a degree that evidently vexed the
Princess, for she dropped her caressing manner, and sent her away
with a not very kind, "You may go now; you will be turning Papist
next, and what would your poor mother say?"

And as Anne departed in backward fashion she heard Lady Churchill
say, "You will make nothing of her.  She is sharper than she
affects, and a proud minx!  I see it in her carriage."

The visit had only dashed a few hopes and done her harm with her
immediate surroundings, who always disliked and distrusted
intercourse with the other establishment.

However, in another day the nursery was moved to Richmond.  This was
a welcome move to Anne, who had spent her early childhood near
enough to be sometimes taken thither, and to know the Park well, so
that there was a home feeling in the sight of the outline of the
trees and the scenery of the neighbourhood.  The Queen intended
going to Bath, so that the establishment was only that of the
Prince, and the life was much quieter on the whole; but there was no
gratifying any yearning for country walks, for it was not safe nor
perhaps decorous for one young woman to be out alone in a park open
to the public and haunted by soldiers from Hounslow--nor could
either of her fellow-rockers understand her preference for a
secluded path through the woods.  Miss Dunord never went out at all,
except on duty, when the Prince was carried along the walks in the
garden, and the other two infinitely preferred the open spaces,
where tables were set under the horse-chestnut trees for parties who
boated down from London to eat curds and whey, sometimes bringing a
fiddler so as to dance under the trees.

Jane Humphreys especially was always looking out for acquaintances,
and once, with a cry of joy, a stout, homely-looking young woman
started up, exclaiming, "Sister Jane!" and flew into her arms.  Upon
which Miss Woodford was introduced to 'My sister Coles' and her
husband, and had to sit down under a tree and share the festivities,
while there was an overflow of inquiries and intelligence, domestic
and otherwise.  Certainly these were persons whom she would not have
treated as equals at home.

Besides, it was all very well to hear of the good old grandmother's
rheumatics, and of little Tommy's teething, and even to see Jane
hang her head and be teased about remembering Mr. Hopkins; nor was
it wonderful to hear lamentations over the extreme dulness of the
life where one never saw a creature to speak to who was not as old
as the hills; but when it came to inquiries as minute as the
Princess's about the Prince of Wales, Anne thought the full details
lavishly poured out scarcely consistent with loyalty to their oaths
of service and Lady Strickland's warning, and she told Jane so.

She was answered, "Oh la! what harm can it do?  You are such a proud
peat!  Grand-dame and sister like to know all about His Royal
Highness."

This was true; but Anne was far more uncomfortable two or three days
later.  The Prince was ailing, so much so that Lady Powys had sent
an express for the Queen, who had not yet started for Bath, when
Anne and Jane, being relieved from duty by the other pair, went out
for a stroll.

"Oh la!" presently exclaimed Jane, "if that is not Colonel Sands,
the Princess's equerry.  I do declare he is coming to speak to us,
though he is one of the Cockpit folks."

He was a very fine gentleman indeed, all scarlet and gold, and no
wonder Jane was flattered and startled, so that she jerked her fan
violently up and down as he accosted her with a wave of his cocked
hat, saying that he was rejoiced to meet these two fair ladies,
having been sent by the Princess of Denmark to inquire for the
health of the Prince.  She was very anxious to know more than could
be learnt by formal inquiry, he said, and he was happy to have met
the young gentlewomen who could gratify him.

The term 'gentlewoman' highly flattered Miss Humphreys, who blushed
and bridled, and exclaimed, "Oh la, sir!" but Anne thought it
needful to say gravely--

"We are in trust, sir, and have no right to speak of what passes
within the royal household."

"Madam, I admire your discretion, but to the--(a-hem)--sister of
the--(a-hem)--Prince of Wales it is surely uncalled for."

"Miss Woodford is so precise," said Jane Humphreys, with a giggle;
"I do not know what harm can come of saying that His Royal Highness
peaks and pines just as he did before."

"He is none the better for country air then?"

"Oh no? except that he cries louder.  Such a time as we had last
night!  Mrs. Royer never slept a wink all the time I was there, but
walked about with him all night.  You had the best of it, Miss
Woodford."

"He slept while I was there," said Anne briefly, not thinking it
needful to state that the tired nurse had handed the child over to
her, and that he had fallen asleep in her arms.  She tried to put an
end to the conversation by going indoors, but she was vexed to find
that, instead of following her closely, Miss Humphreys was still
lingering with the equerry.

Anne found the household in commotion.  Pauline met her, weeping
bitterly, and saying the Prince had had a fit, and all hope was
over, and in the rockers' room, she found Hester Bridgeman
exclaiming that her occupation was gone.  Water-gruel, she had no
doubt, had been the death of the Prince.  The Queen was come, and
wellnigh distracted.  She had sent out in quest of a wet-nurse, but
it was too late; he was going the way of all Her Majesty's children.

Going down again together the two girls presently had to stand aside
as the poor Queen, seeing and hearing nothing, came towards her own
room with her handkerchief over her face.  They pressed each other's
hands awe-stricken, and went on to the nursery.  There Mrs. Labadie
was kneeling over the cradle, her hood hanging over her face, crying
bitterly over the poor little child, who had a blue look about his
face, and seemed at the last gasp, his features contorted by a
convulsion.

At that moment Jane Humphreys was seen gently opening the door and
letting in Colonel Sands, who moved as quietly as possible, to give
a furtive look at the dying child.  His researches were cut short,
however.  Lady Strickland, usually the gentlest of women, darted out
and demanded what he was doing in her nursery.

He attempted to stammer some excuse about Princess Anne, but Lady
Strickland only answered by standing pointing to the door and he was
forced to retreat in a very undignified fashion.

"Who brought him?" she demanded, when the door was shut.  "Those
Cockpit folk are not to come prying here, hap what may!"

Miss Humphreys had sped away for fear of questions being asked, and
attention was diverted by Mrs. Royer arriving with a stout, healthy-
looking young woman in a thick home-spun cloth petticoat, no
stockings, and old shoes, but with a clean white cap on her head--a
tilemaker's wife who had been captured in the village.

No sooner was the suffering, half-starved child delivered over to
her than he became serene and contented.  The water-gruel regime was
over, and he began to thrive from that time.  Even when later in the
afternoon the King himself brought in Colonel Sands, whom in the joy
of his heart he had asked to dine with him, the babe lay tranquilly
on the cradle, waving his little hands and looking happy.

The intrusion seemed to have been forgotten, but that afternoon
Anne, who had been sent on a message to one of the Queen's ladies,
more than suspected that she saw Jane in a deep recess of a window
in confabulation with the Colonel.  And when they were alone at bed-
time the girl said--

"Is it not droll?  The Colonel cannot believe that 'tis the same
child.  He has been joking and teasing me to declare that we have a
dead Prince hidden somewhere, and that the King showed him the
brick-bat woman's child."

"How can you prattle in that mischievous way--after what Lady
Strickland said, too?  You do not know what harm you may do!"

"Oh lack, it was all a jest!"

"I am not so sure that it was."

"But you will not tell of me, dear friend, you will not.  I never
saw Lady Strickland like that; I did not know she could be in such a
rage."

"No wonder, when a fellow like that came peeping and prying like a
raven to see whether the poor babe was still breathing," cried Anne
indignantly.  "How could you bring him in?"

"Fellow indeed!  Why he is a colonel in the Life-guards, and the
Princess's equerry; and who has a right to know about the child if
not his own sister--or half-sister?"

"She is not a very loving sister," replied Anne.  "You know well,
Jane, how many would not be sorry to make out that it is as that man
would fain have you say."

"Well, I told him it was no such thing, and laughed the very notion
to scorn."

"It were better not to talk with him at all."

"But you will not speak of it.  If I were turned away my father
would beat me.  Nay, I know not what he might not do to me.  You
will not tell, dear darling Portia, and I will love you for ever."

"I have no call to tell," said Anne coldly, but she was disgusted
and weary, and moreover not at all sure that she, as the other
Protestant rocker, and having been in the Park on that same day, was
not credited with some of the mischievous gossip that had passed.

"There, Portia, that is what you get by walking with that stupid
Humphreys," said Oriana.  "She knows no better than to blab to any
one who will be at the trouble to seem sweet upon her, though she
may get nothing by it."

"Would it be better if she did?" asked Anne.

"Oh well, we must all look out for ourselves, and I am sure there is
no knowing what may come next.  But I hear we are to move to Windsor
as soon as the child is strong enough, so as to be farther out of
reach of the Cockpit tongues."

This proved to be true, but the Prince and his suite were not lodged
in the Castle itself, a house in the cloisters being thought more
suitable, and here the Queen visited her child daily, for since that
last alarm she could not bear to be long absent from him.  Such
emissaries as Colonel Sands did not again appear, but after that
precedent Lady Strickland had become much more unwilling to allow
any of those under her authority to go out into any public place,
and the rockers seldom got any exercise except as swelling the
Prince's train when he was carried out to take the air.

Anne looked with longing eyes at the Park, but a ramble there was a
forbidden pleasure.  She could not always even obtain leave to
attend St. George's Chapel; the wish was treated as a sort of
weakness, or folly, and she was always the person selected to stay
at home when any religious ceremony called away the rest of the
establishment.

As the King's god-daughter it was impressed on her that she ought to
conform to his Church, and one of the many priests about the Court
was appointed to instruct her.  In the dearth of all intellectual
intercourse, and the absolute deficiency of books, she could not but
become deeply interested in the arguments.  Her uncle had forearmed
her with instruction, and she wrote to him on any difficulty which
arose, and this became the chief occupation of her mind, distracting
her thoughts from the one great cloud that hung over her memory.
Indeed one of the foremost bulwarks her feelings erected to fortify
her conscience against the temptations around, was the knowledge
that she would have, though of course under seal of confession, to
relate that terrible story to a priest.

Hester Bridgeman could not imagine how her Portia could endure to
hear the old English Prayer-book droned out.  For her part, she
liked one thing or the other, either a rousing Nonconformist sermon
in a meeting-house or a splendid Mass.

"But, after all," as Anne overheard her observing to Miss Dunord,
"it may be all the better for us.  What with her breeding and her
foreign tongues, she would be sure to be set over our heads as
under-governess, or the like, if she were not such an obstinate
heretic, and keeping that stupid Humphreys so.  We could have
converted her long ago, if it were not for that Woodford and for her
City grand-dame!  Portia is the King's godchild, too, so it is just
as well that she does not see what is for her own advantage."

"I do not care for promotion.  I only want to save my own soul and
hers," said Pauline.  "I wish she would come over to the true
Church, for I could love her."

And certainly Pauline Dunord's gentle devotional example, and her
perfect rest and peace in the practice of her religion, were strong
influences with Anne.  She was waiting till circumstances should
make it possible to her to enter a convent, and in the meantime she
lived a strictly devout life, abstracted as far as duty and kindness
permitted from the little cabals and gossipry around.

Anne could not help feeling that the girl was as nearly a saint as
any one she had ever seen--far beyond herself in goodness.
Moreover, the Queen inspired strong affection.  Mary Beatrice was
not only a very beautiful person, full of the grace and dignity of
the House of Este, but she was deeply religious, good and gentle,
kindly and gracious to all who approached her, and devoted to her
husband and child.  A word or look from her was always a delight,
and Anne, by her knowledge of Italian, was able sometimes to obtain
a smiling word or remark.

The little Prince, after those first miserable weeks of his life,
had begun to thrive, and by and by manifested a decided preference
not only for his beautiful mother, but for the fresh face, bright
smile, and shining brown eyes of Miss Woodford.  She could almost
always, with nods and becks, avert a passion of roaring, which
sometimes went beyond the powers of even his foster-mother, the
tiler's wife.  The Queen watched with delight when he laughed and
flourished his arms in response, and the King was summoned to see
the performance, which he requited by taking out a fat gold watch
set with pearls, and presenting it to Anne, as his grave gloomy face
lighted up with a smile.

"Are you yet one of us?" he asked, as she received his gift on her
knee.

"No, sir, I cannot--"

"That must be amended.  You have read his late Majesty's paper?"

"I have, sir."

"And seen Father Giverlai?"

"Yes, please your Majesty."

"And still you are not convinced.  That must not be.  I would gladly
consider and promote you, but I can only have true Catholics around
my son.  I shall desire Father Crump to see you."



CHAPTER XVIII: HALLOWMAS EVE


   "This more strange
Than such a murder is."

Macbeth.

"Bambino mio, bambino mio," wailed Mary Beatrice, as she pressed her
child to her bosom, and murmured to him in her native tongue.  "And
did they say he was not his mother's son, his poor mother, whose
dearest treasure he is!  Oime, crudeli, crudelissimi!  Even his
sisters hate him and will not own him, the little jewel of his
mother's heart!"

Anne, waiting in the window, was grieved to have overheard the words
which the poor Queen had poured out, evidently thinking no one near
could understand her.

That evening there were orders to prepare for a journey to Whitehall
the next morning.

"And," said Hester Bridgeman, "I can tell you why, in all
confidence, but I have it from a sure hand.  The Prince of Orange is
collecting a fleet and army to come and inquire into certain
matters, especially into the birth of a certain young gentleman we
wot of."

"How can he have the insolence?" cried Anne.

"'Tis no great wonder, considering the vipers in the Cockpit," said
Hester.

"But what will they do to us?" asked Jane Humphreys in terror.

"Nothing to you, my dear, nor to Portia; you are good Protestants,"
said Hester with a sneer.

"Mrs. Royer told me it was for the christening," said Jane, "and
then we shall all have new suits.  I am glad we are going back to
town.  It cannot be so mortal dull as 'tis here, with all the leaves
falling--enough to give one the vapours."

There were auguries on either hand in the palace that if the Prince
came it would be only another Monmouth affair, and this made Anne
shrink, for she had partaken of the grief and indignation of
Winchester at the cruel execution of Lady Lisle, and had heard
rumours enough of the progress of the Assize to make her start in
horror when called to watch the red-faced Lord Chancellor Jeffreys
getting out of his coach.

It really seemed for the time as if the royal household were
confident in this impression, though as soon as they were again
settled in Whitehall there was a very close examination of the
witnesses of the Prince's birth, and a report printed of their
evidence, enough it might be thought to satisfy any one; but Jane
Humphreys, who went to spend a day at the Golden Lamb, her father's
warehouse, reported that people only laughed at it.

Anne's spirit burned at the injustice, and warmed the more towards
the Queen and little Prince, whose pretty responses to her caresses
could not but win her love.  Moreover, Pauline's example continued
to attract her, and Father Crump was a better controversialist, or
perhaps a better judge of character, than Pere Giverlai, and took
her on sides where she was more vulnerable, so as to make her begin
to feel unsettled, and wonder whether she were not making a vain
sacrifice, and holding out after all against the better way.

The sense of the possible gain, and disgust at the shallow
conversions of some around her, helped to keep her back.  She could
not help observing that while Pauline persuaded, Hester had ceased
to persuade, and seemed rather willing to hinder her.  Just before
the State christening or rather admission into the Church, Lady
Powys, in the name of the King and Queen, offered her the post of
sub-governess, which really would mean for the present chief
playfellow to the little Prince, and would place her on an entirely
different platform of society from the comparatively menial one she
occupied, but of course on the condition of conformity to Rome.

To be above the familiarity of Jane and Hester was no small
temptation, but still she hesitated.

"Madam, I thank you, I thank their Majesties," she said, "but I
cannot do it thus."

"I see what you mean, Miss Woodford," said Lady Powys, who was a
truly noble woman.  "Your motives must be above suspicion even to
yourself.  I respect you, and would not have made you the offer
except by express command, but I still trust that when your
disinterestedness is above suspicion you will still join us."

It was sore mortification when Hester Bridgeman was preferred to the
office, for which she was far less fitted, being no favourite with
the babe, and being essentially vulgar in tastes and habits, and
knowing no language save her own, and that ungrammatically and with
an accent which no one could wish the Prince to acquire.  Yet there
she was, promoted to the higher grade of the establishment and at
the christening, standing in the front ranks, while Miss Woodford
was left far in the rear among the servants.

A report of the Dutch fleet having been destroyed by a storm had
restored the spirits of the Court; and in the nursery very little
was known of the feelings of the kingdom at large.  Dr. Woodford did
not venture on writing freely to his niece, lest he should
compromise her, and she only vaguely detected that he was uneasy.

So came All Saints' Day Eve, when there was to be a special service
late in the evening at the Romanised Chapel Royal at St. James's,
with a sermon by a distinguished Dominican, to which all the elder
and graver members of the household were eager to go.  And there was
another very different attraction at the Cockpit, where good-natured
Princess Anne had given permission for a supper, to be followed by
burning of nuts and all the divinations proper to Hallowmas Eve, to
which were invited all the subordinates of the Whitehall
establishment who could be spared.

Pauline Dunord was as eager for the sermon as Jane Humphreys was for
the supper, and Hester Bridgeman was in an odd mood of uncertainty,
evidently longing after the sports, but not daring to show that she
did so, and trying to show great desire to hear the holy man preach,
together with a polite profession of self-denial in giving up her
place in case there should not be room for all.  However, as it
appeared that even the two chief nurses meant to combine sermon and
the latter end of the supper, she was at ease.  The foster-mother
and one of the Protestant rockers were supposed to be enough to
watch over the Prince, but the former, who had been much petted and
spoilt since she had been at the palace, and was a young creature,
untrained and wilful, cried so much at the idea of missing the
merrymaking, that as it was reckoned important to keep her in good
humour and good spirits, Mrs. Labadie decided on winking at her
absence from the nursery, since Miss Woodford was quite competent to
the charge for the short time that both the church-goers and the
supper-goers would all be absent together.

"But are you not afraid to stay alone?" asked Mrs. Labadie, with a
little compunction.

"What is there to be afraid of?" asked Anne.  "There are the
sentinels at the foot of the stairs, and what should reach us here?"

"I would not be alone here," said more than one voice.  "Nor I!"--
"Nor I!"

"And on this night of all others!" said Hester.

"But why?"

"They say he walks!" whispered Jane in a voice of awe.

"Who walks?"

"The old King?" asked Hester.

"No; the last King," said Jane.

"No, no:  it was Oliver Cromwell--old Noll himself!" put in another
voice.

"I tell you, no such thing," said Jane.  "It was the last King.  I
heard it from them that saw it, at least the lady's cousin.  'Twas
in the long gallery, in a suit of plain black velvet, with white
muslin ruffles and cravat quilled very neat.  Why do you laugh, Miss
Woodford?"

This was too much for Anne, who managed to say, "Who was his
laundress?"

"I tell you I heard it from them that told no lies.  The gentleman
could swear to it.  He took a candle to him, and there was nought
but the wainscot behind.  Think of that."

"And that we should be living here!" said another voice.  "I never
venture about the big draughty place alone at night," said the
laundress.

"No! nor I would not for twenty princes," added the sempstress.

"Nay, I have heard steps," said Mrs. Royer, "and wailing--wailing.
No wonder after all that has happened here.  Oh yes, steps as of the
guard being turned out!"

"That is like our Squire's manor-house, where--"

Every one contributed a story, and only the announcement of Her
Majesty's approach put an end to these reminiscences.

Anne held to her purpose.  She had looked forward to this time of
solitude, for she wanted leisure to consider the situation, and
fairly to revolve the pleas by which Father Crump had shaken her,
more in feeling than in her reason, and made her question whether
her allegiance to her mother and uncle, and her disgust at
interested conversions, were not making her turn aside from what
might be the only true Church, the Mother of Saints, and therewith
perversely give up earthly advancement.  But, oh! how to write to
her uncle.

The very intention made her imagination and memory too powerful for
the consideration of controversy.  She went back first to a merry
Hallowmas Eve long ago, among the Archfield party and other
Winchester friends, and how the nuts had bounced in a manner which
made the young ones shout in ecstasy of glee, but seemed to
displease some of the elders, and had afterwards been the occasion
of her being told that it was all folly, and therewith informed of
Charles Archfield's contract to poor little Alice Fitzhubert.  Then
came other scenes.  All the various ghostly tales she had heard, and
as she sat with her knitting in the shaded room with no sound but
the soft breathing of her little charge in his cradle, no light save
from a shaded lamp and the fire on the hearth, strange thoughts and
dreams floated over her; she started at mysterious cracks in the
wainscotting from time to time, and beheld in the dark corners of
the great room forms that seemed grotesque and phantom-like till she
went up to them and resolved them into familiar bits of furniture or
gowns and caps of Mrs. Labadie.  She repeated half aloud numerous
Psalms and bits of poetry, but in the midst would come some
disturbing noise, a step or a shout from the street, though the
chamber being at the back of the house looking into the Park few of
such sounds penetrated thither.  She began to think of King
Charles's last walk from St. James's to Whitehall, and of the fatal
window of the Banqueting-hall which had been pointed out to her, and
then her thoughts flew back again to that vault in the castle yard,
and she saw only too vividly in memory that open vault, veiled
partly by nettles and mulleins, which was the unblest, unknown grave
of the old playfellow who had so loved her mother and herself.
Perhaps she had hitherto more dwelt on and pitied the living than
the dead, as one whom fears and prayers still concerned, but now as
she thought of the lively sprite-like being who had professed such
affection for her, and for whom her mother had felt so much, and
recollected him so soon and suddenly cut down and consigned to that
dreary darkness, the strange yearning spirit dismissed to the
unknown world, instead of her old terror and repulsion, a great
tenderness and compunction came over her, and she longed to join
those who would in two days more be keeping All Souls' Day in
intercessions for their departed, so as to atone for her past
dislike; and there was that sort of feeling about her which can only
be described by the word 'eerie.'  To relieve it Anne walked to the
window and undid a small wicket in the shutter, so as to look out
into the quiet moonlight park where the trees cast their long
shadows on the silvery grass, and there was a great calm that seemed
to reach her heart and spirits.

Suddenly, across the sward towards the palace there came the slight,
impish, almost one-sided figure, with the peculiar walk, swift
though suggestive of a limp, the elfish set of the plume, the
foreign adjustment of short cloak.  Anne gazed with wide-stretched
eyes and beating heart, trying to rally her senses and believe it
fancy, when the figure crossed into a broad streak of light cast by
the lamp over the door, the face was upturned for a moment.  It was
deadly pale, and the features were beyond all doubt Peregrine
Oakshott's.

She sprang back from the window, dropped on her knees, with her face
hidden in her hands, and was hardly conscious till sounds of the
others returning made her rally her powers so as to prevent all
inquiries or surmises.  It was Mrs. Labadie and Pauline Dunord, the
former to see that all was well with the Prince before repairing to
the Cockpit.

"How pale you are!" she exclaimed.  "Have you seen anything?"

"I--It may be nothing.  He is dead!" stammered Anne.

"Oh then, 'tis naught but a maid's fancies," said the nurse good-
humouredly.  "Miss Dunord is in no mind for the sports, so she will
stay with His Highness, and you had best come with me and drive the
cobwebs out of your brain."

"Indeed, I thank you, ma'am, but I could not," said Anne.

"You had best, I tell you, shake these megrims out of your brain,"
said Mrs. Labadie; but she was in too great haste not to lose her
share of the amusements to argue the point, and the two young women
were left together.  Pauline was in a somewhat exalted state, full
of the sermon on the connection of the Church with the invisible
world.

"You have seen one of your poor dead," she said.  "Oh, may it not be
that he came to implore you to have pity, and join the Church, where
you could intercede and offer the Holy Sacrifice for him?"

Anne started.  This seemed to chime in with proclivities of poor
Peregrine's own, and when she thought of his corpse in that
unhallowed vault, it seemed to her as if he must be calling on her
to take measures for his rest, both of body and of spirit.  Yet
something seemed to seal her tongue.  She could not open her lips on
what she had seen, and while Pauline talked on, repeating the sermon
which had so deeply touched her feelings, Anne heard without
listening to aught besides her own perturbations, mentally debating
whether she could endure to reveal the story to Father Crump, if she
confessed to him, or whether she should write to her uncle; and she
even began to compose the letter in her own mind, with the terrible
revelation that must commence it, but every moment the idea became
more formidable.  How transfer her own heavy burthen to her uncle,
who might feel bound to take steps that would cut young Archfield
off from parents, sister, child, and home.  Or supposing Dr.
Woodford disbelieved the apparition of to-night, the whole would be
discredited in his eyes, and he might suppose the summer morning's
duel as much a delusion of her fancy as the autumn evening's
phantom, and what evidence had she to adduce save Charles's despair,
Peregrine's absence, and what there might be in the vault?

Yet if all that Father Crump and Pauline said was true, that dear
uncle might be under a fatal delusion, and it might be the best hope
for herself--nay, even for that poor restless spirit--to separate
herself from them.  Here was Pauline talking of the blessedness of
being able to offer prayers on 'All Souls' Day' for all those of
whose ultimate salvation there were fears, or who might be in a
state of suffering.  It even startled her as she thought of her
mother, whom she always gave thanks for as one departed in faith and
fear.  Would Father Crump speak of her as one in a state of
inevitable ignorance to be expiated in the invisible world?  It
shocked the daughter as almost profane.  Yet if it were true, and
prayers and masses could aid her?

Altogether Anne was in a mood on which the voices broke strangely
returning from the supper full of news.  Jane Humphreys was voluble
on her various experiments.  The nuts had burnt quietly together,
and that was propitious to the Life-guardsman, Mr. Shaw, who had
shared hers; but on the other hand, the apple-paring thrown over her
shoulder had formed a P, and he whom she had seen in the vista of
looking-glasses had a gold chain but neither a uniform nor a P in
his name, and Mrs. Buss declared that it meant that she should be
three times married, and the last would be an Alderman, if not Lord
Mayor; and Mrs. Royer was joking Miss Bridgeman on the I of her
apple-paring, which could stand for nothing but a certain Incle
among 'the Cockpit folk,' who was her special detestation.

Princess Anne and her husband had come down to see the nuts flying,
and had laughed enough to split their sides, till Lord Cornbury came
in and whispered something to Prince George, who said, "Est il
possible?" and spoke to the Princess, and they all went away
together.  Yes, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who had been
laughing before looked very grave, and went with them.

"Oh!" exclaimed Anne, "is the Bishop of Bath and Wells here?"

"Yes, in spite of his disgrace.  I hear he is to preach in your
Protestant chapel to-morrow."

Anne had brought a letter of introduction from her uncle in case she
should have any opportunity of seeing his old fellow canon, who had
often been kind to her when she was a little girl at Winchester.
She was in many minds of hope and fear as to the meeting him or
speaking to him, under the consciousness of the possible defection
from his Church, and the doubt and dread whether to confide her
secret and consult him.  However, the extreme improbability of her
being able to do so made the yearning for the sight of a Winchester
face predominate, and her vigil of the night past made the nursery
authorities concede that she had fairly earned her turn to go to
church in the forenoon, since she was obstinate enough to want to
run after an old heretic so-called Bishop who had so pragmatically
withstood His Majesty.  Jane Humphreys went too, for though she was
not fond of week-day services, any escape from the nursery was
welcome, and there was a chance of seeing Lady Churchill's new
mantle.

In this she was disappointed, for none of the grandees were present,
indeed it was whispered as the two girls made their way to the
chapel, that there was great excitement over the Declaration of the
Prince of Orange, which had arrived last night, that he had been
invited by the lords spiritual and temporal to take up the cause of
the liberties of England, and inquire into the evidence of the birth
of the Prince of Wales.

People shrugged their shoulders, but looked volumes, though it was
no time nor place for saying more; and when in the chapel, that
countenance of Bishop Ken, so beautiful in outward form, so
expressive of strength, sweetness, and devotion, brought back such a
flood of old associations to Anne, that it was enough to change the
whole current of her thoughts and make her her own mother's child
again, even before he opened his mouth.  She caught his sweet voice
in the Psalms, and closing her eyes seemed to be in the Cathedral
once more among those mighty columns and arches; and when he began
his sermon, on the text, 'Let the Saints be joyful with glory, let
them rejoice in their beds,' she found the Communion of Saints in
Paradise and on earth knit together in one fellowship as truly and
preciously brought home to her as ever it had been to Pauline, and
moreover when she thought of her mother, 'the lurid mist' was
dispelled which had so haunted her the night before.

The longing to speak to him awoke; and as he was quitting the chapel
in full procession his kindly eye lit upon her with a look of
recognition; and before she had moved from her place, one of the
attendant clergy came back by his desire to conduct her to him.

He held out his hand as she courtesied low.

"Mistress Woodford," he said, "my old friend's niece!  He wrote to
me of you, but I have had no opportunity of seeing you before."

"Oh, my Lord!  I was so much longing to see and speak with you."

"I am lodging at Lambeth," said the Bishop, "and it is too far to
take you with me thither, but perhaps my good brother here," turning
to the chaplain, "can help us to a room where we can be private."

This was done; the chaplain's parlour at the Cockpit was placed at
their disposal, and there a few kind words from Bishop Ken led to
the unburthening of her heavy heart.  Of Ken's replies to the
controversial difficulties there is no need to tell.  Indeed,
ambition was far more her temptation than any real difficulties as
to doctrine.  Her dissatisfaction at being unable to answer the
questions raised by Father Crump was exaggerated as the excuse and
cover to herself of her craving for escape from her present
subordinate post; and this the Bishop soon saw, and tenderly but
firmly drew her to own both this and to confess the ambitious spirit
which had led her into this scene of temptation.  "It was true
indeed," he said, "that trial by our own error is hardest to
encounter, but you have repented, and by God's grace, my child, I
trust you will be enabled to steer your course aright through the
trials of loyalty to our God and to our King that are coming upon us
all.  Ever remember God and the plain duty first, His anointed next.
Is there more that you would like to tell me? for you still bear a
troubled look, and I have full time."

Then Anne told him all the strange adventure of Portchester Castle,
and even of the apparition of the night before.  That gentleness and
sympathy seemed to draw out all that was in her heart, and to her
surprise, he did not treat the story of that figure as necessarily a
delusion.  He had known and heard too much of spiritual
manifestations to the outward senses to declare that such things
could not be.

What she had seen might be explained by one of four hypotheses.  It
was either a phantom of her brain, and her being fully awake,
although recently dwelling on the recollection, rendered that idea
less probable, or the young man had not been killed and she had seen
him in propria persona.

She had Charles Archfield's word that the death was certain.  He had
never been heard of again, and if alive, the walk before Whitehall
was the last place where he would be.  As to mistaking any one else
for him, the Bishop remembered enough of the queer changeling elf to
agree with her that it was not a very probable contingency.  And if
it were indeed a spirit, why should it visit her?  There had been
one good effect certainly in the revival of home thoughts and
turning her mind from the allurements of favour, but that did not
seem to account for the spirit seeking her out.

Was it, Anne faltered, a sign that she ought to confess all, for the
sake of procuring Christian burial for him.  Yet how should she,
when she had promised silence to young Archfield?  True, it was for
his wife's sake, and she was dead; but there were the rest of his
family and himself to be considered.  What should she do?

The Bishop thought a little while, then said that he did not believe
that she ought to speak without Mr. Archfield's consent, unless she
saw any one else brought into danger by her silence.  If it ever
became possible, he thought, that she should ascertain whether the
body were in the vault, and if so, it might be possible to procure
burial for it, perhaps without identification, or at any rate
without making known what could only cause hostility and distress
between the two families, unless the young man himself on his return
should make the confession.  This the Bishop evidently considered
the sounder, though the harder course, but he held that Anne had no
right to take the initiative.  She could only wait, and bear her
load alone; but the extreme kindness and compassion with which he
talked to her soothed and comforted her so much that she felt
infinitely relieved and strengthened when he dismissed her with his
blessing, and far happier and more at peace than she had been since
that terrible summer morning, though greatly humbled, and taught to
repent of her aspirations after earthly greatness, and to accept her
present condition as a just retribution, and a trial of constancy.



CHAPTER XIX: THE DAUGHTER'S SECRET


"Thy sister's naught:  O Regan, she hath tied
Sharp-tooth'd unkindness, like a vulture, _here_:
I can scarce speak to thee."

King Lear.

"Am I--oh! am I going home?" thought Anne.  "My uncle will be at
Winchester.  I am glad of it.  I could not yet bear to see
Portchester again.  That Shape would be there.  Yet how shall I deal
with what seems laid on me?  But oh! the joy of escaping from this
weary, weary court!  Oh, the folly that took me hither!  Now that
the Prince is gone, Lady Strickland will surely speak to the Queen
for my dismissal."

There had been seventeen days of alarms, reports, and counter-
reports, and now the King, with the Prince of Denmark, had gone to
join the army on Salisbury Plain, and at the same time the little
Prince of Wales had been sent off to his half-brother, the Duke of
Berwick, at Portsmouth, under charge of Lady Powys, there to be
embarked for France.  Anne had been somewhat disappointed at not
going with them, hoping that when at Portsmouth or in passing
Winchester she might see her uncle and obtain her release, for she
had no desire to be taken abroad; but it was decreed otherwise.
Miss Dunord went, rejoicing and thankful to be returning to France,
and the other three rockers remained.

There had already been more than one day of alarms and tumults.  The
Body-guards within were always on duty; the Life-guards without were
constantly patrolling; and on the 5th of November, when the Prince
of Orange was known to be near at hand, and was in fact actually
landing at Torbay, the mob had with difficulty been restrained from
burning in effigy, not only Guy Fawkes, but Pope, cardinals, and
mitred bishops, in front of the palace, and actually paraded them
all, with a figure of poor Sir Edmondbury Godfrey bearing his head
in his hand, tied on horseback behind a Jesuit, full before the
windows, with yells of

"The Pope, the Pope,
Up the ladder and down the rope,"

and clattering of warming-pans.

Jane Humphreys was dreadfully frightened.  Anne found her crouching
close to her bed, with the curtains wrapped round her.  "Have they
got in?" she cried.  "O Miss Woodford, how shall we make them
believe we are good Protestants?"

And when this terror had subsided, and it was well known that the
Dutch were at Exeter, there was another panic, for one of the Life-
guardsmen had told her to beware, since if the Royal troops at
Hounslow were beaten, the Papists would surely take their revenge.

"I am to scream from the windows to Mr. Shaw," she said; but what
good will that do if the priests and the Frenchmen have strangled
me?  And perhaps he won't be on guard."

"He was only trying to frighten you," suggested Anne.

"Dear me, Miss Woodford, aren't you afraid?  You have the stomach of
a lion."

"Why, what would be the good of hurting us?"

However, Anne was not at all surprised, when on the very evening of
the Prince's departure, old Mrs. Humphreys, a venerable-looking dame
in handsome but Puritanically-fashioned garments, came in a hackney
coach to request in her son's name that her granddaughter might
return with her, as her occupation was at an end.

Jane was transported with joy.

"Ay, ay," said the grandmother, "look at you now, and think how
crazy you were to go to the palace, though 'twas always against my
judgment."

"Ah, I little knew how mortal dull it would be!" said Jane.

"Ye've found it no better than the husks that the swine did eat, eh?
So much the better and safer for your soul, child."

Nobody wanted to retain Jane, and while she was hastily putting her
things together, the grandmother turned to Anne:  "And you, Mistress
Woodford, from what I hear, you have been very good in keeping my
silly child stanch to her religion and true to her duty.  If ever on
a pinch you needed a friend in London, my son and I would be proud
to serve you--Master Joshua Humphreys, at the Golden Lamb,
Gracechurch Street, mind you.  No one knows what may hap in these
strange and troublesome times, and you might be glad of a house to
go to till you can send to your own friends--that is, if we are not
all murdered by the Papists first."

Though Anne did not expect such a catastrophe as this, she was
really grateful for the offer, and thought it possible that she
might avail herself of it, as she had not been able to communicate
with any of her mother's old friends, and Bishop Ken was not to her
knowledge still in London.

She watched anxiously for the opportunity of asking Lady Strickland
whether she might apply for her dismissal, and write to her uncle to
fetch her home.

"Child," said the lady, "I think you love the Queen."

"Indeed I do, madam."

"It is well that at this juncture all Protestants should not leave
her.  You are a gentlewoman in manner, and can speak her native
tongue, friends are falling from her, scarcely ladies are left
enough to make a fit appearance around her; if you are faithful to
her, remain, I entreat of you."

There was no resisting such an appeal, and Anne remained in the
rooms now left bare and empty, until a message was brought to her to
come to the Queen.  Mary Beatrice sat in a chair by her fire,
looking sad and listless, her eyes red with weeping, but she gave
her sweet smile as the girl entered, and held out her hand, saying
in her sweet Italian, "You are faithful, Signorina Anna! you remain!
That is well; but now my son is gone, Anna, you must be mine.  I
make you my reader instead of his rocker."

As Anne knelt on one knee to kiss hands with tears in her eyes, the
Queen impulsively threw her arms round her neck and kissed her.
"Ah, you loved him, and he loved you, il mio tesorino?"

Promotion _had_ come--how strangely.  She had to enter on her duties
at once, and to read some chapters of an Italian version of the
Imitation.  A reader was of a higher grade of importance than a
rocker, and for the ensuing days, when not in attendance on the
Queen, Anne was the companion of Lady Strickland and Lady
Oglethorpe.  In the absence of the King and Prince, the Queen
received Princess Anne at her own table, and Lady Churchill and Lady
Fitzhardinge joined that of her ladies-in-waiting.

Lady Churchill, with her long neck, splendid hair and complexion,
short chin, and sparkling blue eyes, was beautiful to look at, but
not at all disposed to be agreeable to the Queen's ladies, whom she
treated with a sort of blunt scorn, not at all disguised by the
forms of courtesy.  However, she had, to their relief, a good deal
of leave of absence just then to visit her children, as indeed the
ladies agreed that she did pretty much as she chose, and that the
faithful Mrs. Morley was somewhat afraid of the dear Mrs. Freeman.

One evening in coming up some steps Princess Anne entangled her foot
in her pink taffetas petticoat, nearly fell, and tore a large rent,
besides breaking the thread of the festoons of seed pearls which
bordered it, and scattering them on the floor.

"Lack-a-day!  Lack-a-day!" sighed she, as after a little screaming
she gathered herself up again.  "That new coat!  How shall I ever
face Danvers again such a figure?  She's an excellent tirewoman, but
she will be neither to have nor to hold when she sees that gown--
that she set such store by!  Nay, I can hardly step for it."

"I think I could repair it, with Her Majesty's and your Royal
Highness's permission," said Anne, who was creeping about on her
knees picking up the pearls."

"Oh! do! do!  There's a good child, and then Danvers and Dawson need
know nothing about it," cried the Princess in great glee.  "You
remember Dawson, don't you, little Woodie, as we used to call you,
and how she used to rate us when we were children if we soiled our
frocks?"

So, in the withdrawing-room, Anne sat on the floor with needle and
silk, by the light of the wax candles, deftly repairing the rent,
and then threading the scattered pearls, and arranging the festoon
so as to hide the darn.  The Princess was delighted, and while the
poor wife lay back in her chair, thankful that behind her fan she
could give way to her terrible anxieties about her little son, who
might be crossing to France, and her husband, suffering from fearful
nose-bleeding, and wellnigh alone among traitors and deserters, the
step-daughter, on the other side of the great hearth, chattered away
complacently to 'little Woodford.'

"Do you recollect old Dawson, and how she used to grumble when I
went to sup with the Duchess--my own mother--you know, because she
used to give me chocolate, and she said it made me scream at night,
and be over fat by day?  Ah! that was before you used to come among
us.  It was after I went to France to my poor aunt of Orleans.  I
remember she never would let us kiss her for fear of spoiling her
complexion, and Mademoiselle and I did so hate living maigre on the
fast days.  I was glad enough to get home at last, and then my
sister was jealous because I talked French better than she did."

So the Princess prattled on without needing much reply, until her
namesake had finished her work, with which she was well pleased, and
promised to remember her.  To Anne it was an absolute marvel how she
could thus talk when she knew that her husband had deserted her
father in his need, and that things were in a most critical
position.

The Queen could not refrain from a sigh of relief when her step-
daughter had retired to the Cockpit; and after seeking her sleepless
bed, she begged Anne, "if it did not too much incommode her, to read
to her from the Gospel."

The next day was Sunday, and Anne felt almost as if deserting her
cause, when going to the English service in Whitehall Chapel Royal,
now almost emptied except of the Princess's suite, and some of these
had the bad taste and profanity to cough and chatter all through the
special prayer drawn up by the Archbishop for the King's safety.

People were not very reverent, and as all stood up at the end of the
Advent Sunday service to let the Princess sweep by in her glittering
green satin petticoat, peach-coloured velvet train, and feather-
crowned head, she laid a hand on Anne's arm, and whispered, "Follow
me to my closet, little Woodford."

There was no choice but to obey, as the Queen would not require her
reader till after dinner, and Anne followed after the various
attendants, who did not seem very willing to forward a private
interview with a possible rival, though, as Anne supposed, the
object must be to convey some message to the Queen.  By the time she
arrived and had been admitted to the inner chamber or dressing-room,
the Princess had thrown off her more cumbrous finery, and sat at
ease in an arm-chair.  She nodded her be-curled head, and said, "You
can keep a secret, little Woodie?"

"I can, madam, but I do not love one," said Anne, thinking of her
most burthensome one.

"Well, no need to keep this long.  You are a good young maiden, and
my own poor mother's godchild, and you are handy and notable.  You
deserve better preferment than ever you will get in that Popish
household, where your religion is in danger.  Now, I am not going to
be in jeopardy here any longer, nor let myself be kept hostage for
his Highness.  Come to my rooms at bedtime.  Slip in when I wish the
Queen good-night, and I'll find an excuse.  Then you shall come with
me to--no, I'll not say where, and I'll make your fortune, only
mum's the word."

"But--Your Royal Highness is very good, but I am sworn to the Prince
and Queen.  I could not leave them without permission."

"Prince!  Prince!  Pretty sort of a Prince.  Prince of brickbats, as
Churchill says.  Nay, girl, don't turn away in that fashion.
Consider.  Your religion is in danger."

"Nay, madam, my religion would not be served by breaking my oath."

"Pooh!  What's your oath to a mere pretender?  Besides, consider
your fortune.  Rocker to a puling babe--even if he was what they say
he is.  And don't build on the Queen's favour--even if she remains
what she is now, she is too much beset with Papists and foreigners
to do anything for you."

"I do not," Anne began to say, but the Princess gave her no time.

"Besides, pride will have a fall, and if you are a good maid, and
hold your tongue, and serve me well in this strait, I'll make you my
maid of honour, and marry you so that you shall put Lady before your
name.  Ay, and get good preferment for your uncle, who has had only
a poor stall from the King here."

Anne repressed an inclination to say this was not the way in which
her uncle would wish to get promotion, and only replied, "Your Royal
Highness is very good, but--"

Whereat the Princess, in a huff, exclaimed, "Oh, very well, if you
choose to be torn to pieces by the mob, and slaughtered by the
priests, like poor Godfrey, and burnt by the Papists at last, unless
you go to Mass, you may stay for aught I care, and joy go with you.
I thought I was doing you a kindness for my poor mother's sake, but
it seems you know best.  If you like to cast in your lot with the
Pope, I wash my hands of you."

Accordingly Anne courtesied herself off, not seriously alarmed as to
the various catastrophes foretold by the Princess, though a little
shaken in nerves.  Here then was another chance of promotion,
certainly without treason to her profession of faith, but so offered
that honour could not but revolt against it, though in truth poor
Princess Anne was neither so foolish nor so heartless a woman as she
appeared in the excitement to which an uneasy conscience, the
expectation of a great enterprise, and a certain amount of terror
had worked her up; but she had high words again in the evening, as
was supposed, with the Queen.  Certainly Anne found her own Royal
Mistress weeping and agitated, though she only owned to being very
anxious about the health of the King, who had had a second violent
attack of bleeding at the nose, and she did not seem consoled by the
assurances of her elder attendants that the relief had probably
saved him from a far more dangerous attack.  Again Anne read to her
till a late hour, but next morning was strangely disturbed.

The Royal household had not been long dressed, and breakfast had
just been served to the ladies, when loud screams were heard, most
startling in the unsettled and anxious state of affairs.  The Queen,
pale and trembling, came out of her chamber with her hair on her
shoulders.  "Tell me at once, for pity's sake.  Is it my husband or
my son?" she asked with clasped hands, as two or three of the
Princess's servants rushed forward.

"The Princess, the Princess!" was the cry, "the priests have
murdered her."

"What have you done with her, madam?" rudely demanded Mrs. Buss, one
of the lost lady's nurses.

Mary Beatrice drew herself up with grave dignity, saying, "I suppose
your mistress is where she likes to be.  I know nothing of her, but
I have no doubt that you will soon hear of her."

There was something in the Queen's manner that hushed the outcry in
her presence, but the women, with Lady Clarendon foremost of them,
continued to seek up and down the two palaces as if they thought the
substantial person of the Princess Anne could be hidden in a
cupboard.

Anne, in the first impulse, exclaimed, "She is gone!"

In a moment Mrs. Royer turned, "Gone, did you say?  Do you know it?"

"You knew it and kept it secret!" cried Lady Strickland.

"A traitor too!" said Lady Oglethorpe, in her vehement Irish tone.
"I would not have thought it of Nanny Moore's daughter!" and she
turned her eyes in sad reproach on Anne.

"If you know, tell me where she is gone," cried Mrs. Buss, and the
cry was re-echoed by the other women, while Anne's startled "I
cannot tell!  I do not know!" was unheeded.

Only the Queen raising her hand gravely said, "Silence!  What is
this?"

"Miss Woodford knew."

"And never told!" cried the babble of voices.

"Come hither, Mistress Woodford," said the Queen.  "Tell me, do you
know where Her Highness is?"

"No, please your Majesty," said Anne, trembling from head to foot.
"I do not know where she is."

"Did you know of her purpose?"

"Your Majesty pardon me.  She called me to her closet yesterday and
pledged me to secrecy before I knew what she would say."

"Only youthful inexperience will permit that pledge to be implied in
matters of State," said the Queen.  "Continue, Mistress Woodford;
what did she tell you?"

"She said she feared to be made a hostage for the Prince of Denmark,
and meant to escape, and she bade me come to her chamber at night to
go with her."

"And wherefore did you not?  You are of her religion," said the
Queen bitterly.

"Madam, how could I break mine oath to your Majesty and His Royal
Highness?"

"And you thought concealing the matter according to that oath?  Nay,
nay, child, I blame you not.  It was a hard strait between your
honour to her and your duty to the King and to me, and I cannot but
be thankful to any one who does regard her word.  But this desertion
will be a sore grief to His Majesty."

Mary Beatrice was fairer-minded than the women, who looked askance
at the girl, Princess Anne's people resenting that one of the other
household should have been chosen as confidante, and the Queen's
being displeased that the secret had been kept.  But at that moment
frightful yells and shouts arose, and a hasty glance from the
windows showed a mass of men, women, and children howling for their
Princess.  They would tear down Whitehall if she were not delivered
up to them.  However, a line of helmeted Life-guards on their heavy
horses was drawn up between, with sabres held upright, and there
seemed no disposition to rush upon these.  Lord Clarendon, uncle to
the Princess, had satisfied himself that she had really escaped, and
he now came out and assured the mob, in a stentorian voice, that he
was perfectly satisfied of his niece's safety, waving the letter she
had left on her toilet-table.

The mob shouted, "Bless the Princess!  Hurrah for the Protestant
faith!  No warming-pans!" but in a good-tempered mood; and the poor
little garrison breathed more freely; but Anne did not feel herself
forgiven.  She was in a manner sent to Coventry, and treated as if
she were on the enemy's side.  Never had her proud nature suffered
so much, and she shed bitter tears as she said to herself, "It is
very unjust!  What could I have done?  How could I stop Her Highness
from speaking?  Could they expect me to run in and accuse her?  Oh,
that I were at home again!  Mother, mother, you little know!  Of
what use am I now?"

It was the very question asked by Hester Bridgeman, whom she found
packing her clothes in her room.

"Take care that this is sent after me," she said, "when a messenger
I shall send calls for it."

"What, you have your dismissal?"

"No, I should no more get it than you have done.  They cannot afford
to let any one go, you see, or they will have to dress up the
chambermaids to stand behind the Queen's chair.  I have settled it
with my cousin, Harry Bridgeman, I shall mix with the throng that
come to ask for news, and be off with him before the crowd breaks
in, as they will some of these days, for the guards are but half-
hearted.  My Portia, why did not you take a good offer, and go with
the Princess?"

"I thought it would be base."

"And much you gained by it!  You are only suspected and accused."

"I can't be a rat leaving a sinking ship."

"That is courteous, but I forgive it, Portia, as I know you will
repent of your folly.  But you never did know which side to look for
the butter."

Perhaps seeing how ugly desertion and defection looked in others
made constancy easier to Anne, much as she longed for the Close at
Winchester, and she even thought with a hope of the Golden Lamb,
Gracechurch, as an immediate haven sure to give her a welcome.

Her occupation of reading to the Queen was ended by the King's
return, so physically exhausted by violent nose-bleeding, so
despondent at the universal desertion, and so broken-hearted at his
daughter's defection, that his wife was absorbed in attending upon
him.

Anne began to watch for an opportunity to demand a dismissal, which
she thought would exempt her from all blame, but she was surprised
and a little dismayed by being summoned to the King in the Queen's
chamber.  He was lying on a couch clad in a loose dressing-gown
instead of his laced coat, and a red night-cap replacing his heavy
peruke, and his face was as white and sallow as if he were
recovering from a long illness.

"Little godchild," he said, holding out his hand as Anne made her
obeisance, "the Queen tells me you can read well.  I have a fancy to
hear."

Immensely relieved at the kindness of his tone, Anne courtesied, and
murmured out her willingness.

"Read this," he said; "I would fain hear this; my father loved it.
Here."

Anne felt her task a hard one when the King pointed to the third Act
of Shakespeare's Richard II.  She steeled herself and strengthened
her voice as best she could, and struggled on till she came to--

"I'll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gay apparel for an almsman's gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood,
My sceptre for a palmer's walking-staff,
My subjects for a pair of carved saints,
And my large kingdom for a little grave,
A little, little grave."

There she fairly broke down, and sobbed.

"Little one, little one," said James, you are sorry for poor
Richard, eh?"

"Oh, sir!" was all she could say.

"And you are in disgrace, they tell me, because my daughter chose to
try to entice you away," said James, "and you felt bound not to
betray her.  Never mind; it was an awkward case of conscience, and
there's not too much faithfulness to spare in these days.  We shall
know whom to trust to another time.  Can you continue now?  I would
take a lesson how, 'with mine own hands to give away my crown.'"

It was well for Anne that fresh tidings were brought in at that
moment, and she had to retire, with the sore feeling turned into an
enthusiastic pity and loyalty, which needed the relief of sobs and
mental vows of fidelity.  She felt herself no longer in disgrace
with her Royal master and mistress, but she was not in favour with
her few companions left--all who could not get over her secrecy, and
thought her at least a half traitor as well as a heretic.

Whitehall was almost in a state of siege, the turbulent mob
continually coming to shout, 'No Popery!' and the like, though they
proceeded no farther.  The ministers and other gentlemen came and
went, but the priests and the ladies durst not venture out for fear
of being recognised and insulted, if not injured.  Bad news came in
from day to day, and no tidings of the Prince of Wales being in
safety in France.  Once Anne received a letter from her uncle, which
cheered her much.

DEAR CHILD--So far as I can gather, your employment is at an end,
if it be true as reported that the Prince of Wales is at
Portsmouth, with the intent that he should be carried to France;
but the gentlemen of the navy seem strongly disposed to prevent
such a transportation of the heir of the realm to a foreign
country.  I fear me that you are in a state of doubt and anxiety,
but I need not exhort your good mother's child to be true and
loyal to her trust and to the Anointed of the Lord in all things
lawful at all costs.  If you are left in any distress or
perplexity, go either to Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe's house, or to
that of my good old friend, the Dean of Westminster; and as soon
as I hear from you I will endeavour to ride to town and bring you
home to my house, which is greatly at a loss without its young
mistress.

The letter greatly refreshed Anne's spirits, and gave her something
to look forward to, giving her energy to stitch at a set of lawn
cuffs and bands for her uncle, and think with the more pleasure of a
return that his time of residence at Winchester lay between her and
that vault in the castle.

There were no more attempts made at her conversion.  Every one was
too anxious and occupied, and one or more of the chiefly obnoxious
priests were sent privately away from day to day.  While summer
friends departed, Anne often thought of Bishop Ken's counsel as to
loyalty to Heaven and man.



CHAPTER XX: THE FLIGHT


"Storms may rush in, and crimes and woes
   Deform that peaceful bower;
They may not mar the deep repose
   Of that immortal flower.
Though only broken hearts be found
   To watch his cradle by,
No blight is on his slumbers sound,
   No touch of harmful eye."

KEBLE.

The news was even worse and worse in that palace of despondency and
terror.  Notice had arrived that Lord Dartmouth was withheld from
despatching the young Prince to France by his own scruples and those
of the navy; and orders were sent for the child's return.  Then came
a terrible alarm.  The escort sent to meet him were reported to have
been attacked by the rabble on entering London and dispersed, so
that each man had to shift for himself.

There was a quarter of an hour which seemed many hours of fearful
suspense, while King and Queen both knelt at their altar, praying in
agony for the child whom they pictured to themselves in the hands of
the infuriated mob, too much persuaded of his being an imposture to
pity his unconscious innocence.  No one who saw the blanched cheeks
and agonised face of Mary Beatrice, or James's stern, mute misery,
could have believed for a moment in the cruel delusion that he was
no child of theirs.

The Roman Catholic women were with them.  To enter the oratory would
in those circumstances have been a surrender of principle, but none
the less did Anne pray with fervent passion in her chamber for pity
for the child, and comfort for his parents.  At last there was a
stir, and hurrying out to the great stair, Anne saw a man in plain
clothes replying in an Irish accent to the King, who was supporting
the Queen with his arm.  Happily the escort had missed the Prince of
Wales.  They had been obliged to turn back to London without meeting
him, and from that danger he had been saved.

A burst of tears and a cry of fervent thanksgiving relieved the
Queen's heart, and James gave eager thanks instead of the reprimand
the colonel had expected for his blundering.

A little later, another messenger brought word that Lord and Lady
Powys had halted at Guildford with their charge.  A French
gentleman, Monsieur de St. Victor, was understood to have undertaken
to bring him to London--understood--for everything was whispered
rather than told among the panic-stricken women.  No one who knew
the expectation could go to bed that night except that the King and
Queen had--in order to disarm suspicion--to go through the
accustomed ceremonies of the coucher.  The ladies sat or lay on
their beds intently listening, as hour after hour chimed from the
clocks.

At last, at about three in the morning, the challenge of the
sentinels was heard from point to point.  Every one started up, and
hurried almost pell-mell towards the postern door.  The King and
Queen were both descending a stair leading from the King's dressing-
room, and as the door was cautiously opened, it admitted a figure in
a fur cloak, which he unfolded, and displayed the sleeping face of
the infant well wrapped from the December cold.

With rapture the Queen gathered him into her arms, and the father
kissed him with a vehemence that made him awake and cry.  St. Victor
had thought it safer that his other attendants should come in by
degrees in the morning, and thus Miss Woodford was the only actually
effective nursery attendant at hand.  His food was waiting by the
fire in his own sleeping chamber, and thither he was carried.  There
the Queen held him on her lap, while Anne fed him, and he smiled at
her and held out his arms.

The King came, and making a sign to Anne not to move, stood
watching.

Presently he said, "She has kept one secret, we may trust her with
another."

"Oh, not yet, not yet," implored the Queen.  "Now I have both my
treasures again, let me rest in peace upon them for a little while."

The King turned away with eyes full of tears while Anne was lulling
the child to sleep.  She wondered, but durst not ask the Queen,
where was the tiler's wife; but later she learnt from Miss Dunord,
that the woman had been so terrified by the cries of the multitude
against the 'pretender,' and still more at the sight of the sea,
that she had gone into transports of fright, implored to go home,
and perhaps half wilfully, become useless, so that the weaning
already commenced had to be expedited, and the fretfulness of the
poor child had been one of the troubles for some days.  However, he
seemed on his return to have forgotten his troubles, and Anne had
him in her arms nearly all the next day.

It was not till late in the evening that Anne knew what the King had
meant.  Then, while she was walking up and down the room, amusing
the little Prince with showing by turns the window and his face in a
large mirror, the Queen came in, evidently fresh from weeping, and
holding out her arms for him, said, after looking to see that there
was no other audience--

"Child, the King would repose a trust in you.  He wills that you
should accompany me to-night on a voyage to France to put this
little angel in safety."

"As your Majesty will," returned Anne; "I will do my best."

"So the King said.  He knew his brave sailor's daughter was worthy
of his trust, and you can speak French.  It is well, for we go under
the escort of Messieurs de Lauzun and St. Victor.  Be ready at
midnight.  Lady Strickland or the good Labadie will explain more to
you, but do not speak of this to anyone else.  You have leave now,"
she added, as she herself carried the child towards his father's
rooms.

The maiden's heart swelled at the trust reposed in her, and the
King's kind words, and she kept back the sense of anxiety and doubt
as to so vague a future.  She found Mrs. Labadie lying on her bed
awake, but trying to rest between two busy nights, and she was then
told that there was to be a flight from the palace of the Queen and
Prince at midnight, Mrs. Labadie and Anne alone going with them,
though Lord and Lady Powys and Lady Strickland, with the Queen's
Italian ladies, would meet them on board the yacht which was waiting
at Gravesend.  The nurse advised Anne to put a few necessary
equipments into a knapsack bound under a cloak, and to leave other
garments with her own in charge of Mr. Labadie, who would despatch
them with those of the suite, and would follow in another day with
the King.  Doubt or refusal there could of course be none in such
circumstances, and a high-spirited girl like Anne could not but feel
a thrill of heart at selection for such confidential and signal
service at her age, scarcely seventeen.  Her one wish was to write
to her uncle what had become of her.  Mrs. Labadie hardly thought it
safe, but said her husband would take charge of a note, and if
possible, post it when they were safe gone, but nothing of the
King's plans must be mentioned.

The hours passed away anxiously, and yet only too fast.  So many had
quitted the palace that there was nothing remarkable in packing, but
as Anne collected her properties, she could not help wondering
whether she should ever see them again.  Sometimes her spirit rose
at the thought of serving her lovely Queen, saving the little
Prince, and fulfilling the King's trust; at others, she was full of
vague depression at the thought of being cut off from all she knew
and loved, with seas between, and with so little notice to her
uncle, who might never learn where she was; but she knew she had his
approval in venturing all, and making any sacrifice for the King
whom all deserted; and she really loved her Queen and little Prince.

The night came, and she and Mrs. Labadie, fully equipped in cloaks
and hoods, waited together, Anne moving about restlessly, the elder
woman advising her to rest while she could.  The little Prince, all
unconscious of the dangers of the night, or of his loss of a throne,
lay among his wraps in his cradle fast asleep.

By and by the door opened, and treading softly in came the King in
his dressing-gown and night-cap, the Queen closely muffled, Lady
Strickland also dressed for a journey, and two gentlemen, the one
tall and striking-looking, the other slim and dark, in their cloaks,
namely, Lauzun and St. Victor.

It was one of those supreme moments almost beyond speech or
manifestation of feeling.

The King took his child in his arms, kissed him, and solemnly said
to Lauzun, "I confide my wife and son to you."

Both Frenchmen threw themselves on their knees kissing his hand with
a vow of fidelity.  Then giving the infant to Mrs. Labadie, James
folded his wife in his arms in a long mute embrace; Anne carried the
basket containing food for the child; and first with a lantern went
St. Victor, then Lauzun, handing the Queen; Mrs. Labadie with the
child, and Anne following, they sped down the stairs, along the
great gallery, with steps as noiseless as they could make them, down
another stair to a door which St. Victor opened.

A sentry challenged, sending a thrill of dismay through the anxious
hearts, but St. Victor had the word, and on they went into the privy
gardens, where often Anne had paced behind Mrs. Labadie as the
Prince took his airing.  Startling lights from the windows fell on
them, illuminating the drops of rain that plashed round them on that
grim December night, and their steps sounded on the gravel, while
still the babe, sheltered under the cloak, slept safely.  Another
door was reached, more sentries challenged and passed; here was a
street whose stones and silent houses shone for a little space as
St. Victor raised his lantern and exchanged a word with a man on the
box of a carriage.

One by one they were handed in, the Queen, the child, the nurse,
Anne, and Lauzun, St. Victor taking his place outside.  As if in a
dream they rattled on through the dark street, no one speaking
except that Lauzun asked the Queen if she were wet.

It was not far before they stopped at the top of the steps called
the Horseferry.  A few lights twinkled here and there, and were
reflected trembling in the river, otherwise a black awful gulf, from
which, on St. Victor's cautious hail, a whistle ascended, and a
cloaked figure with a lantern came up the steps glistening in the
rain.

One by one again, in deep silence, they were assisted down, and into
the little boat that rocked ominously as they entered it.  There the
women crouched together over the child unable to see one another,
Anne returning the clasp of a hand on hers, believing it Mrs.
Labadie's, till on Lauzun's exclaiming, "Est ce que j'incommode sa
Majeste?" the reply showed her that it was the Queen's hand that she
held, and she began a startled "Pardon, your Majesty," but the sweet
reply in Italian was, "Ah, we are as sisters in this stress."

The eager French voice of Lauzun went on, in undertones certainly,
but as if he had not the faculty of silence, and amid the plash of
the oars, the rush of the river, and the roar of the rain, it was
not easy to tell what he said, his voice was only another of the
noises, though the Queen made little courteous murmurs in reply.  It
was a hard pull against wind and tide towards a little speck of
green light which was shown to guide the rowers; and when at last
they reached it, St. Victor's hail was answered by Dusions, one of
the servants, and they drew to the steps where he held a lantern.

"To the coach at once, your Majesty."

"It is at the inn--ready--but I feared to let it stand."

Lauzun uttered a French imprecation under his breath, and danced on
the step with impatience, only restrained so far as to hand out the
Queen and her two attendants.  He was hotly ordering off Dusions and
St. Victor to bring the coach, when the former suggested that they
must find a place for the Queen to wait in where they could find
her.

"What is that dark building above?"

"Lambeth Church," Dusions answered.

"Ah, your Protestant churches are not open; there is no shelter for
us there," sighed the Queen.

"There is shelter in the angle of the buttress; I have been there,
your Majesty," said Dusions.

Thither then they turned.

"What can that be?" exclaimed the Queen, starting and shuddering as
a fierce light flashed in the windows and played on the wall.

"It is not within, madame," Lauzun encouraged; "it is reflected
light from a fire somewhere on the other side of the river."

"A bonfire for our expulsion.  Ah! why should they hate us so?"
sighed the poor Queen.

"'Tis worse than that, only there's no need to tell Her Majesty so,"
whispered Mrs. Labadie, who, in the difficulties of the ascent, had
been fain to hand the still-sleeping child to Anne.  "'Tis the
Catholic chapel of St. Roque.  The heretic miscreants!"

"Pray Heaven no life be lost," sighed Anne.

Sinister as the light was, it aided the poor fugitives at that dead
hour of night to find an angle between the church wall and a
buttress where the eaves afforded a little shelter from the rain,
which slackened a little, when they were a little concealed from the
road, so that the light need not betray them in case any passenger
was abroad at such an hour, as two chimed from the clock overhead.

The women kept together close against the wall to avoid the drip of
the eaves.  Lauzun walked up and down like a sentinel, his arms
folded, and talking all the while, though, as before, his utterances
were only an accompaniment to the falling rain and howling wind;
Mary Beatrice was murmuring prayers over the sleeping child, which
she now held in the innermost corner; Anne, with wide-stretched
eyes, was gazing into the light cast beyond the buttress by the fire
on the opposite side, when again there passed across it that form
she had seen on All Saints' Eve--the unmistakable phantom of
Peregrine.

It was gone into the darkness in another second; but a violent start
on her part had given a note of alarm, and brought back the Count,
whose walk had been in the opposite direction.

"What was it?  Any spy?"

"Oh no--no--nothing!  It was the face of one who is dead," gasped
Anne.

"The poor child's nerve is failing her," said the Queen gently, as
Lauzun drawing his sword burst out--

"If it be a spy it _shall_ be the face of one who is dead;" and he
darted into the road, but returned in a few moments, saying no one
had passed except one of the rowers returning after running up to
the inn to hasten the coach; how could he have been seen from the
church wall?  The wheels were heard drawing up at that moment, so
that the only thought was to enter it as quickly as might be in the
same order as before, after which the start was made, along the road
that led through the marshes of Lambeth; and then came the inquiry--
an anxious one--whom or what mademoiselle, as Lauzun called her, had
seen.

"O monsieur!" exclaimed the poor girl in her confusion, her best
French failing, "it was nothing--no living man."

"Can mademoiselle assure me of that?  The dead I fear not, the
living I would defy."

"He lives not," said she in an undertone, with a shudder.

"But who is he that mademoiselle can be so certain?" asked the
Frenchman.

"Oh!  I know him well enough," said Anne, unable to control her
voice.

"Mademoiselle must explain herself," said M. de Lauzun.  "If he be
spirit--or phantom--there is no more to say, but if he be in the
flesh, and a spy--then--"  There was a little rattle of his sword.

"Speak, I command," interposed the Queen; "you must satisfy M. le
Comte."

Thus adjured, Anne said in a low voice of horror:  "It was a
gentleman of our neighbourhood; he was killed in a duel last
summer!"

"Ah!  You are certain?"

"I had the misfortune to see the fight," sighed Anne.

"That accounts for it," said the Queen kindly.  "If mademoiselle's
nerves were shaken by such a remembrance, it is not wonderful that
it should recur to her at so strange a watch as we have been
keeping."

"It might account for her seeing this revenant cavalier in any
passenger," said Lauzun, not satisfied yet.

"No one ever was like him," said Anne.  "I could not mistake him."

"May I ask mademoiselle to describe him?" continued the count.

Feeling all the time as if this first mention were a sort of
betrayal, Anne faltered the words:  "Small, slight, almost
misshapen--with a strange one-sided look--odd, unusual features."

Lauzun's laugh jarred on her.  "Eh! it is not a flattering portrait.
Mademoiselle is not haunted by a hero of romance, it appears, so
much as by a demon."

"And none of those monsieur has employed in our escape answer to
that description?" asked the Queen.

"Assuredly not, your Majesty.  Crooked person and crooked mind go
together, and St. Victor would only have trusted to your big honest
rowers of the Tamise.  I think we may be satisfied that the
demoiselle's imagination was excited so as to evoke a phantom
impressed on her mind by a previous scene of terror.  Such things
have happened in my native Gascony."

Anne was fain to accept the theory in silence, though it seemed to
her strange that at a moment when she was for once not thinking of
Peregrine, her imagination should conjure him up, and there was a
strong feeling within her that it was something external that had
flitted across the shadow, not a mere figment of her brain, though
the notion was evidently accepted, and she could hear a muttering of
Mrs. Labadie that this was the consequence of employing young
wenches with their whims and megrims.

The Count de Lauzun did his best to entertain the Queen with stories
of revenants in Gascony and elsewhere, and with reminiscences of his
eleven years' captivity at Pignerol, and his intercourse with
Fouquet; but whenever in aftertimes Anne Woodford tried to recall
her nocturnal drive with this strange personage, the chosen and very
unkind husband of the poor old Grande Mademoiselle, she never could
recollect anything but the fierce glare of his eyes in the light of
the lamps as he put her to that terrible interrogation.

The talk was chiefly monologue.  Mrs. Labadie certainly slept,
perhaps the Queen did so too, and Anne became conscious that she
must have slumbered likewise, for she found every one gazing at her
in the pale morning dawn and asking why she cried, "O Charles,
hold!"

As she hastily entreated pardon, Lauzun was heard to murmur, "Je
parie que le revenant se nomme Charles," and she collected her
senses just in time to check her contradiction, recollecting that
happily such a name as Charles revealed nothing.  The little Prince,
who had slumbered so opportunely all night, awoke and received
infinite praise, and what he better appreciated, the food that had
been provided for him.  They were near their journey's end, and it
was well, for people were awakening and going to their work as they
passed one of the villages, and once the remark was heard, "There
goes a coach full of Papists."

However, no attempt was made to stop the party, and as it would be
daylight when they reached Gravesend, the Queen arranged her
disguise to resemble, as she hoped, a washerwoman--taking off her
gloves, and hiding her hair, while the Prince, happily again asleep,
was laid in a basket of linen.  Anne could not help thinking that
she thus looked more remarkable than if she had simply embarked as a
lady; but she meant to represent the attendant of her Italian friend
Countess Almonde, whom she was to meet on board.

Leaving the coach outside a little block of houses, the party
reached a projecting point of land, where three Irish officers
received them, and conducted them to a boat.  Then, wrapped closely
in cloaks from the chill morning air, they were rowed to the yacht,
on the deck of which stood Lord and Lady Powys, Lady Strickland,
Pauline Dunord, and a few more faithful followers, who had come more
rapidly.  There was no open greeting nor recognition, for the
captain and crew were unaware whom they were carrying, and, on the
discovery, either for fear of danger or hope of reward, might have
captured such a prize.

Therefore all the others, with whispered apologies, were hoisted up
before her, and Countess Almonde had to devise a special entreaty
that the chair might be lowered again for her poor laundress as well
as for the other two women.

The yacht, which had been hired by St. Victor, at once spread her
sails; Mrs. Labadie conversed with the captain while the countess
took the Queen below into the stifling crowded little cabin.  It was
altogether a wretched voyage; the wind was high, and the pitching
and tossing more or less disabled everybody in the suite.  The Queen
was exceedingly ill, so were the countess and Mrs. Labadie.  Nobody
could be the least effective but Signora Turini, who waited on her
Majesty, and Anne, who was so far seasoned by excursions at
Portsmouth that she was capable of taking sole care of the little
Prince, as the little vessel dashed along on her way with her cargo
of alarm and suffering through the Dutch fleet of fifty vessels,
none of which seemed to notice her--perhaps by express desire not to
be too curious as to English fugitives.

Between the care of the little one, who needed in the tossing of the
ship to be constantly in arms though he never cried and when awake
was always merry, and the giving as much succour as possible to her
suffering companions, Anne could not either rest or think, but
seemed to live in one heavy dazed dream of weariness and endurance,
hardly knowing whether it were day or night, till the welcome sound
was heard that Calais was in sight.

Then, as well as they could, the poor travellers crawled from the
corners, and put themselves in such array as they could contrive,
though the heaving of the waves, as the little yacht lay to, did not
conduce to their recovery.  The Count de Lauzun went ashore as soon
as a boat could be lowered to apprise M. Charot, the Governor of
Calais, of the guest he was to receive, and after an interval of
considerable discomfort, in full view of the massive fortifications,
boats came off to bring the Queen and her attendants on shore, this
time as a Queen, though she refused to receive any honours.  Lady
Strickland, recovering as soon as she was on dry land, resumed her
Prince, who was fondled with enthusiastic praises for his excellent
conduct on the voyage.

Anne could not help feebly thinking some of the credit might be due
to her, since she had held him by land and water nearly ever since
leaving Whitehall, but she was too much worn out by her nights of
unrest, and too much battered and beaten by the tossings of her
voyage, to feel anything except in a languid half-conscious way,
under a racking headache; and when the curious old house where they
were to rest was reached, and all the rest were eating with ravenous
appetites, she could taste nothing, and being conducted by a
compassionate Frenchwoman in a snow-white towering cap to a straw
mattress spread on the ground, she slept the twenty-four hours round
without moving.



CHAPTER XXI: EXILE


"'Oh, who are ye, young man?' she said.
'What country come ye frae?'
'I flew across the sea,' he said;
''Twas but this very day.'"

Old Ballad.

Five months had passed away since the midnight flight from England,
when Anne Woodford was sitting on a stone bench flanked with statues
in the stately gardens of the Palace of St. Germain, working away at
some delicate point lace, destined to cover some of the deficiencies
of her dress, for her difficulties were great, and these months had
been far from happy ones.

The King was in Ireland, the Queen spent most of the time of his
absence in convents, either at Poissy or Chaillot, carrying her son
with her to be the darling of the nuns, who had for the most part
never even seen a baby, and to whom a bright lively child of a year
old was a perfect treasure of delight.  Not wishing to encumber the
good Sisters with more attendants than were needful, the Queen only
took with her one lady governess, one nurse, and one rocker, and
this last naturally was Pauline Dunord, both a Frenchwoman and a
Roman Catholic.

This was in itself no loss to Anne.  Her experience of the nunnery
at Boulogne, where had been spent three days in expectation of the
King, had not been pleasant.  The nuns had shrunk from her as a
heretic, and kept their novices and pensionnaires from the taint of
communication with her; and all the honour she might have deserved
for the Queen's escape seemed to have been forfeited by that moment
of fear, which in the telling had become greatly exaggerated.

It was true that the Queen had never alluded to it; but probably
through Mrs. Labadie, it had become current that Miss Woodford had
been so much alarmed under the churchyard wall that her fancy had
conjured up a phantom and she had given a loud scream, which but for
the mercy of the Saints would have betrayed them all.

Anne was persuaded that she had done nothing worse than give an
involuntary start, but it was not of the least use to say so, and
she began to think that perhaps others knew better than she did.
Miss Dunord, who had never been more than distantly polite to her in
England, was of course more thrown with her at St. Germain, and
examined her closely.  Who was it?  What was it?  Had she seen it
before?  It was of no use to deny.  Pauline knew she had seen
something on that All Saints' Eve.  Was it true that it was a lover
of hers, and that she had seen him killed in a duel on her account?
Who would have imagined it in cette demoiselle si sage!  Would she
not say who it was!

But though truth forced more than one affirmative to be pumped out
of Anne, she clung to that last shred of concealment, and kept her
own counsel as to the time, place, and persons of the duel, and thus
she so far offended Pauline as to prevent that damsel from having
any scruples in regarding her as an obnoxious and perilous rival,
with a dark secret in her life.  Certainly Miss Dunord did earnestly
assure her that to adopt her Church, invoke the Saints, and have
Masses for the dead was the only way to lay such ghosts; but Anne
remained obdurate, and thus was isolated, for there were very few
Protestants in the fugitive Court, and those were of too high a
degree to consort with her.  Perhaps that undefined doubt of her
discretion was against her; perhaps too her education and knowledge
of languages became less useful to the Queen when surrounded by
French, for she was no longer called upon to act as reader; and the
little Prince, during his residence in the convent, had time to
forget her and lose his preference for her.  She was not discharged,
but except for taking her turn as a nursery-maid when the Prince was
at St. Germain, she was a mere supernumerary, nor was there any
salary forthcoming.  The small amount of money she had with her had
dwindled away, and when she applied to Lady Strickland, who was
kinder to her than any one else, she was told that the Queen was far
too much distressed for money wherewith to aid the King to be able
to pay any one, and that they must all wait till the King had his
own again.  Her clothes were wearing out, and scarcely in condition
for attendance on the Prince when he was shown in state to the King
of France.  Worse than all, she seemed entirely cut off from home.
She had written several times to her uncle when opportunity seemed
to offer, but had never heard from him, and she did not know whether
her letters could reach him, or if he were even aware of what had
become of her.  People came with passports from England to join the
exiled Court, but no one returned thither, or she would even have
offered herself as a waiting-maid to have a chance of going back.
Lady Strickland would have forwarded her, but no means or
opportunity offered, and there was nothing for it but to look to the
time that everybody declared to be approaching when the King was to
be reinstated, and they would all go home in triumph.

Meanwhile Anne Woodford felt herself a supernumerary, treated with
civility, and no more, as she ate her meals with a very feminine
Court, for almost all the gentlemen were in Ireland with the King.
She had a room in the entresol to herself, in Pauline's absence, and
here she could in turn sit and dream, or mend and furbish up her
clothes--a serious matter now--or read the least scrap of printed
matter in her way, for books were scarcer than even at Whitehall;
and though her 'mail' had safely been forwarded by Mr. Labadie, some
jealous censor had abstracted her Bible and Prayer-book.  Probably
there was no English service anywhere in France at that time, unless
among the merchants at Bordeaux--certainly neither English nor
Reformed was within her reach--and she had to spend her Sundays in
recalling all she could, and going over it, feeling thankful to the
mother who had made her store Psalms, Gospels, and Collects in her
memory week by week.

She was so far forgotten that active attempts to convert her had
been dropped, except by Pauline.  Perhaps it was thought that
isolation would be effectual, but in fact the sight of popular
Romanism not kept in check by Protestant surroundings shocked her,
and made her far more averse to change than when she saw it at its
best at Whitehall.  In fine, the end of her ambition had been
neglect and poverty, and the real service that she had rendered was
unacknowledged, and marred by that momentary alarm.  No wonder she
felt sore.

She had never once been to Paris, and seldom beyond the gardens,
which happily were free in the absence of the Queen, and always had
secluded corners apart from the noble terraces, safe from the
intrusion of idle gallants.  Anne had found a sort of bower of her
own, shaded by honeysuckles and wild roses, where she could sit
looking over the slopes and the windings of the Seine and indulge
her musings and longings.

The lonely life brought before her all the anxieties that had been
stifled for the time by the agitations of the escape.  Again and
again she lived over the scene in the ruins.  Again and again she
recalled those two strange appearances, and shivering at the thought
of the anniversary that was approaching in another month, still felt
sometimes that, alive or dead, Peregrine's would be a home face, and
framed to herself imaginary scenes in which she addressed him, and
demanded whether he could not rest in his unhallowed grave.  What
would Bishop Ken say?  Sometimes even she recollected the strange
theory which had made him crave execution from the late King, seven
years, yes, a little more than seven years ago, and marvel whether
at that critical epoch he had indeed between life and death been
snatched away to his native land of faery.  Imagination might well
run riot in the solitary, unoccupied condition to which she was
reduced; and she also brooded much over the fragments of doubtful
news which reached her.

Something was said of all loyal clergy being expelled and
persecuted, and this of course suggested those sufferings of the
clergy during the Commonwealth, of which she had often heard, making
her very anxious about her uncle, and earnestly long for wings to
fly to him.  The Archfields too!  Had Charles returned, and did that
secret press upon him as it did upon her?  Did Lucy think herself
utterly forgotten and cast aside, receiving no word or message from
her friend?  "Perhaps," thought Anne, "they fancy me sailing about
at Court in silks and satins, jewels and curls, and forgetting them
all, as I remember Lucy said I should when she first heard that I
was going to Whitehall.  Nay, and I even took pleasure in the
picture of myself so decked out, though I never, never meant to
forget her.  Foolish, worse than foolish, that I was!  And to think
that I might now be safe and happy with good Lady Russell, near my
uncle and all of them.  I could almost laugh to think how my fine
notions of making my fortune have ended in sitting here, neglected,
forgotten, banished, almost in rags!  I suppose it was all self-
seeking, and that I must take it meekly as no more than I deserve.
But oh, how different! how different is this captivity!  'Oh that I
had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away, and be at rest.'
Swallow, swallow! you are sweeping through the air.  Would that my
spirit could fly like you! if only for one glimpse to tell me what
they are doing.  Ah! there's some one coming down this unfrequented
walk, where I thought myself safe.  A young gentleman!  I must rise
and go as quietly as I can before he sees me.  Nay," as the action
following the impulse, she was gathering up her work, "'tis an old
abbe with him! no fear!  Abbe?  Nay, 'tis liker to an English
clergyman!  Can a banished one have strayed hither?  The younger man
is in mourning.  Could it be?  No graver, older, more manly--Oh!"

"Anne!  Anne!  We have found you!"

"Mr. Archfield!  You!"

And as Charles Archfield, in true English fashion, kissed her cheek,
Anne fairly choked with tears of joy, and she ever after remembered
that moment as the most joyful of her life, though the joy was
almost agony.

"This is Mistress Anne Woodford, sir," said Charles, the next
moment.  "Allow me, madam, to present Mr. Fellowes, of Magdalen
College."

Anne held out her hand, and courtesied in response to the bow and
wave of the shovel hat.

"How did you know that I was here?" she said.

"Doctor Woodford thought it likely, and begged us to come and see
whether we could do anything for you," said Charles; "and you may
believe that we were only too happy to do so.  A lady to whom we had
letters, who is half English, the Vicomtesse de Bellaise, was so
good as to go to the convent at Poissy and discover for us from some
of the suite where you were."

"My uncle--my dear uncle--is he well?"

"Quite well, when last we heard," said Charles.  "That was at
Florence, nearly a month ago."

"And all at Fareham, are they well?"

"All just as usual," said Charles, "at the last hearing, which was
at the same time.  I hoped to have met letters at Paris, but no
doubt the war prevents the mails from running."

"Ah!  I have never had a single letter," said Anne.  "Did my uncle
know anything of me?  Has he never had one of mine?"

"Up to the time when he wrote, last March, that is to say, he had
received nothing.  He had gone to London to make inquiries--"

"Ah! my dear good uncle!"

"And had ascertained that you had been chosen to accompany the Queen
and Prince in their escape from Whitehall.  You have played the
heroine, Miss Anne."

"Oh! if you knew--"

"And," said Mr. Fellowes, "both he and Sir Philip Archfield
requested us, if we could make our way home through Paris, to come
and offer our services to Mistress Woodford, in case she should wish
to send intelligence to England, or if she should wish to make use
of our escort to return home."

"Oh sir! oh sir! how can I thank you enough!  You cannot guess the
happiness you have brought me," cried Anne with clasped hands, tears
welling up again.

"You _will_ come with us then," cried Charles.  "I am sure you
ought.  They have not used you well, Anne; how pale and thin you
have grown."

"That is only pining!  I am quite well, only home-sick," she said
with a smile.  "I am sure the Queen will let me go.  I am nothing
but a burthen now.  She has plenty of her own people, and they do
not like a Protestant about the Prince."

"There is Madame de Bellaise," said Mr. Fellowes, "advancing along
the walk with Lady Powys.  Let me present you to her."

"You have succeeded, I see," a kind voice said, as Anne found
herself making her courtesy to a tall and stately old lady, with a
mass of hair of the peculiar silvered tint of flaxen mixed with
white.

"I am sincerely glad," said Lady Powys, "that Miss Woodford has met
her friends."

"Also," said Madame de Bellaise, "Lady Powys is good enough to say
that if mademoiselle will honour me with a visit, she gives
permission for her to return with me to Paris."

This was still greater joy, except for that one recollection,
formidable in the midst of her joy, of her dress.  Did Madame de
Bellaise divine something? for she said, "These times remind me of
my youth, when we poor cavalier families well knew what sore straits
were.  If mademoiselle will bring what is most needful, the rest can
be sent afterwards."

Making her excuses for the moment, Anne with light and gladsome foot
sped along the stately alley, up the stairs to her chamber, round
which she looked much as if it had been a prison cell, fell on her
knees in a gush of intense thankfulness, and made her rapid
preparations, her hands trembling with joy, and a fear that she
might wake to find all again a dream.  She felt as if this
deliverance were a token of forgiveness for her past wilfulness, and
as if hope were opened to her once more.  Lady Powys met her as she
came down, and spoke very kindly, thanking her for her services, and
hoping that she would enjoy the visit she was about to make.

"Does your ladyship think Her Majesty will require me any longer?"
asked Anne timidly.

"If you wish to return to the country held by the Prince of Orange,"
said the Countess coldly, "you must apply for dismissal to Her
Majesty herself."

Anne perceived from the looks of her friends that it was no time for
discussing her loyalty, and all taking leave, she was soon seated
beside Madame de Bellaise, while the coach and four rolled down the
magnificent avenue, and scene after scene disappeared, beautiful and
stately indeed, but which she was as glad to leave behind her as if
they had been the fetters and bars of a dungeon, and she almost
wondered at the words of admiration of her companions.

Madame de Bellaise sat back, and begged the others to speak English,
saying that it was her mother tongue, and she loved the sound of it,
but really trying to efface herself, while the eager conversation
between the two young people went on about their homes.

Charles had not been there more recently than Anne, and his letters
were at least two months old, but the intelligence in them was as
water to her thirsty soul.  All was well, she heard, including the
little heir of Archfield, though the young father coloured a little,
and shuffled over the answers to the inquiries with a rather sad
smile.  Charles was, however, greatly improved.  He had left behind
him the loutish, unformed boy, and had become a handsome, courteous,
well-mannered gentleman.  The very sight of him handing Madame de
Bellaise in and out of her coach was a wonder in itself when Anne
recollected how he had been wont to hide himself in the shrubbery to
prevent being called upon for such services, and how uncouthly in
the last extremity he would perform them.

Madame de Bellaise was inhabiting her son's great Hotel de
Nidemerle.  He was absent in garrison, and she was presiding over
the family of grandchildren, their mother being in bad health.  So
much Anne heard before she was conducted to a pleasant little
bedroom, far more home-like and comfortable than in any of the
palaces she had inhabited.  It opened into another, whence merry
young voices were heard.

"That is the apartment of my sister's youngest daughter," said
Madame de Bellaise, "Noemi Darpent.  I borrowed her for a little
while to teach her French and dancing, but now that we are gone to
war, they want to have her back again, and it will be well that she
should avail herself of the same escort as yourself.  All will then
be selon les convenances, which had been a difficulty to me," she
added with a laugh.

Then opening the door of communication she said; "Here, Noemi, we
have found your countrywoman, and I put her under your care.  Ah!
you two chattering little pies, I knew the voices were yours.  This
is my granddaughter, Marguerite de Nidemerle, and my niece--a la
mode de Bretagne--Cecile d'Aubepine, all bestowing their chatter on
their cousin."

Noemi Darpent was a tall, fair, grave-faced maiden, some years over
twenty, and so thoroughly English that it warmed Anne's heart to
look at her, and the other two were bright little Frenchwomen--
Marguerite a pretty blonde, Cecile pale, dark, and sallow, but full
of life.  Both were at the age at which girls were usually in
convents, but as Anne learnt, Madame de Bellaise was too English at
heart to give up the training of her grandchildren, and she had an
English governess for them, daughter to a Romanist cavalier ruined
by sequestration.

She was evidently the absolute head of the family.  Her daughter-in-
law was a delicate little creature, who scarcely seemed able to bear
the noise of the family at the long supper-table, when all talked
with shrill French voices, from the two youths and their abbe tutor
down to the little four-year-old Lolotte in her high chair.  But to
Anne, after the tedious formality of the second table at the palace,
stiff without refinement, this free family life was perfectly
delightful and refreshing, though as yet she was too much cramped,
as it were, by long stiffness, silence, and treatment as an inferior
to join, except by the intelligent dancing of her brown eyes, and
replies when directly addressed.

After Mrs. Labadie's homeliness, Pauline's exclusive narrowness,
Jane's petty frivolity, Hester's vulgar worldliness, and the general
want of cultivation in all who treated her on an equality, it was
like returning to rational society; and she could not but observe
that Mr. Archfield altogether held his own in conversation with the
rest, whether in French or English.  Little more than a year ago he
would hardly have opened his mouth, and would have worn the true
bumpkin look of contemptuous sheepishness.  Now he laughed and made
others laugh as readily and politely as--Ah!  With whom was she
comparing him?  Did the thought of poor Peregrine dwell on his mind
as it did upon hers?  But perhaps things were not so terrible to a
man as to a woman, and he had not seen those apparitions!  Indeed,
when not animated, she detected a certain thoughtful melancholy on
his brow which certainly had not belonged to former times.

Mr. Fellowes early made known to Anne that her uncle had asked him
to be her banker, and the first care of her kind hostess was to
assist her in supplying the deficiencies of her wardrobe, so that
she was able to go abroad without shrinking at her own shabby
appearance.

The next thing was to take her to Poissy to request her dismissal
from the Queen, without which it would be hardly decorous to depart,
though in point of fact, in the present state of affairs, as Noemi
said, there was nothing to prevent it.

"No," said Mr. Fellowes; "but for that reason Miss Woodford would
feel bound to show double courtesy to the discrowned Queen."

"And she has often been very kind to me--I love her much," said
Anne.

"Noemi is a little Whig," said Madame de Bellaise.  "I shall not
take her with us, because I know her father would not like it, but
to me it is only like the days of my youth to visit an exiled queen.
Will these gentlemen think fit to be of the party?"

"Thank you, madam, not I," said the Magdalen man.  "I am very sorry
for the poor lady, but my college has suffered too much at her
husband's hands for me to be very anxious to pay her my respects;
and if my young friend will take my advice, neither will he.  It
might be bringing his father into trouble."

To this Charles agreed, so M. L'Abbe undertook to show them the
pictures at the Louvre, and Anne and Madame de Bellaise were the
only occupants of the carriage that conveyed them to the great old
convent of Poissy, the girl enjoying by the way the comfort of the
kindness of a motherly woman, though even to her there could be no
confiding of the terrible secret that underlay all her thoughts.
Madame de Bellaise, however, said how glad she was to secure this
companionship for her niece.  Noemi had been more attached than her
family realised to Claude Merrycourt, a neighbour who had had the
folly, contrary to her prudent father's advice, to rush into
Monmouth's rebellion, and it had only been by the poor girl's agony
when he suffered under the summary barbarities of Kirke that her
mother had known how much her heart was with him.  The depression of
spirits and loss of health that ensued had been so alarming that
when Madame de Bellaise, after some months, paid a long visit to her
sister in England, Mrs. Darpent had consented to send the girl to
make acquaintance with her French relations, and try the effect of
change of scene.  She had gone, indifferent, passive, and broken-
hearted, but her aunt had watched over her tenderly, and she had
gradually revived, not indeed into a joyous girl, but into a calm
and fairly cheerful woman.

When she had left home, France and England were only too closely
connected, but now they were at daggers drawn, and probably would be
so for many years, and the Revolution had come so suddenly that
Madame de Bellaise had not been able to make arrangements for her
niece's return home, and Noemi was anxiously waiting for an
opportunity of rejoining her parents.

The present plan was this.  Madame de Bellaise's son, the Marquis de
Nidemerle, was Governor of Douai, where his son, the young Baron de
Ribaumont, with his cousin, the Chevalier d'Aubepine, were to join
him with their tutor, the Abbe Leblanc.  The war on the Flemish
frontier was not just then in an active state, and there were often
friendly relations between the commandants of neighbouring
garrisons, so that it might be possible to pass a party on to the
Spanish territory with a flag of truce, and then the way would be
easy.  This passing, however, would be impossible for Noemi alone,
since etiquette would not permit of her thus travelling with the two
young gentlemen, nor could she have proceeded after reaching Douai,
so that the arrival of the two Englishmen and the company of Miss
Woodford was a great boon.  Madame de Bellaise had already
despatched a courier to ask her son whether he could undertake the
transit across the frontier, and hoped to apply for passports as
soon as his answer was received.  She told Anne her niece's history
to prevent painful allusions on the journey.

"Ah, madame!" said Anne, "we too have a sad day connected with that
unfortunate insurrection.  We grieved over Lady Lisle, and burnt
with indignation."

"M. Barillon tells me that her judge, the Lord Chancellor, was
actually forced to commit himself to the Tower to escape being torn
to pieces by the populace, and it is since reported that he has
there died of grief and shame.  I should think his prison cell must
have been haunted by hundreds of ghosts."

"I pray you, madame! do you believe that there are apparitions?"

"I have heard of none that were not explained by some accident, or
else were the produce of an excited brain;" and Anne said no more on
that head, though it was a comfort to tell of her own foolish
preference for the chances of Court preferment above the security of
Lady Russell's household, and Madame de Bellaise smiled, and said
her experience of Courts had not been too agreeable.

And thus they reached Poissy, where Queen Mary Beatrice had separate
rooms set apart for visitors, and thus did not see them from behind
the grating, but face to face.

"You wish to leave me, signorina," she said, using the appellation
of their more intimate days, as Anne knelt to kiss her hand.  "I
cannot wonder.  A poor exile has nothing wherewith to reward the
faithful."

"Ah! your Majesty, that is not the cause; if I were of any use to
you or to His Royal Highness."

"True, signorina; you have been faithful and aided me to the best of
your power in my extremity, but while you will not embrace the true
faith I cannot keep you about the person of my son as he becomes
more intelligent.  Therefore it may be well that you should leave
us, until such time as we shall be recalled to our kingdom, when I
hope to reward you more suitably.  You loved my son, and he loved
you--perhaps you would like to bid him farewell."

For this Anne was very grateful, and the Prince was sent for by the
mother, who was too proud of him to miss any opportunity of
exhibiting him to an experienced mother and grandmother like the
vicomtesse.  He was a year old, and had become a very beautiful
child, with large dark eyes like his mother's, and when Mrs. Labadie
carried him in, he held out his arms to Anne with a cry of glad
recognition that made her feel that if she could have been allowed
the charge of him she could hardly have borne to part with him.  And
when the final leave-taking came, the Queen made his little hand
present her with a little gold locket, containing his soft hair,
with a J in seed pearls outside, in memory, said Mary Beatrice, of
that night beneath the church wall.

"Ah, yes, you had your moment of fear, but we were all in terror,
and you hushed him well."

Thus with another kiss to the white hand, returned on her own
forehead, ended Anne Jacobina's Court life.  Never would she be
Jacobina again--always Anne or sweet Nancy!  It was refreshing to be
so called, when Charles Archfield let the name slip out, then
blushed and apologised, while she begged him to resume it, which he
was now far too correct to do in public.  Noemi quite readily
adopted it.

"I am tired of fine French names," she said:  "an English voice is
quite refreshing; and do you call me Naomi, not Noemi.  I did not
mind it so much at first, because my father sometimes called me so,
after his good old mother, who was bred a Huguenot, but it is like
the first step towards home to hear Naomi--Little Omy, as my
brothers used to shout over the stairs."

That was a happy fortnight.  Madame de Bellaise said it would be a
shame to let Anne have spent a half year in France and have seen
nothing, so she took the party to the theatre, where they saw the
Cid with extreme delight.  She regretted that the season was so far
advanced that the winter representations of Esther, at St. Cyr by
the young ladies, were over, but she invited M. Racine for an
evening, when Mr. Fellowes took extreme pleasure in his
conversation, and he was prevailed on to read some of the scenes.
She also used her entree at Court to enable them to see the
fountains at Versailles, which Winchester was to have surpassed but
for King Charles's death.

"Just as well otherwise," remarked Charles to Anne.  "These fine
feathers and flowers of spray are beautiful enough in themselves,
but give me the clear old Itchen not tortured into playing tricks,
with all the trout killed; and the open down instead of all these
terraces and marble steps where one feels as cramped as if it were a
perpetual minuet.  And look at the cost!  Ah! you will know what I
mean when we travel through the country."

Another sight was from a gallery, whence they beheld the King eat
his dinner alone at a silver-loaded table, and a lengthy ceremony it
was.  Four plates of soup to begin with, a whole capon with ham,
followed by a melon, mutton, salad, garlic, pate de foie gras,
fruit, and confitures.  Charles really grew so indignant, that, in
spite of his newly-acquired politeness, Anne, who knew his
countenance, was quite glad when she saw him safe out of hearing.

"The old glutton!" he said; "I should like to put him on a diet of
buckwheat and sawdust like his poor peasants for a week, and then
see whether he would go on gormandising, with his wars and his
buildings, starving his poor.  It is almost enough to make a Whig of
a man to see what we might have come to.  How can you bear it,
madame?"

"Alas! we are powerless," said the Vicomtesse.  "A seigneur can do
little for his people, but in Anjou we have some privileges, and our
peasants are better off than those you have seen, though indeed I
grieved much for them when first I came among them from England."

She was perhaps the less sorry that Paris was nearly emptied of
fashionable society since her guest had the less chance of uttering
dangerous sentiments before those who might have repeated them, and
much as she liked him, she was relieved when letters came from her
son undertaking to expedite them on their way provided they made
haste to forestall any outbreak of the war in that quarter.

Meantime Naomi and Anne had been drawn much nearer together by a
common interest.  The door between their rooms having some
imperfection in the latch swung open as they were preparing for bed,
and Anne was aware of a sound of sobbing, and saw one of the white-
capped, short-petticoated femmes de chambre kneeling at Naomi's
feet, ejaculating, "Oh, take me! take me, mademoiselle!  Madame is
an angel of goodness, but I cannot go on living a lie.  I shall do
something dreadful."

"Poor Suzanne! poor Suzanne!" Naomi was answering:  "I will do what
I can, I will see if it is possible--"

They started at the sound of the step, Suzanne rising to her feet in
terror, but Naomi, signing to Anne and saying, "It is only
Mademoiselle Woodford, a good Protestant, Suzanne.  Go now; I will
see what can be done; I know my aunt would like to send a maid with
us."

Then as Suzanne went out with her apron to her eyes, and Anne would
have apologised, she said, "Never mind; I must have told you, and
asked your help.  Poor Suzanne, she is one of the Rotrous, an old
race of Huguenot peasants whom my aunt always protected; she would
protect any one, but these people had a special claim because they
sheltered our great-grandmother, Lady Walwyn, when she fled after
the S. Barthelemi.  When the Edict of Nantes was revoked, the two
brothers fled.  I believe she helped them, and they got on board
ship, and brought a token to my father; but the old mother was
feeble and imbecile, and could not move, and the monks and the
dragoons frightened and harassed this poor wench into what they
called conforming.  When the mother died, my aunt took Suzanne and
taught her, and thought she was converted; and indeed if all Papists
were like my aunt it would not be so hard to become one."

"Oh yes!  I know others like that."

"But this poor Suzanne, knowing that she only was converted out of
terror, has always had an uneasy conscience, and the sight of me has
stirred up everything.  She says, though I do not know if it be
true, that she was fast drifting into bad habits, when finding my
Bible, though it was English and she could not read it, seems to
have revived everything, and recalled the teaching of her good old
father and pastor, and now she is wild to go to England with us."

"You will take her?" exclaimed Anne.

"Of course I will.  Perhaps that is what I was sent here for.  I
will ask her of my aunt, and I think she will let me have her.  You
will keep her secret, Anne."

"Indeed I will."

Madame de Bellaise granted Suzanne to her niece without difficulty,
evidently guessing the truth, but knowing the peril of the situation
too well to make any inquiry.  Perhaps she was disappointed that her
endeavours to win the girl to her Church had been ineffectual, but
to have any connection with one 'relapsed' was so exceedingly
perilous that she preferred to ignore the whole subject, and merely
let it be known that Suzanne was to accompany Mademoiselle Darpent,
and this was only disclosed to the household on the very last
morning, after the passports had been procured and the mails packed,
and she hushed any remark of the two English girls in such a decided
manner as quite startled them by the manifest need of caution.

"We should have come to that if King James were still allowed to
have his own way," said Naomi.

"Oh no! we are too English," said Anne.

"Our generation might not see it," said Naomi; "but who can be safe
when a Popish king can override law?  Oh, I shall breathe more
freely when I am on the other side of the Channel.  My aunt is much
too good for this place, and they don't approve of her, and keep her
down."



CHAPTER XXII: REVENANTS


"But soft, behold! lo, where it comes again!
I'll cross it, though it blast me."

Hamlet.

Floods of tears were shed at the departure of the two young officers
of sixteen and seventeen.  The sobs of the household made the
English party feel very glad when it was over and the cavalcade was
in motion.  A cavalcade it was, for each gentleman rode and so did
his body-servant, and each horse had a mounted groom.  The two young
officers had besides each two chargers, requiring a groom and horse
boy, and each conducted half a dozen fresh troopers to join the
army.  A coach was the regulation mode of travelling for ladies, but
both the English girls had remonstrated so strongly that Madame de
Bellaise had consented to their riding, though she took them and
Suzanne the first day's journey well beyond the ken of the Parisians
in her own carriage, as far as Senlis, where there was a fresh
parting with the two lads, fewer tears, and more counsel and
encouragement, with many fond messages to her son, many to her
sister in England, and with affectionate words to her niece a
whisper to her to remember that she would not be in a Protestant
country till she reached Holland or England.

The last sight they had of the tall dignified figure of the old lady
was under the arch of the cathedral, where she was going to pray for
their safety.  Suzanne was to ride on a pillion behind the Swiss
valet of Mr. Fellowes, whom Naomi had taken into her confidence, and
the two young ladies each mounted a stout pony.  Mr. Fellowes had
made friends with the Abbe Leblanc, who was of the old Gallican
type, by no means virulently set against Anglicanism, and also a
highly cultivated man, so that they had many subjects in common,
besides the question of English Catholicity.  The two young cousins,
Ribaumont and D'Aubepine, were chiefly engaged in looking out for
sport, setting their horses to race with one another, and the like,
in which Charles Archfield sometimes took a share, but he usually
rode with the two young ladies, and talked to them very pleasantly
of his travels in Italy, the pictures and antiquities which had made
into an interesting reality the studies that he had hated when a
boy, also the condition of the country he had seen with a mind which
seemed to have opened and enlarged with a sudden start beyond the
interests of the next fox-hunt or game at bowls.  All were, as he
had predicted, greatly shocked at the aspect of the country through
which they passed:  the meagre crops ripening for harvest, the hay-
carts, sometimes drawn by an equally lean cow and woman, the haggard
women bearing heavy burthens, and the ragged, barefooted children
leading a wretched cow or goat to browse by the wayside, the gaunt
men toiling at road-mending with their poor starved horses, or at
their seigneur's work, alike unpaid, even when drawn off from their
own harvests.  And in the villages the only sound buildings were the
church and presbytere by its side, the dwellings being miserable
hovels, almost sunk into the earth, an old crone or two, marvels of
skinniness, spinning at the door, or younger women making lace, and
nearly naked children rushing out to beg.  Sometimes the pepper-box
turrets of a chateau could be seen among distant woods, or the walls
of a cloister, with a taper spire in the midst, among greener
fields; and the towns were approached through long handsome avenues,
and their narrow streets had a greater look of prosperity, while
their inns, being on the way to the place of warfare, were almost
luxurious, with a choice of dainty meats and good wines.  Everywhere
else was misery, and Naomi said it was the vain endeavour to reform
the source of these grievances that had forced her father to become
an exile from his native country, and that he had much apprehended
that the same blight might gradually be brought over his adopted
land, on which Charles stood up for the constitution, and for the
resolute character of Englishmen, and Anne, as in duty bound, for
the good intentions of her godfather.  Thus they argued, and Anne
not only felt herself restored to the company of rational beings,
but greatly admired Charles's sentiments and the ability with which
he put them forward, and now and then the thought struck her, and
with a little twinge of pain of which she was ashamed, would Naomi
Darpent be the healer of the wound nearly a year old, and find in
him consolation for the hero of her girlhood?  Somehow there would
be a sense of disappointment in them both if so it were.

At length the spires and towers of Douai came in sight, fenced in by
stern lines of fortification according to the science of Vauban--
smooth slopes of glacis, with the terrible muzzles of cannon peeping
out on the summits of the ramparts, and the line of salient angle
and ravelin with the moat around, beautiful though formidable.  The
Marquis de Nidemerle had sent a young officer and sergeant's party
to meet the travellers several miles off, and bring them
unquestioned through the outposts of the frontier town, so closely
watched in this time of war, and at about half a mile from the gates
he himself, with a few attendants, rode out all glittering and
clanking in their splendid uniforms and accoutrements.  He doffed
his hat with the heavy white plume, and bowed his greeting to the
ladies and clergymen, but both the young Frenchmen, after a military
salute, hastily dismounted and knelt on one knee, while he sprang
from his horse, and then, making the sign of the Cross over his son,
raised him, and folding him in his arms pressed him to his breast
and kissed him on each cheek, not without tears, then repeated the
same greeting with young D'Aubepine.  He then kissed the hand of his
belle cousine, whom, of course, he knew already, and bowed almost to
the ground on being presented to Mademoiselle Woodford, a little
less low to Monsieur Archfield, who was glad the embracing was not
to be repeated, politely received Mr. Fellowes, and honoured the
domestic abbe with a kindly word and nod.  The gradation was
amusing, and he was a magnificent figure, with his noble horse and
grand military dress, while his fine straight features, sunburnt
though naturally fair, and his tall, powerful frame, well became his
surroundings--'a true white Ribaumont,' as Naomi said, as she looked
at the long fair hair drawn back and tied with ribbon.  "He is just
like the portrait of our great-grandfather who was almost killed on
the S. Barthelemi!"  However, Naomi had no more time to talk _of_
him, for he rode by her side inquiring for his mother, wife, and
children, but carefully doing the honours to the stranger lady and
gentleman.

Moat and drawbridge there were at Portsmouth, and a sentry at the
entrance, but here there seemed endless guards, moats, bridges, and
gates, and there was a continual presenting of arms and
acknowledging of salutes as the commandant rode in with the
travellers.  It was altogether a very new experience in life.  They
were lodged in the governor's quarters in the fortress, where the
accommodation for ladies was of the slenderest, and M. de Nidemerle
made many apologies, though he had evidently given up his own
sleeping chamber to the two ladies, who would have to squeeze into
his narrow camp-bed, with Suzanne on the floor, and the last was to
remain there entirely, there being no woman with whom she could have
her meals.  The ladies were invited to sup with the staff, and
would, as M. de Nidemerle assured them, be welcomed with the
greatest delight.  So Naomi declared that they must make their
toilette do as much justice as possible to their country; and though
full dress was not attainable, they did their best with ribbons and
laces, and the arrangement of her fair locks and Anne's brown ones,
when Suzanne proved herself an adept; the ladies meantime finding no
small amusement in the varieties of swords, pistols, spurs, and
other accoutrements, for which the marquis had apologised, though
Naomi told him that they were the fittest ornaments possible.

"And my cousin Gaspard is a really good man," she said, indicating
to her friend the little shrine with holy-water stoup, ivory
crucifix, print of the Madonna, two or three devotional books, and
the miniatures of mother, wife, and children hung not far off; also
of two young cavaliers, one of whom Naomi explained to be the young
father whom Gaspard could not recollect, the other, that of the
uncle Eustace, last Baron Walwyn and Ribaumont, of whom her own
mother talked with such passionate affection, and whose example had
always been a guiding star to the young marquis.

He came to their door to conduct them down to supper, giving his arm
to Miss Woodford as the greatest stranger, while Miss Darpent was
conducted by a resplendent ducal colonel.  The supper-room was in
festal guise, hung round with flags, and the table adorned with
flowers; a band was playing, and never had either Anne or Naomi been
made so much of.  All were eagerly talking, Charles especially so,
and Anne thought, with a thrill, "Did he recollect that this was the
very anniversary of that terrible 1st of July?"

It was a beautiful summer evening, and the supper taking place at
five o'clock there was a considerable time to spare afterwards, so
that M. de Nidemerle proposed to show the strangers the place, and
the view from the ramparts.

"In my company you can see all well," he said, "but otherwise there
might be doubts and jealousies."

He took them through the narrow Flemish streets of tall houses with
projecting upper stories, and showed them that seminary which was
popularly supposed in England to be the hotbed of truculent plots,
but where they only saw a quiet academic cloister and an exquisite
garden, green turf, roses and white lilies in full perfection, and
students flitting about in cassocks and square caps, more like an
Oxford scene, as Mr. Fellowes said, than anything he had yet seen.
He was joined by an English priest from his own original
neighbourhood.  The Abbe Leblanc found another acquaintance, and
these two accompanied their friends to the ramparts.  The marquis
had a great deal to hear from his cousin about his home, and thus it
happened that Charles Archfield and Anne found themselves more
practically alone together than they had yet been.  As they looked
at the view over the country, he told her of a conversation that he
had had with an officer now in the French army, but who had served
in the Imperial army against the Turks, and that he had obtained
much useful information.

"Useful?" asked Anne.

"Yes.  I have been watching for the moment to tell you, Anne; I have
resolved what to do.  I intend to make a few campaigns there against
the enemy of Christendom."

"O Mr. Archfield!" was all she could say.

"See here, I have perceived plainly that to sink down into my lady's
eldest son is no wholesome life for a man with all his powers about
him.  I understand now what a set of oafs we were to despise the
poor fellow you wot of, because he was not such a lubber as
ourselves.  I have no mind to go through the like."

"You are so different; it could not be the same."

"Not quite; but remember there is nothing for me to do.  My father
is still an active man, and I am not old enough to take my part in
public affairs, even if I loved greatly either the Prince of Orange
or King James.  I could not honestly draw my sword for either.  I
have no estate to manage, my child's inheritance is all in money,
and it would drive me mad, or worse, to go home to be idle.  No; I
will fight against the common enemy till I have made me a name, and
won reputation and standing; or if I should not come back, there's
the babe at home to carry on the line."

"Oh, sir! your father and mother--Lucy--all that love you.  What
will they say?"

"It would only put them to needless pain to ask them.  I shall not.
I shall write explaining all my motives--all except one, and that
you alone know, Anne."

She shuddered a little, and felt him press her arm tightly.  They
had fallen a good deal behind the marquis and his cousin, and were
descending as twilight fell into a narrow, dark, lonely street, with
all the houses shut up.  "No one has guessed, have they?" she
faltered.

"Not that I know of.  But I cannot--no!  I can_not_ go home, to have
that castle near me, and that household at Oakwood.  I see enough in
my dreams without that."

"See!  Ah, yes!"

"Then, Anne, you have suffered then too--guiltless as you are in
keeping my terrible secret!  I have often thought and marvelled
whether it were so with you."

She was about to tell him what she had seen, when he began, "There
is one thing in this world that would sweeten and renew my life--and
that?"

Her heart was beating violently at what was so suddenly coming on
her, when at that instant Charles broke off short with "Good
Heavens!  What's that?"

On the opposite side of the street, where one of the many churches
stood some way back, making an opening, there was a figure,
essentially the same that Anne had seen at Lambeth, but bare-headed,
clad apparently in something long and white, and with a pale bluish
light on the ghastly but unmistakable features.

She uttered a faint gasping cry scarcely audible, Charles's impulse
was to exclaim, "Man or spirit, stand!" and drawing his sword to
rush across the street; but in that second all had vanished, and he
only struck against closed doors, which he shook, but could not
open.

"Mr. Archfield!  Oh, come back!  I have seen it before," entreated
Anne; and he strode back, with a gesture of offering her support,
and trembling, she clung to his arm.  "It does not hurt," she said.
"It comes and goes--"

"You have seen it before!"

"Twice."

No more could be said, for through the gloom the white plume and
gold-laced uniform of the marquis were seen.  He had missed them,
and come back to look for them, beginning to apologise.

"I am confounded at having left Mademoiselle behind.--Comment!"--as
the sound betrayed that Charles was sheathing his sword.  "I trust
that Monsieur has met with no unpleasant adventure from my people."

"Oh, no, Monsieur," was the answer, as he added--

"One can never be sure as to these fiery spirits towards an
Englishman in the present state of feeling, and I blame myself
extremely for having permitted myself to lose sight of Monsieur and
Mademoiselle."

"Indeed, sir, we have met with no cause of complaint," said Charles,
adding as if casually, "What is that church?"

"'Tis the Jesuits' Church," replied the governor.  "There is the
best preaching in the town, they say, and Jansenists as we are, I
was struck with the Lenten course."

Anne went at once to her room on returning to the house.  Naomi, who
was there already, exclaimed at her paleness, and insisted on
administering a glass of wine from what the English called the rere
supper, the French an encas, the substantial materials for which had
been left in the chamber.  Then Anne felt how well it had been for
her that her fellows at the palace had been so uncongenial, for she
could hardly help disclosing to Naomi the sight she had seen, and
the half-finished words she had heard.  It was chiefly the feeling
that she could not bear Naomi to know of the blood on Charles's hand
which withheld her in her tumult of feeling, and made her only
entreat, "Do not ask me, I cannot tell you."  And Naomi, who was
some years older, and had had her own sad experience, guessed
perhaps at one cause for her agitation, and spared her inquiries,
though as Anne, tired out by the long day, and forced by their close
quarters to keep herself still, dropped asleep, strange mutterings
fell from her lips about "The vault--the blood--come back.  There he
is.  The secret has risen to forbid.  O, poor Peregrine!"

Between the July heat, the narrow bed, and the two chamber fellows,
Anne had little time to collect her thoughts, except for the general
impression that if Charles finished what he had begun to say, the
living and the dead alike must force her to refuse, though something
within foreboded that this would cost her more than she yet durst
perceive, and her heart was ready to spring forth and enclose him as
it were in an embrace of infinite tenderness, above all when she
thought of his purpose of going to those fearful Hungarian wars.

But after the hot night, it was a great relief to prepare for an
early start.  M. de Nidemerle had decided on sending the travellers
to Tournay, the nearest Spanish town, on the Scheldt, since he had
some acquaintance with the governor, and when no campaign was
actually on foot the courtesies of generous enemies passed between
them.  He had already sent an intimation of his intention of
forwarding an English kinswoman of his own with her companions, and
bespoken the good offices of his neighbour, and they were now to set
off in very early morning under the escort of a flag of truce, a
trumpeter, and a party of troopers, commanded by an experienced old
officer with white moustaches and the peaked beard of the last
generation, contrasting with a face the colour of walnut wood.

The marquis himself and his son, however, rode with the travellers
for their first five miles, through a country where the rich green
of the natural growth showed good soil, all enamelled with flowers
and corn crops run wild; but the villages looked deserted, the
remains of burnt barns and houses were frequent, and all along that
frontier, it seemed as if no peaceful inhabitants ventured to
settle, and only brigands often rendered such by misery might prowl
about.  The English party felt as if they had never understood what
war could be.

However, in a melancholy orchard run wild, under the shade of an
apple-tree laden with young fruit, backed by a blackened gable half
concealed by a luxuriant untrimmed vine, the avant couriers of the
commandant had cleared a space in the rank grass, and spread a
morning meal, of cold pate, fowl and light wines, in which the
French officers drank to the good journey of their friends, and then
when the horses had likewise had their refreshment the parting took
place with much affection between the cousins.  The young Ribaumont
augured that they should meet again when he had to protect Noemi in
a grand descent on Dorsetshire in behalf of James, and she merrily
shook her fist at him and defied him, and his father allowed that
they were a long way from that.

M. de Nidemerle hinted to Mr. Archfield that nobody could tell him
more about the war with the Turks than M. le Capitaine Delaune, who
was, it appeared, a veteran Swiss who had served in almost every
army in Europe, and thus could give information by no means to be
neglected.  So that, to Anne's surprise and somewhat to her
mortification, since she had no knowledge of the cause, she saw
Charles riding apart with this wooden old veteran, who sat as
upright as a ramrod on his wiry-looking black horse, leaving her to
the company of Naomi and Mr. Fellowes.  Did he really wish not to
pursue the topic which had brought Peregrine from his grave?  It
would of course be all the better, but it cost her some terrible
pangs to think so.

There were far more formalities and delays before the travellers
could cross the Tournay bridge across the Scheldt.  They were
brought to a standstill a furlong off, and had to wait while the
trumpeter rode forward with the white flag, and the message was
referred to the officer on guard, while a sentry seemed to be
watching over them.  Then the officer came to the gateway of the
bridge, and Captain Delaune rode forward to him, but there was still
a long weary waiting in the sun before he came back, after having
shown their credentials to the governor, and then he was accompanied
by a Flemish officer, who, with much courtesy, took them under his
charge, and conducted them through all the defences, over the
bridge, and to the gate where their baggage had to be closely
examined.  Naomi had her Bible in her bosom, or it would not have
escaped; Anne heartily wished she had used the same precaution on
her flight from England, but she had not, like her friend, been
warned beforehand.

When within the city there was more freedom, and the Fleming
conducted the party to an inn, where, unlike English inns, they
could not have a parlour to themselves, but had to take their meals
in common with other guests at a sort of table d'hote, and the
ladies had no refuge but their bedroom, where the number of beds did
not promise privacy.  An orderly soon arrived with an invitation to
Don Carlos Arcafila to sup with the Spanish governor, and of course
the invitation could not be neglected.  The ladies walked about a
little in the town with Mr. Fellowes, looking without appreciation
at the splendid five-towered cathedral, but recollecting with due
English pride that the place had been conquered by Henry VIII.
Thence they were to make for Ostend, where they were certain of
finding a vessel bound for England.

It was a much smaller party that set forth from Tournay than from
Paris, and soon they fell into pairs, Mr. Fellowes and Naomi riding
together, sufficiently out of earshot of the others for Charles to
begin--

"I have not been able to speak to you, Anne, since that strange
interruption--if indeed it were not a dream."

"Oh, sir, it was no dream!  How could it be?"

"How could it, indeed, when we both saw it, and both of us awake and
afoot, and yet I cannot believe my senses."

"Oh, I can believe it only too truly!  I have seen him twice before.
I thought you said you had."

"Merely in dreams, and that is bad enough."

"Are you sure? for I was up and awake."

"Are _you_ sure?  I might ask again.  I was asleep in bed, and glad
enough to shake myself awake.  Where were you?"

"Once on Hallowmas Eve, looking from the window at Whitehall; once
when waiting with the Queen under the wall of Lambeth Church, on the
night of our flight."

"Did others see him then?"

"I was alone the first time.  The next time when he flitted across
the light, no one else saw him; but they cried out at my start.  Why
should he appear except to us?"

"That is true," muttered Charles.

"And oh, sir, those two times he looked as he did in life--not
ghastly as now.  There can be no doubt now that--"

"What, sweet Anne?"

"Sir, I must tell you!  I could bear it no longer, and I _did_
consult the Bishop of Bath and Wells."

"Any more?" he asked in a somewhat displeased voice.

"No one, not a soul, and he is as safe as any of the priests here;
he regards a confession in the same way.  Mr. Archfield, forgive me.
He seemed divinely sent to me on that All Saints' day!  Oh, forgive
me!" and tears were in her eyes.

"He is Dr. Ken--eh?  I remember him.  I suppose he is as safe as any
man, and a woman must have some relief.  You have borne enough
indeed," said Charles, greatly touched by her tears.  "What did he
say?"

"He asked, was I certain of the--death," said she, bringing out the
word with difficulty; "but then I had only seen _it_ at Whitehall;
and these other appearances, in such places too, take away all hope
that it is otherwise!"

"Assuredly," said Charles; "I had not the least doubt at the moment.
I know I ran my sword through his body, and felt a jar that I
believe was his backbone," he said with a shudder, "and he fell
prone and breathless; but since I have seen more of fencing, and
heard more of wounds, the dread has crossed me that I acted as an
inexperienced lad, and that I ought to have tried whether the life
was in him, or if he could be recovered.  If so, I slew him twice,
by launching him into that pit.  God forgive me!"

"Is it so deep?" asked Anne, shuddering.  "I know there is a sort of
step at the top; but I always shunned the place, and never looked
in."

"There are two or three steps at the top, but all is broken away
below.  Sedley and I once threw a ball down, and I am sure it
dropped to a depth down which no man could fall and _live_.  I
believe there once were underground passages leading to the harbour
on one hand, and out to Portsdown Hill on the other, but that the
communication was broken away and the openings destroyed when Lord
Goring was governor of Portsmouth, to secure the castle.  Be that as
it may, he could not have been living after he reached that floor.
I heard the thud, and the jingle of his sword, and it will haunt me
to my dying day."

"And yet you never intended it.  You did it in defence of me.  You
did not mean to strike thus hard.  It was an accident."

"Would that I could so feel it!" he sighed.  "Nay, of course I had
no evil design when my poor little wife drove me out to give you her
rag of ribbon, or whatever it was; but I hated as well as despised
the fellow.  He had angered me with his scorn--well deserved, as now
I see--of our lubberly ways.  She had vexed me with her teasing
commendations--out of harmless mischief, poor child.  I hated him
more every time you looked at him, and when I had occasion to strike
him I was glad of it.  There was murder in my heart, and I felt as
if I were putting a rat or a weasel out of the way when I threw him
down that pit.  God forgive me!  Then, in my madness, I so acted
that in a manner I was the death of that poor young thing."

"No, no, sir.  Your mother had never thought she would live."

"So they say; but her face comes before me in reproach.  There are
times when I feel myself a double murderer.  I have been on the
point of telling all to Mr. Fellowes, or going home to accuse
myself.  Only the thought of my father and mother, and of leaving
such a blight on that poor baby, has withheld me; but I cannot go
home to face the sight of the castle."

"No," said Anne, choked with tears.

"Nor is there any suspicion of the poor fellow's fate," he added.

"Not that I ever heard."

"His family think him fled, as was like enough, considering the way
in which they treated him," said Charles.  "Nor do I see what good
it would do them to know the truth."

"It would only be a grief and bitterness to all."

"I hope I have repented, and that God accepts my forgiveness," said
Charles sadly.  "I am banishing myself from all I love, and there is
a weight on me for life; but, unless suspicion falls on others, I do
not feel bound to make it worse for all by giving myself up.  Yet
those appearances--to you, to me, to us both!  At such a moment,
too, last night!"

"Can it be because of his unhallowed grave?" said Anne, in a low
voice of awe.

"If it were!" said Charles, drawing up his horse for a moment in
thought.  "Anne, if there be one more appearance, the place shall be
searched, whether it incriminate me or not.  It would be adding to
all my wrongs towards the poor fellow, if that were the case."

"Even if he were found," said Anne, "suspicion would not light on
you.  And at home it will be known if he haunts the place.  I will--
"

"Nay, but, Anne, he will not interrupt me now.  I have much more to
say.  I want you to remember that we were sweethearts ere ever I, as
a child of twelve, knew that I was contracted to that poor babe, and
bidden to think only of her.  Poor child!  I honestly did my best to
love her, so far as I knew how, and mayhap we could have rubbed on
through life passably well as things go.  But--but--It skills not
talking of things gone by, except to show that it is a whole heart--
not the reversion of one that is yours for ever, mine only love."

"Oh, but--but--I am no match for you."

"I've had enough of grand matches."

"Your father would never endure it."

"My father would soon rejoice.  Besides, if we are wedded here--say
at Ostend--and you make me a home at Buda, or Vienna, or some place
at our winter quarters, as my brave wench will, my father will be
glad enough to see us both at home again."

"No; it cannot be.  It would be plain treachery to your parents; Mr.
Fellowes would say so.  I am sure he would not marry us."

"There are English chaplains.  Is that all that holds you back?"

"No, sir.  If the Archbishop of Canterbury were here himself, it
could not make it other than a sin, and an act of mean ingratitude,
for me, the Prince's rocker, to take advantage of their goodness in
permitting you to come and bring me home--to do what would be pain,
grief, and shame to them."

"Never shame."

"What is wrong is shame!  Cannot you see how unworthy it would be in
me, and how it would grieve my uncle that I should have done such a
thing?"

"Love would override scruples."

"Not _true_ love."

"True!  Then you own to some love for me, Anne."

"I do--not--know.  I have guarded--I mean--cast away--I mean--never
entertained any such thought ever since I was old enough to know how
wicked it would be."

"Anne!  Anne!" (in an undertone very like rapture), "you have
confessed all!  It is no sin _now_.  Even you cannot say so."

She hung her head and did not answer, but silence was enough for
him.

"It is enough!" he said; "you will wait.  I shall know you are
waiting till I return in such sort that nothing can be denied me.
Let me at least have that promise."

"You need not fear," murmured Anne.  "How could I need?  The secret
would withhold me, were there nothing else."

"And there is something else?  Eh, sweetheart?  Is that all I am to
be satisfied with?"

"Oh sir!--Mr. Archfield, I mean--O Charles!" she stammered.

Mr. Fellowes turned round to consult his pupil as to whether the
halt should be made at the village whose peaked roofs were seen over
the fruit trees.

But when Anne was lifted down from the steed it was with no grasp of
common courtesy, and her hand was not relinquished till it had been
fervently kissed.

Charles did not again torment her with entreaties to share his
exile.  Mayhap he recognised, though unwillingly, that her judgment
had been right, but there was no small devotion in his whole
demeanour, as they dined, rode, and rested on that summer's day amid
fields of giant haycocks, and hostels wreathed with vines, with long
vistas of sleek cows and plump dappled horses in the sheds behind.
The ravages of war had lessened as they rode farther from the
frontier, and the rich smiling landscape lay rejoicing in the summer
sunshine; the sturdy peasants looked as if they had never heard of
marauders, as they herded their handsome cattle and responded
civilly when a draught of milk was asked for the ladies.

There was that strange sense of Eden felicity that sometimes comes
with the knowledge that the time is short for mutual enjoyment in
full peace.  Charles and Anne would part, their future was
undefined; but for the present they reposed in the knowledge of each
other's hearts, and in being together.  It was as in their
childhood, when by tacit consent he had been Anne's champion from
the time she came as a little Londoner to be alarmed at rough
country ways, and to be easily scared by Sedley.  It had been then
that Charles had first awakened to the chivalry of the better part
of boyhood's nature, instead of following his cousin's lead, and
treating girls as creatures meant to be bullied.  Many a happy
reminiscence was shared between the two as they rode together, and
it was not till the pale breadth of sea filled their horizon, broken
by the tall spires and peaked gables and many-windowed steep roofs
of Ostend, that the future was permitted to come forward and trouble
them.  Then Anne's heart began to feel that persistence in her
absolute refusal was a much harder thing than at the first, when the
idea was new and strange to her.  And there were strange yearnings
that Charles should renew the proposal, mixed with dread of herself
and of her own resolution in case of his doing so.  As her
affections embraced him more and more she pictured him sick,
wounded, dying, out of reach of all, among Germans, Hungarians,
Turks,--no one at hand to comfort him or even to know his fate.

There was even disappointment in his acquiescence, though her better
mind told her that it was in accordance with her prayer against
temptation.  Moreover, he was of a reserved nature, not apt to
discuss what was once fixed, and perhaps it showed that he respected
her judgment not to try to shake her decision.  Though for once love
had carried him away, he might perhaps be grateful to her for
sparing him the perplexities of dragging her about with him and of
giving additional offence to his parents.  The affection born of
lifelong knowledge is not apt to be of the vehement character that
disregards all obstacles or possible miseries to the object thereof.
Yet enough feeling was betrayed to make Naomi whisper at night,
"Sweet Nan, are you not some one else's sweet?"

And Anne, now with another secret on her heart, only replied with
embraces, and, "Do not talk of it!  I cannot tell how it is to be.
I cannot tell you all."

Naomi was discreet enough only to caress.

With strict formalities at outworks, moat, drawbridge, and gates,
and the customary inquisitorial search of the luggage, the
travellers were allowed to repair to a lofty inn, with the Lion of
Flanders for its sign, and a wide courtyard, the successive outside
galleries covered with luxuriant vines.  Here, as usual, though the
party of females obtained one bedroom together, the gentlemen had to
share one vast sleeping chamber with a variety of merchants, Dutch,
Flemish, Spanish, and a few English.  Meals were at a great table
d'hote in the public room, opening into the court, and were shared
by sundry Spanish, Belgic, and Swiss officers of the garrison, who
made this their mess-room.  Two young English gentlemen, like
Charles Archfield, making the grand tour, whom he had met in Italy,
were delighted to encounter him again, and still more so at the
company of English ladies.

"No wonder the forlorn widower has recovered his spirits!" Anne
heard one say with a laugh that made her blush and turn away; and
there was an outcry that after a monopoly of the fair ones all the
way from Paris, the seats next to them must be yielded.

Anne was disappointed, and could not bring herself to be agreeable
to the obtrusive cavalier with the rich lace cravat and perfumed
hair, both assumed in her honour.

The discussion was respecting the vessels where a passage might be
obtained.  The cavaliers were to sail in a couple of days for
London, but another ship would go out of harbour with the tide on
the following day for Southampton, and this was decided on by
acclamation by the Hampshire party, though no good accommodation was
promised them.

There was little opportunity for a tete-a-tetes, for the young men
insisted on escorting the ladies to the picture galleries, palaces,
and gardens, and Charles did not wish to reawaken the observations
that, according to the habits of the time, might not be of the
choicest description.  Anne watched him under her eyelashes, and
wondered with beating heart whether after all he intended to return
home, and there plead his cause, for he gave no token of intending
to separate from the rest.

The Hampshire Hog was to sail at daybreak, so the passengers went on
board over night, after supper, when the summer twilight was sinking
down and the far-off west still had a soft golden tint.

Anne felt Charles's arm round her in the boat and grasping her hand,
then pulling off her glove and putting a ring on her finger--all in
silence.  She still felt that arm on the deck in the confusion of
men, ropes, and bales of goods, and the shouts and hails on all
sides that nearly deafened her.  There was imminent danger of being
hurled down, if not overboard, among the far from sober sailors, and
Mr. Fellowes urged the ladies to go below at once, conducting Miss
Darpent himself as soon as he could ascertain where to go.  Anne
felt herself almost lifted down.  Then followed a strong embrace, a
kiss on brow, lips, and either cheek, and a low hoarse whisper--"So
best!  Mine own!  God bless you,"--and as Suzanne came tumbling aft
into the narrow cabin, Anne found herself left alone with her two
female companions, and knew that these blissful days were over.



CHAPTER XXIII: FRENCH LEAVE


"When ye gang awa, Jamie,
   Far across the sea, laddie,
When ye gang to Germanie
   What will ye send to me, laddie?"

Huntingtower.

Fides was the posy on the ring.  That was all Anne could discover,
and indeed only this much with the morning light of the July sun
that penetrated the remotest corners.  For the cabin was dark and
stifling, and there was no leaving it, for both Miss Darpent and her
attendant were so ill as to engross her entirely.

She could hardly leave them when there was a summons to a meal in
the captain's cabin, and there she found herself the only passenger
able to appear, and the rest of the company, though intending
civility, were so rough that she was glad to retreat again, and
wretched as the cabin was, she thought it preferable to the deck.

Mr. Fellowes, she heard, was specially prostrated, and jokes were
passing round that it was the less harm, since it might be the worse
for him if the crew found out that there was a parson on board.

Thus Anne had to forego the first sight of her native land, and only
by the shouts above and the decreased motion of the vessel knew when
she was within lee of the Isle of Wight, and on entering the Solent
could encourage her companions that their miseries were nearly over,
and help them to arrange themselves for going upon deck.

When at length they emerged, as the ship lay-to in sight of the red
roofs and white steeples of Southampton, and of the green mazes of
the New Forest, Mr. Fellowes was found looking everywhere for the
pupil whom he had been too miserable to miss during the voyage.
Neither Charles Archfield nor his servant was visible, but Mr.
Fellowes's own man coming forward, delivered to the bewildered tutor
a packet which he said that his comrade had put in his charge for
the purpose.  In the boat, on the way to land, Mr. Fellowes read to
himself the letter, which of course filled him with extreme
distress.  It contained much of what Charles had already explained
to Anne of his conviction that in the present state of affairs it
was better for so young a man as himself, without sufficient
occupation at home, to seek honourable service abroad, and that he
thought it would spare much pain and perplexity to depart without
revisiting home.  He added full and well-expressed thanks for all
that Mr. Fellowes had done for him, and for kindness for which he
hoped to be the better all his life.  He enclosed a long letter to
his father, which he said would, he hoped, entirely exonerate his
kind and much-respected tutor from any remissness or any
participation in the scheme which he had thought it better on all
accounts to conceal till the last.

"And indeed," said poor Mr. Fellowes, "if I had had any inkling of
it, I should have applied to the English Consul to restrain him as a
ward under trust.  But no one would have thought it of him.  He had
always been reasonable and docile beyond his years, and I trusted
him entirely.  I should as soon have thought of our President giving
me the slip in this way.  Surely he came on board with us."

"He handed me into the boat," said Miss Darpent.  "Who saw him last?
Did you, Miss Woodford?"

Anne was forced to own that she had seen him on board, and her
cheeks were in spite of herself such tell-tales that Mr. Fellowes
could not help saying, "It is not my part to rebuke you, madam, but
if you were aware of this evasion, you will have a heavy reckoning
to pay to the young man's parents."

"Sir," said Anne, "I knew indeed that he meant to join the Imperial
army, but I knew not how nor when."

"Ah, well!  I ask no questions.  You need not justify yourself to
me, young lady; but Sir Philip and Lady Archfield little knew what
they did when they asked us to come by way of Paris.  Not that I
regret it on all accounts," he added, with a courteous bow to Naomi
which set her blushing in her turn.  He avoided again addressing
Miss Woodford, and she thought with consternation of the prejudice
he might excite against her.  It had been arranged between the two
maidens that Naomi should be a guest at Portchester Rectory till she
could communicate with Walwyn, and her father or brother could come
and fetch her.

They landed at the little wharf, among the colliers, and made their
way up the street to an inn, where, after ordering a meal to satisfy
the ravenous sea-appetite, Mr. Fellowes, after a few words with
Naomi, left the ladies to their land toilet, while he went to hire
horses for the journey.

Then Naomi could not help saying, "O Anne!  I did not think you
would have done this.  I am grieved!"

"You do not know all," said Anne sadly, "or you would not think so
hardly."

"I saw you had an understanding with him.  I see you have a new ring
on your finger; but how could I suppose you would encourage an only
son thus to leave his parents?"

"Hush, hush, Naomi!" cried Anne, as the uncontrollable tears broke
out.  "Don't you believe that it is quite as hard for me as for them
that he should have gone off to fight those dreadful blood-thirsty
Turks?  Indeed I would have hindered him, but that--but that--I know
it is best for him.  No!  I can't tell you why, but I _know_ it is;
and even to the very last, when he helped me down the companion-
ladder, I hoped he might be coming home first."

"But you are troth-plight to him, and secretly?"

"I am not troth-plight; I know I am not his equal, I told him so,
but he thrust this ring on me in the boat, in the dark, and how
could I give it back!"

Naomi shook her head, but was more than half-disarmed by her
friend's bitter weeping.  Whether she gave any hint to Mr. Fellowes
Anne did not know, but his manner remained drily courteous, and as
Anne had to ride on a pillion behind a servant she was left in a
state of isolation as to companionship, which made her feel herself
in disgrace, and almost spoilt the joy of dear familiar recognition
of hill, field, and tree, after her long year's absence, the longest
year in her life, and substituted the sinking of heart lest she
should be returning to hear of misfortune and disaster, sickness or
death.

Her original plan had been to go on with Naomi to Portchester at
once, if by inquiry at Fareham she found that her uncle was at home,
but she perceived that Mr. Fellowes decidedly wished that Miss
Darpent should go first to the Archfields, and something within her
determined first to turn thither in spite of all there was to
encounter, so that she might still her misgivings by learning
whether her uncle was well.  So she bade the man turn his horse's
head towards the well-known poplars in front of Archfield House.

The sound of the trampling horses brought more than one well-known
old 'blue-coated serving-man' into the court, and among them a woman
with a child in her arms.  There was the exclamation, "Mistress
Anne!  Sure Master Charles be not far behind," and the old groom ran
to help her down.

"Oh!  Ralph, thanks.  All well?  My uncle?"

"He is here, with his Honour," and in scarcely a moment more Lucy,
swift of foot, had flown out, and had Anne in her embrace, and
crying out--

"Ah, Charles! my brother!  I don't see him."

Anne was glad to have no time to answer before she was in her
uncle's arms.  "My child, at last!  God bless thee!  Safe in soul
and body!"

Sir Philip was there too, greeting Mr. Fellowes, and looking for his
son, and with the cursory assurance that Mr. Archfield was well, and
that they would explain, a hasty introduction of Miss Darpent was
made, and all moved in to where Lady Archfield, more feeble and slow
of movement, had come into the hall, and the nurse stood by with the
little heir to be shown to his father, and Sedley Archfield stood in
the background.  It was a cruel moment for all, when the words came
from Mr. Fellowes, "Sir, I have to tell you, Mr. Archfield is not
here.  This letter, he tells me, is to explain."

There was an outburst of exclamation, during which Sir Philip
withdrew into a window with his spectacles to read the letter, while
all to which the tutor or Anne ventured to commit themselves was
that Mr. Archfield had only quitted them without notice on board the
Hampshire Hog.

The first tones of the father had a certain sound of relief, "Gone
to the Imperialist army to fight the Turks in Hungary!"

Poor Lady Archfield actually shrieked, and Lucy turned quite pale,
while Anne caught a sort of lurid flush of joy on Sedley Archfield's
features, and he was the first to exclaim, "Undutiful young dog!"

"Tut! tut!" returned Sir Philip, "he might as well have come home
first, and yet I do not know but that it is the best thing he could
do.  There might have been difficulties in the way of getting out
again, you see, my lady, as things stand now.  Ay! ay! you are in
the right of it, my boy.  It is just as well to let things settle
themselves down here before committing himself to one side or the
other.  'Tis easy enough for an old fellow like me who has to let
nothing go but his Commission of the Peace, but not the same for a
stirring young lad; and he is altogether right as to not coming back
to idle here as a rich man.  It would be the ruin of him.  I am glad
he has the sense to see it.  I was casting about to obtain an estate
for him to give him occupation."

"But the wars," moaned the mother; "if he had only come home we
could have persuaded him."

"The wars, my lady!  Why, they will be a feather in his cap; and may
be if he had come home, the Dutchman would have claimed him for his,
and let King James be as misguided as he may, I cannot stomach
fighting against his father's son for myself or mine.  No, no; it
was the best thing there was for the lad to do.  You shall hear his
letter, it does him honour, and you, too, Mr. Fellowes.  He could
not have written such a letter when he left home barely a year ago."

Sir Philip proceeded to read the letter aloud.  There was a full
explanation of the motives, political and private, only leaving out
one, and that the most powerful of all of those which led Charles
Archfield to absent himself for the present.  He entreated pardon
for having made the decision without obtaining permission from his
father on returning home; but he had done so in view of possible
obstacles to his leaving England again, and to the belief that a
brief sojourn at home would cause more grief and perplexity than his
absence.  He further explained, as before, his reasons for secrecy
towards his travelling companion, and entreated his father not to
suppose for a moment that Mr. Fellowes had been in any way culpable
for what he could never have suspected; warmly affectionate messages
to mother and sister followed, and an assurance of feeling that 'the
little one' needed for no care or affection while with them.

Lady Archfield was greatly disappointed, and cried a great deal,
making sure that the poor dear lad's heart was still too sore to
brook returning after the loss of his wife, who had now become the
sweetest creature in the world; but Sir Philip's decision that the
measure was wise, and the secrecy under the circumstances so
expedient as to be pardonable, prevented all public blame; Mr.
Fellowes, however, was drawn apart, and asked whether he suspected
any other motive than was here declared, and which might make his
pupil unwilling to face the parental brow, and he had declared that
nothing could have been more exemplary than the whole demeanour of
the youth, who had at first gone about as one crushed, and though
slowly reviving into cheerfulness, had always been subdued, until
quite recently, when the meeting with his old companion had
certainly much enlivened his spirits.  Poor Mr. Fellowes had been
rejoicing in the excellent character he should have to give, when
this evasion had so utterly disconcerted him, and it was an infinite
relief to him to find that all was thought comprehensible and
pardonable.

Anne might be thankful that none of the authorities thought of
asking her the question about hidden motives; and Naomi, looking
about with her bright eyes, thought she had perhaps judged too
hardly when she saw the father's approval, and that the mother and
sister only mourned at the disappointment at not seeing the beloved
one.

The Archfields would not hear of letting any of the party go on to
Portchester that evening.  Dr. Woodford, who had ridden over for
consultation with Sir Philip, must remain, he would have plenty of
time for his niece by and by, and she and Miss Darpent must tell
them all about the journey, and about Charles; and Anne must tell
them hundreds of things about herself that they scarcely knew, for
not one letter from St. Germain had ever reached her uncle.

How natural it all looked! the parlour just as when she saw it last,
and the hall, with the long table being laid for supper, and the hot
sun streaming in through the heavy casements.  She could have
fancied it yesterday that she had left it, save for the plump rosy
little yearling with flaxen curls peeping out under his round white
cap, who had let her hold him in her arms and fondle him all through
that reading of his father's letter.  Charles's child!  He was her
prince indeed now.

He was taken from her and delivered over to Lady Archfield to be
caressed and pitied because his father would not come home 'to see
his grand-dame's own beauty,' while Lucy took the guests upstairs to
prepare for supper, Naomi and her maid being bestowed in the best
guest-chamber, and Lucy taking her friend to her own, the scene of
many a confabulation of old.

"Oh, how I love it!" cried Anne, as the door opened on the well-
known little wainscotted abode.  "The very same beau-pot.  One would
think they were the same clove gillyflowers as when I went away."

"O Anne, dear, and you are just the same after all your kings and
queens, and all you have gone through;" and the two friends were
locked in another embrace.

"Kings and queens indeed!  None of them all are worth my Lucy."

"And now, tell me all; tell me all, Nancy, and first of all about my
brother.  How does he look, and is he well?"

"He looks!  O Lucy, he is grown such a noble cavalier; most like the
picture of that uncle of yours who was killed, and that Sir Philip
always grieves for."

"My father always hoped Charley would be like him," said Lucy.  "You
must tell him that.  But I fear he may be grave and sad."

"Graver, but not sad now."

"And you have seen him and talked to him, Anne?  Did you know he was
going on this terrible enterprise?"

"He spoke of it, but never told me when."

"Ah!  I was sure you knew more about it than the old tutor man.  You
always were his little sweetheart before poor little Madam came in
the way, and he would tell you anything near his heart.  Could you
not have stopped him?"

"I think not, Lucy; he gave his reasons like a man of weight and
thought, and you see his Honour thinks them sound ones."

"Oh yes; but somehow I cannot fancy our Charley doing anything for
grand, sound, musty reasons, such as look well marshalled out in a
letter."

"You don't know how much older he is grown," said Anne, again, with
the tell-tale colour in her cheeks.  "Besides, he cannot bear to
come home."

"Don't tell me that, Nan.  My mother does not see it; but though he
was fond of poor little Madam in a way, and tried to think himself
more so, as in duty bound, she really was fretting and wearing the
very life--no, perhaps not the life, but the temper--out of him.
What I believe it to be the cause is, that my father must have been
writing to him about that young gentlewoman in the island that he is
so set upon, because she would bring a landed estate which would
give Charles something to do.  They say that Peregrine Oakshott ran
away to escape wedding his cousin; Charley will banish himself for
the like cause."

"He said nothing of it," said Anne.

"O Anne, I wish you had a landed estate!  You would make him happier
than any other, and would love his poor little Phil!  Anne! is it
so?  I have guessed!" and Lucy kissed her on each cheek.

"Indeed, indeed I have not promised.  I know it can never, never be--
and that I am not fit for him.  Do not speak of it, Lucy?  He spoke
of it once as we rode together--"

"And you could not be so false as to tell him you did not love him?
No, you could not?" and Lucy kissed her again.

"No," faltered Anne; "but I would not do as he wished.  I have given
him no troth-plight.  I told him it would never be permitted.  And
he said no more, but he put this ring on my finger in the boat
without a word.  I ought not to wear it; I shall not."

"Oh yes, you shall.  Indeed you shall.  No one need understand it
but myself, and it makes us sisters.  Yes, Anne, Charley was right.
My father will not consent now, but he will in due time, if he does
not hear of it till he wearies to see Charles again.  Trust it to
me, my sweet sister that is to be."

"It is a great comfort that you know," said Anne, almost moved to
tell her the greater and more perilous secret that lay in the
background, but withheld by receiving Lucy's own confidence that she
herself was at present tormented by her cousin Sedley's courtship.
He was still, more's the pity, she said, in garrison at Portsmouth,
but there were hopes of his regiment being ere long sent to the Low
Countries, since it was believed to be more than half inclined to
King James.  In the meantime he certainly had designs on Lucy's
portion, and as her father never believed half the stories of his
debaucheries that were rife, and had a kindness for his only
brother's orphan, she did not feel secure against his yielding so as
to provide for Sedley without continuance in the Dutch service.

"I could almost follow the example of running away!" said Lucy.

"I suppose," Anne ventured to say, faltering, "that nothing has been
heard of poor Mr. Oakshott."

"Nothing at all.  His uncle's people, who have come home from
Muscovy, know nothing of him, and it is thought he may have gone off
to the plantations.  The talk is that Mistress Martha is to be
handed on to the third brother, but that she is not willing."  It
was clear that there could have been no spectres here, and Lucy went
on, "But you have told me nothing yet of yourself and your doings,
my Anne.  How well you look, and more than ever the Court lady, even
in your old travelling habit.  Is that the watch the King gave you?"

In private and in public there was quite enough to tell on that
evening for intimate friends who had not met for a year, and one of
whom had gone through so many vicissitudes.  Nor were the other two
guests by any means left out of the welcome, and the evening was a
very happy one.

Mr. Fellowes intimated his intention of going himself to Walwyn with
the news of Miss Darpent's arrival, and Naomi accepted the
invitation to remain at Portchester till she could be sent for from
home.

It was not till the next morning that Anne Woodford could be alone
with her uncle.  As she came downstairs in the morning she saw him
waiting for her; he held out his hands, and drew her out with him
into the walled garden that lay behind the house.

"Child! dear child!" said he, "you are welcome to my old eyes.  May
God bless you, as He has aided you to be faithful alike to Him and
to your King through much trial."

"Ah, sir!  I have sorely repented the folly and ambition that would
not heed your counsel."

"No doubt, my maid; but the spirit of humility and repentance hath
worked well in you.  I fear me, however, that you are come back to
further trials, since probably Portchester may be no longer our
home."

"Nor Winchester?"

"Nor Winchester."

"Then is this new King going to persecute as in the old times you
talk of?  He who was brought over to save the Church!"

"He accepts the English Church, my maid, so far as it accepts him.
All beneficed clergy are required to take the oath of allegiance to
him before the first of August, now approaching, under pain of
losing their preferments.  Many of my brethren, even our own Bishop
and Dean, think this merely submission to the powers that be, and
that it may be lawfully done; but as I hear neither the Archbishop
himself, nor my good old friends Doctors Ken and Frampton can
reconcile it to their conscience, any more than my brother Stanbury,
of Botley, nor I, to take this fresh oath, while the King to whom we
have sworn is living.  Some hold that he has virtually renounced our
allegiance by his flight.  I cannot see it, while he is fighting for
his crown in Ireland.  What say you, Anne, who have seen him; did he
treat his case as that of an abdicated prince?"

"No, sir, certainly not.  All the talk was of his enjoying his own
again."

"How can I then, consistently with my duty and loyalty, swear to
this William and Mary as my lawful sovereigns?  I say not 'tis
incumbent on me to refuse to live under them a peaceful life, but
make oath to them as my King and Queen I cannot, so long as King
James shall live.  True, he has not been a friend to the Church, and
has wofully trampled on the rights of Englishmen, but I cannot hold
that this absolves me from my duty to him, any more than David was
freed from duty to Saul.  So, Anne, back must we go to the poverty
in which I was reared with your own good father."

Anne might grieve, but she felt the gratification of being talked to
by her uncle as a woman who could understand, as he had talked to
her mother.

"The first of August!" she repeated, as if it were a note of doom.

"Yes; I hear whispers of a further time of grace, but I know not
what difference that should make.  A Christian man's oath may not be
broken sooner or later.  Well, poverty is the state blessed by our
Lord, and it may be that I have lived too much at mine ease; but I
could wish, dear child, that you were safely bestowed in a house of
your own."

"So do not I," said Anne, "for now I can work for you."

He smiled faintly, and here Mr. Fellowes joined them; a good man
likewise, but intent on demonstrating the other side of the
question, and believing that the Popish, persecuting King had
forfeited his rights, so that there need be no scruple as to
renouncing what he had thrown up by his flight.  It was an endless
argument, in which each man could only act according to his own
conscience, and endeavour that this conscience should be as little
biassed as possible by worldly motives or animosity.

Mr. Fellowes started at once with his servant for Walwyn, and Naomi
accompanied the two Woodfords to Portchester.  In spite of the
cavalier sentiments of her family, Naomi had too much of the spire
of her Frondeur father to understand any feeling for duty towards
the King, who had so decidedly broken his covenant with his people,
and moreover had so abominably treated the Fellows of Magdalen
College; and her pity for Anne as a sufferer for her uncle's whim
quite angered her friend into hot defence of him and his cause.

The dear old parsonage garden under the gray walls, the honeysuckle
and monthly roses trailing over the porch, the lake-like creek
between it and green Portsdown Hill, the huge massive keep and
towers, and the masts in the harbour, the Island hills sleeping in
blue summer haze--Anne's heart clave to them more than ever for the
knowledge that the time was short and that the fair spot must be
given up for the right's sake.  Certainly there was some trepidation
at the thought of the vault, and she had made many vague schemes for
ascertaining that which her very flesh trembled at the thought of
any one suspecting; but these were all frustrated, for since the war
with France had begun, the bailey had been put under repair and
garrisoned by a detachment of soldiers, the vault had been covered
in, there was a sentry at the gateway of the castle, and the postern
door towards the vicarage was fastened up, so that though the parish
still repaired to church through the wide court solitary wanderings
there were no longer possible, nor indeed safe for a young woman,
considering what the soldiery of that period were.

The thought came over her with a shudder as she gazed from her
window at the creek where she remembered Peregrine sending Charles
and Sedley adrift in the boat.

The tide was out, the mud glistened in the moonlight, but nothing
was to be seen more than Anne had beheld on many a summer night
before, no phantom was evoked before her eyes, no elfin-like form
revealed his presence, nor did any spirit take shape to upbraid her
with his unhallowed grave, so close at hand.

No, but Naomi Darpent, yearning for sympathy, came to her side,
caressed her on that summer night, and told her that Mr. Fellowes
had gone to ask her of her father, and though she could never love
again as she had once loved, she thought if her parents wished it,
she could be happy with so good a man.



CHAPTER XXIV: IN THE MOONLIGHT


I have had a dream this evening,
While the white and gold were fleeting,
But I need not, need not tell it.
Where would be the good?

Requiescat in Pace.--JEAN INGELOW.

Anne Woodford sat, on a sultry summer night, by the open window in
Archfield House at Fareham, busily engaged over the tail of a kite,
while asleep in a cradle in the corner of the room lay a little boy,
his apple-blossom cheeks and long flaxen curls lying prone upon his
pillow as he had tossed when falling asleep in the heat.

The six years since her return had been eventful.  Dr. Woodford had
adhered to his view that his oath of allegiance could not be
forfeited by James's flight; and he therefore had submitted to be
ousted from his preferments, resigning his pleasant prebendal house,
and his sea-side home, and embracing poverty for his personal oath's
sake, although he was willing to acquiesce in the government of
William and Mary, and perhaps to rejoice that others had effected
what he would not have thought it right to do.

Things had been softened to him as regarded his flock by the
appointment of Mr. Fellowes to Portchester, which was a Crown
living, though there had been great demur at thus slipping into a
friend's shoes, so that Dr. Woodford had been obliged to asseverate
that nothing so much comforted him as leaving the parish in such
hands, and that he blamed no man for seeing the question of Divine
right as he did in common with the Non-jurors.  The appointment
opened the way to the marriage with Naomi Darpent, and the pair were
happily settled at Portchester.

Dr. Woodford and his niece found a tiny house at Winchester, near
the wharf, with the clear Itchen flowing in front and the green
hills rising beyond, while in the rear were the ruins of Wolvesey,
and the buildings of the Cathedral and College.  They retained no
servant except black Hans, poor Peregrine's legacy, who was an
excellent cook, and capable of all that Anne could not accomplish in
her hours of freedom.

It was a fall indeed from her ancient aspirations, though there was
still that bud of hope within her heart.  The united means of uncle
and niece were so scanty that she was fain to offer her services
daily at Mesdames Reynaud's still flourishing school, where the
freshness of her continental experiences made her very welcome.

Dr. Woodford occasionally assisted some student preparing for the
university, but this was not regular occupation, and it was poorly
paid, so that it was well that fifty pounds a year went at least
three times as far as it would do in the present day.  Though his
gown and cassock lost their richness and lustre, he was as much
respected as ever.  Bishop Mews often asked him to Wolvesey, and
allowed him to assist the parochial clergy when it was not necessary
to utter the royal name, the vergers marshalled him to his own stall
at daily prayers, and he had free access to Bishop Morley's
Cathedral library.

The Archfield family still took a house in the Close for the winter
months, and there a very sober-minded and conventional courtship of
Lucy took place by Sir Edmund Nutley, a worthy and well-to-do
gentleman settled on the borders of Parkhurst Forest, in the Isle of
Wight.

Anne, with the thought of her Charles burning within her heart, was
a little scandalised at the course of affairs.  Sir Edmund was a
highly worthy man, but not in his first youth, and ponderous--a
Whig, moreover, and an intimate friend of the masterful governor of
the island, Lord Cutts, called the "Salamander."  He had seen Miss
Archfield before at the winter and spring Quarter Sessions, and
though her father was no longer in the Commission of the Peace, the
residence at Winchester gave him opportunities, and the chief
obstacle seemed to be the party question.  He was more in love than
was the lady, but she was submissive, and believed that he would be
a kind husband.  She saw, too, that her parents would be much
disappointed and displeased if she made any resistance to so
prosperous a settlement, and she was positively glad to be out of
reach of Sedley's addresses.  Such an entirely unenthusiastic
acceptance was the proper thing, and it only remained to provide for
Lady Archfield's comfort in the loss of her daughter.

For this the elders turned at once to Anne Woodford.  Sir Philip
made it his urgent entreaty that the Doctor and his niece would take
up their abode with him, and that Anne would share with the
grandmother the care of the young Philip, a spirited little fellow
who would soon be running wild with the grooms, without the
attention that his aunt had bestowed on him.

Dr. Woodford himself was much inclined to accept the office of
chaplain to his old friend, who he knew would be far happier for his
company; and Anne's heart bounded at the thought of bringing up
Charles's child, but that very start of joy made her blush and
hesitate, and finally surprise the two old gentlemen by saying, with
crimson cheeks--

"Sir, your Honour ought to know what might make you change your
mind.  There have been passages between Mr. Archfield and me."

Sir Philip laughed.  "Ah, the rogue!  You were always little
sweethearts as children.  Why, Anne, you should know better than to
heed what a young soldier says."

"No doubt you have other views for your son," said Dr. Woodford,
"and I trust that my niece has too much discretion and sense of
propriety to think that they can be interfered with on her account."

"Passages!" repeated Sir Philip thoughtfully.  "Mistress Anne, how
much do you mean by that?  Surely there is no promise between you?"

"No, sir," said Anne; "I would not give any; but when we parted in
Flanders he asked me to--to wait for him, and I feel that you ought
to know it."

"Oh, I understand!" said the baronet.  "It was only natural to an
old friend in a foreign land, and you have too much sense to dwell
on a young man's folly, though it was an honourable scruple that
made you tell me, my dear maid.  But he is not come or coming yet,
more's the pity, so there is no need to think about it at present."

Anne's cheeks did not look as if she had attained that wisdom; but
her conscience was clear, since she had told the fact, and the
father did not choose to take it seriously.  To say how she herself
loved Charles would have been undignified and nothing to the
purpose, since her feelings were not what would be regarded, and
there was no need to mention her full and entire purpose to wed no
one else.  Time enough for that if the proposal were made.

So the uncle and niece entered on their new life, with some loss of
independence, and to the Doctor a greater loss in the neighbourhood
of the Cathedral and its library; for after the first year or two,
as Lady Archfield grew rheumatic, and Sir Philip had his old friend
to play backgammon and read the Weekly Gazette, they became
unwilling to make the move to Winchester, and generally stayed at
home all the winter.

Before this, however, Princess Anne had been at the King's House at
Winchester for a short time; and Lady Archfield paid due respects to
her, with Anne in attendance.  With the royal faculty of remembering
everybody, the Princess recognised her namesake, gave her hand to be
kissed, and was extremely gracious.  She was at the moment in the
height of a quarrel with her sister, and far from delighted with the
present regime.  She sent for Miss Woodford, and, to Anne's
surprise, laughed over her own escape from the Cockpit, adding, "You
would not come, child.  You were in the right on't.  There's no
gratitude among them!  Had I known how I should be served I would
never have stirred a foot!  So 'twas you that carried off the child!
Tell me what he is like."

And she extracted by questions all that Anne could tell her of the
life at St. Germain, and the appearance of her little half-brother.
It was impossible to tell whether she asked from affectionate
remorse or gossiping interest, but she ended by inquiring whether
her father's god-daughter were content with her position, or desired
one--if there were a vacancy--in her own household, where she might
get a good husband.

Anne declined courteously and respectfully, and was forced to hint
at an engagement which she could not divulge.  She had heard
Charles's expressions of delight at the arrangement which gave his
boy to her tender care, warming her heart.

Lady Archfield had fits of talking of finding a good husband for
Anne Woodford among the Cathedral clergy, but the maiden was so
necessary to her, and so entirely a mother to little Philip, that
she soon let the idea drop.  Perhaps it was periodically revived,
when, about three times a year, there arrived a letter from Charles.
He wrote in good spirits, evidently enjoying his campaigns, and with
no lack of pleasant companions, English, Scotch, and Irish
Jacobites, with whom he lived in warm friendship and wholesome
emulation.  He won promotion, and the county Member actually came
out of his way to tell Sir Philip what he had heard from the
Imperial ambassador of young Archfield's distinguished services at
the battle of Salankamen, only regretting that he was not fighting
under King William's colours.  Little Philip pranced about cutting
off Turks' heads in the form of poppies, 'like papa,' for whose
safety Anne taught him to pray night and morning.

Pride in his son's exploits was a compensation to the father, who
declared them to be better than vegetating over the sheepfolds, like
Robert Oakshott, or than idling at Portsmouth, like Sedley
Archfield.

That young man's regiment had been ordered to Ireland during the
campaign that followed the battle of Boyne Water.  He had suddenly
returned from thence, cashiered:  by his own story, the victim of
the enmity of the Dutch General Ginkel; according to another
version, on account of brutal excesses towards the natives and
insolence to his commanding officer.  Courts-martial had only just
been introduced, and Sir Philip could believe in a Whig invention
doing injustice to a member of a loyal family, so that his doors
were open to his nephew, and Sedley haunted them whenever he had no
other resource; but he spent most of his time between Newmarket and
other sporting centres, and contrived to get a sort of maintenance
by bets at races, cock-fights, and bull-baitings, and by extensive
gambling.  Evil reports of him came from time to time, but Sir
Philip was loth to think ill of the son of his brother, or to
forbode that as his grandson grew older, such influence might be
dangerous.

In his uncle's presence Sedley was on his good behaviour; but if he
caught Miss Woodford without that protection, he attempted rude
compliments, and when repelled by her dignified look and manner,
sneered at the airs of my lady's waiting-woman, and demanded how
long she meant to mope after Charley, who would never look so low.
"She need not be so ungracious to a poor soldier.  She might have to
put up with worse."

Moreover, he deliberately incited Philip to mischief, putting foul
words into the little mouth, and likewise giving forbidden food and
drink, lauding evil sports, and mocking at obedience to any
authority, especially Miss Woodford's.  Philip was very fond of his
Nana, and in general good and obedient; but what high-spirited boy
is proof against the allurements of the only example before him of
young manhood, assuring him that it was manly not to mind what the
women said, nor to be tied to the apron-strings of his grand-dame's
abigail?

The child had this summer thus been actually taken to the outskirts
of a bull-fight, whence he had been brought home in great disgrace
by Ralph, the old servant who had been charged to look after his
out-door amusements, and to ride with him.  The grandfather was
indeed more shocked at the danger and the vulgarity of the sport
than its cruelty, but Philip had received his first flogging, and
his cousin had been so sharply rebuked that--to the great relief of
Anne and of Lady Archfield--he had not since appeared at Fareham
House.

The morrow would be Philip's seventh birthday, a stage which would
take him farther out of Anne's power.  He was no longer to sleep in
her chamber, but in one of his own with Ralph for his protector, and
he was to begin Latin with Dr. Woodford.  So great was his delight
that he had gone to bed all the sooner in order to bring the great
day more quickly, and Anne was glad of the opportunity of finishing
the kite, which was to be her present, for Ralph to help him fly
upon Portsdown Hill.

That great anniversary, so delightful to him, with pony and whip
prepared for him--what a day of confusion, distress, and
wretchedness did it not recall to his elders?  Anne could not choose
but recall the time, as she sat alone in the window, looking out
over the garden, the moon beginning to rise, and the sunset light
still colouring the sky in the north-west, just as it had done when
she returned home after the bonfire.  The events of that sad morning
had faded out of the foreground.  The Oakshott family seemed to have
resigned themselves to the mystery of Peregrine's fate.  Only his
mother had declined from the time of his disappearance.  When it was
ascertained that his uncle had died in Russia, and that nothing had
been heard of him there, it seemed to bring on a fresh stage of her
illness, and she had expired at last in Martha Browning's arms, her
last words being a blessing not only to Robert, but to Peregrine,
and a broken entreaty to her husband to forgive the boy, for he
might have been better if they had used him well.

Martha was then found to hold out against the idea of his being
dead.  Little affection and scant civility as she had received from
him, her dutiful heart had attached itself to her destined lord, and
no doubt her imagination had been excited by his curious abilities,
and her compassion by the persecution he suffered at home.  At any
rate, when, after a proper interval, the Major tried to transfer her
to his remaining son, she held out against it for a long interval,
until at last, after full three years, the desolation and
disorganisation of Oakwood without a mistress, a severe illness of
the Major, and the distress of his son, so worked upon her feelings
that she consented to the marriage with Robert, and had ever since
been the ruling spirit at Oakwood, and a very different one from
what had been expected--sensible, kindly, and beneficent, and
allowing the young husband more liberty and indulgence than he had
ever known before.

The remembrance of Peregrine seemed to have entirely passed away,
and Anne had been troubled with no more apparitions, so that though
she thought over the strange scene of that terrible morning, the
rapid combat, the hasty concealment, the distracted face of the
unhappy youth, it was with the thought that time had been a healer,
and that Charles might surely now return home.  And what then?

She raised her eyes to the open window, and what did she behold in
the moonlight streaming full upon the great tree rose below?  It was
the same face and figure that had three times startled her before,
the figure dark and the face very white in the moonlight, but like
nothing else, and with that odd, one-sided feather as of old.  It
had flitted ere she could point its place--gone in a single flash--
but she was greatly startled!  Had it come to protest against the
scheme she had begun to indulge in on that very night of all nights,
or had it merely been her imagination?  For nothing was visible,
though she leant from the window, no sound was to be heard, though
when she tried to complete her work, her hands trembled and the
paper rustled, so that Philip showed symptoms of wakening, and she
had to defer her task till early morning.

She said nothing of her strange sight, and Phil had a happy
successful birthday, flying the kite with a propitious wind, and
riding into Portsmouth on his new pony with grandpapa.  But there
was one strange event.  The servants had a holiday, and some of them
went into Portsmouth, black Hans, who never returned, being one.
The others had lost sight of him, but had not been uneasy, knowing
him to be perfectly well able to find his way home; but as he never
appeared, the conclusion was that he must have been kidnapped by
some ship's crew to serve as a cook.  He had not been very happy
among the servants at Fareham, who laughed at his black face and
Dutch English, and he would probably have gone willingly with
Dutchmen; but Anne and her uncle were grieved, and felt as if they
had failed in the trust that poor Sir Peregrine had left them.



CHAPTER XXV: TIDINGS FROM THE IRON GATES


"He has more cause to be proud.  Where is he wounded?"

Coriolanus.

It was a wet autumn day, when the yellow leaves of the poplars in
front of the house were floating down amid the misty rain; Dr.
Woodford had gone two days before to consult a book in the Cathedral
library, and was probably detained at Winchester by the weather;
Lady Archfield was confined to her bed by a sharp attack of
rheumatism.  Sir Philip was taking his after-dinner doze in his arm-
chair; and little Philip was standing by Anne, who was doing her
best to keep him from awakening his grandfather, as she partly read,
partly romanced, over the high-crowned hatted fishermen in the
illustrations to Izaak Walton's Complete Angler.

He had just, caught by the musical sound, made her read to him a
second time Marlowe's verses,

'Come live with me and be my love,'

and informed her that his Nana was his love, and that she was to
watch him fish in the summer rivers, when the servant who had been
sent to meet His Majesty's mail and extract the Weekly Gazette came
in, bringing not only that, but a thick, sealed packet, the aspect
of which made the boy dance and exclaim, "A packet from my papa!
Oh! will he have written an answer to my own letter to him?"

But Sir Philip, who had started up at the opening of the door, had
no sooner glanced at the packet than he cried out, "'Tis not his
hand!" and when he tried to break the heavy seals and loosen the
string, his hands shook so much that he pushed it over to Anne,
saying, "You open it; tell me if my boy is dead."

Anne's alarm took the course of speed.  She tore off the wrapper,
and after one glance said, "No, no, it cannot be the worst; here is
something from himself at the end.  Here, sir."

"I cannot!  I cannot," said the poor old man, as the tears dimmed
his spectacles, and he could not adjust them.  "Read it, my dear
wench, and let me know what I am to tell his poor mother."

And he sank into a chair, holding between his knees his little
grandson, who stood gazing with widely-opened blue eyes.

"He sends love, duty, blessing.  Oh, he talks of coming home, so do
not fear, sir!" cried Anne, a vivid colour on her cheeks.

"But what is it?" asked the father.  "Tell me first--the rest
after."

"It is in the side--the left side," said Anne, gathering up in her
agitation the sense of the crabbed writing as best she could.  "They
have not extracted the bullet, but when they have, he will do well."

"God grant it!  Who writes?"

"Norman Graham of Glendhu--captain in his K. K. Regiment of
Volunteer Dragoons.  That's his great friend!  Oh, sir, he has
behaved so gallantly!  He got his wound in saving the colours from
the Turks, and kept his hands clutched over them as his men carried
him out of the battle."

Philip gave another little spring, and his grandfather bade Anne
read the letter to him in detail.

It told how the Imperial forces had met a far superior number of
Turks at Lippa, and had sustained a terrible defeat, with the loss
of their General Veterani, how Captain Archfield had received a
scimitar wound in the cheek while trying to save his commander, but
had afterwards dashed forward among the enemy, recovered the colours
of the regiment, and by a desperate charge of his fellow-soldiers,
who were devotedly attached to him, had been borne off the field
with a severe wound on the left side.  Retreat had been immediately
necessary, and he had been taken on an ammunition waggon along rough
roads to the fortress called the Iron Gates of Transylvania, whence
this letter was written, and sent by the messenger who was to summon
the Elector of Saxony to the aid of the remnant of the army.  It had
not yet been possible to probe the wound, but Charles gave a
personal message, begging his parents not to despond but to believe
him recovering, so long as they did not see his servant return
without him, and he added sundry tender and dutiful messages to his
parents, and a blessing to his son, with thanks for the pretty
letter he had not been able to answer (but which, his friend said,
was lying spread on his pillow, not unstained with blood), and he
also told his boy always to love and look up to her who had ever
been as a mother to him.  Anne could hardly read this, and the scrap
in feeble irregular lines she handed to Sir Philip.  It was--

With all my heart I entreat pardon for all the errors that have
grieved you.  I leave you my child to comfort you, and mine own
true love, whom yon will cherish.  She will cherish you as a
daughter, as she will be, with your consent, if God spares me to
come home.  The love of all my soul to her, my mother, sister,
and you."

There was a scrawl for conclusion and signature, and Captain Graham
added--

Writing and dictating have greatly exhausted him.  He would have
said more, but he says the lady can explain much, and he repeats
his urgent entreaties that you will take her to your heart as a
daughter, and that his son will love and honour her.

There was a final postscript--

The surgeon thinks him better for having disburthened his mind.

"My child," said Sir Philip, with a long sigh, looking up at Anne,
who had gathered the boy into her arms, and was hiding her face
against his little awe-struck head, "my child, have you read?"

"No," faltered Anne.

"Read then."  And as she would have taken it, he suddenly drew her
into his embrace and kissed her as the eyes of both overflowed.  "My
poor girl!" he said, "this is as hard to you as to us!  Oh, my brave
boy!" and he let her lay her head on his shoulder and held her hand
as they wept together, while little Phil stared for a moment or two
at so strange a sight and then burst out with a great cry--

"You shall not cry! you shall not! my papa is not dead!" and he
stamped his little foot.  "No, he isn't.  He will get well; the
letter said so, and I will go and tell grandmamma."

The need of stopping this roused them both; Sir Philip, heavily
groaning, went away to break the tidings to his wife, and Anne went
down on her knees on the hearth to caress the boy, and help him to
understand his father's state and realise the valorous deeds that
would always be a crown to him, and which already made the little
fellow's eye flash and his fair head go higher.

By and by she was sent for to Lady Archfield's room, and there she
had again to share the grief and the fears and try to dwell on the
glory and the hopes.  When in a calmer moment the parents
interrogated her on what had passed with Charles, it was not in the
spirit of doubt and censure, but rather as dwelling on all that was
to be told of one whom alike they loved, and finally Sir Philip
said, "I see, dear child, I would not believe how far it had gone
before, though you tried to tell me.  Whatever betide, you have won
a daughter's place."

It was true that naturally a far more distinguished match would have
been sought for the heir, and he could hardly have carried out his
purpose without more opposition than under their present feelings,
his parents supposed themselves likely to make, but they really
loved Anne enough to have yielded at last; and Lady Nutley, coming
home with a fuller knowledge of her brother's heart, prevented any
reaction, and Anne was allowed full sympathies as a betrothed
maiden, in the wearing anxiety that continued in the absence of all
intelligence.  On the principle of doing everything to please him,
she was even encouraged to write to Charles in the packet in which
he was almost implored to recover, though all felt doubts whether he
were alive even while the letters were in hand, and this doubt
lasted long and long.  It was all very well to say that as long as
the servant did not return his master must be safe--perhaps himself
on the way home; but the journey from Transylvania was so long, and
there were so many difficulties in the way of an Englishman, that
there was little security in this assurance.  And so the winter set
in while the suspense lasted; and still Dr. Woodford spoke Charles's
name in the intercessions in the panelled household chapel, and his
mother and Anne prayed together and separately, and his little son
morning and evening entreated God to "Bless papa, and make him well,
and bring him home."

Thus passed more than six weeks, during which Sir Philip's attention
was somewhat diverted from domestic anxieties by an uninvited visit
to Portchester from Mr. Charnock, who had once been a college mate
of Mr. Fellowes, and came professing anxiety, after all these years,
to renew the friendship which had been broken when they took
different sides on the election of Dr. Hough to the Presidency of
Magdalen College.  From his quarters at the Rectory Mr. Charnock had
gone over to Fareham, and sounded Sir Philip on the practicability
of a Jacobite rising, and whether he and his people would join it.
The old gentleman was much distressed, his age would not permit him
to exert himself in either cause, and he had been too much disturbed
by James's proceedings to feel desirous of his restoration, though
his loyal heart would not permit of his opposing it, and he had
never overtly acknowledged William of Orange as his sovereign.

He could only reply that in the present state of his family he
neither could nor would undertake anything, and he urgently pleaded
against any insurrection that could occasion a civil war.

There was reason to think that Sedley had no hesitation in promising
to use all his influence over his uncle's tenants, and considerably
magnifying their extremely small regard to him--nay, probably,
dwelling on his own expectations.

At any rate, even when Charnock was gone, Sedley continued to talk
big of the coming changes and his own distinguished part in them.
Indeed one very trying effect of the continued alarm about Charles
was that he took to haunting the place, and report declared that he
had talked loudly and coarsely of his cousin's death and his uncle's
dotage, and of his soon being called in to manage the property for
the little heir--insomuch that Sir Edmund Nutley thought it
expedient to let him know that Charles, on going on active service
soon after he had come of age, had sent home a will, making his son,
who was a young gentleman of very considerable property on his
mother's side, ward to his grandfather first, and then to Sir Edmund
Nutley himself and to Dr. Woodford.



CHAPTER XXVI: THE LEGEND OF PENNY GRIM


"O dearest Marjorie, stay at hame,
   For dark's the gate ye have to go,
For there's a maike down yonder glen
   Hath frightened me and many me."

HOGG.

"Nana," said little Philip in a meditative voice, as he looked into
the glowing embers of the hall fire, "when do fairies leave off
stealing little boys?"

"I do not believe they ever steal them, Phil."

"Oh, yes they do;" and he came and stood by her with his great
limpid blue eyes wide open.  "Goody Dearlove says they stole a
little boy, and his name was Penny Grim."

"Goody Dearlove is a silly old body to tell my boy such stories,"
said Anne, disguising how much she was startled.

"Oh, but Ralph Huntsman says 'tis true, and he knew him."

"How could he know him when he was stolen?"

"They put another instead," said the boy, a little puzzled, but too
young to make his story consistent.  "And he was an elf--a cross
spiteful elf, that was always vexing folk.  And they stole him again
every seven years.  Yes--that was it--they stole him every seven
years."

"Whom, Phil; I don't understand--the boy or the elf?" she said,
half-diverted, even while shocked at the old story coming up in such
a form.

"The elf, I think," he said, bending his brows; "he comes back, and
then they steal him again.  Yes; and at last they stole him quite--
quite away--but it is seven years, and Goody Dearlove says he is to
be seen again!"

"No!" exclaimed Anne, with an irrepressible start of dismay.  "Has
any one seen him, or fancied so?" she added, though feeling that her
chance of maintaining her rational incredulity was gone.

"Goody Dearlove's Jenny did," was the answer.  "She saw him stand
out on the beach at night by moonlight, and when she screamed out,
he was gone like the snuff of a candle."

"Saw him?  What was he like?" said Anne, struggling for the
dispassionate tone of the governess, and recollecting that Jenny
Dearlove was a maid at Portchester Rectory.

"A little bit of a man, all twisty on one side, and a feather
sticking out.  Ralph said they always were like that;" and Phil's
imitation, with his lithe, graceful little figure, of Ralph's clumsy
mimicry was sufficient to show that there was some foundation for
this story, and she did not answer at once, so that he added, "I am
seven, Nana; do you think they will get me?"

"Oh no, no, Phil, there's no fear at all of that.  I don't believe
fairies steal anybody, but even old women like Goody Dearlove only
say they steal little tiny babies if they are left alone before they
are christened."

The boy drew a long breath, but still asked, "Was Penny Grim a
little baby?"

"So they said," returned Anne, by no means interfering with the
name, and with a quailing heart as she thought of the child's ever
knowing what concern his father had in that disappearance.  She was
by no means sorry to have the conversation broken off by Sir
Philip's appearance, booted and buskined, prepared for an expedition
to visit a flock of sheep and their lambs under the shelter of
Portsdown Hill, and in a moment his little namesake was frisking
round eager to go with grandpapa.

"Well, 'tis a brisk frost.  Is it too far for him, think you,
Mistress Anne?"

"Oh no, sir; he is a strong little man and a walk will only be good
for him, if he does not stand still too long and get chilled.  Run,
Phil, and ask nurse for your thick coat and stout shoes and
leggings."

"His grandmother only half trusts me with him," said Sir Philip,
laughing.  "I tell her she was not nearly so careful of his father.
I remember him coming in crusted all over with ice, so that he could
hardly get his clothes off, but she fancies the boy may have some of
his poor mother's weakliness about him."

"I see no tokens of it, sir."

"Grand-dames will be anxious, specially over one chick.  Heigho!
Winter travelling must be hard in Germany, and posts do not come.
How now, my man!  Are you rolled up like a very Russian bear?  The
poor ewes will think you are come to eat up their lambs."

"I'll growl at them," said Master Philip, uttering a sound
sufficient to disturb the nerves of any sheep if he were permitted
to make it, and off went grandfather and grandson together, Sir
Philip only pausing at the door to say--

"My lady wants you, Anne; she is fretting over the delay.  I fear,
though I tell her it bodes well."

Anne watched for a moment the hale old gentleman briskly walking on,
the merry child frolicking hither and thither round him, and the
sturdy body-servant Ralph, without whom he never stirred, plodding
after, while Keeper, the only dog allowed to follow to the
sheepfolds, marched decorously along, proud of the distinction.
Then she went up to Lady Archfield, who could not be perfectly easy
as to the precious grandchild being left to his own devices in the
cold, while Sir Philip was sure to run into a discussion with the
shepherd over the turnips, which were too much of a novelty to be
approved by the Hampshire mind.  It was quite true that she could
not watch that little adventurous spirit with the same absence of
anxiety as she had felt for her own son in her younger days, and
Anne had to devote herself to soothing and diverting her mind, till
Dr. Woodford knocked at the door to read and converse with her.

The one o'clock dinner waited for the grandfather and grandson, and
when they came at last, little Philip looked somewhat blue with cold
and more subdued than usual, and his grandfather observed severely
that he had been a naughty boy, running into dangerous places,
sliding where he ought not, and then muttered under his breath that
Sedley ought to have known better than to have let him go there.

Discipline did not permit even a darling like little Phil to speak
at dinner-time; but he fidgeted, and the tears came into his eyes,
and Anne hearing a little grunt behind Sir Philip's chair, looked
up, and was aware that old Ralph was mumbling what to her ears
sounded like:  'Knew too well.'  But his master, being slightly
deaf, did not hear, and went on to talk of his lambs and of how
Sedley had joined them on the road, but had not come back to dinner.

Phil was certainly quieter than usual that afternoon, and sat at
Anne's feet by the fire, filling little sacks with bran to be loaded
on his toy cart to go to the mill, but not chattering as usual.  She
thought him tired, and hearing a sort of sigh took him on her knee,
when he rested his fair little head on her shoulder, and presently
said in a low voice--

"I've seen him."

"Who?  Not your father?  Oh, my child!" cried Anne, in a sudden
horror.

"Oh no--the Penny Grim thing."

"What?  Tell me, Phil dear, how or where?"

"By the end of the great big pond; and he threw up his arms, and
made a horrid grin."  The boy trembled and hid his face against her.

"But go on, Phil.  He can't hurt you, you know.  Do tell me.  Where
were you?"

"I was sliding on the ice.  Grandpapa was ever so long talking to
Bill Shepherd, and looking at the men cutting turnips, and I got
cold and tired, and ran about with Cousin Sedley till we got to the
big pond, and we began to slide, and the ice was so nice and hard--
you can't think.  He showed me how to take a good long slide, and
said I might go out to the other end of the pond by the copse, by
the great old tree.  And I set off, but before I got there, out it
jumped, out of the copse, and waved its arms, and made _that_ face."

He cowered into her bosom again and almost cried.  Anne knew the
place, and was ready to start with dismay in her turn.  It was such
a pool as is frequent in chalk districts--shallow at one end, but
deep and dangerous with springs at the other.

"But, Phil dear," she said, "it was well you were stopped; the ice
most likely would have broken at that end, and then where would
Nana's little man have been?"

"Cousin Sedley never told me not," said the boy in self-defence; "he
was whistling to me to go on.  But when I tumbled down Ralph and
grandpapa and all _did_ scold me so--and Cousin Sedley was gone.
Why did they scold me, Nana?  I thought it was brave not to mind
danger--like papa."

"It is brave when one can do any good by it, but not to slide on bad
ice, when one must be drowned," said Anne.  "Oh, my dear, dear
little fellow, it was a blessed thing you saw _that_, whatever it
was!  But why do you call it Pere--Penny Grim?"

"It was, Nana!  It was a little man--rather.  And one-sided looking,
with a bit of hair sticking out, just like the picture of Riquet-
with-a-tuft in your French fairy-book."

This last was convincing to Anne that the child must have seen the
phantom of seven years ago, since he was not repeating the popular
description he had given her in the morning, but one quite as
individual.  She asked if grandpapa had seen it.

"Oh no; he was in the shed, and only came out when he heard Ralph
scolding me.  Was it a wicked urchin come to steal me, Nana?"

"No, I think not," she answered.  "Whatever it was, I think it came
because God was taking care of His child, and warning him from
sliding into the deep pool.  We will thank him, Phil.  'He shall
give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.'"
And to that verse she soothed the tired child till he fell asleep,
and she could lay him on the settle, and cover him with a cloak,
musing the while on the strange story, until presently she started
up and repaired to the buttery in search of the old servant.

"Ralph, what is this Master Philip tells me?" she asked.  "What has
he seen?"

"Well, Mistress Anne, that is what I can't tell--no, not I; but I
knows this, that the child has had a narrow escape of his precious
life, and I'd never trust him again with that there Sedley--no, not
for hundreds of pounds."

"You _really_ think, Ralph--?"

"What can I think, ma'am?  When I finds he's been a-setting that
there child to slide up to where he'd be drownded as sure as he's
alive, and you see, if we gets ill news of Master Archfield (which
God forbid), there's naught but the boy atween him and this here
place--and he over head and ears in debt.  Be it what it might that
the child saw, it saved the life of him."

"Did you see it?"

"No, Mistress Anne; I can't say as I did.  I only heard the little
master cry out as he fell.  I was in the shed, you see, taking a
pipe to keep me warm.  And when I took him up, he cried out like one
dazed.  'Twas Penny Grim, Ralph!  Keep me.  He is come to steal me."
But Sir Philip wouldn't hear nothing of it, only blamed Master Phil
for being foolhardy, and for crying for the fall, and me for letting
him out of sight."

"And Mr. Sedley--did he see it?"

"Well, mayhap he did, for I saw him as white as a sheet and his eyes
staring out of his head; but that might have been his evil
conscience."

"What became of him?"

"To say the truth, ma'am, I believe he be at the Brocas Arms, a-
drowning of his fright--if fright it were, with Master Harling's
strong waters."

"But this apparition, this shape--or whatever it is?  What put it
into Master Philip's head?  What has been heard of it?"

Ralph looked unwilling.  "Bless you, Mistress Anne, there's been
some idle talk among the women folk, as how that there crooked slip
of Major Oakshott's, as they called Master Perry or Penny, and said
was a changeling, has been seen once and again.  Some says as the
fairies have got him, and 'tis the seven year for him to come back
again.  And some says that he met with foul play, and 'tis the ghost
of him, but I holds it all mere tales, and I be sure 'twere nothing
bad as stopped little master on that there pond.  So I be."

Anne could not but be of the same mind, but her confusion, alarm,
and perplexity were great.  It seemed strange, granting that this
were either spirit or elf connected with Peregrine Oakshott, that it
should interfere on behalf of Charles Archfield's child, and on the
sweet hypothesis that a guardian angel had come to save the child,
it was in a most unaccountable form.

And more pressing than any such mysterious idea was the tangible
horror of Ralph's suggestion, too well borne out by the boy's own
unconscious account of the adventure.  It was too dreadful, too real
a peril to be kept to herself, and she carried the story to her
uncle on his return, but without speaking of the spectral warning.
Not only did she know that he would not attend to it, but the hint,
heard for the first time, that Peregrine was supposed to have met
with foul play, sealed her lips, just when she still was hoping
against hope that Charles might be on the way home.  But that Ralph
believed, and little Philip's own account confirmed, that his cousin
had incited the little heir to the slide that would have been fatal
save for his fall, she told with detail, and entreated that the
grandfather might be warned, and some means be found of ensuring the
safety of her darling, the motherless child!

To her disappointment Dr. Woodford was not willing to take alarm.
He did not think so ill of Sedley as to believe him capable of such
a secret act of murder, and he had no great faith in Ralph's
sagacity, besides that he thought his niece's nerves too much
strained by the long suspense to be able to judge fairly.  He
thought it would be cruel to the grandparents, and unjust to Sedley,
to make such a frightful suggestion without further grounds during
their present state of anxiety, and as to the boy's safety, which
Anne pleaded with an uncontrollable passion of tears, he believed
that it was provided for by watchfulness on the part of his two
constant guardians, as well as himself, since, even supposing the
shocking accusation to be true, Sedley would not involve himself in
danger of suspicion, and it was already understood that he was not a
fit companion for his little cousin to be trusted with.  Philip had
already brought home words and asked questions that distressed his
grandmother, and nobody was willing to leave him alone with the ex-
lieutenant.  So again the poor maiden had to hold her peace under an
added burthen of anxiety and many a prayer.

When the country was ringing with the tidings of Sir George
Barclay's conspiracy for the assassination of William III, it was
impossible not to hope that Sedley's boastful tongue might have
brought him sufficiently under suspicion to be kept for a while
under lock and key; but though he did not appear at Fareham, there
was reason to suppose that he was as usual haunting the taverns and
cockpits of Portsmouth.

No one went much abroad that winter.  Sir Philip, perhaps from
anxiety and fretting, had a fit of the gout, and Anne kept herself
and her charge within the garden or the street of the town.  In fact
there was a good deal of danger on the roads.  The neighbourhood of
the seaport was always lawless, and had become more so since Sir
Philip had ceased to act as Justice of the Peace, and there were
reports of highway robberies of an audacious kind, said to be
perpetrated by a band calling themselves the Black Gang, under a
leader known as Piers Pigwiggin, who were alleged to be half
smuggler, half Jacobite, and to have their headquarters somewhere in
the back of the Isle of Wight, in spite of the Governor, the
terrible Salamander, Lord Cutts, who was, indeed, generally absent
with the army.



CHAPTER XXVII: THE VAULT


"Heaven awards the vengeance due."

COWPER.

The weary days had begun to lengthen before the door of the hall was
flung open, and little Phil, forgetting his bow at the door, rushed
in, "Here's a big packet from foreign parts!  Harry had to pay ever
so much for it."

"I have wellnigh left off hoping," sighed the poor mother.  "Tell me
the worst at once."

"No fear, my lady," said her husband.  "Thank God!  'Tis our son's
hand."

There was the silence for a moment of intense relief, and then the
little boy was called to cut the silk and break the seals.

Joy ineffable!  There were three letters--for Master Philip
Archfield, for Mistress Anne Jacobina Woodford, and for Sir Philip
himself.  The old gentleman glanced over it, caught the words
'better,' and 'coming home,' then failed to read through tears of
joy as before through tears of sorrow, and was fain to hand the
sheet to his old friend to be read aloud, while little Philip,
handling as a treasure the first letter he had ever received, though
as yet he was unable to decipher it, stood between his grandfather's
knees listening as Dr. Woodford read--

DEAR AND HONOURED SIR--I must ask your pardon for leaving you
without tidings so long, but while my recovery still hung in
doubt I thought it would only distress you to hear of the
fluctuations that I went through, and the pain to which the
surgeons put me for a long time in vain.  Indeed frequently I had
no power either to think or speak, until at last with much
difficulty, and little knowledge or volition of my own, my
inestimable friend Graham brought me to Vienna, where I have at
length been relieved from my troublesome companion, and am
enjoying the utmost care and kindness from my friend's mother, a
near kinswoman, as indeed he is himself, of the brave and
lamented Viscount Dundee.  My wound is healing finally, as I
hope, and though I have not yet left my bed, my friends assure me
that I am on the way to full and complete recovery, for which I
am more thankful to the Almighty than I could have been before I
knew what suffering and illness meant.  As soon as I can ride
again, which they tell me will be in a fortnight or three weeks,
I mean to set forth on my way home.  I cannot describe to you how
I am longing after the sight of you all, nor how home-sick I have
become.  I never had time for it before, but I have lain for
hours bringing all your faces before me, my father's, and
mother's, my sister's, and that of her whom I hope to call my
own; and figuring to myself that of the little one.  I have
thought much over my past life, and become sensible of much that
was amiss, and while earnestly entreating your forgiveness,
especially for having absented myself all these years, I hope to
return so as to be more of a comfort than I was in the days of my
rash and inconsiderate youth.  I am of course at present
invalided, but I want to consult you, honoured sir, before
deciding whether it be expedient for me to resign my commission.
How I thank and bless you for the permission you have given me,
and the love you bear to my own heart's joy, no words can tell.
It shall be the study of my life to be worthy of her and of you.--
And so no more from your loving and dutiful son, CHARLES
ARCHFIELD.

Having drunk in these words with her ears, Anne left Phil to have
his note interpreted by his grandparents, and fled away to enjoy her
own in her chamber, yet it was as short as could be and as sweet.

Mine own, mine own sweet Anne, sweetheart of good old days, your
letter gave me strength to go through with it.  The doctors could
not guess why I was so much better and smiled through all their
torments.  These are our first, I hope our last letters, for I
shall soon follow them home, and mine own darling will be mine.--
Thine own, C. A.

She had but short time to dwell on it and kiss it, for little Philip
was upon her, waving his letter, which he already knew by heart; and
galloping all over the house to proclaim the good news to the old
servants, who came crowding into the hall, trembling with joy, to
ask if there were indeed tidings of Mr. Archfield's return,
whereupon the glad father caused his grandson to carry each a full
glass of wine to drink to the health of the young master.

Anne had at first felt only the surpassing rapture of the
restoration of Charles, but there ensued another delight in the
security his recovery gave to the life of his son.  Sedley Archfield
would not be likely to renew his attempt, and if only on that
account the good news should be spread as widely as possible.  She
was the first to suggest the relief it would be to Mr. Fellowes, who
had never divested himself of the feeling that he ought to have
divined his pupil's intention.

Dr. Woodford offered to ride to Portchester with the news, and Sir
Philip, in the gladness of his heart, proposed that Anne should go
with him and see her friend.

Shall it be told how on the way Anne's mind was assailed by feminine
misgivings whether three and twenty could be as fair in her
soldier's eyes as seventeen had been?  Old maidenhood came earlier
then than in these days, and Anne knew that she was looked upon as
an old waiting-gentlewoman or governess by the belles of Winchester.
Her glass might tell her that her eyes were as softly brown, her
hair as abundant, her cheek as clear and delicately moulded as ever,
but there was no one to assure her that the early bloom had not
passed away, and that she had not rather gained than lost in dignity
of bearing and the stately poise of the head, which the jealous
damsels called Court airs.  "And should he be disappointed, I shall
see it in his eyes," she said to herself, "and then his promise
shall not bind him, though it will break my heart, and oh! how hard
to resign my Phil to a strange stepmother."  Still her heart was
lighter than for many a long year, as she cantered along in the
brisk March air, while the drops left by the departing frost
glistened in the sunshine, and the sea lay stretched in a delicate
gray haze.  The old castle rose before her in its familiar home-like
massiveness as they turned towards the Rectory, where in that
sheltered spot the well-known clusters of crocuses were opening
their golden hearts to the sunshine, and recalling the days when
Anne was as sunny-hearted as they, and she felt as if she could be
as bright again.

In Mrs. Fellowes's parlour they found an unexpected guest, no other
than Mrs. Oakshott.

'Gadding about' not being the fashion of the Archfield household,
Anne had not seen the lady for several years, and was agreeably
surprised by her appearance.  Perhaps the marks of smallpox had
faded, perhaps motherhood had given expression, and what had been
gaunt ungainliness in the maiden had rounded into a certain
importance in the matron, nor had her dress, though quiet, any of
the Puritan rigid ugliness that had been complained of, and though
certainly not beautiful, she was a person to inspire respect.

It was explained that she was waiting for her husband, who was gone
with Mr. Fellowes to speak to the officer in command of the soldiers
at the castle.  "For," said she, "I am quite convinced that there is
something that ought to be brought to light, and it may be in that
vault."

Anne's heart gave such a throb as almost choked her.

Dr. Woodford asked what the lady meant.

"Well, sir, when spirits and things 'tis not well to talk of are
starting up and about here, there, and everywhere, 'tis plain there
must be cause for it."

"I do not quite take your meaning, madam."

"Ah, well! you gentlemen, reverend ones especially, are the last to
hear such things.  There's the poor old Major, he won't believe a
word of it, but you know, Mistress Woodford.  I see it in your face.
Have you seen anything?"

"Not here, not now," faltered Anne.  "You have, Mrs. Fellowes?"

"I have heard of some foolish fright of the maids," said Naomi,
"partly their own fancy, or perhaps caught from the sentry.  There
is no keeping those giddy girls from running after the soldiers."

Perhaps Naomi hoped by throwing out this hint to conduct her
visitors off into the safer topic of domestic delinquencies, but
Mrs. Oakshott was far too earnest to be thus diverted, and she
exclaimed, "Ah, they saw him, I'll warrant!"

"Him?" the Doctor asked innocently.

"Him or his likeness," said Mrs. Oakshott, "my poor brother-in-law,
Peregrine Oakshott; you remember him, sir?  He always said, poor
lad, that you and Mrs. Woodford were kinder to him than his own
flesh and blood, except his uncle, Sir Peregrine.  For my part, I
never did give in to all the nonsense folk talked about his being a
changeling or at best a limb of Satan.  He had more spirit and sense
than the rest of them, and they led him the life of a dog, though
they knew no better.  If I had had him at Emsworth, I would have
shown them what he was;" and she sighed heavily.  "Well, I did not
so much wonder when he disappeared, I made sure that he could bear
it no longer and had run away.  I waited as long as there was any
reason, till there should be tidings of him, and only took his
brother at last because I found they could not do without me at
home."

Remarkable frankness! but it struck both the Doctor and Anne that if
Peregrine could have submitted, his life might have been freer and
less unhappy than he had expected, though Mrs. Martha spoke the
broadest Hampshire.

Naomi asked, "Then you no longer think that he ran away?"

"No, madam; I am certain there was worse than that.  You remember
the night of the bonfire for the Bishops' acquittal, Miss Woodford?"

"Indeed I do."

"Well, he was never seen again after that, as you know.  The place
was full of wild folk.  There was brawling right and left."

"Were you there?" asked Anne surprised.

"Yes; in my coach with my uncle and aunt that lived with me, though,
except Robin, none of the young sparks would come near me, except
some that I knew were after my pockets," said Martha, with a good-
humoured laugh.  "Properly frightened we were too by the brawling
sailors ere we got home!  Now, what could be more likely than that
some of them got hold of poor Perry?  You know he always would go
about with the rapier he brought from Germany, with amber set in the
hilt, and the mosaic snuff-box he got in Italy, and what could be
looked for but that the poor dear lad should be put out of the way
for the sake of these gewgaws?"  This supposition was gratifying to
Anne, but her uncle must needs ask why Mrs. Oakshott thought so more
than before.

"Because," she said impressively, "there is no doubt but that he has
been seen, and not in the flesh, once and again, and always about
these ruins."

"By whom, madam, may I ask?"

"Mrs. Fellowes's maids, as she knows, saw him once on the beach at
night, just there.  The sentry, who is Tom Hart, from our parish,
saw a shape at the opening of the old vault before the keep and
challenged him, when he vanished out of sight ere there was time to
present a musket.  There was once more, when one moonlight night our
sexton, looking out of his cottage window, saw what he declares was
none other than Master Perry standing among the graves of our
family, as if, poor youth, he were asking why he was not among them.
When I heard that, I said to my husband, 'Depend upon it,' says I,
'he met with his death that night, and was thrown into some hole,
and that's the reason he cannot rest.  If I pay a hundred pounds for
it, I'll not give up till his poor corpse is found to have Christian
burial, and I'll begin with the old vault at Portchester!'  My good
father, the Major, would not hear of it at first, nor my husband
either, but 'tis my money, and I know how to tackle Robin."

It was with strangely mingled feelings that Anne listened.  That
search in the vault, inaugurated by faithful Martha, was what she
had always felt ought to be made, and she had even promised to
attempt it if the apparitions recurred.  The notion of the deed
being attributed to lawless sailors and smugglers or highwaymen, who
were known to swarm in the neighbourhood, seemed to remove all
danger of suspicion.  Yet she could not divest herself of a vague
sense of alarm at this stirring up of what had slept for seven
years.  Neither she nor her uncle deemed it needful to mention the
appearance seen by little Philip, but to her surprise Naomi slowly
and hesitatingly said it was very remarkable, that her husband
having occasion to be at the church at dusk one evening just after
Midsummer, had certainly seen a figure close to Mrs. Woodford's
grave, and lost sight of it before he could speak of it.  He thought
nothing more of it till these reports began to be spread, but he had
then recollected that it answered the descriptions given of the
phantom.

Here the ladies were interrupted by the appearance of Mr. Fellowes
and Robert Oakshott, now grown into a somewhat heavy but by no means
foolish-looking young man.

"Well, madam," said he, in Hampshire as broad as his wife's, "you
will have your will.  Not that Captain Henslowe believes a word of
your ghosts--not he; but he took fire when he heard of queer sights
about the castle.  He sent for the chap who stood sentry, and was
downright sharp on him for not reporting what he had seen, and he is
ordering out a sergeant's party to open the vault, so you may come
and see, if you have any stomach for it."

"I could not but come!" said Madam Oakshott, who certainly did not
look squeamish, but who was far more in earnest than her husband,
and perhaps doubted whether without her presence the quest would be
thorough.  Anne was full of dread, and almost sick at the thought of
what she might see, but she was far too anxious to stay away.  Mrs.
Fellowes made some excuse about the children for not accompanying
them.

It always thrilled Anne to enter that old castle court, the familiar
and beloved play-place of her childhood, full of memories of Charles
and of Lucy, and containing in its wide precincts the churchyard
where her mother lay.  She moved along in a kind of dream, glad to
be let alone, since Mr. Fellowes naturally attended Mrs. Oakshott,
and Robert was fully occupied in explaining to the Doctor that he
only gave in to this affair for the sake of pacifying madam, since
women folk would have their little megrims.  Assuredly that tall,
solid, resolute figure stalking on in front, looked as little
subject to megrims as any of her sex.  Her determination had brought
her husband thither, and her determination further carried the day,
when the captain, after staring at the solid-looking turf, stamping
on the one stone that was visible, and trampling down the bunch of
nettles beside it, declared that the entrance had been so thoroughly
stopped that it was of no use to dig farther.  It was Madam Martha
who demanded permission to offer the four soldiers a crown apiece if
they opened the vault, a guinea each if they found anything.  The
captain could not choose but grant it, though with something of a
sneer, and the work was begun.  He walked up and down with Robert,
joining in hopes that the lady would be satisfied before dinner-
time.  The two clergymen likewise walked together, arguing, as was
their wont, on the credibility of apparitions.  The two ladies stood
in almost breathless watch, as the bricks that had covered in the
opening were removed, and the dark hole brought to light.  Contrary
to expectation, when the opening had been enlarged, it was found
that there were several steps of stone, and where they were broken
away, there was a rude ladder.

A lantern was fetched from the guard-room in the bailey, and after
much shaking and trying of the ladder, one of the soldiers
descended, finding the place less deep than was commonly supposed,
and soon calling out that he was at the bottom.  Another followed
him, and presently there was a shout.  Something was found!  "A
rusty old chain, no doubt," grumbled Robert; but his wife shrieked.
It was a sword in its sheath, the belt rotted, the clasp tarnished,
but of silver.  Mrs. Oakshott seized it at once, rubbed away the
dust from the handle, and brought to light a glistening yellow piece
of amber, which she mutely held up, and another touch of her
handkerchief disclosed on a silver plate in the scabbard an oak-
tree, the family crest, and the twisted cypher P. O.  Her eyes were
full of tears, and she did not speak.  Anne, white and trembling,
was forced to sink down on the stone, unnoticed by all, while Robert
Oakshott, convinced indeed, hastily went down himself.  The sword
had been hidden in a sort of hollow under the remains of the broken
stair.  Thence likewise came to light the mouldy remnant of a broad
hat and the quill of its plume, and what had once been a coat, even
in its present state showing that it had been soaked through and
through with blood, the same stains visible on the watch and the
mosaic snuff-box.  That was all; there was no purse, and no other
garments, though, considering the condition of the coat, they might
have been entirely destroyed by the rats and mice.  There was indeed
a fragment of a handkerchief, with the cypher worked on it, which
Mrs. Oakshott showed to Anne with the tears in her eyes:  "There!  I
worked that, though he never knew it.  No!  I know he did not like
me!  But I would have made him do so at last.  I would have been so
good to him.  Poor fellow, that he should have been lying there all
this time!"

Lying there; but where, then, was he?  No signs of any corpse were
to be found, though one after another all the gentlemen descended to
look, and Mrs. Oakshott was only withheld by her husband's urgent
representations, and promise to superintend a diligent digging in
the ground, so as to ascertain whether there had been a hasty burial
there.

Altogether, Anne was so much astonished and appalled that she could
hardly restrain herself, and her mind reverted to Bishop Ken's
theory that Peregrine still lived; but this was contradicted by the
appearance at Douai, which did not rest on the evidence of her
single perceptions.

Mrs. Fellowes sent out an entreaty that they would come to dinner,
and the gentlemen were actually base enough to wish to comply, so
that the two ladies had no choice save to come with them, especially
as the soldiers were unwilling to work on without their meal.
Neither Mrs. Oakshott nor Anne felt as if they could swallow, and
the polite pressure to eat was only preferable in Anne's eyes to the
conversation on the discoveries that had been made, especially the
conclusion arrived at by all, that though the purse and rings had
not been found, the presence of the watch and snuff-box precluded
the idea of robbery.

"These would be found on the body," said Mr. Oakshott.  "I could
swear to the purse.  You remember, madam, your uncle bantering him
about French ladies and their finery, asking whose token it was, and
how black my father looked?  Poor Perry, if my father could have had
a little patience with him, he would not have gone roaming about and
getting into brawls, and we need not be looking for him in yonder
black pit."

"You'll never find him there, Master Robert," spoke out the old
Oakwood servant, behind Mrs. Oakshott's chair, free and easy after
the manner of the time.

"And wherefore not, Jonadab?" demanded his mistress, by no means
surprised at the liberty.

"Why, ma'am, 'twas the seven years, you sees, and in course when
them you wot of had power to carry him off, they could not take his
sword, nor his hat, not they couldn't."

"How about his purse, then?" put in Dr. Woodford.

"I'll be bound you will find it yet, sir," responded Jonadab, by no
means disconcerted, "leastways unless some two-legged fairies have
got it."

At this some of the party found it impossible not to laugh, and this
so upset poor Martha's composure that she was obliged to leave the
table, and Anne was not sorry for the excuse of attending her,
although there were stings of pain in all her rambling lamentations
and conjectures.

Very tardily, according to the feelings of the anxious women, was
the dinner finished, and their companions ready to take them out
again.  Indeed, Madam Oakshott at last repaired to the dining-
parlour, and roused her husband from his glass of Spanish wine to
renew the search.  She would not listen to Mrs. Fellowes's advice
not to go out again, and Anne could not abstain either from watching
for what could not be other than grievous and mournful to behold.

The soldiers were called out again by their captain, and reinforced
by the Rectory servant and Jonadab.

There was an interval of anxious prowling round the opening.  Mr.
Oakshott and the captain had gone down again, and found, what the
military man was anxious about, that if there were passages to the
outer air, they had been well blocked up and not re-opened.

Meantime the digging proceeded.

It was just at twilight that a voice below uttered an exclamation.
Then came a pause.  The old sergeant's voice ordered care and a
pause, somewhere below the opening with, "Sir, the spades have hit
upon a skull."

There was a shuddering pause.  All the gentlemen except Dr.
Woodford, who feared the chill, descended again.  Mrs. Oakshott and
Anne held each other's hands and trembled.

By and by Mr. Fellowes came up first.  "We have found," he said,
looking pale and grave, "a skeleton.  Yes, a perfect skeleton, but
no more--no remains except a fine dust."

And Robert Oakshott following, awe-struck and sorrowful, added,
"Yes, there he is, poor Perry--all that is left of him--only his
bones.  No, madam, we must leave him there for the present; we
cannot bring it up without preparation."

"You need not fear meddling curiosity, madam," said the captain.  "I
will post a sentry here to bar all entrance."

"Thanks, sir," said Robert.  "That will be well till I can bury the
poor fellow with all due respect by my mother and Oliver."

"And then I trust his spirit will have rest," said Martha Oakshott
fervently.  "And now home to your father.  How will he bear it,
sir?"

"I verily believe he will sleep the quieter for knowing for a
certainty what has become of poor Peregrine," said her husband.

And Anne felt as if half her burthen of secrecy was gone when they
all parted, starting early because the Black Gang rendered all the
roads unsafe after dark.



CHAPTER XXVIII: THE DISCLOSURE


"He looked about as one betrayed,
What hath he done, what promise made?
Oh! weak, weak moment, to what end
Can such a vain oblation tend?"

WORDSWORTH.

For the most part Anne was able to hold her peace and keep out of
sight while Dr. Woodford related the strange revelations of the
vault with all the circumstantiality that was desired by two old
people living a secluded life and concerned about a neighbour of
many years, whom they had come to esteem by force of a certain
sympathy in honest opposition.  The mystery occupied them entirely,
for though the murder was naturally ascribed to some of the lawless
coast population, the valuables remaining with the clothes made a
strange feature in the case.

It was known that there was to be an inquest held on the remains
before their removal, and Dr. Woodford, both from his own interest
in the question, and as family intelligencer, rode to the castle.
Sir Philip longed to go, but it was a cold wet day, and he had
threatenings of gout, so that he was persuaded to remain by the
fireside.  Inquests were then always held where the body lay, and
the court of Portchester Castle was no place for him on such a day.

Dr. Woodford came home just before twilight, looking grave and
troubled, and, much to Anne's alarm, desired to speak to Sir Philip
privately in the gun-room.  Lady Archfield took alarm, and much
distressed her by continually asking what could be the meaning of
the interview, and making all sorts of guesses.

When at last they came together into the parlour the poor lady
looked so anxious and frightened that her husband went up to her and
said, "Do not be alarmed, sweetheart.  We shall clear him; but those
foolish fellows have let suspicion fall on poor Sedley."

Nobody looked at Anne, or her deadly paleness must have been
remarked, and the trembling which she could hardly control by
clasping her hands tightly together, keeping her feet hard on the
floor, and setting her teeth.

Lady Archfield was perhaps less fond of the scapegrace nephew than
was her husband, and she felt the matter chiefly as it affected him,
so that she heard with more equanimity than he had done; and as they
sat round the fire in the half-light, for which Anne was thankful,
the Doctor gave his narration in order.

"I found a large company assembled in the castle court, waiting for
the coroner from Portsmouth, though the sentry on guard would allow
no one to go down, in spite of some, even ladies, I am ashamed to
say, who offered him bribes for the permission.  Everything, I
heard, had been replaced as we found it.  The poor Major himself was
there, looking sadly broken, and much needing the help of his son's
arm.  'To think that I was blaming my poor son as a mere reprobate,
and praying for his conversion,' says he, 'when he was lying here,
cut off without a moment for repentance.'  There was your nephew,
suspecting nothing, Squire Brocas, Mr. Eyre, of Botley Grange, Mr.
Biden, Mr. Larcom, and Mr. Bargus, and a good many more, besides Dr.
James Yonge, the naval doctor, and the Mayor of Portsmouth, and more
than I can tell you.  When the coroner came, and the jury had been
sworn in, they went down and viewed the spot, and all that was
there.  The soldiers had put candles round, and a huge place it is,
all built up with large stones.  Then, as it was raining hard, they
adjourned to the great room in the keep and took the evidence.
Robert Oakshott identified the clothes and the watch clearly enough,
and said he had no doubt that the other remains were Peregrine's;
but as to swearing to a brother's bones, no one could do that; and
Dr. Yonge said in my ear that if the deceased were so small a man as
folks said, the skeleton could scarce be his, for he thought it had
belonged to a large-framed person.  That struck no one else, for
naturally it is only a chirurgeon who is used to reckon the
proportion that the bones bear to the body, and I also asked him
whether in seven years the other parts would be so entirely
consumed, to which he answered that so much would depend on the
nature of the soil that there was no telling.  However, jury and
coroner seemed to feel no doubt, and that old seafaring man, Tom
Block, declared that poor Master Peregrine had been hand and glove
with a lot of wild chaps, and that the vault had been well known to
them before the gentlemen had had it blocked up.  Then it was asked
who had seen him last, and Robert Oakshott spoke of having parted
with him at the bonfire, and never seen him again.  There, I fancy,
it would have ended in a verdict of wilful murder against some
person or persons unknown, but Robert Oakshott must needs say, "I
would give a hundred pounds to know who the villain was."  And then
who should get up but George Rackstone, with "Please your Honour, I
could tell summat."  The coroner bade swear him, and he deposed to
having seen Master Peregrine going down towards the castle somewhere
about four o'clock that morning after the bonfire when he was
getting up to go to his mowing.  But that was not all.  You
remember, Anne, that his father's cottage stands on the road towards
Portsmouth.  Well, he brought up the story of your running in there,
frightened, the day before the bonfire, when I was praying with his
sick mother, calling on me to stop a fray between Peregrine and
young Sedley, and I had to get up and tell of Sedley's rudeness to
you, child."

"What was that?" hastily asked Lady Archfield.

"The old story, my lady.  The young officer's swaggering attempt to
kiss the girl he meets on the road.  I doubt even if he knew at the
moment that it was my niece.  Peregrine was coming by at the moment,
and interfered to protect her, and swords were drawn.  I could not
deny it, nor that there was ill blood between the lads; and then
young Brocas, who was later on Portsdown than we were, remembered
high words, and had thought to himself that there would be a
challenge.  And next old Goody Spore recollects seeing Master Sedley
and another soldier officer out on the Portsmouth road early that
morning.  The hay was making in the court then, and Jenny Light
remembered that when the haymakers came she raked up something that
looked like a bloody spot, and showed it to one of the others, but
they told her that most likely a rabbit or a hare had been killed
there, and she had best take no heed.  Probably there was dread of
getting into trouble about a smugglers' fray.  Well, every one was
looking askance at Master Sedley by this time, and the coroner asked
him if he had anything to say.  He spoke out boldly enough.  He
owned to the dispute with Peregrine Oakshott, and to having parted
with him that night on terms which would only admit of a challenge.
He wrote a cartel that night, and sent it by his friend Lieutenant
Ainslie, but doubting whether Major Oakshott might not prevent its
delivery, he charged him to try to find Peregrine outside the house,
and arrange with him a meeting on the hill, where you know the
duellists of the garrison are wont to transact such encounters.
Sedley himself walked out part of the way with his friend, but
neither of them saw Peregrine, nor heard anything of him.  So he
avers, but when asked for his witness to corroborate the story, he
says that Ainslie, I fear the only person who could have proved an
alibi--if so it were--was killed at Landen; but, he added, certainly
with too much of his rough way, it was a mere absurdity to charge it
upon him.  What should a gentleman have to do with private murders
and robberies?  Nor did he believe the bones to be Perry Oakshott's
at all.  It was all a bit of Whiggish spite!  He worked himself into
a passion, which only added to the impression against him; and I own
I cannot wonder that the verdict has sent him to Winchester to take
his trial.  Why, Anne, child, how now?"

"'Tis a terrible story.  Take my essences, child," said Lady
Archfield, tottering across, and Anne, just saving herself from
fainting by a long gasp at them, let herself be led from the room.
The maids buzzed about her, and for some time she was sensible of
nothing but a longing to get rid of them, and to be left alone to
face the grievous state of things which she did not yet understand.
At last, with kind good-nights from Lady Archfield, such as she
could hardly return, she was left by herself in the darkness to
recover from the stunned helpless feeling of the first moment.

Sedley accused!  Charles to be sacrificed to save his worthless
cousin, the would-be murderer of his innocent child, who morally
thus deserved to suffer!  Never, never!  She could not do so.  It
would be treason to her benefactors, nay, absolute injustice, for
Charles had struck in generous defence of herself; but Sedley had
tried to allure the boy to his death merely for his own advantage.
Should she not be justified in simply keeping silence?  Yet there
was like an arrow in her heart, the sense of guilt in so doing,
guilt towards God and truth, guilt towards man and justice.  She
should die under the load, and it would be for Charles.  Might it
only be before he came home, then he would know that she had
perished under his secret to save him.  Nay, but would he be
thankful at being saved at the expense of his cousin's life?  If he
came, how should she meet him?

The sense of the certain indignation of a good and noble human
spirit often awakes the full perception of what an action would be
in the sight of Heaven, and Anne began to realise the sin more than
at first, and to feel the compulsion of truth.  If only Charles were
not coming home she could write to him and warn him, but the thought
that he might be already on the way had turned from joy to agony.
"And to think," she said to herself, "that I was fretting as to
whether he would think me pretty!"

She tossed about in misery, every now and then rising on her knees
to pray--at first for Charles's safety--for she shrank from asking
for Divine protection, knowing only too well what that would be.
Gradually, however, a shudder came over her at the thought that if
she would not commit her way unto the Lord, she might indeed be the
undoing of her lover, and then once more the higher sense of duty
rose on her.  She prayed for forgiveness for the thought, and that
it might not be visited upon him; she prayed for strength to do what
must be her duty, for safety for him, and comfort to his parents,
and so, in passing gusts of misery and apprehension, of failing
heart and recovered resolution, of anguish and of prayer, the long
night at length passed, and with the first dawn she arose, shaken
and weak, but resolved to act on her terrible resolution before it
again failed her.

Sir Philip was always an early riser, and she heard his foot on the
stairs before seven o'clock.  She came out on the staircase, which
met the flight which he was descending, and tried to speak, but her
lips seemed too dry to part.

"Child! child! you are ill," said the old gentleman, as he saw her
blanched cheek; "you should be in bed this chilly morning.  Go back
to your chamber."

"No, no, sir, I cannot.  Pray, your Honour, come here, I have
something to say;" and she drew him to the open door of his justice-
room, called the gun-room.

"Bless me," he muttered, "the wench does not mean that she has got
smitten with that poor rogue my nephew!"

"Oh! no, no," said Anne, almost ready for a hysterical laugh, yet
letting the old man seat himself, and then dropping on her knees
before him, for she could hardly stand, "it is worse than that, sir;
I know who it was who did that thing."

"Well, who?" he said hastily; "why have you kept it back so long and
let an innocent man get into trouble?"

"O Sir Philip!  I could not help it.  Forgive me;" and with clasped
hands, she brought out the words, "It was your son, Mr. Archfield;"
and then she almost collapsed again.

"Child! child! you are ill; you do not know what you are saying.  We
must have you to bed again.  I will call your uncle."

"Ah! sir, it is only too true;" but she let him fetch her uncle, who
was sure to be at his devotions in a kind of oratory on the farther
side of the hall.  She had not gone to him first, from the old
desire to keep him clear of the knowledge, but she longed for such
support as he might give her, or at least to know whether he were
very angry with her.

The two old men quickly came back together, and Dr. Woodford began,
"How now, niece, are you telling us dreams?" but he broke off as he
saw the sad earnest of her face.

"Sir, it is too true.  He charged me to speak out if any one else
were brought into danger."

"Come," said Sir Philip, testily; "don't crouch grovelling on the
floor there.  Get up and let us know the meaning of this.  Good
heavens! the lad may be here any day."

Anne had much rather have knelt where she was, but her uncle raised
her, and placed her in a chair, saying, "Try to compose yourself,
and tell us what you mean, and why it has been kept back so long."

"Indeed he did not intend it," pleaded Anne; "it was almost an
accident--to protect me--Peregrine was--pursuing me."

"Upon my word, young mistress," burst out the father, "you seem to
have been setting all the young fellows together by the ears."

"I doubt if she could help it," said the Doctor.  "She tried to be
discreet, but it was the reason her mother--"

"Well, go on," interrupted poor Sir Philip, too unhappy to remember
manners or listen to the defence; "what was it? when was it?"

Anne was allowed then to proceed.  "It was the morning I went to
London.  I went out to gather some mouse-ear."

"Mouse-ear! mouse-ear!" growled he.  "Some one else's ear."

"It was for Lady Oglethorpe."

"It was," said her uncle, "a specific, it seems, for whooping-cough.
I saw the letter, and knew--"

"Umph! let us hear," said Sir Philip, evidently with the idea of a
tryst in his mind.  "No wonder mischief comes of maidens running
about at such hours.  What next?"

The poor girl struggled on:  "I saw Peregrine coming, and hoping he
would not see me, I ran into the keep, meaning to get home by the
battlements out of his sight, but when I looked down he and Mr.
Archfield were fighting.  I screamed, but I don't think they heard
me, and I ran down; but I had fastened all the doors, and I was a
long time getting out, and by that time Mr. Archfield had dragged
him to the vault and thrown him in.  He was like one distracted, and
said it must be hidden, or it would be the death of his wife and his
mother, and what could I do?"

"Is that all the truth?" said Sir Philip sternly.  "What brought
them there--either of them?"

"Mr. Archfield came to bring me a pattern of sarcenet to match for
poor young Madam in London."

No doubt Sir Philip recollected the petulant anger that this had
been forgotten, but he was hardly appeased.  "And the other fellow?
Why, he was brawling with my nephew Sedley about you the day
before!"

"I do not think she was to blame there," said Dr. Woodford.  "The
unhappy youth was set against marrying Mistress Browning, and had
talked wildly to my sister and me about wedding my niece."

"But why should she run away as if he had the plague, and set the
foolish lads to fight?"

"Sir, I must tell you," Anne owned, "he had beset me, and talked so
desperately that I was afraid of what he might do in that lonely
place and at such an hour in the morning.  I hoped he had not seen
me."

"Umph!" said Sir Philip, much as if he thought a silly girl's
imagination had caused all the mischief.

"When did he thus speak to you, Anne?" asked her uncle, not
unkindly.

"At the inn at Portsmouth, sir," said Anne.  "He came while you were
with Mr. Stanbury and the rest, and wanted me to marry him and flee
to France, or I know not where, or at any rate marry him secretly so
as to save him from poor Mistress Browning.  I could not choose but
fear and avoid him, but oh!  I would have faced him ten times over
rather than have brought this on--us all.  And now what shall I do?
He, Mr. Archfield, when I saw him in France, said as long as no one
was suspected, it would only give more pain to say what I knew, but
that if suspicion fell on any one--" and her voice died away.

"He could not say otherwise," returned Sir Philip, with a groan.

"And now what shall I do? what shall I do?" sighed the poor girl.
"I must speak truth."

"I never bade you perjure yourself," said Sir Philip sharply, but
hiding his face in his hands, and groaning out, "Oh, my son! my
son!"

Seeing that his distress so overcame poor Anne that she could
scarcely contain herself, Dr. Woodford thought it best to take her
from the room, promising to come again to her.  She could do nothing
but lie on her bed and weep in a quiet heart-broken way.  Sir
Philip's anger seemed to fill up the measure, by throwing the guilt
back upon her and rousing a bitter sense of injustice, and then she
wept again at her cruel selfishness in blaming the broken-hearted
old man.

She could hardly have come down to breakfast, so heavy were her
limbs and so sick and faint did every movement render her, and she
further bethought herself that the poor old father might not brook
the sight of her under the circumstances.  It was a pang to hear
little Philip prancing about the house, and when he had come to her
to say his prayers, she sent him down with a message that she was
not well enough to come downstairs, and that she wanted nothing,
only to be quiet.

The little fellow was very pitiful, and made her cry again by
wanting to know whether she had gout like grandpapa or rheumatics
like grandmamma, and then stroking her face, calling her his dear
Nana, and telling her of the salad in his garden that his papa was
to eat the very first day he came home.

By and by Dr. Woodford knocked at her door.  He had had a long
conversation with poor old Sir Philip, who was calmer now than under
the first blow, and somewhat less inclined to anger with the girl,
who might indeed be the cause, but surely the innocent cause, of
all.  The Doctor had done his best to show that her going out had no
connection with any of the youths, and he thought Sir Philip would
believe it on quieter reflection.  He had remembered too, signs of
self-reproach mixed with his son's grief for his wife, and his
extreme relief at the plan for going abroad, recollecting likewise
that Charles had strongly disliked poor Peregrine, and had much
resented the liking which young Madam had shown for one whose
attentions might have been partly intended to tease the young
husband.

"Of course," said Dr. Woodford, "the unhappy deed was no more than
an unfortunate accident, and if all had been known at first,
probably it would so have been treated.  The concealment was an
error, but it is impossible to blame either of you for it."

"Oh never mind that, dear uncle!  Only tell me!  Must he--must
Charles suffer to save that man?  You know what he is, real murderer
in heart!  Oh I know.  The right must be done!  But it is dreadful!"

"The right must be done and the truth spoken at all costs.  No one
knows that better than our good old patron," said the Doctor; "but,
my dear child, you are not called on to denounce this young man as
you seem to imagine, unless there should be no other means of saving
his cousin, or unless you are so questioned that you cannot help
replying for truth's sake.  Knowing nothing of all this, it struck
others besides myself at the inquest that the evidence against
Sedley was utterly insufficient for a conviction, and if he should
be acquitted, matters will only be as they were before."

"Then you think I am not bound to speak--The truth, the whole truth,
nothing but the truth," she murmured in exceeding grief, yet firmly.

"You certainly may, nay, _must_ keep your former silence till the
trial, at the Lent Assizes.  I trust you may not be called on as a
witness to the fray with Sedley, but that I may be sufficient
testimony to that.  I could testify to nothing else.  Remember, if
you are called, you have only to answer what you are asked, nor is
it likely, unless Sedley have any suspicion of the truth, that you
will be asked any question that will implicate Mr. Archfield.  If
so, God give you strength my poor child, to be true to Him.  But the
point of the trial is to prove Sedley guilty or not guilty; and if
the latter, there is no more to be said.  God grant it."

"But he--Mr. Archfield?"

"His father is already taking measures to send to all the ports to
stop him on his way till the trial is over.  Thus there will be no
actual danger, though it is a sore disappointment, and these wicked
attempts of Charnock and Barclay put us in bad odour, so that it may
be less easy to procure a pardon than it once would have been.  So,
my dear child, I do not think you need be in terror for his life,
even if you are obliged to speak out plainly."

And then the good old man knelt with Anne to pray for pardon,
direction, and firmness, and protection for Charles.  She made an
entreaty after they rose that her uncle would take her away--her
presence must be so painful to their kind hosts.  He agreed with
her, and made the proposition, but Sir Philip would not hear of it.
Perhaps he was afraid of any change bringing suspicion of the facts,
and he might have his fears of Anne being questioned into dangerous
admissions, besides which, he hoped to keep his poor old wife in
ignorance to the last.  So Anne was to remain at Fareham, and after
that one day's seclusion she gathered strength to be with the family
as usual.  Poor old Sir Philip treated her with a studied but icy
courtesy which cut her to the heart; but Lady Archfield's hopes of
seeing her son were almost worse, together with her regrets at her
husband's dejection at the situation of his nephew and the family
disgrace.  As to little Philip, his curious inquiries about Cousin
Sedley being in jail for murdering Penny Grim had to be summarily
hushed by the assurance that such things were not to be spoken
about.  But why did Nana cry when he talked of papa's coming home?

All the neighbourhood was invited to the funeral in Havant
Churchyard, the burial-place of the Oakshotts.  Major Oakshott
himself wrote to Dr. Woodford, as having been one of the kindest
friends of his poor son, adding that he could not ask Sir Philip
Archfield, although he knew him to be no partner in the guilt of his
unhappy nephew, who so fully exemplified that Divine justice may be
slow, but is sure.

Dr. Woodford decided on accepting the invitation, not only for
Peregrine's sake, but to see how the land lay.  Scarcely anything
remarkable, however, occurred, except that it was painful to
perceive the lightness of the coffin.  A funeral sermon was
previously preached by a young Nonconformist minister in his own
chapel, on the text, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his
blood be shed;" and then the burial took place, watched by a huge
crowd of people.  But just as the procession was starting from the
chapel for the churchyard, over the wall there came a strange peal
of wild laughter.

"Oh, would not the unquiet spirit be at rest till it was avenged?"
thought Anne when she was told of it.



CHAPTER XXIX: THE ASSIZE COURT


"O terror! what hath she perceived?  O joy,
What doth she look on? whom hath she perceived?"

WORDSWORTH.

Time wore away, and the Lent Assizes at Winchester had come.  Sir
Philip had procured the best legal assistance for his nephew, but in
criminal cases, though the prisoner was allowed the advice of
counsel, the onus of defence rested upon himself.  To poor Anne's
dismay, a subpoena was sent to her, as well as to her uncle, to
attend as a witness at the trial.  Sir Philip was too anxious to
endure to remain at a distance from Winchester, and they travelled
in his coach, Sir Edmund Nutley escorting them on horseback, while
Lucy was left with her mother, both still in blissful ignorance.
They took rooms at the George Inn.  That night was a strange and
grievous one to Anne, trying hard to sleep so as to be physically
capable of composure and presence of mind, yet continually wakened
by ghastly dreams, and then recollecting that the sense of something
terrible was by no means all a dream.

Very white, very silent, but very composed, she came to the sitting-
room, and was constrained by her uncle and Sir Philip to eat, much
as it went against her.  On this morning Sir Philip had dropped his
sternness towards her, and finding a moment when his son-in-law was
absent, he said, "Child, I know that this is wellnigh, nay, quite as
hard for you as for me.  I can only say, Let no earthly regards hold
you back from whatever is your duty to God and man.  Speak the truth
whatever betide, and leave the rest to the God of truth.  God bless
you, however it may be;" and he kissed her brow.

The intelligence that the trial was coming on was brought by
Sedley's counsel, Mr. Simon Harcourt.  They set forth for the County
Hall up the sharply-rising street, thronged with people, who growled
and murmured at the murderer savagely, Sir Philip, under the care of
his son-in-law, and Anne with her uncle.  Mr. Harcourt was very
hopeful; he said the case for the prosecution had not a leg to stand
on, and that the prisoner himself was so intelligent, and had so
readily understood the line of defence to take, that he ought to
have been a lawyer.  There would be no fear except that it might be
made a party case, and no stone was likely to be left unturned
against a gentleman of good loyal family.  Moreover Mr. William
Cowper, whom Robert Oakshott, or rather his wife, had engaged at
great expense for the prosecution, was one of the most rising of
barristers, noted for his persuasive eloquence, and unfortunately
Mr. Harcourt had not the right of reply.

The melancholy party were conducted into court, Sir Philip and Sir
Edmund to the seats disposed of by the sheriff, beside the judge,
strangely enough only divided by him from Major Oakshott.  The judge
was Mr. Baron Hatsel, a somewhat weak-looking man, in spite of his
red robes and flowing wig, as he sat under his canopy beneath King
Arthur's Round Table.  Sedley, perhaps a little thinner since his
imprisonment, but with the purple red on his face, and his prominent
eyes so hard and bold that it was galling to know that this was
really the confidence of innocence.

Mr. Cowper was with great ability putting the case.  Here were two
families in immediate neighbourhood, divided from the first by
political opinions of the strongest complexion; and he put the
Oakshott views upon liberty, civil and religious, in the most
popular light.  The unfortunate deceased he described as having been
a highly promising member of the suite of the distinguished Envoy,
Sir Peregrine Oakshott, whose name he bore.  On the death of the
eldest brother he had been recalled, and his accomplishments and
foreign air had, it appeared, excited the spleen of the young
gentlemen of the county belonging to the Tory party, then in the
ascendant, above all of the prisoner.  There was then little or no
etiquette as to irrelevant matter, so that Mr. Cowper could dwell at
length on Sedley's antecedents, as abusing the bounty of his uncle,
a known bully expelled for misconduct from Winchester College, then
acting as a suitable instrument in those violences in Scotland which
had driven the nation finally to extremity, noted for his
debaucheries when in garrison, and finally broken for
insubordination in Ireland.

After this unflattering portrait, which Sedley's looks certainly did
not belie, the counsel went back to 1688, proceeded to mention
several disputes which had taken place when Peregrine had met
Lieutenant Archfield at Portsmouth; but, he added with a smile, that
no dart of malice was ever thoroughly winged till Cupid had added
his feather; and he went on to describe in strong colours the insult
to a young gentlewoman, and the interference of the other young man
in her behalf, so that swords were drawn before the appearance of
the reverend gentleman her uncle.  Still, he said, there was further
venom to be added to the bolt, and he showed that the two had parted
after the rejoicings on Portsdown Hill with a challenge all but
uttered between them, the Whig upholding religious liberty, the Tory
hotly defending such honour as the King possessed, and both parting
in anger.

Young Mr. Oakshott was never again seen alive, though his family
long hoped against hope.  There was no need to dwell on the strange
appearances that had incited them to the search.  Certain it was,
that after seven years' silence, the grave had yielded up its
secrets.  Then came the description of the discovery of the bones,
and of the garments and sword, followed by the mention of the
evidence as to the blood on the grass, and the prisoner having been
seen in the neighbourhood of the castle at that strange hour.  He
was observed to have an amount of money unusual with him soon after,
and, what was still more suspicious, after having gambled this away,
he had sold to a goldsmith at Southampton a ruby ring, which both
Mr. and Mrs. Oakshott could swear to have belonged to the deceased.
In fact, when Mr. Cowper marshalled the facts, and even described
the passionate encounter taking place hastily and without witnesses,
and the subsequent concealment of guilt in the vault, the purse
taken, and whatever could again be identified hidden, while
providentially the blocking up of the vault preserved the evidence
of the crime so long undetected and unavenged, it was hardly
possible to believe the prisoner innocent.

When the examination of the witnesses began, however, Sedley showed
himself equal to his own defence.  He made no sign when Robert
Oakshott identified the clothes, sword, and other things, and their
condition was described; but he demanded of him sharply how he knew
the human remains to be those of his brother.

"Of course they were," said Robert.

"Were there any remains of clothes with them?"

"No."

"Can you swear to them?  Did you ever before see your brother's
bones?"

At which, and at the witness's hesitating, "No, but--" the court
began to laugh.

"What was the height of the deceased?"

"He reached about up to my ear," said the witness with some
hesitation.

"What was the length of the skeleton?"

"Quite small.  It looked like a child's."

"My lord," said Sedley, "I have a witness here, a surgeon, whom I
request may be called to certify the proportion of a skeleton to the
size of a living man."

Though this was done, the whole matter of size was so vague that
there was nothing proved, either as to the inches of Peregrine or
those of the skeleton, but still Sedley made his point that the
identity of the body was unproved at least in some minds.  Still,
there remained the other articles, about which there was no doubt.

Mr. Cowper proceeded with his examination as to the disputes at
Portsmouth, but again the prisoner scored a point by proving that
Peregrine had staked the ring against him at a cock-fight at
Southampton, and had lost it.

Dr. Woodford was called, and his evidence could not choose but to be
most damaging as to the conflict on the road at Portsmouth; but as
he had not seen the beginning, 'Mistress Anne Jacobina Woodford' was
called for.

There she stood, tall and stately, almost majestic in the stiffness
of intense self-restraint, in her simple gray dress, her black silk
hood somewhat back, her brown curls round her face, a red spot in
each cheek, her earnest brown eyes fixed on the clerk as he gabbled
out the words so awful to her, "The truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth;" and her soul re-echoed the words, "So help
you God."

Mr. Cowper was courteous; he was a gentleman, and he saw she was no
light-minded girl.  He asked her the few questions needful as to the
attack made on her, and the defence; but something moved him to go
on and ask whether she had been on Portsdown Hill, and to obtain
from her the account of the high words between the young men.  She
answered each question in a clear low voice, which still was audible
to all.  Was it over, or would Sedley begin to torture her, when so
much was in his favour?  No!  Mr. Cowper--oh! why would he? was
asking in an affirmative tone, as if to clench the former evidence,
"And did you ever see the deceased again?"

"Yes."  The answer was at first almost choked, then cleared into
sharpness, and every eye turned in surprise on the face that had
become as white as her collar.

"Indeed!  And when?"

"The next morning," in a voice as if pronouncing her own doom, and
with hands clinging tight to the front of the witness-box as though
in anguish.

"Where?" said the counsel, like inexorable fate.

"I will save the gentlewoman from replying to that question, sir;"
and a gentleman with long brown hair, in a rich white and gold
uniform, rose from among the spectators.  "Perhaps I may be allowed
to answer for her, when I say that it was at Portchester Castle, at
five in the morning, that she saw Peregrine Oakshott slain by my
hand, and thrown into the vault."

There was a moment of breathless amazement in the court, and the
judge was the first to speak.  "Very extraordinary, sir!  What is
your name?"

"Charles Archfield," said the clear resolute voice.

Then came a general movement and sensation, and Anne, still holding
fast to the support, saw the newcomer start forward with a cry, "My
father!" and with two or three bounds reach the side of Sir Philip,
who had sunk back in his seat for a moment, but recovered himself as
he felt his son's arm round him.

There was a general buzz, and a cry of order, and in the silence
thus produced the judge addressed the witness:--

"Is what this gentleman says the truth?"

And on Anne's reply, "Yes, my Lord," spoken with the clear ring of
anguish, the judge added--

"Was the prisoner present?"

"No, my Lord; he had nothing to do with it."

"Then, brother Cowper, do you wish to proceed with the case?"

Mr. Cowper replied in the negative, and the judge then made a brief
summing-up, and the jury, without retiring, returned a verdict of
'Not guilty.'

In the meantime Anne had been led like one blinded from the witness-
box, and almost dropped into her uncle's arms.  "Cheer up, cheer up,
my child," he said.  "You have done your part bravely, and after so
upright a confession no one can deal hardly with the young man.  God
will surely protect him."

The acquittal had been followed by a few words from Baron Hatsel,
congratulating the late prisoner on his deliverance through this
gentleman's generous confession.  Then there was a moment's
hesitation, ended by the sheriff asking Charles, who stood up by his
old father, one arm supporting the trembling form, and the other
hand clasped in the two aged ones, "Then, sir, do you surrender to
take your trial?"

"Certainly, sir," said Charles.  "I ought to have done so long ago,
but in the first shock--"

Mr. Harcourt here cautioned him not to say anything that could be
used against him, adding in a low tone, much to Sir Philip's relief,
"It may be brought in manslaughter, sir."

"He should be committed," another authority said.  "Is there a
Hampshire magistrate here to sign a warrant?"

Of these there were plenty; and as the clerk asked for his
description, all eyes turned on the tall and robust form in the
prime of manhood, with the noble resolute expression on his fine
features and steadfast eyes, except when, as he looked at his
father, they were full of infinite pity.  The brown hair hung over
the rich gold-laced white coat, faced with black, and with a broad
gold-coloured sash fringed with black over his shoulder, and there
was a look of distinction about him that made his answer only
natural.  "Charles Archfield, of Archfield House, Fareham,
Lieutenant-Colonel of his Imperial Majesty's Light Dragoons, Knight
of the Holy Roman Empire.  Must I give up my sword like a prisoner
of war?" he asked, with a smile.

Sir Philip rose to his feet with an earnest trembling entreaty that
bail might be taken for him, and many voices of gentlemen and men of
substance made offers of it.  There was a little consultation, and
it was ruled that bail might be accepted under the circumstances,
and Charles bowed his thanks to the distant and gave his hand to the
nearer, while Mr. Eyre of Botley Grange, and Mr. Brocas of Roche
Court, were accepted as sureties.  The gentle old face of Mr.
Cromwell of Hursley, was raised to poor old Sir Philip's with the
words, spoken with a remnant of the authority of the Protector:
"Your son has spoken like a brave man, sir; God bless you, and bring
you well through it."

Charles was then asked whether he wished for time to collect
witnesses.  "No, my lord," he said.  "I thank you heartily, but I
have no one to call, and the sooner this is over the better for
all."

After a little consultation it was found that the Grand Jury had not
been dismissed, and could find a true bill against him; and it was
decided that the trial should take place after the rest of the
criminal cases were disposed of.

This settled, the sorrowful party with the strangely welcomed son
were free to return to their quarters at the George.  Mr. Cromwell
pressed forward to beg that they would make use of his coach.  It
was a kind thought, for Sir Philip hung feebly on his son's arm, and
to pass through the curious throng would have been distressing.
After helping him in, Charles turned and demanded--

"Where is she, the young gentlewoman, Miss Woodford?"

She was just within, her uncle waiting to take her out till the
crowd's attention should be called off.  Charles lifted her in, and
Sir Edmund and Dr. Woodford followed him, for there was plenty of
room in the capacious vehicle.

Nobody spoke in the very short interval the four horses took in
getting themselves out of the space in front of the County Hall and
down the hill to the George.  Only Charles had leant forward, taken
Anne's hand, drawn it to his lips, and then kept fast hold of it.

They were all in the room at the inn at last, they hardly knew how;
indeed, as Charles was about to shut the door there was a smack on
his back, and there stood Sedley holding out his hand.

"So, Charley, old fellow, you were the sad dog after all.  You got
me out of it, and I owe you my thanks, but you need not have put
your neck into the noose.  I should have come off with flying
colours, and made them all make fools of themselves, if you had only
waited."

"Do you think I could sit still and see _her_ put to the torture?"
said Charles.

"Torture?  You are thinking of your barbarous countries.  No fear of
the boot here, nor even in Scotland nowadays."

"That's all the torture you understand," muttered Sir Edmund Nutley.

"Not but what I am much beholden to you all the same," went on
Sedley.  "And look here, sir," turning to his uncle, "if you wish to
get him let off cheap you had better send up another special
retainer to Harcourt, without loss of time, as he may be off."

Sir Edmund Nutley concurred in the advice, and they hurried off
together in search of the family attorney, through whom the great
man had to be approached.

The four left together could breathe more freely.  Indeed Dr.
Woodford would have taken his niece away, but that Charles already
had her in his arms in a most fervent embrace, as he said, "My
brave, my true maid!"

She could not speak, but she lifted up her eyes, with infinite
relief in all her sorrow, as for a moment she rested against him;
but they had to move apart, for a servant came up with some wine,
and Charles, putting her into a chair, began to wait on her and on
his father.

"I have not quite forgotten my manners," he said lightly, as if to
relieve the tension of feeling, "though in Germany the ladies serve
the gentlemen."

It was very hard not to burst into tears at these words, but Anne
knew that would be the way to distress her companions and to have to
leave the room and lose these precious moments.  Sir Philip, after
swallowing the wine, succeeded in saying, "Have you been at home?"

Charles explained that he had landed at Gravesend, and had ridden
thence, sleeping at Basingstoke, and taking the road through
Winchester in case his parents should be wintering there, and on
arriving a couple of hours previously and inquiring for them, he had
heard the tidings that Sir Philip Archfield was indeed there, for
his nephew was being tried for his life for the wilful murder of
Major Oakshott's son seven years ago.

"And you had none of my warnings?  I wrote to all the ports," said
his father, "to warn you to wait till all this was over."

No; he had crossed from Sluys, and had met no letter.  "I suppose,"
he said, "that I must not ride home to-morrow.  It might make my
sureties uneasy; but I would fain see them all."

"It would kill your mother to be here," said Sir Philip.  "She knows
nothing of what Anne told me on Sedley's arrest.  She is grown very
feeble;" and he groaned.  "But we might send for your sister, if she
can leave her, and the boy."

"I should like my boy to be fetched," said Charles.  "I should wish
him to remember his father--not as a felon convicted!"  Then putting
a knee to the ground before Sir Philip, he said, "Sir, I ask your
blessing and forgiveness.  I never before thoroughly understood my
errors towards you, especially in hiding this miserable matter, and
leaving all this to come on you, while my poor Anne there was left
to bear all the load.  It was a cowardly and selfish act, and I ask
your pardon."

The old man sobbed with his hand on his son's head.  "My dear boy!
my poor boy! you were distraught."

"I was then.  I did it, as I thought, for my poor Alice's sake at
first, and as it proved, it was all in vain; but at the year's end,
when I was older, it was folly and wrong.  I ought to have laid all
before you, and allowed you to judge, and I sincerely repent the not
having so done.  And Anne, my sweetest Anne, has borne the burthen
all this time," he added, going back to her.  "Let no one say a
woman cannot keep secrets, though I ought never to have laid this on
her."

"Ah! it might have gone better for you then," sighed Sir Philip.
"No one would have visited a young lad's mischance hardly on a loyal
house in those days.  What is to be done, my son?"

"That we will discuss when the lawyer fellow comes.  Is it old Lee?
Meantime let us enjoy our meeting.  So that is Lucy's husband.
Sober and staid, eh?  And my mother is feeble, you say.  Has she
been ill?"

Charles was comporting himself with the cheerfulness that had become
habitual to him as a soldier, always in possible danger, but it was
very hard to the others to chime in with his tone, and when a
message was brought to ask whether his Honour would be served in
private, the cheery greeting and shake of the hand broke down the
composure of the old servant who brought it, and he cried, "Oh, sir,
to see you thus, and such a fine young gentleman!"

Charles, the only person who could speak, gave the orders, but they
did not eat alone, for Sir Edmund Nutley and Sedley arrived with the
legal advisers, and it was needful, perhaps even better, to have
their company.  The chief of the conversation was upon Hungarian and
Transylvanian politics and the Turkish war.  Mr. Harcourt seeming
greatly to appreciate the information that Colonel Archfield was
able to give him, and the anecdotes of the war, and descriptions of
scenes therein actually brightened Sir Philip into interest, and
into forgetting for a moment his son's situation in pride in his
conduct, and at the distinction he had gained.  "We must save him,"
said Mr. Harcourt to Sir Edmund.  "He is far too fine a fellow to be
lost for a youthful mischance."

The meal was a short one, and a consultation was to follow, while
Sedley departed.  Anne was about to withdraw, when Mr. Lee the
attorney said, "We shall need Mistress Woodford's evidence, sir, for
the defence."

"I do not see what defence there can be," returned Charles.  "I can
only plead guilty, and throw myself on the King's mercy, if he
chooses to extend it to one of a Tory family."

"Not so fast, sir," said Mr. Harcourt; "as far as I have gathered
the facts, there is every reason to hope you may obtain a verdict of
manslaughter, and a nominal penalty, although that rests with the
judge."

On this the discussion began in earnest.  Charles, who had never
heard the circumstances which led to the trial, was greatly
astonished to hear what remains had been discovered.  He said that
he could only declare himself to have thrown in the body, full
dressed, just as it was, and how it could have been stripped and
buried he could not imagine.  "What made folks think of looking into
the vault?" he asked.

"It was Mrs. Oakshott," said Lee, "the young man's wife, she who was
to have married the deceased.  She took up some strange notion about
stories of phantoms current among the vulgar, and insisted on having
the vault searched, though it had been walled up for many years
past."

Charles and Anne looked at each other, and the former said, "Again?"

"Oh yes!" said Anne; "indeed there have been enough to make me
remember what you bade me do, in case they recurred, only it was
impossible."

"Phantoms!" said Mr. Harcourt; "what does this mean?"

"Mere vulgar superstitions, sir," said the attorney.

"But very visible," said Charles; "I have seen one myself, of which
I am quite sure, besides many that may be laid to the account of the
fever of my wound."

"I must beg to hear," said the barrister.  "Do I understand that
these were apparitions of the deceased?"

"Yes," said Charles.  "Miss Woodford saw the first, I think."

"May I beg you to describe it?" said Mr. Harcourt, taking a fresh
piece of paper to make notes on.

Anne narrated the two appearances in London, and Charles added the
story of the figure seen in the street at Douai, seen by both
together, asking what more she knew of.

"Once at night last summer, at the very anniversary, I saw his face
in the trees in the garden," said Anne; "it was gone in a moment.
That has been all I have seen; but little Philip came to me full of
stories of people having seen Penny Grim, as he calls it, and very
strangely, once it rose before him at the great pond, and his fright
saved him from sliding to the dangerous part.  What led Mrs.
Oakshott to the examination was that it was seen once on the beach,
once by the sentry at the vault itself, once by the sexton at Havant
Churchyard, and once by my mother's grave."

"Seven?" said the counsel, reviewing the notes he jotted down.
"Colonel Archfield, I should recommend you pleading not guilty, and
basing your defence, like your cousin, on the strong probability
that this same youth is a living man."

"Indeed!" said Charles, starting, "I could have hoped it from these
recent apparitions, but what I myself saw forbids the idea.  If any
sight were ever that of a spirit, it was what we saw at Douai;
besides, how should he come thither, a born and bred Whig and
Puritan?"

"There is no need to mention that; you can call witnesses to his
having been seen within these few months.  It would rest with the
prosecution to disprove his existence in the body, especially as the
bones in the vault cannot be identified."

"Sir," said Charles, "the defence that would have served my innocent
cousin cannot serve me, who know what I did to Oakshott.  I am _now_
aware that it is quite possible that the sword might not have killed
him, but when I threw him into that vault I sealed his fate."

"How deep is the vault?"

Mr. Lee and Dr. Woodford both averred that it was not above twenty
or twenty-four feet deep, greatly to Charles's surprise, for as a
lad he had thought it almost unfathomable; but then he owned his
ideas of Winchester High Street had been likewise far more
magnificent than he found it.  The fall need not necessarily have
been fatal, especially to one insensible and opposing no resistance,
but even supposing that death had not resulted, in those Draconian
days, the intent to murder was equally subject with its full
accomplishment to capital punishment.  Still, as Colonel Archfield
could plead with all his heart that he had left home with no evil
intentions towards young Oakshott, the lawyers agreed that to prove
that the death of the victim was uncertain would reduce the matter
to a mere youthful brawl, which could not be heavily visited.  Mr.
Harcourt further asked whether it were possible to prove that the
prisoner had been otherwise employed than in meddling with the body;
but unfortunately it had been six hours before he came home.

"I was distracted," said Charles; "I rode I knew not whither, till I
came to my senses on finding that my horse was ready to drop, when I
led him into a shed at a wayside public-house, bade them feed him,
took a drink, then I wandered out into the copse near, and lay on
the ground there till I thought him rested, for how long I know not.
I think it must have been near Bishops Waltham, but I cannot
recollect."

Mr. Lee decided on setting forth at peep of dawn the next morning to
endeavour to collect witnesses of Peregrine's appearances.  Sir
Edmund Nutley intended to accompany him as far as Fareham to fetch
little Philip and Lady Nutley, if the latter could leave her mother
after the tidings had been broken to them, and also to try to trace
whether Charles's arrival at any public-house were remembered.

To her dismay, Anne received another summons from the other party to
act as witness.

"I hoped to have spared you this, my sweet," said Charles, "but
never mind; you cannot say anything worse of me than I shall own of
myself."

The two were left to each other for a little while in the bay
window.  "Oh, sir! can you endure me thus after all?" murmured Anne,
as she felt his arm round her.

"Can you endure me after all I left you to bear?" he returned.

"It was not like what I brought on you," she said.

But they could not talk much of the future; and Charles told how he
had rested through all his campaigns in the knowledge that his Anne
was watching and praying for him, and how his long illness had
brought before him deeper thoughts than he had ever had before, and
made him especially dwell on the wrong done to his parents by his
long absence, and the lightness with which he had treated home
duties and responsibilities, till he had resolved that if his life
were then spared, he would neglect them no longer.

"And now," he said, and paused, "all I shall have done is to break
their hearts.  What is that saying, 'Be sure your sin will find you
out.'"

"Oh, sir! they are sure not to deal hardly with you."

"Perhaps the Emperor's Ambassador may claim me.  If so, would you go
into banishment with the felon, Anne, love?  It would not be quite
so mad as when I asked you before."

"I would go to the ends of the world with you; and we would take
little Phil.  Do you know, he is growing a salad, and learning
Latin, all for papa?"

And so she told him of little Phil till his father was seen looking
wistfully at him.

With Sir Philip, Charles was all cheerfulness and hope, taking such
interest in all there was to hear about the family, estate, and
neighbourhood that the old gentleman was beguiled into feeling as if
there were only a short ceremony to be gone through before he had
his son at home, saving him ease and trouble.

But after Sir Philip had been persuaded to retire, worn out with the
day's agitations, and Anne likewise had gone to her chamber to weep
and pray, Charles made his arrangements with Mr. Lee for the future
for all connected with him in case of the worst; and after the
lawyer's departure poured out his heart to Dr. Woodford in deep
contrition, as he said he had longed to do when lying in expectation
of death at the Iron Gates.  "However it may end," he said, "and I
expect, as I deserve, the utmost, I am thankful for this
opportunity, though unhappily it gives more pain to those about me
than if I had died out there.  Tell them, when they need comfort,
how much better it is for me."

"My dear boy, I cannot believe you will have to suffer."

"There is much against me, sir.  My foolish flight, the state of
parties, and the recent conspiracy, which has made loyal families
suspected and odious.  I saw something of that as I came down.  The
crowd fancied my uniform French, and hooted and hissed me.
Unluckily I have no other clothes to wear.  Nor can I from my heart
utterly disclaim all malice or ill will when I remember the thrill
of pleasure in driving my sword home.  I have had to put an end to a
Janissary or two more than once in the way of duty, but their black
eyes never haunted me like those parti-coloured ones.  Still I
trust, as you tell me I may, that God forgives me, for our Blessed
Lord's sake; but I should like, if I could, to take the Holy
Sacrament with my love while I am still thus far a free man.  I have
not done so since the Easter before these troubles."

"You shall, my dear boy, you shall."

There were churches at which the custom freshly begun at the
Restoration was not dropped.  The next was St. Matthias's Day, and
Anne and her uncle had already purposed to go to the quiet little
church of St. Lawrence, at no great distance, in the very early
morning.  They were joined on their way down the stair into the
courtyard of the inn by a gentleman in a slouched hat and large dark
cloak, who drew Anne's arm within his own.

Truly there was peace on that morning, and strength to the brave man
beyond the physical courage that had often before made him bright in
the face of danger, and Anne, though weeping, had a sense of respite
and repose, if not of hope.

Late in the afternoon, little Philip was lifted down from riding
before old Ralph into the arms of the splendid officer, whose
appearance transcended all his visions.  He fumbled in his small
pocket, and held out a handful of something green and limp.

"Here's my salad, papa.  I brought it all the way for you to eat."

And Colonel Archfield ate every scrap of it for supper, though it
was much fitter for a rabbit, and all the evening he held on his
knee the tired child, and responded to his prattle about Nana and
dogs and rabbits; nay, ministered to his delight and admiration of
the sheriff's coach, javelin men, and even the judge, with a strange
mixture of wonder, delight, and with melancholy only in eyes and
undertones.



CHAPTER XXX: SENTENCE


"I have hope to live, and am prepared to die."

Measure for Measure.

Ralph was bidden to be ready to take his young master home early the
next morning.  At eight o'clock the boy, who had slept with his
father, came down the stair, clinging to his father's hand, and Miss
Woodford coming closely with him.

"Yes," said Charles, as he held the little fair fellow in his arms,
ere seating him on the horse, "he knows all, Ralph.  He knows that
his father did an evil thing, and that what we do in our youth finds
us out later, and must be paid for.  He has promised me to be a
comfort to the old people, and to look on this lady as a mother.
Nay, no more, Ralph; 'tis not good-bye to any of you yet.  There,
Phil, don't lug my head off, nor catch my hair in your buttons.
Give my dutiful love to your grandmamma and to Aunt Nutley, and be a
good boy to them."

"And when I come to see you again I'll bring another salad," quoth
Philip, as he rode out of the court; and his father, by way of
excusing a contortion of features, smoothed the entangled lock of
hair, and muttered something about, "This comes of not wearing a
periwig."  Then he said--

"And to think that I have wasted the company of such a boy as that,
all his life except for this mere glimpse!"

"Oh! you will come back to him," was all that could be said.

For it was time for Charles Archfield to surrender himself to take
his trial.

He had been instructed over and over again as to the line of his
defence, and cautioned against candour for himself and delicacy
towards others, till he had more than once to declare that he had no
intention of throwing his life away; but the lawyers agreed in
heartily deploring the rules that thus deprived the accused of the
assistance of an advocate in examining witnesses and defending
himself.  All depended, as they knew and told Sir Edmund Nutley, on
the judge and jury.  Now Mr. Baron Hatsel had shown himself a well-
meaning but weak and vacillating judge, whose summing up was apt
rather to confuse than to elucidate the evidence; and as to the
jury, Mr. Lee scanned their stolid countenances somewhat ruefully
when they were marshalled before the prisoner, to be challenged if
desirable.  A few words passed, into which the judge inquired.

"I am reminded, my Lord," said Colonel Archfield, bowing, "that I
once incurred Mr. Holt's displeasure as a mischievous boy by
throwing a stone which injured one of his poultry; but I cannot
believe such a trifle would bias an honest man in a question of life
and death."

Nevertheless the judge put aside Mr. Holt.

"I like his spirit," whispered Mr. Harcourt.

"But," returned Lee, "I doubt if he has done himself any good with
those fellows by calling it a trifle to kill an old hen.  I should
like him to have challenged two or three more moody old Whiggish
rascals; but he has been too long away from home to know how the
land lies."

"Too generous and high-spirited for this work," sighed Sir Edmund,
who sat with them.

The indictment was read, the first count being "That of malice
aforethought, by the temptation of the Devil, Charles Archfield did
wilfully kill and slay Peregrine Oakshott," etc.  The second
indictment was that "By misadventure he had killed and slain the
said Peregrine Oakshott."  To the first he pleaded 'Not guilty;' to
the second 'Guilty.'

Tall, well-made, manly, and soldierly he stood, with a quiet set
face, while Mr. Cowper proceeded to open the prosecution, with a
certain compliment to the prisoner and regret at having to push the
case against one who had so generously come forward on behalf of a
kinsman; but he must unwillingly state the circumstances that made
it doubtful, nay, more than doubtful, whether the prisoner's plea of
mere misadventure could stand.  The dislike to the unfortunate
deceased existing among the young Tory country gentlemen of the
county was, he should prove, intensified in the prisoner on account
of not inexcusable jealousies, as well as of the youthful squabbles
which sometimes lead to fatal results.  On the evening of the 30th
of June 1688 there had been angry words between the prisoner and the
deceased on Portsdown Hill, respecting the prisoner's late lady.  At
four or five o'clock on the ensuing morning, the 1st of July, the
one fell by the sword of the other in the then unfrequented court of
Portchester Castle.  It was alleged that the stroke was fatal only
through the violence of youthful impetuosity; but was it consistent
with that supposition that the young gentleman's time was
unaccounted for afterwards, and that the body should have been
disposed of in a manner that clearly proved the assistance of an
accomplice, and with so much skill that no suspicion had arisen for
seven years and a half, whilst the actual slayer was serving, not
his own country, but a foreign prince, and had only returned at a
most suspicious crisis?

The counsel then proceeded to construct a plausible theory.  He
reminded the jury that at that very time, the summer of 1688,
messages and invitations were being despatched to his present
Gracious Majesty to redress the wrongs of the Protestant Church, and
protect the liberties of the English people.  The father of the
deceased was a member of a family of the country party, his uncle a
distinguished diplomatist, to whose suite he had belonged.  What was
more obvious than that he should be employed in the correspondence,
and that his movements should be dogged by parties connected with
the Stewart family?  Already there was too much experience of how
far even the most estimable and conscientious might be blinded by
the sentiment that they dignified by the title of loyalty.  The
deceased had already been engaged in a struggle with one of the
Archfield family, who had been acquitted of his actual slaughter;
but considering the strangeness of the hour at which the two cousins
were avowedly at or near Portchester, the condition of the clothes,
stripped of papers, but not of valuables, and the connection of the
principal witness with the pretended Prince of Wales, he could not
help thinking that though personal animosity might have added an
edge to the weapon, yet that there were deeper reasons, to prompt
the assault and the concealment, than had yet been brought to light.

"He will make nothing of that," whispered Mr. Lee.  "Poor Master
Peregrine was no more a Whig than old Sir Philip there."

"'Twill prejudice the jury," whispered back Mr. Harcourt, "and
discredit the lady's testimony."

Mr. Cowper concluded by observing that half truths had come to light
in the former trial, but whole truths would give a different aspect
to the affair, and show the unfortunate deceased to have given
offence, not only as a man of gallantry, but as a patriot, and to
have fallen a victim to the younger bravoes of the so-called Tory
party.  To his (the counsel's) mind, it was plain that the prisoner,
who had hoped that his crime was undiscovered and forgotten, had
returned to take his share in the rising against Government so
happily frustrated.  He was certain that the traitor Charnock had
been received at his father's house, and that Mr. Sedley Archfield
had used seditious language on several occasions, so that the cause
of the prisoner's return at this juncture was manifest, and only to
the working of Providence could it be ascribed that the evidence of
the aggravated murder should have at that very period been brought
to light.

There was an evident sensation, and glances were cast at the
upright, military figure, standing like a sentinel, as if the
audience expected him to murder them all.

As before, the examination began with Robert Oakshott's
identification of the clothes and sword, but Mr. Cowper avoided the
subject of the skeleton, and went on to inquire about the terms on
which the two young men had lived.

"Well," said Robert, "they quarrelled, but in a neighbourly sort of
way."

"What do you call a neighbourly way?"

"My poor brother used to be baited for being so queer.  But then we
were as bad to him as the rest," said Robert candidly.

"That is, when you were boys?"

"Yes."

"And after his return from his travels?"

"It was the same then.  He was too fine a gentleman for any one's
taste."

"You speak generally.  Was there any especial animosity?"

"My brother bought a horse that Archfield was after."

"Was there any dispute over it?"

"Not that I know of."

"Can you give an instance of displeasure manifested by the prisoner
at the deceased?"

"I have seen him look black when my brother held a gate open for his
wife."

"Then there were gallant attentions towards Mrs. Archfield?"

Charles's face flushed, and he made a step forward, but Robert
gruffly answered:  "No more than civility; but he had got
Frenchified manners, and liked to tease Archfield."

"Did they ever come to high words before you?"

"No.  They knew better."

"Thank you, Mr. Oakshott," said the prisoner, as it was intimated
that Mr. Cowper had finished.  "You bear witness that only the most
innocent civility ever passed between your brother and my poor young
wife?"

"Certainly," responded Robert.

"Nothing that could cause serious resentment, if it excited passing
annoyance."

"Nothing."

"What were your brother's political opinions?"

"Well"--with some slow consideration--"he admired the Queen as was,
and could not abide the Prince of Orange.  My father was always _at
him_ for it."

"Would you think him likely to be an emissary to Holland?"

"No one less likely."

But Mr. Cowper started up.  "Sir, I believe you are the younger
brother?"

"Yes."

"How old were you at the time?"

"Nigh upon nineteen."

"Oh!" as if that accounted for his ignorance.

The prisoner continued, and asked whether search was made when the
deceased was missed.

"Hardly any."

"Why not?"

"He was never content at home, and we believed he had gone to my
uncle in Muscovy."

"What led you to examine the vault?"

"My wife was disquieted by stories of my brother's ghost being
seen."

"Did you ever see this ghost?"

"No, never."

That was all that was made of Robert Oakshott, and then again came
Anne Woodford's turn, and Mr. Cowper was more satirical and less
considerate than the day before.  Still it was a less dreadful
ordeal than previously, though she had to tell the worst, for she
knew her ground better, and then there was throughout wonderful
support in Charles's eyes, which told her, whenever she glanced
towards him, that she was doing right and as he wished.  As she had
not heard the speech for the prosecution it was a shock, after
identifying herself a niece to a 'non-swearing' clergyman, to be
asked about the night of the bonfire, and to be forced to tell that
Mrs. Archfield had insisted on getting out of the carriage and
walking about with Mr. Oakshott.

"Was the prisoner present?"

"He came up after a time."

"Did he show any displeasure?"

"He thought it bad for her health."

"Did any words pass between him and the deceased?"

"Not that I remember."

"And now, madam, will you be good enough to recur to the following
morning, and continue the testimony in which you were interrupted
the day before yesterday?  What was the hour?"

"The church clock struck five just after."

"May I ask what took a young gentlewoman out at such an untimely
hour?  Did you expect to meet any one?"

"No indeed, sir," said Anne hotly.  "I had been asked to gather some
herbs to carry to a friend."

"Ah!  And why at that time in the morning?"

"Because I was to leave home at seven, when the tide served."

"Where were you going?"

"To London, sir."

"And for what reason?"

"I had been appointed to be a rocker in the Royal nursery."

"I see.  And your impending departure may explain certain strange
coincidences.  May I ask what was this same herb?" in a mocking
tone.

"Mouse-ear, sir," said Anne, who would fain have called it by some
less absurd title, but knew no other.  "A specific for the whooping-
cough."

"Oh!  Not 'Love in a mist.'  Are your sure?"

"My lord," here Simon Harcourt ventured, "may I ask, is this
regular?"

The judge intimated that his learned brother had better keep to the
point, and Mr. Cowper, thus called to order, desired the witness to
continue, and demanded whether she was interrupted in her quest.

"I saw Mr. Peregrine Oakshott enter the castle court, and I hurried
into the tower, hoping he had not seen me."

"You said before he had protected you.  Why did you run from him?"

She had foreseen this, and quietly answered, "He had made me an
offer of marriage which I had refused, and I did not wish to meet
him."

"Did you see any one else?"

"Not till I had reached the door opening on the battlements.  Then I
heard a clash, and saw Mr. Archfield and Mr. Oakshott fighting."

"Mr. Archfield!  The prisoner?  Did he come to gather mouse-ear
too?"

"No.  His wife had sent him over with a pattern of sarcenet for me
to match in London."

"Early rising and prompt obedience."  And there ensued the inquiries
that brought out the history of what she had seen of the encounter,
of the throwing the body into the vault, full dressed, and of her
promise of silence and its reason.  Mr. Cowper did not molest her
further except to make her say that she had been five months at the
Court, and had accompanied the late Queen to France.

Then came the power of cross-examination on the part of the
prisoner.  He made no attempt to modify what had been said before,
but asked in a gentle apologetic voice:  "Was that the last time you
ever saw, or thought you saw, Peregrine Oakshott?"

"No."  And here every one in court started and looked curious.

"When?"

"The 31st of October 1688, in the evening."

"Where?"

"Looking from the window in the palace at Whitehall, I saw him, or
his likeness, walking along in the light of the lantern over the
great door."

The appearance at Lambeth was then described, and that in the garden
at Archfield House.  This strange cross-examination was soon over,
for Charles could not endure to subject her to the ordeal, while she
equally longed to be able to say something that might not damage
him, and dreaded every word she spoke.  Moreover, Mr. Cowper looked
exceedingly contemptuous, and made the mention of Whitehall and
Lambeth a handle for impressing on the jury that the witness had
been deep in the counsels of the late royal family, and that she was
escorted from St. Germain by the prisoner just before he entered on
foreign service.

One of the servants at Fareham was called upon to testify to the
hour of his young master's return on the fatal day.  It was long
past dinner-time, he said.  It must have been about three o'clock.

Charles put in an inquiry as to the condition of his horse.  "Hard
ridden, sir, as I never knew your Honour bring home Black Bess in
such a pickle before."

After a couple of young men had been called who could speak to some
outbreaks of dislike to poor Peregrine, in which all had shared, the
case for the prosecution was completed.  Cowper, in a speech that
would be irregular now, but was permissible then, pointed out that
the jealousy, dislike, and Jacobite proclivities of the Archfield
family had been fully made out, that the coincidence of visits to
the castle at that untimely hour had been insufficiently explained,
that the condition of the remains in the vault was quite
inconsistent with the evidence of the witness, Mistress Woodford,
unless there were persons waiting below unknown to her, and that the
prisoner had been absent from Fareham from four or five o'clock in
the morning till nearly three in the afternoon.  As to the strange
story she had further told, he (Mr. Cowper) was neither
superstitious nor philosophic, but the jury would decide whether
conscience and the sense of an awful secret were not sufficient to
conjure up such phantoms, if they were not indeed spiritual,
occurring as they did in the very places and at the very times when
the spirit of the unhappy young man, thus summarily dismissed from
the world, his corpse left in an unblessed den, would be most likely
to reappear, haunting those who felt themselves to be most
accountable for his lamentable and untimely end.

The words evidently told, and it was at a disadvantage that the
prisoner rose to speak in his own defence and to call his witnesses.

"My lord," he said, "and gentlemen of the jury, let me first say
that I am deeply grieved and hurt that the name of my poor young
wife has been brought into this matter.  In justice to her who is
gone, I must begin by saying that though she was flattered and
gratified by the polite manners that I was too clownish and awkward
to emulate, and though I may have sometimes manifested ill-humour,
yet I never for a moment took serious offence nor felt bound to
defend her honour or my own.  If I showed displeasure it was because
she was fatiguing herself against warning.  I can say with perfect
truth, that when I left home on that unhappy morning, I bore no
serious ill-will to any living creature.  I had no political
purpose, and never dreamt of taking the life of any one.  I was a
heedless youth of nineteen.  I shall be able to prove the commission
of my wife's on which this learned gentleman has thought fit to cast
a doubt.  For the rest, Mistress Anne Woodford was my sister's
friend and playfellow from early childhood.  When I entered the
castle court I saw her hurrying into the keep, pursued by Oakshott,
whom I knew her to dread and dislike.  I naturally stepped between.
Angry words passed.  He challenged my right to interfere, and in a
passion drew upon me.  Though I was the taller and stronger, I knew
him to be proud of his skill in fencing, and perhaps I may therefore
have pressed him the harder, and the dislike I acknowledge made me
drive home my sword.  But I was free from all murderous intention up
to that moment.  In my inexperience I had no doubt but that he was
dead, and in a terror and confusion which I regret heartily, I threw
him into the vault, and for the sake of my wife and mother bound
Miss Woodford to secrecy.  I mounted my horse, and scarcely knowing
what I did, rode till I found it ready to drop.  I asked for rest
for it in the first wayside public-house I came to.  I lay down
meanwhile among some bushes adjoining, and there waited till my
horse could take me home again.  I believe it was at the White
Horse, near Bishops Waltham, but the place has changed hands since
that time, so that I can only prove my words, as you have heard, by
the state of my horse when I came home.  For the condition of the
remains in the vault I cannot account; I never touched the poor
fellow after throwing him there.  My wife died a few hours after my
return home, where I remained for a week, nor did I suggest flight,
though I gladly availed myself of my father's suggestion of sending
me abroad with a tutor.  Let me add, to remove misconception, that I
visited Paris because my tutor, the Reverend George Fellowes, one of
the Fellows of Magdalen College expelled by the late King, and now
Rector of Portchester, had been asked to provide for Miss Woodford's
return to her home, and he is here to testify that I never had any
concern with politics.  I did indeed accompany him to St. Germain,
but merely to find the young gentlewoman, and in the absence of the
late King and Queen, nor did I hold intercourse with any other
person connected with their Court.  After escorting her to Ostend, I
went to Hungary to serve in the army of our ally, the Emperor,
against the Turks, the enemies of all Christians.  After a severe
wound, I have come home, knowing nothing of conspiracies, and I was
taken by surprise on arriving here at Winchester at finding that my
cousin was on his trial for the unfortunate deed into which I was
betrayed by haste and passion, but entirely without premeditation or
intent to do more than to defend the young lady.  So that I plead
that my crime does not amount to murder from malicious intent; and
likewise, that those who charge me with the actual death of
Peregrine Oakshott should prove him to be dead."

Charles's first witness was Mrs. Lang, his late wife's 'own woman,'
who spared him many questions by garrulously declaring 'what a work'
poor little Madam had made about the rose-coloured sarcenet, causing
the pattern to be searched out as soon as she came home from the
bonfire, and how she had 'gone on at' her husband till he promised
to give it to Mistress Anne, and how he had been astir at four
o'clock in the morning, and had called to her (Mrs. Lang) to look to
her mistress, who might perhaps get some sleep now that she had her
will and hounded him out to go over to Portchester about that silk.

Nothing was asked of this witness by the prosecution except the time
of Mr. Archfield's return.  The question of jealousy was passed
over.

Of the pond apparition nothing was said.  Anne had told Charles of
it, but no one could have proved its identity but Sedley, and his
share in it was too painful to be brought forward.  Three other
ghost seers were brought forward:  Mrs. Fellowes's maid, the sentry,
and the sexton; but only the sexton had ever seen Master Perry
alive, and he would not swear to more than that it was something in
his likeness; the sentry was already bound to declare it something
unsubstantial; and the maid was easily persuaded into declaring that
she did not know what she had seen or whether she had seen anything.

There only remained Mr. Fellowes to bear witness of his pupil's
entire innocence of political intrigues, together with a voluntary
testimony addressed to the court, that the youth had always appeared
to him a well-disposed but hitherto boyish lad, suddenly sobered and
rendered thoughtful by a shock that had changed the tenor of his
mind.

Mr. Baron Hatsel summed up in his dreary vacillating way.  He told
the gentlemen of the jury that young men would be young men,
especially where pretty wenches were concerned, and that all knew
that there was bitterness where Whig and Tory were living nigh
together.  Then he went over the evidence, at first in a tone
favourable to the encounter having been almost accidental, and the
stroke an act of passion.  But he then added, it was strange, and he
did not know what to think of these young sparks and the young
gentlewoman all meeting in a lonely place when honest folks were
abed, and the hiding in the vault, and the state of the clothes were
strange matters scarce agreeing with what either prisoner or witness
said.  It looked only too like part of a plot of which some one
should make a clean breast.  On the other hand, the prisoner was a
fine young gentleman, an only son, and had been fighting the Turks,
though it would have been better to have fought the French among his
own countrymen.  He had come ingenuously forward to deliver his
cousin, and a deliberate murderer was not wont to be so generous,
though may be he expected to get off easily on this same plea of
misadventure.  If it was misadventure, why did he not try to do
something for the deceased, or wait to see whether he breathed
before throwing him into this same pit? though, to be sure, a lad
might be inexperienced.  For the rest, as to these same sights of
the deceased or his likeness, he (the judge) was no believer in
ghosts, though he would not say there were no such things, and the
gentlemen of the jury must decide whether it was more likely the
poor youth was playing pranks in the body, or whether he were
haunting in the spirit those who had most to do with his untimely
end.  This was the purport, or rather the no-purport, of the charge.

The jury were absent for a very short time, and as it leaked out
afterwards, their intelligence did not rise above the idea that the
young gentleman was thick with they Frenchies who wanted to bring in
murder and popery, warming-pans and wooden shoes.  He called stoning
poultry a trifle, so of what was he not capable?  Of course he
spited the poor young chap, and how could the fact be denied when
the poor ghost had come back to ask for his blood?

So the awful suspense ended with 'Guilty, my Lord.'

"Of murder or manslaughter?"

"Of murder."

The prisoner stood as no doubt he had faced Turkish batteries.

The judge asked the customary question whether he had any reason to
plead why he should not be condemned to death.

"No, my lord.  I am guilty of shedding Peregrine Oakshott's blood,
and though I declare before God and man that I had no such purpose,
and it was done in the heat of an undesigned struggle, I hated him
enough to render the sentence no unjust one.  I trust that God will
pardon me, if man does not."

The gentlemen around drew the poor old father out of the court so as
not to hear the final sentence, and Anne, half stunned, was taken
away by her uncle, and put into the same carriage with him.  The old
man held her hands closely and could not speak, but she found voice,
"Sir, sir, do not give up hope.  God will save him.  I know what I
can do.  I will go to Princess Anne.  She is friendly with the King
now.  She will bring me to tell him all."

Hurriedly she spoke, her object, as it seemed to be that of every
one, to keep up such hope and encouragement as to drown the terrible
sense of the actual upshot of the trial.  The room at the George was
full in a moment of friends declaring that all would go well in the
end, and consulting what to do.  Neither Sir Philip nor Dr. Woodford
could be available, as their refusal to take the oaths to King
William made them marked men.  The former could only write to the
Imperial Ambassador, beseeching him to claim the prisoner as an
officer of the Empire, though it was doubtful whether this would be
allowed in the case of an Englishman born.  Mr. Fellowes undertook
to be the bearer of the letter, and to do his best through
Archbishop Tenison to let the King know the true bearings of the
case.  Almost in pity, to spare Anne the misery of helpless waiting,
Dr. Woodford consented to let her go under his escort, starting very
early the next morning, since the King might immediately set off for
the army in Holland, and the space was brief between condemnation
and execution.

Sir Edmund proposed to hurry to Carisbrooke Castle, being happily on
good terms with that fiery personage, Lord Cutts, the governor of
the Isle of Wight as well as a favoured general of the King, whose
intercession might do more than Princess Anne's.  Moreover, a
message came from old Mr. Cromwell, begging to see Sir Edmund.  It
was on behalf of Major Oakshott, who entreated that Sir Philip might
be assured of his own great regret at the prosecution and the
result, and his entire belief that the provocation came from his
unhappy son.  Both he and Richard Cromwell were having a petition
for pardon drawn up, which Sir Henry Mildmay and almost all the
leading gentlemen of Hampshire of both parties were sure to sign,
while the sheriff would defer the execution as long as possible.
Pardons, especially in cases of duelling, had been marketable
articles in the last reigns, and there could not but be a sigh for
such conveniences.  Sir Philip wanted to go at once to the jail,
which was very near the inn, but consented on strong persuasion to
let his son-in-law precede him.

Anne longed for a few moments to herself, but durst not leave the
poor old man, who sat holding her hand, and at each interval of
silence saying how this would kill the boy's mother, or something
equally desponding, so that she had to talk almost at random of the
various gleams of hope, and even to describe how the little Duke of
Gloucester might be told of Philip and sent to the King, who was
known to be very fond of him.  It was a great comfort when Dr.
Woodford came and offered to pray with them.

By and by Sir Edmund returned, having been making arrangements for
Charles's comfort.  Ordinary prisoners were heaped together and
miserably treated, but money could do something, and by application
to the High Sheriff, permission had been secured for Charles to
occupy a private room, on a heavy fee to the jailor, and for his
friends to have access to him, besides other necessaries, purchased
at more than their weight in gold.  Sir Edmund brought word that
Charles was in good heart; sent love and duty to his father, whom he
would welcome with all his soul, but that as Miss Woodford was--in
her love and bravery--going so soon to London, he prayed that she
might be his first visitor that evening.

There was little more to do than to cross the street, and Sir Edmund
hurried her through the flagged and dirty yard, and the dim, foul
hall, filled with fumes of smoke and beer, where melancholy debtors
held out their hands, idle scapegraces laughed, heavy degraded faces
scowled, and evil sounds were heard, up the stairs to a nail-studded
door, where Anne shuddered to hear the heavy key turned by the
coarse, rude-looking warder, only withheld from insolence by the
presence of a magistrate.  Her escort tarried outside, and she saw
Charles, his rush-light candle gleaming on his gold lace as he wrote
a letter to the ambassador to be forwarded by his father.

He sprang up with outstretched arms and an eager smile.  "My brave
sweetheart! how nobly you have done.  Truth and trust.  It did my
heart good to hear you."

Her head was on his shoulder.  She wanted to speak, but could not
without loosing the flood of tears.

"Faith entire," he went on; "and you are still striving for me."

"Princess Anne is--" she began, then the choking came.

"True!" he said.  "Come, do not expect the worst.  I have not made
up my mind to that!  If the ambassador will stir, the King will not
be disobliging, though it will probably not be a free pardon, but
Hungary for some years to come--and you are coming with me."

"If you will have one who might be--may have been--your death.  Oh,
every word I said seemed to me stabbing you;" and the tears would
come now.

"No such thing!  They only showed how true my love is to God and me,
and made my heart swell with pride to hear her so cheering me
through all."

His strength seemed to allow her to break down.  She had all along
had to bear up the spirits of Sir Philip and Lady Archfield, and
though she had struggled for composure, the finding that she had in
him a comforter and support set the pent-up tears flowing fast, as
he held her close.

"Oh, I did not mean to vex you thus!" she said.

"Vex! no indeed!  'Tis something to be wept for.  But cheer up, Anne
mine.  I have often been in far worse plights than this, when I have
ridden up in the face of eight big Turkish guns.  The balls went
over my head then, by God's good mercy.  Why not the same now?  Ay!
and I was ready to give all I had to any one who would have put a
pistol to my head and got me out of my misery, jolting along on the
way to the Iron Gates.  Yet here I am!  Maybe the Almighty brought
me back to save poor Sedley, and clear my own conscience, knowing
well that though it does not look so, it is better for me to die
thus than the other way.  No, no; 'tis ten to one that you and the
rest of you will get me off.  I only meant to show you that
supposing it fails, I shall only feel it my due, and much better for
me than if I had died out there with it unconfessed.  I shall try to
get them all to feel it so, and, after all, now the whole is out, my
heart feels lighter than it has done these seven years.  And if I
could only believe that poor fellow alive, I could almost die
content, though that sounds strange.  It will quiet his poor
restless spirit any way."

"You are too brave.  Oh!  I hoped to come here to comfort you, and I
have only made you comfort me."

"The best way, sweetest.  Now, I will seal and address this letter,
and you shall take it to Mr. Fellowes to carry to the ambassador."

This gave Anne a little time to compose herself, and when he had
finished, he took the candle, and saying, "Look here," he held it to
the wall, and they read, scratched on the rough bricks, "Alice
Lisle, 1685.  This is thankworthy."

"Lady Lisle's cell!  Oh, this is no good omen!"

"I call it a goodly legacy even to one who cannot claim to suffer
wrongfully," said Charles.  "There, they knock--one kiss more--we
shall meet again soon.  Don't linger in town, but give me all the
days you can.  Yes, take her back, Sir Edmund, for she must rest
before her journey.  Cheer up, love, and do not lie weeping all
night, but believe that your prayers to God and man must prevail one
way or another."



CHAPTER XXXI: ELF-LAND


"Three ruffians seized me yestermorn,
   Alas! a maiden most forlorn;
They choked my cries with wicked might,
   And bound me on a palfrey white."

S. T. COLERIDGE.

Yet after the night it was with more hope than despondency, Anne, in
the February morning, mounted en croupe behind Mr. Fellowes's
servant, that being decided on as the quickest mode of travelling.
She saw the sunrise behind St. Catherine's Hill, and the gray mists
filling the valley of the Itchen, and the towers of the Cathedral
and College barely peeping beyond them.  Would her life rise out of
the mist?

Through hoar-frosted hedges, deeply crested with white, they rode,
emerging by and by on downs, becoming dully green above, as the sun
touched them, but white below.  Suddenly, in passing a hollow,
overhung by two or three yew-trees, they found themselves surrounded
by masked horsemen.  The servant on her horse was felled, she
herself snatched off and a kerchief covered her face, while she was
crying, "Oh sir, let me go!  I am on business of life and death."

The covering was stuffed into her mouth, and she was borne along
some little way; then there was a pause, and she freed herself
enough to say, "You shall have everything; only let me go;" and she
felt for the money with which Sir Philip had supplied her, and for
the watch given her by King James.

"We want you; nothing of yours," said a voice.  "Don't be afraid.
No one will hurt you; but we must have you along with us."

Therewith she was pinioned by two large hands, and a bandage was
made fast over her eyes, and when she shrieked out, "Mr. Fellowes!
Oh! where are you?" she was answered--

"No harm has been done to the parson.  He will be free as soon as
any one comes by.  'Tis you we want.  Now, I give you fair notice,
for we don't want to choke you; there's no one to hear a squall.  If
there were, we should gag you, so you had best be quiet, and you
shall suffer no hurt.  Now then, by your leave, madam."

She was lifted on horseback again, and a belt passed round her and
the rider in front of her.  Again she strove, in her natural voice,
to plead that to stop her would imperil a man's life, and to implore
for release.  "We know all that," she was told.  It was not rudely
said.  The voice was not that of a clown; it was a gentleman's
pronunciation, and this was in some ways more inexplicable and
alarming.  The horses were put in rapid motion; she heard the
trampling of many hoofs, and felt that they were on soft turf, and
she knew that for many miles round Winchester it was possible to
keep on the downs so as to avoid any inhabited place.  She tried to
guess, from the sense of sunshine that came through her bandage, in
what direction she was being carried, and fancied it must be
southerly.  On--on--on--still the turf.  It seemed absolutely
endless.  Time was not measurable under such circumstances, but she
fancied noon must have more than passed, when the voice that had
before spoken said, "We halt in a moment, and shift you to another
horse, madam; but again I forewarn you that our comrades here have
no ears for you, and that cries and struggles will only make it the
worse for you."  Then came the sound as of harder ground and a stop--
undertones, gruff and manly, could be heard, the peculiar noise of
horses' drinking; and her captor came up this time on foot, saying,
"Plaguy little to be had in this accursed hole; 'tis but the choice
between stale beer and milk.  Which will you prefer?"

She could not help accepting the milk, and she was taken down to
drink it, and a hunch of coarse barley bread was given to her, with
it the words, "I would offer you bacon, but it tastes as if Old Nick
had smoked it in his private furnace."

Such expressions were no proof that gentle blood was lacking, but
whose object could her abduction be--her, a penniless dependent?
Could she have been seized by mistake for some heiress?  In that
moment's hope she asked, "Sir, do you know who I am--Anne Woodford,
a poor, portionless maid, not--"

"I know perfectly well, madam," was the reply.  "May I trouble you
to permit me to mount you again?"

She was again placed behind one of the riders, and again fastened to
him, and off they went, on a rougher horse, on harder ground, and,
as she thought, occasionally through brushwood.  Again a space, to
her illimitable, went by, and then came turf once more, and by and
by what seemed to her the sound of the sea.

Another halt, another lifting down, but at once to be gathered up
again, and then a splashing through water.  "Be careful," said the
voice.  A hand, a gentleman's hand, took hers; her feet were on
boards--on a boat; she was drawn down to sit on a low thwart.
Putting her hand over, she felt the lapping of the water and tasted
that it was salt.

"Oh, sir, where are you taking me?" she asked, as the boat was
pushed off.

"That you will know in due time," he answered.

Some more refreshment was offered her in a decided but not
discourteous manner, and she partook of it, remembering that
exhaustion might add to her perils.  She perceived that after
pushing off from shore sounds of eating and low gruff voices mingled
with the plash of oars.  Commands seemed to be given in French, and
there were mutterings of some strange language.  Darkness was coming
on.  What were they doing with her?  And did Charles's fate hang
upon hers?

Yet in spite of terrors and anxieties, she was so much worn out as
to doze long enough to lose count of time, till she was awakened by
the rocking and tossing of the boat and loud peremptory commands.
She became for the first time in her life miserable with sea-
sickness, for how long it was impossible to tell, and the pitching
of the boat became so violent that when she found herself bound to
one of the seats she was conscious of little but a longing to be
allowed to go to the bottom in peace, except that some great cause--
she could hardly in her bewildered wretchedness recollect what--
forbade her to die till her mission was over.

There were loud peremptory orders, oaths, sea phrases, in French and
English, sometimes in that unknown tongue.  Something expressed that
a light was directing to a landing-place, but reaching it was
doubtful.

"Unbind her eyes," said a voice; "let her shift for herself."

"Better not."

There followed a fresh upheaval, as if the boat were perpendicular;
a sudden sinking, some one fell over and bruised her; another
frightful rising and falling, then smoothness; the rope that held
her fast undone; the keel grating; hands apparently dragging up the
boat.  She was lifted out like a doll, carried apparently through
water over shingle.  Light again made itself visible; she was in a
house, set down on a chair, in the warmth of fire, amid a buzz of
voices, which lulled as the bandage was untied and removed.  Her
eyes were so dazzled, her head so giddy, her senses so faint, that
everything swam round her, and there that strange vision recurred.
Peregrine Oakshott was before her.  She closed her eyes again, as
she lay back in the chair.

"Take this; you will be better."  A glass was at her lips, and she
swallowed some hot drink, which revived her so that she opened her
eyes again, and by the lights in an apparently richly curtained
room, she again beheld that figure standing by her, the glass in his
hand.

"Oh!" she gasped.  "Are you alive?"

The answer was to raise her still gloved hand with substantial
fingers to a pair of lips.

"Then--then--he is safe!  Thank God!" she murmured, and shut her
eyes again, dizzy and overcome, unable even to analyse her
conviction that all would be well, and that in some manner he had
come to her rescue.

"Where am I?" she murmured dreamily.  "In Elf-land?"

"Yes; come to be Queen of it."

The words blended with her confused fancies.  Indeed she was hardly
fully conscious of anything, except that a woman's hands were about
her, and that she was taken into another room, where her drenched
clothes were removed, and she was placed in a warm, narrow bed,
where some more warm nourishment was put into her mouth with a
spoon, after which she sank into a sleep of utter exhaustion.  That
sleep lasted long.  There was a sensation of the rocking of the
boat, and of aching limbs, through great part of the time; also
there seemed to be a continual roaring and thundering around her,
and such strange misty visions, that when she finally awoke, after a
long interval of deeper and sounder slumber, she was incapable of
separating the fact from the dream, more especially as head and
limbs were still heavy, weary, and battered.  The strange roaring
still sounded, and sometimes seemed to shake the bed.  Twilight was
coming in at a curtained window, and showed a tiny chamber, with
rafters overhead and thatch, a chest, a chair, and table.  There was
a pallet on the floor, and Anne suspected that she had been wakened
by the rising of its occupant.  Her watch was on the chair by her
side, but it had not been wound, and the dim light did not increase,
so that there was no guessing the time; and as the remembrance of
her dreadful adventures made themselves clear, she realised with
exceeding terror that she must be a prisoner, while the evening's
apparition relegated itself to the world of dreams.

Being kidnapped to be sent to the plantations was the dread of those
days.  But if such were the case, what would become of Charles?  In
the alarm of that thought she sat up in bed and prepared to rise,
but could nowhere see her clothes, only the little cloth bag of
toilet necessaries that she had taken with her.

At that moment, however, the woman came in with a steaming cup of
chocolate in her hand and some of the garments over her arm.  She
was a stout, weather-beaten, kindly-looking woman with a high white
cap, gold earrings, black short petticoat, and many-coloured apron.
"Monsieur veut savoir si mademoiselle va bien?" said she in slow
careful French, and when questions in that language were eagerly
poured out, she shook her head, and said, "Ne comprends pas."  She,
however, brought in the rest of the clothes, warm water, and a
light, so that Anne rose and dressed, exceedingly perplexed, and
wondering whether she could be in a ship, for the sounds seemed to
say so, and there was no corresponding motion.  Could she be in
France?  Certainly the voyage had seemed interminable, but she did
not think it _could_ have been long enough for that, nor that any
person in his senses would try to cross in an open boat in such
weather.  She looked at the window, a tiny slip of glass, too thick
to show anything but what seemed to be a dark wall rising near at
hand.  Alas! she was certainly a prisoner!  In whose hands?  With
what intent?  How would it affect that other prisoner at Winchester?
Was that vision of last night substantial or the work of her
exhausted brain?  What could she do?  It was well for her that she
could believe in the might of prayer.

She durst not go beyond her door, for she heard men's tones,
suppressed and gruff, but presently there was a knock, and wonder of
wonders, she beheld Hans, black Hans, showing all his white teeth in
a broad grin, and telling her that Missee Anne's breakfast was
ready.  The curtain that overhung the door was drawn back, and she
passed into another small room, with a fire on the open hearth, and
a lamp hung from a beam, the walls all round covered with carpets or
stuffs of thick glowing colours, so that it was like the inside of a
tent.  And in the midst, without doubt, stood Peregrine Oakshott, in
such a dress as was usually worn by gentlemen in the morning--a
loose wrapping coat, though with fine lace cuffs and cravat, all,
like the shoes and silk stockings, worn with his peculiar
daintiness, and, as was usual when full-bottomed wigs were the rule
in grande tenue, its place supplied by a silken cap.  This was olive
green with a crimson tassel, which had assumed exactly the
characteristic one-sided Riquet-with-a-tuft aspect.  For the rest,
these years seemed to have made the slight form slighter and more
wiry, and the face keener, more sallow, and more marked.

He bowed low with the foreign courtesy which used to be so offensive
to his contemporaries, and offered a delicate, beringed hand to lead
the young lady to the little table, where grilled fowl and rolls,
both showing the cookery of Hans, were prepared for her.

"I hope you rested well, and have an appetite this morning."

"Sir, what does it all mean?  Where am I?" asked Anne, drawing
herself up with the native dignity that she felt to be her defence.

"In Elf-land," he said, with a smile, as he heaped her plate.

"Speak in earnest," she entreated.  "I cannot eat till I understand.
It is no time for trifling!  Life and death hang on my reaching
London!  If you saved me from those men, let me go free."

"No one can move at present," he said.  "See here."

He drew back a curtain, opened first one door and then another, and
she saw sheets of driving rain, and rising, roaring waves, with surf
which came beating in on the force of such a fearful gust of wind
that Peregrine hastily shut the door, not without difficulty.
"Nobody can stir at present," he said, as they came into the warm
bright room again.  "It is a frightful tempest, the worst known here
for years, they say.  The dead-lights, as they call them, have been
put in, or the windows would be driven in.  Come and taste Hans's
work; you know it of old.  Will you drink tea?  Do you remember how
your mother came to teach mine to brew it, and how she forgave me
for being graceless enough to squirt at her?"

There was something so gentle and reassuring in the demeanour of
this strange being that Anne, convinced of the utter hopelessness of
confronting the storm, as well as of the need of gathering strength,
allowed herself to be placed in a chair, and to partake of the food
set before her, and the tea, which was served without milk, in an
exquisite dragon china cup, but with a saucer that did not match it.

"We don't get our sets perfect," said Peregrine, with a smile, who
was waiting on her as if she were a princess.

"I entreat you to tell me where we are!" said Anne.  "Not in
France?"

"No, not in France!  I wish we were."

"Then--can this be the Island?"

"Yes, the Island it is," said Peregrine, both speaking as South
Hants folk; "this is the strange cave or chasm called Black Gang
Chine."

"Black Gang!  Oh! the highwaymen, the pirates!  You have saved me
from them.  Were they going to send me to the plantations?"

"You need have no fears.  No one shall touch you, or hurt you.  You
shall see no one save by your own consent, my queen."

"And when this storm is passed--Oh!" as a more fearful roar and dash
sounded as if the waves were about to sweep away their frail
shelter--"you will come with me and save Mr. Archfield's life?  You
cannot know--"

"I know," he interrupted; "but why should I be solicitous for his
life?  That I am here now is no thanks to him, and why should I give
up mine for the sake of him who meant to make an end of me?"

"You little know how he repented.  And your own life?  What do you
mean?"

"People don't haunt the Black Gang Chine when their lives are secure
from Dutch Bill," he answered.  "Don't be terrified, my queen;
though I cannot lay claim, like Prospero, to having raised this
storm by my art magic, yet it perforce gives me time to make you
understand who and what I am, and how I have recovered my better
angel to give her no mean nor desperate career.  It will be better
thus than with the suddenness with which I might have had to act."

A new alarm seized upon Anne as to his possible intentions, but she
would not forestall what she so much apprehended, and, sensible that
self-control alone could guard her, since escape at present was
clearly impossible, she resigned herself to sit opposite to him by
the ample hearth of what she perceived to be a fisherman's hut, thus
fitted up luxuriously with, it might be feared, the spoils of the
sea.

The story was a long one, and not by any means told consecutively or
without interruption, and all the time those eyes were upon her, one
yellow the other green, with the effect she knew so well of old in
childish days, of repulsion yet compulsion, of terror yet
attraction, as if irresistibly binding a reluctant will.  Several
times Peregrine was called off to speak to some one outside the
door, and at noon he begged permission for his friends to dine with
them, saying that there was no other place where the dinner could be
taken to them comfortably in this storm.



CHAPTER XXXII: SEVEN YEARS


"It was between the night and day,
   When the Fairy King has power,
That I sunk down in a sinful fray,
And 'twixt life and death was snatched away
   To the joyless Elfin bower."

SCOTT.

This motto was almost the account that the twisted figure, with
queer contortions of face, yet delicate feet and hands, and dainty
utterance, might have been expected to give, when Anne asked him,
"Was it you, really?"

"I--or my double?" he asked.  "When?"

She told him, and he seemed amazed.

"So you were there?  Well, you shall hear.  You know how things
stood with me--your mother, my good spirit, dead, my uncle away, my
father bent on driving me to utter desperation, and Martha Browning
laying her great red hands on me--"

"Oh, sir, she really loved you, and is far wiser and more tolerant
than you thought her."

"I know," he smiled grimly.  "She buried the huge Scot that was
killed in the great smuggling fray under the Protector, with all
honours, in our family vault, and had a long-winded sermon preached
on my untimely end.  Ha! ha!" with his mocking laugh.

"Don't, sir!  If you had seen your father then!  Why did no one come
forward and explain?"

"Mayhap there were none at hand who knew, or wished to meddle with
the law," he said.  "Well, things were beyond all bearing at home,
and you were going away, and would not so much as look at me.  Now,
one of the few sports my father did not look askance at was fishing,
and he would endure my being out at night with, as he thought, poor
man, old Pete Perring, who was as stern a Puritan as himself; but I
had livelier friends, and more adventurous.  They had connections
with French free-traders for brandy and silks, and when they found I
was one with them, my French tongue was a boon to them, till I came
to have a good many friends among the Norman fishermen, and to know
the snug hiding-places about the coast.  So at last I made up my
mind to be off with them, and make my way to my uncle in Muscovy.  I
had raised money enough at play and on the jewels one picks up in an
envoy's service, and there was one good angel whom I meant to take
with me if I could secure her and bind her wings.  Now you know with
what hopes I saw you gathering flowers alone that morning."

Anne clasped her hands; Charles had truly interfered with good
cause.

"I had all arranged," he continued; "my uncle would have given you a
hearty welcome, and made our peace with my father, or if not, he
would have left us all his goods, and secured my career.  What call
had that great lout, with a wife of his own too, to come thrusting
between us?  I thought I should make short work of him, and give him
a lesson against meddling--great unlicked cub as he was, while I had
had the best training at Berlin and Paris in fencing; but somehow
those big strong fellows, from their very clumsiness, throw one out.
And he meant mischief--yes, that he did.  I saw it in his eyes.  I
suppose his sulky rustic jealousy was a-fire at a few little
civilities to that poor little wife of his.  Any way, when he bore
me down like the swing of a windmill, he drove his sword home.  Talk
of his being innocent!  Why should he never look whether I were dead
or alive, but fling me headlong into that pit?"

Anne could not but utter her eager defence, but it was met with a
sinister smile, half of scorn, half of pity, and as she would have
gone on, "Hush! your pleading only fills up the measure of my
loathing."

Her heart sank, but she let him go on, listening perhaps less
attentively as she considered how to take him.

"In fact," he continued, "little as the lubber knew it, 'twas the
best he could have done for me.  For though I never looked for such
luck as your being out in the court at that hour, I did think the
chance not to be lost of visiting the garden or the churchyard, and
there were waiting in the vault a couple of stout Normans, who were
to come at my whistle.  It seems that when I came tumbling down in
their midst, senseless and bleeding like a calf, they did not take
it quite so easily as your champion above, but began doing what they
could for me, and were trying to staunch the wound, when they heard
a trampling and a rumbling overhead, and being aware that our
undertaking might look ugly in the sight of the law, and thinking
this might be pursuers, they carried me off with all speed, not so
much as stopping to pick up the things that have made such a
commotion.  Was there any pursuit?"

"Oh no; it must have been the haymakers."

"No doubt.  The place was in no great favour with our own people;
they were in awe of the big Scot, who is in comfortable quarters in
my grave, and the Frenchmen could not have found their way thither,
so it was let alone till Mistress Martha's researches.  So I came to
myself in the boat in which they took me on board the lugger that
was waiting for us; and instead of making for Alderney, as I had
intended, so as to get the knot safely tied to your satisfaction,
they sailed straight for Havre.  They had on board a Jesuit father,
whom I had met once or twice among the Duke of Berwick's people, but
who had found Portsmouth too hot to hold him in the frenzy of
Protestant zeal on the Bishops' account.  He had been beset, and
owed his life, he says, to the fists of the Breton and Norman
sailors, who had taken him on board.  It was well for me, for I
doubt if ever I was tough enough to have withstood my good friends'
treatment.  He had me carried to a convent in Havre, where the
fathers nursed me well; and before I was on my legs again, I had
made up my mind to cast in my lot with them, or rather with their
Church."

"Oh!"

"I had been baulked of winning the one being near whom my devil
never durst come.  And blood-letting had pretty well disposed of
him.  I was as meek and mild as milk under the good fathers.
Moreover, as my good friend at Turin had told me, and they repeated
it, such a doubly heretical baptism as mine was probably invalid,
and accounted for my being as much a vessel of wrath as even my
father was pleased to call me.  There was the Queen's rosary drawing
me too.  Everything else was over with me, and it seemed to open a
new life.  So, bless me, what a soft and pious frame I was in when
they chastened me, water, oil, salt and all, on what my father raged
at folks calling Lammas Day, but which it seems really belongs to
St. Peter in the Fetters.  So I was named Pierre or Piers after him,
thus keeping my own initial."

"Piers! oh! not Piers Pigwiggin?"

"Pierre de Pilpignon, if you please.  I have a right to that too;
but we shall come to it by and by.  I can laugh now, or perhaps
weep, over the fervid state I was in then, as if I had trodden down
my snake, and by giving up everything--you, estate, career, I could
keep him down.  So it was settled that I would devote myself to the
priesthood--don't laugh!--and I was ordered off to their seminary in
London, partly, I believe, for the sake of piloting a couple of
fathers, who could not speak a word of English.  It was, as they
rightly judged, the last place where my father would think of
looking for me, but they did not as rightly judge that we should
long keep possession there.  Matters grew serious, and it was not
over safe in the streets.  There was a letter of importance from a
friend in Holland, carrying the Prince of Orange's hypocritical
Declaration, which was to be got to Father Petre or the King on the
night--Hallowmas Eve it was--and I was told off to put on a secular
dress, which I could wear more naturally than most of them, and
convey it."

"Ah, that explains!"

"Apparition number one!  I guessed you were somewhere in those
parts, and looked up at the windows, and though I did not see you, I
believe it was your eyes that first sent a thrill through me that
boded ill for Roman orders.  After that we lived in a continual
state of rumours and alarms, secret messages and expeditions, until
I, being strong in the arm and the wind and a feather-weight, was
one of those honoured by rowing the Queen and Prince across the
river.  M. de St. Victor accepted me.  He told me there would be two
nurses, but never knew or cared who they were, nor did I guess, as
we sat in the dark, how near I was to you.  And only for one second
did I see your face, as you were entering the carriage, and I
blessed you the more for what you were doing for Her Majesty."

He proceeded to tell how he had accompanied the Jesuit fathers, on
their leaving London, to the great English seminary at Douai, and
being for the time convinced by them that his feelings towards Anne
were a delusion of the enemy, he had studied with all his might, and
as health and monotony of life began to have their accustomed effect
in rousing the restlessness and mischievousness of his nature, with
all the passions of manhood growing upon him, he strove to force
them down by fasting and scourging.  He told, in a bitter, almost
savage way, of his endeavours to flog his demon out of himself, and
of his anger and disappointment at finding Piers Pilgrim in the
seminary of Douai, quite as subject to his attacks as ever was Perry
Oakshott under a sermon of Mr. Horncastle's.

Then came the information among the students that the governor of
the city, the Marquis de Nidemerle, had brought some English
gentlemen and ladies to visit the gardens.  As most of the students
were of British families there was curiosity as to who they were,
and thus Peregrine heard that one was young Archfield of the
Hampshire family, with his tutor, and the lady was Mistress Darpent,
daughter to a French lawyer, who had settled in England after the
Fronde.  Anne's name had not transpired, for she was viewed merely
as an attendant.  Peregrine had been out on some errand in the town,
and had a distant view of his enemy as he held him, flaunting about
with a fine lady on his arm, forgetting the poor little pretty wife
whom no doubt he had frightened to death."

"Oh! you little know how tenderly he speaks of her."

"Tenderly!--that's the way they speak of me at Oakwood, eh?  Human,
not to say elf, nature, could not withstand giving the fellow a
start.  I sped off, whipped into the Church, popped into a surplice
I found ready to hand, caught up a candle, and!--Little did I think
who it was that was hanging on his arm.  So little did I know it
that my heart began to be drawn to St. Germain, where I still
imagined you.  Altogether, after that prank, all broke out again.  I
entertained the lads with a few more freaks, for which I did ample
penance, but it grew on me that in my case all was a weariness and a
sham, and that my demon might get a worse hold of me if I got into a
course of hypocrisy.  They were very good to me, those fathers, but
Jesuits as they were, I doubt whether they ever fathomed me.  Any
way, perhaps they thought I should be a scandal, but they agreed
with me that their order was not my vocation, and that we had better
part before my fiend drove me to do so with dishonour.  They even
gave me recommendations to the French officers that were besieging
Tournay.  I knew the Duke of Berwick a little at Portsmouth, and it
ended in my becoming under-secretary to the Duke of Chartres.  A man
who knows languages has his value among Frenchmen, who despise all
but their own."

Peregrine did not enter into full details of this stage of his
career, and Anne was not fully informed of the habits that the young
Duke of Chartres, the future Regent Duke of Orleans, was already
developing, but she gathered that, what the young man called his
demon, had nearly undisputed sway over him, and she had not spent
eight months at St. Germain without knowing by report of the
dissolute manners of the substratum of fashionable society at Paris,
even though outward decorum had been restored by Madame de
Maintenon.  Yet he seemed to have been crossed by fits of vehement
penitence, and almost the saddest part of the story was the mocking
tone in which he alluded to these.

He had sought service at the Court in the hope of meeting Miss
Woodford there, and had been grievously disappointed when he found
that she had long since returned to England.  The sight of the
gracious and lovely countenance of the exiled Queen seemed always to
have moved and touched him, as in some inexplicable manner her eyes
and expression recalled to him those of Mrs. Woodford and Anne; but
the thought had apparently only stung him into the sense of being
forsaken and abandoned to his own devices or those of his evil
spirit.

One incident, occurring some three years previously, he told more
fully, as it had a considerable effect on his life.  "I was
attending the Duke in the gardens at Versailles," he said, "when we
were aware of a great commotion.  All the gentlemen were standing
gazing up into the top of a great chestnut tree, the King and all,
and in the midst stood the Abbe de Fenelon with his little pupils,
the youngest, the Duke of Anjou, sobbing piteously, and the Duke of
Burgundy in a furious passion, stamping and raging, and only
withheld from rolling on the ground by the Abbe's hand grasping his
shoulder.  'I will not have him killed!  He is mine,' he cried.  And
up in the tree, the object of all their gaze, was a monkey with a
paper fluttering in his hand.  Some one had made a present of the
creature to the King's grandsons; he was the reigning favourite, and
having broken his chain, had effected an entrance by the window into
the King's cabinet, where after giving himself the airs of a
minister of state, on being interrupted, he had made off through the
window with an important document, which he was affecting to peruse
at his leisure, only interrupting himself to hurl down leaves or
unripe chestnuts at those who attempted to pelt him with stones, and
this only made him mount higher and higher, entirely out of their
reach, for no one durst climb after him.  I believe it was a letter
from the King of Spain; at any rate the whole Cabinet was in agony
lest the brute should proceed to tear it into fragments, and a
musqueteer had been sent for to shoot him down.  I remembered my
success with the monkey on poor little Madam Archfield's back--nay,
perhaps 'twas the same, my familiar taking shape.  I threw myself at
the King's feet, and desired permission to deal with the beast.  By
good luck it had not been so easy as they supposed to find a musquet
fit for immediate use, so I had full time.  To ascend the tree was
no more than I had done many times before, and I went high in the
branches, but cautiously, not to give Monsieur le Singe the idea of
being pursued, lest he should leap to a bough incapable of
supporting me.  When I had reached a fork tolerably high, and where
he could see me, I settled myself, took out a letter, which
fortunately was in my pocket, read it with the greatest
deliberation, the monkey watching me all the time, and finally I
proceeded to fold it neatly in all its creases.  The creature
imitated me with its black fingers, little aware, poor thing, that
the musqueteer had covered him with his weapon, and was waiting for
the first sign of tearing the letter to pull the trigger, but
withheld by a sign from the King, who did not wish to sacrifice his
grandson's pet before his eyes.  Finally, after finishing the
folding, I doubled it a second time, and threw it at the animal.  To
my great joy he returned the compliment by throwing the other at my
head.  I was able to catch it, and moreover, as he was disposed to
go in pursuit of his plaything, he swung his chain so near me that I
got hold of it, twisted it round my arm, and made the best of my way
down the tree, amid the 'Bravos!' started by the royal lips
themselves, and repeated with ecstasy by all the crowd, who waved
their hats, and made such a hallooing that I had much ado to get the
monkey down safely; but finally, all dishevelled, with my best cuffs
and cravat torn to ribbons, and my wig happily detached, unlike
Absalom's, for it remained in the tree, I had the honour of
presenting on my knee the letter to the King, and the monkey to the
Princes.  I kissed His Majesty's hand, the little Duke of Anjou
kissed the monkey, and the Duke of Burgundy kissed me with arms
round my neck, then threw himself on his knees before his
grandfather to ask pardon for his passion.  Every one said my
fortune was made, and that my agility deserved at least the cordon
bleu.  My own Duke of Chartres, who in many points is like his
cousin, our late King Charles, gravely assured me that a new office
was to be invented for me, and that I was to be Grand Singier du
Roi.  I believe he pushed my cause, and so did the little Duke of
Burgundy, and finally I got the pension without the office, and a
good deal of occasional employment besides, in the way of
translation of documents.  There were moments of success at play.
Oh yes, quite fairly, any one with wits about him can make his
profit in the long-run among the Court set.  And thus I had enough
to purchase a pretty little estate and chateau on the coast of
Normandy, the confiscated property of a poor Huguenot refugee, so
that it went cheap.  It gives the title of Pilpignon, which I
assumed in kindness to the tongues of my French friends.  So you
see, I have a station and property to which to carry you, my fair
one, won by myself, though only by catching an ape."

He went on to say that the spot had been chosen advisedly, with a
view to communication with the opposite coast, where his old
connection with the smugglers was likely to be useful in the
Jacobite plots.  "As you well know," he said, "my father had done
his utmost to make Whiggery stink in my nostrils, to say nothing of
the kindness I have enjoyed from our good Queen; and I was ready to
do my utmost in the cause, especially after I had stolen a glimpse
of you, and when Charnock, poor fellow, returning from reconnoitring
among the loyal, told me that you were still unmarried, and living
as a dependent in the Archfields' house.  Our headquarters were in
Romney Marsh, but it was as well to have, as it were, a back door
here, and as it has turned out it has been the saving of some of
us."

"Oh, sir! you were not in that wicked plot?"

"Nay; surely _you_ are not turned Whig."

"But this was assassination."

"Not at all, if they would have listened to me.  The Dutchman is no
bigger than I am.  I could have dropped on him from one of his trees
at Hampton Court, or through a window, via presto, and we would have
had him off by the river, given him an interview to beg his uncle's
pardon, and despatched him for the benefit of his asthma to the
company of the Iron Mask at St. Marguerite; then back again, the
King to enjoy his own again, Dr. Woodford, archbishop or bishop of
whatever you please, and a lady here present to be Marquise de
Pilpignon, or Countess of Havant, whichever she might prefer.  Yes,
truly those were the hopes with which I renewed my communications
with the contraband trade on this coast, a good deal more numerous
since the Dutchman and his wars have raised the duties and driven
many good men to holes and corners.

"Ever since last spring, when the Princess Royal died, and thus
extinguished the last spark of forbearance in the King's breast, I
have been here, there, and everywhere--Romney Marsh, Drury Lane,
Paris, besides this place and Pilpignon, where I have a snug harbour
for the yacht, Ma Belle Annik, as the Breton sailors call her.  The
crew are chiefly Breton; it saves gossip; but I have a boat's crew
of our own English folk here, stout fellows, ready for anything by
land or sea."

"The Black Gang," said Anne faintly.

"Don't suppose I have meddled in their exploits on the road," he
said, "except where a King's messenger or a Royal mail was
concerned, and that is war, you know, for the cause.  Unluckily my
personal charms are not easily disguised, so that I have had to lurk
in the background, and only make my private investigations in the
guise of my own ghost."

"Then so it was you saved the dear little Philip?" said Anne.

"The Archfield boy?  I could not see a child sent to his destruction
by that villain Sedley, whoever were his father, for he meant
mischief if ever man did.  'Twas superhuman scruple not to hold your
peace and let him swing."

"What was it, then, on his cousin's part?"

Peregrine only answered with a shrug.  It appeared further, that as
long as the conspirators had entertained any expectation of success,
he had merely kept a watch over Anne, intending to claim her in the
hour of the triumph of his party, when he looked to enjoy such a
position as would leave his brother free to enjoy his paternal
inheritance.  In the failure of all their schemes through Mr.
Pendergrast's denunciation, Sir George Barclay, and one or two
inferior plotters, had succeeded in availing themselves of the
assistance of the Black Gang, and had been conducted by Peregrine to
the hut that he had fitted up for himself.  Still trusting to the
security there, although his name of Piers Pilgrim or de Pilpignon
had been among those given up to the Privy Council, he had insisted
on lingering, being resolved that an attempt should be made to carry
away the woman he had loved for so many years.  Captain Burford had
so disguised himself as to be able to attend the trial, loiter about
the inn, and collect intelligence, while the others waited on the
downs.  Peregrine had watched over the capture, but being unwilling
to disclose himself, had ridden on faster and crossed direct,
traversing the Island on horseback, while the captive was rounding
it in the boat.  "As should never have been done," he said, "could I
have foretold to what stress of weather you would be exposed while I
was preparing for your reception.  But for this storm--it rages
louder than ever--we would have been married by a little parson whom
Burford would have fetched from Portsmouth, and we should have been
over the Channel, and my people hailing my bride with ecstasy."

"Never!" exclaimed Anne.  "Can you suppose I could accept one who
would leave an innocent man to suffer?"

"People sometimes are obliged to accept," said Peregrine.  Then at
her horrified start, "No, no, fear no violence; but is not something
due to one who has loved you through exile all these years, and
would lay down his life for you? you, the only being who overcomes
his evil angel!"

"This is what you call overcoming it," she said.

"Nay; indeed, Mistress Anne, I would let the authorities know that
they are hanging a man for murdering one who is still alive if I
could; but no one would believe without seeing, and I and all who
could bear witness to my existence would be rushing to an end even
worse than a simple noose.  You were ready enough to denounce him to
save that worthless fellow."

"Not ready.  It tore my heart.  But truth is truth.  I could not do
that wickedness.  Oh! how can you?  This _is_ the prompting of the
evil spirit indeed, to expect me to join in leaving that innocent,
generous spirit to die in cruel injustice.  Let me go.  I will not
betray where you are.  You will be safe in France; but there will
yet be time for me to bear witness to your life.  Write a letter.
Your father would thankfully swear to your handwriting, and I think
they would believe me.  Only let me go."

"And what then becomes of the hopes of a lifetime?" demanded
Peregrine.  "I, who have waited as long as Jacob, to be defrauded
now I have you; and for the sake of the fellow who killed me in will
if not in deed, and then ran away like a poltroon leaving you to
bear the brunt!"

"He did not act like a poltroon when he saved the life of his
general, or when he rescued the colours of his regiment, still less
when he stood up to save me from the pain of bearing witness against
him, and to save a guiltless man," cried Anne, with flashing eyes.

Before she had finished her indignant words, Hans was coming in from
some unknown region to lay the cloth for supper, and Peregrine, with
an imprecation under his breath, had gone to the door to admit his
two comrades, who came into the narrow entry on a gust of wind as it
were, struggling out of their cloaks, stamping and swearing.

In the middle of the day, they had been much more restrained in
their behaviour.  There had at that time been a slight clearance in
the sky, though the wind was as furious as ever, and they were in
haste to despatch the meal and go out again to endeavour to stand on
the heights and to watch some vessels that were being tossed by the
storm.  Almost all the conversation had then been on the chances of
their weathering the tempest, and the probability of its lasting on,
and they had hurried away as soon as possible.  Anne had not then
known who they were, and only saw that they were fairly civil to
her, and kept under a certain constraint by Pilpignon, as they
called their host.  Now she fully knew the one who was addressed as
Sir George to be Barclay, the prime mover in the wicked scheme of
assassination of which all honest Tories had been so much ashamed,
and she could see Captain Burford to be one of those bravoes who
were only too plentiful in those days, attending on dissolute and
violent nobles.

She was the less inclined to admit their attentions, and shielded
herself with a grave coldness of stately manners; but their talk was
far more free than at noon, suggesting the thought that they had
anticipated the meal with some of the Nantz or other liquors that
seemed to be in plenty.

They began by low bows of affected reverence, coarser and worse in
the ruffian of inferior grade, and the knight complimented Pilpignon
on being a lucky dog, and hoped he had made the best use of his time
in spite of the airs of his duchess.  It was his own fault if he
were not enjoying such fair society, while they, poor devils, were
buffeting with the winds, which had come on more violently than
ever.  Peregrine broke in with a question about the vessels in
sight.

There was an East Indiaman, Dutch it was supposed, laying-to, that
was the cause of much excitement.  "If she drives ashore our fellows
will neither be to have nor to hold," said Sir George.

"They will obey me," said Peregrine quietly.

"More than the sea will just yet," laughed the captain.  "However,
as soon as this villainous weather is a bit abated, I'll be off
across the Island to do your little errand, and only ask a kiss of
the bride for my pains; but if the parson be at Portsmouth there
will be no getting him to budge till the water is smooth.  Never
mind, madam, we'll have a merry wedding feast, whichever side of the
water it is.  I should recommend the voyage first for my part."

All Anne could do was to sit as upright and still as she could,
apparently ignoring the man's meaning.  She did not know how
dignified she looked, and how she was daunting his insolence.  When
presently Sir George Barclay proposed as a toast a health to the
bride of to-morrow, she took her part by raising the glass to her
lips as well as the gentlemen, and adding, "May the brides be happy,
wherever they may be."

"Coy, upon my soul," laughed Sir George.  "You have not made the
best of your opportunities, Pil."  But with an oath, "It becomes her
well."

"A truce with fooling, Barclay," muttered Peregrine.

"Come, come, remember faint heart--no lowering your crest, more than
enough to bring that devilish sparkle in the eyes, and turn of the
neck!"

"Sir," said Anne rising, "Monsieur de Pilpignon is an old neighbour,
and understands how to respect his most unwilling guest.  I wish you
a good-night, gentlemen.  Guennik, venez ici, je vous prie."

Guennik, the Breton boatswain's wife, understood French thus far,
and comprehended the situation enough to follow willingly, leaving
the remainder of the attendance to Hans, who was fully equal to it.
The door was secured by a long knife in the post, but Anne could
hear plainly the rude laugh at her entrenchment within her fortress
and much of the banter of Peregrine for having proceeded no further.
It was impossible to shut out all the voices, and very alarming they
were, as well as sometimes so coarse that they made her cheeks glow,
while she felt thankful that the Bretonne could not understand.

These three men were all proscribed traitors in haste to be off, but
Peregrine, to whom the yacht and her crew belonged, had lingered to
obtain possession of the lady, and they were declaring that now they
had caught his game and given him his toy, they would brook no
longer delay than was absolutely necessitated by the storm, and
married or not married, he and she should both be carried off
together, let the damsel-errant give herself what haughty airs she
would.  It was a weak concession on their part to the old Puritan
scruples that he might have got rid of by this time, to attempt to
bring about the marriage.  They jested at him for being afraid of
her, and then there were jokes about gray mares.

The one voice she could not hear was Peregrine's, perhaps because he
realised more than they did that she was within ear-shot, and
besides, he was absolutely sober; but she thought he silenced them;
and then she heard sounds of card-playing, which made an
accompaniment to her agonised prayers.



CHAPTER XXXIII: BLACK GANG CHINE


"Come, Lady; while Heaven lends us grace,
Let us fly this cursed place,
Lest the sorcerer us entice
With some other new device.
Not a word or needless sound
Till we come to holier ground.
I shall be your faithful guide
Through this gloomy covert wide."

MILTON.

Never was maiden in a worse position than that in which Anne
Woodford felt herself when she revolved the matter.  The back of the
Isle of Wight, all along the Undercliff, had always had a wild
reputation, and she was in the midst of the most lawless of men.
Peregrine alone seemed to have any remains of honour or conscience,
and apparently he was in some degree in the hands of his associates.
Even if the clergyman came, there was little hope in an appeal to
him.  Naval chaplains bore no good reputation, and Portsmouth and
Cowes were haunted by the scum of the profession.  All that seemed
possible was to commit herself and Charles to Divine protection, and
in that strength to resist to the uttermost.  The tempest had
returned again, and seemed to be raging as much as ever, and the
delay was in her favour, for in such weather there could be no
putting to sea.

She was unwilling to leave the stronghold of her chamber, but Hans
came to announce breakfast to her, telling her that the Mynheeren
were gone, all but Massa Perry; and that gentleman came forward to
meet her just as before, hoping 'those fellows had not disturbed her
last night.'

"I could not help hearing much," she said gravely.

"Brutes!" he said.  "I am sick of them, and of this life.  Save for
the King's sake, I would never have meddled with it."

The roar of winds and waves and the beat of spray was still to be
heard, and in the manifest impossibility of quitting the place and
the desire of softening him, Anne listened while he talked in a
different mood from the previous day.  The cynical tone was gone, as
he spoke of those better influences.  He talked of Mrs. Woodford and
his deep affection for her, of the kindness of the good priests at
Havre and Douai, and especially of one Father Seyton, who had tried
to reason with him in his bitter disappointment, and savage
penitence on finding that 'behind the Cross lurks the Devil,' as
much at Douai as at Havant.  He told how a sermon of the Abbe
Fenelon's had moved him, and how he had spent half a Lent in the
severest penance, but only to have all swept away again in the wild
and wicked revelry with which Easter came in.  Again he described
how his heart was ready to burst as he stood by Mrs. Woodford's
grave at night and vowed to disentangle himself and lead a new life.

"And with you I shall," he said.

"No," she answered; "what you win by a crime will never do you
good."

"A crime!  'Tis no crime.  You _know_ I mean honourable marriage.
You owe no duty to any one."

"It is a crime to leave the innocent to undeserved death," she said.

"Do you love the fellow?" he cried, with a voice rising to a shout
of rage.

"Yes," she said firmly.

"Why did not you say so before?"

"Because I hoped to see you act for right and justice sake," was
Anne's answer, fixing her eyes on him.  "For God's sake, not mine."

"Yours indeed!  Think, what can be his love to mine?  He who let
them marry him to that child, while I struggled and gave up
everything.  Then he runs away--_runs away_--leaving you all the
distress; never came near you all these years.  Oh yes! he looks
down on you as his child's governess!  What's the use of loving him?
There's another heiress bespoken for him no doubt."

"No.  His parents consent, and we have known one another's love for
six years."

"Oh, that's the way he bound you to keep his secret!  He would sing
another song as soon as he was out of this scrape."

"You little know!" was all she said.

"Ay!" continued Peregrine, pacing up and down the room, "you know
that all that was wanting to fill up the measure of my hatred was
that he should have stolen your heart."

"You cannot say that, sir.  He was my kind protector and helper from
our very childhood.  I have loved him with all my heart ever since I
durst."

"Ay, the great straight comely lubbers have it all their own way
with the women," said he bitterly.  "I remember how he rushed
headlong at me with the horse-whip when I tripped you up at the
Slype, and you have never forgiven that."

"Oh! indeed I forgot that childish nonsense long ago.  You never
served me so again."

"No indeed, never since you and your mother were the first to treat
me like a human being.  You will be able to do anything with me,
sweetest lady; the very sense that you are under the same roof makes
another man of me.  I loathe what I used to enjoy.  Why, the very
sight of you, sitting at supper like the lady in Comus, in your
sweet grave dignity, made me feel what I am, and what those men are.
I heard their jests with your innocent ears.  With you by my side
the Devil's power is quelled.  You shall have a peaceful beneficent
life among the poor folk, who will bless you; our good and gracious
Queen will welcome you with joy and gratitude; and when the good
time comes, as it must in a few years, you will have honours and
dignities lavished on you.  Can you not see what you will do for
me?"

"Do you think a broken-hearted victim would be able to do you any
good?" said she, looking up with tears in her eyes.  "I _do_
believe, sir, that you mean well by me, in your own way, and I
could, yes, I can, be sorry for you, for my mother did feel for you,
and yours has been a sad life; but how could I be of any use or
comfort to you if you dragged me away as these cruel men propose,
knowing that he who has all my heart is dying guiltless, and
thinking I have failed him!" and here she broke down in an agony of
weeping, as she felt the old power in his eyes that enforced
submission.

He marched up and down in a sort of passion.  "Don't let me see you
weep for him!  It makes me ready to strangle him with my own hands!"

A shout of 'Pilpignon!' at the door here carried him off, leaving
Anne to give free course to the tears that she had hitherto been
able to restrain, feeling the need of self-possession.  She had very
little hope, since her affection for Charles Archfield seemed only
to give the additional sting of jealousy, 'cruel as the grave,' to
the vindictive temper Peregrine already nourished, and which
certainly came from his evil spirit.  She shed many tears, and
sobbed unrestrainingly till the Bretonne came and patted her
shoulder, and said, "Pauvre, pauvre!"  And even Hans looked in,
saying, "Missee Nana no cry, Massa Perry great herr--very goot."

She tried to compose herself, and think over alternatives to lay
before Peregrine.  He might let her go, and carry to Sir Edmund
Nutley letters to which his father would willingly swear, while he
was out of danger in Normandy.  Or if this was far beyond what could
be hoped for, surely he could despatch a letter to his father, and
for such a price she _must_ sacrifice herself, though it cost her
anguish unspeakable to call up the thought of Charles, of little
Philip, of her uncle, and the old people, who loved her so well, all
forsaken, and with what a life in store for her!  For she had not
the slightest confidence in the power of her influence, whatever
Peregrine might say and sincerely believe at present.  If there
were, more palpably than with all other human beings, angels of good
and evil contending for him, swaying him now this way and now that;
it was plain from his whole history that nothing had yet availed to
keep him under the better influence for long together; and she
believed that if he gained herself by these unjust and cruel means
the worse spirit would thereby gain the most absolute advantage.  If
her heart had been free, and she could have loved him, she might
have hoped, though it would have been a wild and forlorn hope; but
as it was, she had never entirely surmounted a repulsion from him,
as something strange and unnatural, a feeling involving fear, though
here he was her only hope and protector, and an utter uncertainty as
to what he might do.  She could only hope that she might pine away
and die quickly, and _perhaps_ Charles Archfield might know at last
that it had been for his sake.  And would it be in her power to make
even such terms as these?

How long she wept and prayed and tried to 'commit her way unto the
Lord' she did not know, but light seemed to be making its way far
more than previously through the shutters closed against the storm
when Peregrine returned.

"You will not be greatly troubled with those fellows to-day," he
said; "there's a vessel come on the rocks at Chale, and every man
and mother's son is gone after it."  So saying he unfastened the
shutters and let in a flood of sunshine.  "You would like a little
air," he said; "'tis all quiet now, and the tide is going down."

After two days' dark captivity, Anne could not but be relieved by
coming out, and she was anxious to understand where she was.  It
was, though only in March, glowing with warmth, as the sun beat
against the cliffs behind, of a dark red brown, in many places
absolutely black, in especial where a cascade, swelled by the rains
into imposing size, came roaring, leaping, and sparkling down a
sheer precipice.  On either side the cove or chine was closely shut
in by treeless, iron-coloured masses of rock, behind one of which
the few inhabited hovels were clustered, and the boat which had
brought her was drawn up.  In front was the sea, still lashed by a
fierce wind, which was driving the fantastically shaped remains of
the great storm cloud rapidly across an intensely blue sky.  The
waves, although it was the ebb, were still tremendous, and their
roar re-echoed as they reared to fearful heights and broke with the
reverberations that she had heard all along.  Peregrine kept quite
high up, not venturing below the washed line of shingle, saying that
the back draught of the waves was most perilous, and in a high wind
could not be reckoned upon.

"No escape!" he said, as he perceived Anne's gaze on the
inaccessible cliff and the whole scene, the wild beauty of which was
lost to her in its terrors.

"Where's your ship?" she asked.

"Safe in Whale Chine.  No putting to sea yet, though it may be fair
to-morrow."

Then she put before him the first scheme she had thought out, of
letting her escape to Sir Edmund Nutley's house, whence she could
make her way back, taking with her a letter that would prove his
existence without involving him or his friends in danger.  And
eagerly she argued, "You do not know me really!  It is only an
imagination that you can be the better for my presence."  Then,
unheeding his fervid exclamation, "It was my dear mother who did you
good.  What would she think of the way in which you are trying to
gain me?"

"That I cannot do without you."

"And what would you have in me?  I could be only wretched, and feel
all my life--such a life as it would be--that you had wrecked my
happiness.  Oh yes!  I do believe that you would try to make me
happy, but don't you see that it would be quite impossible with such
a grief as that in my heart, and knowing that you had caused it?  I
know you hate him, and he did you the wrong; but he has grieved for
it, and banished himself.  But above all, of this I am quite sure,
that to persist in this horrible evil of leaving him to die, because
of your revenge, and stealing me away, is truly giving Satan such a
frightful advantage over you that it is mere folly to think that
winning me in such a way could do you any good.  It is just a mere
delusion of his, to ruin us both, body and soul.  Peregrine, will
you not recollect my mother, and what she would think?  Have pity on
me, and help me away, and I would pledge myself never to utter a
word of this place nor that could bring you and yours into danger.
We would bless and pray for you always."

"No use," he gloomily said.  "I believe you, but the others will
never believe a woman.  No doubt we are watched even now by
desperate men, who would rather shoot you than let you escape from
our hands."

It seemed almost in connection with these words that at that moment,
from some unknown quarter, where probably there was an entrance to
the Chine, Sir George Barclay appeared with a leathern case under
his arm.  It had been captured on the wreck, and contained papers
which he wanted assistance in deciphering, since they were in Dutch,
and he believed them to be either despatches or bonds, either of
which might be turned to profit.  These were carried indoors, and
spread on the table, and as Anne sat by the window, dejected and
almost hopeless as she was, she could not help perceiving that,
though Peregrine was so much smaller and less robust than his
companions, he exercised over them the dominion of intellect,
energy, and will, as if they too felt the force of his strange eyes;
and it seemed to her as if, supposing he truly desired it, whatever
he might say, he must be able to deliver her and Charles; but that a
being such as she had always known him should sacrifice both his
love and his hate seemed beyond all hope, and "Change his heart!
Turn our captivity, O Lord," could only be her cry.

Only very late did Burford come back, full of the account of the
wreck and of the spoils, and the struggles between the wreckers for
the flotsam and jetsam.  There was much of savage brutality mated
with a cool indifference truly horrible to Anne, and making her
realise into what a den of robbers she had fallen, especially as
these narratives were diversified by consultations over the Dutch
letters and bills of exchange in the wrecked East Indiaman, and how
to turn them to the best advantage.  Barclay and Burford were so
full of these subjects that they took comparatively little notice of
the young lady, only when she rose to retire, Burford made a sort of
apology that this little business had hindered his going after the
parson.  He heard that the Salamander was at the castle, and
redcoats all about, he said, and if the Annick could be got out to-
morrow they must sail any way; and if Pil was still so squeamish, a
Popish priest could couple them in a leash as tight as a Fleet
parson could.  And then Peregrine demanded whether Burford thought a
Fleet parson the English for a naval chaplain, and there was some
boisterous laughter, during which Anne shut herself up in her room
in something very like despair, with that one ray of hope that He
who had brought her back from exile before would again save her from
that terrible fate.

She heard card-playing and the jingle of glasses far into the night,
as she believed, but it seemed to her as if she had scarcely fallen
asleep before, to her extreme terror, she heard a knock and a low
call at her door of 'Guennik.'  Then as the Bretonne went to the
door, through which a light was seen, a lantern was handed in, and a
scrap of paper on which the words were written:  "On second
thoughts, my kindred elves at Portchester shall not be scared by a
worricow.  Dress quickly, and I will bring you out of this."

For a moment Anne did not perceive the meaning of the missive, the
ghastly idea never having occurred to her that if Charles had
suffered, the gibbet would have been at Portchester.  Then, with an
electric flash of joy, she saw that it meant relenting on
Peregrine's part, deliverance for them both.  She put on her clothes
with hasty, trembling hands, thankful to Guennik for helping her,
pressed a coin into the strong toil-worn hand, and with an earnest
thrill of thankful prayer opened the door.  The driftwood fire was
bright, and she saw Peregrine, looking deadly white, and equipped
with slouched hat, short wrapping cloak, pistols and sword at his
belt, dark lantern lighted on the table, and Hans also cloaked by
his side.  He bent his head in salutation, and put his finger to his
lips, giving one hand to Anne, and showing by example instead of
words that she must tread as softly as possible, as she perceived
that he was in his slippers, Hans carrying his boots as well as the
lantern she had used.  Yet to her ears the roar of the advancing
tide seemed to stifle all other sounds.  Past the other huts they
went in silence, then came a precipitous path up the cliff, steps
cut in the hard sandy grit, but very crumbling, and in places
supplemented by a rude ladder of sticks and rope.  Peregrine went
before Anne, Hans behind.  Each had hung the lantern from his neck,
so as to have hands free to draw her, support her, or lift her, as
might be needful.  How it was done she never could tell in after
years.  She might jestingly say that her lightened heart bore her
up, but in her soul and in her deeper moments she thought that truly
angels must have had charge over her.  Up, up, up!  At last they had
reached standing ground, a tolerably level space, with another high
cliff seeming to rise behind it.  Here it was lighter--a pale streak
of dawn was spreading over the horizon, both on sky and sea, and the
waves still leaping glanced in the light of a golden waning moon,
while Venus shone in the brightening sky, a daystar of hope.

Peregrine drew a long breath, and gave an order in a very low voice
in Dutch to Hans, who placed his boots before him, and went off
towards a shed.  "He will bring you a pony," said his master.

"Excuse me;" and he was withdrawing his hand, when Anne clasped it
with both hers, and said in a voice of intense feeling--

"Oh, how can I thank you and bless you!  This _is_ putting the Evil
Angel to flight."

"'Tis you that have done it!  You see, I cannot do the wicked act
where you are," he answered gloomily, as he turned aside to draw on
his boots.

"Ah! but you have won the victory over him!"

"Do not be too sure.  We are not out of reach of those rascals yet."

He was evidently anxious for silence, and Anne said no more.  Hans
presently brought from some unknown quarter, a little stout pony
bridled and saddled; of course not with a side saddle, but cloaks
were arranged so as to make a fairly comfortable seat for Anne, and
Peregrine led the animal on the ascent to St. Catherine's Down.  It
was light enough to dispense with the lanterns, and as they mounted
higher the glorious sight of daybreak over the sea showed itself--
almost due east, the sharp points of the Needles showing up in a
flood of pale golden light above and below, with gulls flashing
white as they floated into sunlight, all seeming to Anne's thankful
heart to be a new radiance of joy and hope after the dark roaring
terrors of the Chine.

As they came out into the open freedom of the down, with crisp
silvery grass under their feet, the breadth of sea on one side,
before them fertile fields and hills, and farther away, dimly seen
in gray mist, the familiar Portsdown outlines, not a sound to be
heard but the exulting ecstasies of larks, far, far above in the
depths of blue, Peregrine dared to speak above his breath, with a
question whether Anne were at ease in her extemporary side saddle,
producing at the same time a slice of bread and meat, and a flask of
wine.

"Oh, how kind!  What care you take of me!" she said.  "But where are
we going?"

"Wherever you command," he said.  "I had thought of Carisbrooke.
Cutts is there, and it would be the speediest way."

"Would it not be the most dangerous for you?"

"I care very little for my life after this."

"Oh no, no, you must not say so.  After what you are doing for me
you will be able to make it better than ever it has been.  This is
what I thought.  If you would bring me in some place whence I could
reach Sir Edmund Nutley's house at Parkhurst, his servants would
help me to do the rest, even if he be not there himself.  I would
never betray you!  You know I would not!  And you would have full
time to get away to your place in Normandy with your friends."

"You care?" asked he.

"Of course I do!" exclaimed she.  "Do I not feel grateful to you,
and like and honour you better than ever I could have thought?"

"You do?" in a strange choked tone.

"Of course I do.  You are doing a noble, thankworthy thing.  It is
not only that I thank you for _his_ sake, but it is a grand and
beautiful deed in itself; and if my dear mother know, she is
blessing you for it."

"I shall remember those words," he said, "if--" and he passed his
hand over his eyes.  "See here," he presently said; "I have written
out a confession of my identity, and explanation that it was I who
drew first on Archfield.  It is enough to save him, and in case my
handwriting has altered, as I think it has, and there should be
further doubt, I shall be found at Pilpignon, if I get away.  You
had better keep it in case of accidents, or if you carry out your
generous plan.  Say whatever you please about me, but there is no
need to mention Barclay or Burford; and it would not be fair to the
honest free-traders here to explain where their Chine lies.  I
should have brought you up blindfold, if I could have done so with
safety, not that _I_ do not trust you, but I should be better able
to satisfy those fellows if I ever see them again, by telling them I
have sworn you to secrecy."

Then he laughed.  "The gowks!  I won all those Indian bonds of them
last night, but left them in a parcel addressed to them as a
legacy."

Anne took the required pledge, and ventured to ask, "Shall I say
anything for you to your father?"

"My poor old father!  Let him know that I neither would nor could
disturb Robert in his inheritance, attainted traitor as the laws
esteem me.  For the rest, mayhap I shall write to him if the good
angel you talk of will help me."

"Oh do!  I am sure he would rejoice to forgive.  He is much
softened."

"Now, we must hush, and go warily.  I see sheep, and if there is a
shepherd, I want him not to see us, or point our way.  It is well
these Isle of Wight folk are not early risers."



CHAPTER XXXIV: LIFE FOR LIFE


"Follow Light, and do the Right--for man can half-control his doom--
Till you find the deathless Angel seated in the vacant tomb.

Forward, let the stormy moment fly and mingle with the Past.
I that loathed, have come to love him.  Love will conquer at the last."

TENNYSON.

On they had gone in silence for the most part, avoiding villages,
but as the morning advanced and they came into more inhabited
places, they were not able entirely to avoid meeting labourers going
out to work, who stared at Hans's black face with curiosity.  The
sun was already high when they reached a cross-road whence the
massive towers of Carisbrooke were seen above the hedges, and
another turn led to Parkhurst.  They paused a moment, and Anne was
beginning to entreat her escort to leave her to proceed alone, when
the sound of horses' feet galloping was heard behind them.
Peregrine looked back.

"Ah!" he said.  "Ride on as fast as you can towards the castle.  You
will be all right.  I will keep them back.  Go, I say."

And as some figures were seen at the end of the road, he pricked the
pony with the point of his sword so effectually that it bolted
forward, quite beyond Anne's power of checking it, and in a second
or two its speed was quickened by shouts and shots behind.  Anne
felt, but scarcely understood at the moment, a sharp pang and thrill
in her left arm, as the steed whirled her round the corner of the
lane and full into the midst of a party of gentlemen on horseback
coming down from the castle.

"Help! help!" she cried.  "Down there."

Attacks by highwaymen were not uncommon experiences, though scarcely
at eight o'clock in the morning, or so near a garrison, but the
horsemen, having already heard the shots, galloped forward.  Perhaps
Anne could hardly have turned her pony, but it chose to follow the
lead of its fellows, and in a few seconds they were in the midst of
a scene of utter confusion.  Peregrine was grappling with Burford
trying to drag him from his horse.  Both fell together, and as the
auxiliaries came in sight there was another shot and two more men
rode off headlong.

"Follow them!" said a commanding voice.  "What have we here?"

The two struggling figures both lay still for a moment or two, but
as some of the riders drew them apart Peregrine sat up, though blood
was streaming down his breast and arm.  "Sir," he said, "I am
Peregrine Oakshott, on whose account young Archfield lies under
sentence of death.  If a magistrate will take my affidavit while I
can make it, he will be safe."

Then Anne heard a voice exclaiming:  "Oakshott!  Nay--why, this is
Mistress Woodford!  How came she here?" and she knew Sir Edmund
Nutley.  Still it was Peregrine who answered--

"I captured her, in the hope of marrying her, but that cannot be--I
have brought her back in all safety and honour."

"Sir!  Sir, indeed he has been very good to me.  Pray let him be
looked to."

"Let him be carried to the castle," said the commander of the party,
a tall man sunburnt to a fiery red.  "Is the other alive?"

"Only stunned, my lord, I think and not much hurt," was the answer
of an attendant officer; "but here is a poor blackamoor dead."

"Poor Hans!  Best so perhaps," murmured Peregrine, as he was lifted.
Then in a voice of alarm, "Look to the lady, she is hurt."

"It is nothing," cried she.  "O Mr. Oakshott! that this should have
happened!"

"My lord, this is the young gentlewoman I told you of, betrothed to
poor young Archfield," said Sir Edmund Nutley.

Lord Cutts, for it was indeed William's favoured 'Salamander,' took
off his plumed hat in salutation, and both gentlemen perceiving that
she too was bleeding, she was solicitously invited to the castle, to
be placed under the charge of the lieutenant-governor's wife.  She
found by this time that she was in a good deal of pain, and
thankfully accepted the support Sir Edmund offered her, when he
dismounted and walked beside her pony, while explanations passed
between them.  The weather had prevented any communication with the
mainland, so that he was totally ignorant of her capture, and did
not know what had become of Mr. Fellowes.  He himself had been just
starting with Lord Cutts, who was going to join the King for his
next campaign, and they were to represent the case to the King.
Anne told him in return what she dared to say, but she was becoming
so faint and dazed that she was in great fear of not saying what she
ought; and indeed she could hardly speak, when after passing under
the great gateway, she was lifted off her horse, at the door of the
dwelling-house, and helped upstairs to a bedroom, where the wife of
the lieutenant-governor, Mrs. Dudley, was very tender over her with
essences and strong waters, and a surgeon of the suite almost
immediately came to her.

"Oh," she exclaimed, "you should be with Mr. Oakshott."

The surgeon explained that Mr. Oakshott would have nothing done for
him till he had fully made and signed his deposition, in case the
power should afterwards be wanting.

So Anne submitted to the dressing of her hurt, which was only a
flesh wound, the bone being happily untouched.  Both the surgeon and
Mrs. Dudley urged her going to bed immediately, but she was
unwilling to put herself out of reach; and indeed the dressing was
scarcely finished before Sir Edmund Nutley knocked at the door to
ask whether she could admit him.

"Lord Cutts is very desirous of speaking with you, if you are able,"
he said.  "Here has this other fellow come round, declaring that
Oakshott is the Pilpignon who was in the Barclay Plot, and besides,
the prime leader of the Black Gang, of whom we have heard so much."

"The traitor!" cried Anne.  "Poor Mr. Oakshott was resolved not to
betray him!  How is he--Mr. Oakshott, I mean?"

"The surgeon has him in his hands.  We will send another from
Portsmouth, but it looks like a bad case.  He made his confession
bravely, though evidently in terrible suffering, seeming to keep up
by force of will till he had totally exonerated Archfield and signed
the deposition, and then he fainted, so that I thought him dead, but
I fear he has more to go through.  Can you come to the hall, or
shall I bring Lord Cutts to you?  We must hasten in starting that we
may bring the news to Winchester to-night."

Anne much preferred going to the hall, though she felt weak enough
to be very glad to lean on Sir Edmund's arm.

Lord Cutts, William's high-spirited and daring officer, received her
with the utmost courtesy and kindness, inquired after her hurt, and
lamented having to trouble her, but said that though he would not
detain her long, her testimony was important, and he begged to hear
what had happened to her.

She gave the account of her capture and journey as shortly as she
could.

"Whither was she taken?"

She paused.  "I promised Mr. Oakshott for the sake of others--" she
said.

"You need have no scruples on that score," said Lord Cutts.
"Burford hopes to get off for the murder by turning King's evidence,
and has told all."

"Yes," added Sir Edmund; "and poor Oakshott managed to say, 'Tell
her she need keep nothing back.  It is all up.'"

So Anne answered all the questions put to her, and they were the
fewer both out of consideration for her condition, and because the
governor wanted to take advantage of the tide to embark on the
Medina.

In a very few hours the Archfields would have no more fears.  Anne
longed to go with Sir Edmund, but she was in no state for a ride,
and could not be a drag.  Sir Edmund said that either his wife would
come to her at once and take her to Parkhurst, or else her uncle
would be sure to come for her.  She would be the guest of Major and
Mrs. Dudley, who lived in the castle, the actual Lord Warden only
visiting it from time to time; and though Major Dudley was a stern
man, both were very kind to her.

As a Whig, Major Dudley knew the Oakshott family, and was willing to
extend his hospitality even to the long-lost Peregrine.  The Lord
Warden, who was evidently very favourably impressed, saying that
there was no need at present to treat him as a prisoner, but that
every attention should be paid to him, as indeed he was evidently a
dying man.  Burford and another of his associates were to be carried
off, handcuffed, with the escort to Winchester jail, but before the
departure, the soldiers who had been sent to the Chine returned
baffled; the place was entirely deserted, and Barclay had escaped.

Anne allowed herself to be put to bed, being indeed completely
exhausted, and scarcely able to think of anything but the one
blessed certainty that Charles was safe, and freed from all stigma.
When, after the pain in her arm lulled enough to allow her to sleep,
she had had a few hours' rest, she inquired for Peregrine, she heard
that for many hours the surgeon had been trying to extract the
balls, and that they considered that the second shot had made his
case hopeless, as it was in the body.  He was so much exhausted as
to be almost unconscious; but the next morning, when Anne, against
the persuasions of her hostess, had risen and been dressed, though
still feeling weak and shaken, she received a message, begging her
to do him the great kindness of visiting him.

Deadly pale, almost gray, as he looked, lying so propped with
pillows as to relieve his shattered shoulder, his face had a strange
look of peace, almost of relief, and he smiled at her as she
entered.  He held out the hand he could use, and his first word was
of inquiry after her hurt.

"That is nothing--it will soon be well; I wish it were the same with
you."

"Nay, I had rather cheat the hangman.  I told those doctors
yesterday that they were giving themselves and me a great deal of
useless trouble.  The villains, as I told you, could not believe we
should not betray them, and meant to make an end of us all.  It's
best as it is.  My poor faithful Hans would never have had another
happy moment."

"But you must be better, Peregrine," for his voice, though low, was
steady.

"There's no living with what I have here," he said, laying his hand
on his side; "and--I dreamt of your mother last night."  With the
words there was a look of gladness exceeding.

"Ah! the Evil Angel is gone!"

"I want your prayers that he may not come back at the last."  Then,
as she clasped her hands, and her lips moved, he added, "There were
some things I could only say to you.  If they don't treat my body as
that of an attainted traitor, let me lie at your mother's feet.
Don't disturb the big Scot for me, but let me rest at last near her.
Then tell Robin 'tis not out of want of regard for him that I have
not bequeathed Pilpignon to him, but he could do no good with a
French estate full of Papists; and there's a poor loyal fellow,
living ruined at Paris--a Catholic too--with a wife and children
half starved, to whom it will do more good."

"I meant to ask--Shall a priest be sent for?  Surely Major Dudley
would consent."

"I don't know.  I have not loved such priests lately.  I had rather
die as near your mother as may be."

"Miss Woodford," said a voice at the door, and going to it, Anne
found herself clasped in her uncle's arms.  With very few words she
led him to the bedside, and the first thing he said was "God bless
you, Peregrine, for what you have done."

Again Peregrine's face lighted up, but fell again when he was told
of the Portsmouth surgeon's arrival at the same time, saying with
one of his strange looks that it was odd sort of mercy to try to
cure a man for Jack Ketch, but that he should baffle them yet.

"Do not set your mind on that," said Dr. Woodford, "for Lord Cutts
was so much pleased with you that he would do his utmost on your
behalf."

"Much good that would do me," said poor Peregrine, setting his teeth
as his tormentor came in.

Meantime, in Mrs. Dudley's parlour, while that good lady was
assisting the surgeon at the dressing, Anne and her uncle exchanged
information.  Mr. Fellowes had arrived on foot at about noon, with
his servant, having only been released after two hours by a
traveller, and having been deprived both of money and horses, so
that he could not proceed on his journey; besides that he had given
the alarm about the abduction, and raised the hue and cry at the
villages on his way.  There had been great distress, riding and
searching, and the knowledge had been kept from poor Charles
Archfield in his prison.  Mr. Fellowes had gone on to London as soon
as possible, and Dr. Woodford had just returned from a fruitless
attempt to trace his niece, when Sir Edmund Nutley and Lord Cutts
appeared, with the joyful tidings, which, however, could be hardly
understood.

Nothing, Dr. Woodford said, could be more thorough than the
vindication of Charles Archfield.  Peregrine had fully stated that
the young man had merely interposed to prevent the pursuit of Anne
Woodford, that it was he himself who had made the first attack, and
that his opponent had been forced to fight in self-defence.  Lord
Cutts had not only shown his affidavit to Sir Philip, but had paid a
visit to the Colonel himself in his prison, had complimented him
highly on his services in the Imperial army, only regretting that
they had not been on behalf of his own country, and had assured him
of equal, if not superior rank, in the British army if he would join
it on the liberation that he might reckon upon in the course of a
very few days.

"How did you work on the unhappy young man to bring about this
blessed change?" asked the Doctor.

"Oh, sir, I do not think it was myself.  It was first the mercy of
the Almighty, and then my blessed mother's holy memory working on
him, revived by the sight of myself.  I cannot describe to you how
gentle, and courteous, and respectful he was to me all along, though
I am sure those dreadful men mocked at him for it.  Do you know
whether his father has heard?"

"Robert Oakshott is gone in search of him.  He had set off to beat
up the country, good old man, to obtain signatures to the petition
in favour of our prisoner, and Robert expected to find him with Mr.
Chute at the Vine.  It is much to that young man's credit, niece, he
was so eager to see his brother that he longed to come with me
himself; but he thought that the shock to his father would be so
great that he ought to bear the tidings himself.  And what do you
think his good wife is about?  Perhaps you did not know that Sedley
Archfield brought away jail fever with him, and Mrs. Oakshott,
feeling that she was the cause by her hasty action, has taken
lodgings for him in Winchester, and is nursing him like a sister.
No.  You need not fear for your colonel, my dear maid.  Sedley
caught the infection because he neither was, nor wished to be,
secluded from the rest of the prisoners, some of whom were, I fear,
only too congenial society to him.  But now tell me the story of
your own deliverance, which seems to me nothing short of
miraculous."

The visit of the Portsmouth surgeon only confirmed Peregrine's own
impression that it was impossible that he should live, and he was
only surviving by the strong vitality in his little, spare, wiry
frame.  Dr. Woodford, after hearing Anne's story, thought it well to
ask him whether he would prefer the ministrations of a Roman
Catholic priest; but whether justly or unjustly, Peregrine seemed to
impute to that Church the failure to exorcise the malignant spirit
which had led him to far worse aberrations than he had confessed to
Anne.  Though by no means deficient in knowledge or controversian
theology, as Dr. Woodford soon found in conversation with him, his
real convictions were all as to what personally affected him, and
his strong Protestant ingrain education, however he might have
disavowed it, no doubt had affected his point of view.  He had
admired and been strongly influenced by the sight of real devotion
and holiness, though as his temptations and hatred of monotony
recurred, he had more than once swung back again.  Then, however, he
had been revolted by the perception of the concessions to popular
superstition and the morality of a wicked state of society.  His
real sense of any religion had been infused by Mrs. Woodford, and to
her belongings, and the faith they involved, he was clinging in
these last days.

Dr. Woodford could not but be glad that thus it was, not only on the
penitent's own account, but on that of the father, who might have
lost the comfort of finding him truly repentant in the shock of
finding a Popish priest at his bedside.  And indeed the contrition
seemed to have gathered force in many a past fit of remorse, and now
was deep but not unhopeful.

In the evening the father and brother arrived.  The Major was now an
old man, hale indeed, and with the beauty that a pure, self-
restrained life often sheds on an aged man.  He was much shaken, and
when he came in, with his own white hair on his shoulders, and
actually tears in his eyes, the look that passed between them was
like nothing but the spirit of the parable so often, but never too
often, repeated.

Peregrine, who never perhaps had spent a happy or fearless hour with
him, and had dreaded his coming, felt probably for the first time
the mysterious sense of home and peace given by the presence of
those between whom there is the tie of blood.  Not many words
passed; he was hardly in a state for them, but from that time, he
was never so happy as when his father and brother were beside him;
and they seldom left him, the Major sitting day and night by his
pillow attending to his wants, or saying words of prayer.

The old man had become much softened, by nothing more perhaps than
watching the way in which his daughter-in-law dealt with the
manifestations of the Oakshott imp nature in her eldest child.

"If I had understood," he said to Dr. Woodford.  "If I had so
treated that poor boy, never would he have been as he is now."

"You acted according to your conscience."

"Ah, sir! a man does not grow old without learning that the
conscience may be blinded, above all by the spirit of opposition and
party."

"I will not say there were no mistakes," said the Doctor; "and yet,
sir, the high standard, sound principle, and strong faith he learnt
from you and your example have prevailed to bear him through."

The Major answered with a groan, but added, "And yet, even now,
stained as he tells me he is, and cut off in the flower of his age,
I thank my God and his Saviour, and after Him, you and yours, that I
am happier about him than I have been these eight and twenty years."

With no scruple, Major Oakshott threw his heart into the
ministrations of Dr. Woodford, which Peregrine declared kept at bay
the Evil Angel who more than once seemed to his consciousness to be
striving to make him despair, while friend and father brought him
back to the one hope.

From time to time Anne visited him for a short interval, always to
his joy and gratitude.  There was one visit at last which all knew
would be the final one, when she shared in his first and last
English Communion.  As she was about to leave him, he held her hand,
and signed to her to bend down to hear him better.  "If you can, let
good Father Seyton at Douai know that peace is come--the Evil One
beaten, thanks to Him who giveth us the victory--and I thank them
all there--and ask their prayers."

"I will, I will."

Some one at the door said, "May I come in?"

There was a sunburnt face, a head with long brown hair, a white
coat.

"Archfield?" asked Peregrine.  "Come, send me away with pardon."

"'Tis yours I need;" and as Charles knelt by the bed the two faces,
one all health, the other gray and deathly, were close together.
"You have given your life for mine, and given _her_.  How shall I
thank you?"

"Make her happy.  She deserves it."

Charles clasped her hand with a look that was enough.  Then with a
strange smile, half sweetness, half the contortion of a mortal pang,
the dying man said, "May she kiss me once?"

And when her lips had touched the cold damp brow--

"There--My fourth seven.  At last!  The change is come.  Old--
impish--evil--self left behind.  At last!  Thanks to Him who treads
down Satan under our feet.  Thanks!  Take her away now."

Charles took her away, scarce knowing where they went,--out into the
spring sunshine, on the slopes above the turf bowling-green, where
the captive King had beguiled his weary hours.  Only then would awe
and emotion let them speak, though his arm was round her, her hand
in his, and his first words were, as he looked at the scarf that
still bore up her arm, "And this is what you have borne for me?"

"It is all but healed.  Don't think of it."

"I shall all my life!  Poor fellow, he might well bid me deserve
you.  I never can.  'Tis to you I owe all.  I believe, indeed, the
ambassador might have claimed me, but he is so tardy that probably I
should have been hanged long before the proper form was ready; and
it would have been to exile, and with a tainted name.  You have won
for me the clearing of name and honour--home, parents and child and
all, besides your sweet self."

"And it was not me, but he whom we so despised and dreaded.  Had I
not been seized, I could only have implored for you."

"I know this, that if you had not been what you are, my boy would
have borne a dishonoured name, and we should never have been
together as now."

It was in truth their first meeting in freedom and security as
lovers; but it could only be in a grave, quiet fashion, under the
knowledge that he, to whom their re-union was chiefly owing, was
breathing out the life he had sacrificed for them.  Thus they only
gently and in a low voice went over their past doings and feelings
as they walked up and down together, till Dr. Woodford came in the
sunset to tell them that the change so longed for had come in peace,
and with a smile that told of release from the Evil Angel.

* * * * *

Peregrine's wish was fulfilled, and he was buried in Portchester
Churchyard at Mrs. Woodford's feet.  This time it was Mr.
Horncastle, old as he was, who preached the funeral sermon, the In
Memoriam of our forefathers; and by special desire of Major Oakshott
took for his text, 'At evening time there shall be light.'  He
spoke, sometimes in a voice broken, as much by feeling as by age, of
the childhood blighted by a cruel superstition, and perverted, as he
freely made confession, by discipline without comprehension, because
no confidence had been sought.  Then ensued a tribute of earnest,
generous justice to her who had done her best to undo the warp in
the boy's nature, and whose blessed influence the young man had
owned to the last, through all the temptations, errors, and frenzies
of his life.  Nor did the good man fail to make this a means of
testifying to the entire neighbourhood, who had flocked to hear him,
all that might be desirable to be known respecting the conflict at
Portchester, actually reading Peregrine's affidavit, as indeed was
due to Colonel Archfield, so as to prove that this was no mere
pardon, though technically it had so to stand, but actual acquittal.
Nor was the struggle with evil at the end forgotten, nor the
surrender alike of love and of hatred, as well as of his own life,
which had been the final conquest, the decisive passing from
darkness to light.

It was a strange sermon according to present ideas, but not to those
who had grown up to the semi-political preaching of the century then
in its last decade; and it filled many eyes with tears, many hearts
with a deeper spirit of that charity which hopeth all things.

* * * * *

A month later Charles Archfield and Anne Jacobina Woodford were
married at the little parish church of Fareham.  Sir Philip insisted
on making it a gay and brilliant wedding, in order to demonstrate to
the neighbourhood that though the maiden had been his grandson's
governess, she was a welcomed and honoured acquisition to the
family.  Perhaps too he perceived the error of his middle age, when
he contrasted that former wedding, the work of worldly
conventionality, with the present.  In the first, an unformed,
undeveloped lad, unable to understand his own true feelings and
affections had been passively linked to a shallow, frivolous, ill-
trained creature, utterly incapable of growing into a helpmeet for
him; whereas the love and trust of the stately-looking pair, in the
fresh bloom of manhood and womanhood, had been proved in the furnace
of trial, so that the troth they plighted had deep foundation for
the past, and bright hope for the future.

Nor was anybody more joyous than little Philip, winning his Nana for
a better mother to him than his own could ever have been

It was in a blue velvet coat that Colonel Archfield was married.  He
had resigned his Austrian commission; and though the 'Salamander,'
was empowered to offer him an excellent staff appointment in the
English army, he decided to refuse.  Sir Philip showed signs of
having been aged and shaken by the troubles of the winter, and
required his son's assistance in the care of his property, and
little Philip was growing up to need a father's hand, so that
Charles came to the conclusion that there was no need to cross the
old Cavalier's dislike to the new regime, nor to make his mother and
wife again suffer the anxieties of knowing him on active service,
while his duties lay at home.

Sedley Archfield, after a long illness, owed recovery both in body
and mind to Mrs. Oakshott, and by her arrangement finally obtained a
fresh commission in a regiment raised for the defence of the
possessions of the East India Company.  And that the poor changeling
was still tenderly remembered might be proved by the fact that when
the bells rung for Queen Anne's coronation there was one baby
Peregrine at Fareham and another at Oakwood.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Reputed Changeling - Or Three Seventh Years Two Centuries Ago" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
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.



Home