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Title: Garrick's Pupil
Author: Filon, Auguston
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Book Cover]



GARRICK'S PUPIL.



GARRICK'S PUPIL

By AUGUSTIN FILON

_Translated by_
J. V. PRICHARD

Illustrated


[Illustration]


CHICAGO
A. C. McCLURG & COMPANY
1893



COPYRIGHT,
BY A. C. MCCLURG & CO.
A. D. 1893.



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
     I. PAINTER AND MODEL                                              7
    II. A SUPPER AT SIR JOSHUA'S                                      22
   III. LADY VEREKER'S BOUDOIR                                        33
    IV. THE BROOKS CLUB                                               42
     V. A STRANGE EDUCATION                                           58
    VI. THE HOUSE IN TOTHILL FIELDS                                   71
   VII. CONFIDENCES                                                   81
  VIII. MR. FISHER'S SUBSTITUTE                                       97
    IX. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING                                       106
     X. DEATH TO THE PAPISTS                                         117
    XI. THE DAY OF DAYS                                              132
   XII. THE MASQUERADE AT THE PANTHEON                               143
  XIII. MOWBRAY'S FOLLY AT CHELSEA                                   156
   XIV. VAIN QUESTS                                                  171
    XV. SANCTUARY                                                    184
   XVI. GAMES OF DEATH AND CHANCE                                    194
  XVII. HORACE AND SHAKESPEARE                                       208



CHAPTER I.

PAINTER AND MODEL.


Just as the third hour of the afternoon had sounded from the belfry of
Saint Martin's-in-the-Fields, a hackney coach drew up before the most
pretentious mansion upon the west side of Leicester Fields; and while
the coachman hastened to agitate the heavy door-knocker, a young woman,
almost a child, sprang out upon the pavement without waiting to have the
shaky steps unfolded and lowered for her convenience. Her dust-colored
mantle, disarranged by her rapid movements, revealed a rich costume
beneath; while the dazzled passer-by might have caught a glimpse, amidst
the whiteness of the elevated skirts, of a tiny pair of red satin
slippers and two slender, exquisitely moulded ankles finely clad in
silken hose with embroidered clocks.

The girl turned and assisted a more aged woman, leaning upon a
crutch-headed cane, to descend. This lady wore the big straw bonnet and
gray gown of the Quaker persuasion,--a rigidly simple costume, which
occasionally is becoming to extreme youth, but rarely enhances maturer
charms.

It was one of those glorious days of the English springtide when life
seems endurable even to the hapless, grateful even to the invalid. A
bland breeze rustled the branches of the grand old trees which in double
rows framed the open square. Several children were at play upon the
spacious grass-plot, which was intersected by diagonal paths of yellow
sand. The square was silent, and slept in the voluptuous warmth of the
perfect afternoon; but from the north side came the bustle and confusion
that resembled the turmoil of some festival. It was the continuous din
of the two tides of life which here meet and cross each other, the one
surging from Covent Garden and Chancery Lane, the other from Piccadilly
and St. James's. Pedestrians and horsemen, coaches and sedan chairs,
went to make up a glittering, varied hodgepodge, amidst which
flower-girls and newsboys fought their way, together with the venders of
"hot buns." Gentlemen saluted with exaggerated gesture, pressing their
cocked hats to their breasts and affectedly inclining their heads
towards their right shoulder; while the ladies fluttered their fans and
nodded the edifices of flowers and feathers which served in lieu of a
head-dress. The intoxicating odor of iris powder, of benzoin, bergamot,
and patchouli floated upon the air. The beggars leaning against the
railing of the square and the Irish chairmen indolently smoking their
pipes, for whom life is but a spectacle, watched the passage of others'
happiness. A bright, genial sun polished the flanks of the plaster horse
in the centre of the square, upon which rode a prince of the House of
Hanover. It shone upon the head of the gilded cock which served as sign
to Hogarth's old shop, flamed upon the windows of Newton's sham
observatory, glistened upon the roofs, played along the line of
coaches, set tiny mirrors upon the harnesses of the horses, glittered in
the diamonds in the women's ears, and on the swords that clattered
against the men's legs, set a spangle here or a spark there, and bathed
all things in a blaze of light and joy.

Meanwhile a lackey in a livery embroidered in silver had opened the door
to the two women.

"Sir Joshua Reynolds?"

The lackey hesitated, but at the moment Ralph, the painter's
confidential man, appeared upon the steps.

"Miss Woodville?" he inquired in his turn.

"Yes," replied the girl.

"Be good enough to follow me, Miss Woodville"; adding with a smile, "You
are prompt."

"It is the custom of the theatre. Lean upon my arm, aunt."

At this moment Miss Woodville was saluted with a "good-morning" uttered
by so strange, so guttural, so piercing a voice that she involuntarily
started.

"Don't be alarmed," said Ralph; "it is the bird."

"What bird?"

"Sir Joshua's parrot. He was in the courtyard, but had to be removed to
the dining-room because he fought with the eagle."

"An eagle! a parrot! Pray what are they doing here?"

"They pose. Miss Woodville must have noticed them in more than one of
Sir Joshua's pictures. Oh, we all take our turns in sitting as models to
him. Yesterday I was a shepherd; the day before, a sea-god."

The good man drew himself up at the recollection of the lofty dignity
with which his master's confidence had invested him.

Thus chatting, they reached the first floor. Ralph introduced the ladies
into a gallery filled with roughly sketched canvases. He knocked twice
upon the door at the extreme end, but received no response.

"How deaf the President grows!" he murmured, shaking his head.

Without further delay he opened the door.

Miss Woodville and her companion found themselves upon the threshold of
quite a spacious chamber, lighted by a large window facing the north and
nine feet in height.

The room contained an easel upon which rested a white canvas; near the
easel stood a large mirror; upon a table near by lay the palette, all
ready and fresh, with a row of little paint jars. The model's chair,
raised upon a dais and revolving upon a pivot, was placed next to that
of the painter, and opposite the mirror. About the room several sofas
were arranged. There were no knickknacks; no cluttering; nothing to
offend the sight, unless it was that just about the painter's chair the
floor was black with snuff.

The man who advanced slowly to meet the strangers, making use of his
maul-stick as a cane, while in the other he carried a silver
ear-trumpet, was none other than Sir Joshua Reynolds himself, the
greatest painter of women that the world has ever known.

The first impression he made upon his visitors was disappointing,
indefinable.

That expansive brow which the hair, brushed straightly back, disclosed
did not lack nobility; but the under lip, cleft by a wound and shrunken
in the middle, lent to the mouth an expression at once unpleasant and
strained. The eyes were concealed behind the crystalline glimmer of
spectacles securely attached to the back of the head by broad black
ribbons. The spare, calmly cold figure bore neither the trace of precise
age nor the certainty of sex. At some distance and in obscurity one
would have hesitated to pronounce it as that of a youth or an aged
woman. Perhaps in some way the air of indecision and anxiety was due to
that expression peculiar to those afflicted with deafness whose aim it
is to dissimulate their infirmity.

He cast upon the old Quakeress a rapid, searching glance; then his eyes
rested complacently upon Miss Woodville; his features, cold to
unpleasantness, softened and became animated. Already had he painted
three thousand portraits, but, far from being weary of his profession,
his enthusiasm for the wonders of the human physiognomy increased each
time that he found himself in the presence of a new model. Each time he
thought, "_This_ will be my _chef-d'oeuvre_!"

The girl was quickly relieved of her mantle, which Ralph laid aside. She
was dressed in the costume of Rosalind, as she had appeared at Drury
Lane for the first time six months previously,--memorable night! when
she had only to show herself to vanquish and carry by storm the hearts
of all London.

A wide-brimmed hat of gray felt with plumes, a corsage of rose-pink
taffety embroidered in silver, and a skirt of green velvet closely
plaited--such was the costume.

The small, childish head, framed in a profusion of chestnut curls, was
illumined by a pair of great brown eyes. With the eye of a connoisseur
Reynolds regarded the delicate complexion, over which ran at the
slightest provocation the rosiest of blushes, and over which every throb
of the heart sent a hint of the tide of life, regarded that brilliant,
mobile glance of the eye, in the depths of which played every
description of piqued curiosity and _naïf_ desire, lost in the riotous
joy of living, of being sweet sixteen, celebrated and beautiful.

"Sit there, Miss Woodville," said the President of the Royal Academy,
indicating the pivot chair.

"What! Ought I not to be placed opposite you?"

"No; rather at my side. We shall both benefit by the arrangement.
Instead of looking at an ugly old painter, you will perceive your own
charming image in the mirror and will smile upon it, while I have my
sketch all done for me."

The old lady had drawn a roll of bank-notes from her pocket, which she
proceeded carefully to count and re-count.

"I believe it is the custom," she said.

Sir Joshua acquiesced in silence with a cold smile. An able accountant
and serious man of business, this President of the Royal Academy! The
price of his portraits was invariably paid him, one half on the occasion
of the first sitting, the remainder on the day that the finished work
was delivered. As to the price, it varied according to the dimension; it
had also varied with the epoch and had increased with the reputation of
the artist. A full-length portrait cost at that time (1780) one hundred
and fifty pounds sterling.

The Quakeress, therefore, placed upon a table seventy-five pounds in
notes and gold pieces bearing the effigy of George III. As Miss
Woodville was not yet sufficiently wealthy to order a portrait from the
great painter, a group of enthusiastic amateurs had raised the necessary
money in order to decorate the lobby of the theatre with the portrait.

"Am I permitted to talk?" inquired the girl.

"As much as you please."

"Oh, that's good!" she said, drawing a breath of relief; "and may I ask
a question?"

"Ten, if you see fit."

"Sir Joshua, why are you making me so deathly white? I look like a
statue."

Reynolds smiled.

"What will you say at the next sitting? I shall tint you all in Naples
yellow."

"Fie!--horrors! Why do you do that?"

"Ah, that is my little secret! My enemies pretend that I have scraped a
Watteau, others say a Titian, in order to discover the successive layers
of color and surprise the method of these masters. And why should I not?
All means are justifiable so long as one succeeds in imitating life.
Others pretend that I paint on wax. They may say what they please.
Hudson, my master, painted exceedingly well on cheese."

"On cheese!" exclaimed Miss Woodville with a laugh; "fancy a painting on
cheese!"

"Exactly so."

Thereupon ensued a pause, during which the canvas was heard to crack
beneath the pencil, while the old lady's needles clicked where she sat
knitting. Evidently ill at ease, Reynolds fretted upon his chair. At
last he turned towards the Quakeress and courteously remarked, "The time
will hang heavily upon your hands, madam."

"I have brought my work, and have no end of patience," she replied.

"That may be; but the first sitting is always tedious. Moreover, I need
to become intimately acquainted with my model, and since Miss Woodville
does not play this evening, I count upon keeping your niece for supper,
if you have no objection. I am to have a few friends here, for whom my
sister will do the honors as hostess,--Mr. Burke, Dr. Johnson, my
charming neighbor, Miss Burney."

"The author of 'Evelina'! Oh, I long to meet her!"

"So you see, madam, you may spare yourself a tedious wait, and without
fear leave Miss Woodville in my care. I shall make it my duty to see
that she is returned to you properly escorted."

Thus politely dismissed, the old lady regretfully arose, but seemed
still to hesitate.

"Go, aunt, or you will miss the reunion of 'The Favorites of Jesus
Christ,' of whom you are the presiding officer," suggested the younger
lady.

Whether influenced by this consideration, or whether she found it
difficult to resist the desire which the painter had so delicately
expressed, the Quakeress retired, escorted even to the threshold by Sir
Joshua.

"Are you aware," he asked, returning to his model, "of my true purpose
in sending this lady away?"

"In truth, no."

"Because she constrains you; because she casts a shadow upon your youth
and gayety; in a word, because she prevents you from being yourself."

"Pray, how could you divine that?"

"My dear child, I have already deciphered three thousand human visages,
and why should I not have learned to read the soul a little? The lady is
your aunt?"

"Yes,--at least I have been told to call her so."

"And your parents?"

"My mother is dead; I never knew her. My father has travelled for the
past fifteen years in foreign lands; perhaps I shall never see him.
While a mere child I was placed in Miss Hannah More's boarding-school at
Bristol. One day we learned that our mistress was a poetic genius, that
Dr. Johnson himself had deigned to encourage her. You cannot imagine,
Sir Joshua, what a sensation the tidings created among us girls! We all
sighed to compose verse--or to recite. It was discovered that I spoke
rather better than the others. I swear to you that I was possessed of
but one desire,--to appear in costume, to escape from that frightful
gray gown and that horrible Quaker bonnet in which we were all hooded.
One day I was made to declaim before Mr. Garrick. He wished to give me
lessons and make an actress of me. And a few months later I made my
_début_."

"And a genuine triumph it was! I was there."

"It was then that I was informed that I had an aunt, a sister of my
mother, and I was forthwith placed in her care, in her guardianship."

"And she has rigorously acquitted herself of the mission which was
confided to her."

The child heaved a deep sigh.

"Ah, Sir Joshua! It is not that she is unkind in any way, but she is my
constant shadow. In the wings, in the greenroom, at the rehearsals, she
is ever at my side, answering questions which are put to me, refusing
invitations, reading letters which are addressed to me, and forcing me
to sing psalms to put to rout the evil thoughts which I find in
Shakespeare!"

"I see; and you long to be free?"

"Oh, yes, passionately!"

"And what use would you make of your liberty?"

"Oh, I can't fancy. Perhaps I might love virtue if it were not crammed
down my throat."

"Good!"

"But you do not know the worst yet."

"Well?"

"The worst--is Reuben!"

"And who may Reuben be?"

"My cousin, my aunt's son; but he is no Quaker. He belongs to one of
those old, rigid, cruel sects which have been perpetuated in shadow
since the days of the Puritans. He is a fanatic; it would rejoice his
heart to plunge into a sea of papist blood; meanwhile he torments me."

"Perhaps he loves you?"

"Yes, according to his light, which surely is not a fair light."

"And what is the proper method of loving?"

The girl burst into a coquettish laugh.

"You ask me more than I can tell, Sir Joshua."

"Indeed? Pray how, then, can one who is ignorant of the sentiment impart
its faithful presentment to others? How can she communicate an emotion
which finds no echo in her own soul? Who has the ability to teach her to
invest her voice, her gestures, her glance, her very smile, with the
woes and joys of love?"

"Garrick, I tell you!"

That name, cast haphazard into their conversation, caused a divergence.

"Poor Garrick!" exclaimed Reynolds ruefully; "it is scarcely yet a year
since we left him alone in his glory beneath the pavement of
Westminster."

The mobile countenance of the child actress reflected as a mirror the
sad memory evoked by the artist; a tear glistened upon the lashes of her
beautiful eyes.

"He was your friend?" she inquired.

"Oh, yes; one of whom I was very proud."

"Did you paint his portrait?"

"Many times. He posed marvellously, and never tormented me as he did one
of my fellow-artists to whom quite unwillingly he had accorded some
sittings."

"What did he do?"

"Changed his mask every five minutes, until the poor artist, believing
that he as often had a new model before him, or the devil, perhaps,
flung away his brushes in despair."

"Garrick once told me," said Esther Woodville, "that the son of a
friend, recently dead, had sought him to complain of some trickery by
which he had been deprived of a portion of his inheritance. A certain
old man, to whom the deceased had intrusted a considerable sum, denied
the trust and refused to make restitution. Do you know what Garrick did?
Arrayed in the attire of the dead, he played the ghost, and played it so
well that the wretch, terrified beyond measure, made confession and
restored the property."

"I never heard the anecdote; it is curious," said Reynolds, taking a
pinch of snuff.

He extended the open box to the actress, but she refused it with a
slight grimace.

"You make a mistake," he said; "this is some 37, Hardham's; our
_élégantes_ prefer it to any other." Then after a brief pause he added,
"Your physiognomy is scarcely less changeable than Garrick's; you have
laughed, you have wept; you have been gay, excited, mournful. Now, of
all these expressions which have chased each other over your charming
face--nay, do not blush; I am an old man--of all these varied
expressions which is the veritable, the dominant one,--the one which
expresses the character of your soul? As long as I fail to discover this
expression in the model, so long is my brush paralyzed. I am obliged to
seek until I find it. I have painted Garrick both in tragedy and comedy;
Admiral Keppel, sword in hand, upon the point of giving the order to
clear the decks for action; Kitty Fisher, at her toilet, since it was
her profession to be beautiful and to please. I have represented
Goldsmith writing the final pages of the 'Vicar' or the sweet verses of
the 'Deserted Village'; Sterne, thinking of poor Maria's suffering or of
the death of Lieut. Lefèvre. His wig was all awry and the rascal wanted
to straighten it. 'Let it be as it is!' I said to him; 'if it is
straight, you are no longer the author of 'Tristram Shandy.' When I
paint a child I give it some playthings; a young mother, I surround her
with her children. Notice this one, for instance--"

"That is my comrade, Mrs. Hartley."

"Exactly. She carries her little daughter upon her back and laughs
merrily. Fanciful maternity! There are mythological beauties and modern
beauties. The one will be a nymph and gently rest her limbs upon the
velvet sward in the genial atmosphere of a Grecian landscape; the
other, muffled up to her neck, her muff pressed to her nose, in order
to conceal a mouth that is a trifle expansive, elects to promenade the
denuded paths of her park and leave the imprint of her tiny, fur-clad
feet along the snow. It is the cold, you understand, which lends
brilliancy to the eyes and a rosy tip to the ear; it is the cold that
gives color and life. Thus I strive to place every human being in his or
her favorite attitude, amidst congenial surroundings, beneath the ray
which is best calculated to illumine. And I lie in wait for the divine
moment when the woman exhales all her seduction, the man all the power
of his mind."

He paused for a moment.

"Well, and you!" he continued quickly. "I have not found you yet; I have
no hold upon you. I must attempt some subterfuge."

Thereupon he raised his voice.

"Frank!--Frank!"

A masked door, which Esther had not remarked, opened almost immediately
and a young man of perhaps two and twenty years of age appeared upon the
threshold. Miss Woodville uttered a stifled cry and half rose from her
chair.

"My lord!" she breathed almost inaudibly; "how comes it that--you--"

"I see how it is!" remarked Sir Joshua; "you are the dupe of a
resemblance. Your gaze is not resting upon Lord Mowbray, but upon my
apprentice, Francis Monday. My dear Frank, be good enough to fall upon
your knees before this fair young woman and look at her as if you adored
her."

Pallid, mute, with lips tightly compressed, Frank stood motionless.

"I, Sir Joshua?" he faltered. "You wish me to--"

"Certainly! Now, then!"

[Illustration]

With evident effort the young man slowly advanced as if he were going to
execution. Beads of perspiration pearled upon his brow. Nevertheless,
disturbed though he was, the beauty of his features and the innate
nobility of his person prevented any awkwardness of carriage. With
drooping eyelids he fell upon his knees at the girl's feet, while at the
moment, as if actuated by some invincible power, he raised his glance
full of a desperate passion. Truly, for a timid boy taken unawares,
Frank played the comedy of love like a consummate master.

A rosy blush suffused Esther's features, entirely irradiating them, as a
summer's sunrise illumines the delicious purity of the dawn.
Astonishment, shame, pleasure, malice, every shade of sentiment was in
an instant born, in an instant expired, fading in a most ravishing
_mélange_. With head slightly inclined, bosom heaving, eyelids
trembling, and lips quivering, her whole being vibrated in unison with
the precipitate throbbing of her heart.

"Rosalind listening to Orlando's declaration!" exclaimed Sir Joshua. "I
have it! The portrait is assured! I have no further need of you, Frank."

The young man rose, his eyes still fixed upon Esther; then without a
word he directed his steps towards the masked door which had afforded
him access to the studio and vanished.

By slow degrees the blush which had invaded the girl's cheeks and brow
faded until not a vestige remained.



CHAPTER II.

A SUPPER AT SIR JOSHUA'S.


The company assembled in the Reynolds's drawing-room when the artist
entered, leading Miss Woodville by the hand, made such a palaver over
the young actress that it was quite enough to turn her head, had she not
already become accustomed to clamorous triumphs. She found herself in
the arms of three women at once, who emulously cajoled her, while the
men vied with them in paying flattering court. Despite her _aplomb_,
spoiled child that she was, she was becoming quite embarrassed in
responding to all the hand-pressures, the smiling eyes, the gracious
questions, when, fortunately for her, a footman announced supper; and
forthwith the company passed into the dining-room.

It was just five o'clock, and, being well aware of the rules of the
house, Sir Joshua's guests were all present, even in greater number than
was expected, as was frequently the case. On this account some little
confusion prevailed about the table, where each one seated himself
according to his fancy. There were not enough plates; one person
possessed a fork but no knife, while another was furnished with a knife
minus a fork: but at these gay, free-and-easy reunions such trifles were
passed over with a laugh. The master of the house, whose special delight
it was to chat with his guests, fluttered from one to the other,
ear-trumpet in hand, giving the entertainment not the slightest heed.
Miss Reynolds alone was in despair.

In point of fact, Miss Reynolds never appeared in any other attitude. A
genuine martyr was Miss Reynolds. Martyr to whom or what? It would be
difficult to explain. Following the example of her brother, she painted,
but, although she was the sister of a great artist, to her profound
surprise her pictures were detestable. Sir Joshua owned a great gilded
coach, upon the panels of which Hayman had painted the Seasons, but he
rarely availed himself of its comforts; instead, he obliged his sister
to drive out in it, and used to send her to the park "for the good of
her health." And the passers-by were astonished to see, shrinking in a
corner of the resplendent equipage, a woman who wept scalding tears. It
was Miss Reynolds, the everlasting martyr. Upon this particular occasion
she exerted herself to the last degree without producing the slightest
effect either upon her guests or her domestics.

In the midst of the excitement a woman of perhaps thirty years, arrayed
in a peach-bloom gown and a head-dress of lace, quickly approached
Esther. She was beautiful, of slender elegance, with eyes full of fire,
and cheeks of a violent tint; she spoke in a high-pitched key, and
altogether exhibited the assurance of a high-born lady. She promptly
pounced upon the girl and dragged her away with her.

"Miss Woodville, dear Miss Woodville! I want to be your friend! Sit
here, close to me."

And she murmured, with a singular mixture of affectation and passion,--

"How lovely she is! Do you know, little one, that we shall positively be
obliged to institute a body-guard, like my friends, Lady Coventry and
Lady Waldegrave, who go about everywhere escorted by two officers and a
dozen halberdiers to keep the crowd of their admirers at a distance?"

Esther leaned towards her neighbor, a man of middle age, whose
extraordinary plainness of feature rendered him in a way sympathetic and
assuring. Of him she inquired the name of the lady who so burned to be
her intimate friend. She learned that it was Lady Vereker, one of the
most pronounced women of the world of the period. In her turn Lady
Vereker hastened to inform Esther in a whisper that her neighbor was Mr.
Gibbon, quite an obscure member of Parliament and a commissioner of
trade.

"It is said that he has written a great work upon the Romans," added
Lady Vereker maliciously, "but to my thinking he does not look capable
of it."

In fact, Mr. Gibbon was paying his fair neighbor too assiduous court to
please her ladyship.

As no introductions were offered at Reynolds's house, in order to avoid
ceremonies of which fashionable persons were more weary than the rest of
the world, Esther knew none of the guests, and would have continued in
ignorance had not Mr. Gibbon named them; and he accompanied each name
with some neat, incisive, mocking little phrase, the secret of which he
had learned during his sojourn in France.

[Illustration]

"That great solemn figure is Mr. Burke," he explained. "He is vastly
eloquent; a huge merit in Parliament, but a sad fault at supper. He
shares his solicitude between Miss Burney and his son Richard. He
idolizes the boy and never loses sight of him; notice that at this
moment his arm is about his neck. He makes it his constant boast that
this boy will be a genius. For my part I doubt it. The Phoenix never
repeats himself!"

"But who is that strange personage seated on the other side of Miss
Burney,--the man with the monstrous head that keeps rolling from
shoulder to shoulder, with the twisted and seamed lips, and with eyes
both of which are never open at the same moment? Why, his face is a
positive grimace! He only succeeds in putting into his mouth half the
contents of his plate; and he does not drink, he precipitates the liquid
into his throat, and the descending nourishment is in a constant
struggle with the ascending words. He disgusts and frightens me, while
at the same time he attracts and interests. I am almost tempted to fall
in love with him!"

"Brava! There is a portrait which would do credit to our amphitryon. The
man is the one whom Chesterfield dubbed the respectable Hottentot; he is
the dictator of the republic of letters; in a word, it is Dr. Johnson.
That poor man whom you see, with straining eyes and ear bent towards the
Doctor, gathering the lightest word which falls from his lips, and who
will hand him down to posterity some day, is Boswell, his friend, his
fag, and his disciple. The man who is a disciple--a genuine one, I
mean--alone has sounded the depths of human folly. Perhaps it is Boswell
who has taught Johnson to despise men, and it is Boswell who will teach
men to admire Johnson. Now, just beyond Lady Vereker sits Mr. Hanway,
whose profile only is visible."

"And who is Mr. Hanway?"

"Very much of a fool in a good sense,--no rare virtue in this isle of
ours. He has written upon finance, peace, war, music, ventilation, the
poor, Canada; upon military diet, the police, prisons, chimney-sweeps,
and God Almighty."

"Is that all?" asked Esther with a laugh.

"I believe so, though he is capable of discovering no end of topics,
since his device is, Never despair. He has imported from Persia, where
he encountered infinite dangers, a certain very curious machine,--a
little roof of colored silk extended upon ribs of whalebone, secured in
turn to a rod of iron, and which is carried about at the end of a long
handle as a protection against the rain. It is called an umbrella."

"What an odd idea!"

"In order to habituate people to the sight and usage of his instrument,
Hanway selects rainy days for his perambulations, when he can spread
his portable tent. The children throw mud at him and the serving maids
laugh. It is free sport to try to crush his umbrella. They make all
manner of fun of him, but perhaps it is wrong, since the folly of to-day
is the wisdom of to-morrow."

At last Esther knew all the guests. Mr. Gibbon had named them all,
except one whose name she did not inquire.

Seated at the extremity of the room, Frank every now and then allowed
his sad, unfathomable eyes to wander towards the girl. Indifferent to
all that was uttered about him, his melancholy contrasted powerfully
with the joyous air which every face wore. Even though she smiled at Mr.
Gibbon's quips and responded to the lively, caressing words of Lady
Vereker, Miss Woodville was conscious of the espionage, and the
sentiment it evoked was not displeasing to her.

The conversation became general, often rising far above whispered
particularities. War became the topic, and the latest news from America.
It was said that the savages who were fighting with the English had
killed and eaten some American colonists, and not one of the European
generals had raised a hand to stay the barbarity. A caricature, exposed
at Humphrey's, depicted George III. taking part in the frightful orgy
and disputing possession of a bone with an Indian chief.

"It is horrible!" cried Miss Burney; "our poor king has nothing whatever
to do with it, but how can English gentlemen ally themselves with these
cannibals?"

The casual mention of Cape Breton in the conversation reminded Mr. Burke
of an anecdote. Every one present lapsed into silence to hear it.

"Indolent as may be our masters of to-day," he said, "they will never
equal the sloth and ignorance of the late Duke of Newcastle. You cannot
imagine his astonishment when one day some one informed him that Cape
Breton was an island. 'A cape an island!' he exclaimed; 'I am amazed. I
really must tell the king. He will be vastly diverted!' This man would
have sacrificed cities and provinces without so much as a thought. But
what mattered it to him, so long as he was minister!"

"Our own are not much better than he," remarked one of the guests; "they
have disgraced Admiral Keppel, the only man to-day who is able to sweep
the seas of the French and Spaniards."

"Bah! Rodney is worth twenty Keppels."

"Rodney! a blusterer! Have you heard of his adventure with Maréchal de
Biron?"

"No; what is it?"

"He had taken refuge from his creditors in France and was dining at the
Marshal's table. 'Ah,' he remarked, 'were it not for my debts I would
return and would destroy your fleet until not one of your vessels
remained.'--'Monsieur,' replied the Maréchal, 'pray do not let that
deter you. Your debts are paid. Go and fight us--if you can!' That was
three years ago; Rodney commands our fleet, thanks to the friendship of
Lord Sandwich, and the naval power of our enemies is still intact!"

From this grand topic the conversation suddenly changed to the
discussion of worldly amusements upon which the war had had no effect.
They spoke of the last success of Siddons. Upon the queen of tragedy, as
upon Admiral Rodney, there was, although the political question had
amounted to nothing, a confused mixture of opinions which clashed and
provoked comment.

"She is adorable!"

"A leaden idol, your Siddons!"

Next they discussed Pacchierotti, the famous Italian tenor, and his
approaching _début_ in a new _rôle_. Then they spoke of the new books.
Some one at the table mentioned the word "bluestocking." The expression
was a novelty at the time, and created a sensation.

"Don't allude to bluestockings in my presence!" cried the author of
"Evelina," making a shield of her fan.

"You a bluestocking!" exclaimed Burke indignantly. "There is no
bluestocking where there is no leaven of pedantry. Now, if it were a
question of poor Mrs. Carpenter."

"Yes," interposed Gibbon, "the ill-starred lady has translated
Epictetus!"

"And Mrs. Cholmondeley,--do you give her a place among the
bluestockings?"

"She's too great a woman for that!"

"I was at her house yesterday," remarked Miss Burney; "I found her very
affable."

"Affability," muttered Dr. Johnson, "is the first lieutenant of pride."

In hot haste Boswell produced his tablets from his pocket in order to
note the aphorism which had fallen from the oracle's lips.

"I find Mrs. Thrale a worthy person," remarked Gibbon, "and an agreeable
mistress of her house."

"The wife of a brewer?" inquired Lady Vereker, with just a hint of
disdain in her tone.

"A most intelligent woman!" retorted Miss Burney; "she has saved her
husband from ruin."

"But it appears that she has not preserved him from another accident,"
replied Lady Vereker languidly.

The guests were beginning to indulge in a smile, when suddenly Dr.
Johnson's formidable head began to oscillate, while from his chair
emanated a cracking sound of evil augury. Until this moment he had
remained silent, breathing heavily between his closely set teeth as if
trying to imitate the hiss of a saw, meanwhile enveloping his neighbor,
Miss Burney, with a glance of grotesque tenderness in which paternal
interest struggled with love; but at the sarcasm of Lady Vereker against
his friend, Mrs. Thrale, he bridled and assumed his attitude of combat.
"Madam!" he burst forth in a voice of thunder, and there he paused like
Hercules with club poised in air.

"The bolt is about to fall," whispered Gibbon.

An atmosphere of apprehension prevailed about the table. Lady Vereker
alone, with an intrepid though somewhat pallid smile, raised her pretty
head with charming effrontery to brave the blow. But it was Fate's
decree that the bolt should not fall, and that the Doctor should not be
heard from that evening. Just at the moment that his lips parted to
avenge the honor of Mrs. Thrale, the door opened to admit Ralph. With a
fluttered air he hastened to his master and whispered a word or two in
his ear.

Sir Joshua was upon his feet in an instant.

"Gentlemen," he cried, "great news! It appears that we have calumniated
Rodney! He has completely routed the Spanish fleet under Admiral
Langara. Five vessels are captured; one is blown up and the rest
dispersed! Rodney has washed his hands of one half of his engagement to
Maréchal de Biron. Permit me to propose the health of Admiral Rodney!"

Naturally Burke, like his friend Reynolds, would have preferred to drink
to the health of Keppel; but patriotism proved more potent than party
spirit. All the guests rose to drink the proposed toast, and the repast
ended as it had begun,--in a sort of joyous tumult. Thereupon they left
the table, and each one went his way in pursuit of pleasure or
business,--Reynolds to the academy, Burke to Parliament; Johnson and
Boswell wended their way to the "Turk's Head," that taproom where
literary folk were wont to meet. Mr. Gibbon offered his arm to Miss
Burney to escort her to her father's house, Dr. Burney, who lived near
by at the head of St. Martin's Street; while Lady Vereker declared that
she would permit no one but herself the pleasure of seeing Miss
Woodville home to her aunt.

"I shall carry you away!" she said in a decided way which would not have
been out of place upon the lips of a veritable cavalier.

Her ladyship's little black page, arrayed in a rich Oriental costume of
crimson embroidered in gold, ran before them to lower the carriage
steps. The majestic Hungarian chamberlain doffed his plumed hat and
smote the pavement with his tall cane. The footmen, shaking their great
epaulettes, quickly sprang to their posts and climbed to the back of the
coach.

Upon entering the warmed and perfumed equipage, Esther descried two
living forms moving about, two bundles of flesh and hair in ribbons,
which sprang upon Lady Vereker.

"Wait a moment!" said she; "permit me to present you.--Bambino, my
monkey; Spadillo, my favorite dog. The former comes from Barbadoes, the
latter from Vigo. Pray notice that they wear my colors. I adore them
both, and I would refuse to go anywhere, even to Paradise, without
Bambino and Spadillo."

At that moment the horses started off with much pawing and champing, and
simultaneously the eyes of the two women fell upon Francis Monday, who
stood upon the threshold of the mansion, bowing to them with profound
respect.



CHAPTER III.

LADY VEREKER'S BOUDOIR.


"He's not bad, that boy," said the _grande dame_, "Miss Reynolds has
often told me how her brother found him in the street."

"Is it possible?"

"Yes. It's a queer story, but I have forgotten it. My memory is so
unreliable!"

"The young man bears a remarkable resemblance to Lord Mowbray," ventured
Esther thoughtfully.

Lady Vereker started brusquely and faced her companion so far as their
relative positions in the carriage would permit.

"Are you acquainted with Lord Mowbray?" she demanded. "You have seen
him, spoken with him? He loves you, perhaps?"

The queries succeeded each other with breathless speed, imperiously
demanding a response; at the same time her ladyship had caught the
girl's hands in her own as if to usurp her, to make her very volition
prisoner. Simple curiosity used no such speech, such gestures. And she
added, pressing Esther's fingers in her clasp:--

"The young girl who loves Lord Mowbray is lost!"

Ere Esther could make any reply a sudden check in the speed of the
horses gave the carriage a violent shock. Miss Woodville uttered a cry
of terror.

"What is it?" demanded Lady Vereker, lowering one of the windows.

"Please, your ladyship," replied the footman, touching his plumed hat,
"the torches have frightened your ladyship's horses."

The two women looked out. The city presented an extraordinary aspect.
Lanterns illuminated the fronts of the shops and the windows of the
Tories, while those of the Whigs, closed, dark, and grim, protested
against the joy of the rival party. Groups of men ran about, cheering
and waving firebrands. Fires of boughs and waste lumber, saturated with
pitch and turpentine, blazed at the street corners, while the children
danced around them and the wayfarers approached to warm themselves; for
a damp night had succeeded the beautiful day. In the dense volumes of
smoke arose the pungent odor of resin and burning grease. The signs,
hanging like iron flags from the long arms which stretched out almost
into the middle of the street, shook in the wind with a rusty rattle and
glittered here and there in the ruddy light.

"What is the matter?" cried Lady Vereker. "Oh, I recollect! Rodney! They
are celebrating the Admiral's victory."

In fact, amidst the confused turmoil could be distinguished the name of
Rodney mingled with cries of "Long live the peacemaker!" Indeed, the
majority feared that this success would fail to create confidence in the
ministers and thus prolong the war which they longed to put an end to at
any cost.

"They say," continued the footman, "that the mob is about to burn Lord
George Germaine and Lord North in effigy."

"My cousin!" said Lady Vereker with a laugh. "I should like to assist at
that, and I would willingly place the first fagot on the pile!"

"It would not be prudent to go farther in this direction," said one of
the footmen; "the crowd is very great, and if they were to recognize
your ladyship's livery--"

"I see how it is," remarked Lady Vereker, still laughing, and turning to
Esther; "the rascals are afraid. Very well; drive home by the shortest
way. I shall be able to keep you a few minutes longer, my dear. Do not
be anxious; a man shall be despatched to inform your friends that you
are safe."

But Esther was not in the least disturbed. Was she not of that age when
one blesses the slightest adventure that chances to disturb the
monotonous course of every-day life and suddenly produces the
unforeseen?

[Illustration]

A few minutes later the two women were seated in one of those tiny,
low-ceiled, over-decorated apartments in which the new instinct of
intimacy and mystery confined the higher classes of the period. Louis
XV. had first set the example of these miniature chambers which best
suited the queens of his left hand. And all over Europe, where France
still set the fashion, although she was the object of attack, every one
strove to make a mystery of life, although in nine cases out of ten
there was no reason for it. There were no longer the spacious galleries
for state pageants, no longer the throne-like beds: but boudoirs round
as nests and muffled in silken hangings; furniture monstrously stuffed,
consoles and pier-tables, and _étagères_ littered with costly nothings.
Upon the walls, pastels and portraits of much-bedecked women, wearing
the same vague, coquettish smile upon their vermilion lips. Not an angle
was visible, and none of the straight-backed chairs which oblige the
body to maintain a respectable position, but easy-chairs everywhere,
into the depths of which one sank with voluptuous deliberation,--nothing
but curves to invite ease and languor. The white woodwork and delicate,
tender tints which had begun to prevail in France had not yet crossed
the Channel. The day of the massive, so to speak, had passed; that of
simplicity had not yet dawned. It was, in short, in the daintiest of
boudoirs that Esther Woodville and her new friend drank tea out of
exquisite Japanese cups. A fire crackled upon the hearth; a jet of water
plashed softly as it fell into its marble basin at the feet of a nymph
whose ideally slender limbs and elegant nudity were scarcely visible in
the semi-obscurity that prevailed,--the image of the mistress of the
house, by the celebrated Roubiliac, if we may credit indiscreet and
envious tongues. A silver lamp shed a mellow radiance upon the dainty
and delicate objects which littered the table,--the _encas_ always ready
for my lady. The entire upper portion of the chamber, the panels painted
by Lautherbourg, the azure ceiling where cupids sported, the marvellous
great Venetian chandelier with its four hundred sparkling crystal
drops,--all remained veiled in shadow, scarcely visible. A sweet but
oppressive perfume, which seemed to exhale from everything, made the
will languid and paralyzed the senses with a delicious stupor.

Lady Vereker had quitted her place and had taken a seat upon a tabouret
close to Esther. She had captured one of the girl's hands and had
riveted her gaze upon her face.

"You were saying," she began slowly, "that Lord Mowbray is in love with
you."

"I said nothing of the kind. It was your ladyship who said so."

"In the first place, dear, drop 'your ladyship.' My name is Arabella.
Those who love me call me Bella. Call me Bella, and I will call you
Esther."

"I should not dare presume."

"Why not?"

"Such familiarity! and with one of your rank!"

"Of my age, you mean! A friend of twenty-eight years alarms one of
sixteen, for you are sixteen, I believe."

"Seventeen," replied Esther with comical dignity.

"Well, I love you, and I want you to love me. Friendship is the true
sentiment which unites women, the only one which relieves their delicacy
of the fear of wounds, their devotion of treason. Oh, if I could but
spare you some of the griefs of my life!"

"You have suffered?"

"Frightfully!" said Bella in a flippant tone which belied the tragic
significance of the word. Then she continued:--

"Men are all wretches, but the worst one among them all is perhaps Lord
Mowbray."

"What has he done?"

"He has accomplished everything that a man of his age can dream of in
the way of forbidden and perverse actions. First, you must know that the
late Lord Mowbray was the greatest libertine of his time. He was
interested in that famous abbey of Medmonham with Lord Sandwich, Sir
Francis Dashwood, and that abominable John Wilkes, the author of the
'Essay upon Woman,' whose soul is still more hideous than his visage. In
their orgies they parodied the very ceremonies of religion. It is
related that one day--one night, rather--Lord Sandwich administered the
Holy Sacrament to a dog, carrying out the full rites."

"How horrible!" exclaimed Esther, clasping her hands.

"Is it not?" murmured Lady Vereker in the same tone; at the same time an
imperceptible smile appeared in the corners of both pairs of lips.

"But let us leave the father in the abode for which he was certainly
destined, and speak of the son. He has had as his instructor in vice
his own tutor, a Frenchman named Lebeau, who took good care to ruin his
pupil in early life, the better to master him later. It was in company
with this man that he made the tour of Europe, stopping for the most
part in France and Italy. He was but a mere boy when he grossly deceived
the daughter of the clergyman at Mowbray Park. It is said, too, that he
was the instigator and confidant of the first follies of the Prince of
Wales. He is fiercely hated by the king, but especially so by the queen.
He and his friends make it their boast that there is not an
incorruptible woman in existence. Their debauchery differs from that of
their fathers in that it is savored with villany. As formerly, these
young gentlemen, who call themselves Mohawks, walk the streets at night
with blackened faces, quarrel with inoffensive wayfarers, stop women,
strip them and either beat or cast them naked into casks of pitch which
they have placed beneath sheds, and laugh until they drown the cries of
their victims. As for the watchmen, they prick their legs with their
swords, bind them to the door-knockers, and oblige them to light the
scene with their lanterns. These are only their malicious tricks, for
they do worse. More than once they have profited by popular broils, or
by the quarrels which have been common since the beginning of the war,
to carry away young girls, and send a father, a husband, or a
troublesome lover to the shades. It is said that they are responsible
for many a death, and that if one should visit the 'Folly' which Mowbray
possesses near Chelsea, if one were to sound the walls which are riddled
with secret passages, if one should search the cellars which the Thames
is made to inundate at certain hours, perhaps one would find the
explanation of the desperate cries which have been heard by night in the
silence of the country; perhaps one would discover human remains,
skeletons cramped into attitudes which would tell the tale of the
ferocity which had abused their last agony!"

In speaking thus this strange woman was completely transformed. Lately
so flippant and sceptical, as were the women of her time, who scarcely
ever spoke without an accompanying smile, she had become more tragic
than Siddons. She spoke in a low, swift, sibilant tone close into
Esther's face, filling her with fear, magnetizing her with her dark
glance, and crushing her hands in her grip of iron almost without
knowing it. Esther seemed quite terrified. Thereupon Bella resumed, in a
soft, imploring voice,--

"And such is the man who pretends to love you, who perhaps makes your
heart beat at this moment. But I will save you. Your embarrassment, your
emotion, have told me their story. Have done with it all, and cast
yourself upon the bosom of a true friend. Tell me all."

These final words, which ought to have assured Lady Vereker's victory,
were just the ones which compromised her. Her eyes betrayed an all too
anxious, too passionate desire to learn the truth! Like lightning a
suspicion crossed Esther's mind: Does Lady Vereker love Lord Mowbray?

"You appear to know him exceedingly well," she said.

The words were uttered so unexpectedly that for a moment Bella was
thrown off her guard. Her cleverly tinted face concealed her internal
emotions, but a twitching of the lips, a rapid fluttering of the
eyelids, did not escape Esther, who had become all at once dangerously
keen, as is the case of every woman who suspects and wishes to know.

"She is lying!" thought Esther, though aloud she said:--

"Lord Mowbray was present at my _début_. As so many other gentlemen did,
he sent me flowers, verses, and jewels; and--and that is all."

"She's lying!" thought Lady Vereker in her turn.

And both were correct. Lady Vereker forbore to tell Esther of the hold
she had once had upon Lord Mowbray--a hold which she had not yet
despaired of regaining, while Esther would not admit to Lady Vereker
that she had rashly replied to one of Lord Mowbray's notes and already
began to find it difficult to defend herself against his assiduities.

Without being the dupes of each other, but enlightened, the one by the
experiences of life, the other by the precocious instinct of combat, the
_comédienne_ of the fashionable world and the _comédienne_ of the
theatre pressed each other's hands with tender interest and smiled
amiably into each other's eyes.



CHAPTER IV.

THE BROOKS CLUB.


Eleven o'clock chimed from the tall clock placed opposite the fireplace.
To its faint, silvery tones, which vibrated for some moments upon the
atmosphere of the silent chamber, neighboring clocks, repeating the
hour, seemed to make echo with their melancholy voices.

"Already eleven o'clock!" exclaimed Esther, starting to her feet. "I
must go; I should be at home at this moment!"

"The crowd has not yet dispersed," answered Lady Vereker; "listen to
their shouts."

Lady Vereker's mansion was situated upon Park Lane, at that day a
lonesome part of the town, whither gentlemen were wont to come in the
early morning to cross swords in order to get up an appetite, and
instead frequently succeeded in turning their stomachs inside out. Bella
approached one of the windows. Upon the faint, luminous grayness of the
sky were sketched the outlines of Hyde Park wrapped in profound sleep,
but the glow of the bonfires flushed the southern horizon, and from time
to time savage outcries crossed the calmness of the night.

"They are delirious over their Rodney," said Bella with a shrug;
"neither a chair nor a coach will be able to pass through St. James's,
and the other side of the Green Park is deserted at this hour; we should
risk being attacked there. Ah, me! how fortunate are common women! They
can go everywhere. But why should we not change our attire? My women
will accommodate us with gowns. _Pardieu!_ that would be charming!"

Lady Vereker uttered her little oath in French. The idea of the
masquerade pleased her immensely, and without waiting for Esther's
acquiescence she began to put it in execution.

At the expiration of a quarter of an hour they were equipped as women of
the lower class.

[Illustration]

"Esther," exclaimed Lady Bella, "you look like a Soho dressmaker! And I,
Fanchette, what do I look like?"

"I dare not say," replied the maid; "all that I can assure your ladyship
is that in my gown you are--worse than I."

"Exactly as I desire to look," replied Lady Vereker with a burst of
laughter at the impertinence.

Thereupon she started off, taking Esther by the arm, and forbidding even
a footman to follow her. For that matter, her people seemed accustomed
to the strange caprices of their mistress.

Upon reaching Piccadilly they passed suddenly from the shadow and
silence into the tumult and violent glare of the bonfires. Many a joke
was levelled at them as they passed. One man wearing clerical attire,
and who seemed completely intoxicated, approached them, declaring that
by Jupiter they were deucedly pretty girls and he would have a kiss from
each! In order to escape him the two women ran down St. James Street,
where the crowd separated them from the enterprising clergyman.

"A churchman!" panted Esther. "Can you believe it?"

"No, my dear: it was the Duke of Norfolk; he whom they call 'Jockey
Norfolk.' His mania is for disguising himself as a country curate, and
running about town and making a fool of himself. When he is dead-drunk
people profit by his condition to rob him."

"What a horrible person!"

"On the contrary, I assure you that when he is sober he is most
amiable."

In the neighborhood of St. James's the mob grew denser and more
excited. There were beggar-women holding their new-born infants at arms'
length, chairmen, sailors, thieves of all ages, recognizable by their
skulking air and their sly, sharp glances, and finally a sprinkling of
gentlemen, come hither after a good dinner to give vent to their
political passions, or simply to amuse themselves by hustling the women
and making a noise generally. The crowd laughed and vociferated, and
threw stones at the windows of a grand mansion which belonged to one of
the king's ministers. They applauded each successful shot, and howled
over the failures.

At last all the ministerial windows were broken except one, which
remained intact, protected by two caryatides which advanced like
sentinels, supporting the roof; and against this single window were all
the efforts directed, as if the detested minister were standing behind
the sash, or as if the crushing of that bit of glass were going to cover
the enemies of England with confusion and terminate the war at a blow.

The assailants excited each other by constantly crying, "Be bold,
Tommy!" "At it again, Jack!" "Pluck up there, old boy!"

Suddenly a figure bounded from the midst of the crowd, a long arm was
extended, a stone whizzed through the air, and the window so long
protected was shattered, and fell into a thousand pieces. A yell of
triumph burst from a hundred throats, and every eye was turned upon the
hero. He was a great, lank, awkward fellow with a pug-nose, a cold,
impertinent eye, thin lips and blinking eyelids, who testified the
satisfaction in his achievement simply by a fleeting smile of coarse
disdain.

"Is that you, William?" said Bella to him. "Fine occupation for Lord
Chatham's son!"

Young William Pitt turned sharply and bent his keen gaze upon the person
who had thus apostrophized him. He recognized her and a swift flush
stained his pallid cheeks.

"Let me alone," he muttered; "I was only having some fun!" And walking
off, he was soon lost in the crowd.

"That boy will never be anything but a ne'er-do-well," said Lady Vereker
with a shrug.

Three years later "that boy" became Prime Minister of England, and such
a Prime Minister as England had never had before him.

Meanwhile the crowd waxed more turbulent. The ferocity born of pleasure,
the longing to destroy, peculiar to such huge assemblies of Englishmen,
begin to make themselves manifest.

As there were no more windows to break, what was to be done?

"Pull down the house!" was the cry. "Get a beam and we will set our
shoulders to it! Here are twenty good men of like mind! No: fetch some
straw and fagots! Set fire to the door! Let us smoke the rats out of
their trap!"

A score of figures appeared, ghastly, sinister, suggesting pillage. In
the general disorder the libertines grew bolder. The shrieks of women
burst from obscure corners, followed by long, brutal laughter.

"I am terrified! I feel as if I were going to faint," gasped Esther.

Although she affected a show of courage, Lady Vereker was beginning to
quail.

"Indeed, I did very wrong to come here," she said; "let us try to
retrace our steps or gain a side street."

But it was too late. The mob increased with every moment. The crowds of
new arrivals pressed down upon them, cutting off the retreat of those
who sought to escape the turmoil.

"I am stifling!" cried Esther wildly, as she lost her footing.

At this moment a cry arose:--

"The Guards! the Guards!"

The solid earth trembled beneath the gallop of the troop which had just
turned the corner of Pall Mall and were charging up the street. Amidst
the frightful tumult there came a second of silence and stupor, during
which was heard the ring of hoofs as they struck the pavement and the
commands of the officers:--

"Right about! Forward! Draw sabres!"

There was a click of steel and glimmer of blades. An indescribable panic
ensued. The people, of late so buoyant, now mad with terror, rushed
towards the nearest exit--that is, to some place of safety--with such
savage energy and with so formidable an impulse that iron railings were
rent before them. Esther felt herself wrenched from Bella so suddenly
and with such brutal force that it was a miracle that her arm which
encircled Lady Vereker's waist was not left behind her. The human tide
hurled her against a house and would have crushed her against the wall
had not other human bodies intervened and saved her from the violence of
the shock. She found herself at the head of a flight of six stairs
without having set foot upon one of them. A large door stood open before
her. Twenty persons were projected along with her into the interior in
a solid mass, entering the house like an inundation. Esther was saved;
the horrible fear which had paralyzed every nerve was relieved, and her
heart began to beat again. At the same time, through the open door and
high above the desperate cries of those who still struggled in the
street, she heard the ringing voice of an officer commanding a halt. The
Riot Act was being read, and an occasional fragment of the coldly
menacing phrases reached even her ear.

The place into which Esther had been cast was a spacious vestibule, into
which surged fresh arrivals without ceasing, despite the efforts of the
footmen and of a man who fretted and fumed, and gave useless and
inexecutable orders. This man, the proprietor of the place, was Mr.
Brooks, and the house was the famous club which bore his name. Poor Mr.
Brooks endeavored to confine the crowd to the vestibule, which he was
forced to yield to it, as one yields to a conflagration; but already
under the pressure of the mass Esther had been thrust into a second
antechamber. The air was close and stifling; the situation became
critical, while the second danger threatened to become worse than the
first.

Suddenly a little door was thrown open, and some one laid hold upon her.
In the next instant the door was closed, and the girl found herself in
the depths of an arm-chair, where she swooned.

Not entirely, however; she felt in a half-conscious way that some one
slapped her hands and blew in her face. A voice murmured, "Some water!
Cold water, quick!" Then the person left her, for she felt that she was
alone again. Suddenly a great hubbub filled the house. In the street
without, now quite deserted, the cavalry swept by like a whirlwind.
Then all was silence. With eyes closed, and in a state of
semi-consciousness, Esther believed herself alone, when all at once, but
a few steps from her, a word was pronounced in an angry tone.

"A doublet!"

Oaths and stifled exclamations accompanied the word. Brought to her
senses by curiosity and apprehension, Esther opened her eyes and beheld
a remarkable spectacle. It was a vast hall lighted by several lamps
suspended from the ceiling. The light, gathered by immense reflectors of
tin, fell full upon a long table placed in the centre of the apartment.
This table was covered with a green cloth crossed with white lines.
Seven or eight men were seated about it, each one having at his side a
bowl full of gold pieces and a small tray bearing a cup of tea, a glass,
and a flask of brandy. They were engaged in a game of faro.

Nothing could have been more singular than their appearance and attire.
Nearly every man wore a large straw hat to screen his eyes from the
dazzling light, and perhaps to mask his emotions at the same time; but
the most ridiculous part of it was that two or three of the younger
gamesters had seen fit to decorate their hats with flowers and ribbons
after the fashion of the shepherdesses in the opera. Certain persons,
attired with studied refinement, wore leathern cuffs to avoid soiling
the lace at their wrists. God save the mark! They would consent to lose
a castle in the course of an evening, but would hesitate to spoil a pair
of Chantilly ruffles. Others seemed to have lost all respect for
themselves. One young man who sat opposite Esther, a sort of
good-natured athlete, with big, sensual jaws, and whose tanned face,
especially his brow and glance, shone with intelligence and audacity,
was so negligent in his attire that his hairy chest appeared beneath his
open shirt. Another, an older man, wore his coat turned inside out,
through superstitious fancy, as every one was aware; while more than
one, with hands concealed beneath the table, feverishly fingered some
sort of talisman.

These men appeared to have heard nothing,--neither the cries of the mob,
the invasion of the house, the charge of the Guards, nor the entrance of
a strange woman into the very room where they were playing. What
mattered it all to them? What did it all amount to in comparison with a
doublet? As infatuated as Horace's wise man, the end of the world would
not have interrupted their game.

Esther felt that her presence was as unperceived as though a charm had
rendered her invisible, like the living being whose terrible fate had
conducted him on board of the phantom ship. Therefore without a qualm of
fear she permitted herself to enjoy the novel scene.

At this moment the banker's _côteau_ raked in all the stakes, the rare
and fortunate result of drawing two similar cards from his right and
left.

"Used up!" exclaimed a stout man with a prodigious sigh, his bowl being
empty. In the speaker Esther recognized Stephen Fox, whom she had seen
at Drury Lane. His brother, Charles James, the eminent orator, the man
with the open shirt, gayly smote his shoulder.

"Shylock will make you a loan," he said; "you have more than a pound of
flesh to offer him as security!"

Instead of a laugh, Charley's joke was received with a grunt of
approbation.

One man alone seemed insensible to the incidents of the game. This was a
gentleman of some sixty years, dressed in accordance with the latest
Parisian _mode_. In him Esther recognized George Selwyn, who had been
one of the most amiable, one of the wittiest men of his time, but was
now absorbed and besotted by a passion more potent than that of gaming.

Up to this time the actress had not seen the banker, whose back was
turned to her and who had not uttered a word. At this moment, however,
the following disdainful words escaped him: "Ten thousand pounds, and no
more! What a shame that I should have played for such low stakes!"

Esther started at sound of that voice, which she had heard not more than
twice, but which she recognized instantly. It was Lord Mowbray, that
terrible Mowbray, against whose love she had been warned!

A man entered the room and approached her with a glass of water in his
hand.

"I see that you are better," he said. "Never mind; drink this to secure
your recovery."

Esther hesitated. Still fluttered by the discovery which she had just
made, she could not but be mindful of Lady Vereker's warning words. How
many times had she read in romances and journals strange narratives of
young girls being rendered helpless by narcotics! Ought she to drink, to
trust this unknown man? She looked at him, and her perplexity increased.
Another enigma to decipher: a generous sentiment pictured upon an evil
countenance.

In fact, all the passions seemed to have left their trace upon that
worn, pallid, haggard face. His age was uncertain, his condition
ambiguous; his accent even sounded a note of doubt upon the nationality
of the individual, offering no clew. Was he of middle age or old; valet
or gentleman; English or a foreigner? One surprising thing was that the
hard, bold manner which might well be habitual vanished before an
expression of interest which seemed sincere. As he noted the girl's
hesitation a trace of sadness passed over his coarsened features, almost
ennobling them.

"I am not thirsty," she said, loath to wound the feelings of one who had
already shown her consideration.

And he, regaining his accustomed composure, placed the glass upon a
console.

Softly as Esther had spoken, Lord Mowbray had heard her. He turned and
bent his stupefied gaze upon her. Esther, alone, in the torn garments of
a serving maid, half fainting, in the card-room of the Brooks Club!
Assuredly there was food in plenty for his surprise. What fate had sent
his prey into his very clutches? Fortune, it is said, never comes
single-handed! After the doublet, this fairest flower! And he was just
the man to profit by his luck.

"Gentlemen," he said, rising as he spoke, "circumstances oblige me to--"

A cry of indignation interrupted his words, while three or four hands
were placed upon his shoulders, forcibly obliging him to resume his
seat.

"The game is not over." "We won't permit it!" "Wait until you win
another ten thousand!" "This is not fair!"

"So be it!" answered Mowbray with a smile; "only permit me to say one
word to Lebeau."

The man who had brought the glass of water approached upon hearing his
name, and Lord Mowbray hastily whispered a phrase in a foreign tongue in
his ear. Thereupon Lebeau, as we may now call him, returned to the girl.

"The street is free," he said, "but, now that the Guards have passed,
the disorder may begin again. If you wish to profit by the lull to make
your way home, the minutes are precious. Do you feel strong enough to
walk?"

"Yes, certainly."

"Then come."

Esther rose and obeyed him, this time without hesitation. The momentary
excitement occasioned by the doublet having subsided, the gamblers had
remarked her presence. The glances directed towards her betrayed their
curiosity. Despite her disguise, she might be recognized; consequently
the necessity of escaping as speedily as possible presented itself. But
she did not forget that Lebeau was her guide, the accursed mentor of the
greatest libertine in England. The young lord had whispered to his
former tutor; evidently the hurried words had reference to her.
Therefore she saw the necessity of being upon her guard, ready to fly at
the slightest suspicious movement. Meanwhile her heart beat with fear,
curiosity and, perhaps, with delight; for it must be admitted that she
adored an adventure.

So they went out. The din of the riot came to them from a distance. The
street was empty; the night was beautiful and calm. The lights in the
lanterns were flickering in their sconces and expiring. The minister's
house with its broken windows was guarded by soldiery.

[Illustration]

Preceded by a page who carried a torch, Lebeau took the way towards
Westminster. It seemed marvellous that he should know so well the
location of Miss Woodville's abode.

"Will it please you to give me your arm?" he asked in a slightly
changed, humble tone.

She passed her arm within his. Lebeau quickly drew his cocked hat down
over his eyes to conceal his glance, and sustained the young girl with
an almost tender solicitude, but with discretion and respect.

Thus they walked some distance in silence. At last he began:--

"You distrusted me at first."

She tried to protest, but he added:--

"Oh, you were quite right. Be on your guard. Life is full of snares. I
have an intimate acquaintance with my brother man, and I find him bad."

Was he speaking of mankind in general, or of some one in particular?
Esther was upon the point of inquiring when they halted in Tothill
Street before a low door, upon which Lebeau knocked loudly.

"Some one is coming," he said; "I hear steps in the garden. You have
escaped a menacing danger. I do not speak of being crushed beneath the
hoofs of the horses; that would be as nothing compared with the other.
You are saved, but the peril may threaten you again at any moment.
However, it does not signify. _You are in my care._"

With these words he turned upon his heel and vanished just as the door
was thrown open. Esther found herself confronted by the more severe than
anxious face of her cousin Reuben. With his youthful air, his light,
fluffy hair and sombre eyes, he resembled one of those avenging angels
whom the Lord sent to the guilty cities to pronounce their doom when the
hour of repentance had passed and that of retribution had sounded.

"At last!" he muttered in a bitter tone.

"Were you alarmed about me? Has not a man been sent here with a message
from Lady Vereker?"

"Yes," answered Reuben with a derisive sneer; "that woman, whose very
name is a reproach and a scandal, has had the goodness to assure us that
you were in her charge. A strange guardian! Daniel was safer in the
lions' den than Esther Woodville under Lady Vereker's wing!"

"You have no idea what has happened? All London is insane over Rodney's
victory. They are fighting and breaking windows; the streets are full of
soldiers."

"But what means this disguise?"

"I swear to you it was the only means of passing through the crowds."

"I should be glad to believe you," said Reuben, enveloping her in a
glance of fire. "Oh, Esther! You who bear the predestined name, the
chaste name of the woman who saved the people of God, you who ought to
be as pure as the fountain of Gihon, as fresh as the rose of Sharon!"

But Esther abbreviated the biblical effusion.

"I must hasten to relieve my aunt's mind," she said.

"I have advised her to retire without waiting for you."

"That was wise. Good night, Reuben."

"Good night. I am going to pray."

"And I--am going to bed and to sleep."

But she did not sleep as readily as she had anticipated. The events of
the day and evening, Sir Joshua's guests, the gamblers at Brooks's with
their shepherd hats, the dangers encountered, her new friend Bella, the
mysterious personage who had, as it seemed, received orders to plan her
ruin, yet had protected her,--all these conflicting subjects created a
tumult in her brain.

She cogitated upon the singular destiny which had cast her between the
love of a Reuben and that of a Lord Mowbray, between a saint and a
demon.

And when at last she sank into the unconsciousness of sleep, between
these two personalities, equally imperious and passionate, but actuated
by an opposite sentiment, there glided the pale, melancholy visage of
Francis Monday.



CHAPTER V.

A STRANGE EDUCATION.


It was late on the following morning ere Lord Mowbray's valet ventured
to enter his lordship's chamber. The daylight fell upon the red and
swollen eyelids of the sleeper, who opened his eyes and uttered an oath.
It was evident that the young nobleman was not in his best humor.

"Is that you, Oliver?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Who is in the antechamber?"

"Your lordship's tailor, who has come to try on the plum-colored coat
with the jonquil trimmings; the little glove-woman from Piccadilly, who
insists upon a word with your lordship; and Capt. Hackman, who has
already called twice to inquire for your lordship."

"Let the tailor wait. Tell the Captain that I shall require his services
later, and let him see to it that he brings two fellows of the
determined sort along with him. As for the glove-woman, send her away.
Because one shows these creatures some little attention of an evening
when one is drunk, they think they have rights. Nothing could be more
ridiculous, Oliver."

"Assuredly not, my lord."

"Is Lebeau there?"

"Mons. Lebeau has this instant come in."

"Ask him to come to me."

A moment later the former tutor and present factotum of Lord Mowbray
smilingly entered the chamber like a man who expects to receive his
quietus with a bare bodkin and is disposed to make the best of it.

His lordship addressed him in French.

"_Eh bien_, Lebeau?"

"_Eh bien_, my lord? Did you not receive my message by the little page
from Brooks's?"

"Of course I did, and I was furious at such a mischance. Here had fate
cast her into my very arms, and your cursed bungling let her escape!"

"Say, rather, the accident of fate, my lord. I was just in the act of
putting the little one into a coach, when a band of ruffians, hotly
pursued by the soldiers, fell upon us and knocked me down. When I
regained my feet, Miss Woodville had vanished, and I was a prisoner in
the hands of the guards. In vain I assured them that I was attached to
your lordship's service. All that I was able to inform you was that I
had failed."

Lord Mowbray looked his confidant full in the eyes.

"You are decidedly growing old," he said.

"That may be."

"Yes, you are growing old, and worse than that. Your compatriots have it
that when the devil is old he turns hermit. Are you doing likewise? As
God is my judge, Lebeau, I believe you are becoming virtuous."

Lebeau affected an offended air.

"My lord," he retorted, "I believe myself above such a suspicion. My
past record answers for me."

"You are joking, but I am serious. Do you know the thought that has
suggested itself to me, more especially since yesterday?"

"I cannot fancy, my lord."

"Well, that you are playing me false!"

With folded arms, Lebeau calmly regarded the speaker.

"Playing you false?" he echoed steadily. "For what reason?"

"That is what I wish to know."

[Illustration]

"That would be folly on my part. Have you ever known me to commit
deliberate treason? Does not my livelihood depend upon you? Are not my
pleasures the remnants of yours? Have I not reared you as my own child?
If I love anything in this world, it should assuredly be you."

"Then why do you oppose my course with Esther, when she loves me and is
ready to yield? I have even feigned to believe you a bungler in order
not to believe you a traitor and unfaithful to me. You, who have
arranged all my intrigues--why do you oppose this one?"

"I have told you that the affair is full of peril."

"On account of the cousin Reuben?"

"Precisely."

"A psalm-singing hypocrite!"

"You do not know him. The man has a will of iron, and he loves Esther.
In a different epoch he would have been capable of subverting a
monarchy, and he would set London on fire if his passion, which he
regards as sent from on high, should command him to do it. Young as he
is, there are hundreds of fanatics who follow and obey him, and I advise
Capt. Hackman and his men not to try issues with that legion of fools!"

"You quite fire me to carry the adventure to the issue at all events."

"Then may the devil protect your lordship! As for myself, I have
sermonized quite enough for a man of my stamp. In any case, my lord, the
receipts of last night's game must have recompensed you for the
miscalculations of love. In that regard we have another proverb in our
language. When I left the club Fortune seemed to be smiling upon you."

"Yes, and I continued to win until daybreak. Poor Charles Fox hadn't a
guinea to his name. Moreover, he was hopelessly intoxicated, and, to cap
the climax, had an important speech to deliver to-day. We bound up his
head in cold cloths and left him in a chair as well as could be
expected. I scrupled about ruining him, for it is said that his
furniture will be seized next week; but he does not seem to mind. I won
twenty thousand pounds and remained alone with Lord Stavondale. It was
raining, and we watched the day dawn across the wet windows. I assure
you it is a very ugly sight to see. Stavondale pointed out two drops of
water of about equal density slowly coursing over the pane. 'I will
wager,' he said, 'that _that_ one will touch the sash first.' 'I'll take
you,' said I. 'How much?' said he. 'My night's winnings,' said I. Just
at that moment a devilish drop, which some inequality in the glass
turned from its course, joined Stavondale's drop, which came in with a
rush, and I lost my twenty thousand pounds. What consoled me for my loss
was the novelty of the invention. This racing drops across a window pane
is every whit as amusing as pitting horses against each other at
Newmarket."

Here chocolate was brought in at the same time with his lordship's
journals.

"See if there is anything in the papers," he commanded.

Lebeau glanced through the _Morning Chronicle_ and the _Gentleman's
Magazine_, and several other gazettes of the same description, which
included magazines both matrimonial and sentimental.

"Let us see," said he; "'In a certain house in the neighborhood of the
Thames--' Your lordship knows that this has reference to the House of
Commons."

"Pass over politics."

"Here is a book announced from the pen of Mr. Bryant, the antiquarian,
who is so well informed concerning events from the origin of the world
to the Deluge. Fancy considering nothing of importance _after_ the
Deluge! His work is disposed of in three words,--'Heavy, tiresome,
pedantic.' Cumberland's romance is also treated in three
words,--'Refined, sensible, and tender.'"

"Pass over literature."

"The condemned of the week: 'Sarah Hoggs, to be hanged for stealing a
piece of cloth that was spread out to dry; Laurence Williamson, to the
same penalty for having cut down sundry young trees; item, Annie Smith,
to one year's imprisonment for having taken forty shillings in the
presence of witnesses; item, Florence Dunk, to be hanged for having
taken five shillings privately; item, William Morton, to transportation
for having assassinated his father.'"

"Pass over all that. What society news is there?"

"'Major T---- has again been detected in cheating at cards; he has been
requested not to appear at Almack's again.'"

"That's Topham, the editor of the _World_!" exclaimed his lordship.
"Bah! in a week's time he will be back again and everybody will be
shaking hands with him."

"'Lady B---- has eloped with her husband's groom; his lordship will be
consoled by the society of Mlle. Annette, the little French dancer.'"

"Is there nothing else?"

"Nothing but two duels, three abductions, five or six bankruptcies,
several fires, and a charade in verse.--Ah!"

"Well, what is it?"

"George Barrington, the gentleman-sharper, has been arrested at
Edinburgh!"

"Barrington! a charming fellow! I recollect one evening at Ranelagh,
when he showed me how he purloined a snuff-box, and as payment for the
lesson he took my watch. And here he is under lock and key! Poor boy!"

"You need not pity him. He will plead his cause so eloquently that he
will be acquitted, as he has been many a time."

"In truth, he is a very Cicero among thieves. And the advertisements?"

"The alchemist Woulfe announces for sale an elixir which is a panacea
for every malady. Samuel Wollmer will loan money to sons-of-family in
embarrassment. As he is actuated by pure love of humanity, his terms
will be very moderate. Mrs. Cresswell offers false hair, masks, and red
pomade for the lips. Oh, oh! here's a gentleman of middle age who
desires to meet a young lady of good appearance and amiable disposition,
but discreet and lively. He'll find her," added Lebeau gravely. "I am
convinced that his advertisement will be answered."

During this time Oliver had dressed and prepared his master, and had
tried on the plum-colored coat with the jonquil trimmings. Every trace
of the night's fatigue had disappeared; the fresh hue of early youth
bloomed again upon Lord Mowbray's cheek. As he was about to go out he
gave his final orders to Oliver.

"You will buy for me 'The Tests of Character'; also, you will ask for
the fashionable romance, 'The Cadenas.' You will inquire about the new
wax which has just been invented by the Prince of Wales; they say it is
marvellous. Now let us go and have a game of bowls, after which we will
take a turn in the fencing-school."

Lord Mowbray slipped his arm into that of Lebeau, and in this attitude
they went out together, which seemed to announce the return of
confidence and friendly feeling. Mons. Lebeau was an adept in the art of
pleasing, and in order to make good his return to grace he employed all
the resources of his wit, which was by no means of mediocre quality. A
curious fellow was this same Lebeau, who had almost ceased to be a
Frenchman without wholly becoming an Englishman. He had distinguished
himself among the tutors who were furnished to lordlings and who were
termed "bear-keepers." He was clever, knew the world, was "up" in
literature, could recite from the poets, and in case of need was able to
turn a verse as easily as one twirled a snuff-box. He had had a tragedy
produced and hissed off the stage somewhere, for he had tasted the cup
of a man of letters, living by dedications to the great and by writing
homilies for churchmen, rich in skekels but poor in intellect. He would
frequently say, "Had I delivered all the sermons which I have written, I
should be a cardinal." In turn, doctor upon a vessel of the East India
Company, actor, professor of mathematics, courier to an ambassador,
Parisian correspondent to a German prince who boasted thirty-three
subjects, what callings had he not fulfilled? By what sallies had he not
attempted fortune? His life resembled one of those old-fashioned
romances, filled, as it was, with adventures which we should consider
impossible. An event upon which he never cared to enlarge--some sort of
an irregular duel with a personage of dignity--had obliged him to leave
his native land. In a London brothel he had made the acquaintance of the
late Lord Mowbray, who had taken him into his service on condition that
he would procure him something new in the way of emotion. "I am bored
to death," explained his lordship; "amuse me. I have used up every
resource and am used up myself; invent some plan to revive me. Bear in
mind your ability as an author and make my life a poem of delights, an
unedited romance. Instead of committing your fancies to paper, realize
them with my guineas and for my benefit. To begin with, there is my
villa, my 'Folly,' which is being built at Chelsea. Give your orders:
the mason, the painter, the upholsterer will obey you." Lebeau accepted
the engagement and acquitted himself to the perfect satisfaction of his
new patron.

It was he who first invented those marvellous traps by means of which
the table disappeared after the first course and came up again laid with
a fresh service, which relieved the guests of the espionage of the
attendants. It was he, again, who devised, or revived from ancient
usage, the perfumed rain, the hail of roses; who offered to his master's
friends a _fête_ such as Cleopatra gave, a Trimalcion supper and a
Borgian night festival; who realized for enchanted senses a corner of
the Orient, a dream of the Thousand and One Nights, while the snowflakes
fell and the wintry wind outside swept over the denuded country. And
Lord Mowbray had the satisfaction of saying to those who congratulated
him, "This is a mere nothing."

His friends in their jealousy often said to him, "Lebeau is robbing
you." Whereupon he would shrug his shoulders and reply, "How can you
expect such a clever fellow not to be a little bit of a swindler?"

Let us give an example of one of his surprising devices. As Lord Mowbray
was strolling one evening along the Cheyne Walk by the water he was
suddenly seized by three or four ruffians, stripped of his clothing,
bound, gagged, and finally thrown into the river. There he gave all up
for lost, and, believing himself at death's door, fainted away. He
recovered, to find himself at the bottom of a gigantic pie, whence he
emerged, to the profound astonishment of a dozen or more of his friends
who had assembled for supper.

"What do you think of that for a new sensation, my lord?" inquired
Lebeau modestly.

"You own no equal!" exclaimed Mowbray enthusiastically. "I would not
part with you for ten thousand pounds!"

But Lebeau inspired contrary sentiments in poor Lady Mowbray, who saw in
him her husband's evil genius. When he was about she lost all hope of
reclaiming her faithless spouse. A slow fever having succeeded the birth
of her only son, she made no effort to live. Why should she? Her son
would be enticed from her, as her husband had been. The child, as by
some inconceivable hereditary repugnance, avoided her, fled her
caresses. She herself, to her deep mortification, never experienced that
mysterious and potent attachment which eternally binds the existence of
mother and child; and it was under these cruel conditions of life that
Lady Mowbray, overwhelmed with misery, weary of suffering, and longing
for rest, sank into the arms of death.

She expired unpitied, conjugal love in the higher ranks of society being
regarded as a ridiculous anomaly. However, the cynical joy of Lord
Mowbray, even in that epoch of irony and indifference, caused a shudder
among the less delicate. Henceforth he was in no way hampered. A career
of untrammelled debauchery lay open before him; but an unexpected event
arrested him with ruthless abruptness. He suddenly disappeared, and the
circumstances of his taking-off, at once ignoble and sinister, finally
became known in the social walks where he had been best known. He had
lost his life in attempting to experiment upon himself in the mysterious
sensations which, he was informed, attended the final convulsions of
those doomed to die by hanging. Whether through mismanagement or crime,
the cord had not been cut in time, and Death still guarded his secret
from the one who had essayed to violate it.

Among the deceased nobleman's papers were found sundry instructions for
the education of his son, among which one doctrine, far worse than
atheism, was drawn up in cold, dry, incisive terms, to suit the custom
of the time.

"Man," it maintained, "should live in accordance with nature. Now,
nature commands us to flee pain and seek pleasure. Certain philosophers
of antiquity have clearly perceived this truth, and that, too, at an
epoch when the human mind was not yet encumbered and obscured by vain
prejudices. But they have not ventured to demonstrate their theory even
unto the end; they have imagined a substance called the soul, the
tendencies of which are at constant variance with those of the body.
They have arrayed pleasure in the guise of virtue, and have thus opened
the way for the Christian folly. Christianity is the most formidable
opponent of happiness, and during long ages has rendered the world
well-nigh uninhabitable. From infancy we are imbued with the mawkish
doctrines; I, myself, have had the utmost difficulty in relieving myself
of the yoke and I have but imperfectly succeeded. That is why, should I
die before my son has attained his majority, I expressly desire that he
shall grow up without receiving the teachings of any religion
whatsoever. Later he will understand these aberrations when he comes to
a full appreciation of the long series of human errors. Let his mind be
developed, stocked with facts, and ornamented with agreeable
reflections; let him be schooled in all that pertains to bodily exercise
where strength and address are required. By increasing his vigor, his
passions will increase and consequently his relish for life. Let him be
instructed not to govern or struggle with himself, but to follow in all
things the only instinct which can be his certain guide,--that which
attracts man to pleasure. Monsieur Lebeau appears to me a man of the
world and the one best fitted to take charge of this education."

The will of the dead man was duly accomplished. The young man was reared
in the school of evil and became a curious, experimental subject for his
master. The late Lord Mowbray had been a reclaimed fanatic; after his
own fashion he preached as do nearly all of his compatriots. Lebeau
contented himself with observation, and consigned these observations to
a certain manuscript, written in French, which was entitled: "A Treatise
on Pleasure; or, A Rational Journal of a Young English Nobleman. To be
published one hundred years after my death."

Lebeau remarked many things; among others these:--

"This youth, reared in the very lap of happiness, was not happy. The
pleasure which formed his daily lessons seemed to him stale and forced.
Over and beyond the delights which were multiplied for him and almost
imposed upon him, he dreamed of others to which he could not attain,
thereby proving that the true vocation of man is the unattainable, the
unreal. He was bred according to nature, that is to say, after the
fashion of savages; his joys revolved in the narrow, wretched circle in
which the primitive inhabitants of the globe vegetate. Five or six
thousand years of civilization have delicately undermined, modelled, and
ameliorated this block of confused sensations which we represent. The
thousand constraints which man has imposed upon himself, and his
privations, voluntary or obligatory, not to mention his griefs, have
refined him, perfected his organs of pleasure, increased his faculty of
happiness an hundred-fold. Suppress these constraints, these tests,
these combats, and you leave him but the swift, bestial joys in which
the aborigines, our ancestors, forgot for a moment in the obscurity of
their caverns the frightful misery of their existence. Young Mowbray at
twenty years of age had run the gamut of fallacious love. He had learned
the principles of gallantry and debauchery as one learns Latin; but
never having trembled, wept, nor suffered, he was totally ignorant of
genuine love."

All at once towards Lebeau, that man of infinite complaisance, he
experienced a sense of secret resistance. It was upon the day when first
he was smitten by the charms of Miss Woodville. A will seemed to
interpose between him and the object of his desire, seeming to say: "All
women, but not _this one_!"

Was it not sufficient that she had become dearer to him than all
others?



CHAPTER VI.

THE HOUSE IN TOTHILL FIELDS.


In her turn Esther had been awakened, as she was every morning, by a
sort of dull buzzing, which for a space continued and finally died away.
It was Reuben droning the morning prayers in the lower hall in presence
of his mother and the aged servant, Maud. She raised herself upon her
elbow and glanced about her with an expression of disgust. However,
there was nothing displeasing to the sight about the chamber. To be
sure, the appointments were of the simplest description, and the walls
were bare; but everything exhaled the perfection of neatness and
propriety. The window opened upon extensive meadows, called Tothill
Fields, where some years later rose the quarter known as Pimlico. On
this side no building intercepted the light of day; consequently the
fresh, pure radiance of morning flooded the room, flecking the draperies
and white furniture. But Esther for a long time had indulged herself in
a dream of luxury and grandeur. It seemed to her that each night renewed
for her special benefit the story of Cinderella. During the entire
evening she walked in her glory beneath the fire of glances, like a
little queen, envied, admired, adored, tasting, as an homage more
enduring than the applause of men, the jealousy of her comrades. The
curtain having fallen, the beautiful costume replaced by a modest gown
of some dark stuff, she escaped from the scene of her triumph with her
arm firmly locked in that of Mrs. Marsham. When she awoke in the morning
there was nothing to prevent her from believing that it had all been a
dream, and that she was after all only an ordinary little being destined
to set a good example to her neighbors, and be the joy of some
commonplace, honest husband. What was there in store for her but to
share this insipid existence, take her part in the usual housework, and
listen to the babble of her aunt, who represented simple, tender
devotion, as Reuben was the exponent of the suspicious and fierce kind?
But patience! It would not be long ere emancipation would lend her wings
to escape from this irksome prison.

More than ever this morning was she disposed to view her surroundings
with a disapproving and dissatisfied eye. When should she have a boudoir
like Lady Vereker's, and a gilded coach, a footman with a plumed hat, a
great nobleman for her husband, subject to her caprices, sighing at her
feet, and breathing soft nothings in the pretty, affected language,
mingled with French, which the heroes in the fashionable plays made use
of? Like Lord Mowbray, she deceived herself on the score of love, but
after a different fashion. He saw in it but the satisfaction of the
senses; she, the triumph of vanity. To be forever and a day the
personage she appeared to be three evenings out of the week, from seven
o'clock until ten; to be in reality ingenuous, anxious, coquettish, and
impassioned; to play the comedy, and play it to the life, amidst men who
were by no means acting; to heave real sighs, shed genuine tears, commit
actual follies,--such was her idea of happiness, which would have been
perverse had it not been childish.

Scarcely was she dressed ere she received a tender missive from Lady
Vereker which informed her of the result of their evening's frolic. One
of her ladyship's cousins, an officer in the Guards, had rescued her
from her dilemma. For hours she had sought her companion; then she had
gone home, "heaping reproaches upon herself and calling herself every
manner of barbarous name." For she felt in her heart that "she should
never taste of perfect bliss if separated from her incomparable friend,
and that it would be inhuman long to deprive her of her presence." This
jargon, which passed in the fashionable world of that day, was new to
Esther, and she replied in a similar vein, assuring her noble
protectress that, had she listened to the dictates of her heart, she
would have flown to her: but circumstances obliged her to defer the joy
for which she sighed so ardently; the circumstances being a guitar
lesson, a new _rôle_ to study, and a second sitting with Sir Joshua.

In fact, the guitar master, Mr. O'Flannigan, shortly made his appearance
upon horseback, the animal being as lean and lanky as himself. He was an
Irish gentleman, descended from the kings of his native land. He was
wont to prate of vast domains which had fallen two centuries before his
birth into the hands of the English. Thanks to the revolt of the
American colonies, which Ireland was preparing to imitate, Mr.
O'Flannigan had hopes of regaining his family rights and possessions.
Meanwhile he rambled about London, darned his own stockings, and gave
music lessons. Moreover, he occasionally relieved old Hopkins, the
prompter at Drury Lane Theatre; but whatever he did, he did with innate
nobility and elegance. He could bow with a grace almost equal to that of
any Frenchman, having passed one week of his youth in Paris, "the
capital of elegance and good taste."

It was averred that, like the majority of his countrymen, he must have
kissed the famous Blarney stone which communicates to the lips which
have pressed it the gift of suave falsehood. But the persons who spoke
in that way were his enemies. And who has not an enemy? Mr. O'Flannigan
possessed his share of those troublesome individuals, although he had
obliged at least three of them to bite the dust.

"What! Three men stretched upon the ground? Three men killed by you
single-handed?"

"All of that, miss!"

His brow clouded at the recollection; he declined to enlarge upon the
subject; whereupon, since no one wished to wound his feelings by
insisting upon details, he would recount the entire dreadful tale even
unto the bitter end. One was an Italian, of the princely house of
Castellamare; he understood the secret thrust, you know,--the famous
secret thrust! Poor man! His death had served no great purpose. To-day
the violets bloom upon his grave. Another was a German baron,--a boor
who, in passing Mr. O'Flannigan, had knocked over his glass of milk with
the tip of his sword and had not known enough to beg his pardon,--a man
so tall and stout that he could not have passed through yonder door; yet
this Colossus had fallen before little O'Flannigan!

[Illustration]

"But why renew these cruel memories? It is a frightful thing for a
sensible, philosophic man thus to give the _coup de grâce_ to a
fellow-man! Now, then, Miss Woodville, if you please. One--two--we are
in the key of _fa_."

One day Mrs. Marsham found O'Flannigan in the midst of explaining to his
pupil the principles of his favorite art. With her left hand upon her
hip, her body proudly curved, her cheeks aglow, and her eyes dancing
with pleasure, Esther attacked and parried imaginary thrusts, while she
poked with a long cane the bony old body of O'Flannigan, who applauded
rapturously, though he rubbed his sides.

"Are you mad, monsieur?" she cried. "Giving fencing lessons to my
niece!"

"Madame, I am the humblest of your servants!"

O'Flannigan performed the sword salute with the cane he held in his
hand, and attempted to deposit a kiss upon the mitten of the Quakeress,
who found herself quite disarmed in spite of herself by such a display
of courtesy and high breeding.

"Come, come, Monsieur O'Flannigan," she breathed; "suppose you return to
your music."

"At your command, madame.--Now, then, mademoiselle; one--two--three. We
are in the key of _sol_!"

After the Irishman's departure, Esther passed the remainder of the
morning in walking up and down the little garden, studying the charming
_rôle_ of Beatrice in "Much Ado about Nothing," which she was to play in
a few days. Then came the dinner hour, which reunited Mrs. Marsham, her
son Reuben, Esther, and the ancient Maud; since, in accordance with the
usage of the sect, the servants consorted with their masters and sat at
table with them. Moreover, Maud was no ordinary servant. She possessed
the sense of second sight. At certain hours she prophesied and spoke in
a strange tongue which no one understood. "The Spirit is upon her!" they
were wont to say respectfully upon such occasions. Very deaf and
purblind, even with her double vision Maud could not see the spiders'
webs which festooned the ceiling; she could hear "voices," though not
that of her mistress when it called her. Any one in the wide world
except the Marshams would have quickly recognized the inconvenience of
having a vaticinal cook.

At the dinner-table the dangers which Esther had encountered upon the
preceding night became the topic of conversation. Mother and son
regarded the event from their own standpoints. The former blessed
Providence who had guided the girl through her peril safe and sound;
the latter cursed the malice of the men who had madly risked their lives
in breaking a minister's windows for the glorification of a stupid
soldier. How many there were who would have permitted themselves to be
killed for Rodney, who would not have raised a finger for Christ! Esther
uttered not a word concerning Lord Mowbray; she simply spoke of the
excellent gentleman who had escorted her home.

"The brave man!" said Mrs. Marsham. "I long to know and thank him."

"I saw him leaving, or rather flying, like a malefactor," muttered
Reuben. "Would he not have remained to receive our thanks, if he had
thought he deserved them?"

"Virtue is diffident, my son; her right hand knoweth not what her left
hand doeth."

Reuben only replied by an imperceptible shrug of his shoulders. The
repast over, Maud returned to her kitchen, where she held forth all
alone for several long hours. Mrs. Marsham installed herself in her
rush-seated chair and adjusted a pair of silver-and-horn spectacles upon
the tip of her nose, the rigid steel mounting of which suggested the
curved arch of some ancient bridge. She selected one of her favorite
books, the "Pilgrim's Progress," or the life of George Fox, which for
thirty years had fascinated her timid, childish imagination. Soon the
regular breathing, like the purring of a great drowsy cat, informed
Esther that her aunt was in Morpheus's arms. Indeed, she had fallen
asleep with an ecstatic smile upon her features. Perhaps she dreamed
that she walked in a fair garden, attended by angels, and that one came
to her, clothed in white raiment, with a lily in his right hand, and
said to her, "Good morrow, my good Mrs. Marsham. How are you? My father
will be rejoiced to see you." And then, stooping, he would gather stars
from the _parterre_ of heaven and arrange them in a bouquet for the
elect; for Mrs. Marsham was frequently favored with such dreams, and
upon awakening she would recount them to her friends as did the
personages in the Old Testament. She was forever searching some
explanation of them, since she considered them in the light of celestial
visions.

"She sleeps, and is happy," said Reuben in a lowered tone. "Would that I
could find repose!"

"Why can you not?" asked Esther negligently.

"Because my heart is troubled by the thought of the iniquities which are
committed in Israel. Sometimes it seems to me that I am a scapegoat, and
that all the sins of England are upon me."

"Rather a heavy burden, my poor cousin!"

"Oh, do not laugh, Esther; for it is you who are to be pitied; it is for
you that I weep."

"For me?"

"Yes, for you, and because of your fatal beauty."

"Fatal! I take the compliment from whence it comes, and am charmed to
know that you consider me even passing fair. But pray tell me why my
beauty is fatal."

"Listen and give heed, Esther. You have read the Holy Scriptures?"

"Yes."

"When God imprints upon the face and body of woman a charm which renders
the wisest fools, there is a hidden reason which should be visible if we
would but open our eyes. He has created her for the salvation or the
perdition of a variety of men. Eve worked the ruin of Adam; Bethsheba
unconsciously corrupted the holy king; Delilah delivered Samson over to
his enemies; Salome snatched from Herod's luxury the condemnation of the
Precursor. On the contrary, Ruth exhaled joy and consolation about her;
Esther softened the anger of a terrible king and saved the people of
God; Jabel drove a nail into the temple of Sisera; Judith delivered
Bethulia by cutting off the head of Holofernes. Which will you be, a
Delilah or a Judith?"

"Neither, I hope. In the first place, pray do not count upon me to cut
off anybody's head. I am a sorry coward, and I have a horror of seeing
blood. The other day I saw a dog with a bleeding paw, and I thought I
should faint."

"Ah!" exclaimed Reuben bitterly, "better were it to cause the impious to
lose every drop of blood in his veins than to inspire a single evil
thought in the just. I feel within myself that it is a sin to look upon
you; my will totters when for too long a space my eyes have rested upon
those shoulders, that slender form, those brilliant eyes, that bud-like
mouth. Sometimes it seems to me that I would suffer eternal damnation
for you, and that I should find an abominable pleasure in it! How many
times have I prayed God to destroy those adorable features which it has
pleased him to create! Willingly would I obliterate and annihilate
them!"

"Are you going mad?" cried Esther in alarm. "And yet you say you love
me!"

"Yes," replied Reuben: "we alone know how to love, because we alone know
how to hate,--we, the sons of the saints whose hearts are full of
bitterness and sorrow. They do not love who live in joy and pleasure. My
love increases with the tears that it causes me to shed, with the
combats that I undergo for you, and, moreover, with the fury that I
experience against those who raise their eyes upon your beauty!"

Involuntarily he had raised his voice. The old lady awoke with a start.

"Naughty children!" she murmured querulously. "Quarrelling again?--you
who were born to understand one another, and to be happy!"



CHAPTER VII.

CONFIDENCES.


Esther succeeded in persuading good Mrs. Marsham that she ought not to
accompany her to her next sitting with Sir Joshua, since the great
painter desired to be alone with his model. The age and eminent
reputation of the President of the Academy removed far from him all
suspicion; consequently there was nothing to be done but to respect his
wishes. Therefore Esther went alone to Leicester Fields in a sedan-chair
borne by a couple of doughty Irishmen; but she could not repress a
movement of impatience upon perceiving Reuben on horseback following her
at a short distance with his sombre glance. When she entered the house
the young man quickly alighted, attached the bridle of his horse to the
railing of the square, and, seating himself upon a bench, fixed his eyes
upon Sir Joshua's door.

[Illustration]

"Shadowed!" murmured the girl.

The desire of deceiving one's jailers, the omnipresent dream of evasion
which ever haunts the prisoner, filled her mind and inclined her to
anger.

"Bah!" she thought, "my deliverance is close at hand."

She swiftly mounted the stairs which led to the studio, and was received
by Francis Monday.

"The President has been unexpectedly summoned to an audience with his
Majesty, who has come in from Kew to St. James's this morning," he
explained. "Be so good as to wait for Sir Joshua, who will return
before long. Shall I request Miss Reynolds to come and keep you
company?"

"Why disturb her? There are so many curious things here to amuse one!
One might pass a whole day looking about this apartment without being
bored for a moment."

"So be it!" replied Frank in a slightly tremulous voice. "Shall we look
about together?"

He forthwith proceeded to show her all the rare objects arranged in
order within their glazed cases, giving her explanations of everything.
There were snuff-boxes, fans of which one was said to be the work of the
poet Pope, and foreign arms brought home by Sir Joshua from a journey in
barbaric lands. Frank also named the originals of the unfinished
portraits which awaited upon their easels the good pleasure of the
painter.

The door of the adjoining apartment, whence the girl had seen him emerge
upon the preceding day, stood ajar; she quickly glanced within and saw a
quantity of antique casts spread upon large tables, and plaster heads
heaped one upon another.

"It is there that I paint," he said, "in order that I may always be near
at hand in case Sir Joshua should call me."

"As yesterday," she said rashly; then, realizing the memory which she
had evoked, she blushed. As for him, he became pale. However, she soon
continued:--

"Sir Joshua loves you very dearly."

"He treats me with an almost paternal kindness; I respect him, and
entertain for him the affection of a son. I owe him all that--"

"Yes, I know."

"Ah, but you cannot know all. Perhaps you have been told that I have
been adopted and educated by Sir Joshua, but if you only knew from what
a future of misery and despair he has snatched me, from what a hell he
has saved me!"

He pronounced these words with so simple, so profound an accent that the
girl, suddenly touched with sympathy, bent her eyes upon him and said:--

"Where were you before you knew him, and what did you do?"

"I lived with the pirates of the Thames, who forced me to learn their
horrible business."

"But how happened it that you fell into such hands?"

"I know not. I know neither my birthplace nor my parents. Even my true
age is unknown to me. I have nothing in the world, not even so much as a
name--only a surname; they called me Mishap. Perhaps my parents were
like those wretches. The thought has often come to me, and driven me
almost desperate."

Esther did not speak, but her eyes assured Frank that she was listening
with deepest interest.

"We lived in a hovel," he continued, "down by the water, opposite
Greenwich, and sometimes in a half-decayed barge on the river which was
anchored some twenty yards from shore. By day they sent me on land to
beg, and beat me if I returned empty-handed. At low tide I used to
search the mud which the sea left dry when it retired."

"For what purpose?"

"To look for things which might have fallen into the water. One found
all sorts of stuff on the bed of the river,--wood, rope, bits of cloth,
and rusty iron. Frequently I encountered fearful things there, such as
human remains, bodies of the unfortunate whose death had been unknown
and would never be avenged."

"Heavens! what a dreadful business!"

"You are right: a dreadful business indeed! Those who carry it on are
called mud-larks; yet little do they resemble those tiny voyagers of the
air which sing so proudly, so joyously, which build their nests in the
furrows and soar aloft to heaven's gate. The mud-larks crawl along their
wretched way, sometimes immersed to the knees in the icy slime, and
frequently they fall victims to the fever as the result of their long
searches. Nevertheless, the Thames has engulfed much riches, and
sometimes it gives it back. There have been cases of poor wretches
finding precious jewels there. One summer's day, during a season of
excessive drought, the tide being lower than usual, I espied something
glittering in the rays of the rising sun. I stooped; it was an old gold
piece bearing the effigy of Charles II. Perhaps for a century it had
slept there in the mud."

After a moment of silence he continued:--

"How carefully I wiped it! How I caressed it! How long I contemplated
that little coin! At first I decided that I would show my treasure-trove
to no one. But where could I hide it? I wore neither shoes, stockings,
nor shirt; nothing but an old ragged jacket and trousers without
pockets. When I was permitted to go to bed I slept upon a sack filled
with rags, along with a boy older than myself. I passed the coin from
one hand to the other; I even put it in my mouth beneath my tongue. It
seemed a fortune in my eyes, and I thought that when I went to London I
should be able to buy out the whole town. Yes; ah, but I was way-wise
for my years, and I foresaw what would take place were I to offer my
sovereign for sale as the gentlemen did. The dealer would exclaim, 'Such
as you with a gold piece! You have stolen it!' Forthwith I should be
sent to prison, and from there to the smoky hall of the Old Bailey,
where I had seen many a little thief condemned to twenty or thirty
lashes. I saw myself bound to the terrible wooden bench, black with
human blood; I saw the executioner approach with his awful
cat-o'-nine-tails. My thin knees knocked together as I drew the mental
picture."

"And what did you do?"

"I determined to hide my sovereign under a tuft of grass on the river
bank near Deptford. And I went there often to take a peep at it, while I
waited for better days. Alas! there came a great tempest in September;
the river rose and overflowed its banks; my hiding-place, my treasure,
all disappeared!"

"Poor boy!"

"All these miseries were as nothing compared with others. The worst
work was that which I was made to do at night. Of foggy evenings our
boat slipped along like a phantom, with the oars muffled in bits of old
wool so that they moved without a sound. Thus we circled about the big
ships at anchor, or prowled around the sleeping warehouses. At such
hours the river belonged to the bandits, to the vagabonds who were
called light-horsemen; they were alone, and sovereign masters there."

"But what part did you play upon these nocturnal expeditions?"

"They made me climb up a knotted rope to the bowsprits of the ships,
which they knew to be but poorly guarded by the drunken sailors at that
time of night. From there I would crawl to the deck. Then I would glide
into the storeroom and bring thence a bag of 'sand,' a sack of 'peas,'
or a bottle of 'vinegar,' which is pirate slang for sugar, coffee, and
rum. When I had lowered my booty into the boat moored under the bow, I
would let myself down, my teeth chattering, half dead with fright."

"Were you aware that you were doing wrong?"

"No: no one had taught me the difference between good and bad; no one
had ever pronounced in my presence the name of God, unless it was with
the accompaniment of some frightful blasphemy. I was simply aware that
there existed another race of men who waged war upon my masters; that
when the landsmen captured our water-folk they dragged them into a great
black house called Newgate, and from there to a place called Tyburn,
where they set up a gallows. I saw many of my companions hanged there,
for thieves never miss an execution. Have you ever seen a hanging, Miss
Woodville?"

"Oh, never!" cried Esther shudderingly.

"You would think it a festival. All along Holborn stagings are set up
for those who wish to see, and tables for the wine-bibbers. The mob
laughs and sings, and jokes the ladies who have hired windows, and who
hide their faces behind their fans. Venders of apples and gin thrust
their handcarts into the thick of the crowd. The mountebanks perform
their tricks and dances as at the fair of Saint Bartholomew, while the
street urchins for half a penny proclaim the complaint against the
doomed man. At last he appears upon a cart drawn by a wretched hack,
which itself seems on its way to slaughter. I have seen certain men in
this plight who were bold and impudent in the face of death, who winked
at the women, and responded to the jeers of the crowd. Yes, I have heard
them try to sing songs, which the mob took up in chorus. But there have
been others!--those who were deaf to everything, deaf even to the
exhorting voice of the clergyman. Quivering like dead animals with every
jolt of the cart, fainting, convulsed, livid, horrible to look upon,
their eyes dilated with terror, they seemed scarcely human, scarcely
living but for the evidence of their fear."

He paused for an instant, paling at the recollection. "I saw it all," he
pursued, "and knew that after twenty or thirty years of infamy that fate
would be mine. If I refused to obey my masters a few blows of the gasket
very soon got the better of my resistance. To be beaten by the mud-larks
or lashed by the hangman--such was the frightful choice which was
offered me, such the view of life which I enjoyed for eight years. Eight
years! The age of dependence, confidence, and joy! The age which should
know the sweetness of a mother's love and caress!"

Esther's eyes filled with tears as she grasped poor Frank's hands and
held them in her clasp.

"Neither have I known a mother," she said; "but I have not suffered as
you have. Those about me were kind enough, and I can smile when I
compare my miseries with yours."

"One night," continued Frank, "when I refused to play my part in an
expedition with the pirates, one of them in a fit of rage threw me into
the dark river which hissingly closed over my head."

Esther uttered a cry as though she saw it all, saw with her own eyes the
child plunge headlong into the water.

"Fortunately I could swim. I knew the river and it seemed less wicked,
less hostile than man. It almost seemed like a mother to me, since it
had rocked me upon its bosom and nourished me for so many years. I
succeeded in gaining the shore, where I wandered about, shivering, until
daybreak. I don't see what prevented my dying, except that such wretches
as I are blessed with more enduring vitality than others. Nevertheless,
I had some terrible trials to bear. For several days I subsisted upon
mouldy crusts floating in the water, cabbage leaves, and other rubbish
which I picked up about the market-places. I devoured these sad repasts
while inhaling the odor of roasts in Cheapside and Fleet Street. Now and
again a charitable gentleman would give me alms without my daring to
solicit it other than with my wretched, famished glances. At night I
slept sometimes in a church porch, sometimes in an abandoned stable,
sometimes under an old wall, which screened me from the wind. One
morning I lay asleep, with a stone for a pillow, in the neighborhood of
Covent Garden, when I was awakened by a strange voice which seemed to
address me. I saw a middle-aged gentleman of modest appearance, with a
kind and venerable air, who stood gazing upon me as he leaned on his
silver-headed cane. This cane and his old-fashioned wig would have
caused me to divine that he was a doctor, had I known the costumes of
the different professions.

"'My boy,' he said to me, 'what are you doing there? Why are you not at
home at such an hour? Surely your parents must be anxious about you.'

"I answered him rudely, for I knew no other mode of speech.

"'I have no home, and no parents.'

"'What is your name?'

"'They call me Mishap.'

"'Well, friend Mishap, I am going to give the lie to your name, for I am
going to take you to the best man in the world.'

"I rose and followed him. Later I learned that he was Levet, the French
surgeon of the poor, so poor himself that Dr. Johnson had given him an
abiding-place in his house. Thither he led me. The doctor, too, in his
time had suffered from poverty and hunger. In his old age he returned
good for the evil which he had suffered in his youth. His home was, and
still is, a sort of asylum and hospital. With Levet lived Mrs. Williams,
the blind poetess, and the negro Frank, whom the author of 'Rasselas'
treated more as a friend than a servant. These good people gave me a
cordial greeting. They gave me breakfast and made me tell them my story.
For the first time in my life I ate of white bread and listened to
decent language. Then my heart, which lay like a stone in my breast,
melted, and I wept hot tears. They baptized me next day, the good negro
being my humble godfather. To the Christian name of Francis they added,
for want of a family name, the name of the day on which I had been
discovered shivering in my sleep. Some days later, well washed and newly
clothed, with shoes and stockings on my feet, all of which seemed
strange to me and not a little awkward, I accompanied Dr. Johnson to
this house, and in this very room made my first bow to Sir Joshua, who
at the time was painting the portrait of Kate Fisher. I can still see
the pretty creature, who had brought her friend, Mary Summers, with her.
One was all beauty; the other, all wit--component parts of Aspasia.

"'My dear sir,' said the doctor in his grand, solemn way, 'I have
brought with me a child for Ugolino to eat.'

"The speech made me shudder, while every one present laughed. Later it
was explained to me that during the intervals between his engagements
Sir Joshua caused an aged street-paver, who had fallen into necessitous
circumstances, but who possessed an expressive head, to sit for him. His
name was White, but one day Mr. Burke, seeing him in the lower hall,
said to Sir Joshua, 'That man would make an admirable Ugolino.' And from
that time he was never called by any other name. It suggested to my
master the idea of making him the centre of a great composition
representing Dante's terrible scene; but it was necessary to find some
children with whom to surround Ugolino. Now you understand the doctor's
joke. 'Here is something for you to do,' remarked Sir Joshua to me,
'which will be easier than working for the mud-larks.'

"'What must I do?' I inquired.

"'Remain perfectly quiet, which you may find rather difficult at your
age.'

"'It could never be difficult for me to obey and please you,' said I.

"I was given a sort of chamber in the garret, which I still occupy; and
from that day I led the life of those by whom I was surrounded. Living
from morning till evening amidst painting and designing, the desire to
try my hand came to me. I armed myself with a bit of chalk and a slate.
Sir Joshua surprised me in the midst of my occupation, and when I made
an attempt to conceal my sketch, he remarked: 'Do you know upon what and
with what I made my first picture? Upon a scrap of sail-cloth and with a
pot of paint which had been left upon the strand at Plympton by the
boat-painter.' He looked at my sketch, and the result of his examination
was that he sent me to the Royal Academy, which had recently been
opened. There I sketched the faces of all the young women who
represented Dido or Ariadne. My companions blew peas at them until they
made them cry. Then they would clap their hands and pretend that they
had given the models the desired expression. I did not know what they
meant, but when I had filled my sketch-book to the very last page with
Didos and Ariadnes, I respectfully confessed to Sir Joshua that I had
much rather paint trees, flowers, grass, and, more than all, water. My
dear, great river, where I had lived so long, the ever-changeful home of
my infancy!--I am never weary of depicting it, by turns dull as a
leaden disk, brilliant as a mirror of burnished steel, now ruffled and
agitated, now radiant and peaceful, little rural stream that it is at
Hampton Court, arm of the sea at Gravesend, with its perspectives, its
shore life, the ships which fleck its surface, and the seafarers it
bears upon its bosom."

[Illustration]

"Then," inquired Esther, "am I to understand that you are happy?" The
young man lowered his eyes and was silent for a moment.

"I am," he answered, "profoundly grateful to my master for all his
kindness, for the friendship which every one testifies for me, and for
the interest which such men as Mr. Burke and Dr. Johnson take in my
studies. But can I be wholly happy? Nothing can replace the affection of
a mother,--unless it be that of a wife. There is a void in my heart.
Will it ever be filled?"

So humble, so penetrating was the accent of the poor, lonely fellow at
this moment that Esther was more deeply moved than she had been by the
recital of his boyish sufferings. In her turn her eyes drooped as if, in
the young man's words, something had particularly affected her.

"Ah!" he murmured, "you are laughing at me now; but, since I began to
speak and you deigned to listen to me, I have told you all. Now I am
going to show you the one who, since my entrance into this house, has
consoled and sustained me in the hours of discouragement and sadness."
And taking her by the hand, he led Esther into his studio, before an
unframed picture, from which he drew aside the drapery which covered it.

"A portrait! A portrait of a woman!"

In fact it was the counterfeit presentment of a young woman clothed in
white. The picture was still unfinished. The attire, the accessories,
the background were scarcely indicated; the head alone seemed almost
complete. It was a fine, delicate head, softly illumined by a faint
smile as by a ray of autumnal sunshine, the eyes of a dull blue,
hesitant in glance as though weary of the light,--infinite weariness in
the inclination of the neck and the droop of the shoulders. An
indefinable charm of sorrow and resignation overspread the entire
countenance. The very uncertainty of the sketch lent to it an ethereal,
almost supernatural character, enveloping it in that vague, ideal film
which veils the figures in a dream.

"Who is this lady?" inquired Esther.

"She died twenty years ago, and I never saw her in life. I only know
that she is called Lady Mowbray."

"Lady Mowbray! The mother of young Lord Mowbray whom you resemble so
closely?"

"The same."

"But why has the portrait remained unfinished?"

"The death of the original interrupted the sittings. She knew that she
was doomed and wished to bequeath her portrait to her son; but
apparently no one cared for her or respected her last wish, since the
sketch has never been claimed by the family. It is said that she was
most unhappy, and wept her life away. I am as attached to this portrait
as to a living person. It watches me and smiles upon me; I speak to it
and it responds. How many times have I kissed those poor hands which are
now folded in death! I have wished that my mother might resemble her,
and in my folly I have more than once addressed her by that holy name.
Athwart the space which separates us my heart yearns towards her. What
would I not give to have known and consoled her! What do you think of
such foolishness, Miss Woodville?"

"I understand you; I assure you that I understand you, and it seems to
me that from to-day I shall no longer be the same, that I shall be less
frivolous, less thoughtless, that I shall regard life with other eyes."

And turning suddenly she came in contact with an object in the shadow,
which upon being disturbed gave forth a queer sound, like to the click
of _castagnettes_.

"What is that?" she exclaimed.

"That is nothing, only a skeleton used in anatomical studies."

He drew into the light the singular companion, whose arms and legs
projected absurdly every which way. One would have said that it was a
drunken sailor attempting a hornpipe. As if to increase its height a
lace cap with red ribbons, carelessly placed upon its cranium, had
slipped to one side, suggesting the idea of ghostly joviality. Esther
burst into a laugh which she quickly repressed.

"Poor thing!" she said. "Like us, he has possessed a heart and a brain.
Perhaps he has loved, perhaps they have said he was handsome. Pardon me
that I laughed, poor skeleton!"

The words of her well-beloved poet recurred to her memory.

"Do you remember where Hamlet, in the graveyard, holds the jester's
skull in his hands? 'Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not
how oft. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes
of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar?'"

"'To what base uses we may return, Horatio!'" added Frank.

"Yes," she replied; "'Imperial Cæsar, dead and turn'd to clay, might
stop a hole to keep the wind away.'" And she recited the verses which
close the scene.

Frank listened with a sort of religious tenderness.

"You love Shakespeare?" he asked.

"I adore him!"

Attracted by this new bond of common admiration, they spoke of that
sovereign master of souls, and exchanged the emotions which he had
aroused in their hearts. Hand in hand they wandered, and lost themselves
in that vast, murmurous forest filled with alarms and enchantments, with
refreshing springs and hideous pools, with jocund imps and menacing
monsters, where the fairy flowers of sentiment bloom and fade in the
umbrage of gigantic thoughts, amidst which passes, like a stormy wind, a
tremor of the vague Beyond, the breath of the invisible, unknown world.

As they conversed thus, seated upon an old sofa between the skeleton and
the portrait of Lady Mowbray, Reynolds entered. For two hours they had
been together. The painter looked at them, and smiled with indulgent
penetration.

"We have been talking of Shakespeare," Frank explained, slightly ill at
ease.

Sir Joshua did not believe one word of it. Either he knew not, or he had
forgotten that old age alone requires to _speak_ of love. In youth, love
impregnates every word, insinuates itself into the very gestures,
plunges into the glance, exhales at every pore, saturates the air we
breathe. Then of what import are words?

"And there is Reuben waiting all this while!" thought Esther suddenly.

That thought alone re-established all her roguish coquetry in the space
of one second.



CHAPTER VIII.

MR. FISHER'S SUBSTITUTE.


"Mr. Fisher!"

Thus invoked by his name, the hairdresser who had the honor of attending
the leading artists of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, stopped suddenly
upon the dim staircase which led to the dressing-rooms.

"Who is it?" he inquired, striving to distinguish the person who had
accosted him. "What do you want? I am in a hurry. Miss Woodville waits.
What! _You_, my lord?" he added as his interlocutor advanced into the
doubtful radiance shed by the argand-lamp upon the upper landing.

A trifle arrogant at first, with a mingling of poorly dissimulated
nervousness (for courage was not Mr. Fisher's besetting virtue), the
tone of the worthy hairdresser had become obsequious in the extreme.
Lord Mowbray was one of his best clients.

"Mr. Fisher," said the young nobleman, "you are going straight home and
to bed."

"I, my lord! Your lordship must surely be jesting. They are waiting for
me up-stairs, and I must--"

Lord Mowbray barred his further progress.

"I am not jesting, Mr. Fisher. I can be serious when serious matters are
at stake, and there is nothing more serious than the health of an honest
man like yourself. I tell you that you have a high fever and that you
are going straight to bed, where you will keep warm and let Mrs. Fisher
bring you a ptisan."

"But I have no fever, and even if I had I should not fail to perform my
duty. And this, a first-night! Why, the king and queen are to honor the
performance with their presence!"

"Well, let us cut the matter short, Mr. Fisher. Here is somewhat to
sweeten your ptisan."

With the words a handful of guineas changed hands, the jingle of which
possessed a persuasive virtue all their own; whereupon the hairdresser
began to comprehend that it is sometimes to one's advantage to be
feverish.

"But, my lord," he faltered, "would you have Miss Woodville go on the
stage with dishevelled hair? Who will take my place?"

"I will, Fisher."

"Can your lordship dress a head of hair?"

"I studied the art in Paris under the celebrated Leonard."

"Is it so!"

"Indeed it is. The man who does not know how to dress a woman's hair
misses one of the greatest delights in life. That is why, my dear
friend, your art was the most agreeable to Venus; and Mons. Lebeau, my
tutor, a man-of-the-world, failed not to give me ample instruction."

"Well, I am flambergasted now!"

"Make haste to pull yourself together and be off, or you will take more
cold on this staircase. Quick; hand me the comb, the powder, and the
patch-box. Good night, Fisher; take good care of yourself. Devil, man!
You'll find you cannot trifle with a fever."

A minute later the false hairdresser, having duly knocked at the door
and received permission to enter, walked into a narrow room in which
Miss Woodville was dressing, assisted by a maid, under the watchful
direction of her aunt, Mrs. Marsham.

"Come, Mr. Fisher," said Esther without looking at the intruder, "we
must make haste or I shall be late. Make me just as pretty as you
possibly can, for the king will be in the audience."

"I shall do my best, Miss Woodville."

"But this man is not Fisher!" cried the old lady.

Esther cast one swift glance at Mowbray, caught the kerchief about her
shoulders, and mechanically plunged her blushing face into the ivory
horn which served to protect her eyes and lashes while her hair was
being powdered.

The young nobleman respectfully saluted the Quakeress.

"Mr. Fisher is ill," he exclaimed.

"Oh, poor Fisher! What ails him?"

"He has a fever, madam,--a high fever. It would break your heart to hear
the poor man's teeth chatter. So I have come in his place."

"It is impossible for you to dress my hair!" gasped Esther.

"Impossible! And why, if you please?"

"Because--because--why, you cannot, you don't know how!"

"I have studied under the best masters. It is not for me to disparage
Mr. Fisher; but I venture to say that my touch is more classic than his.
I have worked for the French court."

"No, no!" breathed Esther with veiled eyes.

"But, my child," said her aunt in a lowered tone, "you are unreasonable.
This boy appears to know his business; besides, he has worked for the
French court. Moreover, time presses."

"If Miss Woodville will deign to intrust her head to my care, all will
be well," added the would-be hairdresser.

Esther saw there was no help for it but to yield. Suffused with blushes
and pouting, though deeply moved, she took her chair before the mirror.

"What style will it please you this evening,--_capricieuse_ or _tout
amiable_? But I am wrong: a face like yours demands a suitable
accompaniment. Esther Woodville--pardon my liberty of speech--should
have her hair dressed _à la_ Esther Woodville!"

"Anybody can see at a glance that you came from Paris," interposed Mrs.
Marsham; "you know how to pay compliments. I fear that your talents may
stop there, and that your comb is by no means the equal of your tongue."

"Madam shall be the judge. By his work is the artist known."

With a firm, experienced hand he seized the loosened tresses which
overspread the girl's shoulders. Bending above her, inhaling her very
personality, he spoke not, he hardly breathed, overcome by the violence
of his emotions; while she, bending slightly forward, maintained a
strange immobility. A cloud passed before his eyes; his brain reeled.
Could he maintain the mastery of himself sufficiently to play the comedy
to the end?

All at once a confused turmoil arose from the street below. Mrs. Marsham
pricked up her ears.

"Can it be the king already?" she exclaimed.

In order to understand the true import of those two monosyllables, "the
king," for the good lady, we must go back a quarter of a century to the
time when George III., aged sixteen years, still dwelt in Leicester
Fields with his mother, the Dowager Princess of Wales. Never did he pass
through Long Acre on his way to the theatre, of which he was a constant
patron, without casting a timid glance at pretty Sarah Lightfoot, where
she sat at the desk in her father's shop, with her snow-white gown, her
folded kerchief, and her glossy tresses innocent of powder. The young
Quakeress would bend her head with a light blush beneath the mute and
tender contemplation of those big, guileless eyes, undoubtedly more
eloquent than their owner had any idea they were. The royal child would
pause for a moment, and, heaving a sigh, would continue his way with his
unequal, halting gait.

Long, long ago had his Majesty forgotten Sarah Lightfoot; but Sarah
Lightfoot, the present Mrs. Marsham, had never forgotten his Majesty.
Athwart her dull, peaceful, uneventful existence the charming memory
cast a ray which but increased in brilliancy as the days wore on. She
had never mentioned the subject in the presence of her son, fearing the
disdainful shrug of Reuben's shoulders, and suspecting that he nourished
some vague republican chimera; but she would speak complacently with her
niece of the king's fancy, save that she asked God's pardon for
indulging in such frivolous thoughts.

This was the reason why, on this particular evening, she had scarcely
noticed Mr. Fisher's substitute, and why she was so attentive to the
sounds in the street. She intended to see the king's arrival, for it
seemed to her that the ovation intended for his Majesty by his loyal
subjects in some remote way touched her. Mowbray knew nothing of these
circumstances, but he confusedly divined that by means of the good
woman's curiosity he might rid himself of her presence.

"The king?" said he. "Of course it is he; if you wish to see him you
have no time to lose."

For one moment Esther thought to detain her aunt, but how could she
explain her perturbation without admitting the whole deceit, without
causing a scandal? Then, who would dress her hair? And besides, Peg was
with her. And, moreover, in the depths of her heart had not the young
actress a secret desire to be left with her terrible lover, a wild
longing mingled with fear, like that of the youthful soldier who
anticipates with joy, yet dreads to enter, his first battle.

Casting aside her wraps the Quakeress quitted the dressing-room with a
lively step, which suggested pretty Sarah Lightfoot rather than sedate
Mrs. Marsham. The hair-dressing advanced rapidly, and although a trifle
unsteady by reason of internal emotion, the young nobleman acquitted
himself with marvellous distinction.

Although a simpler taste had begun to obtain, the _coiffure_ of a woman
of 1780 was still a remarkably complicated affair; so complicated, in
fact, that certain women, by way of avoiding fatigue or expense, had
their heads dressed only two or three times a week, sometimes only once,
and slept in this heavy, uncomfortable, voluminous rigging, of which
their own hair was assuredly the least important element. False hair
being very costly, the interior of the fragile edifices was often
stuffed with horsehair, and even with hay. In some cases a brace of iron
wire was affixed to the head, upon which flowers, feathers, ribbons, and
jewelry could be firmly attached; and thus the scaffolding frequently
rose to such a height that, if we may credit the caricaturists of the
day, it was necessary to pierce the roofs of the sedan-chairs, and even
of the coaches, in order to accommodate _les élégantes_ in gala costume.

However, there could be no question of such exaggeration in the case of
a Shakespearean heroine. Of all the poet's creations is not Beatrice the
most fantastic? And was not Esther, of all who had essayed the _rôle_,
the most original in her style of beauty, the most unique in her method
of playing it? That is why Mowbray, clearing all traditions at a single
bound, had given free rein to his fancy. He had lowered the conventional
scaffolding, cut short the tower-shaped _coiffure_. The top of the head
was relieved, while two undulant, billowy masses depended therefrom,
flowing behind the ears, no powder being used, which brought out at once
the delicate contour and exquisite coloring of the face in strong
relief. There was nothing classical nor rococo about it; it was all odd,
novel, and overwhelmingly graceful. Esther had but to cast one glance at
the mirror to be convinced that she had never been more beautiful.

Mowbray leaned towards the maid and whispered a word in her ear.

"What is it?" inquired Esther.

"Nothing," replied Mowbray; "Miss Peg is going in search of some pins
which I require."

"Peg, I forbid you to leave the room!"

But the command came too late. Whether Peg had not heard or had seen fit
not to hear, she had quitted the room. Scarcely had the door closed ere
Mowbray stooped and murmured her name.

She had risen and recoiled across the room.

"Oh, my lord, this is wrong!" she cried.

"Mowbray's wish makes wrong right," he replied. "What do you fear,--the
man who loves you to distraction?"

Resolutely she fixed her eyes on his, striving to read therein, beyond
the disarray of his senses, the true thought which animated him.

[Illustration]

"You love me? You have already said the same thing to twenty others,--to
Bella Vereker, for instance!"

He shrugged his shoulders impatiently.

"I have never owned a second love! Neither she, nor any one else. You
are my first love, and you shall be the only one!"

"I do not believe you. You are not telling me truth."

"Certainly I am," he exclaimed. "You shall be Lady Mowbray in the sight
of God and man, with the reversion of the office which my mother holds
at court."

This was no illusion! Esther began to weaken, vanity being in reality
her vulnerable point.

At this moment a heavy knocking sounded upon the door, so resonant, so
brutal that they both trembled.

"They are about to begin!" cried a voice in the passage. Perhaps it may
seem singular to those who have not experienced similar situations, that
such an incident can save a young girl; that the sentiment of secondary
but immediate duty can brusquely awaken her at the moment that the
notion of primal duty is losing its hold upon her. Esther recovered her
presence of mind upon the instant.

"I am on in the first scene!" she cried. "Quick, my costume!"

She threw open the door. The callboy had disappeared, but one of the
company who was to play the part of Hero, already dressed, was just
descending to the greenroom.

"Are they beginning?" Esther demanded.

"Not yet."

"But I have just been called."

"Who could have done it? Some joke of course. You have a quarter of an
hour yet."

"But I am alone!"

"Then I will help you."

During this dialogue Mowbray made good his escape. The blow had been
struck! Who had struck it at the decisive moment? Who had dared to
snatch his prey from him? Could it be Lebeau? He again! At the thought
Mowbray's face grew dark with hatred.



CHAPTER IX.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.


Slowly the curtain rose. In the great hall of the palace the good Lord
Leonato, sovereign of a fantastic country which only Shakespeare knew,
having at his two sides his daughter Hero and his niece Beatrice, with
all his court about him, receives the messenger who comes to announce
the victory of his troops and their imminent return.

Such is the spectacle from the auditorium; but the spectacle of the
auditorium, seen from the stage, is otherwise curious; to modern eyes it
would seem like a glimpse of fairyland.

A myriad candles shed from on high upon four thousand spectators a flood
of soft, white light. The snowy wainscoting relieved with gold, the
toilets of the men and women, the naked shoulders, the diamonds, the
orders,--all seemed to stand forth in relief against the pervading
brilliance. Soft pink, pearl-gray, pigeon-breast, sea-green, pale blue,
violet, faint gold, the clear white of silk, the dull white of satin,
the cream white of old laces, every shade which could reflect the light,
are mingled in one delicious harmony. Through the silence which falls
upon the audience the soft _frou-frou_ of silk and the flutter of fans
are alone audible. Every face is turned towards the stage, attentive,
smiling, already charmed. In that age of extreme sociability one did not
go to the theatre to enjoy individual, egotistical comfort in a corner,
but to share in common a pleasure which increased by the fact that it
was shared. Those were looked for at Drury Lane whom one had met at
Almack's, at the Pantheon, at Ranelagh, those whom one had seen thirty
years earlier at Vauxhall and Marylebone Gardens.

From a box Prince Orloff displays his gigantic figure, his diamonds, and
his handsome face, which had vanquished a Czarina. It was here that an
adroit pickpocket, only two years before, had failed to relieve him of
his famous snuff-box, valued at a million francs.

Not far from him Lord Sandwich, the Jemmy Twitcher of the popular song
and the _bête noir_ of all London, appears quite consoled for the tragic
death of his lady-love, Miss Reay, who had been assassinated within the
year by an amorous clergyman. The grim figure of Charles James Fox looms
in the back of another box, the front of which is occupied by the
Duchess of Rutland and the Duchess of Devonshire, the irresistible
Georgiana, who will soon become his election broker and buy up votes for
him (_Honi soit qui mal y pense!_) at the price of a kiss.

A little farther away, following the circular rank of columns, sit the
inseparable trio, Lady Archer, Lady Buckinghamshire and Mrs. Hobart, the
three wild faro-players whom the Lord Chief Justice menaced with the
pillory, and whom the caricaturist Gillray nailed there for all time.
Lady Vereker has also come to applaud her little friend. In the second
tier of boxes is enthroned Mrs. Robinson, fresh from teaching the Prince
of Wales his first lesson in love. That man, whose fund of small-talk
seems inexhaustible and insolent, but whose intelligent face catches
every eye, is Sheridan, who has become director of Drury Lane by buying
up Garrick's share. At his side lounges the exquisitely languid figure
of a young woman, of late Miss Linley, the singer, now Mrs. Sheridan;
for he has acquired her, thanks to his audacity, having run away with
her in the face and eyes of her family and no end of suitors, while upon
the adventure he has founded a comedy, the success of which is his
wife's dowry.

In the gallery are seen more _beaux_ than women, the _élégantes_ and
coxcombs, who are still termed _macaronis_, although the word is
beginning to pass out of vogue. Rings, frills, and ruffles, the cut of
coat and waistcoat, the latest suggestion in breeches,--all is with them
a matter of profound meditation, from the buckle upon their shoes to the
tip of their curled heads. Their hair is a mass of snow, conical in
shape, about which floats the odor of iris and bergamot. Sellwyn,
forever dreaming of his little marchioness, sits beside Reynolds, who
holds his silver ear-trumpet towards the stage. Near them is Burgoyne,
who consoles himself for his great military disaster at Saratoga by
writing comedies. He has chosen the better part of the vanquished, which
is to cry louder than anybody else and accuse everybody. For the one
hundredth time he is explaining to Capt. Vancouver that the true author
of the capitulation in America was not he, Burgoyne, who signed it, but
that infernal Lord North, who gave the commands to the Liberal officers
at Westminster in order to be rid of them, and then laughed in his
sleeve at their reverses.

Before the royal box stand two Guards, armed from head to foot,
immovable as statues. The king in his Windsor uniform, red with blue
facings, his hair bound by a simple black ribbon, toys with a
lorgnette, and leans his great awkward body forward with a curious and
amused air. "Farmer George," though frequently cross and disagreeable,
appears in excellent humor this evening. Undoubtedly his cabbage plants
are doing well, or perhaps he has succeeded in making a dozen buttons
during the day, since the manufacture of buttons and the culture of
vegetables, which he sells to the highest bidder, are his favorite
pastimes. Stiff and straight in her low-cut corsage, a true German in
matters of etiquette, which she imposes with pitiless rigor upon all
about her, little Queen Charlotte amply compensates for the free and
easy habits of her husband by the severity of her mien. With head erect,
though slightly thrown backward, squinting eyes, and pointed chin,
swaying her fan to and fro with a rapid, uncompromising movement, there
is no doubt that the worthy dwarf, who has already given the king
thirteen princes and princesses, is still a most energetic little
person.

On either side sit the Prince of Wales and Prince Frederick. The former
realizes to the eye the type of the genuine Prince Charming, exquisite
to a degree, but unsatisfactory with all his beauty, freshness and
grace. The delicious envelope lacks soul. Later history will write
against his name, "deceiver, perjurer and bigamist." But he is only
eighteen years of age now, every heart is his, and yonder his first
sweetheart regards him with ardent eyes. He takes no heed of it,
however; in fact, a slight pout of annoyance sullies his otherwise
delightful features. Prince Frederick is heir to the throne of Hanover,
and his father's favorite. The destiny of that blockhead is to be duped
by women, despised by his wife, and whipped by the French,--a fate
which, nevertheless, has not denied him a triumphal statue perched upon
the apex of a column, as though he had been a Trajan, a Nelson, or a
Bonaparte.

In the shadow of the queen's chair is the tabouret of Lady Harcourt, her
maid-of-honor and friend; while all in a row behind the princes stand
the gentlemen-in-waiting.

Every one was in his place, including our friend, Mr. O'Flannigan.
Installed in his hole, he held, spread out before him, a large portfolio
containing the precious manuscript of the play, bearing erasures and
corrections in Garrick's own hand.

A youthful voice, pure and vibrant, is heard, and the silence becomes
still more profound. It is Beatrice who speaks by the mocking lips of
Esther.

She requests news of Benedick from the messenger who has returned from
the battle, but in the way that one would ask tidings of an enemy. Soon
Benedick himself appears, whereupon begins a remarkable assault of
sarcasm. Both provoke each other and defy love.

"I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow," she says, "than a man swear
he loves me."

"God keep your ladyship still in that mind," retorts Benedick, "so some
gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face."

"Scratching could not make it worse, an' 'twere such a face as yours
were."

"Well, niece," says the uncle Leonato by and by, "I hope to see you one
day fitted with a husband."

"Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not
grieve a woman to be overmastered with a piece of valiant dust, to make
an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I'll none;
Adam's sons are my brethren, and truly I hold it a sin to match in my
kindred." And later when they press her she replies:--

"He that hath a beard is more than a youth; and he that hath no beard is
less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me; and he
that is less than a man I am not for him."

Don Pedro, the Prince of Arragon, sportively offers himself.

"Will you have me, lady?"

"No, my lord, unless I might have another for working-days; your grace
is too costly to wear every day."

But, fearing that she has been guilty of an impertinence, she gently
though still pertly excuses herself:--

"But I beseech your grace, pardon me; I was born to speak all mirth, and
no matter."

"Out of question you were born in a merry hour!"

"No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but, then, there was a star danced,
and under that was I born."

"By my troth!" exclaims the Prince, wholly charmed, "a pleasant-spirited
lady!"

Which was the opinion of all, both on the stage and off. Esther seemed
to have forgotten the danger she had run, the emotion she had
experienced; or, rather, this danger and emotion lent to her eyes and
voice a lively, incisive charm of gayety and extraordinary audacity. She
was the very embodiment of that wit "quick as the greyhound's mouth,"
which forms the motive of the play. The quips and cranks of the poet
seemed born upon her lips with the freedom and supreme grace of
improvisation, and if here and there there occur certain rather weak or
coarse sallies, she allowed the audience no time to perceive them. It
was a rain, a very hail-storm which fell upon the heads of Benedick,
Leonato, and Don Pedro, mixed with blinding lightning. With a glance of
the eye she addressed her most trenchant words to Mowbray, whom she
descried standing at the back of the Prince of Wales's chair. But it was
surely no longer against him that she defended herself, since she felt
herself assailed by every one in the theatre. She pitted herself against
the game with elation. She no longer played a part, but was herself; she
was no exceptional creature, but a young English girl of all times, who
accosts love with a mocking air, though with a beating heart, with
defiance upon her lips, backed by a pretty, mutinous insolence and a
belligerent effervescence of words. Upon this battlefield of love, like
her brothers in veritable combats, she had no wish to bite the dust.
Though vanquished, she knows it not.

There was a genuine sigh, a shudder throughout the auditorium, when
Beatrice, deceived by stratagem and thrown off her guard, bows her head
and gives vent to those charming words:--

"'Contempt, farewell! and maiden pride, adieu!'"

Fate is a strange manipulator of effects! At the moment that she raised
her eyes her glance met that of a young man who stood at the back of the
_parterre_, pallid with emotion; it was Francis Monday! Then they saw
their Beatrice wholly transformed; moved, vibrant, saddened. How well
she understood the grief of her cousin Hero, unjustly suspected by her
bethrothed! Now that she loved, how swiftly her heart divined and
sympathized with the pangs of love! With what a burst of pity, sympathy,
and feminine heroism she cried:--

[Illustration]

"'Oh, that I were a man for his sake! or that I had any friend would be
a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into courtesies, valor into
compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too: he
is now as valiant as Hercules that only tells a lie, and swears it.--I
cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with
grieving.'"

Then with a short sob she fell upon a chair. Suffering and joy,--she had
traversed the whole domain o'er which woman reigns. Those tears
consecrated the defeat of Beatrice, the triumph of Esther.

The audience burst into rapturous applause, and when the play was over
the young actress was informed that his Majesty desired to see her.

Thereupon she was conducted to the royal box, or, rather, to the
reception room which adjoined it. The gentlemen-in-waiting made way for
her, and in the space left vacant, the cynosure of every eye, the young
girl paused for a moment confused.

"Approach, Miss Woodville," said her Majesty with that German accent
which has been the butt of so many pleasantries.

Esther advanced a step or two, and then sank in a profound courtesy.

"Ah! ah! Miss Woodville. Charmed to see you and to congratulate you!"

It was the king who spoke. He came to her with that inimitable gait,
upon which the circus-clowns of the day wasted study and art in their
attempts to reproduce it, but which in his Majesty was natural. He held
his body bent like a half-moon, the back arched, the legs down to the
knees pressed close together, and the feet wide apart. Being upon the
point of leaving the theatre before the little piece which terminated
the performance, he already held his gloves in one hand, his cane in the
other, and his hat under his arm. Upon reaching the spot where Esther
stood he let fall his gloves. She stooped to pick them up, while he,
wishing to spare her the exertion, dropped his cane; quickly seizing
it, he lost his hold upon his hat. Thereupon ensued a moment of
confusion, which the queen, in an attempt to abridge, made use of by
addressing a compliment to the young artist.

"You are Garrick's last pupil, I believe," she said, "and perhaps his
best. He would have been happy indeed to have heard you this evening."

"Eh? what? Garrick?" gasped his Majesty. "Oh, certainly, certainly! She
plays remarkably well. I'm a judge myself: I too have played in
comedy--comedy and tragedy. I used to do Addison's 'Cato,' and not half
badly, they said. But of course one always says that to a prince. Have
you seen 'Cato,' Miss Woodville?"

"Never, sire."

"Ah, but it is a fine play! And the tirade, the famous tirade, you
know!"

And he began to declaim, floundering for words. Again her Majesty
interrupted him, although with every demonstration of respect.

"Does not your Majesty find that Miss Woodville speaks her Shakespeare
marvellously well?"

"Eh? what? Shakespeare? Of course!--You love Shakespeare, do you not?"

"Oh, yes, sire, with all my heart!"

"That's right; so do I. Nevertheless he has his stupid absurdities. Sad
rubbish, some of it. Persons generally would not venture to admit that
they thought so, but I say it because I say whatever comes into my mind.
I don't care particularly for the French, but I am forced to acknowledge
that their plays are the noblest, most decorous and normal extant. We
also have good authors, such as Coleman, for instance, or Mr. Home, who
wrote 'Douglass.' The whole action of the play passes in twenty-four
hours and in one and the same place. Certain scenes take place in the
castle, others before the castle, and still others behind the castle;
but, in a word, the castle is always there to preserve the unity. That
makes you laugh, young woman!"

In fact, the king himself laughed too.

"All the same," he concluded in a paternal tone, "you play like an
angel!"

"_Au revoir_, Miss Woodville," said the queen; "I take it your Majesty
wishes to be going."

The audience was at an end, and after a second courtesy Esther backed
herself out of the presence. Upon the threshold her glance met that of
Lord Mowbray, and she thought that upon his arm she might penetrate this
grand world, not as she had just done, for a few moments, but
forever,--forever to hold her place and rank in the charmed circle!



CHAPTER X.

DEATH TO THE PAPISTS.


There was ever the same contrast between the component parts of Esther's
dual existence: after fairyland the humble, prosaic existence. A few
days after that triumphal evening Esther found herself alone at the end
of the garden, embroidery in hand. The little terrace upon which she had
seated herself was enclosed by a breast-high wall. Above this wall a
trellis covered with vines and climbing plants would have formed on that
side an impenetrable screen, had not large oval apertures been managed
whence a view of the surrounding country could be secured. Laying her
work aside, Esther leaned upon her elbows and took a survey of Tothill
Fields, where several groups of men ran hither and thither with cries,
playing at bowls and football. In the distance a gray veil glimmered
above the river, which, though invisible, could easily be traced. Behind
the roofs of Chelsea Hospital undulated the verdant masses of Battersea
Park. To the right, above the old clock tower of Kensington, the
westering sun was sinking tranquilly to rest. A few yards away a band of
gypsies had encamped for the night. The half-naked children played in
the sun, while the women were hanging out their linen to dry. The old
men, immovable as statues, crouched in the shade, smoked their pipes,
keeping their eyes on their unharnessed horses, which browsed upon the
sparse herbage.

One of the gypsy women wandered near the terrace, and with a smile
slowly approached Esther. Tall, well-built, with a flat, sun-burned
face, glossy black hair, and bold, piercing eyes of a strange fixity of
glance, and conspicuous by the utter absence of soul in their depths,
she regarded Esther with a curious scrutiny. She leaned her back against
the dry trunk of an old willow and balanced herself, not without a
certain savage grace, which displayed her muscular limbs to advantage
beneath the rags which covered them.

"A fine day," said she, "for such as cherish love in their hearts."

"Love! Nonsense!" sneered Esther.

"She who speaks thus is generally caught in the toils."

"Can you tell fortunes?"

"Give me your hand and you shall see."

"Oh, yes, I know you; you gypsies are all alike. For sixpence you
announce the love of a city clerk; for a shilling, it is a gentleman;
for half a crown, a lord; were one to give you a goldpiece, it would be
a prince!"

"What would you say," said the woman roughly, "were I to tell your
fortune for nothing? Only beware: I shall tell it, good or bad!--Ah! you
start. You _do_ believe!"

"Here is my hand," said Esther, moved despite herself.

But stretch and lengthen her arm as she would, her hand only reached the
gypsy's eyes.

"Wait!" she cried, and, running lightly round to a little postern gate,
she threw it open, and found herself face to face with the stranger, who
for some moments held the white, tapering fingers in her great, strong,
brown hand.

[Illustration]

"Well?"

"Your life-line is well marked, but it is crossed here."

"Some danger?"

"A great crisis."

"At what epoch?"

"If I had drawn up your horoscope, I could have told you almost to an
hour. So far as I can see, it will occur before your eighteenth year is
accomplished."

"I shall be eighteen next Friday!"

"In that case the hour approaches. Be prepared. I see something else.
Several men love you."

"How can you see that in my hand?"

"Child! I am reading your mind at this moment; it is like an open book
to me."

Esther would have withdrawn her hand, but that she felt it imprisoned as
in a vise. The woman stood erect and rigid before her, her eye vitreous,
with difficulty expelling her breath between her half open lips. At last
she spoke as one in a dream.

"There are three! One is dressed in black."

"Reuben!" murmured Esther.

"The other is a fine gentleman."

"And the third?"

"The third! I cannot distinguish his features.--Yes,--now I see
him!--Why, how singular!"

"Why?"

"He resembles the second!"

"Ah!"

"And he holds in his hand--"

"What does he hold?"

"A pencil, I think; yes, he is an artist."

After a brief pause she resumed,--

"Two of these men will soon disappear, but the worthiest will marry you
and you will be a great lady."

A flash of pride illumined Esther's eyes.

"Should your prophesy be realized," she said, "seek me out, and I will
give you this ring which you see upon my hand."

"I do not want your ring; give me rather the handkerchief which you
hold."

"Why do you wish this valueless thing? Is it that you are my
well-wisher? Do you love me?"

"I hate you, as I hate all Christians; but I have need, for an
incantation, of an object which has belonged to a virgin."

As Esther hesitated, the gypsy snatched the filmy tissue from her hand
and fled, vanishing round an angle in the wall like an apparition.

Considerably disturbed in mind, Esther remained some time motionless
upon the spot where the gypsy had left her. It seemed to her that the
strange creature had exhaled a sort of torpor which she could not shake
off. At last she closed the gate and stepped back. As she did so she
noticed a bit of folded paper lying at her feet and picked it up.
Unfolding it, she read these lines:--

"You love me. I feel it, know it. Have confidence in my love and honor.
I long to tear you from the slavery in which you live to dwell with me
in brightness and joy. Go to the Pantheon on Friday next wearing a brown
domino with blue rosettes, and when you hear behind you these words,
'The moon is risen,' directly leave the person who will accompany you
and follow the one who will take your hand. Ir order to assure me that
you consent, send me some article which you have worn. I cannot be
mistaken in the scent of vervain, which you love. While inhaling it, it
will seem as though I inhaled your breath, as though I held my Esther in
my arms."

No address, no signature. But the origin of the missive was no more
doubtful than its destination.

"How stupid have I been!" exclaimed the girl. "Of what a farce have I
been the dupe! Here I fancied that I was dealing with a sorceress, and
she turns out to be a common go-between! It was she who dropped this
letter at my feet. Out of doubt she knew its contents. That is why she
snatched my handkerchief, for which she will be well paid;--and all the
while I was wondering at her disinterestedness!"

With a twinge of vexation she thought that even at that moment Lord
Mowbray probably believed that he held the pledge of his victory.

"Bah!" she mentally ejaculated; "what matters it? His triumph will be
short-lived, since I will not go to the masquerade on Friday; though I
could go if I wished. Lady Vereker and my theatre companions have wished
to take me there. Reuben has had only one word to say upon the
abominations of the Pantheon, and my aunt, who is afraid of him, has
been only too ready to refuse her permission. But there is nothing to
fear!"

Just a shade of disappointment and annoyance dimmed this reassuring
thought, but an unexpected incident altered the face of the matter.
Reuben was absent at tea-time. He had scarcely been visible for several
days; he appeared to be wholly absorbed in projects of import, of which
he disclosed no hint to any one.

"My dear child," said Mrs. Marsham with a touch of embarrassment and
some mystery, "I have undertaken a surprise for you which it is quite
time to reveal. For a long time you have desired to see a masked ball at
the Pantheon, but as I dare not entrust you to the care of so frivolous
a person as your new friend, Lady Vereker, I have decided to take you
there myself."

"You, aunt!"

"Why not? To the pure all things are pure, and if my eyes commit the sin
of looking upon evil, I shall at least have the consolation of screening
your innocence from the dangerous spectacle. Moreover, I shall pray
without ceasing, and the Lord will go with us."

"But we really ought to have a different sort of cavalier."

"I have thought of that, and have asked Mr. O'Flannigan to serve as our
escort. He is a brave man, as he has amply proved himself to be. We
shall have, in case of an emergency, an intrepid defender. He has
consented, and all that remains is for us to prepare our costumes."

Good Mrs. Marsham forgot to add that, like her niece, she was dying to
see a masked ball, and that the curiosity which had been devouring her
for years played its little part in the famous "surprise."

"Above all things," she added, "not a word to Reuben!"

When at last she found herself alone in her chamber Esther could not but
reflect upon the odd situation which was hurrying on towards a dangerous
result. After all, she was free to go to the Pantheon, and even to wear
a brown domino with blue rosettes, without its leading to anything
culpable. Her heart beat, and she experienced that delicious vertigo
which conducts the great-granddaughters of Eve to the verge of the
abyss.

What should she do? Of whom ask advice? She had neither mother nor
friend, at least no friend who merited the name. Under similar
circumstances gamblers toss up a goldpiece; bigots open the Scriptures
and the first verse upon which their eyes fall resolves their doubt
after the manner of an oracle. At the moment she was standing before a
table upon which rested a bust of Shakespeare with a vase of flowers, a
sort of offering renewed each day as though it were a domestic altar. A
book-shelf upon the wall contained the works of the great dramatist. In
those pages, so often conned, Esther had learned to think and to feel,
to know mankind, the world, and love. It was her Bible, her book of
books, august and authentic revelation before all others, the repository
of her religion and philosophy. For this reason, struck with a sudden
inspiration, she caught up the volume, which opened of itself to the
first scene of the second act of "All's Well That Ends Well." In the
middle of the page five words seemed to blaze before her stupefied
eyes,--

"_By Heaven, I'll steal away!_"

There was no ambiguity in this response. Esther bowed her head as if
overwhelmed by a fatality. At this moment the memory of Frank crossed
her mind. Again she saw that sweetly sad face with eyes which reproached
her for her treason. She felt an inward anguish; it seemed to her that,
following the example of the pirates of the Thames, whose cruelty she
had so lately condemned, she was casting the poor boy a second time into
the dark abyss that yawned to engulf him.

But she rose with a sort of rage against the thought. Had Frank ever
spoken a word of love to her? Did she even know that he loved her?

And her conscience promptly replied,--

"Yes, you do know; his eyes have told you!"

Well, so be it; he did love her; but could she consider a man who
possessed nothing, whose profession earned him scarce a livelihood?
Could she marry her poverty to Frank's misery? She saw herself as if
depicted in two different pictures. Here, wretched, faded before her
time, nursing a puny infant in a garret, bare of even the necessaries of
life. In the companion picture, covered with diamonds and flowers, she
was entering St James's, while the gentlemen-in-waiting bowed before her
and a footman announced, "Lady Mowbray!"

When Mrs. Marsham inquired, "What will your domino be?" she answered,
"Brown with blue ribbons."

That same evening aunt and niece set out for Drury Lane as usual,
leaving Maud asleep in the kitchen. The shades of night had begun to
gather about the little house in Tothill Fields,--a calm, balmy night
towards the end of May. The strollers had gone their ways, and the gypsy
camp had emigrated to another of the great tracts of waste land so
numerous at that day in the suburbs of London. Save the distant rumbling
from Westminster naught disturbed the peace of this countrified quarter,
already dozing in the evening silence. Nevertheless, several shadows
flitted along the old wall; men in groups of two and three made their
way noiselessly towards the little postern gate where Esther had
conversed with the gypsy. A lantern placed upon the threshold guided
them towards the narrow entrance veiled in ivy. After a minute or two,
which seemed carefully calculated, a new group followed the one that
preceded it. Once within the garden the men seemed to hesitate,
wandering here and there haphazard in the dense obscurity of the old
trees. Presently Reuben's voice called to them:--

"This way, brothers!"

Thereupon they followed him, descended a stairway of seven or eight
steps, and penetrated a vaulted hall, where they found all those who had
preceded them united. The floor was of well-trodden earth, while the
walls bore numerous traces of mould. There was nothing in the way of
furniture except a few wooden benches, a table at the back, and a single
lamp suspended from the ceiling, the ruddy flame of which flickered with
every gust of air above their heads.

When the assembly was complete Reuben carefully closed the doors. At
this moment the chamber contained some twenty men. Two among them were
attired in clerical garb, but with that extreme simplicity which marked
the members of dissenting churches. The remainder appeared to be either
shop-keepers or laborers. Some even were in their working clothes,
notably a tanner with his leathern apron, and a butcher with his knife
hanging from his belt. One man only was attired with elegance, although
the tints were sombre. His little narrow head and thin, pale face,
feminine in outline, emerged from an aureole of powdered hair, and were
illumined by a pair of eyes singularly close together, black,
glittering, and hard, and animated by an expression of inquietude. His
companions treated him with marked respect, and seemed to be of one mind
in yielding him first place in everything. They addressed him as "Lord
George"; in fact, he was Lord George Gordon, a Scotch nobleman, who had
begun to attract attention in the House of Commons by his peculiarities.
After a term of years spent in dissipation, folly, and travelling, he
served in the navy, demanded a post of command from the ministry, failed
to obtain it, and suddenly joined the opposition. Again, quite as
brusquely changing his tactics, he put himself at the head of a party of
intolerants who were opposing the repeal of the laws against the
Catholics.

Lord George Gordon took his place behind the table, with one of the
clergymen upon his right hand and Reuben on his left.

"Friends," he began in a very sweet and modulated tone, "our host, this
worthy young man, who is animated by the spirit of God,--our friend
Reuben Marsham,--informs me that an indelible memory attaches to this
chamber in which we are met. When the impious Charles Stuart remounted
the throne of which his father had been deprived by the anger of the
Lord, and which the weakness of men had restored to the son, two
fugitives were concealed here, and lived for a considerable time in this
subterranean hall, existed here until, through the information of a
servant, their asylum was discovered. The tyrant's soldiery dragged them
forth, and they lost their heads upon the scaffold, praising God, who
held their rewards in store for them. Shades of the great dead, martyrs
of the holy cause, here do I salute your invisible presence! Be with us!
Inspire, protect us!"

A tremor passed through the very bones of each auditor. Thereupon the
clergyman took up the word.

"Since we are assembled for the glory of God and of His Son, let us
first invoke his most holy name, my brothers; let us pray!"

He fell upon his knees; every man imitated his example with such
unanimous precision that the earth gave forth a dull sound, as when at
the word of command a company of soldiers grounds arms.

The clergyman intoned in a low voice the psalm beginning, "By the rivers
of Babylon."

To each verse all present murmured a response, toning their rough, harsh
voices. When the last _amen_ had been pronounced Lord George remarked,
"Friends, none among us is ignorant of our purpose in coming hither
to-night. For the sake of those of us who have not been present at our
previous reunions, I will in brief rehearse the facts. Aided by a
damnable philosophy, impiety has made great progress in our midst,
disguised at present under the new name of tolerance. Thanks to these
circumstances, Rome has reared her head. The great courtesan seeks to
queen it among us with unveiled face and lofty brow. Sons of the saints,
will you permit it?"

"No!" responded twenty voices.

"You are aware that a bill has been presented to the House of Commons
annulling the penal laws against the Catholics. I have raised my voice
in protest, but my words have been choked in my throat and I have been
treated as a fool. Both parties are united against us!"

Varied exclamations greeted these words.

"Burke is a Jesuit in disguise!"

"Fox is a scapegrace, a drunkard, a gambler!"

"Lord North's only thought is to fill his pockets and his stomach!"

"The Parliament is rotten to the core!"

"We must appeal to the king!" cried one.

"I have thought of that," said Lord George, "and I brought him one of
the pamphlets which I have published on the subject. His Majesty
listened to a part of it, and promised to read the rest. That was many
months ago, and still I have no response from him."

"The king," observed the clergyman upon Gordon's right, "has no power to
interfere in the resolutions of Parliament and in the legal vote."

"Is he prevented," burst out Reuben impetuously, "when some policy of
his own is at stake, or when he wishes to depose some minister who has
displeased him?"

Thereupon the tanner boldly advanced.

"The king is playing us false!" said he. "A while ago he went to dinner
with Lord Petre. Now, do you know who this Lord Petre is? A determined
papist! He is the grand-nephew of that same Father Petre who brought to
the palace in a warming-pan that miller's son whom they presented as the
Prince of Wales, and whom they have since called the knight of Saint
George!"

"That's neither here nor there."

"Wait!" continued the tanner with unruffled obstinacy. "When one is the
friend of a papist, one is nigh to becoming a papist. Who knows whether
the king is not already baptized!"

"It is certain in any case," interrupted Reuben, "that we have only
ourselves to depend upon. Unless we intimidate the House of Commons the
law will be passed."

"Yes," assented Lord George, "that is the truth. I have given notice
that on Friday I intend to lay our petition before Parliament, and that
I shall have two hundred thousand men to back me. You don't propose to
fail me, do you?"

"Certainly not!" cried the clergyman. "Each one of us is good for ten
thousand; we will answer for our neighborhoods."

"Will the Methodists march?" inquired Reuben.

"Every mother's son of them," replied a voice. "John Wesley has declared
against tolerance."

"In that case," said Gordon, "success is assured. We will meet at Saint
George's Fields at ten o'clock; there the final arrangements will be
made. Neglect no detail, brothers, which will tend to make our
manifestation imposing, grand, and irresistible. Infiltrate every soul
with the fire which animates you. Let the voice of the people, which is
the voice of God, be heard. For a century pious England has slept,
lulled by the indifference of mechanical practices, mercantile
preoccupations, ambitious intrigues, and worldly pleasures. The sun of
the morrow should shine upon her awakening, and this awakening should be
so sudden, so powerful, as to terrify the enemies of God. Let our warcry
be that of our ancestors, 'To your tents, O Israel!'"

"Brothers," said the clergyman in his turn, "let us intone the song of
the Hebrews, when God delivered them out of the land of
Egypt,--_Cantemus Domino_!"

They sang, always _sotto voce_, but the sustained accent of those deep
voices lent to the terrible words their full energy.

"O God, thou hast crushed thine enemies. The sea has swallowed them up;
they have fallen into the depths like a stone. Thou hast sent thine
anger upon them; it has consumed them like straw. The enemy hath said, I
will pursue them, I will fall upon them, I will share their spoils, I
will slay them with my sword, and I will be master. But thou hast sent
thy breath upon them, and they have been swallowed up as lead in a
raging sea. O Lord, what God is like unto thee!"

They sang, and a very tempest of enthusiasm whistled among their bowed
heads. A sort of heroic madness raised their commonplace souls quite out
of themselves. They fancied that they felt the spirit of the Lord upon
them; not the God of pity, who blesses and pardons, raises the fallen,
makes the sinner a saint, wipes away tears, heals the wounded, promises
peace to the weary, glory to the humble, love to the forsaken, heaven to
all such as the earth has wounded and made desperate, but a powerful,
jealous, revengeful God, a God who seeks bloody holocausts, and pursues
in the children the sins of the father, in the infant at the breast the
iniquities of vanished generations.

"The day of glory is at hand!" cried Reuben. "Happy are they who perish
in the combat!"

"Amen!" was the universal response.

And with that word they dispersed.



CHAPTER XI.

THE DAY OF DAYS.


A cloudless sun rose upon the 2d of June, 1780. Before six o'clock a
large crowd filled Saint George's Fields and the neighborhood. A certain
number of the men sought each other and stood in groups as if in
obedience to a previous word of command. They talked together in low
tones and wore a sombre air of resolution. A great number of humble folk
and shop-keepers had come hither at the request of their clergymen,
convinced that they were destined to do a pious work in repulsing the
religious joke of which their fathers had rid themselves; though from
their very bearing it was evident that these worthies were ready to do
more barking than biting. A multitude of the curious surrounded them,
resolved to see the show out, though it should cost them a cracked pate
or two. Occasionally a face betrayed fierce expectation of disorder, a
sort of presentiment of what might occur; but the great day still hung
heavily on their hands, and the men felt that their hour had not yet
come, and that they must leave it to the psalm-singers and idlers to
lead the way. About eleven o'clock Lord George Gordon appeared, and was
received with acclamation. Mounted upon a table, he delivered some words
which were quite lost, but his desperately energetic gestures were seen
and were responded to with cries of "Down with popery!" "Death to the
papists!"

The leaders passed from place to place endeavoring to enforce order in
this vast assemblage of men animated by such contrasting sentiments, but
scarcely had they turned their backs ere the confusion was renewed. At
last they succeeded in forming four main bodies, which, taking different
ways, crossed the Thames upon three bridges,--Westminster, Blackfriars,
and London Bridge.

[Illustration]

At the head of this last column marched Reuben Marsham, whose fine,
menacing face, flashing eyes, and floating yellow locks attracted
universal attention, especially among the women. Men bore before him
several banners upon which was emblazoned the legend, "No popery!"
Behind came a silent phalanx of fanatical sectarians, who ordered their
marching-step to the slow measures of a religious chant. The crowd
followed in clamorous disorder, struggling with a thousand emotions,
like a tempestuous flood-tide sweeping between the walls of the narrow
streets. From the windows and the thresholds of the shops a curious,
amused, but perfectly peaceful horde of people watched the progress of
the procession.

Here and there a philosopher or practical man would shrug his shoulders,
murmuring, "Fanatics!" or, "Still another working day wasted!" But the
majority sympathized with the object of the expedition, and saluted the
passage of the manifesto with answering cries of "No popery!"

No effort was made to interfere with the proceedings; not a red-coat nor
an officer of police appeared. What could all the watchmen in
London--those timid, innocent watchmen--have availed against such a
multitude, even though they had been united in one solid troop? As for
the soldiers, they were only called out as a last resort.

Reuben crossed Ludgate Hill without obstacle, went up Fleet Street, and,
having passed through old Temple Bar, entered the Strand. As a river
receives its affluents, the column constantly grew larger through the
human currents which joined it from the north and swept into it from the
side-streets. In front of houses where well-known Catholics dwelt the
procession would pause while, amidst groans and cries of execration from
the crowd, men slashed the doors with a chalk-mark, which designated the
places for approaching vengeance.

Having followed the Strand to its end, traversed Charing Cross, and
passed through Whitehall, the procession spread over Westminster Place,
which, despite its somewhat confined dimensions and the buildings which
obstructed it, nevertheless offered a favorable stamping-ground for such
popular displays. The other bodies had already arrived at the
rendezvous, and being united formed an immense, compact mass which
nothing could resist. The crowd, proud of its power, gave voice to a
long acclamation, above which isolated voices were heard, and which
caused every window in Westminster to rattle.

The afternoon being far advanced, the hour of the meeting approached.
The members of the two assemblies who had not taken time by the forelock
and reached the House of Parliament were recognized as they courageously
tried to penetrate the crowd, were marked out, abused, and beaten; but
the popular hatred was particularly directed against the orators,
ministers, and prelates, who were roundly accused, as they made their
appearance, of betraying the cause of religion and of selling England to
the Pope. With their carriage windows broken, their horses wildly
snorting, their coachmen purple with rage or pallid with fear and
deprived of their whips and reins, their terrified footmen clinging to
the straps behind, the coaches swayed like ships in distress upon this
furious human sea. They cracked and oscillated, until it was quite a
wonder they were not overturned. The unfortunate occupants were torn
from their seats and dragged over the pavements by the legs, arms, and
even by their powdered cues. "Kill them! Drown them!" was the cry. Lord
North, Lord Sandwich, the Archbishop of York, and several others thus
saw imminent death staring them in the face, and escaped it only by
their presence of mind or the energy of their friends. The crowd grew
intoxicated with success, but more particularly with the gin and the
beer which were dispensed in floods by the publicans of the
neighborhood. Who could foretell to what point of excess the affair
would be carried?

One after another the members of Parliament succeeded in joining their
colleagues. With their frills and ruffles in streamers, soiled with mud
and blood, they bore ample testimony of the violence to which they had
been subjected. Each one regarded the event according to his particular
humor; some laughed and swore, while others, grinding their teeth and
pale with rage, silently wiped their faces where they had been wounded
by the missiles, or their lacerated ears, which dripped blood upon their
fine attire. All these men bore the sword; many had used it; the
majority had risked their lives for a trifle in worldly duels, genuine
tilting scrimmages with bare bodkins. They had no fear of a London
rabble; the instinct of battle, the taste for combat, which is never
quite dormant in the breast of an Englishman, awoke within them. One
very aged member recounted how, sixty years before, the gentlemen of the
Loyal Societies, whom a Jacobite mob of 1720 undertook to prevent from
drinking King George's health, had charged upon the crowd in Cheapside
and Fleet Street and had broken not a few worthless skulls. The
recollection caused the old man's eyes to dance and excited the group of
his more youthful hearers. "What say you if we make an onslaught?"
proposed one of them.

With brandished canes a dozen of the younger members fell suddenly upon
the multitude and disengaged a friend from his perilous situation.
Several times was this manoeuvre repeated, with visible pleasure on
the part of those who executed it. What sport it was to warm the
rascals' backs! Directly their canes did not suffice, they drew their
swords and let a little blood for the good of their patients. Each time
that this occurred the populace fell back with a howl to give them place
out of respect for their quality, but instantly closed in again more
furious than ever. Soon with that destructive power of crowds it had
broken down the gates which had been closed against them, and had
invaded the courtyard; even now it had surged to the foot of the
staircase. Separated from the insurgents by only a few steps, the
deputies, crowded together in a solid mass, stamped with rage the
vestibule leading to the House. From time to time a member of the
government would come to take a bird's-eye view of the state of affairs,
as a sailor watches the weather, and would then return to the
Treasurer's office and report to his colleagues.

Nathaniel Wraxall, who had travelled everywhere, conspired with a queen,
risked his head in various countries, and had been mixed up in all the
brawls of his time, stood leaning upon the balustrade, watching the
spectacle with the calmly profound scrutiny of an entomologist at his
microscope. He listened to the remarks, studied the faces, and took
mental notes for the edification of posterity. From time to time he
would draw forth his watch, a beautiful work of art purchased in Paris,
which struck the hours and played the chimes of Dunkirk at noon and
midnight, in order not to make any error in the chronology of the
different phases of the day. If the precincts of Parliament, violated by
Cromwell and his Round-heads, but unassailed unto the present time by
vulgar invasion, were fated to be profaned by the mob, it was important
that Wraxall should be able to state historically at what precise moment
the fact was accomplished.

At this moment Lord George Gordon, borne in triumph upon the shoulders
of the people, and accompanied by a deafening tumult, mounted the
staircase. He was received with a burst of violent exclamations. His
colleagues apostrophized him, seized him by the arms, and called upon
him to order back the crowd. Without paying the slightest heed, Lord
George, with his eternal smile upon his face and as calm as possible,
very gently remarked:--

"By your leave, gentlemen."

Thereupon they followed him into the hall. With its vaulted ceiling, its
sombre woodwork richly carved, its Gothic ornamentation and fine stained
glass, which represented the story of Adam and Eve, together with that
of the patriarchs and the principal events in the life of Christ, the
ancient chapel of St. Stephen still preserved its religious character.
Therein Parliament had sat for upwards of one hundred and twenty years.
To be sure, it had not echoed the voices of Sir Thomas More and Bacon,
but it had vibrated to the accents of Shaftesbury, of Bolingbroke, and
the elder Pitt, and it still preserved the echoes of those noble
harangues which Voltaire declared worthy of the Roman senate. Just then
the silence which reigned within contrasted strangely with the infernal
tumult outside. At the usual hour prayer had been said, the speaker had
taken his seat, and the mace, that "plaything" of which Cromwell spoke
so disdainfully, had been laid upon the table, which indicated the
official opening of the meeting. The ministers upon their long,
high-backed bench at the right hand of the speaker, the leaders of the
opposition upon the opposite bench, the sergeant-at-arms standing just
beyond the bar, the clerk seated at the table,--every one was at his
post, as tranquil as though nothing out of the common were taking place.

Lord George Gordon demanded and obtained permission to lay upon the
table a petition from the inhabitants of London who protested against
the favors accorded to the Catholics.

"Two hundred thousand citizens have accompanied me in order to bear
respectful witness," he said.

A bitter burst of sneering interrupted him, but Lord George repeated his
phrase,--

"In order to bear respectful but firm witness of their immutable,
unreserved devotion to the liberty acquired by their fathers at the cost
of almost superhuman efforts."

Having pronounced these words he retired, taking special care to salute
the speaker at the exact spot where this formality is expected.

Again the hall was nearly deserted, the members crowding out into the
vestibule. Gordon reappeared and the vociferations were renewed. The
maledictions and menaces from above were answered by an enthusiastic
clamor from below. The tumult assumed such proportions that a man
speaking in his neighbor's ear and using the whole power of his lungs
was unable to make himself understood. Believing that Gordon was about
to join his friends, they barred his passage.

"You are a hostage," they said, "and you shall not go out!"

Lord George made a sign that he had no idea of going; he only desired to
speak a few encouraging words to the crowd. He descended a few steps and
attempted to speak, but all that was heard were such fragments as:
"Cause of God ... generous martyrs ... detestable idolatry ... rights of
the people ... even unto death."

Finding that his voice failed to prevail against the noise, he returned
to his colleagues; whereupon the multitude prepared to follow him. Then
Col. Gordon, who was a relative of the young lord, but of quite a
different calibre, drew his sword.

"You see!" he exclaimed. "Now I swear to you, sir, that if one of these
wretches enters here you are a dead man! Before he crosses the threshold
of Parliament I shall have passed my sword through your body!"

The little sleek, colorless face preserved its slyly evil smile. He
scarcely blinked his eyes before the tempest of furious insults which
burst upon him.

"The villains!" cried Reuben. "They are going to murder him!"

Drawing a pistol from his mantle, he was about to rush forward, when the
roll of drums was heard. It was Col. Woodford with a detachment of the
Guards coming to the relief of Parliament.

The crowd recoiled step by step, without panic or disorder, but with a
dull muttering of hate which presaged a lively resistance. As for the
soldiers, they advanced with precaution, content to occupy the abandoned
ground and to rescue the gates. From all sides a rain of invective
poured upon them, and even stones thrown from a distance fell within the
ranks.

"Are you going to fight for the Pope now?" cried one; while another
added,--

"Is it with the blood of Englishmen that the cardinals' gowns are dyed?"

The soldiers appeared crestfallen, disgusted with the part they were
obliged to play. These fine fair-weather soldiers, who are rarely sent
to war, relished still less the repression of a riot; and somehow the
rumor passed from mouth to mouth that they were about to revolt, to
refuse to obey their officers.

Within the Houses of Parliament a sudden change had taken place. If some
of the members rejoiced at the deliverance, others murmured thereat. The
presence of the soldiers in the precincts of the representatives of the
nation seemed to them a violation of the rights of Parliament almost as
grave as had been the vulgar invasion. One phrase, always magical under
such circumstances, circulated among them,--"Breach of privilege." The
danger being passed, or at least avoided, the sentiment of justice
towards and respect for the person of every citizen took its place.
After all, these men who protested against the resolutions of the
legislators were but using their right, albeit in rather buoyant
fashion. Were they going to massacre them? Fists, canes and the flat of
swords did not count, but gunshots were quite another matter! No, no: it
was wiser to save the powder for the Frenchmen.

Night was closing in upon the field of battle. Their spirits were
beginning to flag, for spirits cannot continue keyed up to a high pitch
forever, and the most critical situations in great popular movements
frequently languish for the reason that they have been too long
sustained. The supper hour was keenly appreciated by every stomach,
especially by those who had given themselves no time for dinner. Judge
Addington profited by these circumstances to make an attempt at
conciliation.

"Friends," he cried, "give me your word of honor that you will retire
and I will dismiss the soldiers!"

A burst of applause followed the words. The Guards made ready to beat a
retreat. A louder burst of applause. Considering that they had
manifested their power and given their betters a lesson, the mob slowly
evacuated the neighborhood of Parliament. By degrees the cries grew more
indistinct, and at last Westminster Place was deserted. Both parties
fancied themselves conquerors, and order appeared to be re-established.

This illusion was of short duration. A few minutes later prolonged
cries, and flames which suddenly burst forth, reddening the heavens,
announced the fact that the true excesses had but just begun. It soon
became known that the populace had attacked the chapel of the Sardinian
ambassador in Duke Street, and still another of the Romish persuasion in
Warwick Street. Benches, pictures, chairs, crucifixes, and
confessionals,--all had been torn down and dragged out of doors, leaving
merely the four walls standing, and a bonfire was made of these
instruments of idolatry. Menaced upon every hand, the Catholics fled in
hot haste, as if London in the midst of the eighteenth century was about
to assist at a Protestant "Saint Bartholomew."

Thus alarm reigned in one quarter of the town, while joy presided in
another. While the shrieks of death resounded in Duke Street, they were
dancing at the Pantheon!



CHAPTER XII.

THE MASQUERADE AT THE PANTHEON.


The two women had passed the entire day in arranging their dominos. Only
an occasional echo of the popular disturbance had reached them; and when
they learned that a great crowd had surrounded Parliament, Mrs. Marsham,
who was not easily disquieted, remarked: "That's good! It is the
petition against the papists." And she dismissed the subject from her
mind once and for all.

As for Esther, a great calm had replaced her agitation of the preceding
evening. The gypsy's prediction, the Shakespearean oracle, together with
the conspiracy of things in general so far as her vanity was concerned,
failed to prevail against the sentiment hidden away in the depths of her
heart. She had arrived at a determination and proposed to abide by it.
She would go to the ball, would have as pleasant a time as she could,
but she would not permit herself to be led away. She would not notice
any such preconcerted signal as "The moon is risen!" She was resolved to
act thus--unless at the last minute, and actuated by some new caprice,
she did exactly the contrary.

Esther was ready in good time, and Mrs. Marsham, although much slower,
was not behind hand in joining her in the parlor.

About nine o'clock, shortly after nightfall (for these were the longest
days of the year), the women were startled by a great hubbub at the
door, which resembled the hooting of children. In her curiosity and
impatience Esther hastened to open the door, and discovered to her
amazement, in the midst of a dozen or more boys who were throwing mud at
him, a strange creature dressed like a gentleman but wearing the
enormous head of an ass. The monster, who seemed either blind or
intoxicated, bolted into the garden, slamming the gate behind him.

"Shut the door, quick!" muttered an indistinct voice which issued from
the snout of the animal. "Can't you see they're hunting me?"

Mechanically the young girl obeyed, and then the intruder quickly
removed his artificial head and displayed to the women the pale,
haggard, dripping features of their friend, the music teacher.

"Mr. O'Flannigan!"

"O'Flannigan himself, astonished that he is still alive to tell the
tale! Did you see those madmen?"

"Madmen! Why, the eldest was not more than twelve years of age."

"Are you sure of it?"

"Of course. But why this ass's head?"

"Well, they are having a terrible time with the Catholics this evening,
and I thought it wise to be in disguise; and it's all right, since we
are going to a masquerade ball. I hired from the property room at Drury
Lane the ass's head which Bottom wears in the 'Midsummer-Night's Dream.'
It fits me, does it not?"

"As if it had been made for you!"

[Illustration]

"Unfortunately, in passing Charing Cross my chair was stopped and turned
upside down by the populace, and my bearers deserted me like cowards. I
hastily put on my ass's head, but evidently not quickly enough to avoid
being recognized. I took to my heels, and they gave chase, screaming,
'Drown the papist!' and they would have been as good as their threat."

Esther burst out laughing.

"Bah! a parcel of children amusing themselves at your expense!" she
said.

"Yes, children! For that reason I refrained from drawing my sword. Ah,
had I had men to deal with, they would have paid dearly for their
insolence!"

"You have indeed been magnanimous, Mr. O'Flannigan, which was worthy of
you.--Now let us set out without further loss of time."

"But are the streets safe?" queried Mrs. Marsham.

"I believe it is all over. At least I hear nothing."

In fact it was the moment of cessation of hostilities when the rioters
evacuated the Palace Yard.

Without accident a hired carriage conveyed the two women and their
escort to Oxford Road, where the Pantheon was situated.

The passion for masked balls which had been the delight of the
contemporaries of the first two Georges had received a serious check
about the middle of the century, at the time that Europe was terrified
by the report of earthquakes. London believed herself upon the eve of
experiencing the fate which had befallen Lisbon. Indeed, a prophet
appeared in the streets who announced the destruction of the city upon a
certain date. On the night preceding the fateful day a great part of the
population emigrated and encamped in the open air; but, though the
dreaded event passed without catastrophe, a vague terror prevailed,
paralyzing all sorts of pleasure. From their pulpits the popular
preachers thundered against the vices of the day, and especially against
the abominable license of masked balls. God was about to chastise
England; already was His arm upraised against her. No more masquerades,
or a rain of fire and brimstone would devour the new Babylon; the earth
would yawn and engulf in its entrails the sinners, with their infamous
tinsel and their masks, which hid all their impurities. Thus attired
they would appear before their pitiless Master, and would pass from the
laughter and intoxication of the dance hall straight into the
inexpressible anguish of the last Judgment!

Thus at one fell swoop the masked balls disappeared.

By degrees, however, the panic calmed, was forgotten, and in time became
a historic memory. The strong-minded even risked a smile at the
recollection.

The first time that a purveyor of amusement spoke of resuscitating
masked balls a wag remarked, "He may be going to treat us to an
earthquake!" The proposition met with success, and the whole town
hastened to the _fêtes_ which Teresa Cornelys inaugurated at Carlisle
House in Soho Square. In the first place, the good Cornelys asked no
money; oh, no! If she accepted a little it was devoted to the purchase
of charcoal for the poor of London, who were suffering extremely from
the cold that winter. But the summer came, and still the dances
continued at Carlisle House. The Cornelys explained that her aim was to
encourage business, which was undergoing a crisis. (Business is always
undergoing a crisis!) Nevertheless, the bishops complained loudly of the
liberty which reigned at Madame Cornelys's house; according to them
Carlisle House was a very bad place indeed.

It was then decided to create a masked ball, access to which should be
refused to persons of questionable reputation, and to which only women
of the fashionable world should be admitted. The Pantheon threw open its
doors on the 27th of January, 1772. On the very first evening Miss
Abington, who occupied a place in the foremost rank of the excluded,
presented herself smilingly at the door, fluttering her fan with a
victorious air.

"Mademoiselle," faltered the master of ceremonies respectfully, "it is
with the profoundest regret that I am forced to refuse you admittance
to this house. The rule is stringent and--"

Miss Abington turned and gave a signal, whereupon forty gentlemen in
good order appeared, with drawn swords. The poor master of ceremonies
yielded to number, and Miss Abington made her triumphal _entrée_ to the
ballroom. Through the breach thus opened passed the whole army of vice,
from the princes' favorites to the rovers of Drury Lane.

The evening was well advanced ere Mrs. Marsham and her niece entered the
great rotunda, both in domino and masked. Upon coming out of the fresh,
sleepy streets through which their coach had jolted them they were dazed
and overwhelmed at finding themselves in the midst of such a furnace and
din. The confusion amounted almost to delirium. The atmosphere was hot,
heavy, and charged with pungent perfumes. The heat was so excessive that
the candles melted and ran down upon such maskers as were not upon the
lookout. Fifteen hundred persons, some intoxicated, others excited by
the stir, the fun, and the noise, talked, laughed, screamed, and
fluttered about; while their feet raised a dust which rose in a cloud
and spread like a fog, enveloping the entire scene. Such was the turmoil
of the crowd that the strident scraping of the violins and the shrill
blasts of the horns were only occasionally heard.

"This is Bedlam let loose!" remarked Esther.

"It is hell!" responded Mrs. Marsham, who trembled with emotion and
already regretted having come to such a place.

Mr. O'Flannigan, who was stifling beneath his ass's head, scarcely
seeing anything and hearing nothing, kept turning from one to the other
of his companions, but he had not counted upon his prominent snout,
which continually struck them in the face unless they dodged quickly.

Amidst the rout they soon began to distinguish certain details, certain
characteristic figures. A sultana, half-naked beneath her diaphanous
draperies, was borne in a velvet palanquin upon a cardboard elephant,
the legs of which were formed by four stout men, conducted by a
magnificent Mussulman with a long beard and a golden caftan, and with an
enormous ruby in his turban. Two little negroes, one bearing a casket of
perfumes, the other waving a fan of plumes, slipped into the hands of
the gentlemen mysterious bits of paper carefully folded. Upon each of
these was found the address of the merchant in Bond Street who sold East
Indian stuffs at the lowest cash prices, and for whom the masquerades
served as an advertisement. The _cortége_ closed with a group of
odalisques, in the midst of whom a grinning eunuch carried a banner upon
which was inscribed, "Slaves for sale." These odalisques were
perpetually assailed by a band of man-monkeys, who left nothing to be
desired in the way of audacity and effrontery. Next a Friesland
nurse-girl, her head covered with metallic ornaments, gravely carried a
little dog in her arms swaddled like an infant. Then came a personage
half-miller, half-chimney-sweep, one side being white with flour, the
other black with soot. A rigorously straight line divided his forehead,
followed the line of his nose, crossed his mouth and chin, and
apportioned his body into two equal parts. Among the promenaders were to
be seen a dark-lantern, an artichoke, the shaft of a pillar, an
egg-shell, a gigantic spider, and a corpse swathed in his winding-sheet,
carrying his coffin under his arm, which he showed to the ladies with a
gesture of jovial invitation that was received with roars of laughter.
Adam and Eve in flesh-colored tights with a cincture of leaves in
painted paper carried between them a little tree, about the trunk of
which was entwined a remarkable imitation of the serpent. As she passed
along Eve gathered crystallized fruits from the tree and offered them to
the men with a sweetly innocent smile.

Caricatures of living personages were also seen, and easily recognized
and understood. A mariner's compass which bore a vague resemblance to
George III. held its needle turned towards the north, that is, towards
Lord North, who advanced in the garb of Boreas, having a hideous
cannibal upon his arm,--the symbol of the alliance between the Prime
Minister and the Indians. Another group, formed by a Spaniard, a French
coxcomb dressed in the latest Versailles fashion, and a Virginian
planter (the three enemies united against England at this epoch), fled
before Dame Britannia, who lashed them soundly to the immense delight of
the patriots in the hall. A woman impersonating Intrigue whispered
mysteriously, distributed bags of money and pension certificates, and
wore the national coat-of-arms, on which the horse of Hanover was
represented as kicking the British lion, while she stamped with rage
upon a ragged piece of paper upon which was written in large letters,
"Bill of Rights." Near her the Pope, with mitre on his head, turned
somersaults and juggled with Saint Peter's keys.

"We had better go above in order to have a bird's-eye view," said Esther
to her aunt.

So they dragged poor O'Flannigan up to the top of the staircase,
stumbling as he went.

From the upper floor, leaning upon the velvet railing, they viewed the
spectacle for some time. The great rotunda seemed like the crater of an
active volcano, while the vapor that ascended scorched their cheeks. At
this moment a string of men and women, uttering insane cries, whirled
round and round the hall with ever-increasing velocity. Woe to him who
met them in their mad career! Woe to the one who fell, for he would be
trampled under foot! Carried away by the intoxication of their folly,
they regarded neither decorum nor obstacles, and in their wild sport
lost the very sentiment of their existence as they whirled like gnats
dancing themselves to death in the sunlight.

The two curious women turned away. Close about them were different
scenes, other phases of pleasure. In adjoining halls, which represented,
according to the fancy of the time, the interiors of Chinese and
Japanese houses, persons seated at tables ate and drank. There were
hungry women among them who greedily devoured pork-pies with prunes;
others who nibbled cakes and sipped whipped cream. Champagne and Rhine
wine flowed in torrents. From obscure corners came the sound of
whispered words, stifled laughter, and the smack of kisses. Elsewhere
the merry-makers made greater exertions, and the supper was changed into
an orgy. Mounted upon a table a young girl of sixteen danced with a
man's cocked hat slipping down over her eyes. Another with dishevelled
hair had thrown herself upon a man's knee, tossed her naked arm about a
second, and was smiling at a third with a glance languid, half
unconscious with wine. Still another, stretched at full length upon a
sofa, slept as tranquilly as if she had been in bed.

"Come away, quick!" ejaculated Mrs. Marsham, uttering mental anathemas
upon her curiosity.

At this moment, in an alcove between two pillars, Esther perceived two
persons,--a man and a woman, partially concealed by the draperies. The
remarkable thing about it was that the latter wore a domino exactly
similar to her own,--brown with blue ribbons. The man, leaning towards
her, spoke in low tones, seeming to beseech, to supplicate her; while
she, with a wave of her fan and a shake of the head, said "No" with a
coquettish gesture,--that sort of a "no" which is the preface to and
synonym of "yes." Undoubtedly it was one of those momentary love affairs
which are born and expire by the myriad upon such nights. However, the
cavalier appeared to be more serious than the men about him. The way in
which he pressed one of the little hands which had been entrusted to his
clasp, and sought to plunge his gaze through the openings in the mask to
find the eyes of the unknown, was at once anxious, impassioned, and
sorrowful. For one moment he turned his head, but in that moment Esther
recognized Francis Monday!

The impression that she experienced was one of more unexpected violence
than she would ever have been able to imagine or foresee. Every drop of
blood in her veins fled to her heart, and her limbs trembled. Being
dragged away by her aunt, she took several steps without knowing whither
she was going. That one moment sufficed to reveal to her the fact that
she loved, and to teach her at one and the same blow that he did not
love her. She had permitted herself to believe his tender words, his sad
glances, and the recital of his early hardships; it had seemed so sweet
to console the lonely orphan. It was for him, without her daring to
frankly confess it even to herself, that she would willingly sacrifice
her dreams of fortune, grandeur, and pleasure! And Frank was a
libertine, after all, like the rest of them; he had never even thought
of her! At the thought her irritation against herself knew no bounds.
The spirit of audacity and adventure, which had often tormented her,
rose imperiously and urged her on, as the spur incites the high-bred
horse.

"I have had a narrow escape," thought Esther; "a hut, a garret with
_him_, the joy of freezing to death, of starving for bread! That is what
I have been nigh to plighting my troth to,--I, a daughter of
Shakespeare,--I, who was born for a brilliant career, for great _rôles_
and lofty emotions!--The die is cast: I shall be Lady Mowbray!"

The two women with their ass-headed cavalier had returned to the foot of
the stairs. All at once a woman flung herself upon O'Flannigan, uttering
so shrill a cry that even amidst the deafening uproar more than thirty
persons turned and paused to witness the scene which was about to take
place.

"Wretch!" screamed the woman, "is it thus that you desert me, and our
poor children crying for bread?"

"I!" faltered O'Flannigan, paralyzed with surprise, and well-nigh
strangled by the stranger, who had seized him by his ruffled
shirt-front.

"Yes, you! While you are promenading here with hussies, whom I should
blush to touch with the tip of my finger, you leave your lawful wife to
the care of the parish!"

"Madam, there is some mistake! Permit me to say to you, with all the
respect due to your misfortune, that you hold me too tight! You will
tear my ruffles, which belong to the property-room of Drury Lane. I
repeat, there is some mistake!"

And taking off the ass's head, O'Flannigan revealed his honest face
convulsed with perplexity. The spectators crowded anxiously about them.

"No, there is no mistake! You are, indeed, my husband, Pat O'Flannigan,
music teacher and prompter to Drury Lane Theatre."

"Certainly, I am O'Flannigan, music teacher and prompter at Drury Lane,
but as to being your husband, may Heaven confound me if I ever set eyes
on you before!"

"You have never set eyes on me? You have never set eyes on Molly
MacMurragh, to whom you were married by the priest at Bray, in Ireland?
You have never set eyes on the mother of your six children?"

Mrs. Marsham loosened her hold upon the unhappy O'Flannigan's arm.

"Can this be true?" she cried. "Can this woman really be Mrs.
O'Flannigan?"

"My dear madam, I protest! There is no Mrs. O'Flannigan! This woman is
either a fool or a jade; she has been hired by my enemies!"

"A fool! a jade! If there is any jade here it is this bold hussy who has
helped herself to other people's belongings, and seduced a married man
from his duty!"

"Mercy!" gasped Mrs. Marsham in horror.

"I do not know," cried the woman, "what prevents me from tearing off her
mask, and leaving the marks of my nails upon her as the headsman brands
forgers!"

She advanced menacingly, and shook her clinched fist in Mrs. Marsham's
face, who feebly cried, "Help! help!"

A circle had been formed; those who could not see elbowed their
neighbors, or mounted upon chairs, while such exclamations were heard
as--

"Two women! They're going to fight! Bravo! Let 'em go!"

Some one cried out. "I'll wager five to one on the lawful dame!"

To which came the reply, "I'll take you!"

Others made sport of O'Flannigan's piteous face. Mrs. Marsham had let go
of Esther's hand, who found herself in the background, and quite
unnoticed. Presently a voice close behind her pronounced these words
very distinctly,--

"_The moon is risen!_"

She trembled in every nerve; her heart beat violently. Her whole future
life depended upon the step she was about to take. In that supreme
moment the pantomime which she had just surprised above stairs shot with
the rapidity of lightning through her mind; again she saw Francis Monday
pressing the hand of the unknown domino and supplicating her with his
eyes.

"Enough!" thought she.

She closed her eyes as does one who is about to leap into an abyss.

A hand seized hers and drew her away, and without a word she followed
her guide.



CHAPTER XIII.

MOWBRAY'S FOLLY AT CHELSEA.


The situation was becoming critical for poor O'Flannigan and his
companion, when an unexpected ally appeared upon the field of battle, in
the person of the majestic Oriental who had served as the elephant
driver.

"Look here!" he cried. "This is a shameful farce. This gentleman is
innocent; I'll go bond for him! And as for this brown-skinned Jezebel,
do you not recognize her as the gypsy who told fortunes at Saint
Bartholomew fair, and who has so often been hauled up before the
magistrates in Bow Street?"

"It's a fact!" explained some one. "It is Rahab, the gypsy queen!"

"Call the watchmen and let the beggar be taken to prison!"

From all sides resounded groans of disapproval. "No, no! no police! This
is a joke. Don't do her any harm!"

But at the words "watchmen" and "prison" the gypsy had folded her tent
and silently stolen away.

Assisted by his generous auxiliary, O'Flannigan conducted Mrs. Marsham,
suffocating with mortification and rage, to a retired seat in an almost
deserted side-room. There a footman brought her a glass of water, of
which she swallowed half and then proceeded to take a survey of her
surroundings.

"I shall remember this evening!" she remarked. "The Lord has punished me
for my curiosity as he chastised our mother Eve before me. However,"
added the good woman, relieving her mind with a fib, "I wished to give
my niece the pleasure."

The words suggested the girl.

"But where is Esther?" she exclaimed.

"Sure enough!" said O'Flannigan. "What has become of Miss Woodville?"

Different suppositions were offered. She must have become frightened;
she must have been separated from them by the crowd.

"But she must be sought! She must be found!" cried Mrs. Marsham.

"How was she dressed?" inquired the man in the turban.

Mrs. Marsham described her niece's costume.

"Useless to search for her. Miss Woodville has been carried off, or,
rather, she has followed her abductor of her own free will. I divined
that all this ridiculous rumpus had but one object,--to daze you and
distract your attention. At the moment that I came to your relief I saw
with my own eyes a brown domino with blue ribbons going towards one of
the doors on the arm of a masked gentleman."

"Esther! It is impossible, sir!"

"I beg your pardon, madam. And I can go further: I can give you the name
of her abductor."

"Who was it?"

"Lord Mowbray."

"As you seem to know so much," said O'Flannigan, "pray who are you
yourself? A sorcerer or the devil himself?"

By way of answer the Oriental removed his false beard.

"Mr. Fisher!" exclaimed the Quakeress and her cavalier in the same
breath.

"At your service. This is Prospero's beard in the 'Tempest.'"

"Well done!" said O'Flannigan. "The Shakespeare accessories have been
largely plundered this evening! But tell us, Fisher, what leads you to
suppose that Lord Mowbray has designs upon Miss Woodville?"

"I have had proofs enough," replied Fisher mysteriously; "all the proofs
I want, you may believe me."

The hairdresser considered it unnecessary to say more, or to add that
the proofs in question bore the effigy of his Majesty.

"Merciful Heaven! what shall I do?" cried Mrs. Marsham wringing her
hands.

"You had better warn your son," suggested the Irishman.

The Quakeress quaked with terror.

"Reuben! He will overwhelm me with reproaches!"

"Never mind what he says. He is the betrothed of his cousin; he is
energetic and courageous; if any one is capable of snatching the girl
from impending doom, it is he. There is not a moment to be lost."

"But where shall we find him?"

"As to that," replied Fisher, "nothing is easier. All day long he has
been at the head of the papal enemies. I must be greatly mistaken if he
is not at this moment engaged in setting fire to the Sardinian chapel."

It was thereupon decided to place Mrs. Marsham in safety in Fisher's
house, which was near Oxford Road, while the two men went in search of
Reuben.

The hairdresser had friends everywhere. At the door he received fresh
tidings which confirmed his suppositions. Capt. Hackman, Lord Mowbray's
inseparable companion, had been seen in Oxford Road with a pistol under
each arm. A carriage without armorial bearings, with neutral colored
livery, had been stationed at a short distance. A masked gentleman with
a brown and blue domino upon his arm had come out of the Pantheon. He
had signalled the carriage, which had approached, and the man and woman
had entered it. Thereupon Hackman sprang upon the box, saying to the
coachman, "To Chelsea!" Then the horses set off at full speed towards
the left, narrowly escaping running over people. There was still another
version which a page had to tell. It was the same masked man and the
domino in the same colors; only the affair had taken place at one of the
little side-doors of the Pantheon. Instead of the coach a sedan-chair
had carried off the fugitive towards the right, in the direction of the
city. In affairs of the kind there are always points of difference among
the witnesses. Who was to be believed? Evidently those who had
recognized Hackman and heard the address given to the coachman. It was
towards the "Folly" at Chelsea that Mowbray had undoubtedly taken his
victim. Fisher was an alert and intelligent man. Some minutes later,
divested of his turban, his Persian robe, and his beard, he joined
Reuben in Duke Street. The vandals had achieved their work, and the
crowd of by-standers, lit up by the flames, gloated over the spectacle.
The blazing pile, formed of the ornaments of the chapel, was beginning
to flag for lack of combustibles.

A horde of children of fourteen or fifteen years of age, having taken
the places of the men, danced about the charred remains, uttering cries
and causing a flame to spring up here and there by administering a kick
to the embers. A transient glow illumined the street, revealing the
faces of terrified women at the windows, and in an obscure corner a
group of the rioters with their hats drawn down over their eyes. Among
them stood Reuben, coldly implacable, watching lest any one should
approach the fire to save or steal anything.

It was at this moment that Fisher approached him and whispered a few
words in his ear. Reuben started in surprise and rage.

"Esther carried off by Lord Mowbray! Taken to Chelsea!" he gasped.

However, he quickly regained his composure and reflected for a moment.

"Friends," he said in a loud but firm voice, in order to make himself
heard by the thirty or forty men grouped about him, "there is nothing
more to be done here. If we remain longer we shall be hunted down by the
soldiers, of whose approach we have already been warned. Let us
disperse, to meet again within the hour at Chelsea, near the Bun-house.
Thence I will lead you to the assault of a house, the master of which
secretly favors the papists."

For the time being Reuben was falsifying; but examples in Holy
Scriptures which authorized a pious lie crowded his memory. He also
added in an assured tone, casting an expressive glance upon the band of
pillagers who had given some sign of discontent,--

"This house is full of riches. It also contains a young girl prisoner,
one of our own set, whom this villain has seized to make her the toy of
his pleasure. Let us hasten if we hope to arrive in time to save her!"

These words were received with murmurs of adhesion. The little legion of
disorder divided into groups, set off through the streets that led
westward, and gained the place of rendezvous by different ways. Reuben
accompanied Fisher, who recounted the details of the adventure as they
went along.

The Bun-house was celebrated at the period for the fabrication of those
somewhat heavy and substantial cakes which still form the traditional
family diet on Good Fridays. In fine weather a goodly company was wont
to wend its way thither for the purpose of eating buns and washing them
down with port. When George III. passed that way, on his way from Kew to
Saint James's, he did not disdain to stop and chat familiarly with
Mistress Hand, the pastry-cook. She must have slept like a log that
night not to have heard the strange assemblage which formed under the
walls of her garden. Reuben found but a few of the fanatical sectarians
whom he had led to Parliament. Weary with the fatigues of the day,
content with having intimidated the representatives of the nation, as
they flattered themselves, and destroyed two of the lairs of idolatry,
they had undoubtedly gone home and to bed. One phrase only in Reuben's
brief harangue had carried the day,--"This house is full of riches!"
Well might he be astonished, for the words had fallen unintentionally
from his lips. But if Reuben remained unmoved, Fisher trembled at sight
of the bandit faces which surrounded him. Seeing them thus, no one
would have suspected that these shady cavaliers were marching to the
defence of menaced innocence.

All told, they were some forty men armed with pistols, clubs, and
knives. Truly formidable, resolute, ready for anything, accustomed, as
it appeared, to such nocturnal escapades, they marched silently, and
obeyed promptly with some show of discipline.

"Yonder is the house," said Reuben, "behind those trees. It is best to
form a ring about it so that no one shall escape us."

"I have been hostler at the Folly," said a red-headed fellow with a
hang-dog look, advancing as he spoke; "there is a breach on the north
side of the wall through which I used to slip every night to join my
sweetheart Peg, who was maid at the Nell Gwynne. If it be your will, I
will conduct you."

"Lead on!" answered Reuben laconically.

A few minutes later the troop penetrated the little park and crept
softly in the shadow of the great trees, avoiding the gravelled paths.
The thick sward muffled their footfalls, while a high, warm wind, which
had arisen, rustled the foliage, thus favoring them by masking still
more such sounds as they did make. Occasionally a pebble crackled or a
dead twig snapped beneath their feet, but that was all. For the space of
fifty yards about the house extended an open space.

"Halt!" whispered Reuben in a prudent tone.

The house was in complete darkness; it seemed either uninhabited or
wrapped in sleep; however, upon examination Reuben and Fisher discovered
a ray of light which filtered between the closed blinds upon the second
floor.

"They are there!" thought Reuben, quivering with rage; while aloud he
cried,--

"Forward!"

They obeyed the command with a rush; but undoubtedly some one had been
watching, some one whom they had not perceived. The alarm had been
given, and the heavy oaken door, swinging upon its well-oiled hinges,
closed in their faces. Then from within followed the sound of bolts
being shot into place and of the adjusting of bars.

A pause ensued, a moment of amazement, and then an outcry of rage
mingled with at least forty oaths. The man who had spoken before, the
former hostler, again ventured to the rescue.

"Behind the laundry," said he, "there is a pile of lumber, placed there
for the building of a summer house. With one of the rafters we could
force the door."

Reuben approved the scheme. A few moments later an improvised
battering-ram, borne upon twenty shoulders and skilfully balanced, at
the word of command went crashing against the solid woodwork. At the
third blow a splitting sound was heard.

"Listen!" cried Fisher. "Some one above is speaking."

The men, panting, and bathed in perspiration, paused.

In fact, a window upon the second floor had been suddenly thrown open,
and a man--probably Lord Mowbray--had appeared upon the balcony. Every
eye was raised to him and every tongue hurled some insult at him in the
same breath. With a calm curiosity he regarded the crowd swarming and
howling in the darkness beneath him.

"Gentlemen," he said, "we are at least a dozen strong here, well armed
and determined to defend ourselves. The first man who sets foot within
this house will pay dearly for his imprudence; but before we resort to
bloodshed, suppose we hold a parley. What is your will with me? Do you
fancy, perhaps, that I am a papist? According to my nurse I am a member
of the Church of England, and I am ready to pronounce in your presence
the test oath or any other oath, to swear by the body of Christ, the
belly of Mahomet, by Belial or Beelzebub."

This harangue scandalized Reuben's virtuous friends, while it set their
rowdy escort in a roar of laughter. Young Marsham was not slow to
appreciate the _prestige_ which such jocose coolness in the hour of his
peril was giving Mowbray,--a supreme quality in the eyes of an English
mob; therefore he hastened to interpose.

"You are detaining a young girl here whom you have abducted from her
family," he declared.

"It is true," answered Lord Mowbray; "there is a young lady here. Do you
wish to see her?"

"At once! I insist upon it!"

"I do not understand your last words, but I willingly yield to your
request. Madam, be good enough to show yourself to these gentlemen, who
are nervous about you."

He turned towards the interior of the chamber and bowing respectfully,
with much grace extended his hand to a woman who stood there, and
assisted her to step out upon the balcony. At the same time he added,--

"Hackman, my good fellow, give us some light."

Capt. Hackman, with a blazing torch in each hand, appeared upon the
balcony in his turn.

"It is she!" cried Fisher. "I recognize the brown domino and the blue
ribbons! I can swear that it was I who furnished that mask!"

"Madam," said Mowbray with renewed demonstrations of respect, "are you
here of your own free will?"

The masked woman gave an affirmative sign.

"Has any one molested or offended you in any way?"

She answered by a negative gesture.

"Esther," cried Reuben, "can it be that you have forgotten--"

Mowbray quickly interrupted him.

"Come, come, sir! Is it in so numerous a company as this that one
proceeds to indulge in a family explanation, or gives a curtain lecture
to a young girl? Be good enough to come up here. You will find my house
open to you, but to you alone. I give you my word that if, after some
moments of conversation, you still persist in claiming this young lady,
she shall follow you. On the other hand you must swear to me--"

"I never swear," said Reuben rudely.

"There you are wrong," retorted Mowbray courteously; "an oath frequently
eases matters."

"It is written, 'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in
vain.'"

"Very well. But promise me at least that, during the time, your men
shall not move or commit any folly."

"So be it."

And turning to his companions Reuben added, "If in the space of a
quarter of an hour I do not come out of this house, enter and cut down
with your swords whomsoever you may meet!"

"An admirable plan," concluded Mowbray, always ironical.

When Reuben, having been introduced into the enemy's camp under a flag
of truce, had at last reached the apartment upon the second floor,
Mowbray remarked:--

"Now, madam, you may unmask."

The young woman loosened the strings of her mask, and Reuben found
himself in the presence of Bella, Lady Vereker, whose black eyes
regarded him with a singular expression of mingled curiosity and
amusement.

"You are surprised, sir," resumed Lord Mowbray, "as I was myself an hour
ago. Heaven is my witness that it was not her ladyship whom I supposed I
had carried off; but after all, as the French proverb has it, _Quand le
vin est tiré, il faut le boire_, and an old sweetheart, like old wine,
is best."

"Insolent fellow!" murmured Lady Vereker, toying with her fan.

Still Reuben remained sombre and defiant.

"What assurance have I," he demanded, "that this lady is not your
accomplice?"

Then her ladyship with feigned anger mingled with raillery, exclaimed:--

"I! when I have wished my reputation to protect that of my young
friend!"

Without pausing to consider this important sacrifice, Marsham
continued:--

"And what assurance have I that my cousin is not concealed in some
corner of this accursed house, for it is certain that she has
disappeared?"

"If she has been carried off, it must have been by the devil," said
Mowbray, "and unfortunately I cannot be held responsible. I freely
consent to your searching the house. I can refuse nothing to so amiable
a man."

Conducted by Hackman, and accompanied by Fisher and the former hostler,
who knew all the ins and outs of the place, young Marsham visited every
recess of the "Folly." Carrying to a grotesque degree the affected
civility of his patron, the captain preceded them, opening all the
cabinets, the wardrobes and the closets, and even inviting them to
examine nooks scarcely large enough to stow away a hare in. Quite
unmoved by his impertinence, Reuben and his companions sounded the walls
with their sticks.

"Esther! Esther!" cried Reuben in a loud voice. But there was never a
reply.

The officious Hackman, who stood aside at every door according to the
rigid rules of French courtesy, showed them the kitchens, the offices,
in fact everything, sparing no detail. He insisted that they should
explore the entire length of the two subterranean passages, one of which
led to the open country, the other to the river bank.

"Now," he remarked, "you know the house as well as its architect."

"Well?" inquired Mowbray of young Marsham when he returned from his
fruitless exploration.

"I have found nothing, my lord," answered Reuben with a tinge of
embarrassment.

"Then undoubtedly you divine what I expect of you."

"That I dismiss the men? I was about to do so." He stepped out upon the
balcony and addressed his companions.

"The young girl whom I sought is not here; at least she is no longer
here. Consequently your presence is no longer required and you may
retire."

A muttering of evil augury arose from the ranks of the little group.

"These gentlemen will not go," suggested Mowbray, "until my butler has
given each of them a half-guinea with which to drink my health. It would
be a pity to give such brave fellows so much trouble for nothing."

A general cheer and cry of "Long live Lord Mowbray!" responded to this
largesse.

"I knew," continued the young nobleman, "that we should understand each
other. The manner in which you have split my door has given me a high
opinion of your ability in case of an emergency, and it appears that we
should accomplish great results, were I your leader.--Stay! There is,
hard by, the residence of a papist, which ought to be sacked. I have a
mind to lead you thither myself. It is not that I owe the papists any
particular grudge, but I am ready to labor for honor's sake, and for the
love of the art."

The enthusiastic cries burst forth anew. Reuben could not but feel that
his day was over, and that henceforth Lord Mowbray was the true master
of his men. With a haughty, sullen air he turned towards the door.

"I reserve my suspicions," he said. "We shall meet again, Lord Mowbray."

"One moment, if you please. I reproach myself with having concealed
something from you. There is a chamber in this house which has escaped
your examination."

[Illustration]

Saying which, he moved a small picture and pressed an invisible button.
One of the panels in the wainscoting shot upward without a sound, like
the curtain of a theatre, revealing a narrow passage. Mowbray led the
way, Reuben following him. After a few steps he found himself in a
circular apartment furnished with extraordinary richness and taste. From
the ceiling fell a rosy radiance, soft, tender, and faint, vaguely
illumining the tapestries with which the walls were draped, upon which
were represented rare subjects derived from Boccaccio. The feet sank
into a rich carpet as into the sward of glades which no human step has
ever pressed. The low rounded furniture seemed fashioned to render the
fall of a body insensible and silent.

Ere Reuben had had time to cast his glance about the apartment the panel
had fallen into place, leaving no more suggestion of a door than a wall
of polished steel. Mowbray had vanished, and Marsham was alone. In an
excess of rage he flung himself against the wall with all his might, he
scratched it with his nails and beat upon it with his clinched fists.

Ten feet above his head a peephole opened, in which was framed the
mocking face of Mowbray.

"You are giving yourself needless exertion," he remarked. "The panel
will defy all your efforts. No one can hear you, and no one will release
you before to-morrow morning. A night of seclusion in so charming a
place is scarcely cruel chastisement enough for your insolence, more
especially as this prison saves you from another. At this moment they
are searching for Reuben Marsham high and low, but truly such a boudoir
as this is preferable to a cell in Newgate. Therefore be resigned, and
seek some means of passing the time. Ah, I forgot. You will find a
venison pie and a bottle of Canary wine upon the table at your
left.--And now, good night!"

And the peephole closed.

There was no timepiece in that strange boudoir to mark the flight of the
hours. Naught disturbed the profound silence of the night save the
cracking of the crystal sconces as one after another the candles
expired. At last a feeble ray of the crescent dawn descended from the
vaulted ceiling. In the numerous mirrors, which had reflected many a
festal scene, Reuben caught a glimpse of his own haggard, watchful
face.



CHAPTER XIV.

VAIN QUESTS.


The preceding events had occurred upon the night of the 2d and 3d of
June. The next day, Saturday, the city was comparatively quiet.

A feeling of assurance pervaded all classes; once again it was believed
that the riots were over. On Sunday morning several priests ventured to
celebrate mass with closed doors before their little nervous
congregations, who trembled at the slightest sound from outside and
apprehensively watched the doors, thinking of the catacombs without
possessing the courage of the early Christians. But on that same Sunday,
in the afternoon, the disorders began again and increased until
nightfall. On Monday matters were aggravated.

The blind fury of the rioters augmented with their number. It was now
directed against the wealthy Catholics and such influential personages
as had cast their vote in favor of tolerance. Savile House in Leicester
Fields was assaulted and the proprietor, Sir George Savile, one of the
most enlightened, amiable, and humane men of his time, nearly lost his
reason and his life. The mob broke into the residence of Lord Mansfield,
who escaped, half-naked, with his family, by the rear entrance. They
then built an immense pile of his furniture in the street and set fire
to it. Barnard's Inn and the Langdale distillery in Holborn yielded to
the flames. Several entire districts fell a prey to the insurgent
population. A dome of smoke hung over the city from Leicester Fields to
London Bridge, which by night flared like a vault of flame.

However, no one seemed moved as yet. Curious idlers flocked to the
scene. Between a game of "quadrille" and a sitting at the magnetizer's,
the fair gamesters, with their idle, foppish escorts, arrived by the
coachful upon the theatre of riot and conflagration. It frequently
chanced that they were set upon and robbed, the men of their purses and
snuff-boxes, the women of their watches and jewels. Sometimes the traces
were cut and the horses sent flying off in terror, while the coach was
tossed upon the blazing pile. Amidst all this the peaceful watchman
passed with slow, methodical gait, appearing to see nothing, quite as if
all were calmness about him, and swinging his sickly little lantern here
and there in the blinding glare of the fires.

Whether through inertia or policy, magisterial authority moved neither
hand nor foot. Col. Woodford having given his soldiers command to fire
upon the mob, popular exasperation rose to such a degree that he was
obliged to hide himself for several days. While the Guards were leading
their prisoners to Newgate they were assailed with every description of
missile. One of them being wounded in the face and maddened by the sight
of blood, was about to fire upon the crowd, when his captain exclaimed,
"In Heaven's name, do not fire!" Such management as this made the
fortune of the insurrection.

If any one considered that King George's ministers were cowards who had
lost their heads, he was seriously mistaken. These gentlemen, with
truly British phlegm, listened to the cries of "Death!" raised against
them much in the spirit that Fielding, playing besique behind the scenes
of Drury Lane, lent one ear to the public hissing his plays. The recital
of an eye-witness describes some strange pranks during the sittings of
the Council. He affirms that there was more claret discussed than
resolutions.

"Though I," said Lord North, indicating his colleague with pretended
terror, "go about armed to the teeth, I am more afraid of Saint John's
pistol than anything else!" Thereupon they ascended to the roof of the
house. Thence they observed the conflagration, noted its phases and
progress, and exchanged conjectures upon the direction of the wind and
upon its probable effects.

"And now, gentlemen," concluded the minister, "let us return and finish
our wine."

This government, discredited on account of its external showing, cared
not to assume the odium of an energetic repression. Curious as it may
seem, it was upon the opposition that it sought to shift the
responsibility. It was said that Lord North held an interview with Fox
in the lobby of Drury Lane Theatre. A plenary reunion of the Privy
Council was held under the presidence of the king, which only occurs at
serious crises and in times of great peril to the monarchy. The judges
were convoked in order to pass their opinions upon the course of
procedure to be pursued and to give their advice upon the legal side of
the question. It was Burke, the great Liberal orator, who proposed to
proclaim the martial law.

In fact, the most alarming tidings were received hour by hour. The Fleet
and Newgate prisons had been forced, and had vomited their prisoners
upon the pavements of London. At Rag Fair and similar localities the
orgy was at its height, the license of the mob unbridled. It was no
longer a question of papism and tolerance: it was a social revolution,
greatest of all misfortunes, which had begun; it was the subversion of
law, the accession of crime. It was reported that a formidable army was
forming for the assault of the Bank of England. Inasmuch as the bank was
the vital centre, the very heart of the country, the ministers awoke
from their lethargy. As if by enchantment several regiments entered
London from all sides and encamped with their cannon in Hyde Park. A
plan had been decided upon for the total annihilation of the revolt.
Lord Amherst mounted his horse, and when by the ruddy light of the
conflagration the aged courtier was seen advancing it was generally
understood that that class of society, until now so disdainfully
indulgent, had taken a hand, and would show itself pitiless in the
defence of its property and life. Soon the firing resounded far and
wide,--at Blackfriars, at Saint George's Fields, near the Mansion House;
the victims lay about in heaps, while the Thames received many corpses
and more than one living sacrifice.

On that terrible night, during which the horrors of civil war were added
to those of incendiarism, while so many men animated by the spirit of
vengeance and the hope of pillage rushed upon one another, a little band
of kind-hearted folk, moved by so much suffering, patrolled the streets,
bearing relief to the victims. It was Levet, the surgeon of the poor,
who urged them on, and case in hand led that dangerous campaign in the
interest of humanity.

[Illustration]

As he trudged along Cheapside with his troop, who carried the litters
and ladders, he recognized Francis Monday walking in the opposite
direction, and called out to him,--

"Is that you, Frank?"

The young man quickly raised his head, perceiving his former savior,
whom he frequently went to see and for whom he cherished a grateful
friendship.

Perhaps it is time that the young artist's conduct at the Pantheon ball
was explained.

As must have been already divined, he loved Esther Woodville--loved her
with an exclusive, profound passion which was born on the same day that
the girl made her appearance upon the stage of Drury Lane. Standing in
a corner of the _parterre_, Frank had experienced those devouring
sensations which have disturbed twenty-year-old hearts ever since the
world began.

The passion which actresses inspire in young men of indigent
circumstances and timid disposition is the most romantic and delightful
of all, since it unites every impossibility and chimera.

The footlights seem an obstacle which it is impossible to surmount;
possession appears an infeasible, madly absurd dream, the very thought
of which produces vertigo. The unrecognized lover is not jealous of the
comrades who elbow his idol and speak familiarly with her; he does not
even consider the admirer or husband who awaits her behind the scenes.
They find in her but a woman like unto all other women. The mistress of
his heart is in his sight Juliet, Imogen, Ophelia, Desdemona. She
imparts her youth and beauty to the _rôle_, lends poetry and passion to
it. From such a _mélange_ is born a perfectly adorable creature who only
exists for a few hours for the public, but continues to live for the
lover long after the curtain has fallen and when the actress has washed
off her paint and is supping with a hearty appetite.

In this fashion had Frank loved Miss Woodville until the day that he had
met her face to face in Reynolds's studio. From that moment the young
girl replaced the artist in his mind, and he fell to loving her in
another guise. Their lengthy chat on the day that Sir Joshua was absent
from the studio had for the time being awakened certain hopes in his
heart. Why should he not love her? Why should she not grow to regard
life with his eyes? Little by little, however, without the slightest
event interposing to undeceive him, he realized how poorly calculated
were his modest lot and unceasing struggle with poverty to tempt a
girl reared amidst adulation and covetousness, amidst circumstances
which could not fail to nurture her vanity and her taste for luxury.
Many times had she returned to Sir Joshua's, and each time she had
addressed him some few rapid words, always with a touch of
embarrassment,--annoyed, as he fancied, at the recollection of that hour
of freedom and intimacy, desirous perhaps of effacing it from her
memory. The thought smote him to the heart, and, though accustomed to
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, resignation came hard.

Proportionally as the great painter advanced in his work, Frank secretly
copied the portrait of Esther. One morning, while busily engaged at his
task, the source of mingled pleasure and pain, a light chuckling caused
him to start suddenly and turn.

"You accursed gypsy!" he cried, turning pale with anger, "who permitted
you to enter here? How dare you spy upon me?"

It was Rahab, who, together with her numerous vocations, joined that of
model, and frequently posed for Sir Joshua. More than once, annoyed at
the procrastination or laziness of his fair clients, the painter had set
the head of some patrician dame or artist upon Rahab's beautiful body, a
genuine living manikin whom he could pose and drape according to his
fancy. Rahab had also consented to pose for Frank; and, although she
professed disdain for Christians, her hard, ironical eyes sometimes
softened as they rested upon the young man.

To-day she was not stirred by his anger, but with a shrug of her
shoulders remarked:--

"Poor boy! She will never be yours."

"Why not? Tell me, since you pretend to read the future."

"Because she loves Lord Mowbray."

And, turning upon her heel, she danced away, humming some gypsy ditty.

That name filled the boy's soul with discouragement. Lord Mowbray! A
cold-hearted libertine, the most corrupt, 'twas said, of all the Prince
of Wales's new _coterie_. And it was towards him that Esther's heart had
been attracted! And the passing sympathy which he had inspired in her
was due, perhaps, to his resemblance to that man! His grief was
profound; he had experienced nothing akin to it since the day in his
babyhood when he had lost his precious goldpiece.

Revolving these facts in his mind, he had gone to the Pantheon. Why
should he go to a masquerade? By what sentiment was he actuated? Some
vague desire to console his aching heart by a vulgar adventure? The hope
of meeting Esther there? No: rather that instinct which sometimes impels
the downcast to air their woes in the midst of a crowd. And while he
stood absently watching that wild scene, that dance of fools, a hand was
laid upon his shoulder.

Rahab again! What would she with him, this compatriot of the Sphinx,
with her fathomless black eyes and enigmatical smile?

"The one you love is here!" she breathed.

"What! Esther?"

"Brown domino with blue ribbons. Seek and you shall find. Is not that
what you say?"

"Yes; but explain."

"The moments are precious. In a few minutes Esther will be lost, lost
forever. Hasten, if you wish to save her. In saying this I betray some
one whom I ought to serve, but I am a woman and I pity you."

He would have questioned her further, but she slipped away and vanished
among the groups of maskers.

As deeply moved and agitated as he had just been indifferent and
discouraged, Frank traversed the ballroom, searching in every direction
for the domino which had been described to him. All at once he uttered a
stifled cry; he had discovered the object of his quest. He hastened
forward and was at her side in a moment. She was alone, but her eyes,
seen through the openings in her velvet mask, seemed to be anxiously
watching.

"Esther," he said to her, "a danger menaces you. What it may be I know
not, having only received a hint of it: but permit me to follow your
footsteps that I may watch over and save you; for save you I must in
spite of yourself."

He had seized the young woman's hand and was pressing it between his
own, without for a moment doubting that the true Esther stood before
him.

The unknown answered never a word, but yielded her hand to his clasp as
though she derived some pleasure from the contact with this feverish
love. A man approached them and for an instant raised his mask. Frank
recognized him; it was Lebeau, Lord Mowbray's intimate companion. The
young man turned upon him with a menacing air, determined to prevent his
companion from following him.

"Is your ladyship ready?" inquired Lebeau.

"Quite ready. Good night, Mr. Monday."

The voice of Lady Vereker! Frank remained riveted to the spot in
amazement. So, then, the gypsy had tricked him. He left the Pantheon and
gained his lonely garret room, vainly seeking some solution of the
adventure.

Next day Mr. Fisher did not appear, as was his custom, in order to serve
Sir Joshua. However, the riot had ceased, and to all outward appearance
London had regained her wonted tranquillity. Soon it would be known that
Mr. Fisher had passed the night searching for Miss Woodville, who,
according to report, had been carried off by Lord Mowbray. The accident
was of too common occurrence to arouse spirited comment, especially at
so serious a time. The invasion of Parliament, or what almost amounted
to an invasion, was an affair of far greater importance than the
abduction of an _ingénue_. On this account Ralph, who gayly recounted
the news to the young artist, was stupefied to see him seize his hat and
rush forth into the street.

Frank hastened directly to Fisher's house, who had at once shut himself
up in prudent reserve; but, pressed by questions and touched by the
young man's emotion, he ended by narrating the night's events and
proposing that he should call upon Mrs. Marsham. The good woman had wept
incessantly and was in a fine frenzy of despair, having fallen from a
state of the most serene confidence into the extreme of despondency. Her
niece abducted; her son lost to sight but sought by justice for the
events of the preceding day, of which she was beginning to comprehend
the importance; her house occupied by soldiers; and even Maud gone, no
one knew whither nor with whom! Such a conglomeration of misfortunes
was indeed enough to disturb the steadiest brain and unseat the best
established optimism. It was amidst such disorder that Frank found her,
ignorant how to solve the problem, and fearing, if she claimed the aid
of the authorities to find her niece, that by the step she should
deliver over her son to his hunters.

There was no help to be expected from this poor, half-crazed woman;
Fisher had his clients to attend to; while O'Flannigan, believing
himself menaced as a Catholic, remained under cover in his lodgings.
Thrown upon his own resources, Frank registered a mental oath that he
would find Esther, and during those days of terror and battle,
indifferent to the prevailing trouble, insensible to his own danger, he
came and went, passing from the turbulent quarters to the more peaceful
districts, searching the lost clew with impassioned despair.

From the first day he knew beyond peradventure that Mowbray's "Folly"
was deserted. Thanks to the persuasion that resides in a goldpiece, the
footman who was left in charge of the place found no difficulty in
permitting the young man to enter. He showed him all the secrets of the
house, the subterranean passages, even the boudoir where Reuben had
passed the night.

"At daybreak," said he to Frank, "the stranger and the young lady were
placed in a berlin, and no one knows whither they went."

Frank was satisfied by Fisher's recital that "the young lady" could have
been none other than Lady Vereker. It was she who had mystified Mowbray
as she had for a moment deceived him. She, then, was the one to give him
the key to the enigma. He hastened to her residence, but was not
received. Her ladyship was not in town! He recalled the gypsy's words,
who, undoubtedly having been paid by the young nobleman, had played a
part in the comedy. In order to find her he visited every spot where the
gypsies were accustomed to camp,--Blackheath, Hampstead, the fields
adjoining the Edgeware Road and Notting Hill. All in vain! Probably the
members of the tribe had rushed into the thick of the riot which
occupied the heart of the city.

At last he understood that the gypsy had been but an instrument. As for
Lady Vereker, would she be likely to wish to save Esther or recapture
her lost lover for her own sake? Would she not play her own game? Would
she obey the will of the one who had directed the whole intrigue? It was
then that his thoughts reverted to Lebeau. That mysterious person who
was said to be the purveyor of Lord Mowbray's diversions had always
inspired him with a vague repulsion. Two or three times he had met him,
and each time he had felt annoyance at the piercing glance which the man
had fixed upon him. Still it was he who had approached Lady Vereker at
the Pantheon and had asked,--

"Are you ready?"

Frank began to suspect some shady machination to which Lebeau held the
thread.

While Lord Mowbray, accompanied by his faithful Hackman, was seen
everywhere, following with the interest of a dilettante the progress of
the riot, Lebeau was invisible. Where was he concealed, and why should
he conceal himself? Was Esther his prisoner, the victim of this
scoundrel in some undiscovered lair? Frank's blood curdled with horror
and rage at the thought.

It had been reported that at the moment Lord Mowbray's coach had carried
off a masked woman, another young woman similarly attired, and escorted
by a gentleman whose features were not distinguishable, had entered a
sedan-chair which stood in waiting for her at one of the side entrances.
This chair had been borne off rapidly in the direction of the city.
Frank had questioned every chairman he chanced to meet; no one could or
would give him the slightest satisfaction. After three days of fruitless
search in every sense, he was at last forced to avow his impotence, when
he was accosted by Levet, the surgeon.

"Come with us," said the big-hearted man; "there are Christians to be
succored, lives to be saved, for to-night the devils are loose, and I
know not which are more to be feared, the incendiaries or the soldiers.
Since so many are doing their worst, let us try to accomplish some
little good."

Without a word Frank followed him. He needed action to lessen his fever,
to make him forget his mortal anxiety. The office which he was about to
fill at Levet's side was rife with peril, but whenever did a desperate
man count the cost of his action?



CHAPTER XV.

SANCTUARY.


That same night, in a poorly furnished chamber, Esther sat, with bowed
head, and hands clasped in her lap. By her side crouched an aged woman
who mumbled incessantly, mingling wails, maledictions, and
incomprehensible reminiscences of her childhood with fragments of
prayers and scraps of biblical texts. She spoke to herself, never
addressing the girl, who on her part paid her no heed. Esther's
attention was riveted upon the sounds which reached her from the
streets. With every minute the firing of a platoon, the crash of a wall
undermined by the flames, or a savage clamor which rent the air, reached
her ears and made her tremble.

[Illustration]

The chamber was situated upon the second floor of a low house at the end
of an alley, apparently deserted by its inhabitants; for there was no
movement of life and no human being in sight. But at sixty paces away,
though invisible, the great artery of Holborn, filled to overflowing
with the howling, maddened crowd, sent a rumor of its infernal tumult to
the two women. No candle burned in the room, but the neighboring glare
from the conflagration of Langdale House illumined every object as
distinctly as though it were noonday. Thus the hours dragged themselves
away in gloomy monotony, notwithstanding the proximity of the confusion
and the fury of human passions in a state of paroxysm. Suddenly Esther
sprang to her feet.

"Maud," she exclaimed, "the flames are gaining upon us!"

It was true. From the side of the little court upon which the chamber
looked, the panes of a grated window had burst into fragments, while a
tongue of flame had suddenly darted forth, licking the blackened walls
and casting its lightning athwart the pervading flare.

"Maud! Maud! Soon it will be no longer safe for us to remain here!"

"God be praised!" answered the old woman, having raised a vague glance
upon the scene. "He gives the victory unto his saints; it is he who has
cast both horse and rider into the sea!"

"She is madder than ever," thought Esther; "this night has quite
unseated her reason.--And Mons. Lebeau does not return!"

What was to be done? What resolution ought to be taken?

[Illustration]

The circumstances which had led her into this perilous situation passed
swiftly through her mind. When she had placed her hand in that of the
unknown who had pronounced the preconcerted signal,--"The moon has
risen!"--she immediately experienced a sense of regret at her fault; but
this regret had not been sufficiently potent to arrest in time the
accomplishment of her resolution. She permitted herself to be conducted
to the door where the sedan-chair awaited her.

"No!" she then exclaimed, "this is enough! I will go no farther!"

"This is no time for discussion," replied an imperious voice which was
not Lord Mowbray's; "get into the chair, quick!"

The thought of Frank, whom she was now certain she loved since jealousy
had cast its unerring ray into the depths of her heart--this thought
tortured her.

"I am lost!" she cried, "lost!"

"On the contrary, you are saved!"

And with the words ringing in her ears the chair started. The men almost
ran with it, the result of the masked personage having said something to
them about "paying double."

In less than a quarter of an hour the chair stopped in an alley-way off
Holborn, and the gentleman, conducting the fugitive into one of the
houses, dismissed the bearers.

When at last they were alone in the chamber upon the second floor and
the man had succeeded in lighting a candle upon the mantelpiece, Esther
easily recognized him.

"Mons. Lebeau!" she gasped in surprise.

"Yes," he replied, "and you are out of all danger here, absolute
mistress of your destiny, since all that I wish is to offer you some
respectful advice."

"But how could you have known? How could you take the place of another?"

"That is my secret--at least for the present. It is enough that I have
succeeded. One word which has escaped you has led me to believe that you
will not blame me for my intervention. I await the assurance with
anxiety. Have I been in the wrong to act as I have?"

"No," she answered after a moment's hesitation, "and I thank you. I do
not love Lord Mowbray, and my folly was as inexcusable as it has been
without consolation."

An expression of joy illumined Lebeau's withered features.

"Good!" he said. "But what motive has led you astray for the moment?"

"Vanity. Lord Mowbray assured me that he wished to make me his wife."

"His wife! He never dreamed of doing such a thing! Moreover, such a
marriage would have been impossible. But let us speak no more about it."

"Are you not going to take me back to my aunt, whom I left in such a
ridiculous predicament, and who must be dying with anxiety about me?"

"The predicament of which you speak must have soon terminated; and as
for her anxiety, it is my duty not to disturb it for the present. Lord
Mowbray has sworn that, by consent or force, he would abduct you this
night, and I am not sure that you would be safe in the house in Tothill
Fields, where there is no one to defend you, not even your cousin
Reuben. These are my humble lodgings, although none of my acquaintances
know of its existence nor the way thither. Rest here for a few hours.
To-morrow, by daylight, we will consider the situation. Be very sure
that Mrs. Marsham will raise no objection, will address you no shadow of
reproach. Your fault will not transpire, since I will tell her that it
was I who brought you here to save you from the peril which menaced your
honor."

"She knows you, then?"

"Very well indeed."

"For some time?"

"For a very long time."

After a brief pause he added,--

"It was I who brought you, a little child, to her house before you were
confided to the care of the Quakeresses at Bristol."

"Is it possible!"

And, impetuously seizing Lebeau's hand, she added:--

"Then you knew my parents? O, I beseech you, sir, tell me something of
my mother! Who was she? Do I resemble her? Where did she die, and how?"

The queries crowded to her lips in an imperative tumult.

Lebeau's features relaxed in a melancholy smile.

"Patience!" he replied. "Later I will tell you all. Only know that your
mother was exceedingly beautiful, and that you are her living image. She
too was carried away by excess of emotion and by the thirst of
adventure. There was no one at hand to give her timely warning, and she
paid dearly for her imprudence."

Esther bowed her head, while a tear glided slowly from her lashes to her
cheek.

"It was then that your father met her and took pity upon her. She was in
sore need of pity and protection. Her child was born. You are that
child."

"Alas!" murmured Esther. "But my father--is he still living?"

"Yes."

"Why does he not come? Why does he not show himself? I should be so
happy to embrace him!"

At this moment an extraordinary change took place in Lebeau. His
features, scarred by the battle with life, his dulled eyes, his entire
vulgar face were ennobled with a solemn tenderness. Irresistibly his
arms seemed to open to clasp the girl to his breast. Then they fell at
his sides, and his face resumed its expression of discouragement and
fatigue.

"Your father would indeed be happy," he said, "and very proud to call
you his daughter; but circumstances prevent. I do not justify his
conduct; far from it. He has committed wrongs, grievous wrongs,--and
even more than that!"

Esther recoiled from him violently.

"You are my father's friend, and you calumniate him!"

Lebeau's only response was a shrug of his shoulders and a sigh. He
turned to the window, and from a convulsive movement of his back Esther
divined that he was weeping. In a moment she was at his side.

"Pardon me!" she cried, "pardon! You are perhaps the only human being
whose interest in me is not tainted with calculation. You have saved me
from death, you have saved me from shame, and by way of recompense I
accuse and wound you! O, pardon me, my friend!"

Delightful words to Lebeau's ear!

"Thank you, my child," he said; "thank you, and good by. It is already
daybreak, and all is calm. Sleep in peace. In a few hours I will
return."

And Mons. Lebeau hastened away. Left alone, Esther dared not undress in
a house which filled her with forebodings. She threw herself upon the
bed just as she was, clasping in her hand a tiny poignard which had been
Garrick's gift. Tradition had it that the weapon had once belonged to
Sir William Davenant, who pretended to have received it from Ben Jonson.
The latter, while a soldier in Flanders, had purchased it of a Jew who
came from Italy. It was a marvellous bit of Florentine work, and must
have been manufactured towards the close of the fifteenth century. What
had been its history? In what dramas had it taken part? What ferocious
jealousies, what mortal desires, had it served? Had it ever been dyed
in human blood? In whose snowy breast, in whose throbbing heart, had it
been plunged? Considering these fancies, but especially her own destiny,
her imagination in a whirl, our little heroine fell asleep.

When she awoke she perceived Lebeau, who stood watching her as she
slept, and she heard the clocks chiming high noon.

"Well?" she demanded.

"I came from Tothill Fields," he answered; "the house is full of
soldiers come thither to arrest your cousin Reuben, and they are to
remain there, lying in ambush to surprise him upon his return. Your aunt
has not come home, and up to the present time I have been unable to
discover her place of refuge. Old Maud was alone at the mercy of the
soldiers, whom, in her turn, she provoked and insulted. I have brought
her here. She will attend to your wants and will be a companion for you
so long as you are obliged to lie in concealment here, which from
present appearances may be for some time; for the city is still in an
agitated state, and this very disorder singularly favors your admirer's
plans, since he has not lost the hope of taking his revenge."

Soon after Lebeau departed, promising to return on the morrow with the
latest tidings; but Sunday passed and he did not appear. On Monday a
child brought an unsigned note from him, which ran:--

"I cannot come to see you. I am suspected, and every step I take is
shadowed. Have patience until to-morrow."

The rioting had begun again, and the two women in their sanctuary
listened to the sound of it as it grew each minute more distinct.
Esther slept but little that night.

Next day affairs assumed an even more threatening aspect. The Langdale
distillery was in flames close by, although the situation of the house
prevented the girl from following the progress of the catastrophe.
Towards evening, when the tumult increased and the firing became
general, her agitation was extreme. The sight of the flames which
enwrapped the neighboring buildings and threatened her refuge put the
finishing touch upon her anxiety.

"Shall I remain here," she thought, "shut up with this crazy old
creature, who does nothing but sing psalms? Shall I suffer myself to be
burned alive in this strange trap? Mons. Lebeau has forgotten me or else
he cannot come to me. Who knows if he is even alive?"

She approached the window and looked at the tower of St. Giles, upon
which the clock marked the first hour of a new day. So brilliant was the
flare from the conflagration that Esther could distinguish the delicate
V-shaped shadow which the hands made upon the dial, the slightest detail
in the sculpture about the dial, and even the joining of the masonry.

She resolved to depart. But where should she go? She knew not; but first
of all it was necessary to escape from the circle of fire which was fast
hemming her in. She put on her mantle and cast a silken handkerchief
over her hair, knotting it under her chin. Then she called Maud, who had
passed into an adjoining chamber.

But here she found herself in the presence of an unlooked-for
difficulty. The old woman had fallen fast asleep and only responded to
her words, her entreaties and cries by vague mutterings without
awakening in the slightest degree. Esther shook her in desperation and
tugged at her garments, but her girlish strength, depleted by the sense
of her peril, was powerless to arouse the inert mass.

Perhaps she might secure assistance from outside! She opened the outer
door, and, standing upon the threshold, cried, "Help!"

All in vain; her voice was lost, incapable of piercing the tumult. She
was scarcely able to hear it herself. No one appeared. The neighboring
houses, deserted as they were, were slowly yielding to the flames, and
no one appeared to think of disputing the ravage. The almost intolerable
heat fairly scorched the girl's eyelids.

Then she rushed towards Holborn, crossed like a flash the vaulted
arcade, the only exit which opened from that side, and ran into the
highway.

There she paused, terrified by the spectacle which met her gaze.



CHAPTER XVI.

GAMES OF DEATH AND CHANCE.


The Langdale establishment, changed into a furnace, belched forth
torrents of fire at every aperture. The roof had fallen, and the flames
ascended free of all impediment in one great sheet, which, being lashed
by the wind at a certain height, curved into an arch and threatened to
deluge the city with a devouring rain. Before the vast blazing pile a
hideous, anomalous mob clad in indescribable rags and tatters, danced
with furious, drunken joy. Several hours earlier the great hogsheads
which had been dragged out of the distillery had been knocked in the
head without ceremony, and every one had drunk his fill. Then the
precious liquids had escaped, forming foaming pools and rippling
rivulets, in which rare old port mingled with malmsey, and gin with
sherry. Along the line of these pools and rivulets a crowd of human
beings of both sexes and all ages, some with their infants in their
arms, crouched upon their hands and knees, stretching their lips to sip
the wine and mud. These were very soon rendered incapable of regaining
their feet and insensible to the brutal passage of fresh bands, who
trampled them under foot, and thus increased the quivering heap. At last
the sparks falling from the lurid heavens ignited this sea of alcohol,
which surged in bluish, spectral waves, enveloping the wretches,
drowning while it set them on fire. The wallowing bodies writhed like
mutilated serpents, the spasmodic convulsions, vain, desperate efforts,
and hoarse cries having in them no semblance to humanity. Thus the most
horrible of deaths fell upon them in the midst of their intoxication,
without so much as sobering them in the moment of dissolution. Meanwhile
the rest, amidst all this horror, continued their demoniacal dance.

One of these fiends espied Esther. Staggering with open mouth and
outstretched arms, hideous in his bestial carouse, he made two or three
steps towards her. She fled back to the house, which she reached in a
few moments. Upon the threshold stood Lebeau.

"At last!" she gasped. "I thought I was going mad!"

"Be calm," he replied. "I have found Mrs. Marsham, and I am going to
take you to her. I know a way, but there is not a moment to be lost. In
less than an hour this house will be reduced to ashes with the rest."

"But Maud!--she has lost her senses and refuses to follow me."

Without a word Lebeau hurried into the chamber, where he found the old
woman. During the moment of silence that ensued Esther heard a sound
upon the lower floor of the house.

"Some one has opened the door!" she cried; "some one is entering below!"

She thought with terror of the wretch who had followed her, and whom she
had seen stumble over some obstacle and fall heavily to the ground,
whence he was unable to rise.

Lebeau reappeared in answer to her warning of danger. Too late! Some one
was mounting the stairs, advancing with rapid step, and when at last
the flare of the conflagration fell upon his features through the open
doorway Esther and Lebeau recognized Lord Mowbray.

The first thought that presented itself to the girl's mind was that she
had been betrayed.

"Oh!" she cried, bending upon Lebeau a glance of despair and hatred,
"you have ruined me!"

This fresh shock proved too much for her endurance. Exhausted with
emotion, she fell, striking her head upon the foot of the bed, and lay
there motionless upon the floor. Lebeau sprang to her, raised her in his
arms, and placed her gently upon the bed; then he bent above her pallid
face.

"Swooned!" he murmured, as if speaking to himself.

With folded arms Lord Mowbray watched him, following every movement with
an ironical smile.

"Master Lebeau!" he said, breaking the silence.

"My lord?" answered Lebeau, turning and facing him, pale but resolute.

"Do you still deny that you have played me false?"

"More than ever do I affirm that I have served your lordship
faithfully."

"By thwarting my plans and robbing me of this girl?"

"By robbing you of this girl, yes. It was my duty."

"Your duty? That is the first time I have ever heard the word upon your
lips."

"That was my fault. After all, my lord, perhaps there is a God."

"You should have sooner told me so. If you are converted, go join the
hypocrites of your ilk, and leave me. This deserted place, this night of
conflagration and slaughter, this unconscious girl,--all suits me well.
I have a fancy for adventure which has no vulgar tang about it."

Standing between the bed where Esther lay and young Mowbray, Lebeau did
not move.

"Excuse me, my lord," he said steadily, "it is you who are to leave. You
will not lay a finger upon this child."

"Why not?"

"Because I forbid you."

"And pray why do you forbid me?"

"_Because she is my daughter and your sister!_"

For an instant Mowbray stood transfixed with amazement; then he burst
into a laugh.

"By my soul!" he exclaimed, "my father was right: you are the most
amusing rascal in the world! Long live Lebeau! No human being but you
could have conceived such an idea. The day that my father awoke in the
bottom of that monster pie, the surprise was good, but it cannot hold a
candle to this one! After this night's affair no one can ever say that
you are degenerating; for your imagination, my dear man, was never so
brilliant. Ask me a hundred pounds, or twice that amount; I will refuse
you nothing. But go away now and let the farce end. I have enough of
it."

"I shall not go, and this is no farce. I repeat, Esther Woodville is
your sister."

The young man smiled disdainfully.

"Would you have me believe that Lady Mowbray--"

"Lady Mowbray was a saint! May she hear and pardon me!"

"Amen!"

"Mock if you will, for you will not mock long. Lady Mowbray had nothing
whatever to do with this affair; moreover, Lady Mowbray was a stranger
to your birth, sir!"

This time the young nobleman recoiled in rage.

"Listen to me," said Lebeau authoritatively.

Esther was beginning to recover a vague consciousness. Athwart the
shadows of her swoon thought began to reassert itself, though doubtful,
timid, misty. Stretched upon the bed, incapable of movement, her eyes
closed, she heard voices without comprehending what they said, without
distinguishing the sense of what was spoken.

"Twenty-three years ago," continued Lebeau, "two women were _enceintes_
at the same time, the wife and the mistress of Lord Mowbray, one at his
residence in St. James's, the other in a chamber of his 'Folly' at
Chelsea. The latter was the daughter of a London shop-keeper, whom Lord
Mowbray had abducted from her family, and had concealed as his prisoner.
It was Fate's decree that his lordship should be made a father twice in
one and the same night. He called my attention to your vigor and
vitality when you came into the world. 'Look, Lebeau,' he said to me,
'it is a genuine love-child. See how strong he is, while the other--'
Then a thought occurred to him: why not substitute the illegitimate for
the legitimate child? He hated his wife as he hated all things good and
pure. The thought of rearing the child of a rival charmed him, and he
considered me worthy to execute the change. It was I who bribed the
young nobleman's nurse and placed you in his cradle. When your mother's
health was re-established Lord Mowbray washed his hands of her and the
child whom she believed hers. It was enough for him that the child
should be dispossessed of his fortune and title; he desired that he
should be wretched, deprived of everything. He knew that the family of
his mistress, inflexible as they were in principles, would close their
doors upon the fallen girl and her child. At rest upon this point, he
forbade me to give the sufferers aid, and I disobeyed him."

"That was the beginning of virtue!"

"No, sir. I found her beautiful and provided for her. In my turn she
made me a father, but I treated her as though I were a grand gentleman.
I sank to the infamous level of Lord Mowbray. I exposed her to all the
hazards and misery of a wandering life. She became an actress and
travelled from country town to country town, with a troop of mediocre
actors, dragging Lady Mowbray's son along with her, the child whose
position and name you had usurped. She died--almost starving!"

Lebeau pronounced these final words in a harsh tone of profound woe,
upon which slowly accumulated remorse had set the tinge of indescribable
bitterness.

"My daughter," he continued after a pause, "I saved from this cruel
existence, provided for her education, and placed her in the home of
honest folk."

"And the other,--the vagabond, my pretended brother?"

Beneath Mowbray's apparent irony Lebeau detected his anxiety.

"His life has been hard, frightfully hard, sir; until the age of ten
years so cruel was it that the recital of his sufferings would touch
any other heart than yours. From one adventure to another he at last
fell into the hands of the Thames pirates, who made a little thief of
him, and reared him for a life of shame and crime."

"Very much as you reared me."

"It is true. I merit the reproach and accept it; but while your evil
instincts grew apace, the germ of good developed in your brother. He
fled from those who had marked him for wrong-doing, and was received by
upright persons.--Ah, you would like to know if he still lives? Do you
think me fool enough to deliver him over to your jealousy and
suspicions? No. You now know enough of this business to understand that
you ought not to remain here an instant longer."

"I have listened to you even unto the end with a patience that
astonishes me. It would appear from this recital that I am under
nameless obligation to you, your _protégé_, your creature. As the king
reigns by the grace of God, I am a nobleman by permission of Mons.
Lebeau, and if I cease to merit his good opinion, I lose everything!
Well," he added, suddenly changing his tone, "I do not care to know how
much truth there is in your story, but I do know that this situation is
no longer tenable. No such man as I am ought to be at the mercy of a
Lebeau, hanging upon his discretion. The surest means of my assuring
myself of your silence is to kill you! And kill you I will!"

Saying these words, he whipped out his sword and darted upon his former
tutor.

Esther uttered a feeble cry, but the cry was lost in a frightful crash.
A neighboring wall, undermined by the fire, reeled and fell, striking
upon the roof of the house. A rafter in falling struck the window and
shattered it. A dense, stifling smoke, starred with a myriad sparks,
filled the chamber.

Meanwhile Lebeau, who had never for an instant lost sight of Mowbray's
movements, had darted backward a pace or two, thus placing a table
between himself and his adversary, at the same time drawing his sword in
his turn. Now they were equally matched. It was he who had first placed
a fencing-foil in the young man's hand, he who had taught him with
infinite patience all the secrets of the French and Italian schools of
fencing. In those very schools had they studied the noble art in
company, not disdaining the lessons of resident masters. They had fenced
together every day for ten years, but had never succeeded in scratching
each other, so easy was it for either to parry the thrusts of the other
and to divine his intentions. However, it was necessary that one of
these two men, who had lived so long together as master and disciple,
almost as father and son, should take the other's life; and each bore
written upon his very eyes the fierce desire, the implacable longing, to
kill.

It was not a duel, but a combat. Shifting their footing, retreating
precipitately or lunging unexpectedly, profiting by every obstacle,
bending forward until they almost squatted upon the ground, or bounding
into the air, every few moments they would desist, watching each other,
panting, bathed in perspiration, their features rigid as if petrified
with the same mortal intent. The furniture lay about them upset and
broken, and all the while the smoke continued to thicken. It grew
suffocating and darkened the chamber, recently so bright, while at the
same time it altered the character of the combat, which threatened to
become a blind struggle in the dark. Not a word was exchanged; nothing
was audible but the stifled oaths, the short, harsh breathing that
rattled in the throat, the hissing of the crossed swords, that metallic
sound which freezes the marrow in the bones like a death-knell. In the
adjoining chamber old Maud chanted:--

"Saul hath slain a thousand, but David hath slain ten thousand! Glory be
to the God of hosts! _Deus Sabaoth! Alleluia!_"

Outside the house the tumult of the horrible fête had waned and expired
in a vague, distant wail, intermingled with the dying shrieks of the
participants.

Slowly Esther raised herself upon her elbow; with eyes dilated with
horror she watched the two men as they pursued and evaded each other,
leaping like stags in the ruddy smoke which was neither day nor night.
She fancied herself the dupe of some hideous nightmare.

Neither of the combatants seemed aware of her presence, since both held
their sight riveted upon the tips of their swords as if their very souls
had passed into the glittering points. But Lebeau was weakening, and he
knew it. His grasp trembled and his sight grew dim from minute to
minute. A cold sweat pearled upon his brow, which he attempted to wipe
away with a swift gesture of his left arm; but the beads grew more
abundant, dripped from his eyebrows to his eyelids, and obscured his
vision. His weary feet struck the furniture; already had he stumbled
once; a sort of vertigo caused surrounding objects to whirl about him.
It was death!... Then in sheer desperation he thrust out blindly.

Esther saw the two men run each other through, fall almost one on top of
the other, roll heavily over upon the floor, and lie motionless. Again
she lost consciousness, and for a time no sound disturbed the silence of
the chamber save the chanting of the mad woman.

However, Lebeau raised himself, and strove to collect his ideas and
strength. He was losing great quantities of blood, but the welfare of
Esther was the only clear thought which remained amidst the baleful
giddiness which had invaded his brain. Save Esther! But how? Bear her
away in his arms? He could not do it. Had he even the strength left to
crawl to the stairs, drag himself down and through the alley in search
of help? Yes, there was no alternative. But in the mean time would not
the fire reach her in its swift course? Would not the smoke asphyxiate
the poor child? Stimulated by this alarming thought, the unhappy man
began to drag himself by his bruised and bleeding hands. Every now and
then he was forced to pause, exhausted, fainting, believing that the end
had come. "Esther!"--that name alone revived him. His daughter! his
child! No, he would not leave her to die like that. As for himself, what
mattered it? But _she_, so young, so beautiful,--she, for whom life was
so full of promise! Thus he advanced step by step, lowering himself from
stair to stair amidst the most atrocious agony.

[Illustration]

But when he reached the foot of the stairs he discovered that the wind
had closed the door which Lord Mowbray had left open. He stretched out
his hand and tried to raise himself upon his knee. He could not do it.
Horrible mockery! So simple an action,--to raise a latch, thrust open a
door; but he could not do even so much, he who had accomplished such
extraordinary feats! And salvation lay beyond that door, for it seemed
to him--or was it an illusion?--that he caught the sound of voices in
the court. He strove to raise his voice, but no sound issued from his
lips. Then he sank down in an inert mass, his body obstructing the door
which he would have given the last hour of his existence to open!

Lebeau had not been mistaken; there were voices in the alley-way.
Perhaps, had he been able to attempt one supreme effort, he would have
recognized the voice of his compatriot, the surgeon of the poor, and
that of Francis Monday.

In fact, they were continuing their work of succoring the unfortunates,
upon which they had been engaged for several hours. They had relieved
more than one wounded sufferer, had snatched from the flames more than
one wretch lying at death's door. They pursued their course like
soldiers of duty and humanity, soiled with blood and mud, their
eyelashes singed, their clothing in disorder. Many times had the flying
bullets grazed them. Many times had they been insulted and menaced. They
had seen one of their number crushed by the fall of a blazing wall, but
their zeal had not been dampened; and it was Frank who, in a sort of
heroic frenzy, now urged on his companions.

It was rumored in the crowd that behind the flaming ruins of the
Langdale establishment was a group of dwellings, now wrapped in fire,
which had not been evacuated by the inhabitants.

In seeking a way to reach these unfortunate sufferers, Levet and Frank
had gained the alley-way upon which Lebeau's little house was situated.

Suddenly Frank paused.

"Did you hear that?" he exclaimed.

"What?"

"I don't know.--A voice--singing--in this house!"

They held their breath, and the psalmody of old Maud distinctly reached
the ears of the surgeon and his followers.

"There is someone in there!" cried Levet, "and the roof is already on
fire! They must be raving maniacs!--What ho! Within there!"

He walked around the house, endeavoring to attract the attention of the
inmates.

"Can you not see that the fire is gaining upon you?" he cried. "Come
out, quick!"

But there was no reply, only in the interim of silence they again heard
the old fool's monotonous chanting, the very words even being audible.

"We must save them at any cost!" exclaimed Levet. "Come, comrades!"

They tried to force the door, but as it resisted their efforts they
supposed it must be locked.

"To the window!" said Frank.

With a blow of his elbow he shattered the glass, and, inserting his hand
through the fracture, adroitly opened the casement. It was one of the
talents taught him by his early instructors, the river thieves.

Then, springing upon the window ledge, he entered the chamber, followed
by Levet.

"One dead already!" cried the surgeon. "Great Heaven, it is Lebeau! No,
he still breathes! Hand me a lantern, gentlemen!"

He was already upon his knees beside the dying man.

At the name of Lebeau a sudden thought crossed Frank's mind. If the man
he had sought high and low had been found in this sordid retreat,
perhaps he was close upon the solution of the enigma. Hastily he sprang
up the steep steps of the little stairway,--so hastily that he slipped
in the tracks left by Lebeau's bleeding hands. Upon the landing of the
second floor an unexpected enemy lay in wait for him; a jet of smoke and
flame, issuing from the wide-open door, scorched his face and nearly
suffocated him. With his hands upon his eyes he attempted to rush
through, but tripped over a pair of legs extended upon the floor.

"Still another body!" he thought with horror.

Upon his knees he felt his way with difficulty up to the face of the
dead. It was Lord Mowbray who lay there upon his back, his hair burned
to a crisp, his features blackened but still set in that last defiant
grimace.

Frank had seen enough and was about to recoil to the door, when it
seemed to him that in a corner of the chamber he descried a human figure
lying upon a bed.

Gathering all his energy, he darted thither.

Esther!--it was she!

"Help!" he cried; "help! Levet!"

The surgeon answered the call with several men, but they were arrested
by the terrible current of scorching air which traversed the chamber
from the window to the door.

"She is dead, and I will die with her!"

Such was the only thought that filled Frank's distracted brain. In
despair he threw himself upon the bed, murmuring, "Esther, my beloved!"

And even in that awful moment when his lips touched that still warm
cheek the supreme contact was one of ineffable sweetness. Knotting his
arms about the object of his love, who had not been granted the
opportunity to love him, the poor boy bade farewell to life.

But simultaneously a voice, scarcely more than a sigh, murmured in his
ear, "Save me!"

In an instant he was upon his feet. With a vigor of which he would not
have believed himself capable a moment before, he raised the girl in his
arms and sprang with her through the belt of igneous smoke.



CHAPTER XVII.

HORACE AND SHAKESPEARE.


The sun was already high above the horizon when at last Lebeau opened
his eyes. The brilliant light of dawn, penetrating the chamber where he
lay, wounded his sight, and his heavy eyelids drooped. After a moment he
raised them painfully and perceived the kindly face of the surgeon of
the poor bending above him.

"Do you recognize me?" he asked.

The sufferer made an affirmative sign and feebly faltered Levet's name.
Then in a low, indistinct tone he inquired,--

"Where am I?"

"At Dr. Johnson's house. Keep perfectly quiet and all will be well."

Suddenly memory asserted its sway.

"Esther!" Lebeau cried, in as eager and anxious a voice as his utter
prostration would permit.

"Miss Woodville is here. She is alive, having only fainted. There was a
slight abrasion of the flesh behind her ear, probably the result of a
fall; but that will soon disappear. And as for you, my good friend, we
shall soon have you upon your feet again."

Lebeau moved his eyes in a negative sign, and with a sad smile
murmured,--

"My account is settled. Why do you attempt to deceive me? Am I a
coward?"

A moment later he asked,--

"Who saved Esther?"

"Francis Monday, the foundling, Sir Joshua Reynolds's pupil."

Levet briefly recounted how the rescue had come about; how old Maud,
whose obstinacy and madness had nearly been the cause of her young
mistress's death, had finally saved her life by her psalm-singing; with
what infinite difficulty they had entered the house and snatched from
the devouring flames three living beings and one corpse.

"One thing is certain," he concluded, "and that is, that these two
children love each other. It was his future wife whom Frank saved last
night in Holborn, and, though this sad week will leave its mark in ruins
for many a day, it has at least served to make two hearts supremely
happy."

A profound satisfaction overspread the pallid features of the dying man.

"Miss Woodville has begged several times to see you. Shall I bring her
to you?"

Lebeau's face brightened still more. Then he appeared to reflect. Of
course it would have been balm to his departing soul to make himself
known to her, to be a father for one short hour, to go with the pardon
and caress of his child. But would she not repulse him? Would she find
him worthy of her? And after all, was it not better that she should
remain a foundling rather than be known as the child of Lebeau, the
adventurer, the professor and purveyor of vice to the great?--Ah, well!
he would hold his peace, would die without disturbing any one, and leave
her happy. But in any case he must hasten to inform Frank who he was,
and give him the means of establishing his identity.

"Frank!" he murmured. "I wish to see Frank--to speak with him."

"You have made sufficient effort for to-day. Rest now; to-morrow you
shall talk with him."

"To-morrow--I shall not be here. Go--go and find him."

Without further objection Levet, who understood the true condition of
his patient, left the chamber. In a few moments he reappeared, followed
by Frank and Esther hand in hand. Their faces, radiant with youth and
happiness, clouded with sadness. With bowed heads and faltering steps
they approached the bed. Frank paused upon one side, while Esther sank
upon her knees at the other.

"Father!" she breathed.

"Then you heard--"

"All!"

The emotion proved too much for the sufferer. He felt his head swim, and
believed that the final vertigo had come.

"Only one moment!" he murmured, as though demanding respite of the
destructive forces of nature; "Frank must know--"

"Frank already knows that he is the true Lord Mowbray," whispered
Esther.

"But the proofs!" pursued Lebeau; "the proofs are necessary. The nurse,
Elizabeth Hughes, still lives--at Bangor--in Wales. She will give all
the necessary evidence.--Elizabeth Hughes--do not forget!"

He was exhausted with so much speech. His aching eyes had lost their
circumspection. Gropingly his hand sought the fair head of his daughter
and rested there. Then his thoughts fled backward over forty long years.
Again he saw the humble peasant's cot in the mountains of Dauphiné,
whence he had set out to see the world. We saw a dying woman lying upon
her bed,--his mother! Her faltering hand was laid upon his boyish head,
pressing it gently, tenderly. All the remainder of his existence had
vanished; all that remained was the Alpha and Omega; an utter void
united that caress received and this caress given. It was a foretaste of
that world where there is no reckoning of time, where moments are as
ages, where thoughts and acts are lost in one eternal present.

Entering noiselessly, Levet passed here and there about the room upon
tiptoe. Lebeau realized all that took place, but the power of perception
had abandoned him.

"Are you there, doctor?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Bring them close to me."

Esther stooped and kissed the brow upon which the dews of death had
begun to gather.

"We shall meet again, father," she whispered.

"Perhaps," faltered Lebeau.

"Did you wish to sleep?" inquired Levet, when the young people had left
the room.

"No, but I could not die before them. There is no use in saddening their
young lives."

The surgeon did not attempt to deny the danger.

"You are a brave man, comrade," he said; "and since you are able to look
death in the eye, do you not wish to make some preparation? There is a
Catholic priest here in the house. Although Dr. Johnson is no friend to
the papists, he has given this man the protection and shelter of his
roof. If you desire to see him I--"

But Lebeau made a negative sign, while by some singular reaction the
sceptic and philosopher again took possession of his expiring body.

"Read to me," he said, "the ode of Horace--to Posthumus."

"Horace's ode to Posthumus!" repeated Levet, scarcely believing that he
had heard aright.

But he had made no mistake. It was Lebeau's wish that the Horatian ode
should be read to him instead of the prayers for the dying. The aged
surgeon arose and passed into an adjoining apartment, which contained
Dr. Johnson's library. Soon he returned with a large book in his hand,
and seated himself at the bedside. In a slow, impressive voice he began
to read the famous ode, which the dying man accompanied in a low murmur,
punctuating the familiar verses as though he were giving the responses
to a psalm.

"'_Visendus ater flumine languido_,'" Levet read.

"'_Cocytus errans_,'" continued Lebeau faintly.

But when Levet pronounced the fatal words, which typify "the end-all
here," _Linguenda tellus_, he perceived that no response came from the
bed. Quickly he bent above the poor pagan, and placed his hand upon his
heart; finding no answering throb there, with reverent fingers he closed
the eyes of the dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a few days London regained her habitual aspect. Blackened ruins;
fragments of walls and roofs, still sheltering emptiness; gaping,
desolate spaces, which had once been human abodes with happy firesides,
about which many generations had been warmed and cheered,--these alone
remained to tell the tale of that four days' madness, of the strange
delirium which had fallen upon the great city. But how many human
remains lay beneath these ruins, which would never be recognized, and
how many corpses had been swallowed by the Thames? One knew not, one
dared not attempt to estimate. Some unfortunate wretches, who confessed
nothing and remembered still less, or, lost to all sense of decency,
accused each other, were hastily tried and hanged. The principal
criminal, he who had loosed the passions of the populace, Gordon, was
already under lock and key in Newgate. Had he been more misguided than
perverse? He was given the benefit of the doubt. His madness, and
perhaps his rank, saved him: but the remarkable fact remains that this
man, who had set fire to London and led to death several hundred human
beings, not to mention the enormous destruction of property of which he
was the cause, was not punished; though a few years later, having
written some insolent lines upon Queen Marie Antoinette, he was thrown
into prison and there languished for the remainder of his days.

When Reuben at last appeared after a considerable lapse of time, the
events of June, 1780, had begun to be obliterated from the public mind.
Though in no way apprehensive for his personal safety, he seemed pursued
by a memory, haunted by a remorse which it was impossible to evade.
Gloomy and humiliated, he shunned meeting his "brethren," who accused
him of having deserted them in the hour of peril. He made no opposition
to his cousin's marriage, but refused to be present; and on the very day
that the wedding was celebrated he embarked with some emigrants bound
for Canada. Thence later he journeyed to Botany Bay, after which time no
tidings were received from him. It was thought that he preached the
gospel in Australia. Some believed that he was killed and devoured by
cannibals; others pretended that he died at Sydney in extreme old age.

Lady Vereker, whose name has been assumed out of respect to her family,
continued her disorderly course of life and became a desperate
faro-player, remaining steadfast to her alliance with Lady
Buckinghamshire, Lady Archer, and Mrs. Hobart. She transformed into a
_quatuor_ the ignobly famous trio whom the caricaturist Gillray so
frequently exposed to ridicule and shame in his cruel sketches.

Mrs. Marsham recovered her peaceful afternoons in which she was wont to
dream those pious dreams which translated her to Paradise, where she
never failed to be received with distinction. Mr. O'Flannigan, the
crisis over, resumed the slaughter of his enemies (in words, be it
understood), and acted as prompter until his own cue came summoning him
from the field of service. Maud never recovered the minimum of sense
with which Heaven had endowed her. In the asylum to which she was
banished she continually narrated the end of the world, which she firmly
believed she had witnessed.

Thanks to the testimony of Elizabeth Hughes, Frank was able with but
little difficulty to establish claim to his title and possessions. The
king and queen, together with the entire nobility, evinced the deepest
interest in his romantic story and that of his young wife.

He resolved to destroy the "Folly," which could only serve evil purposes
and recall unpleasant memories. Before its demolition Esther expressed a
wish to see the place which had exerted so strange an influence upon her
life and that of her husband; consequently they visited those haunts
which had never witnessed a pure, upright love,--love as clear as the
day and conscious in its pride.

It was just one year after Lebeau's death, and a perfect summer's day.
The radiance of an unclouded sun flooded the apartments, to which still
clung an indescribably sensual perfume, the faded hangings, and
licentious pictures. Esther could not disassociate the thought of her
ill-starred mother from this abyss, while Frank evoked the memory of his
mother, the pale, charming being whom Reynolds had sketched, towards
whom his heart had involuntarily yearned. Had not every stone in this
hideous house weighed upon her as heavily as though she had worn it
about her neck? Had not every infidelity which this den of infamy had
witnessed cost her a tear, a pang, humiliation? Thus, hand in hand, they
passed from room to room, oppressed at heart; and they experienced a
sense of infinite relief when at last the doors of the accursed mansion
closed behind them and they saw God's daylight resting upon the meadows
and the mellow cornfields softly swaying in the June breeze.

At the Bun-house were congregated many Londoners, who had come out to
the country to enjoy this rare day. Sedan-chairs, coaches and horses
held by pages in brilliant livery, formed a picturesque group; while
dogs barked joyously amidst the crowd. The porters and grooms were
grouped about a juggler, who aroused their merriment with his tricks, or
smoked their pipes beneath the ample, pillared veranda of the house.
Within doors some were admiring the silver pitcher presented to Mistress
Hand by Queen Charlotte, or the two leaden grenadiers, with their
German shakos in sugar candy, and uniforms of 1745; while others, seated
about a grass plot beneath elm-trees trained into the shape of vaulted
arches, sipped a dish of tea with one of those famous smoking, piping
hot buns as its accompaniment. These delicate, savory confections had
made the reputation of the house.

The remaining few had formed a circle about Rahab, the fortune-teller.
Perceiving Frank and Esther among her audience, she impudently
exclaimed,--

[Illustration]

"Ask that pair if I do not tell the truth! It was I who predicted their
happiness."

"You!" said Esther, amazed at her audacity. "Do you pretend that you
predicted to me--"

"I told you that you would marry Lord Mowbray. Have I deceived you?"

Esther smiled and blushed.

"Give her a trifle," she said to her husband.

And while the young nobleman emptied his purse into the gypsy's hands,
Garrick's pupil murmured these verses of her favorite poet,--

  "All yet seems well; and if it end so meet,
  The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet."





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