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Title: Helena's Path
Author: Hope, Anthony, 1863-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Helena's Path" ***

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



    Helena's Path

    _By_

    ANTHONY HOPE

    AUTHOR OF DOUBLE HARNESS
    TRISTRAM OF BLENT
    ETC.

    [Illustration]

    GARDEN CITY      NEW YORK
    DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

    1912


    _Copyright, 1907, by Anthony Hope Hawkins_



    CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                                    PAGE

        I AMBROSE, LORD LYNBOROUGH                3

       II LARGELY TOPOGRAPHICAL                  15

      III OF LAW AND NATURAL RIGHTS              33

       IV THE MESSAGE OF A PADLOCK               52

        V THE BEGINNING OF WAR                   70

       VI EXERCISE BEFORE BREAKFAST              90

      VII ANOTHER WEDGE!                        110

     VIII THE MARCHESA MOVES                    127

       IX LYNBOROUGH DROPS A CATCH              148

        X IN THE LAST RESORT                    171

       XI AN ARMISTICE                          186

      XII AN EMBASSAGE                          206

     XIII THE FEAST OF ST. JOHN BAPTIST         223



HELENA'S PATH



_Chapter One_

AMBROSE, LORD LYNBOROUGH


Common opinion said that Lord Lynborough ought never to have had a
peerage and forty thousand a year; he ought to have had a pound a week
and a back bedroom in Bloomsbury. Then he would have become an eminent
man; as it was, he turned out only a singularly erratic individual.

So much for common opinion. Let no more be heard of its dull utilitarian
judgements! There are plenty of eminent men--at the moment, it is
believed, no less than seventy Cabinet and ex-Cabinet Ministers (or
thereabouts)--to say nothing of Bishops, Judges, and the British
Academy,--and all this in a nook of the world! (And the world too is a
point!) Lynborough was something much more uncommon; it is not, however,
quite easy to say what. Let the question be postponed; perhaps the story
itself will answer it.

He started life--or was started in it--in a series of surroundings of
unimpeachable orthodoxy--Eton, Christ Church, the Grenadier Guards. He
left each of these schools of mental culture and bodily discipline, not
under a cloud--that metaphor would be ludicrously inept--but in an
explosion. That, having been thus shot out of the first, he managed to
enter the second--that, having been shot out of the second, he walked
placidly into the third--that, having been shot out of the third, he
suffered no apparent damage from his repeated propulsions--these are
matters explicable only by a secret knowledge of British institutions.
His father was strong, his mother came of stock even stronger; he
himself--Ambrose Caverly as he then was--was very popular, and
extraordinarily handsome in his unusual outlandish style.

His father being still alive--and, though devoted to him, by now
apprehensive of his doings--his means were for the next few years
limited. Yet he contrived to employ himself. He took a soup-kitchen and
ran it; he took a yacht and sank it; he took a public-house, ruined it,
and got himself severely fined for watering the beer in the Temperance
interest. This injustice rankled in him deeply, and seems to have
permanently influenced his development. For a time he forsook
the world and joined a sect of persons who called themselves
"Theo-philanthropists"--and surely no man could call himself much more
than that? Returning to mundane affairs, he refused to pay his rates,
stood for Parliament in the Socialist interest, and, being defeated,
declared himself a practical follower of Count Tolstoi. His father
advising a short holiday, he went off and narrowly escaped being shot
somewhere in the Balkans, owing to his having taken too keen an interest
in local politics. (He ought to have been shot; he was clear--and even
vehement--on that point in a letter which he wrote to _The Times_.) Then
he sent for Leonard Stabb, disappeared in company with that gentleman,
and was no more seen for some years.

He could always send for Stabb, so faithful was that learned student's
affection for him. A few years Ambrose Caverly's senior, Stabb had
emerged late and painfully from a humble origin and a local grammar
school, had gone up to Oxford as a non-collegiate man, had gained a
first-class and a fellowship, and had settled down to a life of
research. Early in his career he became known by the sobriquet of
"Cromlech Stabb"--even his unlearned friends would call him "Cromlech"
oftener than by any other name. His elaborate monograph on cromlechs had
earned him the title; subsequently he extended his researches to other
relics of ancient religions--or ancient forms of religion, as he always
preferred to put it; "there being," he would add, with the simplicity of
erudition beaming through his spectacles on any auditor, orthodox or
other, "of course, only one religion." He was a very large stout man;
his spectacles were large too. He was very strong, but by no means
mobile. Ambrose's father regarded Stabb's companionship as a certain
safeguard to his heir. The validity of this idea is doubtful. Students
have so much curiosity--and so many diverse scenes and various types of
humanity can minister to that appetite of the mind.

Occasional rumors about Ambrose Caverly reached his native shores; he
was heard of in Morocco, located in Spain, familiar in North and in
South America. Once he was not heard of for a year; his father and
friends concluded that he must be dead--or in prison. Happily the latter
explanation proved correct. Once more he and the law had come to
loggerheads; when he emerged from confinement he swore never to employ
on his own account an instrument so hateful.

"A gentleman should fight his own battles, Cromlech," he cried to his
friend. "I did no more than put a bullet in his arm--in a fair
encounter--and he let me go to prison!"

"Monstrous!" Stabb agreed with a smile. He had passed the year in a
dirty little inn by the prison gate--among scoundrels, but fortunately
in the vicinity of some mounds distinctly prehistoric.

Old Lord Lynborough's death occurred suddenly and unexpectedly, at a
moment when Ambrose and his companion could not be found. They were
somewhere in Peru--Stabb among the Incas, Ambrose probably in less
ancient company. It was six months before the news reached them.

"I must go home and take up my responsibilities, Cromlech," said the new
Lord Lynborough.

"You really think you'd better?" queried Stabb doubtfully.

"It was my father's wish."

"Oh, well--! But you'll be thought odd over there, Ambrose."

"Odd? I odd? What the deuce is there odd about me, Cromlech?"

"Everything." The investigator stuck his cheroot back in his mouth.

Lynborough considered dispassionately--as he fain would hope. "I don't
see it."

That was the difficulty. Stabb was well aware of it. A man who is odd,
and knows it, may be proud, but he will be careful; he may swagger, but
he will take precautions. Lynborough had no idea that he was odd; he
followed his nature--in all its impulses and in all its whims--with
equal fidelity and simplicity. This is not to say that he was never
amused at himself; every intelligent observer is amused at himself
pretty often; but he did not doubt merely because he was amused. He took
his entertainment over his own doings as a bonus life offered. A great
sincerity of action and of feeling was his predominant characteristic.

"Besides, if I'm odd," he went on with a laugh, "it won't be noticed.
I'm going to bury myself at Scarsmoor for a couple of years at least.
I'm thinking of writing an autobiography. You'll come with me,
Cromlech?"

"I must be totally undisturbed," Stabb stipulated. "I've a great deal of
material to get into shape."

"There'll be nobody there but myself--and a secretary, I daresay."

"A secretary? What's that for?"

"To write the book, of course."

"Oh, I see," said Stabb, smiling in a slow fat fashion. "You won't write
your autobiography yourself?"

"Not unless I find it very engrossing."

"Well, I'll come," said Stabb.

So home they came--an unusual-looking pair--Stabb with his towering
bulky frame, his big goggles, his huge head with its scanty black locks
encircling a face like a harvest moon--Lynborough, tall, too, but lean
as a lath, with tiny feet and hands, a rare elegance of carriage, a
crown of chestnut hair, a long straight nose, a waving mustache, a chin
pointed like a needle and scarcely thickened to the eye by the
close-cropped, short, pointed beard he wore. His bright hazel eyes
gleamed out from his face with an attractive restlessness that caught
away a stranger's first attention even from the rare beauty of the lines
of his head and face; it was regularity over-refined, sharpened almost
to an outline of itself. But his appearance tempted him to no excesses
of costume; he had always despised that facile path to a barren
eccentricity. On every occasion he wore what all men of breeding were
wearing, yet invested the prescribed costume with the individuality of
his character: this, it seems, is as near as the secret of dressing well
can be tracked.

His manner was not always deemed so free from affectation; it was,
perhaps, a little more self-conscious; it was touched with a foreign
courtliness, and he employed, on occasions of any ceremony or in
intercourse with ladies, a certain formality of speech; it was said of
him by an observant woman that he seemed to be thinking in a language
more ornate and picturesque than his tongue employed. He was content to
say the apt thing, not striving after wit; he was more prone to hide a
joke than to tell it; he would ignore a victory and laugh at a defeat;
yet he followed up the one and never sat down under the other, unless it
were inflicted by one he loved. He liked to puzzle, but took no
conscious pains to amuse.

Thus he returned to his "responsibilities." Cromlech Stabb was wondering
what that dignified word would prove to describe.



_Chapter Two_

LARGELY TOPOGRAPHICAL


Miss Gilletson had been studying the local paper, which appeared every
Saturday and reached Nab Grange on the following morning. She uttered an
exclamation, looked up from her small breakfast-table, and called over
to the Marchesa's small breakfast-table.

"Helena, I see that Lord Lynborough arrived at the Castle on Friday!"

"Did he, Jennie?" returned the Marchesa, with no show of interest. "Have
an egg, Colonel?" The latter words were addressed to her companion at
table, Colonel Wenman, a handsome but bald-headed man of about forty.

"'Lord Lynborough, accompanied by his friend Mr. Leonard Stabb, the
well-known authority on prehistoric remains, and Mr. Roger Wilbraham,
his private secretary. His lordship's household had preceded him to the
Castle.'"

Lady Norah Mountliffey--who sat with Miss Gilletson--was in the habit of
saying what she thought. What she said now was: "Thank goodness!" and
she said it rather loudly.

"You gentlemen haven't been amusing Norah," observed the Marchesa to the
Colonel.

"I hoped that I, at least, was engaged on another task--though, alas, a
harder one!" he answered in a low tone and with a glance of respectful
homage.

"If you refer to me, you've been admirably successful," the Marchesa
assured him graciously--only with the graciousness there mingled that
touch of mockery which always made the Colonel rather ill at ease.
"Amuse" is, moreover, a word rich in shades of meaning.

Miss Gilletson was frowning thoughtfully. "Helena can't call on him--and
I don't suppose he'll call on her," she said to Norah.

"He'll get to know her if he wants to."

"I might call on him," suggested the Colonel. "He was in the service,
you know, and that--er--makes a bond. Queer fellow he was, by Jove!"

Captain Irons and Mr. Stillford came in from riding, late for breakfast.
They completed the party at table, for Violet Dufaure always took the
first meal of the day in bed. Irons was a fine young man, still in the
twenties, very fair and very bronzed. He had seen fighting and was
great at polo. Stillford, though a man of peace (if a solicitor may so
be called), was by no means inferior in physique. A cadet of a good
county family, he was noted in the hunting field and as a long-distance
swimmer. He had come to Nab Grange to confer with the Marchesa on her
affairs, but, proving himself an acquisition to the party, had been
pressed to stay on as a guest.

The men began to bandy stories of Lynborough from one table to the
other. Wenman knew the London gossip, Stillford the local traditions:
but neither had seen the hero of their tales for many years. The
anecdotes delighted Norah Mountliffey, and caused Miss Gilletson's hands
to fly up in horror. Nevertheless it was Miss Gilletson who said,
"Perhaps we shall see him at church to-day."

"Not likely!" Stillford opined. "And--er--is anybody going?"

The pause which habitually follows this question ensued upon it now.
Neither the Marchesa nor Lady Norah would go--they were both of the Old
Church. Miss Dufaure was unlikely to go, by reason of fatigue. Miss
Gilletson would, of course, go, so would Colonel Wenman--but that was so
well known that they didn't speak.

"Any ladies with Lynborough's party, I wonder!" Captain Irons hazarded.
"I think I'll go! Stillford, you ought to go to church--family solicitor
and all that, eh?"

A message suddenly arrived from Miss Dufaure, to say that she felt
better and proposed to attend church--could she be sent?

"The carriage is going anyhow," said Miss Gilletson a trifle stiffly.

"Yes, I suppose I ought," Stillford agreed. "We'll drive there and walk
back?"

"Right you are!" said the Captain.

By following the party from Nab Grange to Fillby parish church, a
partial idea of the locality would be gained; but perhaps it is better
to face the complete task at once. Idle tales suit idle readers; a
history such as this may legitimately demand from those who study it
some degree of mental application.

If, then, the traveler lands from the North Sea (which is the only sea
he can land from) he will find himself on a sandy beach, dipping rapidly
to deep water and well adapted for bathing. As he stands facing inland,
the sands stretch in a long line southerly on his left; on his right
rises the bold bluff of Sandy Nab with its swelling outline, its
grass-covered dunes, and its sparse firs; directly in front of him,
abutting on the beach, is the high wall inclosing the Grange property; a
gate in the middle gives access to the grounds. The Grange faces south,
and lies in the shelter of Sandy Nab. In front of it are
pleasure-grounds, then a sunk fence, then spacious meadow-lands. The
property is about a mile and a half (rather more than less) in length,
to half-a-mile in breadth. Besides the Grange there is a small
farmhouse, or bailiff's house, in the southwest corner of the estate. On
the north the boundary consists of moorlands, to the east (as has been
seen) of the beach, to the west and south of a public road. At the end
of the Grange walls this road turns to the right, inland, and passes by
Fillby village; it then develops into the highroad to Easthorpe with its
market, shops, and station, ten miles away. Instead, however, of
pursuing this longer route, the traveler from the Grange grounds may
reach Fillby and Easthorpe sooner by crossing the road on the west, and
traversing the Scarsmoor Castle property, across which runs a broad
carriage road, open to the public. He will first--after entering Lord
Lynborough's gates--pass over a bridge which spans a little river, often
nearly dry, but liable to be suddenly flooded by a rainfall in the
hills. Thus he enters a beautiful demesne, rich in wood and undergrowth,
in hill and valley, in pleasant rides and winding drives. The Castle
itself--an ancient gray building, square and massive, stands on an
eminence in the northwest extremity of the property; the ground drops
rapidly in front of it, and it commands a view of Nab Grange and the sea
beyond, being in its turn easily visible from either of these points.
The road above mentioned, on leaving Lynborough's park, runs across the
moors in a southwesterly line to Fillby, a little village of some three
hundred souls. All around and behind this, stretching to Easthorpe, are
great rolling moors, rich in beauty as in opportunities for sport, yet
cutting off the little settlement of village, Castle, and Grange from
the outer world by an isolation more complete than the mere distance
would in these days seem to entail. The church, two or three little
shops, and one policeman, sum up Fillby's resources: anything more, for
soul's comfort, for body's supply or protection, must come across the
moors from Easthorpe.

One point remains--reserved to the end by reason of its importance. A
gate has been mentioned as opening on to the beach from the grounds of
Nab Grange. He who enters at that gate and makes for the Grange follows
the path for about two hundred yards in a straight line, and then takes
a curving turn to the right, which in time brings him to the front door
of the house. But the path goes on--growing indeed narrower, ultimately
becoming a mere grass-grown track, yet persisting quite plain to
see--straight across the meadows, about a hundred yards beyond the sunk
fence which bounds the Grange gardens, and in full view from the Grange
windows; and it desists not from its course till it reaches the rough
stone wall which divides the Grange estate from the highroad on the
west. This wall it reaches at a point directly opposite to the Scarsmoor
lodge; in the wall there is a gate, through which the traveler must pass
to gain the road.

There is a gate--and there had always been a gate; that much at least is
undisputed. It will, of course, be obvious that if the residents at the
Castle desired to reach the beach for the purpose of bathing or other
diversions, and proposed to go on their feet, incomparably their best,
shortest, and most convenient access thereto lay through this gate and
along the path which crossed the Grange property and issued through the
Grange gate on to the seashore. To go round by the road would take at
least three times as long. Now the season was the month of June; Lord
Lynborough was a man tenacious of his rights--and uncommonly fond of
bathing.

On the other hand, it might well be that the Marchesa di San
Servolo--the present owner of Nab Grange--would prefer that strangers
should not pass across her property, in full view and hail of her
windows, without her permission and consent. That this, indeed, was the
lady's attitude might be gathered from the fact that, on this Sunday
morning in June, Captain Irons and Mr. Stillford, walking back through
the Scarsmoor grounds from Fillby church as they had proposed, found the
gate leading from the road into the Grange meadows securely padlocked.
Having ignored this possibility, they had to climb, incidentally
displacing, but carefully replacing, a number of prickly furze branches
which the zeal of the Marchesa's bailiff had arranged along the top rail
of the gate.

"Boys been coming in?" asked Irons.

"It may be that," said Stillford, smiling as he arranged the prickly
defenses to the best advantage.

The Grange expedition to church had to confess to having seen nothing of
the Castle party--and in so far it was dubbed a failure. There was
indeed a decorous row of servants in the household seat, but the square
oaken pew in the chancel, with its brass rods and red curtains in front,
and its fireplace at the back, stood empty. The two men reported having
met, as they walked home through Scarsmoor, a very large fat man with a
face which they described variously, one likening it to the sinking sun
on a misty day, the other to a copper saucepan.

"Not Lord Lynborough, I do trust!" shuddered little Violet Dufaure. She
and Miss Gilletson had driven home by the road, regaining the Grange by
the south gate and the main drive.

Stillford was by the Marchesa. He spoke to her softly, covered by the
general conversation. "You might have told us to take a key!" he said
reproachfully. "That gorse is very dangerous to a man's Sunday
clothes."

"It looks--businesslike, doesn't it?" she smiled.

"Oh, uncommon! When did you have it done?"

"The day before yesterday. I wanted there to be no mistake from the very
first. That's the best way to prevent any unpleasantness."

"Possibly." Stillford sounded doubtful. "Going to have a notice-board,
Marchesa?"

"He will hardly make that necessary, will he?"

"Well, I told you that in my judgment your right to shut it against him
is very doubtful."

"You told me a lot of things I didn't understand," she retorted rather
pettishly.

He shrugged his shoulders with a laugh. No good lay in anticipating
trouble. Lord Lynborough might take no notice.

In the afternoon the Marchesa's guests played golf on a rather makeshift
nine-hole course laid out in the meadows. Miss Gilletson slept. The
Marchesa herself mounted the top of Sandy Nab, and reviewed her
situation. The Colonel would doubtless have liked to accompany her, but
he was not thereto invited.

Helena Vittoria Maria Antonia, Marchesa di San Servolo, was now in her
twenty-fourth year. Born of an Italian father and an English mother, she
had bestowed her hand on her paternal country, but her heart remained in
her mother's. The Marchese took her as his second wife and his last
pecuniary resource; in both capacities she soothed his declining years.
Happily for her--and not unhappily for the world at large--these were
few. He had not time to absorb her youth or to spend more than a small
portion of her inheritance. She was left a widow--stepmother of adult
Italian offspring--owner for life of an Apennine fortress. She liked the
fortress much, but disliked the stepchildren (the youngest was of her
own age) more. England--her mother's home--presented itself in the light
of a refuge. In short, she had grave doubts about ever returning to
Italy.

Nab Grange was in the market. Ancestrally a possession of the Caverlys
(for centuries a noble but unennobled family in those parts), it had
served for the family's dower-house, till a bad race-meeting had induced
the squire of the day to sell it to a Mr. Cross of Leeds. The Crosses
held it for seventy years. Then the executors of the last Cross sold it
to the Marchesa. This final transaction happened a year before
Lynborough came home. The "Beach Path" had, as above recorded, been
closed only for two days.

The path was not just now in the Marchesa's thoughts. Nothing very
definite was. Rather, as her eyes ranged from moor to sea, from the
splendid uniformity of the unclouded sky to the ravishing variety of
many-tinted earth, from the green of the Grange meadows (the one spot of
rich emerald on the near coast-line, owing its hues to Sandy Nab's
kindly shelter) to the gray mass of Scarsmoor Castle--there was in her
heart that great mixture of content and longing that youth and--(what
put bluntly amounts to)--a fine day are apt to raise. And youth allied
with beauty becomes self-assertive, a claimant against the world, a
plaintiff against facts before High Heaven's tribunal. The Marchesa was
infinitely delighted with Nab Grange--graciously content with
Nature--not ill-pleased with herself--but, in fine, somewhat
discontented with her company. That was herself? Not precisely, though,
at the moment, objectively. She was wondering whether her house-party
was all that her youth and her beauty--to say nothing of her past
endurance of the Marchese--entitled her to claim and to enjoy.

Then suddenly across her vision, cutting the sky-line, seeming to divide
for a moment heaven above from earth beneath, passed a tall meager
figure, and a head of lines clean as if etched by a master's needle. The
profile stood as carved in fine ivory; glints of color flashed from hair
and beard. The man softly sang a love song as he walked--but he never
looked toward the Marchesa.

She sat up suddenly. "Could that be Lord Lynborough?" she thought--and
smiled.



_Chapter Three_

OF LAW AND NATURAL RIGHTS


Lynborough sat on the terrace which ran along the front of the Castle
and looked down, over Nab Grange, to the sea. With him were Leonard
Stabb and Roger Wilbraham. The latter was a rather short, slight man of
dark complexion; although a light-weight he was very wiry and a fine
boxer. His intellectual gifts corresponded well with his physical
equipment; an acute ready mind was apt to deal with every-day problems
and pressing necessities; it had little turn either for speculation or
for fancy. He had dreams neither about the past, like Stabb, nor about
present things, like Lynborough. His was, in a word, the practical
spirit, and Lynborough could not have chosen a better right-hand man.

They were all smoking; a silence had rested long over the party. At last
Lynborough spoke.

"There's always," he said, "something seductive in looking at a house
when you know nothing about the people who live in it."

"But I know a good deal about them," Wilbraham interposed with a laugh.
"Coltson's been pumping all the village, and I've had the benefit of
it." Coltson was Lynborough's own man, an old soldier who had been with
him nearly fifteen years and had accompanied him on all his travels and
excursions.

Lynborough paid no heed; he was not the man to be put off his
reflections by intrusive facts.

"The blank wall of a strange house is like the old green curtain at the
theater. It may rise for you any moment and show you--what? Now what is
there at Nab Grange?"

"A lot of country bumpkins, I expect," growled Stabb.

"No, no," Wilbraham protested. "I'll tell you, if you like----"

"What's there?" Lynborough pursued. "I don't know. You don't know--no,
you don't, Roger, and you probably wouldn't even if you were inside. But
I like not knowing--I don't want to know. We won't visit at the Grange,
I think. We will just idealize it, Cromlech." He cast his queer elusive
smile at his friend.

"Bosh!" said Stabb. "There's sure to be a woman there--and I'll be bound
she'll call on you!"

"She'll call on me? Why?"

"Because you're a lord," said Stabb, scorning any more personal form of
flattery.

"That fortuitous circumstance should, in my judgment, rather afford me
protection."

"If you come to that, she's somebody herself." Wilbraham's knowledge
would bubble out, for all the want of encouragement.

"Everybody's somebody," murmured Lynborough--"and it is a very odd
arrangement. Can't be regarded as permanent, eh, Cromlech? Immortality
by merit seems a better idea. And by merit I mean originality. Well--I
sha'n't know the Grange, but I like to look at it. The way I picture
her----"

"Picture whom?" asked Stabb.

"Why, the Lady of the Grange, to be sure----"

"Tut, tut, who's thinking of the woman?--if there is a woman at all."

"I am thinking of the woman, Cromlech, and I've a perfect right to think
of her. At least, if not of that woman, of a woman--whose like I've
never met."

"She must be of an unusual type," opined Stabb with a reflective smile.

"She is, Cromlech. Shall I describe her?"

"I expect you must."

"Yes, at this moment--with the evening just this color--and the Grange
down there--and the sea, Cromlech, so remarkably large, I'm afraid I
must. She is, of course, tall and slender; she has, of course, a
rippling laugh; her eyes are, of course, deep and dreamy, yet lighting
to a sparkle when one challenges. All this may be presupposed. It's her
tint, Cromlech, her color--that's what's in my mind to-night; that, you
will find, is her most distinguishing, her most wonderful
characteristic."

"That's just what the Vicar told Coltson! At least he said that the
Marchesa had a most extraordinary complexion." Wilbraham had got
something out at last.

"Roger, you bring me back to earth. You substitute the Vicar's
impression for my imagination. Is that kind?"

"It seems such a funny coincidence."

"Supposing it to be a mere coincidence--no doubt! But I've always known
that I had to meet that complexion somewhere. If here--so much the
better!"

"I have a great doubt about that," said Leonard Stabb.

"I can get over it, Cromlech! At least consider that."

"But you're not going to know her!" laughed Wilbraham.

"I shall probably see her as we walk down to bathe by Beach Path."

A deferential voice spoke from behind his chair. "I beg your pardon, my
lord, but Beach Path is closed." Coltson had brought Lynborough his
cigar-case and laid it down on a table by him as he communicated this
intelligence.

"Closed, Coltson?"

"Yes, my lord. There's a padlock on the gate, and a--er--barricade of
furze. And the gardeners tell me they were warned off yesterday."

"My gardeners warned off Beach Path?"

"Yes, my lord."

"By whose orders?"

"Her Excellency's, my lord."

"That's the Marchesa--Marchesa di San Servolo," Wilbraham supplied.

"Yes, that's the name, sir," said Coltson respectfully.

"What about her complexion now, Ambrose?" chuckled Stabb.

"The Marchesa di San Servolo? Is that right, Coltson?"

"Perfectly correct, my lord. Italian, I understand, my lord."

"Excellent, excellent! She has closed my Beach Path? I think I have
reflected enough for to-night. I'll go in and write a letter." He rose,
smiled upon Stabb, who himself was grinning broadly, and walked through
an open window into the house.

"Now you may see something happen," said Leonard Stabb.

"What's the matter? Is it a public path?" asked Wilbraham.

With a shrug Stabb denied all knowledge--and, probably, all interest.
Coltson, who had lingered behind his master, undertook to reply.

"Not exactly public, as I understand, sir. But the Castle has always
used it. Green--that's the head-gardener--tells me so, at least."

"By legal right, do you mean?" Wilbraham had been called to the Bar,
although he had never practised. No situation gives rise to greater
confidence on legal problems.

"I don't think you'll find that his lordship will trouble much about
that, sir," was Coltson's answer, as he picked up the cigar-case again
and hurried into the library with it.

"What does the man mean by that?" asked Wilbraham scornfully. "It's a
purely legal question--Lynborough must trouble about it." He rose and
addressed Stabb somewhat as though that gentleman were the Court. "Not a
public right of way? We don't argue that? Then it's a case of dominant
and servient tenement--a right of way by user as of right, or by a lost
grant. That--or nothing!"

"I daresay," muttered Stabb very absently.

"Then what does Coltson mean----?"

"Coltson knows Ambrose--you don't. Ambrose will never go to law--but
he'll go to bathe."

"But she'll go to law if he goes to bathe!" cried the lawyer.

Stabb blinked lazily, and seemed to loom enormous over his cigar. "I
daresay--if she's got a good case," said he. "Do you know, Wilbraham, I
don't much care whether she does or not? But in regard to her
complexion----"

"What the devil does her complexion matter?" shouted Wilbraham.

"The human side of a thing always matters," observed Leonard Stabb.
"For instance--pray sit down, Wilbraham--standing up and talking loud
prove nothing, if people would only believe it--the permanence of
hierarchical systems may be historically observed to bear a direct
relation to the emoluments."

"Would you mind telling me your opinion on two points, Stabb? We can go
on with that argument of yours afterward."

"Say on, Wilbraham."

"Is Lynborough in his right senses?"

"The point is doubtful."

"Are you in yours?"

Stabb reflected. "I am sane--but very highly specialized," was his
conclusion.

Wilbraham wrinkled his brow. "All the same, right of way or no right of
way is purely a legal question," he persisted.

"I think you're highly specialized too," said Stabb. "But you'd better
keep quiet and see it through, you know. There may be some fun--it will
serve to amuse the Archdeacon when you write." Wilbraham's father was a
highly esteemed dignitary of the order mentioned.

Lynborough came out again, smoking a cigar. His manner was noticeably
more alert: his brow was unclouded, his whole mien tranquil and placid.

"I've put it all right," he observed. "I've written her a civil letter.
Will you men bathe to-morrow?"

They both assented to the proposition.

"Very well. We'll start at eight. We may as well walk. By Beach Path
it's only about half-a-mile."

"But the path's stopped, Ambrose," Stabb objected.

"I've asked her to have the obstruction removed before eight o'clock,"
Lynborough explained.

"If it isn't?" asked Roger Wilbraham.

"We have hands," answered Lynborough, looking at his own very small
ones.

"Wilbraham wants to know why you don't go to law, Ambrose."

Lord Lynborough never shrank from explaining his views and convictions.

"The law disgusts me. So does my experience of it. You remember the
beer, Cromlech? Nobody ever acted more wisely or from better motives.
And if I made money--as I did, till the customers left off coming--why
not? I was unobtrusively doing good. Then Juanita's affair! I acted as a
gentleman is bound to act. Result--a year's imprisonment! I lay stress
on these personal experiences, but not too great stress. The law, Roger,
always considers what you have had and what you now have--never what
you ought to have. Take that path! It happens to be a fact that my
grandfather, and my father, and I have always used that path. That's
important by law, I daresay----"

"Certainly, Lord Lynborough."

"Just what would be important by law!" commented Lynborough. "And I have
made use of the fact in my letter to the Marchesa. But in my own mind I
stand on reason and natural right. Is it reasonable that I, living
half-a-mile from my bathing, should have to walk two miles to get to it?
Plainly not. Isn't it the natural right of the owner of Scarsmoor to
have that path open through Nab Grange? Plainly yes. That, Roger,
although, as I say, not the shape in which I have put the matter before
the Marchesa--because she, being a woman, would be unappreciative of
pure reason--is really the way in which the question presents itself to
my mind--and, I'm sure, to Cromlech's?"

"Not the least in the world to mine," said Stabb. "However, Ambrose, the
young man thinks us both mad."

"You do, Roger?" His smile persuaded to an affirmative reply.

"I'm afraid so, Lord Lynborough."

"No 'Lord,' if you love me! Why do you think me mad? Cromlech, of
course, is mad, so we needn't bother about him."

"You're not--not practical," stammered Roger.

"Oh, I don't know, really I don't know. You'll see that I shall get that
path open. And in the end I did get that public-house closed. And
Juanita's husband had to leave the country, owing to the heat of local
feeling--aroused entirely by me. Juanita stayed behind and, after due
formalities, married again most happily. I'm not altogether inclined to
call myself unpractical. Roger!" He turned quickly to his secretary.
"Your father's what they call a High Churchman, isn't he?"

"Yes--and so am I," said Roger.

"He has his Church. He puts that above the State, doesn't he? He
wouldn't obey the State against the Church? He wouldn't do what the
Church said was wrong because the State said it was right?"

"How could he? Of course he wouldn't," answered Roger.

"Well, I have my Church--inside here." He touched his breast. "I stand
where your father does. Why am I more mad than the Archdeacon, Roger?"

"But there's all the difference!"

"Of course there is," said Stabb. "All the difference that there is
between being able to do it and not being able to do it--and I know of
none so profound."

"There's no difference at all," declared Lynborough. "Therefore--as a
good son, no less than as a good friend--you will come and bathe with me
to-morrow?"

"Oh, I'll come and bathe, by all means, Lynborough."

"By all means! Well said, young man. By all means, that is, which are
becoming in opposing a lady. What precisely those may be we well
consider when we see the strength of her opposition."

"That doesn't sound so very unpractical, after all," Stabb suggested to
Roger.

Lynborough took his stand before Stabb, hands in pockets, smiling down
at the bulk of his friend.

"O Cromlech, Haunter of Tombs," he said, "Cromlech, Lover of Men long
Dead, there is a possible--indeed a probable--chance--there is a divine
hope--that Life may breathe here on this coast, that the blood may run
quick, that the world may move, that our old friend Fortune may smile,
and trick, and juggle, and favor us once more. This, Cromlech, to a man
who had determined to reform, who came home to assume--what was it? Oh
yes--responsibilities!--this is most extraordinary luck. Never shall it
be said that Ambrose Caverly, being harnessed and carrying a bow, turned
himself back in the day of battle!"

He swayed himself to and fro on his heels, and broke into merry
laughter.

"She'll get the letter to-night, Cromlech. I've sent Coltson down with
it--he proceeds decorously by the highroad and the main approach. But
she'll get it. Cromlech, will she read it with a beating heart? Will she
read it with a flushing cheek? And if so, Cromlech, what, I ask you,
will be the particular shade of that particular flush?"

"Oh, the sweetness of the game!" said he.

Over Nab Grange the stars seemed to twinkle roguishly.



_Chapter Four_

THE MESSAGE OF A PADLOCK


     Lord Lynborough presents his compliments to her Excellency the
     Marchesa di San Servolo. Lord Lynborough has learnt, with
     surprise and regret, that his servants have within the last two
     days been warned off Beach Path, and that a padlock and other
     obstacles have been placed on the gate leading to the path, by
     her Excellency's orders. Lord Lynborough and his predecessors
     have enjoyed the use of this path by themselves, their agents
     and servants, for many years back--certainly for fifty, as Lord
     Lynborough knows from his father and from old servants, and
     Lord Lynborough is not disposed to acquiesce in any obstruction
     being raised to his continued use of it. He must therefore
     request her Excellency to have the kindness to order that the
     padlock and other obstacles shall be removed, and he will be
     obliged by this being done before eight o'clock to-morrow
     morning--at which time Lord Lynborough intends to proceed by
     Beach Path to the sea in order to bathe. Scarsmoor Castle; 13th
     June.

The reception of this letter proved an agreeable incident of an
otherwise rather dull Sunday evening at Nab Grange. The Marchesa had
been bored; the Colonel was sulky. Miss Gilletson had forbidden cards;
her conscience would not allow herself, nor her feelings of envy permit
other people, to play on the Sabbath. Lady Norah and Violet Dufaure were
somewhat at cross-purposes, each preferring to talk to Stillford and
endeavoring, under a false show of amity, to foist Captain Irons on to
the other.

"Listen to this!" cried the Marchesa vivaciously. She read it out. "He
doesn't beat about the bush, does he? I'm to surrender before eight
o'clock to-morrow morning!"

"Sounds rather a peremptory sort of a chap!" observed Colonel Wenman.

"I," remarked Lady Norah, "shouldn't so much as answer him, Helena."

"I shall certainly answer him and tell him that he'll trespass on my
property at his peril," said the Marchesa haughtily. "Isn't that the
right way to put it, Mr. Stillford?"

"If it would be a trespass, that might be one way to put it," was
Stillford's professionally cautious advice. "But as I ventured to tell
you when you determined to put on the padlock, the rights in the matter
are not quite as clear as we could wish."

"When I bought this place, I bought a private estate--a private estate,
Mr. Stillford--for myself--not a short cut for Lord Lynborough! Am I to
put up a notice for him, 'This Way to the Bathing-Machines'?"

"I wouldn't stand it for a moment." Captain Irons sounded bellicose.

Violet Dufaure was amicably inclined.

"You might give him leave to walk through. It would be a bore for him to
go round by the road every time."

"Certainly I might give him leave if he asked for it," retorted the
Marchesa rather sharply. "But he doesn't. He orders me to open my
gate--and tells me he means to bathe! As if I cared whether he bathed or
not! What is it to me, I ask you, Violet, whether the man bathes or
not?"

"I beg your pardon, Marchesa, but aren't you getting a little off the
point?" Stillford intervened deferentially.

"No, I'm not. I never get off the point, Mr. Stillford. Do I, Colonel
Wenman?"

"I've never known you to do it in my life, Marchesa." There was, in
fact, as Lynborough had ventured to anticipate, a flush on the
Marchesa's cheek, and the Colonel knew his place.

"There, Mr. Stillford!" she cried triumphantly. Then she swept--the
expression is really applicable--across the room to her writing-table.
"I shall be courteous, but quite decisive," she announced over her
shoulder as she sat down.

Stillford stood by the fire, smiling doubtfully. Evidently it was no use
trying to stop the Marchesa; she had insisted on locking the gate, and
she would persist in keeping it locked till she was forced, by process
of law or otherwise, to open it again. But if the Lords of Scarsmoor
Castle really had used it without interruption for fifty years (as Lord
Lynborough asserted)--well, the Marchesa's rights were at least in a
precarious position.

The Marchesa came back with her letter in her hand.

"'The Marchesa di San Servolo,'" she read out to an admiring audience,
"'presents her compliments to Lord Lynborough. The Marchesa has no
intention of removing the padlock and other obstacles which have been
placed on the gate to prevent trespassing--either by Lord Lynborough or
by anybody else. The Marchesa is not concerned to know Lord Lynborough's
plans in regard to bathing or otherwise. Nab Grange; 13th June.'"

The Marchesa looked round on her friends with a satisfied air.

"I call that good," she remarked. "Don't you, Norah?"

"I don't like the last sentence."

"Oh yes! Why, that'll make him angrier than anything else! Please ring
the bell for me, Mr. Stillford; it's just behind you."

The butler came back.

"Who brought Lord Lynborough's letter?" asked the Marchesa.

"I don't know who it is, your Excellency--one of the upper servants at
the Castle, I think."

"How did he come to the house?"

"By the drive--from the south gate--I believe, your Excellency."

"I'm glad of that," she declared, looking positively dangerous. "Tell
him to go back the same way, and not by the--by what Lord Lynborough
chooses to call 'Beach Path.' Here's a letter for him to take."

"Very good, your Excellency." The butler received the letter and
withdrew.

"Yes," said Lady Norah, "rather funny he should call it Beach Path,
isn't it?"

"I don't know whether it's funny or not, Norah, but I do know that I
don't care what he calls it. He may call it Piccadilly if he likes, but
it's my path all the same." As she spoke she looked, somewhat defiantly,
at Mr. Stillford.

Violet Dufaure, whose delicate frame held an indomitable and indeed
pugnacious spirit, appealed to Stillford; "Can't Helena have him taken
up if he trespasses?"

"Well, hardly, Miss Dufaure. The remedy would lie in the civil courts."

"Shall I bring an action against him? Is that it? Is that right?" cried
the Marchesa.

"That's the ticket, eh, Stillford?" asked the Colonel.

Stillford's position was difficult; he had the greatest doubt about his
client's case.

"Suppose you leave him to bring the action?" he suggested. "When he
does, we can fully consider our position."

"But if he insists on using the path to-morrow?"

"He'll hardly do that," Stillford persuaded her. "You'll probably get a
letter from him, asking for the name of your solicitor. You will give
him my name; I shall obtain the name of his solicitor, and we shall
settle it between us--amicably, I hope, but in any case without further
personal trouble to you, Marchesa."

"Oh!" said the Marchesa blankly. "That's how it will be, will it?"

"That's the usual course--the proper way of doing the thing."

"It may be proper; it sounds very dull, Mr. Stillford. What if he does
try to use the path to-morrow--'in order to bathe' as he's good enough
to tell me?"

"If you're right about the path, then you've the right to stop him,"
Stillford answered rather reluctantly. "If you do stop him, that, of
course, raises the question in a concrete form. You will offer a formal
resistance. He will make a formal protest. Then the lawyers step in."

"We always end with the lawyers--and my lawyer doesn't seem sure I'm
right!"

"Well, I'm not sure," said Stillford bluntly. "It's impossible to be
sure at this stage of the case."

"For all I see, he may use my path to-morrow!" The Marchesa was
justifying her boast that she could stick to a point.

"Now that you've lodged your objection, that won't matter much legally."

"It will annoy me intensely," the Marchesa complained.

"Then we'll stop him," declared Colonel Wenman valorously.

"Politely--but firmly," added Captain Irons.

"And what do you say, Mr. Stillford?"

"I'll go with these fellows anyhow--and see that they don't overstep the
law. No more than the strictly necessary force, Colonel!"

"I begin to think that the law is rather stupid," said the Marchesa. She
thought it stupid; Lynborough held it iniquitous; the law was at a
discount, and its majesty little reverenced, that night.

Ultimately, however, Stillford persuaded the angry lady to--as he
tactfully put it--give Lynborough a chance. "See what he does first. If
he crosses the path now, after warning, your case is clear. Write to him
again then, and tell him that, if he persists in trespassing, your
servants have orders to interfere."

"That lets him bathe to-morrow!" Once more the Marchesa returned to her
point--a very sore one.

"Just for once, it really doesn't matter!" Stillford urged.

Reluctantly she acquiesced; the others were rather relieved--not because
they objected to a fight, but because eight in the morning was rather
early to start one. Breakfast at the Grange was at nine-thirty, and,
though the men generally went down for a dip, they went much later than
Lord Lynborough proposed to go.

"He shall have one chance of withdrawing gracefully," the Marchesa
finally decided.

Stillford was unfeignedly glad to hear her say so; he had, from a
professional point of view, no desire for a conflict. Inquiries which he
had made in Fillby--both from men in Scarsmoor Castle employ and from
independent persons--had convinced him that Lynborough's case was
strong. For many years--through the time of two Lynboroughs before the
present at Scarsmoor, and through the time of three Crosses (the
predecessors of the Marchesa) at Nab Grange, Scarsmoor Castle had
without doubt asserted this dominant right over Nab Grange. It had been
claimed and exercised openly--and, so far as he could discover, without
protest or opposition. The period, as he reckoned it, would prove to be
long enough to satisfy the law as to prescription; it was very unlikely
that any document existed--or anyhow could be found--which would serve
to explain away the presumption which uses such as this gave. In fine,
the Marchesa's legal adviser was of opinion that in a legal fight the
Marchesa would be beaten. His own hope lay in compromise; if friendly
relations could be established, there would be a chance of a
compromise. He was sure that the Marchesa would readily grant as a
favor--and would possibly give in return for a nominal payment--all that
Lynborough asked. That would be the best way out of the difficulty. "Let
us temporize, and be conciliatory," thought the man of law.

Alas, neither conciliation nor dilatoriness was in Lord Lynborough's
line! He read the Marchesa's letter with appreciation and pleasure. He
admired the curtness of its intimation, and the lofty haughtiness with
which the writer dismissed the subject of his bathing. But he treated
the document--it cannot be said that he did wrong--as a plain defiance.
It appeared to him that no further declaration of war was necessary; he
was not concerned to consider evidence nor to weigh his case, as
Stillford wanted to weigh her case. This for two reasons: first,
because he was entirely sure that he was right; secondly because he had
no intention of bringing the question to trial. Lynborough knew but one
tribunal; he had pointed out its local habitation to Roger Wilbraham.

Accordingly it fell out that conciliatory counsels and Fabian tactics at
Nab Grange received a very severe--perhaps indeed a fatal--shock the
next morning.

At about nine o'clock the Marchesa was sitting in her dressing-gown by
the open window, reading her correspondence and sipping an early cup of
tea--she had become quite English in her habits. Her maid reëntered the
room, carrying in her hand a small parcel. "For your Excellency," she
said. "A man has just left it at the door." She put the parcel down on
the marble top of the dressing-table.

"What is it?" asked the Marchesa indolently.

"I don't know, your Excellency. It's hard, and very heavy for its size."

Laying down the letter which she had been perusing, the Marchesa took up
the parcel and cut the string which bound it. With a metallic clink
there fell on her dressing-table--a padlock! To it was fastened a piece
of paper, bearing these words: "Padlock found attached to gate leading
to Beach Path. Detached by order of Lord Lynborough. With Lord
Lynborough's compliments."

Now, too, Lynborough might have got his flush--if he could have been
there to see it!

"Bring me my field-glasses!" she cried.

The window commanded a view of the gardens, of the meadows beyond the
sunk fence, of the path--Beach Path as that man was pleased to call
it!--and of the gate. At the last-named object the enraged Marchesa
directed her gaze. The barricade of furze branches was gone! The gate
hung open upon its hinges!

While she still looked, three figures came across the lens. A very large
stout shape--a short spare form--a tall, lithe, very lean figure. They
were just reaching the gate, coming from the direction of the sea. The
two first were strangers to her; the third she had seen for a moment the
afternoon before on Sandy Nab. It was Lynborough himself, beyond a
doubt. The others must be friends--she cared not about them. But to sit
here with the padlock before her, and see Lynborough pass through the
gate--a meeker woman than she had surely been moved to wrath! He had
bathed--as he had said he would. And he had sent her the padlock. That
was what came of listening to conciliatory counsels, of letting herself
give ear to dilatory persuasions!

"War!" declared the Marchesa. "War--war--war! And if he's not careful, I
won't confine it to the path either!" She seemed to dream of conquests,
perhaps to reckon resources, whereof Mr. Stillford, her legal adviser,
had taken no account.

She carried the padlock down to breakfast with her; it was to her as a
Fiery Cross; it summoned her and her array to battle. She exhibited it
to her guests.

"Now, gentlemen, I'm in your hands!" said she. "Is that man to walk over
my property for his miserable bathing to-morrow?"

He would have been a bold man who, at that moment, would have answered
her with a "Yes."



_Chapter Five_

THE BEGINNING OF WAR


An enviable characteristic of Lord Lynborough's was that, when he had
laid the fuse, he could wait patiently for the explosion. (That last
word tends to recur in connection with him.) Provided he knew that his
adventure and his joke were coming, he occupied the interval
profitably--which is to say, as agreeably as he could. Having launched
the padlock--his symbolical ultimatum--and asserted his right, he spent
the morning in dictating to Roger Wilbraham a full, particular, and
veracious account of his early differences with the Dean of Christ
Church. Roger found his task entertaining, for Lynborough's mimicry of
his distinguished opponent was excellent. Stabb meanwhile was among the
tombs in an adjacent apartment.

This studious tranquillity was disturbed by the announcement of a call
from Mr. Stillford. Not without difficulty he had persuaded the Marchesa
to let him reconnoiter the ground--to try, if it seemed desirable, the
effect of a bit of "bluff"--at any rate to discover, if he could,
something of the enemy's plan of campaign. Stillford was, in truth, not
a little afraid of a lawsuit!

Lynborough denied himself to no man, and received with courtesy every
man who came. But his face grew grim and his manner distant when
Stillford discounted the favorable effect produced by his appearance and
manner--also by his name, well known in the county--by confessing that
he called in the capacity of the Marchesa's solicitor.

"A solicitor?" said Lynborough, slightly raising his brows.

"Yes. The Marchesa does me the honor to place her confidence in me; and
it occurs to me that, before this unfortunate dispute----"

"Why unfortunate?" interrupted Lynborough with an air of some surprise.

"Surely it is--between neighbors? The Castle and the Grange should be
friends." His cunning suggestion elicited no response. "It occurred to
me," he continued, somewhat less glibly, "that, before further annoyance
or expense was caused, it might be well if I talked matters over with
your lordship's solicitor."

"Sir," said Lynborough, "saving your presence--which, I must beg you to
remember, was not invited by me--I don't like solicitors. I have no
solicitor. I shall never have a solicitor. You can't talk with a
non-existent person."

"But proceedings are the natural--the almost inevitable--result of such
a situation as your action has created, Lord Lynborough. My client can't
be flouted, she can't have her indubitable rights outraged----"

"Do you think they're indubitable?" Lynborough put in, with a sudden
quick flash of his eyes.

For an instant Stillford hesitated. Then he made his orthodox reply. "As
I am instructed, they certainly are."

"Ah!" said Lynborough dryly.

"No professional man could say more than that, Lord Lynborough."

"And they all say just as much! If I say anything you don't like, again
remember that this interview is not of my seeking, Mr. Stillford."

Stillford waxed a trifle sarcastic. "You'll conduct your case in
person?" he asked.

"If you hale me to court, I shall. Otherwise there's no question of a
case."

This time Stillford's eyes brightened; yet still he doubted Lynborough's
meaning.

"We shouldn't hesitate to take our case into court."

"Since you're wrong, you'd probably win," said Lynborough, with a smile.
"But I'd make it cost you the devil of a lot of money. That, at least,
the law can do--I'm not aware that it can do much else. But as far as
I'm concerned, I should as soon appeal to the Pope of Rome in this
matter as to a law-court--sooner in fact."

Stillford grew more confidently happy--and more amazed at Lynborough.

"But you've no right to--er--assert rights if you don't intend to
support them."

"I do intend to support them, Mr. Stillford. That you'll very soon find
out."

"By force?" Stillford himself was gratified by the shocked solemnity
which he achieved in this question.

"If so, your side has no prejudice against legal proceedings. Prisons
are not strange to me----"

"What?" Stillford was a little startled. He had not heard all the
stories about Lord Lynborough.

"I say, prisons are not strange to me. If necessary, I can do a month. I
am, however, not altogether a novice in the somewhat degrading art of
getting the other man to hit first. Then he goes to prison, doesn't he?
Just like the law! As if that had anything to do with the merits!"

Stillford kept his eye on the point valuable to him. "By supporting your
claim I intended to convey supporting it by legal action."

"Oh, the cunning of this world, the cunning of this world, Roger!" He
flung himself into an arm-chair, laughing. Stillford was already seated.
"Take a cigarette, Mr. Stillford. You want to know whether I'm going to
law or not, don't you? Well, I'm not. Is there anything else you want to
know? Oh, by the way, we don't abstain from the law because we don't
know the law. Permit me--Mr. Stillford, solicitor--Mr. Roger Wilbraham,
of the Middle Temple, Esquire, barrister-at-law. Had I known you were
coming, Roger should have worn his wig. No, no, we know the law--but we
hate it."

Stillford was jubilant at a substantial gain--the appeal to law lay
within the Marchesa's choice now; and that was in his view a great
advantage. But he was legitimately irritated by Lynborough's sneers at
his profession.

"So do most of the people who belong to--the people to whom prisons are
not strange, Lord Lynborough."

"Apostles--and so on?" asked Lynborough airily.

"I hardly recognize your lordship as belonging to
that--er--er--category."

"That's the worst of it--nobody will," Lynborough admitted candidly. A
note of sincere, if whimsical, regret sounded in his voice. "I've been
trying for fifteen years. Yet some day I may be known as St. Ambrose!"
His tones fell to despondency again. "St. Ambrose the Less, though--yes,
I'm afraid the Less. Apostles--even Saints--are much handicapped in
these days, Mr. Stillford."

Stillford rose to his feet. "You've no more to say to me, Lord
Lynborough?"

"I don't know that I ever had anything to say to you, Mr. Stillford. You
must have gathered before now that I intend to use Beach Path."

"My client intends to prevent you."

"Yes?--Well, you're three able-bodied men down there--so my man tells
me--you, and the Colonel, and the Captain. And we're three up here. It
seems to me fair enough."

"You don't really contemplate settling the matter by personal conflict?"
He was half amused, yet genuinely stricken in his habits of thought.

"Entirely a question for your side. We shall use the path." Lynborough
cocked his head on one side, looking up at the sturdy lawyer with a
mischievous amusement. "I shall harry you, Mr. Stillford--day and night
I shall harry you. If you mean to keep me off that path, vigils will be
your portion. And you won't succeed."

"I make a last appeal to your lordship. The matter could, I believe, be
adjusted on an amicable basis. The Marchesa could be prevailed upon to
grant permission----"

"I'd just as soon ask her permission to breathe," interrupted
Lynborough.

"Then my mission is at an end."

"I congratulate you."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Well, you've found out the chief thing you wanted to know, haven't you?
If you'd asked it point-blank, we should have saved a lot of time.
Good-by, Mr. Stillford. Roger, the bell's in reach of your hand."

"You're pleased to be amused at my expense?" Stillford had grown huffy.

"No--only don't think you've been clever at mine," Lynborough retorted
placidly.

So they parted. Lynborough went back to his Dean, Stillford to the
Marchesa. Still ruffled in his plumes, feeling that he had been chaffed
and had made no adequate reply, yet still happy in the solid, the
important fact which he had ascertained, he made his report to his
client. He refrained from openly congratulating her on not being
challenged to a legal fight; he contented himself with observing that it
was convenient to be able to choose her own time to take proceedings.

Lady Norah was with the Marchesa. They both listened attentively and
questioned closely. Not the substantial points alone attracted their
interest; Stillford was constantly asked--"How did he look when he said
that?" He had no other answer than "Oh--well--er--rather queer." He left
them, having received directions to rebarricade the gate as solidly and
as offensively as possible; a board warning off trespassers was also to
be erected.

Although not apt at a description of his interlocutor, yet Stillford
seemed to have conveyed an impression.

"I think he must be delightful," said Norah thoughtfully, when the two
ladies were left together. "I'm sure he's just the sort of a man I
should fall in love with, Helena."

As a rule the Marchesa admired and applauded Norah's candor, praising it
for a certain patrician flavor--Norah spoke her mind, let the crowd
think what it would! On this occasion she was somehow less pleased; she
was even a little startled. She was conscious that any man with whom
Norah was gracious enough to fall in love would be subjected to no
ordinary assault; the Irish coloring is bad to beat, and Norah had it to
perfection; moreover, the aforesaid candor makes matters move ahead.

"After all, it's my path he's trespassing on, Norah," the Marchesa
remonstrated.

They both began to laugh. "The wretch is as handsome as--as a god,"
sighed Helena.

"You've seen him?" eagerly questioned Norah; and the glimpse--that
tantalizing glimpse--on Sandy Nab was confessed to.

The Marchesa sprang up, clenching her fist. "Norah, I should like to
have that man at my feet, and then to trample on him! Oh, it's not only
the path! I believe he's laughing at me all the time!"

"He's never seen you. Perhaps if he did he wouldn't laugh. And perhaps
you wouldn't trample on him either."

"Ah, but I would!" She tossed her head impatiently. "Well, if you want
to meet him. I expect you can do it--on my path to-morrow!"

This talk left the Marchesa vaguely vexed. Her feeling could not be
called jealousy; nothing can hardly be jealous of nothing, and even as
her acquaintance with Lynborough amounted to nothing, Lady Norah's also
was represented by a cipher. But why should Norah want to know him? It
was the Marchesa's path--by consequence it was the Marchesa's quarrel.
Where did Norah stand in the matter? The Marchesa had perhaps been
constructing a little drama. Norah took leave to introduce a new
character!

And not Norah alone, as it appeared at dinner. Little Violet Dufaure,
whose appealing ways were notoriously successful with the emotionally
weaker sex, took her seat at table with a demurely triumphant air.
Captain Irons reproached her, with polite gallantry, for having deserted
the croquet lawn after tea.

"Oh, I went for a walk to Fillby--through Scarsmoor, you know."

"Through Scarsmoor, Violet?" The Marchesa sounded rather startled again.

"It's a public road, you know, Helena. Isn't it, Mr. Stillford?"

Stillford admitted that it was. "All the same, perhaps the less we go
there at the present moment----"

"Oh, but Lord Lynborough asked me to come again and to go wherever I
liked--not to keep to the stupid road."

Absolute silence reigned. Violet looked round with a smile which
conveyed a general appeal for sympathy; there was, perhaps, special
reference to Miss Gilletson as the guardian of propriety, and to the
Marchesa as the owner of the disputed path.

"You see, I took Nellie, and the dear always does run away. She ran
after a rabbit. I ran after her, of course. The rabbit ran into a hole,
and I ran into Lord Lynborough. Helena, he's charming!"

"I'm thoroughly tired of Lord Lynborough," said the Marchesa icily.

"He must have known I was staying with you, I think; but he never so
much as mentioned you. He just ignored you--the whole thing, I mean.
Wasn't it tactful?"

Tactful it might have been; it did not appear to gratify the Marchesa.

"What a wonderful air there is about a--a _grand seigneio_!" pursued
Violet reflectively. "Such a difference it makes!"

That remark did not gratify any of the gentlemen present; it implied a
contrast, although it might not definitely assert one.

"It is such a pity that you've quarreled about that silly path!"

"Oh! oh! Miss Dufaure!"--"I say come, Miss Dufaure!"--"Er--really, Miss
Dufaure!"--these three remonstrances may be distributed indifferently
among the three men. They felt that there was a risk of treason in the
camp.

The Marchesa assumed her grandest manner; it was medieval--it was
Titianesque.

"Fortunately, as it seems, Violet, I do not rely on your help to
maintain my fights in regard to the path. Pray meet Lord Lynborough as
often as you please, but spare me any unnecessary mention of his name."

"I didn't mean any harm. It was all Nellie's fault."

The Marchesa's reply--if such it can be called--was delivered _sotto
voce_, yet was distinctly audible. It was also brief. She said
"_Nellie_!" Nellie was, of course, Miss Dufaure's dog.

Night fell upon an apparently peaceful land. Yet Violet was an absentee
from the Marchesa's dressing-room that night, and even between Norah and
her hostess the conversation showed a tendency to flag. Norah, for all
her courage, dared not mention the name of Lynborough, and Helena most
plainly would not. Yet what else was there to talk about? It had come to
that point even so early in the war!

Meanwhile, up at Scarsmoor Castle, Lynborough, in exceedingly high
spirits, talked to Leonard Stabb.

"Yes, Cromlech," he said, "a pretty girl, a very pretty girl if you like
that _petite_ insinuating style. For myself I prefer something a shade
more--what shall we call it?"

"Don't care a hang," muttered Stabb.

"A trifle more in the grand manner, perhaps, Cromlech. And she hadn't
anything like the complexion. I knew at once that it couldn't be the
Marchesa. Do you bathe to-morrow morning?"

"And get my head broken?"

"Just stand still, and let them throw themselves against you, Cromlech.
Roger!--Oh, he's gone to bed; stupid thing to do--that! Cromlech, old
chap, I'm enjoying myself immensely."

He just touched his old friend's shoulder as he passed by: the caress
was almost imperceptible. Stabb turned his broad red face round to him
and laughed ponderously.

"Oh, and you understand!" cried Lynborough.

"I have never myself objected to a bit of fun with the girls," said
Stabb.

Lynborough sank into a chair murmuring delightedly, "You're priceless,
Cromlech!"



_Chapter Six_

EXERCISE BEFORE BREAKFAST


"Life--" (The extract is from Lynborough's diary, dated this same 14th
of June)--"may be considered as a process (Cromlech's view, conducting
to the tomb)--a program (as, I am persuaded, Roger conceives it, marking
off each stage thereof with a duly guaranteed stamp of performance)--or
as a progress--in which light I myself prefer to envisage it.
Process--program--progress; the words, with my above-avowed preference,
sound unimpeachably orthodox. Once I had a Bishop ancestor. He crops
out.

"Yet I don't mean what he does. I don't believe in growing better in
the common sense--that is, in an increasing power to resist what tempts
you, to refrain from doing what you want. That ideal seems to me, more
and more, to start from the wrong end. No man refrains from doing what
he wants to do. In the end the contradiction--the illogicality--is
complete. You learn to want more wisely--that's all. Train desire, for
you can never chain it.

"I'm engaged here and now on what is to all appearance the most trivial
of businesses. I play the spiteful boy--she is an obstinate peevish
girl. There are other girls too--one an insinuating tiny minx, who would
wheedle a backward glance out of Simon Stylites as he remounted his
pillar--and, by the sun in heaven, will get little more from this child
of Mother Earth! There's another, I hear--Irish!--And Irish is near my
heart. But behind her--set in the uncertain radiance of my
imagination--lies her Excellency. Heaven knows why! Save that it is
gloriously paradoxical to meet a foreign Excellency in this spot, and to
get to most justifiable, most delightful, loggerheads with her
immediately. I have conceived Machiavellian devices. I will lure away
her friends. I will isolate her, humiliate her, beat her in the fight.
There may be some black eyes--some bruised hearts--but I shall do it.
Why? I have always been gentle before. But so I feel toward her. And
therefore I am afraid. This is the foeman for my steel, I think--I have
my doubts but that she'll beat me in the end.

"When I talk like this, Cromlech chuckles, loves me as a show, despises
me as a mind. Roger--young Roger Fitz-Archdeacon--is all an incredulous
amazement. I don't wonder. There is nothing so small and nothing so
great--nothing so primitive and not a thing so complex--nothing so
unimportant and so engrossing as this 'duel of the sexes.' A proves it a
trifle, and is held great. B reckons it all-supreme, and becomes
popular. C (a woman) describes the Hunter Man. D (a man) descants of the
Pursuit by Woman. The oldest thing is the most canvassed and the least
comprehended. But there's a reputation--and I suppose money--in it for
anybody who can string phrases. There's blood-red excitement for
everybody who can feel. Yet I've played my part in other affairs--not so
much in dull old England, where you work five years to become a Member
of Parliament, and five years more in order to get kicked out again--but
in places where in a night you rise or fall--in five minutes order the
shooting-squad or face it--boil the cook or are stuffed into the pot
yourself. (Cromlech, this is not exact scientific statement!) Yet
always--everywhere--the woman! And why? On my honor, I don't know. What
in the end is she?

"I adjourn the question--and put a broader one. What am I? The human
being as such? If I'm a vegetable, am I not a mistake? If I'm an animal,
am I not a cruelty? If I'm a soul, am I not misplaced? I'd say 'Yes' to
all this, save that I enjoy myself so much. Because I have forty
thousand a year? Hardly. I've had nothing, and been as completely out of
reach of getting anything as the veriest pauper that ever existed--and
yet I've had the deuce of a fine existence the while. I think there's
only one solid blunder been made about man--he oughtn't to have been
able to think. It wastes time. It makes many people unhappy. That's not
my case. I like it. It just wastes time.

"That insinuating minx, possessed of a convenient dog and an
ingratiating manner, insinuated to-day that I was handsome. Well, she's
pretty, and I suppose we're both better off for it. It is an
introduction. But to myself I don't seem very handsome. I have my
pride--I look a gentleman. But I look a queer foreign fish. I found
myself envying the British robustness of that fine young chap who is so
misguided as to be a lawyer.

"Ah, why do I object to lawyers? Tolstoi!--I used to say--or, at the
risk of advanced intellects not recognizing one's allusions, one could
go further back. But that is, in the end, all gammon. Every real
conviction springs from personal experience. I hate the law because it
interfered with me. I'm not aware of any better reason. So I'm going on
without it--unless somebody tries to steal my forty thousand, of course.
Ambrose, thou art a humbug--or, more precisely, thou canst not avoid
being a human individual!"

Lord Lynborough completed the entry in his diary--he was tolerably well
aware that he might just as well not have written it--and cast his eyes
toward the window of the library. The stars were bright; a crescent moon
decorated, without illuminating, the sky. The regular recurrent beat of
the sea on the shore, traversing the interval in night's silence, struck
on his ear. "If God knew Time, that might be His clock," said he.
"Listen to its inexorable, peaceable, gentle, formidable stroke!"

His sleep that night was short and broken. A fitful excitement was on
his spirit: the glory of the summer morning wooed his restlessness. He
would take his swim alone, and early. At six o'clock he slipped out of
the house and made for Beach Path. The fortified gate was too strong for
his unaided efforts. Roger Wilbraham had told him that, if the way were
impeded, he had a right to "deviate." He deviated now, lightly vaulting
over the four-foot-high stone wall. None was there to hinder him, and,
with emotions appropriate to the occasion, he passed Nab Grange and
gained the beach. When once he was in the water, the emotions went away.

They were to return--or, at any rate, to be succeeded by their brethren.
After he had dressed, he sat down and smoked a cigarette as he regarded
the smiling sea. This situation was so agreeable that he prolonged it
for full half-an-hour; then a sudden longing for Coltson's coffee came
over him. He jumped up briskly and made for the Grange gate.

He had left it open--it was shut now. None had been nigh when he passed
through. Now a young woman in a white frock leant her elbows comfortably
on its top rail and rested her pretty chin upon her hands. Lady Norah's
blue eyes looked at him serenely from beneath black lashes of noticeable
length--at any rate Lynborough noticed their length.

Lynborough walked up to the gate. With one hand he removed his hat, with
the other he laid a tentative hand on the latch. Norah did not move or
even smile.

"I beg your pardon, madam," said Lynborough, "but if it does not
incommode you, would you have the great kindness to permit me to open
the gate?"

"Oh, I'm sorry; but this is a private path leading to Nab Grange. I
suppose you're a stranger in these parts?"

"My name is Lynborough. I live at Scarsmoor there."

"Are you Lord Lynborough?" Norah sounded exceedingly interested. "_The_
Lord Lynborough?"

"There's only one, so far as I'm aware," the owner of the title
answered.

"I mean the one who has done all those--those--well, those funny
things?"

"I rejoice if the recital of them has caused you any amusement. And now,
if you will permit me----"

"Oh, but I can't! Helena would never forgive me. I'm a friend of hers,
you know--of the Marchesa di San Servolo. Really you can't come through
here."

"Do you think you can stop me?"

"There isn't room for you to get over as long as I stand here--and the
wall's too high to climb, isn't it?"

Lynborough studied the wall; it was twice the height of the wall on the
other side; it might be possible to scale, but difficult and laborious;
nor would he look imposing while struggling at the feat.

"You'll have to go round by the road," remarked Norah, breaking into a
smile.

Lynborough was enjoying the conversation just as much as she was--but he
wanted two things; one was victory, the other coffee.

"Can't I persuade you to move?" he said imploringly. "I really don't
want to have to resort to more startling measures."

"You surely wouldn't use force against a girl, Lord Lynborough!"

"I said startling measures--not violent ones," he reminded her. "Are
your nerves good?"

"Excellent, thank you."

"You mean to stand where you are?"

"Yes--till you've gone away." Now she laughed openly at him. Lynborough
delighted in the merry sound and the flash of her white teeth.

"It's a splendid morning, isn't it?" he asked. "I should think you stand
about five feet five, don't you? By the way, whom have I the pleasure of
conversing with?"

"My name is Norah Mountliffey."

"Ah, I knew your father very well." He drew back a few steps. "So you
must excuse an old family friend for telling you that you make a
charming picture at that gate. If I had a camera--Just as you are,
please!" He held up his hand, as though to pose her.

"Am I quite right?" she asked, humoring the joke, with her merry
mischievous eyes set on Lynborough's face as she leaned over the top of
the gate.

"Quite right. Now, please! Don't move!"

"Oh, I've no intention of moving," laughed Norah mockingly.

She kept her word; perhaps she was too surprised to do anything else.
For Lynborough, clapping his hat on firmly, with a dart and a spring
flew over her head.

Then she wheeled round--to see him standing two yards from her, his hat
in his hand again, bowing apologetically.

"Forgive me for getting between you and the sunshine for a moment," he
said. "But I thought I could still do five feet five; and you weren't
standing upright either. I've done within an inch of six feet, you know.
And now I'm afraid I must reluctantly ask you to excuse me. I thank you
for the pleasure of this conversation." He bowed, put on his hat,
turned, and began to walk away along Beach Path.

"You got the better of me that time, but you've not done with me yet,"
she cried, starting after him.

He turned and looked over his shoulder: save for his eyes his face was
quite grave. He quickened his pace to a very rapid walk. Norah found
that she must run, or fall behind. She began to run. Again that gravely
derisory face turned upon her. She blushed, and fell suddenly to
wondering whether in running she looked absurd. She fell to a walk.
Lynborough seemed to know. Without looking round again, he abated his
pace.

"Oh, I can't catch you if you won't stop!" she cried.

"My friend and secretary, Roger Wilbraham, tells me that I have no right
to stop," Lynborough explained, looking round again, but not standing
still. "I have only the right to pass and repass. I'm repassing now.
He's a barrister, and he says that's the law. I daresay it is--but I
regret that it prevents me from obliging you, Lady Norah."

"Well, I'm not going to make a fool of myself by running after you,"
said Norah crossly.

Lynborough walked slowly on; Norah followed; they reached the turn of
the path towards the Grange hall door. They reached it--and passed
it--both of them. Lynborough turned once more--with a surprised lift of
his brows.

"At least I can see you safe off the premises!" laughed Norah, and with
a quick dart forward she reduced the distance between them to
half-a-yard. Lynborough seemed to have no objection; proximity made
conversation easier; he moved slowly on.

Norah seemed defeated--but suddenly she saw her chance, and hailed it
with a cry. The Marchesa's bailiff--John Goodenough--was approaching the
path from the house situated at the southwest corner of the meadow. Her
cry of his name caught his attention--as well as Lynborough's. The
latter walked a little quicker. John Goodenough hurried up. Lynborough
walked steadily on.

"Stop him, John!" cried Norah, her eyes sparkling with new excitement.
"You know her Excellency's orders? This is Lord Lynborough!"

"His lordship! Aye, it is. I beg your pardon, my lord, but--I'm very
sorry to interfere with your lordship, but----"

"You're in my way, Goodenough." For John had got across his path, and
barred progress. "Of course I must stand still if you impede my steps,
but I do it under protest. I only want to repass."

"You can't come this way, my lord. I'm sorry, but it's her Excellency's
strict orders. You must go back, my lord."

"I am going back--or I was till you stopped me."

"Back to where you came from, my lord."

"I came from Scarsmoor and I'm going back there, Goodenough."

"Where you came from last, my lord."

"No, no, Goodenough. At all events, her Excellency has no right to drive
me into the sea." Lynborough's tone was plaintively expostulatory.

"Then if you won't go back, my lord, here we stay!" said John,
bewildered but faithfully obstinate.

"Just your tactics!" Lynborough observed to Norah, a keen spectator of
the scene. "But I'm not so patient of them from Goodenough."

"I don't know that you were very patient with me."

"Goodenough, if you use sufficient force I shall, of course, be
prevented from continuing on my way. Nothing short of that, however,
will stop me. And pray take care that the force is sufficient--neither
more nor less than sufficient, Goodenough."

"I don't want to use no violence to your lordship. Well now, if I lay my
hand on your lordship's shoulder, will that do to satisfy your
lordship?"

"I don't know until you try it."

John's face brightened. "I reckon that's the way out. I reckon that's
law, my lord. I puts my hand on your lordship's shoulder like that----"

He suited the action to the word. In an instant Lynborough's long lithe
arms were round him, Lynborough's supple lean leg twisted about his.
Gently, as though he had been a little baby, Lynborough laid the sturdy
fellow on the grass.

For all she could do, Norah Mountliffey cried "Bravo!" and clapped her
hands. Goodenough sat up, scratched his head, and laughed feebly.

"Force not quite sufficient, Goodenough," cried Lynborough gaily. "Now I
repass!"

He lifted his hat to Norah, then waved his hand. In her open impulsive
way she kissed hers back to him as he turned away.

By one of those accidents peculiar to tragedy, the Marchesa's maid,
performing her toilet at an upper window, saw this nefarious and
traitorous deed!

"Swimming--jumping--wrestling! A good morning's exercise! And all
before those lazy chaps, Roger and Cromlech, are out of bed!"

So saying, Lord Lynborough vaulted the wall again in high good humor.



_Chapter Seven_

ANOTHER WEDGE!


Deprived of their leader's inspiration, the other two representatives of
Scarsmoor did not brave the Passage Perilous to the sea that morning.
Lynborough was well content to forego further aggression for the moment.
His words declared his satisfaction----

"I have driven a wedge--another wedge--into the Marchesa's phalanx. Yes,
I think I may say a second wedge. Disaffection has made its entry into
Nab Grange, Cromlech. The process of isolation has begun. Perhaps after
lunch we will resume operations."

But fortune was to give him an opportunity even before lunch. It
appeared that Stabb had sniffed out the existence of two old brasses in
Fillby Church; he was determined to inspect them at the earliest
possible moment. Lynborough courteously offered to accompany him, and
they set out together about eleven o'clock.

No incident marked their way. Lynborough rang up the parish clerk at his
house, presented Stabb to that important functionary, and bespoke for
him every consideration. Then he leaned against the outside of the
churchyard wall, peacefully smoking a cigarette.

On the opposite side of the village street stood the Lynborough Arms.
The inn was kept by a very superior man, who had retired to this
comparative leisure after some years of service as butler with
Lynborough's father. This excellent person, perceiving Lynborough,
crossed the road and invited him to partake of a glass of ale in memory
of old days. Readily acquiescing, Lynborough crossed the road, sat down
with the landlord on a bench by the porch, and began to discuss local
affairs over the beer.

"I suppose you haven't kept up your cricket since you've been in foreign
parts, my lord?" asked Dawson, the landlord, after some conversation
which need not occupy this narrative. "We're playing a team from
Easthorpe to-morrow, and we're very short."

"Haven't played for nearly fifteen years, Dawson. But I tell you what--I
daresay my friend Mr. Wilbraham will play. Mr. Stabb's no use."

"Every one helps," said Dawson. "We've got two of the gentlemen from the
Grange--Mr. Stillford, a good bat, and Captain Irons, who can bowl a
bit--or so John Goodenough tells me."

Lynborough's eyes had grown alert. "Well, I used to bowl a bit, too. If
you're really hard up for a man, Dawson--really at a loss, you
know--I'll play. It'll be better than going into the field short, won't
it?"

Dawson was profuse in his thanks. Lynborough listened patiently.

"I tell you what I should like to do, Dawson," he said. "I should like
to stand the lunch."

It was the turn of Dawson's eyes to grow alert. They did. Dawson
supplied the lunch. The club's finances were slender, and its ideas
correspondingly modest. But if Lord Lynborough "stood" the lunch----!

"And to do it really well," added that nobleman. "A sort of little feast
to celebrate my homecoming. The two teams--and perhaps a dozen places
for friends--ladies, the Vicar, and so on, eh, Dawson? Do you see the
idea?"

Dawson saw the idea much more clearly than he saw most ideas. Almost
corporeally he beheld the groaning board.

"On such an occasion, Dawson, we shouldn't quarrel about figures."

"Your lordship's always most liberal," Dawson acknowledged in tones
which showed some trace of emotion.

"Put the matter in hand at once. But look here, I don't want it talked
about. Just tell the secretary of the club--that's enough. Keep the tent
empty till the moment comes. Then display your triumph! It'll be a
pleasant little surprise for everybody, won't it?"

Dawson thought it would; at any rate it was one for him.

At this instant an elderly lady of demure appearance was observed, to
walk up to the lych-gate and enter the churchyard. Lynborough inquired
of his companion who she was.

"That's Miss Gilletson from the Grange, my lord--the Marchesa's
companion."

"Is it?" said Lynborough softly. "Oh, is it indeed?" He rose from his
seat. "Good-by, Dawson. Mind--a dead secret, and a rattling good lunch!"

"I'll attend to it, my lord," Dawson assured him with the utmost
cheerfulness. Never had Dawson invested a glass of beer to better
profit!

Lynborough threw away his cigar and entered the sacred precincts. His
brain was very busy. "Another wedge!" he was saying to himself. "Another
wedge!"

The lady had gone into the church. Lynborough went in too. He came
first on Stabb--on his hands and knees, examining one of the old brasses
and making copious notes in a pocket-book.

"Have you seen a lady come in, Cromlech?" asked Lord Lynborough.

"No, I haven't," said Cromlech, now producing a yard measure and
proceeding to ascertain the dimensions of the brass.

"You wouldn't, if it were Venus herself," replied Lynborough pleasantly.
"Well, I must look for her on my own account."

He found her in the neighborhood of his family monuments which, with his
family pew, crowded the little chancel of the church. She was not
employed in devotions, but was arranging some flowers in a
vase--doubtless a pious offering. Somewhat at a loss how to open the
conversation, Lynborough dropped his hat--or rather gave it a dexterous
jerk, so that it fell at the lady's feet. Miss Gilletson started
violently, and Lord Lynborough humbly apologized. Thence he glided into
conversation, first about the flowers, then about the tombs. On the
latter subject he was exceedingly interesting and informing.

"Dear, dear! Married the Duke of Dexminster's daughter, did he?" said
Miss Gilletson, considerably thrilled. "She's not buried here, is she?"

"No, she's not," said Lynborough, suppressing the fact that the lady had
run away after six months of married life. "And my own father's not
buried here, either; he chose my mother's family place in Devonshire. I
thought it rather a pity."

"Your own father?" Miss Gilletson gasped.

"Oh, I forgot you didn't know me," he said, laughing. "I'm Lord
Lynborough, you know. That's how I come to be so well up in all this.
And I tell you what--I should like to show you some of our Scarsmoor
roses on your way home."

"Oh, but if you're Lord Lynborough, I--I really couldn't----"

"Who's to know anything about it, unless you choose, Miss Gilletson?" he
asked with his ingratiating smile and his merry twinkle. "There's
nothing so pleasant as a secret shared with a lady!"

It was a long time since a handsome man had shared a secret with Miss
Gilletson. Who knows, indeed, whether such a thing had ever happened? Or
whether Miss Gilletson had once just dreamed that some day it might--and
had gone on dreaming for long, long days, till even the dream had slowly
and sadly faded away? For sometimes it does happen like that.
Lynborough meant nothing--but no possible effort (supposing he made it)
could enable him to look as if he meant nothing. One thing at least he
did mean--to make himself very pleasant to Miss Gilletson.

Interested knave! It is impossible to avoid that reflection. Yet let
ladies in their turn ask themselves if they are over-scrupulous in their
treatment of one man when their affections are set upon another.

He showed Miss Gilletson all the family tombs. He escorted her from the
church. Under renewed vows of secrecy he induced her to enter Scarsmoor.
Once in the gardens, the good lady was lost. They had no such roses at
Nab Grange! Lynborough insisted on sending an enormous bouquet to the
Vicar's wife in Miss Gilletson's name--and Miss Gilletson grew merry as
she pictured the mystification of the Vicar's wife. For Miss Gilletson
herself he superintended the selection of a nosegay of the choicest
blooms; they laughed again together when she hid them in a large bag she
carried--destined for the tea and tobacco which represented her little
charities. Then--after pausing for one private word in his gardener's
ear, which caused a boy to be sent off post-haste to the stables--he led
her to the road, and in vain implored her to honor his house by setting
foot in it. There the fear of the Marchesa or (it is pleasanter to
think) some revival of the sense of youth, bred by Lynborough's
deferential courtliness, prevailed. They came together through his lodge
gates; and Miss Gilletson's face suddenly fell.

"That wretched gate!" she cried. "It's locked--and I haven't got the
key."

"No more have I, I'm sorry to say," said Lynborough. He, on his part,
had forgotten nothing.

"It's nearly two miles round by the road--and so hot and dusty!--Really
Helena does cut off her nose to spite her face!" Though, in truth, it
appeared rather to be Miss Gilletson's nose the Marchesa had cut off.

A commiserating gravity sat on Lord Lynborough's attentive countenance.

"If I were younger, I'd climb that wall," declared Miss Gilletson. "As
it is--well, but for your lovely flowers, I'd better have gone the other
way after all."

"I don't want you to feel that," said he, almost tenderly.

"I must walk!"

"Oh no, you needn't," said Lynborough.

As he spoke, there issued from the gates behind them a luxurious
victoria, drawn by two admirable horses. It came to a stand by
Lynborough, the coachman touching his hat, the footman leaping to the
ground.

"Just take Miss Gilletson to the Grange, Williams. Stop a little way
short of the house. She wants to walk through the garden."

"Very good, my lord."

"Put up the hood, Charles. The sun's very hot for Miss Gilletson."

"Yes, my lord."

"Nobody'll see you if you get out a hundred yards from the door--and
it's really better than tramping the road on a day like this. Of course,
if Beach Path were open--!" He shrugged his shoulders ever so slightly.

Fear of the Marchesa struggled in Miss Gilletson's heart with the horror
of the hot and tiring walk--with the seduction of the shady, softly
rolling, speedy carriage.

"If I met Helena!" she whispered; and the whisper was an admission of
reciprocal confidence.

"It's the chance of that against the certainty of the tramp!"

"She didn't come down to breakfast this morning----"

"Ah, didn't she?" Lynborough made a note for his Intelligence
Department.

"Perhaps she isn't up yet! I--I think I'll take the risk."

Lynborough assisted her into the carriage.

"I hope we shall meet again," he said, with no small _empressement_.

"I'm afraid not," answered Miss Gilletson dolefully. "You see,
Helena----"

"Yes, yes; but ladies have their moods. Anyhow you won't think too
hardly of me, will you? I'm not altogether an ogre."

There was a pretty faint blush on Miss Gilletson's cheek as she gave him
her hand. "An ogre! No, dear Lord Lynborough," she murmured.

"A wedge!" said Lynborough, as he watched her drive away.

He was triumphant with what he had achieved--he was full of hope for
what he had planned. If he reckoned right, the loyalty of the ladies at
Nab Grange to the mistress thereof was tottering, if it had not fallen.
His relations with the men awaited the result of the cricket match. Yet
neither his triumph nor his hope could in the nature of the case exist
without an intermixture of remorse. He hurt--or tried to hurt--what he
would please--and hoped to please. His mood was mixed, and his smile not
altogether mirthful as he stood looking at the fast-receding carriage.

Then suddenly, for the first time, he saw his enemy. Distantly--afar
off! Yet without a doubt it was she. As he turned and cast his eyes over
the forbidden path--the path whose seclusion he had violated, bold in
his right--a white figure came to the sunk fence and stood there,
looking not toward where he stood, but up to his castle on the hill.
Lynborough edged near to the barricaded gate--a new padlock and new
_chevaux-de-frise_ of prickly branches guarded it. The latter, high as
his head, screened him completely; he peered through the interstices in
absolute security.

The white figure stood on the little bridge which led over the sunk
fence into the meadow. He could see neither feature nor color; only the
slender shape caught and chained his eye. Tall she was, and slender, as
his mocking forecast had prophesied. More than that he could not see.

Well, he did see one more thing. This beautiful shape, after a few
minutes of what must be presumed to be meditation, raised its arm and
shook its fist with decision at Scarsmoor Castle; then it turned and
walked straight back to the Grange.

There was no sort of possibility of mistaking the nature or the meaning
of the gesture.

It had the result of stifling Lynborough's softer mood, of reviving his
pugnacity. "She must do more than that, if she's to win!" said he.



_Chapter Eight_

THE MARCHESA MOVES


After her demonstration against Scarsmoor Castle, the Marchesa went in
to lunch. But there were objects of her wrath nearer home also. She
received Norah's salute--they had not met before, that morning--with icy
coldness.

"I'm better, thank you," she said, "but you must be feeling
tired--having been up so very early in the morning! And
you--Violet--have you been over to Scarsmoor again?"

Violet had heard from Norah all about the latter's morning adventure.
They exchanged uneasy glances. Yet they were prepared to back one
another up. The men looked more frightened; men are frightened when
women quarrel.

"One of you," continued the Marchesa accusingly, "pursues Lord
Lynborough to his own threshold--the other flirts with him in my own
meadow! Rather peculiar signs of friendship for me under the present
circumstances--don't you think so, Colonel Wenman?"

The Colonel thought so--though he would have greatly preferred to be at
liberty to entertain--or at least to express--no opinion on so thorny a
point.

"Flirt with him? What do you mean?" But Norah's protest lacked the ring
of honest indignation.

"Kissing one's hand to a mere stranger----"

"How do you know that? You were in bed."

"Carlotta saw you from her window. You don't deny it?"

"No, I don't," said Norah, perceiving the uselessness of such a course.
"In fact, I glory in it. I had a splendid time with Lord Lynborough. Oh,
I did try to keep him out for you--but he jumped over my head."

Sensation among the gentlemen! Increased scorn on the Marchesa's face!

"And when I got John Goodenough to help me, he just laid John down on
the grass as--as I lay that spoon on the table! He's splendid, Helena!"

"He seems a good sort of chap," said Irons thoughtfully.

The Marchesa looked at Wenman.

"Nothing to be said for the fellow, nothing at all," declared the
Colonel hastily.

"Thank you, Colonel Wenman. I'm glad I have one friend left anyhow. Oh,
besides you, Mr. Stillford, of course. Oh, and you, dear old Jennie, of
course. You wouldn't forsake me, would you?"

The tone of affection was calculated to gratify Miss Gilletson. But
against it had to be set the curious and amused gaze of Norah and
Violet. Seen by these two ladies in the act of descending from a stylish
(and coroneted) victoria in the drive of Nab Grange, Miss Gilletson had,
pardonably perhaps, broken down rather severely in cross-examination.
She had been so very proud of the roses--so very full of Lord
Lynborough's graces! She was conscious now that the pair held her in
their hands and were demanding courage from her.

"Forsake you, dearest Helena? Of course not! There's no question of that
with any of us."

"Yes--there is--with those of you who make friends with that wretch at
Scarsmoor!"

"Really, Helena, you shouldn't be so--so vehement. I'm not sure it's
ladylike. It's absurd to call Lord Lynborough a wretch." The pale faint
flush again adorned her fading cheeks. "I never met a man more
thoroughly a gentleman."

"You never met--" began the Marchesa in petrified tones. "Then you have
met--?" Again her words died away.

Miss Gilletson took her courage in both hands.

"Circumstances threw us together. I behaved as a lady does under such
circumstances, Helena. And Lord Lynborough was, under the circumstances,
most charming, courteous, and considerate." She gathered more courage as
she proceeded. "And really it's highly inconvenient having that gate
locked, Helena. I had to come all the way round by the road."

"I'm sorry if you find yourself fatigued," said the Marchesa with formal
civility.

"I'm not fatigued, thank you, Helena. I should have been terribly--but
for Lord Lynborough's kindness in sending me home in his carriage."

A pause followed. Then Norah and Violet began to giggle.

"It was so funny this morning!" said Norah--and boldly launched on a
full story of her adventure. She held the attention of the table. The
Marchesa sat in gloomy silence. Violet chimed in with more reminiscences
of her visit to Scarsmoor; Miss Gilletson contributed new items,
including that matter of the roses. Norah ended triumphantly with a
eulogy on Lynborough's extraordinary physical powers. Captain Irons
listened with concealed interest. Even Colonel Wenman ventured to opine
that the enemy was worth fighting. Stillford imitated his hostess's
silence, but he was watching her closely. Would her courage--or her
obstinacy--break down under these assaults, this lukewarmness, these
desertions? In his heart, fearful of that lawsuit, he hoped so.

"I shall prosecute him for assaulting Goodenough," the Marchesa
announced.

"Goodenough touched him first!" cried Norah.

"That doesn't matter, since I'm in the right. He had no business to be
there. That's the law, isn't it, Mr. Stillford? Will he be sent to
prison or only heavily fined?"

"Well--er--I'm rather afraid--neither, Marchesa. You see, he'll plead
his right, and the Bench would refer us to our civil remedy and dismiss
the summons. At least that's my opinion."

"Of course that's right," pronounced Norah in an authoritative tone.

"If that's the English law," observed the Marchesa, rising from the
table, "I greatly regret that I ever settled in England."

"What are you going to do this afternoon, Helena? Going to play
tennis--or croquet?"

"I'm going for a walk, thank you, Violet." She paused for a moment and
then added, "By myself."

"Oh, mayn't I have the privilege--?" began the Colonel.

"Not to-day, thank you, Colonel Wenman. I--I have a great deal to think
about. We shall meet again at tea--unless you're all going to tea at
Scarsmoor Castle!" With this Parthian shot she left them.

She had indeed much to think of--and her reflections were not cast in a
cheerful mold. She had underrated her enemy. It had seemed sufficient to
lock the gate and to forbid Lynborough's entry. These easy measures had
appeared to leave him no resource save blank violence: in that
confidence she had sat still and done nothing. He had been at work--not
by blank violence, but by cunning devices and subtle machinations. He
had made a base use of his personal fascinations, of his athletic gifts,
even of his lordly domain, his garden of roses, and his carriage. She
perceived his strategy; she saw now how he had driven in his wedges. Her
ladies had already gone over to his side; even her men were shaken.
Stillford had always been lukewarm; Irons was fluttering round
Lynborough's flame; Wenman might still be hers--but an isolation
mitigated only by Colonel Wenman seemed an isolation not mitigated in
the least. When she had looked forward to a fight, it had not been to
such a fight as this. An enthusiastic, hilarious, united Nab Grange was
to have hurled laughing defiance at Scarsmoor Castle. Now more than half
Nab Grange laughed--but its laughter was not at the Castle; its
laughter, its pitying amusement, was directed at her; Lynborough's
triumphant campaign drew all admiration. He had told Stillford that he
would harry her; he was harrying her to his heart's content--and to a
very soreness in hers.

For the path--hateful Beach Path which her feet at this moment
trod--became now no more than an occasion for battle, a symbol of
strife. The greater issue stood out. It was that this man had
peremptorily challenged her to a fight--and was beating her! And he won
his victory, not by male violence in spite of male stupidity, but by
just the arts and the cunning which should have been her own weapons. To
her he left the blunt, the inept, the stupid and violent methods. He
chose the more refined, and wielded them like a master. It was a
position to which the Marchesa's experience had not accustomed her--one
to which her spirit was by no means attuned.

What was his end--that end whose approach seemed even now clearly
indicated? It was to convict her at once of cowardice and of
pig-headedness, to exhibit her as afraid to bring him to book by law,
and yet too churlish to cede him his rights. He would get all her
friends to think that about her. Then she would be left alone--to fight
a lost battle all alone.

Was he right in his charge? Did it truly describe her conduct? For any
truth there might be in it, she declared that he was himself to blame.
He had forced the fight on her by his audacious demand for instant
surrender; he had given her no fair time for consideration, no
opportunity for a dignified retreat. He had offered her no choice save
between ignominy and defiance. If she chose defiance, his rather than
hers was the blame.

Suddenly--across these dismal broodings--there shot a new idea. _Fas est
et ab hoste doceri_; she did not put it in Latin, but it came to the
same thing--Couldn't she pay Lynborough back in his own coin? She had
her resources--perhaps she had been letting them lie idle! Lord
Lynborough did not live alone at Scarsmoor. If there were women open to
his wiles at the Grange, were there no men open to hers at Scarsmoor?
The idea was illuminating; she accorded it place in her thoughts.

She was just by the gate. She took out her key, opened the padlock,
closed the gate behind her, but did not lock it, walked on to the road,
and surveyed the territory of Scarsmoor.

Fate helps those who help themselves: her new courage of brain and heart
had its reward. She had not been there above a minute when Roger
Wilbraham came out from the Scarsmoor gates.

Lynborough had, he considered, done enough for one day. He was awaiting
the results of to-morrow's manoeuvers anent the cricket match. But he
amused himself after lunch by proffering to Roger a wager that he would
not succeed in traversing Beach Path from end to end, and back again,
alone, by his own unassisted efforts, and without being driven to
ignominious flight. Without a moment's hesitation Roger accepted. "I
shall just wait till the coast's clear," he said.

"Ah, but they'll see you from the windows! They will be on the lookout,"
Lynborough retorted.

The Marchesa had strolled a little way down the road. She was walking
back toward the gate when Roger first came in sight. He did not see her
until after he had reached the gate. There he stood a moment,
considering at what point to attack it--for the barricade was
formidable. He came to the same conclusion as Lynborough had reached
earlier in the day. "Oh, I'll jump the wall," he said.

"The gate isn't locked," remarked a charming voice just behind him.

He turned round with a start and saw--he had no doubt whom she was. The
Marchesa's tall slender figure stood before him--all in white, crowned
by a large, yet simple, white hat; her pale olive cheeks were tinged
with underlying red (the flush of which Lynborough had dreamed!); her
dark eyes rested on the young man with a kindly languid interest; her
very red lips showed no smile, yet seemed to have one in ready ambush.
Roger was overcome; he blushed and stood silent before the vision.

"I expect you're going to bathe? Of course this is the shortest way, and
I shall be so glad if you'll use it. I'm going to the Grange myself, so
I can put you on your way."

Roger was honest. "I--I'm staying at the Castle."

"I'll tell somebody to be on the lookout and open the gate for you when
you come back," said she.

If Norah was no match for Lynborough, Roger was none for the Marchesa's
practised art.

"You're--you're awfully kind. I--I shall be delighted, of course."

The Marchesa passed through the gate. Roger followed. She handed him the
key.

"Will you please lock the padlock? It's not--safe--to leave the gate
open."

Her smile had come into the open--it was on the red lips now! For all
his agitation Roger was not blind to its meaning. His hand was to lock
the gate against his friend and chief! But the smile and the eyes
commanded. He obeyed.

It was the first really satisfactory moment which the contest had
brought to the Marchesa--some small instalment of consolation for the
treason of her friends.

Roger had been honestly in love once with a guileless maiden--who had
promptly and quite unguilefully refused him; his experience did not at
all fit him to cope with the Marchesa. She, of course, was merciless:
was he not of the hated house? As an individual, however, he appeared to
be comely and agreeable.

They walked on side by side--not very quickly. The Marchesa's eyes were
now downcast. Roger was able to steal a glance at her profile; he could
compare it to nothing less than a Roman Empress on an ancient silver
coin.

"I suppose you've been taught to think me a very rude and unneighborly
person, haven't you, Mr. Wilbraham? At least I suppose you're Mr.
Wilbraham? You don't look old enough to be that learned Mr. Stabb the
Vicar told me about. Though he said Mr. Stabb was absolutely
delightful--how I should love to know him, if only--!" She broke off,
sighing deeply.

"Yes, my name's Wilbraham. I'm Lynborough's secretary. But--er--I don't
think anything of that sort about you. And--and I've never heard
Lynborough say anything--er--unkind."

"Oh, Lord Lynborough!" She gave a charming little shrug, accompanied
with what Roger, from his novel-reading, conceived to be a _moue_.

"Of course I--I know that you--you think you're right," he stammered.

She stopped on the path. "Yes, I do think I'm right, Mr. Wilbraham. But
that's not it. If it were merely a question of right, it would be
unneighborly to insist. I'm not hurt by Lord Lynborough's using this
path. But I'm hurt by Lord Lynborough's discourtesy. In my country women
are treated with respect--even sometimes (she gave a bitter little
laugh) with deference. That doesn't seem to occur to Lord Lynborough."

"Well, you know----"

"Oh, I can't let you say a word against him, whatever you may be obliged
to think. In your position--as his friend--that would be disloyal; and
the one thing I dislike is disloyalty. Only I was anxious"--she turned
and faced him--"that you should understand my position--and that Mr.
Stabb should too. I shall be very glad if you and Mr. Stabb will use the
path whenever you like. If the gate's locked you can manage the wall!"

"I'm--I'm most awfully obliged to you--er--Marchesa--but you see----"

"No more need be said about that, Mr. Wilbraham. You're heartily
welcome. Lord Lynborough would have been heartily welcome too, if he
would have approached me properly. I was open to discussion. I received
orders. I don't take orders--not even from Lord Lynborough."

She looked splendid--so Roger thought. The underlying red dyed the olive
to a brighter hue; her eyes were very proud; the red lips shut
decisively. Just like a Roman Empress! Then her face underwent a rapid
transformation; the lips parted, the eyes laughed, the cheeks faded to
hues less stormy, yet not less beautiful. (These are recorded as Mr.
Wilbraham's impressions.) Lightly she laid the tips of her fingers on
his arm for just a moment.

"There--don't let's talk any more about disagreeable things," she said.
"It's too beautiful an afternoon. Can you spare just five minutes? The
strawberries are splendid! I want some--and it's so hot to pick them for
one's self!"

Roger paused, twisting the towel round his neck.

"Only five minutes!" pleaded--yes, pleaded--the beautiful Marchesa.
"Then you can go and have your swim in peace."

It was a question whether poor Roger was to do anything more in peace
that day--but he went and picked the strawberries.



_Chapter Nine_

LYNBOROUGH DROPS A CATCH


"Something has happened!" (So Lynborough records the same evening.) "I
don't know precisely what--but I think that the enemy is at last in
motion. I'm glad. I was being too successful. I had begun to laugh at
her--and that only. I prefer the admixture of another element of
emotion. All that ostensibly appears is that I have lost five shillings
to Roger. 'You did it?' I asked. 'Certainly,' said Roger. 'I went at my
ease and came back at my ease, and--' I interrupted, 'Nobody stopped
you?' 'Nobody made any objection,' said Roger. 'You took your time,'
says I. 'You were away three hours!' 'The water was very pleasant this
afternoon,' says Roger. Hum! I hand over my two half-crowns, which Roger
pockets with a most peculiar sort of smile. There that incident appears
to end--with a comment from me that the Marchesa's garrison is not very
alert. Another smile--not less peculiar--from Roger! _Hum!_

"Then Cromlech! I trust Cromlech as myself--that is, as far as I can see
him. He has no secrets from me--that I know of; I have none from
him--which would be at all likely to interest him. Yet, soon after
Roger's return, Cromlech goes out! And they had been alone together for
some minutes, as I happen to have observed. Cromlech is away an hour and
a half! If I were not a man of honor, I would have trained the telescope
on to him. I refrained. Where was Cromlech? At the church, he told me.
I accept his word--but the church has had a curious effect upon him.
Sometimes he is silent, sulky, reflective, embarrassed--constantly
rubbing the place where his hair ought to be--not altogether too civil
to me either. Anon, sits with a fat happy smile on his face! Has he
found a new tomb? No; he'd tell me about a new tomb. What has happened
to Cromlech?

"At first sight Violet--the insinuating one--would account for the
phenomena. Or Norah's eyes and lashes? Yet I hesitate. Woman, of course,
it is, with both of them. Violet might make men pleased with themselves;
Norah could make them merry and happy. Yet these two are not so much
pleased with themselves--rather they are pleased with events; they are
not merry--they are thoughtful. And I think they are resentful. I
believe the hostile squadron has weighed anchor. In these great results,
achieved so quickly, demanding on my part such an effort in reply, I see
the Marchesa's touch! I have my own opinion as to what has happened to
Roger and to Cromlech. Well, we shall see--to-morrow is the cricket
match!"

"_Later._ I had closed this record; I was preparing to go to bed
(wishing to bathe early to-morrow) when I found that I had forgotten to
bring up my book. Coltson had gone to bed--or out--anyhow, away. I went
down myself. The library door stood ajar; I had on my slippers; a light
burned still; Cromlech and Roger were up. As I approached--with an
involuntary noiselessness (I really couldn't be expected to think of
coughing, in my own house and with no ladies about)--I overheard this
remarkable, most significant, most important conversation:

"_Cromlech_: 'On my soul, there were tears in her eyes!'

"_Roger_: 'Stabb, can we as gentlemen--?'

"Then, as I presume, the shuffle of my slippers became audible. I went
in; both drank whisky-and-soda in a hurried fashion. I took my book from
the table. Naught said I. Their confusion was obvious. I cast on them
one of my looks; Roger blushed, Stabb shuffled his feet. I left them.

"'Tears in her eyes!' 'Can we as gentlemen?'

"The Marchesa moves slowly, but she moves in force!"

It is unnecessary to pursue the diary further; for his
lordship--forgetful apparently of the borne of bed, to which he had
originally destined himself--launches into a variety of speculations as
to the Nature of Love. Among other questions, he puts to himself the
following concerning Love: (1) Is it Inevitable? (2) Is it Agreeable?
(3) Is it Universal? (4) Is it Wise? (5) Is it Remunerative? (6) Is it
Momentary? (7) Is it Sempiternal? (8) Is it Voluntary? (9) Is it
Conditioned? (10) Is it Remediable? (11) Is it Religious? (There's a
note here--"Consult Cromlech")--(12) May it be expected to survive the
Advance of Civilization? (13) Why does it exist at all? (14) Is it
Ridiculous?

It is not to be inferred that Lord Lynborough answers these questions.
He is, like a wise man, content to propound them. If, however, he had
answered them, it might have been worth while to transcribe the diary.

"Can we as gentlemen--?"--Roger had put the question. It waited
unanswered till Lynborough had taken his book and returned to record
its utterance--together with the speculations to which that utterance
gave rise. Stabb weighed it carefully, rubbing his bald head, according
to the habit which his friend had animadverted upon.

"If such a glorious creature--" cried Roger.

"If a thoroughly intelligent and most sympathetic woman--" said Stabb.

"Thinks that she has a right, why, she probably has one!"

"At any rate her view is entitled to respect--to a courteous hearing."

"Lynborough does appear to have been a shade--er----"

"Ambrose is a spoiled child, bless him! She took a wonderful interest in
my brasses. I don't know what brought her to the church."

"She waited herself to let me through that beastly gate again!"

"She drove me round herself to our gates. Wouldn't come through
Scarsmoor!"

They both sighed. They both thought of telling the other something--but
on second thoughts refrained.

"I suppose we'd better go to bed. Shall you bathe to-morrow morning?"

"With Ambrose? No, I sha'n't, Wilbraham."

"No more shall I. Good-night, Stabb. You'll--think it over?"

Stabb grunted inarticulately. Roger drew the blind aside for a moment,
looked down on Nab Grange, saw a light in one window--and went to bed.
The window was, in objective fact (if there be such a thing), Colonel
Wenman's. No matter. There nothing is but thinking makes it so. The
Colonel was sitting up, writing a persuasive letter to his tailor. He
served emotions that he did not feel; it is a not uncommon lot.

Lynborough's passing and repassing to and from his bathing were
uninterrupted next morning. Nab Grange seemed wrapped in slumber; only
Goodenough saw him, and Goodenough did not think it advisable to
interrupt his ordinary avocations. But an air of constraint--even of
mystery--marked both Stabb and Roger at breakfast. The cricket match was
naturally the topic--though Stabb declared that he took little interest
in it and should probably not be there.

"There'll be some lunch, I suppose," said Lynborough carelessly. "You'd
better have lunch there--it'd be dull for you all by yourself here,
Cromlech."

After apparent consideration Stabb conceded that he might take luncheon
on the cricket ground; Roger, as a member of the Fillby team, would, of
course, do likewise.

The game was played in a large field, pleasantly surrounded by a belt of
trees, and lying behind the Lynborough Arms. Besides Roger and
Lynborough, Stillford and Irons represented Fillby. Easthorpe
Polytechnic came in full force, save for an umpire. Colonel Wenman, who
had walked up with his friends, was pressed into this honorable and
responsible service, landlord Dawson officiating at the other end.
Lynborough's second gardener, a noted fast bowler, was Fillby's captain;
Easthorpe was under the command of a curate who had played several times
for his University, although he had not actually achieved his "blue."
Easthorpe won the toss and took first innings.

The second gardener, aware of his employer's turn of speed, sent Lord
Lynborough to field "in the country." That gentleman was well content;
few balls came his way and he was at leisure to contemplate the exterior
of the luncheon tent--he had already inspected the interior thereof with
sedulous care and high contentment--and to speculate on the probable
happenings of the luncheon hour. So engrossed was he that only a
rapturous cheer, which rang out from the field and the spectators,
apprised him of the fact that the second gardener had yorked the
redoubtable curate with the first ball of his second over! Young
Woodwell came in; he was known as a mighty hitter; Lynborough was
signaled to take his position yet deeper in the field. Young Woodwell
immediately got to business--but he kept the ball low. Lynborough had,
however, the satisfaction of saving several "boundaries." Roger, keeping
wicket, observed his chief's exertions with some satisfaction. Other
wickets fell rapidly--but young Woodwell's score rapidly mounted up. If
he could stay in, they would make a hundred--and Fillby looked with just
apprehension on a score like that. The second gardener, who had given
himself a brief rest, took the ball again with an air of determination.

"Peters doesn't seem to remember that I also bowl," reflected Lord
Lynborough.

The next moment he was glad of this omission. Young Woodwell was playing
for safety now--his fifty loomed ahead! Lynborough had time for a glance
round. He saw Stabb saunter on to the field; then--just behind where he
stood when the second gardener was bowling from the Lynborough Arms end
of the field--a wagonette drove up. Four ladies descended. A bench was
placed at their disposal, and the two menservants at once began to make
preparations for lunch, aided therein by the ostler from the Lynborough
Arms, who rigged up a table on trestles under a spreading tree.

Lord Lynborough's reputation as a sportsman inevitably suffers from this
portion of the narrative. Yet extenuating circumstances may fairly be
pleaded. He was deeply interested in the four ladies who sat behind him
on the bench; he was vitally concerned in the question of the lunch. As
he walked back, between the overs, to his position, he could see that
places were being set for some half-dozen people. Would there be
half-a-dozen there? As he stood, watching, or trying to watch, young
Woodwell's dangerous bat, he overheard fragments of conversation wafted
from the bench. The ladies were too far from him to allow of their faces
being clearly seen, but it was not hard to recognize their figures.

The last man in had joined young Woodwell. That hero's score was
forty-eight, the total ninety-three. The second gardener was tempting
the Easthorpe champion with an occasional slow ball; up to now young
Woodwell had declined to hit at these deceivers.

Suddenly Lynborough heard the ladies' voices quite plainly. They--or
some of them--had left the bench and come nearer to the boundary.
Irresistibly drawn by curiosity, for an instant he turned his head. At
the same instant the second gardener delivered a slow ball--a specious
ball. This time young Woodwell fell into the snare. He jumped out and
opened his shoulders to it. He hit it--but he hit it into the air. It
soared over the bowler's head and came traveling through high heaven
toward Lord Lynborough.

"Look out!" cried the second gardener. Lynborough's head spun round
again--but his nerves were shaken. His eyes seemed rather in the back of
his head, trying to see the Marchesa's face, than fixed on the ball that
was coming toward him. He was in no mood for bringing off a safe catch!

Silence reigned, the ball began to drop. Lynborough had an instant to
wait for it. He tried to think of the ball and the ball only.

It fell--it fell into his hands; he caught it--fumbled it--caught
it--fumbled it again--and at last dropped it on the grass! "Oh!" went in
a long-drawn expostulation round the field; and Lynborough heard a voice
say plainly:

"Who is that stupid clumsy man?" The voice was the Marchesa's.

He wheeled round sharply--but her back was turned. He had not seen her
face after all!

"Over!" was called. Lynborough apologized abjectly to the second
gardener.

"The sun was in my eyes, Peters, and dazzled me," he pleaded.

"Looks to _me_ as if the sun was shining the other way, my lord," said
Peters dryly. And so, in physical fact, it was.

In Peters' next over Lynborough atoned--for young Woodwell had got his
fifty and grown reckless. A one-handed catch, wide on his left side,
made the welkin ring with applause. The luncheon bell rang too--for the
innings was finished. Score 101. Last man out 52. Jim (office-boy at
Polytechnic) not out 0. Young Woodwell received a merited ovation--and
Lord Lynborough hurried to the luncheon tent. The Marchesa, with an
exceedingly dignified mien, repaired to her table under the spreading
oak.

Mr. Dawson had done himself more than justice; the repast was
magnificent. When Stillford and Irons saw it, they became more sure than
ever what their duty was, more convinced still that the Marchesa would
understand. Colonel Wenman became less sure what his duty
was--previously it had appeared to him that it was to lunch with the
Marchesa. But the Marchesa had spoken of a few sandwiches and perhaps a
bottle of claret. Stillford told him that, as umpire, he ought to lunch
with the teams. Irons declared it would look "deuced standoffish" if he
didn't. Lynborough, who appeared to act as deputy-landlord to Mr.
Dawson, pressed him into a chair with a friendly hand.

"Well, she'll have the ladies with her, won't she?" said the Colonel,
his last scruple vanishing before a large jug of hock-cup, artfully
iced. The Nab Grange contingent fell to.

Just then--when they were irrevocably committed to this feast--the flap
of the tent was drawn back, and Lady Norah's face appeared. Behind her
stood Violet and Miss Gilletson. Lynborough ran forward to meet them.

"Here we are, Lord Lynborough," said Norah. "The Marchesa was so kind,
she told us to do just as we liked, and we thought it would be such fun
to lunch with the cricketers."

"The cricketers are immensely honored. Let me introduce you to our
captain, Mr. Peters. You must sit by him, you know. And, Miss Dufaure,
will you sit by Mr. Jeffreys?--he's their captain--Miss Dufaure--Mr.
Jeffreys. You, Miss Gilletson, must sit between Mr. Dawson and me. Now
we're right--What, Colonel Wenman?--What's the matter?"

Wenman had risen from his place. "The--the Marchesa!" he said. "We--we
can't leave her to lunch alone!"

Lady Norah broke in again. "Oh, Helena expressly said that she didn't
expect the gentlemen. She knows what the custom is, you see."

The Marchesa had, no doubt, made all these speeches. It may, however, be
doubted whether Norah reproduced exactly the manner, and the spirit, in
which she made them. But the iced hock-cup settled the Colonel. With a
relieved sigh he resumed his place. The business of the moment went on
briskly for a quarter of an hour.

Mr. Dawson rose, glass in hand. "Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "I'm no
hand at a speech, but I give you the health of our kind neighbor and
good host to-day--Lord Lynborough. Here's to his lordship!"

"I--I didn't know he was giving the lunch!" whispered Colonel Wenman.

"Is it his lunch?" said Irons, nudging Stillford.

Stillford laughed. "It looks like it. And we can hardly throw him over
the hedge after this!"

"Well, he seems to be a jolly good chap," said Captain Irons.

Lynborough bowed his acknowledgments, and flirted with Miss Gilletson;
his face wore a contented smile. Here they all were--and the Marchesa
lunched alone on the other side of the field! Here indeed was a new
wedge! Here was the isolation at which his diabolical schemes had aimed.
He had captured Nab Grange! Bag and baggage they had come over--and left
their chieftainess deserted.

Then suddenly--in the midst of his triumph--in the midst too of a
certain not ungenerous commiseration which he felt that he could extend
to a defeated enemy and to beauty in distress--he became vaguely aware
of a gap in his company. Stabb was not there! Yet Stabb had come upon
the ground. He searched the company again. No, Stabb was not there.
Moreover--a fact the second search revealed--Roger Wilbraham was not
there. Roger was certainly not there; yet, whatever Stabb might do,
Roger would never miss lunch!

Lynborough's eyes grew thoughtful; he pursed up his lips. Miss
Gilletson noticed that he became silent.

He could bear the suspense no longer. On a pretext of looking for more
bottled beer, he rose and walked to the door of the tent.

Under the spreading tree the Marchesa lunched--not in isolation, not in
gloom. She had company--and, even as he appeared, a merry peal of
laughter was wafted by a favoring breeze across the field of battle.
Stabb's ponderous figure, Roger Wilbraham's highly recognizable
"blazer," told the truth plainly.

Lord Lynborough was not the only expert in the art of driving wedges!

"Well played, Helena!" he said under his breath.

The rest of the cricket match interested him very little. Successful
beyond their expectations, Fillby won by five runs (Wilbraham not out
thirty-seven)--but Lynborough's score did not swell the victorious
total. In Easthorpe's second innings--which could not affect the
result--Peters let him bowl, and he got young Woodwell's wicket. That
was a distinction; yet, looking at the day as a whole, he had scored
less than he expected.



_Chapter Ten_

IN THE LAST RESORT!


It will have been perceived by now that Lord Lynborough delighted in a
fight. He revelled in being opposed; the man who withstood him to the
face gave him such pleasure as to beget in his mind certainly gratitude,
perhaps affection, or at least a predisposition thereto. There was
nothing he liked so much as an even battle--unless, by chance, it were
the scales seeming to incline a little against him. Then his spirits
rose highest, his courage was most buoyant, his kindliness most sunny.

The benefit of this disposition accrued to the Marchesa; for by her
sudden counterattack she had at least redressed the balance of the
campaign. He could not be sure that she had not done more. The ladies of
her party were his--he reckoned confidently on that; but the men he
could not count as more than neutral at the best; Wenman, anyhow, could
easily be whistled back to the Marchesa's heel. But in his own house, he
admitted at once, she had secured for him open hostility, for herself
the warmest of partisanship. The meaning of her lunch was too plain to
doubt. No wonder her opposition to her own deserters had been so faint;
no wonder she had so readily, even if so scornfully, afforded them the
pretext--the barren verbal permission--that they had required. She had
not wanted them--no, not even the Colonel himself! She had wanted to be
alone with Roger and with Stabb--and to complete the work of her
blandishments on those guileless, tenderhearted, and susceptible
persons. Lynborough admired, applauded, and promised himself
considerable entertainment at dinner.

How was the Marchesa, in her turn, bearing her domestic isolation, the
internal disaffection at Nab Grange? He flattered himself that she would
not be finding in it such pleasure as his whimsical temper reaped from
the corresponding position of affairs at Scarsmoor.

There he was right. At Nab Grange the atmosphere was not cheerful. Not
to want a thing by no means implies an admission that you do not want
it; that is elementary diplomacy. Rather do you insist that you want it
very much; if you do not get it, there is a grievance--and a grievance
is a mighty handy article of barter. The Marchesa knew all that.

The deserters were severely lashed. The Marchesa had said that she did
not expect Colonel Wenman; ought she to have sent a message to say that
she was pining for him--must that be wrung from her before he would
condescend to come? She had said that she knew the custom with regard to
lunch at cricket matches; was that to say that she expected it to be
observed to her manifest and public humiliation? She had told Miss
Gilletson and the girls to please themselves; of course she wished them
to do that always. Yet it might be a wound to find that their pleasure
lay in abandoning their friend and hostess, in consorting with her
arch-enemy, and giving him a triumph.

"Well, what do you say about Wilbraham and Stabb?" cried the trampled
Colonel.

"I say that they're gentlemen," retorted the Marchesa. "They saw the
position I was in--and they saved me from humiliation."

That was enough for the men; men are, after all, poor fighters. It was
not, however, enough for Lady Norah Mountliffey--a woman--and an
Irishwoman to boot!

"Are you really asking us to believe that you hadn't arranged it with
them beforehand?" she inquired scornfully.

"Oh, I don't ask you to believe anything I say," returned the Marchesa,
dexterously avoiding saying anything on the point suggested.

"The truth is, you're being very absurd, Helena," Norah pursued. "If
you've got a right, go to law with Lord Lynborough and make him respect
it. If you haven't got a right, why go on making yourself ridiculous and
all the rest of us very uncomfortable?"

It was obvious that the Marchesa might reply that any guest of hers who
felt himself or herself uncomfortable at Nab Grange had, in his or her
own hand, the easy remedy. She did not do that. She did a thing more
disconcerting still. Though the mutton had only just been put on the
table, she pushed back her chair, rose to her feet, and fled from the
room very hastily.

Miss Gilletson sprang up. But Norah was beforehand with her.

"No! I said it. I'm the one to go. Who could think she'd take it like
that?" Norah's own blue eyes were less bright than usual as she hurried
after her wounded friend. The rest ate on in dreary conscience-stricken
silence. At last Stillford spoke.

"Don't urge her to go to law," he said. "I'm pretty sure she'd be
beaten."

"Then she ought to give in--and apologize to Lord Lynborough," said
Miss Gilletson decisively. "That would be right--and, I will add,
Christian."

"Humble Pie ain't very good eating," commented Captain Irons.

Neither the Marchesa nor Norah came back. The meal wended along its slow
and melancholy course to a mirthless weary conclusion. Colonel Wenman
began to look on the repose of bachelorhood with a kinder eye, on its
loneliness with a more tolerant disposition. He went so far as to
remember that, if the worst came to the worst, he had another invitation
for the following week.

The Spirit of Discord (The tragic atmosphere now gathering justifies
these figures of speech--the chronicler must rise to the occasion of a
heroine in tears), having wrought her fell work at Nab Grange, now
winged her way to the towers of Scarsmoor Castle.

Dinner had passed off quite as Lynborough anticipated; he had enjoyed
himself exceedingly. Whenever the temporary absence of the servants
allowed, he had rallied his friends on their susceptibility to beauty,
on their readiness to fail him under its lures, on their clumsy attempts
at concealment of their growing intimacy, and their confidential
relations, with the fascinating mistress of Nab Grange. He too had been
told to take his case into the Courts or to drop his claim--and had
laughed triumphantly at the advice. He had laughed when Stabb said that
he really could not pursue his work in the midst of such distractions,
that his mind was too perturbed for scientific thought. He had laughed
lightly and good-humoredly even when (as they were left alone over
coffee) Roger Wilbraham, going suddenly a little white, said he thought
that persecuting a lady was no fit amusement for a gentleman.
Lynborough did not suppose that the Marchesa--with the battle of the day
at least drawn, if not decided in her favor--could be regarded as the
subject of persecution--and he did recognize that young fellows, under
certain spells, spoke hotly and were not to be held to serious account.
He was smiling still when, with a forced remark about the heat, the pair
went out together to smoke on the terrace. He had some letters to read,
and for the moment dismissed the matter from his mind.

In ten minutes young Roger Wilbraham returned; his manner was quiet now,
but his face still rather pale. He came up to the table by which
Lynborough sat.

"Holding the position I do in your house, Lord Lynborough," he said, "I
had no right to use the words I used this evening at dinner. I
apologize for them. But, on the other hand, I have no wish to hold a
position which prevents me from using those words when they represent
what I think. I beg you to accept my resignation, and I shall be greatly
obliged if you can arrange to relieve me of my duties as soon as
possible."

Lynborough heard him without interruption; with grave impassive face,
with surprise, pity, and a secret amusement. Even if he were right, he
was so solemn over it!

The young man waited for no answer. With the merest indication of a bow,
he left Lynborough alone, and passed on into the house.

"Well, now!" said Lord Lynborough, rising and lighting a cigar. "This
Marchesa! Well, now!"

Stabb's heavy form came lumbering in from the terrace; he seemed to move
more heavily than ever, as though his bulk were even unusually inert.
He plumped down into a chair and looked up at Lynborough's graceful
figure.

"I meant what I said at dinner, Ambrose. I wasn't joking, though I
suppose you thought I was. All this affair may amuse you--it worries me.
I can't settle to work. If you'll be so kind as to send me over to
Easthorpe to-morrow, I'll be off--back to Oxford."

"Cromlech, old boy!"

"Yes, I know. But I--I don't want to stay, Ambrose. I'm
not--comfortable." His great face set in a heavy, disconsolate, wrinkled
frown.

Lord Lynborough pursed his lips in a momentary whistle, then put his
cigar back into his mouth, and walked out on to the terrace.

"This Marchesa!" said he again. "This very remarkable Marchesa! Her
_riposte_ is admirable. Really I venture to hope that I, in my turn,
have very seriously disturbed her household!"

He walked to the edge of the terrace, and stood there musing. Sandy Nab
loomed up, dimly the sea rose and fell, twinkled and sank into darkness.
It talked too--talked to Lynborough with a soft, low, quiet voice; it
seemed (to his absurdly whimsical imagination) as though some lovely
woman gently stroked his brow and whispered to him. He liked to
encourage such freaks of fancy.

Cromlech couldn't go. That was absurd.

And the young fellow? So much a gentleman! Lynborough had liked the
terms of his apology no less than the firmness of his protest. "It's the
first time, I think, that I've been told that I'm no gentleman," he
reflected with amusement. But Roger had been pale when he said it.
Imaginatively Lynborough assumed his place. "A brave boy," he said. "And
that dear old knight-errant of a Cromlech!"

A space--room indeed and room enough--for the softer emotions--so much
Lynborough was ever inclined to allow. But to acquiesce in this state of
things as final--that was to admit defeat at the hands of the Marchesa.
It was to concede that one day had changed the whole complexion of the
fight.

"Cromlech sha'n't go--the boy sha'n't go--and I'll still use the path,"
he thought. "Not that I really care about the path, you know." He
paused. "Well, yes, I do care about it--for bathing in the morning." He
hardened his heart against the Marchesa. She chose to fight; the fortune
of war must be hers. He turned his eyes down to Nab Grange. Lights
burned there--were her guests demanding to be sent to Easthorpe? Why,
no! As he looked, Lynborough came to the conclusion that she had reduced
them all to order--that they would be whipped back to heel--that his
manoeuvers (and his lunch!) had probably been wasted. He was beaten
then?

He scorned the conclusion. But if he were not--the result was deadlock!
Then still he was beaten; for unless Helena (he called her that) owned
his right, his right was to him as nothing.

"I have made myself a champion of my sex," he said. "Shall I be beaten?"

In that moment--with all the pang of forsaking an old conviction--of
disowning that stronger tie, the loved embrace of an ancient and
perversely championed prejudice--he declared that any price must be
paid for victory.

"Heaven forgive me, but, sooner than be beaten, I'll go to law with
her!" he cried.

A face appeared from between two bushes--a voice spoke from the edge of
the terrace.

"I thought you might be interested to hear----"

"Lady Norah?"

"Yes, it's me--to hear that you've made her cry--and very bitterly."



_Chapter Eleven_

AN ARMISTICE


Lord Lynborough walked down to the edge of the terrace; Lady Norah stood
half hidden in the shrubbery.

"And that, I suppose, ought to end the matter?" he asked. "I ought at
once to abandon all my pretensions and to give up my path?"

"I just thought you might like to know it," said Norah.

"Actually I believe I do like to know it--though what Roger would say to
me about that I really can't imagine. You're mistaking my character,
Lady Norah. I'm not the hero of this piece. There are several gentlemen
from among whom you can choose one for that effective part. Lots of
candidates for it! But I'm the villain. Consequently you must be
prepared for my receiving your news with devilish glee."

"Well, you haven't seen it--and I have."

"Well put!" he allowed. "How did it happen?"

"Over something I said to her--something horrid."

"Well, then, why am I--?" Lynborough's hands expostulated eloquently.

"But you were the real reason, of course. She thinks you've turned us
all against her; she says it's so mean to get her own friends to turn
against her."

"Does she now?" asked Lord Lynborough with a thoughtful smile.

Norah too smiled faintly. "She says she's not angry with us--she's just
sorry for us--because she understands----"

"What?"

"I mean she says she--she can imagine--" Norah's smile grew a little
more pronounced. "I'm not sure she'd like me to repeat that," said
Norah. "And of course she doesn't know I'm here at all--and you must
never tell her."

"Of course it's all my fault. Still, as a matter of curiosity, what did
you say to her?"

"I said that, if she had a good case, she ought to go to law; and, if
she hadn't, she ought to stop making herself ridiculous and the rest of
us uncomfortable."

"You spoke with the general assent of the company?"

"I said what I thought--yes, I think they all agreed--but she took
it--well, in the way I've told you, you know."

Lady Norah had, in the course of conversation, insensibly advanced on to
the terrace. She stood there now beside Lynborough.

"How do you think I'm taking it?" he asked. "Doesn't my fortitude wring
applause from you?"

"Taking what?"

"Exactly the same thing from my friends. They tell me to go to law if
I've got a case--and at any rate to stop persecuting a lady. And they've
both given me warning."

"Mr. Stabb and Mr. Wilbraham? They're going away?"

"So it appears. Carry back those tidings. Won't they dry the Marchesa's
tears?"

Norah looked at him with a smile. "Well, it is pretty clever of her,
isn't it?" she said. "I didn't think she'd got along as quickly as
that!" Norah's voice was full of an honest and undisguised admiration.

"It's a little unreasonable of her to cry under the circumstances. I'm
not crying, Lady Norah."

"I expect you're rather disgusted, though, aren't you?" she suggested.

"I'm a little vexed at having to surrender--for the moment--a principle
which I've held dear--at having to give my enemies an occasion for
mockery. But I must bow to my friends' wishes. I can't lose them under
such painful circumstances. No, I must yield, Lady Norah."

"You're going to give up the path?" she cried, not sure whether she were
pleased or not with his determination.

"Dear me, no! I'm going to law about it."

Open dismay was betrayed in her exclamation: "Oh, but what will Mr.
Stillford say to that?"

Lynborough laughed. Norah saw her mistake--but she made no attempt to
remedy it. She took up another line of tactics. "It would all come right
if only you knew one another! She's the most wonderful woman in the
world, Lord Lynborough. And you----"

"Well, what of me?" he asked in deceitful gravity.

Norah parried, with a hasty little laugh; "Just ask Miss Gilletson
that!"

Lynborough smiled for a moment, then took a turn along the terrace, and
came back to her.

"You must tell her that you've seen me----"

"I couldn't do that!"

"You must--or here the matter ends, and I shall be forced to go to
law--ugh! Tell her you've seen me, and that I'm open to reason----"

"Lord Lynborough! How can I tell her that?"

"That I'm open to reason, and that I propose an armistice. Not
peace--not yet, anyhow--but an armistice. I undertake not to exercise my
right over Beach Path for a week from to-day, and before the end of that
week I will submit a proposal to the Marchesa."

Norah saw a gleam of hope. "Very well. I don't know what she'll say to
me, but I'll tell her that. Thank you. You'll make it a--a pleasant
proposal?"

"I haven't had time to consider the proposal yet. She must inform me
to-morrow morning whether she accepts the armistice."

He suddenly turned to the house, and shouted up to a window above his
head, "Roger!"

The window was open. Roger Wilbraham put his head out.

"Come down," said Lynborough. "Here's somebody wants to see you."

"I never said I did, Lord Lynborough."

"Let him take you home. He wants cheering up."

"I like him very much. He won't really leave you, will he?"

"I want you to persuade him to stay during the armistice. I'm too proud
to ask him for myself. I shall think very little of you, however, if he
doesn't."

Roger appeared. Lynborough told him that Lady Norah required an escort
back to Nab Grange; for obvious reasons he himself was obliged to
relinquish the pleasure; Roger, he felt sure, would be charmed to take
his place. Roger was somewhat puzzled by the turn of events, but
delighted with his mission.

Lynborough saw them off, went into the library, sat down at his
writing-table, and laid paper before him. But he sat idle for many
minutes. Stabb came in, his arms full of books.

"I think I left some of my stuff here," he said, avoiding Lynborough's
eye. "I'm just getting it together."

"Drop that lot too. You're not going to-morrow, Cromlech, there's an
armistice."

Stabb put his books down on the table, and came up to him with
outstretched hand. Lynborough leaned back, his hands clasped behind his
head.

"Wait for a week," he said. "We may, Cromlech, arrive at an
accommodation. Meanwhile, for that week, I do not use the path."

"I've been feeling pretty badly, Ambrose."

"Yes, I don't think it's safe to expose you to the charms of beauty." He
looked at his friend in good-natured mockery. "Return to your tombs in
peace."

The next morning he received a communication from Nab Grange. It ran as
follows:

"The Marchesa di San Servolo presents her compliments to Lord
Lynborough. The Marchesa will be prepared to consider any proposal put
forward by Lord Lynborough, and will place no hindrance in the way of
Lord Lynborough's using the path across her property if it suits his
convenience to do so in the meantime."

"No, no!" said Lynborough, as he took a sheet of paper.

"Lord Lynborough presents his compliments to her Excellency the Marchesa
di San Servolo. Lord Lynborough will take an early opportunity of
submitting his proposal to the Marchesa di San Servolo. He is obliged
for the Marchesa di San Servolo's suggestion that he should in the
meantime use Beach Path, but cannot consent to do so except in the
exercise of his right. He will therefore not use Beach Path during the
ensuing week."

"And now to pave the way for my proposal!" he thought. For the proposal,
which had assumed a position so important in the relations between the
Marchesa and himself, was to be of such a nature that a grave question
arose how best the way should be paved for it.

The obvious course was to set his spies to work--he could command plenty
of friendly help among the Nab Grange garrison--learn the Marchesa's
probable movements, throw himself in her way, contrive an acquaintance,
make himself as pleasant as he could, establish relations of amity, of
cordiality, even of friendship and of intimacy. That might prepare the
way, and incline her to accept the proposal--to take the jest--it was
little more in hard reality--in the spirit in which he put it forward,
and so to end her resistance.

That seemed the reasonable method--the plain and rational line of
advance. Accordingly Lynborough disliked and distrusted it. He saw
another way--more full of risk, more hazardous in its result, making an
even greater demand on his confidence in himself, perhaps also on the
qualities with which his imagination credited the Marchesa. But, on the
other hand, this alternative was far richer in surprise, in dash--as it
seemed to him, in gallantry and a touch of romance. It was far more
medieval, more picturesque, more in keeping with the actual proposal
itself. For the actual proposal was one which, Lynborough flattered
himself, might well have come from a powerful yet chivalrous baron of
old days to a beautiful queen who claimed a suzerainty which not her
power, but only her beauty, could command or enforce.

"It suits my humor, and I'll do it!" he said. "She sha'n't see me, and I
won't see her. The first she shall hear from me shall be the proposal;
the first time we meet shall be on the twenty-fourth--or never! A week
from to-day--the twenty-fourth."

Now the twenty-fourth of June is, as all the world knows (or an almanac
will inform the heathen), the Feast of St. John Baptist also called
Midsummer Day.

So he disappeared from the view of Nab Grange and the inhabitants
thereof. He never left his own grounds; even within them he shunned the
public road; his beloved sea-bathing he abandoned. Nay, more, he
strictly charged Roger Wilbraham, who often during this week of
armistice went to play golf or tennis at the Grange, to say nothing of
him; the same instructions were laid on Stabb in case on his excursions
amidst the tombs, he should meet any member of the Marchesa's party. So
far as the thing could be done, Lord Lynborough obliterated himself.

It was playing a high stake on a risky hand. Plainly it assumed an
interest in himself on the part of the Marchesa--an interest so strong
that absence and mystery (if perchance he achieved a flavor of that
attraction!) would foster and nourish it more than presence and
friendship could conduce to its increase. She might think nothing about
him during the week! Impossible surely--with all that had gone before,
and with his proposal to come at the end! But if it were so--why, so he
was content. "In that case, she's a woman of no imagination, of no taste
in the picturesque," he said.

For five days the Marchesa gave no sign, no clue to her feelings which
the anxious watchers could detect. She did indeed suffer Colonel Wenman
to depart all forlorn, most unsuccessful and uncomforted--save by the
company of his brother-in-arms, Captain Irons; and he was not cheerful
either, having failed notably in certain designs on Miss Dufaure which
he had been pursuing, but whereunto more pressing matters have not
allowed of attention being given. But Lord Lynborough she never
mentioned--not to Miss Gilletson, nor even to Norah. She seemed to have
regained her tranquillity; her wrath at least was over; she was very
friendly to all the ladies; she was markedly cordial to Roger Wilbraham
on his visits. But she asked him nothing of Lord Lynborough--and, if she
ever looked from the window toward Scarsmoor Castle, none--not even her
observant maid--saw her do it.

Yet Cupid was in the Grange--and very busy. There were signs, not to be
misunderstood, that Violet had not for handsome Stillford the scorn she
had bestowed on unfortunate Irons; and Roger, humbly and distantly
worshiping the Marchesa, deeming her far as a queen beyond his reach,
rested his eyes and solaced his spirit with the less awe-inspiring
charms, the more accessible comradeship, of Norah Mountliffey. Norah, as
her custom was, flirted hard, yet in her delicate fashion. Though she
had not begun to ask herself about the end yet, she was well amused, and
by no means insensible to Roger's attractions. Only she was preoccupied
with Helena--and Lord Lynborough. Till that riddle was solved, she could
not turn seriously to her own affairs.

On the night of the twenty-second she walked with the Marchesa in the
gardens of the Grange after dinner. Helena was very silent; yet to Norah
the silence did not seem empty. Over against them, on its high hill,
stood Scarsmoor Castle. Roger had dined with them, but had now gone
back.

Suddenly--and boldly--Norah spoke. "Do you see those three lighted
windows on the ground floor at the left end of the house? That's his
library, Helena. He sits there in the evening. Oh, I do wonder what he's
been doing all this week!"

"What does it matter?" asked the Marchesa coldly.

"What will he propose, do you think?"

"Mr. Stillford thinks he may offer to pay me some small rent--more or
less nominal--for a perpetual right--and that, if he does, I'd better
accept."

"That'll be rather a dull ending to it all."

"Mr. Stillford thinks it would be a favorable one for me."

"I don't believe he means to pay you money. It'll be something"--she
paused a moment--"something prettier than that."

"What has prettiness to do with it, you child? With a right of way?"

"Prettiness has to do with you, though, Helena. You don't suppose he
thinks only of that wretched path?"

The flush came on the Marchesa's cheek.

"He can hardly be said to have seen me," she protested.

"Then look your best when he does--for I'm sure he's dreamed of you."

"Why do you say that?"

Norah laughed. "Because he's a man who takes a lot of notice of pretty
women--and he took so very little notice of me. That's why I think so,
Helena."

The Marchesa made no comment on the reason given. But now--at last and
undoubtedly--she looked across at the windows of Scarsmoor.

"We shall come to some business arrangement, I suppose--and then it'll
all be over," she said.

All over? The trouble and the enmity--the defiance and the fight--the
excitement and the fun? The duel would be stayed, the combatants and
their seconds would go their various ways across the diverging tracks of
this great dissevering world. All would be over!

"Then we shall have time to think of something else!" the Marchesa
added.

Norah smiled discreetly. Was not that something of an admission?

In the library at Scarsmoor Lynborough was inditing the proposal which
he intended to submit by his ambassadors on the morrow.



_Chapter Twelve_

AN EMBASSAGE


The Marchesa's last words to Lady Norah betrayed the state of her mind.
While the question of the path was pending, she had been unable to think
of anything else; until it was settled she could think of nobody except
of the man in whose hands the settlement lay. Whether Lynborough
attracted or repelled, he at least occupied and filled her thoughts. She
had come to recognize where she stood and to face the position.
Stillford's steady pessimism left her no hope from an invocation of the
law; Lynborough's dexterity and resource promised her no abiding
victory--at best only precarious temporary successes--in a private
continuance of the struggle. Worst of all--whilst she chafed or wept, he
laughed! Certainly not to her critical friends, hardly even to her proud
self, would she confess that she lay in her antagonist's mercy; but the
feeling of that was in her heart. If so, he could humiliate her sorely.

Could he spare her? Or would he? Try how she might, it was hard to
perceive how he could spare her without abandoning his right. That she
was sure he would not do; all she heard of him, every sharp intuition of
him which she had, the mere glimpse of his face as he passed by on Sandy
Nab, told her that.

But if he consented to pay a small--a nominal--rent, would not her pride
be spared? No. That would be victory for him; she would be compelled to
surrender what she had haughtily refused, in return for something which
she did not want and which was of no value. If that were a cloak for her
pride, the fabric of it was terribly threadbare. Even such concession as
lay in such an offer she had wrung from him by setting his friends
against him; would that incline him to tenderness? The offer might leave
his friends still unreconciled; what comfort was that to her when once
the fight and the excitement of countering blow with blow were
done--when all was over? And it was more likely that what seemed to her
cruel would seem to Stabb and Roger reasonable--men had a terribly rigid
sense of reason in business matters. They would return to their
allegiance; her friends would be ranged on the same side; she would be
alone--alone in humiliation and defeat. From that fate in the end only
Lynborough himself could rescue her; only the man who threatened her
with it could avert it. And how could even he, save by a surrender which
he would not make? Yet if he found out a way?

The thought of that possibility--though she could devise or imagine no
means by which it might find accomplishment--carried her toward
Lynborough in a rush of feeling. The idea--never wholly lost even in her
moments of anger and dejection--came back--the idea that all the time he
had been playing a game, that he did not want the wounds to be mortal,
that in the end he did not hate. If he did not hate, he would not desire
to hurt. But he desired to win. Could he win without hurting? Then there
was a reward for him--applause for his cleverness, and gratitude for his
chivalry.

Stretching out her arms toward Scarsmoor Castle, she vowed that
according to his deed she could hate or love Lord Lynborough. The next
day was to decide that weighty question.

The fateful morning arrived--the last day of the armistice--the
twenty-third. The ladies were sitting on the lawn after breakfast when
Stillford came out of the house with a quick step and an excited air.

"Marchesa," he said, "the Embassy has arrived! Stabb and Wilbraham are
at the front door, asking an audience of you. They bring the proposal!"

The Marchesa laid down her book; Miss Gilletson made no effort to
conceal her agitation.

"Why didn't they come by the path?" cried Norah.

"They couldn't very well; Lynborough's sent them in a carriage--with
postilions and four horses," Stillford answered gravely. "The
postilions appear to be amused, but the Ambassadors are exceedingly
solemn."

The Marchesa's spirits rose. If the piece were to be a comedy, she could
play her part! The same idea was in Stillford's mind. "He can't mean to
be very unpleasant if he plays the fool like this," he said, looking
round on the company with a smile.

"Admit the Ambassadors!" cried the Marchesa gaily.

The Ambassadors were ushered on to the lawn. They advanced with a
gravity befitting the occasion, and bowed low to the Marchesa. Roger
carried a roll of paper of impressive dimensions. Stillford placed
chairs for the Ambassadors and, at a sign from the Marchesa, they seated
themselves.

"What is your message?" asked the Marchesa. Suddenly nervousness and
fear laid hold of her again; her voice shook a little.

"We don't know," answered Stabb. "Give me the document, Roger."

Roger Wilbraham handed him the scroll.

"We are charged to deliver this to your Excellency's adviser, and to beg
him to read it to you in our presence." He rose, delivered the scroll
into Stillford's hands, and returned, majestic in his bulk, to his seat.

"You neither of you know what's in it?" the Marchesa asked.

They shook their heads.

The Marchesa took hold of Norah's hand and said quietly, "Please read it
to us, Mr. Stillford. I should like you all to hear."

"That was also Lord Lynborough's desire," said Roger Wilbraham.

Stillford unrolled the paper. It was all in Lynborough's own
hand--written large and with fair flourishes. In mockery of the
institution he hated, he had cast it in a form which at all events aimed
at being legal; too close scrutiny on that score perhaps it would not
abide successfully.

"Silence while the document is read!" said Stillford; and he proceeded
to read it in a clear and deliberate voice:

"'Sir Ambrose Athelstan Caverly, Baronet, Baron Lynborough of Lynborough
in the County of Dorset and of Scarsmoor in the County of Yorkshire,
unto her Excellency Helena Vittoria Maria Antonia, Marchesa di San
Servolo, and unto All to whom these Presents Come, Greeting. Whereas the
said Lord Lynborough and his predecessors in title have been ever
entitled as of right to pass and repass along the path called Beach Path
leading across the lands of Nab Grange from the road bounding the same
on the west to the seashore on the east thereof, and to use the said
path by themselves, their agents and servants, at their pleasure,
without let or interference from any person or persons whatsoever----'"

Stillford paused and looked at the Marchesa. The document did not begin
in a conciliatory manner. It asserted the right to use Beach Path in the
most uncompromising way.

"Go on," commanded the Marchesa, a little flushed, still holding Norah's
hand.

"'And Whereas the said Lord Lynborough is desirous that his rights as
above defined shall receive the recognition of the said Marchesa, which
recognition has hitherto been withheld and refused by the said Marchesa:
And Whereas great and manifold troubles have arisen from such refusal:
And Whereas the said Lord Lynborough is desirous of dwelling in peace
and amity with the said Marchesa----'"

"There, Helena, you see he is!" cried Norah triumphantly.

"I really must not be interrupted," Stillford protested. "'Now Therefore
the said Lord Lynborough, moved thereunto by divers considerations and
in chief by his said desire to dwell in amity and good-will, doth engage
and undertake that, in consideration of his receiving a full, gracious,
and amicable recognition of his right from the said Marchesa, he shall
and will, year by year and once a year, to wit on the Feast of St. John
Baptist, also known as Midsummer Day----'"

"Why, that's to-morrow!" exclaimed Violet Dufaure.

Once more Stillford commanded silence. The Terms of Peace were not to be
rudely interrupted just as they were reaching the most interesting
point. For up to now nothing had come except a renewed assertion of
Lynborough's right!

"'That is to say the twenty-fourth day of June--repair in his own proper
person, with or without attendants as shall seem to him good, to Nab
Grange or such other place as may then and on each occasion be the abode
and residence of the said Marchesa, and shall and will present himself
in the presence of the said Marchesa at noon. And that he then shall and
will do homage to the said Marchesa for such full, gracious, and
amicable recognition as above mentioned by falling on his knee and
kissing the hand of the said Marchesa. And if the said Lord Lynborough
shall wilfully or by neglect omit so to present himself and so to pay
his homage on any such Feast of St. John Baptist, then his said right
shall be of no effect and shall be suspended (And he hereby engages not
to exercise the same) until he shall have purged his contempt or neglect
by performing his homage on the next succeeding Feast. Provided Always
that the said Marchesa shall and will, a sufficient time before the said
Feast in each year, apprise and inform the said Lord Lynborough of her
intended place of residence, in default whereof the said Lord Lynborough
shall not be bound to pay his homage and shall suffer no diminution of
his right by reason of the omission thereof. Provided Further and
Finally that whensoever the said Lord Lynborough shall duly and on the
due date as in these Presents stipulated present himself at Nab Grange
or elsewhere the residence for the time being of the said Marchesa, and
claim to be admitted to the presence of the said Marchesa and to
perform his homage as herein prescribed and ordered, the said Marchesa
shall not and will not, on any pretext or for any cause whatsoever, deny
or refuse to accept the said homage so duly proffered, but shall and
will in all gracious condescension and neighborly friendship extend and
give her hand to the said Lord Lynborough, to the end and purpose that,
he rendering and she accepting his homage in all mutual trust and
honorable confidence, Peace may reign between Nab Grange and Scarsmoor
Castle so long as they both do stand. In Witness whereof the said Lord
Lynborough has affixed his name on the Eve of the said Feast of St. John
Baptist.

    LYNBOROUGH.'"

Stillford ended his reading, and handed the scroll to the Marchesa with
a bow. She took it and looked at Lynborough's signature. Her cheeks
were flushed, and her lips struggled not to smile. The rest were silent.
She looked at Stillford, who smiled back at her and drew from his
pocket--a stylographic pen.

"Yes," she said, and took it.

She wrote below Lynborough's name:

"In Witness whereof, in a desire for peace and amity, in all mutual
trust and honorable confidence, the said Marchesa has affixed her name
on this same Eve of the said Feast of St. John Baptist.

    HELENA DI SAN SERVOLO."

She handed it back to Stillford. "Let it dry in the beautiful sunlight,"
she said.

The Ambassadors rose to their feet. She rose too and went over to Stabb
with outstretched hands. A broad smile spread over Stabb's spacious
face. "It's just like Ambrose," he said to her as he took her hands.
"He gets what he wants--but in the prettiest way!"

She answered him in a low voice: "A very knightly way of saving a
foolish woman's pride." She raised her voice. "Bid Lord Lynborough--aye,
Sir Ambrose Athelstan Caverly, Baron Lynborough, attend here at Nab
Grange to pay his homage to-morrow at noon." She looked round on them
all, smiling now openly, the red in her cheeks all triumphant over her
olive hue. "Say I will give him private audience to receive his homage
and to ask his friendship." With that the Marchesa departed, somewhat
suddenly, into the house.

Amid much merriment and reciprocal congratulations the Ambassadors were
honorably escorted back to their coach and four.

"Keep your eye on the Castle to-night," Roger Wilbraham whispered to
Norah as he pressed her hand.

They drove off, Stillford leading a gay "Hurrah!"

At night indeed Scarsmoor Castle was a sight to see. Every window of its
front blazed with light; rockets and all manner of amazing bright
devices rose to heaven. All Fillby turned out to see the show; all Nab
Grange was in the garden looking on.

All save Helena herself. She had retreated to her own room; there she
sat and watched alone. She was in a fever of feeling and could not rest.
She twisted one hand round the other, she held up before her eyes the
hand which was destined to receive homage on the morrow. Her eyes were
bright, her cheeks flushed, her red lips trembled.

"Alas, how this man knows his way to my heart!" she sighed.

The blaze at Scarsmoor Castle died down. A kindly darkness fell. Under
its friendly cover she kissed her hand to the Castle, murmuring
"To-morrow!"



_Chapter Thirteen_

THE FEAST OF ST. JOHN BAPTIST


"As there's a heaven above us," wrote Lynborough that same night--having
been, one would fain hope, telepathically conscious of the hand-kissing
by the red lips, of the softly breathed "To-morrow!" (for if he were
not, what becomes of Love's Magic?)--"As there's a heaven above us, I
have succeeded! Her answer is more than a consent--it's an appreciation.
The rogue knew how she stood: she is haughtily, daintily grateful. Does
she know how near she drove me to the abominable thing? Almost had I--I,
Ambrose Caverly--issued a writ! I should never, in all my life, have got
over the feeling of being a bailiff! She has saved me by the rightness
of her taste. 'Knightly' she called it to old Cromlech. Well, that was
in the blood--it had been my own fault if I had lost it, no credit of
mine if to some measure I have it still. But to find the recognition! I
have lit up the country-side to-night to celebrate that rare discovery.

"Rare--yes--yet not doubted. I knew it of her. I believe that I have
broken all records--since the Renaissance at least. Love at first sight!
Where's the merit in that? Given the sight be fine enough (a thing that
I pray may not admit of doubt in the case of Helena), it is no exploit;
it is rather to suffer the inevitable than to achieve the great. But
unless the sight of a figure a hundred yards away--and of a back
fifty--is to count against me as a practical inspection, I am so
supremely lucky as never to have seen her! I have made her for
myself--a few tags of description, a noting of the effect on Roger and
on Cromlech, mildly (and very unimaginatively) aided my work, I
admit--but for the most part and in all essentials, she, as I love her
(for of course I love her, or no amount of Feast of St. John Baptist
should have moved me from my path--take that for literal or for
metaphorical as ye will!)--is of my own craftsmanship--work of my heart
and brain, wrought just as I would have her--as I knew, through all
delightful wanderings, that some day she must come to me.

"Think then of my mood for to-morrow! With what feelings do I ring the
bell (unless perchance it be a knocker)! With what sensations accost the
butler! With what emotions enter the presence! Because if by chance I am
wrong--! Upon which awful doubt arises the question whether, if I be
wrong, I can go back. I am plaguily the slave of putting the thing as
prettily as it can be put (Thanks, Cromlech, for giving me the
adverb--not so bad a touch for a Man of Tombs!), and, on my soul, I have
put that homage of mine so prettily that one who was prudent would have
addressed it to none other than a married lady--_vivente marito_, be it
understood. But from my goddess her mortal mate is gone--and to
explain--nay, not to explain (which would indeed tax every grace of
style)--but to let it appear that the homage lingers, abides, and is
confined within the letter of the bond--that would seem scarce
'knightly.' Therefore, being (as all tell me) more of a fool than most
men, and (as I soberly hope) not less of a gentleman, I stand thus. I
love the Image I have made out of dim distant sight, prosaic shreds of
catalogued description, a vividly creating mind, and--to be candid--the
absolute necessity of amusing myself in the country. But the Woman I am
to see to-morrow? Is she the Image? I shall know in the first moment of
our encounter. If she is, all is well for me--for her it will be just a
question of her dower of heavenly venturousness. If she is not--in my
humble judgment, you, Ambrose Caverly, having put the thing with so
excessive a prettiness, shall for your art's sake perish--you must, in
short, if you would end this thing in the manner (creditable to
yourself, Ambrose!) in which it has hitherto been conducted,
willy-nilly, hot or cold, confirmed in divine dreams or slapped in the
face by disenchanting fact--within a brief space of time, propose
marriage to this lady. If there be any other course, the gods send me
scent of it this night! But if she should refuse? Reckon not on that.
For the more she fall short of her Image, the more will she grasp at an
outward showing of triumph--and the greatest outward triumph would not
be in refusal.

"In my human weakness I wish that--just for once--I had seen her! But in
the strong spirit of the wine of life--whereof I have been and am an
inveterate and most incurable bibber--I rejoice in that wonderful moment
of mine to-morrow--when the door of the shrine opens, and I see the
goddess before whom my offering must be laid. Be she giant or dwarf, be
she black or white, have she hair or none--by the powers, if she wears a
sack only, and is well advised to stick close to that, lest casting it
should be a change for the worse--in any event the offering must be
made. Even so the Prince in the tales, making his vows to the Beast and
not yet knowing if his spell shall transform it to the Beauty! In my
stronger moments, so would I have it. Years of life shall I live in that
moment to-morrow! If it end ill, no human being but myself shall know.
If it end well, the world is not great enough to hold, nor the music of
its spheres melodious enough to sound, my triumph!"

It will be observed that Lord Lynborough, though indeed no novice in the
cruel and tender passion, was appreciably excited on the Eve of the
Feast of St. John Baptist. In view of so handsome a response, the
Marchesa's kiss of the hand and her murmured "To-morrow" may pass
excused of forwardness.

It was, nevertheless, a gentleman to all seeming most cool and calm who
presented himself at the doors of Nab Grange at eleven fifty-five the
next morning. His Ambassadors had come in magnificence; humbly he
walked--and not by Beach Path, since his homage was not yet paid--but
round by the far-stretching road and up the main avenue most decorously.
Stabb and Roger had cut across by the path--holding the Marchesa's leave
and license so to do--and had joined an excited group which sat on
chairs under sheltering trees.

"I wish she hadn't made the audience private!" said Norah Mountliffey.

"If ever a keyhole were justifiable--" sighed Violet Dufaure.

"My dear, I'd box your ears myself," Miss Gilletson brusquely
interrupted.

The Marchesa sat in a high arm-chair, upholstered in tarnished fading
gold. The sun from the window shone on her hair; her face was half in
shadow. She rested her head on her left; hand the right lay on her knee.
It was stripped of any ring--unadorned white. Her cheeks were pale--the
olive reigned unchallenged; her lips were set tight, her eyes downcast.
She made no movement when Lord Lynborough entered.

He bowed low, but said nothing. He stood opposite to her some two yards
away. The clock ticked. It wanted still a minute before noon struck.
That was the minute of which Lynborough had raved and dreamed the night
before. He had the fruit of it in full measure.

The first stroke of twelve rang silvery from the clock. Lynborough
advanced and fell upon his knee. She did not lift her eyes, but slowly
raised her hand from her knee. He placed his hand under it, pressing it
a little upward and bowing his head to meet it half-way in its ascent.
She felt his lips lightly brush the skin. His homage for Beach Path and
his right therein was duly paid.

Slowly he rose to his feet; slowly her eyes turned upward to his face.
It was ablaze with a great triumph; the fire seemed to spread to her
cheeks.

"It's better than I dreamed or hoped," he murmured.

"What? To have peace between us? Yes, it's good."

"I have never seen your face before." She made no answer. "Nor you
mine?" he asked.

"Once on Sandy Nab you passed by me. You didn't notice me--but, yes, I
saw you." Her eyes were steadily on him now; the flush had ceased to
deepen, nay, had receded, but abode still, tingeing the olive of her
cheeks.

"I have rendered my homage," he said.

"It is accepted." Suddenly tears sprang to her eyes. "And you might have
been so cruel to me!" she whispered.

"To you? To you who carry the power of a world in your face?"

The Marchesa was confused--as was, perhaps, hardly unnatural.

"There are other things, besides gates and walls, and Norah's head, that
you jump over, Lord Lynborough."

"I lived a life while I stood waiting for the clock to strike. I have
tried for life before--in that minute I found it." He seemed suddenly to
awake as though from a dream. "But I beg your pardon. I have paid my
dues. The bond gives me no right to linger."

She rose with a light laugh--yet it sounded nervous. "Is it good-by
till next St. John Baptist's day?"

"You would see me walking on Beach Path day by day."

"I never call it Beach Path."

"May it now be called--Helena's?"

"Or will you stay and lunch with me to-day? And you might even pay
homage again--say to-morrow--or--or some day in the week."

"Lunch, most certainly. That commits me to nothing. Homage, Marchesa, is
quite another matter."

"Your chivalry is turning to bargaining, Lord Lynborough."

"It was never anything else," he answered. "Homage is rendered in
payment--that's why one says 'Whereas.'" His keen eager eyes of hazel
raised once more the flood of subdued crimson in her face. "For every
recognition of a right of mine, I will pay you homage according to the
form prescribed for St. John Baptist's Feast."

"Of what other rights do you ask recognition?"

"There might be the right of welcoming you at Scarsmoor to-morrow?"

She made him a little curtsy. "It is accorded--on the prescribed terms,
my lord."

"That will do for the twenty-fifth. There might be the right of
escorting you home from Scarsmoor by the path called--Helena's?"

"On the prescribed terms it is your lordship's."

"What then of the right to see you daily, and day by day?"

"If your leisure serves, my lord, I will endeavor to adjust mine--so
long as we both remain at Fillby. But so that the homage is paid!"

"But if you go away?"

"I'm bound to tell you of my whereabouts only on St. John Baptist's
Feast."

"The right to know it on other days--would that be recognized in return
for a homage, Marchesa?"

"One homage for so many letters?"

"I had sooner there were no letters--and daily homages."

"You take too many obligations--and too lightly."

"For every one I gain the recognition of a right."

"The richer you grow in rights then, the harder you must work!"

"I would have so many rights accorded me as to be no better than a
slave!" cried Lynborough. "Yet, if I have not one, still I have
nothing."

She spoke no word, but looked at him long and searchingly. She was not
nervous now, but proud. Her look bade him weigh words; they had passed
beyond the borders of merriment, beyond the bandying of challenges. Yet
her eyes carried no prohibition; it was a warning only. She interposed
no conventional check, no plea for time. She laid on him the
responsibility for his speech; let him remember that he owed her homage.

They grew curious and restless on the lawn; the private audience lasted
long, the homage took much time in paying.

"A marvelous thing has come to me," said Lynborough, speaking slower
than his wont, "and with it a great courage. I have seen my dream. This
morning I came here not knowing whether I should see it. I don't speak
of the face of my dream-image only, though I could speak till next St.
John's Day upon that. I speak to a soul. I think our souls have known
one another longer, aye, and better than our faces."

"Yes, I think it is so," she said quietly. "Yet who can tell so soon?"

"There's a great gladness upon me because my dream came true."

"Who can tell so soon?" she asked again. "It's strange to speak of it."

"It may be that some day--yes, some day soon--in return for the homage
of my lips on your hand, I would ask the recognition of my lip's right
on your cheek."

She came up to him and laid her hand on his arm. "Suffer me a little
while, my lord," she said. "You've swept into my life like a whirlwind;
you would carry me by assault as though I were a rebellious city. Am I
to be won before ever I am wooed?"

"You sha'n't lack wooing," he said quickly. "Yet haven't I wooed you
already--as well in my quarrel as in my homage, in our strife as in the
end of it?"

"I think so, yes. Yet suffer me a little still."

"If you doubt--" he cried.

"I don't think I doubt. I linger." She gave her hand into his. "It's
strange, but I cannot doubt."

Lynborough sank again upon his knee and paid his homage. As he rose, she
bent ever so slightly toward him; delicately he kissed her cheek.

"I pray you," she whispered, "use gently what you took with that."

"Here's a heart to my heart, and a spirit to my spirit--and a glad
venture to us both!"

"Come on to the lawn now, but tell them nothing."

"Save that I have paid my homage, and received the recognition of my
right?"

"That, if you will--and that your path is to
be--henceforward--Helena's."

"I hope to have no need to travel far on the Feast of St. John!" cried
Lynborough.

They went out on the lawn. Nothing was asked, and nothing told, that
day. In truth there appeared to be no need. For it seems as though Love
were not always invisible, nor the twang of his bow so faint as to elude
the ear. With joyous blood his glad wounds are red, and who will may
tell the sufferers. Sympathy too lends insight; your fellow-sufferer
knows your plight first. There were fellow-sufferers on the lawn that
day--to whom, as to all good lovers, here's Godspeed.

She went with him in the afternoon through the gardens, over the sunk
fence, across the meadows, till they came to the path. On it they
walked together.

"So is your right recognized, my lord," she said.

"We will walk together on Helena's Path," he answered, "until it leads
us--still together--to the Boundless Sea."


                               THE END



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:


Italics are indicated by _underscores_.

Minor typographical errors and inconsistencies have been silently
corrected.





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