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Title: Starvecrow Farm
Author: Weyman, Stanley J.
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 "Starvecrow Farm" ***

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/starvecrowfarm00weymiala

   2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



                           STARVECROW FARM


                        BY STANLEY J. WEYMAN.

                              *   *   *

THE HOUSE OF THE WOLF. A Romance. With Frontispiece and Vignette.
Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

THE STORY OF FRANCIS CLUDDE. A Romance. With four Illustrations. Crown
8vo, $1.25.

A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE. Being the Memoirs of Gaston de Bonne, Sieur de
Marsac. With Frontispiece and Vignette. Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

UNDER THE RED ROBE. With twelve full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo,
cloth, $1.25.

MY LADY ROTHA. A Romance of the Thirty Years' War. With eight
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

FROM THE MEMOIRS OF A MINISTER OF FRANCE. With thirty-six
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

THE MAN IN BLACK. With twelve Illustrations. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

SHREWSBURY. A Romance. With twenty-four Illustrations. Crown 8vo,
$1.50.

THE RED COCKADE. A Novel. With forty-eight Illustrations by R. Caton
Woodville. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

THE CASTLE INN. A Novel. With six full-page Illustrations by Walter
Appleton Clark. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

SOPHIA. A Romance. With twelve full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo,
$1.50.

COUNT HANNIBAL. A Romance of the Court of France. With Frontispiece.
Crown 8vo, $1.50.

IN KINGS' BYWAYS. With Frontispiece. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

THE ABBESS OF VLAYE. With Frontispiece. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

                              *   *   *

                  New York: Longmans, Green, and Co.



                           STARVECROW FARM



                                  BY

                          STANLEY J. WEYMAN

       _Author of "A Gentleman of France" "The Abbess of Vlaye,"
             "Count Hannibal," "The Castle Inn," "The Red
             Cockade," "Under the Red Robe," etc., etc_.



                            _ILLUSTRATED_



                       LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.

                   91 AND 93 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK

                          LONDON AND BOMBAY

                                 1905



                         Copyright, 1904, by
                          STANLEY J. WEYMAN

                              *   *   *

                        _All rights reserved_



                               CONTENTS


    CHAPTER

         I. Across the Quicksands.

        II. A Red Waistcoat.

       III. A Wedding Morning.

        IV. Two to One.

         V. A Jezebel.

        VI. The Inquiry.

       VII. Captain Anthony Clyne.

      VIII. Starvecrow Farm.

        IX. Punishment.

         X. Henrietta in Naxos.

        XI. Captain Clyne's Plan.

       XII. The Old Love.

      XIII. A Jealous Woman.

       XIV. The Letter.

        XV. The Answer.

       XVI. A Night Adventure.

      XVII. The Edge of the Storm.

     XVIII. Mr. Joseph Nadin.

       XIX. At the Farm.

        XX. Proof Positive.

       XXI. Cousin Meets Cousin.

      XXII. Mr. Sutton's New Rôle.

     XXIII. In Kendal Gaol.

      XXIV. The Rôle Continued.

       XXV. Prison Experiences.

      XXVI. A Reconciliation.

     XXVII. Bishop Caught Napping.

    XXVIII. The Golden Ship.

      XXIX. The Dark Maid.

       XXX. Bess's Triumph.

      XXXI. A Strange Bedroom.

     XXXII. The Search.

    XXXIII. The Smugglers' Oven.

     XXXIV. In Tyson's Kitchen.

      XXXV. Through The Wood.

     XXXVI. Two of a Race.



                        LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


They paid off the Guide under the walls of the old Priory Church at
Cartmel.

"I give you a last chance," he said.

He neither cared nor saw who it was whom he had jostled.

The face was Stewart's!

... he touched his brow with his whip handle.

... every head was uncovered as Clyne . . . rode to the door.

In ten minutes the road twinkled with lights.

She was leaning against the side of the window.



                           STARVECROW FARM



                              CHAPTER I

                        ACROSS THE QUICKSANDS


A head appeared at either window of the postchaise. Henrietta looked
forward. Her lover looked back.

The postchaise had nearly cleared the sands. Behind it the low line of
Lancashire coast was fading from sight. Before it the long green hill
of Cartmel had risen so high and drawn so near as to hide the Furness
fells. On the left, seaward, a waste of sullen shallows and quaking
sands still stretched to infinity--a thing to shudder at. But the
savage head of Warton Crag, that for a full hour had guarded the
travellers' right, had given place to the gentler outlines of Armside
Knot. The dreaded Lancashire Channels had been passed in safety, and
the mounted guide, whose task it was to lead wayfarers over these
syrtes, and who enjoyed as guerdon the life-rent of a snug farm under
Cark, no longer eyed the west with anxiety, but plashed in stolid
silence towards his evening meal.

And all was well. But the margin of safety had not been large--the
postboys' boots still dripped, and the floor of the carriage was damp.
Seaward the pale line of the tide, which would presently sweep in one
foaming wave across the flat, and in an instant cover it half a foot
deep, was fretting abreast the point. Ten minutes later had been too
late; and the face of Henrietta's lover, whom a few hours and a Scotch
minister were to make her husband, betrayed his knowledge of the fact.
He looked backward and westward over the dreary flat; and fascinated,
seized, possessed by the scene, he shuddered--perhaps at his own
thoughts. He would fain have bidden the postboys hasten, but he was
ashamed to give the order before her. Halfway across he had set down
the uneasiness he could not hide to the fear of pursuit, to the fear
of separation. But he could no longer do this; for it was plain to a
child that neither horse nor man would cross Cartmel sands until the
tide that was beginning to run had ebbed again.

And Henrietta looked forward. The dull grey line of coast, quickly
passing into the invisible, on which she turned her back, stood for
her past; the sun-kissed peaks and blue distances of Furness, which
her fancy still mirrored, though the Cartmel shore now hid them, stood
for the future. To those heights, beautified by haze and distance, her
heart went out, finding in them the true image of the coming life, the
true foretype of those joys, tender and mysterious, to which she was
hastening. The past, which she was abandoning, she knew: a cold home
in the house of an unfeeling sister-in-law and a brother who when he
was not hunting was tipsy--that, and the prospect of an unlovely
marriage with a man who--horror!--had had one wife already, stood for
the past. The future she did not know; but hope painted it from her
brightest palette, and the girl's eyes filled, her lips quivered, her
heart strained towards the sympathy and love that were henceforth to
be hers--towards the happiness which she had set out to seek, and that
now for certain could not escape her. As the postchaise lumbered
heavily up the rough-paved groyne that led from the sands she shook
from head to foot. At last her feet were set upon the land beautiful.
And save for the compact which her self-respect had imposed upon her
companion, she must have given way, she must have opened all her
heart, thrown herself upon his breast and wept tears of tender
anticipation.

She controlled herself. As it happened, they drew in their heads at
the same time, and his eyes--they were handsome eyes--met hers.

"Dearest!" he said.

"We are safe now?"

"Safe from pursuit. But I am not safe."

"Not safe?"

"From your cruelty."

His voice was velvet; and he sought to take her hand.

But she withheld it.

"No, sir," she said, though her look was tender. "Remember our
compact. You are quite sure that they will pursue us along the great
road?"

"Yes, as far as Kendal. There they will learn that we are not before
them--that we have somewhere turned aside. And they will turn back."

"But suppose that they drive on to Carlisle--where we rejoin the north
road."

"They will not," he replied confidently. He had regained the plausible
air which he had lost while the terror of the sands was upon him. "And
if you fear that," he continued, "there is the other plan, and I think
the better one. To-morrow at noon the packet leaves Whitehaven for
Scotland, The wind is fair, and by six in the afternoon we may be
ashore, and an hour later you will be mine!" And again he sought to
draw her into his arms.

But she repelled him.

"In either case," she said, her brow slightly puckered, "we must halt
to-night at the inn of which you spoke."

"The inn on Windermere--yes. And we can decide there, sweet, whether
we go by land or sea; whether we will rejoin the north road at
Carlisle or cross from Whitehaven to"--he hesitated an instant--"to
Dumfries."

She was romantic to the pitch of a day which valued sensibility more
highly than sense, and which had begun to read the poetry of Byron
without ceasing to read the _Mysteries of Udolpho_; and she was
courageous to the point of folly. Even now laughter gleamed under her
long lashes, and the bubblings of irresponsible youth were never very
far from her lips. Still, with much folly, with vast recklessness and
an infinitude of ignorance, she was yet no fool--though a hundred
times a day she said foolish things. In the present circumstances
respect for herself rather than distrust of her lover taught her that
she stood on slippery ways and instilled a measure of sobriety.

"At the inn," she said, "you will put me in charge of the landlady."
And looking through the window, she carolled a verse of a song as
irrelevant as snow in summer.

"But----" he paused.

"There is a landlady, I suppose?"

"Yes, but----"

"You will do what I say to-day," she replied firmly--and now the fine
curves of her lips were pressed together, and she hummed no more--"if
you wish me to obey you to-morrow."

"Dearest, you know----"

But she cut him short. "Please to say that it shall be so," she said.

He swore that he would obey her then and always. And bursting again
into song as the carriage climbed the hill, she flung from her the
mood that had for a moment possessed her, and was a child again. She
made gay faces at him, each more tantalising than the other; gave
him look for look, each more tender than the other; and with the
tips of her dainty fingers blew him kisses in exchange for his. Her
helmet-shaped bonnet, with its huge plume of feathers, lay in her lap.
The heavy coils of her fair, almost flaxen, hair were given to view,
and under the fire of his flatteries the delicacy of colouring--for
pallor it could scarcely be called--which so often accompanies very
light hair, and was the sole defect of her beauty, gave place to
blushes that fired his blood.

But he knew something of her spirit. He knew that she had it in her to
turn back even now. He knew that he might cajole, but could never
browbeat her. And he restrained himself the more easily, as, in spite
of the passion and eloquence--some called it vapouring--which made him
a hero where thousands listened, he gave her credit for the stronger
nature. He held her childishness, her frivolity, her _naïveté_, in
contempt. Yet he could not shake off his fear of what she might
do--when she knew.


[Illustration: They paid off the Guide under the walls of the old
Priory Church at Cartmel]


They paid off the guide under the walls of the old priory church at
Cartmel, with the children of the village crowding about the doors of
the chaise; then with a fresh team they started up the valley that
leads to the foot of Windermere lake. But now the November day was
beginning to draw in. The fell on their right took gloomier shape; on
their left a brook sopped its way through low marsh-covered fields;
and here and there the leafless limbs of trees pointed to the grey.
And first one and then the other, with the shrill cries of moor-birds
in their ears, and the fading landscape before their eyes, fell
silent. Then, had they been as other lovers, had she stood more
safely, or he been single-hearted, he had taken her in his arms and
held her close, and comforted her, and the dusk within had been but
the frame and set-off to their love.

But as it was he feared to make overtures, and they sat each in a
corner until, in sheer dread of the effect which reflection might have
on her, he asked her if she feared pursuit; adding, "Depend upon it,
darling, you need not; Sir Charles will not give a thought to this
road."

She drummed thoughtfully with her fingers on the pane.

"I am not afraid of my brother," she said.

"Then of whom?"

"Of Anthony," she answered, and corrected herself hurriedly--"of
Captain Clyne, I mean. He will think of this road."

"But he will not have had the news before noon," Stewart answered. "It
is eighteen miles from your brother's to the Old Hall. And besides, I
thought that he did not love you."

"He does not," she rejoined, "but he loves himself. He loves his
pride. And this will hit both--hard! I am not quite sure," she
continued very slowly and thoughtfully, "that I am not a little sorry
for him. He made so certain, you see. He thought all arranged. A week
to-day was the day fixed, and--yes," impetuously, "I am sorry for him,
though I hated him yesterday."

Stewart was silent a moment.

"I hate him to-day," he said.

"Why?"

His eyes sparkled.

"I hate all his kind," he said. "They are hard as stones, stiff as
oaks, cruel as--as their own laws! A man is no man to them, unless he
is of"--he paused almost imperceptibly--"our class! A law is no law to
them unless they administer it! They see men die of starvation at
their gates, but all is right, all is just, all is for the best, as
long as they govern!"

"I don't think you know him," she said, somewhat stiffly.

"Oh, I know him!"

"But----"

"Oh, I know him!" he repeated, the faint note of protest in her voice
serving to excite him. "He was at Manchester. There were a hundred
thousand men out of work--starving, seeing their wives starve, seeing
their children starve. And they came to Manchester and met. And he was
there, and he was one of those who signed the order for the soldiers
to ride them down--men, women, and children, without arms, and packed
so closely that they could not flee!"

"Well," she said pertly, "you would not have us all murdered in our
beds?"

He opened his mouth, and he shut it again. He knew that he had been a
fool. He knew that he had gone near to betraying himself. She was
nineteen, and thoughtless; she had been bred in the class he hated;
she had never heard any political doctrines save those which that
class, the governing class, held; and though twice or thrice he had
essayed faintly to imbue her with his notions of liberty and equality
and fraternity, and had pictured her with the red cap of freedom
perched on her flaxen head, the only liberty in which he had been able
to interest her had been her own!

By-and-by, in different conditions, she might be more amenable, should
he then think it worth while to convert her. For the present his
eloquence was stayed in midstream. Yet he could not be altogether
silent, for he was a man to whom words were very dear.

"Well," he said in a lower tone, "there is something in that, sweet.
But I know worse of him than that. You may think it right to transport
a man for seven years for poaching a hare----"

"They should not poach," she said lightly, "and they would not be
transported!"

"But you will think differently of flogging a man to death!"

Her face flushed.

"I don't believe it!" she cried.

"On his ship in Plymouth Harbour they will tell you differently."

"I don't believe it!" she replied, with passion. And then, "How horrid
you are!" she continued. "And it is nearly dark! Why do you talk of
such things? You are jealous of him--that is what you are!"

He saw the wisdom of sliding back into their old relations, and he
seized the opportunity her words offered.

"Yes," he murmured, "I am jealous of him. And why not? I am jealous of
the wind that caresses your cheek, of the carpet that feels your
tread, of the star that peeps in at your window! I am jealous of all
who come near you, or speak to you, or look at you!"

"Are you really?"--in a tone of childish delight. "As jealous as
that?"

He swore it with many phrases.

"And you will be so always?" she sighed softly, leaning towards him.
"Always--Alan?"

"To eternity!" he answered. And emboldened by her melting mood, he
would have taken her hand, and perhaps more than her hand, but at that
moment the lights of the inn at Newby Bridge flashed on them suddenly,
the roar of the water as it rushed over the weirs surprised their
ears, the postboys cracked their whips, and the carriage bounded and
rattled over the steep pitch of the narrow bridge. A second or two
later it came to a stand before the inn amid a crowd of helpers and
stable lads, whose lanthorns dazzled the travellers' eyes.

They stayed only to change horses, then were away again. But the halt
sufficed to cool his courage; and as they pounded on monotonously
through the night, the darkness and the dim distances of river and
lake--for they were approaching the shores of Windermere--produced
their natural effect on Henrietta's feelings. She had been travelling
since early morning cooped and cramped within the narrow chaise; she
had spent the previous night in a fever of suspense and restlessness.
Now, though slowly, the gloom, the dark outlines of the woods, and
that sense of loneliness which seizes upon all who are flung for the
first time among strange surroundings, began to tell upon the spirits
even of nineteen. She did not admit the fact to herself--she would
have died before she confessed it to another; but disillusion had
begun its subtle task.

Here were all the things for which she had panted--the dear,
delightful things of which she had dreamed: the whirl of the
postchaise through the night, the crack of the whips, the cries of the
postboys, the lighted inns, the dripping woods, the fear of pursuit,
the presence of her lover! And already they were growing flat. Already
the savour was escaping from them. There were tears in her heart,
tears very near her eyes.

He could have taken her hand then, and more than her hand. For
suddenly she recognised, with a feeling nearer terror than her flighty
nature had ever experienced before, her complete dependence on him.
Henceforth love, comfort, kindness, companionship--all must come from
him. She had flung from her every stay but his, every hand but his. He
was become her all, her world. And could she trust him? Not only with
her honour--she never dreamed of doubting that--but could she trust
him afterwards? To be kind to her, to be good to her, to be generous
to her? Thoughtless, inexperienced, giddy as she was, Henrietta
trembled. A pitiful sob rose in her throat. It needed but little, very
little, and she had cast herself in abandonment on her lover's breast
and there wept out her fears and her doubts.

But he had also his anxieties, and he let the moment pass by him
unmarked. He had reasons, other and more urgent than those he had
given her, for taking this road and for staying the night in a place
whence Whitehaven and Carlisle were equally accessible; and those
reasons had seemed good enough in the day when the fear of pursuit had
swayed him. They seemed less pertinent now. He began to wish that he
had taken another road, pursued another course. And he was deep in a
brown study, in which love had no part, when an exclamation, at once
of surprise and admiration, recalled him to the present.

They had topped a bare shoulder and come suddenly in sight of Lake
Windermere. The moon had not long risen above the hills on their
right, the water lay on their left; below them stretched a long pale
mirror, whose borrowed light, passing over the dark woods which framed
it, faintly lit and explored the stupendous fells and mountains that
rose beyond. To Stewart it was no unfamiliar or noteworthy sight; and
his eyes, after a passing glance of approval, turned to the road below
them and marked with secret anxiety the spot where two or three lights
indicated their halting-place.

But to Henrietta the sight, as unexpected as it was beautiful,
appealed in a manner never to be forgotten. She held her breath, and
slowly her eyes filled. Half subdued by fatigue and darkness, half
awake to the dangers and possibilities of her situation, she was in
the mood most fit to be moved by the tender melancholy of the scene.
She was feeling a craving for something--for something to comfort her,
for something to reassure her, for something on which to lean in the
absence of all the common things of life: and there broke on her the
mystic beauty of this moonlit lake, and it melted her. Her heart,
hitherto untouched, awoke. The compact which she had made with her
lover stood for naught. The tears running down her face, she turned to
him, she held out her hands to him.

"Kiss me!" she murmured. "And say--say you will be good to me! I have
only you now!--only you!--only you!"

He caught her in his arms and kissed her rapturously; and the embrace
was ardent enough to send the scarlet surging to her temples, to set
her heart throbbing. But the chaise was in the very act of drawing up
at the door of the inn; and it may be doubted if he tasted the full
sweetness of the occasion. A face looked in at the carriage window, on
the side farther from the lake appeared a bowing landlord, a voice
inquired, "Horses on?" The postchaise stopped.



                              CHAPTER II

                           A RED WAISTCOAT


Cheerful lights shining from the open doorway and the red-curtained
windows of the inn, illumined the road immediately before it; and if
these and the change in all the surroundings did not at once dispel
the loneliness at Henrietta's heart, at least they drove the tears
from her eyes and the blushes from her cheeks. The cold moonlight, the
unchanging face of nature, had sobered and frightened her; the warmth
of fire and candle, the sound of voices, and the low, homely front of
the house, with its two projecting gables, reassured her. The forlorn
child who had flung herself into her lover's arms not forty seconds
before was not to be recognised in the girl who alighted slowly and
with gay self-possession, took in the scene at a glance, and won the
hearts of ostler and stableboy by her ease and her fresh young beauty.
She was bare-headed, and her high-dressed hair, a little disordered by
the journey, gleamed in the lanthorn-light. Her eyes were like stars.
The landlord of the inn--known for twenty miles round as "Long Tom
Gilson"--saw at a glance that the missus's tongue would run on her. He
wished that he might not be credited with his hundred-and-thirty-first
conquest!

The thought, however, did not stand between him and his duty. "Sharp,
Sam," he cried briskly. "Fire in Mr. Rogers's room." Then to his
guests: "Late? No, sir, not at all. This way, ma'am. All will be ready
in a twinkling."

But Henrietta stood smiling.

"Thank you," she answered pleasantly, her clear young voice slightly
raised. "But I wished to be placed in the landlady's charge. Is she
here?"

Gilson turned toward the doorway, which his wife's portly form fitted
pretty tightly.

"Here, missus," he cried, "the young lady wants you."

But Mrs. Gilson was a woman who was not wont to be hurried and before
she reached the side of the carriage Stewart interposed; more roughly
and more hurriedly than seemed discreet in the circumstances.

"Let us go in, and settle that afterwards," he said.

"No."

"Yes," he retorted. And he grasped the girl's arm tightly. His voice
was low, but insistent. "Let us go in."

But the girl only vouchsafed him a look, half wondering, half
indignant. She turned to the landlady.

"I am tired, and need no supper," she said. "Will you take me into a
room, if you please, where I can rest at once, as we go on early
to-morrow."

"Certainly," the landlady answered. She was a burly, red-faced,
heavy-browed woman. "But you have come some way, ma'am. Will you not
take supper with the gentleman?"

"No."

He interposed.

"At least let us go in!" he repeated pettishly. And there was an
agitation in his tone and manner not easy to explain, except on the
supposition that in some way she had thwarted him. "We do not want to
spend the night on the road, I suppose?"

She did not reply. But none the less, as she followed Mrs. Gilson to
the door, was she wondering what ailed him. She was unsuspicious by
nature, and she would not entertain the thought that he wished her to
act otherwise than she was acting. What was it then? Save for a burly
man in a red waistcoat who stood in a lighted doorway farther along
the front of the inn, and seemed to be watching their movements with
lazy interest, there were only the people of the inn present. And the
red-waistcoated man could hardly be in pursuit of them, for, for
certain, he was a stranger. Then what was it?

She might have turned and asked her lover; but she was offended
and she would not stoop. And before she thought better of it--or
worse--she had crossed the threshold. A warmer air, an odour of spices
and lemons and old rum, met her. On the left of the low-browed passage
a half-open door offered a glimpse of shining glass and ruddy
firelight; there was Mrs. Gilson's snuggery, sometimes called the
coach office. On the right a room with a long table spoke of coaching
meals and a groaning board. From beyond these, from the penetralia of
kitchen and pantry, came faint indications of plenty and the spit.

A chambermaid was waiting at the foot of the narrow staircase to go
before them with lights; but the landlady took the candles herself,
and dismissed the woman with a single turn of the eye. A habit of
obedience to Mrs. Gilson was the one habit of the inn, the one common
ground on which all, from Tom Gilson to the smallest strapper in the
stable, came together.

The landlady went ponderously up before her guest and opened the door
of a dimity-hung chamber. It was small and simple, but of the
cleanest. Hid in it were rosemary and lavender; and the leafless
branches of a rose-tree whipped the diamond panes of the low, broad
window. Mrs. Gilson lighted the two wax candles--"waxes" in those days
formed part of every bill but the bagman's. Then she turned and looked
at the girl with deliberate disapproval.

"You will take nothing, ma'am, to eat?" she said.

"No, thank you," Henrietta answered. And then, resenting the woman's
look, "I may as well tell you," she continued, holding her head high,
"that we have eloped, and are going to be married to-morrow. That is
why I wished to be put in your charge."

The landlady, with her great face frowning, continued to look at the
girl, and for a moment did not answer.

At length, "You've run away," she said, "from your friends?"

Henrietta nodded loftily.

"From a distance, I take it?"

"Yes."

"Well," Mrs. Gilson rejoined, her face continuing to express growing
disapproval, "there's a stock of fools near and far. And if I did my
duty, young lady, there'd be one who would likely be thankful all her
life." She took the snuffers and slowly and carefully snuffed the two
candles. "If I did my duty, I'd lock you up and keep you safe till
your friends came for you."

"You are insolent," the girl cried, flaming up.

"That depends," Mrs. Gilson retorted, with the utmost coolness. "Fine
feathers make fine birds. You may be my lady, or my lady's maid. Men
are such fools--all's of the best that's red and white. But I'm not so
easy."

Henrietta raised her chin a little higher.

"Be good enough to leave the room!" she said.

But the stout woman held her ground.

"Not before I've said what I have to say," she answered. "It is one
thing, and one thing only, hinders me doing what I ought to do, and
what if you were my girl I'd wish another to do. And that is--your
friends may not want you back. And then, to be married tomorrow is
like enough the best you can do for yourself! And the sooner the
better!"

Henrietta's face turned scarlet, and she stamped on the floor.

"You are a wicked, insolent woman!" she said. "You do not know your
place, nor mine. How dare you say such things to me? How dare you? Did
you hear me bid you leave the room?"

"Hoity-toity!"

"Yes, at once!"

"Very good," Mrs. Gilson replied ponderously--"very good! But you may
find worse friends than me. And maybe one of them is downstairs now."

"You hateful woman!" the girl cried; and had a glimpse of the
landlady's red, frowning face as the woman turned for a last look in
the doorway. Then the door closed, and she was left alone--alone with
her thoughts.

Her face burned, her neck tingled. She was very, very angry, and a
little frightened. This was a scene in her elopement which
anticipation had not pictured. It humiliated her--and scared her.
To-morrow, no doubt, all would be well; all would be cheerfulness,
tenderness, sunshine; all would be on the right basis. But in the
meantime the sense of forlornness which had attacked her in the chaise
returned on her as her anger cooled, and with renewed strength. Her
world, the world of her whole life up to daybreak of this day, was
gone forever. In its place she had only this bare room with its
small-paned casement and its dimity hangings and its clean scent. Of
course _he_ was below, and he was the world to her, and would make up
a hundredfold what she had resigned for him. But he was below, he was
absent; and meantime her ear and her heart ached for a tender word, a
kind voice, a look of love. At least, she thought, he might have come
under her window, and whistled the air that had been the dear signal
for their meetings. Or he might have stood a while and chatted with
her, and shown her that he was not offended. The severest prude, even
that dreadful woman who had insulted her, could not object to that!

But he did not come. Of course he was supping--what things men were!
And then, out of sheer loneliness, her eyes filled, and her thoughts
of him grew tender and more humble. She dwelt on him no longer as her
conquest, her admirer, the prize of her bow and spear, subject to her
lightest whim and her most foolish caprice; but as her all, the one to
whom she must cling and on whom she must depend. She thought of him as
for a brief while she had thought of him in the chaise. And she
wondered with a chill of fear if she would be left after marriage as
she was left now. She had heard of such things, but in the pride of
her beauty, and his subjection, she had not thought that they could
happen to her. Now---- But instead of dwelling on a possibility which
frightened her, she vowed to be very good to him--good and tender and
loyal, and a true wife. They were resolutions that a trifling
temptation, an hour's neglect or a cross word, might have overcome.
But they were honest, they were sincere, they were made in the
soberest moment that her young life had ever known; and they marked a
step in development, a point in that progress from girlhood to
womanhood which so few hours might see complete.

Meanwhile Mrs. Gilson had returned to her snuggery, wearing a face
that, had the lemons and other comforts about her included cream, must
have turned it sour. That snuggery, it may be, still exists in the
older part of the Low Wood Inn. In that event it should have a value.
For to it Mr. Samuel Rogers, the rich London banker, would sometimes
condescend from his apartments in the south gable; and with him Mr.
Kirkpatrick Sharp, a particular gentleman who sniffed a little at the
rum; or Sir James Mackintosh, who, rumour had it, enjoyed some
reputation in London as a writer. At times, too, Mr. Southey, Poet
Laureate elsewhere, but here Squire of Greta Hall, would stop on his
way to visit his neighbour at Storrs--no such shorthorns in the world
as Mr. Bolton's at Storrs; and not seldom he brought with him a London
gentleman, Mr. Brougham, whose vanity in opposing the Lowther interest
at the late election had almost petrified Mrs. Gilson. Mr. Brougham
called himself a Whig, but Mrs. Gilson held him little better than
a Radical--a kind of cattle seldom seen in those days outside the
dock of an assize court. Or sometimes the visitor was that queer,
half-moithered Mr. Wordsworth at Rydal; or Mr. Wilson of Elleray with
his great voice and his homespun jacket. He had a sort of name too;
but if he did anything better than he fished, the head ostler was a
Dutchman!

The visits of these great people, however--not that Mrs. Gilson
blenched before them, she blenched before nobody short of Lord
Lonsdale--had place in the summer. To-night the landlady's sanctum,
instead of its complement of favourite guests gathered to stare at Mr.
Southey's last order for "Horses on!" boasted but a single tenant.
Even he sat where the landlady did not at once see him; and it was not
until she had cast a log on the dogs with a violence which betrayed
her feelings that he announced his presence by a cough.

"There's the sign of a good house," he said with approval. "Never
unprepared!--never unprepared! Come late, come early--coach, chaise,
or gig--it is all one to a good house."

"Umph!"

"It is a pleasure to sit by"--he waved his pipe with unction--"and to
see a thing done properly!"

"Ay, it's a pleasure to many to sit by," the landlady answered with
withering sarcasm. "It's an easy way of making a living--especially if
you are waiting for what doesn't come. Put a red waistcoat on old Sam
the postboy, and he'd sit by and see as well as another!"

The man in the red waistcoat chuckled.

"I'm glad they don't take you into council at Bow Street, ma'am!" he
said.

"They might do worse."

"They might do better," he rejoined. "They might take you into the
force! I warrant"--with a look of respectful admiration--"if they did
there's little would escape you. Now that young lady?" He indicated
the upper regions with his pipe. "Postboys say she came from
Lancaster. But from where before that?"

"Wherever she's from, she did not tell me!" Mrs. Gilson snapped.

"Ah!"

"And what is more, if she had, I shouldn't tell you."

"Oh, come, come, ma'am!" Mr. Bishop was mildly shocked. "Oh, come,
ma'am! That is not like you. Think of the King and his royal
prerogative!"

"Fiddlesticks!"

Mr. Bishop looked quite staggered.

"You don't mean it," he said--"you don't indeed. You would not have
the Radicals and Jacobins ramping over the country, shooting honest
men in their shops and burning and ravaging, and--and generally
playing the devil?"

"I suppose you think it is you that stops them?"

"No, ma'am, no," with a modest smile. "I don't stop them. I leave that
to the yeomanry--old England's bulwark and their country's pride! But
when the yeomanry 've done their part, I take them, and the law passes
upon them. And when they have been hung or transported and an example
made, then you sleep comfortably in your beds. That is what I do. And
I think I may say that next to Mr. Nadin of Manchester, who is the
greatest man in our line out of London, I have done as much in that
way as another."

Mrs. Gilson sniffed contemptuously.

"Well," she said, "if you have never done more than you've done since
you've been here, it's a wonder the roof's on! Though what you
expected to do, except keep a whole skin, passes me! There's the
_Chronicle_ in today, and such talks of riots at Glasgow and Paisley,
and such meetings here and alarms there, it is a wonder to me"--with
sarcasm--"they can do without you! To judge by what I hear, Lancashire
way is just a kettle of troubles and boiling over, and bread that
price everybody is wanting to take the old King's crown off his head."

"And his head off his body, ma'am!" Mr. Bishop added solemnly.

"So that it's little good you and your yeomanry seem to have done at
Manchester, except get yourselves abused!"

"Ma'am, the King's crown is on his head," Mr. Bishop retorted, "and
his head is on his body!"

"Well? Not that his head is much good to him, poor mad gentleman!"

"And King Louis, ma'am, years ago--what of him? The King of France,
ma'am? Crown gone, head gone--all gone! And why? Because there was not
a good blow struck in time, ma'am! Because, poor, foolish foreigner,
he had no yeomanry and no Bow Street, ma'am! But the Government, the
British Government, is wiser. They are brave men--brave noblemen, I
should say," Mr. Bishop amended with respect,--"but with treason and
misprision of treason stalking the land, with the lower orders, that
should behave themselves lowly and reverently to all their betters,
turned to ramping, roaring Jacobins seeking whom they may devour,
and whose machine they may break, my lords would not sleep in their
beds--no, not they, brave men as they are--if it were not for the
yeomanry and the runners." He had to pause for breath.

Mrs. Gilson coughed dryly.

"Leather's a fine thing," she said, "if you believe the cobbler."

"Well," Mr. Bishop answered, nodding his head confidently, "it's so
far true you'd do ill without it."

But Mrs. Gilson was equal to the situation.

"Ay, underfoot," she said. "But everything in its place. My man, he be
mad upon tod-hunting; but I never knew him go to Manchester 'Change to
seek one."

"No?" Mr. Bishop held his pipe at arm's length, and smiled at it
mysteriously. "Yet I've seen one there," he continued, "or in such
another place."

"Where?"

"Common Garden, London."

"It was in a box, then."

"It was, ma'am," Mr. Bishop replied, with smiling emphasis. "It was in
a box--'safe bind, safe find,' ma'am. That's the motto of my line, and
that was it precisely! More by token it's not outside the bounds of
possibility you may see"--he glanced towards the door as he knocked
his pipe against his top-boot--"one of my tods in a box before
morning."

Mrs. Gilson shot out her underlip and looked at him darkly. She never
stooped to express surprise; but she was surprised. There was no
mistaking the ring of triumph in the runner's tone; yet of all the
unlikely things within the landlady's range none seemed more unlikely
than that he should flush his game there. She had asked herself more
than once why he was there; and why no coach stopped, no chaise
changed horses, no rider passed or bagman halted, without running the
gauntlet of his eye. For in that country of lake and mountain were
neither riots nor meetings; and though Lancashire lay near, the echoes
of strife sounded but weakly and fitfully across Cartmel Sands. Mills
might be burning in Cheadle and Preston, men might be drilling in
Bolland and Whitewell, sedition might be preaching in Manchester, all
England might be in a flame with dear bread and no work, Corbett's
Twopenny Register and Orator Hunt's declamations--but neither the
glare nor the noise had much effect on Windermere. Mr. Bishop's
presence there seemed superfluous therefore; seemed---- But before she
could come to the end of her logic, her staid waiting-maid appeared,
demanding four pennyworth of old Geneva for the gentleman in Mr.
Rogers's room; and when she was serving, Mrs. Gilson took refuge in
incredulity.

"A man must talk if he can't do," she said--"if he's to live."

Mr. Bishop smiled, and patted his buckskin breeches with confidence.

"You'll believe ma'am," he said, "when you see him walk into the coach
with the handcuffs on his wrists."

"Ay, I shall!"

The innuendo in the landlady's tone was so plain that her husband, who
had entered while she was rinsing the noggin in which she had measured
the gin, chuckled audibly. She turned an awful stare on him, and he
collapsed. The Bow Street runner was less amenable to discipline.

"You sent the lad, Tom?" he asked.

The landlord nodded, with an apprehensive eye on his wife.

"He should be back"--Mr. Bishop consulted a huge silver watch--"by
eleven."

"Ay, sure."

"Where has he gone?" Mrs. Gilson asked, with an ominous face.

She seldom interfered in stable matters; but if she chose, it was
understood that no department was outside her survey.

"Only to Kendal with a message for me," Bishop answered.

"At this time of the night?"

"Ma'am"--Mr. Bishop rose and tapped his red waistcoat with meaning,
almost with dignity--"the King has need of him. The King--God bless
and restore him to health--will pay, and handsomely. For the why and
the wherefore he has gone, his majesty's gracious prerogative is to
say nothing"--with a smile. "That is the rule in Bow Street, and for
this time we'll make it the rule under Bow Fell, if you please.
Moreover, what he took I wrote, ma'am, and as he cannot read and I
sent it to one who will give it to another, his majesty will enjoy his
prerogative as he should!"

There was a spark in Mrs. Gilson's eye. Fortunately the runner saw it,
and before she could retort he slipped out, leaving the storm to break
about her husband's head. Some who had known Mr. Gilson in old days
wondered how he bore his life, and why he did not hang himself--Mrs.
Gilson's tongue was so famous. And more said he had reason to hang
himself. Only a few, and they the wisest, noted that he who had once
been Long Tom Gilson grew fat and rosy; and these quoted a proverb
about the wind and the shorn lamb. One--it was Bishop himself, but he
had known them no more than three weeks--said nothing when the
question was raised, but tapped his nose and winked, and looked at
Long Tom as if he did not pity him overmuch.



                             CHAPTER III

                          A WEDDING MORNING


In one particular at least the Bow Street runner was right. The
Government which ruled England in that year, 1819, was made up of
brave men; whether they were wise men or great men, or far-seeing men,
is another question. The peace which followed Waterloo had been
welcomed with enthusiasm. Men supposed that it would put an end to the
enormous taxation and the strain which the nation had borne so
gallantly during twenty years of war. The goddess of prosperity, with
her wings of silver and her feathers of gold, was to bless a people
which had long known only paper money. In a twinkling every trade was
to flourish, every class to be more comfortable, every man to have
work and wage, plenty and no taxes.

Instead, there ensued a period of want and misery almost without a
parallel. During the war the country had been self-supporting, wheat
had risen, land suitable and unsuitable had been enclosed and tilled.
Bread had been dear but work had been plentiful. Now, at the prospect
of open ports, wheat fell, land was left derelict, farmers were
ruined, labourers in thousands went on the rates. Nor among the
whirling looms of Lancashire or the furnaces of Staffordshire were
things better. Government orders ceased with the war, while the
exhausted Continent was too poor to buy. Here also thousands were cast
out of work.

The cause of the country's misfortunes might be this or that. Whatever
it was, the working classes suffered greater hardships than at any
time during the war; and finding no anxiety to sympathise in a
Parliament which represented their betters, began to form--ominous
sign--clubs, and clubs within clubs, and to seek redress by unlawful
means. An open rising broke out in the Fen country, and there was
fighting at Littleport and Ely. There were riots at Spa Fields in
London, where murder was committed; and there were riots again, which
almost amounted to a rebellion, in Derbyshire. At Stock-port and in
Birmingham immense mob meetings took place. In the northern counties
the sky was reddened night after night by incendiary fires. In the
Midlands looms were broken and furnaces extinguished. In Lancashire
and Yorkshire the air was sullen with strikes and secret plottings,
and spies, and cold and famine.

In the year 1819 things came to a kind of head. There was a meeting at
Manchester in August. It was such a meeting as had never been seen in
England. There were sixty thousand at it, there were eighty thousand,
there were ninety thousand--some said one, some said the other. It was
so large, at any rate, that it was difficult to say that it was not
dangerous; and beyond doubt many there would have snatched at the
least chance of rapine. Be that as it may, the magistrates, in the
face of so great a concourse, lost their heads. They ordered a small
force of yeomanry to disperse the gathering. The yeomanry became
entangled--a second charge was needful: the multitude fled every way.
In ten minutes the ground was clear; but six lives were lost and
seventy persons were injured.

At once all England was cleft into parties--that which upheld the
charge, and that which condemned it. Feelings which had been confined
to the lower orders spread to the upper; and while from this date the
section which was to pass the Reform Bill took new shape, underground
more desperate enterprises were breeding. Undismayed the people met at
Paisley and at Glasgow, and at each place there were collisions with,
the soldiery.

Mr. Bishop had grounds, therefore, for his opinion of the Government
of which he shared the favour with the yeomanry--their country's
bulwark and its pride. But it is a far cry to Windermere, and no
offset from the storm which was convulsing Lancashire stirred the face
of the lake when Henrietta opened her window next morning and looked
out on the day which was to change all for her. The air was still, the
water grey and smooth, no gleam of sun showed. Yet the general aspect
was mild; and would have been cheerful, if the more distant prospect
which for the first time broke upon Henrietta's eyes had not raised it
and her thoughts to the sublime. Beyond the water, above the green
slopes and wooded knobs which fringed the lake, rose, ridge behind
ridge, a wall of mountains. It stretched from the Peak of Coniston on
the left, by the long snow-flecked screes of Bow Fell, to the icy
points of the Langdales on the right--a new world, remote, clear,
beautiful, and still: so still, so remote, that it seemed to preach a
sermon--to calm the hurry of her morning thoughts, and the tumult of
youth within her. She stood awhile in awe. But her hair was about her
shoulders, she was only half-dressed; and by-and-by, when her first
surprise waned, she bethought herself that _he_ might be below, and
she drew back from the window with a blush. What more likely, what
more loverlike, than that he should be below? Waiting--on this morning
which was to crown his hopes--for the first sight of her face, the
first opening of her lattice, the gleam of her white arm on the sill?
Had it been summer, and had the rose-tree which framed the window been
in bloom, what joy to drop with trembling fingers a bud to him, and to
know that he would treasure it all his life--her last maiden gift! And
he? Surely he would have sent her an armful to await her rising, that
as she dressed she might plunge her face into their perfume, and
silently plighting her troth to him, renew the pure resolves which she
had made in the night hours!

But when she peeped out shyly, telling herself that she was foolish to
blush, and that the time for blushing was past, she failed to discover
him. There was a girl--handsome after a dark fashion--seated on a low
wall on the farther side of the road; and a group of four or five men
were standing in front of the inn door, talking in excited tones.
Conceivably he might be one of the men, for she could hear them better
than she could see them--the door being a good deal to one side. But
when she had cautiously opened her window and put out her head--her
hair by this time being dressed--he was not among them.

She was drawing in her head, uncertain whether to pout or not, when
her eyes met those of the young woman on the wall; and the latter
smiled. Possibly she had noted the direction of Henrietta's glance,
and drawn her inference. At any rate, her smile was so marked and so
malicious that Henrietta felt her cheek grow hot, and lost no time in
drawing back and closing the window.

"What a horrid girl!" she exclaimed.

Still, after the first flush of annoyance, she would have thought no
more of it--would indeed have laughed at herself for her fancy--if
Mrs. Gilson's strident voice had not at that moment brought the girl
to her feet.

"Bess! Bess Hinkson!" the landlady cried, apparently from the doorway.
"Hast come with the milk? Then come right in and let me have it? What
are you gaping at there, you gaby? What has't to do with thee? I do
think"--with venom--"the world is full of fools!"

The girl with a sullen air took up a milk-pail that stood beside her;
she wore the short linsey petticoat of the rustic of that day, and a
homespun bodice. Her hair, brilliantly black, and as thick as a
horse's mane, was covered only by a handkerchief knotted under her
chin.

"Bess Hinkson? What a horrid name!" Henrietta muttered as she watched
her cross the road. She did not dream that she would ever see the
girl again: the more as the men's voices--she was nearly ready to
descend--fixed her attention next. She caught a word, then listened.

"The devil's in it if he's not gone Whitehaven way!" one said. "That's
how he's gone! Through Carlisle, say you? Not he!"

"But without a horse? He'd no horse."

"And what if he'd not?" the first speaker retorted, with the
impatience of superior intellect. "It's Tuesday, the day of the Man
packet-boat, and he'd be away in her."

"But the packet don't leave Whitehaven till noon," a third struck in.
"And they'll be there and nab him before that. S'help me, he has not
gone Whitehaven way!"

"Maybe he'd take a boat?"

"He'd lack the time"--with scorn.

"He's took a boat here," another maintained. "That's what he has done.
He's took a boat here and gone down in the dark to Newby Bridge."

"But there's not a boat gone!" another speaker retorted in triumph.
"What do you say to that?"

So far Henrietta's ear followed the argument; but her mind lagged at
the point where the matter touched her.

"The Man packet-boat?" she thought, as she tied the last ribbon at her
neck and looked sideways at her appearance in the squat, filmy mirror.
"That must be the boat to the Isle of Man. It leaves Whitehaven the
same day as the Scotch boat, then. Perhaps there is but one, and it
goes on to the Isle of Man. And I shall go by it. And then--and
then----"

A knock at the door severed the thread, and drove the unwonted languor
from her eyes. She cast a last look at her reflection in the glass,
and turned herself about that she might review her back-hair. Then she
swept the table with her eye, and began to stuff this and that into
her bandbox. The knock was repeated.

"I am coming," she cried. She cast one very last look round the room,
and, certain that she had left nothing, took up her bonnet and a shawl
which she had used for a wrap over her riding-dress. She crossed the
room towards the door. As she raised her hand to the latch, a smile
lurked in the dimples of her cheeks. There was a gleam of fun in her
eyes; the lighter side of her was uppermost again.

It was not her lover, however, who stood waiting outside, but Modest
Ann--she went commonly by that name--the waiting-maid of the inn, who
was said to mould herself on her mistress and to be only a trifle less
formidable when roused. The two were something alike, for the maid was
buxom and florid; and fame told of battles between them whence no
ordinary woman, no ordinary tongue, no mortal save Mrs. Gilson, could
have issued victorious. Fame had it also that Modest Ann remained
after her defeat only by reason of an attachment, held by most to be
hopeless, to the head ostler. And for certain, severe as she was, she
permitted some liberty of speech on the subject.

Henrietta, however, did not know that here was another slave of love;
and her face fell.

"Is Mr. Stewart waiting?" she asked.

"No, miss," the woman answered, civilly enough, but staring as if she
could never see enough of her. "But Mrs. Gilson will be glad if you'll
speak to her."

Henrietta raised her eyebrows. It was on the tip of her tongue to
answer, "Then let her come to me!" But she remembered that these
people did not know who she was--knew indeed nothing of her. And she
answered instead: "I will come. Where is she?"

"This way, miss. I'll show you the way."

Henrietta wondered, as the woman conducted her along several
low-ceiled passages, and up and down odd stairs, and past windows
which disclosed the hill rising immediately at the back of the house,
what the landlady wanted.

"She is an odious woman!" she thought, with impatience. "How horrid
she was to me last night! If ever there was a bully, she is one! And
this creature looks not much better!"

Modest Ann, turning her head at the moment, belied the ill opinion by
pointing out a step in a dark corner.

"There is a stair here, miss," she said. "Take care."

"Thank you," Henrietta answered in her clear, girlish voice. "Is Mr.
Stewart with Mrs.---- What's her name?"

"Mrs. Gilson? No, miss."

And pausing, the woman opened a door, and made way for Henrietta to
enter.

At that instant--and strange to say, not before--a dreadful suspicion
leapt up in the girl's brain. What if her brother had followed her,
and was there? Or worse still, Captain Clyne? What if she were
summoned to be confronted with them and to be taken home in shameful
durance, after the fashion of a naughty child that had behaved badly
and was in disgrace? The fire sprang to her eyes, her cheeks burnt. It
was too late to retreat; but her pretty head went up in the air, and
her look as she entered spoke flat rebellion. She swept the room with
a glance of flame.

However, there was no one to be burned up: no brother, no slighted,
abandoned suitor. In the room, a good-sized, pleasant room, looking on
the lake, were only Mrs. Gilson, who stood beside the table, which was
laid for breakfast, and a strange man. The man was gazing from the
window, but he turned abruptly, disclosing a red waistcoat, as her eye
fell on him. She looked from one to the other in great surprise, in
growing surprise. What did the man there?

"Where is Mr. Stewart?" she asked, her frigid tone expressing her
feelings. "Is he not here?"

Mrs. Gilson seemed about to answer, but the man forestalled her.

"No, miss," he said, "he is not."

"Where is he?"

She asked the question with undisguised sharpness.

Mr. Bishop nodded like a man well pleased.

"That is the point, miss," he answered--"precisely. Where is he?"



                              CHAPTER IV

                              TWO TO ONE


Henrietta, high-spirited and thoughtless, was more prone to anger than
to fear, to resentment than to patience. But all find something
formidable in the unknown; and the presence of this man who spoke with
so much aplomb, and referred to her lover as if he had some concern in
him, was enough to inspire her with fear and set her on her guard.
Nevertheless, she could not quite check the first impulse to
resentment; the man's very presence was a liberty, and her tone when
she spoke betrayed her sense of this.

"I have no doubt," she said, "that Mr. Stewart can be found if you
wish to see him." She turned to Mrs. Gilson. "Be good enough," she
said, "to send some one in search of him."

"I have done that already," the man Bishop answered.

The landlady, who did not move, seemed tongue-tied. But she did not
take her eyes off the girl.

Henrietta frowned. She threw her bonnet and shawl on a side-table.

"Be good enough to send again, then," she said, turning and speaking
in the indifferent tone of one who was wont to have her orders obeyed.
"He is probably within call. The chaise is ordered for ten."

Bishop advanced a step and tapped the palm of one hand with the
fingers of the other.

"That is the point, miss!" he said impressively. "You've hit it. The
chaise is ordered for ten. It is nine now, within a minute--and the
gentleman cannot be found."

"Cannot be found?" she echoed, in astonishment at his familiarity.
"Cannot be found?" She turned imperiously to Mrs. Gilson. "What does
this person mean?" she said. And her tone was brave. But the colour
came and went in her cheeks, and the first flutter of alarm darkened
her eyes.

The landlady found her voice.

"He means," she said bluntly, "that he did not sleep in his bed last
night."

"Mr. Stewart?"

"The gentleman who came with you."

"Oh, but," Henrietta cried, "you must be jesting?" She would not, she
could not, give way to the doubt that assailed her.

"It is no jest," Bishop answered gravely, and with something like pity
in his voice. For the girl looked very fair and very young, and wore
her dignity prettily. "It is no jest, miss, believe me. But perhaps we
could read the riddle--we should know more, at any rate--if you were
to tell us from what part you came yesterday."

But she had her wits about her, and she was not going to tell them
that! No, no! Moreover, on the instant she had a thought--that this
was no jest, but a trick, a cruel, cowardly trick, to draw from her
the knowledge which they wanted, and which she must not give! Beyond
doubt that was it; she snatched thankfully at the notion. This odious
woman, taking advantage of Stewart's momentary absence, had called in
the man, and thought to bully her, a young girl in a strange place,
out of the information which she had wished to get the night before.

The impertinents! But she would be a match for them.

"That is my affair," she said.

"But----"

"And will remain so!" she continued warmly. "For the rest, I am
inclined to think that this is a trap of some sort! If so, you may be
sure that Mr. Stewart will know how to resent it, and any impertinence
offered to me. You"--she turned suddenly upon Mrs. Gilson--"you ought
to be ashamed of yourself!"

Mrs. Gilson nodded oracularly.

"I am ashamed of somebody," she said.

The girl thought that she was gaining the advantage.

"Then at once," she said, "let Mr. Stewart know that I am waiting for
him. Do you hear, madam?" she stamped the floor with her foot, and
looked the pretty fury to the life. "And see that this person leaves
the room. Good-morning, sir. You will hear from Mr. Stewart what I
think of your intrusion."

Bishop opened his mouth to reply. But he caught Mrs. Gilson's eye; and
by a look, such a look as appalled even the Bow Street runner's stout
heart, she indicated the door. After a second of hesitation he passed
out meekly.

When he was gone, "Very good, miss," the landlady said in the tone of
one who restrained her temper with difficulty--"very good. But if
you're to be ready you'd best eat your breakfast--if, that is, it is
good enough for you!" she added. And with a very grim face she swept
from the room and left Henrietta in possession of the field.

The girl sprang to the window and looked up and down the road. She had
the same view of the mild autumn morning, of the grey lake and distant
range of hills which had calmed her thoughts an hour earlier. But the
beauty of the scene availed nothing now. She was flushed with
vexation--impatient, resentful. Where was he? He was not in sight.
Then where could he be? And why did he leave her? Did he think that he
need no longer press his suit, that the need for _pettis soins_ and
attentions was over? Oh, but she would show him! And in a moment all
the feelings of the petted, spoiled girl were up in arms.

"They are horrid!" she cried, angry tears in her eyes. "It's an
outrage--a perfect outrage! And he is no better. How dare he leave me,
this morning of all mornings?"

On which there might have stolen into her mind--so monstrous did his
neglect seem--a doubt, a suspicion; the doubt and the suspicion which
she repelled a few minutes earlier. But, as she turned, her eyes fell
on the breakfast-table; and vexation was not proof against a healthy
appetite.

"I will show him," she thought resentfully, "that I am not so
dependent on him as he thinks. I shall not wait--I shall take my
breakfast. That odious woman was right for once."

And she sat down in the seat placed for her. But as quickly she was up
again, and at the oval glass over the mantel--where Samuel Rogers had
often viewed his cadaverous face--to inspect herself and be sure that
she was looking her best, so that _his_ despair, when he came and
found her cold and distant, would be the deeper. Soon satisfied, she
returned, smiling dangerously, to her seat; and this time she fell-to
upon the eggs and girdle-cakes, and the home-cured ham, and the tea at
ten shillings a pound. The room had a window to the lake and a second
window which looked to the south and was not far from the first.
Though low-ceiled, it was of a fair size, with a sunk cupboard, with
glazed upper doors, on each side of the fireplace, and cushioned seats
in the window-places. In a recess near the door--the room was full of
corners--were book-shelves; and on the other side of the door stood a
tall clock with a very pale face. The furniture was covered with some
warm red stuff, well worn; and an air of that snug comfort which was
valued by Englishmen of the day pervaded all, and went well with the
scent of the China tea.

But neither tea nor comfort, nor the cheerful blaze on the hearth,
could long hold Henrietta's thoughts; nor resentment repress her
anxiety. Presently she began to listen after every mouthful: her fork
was as often suspended as at work. Her pretty face grew troubled and
her brow more deeply puckered, until her wandering eye fell on the
clock, and she saw that the slowly jerking hand was on the verge of
the half-hour.

Then she sprang up, honestly frightened. She flew to the window that
looked on the lake and peered out anxiously; thence to the side
window, but she got no glimpse of him. She came back distracted to the
table and stood pressing her hands to her eyes. What if they were
right, and he had not slept in his bed? What if something had happened
to him? But that was impossible! Impossible! Things did not happen on
such mornings as this! On wedding mornings! Yet if that were the case,
and they had sent for her that they might break it to her--and then
their hearts, even that woman's heart, had failed them? What--what
then?

She was trying to repel the thought when she fancied that she heard a
sound at the door, and with a gasp of relief she looked up. If he had
entered at that moment, she would have flung herself into his arms and
forgiven all and forgotten all. But he did not enter, and her heart
sank again, and lower. She went slowly to the door and listened, and
found that the sound which she had heard was caused by the whispering
of persons outside.

She summoned her pride to her aid then. She opened the door to its
full extent and walked back to the table, and turning, waited
haughtily for them to enter. But to speak, to command her voice, was
harder, and it was all she could do to murmur,

"Something has happened to him"--her lip fluttered ominously--"and you
have come to tell me?"

"Nothing that I know of," Bishop answered cheerfully. He and the
landlady had walked in and closed the door behind them. "Nothing at
all."

"No?" She could hardly believe him.

"Not the least thing in life, miss," he repeated. "He's alive and well
for what I know--alive and well!"

She sat down on a chair that stood beside her, and the colour flowed
back to her cheeks. She laughed weakly.

"I was afraid that something had happened," she murmured.

"No," Mr. Bishop answered, more seriously, "it's not that. It's not
that, miss. But all the same it's trouble. Now if you were to tell
me," he continued, leaning forward persuasively, "where you come from,
I need have hardly a word with you. I can see you're a lady; your
friends will come; and, s'help me, in six months you'll have your
matie again, and not know it happened!

"I shall not tell you," she said.

The officer shook his head, surprised by her firmness.

"Come now, miss--be advised," he urged. "Be reasonable. Just think
for once that others may know better than you, and save me the
trouble--that's a good young lady."

But the wheedling appeal, the familiar tone, grated on her. Her
fingers, tapping on the table, betrayed impatience as well as alarm.

"I do not understand you," she said, with some return of her former
distance. "If nothing has happened to Mr. Stewart, I do not understand
what you can have to say to me, nor why you are here."

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, miss," he said, "if you must have it, you must. I'm bound to
say you are not a young lady to take a hint."

That frightened her.

"If nothing has happened to him----" she murmured, and looked from one
to the other; from Mr. Bishop's smug face to the landlady's stolid
visage.

"It's not what has happened to him," the runner answered bluntly. "It
is what is likely to happen to him."

He drew from his pocket as he spoke a large leather case, unstrapped
it, and put the strap, which would have handily spliced a cart-trace
of these days, between his teeth. Then he carefully selected from the
mass of papers which the case contained a single letter. It was
written, as the letters of that day were written, on three sides
of a square sheet of coarsish paper. The fourth side served for
envelope--that is, it bore the address and seal. But Bishop was
careful to fold the letter in such a way that these and the greater
part of the writing were hidden. He proffered the paper, so arranged,
to Henrietta.

"D'you know the handwriting," he asked, "of that letter, miss?"

She had watched his actions with fascinated eyes, and could not think,
could not imagine, whither they tended. She was really frightened now.
But her mettle was high; she had the nerves of youth, and she hid her
dismay. The hand with which she took the letter was steady as a rock,
the manner with which she looked at it composed; but no sooner had her
eyes fallen on the writing than she uttered an exclamation, and the
colour rose to her cheeks.

"How did you get this?" she cried.

"No, miss, no," the runner answered. "One at a time. The question is,
Do you know the fist? The handwriting, I mean. But I see you do."

"It is Mr. Stewart's," she answered.

He glanced at Mrs. Gilson as if to bespeak her attention.

"Just so," he said. "It is Mr. Stewart's. And I warrant you have
others like it, and could prove the fact if it were needed. No--don't
read it, miss, if you please," he continued. "You can tell me without
that whether the gentleman has any friends in these parts."

"None."

"That you know of?"

"I never heard of any," she answered. Her astonishment was so great
that she did not now think of refusing to answer. And besides, here
was his handwriting. And why did he not come? The clock was on the
point of striking; at this hour, at this minute, they should have been
leaving the door of the inn.

"No, miss," Bishop answered, exchanging a look with the landlady.
"Just so, you've never heard of any. Then one more question, if you
please. You are going north, to Scotland, to be married to-day? Now
which way, I wonder?"

She frowned at him in silence. She began to see his drift.

"By Keswick and Carlisle?" he continued, watching her face. "Or by
Kendal and Penrith? Or by Cockermouth and Whitehaven? But no. There's
only the Isle of Man packet out of Whitehaven."

"It goes on to Dumfries," she said. The words escaped her in spite of
herself.

He smiled as he shook his head.

"No," he said; "it'd be a very long way round if it did. But Mr.
Stewart told you that, did he? I see he did. Well, you've had an
escape, miss. That's all I can say."

The colour rose to her very brow, but her eyes met his boldly.

"How?" she said. "What do you mean?"

"How?" he repeated. "If you knew, miss, who the man was--your Mr.
Stewart--you'd know how--and what you have escaped!"

"Who he was?" she muttered.

"Ay, who he was!" he retorted. "I can tell you this at least,
young lady," he added bluntly, "he's the man that's very badly
wanted--uncommonly badly wanted!"--with a grin--"in more places than
one, but nowhere more than where he came from."

"Wanted?" she said, the colour fading in her cheek. "For what? What do
you mean?"

"For what?"

"That is what I asked."

His face was a picture of importance and solemnity. He looked at the
landlady as much as to say, "See how I will prostrate her!" But
nothing indicated his sense of the avowal he was going to make so much
as the fact that instead of raising his voice he lowered it.

"You shall have the answer, miss, though I thought to spare you," he
said. "He's wanted for being an uncommon desperate villain, I am sorry
to say. For treason, and misprision of treason, and conspiracy. Ay,
but that's the man you've come away with," shaking his head solemnly.
"He's wanted for bloody conspiracy--ay, it is so indeed--equal to any
Guy Fawkes, against my lord the King, his crown and dignity! Seven
indictments--and not mere counts, miss--have been found against him,
and those who were with him, and him the worst! And when he's taken,
as he's sure to be taken by-and-by, he'll suffer!" And Mr. Bishop
nodded portentously.

Her face was quite white now.

"Mr. Stewart?" she gasped.

"You call him Stewart," the runner replied coolly. "I call him
Walterson--Walterson the younger. But he has passed by a capful of
names. Anyway, he's wanted for the business in Spa Fields in '16, and
half a dozen things besides!"

The colour returned to Henrietta's cheeks with a rush. Her fine eyes
glowed, her lips parted.

"A conspirator!" she murmured. "A conspirator!" She fondled the word
as if it had been "love" or "kisses." "I suppose, then," she continued,
with a sidelong look at Bishop, "if he were taken he would lose his
life?"

"Sure as eggs!"

Henrietta drew a deep breath; and with the same sidelong look:

"He would be beheaded--in the Tower?"

The runner laughed with much enjoyment.

"Lord save your innocent heart, miss," he said--"no! He would just
hang outside Newgate."

She shuddered violently at that. The glow of eye and cheek faded, and
tears rose instead. She walked to a window, and with her back to them
dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief. Then she turned.

"Is that all?" she said.

"Good God!" Bishop cried. He stared, nonplussed. "Is that all?" he
said. "Would you have more?"

"Neither more nor less," she answered--between tears and smiles, if
his astonished eyes did not deceive him. "For now I know--I know why
he left me, why he is not here."

"Good lord!"

"If you thought, sir," she continued, drawing herself up and speaking
with indignation, "that because he was in danger, because he was
proscribed, because a price was set on his head, I should desert him,
and betray him, and sell his secrets to you--I, his wife--you were
indeed mistaken!"

"But damme!" Mr. Bishop cried in amazement almost too great for words,
"you are not his wife!"

"In the sight of Heaven," she answered firmly, "I am!" She was shaking
with excitement. "In the sight of Heaven I am!" she repeated solemnly.
And so real was the feeling that she forgot for the moment the
situation in which her lover's flight had left her. She forgot
herself, forgot all but the danger that menaced him, and the
resolution that never, never, never should it part her from him.

Mr. Bishop would fain have answered fittingly, and to that end sought
words. But he found none strong enough.

"Well, I am dashed!" was all he could find to say. "I _am_ dashed!"
Then--the thing was too much for one--he sought support in Mrs.
Gilson's eye. "There, ma'am," he said vehemently, extending one hand,
"I ask you! You are a woman of sense! I ask you! Did you ever? Did you
ever, out of London or in London?"

The landlady's answer was as downright as it was unwelcome.

"I never see such a fool!" she said, "if that's what you mean. And
you"--with scorn--"to call yourself a Bow Street man! Bow Street?
Bah!"

Mr. Bishop opened his mouth.

"A parish constable's a Solomon to you!" she continued, before he
could speak.

His face was purple, his surprise ludicrous.

"To me?" he ejaculated incredulously. "S'help me, ma'am, you are mad,
or I am! What have I done?"

"It's not what you've done!" Mrs. Gilson answered grimly. "It's what
you've left undone! Oh, you gaby!" she continued, with unction. "You
poor creature! You bag of goose-feathers! D'you know no more of women
than that? Why, I've kept my mouth shut the last ten blessed minutes
for nothing else but to see what a fool you'd make of yourself! And
for certain it was not for nothing!"

Henrietta tapped the table.

"Perhaps when you've done," she said, with tragic dignity, "you will
both be good enough to leave the room. I desire to be alone."

Her eyes were like stars. In her voice was an odd mixture of elation
and alarm.

Mrs. Gilson turned on the instant and engaged her.

"Don't talk nonsense!" she said. "Desire to be alone indeed! You
deserve to be alone, miss, with bread and water, and the lock on the
door! Oh, you may stare! But do you do now what he should have made
you do a half-hour ago! And then you'll feel a little less like a play
actress! Alone indeed! Read that letter and tell me then what you
think of yourself!"

Henrietta's eyes sparkled with anger, but she fought hard for her
dignity.

"I am not used to impertinence," she said. "You forget yourself!"

"Bead," Mrs. Gilson retorted, "and say what you like then. You'll have
little stomach for saying anything," she added in an undertone, "or
I'm a Dutchman!"

Henrietta saw nothing for it but to read under protest, and she did so
with a smile of contempt. In the circumstances it seemed the easier
course. But alas! as she read, her pretty, angry face changed. She had
that extreme delicacy of complexion which betrays the least ebb and
flow of feeling: and in turn perplexity, wonder, resentment, all were
painted there, and vividly. She looked up.

"To whom was this written?" she asked, her voice unsteady.

Mrs. Gilson was pitiless.

"Look at the beginning!" she answered.

The girl turned back mechanically, and read that which she had read
before. But then with surprise; now with dread.

"Who is--Sally?" she muttered.

Despite herself, her voice seemed to fail her on the word. And she
dared not meet their eyes.

"Who's Sally?" Mrs. Gilson repeated briskly. "Why, his wife, to be
sure! Who should she be?"



                              CHAPTER V

                              A JEZEBEL


There was a loud drumming in Henrietta's ears, and a dimness before
her eyes. In the midst of this a voice, which she would not have known
for her own, cried loudly and clearly, "No!" And again, more
violently, "No!"

"But it is 'Yes'!" the landlady answered coolly. "Why not? D'you
think"--with rough contempt--"he's the first man that's lied to a
woman? or you're the first woman that's believed a rascal? She's his
wife right enough, my girl"--comfortably. "Don't he ask after his
children? If you'll turn to the bottom of the second page you'll see
for yourself! Oh, quite the family man, he is!"

The girl's hand shook like ash-leaves in a light breeze; the paper
rustled in her grasp. But she had regained command of herself--she
came of a stiff, proud stock, and the very brusqueness of the landlady
helped her; and she read word after word and line after line of the
letter. She passed from the bottom of the second sheet to the head of
the third, and so to the end. But so slowly, so laboriously that it
was plain that her mind was busy reading between the lines--was busy
comparing, sifting, remembering.

To Bishop's credit be it said, he kept his eyes off the girl. But at
last he spoke.

"I'd that letter from his wife's hand," he said. "They are married
right enough--in Hounslow Church, miss. She lives there, two doors
from the 'George' posting-house, where folks change horses between
London and Windsor. She was a waiting-maid in the coffee-room, and
'twas a rise for her. But she's not seen him for three years--reason,
he's been in hiding--nor had a penny from him. Now she's got it he's
taken up with some woman hereabouts, and she put me on the scent. He's
a fine gift of the gab, but for all that his father's naught but a
little apothecary, and as smooth a rogue and as big a Radical, one as
the other! I wish to goodness," the runner continued, suddenly
reminded of his loss, "I'd took him last night when he came in!
But----"

"That'll do!" Mrs. Gilson said, cutting him short, as if he were a tap
she had turned on for her own purposes. "You can go now!"

"But----"

"Did you hear me, man? Go!" the landlady thundered. And a glance of
her eye was sufficient to bring the runner to heel like a scolded
hound. "Go, and shut the door after you," she continued, with
sharpness. "I'll have no eavesdropping in my house, prerogative or no
prerogative!"

When he was gone she showed a single spark of mercy. She went to the
fire and proceeded to mend it noisily, as if it were the one thing in
the world to be attended to. She put on wood, and swept the hearth,
and made a to-do with it. True, the respite was short; a minute or two
at most. But when the landlady had done, and turned her attention to
the girl, Henrietta had moved to the window, so that only her back was
visible. Even then, for quite a long minute Mrs. Gilson stood, with
arms akimbo and pursed lips, reading the lines of the girl's figure
and considering her, as if even her rugged bosom knew pity. And in the
end it was Henrietta who spoke--humbly, alas! now, and in a voice
almost inaudible.

"Will you leave me, please?" she said.

"I will," Mrs. Gilson answered gruffly. "But on one understanding,
miss--and I'll have it plain. It must be all over. If you are
satisfied he is a rascal--he has four children--well and good. But
I'll have no goings on with such in my house, and no making two bites
of a cherry! Here's a bit of paper I'll put on the table."

"I am satisfied," Henrietta whispered.

Under the woman's blunt words she shook as under blows.

But Mrs. Gilson seemed to pay little heed to her feelings.

"Very good, very good!" she answered. "But I'll leave the paper all
the same. It's but a bit of a handbill that fool of a runner brought
with him, but 'twill show you what kind of a poor thing your Joe was.
Just a spouter, that got drunk on his own words and shot a poor
inoffensive gentleman in a shop! Shame on him for a little dirty
murder, if ever there was one."

"Oh, please go! please go!" Henrietta wailed.

"Very well. But there's the paper. And do you begin to
think"--removing with housewifely hand a half-eaten dish of eggs from
the table, and deftly poising on the same arm a large ham--"do you
begin to think like a grown, sensible woman what you'd best do. The
shortest folly's soonest over! That's my opinion."

And with that she opened the door, and, heavily laden, made her way
downstairs.

The girl turned and stood looking at the room, and her face was
wofully changed. It was white and pinched, and full of strained
wonder, as if she asked herself if she were indeed herself, and if it
could really be to her that this thing had happened. She looked older
by years, she looked almost plain. But in her eyes was a latent
fierceness. An observer might have guessed that her pride suffered
more sharply than her heart. Possibly she had never loved the man with
half the fervour with which she now hated him.

And that was true, though the change was sudden; ay, and though
Henrietta did not know it, nor would have admitted it. She suffered
notwithstanding, and horribly. For, besides pride, there were other
things that lay wounded and bleeding: her happy-go-lucky nature that
had trusted lightly, and would be slow to trust again; her girlish
hopes and dreams; and the foolish fancy that had passed for love, and
in a single day, an hour, a minute, might have become love. And one
other thing--the bloom of her innocence. For though she had escaped,
she had come too near the fire not to fear it henceforth, and bear
with her the smell of singeing.

As she thought of that, of her peril and her narrow escape, and
reflected how near she had come to utter shipwreck, her face lost its
piteous look, and grew harder, and sharper, and sterner; so that the
wealth of bright hair, that was her glory, crowned it only too
brilliantly, only too youthfully. She saw how he had fooled her to the
top of her bent; how he had played on her romantic tastes and her
silly desire for secrecy. A low-born creature, an agitator, hiding
from the consequences of a cowardly crime, he had happened upon her in
his twilight walks, desired her--for an amusement, turned her head
with inflated phrases, dazzled her inexperience with hints of the
world and his greatness in it. And she--she had thought herself wiser
than all about her, as she had thought him preferable to the
legitimate lover assigned to her by her family. And she had brought
herself to this! This was the end!

Or no, not the end. The game, for what it was worth, was over. But the
candle-money remained to be paid. Goldsmith's stanzas had still their
vogue; mothers quoted them to their daughters. Henrietta knew that
when lovely woman stoops to folly, even to folly of a lighter
dye--when she learns, though not too late, that men betray, there
is a penalty to be paid. The world is censorious, was censorious then,
and apt to draw from very small evidence a very dark inference.
Henrietta's face, flaming suddenly from brow to neck, proved her vivid
remembrance of this. Had she not called herself--the words burned
her--"his wife in the sight of Heaven"? And now she must go back--if
they would receive her--go back and face those whom she had left so
lightly, face the lover whom she had flouted and betrayed, meet the
smirks of the men and the sneers of the women, and the thoughts of
both! Go back to blush before the servants, and hear from the lips of
that grim prude, her sister-in-law, many things, both true and untrue!

The loss of the tender future, of the rosy anticipations in which she
had lived for weeks as in a fairy palace--she could bear this! And
the rough awakening from the maiden dream which she had taken for
love--she must bear that too, though it left her world cold as the
sheet of grey water before her, and repellent as the bald, rugged
screes that frowned above it. She would bear the heartsickness, the
loneliness, the pain that treachery inflicts on innocence; but the
shame of the home-coming--if they would receive her, which she
doubted--the coarse taunts and stinging innuendoes, the nods, the
shrugs, the winks--these she could not face. Anything, anything were
better, if anything she could find--deserted, flung aside, homeless as
she was.


                          *   *   *   *   *


Meanwhile Mrs. Gilson, descending with a sour face, had come upon a
couple of maids listening at the foot of the stairs. She had made
sharp work of them, sending them packing with fleas in their ears. But
they proved to be only the _avant-couriers_ of scandal. Below were the
Troutbeck apothecary and a dozen gossips, whom the news had brought
over the hill; and hangers-on without number. All, however, had no
better fate with Mrs. Gilson; not the parish constable of Bowness,
whose staff went for little, nor even Mr. Bishop, that great man out
of doors, at whose slightest nod ostlers ran and helpers bowed; he
smiled superior, indeed, but he had the wisdom to withdraw. In two
minutes, in truth, there remained of the buzzing crowd only the old
curate of Troutbeck supping small beer with a toast in it. And he, it
was said, knew better than any the length of the landlady's foot.

But this was merely to move the centre of ferment to the inn-yard.
Here the news that the house had sheltered a man for whose capture the
Government offered six hundred guineas, bred wild excitement. He had
vanished, it was true, like a child of the mist. But he might be found
again. Meantime the rustics gaped on the runner with saucer eyes, or
flew hither and thither at his beck. And Radicals being at a discount
in the Lowther country, and six hundred guineas a sum for which old
Hinkson the miser would have bartered his soul, some spat on their
hands and swore what they would do if they met the devil; while
others, who were not apt at thinking, retired into corners and with
knitted brows and hands plunged into breeches pockets conjured up a
map of the world about Windermere.

It should be borne in mind that at this time police were
unknown--outside London. There were parish constables; but where these
were not cobblers, which was strangely often the case, they were men
past work, appointed to save the rates. If a man's pocket were picked,
therefore, or his stack fired, his daughter abducted, or his mare
stolen, he had only himself and his friends to look to. He must follow
the offender, confront him, seize him, carry him to the gaol. He must
do all himself. Naturally, if he were a timid man or unpopular, the
rogue went free; and sometimes went free again and again until he
became the terror of the country-side. A fact which enables us to
understand the terrors of lonely houses in those days, and explains
the repugnance to life in solitary places which is traditional in some
parts of England.

On the other hand, where the crime was known and outrageous, it
became every man's business. It was every man's duty to join the hue
and cry: if he did not take part in it he was a bad neighbour. Mr.
Bishop, therefore, did not lack helpers. On the first discovery of
Walterson's flight, which the officer had made a little after
daybreak, he had sent horsemen to Whitehaven, Keswick, and Kendal, and
a boat to Newby Bridge. The nearer shore and the woods on the point
below the bishop's house--some called it Landoff House--were well
beaten, and the alarm was given in Bowness on the one hand and in
Ambleside on the other. The general voice had it that the man had got
away early in the night to Whitehaven. But some stated that a pedlar
had met him, on foot and alone, crossing the Kirkstone Pass at
daybreak; and others, that he had been viewed skulking under a
haystack near Troutbeck Bridge. That a beautiful girl, his companion,
had been seized, and was under lock and key in the house, was
whispered by some, but denied by more. Nevertheless, the report won
its way, so that there were few moments when the chatterers who buzzed
about the runner had not an eye on the upper windows and a voice ready
to proclaim their discoveries.

Even those who believed the story, however, were far from having a
true picture of poor Henrietta. With some she passed for a London
Jezebel; locked up, it was whispered, with a bottle of gin to keep her
quiet until the chaise was ready to take her to gaol. Others pictured
her as the frenzied leader of one of the women's clubs which had
lately sprung up in Lancashire, and of which the principal aim,
according to the Tories, was to copy the French fish-fags and march
one day to Windsor to drag the old king, blind and mad as he was, to
the scaffold. Others spoke of a casual light-o'-love picked up at
Lancaster, but a rare piece of goods for looks; which seemed a pity,
and one of those tragedies of the law that were beginning to prick
men's consciences--since there was little doubt that the baggage, poor
lass, would hang with her tempter.

A word or two of these whisperings reached Mrs. Gilson's ears. But she
only sniffed her contempt, or, showing herself for a moment at the
door, chilled by the coldness of her eye the general enthusiasm. Then,
woe betide the servant whom she chanced to espy among the idlers. If a
man, he was glad to hide himself in the stable; if a woman, she was
very likely to go back to her work with a smarting cheek. Even the
Troutbeck apothecary, a roistering blade who was making a day of it,
kept a wary eye on the door, and, if he could, slipped round the
corner when she appeared.

But Juno herself had her moments of failure, and no mortals are exempt
from them. About four in the afternoon Mrs. Gilson got a shock. Modest
Ann, her face redder than usual, came to her and whispered in her ear.
In five seconds the landlady's face was also redder than usual, and
her frown was something to see. She rose.

"I don't believe it!" she answered. "You are daft, woman, to think of
such a thing!"

"It's true, missus, as I stand here!" Ann declared.

"To Kendal gaol? To-night!"

"That very thing! And her"--with angry fervour--"scarce more than a
child, as you may say!"

"Old enough to make a fool of herself!" Mrs. Gilson retorted
spitefully. "But I don't believe it!" she added. "You've heard amiss,
my girl!"

"Well, you'll see," the woman answered. "'Twill be soon settled. The
justice is crossing the road now, and that Bishop with him; and that
little wizened chap of a clerk that makes up the Salutation books. And
the man that keeps the gaol at Appleby: they've been waiting for
him--he's to take her. And there's a chaise ordered to be ready if
it's wanted. It's true, as I stand here!"

Mrs. Gilson's form swelled until it was a wonder the whalebone stood.
But in those days things were of good British make.

"A chaise?" she said.

"Yes."

"There's no chaise," the landlady answered firmly, "goes from here on
that errand!"

Modest Ann knew that when her mistress spoke in that tone the thing
was as good as done. But the waiting-maid, whose heart, for all her
temper, was softer than her features, at which Jim the ostler was
supposed to boggle, was not greatly comforted.

"They'll only send to the Salutation," she said despondently.

"Let them send!" the landlady replied. And taking off her apron, she
prepared to face the enemy. "They'll talk to me before they do!"

But Ann, great as was her belief in her mistress, shook her head.

"What can you do against the law?" she muttered. "I wish that Bishop
may never eat another morsel of hot victuals as long as he lives!
Gravy with the joint? Never while I am serving!"



                              CHAPTER VI

                             THE INQUIRY


"Who is there?"

Henrietta lifted her tear-stained face from the pillow and awaited the
answer. Three hours earlier, her head aching, her heart full,
uncertain what to do or what would follow, she had fled from the
commotion below, and, locking herself in her bedroom, had lain down
with her misery. It was something to find in the apathy of prostration
a brief respite; it was something to close her eyes and lie quite
still. For a while she might keep her door locked, might nurse her
wretchedness, might evade rude looks and curious questions, might
postpone decision.

For the pride that had sustained her in the morning had failed, as the
day wore on. Solitude and the lack of food--she had refused to eat at
midday--had worn down her spirit. At last tears had come, and
plentifully--and repentance. She did not say that the fault was her
own, but she knew it, she admitted it. The man had behaved to her
wickedly, treacherously, horribly; but she had brought it on herself.
He had laid the snare in vain had she not stooped to deceit--had she
not consented to mislead her friends, to meet him secretly, to listen
to him with as little heed of propriety as if she had been Sue at the
forge, or Bess in the still-room. Her own vanity, her own folly, had
brought her to the very verge of ruin; and with shame she owned that
there was more in the old saws with which her sister-in-law had
deafened her than her inexperience had imagined. But the discovery
came late. She was smirched. And what--what was she to do? Where could
she go to avoid the full penalty--the taunts, the shame, the disgrace
that awaited her in the old home?--even if the old home were still
open to her.

Meanwhile she got no answer. And "Who is there?" she repeated wearily.

The reply came muffled through the door.

"You are wanted downstairs, lady."

She rose languidly. Perhaps the time was come. Perhaps her brother was
here, had followed, traced, and found her. For the moment she was all
but indifferent. To-morrow she would suffer, and sorely; but to-day
she had fallen too low. She went slowly to the door and opened it.

Ann stood in the passage.

"They want you downstairs, miss," she said.

The girl saw that the woman looked queerly at her, but she was
prepared for such looks. Unconsciously she had steeled herself to bear
them. "Very well," she returned, and did not ask who wanted her. But
she went back to her table, dabbed her eyes with cold water, and
smoothed her hair and her neck-ribbon--she had pride enough for that.
Then she went to the door. The woman was still outside, still staring.

"I did not know that you were waiting," Henrietta said, faintly
surprised. "I know my way down."

"I was to come with you, miss."

"Where are they, then?"

"They are where you were this morning," the woman answered. "This way,
if you please."

Henrietta followed listlessly, and fancied in the sullenness of her
apathy that she was proof against aught that could happen. But when
she had descended the stairs and neared the door of Mr. Rogers's
room--which was in a dusky passage--she found herself, to her
astonishment, brushing past a row of people, who flattened themselves
against the wall to let her pass. Their eyes and their hard
breathing--perhaps because she was amongst them before she saw
them--impressed her so disagreeably that her heart fluttered, and she
paused. For an imperceptible instant she was on the point of turning
and going back. But, fortunately, at that moment the door opened wide,
Ann stood aside, and Mrs. Gilson showed herself. She beckoned to the
girl to enter.

"Come in, miss," she said gruffly, as Henrietta complied. "Here's some
gentlemen want to ask you a question or two."

Henrietta saw two persons with their faces turned towards her seated
behind a table, which bore ink and paper and one or two calf-bound
books. Behind these were three or four other persons standing; and
beside the door close to her were as many more, also on their feet.
But nowhere could she see the dreaded face of her brother, or, indeed,
any face that she knew. And after advancing firmly enough into the
room, she stopped, and, turning, looked uncertainly at Mrs. Gilson.

"There must be some mistake," she murmured. "I have come into the----"

"Wrong room, miss?"--the speaker was Bishop, who was one of the three
or four who stood behind the two at the table. "No, there's no
mistake, miss," he continued, with exaggerated cheerfulness. "It's
just a formality. Only just a formality. These gentlemen wish to ask
you one or two questions."

The colour rose to her cheeks.

"To ask me?" she repeated, with a slight ring of hauteur in her voice.

"Just so," Bishop answered. "It will be all right, I am sure. But
attend to this gentleman, if you please, and answer his questions."

He indicated with his finger the one seated before him.

The girl, half angry, half frightened, lowered her eyes and met those
of the person at the table. Apparently her aspect had checked the
exordium he had prepared; for instead of addressing her in the tones
which were wont to fill the justice-room at Ambleside, Mr. Hornyold,
rector and magistrate, sat back in his chair, and stared at her in
silence. It was evident that his astonishment was great. He was a
portly man, and tall, about forty years old, and, after his fashion,
handsome. He had well-formed features and a mobile smile; but his face
was masterful--overmasterful, some thought; and his eyes were hard,
when a sly look did not soften, without much improving, their
expression. The girl before him was young, adorably fresh, above all,
beautiful; and the smile of the man peeped from under the mask of the
justice. He stared at her, and she at him, and perhaps of the two he
was the more taken aback. At any rate, it was Henrietta who broke the
silence.

"I do not understand," she said, with ill-suppressed indignation, "why
I am here. Are you sure that there is no mistake?"

He found his voice then.

"Quite sure," he said drily. And he laid down the pen with which he
had been toying while he stared at her. He sat a little more erect in
his chair. "There is no mistake," he continued, "though for your sake,
young woman, I wish I could think there was. I wish I could think
there was," he repeated in a more indulgent tone, "since you seem, at
any rate, a more respectable person than I expected to see."

"Sir!"

The girl's eyes opened wide. Her face was scarlet.

He leaned forward.

"Come, my girl," he said--and his familiar tone struck her, as it
were, in the face,--never had such a tone been used to her before!
"Let us have no nonsense. You will not improve your case that way. Let
me tell you, we are accustomed to all sorts here. You must speak when
you are told to speak, and be silent when you are bid, and in the
meantime listen to me! Listen to me, I say!" staying by an imperious
nod the angry remonstrance that was on her lips. "And remember where
you are, if you wish to be well treated. If you are sensible and tell
the truth, some other course will be found than that which, it is to
be feared, must end this business."

"But by what right," Henrietta cried, striving to command both her
rage and her fear--"by what right----"

"Am I about to question you?"--with a smirk of humour and a glance at
the audience. "By the right of the law, young woman, which I would
have you know is of some account here, however it may stand in
Lancashire."

"The law?" she stammered. And she looked round terrified. "Why? Why?
What have I done?" she cried pathetically.

For a moment all was dark before her.

He laughed slyly.

"That's to be seen," he said. "No hanging matter," he continued
humorously, "I hope. And as it's good law that everybody's
innocent--that's so, Mr. Dobbie, is it not?"--he addressed the
clerk--"until he's found to be guilty, let somebody set the young
woman a chair."

"I can stand!" she cried.

"Nay, you sit down!" muttered a gruff voice in her ear. And a hand--it
was Mrs. Gilson's--pressed her down in the chair. "And you answer
straight out," the woman continued coolly, in defiance of the
scandalised look which Mr. Dobbie, the clerk, cast upon her, "and
there's not one of 'em can do you any harm."

The magistrate nodded.

"That's true," he said tolerantly, "always supposing that you've done
no wrong, my girl--no wrong beyond getting into bad company, as I
trust will turn out to be the case. Now, Mr. Dobbie, take down her
answers. What's your name, my girl, first?"

Henrietta looked at him steadily; she was trying to place herself in
these new conditions. Something like composure was coming back to her
flushed and frightened face. She reflected; and having reflected, she
was silent.

He fancied that she had not heard, or did not understand.

"Your name, young woman," he repeated, "and your last place of abode?
Speak up! And don't be afraid."

But she did not answer.

He frowned.

"Come, come," he said. "Did you hear me? Where is your home, and what
do you call yourself? You are not the man's wife, I know. We know as
much as that, you see, so you may as well be frank."

"What is the charge against me?" She spoke slowly, and her face was
now set and stubborn. "Of what am I accused?"

Mr. Hornyold's face turned a brick red. He did not rule three parishes
through three curates, reserving to himself only the disciplinary
powers he was now exercising, to be thwarted by a run-the-country
girl; who, in spite of her looks, was, ten to one, no better than the
imprudent wenches the overseers were continually bringing before him.
He knew at least the company she kept. He raised his voice.

"I am not here to answer your questions!" he said, bending his brows.
"But you mine! You mine!" he repeated, rapping the table sharply. "Do
you hear? Now, you will at once tell me----"

He broke off. The clerk had touched his sleeve and was whispering in
his ear. He frowned impatiently, but listened. And after a moment he
shrugged his shoulders.

"Very well," he said. "Tell her!"

The clerk, a shabby man with a scratch wig and a little glass
ink-bottle at his buttonhole, raised his eyes, and looking at her over
his glasses, spoke:

"You are not yet charged," he said; "but if you cannot give a
satisfactory account of yourself you will be charged with receiving,
harbouring, and assisting one William Walterson the younger, otherwise
Stewart, otherwise Malins, against whom indictments for various
felonies and treason felonies have been found. And with aiding and
abetting the escape of the said William Walterson, in whose company
you have been found. And with being accessory after the fact to
various felonies----"

"To murder!" said Mr. Hornyold, cutting him short emphatically. "To
murder! amongst other things. That is the charge, if you must know it.
So now"--he rapped the table sharply--"answer at once, and the truth.
What is your name? And where was your last place of abode?"

But Henrietta, if she were willing to answer, could not. At the sound
of that dreadful word "murder!"--they hanged lightly, so lightly in
those days!--the colour had fled from her face. The darkness that had
confused her a while before hid all. She kept her seat, she even
retained her erect posture; but the hands which she raised before her
as if to ward off something groped idly in the air.

Murder! No wonder that she lost consciousness for a moment, or that
Hornyold, secretly relishing her beauty, thought that he had found the
weapon that would soon bring her to her knees! or that the little
audience by the door, listening awestruck, held their breath. The
wonder was that only one of them judged from the girl's gesture that
she was fainting. Only one acted. Mrs. Gilson stepped forward and
shook her roughly by the shoulder.

"Words break no bones!" the landlady said without ceremony--and not
without an angry look at the clerk, who raised his pen as if he would
interpose. "Don't you make a fool of yourself. But do you tell them
what they want to know. And your friends will settle with them.
Murder, indeed! Pack of boddles!"

"Very good advice," said the magistrate, smiling indulgently.
"But----"

"But you must not interfere!" snapped the clerk--who kept the books of
the Salutation in Ambleside and not of the Low Wood Inn.

"Haven't you sense to see the girl is fainting?" the landlady replied
wrathfully.

"Oh, well----"

"I am better now," Henrietta said bravely. And she drew a deep breath.
A little colour--induced perhaps by Hornyold's unsparing gaze--was
coming back to her cheeks. "Would you--can I have a glass of water?"
she murmured.

Mrs. Gilson was bustling to the door to give the order when it opened,
and Mr. Bishop, who had gone to it a moment before, took in a glass of
wine, and, secretly pleased that he had anticipated the need, handed
it to her. Mrs. Gilson took it with a grunt of distrust, and made the
girl swallow it; while the magistrate waited and watched, and thought
that he had never seen a young woman who was so handsome, pale or red,
fainting or fierce. And so fresh! so admirably, astonishingly fresh
for the companion of such a man. A good many thoughts of various kinds
flitted through his mind as he watched her, marking now the luxuriance
of her fair hair, now the white chin, small but firm, and now the
faint, faint freckles that, like clots in cream, only added to the
delicacy of her complexion. He waited without impatience until the
girl had drunk the wine, and when he spoke it was in a tone
approaching the paternal.

"Now, my dear," he said, "you are going to be a good girl and
sensible, I am sure. We don't want to send you to prison to herd with
people with whom, to judge from your appearance, you have not been
wont to mix. And therefore we give you this opportunity--there's no
need we should, you know--of telling us who you are, and whence you
come, and what you know; that if it appears that you have fallen into
this man's company in ignorance, and not knowing what manner of man he
was, we may prevent this charge appearing, and instead of committing
you to Appleby, place you here or elsewhere under bond to appear.
Which, in a case so serious as this, is not a course we could adopt
were you not so very young, and," with a humorous look at the group by
the door, "so very good-looking! So now be a good girl and don't be
afraid, but tell me at once who you are, and where you joined this
man."

"If I do not," Henrietta said, looking at him with clear eyes, "must I
go to prison?"

"Appleby gaol," said the clerk, glancing over his glasses.

"Then you must send me there," she replied, a little faintly. "For I
cannot tell you."

"Don't be a fool!" growled Mrs. Gilson in her ear.

"I cannot tell you," Henrietta repeated more firmly.

Mr. Hornyold stared. He was growing angry, for he was not accustomed
to be set at naught. After their fashion they all stared.

"Come, come, my dear," the runner remonstrated smoothly. "If you don't
tell us, we shall think there's more behind."

She did not answer.

"And that being so, it's only a matter of time to learn what it is,"
the runner continued cunningly. "Tell us now and save time, because we
are sure to get to know. Young women as pretty as you are not hard to
trace."

But she shook her head. And the face Bishop called pretty was
stubborn. The group by the door, marking for future gossip every
particular of her appearance, the stuff of her riding-habit, the
fineness of her linen, the set of her head, made certain that she was
no common trollope. They wondered what would happen to her, and hoped,
the more tender-hearted, that there would be no scene, and no
hysterics to end it.

The clerk raised his pen in the air. "Understand," he said, "you will
be remanded to Appleby gaol--it's no very comfortable place, I can
tell you--and later, you will be brought up again and committed, I've
very little doubt, to take your trial on these charges. If the
principal offender be taken, as he is likely to be taken before the
day is out, you'll be tried with him. But it is not necessary. Now do
you understand?" he continued, speaking slowly. "And are you still
determined to give no evidence--showing how you came to be with this
man?"

Henrietta's eyes were full of trouble. She shivered.

"Where shall I be tried?" she muttered in an unsteady voice.

"Appleby," the clerk said curtly. "Or in His Majesty's Bench at
Westminster! Now think, before it is too late."

"It is too late," she answered in a low tone, "I cannot help it now."

The magistrate leant forward. What a fool the girl was! If she went to
Appleby he would see no more of her, save for an hour or two when she
was brought up again before being committed. Whereas, if she spoke and
they made her a witness, she might be lodged somewhere in the
neighbourhood under surveillance. And she was so handsome and so
young--the little fool!--he would not be sorry to see more of her.


[Illustration: "I give you a last chance," he said.]


"I give you a last chance," he said.

She shook her head.

The magistrate shrugged his shoulders.

"Then make the committal out!" he said. "There's enough to justify
it." It was some satisfaction to think that locked up with half a
dozen sluts at Appleby she would soon be sorry for herself. "Make it
out!" he repeated.

If the hysterics did not come now he was very much mistaken if they
did not come later, when the gaol doors were shut on her. She was
evidently of respectable condition; a curate's daughter, perhaps,
figged out by the man who had deceived her, or a lady's lady, spoiled
by. her mistress, and taught ideas above her station. On such, the
gaol, with its company and its hardships, fell severely. It would
soon, he fancied, bring her to her senses.

The clerk dipped his pen in the ink, and after casting a last glance
at the girl to see if she would still yield, began to write. She
watched him with fascinated eyes, watched him in a kind of stupor. The
thought throbbed loudly and more loudly in her head, "What will become
of me? What will become of me?" Meanwhile the silence was broken only
by the squeaking of the pen and a single angry "Lord's sakes!" which
fell from the landlady. The others awaited the end with whatever of
pity, or interest, or greedy excitement came natural to them. They
were within, and others were without; and they had a delicious sense
of privilege. They would have much to tell: For one does not every day
see a pretty girl, young, and tenderly nurtured, as this girl seemed
to be, and a lady to the eye, committed to the common gaol on a charge
of murder--murder, and treason felony, was it, they called it? Treason
felony! That meant hanging, drawing, and quartering. Lord's sakes,
indeed; poor thing, how would she bear it? And though it is likely
that some among them--Mrs. Gilson for one--didn't think it would come
to this, there was a frown on the landlady's brow that would have done
honour to the Lord Chancellor Eldon himself.



                             CHAPTER VII

                        CAPTAIN ANTHONY CLYNE


Mr. Bishop of Bow Street alone watched the clerk's pen with a look of
doubt. He had his own views about the girl. But he did not interfere,
and his discontent with the posture of affairs was only made clear
when a knock came at the door. Then he was at the door, and had raised
the latch before those who were nearest could open.

"Have you got him?" he asked eagerly. And he thrust his head into the
passage.

Even Henrietta turned to catch the answer, her lips parting. Her
breath seemed to stop. The clerk held his pen. The magistrate by a
gesture exacted silence.

"No, but----"

"No?" the runner cried in chagrin.

"No!" The voice sounded something peremptory. "Certainly not. But I
want to see--ahem!--yes, Mr. Hornyold. At once!"

Henrietta, at the first word of the answer, had turned again. She had
turned so far that she now had her back full to the door, and her face
to the farthest corner. But it was not the same Henrietta, nor the
same face. She sat rigid, stiff, turned to stone; she was scarlet from
hair to neck-ribbon. Her very eyes burned, her shoulders burned. And
her eyes were wild with insupportable shame. To be found thus! To be
found thus, and by him! Better, far better the gaol, and all it meant!

Meanwhile the magistrate, after a brief demur and a little whispering
and the appearance of a paper with a name on it, rose. He went out. A
moment later his clerk was summoned, and he went out. Bishop had gone
out first of all. Those who were left and who had nothing better to do
than to stare at the girl's back, whispered together, or bade one
another listen and hear what was afoot outside. Presently these were
joined by one or two of the boldest in the passage, who muttered
hurriedly what they knew, or sought information, or stared with double
power at the girl's back. But Henrietta sat motionless, with the same
hot blush on her cheeks and the same misery in her eyes.

Presently Mrs. Gilson was summoned, and she went out. The others,
freed from the constraint of her presence, talked a little louder and
a little more freely. And wonder grew. The two village constables, who
remained and who felt themselves responsible, looked important, and
one cried "Silence" a time or two, as if the court were sitting. The
other explained the law, of which he knew as much as a Swedish turnip,
on the subject of treason felony. But mixing it up with the _Habeas
Corpus_ which was then suspended, he was tripped up by a neighbour
before he could reach the minutiæ of the punishment. Which otherwise
must have had much interest for the prisoner.

At length the door opened, the other constable cried, "Silence!
Silence in the court!" And there entered--the landlady.

The surprise of the little knot of people at the back of the room was
great but short-lived.

Mrs. Gilson turned about and surveyed them with her arms akimbo and
her lower lip thrust out. "You can all just go!" she said. "And the
sooner the better! And if ever I catch you"--to the more successful of
the constables, on whose feet her eye had that moment alighted--"up my
stairs with those dirty clogs, Peter Harrison, I'll clout you! Now,
off you go! Do you think I keep carpets for loons like you?"

"But--the prisoner?" gasped Peter, clutching at his fast-departing
glory. "The prisoner, missus?"

"The goose!" the landlady retorted with indescribable scorn. "Go you
down and see what the other ganders think of it. And leave me to mind
my business! I'll see to the prisoner." And she saw them all out and
closed the door.

When the room was clear she tapped Henrietta on the shoulder. "There's
no gaol for you," she said bluntly. "Though it is not yourself you've
got to thank for it. They've put you in my charge and you're to stay
here, and I'm to answer for you. So you'll just say straight out if
you'll stay, or if you'll run."

Had the girl burst into tears the landlady had found it reasonable.
Instead, "Where is he?" Henrietta whispered. She did not even turn her
head.

"Didn't you hear," Mrs. Gilson retorted, "that he had not been taken?"

"I mean--I mean----"

"Ah!" Mrs. Gilson exclaimed, a little enlightened. "You mean the
gentleman that was here, and spoke for you? Yes, you are right, it's
him you've to thank. Well, he's gone to Whitehaven, but he'll see you
tomorrow."

Henrietta sighed.

"In the meantime," Mrs. Gilson continued, "you'll give me your word
you'll not run. Gilson is bound for you in fifty pounds to show you
when you're wanted. And as fifty pounds is fifty pounds, and a mint of
money, I'd as soon turn the key on you as not. Girls that run once,
run easy," the landlady added severely.

"I will not run away," Henrietta said meekly--more meekly perhaps than
she had ever spoken in her life. "And--and I am much obliged to you,
and thankful to you," in a very small voice. "Will you please to let
me go to my room, and you can lock me in?"

She had risen from her seat, and though she did not turn to the
landlady, she stole, shamed and askance, a look at her. Her lip
trembled, her head hung. And Mrs. Gilson, on her side, seemed for a
moment on the verge of some unwonted demonstration; she stood awkward
and large, and perhaps from sheer clumsiness avoided even while she
appeared to invite the other's look. But nothing happened until the
two passed out, Henrietta first, like a prisoner, and Mrs. Gilson
stiffly following.

Then there were half a dozen persons waiting to stare in the passage,
and the way Mrs. Gilson's tongue fell loose was a warning. In two
seconds, only one held her ground: the same dark girl with the
gipsy-like features whose mocking smile had annoyed Henrietta as she
dressed that morning. Ah, me! what ages ago that morning seemed!

To judge from Mrs. Gilson's indignation, this girl was the last who
should have stood.

"Don't you black-look me!" the landlady cried. "But pack! D'you hear,
impudence, pack! Or not one drop of milk do I take from your old
skinflint of a father! And he'll drub you finely, if he's not too old
and silly--till you smile on the other side of your face! I'd like to
know what's taken you to-day to push yourself among your betters!"

"No harm," the girl muttered. She had retreated, scowling, half-way
down the stairs.

"And no good, either!" the landlady retorted. "Get you gone, or I'll
make your ears ring after another fashion!"

Henrietta heard no more. She had shrunk from the uproar and fled
quickly to her room. With a bursting heart and a new humility she
drew the key from the wards of the lock and set it on the outside,
hoping--though the hope was slender--to avoid further words with the
landlady. The hope came nearer fulfilment, however, than she expected;
for Mrs. Gilson, after panting upstairs, only cried through the door
that she would send her up supper, and then went down again--perhaps
with a view to catching Bess Hinkson in a fresh trespass.

Bess was gone, however. But adventures are for the brave, and not ten
minutes passed before the landlady was at issue with a fresh
adversary. She found the coach-office full, so full that it overflowed
into the hall. Modest Ann, called this way and that, had need of four
hands to meet the demands made upon her; so furious were the calls for
the lemons and rum and Old Geneva, the grateful perfume of which
greeted Mrs. Gilson as she descended. Alas, something else greeted
her: and that was a voice, never a favourite with her, but now
raised in accents particularly distasteful. Tyson, the Troutbeck
apothecary--a flashy, hard-faced young man in pepper-and-salt, and
Bedford cords--had seized the command and the ear of the company in
the coach-office, and was roasting Long Tom Gilson upon his own
hearth.

"Not know who she is?" he was saying in the bullying tone which made
him hated of the pauper class. "You don't ask me to believe that, Tom?
Come! Come!"

"It's what I say," Gilson answered.

He sat opposite the other, his hands on his knees, his face red and
sulky. He did not like to be baited.

"And you go bail for her?" Tyson cried. "You have gone bail for her?"

"Well?"

"And don't know her name?"

"Well--no."

The doctor sat back in his chair, his glass in his hand, and looked
round for approbation.

"Well, gentlemen," he said, "what do you think of that for a
dalesman?"

"Well, it wasn't long-headed, Tom," said one unwillingly. "Not to call
long-headed, so to speak," with north-country caution. "I'd not go
bail myself, not for nobody I'd not know."

"No," several agreed. "No, no!"

"No, but----"

"But what, Tom, what?" the doctor asked, waiting in his positive
fashion for the other to plunge deeper into the mire.

"Captain Clyne, that I do know," Gilson continued, "it was he said 'Do
it!' And he said something to the Rector, I don't doubt, for he was
agreeable."

"But he did not go bail for her?" the apothecary suggested
maliciously.

"No," Tom answered, breathing hard. "But for reason she was not there,
but here. Anyway," he continued, somewhat anxious to shift the
subject, "he said it and I done it, and I'd do it again for Captain
Clyne. I tell you he's not a man as it's easy to say 'No' to, Mr.
Tyson. As these Radicals i' Lancashire ha' found out, 'od rot 'em!
He's that active among 'em, he's never a letter, I'm told, but has a
coffin drawn on it, and yeomanry in his house down beyond both day and
night, I hear!"

"I heard," said one, "in Cartmel market, he was to be married next
week."

"Ay," said the doctor jocosely, "but not to the young lady as Tom is
bail for! I tell you, Tom, he's been making a fool of you just to keep
this bit of evidence against the Radicals in his hands."

"Why not send her to Appleby gaol, then?" Tom retorted, with a fair
show of sense.

"Because he knows you'll cosset her here, and he thinks to loose her
tongue that way! They can gaol her after, if this don't answer."

"Oh, indeed!"

"Ay, while you run the risk! If it's not that, what's he doing here?"

"Why should he not be here?" Gilson asked slowly. "Hasn't he the old
house in Furness, not two miles from Newby Bridge! And his mother a
Furness woman. I do hear that the boy's to be brought there for safety
till the shires are quieter. And maybe it's that brings Captain
Anthony here."

"But what has that to do with the young woman you're going bail for?"
the doctor retorted. "Go bail, Tom, for a wench you don't know, and
that'll jump the moon one of these fine nights! I tell you, man, I
never heard the like! Never! Go bail for a girl you don't know!"

"And I tell you," cried a voice that made the glasses ring, "I have
heard the like! And I'll give you the man, my lad!" And Mrs. Gilson,
putting aside the two who blocked the doorway, confronted the
offending Tyson with a look comparable only to that of Dr. Keats of
Eaton when he rolled up his sleeves. "I'll give you the name, my lad!"
she repeated.

"Well," the doctor answered, though he was manifestly taken aback,
"you must confess, Mrs. Gilson----"

"Nay, I'll confess nothing!" the landlady retorted. "What need, when
you're the man? Not give bail for a woman you don't know? Much you
knew of Madge Peters when you made her your wife! And wasn't that
going bail for her? Ay, and bail that you'll find it hard to get out
of, my man, though you may wish to! For the matter of that, it's small
blame to her, whatever comes of it!" Mrs. Gilson continued, setting
her arms akimbo. "If all I hear of your goings-on is true! What do you
think she's doing, ill and sick at home, while you're hanging about
old Hinkson's? Ay, you may look black, but tell me what Bess Hinkson's
doing about my place all this day? I never saw her here twice in a day
in all my life before, and----"

"What do you mean?" Tyson cried violently. To hear a thing which he
thought no one suspected brought up thus before a roomful of men! He
looked black as thunder at his accuser.

"I mean no harm of your wife," the terrible landlady answered;
something--perhaps this roasting of her husband on his own hearth--had
roused her beyond the ordinary. "None, my gentleman, and I know none.
But if you want no harm said of her, show yourself a bit less at
Hinkson's. And a bit less in my house. And a bit more in your own! And
the harm will be less likely to happen!"

"I'll never cross your doorstep again!" Tyson roared.


[Illustration: He neither cared nor saw who it was whom he had
jostled]


And stumbling to his feet he cast off one or two who in their well
meaning would have stayed him. He made for the door. But he was not to
escape without further collision. On the threshold he ran plump
against a person who was entering, cursed the newcomer heartily, and
without a look pushed violently by him and was gone.

He neither cared nor saw who it was whom he had jostled. But the
company saw, and some rose to their feet in consternation, while
others, carried their hands to their heads. There was an involuntary
movement of respect which the new comer acknowledged by touching his
hat. He had the air of one who knew how to behave to his inferiors;
but the air, also, of one who never forgot that they were his
inferiors.

"Your friend seems in a hurry," he said. His face was not a face that
easily betrayed emotion, but he looked tired.

"Beg your honour's pardon, I am sure," Gilson answered. "Something's
put him out, and he did not see you, sir."

Mrs. Gilson muttered that a pig could have seen. But her words were
lost in the respectful murmur which made the company sharers in the
landlord's apology.

Not that for the most part they knew the strange gentleman. But there
is a habit of authority which once gained becomes a part of the man.
And Anthony Clyne had this. He retained wherever he went some shadow
of the quarter-deck manner. He had served under Nelson, and under
Exmouth; but he had resisted, as a glance at his neat, trim figure
proved, that coarsening influence which spoiled for Pall Mall too many
of the sea-dogs of the great war. Like his famous leader, he had left
an arm in the cockpit; and the empty sleeve which he wore pinned to
the lappel of his coat added, if possible, to the dignity of the
upright carriage and the lean, shaven face. The death of his elder
brother had given him the family place, a seat in the House, a chair
at White's, and an income handsome for his day. And he looked all this
and more; so that such a company as now eyed him with respect judged
him a very perfect gentleman, if a little distant.

But from Clyne Old Hall, where he lived, he could see on the horizon
the smoke of toiling cities; and in those cities there were hundreds
who hated his cold proud face, and thousands who cursed his name. Not
that he was a bad man or a tyrant, or himself ground the faces of the
poor. But discipline was his watchword, and reform his bugbear. To
palter with reform, to listen to a word about the rights of the
masses, was to his mind to parley with anarchy. That governors and
governed could be the same appeared to his mind as absurd as that His
Majesty's ships could be commanded from the forecastle. All for the
people and nothing by the people was his political maxim, and one
amply meeting, as he believed, all eventualities. Lately he had had it
carved on a mantel-piece, and the prattle of his only child, as the
club-footed boy spelled it out syllable by syllable, was music to his
ears.

Whoever wavered, therefore, whoever gave to the violence of those
times, he stood firm. And he made others stand. It was his honest
belief that a little timely severity--in other words, a whiff of
grape-shot--would have nipped the French Revolution in the bud; and
while he owned that the lower orders were suffering and times were
bad, that bread was dear and work wanting, he was for quelling the
least disorder with the utmost rigour of the law.

Such was the man who accepted with a curt nod Tom Gilson's apology.
Then "Have you a room ready?" he asked.

"The fire is still burning in Mr. Rogers's room," Mrs. Gilson
answered, smoothing at once her apron and her brow. "And it'll not be
used again to-night. But I thought that you had gone on, sir, to
Whitehaven."

"I shall go on to-morrow," he answered, frowning slightly.

"I'll show your honour the way," Tom Gilson said.

"Very good," he answered. "And dinner, ma'am, as soon as possible."

"To be sure, sir." And "This way, your honour." And taking two candles
Gilson went out before Captain Clyne, and with greater ceremony than
would be used in these days, lighted him along the passage and up the
stairs to Mr. Rogers's room in the south wing.

The fire had sunk somewhat low, but the room which had witnessed so
many emotions in the last twenty-four hours made no sign. The table
had been cleared. The glass fronts of the cupboards shone dully; only
a chair or two stood here or there out of place. That was all. But had
Henrietta, when she descended to breakfast that morning, foreseen who
would fill her chair before night, who would dine at her table and
brood with stern unseeing eyes on the black-framed prints, for whom
the pale-faced clock would tick off depressing seconds, what--what
would she have thought? And how would she have faced her future?



                             CHAPTER VIII

                           STARVECROW FARM


The company at Mrs. Gilson's, impressed by the appearance of a
gentleman of Captain Clyne's position, scarce gave a second thought to
the doctor's retreat. But to Tyson, striding homewards through the mud
and darkness, the insult he had suffered and the feeble part he had
played filled the world. For him the inn-parlour still cackled at his
expense. He saw himself the butt of the evening, the butt of many
evenings. He was a vain, ill-conditioned man, who among choice spirits
would have boasted of his philandering. But not the less he hated to
be brought to book before those whom he deemed his inferiors. He could
not deny that the landlady had trounced him, and black bile whelmed
all his better feelings as he climbed the steep track behind the inn.
"D----d shrew!" he growled, "D----d shrew!" and breathing hard, as
much in rage as with exertion, he stood an instant to look back and
shake his fist before he plunged into the darkness of the wooded dell
through which the path ascended.

Two or three faint lights marked the position of the inn a couple of
fields below him. Beyond it the pale surface of the lake reflected a
dim radiance, bestowed on it through some rift in the clouds invisible
from where he stood. A far-away dog barked, a curlew screamed on the
hill above him, the steady fall of a pair of oars in the rowlocks rose
from the lake. The immensity of the night closed all in; and on the
thoughtful might have laid a burden of melancholy.

But Tyson thought of his wrongs, not of the night, and with a curse he
turned and plunged into the wood, following a path impossible for a
stranger. As it was he stumbled over roots, the saplings whipped him
smartly, a low bough struck off his hat, and when he came to the
stream which whirled through the bottom of the dingle he had much ado
to find the plank bridge. But at length he emerged from the wood,
gained the road, and mounted the steep shoulder that divided the Low
Wood hamlet from the vale of Troutbeck.

Where his road topped the ridge the gaunt outline of a tall, narrow
building rose in the gloom. It resembled a sentry-box commanding
either valley. It was set back some twenty paces from the road with
half a dozen ragged fir trees intervening; and on its lower side--but
the night hid them--some mean farm-buildings clung to the steep. With
the wind soughing among the firs and rustling through the scanty
grass, the place on that bleak shoulder seemed lonely even at night.
But in the day its ugliness and barrenness were a proverb. They called
it "Starvecrow Farm."

Nevertheless, Tyson paused at the gate, and with an irresolute oath
looked over it.

"Cursed shrew!" he said, for the third time. "What business is it of
hers if I choose to amuse myself?"

And with his heart hardened, he flung the gate wide, and entered. He
had not gone two paces before he leapt back, startled by the fierce
snarl of a dog, that, unseen, flung itself to the end of its chain.
Disappointed in its spring, it began to bay.

The doctor's fright was only momentary.

"What, Turk!" he cried. "What are you doing here? What the blazes are
you doing here? Down, you brute, down!"

The dog knew his voice, ceased to bark, and began to whimper. Tyson
entered, and assured that the watchdog knew him, kicked it brutally
from his path. Then he groped his way between the trees, stumbled down
three broken steps at the corner of the house, and passing round the
building reached the door which was on the further side from the road.
He tried it, but it was fastened. He knocked on it.

A slip-shod foot dragged across a stone floor. A high cracked voice
asked, "Who's there?"

"I! Tyson!" the doctor answered impatiently. "Who should it be at this
hour?"

"Is't you, doctor?"

"Yes, yes!"

"Who's wi' ye?"

"No one, you old fool! Who should there be?"

A key creaked in the lock, and the great bar was withdrawn; but
slowly, as it seemed to the apothecary, and reluctantly. He entered
and the door was barred behind him.

"Where's Bess?" he asked.

The bent creeping figure that had admitted him replied that she was
"somewheres about, somewheres about." After which, strangely clad in a
kind of bedgown and nightcap, it trailed back to the settle beside the
turf and wood fire, which furnished both light and warmth. The fire,
indeed, was the one generous thing the room contained. All else was
sordid and pinched and mean. The once-whitened walls were stained, the
rafters were smoked in a dozen places, the long dresser--for the room
was large, though low--was cracked and ill-furnished, a brick
supported one leg of the table. Even in the deep hearth-place, where
was such comfort as the place could boast, a couple of logs served for
stools and a frowsy blanket gave a squalid look to the settle.

Tyson stood on the hearth with his back to the fire, and eyed the room
with a scowl of disgust. The old man, bent double over a stick which
he was notching, breathed loudly and laboriously.

"What folly is this about the dog?" Tyson asked contemptuously.

The old man looked up, cunning in his eyes.

"Ask her," he said.

"Eh?"

The miser bending over his task seemed to be taken with a fit of
silent laughter.

"It's the still sow sups the brose," he said. "And I'm still! I'm
still."

"What are you doing?" Tyson growled.

"Nothing much! Nothing much! You've not," looking up with greed in his
eyes, "an old letter-back to spare?"

Tyson seldom came to the house unfurnished with one. He had long known
that Hinkson belonged to the class of misers who, if they can get a
thing for nothing, are as well pleased with a scrap of paper, a length
of string, or a mouldy crust, as with a crown-piece. The poor land
about the house, which with difficulty supported three or four cows,
on the produce of which the Hinksons lived, might have been made
profitable at the cost of some labour and a little money. But labour
and money were withheld. And Tyson often doubted if the miser's store
were as large as rumour had it, or even if there were a store at all.

"Not that," he would add, "large or small, some one won't cut his
throat for it one day!"

He produced the old letter, and after showing it, held it behind him.

"What of the dog now?" he said.

"Na, na, I'll not speak for that!"

"Then you won't have it!"

But the old fellow only cackled superior.

"What's--what's--a pound-note a week? Is't four pound a month?"

"Ay!" the doctor answered. "It is. That's money, my lad!"

"Ay!"

The old man hugged himself, and rocked to and fro in an ecstasy.

"That's money! And four pound a month," he consulted the stick he was
notching, "is forty-eight pound a year?"

"And four to it," Tyson answered. "Who's paying you that?"

"Na, na!"

"And what's it to do with the dog?"

Hinkson looked knavish but frightened.

"Hist!" he said. "Here's Bess. I'd use to wallop her, but now----"

"She wallops you," the visitor muttered. "That's the ticket, I
expect."

The girl entered by the mean staircase door and nodded to him coolly.

"I supposed it was you," she said slightingly.

And for the hundredth or two-hundredth time he felt with rage that he
was in the presence of a stronger nature than his own. He could treat
the old man, whose greed had survived his other passions, and almost
his faculties, pretty much as he pleased. But though he had sauntered
through the gate a score of times with the intention of treating Bess
as he had treated more than one village girl who pleased him, he had
never re-crossed the threshold without a sense not only of defeat, but
of inferiority. He came to strut, he remained to kneel.

He fought against that feeling now, calling his temper to his aid.

"What folly is this about the dog?" he asked.

"Father thinks," she replied demurely, "that if thieves come it can be
heard better at the gate."

"Heard? I should think it could be heard in Bowness!"

"Just so."

"But your father----"

"Father!" sharply, "go to bed!" And then to the visitor, "Give him a
ha'penny," she muttered. "He won't go without!"

"But I don't care----"

"I don't care either--which of you goes!" she retorted. "But one of
you goes."

Sullenly he produced a copper and put it in the old man's quivering
hand--not for the first time by several. Hinkson gripped it, and
closing his hand upon it as if he feared it would be taken from him,
he hobbled away, and disappeared behind the dingy hangings of the
box-bed.

"And now what's the mystery?" Tyson asked, seating himself on one of
the stools.

"There is none," she answered, standing before him where the firelight
fell on her dark face and gipsy beauty. "Call it a whim if you like.
Perhaps I don't want my lads to come in till I've raddled my cheeks!
Or perhaps"--flippantly--"Oh, any 'perhaps' you like!"

"I know no lad you have but me," he said.

"I don't know one," she answered, seating herself on the settle, and
bending forward with her elbows on her knees and her face between her
hands. It was a common pose with her. "When I've a lad I want a man!"
she continued--"a man!"

"Don't you call me a man?" he answered, his eyes taking their fill of
her face.

"Of a sort." she rejoined disdainfully. "Of a sort. Good enough for
here. But I shan't live all my life here! D'you ever think what a
God-forsaken corner this is, Tyson? Why, man, we are like mice in a
dark cupboard, and know as much of the world!"

"What's the world to us?" he asked. Her words and her ways were often
a little beyond him.

"That's it!" she answered, in a tone of contemptuous raillery. "What's
the world to us? We are here and not there. We must curtsey to parson
and bob to curate, and mind our manners with the overseers! We must be
proud if Madam inquires after our conduct, but we must not fancy that
we are the same flesh and blood as she is! Ah, when I meet her," with
sudden passion, "and she looks at me to see if I am clean, I--do you
know what I think of? Do you know what I dream of? Do you know what I
hope"--she snapped her strong white teeth together--"ay, hope to see?"

"What?"

"What they saw twenty years ago in France--her white neck under the
knife! That was what happened to her and her like there, I am told,
and I wish it could happen here! And I'd knit, as girls knitted there,
and counted the heads that fell into the baskets! When that time comes
Madam won't look to see if I am clean!"

He looked at her uncomfortably. He did not understand her.

"How the devil do you come to know these things?" he exclaimed. It was
not the first time she had opened to him in this strain--not the first
by several. And the sharp edge was gone from his astonishment. But she
was not the less a riddle to him and a perplexity--a Sphinx, at once
alluring and terrifying. "Who told you of them? What makes you think
of them?" he repeated.

"Do you never think of them?" she retorted, leaning forward and fixing
her eyes on his. "Do you never wonder why all the good things are for
a few, and for the rest--a crust? Why the rector dines at the squire's
table and you dine in the steward's room? Why the parson gives you a
finger and thinks he stoops, and his ladies treat you as if you were
dirt--only the apothecary? Why you are in one class and they in
another till the end of time?"

"D----n them!" he muttered, his face a dull red. She knew how to touch
him on the raw.

"Do you never think of those things?" she asked.

"Well," he said, taking her up sullenly, "if I do?"

She rocked herself back on the settle and looked across at him out of
half-closed eyes.

"Then--if you do think," she answered slowly, "it is to be seen if you
are a man."

"A man?"

"Ay, a man! A man! For if you think of these things, if you stand face
to face with them, and do nothing, you are no man! And no lad for me!"
lightly. "You are well matched as it is then. Just a match and no more
for your white-faced, helpless dumpling of a wife!"

"It is all very well," he muttered, "to talk!"

"Ay, but presently we shall do as well as talk! Out in the world they
are doing now! They are beginning to do. But here--what do you know in
this cupboard? No more than the mice."

"Fine talk!" he retorted, stung by her contempt. "But you talk without
knowing. There have been parsons and squires from the beginning, and
there will be parsons and squires to the end. You may talk until you
are black in the face, Bess, but you won't alter that!"

"Ay, talk!" she retorted drily. "You may talk. But if you do--as they
did in France twenty years gone. Where are their squires and parsons
now? The end came quick enough there, when it came."

"I don't know much about that," he growled.

"Ay, but I do."

"But how the devil do you?" he answered, in some irritation, but more
wonder. "How do you?" And he looked round the bare, sordid kitchen.
The fire, shooting warm tongues up the black cavernous chimney, made
the one spot of comfort that was visible.

"Never you mind!" she answered, with a mysterious and tantalising
smile. "I do. And by-and-by, if we've the spirit of a mouse, things
will happen here! Down yonder--I see it all--there are thousands and
tens of thousands starving. And stacks burning. And mobs marching, and
men drilling, and more things happening than you dream of! And all
that means that by-and-by I shall be knitting while Madam and Miss and
that proud-faced, slim-necked chit at the inn, who faced us all down
to-day----"

"Why," he struck in, in fresh surprise, "what has she done to you
now?"

"That's my business, never you mind! Only, by-and-by, they will all
smile on the wrong side of their face!"

He stared morosely into the fire. And she watched him, her long lashes
veiling a sly and impish amusement. If he dreamed that she loved him,
if he fancied her a victim of his bow and spear, he strangely, most
strangely, misread her. And a sudden turn, a single quick glance
should have informed him. For as the flames by turns lit her face and
left it to darkness, they wrought it to many expressions; but never to
kindness.

"There's many I'd like to see brought down a piece," he muttered at
last. "Many, many. And I'm as fond of my share of good things as most.
But it's all talk, there's nought to be done! Nor ever will be! There
have been parsons and squires from the beginning."

"Would you do it," she asked softly, "if there were anything to be
done?"

"Try me."

"I doubt it. And that's why you are no lad for me."

He rose to his feet in a temper at that. He turned his back on the
fire.

"What's the use of getting on this every time!" he cried. And he took
up his hat. "I'm weary of it. I'm off. I don't know that I shall come
back again. What's the use?" with a side-long glance at her dark,
handsome face and curving figure which the firelight threw into
prominence.

"If there were anything to do," she asked, as if he had never spoken,
never answered the question, "would you do it?" And she smiled at him,
her head thrown back, her red lips parted, her eyes tempting.

"You know I would if----" He paused.

"There were some one to be won by it?"

He nodded, his eyes kindling.

"Well----"

No more. For as she spoke the word, and he bent forward, something
heavy fell on the floor overhead; and she sat up straight. Her eyes,
grown suddenly hard and small--perhaps with fright--held Tyson's eyes.

"What's that?" he cried, frowning suspiciously. "There's nobody
upstairs?"

"Father's in bed," she said. She held up a finger for silence.

"And there's nobody else in the house?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Who should there be?" she said. "It's the cat, I suppose."

"You'd better let me see," he rejoined. And he took a step towards the
staircase door.

"No need," she answered listlessly, after listening anew. "I'm not
afraid. The cat is not here; it must have been the cat. I'll go up
when you are gone, and see."

"It's not safe," he grumbled, still inclined to go. "You two alone
here, and the old man said to be as rich as a lord!"

"Ay, said to be," she answered, smiling "As you said you were going
ten minutes ago, and you are not gone yet. But----" she rose with a
yawn, partly real and partly forced, "you must go now, my lad."

"But why?" he answered. "When we were just beginning to understand one
another."

"Why?" she answered pertly. "Because father wants to sleep. Because
your wife will scratch my eyes out if you don't. Because I am not
going to say another word to-night--whatever I may say to-morrow. And
because--it's my will, my lad. That's all."

He muttered his discontent, swinging his hat in his hand, and making
eyes at her. But she kept him at arm's length, and after a moment's
argument she drove him to the door.

"All the same," he said, when he stood outside, "you had better let me
look upstairs."

But she laughed.

"I dare say you'd like it!" she said; and she shut the door in his
face and he heard the great bar that secured it shot into its socket
in the thickness of the wall. In a temper not much better than that in
which he had left the inn, he groped his way round the house, and up
the three steps at the corner of the building. He swore at the dog
that it might know who came, and so he passed into the road. Once he
looked back at the house, but all was dark. The windows looked the
other way.



                              CHAPTER IX

                              PUNISHMENT


Anthony Clyne came to a stand before her, and lifted his hat.

"I understand," he said, without letting his eyes meet hers--he was
stiffness itself, but perhaps he too had his emotions--"that you
preferred to see me here rather than indoors?"

"Yes," Henrietta answered. And the girl thanked heaven that though the
beating of her heart had nearly choked her a moment before, her tone
was as hard and uncompromising as his. He could not guess, he never
should guess, what strain she put on nerve and will that she might not
quail before him; nor how often, with her quivering face hidden in the
pillow, she had told herself, before rising, that it was for once
only, once only, and that then she need never see again the man she
had wronged.

"I do not know," he continued slowly, "whether you have anything to
say?"

"Nothing," she answered. They were standing on the Ambleside road, a
short furlong from the inn. Leafless trees climbed the hill-side above
them; and a rough slope, unfenced and strewn with boulders and dying
bracken, ran down from their feet to the lake.

"Then," he rejoined, with a scarcely perceptible hardening of the
mouth, "I had best say as briefly as possible what I am come to say."

"If you please," she said. Hitherto she had faced him regally. Now she
averted her eyes ever so slightly, and placed herself so that she
looked across the water that gleamed pale under the morning mist.

Yet, even with her eyes turned from him, he did not find it easy to
say what he must say. And for a few seconds he was silent. At last "I
do not wish to upbraid you," he began in a voice somewhat lower in
tone. "You have done a very foolish and a very wicked, wicked thing,
and one which cannot be undone in the eyes of the world. That is for
all to see. You have left your home and your friends and your family
under circumstances----"

She turned her full face to him suddenly.

"Have they," she said, "empowered you to speak to me?"

"Yes."

"They do not wish to see me themselves?"

"No."

"Nor perhaps--wish me to return to them?"

"No."

She nodded as she looked away again; in sheer defiance, he supposed.
He did not guess that she did it to mask the irrepressible shiver
which the news caused her.

He thought her, on the contrary, utterly unrepentant, and it hardened
him to speak more austerely, to give his feelings freer vent.

"Had you done this thing with a gentleman," he said, "there had been,
however heartless and foolish the act, some hope that the matter might
be set straight. And some excuse for yourself; since a man of our
class might have dazzled you by the possession of qualities which the
person you chose could not have. But an elopement with a needy
adventurer, without breeding, parts, or honesty--a criminal, and
wedded already----"

"If he were not wedded already," she said, "I had been with him now!"

His face grew a shade more severe, but otherwise he did not heed the
taunt.

"Such an--an act," he said, "unfits you in your brother's eyes to
return to his home." He paused an instant. "Or to the family you have
disgraced. I am bound--I have no option, to tell you this."

"You say it as from them?"

"I do. I have said indeed less than they bade me say. And not more, I
believe on my honour, than the occasion requires. A young
gentlewoman," he continued bitterly, "brought up in the country with
every care, sheltered from every temptation, with friends, with home,
with every comfort and luxury, and about to be married to a gentleman
in her own rank in life, meets secretly, clandestinely, shamefully a
man, the lowest of the low, on a par in refinement with her own
servants, but less worthy! She deceives with him her friends, her
family, her relatives! If"--with some emotion--"I have overstated one
of these things, God forgive me!"

"Pray go on!" she said, with her face averted. And thinking that she
was utterly hardened, utterly without heart, thinking that her outward
calm spelled callousness, and that she felt nothing, he did continue.

"Can she," he said, "who has been so deceitful herself, complain if
the man deceives her? She has chosen a worthless creature before her
family and her friends? Is she not richly served if he treats her
after his own nature and her example? If, after stooping to the
lawless level of such a poor thing, she finds herself involved in his
penalties, and her name a scandal and a shame to her family!"

"Is that all?" she asked. But not a quiver of the voice, not a tremour
of the shoulders, betrayed what she was feeling, what she suffered,
how fiercely the brand was burning into her soul.

"That is all they bade me say," he replied in a calmer and more gentle
tone. "And that they would make arrangements--such arrangements as may
be possible for your future. But they would not take you back."

"And now--what on your own account?" she asked, almost flippantly.
"Something, I suppose?"

"Yes," he said, answering her slowly, and with a steady look of
condemnation. For in all honesty the girl's attitude shocked and
astonished him. "I have something to say on my own account. Something.
But it is difficult to say it."

She turned to him and raised her eyebrows.

"Really!" she said. "You seem to speak so easily."

He did not remark how white, even against the pale shimmer of the
lake, was the face that mocked him; and her heartlessness seemed
dreadful to him.

"I wish," he said, "to say only one thing on my own account."

"There is only one thing you must not say," she retorted, turning on
him without warning and speaking with concentrated passion. "I have
been, it may be, as foolish as you say. I am only nineteen. I may have
been, I don't know about that, very wicked--as wicked as you say. And
what I have done in my folly and in my--you call it wickedness--may be
a disgrace to my family. But I have done nothing, nothing, sir,"--she
raised her head proudly--"to disgrace myself personally. Do you
believe that?"

And then he did notice how white she was.

"If you tell me that, I do believe it," he said gravely.

"You must believe it," she rejoined with sudden vehemence. "Or you
wrong me more cruelly than I have wronged you!"

"I do believe it," he said, conquered for the time by a new emotion.

"Then now I will hear you," she answered, her tone sinking again. "I
will hear what you wish to say. Not that it will bend me. I have
injured you. I own it, and am sorry for it on your account. On my own
I am unhappy, but I had been more unhappy had I married you. You have
been frank, let me be frank," she continued, her eyes alight, her tone
almost imperious. "You sought not a wife, but a mother for your child!
A woman, a little better bred than a nurse, to whom you could entrust
the one being, the only being, you love, with less chance of its
contamination," she laughed icily, "by the lower orders! If you had
any other motive in choosing me it was that I was your second cousin,
of your own respectable family, and you did not derogate. But you
forgot that I was young and a woman, as you were a man. You said no
word of love to me, you begged for no favour; when you entered a room,
you sought my eye no more than another's, you had no more softness for
me than for another! If you courted me at all it was before others,
and if you talked to me at all it was from the height of wise
dullness, and about things I did not understand and things I hated!
Until," she continued viciously, "at last I hated you! What could be
more natural? What did you expect?"

A little colour had stolen into his face under the lash of her
reproaches. He tried to seem indifferent, but he could not. His tone
was forced and constrained when he answered.

"You have strange ideas," he said.

"And you have but two!" she riposted. "Politics and your boy! I
cared," with concentrated bitterness, "for neither!"

That stung him to anger and retort.

"I can imagine it," he said. "Your likings appear to be on a different
plane."

"They are at least not confined to fifty families!" she rejoined. "I
do not think myself divine," she continued with feverish irony, "and
all below me clay! I do not think because I and all about me are dull
and stupid that all the world is dull and stupid, talking eternally
about"--and she deliberately mocked his tone--"'the licence of the
press!' and 'the imminence of anarchy!' To talk," with supreme scorn,
"of the licence of the press and the imminence of anarchy to a girl of
nineteen! It was at least to make the way very smooth for another!"

He looked at her in silence, frowning. Her frankness was an outrage on
his dignity--and he, of all men, loved his dignity. But it surprised
him at least as much as it shocked him. He remembered the girl
sometimes silly, sometimes demure, to whom he had cast the
handkerchief; and he had not been more astonished if a sheep had stood
up and barked at him. He was here, prepared to meet a frightened,
weeping, shamefaced child, imploring pardon, imploring mediation; and
he found this! He was here to upbraid, and she scolded him. She marked
with unerring eye the joints in his armour, and with her venomous
woman's tongue she planted darts that he knew would rankle--rankle
long after she was gone and he was alone. And a faint glimpse of the
truth broke on him. Was it possible that he had misread the girl; whom
he had deemed characterless, when she was not shy? Was it possible
that he had under-valued her and slighted her? Was it possible that,
while he had been judging her and talking down to her, she had been
judging him and laughing in her sleeve?

The thought was not pleasant to a proud nature. And there was another
thing he had to weigh. If she were so different in fact from the
conception he had formed of her, the course which had occurred to him
as the best, and which he was going to propose for her, might not be
the best.

But he put that from him. A name for firmness at times compels a man
to obstinacy. It was so now. He set his jaw more stiffly, and--

"Will you hear me now?" he asked.

"If there is anything more to be said," she replied. She spoke wearily
over her shoulder.

"I think there is," he rejoined stubbornly, "one thing. It will not
keep you long. It refers to your future. There is a course which I
think may be taken and may be advantageous to you."

"If," she cried impetuously, "it is to take me back to those----"

"On the contrary," he replied. He was not unwilling to wound one who
had shown herself so unexpectedly capable of offence. "That is quite
past," he continued. "There is no longer any question of that. And
even the course I suggest is not without its disadvantages. It may
not, at first sight, be more acceptable to you than returning to your
home. But I trust you have learnt a lesson, and will now be guided."
After saying which he coughed and hesitated, and at length, after
twice pulling up his cravat, "I think," he said--"the matter is
somewhat delicate--that I had better write what I have in my mind."

Under the dead weight of depression which had succeeded to passion,
curiosity stirred faintly in her. But--

"As you please," she said.

"The more," he continued stiffly, "as in the immediate present
there is nothing to be done. And therefore there is no haste. Until
this"--he made a wry face, the thing was so hateful to him--"this
inquiry is at an end, and you are free to leave, nothing but
preliminaries can be dealt with; those settled, however, I think there
should be no delay. But you shall hear from me within the week."

"Very well." And after a slight pause, "That is all?"

"That is all, I think."

Yet he did not go. And she continued to stand with her shoulder turned
towards him. He was a man of strong prejudices, and the habit of
command had rendered him in some degree callous. But he was neither
unkind by nature, nor, in spite of the story Walterson had told of
him, inhuman in practice. To leave a young girl thus, to leave her
without a word of leave-taking or regret, seemed even to him, now it
came to the point, barbarous. The road stretched lonely on either side
of them, the woods were brown and sad and almost leafless, the lake
below them mirrored the unchanging grey above, or lost itself in
dreary mist. And he remembered her in surroundings so different! He
remembered how she had been reared, by whom encircled, amid what
plenitude! And though he did not guess that the slender figure
standing thus mute and forlorn would haunt him by night and by day for
weeks to come, and harry and torment him with dumb reproaches--he
still had not the heart to go without one gentler word.

And so "No, there is one thing," he said, his voice shaking very
slightly, "I would like to add--I would like you to know. It is that
after next week I shall be at Rysby in Cartmel--Rysby Hall--for about
a month. It is not more than two miles from the foot of the lake, and
if you are still here and need advice----"

"Thank you."

"----or help, I would like you to know that I am there."

"That I may apply to you?" she said without turning her head.

He could not tell whether at last there were tears in her voice, or
whether she were merely drawing him on to flout him.

"I meant that," he said coldly.

"Thank you."

Certainly there was a queer sound in her voice.

He paused awkwardly.

"There is nothing more, I think?" he said.

"Nothing, thank you."

"Very well," he returned. "Then you will hear from me upon the matter
I mentioned--in a day or two. Good-bye."

He went then--awkwardly, slowly. He felt himself, in spite of his
arguments, in spite of his anger, in spite of the wrong which she had
done him, and the disgrace which she brought on his name,--he felt
himself something of a cur. She was little more than a child, little
more than a child; and he had not understood her! Even now he had no
notion how often that plea would ring in his ears, and harass him and
keep him wakeful. And Henrietta? She had told herself before the
interview that with it the worst would be over. But as she heard his
firm tread pass slowly away, down the road, and grow fainter and
fainter, the pride that had supported her under his eyes sank low. A
sense of her loneliness, so cruel that it wrung her heart, so cruel
that she could have run after him and begged him to punish her, to
punish her as he pleased, if he would not leave her deserted, gripped
her throat and brought salt tears to her eyes. The excitement was
over, the flatness remained; the failure, and the grey skies and
leaden water and dying bracken. And she was alone; alone for always.
She had defied him, she had defied them all, she had told him that
whatever happened she would not go back, she would not be taken back.
But she knew now that she had lied. And she crossed the road, her step
unsteady, and stumbled blindly up the woodland path above the road,
until she came to a place where she knew that she was hidden. There
she flung herself down on her face and cried passionately, stifling
her sobs in the green damp moss. She had done wrong. She had done
cruel wrong to him. But she was only nineteen, and she was being
punished! She was being punished!



                              CHAPTER X

                          HENRIETTA IN NAXOS


Youth feels, let the adult say what he pleases, more deeply than
middle age. It suffers and enjoys with a poignancy unknown in later
life. But in revenge it is cast down more lightly, and uplifted with
less reason. The mature have seen so many sunny mornings grow to
tearful noons, so many days of stress close in peace, that their moods
are not to the same degree at the mercy of passing accidents. It is
with the young, on the other hand, as with the tender shoots; they
raise their heads to meet the April sun, as naturally they droop in
the harsh east wind. And Henrietta had been more than girl, certainly
more than nineteen, if she had not owned the influence of the scene
and the morning that lapped her about when she next set foot beyond
the threshold of the inn.

She had spent in the meantime three days at which memory shuddered.
Alone in her room, shrinking from every eye, turning her back on the
woman who waited on her, she had found her pride insufficient to
support her. Solitude is a medium which exaggerates all objects, and
the longer Henrietta brooded over her past folly and her present
disgrace, the more intolerable these grew to the vision.

Fortunately, if Modest Ann's heart bled for her, Mrs. Gilson viewed
her misfortunes with a saner and less sensitive eye. She saw that if
the girl were left longer to herself her health would fail. Already,
she remarked, the child looked two years older--looked a woman. So on
the fourth morning Mrs. Gilson burst in on her, found her moping at
the window with her eyes on the lake, and forthwith, after her
fashion, she treated her to a piece of her mind.

"See here, young miss," she said bluntly, "I'll have nobody ill in my
house! Much more making themselves ill! In three days Bishop's to be
back, and they'll want you, like enough. And a pale, peaking face
won't help you, but rather the other way with men, such fools as they
be! You get your gear and go out."

Henrietta said meekly that she would do so.

"There's a basket I want to send to Tyson's," the landlady went on.
"She's ailing. It's a flea's load, but I suppose," sticking her arms
akimbo and looking straight at the girl, "you're too much of a lady to
carry it."

"I'll take it very willingly," Henrietta said. And she rose with a
spark of something approaching interest in her eyes.

"Well, I've nobody else," said cunning Mrs. Gilson. "And I don't
suppose you'll run from me, 'twixt here and there. And she's a poor
thing. She's going to have a babby, and couldn't be more lonely if she
was in Patterdale." And she described the way, adding that if
Henrietta kept the road no one would meddle with her at that hour of
the morning.

The girl found her head-covering, and, submitting with a good grace to
the basket, she set forth. As she emerged from the inn--for three days
she had not been out--she cast a half-shamed, half-defiant look this
way and that. But only Modest Ann was watching her from a window; and
if ever St. Martin procured for the faithful a summer day,
_intempestive_ as the chroniclers have it, this was that day. A warm
sun glowed in the brown hollows of the wood, and turned the dying fern
to flame, and spread the sheen of velvet over green hill-side and grey
crag. A mild west wind enlivened the surface of the lake with the
sparkle of innumerable wavelets, and all that had for days been lead
seemed turned to silver. The air was brisk and clear; in a heaven of
their own, very far off, the great peaks glittered and shone. The
higher Henrietta climbed above the inn-roofs, and the cares that
centred there, the lighter, in spite of herself--how could it be
otherwise with that scene of beauty stretched before her?--rose her
heart.

Half a dozen times as she mounted the hill she paused to view the
scene through the tender mist of her own unhappiness. But every time
she stood, the rare fleck of cloud gliding across the blue, or the
dancing ripple of the water below, appealed to her, and caused her
thoughts to wander; and youth and hope spoke more loudly. She was
young. Surely at her age an error was not irreparable. Surely things
would take a turn. For even now she was less unhappy, less ashamed.

When she came to the summit of the shoulder, the bare gauntness of
Hinkson's farm, which resisted even the beauty of sunshine, caused her
a momentary chill. The dog raved at her from the wind-swept litter of
the yard. The blind gable-end scowled through the firs. Behind lay the
squalid out-buildings, roofless and empty. She hurried by--not without
a backward glance. She crossed the ridge, and almost immediately saw
in a cup of the hills below her--so directly below her that roofs and
yards and pig-styes lay mapped out under her eye--another farm. On
three sides the smooth hill-turf sloped steeply to the walls. On the
fourth, where a stream, which had its source beside the farm, found
vent, a wood choked the descending gorge and hid the vale and the lake
below.

Deep-seated in its green bowl, the house was as lonely in position as
the house on the shoulder, but after a warmer and more sheltered
fashion. Conceivably peace and plenty, comfort and happiness might
nestle in it. Yet the nearer Henrietta descended to it, leaving the
world of space and view, the more a sense of stillness and isolation
and almost of danger, pressed upon her. No sound of farm life, no
cheery clank of horse-gear, no human voice broke the silence of the
hills. Only a few hens scratched in the fold-yard.

She struck on the half-open door, and a pair of pattens clanked across
the kitchen flags. A clownish, dull-faced woman with drugget
petticoats showed herself.

"I've come to see Mrs. Tyson," Henrietta said. "She's in the house?"

"Oh, ay."

"Can I see her?"

"Oh, ay."

"Then----"

"She's on the settle." As she spoke the woman stood aside, but
continued to stare as if her curiosity grudged the loss of a moment.

The kitchen, or house place--in those days the rough work of a
farmhouse was done in the scullery--was spacious and clean, though
sparsely and massively furnished. The flag floor was outlined in white
squares, and the space about the fire was made more private by a tall
settle which flanked the chimney corner and averted the draught. These
appearances foretold a red-armed bustling house-wife. But they were
belied by the pale plump face framed in untidy hair, which half in
fright and half in bewilderment peered at her over the arm of the
settle. It was a face that had been pretty after a feeble fashion no
more than twelve months back: now it bore the mark of strain and
trouble. And when it was not peevish it was frightened. Certainly it
was no longer pretty.

The owner of the face got slowly to her feet "Is it me you want?" she
said, her tone spiritless.

"If you are Mrs. Tyson," Henrietta answered gently.

"Yes, I am."

"I have brought you some things Mrs. Gilson of the inn wished to send
you."

"I am obliged to you," with stiff shyness.

"And if you do not mind," Henrietta continued frankly, "I will rest a
little. If I do not trouble you."

"No, I'm mostly alone," the young woman answered, slowly and
apathetically. And she bade the servant set a chair for the visitor.
That done, she despatched the woman with the basket to the larder.

Then "I'm mostly alone," she repeated. And this time her voice
quivered, and her eyes met the other woman's eyes.

"But," Henrietta said, smiling, "you have your husband."

"He's often away," wearily. "He's often away; by day and night. He's a
doctor."

"But your servant? You have her?"

"She goes home, nights. And then----" with a spasm of the querulous
face that had been pretty no more than a year before, "the hours are
long when you are alone. You don't know," timidly reaching out a hand
as if she would touch Henrietta's frock--but withdrawing it quickly,
"what it is to be alone, miss, all night in such a house as this."

"No, and no one should be!" Henrietta answered.

She glanced round the great silent kitchen and tried to fancy what the
house would be like of nights; when darkness settled down on the
hollow in the hills, and the wood cut it off from the world below; and
when, whatever threatened, whatever came, whatever face of terror
peered through the dark-paned window, whatever sound, weird or
startling, rent the silence of the distant rooms, this helpless woman
must face it alone!

She shuddered.

"But you are not alone all night?" she said.

"No, but----" in a whisper, "often until after midnight, miss. And
once--all night."

Henrietta restrained the words that rose to her lips.

"Ah, well," she said, "you'll have your baby by-and-by."

"Ay, if it lives," the other woman answered moodily--"if it lives.
And," she continued in a whisper, with her scared eyes on Henrietta's
face, and her hand on her wrist, "if I live, miss."

"Oh, but you must not think of that!" the girl protested cheerfully.
"Of course you will live."

"I've mostly nought to do but think," Tyson's wife answered. "And I
think queer things--I think queer things. Sometimes"--tightening
her hold on Henrietta's arm to stay her shocked remonstrance--"that
he does not wish me to live. He's at the house on the
shoulder--Hinkson's, the one you passed--most nights. There's a girl
there. And yesterday he said if I was lonely she should come and bide
here while I laid up, and she'd be company for me. But"--in a wavering
tone that was almost a wail--"I'm afraid!--I'm afraid."

"Afraid?" Henrietta repeated, trembling a little in sympathy, and
drawing a little nearer the other. "Of what?"

"Of her!" the woman muttered, averting her eyes that she might watch
the door. "Of Bess. She's gypsy blood, and it's blood that sticks at
nothing. And she'd be glad I was gone. She'd have him then. I know!
She made a sign at me one day when my back was turned, but I saw it.
And it was not for good. Besides----"

"Oh, but indeed," Henrietta protested, "indeed, you must not think of
these things. You are not well, and you have fancies."

Mrs. Tyson shook her head.

"You'd have fancies," in a gloomy tone, "if you lived in this house."

"It is only because you are so much alone in it," the girl protested.

"That's not all," with a shudder. The woman leant forward and spoke
low with her eyes glued to the door. "That's not all. You don't know,
nobody knows. Nobody knows--that's alive! But once, after I came to
live here, when I complained that he was out so much and was not
treating me well, he took and showed me--he took and showed me----"

"What?" Henrietta spoke as lightly as she could. "What did he show
you?" For the woman had broken off, and with her eyes closed seemed to
be on the point of fainting.

"Nothing--nothing," Mrs. Tyson said, recovering herself with a sudden
gasp. "And here's the basket, miss. Meg lives down below. Shall she
carry the basket to Mrs. Gilson's? It is not fitting a young lady like
you should carry it."

"Oh, no; I will take it," Henrietta answered, with as careless an air
as she could muster.

And after a moment's awkward hesitation, under the eyes of the dull
serving-maid, she rose. She would gladly have stayed and heard more;
for her pity and curiosity were alike vividly roused. But it was plain
that for the present she could neither act upon the one nor assuage
the other. She read a plea for silence in the eyes of the weak,
frightened woman; and having said that probably Mrs. Gilson would be
sending her that way again before long, she took her leave.

Wondering much. For the low-ceiled kitchen, with its shadowy
chimney-corner and its low-browed windows, had another look for her
now; and the stillness of the house another meaning. All might be the
fancy of a nervous, brooding woman. And yet there was something. And,
something or nothing, there were unhappiness and fear and cruelty in
this quiet work. As she climbed the track that led again to the lip of
the basin, and to sunshine and brisk air and freedom, she had less
pity for herself, she thought less of herself. She might have lain at
the mercy of a careless, faithless husband, who played on her fears
and mocked her appeals. She, when in her early unbroken days she
complained, might have been taken and scared by--heaven knew what!

She was still thinking with indignation of the woman's plight when she
gained the road. A hundred paces brought her to Hinkson's. And there,
standing under the firs at the corner of the house, and looking over
her shoulder as if she had turned, in the act of entering, to see who
passed, was the dark girl; the same whose insolent smile had annoyed
her on the morning of her arrival, before she knew what was in store
for her.

Their eyes met. Again Henrietta's face, to her intense vexation,
flamed. Then the dog sprang up and raved at her, and she passed on
down the road. But she was troubled. She was vexed with herself for
losing countenance, and still more angry with the girl whose mocking
smile had so strange a power to wound her.

"That must be the creature we have been discussing," she thought. "Odd
that I should meet her, and still more odd that I should have seen her
before! I don't wonder that the woman fears her! But why does she look
at me, of all people, after that fashion?"

She told herself that it was her fancy, and trying to forget the
matter, she tripped on down the road. Presently, before her cheeks or
her temper were quite cool, she saw that she was going to meet some
one--a man who was slowly mounting the hill on horseback. A moment
later she made out that the rider who was approaching was Mr.
Hornyold, and her face grew hot again. The meeting was humiliating.
She wished herself anywhere else. But at the worst she could bow
coldly and pass by.

She reckoned without the justice, who was wont to say that when he
wore a cassock he was a parson, and when he wore his top-boots he was
a gentleman. He recognised her with a subdued "View halloa!" and
pulled up as she drew near. He slid from his saddle--with an agility
his bulk did not promise--and barred the way.

With a grin and an over-gallant salute, "Dear, dear, dear," he said.
"Isn't this out of bounds, young lady? Outside the rules of the bench,
eh? What'd Mother Gilson be saying if she saw you here?"

"I have been on an errand for her," Henrietta replied, in her coldest
tone.

But she had to stop. The road was narrow, and he had, as by accident,
put his horse across it.

"An errand?" he said, smiling more broadly, "as far as this? She is
very trusting! More trusting than I should be with a young lady of
your appearance, who twist all the men round your finger."

Henrietta's eyes sparkled.

"I am returning to her," she said, "and I am late. Please to let me
pass."

"To be sure I will," he said. But instead of moving aside he drew a
pace nearer; so that between himself, the horse, and the bank, she was
hemmed in. "To be sure, young lady!" he continued. "But that is not
quite the tone to take with the powers that be! We are gentle as
sucking doves--to pretty young women--while we are pleased; and ready
to stretch a point, as we did the other day, for our friend Clyne, who
was so deuced mysterious about the matter. But we must have our _quid
pro quo_, eh? Come, a kiss! Just one. There are only the birds to see
and the hedges to tell, and I'll warrant"--the leer more plain in his
eyes--"you are not always so particular."

Henrietta was not frightened, but she was angry and savage.

"Do you know who I am?" she cried, for the moment forgetting herself
in her passion.

"No!" he answered, before she could say more. "That is just what I
don't know, my girl. I have taken you on trust and you are pretty
enough! But I know Clyne, and he is interested in you. And his taste
is good enough for me!"

"Let me pass!" she cried.

He tried to seize her, but she evaded his grasp, slipped fearlessly
behind the horse's heels and stood free. Hornyold wheeled about, and
with an oath:

"You sly baggage!" he cried. "You are not going to escape so easily!
You----"

There he stopped. Not twenty yards from him and less than that
distance beyond her, was a stranger. The sight was so little to be
expected in that solitary place, he had been so sure that they were
alone and the girl at the mercy of his rudeness, that he broke off,
staring. The stranger came slowly on, and when almost abreast of
Henrietta raised his hat and paused, dividing his regards between the
scowling magistrate and the indignant girl.

"Good morning," he said, addressing her. "If I am not inopportune, I
have a letter for you from Captain Clyne."

"Then be good enough," she answered, "first to take me out of the
company of this person." And she turned her shoulder on the justice,
and taking the stranger with her--almost in his own despite--she
sailed off; and, a very picture of outraged dignity, swept down the
road.

Mr. Hornyold glared after her, his bridle on his arm. And his face was
red with fury. Seldom had he been so served.

"A parson, by heaven!" he said. "A regular Methody, too, by his
niminy-piminy get-up! Who is he, I wonder, and what in the name of
mischief brought him here just at that moment? Ten to one she was
looking to meet him, and that was why she played the prude, the little
cat! To be sure. But I'll be even with her--in Appleby gaol or out! As
for him, I've never set eyes on him. And I've a good notion to have
him taken up and lodged in the lock-up. Any way, I'll set the runners
on him. Not much spirit in him by the look of him! But she's a
spit-fire!"

Mr. Hornyold had been so long accustomed to consider the girls of the
village fair sport, that he was considerably put out. True, Henrietta
was not a village girl. She was something more, and a mystery; nor
least a mystery in her relations with Captain Clyne, a man whom the
justice admitted to be more important than himself. But she was in
trouble, she was under a cloud, she was smirched with suspicion; she
was certainly no better than she should be. And not experience only,
but all the coarser instincts of the man forbade him to believe in
such a woman's "No."



                              CHAPTER XI

                         CAPTAIN CLYNE'S PLAN


For a full hundred yards Henrietta walked on with her head in the air,
too angry to accost or even to look at her companion; who, on his
part, tripped meekly beside her. Then a sense of the absurdity of the
position--of his position rather than her own, for she had whirled him
off whether he would or no--overcame her. And she laughed.

"Was ever anything so ridiculous?" she cried. And she looked at him
askance and something ashamed. The quick movement which had enabled
her to escape had loosened the thick mass of her fair hair, and this,
with her flushed cheeks and kindled eyes, showed her so handsome that
it was well the impetuous justice was no longer with her.

The stranger was apparently less impressionable.

"I am glad," he said primly, "that my coming was so opportune."

"Oh! I was not afraid of him," Henrietta answered, tossing her head.

"No?" he rejoined. "Indeed. Still, I am glad that I came so
opportunely."

He was a neat, trim man in black, of a pale complexion, and with the
small features and the sharp nose that indicate at once timidity and
obstinacy; the nose that in the case of the late Right Honourable
William Pitt, whom he was proud to resemble, meant something more. But
for a pair of bright eyes he had been wholly mean, and wholly
insignificant; and Henrietta saw nothing in him either formidable or
attractive. She had a notion that she had seen him somewhere; but it
was a vague notion, and how he came to be here or commissioned to her
she could no more conjecture than if he had risen from the ground.

"You are a stranger here?" she said at last, after more than one
side-long glance.

"Yes, I descended from the coach an hour ago."

"And came in search of me?"

"Precisely," he replied. "Being empowered to do so," he continued,
with a slight but formal bow, "by Captain Anthony Clyne, to whom I
have the honour--my name is Sutton--of being related in the capacity
of chaplain."

She coloured more violently with shame than before with anger: and all
her troubles came back to her. Probably this man knew all; knew what
she had done and what had happened to her. It was cruel--oh, it was
cruel to send him! For a moment she could not collect her thoughts or
master her voice. But at last,

"Oh!" she said confusedly. "I see. A lovely view from here, is it
not?"

"Yes, to be sure," he replied, with the same precision with which he
had spoken before. "I ought to have noticed it."

"And you bring me a letter?"

"It was Captain Clyne's wish that I----" he hesitated, and was plainly
embarrassed--"that I should, in fact, offer my company for a day or
two. While you are under the care of the good woman at the inn."

She turned her face towards him, and regarded him with a mixture of
surprise and distaste. Then,

"Indeed?" she said coldly. "In what capacity, if you please?"

But the words said, she felt her cheeks grow hot. They thought so ill
of her, she had so misbehaved herself, that a duenna was not enough;
a clergyman must be sent to lecture her. By-and-by he would talk
goody-goody to her, such as they talked to Lucy in _The Fairchild
Family!_ Save that she was grown up and Lucy was not!

"But it does not matter," she continued hurriedly, and before he could
answer, "I am obliged to you, but Mrs. Gilson is quite able to take
care of me."

"And yet I came very opportunely--just now," he said. "I am glad I
came so opportunely."

Reminded of the insolence to which her loneliness had exposed her,
Henrietta felt her cheek grow hot again.

"Oh," she said, "I did not need you! But I thought you said you
brought a letter?"

"I have a letter. But I beg leave--to postpone its delivery for a day
or two."

"How?" in astonishment. "If it is for me?"

"By Captain Clyne's directions," he answered.

She stopped short and faced him, rebellion in her eyes.

"Then why," she said proudly, "seek me out now if this letter is not
to be delivered at once?"

"That, too, is by his order," Mr. Sutton explained in the same tone.
"And pardon me for saying," he continued, with a meaning cough, "that
I have seen enough to be assured of Captain Clyne's forethought. Apart
from which, in Lancashire, at any rate, the times are so troubled, the
roads so unsafe, the common people so outrageous, that for a young
lady to walk out alone is not safe."

"He should have sent a servant, then!" she answered sharply.

A faint colour rose to the chaplain's cheeks.

"He thought me more trustworthy, perhaps," he said meekly. "And it is
possible he was under the impression that my company might be more
acceptable."

"If I may be plain," she answered tartly, "I am in no mood for a
stranger's company."

"And yet," he said, with a gleam of appeal in his eyes, "I would fain
hope to make myself acceptable."

She gave him no direct answer; only,

"I cannot understand, I really cannot understand," she said, "of what
he was thinking. You had better give me the letter now, sir. I may
find something in that which may explain."

But he only cast down his eyes.

"I am afraid," he said, "that I must not disobey the directions which
Captain Clyne laid upon me."

"Very good," she retorted; "that is as you please. Only--our paths
separate here. The road we are on will take you to the inn--you cannot
miss it. My path lies this way."

And with a stiff little bow she laid her hand on the gate which gave
entrance to the field-path; the same path that led down through the
coppice to the back of the Low Wood inn. She passed through.

He hesitated an instant, then he also turned in at the gate. And as
she halted, eyeing him in displeasure--

"I really cannot let you stray from the high-road alone," he said.
"You will pardon me, I am sure, if I seem intrusive. But it is not
safe. I have seen enough," with a smirk, "to know that--that beauty
unattended goes in danger amid these lovely"--he waved his hand in
kindly patronage of the lake--"these lovely, but wild surroundings."

"You mean," she answered, with a dangerous light in her eyes, "that
you will force your company on me, sir? Whether I will or no?"

"Not force, no! No! No! But I must, I can only do as I am ordered. I
should not presume of myself," he continued, with a touch of real
humility--"even to offer my company. I should not look so high. I
should think such an honour above me. But I was led to believe----"

"By Captain Clyne?"

"Yes, that--that, in fact, you were willing to make what amends you
could for the injury done to him. And that, if only for that reason, I
might expect a more favourable reception at your hands."

"But why, sir?--why?" she cried, cut to the quick. To suffer this man,
this stranger, to talk to her of making amends!" What good will it do
to Captain Clyne if I receive you ever so favourably?"

He looked at her humbly, with appeal in his eyes.

"If you would deign to wait," he said, and he wiped his forehead, "I
think I could make that more clear to you afterwards."

But very naturally his persistence offended her. That word amends,
too, stuck in her throat. Her pride, made restive by her encounter
with Hornyold, was up in arms.

"I shall not wait a moment," she said. "Not a moment! Understand, sir,
that if you accompany me against my will, my first act on reaching the
inn will be to complain to the landlady, and seek her protection."

"Surely not against Captain Clyne's pleni--plenipotentiary?" he
murmured abjectly. "Surely not!"

"I do not know what a pleni-plenipotentiary is," she retorted. "But if
you follow me, you follow at your peril!"

And she turned her back on him, and plunged downwards through the
wood. She did not deign to look behind; but her ears told her that he
was not following. For the rest, all the beauty of the wood, shot
through with golden lights, all the cool loveliness of the dell, with
its emerald mosses and flash of jewelled wings, were lost upon her
now, so sore was she and so profoundly humiliated. Twice in one
morning she had been insulted. Twice in one hour had a man shown her
that he held her fair game. Were they right, then, who preached that
outside the sanctum of home no girl was safe? Or was it her story, her
conduct, her disgrace, known to all for miles round, that robbed her
of the right to respect?

Either way she was unhappy, frightened, nay, shocked; and she longed
to be within doors, where she need not restrain herself. Too proud to
confide in Mrs. Gilson, she longed none the less for some one to whom
she could unburden herself. Was she to go through the world exposed to
such scenes? Must she be daily and hourly on her guard against rude
insult, or more odious gallantries? And if these things befell her in
this quiet spot, what must she expect in the world, deserted as she
was by all those who would once have protected her?

She looked to gain her room without further unpleasantness; for the
path she followed led her to the back door, and she could enter that
way. But she was not to be so fortunate. In the yard, awaiting her
with his hat in his hand and the flush of haste on his pallid face,
was Mr. Sutton.

Poor Henrietta! she ground her small teeth together in her rage, and
her face was scarlet. But her mind was made up. If Mr. Sutton counted
on her being worse than her word she would show him his mistake.

"I shall send for the landlady," she said; and beckoning to a
stable-help who was crossing the yard with a bucket, "Fetch Mrs.
Gilson," she said. "Tell her----"

"One moment!" Mr. Sutton interposed with meek firmness. "I am going to
give you the letter. It will explain all, and I hope justify my
conduct, which I cannot believe to have been offensive."

"That is a matter of opinion," Henrietta said loftily. She held out
her hand. "The letter, sir, if you please."

"One favour, I beg," he said, with a gesture that deprecated her
impatience. He waved the groom out of hearing. "This is not a fit
place for you or"--with a return of dignity--"for the business on
which I am here. Do me the favour of seeing me within or of walking a
few yards with me. There is a seat by the lake, if you will not admit
me to your apartments."

She frowned at him. But she saw the wisdom of concluding the matter,
and she led the way into the road and turned to the right.
Immediately, however, she remembered that the Ambleside road would
lead her to the spot where Captain Clyne had taken leave of her, and
she turned and walked the other way until she came to the place where
the Troutbeck lane diverged. There she stood.

"The letter, if you please," she said. She spoke with the contemptuous
hardness which youth, seldom considerate of others' feelings, is prone
to display.

He held it an instant in his hand as if he could not bear to part with
it. But at last, with a dismal look and an abject sentence or two, he
gave it up.

"I beg you, I implore you," he muttered as she took it, "to announce
no hasty decision. To believe that I am something more and better than
you think me now. And that ill as I have set myself before you, I
would fain labour to show myself more--more worthy!"

The words were so strange, his manner was so puzzling, that they
pierced the armour of her dislike. She paused, staring at him.

"Worthy!" she exclaimed. "Worthy of what?"

"The letter----"

"Yes, the letter will tell me."

And with a haughty air she broke the seal. As she read she turned
herself from him, so that he saw little more of her face than her
firmly moulded chin. But when she had carried her eyes some way down
the sheet he noticed that her hands began to shake.


"Henrietta," so Captain Clyne began,--"for to add any term of
endearment were either too little or too much--I have thought long and
painfully, as becomes one who expected to be by this time your
husband, on the situation in which you have placed yourself by an
escapade, the consequences of which, whatever action be taken, must be
permanently detrimental. Of these, as they touch myself, I say
nothing, the object of these lines being to indicate a way by which I
trust your honour and character may be redeemed. The bearer, whom I
know for a man of merit and respectability, saw you by chance on the
occasion of your visit to my house, and, as I learned by a word
indiscreetly dropped, admired you. He has been admitted to the secret
of your adventure, and is willing, without more and upon my
representation of the facts of the case, to make you his wife and to
give you the shelter of his name. After long thought I can devise no
better course, whereby, innocent of aught but folly, as I believe you
to be, the honour of the family can be preserved. Still, I would not
suggest or advise the step were I not sure that Mr. Sutton, though
beneath us by extraction, is a person of parts and worth in whose
hands your future will be safe, while his material prosperity shall be
my care. I have advised him to take such opportunities as offer of
commending himself to you before delivering this note. Gladly would I
counsel you to take the advice of your brother and his wife were I not
aware how bitter is their resentment and how complete their
estrangement. I, on the other hand, whose right to advise you may
question---- But it were idle to say more than that I forgive you, as
I hope to be forgiven. Nor will your interests ever be indifferent to

                                  "Your kinsman,

                                    "ANTHONY CLYNE."


Mr. Sutton noted the growing tremour of the hands which held the
paper--he could hear it rustle. And his face, usually so pallid,
flushed. Into the greyness of a life that had been happier if the
chaplain had possessed less of those parts for which Captain Clyne
commended him, had burst this vision of a bride, young, beautiful, and
brilliant; a daughter of that world which thought him honoured by the
temporary possession of a single finger, or the gift of a careless
nod. Who could blame him if he succumbed? Aladdin, on the point of
marriage with the daughter of the Sultan, bent to no greater
temptation; nor any barber or calendar of them all, when on the verge
of a like match. He had seen Henrietta once only, he had viewed her
then as a thing of grace and refinement meet only for his master. At
the prospect of possessing her, such scruples as rose in his mind
faded quickly. He told himself that he would be foolish indeed if he
did not carry the matter through with a bold face; or if for fear of a
few hard words, or a pouting beauty, he yielded up the opportunity of
a life.

On the hill he had proved himself equal to the call. Not so now. He
had pictured the girl taking the news in many ways, in scorn, in
anger, with shallow coquetry, or in dull resignation. But he had never
anticipated the way in which she did take it. When she had read the
letter to the end she turned her back on him and bent her head.

"Oh!" she cried; and broke into weeping--not passionate nor bitter, he
was prepared for that--but the soft and helpless weeping of a broken
thing.

That they, that Anthony Clyne, above all, should do this to her! That
he should think of her as a chattel to be handed from one to another,
a girl so light that all men were the same to her, if they were men!
That they, that he should hold her so cheap, deem her so smirched by
what had passed, misread her so vilely as to think that she had fallen
to this! That with indifference she would give herself to any man, no
matter to whom, if she could that way keep her name and hold up her
head!

It hurt her horribly. Nay, for the time it broke her down. The mid-day
coach swept by to the inn door, and the parson, standing beside her,
ashamed of himself and conscious of the passengers' curious glances,
wished himself anywhere else. But she was wounded too sorely to care
who saw or who heard; and she wept openly though quietly until the
first sharpness of the pain was blunted. Then he thought, as her
sobbing grew less vehement, that his time was come, that he might yet
be heard. And he murmured that he was grieved, he was sorely grieved.

"So am I!" she said, dabbing her eyes with her wet handkerchief. She
sobbed out the words so humbly, so weakly, that he was encouraged.

"Then may I--may I return presently?" he murmured, with a nervous
cough. "You must stand in need of advice? And--and by some one near
you? When you are more composed perhaps? Yes. Not that there is any
hurry," he added quickly, frightened by a movement of her shoulders.
"Not at all. I'll not say another word now! By-and-by, by-and-by, dear
young lady, you will be more composed. To-morrow, if you prefer it, or
even the next day. I shall wait, and I shall be here."

She gave her eyes a last dab and turned.

"I do not blame you," she said, her voice broken by a sob. "You did
not know me. But you must go back--you must go back to him at once and
tell him that I--that he has punished me as sharply as he could wish."
She dabbed her face again. "I do not know what I shall think of him
presently, but I---- Oh, oh!" with a fresh burst of tears, "that he
should do this to me!--that he should do this!"

He did not know her, as she said; and, small blame to him, he misread
her. Because she neither stormed nor sneered, but only wept in this
heart-broken fashion, like a child cowed by a beating, he fancied that
the task before him was not above his powers. He thought her plastic,
a creature easily moulded; and that already she was bending herself to
the fate proposed for her. And in soothing tones, for he was genuinely
sorry for her, "There, there, my dear young lady," he said, "I know it
is something hard. It is hard. But in a little while, a very little
while, I trust, it will seem less hard. And there is time before us.
Time to become acquainted, time to gain knowledge of one another.
Plenty of time! There is no hurry."

She lowered her handkerchief from her eyes and looked at him, over it,
as if, without understanding, she thanked him for his sympathy. With
her tear-washed eyelashes and rumpled hair and neck-ribbon she looked
more childish, she seemed to him less formidable. He took heart of
grace to go on.

"Captain Clyne shall be told what you feel about it," he said,
thinking to soothe and humour her. "He shall be told all in good time.
And everything I can say and anything I can do to lighten the burden
and meet your wishes----"

"You?"

"----I shall do, be sure!"

He was beginning to feel his feet, and he spoke earnestly. He spoke,
to do him justice, with feeling.

"Your happiness," he said, "will be the one, at any rate the first,
and main object of my life. As time goes on I hope and believe that
you will find a recompense in the service and devotion of a life,
although a humble life; and always I will be patient. I will wait, my
dear young lady, in good hope."

"Of what?"

The tone of the two words shook Mr. Sutton unpleasantly. He reddened.
But with an effort,

"In what hope?" he answered, embarrassed by the sudden rigidity of her
face. "In the hope," with a feeble smile, "that in no long time--I am
presumptuous, I know--you will see some merit in me, my dear young
lady. And will assent to my wishes, my humble, ardent wishes, and
those of my too-generous patron."

There were no tears in her eyes now. She seemed to tower above him in
her indignation.

"Your wishes, you miserable little man?" she cried, with a look which
pierced his vanity to the quick. "They are nothing to me! Go back to
your master!"

And before he could rally his forces or speak, she was gone from him
into the house. He heard a snigger behind the hedge, but by the time
he had climbed the bank--with a crimson face--there was no one to be
seen.

He stood an instant, brooding, with his eyes on the road.

"A common man would give up," he muttered. "But I shall not! I am no
common man. I shall not give up."



                             CHAPTER XII

                             THE OLD LOVE


Mr. Sutton was a vain man and sensitive, and though he clung to hope,
Henrietta's words hurt him to the quick. The name of Chaplain was
growing obsolete at this time; it was beginning to import unpleasant
things. With this chaplain in particular his dependence on a patron
was a sore point; for with some capacity, he lacked, and knew that he
lacked, that strength of mind which enables a man to hold his own, be
his position what it may. For an hour, writhing under the reflection
that even the yokels about him were aware of his discomfiture, he was
cast down to the very ground. He was inclined to withdraw his hand and
let the dazzling vision pass.

Then he rallied his forces. He bethought him how abnormal was the
chance, how celestial the dream, how sweet the rapture of possessing
the charms that now flouted him. And he took heart of grace. He raised
his head, he enlisted in the cause all the doggedness of his nature.
He recalled stories, inaccurately remembered, of Swift and Voltaire
and Rousseau, all dependants who had loved, and all men of no greater
capacity, it was possible, than himself. What slights had they not
encountered, what scornful looks, and biting gibes! But they had
persisted, having less in their favour than he had; and he would
persist. And he would triumph as they had triumphed. What matter a
trifling loss of countenance as he passed by the coach-office, or a
burning sensation down the spine when those whom he had left tittered
behind him? He laughed best who laughed last.

For such a chance would never, could never fall to him again. The
Caliph of Bagdad was dead, and princesses wedded no longer with
calendars. Was he to toss away the one ticket which the lottery of
life had dropped in his lap? Surely not. And for scruples--he felt
them no longer. The girl's stinging words, her scornful taunt, had
silenced the small voice that on his way hither had pleaded for her;
urging him to spare her loneliness, to take no advantage of her
defenceless position. Bah! If that were all, she could defend herself
well.

So Henrietta, when she came downstairs, a little paler and a little
prouder, and with the devil, that is in all proud women, a little
nearer to urging her on something, no matter what, that might close a
humiliating scene, was not long in discovering a humble black presence
that by turns followed and evaded her. Mr. Sutton did not venture to
address her directly. To put himself forward was not his _rôle_. But
he sought to commend himself by self-effacement; or at the most by
such meek services as opening the door for her without lifting his
eyes above the hem of her skirt, or placing a thing within reach
before she learned her need of it. Nevertheless, whenever she left her
room she caught sight of him; and the consciousness that he was
watching her, that his eyes were on her back, that if her gown caught
in a nail of the floor he would be at hand to release it, wore on her
nerves. She tried to disregard him, she tried to be indifferent to
him. But there he always was, pale, obstinate, cringing, and waiting.
And so great is the power of persistence, that she began to fear him.

Between his insidious court and the dread of Mr. Hornyold's
gallantries she was uncomfortable as well as wretchedly unhappy. The
position shamed her. She felt that it was her own conduct which she
had to thank for their pursuit; and for Anthony Clyne's more cruel
insult, which she swore she would never forgive. She knew that in the
old life, within the fence where she had been reared, no one had ever
dared to take a liberty with her or dreamed of venturing on a freedom.
Now it was so different. So different! And she was so lonely! She
stood fair game for all. Presently even the village louts would nudge
one another when she passed, or follow her in the hope of they knew
not what.

Already, indeed, if she passed the threshold she had a third follower;
whose motives were scarcely less offensive than the motives of the
other two. Mr. Bishop had been away for nearly a week scouring the
roads between Cockermouth and Whitehaven, and Maryport and Carlisle.
He had drawn, as he hoped, a net round the quarry--if it had not
already escaped. In particular, he had made sure that trusty men--and
by trusty men Mr. Bishop meant men who would not refuse to share the
reward with their superiors--watched the most likely places. These
arrangements had taken his brown tops and sturdy figure far afield: so
that scarce a pot-house in all that country was now ignorant of the
face of John Bishop of Bow Street, scarce a saddle-horse was unversed
in his weight. Finally he had returned to the centre of his spider's
web, and rather than be idle he was giving himself up to stealthy
observation of Henrietta.

For he had one point in common with Mr. Sutton. While the Low Wood
folk exhausted themselves in surmises and believed in a day a dozen
stories of the girl who had dropped so strangely among them, the
runner knew who she was. Perforce he had been taken into confidence.
But thereupon his experience of the criminal kind led him astray. He
remembered how stubbornly she had refused to give her name, to give
information, to give anything; and he suspected that she knew where
Walterson lay hid. He thought it more than likely that she was still
in relations with him. A girl of her breeding, the runner argued, does
not give up all for a romantic stranger unless she loves him: and once
in love, such an one sticks at nothing. So he too haunted her
footsteps, vanished when she came, and appeared when she retreated;
and all with an air of respect which maddened the victim and puzzled
the onlookers.

But for this she had been able to spend these days of loneliness and
incertitude in wandering among the hills. She was young enough to feel
confinement irksome, and she yearned for the open and the unexplored.
She fancied that she would find relief in plunging into the depths of
woods where, on a still day, the leaves floated singly down to mingle
with the dying ferns. She thought that in long roaming, with loosened
hair and wind-swept cheeks, over Wansfell Pike, or to the upper world
of the Kirkstone or the Hog-back beyond Troutbeck, she might forget,
in the wilds of nature, her own small woes and private griefs. At
least on the sheep-trodden heights there would be no one to reproach
her, no one to fling scorn at her.

And two mornings later she felt that she must go; she must escape from
the eyes that everywhere beset her. She marked down Mr. Bishop in the
road before the house, and, safe from him, she slipped out at the
back, and, almost running, climbed the path that led to the hills. She
passed through the wood and emerged on the shoulder; and drew a deep
breath, rejoicing in her freedom. One glance at the lake spread out
below her--and something still and sullen under a grey sky--and she
passed on. She had a crust in her pocket, and she would remain abroad
all day--for it was mild. With the evening she would return footsore
and utterly weary. And she would sleep.

She was within a few yards of the gate of Hinkson's farm when she saw
coming towards her the last man whom she wished to meet--Mr. Hornyold.
He was walking beside his nag, with the rein on his arm and his eyes
on the road. His hands were plunged far into the fobs of his breeches,
and he was studying something so deeply that he did not perceive her.

The memory of their last meeting--on that very spot--was unpleasantly
fresh in Henrietta's mind, and the impulse to escape was strong.
Hinkson's gate was within reach of her arm, the dog was asleep in the
kennel; in a twinkling she was within and making for the house. Any
pretence would do, she thought. She might ask for a cup of water,
drink it, and return to the road. By that time he would have gone on
his way.

She knew that the moment she had passed the corner of the house she
was safe from observation. And seeing the front so grim, so
slatternly, so uninviting, she paused. Why go on? Why knock? After
giving Hornyold time to pass she might slip back to the road without
challenging notice.

She would have done this, if her eyes, as she hesitated, had not
met those of a grimy, frowsy scarecrow who seemed to be playing
hide-and-seek with her from the shelter of the decaying bushes that
stood for a garden. She saw herself discovered, and not liking the
creature's looks, she returned to her first plan. She knocked on the
half-open door, and receiving no answer, pushed it open and stepped
in--as she had stepped into cottages in her own village scores of
times.

For an instant the aspect of the interior gave her pause; so bare,
with the northern bareness, so squalid with the wretchedness of
poverty, was the great dark kitchen. Then, telling herself that it was
only the sudden transition from the open air and the wide view that
gave a sinister look to the place, she rapped on the table.

Some one moved overhead, crossed the floor slowly, and began to
descend the stairs. The door at the foot of the staircase was ajar,
and Henrietta waited with her eyes fixed on it. She wondered if the
step belonged to the girl whose bold look had so displeased her; or to
a man--the tread seemed too heavy for a woman. Then the door was
pushed open a few inches only, a foot at most. And out of the grey
gloom of the stairway a face looked at her, and eyes met her eyes.

The face was Stewart's! Walterson's!

She did not cry out. She stood petrified, silent, staring. And after a
whispered oath wrung from him by astonishment, he was mute. He stood,
peering at her through the half-open door; the dangerous instinct
which bade him spring upon her and secure her curbed for the moment by
his ignorance of the conditions. She might have others with her. There
might be men within hearing. How came she there? And above all, what
cursed folly had led him to show himself? What madness had drawn him
forth before he knew who it was, before he had made certain that it
was Bess's summons?


[Illustration: The face was Stewart's]


It was she who broke the spell. She turned, and with no uncertainty or
backward glance she went out slowly and softly, like a blind person,
passed round the house, and gained the road. Hornyold had gone by and
was out of sight; but she did not give a thought to him.

The shock was great. She was white to the lips. By instinct she turned
homewards--wandering abroad on open hills was far from her thoughts
now. But even so, when she had gone a little way she had to stand and
steady herself by a gate-post--her knees trembled so violently under
her. For by intuition she knew that she had escaped a great danger.
The wretched creature cowering in the gloom of the stairway had not
moved hand or foot after his eyes met hers; but something in those
eyes, a gleam wild and murderous, recurred to her memory. And she
shuddered.

Presently the first effects of the shock abated and left her free to
think. She knew then that a grievous thing had happened, and a thing
which must add much to the weight of unhappiness she had thought
intolerable an hour before. To begin, the near presence of the man
revolted her. The last shred of the romance in which she had garbed
him, the last hue of glamour, were gone; and in the creature whom she
had espied cowering on the stairs, with the danger-signal lurking in
his eyes, she saw her old lover as others would see him. How she could
have been so blind as to invest such a man with virtue, how she could
have been so foolish as to fancy she loved _that_, passed her
understanding now! Ay, and filled her with a trembling disgust of
herself.

Meantime, that was the beginning. Beyond that she foresaw trouble and
embarrassment without end. If he were taken, he would be tried, and
she would be called to the witness box, and the story of her
infatuation would be told. Nay, she would have to tell it herself in
face of a smiling crowd; and her folly would be in all the journals.
True, she had had this in prospect from the beginning, and, thinking
of it, had suffered in the dark hours. But his capture had then been
vague and doubtful and the full misery of her exposure had not struck
her as it struck her now, with the picture of that man on the stairs
fresh in her mind. To have disgraced herself for that!--for that!

She was thinking of this and was still much agitated when she came to
the spot where the path through the wood diverged from the road. There
with his hand on the wicket-gate, unseen until she was close upon him,
stood Mr. Bishop.

He raised his hat and stepped aside, as if the meeting took him by
surprise, as if he had not been watching her face through a screen of
briars for the last thirty seconds. But that due paid to politeness,
the runner's sharp eyes remained glued to her face.

"Dear me, miss," he said, in apparent innocence, "nothing has
happened, I hope! You don't look yourself! I hope," respectfully,
"that nobody has been rude to you."

"It is nothing," she made shift to murmur. She turned her face aside.
And she tried to go by him.

He let her go through the gate, but he kept at her side and
scrutinised her face with side-long glances. He coughed.

"I am afraid you have heard bad news, miss?" he said.

"No!"

"Oh, perhaps--seen some one who has startled you?"

"I have told you it is nothing," she answered curtly. "Be good enough
to leave me."

But he merely paused an instant in obedience to the gesture of her
hand, then he resumed his place beside her. In the tone of one who had
made up his mind to be frank--

"Look here, miss," he said, "it is better to come to an understanding
here, where there is nobody to listen. If it is not that somebody has
been rude to you, I'm clear that you have heard news, or you have seen
somebody. And it is my business to know the one or the other."

She stopped.

"I have nothing to do with your business!" she cried.

He made a wry face, and spread out his hands in appeal.

"Won't you be frank?" he replied. "Come, miss? What is the use of
fencing with me? Be frank! I want to make things easy for all. Lord,
miss, you are not the sort, and we two know it, that suffers in these
things. You'll come out all right if you'll be frank. It's that I'm
working towards; to put an end to it, and the sooner the better. You
can't--a wife and four children, miss, and a radical to boot--you
can't think much of him! So why not help instead of hindering?"

"You are impudent!" Henrietta said, with a fine colour in her cheeks.
"Be good enough to let me pass."

"If I knew where he was"--with his eyes on her face--"I could make all
easy. All done, and nothing said, my lady; just 'from communications
received,' no names given, not a word of what has happened up here!
Lord bless you, what do they care in London--and it is in London he'll
be tried--what happens here!"

"Let me pass!" she answered breathlessly.

He was so warm upon the scent he terrified her.

But he did not give way.

"Think, miss," he said more gravely. "Think! A wife and six children!
Or was it four? Much he cared for any but himself! I'm sure I'm
shocked when I think of it!"

"Be silent!" she cried.

"Much he cared what became of you! While Captain Clyne, if you were to
consult his wishes, miss, I'm sure he'd say----"

"I do not care what he would say!" she retorted passionately, stung at
last beyond reticence or endurance. "I never wish to hear Captain
Clyne's name again: I hate him; do you hear? I hate him! Let me pass!"

Then, whether he would or no, she broke from him. She hurried,
panting, and with burning cheeks, down the steep path; the briars
clutching unheeded at her skirts, and stones rolling under her feet.
He followed at her heels, admiring her spirit; he even tried to engage
her again, begging her to stop and hear him. But she only pushed on
the faster, and presently he thought it better to desist, and he let
her go.

He stood and wiped his brow, looking after her.

"Lord, what a spirit she has!" he muttered. "A fine swelling figure,
too, and a sway with her head that makes you feel small! And feet that
nimble! But all the same, I'm glad she's not Mrs. Bishop! Take my word
for it, she'll be another Mother Gilson--some day."

While Henrietta hurried on at her best pace, resentment giving way to
fear and doubt and a hundred perplexities. Betray the man she could
not, though he deserved nothing at her hands. She was no informer, nor
would become one. The very idea was repulsive to her. And she had
woven about this man the fine tissue of a girl's first fancy; she had
looked to be his, she had let him kiss her. After that, vile as he
was, vilely as he had meant by her, it did not lie with her to betray
him to death.

But his presence near her was hateful to her, was frightful, was
almost intolerable. Not a day, not an hour, but she must expect to
hear of his capture, and know it for the first of a series of ordeals,
painful and humiliating. She would be confronted with him, she would
be asked if she knew him, she would be asked this and that; and she
would have to speak, would have to confess--to those clandestine
meetings, to that kiss--while he listened, while all listened. The
tale that was known as yet to few would be published abroad. Her folly
would be in every mouth, in every journal. The wife and the four
children, and she, the silly, silly fool whom this mean thing had
captivated, taking her as easily as any doe in her brother's park--the
world would ring with them!



                            CHAPTER XIII

                           A JEALOUS WOMAN


Meanwhile the man whom she had left in the gloom of the staircase
waited. The sound of the girl's tread died away and silence followed.
But she might be taking the news, she might be gone back to those who
had sent her. He knew that at any moment the party charged with his
arrest might appear, and that in a few seconds all would be over. And
the suspense was intolerable. After enduring it a while he pushed the
door open, and he crept across the floor of the living-room. He
brought his haggard face near the casement and peeped cautiously
through a lower corner. He saw nothing to the purpose. Nothing moved
without, except the old man, whose rags fluttered an instant among the
bushes and vanished again. Probably he was dragging up some treasured
scrap and hiding it anew with as little sane purpose and as much
instinct as the dog that buries a bone.

The man with the price on his head stole back to the foot of the
stairs, reassured for the moment; but with his heart still fluttering,
his cheeks still bloodless. He had had a great fright. He could not
yet tell what would come of it. But he knew that in the form of the
girl whom he had tricked and sought to ruin he had seen the gallows
very near.

He had not quite regained the staircase when the sound of a foot
approaching the door drove him to shelter in a panic. Bess Hinkson had
to call twice before he dared to descend or to run the risk of a
second mistake.

The moment she saw his face she knew that something was wrong.

"What is it?" she asked quickly. "What is the matter, lad?"

"I've seen some one," he answered. "Some one who knew me!" He tried to
smile, but the smile was a spasm; and suddenly his teeth clicked
together. "Knew me by G--d!" he said.

"Bishop?"

"No, but--some one."

Her face cleared.

"What's took you?" she said. "There is no one else here who knows
you."

"The girl."

She stared at him. "The girl?" she repeated--and the master-note in
her voice was no longer fear, but suspicion. "The girl! How came she
here? And how," with sudden ferocity, "came she to see you, my lad?"

"I heard her below and thought that it was you."

"But how came she here?"

"I don't know," he answered sullenly, "unless she was sent."

"I don't believe you," Bess answered coarsely. And the jealousy of her
gipsy blood sparkled in her dark eyes. "She was not sent! But maybe
she was sent for! Maybe she was sent for!"

"Who was there I could send for her?" he said.

"I don't know."

"Nor I!" he answered. He shrugged his shoulders in disgust at her
folly. To him, in his selfish fear, it seemed incredible folly.

"But you talked with her?"

"Not a word."

"I say," Bess repeated with a furious look, "you did! You talked with
her! I know you did!"

"Have your own way, then," he answered despairingly, "though may
heaven strike me dead if there was a word! But she'll he talking
soon--and they'll be here. And she"--with a quavering, passionate rise
in his voice--"she'll hang me!"

"She'd best not!" the girl replied, with a gleam of sharp teeth. "I
hate her as it is. I hate her now! I'd like to kill her! But then----"

"Then?" he retorted, his anger rising as hers sank. "What is the use
of _then?_ It's now is the point! Curse You! while you are talking
about hating her, and what you'll do, I'll be taken! They'll be here
and I'll hang!"

"Steady, steady, lad," she said. The fear had flown from his face to
hers. "Perhaps she'll not tell."

"Why not? Why'll she not tell?"

She did not reply that love might close the girl's mouth. But she knew
that it was possible. Instead:

"Maybe she'll not," she repeated. "If she did not come on purpose--and
then they'd be here by now--it will take her half an hour to go back
to the inn, and she'll have to find Bishop, and he'll have to get a
few together. We've an hour good, and if it were night, you might be
clear of this and safe at Tyson's in ten minutes."

"But now?" he cried, with a gesture of wrathful impatience. "It's
daylight, and maybe the house is watched. What am I to do now?"

"I don't know," she said. And it was noticeable that she was cool,
while he was excited to the verge of tears, and was not a mile from
hysterics. "It was for this I've been fooling Tyson--to get a safe
hiding-place. But if you could get there, I doubt if he is quite ripe.
I'd like to commit him a bit more before we trust him."

"Then why play the fool with him?" he answered savagely.

"Because a day or two more and his hiding-hole may be the saving of
you," she retorted. "Sho!" shrugging her shoulders in her turn, "the
game is not played to an end yet! She'll not tell! She is proud as
horses, and if she gives you up she'll have to swear against you. And
she'll not stomach that, the little pink and white fool. She'll keep
mum, my lad!"

The hand with which he wiped the beads of sweat from his brow shook.

"But it she does tell?" he muttered. "If she does tell?"

She did not answer as she might have answered. She did not remind him
of those stories of hair-breadth escapes and of coolness in the shadow
of the gallows, which, as much as his plausible enthusiasm, had won
her wild heart. She did not hint that his present carriage was hardly
at one with them. For when women love, their eyes are slow to open,
and this man had revealed to Bess a new world--a world of rarest
possibilities, a world in which she and her like were to have justice,
if not vengeance--a world in which the mighty were to fall from their
seats, and the poor to be no more flouted by squires' wives and
parsons' daughters! If she did not still think him all golden, if the
feet and even the legs of clay were beginning to be visible, there was
glamour about him still. The splendid plans, the world-embracing
schemes with which he had dazzled her, had shrunk indeed into a
hole-and-corner effort to save his own skin. But his life was as dear
to her as to himself; and doubtless, by-and-by, when this troublesome
crisis was past, the vista would widen. She was content. She was glad
to put full knowledge from her, glad of any pretext to divert her own
mind and his.

"Lord, I had forgotten!" she cried, after a gloomy pause, "I've a
letter! There was one at last!" She searched in her clothes for it.

"A letter?" he cried, and stretched out a shaking hand. "Good lord,
girl, why did you not say so before? This may change all. Thistlewood
may know a way to get me off. Once in Lancashire, in the crowd, let me
have a hiding-place and I'm safe! And Thistlewood--he is no cur! He
sticks at nothing! He is a good man! I was sure he would do something
if I could get a word to him! Lord, I shall cheat them yet!" He was
jubilant.

He ripped the letter open. His eyes raced along the lines. The girl,
who could scarcely read, watched him with admiration, yet with a
sinking heart. The letter might save him, but it would take him from
her.

Something between a groan and an oath broke from him. He struck the
paper with his hand.

"The fool!" he cried. "The fools! They are coming here!"

"They?" she answered, staring in astonishment.

"Thistlewood, Lunt--oh!" with a violent execration--"God knows who!
Instead of getting me off they are bringing the hunt on me! Lancashire
is too hot for them, so they are coming here to ruin me. And I'm to
send a boat for them to-morrow night to Newby Bridge. But, I'll not!
I'll not!" passionately. "You shall not go!"

The girl looked at him dubiously.

"After all," she said presently, "if Thistlewood is what you say he
is----"

"He's a selfish fool! Thinking only of himself!"

"Still, if he and the rest are men--it'll not be one man, nor two, nor
five will take you--with them to help you!"

But the thought gave him no comfort.

"Much good that will do!" he answered. And passionately flinging down
the paper, "I'll not have them! They must fend for themselves."

"Do they say why they are coming?" she asked after a pause.

"Didn't I tell you?" he replied querulously, "because it's too hot for
them there! One of the justices, Clyne, if you must know----"

"Clyne!" she ejaculated in astonishment. "Clyne again?"

"Ay!"

"The man--you took the girl from?" she asked in a queer voice.

"The same. He's the deuce down there. He'll get his house burnt over
his head one of these nights! He has sworn an information against
them, and they swear they'll have their revenge. But in the meantime
they must needs come here and blow the gaff on me. Fine revenge!" with
scorn.

"And they want you to send a boat for them to Newby Bridge?"

"Ay, curse them! I told them I had a boat I could take quietly, and
come down the lake in the dark. And they say the boat can just as well
fetch them."

"To-morrow night?"

"Ay."

"Well, it can be done," she said coolly, "if the wind across the lake
holds. I can steal a boat as I planned for you, and nobody will be the
wiser. There's no moon, and the nights are dark; and who's to trace
them from Newby Bridge? After all, it's not from them the danger will
come, but from the girl."

He groaned.

"I thought you were sure she wouldn't tell," he sneered.

"Well, she has not told yet, or they had been here," Bess answered.
"But she may speak--by-and-by."

"Curse her!"

"And that is why I am not so sorry your folks are coming," she
continued, with a queer look at him. "If they'll help us, we'll stop
her mouth. And she'll not speak now, nor by-and-by."

He looked up, startled.

"You don't mean--no!" he cried sharply, "I'll not have it."

"Bless her pretty, white fingers!" she murmured.

"I'll not have her hurt!" he repeated, with vehemence. "I've done her
harm enough."

"Not so much harm as you would have done her, if you'd had your way!"
she replied. And her face grew hard. "But now she's to be sacred, is
she? Her ladyship's pretty, white fingers are not to be pinched--if
you swing for it! Very well! It's your neck will be pulled, not mine."

He fidgeted on his stool, but he did not answer. His eyes roved round
the bare miserable room, with its low ceiling, its deep shadows, and
its squalor. At last:

"What do you mean?" he asked querulously. "Why can't you speak plain?"

"I thought I had spoken plain enough," she replied. "But if she's not
to be touched, there's an end of it."

"What would you do?"

"What I said--shut her mouth."

He shuddered and his face, already sallow from long confinement, grew
greyer.

"No," he said, "I'll not do it."

She laughed in scorn of him.

"I don't mean that," she said. "I would get her into our hands, hold
her fast, stow her somewhere where she'll not speak! Maybe in Tyson's
hiding-hole. She'll catch a cold, but what of that? 'Twill be no worse
for her than for you, if you've to go there. And the men may be a bit
rough with her," Bess continued, with a malignant smile, while her
eyes scrutinized his face, "I'll not forbid them, for I don't love
her, and I'd like well to see her brought down a bit! But we'll not
squeeze her pretty throat, if that is what you had in your mind."

He shivered.

"I wouldn't trust you!" he muttered.

She laughed as if he paid her a compliment.

"Wouldn't you, lad?" she said. "Well, perhaps not. I'd not be sorry to
spoil her beauty. But the men--men are such fools--'ll be rather for
kissing than killing!"

"All the same, I don't like it," he muttered.

"You'll like hanging less!" she retorted.

He felt, he knew that he played a sorry part. But it was not he who
had brought Henrietta to the house, it was fate. It was not his fault
that she had seen him; it was his misfortune. Could he be expected to
surrender his life to spare her a little fright, a trifling
inconvenience, an inconsiderable risk? Why should he? Would she do it
for him? On the contrary, he recalled the look of horror which she had
bent on him; she who had so lately laid her head on his shoulder, had
listened to his blandishments, had thought him perfect. He was vain,
and that hardened him.

"I don't see how you'll do it," he said slowly.

"Leave that to me," Bess answered. "Or rather, do what I tell you--and
the bird will come to the whistle, my lad!"

"What'll you do?"

She told him, and when she had told him she put before him pen and ink
and paper; the pen and ink and paper which had been obtained that he
might write to Thistlewood. But when it came to details and he knew
what he was to write and what lure to throw out, he flung the pen from
him. He told her angrily that he would not do it. After all, Henrietta
had believed in him, had trusted him, had given up all for him.

"I'll not do it," he repeated. "I'll not do it! You want to do the
girl a mischief!"

She flared up at that.

"Then you'll hang!" she cried brutally, hurling the words at him.
"And, thank God, it will be she will hang you! Why, you fool," she
continued vehemently, "you were for doing her a worse turn, just to
please yourself! And not a scruple!"

"No matter," he answered, thrusting his hands in his pockets and
looking sullenly before him. "I'll not do it!"

Her face was dark with anger, and cruel. What is more cruel than
jealousy?

"And that is your last word?" she cried.

He scowled at the table, aware in his heart that he would yield. For
he knew--and he resented the knowledge--that he and Bess were changing
places; that the upper hand which knowledge and experience and a
fluent tongue had given him was passing to her for whom Nature
intended it. The weak will was yielding, the strong will was asserting
itself. And she knew it also; and in her jealousy she was no longer
for humouring him. Brusquely she pushed together the pen and ink and
paper.

"Very good," she said. "If that is your last word, be it so; I've
done!"

But "Wait!" he protested feebly. "You are so hasty."

"Wait?" she retorted. "What for? What is the use? Are you going to do
it?"

He fidgeted on his stool.

"I suppose so," he muttered at last. "Curse you, you won't listen to
what a man says."

"You are going to do it?"

He nodded.

"Then why not say so at once?" she answered. "There, my lad," she
continued, thrusting the writing things before him, "short and sweet,
as nobody knows better how to do it than yourself! Half a dozen lines
will do the trick as well as twenty."

To his credit be it said, he threw down the pen more than once,
sickened by the task which she set him. But she chid, she cajoled, she
coaxed him; and grimly added the pains she was at to the account of
her rival. In the end, after a debate upon time and place, in which he
was all for procrastination--feeling as if in some way that salved his
conscience--the letter was written and placed in her hands.

Then "What sort is this Thistlewood?" she asked. "A gentleman?"

"You wouldn't know, one way or the other," he answered, with
ill-humour.

"Maybe not," she replied; "but would you call him one?"

"He's been an officer, and he's been to America, and he's been to
France. I don't suppose," looking round him with currish scorn, "that
he's ever been in such a hole as this!"

"But he's in hiding. Is he married?"

"Yes."

She frowned as if the news were unwelcome.

"Ah!" she muttered. And then, "What of the others?"

"Giles and Lunt----"

"Ay."

"There's not much they'd stick at," he replied. "They are low brutes;
but they are useful. We've to do with all sorts in this business."

"And why not?"

"Why not?"

"Ay! Didn't you tell me the other day, there was no one so mean, if we
succeed, he may not rise to the top? nor any one so great he may not
fall to the bottom?"

"Well?"

"That's what I like about it."

"Well, it's true, anyway; Henriot"--he was on a favourite topic and
thought to reinstate himself by long words--"Henriot, who was but a
poor pike-keeper, came to be general of the National Guard and Master
of Paris. Tallien, the son of a footman, ruled a province. Ney--you've
heard of Ney?--who began as a cooper, was shot as a Marshal with a
score of orders on his breast and as much thought of as a king! That's
what happens if we succeed."

"And some came down?" she said, smacking her lips.

"Plenty."

"And women too?"

"Yes."

"Ah," she said slowly, "I wish I had been there."

Not then, but later, when the letter had passed into her hands, he
fancied that he saw the drift of her questions. And he had qualms, for
he was not wholly bad. He was not cruel, and the thought of
Henrietta's fate if she fell into the snare terrified him. True,
Thistlewood, dark and saturnine, a man capable of heroism as well as
of crime, was something of a gentleman. He might decline to go far. He
might elect to take the girl's part. But Giles and Lunt were men of a
low type, coarse and brutish, apt for any villainy; men who, drawn
from the slums of Spitalfields, had tried many things before they took
up with conspiracy, or dubbed themselves patriots. To such, the life
of a spy was no more than the life of a dog: and the girl's sex, in
place of protecting her, might the more expose her to their
ruthlessness. If she fell into their hands, and Bess, with her
infernal jealousy and her furious hatred of the class above her, egged
them on, swearing that if Henrietta had not already informed, she
might inform--he shuddered to think of the issue. He shuddered to
think of what they might be capable. He remembered the things that had
been done by such men in France: things remembered then, forgotten
now. And he shuddered anew, knowing himself to be a poor weak thing,
of no account against odds.



                             CHAPTER XIV

                              THE LETTER


We left Mr. Bishop standing in the middle of the woodland track and
following Henrietta with his eyes. He had suspected the girl before;
his suspicions were now grown to certainties. Her agitation, her
alarm on meeting him, her refusal to parley, her anxiety to be gone,
all--and his keen eyes had missed no item of her disorder--all pointed
to one thing, to her knowledge of her lover's hiding-place. Doubtless
she had been to visit him. Probably she had just left him.

"But she's game, she's very game," the runner muttered sagely. "It's
breed does it." And plucking a scrap of green stuff from a briar he
chewed it thoughtfully, with his eyes on the spot where he had lost
the last wave of her skirt.

Presently he faced about. "Now where is he?" he asked himself. He
scanned the path by which she had descended, the briars, the thorns,
the under-growth. "There's hiding here," he thought; "but the nights
are cold, and it'd kill him in the open. And she'd been on the hill.
In a shepherd's hut? Possibly; and it's a pity I was not after her
sooner. But we searched the huts. Then there's Troutbeck? And the
farms? But how'd he know any one here? Still, I'll walk up and look
about me. Strikes me we've been looking wide and he's under our
noses--many a hare escapes the hounds that way."

He retraced his steps to the road, and strolled up the hill. His air
was careless, but his eye took note of everything; and when he came to
the gate of Starvecrow Farm he stood and looked over it. The bare and
gloomy aspect of the house and the wide view it commanded impressed
him. "I don't wonder they keep a dog," he thought. "A lonely place as
ever I saw. Sort of house the pedlar's murdered in! Regular Red Barn!
But that black-eyed wench the doctor is gallivanting after comes from
here. And if all's true he's in and out night and day. So the other is
not like to be here."

Still, when he had walked a few yards farther he halted. He took
another look over the fence. He noted the few sombre pines that masked
the gaunt gable-end, and from them his eye travelled to the ragged
garden. A while he gazed placidly, the bit of green stuff in his
mouth. Then he stiffened, pointing like a game dog. Slowly, almost
imperceptibly, his hand went to the pocket in his skirts, where he
carried the "barker" without which he never stirred.

On the other side of the breast-high wall, not six paces from him, a
man was crouching low, trying to hide behind a bush.

Mr. Bishop had a stout heart. He had taken many a man in the midst of
his cronies in the dark courts about St. Giles's; and with six hundred
guineas in view it was not a small danger that would turn him. Yet he
was alone, and his heart beat a little quicker as he proceeded, with
his eyes glued to the bush, to climb the wall. The man he was going to
take had the rope about his neck--he would reck little of taking
another life. And he might have backers. Possibly, too, there was
something in the silence of this hill-side--so different from the
crowded alleys in which he commonly worked--that intimidated the
officer.

Yet he did not flinch. He was of the true bull-dog breed. He, no more
than my Lord Liverpool and my Lord Castlereagh, was to be scared by
uncertain dangers, or by the fear of those over whom he was set. He
advanced slowly, and was not more than four yards from the bush, he
was even poising himself to leap on his quarry, when the man who was
hiding rose to his feet.

Bishop swore. And some one behind him chuckled. He turned as if he had
been pricked. And his face was red.

"Going to take old Hinkson?" laughed Tyson, who had come up unseen,
and been watching his movements.

"I wanted a word with him," the runner muttered. He tried to speak as
if he were not embarrassed.

"So I see," Tyson answered, and pointing with his finger to the
pistol, he laughed.

Mr. Bishop, with his face a fine port-wine colour, lowered the weapon
out of sight. Then he laughed, but feebly.

"Has he any sense?" he asked, looking with disgust at the frowsy old
creature, who mopping and mowing at him was holding out a crooked
claw.

"Sense enough to beg for a penny," Tyson answered.

"He knows enough for that?"

"He'd sell his soul for a shilling."

The runner hooked out a half-penny--a good fat copper coin, to the
starveling bronze of these days as Daniel Lambert to a dandy. He put
it in the old scarecrow's hand.

"Here's for trespass," he said, and turning his back on him he
recrossed the wall.

"That'll stop his mouth," Tyson grinned. "But what are you going to
give me to stop mine?"

Bishop laughed on the wrong side of his face.

"A bone and a jorum whenever you'll come and take it," he said.

"Done with you," the doctor replied. "Some day, when that old beldame,
mother Gilson, is out, I'll claim it. But if you think," he continued,
"that your man is this side of the hill you are mistaken, Mr. Bishop.
I'm up and down this road day and night, and he'd be very clever if he
kept out of my sight."

"Ay?"

"You may take my word for that. I'll lay you a dozen wherever he is,
he's not this side."

The runner nodded. At this moment he was a little out of conceit with
himself, and he thought that the other might be right. Besides, he
might spend a week going from farm to farm, and shed to shed and be no
wiser at the end of it. Yet, the girl knew, he was convinced; and
after all, that was his way to it. She knew, and he'd to her again and
have it out of her one way or another. And if she would not speak, he
would shadow her; he would follow her hour by hour and minute by
minute. Sooner or later she would be sure to try to see her man, and
he would nab them both. There were no two ways about it. There was
only one way. An old hand should have known better than to go wasting
time in random searchings.

He returned to the inn, more fixed than ever in his notion. With an
impassive face he told Mrs. Gilson that he must see the young lady.

"She's come in, I suppose?" he added.

"Ay, she's come in."

"Well, you'll please to tell her I must see her."

"I fancy _must_ will be your master," Mrs. Gilson replied, with her
usual point. "But I'll tell her." And she went upstairs.

Henrietta was seated at the window with her back to the door. She did
not turn.

"Here's the Bow-Street man," Mrs. Gilson said, without ceremony.
"Wants to know if he can see you. Shall I tell him yes, or no, young
lady?"

"No, if you please," Henrietta answered, with a shiver.

Mrs. Gilson went down.

"She says 'No, on no account,'" she announced, "unless you've got a
warrant. Her room's her room, she says, and she'll none of you."

"Hoity-toity!"

"That's what she said," Mrs. Gilson repeated without a blush. "And for
my part I don't see why she's to be persecuted. What with you and that
sneaking parson, who's for ever at her skirts, and another that shall
be nameless----"

"Just so!" said Bishop, nodding.

But whereas he meant Walterson, the good woman meant Mr. Hornyold.

"----her life's not her own!" the landlady ended.

"Well, she's to be brought up next Thursday," the runner replied in
dudgeon. "And she'll have to see me then." And he took a seat near the
foot of the stairs, more firmly determined than ever that the girl
should not give him the slip again a second time. "He's here," he
thought. "He's not a mile from me, I'll stake my soul on it! And
before Thursday it's odds she'll need to see him, and I'll nab them!"
And he began to think out various ways of giving her something which
she would wish to communicate.

Meanwhile Henrietta, seated at her window in the south gable, gazed
dolefully out; on the grey expanse of water, which she was beginning
to hate, on the lofty serrated ridge, which must ever recall
humiliating memories, on the snow-clad peaks that symbolised the
loneliness of her life. She would not weep, but her lip quivered. And
oh, she thought, it was a cruel punishment for that which she had
done. In the present she was utterly alone: in the future it would be
no better. And yet if that were all, if loneliness were all, she
could bear it. She could make up her mind to it. But if not today,
to-morrow, and if not to-morrow, the day after, the man would be
taken. And then she would have to stand forth and tell her shameful
tale, and all the world, her world, would learn with derision what a
fool she had been, for what a creature she had been ready to give up
all, what dross that was which she had taken for gold! And that which
had been romantic would be ridiculous.

Beside this aching dread the insult which Captain Clyne had put upon
her lost some of its sting. Yet it smarted at times and rankled,
driving her into passing rages. She had wronged him, yet, strange to
say, she hated to think that she had lost his esteem. And perhaps for
this reason, perhaps because he had shown himself less inhuman at the
outset than her family, his treatment hurt her to a point she had not
anticipated, nor could understand.

The one drop of comfort in her cup sprang from a source as unlikely as
the rock which Moses struck. It came from the flinty bosom of Mrs.
Gilson. Not that the landlady was outwardly kind; but she was
brusquely and gruffly inattentive, trusting the girl and leaving her
to herself. And in secret Henrietta appreciated this. She began to
feel a dependence on the woman whom she had once dubbed an odious and
a hateful thing. She read kindness between the lines of her harsh
visage, and solicitude in the eye that scorned to notice her. She
ceased to tremble when the voice which flung panic through the Low
Wood came girding up the stairs. And though no word of acknowledgement
passed her lips, she was conscious that in other and smoother hands
she might have fared worse.

The open sympathy of Modest Ann was less welcome. It was even a
terrible plague at times. For the waiting-maid never came into the
girl's presence without full eyes and a sigh, never looked at her save
as the kind-hearted look at lambs that are faring to the butcher,
never left her without a gesture that challenged Heaven's pity. Ann,
indeed, saw in the young lady the martyr of love. She viewed her as a
sharer in her own misfortunes; and though she was forty and the girl
nineteen, she found in her echoes of her own heart-throbs. There was
humour in this, and, for some, a touch of the pathetic; but not for
Henrietta, who had a strong sense of the ridiculous and no liking for
pity. In her ordinary spirits she would have either laughed at the
woman or rated her. Depressed as she was, she bore with her none too
well.

Yet Ann was honestly devoted to her heroine, and continually dreamed
of some romantic service--such as the waiting-maid in a chap-book
performs for her mistress. Given the occasion, she would have risen to
it, and would have cut off her hand before she betrayed the girl's
secrets. But her buxom form and square, stolid face did not commend
her; they were at odds with romance. And Henrietta did not more than
suffer her, until the afternoon of this day, when it seemed to the
girl that she could suffer her no longer.

For Ann, coming in with wood for the fire, lingered behind her in a
way to try a saint. Her sighs filled the air, they were like a
furnace; until Henrietta turned her head and asked impatiently if she
wanted something.

"Nothing, miss, nothing," the woman answered. But she gave the lie to
her words by laying her finger on her lip and winking. At the same
time she sought for something in an under-pocket.

Henrietta rose to her feet.

"Nothing!" she repeated. "Then what do you----"

"Nothing, miss," Ann rejoined loudly. "I'm to make up the fire." But
she still sought and still made eyes, and at last, with an
exaggeration of mystery, found what she wanted. She slipped a letter
into Henrietta's hand. "Not a word, miss," she breathed, with a face
of rapturous enjoyment. "Take it, miss! Lor'!" she continued in the
same tone of subdued enthusiasm, "I'd die for you, let alone do this!
Even missus should not wring it from me with wild horses!"

Henrietta hesitated.

"Who gave it you?" she whispered. "I don't wish"--she drew back--"I
don't wish to receive anything unless I know who sends it."

"You read it," Ann answered in an ecstasy of benevolence. "It's all
right, trust me for that! Bless your heart, it comes from the right
place. As you will see when you open it!" And with absurd precaution
she tip-toed to the fire-place, took up her wood-basket, banged a log
on the dogs, and went out.

Henrietta waited with the letter hidden in her hand until the door
closed. Then she looked at the paper and grew pale, and was on the
verge of tears. Alas! she knew the handwriting. She knew, whether
there was a right place or not, that this came from the wrong.

"Shall I open it?" she asked herself. "Shall I open it?"

A fortnight before she had opened it without a thought of prudence,
without a glance at the consequences. But a fortnight, and such a
fortnight, had taught her much. And to-day she paused. She eyed the
coarse paper askance--with repugnance, with loathing. True, it could
no longer harm her. She had seen the man as he was, stripped of his
disguises. She had read in his face his meanness, his falseness, his
cowardice. And henceforth his charms and cajoleries, his sweet words
and lying looks were not for her. But she had to think what might be
in this letter, and what might come of it, and what she should do. She
might burn it unread--and perhaps that were the safer course. Or she
might hand it to the Bow Street runner, or she might open it and read
it.

Which should she do?

One course she rejected without much thought. To hand the letter to
Bishop might be to betray the man to Bishop. And she had made up her
mind not to betray the man.

Should she burn it?

Her reason whispered that that was the right, that that was the wise
course. But then she would never know what was in the letter; and she
was a woman and curious. And reason, quickly veering, suggested that
to burn it was to incur unknown risks and contingencies. It might be
equivalent to giving the man up. It might--in a word, it opened a
world of possibilities.

And after all she could still burn the letter when she had read it.
She would know then what she was doing. And what danger could she
incur, seeing that she was proof against the man's lying tongue, and
shuddered at the thought of contact with him?

She made up her mind. And roughly, hating the task after a fashion,
she tore the letter open. With hot cheeks--it could not be otherwise,
since the writing was his, and brought back such memories--she read
the contents. There was no opening--she was glad of that--and no
signature. Thus it ran:--


"I have treated you ill, but men are not as women, and I was tempted,
God knows. I do not ask you to forgive me, but I ask you to save me. I
am in your hands. If you have the heart to leave me to a violent
death, all is said. If you have mercy, meet my messenger at ten
to-morrow evening, where the Troutbeck lane comes down to the lake. As
I hope to live you run no risk and can suffer no harm. If you are
merciful--and oh, for God's sake spare me--put a stone before noon
to-morrow on the post of the second gate towards Ambleside."



                              CHAPTER XV

                              THE ANSWER


When Henrietta had read this letter twice, shivering and drawing in
her breath as often as she came to the passionate cry for mercy that
broke its current, she sat gazing at the paper. And her face was
rigid. Had he made appeal to her affection, to the past, to that which
had been between them, still more had he assumed that the spell was
unbroken and her heart was his, her pride had revolted and revolted
passionately. She had spurned the letter and the writer. And perhaps,
when it was too late, she had repented.

But that cry, wrung, it seemed, from the man's heart in his own
despite, pierced her heart. How could she refuse, if his life hung on
her act, if by lifting her finger, she could save him without risk to
herself? The thought of him was repugnant to her, shamed her, filled
her with contempt of herself. But she had loved him once, or had
fancied in her folly that she loved him; and he asked for his life.
He, a man, lay at the mercy of a woman, a girl; how could she refuse?
If her heart were obdurate, her sex spoke for him.

"And oh! for God's sake spare me!"

She read the words again and again, and shuddered. If she refused, and
afterwards when it was too late, when nothing could be done, she
repented? If when judgment had passed upon him, and the day was come
and the hour and the minute--and in her brain, though she were one
hundred miles away, St. Sepulchre's bell tolled--if she repented then
how would she bear it?

She would not be able to bear it.

And then other considerations not less powerful, and all pointing in
the same direction, arose in her mind. If she did this thing, whatever
it was, the man would escape. He would vanish from the country and
from her knowledge and ken. There would be an end of him, and the
relief would be great. Freed from the shameful incubus of his presence
she would breathe again. She might make a new start then, she might
frame some plan for her life. She was too young to suppose that she
could ever be happy after this, or that she would live to smile at
these troubles. But at least she would not be harassed by continual
fears, she would not be kept in a panic by the thought of that which
every hour might bring forth. She would be spared the public trial,
the ordeal of the witness-box, the shame of open confession. Should
she do, then, that which he wished? Ay, a thousand times, ay. Her
heart cried, ay, her mind was made up. And rising, she walked the room
in excitement. Her pulse beat high, her head was hot, she was in a
fever to begin, to be doing, to come to an end of the thing and be
safe.

But the thing? Her heart sank a little when she turned to that, and
conned the note again and marked the hour. Ten? The evenings were long
and dark, and the house was abed by ten. How was she to pass out? Nor
was that all. What of her position when she had passed out? She shrank
from the thought of going alone to meet she knew not who in the
darkness by the lonely edge of the water. There would be no help
within call at that hour; nor any, if she disappeared, to say which
way she had gone or how she had met her fate. If aught happened to her
she would vanish and leave no trace. And they would think perhaps that
she had fled to him!

The prospect was terrifying. And nine girls out of ten, though of
ordinary courage, would have shrunk hack. But Henrietta had a
spirit--too high a spirit or she had not been here!--and she fancied
that if ever it behoved her to run a risk, it behove her to run one
now. And that not for the man's sake only, but for her own. She rose
above her momentary alarm, therefore, and she asked herself what she
had to fear. True, when she had met him that morning she had imagined
in the gloom of the kitchen that she read murder in his eyes. But for
an instant only; now she laughed at the notion. Safe in her chamber
she found it absurd: the bizarre creation of her fancy or her
timidity, aided by some shadow cast athwart his face. And for the
matter of that, why should he harm her? Her presence at the
trysting-place would be his surety that she had no mind to betray him;
but that on the contrary she was willing to help him.

"I will go, I must go," she thought. "I must go."

Yet vague alarms troubled her; and she hesitated. If there had been no
menace in his eyes that morning--the eyes that had so often looked
into hers and languished on her with a lover's fondness--why had she
fled so precipitately? And why had her knees shaken under her? Pshaw,
she had been taken by surprise. It was repugnance rather than fear
which she had felt. And because she had been foolish once, and
imagined things, because she was afraid, like a child, of the dark,
because she shrank from meeting a stranger after nightfall, surely,
surely she was not going to let a man perish whom she could save with
one of her fingers!

And still, prudence whispered her, asking why he fixed so late an
hour. Why had he not fixed five or six, if it were only out of respect
for her? At five it was already dark, yet the world was awake and
astir, respectable folk were abroad, and help was within call. She
would have met him without hesitation at five or at six. But there,
how stupid she was! It was the very fact that the world was astir and
awake that made an early hour impossible. If she went at five or at
six she would be followed, her movements would be watched, her
companion would be noted. The very air would be full of eavesdroppers.
She knew that, for the fact irritated her hourly and daily. And
doubtless he too, hedged about by fears and suspicions, knew it.

The lateness of the hour was natural, therefore. Still, it rendered
her task more difficult. She dared not interfere with the heavy bars
that secured the two doors which looked on the lake. She would be
heard, even if the task were not beyond her strength. And to gain the
back entrance she must thread a labyrinth of passages guarded by
wakeful dogs and sleeping servants; for servants in those days slept
on the stairs or in any odd place. She would be detected before she
had undone a single bolt.

Then what was she to do? Her bedroom was on the second floor, and exit
by the window was not possible. On which, some, surveying the
situation, would have sat still, and thought themselves justified. But
Henrietta was of firmer stuff; and for such where there is a will
there is a way. Mr. Rogers's room, of which she had still the use, was
on the first floor of the south wing and somewhat remote from the main
part of the house. Outside the door was a sash window which gave light
to the passage; and owing to the rise of the hill on every side of the
house save the front, the sill of this window was not more than six
feet above the garden. She could drop from it with safety. Return was
less easy, but with the help of a chair, which she could lower before
she descended, she might manage to climb in again. The feat seemed
easy and she did not feel afraid. Whether she would feel afraid when
the time came was another matter.

In the meantime she had to wait, and sleeping ill that night, she had
many uneasy dreams, and waking before daybreak thought herself into a
fever. All the dreadful things that might befall her rose before her
in the liveliest shapes; and long before the house awoke--there is no
fear like five-o'clock-in-the-morning fear--she had given up the
notion. But when the dull November day peered in at the bedroom
window, and she had risen, she was herself again. She chid herself for
the childish terrors in which she had indulged, and lest she should
give way to them again she determined to take a decisive step. Long
before noon she slipped out of the house and turned towards Ambleside.

Unfortunately it was a wet morning, and she feared that her promenade
in such weather must excite suspicion. Eyes, she was sure, were on her
before she had gone a dozen paces. To throw watchers off the scent and
to prove herself careless of espial she would not look back; but when
she reached the first corner she picked up a stone, and threw it at an
imaginary object on the edge of the lake. She stood an instant with
her wet-weather hood drawn about her face as if to mark the effect of
her shot. Then she picked up another stone and poised it, but did not
throw it. Instead, she walked on with the stone in her hand. All
without looking back.

She came to the second gate on the Ambleside road. It was out of sight
of the inn, and it seemed an easy and an innocent thing to lay the
stone on the head of the pillar--gate-posts in that country are of
stone--and to go on her way. But she heard a footstep behind her and
panic seized her. She felt that nothing in the world would be so
suspicious, so damning as such an act. She hesitated, and was lost.
She walked on slowly with the stone in her hand, and the fine rain
beating in her face.

Her follower, a country clown, passed her. She loitered until he was
out of sight; then she turned and retraced her steps. A half-minute's
walking brought her again to the gate. There was no one in sight and
in a fever lest at the last some one should take her in the act she
set the stone on the top of the post, and passed on.

Half-way back to the inn she stopped. What if the stone had not kept
its place? She had merely thrust out her hand as she passed, and
deposited the stone without looking. Now she was sure that her ear had
caught the faint sound which the stone made in striking the sodden
turf. She turned and walked back.

When she reached the gate she was thankful that she had had that
thought. The stone had fallen. Fortunately there was no one in sight,
and it was easy to pick up the first stone that came to hand and
replace the signal. Then she walked back to the inn, inclined to laugh
at the proportions to which her simple task had attained in her mind.

She would have laughed after another fashion had she known that her
movements from beginning to end had been watched by Mr. Sutton. The
chaplain, ashamed yet pursuing, had sneaked after her when she left
the inn, hoping that if she went far he might find in some lonely
place, where she could not escape, an opportunity of pleading his
cause. He fancied that the lapse of three days, and his patient,
mournful conduct, might have softened her; to say nothing of the
probable effect on a young girl of such a life as she was leading--of
its solitude, its dullness, its weariness.

On seeing her turn, however, he had had no mind to be detected, and he
had slipped into the wood. From his retreat he had seen her deposit
the stone: he had seen also her guilty face--it was he, indeed, who
had removed the stone. He had done so, expecting to find a note under
it, and he was all but surprised in the act. When she placed the
second, he was within three paces of her, crouching with a burning
face behind the wall. The thought of her contempt if she discovered
him so appalled him that, cold as it was, he sweated with shame; nor
was it until she had gone some distance that he dared to lift his eyes
above the wall. Then he saw that she had put another stone on the
gate-post.

He took it in his hand and compared it with the one which he still
held. They were as common stones as any that lay in the road. And
there was no letter. The conclusion was clear. The stone was a signal.
Nor could he doubt for whom it was intended. The London officer was
right. Walterson was in the neighbourhood and she was in communication
with him. The girl's infatuation still ruled her.

That hardened him a little in his course of action. But he was not at
ease, and when some one coughed--slightly but with meaning--while he
gazed at the stone, he jumped a yard. He stood, with all the blood in
his body flown to his face. The cough had come from the wood behind
him; and ten paces from him, peeping over the bush, was Mr. Bishop.

The runner chuckled. "Very well done, reverend sir," he said. "Very
well done. You've the makings of a very tidy officer about you. I
could not have done it much neater myself. But now, suppose you leave
the coast clear, or maybe you'll be scaring the other party."

Mr. Sutton, with his face the colour of beetroot--for he was heartily
ashamed of the part he had been playing--began to stammer an
explanation.

"I saw the young lady, and didn't--I couldn't understand----"

"What the lay was," Mr. Bishop answered, grinning at the other's
discomfiture. "Just so. Same with me. But suppose in the meantime,
reverend sir," with unction, "you leave the ground clear for the other
party? We can talk as well elsewhere as here, and without queering the
pitch."

The chaplain swallowed his vexation as well as he could and
complied--but stiffly. The two made their way back in silence to the
gap in the wall by which the chaplain had entered. There, having first
ascertained that the road was clear, they stepped out. By that time
Mr. Sutton was feeling better. After all, he had been right to follow
the girl. Left to herself, and a slave to the villain who had
fascinated her, she might suffer worse things than a friendly
espionage. He determined to take the bull by the horns. "What do you
make of it?" he asked, still blushing.

"Queer lay," Bishop answered drily.

"You understand it, then?"

"Middling well. Gipsy patter that." He pointed to the stone.

"You think the young lady is communicating--"

"With another party? I do. Leastways I know it. And the party----"

"Is Walterson?"

"Just so," the runner answered. "Why not? Young ladies are but women,
after all, reverend sir, and much like other women, only sometimes
more so. I began, I confess, by being of your way of thinking. The
lady is so precious snowy and so precious stiff you would not believe
ice would melt in her mouth. But when I came to think it all over, and
remembered how she stood by it at first, and would not give her name,
nor any clue by which we could trace where she came from--so that till
Captain Clyne turned up I was altogether at a loss--and how she made
light of what Walterson had done, when it was first told her, and a
lot of little things like that, I began to see how the land lay,
innocent as she looks. And after all, come to think of it, if she
liked the man well enough to go off with him--why should she cut him
adrift? When she had, so to speak, paid the price for him, your
reverence? How does that strike you?"

"But Captain Clyne," Sutton answered slowly, "who knew her well, and
knows her well----"

"I know."

"He does not share your opinion. He is under the belief," the chaplain
continued, "that her eyes are open. And that she hates the very
thought of the man, and of the mistake she made. His view is that she
is only anxious to behave herself."

Bishop winked. "Ay, but Captain Clyne," he said, "is in love with her,
you see."

Mr. Sutton stared. The colour rose slowly to his cheeks.

"I don't think so," he said. "In fact, I may say I know that it is not
so. He has long given up the remotest idea of the--of the match that
was projected."

"May be, may be," the runner answered lightly. "I don't say that that
is not so. But it is just when a man has given up all thought of a
thing that he thinks of it the most, Mr. Sutton. Anyway, there is the
stone, and there is the post, and I'll ask you plain for whom it is
meant, if it is not meant for Walterson?"

Mr. Sutton nodded. But his thoughts were still engaged with Captain
Clyne's feelings. The more he considered the point the more inclined
he was to think that the runner was right. Clyne's insistence on the
girl's innocence, the extreme bitterness that had once or twice broken
through his reticence, and an unusual restlessness of manner when he
had made the remarkable proposal that Mr. Sutton should take his
place, all pointed that way. And this being so, it was strange how the
suspicion sharpened the chaplain's keenness to win the prize. If she
had still so great a value in the eyes of his patron, how enviable
would he be if by hook or crook he could gain her! How very enviable!
And was it not for her own good that he should gain her; even if he
compassed his end by a little man[oe]uvring, by stooping a little, by
spying a little? Ay, even, it might be, by frightening her a little.
In love, as in war, all was fair, and if he did not love her he
desired her. She was so desirable, so very desirable, he might be
forgiven somewhat if he stooped to conquer: seeing that if he failed
this dangerous man held her in his power.

So when Bishop asked for the second time, "Will you help me to keep an
eye on her? You can do it more easily than I can," he was ready with
his answer, though he blushed a little.

"I will stay here and note who passes," he replied. "Yes, I will do
that."

"You can do it with less risk of notice than I can," the officer
answered. "And I must get back and keep her in view. It is just
possible that this is a ruse, and that the man we want is the other
way."

"I will remain," said Mr. Sutton curtly. And he stayed. But he was so
taken up with this new view of his patron's feelings that though Bess
Hinkson rowed along the shore before his eyes, and looked hard at him,
he never saw her.



                             CHAPTER XVI

                          A NIGHT ADVENTURE


Henrietta sat and listened to the various sounds which told of a
household on its way to bed; and she held her courage with both
hands. Slip-shod feet moved along the passages, sleepy voices bade
good-night, distant doors closed sharply. And still, when she thought
all had retired, the clatter of pot or pan in the far-off offices
proclaimed a belated worker. And she had to wait and listen and count
the pulsations of her heart.

The two wax candles, snuff them as she might, cast but a dull and
melancholy light. The clock ticked in the silence of the room with
appalling clearness. Her own movements, when she crept to the door to
listen, scared her by their stealthiness. It seemed to her that the
least of the sounds she made must proclaim her vigil. One moment she
trembled lest the late burning of her light arouse suspicion; the next
lest the cloak which she had brought in and cast across a chair should
have put some one on the alert. Or she tormented herself with the
fancy that the snow with which the evening sky had been heavy would
fall before she started and betray her footsteps.

Of one thing she tried not to think. She would not dwell on what might
happen at the meeting-place. She felt that if she let her thoughts run
on that, she would turn coward, she would not go. And one thing at a
time, she told herself. There lay her cloak, the window was not three
paces from her, the chair which she meant to use stood by the door. In
three minutes she could be outside, in half an hour she might be back.
But in the meantime, the room was lonesome and creepy, the creak of a
board made her start, the fall of the wood-ash stopped her breath.
Like many engaged in secret deeds she made her own mystery and
trembled at it.

At length all seemed abed.

She extinguished one of the candles and took up her cloak. As she
put it on before the pale mirror she saw that her white face and
high-piled hair showed by the light of the remaining candle like the
face of a ghost; and she shivered. But that was the last tribute to
weakness. Her nature, bold to recklessness, asserted itself now the
moment for action was come. She set the candle on the floor and shaded
it so that its light might not be seen. Then, taking the chair in her
hands she stepped into the dark passage, and closed the door behind
her. The close, heavy smell of the house assailed her as she listened;
but all was still, and she raised the sash of the window. She passed
the chair through the aperture and leaning far out that it might not
strike the wall lowered it gently. She felt it touch the ground and
settle on its legs. Then she climbed over the sill and let herself
down until her feet rested on the chair. She made certain that she
could draw herself in again, then she sprang lightly to the ground.

The chair cracked as her weight left it, and for a moment she crouched
motionless against the wall. But she had little to fear. Snow had not
yet fallen, but it was in the air and the night was as dark as pitch.
She could not see a yard and when she moved, she had not gone two
steps from the wall before it vanished, and all that remained to her
was some notion of its position. Above, below, around was a darkness
that could be felt. Still, she found the garden-gate with a little
difficulty, and she passed into the road, and turned to the left.
She knew that if she walked in that direction she must come to the
place--a furlong away--where the Troutbeck lane ran up from the
lake-side.

But the blackness was such that lake and hill were all one, and she
had to go warily, now feeling for the bank on her left, now for the
ditch on her right. Not a star showed, and only in one place a patch
of lighter sky broke the darkness and enabled her to discern the
shapes of the trees as she passed under them. It was a night when any
deed might be done, any mischief executed beside that lonely water;
and no eye see it. But she tried not to think of this. She tried not
to think of the tracts of lonely hill that stretched their long arms
on her left, or of the deep, black water that lurked on her right. And
she had compassed more than a hundred yards when a faint sound, as of
following feet, caught her ear.

She halted, and shook the hood back from her ears. She listened. She
fancied that she heard the pattering cease, and she peered into the
darkness, striving to embody the thing that followed. But she could
see nothing, she could now hear nothing. She had her handkerchief in
her hand, and as she stood, peering and listening, she wiped the
wind-borne moisture from her face.

Still she heard nothing, and she turned and set off again. But her
thoughts were with her follower, and she had not taken three steps
before she ran against the bank, and hardly saved herself from a fall.

She felt that with a little more she would lose her head, and, astray
in the boundless night, not know which direction to take. She must
pull herself together. She must go on. And she went on. But twice she
had the sickening assurance that something was moving at her heels.
Nor, but for the thought which by-and-by occurred to her, that her
follower might be the person she came to meet, could she have kept to
her purpose.

She came at length, trembling and clutching her hood about her, to
the foot of the lane. She knew the place by the colder, moister air
that swept her face, as well as by the lapping of the water on the
strand. For the road ran very near the lake at this point. It was a
mooring-place for two or three boats, belonging for the most part to
Troutbeck; and she could hear a loose oar in one of the unseen craft
roll over with a hollow sound. But no one moved in the darkness, or
spoke, or came to her; and with parted lips, striving to control
herself, she halted, leaning with one hand against the angle of the
bank. Then--she could not be mistaken--she heard her follower halt.

Thirty seconds--it seemed an age--she was silent, and forced herself
to listen, straining her ears. Then she could control herself no
longer.

"Is it you?" she whispered, her voice strained and uncertain, "I am
here."

No one answered. And when she had waited awhile glaring into the night
where she had last heard the footsteps she shuddered violently. For a
space she could not speak, she leant against the bank.

Then, "Is it you?" she whispered desperately, turning her face this
way and that. "Speak if it is! Speak! For God's sake, speak to me!"

No one answered, but out of the gloom came the low creep of the wind
among the reeds, and the melancholy lapping of the water on the
stones. Once more the oar in the boat rolled over with a hollow
coffin-like echo. And from a distance another sound, the flap and beat
of a sail as the rudder was put over, came off the surface of the
lake. But she did not heed this. It was with the darkness about her,
it was with the skulking thing a pace or two from her, it was with the
arms stretched out to clutch her, it was with the fear that was
beginning to stifle her as the thick night stifled her, that she was
concerned.

Once more, striving fiercely to combat her fear, to steady her voice,
she spoke.

"If you do not answer," she cried unsteadily, "I shall go back! You
hear? I shall go back!"

Still no answer. And on that, because a frightened woman is capable of
anything, and especially of the thing which is the least to be
expected, she flung herself forward with her hands outstretched and
tried to grapple with the thing that terrified her. She caught
nothing: all that she felt was a warm breath on her cheek. She
recoiled then as quickly as she had advanced. Unfortunately her skirt
brushed something as she fell back and the contact, slight as it was,
drew a low shriek from her. She leant panting against the bank,
crouching like a thing at bay. The beating of her heart seemed to
choke her, the gloom to stretch out arms about her. The touch of a
moth on her cheek would have drawn a shriek. And on the lake--but near
the shore now, a bowshot from where she crouched, the sail of the
unseen boat flapped against the mast and began to descend. The light
of a shaded lanthorn beamed for an instant on the dark surface of the
water, then vanished.

She did not see the lanthorn, she did not see the boat, for she was
glaring in the other direction, the direction in which she had heard
the footsteps. All her senses were concentrated on the thing close to
her. But some reflection of the light, glancing off the water, did
reveal a thing--a dim uncertain something--man or woman, dead or
alive, standing close to her, beside her: and with a shriek she sprang
from the thing, whatever it was, gave way to blind panic, and fled.
For some thirty yards she kept the road. Then she struck the bank and
fell, violently bruising herself. But she felt nothing. In a moment
she was on her feet again and running on, running on blindly, madly.
She fancied feet behind her, and a hand stretched out to seize her
hair; and in terror, that terror which she had kept at bay so long and
so bravely, she ran on at random, until she found herself, she knew
not how, clinging with both hands to the wicket-gate of the garden. A
faint light in one of the windows of the inn had directed her to it.

She stood then, still trembling in every limb, but drawing courage
from the neighbourhood of living things. And as well as her laboured
breathing would let her, she listened. But presently she caught the
stealthy trip-trip of feet along the road, and in a quick return of
terror she opened the gate and slipped into the garden. She had the
presence of mind to close the gate after and without noise. But that
done, woman's nerves could bear no more. Her knees were shaking under
her, as she groped her way to her window, and felt for the chair which
she had left beneath it.

The chair was gone. Impossible! She could not have found the right
window; that was it. She felt with her hands along the wall, felt
farther. But there was no chair--anywhere. She had made no mistake.
Some one had removed the chair.

Strange to say, the moment she was sure of that, the fear which had
driven her in headlong panic from the water-side left her. She thought
no more of her stealthy attendant. Her one care now was to get in--to
get in and still to keep secret the fact that she had been out! She
had trembled like a leaf a few moments before, in fear of the
shapeless thing that crouched beside her in the night. Now, with no
more than the garden-fence between her and it, she feared it no more
than a feather. She regained her ordinary plane, and foresaw all the
suspicion, all the inconvenience, to which her position, if she could
not re-enter, must subject her. And the smaller, the immediate fear
expelled the greater and more remote.

She leant against the wall and tried to think. Who had, who could have
removed the chair? She could not guess. And thinking only increased
her eagerness, her anxiety to enter and be safe. She must get in
somehow, even at a little risk.

She tried to take hold of the sill above her, and so to raise herself
to the window by sheer strength. But she could not grasp the sill,
though she could touch it. Still, if she had something in place of the
chair, if she had something a foot high on which to raise herself she
could succeed. But what? And how was she to find anything in the dark?
She peered round, compelling herself to think. Surely she might find
something. With a single foot of height she was saved. Without that
foot of height she must rouse the house; and that meant disgrace and
contumely, and degrading suspicion. Her cheeks burned at the prospect.
For no story, no explanation would account satisfactorily for her
absence from the house at such an hour.

She was about to grope her way round the house to the yard at the
back--where with luck she might find a chicken coop or a stable
bucket--when five paces from her the latch of the wicket clicked
sharply. By instinct she flattened herself against the wall; but she
had scarcely time to feel the sudden leap of her heart before a mild
voice spoke out of the gloom.

"I'm afraid I have taken your chair," it murmured, "pray forgive me. I
am Mr. Sutton, and I--I am very sorry!"

"You followed me!"

"I----"

"You followed me!" Her voice rang imperative with anger. "You followed
me! You have been spying on me! You!"

"No! No!" he muttered. "I meant only----"

"How dare you! How dare you!" she cried in low fierce tones. "You have
been spying on me, sir! And you removed the chair that--that I might
not enter without your help."

He was silent a moment, standing, though she could not see him, with
his chin on his breast. Then:

"I confess," he said in a low tone. "I confess it was so. I spied on
you."

"And followed me!"

"Yes," he admitted it, his hands extended in unseen deprecation, "I
did."

"Why?" she cried. "Why, sir?"

"Because----"

"But I do not want to know," she retorted, cutting him short as she
remembered the time, and place, "I want to know nothing, to hear
nothing from you! The chair, sir! The chair, if you do not wish to add
further outrage to your unmanly conduct. Set me the chair and go!"

"But hear at least," he pleaded, "why I followed you, Miss Damer.
Why----"

She stamped her foot on the ground.

"The chair!" she repeated.

He was most anxious to tell her that though other motives had led him
to spy on her and watch her window, he had followed her out of a pure
desire to protect her. But her insistence overrode him, silenced him.
He set the chair under the passage window and murmured submissively
that it was there.

That was enough for her. She felt for it, found it, and without
thought of him or word to him, she climbed nimbly in. That done she
stooped and drew the chair up, and closed the window down upon him and
secured it. Next, feeling for the door of Mr. Rogers's room she got
rid of the chair, and seized her hidden candle and crept out and up
the stairs. Apparently all the house, save the man who had detected
her, slept. But she did not dare to pause or prove the fact. She had
had her lesson and a severe one; and she did not breathe freely until
the door of her chamber was locked behind her, and she knew herself
once more within the bounds of the usual and the proper.

Then for a brief while, as she tore off her damp clothes, her thoughts
ran stormily on Mr. Sutton: nor did she dream, or he, from what things
he had saved her. The man was a wretch, a spy, a sneak trying to worm
himself into her confidence. She would box his ears if he threatened
her or referred to the matter again. And if he told others--she did
not know what she would not do! For the rest, she had let herself be
scared by a nothing, by a step, by a sound; and she despised herself
for her cowardice. But--she had that consolation--she had played her
part, she had gone to the rendezvous, she had not failed. The fault
lay with him who should have met her there, and who had not met her.

And so, shivering and chilled--for bedroom fires were not yet, and she
was worn out with fright and exposure--she hid herself under the heavy
patchwork quilt and sought comfort in the sleep of exhaustion. It was
not long in coming, for she suspected no more than she knew. Like the
purblind insect that creeps upon the crowded pavement and is missed by
a hundred feet, she discerned neither the dangers which she had so
narrowly escaped, nor those into which her late action was fated to
hurry her.

                             CHAPTER XVII

                        THE EDGE OF THE STORM


It was daylight when she awoke; but it had not been daylight long. Yet
some one was knocking; and knocking loudly at the door of her bedroom.
She rose on her elbow, and looking at the half-curtained window
decided that it was eight o'clock, perhaps a little later. But not so
much later that they need raise the house in waking her.

"Thank you," she cried petulantly. "That will do! That will do! I am
awake." And she laid her head on the pillow again, and closing her
eyes, sighed deeply. The events of the night were coming back to
her--and with them her troubles.

But, "Please to open the door, miss!" came the answer in gruff
accents. "I want to speak to you, by your leave."

Henrietta sat up, her hair straggling from under the nightcap that
framed her pretty features. The voice that demanded entrance was Mrs.
Gilson's: and even over Henrietta that voice had power. She parleyed
no longer. She threw a wrap about her, and hastily opened the door.

"What is it?" she asked. "Mrs. Gilson, is it you?"

"Be good enough," the landlady answered, "to let me come in a minute,
miss."

Her peremptory tone astonished Henrietta, who said neither Yes nor No,
but stood staring. The landlady with little ceremony took leave for
granted. She entered, went by the girl to the window, and dragging the
curtains aside, let in the full light. The adventures of the night had
left Henrietta pale. But at this her colour rose.

"What is it?" she repeated.

"You know best," Mrs. Gilson answered with more than her usual
curtness. "Deal of dirt and little profit, I'm afraid, like Brough
March fair! It's not enough to be a fool once, it seems! Though I'd
have thought you'd paid pretty smartly for it. Smart enough to know
better now, my lass!"

"I don't know what you mean," Henrietta faltered.

"You don't?" Mrs. Gilson rejoined, and with her arms set akimbo she
stared severely at the girl, who, in her night-clothes with her cloak
thrown about her and her colour coming and going, looked both guilty
and frightened. "I fancy your face knows, if you don't. Where were you
last night? Ay, after dark last night, madam? Where were you, I say?"

"After dark?" Henrietta stammered.

"Ay, after dark!" the landlady retorted. "That's English, isn't it?
But never mind. Least said is soonest mended. Where are your shoes?"

"My shoes?"

Mrs. Gilson lost patience, or appeared to lose it.

"That is what I said," she replied. "You give them to me, and then
I'll tell you why I want them. Ah!" catching sight of them and bending
her stout form to lift them from the floor. "Now, if you want to know
what is the matter, though I think you know as well as the miller
knows who beats the meal sack--you come with me! There is no one on
this landing. Come you, as you are, to the window at the other end.
'And you'll know fast enough, and why they want your shoes."

"They?" Henrietta murmured, hanging back and growing more alarmed. It
was a pity that there was no man there to see how pretty she looked in
her disorder.

"Ay, they!" the landlady answered. And a keen ear might have detected
sorrow as well as displeasure in her tone. "There's many will be
poking their noses into your affairs now you'll find--when it's too
late to prevent them. But do you come, young woman!" She led the way
along the landing to a window which looked down on the side-garden.
After a brief hesitation Henrietta followed, her face grown sullen.
Alas! when she reached the window it needed but a look to enlighten
her.

One of the things, which she had feared the previous day, had come to
pass! A little snow had fallen while she was absent from the house; so
very little that she had not noticed it. But it had lain, and on its
white surface was published this morning in damning characters the
story of her flittings to and fro. And worse, early as it was, the
story had readers! Leaning on the garden wicket were two or three men
discussing the appearances, and pointing and arguing; and forty or
fifty yards along the road towards Bowness, a man, bent double, was
tracing the prints of her feet, as if he followed a scent.

It was for that, then, that they wanted her shoes. She understood, and
her first impulse was to indignation. It was an outrage! An insult!

"What is it to them?" she cried. "How dare they!"

Mrs. Gilson looked keenly at her under her vast bushy eyebrows.

"I'm afraid," she said, "that you'll find they'll dare a mort more
than that before they've done, my girl. And what they want to know
they'll learn. These," coolly lifting the shoes to sight, "are to help
them."

"But why should they--what is it to them if I----" she stopped,
unwilling to commit herself.

"You listen to me a minute," the landlady said. "You've brought your
pigs to a poor market, that's plain: and there is but one thing can
help you now, and that is a clean breast. Now you make up your mind to
it! There's nought else can help you, I say again, and that I tell
you! It's no child's play, this! The truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth, as they say at the assizes, is the only thing
for you, if you don't want to be sorry for it all the rest of your
life."

She spoke so seriously that Henrietta when she answered took a lower
tone; though she still protested.

"What is it to any one," she asked, "if I was out of the house last
night?"

"It's little to me," Mrs. Gilson answered drily. "But it will be much
to you if you don't tell the truth. Your own conscience, my girl,
should speak loud enough."

"My conscience is clear!" Henrietta cried. But her tone, a little too
heroic, fitted ill with her appearance.

At any rate Mrs. Gilson, who did not like heroics, thought so. "Then
the best thing you can do," she replied tartly, "is to go and dress
yourself! A clear conscience! Umph! Give me clean hands! And if I were
you I'd be quite sure about that conscience before I came down to
answer questions."

"I shall not come down."

"Then they'll come up," the landlady retorted. "And 'twon't be more
pleasant. You'd best think twice about that."

Henrietta was thinking. Behind the sullen, pretty face she was
thinking that if she made a clean breast of it, she must betray the
man. She must say where she had seen him, and why she had gone to meet
him. And that was the thing which she had resolved not to do--the
thing which she was still determined not to do. There is a spice
of obstinacy in all women: an inclination to abide by a line once
taken, or an opinion once formed. And Henrietta, who was naturally
head-strong, and who had run some risk the previous night and gone to
some trouble that the man might escape, was not going to give him up
to-day. They had found her out, they had driven her to bay. But
nothing which they could do would wound her half as much as that
public ordeal, that confrontation with the man, that exhibition of his
unworthiness and her folly, which must follow his capture. For the man
himself, she was so far from loving him, that she loathed him, she was
ashamed of him. But she was not going to betray him. She was not going
to turn informer--a name more hateful then, when blood-money was
common, than now! She who had been kissed by him was not going to have
his blood on her hands!

Such were her thoughts; to which Mrs. Gilson had no clue. But the
landlady read recalcitrancy in the girl's face, and knowing some
things which Henrietta did not know, and being at no time one to brook
opposition, she took the girl the wrong way. If she had appealed to
her better feelings, if she had used that influence with her which
rough but real kindness had won, it is possible that she might have
brought Henrietta to reason. But the sight of that sullen, pretty face
provoked the landlady. She had proof of gross indiscretion, she
suspected worse things, she thought the girl unworthy. And she spoke
more harshly to her than she had ever spoken before.

"If you were my girl," she said grimly, "I'd know what to do with you!
I'd shake the humours out of you, if I had to shake you from now till
next week! Ay, I would! And you'd pretty soon come to your senses and
find your tongue, I warrant! Didn't you pretend to me and maintain to
me a week ago and more that you'd done with the scamp?"

"I have done with him!" Henrietta cried, red and angry.

"Ay, as the foot has done with the shoe--till next time!" Mrs. Gilson
retorted, drawing her simile from the articles in her hand. "For
shame. For shame, young woman!" severely. "When it was trusting to
that I kept you here and kept you out of gaol!"

Henrietta had not thought of that side of the case; and the reminder,
finding a joint in her armour, stung her.

"You don't know to whom you are talking!" she cried.

"I know that I am talking to a fool!" the landlady retorted. "But
there," she continued irefully, "you may talk to a fool till you are
dead and 'twill still be a fool! So it's only one bit of advice I'll
give you. You dress and come down or you'll be dragged down! And I
suppose, though you are not too proud to trapse the roads to meet your
Joe--ay," raising her voice as Henrietta turned in a rage, and fled,
"you may slam the door, you little vixen, for a vixen you are! But
you've heard some of my opinion of you, and you'll hear more! I'm not
sure that you're not a thorough bad 'un!" Mrs. Gilson continued,
lowering her voice again and speaking to herself--though her words
were still audible. "That I'm not! But any way there'll be one here
by-and-by you'll have to listen to! And he'll make your ears burn, my
lady, or I'm mistaken!"

It was bad enough to hear through the ill-fitting door such words as
these. It was worse to know that plainer words might be used
downstairs in the hearing of man and maid. But Henrietta had the sense
to know that her position would be made worse by avoiding the issue,
and pride enough to urge her to face it. She hastened to dress
herself, though her fingers shook with indignation as well as with
cold.

It was only when she was nearly ready to descend that she noticed how
large was the crowd collected before the inn. She could hardly believe
that her escapade--much as it might interest the police officer--was
the cause of this. And a chill of apprehension, a thrill of
anticipation of she knew not what, kept her for a moment standing
before the window. She had done, she told herself, no harm. She had no
real reason to fear. And yet she was beginning to fear. Anger was
beginning to give place to dismay. For it was clear that something out
of the common had happened; besides the group in the road, three or
four persons were inspecting the boats drawn up on the foreshore. And
on the lake was a stir unusual at this season. Half a mile from the
shore a boat under sail was approaching the landing-place from the
direction of Wray Woods. It was running fast before the bitter lash of
the November wind that here and there flecked the grey and melancholy
expanse with breakers. And round the point from the direction of
Ambleside a second boat was reaching, with the wind on her quarter.
She fancied that the men in these boats made signs to those on the
shore; and that the excitement grew with their report. While she gazed
two or three of the people in the road walked down to the water. And
with a puckered brow, and a face a shade paler than usual, she
hesitated; wishing that she knew what had happened and was sure that
the stir had not to do with her.

She would have preferred to wait upstairs until the boats arrived. But
she remembered Mrs. Gilson's warning. Moreover, she was beginning to
comprehend--as men do, and women seldom do--that there is a force
which it is futile to resist--that of the law. Sooner or later she
must go down. So taking her courage in both hands she opened her door,
and striving to maintain a dignified air she descended the stairs, and
made her way past the passage window to Mr. Rogers's room.

It was empty, and first appearances were reassuring. Her breakfast was
laid and waiting, the fire was cheerful, the room tended to
encouragement. But the murmur of excited voices still rose from the
highway below, and kept her uneasy: and when she went to the
side-window to view the scene of last night's evasion, she stamped her
foot with vexation. For where the tracks of feet were clearest they
had been covered with old boxes to protect them from the frosty
sunshine which the day promised; and the precaution smacked so
strongly of the law and its methods that it had an ill look. Not
Robinson Crusoe on his desert island had made a more ridiculous fuss
about a foot-print or two!

She was still knitting her brows over the device when there came a
knock at the door. She turned and confronted Bishop. The man's manner
as he entered was respectful enough, but he had not waited for leave
to come in. And she had a sickening feeling that he was taking
possession of her, that he would not leave her again, that from this
time she was not her own. The gravity of the bluff red face did not
lessen this feeling. And though she would fain have asked him his
business and challenged his intrusion she could not find a word.

"I take it, you'd as soon see me alone, miss," he said. And he closed
the door behind him, and stood with his hat in his hand. "You'd best
go on with your breakfast, for you look a bit peaky--you're a bit
shaken, I expect, by what has happened. But don't you be afraid," with
something like a wink, "there's no harm will happen to you if you are
sensible. Meanwhile I'll talk to you, by your leave, while you eat. It
will save time, and time's much. I suppose," he continued, as she
forced herself to take her seat and pour out her tea, "there's no need
to tell you, miss, what has happened?"

She would have given much to prevent her hand shaking, and something
to be able to look him in the face. She did succeed in maintaining
outward composure; for agitation is more clearly felt than perceived.
But she could not force the colour to her cheeks, nor compel her
tongue to utterance. And he let her swallow some tea before he
repeated his question.

"I suppose there is no need, miss, to tell you what has happened?"

"I do not know"--she murmured--"to what you refer. You must speak more
plainly."

"It's a serious matter," he said. He appeared to be looking into his
hat, but he was really watching her over its edge, "A serious matter,
miss, and I hope you'll take it as it should be taken. For if it goes
beyond a point the Lord only can stop it. So if you know, miss, and
have no need to be told, it's best for you to be frank. We know a good
deal."

The warm tea had given her command of herself.

"If you mean," she said, "that I was out last night, I was."

"We know that, of course."

"You have my shoes," with a little shrug of contempt.

"Yes, miss, and your footprints!" he answered. "The point on which we
want information--and the sooner we have it the better--is, where did
you leave him?"

"Where did I leave--whom?" sharply.

"The person you met."

"I met no one."

The runner shook his head gently. And his face grew longer.

"For God's sake, miss," he said earnestly, "don't fence with me. Don't
take that line! Believe me, if you do you'll be sorry. Time's the
thing. Tell us now and it may avail. Tell us to-morrow and it may be
of no use. The harm may be done."

She stared at him. "But I met no one," she said.

"There are the footprints, coming and going," he answered with
severity. "It is no use to deny them."

"A man's--with mine?"

"For certain."

She looked at him with a startled expression. But gradually her face
cleared, she smiled.

"Ah," she said. "Just so. You have the man's tracks coming and going?
And mine?"

He nodded.

"But are not his tracks as well as mine more faint as they go from the
house? More clear as they come back to the house? Because snow was
falling while I was out as well as before I started. So that he as
well as I went from the house and returned to the house!"

He frowned. "I noticed that," he said.

"Then," with a faint ring of amusement in her tone, "you had better
search the house for him."

The difficulty had occurred to Mr. Bishop before he entered. But it
did not fall in with his theory, and like many modern discoverers he
had set it on one side as a detail which events would explain. Put to
him crudely it vexed him.

"See here, miss, you're playing with us," he said. "And it won't do.
Tell us frankly----"

"I will tell you frankly," she answered, cutting him short with
spirit, "whose tracks they are. They are Mr. Sutton's. Now you know.
And Mr. Sutton is the only person I saw last night. Now you know that
too. And perhaps you will leave me." She rose as she finished.

"Mr. Sutton was with you?"

"I have said so. You have my shoes. Get his. What I say is easily
tested and easily proved."

She had the pleasure of a little triumph. The runner looked taken
aback and ashamed of himself. But after the first flush of
astonishment he did not waste a minute. He turned, opened the door,
and disappeared.

Henrietta listened to his departing steps, then with a sigh of relief
she returned to her breakfast. Her spirits rose. She felt that she had
exaggerated her troubles; that she had allowed herself to be alarmed
without cause. The landlady's rudeness, rather than any real
perplexity or peril, had imposed on her. Another time she would not be
so lightly frightened. For, after all, she had done nothing of which
even Mr. Sutton, if he told the truth, could make much. They might
suspect that she had stolen out to meet Walterson; but as she had not
met him, they could prove nothing. They might conclude from it, that
he was in the neighbourhood; but as Bishop already held that belief,
things were left where they were before. Except, to be sure, that for
some reason she had lost the landlady's favour.

The girl had arrived at this comfortable stage in her reasoning when
the shuffling of feet along the passage informed her that Bishop was
returning. Nor Bishop only. He brought with him others, it was clear,
and among them one heavy man in boots--she caught the harsh ring of a
spur. Who were they? Why were they coming? Involuntarily she rose to
her feet, and waited with a quickened heart for their appearance.

The sounds that reached her were not encouraging. One of the men
stumbled, and growled an oath; and one laughed a vulgar common laugh
as at some jest in doubtful taste. Then the door opened wide, and with
little ceremony they followed one another into the room, one, two,
three.


[Illustration: ... he touched his brow with his whip handle]


Bishop first, with his bluff, square face. Then a stranger, a tall
bulky man, heavy-visaged and bull-dog jawed, with harsh, over-bearing
eyes. He wore an open horseman's coat, and under it a broad leather
belt with pistols; and he touched his brow with his whip-handle in a
half familiar, half insolent way. After him came the pale, peaky face
of Mr. Sutton, who looked chap-fallen and ashamed of himself.

The moment all had entered,

"Mr. Chaplain, close the door," said the stranger in a broad
Lancashire accent, and with an air of authority. "Now, Bishop, suppose
you tell the young lady--damme, what's that?" turning sharply, "Who is
it?"



                            CHAPTER XVIII

                           MR. JOSEPH NADIN


The words were addressed to Mr. Sutton, who did not seem able to shut
the door. But the answer came from the other side of the door.

"By your leave,"--the voice, a little breathless, was Mrs.
Gilson's--"I'm coming in too." And she came in at that, and brusquely.
"I think you are over many men for one woman," she continued, setting
her cap straight, and otherwise not a whit discomposed by the men's
attitude. "You'll want me before you are done, you'll see."

"Want you?" the strange man answered with sarcasm. "Then when we want
you we'll send for you."

"No you'll not, Joe Nadin," she retorted, coolly, as she closed the
door behind her. "For I'll be here. What you will be wanting," with a
toss of her double chin, "will be wit. But that's not to be had for
the sending."

Nadin--he was the deputy-constable of Manchester, and the most famous
police officer of that day, a man as warmly commended by the Tory
party as he was fiercely hated by the Radicals--would have given an
angry answer. But Bishop was before him.

"Let her be," he said--with friendly deference. "We may want her, as
she says. And the young lady is waiting. Now, miss," he continued,
addressing Henrietta, who stood at the table trying to hide the
perturbation which these preliminaries caused her, "I've brought Mr.
Sutton to tell us in your presence what he knows. I doubt it won't go
far. So that when we have heard him we shall want a good deal from
you."

"Ay, from you, young lady," the Manchester man struck in, taking the
word out of the other's mouth. "It will be your turn then. And what we
want we must have, or----"

"Or what?" she asked, with an air of dignity that sat strangely on one
so young. They did not guess how her heart was beating!

"Or 'twill be Appleby gaol!" he answered. "That's the long and the
short of it. There's an end of shilly-shallying! You've to make your
choice, and time's precious. But the reverend gentleman has first say.
Speak up, Mr. Chaplain! You followed this young lady last night about
ten o'clock? Very good. Now what did you see and hear?"

Mr. Sutton looked miserably downcast. But he was on the horns of a
dilemma, and while he knew that by speaking he forfeited all chance of
Henrietta's favour, he knew that he must speak: that he had no choice.
Obstinate as he could be upon occasion, in the grasp of such a man as
Nadin he succumbed. He owned that not the circumstances only but the
man were too strong for him. Yet he made one effort to stand on his
own legs. "I think Miss Damer would prefer to tell the tale herself,"
he said, with a spark of dignity. "In that case I have nothing to
say."

"I do not know what you mean," Henrietta answered, her lip curling.
And she looked at him as she would have looked at Judas.

"Still," he murmured, with a side-glance at Nadin, "if you would be
advised by me----"

"I have nothing to say," she said curtly.

"Mind you, I've told her nothing." Mrs. Gilson said, intervening in
time to prevent an outburst on Nadin's part. "I was bid to get her
shoes, and I got her shoes. I held my tongue."

"Then she knows nothing!" the chaplain exclaimed.

"Oh, she knows enough," Nadin struck in, his harsh, dogmatic nature
getting the better of him. "If she did not know we should not come to
her. We know our business. Now, where's the man hiding? For there the
boy will be. Where did you leave him, my lass?"

Mr. Sutton, whom circumstances had forced into a part so distasteful,
saw a chance of helping the girl; and even of reinstating himself in
some degree in her eyes.

"I can answer that," he said. "She did not meet him. The young lady
went to the bottom of Troutbeck Lane, where, I understand, the boat
came to land. But there was no one there to meet her. And she came
back without seeing any one. I can vouch for that. And that," the
chaplain continued, throwing out his chest, and speaking with dignity,
"is all that Miss Damer did, and I can speak to it."

Nadin exploded.

"Don't tell me that she went to the place for nothing, man!"

"I tell you only what happened," the chaplain answered, sticking to
his point. "She saw no one, and spoke to no one."

"Hang me if I don't think you are in with her!" Nadin replied in an
insulting tone. And then turning to Henrietta, "Now then, out with it!
Where is he?"

But Henrietta, battered by the man's coarse voice and manner, still
held her ground.

"If I knew I should not tell you," she said.

"Then you'll go to Appleby gaol!"

"And still I shall not tell you."

"Understand! Understand!" Nadin replied. "I've a warrant here granted
in Lancashire and backed here and in order! A warrant to take him. You
can see it if you like. Don't say I took advantage of you. I'm rough,
but I'm square," he continued, his broad dialect such that a
Southerner would not have understood him. "The lads know me, and
you'll know me before we've done!"

"Then it won't be for your wisdom!" Mrs. Gilson muttered. And then
more loudly, "Why don't you tell her what's been done? Happen she
knows, and happen she doesn't. If she does 'tis all one. If she
doesn't you're talking to deaf ears."

Nadin shrugged his shoulders and struck his boot with his whip.

"Well," he said, "an old lass with a long tongue will have her way i'
Lancashire or where it be! Tell her yourself. But she knows, I
warrant!"

Mrs. Gilson also thought so, but she was not sure.

"See here, miss," she said, "you know Captain Clyne's son?"

Henrietta's colour rose at the name.

"Of course you do," the landlady continued, "for if all's true you are
some sort of connection. Then you know, Miss, that he's the apple of
his father's eye, and the more for being a lameter?"

Henrietta could not hear Anthony Clyne's name without agitation;
without vague apprehensions and a sense of coming evil. Why did they
bring in the name? And what were they going to tell her about the
boy--of whom in the old days she had been contemptuously jealous? She
felt her face burn under the gaze of all those eyes fixed on it. And
her own eyes sank.

"Well," she muttered indistinctly, "what of him? What has he to do
with this?"

"He is missing. He has been stolen."

"Stolen?"

Her tone was one of sharp surprise.

"He was carried off last night by two men," Bishop struck in. "His
nurse was returning to the house near Newby Bridge--hard on nightfall,
when she met two men on the road. They asked the name of the place,
heard what it was, and asked who the child was. She told them, and
they went one way and she another, but before she reached home they
overtook her, seized her and bound her, and disappeared with the boy.
It was dusk and she might have lain in the ditch and died. But the
servants in the house went out when she did not return and found her."
He looked at Nadin. "That's so, isn't it?"

"Ay, that's it," the other answered, nodding. "You've got it pat."

"When she could speak, the alarm was given, they raised the country,
the men were traced to Newby Bridge. There we know a boat met them and
took them off. And the point, miss, is not so much where they landed,
for that we know--'twas at the bottom of Troutbeck Lane!--as where
they are now."

She had turned pale and red and pale again, while she listened.
Astonishment had given place to horror, and resentment to pity. In
women, even the youngest, there is a secret tenderness for children;
and the thought of this child, cast lame and helpless into the hands
of strangers, and exposed, in place of the care to which he had been
accustomed all his life, to brutality and hardships, pierced the crust
of jealousy and melted the woman's heart. Her eyes filled with tears,
and through the tears indignation burned. For a moment even the insult
which Anthony Clyne had put upon her was forgotten. She thought only
of the father's misery, his suspense, his grief. She yearned to him.

"Oh!" she cried, "the wretches!" And her voice rang bravely. "But--but
why are you here? Why do you not follow them?"

Nadin's eyes met Bishop's. He raised his eyebrows.

"Because, miss," he said, "we think there's a shorter way to them.
Because we think you can tell us where they are if you choose."

"I can tell you where they are?" she repeated.

"Yes, miss. We believe that you can--if you choose. And you _must_
choose."

The girl stared. Then slowly she comprehended. She grasped the fact
that they addressed the question to her, that they believed that she
was at one with the men who had done this. And a change as
characteristic of her nature as it was unexpected by those who watched
her, swept over her face. Her features quivered, and, even as when
Anthony Clyne's proposal wounded her pride to the quick, she turned
from them, and bowing her head on her hands broke into weeping.

They were all taken aback. They had looked some for one thing, some
for another; some for rage and scorn, some for sullen denial. No one
had foreseen this breakdown. Nor was it welcome. Nadin found himself
checked on the threshold of success, and swore under his breath.
Bishop, who had broken a lance with her before, and was more or less
tender-hearted, looked vexed. Mr. Sutton showed open distress--her
weeping hurt him, and at every quiver of her slight, girlish figure he
winced. While Mrs. Gilson frowned; perhaps at the clumsiness and
witlessness of men-folk. But she did not interfere, and the chaplain
dared not interfere: and Nadin was left to deal with the girl as he
pleased.

"There, miss," he said, speaking a little less harshly, "tears mend no
bones. And there's one thing clear in this and not to be denied--the
men who have taken the lad are friends of your friend. And not a doubt
he's in it. We've traced them to a place not three hundred yards from
here. They've vanished where he vanished, and there's no need of magic
to tell that the same hole hides all. I was on the track of the men
with a warrant--for they are d----d Radicals as ever were!--when they
slipped off and played this pretty trick by the way. Whether they have
kidnapped the lad out of revenge, or for a hostage, I'm in the dark.
But put-up job or not, you are not the young lady to back up such
doings. I see that with half an eye," he added cunningly, "and
therefore----"

"Have you got it from her?"

Nadin turned with a frown--the interruption came from Mr. Hornyold.
The justice had just entered, and stood booted, spurred, and pompous
on the threshold. He carried his heavy riding-whip, and was in all
points ready for the road.

"No, not yet," Nadin answered curtly, "but----"

"You'd better; let me try her, then," the magistrate rejoined, all
fussiness and importance. "There's no time to be lost. We're getting
together. I've a dozen mounted men in the yard, and they are coming in
from Rydal side. We shall have two score in an hour. We'll have the
hills scoured before nightfall, and long before Captain Clyne is
here."

"Quite so, squire," Nadin replied drily. "But if the young lady will
tell us where the scoundrel lies we'll be spared the trouble. Now,
miss," he continued, forgetting, under the impetus of Hornyold's
manner, the more diplomatic line he had been following, "we've a
d----d clear case against you, and that's flat. We can trace you to
where they landed last night, and we know that you were there within a
few minutes of the time; for we've their footsteps from the boat to
the wood above the road, and your footsteps from the boat to the inn.
There is as much evidence of aiding and abetting as would transport a
dozen men! So do you be wise, and tell us straight off what we want."

But two words had caught her ear.

"Aiding and abetting?" she muttered. And she turned her eyes, still
bright with tears, upon him. Her flushed face and ruffled hair gave
her a strangely childish appearance. "Aiding and abetting? Do you mean
that you think that I--that I had anything to do with taking the
child?"

"No, no," Bishop murmured hurriedly, and cast a warning look at his
colleague. "No, no, not knowingly."

"Nay, but that depends," Nadin persisted obstinately. His fibre was
coarser, and his perceptions were less acute. It was his habit to gain
his ends by fear, and he was unwilling to lose the hold he had over
her. "That depends," he repeated doggedly. "If you speak and tell us
all you know, of course not. But if you do not speak, we shall take it
against you."

"You will take it," she cried, "that I--I helped to steal the child?"

"Just so, if you don't speak," Nadin repeated, disregarding his
fellow's signals. Firmness, he was sure, was all that was needed. Just
firmness.

She was silent in great agitation. They suspected her! Oh, it was
wicked, it was vile of them! She would not have touched a hair of the
child's head. And they suspected Walterson; but it might be as
falsely, it must be as falsely. Yet if she gave him up, even if he
were innocent he would suffer. He would suffer on other charges, and
she would have his blood on her hands though she had so often, so
often, resolved that she would not be driven to that!

They asked too much of her. They asked her to betray the man to death
on the chance--and she did not believe in the chance--that it would
restore the child to its father. She shuddered as she thought of the
child, as she thought of Anthony Clyne's grief; she would willingly
have done much to help the one and the other. But they asked too much.
If it were anything short of the man's life that they asked, she would
be guided, she would do as they bade her. But this step was
irrevocable: and she was asked to take it on a chance. Possibly they
did not themselves believe in the chance. Possibly they made the
charge for their own purposes, their aim to get the man into their
power, the blood-money into their purse. She shuddered at that and
found the dilemma cruel. But she had no doubt which course she must
follow. No longer did any thought of herself or of the annoyances of
his arrest weigh with her: thought of the child had outweighed all
that. But she would not without proof, without clear proof, have the
man's blood on her hands.

And regarding them with a pale set face,

"If you have proof," she said, "that he--Walterson--" she pronounced
the name with an effort--"was concerned in carrying off the child, I
will speak."

"Proof?" Nadin barked.

"Yes," she said. "If you can satisfy me that he was privy to this--I
will tell you all I know."

Nadin exploded.

"Proof?" he cried with violence. "Why, by G--d, was he not at the
place where we know the men landed? And didn't you expect to meet him
there? And at the very hour?"

"He was not there," she cried.

"But----"

"And I was there," she continued, "yet I know nothing. I am innocent."

"Umph! I don't know!" Nadin growled.

"But I do," she replied. "If your proof comes only to that---"

"But the men who took the child are old mates of his!"

"How do you know?" she returned. "You did not see them. They may not
be the men you wished to arrest. But," scornfully, "I see what kind of
proof you have, and I shall not tell you."

"Come, miss," Bishop said, staying with difficulty Nadin's furious
answer. "Come, miss, think! Think again. Think of the child!"

"Oh, sink the child," the Manchester officer struck in. He had seldom
been so handled. "Think of yourself!"

"You will send me to prison?" she said.

"By heaven we will!" he answered. And Mr. Hornyold nodded.

"It must be so, then," she replied with dignity. "I shall not speak. I
have no right to speak."

They all cried out on her, Bishop and Mr. Sutton appealing to her,
Nadin growling oaths, Mr. Hornyold threatening that he would make out
the warrant that minute. Only the landlady, with her apron rolled
round her arms, stood grim and silent; a looker-on whose taciturnity
presently irritated Nadin beyond bearing. "I suppose you think," he
said, turning to her, "that you could have handled her better?"

"I couldn't ha' handled her worse!" the landlady replied.

"You think yourself a Solomon!" he sneered.

"A girl of ten's a Solomon to you!" the landlady retorted keenly. "It
canna be for this, it surely canna be for this, Joe Nadin, that they
pay you money at Manchester, and that 'tis said you go in risk of your
life! Why, that Bishop, London chap as he is, is a greybeard beside
you. He does know that Bluster is a good dog but Softly is better!"

"Well, as I live by bread I'll have her in the Stone Jug!" he
retorted. "And then we'll see!"

"There's another will see before you!" Mrs. Gilson answered drily.
"And it strikes me he's not far off. If you'd left her alone for just
an hour and seen what his honour Captain Clyne could do with her,
you'd have shown your sense!" shrugging her shoulders. "Now, I fear
you've spoiled his market, my lad!"



                             CHAPTER XIX

                             AT THE FARM


It was night, and the fire, the one generous thing in the house-place
at Starvecrow Farm, blazed fitfully; casting its light now on
Walterson's brooding face as he stooped over the heat, now on the
huddled shrunken form that filled the farther side of the hearth. As
the flames rose and fell, the shadows of the two men danced
whimsically behind them. At one moment they sprang up, darkening the
whole smoke-grimed ceiling and seeming to menace the persons who gave
them birth, at another they sank into mere hop-o'-my-thumbs, lurking
in ambush behind the furniture. There was no other light in the room;
it was rarely the old skinflint suffered another. And to-night the
shutters were closed and barred that even the reflection of the blaze
might not be seen without and breed suspicion.

The younger man's face, when the firelight rested on it, betrayed not
only his present anxiety, but the deep lines of past fear and
brooding. He was no longer spruce and neat and close-shaven; he was no
longer the dandy who had turned a feather-head--for there was little
in this place to encourage cleanliness. Confinement and suspense had
sharpened his features; his eyes were harder and brighter than of old,
and the shallow tenderness which had fooled Henrietta no longer
floated on their depths. A nervous impatience, a peevish irritability
showed in his every movement; whether he raised his hand to silence
the old man's crooning, or fell again to biting his nails in moody
depression. It was bad enough to be confined in this squalid hole with
an imbecile driveller, and to spend long hours without other company.
It was worse to know that beyond its threshold the noose dangled, and
the peril which he had so long and so cleverly evaded yawned for him.

To do Walterson justice, it was not entirely for his own safety that
he was concerned as he sat over the fire and listened--starting at the
squeak of a mouse and finding in every sough of the wind the step of a
friend or foe. He was a heartless man. He would not have scrupled to
ruin the innocent girl who trusted him: nay, in thought and intention
he had ruined her as he had ruined others. But he could not face
without a shudder what might be happening at this moment by the
waterside. He could not picture without shame what, if the girl
escaped there, would happen here; when they dragged her through the
doorway, bound and gagged and at the mercy of the jealous vixen who
dominated him. Secretly he was base enough to hope that what they did
they would do in the darkness, and not terrify him with the sight of
it. For if they brought her here, if they confronted him with her, how
loathly a figure he must cut even in his own eyes! How poor and
dastardly a thing he must seem in the eyes of the woman whose will he
did and to whose vengeance he consented.

The sweat rose on his brow as he pondered this; as he looked with
terrified eyes at the door and fancied that the scene was already
playing, that he saw her dragged into that vile place, that he met her
look. Passionately he wished--as we all wish in like but smaller
cases--that he had never seen either of the women, that he had never
played the fool, or that if he must play the fool he had chosen some
other direction in which to escape with Henrietta. But wishing was
useless. Wishing would not remove him into safety or comfort, would
not relieve him from the consequences of his misdeeds, would not
convert the skulking imbecile who faced him into decent company. And
even while he indulged his regret, he heard the tread of men outside,
and he stood up. A moment later the signal, three knocks on the
shutter, informed him that the crisis which he had been expecting and
dreading, was come--was come!

Delay would not help him; the old man, mowing and chattering, was
already on his feet. He went to the door and with a hang-dog face
opened it. The long bar which ran all its length into the wall
was scarcely clear, when a woman, swaddled to her eyes in a thick
drugget shawl, pushed in. It was Bess. After her came a tall man
cloaked and booted, followed by two others of lower stature and meaner
appearance. The last who entered bore something in his arms, a pack, a
bundle--Walterson, shuddering, could not see which. For as Bess with
the same show of haste with which she had entered, began to secure the
door against the cold blast, that blew the sparks in clouds up the
chimney, the cloaked man addressed him.

"You're Walterson? Ah, to be sure, we've met--once, I think. Well," he
spoke in a harsh, peremptory tone--"you'll be good enough to note," he
turned and pointed to the other men, "that I have naught to do with
this! I've neither hand nor part in it! And I'll ask you to remember
that."

Walterson, with a pallid face and shrinking eyes, looked at the man
with the bundle.

"What is it?" he muttered hoarsely. "I don't understand."

"Oh, stow this!" Bess cried, turning brusquely from the door which she
had secured. "The gentleman is very grand and mighty," shrugging her
shoulders, "but the thing is done now. And I'll warrant if good comes
of it he'll not be too proud to take his share."

"Not _I_, girl!" the tall man answered. "Not I!"

He took off as he spoke his cloak and hat, and showed a tall, angular
figure borne with military stiffness. His face was sallow and long,
and his mouth wide; but the plainness or ugliness of his features was
redeemed by their power, and by the light of enthusiasm which was
never long absent from his sombre eyes. A kind of aloofness in speech
and manner showed that he was in the habit of living among inferiors.
And not only the men who came with him, but Walterson himself seemed
in his presence of a meaner mould and smaller sort.

His two companions were stout, short-built men of a coarse type. But
Walterson after a single glance, paid no heed to them. His eyes, his
thoughts, his attention were all on the bundle. Yet, it was not
possible, it could not be what he dreaded. It was too small, too
small! And yet he shuddered.

"What is it?" he asked in uncertain accents.

"The worth of a man's neck, may be," one of the two men grunted.

"Oh, curse your may-be's!" the other who carried the child struck in.
"It's a smart bit of justice, master, with no may-be about it! And
came in our way just when we were ready for it. Let's look at the
kid."

"The kid?"

Walterson repeated the words, and opened his mouth dumb-founded. He
looked at Thistlewood.

The tall man, who was warming his back at the fire, shrugged his
square shoulders.

"I've naught to do with it!" he said. "Ask them!"

"Don't you know what a kid is?" Giles, one of the two others,
retorted, with a glance of contempt. "A kinchin! a yelper! It's Squire
Clyne's, if you must know. He'll learn now what it is to see your
children trodden under foot and your women-kind slashed and cut with
sabres! He's ground the faces of the poor long enough! D----n him,
he's as bad as Castlereagh, the devil! But, hallo!" breaking off. "If
I don't think, mate, you've squeezed his throat a bit too tight!"

He had unwound the wrappings and disclosed the still and inanimate
form of a boy about six years old, but small for his age. The thin
bloodless hands were clenched, the head hung back, the eyes were
half-closed; and the tiny face showed so deathly white--among those
tanned faces and in that grimy place--that it was not wonderful that
the man fancied for a moment that the child was dead.

But, "Not I!" the one who had carried it answered contemptuously.
"It's swooned, like enough. And I'd to stop it shrieking, hadn't I?
Let the lass look to it."

Bess took it but reluctantly--with an ill grace and no look of
tenderness or pity. She was of those women who love no children but
their own, and sometimes do not love their own. While she sprinkled
water on the poor little face and rubbed the small hands, Walterson
found his voice.

"What folly--what cursed folly is this?" he cried, his words vibrating
with rage. "What have we to do with the child or your vengeance, or
this d----d folly--that you should bring the hunt upon us? We were
snug here."

"And ain't we snug now?" Lunt, the man who had carried the child,
asked.

"Snug? We'll be snug behind bars in twenty-four hours!" Walterson
rejoined, his voice rising almost to a scream, "if that child is
Squire Clyne's child!"

"Oh, he's that right enough, master," Giles, the other man, struck in.
A kind of ferocious irony was natural to him.

"Then you'll have the whole country on us before noon to-morrow!"
Walterson retorted. "I tell you he'll follow you and track you and
find you, if he follows you to hell's gate! I know the man."

"So do I," said Thistlewood coolly. "And I say the same."

"Yet," Giles retorted impudently, "you've got a neck as well as
another."

"You can leave my neck out of the question," Thistlewood replied. "And
me!" And he turned his back on them contemptuously.

"Well, you've got a neck," Giles answered, addressing Walterson, who
was almost hysterical with rage. "And I suppose you have some care for
it, if he has none!" with a gesture of the thumb in Thistlewood's
direction. "You'd as soon as not, keep your neck unstretched, I
suppose?"

"Sooner," Bess said, flinging a glance of contempt at her lover.
"Here, let me teach him," she continued bluntly; the child had begun
to murmur in a low, painful note. "They came on the kid by chance and
snatched it, and we've put ten miles of water between the place and
us."

"And snow on the ground!" Walterson retorted, pointing to the thin
powder that still lay white in the folds of her shawl.

"We came up through the wood," she answered. "Trust us for that!
But that's not the point. The point is, that your pink-and-white
fancy-girl never came. She'd more sense than I thought she had. But
you were willing to snatch her, my lad. And why is the risk greater
with the child?"

"But----"

"It's less," the girl continued, before he could put his objection
into words. "It's less, I tell you, for the child's more easily tucked
away. I've a place we can put it, where they'll not find it if they
search for a twelvemonth!"

"They'll soon search here," he said sullenly. "There's not a house
they'll not search if they trace the boat. Nor a bothy on the hills."

"May be," she answered confidently. "But when they search you'll not
be here, nor the kid. Nor in a bothy!"

"If you are going to trust Tyson----"

"You leave that to me," she replied, bending her brows.

But he was not to be silenced.

"He'll sell you!" he cried. "He'll sell you! He'll give you fair words
and you think you can fool him. But when he comes to know there's a
reward out, and what he'll suffer if he is found hiding us, and when
he knows that all the country is up--and for this child they'd hang us
on the nearest tree--he'll give us up and you too. Though you do think
you have bewitched him. And so I tell all here!" he added
passionately.

With a dark look, "Stow it, my lad," she said, as he paused for want
of breath. "And leave Tyson to me."

But the men who had listened to the debate looked something startled.
They glanced at one another, and at last Thistlewood spoke.

"Is this Tyson," he asked, "the man at whose house you said we should
be better than here, my girl?"

"That's him," Bess answered curtly.

"Well, it seems to me that you ought to tell us a bit more. I don't
want to be sold."

"I am of that way of thinking myself, captain," Lunt growled. "If the
man has no finger between the jamb and the door, you can't be sure
that he won't shut it. No, curse me, you can't! There's other Olivers
besides him who has sold a round dozen of us to Government. I'll slit
the throat of the first police spy that comes in my way!"

"And yet you trust me!" the girl flung at him, her eyes scornful. To
her they all, all seemed cowards.

"Ay, but you are a woman," Giles answered. "And though I'm not saying
there's no Polly Peachums, I've not come across them. Treat a maid
fair and she'll treat you fair, that's the common way of it. She'll
not stretch you, for anything short of another wench. But a man! He's
here and there and nowhere."

"That's just where this man is," she answered curtly.

"Where?"

"Nowhere."

"What do you mean?"

"He's cut his lucky. He's gone to Carlisle to see his brother and keep
his skin safe--for a week. He's like a good many more I know," with a
glance which embraced every man in the room: "willing to eat but
afraid to bite."

"But he has left his house?"

"That's it."

"And who's in it?"

"His wife, no one else. And she's bedridden with a babby, seven days
old."

"What! And no woman with her?"

"There was," Bess answered, "but there isn't. I quarrelled with the
serving-lass this afternoon, and at sunset to-day she was to go. If
she comes back to-morrow I'll send her packing with a flea in her
ear!"

"But who----"

"Gave me leave to send her?" defiantly. "He did."

Thistlewood smiled.

"And the wife?" he asked. "What'll she say?"

"Say? She'd not say boh to a goose if it hissed at her!" Bess answered
contemptuously. "She's a pale, fat caterpillar, afraid of her own
shadow! She'll whine a bit, for she don't love me--thinks I'll poison
her some fine day for the sake of her man. But she's upstairs and
there's no one, but nor ben, to hear her whine; and at daybreak I'll
be there, tending her. Isn't it the natural thing," and she smiled
darkly, "with this the nearest house?"

"Curse me, but you're a clever lass!" Giles cried. And even
Thistlewood seemed to feel no pity for the poor woman, left helpless
with her babe. "I don't know," the ruffian continued, "that I'm not
almost afraid of you myself!"

"And you think that house will not be searched?"

"Why should it be searched?" Bess answered. "Tyson's well known.
And if they do search it," she continued confidently, "there's a
place--it's not of the brightest, but it'll do, and you must lie there
days--that they'll not find if they search till Doomsday!"

Walterson alone eyed her gloomily.

"And what is the child in this?" he said.

"The kid, my lad? Why, everything. You fine gentlemen can't stay here
for ever, and when you go north or south or east or west, the kid'll
stay here until you're safe. And if you don't come safe, he's a card
you'll be glad to have the use of to clear your necks, my lads!"

Thistlewood turned on his heel again.

"I'll none of it," he said, dark and haughty. "It's no gentleman's
game, this!"

"Gentleman be hanged!" cried Giles, and Lunt echoed him. "Do you
call"--with temper--"what you were for this morning a gentleman's
game? Do you call killing a dozen unarmed men round a dinner-table a
gentleman's game?"

"It's our lives against theirs!" Thistlewood answered with a sombre
glance. "And the odds with them, and a rope if we fail! Wrong breeds
wrong," he continued, his voice rising--as if already he spoke in his
defence. "Did they wait until we were armed before they rode us down
at Manchester? or at Paisley? or at Glasgow? No! And, I say, they must
be removed, no matter how. They must be removed! They are the head and
front of offence, the head and front of this damnable system under
which no man that's worth ten pounds does wrong, and no poor man does
right! From King to tradesman they stand together. But kill a dozen at
the top, and you stop the machine! You terrify the traders that find
the money! You bring over to our side all that is timid and fearful
and fond of ease--and that's nine parts of the country! For myself,"
extending his arms in a gesture of menace, "I'd as soon cut the
throats of Castlereagh and Liverpool and Harrowby as I'd cut the
throats of so many calves! And sooner, by G--d! Sooner! But for
messing with children I'll none of it! I've said my say." And he
turned again to the fire.

The girl, as he stirred the logs with his boot-heel, eyed him
strangely; and in her heart she approved not his arguments, but his
courage. Here was what she had sighed for--a man! Here was what she
thought that she had found in Walterson--a man! And Walterson himself
approved in his heart; and envied the strong man who dared to speak
out where he with his life at stake dared not. The thing _was_ cruel,
_was_ dastardly. But then--it might save his neck! For the others,
they were too low, too brutish to be much moved by Thistlewood's
words.

"Ah, but we've got necks as well as you!" Giles muttered. "And if we
risk 'em to please you, we'll save 'em the way we please!"

Then, "Look at the kid!" Lunt muttered. "He's hearing too much, and
picking it up. Stow it for now!"

The girl turned to the child which she had laid on the bed.
Thistlewood had knocked the fire together, and the blaze, passing by
him, fell upon the wide-open eyes that from the bed regarded the scene
with a look of silent terror, a look that seemed uncanny to more than
one. Had the boy wept or screamed, or cried for help, had it given way
to childish panic and tried to flee, they had thought nothing of it.
They had twitched it back, hushed it by blow or threat, and cursed it
for a nuisance. But this passive terror, this self-restraint at so
tender an age, struck the men as unnatural, and taken with its small
elfish features awoke qualms in the more superstitious.

"Curse the child!" said one, staring at it. "I think it's bewitched!"

"See if it will eat," said another. "Bewitched children never eat."

Some bread was fetched and milk put to it--though Bess set nothing by
such notions--and, "You eat that, do you hear!" the girl said. "Or
we'll give you to that old man there," pointing with an undutiful
finger to the squalid figure of the old miser. "And he'll take you to
his bogey-hole!"

The child shook pitifully, and the fear in its eyes deepened as it
regarded the loathsome old man. With a sigh that seemed to rend the
little heart, it took the iron spoon, and strove to swallow. The spoon
tinkled violently against the bowl.

"I'll manage him," Bess said with a look of triumph. "You will see,
I'll have him so in two days that he'll not dare to say who he is, if
they do find him! You leave him to me, and I'll sort the little imp!"

Perhaps the child knew that he had fallen among his father's enemies.
Perhaps he knew only that in a second his world was overset and he
cast on the mercy of the ogres he saw about him. As he looked
fearfully round the gloomy, fire-lit room with its lights and black
shadows, a single large tear rolled from each eye and fell into the
coarse earthen-ware bowl. And for an instant he seemed about to choke.
Then he went on eating.



                              CHAPTER XX

                            PROOF POSITIVE


Anthony Clyne had made no moan, but, both in his pride and his better
feelings, he had suffered more than the world thought through
Henrietta's elopement. He was not in love with the girl whom he had
chosen for his second wife and the mother of his motherless child. But
no man likes to be jilted. No man, even the man least in love, can
bear with indifference or without mortification the slur which the
woman's desertion casts on him. At best there are invitations to be
cancelled, and servants to be informed, and plans to be altered; the
condolences of some and the smiles of others are to be faced. And many
troubles and much bitterness. The very boy, the apple of his eye and
the core of his heart, had to be told--something.

And Anthony Clyne was proud. No man in Lancashire set more by his
birth and station, or had a stronger sense of his personal dignity; so
that in doing all these things he suffered. He suffered much. Nor did
it end with that. His own world knew him, and took care not to provoke
him by a tactless word or an inquisitive question. But the operatives
in his neighbourhood, who hated him and feared him, and thanked God
for aught that hurt him, gibed him openly. Taunts and jests were flung
after him in the streets of Manchester; and men whose sweethearts had
been flung down or roughly used on the day of Peterloo inquired after
his sweetheart as he passed before the mills.

But he made no sign. And no one dreamed that the suffering went
farther than the man's pride, or touched his heart. Yet it did.
Not that he loved the girl; but because she was of his race, and
because her own branch of the family cast her off, and because the man
with whom she had fled could do nothing to protect her from the
consequences of her folly. For these reasons--and a little because of
a secret nobility in his own character--he suffered vicariously; he
felt himself responsible for her. And the responsibility seemed more
heavy after he had seen her; after he had borne away from Windermere
the picture of the girl left pale and proud and lonely by the lake
side.

For her figure haunted him. It rose before him in the most troublesome
fashion and at the most improper times; at sessions when he sat among
his peers, or at his dinner-table in the middle of a tirade against
the radicals and Cobbett. It touched him in the least expected and
most tender points; awaking the strongest doubts of himself, and his
conduct, and his wisdom that he had ever entertained. It barbed the
dart of "It might have been" with the rankling suspicion that he had
himself to thank for failure. And where at first he had said in his
haste that she deserved two dozen, he now remembered her defence, and
added gloomily, "Or I! Or I!" The thought of her fate--as of a thing
for which he was responsible--thrust itself upon him in season and out
of season. He could not put her out of his mind, he could not refrain
from dwelling on her. And thinking in this way he grew every day less
content with the scheme of life which he had framed for her in his
first contempt for her. The notion of her union with Mr. Sutton, good,
worthy man as he deemed the chaplain, now jarred on him unpleasantly.
And more and more the scheme showed itself in another light than that
in which he had first viewed it.

Such was his state of mind, unsettled if not unhappy, and harassed if
not remorseful, when a second thunderclap burst above his head, and in
a moment destroyed even the memory of these minor troubles. He loved
his child with the love of the proud and lonely man who loves more
jealously where others pity, and clings more closely where others look
askance. A fig for their pity! he cried in his heart. He would so rear
his child, he would so cherish him, he would so foster his mind, that
in spite of bodily defect this latest of the Clynes should be also the
greatest. And while he foresaw this future in the child and loved him
for the hope, he loved him immeasurably more for his weakness, his
helplessness, his frailty in the present. All that was strong in the
man of firm will and stiff prejudice went out to the child in a
passionate yearning to protect it; to shield it from unfriendly looks,
even from pity; to cover it from the storms of the world and of life.

Personally a brave man Clyne feared nothing for himself. The hatred in
which he was held by a certain class came to his ears from time to
time in threatening murmurs, but though those who knew best were
loudest in warning, he paid no heed. He continued to do what he held
to be his duty. Yet if anything had had power to turn him from his
path it had been fear on his son's account; it had been the very, very
small share which the boy must take in his peril. And so, at the first
hint he had removed the child from the zone of trouble, and sent him
to a place which he fancied safe; a place which the boy loved, and in
the quiet of which health as well as safety might be gained. If the
name of Clyne was hated where spindles whirled and shuttles flew, and
men lived their lives under a pall of black smoke, it was loved in
Cartmel by farmer and shepherd alike; and not less by the rude
charcoal-burners who plied their craft in the depths of the woods
about Staveley and Broughton in Furness.

On that side he thought himself secure. And so the blow fell with all
the force of the unexpected. The summons of the panic-stricken
servants found him in his bed; and it was a man who hardly contained
himself, who hardly contained his fury and his threats, who without
breaking his fast rode north. It was a hard-faced, stern man who
crossed the sands at Cartmel at great risk--but he had known them all
his life--and won at Carter's Green the first spark of comfort and
hope which he had had since rising. Nadin was before him. Nadin
was in pursuit,--Nadin, by whom all that was Tory in Lancashire
swore. Surely an accident so opportune, a stroke of mercy and
providence so unlikely--for the odds against the officer's presence
were immense--could not be unmeant, could not be for nothing! It
seemed, it must be of good augury! But when Clyne reached his house in
Cartmel, and the terrified nurse who knew the depth of his love for
the boy grovelled before him, the household had no added hope to give
him, no news or clue. And he could but go forward. His horse was
spent, but they brought him a tenant's colt, and after eating a few
mouthfuls he pressed on up the lake side towards Bowness, attended by
a handful of farmers' sons who had not followed on the first alarm.

Even now, hours after the awakening, and when any moment might end
his suspense, any turn in the road bring him face to face with the
issue--good or bad, joy or sorrow--he dared not think of the child. He
dared not let his mind run on its fear or its suffering, its terrors
in the villains' hands, or the hardships which its helplessness might
bring upon it. To do so were to try his self-control too far. And so
he thought the more of the men, the more of vengeance, the more of the
hour which would see him face to face with them, and see them face to
face with punishment. He rejoiced to think that abduction was one of
the two hundred crimes which were punishable with death: and he swore
that if he devoted his life to the capture of these wretches they
should be taken. And when taken, when they had been dealt with by
judge and jury, they should be hanged without benefit of clergy. There
should be no talk of respite. His services to the party had earned so
much as that--even in these days when radicals were listened to over
much, and fanatics like Wolseley and Burdett flung their wealth into
the wrong scale.

At Bowness there was no news except a word from Nadin bidding him ride
on. And without alighting he pressed on, sternly silent, but with eyes
that tirelessly searched the bleak, bare fells for some movement, some
hint of flight or chase. He topped the hill beyond Bowness, and drew
rein an instant to scan the islets set here and there on the sullen
water. Then, after marking carefully the three or four boats which
were afloat, he trotted down through Calgarth woods. And on turning
the corner that revealed the long gabled house at the Low Wood landing
he had a gleam of hope. Here at last was something, some stir, some
adequate movement. In the road were a number of men, twenty or thirty,
on foot or horseback. A few were standing, others were moving to
and fro. Half of them carried Brown Besses, blunderbusses, or old
horse-pistols, and three or four were girt with ancient swords lugged
for the purpose from bacon-rack or oak chest. The horses of the men
matched as ill as their arms, being of all heights and all degrees of
shagginess, and some riders had one spur, and some none. But the troop
meant business, it was clear, and Anthony Clyne's heart went out to
them in gratitude. Hitherto he had ridden through a country-side
heedless or ignorant of his loss, and of what was afoot; and the tardy
intelligence, the slow answer, had tried him sorely. Here at last was
an end of that. As the honest dalesmen, gathered before the inn,
hauled their hard-mouthed beasts to the edge of the road to make way
for him, and doffed their hats in silent sympathy, he thanked them
with his eyes.

In spite of his empty sleeve he was off his horse in a moment.

"Have they learned anything?" he asked, his voice harsh with
suppressed emotion.

The nearest man began to explain in the slow northern fashion. "No,
not as yet, your honour. But we shall, no doubt, i' good time. We know
that they landed here in a boat."

"Ay, your honour, have no fear!" cried a second. "We'll get him back!"

And then Nadin came out.

"This way, if you please, Squire," he said, touching his arm and
leading him aside. "We are just starting to scour the hills, but---- "he
broke off and did not say any more until he had drawn Clyne out of
earshot.

Then, "It's certain that they landed here," he said, turning and
facing him. "We know that, Squire. And I fancy that they are not far
away. The holt is somewhere near, for it is here we lost the other
fox. I'm pretty sure that if we search the hills for a few hours we'll
light on them. But that's the long way. And damme!" vehemently,
"there's a short way if we are men and not mice."

Clyne's eyes gleamed.

"A short way?" he muttered. In spite of Nadin's zeal the Manchester
officer's manner had more than once disgusted his patron. It had far
from that effect now. The man might swear and welcome, be familiar, he
what he pleased, if he would also act! If he would recover the child
from the cruel hands that held it! His very bluntness and burliness
and sufficiency gave hope. "A short way?" Clyne repeated.

Nadin struck his great fist into the other palm.

"Ay, a short way!" he answered. "There's a witness here can tell us
all we want if she will but speak. I am just from her. A woman who
knows and can set us on the track if she chooses! And we'll have but
to ride to covert and take the fox."

Clyne laid his hand on the other's arm.

"Do you mean," he asked huskily, struggling to keep hope within
bounds, "that there is some one here--who knows where they are?"

"I do!" Nadin answered with an oath. "And knows where the child is.
But she'll not speak."

"Not speak?"

"No, she'll not tell. It's the young lady you were here about before,
Squire, to be frank with you."

"Miss Damer?" in a tone of astonishment.

"Ay, Squire, she!" Nadin replied. "She! And the young madam knows,
d----n her! It's all one business, you may take it from me! It's all
one gang! She was at the place where they landed after dark last
night."

"Impossible!" Clyne cried. "Impossible! I cannot believe you."

"Ay, but she was. She let herself down from a window when the house
had gone to bed that she might get there. Ay, Squire, you may look,
but she did. She did not meet them; she was too soon or too late, we
don't know which. But she was there, as sure as I am here! And I
suspect--though Bishop, who is a bit of a softy, like most of those
London men, doesn't agree--that she was in the thing from the
beginning, Squire! And planned it, may be, but you'd be the best judge
of that. Any way, we are agreed that she knows now. That is clear as
daylight!"

"Knows, and will not tell?" Clyne cried. Such conduct seemed too
monstrous, too wicked to the man who had strained every nerve to reach
his child, who had ridden in terror for hours, trembling at the
passage of every minute, grudging the loss of every second. "Knows,
and will not tell!" he repeated. "Impossible!"

"It's not impossible, Squire," Nadin answered. "We're clear on it.
We're all clear on it."

"That she knows where the child is?" incredulously. "Where they are
keeping it?"

"That's it."

"And will not say?"

Nadin grinned.

"Not for us," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "She may for you. But
she is stubborn as a mule. I can't say worse than that. Stubborn as a
mule, Squire!"

Clyne raised his hand to hide the twitching nostril, the quivering lip
that betrayed his agitation. But the hand shook. He could not yet
believe that she was privy to this wickedness. But--but if she only
knew it now and kept her knowledge to herself--she was, he dared not
think what she was. A gust of passion took him at the thought, and
whitened his face to the very lips. He had to turn away that the
coarse-grained, underbred man beside him might not see too much. And a
few seconds went by before he could command his voice sufficiently to
ask Nadin what evidence he had of this--this monstrous charge. "How do
you know--I want to be clear--how do you know," he asked, sternly
meeting his eyes, "that she left the house last night to meet them?
That she was there to meet them? Have you evidence?" He could not
believe that a woman of his class, of his race, would do this thing.

"Evidence?" Nadin answered coolly. "Plenty!" And he told the story of
the foot-prints, and of Mr. Sutton's experiences in the night; and
added that one of the child's woollen mits had been found between the
bottom-boards of a boat beached at that spot--a boat which bore signs
of recent use. "If you are not satisfied and would like to see his
reverence," he continued, "and question him before you see her--shall
I send him to you?"

"Ay, send him," Clyne said with an effort. He had been incredulous,
but the evidence seemed overwhelming. Yet he struggled, he tried to
disbelieve. Not because his thoughts still held any tenderness for the
girl, or he retained any remnant of the troublesome feeling that had
haunted him; for the shock of the child's abduction had driven such
small emotions from his mind. But with the country rising about him,
amid this gathering of men upon whom he had no claim, but who asked
nothing better than to be brought face to face with the authors of the
outrage--with these proofs of public sympathy before his eyes it
seemed impossible that a woman, a girl, should wantonly set herself on
the other side, and shield the criminals. It seemed impossible. But
then, when the first news of her elopement with an unknown stranger
had reached him, he had thought that impossible! Yet it had turned out
to be true, and less than the fact; since the man was not only beneath
her, but a radical and a villain!

"But I will see Sutton," he muttered, striving to hold his rage in
check. "I will see Sutton. Perhaps he may be able to explain. Perhaps
he may be able to put another face on the matter."

The chaplain would fain have done so; more out of a generous pity for
the unfortunate girl than out of any lingering hope of ingratiating
himself with her. But he did not know what to say, except that though
she had gone to the rendezvous she had not seen nor met any one. He
laid stress on that, for he had nothing else to plead. But he had to
allow that her purpose had been to meet some one; and at the weak
attempt to excuse her Clyne's rage broke forth.

"She is shameless!" he cried. "Shameless! Can you say after this that
she has given up all dealings with her lover? Though she passed her
word and knows him for a married man?"

The chaplain shook his head.

"I cannot," he said sorrowfully. "I cannot say that. But----"

"She gave her word! Tome. To others."

"I allow it. But----"

"But what? What?" with hardly restrained rage. "Will you still, sir,
take her side against the innocent? Against the child, whom she has
conspired to entrap, to carry off, perhaps to murder?"

"Oh, no, no!" Mr. Sutton cried in unfeigned horror. "That I do not
believe! I do not believe that for an instant! I allow, I admit," he
continued eagerly, "that she has been weak, and that she has madly,
foolishly permitted this wretch to retain a hold over her."

"At any rate," Clyne retorted, his rage at a white heat, "she has lied
to me!"

"I admit it."

"And to others!"

The chaplain could only hold out his hands in deprecation.

"You will admit that she has continued to communicate with a man she
should loathe? A man whom, if she were a modest girl, she would
loathe? That she has stolen to midnight interviews with him, leaving
this house as a thief leaves it? That she has cast all modesty from
her?"

"Do not, do not be too hard on her!" Sutton cried, his face flushing
hotly. "Captain Clyne, I beg--I beg you to be merciful."

"It is she who is hard on herself! But have no fear," Clyne continued,
in a voice cold as the winter fells and as pitiless. "I shall give her
fifteen minutes to come to her senses and behave herself--not as a
decent woman, I no longer ask that, but as a woman, any woman, the
lowest, would behave herself, to save a child's life. And if she
behaves herself--well. And if not, sir, it is not I who will punish
her, but the law!"

"She will speak," the chaplain said. "I think she will speak--for
you."

He was deeply and honestly concerned for the girl: and full of pity
for her, though he did not understand her.

"But--suppose I saw her first?" he suggested. "Just for a few minutes?
I could explain."

"Nothing that I cannot," Captain Clyne answered grimly. "And for a few
minutes! Do you not consider," with a look of suspicion, "that there
has been delay enough already? And too much! Fifteen minutes," with a
recurrence of the bitter laugh, "she shall have, and not one minute
more, if she were my sister!"

Mr. Sutton's face turned red again.

"Remember, sir," he said bravely, "that she was going to be your
wife."

"I do remember it!" Clyne retorted with a withering glance. "And thank
God for His mercy."



                             CHAPTER XXI

                         COUSIN MEETS COUSIN


Nadin and the others had not left her more than ten minutes when
Henrietta heard his voice under the window. She was still flushed and
heated, sore with the things which they had said to her, bruised and
battered by their vulgarity and bluster. Indignation still burned in
her; and astonishment that they could not see the case as she saw it.
The argument in her own mind was clear. They must prove that Walterson
had committed this new crime, they must prove that if she betrayed the
man she would save the child--and she would speak. Or she would speak
if they would undertake to release the man were he not guilty. But
short of that, no. She would not turn informer against him, whom she
had chosen in her folly--except to save life. What could be more
clear, what more fair, what more logical? And was it not monstrous to
ask anything beyond this?

She had wrought herself in truth to an almost hysterical stubbornness
on the point. The romantic bent that had led her to the verge of ruin
still inclined her feelings. Yet when she heard the father's step
approaching along the passage, she trembled. She gazed in terror at
the door. The prospect of the father's tears, the father's
supplication, shook her. She had to say to herself, "I must not tell,
I must not! I must not!" as if the repetition of the words would
strengthen her under the torture of his appeal. And when he entered,
in the fear of what he might say she was before him. She did not look
at him, or heed what message his face conveyed--or she had been frozen
into silence. But in a panic she rushed on the subject.

"I am sorry, oh, I am so sorry!" she cried, tears in her voice. "I
would do it, if I could, I would indeed. But I cannot," distressfully,
"I must not! And I beg you to spare me your reproaches."

"I have none to make to you," he said.

It was his tone, rather than his words, which cut her like a whip.

"None!" she cried. "Ah, but you blame me? I am sure you do."

"I do not blame you," he replied in the same cold tone. "My business
here has nothing to do with reproaches or with blame. I give you
fifteen minutes to tell me what you know, and all you know, of the man
Walterson's whereabouts. That told, I have no more to say to you."

She looked at him as one thunderstruck.

"And if I do not do that," she murmured, "within fifteen minutes? If I
do not tell you?"

"You will go to Appleby gaol," he said, in the same passionless tone.
"To herd with your like, with such women as may be there." He laid his
watch on the table, beside his whip and glove; and he looked not at
her, but at it.

"And you? You will send me?" she answered.

"I?" he replied slowly. "No, I shall merely undo what I did before. My
coming last time saved you from the fate which your taste for low
company had earned. This time I stand aside and the result will be the
same as if I had never come. There is, let me remind you, a minute
gone."

She looked at him, her face colourless, but her eyes undaunted. But
the look was wasted, for he looked only at his watch.

"You are come, then," she said, her voice shaking a little, "not to
reproach me, but to insult me! To outrage me!"

"I have no thought of you," he answered.

The words, the tone, lashed her in the face. Her nostrils quivered.

"You think only of your child!" she cried.

"That is all," he answered. And then in the same passionless tone, "Do
not waste time."

"Do not----"

"Do not waste time!" he repeated. "That is all I have to say to you."

She stood as one stunned; dazed by his treatment of her; shaken to the
soul by his relentless, pitiless tone, by his thinly veiled hatred.

He who had before been cold, precise and just was become inhuman,
implacable, a stone. Presently, "Three minutes are gone," he said.

"And if I tell you?" she answered in a voice which, though low,
vibrated with resentment and indignation, "if I tell you what you wish
to know, what then?"

"I shall save the child--I trust. Certainly I shall save him from
further suffering."

"And what of me?"

"You will escape for this time."

Her breast heaved with the passion she restrained. Her foot tapped the
floor. Her fingers drummed on the table. Such treatment was not fit
treatment for a dog, much less for a woman, a gentlewoman! And his
injustice! How dared he! How dared he! What had she done to deserve
it? Nothing! No, nothing to deserve this.

Meanwhile he seemed to have eyes only for his watch, laid open on the
table before him. But he noted the signs, and he fancied that she was
about to break down, that she was yielding, that in a moment she would
fall to weeping, perhaps would fall on her knees--and tell him all. A
faint surprise, therefore, pierced his pitiless composure when, after
the lapse of a long minute, she spoke in a tone that was comparatively
calm and decided.

"You have forgotten," she said slowly, "that I am of your blood! That
I was to be your wife!"

"It was you who forgot that!" he replied.

She had her riposte ready.

"And wisely!" she answered, "and wisely! How wisely you have proved to
me to-day--you,"--with scorn equal to his own--"who are willing to
sacrifice me, a helpless woman, on the mere chance of saving your
child! Who are willing to send me, a woman of your blood, to prison
and to shame, to herd--you have said it yourself--with such vile women
as prisons hold! And that on the mere chance of saving your son! For
shame, Captain Clyne, for shame!"

"You are wasting time," he answered. "You have eight minutes."

"You are determined that I shall go?"

"Or speak."

"Will you not hear," she asked slowly, "what I have to say on my side?
What reason I have for not speaking? What excuse? What extenuation of
my conduct?"

"No," he replied. "Your reasons for speaking or not speaking, your
conduct or misconduct, are nothing to me. I am thinking of my child."

"And not at all of me?"

"No."

"Yet listen," she said, with something approaching menace in her tone,
"for you will think of me! You will think of me--presently! When it is
too late, Captain Clyne, you will remember that I stood before you,
that I was alone and helpless, and you would not hear my reasons nor
my excuses. You will remember that I was a girl, abandoned by all,
left alone among strangers and spies, without friend or adviser."

"I," he said, coldly interrupting her, "was willing to advise you. But
you took your own path. You know that."

"I know," she retorted with sudden passion, "that you were willing to
insult me! That you were willing to set me, because I had committed an
act of folly, as low as the lowest! So low that all men were the same
to me! So low that I might be handed like a carter's daughter who had
misbehaved herself, to the first man who was willing to cover her
disgrace. That! that was your way of helping me and advising me!"

"In two minutes," he said in measured accents, "the time will be up!"

He appeared to be quite unmoved by her reproaches. His manner was as
cold, as repellant, as harsh as ever. But he was not so entirely
untouched by her appeal as he wished her to think. For the time,
indeed, his heart was numbed by anxiety, his breast was rendered
insensible by the grip of suspense. But the barbed arrows of her
reproaches stuck and remained. And presently the wounds would smart
and rankle, troubling his conscience, if not his heart. It is possible
that he had already a suspicion of this. If so, it only deepened his
rage and his hostility.

With the same pitiless composure, he repeated:

"In two minutes. There is still time, but no more than time."

"You have told me that you do not wish to hear my reasons?"

"For silence? I do not."

"They will not turn you," her voice shook under the maddening sense of
his injustice, "whatever they are?"

"No," he answered, "they will not. And having said that I have said
all that I propose to say."

"You condemn me unheard?"

"I condemn you? No, the law will condemn you, if you are condemned."

"Then I, too," she answered, with a beating heart--for indignation
almost choked her--"have said all that I propose to say. All!"

"Think! Think, girl!" he cried.

She was silent.

He closed his watch with a sharp, clicking sound, and put it in his
fob.

"You will not speak?" he said.

"No!"

Then passion, long restrained, long kept under, swept him away. He
took a stride forward, and before she guessed what he would be at, he
had seized her wrist, gripping it cruelly.

"But you shall!--you shall!" he cried. His face full of passion was
close to hers, he pressed her a pace backwards. "You vixen! Speak
now!" he cried. "Speak!"

"Let me go!" she cried.

"Speak or I will force it from you. Where is he?"

"I will never speak!" she panted, struggling with him, and trying to
snatch her arm from him. "I will never speak! You coward! Let me go!"

"Speak or I will break your wrist," he hissed.

He was hurting her horribly.

But, "Never! Never! Never!" She shrieked the word at him, her face
white with rage and pain, her eyes blazing. "Never, you coward. You
coward! Let me go!"

He let her go then--too late remembering himself. He stepped back.
Breathing hard, she leant against the table, and nursed her bruised
wrist in the other hand. Her face, an instant before white, now flamed
with anger. Never, never since she was a little child had she been so
treated, so handled! Every fibre in her was in revolt. But she did not
speak. She only, rocking herself slightly to and fro, scathed him with
her eyes. The coward! The coward!

And he was as yet too angry--though he had remembered himself and
released her--to feel much shame for what he had done. He was too
wrapt in the boy and his object to think soberly of anything else. He
went, his hand shaking a little, his face disordered by the outbreak,
to the bell and rang it. As he turned again,

"Your ruin be on your own head!" he cried.

And he looked at her, hating her, hating her rebellious bearing.

He saw in her, with her glowing cheeks and eyes bright with fury, the
murderess of his boy. What else, since, if it was not her plan, she
covered it? Since, if it was not her deed, she would not stay it? She
must be one of those feminine monsters, those Brinvilliers, blonde and
innocent to the eye, whom passion degraded to the lowest! Whom a
cursed infatuation made suddenly most base, driving them to excesses
and crimes.

While she, her breast boiling with indignation, her heart bursting
with the sense of bodily outrage, of bodily pain, forgot the anguish
he was suffering. She forgot the provocation that had exasperated him
to madness, that had driven him to violence. She saw in him a cowardly
bully, a man cruel, without shame or feeling. She fully believed now
that he had flogged a seaman to death. Why not, since he had so
treated her? Why not, since it was clear that there was no torture to
which he would not resort, if he dared, to wring from her the secret
he desired?

And a torrent of words, a flood of scathing reproaches and fierce
home-truths, rose to her lips. But she repressed them. To complain was
to add to her humiliation, to augment her shame. To protest was to
stoop lower. And strung to the highest pitch of animosity they
remained confronting one another in silence, until the door opened and
Justice Hornyold entered, followed by his clerk. After these Nadin,
Bishop, Mr. Sutton, and two or three more trooped in until the room
was half full of people.

It was clear that they had had their orders below, and knew what to
expect; for all looked grave, and some nervous. Even Hornyold betrayed
by his air, half sheepish and half pompous, that he was not quite
comfortable.

"The young lady has not spoken?" he said.

"No," Clyne answered, breathing quickly. He could not in a moment
return to his ordinary self. "She refuses to speak."

"You have laid before her reasons?"

He averted his eyes.

"I have said all I can," he muttered sullenly. "I have assured myself
that she is privy to this matter, and I withdraw the informal
undertaking which I gave a fortnight ago that she should be
forthcoming if wanted. Unless, therefore, you are satisfied with the
landlord's bail--but that is for you."

Mr. Hornyold shook his head.

"With this new charge advanced?" he said. "No, I am afraid not.
Certainly not. But perhaps," looking at her, "the young lady will
still change her mind. To change the mind"--with a feeble grin--"is a
lady's privilege."

"I shall not tell you anything," Henrietta said with a catch in her
breath. She hid her smarting, tingling wrist behind her. She might
have complained; but not for the world would she have let them know
what he had done to her, what she had suffered.

Mr. Sutton, who was standing in the background, stepped forward.

"Miss Damer," he said earnestly, "I beg you, I implore you to think."

"I have thought," she answered with stubborn anger. "And if I could
help him," she pointed to Clyne, "if I could help him by lifting my
finger----"

"Oh, dear, dear!" the chaplain cried, appalled by her vehemence.
"Don't say that! Don't say that!"

"What shall I say, then?" she answered--still she remembered herself.
"I have told you that I know nothing of the abduction of his child.
That is all I have to say."

Hornyold shook his sleek head again.

"I am afraid that won't do," he said. "What"--consulting Nadin with
his eye--"what do the officers say?"

Nadin laughed curtly.

"Not by no means, it won't do!" he said. "What she says is slap up
against the evidence, sir, and evidence strong enough to hang a man.
The truth is, your reverence, the young lady has had every chance, and
all said and done we are losing time. And time is more than money! The
sooner she is under lock and key the better."

"You apply that she be committed?" Hornyold asked slowly.

"I do, sir."

The Justice looked at Bishop.

"Do you join in the application?" he asked.

The officer nodded, but with evident reluctance.

The clerk, who had taken his seat at the corner of the table and laid
some papers before him, dipped his pen in the inkhorn, which he
carried at his button-hole. He prepared to write. "On the charge of
being accessory?" he said in a low voice. "Before or after, Mr.
Nadin?"

"Both," said Nadin.

"After," said Bishop.

The clerk looked from one to the other, and then began to write; but
slowly, and as if he wished to leave as long as possible a _locus
penitentiæ_. It was a feeling shared by all except Captain Clyne. Even
the Manchester man, hardened as he was by a rude life in the roughest
of towns, had had jobs more to his taste--and wished it done; while
the feeling of the greater part was one of pity. The girl was so
young, her breeding and refinement were so manifest, her courage so
high, she confronted them so bravely, that they were sensible of
something cruel in their attitude to her; gathered as they were many
to one--and that one a woman with no one of her sex beside her. They
recoiled from the idea of using force to her. And now it was really
come to the point of imprisoning her, those who had a notion what a
prison was disliked it most; fearing not only that she might resist
removal and cause a heart-rending scene, but still more that she had
unknown sufferings before her.

For the prisons of that day were not the prisons of to-day. There was
no separation of one class of offenders from another. There were no
separate cells, there were rarely even separate beds. Girls awaiting
trial were liable to be locked up with the worst women-felons. Nay,
the very warders were often old offenders, who had earned their places
by favour. In small country prisons, conditions were better, but air,
light, space, and cleanliness were woefully lacking. Something might
be done, no doubt, to soften the lot of a prisoner of Henrietta's
class; but indulgence depended on the whim of the jailor--who at
Appleby was a blacksmith!--and could be withdrawn as easily as it was
granted.

Suddenly the clerk looked up over his glasses. "The full name," he
said, "if you please."

"Henrietta Mary Damer." It was Clyne who spoke.

The clerk added the name, and rising from his seat offered the pen to
the magistrate. But Hornyold hesitated. He looked flurried, and
something startled.

"But should not----" he murmured, "ought we not to communicate with
her brother--with--Sir Charles? He must be her guardian!"

"Sir Charles," Clyne answered, "has repudiated all responsibility. It
would be useless to apply to him. I have seen him. And the matter is a
criminal matter."

The girl said nothing, but her colour faded suddenly. And in the eyes
of one or two she seemed a more pitiful figure, standing alone and
mute, than before. But for the awe in which they held Clyne, and their
knowledge of his reason for severity, the chaplain and Long Tom
Gilson, who was one of those by the door, would have intervened. As it
was, Hornyold stooped to the table and signed the form--or was signing
it when the clerk spoke.

"One moment, your reverence," he said in a low voice. "The debtors'
quarters at Appleby, where they'd be sure to put the young lady, are
as good as under water at this time of the year. Kendal's nearer,
she'd be better there. And you've power to say which it shall be."

"Kendal, then," Hornyold assented. The name was altered and he signed
the committal.

As he rose from the table, constraint fell on one and all. They
wondered nervously what was to come next; and it was left to Nadin to
put an end to the scene. "Landlord!" he said, turning to the door, "a
chaise for Kendal in ten minutes. And send your servant to go with the
young lady to her room, and get together what she'll want. You'd best
take her, Bishop."

Bishop assented in a low tone, and Gilson went out to give the order.
Hornyold said something to Clyne and they talked together in low tones
and with averted faces. Then, still talking, they moved to the door
and went out without looking towards her. The clerk gathered up his
papers, handed one to Bishop, and fastened the others together with a
piece of red tape. That done, he, too, rose and followed the
magistrate, making her an awkward bow as he passed. Mr. Sutton alone
remained, and, pale and excited, fidgeted to and fro; he could not
bear to stay, and he could not bear to leave the girl alone with the
officers. Possibly--but to do him justice this went for little--he
might by staying commend himself to her, he might wipe out the awkward
impression made by the night's adventure. But Clyne put in his head
and called him in a peremptory tone; and he had to go with a feeble
apologetic glance at her. She was left standing by the table, alone
with the officers.

For an instant she looked wildly at the door. Then, "May I go to my
room now?" she asked in a low tone.

"Not alone," Nadin answered--but civilly, for him. "In a moment the
woman will be here, and you can go with her. It's not quite regular,
but we'll stretch a point. But you must not be long, miss! You'll have
no need," with a faint grin, "of many frocks, or furbelows, where
you're going."



                             CHAPTER XXII

                        MR. SUTTON'S NEW RÔLE


When the chaise which carried the prisoner to Kendal had left the inn,
and the search parties had gone their way under leaders who knew the
country, and the long tail of the last shaggy pony had whisked itself
out of sight, a dullness exceeding that of November settled down on
the inn by the lake. The road in front ran, a dull, unbroken ribbon,
along the water-side; and alone and melancholy the chaplain walked up
and down, up and down, the last man left. Occasionally Mrs. Gilson
appeared at the door and looked this way and that; but her eye was
sombre and her manner did not invite approach or confidence.
Occasionally, too, Modest Ann's face was pressed against the window of
the coffee-room, where she was setting out the long table against
evening; but she was disguised in tears and temper, and before Mr.
Sutton could identify the phenomenon, or grasp its meaning, she was
gone. The frosty promise of the morning had vanished, and in its place
leaden clouds dulled sky and lake, and hung heavy and black on the
scarred forehead of Bow Fell. Mr. Sutton looked above and below, and
this way and that, and, too restless to go in, found no comfort
without. He wished that he had gone with the searchers, though he knew
not a step of the country. He wished that he had said more for the
girl, and stood up for her more firmly, though to do so had been to
quarrel with his patron. Above all, he wished that he had never seen
her, never given way to the temptation to aspire to her, never started
in pursuit of her--last of all, that he had never stooped to spy on
her. He was ill content with himself and his work; ill content with
the world, his patron, everybody, everything. No man was ever worse
content.

For Nemesis in an unexpected form was overtaking, nay even as he
walked the road, had overtaken the chaplain. He had come to marry, he
remained to love; he had come to enjoy, he remained to suffer. He had
come, dazzled by the girl's rank and fortune, that rank and that
fortune which he had thought so much above himself, and to which her
beauty added so piquant and delicate a charm. And, lo, it was neither
her rank, nor her fortune, nor her beauty that, as he walked, beat at
his heart and would be heard, would have entrance; but the girl's
lonely plight and her disgrace and her trouble. On a sudden, as he
went helplessly and aimlessly and unhappily up and down the road, he
recognised the truth; he knew what was the matter with him. His eyes
filled, his feelings overcame him--and no man was ever more surprised.
He had to walk a little way down the road before, out of ken of the
horse, he dared to wipe the tears from his cheeks. Nor even then could
he refrain from one or two foolish, unmanly gasps.

"I did not think that I was--such a fool!" he muttered. "Such a fool!
I didn't think it!"

When he regained command of himself he found that his feet had borne
him to the gate-pillar where so much had happened the previous day. To
the very place where he had surprised Henrietta as she arranged her
signal, and where she had so nearly surprised him in the act of
watching her! In his new-born repentance, in his newborn honesty he
hated the place; he hated it only less than he hated the conduct of
which it reminded him. And partly out of sentiment, partly out of some
unowned notion of doing penance, he turned and slowly retraced her
course to the inn, treading as far as possible where she had trodden.
When he reached the door he did not go in, but, unwilling to face any
one, he went on as far as a seat on the foreshore, where he had seen
her sit. And the sentiment of her presence still forming the
attraction, he wondered if she had paused there on that morning, or if
she had gone indoors at once.

He was so unhappy that he did not feel the cold. The thought of her
warmed him, and he sat for a minute or two, with his eyes on the
gloomy face of the lake that, towards the farther shore, frowned more
darkly under the shadow of the woods. He wished that he understood her
conduct better, that he had the clue to it. He wished that he
understood her refusal to speak. But right or wrong, she was in
trouble and he loved her. Ay, right or wrong! For good or ill! Still
he sighed, for all was very dark. And presently he went to rise.

His eyes in the act fell on a few scraps of paper which lay at his
feet and showed the whiter for the general gloom. Letters were not so
common then as now. It was much if one person in five could write. The
postage on a note sent from the south of England to the north was a
shilling; the pages were crossed and recrossed, were often read and
cherished long. Paper, therefore, did not lie abroad, as it lies
abroad now; and Mr. Sutton--hardly knowing what he did--bent his eyes
on the scraps. He was long-sighted, and on one morsel a little larger
than its neighbours, he read the word "gate."

In other circumstances he would not ten seconds later have known what
words he had read. But at the moment he had the incident of the
gate-post in his head--and Henrietta; and he apprehended as in a flash
that this might be the summons which had called her forth the previous
night--to her great damage. He conceived that after answering it by
setting the signal on the gate-post she might have come to this place,
and before going into the house might have torn up the letter and
scattered the pieces abroad. If so the secret lay at his feet; and if
he stooped and took it up, he might help her.

He hung in doubt a few seconds. For he was grown strangely scrupulous.
But he reflected that he could destroy the evidence if it bore against
her--he would destroy it! And he gave way. Furtively, but with an
eager hand, he collected the scraps of paper. There were about a
score, the size of dice, and discoloured by moisture, strewn here and
there round the seat. Behind, among the prickly shoots and brown roots
of a gorse-bush were as many more, as if she had dropped a handful
there. Another dozen he tracked down, one here, one there, in spots to
which the wind had carried them. It was unlikely that he had got all,
even then. But though he searched as narrowly as he dared--even going
on his knees beside the bush--he could find no more. Doubtless the
wind had taken toll; and at length, carrying what he had found hidden
in his hand, he went into the house and sought refuge in his bedroom.

Eagerly, though he had little hope of finding the result to his mind,
he began to arrange the morsels. He found the task less hard than he
had anticipated. Guided by the straight edges of the paper, he
contrived in eight or nine minutes to piece the letter together; to
such an extent, at any rate, as enabled him to gather its drift. About
a fifth of the words were missing; and among these missing words were
the opening phrase, the last two words, and about a score in the body
of the note. But the gist of the message was clear, its tone and
feeling survived; and they not only negatived the notion that
Henrietta was in league with Walterson, but presented in all its
strength the appeal which his prayer must needs have made to the heart
of a romantic girl.


"... ed you ill, but men are not as women and I was tempted ... I do
not ask ... forgive ... I ask you to save me. I am in your hands. If
you ... the heart to leave me to a ... lent death, all is said. If you
have mercy meet my ... ger at ten to-mor ... ning ... Troutbeck lane
comes down to the lake. As I hope to live you run no risk and can
suffer no harm. If you are merci ... spare me ... put a ... stone,
before noon to-morrow, on the post of the ... gate...."


Strange to say, Mr. Sutton's first feeling, when he had assured
himself of the truth, was an excessive, furious indignation against
his patron. He forgot, in his pity for the girl, the provocation which
Captain Clyne had suffered. He forgot the child's peril and the
pressure which this had laid on the father's feelings. He forgot the
light in which the girl's stubborn silence had placed her in the eyes
of one who believed that she could save by a word that which he held
more precious than his life. The chaplain was a narrow, and in secret
a conceited man; he had been guilty of some things that ill became his
cloth. But he had under his cloth a heart that once roused was capable
of generous passion. And as he stalked up and down the room in a
frenzy of love and pity and indignation, he longed for the moment
which should see him face to face with Captain Clyne. The letter once
shown, he did not conceive that there would be the least difficulty in
freeing the girl; and he yearned for the return of the search parties.
It was past four already; in the valley it was growing dusk. Yet if
Clyne returned soon the girl might be released before night. She might
be spared the humiliation, it might well be the misery, of a night in
prison.

His room looked to the back of the inn; and here where all the
afternoon had been plucking of ducks and fowls, and slicing of
flitches--for some of the searchers would need to be fed--lights were
beginning to shine and a cheerful stir and a warm promise of comfort
to prevail. From the kitchen, where the jacks were turning, firelight
streamed across the yard, and pattens clicked, and dogs occasionally
yelped; and now and again Mrs. Gilson's voice clacked strenuously. In
the heat of his feelings Mr. Sutton compared this outlook with the
cold quarters that held his Henrietta; and tears rose anew as he
pictured the dank prison yard and the bare stone rooms, and the
squalor and the company. After that he could not sit still. He could
not wait. He must be acting. He must tell his discovery to some one,
no matter to whom. He arranged the letter between the pages of a book
and, having arranged it, took the book under his arm and ran
downstairs. At the door of her snuggery he came upon Mrs. Gilson, who
had just had words with Modest Ann. She eyed him sourly.

"I want to show you something!" he said impetuously, forgetting his
fear of her. "I have discovered something, ma'am! A thing of the
utmost importance."

She grunted.

"If it has to do with the child," she said grudgingly, "I'll hear it,
and thank you."

"It has naught to do with the child," he answered bluntly. "It has to
do with Miss Damer."

"Then I'll have naught to do with it!" the landlady retorted with
equal bluntness, pursing up her lips and speaking as drily as a file.
"I've washed my hands of her."

"But listen to me!" he replied. "Listen to me, Mrs. Gilson! Here's a
young lady----"

"That's behaved bad from the beginning--bad!" the landlady answered,
cutting him short. "As bad as woman could! A woman, indeed, would have
had some heart, and not have left an innocent child in the hands of a
parcel of murderous villains! No, no, my gentleman, you'll not
persuade me. An egg is good or bad, as you find it, and 'tis no good
saying that the yolk is good when the white is tainted?"

"But see here, ma'am"--he was bursting with indignation--"you are
entirely wrong! Entirely wrong!"

"Then your reverence had best speak to Captain Clyne, for it's not my
business!" Mrs. Gilson retorted crushingly. "I'm no scholar and don't
meddle with writings." And she turned her broad back upon him and the
book which he proffered her.

Mr. Sutton stood a moment in anger equal to his discomfiture. Then he
went back slowly to his pacing in the road. After all the woman could
do nothing, she was nothing. And the search parties would be returning
soon. For night was falling. The last pale daylight was dying on the
high fells towards Patterdale; the outlines of the low lands about the
lake were fading into the blur of night. Here and there a tiny
rushlight shone out, high up, and marked a hill-farm. Possibly the
searchers had found the child. In that case, Mr. Sutton's heart, which
should have leapt at the thought, only mildly rejoiced; and that,
rather on account of the favourable turn the discovery might give to
Henrietta's affairs, than for his patron's sake. Not that he was not
sorry for the child, and sorry for the father; he tried, indeed, to
feel more sorry. But he was not a man of warm feelings, and his
sensibilities were selfish. He could not be expected to blossom out in
a moment in more directions than one. It was something if he had
learned in the few days he had spent by the lake to think of any other
than himself.

Had he been more anxious, had it been not he, but the father, who
paced there in suspense, dwelling on what a moment might bring forth,
he had been keener to notice things. He had traced, down the shoulder
of Wansfell, the slow march of a dancing light that marked the descent
of one of the parties. He had heard afar off the voices of the men,
who announced from Calgarth that Mrs. Watson's servants had searched
the woods as far as Elleray, but without success--these, indeed, were
the first to come in. Hard on them arrived a band, under Mr. Curwen's
bailiff, which had made the tour of the islands--Belle Isle, Lady
Holm, Thompson's Holm, and the rest--with the same result; and almost
at the same moment rode in, with jaded horses, the troop of yeomen who
had undertaken to traverse the broken country at the head of the lake,
between the Brathay and the Rotha. Two parties, the Troutbeck
contingent with which was Captain Clyne, and the riders who had chosen
Stock Ghyll valley and the Kirkstone, were still out at seven; and as
the others had met with no success, their return was eagerly awaited.
For the road between the inn and the lake was astir with life.
Ostlers' lanthorns twinkled hither and thither, and the place was like
a fair. A crowd of men, muffled in homespun plaids, blocked the
doorway, and gabbling over their ale, stared now in one direction, now
in the other; while the more highly favoured flocked into the snuggery
and coffee-room and there discussed the chances in stentorian tones.
The chaplain, with his feelings engaged elsewhere, wondered at the
fury of some, and the heat of all; and was shocked by their oaths and
threats of vengeance.

Clyne and his party came in about half-past seven; and as it chanced
that the Stock Ghyll troop arrived at the same minute, the whole house
turned out to meet the two, and learn their news. Alas, the downcast
faces of the riders told it sufficiently; and every head was uncovered
as Clyne, with stern and moody eyes, rode to the door and dismounted.
He turned to the throng of faces, and the lanthorn-light falling on
his features showed them pale and disturbed.

"My friends," he said, "I thank you. I shall not forget this day. I
shall never forget this day. I----" and then, though he was a
practised speaker, he could not say more or go on. He made a gesture,
at once pathetic and dignified, with his single arm, and turning from
them went slowly up the stairs with his chin on his breast.


[Illustration: every head was uncovered as Clyne ... rode to the door]


The farmers were Tories to a man. Even Brougham's silver tongue had
failed (in the election of the year before) to turn them against the
Lowthers. They were of the class from whom the yeomanry were drawn,
and they had scant sympathy with the radical weavers of Rochdale and
Bury, Bolton and Manchester. Had they caught the villains at this
moment, they had made short work of them. They watched the slight
figure with its empty sleeve as it passed into the house, and their
looks of compassion were exceeded only by their curses loud and deep.
And pitiful indeed was the tale which those, who were forced to leave,
carried home to their wives and daughters on the fells.

The chaplain, hovering on the edge of the chattering groups, could not
come at once at his patron, who had no sooner reached the head of the
stairs than he was beset by Nadin and others with reports and
arrangements. But as soon as Clyne had gone wearily to his room to
take some food before starting afresh--for it was determined to
continue the search as soon as the moon rose--the chaplain went to him
with his book under his arm.

He found Clyne seated before the fire, with his chin on his hand and
his attitude one of the deepest despondency. He had borne up with
difficulty under the public gaze; he gave way, martinet as he was, the
moment he was alone. The reflection that the child might have been
within reach of his voice, yet beyond his help, that it might be
crying to him even now, and crying in vain, that each hour which
exposed it to hardship endangered its life--such thoughts harrowed the
father's feelings almost beyond endurance. Sutton suspected from his
attitude that he was praying; and for a moment the chaplain, touched
and affected, was in two minds about disturbing him. But he, too, had
his harassing thoughts. His heart, too, burned with pity. And to turn
back now was to abandon hope--grown forlorn already--of freeing
Henrietta that evening. He went forward therefore with boldness. He
laid his book on the table, and finding himself unheeded, cleared his
throat.

"I have something here," he said--and his voice despite himself was
needlessly stiff and distant--"which I think it my duty, Captain
Clyne, to show you without delay."

Clyne turned slowly and rose as he turned.

"To show me?" he muttered.

"Yes."

"What is it? You have not"--raising his eyes with a sudden intake of
breath--"discovered anything? A clue?"

"I have discovered something," the chaplain answered slowly. "It is a
clue of a kind."

A rush of blood darkened Clyne's face. He held out a shaking hand.

"To where the lad is?" he ejaculated, taking a step forward. "To where
they have taken him? If it be so, God bless you, Sutton! God bless
you! God bless you! I'll never----"

The clergyman cut him short. He was shocked by the other's intense
excitement and frightened by the swelling of his features. He stayed
him by a gesture.

"Nay, nay," he cried. "I did not mean, sir, to awaken false hopes.
Pray pardon me. Pray pardon me. It is a clue, but to Miss Damer's
conduct this morning! To her conduct throughout. To her reasons for
silence. Which were not, I am now able to show you, connected with any
feeling of hostility to you, Captain Clyne, but rather imposed upon
her----"

But Clyne's face had settled into a mask of stone. Only he knew what
the disappointment was! And at that word, "I care not what they were!"
he said in a voice incredibly harsh, "or how imposed! If that be
all--if that is all you are here to tell me----"

"But if it be all, it is all to her!" Sutton retorted, stung in his
turn. "And most urgent, sir."

"As to her?"

"As to her. It places her conduct in an entirely different light,
Captain Clyne, and one which it is your duty to recognise."

"Have I not said," Clyne answered with bitter vehemence, "that I wish
to hear naught of her conduct? Do you know, sir, in what light I
regard her?"

"I hope in none that--that----"

"As a murderess," Clyne answered in the same tone of restrained fury.
"She has conspired against a child! A boy who never harmed her, and
now never could have harmed her! She is not worthy of the name of
woman! I thank God that He has helped me to keep her out of my mind as
I rode to-day. And you--you must needs bring her up again! Know that I
loathe and detest her, sir, and pray that I may never see her, never
hear her name again!"

Mr. Sutton raised his hands in horror.

"You are unjust!" he cried. "Indeed, indeed, you are unjust!"

"What is that to you? And who are you to talk to me? Is it your child
who is missing? Your child who is being tortured, perhaps out of life?
Who, a cripple, is being dragged at these men's heels? You? You? What
have you to do with this?"

The tone was crushing. But the chaplain, too, had his stubborn side,
and resentment flamed within him as he thought of the girl and her
lot. "Do I understand then," he said--he was very pale--"that you
refuse to hear what I have by chance discovered--in Miss Damer's
favour?"

"I do."

"That you will not, Captain Clyne, even look at this letter--this
letter which I have found and which exonerates her?"

"Never!" Clyne replied harshly. "Never! And, now you know my mind, go,
sir, and do not return to this subject! This is no time for trifling,
nor am I in the mood."

But the chaplain held his ground, though he was very nervous. And a
resolution, great and heroic, took shape within him, growing in a
moment to full size--he knew not how. He raised his meagre figure to
its full height, and his pale peaky face assumed a dignity which the
pulpit had never known. "I, too, am in no mood for trifling, Captain
Clyne," he said. "But I do not hold this matter trifling. On the
contrary, I wish you to understand that I think it so important that I
consider it my duty to press it upon you by every means in my power!"

Clyne looked at him wrathfully, astonished at his presumption. "The
girl has turned your head," he said.

The chaplain waived the words aside. "And therefore," he continued,
"if you decline, Captain Clyne, to read this letter, or to consider
the evidence it contains----"

"That I do absolutely! Absolutely!"

"I beg to resign my office," Mr. Sutton responded, trembling
violently. "I will no longer--I will no longer serve one, however much
I respect him, or whatever my obligations to him, who refuses to do
justice to his own kith and kin, who refuses to stand between a
helpless girl and wrong! Vile wrong!" And he made a gesture with his
hands as if he laid something on the table.

If his object was to gain possession of Captain Clyne's attention he
succeeded. Clyne looked at him with as much surprise as anger.

"She has certainly turned your head," he said in a lower tone, "if you
are not playing a sorry jest, that is. What is it to you, man, if I
follow my own judgment? What is Miss Damer to you?"

"You offered her to me," with a trembling approach to sarcasm, "for my
wife. She is so much to me."

"But I understood that she would not take you," Clyne retorted; and
now he spoke wearily. The surprise of the other's defiance was
beginning to wear off. "But, there, perhaps I was mistaken, and then
your anxiety for her interests is explained."

"Explain it as you please," Mr. Sutton answered with fire, "if you
will read this letter and weigh it."

"I will not," Clyne returned, his anger rising anew. "Once for all, I
will not!"

"Then I resign the chaplaincy I hold, sir."

"Resign and be d----d!" the naval captain answered. The day had
cruelly tried his temper.

"Your words to me," Mr. Sutton retorted furiously, "and your conduct
to her are of a piece!" And white with passion, his limbs trembling
with excitement, he strode to the door. He halted on the threshold,
bowed low, and went out.



                            CHAPTER XXIII

                            IN KENDAL GAOL


Bishop, in his corner of the chaise, made his burly person as small as
he could. He tried his best to hide his brown tops and square-toed
boots. In her corner Henrietta sat upright, staring rigidly before
her. For just one moment, as she passed from the house to the
carriage, under a score of staring eyes, a scarlet flush had risen to
her very hair, and she had shrunk back. But the colour had faded as
quickly as it had risen; she had restrained herself, and taken her
seat. And now the screes of Bow Fell, flecked with snow, were not more
cold and hard than her face as she gazed at the postilion's moving
back and saw it not. She knew that she was down now without hope of
rising; that, the prison doors once closed on her, their shadow would
rest on her always. And her heart was numbed by despair. The burning
sense of injustice, of unfairness, which sears and hardens the human
heart more quickly and more completely than any other emotion, would
awaken presently. But for the time she sat stunned and hopeless; dazed
and confounded by the astonishing thing which had happened to her.
To be sent to prison! To be sent to herd--she remembered his very
words--with such vile creatures as prisons hold! To be at the beck and
call of such a man as this who sat beside her. To have to obey; and to
belong no longer to herself, but to others! As she thought of all
this, and of the ordeal before her, fraught with humiliations yet
unknown, a hunted look grew in her eyes, and for a few minutes she
glanced wildly first out of this window, then out of that. To prison!
She was going to prison!

Fortunately her native courage came to her aid in her extremity. And
Bishop, who was not blind to her emotion, spoke.

"Don't you be over-frightened, miss," he said soothingly. "There's
naught to be scared about. I'll speak to them, and they'll treat you
well. Not that a gaol is a comfortable place," he continued,
remembering his duty to his employer; "and if you could see your way
to speaking--even now, miss--I'd take it on me to turn the horses."

"I have nothing to say," she answered, with a shudder and an
effort--for her throat was dry. But the mere act of speaking broke the
spell and relieved her of some of her fears.

"It's the little boy I'm thinking of," Bishop continued in a tone of
apology. "Captain Clyne thinks the world of him. The world of him!
But, lord, miss!" abruptly changing his tone, as his eyes alighted on
her wrist, "what have you done to your arm?"

She hid her wrist quickly, and with her face averted said that it was
nothing, nothing.

Bishop shook his head sagely.

"I doubt you bruised it getting out of the window," he said. "Well,
well, miss; live and learn. Another time you'll be wiser, I hope; and
not do such things."

She did not answer, and the chaise passing by Plumgarth began to
descend into the wide stony valley. Below them the white-washed walls
and slated roofs and mills of Kendal could be seen clustering about
the Castle Bow and the old grey ruin that rises above the Ken river.
On either hand bleak hills, seamed with grey walls, made up a
landscape that rose without beauty to a lowering sky. There were few
trees, no hedges; and somewhere the cracked bell of a drugget factory
or a dye-works was clanging out a monotonous summons. To Henrietta's
eye--fresh from the lake-side verdure--and still more to her heart,
the northern landscape struck cold and cheerless. It had given her but
a sorry welcome had she been on her way to seek the hospitality of the
inn. How much poorer was its welcome when she had no prospect before
her but the scant comfort and unknown hardships of a gaol!

The chaise did not enter the town, but a furlong short of it turned
aside and made for a group of windowless buildings, which crowned a
small eminence a bow-shot from the houses. As the horses drew the
chaise up the ascent to a heavy stone doorway, Henrietta had time to
see that the entrance was mean, if strong, and the place as
unpretending as it was dull. Nevertheless, her heart beat almost to
suffocation, as she stepped out at a word from Bishop, who had
alighted at once and knocked at the iron-studded door. With small
delay a grating was opened, a pale face, marked by high, hollow
temples, looked out; and some three or four sentences were exchanged.
Then the door was unlocked and thrown open. Bishop signed to her to
enter first and she did so--after an imperceptible pause. She found
herself in a small well-like yard, with the door and window of the
prison-lodge on her left and dead walls on the other sides.

Two children were playing on the steps of the lodge, and some linen,
dubiously drying in the cold winter air, hung on a line stretched from
the window to a holdfast in the opposite wall. Unfortunately, the yard
had been recently washed, and still ran with water; so that these
homely uses, and even the bench and pump which stood in a corner,
failed to impart much cheerfulness to its aspect. Had Henrietta's
heart been capable of sinking lower it had certainly done so.

The children stared open-mouthed at her: but not with half as much
astonishment as the man in shirt sleeves who had admitted her. "Eh,
sir, but you've brought the cage a fine bird," he said at last. "Your
servant, miss. Well, well, well!" with surprise. And he scratched his
head and grinned openly. "Debtors' side, I suppose?"

"Remand," Bishop answered with a wink and a meaning shake of the head.
"Here's the warrant. All's right." And then to Henrietta--"If you'll
sit down on that bench, miss, I'll fix things up for you."

The girl, her face a little paler than usual, sat down as she was
bidden, and looked about her. This was not her notion of a prison; for
here were neither gyves nor dungeons, but just a slatternly, damp
yard--as like as could be to some small backyard in the out-offices of
her brother's house. Nevertheless, the gyves might be waiting for her
out of sight; and with or without them, the place was horribly
depressing that winter afternoon. The sky was grey above, the walls
were grey, the pavement grey. She was almost glad when Bishop and the
man in shirt-sleeves emerged from the lodge followed by a tall,
hard-featured woman in a dirty mob-cap. The woman's arms were bare to
the elbow, and she carried a jingling bunch of keys. She eyed
Henrietta with dull dislike.

"That is settled, then," Bishop said, a little overdoing the
cheerfulness at which he aimed. "Mother Weighton will see to you, and
'twill be all right. There are four on the debtors' side, and you'll
be best in the women-felons', she thinks, since it's empty, and you'll
have it all to yourself."

Henrietta heaved a deep sigh of relief. "I shall be alone, then?" she
said. "Oh, thank you."

"Ay, you'll be alone," the woman answered, staring at her. "Very much
alone! But I'm not sure you'll thank me, by-and-by. You madams are
pretty loud for company, I've always found, when you've had your own a
bit." Then, "You don't mind being locked up in a yard by yourself?"
she continued, with a close look at the girl's face and long grey
riding-dress.

"Oh no, I shall be grateful to you," Henrietta said eagerly, "if you
will let me be alone."

"Ah, well, we'll see how you like it," the woman retorted. "Here,
Ben," to her husband, "I suppose she is too much of a fine lady to
carry her band-box--yet awhile. Do you bring it."

"I am sure," Bishop said, "the young lady will be grateful for any
kindness, Mrs. Weighton. I will wait till you've lodged her
comfortably. God bless my soul," he continued, screwing up his
features, as he affected to look about him, "I don't know that one's
not as well in as out!"

"Well, there's no writs nor burglars!" the jailor answered with a
grin. "And the young folks, male nor female, don't get into trouble
through staying out o' nights. Now, then, missis," to his wife, "no
need to be all day over it."

The woman unlocked a low door in the wall opposite the lodge, but at
the inner end of the yard; and she signed to Henrietta to enter before
her. The girl did so, and found herself in a flagged yard about thirty
feet square. On her right were four mean-looking doors having above
each a grated aperture. Henrietta eyed these and her heart sank. They
were only too like the dungeons she had foreseen! But the jailor's
wife turned to the opposite side of the yard where were two doors with
small glazed windows over them. The two sides that remained consisted
of high walls, surmounted by iron spikes.

"We'll put you in a day-room as they're all empty," the woman
grumbled. She meant not ill, but she had the unfortunate knack of
making all her concessions with a bad grace.

Thereupon she unlocked one of the doors, and disclosed a small
whitewashed room, cold, but passably clean. A rough bench and table
occupied the middle of the floor, and in a corner stood a clumsy
spinning-wheel. The floor was of stone, but there was a makeshift
fireplace, dulled by rust and dirt.

"Get in a bedstead, Ben," she continued. "I suppose," looking abruptly
at Henrietta, "you are not used to chaff, young woman?"

The girl stared.

"I don't understand, I am afraid," she faltered.

"You are used to feathers, I dare say?" with a sneer.

"Oh, for a bed?"

"What else?" impatiently. "Good lord, haven't you your senses? You can
have your choice. It's eight-pence for chaff, and a shilling for
feathers."

"I don't mind paying while I've money," Henrietta said humbly. "If
you'll please to charge me what is right."

"Well, it's cheap enough, lord knows; for since the changes there's no
garnish this side. And for the third of the earnings that's left to
us, I'd not give fippence a week for all!"

The man had dragged in, while she talked, a kind of wooden trough for
the bed, and set it in a corner. He had then departed for firing, and
returned with a shovelful of burning coals, for the room was as cold
as the grave.

"There's a pump in the yard," the woman said, "and a can and basin,
but you must serve yourself. And there's a pitcher for drinking. And
you can have from the cook-shop what you like to order in. You'll have
to keep your place clean; but as long as you behave yourself, we'll
treat you according. Only let us have no scratching and screaming!"
she continued. "Tempers don't pay here, I'll warn you. And for
swoonings we just turn the tap on! So do you take notice." And with a
satisfied look round, "For the rest, there's many a young woman that's
not gone wrong that's not so comfortable as you, my girl. And I'd have
you know it."

Henrietta coloured painfully.

"I shall do very well," she said meekly. "But I've not done anything
wrong."

"Ay, ay," the woman answered unconcernedly, "they all say that! That's
of course. But I can't stay talking here. What'd you like for your
supper? A pint of stout, and a plate of a-la-mode? Or a chop?"

Henrietta reduced the order to tea and a white loaf and butter--if it
could be got--and asked meekly if she might have something to read.

The _Kendal Chronicle_ was promised. "You'll have your meal at five,"
Mother Weighton continued. "And your light must be out at eight, and
you'll have to 'tend service in chapel on Sunday. By rule your door
should be locked at five; but as you're alone, and the lock's on the
yard, I'll say naught about that. You can have the run of the yard as
a favour and till another comes in."

Then with a final look round she went out, her pattens clinked across
the court, and Henrietta heard the key turned in the outer door.

She stood a moment pressing her hands to her eyes, and trying to
control herself. At length she uncovered her eyes, and she looked
again round the whitewashed cell. Yes, it was real. The flagged floor,
the bench, the table, the odd-looking bed in its wooden trough--all
were real, hard, bare. And the solitude and the dreary silence, and
the light that was beginning to fade! The place was far from her crude
notion of a prison; but in its cold, naked severity it was as far
outside her previous experience. She was in prison, and this was her
cell, that was her prison-yard. And she was alone, quite, quite alone.

A sob rose in her throat, and then she laughed a little hysterically,
as she remembered their way with those who fainted. And sitting limply
down, she warmed herself at the fire, and dried two or three tears.
She looked about her again, eyed again the whitewashed walls, and
listened. The silence was complete; it almost frightened her. And her
door had no fastening on the inside. That fact moved her in the end to
rise, and go out and explore the yard, that she might make sure before
the light failed that no one was locked in with her, that no one
lurked behind the closed cell doors.

The task was not long. She tried the five doors, and found them all
locked; she knocked softly on them, and got no answer. The pump, the
iron basin, a well scrubbed bench, a couple of besoms, and a bucket,
she had soon reviewed all that the yard held. There was a trap or
Judas-hole in the outer door, and another, which troubled her, in the
door of her cell. But on the whole the survey left her reassured and
more at ease; the place, though cold, bare, and silent, was her own.
And when her tea and a dip-candle appeared at five she was able to
show the jailor's wife a cheerful face.

The woman had heard more of her story by this time, and eyed her with
greater interest, and less rudely.

"You'll not be afraid to be alone?" she said. "You've no need to be.
You're safe enough here."

"I'm not afraid," Henrietta answered meekly. "But--couldn't I have a
fastening on my door, please?"

"On the inside? Lord, no! But I can lock you in if you like," with a
grin.

"Oh no! I did not mean that!"

"Well, then you must just push the table against the door. It's
against rules," with a wink, "but I shan't be here to see." And
pulling her woollen shawl more closely about her, she continued to
stare at the girl. Presently, "Lord's sakes!" she said, "it's a queer
world! I suppose you never was in a jail before? Never saw the inside
of one, perhaps?"

"No."

"It's something political, I'm told," snuffing the candle with her
fingers, and resuming her inquisitive stare.

Henrietta nodded.

"With a man in it, of course! Drat the men! They do a plaguey deal of
mischief! Many's the decent lass that's been transported because of
them!"

Henrietta's smile faded suddenly.

"I hope it's not as bad as that," she said.

"Well, I don't know," scrutinising the girl's face. "It's for you to
say. The officer that brought you--quite the gentleman too--told us it
was something to do with a murder. But you know best."

"I hope not!"

"Well, I hope not too! For if it be, it'll be mighty unpleasant for
you. It's not three years since a lad I knew myself was sent across
seas for just being out at night with a rabbit-net. So it's easy done
and soon over! And too late crying when the milk's spilt." And once
more snuffing the candle and telling Henrietta to leave her door open
until she had crossed the yard, she took herself off. Once more, but
now with a sick qualm, the girl heard the key turned on her.

"Transportation!" She did not know precisely what it meant; but she
knew that it meant something very dreadful. "Transportation! Oh, it is
impossible!" she murmured, "impossible! I have done nothing!"

Yet the word frightened her, the shadow of the thing haunted her.
These locks and bars, this solitude, this cold routine, was it
possible that once in their clutch the victim slid on, helpless and
numbed--to something worse? To-day, deaf to her protests, they had
sent her here--sent her by a force which seemed outside themselves.
And no one had intervened in her favour. No one had stepped forward to
save her or speak for her. Would the same thing befall her again?
Would they try her in the same impersonal fashion--as if she were a
thing, a chattel,--and find her guilty, condemn her, and hand her over
to brutal officials, and--she rose from her bench, shuddering, unable
to bear the prospect. She had begun the descent, must she sink to the
bottom? Was it inevitable? Could she no longer help herself? Sick,
shivering with sudden fear she walked the floor.

"Oh, it is impossible!" she cried, battling against her terror, and
trying to reassure herself. "It is impossible!" And for the time she
succeeded by a great effort in throwing off the nightmare.

No one came near her again that evening. And quite early the dip
burned low, and worn out and tired she went to bed, only partially
undressing herself. The bedding, though rough and horribly coarse, was
clean, and, little as she expected it, she fell asleep quickly in the
strange stillness of the prison.

She slept until an hour or two before dawn. Then she awoke and sat up
with a child's cry in her ears. The impression was so real, so vivid
that the bare walls of the cell seemed to ring with the plaintive
voice. Quaking and perspiring she listened. She was sure that it was
no dream; the voice had been too real, too clear; and she wondered in
a panic what it could be. It was only slowly that she remembered where
she was and recognised that no child's cry could reach her there. Nor
was it until after a long interval that she lay down again.

Even then she was not alone. The image of a little child, lonely,
friendless, and terrified, stayed with her, crouched by her pillow,
sat weeping in the dark corners of the cell, haunted her. She tried to
shake off the delusion, but the attempt was in vain. Conscience, that
in the dark hours before the dawn subjects all to his sceptre, began
to torment her. Had she acted rightly? Ought she to have put the child
first and her romantic notions second? And if any ill happened to
it--and it was a delicate, puny thing--would it lie at her door?

Remorse began to rack her. She wondered that she had not thought more
of the child, been wrung with pity for it, sympathised more deeply
with its fears and its misery. What, beside its plight, was hers?
What, beside its terrors, were her fears? Thus tormenting herself she
lay for some time, and was glad when the light stole in and she could
rise, cold as it was, and set her bed and her cell in order. By the
time this was done, and she had paced for half an hour up and down to
warm herself, a girl of eight, the jailor's child, came with a shovel
of embers and helped her to light the fire--staring much at her the
while.

"Mother said I could help you make your bed," she began.

Henrietta, with a smile said that she had made it already.

"Mother thought you'd be too fine to make it," still staring.

"Well, you see I am not."

"I am glad of that," the child answered candidly. "For mother said
you'd have to come to it and to worse, if you were transported, miss."

Henrietta winced afresh, and looked at the imp less kindly.

"But I'm not going to be transported," she said positively. "You're
talking nonsense."

"There's never been any one transported from here."

"No?" with relief. "Then why should I be?"

"But there was a man hanged three years ago. It was for stealing a
lamb. They didn't let me see it."

"And very right, too."

"But mother's promised"--with triumph--"that if you're transported I
shall see it!" After which there was silence while the child stared.
At last, "Are you ready for your breakfast now?"

"Yes," said poor Henrietta. "But I am not very hungry--you can tell
your mother."



                             CHAPTER XXIV

                          THE RÔLE CONTINUED


Mr. Sutton slept as ill on the night of his resignation as he had ever
slept in his life. And many times as he tossed and turned on his bed
he repented at leisure the step which he had taken in haste. Acting
upon no previous determination, he had sacrificed in the heat of
temper his whole professional future. He had staked his all; and he
had done no good even to the cause he had at heart. The act would not
bear thinking upon; certainly it would not bear the cold light of
early reflection. And many, many times as he sighed upon his uneasy
pillow did he wish, as so many have wished before and since, that he
could put back the clock. Had he left the room five minutes earlier,
had he held his tongue, however ungraciously, had he thought before he
spoke, he had done as much for Henrietta and he had done no harm to
himself. And he had been as free as he was now, to seek his end by
other means.

For he had naught to do now but seek that end. He had not Mr. Pitt's
nose in vain: he was nothing if he was not stubborn. And while
Henrietta might easily have had a more discreet, she could hardly have
had a more persevering, friend. Amid the wreck of his own fortunes,
with his professional future laid in ruins about him, he clung
steadfastly to the notion of righting her, and found in that and in
the letter in his book, his only stay. At as early an hour as he
considered decent, he would apply to Mr. Hornyold, lay the evidence
before the Justice, and press for the girl's release.

Unfortunately, he lay so long revolving the matter that at daybreak he
fell asleep. The house was busy and no one gave a thought to him, and
ten had struck before he came down and shamefacedly asked for his
breakfast. Mrs. Gilson put it before him, but with a word of girding
at his laziness; which the good woman could not stomach, when half the
countryside were on foot searching for the boy, and when the unhappy
father, after a night in the saddle, had left in a postchaise to
follow up a clue at Keswick. Blameworthy or not, Mr. Sutton found the
delay fatal. When he called on Mr. Hornyold, the Justice was not at
home. He had left the house and would not return until the following
day.

Sutton might have anticipated this check, but he had not; and he
walked back to the inn, plunged to the very lips in despondency. The
activity of the people about him, their eagerness in the search, their
enthusiasm, all reflected on him and sank him in his own esteem. Yet
if he would, he could not share in these things or in these feelings.
He stood outside them; his sympathies were fixed, obstinately fixed,
elsewhere. And, alas, in the only direction in which he desired to
proceed, and in which he discerned a possible issue, he was brought to
a full stop.

He was in the mood to feel small troubles sorely, and as he neared the
inn he saw that Mrs. Gilson was standing at the door. It vexed him,
for he felt that he cut a poor figure in the landlady's eyes. He knew
that he seemed to her a sorry thing, slinking idly about the house,
while others wrought and did. He feared her sharp tongue and vulgar
tropes, and he made up his mind to pass by the house as if he did not
see her. He was in the act of doing this, awkwardly and consciously,
with his eyes averted--when she called to him.

"If you're looking for Squire Clyne," she said, in very much the tone
he expected, "he's gone these three hours past and some to that!"

"I was not," he said.

"Oh!" she answered with sarcasm, "I suppose you are looking for the
boy. You will not find him, I'm afraid, on the King's highroad!"

"I was not looking for him," he answered churlishly.

"More shame to you!" Mrs. Gilson cried, with a spark in her eye. "More
shame to you! For you should be!"

He flamed up at that, after the passionate manner of such men when
roused. He stopped and faced her, trembling a little.

"And to whom is it a shame," he cried, "that wicked, foul injustice is
done? To whom is it a shame that the innocent are sent to herd with
the guilty? To whom is it a shame--woman!--that when there is good,
clear evidence put before their eyes, it is not read? Nor used? The
boy?" vehemently, "the boy? Is he the only one to be considered, and
sought and saved? Is his case worse than hers? I too say shame!"

Mrs. Gilson stared. "Lord save the man!" she cried, as much astonished
as if a sheep had turned on her, "with his shames and his whoms! He's
as full of words as a Wensleydale of mites! I don't know what you are
in the pulpit, your reverence, but on foot and in the road, Mr.
Brougham was naught to you!"

"He'd not the reason," the chaplain answered bitterly. And brought
down by her remark--for his passion was of the shortest--he turned,
and was moving away, morose and despondent, when the landlady called
after him a second time, but in a more friendly tone. Perhaps
curiosity, perhaps some new perception of the man moved her.

"See here, your reverence," she said. "If you've a mind to show me
this fine evidence of yours, I'm not for saying I'll not read it. Lord
knows it's ill work going about like a hen with an egg she can't lay.
So if you've a mind to get it off your mind, I'll send for my glasses,
and be done with it."

"Will you?" he replied, his face flushing with the hope of making a
convert. "Will you? Then there, ma'am, there it is! It's the letter
that villain sent to her to draw her to meet him that night. If you
can't see from that what terms they were on, and that she had no
choice but to meet him, I--but read it! Read it!"

She called for her glasses and having placed them on her nose, set the
nose at such an angle that she could look down it at the page. This
was Mrs. Gilson's habit when about to read. But when all was arranged
her face fell. "Oh dear!" she said, "it's all bits and scraps, like a
broken curd! Lord save the man, I can't read this. I canna make top
nor tail of it! Here, let me take it inside. Truth is, I'm no scholar
in the open air."

The chaplain, trembling with eagerness, set straight three or four
bits of paper which he had deranged in opening the book. Then, not
trusting it out of his own hands, he bore the book reverently into the
landlady's snuggery, and set it on the table. Mrs. Gilson rearranged
her nose and glasses, and after gazing helplessly for a few moments at
the broken screed, caught some thread of sense, clung to it
desperately, and presently began to murmur disjointed sentences in the
tone of one who thought aloud.

"Um--um--um--um!"

Had the chaplain been told a fortnight before that he would wait with
bated breath for an old woman's opinion of a document, he would have
laughed at the notion. But so it was; and when a ray of comprehension
broke the frowning perplexity of Mrs. Gilson's face, and she muttered,
"Lord ha' mercy! The villain!" still more when an April cloud of
mingled anger and pity softened her massive features--the chaplain's
relief was itself a picture.

"A plague on the rascal!" the good woman cried. "He's put it so as to
melt a stone, let alone a silly child like that! I don't know that if
he'd put it so to me, when I was a lass, I'd have told on him. I don't
think I would!"

"It's plain that she'd no understanding with him!" Mr. Sutton cried
eagerly. "You can see that, ma'am!"

"Well, I think I can. The villain!"

"It's quite clear that she had broken with him!"

"It does look so, poor lamb!"

"Poor lamb indeed!" Mr. Sutton replied with feeling. "Poor lamb
indeed!"

"Yet you'll remember," Mrs. Gilson answered--she was nothing if not
level-headed--"he'd the lad to think of! He'd his boy to think of! I
am sure my heart bled for him when he went out this morning. I doubt
he'd not slept a wink, and----"

"Do you think she slept either?" the chaplain asked, something
bitterly; and his eyes glowed in his pale face. "Do you consider how
young she is and gently bred, ma'am? And where they've sent her, and
to what?"

"Umph!" the landlady replied, and she rubbed her ponderous cheek with
the bowl of a punch-ladle, and looked, frowning, at the letter. The
operation, it was plain, clarified her thoughts; and Mr. Sutton's
instinct told him to be mute. For a long minute the distant clatter of
Modest Ann's tongue, and the clink of pattens in the yard, were the
only sounds that broke the lemon-laden silence of the room. Perhaps it
was the glint of the fire on the rows of polished glass, perhaps the
sight of her own well-cushioned chair, perhaps only a memory of
Henrietta's fair young face and piled-up hair that wrought upon the
landlady. But whatever the cause she groaned. And then, "He ought to
see this!" she said. "He surely ought! And dang me, he shall, if he
leaves the house to-night! After all, two wrongs don't make a right.
He's to Keswick this morning, but an hour after noon he'll be back to
learn if there's news. It's only here he can get news, and if he has
not found the lad he'll be back! And I'll put it on his plate----"

"God bless you!" cried Mr. Sutton.

"Ay, but I'm not saying he'll do anything," the landlady answered
tartly. "If all's true the young madam has not behaved so well that
she'll be the worse for smarting a bit!"

"She'll be much obliged to you," said the chaplain humbly.

"No, she'll not!" Mrs. Gilson retorted. "Nor to you, don't you think
it! She's a Tartar or I'm mistaken. You'll be obliged, you mean!" And
she looked at the parson over her glasses as if she were appraising
him in a new character.

"I've been to Mr. Hornyold," he said, "but he was out and will not be
back until to-morrow."

"Ay, he's more in his boots than on his knees most days," the landlady
answered. "But what I've said, I'll do, that's flat. And here's the
coach, so it's twelve noon."

She tugged at the cord of the yard bell, and its loud jangle in a
twinkling roused the house to activity and the stables to frenzy. The
fresh team were led jingling and prancing out of the yard, the ostlers
running beside them. Modest Ann and her underling hastened to show
themselves on the steps of the inn, and Mrs. Gilson herself passed
into the passage ready to welcome any visitor of consequence.

Mr. Bishop and two Lancashire officers who had been pushing the quest
in the Furness district descended from the outside of the coach. But
they brought no news; and Sutton, as soon as he learned this, did not
linger with them. The landlady's offer could not have any immediate
result, since Clyne was not expected to return before two; and the
chaplain, to kill time, went out at the back, and climbed the hill. He
walked until he was tired, and then he turned, and at two made his way
back to the inn, only to learn that Clyne had not yet arrived. None
the less, the short day already showed signs of drawing in. There was
snow in the sky. It hung heavy above Langdale Pikes and over the long
ragged screes of Bow Fell. White cushions of cloud were piled one on
the other to the northward, and earth and sky were alike depressing.
Weary and despondent, Sutton wandered into the house, and sitting down
before the first fire he found, he fell fast asleep.

He awoke with a confused murmur of voices in his ears. The room was
dark save for the firelight; and for a few seconds he fancied that he
was still alone. The men whose talk he heard were in another part of
the house, and soothed by their babble and barely conscious where he
was, he was sinking away again when a harsh word and a touch on his
sleeve awoke him. He sprang up, startled and surprised, and saw that
Captain Clyne, his face fitfully revealed by the flame, was standing
on the other side of the hearth. He was in his riding boots and was
splashed to the waist.

His face was paler than usual, and his pose told of fatigue.

"Awake, man, awake!" he repeated. "Didn't you hear me?"

"No, I--I was dozing," the chaplain faltered, as he put back his
chair.

"Just so," Clyne answered drily. "I wish I could sleep. Well, listen
now. I have been back an hour, and I have read this." He laid his hand
on an object on the table, and Sutton with joy saw that the object was
the book which he had left with Mrs. Gilson. "I am sorry," Clyne
continued in a constrained tone, "that I did not read it last evening.
I was wrong. But--God help me, I think I am almost mad! Anyway I have
read it now, and I credit it, and I think that--she has been harshly
treated. And I am here to tell you," a little more distinctly, "that
you can arrange the matter to your satisfaction, sir."

Sutton stared. "Do you mean," he said, "that I may arrange for her
release?"

"I have settled that," Clyne answered. "Mr. Hornyold is not at home,
but I have seen Mr. Le Fleming, and have given bail for her appearance
when required; and here is Le Fleming's order for her release. I have
ordered a postchaise to be ready and it will be at the door in ten
minutes."

"But then--all is done?" the chaplain said.

"Except fetching her back," Clyne answered. "She must come here. There
is nowhere else for her to go. But I leave that to you, since her
release is due to you. I have done her an injustice, and done you one
too. But God knows," he continued bitterly, "not without provocation.
Nor willingly, nor knowingly."

"I am sure of that," the chaplain answered meekly.

"Yes. Of course," Clyne continued, awkwardly, "I shall not consider
what you said to me as said at all. On the contrary, I am obliged to
you for doing your duty, Mr. Sutton, whatever the motive."

"The motive----"

"I do not say," stiffly, "that the motive was an improper one. Not at
all. I cannot blame you for following up my own plan."

"I followed my feelings," Mr. Sutton replied, with a fresh stirring of
resentment.

"Exactly. And therefore it seems to me that as she owes her release to
your exertions, it is right that you should be the one to communicate
the fact to her, and the one to bring her away."

The chaplain saw that his patron, persuaded that there was more
between them than he had supposed, fell back on the old plan; that he
was willing to give him the opportunity of pushing his suit. And the
blood rushed to his face. If she could be brought--if she could be
brought to look favourably on him! Ah, then indeed he was a happy man,
and the dark night of despondency would be followed by a morn of joy.
But with the quickness of light his thoughts passed over the various
occasions--they were very few--on which he had addressed her. And--and
an odd thing happened. It happened, perhaps, because with the chaplain
the matter was no longer a question of ambition, but of love. "You
have no news?" he said.

"None. And Nadin," with bitterness, "seems to be at the end of his
resources."

"Then, Captain Clyne," Sutton replied impulsively, "there is but one
way! There is but one thing to be done. It is not I, but you, who must
bring Miss Damer back. She may still speak, but not for me!"

"And certainly not for me!" Clyne answered, his face flushing at the
recollection of his violence.

"For you rather than for any one!"

"No, no!"

"Yes," the chaplain rejoined firmly. "I do not know how I know it," he
continued with dignity, "but I know it. For one thing, I am not blind.
Miss Damer has never given me a word or a look of encouragement. If
she thanks me," he spoke with something like a tear in his eye, "it
will be much--the kind of thanks you, Captain Clyne, give the servant
that lacquers your boots, or the dog that fetches your stick. But
you--with you it will be different."

"She has no reason to thank me," Clyne declared.

"Yet she will."

"No."

"She will!" Sutton answered fervently--he was determined to carry out
his impulsive act of unselfishness. "And, thank you or not thank you,
she may speak. She will speak, when released, if ever! She is one who
will do nothing under compulsion, nothing under durance. But she will
do much--for love."

Clyne looked with astonishment at the chaplain. He, like Mrs. Gilson,
was appraising him afresh, was finding something new in him, something
unexpected. "How do you know?" he asked, his cheeks reddening.

There were for certain tears in Mr. Sutton's eyes now.

"I don't know how I know," he said, "but I do. I know! Go and fetch
her; and I think, I think she will speak."

Clyne thought otherwise, and had good reason to think otherwise; a
reason which he was ashamed to tell his chaplain. But in the face of
his own view he was impressed by Sutton's belief. The suggestion was
at least a straw to which he could cling. Failing other means--and the
ardour of his assistants in the search was beginning to flag--why
should he not try this? Why should he not, threats failing, throw
himself at the girl's feet, abase himself, humble himself, try at
least if he could not win by prayer and humility what she had refused
to force.

It was a plan little to the man's taste; grievous to his pride. But
for his son's sake, for the innocent boy's sake, he was willing to
do even this. Moreover, with all his coldness, he had sufficient
nobility to feel that he owed the girl the fullest amends in his
power. He had laid hands on her. He had treated her--no matter what
the provocation--cruelly, improperly, in a manner degrading to her and
disgraceful to himself. His face flushed as he recalled the scene and
his violence. Now it was hers to triumph, hers to blame: nor his to
withhold the opportunity.

"I will go," he said, after a brief perturbed silence. "I am obliged
to you for your advice. You think that there is a chance she will
speak?"

"I do," Sutton answered manfully. "I do." And he said more to the same
purpose.

But later, when the hot fit ebbed, he wondered at himself. What had
come over him? Why had he, who had so little while his patron had so
much, given up his ewe lamb, his one chance? Reason answered, because
he had no chance and it was wise to make a virtue of necessity. But he
knew that, a day or two before, he would have snapped his fingers at
reason, he would have clung to his forlorn hope, he would have made
for his own advantage by the nearest road. What then had changed him?
What had caused him to set the girl's happiness before his own, and
whispered to him that there was only one way by which, smirched and
discredited as she was, she whom he loved could reach her happiness?
He did not answer the question, perhaps he did not know the answer.
But wandering in the darkness by the lake-side, with the first
snowflakes falling on his shoulders, he cried again and again, "God
bless her! God bless her!" with tears running down his pale,
insignificant face.



                             CHAPTER XXV

                          PRISON EXPERIENCES


When Henrietta rose on the second morning of her imprisonment, and
opened her door and looked out, she met with an unpleasant surprise.
Snow had fallen in the night, and lay almost an inch deep in the yard.
The sheet of dazzling white cast the dingy spiked wall and the mean
cell-doors into grey relief. But it was not this contrast, nor the
memory of childish winters with their pleasures--though that memory
took her by the throat and promised to choke her--that filled her with
immediate dismay. It was the difficulty of performing the prison
duties, of going beyond her door, and refilling her water-pitcher at
the pump. To cross the yard in sandaled shoes--such as she and the
girls of that day wore--was to spoil her shoes and wet her feet. Yet
she could not live without water; the more as she had an instinctive
fear of losing, under the pressure of hardship, those refinements in
which she had been bred. At length she was about to venture out at no
matter what cost, when the door of the yard opened, and the jailor's
wife came stumbling through the snow on a pair of pattens. She carried
a second pair in her hand, and she seemed to be in anything but a
pleasant humour.

"Here's a mess!" she said, throwing down the pattens and looking about
her with disgust. "By rights, you should set to work to clear this
away, before it's running all of a thaw into your room. But I dare say
it will wait till midday--it don't get much sun here--and my good man
will come and do it. Anyways, there are some pattens, so that you can
get about--there's as good as you have gone on pattens before now! Ay,
and mopped the floor in them! And by-and-by my girl will bring you
some fire 'gainst you're ready for your breakfast."

"I'm ready whenever the breakfast is ready," Henrietta answered, as
cheerfully as she could. She was shivering with cold.

"Ah, well, ah, well, my lass!" the woman answered snappishly, "there's
worse troubles in the world than waiting for your breakfast. For the
Lord's sake, don't you get complaining."

"I wasn't complaining, indeed!" Henrietta said.

"Think of the doing we've had this night!"

"I heard," the girl answered. And an involuntary shudder escaped her.
"It was dreadful! dreadful!"

"You'd ha' thought so," ungraciously, "if you had had to deal with the
lad yourself! Never was such a Jack o' Bedlam! I wonder all our heads
aren't broke."

"Is he often like that?" Henrietta asked.

For she had lain awake many hours of the night, trembling and trying
to close her ears against the ravings of a madman; who was confined in
the next yard, and who had suffered an access of mania during the
night. The prisons of that day served also for madhouses.

"No, but once in the month or so," the jailor's wife answered. "And
often enough, drat him! Doctor says he'll go off in one of these
Bedlam fits, and the sooner the better, I say! But I'm wasting my time
and catching my death, gossipping with you! Anyway, don't you
complain, young woman," severely. "There's worse off than you!" And
she clattered abruptly away, and Henrietta was left to patten her road
to the pump and back, and afterwards to finish her toilette in what
shivering comfort she might.

For a prisoner, she might not have much of which to complain. But
though that was not the day of bedroom fires, or rubber water-bottles,
and luxury stopped at the warming-pan, or the heated brick, there are
degrees of misery, and this degree was new to her.

However, the woman was better than her word, for in a short time her
child appeared, painfully bearing at arm's length a shovelful of live
embers. And the fire put a new face on things. Breakfast sent in from
outside followed, and was drawn out to the utmost for the sake of the
employment which it afforded. For time hung heavy on the girl's hands.
She had long exhausted the _Kendal Chronicle_; and a volume of
"Sermons for Persons under Sentence of Death"--the property of the
gaol--she had steadfastly refused. Other reading there was none, and
she was rather gratified than troubled when she espied a thin trickle
of water stealing under the door. The snow in the yard was melting;
and it was soon made plain to her that if she did not wish to be
flooded she must act for herself.

The task was not very congenial to a girl gently bred, and who had all
her life associated such work with Doll and a mop. But on her first
entrance into the gaol she had resolved to do, as the lesser of two
evils, whatever she should be told to do. And the thing might have
been worse, for there was no one to see her at work. She kilted up her
skirt and donned the pattens, put on her hood, and taking a broom from
the corner of the yard began to sweep vigorously, first removing the
snow from the flags before her door, and then, as the space she had
cleared grew wider, gathering the snow into a heap at the lower end of
the yard.

She was soon warm and in the full enjoyment of action. But in no long
time, as was natural, she tired, and paused to rest and look about
her, supporting herself by the broom-handle. A robin alighted on a
spike on the top of the wall, and flirting its tail, eyed her in a
friendly way, with its head on one side. Then it flew away--it could
fly away! And at the thought,

"What," she wondered, "would come of it all? What would be the end for
her? And had they found the boy?"

Already it seemed to her that she had lain a week, a month in the
gaol. The people outside must have forgotten her. Would she be
forgotten? Would they leave her there?

But she would not give way to such thoughts, and she set to work again
with new energy. Swish! swish! Her hands were growing sore, but she
had nearly finished the task. She looked complacently at the wide
space she had cleared, and stooped to pin up one side of her gown
which had slipped down. Then, swish! swish! with renewed vigour,
unconscious that the noise of her sweeping drowned the grating of the
key in the lock. So that she was not aware until a voice struck her
ear, that she was no longer alone.

Then she wheeled about so sharply that, unused to pattens, she
stumbled and all but fell. The accident added to her vexation. Her
face turned red as a beet. For inside the door of the yard,
contemplating her with a smile at once familiar and unpleasant, stood
Mr. Hornyold.

"Dear, dear," he said, as she glowered at him resentfully, ashamed at
once of her short skirts and the task that compelled them. "They
shouldn't have put you to this! Though I'm sure a prettier sight you'd
go far to see! But your hands are infinitely too white and soft, my
dear--much too white and pretty to be spoiled by broom-handles! I must
speak to Mother Weighton about it."

"Perhaps if you would kindly go out a moment," she said with spirit,
"it were better. I could then put myself in order."

"Not for the world!" Mr. Hornyold retorted, with something between a
leer and a wink. "You're very well as you are!" with a look at her
ankles. "There's nothing to be ashamed of, I'm sure, but the contrary.
I'm told that Lady Jersey at Almack's shows more, and with a hundred
to see! So you need not mind. And you could not look nicer if you'd
done it on purpose."

With a jerk she disengaged her shoes from the pattens, dropped the
broom, and made for the door of her room, with such dignity as her
kilted skirt left her. But before she reached it:

"Steady, my lady," said Mr. Hornyold in a tone no longer wheedling,
but harsh and peremptory, "you're forgetting! You are in gaol, and
you'll be pleased to stop when you're told, and do as you're told!
Don't you be in such a hurry, my dear. I am here to learn if you have
any complaints."

"Only of your presence!" she cried, her face burning. "If you have
come here only to insult me, I have heard enough."

And having gained her cell in spite of him, she tried to slam the door
in his face.

But he had had time to approach, and he set the handle of his whip
between door and jamb, and stopped her.

"I'm not come for that, I tell you, you pretty spitfire," he said;
"I've come to hear if you have any complaints of your treatment here."

"I have not!" she cried.

"Come, come," he rejoined, checking her with a grin, "you must not
answer the Visiting Justice in that tone. Say, 'I have none, sir, I
thank you kindly,'--that's the proper form, my dear. You'll know
better another time. Or"--smiling more broadly as he read the angry
refusal in her eyes--"we shall have to put you to beat hemp. And that
were a pity. Those pretty hands would soon lose their softness, and
those dainty wrists that are not much bigger than my thumbs would be
sadly spoiled. But we won't do that," indulgently. "We are never hard
on pretty girls as long as they behave themselves."

She looked round wildly, but there was no escape. She could retreat no
farther. The man filled the doorway; the room lay open to his insolent
eyes, and he did not spare to look.

"Neat as a pin!" he said complacently. "Just as it should be. A place
for everything, and everything in its place. I've nothing but praise
for it. I never thought that it would ever be my lot to commend Miss
Damer for the neatness of her chamber! But--good Lord!" with surprise,
"what's the matter with your wrist, my girl?"

"Nothing," she said, the angry scarlet of her cheek turning a shade
deeper.

"Nothing? Oh, but there is!" he returned peremptorily.

"Nothing!" she repeated fiercely. "Nothing! It's nothing that
matters!"

Oh, how she hated the man! How she loathed his red, insolent grin!
Would he never leave her? Was she to be exposed, day by day, and hour
by hour, to this horror?

He eyed her shrewdly.

"You haven't been turning stubborn?" he said, "have you? And they've
had to handle you already? And bring you to your senses? And so they
have set you to brooming? But Bishop," with a frown, "gave me no
notion of that. He said you came like a lamb."

"It's not that!" she cried. "It's nothing." It was not only that she
was ashamed of the mark on her arm, and shrank from showing it. But
his leering, insolent face terrified her. Though he was not tipsy, he
had spent the small hours at a club; and the old port still hummed in
his brain. "It's not that," she repeated firmly, and more quietly,
hoping to get rid of him.

"Here," he answered, "let me look at it."

"No!"

"Pooh, nonsense!" he replied, pressing his advantage, and entering the
cell. "Nonsense, girl, let me look at it." He stepped nearer, and
peremptorily held out his hand. He could touch her. She could feel his
hot breath on her cheek. "There's no room here for airs and tempers,"
he continued. "How, if I don't see it, am I to know that they have not
been ill-treating you? Show me your wrist, girl."

But she recoiled from him into the farthest corner, holding her arms
behind her. Her face was a picture of passionate defiance.

"Don't touch me!" she cried. "Don't come near me!"

"You've no right to touch me. They have not hurt my wrist. I tell you
it is nothing. And if you lay a finger on me I will scream!"

"Then," he said coolly, "they'll put you in a strait waistcoat, my
lass, like the madman next door. That's all! You're mighty particular,
but you forget where you are."

"You forget that I am a gentlewoman!" she cried. She could not retreat
farther, but she looked at him as if she could have killed him. "Stand
back, sir, I say!" she continued fiercely. "If you do not----"

"What will you do?" he asked. He enjoyed the situation, but he was not
sure how far it would be prudent to push it. If he could contrive to
surprise her wrist it would be odd if he could not snatch a kiss; and
it was his experience--in his parish--that once fairly kissed, young
women came off the high horse, and proved amenable. "What'll you do,"
he continued facetiously, "you silly little prude?"

"Do?" she panted.

"Ay, Miss Dainty Damer, what'll you do?" with a feigned movement as if
to seize her. "You're not on the highway now, you know! Nor free on
bail! Nor is there a parson here!"

There he stopped--a faint, faint sound had fallen on his ear. He
looked behind him, and stepped back as if a string drew him. And his
face changed marvellously. In the doorway stood, hat in hand, the last
person in the world he wished to see there--Captain Clyne.

Clyne did not utter a syllable, but he beckoned to the other to come
out to him. And, with a chap-fallen look and a brick-red face,
Hornyold complied, and went out. Clyne closed the door on the
girl--that she might not hear. And the two men alone in the yard
confronted one another, Clyne's face was dark.

"I overheard your last words, Mr. Hornyold," he said in a voice low
but stern. "And you are mistaken. There is a parson here--who has
forgotten that he is a gentleman. It is well for him, very well, that
having forgotten that fact he remains a parson."

Hornyold tried to bluster, tried to face the other down and save the
situation. "I don't understand you!" he said. "What does this mean?"
He was the taller man and the bigger, but Clyne's air of contemptuous
mastery made him appear the smaller. "I don't understand you," he
repeated. "The young lady--I merely came to visit her."

"The less," Clyne retorted, cutting him short, "said about her the
better! I understand perfectly, sir," with severity, "if you do not!
Perfectly. And I desire you to understand that it is your cloth only
that protects you from the punishment you deserve!"

"That's easy said!" Hornyold answered with a poor attempt at defiance.
"Easy! What! Are we to have all this fuss about a chit that----"

"Silence, sir!" And Clyne's voice rang so loud that the other not only
obeyed but stepped back, as if he feared a blow. "Silence, sir! I know
you well enough, and your past, to know that you cannot afford a
scandal. And you know me! I advise you, therefore, when you have
passed that door"--he pointed to the door leading to the prison lodge,
"to keep a still tongue, and to treat this lady's name with respect.
If not for the sake of your own character, for the sake, at any rate,
of your ill-earned stipends."

"Fine words!" Hornyold muttered, with a sneer of bravado.

"I will make them good," Clyne answered. And the look and the tone
were such that the other, high as he wished to carry it, thought
discretion the better part. He turned, still sneering, on his heel,
and cutting the air with his whip made his way with what dignity he
might to the door. He hesitated an instant and then disappeared,
raging inwardly.

The moment he was gone Clyne's face relaxed. He passed his hand over
his brow as if to recall his thoughts, and he sighed deeply. Then
turning he went slowly to Henrietta's door and tapped on it. The girl
opened. "May I speak to you?" he said.

She did not answer, but she stepped out. She had recovered her
self-control--quickly and completely, as women do; and her face told
nothing. Whatever she thought of his intervention and of the manner in
which he had routed Hornyold, she made no sign. She waited for him to
speak. Yet she was aware not only of his downcast carriage, but of the
change which sleepless nights and days of unutterable suspense had
wrought in his face. His features were thinner and sharper, his
temples more hollow: and there was a listening, hungry look in his
eyes which did not quit them even when he dealt with other things than
his loss.

"I have brought an order for your release," he said without an attempt
at preface. "I have given bail for your appearance when needed. You
are free to go. You have not to thank me, however, but Mr. Sutton, who
discovered the letter that was written to you----"

She interrupted him by an exclamation.

"The letter," he continued mechanically, "that was written to you
making an appointment."

"Impossible!" she cried. "I destroyed it."

"He put it together again," he answered in the same tone. "I--we are
all indebted to him. Deeply indebted to him! I don't know that there
is anything more to be said," he continued dully, "except that I have
come to take you back. I was coming last evening, but the snow
prevented me."

"And that is all--you have to say?"

He raised his eyes to hers with so much sadness in their depths, with
such utter dejection in his looks, that in spite of all her efforts to
keep it alive, her anger drooped. "Except that I am sorry," he said.
"I am sorry. We have treated you--badly amongst us."

"You!" she said vindictively.

"I, if you like. Yes, I. It is true."

She called up the remembrance of the severity with which he had judged
her and the violence of which her wrist still wore the traces. She
pictured the disgrace of the prison and her fears, the nights of
apprehension and the days of loneliness, ay, and the insolence of the
wretch who had just left her--she owed all to him! All! And yet she
could not keep her anger hot. She tried. She tried to show him
something of what she felt. "You!" she repeated. "And now you think,"
bitterly, "that I shall bear to go back to the place from which you
sent me? Sent me in open disgrace--in that man's charge--with no woman
with me?"

"God help me!" he said. "I know not what to think or do! I thought
that if I took you back myself, that would perhaps be best for all."

She was silent a moment, and then, "I have been very, very unhappy,"
she said in a different tone. And even while she said it she wondered
why she complained to him, instead of accusing him, and blaming him.

"I believe it," he said slowly. "We have wronged one another. Let it
stand at that."

"You believe, you do believe now," she said, "that I had no hand in
stealing him?"

"I do."

"And knew naught of it," she insisted earnestly, "before or after?"

"I do."

"I would have cut off my hand first!" she said.

"I believe it," he answered sorrowfully.

Then they were both silent. And she wondered at herself. Why did she
not hate him? Why did she not pour out on him the vials of her
indignation? He had treated her badly, always badly. The wrong which
she had done him in the first place, he had avenged by a gross insult
to her womanhood. Then not satisfied with that, he had been quick to
believe the worst of her. He had been violent to her, he had bullied
her: and when he found that she was not to be wrung to compliance with
his orders, he had degraded her to a public prison as if she had been
the worst of her sex--instead of his kith and kin. Even now when his
eyes were open to his injustice, even now when he acknowledged that he
owed amends, he came to her with a few poor words, meagre, scanty
words, a miserable "I am sorry, you are free." And that was all. That
was all!

And yet her rage drooped cold, her spirit seemed dead. The scathing
reproaches, the fierce truths which had bubbled to her lips as she lay
feverish on her prison-bed, the hot tears which had scalded her eyes,
now that she might give them vent, now that he might be wounded by
them and made to see his miserableness--were not! She stood mute and
pale, wondering at the change, wondering at her mildness. And when he
said meekly, "The chaise is ready, will you make your preparations?"
she went to do his bidding as if she had done nothing but obey him all
her life.



                             CHAPTER XXVI

                           A RECONCILIATION


When she had filled her band-box, and with a tearful laugh looked her
last on the cell, she emerged from the yard. She found Captain Clyne
awaiting her with his hand on the key of the prison gate. He saw her
look doubtfully at the closed lodge-door; and he misread the look.

"I thought," he said, "that you would wish to be spared seeing more of
them. I have," with a faint smile, "authority to open."

"Oh!" she answered, wrinkling her pretty brow in perplexity. "But I
must see them, please. They have not been unkind to me, and I should
not like to go without thanking them."

And before he could remonstrate, she had pushed open the lodge door
and gone within.

"Now, Mrs. Weighton," he heard her cry, "you'll give me a character,
won't you? I've behaved well now, haven't I?"

"Yes, miss, I'll say that," the woman answered stolidly.

"I haven't scratched nor screamed, and I've done as I've been bid? And
you've had no use for the pump water?"

"I wish you hadn't swept out the yard," grudgingly; "'twas no order of
mine, you'll remember. And don't you go and say that I've treated you
ill!"

"I'll not! Indeed, I'll not!" Henrietta cried in a different tone.
"I'll say you treated me very well. And that is for your little girl
to make up for her disappointment. She'll be sorry I'm not going to be
transported," with a hint of laughter in her voice. "And, Mrs.
Weighton, I'm going to ask you something."

"Well, miss? If it is to oblige you?"

"Then, will you," in a tone touched by feeling, "if you have some day
another like me, will you be as good to her? And remember that she may
not have done anything wrong after all? Will you promise me?"

"I will, miss," Mrs. Weighton answered--very graciously for her. "But
there, it isn't all has your sense! They takes and runs their heads
against a brick wall! Either they scratches and screams, or they sulks
and starves. And then we've to manage them, and we get the blame. I
see you looked white and shivering when you come in, and I thought
we'd have trouble with you. But there, you kept yourself in hand, and
showed your sense--it's breeding does it--and you've naught to
complain of in consequence. Wishing you well and kindly, miss!"

"I _shall_ come to you for a character!" Henrietta replied with a
laugh.

And she came out quickly and joined Captain Clyne, who, waiting with
his hand on the lock, had heard all. He saw that though she laughed
there was a tear in her eye; and the mingling of gaiety and
sensibility in her conduct and her words was not lost upon him. She
seemed to be bent on putting him in the wrong; on proving to him that
she was not the silly-pated child he had deemed her! Even the praise
of this jailor's wife, a coarse, cross-grained woman, sounded
reproachfully in his ears. She was a better judge, it seemed, than he.

He put Henrietta into the chaise--the brisk, cold air of the winter
morning was welcome to her; and they set off. Gnawed as he was by
unhappy thoughts, wretchedly anxious as he was, he was silent for a
time. He knew what he wanted, but he was ashamed to clutch at that
advantage for the sake of which Sutton had resigned to him the
mission. And for a long time he sat mute and brooding in his corner,
the bright reflection of the snow adding pallor to his face. Yet he
had eyes for her: he watched her without knowing it. And at the third
milestone from Kendal, a little beyond Barnside, he saw her shiver.

"I am afraid you are cold?" he said, and wondering at the rôle he
played, he drew the wraps closer about her--with care, however, that
his fingers should not touch her.

"No," she answered frankly. "I am not cold. But I remember passing
that mile-stone. I was almost sick with fright when I passed it. So
that it was all I could do not to try to get out and escape."

This was a revelation to him; and not a pleasant one. He winced.

"I am sorry," he said. "I am very sorry."

"Oh, I felt better when I was once in the prison," she answered
lightly. "And with Mrs. Weighton. Before that I was afraid that there
might be only men."

He suffered, in the hearing, something of the humiliation which she
had undergone; was she not of his blood and his class--and a woman?
But he could only say again that he was sorry. He was sorry.

A little later he forgot her in his own trouble: in thoughts of his
child, thoughts which tortured him unceasingly, and became more active
as his return to the Low Wood suggested the possibility of news. At
one moment he saw the lad stretched on a pallet, ill and neglected,
with no eye to pity, no hand to soothe; at another he pictured him in
some dark hiding-place with fear for his sole companion. Or again he
saw him beaten and ill-treated, shrieking for the father who had been
always to him as heaven, omniscient and omnipotent--but shrieking in
vain. And then the thought that to one so weak and young a little
added hardship, another day of fear, an insignificant delay, might
prove fatal--it was this thought that wrung the heart most powerfully,
and went far towards maddening the man.

As he sat watching the snow-covered fell slide by the chaise window,
he was unconscious how clearly his misery was stamped on his features;
or how pitiful was the hunger that lurked in the hollows under his
eyes. But when the pace slackened, and the carriage began to crawl up
the long hill beyond Broadgate, a faint sound caught his ear, and he
remembered where he was, and turned. He saw that she was crying.

The same words came to his lips.

"I am sorry. I am very sorry," he said. "But it is over now."

"It's not that," she sobbed. "I am sorry for you! And for him! The
poor boy! The poor boy! Last night--no, it was the night before---I
thought that he called to me. I thought that he was there in the room
with me!"

"Don't!" he faltered. "I cannot bear it! Don't!"

But she did not heed.

"Yes," she repeated. "And ever since, ever since I've been thinking of
him! I've wondered, I've wondered if I did right!"

He was silent, striving to regain control of himself. But at last,

"Eight in saying nothing?" he asked.

His voice shook a little, and he kept his eyes averted.

"Yes. I didn't know"--a little wildly--"I didn't know what to do. And
then you threatened me, and I--it seemed unreasonable. For I wanted to
help you, I did, I did indeed. But I dared not, I dared not give him
up! I could not have his blood on my hands after--you know."

"But you no longer--care for him?"

"I loathe him!" she answered with a shudder. "But you see how it is.
He trusted me, and I--how can I betray him? How can I? How can I?"

It was his business to prove to her that she could, that she ought,
that she must; he was here to press her to it, to persuade her, to
cajole her to it, if necessary. He had come for that. But the words it
behoved him to use stuck in his throat. And the chaise rolled on, and
rolled on. And still, but with the sweat standing on his brow, he sat
silent, looking out on the barren landscape, as the stone fences slid
quickly by, or open moorland took their place. In ten minutes they
would be at the Low Wood. Already through her window she could see the
long stretch of sparkling water, and the wooded isles, and the distant
smoke of Ambleside.

Their silence was a tragedy. She could save him by a word, and she
could not say the word. She dared not say it. And he--the pleas he
should have used died on his lips. It behoved him to cast himself on
her mercy; he was here for that purpose. It behoved him to work on her
feelings, to plead with her, to weep, to pray. And he did not, he
could not. And the minutes passed; the wheels rolled and rolled. Soon
they would be at the end of their journey. He was like a famishing man
who sees a meal within reach, but cannot touch it; or like one
oppressed by a terrible nightmare, who knows that he has but to say a
word, and he is freed from the incubus--yet his tongue refuses its
office. And now the carriage, having climbed the rise, began to roll
more quickly down the hill. In a very few minutes they would be at the
end of their journey.

Suddenly--"What can we do?" she cried, piteously. "What can we do? Can
we do nothing? Nothing?"

And neither of the two thought the union of interests strange; any
more than in their absorption they noted the strangeness of this drive
in company--over some of the very road which she had traversed when
she eloped with another to avoid a marriage with him.

He shook his head in dumb misery. Three days of suspense, and as many
sleepless nights, the wear and tear of many journeys, had told upon
him. He had had but little rest, and that induced by sheer exhaustion.
He had taken his meals standing, he had passed many hours of each day
in the saddle. He could no longer command the full resources of his
mind, and though he still held despair at arm's length, though he
still by force of habit commanded himself, and was stern and reticent,
despondency gained ground upon him. It was she who almost at the last
moment suggested a plan that if not obvious, was simple, and to the
purpose.

"Listen," she said. "Listen, sir! Why should not I do this? Go myself
to--to him, to Walterson?"

"You?" he answered, with undisguised repugnance.

"Yes, I! I! Why not?" she asked. "And learn if he has the child, or
knows where it is. Then if he be innocent of this last wickedness, as
I believe him to be innocent, we shall learn the fact without harming
him; always supposing that I go to him, undetected. And I can do
that--with your help! That must be your care."

He pondered.

"But if," he said slowly, "you do this and he have the child? What
then? Have you thought of the consequences to yourself? If he be privy
to a crime which none but desperate men could commit, what of you? He
will be capable of harming you. Or if he scruple, there will be
others, the men who took my child, who will stick at nothing to keep
their necks out of the noose, and to remove a witness who else might
hang them."

"I am not afraid," she said firmly.

"God bless you!" he said. "God bless you! But I am."

"What?" she cried, and she turned to him, honestly astonished. "You?
You dissuade me when it is your child that is in peril?"

"Be silent!" he said harshly. "Be silent! For your own sake, if not
for mine! Why do you tempt me? Why do you torture me? Do you think,
Henrietta, that I have not enough to tempt me without your help? No,
no," more quietly, "I have done you wrong already! I know not how I
can make amends. But at least I will not add to the wrong."

"I only ask you to leave me to myself," she said hardily. "The rest I
will do, if I am not watched."

"The rest!" he said with a groan. "But what a rest it is! Why should
these men spare you if you go to them? They did not spare my boy!"

"They took the boy," she answered, "to punish you. They will not have
the same motive for harming me. I mean--they will not harm me with the
idea of hurting you."

"Ay, but----"

"They will know that it will not affect you."

He did not deny the statement, but for some time he drummed on the
window with his fingers.

"That may be," he said at length. "Yet I'll not do it! And I'll not
let you do it. Instead, do you tell me where the man is and I will go
to him myself. And I will tell no tales."

"You will keep his secret?"

"I will."

"But I will not do that!" she answered. And she laughed gaily in the
reaction of her spirits. She knew in some subtle way that she was
reinstated; that he would never think very badly of her again. And the
knowledge that he trusted her was joy; she scarcely knew why. But, "I
shall not do that!" she repeated. "Have you thought what will be the
consequence to you if he be guilty? They will be three to one, and
they will murder you."

"And you think that I can let you run the risk?"

"There will be no risk for me. I am different."

"I can't believe it," he said. "I wish"--despairingly--"I wish to God
I could believe it!"

"Then do believe it," she said.

"I cannot! I cannot!"

"You have his letter," she replied. And she was going to say more, she
was going to prove that she could undertake the matter with safety,
when the chaise began to slacken speed, and she cut her reasoning
short. "You will let me do it?" she said, laying her hand on his
sleeve.

"No, no!"

"You have only to draw them off."

"I shall not!" he cried, almost savagely. "I shall not! Do you think I
am a villain? Do you think I care nothing what happens----"

The jerk caused by the chaise coming to a stand before the inn cut his
words short. Clyne thrust out his head.

"Any news?" he asked eagerly. "Has anything been heard?"

Mr. Sutton, who had been on the watch for their arrival, came forward
to the chaise door. He answered Clyne, but his eyes, looking beyond
his patron, sought Henrietta's in modest deprecation; much as the dog
which is not assured of its reception seeks, yet deprecates its
master's glance.

"No," he said, "none. I am sorry for it. Nadin has not yet returned,
nor Bishop, though we are expecting both."

"Where's Bishop?"

"He has gone with a party to Lady Holm. There's an idea that the isles
were not thoroughly searched in the first place. But he should be back
immediately."

A slight hardening of the lines of the mouth was Clyne's only answer.
He helped Henrietta to alight, and was turning with her to enter the
house, when he remembered himself. He laid his hand on the chaplain's
arm.

"This is the gentleman," he said, "whom you have to thank for your
release, Henrietta."

"I am sure," she said, "that I am greatly obliged to him." But her
tone was cold.

"He did everything," Clyne said. "He left no stone unturned. Let me do
him the justice of saying that we two must share the blame of what has
happened, while the whole credit is his."

"I am very much obliged to him," she said again. And she bowed.

And that was all. That, and a look which told him that she resented
his interference, that she hated to be beholden to him, that she held
him linked for ever with her humiliation. He, and he alone, had stood
by her two days before, when all had been against her, and Captain
Clyne had been as flint to her. He, and he alone, had wrought out her
deliverance and reinstated her. And her thanks were a haughty movement
of the head, two sentences as cold as the wintry day, a smile as hard
as the icicles that still depended in the shade of the eaves. And when
she had spoken, she walked to the door without another glance--and
every step was on the poor man's heart.

Mrs. Gilson had come down two steps to meet her. She had seen all.

"Well, you're soon back, miss?" she said. "Some have the luck all one
way."

"That cannot be said of me!" Henrietta retorted, smiling.

But her colour was high. She remembered how she had descended those
steps.

"No?" Mrs. Gilson responded. "When you bring the bad on yourself and
the good is just a gift?"

"A gift?"

"Ay! And one for which you're not over grateful!" with all her wonted
grimness. "But that's the way of the world! Grind as you will, miss,
it's the lower mill-stone suffers, and the upper that cries out!
Still----"

Mr. Sutton heard no more; for Henrietta had passed with the landlady
into the house; and he turned himself about with a full heart and
walked away. He had done so much for her! He had risked his
livelihood, his patron, his position, to save her! He had paced this
strand with every fibre in him tingling with pity for her! Ay, and
when all others had put her out of their thoughts! And for return, she
went laughing into the house and paid no heed to him--to the poor
parson.

True, he had expected little. But he had expected more than this. He
had not hoped for much; or it is possible that he had not resigned the
opportunity of bringing her back. But he had hoped for more than
this--for the tearful thanks of a pair of bright eyes, for the clasp
of a grateful hand, for a word or two that might remain in his memory
always.

And bitterness welled up in his heart, and at the first gate, at which
he could stand unseen, he let his face fall on his hands. He cursed
the barriers of caste, the cold pride of these aristocrats, even his
own pallid insignificance--since he had as hungry a heart as panted in
the breast of the handsomest dandy. He could not hate her; she was
young and thoughtless, and in spite of himself his heart made excuses
for her. But he hated the world, and the system, and the miserable
conventions that shackled him; ay, hated them as bitterly for the time
as the dark-faced gipsy girl whose eyes he found upon him, when at
last a step caused him to look up.

She grinned at him slyly, and he gave back the look with resentment.
He had met her once or twice in the lanes and about the inn, and
marked her for a rustic beauty of a savage type. Now he waited
frowning for her to pass. But she only smiled more insolently, and
lifting her voice, sang:


             "But still she replied, sir,
                I pray let me be!
              If ever I love a man,
                The master for me!"


A dull flush overspread his face. "Go your way!" he said.

"Ay, I'll go!" Bess replied. "And so will she!"


              In pin, out trout!
              Three's a meal and one's nought!


"One's nought! One's nought!" she continued to carol.

And laughing ironically, she went up the road--not without looking
back once or twice to enjoy a surprise which was only exceeded by the
chaplain's wrath. What did the girl know? And what was it to her? A
common gipsy drab such as she, how did she come to guess these things?
And where the joint lay at which to aim the keen shafts of her wit?



                            CHAPTER XXVII

                        BISHOP CAUGHT NAPPING


"I will not do it! I will not do it!" Those had been Clyne's last
words on the subject; uttered and repeated with a heat which proved
that, in coming to this decision, he fought against his own heart as
much as against her arguments. "I will not do it! But do you," with
something of his former violence, "tell me where he is! Tell me at
once, and I will go and question him."

"And I," she had answered with spirit, "will not tell you."

At that he had looked at her with the old sternness, but her eyes had
no longer fallen before his. And then he had been called away to
follow one of the hasty clues, the wild-goose scents which were
reported from hour to hour--by pedlars coming in from the dales, or by
hazy parish constables who took every stranger for a rogue. Twice he
had turned in his saddle, twice reined in his horse, before he passed
out of sight; and she had known that he wrestled with himself, that he
was near, very near, to giving way, and sacrificing her upon the altar
of his child. But he had gone on, and not returned. And though it had
grieved her to see how drawn and haggard was his face, how near to
failing the wiry strength of his frame, she had rejoiced on her own
account. He might say what he liked, forbid as he chose, it would go
hard with her if she could not find the opportunity she needed, if
she, who had suffered all along and in the esteem of all, did not make
use of the means of clearing herself that remained to her.

Courage at least should not be wanting; and she would be cunning, too.
Already she dreamed of a happy return with the child; and her cheeks
grew warm and her eyes soft as she conjured up the scene, and imagined
herself leading the boy to his father and receiving his thanks. Then
he would confess--more fully than he had yet confessed--how he had
wronged her, how far from her thoughts had been harm to the boy. And
she--ah, but she must first do her part. She must first do that which
she had to do.

So she went craftily about her task, counting up those whom she had to
fear and ticking them off. Before Clyne had left the house a mile
behind him she had learned where Nadin was, and a second officer whom
she suspected of watching her movements. They were abroad and she had
naught to fear from them. There remained Mr. Sutton and Bishop. For
the former, "Horrid man!" she thought in her ingratitude, "I suppose
he will look to be thanked every time I see him!" And she was
confirmed in this, when she marked him down. He was walking to and fro
before the door.

"I must go out at the back!" she concluded.

But there still remained the bluff but civil Bishop. She had little
doubt that he was the Cerberus left to guard her. And no doubt at all
when she learned from Modest Ann that he was taking his early dinner
in the coffee-room with the door wide open.

"Waiting to see if I go out," she said.

"Well, miss," Ann answered, "I shouldn't wonder if he was!"

Henrietta looked at her very kindly.

"Don't you think," she asked slowly, "that you could somehow get rid
of him, Ann?"

The woman looked as much troubled as one of her hard features could
look.

"No, miss, I don't think I could," she said.

"You are afraid?" gently.

"I'm not afraid of him," with some asperity. "Bless the man, no! I'm
not afraid of no man nowhere! But I am afraid of the missus?"

"Ah! And you don't think that you could tell him that I wish to see
him upstairs? And then when he comes up and finds the room empty--that
I shall be down from my bedroom in five minutes?"

"It wouldn't be true."

"No," softly. "Perhaps not."

Modest Ann looked dreadfully perplexed.

"You'll get me into trouble, miss," she said. "I know you will."

"Then I'll get you out again," the fair tempter retorted. "I will
indeed, Ann."

"But if you get into trouble yourself, miss? What then?"

Henrietta turned with the air of a martyr to the window and looked
out.

"I thought you liked me a little," she murmured presently, and dried a
tear that was not there. "I thought you would do a small thing for
me."

The woman took her hand and kissed it softly.

"I will, miss, drat me if I don't!" she said. "I'll do what you wish,
come what may of it! So there."

Henrietta turned to her, her face in a glow. "You dear, kind thing!"
she cried, "I'll never forget it. You are the only one who is not
against me."

Ann shook her head.

"I hope I'll not be the one to repent it!" she muttered, with a last
spark of doubt.

"Indeed, indeed you won't! But now"--naively--"shall I lock him in or
not?"

"In the room?"

"Yes."

"Here, miss? Why, miss, he'd rouse the house!"

"Not if we tied up the bell-pull first!" she suggested.

But Modest Ann was aghast at the thought. "Lord, miss, he'd only have
to open the window and shout! And there's the parson walking up and
down the road, and the fat'd be in the fire in two twos!"

"So it would," Henrietta admitted reluctantly. "I see. So you must
just entice him here, and say I'll be down from my bedroom in three
minutes. And I hope he'll be patient. As for you, you'll know no more
than that I asked you to fetch him, and said I should be with him at
once."

"Well, they can't touch me for that," Modest Ann said; and she agreed,
but with hesitation. "I don't think he'll be so simple," she said.
"That's a fact. He'll not come up."

But he did. He walked straight into the trap, and Henrietta, who was
waiting in ambush in the dark passage while he passed, sped
downstairs, and would have escaped by the back door without meeting a
soul, if Mrs. Gilson had not by bad luck been crossing the yard. The
landlady caught sight of the girl, and raising her voice cried to her
to stop. For an instant Henrietta hesitated. Then she thought it
prudent to comply. She returned slowly.

"Come, come, miss, this won't do!" the landlady said tartly. "You're
not going off like that all of a hurry! You bide a bit and consider
who's bail for you."

"Not you!" Henrietta retorted mutinously. And as this was true, for
the Gilsons' bail had been discharged, the first hit was hers.

"Oh, so you're saucy now, miss!" the landlady retorted. "Brag's the
dog, is it?"

"No, but----"

"It's so, it seems! Any way, you'll please to tell me, young lady,
where you are going in such a hurry."

But Henrietta was at bay. She knew that if she were delayed even two
minutes her chance was gone; for Bishop would be on her heels. So,
"That's my business!" she answered. And determined to escape, even by
force, she turned about, light as a roe, tossed her head defiantly,
and was off through the gate in a twinkling.

Mrs. Gilson was left gaping. She was not of a figure to take up the
chase, for like many good housewives of her time, she seldom left her
own premises except to go to church. But she was none the less certain
that Henrietta ought to be followed. "There's a fine trollop!" she
cried. "It won't be long before she runs her head into harm! Where's
that blockhead, Bishop?" And she bundled away to the coffee-room to
tell him that the girl was gone.

She arrived scant of breath--and he was not there. The coffee-room was
empty, and the landlady, knowing that he had stayed in the house on
purpose to keep an eye on Henrietta's movements, swept out again,
fuming. In the passage she caught sight of Modest Ann and called her.
"Where's that man, Bishop?" she asked.

Ann stared as if she had never heard the name.

"Bishop?" she repeated stolidly.

"What else did I say?"

"He's with the young lady."

"He's nothing of the kind!" Mrs. Gilson retorted, her temper rising.

"Well, he went to her," Ann returned. "He went----"

But Mrs. Gilson did not stay to hear. She had caught sight of Mr.
Sutton walking past the open door, and aware that a second now was
worth a minute by and by, she hurried out to him. "Your reverence!
Here!" she cried. And when he turned surprised by the address, "The
young lady's gone!" she continued. "Slipped out at the back, and
she'll be God knows where in two minutes! Do you follow, sir, and keep
her in sight or there's no knowing what may happen!" And she pointed
through the house to indicate the nearest way.

Mr. Sutton's face turned a dull red. But he did not move, nor make any
show of acting on the suggestion. Instead, "Miss Damer has gone out?"
he said slowly.

"To be sure!" the landlady cried, in a fume at the delay. "And if she
is not followed at once----"

"Where's the officer?" he asked, interrupting her.

"Heaven knows, or I should not come to you!" Mrs. Gilson retorted. "Do
you go after her before she's beyond catching!"

But Mr. Sutton shook his head with an obstinate look. "No," he said.
"It's not my business, ma'am. I'd like to oblige you after your
kindness yesterday, but I've made up my mind not to interfere with the
young lady. I followed her once," he continued, in a lower tone and
with a conscious air--"and I've repented it!"

"You'll repent it a deal more if you don't follow her now!" the
landlady retorted. She was in a towering passion by this time. "You'll
repent it finely if anything happens to her. That you will, my man!
Don't you know that Captain Clyne left word that she wasn't to be let
go out alone? Then go, man, after her, before it is too late. And
don't be a sawny!"

"I shall not," he answered firmly.

She saw then that he was not to be moved; and with a half-smothered
word, not of the politest, she turned short about to find Bishop;
though she was well aware that so much time had been wasted that the
thing was now desperate. Again she asked Ann, who had been listening
to the colloquy, where Bishop was.

"He went up to the young lady," Ann answered.

"He did not, I tell you. For she is not up but out!"

"Perhaps he has followed her."

"Perhaps you're a liar!" Mrs. Gilson cried. And advancing on Ann with
a threatening gesture, "If you don't tell me where he is, I'll shake
you, woman! Do you hear?"

Ann hesitated; when who should appear at the foot of the stairs but
Bishop himself, looking foolish.

"Where's the young lady?" he asked. "Where's your wits?" Mrs. Gilson
retorted. "She's out by the back-door this five minutes. If you want
to catch her you'd best be quick!" And as with a face of consternation
he hurried through the house, "She didn't turn Ambleside way!" she
called after him. "That's all I know!"

This was something, but it left, as Bishop knew, two roads open. For,
besides the field-path which led up the hill and through the wood, and
so over the shoulder to Troutbeck, a farm lane turned short to the
right behind the out-buildings, and ran into the lower road towards
Calgarth and Bowness. Which had the girl taken? Bishop paused in
doubt, and gazed either way. She was not to be seen on the slope
leading up to the wood; but then, she was not to be seen on the other
path. Still, he espied something there which gave him hope. On the
hillside the snow had melted, but here and there on the north side of
a wall, or in a sheltered spot, it lay; and a little way along the
farm-road was such a patch extending across its width. Bishop hastened
to the place, and a glance told him that the girl had not gone that
way. With rising hopes he set off up the hill.

He was stout and short-winded, more at home in Cornhill than on real
hills, and he did not expect to gain upon her. But he felt sure that
he should find her track: and its direction where the fells were so
sparsely peopled must tell him much. He remembered that it was at the
upper end of the wood that he had surprised her on the occasion when
her agitation had led him to question her. He resolved to make as
quickly as possible for that point.

True enough, where the path entered the wood he came upon her
footsteps imprinted in the snow; and he pushed on, through the covert
to the upper end. Here, just within the wicket which opened on the
road, lay some drifted snow; and as much to recover his breath, as
because he thought it needful, he stopped to note the direction of her
footprints. Alas, the snow bore no trace of feet! No one, it was
clear, had passed through the gate that day.

This was a check, and he turned his back on the road, and mopped his
forehead with a handkerchief which he took from his hat. He gazed,
nonplussed, into the recesses of the wood through which he had passed.
The undergrowth, which was of oak--with here and there a clump of
hollies--still carried a screen of brown leaves, doomed to fall with
the spring, but sufficient in the present to mask a fugitive.
Moreover, in the damp bottom, where the bridge spanned the rivulet, a
company might have lain hidden; and above him, where the wood climbed
the shoulder, there were knolls and dells, and unprobed depths of
yellow bracken, that defied the eye. Between him and this background
the brown trunks stood at intervals, shot with the gold of the
declining sun, or backed by a cold patch of snow: and the scene had
been beautiful, in its russet livery of autumn blended with winter, if
he had had eyes for it, or for aught but the lurking figure he hoped
to detect.

That figure, however, he could not see. And again he stooped, and
inspected the snow beside the gate. No, she had not passed, that was
certain; and baffled, and in a most unhappy mood, he raised himself
and listened. Above him a squirrel, scared by his approach, was
angrily clawing a branch; a robin, drawn by the presence of a man,
alighted near him, and hopped nearer. But no rustle of flying skirts,
no sound of snapping twigs or falling stones came to him. And, a city
man by training, and much at a loss here, he mopped his brow and
swore. Every second was precious, and he was losing minutes. He was
losing minutes, and learning nothing!

Was she hiding in the wood pending his departure? Or had she doubled
back the way she had come, and so escaped, laughing and contemptuous?
Or had she passed out by some gate unknown to him? Or climbed the
fence? Or was she even now meeting her man in some hiding-place among
the hollies, or in some fern-clad retreat out of sight and hearing?

Bishop could not tell. He was wholly at a loss. For a few seconds he
entertained the wild notion of beating, the wood for her; but he had
not taken a dozen steps before he set it aside, and went back to the
gate. Henrietta on the occasion when her bearing had confirmed his
suspicions had descended the road to the wood. He would go up the
road. And even as he thought of this, and laid his hand on the gate to
open it, he heard a footstep coming heavily down the road.

He went to meet the man; a tall, grinning rustic, who bore a sheep on
his shoulders with its fore and hind feet in either hand, so that it
looked like a gigantic ruff. At a sign from the officer he stopped,
but did not lower his burden.

"Meet anybody as you came down the road, my lad?" Bishop asked.

"Noa," the man drawled.

"Where have you come from? Troutbeck?"

"Ay."

"You haven't met a young lady?"

"Noa! Met no soul, master!" the man answered, in the accent not only
of Westmoreland, but of truth.

"Not even a pretty girl?"

The man grinned more widely.

"Noa, not nobody," he said.

And he went on down the road, but twice looked back, turning sheep and
all, to see what the stranger would be at.

Bishop stood for a few moments pondering the question, and then he
followed the man.

"If she is not up the road," he argued, "it is ten to one that she
started up the hill to throw us off the scent. And she's slipped down
herself towards Calgarth. It's that way, too, she went to meet him at
night."

And gradually quickening his steps as the case seemed clearer and his
hopes grew stronger he was soon out of sight.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII

                           THE GOLDEN SHIP


Two minutes after Bishop had passed from sight, Henrietta rose from a
dip in the fern; in which she had lain all the time, as snugly hidden,
though within eyeshot of him, as a hare in its form. She cast a wary
glance round. Then she hastened to the gate, but did not pass through
it. She knew too much. She chose a weak place in the fence, scaled it
with care, and sprang lightly into the road. She glanced up and down,
but no one was in sight, and pleased with her cleverness, she set off
at a quick pace up the hill.

The sun lacked an hour of setting. She might count on two hours of
daylight, and her spirits rose. As the emerald green of the lower
hills shone the brighter for the patches of snow, harbingers of
winter, which flecked them, so her spirits rose the higher for
troubles overpast or to come. She felt no fear, no despondency, none
of the tremours with which she had entered on her night adventure. A
gaiety of which she did not ask herself the cause, a heart as light as
her feet and as blithe as the black-bird's note, carried her on. She
who had awakened that morning in a prison could have sung and caroled
as she walked. The beauty of the hills about her, of the lake below
her, blue here, there black, filled her with happiness.

And the cause? She did not seek for the cause. Certainly she did not
find it. It was enough for the moment that she had been prisoned and
was free; and that in an hour, or two hours at most, she would return
with the child or with news. And then, the sweet vengeance of laying
it in its father's arms! She whom he had insulted, whom he had
mishandled, whom he had treated so remorselessly--it would be from her
hand that he would receive his treasure, the child whom he had told
her that she hated. He would have some cause then to talk of making
amends! And need to go about and about before he found a way to be
quits with her!

She did not analyse beyond that point the feeling of gaiety and joyous
anticipation which possessed her. She would put him in the wrong. She
would heap coals of fire on his head. That sufficed. If there welled
up within her heart another thought, if since morning she had a
feeling and a hope that thrilled her and lent to all the world this
smiling guise, she was conscious of the effect, unconscious of the
cause. The wrist which Clyne had twisted was still black and blue and
tender to the touch. She blushed lest any eye fall on it, or any guess
how he had treated her. But--she blushed also, when she was alone, and
her own eyes dwelt on it. And dwell on it sometimes they would; for,
strange to say, the feeling of shame, if it was shame, was not
unpleasant.

She met no one. She reached the gate of Starvecrow Farm, unseen as she
believed. But heedful of the old saying, that fields have eyes and
woods have ears, she looked carefully round her before she laid her
hand on the gate. Then, in a twinkling, she was round the house like a
lapwing and tapping at the door.

To her first summons she got no answer. And effacing herself as much
as possible, she cast a wary eye over the place. The garden was as
ragged and desolate, the house as bald and forbidding, the firs about
it as gloomy, as when she had last seen them. But the view over
sloping field and green meadow, wooded knoll and shining lake, made up
for all. And her only feeling as she tapped again and more loudly was
one of impatience. Even the memory of the squalid old man whom she had
once seen there did not avail to alarm her in her buoyant mood.

This was well, perhaps. For when she knocked a third time, in alarm
lest the person she sought should be gone, and her golden ship with
him, it was that very old man who opened the door. And, not
unnaturally, it seemed to Henrietta that with its opening a shadow
fell across the landscape and blurred the sunshine of the day. The
ape-like creature who gaped at her, the cavern-like room behind him,
the breath of the close air that came from him, inspired disgust, if
not alarm, and checked the girl in the full current of content.

He did not speak. But he moved his toothless gums unpleasantly, and
danced up and down in an odd fashion from his knees, without moving
his feet. Meanwhile his reddened eyes thrust near to hers gleamed with
suspicion. On her side Henrietta was taken aback by his appearance,
and for some moments she stared at him in consternation. What could
she expect from such a creature?

At length, "I wish to see Walterson," she said; in a low tone--there
might be listeners in the house. "Do you understand? Do you
understand?" she repeated more loudly.

He set his head, which was bald in patches, on one side; as if to
indicate that he was deaf. And with his eyes on hers, he dropped his
lower jaw and waited for her to repeat what she had said.

She saw nothing else for it, and she crushed down her repugnance.

"Let me come in," she said. "Do you hear? I want to talk to you. Let
me come in."

To remain where she was, talking secrets to a deaf man, was to invite
discovery.

He understood her this time, and grudgingly he opened the door a
little wider. He stood aside and Henrietta entered. In the act she
cast a backward look over her shoulder, and caught through the doorway
a last prospect of the hills and the mid-lake and the green islets off
Bowness--set like jewels on its gleaming breast--all clear-cut in the
brisk winter air. She felt the beauty of the scene, but she did not
guess what things were to happen to her before she looked again upon
its fellow.

Not that when the door was shut upon her, the room in which she found
herself did not something appal her. The fire had been allowed to sink
low, and the squalor and the chill, vapid air of the place wrapped her
about. But she was naturally fearless, and she cheered herself with
the thought that she was stronger than the grinning old man who stood
before her. She was sure that if he resorted to violence she could
master him. Still, she was in haste. She was anxious to do what she
had to do, and escape.

And: "I must see Walterson!" she told him loudly, looking down on him,
and instinctively keeping her skirts clear of the unswept floor. "He
was here, I know, some days ago," she continued sharply. "Don't say
you don't understand, because you do! But fetch him, or tell me where
he is. Do you hear?"

The old man moved his jaw to and fro. He grinned senilely.

"He was here, eh?" he drawled.

"Yes, he was here," Henrietta returned, taking a tone of authority
with him. "And I must see him."

"Ay?"

"It is to do no harm to him," she explained. "Tell him Miss Damer is
here. Miss Damer, do you hear? He will see me, I am sure."

"Ay?" he said again in the same half-vacant tone. "Ay?"

But he did not go beyond that; nor did he make any movement to comply.
And she was beginning to think him wholly imbecile when his eyes left
hers and fixed themselves on the front of her riding-coat. Then, after
a moment's silence, during which she patted the floor with her foot in
fierce impatience, he raised his claw-like hand and stretched it
slowly towards her throat.

She stepped back, but as much in anger as in fear. Was the man
imbecile, or very wicked?

"What do you want?" she asked sharply. "Don't you understand what I
have said to you?"

For the moment he seemed to be disconcerted by her movement. He stood
in the same place, slowly blinking his weak eyes at her. Then he
turned and moved in a slip-shod fashion to the hearth and threw on two
or three morsels of touch-wood, causing the fire to leap up and shoot
a flickering light into the darker corners of the room. The gleam
discovered his dingy bed and dingier curtains, and the shadowy
entrance to the staircase in which Henrietta had once seen Walterson.
And it showed Henrietta herself, and awakened a spark in her angry
eyes.

The old man, still stooping, looked round at her, his chin on his
shoulder. And slowly, with an odd crab-like movement, he edged his way
back to her. She watched his approach with a growing fear of the
gloomy house and the silence and the dark staircase. She began to
think he was imbecile, or worse, and that nothing could be got from
him. And she was in two minds about retreating--so powerfully do
silence and mystery tell on the nerves--when he paused in his advance,
and, raising his lean, twitching hand, pointed to her neck.

"Give it me," he whimpered. "Give it me--and I'll see, maybe, where he
is."

She frowned.

"What?" she asked. "What do you want?"

"The gold!" he croaked. "The gold! At your neck, lass! That sparkles!
Give it me!" opening and shutting his lean fingers. "And I'll--I'll
see what I can do."

She carried her fingers to the neck of her gown and touched the tiny
gold medal struck to celebrate the birth of the Princess Charlotte,
which she wore as a clasp at her throat. And relieved to find that he
meant no worse, she smiled. The scarecrow before her was less of an
"innocent" than she had judged him. It was so much the better for her
purpose.

"I cannot give you this," she said. "But I'll give you its value, if
you will bring me to Walterson."

"No, no, give it me," he whimpered, grimacing at her and making feeble
clutches in the air. "Give it me!"

"I cannot, I say," she repeated. "It was my mother's, and I cannot
part with it. But if," she continued patiently, "you will do what I
ask I will give you its value, old man, another day."

"Give now!" he retorted. "Give now!" And leering with childish
cunning, "Trust the day and greet the morrow! Groats in pouch ne'er
yet brought sorrow! Na, na, Hinkson, old Hinkson trusts nobody. Give
it me now, lass! And I--I know what I know." And in a cracked and
quavering voice, swaying himself to the measure,


             "It is an old saying
                That few words are best,
              And he that says little
                Shall live most at rest.
              And I by my gossips
                Do find it right so,
              Therefore I'll spare speech,
                But--I know what I know.


I know what I know!" he repeated, blinking with doting astuteness,


             "Therefore I'll spare speech,
              But--I know what I know!"


Henrietta stared. She would have given him the money, any money in her
power. But imprudently prudent, she had brought none with her.

"I can't give it you now," she said. "But I will give it you to-morrow
if you will do what I ask. Otherwise I shall go and you will get
nothing."

He did not reply, but he began to mumble with his jaws and dance
himself up and down from his knees, as at her first entrance; with his
monstrous head on one side and his red-lidded eyes peering at her. In
the open, in the sunshine, she would not have feared him; she would
have thought him only grotesque in his anger. But shut up in this
hideous den with him, in this atmosphere of dimly perceived danger,
she felt her flesh creep. What if he struck her treacherously, or took
her by surprise? She had read of houses where the floors sank under
doomed strangers, or the testers of beds came down on them in their
sleep. He was capable, she was sure, of anything; even of murdering
her for the sake of the two or three guineas' worth of gold which she
wore at her neck. Yet she held her ground.

"Do you hear?" she said with spirit. "If you do not tell me, I shall
go. And you will get nothing!"

He nodded cunningly.

"Bide a bit!" he said in a different tone. "Sit ye down, lass, sit ye
down! Bide a bit, and I'll see."

He slippered his way across the floor to get a stool for her. But when
he had lifted the stool from the floor in his shaking hands, she
marked with a quick leap of the heart that he had put himself between
her and the door, and that, with the possession of the stool, his
looks were altered. The heavy block wavered in his grasp and he seemed
to pant and stagger under its weight. But there was an ugly light in
his eyes as he sidled nearer and nearer to her; a light that meant
murder. She was sure that he was going to leap upon her. And she
remembered that no one, no one knew where she was, no one had seen her
enter the house. She had only her own strength to look to, only her
own courage and coolness, if she would escape this creature.

"Put down that stool!" she said.

"Eh?"

"Put down that stool!" she repeated, firmly. And she kept her eyes on
him, resisting the fatal temptation to glance at door or window. "Do
you hear me? Put down that stool!"

He hesitated, but her glance never wavered. And slowly and unwillingly
he obeyed. Shaking as with the palsy, and with his mouth fallen
open--so that he looked more imbecile and less human than ever--he
relinquished the stool.

She drew a deep breath.

"Now," she said bravely, though she was conscious that the
perspiration had broken out on her brow, "tell me at once where he
is?"

But the old miser, though his will had yielded to hers, did not
answer. He seemed to be shaken by his defeat, and to be at once feeble
and furious. Glaring askance at her, he tottered to the settle on the
hearth and sat down on it, breathing heavily.

"Curse her! Curse her! Curse her!" he gibbered low, but audibly. And
he licked his lips and gnashed his toothless gums at her in impotent
rage. "Curse her! Curse her!" The firelight, now rising, now falling,
showed him sitting there, mopping and mowing, like some unclean
Eastern idol; or, again, masked his revolting ugliness.

The girl thought him horrible, thought it all horrible. She felt for
an instant as if she were going to faint. But she had gained the
victory, she had mastered him, and she would make one last attempt to
attain her object.

"You wicked old man," she said, "you would have hurt me! You wicked
monster! But I am stronger, much stronger than you, and I do not fear
you. Now I am going unless you tell me at once."

He ceased to gibber to her. He beckoned to her to approach him. But
she shook her head. He no longer had the stool, but he might have some
weapon hidden under the seat of the settle. She distrusted him.

"No," she said, "I am not coming near you. You are a villainous old
man, and I don't trust you."

"Have you no--no money?" he whimpered. "Nothing to give old Hinkson?
Poor old Hinkson?" with a feeble movement of his fingers on his knees,
as if he drew bed-clothes about him.

"Where is Walterson?" she repeated. "Tell me at once."

"How do I know?" he whined. "I don't know."

"He was here. You do know. Tell me."

He averted his eyes and held out a palsied hand.

"Give!" he answered. "Give!"

But she was relentless.

"Tell me," she rejoined, "or I go, and you get nothing." She was in
earnest now, for she began to despair of drawing anything from him,
and she saw nothing for it but to go and return another time. "Do you
hear?" she continued. "If you do not speak for me, I--I shall go to
those who will know how to make you speak."

It was an idle threat; and one which she had no intention of
executing. But the rage into which it flung him--no rage is so fierce
as that which is mingled with fear--fairly appalled her. "Eh? Eh?" he
cried, his voice rising to an inarticulate scream. "Eh? You will, will
you?" And he rose to his feet and clawed the air as if, were she
within reach, he would have torn her to pieces. "You devil, you witch,
you besom! Go!" he cried. "I'll sort you! I'll sort you! I'll fetch
one as shall--as shall dumb you!"

There was something so demoniacal in the old dotard's passion, in its
very futility, in its very violence, that the girl shrank like
Frankenstein before the monster she had aroused. She turned to save
herself, for, weak as he was, he seemed to be about to fling himself
upon her; and she had no stomach for the contact. But as she
turned--with a backward glance at him, and an arm stretched toward the
door to make sure of the latch--a shadow cast by a figure passing
before the lattice flitted across the floor between them, and a hand
rested on the latch.



                             CHAPTER XXIX

                            THE DARK MAID


The substance followed the shadow so quickly that Henrietta had not
time to consider her position before the latch rose. The door opened,
and a girl entered hurriedly. The surprise was common to both, for the
newcomer had closed the door behind her before she discerned
Henrietta, and then her action was eloquent. She turned the key in the
lock, and stood frowning, with her back to the door, and one shoulder
advanced as if to defend herself. The other hand remained on the
fastening.

"You here?" she muttered.

"Yes," Henrietta replied, returning her look, and speaking with
a touch of pride. For the feeling of dislike was instinctive; if
Bess's insolent smile had not stamped itself on her memory--on that
first morning at the Low Wood, which seemed so very, very long
ago--Henrietta had still known that she was in the presence of an
enemy. "Are you--his daughter?" she continued.

"Yes," Bess answered. She did not move from the door, and she
maintained her attitude, as if the surprise that had arrested her
still kept her hand on the key. "Yes," she repeated, "I am. You
don't"--with a glance from one to the other--"like him, I see!"

"That is no matter," Henrietta answered with dignity. "I am not here
for him, nor to see him; I wish to see----"

"Your lover?"

Henrietta winced, and her face turned scarlet. And now there was no
question of the hostility between them. Bess's dark, smiling face was
insolence itself.

"What? Wasn't he that?" the gipsy girl continued. "If he was
not"--with a coarse look--"what do you want with him?"

Silenced for the moment by the other's taunt, Henrietta now found her
voice.

"I wish to see him," she said. "That is enough for you."

"Oh, is it?" Bess replied. She had taken her hand from the key and
moved a pace or two into the room, so as to confront her rival at
close quarters. "That's my affair! I fancy you will have to tell me a
good deal more before you do see him."

"Why?"

"Oh, why?" mimicking her rudely. "Why? Because----"

"What are you to him?"

"What you were!" Bess answered.

Henrietta's face flamed anew. But the insult no longer found her
unprepared. She saw that she was in the presence of a woman dangerous
and reckless; and one who considered her a rival. On the hearth
crouched and gibbered that fearful old man. The door was locked--the
action had not been lost on her; and no living being, no one outside
that door, knew that she was here.

"You are insolent!" was all she answered.

"But it is true!" Bess said. "Or, if it is not true----"

"It is not true!" with a glance of scorn. She knew even in her
innocence that this girl had been more to him.

"Then why do you ask for him?" with derision. "What do you want with
him? What right have you to ask for him?"

"I wish to see him," Henrietta answered. She would not, if she could
avoid it, let her fears appear. After all, it was daylight, and she
was strong and young; a match, she thought, for the other if the old
man had not been there. "I wish to see him, that is all, and that is
enough," she repeated, firmly.

Bess did not answer at once. Indeed, at this point there came over her
a change, as if either the other's courage impressed her, or cooler
thoughts suggested a different course of action. Her eyes still
brooded malevolently on the other's face, as if she would gladly have
spoiled her beauty, and her sharp, white teeth gleamed. But to
Henrietta's last words she did not answer. She seemed to be wavering,
to be uncertain. And at last,

"Do you mean him fair?" she asked. "That is the question."

"I mean no harm to him."

"Upon your honour?"

"Upon my honour."

"I'd tear you limb from limb if you did!" Bess cried in the old tone
of violence. And the look which accompanied the words matched them.
But the next moment, "If I could believe you," she said more quietly,
"it would be well and good. But----"

"You may believe me. Why should I do him harm?"

Bess bit her nails in doubt; and for the first time since her entrance
she turned her eyes from her rival. Perhaps for this reason
Henrietta's courage rose. She told herself that she had been foolish
to feel fear a few minutes before: that she had allowed herself to be
scared by a few rude words, such as women of this class used on the
least provocation. And the temptation to drop the matter if she could
escape uninjured gave way to a brave determination to do all that was
possible. She resolved to be firm, yet prudent; and to persevere. And
when the dialogue was resumed the tone on each side was more moderate.

"Well," Bess said, with a grudging air, "perhaps you may not wish to
do him harm. I don't know, my lass. But you may do it, all the same."

"How?"

"If you think he is here you are mistaken."

Henrietta had already come to this conclusion.

"Still," she said, "I can go to him."

"I don't see how you are to go to him."

"I will go anywhere."

"Ay," with contempt. "And so will a many more at your heels."

"No one saw me come here," Henrietta said.

"No. But it will be odd if no one sees you leave here. I met Bishop as
I came, and another with him, hot-foot after you, both, and raising
the country as fast as they could."

Henrietta frowned. She gazed through the window. Then she looked again
at Bess.

"Is he far from here?" she asked.

"That's telling, and I'm not going to tell. Far or near, I don't see
how you are to go to him, unless----" She broke off, paused a moment,
and then, as if she put away a thought that had occurred to her, "No,"
she said with decision, "I see no way. There is no way."

To Henrietta, the girl, the situation, the surroundings, and not least
her own rôle, were odious. Merely to negotiate with such an one as
this was a humiliation; but to endure her open scorn, to feel her
cheeks burn under the fire of her taunts, was hateful. Yet failure in
the enterprise from which she had let herself expect so much was still
worse--still worse; and the prospect of it overcame her pride. She
could not accept the defeat of all her hopes and expectations. She
could not.

"You said 'unless,'" she retorted.

Bess laughed.

"Ay, but it's an 'unless,'" she answered contemptuously, "that you are
not the one to fill up."

"What do you mean?"

"What I say," Bess answered impudently. And vaulting sideways on the
table, she sat swinging her feet, and eyeing the other with a
triumphant smile.

"Unless what?"

"Unless you like to stay here until it is dark,--ay, dark, my pretty
peacock; and that won't be for an hour or more. Then you may go to him
safely. Not before! But you fine ladies," with a look that took in
Henrietta, from her high-piled hair and flushed face to the hem of her
skirt, "are afraid of your shadows, I'm told."

"I am not afraid of my shadow," Henrietta answered.

"You're afraid of the dark, or why didn't you come when he asked you?
And when you could have helped him? Why did you not come then and say
what you chose to him?"

"I did come," Henrietta answered coldly. "It was he who failed to meet
me."

"That's a nice flim-flam!" Bess rejoined, with incredulity. "You're
not one to venture yourself out after moonrise, I'll be bound. And so
I told him! But any way," sliding to her feet, and speaking with
decision, "he's not here, and you can't see him! And to tell the
truth, I'd as lief have your room as your company, that being so."

She turned to the door as if to open it. But Henrietta did not move.
She was deep in thought. The sneering words, the dark handsome face,
filled her with distrust; and with something like loathing of herself
when she reflected that the man she sought had been this girl's lover.
But they also aroused her spirit. They spurred her to the step which
the other dared her to take. Was she to show herself as a timid thing,
as poor a creature as this gipsy girl deemed her? She had come hither
with her heart set upon a prize; was she to relinquish that prize
because its pursuit demanded an ordinary amount of courage--such
courage as this village girl possessed and made naught of?

And yet--and yet she hesitated. She was not afraid of the girl; she
was not afraid--she told herself--of the man who had once professed to
be her lover: but there might be others, and it would be dark. If the
boy were there, there would be others. And she was not sure that she
was--not afraid. For the old man by the fireside, with his squalid
clothes and his horrible greediness, made her flesh creep. She
hesitated, until Bess, with a sneer, bade her to go if she was going.

"I'd as soon see your back," she continued, "and ha' done with it. I
know your sort! All fine feathers and as much spunk as a mouse!"

Henrietta made up her mind. She sat down on the nearest stool.

"I shall remain," she said, "and go with you to see him."

"Not you! So what's the use of talking?"

"I shall go," Henrietta replied firmly. "It will be dark in an hour. I
will remain and go with you."

Bess shrugged her shoulders and answered nothing. But had Henrietta
caught sight of her smile, she had certainly changed her mind.

Even without that, and unwarned, the girl found, as they sat there in
silence, and the minutes passed and the light faded, much ground for
hesitation. The words which Clyne had used when he forbade her to risk
herself, the terms in which he had described the desperate plight of
the men whom she must beard, the fears that had assailed her when she
had gone after dark to meet a peril less serious--all these things
recurred to her memory, and scared her. By pressing her lips together
she maintained a show of unconcern; but only because the dusk hid her
loss of colour. She repented--gravely; but she had not the courage to
draw back. She shrank from meeting--as she must meet, if she rose to
go--the other's smile of triumph; she shrank from the sense of
humiliation under which she would smart after she had escaped. She had
cast the die and must dare. She must see the enterprise through. And
she sat on. But she was sure that she could hardly suffer anything
worse than she suffered during those minutes, while her fate still lay
in her hands, while the power to withdraw was still hers, and
indecision plucked at her. The man who fights with his back to the
wall suffers less than when, before he drew his blade, imagination
dealt him a score of deaths.

The old man continued to grumble over the fire; and seldom, but
sometimes, he laid his chin on his shoulder and looked back at her.
Bess, on the contrary, gazed at her as the cat at the mouse; but with
her back to the light and her own face in shadow, so that whatever
thoughts or passions clouded her dark eyes, they passed unseen.
Presently, as the light failed, Bess's head became no more than a dark
knob breaking the lower line of dusty panes; while through the upper a
patch of pale green sky, promising frost, held Henrietta's eyes and
raised a still but solemn voice amid the tumult of her thoughts. That
morsel of sky was the only clean, pure thing within sight, and it
faded quickly, and became first grey and then a blur of darkness. By
that time the room, with its close, fetid odours and its hints at
gruesome secrets, had sunk into the blackness of night.

The fire gave out a dull glow, but it went no farther than the hearth.
Yet presently it was the cause of an illusion, if illusion it was,
which gave Henrietta a shock. Turning her eyes from the window--it
seemed to her that longer waiting would break her down--she saw the
outline of the old miser's figure, but erect and much closer to her
than before--and, unless she was mistaken, with hands outstretched as
if to clutch her neck. She uttered a low cry, and rose, and stepped
back. On the instant he vanished. But whether he sank down, or
retreated, or had never stirred, she could not be sure; while her cry
found an echo in Bess's mischievous laughter.

"Ha! ha! You're not quite so bold!" Bess cried, with enjoyment, "as
you were an hour ago, I reckon!"

The jeer gave a fillip to Henrietta's pride.

"I am ready," she said, though her voice shook a little.

"And you'll go?"

"Yes," coldly; "I shall go."

"Did you think he was going to twist your pretty neck?" Bess rejoined.
"Was that it? But come," in a more sober tone, "we'll go. Good-night,
old man!" And moving to the door with the ease of one who knew every
foot of the room, she unlocked it. A breath of fresh, cold air,
blowing on her cheek, informed Henrietta that the door was open. She
groped her way to it.

"Do you wait here," Bess whispered, "while I see if the coast is
clear. You'll hear an owl hoot; then come."

But Henrietta was not going to be left with that old man. She crept
outside the door and, holding it behind her, waited. The night was
dark as well as cold, for the moon would not rise for some hours; and
Henrietta wondered, as she drew her hood about her neck, how they were
to go anywhere. Presently the owl hooted low, and she released the
door, and groped her way round the house and between the fir trunks to
the gate. A hand, rough but small, clutched her wrist and turned her
about; a voice whispered, "Come!" and the two, Bess acting as guide,
set off in silence along the road in the direction of Troutbeck.

"How far is it?" Henrietta muttered, when they had gone a distance,
that in the night seemed a good half mile.

"That's telling," Bess answered. "'Tain't far. Turn here! Right!
right!" pushing her. "Now wait while I----"

"What are you doing?"

Bess did not explain that she was opening a gate. Instead, she
impelled the other forward and squeezed her arm to impress on her the
need of silence. Henrietta felt that the ground over which they were
passing was at once softer and more uneven, and she guessed that they
had left the road. A moment later the air met her cheek more coldly,
and the gloom seemed less opaque. She conjectured that she stood on
the brow of a hill--or a precipice--and involuntarily she recoiled.
But Bess dragged her on, down a slope so steep that, although the girl
trod with caution, she was scarcely able to keep her feet.

Feeling her still hang hack, the gipsy girl plucked at her.

"Hurry!" she whispered. "Hurry, can't you? We are nearly there."

"Where?"

"Why, there!"

But the cold and the darkness and the other's hostile tone had shaken
Henrietta's nerves. She jerked herself free.

"Where?" she repeated firmly. "Where are we going? I shall not go
farther unless you tell me."

"Nonsense!"

"I shall not."

"Let be! Let be!"

"Tell me this minute!"

"To Tyson the doctor's, if you must know," Bess replied grudgingly.

"Oh!"

She knew now. She stood half way down the smooth side of the hollow in
which Tyson's farm nestled. She remembered the large kitchen, with the
shining oaken table and the woman with the pale plump face who had
crouched on the settle and gone in fear of nights. And though the
place still stood a trifle uncanny in her memory, and the
uncomfortable impression which the woman's complaints had made on her,
had not quite passed from her, the knowledge relieved her.

She knew at least where she was, and that the place lay barely a
furlong from the road. She might count, too, on the aid of the
doctor's wife, who was jealous of this very girl. And after all, in
comparison with the miser's wretched abode, Tyson's house, though
lonely, seemed an everyday dwelling, and safe.

The news reassured her. When Bess, in a tone of scorn that thinly
masked disappointment, flung at her the words, "Then you are not
coming?" she was ready.

"Yes, I am coming," she said. And she yielded herself again to Bess's
guidance. In less than a minute they were at the bottom of the hollow.
They skirted the fold-yard and the long, silent buildings that bulked
somewhat blacker than the night. They turned a corner, and a dog not
far from them stirred its chain and growled. But Bess stilled it by a
word, and the two halted in the gloom, where a thin line of light
escaped beneath a door,



                             CHAPTER XXX

                            BESS'S TRIUMPH


Bess knocked twice, and, stooping to the keyhole, repeated the owl's
hoot. Presently a bar was drawn back, and after a brief interval,
which those within appeared to devote to listening, the key was
turned, and the door was opened far enough to admit one person at a
time. The two slid in, Bess pushing Henrietta before her.

The moment she had passed the threshold Henrietta stood, dazzled by
the light and bewildered by what she saw. Nor was it her eyes only
that were unpleasantly affected. A voice, loud and blustering, hailed
her appearance with a curse, fired from the heart of a cloud of
tobacco smoke. And the air was heavy with the reek of spirits.

"By G--d!" the voice which had affrighted her repeated. "Who's this?
Are you mad, girl?" And the speaker sprang to his feet. He was one of
two thickset, unshaven men who were engaged in playing cards on a
corner of the table. His comrade kept his place, but stared, a jug
half lifted to his lips; while a third man, the only other present, a
loose-limbed, good-looking gipsy lad, who had opened the door, grinned
at the unexpected vision--as if his stake in the matter was less, and
his interest in feminine charms greater. But nowhere, though the
kitchen was wastefully lighted, and her frightened eyes flew to every
part of it, was the man to be seen whom she came to meet.

She turned quickly upon Bess, as if she thought she might still
escape. But the door was already closed behind them, the key turned.
And before she could speak:

"Have done a minute!" Bess muttered, pushing her aside. "And let me
deal with them." Then, advancing into the room--but not before she had
seen the great bar drawn across the locked door--"Shut your trap!" she
cried to the man who had spoken. "And listen!"

"Who's this?"

"What's that to you?"

"Who is it, I say?" the man cried, even more violently. "And what the
blazes have you brought her here for?" And he poured out a string of
oaths that drove the blood from Henrietta's cheeks. "Who is it? Who is
it?" he continued. "D'you think, you vixen, that because my neck is in
a noose, I want some one to pull the rope tight?"

"What a fool you are to talk before her!" Bess answered, with quiet
scorn. "If any one pulls the hemp it's you."

"Lord help you, I'll do more than talk!" the man rejoined. And he
snatched up a heavy pistol that lay on the table beside the cards.
"Quick, will you? Speak! Who is it, and why do you bring her?"

"I'll speak quick enough, but not here!" Bess answered,
contemptuously. "If you must jaw, come into the dairy! Come, don't
think that I'm afraid of you!" And she turned to Henrietta, who,
stricken dumb by the scene, recognised too late the trap into which
she had fallen. "Do you stay here," she said, "unless you want his
hand on you. Sit there!" pointing abruptly to the settle, "and keep
mum until I come back."

But Henrietta's terror at the prospect of being abandoned by the girl,
though that girl had betrayed her, was such that she seized Bess by
the sleeve and held her back.

"Don't leave me!" she said. And again, with a shadow of the old
imperiousness, "You are not to leave me! Do you hear? I will come with
you. I----"

"You'll do what you're bid!" Bess answered. "Go and sit down!" And the
savage glint in her eyes put a new fear into Henrietta.

She went to the settle, her limbs unsteady under her, her eyes
glancing round for a chance of escape. Where was the woman of the
house? Where was Tyson? Chiefest of all, where was Walterson? She saw
no sign of any of them. And terrified to the heart, she sat shivering
where the other had ordered her to sit.

Bess opened a side door which led to the dairy, a cold, flagged room,
lower by a couple of steps than the kitchen. She took up a candle, one
of five or six which were flaring on the table, and she beckoned to
the two men to follow her. When they had done so, the one who had
taken up the pistol still muttering and casting suspicious glances
over his shoulder, she slammed to the door. But, either by accident,
or with a view to intimidate her prisoner, she let it leap ajar again;
so that much of the talk which followed reached Henrietta's ears. It
soon banished from the unhappy girl's cheeks the blood which the gipsy
lad's stare of admiration had brought to them.

Lunt's first word was an oath. "You know well enough," he cried, "that
we want no praters here! Why have you brought this fool here to peach
on us?"

"Why?"

"Ay, why?" Lunt repeated. "In two days more we had all got clear, and
nothing better managed!"

"And thanks to whom?" the girl retorted with energy. "Who has hidden
you? Who has kept you? Who has done all for you? But there it is! Now
my lad's gone, and Thistlewood's gone, you think all's yours! And as
much of yourselves as masterless dogs!"

"Stow it!"

"But I'll not!" she retorted. "Whose house is this?"

"Well, my lass, not yours!" Giles, the less violent of the two,
answered.

"Nor yours either! And, any way, it's due to me that you are in it,
and not outside, with irons on you."

"But cannot you see, lass," Giles answered, in a more moderate tone,
"that you've upset all by bringing the wench here? You'll hear the
morrow, or the morrow of that, that your lad's got clear to Leith, and
Thistlewood with him! And then we go our way, and yon gipsy will carry
off the brat in his long pack, and drop him the devil cares where--and
nobody'll be the wiser, and his father'll have a lesson that will do
him good! But, now you've let the girl in, what'll you do with her
when we get clear? You cannot stow her in the long pack, and the
moment you let her go her tongue will clack!"

"How do you know it will clack?" Bess asked, in a tone that froze the
listening girl's blood. "How do you know it will clack?" she repeated.
"The lake's deep enough to hold both."

"But what's the game, lass?" Giles asked. "Show a glim. Let's see it.
If you are so fond of us," in a tone of unpleasant meaning, "that
you've brought her--just to amuse us in our leisure, say it out!
Though even then I'm not for saying that the game is worth the candle,
my lass! Since coves in our very particular case has to be careful,
and the prettiest bit of red and white may hang a man as quick as her
mother! But I don't think you had that in your mind, Bess."

"Well?"

"And that being so, and hemp so cheap, out with it! Show a glim, and
you'll not find us nasty."

"The thing's pretty plain, isn't it?" Bess answered, coolly. "You've
had your fun. Why shouldn't I have mine? You'd a grudge, and you've
paid it. Why am I not to pay mine?"

"What has the wench done to you?"

"What's that to you?" viciously. "Stolen my lad, if you like. Any
Away, it's my business. If I choose to treat her as you have treated
the brat, what is it to you? If I've a mind to give her a taste of the
smugglers' oven, what's that to you? Or if I choose to spoil her
looks, or break her pride--she's one of those that teach us to behave
ourselves lowly and reverently to all our betters--and if I choose to
give her a lesson, is it any business but mine? She's crossed me!
She's a peacock! And if I choose to have some fun with her and hold
her nose to the grindstone, what's that to you?"

"But afterwards?" Giles persisted. "Afterwards, my lass? What then?"

"Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies," Bess answered. "For
the matter of that, if my old dad once gets his fingers round her
throat she'll not squeak! You may swear to that."

They dropped their voices then, or they moved farther from the door.
So that the remainder of the debate escaped Henrietta, though she
strained her ears to the utmost.

She had heard enough, however; enough to know where she stood, and to
feel the cold grip of despair close upon her. Fortunately she had had
such preparation as the scene and the change in Bess's demeanor
afforded; and while her heart thumped to choke her, and she could not
restrain the glances that like a hunted hare she cast about her, she
neither fainted nor raised an outcry. The gipsy lad, who lolled beside
the door and never took his bold eyes from her, detected the sudden
stillness of her pose and her changed aspect. But, though his gaze
dwelt as freely as he pleased on her, on the turn of her pale cheek,
and the curve of her figure, he was deceived into thinking that she
did not catch the drift that was so clear to him.

"She's frightened!" he thought, smacking his lips. "She's frightened!
But she'd be more frightened if she heard what they are saying. A
devil, Bess is, a devil if there ever was one!" And he wondered
whether, if he told the girl, she would cling to him, and pray to him,
and kneel to him--to save her! He would like that, for she was a
pretty prey; and the prettier in his eyes, because she was not
dark-skinned and black-eyed, like his own women, but a thing of creamy
fairness.

Henrietta heard all, however, and understood. And for a few moments
she was near to swooning. Then the very peril in which she found
herself steadied her, and gave her power to think. Was there any
quarter to which she could look for help--outside or in? Outside the
house, alas, none; for she had taken care, fatal care, to blind her
trail, and to leave no trace by which her friends could find her! And
inside, the hope was as slight. Walterson, to whose pity she might
have appealed--with success, if all chivalry were not dead in him--was
gone, it seemed. There remained only--a feeble straw indeed to which
to cling--the woman of the house; the white-faced woman who had gone
in fear, and thought this very girl Bess had designs on her life!

But was the woman here? She had been very near her time, yet no cry,
no whimper bore witness to the presence of child life in the house.
And the room in its wild and wasteful disorder gave the lie to the
presence of any housewife, however careless. The flagged floor,
long uncleaned and unwhitened, was strewn with broken pipe-stems,
half-burned pipe-lights, gnawed bones and dirty platters. The bright
oaken table, the pride of generations of thrifty wives, was a litter
of dog's-eared cards and over-set bottles, broken loaves, and pewter
dishes. One of the oat-cake springs hung loose, tearing the ceiling;
in one corner a bacon chest gaped open and empty. In another corner a
pile of dubious bedding lay as its occupant had left it. The chimney
corner was cumbered with logs of wood. Greasy frying-pans and
half-cleaned pots lay everywhere; and on the whole, and on a medley of
tattered things too repulsive to mention, a show of candles, that
would have scared the least frugal dame, cast a useless glare.

In a word, everything within sight proved that the house was at the
mercy of the gang who surrounded her. And if that were so? If no help
were possible? For an instant panic gripped her. The room swam round,
and she had to grasp the settle with her hands to maintain her
composure. What was she to do? What could she do, thus trapped? What?
What?

She must think--for her own sake, for the child's sake, who, it was
clear, was also in their power. But it was hard, very hard, to think
with that man's eyes gloating on her; and when with every second the
door of the dairy, where they were conferring, might open, and--she
knew not what horror might befall her. And--and then again there was
the child!

For she spared it a thought of pity, grudgingly taken from her own
need. And then the door opened. And Bess, carrying the light above her
head, came up the steps, followed by the two men.

"We'll let her down soft!" she said, as she appeared. "We'll make her
drudge first and smart afterwards! And she'll come to it the quicker."

"Nay, Bess," one of the men answered with a grin, "but you'll not
spoil her pretty fingers."

"Oh, won't we?" Bess answered. And turning to Henrietta, and throwing
off the mask, "Now, peacock!" she said, "I've got you here and you
can't escape. I am going to put your nose to the grindstone. I'm going
to see if you are of the same stuff as other people! Can you cook?"

Henrietta did not know what to answer; nor whether she dared assert
herself. She tried to frame the words, "Where is Walterson? Where is
Walterson? If he is not here, let me go!" But she knew that they would
not let her go. And, unable to speak, she stood dumb before them.

"Ah, well, we'll see if you can," Bess said, scoffingly. "I see you
know what's what, and where you are. Come, slice that bacon! And fry
it! There's the knife, and there's the flitch, and let's have none of
your airs, or--you'll have the knife across your knuckles. Do you
hear, cat? Do you understand? You'll do as you are bid here. We'll see
how you like to be undermost."

The men laughed.

"That's the way, Bess," one said. "Break her in, and she'll soon come
to it!"

"Anyways, she'll not take my lad again!" Bess said, as Henrietta,
bending her head, took the knife with a shaking hand. "We'll give her
something to do, and she'll sleep the sounder for it when she goes to
bed."

"Ay," said Giles, with a smile. "Hope she'll like her room!"

"She'll lump it' or like it!" said Bess. "She's one of them that
grinds our faces. We'll see how she likes to be ground!"

Involuntarily Henrietta, stooping with a white face to her work,
shuddered. But she had no choice. To beg for mercy, it was clear, was
useless; to resist was to precipitate matters, while every
postponement of the crisis offered a chance of rescue. As long as
insult was confined to words she must put up with it--how foolish, how
foolish she had been to come! She must smile--though it were awry--and
play the sullen or the cheerful, as promised best. The door was locked
on her. She had no friends within reach. Help there was none. She was
wholly at the mercy of these wretches, and her only hope was that, if
she did their bidding, she might awaken a spark of pity in the breast
of one or other of them.

Still, she did not quite lose her presence of mind. As she bent over
her task, and with shaking fingers hacked at the tough rind of the
bacon, the while Bess rained on her a shower of gibes and the men
grinned at the joke, her senses were on the alert. Once she fancied a
movement and a smothered cry in the room above; and she had work to
keep her eyes lowered when Bess immediately went out. She might have
thought more of the matter; but left alone with the three men she had
her terrors. She dared not let her mind or her eyes wander. To go on
with the task, and give the men not so much as a look, seemed the only
course.

For the present the three limited their coarse gallantries to words.
Nay, when the gipsy lad would have crept nearer to her, the others
bade him have done; adding, that kissing the cook-maid never cleaned a
dish.

Then Bess came back and forced her to hold the pan on the fire, though
the heat scorched her cheeks.

"We've to do it! See how you like it!" the girl cried, standing over
her vindictively. "And see you don't drop it, my lass, or I'll lay the
pan to your cheek. You're proud of your pink and white"--thrusting her
almost into the fire--"see how it will stand a bit of cook-maid's
work!"

Pride helped Henrietta to restrain the rising sob, the complaint. And
luckily it needed but another minute to complete the cooking. Bess and
the three men sat down to the table, and Bess's first humour was to
make her wait on them. But a moment later she changed her mind, forced
the girl to sit down, and, will she, nill she, Henrietta had to
swallow, though every morsel seemed to choke her, the portion set for
her.

"Down with it!" Bess cried, spitefully. "What's good enough for us is
good enough for you! And when supper's done I'll see you to your
bedroom. You're a mile too dainty, like all your sort! Ah, you'd like
to kill me this minute, wouldn't you? That's what I like! I've often
thought I should like to have one of you peacocks--who look at me as
if I were dirt--and put my foot upon her face! And now I've got
you--who stole my lad! And you'll see what I'll do to you!"



                             CHAPTER XXXI

                          A STRANGE BEDROOM


The men followed Bess's lead, and as they supped never ceased to make
Henrietta the butt of odious jests and more odious gallantries; until,
now pale, now red, the girl was eager to welcome any issue from a
position so hateful. Once, stung beyond reason, she sprang up and
would have fled from them, with burning ears. But Bess seized her by
the shoulders and thrust her back violently into her seat; and,
sobered by the force used to her, and terrified lest the men should
lay hands on her, she resigned herself.

Strangely, the one of the four who said nothing, was the one whom she
feared the most. The gipsy lad did not speak. But his eyes never left
her, and something in their insolent freedom caused her more misery
than the others' coarsest jests. He marked her blushes and pallor, and
her one uncontrollable revolt; and like the bird that flutters under
the spell of the serpent that hopes to devour it, she was conscious of
this watching. She was conscious of it to such an extent, that when
Bess cried, "Now it's time you had your bedroom candlestick, peacock!"
she did not hear, but sat on as one deaf and blind; as the hare sits
fascinated by the snake's eye.

The gipsy smiled. He understood. But Bess did not, and she tugged the
girl's hair with sufficient roughness to break the spell.

"Up!" she cried. "Up when I speak! Don't dream you're a fine lady any
longer! Wait till I get your bed candlestick--eh, lads?--and you'll be
wiser to-morrow, and tamer, too. See, my lass, that's for you!" And
she held up a small dark-lanthorn, and opening it, kindled the wick
from one of the candles. "Now come! And do you--no, not you!" to the
gipsy, who had stepped forward--"you!" to Giles, "come with me and see
her safely into her bedroom!"

Lunt growled a word or two.

"Stow it!" Bess answered, as she darkened the lanthorn. "It's to be as
I say. Here, give me your wrist, girl."

But at that, fear gripped Henrietta. She hung back with a white face.

"What are you going to do with me?" she cried. "What are you----"

"In two minutes you'll see!" Bess retorted. And with a quick movement
she grasped the girl's arm. "And be as wise as I am. Lay hold of her
other arm," she continued to Giles. "It's no use to struggle, my
lady!--and if she cries out down her at once. You hear, do you?" she
continued, addressing Henrietta, who with terror found herself as
helpless as a doe in the hound's fangs. "Then mum, and it'll be the
better for you. Here, do you take the lanthorn," she went on, handing
it to Giles, "and I'll carry the victuals. You can hold her?"

"I'll break her wrist if she budges," the man replied. "But, after
all, isn't she as well here?"

"No, she's not!" Bess answered, with decision. "Do you"--to
Lunt--"open the yard door for us, and stand by till we come in again.
No, not you," to the gipsy, who had again stepped forward. "You're too
ready, my lad, and I don't trust you."

Fortunately for Henrietta, the sight of the plate of food relieved her
of her worst fears. She was not to be done to death, but in all
probability to be consigned to the hiding place which held the boy.
And though the prospect was not cheerful, and Bess's manner was cruel
and menacing, Henrietta felt that if this were the worst she could
face it. She could bear even what the child bore, and by sharing its
hardships she might do something to comfort it. Always, too, there was
the chance of escape; and from the place, be it out-house or stable,
in which they held the boy confined, escape must be more feasible than
from the house, with its bolts and bars.

She had time to make these calculations between the kitchen and the
yard door; through which they half-led, half-pushed her into the
night. With all a woman's natural timidity on finding herself held and
helpless in the dark, she had to put restraint upon herself not to try
to break loose, not to scream. But she conquered herself and let them
lead her, unresisting and as one blindfold, where they pleased.

It was clear that they knew the place well. For, though the darkness
in the depths of this bowl in the hills was absolute, they did not
unmask the lanthorn; but moved confidently for a distance of some
fifty yards. The dog, kenneled near, had given tongue as they left the
house. But once only. And when they paused, all was so still in the
frosty mist that wrapped them about and clutched the throat, that
Henrietta's ear caught the trickle of water near at hand.

"Where are we?" she muttered. "Where are we?" She hung back in sudden,
uncontrollable alarm.

"Mum, fool!" Bess hissed in her ear. "Be still, or it will be the
worse with you. Have you," she continued, in the same low tone,
"undone the door, lad?"

For answer a wooden door groaned on its hinges.

"Right!" Bess murmured. "Bend your head, girl!"

Henrietta obeyed, and pushed forward by an unseen hand, she advanced
three paces, and felt a warmer air salute her cheek. The door groaned
again; she heard a wooden bolt thrust home. Bess let her hand go and
unmasked the lanthorn.

Henrietta shivered. She was in a covered well-head, whence the water,
after filling a sunken caldron, about which the moss hung in dark,
snaky wreaths, escaped under the wooden door. Some yeoman of bygone
days had come to the help of nature, and after enlarging a natural
cavity had enclosed it, to protect the water from pollution. The place
was so small that it no more than held the three who stood in it, nor
all of them dry-shod. And Henrietta's heart sank indeed before the
possibility of being left to pass the night in this dank cave.

Bess's next movement freed her from this fear. The girl turned the
light on the rough wall, and seizing an innocent-looking wooden peg,
which projected from it, pushed the implement upwards. A piece of the
wall, of the shape and size of a large oven door, fell downwards and
outwards, as the tail of a cart falls. It revealed a second cavity of
which the floor stood a couple of feet higher than the ground on which
they were. It was very like a spacious bread-oven, though something
higher and longer; apparently it had been made in the likeness of one.

But Henrietta did not think of this, or of its shape or its purpose.
For the same light, a dim, smoky lamp burning at the far end of the
place, which revealed its general aspect, disclosed a bundle of straw
and a forlorn little form.

She gasped. For that any human creature, much more a child, should be
confined in such a place, buried in the bowels of the earth, seemed so
monstrous, so shocking, that she could not believe it!

"Oh!" she cried, forgetting for the moment her own position and her
own fate, forgetting everything in her horror and pity. "You have not
left the child here! And alone! For shame! For shame!" she continued,
turning on them in the heat of her indignation and fearing them no
more than a hunter fears a harmless snake--which excites disgust, but
not terror. "What do you think will happen to you?"

For a moment, strange to say, her indignation cowed them. For a moment
they saw the thing as she saw it; they were daunted. Then Bess
sneered:

"You don't like the place?"

"For that child?"

"For yourself?"

She was burning with indignation, and for answer she climbed into the
place, and went on her hands and knees to the child's side. She bent
over it, and listened to its breathing.

"Is't asleep?" Bess asked. There was a ring of anxiety in her tone.
And when Henrietta did not answer, "It's not dead?" she muttered.

"Dead? No," Henrietta replied, with a shudder. "But it's--it's----"

"What?"

"It breathes, but--but----" She drew its head on to her shoulder and
peered more closely into the small white face. "It breathes, but--but
what is the matter with it? What have you done to it?"--glancing
at them suspiciously. For the boy, after returning her look with
lack-lustre eyes, had averted his face from the light and from hers.

"It's had a dose," Bess answered roughly--she had had her moment of
alarm. "In an hour or two it will awake. Then you can feed it. Here's
the porridge. And there's milk. It was fresh this morning and must be
fresh enough now. Hang the brat, I'm sure it has been trouble enough.
Now you can nurse it, my lass, and I wish you joy of it, and a gay
good-night! And before morning you'll know what it costs to rob Bess
Hinkson of her lad!"

"But the child will die!" Henrietta cried, rising to her feet--she
could stand in the place, but not quite erect. "Stay! Stay! At least
take----"

"What?"

"Take the child in! And warm and feed it! Oh, I beg you take it!"
Henrietta pleaded. "It will die here! It is cold now! I believe it is
dying now!"

"Dying, your grand-dam!" the girl retorted, scornfully. "But if we
take it, will you stay?"

"I will!" Henrietta answered. "I will!"

"So you will! And the child, too!" Bess retorted. And she slammed-to
the door. But again, while Henrietta, appalled by her position, still
stared at the place, the shutter fell, and Bess thrust in her dark,
handsome face. "See here!" she said. "If you begin to scream and
shout, it will be the worse for you, and do you remember that! I shall
not come, but I shall send Saul. He's took a fancy to you, and will
find a way of silencing you, I'll bet!" with an unpleasant smile. "So
now you know! And if you want his company you'll shout!"

She slammed the shutter to again with that, and Henrietta heard the
bolt fall into its place.

The girl stood for a moment, staring and benumbed. But presently her
eyes, which at first travelled wildly round, grew more sober. They
fell on her tiny fellow-prisoner, and, resting on that white,
unconscious cheek, on those baby hands clenched in some bygone
paroxysm, they filled slowly with tears.

"I will think of the child! I will think of the child!" she murmured.
And, crouching down, she hugged it to her with a sensation of relief,
almost of happiness. "I thank God I came! I thank God I am here to
protect it!"

And resolutely averting her eyes from the low roof and oven-like
walls, that, when she dwelt too long on them, seemed, like the famous
dungeon of Poe, to contract about her and choke her, she devoted
herself to the child; and as she grew scared by its prolonged torpor,
she strove to rouse it. At first her efforts were vain. But she
persisted in them. For the vision which she had had in the cell at
Kendal--of the child holding out pleading hands to her--rose to her
memory. She was certain that at that moment the child had been crying
for aid. And surely not for nothing, not without purpose, had the cry
come to her ears who now by so strange a fate was brought to the boy's
side.

At intervals she felt almost happy in this assurance; as she pressed
the child to her, and watched by the dim, yellow light its slow
recovery from the drug. Her present danger, her present straits, her
position in this underground place, which would have sent some mad,
were forgotten. And the past and the future filled her thoughts; and
Anthony Clyne. Phrases of condemnation and contempt which _he_ had
used to her recurred, as she nursed his child; and she rejoiced to
think that he must unsay them! The bruises which he had inflicted
still discoloured her wrist, and moved strange feelings in her, when
her eyes fell upon them. But he would repent of his violence soon!
Very soon, very soon, and how completely! The thought was sweet to
her!

She was in peril, and a week before she had been free as air. But then
she had been without any prospect of reinstatement, any hope of
regaining the world's respect, any chance of wiping out the
consequences of her mad and foolish act. Now, if she lived, and
escaped from this strait, he at least must thank her, he at least must
respect her. And she was sure, yes, she dared to tell herself,
blushing, that if he respected her, he would know how to make the
world also respect her.

But then again she trembled. For there was a darker side. She was in
the power of these wretches; and the worst--the thought paled her
cheek--might happen! She held the child more closely to her, and
rocked it to and fro in earnest prayer. The worst! Yes, the worst
might happen. But then again she fell back on the reflection that _he_
was searching for them, and if any could find them he would. He was
searching for them, she was sure, as strenuously, and perhaps with
more vengeful purpose than when he had sought the child alone! By this
time, doubtless, she was missed, and he had raised the country, flung
wide the alarm, set a score moving, fired the dalesmen from Bowness to
Ambleside. Yes, for certain they were searching for her. And they must
know, careful as she had been to hide her trail, that she could not
have travelled far; and the scope of the search, therefore, would be
narrow, and the scrutiny close. They could hardly fail, she thought,
to visit the farm in the hollow; its sequestered and lonely position
must invite inquiry. And if they entered, a single glance at the
disordered kitchen would inform the searchers that something was
amiss.

So far Henrietta's thoughts, as she clasped the boy to her and strove
to warm him to life against her own body, ran in a current chequered
but more or less hopeful. But again the supposition would force itself
upon her--the men were desperate, and the woman was moved by a strange
hatred of her. What if they fled, and left no sign? What if they
escaped, and left no word of her? The thought was torture! She could
not endure it. She put the child down, and rising to her knees, she
covered her eyes with her hands. To be buried here underground! To die
of hunger and thirst in this bricked vault, as far from hope and help,
from the voices and eyes of men and the blessed light of the sun, as
if they had laid her alive in her coffin!

Oh, it was horrible! She could not bear it; she could not bear to
think of it. She sprang, forgetting herself, to her feet, and the blow
which the roof dealt her, though her thick hair saved her from injury,
intensified the feeling. She was buried! Yes, she was buried alive!
The roof seemed to be sinking upon her. These brick walls so cunningly
arched, and narrowing a t either end, as the ends of a coffin narrow,
were the walls of her tomb! Those faint lines of mortar which
seclusion from the elements had preserved in their freshness,
presently she would attack them with her nails in the frenzy of her
despair. She glared about her. The weight, the mass of the hill above,
seemed to press upon her. The air seemed to fail her. Was there no
way, no way of escape from this living tomb--this grave under the tons
and tons and tons of rock and earth?

And then the child--perhaps she had put him from her roughly, and the
movement had roused him--whimpered. And she shook herself free--thank
God--free from the hideous dream that had obsessed her. She remembered
that the men were not yet fled, nor was she abandoned. She was
leaping, thank Heaven, far above the facts. In a passion of relief she
knelt beside the child, and rained kisses on him, and swore to him, as
he panted with terror in her arms, that he need not fear, that he was
safe now, and she was beside him to take care of him! And that all
would be well if he would not cry. All would be well. For she
bethought herself that the child must not know how things stood. Fear
and suffering he might know if the worst came; but not the fear, not
the mental torture which she had known for a few moments, and which in
so short a time had driven her almost beside herself.

The boy's faculties were still benumbed by the hardships which he had
undergone; perhaps a little by the narcotic he had taken. And though
he had seen Henrietta at least a dozen times in the old life, he could
not remember her. Nevertheless she contrived to satisfy him that she
was a friend, that she meant him well, that she would protect him. And
little by little, in spite of the surroundings which drew the child's
eyes again and again in terror to the dimly-lit vaulting, on which the
shadow of the girl's figure bulked large, his alarm subsided. His
heart beat less painfully, and his eyes lost in a degree the strained
and pitiful look which had become habitual. But his little limbs still
started if the light flickered, or the oil sputtered; and it was long
before, partly by gentle suasion, partly by caresses, she succeeded in
inducing the child--nauseated as he was by the drug--to take food.
That done, though she still believed him to be in a critical state,
and dreadfully weak, she was better satisfied. And soon, soothed by
her firm embrace and confident words, her charge fell into a troubled
sleep.



                            CHAPTER XXXII

                              THE SEARCH


To return to Bishop. Thrown off the trail in the wood, he pushed along
the road as far as Windermere village. There, however, he could hear
nothing. No one of Henrietta's figure and appearance had been seen
there. And in the worst of humours, with the world as well as with
himself, he put about and returned to the inn. If the girl had come
back during his absence, it was bad enough; he had had his trouble for
nothing, and might have spared his shoe-leather. Hang such pretty
frailties for him! But if, on the other hand, she had not come back,
the case was worse. He had been left to watch her, and the blame would
fall on him. Nadin would say more than he had said already about
London officers and their uselessness. And if anything happened to
her! Bishop wiped his brow as he thought of that, and of his next
meeting with Captain Clyne. It was to be hoped, be devoutly hoped,
that nothing had happened to the jade.

It wanted half an hour of sunset, when he arrived, fagged and fuming,
at the inn; and if his worst fears were not realised, he soon had
ground to dread that they might be. Miss Damer had not returned.

"I've no truck with them rubbishy radicals," Mrs. Gilson added
impersonally, scratching her nose with the handle of a spoon--a
sign that she was ill at ease. "But they're right enough in one
thing, and that is, that there's a lot of useless folk paid by the
country--that'd never get paid by any one else! And for brains, give
me a calf's head!"

Bishop evaded the conflict with what dignity he might.

"The Captain's not come in?" he asked.

"Yes, he's come in," the landlady answered.

"Well," sullenly, "the sooner I see him the better, then!"

"You can't see him now," Mrs. Gilson replied, with a glance at the
clock. "He's sleeping."

Bishop stared.

"Sleeping?" he cried. "And the young lady not come back?"

"He don't know that she has so much as gone out," Mrs. Gilson answered
with the utmost coolness. "And what's more, I'm not going to tell him.
He came in looking not fit to cross a room, my man, let alone cross a
horse! And when I went to take him a dish of tea I found him asleep in
his chair. And you may take it from me, if he's not left to have out
his sleep, now it's come, he'll be no more use to you, six hours from
this, than a corpse!"

"Still, ma'am," Bishop objected, "the Captain won't be best
pleased----"

"Please a flatiron!" Mrs. Gilson retorted. "Best served's best
pleased, my lad, and that you'll learn some day." And then suddenly
taking the offensive, "For the matter of that, what do you want with
him?" she continued. "Ain't you grown men? If Joe Nadin and you and
half a dozen redbreasts can't find one silly girl in an open
countryside, don't talk to me of your gangs! And your felonies! And
the fine things you do in London!"

"But in London----"

"Ay, London Bridge was made for fools to go under!" Mrs. Gilson
answered, with meaning. "It don't stand for nothing."

Bishop tapped his top-boot gloomily.

"She may come in any minute," he said. "There's that."

"She may, or she mayn't," Mrs. Gilson answered, with another look at
the clock.

"She's not been gone more than an hour and a half."

"Nor the mouse my cat caught this afternoon," the landlady retorted.
"But you'll not find it easily, my lad, nor know it when you find it."

He had no reply to make to that, but he carried his eye again to the
clock. He was very uncomfortable--very uncomfortable. And yet he
hardly knew what to do or where to look. In the meantime the girl's
disappearance was becoming known, and caused, indoors and out, a
thrill of excitement. Another abduction, another disappearance! And at
their doors, on their thresholds, under their noses! Some heard the
report with indignation, and two in the house heard it with remorse;
many with pity. But in the breasts of most the feeling was not wholly
painful. The new mystery revived and doubled the old; and blew to a
white heat the embers of interest which were beginning to grow cold.
In the teeth of the nipping air--and sunset is often the coldest hour
of the twenty-four--groups gathered in the yard and before the house.
And while a man here and there winked at his neighbour and hinted that
the young madam had slunk back to the lover from whom she had been
parted, the common view was that mischief was afoot and something
strong should be done.

Meanwhile uncertainty--and in a small degree the absence of Captain
Clyne and Nadin--paralysed action. At five, Bishop sent out three or
four of his dependants; one to watch the boat-landing, one to keep an
eye on the entrance to Troutbeck village, and others to bid the
constables at Ambleside and Bowness be on the watch. But as long as
the young lady's return seemed possible--and some still thought the
whole a storm in a tea-cup--men not unnaturally shrank from taking the
lead. Nor until the man who took all the blame to himself interposed,
was any real step taken.

It was nearly six when Bishop, talking with his friends in the
passage, found himself confronted by the chaplain. Mr. Sutton was in a
state of great and evident agitation. There were red spots on his
cheek-bones, his pinched features were bedewed with perspiration, his
eyes were bright. And he who usually shunned encounter with coarser
wits, now singled out the officer in the midst of his fellows.

"Are you going to do nothing," he cried, "except drink?"

Bishop stared.

"See here, Mr. Sutton," he said, slowly and with dignity, "you must
not forget----"

"Except drink?" the chaplain repeated, without compromise. And taking
Bishop's glass, which stood half-filled on the window-seat beside him,
he flung its contents through the doorway. "Do your duty, sir!" he
continued firmly. "Do your duty! You were here to see that the lady
did not leave the house alone. And you permitted her to go."

"And what part," Bishop answered, with a sneer, "did your reverence
play, if you please?" He was a sober man for those times, and the
taunt was not a fair one.

"A poor part," the chaplain answered. "A mean one! But now--I ask only
to act. Say what I shall do, and if it be only by my example I may
effect something."

"Ay, you may!" Bishop returned. "And I'll find your reverence work
fast enough. Do you go and tell Captain Clyne the lady's gone. It's a
task I've no stomach for myself," with a grin; "and your reverence is
the very man for it."

Mr. Sutton winced.

"I will do even that," he said, "if you will no longer lose time."

"But she may return any minute."

"She will not!" Mr. Sutton retorted, with anger. "She will not! God
forgive us for letting her go! If I failed in my duty, sir, do you do
yours! Do you do yours!"

And such power does enthusiasm give a man, that he who these many days
had seemed to the inn a poor, timid creature, slinking in and out as
privately as possible, now shamed all and kindled all.

"By jingo, I will, your reverence!" Bishop cried, catching the flame.
"I will!" he repeated heartily. And he turned about and began to give
orders with energy.

Fortunately Nadin arrived at that moment; and with his burly form and
broad Lancashire accent, he seemed to bring with him the vigour of
ten. In three minutes he apprehended the facts, pooh-poohed the notion
that the girl would return, and with a good round oath "dommed them
Jacobins," to give his accent for once, "for the graidliest roogs and
the roofest devils i' all Lancashire--and that's saying mooch! But we
mun ha' them hanged now," he continued, striding to and fro in his
long, rough horseman's coat. "We mun ha' them hanged! We'll larn
them!"


[Illustration: In ten minutes the road twinkled with lights ...]


He formed parties and assigned roads and brought all into order. The
first necessity was to visit every house within a mile of the inn on
the Windermere side; and this was taken in hand at once. In ten
minutes the road twinkled with lights, and the frosty ground rang
under the tread of ironshod boots. It was ascertained that no boat had
crossed the lake that afternoon; and this so far narrowed the area to
be searched, that the men were in a high state of excitement, and
those who carried firearms looked closely to their priming.

"'Tis a pity it's neet!" said Nadin. "But we mun ha' them, we mun ha'
them, afoor long!"

Meanwhile, Mr. Sutton had braced himself to the task which he had
undertaken. Challenged by Bishop, he had been anxious to go at once to
Clyne's room and tell him; that the Captain might go with the
searchers if he pleased. But he had not mounted three steps before
Mrs. Gilson was at his heels, bidding him, in her most peremptory
manner, to "let his honour be for another hour. What can he do?" she
urged. "He's but one more, and now the lads are roused, they'll do all
he can do! Let him be, let him be, man," she continued. "Or if you
must, watch him till he wakes, and then tell him."

"It will be worse then," the chaplain said.

"But he'll be better!" she retorted. "Do you be bidden by me. The man
wasn't fit to carry his meat to his mouth when he went upstairs. But
let him be until he has had his sleep out and he'll be another man."

And Mr. Sutton let himself be bidden. But he was right. Every minute
which passed made the task before him more difficult. When at last
Captain Clyne awoke, a few minutes after eight o'clock, and startled,
brought his scattered senses to a focus, he saw sitting opposite him a
man who hid his face in his hands, and shivered.

Clyne rose.

"Man, man!" he said. "What is it? Have you bad news?"

But the chaplain could not speak. He could only shake his head.

"They have not--not found----"

Clyne could not finish the sentence. He turned away, and with a
trembling hand snuffed a candle--that his face might be hidden.

The chaplain shook his head.

"No, no!" he said. "No!"

"But it is--it's bad news?"

"Yes. She's--she's gone! She's disappeared!"

Clyne dropped the snuffers on the table.

"Gone?" he muttered. "Who? Miss Damer?"

"Yes. She left the house this afternoon, and has not returned. It was
my fault! My fault!" poor Mr. Sutton continued, in a tone of the
deepest abasement. And with his face hidden he bowed himself to and
fro like a man in pain. "They asked me to follow her, and I would not!
I would not--out of pride!"

"And she has not returned?" Clyne asked, in an odd tone.

"She has not returned--God forgive me!"

Clyne stared at the flame of the nearest candle. But he saw, not the
flame, but Henrietta; as he had seen her the morning he turned his
back on her, and left her standing alone on the road above the lake.
Her slender figure under the falling autumn leaves rose before him;
and he knew that he would never forgive himself. By some twist
of the mind her fate seemed the direct outcome of that moment, of
that desertion, of that cruel, that heartless abandonment. The
after-events, save so far as they proved her more sinned against than
sinning, vanished. He had been her sole dependence, her one protector,
the only being to whom she could turn. And he had abandoned her
heartlessly; and this--this unknown and dreadful fate--was the result.
Her face rose before him, now smiling and defiant, now pale and drawn;
and the piled-up glory of her hair. And he remembered--too late, alas,
too late--that she had been of his blood and his kin; and that he had
first neglected her, and later when his mistake bred its natural
result in her act of folly, he had deserted and punished her.

Remorse is the very shirt of Nessus. It is of all mental pains the
worst. It seizes upon the whole mind; it shuts out every prospect. It
cries into the ear with every slow tick of the clock, the truth that
that which had once been so easy can never be done now! That
reparation, that kind word, that act of care, of thoughtfulness, of
pardon--never, never now! And once so easy! So easy!

For he knew now that he had loved the girl; and that he had thrown
away that which might have been the happiness of his life. He knew now
that only pride had blinded him, giving the name of pity to that which
was love--or so near to love that it was impossible to say where one
ended and the other began. He thought of her courage and her pride;
and then of the womanliness that, responding to the first touch of
gentleness on his side, had wept for his child. And how he had wronged
her from the first days of slighting courtship! how he had
misunderstood her, and then mistrusted and maligned her--he, the only
one to whom she could turn for help, or whom she could trust in a land
of strangers--until it had come to this! It had come to this.

Oh, his poor girl! His poor girl!

A groan, bitter and irrepressible, broke from him. The man stood
stripped of the trappings of prejudice; he saw himself as he was, and
the girl as she was, a creature of youth and spirit and impulse. And
he was ashamed to the depths of his soul.

At last, "What time did she go out?" he muttered.

The chaplain roused himself with a shiver and told him.

"Then she has been missing five hours?" There was a sudden hardening
in his tone. "You have done something, I suppose? Tell me, man, that
you have done something!"

The chaplain told him what was being done. And the mere statement gave
comfort. Hearing that Mrs. Gilson had been the last to speak to her,
Clyne said he would see the landlady. And the two went out of the
room.

In the passage a figure rose before them and fled with a kind of
bleating cry. It was Modest Ann, who had been sitting in the dark with
her apron over her head. She was gone before they were sure who it
was. And they thought nothing of the incident, if they noticed it.

Downstairs they found no news and no comfort; but much coming and
going. For presently the first party returned from its quest, and
finding that nothing had been discovered, set forth again in a new
direction. And by-and-by another returned, and standing ate something,
and went out again, reinforced by Clyne himself. And so began a night
of which the memory endured in the inn for a generation. Few slept,
and those in chairs, ready to start up at the first alarm. The tap ran
free for all; and in the coffee-room the table was set and set again.
The Sunday's joints--for the next day was Sunday--were cooked and
cold, and half-eaten before the morning broke; and before breakfast
the larder of the Salutation at Ambleside was laid under contribution.
At intervals, those who dozed were aware of Nadin's tall, bulky
presence as he entered shaking the rime from his long horseman's coat
and calling for brandy; or of Bishop, who went and came all night, but
in a frame of mind so humble and downcast that men scarcely knew him.
And now and again a fresh band of searchers tramped in one behind the
other, passed the news by a single shake of the head, and crowding to
the table ate and drank before they turned to again--to visit a more
distant, and yet a more distant part.

Even from the mind of the father, the boy's loss seemed partly effaced
by this later calamity. The mystery was so much the deeper: the riddle
the more perplexing. The girl had gone out on foot in the full light
of a clear afternoon; and within a few hundred yards of the place to
which they had traced the boy, she had vanished as if she had never
been. Clyne knew from her own lips that Walterson was somewhere within
reach. But this did not help much, since no one could hit on the
place. And various were the suggestions, and many and strange the
solutions proposed. Every poacher and every ne'er-do-well was visited
and examined, every house was canvassed, every man who had ever said
aught that could be held to savour of radical doctrine, was
considered. As the search spread to a wider and yet wider area, the
alarm went with it, and new helpers arrived, men on horseback and men
on foot. And all through the long winter's night the house hummed; and
the lights of the inn shone on the water as brightly and persistently
as the stars that in the solemn firmament wheeled and marched.

But lamps and stars were alike extinguished, and the late dawn was
filtering through the casements on jaded faces and pale looks, when
the first gleam of encouragement showed itself. Clyne had been out for
some hours, and on his return had paused at the door of the snuggery
to swallow the cup of hot coffee, which the landlady pressed upon him.
Nadin was still out, but Bishop was there and the chaplain, and two or
three yeomen and peasants. In all hearts hope had by this time given
way to dejection; and dejection was fast yielding to despair. The
party stood, here and there, for the most part silent, or dropped now
and again a despondent word.

Suddenly Modest Ann appeared among them, with her head shrouded in her
apron. And, "I can't bear it! I can't bear it!" the woman cried
hysterically. "I must speak!"

A thrill of amazement ran through the group. They straightened
themselves.

"If you know anything, speak by all means!" Clyne said, for surprise
tied Mrs. Gilson's tongue. "Do you know where the lady is?"

"No! no!"

"Did she tell you anything?"

"Nothing! nothing!" the woman answered, sobbing wildly, and still
holding the apron drawn tightly over her face. "Missus, don't kill me!
She told me naught! Naught! But----"

"Well--what? What?"

"There was a letter I gave her some time ago--before--oh,
dear!--before the rumpus was, and she was sent to Kendall! And I'm
thinking," sob, sob, "you'd maybe know something from the person who
gave it me."

"That's it," said Bishop coolly. "You're a sensible woman. Who was
it?"

"That girl--of Hinkson's," she sobbed.

"Bess Hinkson!" Mrs. Gilson ejaculated.

"Ay, sure! Oh, dear! oh, dear! Bess said that she had it from a man on
the road."

"And that may be so, or it may not," Bishop answered, with quiet
dryness. He was in his element again. And then in a lower tone, "We're
on it now," he muttered, "or I am mistaken. I've seen the young lady
near Hinkson's once or twice. And it was near there I lost her. The
house has been visited, of course; it was one of the first visited.
But we'd no suspicion then, and now we have. Which makes a
difference."

"You're going there?"

"Straight, sir, without the loss of a minute!"

Clyne's eyes sparkled. And tired as they were, the men answered to the
call. Ten minutes before, they had crawled in, the picture of fatigue.
Now, as they crossed the pastures above the inn, and plunged into the
little wood in which Henrietta had baffled Bishop, they clutched their
cudgels with as much energy as if the chase were but opening. It
mattered not that some wore the high-collared coats of the day, and
two waistcoats under them, and had watches in their fobs; and that
others tramped in smock frocks drawn over their fustian shorts. The
same indignation armed all, great and small, rich and poor; and in a
wonderfully short space of time they were at the gate of Starvecrow
Farm.

The house that, viewed at its best, had a bald and melancholy aspect,
wore a villainous look now--perched up there in bare, lowering
ugliness, with its blind gable squinting through the ragged fir-trees.

Bishop left a man in the road, and sent two to the rear of the crazy,
ruinous outbuildings which clung to the slope. With Clyne and the
other three he passed round the corner of the house, stepped to the
door and knocked. The sun's first rays were striking the higher hills,
westward of the lake, as the party, with stern faces, awaited the
answer. But the lake, with its holms, and the valley and all the lower
spurs, lay grey and still and dreary in the grip of cold. The note of
melancholy went to the heart of one as he looked, and filled it with
remorse.

"Too late," it seemed to say, "too late!"

For a time no one came. And Bishop knocked again, and more
imperiously; first sending a man to the lower end of the ragged garden
to be on the look-out. He knocked a third time. At last a shuffling of
feet was heard approaching the door, and a moment later old Hinkson
opened it. He looked, as he stood blinking in the daylight, more
frowsy and unkempt and to be avoided than usual. But--they noted with
disappointment that the door was neither locked nor bolted; so that
had they thought of it they might have entered at will!

"What is't?" he drawled, peering at them. "Why did you na' come in?"

Bishop pushed in without a word. The others followed. A glance
sufficed to discover all that the kitchen contained; and Bishop, deaf
to the old man's remonstrances, led the way straight up the dark,
close staircase. But though they explored without ceremony all the
rooms above, and knocked, and called, and sounded, and listened, they
stumbled down again, baffled.

"Where's your daughter?" Bishop asked sternly.

"She was here ten minutes agone," the old man answered. Perhaps
because the day was young he showed rather more sense than usual. But
his eyes were full of spite.

"Here, was she?"

"Ay."

"And where's she now?"

"She's gone to t' doctor's. She be nursing there. They've no lass."

"Nursing! Who's she nursing?" incredulously.

The old man grinned at the ignorance of the question.

"The wumman and the babby," he said.

"At Tyson's?"

"Ay, ay."

"The house in the hollow?"

"That be it."

While they were talking thus, others had searched the crazy outhouses,
but to no better purpose. And presently they all assembled in the road
outside the gate.

"Where's your dog, old lad?" asked one of the dalesmen.

The miser had shuffled after them, holding out his hand and begging of
them.

"At the doctor's," he answered. "Her be fearsome and begged it. Ye'll
give an old man something?" he added, whining. "Ye'll give something?"

"Off! Off you go, my lad!" Bishop cried. "We've done with you. If
you're not a rascal 'tis hard on you, for you look one!" And when the
old skinflint had crawled back under the fir-trees, "Worst is, sir,"
he continued, with a grave face, "it's all true. Tyson's away in the
north--with a brother or something of that kind--so I hear. And his
missus had a baby this ten days gone or more. He's a rough tyke, but
he's above this sort of thing, I take it. Still, we'll go and question
the girl. We may get something from her."

And they trooped off along the road in twos and threes, and turning
the corner saw Tyson's house, below them--so far below them that it
had, as always, the look of a toy house on a toy meadow at the bottom
of a green bowl. Below the house the little rivulet that rose beside
it bisected the meadow, until at the end of the open it lost itself in
the narrow wooded gorge, through which it sprang in unseen waterfalls
to join the lake below.

They descended the slope to the house; sharp-eyed but saying little. A
trifle to one side of the door, under a window, a dog was kenneled. It
leapt out barking; but seeing so many persons it slunk in again and
lay growling.. A moment and the door was opened and Bess showed
herself. She looked astonished, but not in any way frightened.

"Eh, masters!" she said. "What is it? Are you come after the young
lady again?"

"Ay," Bishop answered. "We are. We want to know where you got the
letter you gave Ann at the inn--to give to her?"

Perhaps Bess looked for the question and was prepared. At any rate,
she betrayed no sign of confusion.

"Well," she said, "I can tell you what he was like that gave it me."

"A man gave it you?"

"Ay, and a shilling. And," smiling broadly, "he'd have given me
something else if I'd let him."

"A kiss, I bet!" said Bishop.

"Ay, it was. But I said that'd be another shilling."

Clyne groaned.

"For God's sake," he said, "come to the point. Time's everything."

Bishop shrugged his shoulders.

"Where did you see him, my girl?" he asked.

"By the gate of the coppice as I was bringing the milk," she answered
frankly. "'I'm her Joe,' he said. 'And if you'll hand her this and
keep mum, here's a shilling for you.' And----"

"Very good," said Bishop. "And what was he like?"

With much cunning she described Walterson, and Bishop acknowledged the
likeness. "It's our man!" he said, slapping his boot with his loaded
whip. "And now, my dear, which way did he go?"

But she explained that she had met him by the gate--he was a
stranger--and she had left him in the same place.

"And you can't say which way he went?"

"No," she answered. "Nor yet which way he came. I looked back to see,
to tell the truth," frankly. "But he had not moved, and he did not
move until I was out of sight. And I never saw him again. The boy had
not been stolen then," she continued, "and I thought little of it."

"You should have told," Bishop answered, eyeing her severely. "Another
time, my lass, you'll get into trouble." And then suddenly, "Here, can
we come in?"

She threw the door wide with a movement that disarmed suspicion.

"To be sure," she said. "And welcome, so as you don't make a noise to
waken the mistress."

But when they stood in the kitchen it wore an aspect so neat and
orderly that they were ashamed of their suspicions. The fire burned
cheerfully on the wide hearth, and a wooden tray set roughly, but
cleanly, stood on the corner of the long, polished table. The door of
the shady dairy stood open, and afforded a glimpse of the great leaden
milk-pans, and the row of shining pails.

"The mistress is just overhead," she said. "So you'll not make much
noise, if you please."

"We'll make none," said Bishop. "We've learned what we want." And he
turned to go out.

All had not entered. Those who had, nodded, turned with gloomy faces,
and followed him out. The dog, lurking at the back of its kennel, was
still growling.

"I'd be afeared to sleep here without him," Bess volunteered.

"Ay, ay."

"He's better 'n two men."

"Ay?"

They looked at the dog, and some one bade her good-day. And one by one
the little troop turned and trailed despondently from the house, Clyne
with his chin sunk on his breast, Bishop in a brown study, the other
men staring blankly before them. Half-way up the ascent to the road
Clyne stopped and looked back. His face was troubled.

"I thought----" he began. And then he stopped and listened, frowning.

"What?"

"I don't know." He looked up. "You didn't hear anything?"

Bishop and the men said that they had not heard anything. They
listened. They all listened. And all said that they heard nothing.

"It was fancy, I suppose," Clyne muttered, passing his hand over his
eyes. And he shook his head as if to shake off some painful
impression.

But before he reached the road he paused once again and listened. And
his face was haggard and lined with trouble.

It occurred to no one that Bess had been too civil. To no one. For
shrewd Mrs. Gilson was not with them.



                            CHAPTER XXXIII

                         THE SMUGGLERS' OVEN


Henrietta crouched beside the lamp, lulling the child from time to
time with a murmured word. She held the boy, whom she had come to
save, tight in her arms; and the thought that she held him was bliss
to her, though poisoned bliss. Whatever happened he would learn that
she had reached the child. He would know--even if the worst came--what
she had done for him. But the worst must not come. Were she once in
the open under the stars, how quickly could she flee down the road
with this light burden in her arms--down the road until she saw the
star-sprinkled lake spread below her! In twenty minutes, were she
outside, she might be safe. In twenty minutes, only twenty minutes,
she might place the child in his arms, she might read the joy in his
eyes, and hear words--ah, so unlike those which she had heard from
him!

There were only two doors between herself and freedom. Her heart beat
at the thought. In twenty minutes how different it might be with
her--in twenty minutes, were she at liberty!

She must wait until the child was sound asleep. Then when she could
lay him down she would examine the place. The purity of the air proved
that there was either a secret inlet for the purpose of ventilation,
or that the door which shut off their prison from the well-head fitted
ill and loosely. In the latter case it was possible that her strength
might avail to force the door and make escape possible. They might not
have given her credit for the vigour which she felt that she had it in
her to show if the opportunity offered itself.

In the meantime she scrutinised, as she sat, every foot of the walls,
without discovering anything to encourage hope or point to a second
exit. The light of the dim lamp revealed only smooth courses of
bricks, so near her eyes, so low upon her head, so bewildering in
their regularity and number, that they appalled her the more the
longer she gazed on them. It was to seek relief that she rose at last,
and laying the sleeping child aside, went to the door and examined it.

Alas! it presented to the eye only solid wood, overlapping the
aperture which it covered, and revealing in consequence neither hinges
nor fastening. She set her shoulder against it, and thrust with all
her might. But it neither bent nor moved, and in despair she left it,
and stooping low worked her way round the walls. Her closest scrutiny
revealed nothing; not a slit as wide as her slenderest finger, not a
peg, nor a boss, nor anything that promised exit. She returned to the
door, and made another and more desperate attempt to burst it. But her
strength was unequal to the task, and to avoid a return of the old
panic, which threatened to overcome her, she dropped down beside the
child, and took him again in her arms, feeling that in the appeal
which the boy's helplessness made to her she had her best shield
against such terrors.

The next moment, with a flicker or two, the light went out. She was in
complete darkness.

She fought with herself and with the impulse to shriek; and she
conquered. She drew a deep breath as she sat, and with the unconscious
child in her arms, stared motionless before her.

"They will come back," she murmured steadfastly; "they will come back!
They will come back! And in the meantime I must be brave for the
child's sake. I have only to wait! And they will come back!"

Nevertheless, it was hard to wait. It was hard not to let her thoughts
run on the things which might prevent their return. They might be put
to flight, they might be discovered and killed, they might be taken
and refuse to say where she was. And then? Then?

But for the child's sake she must not, she would not, think of that.
She must dwell, instead, on the shortness of the time that had elapsed
since they left her. She could not guess what the hour was, but she
judged that it was something after midnight now, and that half of the
dark hours were gone. Even so, she had long to wait before she could
expect to be visited. She must have patience, therefore. Above all,
she must not think of the mountain of earth above her, of the two
thick doors that shut her off from the living world, of the vault that
almost touched her head as she sat. For when she did the air seemed to
fail her, and the grip of frenzied terror came near to raising her to
her feet. Once on her feet and in that terror's grasp, she knew that
she would rave and shriek, and beat on the walls--and go mad!

But she would not think of these things. She would sit quite still and
hold the child more tightly to her, and be sensible. And be sensible!
Above all, be sensible!

She thought of many things as she sat holding herself as it were; of
her old home and her old life, the home and the life that seemed so
far away, though no more than a few weeks divided her from them. But
more particularly she thought of her folly and of the events of the
last month; and of the child and of the child's father, and--with a
shudder--of Walterson. How silly, how unutterably silly, she had been!
And what stuff, what fustian she had mistaken for heroism; while,
through all, the quiet restraint of the true master of men had been
under her eyes.

Not that all the fault had been hers. She was sure of that even now.
Captain Clyne had known her as little as she had known him, and had
misjudged her as largely. That he might know her better was her main
desire now; and that he might know it, whatever the issue, she had an
inspiration. She took from her neck the gold clasp which had aroused
old Hinkson's greed, and she fastened it securely inside the child's
dress. If the child were rescued, the presence of the brooch would
prove that she had succeeded in her quest, and been with the boy.

After that she dozed off, and presently, strange to say, she slept.
Fortunately, the child also was worn out; and the two slept as soundly
in the grim silence of the buried vault, with the load of earth above
them and the water trickling from the well-hole beside them, as in the
softest bed. They slept long, yet when Henrietta at last awoke it was
happily to immediate consciousness of the position and of the need of
coolness. The boy had been first to rouse himself and was crying for a
light, and for something to quench his thirst. A little milk remained
in the can, and with infinite precaution she groped for the vessel and
found it. The milk was sour, but the boy lapped it eagerly, and
Henrietta wetted her own lips, for she, too, was parched with thirst.
She could have drunk ten times as much with pleasure, but she denied
herself, and set the rest in a safe place. She did not know how long
she had slept, and the fear that they might be left to meet a dreadful
death would lift its head, hard as she strove to trample on it.

She gave the child a few spoonfuls of porridge and encouraged him to
crawl about in the darkness. But after some restless, querulous
moanings he slept again, and Henrietta was left to her thoughts, which
continually grew more uneasy. She was hungry; and that seemed to prove
that the morning was come and gone. If this were so were they to
remain there all day? And if all day, all night? And all next day? And
if so, if they were not discovered by next day, why not--forever?

Again she had to struggle against the hysterical terror that gripped
and choked her. And resist it without action she could not. She
rose, and in the dark felt her way to the hatchway by which she had
entered. Again she passed her fingers down the smooth edges where it
met the brickwork. She sought something, some bolt, some peg, some
hinge--anything that, if it did not lead to freedom, might hold her
thoughts and give her occupation. But there was nothing! And when she
had set her ear against the thick wood, still there was nothing. She
turned from it, and went slowly and doggedly round the prison on her
knees, feeling the brickwork here and there, and in very dearth of
hope, searching with her fingers for that which had baffled her eyes.
Round, and round again; with just a pause to listen and a stifled sob.
But in vain. All, as she might have known, was toil in vain. All was
futile, hopeless. And then the child awoke, and she had to take him up
and soothe him and give him the last of the milk and the porridge. He
seemed a little stronger and better. But she--she was growing
frightened--horribly frightened. She must have been hours in that
place; and she was very near to that breakdown, which she had kept at
bay so long.

For she had no more food. And, worse, with the sound of water almost
in her ears, with the knowledge that it ran no more than a few feet
from her in a clear and limpid stream, she had nothing more with which
she could quench the boy's thirst or her own. And she had no light.
That frantic struggle to free herself, that strength of despair which
might, however improbably, have availed her, were and must be futile
for her, fettered and maimed by a darkness that could be felt. She
drew the child nearer and hugged him to her. He was her talisman, her
all, the tie that bound her to sanity, the being outside herself for
whom she was bound to think and plan and be cool.

She succeeded--for the moment. But as she sat, dozing a little at
intervals, with the child pressed closely to her, she fell from time
to time into fits of trembling. And she prayed for light--only for
light! And then again for some sound, some change in the cold, dead
stillness that made her seem like a thing apart, aloof, removed from
other things. And she was very thirsty. She knew that presently the
child would grow thirsty again. And she would have nothing to give
him.

The thought was torture, and she seemed to have borne it an age
already; supported by the fear of rousing the boy and hastening the
moment she dreaded. She would have broken down, she must have broken
down, but for one thought; that, long as the hours seemed to her, and
far distant as the moment of her entrance appeared, she might be a
great way out in her reckoning of time. She might not have been shut
up there so very long. The wretches who had put her there might not
have fled. They might not have abandoned her. If she knew all she
might be rid in an instant of her fears. All the time she might be
torturing herself for nothing.

She clung passionately to that thought and to the child. But the
prolonged uncertainty, the suspense, the waiting, tried her to the
utmost of her endurance. Her ears ached with the pain of listening;
her senses hungered for the sound of the footstep on which all
depended. Would that sound never come? Once or twice she fancied that
she heard it; and mocked by hope she stilled the very beating of her
heart, that she might hear more keenly. But nothing followed, nothing.
Nothing happened, and her heart sickened.

"Presently," she thought, "I shall begin to see things. I shall grow
weak and fancy things. The horror of being buried alive will master
me, and I shall shriek and shout and go mad. But that shall not be
until the child's trouble is over--God helping me!"

And then, dazzling her with its brightness, a sudden thought flashed
through her brain. Fool! Fool! She had succumbed in despair when a cry
might release her! She had laid herself down to die, when she had but
to lift up her voice, and the odds were that she would be heard. Ay,
and be freed! For had not the girl threatened her with the man's
coarse gallantries if she screamed? And to what purpose, if she were
buried so deep that her complaints could not be heard?

The thought lifted a weight from her. It revived her hopes, almost her
confidence. Immediately a current of vigour and courage coursed
through her veins. But she did not shout at once. The child was
asleep; she would await his awakening, and in the meantime she would
listen diligently. For if she could be heard by those who approached
the place, it was possible that she could hear them.

She had barely conceived the thought, when the thing for which she had
waited so long happened. The silence was broken. A sound struck her
ear. A grating noise followed. Then a shaft of light, so faint that
only eyes long used to utter darkness could detect it, darted in and
lay across the brickwork of the vault. In a twinkling she was on her
knees and scrambling with the child in her arms towards the hatch. She
had reached it and was touching it, when the bolts that held up the
door slid clear, and with a sharp report the hatch fell. A burst of
light poured in and blinded her. But what was sight to her? She, who
had borne up against fear so bravely had now only one thought, only
one idea in her mind--to escape from the vault. She tumbled out
recklessly, fell against something, and only through the support of an
unseen hand kept on her feet as she alighted in the well-head.

A man whom her haste had pushed aside, slapped her on the shoulder.

"Lord, you're in a hurry!" he said. "You've had enough of bed for
once!"

"So would you," came the answer--in Bess's voice--"if you'd had
twenty-four hours of it, my lad. All the same, she'll have to go
back."

Trembling and dazed, Henrietta peered from one to the other. Mistress
of herself two minutes before, she was now on the verge of hysteria,
and controlled herself with an effort.

"Oh!" she cried. "Oh! thank God you've come! Thank God you've come! I
thought you had left me."

She was thankful--oh, she was thankful; though these were no rescuers,
but the two who had consigned her to that horrible place. Bess raised
the lanthorn so that its light fell on the girl's haggard, twitching
face.

"We could not come before," she said, with something like pity in her
tone. "That's all."

"All!" Henrietta gasped. "All! Oh, I thought you had left me! I
thought you had left me!"

Bess considered her, and there was beyond doubt something like
softening in the girl's dark face. But her tone remained ironical.

"You didn't," she said, "much fancy your bedroom, I guess?"

Henrietta's teeth chattered.

"Oh, God forgive you!" she cried. "I thought you had left me! I
thought you'd left me!"

"It was your own folks' fault," Bess retorted. "They've never had
their eyes off the blessed house, one or another of them, from dawn to
dark! We could not come. But now here's food, and plenty!" raising the
light. "How's the child?"

"Bad! Bad!" Henrietta muttered.

She was coming to her senses. She was beginning to understand the
position; to comprehend that no rescuers were here, no search party
had found her; and that--and that--had not one of them dropped a word
about her going back? Going back meant going back to that--place! With
a sudden gesture she thrust the food from her.

"Ain't you going to eat?" Bess asked, staring. "I thought you'd be
famished."

"Not here! Not here!" she answered violently.

"Oh, nonsense!" the other rejoined. "Don't be a fool! You're clemmed,
I'll be bound. Eat while you can."

But, "Not here! Not here!" Henrietta replied. And she thrust the food
away.

The man interposed.

"Stow it!" he said, in a threatening tone. "You eat while you can and
where you can!"

But she was desperate.

"I'll not eat here!" she cried. "I'll not eat here! And I'll not go
back!" her voice rising. "I will die before I will go back. Do you
hear?" with the fierceness of a wild creature at bay. "I do not care
what you do! And the child is dying. Another night--but I'll not
suffer it! And if you lay a finger on me"--repelling Bess, who had
made a feint of seizing her--"I will scream until I am heard! Ay, I
will!" she repeated, her eyes sparkling. "But take me to the house and
I will go quietly! I will go quietly!"

It was plain that she was almost beside herself, and that fear of the
place in which she had passed so many hours had driven out all other
fear. The two, who had not left her alone so long without misgiving,
looked at one another and hesitated. They might overpower her. But the
place was so closely watched that a single shriek might be heard; then
they would be taken red-handed. Nor did Bess at least wish to use
force. The position, and her views, were changed. All day curious eyes
had been fixed on the house, and inquisitive people had started up
where they were least expected. Bess's folly in bringing this hornets'
nest about their ears had shaken her influence with the men; and the
day had been one long exchange of savage recriminations. She owned to
herself that she had done a foolish thing; that she had let her spite
carry her too far. And in secret she was beginning to think how she
could clear herself.

She did not despair of this; for she was crafty and of a good courage.
She did not even think it would be hard; but she must, as a _sine quâ
non_, conciliate the girl whom she had wronged. Unluckily she now saw
that she could not conciliate her without taking her to the house. And
she could not with safety take her to the house. The men were
irritated by the peril which she had brought upon them; they were
ferocious and out of hand; and terribly suspicious to boot. They
blamed her, Bess, for all: they had threatened her. And if she was not
safe among them, she was quite sure that Henrietta would not be safe.

There was an alternative. She might let the girl go there and then.
And she would have done this, but she could not do it without Giles's
consent; and she dared not propose it to him. He was wanted for other
offences, and the safe return of Henrietta and the child would not
clear him. He had looked on the child, and now looked on the girl, as
pawns in his game, a _quid pro quo_ with which--if he were taken while
they remained in his friends' hands--he might buy his pardon. Bess,
therefore, dared not propose to free Henrietta: and what was she to do
if the girl was so foolish as to refuse to go back to the place where
she was safe?

"Look here," she said at last. "You're safer here than in the house,
if you will only take my word for it."

But there is no arguing with fear.

"I will not!" Henrietta persisted, with passion. "I will not! Take me
out of this! Take me out! The child will die here, and I shall go
mad!--mad!"

"You're pretty mad now," the man retorted. But that said, he met
Bess's eyes and nodded reluctantly. "Well," he said, "it's her own
lookout. But I think she'll repent it."

"Will you go quiet?" Bess asked.

"Yes, yes!"

"And you'll not cry out? Nor try to break away?"

"I will not! I will not indeed!"

"You swear it?"

"I do."

"And by G--d," the man interposed bluntly, "she'd better keep to it."

"Very well," Bess said. "You have it your own way. But I tell you
truly, I put you in here for the best. And perhaps you'll know it
before you're an hour older. However, all's said, and it's your own
doing."

"Why don't you let me go?" Henrietta panted. "Let me go, and let me
take the child!"

"Stow it!" the man cried, cutting her short. "It's likely, when
we're as like as not to pay dear for taking you. Do you shut your
talking-trap!"

"She'll be quiet," Bess said, more gently. "So douse the glim, lad.
And do you give me the child," to Henrietta.

But she cried, "No! No!" and held it more closely to her.

"Very good! Then take my hand--you don't know the way. And not a
whisper, mind! Slip the bolt, Giles! And, mum, all!"



                            CHAPTER XXXIV

                          IN TYSON'S KITCHEN


The distance to the house was short. Before Henrietta had done more
than taste the bliss of the open night, had done more than lift her
eyes in thankfulness to the dark profundity above her, she was under
the eaves. A stealthy tap was answered by the turning of a key, a door
was quickly and silently opened, and she was pushed forward. Bess
muttered a word or two--to a person unseen--and gripping her arm,
thrust her along a passage. A second door gave way as mysteriously,
and Henrietta found herself dazzled and blinking on the threshold of
the kitchen which she had left twenty-four hours before. It was
lighted, but not with the wastefulness and extravagance of the
previous evening. Nor did it display those signs of disorder and riot
which had yesterday opened her eyes.

She was sinking under the weight of the child, which she had hugged to
her that it might not cry, and she went straight to the settle and
laid the boy on it. He opened his eyes and looked vacantly before him;
but, apparently, he was too far gone in weakness, or in too much fear,
to cry. While Henrietta, relieved of the weight, and perhaps of a
portion of her fears, sank on the settle beside him, leant her face on
her arms and burst into passionate weeping.

It was perhaps the best thing in her power. For the men had followed
her into the kitchen; and Lunt, with brutal oaths, was asking why she
was there and what new folly was this. Bess turned on him--she well
knew how to meet such attacks; and with scornful tongue she bade him
wait, calling him thick-head, and adding that he'd learn by-and-by, if
he could learn anything. Then, while Giles, ill-content himself,
gave some kind of account of the thing, she began--as if it were a
trifle--to lay the supper. And almost by force she got Henrietta to
the table.

"It's food you want!" she said bluntly. "Don't play the silly! Who's
hurt you? Who's going to hurt you? Here, take a sip of this, and
you'll feel better. Never heed him," with a contemptuous glance at
Lunt. "He's most times a grumbler."

For the moment Henrietta was quite broken, and the pressure which the
other exerted was salutary. She did what she was bidden, swallowing a
mouthful of the Scotch cordial Bess forced on her, and eating and
drinking mechanically. Meanwhile the three men had brought their heads
together, and sat discussing the position with unconcealed grudging
and mistrust.

At length:

"You've grown cursed kind of a sudden!" Lunt swore, scowling at the
two women. The child, in the presence of the men, sat paralysed with
terror. "What's this blamed fuss about?"

"What fuss?" Bess shot at him over her shoulder. And going to the
child she bent over it with a bowl of bread and milk.

"Why don't you lay 'em up in lavender?" the man sneered. "See here,
she was a peacock yesterday and you'd grind her pretty face under your
heel! To-day---- What does it mean? I want to know."

"I suppose you don't want 'em to die?" the girl returned, in the same
tone of contempt.

"What do I care whether they die?"

"They'd be much use to us, dead!" she retorted.

Giles nodded assent.

"The girl's right there," he said in a low tone. "Best leave it to
her. She's a cunning one and no mistake."

"Ay, cunning enough!" Lunt answered. "But whose game is she playing?
Hers or ours?"

"Didn't know you had one!" Bess flung at him. And then in an
undertone, "Dolt!" she muttered.

"It's all one, man, it's all one!" Giles said. On the whole he was for
peace. "Best have supper, and talk it over after."

"And let the first that comes in through the door find her?" Lunt
cried.

"Who's to come?"

"Didn't they come here this morning? And last night? And if she'd been
here, or the child--

"Ay, but they weren't!" Bess answered brusquely. "And that's the
reason the coves won't come again. For the matter of that," turning
fiercely on them, "who was it cleaned up after you, you dirty dogs,
and put this place straight? Without which they'd have known as much
the moment they put their noses in--as if the girl had been sitting on
the settle there. Who was it thought of that, and did it? And hid you
safe upstairs?"

"You did, Bess--you did!" the gipsy answered, speaking for the first
time. "And a gay, clever wench you are!" He looked defiantly at Lunt.
"You're a game cove," he said, "but you're not fly!"

Lunt for answer fired half a dozen oaths at him. But Giles interposed.

"We're all in one boat," he said. "And food's plenty. Let's stop
jawing and to it!"

Two of the men seemed to think the advice good. And they began to eat,
still debating. The third, Saul, continued to listen to his
companions, but his sly eyes never left Henrietta, who sat a little
farther down the table on the opposite side. She was not for some time
aware of his looks, or of their meaning. But Bess, who knew his
nature--he was her cousin--and who saw only what she had feared to
see, frowned as she marked the direction of his glances. In the act of
sitting down she paused, leant over the table, and with a quick
movement swept off the Hollands bottle.

But the gipsy, with a grin, touched Lunt's elbow. And the ruffian
seeing what she was doing, fell into a fresh fury and bade her put the
bottle back again.

"I shall not," she said. "You've ale, and plenty. Do you want to be
drunk if the girl's folks come?"

"Curse you!" he retorted. "Didn't you say a minute ago that they
wouldn't come?"

Giles sided with him--for the first time.

"Ay, that's blowing hot and cold!" he said. "Put the gin back, lass,
and no two words about it."

She stood darkly hesitating, as if she meant to refuse. But Lunt had
risen, and it was clear that he would take no refusal that was not
backed by force. She replaced the Dutch bottle sullenly; and Giles
drew it towards him and with a free hand laced his ale.

"There's naught like dog's nose," he said, "to comfort a man! The lass
forgets that it's wintry weather and I've been out in it!"

"A dram's a dram, winter or summer!" Lunt growled. And he followed the
example.

But Bess knew that she had lost the one ally on whom she had counted.
She could manage Giles sober. But drink was the man's weakness; and
when he was drunk he was as brutal as his comrade; and more dangerous.

She had satisfied her grudge against Henrietta. And she was aware now,
only too well aware, that she had let it carry her too far. She had
nothing to gain by further violence; she had everything to lose by it.
For if the girl were ill-treated, there would be no mercy for any of
the party, if taken; while escape, in the face of the extraordinary
measures which Clyne was taking and of the hostility of the
countryside, was doubtful at the best. As she thought of these things
and ate her supper with a sombre face, she wished with all her heart
that she had never seen the girl, and never, to satisfy a silly spite,
decoyed her. Her one aim now was to get her out of the men's sight,
and to shut her up where she might be safe till morning. It was a
pity, it was a thousand pities, that Henrietta had not stayed in the
smugglers' oven! And Bess wondered if she could even now persuade her
to return to it. But a glance at Henrietta's haggard face, on which
the last twenty-four hours had imprinted a stamp it would take many
times twenty-four hours to efface, warned her that advice--short of
the last extremity--would be useless. It remained to remove the girl
to the only place where she might, with luck, lie safe and unmolested.

In this Henrietta might aid her--had she her wits about her. But
Henrietta did not seem to be awake to the peril. The insolence of the
gipsy's glances, which had yesterday brought the blood to her cheeks,
passed unnoted, so complete was her collapse. Doubtless strength would
return, nay, was even now returning; and presently wit would return.
For her nerves were young, and would quickly recover their tone. But
for the moment, she was almost comatose. Having eaten and drunk, she
sat heavily, with her elbow on the table, her head resting on her
hand. The sleeve had fallen back from her wrist, and the gipsy lad's
eyes rested long and freely on the white roundness of her arm. Her
fair complexion seduced him as no dark beauty had power to seduce. He
eyed her as the tiger eyes the fawn before it springs from covert.
Bess, who read his looks as if they had been an open book, and who saw
that Giles, her one dependence, was growing more sullen and dangerous
with every draught, could have struck Henrietta for her fatuous
stolidity.

One thing was clear. The longer she put off the move, the more
dangerous the men were like to be. Bess never lacked resolution, and
she was quick to take her part. As soon as she had eaten and drunk her
fill, she rose and tapped Henrietta on the shoulder.

"We're best away," she said coolly. "Will you carry the brat upstairs,
or shall I?"

For a moment she thought that she had carried her point. For no one
spoke or objected. But when Henrietta rose and turned to the settle to
take up the boy, the gipsy muttered something in Lunt's ear. The
ruffian glared across at the girls, and struck the haft of his knife
with violence on the board.

"Upstairs?" he roared. "No, my girl, you don't! We keep together! We
keep together! S'help me, if I don't think you mean to peach!"

"Don't be a fool," she answered. And she furtively touched Henrietta's
arm, as a sign to her to be ready. Then to the gipsy lad, in a tone
full of meaning, "The gentry mort," she said, in thieves' patter, "is
not worth the nubbing-cheat. I'm fly, and I'll not have it. Stow it,
my lad, and don't be a flat!"

"And let you peach on us?" he answered, smiling.

Lunt struck the table.

"Stop your lingo!" he said. "Here, you!" to Giles. "Are you going to
let these two sell us? The lass is on to peaching, that's my belief!"

"We'll--soon stop that," Giles replied, with a hiccough. "Here,
I'll--I'll take one, and you--you t'other! And we'll fine well stop
their peaching, pretty dears!" He staggered to his feet as he spoke,
his face inflamed with drink. "Peach, will they?" he muttered, swaying
a little, and scowling at them over the dull, unsnuffed candles.
"We'll stop that, and--and ha' some fun, too."

"S'help us if we don't!" cried Lunt, also rising to his feet. "Let's
live to-day, if we die to-morrow! You take one and I'll take the
other!"

The gipsy lad grinned.

"Who's the flat now?" he chuckled. He alone remained seated, with his
arms on the table. "You've raised your pipe too soon, my lass!"

"Stow this folly!" Bess answered, keeping a bold face. "We're going
upstairs," she continued. "Do you"--to Henrietta--"bring the child."

But, "Curse me if you are!" Giles answered. Drink had made him the
more dangerous of the two. He lurched forward as he spoke, and placed
himself between the girls and the foot of the open staircase that led
to the upper floor. "We're one apiece for you and one over! And you're
going to stay, my girls, and amuse us!"

And he opened his arms, with a tipsy laugh.

If Henrietta had been slow to see the danger, she saw it now. And the
shock was the greater. The men's flushed faces and vinous eyes, still
more the dark face of the smiling gipsy who had raised the tempest for
his own ends, filled her with fear. She clutched the child to her, but
as much by instinct as from calculation; and she cast a desperate look
round her--only to see that retreat was cut off. The girls were hemmed
in on the hearth between the fire and the long table, and it was hard
to say which of the men she most dreaded. She had gone through much
already and she cowered, white to the lips, behind her companion, who,
for her part, looked greater confidence than she felt. But whatever
Bess's fears, she rallied bravely to the occasion, being no stranger
to such scenes.

"Well," she said, temporising, "we'll sit down a bit if you'll mind
your manners. But we'll sit here, my lads, and together."

"No, one apiece," Giles hiccoughed, before she had finished speaking.
"One apiece! You come and sit by me--'twon't be the first time, my
beauty! And--and t'other one by him!"

Bess stamped her foot in a rage.

"No!" she cried, "I will not! You'll just stay on your own side! And
we on ours!"

"You'll just do as I say!" the man answered, with tipsy obstinacy.
"You'll just do--as I say!"

And he lurched forward, thinking to take her by surprise and seize
her.

Henrietta screamed, and recoiled to the farthest corner of the chimney
nook. Bess stood her ground, but with a dark face thrust her hand into
her bosom--probably for a knife. She never drew it, however. Before
Giles could touch her, or Lunt, who was coasting about the long table
to come at Henrietta, had compassed half the distance--there was a
knock at the door.

It was a small thing, but it was enough. It checked the men as
effectually as if it had been the knell of doom. They hung arrested,
eye questioning eye; or, in turn, tip-toeing to gain their weapons,
they cast looks of menace at the women. And they listened with murder
in their eyes.

"If you breathe a word," Giles hissed, "I'll throttle you!"

And he raised his hand for silence. The knock was repeated.

"Some one must go," the gipsy lad muttered.

His face was sallow with fear.

"Go?" Bess answered, in a low tone, but one of fierce passion. "Who's
to go but me? See now where you'd be without me!"

"And do you see here," Lunt made answer, and he drew a pistol from his
pocket, and cocked it, "one word more than's needful, and I'll blow
your brains out, my lass. If I go, you go first! So mark me, and speak
'em fair!"

And with a gesture he pointed to the dairy, and beckoned to the other
men to retire thither.

He seemed to be about to command Henrietta to go with them. But he saw
that in sheer terror she would disobey him, or he thought her
sufficiently hidden where she was. For when he had seen the other men
out he followed them, and holding the door of the dairy half open
showed Bess the pistol.

"Now," he said, "and by G--d, remember. For I'll keep my word."

Bess had already, with a hasty hand, removed some of the plates and
mugs from the table. She made sure that Henrietta was all but
invisible behind the settle. Then she went to the door.

"Who's there?" she cried aloud.

No one answered, but the knock was repeated.

Henrietta raised her white face above the level of the settle. She
listened, and hope, terrified as she was, rose in her heart. Who was
likely to visit this lonely house at so late an hour? Was it not
almost certain that her friends were there? And that another minute
would see her safe in their hands?

Giles's dark face peering from the doorway of the dairy answered that
question. The muzzle of his weapon now covered her, now Bess. Sick at
heart, almost fainting, she sank again behind the settle and prayed.
While Bess with a noisy hand thrust back the great bar, and opened the
door.

There was no inrush of feet, and Bess looked out.

"Well, who is it?" she asked of the darkness. "You're late enough,
whoever you are."

The entering draught blew the flames of the candles awry. Then a
woman's voice was heard:

"I've come to ask how the missus is," it said.

"Oh, you have, have you? And a fine time this!" Bess scolded, with
wonderful glibness. "She's neither better nor worse. So there! I hope
you think it's worth your trouble!"

"And the baby? I heard it was dead."

"Then you heard a lie!"

The visitor, who was no other than Mrs. Tyson's old servant, the
stolid woman who had once admitted Henrietta to the house, seemed at a
loss what to say next. After an awkward pause:

"Oh," she said, "well, I am glad. I was not sure you hadn't left her.
And if she can't get out of her bed----"

"You thought there'd be pickings about!" Bess cried, in her most
insolent tone. "Well, there ain't, my girl! And don't you come up
again scaring us after dark, or you'll hear a bit more of my mind!"

"You're not easy scared!" the woman retorted contemptuously. "Don't
tell me! It takes more than the dark to frighten you!"

"Anyway, nine o'clock is my hour for getting scared," Bess returned.
"And as it's after that, and you've a dark walk back---- D'you come
through the wood?"

"Ay, I did."

"Then you'd best go back that way!" Bess replied.

And she shut the door in the woman's face, and flung the bar over with
a resounding bang.

And quickly, before the men, heaving sighs of relief, had had time to
emerge from their retreat, she was across the floor, and had dragged
Henrietta to her feet.

"Up the stairs!" she whispered. "The door on the left! Knock! Knock!
I'll keep them back."

Taken by surprise as she was, Henrietta's courage rose. She bounded to
the open stairs, and was half-way up before the men took in the
position and understood that she was escaping them. They rushed
forward then, falling over one another in their eagerness to seize
her. But they were too late, Bess was before them. She sprang on to
the widest of the lower steps where the staircase turned in the corner
of the room, and flashing her knife in their eyes, she swore that she
would blind the first man who ascended. They knew her, and for the
moment fell back daunted and dismayed; for Giles had put up his
pistol. He bethought himself, indeed, of pulling it out, when he found
parley useless; but it was then too late. By that time Bess's ear told
her that Henrietta was safe in Mrs. Tyson's room, with the bolt shot
behind her.



                             CHAPTER XXXV

                           THROUGH THE WOOD


Behind the closed door the two haggard-faced women looked at one
another. Mrs. Tyson had not left her bed for many days. But she had
heard the knocking at the outer door and the answering growl of the
dog chained under her window; and hoping, yet scarcely daring to
expect, that the nightmare was over and her husband or her friends
were at hand, she had dragged herself from the bed and opened the door
as soon as the knocking sounded in turn at that.

For days, indeed, one strand, and one only, had held the feeble,
frightened woman to life; and that strand was the babe that lay beside
her. The sheep will fight for its lamb, the wren for its fledglings.
And Mrs. Tyson, if she had not fought, had for the babe's sake borne
and endured; and surrounded by the ruffians who had the house at their
mercy, she had survived terrors that in other circumstances would have
driven her mad.

True, Bess had not ill-treated her. On the contrary, she had been
almost kind to her. And lonely and ill, dependent on her for
everything, the woman had lost much of her dread of the girl; though
now and again, in sheer wantonness, Bess would play with her fears.
Certain that the weak-willed creature would not dare to tell what she
knew, Bess had boasted to her of Henrietta's presence and her danger
and her plight. When Henrietta, therefore, the moment the door was
unfastened, flung herself into the room, and with frantic fingers
helped to secure the door behind her, Mrs. Tyson was astonished
indeed; but less astonished than alarmed. She was alarmed in truth,
almost to swooning, and showed a face as white as paper.

Luckily, Henrietta had resumed the wit and courage of which stupor had
deprived her for a time. She had no longer Bess at her elbow to bid
her do this or that. But she had Bess's example and her own spirit.
There was an instant of stricken silence, during which she and the
woman looked fearfully into one another's faces by the light of the
poor dip that burned beside the gloomy tester. Then Henrietta took her
part. She laid down the child, to which she had clung instinctively;
and with a strength which surprised herself, she dragged a chest, that
stood but a foot on one side of the opening, across the door. It would
not withstand the men long, but it would check them. She looked
doubtfully at the bed, but mistrusted her power to move it. And before
she could do more, a sound reached them from an unexpected quarter,
and struck at the root of her plans. For it came from the window; and
so unexpectedly, that it flung them into one another's arms.

Mrs. Tyson screamed loudly. They clung to one another.

"What is it? What is it?" Henrietta cried.

Then she saw a spectral face pressed against the dark casement. A hand
tapped repeatedly on a pane.

Henrietta put Mrs. Tyson from her and approached the window. She
discovered that the face was a woman's face, and with fumbling fingers
she slid aside the catch that secured the window.

"Tell the missus not to be scared," whispered an anxious voice. "Tell
her it's me! I got up the pear tree to see her, and I saw you. I knew
that Bess was lying, and I thought I'd--I thought I'd just get up and
see for myself!"

"Thank God!" Henrietta cried, clinging to the sill in a passion of
relief as she recognised the stolid-faced servant. "You know me?"

"You're the young lady that's missing?" the woman answered, taking a
securer hold of the window-frame, and bringing her head into the room.
"I know you. I was thinking if I dared scare the missus, when I see
you tumble in--I nigh tumbled down with surprise! I'll go hot-foot and
take the news, miss!"

"No, no, I shall come!"

"You let me go and fetch 'em! I'll bet, miss, I'll be welcome. And do
you bide quiet and safe. Now we know where you are, they'll not harm
you."

But Henrietta had heard a footstep on the stairs, and she was not
going to bide quiet. She had no belief in her safety.

"No," she said resolutely. "I am coming. Can you take the child?"

"Well, if you must, but----"

"I must! I must!"

"Lord, you are frightened!" the woman muttered, looking at her face.
And then, catching the infection, "Is't as bad as that?" she said.
"Ay, give me the child, then. And for the Lord's sake, be quick, miss.
This pear is as good as a ladder, and the dog knows me as well as its
own folk!"

"The child! The child!" Henrietta repeated. Again her ear had caught
the sound of shuffling feet, and of whispering on the stairs. She
carried the child, which seemed paralysed by fear, to the sill, and
delivered it into the other's arm.

The sill of the window was barely ten feet from the ground, and an old
pear tree, spread-eagled against the wall, formed a natural ladder.
The dog, which had been chained under the window to guard against
egress, knew the woman and did no more than stand below and wag its
tail. In two minutes Henrietta was safe on the ground, had taken the
child from the other's arms, and was ready for flight.

But the servant would not leave until she had made sure that her
mistress had strength to close the window. That done, she turned to
Henrietta.

"Now come!" she said. "And don't spare yourself, miss, for if they
catch us after this they'll for certain cut our throats!"

Henrietta had no need of the spur, and at their best pace the two fled
down the paddock, the servant-wench holding Henrietta by the elbow and
impelling her. The moon had risen, and Mrs. Tyson, poor, terrified,
trembling woman, watching them from the window, could follow them down
the pale meadow, and even discern the dark line of the rivulet, along
the bank of which they passed, and here and there a patch of higher
herbage, or a solitary boulder left in the middle of the turf for a
scratching-post. Perhaps she made, in leaning forward, some noise
which irritated the dog; or perhaps the moonlight annoyed it. At any
rate, it began to bay.

By that time, however, Henrietta and her companion had gained the
shadow of the trees at the upper end of the wooded gorge through which
the stream escaped. They stood there a brief while to take breath, and
the woman offered to carry the child. But Henrietta, though she felt
that her strength was uncertain, though she experienced an odd
giddiness, was unwilling to resign her charge. And after a pause they
started to descend the winding path which followed the stream, and
often crossed and re-crossed it.

They stumbled along as fast as they could. But this was not very fast.
For not only was it dark in the covert, but the track was beset with
projecting roots, and overhead branches hung low and scraped their
faces. More than once startled by a rabbit, or the gurgle of the
falling water, they stopped to listen, fancying that they were
pursued. Still they went fast enough to feel ultimate safety certain;
and Henrietta, as she held an end of the other's petticoat between her
fingers and followed patiently, bade herself bear up a little longer
and it would be over. It would soon be over, and she--she would put
his child in his arms. It would soon be over, and she would be able to
sink down upon her bed and rest. For she was very weary--and odd.
Very, unaccountably weary. When she stumbled or her foot found the
descent longer than she expected, she staggered and swayed on her
feet.

But, "We shall soon be safe! We shall soon be safe!" she told herself.
"And the child!"

Meanwhile they had passed the darkest part of the little ravine. They
had passed the place where the waterfalls made the descent most
arduous. They could even see below them a piece of the road lying
white in the moonlight.

On a sudden Henrietta stopped.

"You must take the child," she faltered, in a tone that startled her
companion. "I can't carry--it any farther."

"I'll take it. You should have given it me before!" the woman scolded.
"That's better. Quiet, my lad. I'll not hurt you!" For the child,
silent hitherto, had begun to whimper. "Now, miss," she continued
sharply, "bear up! It's but a little way farther."

"I don't think--I can," Henrietta said. The crisis over, she felt her
strength ebbing away in the strangest fashion. She swayed, and had to
cling to a tree for support. "You must go on--without me," she
stammered.

"I'll not go on without you," the woman answered. She was loath to
leave the girl helpless in the wood, where it was possible that she
might still come to harm. "You come down to the road, miss. Pluck up!
Pluck up! It's but a step!"

And partly by words, partly by means of a vigorous arm, the good
creature got the girl to the bottom of the wood, and by a last effort,
half lifted, half dragged her over the stile which closed the gap in
the wall. But once in the road, Henrietta seemed scarcely conscious
where she was. She tottered, and the moment the woman took her hands
from her, she sank down against the wall.

"Leave me! Leave me!" she muttered, with a last exertion of sense.
"And take the child! I'm--giddy. Only giddy! I shall be better in a
minute." Then, "I think--I think I am fainting."

"I think you are," the woman answered drily. She stooped over her.
"Poor thing!" she said. "There's no knowing what has happened to her!
But she'll freeze as she is!"

And whipping off her thick drugget shawl--they made such shawls in
Kendal--she wrapped it about the girl, snatched up the child, and set
off running and walking along the road. The Low Wood Inn lay not more
than four furlongs away, and she counted on returning in twenty
minutes.

"Ay, in twenty minutes!" she muttered, and then, saving her breath,
she kept on steadily along the moonlit road, soothing the child with a
word when it was necessary. In a very brief time she was out of sight.

For a while all was still as death. Then favoured by the recumbent
position, Henrietta began to recover; and presently, but not until
some minutes had elapsed, she came to herself.

She sighed deeply, and gazing upward at the dark sky, with its
twinkling stars, she wondered how she came to be in such a strange
place; but without any desire to rise, or any wish to solve the
riddle. A second sigh as deep as the first lifted the oppression from
her breast; and with returning strength she wondered what was the long
dark line that bounded her vision. Was it, could it be, the head-board
of her bed? Or the tester?

It was, in fact, the wall that bounded the wood, but she was not able
to take that in. And though the nipping air, blowing freely on her
face, was doing its best to refresh her, and she was beginning to
grope in her memory for the past, it needed a sound, a voice, to
restore to her, not her powers, but her consciousness. The event soon
happened. Two men drew near, talking in low fierce tones. At first,
lying there as in a dream, she heard without understanding; and then,
still powerless under the spell, she heard and understood.

"Why didn't you," Lunt's voice growled hoarsely, "loose the dog, as I
told you? We'd have had her by now."

"Ay, and have had the country about our ears, too," Giles answered
angrily.

"And shan't we have it about our ears when that vixen has told her
tale?" the other cried. "I swear my neck aches now!"

"She couldn't carry the brat far, nor fast."

"No, but--what's that?" There was alarm in Lunt's tone.

"Only the lad following us," Giles answered. "He's brought the
lanthorn."

Perhaps the three separated then: perhaps not. She could not rise to
see. She was paralysed. She lay as in a nightmare, and was conscious
only of the yellow gleam of the lanthorn as it quartered the ground
this way and that, and came nearer and nearer. At last the man who
carried it was close to her; on the other side of the wall. He raised
the lanthorn above his head, and looked over the wall. By evil chance,
the light focussed itself upon her.

She knew that she was discovered. And her terror was the greater
because she knew that the man who held the lanthorn was the
gipsy--whom she feared the most of all. But she was not capable of
motion or of resistance; and though he held the light steadily on her,
and for a few seconds she saw in the side-glow his dark features
gleaming down at her, she lay fascinated. She waited for him to
proclaim his discovery.

He shut off the light abruptly.

"So--ho! back!" he cried. "She's not this way! Maybe she's in the
bushes above!"

"This way?"

"Ay!"

"Then, burn you, why don't you bring the light, instead of talking?"
Lunt retorted. And from the sound he appeared to be kicking the nearer
bushes, and probing them with a stick.

The gipsy answered impudently, and the three, blaming one another,
moved off up the wood.

"You should have brought the dog," one cried.

"Oh, curse the dog!" was the answer. "I tell you she can't be far
off! She can't have come as low as this." The light was thrown hither
and thither. "She's somewhere among the bushes. We'll hap on her
by-and-by."

"And s'help me when we do," Lunt answered, "I'll----"

And then, mercifully, the voices grew indistinct. The flicker of the
lanthorn was lost among the trees. With wonder and stupefaction
Henrietta found herself alone, found herself faint, gasping, scarcely
sensible--but safe! Safe!

She could not understand the why or the wherefore of her escape, and
she had not energy to try to fathom it. She lay a few seconds to rest
and clear her head, and then she thought that she would try to rise.
She was on her knees, and was supporting herself with one hand against
the cold, rough surface of the wall, when every fibre in her cried
suddenly, Alarm! Alarm! He was coming back. Yes, he was coming back,
leaping and running, bursting his way through the undergrowth. And she
understood. He had led the others away and he was coming back--alone!

She fell back feeling deadly faint. Then she tried to rise, but she
could not, and she screamed. She screamed hoarsely once and again,
and, oh, joy! even as the gipsy clambered over the stile, sprang into
the road and came to seize her, and all her being arose in revolt
against him, a voice answered her, feet came racing up the road, a man
appeared, she was no longer alone.

It was the chaplain, panting and horrified. He had been the first to
be alarmed by the woman's tale, and running out of the house unarmed
and hatless he had come in time, in the nick of time! Across her
lifeless body, for at last she had swooned quite away, the gipsy and
he looked at one another by the light of the moon. And without
warning, without a word said, the gipsy came at him like a wildcat, a
knife in his hand. Sutton saw the gleam of the weapon, and the gleam
of the man's savage eyes, but he held his ground gallantly. With a
yell for help he let the man close with him, and, more by luck than
skill, he parried the blow which the other had dealt him with the
knife. But the gipsy, finding his arm clutched and held, struck his
enemy with his left fist a heavy blow between the eyes. The poor
chaplain fell stunned and breathless.

The gipsy stood over him an instant to see if he would rise. But he
did not move; and the man turned to the girl, who lay insensible
beside the wall. He stooped to raise her, with the intention of
putting her over the wall. But in the act he heard a shout, and he
lifted his head to listen, supposing that his comrades had got wind of
the skirmish.

It was not his comrades; for despairing of retaking the girl, they had
hurried back to the house to attend to their own safety. He stooped
again; but this time he heard the patter of footsteps coming up the
road, and a man came in sight in the moonlight. With every passion
roused, and determined, since he had risked so much, that he would not
be balked, the gipsy lifted the girl none the less, and had raised her
almost to the level of the top of the wall, when the man shouted anew.
Perforce the ruffian let the girl down again, and with a snarl of rage
turned and faced the newcomer with his knife.

But Clyne--for it was he--had not come unarmed. For many days he had
not gone so much as a step unarmed. And the stranger's attitude as he
let the girl fall, and the gleam of his knife, were enough. The man
rushed at him, as he had rushed at the chaplain, with the ferocity of
a wild beast. But Clyne met him with a burst of flame and shot, and
then with a second shot; and the gipsy whirled round with a muffled
cry and fell--at first it seemed backwards. But when he reached the
ground he lay limp and doubled up with his face to his knees, and one
arm under him.

Clyne, with the smoking pistol in his hand, bent over him, ready, if
he moved, to beat out his brains. But there was no need of that third
blow, which he would have given with hearty good-will. And he turned
to the girl. Something, perhaps the pistol-shot, had brought her to
herself. She had raised herself against the wall, and holding it, was
looking wildly about her; not at the dead man, nor at the chaplain,
who stirred and groaned. But at Clyne. And when he approached her she
threw herself on his breast and clung to him.

"Oh, don't let me go! Oh, don't let me go!" she cried.

He tried to soothe her, he tried to pacify her; keeping himself
between her and the prostrate man.

"I won't," he said. "I won't. You are quite safe. You are quite safe."

He had fired with a hand as steady as a rock, but his voice shook now.

"Oh, don't let me go!" she repeated hysterically. "Oh, don't let me
go!"

"You are safe! you are safe!" he assured her, holding her more
closely, and yet more closely to him.

And when Bishop and Long Tom Gilson, and three or four others, came up
at a run, breathing fire and slaughter, he was still supporting her;
and she was crying to him, in a voice that went to the men's hearts,
"Not to let her go! Not to let her go!"

Alas, too, that was the sight which met the poor chaplain's swimming
gaze when he came to himself, and, groaning, felt the bump between his
eyes--the bump which he had got in her defence.



                            CHAPTER XXXVI

                            TWO OF A RACE


It was Thursday, and three days had passed since the Sunday, the day
of many happenings, which had cleared up the mystery and restored
Henrietta to Mrs. Gilson's care. The frost still held, the air was
brisk and clear. The Langdale Pikes lifted themselves sharp and
glittering from the line of grey screes that run southward to
Wetherlamb and the Coniston Mountain. A light air blew down the lake,
ruffling the open water, and bedecking the leafless woods on Wray
Point with a fringe of white breakers. The morning was a perfect
winter morning, the sky of that cloudless, but not over-deep blue,
which portends a long and steady frost. Horses' hoofs rang loud on the
road; and rooks gathered where they had passed. Men who stopped to
talk hit their palms together or swung their arms. The larger and
wiser birds had started betimes for salt water and the mussel
preserves on the Cartmel Sands.

The inquest on the gipsy had been held, but something perfunctorily,
after the fashion of the day. Captain Clyne and the chaplain had told
their stories, and after a few words from the coroner, a verdict of
justifiable homicide had been heartily given, and the jury had
resolved itself into a "free and easy" in the tap-room; while the
coroner had delivered himself of much wisdom, and laid down much law
in Mrs. Gilson's snuggery.

Henrietta had not been made to appear; for carried upstairs, in a
state as like death as life, on Sunday evening, she had kept her room
until this morning. She would fain have kept it longer, but there were
reasons against that. And now, with the timidity which a retreat from
every-day life breeds--and perhaps with some flutterings of the heart
on another account--she was pausing before her looking-glass, and
trying to gather courage to descend and face the world.

She was still pale; and when she met her own eyes in the mirror, a
quivering smile, a something verging on the piteous in her face, told
of nerves which time had not yet steadied. Possibly, her reluctance to
go down, though the hour was late, and Mrs. Gilson would scold, had a
like origin. None the less, she presently conquered it, opened her
door and descended; as she had done on that morning of her arrival, a
few weeks back, and yet--oh, such a long time back!

Now, as then, when she had threaded the dark passages and come to the
door of Mr. Rogers's room, she paused faint-hearted, and, with her
hand raised to the latch, listened. She heard no sound, and she opened
the door and went in. The table was laid for one.

She heaved a sigh of relief, and--cut it short midway. For Captain
Clyne came forward from one of the windows at which he had been
standing.

"I am glad that you are better," he said stiffly, and in a constrained
tone, "and able to come down."

"Oh yes, thank you," she answered, striving to speak heartily, and
repressing with difficulty that proneness of the lip to quiver. "I
think I am quite well now. Quite well! I am sure, after this long
time, I should be."

And she turned away and affected to warm her hands at the fire.

He did not look directly at her--he avoided doing so. But he could see
the reflection of her face in the oval-framed mirror, as she stood
upright again. He saw that she had lost for the time the creamy warmth
of complexion that was one of her chief beauties. She was pale and
thin, and looked ill.

"You have been very severely shaken," he said. "No doubt you feel it
still!"

"Yes," she answered, "a little. I think I do."

"Perhaps you had better be alone?"

She did not know what to say to that. Perhaps she did not know what
she wished. Her lip quivered. This was very unlike what she had
expected and what she had dreaded. But it was worse. He seemed to be
waiting for her answer--that he might go. What could she say?

"Just as you like," she murmured at last.

"Oh, but I wish to do what you like!" he replied, with a little more
warmth; but still awkwardly and with constraint.

"So do I," she replied.

"I shall stay then," he answered. And he lifted a small dish from the
hearth and carried it to the table. "I had Mrs. Gilson's orders to
keep this hot for you," he said.

"It was very kind of you."

"I am afraid," more lightly, "that it was fear of Mrs. Gilson weighed
on me as much as anything."

He returned to the hearth when he had seen her seated. And she began
her breakfast with her eyes on the table. With the first draught of
coffee a feeling of warmth and courage ran through her; and he,
standing with his elbow on the mantel-piece and his eyes on the
mirror, saw the change in her.

"The boy is better," he said suddenly. "I think he will do now."

"Yes?"

"I think so. But he will need great care. He will not be able to leave
his bed for a day or two. We found your brooch pinned inside his
clothes."

"Yes?"

He turned sharply and for the first time looked directly at her.

"Of course, we knew why you put it there. It was good of you. But
why--don't you ask after him, Henrietta?" in a different tone.

She felt the colour rise to her cheeks--and she wished it anywhere
else.

"I saw him this morning," she murmured.

"Oh!" he replied in surprise. And he turned to the mirror again. "I
see."

She began to wish that he would leave her, for his silence made her
horribly nervous. And she dared not start a subject herself, because
she could not trust her voice. The hands of the white-faced clock
jerked slowly on, marking the seconds, and accentuating the silence.
She grew so nervous at last that she could not lift her eyes from her
plate, and she ate though she was scarcely able to swallow, because
she dared not leave off.

It did not occur to her that Anthony Clyne was as ill at ease as she
was; and oppressed, moreover, to a much greater degree by the memory
of certain scenes which had taken place in that room. Her nervousness
was in part the reflection of his constraint. And his constraint arose
from two feelings widely different.

The long silence was becoming painful to both, when he forced himself
to break it.

"I am so very, very deeply beholden to you," he said, in a constrained
tone, "that--that I must ask you, Henrietta, to listen to me for a few
minutes--even if it be unpleasant to you."

She laughed awkwardly.

"If it is only," she answered, "because you are beholden to
me--that--that you feel it necessary to thank me at length, please
don't. You will only overwhelm me."

"It is not for that reason only," he said. And he knew that he spoke,
much against his will, with dreadful solemnity. "No. Naturally we must
have much to say to one another. I, in particular, who owe to you----"

"Please let that be," she protested.

"But I cannot. I cannot!" he repeated. "You have done me so great a
service, at a risk so great, and under circumstances so--so----"

"So remarkable," she cried, with something of her old girlish manner,
"that you cannot find words in which to describe them! Then please
don't." And then, more seriously: "I did not do what I did to be
thanked."

"Then why?" he asked quickly. "Why did you do it?"

"Did you think," she protested, "that I did it to be thanked?"

"No, but--why did you do it, Henrietta?" he asked persistently. "Such
a risk, such men, such circumstances, might have deterred any woman.
Nay, almost any man."

She toyed with her teaspoon; there had come a faint flush of colour
into her cheeks.

"I think it was--I think it was just to reinstate myself," she
murmured.

"You mean?"

"You gave me to understand," she explained, "that you thought ill of
me. And I wished you to think well of me; or better of me, I should
say, for I did not expect you to think quite well of me after--you
know!" in some confusion.

"You wished to be reinstated?"

"Yes."

"I wonder," he said slowly, "how much you mean by that."

"I mean what I say," she answered, looking at him.

"Yes, but do you mean that you--wish to be reinstated altogether?"

She did not remove her eyes from his face, but she blushed to the
roots of her hair.

"I am not sure that I understand," she said with a slight air of
offence.

"No?" he said. "And perhaps I did not quite mean that. What I did
mean, and do mean, what I am hoping, what I am looking forward to,
Henrietta----" and there he broke off.

He seemed to find it necessary to begin again:

"Perhaps I had better explain," he said more soberly. "You told me
that morning by the lake some home-truths, you remember? You showed me
that what had happened was not all your fault; was perhaps not at all
your fault. And you showed me this with so much energy and power, that
I went away with the first clear impression of you I had had in my
life. Yes, with the feeling that I had never known you until then." He
dropped his eyes, and looked thoughtfully at something on the table.
"And one of the things I remember best, and which I shall always
remember, was your saying that I had never paid any court to you."

"It was true," she said, in a low voice.

And she too did not look at him, but kept her eyes bent on the spoon
with which she toyed.

"Yes. Well, if you will let the old state of things be so far
reinstated as to--let me begin to pay my court to you now, I am not
confident, I am very far from confident, that I can please you. I am
rather old, for one thing"--with a rueful laugh--"to make love
gracefully, and rather stiff and--political. But owing to the trouble
I have brought upon you in the past----"

"I never said but that we both brought it!" Henrietta objected
suddenly.

"Well, whoever brought it----"

"We both brought it!" she repeated obstinately.

"Very well. I mean only that the trouble----"

"Makes it unlikely that I shall find another husband?" she said. "Pray
be frank with me! That," rising and going to the window, and then
turning to confront him, "is what you mean, is it not? That is exactly
what you mean, I am sure?"

"Something of that kind, perhaps," he admitted.

"But you forget Mr. Sutton!" she said--and paused. She took one step
forward, and her eyes shone. "You forget Mr. Sutton, Captain Clyne.
The gentleman to whom you handed me over! To whom you gave so clear a
certainty that I was for the first comer who was willing. He is
willing, quite willing!"

"But----"

"And it cannot be said that he did not behave gallantly on Sunday
night! I am told----"

"He behaved admirably."

"And he is willing!" she flung the word at him--"quite willing to
marry me--disgraced as I am! As you have always, always hinted I am!
And not out of pity, Captain Clyne. Let us be frank with one another.
You were very frank with me once--more than frank." She held out her
wrist, which was still faintly discoloured. "When a man does that to a
woman," she said, "she either loves him, sir, or hates him."

"Yes," he said slowly--very slowly. "I see. Your mind is made up,
then----"

"That I will not accept your kind offer to--pay your court to me?" she
answered, with derision. "Certainly. I have no mind to be wooed by
you!" Again she held out her wrist. "You know the stale proverb: 'He
that will not when he may, when he will he shall have nay!'" And she
made him a little bow, her eyes sparkling, her cheeks bright.

He turned his back on her, and stood for a moment looking from the
window which was the nearer to the fire--the one looking over the
lake. The words of her proverb--stale enough in truth--ran very
sorrowfully in his ears. "He that will not when he may! He that will
not when he may!" No, he might have known that she was not one to
forget. He might have known that the words he had said, and the things
that he had done, would rankle. And that she who had not hesitated to
elope--to punish him for his neglect of her--would not hesitate to
punish him for worse than neglect. He stood a long minute watching the
tiny waves burst into white lines at the foot of Hayes Woods. No, she
could not forget--nor forgive. But she could act, she had acted, as if
she had done both. She had saved his child. She had risked her life
for it. And if she had done that with this resentment, this feeling in
her heart, if she had done it, moved only by the desire to show him
that he had misjudged her--in a sense it was the nobler act, and one
like--ay, he owned it sorrowfully--like herself! At any rate, it did
not become him to cast a word of reproach at her. She had saved his
child.

He turned at length, and looked at her. He saw that her figure had
lost its elation, and her cheeks their colour. She was leaning against
the side of the window, and looked tired and ill, and almost as she
had looked when she came into the room. His heart melted.

"I would like you to know one thing," he said, "before I go. Your
triumph is greater, Henrietta, than you think, and your revenge more
complete. It is no question of pity with me, but of love." He paused,
and laughed awry. "The worse for me, you will say, and the better for
you. _Vae victis!_ Still, even if you hate me----"

"I did not say that I hated you!"

"You said----"

"I did not! I did not!" she repeated, with a queer little laugh. And
she sat down on the window seat, and turned quickly with a pettish
movement, so that he could only see the side of her face. "I said
nothing of the kind."

"But----"

"I said something very different!"

"You said----"

"I said that when a man pinches a girl's wrist black and blue, and
swears at her--yes, Captain Clyne," firmly, "you swore at me, and
called me----"

"Don't!" he said.


[Illustration: She was leaning against the side of the window ...]


"I only said," she continued breathlessly, "that when a man does that,
the woman either loves him or hates him!"

"Henrietta!"

"Captain Clyne!"

After a long pause, "I think I understand you," he said slowly, "but
if you--if there were any feeling, the least feeling of that kind on
your part, you would not have forbidden me to--to think of seeking you
for my wife."

"I didn't!" she answered. "I told you that you should not pay your
court to me. And you shall not! You cannot," half laughing and half
crying, "woo what's won, can you? If you still think it is worth the
winning! Only," stopping him by a gesture as he came towards her, "you
are not to give me over to Mr. Sutton again, whatever I do! You must
promise me that."

"I won't!" he said.

"You are quite sure, sir? However I behave? And even if I run away
from you?"

"Quite sure!"

And a few minutes later, "Poor Sutton!" he said. "We must try to make
it up to him."

She laughed.

"It is a good thing you did not set out to woo me," she answered. "For
you would not have shone at it. Make it up to him indeed! Make it up
to him! What a thing, sir, to say to--me!"


                          *   *   *   *   *


It was not made up to Mr. Sutton; though the best living that could be
procured by an exchange with the Bishop of Durham--and there were fat
livings in Durham in those days, and small blame if a man held two of
them--was found for the chaplain. He married, too, a lady of the
decayed house of Conyers of Sockburn, beside which the Damers and the
Clynes were upstairs. And so both in his fortune and his wife's family
he did as well--almost--as he had hoped to do. But though he accepted
his patron's gift, he came seldom to Clyne Old Hall; and some held him
ungrateful. Moreover, a little later, when to be a radical was not
counted quite so dreadful a thing, he turned radical in all but the
white hat. And Clyne was disappointed, but not surprised. Henrietta,
however, understood. Though children running about her knees had tamed
her wildness and caged her pride, she was still a woman, and the
memory of a past conquest was not ungrateful. She had no desire to see
the pale replica of Mr. Pitt, but she sometimes thought of him, and
always kindly and with gratitude.

There was a third lover, of whom she never thought without
unhappiness.

"You will never tell the children? You will never tell the children?"
was her prayer to her husband when Walterson was in question.

And though he answered with gravity, "Not unless you do it again, my
dear," the sting of remembrance did not cease to rankle.

Walterson was traced to Leith--and thence to Holland. There the trail
was lost, and it is believed that he did not live to return to
England. Whether he did return or not--and Bow Street, and Mr. Bishop
in particular, kept watch for him long--he never re-entered
Henrietta's life. As the memory of the French Revolution faded from
men's minds, the struggle for reform fell into more reputable and less
violent hands. Silly and turbulent men of the type of him who had
turned the girl's young head no longer counted; or, rising to the top
at moments of public excitement, vanished as quickly, and no man knew
whither.

Giles and Lunt were not taken on that Sunday night. They escaped, it
was supposed, to Scotland, by way of Patterdale and the Moors. Less
fortunate, however, than Walterson, they returned to London and fell
in again with Thistlewood. They yielded to the fascination of that
remarkable and unhappy man, took part in his schemes, and were taken
with him in the loft over the stable in Cato Street, when the attempt
to murder the cabinet at Lord Harrowby's house in Grosvenor Square
miscarried. He and they got a fair trial, but little pity. And it is
not to be supposed that upon the scaffold in the Old Bailey, they
thought much of the lonely house in the hollow at Troutbeck, or of the
helpless woman whom they had terrorised. To their credit, be it said,
they died more worthily than they had lived; and with them came to a
close the movement which sought to reach reform by the road of
violence, and to that end held no instruments too cheap or vile.

Tyson came out of the adventure a wiser and perhaps a better man. For
on his return from the north he found it hard to free himself from the
charge of complicity in the acts of those who had used his house; nor
did he succeed until he had lain some weeks in Appleby gaol. He would
fain have avenged himself on Bess, but for reasons to be stated, he
could not enjoy this satisfaction. And his neighbours sent him to
Coventry. Had he been a strong man he might have defied them and
public opinion. But he was only a braggart, and that which must have
embittered many, tamed him. He turned to his wife for comfort, sought
his home more than before, and gradually settled down into a tolerable
citizen and a high Tory.

Bess saved herself by her own wit and courage. The Monday's light saw
her dragged to Kendal prison, where they were not so gentle with her
as they had been with Henrietta. Her story went with her, and, "They
say you stole a child," the little girl murmured, standing at her knee
and staring at her, "and 'll be hanged at the March fair."

"Not I," said Bess. "It's almost a pity, too, ain't it? There'd be a
fine crowd to see!"

The child's eyes sparkled.

"Yes," she said. "There'd be a crowd, too."

But Bess played a fine stroke. She sent for her rival on the Friday,
and Henrietta, twenty-four hours betrothed, and very far from unhappy,
took that road once more, and went to her.

"I saved you," said Bess, with coolness. "Yes, I did. Don't deny it!
Now do you save me."

And Henrietta moved heaven and earth and Anthony Clyne to save her.
She succeeded. Bess went abroad--to join Walterson, it was rumoured.
If so, she returned without him, for on the old miser's death she
appeared on Windermere, sold Starvecrow Farm and all its belongings,
and removed to the south, but to what part is not known, nor are any
particulars of her later fortunes within reach. Some said that she
played a part in the great riots at Bristol twelve years later, but
the evidence is inconclusive, and dark women possessing a strain of
gipsy blood are not uncommon.

Nor are women with a sharp tongue and a warm heart. Yet when Mrs.
Gilson died in the year of those very riots, and at a good age, there
was a gathering to bury her in Troutbeck graveyard as great as if she
had been a Lowther. The procession, horse and foot, was a mile long.
And when those who knew her least wondered whence all these moist eyes
and this flocking to do honour to a woman who had been quick of temper
and rough of tongue--ay, were it to Squire Bolton of Storrs, or the
rich Mr. Rogers himself--there was one who came a great distance to
the burying who could have solved the riddle.

It was Henrietta.



                               THE END





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