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Title: Marmaduke
Author: Steel, Flora Annie Webster, 1847-1929
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 "Marmaduke" ***

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://books.google.com/books?id=RWkpAQAAIAAJ
      (University of California)

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



                              Marmaduke



                              Marmaduke



                                  By

                          Flora Annie Steel

                              Author of
          "On the Face of the Waters," "A Sovereign Remedy,"
                         "King-Errant," etc.



                               New York
                     Frederick A. Stokes Company
                              Publishers
                                 1917



                      _Printed in Great Britain_



                               BOOK I.



                              CHAPTER I


"Hello, Davie! Is that you, Davie Sim?" cried a joyous young voice;
then it changed suddenly, with a verve which showed pure delight in
the unfamiliar yet familiar dialect, from correct English to the
broadest Aberdeenshire accent. "Eh, mon, ye're joost the same ow'd tod
o' a pease-bogle wi' yer bonnet ajee, an' a crookit mou'; yen hauf
given tae psaulm singin' and tither tae pipe-blawing!" The voice
paused a bit breathlessly as if it had exhausted itself over the
unwonted exercise, then went on in slightly less aggressive Doric.
"Well, I'm blythe to see you lookin' sae weel. An' is that tall lass
Marrion?"

An easy gallantry came to his tones as the speaker, a fine young
fellow of obviously military bearing, turned to a girl who stood very
still by the window.

"By gad," the young man went on with the same easy condescension, "you
have grown into a pretty girl! Give us a kiss, my dear; you know you
used to be fond of 'Mr. Duke' in the----"

Then suddenly silence fell between the two young people. Something in
the tall still figure by the window seemed to abash the tall figure
making its way easily towards it, and left them looking at each other
critically.

They were as fine a couple physically as God ever made to come
together as man and woman. They were almost alike in stature and
strength--she slightly the smaller--and both seemed equal in abounding
health, though he was florid and she somewhat pale with the pallor of
the thick creamy skin that goes with red-bronze hair.

She spoke at last, the thin curves of her mouth clipping her words
sharply.

"There's mony to tell me yon and crave kisses since you an' me was
hafflins together, Mr. Duke," she said coolly. "I beg yer pardon,
Captain Marmaduke!"

The Honourable Captain Marmaduke Muir, second son of the sixteenth
Baron Drummuir of Drummuir, home on leave after an absence of ten
years on foreign service, looked at the grand-daughter of his father's
head piper and general majordomo as if considering anger. He was too
good looking to be accustomed to such rebuffs from pretty girls,
especially when they were manifestly beneath him in station. Then
suddenly he laughed. The years had fled, and he was a boy again in
fast fellowship with a small hoyden of a girl; a girl four years his
junior, but infinitely his superior in common sense; a girl who had
kept him out of many a scrape and who hadn't scrupled on occasion to
box his ears, young master though he was. With a sudden flash of
memory the occasion came back to him, and he saw himself, a strong lad
of fourteen, wading a swollen stream with the ten-year-old girlie on
his back, a string of handsome trouties he had been catching hanging
like a tail from his hands clasped behind his burden. He heard the
agonised cry in mid-stream, "They're slippin', Maister Duke, they're
slippin'! Let me down till I hoosen them up!" He heard the stiff
reply: "Let 'em slip; I'll no let ye down tae soak ye through!" And
then the woeful battle of wills that ensued, while the trouties
slipped from the string one by one. A battle which ended in a sobbing
girlie ankle deep in water, an empty string, and a defiant lad with
young crimson ears. He felt his mature ones tingle with amusement at
the recollection, and at the recognition that the girlie was as ready
of resentment as ever.

"Ods bobs, Marmie!" he cried, his face full of mischief. "It seems
you've no forgotten the whaur-aboots of my lugs," and his hands went
up to his face as if to protect them.

The girl crimsoned.

"I begged your pardon then, Captain Marmaduke, and I beg it again if
I've offended----" she began defiantly.

He interrupted her with an absolutely charming smile, a deference that
was unanswerable.

"And I beg yours for remembering what I should have forgotten. So we
are quits and can surely shake hands on it like the good friends we
always were, and"--here his voice took on additional charm--"always
will be. Of that I am sure."

His bold blue eyes were on hers frankly, and she gave him back his
look steadily. So they stood, shapely hand in shapely hand, for a
second. Then his left fingers caught at hers and felt the first one
inquisitively.

"Hullo, seamstress, that's new?" he queried, evidently pleased with
his own cleverness in detection.

Marrion Paul drew her hand away sharply.

"I've been at the dressmaking in Edinbro' these six years since
grandfather married," she replied coldly.

Marmaduke looked at Davie Sim incredulously.

"What, Davie! You old reprobate, who the deuce did you get to marry
you?"

There was no answer. Possibly Davie did not hear, for he was rootling
round the kitchen fire with the poker--a most unnecessary task that
sweltering June day. Perhaps, also, it was flame-reflection which made
his face show red under the wide Tam o' Shanter bonnet he invariably
wore in his own house; why it would be difficult to say, except that
outside the precincts of home he was for ever doffing it before
somebody or another. For Davie Sims had been born hereditary servitor
to the Drummuir family, and had every intention of dying in the same
position.

"He married Penelope from the castle," came Marrion's voice
relentlessly, "and his lordship gave her away."

"The devil he did," remarked the young man helplessly to both pieces
of information, after a moment's pause due evidently to mingled
outrage and amusement. "Well," he added, in male defiance of the
woman's point of view, "I expect she makes him an excellent wife."

"Most excellent!" assented Marrion, with a curl of her lip. "So, as
she happens to be gone on a visit, I have come back to stay a while--a
little while--with grandfather."

Her diction, bar the one slight slip, was as free from provincialism
as his own, and Marmaduke Muir looked at her appreciatively. She was
different from the hoyden he had left. Perhaps in Edinburgh she had
gone in for classes. And she was better looking too, though much too
tall for a woman. Then her mouth, though passable in its thin decided
curves, was far too wide for beauty.

Still, she was altogether sufficiently pleasant to look upon for
Marmaduke to feel it necessary for him to charm. Not that either by
nature or art he was a lady-killer. To do him justice, he would have
felt just the same had the attraction been male or neuter. Simply he
always desired to please what was pleasant to himself, and his tastes
were catholic.

So he said almost sentimentally:

"Well, I am very glad you're here. We shall be able to spend our
birthdays together as we used to in the old times. Eighteenth of June!
Waterloo day! Good heavens, I can scarcely believe that I shall be
thirty tomorrow, and you?" He positively blushed, for in the year 1848
it was almost indecent for an unmarried woman to be six-and-twenty.
Marrion, however, had no such qualms.

"Twenty-six," she said calmly; perhaps she knew she did not look it.

"Anyhow," he went on hastily, as if to escape from an unwelcome fact,
"I have brought you a present from foreign parts." He had not even
thought of one; in fact, he had only given his old playmate a passing
remembrance, wondering whom she had married; but he knew his boxes
contained enough trifles for the home folk to enable him to spare one,
and he could no more help trying to charm than he could help
breathing. "And now," he added, "I must be off. Tell me, Davie, like a
good soul, where I am likely to find his lordship this time of day.
I'm cursed early," he continued a bit ruefully, "but that's the worst
of me. I'm always in such a devil of a hurry."

"You came across the ferry?" asked Marrion sympathetically.

He turned to her at once.

"Yes. It was the first coach. I wouldn't wait for the later one. And
then when I got to the Cross Keys and saw the old place over the
water, I wouldn't wait to go round by the bridges. So Andrew--you
remember Andrew Fraser, of course?--'pon my soul, he's been a
first-class orderly ever since he joined, and I don't know what I
should have done without him; nursed me like a mother when I'd fever
and all that sort of thing--a real honest good chap. Well, he got out
the valise and carried it down the ferry road. I didn't know, you see,
that the ferry was disused; but we luckily found someone's boat--and
here I am--too soon!"

"I'm thinkin'," said Davie Sim, with caution, "that his lordship at
this hour will, mayhap, be inspec'in' the pigstyes."

"Pigstyes!" echoed Marmaduke theatrically. "Say not so! Dash it all, I
can't do prodigal in a pigstye! I demand a byre and a fatted calf.
Well, I suppose I had better ring at the front door and ask the butler
if my Lord Drummuir is at home like any orra' stranger. So--ta, ta,
for the present!"

He waved an easy hand to Marrion as he passed out. She hesitated a
second, then followed him into the sunlit courtyard and called--

"Captain Duke!"

He turned, looking so handsome and débonnaire that her purpose almost
wavered. Why should she pour gall and wormwood into his cup of life
before circumstances made the bitter inevitable? Still, since it had
to come, and that shortly, it was as well he should be prepared for
it. So much depended on the relations between him and his father that
it was better he should not be taken unawares.

"If you are wanting to see his lordship the now," she said, her
phrasing astray once more under pressure of other thoughts, "you wad
find him in the south avenue. He was there when I came frae the town
the now, cutting away at yen of the big beech trees."

"Cutting at a big beech tree! What the deuce do you mean?" queried
Marmaduke incredulously.

She replied calmly, conclusively.

"Just that he must hae gotten a letter from your brother the Master.
It aye angers him so that he orders out the men with the hatchets.
It's as well you should know."

He stood staring at her. It was no news to him, of course, even though
mails had been infrequent during those ten years, that there was an
open breach between his father and the heir, nor was he unaware of his
father's savage temper; that, and the impossibility of getting a
decent allowance to enable him to live in England being responsible
for those same ten years of foreign service. But distance softens
shadows; besides, the very idea that a man could go and cut down
historical trees just to spite another man was foreign to Marmaduke's
nature.

"Oh, curse the whole lot!" he broke out at last. "Upon my soul I'll go
back to the East--it isn't half a bad place--or wouldn't be if one
only had a little tin--besides, I must get the money for my majority."

His words, following his impulsive thoughts, made Marrion smile
indulgently.

"I wouldn't if I was you, Mr.--I mean Captain Duke," she remarked,
with a twinkle in her eye. "Mayhap, my lord will bury the hatchet now
you're home, if ye don't anger him." She looked pretty with that
half-mischievous smile, and the sight cheered Marmaduke instantly.

"What a wise lassie you always were, Marmie," he said, with wilful
charm, "and what a lot of scrapes you've gotten me out of, and what a
lot you'd get me out of, if you were only bound up with me like the
Shorter Catechism was by mistake with Tristram Shandy--d'you remember?
Good lord, I've forgotten my duty to my neighbour! However, here goes,
and I'll do my best not to anger the baron! You see, I must get the
money for my majority," he added, half to himself, as he spun round on
his heel rather dramatically.

In fact, there was no denying it, the Honourable Marmaduke Muir was a
trifle flamboyant as he swaggered across the courtyard which led from
the old keep of Drummuir Castle to the southern and modern portion of
the building. Marrion Paul watched the figure with a certain distaste.
Perhaps, she thought, it was only the ultrafashionable dress, the all
too palpable fit-out of a smart military tailor, eager for a bill,
that clashed with the grim old walls. Inside he had seemed much the
same as she remembered him. Kindly, affectionate, not over wise, but
charming, absolutely charming. And, after all, who was she to judge a
gentleman born? That question was a hard one to answer. Her mother had
undoubtedly been Maggie Sim, old Sim's daughter, who had been maid to
the first Lady Drummuir. But her father had been Paul, the foreign
valet, whom Lord Drummuir's younger brother had brought over with him
when he was invalided from the diplomatic service. A very decent,
respectable sort of chap, as old Sim admitted even while he objected
strongly to his daughter's marriage. Not without reason it turned out,
since Paul, after tending his sick master with unremitting care and
resource until his death, disappeared the day of the funeral, leaving
his young wife expecting her first child. And he had never been heard
of since. That Mrs. Paul should pine away and die early was, the folk
about said, only to be expected, for Paul, despite his foreign birth,
had been a man to be regretted--a man who had a way with him which his
daughter had inherited. She, however, would never hear a word in his
favour, and nothing made her more angry than to find in herself little
traits of character unaccountable to her sturdy Scots upbringing.

So she told herself that she was no judge of what a gentleman's dress
or deportment should be, and turned at the sound of a footstep coming
through the archway of the keep behind her to greet the newcomer with
a more effusive welcome than she would otherwise have given the young
man who came towards her carrying a valise on his shoulder. He set
down his burden and grasped her outstretched hand in a sort of
transport.

"Ah, Marrion--Marrion, my lass!" he cried. "God, but it's gude to see
you once mair!"

The words summed him up from the crown of his head to the tips of his
toes. You might have spent long hours in analysing Andrew Fraser's
mind and body at that particular moment, and you would have got no
nearer the mark, since for the time being existence was sheer gladness
because of the sight of a woman.

"And I've brocht him safe home as ye bade me when I joined. Ye'll have
seen him yerself. He's fine, isn't he?"

There was a world of pride in his tone; the pride of the
soldier-servant who is responsible for the smartness of his master's
outturn.

"Aye!" assented Marrion, grimly recognising that the figure before her
was more to her mind in some ways than the other which had gone
swaggering through the quadrangle. This one was broader in the chest,
simpler in its ugly angular face and small pathetic-looking blue eyes,
and simple--oh, so irritatingly simple!--in the devotion writ large in
its every look, its every intonation.

"Well, I'm glad you're both home safe," she said, putting the barrier
of refined speech between them. Then a resentment, of which she was
innately ashamed even while she yielded to it, made her add: "And I
suppose you've brought home a wife on the strength of the regiment?"

Andrew Fraser stared for a second, then shouldered his valise again
deftly--

"Ye ken fine, Marrion Paul," he said sternly, as he went on, "that
there never was but ae woman in the wurrld for me, an' never will be."

And so he left her feeling small and mean.

She watched him across the courtyard following on his master's steps.
A fine figure of a man. No swagger there, nothing to clash with the
grey old walls.

But that made no difference, no difference at all. That was the worst
of it.



                              CHAPTER II


Marmaduke Muir had meanwhile found his familiar way through the low
arch which, piercing the extreme corner of the eastern side of the
quadrangle, formed the connecting link between the older part of
Drummuir Castle and the new. For the rest, this eastern wall showed
blank save for a loophole or two. It was, in effect, simply the back
wall of what in Scotland is called the square; that is, the
continuation of stables, cow-houses and woodsheds which appertain
to a country mansion in the north. It had evidently been built as a
wind-screen to the western wing, which, overlooking the river, had
been the residential portion of the house before the southern wing had
been added to close in the quadrangle. Altogether it was a fine old
place, magnificently situated in the slight hollow which dipped
between the high old red sandstone cliffs of the Aberdeenshire coast,
and the lower yet still high old red sandstone cliffs which for a mile
or two formed the eastward bank of the river Drum. Standing still on
the grass-plot in the centre of the courtyard a quick ear could detect
two water sounds--the rhythmic roll of the waves of the North Sea on
the one hand, and the incessant rush of the running river on the
other.

Marmaduke did not pause to listen. He only felt a thrill of pride in
the beauty of the stern old place before he passed through the arch
into totally different surroundings. Here were wide well-kept lawns,
beds of rhododendrons, then somewhat of a novelty, and in those
northern climes ablaze with blossom this middle June. Further afield
lay a typical East Aberdeenshire landscape of rolling arable land set
with square plantations of wood and dotted at sparse intervals with
solid grey granite farm-houses. Behind him, despite its wide portico
and Grecian balustrade, the new wing of the old castle looked stern
and stubborn as the rest.

He stood for a moment on the curving flight of massive steps and drew
in a long breath of satisfaction; for right in front of him stretched
something that once seen could never be forgotten. People came from
far for a sight of the great beech avenue of Drummuir. And what they
went out for to see was worth the seeing.

A cathedral aisle, not made by hand, solemn, serene. Soft sunlight
filtering through a vaulted roof of leaves, wide spandrils of brown
branches sweeping to wide arch from the pillars of the mighty tree
trunks--a tessellated pavement of shade and shine.

He had seen the sight a thousand times, yet it brought now, as it had
always brought, a vague wonder as to the long years since those giant
beeches had sent their first feeler into Mother Earth's bosom. But, as
ever, after the manner of such idle human wonders when confronted with
the permanence of what men class as lower life, it passed, contentedly
unsatisfied, to a flood of remembrance. How frightened he had been as
a little chap when his nurse had dragged him home to bed--dark, lonely
bed!--through those solemn shadows in the gloaming. He had changed,
but the avenue had not. It was just the same. No, hardly! There was
more shafted sunlight in the distance surely? And that rasping sound
in the air--what was it?

Surely a cross-cut saw at work! Then Marmie had as usual told the
truth. His father must be cutting down one of the historic beech
trees, and there was no need to ring and ask for Lord Drummuir--no
need at all! He was to be found as usual ungovernable, insensate,
intolerant. A whole youth of rebellion stormed through Marmaduke
Muir's mind as, at quick march, he fumed down to where the shameful
deed was being done.

From far he could see it was in full swing. The team of horses ready
to give the final pull, the stays to other trees, the whole
paraphernalia of destruction including the cluster of workmen busy
round the doomed tree. And see! Safe to windward--aye, you bet, safe,
jolly safe!--the knot of spectators gathered round a bath-chair. That
held his father, of course. And the others? They would not be the old
sycophants possibly, but they would be of the same kidney. A woman,
too! Not his half-sisters--they, poor souls, would be weeping in the
dower house over the injury to their brother the heir and to the
heirloom beech! And it would not be Penelope--she had been handed over
to Davie Sim. By Jupiter, it was too bad! He quickened his pace,
fretted by the rush of bitter resentment; then paused suddenly--

Hist! The melodious whistle of a blackbird overhead ceased, and a
little rustling sound asserted itself above the constant burring of
the saw. The squirrels were leaping from branch to branch.

"Look to yersels--look to yersels! She's yieldin'! Stan' clear for
your life. Stan' clear! She yieldin'!"

The cry rose none too soon. There was an instant's hurry, then an
instant's intense silence, on which came a sharp crack like a
pistol-shot, as the fine old tree, less tough than men had reckoned
it, tilted slowly as if uncertain which way to seek its grave. So
while men held their breath it stood arrested, defiant; then with a
roar and a rush, a swish of sweeping branches, a surging of green
leaves, it sank like the tumultuous onrush of some mighty wave, to
fall a confused tumbling heap of shade and shine upon the kindly earth
exactly where the wit of man had destined it to lie.

A noisy clapping of hands and a high-pitched feminine laugh rose from
about the bath-chair; but, ere the applause ceased, a young accusing
figure positively flaming with wrath had sprung forward, leaped upon
the sawn root of the fallen tree, and so framed as with a halo by the
new-cut bole--which measured over seven feet in diameter--bawled out
in a voice quivering with sheer passion:

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, sir! Go home to bed, you
miserable old gouty cripple; you've done enough mischief for one day!"

Marmaduke was given to being dramatic, but he had never been more
effective than at that moment. He stood his ground like a young
avenging angel, secretly elated at having done the business thoroughly
well and defied his father, despite Marrion Paul's advice. He almost
smiled at the thought of her dismay. Meanwhile, the face of the old
man in the bath-chair had grown positively purple with anger, and the
colour did not improve the heavy contours of chin, double chin, treble
chin, which melted over the high white stock. Yet, barring this
exuberant fleshiness, the face was not a bad face. It had indeed its
measure of good looks, being not unlike Marmaduke's own. The bald
head, if a trifle small, was well shaped, the blue eyes clear, if a
trifle cold, and the lips, cruel enough in their heavy curves, had
evidently done a deal of laughing in their day to judge by the lines
about them. Altogether a strong, sensible face; but arrogant,
intolerant to a degree, especially now when its owner was listening to
the defiance of his son--a son dependent on him for every farthing
beyond his miserable pay as a captain in His Majesty's forces--a son
who----

For a moment Baron Drummuir looked as if he must have a fit; then he
laughed--a great rude, rough guffaw.

"'Pon my soul," he chuckled, "it's as good as a play! So it's you, is
it, you young fool? How the deuce did you get here at this time of
day? We didn't expect you for another two hours, so I decided business
first"--he waved carelessly to the fallen tree--"and pleasure--that's
you, jackanapes--afterwards. Eh, what! Hey!"

This calm reception of his insults completely took the starch out of
them and poor Marmaduke, who, standing on his pedestal, could think of
nothing further to say save to mumble something about the short cut by
the old ferry road.

The baron, as he loved to be called, chuckled again.

"Good boy--anxious as all that to see his poor old dad. And came in
the nick of time to see me kill my fatted calf"--he waved to the
fallen tree again. "I've killed it nicely, haven't I? And"--here a
flicker of pure hatred passed across the fleshy face--"the devil take
the man who made me do it!"

His father's expression re-aroused Marmaduke's anger.

"You curse yourself by saying that, sir," he burst out; "for God knows
you always do what you want--nobody makes you."

Once again the old man took the starch out of the young one.

"Smart!" he said coolly. "Demned smart, my dear boy! I wonder you
don't get on better in life than you do, judging by your constant but
fruitless appeals to my cash-box. But get down off your high horse,
there's a good lad--you look like some damned play-acting fool up
there--and give your old dad a paw; the left one, young ass, the left!
Can't you see my right is all bandaged up with the most infernal fit
of my old enemy I've had since last Christmas? All that Périgord-pie
old Hare sent me. I'll baste his fat liver for him when he comes
to-morrow. Lordy lord! Puts me in mind, Marmaduke, of the old days
when your mother--she was the best of the three--used to say to you, a
little lad, 'The right hand, my dearie. The right hand, my lovie.' And
you never could remember. You were a bit of a dullard, but fine and
strong and handsome. Not like that cursed skunk, Master Pitt--but
there, don't let's mar the harmony of the occasion, eh, Jack?" He
turned to a small man with somewhat of a weasel face who stood beside
him listening devoutly, as were all the group. "You remember Jack
Jardine, don't you, Duke?"

"Slightly," smiled the young man, grasping the other's hand and
shaking it violently. "One of the few pleasant reminiscences, sir, I
have of Drummuir Castle." He echoed his father's reckless disregard of
other folks' feelings with superb indifference and gave back the old
man's critical look coolly.

The latter laughed.

"Just what I was at his age--eh, what? Lordy lord, Jack, how we
smashed all the lamp-posts in Dodston and told the provost to send the
policeman with the bill! Ha, ha! and old cat Carnegie sitting in the
hearse with her skirts up to her knees going to the Hunt ball when
we'd commandeered every other conveyance in the town. Ha, ha! how the
pretty little lassies showed their sandalled ankles, bless 'em, trying
to keep their dresses clear of coffins. But I am forgetting. Sandalled
ankles reminds me--eh, Fantine? Come here, my dear. I must present you
to my second son, Captain--he wants to be a major, I'm told--Marmaduke
Muir. Marmaduke, make your due respects to Mdlle. Fantine Le Grand,
your future stepmother!"

The dainty little figure, which till then had been standing with one
tiny, much-beringed hand resting on the back of the bath-chair, its
inquisitive, almost colourless grey eyes taking in the minutest detail
of the scene, took a step forward and prepared to make a full-flounced
curtsey. But Marmaduke was too quick, too prompt in his perceptions.
He grasped the situation and the little lady in a second. The general
pinkness of complexion and furbelows, the jimpness of the long trim
waist, the uncompromising bands of black velvet, the showers of fair
ringlets. His hat was off with a flourish, he also took a step forward
to meet the curtsey, but, bending with a "grand air" that did him
infinite credit, gave the powdered face a resounding kiss.

The recipient let loose a decorous shriek outwardly; within it was
easy to see amused acquiescence. Once again old Lord Drummuir looked
as though he would have a fit.

"You dashed young scoundrel," he spluttered.

Marmaduke held his head very high.

"Excuse me, sir," he said, "if I've done wrong; but you said she--I
beg pardon, Mdlle. Fantine Le Grand"--his eyes flashed into hers
boldly and met a smile--"was to be my stepmamma, so I thought----"

"Oh, the devil take your thoughts," growled his father, but his lips
twitched suspiciously. Then suddenly he burst out once again into
one of his rude, rough guffaws. "Regular chip of the old block, hey,
Jack? Well, Fan, I dare say you don't mind. Haven't too long, you
know, of such gay young sparks, for as soon as I'm about again he
shall dance at your wedding. Now, for heaven's sake, don't let's
stop chattering here! I've got to see my daughters and I want to talk
to my son. No, no, you jackanapes, keep away just now! My gout's
cursed, the road is cursed, and my temper will be cursed too; so I
should likely disinherit you before we got on to the lawn. Fan shall
stop by me. I won't have you gallivanting with my son, d'ye hear? He's
a good-looking chap, confound him, but you've got to pay for the
title, my lady! Have a care, blockhead! Didn't you see that stone?
Don't let it hurt your pretty little feet, Fan."

Marmaduke, dropping behind with Jack Jardine, gave a fierce sigh as he
watched the little cavalcade move off amid this running fire of curses
and kindliness.

"Is it all just as it used to be, Jack?" he asked helplessly.

The little man cleared his throat.

"A little worse perhaps. Your father is a very remarkable man,
Marmaduke--a very remarkable man!"



                             CHAPTER III


Anyone who had seen Lord Drummuir ten minutes after Jack Jardine's
remark must have echoed it, for a more complete _volte face_ of
manner, speech, and apparently temperament than that which overtook
the baron in the dower house could not be imagined. Still in his
bath-chair, which Marmaduke had dutifully pushed in through the French
windows on to the green-grounded, cabbage-rosed drawing-room carpet,
he beamed round on his daughters and their chaperon with a paternal
affection which was almost pathetic. The Honourable Miss Muirs were
three in number and they had all greeted their younger half-brother
with reserved kisses. But then everything they did was reserved. Miss
Mary, the eldest, was reserved even about her tendency to grow stout,
which, all things considered, was the strongest interest in her life.
Miss Elizabeth, the second, a very elegant looking woman, was equally
reserved about her undoubted intellect, while Miss Margaret, a great
tall, strapping figure with all her father's force of character and
all his soundness of constitution, held both in check, except when she
managed a lonely walk with her dogs in the woods. Then her voice would
ring out deep and true, and at the crack of her whip every puppy
within miles would come in contentedly to heel.

Her father liked her the least, probably because of the contrast
between her and his ricketty male heir, so in the shabby Victorian
drawing-room she generally sat mumchance, showing up badly against her
sisters' exquisite manners. For no one knew better than Lord Drummuir
what a gentlewoman should be, and therefore he had been extremely
particular about his daughters' education. To what end, heaven alone
knew, since they lived on, year after year, in the dower house,
occasionally visiting in stately fashion the late minister's wife
(though this distraction was no longer theirs owing to the State
appointment of a bachelor to the living), and, very occasionally,
seeing some of their father's older and more respectable friends. In
regard to this, however, and to kindred matters no grand Turk could
have been more autocratic than was Lord Drummuir. So he sat and
discoursed on Shakespeare and the musical glasses, on his delight at
seeing his dearest boy again, leading the latter on to detail some of
the more instructive portions of his foreign life, until the full
half-hour which he daily bestowed on his daughters was up. Then with
the utmost punctuality he took out his watch, said he feared he must
be off, and congratulated himself and the three young ladies on a
charming conversation.

"You are too good, papa," replied the young ladies, as they deposited
a decorous kiss on his bald head. So they stood and watched the
bath-chair roll along the lawn till it reached the turn by the
rhododendrons which hid it from view, and then they waved their
handkerchiefs. And the baron waved his in return, thereinafter using
it to mop his forehead relievedly, while he ejaculated, "Thank God,
that's over!"

Whereat Marmaduke smiling, the old man went on serenely.

"Never forget, my boy, how to treat women of good character. The other
comes naturally, but I'm damned if I ever forgot my manners with a
really good woman. And you will find it pays, Duke, it pays. So now
have not you got some bit of spice, or an _on dit_ to amuse the old
man with? Curse me, but I lead a miserable life here, tied down by
this infernal complaint; but I am paying now for the follies and
indiscretions of youth. Confound you, Marmaduke, you might think of
your poor old father's joints and not rush your fences in that way!"

"I beg your pardon, sir," replied Marmaduke, meekly glad of the turn
he had given the conversation by deploying the bath-chair into the
gravel walk; for, in good truth, he had no great relish for spicy
stories. Not that he was a prig, but that he had been born a
sportsman, to whom indoor life was dull and irksome. So he welcomed
another interruption in the shape of a young man who came hastily down
the path to meet them.

"Why, I believe it's Peter!" he cried joyously, and the next minute
was shaking hands with his young half-brother, the fruit of Lord
Drummuir's third but not last marriage; for his wives never lived
long, except the first, who had lingered for years, only giving him
useless daughters. "Why, Peter, how you've grown!" remarked Marmaduke
unnecessarily, seeing he had been away ten years.

"So've you--you're a giant beside the rest of us, except Meg! Pitt and
I----" The lad pulled himself up sharp. "Well, I say, sir, we must
have a rousin' night to celebrate Duke's return!"

Marmaduke, looking at the slender, fair-haired youth with a weak mouth
and an excited manner, thought he had probably roused too much.
Instinctively, therefore, since he had often been drunk himself--it
was the fashion of the time--he changed the subject again to one that
had come uppermost in the old familiar surroundings.

"I say, how about the grouse? Is it to be a good year?"

His eyes as he spoke almost yearned over a swelling purpled horizon
curve which told where the best moors in that part of Aberdeenshire
were to be found.

Five minutes after the old lord, still in his bath-chair, was
discoursing in the most animated and amiable fashion about sport past
and present and to come, while his two sons, one of them sprawling on
the lawn, joined in amicably.

So amicably that Mdlle. Fantine Le Grand, watching them from her
boudoir windows, turned to a man who was lounging in a chair reading
the papers, and said--

"This sort of thing won't do, Compton. That young man is too
charming."

The man to whom she spoke did not look up. He went on reading, as he
said--

"You don't often find them too charming, Fan!"

"Don't be a fool, Tom," she replied curtly, coming to sit beside him.
"You know quite well what I mean. Young men of that sort always are in
debt; besides, I've heard the old man say something about money for a
majority. Now the estate's entailed, so payments of that sort must
come out of what I mean to be mine--and I won't have it!"

"Sound common sense, Fan," said her companion, yawning; "but you are
always in such a hurry to begin. Wait a few days and see how the land
lies first. You've always the best of weapons in your hand."

"What's that?"

"Jealousy. The old man is as jealous as old boots. Once make him fancy
young Marmaduke is sweet on you, and he goes to the right-about."

Fantine sat back and laughed.

"You are always so comforting, Tom."

He rose and put down his paper.

"Always ready to help, my dear; but you remember our compact--half
shares when the old man dies."

"He'll be good for another ten years if I marry him," she called after
her late companion, as he strolled out of the room.

Then she sat down and faced facts. In truth she was getting tired of
her _rôle_ of _première danseuse_ at a London theatre. Perhaps, she
even admitted, she was a trifle too old for the agile cutting of
capers. She felt vaguely that she would like to draw in her horns and
let her waist out, and she was quite ready to take Lord Drummuir as a
means of satisfying both ambitions. In her way she was neither bad nor
unkind, simply egotistic to a degree. In this last episode of an
eventful career which seldom outlasts the age of forty, she had
deliberately played for semi-respectability, and had only come down to
stay at Drummuir Castle under the wing of an impeccable _duenna_. Not
that the fact had in the least imposed on the old lord. He was shrewd
enough to know Miss Fanny Biggs, or, as she chose to style herself,
Mdlle. Fantine Le Grand, down to the ground. But it was something to
have someone to dance for him (as she did to distraction), when he had
a fit of the gout and look quite deucedly pretty at all times. So the
bargain was made. A title in exchange for amusements. But Fantine Le
Grand looked beyond the old man's life; she looked for comfortable
widowhood. So she wandered again to the window and watched the family
trio on the lawn. It was far too filial for her tastes. Tom Compton,
so-called Colonel of Irregulars, one of her oldest friends, had been
right. Jealousy would be a good card to play. And then she laughed
suddenly at the recollection of Marmaduke's filial salute. He was
better-looking than his father must have been at his age, but,
according to the latter, he was "a chip of the old block." So he would
be easy prey.

Meanwhile, Colonel Compton having joined the group on the lawn, the
conversation had drifted round to politics, and the old lord, being an
ardent Whig, had waxed fast and furious on the enormities of the
Tories. A perfectly innocent subject, but one which did not interest
Marmaduke, who thereupon drifted away to find Jack Jardine, from whom
he hoped to hear the truth as to his father's present relations with
the heir, the Master, and also--though this interested him less, since
it was to a certain degree patent--with Mdlle. Le Grand. So, as they
sat smoking Fubaurg's tobacco out of long clay pipes after the fashion
of the times, they discussed the situation.

"You ask how the breach has widened," said Jack Jardine. "Well, I
don't think it has done so abnormally. It has been going on ever since
poor Pitt turned out such a weakling. You know the family history.
After he married Lady Helen, whom he shouldn't have married because
she too, poor soul, was, as it were, doomed to disease, though she was
a duke's daughter and so, satisfied his lordship's pride--a miserable
story, Duke, a miserable story. Well, there was one disappointment
about an heir after another, as you know, Duke, and it hit home into
the peer--for he is no fool. Put it briefly, though he is quite ready
to tell you he is suffering from the indiscretions of youth while he
is in torments with the gout, and at the same time supping every night
on broiled foxes' tongues and mulled claret, he can't bear to see the
results in Pitt. He hates him because he hasn't the physique to carry
on the name. He is a very remarkable man, Duke, is your father."

"Very," assented the young man grimly. "I wish the devil he wasn't."

"That's why I, and all the rest of us who have Drummuir interests at
heart, are so glad you've come home. You're presumptive heir now, and
to all intents and purposes you're 'apparent.' And you're straight and
strong, thanks to your poor mother. So we look to you to keep up the
honour of the name. I believe if you play your cards well, you might
easily oust Miss Fanny Biggs, or Mdlle. Fantine----"

Marmaduke burst into a laugh.

"Thank you," he said; "that is most succinct! I needn't ask any more.
But does the old man really mean to marry her?"

Jack Jardine nodded.

"Would have done it three months ago but for the gout. And she isn't
really so bad, but devilish sly; and that man Compton, whom the peer
has taken up with over the railway business, is in with her." He gave
a sigh and knocked the ashes out of his pipe. "I've my work cut out
for me, Duke, I can tell you."

There was a slight pause, and then Marmaduke said curiously--

"I've often wondered, Jack, why you, who by your brains could have
made your own way, have been contented to stick on in this cursed old
place among us cursed people, letting us youngsters call you Jack and
borrow money from you. By the way, I shouldn't have been able to come
home if you hadn't sent me that last hundred pounds."

Jack Jardine said nothing; then he walked to the window.

"You may as well know, Duke, it may help you to steer your way. It is
because I, a poor lawyer, loved your mother--not before, but after she
became Lady Drummuir! Of course she never guessed; but I helped her to
try and keep your father straight. She led an awful life----"

"You needn't tell me that!" broke in Marmaduke, fiercely.

"Yet your father didn't mean ill to her. Anyhow, I tried to help her,
and so I suppose it became a habit. Love is a queer thing, Duke!"

"I believe it is," said Marmaduke, magisterially, "but it has not come
my way yet," and he added joyously, "I hope it won't for some years to
come, for I like enjoying myself."

Apparently he did; for as the summer evening began to close in on
Drummuir Castle and the menkind, with only Mdlle. Fantine and her
_duenna_ to represent the opposite sex, gathered in the huge
dining-room to attack a heavy dinner which would have sufficed for a
regiment, he was the life and soul of the party, and ate through the
_menu_ with a relish which aroused regret and admiration in the old
lord.

"Dash it all," he bawled, "why can't I eat soup, fish, top and bottom
and four sides through five courses like that dashed youngster of
mine, who puts it on to his shoulders instead of his waist like I do?"

And when the claret began to circle round faster and faster Marmaduke
never let it pass; so that when, with sweet decorum, Mdlle. Fantine
and her _duenna_ prepared to withdraw, he nearly killed the Skye
terrier in his flamboyant haste to open the door. Nay, more! He
followed them into the corridor for an instant. What passed there none
saw, but he returned to his seat with flushed cheeks and throbbing
veins, feeling vaguely that the battle of wits had begun.

Of what followed his memory was confused. He remembered that outside
the windows the summer twilight was still flooding the green lawns,
while humanity inside, after guzzling itself stupid with rich food,
was trying to grow witty over the boozing of mulled claret and
whisky-toddy. They began, of course, with the young queen's health,
and went on methodically till they came to the good old Scotch toast:
"Here's to oorsels. Wha' better? Damn few!" After this, which seemed
to afford general satisfaction, they proceeded to particularise, and
Marmaduke had a dim recollection of someone proposing "The future
Commander-in-Chief, coupled with the name of Captain Marmaduke Muir."

But whether he replied, or whether the effort to rise and do so was
too much for him and he rolled under the table, he could not say.

Certain it is that on that first night of his return to the home of
his fathers Marmaduke Muir was hopelessly drunk.

Certain also that he erred in company, the only sober man being Jack
Jardine, who invariably sought the shelter of the table at an early
period and lay there comfortably, his head on a buffet, listening to
the commiserations on his weak head until he fell asleep, to wake when
the carouse was over, and see that the gentlemen's gentlemen sorted
their respective masters to their respective beds.



                              CHAPTER IV


Marrion Paul sat in the semi-darkness of the summer night waiting for
her grandfather to return from his duties at the Castle. She did not
generally do so, for he was apt to be late; but on this, the first day
of Captain Duke's return, sleep would have been out of the question
until she heard something of the evening. For she did not mince
matters with herself; those six years of independent life in Edinburgh
had opened her eyes to the world, and the first sight of Marmaduke
Muir had told her that the long ten years had not changed her at all;
that he was as much the sun in her heaven as he had been in the old
childish days. The sun in her heaven, and something more superadded to
those olden times.

Then the day had been disturbing. Everyone had come to her praising
the Captain's looks and ways and general charm; to all of which she
had replied coolly, feeling the while in a perfect quiver of gladness.
Miss Margaret had been the hardest to damp when she had appeared in
the afternoon with the sporting dogs and a stout crop in her hand on
her way to take them a scramble over the rocks and round by the lower
bay.

"Oh, Marrion!" she cried enthusiastically. "Saw you ever the like?
Elizabeth says he's like the Apollo Belvidere!"

"I am not knowing the gentleman," protested Marrion distantly. "But
Captain Duke has grown to a fine figure. But has Miss Muir seen Andrew
Fraser? He's twice the man he was when he went away."

It was a false move on Marrion's part, for it brought on her instantly
the hearty reply--

"I'm glad to hear it, Marmie; so I suppose we will be having you cried
in the kirk before long. Duke says he has been most faithful."

Whereupon the speaker called to her dogs in a stentorian voice worthy
her father's, cracked her whip scientifically, and strode away for an
hour or two's freedom. For the atmosphere of the dower house was
stifling, and there was always a chance of meeting the Rev. Patrick
Bryce on the sands below the rocks, where he went always to compose
his sermons, with which the reverend gentleman had no little
difficulty. Not because he was stupid, but because he found it
laborious to reconcile his own views with those of his flock; they,
however, being inclined to be lenient with one who had earned for
himself the nickname of "the bonny parson," and who was known to be
the best shot and fisherman in the district. For this reason he would
have been welcome at the Castle, but for his unswerving outspoken
protest against its general behaviour.

Marrion, meanwhile, finding more peace as the day died down, took
to wandering at the far side of the quadrangle listening to the
distant sounds of revelry; her hands, as she walked, busy with her
knitting-pins--after the fashion of Scotchwomen in those days--going
faster and faster as her thoughts grew hotter over what she knew was
happening at the other side of the blank wall. Guzzling and boozing!
First the masters, then the men-servants, while away in the back
premises the scullerymaids and kitchenmaids were working hard. It was
a shame, a burning shame; but if ever she had a son she would see to
it that he was different.

But she never would have a son; anyhow, not Andrew Fraser's, be he
ever so sober, so upright. That was the worst of it. With an impatient
sigh she hurried outside the keep door to stand and watch the last
faintly flushed clouds of sunset in the nor'-west fade over the
darkling stretches of moorland.

It must be nigh twelve of the clock, for eastwards, over the darkling
stretches of the sea, a faint lightening of the horizon, which held
such a hint of restlessness even in its shadow, told where the sun
would soon rise again. For in those high northern latitudes there is a
bare two hours' darkness in a summer night.

Twelve o' the clock, and after that would be their birthday.
Well, good luck to him wherever he went! Some day he must be the
laird--Baron Drummuir. Nothing to hinder that must come into his
life--nothing!

The faithfulness of inherited service was in her blood. She recognised
this and sometimes wondered if her own devotion to the honour and
welfare of the House of Drummuir was not stronger even than her
grandfather's; possibly because her father, by all repute, had been a
faithful servant, too; such things are not to be escaped.

She was aroused from her thoughts by a wavering step in the
quadrangle, and returned to meet her grandfather in the expansive
stage of intoxication.

"Aye, my lass," he went on, when he had wept a few easy tears over her
goodness in sitting up for him, "it was just a gran' nicht. The pipes
seemed fey and I blawed at them till we was baith like to burst. An'
my lord, he was for havin' oot the biggest bottle o' pickled foxes'
tongues, an' he devilled them himsel' in a chaffin' dish afore them
all, an' they a' drunk wi' mirth an' guid claret. Jock, the butler,
was tellin' me--there was twal o' them--that they were drinkin' thirty
bottles o' the best, forbye sixteen tum'lers of hot whisky-toddy, the
Sheriff and the Lord Provost had, honest gentlemen, to their lane--an'
there wud be no 'hoot-toots' where the Shirra was concerned! Then the
laird o' Balbuggo--he has a weak head, yon man, was for ridin' hame
and was no to be hindered frae it; sae Captain Duke an' anither young
spark jest perched his saddle to the loupin'-on-stane and pit the guid
man to it. An' there he sat tittuping away his lane for an hour or sae
quite blythe, till they tell't him he was at Balbuggo, and he just aff
an' awa tae his bed like a lammie."

"And Captain Duke?" asked the girl, with scorn in her voice, pity in
her heart, despite the irrepressible smile in her eyes. "Was he drunk,
too?"

Old Davie winked solemnly.

"Aye, that was he--he was fair fou--but," he added carefully; "he took
his cups real well! Not like Mr. Peter, that syne gets tae sickness
and----"

"Gran'father," cried the girl passionately, interrupting him, "it's
gettin' late! You must away to your bed, or you'll no be up the morn
to pipe 'Hey! Johnnie Cope, are ye waukin' yet?' I'll see to the
doors."

"No be up?" contended the old man. "I tell ye if the arkaungel
Gabbriel was tae soun' his trump any day at half-after seven, he'd
find Davie Sims--aye, and his forbears an' descendants--skirling awa'
at that same tune up an' dune a' the passages in Drummuir Castle tae
wake the gentlefolk! Aye, that wad he"--here he began stumbling up the
stair with his candle held at an angle of forty-five--"though it's
hard on a body that's had tae pipe to the deil ower nicht to think o'
his duty tae the sluggard."

Here his maunderings became unintelligible, and the girl he left
turned to the closing of the house, her heart hot as fire with
indignation, chill as ice with scorn.

What else was there to expect? Like father, like son! When she had
drawn the bolts she went up to her own room and flung its little
window wide. The full moon shone round like a shield, and by its light
she could see the whole wild coast stretching northwards from Drumkirk
Point to Rattray Head. And after that? The North Pole, of course! Dear
inaccessible region to all but the strong, the single of heart, the
men who could command others--and themselves.

She scarcely knew what it was that she raged against as slowly,
methodically, she began to undress. The little brilliant or paste
brooch, she knew not which, formed of two crossed p's which was the
only relic she possessed of her dead father, arrested her for a
second. What sort of a man had he been really, she wondered, and what
sort of a son would hers be when she had one?

She flung the tiny bauble from her impatiently, so stood for a second
drawn up to her full height, her bare arms crossed, her shapely hands
clasping their smooth roundness; then, with a sudden sob, she realised
what had come to her, and, throwing herself face downwards on her bed,
lay for a minute or two still as the dead. Then as suddenly she sat up
again with a world of puzzled wonder in her strained eyes.

"I canna think," she murmured, "what gars' me love him so, but I do,
and there's an end o' it."

Possibly; but such knowledge as that which had just burst over her
like a storm does not make for quiet sleep. She told herself a
thousand and one wise things, but the hours slipped by, bringing at
last a conviction of hopelessness. She would be better up than
pretending to rest, so she went to stand at the window once more.

The flush of coming day was clear now in the northeast, the flood-tide
of the full moon lay mysterious in the embrace of the rocks. Ere long
the rising sun would send battalions on battalions of shining golden
ripples to storm the estuary and climb the shadowy cliff on which the
castle stood--where he lay drunk!

Ah, well! That would not spoil the beauty of it all, which she had so
often seen, and the nip of the salt North Sea might check her silly
desire for him. The room felt stifling; she would be better outside.

So, slipping on her swimming-dress of coarse white flannel blanketing
(for ever since those childish days when she and Duke had done
everything in common she had been an expert swimmer), she threw a
plaid round her, and made her way through the keep gateway to the
rocks below. There was no breeze, the tide must be at its height
almost, and there was the spent moon, pale with its long night-watch,
hanging on the grey sky of dawn. Ah, these were the things worth
having--the others could be set aside with joy!

Ere five minutes were over, breathless from her fierce driving strokes
through the water, she had turned over on her back, and, face to the
skies, was trying to imagine she was floating thitherwards. The gulls,
wakened by the coming light, skimmed over her in their quest for food.
The little pointed wavelets that rose and fell, marking the course of
the river stream, made a fine, sobbing, tinkling noise in her ears.

Full flood-tide!

She laughed aloud in the joy of it; then, rolling over again, struck
out for the opposite shore. Higher up the estuary there was a little
sheltered bay whence she could watch the panorama of dawn. When she
drew herself out of the water on to a convenient rock the air struck
warm, and the stone beneath her had scarce lost yester-sun's heat. It
would be a perfect day--if anything over hot, for a faint opalescence
already lay on sea and sky.

As she sat waiting for the first rays of the sun to "skim the sea with
flying feet of gold," she unplaited her russet hair, which had become
loosened, and, combing out its long length with her fingers, prepared
to plait it up again.

Suddenly a voice startled her.

"A beauteous mermaid, by Jove! Fair lady----"

The theatrical intonation did not deceive her. She slipped like any
seal into the water, and so protected looked back to see Marmaduke
Muir. He was still in his over-night's dress-clothes, but their utter
disarray made them more consonant with his occupation, for he held a
salmon-rod in his hand, a creel had unfastened his ruffled shirt at
the neck, and he had evidently torn off his stiff stock for more ease,
and kicked away his pumps for firmer foothold on the rocks. His face
showed no sign of last night's carouse, and Marrion, looking at it,
could not but confess that some sins leave no mark on a man. Ere she
could utter a word, his surprise found speech.

"Why, Marmie!" Then in a half-awed tone he added: "What beautiful hair
you've got, my dear!"

"Aye," she replied imperturbably, feigning perfect calm, "it's fine!
Folk is aye tellin' me o' 't. The hairdresser in Edinbro' was offering
me a lot for it."

He sat down on the rocks above where she lay swaying with the long
roll of the distant waves outside the bar, her hands holding to the
seaweed.

"Goth and Vandal! But you didn't let him have it. Wise Marmie, but
then you always were wisdom itself! I remember----"

He was becoming vaguely sentimental, so she brought him back to earth
with a round turn.

"You'll no have been gettin' any fish the morn?" she queried.

"No fish!" he echoed loftily. "What do you call that?"

He pulled out of his creel a seven-inch burnie and laid it with pomp
on the rocks. Then their young laughter echoed out into the dawn.

"But I got a hold on another," he went on, keen as a boy. "A real good
one--as big as any I ever got in the castle pool--perhaps bigger. You
see they were talking of the fishing yesterday and they all said it
was no good. Not enough water. So I didn't intend to try; but--well,
you see, my dear, I got drunk last night--I did--and I woke up about
half an hour ago with a beastly headache. So then I thought I'd go out
and see if the fish weren't moving, and as they'd put me to bed in my
clothes--I must have been horrid drunk, and Andrew, you see, was away
with his people--I just took one of Peter's rods and ferried myself
over in the boat. It's up yonder. I'll take you back in it, if you
like."

The idea was preposterous. Marrion imagined herself arriving at the
castle, where the servants were ever early astir, in her bathing dress
with the Captain! So she hastily drew a red herring across the trail.

"And was the fish real big, Captain Duke?" she asked.

"Big! I tell you it was the biggest I, or, for the matter of that,
anyone else ever caught in the castle pool."

"Fish are aye big when they are in the water, I'm thinking," she cast
back at him, as, loosing her seaweed hold, she struck out.

He sprang up.

"You're not going to try and cross now!" he cried, pointing to where
in mid-stream a wide oily streak told that tide and river were flowing
out fast. "The ebb is at its strongest. Marmie, don't be a fool!"

She gave a quick glance forward, then looked back to smile farewell.

"Aye, it's strong, but I've done it before now. There's no fear for
me, Captain Duke."

So saying she turned her head upstream, seeing indeed that she would
have to be careful not to be swept past her bearings when she got to
mid-channel; so she did not see Marmaduke tear off his creel, his
coat, and waistcoat, and, in thin ruffled shirt and kersey breeches,
launch himself into the water. But his tremendous underwater strokes
soon brought him up almost beside her to shake his curly head like a
retriever. She looked at him startled and quickened her strokes,
whereupon he changed to overhand and ranged up beside her without
effort.

"Where did you learn yon?" she asked, more for something to break a
silence which made her heart beat than from curiosity. "You usen't to
swim that way."

"In the Indies," he replied, laughing. "I must teach it to you; but it
isn't much good in currents. By Jove, how jolly this is. Why the deuce
did I take the boat? I say--look out! I feel the trend of the stream."

Small doubt of that. They were through the backwater and in another
minute would be in the full of outgoing river and outgoing tide. The
opposite bank seemed slipping past them rapidly. Duke changed his
stroke instantly and ranged up beside Marrion.

"It will be easier together," he said, passing his hand over her
shoulder, and obediently she passed hers over his.

"Now then, together!" he cried. "And if you tire you know what to do;
and keep time, there's a good girl."

So they struck off, the forward lunge of his long legs aiding hers,
that were so far behind in strength. Thus they battled the stream
shoulder to shoulder, almost cheek to cheek, her long loose hair
sweeping across him, until the worst of it was over and the girl would
fain have loosed her grip and turned shorewards definitely.

"Not yet!" he laughed. "Let's swim out to sea a bit! Look--isn't it
worth it?"

Aye, worth everything else in the world. Far out in the east over that
restless horizon the first ray of the sun had tipped, sending a
widening, radiant path of pure gold to meet them. It shone on her
red-brown hair, turning it to bronze; it shone in their blue eyes,
turning them to sapphires; and it shone on their wholesome, happy
faces, transfiguring them out of all semblance to beings of dingy
earth and purifying them from all mortal taint. They were freed souls
swimming in the vasty ether, all around them the dawn of a new day.

So they went on and on, till suddenly Duke veered their course
shorewards with one guiding stroke.

"I shall tire you out," he said softly, and his freed hand, as he
disentangled her hair from his neck, lifted the shiny strands to his
lips for a second. "You have got such jolly hair, Marmie! I wonder you
don't wear it down your back. None of the fellows could resist you
then."

Their faces were away from the dawn now and hers already had a cloud
on it.

"I'm going to the big rock. I left my shawl there," she said,
directing her course towards it.

Duke followed suit in silence. Suddenly he said--

"I can't think how I was such a fool as to get drunk last night. It
shan't occur again; but, you know, I shouldn't have had this perfectly
stunning time if I hadn't, should I? We must repeat it every morning,
Marmie, mustn't we?"

"Weather permitting," she replied, almost bitterly. "But it's no often
sae comfortable to be in the water as it is this morning, Mr. Duke."

"Ah, you should have been with me in the Indies! You could stop in all
day. You're not feeling cold, I hope?"

Cold! With every pulse in her body clamouring for sheer joy in his
presence.

"I'll no be cold when I get my shawl," she said calmly; then, seeing
him turn, called quickly--

"You're no going across again, Mr. Duke, it isn't safe!"

"Didn't I tell you so from the beginning, eh? No; of course I'm not.
I'm going to swim up the side to the steps and send the ghillie for
the boat."

She watched the rhythmic spluttering of his overhand stroke past the
point. He would be home before her, she thought, as somewhat wearily
she climbed the rocks to the keep. It had been a real joy. In all her
life, long or short, she would never forget it.

That was the pity of it, for the memory might become a pain.



                              CHAPTER V


Marmaduke Muir's repentances, like many of his virtues and vices, were
apt to be evanescent. So the next week, it is to be feared, saw many a
lapse from his intention that drunkenness should not occur again. In
truth it needed a strong will to be sober in Drummuir Castle. The old
lord himself had a head which nothing could upset, and though he went
to his bed groaning with gout, no one could have said his wits were in
the least astray. Now Marmaduke had to a certain extent inherited this
toleration of alcohol, a fact which at once gratified his father and
set the old sinner to the graceless task of inciting his son to more
and more glasses of good claret, champagne, and port in order to see
how far the inheritance went. And Marmaduke, partly because he was
anxious to ingratiate himself with his irascible parent and partly
from sheer _joie de vivre_, fell in with the old man's whim. In
reality it meant much to him that he should get to the right side of
his father. He had a chance of his majority if only fifteen hundred
pounds odd could be found over and above the regulation purchase
money. It was a big price; but the vacancy was in a crack Highland
regiment and the majority would give him almost the certainty of
commanding in the future.

"The peer has never done anything for me in his life," he said angrily
to Jack Jardine. "I've gone into a West India regiment. I've lived on
my pay--and your allowance, old chap. By the way, I do wish you'd make
up accounts between us. We three brothers must owe you a lot already,
and though we've all given our _post obits_ on the property when the
old man dies, I myself don't like it. Worries me when I have a
headache, you know!"

Jack Jardine smiled. The proposition for a clear account had been made
many times in the past ten years, sometimes by one brother, sometimes
by another--but generally by Marmaduke--without in any way altering
the relative positions of creditor and debtor. So he set the point
aside.

"Why should you have a headache, Duke?" he began as a prelude to a
sermon on sobriety he had been meditating for some days; but
Marmaduke's candour took the words out of his mouth.

"Not the least reason in life, Jack, except that I want and will
have my majority, and I _must_ keep straight with the peer till I get
the money. Look here, I'll tackle the old man to-morrow, and if I
succeed I'll cut and run. I don't drink anywhere else, Jack, I don't
indeed--not, I mean to say, _drink_."

Looking at the speaker's clear, almost boyish, face his hearer could
well believe it.

"Your father is suffering a lot from the gout just now," he said,
dubiously.

"And he'll go on suffering as long as I'm here, and he wants to make
me drunk," retorted Marmaduke, whose perceptions were by no means
dense, "so the sooner it's over the better for both of us!"

Accordingly the very next day when, in accordance with his usual
custom, he wheeled his parent to the paternal visit to the dower
house, Marmaduke broached the subject of finance on the way back. It
was not a very auspicious moment, for the old gentleman had been made
at once irritable and pious by an unwary allusion on the part of his
youngest daughter, Margaret, to the new minister of the parish, the
Reverend Patrick Bryce. Now the reverend gentleman in question was at
the time Lord Drummuir's _bête noire_. To begin with, he had been
presented to the living by the Crown, and the Barons of Drummuir had
for generations claimed the right themselves. Evil thinking people,
indeed, said that it was this fact which made the old man so
wholehearted an advocate of that disruption in the Church of Scotland
which was then rending the country in twain. People talked of little
else, except railways, and on that point Lord Drummuir held the most
conservative of views. They would, he said, not without truth, play
the devil with country society and make it impossible for a nobleman
to travel in comfort. But no one who knew his lordship ever asked for
consistency in his opinions. He simply held them with a tenacity that
was perfectly appalling. So the mere mention of the Reverend Patrick
Bryce's name, with the addition of a fine blush on his daughter's face
when she discovered her slip of the tongue, had put him into a white
heat of politeness and piety.

"I am surprised at you, Margaret," he said. "I should prefer your
having nothing to do even with the school feasts of a man who, denying
the headship of the church to the Almighty, continues to batten on the
loaves and fishes of--of--and has the cursed impudence to find fault
with other people's meat and drink, too," he added, fiercely.

Despite this, Marmaduke, who had inherited no little of his father's
obstinacy, took the opportunity of the bath-chair reaching the finest
point of the view to say with a great show of courage--

"By the way, sir, don't you think it's about time to send that money
for my majority? Pringle is rather in a hurry to retire, and the price
may run up if we don't act soon."

His lordship rather admired this home thrust without warning, but he
was on his guard at once and cleared his throat for a speech.

"It's a positive disgrace to our army, and so I told poor Brougham the
last time I saw him, that promotion should not only go by purchase but
that private individuals should have power to fill their pockets with
the proceeds of further extortion. It is a kind of simony; it is the
sale of valour, of one's country's good!"

Lord Drummuir was a noted orator when he chose, even in those days
when everyone could string words together into high-sounding phrases,
and when Edmund Burke's foaming fulminations were held up to the young
as models of eloquence; but Marmaduke was obdurate.

"Possibly, sir," he interrupted, "but I want to do it. You see, sir,"
he warmed with his subject, "I'll be dashed if I've troubled you much
in the last ten years--now have I? You've made me an allowance on
which I couldn't live in a gentlemanly way at home. So I've exchanged
again and again for foreign service, going down and down till I've
landed in the West Indies. And now I have this chance of getting back
to my old regiment, to a soldier's life that is worth having----"

"No soldier's life is worth having. If you will be kind enough to
remember, I objected from the first to the army," interrupted the old
man, with icy politeness.

Marmaduke groaned aloud.

"Oh, don't let us go back so far as that, sir. The thing's done, and
practically you have to decide now whether you're going to wreck my
fortune or make it."

Lord Drummuir took out his pocket-handkerchief solemnly.

"And this is what I am asked to do, when my physicians insist on
absolute rest of body and mind. I am asked to consider, to take all
the responsibility. No, Marmaduke, you are old enough to decide for
yourself!"

"Then you wish me to go back to that miserable hole?" began the young
man vehemently.

"I am informed on the best authority that the climate of the West
Indies has sensibly improved of late years," remarked his lordship,
imperturbably. "The discovery of the cinchona plant----"

"Damn the cinchona plant!" burst out Marmaduke. But at that instant a
silvery artificial little laugh rose behind them and Mdlle. Fantine Le
Grand appeared tripping over the grass with the daintiest of sandalled
feet.

She had again been watching father and son from her window, and after
a week's hesitation she had suddenly decided that something must be
done to stop what seemed to be growing confidence. She had hitherto
played with the plan of arousing the old man's jealousy, confining
herself to half-hearted flirtations with Marmaduke, who, also on the
watch, had fallen in with the amusement quite pleasantly. But that
morning Colonel Compton had spoken out his fears.

"You'll have to look to your p's and q's, Fan, or that youngster will
be running away with some of the peer's loose cash. And as the estate
is strictly entailed that won't suit us. I overheard that weasel, Jack
Jardine, talking to the captain about the purchase of his majority, so
you had better look sharp."

The words echoed in her brain as she had stood watching father and son
in an apparently amicable conversation which clinched her decision.
The result being her appearance before the two conspirators,
provocative to the very tilt of her carefully held pink parasol.

"Oh, pardon," she began, in the stage French accent she affected in
society, "but I mean not to disturb! Only the filial picture of milor
and his too charming son was irresistible to poor me--so _sans
famille_."

She did not look in the least forlorn, and Lord Drummuir's clear,
wicked old eyes, that had seen to the bottom of so many evil things,
took her in from head to foot, and his clear wicked old brain
considered what she would be at. Then he chuckled softly, thinking he
had found out.

"No apologies needed, dear little Fan," he said affectionately; "you
are almost one of the family already, so we've no secrets. Marmaduke
and I were just discussing the purchase of his majority. It will take
more than two thousand five hundred pounds, I'm afraid, won't it, dear
boy?--what with the regulation and non-regulation figures. A big sum,
my dear, a big sum. It will make a hole in what's available for
wedding presents, eh, little woman?"

He looked at her with amused malevolence, thinking he had settled her
hash; for little Fan was not the woman to flirt with a man who was to
do her out of a farthing. And Fantine's eyes were steel as she made a
little curtsey.

"Who, my lord," she warbled tenderly, "could regret money spent in
such a good cause? Pardon," she added, remembering her accent, "was
that not right said? I mean that Marmaduke"--her voice cooed the
name--"is welcome to all zat I could give to him."

The baron burst into a huge rough guffaw.

"Come, that is a real good 'un!" he cried, highly amused. "I declare
you're as good as a play. But it's not settled yet." Here he glanced
at his son, keen to tantalise him too, and with reckless devilry
sowing the seeds of evil broadcast. "I shall have to choose between
diamonds for my wife and promotion for my son. Meanwhile, my lady,
don't get your pretty little feet damp on the grass. Remember you have
to dance to us to-night. Ogilvie and all the good fellows for miles
round are coming to see you, and you mustn't be a failure."

When the bath-chair and its wheezy occupant had been handed over to
the valet, Fantine Le Grand and Marmaduke lingered on the steps
together in silence.

"You have not yet seen me dance?" she said, suddenly. "Well, you shall
see me this evening! I will dance for you alone, monsieur."

His eyes laughed into hers boldly.

"It is a bargain, mademoiselle; but I shall ask for more, I warn you."

"_Dieu merci_," she said, with a tiny shrug of her shoulders, "you
must not ask too much!"

So with provocative laughter she fled up the steps with the prettiest
of little glissades and disappeared, leaving Marmaduke gratified at
the impression he had evidently made, and with a certain new
admiration for the demure daintiness of Mademoiselle Fantine. His
father, devil take him, hadn't a bad taste.

He said nothing of all this, however, to Jack Jardine when he raged
for a full hour over his father's absolute lack of human sympathy.

"Why only yesterday," he stormed, "he signed a cheque for one thousand
pounds because he wanted to pose as the patron of these dispossessed
parsons. It isn't moral, it isn't Christian. He doesn't care if he
ruins me body and soul. Anyhow, I've done with him for ever."

"Then you will leave at once?" suggested Jack Jardine.

In truth he was anxious to get the young man away from temptation as
soon as possible, and he knew well that in the end he himself would
have somehow or another to negotiate the money for the majority.

"No," replied Marmaduke. "I'm going to stop on for a bit."

And he set his nether lip hard. He was not going to give a cheek to
the enemy. He meant to hit back if he could. If his father couldn't
spare two thousand pounds because he wanted to spend it on a dancing
woman, he might find himself in the position of not having the dancing
woman on whom to spend it. He, Marmaduke, would have a try at it,
anyhow. It was mean and horrible, of course, but so was the old man.
He began it.

Peter Muir, coming in yawning, exclaimed at his brother's face.

"What's up, Duke?" he asked. "You look in the devil of a temper."

"So I am," retorted Duke. "And so would you be if you had the spunk to
ask anything of the baron. But you haven't, you see."

"Phew!" said Peter. "So you've been attacking the money bags. I could
have told you it was no go. That's why I learnt picquet of that
Italian count the governor got hold of last year and sent about his
business when he had rooked him of a thou! Now I can get a guinea or
two off everybody who comes in to the house--except you, Jack. You
never will play."

"I don't wish to add to your pocket-money, Peter; you've too much
already," replied Jack Jardine sternly. "Ah, I've heard of your
beguiling that wretched girl!"

"Not for the first time, old man," put in Peter. "You shouldn't talk
about things you don't understand; and a fellow must have some
amusement in this cursed hole, especially when the river is low. But
for the life of me, Duke, I can't see why you shouldn't go on half pay
and stop at home a bit. We should have some fine fun together, and I'd
teach you picquet, if you like."

Marmaduke stood gazing at his young brother for a second or two
angrily. Then his face softened, he went over to him and laid his
hands on his shoulders, and so remained looking down on the weak
effeminate face.

"You're talking what they call 'bosh' at school, Peter. You're not a
bit content here. How could you be? Give it up and come along with me
when I go. The old man doesn't deserve to have a son."

Peter wriggled himself away from his brother's hold.

"I don't really see why you should go."

"Don't you? Well, I'll tell you. Because I'm a soldier born and bred.
I don't suppose I shall die on the field of glory, but I shall have a
try at it. And I mean to have my majority in my old regiment if I have
to forge the old man's name to get it."

With that he gloomed away and loafed about, irritated at all things
and everything, even at the preparations that were being made for the
festivities of the evening, for these necessitated his being turned
out of his comfortable room in order to accommodate some of the
guests.

"Where are they putting me?" he asked angrily of Andrew Fraser, whom
he found, very long and lank in consequence of repeated attacks of
malarial fever, busy packing up his dressing things.

"It will be tae whatten they used to ca' the 'Agäpemoan' in the old
lord's young days, sir," replied Andrew. "Jest yon big room wi' the
outside stair in the west wing close to the keep, sir. 'Tis a bonny
eneuch room with a fire to it, an' Marrion Paul has ben reddin' it up
a' day."

Marrion Paul! The name came as a relief and a regret, for he had not
seen her--not anyhow for speech--since their dawn-tide swim together.
Now the mere memory of it in its coolness and freshness and beauty
calmed his irritation, and half aimlessly he strolled across the
quadrangle to inspect his new quarters. She might be there still.
Apparently she was, for a sound of determined sweeping came down the
stairway.

"Hullo, Marmie, is that you?" he cried joyously, bounding up the steps
two at a time.

"Aye, Mr. Duke, it's me," replied the figure with the broom
laconically.

Certainly it was a nice comfortable room with the fire blazing and the
casement window, still somewhat hung with cobwebs, set wide to the
summer sunshine. Marmaduke passed to it and looked out. Beneath him,
far down the slanting red cliffs dotted here and there with sombre
pines, lay the castle pool, and over yonder to the right were the
rocks on the other side where he had found Marmie combing her hair
like any mermaid. It was hidden now under a most unbecoming dust
kerchief; still the memory was pleasant.

"I say, Marmie," he remarked, "that swim of ours was stunning, wasn't
it?"

"It's aye nice in the dawning," replied Marrion comfortably. "I've
been out twice since then, and I'm no saying which I enjoyed the
maist."

Marmaduke made a wry face.

"You look as if I were interrupting your work," he said tenderly.

"So you are, Captain Duke," she assented calmly. He clapped his hands
to his ears in mock alarm, and with a laugh raced headlong downstairs,
calling back half-way that 'Andry' would have his work cut out for him
getting his master to bed if so be the latter had had a glass too
much.

When he had gone Marrion ceased sweeping and rested her cheek on the
broom handle for a bit.

He--there was but one he in her life and she faced the fact
quietly--did not look so well as he did at first, but of that Andrew
Fraser had warned her. He had, in fact, told her of many things which
otherwise she would not have known, for she had seen much of him in
the last week. The racket of the noisy servants' hall, the whole
dissolute life of masters and men up at the castle had not been to his
taste, and he had taken to going over to the keep-house for quiet, if
not for peace. But even that was coming to him by degrees as he
realised the utter hopelessness of his love for Marrion. But he
realised also that if she was not for him neither was she for any
other man--except one; and that was impossible. So, indeed, he had
told her plainly but a day or two before, when half-dazed with fever
and ague which had attacked him suddenly, in the keep-house.

She had insisted on his lying down in her grandfather's room, and when
she went in to bring him a cup of hot tea he had slipped his feet to
the ground apologetically, and sitting up, a lank figure among the
blankets, his small pathetic eyes full of fever, had laid a hot hand
on hers and said--

"I'll no be troubling you again, Marrion. I canna help loving you and
you canna help loving him. It's no oorsels, ye see. It's just
Providence; sae we must just both thole it."

She had stood silent, startled by the sudden attack for a second; then
she had said gravely--

"Aye, Andry, we must just thole it."

Since then a strange confidence as to Marmaduke's sayings and doings
had sprung up between the two, and even at dinner-time that very day
he had told of his master's irritability.

"Things have gone ajee," he remarked, "an' I'm thinkin' it's the money
for the majority. But what's filthy lucre to health?--and sure as
death the captain is no what he was. Gin' it wad make him quit yon bad
auld man an' the whore-woman he is takin' to wife, I'd be heart glad."

For Andrew Fraser, being acquainted with his Bible, did not mince
words. Neither did Marrion; but having more wits than Andrew she
appraised the evils more reasonably, yet with more prejudice. Lord
Drummuir was Lord Drummuir, and therefore in a way must be accepted;
but the woman was different.

Marrion Paul's eyebrows levelled themselves to a straight bar as she
went on with her work.



                              CHAPTER VI


The company had roared over a broad farce; for Lord Drummuir, when he
entertained his neighbours, did so with a lavish hand, and thought
nothing of importing a theatrical company from the nearest big town. A
coach and four went for them and took them back, full up with supper
and good wine. This particular one was not up to much, but they did
well enough, as his lordship said, for the country bumpkins; and the
real entertainment was yet to come.

It was a pretty little miniature, this theatre which Lord Drummuir had
fitted up in the days of his youth, though Marmaduke, as he sat in the
sham Royal box into which his father's armchair had been wheeled,
thought it smelt a little musty and fusty.

But even his laughter had been long and loud. And now there was a
pause during which the noisy band of four--a cornet, a fiddle, a
'cello, and an oboe--hustled up their instruments and music and
disappeared. Marmaduke, with the fine instincts for art he had
inherited from his father, and which still made the latter a gourmet
and not a gourmand of all good things, felt relieved. Then suddenly a
thin thread of sound, vibrant, musical--just a whing like the whing of
a mosquito on a hot Indian night--made itself more felt than heard. It
seemed to thrill the air, to go further and thrill the heart-strings.
Marmaduke leant forward expectantly as the curtains drew up slowly on
a background of pale pink velvet hanging in loose folds to a pale pink
velvet floor. And the musty fustiness had gone! That was attar of
roses, pale pink roses like the pale pink _mise-en-scène_. And hark,
the thread of sound changed to two! It became rhythmic, louder! A
guitar? No; it must be a Hungarian zither. Marmaduke, thoroughly
roused, thrilled through to the marrow of his bones as he waited. Bent
on conquest, he had dressed with the greatest care; from head to foot
he was perfection. Expectant as he was, he was yet prepared to be
critical; but one glance at the figure which, after peeping with
roguish face between the velvet folds, stole out on tiptoe to the very
footlights, then stood, finger on lip, as if imploring silence for an
escapade, told him he was in the presence of a past mistress in her
art, and he sat back prepared for enjoyment.

And La Fantine, as she had been called, had brought pleasure to many
men. She was looking her best, dainty to a degree. The footlights,
with the larger possibilities of powder and paint, had restored her
youth, and her dress was entrancing. Short clouds of pale pink tulle
scarcely veiled with gossamer black lace, all set and sparkling with
dewdrops of paste diamonds. How they glittered and disappeared,
twinkling one moment like stars amid the diaphanous black lace wings
she wore on her head, then sinking to shadow again as she moved.

And heavens, how she moved! The zither thrilled louder and Marmaduke
sat entranced, for their eyes had met and he realised that she was
keeping her promise--she was dancing for him, for him alone. Like most
young and vital creatures dancing was sheer delight to him, and the
very precision of the black lace-shod, sandalled feet was pure joy to
him. And now the rhythm grew faster and faster; she was like a mad
butterfly drunk with honey from the waiting flowers.

The desire of the eyes does not take long to flame up and flare, and
Marmaduke felt quite dizzy as he joined in the burst of applause when,
with a final pirouette, the _danseuse_ kissed her hand to the
audience. Or was it to him?

"Never saw La Fantine dance better, Drum," remarked a thin old man, a
relic of the past youth when he and the bridegroom expectant had
roystered about together, "except, perhaps, that time, you remember,
when she danced the _fandango_ with that South American fellow
she----"

He paused, remembering that this incident in Mdlle. Le Grand's career
had best not be mentioned under present circumstances.

"The _fandango?_" put in Marmaduke, afire. "I should like to see her
dance that. It's the finest dance in the world. I learnt it in Cuba."

"Hullo, Drum," said the old buck, "here's a chance! Your son says he
can dance the _fandango_. Here's a chance. Let's have it. They'd make
a handsome couple."

Marmaduke blushed up to the ears; why, he knew not. Then he said
stiffly--

"I'd rather not, Sir John."

The refusal was opportune for the _fandango_; it roused the old man's
arrogance.

"Why not, sir?" he asked angrily. "You'd never get a better partner.
Here, Fantine, my dear," he added, raising his voice, "this oaf of a
boy of mine says he can dance the _fandango!_ Show him he can't,
there's a good girl!"

"I will do my leetle best, milor," she replied, with a maliciously
provocative smile that would have incited anyone of spirit to action.

"I am at mademoiselle's command for tuition," said Marmaduke, with a
fine bow.

His head was ringing, his pulses bounding. He was divided between
anger and delight, between a desire to teach the little devil and his
father a lesson, and keen pleasure at the thought of the coming dance.

A minute after he stood making his bow beside La Fantine.

"Do you really know it?" she had whispered.

"Better than you do," he had whispered back brutally. "I've danced it
in the pot-houses of Habana."

Then it would be a trial of skill between them! She nodded to the
zither player to begin, striking the strings with loud full-blooded
notes that vibrated and thrilled through the little theatre and came
back to aid the growing clamour of the music. It was grace and grace,
suppleness and suppleness at first; then by degrees something fiercely
beautiful, profoundly, almost overwhelmingly, appealing to the senses.
The audience sat spellbound, while to those two there grew an
absorbing forgetfulness of all save that they two, man and woman, were
playing each with the other. Suddenly, when that reckless
forgetfulness seemed to have reached its climax, the woman faltered
for a second, turned to her companion.

"Don't you know the rest?" he whispered softly. "Come on, I'll teach
it you."

Half-hypnotised by his look, his manner, she followed his lead.
The music, bewildered, ignorant, failed, came to a full stop.
But it was not needed. Those two danced to the music of the spheres.
The coarse sensuality of this earth had passed. This was the
refined super-sensuality of a world of art, of sentiment. It was
self-renunciation divorced from its real meaning, and when finally,
with La Fantine's heart pressed to his, he laid his burning lips to
hers, a great silence like a sigh came to the whole audience. It was
broken by Lord Drummuir's stentorian voice--

"You--you d----d young scoundrel! This is too much----"

Marmaduke looked up jubilant.

"It's in the original dance, isn't it, Mademoiselle Le Grand?"

"I--I believe it is," she faltered uncertainly. She had met with her
match, and that she knew.

"A most remarkable performance," said Sir John, with unction. "I'll
tell you what it is, young man. You two would be the talk of London if
you could persuade Mdlle. Fantine----" he paused again, coughed, and
added precipitately, "Really, my dear Drum, you are to be
congratulated on such a son, and such a future wife! Inimitable, quite
inimitable! You'll never feel the least dull in the long winter
evenings. Ah, Mdlle. Fantine, _mes compliments!_ I have not seen you
for years; not since----" here once more he pulled himself up short,
and Lord Drummuir, beguiled from wrath by his ever-ready sense of
humour, burst in a loud guffaw.

"Look here, Johnnie," he cried, "hold your tongue and don't splay that
old foot of yours about any more. Winter evenings be dashed! Marmaduke
is going back to his Cuban partners, and little Fanny here is going to
make my gruel, aren't you, Fan? Meanwhile, let's come and have some
supper."

So they supped outrageously, and the noise of their laughter echoed
out over the quadrangle, where Marrion Paul sat at her door listening
for Marmaduke's step. She had promised to call Andrew Fraser the
moment she heard it; Andrew, who for two hours had been shivering and
shaking with ague under the spare-room blankets, and had now
apparently fallen asleep, secure in Marrion's promise to rouse him on
his master's appearance.

She had been up twice to see that the captain's room was in order, and
like any valet had laid out everything that would be required for the
night. So, leaving the candles alight, she had come down to stand at
the door of the keep-house again and watch the slow whirling stars
almost stupidly, and wonder what had best be done at once to keep Duke
friends with his father, and at the same time to get him away from the
godless crew up at the castle.

A staggering step and Marmaduke's voice joyously thick saying--

"All right, James, you needn't come any further. I can find my way
now. Good-night. Andrew--where the deuce are you, Andrew? Why weren't
you waiting?" sent her in haste to fulfil her promise. But the hot fit
had this time had a firmer grip on Andrew than either she or he had
expected, and she found him lying with closed eyes half-unconscious.
And though he roused at her touch it was only to mutter: "Let me be,
mother! I'm no goin' to the schule the day. I wunna; let me be, I
say!"

Marrion, seeing he was useless, laid a wet cloth on his head and
returned to her station by the door. It was a dark night and she could
see nothing. Neither could she hear anything.

What had happened? Had Marmaduke managed the stairs by himself? If so,
well and good. He could be left to his own devices, and serve him very
well right! The candles were in a safe place. But if he had fallen by
the way, he would be out all night. Serve him right also! Her lips
curled with scorn, and she was about to go in and close the door when
she remembered that the kitchen girls shaking their mats in the
quadrangle in the early morning would see him if he were lying there.
If it were men it would not have mattered, but that girls should see
and snigger was unbearable. She must go and make sure this would not
happen. Taking the lantern--for it was pitch dark--she made her way to
the foot of the stair. He was lying with his head on the lowest step,
as he had fallen, sleeping peacefully. The cool night air had
completed the work of wine, and so doubtless he would sleep for hours.
But he must not; that disgrace must be avoided. Kneeling beside him
she shook him violently by the shoulder; he roused a little, but not
much, and as he sank back to renewed slumber she looked helpless for a
moment, then angry. It was too bad! He must be roused somehow. She
lifted her hand and gave him a good smart blow on the cheek.

The effect was magical.

"Marmie," he murmured dazedly, then sat up and said confusedly, "What
is it, my dear?"

"You've got to get up and go to your bed, Mr. Duke," she replied.
"Come, be quick about it."

He stumbled to his feet obediently.

"Certainly, certainly! No objection whatever," he said thickly; but
when by the light of the lantern he saw the stairs he gave a silly
laugh, and said amiably: "Quite impossible, I 'sure you. Where's
Andrew?"

"Andrew is not here, Mr. Duke," she replied firmly. "I'll help you up.
Hold on to the rail with your right hand; I'll see to you."

He delivered himself into her strong grip, body and soul, and so, with
a few stumbles, they reached the top of the stairs. Here she hesitated
a moment, then led him on.

"Sit you down on your bed, Duke. I'll help you off with your coat.
Ye'll sleep better without it. An' now kick off yer pumps," she went
on calmly, a sort of fierce motherhood possessing her, "an' I'd better
loosen yer stock; 'tis tight enough to suffocate ye."

He acquiesced in all, sinking to sleep without a word almost before
she had finished her ministrations. Then, taking a plaid that hung
over a chair, she covered him over and prepared to go. But regret,
anger, outraged affection were too strong for her. She flung herself
on her knees beside the bed and buried her face on his unconscious
breast.

"Ah, Duke, Duke," she moaned, "how can ye! Ah, Duke, Duke, you
mustn't, you shall not spoil your life--you shall not, you shall not!"

After a time calm came to her, and, drawing a chair to the side of the
bed, she sat down on it and, clasping her hands tight together, forced
herself to think of the future. But again and again she caught herself
comparing those two unconscious faces--Andrew's all flushed with
fever, Duke's all flushed with wine. Yet comparisons were useless
before Fate. She stood up at last, crossed the room, blew out the
candles, shut the door, and went downstairs, certain but of one thing,
that somehow she was bound by the very greatness of her love to stand
between Duke and danger.

Her grandfather was home, and snoring. Andrew she found better and
beginning to fret over his inability to serve his master.

"Dinna fash yersel," she said kindly. "I heard James bring him over a
while back, and he'll have seen to him."

So, absolutely outwearied, she went to her bed, to sleep at once and
dream that Duke had thanked her and gone away from the godless
household never to return. But Duke, meanwhile, was dreaming about
wonderful white arms that had left powder on his coat and wonderful
red lips that he had kissed boldly, defying the world.



                             CHAPTER VII


It was not only Marrion Paul whose night had been disturbed. Lord
Drummuir, brought thereto by many days' indiscretions, Périgord pie at
supper, and perchance his hot though transient anger at the finale to
the _fandango_, fell a victim to the sharpest attack of gout he had
had since Christmas and kept his side of the house awake with his
curses on things in general, and his valet in particular.

And, on the other side of the south wing, Fantine Le Grand, _alias_
Fanny Biggs, sat till dawn, staring at herself in the looking-glass
and ciphering out the effect of something, new yet old, which had
unexpectedly come into her life. She had sent her maid to bed, but
felt no inclination for her own, until the disturbing element had been
thoroughly reckoned with; for she was eminently practical and shrewd.

So she sat, her elbows on the dressing-table, her fingers cramped in
her loosened hair, taking stock of the pretty painted face which had
been the loadstar of her life. It was beginning to show age. She had
admitted that to herself for some time past, and had told herself it
was time for her to draw in her horns. But now had come this
disturbing factor. Only that morning she had remorselessly plotted to
turn Marmaduke out of the house by fair means or foul. Now she was
clear-sighted enough to admit that she would much rather keep him
beside her.

Strange that one dance, one delicious abandonment of herself to his
directions should have revived her youth--made her think of the gouty
old man with positive loathing.

"You are a fool," she murmured to her reflection in the glass; but the
reflection answered back--"It is your last chance. Why miss it?"

She thought and thought, only one thing coming to her with certainty.
To play with Marmaduke, as she had proposed to do, would be to play
with fire. Was she prepared for this?

At last, wearied out, she rose, poured out a double dose of sleeping
drops, and put off further considerations for the morning, since no
matter at what decision she arrived, she could not afford to be
haggard. She woke, late as usual, to feel, with the usual buoyancy
of perfect health and practically no conscience, that she had been
making a mountain out of a molehill; but the first glance at the
breakfast-table laid in her little boudoir sent a thrill through her
which reminded her that there were indeed pitfalls ahead. For on it
lay a huge bunch of red, red roses, tied together somewhat clumsily
with a red silk officer's scarf, and in it was tucked away a boyish
note: "Excuse tie, I hadn't any other ribbon. Hope you aren't tired
after our wonderful dance. My love to you."

So it was real, tangible; and something must be settled one way or the
other. She frowned over her breakfast and then, untying the bouquet,
disposed the roses about the room, since Lord Drummuir, of whose
illness she had not yet heard, might come in at any moment. The tie
she set aside, its fate being not yet decided.

After a while Colonel Compton, as usual, lounged in, a cigar in his
mouth.

"By George, Fan," he said admiringly, "that was a treat you gave us
last night! Upon my soul, if I'd known you had so much spunk left in
you, I'd never have advised your going on the shelf! If you could only
get that young fellow as a co, you'd take the town by storm."

"Should I?" she answered, with a half yawn; but her mind seized
instantly on a new idea.

"Of course you would," he went on, "and I've done a bit of
_impresario_ work in my time. Marks, if he'd seen it, would have
offered you fifty sovs a night on the spot. The old man is no mean
judge, and you saw how it angered him."

She burst into a little laugh.

"But he soon got over it. You see he has a sense of humour; if he
hadn't, I could not stand him, I really couldn't!"

"Don't know about getting over it. He's down to-day with a real bad
fit of the gout----"

"Is he?" she remarked coolly. "Then I shall have a holiday." As she
said the words her mind travelled over the possibilities of even a few
days. "Compton," she said suddenly, "I never quite understand the
position of affairs in regard to Drummuir's sons. The estate's
entailed, isn't it?"

"Heir male of the body," replied the colonel. "That is why I warned
you to look out lest Marmaduke should worm money out of his father. So
long as the old man lives you're all right; but when he dies you will
only have the cash and the savings--and the title. The rest all goes
to Pitt--after him, as he has no children, and isn't likely to have
any--to Marmaduke as heir presumptive. After him to Peter, but
Marmaduke is sure to marry; he's really a very good-looking
fellow----"

She interrupted him curtly; she did not need to be told that.

"Thanks. I quite understand, only I wished to be sure."

She passed to the window and looked out. Peter, as usual surrounded
by a perfect pack of silly, silky spaniels--they suited him exactly
with his wide weak mouth, long fair hair, and general exuberance of
dress--was on the lawn talking to Marmaduke. The latter looked up, saw
her, and bowed. She kissed her hand to him and returned to her seat,
her mind still confused, but her will steady.

"Well," she said lightly, "I suppose by and by I shall have to go in
and cheer up my fiancé, but I shan't be sorry for a few days'
holiday."

She told Marmaduke so also when she appeared, exquisite and dainty,
declaring that, as she was useless at home, since his father, poor
dear, could not even bear the sight of her for more than five minutes,
she thought it would be a fine opportunity to see a little more of the
place than she had hitherto been able to; and would Marmaduke tell her
where to go.

The result of which innocent interrogatory being that in the full
glory of a summer afternoon, the sea calm as a mill pond, Marmaduke
found himself sitting in a boat as it drifted idly beneath the old red
sandstone cliffs facing the North Sea with his arm round La Fantine's
waist and a curious mixture of desire and disdain in his heart.

"You see, my dear boy," she was saying, "I dare say you think ill of
me."

"I don't, I don't indeed!" he protested.

"Well, you did think ill of me," she continued, with a heavenly smile;
"but I really have all the Christian virtues. That is the worst of it.
I hate giving pain, or seeing people suffer. And I like doing my best
for people, if I can. Now my proposition sounds rather impossible,
but it really is quite feasible. I'm not going to talk about our
feelings, Duke. We both of us remember last night, so we will leave
them out of the question. But you are a young man, you have a future
before you--that is to say, if you play your cards properly. You want
to be a soldier----"

"I don't mean to be anything else," interrupted Marmaduke decidedly,
"so your plan of my making money by dancing with you is out of the
question."

"Not on six months' sick leave, under an assumed name? Now, Duke,
listen and don't interrupt. If you and I join forces and run away from
here, I will engage to get the money for your majority. I tell you any
manager would advance two thousand on the _fandango_ alone--or Jack
Jardine could finance one half--as he always does, and I the other.
Then you could join, get leave, disappear, have a real stunning six
months with me--London, Paris, Vienna perhaps. You don't know what the
life is like, Duke--and I'm not jealous or exacting. I like to amuse
myself, and so should you."

He looked at her admiringly.

"What an imagination you have!" he said. "And you settle everything so
quickly. You remind me----" And here the thought of Marrion Paul made
him suddenly shift back to the thwart and begin to scull once more.
"We are nearing the current," he said apologetically, "and she needs
steering--and so do I!" he added, with a charming smile, "so go on,
please, with your imaginations."

She gave him a sharp look, saw he had still some fight left in him,
and like a good fisherman let him have his head a bit.

"Of course it is all imagination," she assented, "and it depends on
whether you think it worth while to pay the price I ask for all this.
I am five years older than you are, Duke" (in reality she was fifteen,
but under a rose-lined sun hat years disappear), "but I am still
attractive."

She said the word so cunningly that he laid on his oars and bent
forward till his burning eyes were close to hers.

"Attractive!" he echoed. "You're more than that, and you know it--at
any rate, I do!"

"I am glad of it," she assented, "for it makes it easier for both of
us; but, as I said, I don't want to dwell on our feelings, they are
too recent to be--er--reliable. It is purely as business that I put it
to you. I want to get back to the old life, if I can do it with any
chance of success. Last night showed me I could. But I also want to be
Lady Drummuir. You want to get your majority, and also--there is no
use in mincing words--to spite your father for not giving you the
money. Now all these desires can be combined----"

The grating of the keel on a shingly shore interrupted her, and
Marmaduke stood up, shipped his oars, and held out both his hands.

"Let's leave it for the time, little lady, or you'll persuade me out
of my persuasion that you're right. There's the most ideal spot for
lovers just round that rock. Let's go there and forget everything and
everybody except that I am the most delightful man in the world, and
you are the most delightful--and attractive--woman!"

The hint of artificiality in his tone made her frown, but there was
frank sensual admiration in his look as he set her down after lifting
her from the boat.

"I think," he said softly, as he held out a finger bleeding from the
prick of a pin, "you are the daintiest, thorniest thing I ever
touched. You're like the roses I gave you this morning, all colour,
sweetness and scent, and--thorns."

Whereat they both laughed as they made their way to the ideal spot for
lovers. To their surprise and discomfiture they found it already
occupied by Margaret Muir, who was looking sentimentally out to sea
with the Reverend Patrick Bryce's arm round her waist.

"Meg!" cried Marmaduke, aghast.

"Oh, Marmaduke! Why? How did you come?" wailed his sister, jumping up
and looking round as if for escape.

The Reverend Patrick Bryce, however, stood his ground. He was a small
spare man of about fifty, dapper and spruce, his curling grey hair
having the appearance of a wig under his low crowned hat, his clear,
starched clerical bands natty to a degree.

"Captain Marmaduke Muir, I presume," he said, with a bow of a marquis.
"I regret much exposing my dear Miss Margaret Muir to this
unpleasantness, but I beg you to believe that, as my affianced wife, I
am ready to defend her to the uttermost."

Marmaduke looked from one to the other of the delinquents.

"You don't mean to say, Meg," he said at last, "that you wish to marry
the minister?"

The very idea seemed to him preposterous, absurd; he almost laughed at
it.

The Reverend Patrick Bryce gave her no time for reply.

"She not only desires to marry me, sir, but she is going to do so,
please God, before long. Yes, sir, I propose to take her away from a
demoralising atmosphere, and give her, to the utmost of my power, the
love and affection she deserves."

He looked very gallant as he made his little speech, and Marmaduke
acknowledged to himself that he played the gentleman well. Still, he
turned again to his sister in incredulity.

"You can't do it, Meg. To begin with, if the Baron----"

"Baron Drummuir, sir, will have nothing to say to it," interrupted the
little minister once more. "The Honourable Margaret Muir is of age,
and if she chooses to marry a man of birth equal to her own--I do not
care to boast of my ancestry, sir, but Bryce and Bruce are the same,
and my family tree shows Robert of Scotland to be my immediate
ancestor--she is at liberty to do so."

"That is for Lord Drummuir to decide," said Marmaduke grimly. "Of
course, I shall tell him, Meg, what I've seen."

Margaret clasped her hands in entreaty.

"Oh, please, don't, Duke--please, please!"

"Margaret," interrupted the minister sharply, "oblige me by not
entreating your brother to silence. Let him speak if he chooses. We
are not ashamed of ourselves."

All this time Mdlle. Le Grand had been watching the scene with her
sharp eyes, and her acute little brain had been working out any
advantage to herself. Now she saw her way and slipped forward with a
smile.

"My dear Marmaduke," she said, as the two men stood glaring at each
other, "live and let live is a valuable motto. You must remember that
Margaret can also tell on us. Silence on both sides is the best way
out of the difficulty. Don't you think so, Miss Muir?"

Margaret gave a frightened look at her brother.

"Ah, Duke," she cried, "you don't mean to say you----"

Fantine Le Grand interrupted her with perfect aplomb.

"That has nothing to do with it, my dear young lady; but you know as
well as I do what would happen if your father got wind of this
excursion of ours. So, as I said, silence is wise. Don't you agree
with me, sir?"

The Reverend Patrick Bryce once more made the bow of a marquis.

"I reserve the right to speak if I choose----"

"And so do I," she retorted sweetly, "only we won't choose. Come,
Marmaduke, it is time we were going back. Had we not better take your
sister with us? It will look better--for both sides."

And here she gave a delightful tinkle of a laugh.

She kept up the rôle so well on the return journey that simple
Margaret Muir was quite fascinated, and when, artfully, the suggestion
was made that Marmaduke should see his sister home to the Dower House,
the latter took the occasion to remark, as the former had hoped she
would, on her surprise at finding Mdlle. Le Grand so agreeable and so
well mannered.

"She is very charming," replied Marmaduke, a trifle gloomily, "and
very clever."

He felt vaguely that he had been played with, and that he had had no
more responsibility in the game than a pawn at chess. He felt also
that the compact of silence with his sister brought imaginings nearer
to reality.

And the idea of that six months on the Continent was a temptation;
anyhow, he would have another go at the old man first.

If he still refused--well, on his head be it!



                             CHAPTER VIII


Days are long to a man and a woman when one of them passionately
desires the other, for every instant counts, every moment spells
success or failure. And Fantine Le Grand, with her almost lifelong
experience of intrigue, was not one to let the grass grow under her
feet. So when, two days later, Marmaduke ran over the quadrangle to
beg a favour of Marrion Paul, most of his scruples had disappeared,
and, for the time, at any rate, he was an admiring lover, eager to do
anything and everything for the woman of the moment.

"You can, quite well, if you like, Marrion," he pleaded. "It would
only be for a day or two, till Josephine could put her foot to the
ground again. And Mdlle. Le Grand--she has been very much maligned,
Marmie--is perfectly charming. Now do. It isn't often I ask you to do
anything for me, is it?"

Marrion Paul had opened her eyes at the proposition, which was briefly
that, during the temporary disablement of Mdlle. Le Grand's French
maid, she should go over and take her place. She had been on the point
of refusal when that "for me" startled her. Was it possible that he
could count that woman's convenience his own? She hesitated, but only
for a second.

"I will do what I can for you, Captain Duke," she said.

In an instant all the old charm, all the old _camaraderie_ came to his
voice--

"I knew you would, Marmie. I told her so. You're a real friend, you do
such a lot of things for me." Then he in his turn hesitated, looked
confused, and finally spoke: "I had such odd dreams that night--the
night we danced, you know. I dreamt that you helped me up the stairs
and--and put me to bed like a baby." He paused. "Did you, really,
Marmie?"

The colour rushed to her face.

"Aye, Captain Duke, I did. Andrew was ill and you were drunk."

Her straightforward candour abashed him beyond words.

"I'm sorry," he said at last, so humbly that her heart melted within
her. Then he added, with a sudden influx of joyousness, "But I'm
really going to turn over a new leaf. I'm going to cut and run before
long and let my father stew in his own juice."

She caught him up instantly.

"Your father's your father, Mr. Duke, and you're the heir to the old
barony. You mustn't forget that. It's laid on you, and it's not to be
put aside."

He paused as he was going, vexedly.

"I'm not going to put it aside, Marmie. I am only going to make the
best of a bad bargain. If the old lord won't give me the money for my
majority, I'm not going to stick on here getting drunk to please him."

There was distinct virtue in the last phrase, and Marmie smiled. And
as she looked in the old clothes drawer for some black silk-frilled
aprons which her mother had worn when she was maid to the first Lady
Drummuir, she told herself that Duke was nothing but--as he had
said--a big baby, and that, no matter what the dancing-woman might be
like, she, Marrion, was glad to be in a position where she could see
for herself what was going on.

She looked very demure, very uncompromising and upright, therefore,
when that same afternoon, attired after a little coloured sketch of
her mother as maid, she stood waiting for Fantine Le Grand to come up
and dress for dinner. Yet, even so, the latter's instant and quite
unpremeditated remark was--

"Captain Muir did not tell me you were so good-looking."

It was a revelation to Marrion's quick wits, but she was ready in
reply.

"Maybe he never looked to see, ma'am," she said demurely, "having his
eyes busy with prettier things."

Fantine Le Grand laughed easily and her manner changed to more
familiarity at once.

"You know which side your bread is buttered, my girl. So much the
better. Now I wonder how much use you will be?"

"I was six years at the dressmaking, madam," replied Marrion, "and the
forewoman gave me all the touching-up work; she said I had a good hand
for folds."

Fantine gave a relieved sigh.

"Then you're not quite a bumpkin, but I suppose you can't do hair?"

"I can, a little," said Marrion; "I learnt just a wee while in
Perragier's shop in Edinburgh. The foreman wanted me to stop, but I
don't care for the business."

All of which was absolutely true; for the hairdresser who had offered
her gold for her russet hair had afterwards offered her his heart and
hand. What is more he had hardly yet withdrawn his offer, and only
that morning the post had brought her a long and friendly letter
enclosing a sachet and a most particular account of how he had dressed
the hair of all the Edinburgh celebrities in the latest fashion for
the last big ball.

"I'm thinking," she went on deftly, "that the new Sevigné style would
just suit madam, if she will allow me to try. There will be time to
change if it doesn't please."

Five minutes later Fantine Le Grand, in pink wrapper, was watching in
the glass Marrion's fingers curling and twisting and combing and
puffing. And Marrion was watching the glass also, a half inherited,
half acquired perception of what was beautiful and becoming aiding her
lack of practice.

"My dear girl," said Fantine delighted, when Marrion stepped back, her
task completed, "you're an artist! It makes me look ten years younger.
You must come with me." She paused and gave a little conscious laugh.
"Anyhow, you are much better than Josephine, and so I shall tell
Captain Muir."

Apparently she did, for Marrion, meeting him by chance that evening on
the stairs, had to draw back from his outstretched hand.

"Hang it all," he said, almost boisterously, "I forgot you were a
servant here! Do you ever forget your p's and q's, I wonder? I wish
you would sometimes. Anyhow, you have made her look quite divine, and
she says she means to ask you to take the place permanently."

"It is very kind of _her_," replied Marrion, accenting the pronoun;
but Marmaduke was too absorbed to notice it. Only that afternoon he
had had his final attack on his father's purse-strings, and had come
down to the library where Jack Jardine and Peter were smoking, white
with rage.

"It's all up!" he said. "The old man--I'll never call him father
again--insulted me beyond bearing."

"I warned you, Duke," began Peter; "he isn't half recovered yet."

"And do you think I've got time to waste until my precious parent
takes enough colchicum and nitre to kill a horse, all because he
guzzles and swills? No. As I told him, Pringle won't wait over the
week, so--so I'm making other arrangements. I shall have to ask you,
Jack, to raise two hundred pounds to clinch the bargain when I meet
Pringle. I don't know how the devil you do it, but you always do."

"Yes, I always do," assented Jardine a trifle wearily; "but you know,
Duke, it would be wiser to raise the two thousand pounds at once and
have done with it. If Pitt and Peter here were to join in a _post
obit_, and I were to back it----"

"Thanks!" said Marmaduke curtly. "I only asked for two hundred pounds,
and you can put that in the bill, can't you?"

"Yes," assented Jardine again wearily, "I can put it in the bill"

When Marmaduke had gone out of the room Peter crossed over to the fire
and knocked the ashes out of his pipe.

"I wonder what he has got in his head," he remarked thoughtfully.
"It's something to do with Fantine, _alias_ Fanny Biggs, I'm sure."

"Fantine?" echoed Jack Jardine. "Why, of course, anyone can see that
Marmaduke has been trying to get to the right side of her. I advised
him to do so. And she, of course--by that scoundrel Compton's advice,
I expect--has been trying to make the peer jealous in order to get rid
of Marmaduke!"

Peter burst out laughing.

"Look here, Jack, you're excellent as a man of business, but you're a
mole with women, you old bachelor! I could tell you a thing or two,
but I won't--it's too amusing." And he strolled out of the room
chuckling to himself.

Over in the keep-house, Marrion Paul felt that she, also, could tell a
thing or two, even after the brief experience of being maid to Fantine
Le Grand; but she did not find it amusing. On the contrary, it sent
her about her new work with a frown in her eyes that were keen for
every sign.

The day had been a troublous one. The old peer, up for the first time,
had been so irritable that the whole household was upset. Fantine Le
Grand, indeed, coming up for her usual late afternoon rest, had
professed herself so outwearied by a protracted penance in milord's
private room that she bade Marrion give her a double dose of her
sleeping draught and tell the butler she was not coming down to
dinner. She would have a dainty little supper in her boudoir at ten
o'clock, and till then did not wish to be disturbed. Being thus set
free, Marrion was going home when, as she passed the stairway leading
to the room which Marmaduke had occupied and where Andrew Fraser still
kept some of his master's spare things, she heard a noise as of
someone shifting boxes. Running up to see what it was, she found
Andrew busy packing up.

"Aye, we're awa' the morn's morn," he replied cheerfully to her query,
"and blythe am I that the finest gentleman in the Queen's army will
run no more danger o' bein' ruined by a whore-woman and an auld, auld
man, as s'ould be thinkin' o' his grave an' the Last Day."

Despite a sudden catch at her heart, his hearer acquiesced calmly.

"Aye, it's well he's goin! But where is it to?"

"To Edinbro'. He's an appointment tae meet Major Pringle the morrow's
morn aboot the exchange."

"An' when he's comin' back?" asked Marrion sharply.

"I heard no tell o' returnin', and I'm thinkin' not. Ye see the
exchange he tell't me was settled into the auld regiment."

"Then his father----" she interrupted.

Andrew shook his head.

"It's no the auld lord. They had just a fearfu' stramash aboot it. It
will be Jack Jardine again, puir fallow! He always manages it somehow.
Well, he'll hae his reward at the Judgment, though I'm thinkin' he'll
hae to wait till then for a reckoning."

"Maist o' us have to do that, Andry," said Marrion grimly, and then
her face, looking into the hard, honest, homely face before her,
softened; "an' you, abune all, abune all, my lad," she added, as she
went on her way.

Andrew Fraser hesitated for a second, then followed fast.

"Thank ye for that, my dear," he said hoarsely at the foot of the
stairway, "it makes it easier. An' I'll wait--aye, I'll wait till
then, never fear, Marrion!"

His outstretched hand was in hers as they stood gazing into each
other's eyes, his very love forgot in the flood of friendship which
surged through their hearts and brains, when Miss Margaret Muir, fresh
from an afternoon among the rocks with her gallant little parson, came
whistling and calling to her dogs through the keep-gate. She had spent
so many long years of her life without one touch of glamour and
romance that, now it had come to her at last, the whole world seemed
transfigured into a place full to the brim of lovers and their lasses.
So in an instant the sight of those two set her becking and smiling.

"Good luck to you both!" she called. "Good luck, good luck! After all,
Marrion, you see you will be asking Mr. Bryce to get you cried."

Andrew, shamefaced and confused, escaped up the stairs, but Marrion
stood her ground boldly.

"There'll be scant time, Miss Marg'ret," she said, not without some
scorn, "for Andrew is away with his master the morn, and Captain Duke
says he will not be coming back."

Her hearer turned visibly pale. Ever since the rencontre on the rocks
Margaret had been haunted by a fear lest Marmaduke should break the
half-formulated compact of mutual silence. And now this news of his
unexpected departure sent a thousand wild conjectures to her mind.
Had he quarrelled with his father over the woman? Had he in revenge
told----

"Going away!" she gasped. "I didn't know. Surely it's very sudden!
Why? Can my father have found out about Mdlle. Le Grand----" Then
realising her slip, she went on hurriedly, "But it is all nonsense
about Duke's saying he will not come back. The boys always say that
when there is a quarrel; but father forgets, and so do they, as you
know quite well, Marrion. And it's only right that it should be so,
for after all he is their father, isn't he?"

"Aye, Miss Marg'ret," replied Marrion gravely, "my Lord Drummuir is
the present holder o' the barony, an' Captain Marmaduke is the heir to
it if the Master has no son; so that settles it outright."

Margaret Muir looked at her with a sort of wistful surprise.

"You put things very plain, Marrion," she said, "but you always were a
sensible girl; and, being what you are, your grandfather's
granddaughter--you--you belong to Drummuir, as it were."

When she had passed on whistling and calling to her dogs, Marrion Paul
stood echoing those last words in her heart. Yes, she belonged to
Drummuir; but over and above that inherited loyalty there was a
passion of protection for Duke himself. He must not be harmed in any
way.

Was there indeed anything between him and the painted woman she was
serving?

Before she wakened her for the dainty supper at ten o'clock that
evening Marrion stood looking at the sleeping face, all its charm of
_espièglerie_ gone, the mouth cruel, the lines about the eyes hard and
set.

No, whatever came, that woman should not have the spoiling of Duke's
life! Not that there could be much fear since he was leaving the next
day.



                              CHAPTER IX


No danger!

The thought--such an ill-considered thought, it seemed--recurred to
Marrion Paul as she held a slip of crumpled paper in her hand and read
its slight contents over and over again.

She had found it on the floor of the room where Andrew Fraser had
packed up his master's spare things. There had been heaps of other
papers on the floor, when, during the time that Fantine Le Grand was
on duty with the old lord, Marrion, more to still thought than from
necessity, had set herself the task of clearing up and making tidy;
but this one showed her Duke's handwriting, and, half mechanically,
she had reached down to pick it up. And then? Women, as a rule, have
not nearly so hard and fast a rule of conventional honour as men on
such points, so she had smoothed it out and read--

Evidently a memorandum made to help out a memory excellent in its way,
but random, careless.

"Write for rooms at Cross-keys. Order trap from Crow; 9.30, copse by
avenue gate."

She drew in her breath and considered, her thoughts punctuated by the
rapid beating of her heart.

The Cross-keys? That was the inn where the south coach stopped, and
where the ferry road branched off; she could almost see it from her
window across the estuary on the edge of the moorland. What did
Marmaduke want with rooms there? And the trap from the Crow? That was
the little inn down in the back purlieus of the town. For whom was
that trap wanted? And why not order from the big posting hotel as
usual?

Then in an instant a solution flashed upon her. Marmaduke had not
really gone by the afternoon coach; or, if he had, so far, was to
return that night to the Cross-keys, and the trap was to take Fantine
Le Grand to him by the bridge road!

The beating of her heart steadied itself. She folded up the paper and
put it in her pocket, her vehement determination, somehow or another,
to frustrate this plan almost forgotten for the time in wonder at the
chance which had brought to her this knowledge.

The paper must have fallen out of the pocket of some coat Andrew had
been packing up--how easily it might not so have fallen! How easily
she might not have noticed it! A facile wonder obscured real thought,
and, as usual in such sudden crises, concrete determination hid itself
under one general determination to frustrate the machinations of the
enemy, if possible. She did not even ask herself how this was to be
done; all she told herself was that it _must_ be done.

So, rousing to a sense that afternoon was passing to evening, and that
it was time for her to be in attendance at the castle, she went
thither, feeling vaguely that if it was necessary to kill the woman,
even that must be done, sooner than she should be allowed to hamper
Marmaduke's young life.

Fantine Le Grand had not yet come up from her daily duty of amusing
Lord Drummuir, so Marrion mechanically began, as usual, to prepare for
the evening's toilette, She found all the valuables gone from the
jewel-case, and, after a hasty search, discovered them in a tiny
valise, ready packed hidden away behind laces and ribbons in a drawer.

So she had been right. Fantine Le Grand meant to give them the slip.
Ere she had time to consider a fretful voice came from the boudoir.

"Marrion, Marrion! I do hope the girl's there. Just like 'em if she
isn't. Ah," as Marrion appeared at the door, "for heaven's sake, girl,
take off my shoes and bring me my dressing-gown! That wretched old man
has worn me out. I shall be fit for nothing! Oh, lord, it was too
bad--nothing would please him! What o'clock is it? Six o'clock! Good
gracious, I shall hardly have time before dinner! I won't go down;
there's no one to go down for now Marmaduke's gone. Lord, what a
relief it will be! Tell them to bring dinner up here at eight and give
me my sleeping drops. Not too much, as I don't want to sleep too long;
but I have such a headache, I shan't be fit for anything without a
rest."

Fantine Le Grand did not see her attendant's face. Had she done so,
she would have been startled. The colour had left it, every feature
was set and hard. For she had found the clue. Even if an overdose
killed the woman, she must be made to sleep sound.

"Yes, madam," she replied, "but a rest will take your headache away, I
hope."

She poured out the narcotic without a tremble, doubling the double
dose. It was a risk, of course; but risks must be run.

"That is very strong--how much did you give me?" asked Fantine, as,
with a sigh of content, she snuggled down under the _duvet_.

"Only as much as was necessary," replied Marrion steadily.

Her heart was hard as the nether millstone. She waited in the boudoir
till the soft regular breathing told her Fantine was asleep, then,
giving orders in passing that her mistress did not wish to be
disturbed, she made her way back to her own room at the keep-house in
order to mature further plans. In this she was hampered by ignorance
as to what she had to frustrate. It would have been easy to walk down
to the Crow and countermand the trap, but for aught she knew to the
contrary, Marmaduke might be awaiting Mdlle. Le Grand there; so she
judged it better to adhere as far as possible to what she did know,
and this pointed to someone taking the trap, as ordered--whether to
the Cross-keys or not, mattered little--and meeting Marmaduke. The
very idea stirred her blood! Of course she must do it. She must go and
beg him--nay, force him to reconsider an action which would for ever
ruin him with his father.

The colour came back to her face, the light to her eyes, with this
decision, and her mind was busy at once with precautions.

The Cross-keys, she knew, was held by new people who would not be
likely to know her; still she must do her best to avoid recognition.
To begin with she must secure retreat. She looked down the estuary,
then at low tide, and little more than a still pool with a faint
stream in it, and saw no boat at the further side. That, however,
could easily be remedied. The castle boat lay this side, and it would
not take her half an hour to row it over and swim back.

By this time it was full seven o'clock, the shadows were lengthening
and everyone at the castle would be busy with dinner. Now was her
opportunity. Ten minutes afterwards in her bathing suit, but wrapped
in her plaid, and with a lighted lantern at the bottom of the boat,
for she remembered it would be dark on the return journey, she was
pulling with long vigorous strokes to the little pier of seaweed-grown
slippery rocks. To fasten the boat to the outermost ring on the shore,
so that she could get at it at all tides, and hang the lantern over
the bows as a guide to the whereabouts, did not take her long. That
done, she folded the plaid away, placed it in the stern sheets, and
slipped over the side like a seal.

So much, then, was done. She must now go and carry up Fantine Le
Grand's supper and then prepare herself to take the latter's place.

She was relieved to find all well. Fantine lay comfortably snuggled
up, very dead asleep it is true, but breathing quietly and regularly,
and Marrion, with a lighter heart, for all it was still hard as the
nether millstone, closed the door on her, secure that no interruption
was likely to come from that side.

And now to disguise herself so as to pass muster with the driver of
the coach, should he happen to be an acquaintance. This was easy
enough. High heels, silk stockings, a little lace, a furbelow or two,
and a big black silk cloak go far in semi-darkness, and all these were
to be found in her mother's wardrobe.

Having time to spare, indeed, Marrion spent it, half-eagerly,
half-reluctantly, in seeing how near she could bring herself to the
daintinesses of modern fashion. And she so far succeeded that, as she
went away from the looking-glass, her face showed radiant, as of a
girl going to her first ball. Unconfessed, the thought was there that
Marmaduke would see her so, possibly in the discarded brocades worn by
his own mother in her youth; anyhow, in the garments of his own class.

So, with the ample cloak round her, its hood drawn over the shining
hair piled in the latest fashion, she made her way to the copse by the
avenue gate. The chariot with two horses was in waiting; the driver,
touching his hat, asked if there was no luggage. She answered no,
stepped in, and they were off. Evidently the man had his orders, for
they skirted the town and crossed the river by the lower and older
bridge. This lengthened the journey by some two miles; so much the
better. It would be quite dark by the time they arrived at the
Cross-keys. Hitherto Marrion's mind had been fully occupied with action.
Now, in this hour's drive, she had time to think of what would happen
when she met Marmaduke, and her heart sank a little. Not that she was
afraid of him or of herself, but it was all so strange, so unlike real
life. Then in a flash came the memory of that dawn-tide swim of
theirs! That was not common, trivial, everyday life either. They two
had somehow the trick of escaping from that sometimes. Why not now?

The day had been brilliantly fine and warm, but with the sun setting,
clouds had gathered and lay dark and threatening on the horizon,
though the moon rode unobscured high in the heavens. A few spots of
heavy rain fell in great splashes, and the bustling landlady of the
Cross-keys, as she came to the door, was full of congratulations that
madam had escaped the thunderstorm which was evidently brewing.
Meantime, Captain Muir, who had not expected his lady quite so soon,
was away in the kennels to see if some medicine which he--kindly
gentleman--had prescribed for a puppy ill of distemper had bettered
the poor beastie; but he would be back syne and the rooms were ready.

This was a relief to Marrion as it ensured that their meeting would be
private; so she followed the landlady upstairs, the latter asking if
Mrs. Muir would rather a cup of tea, or to go to bed at once, since
she would have to be up so early to catch the first coach south.

Marrion, as she refused both suggestions, felt startled at the Mrs.
Muir. Was it possible that there was to be more than a mere intrigue?
In Scotland one did not pose so easily as married--unless indeed
Marmaduke was reckless--he was so, often----

She glanced round the bedroom into which she was shown, recognising
that some of the luggage in it must be a woman's, then passed into the
sitting-room adjoining. The fire had lately been lit, doubtless with a
view to a sudden chilliness foretelling the coming storm, and the
flames of its crackling wood danced on the walls, making the two
lighted candles on the table unnecessary. Half mechanically she blew
them out, and with a sombre, almost stern face, stood watching the
blazing sticks.

Suddenly a cheerful well-known voice rose below.

"The puppy's much better, Mrs. McTavish. What, my wife has come?
That's all right."

My wife! For an instant Marrion's head whirled. Was she too late? No.
Confused memories of what in Scotland constituted an irregular
marriage sent a flood of crimson to her face as she realised that Duke
had all unwittingly acknowledged her as his "wife" before witnesses.
His footsteps coming up the stairs two steps at a time steadied her;
but what followed shook her to her very foundations. Unheeding of her
feeble "Duke" as he opened the door, he was across the room holding
her in his arms and passionately kissing her averted face, her neck,
her hair.

"This is good," he whispered. "Now for a splendid honeymoon!"

For a second she yielded; then she wrenched herself from him and faced
him fairly.

"You're making a mistake, Captain Muir," she said sharply, "I am only
Marrion Paul."

She would have liked to add "your friend"; but she dared not. At the
moment she knew she was far more than that.

"Marmie!" he echoed stupidly. "Marmie!"

At first he was too surprised for more; then he drew himself up and
stared at her angrily.

"What the deuce are you doing here?" he said at last, adding hastily,
as possibilities struck him, "Did she send you? Is she ill?"

In her long drive the girl had gone over and over the coming
interview, settling what she would say, but the sudden solicitude of
his tone swept all her preparations away. Did he then really care? If
so, nothing but the naked truth would be any use.

"No," she replied calmly, only her tightly interlaced fingers showing
the tension of her mind and body. "She is quite well. I gave her a
double dose of her sleeping drops to prevent her coming. I came
instead because I wanted to speak to you."

The flickering firelight showed sheer anger on the young man's
face--sheer brutal anger.

"Because you wanted to take her place, eh?"

She gave a little sort of sob. What would she not have given to take
it? The very intensity of her desire made her pass the insult by.

"It is no use being angry," she said quietly. "I came to try and make
you hear reason. You may as well listen. She can't come to-night, and
surely, meanwhile, we can sit down and talk it over--as friends!"

"We used to be friends, I admit," he replied coldly; "but if you are
going to presume on friendship as you appear to have done, the sooner
the farce ends the better."

For all that he sat down, his bold eyes taking in every detail of her
altered appearance.

"Your dress suits you," he jibed. "I suppose you put it on to----"

"I had to put it on," she interrupted; "I had to pass muster. I didn't
want to set the town talking. You know, as well as I, that it wasn't
easy--it wasn't pleasant."

"No one asked you to do it," he replied, "and I wonder how you had
the--the cheek!" Then suddenly he laughed; he could not help it. The
whole business tickled him and his eyes took on a certain admiration.
"It beats cock-fighting, my dear," he went on. "No one but you would
have dared to do it. But it won't do, Marmie. You don't understand.
That old man--I won't call him my father, Marmie--won't give me the
two thousand pounds for my majority. Fantine Le Grand has shown me how
to get it, and I----" He paused; in sober truth now he came to think
of the plan for so getting it, the less it appealed to him.

Marrion waited a second, then said--

"How?"

There was no reason why he should have answered her categorically, but
he did; perhaps at the back of his mind was a desire to know what she
thought of it. He gave a forced laugh.

"We are to dance for it. Oh, I know all the stuff that's talked about
dancing men and women, but we would go abroad! I should get leave of
absence for six months on urgent private affairs, and no one would be
a bit the worse."

"_You_ would!" commented Marrion briefly.

There was a world of scornful criticism in the words.

"Oh, dash it all," cried Marmaduke, "a man can't always ride the high
horse! And you've put me in the deuce of a hole, though I suppose you
meant well. You see, I can't wait for her now, as I must see Pringle
tomorrow; but I can come back again," he added complacently, "and I
will."

"Then you mean to--to marry--that woman?" put in Marrion.

He rose angrily and began to pace up and down the room. In sober truth
once more, now that he was away from Fantine Le Grand's allurements,
he had begun to wonder if he were not paying rather dearly for his two
thousand pounds.

"Of course I do; it's in the bond, and I'm a man of my word. And
you've no right to call her that woman. She is far better than you
think, and I am very fond of her, very fond of her indeed!" He stopped
opposite Marrion with a certain defiance. The blaze of the fire had
died down; it was almost dark, save for a red glow on their faces. "Of
course," he went on, "I ought to be deucedly angry with you, Marmie;
but somehow I'm not, and if you will only take her a note from me----"

She started to her feet passionately.

"A note!" she echoed, her voice vibrating with scorn. "Oh, Duke, Duke,
sometimes I wonder if you can understand?--if any man ever
understands? I came here, risking all, everything for you; you've been
the sun in my heaven ever since I can remember; you've always been
something very bright and very far away that is not to be touched or
harmed. Yes, I come here to beg you not to ruin yourself body and
soul, and you ask me to take a note!"

A sudden flash of lightning from the storm, now nigh at hand, lit up
the room for a second, and showed her to him standing white and rigid
like some accusing angel.

"You say you're fond of her, but you're not. I tell ye you're no fond
of her, Duke; ye ken na what love is--an' I do--for I love the verra
ground you tread on, the verra things you've touched----"

Her voice, which in the extremity of her passion had forgotten its
acquired accent, failed; she sank back to her seat, and, throwing her
arms out over the table, buried her face in them.

And a great silence fell between them, man and woman.

At last he laid his hand on her shoulder, and spoke humbly.

"I beg your pardon, Marmie; I did not understand, But I'm not worth
it, child. Let me go my way----"

She pulled herself together.

"It's time I was going home," she said, unsteadily.

"You can't go in this storm," he put in relieved, as all men are, that
the mental storm was over, "you'd better stop here for the night.
I"--he went to the fire and deliberately lit the candles, as if, with
their light, to bring things back to normal again--"I--I'll find a bed
somewhere, and you can stop----"

Marrion interrupted him hastily.

"No, no, I must go! Folk will wonder. The boat is on this shore. I can
easily slip over."

He walked to the window and looked out.

"It's raining cats and dogs; you can't go!" he said masterfully. "You
stop here like a good girl, and I'll go and settle up something for
myself."

He left the room and for one second she stood irresolute. Should she
stop? He had called her his wife, would doubtless call her so again to
the landlady, and if she stopped--if she stopped----

Then, with a little sob, she caught up her cloak and ran downstairs.
The night was dark, but the moon shone fitfully between rifts in the
clouds. The rain, coming in gusts with the wind, had ceased for a
moment. She drew the hood of her cloak over her head and ran swiftly
past the lighted windows of the bar, thinking she had escaped; but a
moment after she heard swift steps following her own and, turning to
look, saw Marmaduke, hatless, coatless, in pursuit.

The instinct of the chase awoke in her in a second; she doubled off
the white road behind the shelter of a low beech copse.

"Marmie, Marmie, stop, I tell you! Don't be a little fool!"

Easy to say that. But it was he was the fool, not she. If she kept in
such cover as there was she might reach the boat before him--she must!
In the old days she had run as quick as he; and she knew where the
boat was and he didn't.

She tucked her petticoats high above the knee like any Leezie Lindsay
and ran as for dear life. If she had failed in her mission--and had
she?--she would not fail here. That last double had been successful.
His cry of "Marmie, Marmie, don't be so foolish, dear!" sounded quite
far off--like the wail of a plover.

Now it came nearer. Perhaps he had seen the lantern she had left to
guide her own steps to the boat. If so, she had no time to lose, as he
would make straight for it, and so must she, forsaking the bend to
avoid a peat bog, and braving the moss hags even in the dark. Anyhow,
she was lighter than he, and would not sink so deep; though, after the
long spell of fine weather, the bog could not be very bad. And this
was the worst part of it. With the ease of long practice she jumped
lightly from hag to hag, sparing no time to look round for the figure
behind her, though she knew it must be perilously near; for that
instinct of the chase was as strong in him, perhaps stronger, than it
was in her. Her cheeks were flushed, her eye was bright, her heart
beat high, despite her breathlessness, and she knew that his did so
also. Briefly they had both forgotten everything save their
determination to have their own way.

"Marmie, you little devil, stop, I tell you!" came his voice close
behind her. Then a splash, a loud "damnation," told her that he had
missed his hag.

That would give her time. She redoubled her speed, raced to the shore,
and, not pausing to unfasten the boat, waded through the water, almost
swimming the last bit, to where it rode at anchor on the outgoing
tide. Clambering over the side she set to work at once to unknot the
rope from the bow-ring. Not a second too soon, for Marmaduke, after a
minute's delay, due to his flounder and an unavailing search for the
shore ring, had found it.

"Got you!" he cried joyfully, but he spoke too soon. The rope, undone,
gave easy way to his strong pull, and the boat, with Marrion laughing
in the bows, drifted slowly out from the shore.

He stood looking at her, the useless rope in his hand. By the light of
the moon, now riding serene overhead (for the brief summer storm had
passed the zenith and now lay to the south, a dense bank of black
quivering every now and again with throbs of summer lightning), he
could see her tall and white, for her cloak had long since been flung
aside, and heart-whole admiration possessed him.

"Marmie," he cried, "hold up--or, by God, I'll swim after you. I want
to speak to you."

She took an oar, stopped her way by holding on to one of the submerged
seaweed-covered rocks of the boat-pier and waited.

"Why did you run away? Why wouldn't you stop?"

She gave him the truth squarely and fairly.

"Because I should have passed as your wife, and if I had chosen I
might----" She hesitated, and he relieved her by a low whistle.

"By Jove!" he said slowly, almost absently. "I didn't think of that,
but"--he hesitated, in his turn--"but I thought, Marmie, you said
you--you loved me!"

His voice lingered and lowered in altogether distracting fashion.

She turned hastily to the other oar, and let the blade drop into the
water with a splash.

"Aye," she said, "that's why! For see, you--you've got to be Lord
Drummuir!"

Her words silenced him. He watched her scull away, a dark shadow in
the darkling water. Then his voice rang out to her as it were from
very far off.

"Flash the light to me, Marmie, dear, when you get to the other side.
I'll wait till I see you're safe."



                              CHAPTER X


Broad sunlight showed through the chinks of the drawn curtains when
Fantine Le Grand awoke. She lay yawning for a minute or two, content
to be still drowsy. Then memory returned, and she was out of bed in a
second and at the window. The lawns lay dewy, a late blackbird was
tugging away at an inadvertent worm, and shrill on the morning air
rose the sound of Davie Sim's pipes playing "Hey! Johnnie Cope, are ye
waukin' yet?" as he came up from the keep to strut through the
corridors of the castle. It must be eight o'clock! And--what had
happened? How had she come to sleep so long? She passed swiftly, being
quick of thought, to the dressing-table and took up the bottle of
sleeping drops. It was half empty.

Almost before she had time to realise this, and what it might possibly
mean, a knock came to the door, and Marrion Paul, opening it, came
into the room with a can of hot water.

She had been there at the earliest possible moment to satisfy herself
that all was right, so she was not surprised to see Fantine Le Grand
on foot. The look on the latter's face, however, the bottle in her
hand, gave warning of what was to come, and it came instantly short
and sharp, for Fantine had plenty of wit.

"Why did you give me what you did?" she asked imperiously.

Marrion Paul set down the water-can and faced her.

"Because I wanted to prevent you from joining Captain Muir at the
Cross-keys," she replied quietly. It was waste of time, she felt, to
beat about the bush with this woman, the solid truth was her best
weapon.

It proved so for the moment. Fantine utterly taken aback retired into
personal injury.

"You might have killed me," she began, almost whimperingly.

"Maybe," interrupted Marrion, "but I had to risk it--an' it's no hurt
you----"

A sense of outrage came to her victim.

"Not hurt me, indeed! And why had you to risk it? Are you Captain
Muir's keeper? His mistress you are, of course; but if you think
you've succeeded you're very much mistaken. I shall join him by the
coach to-morrow instead of to-day. And you may thank your stars that,
as I don't want any fuss just now, you'll get scot free of your
attempt to murder me. Now go! I never want to see your face again.
Josephine will manage somehow, I've no doubt."

She pointed to the door, and Marrion, going down the wide stairs, felt
relieved that that, at least, was over. The interview also had given
her a clue as to what must be her next step. Mdlle. Le Grand had said
that fuss would be inconvenient; for that reason, therefore, a fuss
must be made. Hitherto she had hesitated between taking a further and
still more active part in stopping the intrigue, or leaving the matter
to Marmaduke's own good sense, which, removed from Fantine's personal
influence, might surely be trusted. He could not want to marry the
woman. It was the two thousand pounds he wanted. Marrion on her way to
the keep-house made up her mind to risk everything by an appeal to the
old lord; it would, at any rate, put a spoke in the woman's wheel for
a time, and prevent her getting away to Marmaduke at once; it would,
at any rate, make a fuss.

As a matter of fact, more fuss was facing Marrion than she had
bargained for, since the first thing she saw on entering the
keep-house was her step-grandmother seated at the table sipping a cup
of tea she had just made for herself.

It was an unpleasant surprise, as she had not been expected home so
soon, and Marrion bit her lip with vexation at the sight of her. After
laying elaborate plans to avoid even the sight of one she despised and
detested, it was bitter to find her established as mistress in the
house. So anger kept her silent and Mrs. Sim, whilom Penelope of the
castle, said no word either. She simply rose theatrically and
stretched a dramatic finger across the table. So standing she showed
like a wide extinguisher, the knob of which was formed by her head.
This was still small and, so far as the upper part of the face was
concerned, unmarred by fat, but obesity began on the double chin and
went on increasing from shoulder to waist, from waist to hip, till the
flounce of a wide petticoat completed the base of the triangle. Her
hair of bright orange-red was untouched by grey, and the china-blue of
her hard eyes startled you by the intensity of their colour in a face
otherwise somewhat tallowy.

"Ye hizzie!" she said at last, in a deep contralto voice. "I wonder ye
have the face to stan' there disgracin' the honest hearth o' an honest
man! Awa wi' you, ye baggage, afore yer faither comes to beat you frae
the door."

Marrion had stood with open mouth before this sudden onslaught; now
she recovered herself and said haughtily--

"I do not understand." In her heart of hearts, however, she told
herself that this woman knew of last night's happenings.

Penelope Sim gave a snort and sat down again to sipping her tea.

"Div' ye no understand?" she asked scornfully. "Then I'll tell ye. A
lassie that goes tae spend the night wi' a man in a strange hottle is
no ane to share an honest woman's home. An' so I'll tell yer faither.
Shame upon ye, Marrion Paul!"

"Perhaps you'll oblige me, Mrs. Sim, by holding your tongue," retorted
Marrion superbly. "I did not spend the night with any man, and if you
say I did, you lie!"

"My certy!" cried Penelope, her face flaming. "So I'm a liar, am I? I
tell you I saw you wi' my own eyes at the Cross-keys----"

"And what might you be doing there?" put in Marrion. "No good,
likely."

Mrs. Penelope's voice began to rise.

"I'm no goin' to bandy words wi' you, Marrion Paul, ye're no worth it.
But here comes your gran'faither; give your lip to him, if ye like. Ye
sall no give it to me, a decent, married woman!"

"Decent!" echoed Marrion scornfully, and would have gone on to heaven
knows what of indignant criticism had not the entry of her grandfather
tied her tongue for she was fond of him, with all his faults, and he
represented to her the only family life she had ever known.

So she stood defiant as Penelope of the castle, gloating over her own
newly acquired propriety, held forth on what she had seen from the
bar-parlour of the Cross-keys.

"Grandfather," she said at last, "you know me better than she does. Do
you think I would do such a thing?"

"Ask her," broke in the shrilled contralto voice, "ask her, gudeman,
if she was at the Cross-keys last night. I tell you she was, dressed
up fine like a lady--an' the things lyin' yet in her room, for I went
to see. Aye, ask her if she was there wi' a young spark--they tell't
me it was Captain Duke, but that I'll never believe----"

"You may believe what you like!" put in Marrion fiercely. "But I'll
tell you the truth, grandfather. I was at the Cross-keys last night,
and I did see Captain Duke, but it was no harm I was after."

"Hark to her!" shrilled Penelope. "She was there, and for no harm! Out
o' the house with her, Davie Sim, or your wedded wife will find her
way out hersel'."

Here Davie who, man-like, had looked from one to the other of the two
women, uncertain of approbation or reprobation, shook his head and
began mumblingly--

"I never thocht, Marrion, to praise God your poor mother is in her
grave, but if she'd lived to see this day----"

"Leave my mother alone, please grandfather," said Marrion, passion in
voice and manner. "If you choose to judge me by that cast-off
creature, do so! But there's no need to quarrel about it. You know I
would not sleep under the same roof with her----"

"Hark to her, hark to her, an' me as gude a wife as ever stepped. Are
ye goin' tae put up wi' that, Davie Sim?" whimpered Penelope.

Once more the master of the house looked as though he would speak, but
a wave of Marrion's hand stopped him.

"So I shall leave this evening, and if what I've done is a disgrace to
you, you have the remedy in your own hands--you can hold your tongues.
So that ends it!"

She made her way past them and up the stairs, feeling a trifle dazed.
This unlooked-for recognition complicated matters for herself; but did
not alter her determination to risk all in order to get Marmaduke out
of the hands of Fantine Le Grand.

So she packed up her things, leaving all the treasures of her
childhood and her mother's, unlocked in drawers and cupboards, and
sitting down on her bed by the window took her last look out over the
rugged coast she had watched so often by storm and shine, by night and
by day. And as she looked with lack-lustre, preoccupied eyes her
thoughts were busy, not with the past but with the new life that was
opening out before her; since, come what might, she realised that
never again would she be simple Marrion Paul, old Davie Sim's
granddaughter. To begin with, if she knew aught of Penelope,
reputation was gone. Women of that sort were pitiless, and, in
addition, her grandfather's wife desired nothing more than to
make Drummuir and all belonging to it an impossibility for her
step-granddaughter. Then she, Marrion, had definitely set herself the
task of defending Marmaduke, and heaven only knew how far that might
take her. For one thing, in view of Penelope's curiosity, she must
make sure that Marmaduke had not left anything incriminating behind
him at the Cross-keys. It would be so like him to write Captain the
Honourable Marmaduke Muir and Mrs. Muir in the visitor's book!

The idea made her smile tenderly, even while she took a mental note
that it must be seen to.

So, going down, while it was yet early, to order a handcart to
take her slight luggage to the coach office, she came upon a castle
stable-boy, who was a distant admirer of hers, riding to the
Cross-keys with a note.

"It's frae the dancin' woman," said the lad, with a broad grin, "an'
she guve me a golden soverin' to take it quick; an' I've to leave
anither at the Crow."

"I can deliver that one," said Marrion cheerfully, "for I'm goin' yon
way."

So, note in hand, she made her way to the Crow, and by a dexterous
question or two elicited the fact that, as on the previous night, a
carriage was ordered to be in waiting at half-past nine. If all went
well, therefore, she might hope to avail herself of it. She did not,
however, anticipate exactly what she meant to do--her plans were
fluid, so much depending on the success of her next step. It was an
overwhelmingly bold one, and she shivered visibly as she sat waiting
for an answer to her request to be allowed an interview with his
lordship.

"I'm right sure his lordship wad see me," she pleaded with Dewar, the
valet, who in common with all the men-servants at the castle, had an
approving eye on her good looks, "did he ken what I cam' about;
and"--she added, with a laugh that was a challenge--"I'm no sae
ill-looking but he might be blythe to see me forbye business."

"An' that's God's truth, my dear," replied Dewar gallantly, "sae I'll
see what I can do."

Fortune favoured him, for Fantine Le Grand being in an evil, reckless
temper had just sent to say she had a headache and could not come to
amuse his lordship, who, up and dressed to receive her as usual, was
cursing and swearing at womankind in the abstract, and therefore, not
unwilling to have a concrete specimen on which to vent his ill-humour.

Marrion Paul, consequently, found herself without delay facing the
heavy figure in the big padded chair. One foot swathed in flannels lay
on a leg-rest, and the large hand that clasped the lion-head knobs of
the armchair showed swollen and disfigured by gout; still there was
something dignified, almost regal, in the pose of the man; while his
face--Marrion, despite her thumping heart, as she looked above the
treble chin to the open forehead, felt that here, when all was said
and done, was kinship with Marmaduke.

And she for her part pleased the old man's eye also. She had not
dressed herself for the occasion, but stood in her usual striped
petticoat and bed-gown with a green tartan shoulder shawl of the Muir
tartan and a snood of tartan ribbon to match in the red bronze coils
of hair.

"So you're Marrion Paul?" he said, his keen clear blue eyes taking in
every point of her person. "I haven't seen you to speak to since you
were so high. You're a devilish good-looking girl. Come and give me a
kiss, my lass."

To his surprise, amusement, and approval she stepped forward instantly
and obeyed. The touch of her cool lips on his seemed to stagger him.

"Don't object to kisses--hey?" he said, as she remained standing close
beside him.

"Why should I, Drummuir," she replied quietly, "when you've kenned me
since I was a baby in arms."

He burst into one of his guffaws of rough laughter.

"Hey? What? One for the old reprobate! Sit down, my dear, and tell me
what you want."

"It's about Mr. Marmaduke, sir," she began, her voice shaking a
little.

"Hey? What? Has that young devil been--no, I beg your pardon, my dear,
you're not that sort. Trust a man who's kicked over the traces a bit
to know an honest horse when he sees one. You take my word for it; the
best judge of a good woman is a bad man. Well, what of Duke?"

The mere abbreviation of the name was encouraging. She felt that to
attempt a bargain, even to beg for patience, would be a mistake. She
simply took her courage in both hands and told him all she knew. He
sat, his unwieldy body impassive as some carven image, one strong
emotion after another sweeping over the mobile face that held so much
laughter in every line that Time had graven on it. Only once or twice
he interrupted her when, fearing she was too lengthy, she began to cut
out details. Then his quick "Let's have it all; don't you know, you're
as good as a play. Beat the immortal wizard all to bits! Don't
skip"--brought her back to the accessories of her tale. When she had
finished he sat and looked at her for a second.

"And you say Duke let you go as you came? Well, he was a d----d young
fool; that's all I've got to say! I wouldn't in his place. Even
now--my God, what a Lady Drummuir you'd make, if it wasn't for the
curse of class! I'll turn Socialist before I die." He paused, and his
blue eyes narrowed. "Now, why have you come and told me all this?"

She had her answer ready, and all fear of the old man having vanished
she gave him the truth boldly.

"Because I want payment. I've put it into your power to stop Mdlle.
Fantine----"

His whole face changed in a second, an expression of sheer devilish
anger took possession of it.

"You leave that alone!" he thundered. "I can settle that business for
myself."

It was the first mistake she had made, and she became more wary.

"I want payment," she went on, "because I've risked everything
for--for Duke. My father's turned me out of his house and
Penelope----"

"Damn Penelope!" broke in his lordship complacently. "Having no virtue
of her own, she's deuced careful about other people's. And so Duke
really contemplated marrying Fantine in order to make two thousand
pounds by dancing. Confound the boy! He can dance, I'll allow; but it
was a big price to pay. And the idea of my son dancing for money! He
must have been hard put to it, even to entertain the idea." He bent
those blue eyes of his suddenly on her. "And so you want me to give
Duke the two thousand pounds myself, do you? Of course you do! Trust a
woman who is in love asking for the moon." He paused a moment and gave
a little laugh. "Heaps of women have asked me to be a saint, my dear,
but I never could compass virtue. However, you've given me as good a
morning's entertainment as ever I had in my life; and what's more
you've given me an opportunity of as fine an afternoon's amusement."
Here he chuckled wickedly, then added, "Shall I give you the cheque or
send it direct?"

She felt staggered at his indifference. She had expected to brave his
anger and have perchance to threaten him with what she knew of
Fantine's plans for the evening; but, here, with scarce an argument,
she found herself successful. In truth she had not gauged accurately
the phenomenal malice as well as the almost incredible good nature of
the man.

"You must send it, my lord," she said swiftly. "There is no need to
say anything about all this."

He frowned in a second.

"Do you mean to dictate to me, my good girl?" he asked fiercely.
"You'd better leave the business in my hands. I'll settle it to my own
satisfaction. Come back at six o'clock and you shall be made
acquainted with my decision."

He rang the hand-bell on the table beside him and when Dewar entered,
said carelessly:

"Show the young woman out; and, Dewar, tell Penelope to come and
see me at two o'clock. And, Dewar, send a message to the Manse and
tell that jackanapes of a parson Bryce that I want to confess my
sins or something of that sort. Tell him I'm ill--dying, if you
like--anything--and I want him as soon as he can come. Do you
understand?"

"Yes, my lord," replied Dewar discreetly, though he was considerably
mystified; but everyone in the castle knew there was but one way of
receiving Lord Drummuir's orders, acquiescence and obedience.



                              CHAPTER XI


An hour or so afterwards Fantine Le Grand coming in from a ramble on
the rocks, whither she had gone despite her pretended headache, in
order to quiet her nerves for what she foresaw was to be a stand-up
fight between her and Marrion, found old Lord Drummuir in possession
of her boudoir. He was in his wheeled-chair, but was looking
remarkably spruce in a blue coat with brass buttons, an immaculate
white stock and frill, and his gouty foot was swathed in kersey to
match the breeches he wore. His ruddy face was all smiles, but there
was a vicious look in the blue eyes that reminded her of a horse about
to kick.

And kick he did with a force that left her breathless.

"I've come to tell you," he said, "that we are going to be married
this evening."

She recoiled as if from a blow.

"Now, don't be foolish and make a fuss," he continued, as she gave a
little cry, "or you won't look well in your wedding-dress!" So far he
had gone lightly; but now he settled down to a decision of voice and
manner that was positively terrifying to the woman in its intensity.
"I tell you I won't have any fuss, and I know everything. Marrion Paul
told it me from start to finish, and I don't want to hear any more
about it, if you please!"

The mock politeness of the last finished her. She was ill-bred, not
over brave, and reverting to her early upbringing she burst into a
torrent of abuse of the viper, the hussy who was no better than she
should be, who, if Penelope at the keep-house was to be believed--and
she had seen her but now--had----

So far Lord Drummuir had let her storm; now he stopped her
impatiently.

"I know what Penelope says," he snarled, "and I shall be sorry for her
when she hears what I have to say. And I know you, Fanny, down to the
ground. You're not a bad sort, but you are getting old. Look in the
glass, you foolish woman, and you'll see I'm right. But you suit me
and I mean to have you. There's an end of it."

She summoned up a little courage.

"And supposing I won't! I am a free woman."

He lowered his brows and his words cut like a knife.

"Don't tell lies! You're not free. You think I paid your debts. I
wasn't such a fool till I had you fast. Look here, when I heard all
about this midsummer madness with Marmaduke--the d----d impertinence
of trying to inveigle my son into posturing at the Courts of Europe
for pennies almost made me give you your _congé_, miss, I can tell
you--I sent for Compton. You think I don't know what he is to you; but
I do. If he'd known of this business, I'd have kicked you both out.
But he didn't, poor devil; he was flabbergasted. So I saw it was all
your fault and I determined to punish you, and I'm going to do it my
own way. Now, don't look like a frightened hare; I never touched a
woman save in the way of kindness all my life, and we'll get on all
right once we're married; so the sooner the better."

She sat and looked at him, dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief. The
bald truth of it all took words from her, and her one feeling was that
she could cheerfully have strangled Marrion Paul for her courage and
straightforwardness.

"My wedding-dress isn't ready," she sobbed at last futilely, and the
old man leant back in his chair and roared with laughter.

"By Gad, Fan," he bawled, "you're a woman, and no mistake; so don't
make those eyes of yours too red with crying. Remember, you're not so
young as you were. And as for this little _penchant_ of yours for
Marmaduke, why, God bless my soul, my dear, you've had dozens such
episodes, and so have I, by Gad, so we'll suit each other down to the
ground. Now, if you will please ring the bell for Dewar, I'll leave
you to prepare--six o'clock sharp. I've told the gardeners to send you
some orange blossoms from the houses and to decorate the hall. My
daughters will be your bridesmaids."

When his wheeled-chair had gone the effect of his brutal
determination, his colossal masterfulness, did not pass with it. That
remained, and Fantine Le Grand gave in to it helplessly. The old man
had said very little; on the whole he had been wonderfully polite, but
she knew she was trapped, and that she might as well try to fly as to
escape from his watchful eye, his unscrupulous power.

And, after all, it was but a return to the old plans; so after a while
she followed Lord Drummuir's advice and dried her eyes.

"You ought to think yourself deuced lucky," growled Colonel Compton,
when he came in, after a time full of alarm and recriminations. "If
anyone had told me the old man would take it so quietly I wouldn't
have believed it. I expected he would have kicked us both out into the
gutter, and then where should we be? And such a mad idea, too! The
Honourable Marmaduke Muir as a public dancer--preposterous!"

"It would only have been for six months and under an assumed name,"
interrupted Fantine defiantly; but all initiative was passing from
her. She felt like clay in the hands of the potter.

"Twaddle!" insisted Colonel Compton. "I can only think you were
insane. The fact is, my dear Fanny, you're getting old and your ankles
wouldn't stand the hacking about of a dancer's life. That is why we
agreed on your becoming Lady Drummuir, and you ought to be very much
obliged to the old man for letting you off so easily."

This, combined with the reiterated allusions to her age, was too much
for patience. Fantine jumped up and stamped her foot in impotent
anger.

"Easily?" she echoed. "Can't you see the malice of the man? He is
making us all feel fools. He is doing all the harm he can. I tell you
he is enjoying himself thoroughly."

She was perfectly right. Lord Drummuir had not felt so young for
years. At that moment, after disposing of Penelope in a way that
reached the very marrow of the unseen bones hidden under that
extinguisher of fat, he was facing, with a special licence in his
hand, the dapper little figure of the Reverend Patrick Bryce, who,
called on some pretext of illness, found himself confronted with an
order to solemnise a marriage that same evening.

The countenance of the small divine was a study in outraged dignity;
that of Lord Drummuir one of supercilious toleration--the toleration
of a cat for the unavailing efforts of a mouse to escape its
paralysing captor.

"Am I to understand, sir, that you refuse to carry out this special
licence at a perfectly appropriate time and place?" said the latter,
his voice even but deliberate. "If so, I must ask you for your reasons
in writing, that I may forward them with my complaint." He waited a
moment, then went on: "You were appointed by the Crown to this charge.
A parishioner of yours in possession of a legal licence calls upon you
to perform the duties of your office. You refuse, and I refuse to
accept your refusal. That, I think, summarises the position between
us. But let me remind you, my good sir, that nothing short of reliable
information of cause or just impediment can justify a minister of the
Church of Scotland in refusing to do the duty for which he is paid by
the State. And if, sir, the licence of this house shocks you--as I am
told it does--I think this endeavour of a man and a woman to keep
within the bounds of so-called respectability should meet your
approval. Briefly, my dear sir, you have not a leg to stand upon, and
I demand your services at six o'clock this evening."

The little minister rose and made him a courtly bow.

"It shall be as your lordship wishes; but I reserve to myself the
right of showing to your lordship that special licences can be used
for, as well as against, the Church."

"Wonder where he gets his manners from," commented Lord Drummuir to
himself, as the trim figure bowed itself out. "Father must have been
someone's valet, I suppose; and that reminds me of Marmaduke's girl.
She's true blue, somehow."

So he sat down, filled from top to toe with a wicked elation at his
own success in upsetting everybody's plans, and indited the following
epistle to his son, as a sort of top note to his man[oe]uvres:


"Dear Boy,--You will be glad to hear that Fantine Le Grand becomes
Lady Drummuir this evening at six o'clock. We have agreed that this is
better than hunting two thousand pounds through the capitals of
Europe, even in company with you. So that is settled. For the rest, I
enclose a cheque for two thousand pounds on my bankers. You owe this
to Marrion Paul, who is worth the whole batch of you put together. I
cannot conceive how you were such a confounded ass as not to see this,
but to let her slip through your fingers and leave the poor girl to
face the insults of the neighbours, as she is doing; for, of course,
her escapade is the talk of the town. My dear Marmaduke, I am ashamed
of you!--Your affectionate father, DRUMMUIR.

"Your step-mamma sends you her duty."


He chuckled over the production which he calculated told enough to
rouse anger and not enough to satisfy curiosity, and which, while
being a regular facer, left the relations between them much as they
were.

After which he had himself wheeled to the big hall where the ceremony
was to take place, and amused himself vastly by superintending
decorations and mystifying Peter, who came in from a day after wild
duck, to find the house upside down. It was the sort of situation in
which his lordship revelled, and he became almost lachrymose over
reminiscences of the past with Jack Jardine, who never moved a muscle,
but took the ceremony as a matter of course. Only when Peter, less
experienced, asked him what the deuce the old man meant by playing the
goat at a moment's notice, he shook his head solemnly, and replied--

"Your father is a very remarkable man, Peter, a very remarkable man
indeed."

So at the appointed hour the wheeled-chair took its place, its
occupant duly bedecked with the white flower of a blameless life in
his buttonhole, before the improvised sort of altar which bore on it a
beautiful bunch of late roses; and the Reverend Patrick Bryce with a
colour in his usually pale cheeks sailed in very stiff in his starched
bands and rustling academical black robes and took his place before
it. The bride, composed and cheerful, looking quite virginal in white
and orange blossoms, appeared on the arm of Colonel Compton and
followed by her bridesmaids, also in white. There were, however, but
two of them, for Margaret Muir boldly stalked in separately, attired
in a fine new purple gown, and took a place sedately beside Jack
Jardine, who stared at her incredulously; for her father's eyes were
upon her and scowling disapproval at her disobedience to his commands.
She seemed quite indifferent to this, and nodded an encouraging smile
to her sisters, who, poor souls, were the only people who showed by
their red eyes and general emotion that the occasion was serious and
not a mere farce.

So curtly, baldly, shorn of every unnecessary word, every touch of
sentiment, the simple formula binding those two sinners in the most
holy of bonds went swiftly on, until the Reverend Patrick Bryce closed
the register in which Peter, as his father's best man, and Jack
Jardine, as family friend, had duly attested the marriage, and stepped
down to where Lord Drummuir's chair stood with the new-made Lady
Drummuir beside it.

"My part in this pitiable travesty being ended, sir," he said, with a
dignified bow, "I take my leave. Before I do so, however, I wish to
introduce my wife to you and acquaint you with my marriage--also by
special licence--to your daughter. Margaret, my dear!" he added,
raising his voice, "oblige me by saying farewell to your father. It is
the last time you are likely to see him."

For a second the figure in the purple gown hesitated and gave an
agonised glance at her sisters in white; then with her eyes fixed on
the small dignified figure of the man to whom she had unreservedly
given her whole large heart, her courage returned, she walked forward,
her head held high, and faced her father. He was purple with rage, and
looked as if he would have a fit.

"Do you mean to tell me," he stuttered, "that you have married
that--that jackanapes?"

Her face flushed, her temper was up in a second, and matched his own.

"No, sir; I have married an honourable gentleman of birth equal to my
own! It is more than you can say of your bride's----"

"Margaret, Margaret!" came the little parson's warning voice; for, be
Lord Drummuir's faults what they may, he was still her father.

But she would have none of it, she was going to have her say for the
first and last time of her life; so she went on while the old lord
listened, a sort of wicked approval in his eyes. He had not known she
was so much his daughter.

"And I married him without asking your consent, because I knew you
never would have given it, and I am of age----"

"Yes, my dear, a bit long in the tooth!" broke in the old man
viciously.

"Very," she replied; "but not so old a bride as you are a groom. I'm
thirty-six, and, as you said yourself, if I choose to get married by
special licence, provided there's no cause or just impediment, no
one--not even the nearest and dearest--have a right to object. Isn't
that what he said?" she added, in appeal.

The Reverend Patrick Bryce looked at his lordship and his lordship
looked at him. Then suddenly came one of the rough, rude gaffaws.

"You've caught a tartar, parson!" chuckled the old man. "Take her, and
be d----d to you both for a couple of fools. I'll leave you to be
angry, if you like; this is my wedding-day and I want to be jolly.
Here, Davie--Davie Sim, where the devil are you with your pipes? Skirl
up 'Muir's Matching.' Now, my lady."

And as the wheeled-chair moved off accompanied by white satin and
orange blossoms he looked round to the purple robe with almost boyish
malice in his eye.

"Take the parson's arm and come along, Meg. You may as well get a good
send off from the castle and have your share of the family wedding
march, since it is little else you'll be getting from the Muirs of
Drummuir."

That evening, after the newly made Lady Drummuir had been dismissed to
her own rooms with the injunction to remember her new honours, and not
to stand any cursed nonsense from any one, and the old man, regardless
of gout, sat drinking one glass of port after another on the ground
that, having got royally drunk at his three previous weddings, he was
not going to treat his fourth with less consideration--Jack Jardine,
somewhat breathless after all the disturbing and inexplicable events
of the day, shook his head and said once more--

"Your father is a remarkable man--a very remarkable man!"

"Very," assented Peter. "Now I wonder what Marrion Paul had to do with
it all!"



                             CHAPTER XII


Marrion Paul herself failed to answer that question. When she had
returned at six o'clock to the castle--having spent the intervening
time down by the seashore in order to avoid Penelope--she had been
completely taken aback by the sudden development of affairs, wondering
if she were in any way responsible for what had happened.

But a single look at the old lord's face, as he was wheeled in to take
his place at the marriage ceremony, made her realise that the unwieldy
body, instinct with malice and controlled by autocratic unassailable
will, held every inmate of Drummuir Castle, herself included, as
puppets in the hollow of its gouty hand.

A sudden unreasoning desire to get away from that influence, an
extreme distaste at the part she had played in the serio-comic tragedy
filled her. She envied the Reverend Patrick Bryce his independence,
and it was with real relief that, according to her plan, she found
herself once more rumbling to the Cross-keys in the chaise from the
Crow.

This should be her last departure from the conventional. Now that
Duke's safety from the dancing woman's wiles had been secured, she had
time to blame for his supineness; and he, of course, when he heard of
the marriage, was not likely to forgive her. Thus they were quits!

So be it. She could return to her dressmaking and never see him again.
He had his majority, and, born soldier as he was, had his chance.

Not knowing, for certain, under what name Fantine Le Grand had
engaged her room for the night, she was wary with the landlady of the
Cross-keys and felt relieved when she was shown into a less
pretentious room than the one she had been in the night before. Her
vigil--and she knew it would be a long one ere the house was quiet
enough to allow of her slipping down to the office to see if Marmaduke
had written anything in the visitors' book--would have been harder in
surroundings so full of keen memory. What a fool she had been! Why had
she been so frank with him? The hot blood mounted to her very temples
at the thought of it even while she felt angry with herself that it
should be so. After all, she was not quite as the other douce country
folk; there was something in her blood that was different; something
that rebelled against the tyranny of that bloated old man, sitting
like a spider in his web, imposing his wicked will upon all by sheer
force of character.

Yet he had behaved well to her, and he was terribly, horribly like
Duke.

So she sat raging, her head aching, till it was time to do the last
bit of trickery, as it seemed to her now. Yet it must be done; for if
Marmaduke had been indiscreet, Penelope, in her pryings, which were
certain, would be sure to find it out. It was not, however, till
between two and three--that time when even the ostlers at an inn
sleep--that it was safe for her to steal downstairs to the visitors'
book. Even so, Boots lay snoring on a sofa in the office. But her task
did not take long. There, as she had foreseen, was Marmaduke's
unmistakable writing in the words "Captain the Honourable and Mrs.
Marmaduke Muir." Below, as if as witnesses, two commercial travellers
had written their name and address. She had brought a sharp penknife
with her, so, in less than a minute, the page was removed, the
corresponding one in the quire pulled out, and the book closed again
without trace of any removal. She gave a sigh of relief when she
reached her bedroom again, and, folding up the written sheet, placed
it in her purse. Then, after burning the other, she lay down and tried
to sleep. But unsuccessfully, though she felt outwearied to an
altogether unusual degree. The arrival of the early coach was a
relief. She took her seat in it, hoping the fresh air would drive away
her _malaise_; but it did not.

"You're no feelin' just the thing, miss," said a sympathetic bagman as
he got out to stretch his legs at a change of horses. "Try just a wee
sup of whisky; its awful inspirin'."

Marrion, smiling, shook her head. By this time she was beginning to
wonder if, despite her usual hardiness, she had got a chill the night
before.

It was past eight in the evening ere Edinburgh was reached, and,
anxious to be housed as soon as possible, she left her box at the
coach office and made her way giddily to her old lodgings where the
landlady had agreed to keep her belongings until her return from her
holiday. They were up a common stair that echoed and re-echoed to the
slam of the street door and her own wavering steps. The rooms were
high up and more than once Marrion had to pause for breath, and when
at last she rang she had to lean against the door, to recover herself.
There was no answer. She rang again and waited--waited an interminable
time, until someone coming down the common stair said briefly--

"Ye're wastin' yer time, mum. Mistress McGillivray's deid."

"Dead!" she echoed feebly.

"Aye, last week, and the polis hae lockit up the place till the heirs
be known," replied the man, as he passed on, rousing the echoes again.

Marrion followed him, realising that she must seek another lodging.
Easy in a way, yet difficult, since in that quarter of the old town
many of the houses were not over-respectable. Still it was only for a
night, and bed she must have as soon as possible. So she closed with
an exorbitant offer in cash of a fairly clean attic made by a
loose-lipped lady who smelt rather of whisky, and five minutes later,
having locked herself in, threw herself, still half-dressed, on the
truckle bed.

There the landlady next morning, having placidly unlocked the
door with a master key, found her, flushed, breathless and
delirious--briefly, down with a sharp attack of pneumonia. Infirmaries
and district nurses being not as yet, Mother Gilchrist, as her
_clientèle_ called her, coolly took possession of her lodger's purse,
sent for an apothecary doctor from round the corner, and thereinafter
treated the patient with a certain amount of rough kindness, sending
some of her other lodgers, girls with haggard faces and loose hair, to
sit with her, and going up occasionally with water-gruel and still
more watery beef-tea. But Marrion Paul was strong, and so, after a
fortnight's struggle in the valley, she came out of it wan and
emaciated, and lay looking at a bit of torn paper on the wall, that
all through her fever dreams had flapped like a sail in a boat in
which she and Duke were drifting out to sea, and wondering how much of
what she remembered was true and how much dreams.

"I must get up," she said suddenly, when Mother Gilchrist appeared in
company with water-gruel. "And will you give me my purse, please? I
put it under my pillow, I think, but it isn't there."

Mother Gilchrist laughed a loose-lipped laugh and produced the purse
from her pocket.

"Yon's the purse, my dearie; but there's naethin' in it the now. What
wi' rent an' doctors an' physic, forby nursin', what else is to be
expectit?"

Marmie stared aghast.

"But there was nigh ten pun' in till't," she protested.

"It's just awfie expensive bein' ill," replied Mother Gilchrist
calmly. "Ye can hae the reckonin' later on. Meanwhile, tak yer
nourishment like a good lammie."

"What's ten pun' to you one way or another," continued the exemplar of
youth, when Marmie, up for the first time, returned to the charge.
"You've gotten a paper in yon purse that's worth a guid deal tae
you, my lass, if it's written in the man's own write--an' if ye can
prove----"

Marrion interrupted her in an angry flash.

"You're making a mistake. It has nothing to do wi' me. An' I wouldn't
prove if I could."

She paused, feeling she was contradicting herself.

"Lord sakes," retorted Mother Gilchrist, "ye needna loup down a body's
throat! An', anyhow, a lassie wi' such hair as you've gotten needna
look for ten pounds."

Marrion, still weakened body and soul by her illness, thought almost
regretfully of her hairdresser.

"Aye," she assented languidly, "they'd give me that for it; but I
should feel bad if it were cut off, shouldn't I?"

Mother Gilchrist burst into a cackling laugh.

"There's more ways, my lammie, o' makin' money by hair than by
shearin' it off like a sheep's fleece," she said meaningly.

But the meaning did not come home to Marmie until one of the rather
bedraggled girls in cheap finery let her into the secret of the house.
They paid Mother Gilchrist a certain sum for board and lodging, and on
the whole she was kind to them. Anyhow, they had to lump it, as most
of them were in debt to her. However, there was always the chance of a
stroke of luck, especially when one was new to the business and had
such hair as Marrion had.

That same afternoon Marrion managed to creep round to the coach
office. She intended to get her box and pawn some of her things--even
the little brilliant brooch of her father's--so as to keep her in
decent lodgings till she could find employment in some dressmaking
concern. She would not go back to her old employers, for her address
there was known and she wanted to lose herself; for a while at any
rate.

But Fate was against her. Failing a claimant the box had been sent
back whence it came, as the only address to be found on it was
Drummuir Castle, Drum. Nor was her call at her old landlady's more
successful. The flat was still locked up; so she came back utterly
wearied and disheartened, to be met by a demand for more money from
Mother Gilchrist, who looked at her as one looks at a rat caught in a
trap. She had miscalculated with Marrion, however; and in an instant
the latter made up her mind. She must get out of the present quagmire
without delay. Yet she did not wish to make herself known to the
friends she had in Edinburgh, because during the past fortnight her
desire to lose herself--to get away once and for all from Drummuir and
all that Drummuir entailed--aye, even Duke---had been strengthening.
But she could sell her hair. Mother Gilchrist, arguing from other
girls, was calculating she would not; but she would find she was
mistaken. She might think it safe enough to let a girl without a penny
in her pocket go out alone, but she would find herself wrong.

That night Marrion slept the sleep of the just, and it was one
o'clock--for the gun had just fired from the castle--next day when,
with a curiously light heart, she walked out of the most fashionable
hairdresser's shop in Prince's Street. She had eschewed her old
admirer's for obvious reasons, but she had found no difficulty in her
bargain; and if her heart was light, her purse was heavy. She was
free, at any rate, of Mother Gilchrist and her kind; she was free also
of any necessity for recalling the past. She would make her own future
in life.

As she passed through the shop heavily veiled, for she would run no
risk of recognition, a group of fashionably dressed young men were
daffing over _pommade hongroise_ with an attractive young person
behind the counter, but they took no notice of the somewhat shabbily
dressed figure which passed out and went westward. With money in her
pocket Marrion's plans began to formulate rapidly. She would not stop
in Edinburgh; she would go to some place where the fear of recognition
would not constantly be with her. So she would go--whither?

She pondered the question idly, heedless of Fate behind her in the
shape of one of those fashionably dressed young men, who, two minutes
after Marrion had passed through the shop, had burst out after her,
leaving his companions still looking with admiration at a great pile
of red-brown hair which the proprietor of the shop, hugely delighted
with his bargain, had brought in for these privileged customers to
see.

So she had not long for freedom. Ere she had reached Frederick Street
a detaining hand was on her arm and a joyous voice in her ears--

"Marmie! I knew it must be you! I have been looking for you
everywhere."

"Duke," she said feebly as she looked round. And as she did so, the
distant Calton Hill blocking the blue slopes of Arthur's Seat, the
wonderful blending of town and country which makes Edinburgh seem an
epitome of human life, was lost to her eyes; she only saw his face,
_insouciant_, smiling, yet full of affection. The douce commonsensical
world in which she had resolved to live was gone; she was among the
stars again, in a different existence, herself a different being. Yet
even as she realised this she realised that she was alone. He had not
found his wings to follow her.

Yet he was prompt; without pause he hailed a passing cab, put her into
it unresisting, gave the order Pentland Hotel, and as he seated
himself beside her reached out a hand with glad delight in the clasp
of its warm fingers to find her own.

"Where are we going, Duke?" she asked, with a sort of sob in her
effort to keep herself to normal.

"To have lunch, my dear!" he replied joyously. "You look as if you
wanted it. And we haven't much time to spare, for the train starts for
Glasgow at 2.30 and we must go by it, for my leave is up and I have to
get back to Ayr by to-morrow. I'm in command of the detachment there."

The certitude of his words roused instant resentment.

"I must ask you to excuse me," she said peremptorily. "Will you stop
the cab, Captain Muir?"

"But, my dear," he replied, quite pathetically, "I must speak to you
somehow, and this is my only chance. Do come, Marmie, at any rate, to
lunch."

The simplicity of his plea disarmed her again, and the hotel being
reached at that moment she allowed him to take her on his arm up
the steps after the fashion of the day. But once in the private
sitting-room, which, with lunch for two as quick as possible, he had
commanded in a lordly voice as he entered, his manner changed again.

"Take off that veil and bonnet, will you, please," he said abruptly.
"I want to see what that brute has dared to do."

Marrion looked at him startled.

"Oh, yes," he continued, "I know! That's how I found you. When the man
brought in that pile of hair to show those young cubs--faugh! it makes
me sick to think of them fingering it--I knew it must be yours; no one
else has hair like it. Marmie! Marmie! why did you let him do it--the
grovelling, money-grubbing beast!"

Once again his anger appeased her, and she replied: "I wanted the
money."

He groaned.

"And you got me the two thousand pounds! Oh! yes, the old man--curse
him!--told me all about it, and how that harridan Penelope---- But
never mind that now, though, you see, we have plenty to talk about.
When----"

She had removed her bonnet and now stood a trifle defiant.

"It will grow again!"

But he had passed from his vexation.

"Why, Marmie, surely you've been ill? You are so thin, so pale,
child--what has been the matter?" he exclaimed, all his innate
kindness coming uppermost. "Here, sit down; you look as if you were
going to faint"--he rang the bell violently. "I don't believe you've
had anything to eat! Here! Tell the housekeeper to send up a cup of
soup--beef-tea, if she has got it--at once, and--and some toast," he
called out loudly, after the retreating waiter. Then he came to stand
by Marrion and say in an almost tragic voice, "I owe you a lot,
Marrion Paul, and I'm going to pay it back, by gad! I am!"

She tried to laugh and failed, feeling she would cry if she spoke. So
she took her soup when it came and afterwards, as he eat his lunch,
they talked and argued.

"Now look here, my dear," he said at last in his old, rather
flamboyant, most masterful manner, "you tell me you don't want to stop
in Edinburgh, and you tell me you have plenty of money in your purse.
But one thing you haven't got at present--strength to work. I can see
you haven't, and you have done an immense amount for me, and--well,
I'm dashed if I am going to leave you as you are to face things alone.
So that settles it. I must get back to Glasgow now. You come with me
so far. I promise you, Marmie, I will not--well, annoy you in any
way. See a doctor, and--and do as you like. Only I swear to you, my
dear, if you won't be reasonable I'll break my leave and stop here,
and--and----"

His boyish face broke into mischief; he came towards her with hands
outstretched, frank, absolutely devoid of all save pure affection.

In a way, it cut her to the heart as she acquiesced.

The ride to Glasgow, first-class, with all the alacrity of guards and
porters consequent on Marmaduke's lordly ways and tips, was rather an
agreeable novelty; so also was the obsequiousness of the hotel where
he left her, saying he would be round to see her ere he started for
Ayr next morning.

Before he came, however, a rather well-known doctor arrived somewhat
to her annoyance, the more so because his verdict was startling. A
sharp attack of pneumonia, which mercifully had not killed her, had
left both lungs enfeebled. At least six weeks' complete rest, care,
and good food, and, if possible, sea air would be necessary to make
them normal; but given these desiderata perfect recovery was assured.

Six weeks! Marrion, despite her full purse, was aghast, and Marmaduke,
coming in with his usual breezy vitality, found her depressed. He was
in uniform, and it was the first time she had seen him so, with all
the accessories, as it were, of his young manhood about him, from the
glitter of his plaid brooch to the pipe-clay on his white gaiters, for
Andrew Fraser would have scorned to have aught astray in his master's
kit.

"I have had rather bad news," she began dolefully; but he checked her
with a comprehending smile.

"I know," he replied, "I was waiting for the pill-doc's verdict
downstairs. But it's perfectly easy, my dear. The sea is simply
splendid at Ayr. I'm off there in quarter of an hour; but I'm going to
leave Andrew Fraser here to bring you down later on. If I can't find
you a suitable lodging before you come you can get one for yourself
next day. And if you do run short of money, you can always come to me,
can't you?"

She shook her head, but the tears were in her eyes.



                             CHAPTER XIII


Andrew Fraser stood at attention watching a couple of figures, a man
and a woman, who for the last hour had been dredging a sea-pool with a
landing net as if they were boy and girl. He had watched them at it
often in the last six weeks, and, honest, straight-forward fellow as
he was, had wondered how they managed to treat each other with such
perfect unconsciousness that they were man and woman. So far as his
master was concerned, that might be, for Andrew was shrewd enough to
see the difference between friendship and passion; but, if anyone was
ever heart-wholly in love, Marrion Paul was that person. You could see
it in her face; yet it never seemed to influence her actions. The
perception of this made Andrew vaguely afraid of her; it put a sort of
damper on his own passion for her, since such self-control was not
natural; it was barely human.

Hour after hour, the simple soul would tell himself, those two would
play themselves like a couple of weans. Three or four times a week the
major would, after the morning parades were over, drive out in his
tilbury--Andrew perched in the tiny back seat--and spend his afternoon
at the little inn which was also the ferry-house over the Doon river
where Marrion lodged. Sometimes the two would go out sailing together,
but more often they amused themselves on the shore, as they were doing
now, dredging for sea things or catching miller's thumbs. It was
childish, but--Andrew's lean, anxious face puckered with confused
thought as he turned to a sound which he knew would bring with it a
more commonsensical outlook on the situation than he, with his
passionate love for the woman concerned, his passionate affection for
the man, could bring to bear on it. It was the click of busy knitting
needles, and they belonged to the landlady of the "Plough." She was a
thoroughly good, kindly, healthy woman, whose views were strictly
conventional on all subjects appertaining to the relations between
the sexes; and as these in those days--and even now, for the most
part--were that sex was the only possible tie between two spirits if
they happened to be living for the time being, one in a male body, the
other in a female--they were not likely to approve of the dredgers of
sea-treasures.

"When are yon two gaun to be marriet?" she asked firmly. She was a
just woman, and having seen no signs of wrong-doing was willing to
believe the best.

Andrew hesitated.

"I'm thinkin'," he replied slowly, "that they are no considering
marriage."

"Then they aught tae think shame tae themsels," retorted the landlandy
severely. "Her week's up the morrow's morn, an' I'll just tell her she
canna stop in my house. It's just clean redeeklus."

Andrew flushed up.

"There's no need for you to say aught, ma'am," he protested eagerly.
"She's leavin', anyhow. Ye ken she only came for her health and that's
re-established. It would only hurt the lassie--and--and do harm,
mayhap."

The landlady looked at him and sniffed.

"The lassie, as you ca' her--will take no hairm from what I sall say
to her, an' she'd be the better to give up moithering about wi'
majors, and tak' up wi' a gude, God-fearin' man like yersel'."

And with that she carried the click of her knitting-pins back into the
inn, leaving Andrew Fraser battling with his own heart. Aye, surely,
surely, it would be better, more seemly, more discreet.

But there they were coming up from the beach like happy children.

"Then I'll bring a boat along at one to-morrow," said the major, as he
climbed into the tilbury. "I can't get away before, and we'll try and
get to the Craig. It's eighteen miles south, so if this north-west
wind holds good we shall have plenty of time, shan't we?"

"Plenty of time!" echoed Marrion happily.

But she had been happy every day of those six weeks, and even now,
though the hair money was running short, and she knew she must be up
and doing in a few days, she would not, could not, think of the
future. Sufficient to the day was the evil and the good thereof.

Half an hour after Marmaduke's departure, however, she came out of the
inn-parlour with a heightened colour. It had been no use attempting to
explain the position to the landlady, it was foolish to mind what she
had said; the more so as, automatically, that position must end in a
day or two; still it was disturbing!

In this early September the twilights were long and the sky was still
golden high up to the zenith. She threw a shawl over her head and,
taking a boat, sculled herself across the ferry for a calming walk
down the coast-line.


                 "The banks and braes of bonny Doon!"


The song kept echoing in her head. How pinchbeck it all was, that love
of which men sung--


      "But my false lover stole the rose,
       But, ah, he left the thorn wi' me!"


That was a man's view of it. He came, he saw, he conquered. Then he
could ride away leaving a thorn behind him. But why? She laughed aloud
as she thought of her own passionate love for Duke, a love nothing
could touch, a love that was unsoilable, unassailable, untouchable!

It was dark ere she returned and then someone tall and soldierly rose
out of the shadows of the little sitting-room of the inn which she
used as her own. For an instant her heart leapt. Then she saw it was
Andrew Fraser.

"There's nothing wrong, is there?" she asked hastily.

"I'm no that sure," he replied unsteadily, and then his outstretched
hands found hers, warm almost compelling in their fierce yet tender
clasp.

"Marrion, Marrion, my dear," he said hoarsely, "ye're bringing wae
into yure life! Oh, dinna draw away frae me, I'm not come to tell ye I
love you; _that's_ sure! You know that, Marrion, if you know anything.
But listen! You cou'dna marry me. That's sure, too; d'ye think I can't
feel that, too, Marrion? Right through to the very cauld core o' my
heart, an' it's cauld, Marrion--it's deathly cauld!" He paused, and
the girl in his passionate hold shivered.

"It makes me cauld, too, Andry," she half-sobbed, "deathly cauld.
You're meybe worth more than he is, but--but I canna help myself."

Andrew's voice grew firmer.

"An' I canna help it either, my dear. But if ye canna marry me, why
sou'd you not marry him?"

She shook her head. "I willna tie him down," she interrupted hoarsely.
"I willna do him harm!"

"It's no harm!" he urged. "See you, lassie; would ye rather hae a Lord
Drummuir wi' a wife like yersel', or a Lord Drummuir like to the auld
man at the Castle now? I'm no sayin', mind you, that he wad be just as
his father, but--well, I hae lived wi' the major these eight years,
and I ken fine he needs a guide--why, my dear, since ye cam here, he's
away to his bed like a lad to sleep like a child; an' there's a
play-actin' woman at the theaytre in Glasgi' that had laid hands on
him and thocht she'd got him; but he's just escapit the snare like a
bird from a fowler. Sae ye might do good, not harm." There was a
pause.

"Ye mean well, Andry," she said softly, "but--but he hasn't really
asked me to--to marry him."

Andrew turned aside wearily.

"Has he no?" he replied. "Weel, that may be your fault, lassie; ye can
keep a man at arm's length wi' a smilin' face, as I know tae my cost."

A sudden realisation of the man's self-sacrificing devotion came to
her.

"An' ye've come to tell me this," she almost whispered, "to tell me to
your cost! Oh, Andry, Andry, yere love is greater than mine!"

A sort of half sob came from the darkness.

"God bless ye for that, Marrion--God bless ye for that, my dear!"

The scalding tears were in her eyes as she raised them from her hiding
hands to look for him; but he had gone. The shadows were empty.

The morning rose still and serene save for the puffing of the westerly
wind that ruffled the blue sea with tiny white-crested waves. The
Ayrshire coast stretching south lay green and yellow with ripe corn in
little bays and promontories--far away like a faint cloud the cliffs
of Ailsa Craig showed almost translucent.

An ideal day indeed for a sail!

Marrion, her mind still disturbed by her landlady's half-threatening
remonstrances and by Andrew's pathetic appeal to the same conventional
outlook, turned with relief to the prospect of her afternoon's
holiday; probably the last one she would have, since she had made up
her mind to leave for work next day.

It was a good deal past one when Marmaduke, in rather an evil temper,
ran the pleasure-boat into the little pier where she was ready
waiting. He looked less buoyant than usual and apologised for being
late. All the fishing fleet were out, he said, and he had waited in
vain to get a man.

"Not that that matters!" he added, recovering himself, as he helped
her in. "You are as good as a man any day, Marmie."

And yet, when, after a three hours' sail before the wind, they
reached the Craig, and, mooring the boat, climbed to the westering
cliffs beneath which the waves set a frill of white lace, he fairly
startled her by saying suddenly:

"Marmie, I've made up my mind; I am going to marry you. I've thought
over everything from start to finish, and I'm certain it is the best
thing for both of us. Now, my dear girl, let me have my say for once;
you shall have yours by-and-by. I'm not going to talk of what you did
for me with my father. I'm not sure yet, you see, whether I am vexed
or grateful. A man doesn't like to be exactly--well--herded; but you
did it; and that intolerable vixen Penelope--but I won't talk about
her either. Then there's the hair business," he eyed her ruefully,
though in truth, now that the ends began to curl, the shearing was no
such dis-sight, "that also was my fault; and now"--he paused, and a
red flush of anger rose to his brow--"the goody-goodies in Ayr
apparently won't let you alone, and one of the youngsters this morning
tried to cut a joke; but I won't talk of that either. The long and
short of it is, Marmie, that you and I have got to get married.
And"--his voice changed to almost affection--"you know, dear, what you
stand for with me--for everything that I know to be really worth
having--everything that--well--I ought to be and am not. For it's the
old story, Marmie, I'm Tristram Shandy and you are the Shorter
Catechism, so--so come and help me, won't you?"

With his voice in her ears she sat for a moment looking out westwards.
A low bank of cloud had obscured the horizon, the sun just thinking of
sinking behind it shone with unearthly brilliance over the sea, over
him, over herself. Then she disengaged her hand from his gently, and,
rising, stood on the extreme verge of the cliff, looking down into the
dazzling, shifting green of the waves. Would it, after all, be so
great a plunge downwards? She had often imagined the choice coming to
her. Suddenly she spoke:

"There is no need for--for Tristram Shandy to be--to be bound up with
the Shorter Catechism, is there? The two could help each other without
the binding, couldn't they? And then"--her voice had the break of
half-tears, half-laughter in it--"you see Tristram Shandy would be
free--free to marry." She had been so intent on her own words, her
eyes looking out far beyond that dark horizon that she had not
realised he had risen to stand beside her; but now his arm about
her waist, his face bent caressingly to hers, quite overset her
self-control, she turned with a sob and buried her face on his breast.
"Oh, Duke, Duke!" she cried. "I mustn't, I daren't harm you!"

He held her to him and kissed her again and again.

"You won't harm me," he said exultantly. "Of course I shan't be able
to noise our marriage abroad just now, so you will have plenty of time
to prepare for your future position."

All the glamour, all the glitter seemed gone from the world; she drew
herself away from him and smiled at him tenderly, feeling glad that he
had failed apparently to realise the magnitude of her offer.

"You must give me time to think, Duke," she said.

He looked a little offended.

"Oh, take it, by all means; only if you won't marry me we must give up
being friends, for I'm not such a cad as to let a girl like you lose
her character over me--but I expect I shall go to the devil, all the
same."

They were very silent when they set sail once more. They had intended
to tack along the coast to a village where Andrew had been told to
await them with the tilbury; but after one or two attempts to make way
against a momentarily increasing wind, Marmaduke, with a rapid glance
at that arc of black cloud which had by now overcast the zenith,
remarked briefly:--

"We are in for it, I fear, and had better run for Girvan. Wait till I
am ready, Marmie, then take her round sharp."

Even as he spoke the gust of a coming squall struck them, the boat
heeled over, and but for skill both at tiller and sheet, might have
overset.

"It's a mercy you can steer," he said, a minute or two later, as by a
deft giving way the boat over-rode a following seventh wave; "but if
you keep your head there's no harm done."

So they flew before the rapidly rising gale, which, as it rose,
shifted from north-west to nor'-nor'-by-west and threatened to drive
them down the coast.

"We shall have to tack to make Girvan," he said sharply, "and it's
best to do it before the full fury of the storm touches us. It looks
ugly out there."

Marmie nodded.

"I'll take my time from you," she replied, "but don't hurry; we shall
get into a slacker bit in a minute or two."

"Now!" came his voice.

The helm went round with all her young strength, but the boat hung for
a second, a following wave took her broadside on, there was a crash,
and Marmaduke was overboard. For one dreadful second Marrion's heart
stood still; the next she realised he had still the sheet-rope in his
hand, and, bringing the boat up sideways to him, he had his hand on
the gunwale and was clambering in.

"That was a narrow shave," he said, with a brilliant smile. "Now,
Marmie, as the yard has gone, there's nothing for it but let the sail
fill as it can or can't. It will steady us, anyhow. So I'll tie the
sheet and take the tiller. You'd better sit at my feet--see, here's my
coat--rubbish, put it on, I tell you! I don't think we shall make
Girvan, but I--I think I can run her ashore further down. If not----"
He stooped and kissed her.

That was all; but whether the next hour was a nightmare or a heavenly
dream Marrion Paul in after years never could decide. The great waves
rushing past the little boat, the half-dismasted sail bellying out
over the uplifted bows, scarce seen in the gathering darkness, their
figures in the stern, close--ah! so close together, she resting
against his knees, with upturned face on his, one arm round his waist,
the other, round his feet sheltering him as best she could with the
coat he had insisted on her taking. And he? He seemed to her as the
archangel Michael might have seemed, as he sat courageous, alert,
bending down once or twice, after a stiffer struggle, to touch her
hair with his lips, and almost laugh his confidence.

"Getting along nicely, Marmie. We may have to swim for it--but it has
got to be done!"

At last there came a roar ahead of breakers on a beach.

"It's sand, I think, so off with your boots and everything else you
can!" he called above the roar. "No, don't--ah, thank you, now I can
kick them off! Be ready, child, and hold on to me. We sink or swim
together!"

So she stood beside him for a minute or two, her skirts thrown aside,
her bare arms ready for a forward drive. Then came a faint grating, a
shock as the boat, heeled round by his strong arm, struck broadside on
on the sand and pitched them forward nearer the land into the
breakers. There was a terrific back draw, and Marrion felt as if her
arms would be torn out of the sockets; but Marmaduke's grip upon her
was as iron; then he was on his feet, then, with a cry--

"Run--run for all you're worth!" He half-dragged her beyond the whole
awful onslaught of the sea. Another wild struggle, another forward
run, and they were safe on the sandy shore, with low moorland around
them. Then for the first time he began, manlike, to fuss over
discomfort.

"You must get out of this as soon as may be," he exclaimed, as they
stood in the full blast of the biting wind. "I see a light over
yonder. Let's run for it, it will keep you warm."

He held out his hand and together they ran, the bruised leaves of the
bog myrtle as they sped over the moor sending their clean aromatic
odour into the night air.

"Better than last time," he said, with a laugh. "By Jove, I did get
deep into the bog that time! It's better in couples."

So, once again those two, caught by the glamour of pure life, raced on
almost forgetful of past danger and present discomfort.

The light proved to be from a shepherd's hut, where they found warmth
and shelter, a sup of porridge, and some milk. It was four good miles
to Girvan by a bad road, and that made a retreat thither impossible in
the teeth of such a furious gale as was now raging; so the old
shepherd, after providing Marrion with a petticoat of his dead wife's
and a plaid of his own, proposed to retreat to an outhouse and leave
the cottage to his uninvited guests. Marmaduke, however, negatived the
proposal. His wife, he said, would be the better of a good sleep,
while he must be off at daybreak to Girvan in order to get a
conveyance; so she could lie down in the bed-place and he and the
shepherd could just snoozle by the fire. Which they did.

Marrion, wide awake at first, her nerves all athrill, listened to
their even voices for a time, then watched them asleep in their
chairs, the firelight on their placid faces, and finally fell asleep
herself, to wake with bright sunlight streaming into the little
cottage.

A scribbled note in pencil awaited her from Marmaduke. He might be
away some time; she was not to expect him till she saw him.

It was early afternoon when he did return in an open chaise and four
with postillions.

"The road is very bad," he explained airily, "and I've brought you
some clothes. You'd better go and put them on, as we ought to start at
once."

"You ought not----" she began hastily at her first glance at the
milliner's box. "You really----"

"My dear girl," he replied, with a charming smile, "mayn't I see you
dressed for once as you ought to be dressed!"

There was no alternative with the postillions waiting, and as she put
on the things he had brought she was forced into admitting he had good
taste.

"You do look nice!" he cried, joyous as a child, as he handed her into
the chaise.

The next instant they were off, the grey horses with their red-coated
postillions lending quite a bridal appearance to the couple behind
them, for Marmaduke was also very spruce, though he was wearing his
left hand tucked into the roll collar of his coat. Something in the
look of the arm, now she had time for observation, made Marrion say
suddenly--

"You hurt yourself?"

He nodded.

"Dislocated my wrist--you see that first wave was an awful jerk. So I
had to get back to the regimental surgeon to get it sorted and get my
three days' leave."

She looked at him startled.

"What for?" she asked quickly.

"For our honeymoon, dear," he replied, his kindly, handsome
affectionate face bent close to hers. "Don't look so alarmed, Marmie,
it had to be after what you and I went through together yesterday; we
can't get away from each other, even if we would."

"But----" she began.

At that instant the cross road on which they had been merged into a
turnpike, and with a swerve the grey horses turned to the right.

"But me no buts!" he cried gaily. "We are on the south road, not the
north." Then he suddenly grew grave. "And God bless you, dear, for all
you've done for me and will do for me in the years to come!"

That turn south had brought them face to face with the glorious line
of coast fading away into a golden mist. Far out on the wide expanse
of sea the same soft September mist lay like a veil, hiding--what?

Marrion Paul, sitting hand-in-hand with the one love of her life, did
not even ask the question; for all things, everything, seemed
swallowed up in a golden glory.

Marmaduke's voice roused her, joyous, confident.

"And I've got a wedding present for you. I wouldn't give it you
before. You see you are such a wilful customer, I was afraid you
mightn't get into the chaise."

Half-mechanically she opened the case he laid on her lap. It contained
two very long, very thick plaits of red-brown hair, each held together
by an entwined monogram of M's in brilliants. She looked at him and he
looked at her in affectionate raillery.

"Now!" he cried joyously. "You'll be fit to be seen. You didn't think,
did you, I was going to let your hair be appraised by those young
fools? So that day we left Edinburgh--you remember I nearly missed the
train--I raced back to that beast of a hairdresser. I didn't know till
then, Marmie, it was so valuable; but it was well worth it. Then I had
it set." He paused, aware of some jarring note, and added, "You do
like it, dear, don't you?"

Marrion, sitting with her long coils of hair in her lap, felt somehow
that the glamour had gone from the gold of earth and sky.

"Of course I like it," she said, making an effort, "but--but why the
diamonds?"

He laughed.

"Because I like diamonds and I like you to look well. I--I suppose you
couldn't twist 'em up somehow now, could you? The postillions won't
see."

She removed her bonnet and deftly coiled the long plaits about her
shapely head.

"I'm afraid it's not very neat," she said solidly.

But he was more than satisfied.

"You look divine!" he cried exultantly. "More like other people, you
know; and I dare say it is mean of me, but your close crop always made
me feel bad, because you know I was really the cause of it. So now we
start fair, don't we?"

"Quite fair," she answered, with a smile. He was such a child. Yet
some of the glamour had gone.



                            END OF BOOK I.



                               BOOK II



                              CHAPTER I


"Mr. Peter Muir wishes to know if he can see you, ma'am," said the
servant.

The woman seated at a table by the window in the small drawing-room of
a tiny house in one of the back streets of Belgravia laid down her
work and rose. It was Marrion Paul; but she was seven years older and
neither face nor figure had quite the same buoyant youthfulness.
Indeed, as she crossed to the fireplace a distinct limp was apparent.
Still her face had gained in beauty, and the masses of her red bronze
hair glinted bright as ever. Those seven years of life had been hard
in some ways; but they had been happy in others--happy most of all in
that Marmaduke Muir was well and content.

Marrion drew an easy-chair to the fire and closed the window, knowing
her visitor to be chilly. She did the latter with reluctance, for the
late November sunshine shone golden in the narrow street, and the
somewhat mews-laden atmosphere of those back purlieus of fashionable
houses was sweetened as it filtered through the wide boxes of trailing
musk which made the little house with the brass plate bearing its
legend,


                             MRS. MARSDEN
                              _Layettes_


look quite countrified and summerlike.

Peter Muir, coming in languidly, complaining of the cold, slipped into
the easy-chair as one accustomed to it. He also was older, his weak
face showed signs of recent ill-health; but he was otherwise the loose
knit, errant, yet dandified figure he had been. Dressed in the height
of the fashion, his blue-and-white bird's eye bow and stiff stand up
collar seemed the most striking parts of his personality.

"This place is the only peaceful spot in all the town," he sighed. "I
often wish I were back in the little room upstairs where you nursed me
so patiently."

"And your brother, Major Marmaduke," she put in kindly, "don't forget
him, Mr. Peter. If it hadn't been for him, I don't believe you would
have lived."

Peter Muir fingered his nails nervously.

"No, I don't suppose I should. You see, it was all Vienna. It's the
devil of a place for a young fellow, especially if he has got no
money--and we never have any, have we? But that is really the reason
why I've dropped in to have a quiet talk with you, so I thought I
would come in the morning, in case Marmaduke----"

"I haven't seen your brother for ten days," she interrupted quietly.
"I believe he has been away hunting in Hampshire, hasn't he?"

Peter Muir went on fingering his nails.

"Yes," he said at last, "part of the time." Then he suddenly burst
out--"I don't know why we should beat about the bush, you and I. You
were a perfect Providence to me, Marmie; I used to call you that, you
know, when I was so ill and the doctors swore that D.T. must end in an
asylum. Duke means a lot to both of us, doesn't he? And it's about him
I want to speak. You've noticed, of course, that he is hipped and out
of spirits, haven't you?"

"No one could help noticing that," she replied coldly.

"And he says it is because the old man of the sea at the Castle won't
give him the money to purchase the colonel's step, I suppose?" asked
the young man tentatively.

"That is the case, I believe," she replied, even more coldly. "There
was the same difficulty about the majority."

Peter Muir laughed and looked at her quizzically.

"I've often wondered how that was done," he said. "But this time it
isn't quite fair on the baron. To give the devil his due, I believe he
is quite ready to fork out the money if Marmaduke will only promise to
marry within the year. You see the question of succession is becoming
acute. There is no chance of an heir to the barony from Pitt. And
I--I--well, let's out with it! I've dished myself with the peer as
well as with Providence. It's my damned own fault, of course, but
there it is. And it isn't as if there was not a real picture man in
the family whose sons should do credit to the Castle."

He had run on rapidly, and now paused to look at his companion.

"And does the Major refuse to accept the conditions?" she asked
quietly. "I wonder why?"

Peter Muir felt distinctly injured by her calm.

"So do I, and I was wondering if----"

She stopped him with a gesture of her hand, which sent all his
conventional decorum to the right-about, and left him, a man, before
her a woman--left him, instead of an elaborate detective, a reluctant
admirer.

"Mr. Peter," she said, smiling, "don't wonder! It is very kind of you
to come and tell me the truth--kind also to try and find me out; but,
believe me, I do not stand in your brother's way. It is two years
since Major Muir first brought you here to me, a milliner living by
her work only. All that while he and I have been good friends--nothing
more. I had no claim to be anything else. Does that satisfy you?"

Peter Muir held out a hot, damp, but enthusiastic hand to meet her
cool, wholesome one.

"I'm not quite sure if it does," he said, in a manner suddenly and to
her painfully reminiscent of Marmaduke. "You've been a good sight more
to him than any friend has been to me, worse luck! Perhaps if I had
had someone like you in a peaceful little room like this--but
Marmaduke always had the devil's own luck. However, you are not
angry, are you? Only I thought it right to put you up to the ropes in
case----"

"There is no in case about it," she interrupted quickly. "I--I make no
claim." She rose, passed to the window, and looked out. "Has Lord
Drummuir any--any special selection for his future daughter-in-law?"
she asked, and the young man at the fireplace jiggled the seals in his
pocket amusedly.

He knew a thing or two, he imagined, about women.

"Not so far as I am aware of, at _present_," he replied, negligently;
"but the consent is a trifle urgent, for the colonelcy will be going
ere long. He ought to make up his mind soon and come with me to a
roaring New Year at the Castle--it's always a bachelor party--and it
may be his last chance. So, if you could say a word or two--you have
more influence over Marmaduke----"

She flashed round suddenly.

"I used to have some," she corrected. "However, thanks very many. Now
let us talk of something else."

After her visitor had gone Marrion Paul, who called herself Mrs.
Marsden on the door-plate, threw the window wide with an air of relief
and sat down once more to her work. It was an infant's cap of almost
incredibly fine stitchings and embroideries; the kind of cap which,
perched on slender, white, much-beringed hands would give tremors of
delightful anticipation to rich young wives awaiting motherhood. On
the table were strewn other tiny habiliments dainty and delicate
beyond compare; for Mrs. Marsden's layettes were renowned. Nothing
crude, nothing out of place came from her skilful hands; all things
bore the indefinable stamp of absorbing care and almost divine hope
that the little unknown atom of life to come should have garments
worthy of its mission.

The truth being that, as she worked, her mind always held at the back
of it the memory of a certain box upstairs in which lay the first baby
clothes she had ever made--clothes laboured at day by day in a perfect
heaven of happiness for her child and Duke's, the poor little dear
which had lost its life in the effort to save hers after that terrible
accident.

It had not been Duke's fault, though he had reproached himself
bitterly at first; but that had been more because of her consequent
lameness. For to a man a dead baby does not count for much--not even
if no other follows it--at least not to a man like Marmaduke, so
light-hearted, so affectionate, so free from all carping cares and
thoughts.

No, it had been her fault from the beginning. She should have held her
own as she had done for his good in so many other ways before and
since. And now, after these years of freedom, was the tie between
them--the unreal tie which ought never to have existed--to hold him
back from taking his rightful place in life?

Suddenly she folded up the tiny cap, putting it by with a wistful
little smile and a pat against happier thoughts, went upstairs, put on
her bonnet, and, leaving word she would not be back till late, passed
out into the street. One thing was certain, she must avoid seeing
Marmaduke until her mind was indelibly fixed, and there was always a
chance he might drop in to see her.

London in those days was a dreary spot for anyone requiring a quiet
place wherein to look Fate in the face; but Marrion knew her way to
two places where she could secure peace and quiet--the National
Gallery and the reading-room of the British Museum. She had often
spent long hours in the former, not moving from place to place, but
seated before some masterpiece, scarce seeing it, yet vaguely learning
something from it which had been missing in her life; but to-day she
chose the latter, as being farther away, and it was time she wished to
kill--time in which it was possible to hear the familiar step on the
stairs, perhaps to be greeted by some affectionate jest that stockings
were not mended or that new handkerchiefs required marking. She smiled
as she thought of those seven long years during which she had kept
this man as comfortable and as tidy as she could, during which she had
managed for him as well as any woman could have managed, and tried to
imagine the estimation in which such devotion would be held by the
wives and mothers for whose infants she worked. She was a constant
reader at the Museum, having, when she came to London, set herself
deliberately to gain what she had perforce missed in her life, so she
found a place, sent in her slip for a book, and was soon apparently
studying it. But she was not even thinking. In the great crises of
life one does not weigh pros and cons; decision comes from outside to
those who recognise that there is something beyond one's own
individual life. It is those who do not see, who fail to recognise the
spiritual plane, who cannot distinguish good from evil, evil from
good, who err past forgiveness. And from the moment Marrion Paul had
heard of the condition on which old Lord Drummuir would buy the
colonelcy she had known she must face him again. The only question was
when, and how.

The sooner the better. She would inquire about the journey on her way
home.

It was dark ere she arrived there with a long list of startings and
arrivals in her hand, and a new sense of elation in her heart--the
elation of the born fighter at yet another chance of battle.

"The Major was here asking for you, ma'am, about five o'clock," said
the maidservant, "and he said if you could let him have two or three
white ties to-night he would be obliged, as he is going into the
country early to-morrow."

Marrion laughed. So much the better for her plans.

"Take a hot iron to the dining-room," she said, "and set the
lace-board. You can take the ties round to his lodgings after supper."



                              CHAPTER II


Seven years had not improved old Lord Drummuir's temper, neither had
it softened the arrogance of his sway over the household. Marrion
realised this in a second, as, entering the study under the name of
Mrs. Marsden--a lady who, according to the footman, was--"Oh, yes,
sir, quite young, and yes, sir, quite good-looking!" and who had
private business with his lordship, she found herself instantly
recognised by three pairs of eyes. One the occupant of the familiar
wheel-chair, the others those of my lady and Penelope. The sight of
the latter was unexpected, for though Marrion knew her grandfather had
died the previous year she had not heard of Penelope's reinstallation
as confidential attendant to my lady. It was not an arrangement likely
to occur to anyone out of Drummuir Castle; but there all things were
possible.

In the instant's pause which followed on her entrance Marrion had time
to note that the old man had changed but little. His face had lost
somewhat of its colour, but the look of absolute domineering power was
strong as ever. My lady had grown stout--the very idea of a _fandango_
was far from her now--and the colour had come to her face in
unbecoming fashion. Penelope, on the other hand, had grown thinner,
and in her black dress looked prim propriety.

"Well, young woman?" began his lordship.

It was a signal for indignant protest from those two.

"Drummuir," shrilled the lady, "if you speak to that creature I must
leave the room!"

Penelope's answering assent was audible in a snort.

The old man fixed them with a stony stare.

"I was just about to ask you to do so, my dear," he said, with suave
politeness. "Penelope, open the door for your mistress."

Marrion, as mechanically she stepped aside towards the window to let
them pass out, felt that nothing was altered. The spider was master of
his web still, every stick and stone of the old place existed by this
old man's wicked will. And it was this heritage she had set herself to
gain for the man she loved! A spasm of repugnance shot through her.

Yet surely the place itself was glorious. Her glance speeding
northwards took in the same old familiar view that had been visible
from her window in the keep-house; the grey northern sea trending
away, round promontory and point, the cliffs looking so strangely red
compared with the white hills, the white moors--for snow lay thick
everywhere. In those long years of London life she seemed to have
forgotten that snow could be so white. "Though your sins be as
scarlet, they shall be white as snow." The words recurred to her
irrelevantly.

The old man's voice roused her.

"You are not so good-looking as you were; and you limp. How's that?"

"I had an accident," she replied briefly.

"And why do you call yourself Mrs. Marsden?"

"Because it is the name I have gone by for some years."

"Ever since I last saw you--eh?"

"Ever since you last saw me--nearly," she corrected. Then there was
silence.

"Well," he said at length, "what is it all about? You have come for
money, I suppose--women always do. Tell the truth solidly please, I've
no time to waste."

The sneer in his words was intolerable.

"Yes, I have come for money," she replied, "because your son, Major
Marmaduke Muir, married me six years ago. I've brought proofs with
me."

If he wanted the truth he had got it. Bitter as she was, however, the
sudden whiteness of the old man's face made her sorry for him. There
was something more than anger here. That turned him purple; yet his
words were resentful, nothing more.

"Then he is a damned fool!"

"You didn't write so to him seven years ago, Lord Drummuir," she
began.

"H'm, so he showed you the letter, did he? No, you behaved well
then--and, by God, I made them dance!" The recollection seemed to
please; then a sudden thought evidently struck him. "Any children?" he
asked.

She shook her head.

"One--a boy--died. Major Muir had an accident in the tilbury. The
child," she paused, her eyes on the far stretches of dazzling white
snow, "it--it ransomed my life. I shall never have another." Then with
a rush all she had come to say sprang to mind and lips, she held out
her hands appealingly. "Lord Drummuir, I wish you would let me tell my
story!"

"Eh, what?" he replied peevishly. "Well, curse it all, I've been
plagued by the gout and those two virtuous frumps for seven months,
for Jack Jardine has the jaundice, and you were deuced amusing last
time. But, don't stop over there--makes me cold to think of you. Sit
there, by the fire, and take off your bonnet; you look better without
it. Women with good hair shouldn't wear bonnets."

She sat down as he bade her, feeling inclined to cry, he reminded her
so much of Marmaduke.

He would not spare her any details; it seemed an amusement to him to
hear of her doubts, her scruples, and he laughed aloud when she told
him how two years ago she had dismissed her lover.

"Why?" he sneered. "Come, out with it!"

His hard clear eyes peered into hers.

"Because I didn't want to injure him, and I don't want to injure him
now," she replied. "I haven't come to claim my rights as his wife."

"Then what the devil do you want, my lady?"

"I want you to do as you did before and give him the money to buy his
colonelcy. If you will do this I will never claim to be his wife. He
shall be as free, as far as I am concerned, to marry whom you choose."

Lord Drummuir sat looking at her with hard clear eyes.

"And if I don't," he said at last, "are you going to threaten me with
this bogus marriage, for it may be bogus for all I know--eh, what?"

Marrion felt that the supreme moment had come; she must stake her all.

"No," she answered quietly. "To show you I threaten nothing, there are
my marriage lines. Burn them if you will!"

She sat quite still while the old man, with fingers that trembled
visibly, unfolded the paper she gave him. There was no mistaking its
worth. In Marmaduke's bold black writing were the words--

"I, Marmaduke Muir, second son of Baron Drummuir, of Drummuir Castle,
hereby acknowledge Marrion Paul as my lawful wife." Underneath in her
finer writing was her own acknowledgment of her tie to Marmaduke.

The old man, for all he had had no hopes of escape, was wary.

"You give this up because you know he, my fool of a son, has a
counterpart, eh? That's about it, I expect?"

Marrion flushed to the very roots of her hair, but she spoke calmly.

"Yes, your son has the counterpart----" she began.

The old man burst into one of his sudden rude guffaws.

"Ha, ha, ha! And you thought you'd take in the old fox, my fine
madam!" he said, then paused before the passion of her face.

"If you will listen you will believe me. I could claim to be his wife
now if I chose. I do not choose. I prefer that he should lead the life
he loved, that he should marry and bring you the heir for which--for
which you would sell your soul, you poor old man! But Marmaduke is a
soldier born; if he misses this chance he will be a disappointed man.
As like as not he will never marry, even though he knows I've set him
free. But send him this money, and I swear to you the counterpart
shall be destroyed. What shall I swear by? I swear by the poor dead
baby!" She paused. "Marmaduke said he was so like you. I never saw
him. I was too near death."

Her voice trailed away to monotony. The old man sat staring at her, an
odd tremor in his face.

"I swear it shall be destroyed," she continued. "I--I have very great
influence over your son; he--he will do what I ask."

"Then why the devil are you giving him up, and your prospects here?
They're not to be sneezed at by a woman like you!"

The phrase nettled her. She rose and stood beside him strong and
steady.

"Lord Drummuir," she said sarcastically, "I know you to be clever and
I thought, being a gentleman, that you might have seen the truth and
spared me the pain of that question. I will answer it, however. It is
cause your son never loved me. He is very, very fond of me. He has
been so ever since we were boy and girl together. And I have been of
great use to him. But I could not bring love into his life, and I
could not bring him a child. So it did not seem worth while; I could
only stand aside."

There was a pause. The old man's face had grown sharp and paler; there
was uncertainty even in the cruel lines about the mouth.

"You're rather an extraordinary young woman," he remarked coolly;
"might have made your fortune on the stage. Wish I'd met you there!"
He grinned. "But now to business. You have the whip hand, of course--I
admit that. Now, if I give you--or that fool, my son, it's the same
thing--the money for this paper, you promise to make him destroy his
counterpart."

"I promise," she replied eagerly. "I can make him do most things----"

"Except love you," interrupted the old man, with a horrible sneer; but
the next instant his gouty hand, trembling a little, was outstretched
to her in deprecation. "Excuse me, that should not have been said.
Well, you know as well as I do that this game is a real confidence
trick. You must have heaps of evidence up your sleeve if you chose to
bring it forward. But I'll chance that. I haven't seen many of your
sort in my life. If I had, I mightn't have been the cursed cripple I
am; but I've had a rattlin' good life of it and I don't regret
anything--except having begot Pitt. So we will come to terms. I will
send the colonelcy money to Marmaduke on condition that he consents to
marry within the year. Is that agreed?"

"Agreed," she said firmly.

"In that case perhaps you'll oblige me by ringing the bell."

She did so, but when the valet appeared, instead of the curt order to
show her out Marrion had expected, the old man commanded the instant
production of cake and wine.

"Nonsense!" he growled decisively to her protestations. "It is
devilish cold. You haven't on warm enough clothes, and you don't leave
this house without bite or sup, if only because your father Paul was a
deuced good servant to my poor brother. Good fellow was Paul--always
suspicioned he was a gentleman--think now he must have been.
Here"--the valet had come and gone, leaving the tray on the
table--"pour yourself out a glass of port. Won't get better anywhere,
I'll go bail. Only half a binn left, so I shall finish that before I
die, thank God! Now," he eyed her narrowly, "drink to the health of
Marmaduke Muir's son, the heir to Drummuir!"

The room seemed to spin round for a moment. Then without a quiver she
drank the health, put down her glass and turned to the door. Just as
she reached it the old man said--

"Good-bye. I'm damned sorry that little chap of yours died; he would
have been game, anyhow."

She gave back one sudden grateful look, and the memory of what she saw
remained with her till the day of her death. The pearly whiteness of
the snow outside showing behind the mountain of diseased flesh swathed
in scarlet flannel, the gouty hands in the act of tearing up the paper
they had been holding, a cruel smile in the old grey eyes, despite the
words which had just fallen from the cruel lips.

"Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow."

The phrase recurred and recurred as she tramped her way down the beech
avenue. There were many gaps in it now. How many trees would be left
when Marmaduke's heir came to his own?



                             CHAPTER III


The swing doors leading to the smoking-room of the fashionable club in
London fell back with a slightly louder thud than usual, and more than
one occupant of the room looked up--looked up, however, to smile, for
the newcomer was a universal favourite. It was Marmaduke Muir, fresh
from one of his many disappearances, for he was quartered at the new
camp of Aldershot and his London visits were generally but a passing
flash on his way to find sport in the counties. At seven-and-thirty he
showed almost more youthful than he had done at seven-and-twenty, for
he was thinner, more alert, and the laughter in his face seemed to
belong to him more absolutely. For the rest he was handsome beyond
compare, and dressed faultlessly in a taste that had sobered itself
from those early days in England when Marrion Paul had found him
_flamboyant_. There was still a slight exuberance in the carnation in
his buttonhole and the immense size of the cigar he drew out of his
case; but the case itself was simple, and there was a simplicity about
his whole bearing which disarmed criticism.

"What you b'in after, old chap?" said an occupant of an armchair,
laying down the "Illustrated London News," in which he had been
reading the pros and cons of beard and moustachios as against clean
shaving. He felt his own chin doubtfully as he looked at Marmaduke's
upper lip; but then he, of course, was a soldier.

"Killin' somethin', I bet," yawned another. "What was it, Duke?"

"Not ladies, anyhow," put in a third. "Our Adonis is a regular
misogynist; and yet, just look at his letters--faugh! they make the
place smell like Truefitt's."

"Better than your fags, anyhow, Mac!" laughed Marmaduke, as he took
the pile of notes and letters which the attendant had brought in on a
salver. Then, as he threw himself into the most comfortable chair
vacant, he held up half the bundle with a gay--"Anyone like them?
They're all invitations, I expect, and I have to go back to-night!"

"And moneylenders, Muir! Don't forget Moses!" put in the man he had
called Mac.

"Not so many of them either," retorted Marmaduke, "as you know Jack
Jardine keeps us going. God bless him!" he added cheerfully.

"Here, hand us over a few, Major!" said a callow youth who lived to
envy the more fashionable habitués.

"No go, Smithers!" remarked another youth less sallow; "even Nathan
couldn't make you up to his form."

But Marmaduke, after a hasty glance at the superscriptions, had
dexterously flung a dozen or so of letters into the applicant's tall
hat, which was obstructing the way between his chair and the next. One
smaller than the rest which Marmaduke had overlooked flew over it and
lay on the carpet. It was directed in an uneducated hand.

"Hullo, pretty milliner, eh, Duke?" said Mac, taking it up and opening
it. "No, no, fair play, you gave it----"

Marmaduke, standing over him, blushed like a girl as he glanced at the
writing.

"It's nothing, Mac," he began.

But Mac was not to be put off in a moment.

"'Respekted and Honerd Sir'--can't spell, anyhow," he read out. "'The
money as you scent save my wife an' children from blank
starvayshion"'--he turned round and looked at Marmaduke reproachfully.
"And you owe me five pounds, you d----d Christian philanthropist."

Marmaduke Muir gave an apologetic laugh.

"The poor devil was in my regiment once--and as for the five pounds,
here you are. I had a stroke of luck down in Norfolk at loo----"

"Save you from 'blank starvayshion,' eh, Mac?" growled a man who also
owed money in the same quarter, whereat there was a general laugh, for
Major Macdonald was known to be near.

Marmaduke, opening his letters rapidly, put most of them into the
waste-paper basket. Invitations from people he scarcely knew to balls
and dances, others to festivities past and gone. Some few he put in
his pocket, and one he sat and stared at as he smoked his cigar.
Luncheon--one o'clock--there was plenty of time; and Louisa
Marchioness of Broadway was the most amusing old lady in town. An old
friend of his father's, too, though that wasn't in her favour. Still
she was interested in the family, and had always been particularly
kind to him.

An hour later, therefore, he sat waiting his hostess' appearance in
the tiny drawing-room of one of that row of tiny houses which, till a
very few years ago, stood back from Knightsbridge Road, separated from
it by a tiny secluded carriage-drive of their own and opening out with
little narrow strips of back gardens to the park. He was seated at the
window, but it seemed to him as if he were close to the roaring fire;
indeed, all things were close to each other in the small room where
the big, central, mid-Victorian table, with its broidered tablecloth,
solitary vase of flowers, and besprinkling books of beauty seemed to
monopolise all space. One of these same books of beauty lay open at a
simpering bottlenecked portrait subscribed in a fine feminine hand,
"Louisa Broadway." It always did; the servant had orders to that
effect.

"_À la bonheur, monsieur!_" came a voice from the door. It was the
most ancient thing about Louisa Marchioness of Broadway. All else was
open to manipulation and the manipulation was good. She did not,
however, dye her hair. Spiteful folk said it was because powder had
been the fashion when she was in the heyday of her beauty; but she was
a very clever lady, and doubtless she realised how much more real a
make-up seems when toned to white hair than to dark. As it was, the
effect was still charming, and her figure was that of a girl of
eighteen.

"_A moi l'honneur_," quoth Marmaduke gallantly, as he advanced to kiss
the old lady's outstretched hand and lead her to a chair.

In a certain set at that time there was a fashion for interpolating
French into English--one of the signs of the coming war which was
darkening the horizon of Europe.

So they sat and talked lightly of it, and of the Prince Consort's
unpopularity, and the coming opening of the King's new Royal Palace of
Westminster, which are now, forgetfully and conveniently, called the
Houses of Parliament, until luncheon was announced, and Marmaduke had
to pilot his hostess down the narrow stairs--a difficult task which he
felt would have been far easier had he carried her. And with the
thought came in a rush that delight in freedom, that fresh enjoyment
of the unconventional, which always made him remember Marrion Paul. It
sobered him a little and he talked with more effort. Not that it
mattered, since his hostess was all sparkle and wit. And the luncheon
itself was everything that could be desired. Marmaduke, a bit of an
epicure in personal matters, found the snug little horse-shoe table,
with its curve to the fire so that you could feel the warmth while you
looked out of the window, very conducive to comfort, for you sat
undisturbed by servings behind you. All that went on in front, and you
could see what was handed to you without fear of ricking your neck or
getting the gravy spilt over your clothes. The _menu_, too, if sparse,
was super-excellent. In her youth Louisa Broadway had been
Ambassadress at various European Courts; she was a _gourmet_ of
distinction, so it was quite a complacent Marmaduke who at her
invitation, after the servant left the room, turned his chair to the
fire and joined his hostess in a glass of Madeira.

"And now for business," she said, while her face took on a new
expression which obscured the paint and the prettiness, and left it
wise yet kindly--wise with the wisdom of a worldly old age. "Now, you
don't suppose, do you, young man, that I asked you here to give you a
good lunch--you'll admit you have had one, I presume--and talk to you
about things that don't really matter a brass farthing to either of
us? For what do you care about the Houses of Parliament, and what do I
care about scandals--I have had plenty--_de trop_, in fact! No, I
brought you here to introduce you to my grand-niece--Sibthorpe's
youngest daughter. She will be here immediately, and I want you to
marry her."

"Really, Lady Broadway!" flustered Marmaduke.

"Rather crude, I admit," continued his hostess, "but I object to
beating about the bush, especially when I want to get inside. The fact
is, Marmaduke, I have heard from your father----"

"It is good of you to read his letters; they are not----" began the
son stiffly.

"Don't be silly, my dear lad," went on the old woman, "your father has
his faults, but he was quite as good-looking as a young man as you
are--at any rate, I thought so. Now, he wants you to marry, and he has
every reason to wish it. It is the only chance of an heir to the
title, for Peter's last escapade has about finished his hopes in that
quarter."

"I can't discuss----" began Marmaduke very stiff.

"Oh, yes, you can!" went on the old lady imperturbably. "We
are _en petit comité_, and I'll confess to being old, very
old, old enough to be your great-grandmother. Now, Marmaduke,
a great-great-grandmother--did I put in the two greats the
first time?--can talk over things more sensibly than even a
great-great-grandfather. You see, my dear, she has passed through it
all and left it all behind her. And so, my dear child--I nursed you as
a baby, remember--why don't you marry? Or perhaps you are married
already?"

There was an exquisite lightness of raillery in the suggestion which
absolutely barred offence, and there was kindness in the keen old
eyes. Nevertheless, Marmaduke was uncomfortably aware that they took
in his sudden flush. She gave him no time for interruption, however,
and went on airily--

"For all I know the heir may already be in existence!" Here Marmaduke
asserted himself with great dignity. "My dear madam, if I had any
children I should acknowledge them!"

Louisa Lady Broadway smiled gently. She had gained one piece of
knowledge, anyhow. The obstruction, if there was one, was a childless
wife.

"I am glad to hear it, my dear, but I knew you had a good heart, or I
wouldn't have risked speaking to you. I wouldn't do as much for one in
a thousand. Now, my dear, I am nearly eighty years old, and I
understand things as perhaps few women do understand them. I don't
expect many men have lived to be your age without forming ties of some
kind, especially if they live in Scotland, Marmaduke"--the thrust went
home again, she thought--"but money does a lot, especially when there
are no children. A good round annuity means much when a man is not
well off, as you are, and has probably to wait for many years ere he
falls into money--as you have, for Pitt is the heir, of course. But
your father would find the cash----"

"If he would find the money to pay for my colonelcy," burst in
Marmaduke, "it would be better than setting people to find out mare's
nests! I don't mean to be rude, Lady Broadway; you are very kind, but
I really can't discuss----"

"I think you can," interrupted Louisa Broadway in her turn,
"especially if it is not a question of mere money, and money is, I
believe, a very small matter to some people--to you, for instance,
Marmaduke! You never think of it, do you, so long as you've got
it?--ha, ha! But there are other considerations. To begin with, I
believe that when there are no children a marriage should
automatically become null and void. And apart from that I don't
believe that any woman who really loves a man would ever stand in his
light or prevent him from doing his duty. I am sure if I had had no
children, and Broadway----" The illustration, however, was beyond even
her powers of fiction, and the opening of the door brought relief.
"Oh, here is the young lady! Amabel, let me introduce Major Marmaduke
Muir. Major Muir, Lady Amabel Sibthorpe. I expect you are kindred
spirits, as you are both such outdoor people."

The girl, who had rushed in somewhat unceremoniously, looked up
frankly into Marmaduke's blue eyes. There was undisguised admiration
in her glance.

"Oh, yes," she said, "I've always wanted to know Major Muir since I
saw him punish a horrid little boy in the park for bullying his dog!"

Marmaduke, as he made his bow, felt that the clever old lady with the
painted face was very clever indeed. She had gauged her man
completely. Most people on the task would have supplied him with a
befrilled fashionable beauty; the sort of woman with whom he flirted,
who amused him, attracted him, tempted him. But this joyous, buoyant
girl, with good-breeding in every line and feature----

No, Louisa Lady Broadway had made a mistake; she had reminded him of
Marrion Paul.

So, after the shortest interval compatible with his rôle of charming
young man, he took his leave and went fuming back to his lodgings in
Duke Street, which he kept as a _pied-à-terre_ for himself and Peter.
The latter was out, so Marmaduke went straight up to his bedroom to
change his London things for his uniform, since he had to report
himself on arrival at Aldershot. There was plenty of time, but he
meant to go round by Marrion's first. He had not seen her for over ten
days, and----

Despite an anger at interference which had grown instead of
diminishing, old Lady Broadway's words, "a woman who loves a man will
never stand in his light or prevent him from doing his duty," would
keep recurring to his mind. It was exactly what Marrion had said to
him scores and scores of times. Curious, two such different women
having precisely the same views. Not that they mattered. He had his
own. Still, half-mechanically when he was dressed he took out of his
despatch-box a small packet of papers, and, opening one of the
envelopes, began to read the contents. One sheet was the excerpt from
the visitors' book at the Cross-keys Inn where he had written "Captain
the Honourable Marmaduke and Mrs. Muir." He smiled at it bitterly,
wondering whether, if he had relied on that, as Marrion had begged
him, he should have felt as bound as he did now. With a shrug of his
shoulders he folded it again and thrust it back into the envelope. The
other sheet was a counterpart of the paper which Marrion Paul had,
unknown to him, given to his father. He sat staring at it almost
stupidly until a knock came to the door, when he hastily replaced it
and put the bundle in his breast-pocket. The new-comer was Andrew
Fraser, and he carried a letter.

"I was roond tae the club, sir," he said, with a salute, "as I thocht
it might be o' importance seein' it was frae the castle; but you was
awa."

The man's face was as ever, full of devotion and duty. The past seven
years had brought him many an anxiety, many an agony, but he had stuck
by the two beings he loved best on earth with a steadfastness beyond
all praise.

"All right, Andrew," replied his master cheerily, "pack up, will you,
and take the things to the station. I'm going round by Mrs.
Marsden's."

"Very well, sir," replied the servant quietly.

He had been discretion itself all these years, ever since Marrion had
come to him one day and told him the truth, that she was married. If
she had not so told him, what would he have done? His simple soul
could never answer the question.

Meanwhile, Marmaduke in a cab was reading his father's epistle, which
ran thus--


"MY DEAR MARMADUKE,--I believe you are my son, so I expect you to give
this letter your earnest consideration. As you are aware there is no
heir to the title or estate. I had the misfortune to beget a creature
who calls himself the Master of Drummuir and is not the master of
anything. Then there is Peter, a promising boy whom you have ruined by
providing him with an attachéship at Vienna, a place which did for his
uncle whom he greatly resembles. The accounts of the physician
concerning his health are simply disastrous. He has narrowly escaped
an asylum for life. This being so, it is imperative that you shall
marry and produce an heir for the estate. I see by various letters of
yours (unanswered) that you are again in want of money to purchase
your promotion to colonel. It is a nefarious, a reprehensible swindle
which should be abolished, and to which I should never yield were it
not that I wish to strike a bargain with you--namely, I will purchase
your colonelcy, if you will consent at once to seek out a suitable
wife and marry her within the year. If you accede to this most
reasonable request I will send a cheque to your bankers and I shall
expect to see you--and Peter also if he is really sane--here for
Christmas.

                                  "Yours truly,

                                         "DRUMMUIR.

"P.S.--Let me tell you, sir, that it is deuced dull here with those
two virtuous frumps, my Lady and Penelope. They were more amusing when
they were young. But if you come--and why shouldn't you?--we'll have a
regular rouser."


Marmaduke read this letter over twice. It was the kindest, most
reasonable one he had ever had from his father. And the postscript
touched him. Its very frankness made him realise what life must now be
to one who in his youth had been "quite as good-looking as you are."

Old Lady Broadway's words recurred to him as he stood at the little
door with its brass name-plate waiting for admission. And if he got
his colonelcy and the command of the regiment? If there was going to
be war?

But was there going to be war? He felt a little as if he had to face
an enemy as he ran upstairs two steps at a time.



                              CHAPTER IV


But upstairs all was peace, and Marrion, the light of the lamp on her
bronze hair, beautiful as ever, looked up from her work, her face
bright with pleasure.

"Ah, there you are! I was expecting you, for Andrew was round this
afternoon and told me you were in town."

He did not go up to her or greet her; only smiled content and sank
into the easy-chair placed between where she sat and the fire. The big
table wheeled cosily into the corner was littered with lace and
muslin. He took up a small pinafore and looked at it distastefully.

"I wish you wouldn't work so hard," he said suddenly, "and I hate to
see you busy over those things; it reminds me----" he broke off.

She laid down the little frock she was embroidering on the instant,
and went to kneel beside him; for her insight into this man's moods
was complete, and she felt what was coming.

"And it reminds me too, Duke. That is why I love it. I have told you
so often it was nobody's fault; if anybody's, mine."

He shook his head.

"You can't make me believe that."

"But it is true. See here, Duke, I ought never to have allowed you to
bind yourself. It put me in a false position. I was too anxious to
please, too anxious to pay you back the gift, as it were, so I did
what I ought not to have done. I thought of you, not of the child. But
what is the use of going over it all again? It is past and done with."

He sat with his hands between his knees for a minute, looking at the
fire.

"Well, I am sorry the poor little chap died."

It gave her the opening she needed.

"That is what your father said when I told him," she said quietly.

He stared at her.

"My father!"

"Yes, Duke, I have been to see him again. He was quite kind. Sit still
and I will tell you everything."

And she told him though she saw his face grow stern and angry.

"You had no business to do it," he said, when she finished. "Can't you
even leave me to manage my own affairs? I didn't interfere with yours
when you broke away and set up on your own, did I?"

"You have been very good to me, Marmaduke," she replied, with a catch
in her voice, "and I've tried to be as good to you."

The memory of many a helping hand, of long years in which this woman's
companionship had been an anchor to him, came to appease his easy
nature.

"Well, it is no use being angry," he said at last; "the thing's done.
And you really destroyed your lines?"

"Your father tore them up. He quite agreed with me that as I had no
children, and there was no chance of one--at any rate, of a living
one--that I was bound to release you. And I am bound. I refuse to be
your wife."

"And if I claim you?" he said swiftly, resentment in his voice. She
smiled.

"I shall still refuse you, then in three years we shall be
automatically divorced."

"In Scotland only. You are very clever, my dear, but you forget some
things."

His deft diversion, however, had done its work, the subject was no
longer personal.

"It is impossible," he continued. "I can't leave you in the lurch."

"You don't. Look at it clearly, please. Since we agreed to
separate----"

"I never agreed," he put in angrily. "I was quite ready to fulfil----"

"The bond," she interrupted a trifle bitterly, "and I wasn't or
couldn't. But ever since then--and before then, too--before you came
home, I kept myself. And I'm quite rich, Duke. I have money in the
bank. There is no fear for me."

"Is it all money?" he said tragically, gloomily.

She laid her hand lightly on his knee; the touch thrilled her through
and through, but he sat unmoved, looking at the fire.

"You can give me all you have ever given me still, dear," she said;
"there is no reason why we should not continue to be friends."

There was a long pause. Then she began again--

"I promised your father you would destroy the counterpart. Duke, it is
far better done. You will feel free, and you don't, somehow, now,
though I hoped you would. And I shall be glad. A woman who loves a man
cannot bear to stand in the way of his doing his duty--and this is
your duty----"

He turned to her.

"Just what that old harridan said. Curious you two should agree--and
you're so different!"

"What old harridan?"

"Lady Broadway. She has been at me, too. Why can't you women leave a
man alone? She wants me to marry her niece, Lady Amabel."

Marrion felt a sudden spasm of elemental jealousy. Self-sacrifice was
exhilarating in the abstract, in the concrete it was painful.

"Did--did you see her?" she asked.

"Yes--nice little girl. But--but if this is to be, how will you manage
about Andrew? You had to tell him, if you remember."

She remembered right well; remembered how even the man's fidelity to
his master, his devotion to her, would not stand the strain of what he
thought wrong-doing. The difficulty had occurred to her before, but
she set it aside now as of small importance in comparison with the
destruction of the paper.

"Ill manage Andrew," she replied, "if you will only----"

He stood up tall and strong and curiously antagonistic.

"You are always managing, Marmie. Some day you'll find you've made a
mistake. But if you will have it so, I happen to have the paper with
me." He took out his pocket-book and handed her an envelope. "You can
do as you like with it. Oh, it is the right one!" he added
impatiently. "I was looking at it just now. I am not always a fool!"

She paused in a half-unconscious search induced by her knowledge of
Marmaduke's careless habits. The contents of the envelope, half-pulled
out, showed her the printed heading "Cross-keys Inn." She thrust them
back hurriedly and dropped the whole into the fire. It flamed up
showing his face full of irritation, hers of decision. They watched it
flame, fade, sparkle out. Then he turned away.

"You've made me feel a scoundrel somehow," he said, "but I suppose I
shall get over it in time."

"You've no right to say that," she flared out. "You've no right to put
that thought into my life. We have done our duty."

"Well, don't let's part in anger, anyhow," he said kindly. "I shan't
see you for some time. I'm on duty, and then I shall go north for
Christmas, and then----"

"And you will get your colonelcy," she added.

He smiled.

"Yes, I shall get it, thanks to you again. Ah, Marmie, Marmie, it's no
use your trying to unbind Tristram Shandy and the Shorter Catechism!
We were mixed up together right away in the beginning of things, and
we shall be mixed up in the end, you'll see. Now I must be off.
Good-bye!"

He held out his hand. She took it and gripped it fast, every fibre of
her athrill with the dear touch. Her whole soul seemed for the second
to crave for him, for his presence always. And he was going away, out
of her life for ever. For she was wiser than he was. She knew that her
talk of continued friendship was a sham; one of the many baits she
laid so often to get her own way. Ah, how weary she was of cutting and
contriving Dame Nature's plain, honest web! Well, she would have to do
it no longer; it would be another's task. But there was one thing he
had said which was not to be endured, which could not be allowed to
pass.

"Good-bye," she said, "and don't please feel like a scoundrel. You
never did a better deed in your life. You have done your duty like an
honest gentleman, and--and I'm proud of you!"

"That's something, anyhow," he said, and was gone.

She sat down and began stitching away at a little gown she was making.
It had to be finished that night, for the christening of the infant
for whom it had been bespoken was on the morrow. And the task soothed
her. For the more ordinary parts she had apprentices during the day
who worked downstairs, but all the distinctive features of the
marvellously delicate little garments came from her own clever
fingers. That evening, as she worked away at a tiny wreath of
snowdrops for another woman's child, every atom of her went out in
unavailing regret for the little life that had gone to save her own.
She was not worth it--nothing was worth it. Those men--father and
son--might say "I am sorry the little chap died!" but did they, could
they, would they, realise what it meant to a woman that something very
precious, something which she was bound to protect, for which she
ought to have given her heart's blood, had given her its own instead?

Well, she had paid for it since to the uttermost farthing. She had no
illusions. Marmaduke had gone out of her life for ever.

Not entirely, however, for at Christmas time one of his long breezy
letters came to her--for Marmaduke was a great letter-writer--telling
her about all her old friends in the neighbourhood; a charming,
cheerful epistle, full of awed wonder at the extreme stoutness and
sanctity of "stepmamma" and the rigorous respectability of Penelope.

"For the first time in my life," he wrote, "I feel sorry for the old
man, and I begin to think we did right, Marmie. In fact, I'm sure we
did."

Her lip hardened as she read. Undoubtedly they had done right, but----

She sewed harder than ever, wishing that the whole thing was settled
and done with. Then there would be no more letters to bring pain.

Fate, however, had other things in store for her, for just after the
New Year Andrew Fraser appeared in her small drawing-room. He came in,
tall, gaunt, hard-featured as ever, stood at the door and saluted, as
he had done ever since Marrion in self-defence had told him that she
and his master were fast married.

"Back so soon!" she cried. "I thought the major was to be longer at
the castle."

"He is the colonel now," returned Andrew gloomily, "an' we are awa tae
Portsmouth the day. But I cam', Marrion, tae tell ye that the domed
fowk in the ha' at Drummuir were sayin' 'he was tae get marriet tae
Lady Amabel.' An' that canna be.'

"Lady Amabel," echoed Marrion, glad in a way of a surprise which
enabled her to make a diversion, at any rate, for a time. "He didn't
say anything. I thought it was to be a bachelor party."

Andrew snorted a vexed denial.

"Sma' count o' that! The auld peer had gotten Lady Penrigg, the
railway man's wife, tae gi' him countenance wi' the gentry, and
there was the Marchioness o' Broadway and the young leddy--a nice,
straight-speakin' girlie. An' it was a' decent and God-fearin' with
curlin' and skatin' and sleighin' an' songs an' forfeits in the
evenin'. Dewar, my lord's valet, tell't me he had never heard the
Baron swear sae awfie as he did when he got tae his own room o'
nichts. It jest turned him cauld. But it was lying on the poor falla's
stummick a' day. Hoo'ever I didna come for that."

"And the major--I mean the colonel," interrupted Marrion hastily, "did
he enjoy himself?"

It was an unwise remark, for it hastened what she wished to avoid.

"Ower much, mayhap," put in Andrew, taking a step nearer her, his
little grey eyes looking at her with pathetic earnestness. "Marrion,
my dear," he went on, "I've helt ma tongue a' these years, relying on
your word that ye had your lines safe. Not that they matter sae much,
since I can swear to yer bein' man and wife--aye, and mayhap bring
ithers tae swear it, too. But I'm no satisfied, an' that's God's
truth. Ye ken fine that by a' the laws o' God and man ye're bound
together, an' surely ye're no seekin' to get past the responsibility
that ye took upon yersels?"

There was something merciless in the stern solid figure before her;
but Marrion had courage, and faced her task.

"Sit down, Andrew, and let me explain," she began, but he stood to
attention more rigidly, and with a forecast of failure in her mind she
went through the whole set of arguments she had used with success on
Marmaduke. But here she had different metal to weld.

"Ye took it upon yersels," he reiterated. "It was the Lord's doin'
that the poor wee bairnie didna live. It's ill tryin' tae get the
better o' Providence."

The hopelessness of influencing him made her at last try an appeal to
his personal devotion to her; but his reply sent her crimson to her
very heart-strings.

"That's neither here nor there, Marrion. If ye was twenty times free
by yere ain makin', I wadna take yer love at a gift."

The most she could get out of him was a promise to wait and say
nothing till there was more than mere servants'-hall gossip to go by.
He left her wearied and vexed, sorry that she had not been able to get
him to hear reason, yet knowing that she was sure of her own ground,
since, if she and Duke both refused to acknowledge marriage there
could be no possible claim by anyone else. Only to take up this ground
would, she foresaw, make Andrew into an enemy. Besides, it would be a
confession of failure on her part, and the years had brought so much
success to her in all her managements that the idea of defeat, even in
a small thing, was irksome.

So for a day or two more she sat and worked while all the noise of
London was deadened by the snow which defied man's effort to remove.
In her quiet little street she felt as if she were wrapped away in a
white winding sheet from all the interests of the world--waiting,
waiting, waiting. It would come at last, of course. The _Court
Journal_ would have the announcement of an impending marriage in high
life. Then, if Andrew were still inflexible, she must tell him he had
no power. And then--and then--and then?

Her mind busied itself in plans, in conjectures, more from habit than
from any hope of action; for in her heart of hearts she knew, and she
was always telling herself, that she had said good-bye to Duke for
ever.

Yet, as has been said, Fate had willed otherwise. Less than a week
after Andrew's visit, she stood up, her heart beating, at a well-known
step coming up two stairs at a time, and there was Duke! A Duke such
as she had always dreamt he should be--radiant, rejoicing--a perfect
specimen of manly beauty. He was in the full-dress uniform of his
Highland regiment, and he flung his bonnet in among the laces and
muslins, as if the whole world were his.

"We're off to Constantinople to-morrow," he said joyously, "and I
had to come and say good-bye. Oh, my dear, my dear, what a relief it
is--every way!"

She gasped.

"But war--war hasn't been declared yet!"

"And won't be for another two months," he interrupted, "but for all
that we are sending our troops. It's kept secret, of course, but my
regiment is in it. It seems too good to be true!"

"And--and Lady Amabel?" asked Marrion, a grip at her heart.

He laughed joyously.

"No harm done. You see the War Office told me when I got the colonelcy
this was up, and it wouldn't have been fair. So we were very good
friends. She is a dear little girl, and if I come home--but that's to
be seen. Now, ah, how glad I am to be free!"

The words cut deep, spoiling the relief at Marrion's heart; but, after
all, why should he not be glad? He was going to do a man's work.

"I'm glad you have the colonelcy," she said soberly; it was the only
consolation she could find for herself.

"Glad!" he echoed. "I should think I was! It's been the dream of my
life. And do you know the old man was really quite reasonable about
it. We talked the thing over, and I told him what we had done, and
were prepared to do--or rather not to do. Of course he was in a fury
about the foreign service, but he saw I couldn't shirk, so I've
promised and vowed everything he wanted. And now"--his eyes shone,
content seemed to radiate from him--"I feel, Marmie, as if I were
beginning a new life. I've only had to obey orders hitherto, and
deuced stupid many of them have seemed to me; but now I am head and
the men are splendid--they'd follow me anywhere. So--so we are going
to do something, I expect."

The light in his eyes had steadied, he took up his bonnet, then stood
for a moment looking at her, the embodiment of a soldier of fortune
going out, careless, to seek adventure.

"And you, my dear," he said doubtfully, "are you sure you can manage?"

"Quite sure," she replied cheerfully. "Perhaps I shan't stop here. I
may want to see the world, too."

He laughed.

"I believe you'd like to don boy's clothes like Rosalind and follow me
to the wars! By Jove, what a Rosalind you'd make!"

His happy carelessness hurt.

"You forget I am lame," she said, a trifle bitterly.

His face fell.

"That isn't kind," he protested, "not at the last! Don't send me away
feeling that I have been a ruffian to you."

Her composure gave way then. With a little cry she put her arms round
his neck and kissed him.

"You have nothing to reproach yourself with, my dear, my dear!
Go!--forget all about women! Go! You've done your best, so fight your
best!"

He gave her back her kiss as he might have given it to his sister.

"Yes, Marmie," he said, "I'm beginning to think we really did the
right thing, for we can be friends all the same; for the present, at
any rate."

His mixture of wisdom and foolishness made her smile at him, as some
mothers might smile at a high-spirited boy, and she watched his
martial figure go swinging down the street, its flamboyance
admissible, admirable, and told herself it was good that he was free
both of herself and Lady Amabel.



                              CHAPTER V


He sent her a letter from Malta, a very long letter crossed and
recrossed. Evidently time had hung heavy on hand once the wonders of
being on a steamship had passed. "It will revolutionise war," he
wrote, "if we can rely on getting reinforcements regularly. It was
different when we had to count on hurricanes and doldrums." And he had
a quick eye for weak points in the armour. "Here we are after eleven
days' hard steam, and here, so far as any one knows, we are likely to
remain. Nothing seems to have been arranged for a forward movement;
neither has any provision been made for the hunger of fifteen thousand
troops plumped down on a practically desert island. However, they say
a cattle transport is immediately expected from Alexandria, so we
should have enough beef. Meanwhile, the recent order that neither
officers nor men should appear out of uniform gives colour and variety
to the streets of Valetta; notably when they are tramped by Yours
affectionately."

It was not till late in April that he could send her his impressions
of Gallipoli.

"Take the dilapidated out-houses of a real old English farmyard, add
to them every seedy, cracked, ricketty, wooden structure to be found
in our slums, with a sprinkling of Thames-side huts, and tumble them
all down higgledy-piggledy on a bare round hill sloping to the sea,
scatter about a few slender white minarets, and you have the town--a
place without shade, without water, without food. We can, of course,
do the Kilkenny cat trick, but is it not astounding, is it not
incredible, that such mistakes should be made? However, an
enterprising entrepreneur from Smyrna (Jew, of course) is transforming
a battered old ruin into a 'Restaurant de l'Armée Auxiliare' as the
legend runs, done with a thumb in lamp-black!"

Already "considerable difference of opinion" existed as to the choice
of Gallipoli as the headquarters of the army, and the mere watering
"of thirty-five thousand troops" presented difficulty.

And always and always came the same refrain of chafed patience at
being enmeshed in the mistakes of others. "The stores sent for the
commissariat are beneath contempt. I let out at the quartermaster for
the filthy stuff he was serving out, and he assured me it was the best
he could get. Conningsby of the Hussars tells me half the bales of hay
sent out as forage have centres of wood shavings. Why isn't someone
hanged?"

Marrion Paul, as she read these two effusions, felt vaguely that the
gilt was wearing off the gingerbread. The man's buoyant hopes were
being dashed by the ineptitude of those above him. It was a pity, for
she knew, none better, that underneath all his boyish lightheartedness
Marmaduke Muir had the knack of making men obey him and follow him.
She pictured him leading his regiment into fight and she could see it,
mastered, dominated, held in hand by that cheerful voice, that merry
face.

She waited some time for the next bulletin and when it came it was
short. "The devil's own snowstorm greeted our arrival here--Scutari.
I've seldom seen it worse in Aberdeenshire. The north wind blew big
guns, we were unable to disembark, and half of us--including yours
truly--were sea-sick. Doing nothing, even without enough to eat,
doesn't suit Marmaduke Muir. The barracks here are huge; they will
hold eighteen thousand troops, they say. I know one unit of a
thousand--only about seven hundred and fifty I fear now--that would be
right glad to go anywhere else; anywhere where there was something to
be done. Nigh four months since we left Portsmouth, and, for all the
use I've been, I might as well have enjoyed the trout-fishing on the
Don."

That was the third of the slender envelopes marked "From the British
Army in the East" which reached her.

The next was sealed with a black seal and was full of pious
reflections upon death; for the news of his elder brother Pitt's
demise had just reached Marmaduke and roused his sense of
responsibilities. "In times like these," he wrote, "one feels the
impotence of man--and woman also," he added, "though you, my dear
Marrion, had a wonderful knack of clarifying the muddles. Andrew does
not darn my stockings half so well as you did."

But the beauties of Varna got the better of his reflections and he
drew a picture of it that filled Marrion with doubts and delight. "It
is as beautiful as Scotland--the lakes stretching away into the
scarped woody hills, the sea--so calm that the clouds reflected seem
to sail on it--almost motionless on the shore. The green sward down to
the very edge of the lakes, carpeted with flowers, especially with
irises. They call it the flower of death in India, and I noticed an
evening mist, thick enough almost to be called a fog, rising at sunset
from the low levels and enveloping the town. It did not augur well for
health. As for the town itself, words fail. It is Gallipoli over again
with fewer drains and more filth. Yet to look at it in the clear
sunlight, it is the new Jerusalem. And there are angels in it, Marmie;
the sort of angels you love. I really think these little Turks and
Turkesses are the prettiest children I ever saw. Their little yellow
faces and big brown eyes make one think of Rubens' cherubs seen
through smoked glasses like an eclipse! And an eclipse of most things
it is often for the poor little beggars. At Kustendji, the other day,
Hyde Parker found a couple of pure babies on the battlefield where the
Russians had been bombarding. They're the pets of his frigate now; but
there are dozens of them who have no such luck, and dozens more, I
expect, who die of sheer hunger because we locusts of war eat up
everything. There will be ninety thousand of us here before long, and
for how long? God knows! Five months and nothing done! I wonder how
you would stand it? But it wouldn't happen if you were at the head of
affairs. You'd manage somehow. I feel it in my bones. And, joking
apart, women would be very useful out here. We are going to have a lot
of sick to begin with, and then the misery of the poor folk in town
and village is appalling. However, I suppose England must have time to
turn round and yawn before she wakes up to anything."

Marrion Paul got that letter early one June morning. She laid it down
among the muslins and laces and went to the window. The street was
empty, but she saw, as clearly as if he had really been there,
Marmaduke Muir's buoyant figure going forth to war, full of hope and
confidence.

She never took long making up her mind; and, absolutely without ties
as she was, there were few factors to be considered. Her business was
such a personal one that she had only herself to consult. She had
money and to spare in the bank. Finally, within her heart was the same
spirit of adventure, the same disregard of conventionalities which had
always attracted her in Marmaduke.

Last of all his stockings were not adequately mended.

She laughed aloud at the whimsical thought, for she had no intention
of thrusting herself upon him. But she could be near at hand, and she,
at any rate, need not turn round and yawn before she realised that
women could help.

So quietly, methodically, she set matters in train to get all the work
she had in hand speedily finished. She wrote declining a few orders
that had come in, and then set off with one of her daintiest little
creations to see the wife of the Turkish ambassador, who happened to
be one of her customers.

But, indeed, as Mrs. Marsden, of the "_Layettes_," she could command
plenty of backstairs influence.

The result being that in less than a week she was stepping into the
Dover boat on her way to Marseilles, that being the quickest route to
Constantinople. She carried with her credentials from the ambassador's
family, which she meant to use, if necessary, though she hoped to be
able to do without them, as anything in the nature of publicity might
prevent her carrying out her plan of reaching Varna without Marmaduke
being aware of the fact. As a precaution she wrote to him the day she
left, telling him not to expect further news from her for a few weeks
as she had decided on attempting a cure for her lameness, which a
clever young hospital doctor had advised, but which involved a long
rest.

She had engaged her passage to Constantinople by a small Turkish
mailboat which sailed between Marseilles and the Black Sea. She did
this partly from desire to avoid her fellow-countrymen and the
possibility of recognition or notice, but more because the voyage
would give her an opportunity of learning a few words of Turkish and
of becoming acquainted at least with the husk of Turkish ways. She had
brought a grammar with her, and was laboriously learning perfectly
useless phrases, when something occurred which sent books to the
right-about and plunged her at once into the work she had hoped almost
beyond hope to be able to reach. Cholera, at that time sweeping
erratically through Europe, broke out among the steerage passengers. A
mother died, leaving her month-old baby to be cared for as best it
could. Marrion claimed it, thus became acquainted with the ship's
surgeon and was his right hand in the sharp, decisive epidemic that
followed. It was one of those shipboard epidemics when every hour
brings a new case, until suddenly, with some change of wind or course,
the sickness ceases as it came, mysteriously. They were off the coast
of Candia when the little Turk doctor, who had passed at a French
medical school, made an elaborate bow, laid his hand on his heart, and
said, "Madame, _je suis votre serviteur_." The few convalescents lying
about in the scuppers murmured the same thing in Turkish, making
Marrion realise that what she had set herself to do was possible, if
only she could get footing amongst the people. She decided finally on
consulting her new friend, the little surgeon.

"Varna!" he echoed. "So madame desires Varna! That is strange, since,
being in quarantine, we shall not be allowed to stop at
Constantinople. We must go on straight to Varna, where the disease
already is."

She caught in her breath.

"Not bad, I hope?"

"Of the troops I know little," he said, "but the townsfolk have
suffered terribly. It is semi-starvation. Hein!" lie interrupted
himself hastily, and slapped his baggy trousers, "there is an old man
there--a cripple--one of the old school of medicine that knows
nothing. He has a sort of hospital where folk die decently. If I were
to tell him the use you were, and that you had your own stores of
Europe medicines"--for Marrion had spent a considerable sum in fitting
herself out for the part she hoped to play--"he might like your help.
You have plenty of money?"

His little sharp eyes were alight with interest.

"I have plenty of money," replied Marrion promptly, "and I mean to
spend it."

"Then you may consider it settled," said the surgeon. "Old Achmet is a
sort of relation of mine. I come of a physician family; but I warn you
the presence of an English lady in Varna will not pass unnoticed."

"I shall dress as a Turkish lady," remarked Marrion, with a smile. "I
had thought of that. The _yashmak_ is very convenient."

The little Turk laughed in high good humour.

"The dress will become madame. She will have many admirers; but I will
be the first."

So it was settled lightly, but, as the little steamer puffed and
panted over the blue Archipelago where the blue islands lay scattered
like so many shadows, Marrion Paul felt somehow as if the net of Fate
were closing in on her. There was the scent of Death in the air.

She felt it almost overwhelmingly when, on the first night of her
arrival at Varna, she stood on the ricketty wooden verandah of the
half-ruined house which had been found for her, looking out over the
long line of inland lakes that in the past month had gained from the
intruders whose white tents showed everywhere the dismal name of "Lake
of Death." A white miasma rose from it, hiding the level green fields
which in the sunset had glowed purple-red with the meadow saffron.
Everything had gone smoothly. The old _hakim_ Achmet had gripped on
the hope of money, and Marrion Paul, who had remained on board the
steamer until all negotiations had been made, had simply stepped into
the dinghy in her Turkish dress and been carried with due privacy to
the house chosen for her. Mercifully, the ship's surgeon--who was
delighted at his importance as entrepreneur--had been impressed by
Marrion's appearance, and, arguing therefrom the length of her purse,
had fixed on a villa which had once belonged to a pasha of some sort.
It stood high among cypresses on the Devna road, but, by a steep
descent, was close to the worse slums of the town.

So, as Marrion stood, trying to realise her position, it seemed
impossible, unreal that she should be within touch of Marmaduke--if he
were still there--if he were not dead. An indefinable sense of tragedy
impending--tragedy that was not all grief, but which, by very excess
of joy, of glory, of intensity, transcended the normal and so became
almost fearful, seemed to hang round her. She ate the Turkish supper
provided for her by the large fat shrill-voiced woman she found in
charge; she lay down in the Turkish quilt arranged for her on a wooden
bed and tried to leave all questionings for the morrow; but she could
not sleep. The cry of the _muezzin_ from a minaret hard by divided the
night into set portions. She lay and listened to it.

"_Al-sul-lah to khair un mun nun nu_."

She knew what it meant--"Prayer is better than sleep." But she seemed
unable to do either the one or the other.

Mercifully, again, the night was not long. Far away over the sea in
the east the dawn began to break golden. It lit up the scarped hills
above the woody slopes and slowly, like a white curtain, the mists of
the valley lifted, showing the shiny levels of the inland lakes. Below
her, at her feet, beyond the vine pergola set with purpling bunches of
grapes that jutted against the blue distance, lay the town, a packed
mass of red-tiled roofs and shingled outhouses, incoherent, barely
cognisable. There lay her work; not over yonder where, like little
heaps of lime, the white bell-tents outlined every hill.

Hark, the world was waking! From every side sounded the réveillé,
echoing and re-echoing among the hills.

How many men had died that night whose ears would never more hear the
call to duty! Was Marmaduke one of them?

Yes, the shadow of death lay on everything; but at least they were
together in it.



                              CHAPTER VI


But even that poignant question as to whether Marmaduke lived or did
not live lost its arresting power before what she saw when, guided by
the _hakim_ Achmet, she threaded the maze of lanes and alleys which
still formed the real Varna. The quays, it is true, had been widened
and glorified. Along them gay restaurants and _cafés chantants_ were
to be found, filled with reckless soldiers and still more reckless
courtesans. A wide street had been hacked through tenement houses and
lined with tawdry shops which catered for all and every luxury that
can give a moment's pleasure to idle men. And there were plenty of
them here, waiting, waiting still for that expedition of one hundred
thousand soldiers to the Crimea, of which for months past the English
papers had been full. Outwardly, therefore, so far as a fringe of
welcome and a passage through it to the hills beyond went, Varna was
what folk boasted it had become, a cosmopolitan town; but within, down
by the back wharves and the sodden sea-alleys, round by the crushed-in
closes and stifling courts, it was old, rotten, kept from utter
putrefaction by the hot sun which, while it bred flies, dried up the
muck of many men. The _hakim's_ hospital was in the wide courtyard of
a mosque, one of the few air-holes left to the seething city; and
Marrion Paul never forgot her first sight of the sunlit square set
round with the dead and dying. The stench was unspeakable, and as she
stooped over the first patient she saw that the sheet which covered
him was alive with vermin. Achmet himself, a hunchback with a
high-featured, intolerant face, seemed to think that sitting in the
middle of the courtyard reciting his beads and exhorting the inmates
to have patience and trust in God, was the best treatment he could
offer. Mayhap it was, since half the forms that lay moaning on the
stones were doomed to death. That night, when Marrion returned to her
cypress-set villa, the first thing she did was to cut off her
beautiful hair close to her head, and as she laid the great tresses
away she thought once more of Marmaduke. She must find out about him
when she had time, but that day and the next she had her work cut out
for her. "Maryam Effendi" they had already learnt to call her, and old
Achmet, with a daily stipend of so many piastres, was content to let
her have her way. But there were other places besides the mosque
hospital where some fifty men groaned and died, or groaned and got
better, that were surcharged with misery and death. Hovels where
babies tugged vainly at their dead mother's breasts and old women sat
starving silently. It was among these that after a day or two Maryam
Effendi was busiest. She settled to her work bravely, increasing her
stock of Turkish rapidly and gaining for herself sufficient friends
and aid to enable her to enlarge her sphere of usefulness. One of
these was big fat "Heart's Darling," as her solitary servant was
called, who, transferring domestic duties to an unspeakable drudge she
produced, took up the duties of interpreter on the strength of some
slight knowledge of French.

And Fate was so far kind to Marrion that she had little trouble in
finding out the news she desired to hear. A sort of local rag in
French and English was published in which, for equivalent of a penny,
she learnt that Marmaduke's regiment was still camped six miles out
among the hills and that he was still in command. From her verandah
she could actually see the very place where he must be. Once, indeed,
as she was hurrying along the quay in the ordinary dress of the
Turkish gad-about woman she caught a sight of Andrew Fraser, tall,
gaunt, serious as usual, looking on distastefully at one of the many
drunken rows that occurred every day. The temptation to go up and
speak to him was great, but she stuck to her plan and passed on.
When she had really done something she would write and tell Marmaduke
she was at hand, but not till then. Possibly, had she seen him instead
of Andrew Fraser she might not have been so firm; for a glance would
have shown her that she could have been of use. In truth, the
inaction, the constant fret of feeling that all initiative is
of no avail, was beginning to tell on Marmaduke Muir. He also
looked down of an evening on the white pall that covered the Lake of
Death, and wondered--without one shadow of fear, but from simple
curiosity--whether the levels of life would meet his eyes again. And
they seemed such low levels now! Yes, he had missed something in his
life! What was it? These, however, were very secret thoughts. To the
little coterie of careless men of which he was the centre, he was, as
ever, the mainspring of everything. Even the divisional commander
sought his sympathy as day after day the orders for the front tarried,
and day after day the regimental chaplain grew busier and busier. For
cholera was rampant in the camps as in the town, and every evening the
"Dead March in Saul" echoed out through the hills and over the purple
crocuses.

"Nothing will stop it, sir," said the young colonel quietly, "except
orders for Sebastopol. The men are dead sick of waiting and so am I;
that is the truth."

And still the orders lingered on the way. The waiting army did its
best to pass the time. Marmaduke took to tying flies, and thereinafter
thrashed the hill streams with ill success. And he played cricket with
the men, though it was ill finding a proper pitch on the steep
hill-side where they were encamped; and he had to keep his men from
those low levels as much as he could, being rewarded for his care by
the fact that his battalion suffered less from the scourge than any
other. Though this was not to be wondered at, seeing that it was
commanded by one whose cheery youth and strength seemed to defy Fate.

"The Cornel's face is mair tae the purpose nor your pills, doctor,"
said a young recruit fighting his best for life. "I'll just tak a sup
o' it, if ye please, and leave tither alane for fowk as likes them."

Yet that same face often showed a touch of weariness in it when, after
his wont, Marmaduke would climb the hill behind his hut in order to
smoke his solitary after-breakfast cigar at the foot of a scarp whence
the most astounding view of God's world was to be had. Hills and still
more hills. Seas and still more seas; lakes and still more lakes.
Flowers and still more flowers.

"It is the inaction, Mac," he said to his old friend of the regimental
club one day after mess dinner. They had been perforce laughing at the
plight of a braw Hielandman who had been brought up to orderly-rooms
that day from the general guard, clad in Zouave trousers and jacket,
kepi and all complete; only the chequered hose of his own uniform
remaining to betray the drunken bout on which he had been engaged.

"I noo 'im by 'is legs, sir," said the sergeant solemnly, "so I
brought 'im along."

"Ton my soul, I can't help sympathising with the poor beggars," he
went on. "Why the devil can't they give the men something to do
besides getting drunk? Here is the tenth of August and, so far as I
can see, I might be off grouse-shooting on the twelfth. Good Lord,
what wouldn't I give to be on Braemore with my dogs! They're the
best----"

And he began, in true sportsman style, over the virtues of his
setters; whereat others joined in with tales of their own. So,
heartened up, they all repaired to Marmaduke's favourite vantage
ground to finish their cigars.

It was a perfect evening. The day had been hot, but with the sun
setting a little cool sea-breeze had sprung up which seemed to freshen
even the very flowers that had flagged with the sun's heat. They sat,
growing more and more silent as the day died down; and, indeed, what
lay before their eyes was sufficient to make most men hold their
peace; for it was beautiful exceedingly. The far Euxine fading grey
into a pearl-grey sky. Overhead and behind them the rose-pink pennons
of the departing sun floating on the unfathomable clearness of space.
Within the bay great ships of war showed, half-hidden in the evening
haze which turned the squalid city into dreamland.

Close at hand lay innumerable little hills and ravines thrown in sharp
shade and shine that trended away on all sides to the long line of
lakes over whose purpling levels a fine veil of vapour was rising
softly, swiftly.

Truly a dream-picture, unreal in its absolute beauty, its perfect
peace.

"That's the _Agamemnon_, I expect," said one pointing with his cigar
to a big vessel that, rounding the promontory to the south, began to
cross the bay, leaving a great trail of smoke behind her. "I wonder if
she is coming in?"

"Looks like it," said another, "only they weren't sure. Anyhow, we've
company to-night. Look down there by the second wharf. There's another
trail--some steamer is making fast!"

All eyes turned to where a thin column of smoke showed, rising high
then drifting westwards over the town.

"Burning bad coal whatever," assented Mac. "Why, it's getting bigger!"

Marmaduke, watching intently, suddenly started up.

"By George, it is odd! I believe--by heavens, gentlemen, it is a
fire!"

They all followed his example. And now there could be no doubt. With
amazing rapidity the cloud darkened, deepened, then in the departing
daylight showed dusky red. And there--flashing up suddenly came a
great fork of flame. Marmaduke looked round on the others.

"The town is tinder," he said briefly, "and the magazines---- We had
best be off!"

There was no need for more. In truth there was danger. The wind blew
westwards. There were no fire-engines, so every man might be wanted.

And now the sound of fire alarms on the men-of-war echoed out
stridently, and boatload after boatload of blue-jackets, armed with
pumps and pipes, shot from every ship. Almost before Marmaduke was on
his horse, after ordering fatigue parties to come on at the double,
streams of water were pouring on the burning houses. To no purpose.
The fire had originated in a wine and oil shop and both burnt
fiercely. By the time he reached the town but one word was on the lips
of every responsible officer--"The magazines!" They were full up. On
them depended the possibility of the attack on Sebastopol; on them
therefore hung the fortunes of war. They stood still far from the
blazing town, but it burnt like the matchwood it was, and between them
and it lay, as it were, nothing but fresh tinder ready to take fire at
a spark.

"Those houses should come down, sir," suggested Marmaduke to a
general, and almost before assent answered him, had sprung to organise
the work. But ramshackle, tumbledown though the wooden piers and
pilasters seemed, they were curiously strong, needing time for
destruction. Hawsers were brought ashore to facilitate the job and
parties told off to each house. Three hundred soldiers--mostly
French--lay to manfully on one of the ropes, pulling for all they were
worth, when just as the house they were tackling began to totter a
loud explosion came from within. And, lo! the only two men left on
that rope were Marmaduke and a young French officer who clicked his
heels together and stood to the salute with a merry "_Mes compliments,
mon Colonel!_"

"_À vous, Monsieur le Capitaine!_" returned Marmaduke laughing, as he
rallied the men.

"It's not the magazines, boys!" he called. "We've to save that yet.
Yo-ho--heave ahoy!"

They set to again with a will; but the flames gained ground every
instant and the densely dark cloud of smoke drifting over the
magazines showed alive with ominous shoals of sparks.

"Mac!" shouted Marmaduke, as he worked like a demon, when his major
came hurrying past with another fatigue party. "Get hold of someone
and suggest the commissariat blankets; there are bales and bales of
them somewhere. Put them on the magazine roofs, soak 'em with water.
Tell the blue-jackets----"

"All right, sir!" shouted back the major.

And thereon came blankets, bales on bales of them, and blue-jackets
swarming up and over everything, and jets of water turned from their
useless work on houses that would burn, to keep those blankets sodden.

The din was deafening. The inhabitants, swept out of their houses,
stood huddled in the streets and kept up a constant wail. The bugle
calls rang out here, there, and everywhere, and above the roar and
crackle could be heard voices in urgent exhortation--"All together,
men! The blue-jackets are laughing at you!" "Heave away, I say, boys,
show the land-lubbers how to do it!" Or shriller, more passionate--"_A
moi, mes enfants! Les Anglais nous regardent!_"

Once there came a sudden pause. The red flare of the conflagration
changed to brilliant blue.

"_Milles tonnerres!_" cried the French soldiers sadly, as they
recommenced work. "_Ahé, le bon eau-de-vie!_" Their commissariat
canteen store had gone.

So through the long night they worked, fighting the flames with their
hands for the most part. Fatigue party after fatigue party poured into
the town and one strong man after another lay down exhausted on the
quays and begged someone to cool him with water.

It was just as a faint lightening over the sea in the east showed dawn
was nigh that Marmaduke, wiping the sweat from his blackened forehead,
said--

"I think that's done with. The magazines are safe now!"

"Yes," said a man near him, "up here it's almost over. But they've got
it still down there, by the dock wharves, poor devils!"

Marmaduke, whose every thought and look had hitherto been for the
magazines, turned to the lower part of the town.

"By Jove, they have!" he cried. "Here, men, follow me!"

"Let me go, sir," put in a subaltern. "You must be done--and they
should all be out of their houses by now."

He might as well have saved his breath. Marmaduke, careless of
fatigue, was racing to danger again. And here it was greater. The two
or three story ramshackle houses almost closed in upon each other, and
in one burnt-out street he had to pass through, a charred beam almost
finished him. But he raced on; and here there was evidence that the
fire had been faced with some method. Houses had been pulled down, the
inhabitants ordered to certain open spaces, and as he neared the spot
where the tenements almost overhung the water's edge, a double line of
men were passing buckets. There were only two houses left in the
street; one was in flames, the other, overhanging the water, must soon
go. Seeing the hopelessness of saving it, or indeed the use, since
evidently those were the occupants who, with shrill cries and excited
gestures, were watching the destruction of their property, he was
about to seek work elsewhere when a big fat woman almost overset him
in her eagerness to find his feet. To these she clung, shrieking at
the top of her voice--

"Maryam Effendi! Maryam Effendi! _Elle est là, elle est là! Sauvez
le--Sauvez le_----"

He would have been at a loss even to grasp the last words had not a
figure shown at that moment on the roof of the burning house. It was
the figure of a tall woman in white and the flare of the flames showed
that she carried a baby in her arms.

"My God!" he muttered under his breath, for there seemed no
possibility of escape.

"Maryam Effendi! Maryam Effendi!" wailed the crowd, adding in mixed
French and Turkish--"She has the child! Ah, the brave woman! She has
the child!"

Aye, she had it, and she meant to hold it, too! A brave woman indeed!
Pausing for a second in her perilous effort to pass from one roof to
the other, she pulled off her veil, wrapped it round the child, and
knotted it high above her shoulders. Then, hands and knees, set
herself to her task. But the flames were almost too quick for her. And
forked tongues licked at her feet; the next instant she was beyond
them and, straightening herself, walked rapidly over a level strip.
And now from below, where even Marmaduke stood arrested, helpless,
watching another's fight for life, came a soft wail of horror. The
last house had caught fire from below, the flames were surging
upwards, the thin shingle roof might be gone any moment.

"Jump, for God's sake, jump!" cried Marmaduke, his voice vibrant with
awful dread. "Jump, we'll catch you, somehow!"

Even as he spoke he felt the uselessness of his appeal to one who
could not understand.

"Tell her to jump--we'll catch her!" he added dully, knowing there was
no time, for already ominous crackings rose from the flames that
mounted higher and higher.

But that familiar voice had reached the ears of the woman clinging her
way for dear life, and tightened her hold upon the ridge-pole that was
her only hope. No, she would not die yet! She would not die with that
voice in her ears!

A faint shudder came from the crowd below as, with a crash, the roof
fell in. A fainter moan of relief followed, as the woman with her pack
still showed standing on the crossway beam of a balcony that overhung
the water. A great tongue of flame shot out at her, but at the instant
she raised her joined hands above her head and dived--a flash of white
lit up by the red flare--into deep water.

"By heaven, what pluck!" muttered Marmaduke as, without a second's
delay, he plunged from the wharf and swam, with quick overhand
strokes, to where the woman had disappeared. He was just preparing to
dive after her when she came up close beside him.

One look was sufficient.

"Marmie!" he cried. "God in heaven, am I dreaming? Marmie!"

"Yes--yes," she gasped impatiently, for owing to the weight she
carried her dive had been prolonged. "The child's head--see that it is
out of water!"

In a second he was cool, self-reliant.

"Your hands on my shoulders, please. That will raise you--I must swim
round--the burning wood."

In truth every instant a fierce hiss, a cloud of steam close to them
showed where some blazing fragment had fallen to be extinguished.

"Are you all right?" he called over his shoulder, as with powerful
strokes he made for a further wharf.

"All right; but please be quick--the child----"

How like Marmie--always the child--the child. He swam on, feeling
bewildered but, he knew not why, desperately happy.

"I don't understand," he began, when at last they stood dripping side
by side, and the baby, being unloosed from its wrappings, was found to
be none the worse.

"I will tell you directly," she said. "I must just give the child back
to its mother; it is quite a tiny thing. Then you can walk up to my
house over yonder and get your clothes dried."

But the stifling air of the streets soon scorched up the moisture, and
Marmaduke protested against anything but a cup of hot coffee--which
fat "Heart's Delight" bustled away to prepare--while those two stood
and talked on the verandah. Below them lay the town, still smoking;
still--as a puff of dawn wind blew the embers to redness--sending out
a shower of sparks, or even a forked tongue of flame. The smell of
burning filled their nostrils, the memory of a great escape filled
their minds. And beyond that, under and deeper than that, stretched
the atmosphere of death and disease, of constant danger, in which they
had both been living for so long. It is an atmosphere which invariably
brings with it, to the wholesome mind and body, a feeling of revolt
against such limitations, a distaste of all things that pertain to
decay: a keen appetite for those that belong to life.

And the dawn-light grew as they stood talking. She had bidden him
begone, had urged as a reason that he must remember his health.
Cholera might be bad on the hills, but it was deadly in the city. And
he had laughed back that caution was a bit late to a man who had seen
six strong men die that very morning. The poor devils seemed to like
his being there. Now he----

"I should only want _you_, Marmie," he said. And she had looked at him
in sudden wonder.

"I must go now if I'm to be in time for parade," he admitted at last.
"Good-night--no, good-morrow, my heart's delight!"

For an instant she held he was joking with the fat coffee-bringer's
name; then she gave a quick tremulous cry--

"Duke! what--what do you mean?"

He laughed a little low, happy laugh, sank on his knees beside her,
and clasped her tight in his arms.

"Only that I love you--only that I've found you--no, I've found myself
for ever and ever and ever!"

He buried his face in the loose folds of her dress and so they
remained for a second. Then she slipped through his hold to her knees
also, and they knelt looking into each other's eyes.

The sun rising slowly, majestically, out of the sea shone upon their
shining faces. Vaguely, as in a glass, darkly the twain had passed to
one; they were nearer the Great Unity.

"Duke," whispered Marmie, with a faint shiver, "I think I'm afraid!"

"And I," he said joyously, finding her lips, "feel as if I never could
be afraid again--never--never--never!"



                             CHAPTER VII


"Duke," she said, for at least the twentieth time, "I keep wondering
how it came about."

He spent all his spare time now--it was not much--in the vine pergola,
and he was picking out the ripe grapes from a bunch as he answered
her.

"I don't. I had been thinking about you a lot; and then I was
tired--really done!"

"What an excuse for falling in love," she protested half-vexedly; "but
I should like to know."

He came over to her and put his arm round her waist.

"How can I tell, sweetest? I had been thinking, as I said, a lot about
you--and missing a lot--stockings, and all that"--his smile was charm
itself; "then, when I saw your dear old head bob up all shaven and
shorn!" he kissed it deliberately, and she laughed.

"For all that," she persisted, "I should like to understand."

"My dearest dear," he replied, "you are such a beggar for wanting to
know and understand. Now I, my dear Marmie--I'm too happy to want to
know anything! I'm content with what I have--and you are content, too,
you know you are!"

There was no denying the fact. Content, indeed, was no word for the
feeling that you were rapt away from the very possibility of care.
There, in the very shadow of the grave, overlooking the Lake of Death,
those two lovers found their joy enhanced by the uncertainty of life.

"I was chief mourner at six funerals this morning," Marmaduke would
say sadly. "As fine fellows as ever stepped. Sometimes I wonder,
darlingest, if I ought to come to you----"

"You can bring no more harm to me than I am in already," she would
reply. "I am in the thick of it here. Indeed, I was wondering if I
ought to let you come."

"Let me!" he would echo derisively. "As if you could stop me."

And in truth there was no gainsaying him, for Marmaduke, easy-going as
a friend, was an imperious lover.

After he left her in the dawnings Marrion would take out the pocket
Shakespeare she had brought with her and, sitting out under the
purpling vines, read how the immortal lovers parted.

"I am content so thou wouldst have it so."

She had never before realised that so lay the very essence of love. No
plannings, no cuttings, no contrivings. All things simplified,
clarified.

It was a wonderful fortnight. The fire, after a brief recrudescence,
died down, leaving the slums of the city in ruins, but purified. So
cholera, most mysterious of diseases, abated, disappeared from the
town; and even in the camps, exposed to the miasma of the Lake of
Death, was shorn of half its terrors. And there was a stir as of
coming life in the military backwaters. Marmaduke, his face alight,
would say that the one thing needful to perfect happiness must be
close at hand; for that was the curious thing about finding yourself
in love--you wanted to be up and doing all the time.

And so one day when, instead of Marmaduke, Andrew Fraser--long since
let into the secret of Maryam Effendi--appeared with a note, Marrion
tried to echo Romeo's words without any reservations, and to be
content if he would have it so. For the note ran as follows:


"HEART'S DELIGHT,

"The news has come! We are off to the Crimea. I feel that for the
first time in my life I am going to have my chance--or, rather, we are
going to have our chance, for I shall take you with me, never fear. I
wish, dear, your real body were, small enough to go into my knapsack,
but the heart that beats under this uniform coat is large enough to
hold your love. I must be very busy, but I will find time in a day or
two for perfect happiness.

                                   "Yours ever,

                                         "MARMADUKE.

"P.S.--I must get you to box my ears before I go. It will keep me
straight and make me what England expects.--M. M.

"P.P.S.--Andrew says he is taking my stockings for you to mend.
Forgive us poor men bodies.--M."


So she sat darning the stockings and trying to prevent a sinking at
the heart.

From her verandah she could see the bustle and stir in the camp. The
next day one of the meadow stretches lay bare of tents. So the work of
embarkation must be close at hand. Aye, the bay was thronged with
transports! There was a sound of drums and fifes in the air. What room
for love and peace when war and strife were afoot? But any moment now
might bring Marmaduke, and that was enough for the present.

It was on the fourth day, when she was beginning to wonder if possibly
he had not found time, that an orderly appeared with a note. It was
not from Duke; it was from Andrew.


"DEAR MADAM,

"Please come. I have sent the Colonel's charger. He will carry a lady.
He is very ill."


She turned soul-sick as she read.

"Is he--is the Colonel very ill?" she asked.

"Verra ill indeed, m'm. It's the co-lira, and they're sayin' he's like
to dee--God forbid it!"

"Like to die!"

Well, it was best to know the truth. She put on her European dress and
started, remembering as she rode through the flower-set meadows how
they had planned this visit to his hut. How she should spend the day
there and be introduced to his friends. For though they never spoke of
the future or the past, living only in the present heaven, Marmaduke
had evidently never considered the possibility of separation and she
had been content to let such possibilities slide.

And now? She bit her lip to keep it from quivering as Andrew met her.

"He's lying in the arbour, m'm. And he's no worse, anyway."

Yes, there he was, lying--such a long length--on his camp-bed covered
with his plaid. Lying under the arbour of Jonah's gourd, about which
he had chattered so gaily as being a laughing-stock to the other
officers, though they dearly loved to sit in its shade. The ripe fruit
hung scarlet amid the yellowing leaves. It seemed to throw the blue
pallor of his face into louder warning that Death was in grips with
Life.

She knelt beside the bed and took his hand without one word. She had
seen too many cholera cases to hope for speech, but the eyelids
quivered and the fingers closed on hers.

"How long?" she asked.

"Since yesterday morning. He would not give in--we were to move
to-night, ye see----"

"Why didn't you----?" Words failed her for reproach.

"He wouldna let me send. I'm thinking he was afraid for ye."

There was a long pause. Her heart was full of regret, of bitterness.
Afraid for her--oh, Duke, Duke!

"And he has everything?"

"Aye, everything! The doctor will be here again the now."

He came and found his patient better. He opened his eyes and smiled.
Collapse had gone, the following fever had laid hold on him. Would his
heart stand it? All that day he lay in something like sleep--quiet, so
long as his hand could find that other hand. Once or twice she caught
a whispered word of command and once, urgent, came a call for
reinforcements. His mind was at battle--far, far from her. About an
hour before sunset he turned his head and looked at her.

"I've done it," he said faintly; "I've done it!"

The doctor came in many a time and oft. The orderlies were always
doing something; but her part was to hold his hand until the last. She
saw it coming clearly; she knew that it must be so.

Someone in the arbour suggested a clergyman, and they sent to fetch
one.

"He will be too late," half-whispered a voice.

Was it hers? Too late! As if it mattered? As if He who made----

Hark! A bird singing. It had come in after the fruit--perhaps he had
fed it, for he loved God's creatures--and now not five yards from
where he lay it was giving its heart out in full-throated song.

Hush! Listen! Listen!--it seemed to say.

The still figure was growing more still.

The slow breathing grew slower.

The touch of these cold fingers on hers grew colder.

Then their feeble clasp had gone, but the bird sang on.

She rose unsteadily, drew the plaid over his face, and left the tent.
She did not seem to realise the presence of others.

Andrew ran after her.

"Marrion, Marrion, whaur are ye gaun? Ye poor, poor thing!" he
whispered hoarsely in the extremity of his bewildered grief. "Bide a
wee, and I'll see ye haim."

"I am going to walk home," she said dully. "It will do me good. I
must--I must do something--and I must be alone."

So she walked over the meadows, crushing the drifts of purple
colchicum under her feet. What had he called the flower of death? Ah,
the iris! That would come in the spring. It would flower on his grave
perhaps. And all the time she felt his cold hand on hers, she heard
the bird's full song. How he would have loved to hear it! Perhaps he
had.

It was dark ere she reached the vine pergola where they had been so
happy, and she started when a tall officer in Highland costume came
towards her. Was it all a bad dream? Was she waking to find him still
her own? But he was only the bearer of a kindly message from the
regiment to say that the colonel was to be buried at dawn, and that if
Mrs. Marsden----

"Who told you I was Mrs. Marsden?" she asked sharply. "Andrew Fraser?"

The officer bowed and went on.

"As one of the colonel's oldest friends, would care----"

She shook her head. She was grateful. It was a kind thought. But
Colonel Muir was Colonel Muir and everybody loved him--he would have
enough friends.

"Madam," said the young officer, with a break in his voice, "when we
lower him into his solitary grave--he is to be buried on the hill
above his tent where he sat so often--we shall all know that the
finest fellow in the regiment, nay, in the whole army, has gone from
us."

She lay that night, her face crushed into the pillow without a sob.
Only once or twice she whispered to herself.

"Ah, Duke, Duke, I'm glad I made you happy--so glad--so glad!"

She was up betimes to take her stand on a neighbouring hill, where,
unobserved, she could watch him laid to his rest. Not a tent was to be
seen; the battalion had shifted quarters during the night; the forward
march to which he had looked with such longing had begun, and he----

Close by the belt of forest trees she could see his dismantled hut; a
heap of packed baggage piled close by with a sentry on guard beside
it. But the arbour hid what it held. So, as the sun rose, the leaden
beat of the Dead March rose, as the regiment, followed by detachments
from all and every regiment in Varna, drew up in a lane to let the
artillery with a gun-carriage draped with the colours pass up.

Just his coat, his plaid, his sword, his bonnet, that was all. And
after him his grey Arab--the one she had ridden--fully dressed. That
was Andrew on the one side, and the other three? Generals, she
supposed, by their uniforms.

What a crowd of officers! And the men, marching so slowly to the
muffled beat! Would they never reach the grave?

At last. Now there were some words of command--heard vaguely as
inarticulate cries--the long procession formed up, massed itself into
a hollow square.

They must be reading the service now.

"Being dead yet liveth--yet liveth--yet liveth----"

She held fast to that, as her eyes travelled where his had so often
rested in content--thank God for that--in sheer content.

So, as she looked at the wide expanse of hill and valley, lake and
sea, those half-heard words of his came back to memory--"I've done
it--I have done it!"

What had he done?

The sharp rattle of musketry roused her. Again, again! The Last Post
had been set. The last honour paid.

A minute's pause. Then the bands struck up their regimental marches,
orders followed sharp and incisive. So with a swing the men stepped
out, only a little knot of officers remaining to see the grave filled
in. She must wait till they had gone. Shifting her position to one of
greater ease, she rested her aching head upon a tussock of sweet thyme
that was shaded by a rugged scarp of rock.

And so, wearied out with her sleepless night, with utter despair and
misery she dozed off, sinking deeper and deeper into slumber, all
grief forgotten, peaceful as a child. The long hours passed, yet still
she slept.

When she awoke it was almost sun-setting. Over the far sea, shadowy
outlines and still more shadowy trails of smoke told that the argosy
of an army had started for the Crimea. Not a tent was to be seen. They
had folded their white wings and gone. Already the populace had
cleared away all that had been left behind. The hill-sides showed bare
without a trace of humanity. His very hut had disappeared, the arbour
was broken down, its scarlet fruits rifled. Only on the mossy plateau
below the scarp at her feet lay a heap of stones.

Her heart gave a great throb. She had not thought of that, but a cairn
was meet and fitting. And how many men of his regiment had gone there,
even amid their busy-ness, to throw one stone for the sake of their
love and respect!

She must throw one, too; at least, she could do that!

Her composure was almost terrible. She picked up a little moss-grown
quartz pebble, and, going down, laid it where she judged those folded
hands of his must rest.

"That's my heart, Duke!" she said. "It's cold--cold as a stone."

Steps behind her made her turn. It was Andrew Fraser, his lean face
all blistered with the tears he had shed.

"My puir lammie!" he said. "I thocht I might find you here when you
werna at the hoose, and the woman was wae to know what had become o'
you."

The very warmth of his sympathy roused antagonism.

"I was just going back. Do you want me?"

He looked at her almost pitifully.

"It'll be no comfort tae you to ken that I'm as fu o' grief as you,
Marrion. But I had tae see ye before we left. I got leave till the
last. Oh, my lassie, is there naethin' I can do for you?"

She shook her head.

"Nothing, Andrew, except hold your tongue. The past is gone for ever!"

And as she walked down the hill with him her clasped hands bit into
each other with bitter strength. Was it for this she had planned and
protected? But, thank God, she had made him happy at the last!



                             CHAPTER VIII


In after years the next four days appeared to Marrion as a blank. She
went on with her work, she shed no tears except when she was asleep.
She did not even think. In the late evenings, when work was over, she
would ride or drive to where the Highlanders' camp had stood and sit
silent for an hour or two on the cairn about Marmaduke's grave, doing
nothing. She brought no flowers, the sight of his grave gave her no
more poignant grief. Indeed, often as she looked out eastwards over
the sea, with all the glorious trending of sunlit, sun-shadowed hills
and dales towards it, she would feel calmly that he would have admired
it as much as she did.

Yet underneath all her calm lurked a regret that grew with the days.

He had been left behind, and he had been so eager to go. Even those
last words of his--"I have done it"--were poor comfort.

So, confusedly, out of this regret and the memory of those other words
of his--"I have found you, or rather I have found myself, for ever and
ever and ever"--arose the idea of getting to the Crimea herself, if
she could. She could at least follow the fortunes of the regiment of
which he had been so fond, so proud. Besides, home had no call for
her. She had no ties there and the prospect of a long life without
them was appalling. Far better to die out here as he had died. But the
interest of Varna had passed. The tragedy of the fire had ousted the
tragedy of disease and starvation. The cholera had ceased, the city
was almost depopulated, so the problem of many mouths and no food had
disappeared.

Once the idea of following the regiment presented itself to her it
became an obsession. She made up her mind that if it could be
compassed she would do what she could for its brave men; then if death
did not intervene--which she hoped it might--she could come back to
where Duke lay and tell him she had carried him in her heart all the
way. So she set to work to think out the means. Her shaven and shorn
head--as he had called it--might facilitate matters; for she might
pose as a youth of one of the many uncouth peoples gathered round by
greed of gain. Varna was a polyglot place, and she knew enough Turkish
now to render English unnecessary.

While still nebulous, however, her plans were suddenly settled for her
by the arrival in port of the very Turkish mail steamer in which she
had sailed from Marseilles. The little doctor naturally enough called
on his _protégée_, full of the fine reports he had heard of her from
old Achmet. The ship had been requisitioned and he was on his way to
Eupatoria with medical stores for the Turkish contingent, which
expected to land there. The opportunity seemed too good to be lost.
She begged him to arrange for her to go so far, pointing out that she
had proved her capacity for usefulness. After a few demurs he
consented. She left everything standing in Varna and three days
afterwards found herself surveying the beach at Kalamita Bay, a few
miles south of Eupatoria, which had been taken the night before by the
expedition without the exchange of a shot. It was a shingly beach or
bar but a few feet wide, behind which lay a long, narrow, sedge-set
lake of salt water. From this rose, with deafening clamour, thousands
upon thousands of wild fowl alarmed by the unaccustomed presence of
man, their wailing cries almost drowning the long surge of the sea
upon the shingly beach and the oaths and confusion inseparable from
the disembarkation of so many troops. Beyond this salt lake rose a
high bank of red clay serrated by many small ravines, while over this
again the wide plain, dotted with cattle, corn-ricks, and farmhouses,
showed a land where supplies should be plentiful. In the far distance
could be seen, dimly blue, the hills behind Sebastopol, which lay some
seven and twenty miles to the south. In deference to the little
doctor's recommendation she remained on board and was thus free to
watch the humour and difficulties of the disembarkation. Both were
numerous. The heavy surf made the passage of boats to the shore
dangerous, but the blue-jackets were over the sides almost before they
could foot bottom, and, aided by those landed before--who, naked as
the day they were born, rushed into the sea to help--generally
succeeded in beaching their cargo high and dry. To little purpose, so
far as the men were concerned, since it was "off uniform" in a second,
and into the water to help the next arrivals. Luckily the day was
sultry and warm. The landing of the cavalry horses presented the
greatest difficulty, for even after confinement on shipboard the dry
shingle was not sufficient bait to induce them to walk the plank
alone; so that they had to be ridden, and as three out of six went
souse into the sea it was provocative of much merriment--for even in
those days the British soldier was light-hearted. The men, therefore,
wrung their wet clothes out cheerfully, and the horses dried
themselves by rolling in the patches of sun-baked sand, for the day
was glorious. Yet the discomfort was hard, the work harder; but,
despite it all, Thomas Atkins found time to nickname the Crim-Tartar
population who came down, curious but friendly, to view the scene, by
the strangely inappropriate and colourless appellation of "Joey," one
which nevertheless stuck firm all through the Crimean War.

So the day passed; but the afternoon promised a storm, and Marrion was
anxious to get on shore and make arrangements, if she could, for
stopping there. As she was watching she saw a gig going ashore to the
Old Fort with a woman in it--a woman who was received with plaudits by
the whole army. At the time she could not conceive who it could be,
though she afterwards found out it was the Countess of Erroll. The
incident, however, gave her courage; she persuaded the little doctor
to allow her to land, and, accompanied by him and in her Turkish
dress, she found a night's lodging in one of the nearest farm-houses.
Nor had she to pay for it overmuch, for the Crim-Tartarians were
kindly, honest folk ready to welcome brothers and sisters of Islam.
Indeed, they looked upon the new-comers as a possible deliverance from
Russian rule. It was lucky this was so, thought Marrion, as with the
sinking of day a violent storm of wind and rain swept the beach,
drenching the fifty thousand men who were without tents. They dug
holes for themselves in the shingle, spread their greatcoats atop, and
joked away discomfort even though death stalked among them and the
terrible scourge, cholera, they hoped they had left behind them,
claimed not a few victims before morning.

They were cheerful as ever, nevertheless, next day while the work of
disembarkation went on. Marrion watched it from afar, finding a Varna
friend or two in the Turkish contingent, but sheering off from the
regiment for fear of recognition--especially by Andrew Fraser. She was
not ready for that yet. So three days passed and it was not till the
nineteenth that the army of some fifty thousand men moved on towards
Sebastopol. About a third of the way thither the enemy was said to be
strongly entrenched on the banks of the Alma river. Why he had not
attacked during the confusion of disembarkation was a subject of much
comment, and all agreed it must be because the position they held on
the river was supposed to be impregnable. Why, therefore, leave it?

"We shall see," said Lord Raglan succinctly.

He was an old man, as indeed were almost all the leaders in the
Crimean War, but he was full of the fire of youth.

The march was a gay one despite the fact that it was over stony barren
steppes; but the hares that started up so often seemed made to be
chivied, when, confused, they got between the men's legs, and many a
warrior strung one secretly under his knapsack against a savoury
supper. And songs were sung, the "Tipperary" of the time, and jokes
made with "Joey" who, all along the line, came out affably, ready to
trade.

But the sight of the red Alma cliffs that had to be stormed on the
morrow sobered some, and Marrion, from another farmhouse where she had
obtained shelter, watched the evening sun redden them still more, and
thought of the blood that would be shed on them tomorrow with sick
loathing.

It was grey dawn when she rose, slipped on a youth's dress she had
brought with her, and, packing a few necessaries in a small bundle,
waited for the réveillé. But none came. On that fateful morning of the
20th September, 1854, the whole force of twenty thousand British
bayonets and sabres assembled in silence. For a watchful enemy awaited
them beyond the sluggish tortuous river that wound its way to the sea
amid sparse vineyards. Far away to the right the horizon of open sea
showed a massing of grey hulks and twinkling lights. That was the
Fleet ready to aid as it could. Further afield, beyond the debouching
of the cliffs, seven thousand Turkish troops prevented a flank attack.
Then came the French twenty thousand face to face with the most
formidable part of the cliff nearest the sea. After that the British.
Marrion, through her spy-glass, could see the Highlanders standing,
their faces set and determined. This was to be their first brush with
the enemy, and many of them had waited for it so long. Eight months
since Duke had brought her news of battle in the little London house!
And now he lay in his solitary grave while his men fought.

Still silence. It was past nine o'clock now, and the troops stood
motionless as if on parade. Here and there, in low scrub on the
opposite bank, an enemy's battery showed, ready no doubt for instant
action on the firing of the first shot. And, every now and then,
bayonet-points and the heads of men seen for a second or two against
the sky-line, told of infantry ready to receive attack. But there were
no skirmishers, no attempt to force on strife.

"No possible advance there," said the Chief of the Staff at the war
council that was being held in the open, as he pointed on the map to
the cliffs facing the sea. "I wish there were, for, so far as I can
see, Menschikoff has left it unguarded."

A Colonel of the Zouaves looked critically at the contours, then
turned to the Marquis St. Arnaud--

"My children are good climbers, sir; may we not try?"

"They shall," replied the French Commander-in-Chief. So the attack was
ordered. On the extreme right, the French were to throw out
skirmishers, tackle the cliff, charge over the first narrow plateau,
and so, up the next bank, reach the plain above. Then, when the attack
in flank had really commenced, the British would deliver a frontal
one.

As he rode back to his own lines the Marquis St. Arnaud paused to
take the British salute with the words, "I hope you will fight well
to-day." To which came rapid reply in a voice from the 56th
Regiment--"Don't you know we will?"

Whereat in long rolling reverberations from company to company, from
battalion to battalion, rose a deafening cheer. It was the first sound
of the battle of the Alma.

And hark! A disconnected rattle of rifle shots! The skirmishers are
out among the rocks; and now, like goats up invisible paths, their
full red pantaloons redder than the red clay, the Zouaves show in
single file--here, there, everywhere like streamlets of blood.
Incredible pluck! Astounding agility! But they are up. The first
vantage ground is gained; they pause to collect the skirmishers and
sound the _pas de charge_--that muffled pulse beat that, throbbing
destruction, grows louder and louder and louder, drowning all but
sheer lust of blood.

On they go, only to receive the fire from a Russian battery posted
above.

So the advance goes on, but it goes slower. That salvo on the Zouaves
opened the ball, and now, trundling among the ranks of the British,
come round shot and shrapnel, dealing death and disablement.

The _pas de charge_ continues, but it is perforce slow. "Pass the
order to lie down," says Lord Raglan; and, obedient, though straining
at the leash, the British troops lie down while the enemy's shot fall
among them still dealing death and disablement at every round.

"How goes the French attack?" he queries hastily, as an aide-de-camp
dashes up at 1.50 p.m.

"They are across and up, sir, but not sufficiently established to
warrant our starting."

Lord Raglan fumes. His blood was up, his men were being shot at
without reply.

"Give the order for general advance," he said, staking all, rashly
enough, on the hazard of brave troops; but if he staked rashly he
staked wisely. The serried masses of men rose with ringing cheers,
dashing on through a belt of fire from the opposite heights,
floundered somehow through the river, and paused for a second to take
breath in the vineyards below the steeps. But formation had been lost.
It was sheer onslaught. At the head of the advance rode Lord Raglan
himself, regardless of the gaps in his Staff. Sir George Brown,
leading the Light Division, goes down in a cloud of dust before a
Russian battery. "Go on, 23rd," he shouts; "I'm all right, but be sure
I'll remember this day, boys!"

Further to the left Colin Campbell in front of the Highlanders calls
back to them: "Keep yere fingers frae the triggers, men, till ye're
within a yaird o' them." And they did. Colin Campbell's horse is down
under him, but he is up again charging a battery on foot and calling
to the Guards who came up in support, "We want nane but Hie'land
bonnets here." But the Guards were firm. Steady, in even line, without
a waver in the black bearskins, they came on resistless, making one
man in the Light Division mutter under his breath, "D---- them,
wasting time in dressing up as if they were on a parade ground!" For
all that they had stormed the right end of the most powerful battery
almost before the Highlanders had got in on the left. A few minutes
later the 1st and 2nd divisions crowned the crest. The French, finding
their objective, turned their own guns upon the flying enemy. There
were a few faint struggles by the infantry, a few more rounds of
artillery, and the Russians were in full flight, leaving over four
thousand dead and wounded on the battlefield. So Alma's heights were
won, but at a cost which saddened the victory; for out of a total of
fourteen thousand British troops employed, one thousand four hundred,
or one in ten, were dead or wounded. The French had suffered as much,
so General Canrobert's face was grave as he rode up at the close of
the day to exclaim: "I ask of Fortune but this! May I command an
English corps for three short weeks, then could I die happy." And the
English commander's voice was graver still as he replied: "I could not
command a French corps. They would outpace me." And in truth the
Zouaves' rapid, flame-like spread from crag to crag, their ceaseless
fusillade meanwhile, had been all-astonishing and had paralysed the
foe completely. But now the laurel wreath of victory was fading, the
cypress garland of death was taking its place. It had been a three
hours' hand to hand infantry battle, and the late September sun was
sinking when the living turned to look after their fallen comrades,
for in those days ambulance corps were in their infancy and Red Cross
was not. The wounded soldier lay as he fell, dying, mayhap for want of
care, even for a drink of water. There were hundreds such upon the
heights they had won, as Marrion Paul, taking advantage of the fast
coming darkness, began her round. She was provided with water, brandy,
a few simple ligaments and bandages. At Varna she had had not a few
wounded Turkish soldiers from the Danube in old Achmet's hospital; but
this was different. There the wounds seemed a disease; here you felt
the keen horror of cold steel and rifle bullet close at hand; you
realised the futility, the wickedness of it. She avoided the salients
where the dead and wounded lay thickest, for there help was already
being given, and men were going to and fro with stretchers; but in one
or two of the little gullies she found someone to tend until, darkness
closing, she became more brave, and lighting the little lamp with
which she had provided herself, she ventured more into the open. Here
it was pitiful; the dead lay in clusters, their faces as a rule
upturned to the stars. The stretcher-bearers had come and gone,
leaving behind those to whom they were useless--as yet. She knelt
beside one dead man and wiped away a blood stain from his forehead. He
had been orderly once to Duke. Poor soul! Some woman would doubtless
wish she had been in her, Marrion's, place. And now the whole hillside
was lit up by wandering lights, the lights of men searching for their
bosom friends, for their officers. But there were other lights, too,
though she did not think of them as different--the lights of the
pilferers, the carrion crows, who crept about to rifle dead men's
pockets. There were more of them here on the level where the dead and
wounded Russians lay in heaps; some, supported by the bodies of
others, remained still in the attitude of firing, their rifles still
in their hands, their faces curiously peaceful. Well, they had died
doing their duty.

A faint call came from a man who lay, his head half-resting on the
breast of a dead comrade. She turned to him at once, throwing her
lamp-light on his face. Extraordinarily good-looking, so young, so
near death. She saw these things at a glance, guessing he was
shot through the lungs as his breath came in soft pitiful gasps.
She knelt to offer him a drink, but he shook his head. Evidently
his eyes were already dim, for he whispered in broken English:
"Good--gentlemens--take--take--my heart." She leaned closer to catch
his words, thinking bitterly as she did so that he took her for his
enemy--his enemy--while her whole heart was going out in pity for such
as he.

"I don't understand," she said tenderly. "Your heart--what do you
mean?"

"My heart," he gasped painfully--"here!" And his limp arm, lying
helplessly beside him, crooked itself in supreme effort, and the hand
fell on his breast.

A sudden comprehension came to her.

"You want me to take something from your heart?"

His dim eyes smiled faintly.

"Yes--good gentlemens," he whispered; it was almost a sigh, but it
held content. "Take--give!"

She understood now, though a faint shiver through the young body told
her that the speaking soul had gone. Here again was Love transcending
Death! Quietly she laid down the head she had been supporting, closed
the eyes, and opening the grey tunic began her search, her mind rapt
away from her surroundings by thoughts of Duke. Her hand had just
found a thin chain, when a rough clutch was laid on her shoulder and
she was wrenched to her feet with such force that the chain giving way
left her standing with something hanging from her hand.

"Caught in the act!" said a rough voice. "Shoot the young devil,
sergeant!"

Something cold touched her forehead. Her heart gave a great bound. Was
this death--oh, Duke--Duke!

The flash of a bull's-eye lantern turned full on her showed her face
deadly pale but firm.

"Hold hard!" cried another voice hastily. "The fellow carries a
water-bottle--of our pattern, too! Give the devil his due, Mac."

She could see faintly now. They were Highlanders; a search party
evidently, and the blood rushed back to heart and face.

"I'm doing no harm!" she cried hotly. "He asked me--to take and
give--his heart."

At her first word the cold nozzle of the revolver had left her
forehead.

"By God!" came in a murmur; but for the most part the little group of
men were startled out of speech and stood staring at the figure before
them, holding out in apology what it held.

It was only a pinchbeck locket with a woman's face in it--a pinchbeck
locket in the form of a heart.

"What the devil are you doing here in that kit, you young oaf?" said
an angry voice at last. "I as nearly shot you as a carrion crow as
ever----" It paused; something in the situation seemed to bring
silence. The stars overhead, the dead lover at their feet, the tall,
slim mysterious figure holding out the symbol of something that had
survived death.

"You had better go on, Mac," said the voice that had advised caution,
finally breaking the stillness. "I will use this young fool's lantern
and that will make two search parties. We have little time to spare.
I'll see him safe. You'd better take the orderlies with you. They have
appliances and will know what to do. I can manage."

"As you please, doctor," came the reply.

When they had gone the man they had called doctor took up Marrion's
lantern and seemed to examine its light, turning it finally full on
his face; and suddenly he spoke.

"Mrs. Marsden----" Marrion could not avoid a start.

"Mrs. Marsden!" she echoed faintly.

"Yes. You don't recognise me evidently. Indeed, I doubt if you ever
saw me, but I was with poor Muir when he died. Andrew Fraser had to
tell me--something--before I would let you come, and your face and
hair aren't easily forgotten. I guess why you are here; but it isn't
safe--in fact, it's impossible; but if you will go back now and come
to my hospital--Dr. Forsyth--in English dress, please--I think I can
settle you to work--something that will prevent your being taken for a
Crim-Tartar thief," he added grimly. "It's lucky I have a good memory
for faces."

"I don't think I should have cared," said Marrion, but he took no
notice of her defiance.

"As for this poor chap," he knelt down beside the Russian and laid his
hand over the heart. "Dead as a door nail, ceased to beat--wonder
where he wanted to send it. Is there a name at the back?"

Marrion bent to the light.

"A name and an address."

The doctor jumped up lightly.

"Being dead he yet speaketh," he remarked cheerfully. "Now if you will
please go back I will go on. We have to find poor Grant; he was last
seen on the crest leading his men, with Andrew Fraser--the colonel's
servant, you remember--just behind him."

"Andrew!" exclaimed Marrion, with a sort of sob. "Is he killed, too?"

"Killed or missing," called Dr. Forsyth, as he turned away to rejoin
his party.



                              CHAPTER IX


The scene which met Marrion's eyes when soon after daybreak she went
over to the hospital tents beggars description. The wounded, many of
them as yet untended, lay almost in heaps, stretcher-bearers were
hurrying along, slipping on the clotted blood from many wounds,
carrying those who had been seen to and could be moved to the boats
for removal to Scutari. There was a low inarticulate wail of moaning
in the air, broken by sudden screams of pain. Two or three women were
busy giving water, trying to soothe pain, and now and again a doctor
with bare arms incarnadined with blood passed hurriedly to more work.

"It is worse than I expected," said Dr. Forsyth over his shoulder to
Marrion. "Do what you can, will you?"

And she did, wondering vaguely that she had not noticed that curious
face when she had first seen it; the eyes alone were so unlike any she
had ever seen before--greeny gold, with a dark rim round the iris. A
hawk's eye, surely!

"Mrs. Marsden, I want you," came an imperative voice half an hour
later, "follow me."

He was there again, and she followed him blindly into a small tent.

"The ambulance and stores have been left behind somewhere," he said
bitterly. "God damn them! We have no chloroform left--they only served
us out a thimbleful, though Simpson demonstrated its absolute
necessity seven years ago--curse the lot--and now a case has just come
in. It's life or death and the others won't touch it, but I will. See
here, I was with Esdaile in India and I know it can be done. If only I
haven't the seats of the scornful by me--I think you'll believe--you
haven't your face for nothing, and I must have help. Give it me?"

He held out his thin nervous hands, so strangely full of grip, as he
spoke; his eyes found hers and held them.

"I will give you what I can," she said at once.

"That's right!" he replied, his buoyancy back in an instant. "But you
will need all your nerve, I tell you. Now help me to get the poor
fellow into position."

"Let me die, doctor," moaned the patient, who lay on the doctor's
truckle bed. "It is agony to move."

"No, it isn't!" replied Dr. Forsyth firmly. "You are making a mistake.
You have no pain, at least not much, and you are going to lose it
altogether soon. There! That's more comfortable, isn't it?"

He was busy now arranging knives and instruments on a clean towel.

"I've put them in the order I shall want them," he whispered, "and
don't be in a hurry--I shall want time. Now I'm going to mesmerise
him. You'll see he will pass into a deep sleep and feel no pain--none
at all."

It was almost as if he were assuring himself that it would be so. An
atmosphere of quiet confidence seemed to emanate from him.

Marrion found herself watching his passes with absolute faith,
listening to the quiet monotonous voice with absolute belief.

"Now you are really feeling better--you are inclined to sleep--if you
close your eyes you will go to sleep."

On and on went the voice insistently. The breathing grew slower, less
convulsive; the eyelids closed, and all the time the doctor's face was
as the face of the Angel of Death--kind, but relentless.

"Now we can begin," he said at last, resuming his quick decision. "You
won't faint, will you?" he added doubtfully, with a glance at
Marrion's pale cheek.

"I don't think so," she replied; "but _that_ seemed to hurt here." She
swept her hand across her forehead.

He scanned her narrowly.

"Umph!" he said, half to himself. "You'll make an excellent _aide_, I
expect. So now to business."

It was an awful operation. One impossible while consciousness
remained; but possible enough with the absolute stillness and lack of
hurry that unconsciousness brings.

And so far it was successful.

"He will sleep for some hours yet," said Dr. Forsyth, as he sorted his
implements. "You needn't stay with him all the time. Make yourself
useful elsewhere, but look in and bring me word when he wakes."

There was not one word of thanks; only as he left the tent he paused
to say--

"The lad was a great favourite of the colonel's. I'm glad we saved
him."

All that day Marrion lived in a dream of death; but those words went
with her. Yes, she was glad she had helped to save the lad, but how
much had she helped?

Three full days passed before she could get an answer to that
question. Days of grim determination to keep her head--not to give way
as some, even of the men, gave way. It was like living in a shambles.
She thought, amazed at the poverty of her own imagination, on the
dread with which she had first viewed the heights of Alma. But
this--this was inconceivable, unutterably beastly! Vaguely she felt
glad that Duke had been spared it, and with the thought of the singing
bird that had sung its little heart out in joy as he lay dying, the
first tears she had shed for him came to her eyes. And she worked on
with a lighter heart, until the first press and rush was over, till
the dead had been buried, the less severe cases shipped off, and tents
found for the others.

Then Dr. Forsyth sent for her. She found him in his tent. The lad whom
they had saved had been removed to a larger one and was doing well.
Though the flap was open, the tent was shadowy and the doctor's eyes
looked curiously light as he sat on the bed and motioned her to a seat
beside him.

"You have done very well, Mrs. Marsden," he said shortly, "and I think
you will do better. Now I am going to teach you some of the tricks of
the trade, and in the next action you will be able to work on your
own. Only don't talk about it. I believe all the doctors and most of
the men would rather die than be mesmerised; but then they never saw
Esdaile's hospital. I have."

"But perhaps I shan't be able," began Marrion.

"Yes, you will," he interrupted steadily, "and to begin with I am
going to call you by your right name, please. Marrion Paul."

She flushed.

"Did Andrew----"

"Nothing of the sort. My dear woman, I'm an Aberdeenshire man. Long
years ago, when I was a lad, I was at Drummuir and I saw your
father--possibly you also. No?--His was a face and figure you can't
easily forget. And I know the story. I heard Andrew, the Drummuir's
henchman, call you Marrion; your extraordinary likeness to your
father supplied the cues. And I was right, you see." His face was all
smiles at his own perspicacity. "Now, my mother was a Pole and I
believe your father was one. And that admixture seems favourable to a
certain force of character. You've always managed people--at least, I
guess so--and it is just that trick of suggestion that you require for
management--at least, so I think--that I want. Anyhow, we will try.
For the present the tyranny is overpast. We have wormed our way
through _sans_ everything; but the next action will be as bad, perhaps
worse. I think the letters we have written home about the scandalous
state of affairs may have had some effect--God knows! We British sleep
through a lot of bad dreams, but help can't be here in time. And the
stores they are landing! My God, if you could see them! Rotten
biscuits, putrid meat, drugs unusable! How the devils in hell will
kow-tow to the contractors when they get them as past-masters of
damnation. Anyhow, in the immediate future we have to depend on
ourselves, and if I can depend on you----" he looked at her and once
more stretched out those thin capable hands of his. "Come, is it a
bargain?"

She could not but say "Yes," and from that day he treated her as a
professor might treat his pupil--kindly, but autocratically.

"You are the only person who ever made me obey orders," she said,
half-resentfully one afternoon when he had driven her to rest in his
tent.

"Better for you if it had happened before," he replied curtly. "You
strike me as a woman who has managed too much. Do you know how old I
am?" he asked suddenly.

Seated as he was just outside the hut so that he could talk to her
within, he looked strangely young, but the grey hair and bronzed
wrinkles about his clean shaven face made her venture rather against
her own judgment--

"Fifty."

"Sixty-five," he replied.

"You don't look forty-five," she put in.

"No. That is because I never look ahead. I take what comes. If you
believe, as I do, in a Divinity that shapes our ends, it's waste of
time to hew. I learnt that early in life. You haven't learnt it yet.
Well, now I've got to go and cut a man's leg off."

And he went, leaving her wondering if he was right. All her life had
been spent in keeping Duke for the heirship of Drummuir, and now he
lay in his solitary grave at Varna. The pity of it was coming home to
her.

So after a few days, with a tent provided for her, she rode in a
baggage waggon towards Sebastopol. Cholera had begun again badly. The
fillip which the idea of campaigning and free fighting had given to
men jaded by hot weather and the discomforts of Varna was passing off.
As they neared the Russian town supplies were less easily obtainable,
and the commissariat was conspicuous by its inefficiency. The army,
meanwhile, starting on the 23rd, had found itself brought up seriously
at the next river. The enemy had established a work at the entrance
which made it impossible to use the bay, as had been hoped, for a
base. There was nothing for it but to change plans and act promptly.
And here, mercifully, was no delay, no mistakes. Forsaking the
seacoast the whole force plunged boldly into the mountains, marching
by compass, without road, without guides. Much of the way lay through
dense forest--there was no water; but, heartened up by a small brush
with a wandering division of the enemy, the men struggled on cheerful
as ever, up hill, down dale, during a long and toilsome march from
dawn till after nightfall on the 25th. But then came solace. On the
sea-coast below them--secure, unprepared--lay the town and harbour of
Balaklava, seven miles to the east of Sebastopol. They had
circumvented the enemy, they had taken him round the corner! But there
must be no cheering. Quiet as mice they lay among the barberry scrub,
waiting for the dawn of the 26th. And then there was nothing to be
done save to walk down and take possession--take possession of both
sea and land, for, punctual to the moment, her Majesty's ship
_Agamemnon_ sailed into the harbour, decks clear, guns ready for
action--a stroke of luck due to young Maxse who, arriving at the
Commander-in-Chief's with despatches the evening before, volunteered
to brave the forest again by night and tell his Admiral to come round
as sharp as he could.

So when the hospital tents and such medical stores as there were
arrived from Kalamita Beach they found the troops elated and pleased
with their new quarters. As is generally the way after a move, cholera
abated, almost disappeared, and for a time the weather was good.

Trench work began at once, yet progressed but slowly. Whether, as some
say, from lack of implements or from slackness in command, the French
had placed thirty-three siege guns before the English had finished
their fifteenth; and the doctor, coming in from a long round, would
shake his head and say that the business would be a longer one than
people thought.

And what was to be done with winter coming on--blankets wearing out, a
shortage of drugs, and the very ambulance-waggons still lying
forgotten on Kalamita Beach?

He used to watch the ships sailing in so gaily to the harbour and say
calmly, "I wonder what filth, what fraud, they bring?"

Still, even he grunted satisfaction over the news that Britain was
beginning to discover that all was not well with the Crimean
expedition--that there was talk of sending out nurses and more
doctors. So for nigh three weeks comparative peace reigned. There were
no shambles, and Marrion had time to pick up many wrinkles of nursing
from her patron; he taught her how to bring sleep for one thing, the
first duty of those who tend the sick. She had time also for regret.
Nothing had been heard of Andrew Fraser, though Captain Grant's body
had been duly found. It seemed to her as if the last link with the old
life had gone, and one day in sudden confidence she said as much to
the doctor. Again he shook his head.

"My dear good woman," he remarked, "no one ever gets away from their
past. It is what the Easterns call '_karma_.' You have to dree your
weird for it always."

"Even if it is not bad?" asked Marrion, feeling hurt at the very idea
that a life in which she was conscious of no self-seeking should be a
curse to her.

"I don't know," he replied, half-closing his strange eyes, "you may
have done something shocking. It is quite possible."

She wondered, afterwards, what had induced her to tell him what she
had done; but these strange fits of confidence are one of the
psychological puzzles of humanity. Tell him she did, however, while he
sat looking out over the sea with his veiled eyes, for they were
sitting on the heights and the whole panorama of Sebastopol, the
Allied Fleets, and the investing forces lay before them.

"What would you have done if Colonel Muir had lived?" he asked briefly
when she had finished.

She blushed a little.

"I have often wondered," she began.

"People who play Providence ought not to wonder. Well, I am glad he
died happy. That, at any rate, is to your credit." So he rose and left
her.

The days passed rapidly, full to the brim of work, and every day
brought her more and more admiration for the courage and cheeriness of
the men, more and more resentment at the ghastly way in which they
were treated by the authorities at home. Boots had already given out,
none were available in store, and in a whole officers' mess only one
subaltern had a holeless pair. And he was the son of a widow who had
half-ruined herself by sending her darling the two separate boots of a
pair by letter post. She would have held it worth more, could she have
seen his face of pride among his comrades.

On the night of the 18th of October a diversion arose which, when it
was over, caused much amusement.

A party of sappers and miners, losing their way, fell into a Russian
picket, which, possessed by the idea of a general assault,
incontinently skedaddled into the town and raised the alarm, thereby
causing much beating of drums and bugle calls. The Allied armies,
alarmed in their turn, instantly stood to arms, while gun after gun
boomed from the city forts, echoing and re-echoing among the
reverberating rocks. After an hour or two, however, the gunners seemed
to recognise that they were only, so to speak, shooting at their own
shadows or echoes, and gradually peace reigned, broken by roars of
laughter round many a camp fire.

But on the 25th something serious happened which brought the shambles
close once more. To the Turkish contingent had been assigned the
redoubts which protected the heights behind the entrenchments. On the
morning of the 25th the Russians, numbering some twenty thousand
troops, after following the same route by which the Allies had reached
Balaklava, appeared unexpectedly before these redoubts. The Turks
abandoned them without striking a blow and fled down the valley to the
plain in sheer panic. Nor did a volley from the 93rd Highlanders,
hastily formed up, stop them. For a short while confusion and courage
were conspicuous. The British, taken unawares, fought like heroes.
Finally there followed the famous Light Cavalry Charge of which the
French general, watching it, said "_C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est
pas la guerre_." By whose fault the order was given for a deed which
will stir the blood at every English heart even at the day of doom,
Heaven only knows. The man who brought it was the first to fall.
Briefly told--it needs no grand words--it amounted to this. Six
hundred men and horses charged uselessly, desperately, defiantly,
_because they were told to do so_, down an open valley exposed to a
cross fire from guns posted on either side of them, and to a frontal
fire from the evacuated and abandoned forts. The charge commenced at
11.10. It was barely 11.35 when a hundred and sixty men, many of them
wounded, rode back, having done what they were told to do. The rest
lay on the held.

But it was a victory for all that, and when night came, bringing an
hour or two of rest to Marrion, she spent it in going round with a
revolver she borrowed from Dr. Forsyth and putting wounded horses out
of their pain.

"Don't forget to give them their password," he said, as he gave the
weapon to her.

She looked at him uncomprehending. "I forgot you hadn't lived in the
East," he went on, with a smile. "Say 'In the name of the Most
Merciful God' before you shoot."

Once again there were tears in her eyes. She was learning much of this
strange man who looked on death so lightly, yet spent himself in
striving to evade it.

It was a busy time again after Balaklava; she had barely time to
think, scarcely time to rest. Yet ever and always, when her mind
travelled beyond the immediate present, those words with which Dr.
Forsyth had replied to her story came back to remembrance--

"People who play Providence ought not to wonder."

Was he right, she wondered, and then was ashamed of her own wondering.

"You will have to rest a little more," said the doctor to her one day
when she had been helping him. "You were quite wobbly just now. You
will be of no use, you know, unless you pull yourself together." And
he narrowed his eyes perplexedly. "You are not living in the present
somehow--you're reaching out to the future. Why?"

She laughed.

"Why should I--what can the future hold for me! I will take a blue
pill."

He grunted dissatisfaction, but was too busy to say more. Yet what he
said was true. She began to catch herself wondering, wondering. The
present was all-engrossing, of course; how could it be anything else
when she could do what she could do for the poor lads?--his poor lads,
who were so brave, so cheery. And then her mind would become vagrant,
and she would wake up from dreams with a start.

It was one day just before Inkerman, the 10th of November, that Dr.
Forsyth came to her and said:

"I want you. It's over at the cavalry hospital."

His eyes seemed to her stranger than ever, and when she came out of
her tent to join him he glanced at her, then said brusquely:

"You've forgotten to put on that diamond brooch of yours--the P.P.
one. Don't you remember when the sun glints on it, it's useful?"

It was true. Often and often the eyes that had been asked to fix their
gaze on it had become full of dreams, and then slept.

"Stupid of me," she replied lightly. "I'll put it on!"



                              CHAPTER X


The Cavalry Hospital was a little way out of the town, a quaint old
place with oleanders and orange trees set in tubs outside its white
verandahs. As they drove thither Dr. Forsyth told her something of the
case in which he wanted her help. It was a prisoner, presumably an
officer, but he refused name or rank. He had been found two days after
the battle, lying, with one leg smashed to bits, under his dead horse
in a little ravine. How he had lived was a marvel, for he was quite an
old man; but, not only had he done so, he had also retained
consciousness, and had addressed those who found him in perfect
English, congratulating them courteously on their marvellous exploit,
and saying he was proud to have crossed swords with them.

A game old fellow, worthy of his hospital nickname "The General." He
had actually begged, before they moved him, that someone would be good
enough to search in the holster of the dead horse beside him for a
gold snuffbox which he had been unable to reach, and the lack of which
had, he asserted, been his greatest discomfort.

"He has been snuffing away ever since," added the doctor, "so perhaps
he was right, for his leg was almost too crushed to belong to him. We
took it off at once; but now gangrene is setting in and if he is to be
saved we must have it off higher up. And the others won't risk it. He
is old--heart weak--and they say won't stand chloroform. I am going to
try. I've told him and he will take the risk. A good old chap, worth
saving. I don't believe he is a Russian. I think he is a Pole, and
blood is thicker than water."

Marrion's first look at the patient as he lay propped up by pillows in
the small room whither he had been carried made her agree with the
doctor.

It was a fine old face, curiously reminiscent of someone she had seen
somewhere, with its hint of ruddiness beneath the grey of the hair and
its bold bright daring look. And he was very tall; his long length
almost outstretched the trestle bed.

"Good morning, doctor!" he said, with a courteous salute which
included Marrion, and with a perfect English accent. "You have brought
your nurse, I see. Are we to begin at once?"

There was no anxiety in his voice; only gentle raillery.

"Not quite yet, General," replied Dr. Forsyth. "I want you to have a
rest and sleep first. You are looking a bit tired; and your pulse"--he
stopped to feel it--"is tired, too. So I've brought Nurse Paul to sit
with you. She is a curiously soporific person. I shall be back before
very long," he added, more to her than to the patient.

Left alone, Marrion went up to the bed, smoothed the rough pillows,
straightened the coarse blanket, which was all the bedding Balaklava
could produce, and said quietly--

"Now, if you will close your eyes I believe you would sleep."

But those sea-blue eyes--whose did they resemble?--someone she had
seen somewhere--remained wide, and watched her narrowly as she
returned to seat herself in the only chair. It was set full in the
sunlight, which showed her tall, slender, yet strong in her dark stuff
dress, a white handkerchief almost hiding her bright hair and pinned
to place by the little brilliant brooch beneath her chin. Truly those
keen eyes were over-watchful, and she was about again to suggest sleep
when his voice, full of insistent command, startled her.

"Where did you get that brooch?"

She replied at once with the truth.

"It belonged to my father."

"Indeed--who was he?"

"He was a valet; but if you would only close your eyes I think you
would go to sleep."

"Do you think so? I don't."

His eyes showed more awake than ever; there was a hint of a smile on
the handsome old face.

Still there was silence for full five minutes, and Marrion was just
about to make further suggestion of sleep when once more the voice
rose--

"Will you please give me my snuff-box?--it is under my pillow
somewhere."

She drew it out. A plain gold box with--her startled eyes caught the
old face--

"Yes!" he said, and his voice had a jeer in it. "'P.P.,' as you see.
That is my name. So you are Marrion Sim's child--and I suppose mine.
Queer, isn't it, how these old stories crop up when one had almost
forgotten them?" He scanned her face narrowly. "Now you are angry.
Why should you be? Your mother was my wife, I suppose. At least, I
hadn't any other then. I have sons now"--his voice softened as he
spoke--"yes, sons to come after me when I am gone, as I shall be soon,
for that gay doctor of yours can't conquer Fate; and it is Fate that
has brought me here!"

He lay looking at her with a certain kindly curiosity, while she,
startled out of herself, tried to realise that this was her
father--the father she had condemned and despised all her life.

It seemed almost as if he saw into her thoughts, for his next words
touched them.

"Perhaps it was cruel to leave her as I did; but I had no choice. If
you have anything belonging to us in you, you'll understand what the
call of the master means. And young Muir was never my master. He
befriended me, helped me to escape Siberia; but the other---- There's
a perfect passion of loyalty in our family which you may or may not
understand." He paused and a shiver of assent ran through Marrion.

"I--I think I do understand," she said, in a low voice.

Yes, from the very beginning, as a small child, this passion of
protection, of loyalty, had been hers. Strange legacy from an unknown
father! He smiled content.

"Glad to hear it. You're not a bit like your mother--you're like me,
and your brothers--half-brothers, I mean. So I had to go. It was just
after the break up of Europe and Napoleon, when half the political
refugees came to their own again--and he did amongst others. So I had
to go." Again he paused, and for the first time Marrion felt the touch
of kinship between them. He had to go; that was just it! She had had
to be loyal to Duke. "You are not in the least like your mother," he
said again suddenly, "you are like us." Yet again he paused. "Have you
anything you can give me to drink?" he asked. "I have something to say
to you, and I feel--limp."

She gave him a restorative and he brisked up. Time was passing, but
she had learnt many things during the last month and knew that
physical rest would be impossible until the mental rest was assured.

"Don't talk too much," she said. "I think I shall understand--what is
it?"

"This box," he said. "It holds--my credentials. There is a false
top--see, you press this spring--so."

As he spoke the lid appeared to part in two, disclosing a folded piece
of paper.

"Don't read it now--but it will tell you everything. I was on secret
service and it was of importance no one should know. It is of
importance still. If I hadn't met you I should have said nothing. But
now--you'll do me this good turn, I expect--for, after all, I am your
father."

A cynical smile curved his lips, his blue eyes met hers in a
challenge.

Almost staggered by the strangeness of what was happening, Marrion was
yet aware of something deep down in her which gave instant response to
this claim upon her.

"Yes," she said quietly, "I will do what you wish--father."

"I am obliged--daughter," he replied lightly. "Of course it is for
your eye alone. And now for heaven's sake give me some more of that
drink. I feel quite exhausted." He lay back smiling at her. "It is
better here," he remarked, "than in the north of Scotland." Then after
a pause, "I suppose I ought not to have married your mother; but she
was charming and it was very dull." After that he closed his eyes and
slept. The doctor, coming in after an hour, found him still sleeping,
while Marrion sat beside the bed holding the gold snuffbox in her
hand.

He bent over the slumbering face.

"I don't think there will be any operation," he said quietly. "The
others were right. His mind has ceased to insist upon his body
surviving and so there is rest. It is well."

Marrion looked up into his wise face.

"How did you guess?" she asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"There was no guess," he replied; "you remember I had seen your
father. Then your extraordinary likeness. When by chance I saw the
famous snuff-box yesterday it became a certainty. For a day I decided
to say nothing. Then I saw the old chap was fighting death--putting a
strain on himself about something, and I thought you had better have
your innings."

He did not ask any questions and she was grateful.

"Perhaps you would like to stay," he added gently. "I don't think he
will wake again."

And he did not. As the sunlight faded from the room the old man's
breathing became slower and ceased.

Marrion stood looking down on him for a moment before she called for
aid. All the time she had been watching she had been thinking,
thinking; but she had arrived at nothing. Only deep down in her was a
glad feeling of inheritance--a consciousness that the dead man had
given her something, something that she held in trust.

Was it only the gold snuff-box, she wondered vaguely, as, back in her
own tent, she touched the spring.

"The bearer of this, Prince Paul Pauloffski----" She sat staring at
the words.

Prince Paul Pauloffski was her father. Then she was gentle born. Then
she need not--

With a rush all the things she need not have done crushed in on her.
She buried her face in the pillow as she sat on the edge of her bed
and muttered--

"People who play Providence!"

Of a truth the wise man with the strange eyes was right. Your past was
_karma_. You could not escape from it.

After a time she sat up and began to decipher the rest. It was in
French, the _lingua franca_ of Eastern diplomacy. Noble-born, poor,
devoted, daring. That was the essence of the credentials. The other
paper simply gave the address of the ancestral home and that of two
sons in the army. A memorandum as to keys and papers filled up the
back of the latter. She replaced them, shut down the spring again,
then, remembering she could show no right to the snuff-box for which
inquiry was sure to be made, took them out again. Nothing, somehow,
seemed to matter now. She had made her mistake, she must suffer.

"You have all you want?" asked Doctor Forsyth, as she handed him
the box, and she flushed scarlet. Sometimes he seemed to her too
clever--he found out everything, everything!

"Thank you," she replied frigidly.

"Because--well, if you would like to possess it, I could buy it in for
you at the auction. The poor old general is--is unidentified,
remember."

"Yes, he is unidentified," she assented, remembering her father's
wishes, "but I should like to have it all the same."

He brought it to her a day or two after. "That's your fee," he said
lightly, "you've earned it well."

And he would take no refusal; so she replaced the papers in the secret
compartment and put the box away in her satchel against--what? That
future which was now always filling her mind. The present seemed
hardly to touch her at all. The doctor looked at her critically more
than once, but he said nothing.

Then came Inkerman. It was on the 5th of November--almost three
months, Marrion told herself, since that wonderful day when Duke's
love had come to her amid flame and fire.

It had been a disturbed night. A noise as of tumbrils had been heard
about the city. Was it possible that the enemy was taking advantage of
the dense night fog to run in commissariat or even ammunition? Nothing
could be done, however, save wait. So as the laggard day broke, the
advanced pickets looked keenly ahead. To no purpose. An impenetrable
wall of grey mist shut out all beyond a yard or two. Their very
comrades looked like shadows of men.

"London partickler," remarked one sentry, stamping his feet to keep
out the chill, for it had been raining all night.

"Not yeller enough, save down Chelsea way. My Gawd! I wish I was
ther," replied the next.

"I wish I wurr anywhere but eight thousand strong on the heights of
Inkerman," put in an Irishman. "Begorra, I've bin dhrier in a bog!"

"An' I've been wetter in the watter after the trooties on Don side,"
evened an Aberdeenshire man sturdily. "Mush me, it's weary wark!"

"An' thim ringing joy-bells for to spite us!" joked the Irishman, as
on the cold night air a carillon from every church in the city rang
out, echoing amongst the little scrub and wood-set ravines that went
to make up the valley of Inkerman. "Will it be a weddin', likely?
Begorra, I'd loose off me rifle as a salute if the powdther was dry!"

So through the early dawn the pickets, outwearied, wet through,
beguiled the time. And though the dawn brought light, the mist lay
thicker than ever. Thick and grey the colour of a Russian's coat.

"Dods, mon!" cried the Aberdeenshire man suddenly, "what's yon?"

Yon was indeed a Russian coat, not one but many, emerging out of the
fog not ten yards away.

A sharp volley of musketry followed on the instant. The pickets may
have been sodden, but they were no cowards. They fought desperately,
retreating inch by inch, the alarm of their rifles telling that sixty
thousand Russians were on them surging through the newly awakened camp
of eight thousand. It was everyone to the rescue. Not one regiment or
two, but every available man. Then followed eight long hours of such
desperate fighting as, till then, had never been seen. It was not a
battle--it was a hundred battles in one; for every little ravine had
its opposing armies, cut off from the rest by the enveloping mist.
Again and again the grey line would advance a yard or two, covered by
its superior fire; again and again a ringing British cheer and the
point of the bayonet would drive it back a yard or two. Sometimes the
fight became a _mêlée_ in which the British officers, dealing havoc
with their revolvers or swords, cut their way through the dense masses
of the enemy. No generalship was possible, each man fought for
himself, his Queen, his country, and wrote on the page of history a
record of undying pluck and almost incredible personal courage. But
the battle of Inkerman is, truly, beyond description. It was a day of
countless deeds of daring, of despairing rallies and desperate
assaults in the glens, the brushwood glades, the torrent beds of the
valley of the Tchernaya river. None knew how the balance swayed and
shifted. But a few were aware of the aid given in the nick of time by
the six thousand French troops who arrived at the double. None knew
whose was the victory till from the Russian ranks came the bugles of
retreat. And then, as the mist lifted, the whole hillside showed
strewn with corpses. But the eight thousand had kept at bay the sixty
thousand. Round Sandbag battery, from which the Guards were driven,
and which they retook four separate times, lay fifteen thousand
Russian dead, mute evidence of the hand to hand, back to back,
relentless tenacity with which the Household Brigade eventually fought
their way out of the surrounding masses of the foe. A little further,
where a single regiment held at bay over nine thousand Russians, the
broken stocks of the rifles showed how, when ammunition was gone, the
fight still continued.

"Will anyone be kind enough to lift me off my horse?" said old General
Strangways, when riding to an exposed position in the hope of being
able to see something of what his men were doing, a shell literally
blew off his leg. And someone lifted him down doubtless; but there
were eight generals to be seen to, and close on a hundred and fifty
officers.

As the official despatches read--

"It does not do to dwell upon the aspect of the battlefield." True,
indeed, when out of the eight thousand some two thousand six hundred
lay dead or wounded among the fourteen thousand Russians for whom they
had accounted.

Even Doctor Forsyth's pale, composed face grew paler, less composed,
and Marrion acting as his _aide_ could scarcely get through the awful
days. She could not work as she wished to work, but neither could she
rest. Her whole being seemed to go out in one vast pity for the world,
a vast desire to protect, to recreate.

"I am sorry my hand shook," she said, almost pitifully to the doctor,
when she held she had failed to give him all the help she should have
done over a young lad who had been brought in badly hurt. "But he
seemed so very young. It made me think of the time when all these poor
boys were babies in their mothers' arms, warm, secure, sheltered."

He looked at her gravely.

"You did very well," he said. "Not quite so well as usual, perhaps;
but better than others. For all that, I am going to send you for a
rest--only a week or two," he added hastily, seeing her face set
in denial. "And it's as useful as anything else. You know there are
quite a lot of soldiers' wives down in the town. There ought not
to be, of course, but there are---- Why, there is one, at least,
in the camp! And one, an Irishwoman, has just died with her third
baby--shock--husband killed. And there is no one to see to them and
others. You'd better go--you--you like children."

To tell the truth Marrion felt a strange gladness at the thought of
them, and the very idea of holding the newborn scrap of humanity in
her arms was enthralling.

"For a week," she demurred. "You see I haven't been sleeping well."

So down by the sea in a house built on the very rocks of the harbour
she went back to woman's normal life and rested for a while.

For the first time she had leisure to notice the beauties of the
cliff-set coast, of which the bay was a mere shallow curve. The
vessels lying at the roads bobbed and swayed when the wind ruffled the
water, almost as if they had been at sea. But it was fine to see them
there; ships of the line, merchantmen, gun-boats, mail-steamers, all
coming and going. When the two elder children were asleep, Marrion
would wrap the infant in a blanket and go and sit on the rocks in the
sunshine, watching the boats go backwards and forwards to the shore,
and thinking of the far-off Aberdeenshire days when she could pull an
oar with any man. The harbour itself, a mere inlet, was crammed with
vessels of all descriptions; you could scarcely distinguish one from
the other, but the thirty outside showed bravely.

"They say the anchorage is very treacherous," remarked Doctor Forsyth,
when he came to see how she was getting on, one evening. "I hear that
a captain of one of the transports has reported it dangerous; and has
been reprimanded for his trouble. He may have a chance of proving
himself right, for the barometer is going down steadily, I'm told; and
there is an uncanny feel in the air."

That was about six o'clock in the evening. But the night was calm,
warm for the time of the year. It was in the small hours of the 14th
that someone relieving watch on one of the ships looked again at the
barometer.

"My God!" he exclaimed, "it has fallen two inches in the watch."

Something was astir and the something came with appalling suddenness,
almost before the light spars could be shipped and things made taut.
And then? What was it? No storm ever seen equalled this boiling
cauldron of a sea, this furious blast of bitter wind that lashed the
waves of foam and sent them in driving clouds far over the heights.
The hawsers, the anchor chains, the cables strained and wrenched and
strained, while brave men, looking at the wicked rocks seen dimly by
the breaking dawn, knew that their only chance of life lay in the
holding of their anchors. An American ship was the first to go. She
drifted swiftly to the cliffs and disappeared, timbers and crew. The
next to follow was the ship whose captain had given the warning. It
made a brief fight for life. The port anchor held--masts, rigging,
were cut away. To no purpose. The cable parted, she drifted broadside
to the cliff, crashed against it once, twice. A few men were carried
by the breakers up the rocks, bruised, mangled. The captain himself
was crushed between the rocks and the ship, as he hung from a
life-line thrown by those on shore. Another and another and another
ship followed in quick succession. The roar of the tempest, the
crashing of timbers, the howling of the wind, the noise of the engines
straining full speed ahead to hold their anchorage against the storm,
drowned all outcry; the terror, the dismay, the despair of it passed
as it were in silence. Within the inlet harbour one vessel crashed
against the next and so, huddled in heaps, they drifted to pile
themselves in shivered hulks upon the shore. Helpless to help,
powerless to save, the spectators clinging like limpets to stone walls
and stanchions looked on while one after another the brave ships which
but the day before had seemed to spurn the waves in their pride were
beaten, buffeted, engulfed, submerged in the seething cauldron of surf
and spray and mad, infuriated billows, answering to the challenge of
the wind. The _Prince_, the finest vessel in the bay, new built,
powerfully engined, held out the longest. There were hopes for her,
but the sea willed otherwise. Slowly, slowly the anchor dragged, and
five minutes after she struck not a vestige of the good ship remained.
Meanwhile on shore the hurricane had brought disaster untold. Houses
were roofless, tents swept bodily into the deep ravines with their
occupants. It was noon ere the wind abated somewhat, allowing stock to
be taken of the damage. Far out at sea could be seen the hulls of the
vessels that had weathered the storm, mostly disabled, mastless; but
it was known that five-and-twenty vessels had gone down with
practically all on board.

As the tempest subsided the bodies of the drowned were dashed by the
breakers against the rocks or cast up in tiny creeks upon the beach.

Marrion had taken her charges to a place of safety, the house she was
in being too exposed; and then, thinking she might help, went down to
the harbour. The waves still ran dangerously high, and over on the
farther side Englishmen were busy with lifeboats, rescuing some of the
crews of the smaller ships which, having held their anchors so far,
were still in imminent danger of going down. As she passed a knot of
local fishermen on her way to where apparently help might be required,
her eyes followed theirs and she realised to her horror that they were
calmly looking at a man--a mere boy--who about sixty yards from the
shore was clinging to a stationary spar, part doubtless of some
submerged craft. His face was clearly visible, the agonised appeal
vitalising its exhaustion, its pallor. Only for a few minutes more
could that grip hold! She was alert in an instant.

"Go!" she cried vehemently in Russian. "Quick! A boat is there!
Quick--save--for Christ's sake, save!"

Urged more by her actions than her words, the men fell in with them.
Ready hands, besides her practised ones, ran down the boat.

But then, no one stirred! It was not an impossible task, it was only
dangerous. That, however, was enough. Why should they risk their lives
to save an unknown lad--a mere boy? But it was that very youth which
appealed to the woman, who stood for an instant with bitter anger at
her heart.

"Curse you for cowards!" she cried as she sprang in and seized the
oars. The boat, already afloat, shot out from the shore by her weight.
The next instant she had the oars in and was fighting for her
life--and his. For his--yes, fighting, fighting, fighting for life to
something unknown. She set her teeth and dreamed with the appalling
swiftness of dreams of the far Northern sea. Yes, she was afloat on it
with Duke--no! it was Duke she had to save. It was Duke, or someone
belonging to Duke, who clung to that spar now so close, so close----

On shore, a man passing along a quay hard by saw her, and ran down
with an oath.

Almost there--almost! She glanced behind her, saw the young face; but
only for a second. The hold of the clenched hands relaxed, the head
fell back, the body slid into the water. Too late!

No, not too late! Without one instant's hesitation Marrion was over
the side, keeping the oar in her left hand as she leapt.

Now she had gripped something floating for a second and was on the
surface again, rising within arm's grip of the oar.

In her ears a thousand voices seemed whispering--Safe, safe, safe! You
are the saviour, the creator, the protectress.--She struck out boldly.
Then a huge breaker took her to its breast and held her fast.

When she came to herself she was lying on a bed and looking round she
realised that she was in the very room of the cavalry hospital where
her father had died. It had been the nearest place, she supposed. The
sunlight was streaming in. She was quite alone. Doubtless everyone was
busy--they always were.

Then on a table within reach she saw a cup of milk and a glass. A
paper lay beside them. Scrawled on it, very large, was this advice--

"Take these and go to sleep again!"

It was Doctor Forsyth's writing and with a sense of safety she obeyed.

When she roused again it was evening; the room was almost dark, but a
figure stood at the window. In an instant remembrance came back to her
and raised a curiosity which had doubtless been lying dormant, as she
had been, for nigh six-and-thirty-hours.

"Did I save the boy?" she asked suddenly in a loud strong voice.

Doctor Forsyth, for it was he, smiled as he walked up to the bed.

"I really cannot say, my dear lady, whether you saved him or not. You
did your best, anyhow, and the same wave washed you both ashore." He
had been feeling her pulse as he spoke. "All right," he continued, "I
fancy you can get up if you choose. And you will be a bit busy, for
the mail steamer goes to-morrow and you should take the first
opportunity of getting home."

She stared at him.

"Home!" she echoed. "I am not going home. I want to work--and I should
like to die out here. What is there for me to do at home?"

Doctor Forsyth hesitated a moment. He was ciphering out conclusions.
The reason he had to give her was one which must, despite its joy,
give pain. Better therefore to speak out while her mind was still too
confused to grasp the immensity of either.

"My dear lady," he said, and his voice was gentleness itself, "I must
deny all your statements. You are going home. You do not want to die
out here, and you will have plenty to do at home looking after"--he
paused--"the colonel's child."

He turned and left her voiceless, but athrill to her finger-tips,
wondering why she had not guessed it before.

Then with a rush came remembrance. "People who play Providence----"

She gave a moan and turned her face to the wall.



                              CHAPTER XI


When Marrion arrived in England just before Christmas she found a
white world of snow. But it seemed to her not so white, so pure, so
chill as that soft pall which had lain on Marmaduke Muir's grave on
the Balkan heights, when, stopping at Varna on her way home on purpose
to visit it, she had found it unrecognisable under the heavy snow. For
the winter of '54-'55 was the severest on record, even in those
southern mountains.

There had seemed no room there for her tears, her remorse, her pitiful
plaint to be forgiven for trying to play Providence. So she had come
away more stunned than ever.

After all her long years of self-sacrifice to find that every step she
had taken was a mistake was bitter indeed; but to realise that if the
child lived--and this time she meant to ensure that there should be no
ransom of her life--she would have deprived Marmaduke's child of its
birthright was agony.

Yet there was no escape. Even if Andrew Fraser had been
forthcoming--and no news of him had come since Alma's heights were
won--she still would not have made a claim. That was over and done
with. She had promised the old man none should be made, she had
persuaded Duke to do the same, and they must stand by their word.

She brooded and brooded over this until once more self-sacrifice
became an obsession with her. Not even for the sake of his child
should Duke's honour be smirched. Besides it might be a girl, and then
it would not matter so much. Besides, and this clinched the question,
even with Andrew it would be hard to prove a marriage; for during
those few short years she had not troubled to act as a wife. The
knowledge that she was married had been enough for both her and Duke;
she had always been known as Mrs. Marsden. A lawsuit would be
dreadful--was unthinkable.

No, she could do nothing to rectify her past mistakes. She must dree
her weird--she could not get away from her past. In that, as in all
things else, the doctor had been right. When the time came nearer she
would follow his advice and go to Edinburgh to the man who had
invented chloroform. Doctor Forsyth had said he was kind. She would
tell him her story and beg him to let her die and save the child.

Meanwhile, there was the gold snuff-box, and it meant more to her now
than when it was given. It meant that there would be someone kin to
the child--someone who, perhaps, if her life was taken as toll, would
look after it. She must try while there was yet time; that was her
first charge.

She set to work at once, therefore, to arrange for a visit to Poland.
The extraordinary likeness to her father of which he himself had
spoken, which Doctor Forsyth had noticed, and which she also had seen,
was too valuable an asset to be wasted. Yes, she would go over to the
ancestral house, give the gold snuff-box into safe keeping, and ask,
even beg, for recognition. Even if her father had been a widower, one
of the sons might be married, there might be a woman with a pitiful
heart to listen and sympathise. But ere she went she must write to
Peter Muir. To begin with, she could assure him that his brother had
been well looked after. And then she had nothing, positively nothing,
of Marmaduke's; and Peter, knowing the care she had lavished on him
all those years, might give her something. The ring he had always worn
was what she craved most. In those long ago days, though there was not
so very much difference in their heights, what he wore on his little
finger had fitted her second. It had been too large for her third when
he had wanted her to wear it in place of a plain gold band; so she had
bidden him wear it instead--little tender memory which seemed so
precious now.

So she wrote in the fine slanting caligraphy of the day a somewhat
stilted little letter asking for what she wanted as a favour, not a
demand, since "though I have a claim, I have no right."

In reply she received a friendly note.


"DEAR MARRION,

"If you will come and see me I will give you the ring, _and something
else_."


She had sent her letter to Peter's club, but this was dated from a
house in Palace Yard. So she went there. It was a fine old house. A
footman opened the door, a butler advanced to meet her, a majordomo
out of livery stood half-way up the stairs. Very different this from
the old days when the two brothers had been more or less out at elbows
all the time; but now, of course, Peter was heir to the estates.

She found him, looking wretchedly ill, in a most luxurious study, and
his weak face lit up at the sight of her in the friendliest of
fashions.

"Sit down in a comfortable chair," he said, and there was a querulous
note in his voice. "Really, in times like these, when, as the
paraphrase runs, 'days are dark and friends are few,' and 'gathering
clouds' are the normal outlook, it is a duty to be comfortable and
bring up the average. When Marmaduke was--was here--he was for ever at
me for extravagance. Hated the Jews and used to borrow from old Jack
Jardine instead. Paid off something, but not all, I'm afraid; and
Pitt, the virtuous Pitt--he owed him thousands. However, as I was
saying, it's a duty nowadays to be comfortable, so I've any amount of
_post-obits_ out--to say nothing of kites. They're always coming back
wanting a longer string or a new tail. But I don't care. The old man
may outlast me, and anyhow I can't live long; so it's a short life and
a merry one."

Looking at his hectic flush and with a damp cold of his hands fresh on
the touch of hers Marrion did not feel inclined to combat his easy
philosophy.

"And your father?" she asked.

Peter shrugged his shoulders.

"As usual, only more so." He paused and spoke more seriously. "Of
course Marmaduke's death cut him to the quick. But I won't speak of
that--I can't. He was the only one--and I believe it was the same with
the Baron. He showed it in anger. Won't see or hear of me, yet I'd do
my best for him. 'Pon my soul, that old man has been the curse of all
our lives."

Marrion sat silent. In a way it was true. The old spider had enticed
more flies than he knew of into his net. But for her desire that
Marmaduke should not fall foul of his father----

But that way lay madness. She was beginning to learn that she could
scarcely trust her own judgment. The whole thing was so pitiful that
reason seemed impossible.

"And may I have the ring?" she asked, in order to change the _venue_.

"You can have that, and a good deal more besides," replied Peter Muir,
giving her a queer look as he rose to go to a despatch-box that lay on
the table and which Marrion recognised as Marmaduke's.

"When this thing came home," he continued, searching in it. "Oh,
here is the ring!" (He handed it to her, and she thrilled at the
touch of it, as she would have thrilled to the touch of the man who
had worn it.) "I did not look over the papers very carefully--I
hadn't the heart; but when I was looking for that ring yesterday, I
found--something--which interests you."

He held out an envelope and she took it indifferently; few things
really interested her nowadays. It was addressed to Major Muir at his
club, and a vague wonder as to what it could contain crossed her mind
as she took out the paper it contained.

Then she sat silent staring at it helplessly, for it was Duke's
counterpart of their marriage bond which she thought she had seen
burnt to ashes on that night when Marmaduke had said, "You have made
me feel like a scoundrel!"

How idle, how unreal this world was! Could one be sure of anything?
Could one be certain that everything was not a dream?

Peter's voice roused her.

"Of course it doesn't make much difference to us now. Marmaduke left a
very few pounds, and your third as wife wouldn't amount to anything.
But there is his portion when the peer dies, and I can't see why my
young oaf of a cousin who will come in eventually should have it; for
even if I outlive my father I shall have enough for my time. And you
were--well, you were a brick to Marmaduke--and to me, too. You always
denied this marriage: but I had a notion it was only denial. There is
no reason, therefore, why you shouldn't use this--it is proof positive
of marriage, and if I were you I would. You are the only survivor and
therefore have the action; besides, it would annoy the old man
extremely, and, upon my soul, he deserves all he can get."

He had struck the wrong chord. To Marrion, absorbed in the one
enthralling question as to whether Marmaduke had known of this
survival or whether he had not, the suggestion that she was the sole
arbiter came as a shock.

"We agreed," she said slowly, "to annul the marriage. He thought--I
know he thought--this paper had been burnt; and it doesn't make any
difference to our intention that it wasn't. And then we promised, we
both promised your father no claim should ever be made. Because Duke
is dead is that any reason----"

She rose suddenly, walked to the fireplace, and threw the envelope and
its contents on the fire.

"That is what Duke meant," she muttered to herself helplessly.

Peter Muir watched her with a half-cynical, half-admiring smile.

"Well, you know best, my dear. And, of course, I personally would
never let you come to want." The capable woman looked at him, the
incapable man, with wondering tolerance. "Still, I must say I am
disappointed. I should like to have seen the governor's face when you
sprang it upon him. Remember he is the villain of the piece and, as I
said, deserves everything he can get."

"That may be," replied Marrion, "but can't you see we were all at
fault? And we have to pay for it. We must--you can't get rid of the
past."

She said the words over and over to herself, and it was not till she
reached her lodgings that she realised fully that the past had claimed
the future. Yet what else could she have done? If she had only known
what Duke would have said! Had he found out the paper, or had he not?
Was that the reason why in those short ten days of heaven he had
never, never, never alluded to the past? And yet that heavenly present
had become the past too, and had stretched out into the future. Had
she been taken by surprise? Had she made another mistake?

She threw herself on her bed and cried quite foolishly, until
perforce, being physically unable to cry any more, her mind reasserted
itself and thought came again.

One thing seemed clear. She could not possibly tell what Duke knew or
did not know; she could not be sure what he would have thought; and
she would have no more of trying to impose her views on him.

That being so, the only person who had any say in the matter was Lord
Drummuir. For the sake of the heir he might absolve her of the
promise. But the child might be a girl, it might not live. Finally she
began to cry again softly, silently; the tears that count for utter
soul-weariness. And in truth she was weary--the one thing that seemed
clear being that she had failed; that she had mismanaged everything,
that everything seemed in a hopeless tangle. She was, in sober truth,
very near the limit of perfect sanity when, with a passport secured
through Peter Muir's Vienna influence, she started for Krakowitz, the
village on the Russian side of the Carpathians, near which the
Pauloffski estates lay. It was a difficult journey--one which she had
judged rightly had better be undertaken at once; but the change did
her good, and she was almost herself again before it came to a
conclusion; yet as the sledge with its tinkling bells and four horses
toiled up the last hill or two she felt depression come upon her
again. The outlook, supremely beautiful, was still melancholy to a
degree. Snow, snow everywhere. The towering peaks, the valleys, the
pine forests all burdened with it, like Marmaduke's grave had been. A
light burden, but so cold--so deathly cold!

As the sledge dashed up the steep narrow drive and the pine trees that
swept their snow layered branches overhead some of their burden fell
in soft masses on Marrion's furs.

The driver turned round with a smile and said in Russian:

"That is absolution from sin, Excellency."

Curious answer to her thoughts, and with the answer came a
remembrance, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white
as snow."

And the remembrance brought confidence. Perhaps, after all, the tangle
consequent on her playing Providence might be going to be straightened
out.

The front door of the unpretentious tower, with a building like a barn
built on to it, that stood magnificently on a little plateau
overlooking the valley with a faint glimpse of plain beyond, was wide
open, and at it, standing against, but not leaning upon the pilaster,
was the most striking figure of a woman Marrion thought she had ever
seen. Extreme old age had set its mark on the lined face, with thin
white hair drawn under a lace lappet; but the figure was that of a
girl of twenty. Extraordinarily tall, massive in proportion, but
upright as a dart and with activity in every curve and line.

The lady gave a dignified bow as Marrion, still closely veiled as
protection from the bitter cold, came up the steps.

"Princess Pauloffski?" she asked tentatively in French, for it was
impossible to think the figure that of a servant.

"I am Princess Pauloffski," was the dignified reply in slightly
guttural French.

"Might I speak with you for a few minutes?" continued Marrion
nervously.

The Princess smiled.

"Ah, you are English! My son Paul was a long time in England or
Scotland," she replied in better English than her French. "You must be
cold; come in and take off your wraps."

A few rapid words in the country dialect sent driver and sledge round
to the stables while Marrion, with an unforeseen thrill of pleasure,
recognised that this beautiful old princess must be her grandmother.

"I was looking for my sons and daughters who are dead," said her
hostess quietly as she led the way into the house. "The dead always
come back with the snow--and I have so many."

Despite the warmth of the wide passage heated by a huge stove Marrion
felt a slight shiver run through her. How had her grandmother learnt
to speak of the dead as if they were alive?

As she passed on to a sitting-room where a great fire of pine logs was
burning on an open hearth Marrion removed her veil and threw off her
heavy fur cloak.

So, as she came out of the dark passage into the sunlight that
streamed through the sitting-room windows, she stood revealed. The
effect was not nearly as startling as she had anticipated, but it was
far more overwhelming.

The old face lit up with sudden pleasure, the thin old hands were
stretched out--

"Sacha!" she said. "Darling, after all these years! And you never came
before. Paul did--and he was your twin--though he has only just gone,
Sacha! I have wanted you so often."

The tears sprang to Marrion's eyes.

"Dear lady," she said, taking the outstretched hands and holding their
chilliness of age in her warm clasp, "I am not Sacha. I am Paul's
daughter!"

Princess Pauloffski drew back and passed her hand over her eyes.

"Excuse me. I forget. I live so much alone and my dead come to see me
so often when there is snow. But if you are not Sacha----" She took a
step forward and scanned her visitor narrowly. "You say you are Paul's
daughter--an English daughter--did he then marry over there? For it is
true you are his daughter--even his twin was not more like. Come, sit
down, child, and tell me how you come by Paul Pauloffski's face?"

It was almost incredible! Marrion as she obeyed her grandmother's
gesture felt inexpressible relief. Here there was no haggling, no
questioning. She was taken literally on her face value. It was a haven
of rest.

Together they sat on the quaint old settle as if they had known each
other for years, while Marrion told her tale. She produced the golden
snuff-box, with its glittering monogram, and laid it in the old
Princess's lap; but she merely glanced at it. Her chilly old hands
were busy detaining the hand that had laid it there--the hand that was
still alive.

"Yes, Paul is dead," she murmured, half to herself. "Sacha died first
when she was so beautiful, like you. And Paul's wife died, and now his
two sons are gone; there is none left but me, and I am very old. And
now you come--tell me more, child!"

And Marrion went on with the story. It was like a dream to be sitting
there in the streaming sunlight heart to heart as it were with someone
of whose very existence she had been unaware but one short half-hour
before.

"Was he a commoner or noble?" asked the old princess quickly, when
Marrion mentioned her marriage.

"He had no title then," began the latter.

The old fingers tightened their curiously protecting clasp.

"Then you are still Princess Pauloffski! I am glad," was interrupted
with satisfaction. "We of this house do not change our names when we
marry beneath us, as I did; for, my dear, this, the soil"--she
waved her other hand in an all-embracing gesture--"was my father's,
and my father's father's. My husband was a good kind man. I loved
him--but---- Go on, child."

And Marrion went on.

"Now, God be praised!--God in His High Heaven be praised!" cried the
old Princess exultantly. "And you here--braving the cold, spending
your life!" She seized a little brazen bell that lay on the table
beside her and rang it violently. A very old maid-servant appeared,
and was addressed volubly in patois. But that many orders were given
Marrion judged by the frequent bob curtsey of the domestic who finally
trotted out in great haste.

"Not one word more, darling!" cried the old woman, forgetful of
everything save abounding sympathy. "Quick, to the fire! Toast your
feet--so! Lean back on the cushions! Make yourself quite comfortable.
Remember you have to think of someone besides yourself." She dragged
an armchair closer to the hearth with all the strength of youth. She
bustled the cushions to shape; she removed Marrion's hat and finally
kissed her softly on the forehead with a murmured, "God bless you
both!"

It was too much. Marrion dissolved into slow quiet tears. For the
first time since Doctor Forsyth had told her why she must go home she
felt really that she was blessed amongst women--yea, amongst women
like this one!

"But you don't know!" she half sobbed. "You haven't looked to see. I
may be an impostor."

"Not with that face, dearie," beamed the old Princess. "Cry on! The
tears will warm your heart. It has been cold, I expect, and little
ones don't thrive when the heart above them is cold. Ah, here comes
Magda with the posset!"

And Marrion drank something hot and spicy and delicious while the
mistress discoursed to the old serving-maid and the old serving-maid
finally fell at Marrion's feet and positively worshipped her.

It was all so bewildering, so unexpected, that Marrion just lay back
and let the slow tears trickle down her cheeks in quiet orderly
fashion. The puzzledom, the regrets of the last few months, seemed to
vanish. For a while, in stress of these new emotions, she forgot even
her grief for Duke.

But as the two women, the old and the young one, sat and talked after
the sledge had been sent away, and Marrion had been simply commanded
to remain for at least a week to rest, there was enough of grief and
to spare in their conversation, besides Marmaduke's death--over which
the Princess was vaguely sympathetic--since, though he had been a
British soldier, he had, by the decree of Providence, not drawn his
sword as an enemy. And Marrion had been as an angel of mercy healing
Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics without distinction. Had she not
closed the eyes of her own father?

"I knew that he was dead," said the firm old voice, "though he was
only reported as missing; for he came back as the children of this old
house always do come back to see it once more. Alexis and Danish both
came also--they were fine young fellows, and I wept when the news
came; but they died as Pauloffskis should die, fighting for the
master. And I have wept--dear heart! how I have wept to think that
never again would a real son of the real race rule over the barren
acres; for, see you, there are no near collaterals. The Pauloffski men
die young, fighting, as my sons and grandsons died. But now"--she
clasped her hands ecstatically--"now there will be an heir."

"Supposing it is a girl," suggested Marrion, half laughing, half
crying.

The old woman swept her hands out in an indignant unconcern.

"What matters it? A child is ever a child! Ever a chip of the old
block, ever a fresh root of an old race. We have no Salic law here in
Russia. A princess is as a prince; mayhap better for the old acres, as
she does not spend so much money!"

Marrion, accustomed to the rigid rules made by men, listened amazed
and interested; but indeed every word that fell from Princess
Pauloffski's lips seemed to tighten the bond between them.

She had often wondered when she found herself--as she had done so
often--at loggerheads with her _milieu_ whether she was like her
father. Now she knew that she had inherited even her faults from this
strange weird old woman who lived a lonely life amongst the pine
forests, who saw dead people and yet ruled her domains with absolute
despotism. Marrion had never had a really intimate woman friend
before. She found one here, and, as if by magic, all her doubts and
fears vanished. There was but one thing she kept to herself, and that
was the possible difficulty which might arise in proving the future
little Prince or Princess Pauloffski's title, if legal proof of his or
her parents' marriage was not forthcoming. But it was only a possible
difficulty. For all she knew in this land where women seemed to stand
equal with men, a right coming to a child through its mother might be
inalienable. She did not know. She did not care to ask. For the time
being, she was happy as never before in all her life she had been
happy. The ten days' paradise with Duke had not been of this world.
But even so it had been restless. The happiness had been felt. Here
one did not think, did not feel. One was content.

So she wandered with the old Princess, her grandmother--who, though
she was past eighty, still walked like a girl--through the pine woods.
She visited the peasants' cottages where, after voluble discoursings,
the women always fell at her feet and worshipped her. She came back to
frugal meals and quiet evenings, when the Princess would discourse
over every subject under the sun; for she was a great reader and
brought a shrewd feminine wit to bear on most problems. And the most
startling thing about it was that never for one instant did she admit
the slightest inferiority due to her sex.

"Men think so," she would say, "but they are wrong. By nature they are
hunters and fighters and thinkers. It is the women who manage the
affairs. It will be better for the world when this is recognised."

In those days this was rank heresy, and even Marrion hesitated to
admit its truth. But the most remarkable thing about her grandmother
was the stable youthfulness of her outlook. Nothing seemed to affect
it. Death itself made way for her strong personality.

So the days passed to weeks, the weeks to more than a month, and
Marrion still lingered. A very different heritage this from the
storm-set cliffs, the rich fields of Aberdeenshire. And a different
ancestress this from the wild, wicked old man, spinning his
spider's-web round his very children.

Should she, after all, go and ask him to let her break her promise for
the sake of the heir? Would it not be better to let the heirship of
evil slip, and choose the heirship of good?

The question was still undecided when, after many delays, she set foot
on English ground again. And then the first thing to meet her eyes in
the newspaper was the death of Marmaduke, sixteenth Baron Drummuir.
There was a whole column about his many virtues; a vague reference to
"sprightly youth" summing up his vices. The article ended thus: "The
title descends to the late peer's third son Peter, who, we regret to
learn, is in a very delicate state of health. None of the late lord's
sons having any issue, the heir presumptive is a distant cousin, etc."

Marrion felt vaguely relieved. Unless Andrew Fraser turned up--and he,
she knew, if he saw Marmaduke's child, would move heaven and earth to
establish his claim to the title--she was quit of Drummuir. But had
she any right to be quit of it? The old arguments for and against came
back; she began to worry over them once more, especially when the
verdict of the Edinburgh specialist to whom she told her tale with
passionate assurances that a child's life was always more valuable
than a woman's, came succinctly and to the point.

"In this case, my dear lady, the question does not appear to me to
enter. With care I see no reason why both should not survive."

It was something of a shock, for it materialised many doubts, many
difficulties.



                             CHAPTER XII


The spring had passed to early summer when Marrion, with her little
son in her arms, sat in a sheltered nook among the cliffs on the
Aberdeenshire coast, looking northwards over the curved sea-line
towards the promontory some fifteen miles away, on which she knew the
old castle of Drummuir stood as it had stood for centuries. But she
could not see it with her physical eyes, and even in her mental ones
it bulked but little.

For the great protective possession of motherhood had overwhelmed her,
and her very regret and remembrance of Marmaduke only made her hug her
child closer--as his, and hers.

At first when she realised that life spread before both her and the
little Marmaduke she had agonised over the thought that by her own act
she had deprived him of his birthright; but by degrees she became more
content as she persuaded herself that that fateful envelope could
scarcely have remained in Marmaduke's despatch-box without his
knowledge. Yet he had never mentioned it. If he had repented of the
action which at the time he had said made him feel like a scoundrel he
could have amended it. And he had not done so. Never, never had he
breathed one word to show that he held her, whom he had so tardily
learnt to love, as his wife.

And here in her chain of reasoning she always stopped; for she knew--how
could she help knowing?--that if he had lived--if--if---- Always that
if, and if life had to be lived, it must be set aside. And life had to
be lived.

This brought her back to the child in her arms, and she dreamt happily
enough of the future.

It was not as if the boy had no home. As long as Princess Pauloffski
ruled over the pine woods, the quaint homely farmhouses, and the
devoted peasants, little Marmaduke would have more than welcome; for
every week brought ecstatic letters from that entrancing personality
which had already made such a mark on Marrion's character. In a way
she felt that she had never understood her own womanhood until she had
met with the all-embracing femininity of the brave, wise, old mind
which seemed to hold a grip of the whole world in its very isolation
and solitude.

Yes, the child could have no better home; and even when the
commanding, lovable figure passed, it might be that he would remain as
heir.

So Marrion was in a fever to have the child there, yet at the back of
her mind was a vague regret; and she had chosen the little
Aberdeenshire fishing village as the place for her convalescence
because from it she could see the view of her childhood and
girlhood--see right away to Rattray Head and beyond it----? The North
Pole!

She was not afraid of being recognised. Fifteen miles in the country
effaces all familiarity, and she kept much to herself, taking the
child down with her day after day, to some sheltered sandy nook, where
in the hot June weather she could sit and dream--rather idly, it must
be confessed, for the sheer delight of living to have a living child
had absorbed her mind. So the days passed, until for the last time she
carried it down to her favourite beach.

The dry warm sand was a perfect cradle for the child. She scraped a
little hollow in it at her feet, laid her treasure down, and sat on a
boulder beside it, in absolute worship. The waves, always restless on
the North Sea, tinkled a lullaby on the rocks hard by.

She was roused by the sound of a footstep. So few folk ever passed
that she looked up surprised. Then she gave a glad cry and stood up
holding out both hands; for it was Andrew Fraser. He also held out a
hand, for one empty sleeve of his coat was pinned to his breast. He
came rapidly towards her, seemingly unobservant of the child, till
within a few feet of her. Then he stopped dead and stared at what lay
at her feet.

"I didna know," he said, brokenly at last. "They didna say---- God,
but I'm glad, Marrion! Oh, Marrion, I'm glad!"

Then without waiting to greet her he knelt down for a closer look.
"He's a real Drummuir," he went on ecstatically, "and he is Drummuir!
Ah," he added, a trifle irrationally, "that the colonel could ha'
lived to see little Lord Drummuir!"

Something gripped at Marrion's heart.

"Don't let us speak of that now, Andrew," she said hastily. "I want to
know--everything--your poor arm----"

But Andrew for the time being was entranced.

"It's me," he said, "is wanting to know! And how old will he be? And
why did the doctor fellow no tell me when he tauld me aboot you?"

It was not easy to beguile him from the subject, but bit by bit
Marrion got from him a sparse account of how, he had been a Russian
prisoner, how he had lost his arm, had been exchanged as disabled, and
in Balaklava had come across Doctor Forsyth, who had given him an
address in Edinburgh where he would be sure to hear of Marrion. How it
was a doctor fellow who had been too busy to do more than supply him
with the name of the village, whither he had come to find----

Here Marrion, recognising that all roads must lead to the one point,
took heart of grace and said gently--

"Me and my child. It has made me very happy, Andrew. And I am so glad
you found me to-day, for I am going away to-morrow."

Andrew stood up.

"Goin' whaur?" he asked sharply. "Tae Drummuir? An' why are ye not
there the now?"

"Because I have no right there, Andrew," she replied, feeling herself
tremble, despite the boldness of her words.

"Ye may have nane, woman," he broke in sternly, "but your child has
the right to all! Are ye gain' tae steal it frae him? An' it's
foolishness tae talk your way; ye ken fine that before God and man
ye're the colonel's wife!"

"That may be," she retorted, "but as I told you long ago there is no
legal proof of it--and I do not choose--I have settled what I think
right, and I can have no interference."

"An' is it what _you_ wish that is tae take the birthright from an
innocent wean that canna speak for himself?" burst in Andrew
passionately. "I tell ye, Marrion, that neither you nor the
colonel--God rest him for a brave gentleman--have any right tae order
yon poor scrap o' God's makin'. I tell ye he was born to be Drummuir
o' Drummuir, an' Drummuir o' Drummuir he'll be till the last trump!"

He paused, breathless with anger and resentment while Marrion stood
speechless, the babe between them lying placidly asleep.

"But Andrew----" she began helplessly.

"But I'll no thole it," he continued, his whole ugly face aflame
with an emotion which made it almost beautiful. "See here, Marrion
Muir--for that you are--I've lived my life thinkin' ye were abune me,
but ye'll be beneath me if ye steal the very name from that poor
bairn. But ye sall not do it. I'll awa to Peter Muir and tell him----"

The threat roused her and she turned on him.

"You can do as you like, Andrew; but it will be no use. You can't do
anything without me. I wish you would be reasonable and listen! We
promised--the colonel and I promised--we both promised--and we
promised each other----"

"Ye had na the right tae promise!" he interrupted fiercely. "An' I'll
hear nae mair o' your woman's clatter. Yon babe's my master's son an'
Lord Drummuir, sae I doff ma cap to him."

Which he did in the stateliest fashion, and then stalked away without
another word, leaving Marrion confronted with a host of new
difficulties.

She lifted the child up and carried him back to her lodgings, feeling
she could do nothing to save the situation. There was little hope of
getting Andrew to listen to--no, not to reason, that had long ceased
to have any part in the strange catalogue of mistakes--but to listen
to what she had to say.

And what had she to say? Her mind began laboriously on the past,
counting her own mistakes. Why had she done this? Why had she done
that? It was fear that had made her do everything--fear of the old man
who sat like a spider in his web, the old man whom his own son had
wished her to anger, because he had been throughout the villain of the
piece! But would he have been so if she had given him the chance?

"I am sorry the little chap died; he would have been game."

The memory of those parting words stung her to the quick. What a fool
she had been I Why had she not gone at once to Lord Drummuir and told
him the truth? She had meant to do so, but she had been too late--too
late! Well, there was no use crying over spilt milk.

So she sat going over and over the whole thing again, and yet again,
until late in the evening the little lassie of the lodgings brought
her a message that a man who was lying at Mistress McMurdo's was
feelin' ill and would like to see her just for a little. The child
being asleep she slipped over to the cottage to find Andrew Fraser
once more a prey to his old enemy, tropical fever--a quaint, insistent
enemy which, after lying low for years, will seize advantage of any
disturbance of mind or body to reassert itself.

So there he was, as she had seen him before, trembling and shaking,
with a glitter in his eyes and a flush on his face, lying huddled up
under his military cloak on the sofa. Once again he slipped his feet
apologetically to the ground as he saw her and essayed to stand
straight--a pathetic sight, his body weak, his mind strong--so strong!

"I'm sorry, ma'am," he said, with studied ceremony, "if I, was
over-heated the day, for you're my master's wife. But it's no oorsels,
ye see. It's just Providence, an' we daurna play Providence. It's
dangerous work. Sae I couldna help it, ma'am. The wean's Drummuir o'
Drummuir----"

And there he was going over the old ground again and again.

She could but try to soothe him and leave him, knowing in her
heart of hearts that nothing she could say would ever move him one
hair's-breadth from what he thought right.

She spent a restless night; she could scarcely do otherwise.

"Are you gaun to steal the very name frae the puir bairn?" was
sufficient to keep her awake. Once more she found herself in a
maelstrom of doubt. Wearied out, the first blink of dawn rising clear
and lucent over the dark sea seemed to her a godsend. She crept out of
her bed leaving the child asleep, and, dressing herself, wrapped a
cloak about her, and so seating herself on a rock at the very edge of
the cliff within earshot of the cottage where she lodged, set herself
once more to watch the peaceful coming of light, which had so often
brought her wisdom.

So had it looked that dawning when she and Duke--ah! always, always
she and Duke! How curiously Fate had joined them. Yet she had
disregarded Fate's handiwork even while she had told herself she had
been aiding it.

Far over in the east the light was growing. So it had grown that
morning when she and Duke swam----

She seemed to feel his arm on her shoulders, the touch of her arm on
his neck, the cold kiss of the bitter sea stinging soul and body to
new joyous life. She saw his happy face alight with laughter.

"Look! Isn't it worth it?"

Yes, it had been worth it, well worth it! And even as on that distant
June morning while she looked, the restless dark horizon of the sea
seemed to melt and soften, and the path of radiant gold sent by the
first ray of the rising sun seemed to touch her feet and bring her
answer--

Yes, life was well worth it indeed!

Who was she to cavil at what Fate had done? Who was she to worry over
what she thought she had done? Comprehension came to her, she saw a
clear and ordered sequence in which even her mistakes bore their
fitting fruit. Life seemed to hold no cares, no errors, no
animosities.

What was it Duke had said about taking too much wine that night?

"I shan't do it again, but I shouldn't have had this perfectly
stunning time if I hadn't, should I?"

So it was in her life. She had had joy through her mistakes. She and
her Love had been alone in the Great Sea of Time battling with the
waves as best they could.

Nothing else mattered. They might be waifs on that sea, but they were
together.

She slipped to her knees and watched the sun rise. Over how many
mistakes, how many wasted minutes and opportunities and lives!

Wasted? No--not wasted. Even mistakes had their appointed place. Even
the old man who had made the castle over yonder a spider's-web of evil
was part of the Great Plan.

Slowly the light grew. The cottages below in the tiny fishing village
began to send up thin blue threads of smoke. The figure of a man or a
woman began to pass along the narrow causeway. And someone came up the
steps towards her cottage, then paused, seeing her.

"Ye'll be Mistress Marsden likely," he said, "for I've no seen ye
before. There's a saxpence tae pay, but ye can gie it to the lassie
for me till I come back."

The postman handed her a letter as he spoke and went on his way, for
his round was a long one.

She looked at the envelope curiously. The original address was almost
undecipherable, being defaced with innumerable new ones, or brief
notices, "Gone away;" "Try so and so."

Still the name was hers. A bill likely, sent to her old London address
and forwarded to the Crimea and back again. Twice, so it seemed to her
as she tried to decipher the postmarks.

Then she opened it, noting with a vague spasm of memory that a curious
embossed presentment of foxhounds in full cry ran right across the
flap. Where had she seen that device before?

Surely on some envelope that Marmaduke--

The writing too was vaguely familiar. The writing of a person with
brains, but strangely shaky and irregular:


"DEAR MADAM,

"Since my son Marmaduke has chosen to deprive me of the possibility of
an heir by dying--not even on the field of battle--out at Varna, I
return the enclosed. I don't know why I kept it. To have a hold over
the young man at bottom, I expect. Perhaps for other reasons. One
doesn't often meet women of your description. Anyhow, I haven't.

"You can now claim your position and dowry, which my d----d cousin can
very well afford to pay.

"Besides, you are worth providing for; more, at any rate than my Lady
and Penelope, and I have done that. So I die quits; except for my son
Peter. Why didn't he get cholera instead of Marmaduke? I could have
spared him.

                                  "Yours,

                                      "DRUMMUIR."


The enclosure was the copy of the marriage lines which she thought she
had seen the old lord in the act of destroying as she had left the
room.

Yes, across the middle fold the beginning of a tear slit the paper.

She sat with the letter in her hand until the cry of a child made her
rise hastily and go to her task of motherhood.



                               L'ENVOI


"And you mean to say," said Peter Muir, when he had heard her tale,
"that knowing this imp," he looked at the child she carried, "who is
to turn me out, was on the way you burnt that paper found in
Marmaduke's despatch-box? I give up. Thank God one does not often meet
women of your description!"

But as he spoke he was looking in the child's face.

"He will be the image of his father," he remarked at last, "and, dash
it all! but I am glad, yes, glad he's here!" Then, with a shrug of his
shoulders, he turned away. "It will be a sell for the Jews, I'm
afraid, though it serves the horse-leeches very well right!"

"It need not be a sell at all," replied Marrion. "The child shall have
the title--he must have that--but not one penny of the money shall he
take till the debts are paid, Mr. Peter! I know the law. I have
studied it to find out where I stand; and you are the boy's natural
guardian. I"--she spoke bitterly--"am only the mother. I have no
say. But I am going to buy freedom from you. Live here--promise me
that--use the monies as your own. Keep the old place up for the child;
but I will take him for myself. I will bring him up away from the evil
traditions of this old house, and when he comes back to it, a man
grown, he will be different--even from his father--even, I hope, from
me!"

So she said then, but as the years passed little Lord Drummuir came
more than once to visit his invalid uncle, for Peter, away from the
excitements of town life, defied the doctors for a time. And from the
Carpathian pine woods the little lad travelled more than once to a
solitary cairn on the Balkan hills by the side of which Andrew
Fraser--who never ceased rejoicing that his plain speaking had shown
Marrion the wickedness of stealing the bairn's name--would tell him
marvellous tales of the dead colonel, his father, and of his prowess
in every way.

The honest fellow had but one care. The double title was the fly in
the honey-pot, and when the old Princess would ask, "Where is Prince
Pauloffski?" Andrew would invariably reply: "Lord Drummuir is waiting
on his mother."

Thus the game of life went on and it was well worth it.

But perhaps, as Marrion often told herself, the honours lay with one
who in that life had been the curse of his family.



                          *   *   *   *   *
         BILLING AND SONS, LTD., PRINTERS, GUILDFORD ENGLAND





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