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Title: London Pride, Or, When the World Was Younger
Author: Braddon, M. E. (Mary Elizabeth), 1835-1915
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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LONDON PRIDE

OR

WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNGER

BY

M.E. BRADDON


_Author of "LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET," "VIXEN," "ISHMAEL," ETC._


1896


CONTENTS

_CHAPTER I._ A HARBOUR FROM THE STORM

_CHAPTER II._ WITHIN CONVENT WALLS

_CHAPTER III._ LETTERS FROM HOME

_CHAPTER IV._ THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW

_CHAPTER V._ A MINISTERING ANGEL

_CHAPTER VI._ BETWEEN LONDON AND OXFORD

_CHAPTER VII._ AT THE TOP OF THE FASHION

_CHAPTER VIII._ SUPERIOR TO FASHION

_CHAPTER IX._ IN A PURITAN HOUSE

_CHAPTER X._ THE PRIEST'S HOLE

_CHAPTER XL._ LIGHTER THAN VANITY

_CHAPTER XII._ LADY FAREHAM'S DAY

_CHAPTER XIII._ THE SAGE OF SAYES COURT

_CHAPTER XIV._ THE MILLBANK GHOST

_CHAPTER XV._ FALCON AND DOVE

_CHAPTER XVI._ WHICH WAS THE FIERCER FIRE?

_CHAPTER XVII._ THE MOTIVE--MURDER

_CHAPTER XVIII._ REVELATIONS

_CHAPTER XIX._ DIDO

_CHAPTER XX._ PHILASTER

_CHAPTER XXI._ GOOD-BYE, LONDON

_CHAPTER XXII._ AT THE MANOR MOAT

_CHAPTER XXIII._ PATIENT, NOT PASSIONATE

_CHAPTER XXIV._ "QUITE OUT OF FASHION"

_CHAPTER XXV._ HIGH STAKES

_CHAPTER XXVI._ IN THE COURT OF KING'S BENCH

_CHAPTER XXVII._ BRINGERS OF SUNSHINE

_CHAPTER XXVIII._ IN A DEAD CALM



CHAPTER I.

A HARBOUR FROM THE STORM.


The wind howled across the level fields, and flying showers of sleet
rattled against the old leathern coach as it drove through the thickening
dusk. A bitter winter, this year of the Royal tragedy.

A rainy summer, and a mild rainy autumn had been followed by the hardest
frost this generation had ever known. The Thames was frozen over, and
tempestuous winds had shaken the ships in the Pool, and the steep gable
ends and tall chimney-stacks on London Bridge. A never-to-be-forgotten
winter, which had witnessed the martyrdom of England's King, and the exile
of her chief nobility, while a rabble Parliament rode roughshod over a
cowed people. Gloom and sour visages prevailed, the maypoles were down, the
play-houses were closed, the bear-gardens were empty, the cock-pits were
desolate; and a saddened population, impoverished and depressed by the
sacrifices that had been exacted and the tyranny that had been exercised
in the name of Liberty, were ground under the iron heel of Cromwell's
red-coats.

The pitiless journey from London to Louvain, a journey of many days
and nights, prolonged by accident and difficulty, had been spun out to
uttermost tedium for those two in the heavily moving old leathern coach.
Who and what were they, these wearied travellers, journeying together
silently towards a destination which promised but little of pleasure or
luxury by way of welcome--a destination which meant severance for those
two?

One was Sir John Kirkland, of the Manor Moat, Bucks, a notorious Malignant,
a grey-bearded cavalier, aged by trouble and hard fighting; a soldier and
servant who had sacrificed himself and his fortune for the King, and must
needs begin the world anew now that his master was murdered, his own goods
confiscated, the old family mansion, the house in which his parents died
and his children were born, emptied of all its valuables, and left to the
care of servants, and his master's son a wanderer in a foreign land, with
little hope of ever winning back crown and sceptre.

Sadness was the dominant expression of Sir John's stern, strongly marked
countenance, as he sat staring out at the level landscape through the
unglazed coach window, staring blankly across those wind-swept Flemish
fields where the cattle were clustering in sheltered corners, a monotonous
expanse, crossed by ice-bound dykes that looked black as ink, save where
the last rays of the setting sun touched their iron hue with blood-red
splashes. Pollard willows indicated the edge of one field, gaunt poplars
marked the boundary of another, alike leafless and unbeautiful, standing
darkly out against the dim grey sky. Night was hastening towards the
travellers, narrowing and blotting out that level landscape, field, dyke,
and leafless wood.

Sir John put his head out of the coach window, and looked anxiously along
the straight road, peering through the shades of evening in the hope of
seeing the crocketed spires and fair cupolas of Louvain in the distance.
But he could see nothing save a waste of level pastures and the gathering
darkness. Not a light anywhere, not a sign of human habitation.

Useless to gaze any longer into the impenetrable night. The traveller leant
back into a corner of the carriage with folded arms, and, with a deep sigh,
composed himself for slumber. He had slept but little for the last week.
The passage from Harwich to Ostend in a fishing-smack had been a perilous
transit, prolonged by adverse winds. Sleep had been impossible on board
that wretched craft; and the land journey had been fraught with vexation
and delays of all kinds--stupidity of postillions, dearth of horseflesh,
badness of the roads--all things that can vex and hinder.

Sir John's travelling companion, a small child in a cloak and hood, crept
closer to him in the darkness, nestled up against his elbow, and pushed her
little cold hand into his leathern glove.

"You are crying again, father," she said, full of pity. "You were crying
last night. Do you always cry when it grows dark?"

"It does not become a man to shed tears in the daylight, little maid," her
father answered gently.

"Is it for the poor King you are crying--the King those wicked men
murdered?"

"Ay, Angela, for the King; and for the Queen and her fatherless children
still more than for the King, for he has crowned himself with a crown of
glory, the diadem of martyrs, and is resting from labour and sorrow, to
rise victorious at the great day, when his enemies and his murderers shall
stand ashamed before him. I weep for that once so lovely lady--widowed,
discrowned, needy, desolate--a beggar in the land where her father was a
great king. A hard fate, Angela, father and husband both murdered."

"Was the Queen's father murdered too?" asked the silver-sweet voice out of
darkness, a pretty piping note like the song of a bird.

"Yes, love."

"Did Bradshaw murder him?"

"No, dearest, 'twas in France he was slain--in Paris; stabbed to death by a
madman."

"And was the Queen sorry?"

"Ay, sweetheart, she has drained the cup of sorrow. She was but a child
when her father died. She can but dimly remember that dreadful day. And now
she sits, banished and widowed, to hear of her husband's martyrdom; her
elder sons wanderers, her young daughter a prisoner."

"Poor Queen!" piped the small sweet voice, "I am so sorry for her."

Little had she ever known but sorrow, this child of the Great Rebellion,
born in the old Buckinghamshire manor house, while her father was at
Falmouth with the Prince--born in the midst of civil war, a stormy petrel,
bringing no message of peace from those unknown skies whence she came, a
harbinger of woe. Infant eyes love bright colours. This baby's eyes looked
upon a house hung with black. Her mother died before the child was a
fortnight old. They had christened her Angela. "Angel of Death," said the
father, when the news of his loss reached him, after the lapse of many
days. His fair young wife's coffin was in the family vault under the parish
church of St. Nicholas in the Vale, before he knew that he had lost her.

There was an elder daughter, Hyacinth, seven years the senior, who had been
sent across the Channel in the care of an old servant at the beginning of
the troubles between King and Parliament.

She had been placed in the charge of her maternal grandmother, the Marquise
de Montrond, who had taken ship for Calais when the Court left London,
leaving her royal mistress to weather the storm. A lady who had wealth and
prestige in her own country, who had been a famous beauty when Richelieu
was in power, and who had been admired by that serious and sober monarch,
Louis the Thirteenth, could scarcely be expected to put up with the shifts
and shortcomings of an Oxford lodging-house, with the ever-present fear of
finding herself in a town besieged by Lord Essex and the rebel army.

With Madame de Montrond, Hyacinth had been reared, partly in a mediaeval
mansion, with a portcullis and four squat towers, near the Château
d'Arques, and partly in Paris, where the lady had a fine house in the
Marais. The sisters had never looked upon each other's faces, Angela having
entered upon the troubled scene after Hyacinth had been carried across the
Channel to her grandmother. And now the father was racked with anxiety lest
evil should befall that elder daughter in the war between Mazarin and the
Parliament, which was reported to rage with increasing fury.

Angela's awakening reason became conscious of a world where all was fear
and sadness. The stories she heard in her childhood were stories of that
fierce war which was reaching its disastrous close while she was in her
cradle. She was told of the happy peaceful England of old, before darkness
and confusion gathered over the land; before the hearts of the people were
set against their King by a wicked and rebellious Parliament.

She heard of battles lost by the King and his partisans; cities besieged
and taken; a flash of victory followed by humiliating reverses; the King's
party always at a disadvantage; and hence the falling away of the feeble
and the false, the treachery of those who had seemed friends, the impotence
of the faithful.

Angela heard so often and so much of these things--from old Lady Kirkland,
her grandmother, and from the grey-haired servants at the manor--that she
grew to understand them with a comprehension seemingly far beyond her
tender years. But a child so reared is inevitably older than her years.
This little one had never known childish pleasures or play, childish
companions or childish fancies.

She roamed about the spacious gardens, full of saddest thoughts, burdened
with all the cares that weighed down that kingly head yonder; or she stood
before the pictured face of the monarch with clasped hands and tearful
eyes, looking up at him with the adoring compassion of a child prone to
hero-worship--thinking of him already as saint and martyr--whose martyrdom
was not yet consummated in blood.

King Charles had presented his faithful servant, Sir John Kirkland, with a
half-length replica of one of his Vandyke portraits, a beautiful head, with
a strange inward look--that look of isolation and aloofness which we who
know his story take for a prophecy of doom--which the sculptor Bernini had
remarked, when he modelled the royal head for marble. The picture hung in
the place of honour in the long narrow gallery at the Manor Moat, with
trophies of Flodden and Zutphen arranged against the blackened oak
panelling above it. The Kirklands had been a race of soldiers since the
days of Edward III. The house was full of war-like decorations--tattered
colours, old armour, memorials of fighting Kirklands who had long been
dust.

There came an evil day when the rabble rout of Cromwell's crop-haired
soldiery burst into the manor house to pillage and destroy, carrying off
curios and relics that were the gradual accumulation of a century and a
half of peaceful occupation.

The old Dowager's grey hairs had barely saved her from outrage on that
bitter day. It was only her utter helplessness and afflicted condition that
prevailed upon the Parliamentary captain, and prevented him from carrying
out his design, which was to haul her off to one of those London prisons at
that time so gorged with Royalist captives that the devilish ingenuity of
the Parliament had devised floating gaols on the Thames, where persons of
quality and character were herded together below decks, to the loss of
health, and even of life.

Happily for old Lady Kirkland, she was too lame to walk, and her enemies
had no horse or carriage in which to convey her; so she was left at peace
in her son's plundered mansion, whence all that was valuable and easily
portable was carried away by the Roundheads. Silver plate and family plate
had been sacrificed to the King's necessities.

The pictures, not being either portable or readily convertible into cash,
had remained on the old panelled walls.

Angela used to go from the King's picture to her father's. Sir John's was
a more rugged face than the Stuart's, with a harder expression; but the
child's heart went out to the image of the father she had never seen since
the dawn of consciousness. He had made a hurried journey to that quiet
Buckinghamshire valley soon after her birth--had looked at the baby in her
cradle, and then had gone down into the vault where his young wife was
lying, and had stayed for more than an hour in cold and darkness alone with
his dead. That lovely French wife had been his junior by more than twenty
years, and he had loved her passionately--had loved her and left her for
duty's sake. No Kirkland had ever faltered in his fidelity to crown and
king. This John Kirkland had sacrificed all things, and, alone with his
beloved dead in the darkness of that narrow charnel house, it seemed to
him that there was nothing left for him except to cleave to those fallen
fortunes and patiently await the issue.

He had fought in many battles and had escaped with a few scars; and he was
carrying his daughter to Louvain, intending to place her in the charge of
her great-aunt, Madame de Montrond's half sister, who was head of a convent
in that city, a safe and pious shelter, where the child might be reared in
her mother's faith.

Lady Kirkland, the only daughter of the Marquise de Montrond, one of Queen
Henrietta Maria's ladies-in-waiting, had been a papist, and, although Sir
John had adhered steadfastly to the principles of the Reformed Church,
he had promised his bride, and the Marquise, her mother, that if their
nuptials were blessed with offspring, their children should be educated
in the Roman faith--a promise difficult of performance in a land where a
stormy tide ran high against Rome, and where Popery was a scarlet spectre
that alarmed the ignorant and maddened the bigoted. And now, duly provided
with a safe conduct from the regicide, Bradshaw, he was journeying to the
city where he was to part with his daughter for an indefinite period. He
had seen but little of her, and yet it seemed as hard to part thus as if
she had prattled at his knees and nestled in his arms every day of her
young life.

At last across the distance, against the wind-driven clouds of that stormy
winter sky, John Kirkland saw the lights of the city--not many lights or
brilliant of their kind, but a glimmer here and there--and behind the
glimmer the dark bulk of masonry, roofs, steeples, watch-towers, bridges.

The carriage stopped at one of the gates of the city, and there were
questions asked and answered, and papers shown, but there was no obstacle
to the entrance of the travellers. The name of the Ursuline Convent acted
like a charm, for Louvain was papist to the core in these days of Spanish
dominion. It had been a city of refuge nearly a hundred years ago for all
that was truest and bravest and noblest among English Roman Catholics, in
the cruel days of Queen Elizabeth, and Englishmen had become the leading
spirits of the University there, and had attracted the youth of Romanist
England to the sober old Flemish town, before the establishment of Dr.
Allan's rival seminary at Douai, Sir John could have found no safer haven
for his little ewe lamb.

The tired horses blundered heavily along the stony streets, and crossed
more than one bridge. The town seemed pervaded by water, a deep narrow
stream like a canal, on which the houses looked, as if in feeble mockery of
Venice--houses with steep crow-step gables, some of them richly decorated;
narrow windows for the most part dark, but with here and there the yellow
light of lamp or candle.

The convent faced a broad open square, and had a large walled garden in
its rear. The coach stopped in front of a handsome doorway, and after the
travellers had been scrutinised and interrogated by the portress through an
opening in the door, they were admitted into a spacious hall, paved with
black and white marble, and adorned with a statue of the Virgin Mother, and
thence to a parlour dimly lighted by a small oil lamp, where they waited
for about ten minutes, the little girl shivering with cold, before the
Superior appeared.

She was a tall woman, advanced in years, with a handsome, but melancholy
countenance. She greeted the cavalier as a familiar friend.

"Welcome to Flanders!" she said. "You have fled from that accursed country
where our Church is despised and persecuted----"

"Nay, reverend kinswoman, I have fled but to go back again as fast as
horses and sails can carry me. While the fortunes of my King are at stake,
my place is in England, or it may be in Scotland, where there are still
those who are ready to fight to the death in the royal cause. But I have
brought this little one for shelter and safe keeping, and tender usage,
trusting in you who are of kin to her as I could trust no one else--and,
furthermore, that she may be reared in the faith of her dead mother."

"Sweet soul!" murmured the nun. "It was well for her to be taken from your
troubled England to the kingdom of the saints and martyrs."

"True, reverend mother; yet those blasphemous levellers who call us
'Malignants' have dubbed themselves 'Saints.'"

"Then affairs go no better with you in England, I fear, Sir John?"

"Nay, madam, they go so ill that they have reached the lowest depth of
infamy. Hell itself hath seen no spectacle more awful, no murder more
barbarous, no horrider triumph of wickedness, than the crime which was
perpetrated this day se'nnight at Whitehall."

The nun looked at him wistfully, with clasped hands, as one who half
apprehended his meaning.

"The King!" she faltered, "still a prisoner?"

"Ay, reverend lady, but a prisoner in Paradise, where angels are his
guards, and saints and martyrs his companions. He has regained his crown;
but it is the crown of martyrdom, the aureole of slaughtered saints.
England, our little England that was once so great under the strong rule
of that virgin-queen who made herself the arbiter of Christendom, and the
wonder of the world----"

The pious lady shivered and crossed herself at this praise of the heretic
queen--praise that could only come from a heretic.

"Our blessed and peaceful England has become a den of thieves, given over
to the ravening wolves of rebellion and dissent, the penniless soldiery who
would bring down all men's fortunes to their own level, seize all, eat and
drink all, and trample crown and peerage in the mire. They have slain
him, reverend mother, this impious herd--they gave him the mockery of a
trial--just as his Master, Christ, was mocked. They spurned and spat upon
him, even as our Redeemer was spurned; and then, on the Sabbath day, they
cried aloud in their conventicles, 'Lord, hast Thou not smelt a sweet
savour of blood?' Ay, these murderers gloried in their crime, bragged
of their gory hands, lifted them up towards heaven as a token of
righteousness!"

The cavalier was pacing to and fro in the dimness of the convent parlour,
with quick, agitated steps, his nostrils quivering, grizzled brows
bent over angry eyes, his hand trembling with rage as it clutched his
sword-hilt.

The reverend mother drew Angela to her side, took off the little black silk
hood, and laid her hand caressingly on the soft brown hair.

"Was it Cromwell's work?" she asked.

"Nay, reverend mother, I doubt whether of his own accord Cromwell would
have done this thing. He is a villain, a damnable villain--but he is a
glorious villain. The Parliament had made their covenant with the King at
Newport--a bargain which gave them all, and left him nothing--save only his
broken health, grey hairs, and the bare name of King. He would have been
but a phantom of authority, powerless as the royal spectres Aeneas met in
the under-world. They had got all from him--all save the betrayal of his
friends. There he budged not, but was firm as rock."

"'Twas likely he remembered Strafford, and that he prospered no better for
having flung a faithful dog to the wolves," said the nun.

"Remembered Strafford? Ay, that memory has been a pillow of thorns through
many a sleepless night. No, it was not Cromwell who sought the King's
blood--it has been shed with his sanction. The Parliament had got all, and
would have been content; but the faction they had created was too strong
for them. The levellers sent their spokesman--one Pride, an ex-drayman, now
colonel of horse--to the door of the House of Commons, who arrested the
more faithful and moderate members, imposed himself and his rebel crew
upon the House, and hurried on that violation of constitutional law, that
travesty of justice, which compelled an anointed King to stand before the
lowest of his subjects--the jacks-in-office of a mutinous commonalty--to
answer for having fought in defence of his own inviolable rights."

"Did they dare condemn their King?"

"Ah, madam, they found him guilty of high treason, in that he had taken
arms against the Parliament. They sentenced their royal master to
death--and seven days ago London saw the spectacle of judicial murder--a
blameless King slain by the minion of an armed rabble!"

"But did the people--the English people--suffer this in silence? The wisest
and best of them could surely be assembled in your great city. Did the
citizens of London stand placidly by to see this deed accomplished?"

"They were like sheep before the shearer. They were dumb. Great God! can
I ever forget that sea of white faces under the grey winter sky, or the
universal groan that went up to heaven when the stroke of the axe sounded
on the block, and men knew that the murder of their King was consummated;
and when that anointed head with its grey hairs, whitened with sorrow, mark
you, not with age, was lifted up, bloody, terrible, and proclaimed the head
of a traitor? Ah, reverend mother, ten such moments will age a man by ten
years. Was it not the most portentous tragedy which the earth has ever
seen since He who was both God and Man died upon Calvary? Other judicial
sacrifices have been, but never of a victim as guiltless and as noble. Had
you but seen the calm beauty of his countenance as he turned it towards the
people! Oh, my King, my master, my beloved friend, when shall I see that
face in Paradise, with the blood washed from that royal brow, with the
smile of the redeemed upon those lips!"

He flung himself into a chair, covered his face with those weather-stained
hands, which had broadened by much grasping of sword and pistol, pike and
gun, and sobbed aloud, with a fierce passion that convulsed the strong
muscular frame. Of all the King's servants this one had been the most
steadfast, was marked in the black book of the Parliament as a notorious
Malignant. From the raising of the standard on the castle-hill at
Nottingham--in the sad evening of a tempestuous day, with but scanty
attendance, and only evil presages--to the treaty at Newport, and the
prison on the low Hampshire coast, this man had been his master's constant
companion and friend; fighting in every battle, cleaving to King and Prince
in spite of every opposing influence, carrying letters between father
and son in the teeth of the enemy, humbling himself as a servant, and
performing menial labours, in those latter days of bitterness and outrage,
when all courtly surroundings were denied the fallen monarch.

And now he mourned his martyred King more bitterly than he would have
mourned his own brother.

The little girl slipped from the reverend mother's lap, and ran across the
room to her father.

"Don't cry, father!" she murmured, with her own eyes streaming. "It hurts
me to see you."

"Nay, Angela," he answered, clasping her to his breast. "Forgive me that
I think more of my dead King than of my living daughter. Poor child, thou
hast seen nothing but sorrow since thou wert born; a land racked by civil
war; Englishmen changed into devils; a home ravaged and made desolate;
threatenings and curses; thy good grandmother's days shortened by sorrow
and rough usage. Thou wert born into a house of mourning, and hast seen
nothing but black since thou hadst eyes to notice the things around thee.
Those tender ears should have heard only loving words. But it is over,
dearest; and thou hast found a haven within these walls. You will take care
of her, will you not, madam, for the sake of the niece you loved?"

"She shall be the apple of my eye. No evil shall come near her that my care
and my prayers can avert. God has been very gracious to our order--in all
troublous times we have been protected. We have many pupils from the best
families of Flanders--and some even from Paris, whence parents are glad to
remove their children from the confusion of the time. You need fear nothing
while this sweet child is with us; and if in years to come she should
desire to enter our order----"

"The Lord forbid!" cried the cavalier. "I want her to be a good and pious
papist, madam, like her sweet mother; but never a nun. I look to her as the
staff and comfort of my declining years. Thou wilt not abandon thy father,
wilt thou, little one, when thou shalt be tall and strong as a bulrush, and
he shall be bent and gnarled with age, like the old medlar on the lawn at
the Manor? Thou wilt be his rod and staff, wilt thou not, sweetheart?"

The child flung her arms round his neck and kissed him. It was her only
answer, but that mute reply was a vow.

"Thou wilt stay here till England's troubles are over, Angela, and that
base herd yonder have been trampled down. Thou wilt be happy here, and wilt
mind thy book, and be obedient to those good ladies who will teach thee;
and some day, when our country is at peace, I will come back to fetch
thee."

"Soon," murmured the child, "soon, father?"

"God grant it may be soon, my beloved! It is hard for father and children
to be scattered, as we are scattered; thy sister Hyacinth in Paris, and
thou in Flanders, and I in England. Yet it must needs be so for a while!"

"Why should not Hyacinth come to us and be reared with Angela?" asked the
reverend mother.

"Nay, madam, Hyacinth is well cared for with your sister, Madame de
Montrond. She is as dear to her maternal grandmother as this little one
here was to my good mother, whose death last year left us a house of
mourning. Hyacinth will doubtless inherit a considerable portion of Madame
de Montrond's wealth, which is not insignificant. She is being brought up
in the precincts of the Court."

"A worldly and a dangerous school for one so young," said the nun, with a
sigh. "I have heard my father talk of what life was like at the Louvre when
the Béarnais reigned there in the flower of his manhood, newly master of
Paris, flushed with hard-won victory, and but lately reconciled to the
Church."

"Methinks that great captain's court must have been laxer than that of
Queen Anne and the Cardinal. I have been told that the child-king is being
reared, as it were, in a cloister, so strict are mother and guardian. My
only fear for Hyacinth is the troubled state of the city, given over to
civil warfare only less virulent than that which has desolated England. I
hear that the Fronde is no war of epigrams and pamphlets, but that men are
as earnest and bloodthirsty as they were in the League. I shall go from
here to Paris to see my first-born before I make my way back to London."

"I question if you will find her at Paris," said the reverend mother. "I
had news from a priest in the diocese of the Coadjutor. The Queen-mother
left the city secretly with her chosen favourites in the dead of the night
on the sixth of this month, after having kept the festival of Twelfth Night
in a merry humour with her Court. Even her waiting-women knew nothing
of her plans. They went to St. Germain, where they found the chateau
unfurnished, and where all the Court had to sleep upon was a few loads of
straw. Hatred of the Cardinal is growing fiercer every day, and Paris is
in a state of siege. The Princes are siding with Mathieu Molé and his
Parliament, and the Provincial Parliaments are taking up the quarrel. God
grant that it may not be in France as it has been with you in your unhappy
England; but I fear the Spanish Queen and her Italian minister scarce know
the temper of the French people."

"Alas, good friend, we have fallen upon evil days, and the spirit of revolt
is everywhere; but if there is trouble at the French Court, there is all
the more need that I should make my way thither, be it at St. Germain or
at Paris, and so assure myself of my pretty Hyacinth's safety. She was so
sweet an infant when my good and faithful steward carried her across the
sea to Dieppe. Never shall I forget that sad moment of parting; when the
baby arms were wreathed round my sweet saint's neck; she so soon to become
again a mother, so brave and patient in her sorrow at parting with her
first-born. Ah, sister, there are moments in this life that a man must
needs remember, even amidst the wreck of his country." He dashed away a
tear or two, and then turned to his kinswoman with outstretched hands and
said, "Good night, dear and reverend mother; good night and good-bye. I
shall sleep at the nearest inn, and shall be on the road again at daybreak.
Good-bye, my soul's delight"

He clasped his daughter in his arms, with something of despair in the
fervour of his embrace, telling himself, as the soft cheek was pressed
against his own, how many years might pass ere he would again so clasp that
tender form and feel those innocent kisses on his bearded lips. She and
the elder girl were all that were left to him of love and comfort, and the
elder sister had been taken from him while she was a little child. He would
not have known her had he met her unawares; nor had he ever felt for her
such a pathetic love as for this guiltless death-angel, this baby whose
coming had ruined his life, whose love was nevertheless the only drop of
sweetness in his cup.

He plucked himself from that gentle embrace, and walked quickly to the
door.

"You will apply to me for whatever money is needed for the child's
maintenance and education," he said, and in the next moment was gone.



CHAPTER II.

WITHIN CONVENT WALLS.


More than ten years had come and gone since that bleak February evening
when Sir John Kirkland carried his little daughter to a place of safety, in
the old city of Louvain, and in all those years the child had grown like
a flower in a sheltered garden, where cold winds never come. The bud had
matured into the blossom in that mild atmosphere of piety and peace; and
now, in this fair springtide of 1660, a girlish face watched from the
convent casement for the coming of the father whom Angela Kirkland had not
looked upon since she was a child, and the sister she had never seen.

They were to arrive to-day, father and sister, on a brief visit to the
quiet Flemish city. Yonder in England there had been curious changes since
the stern Protector turned his rugged face to the wall, and laid down that
golden sceptre with which he had ruled as with a rod of iron. Kingly title
1would he none; yet where kings had chastised with whips, he had chastised
with scorpions. Ireland could tell how the little finger of Cromwell had
been heavier than the arm of the Stuarts. She had trembled and had obeyed,
and had prospered under that scorpion rule, and England's armaments had
been the terror of every sea while Cromwell stood at the helm; but now that
strong brain and bold heart were in the dust, and it had taken England
little more than a year to discover that Puritanism and the Rump were a
mistake, and that to the core of her heart she was loyal to her hereditary
King.

She asked not what manner of man this hereditary ruler might be; asked not
whether he were wise or foolish, faithful or treacherous. She forgot all
of tyranny and of double-dealing she had suffered from his forbears. She
forgot even her terror of the scarlet spectre, the grim wolf of Rome, in
her disgust at Puritan fervour which had torn down altar-rails, usurped
church pulpits, destroyed the beauty of ancient cathedrals. Like a woman
or a child, she held out her arms to the unknown, in a natural recoil
from that iron rule which had extinguished her gaiety, silenced her noble
liturgy, made innocent pleasures and elegant arts things forbidden. She
wanted her churches, and her theatres, her cock-pits and taverns, and
bear-gardens and maypoles back again. She wanted to be ruled by the law,
and not by the sword; and she longed with a romantic longing for that young
wanderer who had fled from her shores in a fishing-boat, with his life in
his hand, to return in a glad procession of great ships dancing over summer
seas, eating, drinking, gaming, in a coat worth scarce thirty shillings,
and with empty pockets for his loyal subjects to make haste and fill.

Angela had the convent parlour all to herself this fair spring morning. She
was the favourite pupil of the nuns, had taken no vows, pledged herself to
no noviciate, ever mindful of her promise to her father. She had lived as
happily and as merrily in that abode of piety as she could have lived in
the finest palace in Europe. There were other maidens, daughters of the
French and Flemish nobility, who were taught and reared within those sombre
precincts, and with them she had played and worked and laboured at such
studies as became a young lady of quality. Like that fair daughter of
affliction, Henrietta of England, she had gained in education by the
troubles which had made her girlhood a time of seclusion. She had been
first the plaything of those elder girls who were finishing their education
in the convent, her childishness appealing to their love and pity; and
then, after being the plaything of the nuns and the elder pupils, she
became the favourite of her contemporaries, and in a manner their queen.
She was more thoughtful than her class-fellows, in advance of her years
in piety and intelligence; and they, knowing her sad story--how she was
severed from her country and kindred, her father a wanderer with his King,
her sister bred up at a foreign Court--had first compassionated and then
admired her. From her twelfth year upwards her intellectual superiority had
been recognised in the convent, alike by the nuns and their pupils. Her
aptitude at all learning, and her simple but profound piety, had impressed
everybody. At fourteen years of age they had christened her "the little
wonder;" but later, seeing that their praises embarrassed and even
distressed her, they had desisted from such loving flatteries, and were
content to worship her with a silent adulation.

Her father's visits to the Flemish city had been few and far apart, fondly
though he loved his motherless girl. He had been a wanderer for the most
part during those years, tossed upon troubled seas, fighting with Condé
against Mazarin and Anne of Austria, and reconciled with the Court later,
when peace was made, and his friends the Princes were forgiven; an exile
from France of his own free will when Louis banished his first cousin, the
King of England, in order to truckle to the triumphant usurper. He had led
an adventurous life, and had cared very little what became of him in a
topsy-turvy world. But now all things were changed. Richard Cromwell's
brief and irresolute rule had shattered the Commonwealth, and made
Englishmen eager for a king. The country was already tired of him whose
succession had been admitted with blank acquiescence; and Monk and the
army were soon to become masters of the situation. There was hope that the
General was rightly affected, and that the King would have his own again;
and that such of his followers as had not compounded with the Parliamentary
Commission would get back their confiscated estates; and that all who had
suffered in person or pocket for loyalty's sake would be recompensed for
their sacrifices.

It was five years since Sir John's last appearance at the convent, and
Angela's heart beat fast at the thought that he was so near. She was to see
him this very day; nay, perhaps this very hour. His coach might have passed
the gate of the town already. He was bringing his elder daughter with him,
that sister whose face she had never seen, save in a miniature, and who
was now a great lady, the wife of Baron Fareham, of Chilton Abbey, Oxon,
Fareham Park, in the County of Hants, and Fareham House, London, a nobleman
whose estates had come through the ordeal of the Parliamentary Commission
with a reasonable fine, and to whom extra favour had been shown by the
Commissioners, because he was known to be at heart a Republican. In the
mean time, Lady Fareham had a liberal income allowed her by the Marquise,
her grandmother, and she and her husband had been among the most splendid
foreigners at the French Court, where the lady's beauty and wit had placed
her conspicuously in that galaxy of brilliant women who shone and sparkled
about the sun of the European firmament--Le roi soleil, or "the King," par
excellence, who took the blazing sun for his crest. The Fronde had been a
time of pleasurable excitement to the high-spirited girl, whose mixed
blood ran like quicksilver, and who delighted in danger and party strife,
stratagem and intrigue. The story of her courage and gaiety of heart in the
siege of Paris, she being then little more than a child, had reached the
Flemish convent long after the acts recorded had been forgotten at Paris
and St. Germain.

Angela's heart beat fast at the thought of being restored to these dear
ones, were it only for a short span. They were not going to carry her away
from the convent; and, indeed, seeing that she so loved her aunt, the good
reverend mother, and that her heart cleaved to those walls and to the holy
exercises which filled so great a part of her life, her father, in replying
to a letter in which she had besought him to release her from her promise
and allow her to dedicate herself to God, had told her that, although he
could not surrender his daughter, to whom he looked for the comfort of his
closing years, he would not urge her to leave the Ursulines until he should
feel himself old and feeble, and in need of her tender care. Meanwhile she
might be a nun in all but the vows, and a dutiful niece to her kind aunt,
Mother Anastasia, whose advanced years and failing health needed all
consideration.

But now, before he went back to England, whither he hoped to accompany the
King and the Princes ere the year was much older, Sir John Kirkland was
coming to visit his younger daughter, bringing Lady Fareham, whose husband
was now in attendance upon His Majesty in Holland, where there were serious
negotiations on hand--negotiations which would have been full of peril to
the English messengers two years ago, when that excellent preacher and holy
man, Dr. Hewer, of St. Gregory, was beheaded for having intelligence with
the King, through the Marquess of Ormond.

The parlour window jutted into the square over against the town hall, and
Angela could see the whole length of the narrow street along which her
father's carriage must come.

The tall, slim figure and the fair, girlish face stood out in full relief
against the grey stone mullion, bathed in sunlight. The graceful form was
undisguised by courtly apparel. The soft brown hair fell in loose ringlets,
which were drawn back from the brow by a band of black ribbon. The girl's
gown was of soft grey woollen stuff, relieved by a cambric collar covering
the shoulders, and by cambric elbow-sleeves. A coral and silver rosary was
her only ornament; but face and form needed no aid from satins or velvets,
Venetian lace or Indian filagree.

The sweet, serious face was chiefly notable for eyes of darkest grey, under
brows that were firmly arched and almost black. The hair was a dark brown,
the complexion somewhat too pale for beauty. Indeed, that low-toned
colouring made some people blind to the fine and regular modelling of the
high-bred face; while there were others who saw no charm in a countenance
which seemed too thoughtful for early youth, and therefore lacking in one
of youth's chief attractions--gladness.

The face lighted suddenly at this moment, as four great grey Flanders
horses came clattering along the narrow street and into the square,
dragging a heavy painted wooden coach after them. The girl opened the
casement and craned out her neck to look at the arrival The coach stopped
at the convent door, and a footman alighted and rang the convent bell, to
the interested curiosity of two or three loungers upon the steps of the
town hall over the way.

Yes, it was her father, greyer but less sad of visage than at his last
visit. His doublet and cloak were handsomer than the clothes he had worn
then, though they were still of the same fashion, that English mode which
he had affected before the beginning of the troubles, and which he had
never changed.

Immediately after him there alighted a vision of beauty, the loveliest of
ladies, in sky-blue velvet and pale grey fur, and with a long white feather
encircling a sky-blue hat, and a collar of Venetian lace veiling a bosom
that scintillated with jewels.

"Hyacinth!" cried Angela, in a flutter of delight.

The portress peered at the visitors through her spy-hole, and being
satisfied that they were the expected guests, speedily opened the
iron-clamped door.

There was no one to interfere between father and daughter, sister and
sister, in the convent parlour. Angela had her dear people all to herself,
the Mother Superior respecting the confidences and outpourings of love,
which neither father nor children would wish to be witnessed even by a
kinswoman. Thus, by a rare breach of conventual discipline, Angela was
allowed to receive her guests alone.

The lay-sister opened the parlour door and ushered in the visitors, and
Angela ran to meet her father, and fell sobbing upon his breast, her face
hidden against his velvet doublet, her arms clasping his neck.

"What, mistress, hast thou so watery a welcome, now that the clouds have
passed away, and every loyal English heart is joyful?" cried Sir John, in a
voice that was somewhat husky, but with a great show of gaiety.

"Oh, sir, I have waited so long, so long for this day. Sometimes I thought
it would never come, that I should never see my dear father again."

"Poor child! it would have been only my desert hadst thou forgotten me
altogether. I might have come to you sooner, pretty one; indeed, I would
have come, only things went ill with me. I was down-hearted and hopeless
of any good fortune in a world that seemed given over to psalm-singing
scoundrels; and till the tide turned I had no heart to come nigh you. But
now fortunes are mended, the King's and mine, and you have a father once
again, and shall have a home by-and-by, the house where you were born, and
where your angel-mother made my life blessed. You are like her, Angela!"
holding back the pale face in his strong hands, and gazing upon it
earnestly. "Yes, you favour your mother; but your face is over sad for your
years. Look at your sister here! Would you not say a sunbeam had taken
woman's shape and come dancing into the room?"

Angela looked round and greeted the lady, who had stood aside while father
and daughter met. Yes, such a face suggested sunlight and summer, birds,
butterflies, all things buoyant and gladsome. A complexion of dazzling
fairness, pearly, transparent, with ever-varying carnations; eyes of
heavenliest blue, liquid, laughing, brimming with espiéglerie; a slim
little nose with an upward tilt, which expressed a contemptuous gaiety, an
inquiring curiosity; a dimpled chin sloping a little towards the full round
throat; the bust and shoulders of a Venus, the waist of a sylph, set off by
the close-fitting velvet bodice, with its diamond and turquoise buttons;
hair of palest gold, fluffed out into curls that were traps for sunbeams;
hands and arms of a milky whiteness emerging from the large loose
elbow-sleeves--a radiant apparition which took Angela by surprise. She had
seen Flemish vraus in the richest attire, and among them there had been
women as handsome as Helena Forment; but this vision of a fine lady from
the court of the "roi soleil" was a revelation. Until this moment, the girl
had hardly known what grace and beauty meant.

"Come and let me hug you, my dearest Puritan," cried Hyacinth, holding out
her arms. "Why do you suffer your custodians to clothe you in that odious
grey, which puts me in mind of lank-haired psalm-singing scum, and all
their hateful works? I would have you sparkling in white satin and silver,
or blushing in brocade powdered with forget-me-nots and rosebuds. What
would Fareham say if I told him I had a Puritan in grey woollen stuff for
my sister? He sends you his love, dear, and bids me tell you there shall be
always an honoured place in our home for you, be it in England or France,
in town or country. And why should you not fill that place at once, sister?
Your education is finished, and to be sure you must be tired of these stone
walls and this sleepy town."

"No, Hyacinth, I love the convent and the friends who have made it my home.
You and Lord Fareham are very kind, but I could not leave our reverend
mother; she is not so well or so strong as she used to be, and I think she
likes to have me with her, because though she loves us all, down to the
humblest of the lay-sisters, I am of her kin, and seem nearest to her. I
don't want to forsake her; and if it was not against my father's wish I
should like to end my days in this house, and to give my thoughts to God."

"That is because thou knowest nought of the world outside, sweetheart,"
protested Hyacinth. "I admire the readiness with which folks will renounce
a banquet they have never tasted. A single day at the Louvre or the Palais
Royal would change your inclinations at once and for ever."

"She is too young for a court life, or a town life either," said Sir John.
"And I have no mind to remove her from this safe shelter till the King
shall be firm upon his throne, and our poor country shall have settled into
a stable and peaceful condition. But there must be no vows, Angela, no
renunciation of kindred and home. I look to thee for the comfort of my old
age!"

"Dear father, I will never disobey you. I shall remember always that my
first duty is to you; and when you want me, you have but to summon me; and
whether you are at home or abroad, in wealth and honour, or in exile and
poverty, I will go to you, and be glad and happy to be your daughter and
your servant."

"I knew thou wouldst, dearest. I have never forgotten how the soft little
arms clung about my neck, and how the baby lips kissed me, in this same
parlour, when my heart was weighed down by a load of iron, and there seemed
no ray of hope for England or me. You were my comforter then, and you will
be my comforter in the days to come. Hyacinth here is of the butterfly
breed. She is fair to look upon, and tender and loving; but she is ever on
the wing. And she has her husband and her children to cherish, and cannot
be burdened with the care of a broken-down greybeard."

"Broken-down! Why, you are as brave a gallant as the youngest cavalier in
the King's service," cried Hyacinth. "I would pit my father against Montagu
or Buckingham, Buckhurst or Roscommon--against the gayest, the boldest of
them all, on land or sea. Broken-down, forsooth! We will hear no such words
from you, sir, for a score of years. And now you will want all your wits to
take your proper place at Court as sage counsellor and friend of the
new King. Sure he will need his father's friends about him to teach
him state-craft--he who has led such a gay, good-for-nothing life as a
penniless rover, with scarce a sound coat to his back."

"Nay, Hyacinth, the King will have no need of us old Malignants. We have
had our day. He has shrewd Ned Hyde for counsellor, and in that one long
head there is craft enough to govern a kingdom. The new Court will be a
young Court, and the fashion of it will be new. We old fellows, who were
gallant and gay enough in the forties, when we fought against Essex and his
tawny scarves, would be but laughable figures at the Court of a young man
bred half in Paris, and steeped in French fashions and French follies. No,
Hyacinth, it is for you and your husband the new day dawns. If I get back
to my old meads and woods and the house where I was born, I will sit
quietly down in the chimney corner, and take to cattle-breeding, and a pack
of harriers, for the diversion of my declining years. And when my Angela
can make up her mind to leave her good aunt she shall keep house for me."

"I should love to be your housekeeper, dearest father. If it please Heaven
to restore my aunt to health and strength, I will go to you with a heart
full of joy," said the girl, hanging caressingly upon the old cavalier's
shoulder.

Hyacinth flitted about the room with a swift, birdlike motion, looking at
the sacred images and prints, the _tableau_ over the mantelpiece, which
told, with much flourish of penmanship, the progress of the convent pupils
in learning and domestic virtues.

"What a humdrum, dismal room!" she cried. "You should see our convent
parlours in Paris. At the Carmelites, in the Rue Saint Jacques, _par
exemple_, the Queen-mother's favourite convent, and at Chaillot, the house
founded by Queen Henrietta--such pictures, and ornaments, and embroidered
hangings, and tapestries worked by devotees. This room of yours, sister,
stinks of poverty, as your Flemish streets stink of garlic and cabbage.
Faugh! I know not which is worse!"

Having thus delivered herself of her disgust, she darted upon her younger
sister, laid her hands upon the girl's shoulders, and contemplated her with
mock seriousness.

"What a precocious young saint thou art, with no more interest in the world
outside this naked parlour than if thou wert yonder image of the Holy
Mother. Not a question of my husband, or my children, or of the last
fashion in hood and mantle, or of the new laced gloves, or the French
King's latest divinity."

"I should dearly like to see your children, Hyacinth," answered her sister.

"Ah! they are the most enchanting creatures, the girl a perpetual sunbeam,
ethereal, elfish, a being of life and movement, and with a loquacity that
never tires; the boy a lump of honey, fat, sleek, lazily beautiful. I am
never tired of admiring them, when I have time to see them. Papillon--an
old friend of mine has surnamed her Papillon because she is never
still--was five years old on March 19. We were at St. Germain on her
birthday. You should have seen the toys and trinkets and sweetmeats which
the Court showered upon her--the King and Queen, Monsieur, Mademoiselle,
the Princess Henrietta, her godmother--everybody had a gift for the
daughter of La folle Baronne Fareham. Yes, they are lovely creatures,
Angela; and I am miserable to think that it may be half a year before I see
their sweet faces again."

"Why so long, sister?"

"Because they are at the Château de Montrond, grandmother's place near
Dieppe, and because Fareham and I are going hence to Breda to meet the
King, our own King Charles, and help lead him home in triumph. In London
the mob are shouting, roaring, singing, for their King; and Montagu's fleet
lies in the Downs, waiting but the signal from Parliament to cross to
Holland. He who left his country in a scurvy fishing-boat will go back
to England in a mighty man-of-war, the _Naseby_--mark you, the
_Naseby_--christened by that Usurper, in insolent remembrance of a rebel
victory; but Charles will doubtless change that hated name. He must not be
put in mind of a fight where rebels had the better of loyal gentlemen. He
will sail home over those dancing seas, with a fleet of great white-winged
ships circling round him like a flight of silvery doves. Oh, what a turn of
fortune's wheel! I am wild with rapture at the thought of it!"

"You love England better than France, though you must be almost a stranger
there," said Angela, wonderingly, looking at a miniature which her sister
wore in a bracelet.

"Nay, love, 'tis in Paris I am an insignificant alien, though they are ever
so kind and flattering to me. At St Germain I was only Madame de Montrond's
grand-daughter--the wife of a somewhat morose gentleman who was cleverer
at winning battles than at gaining hearts. At Whitehall I shall be Lady
Fareham, and shall enjoy my full consequence as the wife of an English
nobleman of ancient lineage and fine estate, for, I am happy to tell you,
his lordship's property suffered less than most people's in the rebellion,
and anything his father lost when he fought for the good cause will be
given back to the son now the good cause is triumphant, with additions,
perhaps--an earl's coronet instead of a baron's beggarly pearls. I should
like Papillon to be Lady Henrietta."

"And you will send for your children, doubtless, when you are sure all is
safe in England?" said Angela, still contemplating the portrait in the
bracelet, which her sister had unclasped while she talked. "This is
Papillon, I know. What a sweet, kind, mischievous face!"

"Mischievous as a Barbary ape--kind, and sweet as the west wind," said Sir
John.

"And your boy?" asked Angela, reclasping the bracelet on the fair, round
arm, having looked her fill at the mutinous eyes, the brown, crisply
curling hair, dainty, pointed chin, and dimpled cheeks. "Have you his
picture, too?"

"Not his; but I wear his father's likeness somewhere betwixt buckram and
Flanders lace," answered Hyacinth, gaily, pulling a locket from amidst the
splendours of her corsage. "I call it next my heart; but there is a stout
fortification of whalebone between heart and picture. You have gloated
enough on the daughter's impertinent visage. Look now at the father, whom
she resembles in little, as a kitten resembles a tiger."

She handed her sister an oval locket, bordered with diamonds, and held by a
slender Indian chain; and Angela saw the face of the brother-in-law whose
kindness and hospitality had been so freely promised to her.

She explored the countenance long and earnestly.

"Well, do you think I chose him for his beauty?" asked Hyacinth. "You have
devoured every lineament with that serious gaze of yours, as if you were
trying to read the spirit behind that mask of flesh. Do you think him
handsome?"

Angela faltered: but was unskilled in flattery, and could not reply with a
compliment.

"No, sister; surely none have ever called this countenance handsome; but it
is a face to set one thinking."

"Ay, child, and he who owns the face is a man to set one thinking. He has
made me think many a time when I would have travelled a day's journey to
escape the thoughts he forced upon me. He was not made to bask in the
sunshine of life. He is a stormy petrel. It was for his ugliness I chose
him. Those dark stern features, that imperious mouth, and a brow like the
Olympian Jove. He scared me into loving him. I sheltered myself upon his
breast from the thunder of his brow, the lightning of his eye."

"He has a look of his cousin Wentworth," said Sir John. "I never see him
but I think of that murdered man--my father's friend and mine--whom I have
never ceased to mourn."

"Yet their kin is of the most distant," said Hyacinth. "It is strange that
there should be any likeness."

"Faces appear and reappear in families," answered her father. "You may
observe that curiously recurring likeness in any picture-gallery, if the
family portraits cover a century or two. Louis has little in common with
his grandfather; but two hundred years hence there may be a prince of the
royal house whose every feature shall recall Henry the Great"

The portrait was returned to its hiding-place, under perfumed lace and
cobweb lawn, and the reverend mother entered the parlour, ready for
conversation, and eager to hear the history of the last six weeks, of
the collapse of that military despotism which had convulsed England and
dominated Europe, and was now melting into thin air as ghosts dissolve at
cock-crow, of the secret negotiations between Monk and Grenville, now known
to everybody; of the King's gracious amnesty and promise of universal
pardon, save for some score or so of conspicuous villains, whose hands were
dyed with the Royal Martyr's blood.

She was full of questioning: and, above all, eager to know whether it was
true that King Charles was at heart as staunch a papist as his brother the
Duke of York was believed to be, though even the Duke lacked the courage to
bear witness to the true faith.

Two lay-sisters brought in a repast of cakes and syrups and light wines,
such delicate and dainty food as the pious ladies of the convent were
especially skilled in preparing, and which they deemed all-sufficient for
the entertainment of company; even when one of their guests was a rugged
soldier like Sir John Kirkland. When the light collation had been tasted
and praised, the coach came to the door again, and swallowed up the
beautiful lady and the old cavalier, who vanished from Angela's sight in a
cloud of dust, waving hands from the coach window.



CHAPTER III.

LETTERS FROM HOME.


The quiet days went by, and grew into years, and time was only marked by
the gradual failure of the reverend mother's health; so gradual, so gentle
a decay, that it was only when looking back on St. Sylvester's Eve that her
great-niece became aware how much of strength and activity had been lost
since the Superior knelt in her place near the altar, listening to the
solemn music of the midnight Mass that sanctified the passing of the year.
This year the reverend mother was led to her seat between two nuns, who
sustained her feeble limbs. This year the meek knees, which had worn the
marble floor in long hours of prayer during eighty pious years, could no
longer bend. The meek head was bowed, the bloodless hands were lifted up in
supplication, but the fingers were wasted and stiffened, and there was pain
in every movement of the joints.

There was no actual malady, only the slow death in life called old age. All
the patient needed was rest and tender nursing. This last her great-niece
supplied, together with the gentlest companionship. No highly trained
nurse, the product of modern science, could have been more efficient than
the instinct of affection had made Angela. And then the patient's temper
was so amiable, her mind, undimmed after eighty-three years of life, was a
mirror of God. She thought of her fellow-creatures with a Divine charity;
she worshipped her Creator with an implicit faith. For her in many a waking
vision the heavens opened and the spirits of departed saints descended from
their abode in bliss to hold converse with her. Eighty years of her life
had been given to religious exercises and charitable deeds. Motherless
before she could speak, she had entered the convent as a pupil at three
years of age, and had taken the veil at seventeen. Her father had married a
great heiress, whose only child, a daughter, was allowed to absorb all
the small stock of parental affection; and there was no one to dispute
Anastasia's desire for the cloister. All she knew of the world outside
those walls was from hearsay. A rare visit from her lovely half-sister, the
Marquise de Montrond, had astonished her with the sight of a distinguished
Parisienne, and left her wondering. She had never read a secular book. She
knew not the meaning of the word pleasure, save in the mild amusements
permitted to the convent children--till they left the convent as young
women--on the evening of a saint's day; a stately dance of curtsyings and
waving arms; a little childish play, dramatising some incident in the
lives of the saints. So she lived her eighty years of obedience and quiet
usefulness, learning and teaching, serving and governing. She had lived
through the Thirty Years' War, through the devastations of Wallenstein, the
cruelties of Bavarian Tilly, the judicial murder of Egmont and Horn. She
had heard of villages burnt, populations put to the sword, women and
children killed by thousands. She had conversed with those who remembered
the League; she had seen the nuns weeping for Edward Campion's cruel fate;
she had heard Masses sung for the soul of murdered Mary Stuart. She
had heard of Raleigh's visions of conquest and of gold, setting his
prison-blanched face towards the West, in the afternoon of life, to
encounter bereavement, treachery, sickening failure, and go back to his
native England to expiate the dreams of genius with the blood of a martyr.
And through all the changes and chances of that eventful century she had
lived apart, full of pity and wonder, in a charmed circle of piety and
love.

Her room, in these peaceful stages of the closing scene, was a haven of
rest. Angela loved the seclusion of the panelled chamber, with its heavily
mullioned casement facing the south-west, and the polished oak floor,
on which the red and gold of the sunset were mirrored, as on the dark
stillness of a moorland tarn. For her every object in the room had its
interest or its charm. The associations of childhood hallowed them all. The
large ivory crucifix, yellow with age, dim with the kisses of adoring lips;
the delf statuettes of Mary and Joseph, flaming with gaudy colour; the
figure of the Saviour and St. John the Baptist, delicately carved out of
boxwood, in a group representing the baptism in the river Jordan, the holy
dove trembling on a wire over the Divine head; the books, the pictures, the
rosaries: all these she had gazed at reverently when all things were new,
and the convent passages places of shuddering, and the service of the Mass
an unintelligible mystery. She had grown up within those solemn walls; and
now, seeing her kinswoman's life gently ebbing away, she could but wonder
what she would have to do in this world when another took the Superior's
place, and the tie that bound her to Louvain would be broken.

The lady who would in all probability succeed Mother Anastasia as Superior
was a clever, domineering woman, whom Angela loved least of all the nuns--a
widow of good birth and fortune, and a thorough Fleming; stolid, bigoted,
prejudiced, and taking much credit to herself for the wealth she had
brought to the convent, apt to talk of the class-room and the chapel her
money had helped to build and restore as "my class-room," or "my chapel."

No; Angela had no desire to remain in the convent when her dear kinswoman
should have vanished from the scene her presence sanctified. The house
would be haunted with sorrowful memories. It would be time for her to claim
that home which her father had talked of sharing with her in his old age.
She could just faintly remember the house in which she was born--the moat,
the fish-pond, the thick walls of yew, the peacocks and lions cut in box,
of which the gardener who clipped them was so proud. Faintly, faintly, the
picture of the old house came back to her; built of grey stone, and stained
with moss, grave and substantial, occupying three sides of a quadrangle, a
house of many windows, few of which were intended to open, a house of dark
passages, like these in the convent, and flights of shallow steps, and
curious turns and twistings here and there. There were living birds that
sunned their spreading tails and stalked in slow stateliness on the turf
terraces, as well as those peacocks clipped out of yew. The house lay in
a Buckinghamshire valley, shut round and sheltered by hills and coppices,
where there was an abundance of game. Angela had seen the low, cavern-like
larder hung with pheasants and hares.

Her heart yearned towards the old house, so distinctly pictured by memory,
though perchance with some differences from the actual scene. The mansion
would seem smaller to her, doubtless, beholding it with the eyes of
womanhood, than childish memory made it. But to live there with her father,
to wait upon him and tend him, to have Hyacinth's children there, playing
in the gardens as she had played, would be as happy a life as her fancy
could compass.

All that she knew of the march of events during those tranquil years in
the convent came to her in letters from her sister, who was a vivacious
letter-writer, and prided herself upon her epistolary talent--as indeed
upon her general superiority, from a literary standpoint, to the women of
her day.

It was a pleasure to Lady Fareham in some rare interval of solitude--when
the weather was too severe for her to venture outside the hall door, even
in her comfortable coach, and when by some curious concatenation she
happened to be without visitors--to open her portfolio and prattle with
her pen to her sister, as she would have prattled with her tongue to the
visitors whom snow or tempest kept away. Her letters written from London
were apt to be rare and brief, Angela noted; but from his lordship's
mansion near Oxford, or at the Grange between Fareham and Winchester--once
the property of the brothers of St. Cross--she always sent a budget. Few
of these lengthy epistles contained anything bearing upon Angela's own
existence--except the oft-repeated entreaty that she would make haste and
join them--or even the flippant suggestion that Mother Anastasia should
make haste and die. They were of the nature of news-letters; but the news
was tinctured by the feminine medium through which it came, and there was
a flavour of egotism in almost every page. Lady Fareham wrote as only a
pretty woman, courted, flattered, and indulged by everybody about her, ever
since she could remember, could be forgiven for writing. People had petted
her and worshipped her with such uniform subservience that she had grown to
thirty years of age without knowing that she was selfish, accepting homage
and submission as a law of the universe, as kings and princes do.

Only in one of those letters was there that which might be called a
momentous fact, but which Angela took as easily as if it had been a mere
detail, to be dismissed from her thoughts when the letter had been laid
aside.

It was a letter with a black seal, announcing the death of the Marquise de
Montrond, who had expired of an apoplexy at her house in the Marais, after
a supper party at which Mademoiselle, Madame de Longueville, Madame de
Montausier, the Duchesse de Bouillon, Lauzun, St. Evremond, cheery little
Godeau, Bishop of Vence, and half a dozen other famous wits had been
present, a supper bristling with royal personages. Death had come with
appalling suddenness while the lamps of the festival were burning, and the
cards were still upon the tables, and the last carriage had but just rolled
under the _porte cochère_.

"It is the manner of death she would have chosen," wrote Hyacinth. "She
never missed confession on the first Sunday of the month; and she was so
generous to the Church and to the poor that her director declared she would
have been too saintly for earth, but for the human weakness of liking fine
company. And now, dearest, I have to tell you how she has disposed of her
fortune; and I hope, if you should think she has not used you generously,
you will do me the justice to believe that I have neither courted her for
her wealth nor influenced her to my dear sister's disadvantage. You will
consider, _très chère_, that I was with her from my eighth year until the
other day when Fareham brought me to England. She loved me passionately in
my childhood, and has often told me since that she never felt towards me
as a grandmother, but as if she had been actually my mother, being indeed
still a young woman when she adopted me, and by strangers always mistaken
for my mother. She was handsome to the last, and young in mind and in
habits long after youth had left her. I was said to be the image of what
she was when she rivalled Madame de Hautefort in the affections of the late
King. You must consider, sweetheart, that he was the most moral of men,
and that with him love meant a passion as free from sensual taint as the
preferences of a sylph. I think my good grandmother loved me all the better
for this fancied resemblance. She would arrange her jewels about my hair
and bosom, as she had worn them when Buckingham came wooing for his master;
and then she would bid her page hold a mirror before me and tell me to look
at the face of which Queen Anne had been jealous, and for which Cinq Mars
had run mad. And then she would shed a tear or two over the years and the
charms that were gone, till I brought the cards and cheered her spirits
with her favourite game of primero.

"She had her fits of temper and little tantrums sometimes, Ange, and it
needed some patience to restrain one's tongue from insolence; but I am
happy to remember that I ever bore her in profound respect, and that I
never made her seriously angry but once--which was when I, being then
almost a child, went out into the streets of Paris with Henri de Malfort
and a wild party, masked, to hear Beaufort address the populace in the
market-place, and when I was so unlucky as to lose the emerald cross
given her by the great Cardinal, for whom, I believe, she had a sneaking
kindness. Why else should she have so hated his Eminence's very much
favoured niece, Madame de Combalet?

"But to return to that which concerns my dear sister. Regarding me as her
own daughter, the Marquise has lavished her bounties upon me almost to the
exclusion of my own sweet Angela. In a word, dearest, she leaves you
a modest income of four hundred louis--or about three hundred pounds
sterling--the rental of two farms in Normandy; and all the rest of her
fortune she bequeaths to me, and Papillon after me, including her house
in the Marais--sadly out of fashion now that everybody of consequence is
moving to the Place Royale--and her château near Dieppe; besides all her
jewels, many of which I have had in my possession ever since my marriage.
My sweet sister shall take her choice of a carcanet among those
old-fashioned trinkets. And now, dearest, if you are left with a pittance
that will but serve to pay for your gloves and fans at the Middle Exchange,
and perhaps to buy you an Indian night-gown in the course of the year--for
your Court petticoats and mantuas will cost three times as much--you have
but to remember that my purse is to be yours, and my home yours, and that
Fareham and I do but wait to welcome you either to Fareham House, in the
Strand, or to Chiltern Abbey, near Oxford. The Grange near Fareham I never
intend to re-enter if I can help it. The place is a warren of rats, which
the servants take for ghosts. If you love water you will love our houses,
for the river runs near them both; indeed, when in London, we almost think
ourselves in Venice, save that we have a spacious garden, which I am told
few of the Venetians can command, their city being built upon an assemblage
of minuscule islets, linked together by innumerable bridges."

Angela smiled as she looked down at her black gown--the week-day uniform of
the convent school, exchanged for a somewhat superior grey stuff on Sundays
and holidays--smiled at the notion of spending the rent of two farms upon
her toilet. And how much more ridiculous seemed the assertion that to
appear at King Charles's Court she must spend thrice as much! Yet she could
but remember that Hyacinth had described trains and petticoats so loaded
with jewelled embroidery that it was a penance to wear them--lace worth
hundreds of pounds--plumed hats that cost as much as a year's maintenance
in the convent.

Mother Anastasia expressed considerable displeasure at Madame de Montrond's
disposal of her wealth.

"This is what it is to live in a Court, and to care only for earthly
things!" she said. "All sense of justice is lost in that world of vanity
and self-love. You are as near akin to the Marquise as your sister; and
yet, because she was familiar with the one and not with the other--and
because her vain, foolish soul took pleasure in a beauty that recalled her
own perishable charms, she leaves one sister a great fortune and the other
a pittance!"

"Dear aunt, I am more than content----"

"But I am not content for you, Angela. Had the estate been divided equally
you might have taken the veil, and succeeded to my place in this beloved
house, which needs the accession of wealth to maintain it in usefulness and
dignity."

Angela would not wound her aunt's feelings by one word of disparagement of
the house in which she had been reared; but, looking along the dim avenue
of the future, she yearned for some wider horizon than the sky, barred with
tall poplars which rose high above the garden wall that formed the limit of
her daily walks. Her rambles, her recreations, had all been confined within
that space of seven or eight acres, and she thought sometimes with a sudden
longing of those hills and valleys of fertile Buckinghamshire, which lay so
far back in the dawn of her mind, and were yet so distinctly pictured in
her memory.

And London--that wonderful city of which her sister wrote in such glowing
words! the long range of palaces beside the swift-flowing river, wider than
the Seine where it reflects the gloomy bulk of the Louvre and the Temple!
Were it only once in her life, she would like to see London--the King, the
two Queens, Whitehall, and Somerset House. She would like to see all the
splendour of Court and city; and then to taste the placid retirement of the
house in the valley, and to be her father's housekeeper and companion.

Another letter from Hyacinth announced the death of Mazarin.

"The Cardinal is no more. He died in the day of success, having got the
better of all his enemies. A violent access of gout was followed by an
affection of the chest which proved fatal. His sick-room was crowded with
courtiers and sycophants, and he was selling sinecures up to the day of his
death. Fareham says his death-bed was like a money-changer's counter. He
was passionately fond of hocca, the Italian game which he brought into
fashion, and which ruined half the young men about the Court. The
counterpane was scattered with money and playing cards, which were only
brushed aside to make room for the last Sacraments. My Lord Clarendon
declares that his spirits never recovered from the shock of his Majesty's
restoration, which falsified all his calculations. He might have made his
favourite niece Queen of England; but his Italian caution restrained him,
and the beautiful Hortense has to put up with a new-made duke--a title
bought with her uncle's money--to whom the Cardinal affianced her on his
death-bed. He was a remarkable man, and so profound a dissembler that his
pretended opposition to King Louis' marriage with his niece Olympe Mancini
would have deceived the shrewdest observer, had we not all known that he
ardently desired the union, and that it was only his fear of Queen Anne's
anger which prevented it. Her Spanish pride was in arms at the notion, and
she would not have stopped short at revolution to prevent or to revenge
such an alliance.

"This was perhaps the only occasion upon which she ever seriously opposed
Mazarin. With him expires all her political power. She is now as much a
cypher as in the time of the late King, when France had only one master,
the great Cardinal. He who is just dead, Fareham says, was but a little
Richelieu; and he recalls how when the great Cardinal died people scarce
dared tell one another of his death, so profound was the awe in which he
was held. He left the King a nullity, and the Queen all powerful. She was
young and beautiful then, you see; her husband was marked for death,
her son was an infant. All France was hers--a kingdom of courtiers and
flatterers. And now she is old and ailing; and Mazarin being gone, the
young King will submit to no minister who claims to be anything better
than a clerk or a secretary. Colbert he must tolerate--for Colbert means
prosperity--but Colbert will have to obey. My friend, the Duchesse de
Longueville, who is now living in strict retirement, writes me the most
exquisite letters; and from her I hear all that happens in that country
which I sometimes fancy is more my own than the duller climate where my lot
is now cast. Fifteen years at the French Court have made me in heart and
mind almost a Frenchwoman; nor can I fail to be influenced by my maternal
ancestry. I find it difficult sometimes to remember my English, when
conversing with the clod-hoppers of Oxfordshire, who have no French, yet
insist, for finery's sake, upon larding their rustic English with French
words.

"All that is most agreeable in our court is imitated from the Palais Royal
and the Louvre.

"'Whitehall is but the shadow of a shadow,' says Fareham, in one of his
philosophy fits, preaching upon the changes he has seen in Paris and
London. And, indeed, it is strange to have lived through two revolutions,
one so awful in its final catastrophe that it dwarfs the other, yet both
terrible; for I, who was a witness of the sufferings of Princes and
Princesses during the two wars of the Fronde, am not inclined to think
lightly of a civil war which cost France some of the flower of her
nobility, and made her greatest hero a prisoner and an exile for seven
years of his life.

"But oh, my dear, it was a romantic time! and I look back and am proud to
have lived in it. I was but twelve years old at the siege of Paris; but
I was in Madame de Longueville's room, at the Hôtel de Ville, while the
fighting was going on, and the officers, in their steel cuirasses, coming
in from the thick of the strife. Such a confusion of fine ladies and armed
men--breast-plates and blue scarves--fiddles squeaking in the salon,
trumpets sounding in the square below!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In a letter of later date Lady Fareham expatiated upon the folly of her
sister's spiritual guides.

"I am desolated, _ma mie_, by the absurd restriction which forbids you to
profit by my New Year's gift. I thought, when I sent you all the volumes of
la Scudèry's enchanting romance, I had laid up for you a year of enjoyment,
and that, touched by the baguette of that exquisite fancy, your convent
walls would fall, like those of Jericho at the sound of Jewish trumpets,
and you would be transported in imagination to the finest society in the
world--the company of Cyrus and Mandane--under which Oriental disguise you
are shown every feature of mind and person in Condé and his heroic sister,
my esteemed friend, the Duchesse de Longueville. As I was one of the first
to appreciate Mademoiselle Scudèry's genius, and to detect behind the
name of the brother the tender sentiments and delicate refinement of the
sister's chaster pen, so I believe I was the first to call the Duchesse
'Mandane,' a sobriquet which soon became general among her intimates.

"You are not to read 'Le Grand Cyrus," your aunt tells you, because it is
a romance! That is to say, you are forbidden to peruse the most faithful
history of your own time, and to familiarise yourself with the persons and
minds of great people whom you may never be so fortunate as to meet in the
flesh. I myself, dearest Ange, have had the felicity to live among
these princely persons, to revel in the conversations of the Hôtel de
Rambouillet--not, perhaps, as our grandmother would have told you, in its
most glorious period--but at least while it was still the focus of all that
is choicest in letters and in art. Did we not hear M. Poquelin read his
first comedy before it was represented by Monsieur's company in the
beautiful theatre at the Palais Royal, built by Richelieu, when it was the
Palais Cardinal? Not read 'Le Grand Cyrus,' and on the score of morality!
Why, this most delightful book was written by one of the most moral women
in Paris--one of the chastest--against whose reputation no word of slander
has ever been breathed! It must, indeed, be confessed that Sapho is of an
ugliness which would protect her even were she not guarded by the aegis of
genius. She is one of those fortunate unfortunates who can walk through the
furnace of a Court unscathed, and leave a reputation for modesty in an age
that scarce credits virtue in woman.

"I fear, dear child, that these narrow-minded restrictions of your convent
will leave you of a surpassing ignorance, which may cover you with
confusion when you find yourself in fine company. There are accomplishments
without which youth is no more admired than age and grey hairs; and to
sparkle with wit or astonish with learning is a necessity for a woman
of quality. It is only by the advantages of education that we can show
ourselves superior to such a hussy as Albemarle's gutter-bred duchess, who
was the faithless wife of a sailor or barber--I forget which--and who hangs
like a millstone upon the General's neck now that he has climbed to the
zenith. To have perfect Italian and some Spanish is as needful as to
have fine eyes and complexion nowadays. And to dance admirably is a gift
indispensable to a lady. Alas! I fear that those little feet of yours--I
hope they _are_ small--have never been taught to move in a coranto or a
contre-danse, and that you will have to learn the alphabet of dancing at an
age when most women are finished performers. The great Condé, while winning
sieges and battles that surpassed the feats of Greeks and Romans, contrived
to make himself the finest dancer of his day, and won more admiration
in high-bred circles by his graceful movements, which every one could
understand and admire, than by prodigies of valour at Dunkirk or
Nordlingen."

The above was one of Lady Fareham's most serious letters. Her pen was
exercised, for the most part, in a lighter vein. She wrote of the Court
beauties, the Court jests--practical jokes some of them, which our finer
minds of to-day would consider in execrable taste--such jests as we read
of in Grammont's memoirs, which generally aimed at making an ugly woman
ridiculous, or an injured husband the sport and victim of wicked lover and
heartless wife. No sense of the fitness of things constrained her ladyship
from communicating these Court scandals to her guileless sister. Did they
not comprise the only news worth anybody's attention, and relate to the
only class of people who had any tangible existence for Lady Fareham? There
were millions of human beings, no doubt, living and acting and suffering on
the surface of the earth, outside the stellary circles of which Louis and
Charles were the suns; but there was no interstellar medium of sympathy to
convey the idea of those exterior populations to Hyacinth's mind. She knew
of the populace, French or English, as of something which was occasionally
given to become dangerous and revolutionary, which sometimes starved and
sometimes died of the plague, and was always unpleasing to the educated
eye.

Masquerades, plays, races at Newmarket, dances, duels, losses at
cards--Lady Fareham touched every subject, and expatiated on all; but she
had usually more to tell of the country she had left than of that in which
she was living.

"Here everything is on such a small scale, _si mesquin!_" she wrote.
"Whitehall covers a large area, but it is only a fine banqueting hall and
a labyrinth of lodgings, without suite or stateliness. The pictures in the
late King's cabinet are said to be the finest in the world, but they are
a kind of pieces for which I care very little--Flemish and Dutch
chiefly--with a series of cartoons by Raphael, which connoisseurs affect to
admire, but which, did they belong to me, I would gladly exchange for a set
of Mortlake tapestries.

"His Majesty here builds ships, while the King of France builds palaces.
I am told Louis is spending millions on the new palace at Versailles,
an ungrateful site--no water, no noble prospect as at St. Germain, no
population. The King likes the spot all the better, Madame tells me,
because he has to create his own landscape, to conjure lakes and cataracts
out of dry ground. The buildings have been but two years in progress, and
it must be long before these colossal foundations are crowned with the
edifice which Louis and his architect, Mansart, have planned. Colbert is
furious at this squandering of vast sums on a provincial palace, while the
Louvre, the birthplace and home of dynasties, remains unfinished.

"The King's reason for disliking St. Germain--a château his mother has
always loved--has in it something childish and fantastic, if, as my dear
duchess declares, he hates the place only because he can see the towers of
St. Denis from the terrace, and is thus hourly reminded of death and the
grave. I can hardly believe that a being of such superior intelligence
could be governed by any such horror of man's inevitable end. I would far
sooner attribute the vast expenditure of Versailles to the common love of
monarchs and great men for building houses too large for their necessities.
Indeed, it was but yesterday that Fareham took me to see the palace--for I
can call it by no meaner name--that Lord Clarendon is building for himself
in the open country at the top of St. James's Street. It promises to be
the finest house in town, and, although not covering so much ground as
Whitehall, is judged far superior to that inchoate mass in its fine
proportions and the perfect symmetry of its saloons and galleries. There is
a garden a-making, projected by Mr. Evelyn, a great authority on trees and
gardens. A crowd of fine company had assembled to see the newly finished
hall and dining parlour, among them a fussy person, who came in attendance
upon my Lord Sandwich, and who was more voluble than became his quality as
a clerk in the Navy Office. He was periwigged and dressed as fine as his
master, and, on my being civil to him, talked much of himself and of divers
taverns in the city where the dinners were either vastly good or vastly
ill. I told him that as I never dined at a tavern the subject was
altogether beyond the scope of my intelligence, at which Sandwich and
Fareham laughed, and my pertinacious gentleman blushed as red as the heels
of his shoes. I am told the creature has a pretty taste in music, and is
the son of a tailor, but professes a genteel ancestry, and occasionally
pushes into the best company.

"Shall I describe to you one of my latest conquests, sweetheart? 'Tis
a boy--an actual beardless boy of eighteen summers; but such a boy! So
beautiful, so insolent, with an impudence that can confront Lord Clarendon
himself, the gravest of noblemen, who, with the sole exception of my Lord
Southampton, is the one man who has never crossed Mrs. Palmer's threshold,
or bowed his neck under that splendid fury's yoke. My admirer thinks no
more of smoking these grave nobles, men of a former generation, who learnt
their manners at the court of a serious and august King, than I do of
teasing my falcon. He laughs at them, jokes with them in Greek or in Latin,
has a ready answer and a witty quip for every turn of the discourse; will
even interrupt his Majesty in one of those anecdotes of his Scottish
martyrdom which he tells so well and tells so often. Lucifer himself could
not be more arrogant or more audacious than this bewitching boy-lover
of mine, who writes verses in English or Latin as easy as I can toss a
shuttlecock. I doubt the greater number of his verses are scarce proper
reading for you or me, Angela; for I see the men gather round him in
corners as he murmurs his latest madrigal to a chosen half-dozen or so;
and I guess by their subdued tittering that the lines are not over modest;
while by the sidelong glances the listeners cast round, now at my Lady
Castlemaine, and anon at some other goddess in the royal pantheon, I have a
shrewd notion as to what alabaster breast my witty lover's shafts are aimed
at.

"This youthful devotee of mine is the son of a certain Lord Wilmot, who
fought on the late King's side in the troubles. This creature went to the
university of Oxford at twelve years old--as it were, straight from his
go-cart to college, and was master of arts at fourteen. He has made the
grand tour, and pretends to have seen so much of this life that he has
found out the worthlessness of it. Even while he woes me with a most
romantic ardour, he affects to have outgrown the capacity to love.

"Think not, dearest, that I outstep the bounds of matronly modesty by this
airy philandering with my young Lord Rochester, or that my serious Fareham
is ever offended at our pretty trifling. He laughs at the lad as heartily
as I do, invites him to our table, and is amused by his monkeyish tricks.
A woman of quality must have followers; and a pert, fantastical boy is the
safest of lovers. Slander itself could scarce accuse Lady Fareham, who has
had soldier-princes and statesmen at her feet, of an unworthy tenderness
for a jackanapes of seventeen; for, indeed, I believe his eighteenth
birthday is still in the womb of time. I would with all my heart thou wert
here to share our innocent diversions; and I know not which of all my
playthings thou wouldst esteem highest, the falcon, my darling spaniels,
made up of soft silken curls and intelligent brown eyes, or Rochester. Nay,
let me not forget the children, Papillon and Cupid, who are truly very
pretty creatures, though consummate plagues. The girl, Papillon, has a
tongue which Wilmot says is the nearest approach to perpetual motion that
he has yet discovered; and the boy, who was but seven last birthday, is
full of mischief, in which my admirer counsels and abets him.

"Oh, this London, sweetheart, and this Court! How wide those violet eyes
would open couldst thou but look suddenly in upon us after supper at
Basset, or in the park, or at the play-house, when the orange girls are
smoking the pretty fellows in the pit, and my Lady Castlemaine is leaning
half out of her box to talk to the King in his! I thought I had seen enough
of festivals and dances, stage-plays and courtly diversions beyond sea; but
the Court entertainments at Paris or St. Germain differed as much from the
festivities of Whitehall as a cathedral service from a dance in a booth at
Bartholomew Fair. His Majesty of France never forgets that he is a king.
His Majesty of England only remembers his kingship when he wants a
new subsidy, or to get a Bill hurried through the Houses. Louis at
four-and-twenty was serious enough for fifty. Charles at thirty-four has
the careless humour of a schoolboy. He is royal in nothing except his
extravagance, which has squandered more millions than I dare mention since
he landed at Dover.

"I am growing almost as sober as my solemn spouse, who will ever be railing
at the King and the Duke, and even more bitterly at the favourite, his
Grace of Buckingham, who is assuredly one of the most agreeable men in
London. I asked Fareham only yesterday why he went to Court, if his
Majesty's company is thus distasteful to him. 'It is not to his company I
object, but to his principles,' he answered, in that earnest fashion of his
which takes the lightest questions _au grand serieux_. 'I see in him a man
who, with natural parts far above the average, makes himself the jest of
meaner intellects, and the dupe of greedy courtesans; a man who, trained
in the stern school of adversity, overshadowed by the great horror of his
father's tragical doom, accepts life as one long jest, and being, by a
concatenation of circumstances bordering on the miraculous, restored to the
privileges of hereditary monarchy, takes all possible pains to prove
the uselessness of kings. I see a man who, borne back to power by the
irresistible current of the people's affections, has broken every pledge he
gave that people in the flush and triumph of his return. I see one who,
in his own person, cares neither for Paul nor Peter, and yet can tamely
witness the persecution of his people because they do not conform to a
State religion--can allow good and pious men to be driven out of the
pulpits where they have preached the Gospel of Christ, and suffer wives and
children to starve because the head of the household has a conscience. I
see a king careless of the welfare of his people, and the honour and glory
of his reign; affecting to be a patriot, and a man of business, on the
strength of an extravagant fancy for shipbuilding; careless of everything
save the empty pleasure of an idle hour. A king who lavishes thousands upon
wantons and profligates, and who ever gives not to the most worthy, but to
the most importunate.'

"I laughed at this tirade, and told him, what indeed I believe, that he is
at heart a Puritan, and would better consort with Baxter and Bunyan, and
that frousy crew, than with Buckhurst and Sedley, or his brilliant kinsman,
Roscommon."

From her father directly, Angela heard nothing, and her sister's allusions
to him were of the briefest, anxiously as she had questioned that lively
letter-writer. Yes, her father was well, Hyacinth told her; but he stayed
mostly at the Manor Moat. He did not care for the Court gaieties.

"I believe he thinks we have all parted company with our wits," she wrote.
"He seldom sees me but to lecture me, in a sidelong way, upon my folly; for
his railing at the company I keep hits me by implication. I believe
these old courtiers of the late King are Puritans at heart; and that if
Archbishop Laud were alive he would be as bitter against the sins of the
town as any of the cushion-thumping Anabaptists that preach to the elect in
back rooms and blind alleys. My father talks and thinks as if he had spent
all his years of exile in the cave of the Seven Sleepers. And yet he fought
shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest gentlemen in France--Condé,
Turenne, Gramont, St. Evremond, Bussy, and the rest of them. But all the
world is young, and full of wit and mirth, since his Majesty came to his
own; and elderly limbs are too stiff to trip in our new dances. I doubt my
father's mind is as old-fashioned, and of as rigid a shape as his Court
suit, at sight of which my best friends can scarce refrain from laughing."

This light mention of a parent whom she reverenced wounded Angela to the
quick; and that wound was deepened a year later, when she was surprised by
a visit from her father, of which no letter had forewarned her. She was
walking in the convent garden, in her hour of recreation, tasting the sunny
air, and the beauty of the many-coloured tulips in the long narrow borders,
between two espalier rows trained with an exquisite neatness, and reputed
to bear the finest golden pippins and Bergamot pears within fifty miles of
the city. The trees were in blossom, and a wall of pink and white bloom
rose up on either hand above the scarlet and amber tulips.

Turning at the end of the long alley, where it met a wall that in August
was flushed with the crimson velvet of peaches and nectarines, Angela saw a
man advancing from the further end of the walk, attended by a lay sister.
The high-crowned hat and pointed beard, the tall figure in a grey doublet
crossed with a black sword-belt, the walk, the bearing, were unmistakable.
It might have been a figure that had stepped out of Vandyke's canvas. It
had nothing of the fuss and flutter, the feathers and ruffles, the loose
flow of brocade and velvet, that marked the costume of the young French
Court.

Angela ran to receive her father, and could scarce speak to him, she was so
startled, and yet so glad.

"Oh, sir, when I prayed for you at Mass this morning, how little I hoped
for so much happiness! I had a letter from Hyacinth only a week ago, and
she wrote nothing of your intentions. I knew not that you had crossed the
sea."

"Why, sweetheart, Hyacinth sees me too rarely, and is too full of her own
affairs, ever to be beforehand with my intentions; and, although I have
been long heartily sick of England, I only made up my mind to come to
Flanders less than a week ago. No sooner thought of than done. I came by
our old road, in a merchant craft from Harwich to Ostend, and the rest of
the way in the saddle. Not quite so fast as they used to ride that carried
his Majesty's post from London to York, in the beginning of the troubles,
when the loyal gentlemen along the north road would galop faster with
despatches and treaties than ever they rode after a stag. Ah, child, how
hopeful we were in those days; and how we all told each other it was but a
passing storm at Westminster, which could all be lulled by a little civil
concession here and there on the King's part! And so it might, perhaps, if
he would but have conceded the right thing at the right time--yielded
but just the inch they asked for when they first asked--instead of
shilly-shallying till they got angry, and wanted ells instead of inches.
'Tis the stitch in time, Angela, that saves trouble, in politics as well as
in thy petticoat."

He had flung his arm round his daughter's neck as they paced slowly side by
side.

"Have you come to stay at Louvain, sir?" she asked, timidly.

"Nay, love, the place is too quiet for me. I could not stay in a town
that is given over to learning and piety. The sound of their everlasting
carillon would tease my ear with the thought, 'Lo, another quarter of an
hour gone of my poor remnant of days, and nothing to do but to doze in the
sunshine or fondle my spaniel, fill my pipe, or ride a lazy horse on a
level road, such as I have ever hated.'"

"But why did you tire of England, sir? I thought the King would have wanted
you always near him. You, his father's close friend, who suffered so much
for Royal friendship. Surely he loves and cherishes you! He must be a base,
ungrateful man if he do not."

"Oh, the King is grateful, Angela, grateful enough and to spare. He never
sees me at Court but he has some gracious speech about his father's regard
for me. It grows irksome at last, by sheer repetition. The turn of the
sentence varies, for his Majesty has a fine standing army of words, but the
gist of the phrase is always the same, and it means, 'Here is a tiresome
old Put to whom I must say something civil for the sake of his ancient
vicissitudes.' And then his phalanx of foppery stares at me as if I were a
Topinambou; and since I have seen them mimic Ned Hyde's stately speech and
manners, I doubt not before I have crossed the ante-room I have served to
make sport for the crew, since their wit has but two phases--ordure and
mimickry. Look not so glum, daughter. I am glad to be out of a Court which
is most like--such places as I dare not name to thee."

"But to have you disrespected, sir; you, so brave, so noble! You who gave
the best years of your life to your royal master!"

"What I gave I gave, child. I gave him youth--that never comes back--and
fortune, that is not worth grieving for. And now that I have begun to lose
the reckoning of my years since fifty, I feel I had best take myself back
to that roving life in which I have no time to brood upon losses and
sorrows."

"Dear father, I am sure you must mistake the King's feelings towards you.
It is not possible that he can think lightly of such devotion as yours."

"Nay, sweetheart, who said he thinks lightly? He never thinks of me at all,
or of anything serious under God's sky. So long as he has spending money,
and can live in a circle of bright eyes, and hear only flippant tongues
that offer him a curious incense of flattery spiced with impertinence,
Charles Stuart has all of this life that he values. And for the next--a
man who is shrewdly suspected of being a papist, while he is attached by
gravest vows to the Church of England, must needs hold heaven's rewards and
hell's torments lightly."

"But Queen Catherine, sir--does not she favour you? My aunt says she is a
good woman."

"Yes, a good woman, and the nearest approach to a cypher to be found at
Hampton Court or Whitehall. Young Lord Rochester has written a poem upon
'Nothing.' He might have taken Queen Catherine's name as a synonym. She is
nothing; she counts for nothing. Her love can benefit nobody; her hatred,
were the poor soul capable of hating persistently, can do no one harm."

"And the King--is he so unkind to her?"

"Unkind! No. He allows her to live. Nay, when for a few days--the brief
felicity of her poor life--she seemed on the point of dying, he was
stricken with remorse for all that he had not been to her, and was kind,
and begged her to live for his sake. The polite gentleman meant it for
a compliment--one of those pious falsehoods that men murmur in dying
ears--but she took him at his word and recovered; and she is there still,
a little dark lady in a fine gown, of whom nobody takes any notice, beyond
the emptiest formality of bent knees and backward steps. There are long
evenings at Hampton Court in which she is scarce spoken to, save when she
fawns upon the fortunate lady whom she began by hating. Oh, child, I should
not talk to you of these things; but some of the disgust that has made
my life bitter bubbles over in spite of me. I am a wanderer and an exile
again, dear heart. I would sooner trail a pike abroad than suffer neglect
at home. I will fight under any flag so long as it flies not for my
country's foe. I am going back to my old friends at the Louvre, to those
few who are old enough to care for me; and if there come a war with Spain,
why my sword may be of some small use to young Louis, whose mother was
always gracious to me in the old days at St. Germain, when she knew not
in the morning whether she would go safe to bed at night. A golden age of
peace has followed that wild time; but the Spanish king's death is like to
light the torch and set the war-dogs barking. Louis will thrust his sword
through the treaty of the Pyrenees if he see the way to a throne t'other
side of the mountains."

"But could a good man violate a treaty?"

"Ambition knows no laws, sweet, nor ever has since Hannibal."

"Then King Louis is no better a man than King Charles?"

"I cannot answer for that, Angela; but I'll warrant him a better king from
the kingly point of view. Scarce had death freed him from the Cardinal's
leading-strings than he snatched the reins of power, showed his ministers
that he meant to drive the coach. He has a head as fit for business as if
he had been the son of a woollen-draper. Mazarin took pains to keep him
ignorant of everything that a king ought to know; but that shrewd judgment
of his taught him that he must know as much as his servants, unless he
wanted them to be his masters. He has the pride of Lucifer, with a strength
of will and power of application as great as Richelieu's. You will live to
see that no second Richelieu, no new Mazarin, will arise in his reign. His
ministers will serve him, and go down before him, like Nicolas Fouquet, to
whom he has been implacable."

"Poor gentleman! My aunt told me that when his judges sentenced him to
banishment from France, the King changed the sentence to imprisonment for
life."

"I doubt if the King ever forgave those fêtes at Vaux, which were designed
to dazzle Mademoiselle la Vallière, whom this man had the presumption to
love. One may pity so terrible a fall, yet it is but the ruin of a bold
sensualist, who played with millions as other men play with tennis balls,
and who would have drained the exchequer by his briberies and extravagances
if he had not been brought to a dead stop. The world has been growing
wickeder, dearest, while this fair head has risen from my knee to my
shoulder; but what have you to do with its wickedness? Here you are happy
and at peace----"

"Not happy, father, if you are to hazard your life in battles and sieges.
Oh, sir, that life is too dear to us, your children, to be risked so
lightly. You have done your share of soldiering. Everybody that ever
heard your name in England or in France knows it is the name of a brave
captain--a leader of men. For our sakes, take your rest now, dear sir. I
should not sleep in peace if I knew you were with Condé's army. I should
dream of you wounded and dying. I cannot bear to think of leaving my aunt
now that she is old and feeble; but my first duty is to you, and if you
want me I will go with you wherever you may please to make your home. I am
not afraid of strange countries."

"Spoken like my sweet daughter, whose baby arms clasped my neck in the day
of despair. But you must stay with the reverend mother, sweetheart. These
bones of mine must be something stiffer before they will consent to rest
in the chimney corner, or sit in the shade of a yew hedge while other men
throw the bowls. When I have knocked about the world a few years longer,
and when Mother Anastasia is at rest, thou shalt come to me at the Manor,
and I will find thee a noble husband, and will end my days with my children
and grandchildren. The world has so changed since the forties, that I shall
think I have lived centuries instead of decades, when the farewell hour
strikes. In the mean time I am pleased that you should be here. The Court
is no place for a pure maiden, though some sweet saints there be who can
walk unsmirched in the midst of corruption."

"And Hyacinth? She can walk scatheless through that Court furnace. She
writes of Whitehall as if it were Paradise."

"Hyacinth has a husband to take care of her; a man with a brave headpiece
of his own, who lets her spark it with the fairest company in the town,
but would make short work of any fop who dared attempt the insolence of a
suitor. Hyacinth has seen the worst and the best of two Courts, and has an
experience of the Palais Royal and St. Germain which should keep her safe
at Whitehall."

Sir John and his daughter spent half a day together in the garden and the
parlour, where the traveller was entertained with a collation and a bottle
of excellent Beaujolais before his horse was brought to the door. Angela
saw him mount, and ride slowly away in the melancholy afternoon light, and
she felt as if he were riding out of her life for ever. She went back to
her aunt's room with an aching heart. Had not that kind lady, her mother in
all the essentials of maternal love, been so near the end of her days, and
so dependent on her niece's affection, the girl would have clung about her
father's neck, and implored him to go no more a-soldiering, and to make
himself a home with her in England.



CHAPTER IV.

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW.


The reverend mother lingered till the beginning of summer, and it was on
a lovely June evening, while the nightingales were singing in the convent
garden, that the holy life slipped away into the Great Unknown. She died as
a child falls asleep, the saintly grey head lying peacefully on Angela's
supporting arm, the last look of the dying eyes resting on that tender
nurse with infinite love.

She was gone, and Angela felt strangely alone. Her contemporaries, the
chosen friend who had been to her almost as a sister, the girls by whose
side she had sat in class, had all left the convent. At twenty-one years of
age, she seemed to belong to a former generation; most of the pupils had
finished their education at seventeen or eighteen, and had returned to
their homes in Flanders, France, or England. There had been several English
pupils, for Louvain and Douai had for a century been the seminaries for
English Romanists.

The pupils of to-day were Angela's juniors, with whom she had nothing in
common, except to teach English to a class of small Flemings, who were
almost unteachable.

She had heard no more from her father, and knew not where or with whom he
might have cast in his lot. She wrote to him under cover to her sister;
but of late Hyacinth's letters had been rare and brief, only long enough,
indeed, to apologise for their brevity. Lady Fareham had been in London or
at Hampton Court from the beginning of the previous winter. There was talk
of the plague having come to London from Amsterdam, that the Privy Council
was sitting at Sion House, instead of in London, that the judges had
removed to Windsor, and that the Court might speedily remove to Salisbury
or Oxford. "And if the Court goes to Oxford, we shall go to Chilton," wrote
Hyacinth; and that was the last of her communications.

July passed without news from father or sister; and Angela grew daily more
uneasy about both. The great horror of the plague was in the air. It had
been raging in Amsterdam in the previous summer and autumn, and a nun had
brought the disease to Louvain, where she might have died in the convent
infirmary but for Angela's devoted attention. She had assisted the
over-worked infirmarian at a time of unusual sickness--for there was a good
deal of illness among the nuns and pupils that summer--mostly engendered of
the fear lest the pestilence in Holland should reach Flanders. Doctor and
infirmarian had alike praised the girl's quiet courage, and her instinct
for doing the right thing.

Remembering all the nun had told of the horrors of Amsterdam, Angela
awaited with fear and trembling for news from London; and as the summer
wore on, every news-letter that reached the Ursulines brought tidings of
increasing sickness in the great prosperous city, which was being gradually
deserted by all who could afford to travel. The Court had moved first to
Hampton Court, in June, and later to Salisbury, where again the French
Ambassador's people reported strange horrors--corpses found lying in the
street hard by their lodgings--the King's servants sickening. The air of
the cathedral city was tainted--though deaths had been few as compared with
London, which was becoming one vast lazar-house--and it was thought the
Court and Ambassadors would remove themselves to Oxford, where Parliament
was to assemble in the autumn, instead of at Westminster.

Most alarming of all was the news that the Queen-mother had fled with
all her people, and most of her treasures, from her palace at Somerset
House--for Henrietta Maria was not a woman to fly before a phantom fear.
She had seen too much of the stern realities of life to be scared by
shadows; and she had neither establishment nor power in France equal to
those she left in England. In Paris the daughter of the great Henry was a
dependent. In London she was second only to the King; and her Court was
more esteemed than Whitehall.

"If she has fled, there must be reason for it," said the newly elected
Superior, who boasted of correspondents at Paris, notably a cousin in that
famous convent, the Visitandines de Chaillot, founded by Queen Henrietta,
and which had ever been a centre of political and religious intrigue, the
most fashionable, patrician, exalted, and altogether worldly establishment.

Alarmed at this dismal news, Angela wrote urgently to her sister, but with
no effect; and the passage of every day, with occasional rumours of an
increasing death-rate in London, strengthened her fears, until terror
nerved her to a desperate resolve. She would go to London to see her
sister; to nurse her if she were sick; to mourn for her if she were dead.

The Superior did all she could to oppose this decision, and even asserted
authority over the pupil who, since her eighteenth year had been released
from discipline, subject but to the lightest laws of the convent. As the
great-niece and beloved child of the late Superior she had enjoyed all
possible privileges; while the liberal sum annually remitted for her
maintenance gave her a certain importance in the house.

And now on being told she must not go, her spirit rose against the
Superior's authority.

"I recognise no earthly power that can keep me from those I love in their
time of peril!" she said.

"You do not know that they are in sickness or danger. My last letters from
Paris stated that it was only the low people whom the contagion in London
was attacking."

"If it was only the low people, why did the Queen-mother leave? If it was
safe for my sister to be in London it would have been safe for the Queen."

"Lady Fareham is doubtless in Oxfordshire."

"I have written to Chilton Abbey as well as to Fareham House, and I can get
no answer. Indeed, reverend mother, it is time for me to go to those to
whom I belong. I never meant to stay in this house after my aunt's death. I
have only been waiting my father's orders. If all be well with my sister
I shall go to the Manor Moat, and wait his commands quietly there. I am
home-sick for England."

"You have chosen an ill time for home-sickness, when a pestilence is
raging."

Argument could not touch the girl, whose mind was braced for battle. The
reverend mother ceded with as good a grace as she could assume, on the top
of a very arbitrary temper. An English priest was heard of who was about to
travel to London on his return to a noble friend and patron in the north of
England, in whose house he had lived before the troubles; and in this good
man's charge Angela was permitted to depart, on a long and weary journey
by way of Antwerp and the Scheldt. They were five days at sea, the voyage
lengthened by the almost unprecedented calm which had prevailed all that
fatal summer--a weary voyage in a small trading vessel, on board which
Angela had to suffer every hardship that a delicate woman can be subjected
to on board ship: a wretched berth in a floating cellar called a cabin,
want of fresh water, of female attendance, and of any food but the
coarsest. These deprivations she bore without a murmur. It was only the
slowness of the passage that troubled her.

The great city came in view at last, the long roof of St. Paul's dominating
the thickly clustered gables and chimneys, and the vessel dropped anchor
opposite the dark walls of the Tower, whose form had been made familiar to
Angela by a print in a History of London, which she had hung over many an
evening in Mother Anastasia's parlour. A row-boat conveyed her and her
fellow-traveller to the Tower stairs, where they landed, the priest being
duly provided with an efficient voucher that they came from a city free of
the plague. Yes, this was London. Her foot touched her native soil for the
first time after fifteen years of absence. The good-natured priest would
not leave her till he had seen her in charge of an elderly and most
reputable waterman, recommended by the custodian of the stairs. Then he
bade her an affectionate adieu, and fared on his way to a house in the
city, where one of his kinsfolk, a devout Catholic, dwelt quietly hidden
from the public eye, and where he would rest for the night before setting
out on his journey to the north.

After the impetuous passage through the deep, dark arch of the bridge, the
boat moved slowly up the river in the peaceful eventide, and Angela's eyes
opened wide with wonder as she looked on the splendours of that silent
highway, this evening verily silent, for the traffic of business and
pleasure had stopped in the terror of the pestilence, like a clock that had
run down. It was said by one who had seen the fairest cities of Europe that
"the most glorious sight in the world, take land and water together, was to
come upon a high tide from Gravesend, and shoot the bridge to Westminster;"
and to the convent-bred maiden how much more astonishing was that prospect!

The boat passed in front of Lord Arundel's sumptuous mansion, with its
spacious garden, where marble statues showed white in the midst of
quincunxes, and prim hedges of cypress and yew; past the Palace of the
Savoy, with its massive towers, battlemented roof, and double line of
mullioned windows fronting the river; past Worcester House, where Lord
Chancellor Hyde had been living in a sober splendour, while his princely
mansion was building yonder on the Hounslow Road, or that portion thereof
lately known as Piccadilly. That was the ambitious pile of which Hyacinth
had written, a house of clouded memories and briefest tenure; foredoomed
to vanish like a palace seen in a dream; a transient magnificence,
indescribable; known for a little while opprobriously as Dunkirk House, the
supposed result of the Chancellor's too facile assistance in the surrender
of that last rag of French territory. The boat passed before Rutland House
and Cecil House, some portion of which had lately been converted into the
Middle Exchange, the haunt of fine ladies and Golconda of gentlewomen
milliners, favourite scene for assignations and intrigues; and so by Durham
House, where in the Protector Seymour's time the Royal Mint had been
established; a house whose stately rooms were haunted by tragic
associations, shadows of Northumberland's niece and victim, hapless Jane
Grey, and of fated Raleigh. Here, too, commerce shouldered aristocracy, and
the New Exchange of King James's time competed with the Middle Exchange
of later date, providing more milliners, perfumers, glovers, barbers, and
toymen, and more opportunity for illicit loves and secret meetings.

Before Angela's eyes those splendid mansions passed like phantom pictures.
The westering sunlight showed golden above the dark Abbey, while she sat
silent, with awe-stricken gaze, looking out upon this widespread city that
lay chastened and afflicted under the hand of an angry God. The beautiful,
gay, proud, and splendid London of the West, the new London of Covent
Garden, St. James's Street, and Piccadilly, whose glories her sister's pen
had depicted with such fond enthusiasm, was now deserted by the rabble of
quality who had peopled its palaces, while the old London of the East, the
historic city, was sitting in sackcloth and ashes, a place of lamentations,
a city where men and women rose up in the morning hale and healthy, and at
night-fall were carried away in the dead-cart, to be flung into the pit
where the dead lay shroudless and unhonoured.

How still and sweet the summer air seemed in that sunset hour; how placid
the light ripple of the incoming tide; how soothing even the silence of the
city! And yet it all meant death. It was but a few months since the fatal
infection had been brought from Holland in a bundle of merchandise: and,
behold, through city and suburbs, the pestilence had crept with slow and
stealthy foot, now on this side of a street, now on another. The history of
the plague was like a game at draughts, where man after man vanishes off
the board, and the game can only end by exhaustion.

"See, mistress, yonder is Somerset House," said the boatman, pointing to
one of the most commanding façades in that highway of palaces. "That is the
palace which the Queen-mother has raised from the ashes of the ruins her
folly made, for the husband who loved her too well. She came back to us
no wiser for years of exile--came back with her priests and her Italian
singing-boys, her incense-bearers and golden candlesticks and gaudy rags of
Rome. She fled from England with the roar of cannon in her ears, and the
fear of death in her heart. She came back in pride and vain-glory, and
boasted that had she known the English people better, she would never have
gone away; and she has squandered thousands in yonder palace, upon floors
of coloured woods, and Italian marbles--the people's money, mark you, money
that should have built ships and fed sailors; and she meant to end her days
among us. But a worse enemy than Cromwell has driven her out of the house
that she made beautiful for herself; and who knows if she will ever see
London again?"

"Then those were right who told me that it was for fear of the plague her
Majesty left London?" said Angela.

"For what else should she flee? She was loth enough to leave, you may be
sure, for she had seated herself in her pride yonder, and her Court was as
splendid, and more looked up to than Queen Catherine's. The Queen-mother is
the prouder woman, and held her head higher than her son's wife has ever
dared to hold hers; yet there are those who say King Charles's widow has
fallen so low as to marry Lord St. Albans, a son of Belial, who would
hazard his immortal soul on a cast of the dice, and lose it as freely as he
has squandered his royal mistress's money. She paid for Jermyn's feasting
and wine-bibbing in Paris, 'tis said, when her son and his friends were on
short commons."

"You do wrong to slander that royal lady," remonstrated Angela. "She is of
all widows the saddest and most desolate--ever the mark of evil fortune.
Even in the glorious year of her son's restoration sorrow pursued her, and
she had to mourn a daughter and a son. She is a most unhappy lady."

"You would scarcely say as much, young madam, had you seen her in her pomp
and power yonder. And as for Lord St. Albans, if he is not her husband--!
Well, thou art a young innocent thing--so I had best hold my peace. Both
palaces are empty and forsaken, both Whitehall and Somerset House. The rats
and the spiders can take their own pleasure in the rooms that were full of
music and dancing, card-playing and feasting, two or three months ago. Why,
there was no better sight in London, after the dead-cart, than to watch the
train of carriages and horsemen, carts and wagons, upon any of the great
high-roads, carrying the people of London away to the country, as if the
whole city had been moving in one mass like a routed army."

"But in palaces and noblemen's houses surely there would be little
danger?" said Angela. "Plagues and fevers are the outcome of hunger and
uncleanliness, and all such evils as the poor have to suffer."

"Nay, but the pestilence that walketh in darkness is no respecter of
persons," answered the grim boatman. "I grant you that death has dealt
hardest with the poor who dwell in crowded lanes and alleys. But now the
very air reeks with poison. It may be carried in the folds of a woman's
gown, or among the feathers of a courtier's hat. They are wise to go who
can go. It is only such as I, who have to work for my grandchildren's
bread, that must needs stay."

"You speak like one who has seen better days," said Angela.

"I was a sergeant in Hampden's regiment, madam, and went all through the
war. When the King came back I had friends who stood by me, and bought me
this boat. I was used to handle an oar in my boyhood, when I lived on
a little bit of a farm that belonged to my father, between Reading and
Henley. I was oftener on the water than on the land in those days. There
are some who have treated me roughly because I fought against the late
King; but folks are beginning to find out that the Brewer's disbanded
red-coats can be honest and serviceable in time of peace."

After passing the Queen-mother's desolate palace the boat crept along near
the Middlesex shore, till it stopped at the bottom of a flight of stone
steps, against which the tide washed with a pleasant rippling sound, and
above which there rose the walls of a stately building facing south-west;
small as compared with Somerset and Northumberland houses, midway between
which it stood, yet a spacious and noble mansion, with a richly decorated
river-front, lofty windows with sculptured pediments, floriated cornice,
and two side towers topped with leaded cupolas, the whole edifice gilded by
the low sun, and very beautiful to look upon, the windows gleaming as if
there were a thousand candles burning within, a light that gave a false
idea of life and festivity, since that brilliant illumination was only a
reflected glory.

"This, madam, is Fareham House," said the boatman, holding out his hand for
his fee.

He charged treble the sum he would have asked half a year ago. In this time
of evil those intrepid spirits who still plied their trades in the tainted
city demanded a heavy fee for their labour; and it would have been hard to
dispute their claim, since each man knew that he risked his life, and that
the limbs which toiled to-day might be lifeless clay to-night. There was
an awfulness about the time, a taste and odour of death mixed with all the
common things of daily life, a morbid dwelling upon thoughts of corruption,
a feverish expectancy of the end of all things, which no man can rightly
conceive who has not passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Angela paid the man his price without question. She stepped lightly from
the boat, while he deposited her two small leather-covered trunks on the
stone landing-place in front of the Italian terrace which occupied the
whole length of the façade. She went up a flight of marble steps, to a door
facing the river. Here she rang a bell which pealed long and loud over the
quiet water, a bell that must have been heard upon the Surrey shore. Yet no
one opened the great oak door; and Angela had a sudden sinking at the heart
as the slow minutes passed and brought no sound of footsteps within, no
scrooping of a bolt to betoken the opening of the door.

"Belike the house is deserted, madam," said the boatman, who had moored
his wherry to the landing-stage, and had carried the two trunks to the
doorstep. "You had best try if the door be fastened or no. Stay!" he cried
suddenly, pointing upwards, "Go not in, madam, for your life! Look at the
red cross on the door, the sign of a plague-stricken house."

Angela looked up with awe and horror. A great cross was smeared upon the
door with red paint, and above it some one had scrawled the words, "Lord,
have mercy upon us!"

And the sister she loved, and the children whose faces she had never seen,
were within that house, sick and in peril of death, perhaps dying--or dead!
She did not hesitate for an instant, but took hold of the heavy iron ring
which served as a handle for the door and tried to open it.

"I have no fear for myself," she said to the boatman; "I have nursed the
sick and the fever-stricken, and am not afraid of contagion--and there are
those within whom I love. Good night, friend."

The handle of the door turned somewhat stiffly in her hand, but it did
turn, and the door opened, and she stood upon the threshold looking into a
vast hall that was wrapped in shadow, save for a shaft of golden light that
streamed from an oval window on the staircase. Other windows there were on
each side of the door, shuttered and barred.

Seeing her enter the house, the old Cromwellian shrugged his shoulders,
shook his head despondently, shoved the two trunks hastily over the
threshold, ran back to his boat, and pushed off.

"God guard thy young life, mistress!" he cried, and the wherry shot out
into the stream.

There had been silence on the river, the silence of a deserted city
at eventide; but that had seemed as nothing to the stillness of this
marble-paved hall, where the sunset was reflected on the dark oak panelling
in one lurid splash like blood.

Not a mortal to be seen. Not a sound of voice or footstep. A crowd of gods
and goddesses in draperies of azure and crimson, purple and orange, looked
down from the ceiling. Curtains of tawny velvet hung beside the shuttered
windows. A great brazen candelabrum, filled with half-consumed candles,
stood tall and splendid at the foot of a wide oak staircase, the
banister-rail whereof was cushioned with tawny velvet. Splendour of fabric,
wood and marble, colour and gilding, showed on every side; but of humanity
there was no sign.

Angela shuddered at the sight of all that splendour, as if death were
playing hide and seek in those voluminous curtains, or were lurking in the
deep shadow which the massive staircase cast across the hall. She looked
about her, full of fear, then seeing a silver bell upon the table, she took
it up and rang it loudly. Upon the same carved ebony table there lay a
plumed hat, a cane with an amber handle, and a velvet cloak neatly folded,
as if placed ready for the master of the house, when he went abroad; but
looking at these things closely, even in that dim light, she saw that
cloak and hat were white with dust, and, more even than the silence, that
spectacle of the thick dust on the dark velvet impressed her with the idea
of a deserted house.

She had no lack of courage, this pupil of the Flemish nuns, and her
footstep did not falter as she went quickly up the broad staircase until
she found herself in a spacious gallery, and amidst a flood of light, for
the windows on this upper or noble floor were all unshuttered, and the
sunset streamed in through the lofty Italian casements. Fareham House was
built upon the plan of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, of which the illustrious
Catherine de Vivonne was herself at once owner and architect. The
staircase, instead of being a central feature, was at the western end of
the house, allowing space for an unbroken suite of rooms communicating one
with the other, and terminating in an apartment with a fine oriel window
looking east.

The folding doors of a spacious saloon stood wide open, and Angela entered
a room whose splendour was a surprise to her who had been accustomed to
the sober simplicity of a convent parlour and the cold grey walls of the
refectory, where the only picture was a pinched and angular Virgin by
Memling, and the only ornament a crucifix of ebony and brass.

Here for the first time she beheld a saloon for whose decoration palaces
had been ransacked and churches desecrated--the stolen treasures of many an
ancestral mansion, spoil of rough soldiery or city rabble, things that had
been slyly stowed away by their possessors during the stern simplicity of
the Commonwealth, and had been brought out of their hiding-places and sold
to the highest bidder. Gold and silver had been melted down in the Great
Rebellion; but art treasures would not serve to pay soldiers or to buy
ammunition; so these had escaped the melting-pot. At home and abroad the
storehouses of curiosity merchants had been explored to beautify Lady
Fareham's reception-rooms; and in the fading light Angela gazed upon
hangings that were worthy of a royal palace, upon Italian crystals and
Indian carvings, upon ivory and amber and jade and jasper, upon tables of
Florentine mosaic, and ebony cabinets incrusted with rare agates, and upon
pictures in frames of massive and elaborate carving, Venetian mirrors which
gave back the dying light from a thousand facets, curtains and portières of
sumptuous brocade, gold-embroidered, gorgeous with the silken semblance of
peacock plumage, done with the needle, from the royal manufactory of the
Crown Furniture at the Gobelins.

She passed into an ante-room, with tapestried walls, and a divan covered
with raised velvet, a music desk of gilded wood, and a spinet, on which
was painted the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Beyond this there was the
dining-room, more soberly though no less richly furnished than the saloon.
Here the hangings were of Cordovan leather, stamped and gilded with
_fleur-de-lys_, suggesting a French origin, and indeed these very hangings
had been bought by a Dutch Jew dealer in the time of the Fronde, had
belonged to the hated minister Mazarin, and had been sold among other of
his effects when he fled from Paris: to vanish for a brief season behind
the clouds of public animosity, and to blaze out again, an elderly phoenix,
in a new palace, adorned with new treasures of art and industry that made
royal princes envious.

Angela gazed on all this splendour as one bewildered. In front of that
gilded wall, quivering in mid-air, as if it had been painted upon the shaft
of light that streamed in from the tall window, her fancy pictured the
blood-red cross and the piteous legend, "Lord, have mercy on us!" written
in the same blood colour. For herself she had neither horror of the
pestilence nor fear of death. Religion had familiarised her mind with the
image of the destroyer. From her childhood she had been acquainted with the
grave, and with visions of a world beyond the grave. It was not for herself
she trembled, but for her sister, and her sister's children; for Lord
Fareham, whose likeness she recalled even at this moment, the grave dark
face which Hyacinth had shown her on the locket she wore upon her neck, the
face which Sir John said reminded him of Strafford.

"He has just that fatal look," her father had told her afterwards when they
talked of Fareham, "the look that men saw in Wentworth's face when he came
from Ireland, and in his Majesty's countenance, after Wentworth's murder."

While she stood in the dying light, wavering for a moment, doubtful which
way to turn--since the room had no less than three tall oak doors, two of
them ajar--there came a pattering upon the polished floor, a scampering of
feet that were lighter and quicker than those of the smallest child, and
the first living creature Angela saw in that silent house came running
towards her. It was only a little black-and-tan spaniel, with long silky
hair and drooping ears, and great brown eyes, fond and gentle, a very
toy and trifle in the canine kingdom; yet the sight of that living thing
thrilled her awe-stricken heart, and her tears came thick and fast as she
knelt and took the little dog in her arms and pressed him against her
bosom, and kissed the cold muzzle, and looked, half laughing, half crying,
into the pathetic brown eyes.

"At least there is life near. This dog would not be left in a deserted
house," she thought, as the creature trembled against her bosom and licked
the hand that held him.

The pattering was repeated in the adjoining room, and another spaniel,
which might have been twin brother of the one she held, came through
the half open door, and ran to her, and set up a jealous barking which
reverberated in the lofty room, and from within that unseen chamber on the
other side of the door there came a groan, a deep and hollow sound, as of
mortal agony.

She set down the dog in an instant, and was on her feet again, trembling
but alert. She pushed the door a little wider and went into the next
apartment, a bedroom more splendid than any bed-chamber her fancy had ever
depicted when she read of royal palaces.

The walls were hung with Mortlake tapestries, representing in four great
panels the story of Perseus and Andromeda, and the Rape of Proserpine.
To her who knew not the old Greek fables those figures looked strangely
diabolical. Naked maiden and fiery dragon, flying horse and Greek hero,
Demeter and Persephone, hell-god and chariot, seemed alike demonaic and
unholy, seen in the dim light of expiring day. The high chimney-piece, with
its Oriental jars, blood-red and amber, faced her as she entered the room,
and opposite the three tall windows stood the state bed, of carved ebony,
the posts adorned with massive bouquets of chased silver flowers, the
curtains of wine coloured velvet, heavy with bullion fringes. One curtain
had been looped back, showing the amber satin lining, and on this bed of
state lay a man, writhing in agony, with one bloodless hand plucking at the
cambric upon his bosom, while with the other he grasped the ebony bed-post
in a paroxysm of pain.

Angela knew that dark and powerful face at the first glance, though the
features were distorted by suffering. This sick man, the sole occupant of a
deserted mansion, was her brother-in-law, Lord Fareham. A large high-backed
armchair stood beside the bed, and on this Angela seated herself. She
recollected the Superior's injunction just in time to put one of the
anti-pestilential lozenges into her mouth before she bent over the
sufferer, and took his clammy hand in hers, and endured the acrimony of his
poisonous breath. That anxious gaze, the dark yellow complexion, and those
great beads of sweat that poured down the pinched countenance too plainly
indicated the disease which had desolated London. The Moslem's invisible
plague-angel had entered this palace, and had touched the master with his
deadly lance. That terrible Presence, which for the most part had been
found among the dwellings of the poor, was here amidst purple and fine
linen, here on this bed of state, enthroned in ebony and silver, hung round
with velvet and bullion. She needed not to discover the pestilential spots
beneath that semi-diaphanous cambric which hung loose upon the muscular
frame, to be convinced of the cruel fact. Here, abandoned and alone, lay
the master of the house, with nothing better than a pair of spaniels for
his companions, and neither nurse nor watcher, wife nor friend, to help him
towards recovery, or to comfort his passing soul.

One of the little dogs leapt on the bed, and licked his master's face again
and again, whining piteously between whiles.

The sick man looked at Angela with awful, unseeing eyes, and then burst
into a wild laugh--

"See them run, the crop-headed clod-hoppers!" he cried. "Ride after
them--mow them down--scatter the rebel clot-pols! The day is ours!" And
then, passing from English to French, from visions of Lindsey and Rupert
and the pursuit at Edgehill to memories of Condé and Turenne, he shouted
with the voice that was like the sound of a trumpet, "_Boutte-selle!
boutte-selle! Monte à cheval! monte à cheval! à l'arme, à l'arme!_"

He was in the field of battle again. His wandering wits had carried him
back to his first fight, when he was a lad in his father's company of
horse, following the King's fortunes, breathing gunpowder, and splashed
with human blood for the first time--when it was not so long since he had
been blooded at the death of his first fox. He was a young man again, with
the Prince, that Bourbon prince and hero whom he loved and honoured far
above any of his own countrymen.

"_O, la folle entreprise du Prince de Condé_," he sang, waving his hand
above his head, while the spaniels barked loud and shrill, adding their
clamour to his. He raved of battles and sieges. He was lying in the
trenches, in cold and rain and wind--in the tempestuous darkness. He was
mounting the breach at Dunkirk against the Spaniard; at Charenton in a
hand-to-hand fight with Frondeurs. He raved of Châtillon and Chanleu, and
the slaughter of that fatal day when Condé mourned a friend and each side
lost a leader. Fever gave force to gesture and voice; but in the midst of
his ravings he fell back, half fainting, upon the pillow, his heart beating
in a tumult which fluttered the lace upon the bosom of his shirt, while
the acrid drops upon his brow gathered thicker than poisonous dew. Angela
remembered how last year in Holland these death-like sweats had not always
pointed to a fatal result, but in some cases had afforded an outlet to the
pestilential influences, though in too many instances they had served only
to enfeeble the patient, the fire of disease still burning, while the damps
of approaching dissolution oozed from the fevered body--flame within and
ice without.



CHAPTER V.

A MINISTERING ANGEL.


Angela flung off hood and mantle, and looked anxiously round the room.
There were some empty phials and ointment boxes, some soiled linen rags and
wet sponges, upon a table near the bed, and the chamber reeked with the
odour of drugs, hartshorn and elder vinegar, cantharides, and aloes; enough
to show that a doctor had been there, and that there had been some attempt
at nursing the patient. But she had heard how in Holland the nurses had
sometimes robbed and abandoned their charges, taking advantage of the
confusions and uncertainties of that period of despair, quick and skilful
to profit by sudden death, and the fears and agonies of relatives and
friends, whose grief made plunder easy. She deemed it likely that one of
those devilish women had first pretended to succour, and had then abandoned
Lord Fareham to his fate, after robbing his house. Indeed, the open doors
of a stately inlaid wardrobe between two windows over against the bed, and
the confused appearance of the clothes and linen on the shelves, indicated
that it had been ransacked by hasty hands; while, doubtless, there had been
many valuables lying loose about a house where there was every indication
of a careless profusion.

"Alas! poor gentleman, to be left by some mercenary wretch--left to die
like the camel in the desert!"

She bent over him, and laid her hand with gentle firmness upon his
death-cold forehead.

"What! are there saints and angels in hell as well as felons and devils?"
he cried, clutching her by the wrist, and looking up at her with distended
eyes, in which the natural colour of the eye-ball was tarnished almost to
blackness with injected blood.

For long and lonely hours, that seemed an eternity, he had been tossing in
a burning fever upon that disordered bed, until he verily believed himself
in a place of everlasting torment. He had that strange, double sense
which goes with delirium--the consciousness of his real surroundings, the
tapestry and furniture of his own chamber, and yet the conviction that
this was hell, and had always been hell, and that he had descended to this
terrible under-world through infinite abysses of darkness. The glow of
sunset had been to him the fierce light of everlasting flames; the burning
of fever was the fire that is never quenched; the pain that racked his
limbs was the worm that dieth not. And now in his torment there came the
vision of a seraphic face bending over him in gentle solicitude; a face
that brought comfort with it, even in the midst of his agony. After that
one wild question he sank slowly back upon the pillows, and lay faint and
weak, his breathing scarce audible. Angela laid her fingers on his wrist.
The pulse was fluttering and intermittent.

She remembered every detail of her aunt's treatment of the plague-patient
in the convent infirmary, and how the turning-point of the malady and
beginning of cure had seemed to be brought about by a draught of strong
wine which the reverend mother had made her give the poor fainting creature
at a crisis of extreme weakness. She looked about the room for any
flask which might contain wine; but there was nothing there except the
apothecary's phials and medicaments.

It was dusk already, and she was alone in a strange house. It would seem no
easy task to find what she wanted, but the case was desperate, and she knew
enough of this mysterious disease to know that if the patient could not
rally speedily from his prostrate condition the end must be near. With
steady brain she set herself to face the difficulty--first to administer
something which should sustain the sick man's strength, and then, without
loss of time, to seek a physician, and bring him to that deserted bed. Wine
was the one thing she could trust to in this crisis; for of the doses and
lotions on yonder table she knew nothing, nor had her experience made her a
believer in the happy influence of drugs.

Her first search must be for light with which to explore the lower part of
the house, where in pantry or stillroom, or, if not above ground, in the
cellars, she must find what she wanted. Surely somewhere in that spacious
bed-chamber there would be tinder-box and matches. There were a pair of
silver candlesticks on the dressing-table, with thick wax candles burnt
nearly to the sockets.

A careful search at last discovered a tinder-box and matches in a dark
angle of the fireless hearth, hidden behind the heavy iron dog. She struck
a light, kindled her match, and lighted a candle, the sick man's eyes
following all her movements, but his lips mute. As she went out of the door
he called after her--

"Leave me not, thou holy visitant--leave not my soul in hell!"

"I will return!" she cried. "Have no fear, sir; I go to fetch some wine."

Her errand was not done quickly. Amidst all the magnificence she had noted
on her journey through the long suite of reception-rooms--the littered
treasures of amber and gold, and ivory and porcelain and silver--she had
seen only an empty wine-flask; so with quick footfall she ran down the
wide, shallow stairs to the lower floor, and here she found herself in a
labyrinth of passages opening into small rooms and servants' offices. Here
there were darkness and gloom rather than splendour; though in many of
those smaller rooms there was a sober and substantial luxury which became
the inferior apartments of a palace. She came at last to a room which she
took to be the butler's office, where there were dressers with a great
array of costly Venetian glass, and a great many pieces of silver--cups,
tankards, salvers, and other ornamental plate--in presses behind glazed
doors. One of the glass panels had been broken, and the shelves in that
press were empty.

Wine there was none to be found in any part of the room; but a small army
of empty bottles in a corner of the floor, and a confusion of greasy
plates, knives, chicken bones, and other scraps, indicated that there had
been carousing here at no remote time.

The cellars were doubtless below these offices; but the wine-cellars would
assuredly be locked, and she had to search for the keys. She opened drawer
after drawer in the lower part of the presses, and at last, in an inner and
secret drawer, found a multitude of keys, some of which were provided with
parchment labels, and among these happily were two labelled "Ye great wine
cellar, S." and "Ye smaller wine cellar, W."

This was a point gained; but the search had occupied a considerable time.
She had yet enough candle to last for about half an hour, and her next
business was to find one of those cellars which those keys opened. She was
intensely anxious to return to her patient, having heard how in some cases
unhappy wretches had leapt from the bed of death and rushed out-of-doors,
delirious, half naked, to anticipate their end by a fatal chill.

On her way to the butler's office she had seen a stone archway at the head
of a flight of stairs leading down into darkness. By this staircase she
hoped to find the wine-cellars, and presently descended, her candlestick in
one hand, and the two great keys in the other. As she went down into the
stone basement, which was built with the solidity of a dungeon, she heard
the plash of the tide, and felt that she was now on a level with the river.
Here she found herself again in a labyrinth of passages, with many doors
standing ajar. At the end of one passage she came to a locked door, and on
trying her keys, found one of them to fit the lock; it was "Ye great wine
cellar, S.," and she understood by the initial "S." that the cellar looked
south and faced the river.

She turned the heavy key with an effort that strained the slender fingers
which held it; but she was unconscious of the pain, and wondered afterwards
to see her hand dented and bruised where the iron had wrung it. The clumsy
door revolved on massive hinges, and she entered a cellar so large that the
light of her candle did not reach the furthermost corners and recesses.

This cellar was built in a series of arches, fitted with stone bins, and in
the upper part of one southward-fronting arch there was a narrow grating,
through which came the cool breath of evening air and the sound of water
lapping against stone. A patch of faint light showed pale against the iron
bars, and as Angela looked that way, a great grey rat leapt through the
grating, and ran along the topmost bin, making the bottles shiver as he
scuttled across them. Then came a thud on the sawdust-covered stones, and
she knew that the loathsome thing was on the floor upon which she was
standing. She lowered her light shudderingly, and, for the first time
since she entered that house of dread, the young brave heart sank with the
sickness of fear.

The cellar might swarm with such creatures; the darkness of the fast-coming
night might be alive with them! And if yonder dungeon-like door were
to swing to and shut with a spring lock, she might perish there in the
darkness. She might die the most hideous of deaths, and her fate remain for
ever unknown.

In a sudden panic she rushed back to the door, and pushed it wider--pushed
it to its extremest opening. It seemed too heavy to be likely to swing back
upon its hinges; yet the mere idea of such a contingency appalled her.
Remembering her labour in unlocking the door from the outside, she doubted
if she could open it from within were it once to close upon that awful
vault. And all this time the lapping of the tide against the stone sounded
louder, and she saw little spirts of spray flashing against the bars in the
lessening light.

She collected herself with an effort, and began her search for the wine.
Sack was the wine she had given to the sick nun, and it was that wine for
which she looked. Of Burgundy, and claret, labelled "Clary Wine," she found
several full bins, and more that were nearly empty. Tokay and other rarer
wines were denoted by the parchment labels which hung above each bin; but
it was some minutes before she came to a bin labelled "Sherris," which she
knew was another name for sack. The bottles had evidently been undisturbed
for a long time, for the bin was full of cobweb, and the thick coating of
dust upon the glass betokened a respectable age in the wine. She carried
off two bottles, one under each arm, and then, with even quicker steps than
had brought her to that darksome place, she hastened back to the upper
floor, leaving the key in the cellar door, and the door unlocked. There
would be time enough to look after Lord Fareham's wine when she had cared
for Lord Fareham himself.

His eyes were fixed upon the doorway as she entered. They shone upon her in
the dusk with an awful glassiness, as if life's last look had become fixed
in death. He did not speak as she drew near the bed, and set the wine
bottles down upon the table among the drugs and cataplasms.

She had found a silver-handled corkscrew in the butler's room among the
relics of the feast, and with this she opened one of the bottles, Fareham
watching her all the time.

"Is that some new alexipharmic?" he asked with a sudden rational air, which
was almost as startling as if a dead man had spoken. "I will have no more
of their loathsome drugs. They have made an apothecary's shop of my body. I
would rather they let me rot by the plague than that they should poison me
with their antidotes, or dissolve me to death with their sudorifics."

"This is not a medicine, Lord Fareham, but your own wine; and I want you to
drink a long draught of it, and then, who knows but you may sleep off your
malady?"

"Ay, sleep in the grave, sweet friend! I have seen the tokens on my breast
that mean death. There is but one inevitable end for all who are so marked.
'Tis like the forester's notch upon the tree. It means doom. He was king of
the forest once, perhaps; but no matter. His time has come. Oh, Lord, thou
hast tormented me with hot burning coals!" he cried, in a sudden access of
pain; and in the next minute he was raving.

Angela filled a beaker with the bright golden wine, and offered it to the
sick man's lips. It was not without infinite pains and coaxing that she
induced him to drink; but, when once his parched lips had tasted the cold
liquor, he drank eagerly, as if that strong wine had been a draught of
water. He gave a deep sigh of solace when the beaker was empty, for he had
been enduring an agony of thirst through all the glare and heat of the
afternoon, and there was unspeakable comfort in that first long drink. He
would have drunk foul water with almost as keen a relish.

He talked fast and furiously, in the disjointed sentences of delirium, for
some little time; and then, little by little, he grew more tranquil; and
Angela, sitting beside the bed, with her fingers laid gently on his wrist,
marked the quieter beat of the pulse, which no longer fluttered like the
wing of a frightened bird. Then with deep thankfulness she saw the eyelids
droop over the bloodshot eyeballs, while the breathing grew slower and
heavier as sleep clouded the wearied brain. The spaniels crept nearer him,
and nestled close to his pillow, so that the man's dark locks were mixed
with the silken curls of the dogs.

Would he die in that sleep? she wondered.

It was only now for the first time since she entered this unpeopled house
that she had leisure to speculate on the circumstances which had brought
about such loneliness and neglect, here where rank and state, and wealth
almost without limit should have secured the patient every care and comfort
that devoted service could lavish upon a sufferer. How was it that she
found her sister's husband abandoned to the care of hirelings, left to the
chances of paid service?

To the cloister-reared maiden the idea of wifely duty was elevated almost
to a religion. To father or to husband she would have given a boundless
devotion, in sickness most of all devoted. To leave husband or father in
a plague-stricken city would have seemed to her a crime as abominable as
Tullia's, a treachery base as Goneril's or Regan's. Could it be that her
sister, that bright and lovely creature, whose face she remembered as a
sunbeam incarnate, could she have been swept away by the pestilence which
spared neither youth nor beauty, neither the strong man nor the weakling
child? Her heart grew heavy as lead at the thought that this stranger, by
whose pillow she was watching, might be the sole survivor in that forsaken
palace, and that in a few more hours he, too, would be numbered with the
dead, in that dreadful city where Death reigned omnipotent, and where the
living seemed but a vanishing minority, pale shadows of living creatures
passing silently along one inevitable pathway to the pest-house or pit.

That calm sleep of the plague-stricken might mean recovery, or it might
mean death. Angela examined the potions and unguents on the table near the
bed, and read the instructions on jars and phials. One was an alexipharmic
draught, to be taken the last thing at night, another a sudorific, to be
administered once in every hour.

"I would not wake him to give him the finest medicine that ever physician
prescribed," Angela said to herself. "I remember what a happy change one
hour of quiet slumber made in Sister Monica, when she was all but dead of a
quartan fever. Sleep is God's physic."

She knelt upon a Prie-Dieu chair remote from the bed, knowing that
contagion lurked amid those voluminous hangings, beneath that stately
canopy with its lustrous satin lining, on which the light of the wax
candles was reflected in shining patches as upon a lake of golden water.
She had no fear of the pestilence; but an instinctive prudence made her
hold herself aloof, now that there was nothing more to be done for the
sufferer.

She remained long in prayer, repeating one of those litanies which she had
learnt in her infancy, and which of late had seemed to her to have somewhat
too set and mechanical a rhythm. The earnestness and fervour seemed to have
gone out of them in somewise since she had come to womanhood. The names of
the saints her lips invoked were dull and cold, and evolved no image
of human or superhuman love and power. What need of intercessors whose
personality was vague and dim, whose earthly histories were made up of
truth so interwoven with fable that she scarce dared believe even that
which might be true? In the One Crucified was help for all sinners, gospel
and creed, the rule of life here, the promise of immortality hereafter.

The litanies to Virgin and Saints were said as a duty--a part of implicit
obedience which was the groundwork of her religion; and then all the
aspirations of her heart, her prayers for the sick man yonder, her fears
for her absent sister, for her father in his foreign wanderings, went up in
one stream of invocation to Christ the Redeemer. To Him, and Him alone, the
strong flame of faith and love rose, like the incense upon an altar--the
altar of a girl's trusting heart.

She was so lost in meditation that she was unconscious of an approaching
footstep in the stillness of the deserted house, till it drew near to the
threshold of the sick-room. The night was close and sultry, so she had left
the door open, and that slow tread had crossed the threshold by the time
she rose from her knees. Her heart beat fast, startled by the first human
presence which she had known in that melancholy place, save the presence of
the pest-stricken sufferer.

She found herself face to face with a middle-aged gentleman of medium
stature, clad in the sober colouring that suggested one of the learned
professions. He appeared even more startled than Angela at the unexpected
vision which met his gaze, faintly seen in the dim light.

There was silence for a few moments, and then the stranger saluted the lady
with a formal reverence, as he laid down his gold-handled cane.

"Surely, madam, this mansion of my Lord Fareham's must be enchanted," he
said. "I left a crowd of attendants, and the stir of life below and above
stairs, only this forenoon last past. I find silence and vacancy. That is
scarce strange in this dejected and unhappy time; for it is but too common
a trick of hireling nurses to abandon their patients, and for servants to
plunder and then desert a sick house. But to find an angel where I left
a hag! That is the miracle! And an angel who has brought healing, if I
mistake not," he added, in a lower voice, bending over the speaker.

"I am no angel, sir, but a weak, erring mortal," answered the girl,
gravely. "For pity's sake, kind doctor--since I doubt not you are my lord's
physician--tell me where are my dearest sister, Lady Fareham, and her
children. Tell me the worst, I entreat you!"

"Sweet lady, there is no ill news to tell. Her ladyship and the little ones
are safe at my lord's house in Oxfordshire, and it is only his lordship
yonder who has fallen a victim to the contagion. Lady Fareham and her girl
and boy have not been in London since the plague began to rage. My lord
had business in the city, and came hither alone. He and the young Lord
Rochester, who is the most audacious infidel this town can show, have been
bidding defiance to the pestilence, deeming their nobility safe from a
sickness which has for the most part chosen its victims among the vulgar."

"His lordship is very ill, I fear, sir?" said Angela interrogatively.

"I left him at eleven o'clock this morning with but scanty hope of
finding him alive after sundown. The woman I left to nurse him was his
house-steward's wife, and far above the common kind of plague-nurse. I did
not think she would turn traitor."

"Her husband has proved a false steward. The house has been robbed of plate
and valuables, as I believe, from signs I saw below stairs; and I suppose
husband and wife went off together."

"Alack! madam, this pestilence has brought into play some of the worst
attributes of human nature. The tokens and loathly boils which break out
upon the flesh of the plague-stricken are less revolting to humanity than
the cruelty of those who minister to the sick, and whose only desire is to
profit by the miseries that surround them; wretches so vile that they have
been known wilfully to convey the seeds of death from house to house, in
order to infect the sound, and so enlarge their area of gains. It was an
artful device of those plunderers to paint the red cross on the door, and
thus scare away any visitor who might have discovered their depredations.
But you, madam, a being so young and fragile, have you no fear of the
contagion?"

"Nay, sir, I know that I am in God's hand. Yonder poor gentleman is not the
first plague-patient I have nursed. There was a nun came from Holland to
our convent at Louvain last year, and had scarce been one night in the
house before tokens of the pestilence were discovered upon her. I helped
the infirmarian to nurse her, and with God's help we brought her round. My
aunt, the reverend mother, bade me give her the best wine there was in the
house--strong Spanish wine that a rich merchant had given to the convent
for the use of the sick--and it was as though that good wine drove the
poison from her blood. She recovered by the grace of God after only a
few days' careful nursing. Finding his lordship stricken with such great
weakness, I ventured to give him a draught of the best sack I could find in
his cellar."

"Dear lady, thou art a miracle of good sense and compassionate bounty. I
doubt thou hast saved thy sister from widow's weeds," said Dr. Hodgkin,
seated by the bed, with his fingers on the patient's wrist, and his massive
gold watch in the other hand. "This sound sleep promises well, and the
pulse beats somewhat slower and steadier than it did this morning. Then
the case seemed hopeless, and I feared to give wine--though a free use of
generous wine is my particular treatment--lest it should fly to his brain,
and disturb his intellectuals at a time when he should need all his senses
for the final disposition of his affairs. Great estates sometimes hang upon
the breath of a dying man."

"Oh, sir, but your patient! To save his life, that would sure be your first
and chiefest thought?"

"Ay, ay, my pretty miss; but I had other measures. Apollo twangs not ever
on the same bowstring. Did my sudorific work well, think you?"

"He was bathed in perspiration when first I found him; but the sweat-drops
seemed cold and deadly, as if life itself were being dissolved out of him."

"Ay, there are cases in which that copious sweat is the forerunner of
dissolution; but in others it augurs cure. The pent-up poison which is
corrupting the patient's blood finds a sudden vent, its virulence is
diluted, and if the end prove fatal, it is that the patient lacks power to
rally after the ravages of the disease, rather than that the poison kills.
Was it instantly after that profuse sweat you gave him the wine, I wonder?"

"It was as speedily as I could procure it from the cellar below."

"And that strong wine, given in the nick of time, reassembled Nature's
scattered forces, and rekindled the flame of life. Upon my soul, sweet
young lady, I believe thou hast saved him! All the drugs in Bucklersbury
could do no more. And now tell me what symptoms you have noted since you
have watched by his bed; and tell me further if you have strength to
continue his nurse, with such precautions as I shall dictate, and such help
as I can send you in the shape of a stout, honest, serving-wench of mine,
and a man to guard the lower part of your house, and fetch and carry for
you?"

"I will do everything you bid me, with all my heart, and with such skill as
I can command."

"Those delicate fingers were formed to minister to the sick. And you will
not shrink from loathsome offices--from the application of cataplasms, from
cleansing foul sores? Those blains and boils upon that poor body will need
care for many days to come."

"I will shrink from nothing that may be needful for his benefit. I should
love to go on nursing him, were it only for my sister's sake. How sorry she
would feel to be so far from him, could she but know of his sickness!"

"Yes, I believe Lady Fareham would be sorry," answered the physician,
with a dry little laugh; "though there are not many married ladies about
Rowley's court of whom I would diagnose as much. Not Lady Denham, for
instance, that handsome, unprincipled houri, married to a septuagenarian
poet, who would rather lock her up in a garret than see her shine at
Whitehall; or Lady Castlemaine, whose husband has been uncivil enough to
show discontent at a peerage that was not of his own earning; or a dozen
others I could name, were not such scandals as these Hebrew to thine
innocent ear."

"Nay, sir, my sister has written of Court scandals in many of her letters,
and it has grieved me to think her lot should be cast among people of
whose reckless doings she tells me with a lively wit that makes sin seem
something less than sin."

"There is no such word as 'sin' in Charles Stuart's Court, my dear young
lady. It is harder to achieve bad repute nowadays than it was once to be
thought a saint. Existence in this town is a succession of bagatelles.
Men's lives and women's reputations drift down to the bottomless pit upon
a rivulet of epigrams and chansons. You have heard of that Dance of Death,
which was one of the nervous diseases of the fifteenth century--a malady
which, after beginning with one lively caperer, would infect a whole
townspeople, and send an entire population curvetting and prancing,
until death stopped them. I sometimes think, when I watch the follies at
Whitehall, that those graceful dancers, sliding upon pointed toe through a
coranto, amid a blaze of candles and star-shine of diamonds, are capering
along the same fatal road by which St. Vitus lured his votaries to the
grave. And then I look at Rowley's licentious eye and cynical lip, and
think to myself, 'This man's father perished on the scaffold; this man's
lovely ancestress paid the penalty of her manifold treacheries after
sixteen years' imprisonment; this man has passed through the jaws of death,
has left his country a fugitive and a pauper, has returned as if by a
miracle, carried back to a throne upon the hearts of his people; and behold
him now--saunterer, sybarite, sensualist--strolling through life without
one noble aim or one virtuous instinct; a King who traffics in the pride
and honour of his country, and would sell her most precious possessions,
level her strongest defences, if his cousin and patron t'other side the
Channel would but bid high enough.' But a plague on my tongue, dear lady,
that it must always be wagging. Not one word more, save for instructions."

Dr. Hodgkin loved talking even better than he loved a fee, and he allowed
himself a physician's licence to be prosy; but he now proceeded to give
minute directions for the treatment of the patient--the poultices and
stoups and lotions which were to reduce the external indications of the
contagion, the medicines which were to be given at intervals during the
night. Medicine in those days left very little to Nature, and if patients
perished it was seldom for want of drugs and medicaments.

"The servant I send you will bring meat and all needful herbs for making a
strong broth, with which you will feed the patient once an hour. There are
many who hold with the boiling of gold in such a broth, but I will not
enter upon the merits of aurum potabile as a fortifiant. I take it that in
this case you will find beef and mutton serve your turn. I shall send you
from my own larder as much beef as will suffice for to-night's use; and
to-morrow your servant must go to the place where the country people sell
their goods, butchers' meat, poultry, and garden-stuff; for the butchers'
shops of London are nearly all closed, and people scent contagion in any
intercourse with their fellow-citizens. You will have, therefore, to look
to the country people for your supplies; but of all this my own man will
give you information. So now, good night, sweet young lady. It is on the
stroke of nine. Before eleven you shall have those who will help and
protect you. Meanwhile you had best go downstairs with me, and lock and
bolt the great door leading into the garden, which I found ajar."

"There is the door facing the river, too, by which I entered."

"Ay, that should be barred also. Keep a good heart, madam. Before eleven
you shall have a sturdy watchman on the premises."

Angela took a lighted candle and followed the physician through the great
empty rooms, and down the echoing staircase; under the ceiling where Jove,
with upraised goblet, drank to his queen, while all the galaxy of the Greek
pantheon circled his imperial throne. Upon how many a festal procession
had those Olympians looked down since that famous house-warming, when
the colours were fresh from the painter's brush, and when the third
Lord Fareham's friend and gossip, King James, deigned to witness the
representation of Jonson's "Time Vindicated," enacted by ladies and
gentlemen of quality, in the great saloon, a performance which--with the
banquet and confectionery brought from Paris, and "the sweet waters which
came down the room like a shower from heaven," as one wrote who was
present at that splendid entertainment, and the _feux d'artifice_ on the
river--cost his lordship a year's income, but stamped him at once a fine
gentleman. Had he been a trifle handsomer, and somewhat softer of speech,
that masque and banquet might have placed Richard Revel, Baron Fareham,
in the front rank of royal favourites; but the Revels were always a
black-visaged race, with more force than comeliness in their countenances,
and more gall than honey upon their tongues.

It was past eleven before the expected succour arrived, and in the interval
Lord Fareham had awakened once, and had swallowed a composing draught,
having apparently but little consciousness of the hand that administered
it. At twenty minutes past eleven Angela heard the bell ring, and ran
blithely down the now familiar staircase to open the garden door, outside
which she found a middle-aged woman and a tall, sturdy young man, each
carrying a bundle. These were the nurse and the watchman sent by Dr.
Hodgkin. The woman gave Angela a slip of paper from the doctor, by way of
introduction.

"You will find Bridget Basset a worthy woman, and able to turn her hand to
anything; and Thomas Stokes is an honest, serviceable youth, whom you may
trust upon the premises, till some of his lordship's servants can be sent
from Chilton Abbey, where I take it there is a large staff."

It was with an unspeakable relief that Angela welcomed these humble
friends. The silence of the great empty house had been weighing upon her
spirits, until the sense of solitude and helplessness had grown almost
unbearable. Again and again she had watched Lord Fareham turn his feverish
head upon his pillow, while the parched lips moved in inarticulate
mutterings; and she had thought of what she should do if a stronger
delirium were to possess him, and he were to try and do himself some
mischief. If he were to start up from his bed and rush through the empty
rooms, or burst open one of yonder lofty casements and fling himself
headlong to the terrace below! She had been told of the terrible things
that plague-patients had done to themselves in their agony; how they had
run naked into the streets to perish on the stones of the highway; how
they had gashed themselves with knives; or set fire to their bed-clothes,
seeking any escape from the torments of that foul disease. She knew that
those burning plague-spots, which her hands had dressed, must cause a
continual anguish that might wear out the patience of a saint; and as the
dark face turned on the tumbled pillow, she saw by the clenched teeth and
writhing lips, and the convulsive frown of the strongly marked brows,
that even in delirium the sufferer was struggling to restrain all unmanly
expressions of his agony. But now, at least, there would be this strong,
capable woman to share in the long night watch; and if the patient grew
desperate there would be three pair of hands to protect him from his own
fury.

She made her arrangements promptly and decisively. Mrs. Basset was to stay
all night with her in the patient's chamber, with such needful intervals of
rest as each might take without leaving the sick-room; and Stokes was
first to see to the fastening of the various basement doors, and to assure
himself that there was no one hidden either in the cellars or on the ground
floor; also to examine all upper chambers, and lock all doors; and was
then to make himself a bed in a dressing closet adjoining Lord Fareham's
chamber, and was to lie there in his clothes, ready to help at any hour of
the night, should help be wanted.



CHAPTER VI.

BETWEEN LONDON AND OXFORD.


Three nights and days had gone since Angela first set her foot upon the
threshold of Fareham House, and in all that time she had not once gone out
into the great city, where dismal silence reigned by day and night, save
for the hideous cries of the men with the dead-carts, calling to the
inhabitants of the infected houses to bring out their dead, and roaring
their awful summons with as automatic a monotony as if they had been
hawking some common necessary of life--a dismal cry that was but
occasionally varied by the hollow tones of a Puritan fanatic, stalking,
gaunt and half clad, along the Strand, and shouting some sentence of fatal
bodement from the Hebrew prophets; just as before the siege of Titus there
walked through the streets of Jerusalem one who cried, "Woe to the wicked
city!" and whose voice could not be stopped but by death.

In those three days and nights the worst symptoms of the contagion were
subjugated. But the ravages of the disease had left the patient in a
state of weakness which bordered on death; and his nurses were full of
apprehension lest the shattered forces of his constitution should fail even
in the hour of recovery. The violence of the fever was abated, and the
delirium had become intermittent, while there were hours in which the
sufferer was conscious and reasonable, in which calmer intervals he would
fain have talked with Angela more than her anxiety would allow.

He was full of wonder at her presence in that house; and when he had been
told who she was, he wanted to know how and why she had come there. By what
happy accident, by what interposition of Providence, had she been sent to
save him from a hideous death?

"I should have died but for you," he said. "I should have lain here till
the cart fetched my putrid carcase. I should be rotting in one of their
plague-pits yonder, behind the old Abbey."

"Nay, indeed, my lord, your good doctor would have discovered your desolate
condition, and would have brought Mrs. Basset to nurse you."

"He would have been too late. I was drifting out to the dark sea of death.
I felt as if the river were bearing me so much nearer to that unknown sea
with every ripple of the hurrying tide. 'Twas your draught of strong wine
snatched me back from the cruel river, drew me on to _terra firma_ again,
renewed my consciousness of manhood, and that I was not a weed to be washed
away. Oh, that wine! Ye gods! what elixir to this parched, burning throat!
Did ever drunkard in all Alsatia snatch such fierce joy from a brimmer?"

Angela put her finger on her lip, and with the other hand drew the silken
coverlet over the sick man's shoulders.

"You are not to talk," she said, "you are to sleep. Slumber is to be your
diet and medicine after that good soup at which you make such a wry face."

"I would swallow the stuff were it Locusta's hell-broth, for your sake."

"You will take it for wisdom's sake, that you may mend speedily, and go
home to my sister," said Angela.

"Home, yes! It will be bliss ineffable to see flowery pastures and wooded
hills after this pest-haunted town; but oh, Angela, mine angel, why dost
thou linger in this poisonous chamber where every breath of mine exhales
infection? Why do you not fly while you are still unstricken? Truly the
plague-fiend cometh as a thief in the night. To-day you are safe. To-night
you may be doomed."

"I have no fear, sir. You are not the first plague-patient I have nursed."

"And thou fanciest thyself pestilence-proof! Sweet girl, it may be that the
divine lymph which fills those azure veins has no affinity with poisons
that slay rude mortals like myself."

"Will you ever be talking?" she said with grave reproach, and left him to
the care of Mrs. Basset, whose comfortable and stolid personality did not
stimulate his imagination.

She had a strong desire to explore that city of which she had yet seen so
little, and her patient being now arrived at a state of his disorder when
it was best for him to be tempted to prolonged slumbers by silence and
solitude, she put on her hood and gloves and went out alone to see the
horrors of the deserted streets, of which nurse Basset had given her so
appalling a picture.

It was four o'clock, and the afternoon was at its hottest; the blue of a
cloudless sky was reflected in the blue of the silent river, where, instead
of the flotilla of gaily painted wherries, the procession of gilded barges,
the music and song, the ceaseless traffic of Court and City, there was only
the faint ripple of the stream, or here and there a solitary barge
creeping slowly down the tide with ineffectual sail napping in the sultry
atmosphere.

That unusual calm which had marked this never-to-be-forgotten year, from
the beginning of spring, was yet unbroken, and the silent city lay like a
great ship becalmed on a tropical ocean; the same dead silence; the same
cruel, smiling sky above; the same hopeless submission to fate in every
soul on board that death-ship. How would those poor dying creatures,
panting out their latest breath in sultry, airless chambers, have welcomed
the rush of rain, the cool freshness of a strong wind blowing along those
sun-baked streets, sweeping away the polluted dust, dispersing noxious
odours, bringing the pure scents of far-off woodlands, of hillside heather
and autumn gorse, the sweetness of the country across the corruption of
the town. But at this dreadful season, when storm and rain would have been
welcomed with passionate thanksgiving, the skies were brass, and the ground
was arid and fiery as the sands of the Arabian desert, while even the grass
that grew in the streets, where last year multitudinous feet had trodden,
sickened as it grew, and faded speedily from green to yellow.

Pausing on the garden terrace to survey the prospect before she descended
to the street, Angela thought of that river as her imagination had depicted
it, after reading a letter of Hyacinth's, written so late as last May; the
gay processions, the gaudy liveries of watermen and servants, the gilded
barges, the sound of viol and guitar, the harmony of voices in part songs,
"Go, lovely rose," or "Why so pale and wan, fond lover?" the beauty and the
splendour; fair faces under vast plumed hats, those picturesque hats which
the maids of honour snatched from each other's heads with giddy laughter,
exchanging head-gear here on the royal barge, as they did sometimes walking
about the great rooms at Whitehall; the King with his boon companions
clustered round him on the richly carpeted daïs in the stern, his courtiers
and his favoured mistresses; haughty Castlemaine, empres, regnant over the
royal heart, false, dissolute, impudent, glorious as Cleopatra when her
purple sails bore her down the swift-flowing Cydnus; the wit and folly
and gladness. All had vanished like the visions of a dreamer; and there
remained but this mourning city, with its closed windows and doors, its
watchmen guarding the marked houses, lest disease and death should hold
communion with that poor remnant of health and life left in the infected
town. Would that fantastic vision of careless, pleasure-loving monarch and
butterfly Court ever be realised again? Angela thought not. It seemed to
her serious mind that the glory of those wild years since his Majesty's
restoration was a delusive and pernicious brightness which could never
shine again. That extravagant splendour, that reckless gaiety had borne
beneath their glittering surface the seeds of ruin and death. An angry
God had stretched out His hand against the wicked city where sin and
profaneness sat in the high places. If Charles Stuart and his courtiers
ever came back to London they would return sobered and chastened, taught
wisdom by adversity. The Puritan spirit would reign once more in the land,
and an age of penitence and Lenten self-abasement would succeed the orgies
of the Restoration; while the light loves of Whitehall, the noble ladies,
the impudent actresses, would vanish into obscurity. Angela's loyal young
heart was full of faith in the King. She was ready to believe that his sins
were the sins of a man whose head had been turned by the sudden change from
exile to a throne, from poverty to wealth, from dependence upon his
Bourbon cousin and his friends in Holland to the lavish subsidies of a
too-indulgent Commons.

No words could paint the desolation which reigned between the Strand and
the City in that fatal summer, now drawing to its melancholy close. More
than once in her brief pilgrimage Angela drew back, shuddering, from the
embrasure of a door, or the inlet to some narrow alley, at sight of death
lying on the threshold, stiff, stark, unheeded; more than once in her
progress from the New Exchange to St Paul's she heard the shrill wail of
women lamenting for a soul just departed. Death was about and around her.
The great bell of the cathedral tolled with an inexorable stroke in the
summer stillness, as it had tolled every day through those long months of
heat, and drought, and ever-growing fear, and ever-thickening graves.

Eastward there rose the red glare of a great fire, and she feared that some
of those old wooden houses in the narrower streets were blazing, but on
inquiry of a solitary foot passenger, she learnt that this fire was one of
many which had been burning for three days, at street corners and in open
spaces, at a great expense of sea-coal, with the hope of purifying the
atmosphere and dispersing poisonous gases--but that so far no amelioration
had followed upon this outlay and labour. She came presently to a junction
of roads near the Fleet ditch, and saw the huge coal-fire flaming with a
sickly glare in the sunshine, tended by a spectral figure, half-clad and
hungry-looking, to whom she gave an alms; and at this juncture of ways a
great peril awaited her, for there sprang, as it were, out of the very
ground, so quickly did they assemble from neighbouring courts and alleys,
a throng of mendicants, who clustered round her, with filthy hands
outstretched, and shrill voices imploring charity. So wasted were their
half-naked limbs, so ghastly and livid their countenances, that they might
have all been plague-patients, and Angela recoiled from them in horror.

"Keep your distance, for pity's sake, good friends, and I will give you all
the money I carry," she exclaimed, and there was something of command in
her voice and aspect, as she stood before them, straight and tall, with
pale, earnest face.

They fell off a little way, and waited till she scattered the contents of
her purse--small Flemish coin--upon the ground in front of her, where they
scrambled for it, snarling and scuffling with each other like dogs fighting
for a bone.

Hastening her footsteps after the horror of that encounter, she went by
Ludgate Hill to the great cathedral, keeping carefully to the middle of the
street, and glancing at the walls and shuttered casements on either side of
her, recalling that appalling story which the Italian choir-mistress at the
Ursulines had told her of the great plague in Milan--how one morning the
walls and doors of many houses in the city had been found smeared with some
foul substance, in broad streaks of white and yellow, which was believed to
be a poisonous compost carrying contagion to every creature who touched
or went within the influence of its mephitic odour; how this thing had
happened not once, but many times; until the Milanese believed that Satan
himself was the prime mover in this horror, and that there were a company
of wretches who had sold themselves to the devil, and were his servants and
agents, spreading disease and death through the city. Strange tales were
told of those who had seen the foul fiend face to face, and had refused his
proffered gold. Innocent men were denounced, and but narrowly escaped being
torn limb from limb, or trampled to death, under the suspicion of being
concerned in this anointing of the walls, and even the cathedral benches,
with plague-poison; yet no death, that the nun could remember, had ever
been traced directly to the compost. It was a mysterious terror which
struck deep into the hearts of a frightened people, so that at last,
against his better reason, and at the repeated prayer of his flock, the
good Archbishop allowed the crystal coffin of St. Carlo Borromeo to be
carried in solemn procession, upon the shoulders of Cardinals, from end to
end of the city--on which occasion all Milan crowded into the streets,
and clustered thick on either side of the pompous train of monks and
incense-bearers, priests and acolytes. But soon there fell a deeper despair
upon the inhabitants of the doomed city; for within two days after this
solemn carrying of the saintly remains the death-rate had tripled and there
was scarce a house in which the contagion had not entered. Then it was said
that the anointers had been in active work in the midst of the crowd, and
had been busiest in the public squares where the bearers of the crystal
coffin halted for a space with their sacred load, and where the people
clustered thickest. The Archbishop had foreseen the danger of this
gathering of the people, many but just recovering from the disease, many
infected and unconscious of their state; but his flock saw only the
handiwork of the fiend in this increase of evil.

In Protestant London there had been less inclination to superstition; yet
even here a comet which, under ordinary circumstances, would have appeared
but as other comets, was thought to wear the shape of a fiery sword
stretched over the city in awful threatening.

Full of pity and of gravest, saddest thoughts, the lonely girl walked
through the lonely town to that part of the city where the streets were
narrowest, a labyrinth of lanes and alleys, with a church-tower or steeple
rising up amidst the crowded dwellings at almost every point to which the
eye looked. Angela wondered at the sight of so many fine churches in this
heretical land. Many of these city churches were left open in this day of
wrath, so that unhappy souls who had a mind to pray might go in at will,
and kneel there. Angela peered in at an old church in a narrow court,
holding the door a little way ajar, and looking along the cold grey nave.
All was gloom and silence, save for a monotonous and suppressed murmur
of one invisible worshipper in a pew near the altar, who varied his
supplicatory mutterings with long-drawn sighs.

Angela turned with a shudder from the cold emptiness of the great grey
church, with its sombre woodwork, and lack of all those beautiful forms
which appeal to the heart and imagination in a Romanist temple. She thought
how in Flanders there would have been tapers burning, and censors swinging,
and the rolling thunder of the organ pealing along the vaulted roof in the
solemn strains of a _Dies Irae_, lifting the soul of the worshipper into
the far-off heaven of the world beyond death, soothing the sorrowful heart
with visions of eternal bliss.

She wandered through the maze of streets and lanes, sometimes coming back
unawares to a street she had lately traversed, till at last she came to a
church that was not silent, for through the open door she heard a voice
within, preaching or praying. She hesitated for a few minutes on the
threshold, having been taught that it was a sin to enter a Protestant
church; and then something within her, some new sense of independence and
revolt against old traditions, moved her to enter, and take her place
quietly in one of the curious wooden boxes where the sparse congregation
were seated, listening to a man in a Geneva gown, who was preaching in a
tall oaken pulpit, surmounted by a massive sounding-board, and furnished
with a crimson velvet cushion, which the preacher used with great effect
during his discourse, now folding his arms upon it and leaning forward to
argue familiarly with his flock, now stretching a long, lean arm above it
to point a denouncing finger at the sinners below, anon belabouring it
severely in the passion of his eloquence.

The flock was small, but devout, consisting for the most part of
middle-aged and elderly persons in sombre attire and of Puritanical aspect;
for the preacher was one of those Calvinistic clergy of Cromwell's time who
had been lately evicted from their pulpits, and prosecuted for assembling
congregations under the roofs of private citizens, and had shown a noble
perseverance in serving God in circumstances of peculiar difficulty. And
now, though the Primate had remained at his post, unfaltering and unafraid,
many of the orthodox shepherds had fled and left their sheep, being too
careful of their own tender persons to remain in the plague-stricken town
and minister to the sick and dying; whereupon the evicted clergy had
in some cases taken possession of the deserted pulpits and the silent
churches, and were preaching Christ's Gospel to that remnant of the
faithful which feared not to assemble in the House of God.

Angela listened to a sermon marked by a rough eloquence which enchained her
attention and moved her heart. It was not difficult to utter heart-stirring
words or move the tender breast to pity when the Preacher's theme was
death; with all its train of attendant agonies; its partings and farewells;
its awful suddenness, as shown in this pestilence, where a young man
rejoicing in his health and strength at noontide sees, as the sun slopes
westward, the death-tokens on his bosom, and is lying dumb and stark at
night-fall; where the joyous maiden is surprised in the midst of her mirth
by the apparition of the plague-spot, and in a few hours is lifeless
clay. The Preacher dwelt upon the sins and follies and vanities of the
inhabitants of that great city; their alacrity in the pursuit of pleasure;
their slackness in the service of God.

"A man who will give twenty shillings for a pair of laced gloves to
a pretty shopwoman at the New Exchange, will grudge a crown for the
maintenance of God's people that are in distress; and one who is not hardy
enough to walk half a mile to church, will stand for a whole afternoon in
the pit of a theatre, to see painted women-actors defile a stage that was
evil enough in the late King's time, but which has in these latter days
sunk to a depth of infamy that it befits not me to speak of in this holy
place. Oh, my Brethren, out of that glittering dream which you have dreamt
since his Majesty's return, out of the groves of Baal, where you have sung
and danced, and feasted, worshipping false gods, steeping your benighted
souls in the vices of pagans and image-worshippers, it has pleased the God
of Israel to give you a rough waking. Can you doubt that this plague, which
has desolated a city, and filled many a yawning pit with the promiscuous
dead, has been God's way of chastening a profligate people, a people caring
only for fleshly pleasures, for rich meats and strong wines, for fine
clothing and jovial company, and despising the spiritual blessings that
the Almighty Father has reserved for them that love Him? Oh, my afflicted
Brethren, bethink you that this pestilence is a chastisement upon a blind
and foolish people; and if it strikes the innocent as well as the guilty,
if it falls as heavily upon the spotless virgin as upon the hoary sinner,
remember that it is not for us to measure the workings of Omnipotence with
the fathom-line of our earthly intellects; or to say this fair girl should
be spared, and that hoary sinner taken. Has not the Angel of Death ever
chosen the fairest blossoms? His business is to people the skies rather
than to depopulate the earth. The innocent are taken, but the warning is
for the guilty; for the sinners whose debaucheries have made this world so
polluted a place that God's greatest mercy to the pure is an early death.
The call is loud and instant, a call to repentance and sacrifice. Let each
bear his portion of suffering with patience, as under that wise rule of
a score years past each family forewent a weekly meal to help those who
needed bread. Let each acknowledge his debt to God, and be content to have
paid it in a season of universal sorrow."

And then the Preacher turned from that awful image of an angry and avenging
God to contemplate Divine compassion in the Redeemer of mankind--godlike
power joined with human love. He preached of Christ the Saviour with a
fulness and a force which were new to Angela. He held up that commanding,
that touching image, unobscured by any other personality. All those
surrounding figures which Angela had seen crowded around the godlike form,
all those sufferings and virtues of the spotless Mother of God were ignored
in that impassioned oration. The preacher held up Christ crucified, Him
only, as the fountain of pity and pardon. He reduced Christianity to its
simplest elements, primitive as when the memory of the God-man was yet
fresh in the minds of those who had seen the Divine countenance and
listened to the Divine voice; and Angela felt as she had never felt before
the singleness and purity of the Christian's faith.

It was the day of long sermons, when a preacher who measured his discourse
by the sands of an hour-glass was deemed moderate. Among the Nonconformists
there were those who turned the glass, and let the flood of eloquence flow
on far into the second hour. The old man had been preaching a long time
when Angela awoke as from a dream, and remembered that sick-chamber where
duty called her. She left the church quietly and hurried westward, guided
chiefly by the sun, till she found herself once more in the Strand; and
very soon afterwards she was ringing the bell at the chief entrance of
Fareham House. She returned far more depressed in spirits than she went
out, for all the horror of the plague-stricken city was upon her; and,
fresh from the spectacle of death, she felt less hopeful of Lord Fareham's
recovery.

Thomas Stokes opened the great door to admit that one modest figure, a door
which looked as if it should open only to noble visitors, to a procession
of courtiers and court beauties, in the fitful light of wind-blown torches.
Thomas, when interrogated, was not cheerful in his account of the patient's
health during Angela's absence. My lord had been strangely disordered; Mrs.
Basset had found the fever increasing, and was "afeared the gentleman was
relapsing."

Angela's heart sickened at the thought. The Preacher had dwelt on the
sudden alternations of the disease, how apparent recovery was sometimes the
precursor of death. She hurried up the stairs, and through the seemingly
endless suite of rooms which nobody wanted, which never might be inhabited
again perhaps, except by bats and owls, to his lordship's chamber, and
found him sitting up in bed, with his eyes fixed on the door by which she
entered.

"At last!" he cried. "Why did you inflict such torturing apprehensions upon
me? This woman has been telling me of the horrors of the streets where
you have been; and I figured you stricken suddenly with this foul malady,
creeping into some deserted alley to expire uncared for, dying with your
head upon a stone, lying there to be carried off by the dead-cart. You must
not leave this house again, save for the coach that shall fetch you to
Oxfordshire to join Hyacinth and her children--and that coach shall start
to-morrow. I am a madman to have let you stay so long in this infected
house."

"You forget that I am plague-proof," she answered, throwing off hood and
cloak, and going to his bedside, to the chair in which she had spent many
hours watching by him and praying for him.

No, there was no relapse. He had only been restless and uneasy because of
her absence. The disease was conquered, the pest-spots were healing fairly,
and his nurses had only to contend against the weakness and depression
which seemed but the natural sequence of the malady.

Dr. Hodgkin was satisfied with his patient's progress. He had written to
Lady Fareham, advising her to send some of her servants with horses for his
lordship's coach, and to provide for relays of post-horses between London
and Oxfordshire, a matter of easier accomplishment than it would have been
in the earlier summer, when the quality were flying to the country, and
post-horses were at a premium. Now there were but few people of rank or
standing who had the courage to stay in town, like the Archbishop, who had
not left Lambeth, or the stout old Duke of Albemarle, at the Cockpit, who
feared the pestilence no more than he feared sword or cannon.

Two of his lordship's lackeys, and his Oxfordshire major-domo and clerk of
the kitchen, arrived a week after Angela's landing, bringing loving letters
from Hyacinth to her husband and sister. The physician had so written as
not to scare the wife. She had been told that her husband had been ill, but
was in a fair way to recovery, and would post to Oxfordshire as soon as he
was strong enough for the journey, carrying his sister-in-law with him,
and lying at the accustomed inn at High Wycombe, or perchance resting two
nights and spending three days upon the road.

That was a happy day for Angela when her patient was well enough to start
on his journey. She had been longing to see her sister and the children,
longing still more intensely to escape from the horror of that house, where
death had seemed to lie in ambush behind the tapestry hangings, and where
few of her hours had been free from a great fear. Even while Fareham was on
the high-road to recovery there had been in her mind the ever-present dread
of a relapse. She rejoiced with fear and trembling, and was almost afraid
to believe physician and nurse when they assured her that all danger was
over.

The pestilence had passed by, and they went out in the sunshine, in the
freshness of a September morning, balmy, yet cool, with a scent of flowers
from the gardens of Lambeth and Bankside blowing across the river. Even
this terrible London, the forsaken city, looked fair in the morning light;
her palaces and churches, her streets of heavily timbered houses, their
projecting windows enriched with carved wood and wrought iron--streets that
recalled the days of the Tudors and even suggested an earlier and rougher
age, when the French King rode in all honour, albeit a prisoner, at his
conqueror's side; or later, when fallen Richard, shorn of all royal
dignity, rode abject and forlorn through the city, and caps were flung up
for his usurping cousin. But oh, the horror of closed shops and deserted
houses, and pestiferous wretches running by the coach door in their
poisonous rags, begging alms, whenever the horses went slowly, in those
narrow streets that lay between Fareham House and Westminster!

To Angela's wondering eyes Westminster Hall and the Abbey offered a new
idea of magnificence, so grandly placed, so dignified in their antiquity.
Fareham watched her eager countenance as the great family coach, which had
been sent up from Oxfordshire for his accommodation, moved ponderously
westward, past the Chancellor's new palace, and other new mansions, to the
Hercules Pillars Inn, past Knightsbridge and Kensington, and then northward
by rustic lanes, and through the village of Ealing to the Oxford road.

The family coach was as big as a small parlour, and afforded ample room for
the convalescent to recline at his ease on one seat, while Angela and the
steward, a confidential servant with the manners of a courtier, sat side by
side upon the other.

They had the two spaniels with them, Puck and Ganymede, silky-haired little
beasts, black and tan, with bulging foreheads, crowded with intellect, pug
noses so short as hardly to count for noses, goggle eyes that expressed
shrewdness, greediness, and affection. Puck snuggled cosily in the soft
lace of his lordship's shirt; Ganymede sat and blinked at the sunshine from
Angela's lap. Both snarled at Mr. Manningtree, the steward, and resented
the slightest familiarity on his part.

Lord Fareham's thoughtful face brightened with its rare smile--half amused,
half cynical--as he watched Angela's eager looks, devouring every object on
the road.

"Those grave eyes look at our London grandeurs with a meek wonder,
something as thy namesake an angel might look upon the splendours of
Babylon. You can remember nothing of yonder palace, or senate house, or
Abbey, I think, child?"

"Yes, I remember the Abbey, though it looked different then. I saw it
through a cloud of falling snow. It was all faint and dim there. There were
soldiers in the streets, and it was bitter cold; and my father sat in the
coach with his elbows on his knees and his face hidden in his hands. And
when I spoke to him, and tried to pull his hands away--for I was afraid of
that hidden face--he shook me off and groaned aloud. Oh, such a harrowing
groan! I should have thought him mad had I known what madness meant; but I
know not what I thought. I remember only that I was frightened. And later,
when I asked him why he was sorry, he said it was for the King."

"Ay, poor King! We have all supped full of sorrow for his sake. We have
cursed and hated his enemies, and drawn and quartered their vile carcases,
and have dug them out of the darkness where the worms were eating them. We
have been distraught with indignation, cruel in our fury; and I look back
to-day, after fifteen years, and see but too clearly now that Charles
Stuart's death lies at one man's door."

"At Cromwell's? At Bradshaw's?"

"No, child; at his own. Cromwell would have never been heard of, save in
Huntingdon Market-place, as a God-fearing yeoman, had Charles been strong
and true. The King's weakness was Cromwell's opportunity. He dug his own
grave with false promises, with shilly-shally, with an inimitable talent
for always doing the wrong thing and choosing the wrong road. Open not so
wide those reproachful eyes. Oh, I grant you, he was a noble king, a king
of kings to walk in a royal procession, to sit upon a daïs under a velvet
and gold canopy, to receive ambassadors, and patronise foreign painters,
and fulfil all that is splendid and stately in ideal kingship. He was an
adoring husband--confiding to simplicity--a kind father, a fond friend,
though never a firm one."

"Oh, surely, surely you loved him?"

"Not as your father loved him, for I never suffered with him. It was those
who sacrificed the most who loved him best, those who were with him to the
end, long after common sense told them his cause was hopeless; indeed, I
believe my father knew as much at Nottingham, when that luckless standard
was blown down in the tempest. Those who starved for him, and lay out
on barren moors through the cold English nights for him, and wore their
clothes threadbare and their shoes into holes for him, and left wife and
children, and melted their silver and squandered their gold for him--those
are the men who love his memory dearest, and for whose poor sakes we of the
younger generation must make believe to think him a saint and a martyr."

"Oh, my lord, say not that you think him a bad man!"

"Bad! Nay, I believe that all his instincts were virtuous and honourable,
and that--until the whirlwind of those latter days in which he scarce knew
what he was doing--he meant fairly by his people, and had their welfare at
heart. He might have done far better for himself and others had he been a
brave bad man like Wentworth--audacious, unscrupulous, driving straight
to a fixed goal. No, Angela, he was that which is worse for mankind--an
obstinate, weak man. A bundle of impulses, some good and some evil; a man
who had many chances, and lost them all; who loved foolishly and too well,
and let himself be ruled by a wife who could not rule herself. Blind
impulse, passionate folly were sailing the State ship through that sea of
troubles which could be crossed but by a navigator as politic, profound,
and crafty as Richelieu or Mazarin. Who can wonder that the Royal Charles
went down?"

"It must seem strange to you, looking back from the Court, as Hyacinth's
letters have painted it--to that time of trouble?"

"Strange! I stand in the crowd at Whitehall sometimes, amidst their masking
and folly, their frolic schemes, their malice, their jeering wit and
riotous merriment, and wonder whether it is all a dream, and I shall wake
and see the England of '44, the year Henrietta Maria vanished--a discrowned
fugitive, from the scene where she had lived to do harm. I look along the
perspective of painted faces and flowing hair, jewels, and gay colours,
towards that window through which Charles I. walked to his bloody death,
suffered with a kingly grandeur that made the world forget all that was
poor and petty in his life; and I wonder does anyone else recall that
suffering or reflect upon that doom. Not one! Each has his jest, and his
mistress--the eyes he worships, the lips he adores. It is only the rural
Put that feels himself lost in the crowd whose thoughts turn sadly to the
sad past."

"Yet whatever your lordship may say----"

"Tush, child, I am no lordship to you! Call me brother, or Fareham;
and never talk to me as if I were anything else than your brother in
affection."

"It is sweet to hear you say so much, sir," she answered gently. "I have
often envied my companions at the Ursulines when they talked of their
brothers. It was so strange to hear them tell of bickering and ill-will
between brother and sister. Had God given me a brother, I would not quarrel
with him."

"Nor shall thou quarrel with me, sweetheart; but we will be fast friends
always. Do I not owe thee my life?"

"I will not hear you say so; it is blasphemy against your Creator, who
relented and spared you."

"What! you think that Omnipotence, in the inaccessible mystery of Heaven,
keeps the muster-roll of earth open before Him, and reckons each little
life as it drops off the list? That is hardly my notion of Divinity. I
see the Almighty rather as the Roman poet saw Him--an inexorable Father,
hurling the thunderbolt our folly has deserved from His red right hand, yet
merciful to stay that hand when we have taken our punishment meekly. That,
Angela, is the nearest my mind can reach to the idea of a personal God. But
do not bend those pencilled brows with such a sad perplexity. You know,
doubtless, that I come of a Catholic family, and was bred in the old faith.
Alas! I have conformed ill to Church discipline. I am no theologian, nor
quite an infidel, and should be as much at sea in an argument with Hobbes
as with Bossuet. Trouble not thy gentle spirit for my sins of thought or
deed. Your tender care has given me time to repent all my errors. You
were going to tell my lordship something, when I chid you for excess of
ceremony--"

"Nay, sir--brother, I had but to say that this wicked Court, of which my
father and you have spoken so ill, can scarcely fail to be turned from its
sins by so terrible a visitation. Those who have looked upon the city as I
saw it a week ago can scarce return with unchastened hearts to feasting and
dancing and idle company."

"But the beaux and belles of Whitehall have not seen the city as my brave
girl saw it," cried Fareham.

"They have not met the dead-cart, nor heard the groans of the dying, nor
seen the red cross upon the doors. They made off with the first rumour of
peril. The roads were crowded with their coaches, their saddle-horses,
their furniture and finery; one could scarce command a post-horse for love
or money. 'A thousand less this week,' says one. 'We may be going back to
town and have the theatres open again in the cold weather.'"

They dined at the Crown, at Uxbridge, which was that "fair house at the end
of the town" provided for the meeting of the late King's Commissioners with
the representatives of the Parliament in the year '44. Fareham showed his
sister-in-law a spacious panelled parlour, which was that "fair room in
the middle of the house" that had been handsomely dressed up for the
Commissioners to sit in.

They pushed on to High Wycombe before night-fall, and supped _tête-à-tête_
in the best room of the inn, with Fareham's faithful Manningtree to bring
in the chief dish, and the people of the house to wait upon them. They were
very friendly and happy together, Fareham telling his companion much of his
adventurous life in France, and how in the first Fronde war he had been on
the side of Queen and Minister, and afterwards, for love and admiration of
Condé, had joined the party of the Princes.

"Well, it was a time worth living in--a good education for the boy-king,
Louis, for it showed him that the hereditary ruler of a great nation has
something more to do than to be born, and to exist, and to spend money."

Lord Fareham described the shining lights of that brilliant court with a
caustic tongue; but he was more indulgent to the follies of the Palais
Royal and the Louvre than he had been to the debaucheries of Whitehall.

"There is a grace even in their vices," he said. "Their wit is lighter, and
there is more mind in their follies. Our mirth is vulgar even when it is
not bestial. I know of no Parisian adventure so degrading as certain pranks
of Buckhurst's, which I would not dare mention in your hearing. We imitate
them, and out-herod Herod, but we are never like them. We send to Paris for
our clothes, and borrow their newest words--for they are ever inventing
some cant phrase to startle dulness--and we make our language a foreign
farrago. Why, here is even plain John Evelyn, that most pious of pedants,
pleading for the enlistment of a troop of Gallic substantives and
adjectives to eke out our native English!"

Fareham told Angela much of his past life during the freedom of that long
_tête-à-tête_, talking to her as if she had indeed been a young sister from
whom he had been separated since her childhood. That mild, pensive manner
promised sympathy and understanding, and he unconsciously inclined to
confide his thoughts and opinions to her, as well as the history of his
youth.

He had fought at Edgehill as a lad of thirteen, had been with the King at
Beverley, York, and Nottingham, and had only left the Court to accompany
the Prince of Wales to Jersey, and afterwards to Paris.

"I soon sickened of a Court life and its petty plots and parlour
intrigues," he told Angela, "and was glad to join Condé's army, where my
father's influence got me a captaincy before I was eighteen. To fight under
such a leader as that was to serve under the god of war. I can imagine Mars
himself no grander soldier. Oh, my dear, what a man! Nay, I will not call
him by that common name. He was something more or less than man--of another
species. In the thick of the fight a lion; in his dominion over armies,
in his calmness amidst danger, a god. Shall I ever see it again, I
wonder--that vulture face, those eyes that flashed Jove's red lightning?"

"Your own face changes when you speak of him," said Angela, awe-stricken
at that fierce energy which heroic memories evoked in Fareham's wasted
countenance.

"Nay, you should have seen the change in _his_ face when he flung off the
courtier for the captain. His whole being was transformed. Those who knew
Condé at St. Germain, at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, at the Palais Royal,
knew not the measure or the might of that great nature. He was born to
conquer. But you must not think that with him victory meant brute force. It
meant thought and patience, the power to foresee and to combine, the
rapid apprehension of opposing circumstances, the just measure of his own
materials. A strict disciplinarian, a severe master, but willing to work at
the lowest details, the humblest offices of war. A soldier, did I say? He
was the Genius of modern warfare."

"You talk as if you loved him dearly."

"I loved him as I shall never love any other man. He was my friend as
well as my General. But I claim no merit in loving one whom all the world
honoured. Could you have seen princes and nobles, as I saw them when I
was a boy at Paris, standing on chairs, on tables, kneeling, to drink his
health! A demi-god could have received no more fervent adulation. Alas!
sister, I look back at those years of foreign service and know they were
the best of my life!"

They started early next morning, and were within half a dozen miles of
Oxford before the sun was low. They drove by a level road that skirted the
river; and now, for the first time, Angela saw that river flowing placidly
through a rural landscape, the rich green of marshy meadows in the
foreground, and low wooded hills on the opposite bank, while midway across
the stream an islet covered with reed and willow cast a shadow over the
rosy water painted by the western sun.

"Are we near them now?" she asked eagerly, knowing that her
brother-in-law's mansion lay within a few miles of Oxford.

"We are very near," answered Fareham; "I can see the chimneys, and the
white stone pillars of the great gate."

He had his head out of the carriage, looking sunward, shading his eyes with
his big doe-skin gauntlet as he looked. Those two days on the road, the
fresh autumn air, the generous diet, the variety and movement of the
journey, had made a new man of him. Lean and gaunt he must needs be for
some time to come; but the dark face was no longer bloodless; the eyes had
the fire of health.

"I see the gate--and there is more than that in view!" he cried excitedly.
"Your sister is coming in a troop to meet us, with her children, and
visitors, and servants. Stop the coach, Manningtree, and let us out."

The post-boys pulled up their horses, and the steward opened the coach
door and assisted his master to alight. Fareham's footsteps were somewhat
uncertain as he walked slowly along the waste grass by the roadside,
leaning a little upon Angela's shoulder.

Lady Fareham came running towards them in advance of children and friends,
an airy figure in blue and white, her fair hair flying in the wind, her
arms stretched out as if to greet them from afar. She clasped her sister to
her breast even before she saluted her husband, clasped her and kissed her,
laughing between the kisses.

"Welcome, my escaped nun!" she cried. "I never thought they would let thee
out of thy prison, or that thou wouldst muster courage to break thy bonds.
Welcome, and a hundred times, welcome. And that thou shouldst have nursed
and tended my ailing lord! Oh, the wonder of it! While I, within a hundred
miles of him, knew not that he was ill, here didst thou come across seas to
save him! Why, 'tis a modern fairy tale."

"And she is the good fairy," said Fareham, taking his wife's face between
his two hands and bending down to kiss the white forehead under its cloud
of pale golden curls, "and you must cherish her for all the rest of your
life. But for her I should have died alone in that great gaudy house, and
the rats would have eaten me, and then perhaps you would have cared no
longer for the mansion, and would have had to build another further west,
by my Lord Clarendon's, where all the fine folks are going--and that would
have been a pity."

"Oh, Fareham, do not begin with thy irony-stop! I know all your organ
tones, from the tenor of your kindness to the bourdon of your displeasure.
Do you think I am not glad to have you here safe and sound? Do you think I
have not been miserable about you since I knew of your sickness? Monsieur
de Malfort will tell you whether I have been unhappy or not."

"Why, Malfort! What wind blew you hither at this perilous season, when
Englishmen are going abroad for fear of the pestilence, and when your
friend St Evremond has fled from the beauties of Oxford to the malodorous
sewers and fusty fraus of the Netherlands?"

"I had no fear of the contagion, and I wanted to see my friends. I am in
lodgings in Oxford, where there is almost as much good company as there
ever was at Whitehall."

The Comte de Malfort and Fareham clasped hands with a cordiality which
bespoke old friendship; and it was only an instinctive recoil on the part
of the Englishman which spared him his friend's kisses. They had lived in
camps and in courts together, these two, and had much in common, and much
that was antagonistic, in temperament and habits, Malfort being lazy and
luxurious, when no fighting was on hand; a man whose one business, when not
under canvas, was to surpass everybody else in the fashion and folly of
the hour, to be quite the finest gentleman in whatever company he found
himself.

He was a godson and favourite of Madame de Montrond, who had numbered his
father among the army of her devoted admirers. He had been Hyacinth's
playfellow and slave in her early girlhood, and had been _l'ami de la
maison_ in those brilliant years of the young King's reign, when the
Farehams were living in the Marais. To him had been permitted all
privileges that a being as harmless and innocent as he was polished and
elegant might be allowed, by a husband who had too much confidence in his
wife's virtue, and too good an opinion of his own merits to be easily
jealous. Nor was Henri de Malfort a man to provoke jealousy by any superior
gifts of mind or person. Nature had not been especially kind to him. His
features were insignificant, his eyes pale, and he had not escaped that
scourge of the seventeenth century, the small-pox. His pale and clear
complexion was but slightly pitted, however, and his eyelids had
not suffered. Men were inclined to call him ugly; women thought him
interesting. His frame was badly built from the athlete's point of view;
but it had the suppleness which makes the graceful dancer, and was an
elegant scaffolding on which to hang the picturesque costume of the day.
For the rest, all that he was he had made himself, during those eighteen
years of intelligent self-culture, which had been his engrossing occupation
since his fifteenth birthday, when he determined to be one of the finest
gentlemen of his epoch.

A fine gentleman at the Court of Louis had to be something more than a
figure steeped in perfumes and hung with ribbons. His red-heeled shoes, his
periwig and cannon sleeves, were indispensable to fashion, but not
enough for fame. The favoured guest of the Hotel de Rambouillet, and of
Mademoiselle de Scudèry's "Saturdays," must have wit and learning, or at
least that capacity for smart speech and pedantic allusion which might pass
current for both in a society where the critics were chiefly feminine.
Henri de Malfort had graduated in a college of blue-stockings. He had grown
up in an atmosphere of gunpowder and _bouts rimés_. He had stormed the
breach at sieges where the assault was led off by a company of violins,
in the Spanish fashion. He had fought with distinction under the finest
soldiers in Europe, and had seen some of his dearest friends expire at his
side.

Unlike Gramont and St. Évremond, he was still in the floodtide of royal
favour in his own country; and it seemed a curious caprice that had led him
to follow those gentlemen to England, to shine in a duller society, and
sparkle at a less magnificent court.

The children hung upon their father, Papillon on one side, Cupid on the
other, and it was in them rather than in her sister's friend that Angela
was interested. The girl resembled her mother only in the grace and
flexibility of her slender form, the quickness of her movements, and the
vivacity of her speech. Her hair and eyes were dark, like her father's, and
her colouring was that of a brunette, with something of a pale bronze under
the delicate carmine of her cheeks. The boy favoured his mother, and was
worthy of the sobriquet Rochester had bestowed upon him. His blue eyes,
chubby cheeks, cherry lips, and golden hair were like the typical Cupid
of Rubens, and might be seen repeated _ad libitum_ on the ceiling of the
Banqueting House.

"I'll warrant this is all flummery," said Fareham, looking down at the girl
as she hung upon him. "Thou art not glad to see me."

"I am so glad that I could eat you, as the Giant would have eaten Jack,"
answered the girl, leaping up to kiss him, her hair flying back like a
dark cloud, her nimble legs struggling for freedom in her long brocade
petticoat.

"And you are not afraid of the contagion?"

"Afraid! Why, I wanted mother to take me to you as soon as I heard you were
ill."

"Well, I have been smoke-dried and pickled in strong waters, until Dr.
Hodgkin accounts me safe, or I would not come nigh thee. See, sweetheart,
this is your aunt, whom you are to love next best to your mother."

"But not so well as you, sir. You are first," said the child, and then
turned to Angela and held up her rosebud mouth to be kissed. "You saved my
father's life," she said. "If you ever want anybody to die for you let it
be me."

"Gud! what a delicate wit! The sweet child is positively _tuant_,"
exclaimed a young lady, who was strolling beside them, and whom Lady
Fareham had not taken the trouble to introduce by name to any one, but who
was now accounted for as a country neighbour, Mrs. Dorothy Lettsome.

Angela was watching her brother-in-law as they sauntered along, and she saw
that the fatigue and agitation of this meeting were beginning to affect
him. He was carrying his hat in one hand, while the other caressed
Papillon. There were beads of perspiration on his forehead, and his
footsteps began to drag a little. Happily the coach had kept a few paces in
their rear, and Manningtree was walking beside it; so Angela proposed that
his lordship should resume his seat in the vehicle and drive on to his
house, while she went on foot with her sister.

"I must go with his lordship," cried Papillon, and leapt into the coach
before her father.

Hyacinth put her arm through Angela's, and led her slowly along the grassy
walk to the great gates, the Frenchman and Mrs. Lettsome following; and
unversed as the convent-bred girl was in the ways of this particular world,
she could nevertheless perceive that in the conversation between these two,
M. de Malfort was amusing himself at the expense of his fair companion. His
own English was by no means despicable, as he had spent more than a year,
at the Embassy immediately after the Restoration, to say nothing of his
constant intercourse with the Farehams and other English exiles in France;
but he was encouraging the young lady to talk to him in French, which was
spoken with an affected drawl, that was even more ridiculous than its
errors in grammar.



CHAPTER VII.

AT THE TOP OF THE FASHION.


Nothing could have been more cordial than Lady Fareham's welcome to her
sister, nor were it easy to imagine a life more delightful than that at
Chilton Abbey in that autumnal season, when every stage of the decaying
year clothed itself with a variety and brilliancy of colouring which made
ruin beautiful, and disguised the approach of winter, as a court harridan
might hide age and wrinkles under a yellow satin mask and flame-coloured
domino. The Abbey was one of those capacious, irregular buildings in which
all that a house was in the past and all that it is in the present are
composed into a harmonious whole, and in which past and present are so
cunningly interwoven that it would have been difficult for any one but an
architect to distinguish where the improvements and additions of yesterday
were grafted on to the masonry of the fourteenth century. Here, where the
spacious plate-room and pantry began, there were walls massive enough for
the immuring of refractory nuns; and this corkscrew Jacobean staircase,
which wound with carved balusters up to the garret story, had its
foundations in a flight of Cyclopean stone steps that descended to the
cellars, where the monks kept their strong liquors and brewed their beer.
Half of my lady's drawing-room had been the refectory, and the long
dining-parlour still showed the groined roof of an ancient cloister; while
the music-room, into which it opened, had been designed by Inigo Jones, and
built by the last Lord Fareham. All that there is of the romantic in this
kind of architectural patchwork had been enhanced by the collection of old
furniture that the present possessors of the Abbey had imported from Lady
Fareham's château in Normandy, and which was more interesting though less
splendid than the furniture of Fareham's town mansion, as it was the result
of gradual accumulation in the Montrond family, or of purchase from the
wreck of noble houses, ruined in the civil war which had distracted France
before the reign of the Béarnais.

To Angela the change from an enclosed convent to such a house as Chilton
Abbey, was a change that filled all her days with wonder. The splendour,
the air of careless luxury that pervaded her sister's house, and suggested
costliness and waste in every detail, could but be distressing to the pupil
of Flemish nuns, who had seen even the trenchers scraped to make soup for
the poor, and every morsel of bread garnered as if it were gold dust. From
that sparse fare of the convent to this Rabelaisian plenty, this plethora
of meat and poultry, huge game pies and elaborate confectionery, this
perpetual too much of everything, was a transition that startled and
shocked her. She heard with wonder of the numerous dinner tables that were
spread every day at Chilton. Mr. Manningtree's table, at which the Roman
Priest from Oxford dined, except on those rare occasions when he was
invited to sit down with the quality; and Mrs. Hubbock's table, where the
superior servants dined, and at which Henriette's dancing-master considered
it a privilege to over-eat himself; and the two great tables in the
servants' hall, twenty at each table; and the _gouvernante_, Mrs. Priscilla
Goodman's table in the blue parlour upstairs, at which my lady's English
and French waiting-women, and my lord's gentlemen ate, and at which
Henriette and her brother were supposed to take their meals, but where they
seldom appeared, usually claiming the right to eat with their parents. She
wondered as she heard of the fine-drawn distinctions among that rabble of
servants, the upper ranks of whom were supplied by the small gentry--of
servants who waited upon servants, and again other servants who waited on
those, down to that lowest stratum of kitchen sluts and turnspits, who
actually made their own beds and scraped their own trenchers. Everywhere
there was lavish expenditure--everywhere the abundance which, among that
uneducated and unthoughtful class, ever degenerates into wanton waste.

It sickened Angela to see the long dining-table loaded, day after day, with
dishes that were many of them left untouched amidst the superabundance,
while the massive Cromwellian sideboard seemed to need all the thickness
of its gouty legs to sustain the "regalia" of hams and tongues, pasties,
salads and jellies. And all this time _The Weekly Gazette_ from London
told of the unexampled distress in that afflicted city, which was but the
natural result of an epidemic that had driven all the well-to-do away, and
left neither trade nor employment for the lower classes.

"What becomes of that mountain of food?" Angela asked her sister, after
her second dinner at Chilton, by which time she and Hyacinth had become
familiar and at ease with each other. "Is it given to the poor?"

"Some of it, perhaps, love; but I'll warrant that most of it is eaten in
the offices--with many a handsome sirloin and haunch to boot."

"Oh, sister, it is dreadful to think of such a troop! I am always meeting
strange faces. How many servants have you?"

"I have never reckoned them. Manningtree knows, no doubt; for his wages
book would tell him. I take it there may be more than fifty, and less than
a hundred. Anyhow, we could not exist were they fewer."

"More than fifty people to wait upon four!"

"For our state and importance, _chérie_. We are very ill-waited upon. I
nearly died last week before I could get any one to bring me my afternoon
chocolate. The men had all rushed off to a bull-baiting, and the women
were romping or fighting in the laundry, except my own women, who are too
genteel to play with the under-servants, and had taken a holiday to go and
see a tragedy at Oxford. I found myself in a deserted house. I might have
been burnt alive, or have expired in a fit, for aught any of those over-fed
devils cared."

"But could they not be better regulated?"

"They are, when Manningtree is at home. He has them all under his thumb."

"And he is an honest, conscientious man?"

"Who knows? I dare say he robs us, and takes a _pot de vin_ wherever 'tis
offered. But it is better to be robbed by one than by an army; and if
Manningtree keeps others from cheating he is worth his wages."

"And you, dear Hyacinth. Do you keep no accounts?"

"Keep accounts! Why, my dearest simpleton, did you ever hear of a woman of
quality keeping accounts--unless it were some lunatic universal genius like
her Grace of Newcastle, who rises in the middle of the night to scribble
verses, and who might do anything preposterous. Keep accounts! Why, if you
was to tell me that two and two make five I couldn't controvert you, from
my own knowledge."

"It all seems so strange to me," murmured Angela.

"My aunt supervised all the expenditure of the convent, and was unhappy if
she discovered waste in the smallest item."

"Unhappy! Yes, my dear innocent. And do you think if I was to investigate
the cost of kitchen and cellar, and calculate how many pounds of meat each
of our tall lackeys consumes per diem, I should not speedily be plagued
into grey hairs and wrinkles? I hope we are rich enough to support their
wastefulness. And if we are not--why, _vogue la galère_--when we are ruined
the King must do something for Fareham--make him Lord Chancellor. His
Majesty is mighty sick of poor old Clarendon and his lectures. Fareham has
a long head, and would do as well as anybody else for Chancellor if he
would but show himself at Court oftener, and conform to the fashion of the
time, instead of holding himself aloof, with a Puritanical disdain for
amusements and people that please his betters. He has taken a leaf out of
Lord Southampton's book, and would not allow me to return a visit Lady
Castlemaine paid me the other day, in the utmost friendliness: and to
slight her is the quickest way to offend his Majesty."

"But, sister, you would not consort with an infamous woman?"

"Infamous! Who told you she is infamous? Your innocency should be ignorant
of such trumpery tittle-tattle. And one can be civil without consorting, as
you call it."

Angela took her sister's reckless speech for mere sportiveness. Hyacinth
might be careless and ignorant of business, but his lordship doubtless knew
the extent of his income, and was too grave and experienced a personage to
be a spendthrift. He had confessed to seven and thirty, which to the girl
of twenty seemed serious middle-age.

There were musicians in her ladyship's household--youths who played
lute and viol, and sang the dainty, meaningless songs of the latest
ballad-mongers very prettily. The warm weather, which had a bad effect
upon the bills of mortality, was so far advantageous that it allowed these
gentlemen to sing in the garden while the family were at supper, or on
the river while the family were taking their evening airing. Their newest
performance was an arrangement of Lord Dorset's lines--"To all you ladies
now on land," set as a round. There could scarcely be anything prettier
than the dying fall of the refrain that ended every verse:--

    "With a fa, la, la,
    Perhaps permit some happier man
    To kiss your hand or flirt your fan,
    With a fa, la, la."

The last lines died away in the distance of the moonlit garden, as the
singers slowly retired, while Henri de Malfort illustrated that final
couplet with Hyacinth's fan, as he sat beside her.

"Music, and moonlight, and a garden. You might fancy yourself amidst the
grottoes and terraces of St. Germain."

"I note that whenever there is anything meritorious in our English life
Malfort is reminded of France, and when he discovers any obnoxious feature
in our manners or habits he expatiates on the vast difference between the
two nations," said his lordship.

"Dear Fareham, I am a human being. When I am in England I remember all I
loved in my own country. I must return to it before I shall understand the
worth of all I leave here--and the understanding may be bitter. Call your
singers back, and let us have those two last verses again. 'Tis a fine
tune, and your fellows perform it with sweetness and brio."

The song was new. The victory which it celebrated was fresh in the minds
of men. The disgrace of later Dutch experiences--the ships in the Nore
ravaging and insulting--was yet to come. England still believed her
floating castles invincible.

To Angela's mind the life at Chilton was full of change and joyous
expectancy. No hour of the day but offered some variety of recreation, from
battledore and shuttlecock in the _plaisance_ to long days with the hounds
or the hawks. Angela learnt to ride in less than a month, instructed by the
stud-groom, a gentleman of considerable importance in the household; an old
campaigner, who had groomed Fareham's horses after many a battle, and
many a skirmish, and had suffered scant food and rough quarters without
murmuring; and also with considerable assistance and counsel from Lord
Fareham, and occasional lectures from Papillon, who was a Diana at ten
years old, and rode with her father in the first flight. Angela was soon
equal to accompanying her sister in the hunting-field, for Hyacinth liked
following the chase after the French rather than the English fashion,
affecting no ruder sport than to wait at an opening of the wood, or on
the crest of a common, to see hounds and riders sweep by; or, favoured
by chance now and then, to signal the villain's whereabouts by a lace
handkerchief waved high above her head. This was how a beautiful lady who
had hunted in the forests of St. Germain and Fontainebleau understood
sport; and such performances as this Angela found easy and agreeable. They
had many cavaliers who came to talk with them for a few minutes, to tell
them what was doing or not doing yonder where the hounds were hidden in
thicket or coppice; but Henri de Malfort was their most constant attendant.
He rarely left them, and dawdled through the earlier half of an October
day, walking his horse from point to point, or dismounting at sheltered
corners to stand and talk at Lady Fareham's side, with a patience that made
Angela wonder at the contrast between English headlong eagerness, crashing
and splashing through hedge and brook, and French indifference.

"I have not Fareham's passion for mud," he explained to her, when she
remarked upon his lack of interest in the chase, even when the music of the
hounds was ringing through wood and valley, now close beside them, anon
diminishing in the distance, thin in the thin air. "If he comes not home
at dark plastered with mire from boots to eyebrows he will cry, like
Alexander, 'I have lost a day.'"

Partridge-hawking in the wide fields between Chilton and Nettlebed was more
to Malfort's taste, and it was a sport for which Lady Fareham expressed a
certain enthusiasm, and for which she attired herself to the perfection of
picturesque costume. Her hunting-coats were marvels of embroidery on atlas
and smooth cloth; but her smartest velvet and brocade she kept for the
sunny mornings, when, with hooded peregrine on wrist, she sallied forth
intent on slaughter, Angela, Papillon, and De Malfort for her _cortége_, an
easy-paced horse to amble over the grass with her, and the Dutch falconer
to tell her the right moment at which to slip her falcon's hood.

The nuns at the Ursuline Convent would scarcely have recognised their
quondam pupil in the girl on the grey palfrey, whose hair flew loose under
a beaver hat, mingling its tresses with the long ostrich plume, whose
trimly fitting jacket had a masculine air which only accentuated the
womanliness of the fair face above it, and whose complexion, somewhat too
colourless within the convent walls, now glowed with a carnation that
brightened and darkened the large grey eyes into new beauty.

That open-air life was a revelation to the cloister-bred girl. Could this
earth hold greater bliss than to roam at large over spacious gardens,
to cross the river, sculling her boat with strong hands, with her niece
Henriette, otherwise Papillon, sitting in the stern to steer, and scream
instructions to the novice in navigation; and then to lose themselves in
the woods on the further shore, to wander in a labyrinth of reddening
beeches, and oaks on which the thick foliage still kept its dusky green; to
emerge upon open lawns where the pale gold birches looked like fairy trees,
and where amber and crimson toadstools shone like jewels on the skirts of
the dense undergrowth of holly and hawthorn? The liberty of it all, the
delicious feeling of freedom, the release from convent rules and convent
hours, bells ringing for chapel, bells ringing for meals, bells ringing
to mark the end of the brief recreation--a perpetual ringing and drilling
which had made conventual life a dull machine, working always in the same
grooves.

Oh, this liberty, this variety, this beauty in all things around and about
her! How the young glad soul, newly escaped from prison, revelled and
expatiated in its freedom! Papillon, who at ten years old, had skimmed
the cream off all the simple pleasures, appointed herself her aunt's
instructress in most things, and taught her to row, with some help from
Lord Fareham, who was an expert waterman; and, at the same time, tried
to teach her to despise the country, and all rustic pleasures, except
hunting--although in her inmost heart the minx preferred the liberty of
Oxfordshire woods to the splendour of Fareham House, where she was cooped
in a nursery with her _gouvernante_ for the greater part of her time, and
was only exhibited like a doll to her mother's fine company, or seated upon
a cushion to tinkle a saraband and display her precocious talent on the
guitar, which she played almost as badly as Lady Fareham herself, at whose
feeble endeavours even the courteous De Malfort laughed.

Never was sister kinder than Hyacinth, impelled by that impulsive sweetness
which was her chief characteristic, and also, it might be, moved to lavish
generosity by some scruples of conscience with regard to her grandmother's
will. Her first business was to send for the best milliner in Oxford, a
London Madam who had followed her court customers to the university town,
and to order everything that was beautiful and seemly for a young person of
quality.

"I implore you not to make me too fine, dearest," pleaded Angela, who was
more horrified at the milliner's painted face and exuberant figure than
charmed by the contents of the baskets which she had brought with her in
the spacious leather coach--velvets and brocades, hoods and gloves, silk
stockings, fans, perfumes and pulvilios, sweet-bags and scented boxes--all
of which the woman spread out upon Lady Fareham's embroidered satin bed,
for the young lady's admiration. "I pray you remember that I am accustomed
to have only two gowns--a black and a grey. You will make me afraid of my
image in the glass if you dress me like--like--"

She glanced from her sister's _décolleté_ bodice to the far more appalling
charms of the milliner, which a gauze kerchief rather emphasised than
concealed, and could find no proper conclusion for her sentence.

"Nay, sweetheart, let not thy modesty take fright. Thou shalt be clad as
demurely as the nun thou hast escaped being--

    'And sable stole of Cyprus lawn
    Over thy decent shoulders drawn.'

We will have no blacks, but as much decency as you choose. You will mark
the distinction between my sister and your maids of honour, Mrs. Lewin. She
is but a _débutante_ in our modish world, and must be dressed as modestly
as you can contrive, to be consistent with the fashion."

"Oh, my lady, I catch your ladyship's meaning, and your ladyship's
instructions shall be carried out as far as can be without making a savage
of the young lady. I know what some young ladies are when they first come
to Court. I had fuss enough with Miss Hamilton before I could persuade her
to have her bodice cut like a Christian. And even the beautiful Miss Brooks
were all for high tuckers and modesty-pieces when I began to make for them;
but they soon came round. And now with my Lady Denham it is always, 'Gud,
Lewin, do you call that the right cut for a bosom? Udsbud, woman, you
haven't made the curve half deep enough.' And with my Lady Chesterfield it
is, 'Sure, if they say my legs are thick and ugly, I'll let them know my
shoulders are worth looking at. Give me your scissors, creature,' and then
with her own delicate hand she will scoop me a good inch off the satin,
till I am fit to swoon at seeing the cold steel against her milk-white
flesh."

Mrs. Lewin talked with but little interruption for the best part of an hour
while measuring her new customer, showing her pattern-book, and exhibiting
the ready-made wares she had brought, the greater number of which Hyacinth
insisted on buying for Angela--who was horrified at the slanderous
innuendoes that dropped in casual abundance from the painted lips of the
milliner; horrified, too, that her sister could loll back in her armchair
and laugh at the woman's coarse and malignant talk.

"Indeed, sister, you are far too generous, and you have overpowered me with
gifts," she said, when the milliner had curtsied herself out of the room;
"for I fear my own income will never pay for all these costly things. Three
pounds, I think she said, was the price of the Mazarine hood alone--and
there are stockings and gloves innumerable."

"Mon Ange, while you are with me your own income is but for charities
and vails. I will have it spent for nothing else. You know how rich the
Marquise has made me--while I believe Fareham is a kind of modern Croesus,
though we do not boast of his wealth, for all that is most substantial
in his fortune comes from his mother, whose father was a great merchant
trading with Spain and the Indies, all through James's reign, and luckier
in the hunt for gold than poor Raleigh. Never must you talk to me of
obligation. Are we not sisters, and was it not a mere accident that made me
the elder, and Madame de Montrond's _protegée_?"

"I have no words to thank you for so much kindness. I will only say I am so
happy here that I could never have believed there was such full content on
this sinful earth."

"Wait till we are in London, Angélique. Here we endure existence. It is
only in London that we live."

"Nay, I believe the country will always please me better than the town.
But, sister, do you not hate that Mrs. Lewin--that horrid painted face and
evil tongue?"

"My dearest child, one hates a milliner for the spoiling of a bodice or the
ill cut of a sleeve--not for her character. I believe Mrs. Lewin's is among
the worst, and that she has had as many intrigues as Lady Castlemaine. As
for her painting, doubtless she does that to remind her customers that she
sells alabaster powder and ceruse."

"Nay, if she wants to disgust them with painted faces she has but to show
her own."

"I grant she lays the stuff on badly. I hope, if I live to have as many
wrinkles, I shall fill them better than she does. Yet who can tell what a
hideous toad she might be in her natural skin? It may be Christian charity
that induces her to paint, and so to spare us the sight of a monster.
She will make thee a beauty, Ange, be sure of that. For satin or velvet,
birthday or gala gowns, nobody can beat her. The wretch has had
thousands of my money, so I ought to know. But for thy riding-habit and
hawking-jacket we want the firmer grip of a man's hand. Those must be made
by Roget."

"A Frenchman?"

"Yes, child. One only accepts British workmanship when a Parisian artist is
not to be had. Clever as Lewin is, if I want to eclipse my dearest enemy
on any special occasion I send Manningtree across the Channel, or ask De
Malfort to let his valet--who spends his life in transit like a king's
messenger--bring me the latest confection from the Rue de Richelieu."

"What infinite trouble about a gown--and for you who would look lovely in
anything!"

"Tush, child! You have never seen me in 'anything.' If ever you should
surprise me in an ill gown you will see how much the feathers make the
bird. Poets and play-wrights may pretend to believe that we need no
embellishment from art; but the very men who write all that romantic
nonsense are the first to court a well-dressed woman. And there are few of
them who could calculate with any exactness the relation of beauty to its
surroundings. That is why women go deep into debt to their milliners,
and would sooner be dead in well-made graveclothes than alive in an
old-fashioned mantua."

Angela could not be in her sister's company for a month without discovering
that Lady Fareham's whole life was given up to the worship of the trivial.
She was kind, she was amiable, generous, even to recklessness. She was
not irreligious, heard Mass and went to confession as often as the hard
conditions of an alien and jealously treated Church would allow, had never
disputed the truth of any tenet that was taught her--but of serious views,
of an earnest consideration of life and death, husband and children,
Hyacinth Fareham was as incapable as her ten-year-old daughter. Indeed, it
sometimes seemed to Angela that the child had broader and deeper thoughts
than the mother, and saw her surroundings with a shrewder and clearer eye,
despite the natural frivolity of childhood, and the exuberance of a fine
physique.

It was not for the younger sister to teach the elder, nor did Angela deem
herself capable of teaching. Her nature was thoughtful and earnest: but she
lacked that experience of life which can alone give the thinker a broad
and philosophic view of other people's conduct. She was still far from the
stage of existence in which to understand all is to pardon all.

She beheld the life about her with wonder and bewilderment. It was so
pleasant, so full of beauty and variety; yet things were said and done that
shocked her. There was nothing in her sister's own behaviour to alarm her
modesty; but to hear her sister talk of other women's conduct outraged all
her ideas of decency and virtue. If there were really such wickedness in
the world, women so shameless and vile, was it right that good women should
know of them, that pure lips should speak of their iniquity?

She was still more shocked when Hyacinth talked of Lady Castlemaine with a
good-humoured indulgence.

"There is something fine about her," Lady Fareham said one day, "in spite
of her tempers and pranks."

"What!" cried Angela, aghast, having thought these creatures unrecognised
by any honest woman, "do you know her--that Lady Castlemaine of whom you
have told me such dreadful things?"

"C'est vrai. J'en ai dit des raides. Mon Ange, in town one must needs know
everybody, though I doubt that after not returning her visit t'other day, I
shall be in her black books, and in somebody else's. She has never been one
of my intimates. If I were often at Whitehall, I should have to be friends
with her. But Fareham is jealous of Court influences; and I am only allowed
to appear on gala nights--perhaps not a half-dozen times in a season. There
is a distinction in not showing one's self often; but it is provoking to
hear of the frolics and jollities which go on every day and every night,
and from which I am banished. It mattered little while the Queen-mother
was at Somerset House, for her Court ranked higher--and was certainly more
refined in its splendour--than her son's ragamuffin herd. But now she is
gone, I shall miss our intellectual _milieu_, and wish myself in the Rue
St. Thomas du Louvre, where the Hôtel du Rambouillet, even in its decline,
offers a finer style of company than anything you will see in England."

"Sister, I fear you left half your heart in France."

"Nay, sweet; perhaps some of it has followed me," answered Hyacinth, with
a blush and an enigmatic smile. "_Peste_! I am not a woman to make a fuss
about hearts! There is not a grain of tragedy in my composition. I am like
that girl in the play we saw at Oxford t'other day. Fletcher's was it, or
Shakespeare's? 'A star danced, and under that was I born.' Yes, I was born
under a dancing star; and I shall never break my heart--for love."

"But you regret Paris?"

"_Hélas_! Paris means my girlhood; and were you to take me back there
to-morrow you could not make me seventeen again--and so where's the use? I
should see wrinkles in the faces of my friends; and should know that they
were seeing the same ugly lines in mine. Indeed, Ange, I think it is my
youth I sigh for rather than the friends I lived with. They were such merry
days: battles and sieges in the provinces, parliaments disputing here and
there; Condé in and out of prison--now the King's loyal servant, now in
arms against him; swords clashing, cannon roaring under our very windows;
alarm bells pealing, cries of fire, barricades in the streets; and amidst
it all, lute and theorbo, _bouts rimés_ and madrigals, dancing and
play-acting, and foolish practical jests! One could not take the smallest
step in life but one of the wits would make a song about it. Oh, it was a
boisterous time! And we were all mad, I think; so lightly did we reckon
life and death, even when the cannon slew some of our noblest, and the
finest saloons were hung with black. You have done less than live,
Angélique, not to have lived in that time."

Hyacinth loved to ring the changes on her sister's name. Angela was too
English, and sounded too much like the name of a nun; but Angélique
suggested one of the most enchanting personalities in that brilliant
circle on which Lady Fareham so often rhapsodised. This was the beautiful
Angélique Paulet, whose father invented the tax called by his name, La
Paulette--a financial measure, which was the main cause of the first Fronde
war.

"I only knew her when she was between fifty and sixty," said Lady Fareham,
"but she hardly looked forty; and she was still handsome, in spite of her
red hair. _Trop doré_, her admirers called it; but, my love, it was as red
as that scullion's we saw in the poultry yard yesterday. She was a reigning
beauty at three Courts, and had a crowd of adorers when she was only
fourteen. Ah, Papillon, you may open your eyes! What will you be at
fourteen? Still playing with your babies, or mad about your shock dogs, I
dare swear!"

"I gave my babies to the housekeeper's grand-daughter last year," said
Papillon, much offended, "when father gave me the peregrine. I only care
for live things now I am old."

"And at fourteen thou wilt be an awkward, long-legged wench that will
frighten away all my admirers, yet not be worth the trouble of a compliment
on thine own account."

"I want no such stuff!" cried Papillon. "Do you think I would like a French
fop always at my elbow as Monsieur de Malfort is ever at yours? I love
hunting and hawking, and a man that can ride, and shoot, and row, and
fight, like father or Sir Denzil Warner--not a man who thinks more of his
ribbons and periwig and cannon-sleeves than of killing his fox or flying
his falcon."

"Oh, you are beginning to have opinions!" sighed Hyacinth. "I am indeed an
old woman! Go and find yourself something to play with, alive or dead. You
are vastly too clever for my company."

"I'll go and saddle Brownie. Will you come for a ride, Aunt Angy?"

"Yes, dear, if her ladyship does not want me at home."

"Her ladyship knows your heart is in the fields and woods. Yes, sweetheart,
saddle your pony, and order your aunt's horse and a pair of grooms to take
care of you."

The child ran off rejoicing.

"Precocious little devil! She will pick up all our jargon before she is in
her teens."

"Dear sister, if you talk so indiscreetly before her----"

"Indiscreet! Am I really so indiscreet? That is Fareham's word. I believe
I was born so. But I was telling you about your namesake, Mademoiselle
Paulet. She began to reign when Henri was king, and no doubt he was one of
her most ardent admirers. Don't look frightened! She was always a model of
virtue. Mademoiselle Scudèry has devoted pages to painting her perfections
under an Oriental alias. She sang, she danced, she talked divinely. She did
everything better than everybody else. Priests and Bishops praised her. And
after changes and losses and troubles, she died far from Paris, a spinster,
nearly sixty years old. It was a paltry finish to a life that began in a
blaze of glory."



CHAPTER VIII.

SUPERIOR TO FASHION.


At Oxford Angela was so happy as to be presented to Catharine of Braganza,
a little dark woman, whose attire still bore some traces of its original
Portuguese heaviness; such a dress--clumsy, ugly, infinitely rich and
expensive--as one sees in old portraits of Spanish and Netherlandish
matrons, in which every elaborate detail of the costly fabric seems to have
been devised in the research of ugliness. She saw the King also; met him
casually--she walking with her brother-in-law, while Lady Fareham and her
friends ran from shop to shop in the High Street--in Magdalen College
grounds, a group of beauties and a family of spaniels fawning upon him as
he sauntered slowly, or stopped to feed the swans that swam close by
the bank, keeping pace with him, and stretching long necks in greedy
solicitation.

The loveliest woman Angela had ever seen--tall, built like a
goddess--walked on the King's right hand. She carried a heap of broken
bread in the satin petticoat which she held up over one white arm, while
with her other hand she gave the pieces one by one to the King. Angela
saw that as each hunch changed hands the royal fingers touched the lady's
tapering finger-tips and tried to detain them.

Fareham took off his hat, bowed low in a grave and stately salutation, and
passed on; but Charles called him back.

"Nay, Fareham, has the world grown so dull that you have nothing to tell us
this November morning?"

"Indeed, sir, I fear that my riverside hermitage can afford very little
news that could interest your Majesty or these ladies."

"A fox gone to ground, an otter killed among your reeds, or a hawk in the
sulks, is an event in the country. Anything would be a relief from the
weekly total of London deaths, which is our chief subject of conversation,
or the General's complaints that there is no one in town but himself to
transact business, or dismal prophecies of a Nonconformist rebellion that
is to follow the Five Mile Act."

The group of ladies stared at Angela in a smiling silence, one haughtier
than the rest standing a little aloof. She was older, and of a more
audacious loveliness than the lady who carried broken bread in her
petticoat; but she too was splendidly beautiful as a goddess on a painted
ceiling, and as much painted perhaps.

Angela contemplated her with the reverence youth gives to consummate
beauty, unaware that she was admiring the notorious Barbara Palmer.

Fareham waited, hat in hand, grave almost to sullenness. It was not for him
to do more than reply to his Majesty's remarks, nor could he retire till
dismissed.

"You have a strange face at your side, man. Pray introduce the lady,"
said the King, smiling at Angela, whose vivid blush was as fresh as Miss
Stewart's had been a year or two ago, before she had her first quarrel with
Lady Castlemaine, or rode in Gramont's glass coach, or gave her classic
profile to embellish the coin of the realm--the "common drudge 'tween man
and man."

"I have the honour to present my sister-in-law, Mistress Kirkland, to your
Majesty." The King shook hands with Angela in the easiest way, as if he had
been mortal.

"Welcome to our poor court, Mistress Kirkland. Your father was my father's
friend and companion in the evil days. They starved together at Beverley,
and rode side by side through the Warwickshire lanes to suffer the
insolence of Coventry. I have not forgotten. If I had I have a monitor
yonder to remind me," glancing in the direction of a middle-aged gentleman,
stately, and sober of attire, who was walking slowly towards them. "The
Chancellor is a living chronicle, and his conversation chiefly consists in
reminiscences of events I would rather forget."

"Memory is an invention of Old Nick," said Lady Castlemaine. "Who the deuce
wants to remember anything, except what cards are out and what are in?"

"Not you, Fairest. You should be the last to cultivate mnemonics for
yourself or for your friends. Is your father in England, sweet mistress?"

Angela faltered a negative, as if with somebody else's voice--or so it
seemed to her. A swarthy, heavy-browed man, wearing a dark-blue ribbon and
a star--a man with whom his intimates jested in shameless freedom--a man
whom the town called Rowley, after some ignominious quadruped--a man who
had distinguished himself neither in the field nor in the drawing-room by
any excellence above the majority, since the wit men praised has resolved
itself for posterity into half a dozen happy repartees. Only this! But he
was a King, a crowned and anointed King, and even Angela, who was less
frivolous and shallow than most women, stood before him abashed and
dazzled.

His Majesty bowed a gracious adieu, yawned, flung another crust to the
swans, and sauntered on, the Stewart whispering in his ear, the Castlemaine
talking loud to her neighbour, Lady Chesterfield, this latter lady very
pretty, very bold and mischievous, newly restored to the Court after exile
with her jealous husband at his mansion in Wales.

They were gone; Charles to be button-holed by Lord Clarendon, who waited
for him at the end of the walk; the ladies to wander as they pleased
till the two-o'clock dinner. They were gone, like a dream of beauty and
splendour, and Fareham and Angela pursued their walk by the river, grey in
the sunless November.

"Well, sister, you have seen the man whom we brought back in a whirlwind
of loyalty five years ago, and for whose sake we rebuilt the fabric of
monarchical government. Do you think we are much the gainers by that
tempest of enthusiasm which blew us home Charles the Second? We had
suffered all the trouble of the change to a Republic; a life that should
have been sacred had been sacrificed to the principles of liberty. While
abhorring the regicides, we might have profited by their crime. We might
have been a free state to-day, like the United Provinces. Do you think we
are better off with a King like Rowley, to amuse himself at the expense of
the nation?"

"I detest the idea of a Republic."

"Youth worships the supernatural in anointed kings. Think not that I am
opposed to a constitutional monarchy, so long as it works well for the
majority. But when England had with such terrible convulsions shaken
off all those shackles and trappings of royalty, and when the ship, so
lightened, had sailed so steadily with no ballast but common sense, does it
not seem almost a pity to undo what has been done--to begin again the long
procession of good kings and bad kings, foolish or wise--for the sake of
such a man as yonder saunterer?" with a glance towards the British Sultan
and his harem.

"England was never better governed than by Cromwell," he continued. "She
was tranquil at home and victorious abroad, admired and feared. Mazarin,
while pretending to be the faithful friend of Charles, was the obsequious
courtier of Oliver. The finest form of government is a limited despotism.
See how France prospered under the sagacious tyrant, Louis the Eleventh,
under the soldier-statesman, Sully, under pure reason incarnate in
Richelieu. Whether you call your tyrant king or protector, minister or
president, matters nothing. It is the man and not the institution, the mind
and not the machinery that is wanted."

"I did not know you were a Republican, like Sir Denzil Warner."

"I am nothing now I have left off being a soldier. I have no strong
opinions about anything. I am a looker on; and life seems little more
real to me than a stage play. Warner is of a different stamp. He is an
enthusiastic in politics--godson of Horn's--a disciple of Milton's, the son
of a Puritan, and a Puritan himself. A fine nature, Angela, allied to a
handsome presence."

Sir Denzil Warner was their neighbour at Chilton, and Angela had met him
often enough for them to become friends. He had ridden by her side with
hawk and hound, had been one of her instructors in English sport, and
had sometimes, by an accident, joined her and Henriette in their boating
expeditions, and helped her to perfect herself in the management of a pair
of sculls.

"Hyacinth has her fancies about Warner," Fareham said presently, as they
strolled along.

There was a significance in his tone that the girl could not mistake; more
especially as her sister had not been reticent about those notions to which
Fareham alluded.

"Hyacinth has fancies about many things," she said, blushing a little.

Fareham noted the slightness of the blush.

"I verily believe that handsome youth has found you adamant," he said,
after a thoughtful silence. "Yet you might easily choose a worse suitor.
Your sister has often the strangest whims about marriage-making; but in
this fancy I did not oppose her. It would be a very suitable alliance."

"I hope your lordship does not begin to think me a burden on your
household," faltered Angela, wounded by his cold-blooded air in disposing
of her. "When you and my sister are tired of me I can go back to my
convent."

"What! Return to those imprisoning walls; immure your sweet youth in a
cloister? Not for the Indies. I would not suffer such a sacrifice. Tired of
you! I--so deeply bound! I who owe you my life! I who looked up out of a
burning hell of pain and madness and saw an angel standing by my bed! Tired
of you! Indeed you know me better than to think so badly of me were it but
in one flash of thought. You can need no protestations from me. Only, as
a young and beautiful woman, living in an age that is full of peril for
women, I should like to see you married to a good and true man--such as
Denzil Warner."

"I am sorry to disappoint you," Angela answered coldly; "but Papillon and
I have agreed that I am always to be her spinster aunt, and am to keep her
house when she is married, and wear a linsey gown and a bunch of keys at my
girdle, like Mrs. Hubbuck, at Chilton."

"That's just like Henriette. She takes after her mother, and thinks that
this globe and all the people upon it were created principally for her
pleasure. The Americas to give her chocolate, the Indian isles to sweeten
it for her, the ocean tides to bring her feathers and finery. She is her
own centre and circumference, like her mother."

"You should not say such an ill thing of your wife, Fareham," said Angela,
deeply shocked. "Hyacinth is not one to look into the heart of things. She
has too happy a disposition for grave backward-reaching thoughts; but I
will swear that she loves you--ay--almost to reverence."

"Yes, to reverence, to over much reverence, perhaps. She might have given a
freer, fonder love to a more amiable man. I have some strain of my unhappy
kinsman's temper, perhaps--the disposition that keeps a wife at a distance.
He managed to make three wives afraid of him; and it was darkly rumoured
that he killed one."

"Strafford--a murderer! No, no."

"Not by intent. An accident--only an accident. They who most hated him
pretended that he pushed her from him somewhat roughly when she was least
able to bear roughness, and that the after consequences of the blow were
fatal. He was one of the doomed always, you see. He knew that himself, and
told his bosom friend that he was not long-lived. The brand of misfortune
was upon him even at the height of his power. You may read his destiny in
his face."

They walked on in silence for some time, Angela depressed and unhappy. It
seemed as if Fareham had lifted a mask and shown her his real countenance,
with all the lines that tell a life history. She had suspected that he was
not happy; that the joyous existence amidst fairest surroundings which
seemed so exquisite to her was dull and vapid for him. She could but think
that he was like her father, and that action and danger were necessary to
him, and that it was only this rustic tranquillity that weighed upon his
spirits.

"Do not for a moment believe that I would speak slightingly of your
sister," Fareham resumed, after that silent interval. "It were indeed an
ill thing in me--most of all to disparage her in your hearing. She is
lovely, accomplished, learned even, after the fashion of the Rue St. Thomas
du Louvre. She used to shine among the brightest at the Scudèrys' Saturday
parties, which were the most wearisome assemblies I ever ran away from. The
match was made for us by others, and I was her betrothed husband before I
saw her. Yet I loved her at first sight. Who could help loving a face
as fair as morning over the eastward hills, a voice as sweet as the
nightingales in the Tuileries garden? She was so young--a child almost; so
gentle and confiding. And to see her now with Papillon is to question which
is the younger, mother or daughter. Love her? Why, of course I love her. I
loved her then. I love her now. Her beauty has but ripened with the passing
years; and she has walked the furnace of fine company in two cities, and
has never been seared by fire. Love her! Could a man help loving beauty,
and frankness, and a natural innocence which cannot be spoiled even by the
knowledge of things evil, even by daily contact with sin in high places?"

Again there was a silence, and then, in a deeper tone, after a long sigh,
Fareham said--

"I love and honour my wife; I adore my children; yet I am alone, Angela,
and I shall be alone till death."

"I don't understand."

"Oh yes, you do; you understand as well as I who suffer. My wife and I love
each other dearly. If she have a fit of the vapours, or an aching tooth, I
am wretched. But we have never been companions. The things that she loves
are charmless for me. She is enchanted with people from whom I run away. Is
it companionship, do you think, for me to look on while she walks a coranto
or tosses shuttlecocks with De Malfort? Roxalana is as much my companion
when I admire her on the stage from my seat in the pit. There are times
when my wife seems no nearer to me than a beautiful picture. If I sit in a
corner, and listen to her pretty babble about the last fan she bought at
the Middle Exchange, or the last witless comedy she saw at the King's
Theatre, is that companionship, think you? I may be charmed to-day--as I
was charmed ten years ago--with the silvery sweetness of her voice, with
the graceful turn of her head, the white roundness of her throat. At least
I am constant. There is no change in her or in me. We are just as near and
just as far apart as when the priest joined our hands at St. Eustache. And
it must be so to the end, I suppose; and I think the fault is in me. I am
out of joint with the world I live in. I cannot set myself in tune with
their new music. I look back, and remember, and regret; yet hardly know why
I remember or what I regret."

Again a silence, briefer than the last, and he went on:--

"Do you think it strange that I talk so freely--to you--who are scarce more
than a child, less learned than Henriette in worldly knowledge? It is a
comfort sometimes to talk of one's self; of what one has missed as well as
of what one has. And you have such an air of being wise beyond your years;
wise in all thoughts that are not of the world--thoughts of things of which
there is no truck at the Exchanges; which no one buys or sells at Abingdon
fair. And you are so near allied to me--a sister! I never had a sister of
my own blood, Angela. I was an only child. Solitude was my portion. I
lived alone with my tutor and _gouvernante_--a poor relation of my
mother's--alone in a house that was mostly deserted, for Lord and Lady
Fareham were in London with the King, till the troubles brought the Court
to Christchurch, and them to Chilton. I have had few in whom to confide.
And you--remember what you have been to me, and do not wonder if I trust
you more than others. Thou didst go down to the very grave with me, didst
pluck me out of the pit. Corruption could not touch a creature so lovely
and so innocent Thou didst walk unharmed through the charnel-house.
Remembering this, as I ever must remember, can you wonder that you are
nearer to me than all the rest of the world?"

She had seated herself on a bench that commanded a view of the river, and
her dreaming eyes were looking far away along the dim perspective of mist
and water, bare pollard willows, ragged sedges. Her head drooped a little
so that he could not see her face, and one ungloved hand hung listlessly at
her side.

He bent down to take the slender hand in his, lifted it to his lips, and
quickly let it go; but not before she had felt his tears upon it. She
looked up a few minutes later, and the place was empty. Her tears fell
thick and fast. Never before had she suffered this exquisite pain--sadness
so intense, yet touching so close on joy. She sat alone in the
inexpressible melancholy of the late autumn; pale mists rising from the
river; dead leaves falling; and Fareham's tears upon her hand.



CHAPTER IX.

IN A PURITAN HOUSE.


How quickly the days passed in that gay household at Chilton! and yet every
day of Angela's life held so much of action and emotion that, looking back
at Christmas time to the three months that had slipped by since she had
brought Fareham from his sick bed to his country home, she could but
experience that common feeling of youth in such circumstances. Surely
it was half a lifetime that had lapsed; or else she, by some subtle and
supernatural change, had become a new creature.

She thought of her life in the Convent, thought of it much and deeply on
those Sunday mornings when she and her sister and De Malfort and a score or
so of servants crept quietly to a room in the heart of the house where a
Priest, who had been fetched from Oxford in, Lady Fareham's coach, said
Mass within locked doors. The familiar words of the service, the odour of
the incense, brought back the old time--the unforgotten atmosphere, the
dull tranquillity of ten years, which had been as one year by reason of
their level monotony.

Could she go back to such a life as that? Go back! Leave all she loved? At
the mere suggestion her trembling hand was stretched out involuntarily to
clasp her niece Henriette, kneeling beside her. Leave them--leave those
with whom and for whom she lived? Leave this loving child--her sister--her
brother? Fareham had told her to call him "Brother." He had been to her as
a brother, with all a brother's kindness, counselling her, confiding in
her.

Only with one person at Chilton Abbey had she ever conversed as seriously
as with Fareham, and that person was Sir Denzil Warner, who at five and
twenty was more serious in his way of looking at serious things than most
men of fifty.

"I cannot make a jest of life," he said once, in reply to some flippant
speech of De Malfort's; "it is too painful a business for the majority."

"What has that to do with us--the minority? Can we smooth a sick man's
pillow by pulling a long face? We shall do him more good by tossing him a
crown, if he be poor; or helping to build him a hospital by the sacrifice
of a night's winnings at ombre. Long faces help nobody; that is what you
Puritans will never consider."

"No; but if the long faces are the faces of men who think, something may
come of their thoughts for the good of humanity."

Denzil Warner was the only person who ever spoke to Angela of her religion.
With extreme courtesy, and with gentle excuses for his temerity in touching
on so delicate a theme, he ventured to express his abhorrence of the
superstitions interwoven with the Romanist's creed. He talked as one who
had sat at the feet of the blind poet--talked sometimes in the very words
of John Milton.

There was much in what he said that appealed to her reason; but there was
no charm in that severer form of worship which he offered in exchange for
her own. He was frank and generous; he had a fine nature, but was too much
given to judging his fellow-men. He had all the arrogance of Puritanism
superadded to the natural arrogance of youth that has never known
humiliating reverses, that has never been the servant of circumstance. He
was Angela's senior by something less than four years; yet it seemed to her
that he was in every attribute infinitely her superior. In education, in
depth of thought, in resolution for good, and scorn of evil. If he loved
her--as Hyacinth insisted upon declaring--there was nothing of youthful
impetuosity in his passion. He had, indeed, betrayed his sentiments by no
direct speech. He had told her gravely that he was interested in her, and
deeply concerned that one so worthy and so amiable should have been brought
up in the house of idolaters, should have been taught falsehood instead of
truth.

She stood up boldly for the faith of her maternal ancestors.

"I cannot continue your friend if you speak evil of those I love, Sir
Denzil," she said. "Could you have seen the lives of those good ladies of
the Ursuline Convent, their unselfishness, their charity, you must needs
have respected their religion. I cannot think why you love to say hard
words of us Catholics; for in all I have ever heard or seen of the lives
of the Nonconformists they approach us far more nearly in their principles
than the members of the Church of England, who, if my sister does not paint
them with too black a brush, practise their religion with a laxity and
indifference that would go far to turn religion to a jest."

Whatever Sir Denzil's ideas might be upon the question of creed--and he
did not scruple to tell Angela that he thought every Papist foredoomed to
everlasting punishment--he showed so much pleasure in her society as to
be at Chilton Abbey, and the sharer of her walks and rides, as often as
possible. Lady Fareham encouraged his visits, and was always gracious to
him. She discovered that he possessed the gift of music, though not in
the same remarkable degree as Henri de Malfort, who played the guitar
exquisitely, and into whose hands you had but to put a musical instrument
for him to extract sweetness from it. Lute or theorbo, viola or viol di
gamba, treble or bass, came alike to his hand and ear. Some instruments he
had studied; with some his skill came by intuition.

Denzil Warner performed very creditably upon the organ. He had played on
John Milton's organ in St. Bride's Church, when he was a boy, and he had
played of late in the church at Chalfont St. Giles, where he had visited
Milton frequently, since the poet had left his lodgings in Artillery Walk,
carrying his family and his books to that sequestered village in the
shelter of the hills between Uxbridge and Beaconsfield. Here from the lips
of his sometime tutor the Puritan had heard such stories of the Court as
made him hourly expectant of exterminating fires. Doubtless the fire would
have come, as it came upon Sodom and Gomorrah, but for those righteous
lives of the Nonconformists, which redeemed the time; quiet, god-fearing
lives in dull old city houses, in streets almost as narrow as those which
Milton remembered in his beloved Italy; streets where the sun looked in for
an hour, shooting golden arrows down upon the diamond-paned casements, and
deepening the shadow of the massive timbers that held up the overlapping
stories, looked in and bade "good night" within an hour or so, leaving
an atmosphere of sober grey, cool, and quiet, and dull, in those obscure
streets and alleys where the great traffic of Cheapside or Ludgate sounded
like the murmur of a far-off sea.

Pious men and women worshipped the implacable God of the Puritans in the
secret chambers of those narrow streets; and those who gathered together
in these days--if they rejected the Liturgy of the Church of England--must
indeed be few, and must meet by stealth, as if to pray or preach after
their own manner were a crime. Charles, within a year or so of his general
amnesty and happy restoration, had made such worship criminal; and now the
Five Mile Act, lately passed at Oxford, had rendered the restrictions and
penalties of Nonconformity utterly intolerable. Men were lying in prison
here and there about merry England for no greater offence than preaching
the gospel to a handful of God-fearing people. But that a Puritan tinker
should moulder for a dozen years in a damp jail could count for little
against the blessed fact of the Maypole reinstated in the Strand, and five
play-houses in London performing ribald comedies, till but recently, when
the plague shut their doors.

Milton, old and blind, and somewhat soured by domestic disappointments, had
imparted no optimistic philosophy to young Denzil Warner, whose father he
had known and loved. The fight at Hopton Heath had made Denzil fatherless;
the Colonel of Warner's horse riding to his death in the last fatal charge
of that memorable day.

Denzil had grown up under the prosperous rule of the Protector, and
his boyhood had been spent in the guardianship of a most watchful
and serious-minded mother. He had been somewhat over-cosseted and
apron-stringed, it may be, in that tranquil atmosphere of the rich widow's
house; but not all Lady Warner's tenderness could make her son a milksop.
Except for a period of two years in London, when he had lived under the
roof of the great Republican, a docile pupil to a stern but kind master,
Denzil had lived mostly under the open sky, was a keen sportsman, and loved
the country with almost as sensitive a love as his quondam master and
present friend, John Milton; and it was perhaps this appreciation of rural
beauty which had made a bond of friendship between the great poet and the
Puritan squire.

"You have a knack of painting rural scenes which needs but to be joined
with the gift of music to make you a poet," he said, when Denzil had been
expatiating upon the landscape amidst which he had enjoyed his last bout of
falconry, or his last run with his half-dozen couple of hounds. "You are
almost as the power of sight to me when you describe those downs and
valleys whose every shape and shadow I once knew so well. Alas, that I
should be changed so much and they so little!"

"It is one thing, sir, to feel that this world is beautiful, and another
to find golden words and phrases which to a prisoner in the Tower could
conjure up as fair a landscape as Claude Lorraine ever painted. Those
sonorous and mellifluous lines which you were so gracious as to repeat to
me, forming part of the great epic which the world is waiting for, bear
witness to the power that can turn words into music, and make pictures out
of the common tongue. That splendid art, sir, is but given to one man in
a century--or in several centuries; since I know but Dante and Virgil who
have ever equalled your vision of heaven and hell."

"Do not over-praise me, Denzil, in thy charity to poverty and affliction.
It is pleasing to be understood by a youth who loves hawk and hound better
than books; for it offers the promise of popular appreciation in years to
come. Yet the world is so little athirst for my epic that I doubt if I
shall find a bookseller to give me a few pounds for the right to print a
work that has cost me years of thought and laborious revision. But at least
it has been my consolation in the long blank night of my decay, and has
saved me many a heart-ache. For while I am building up my verses, and
engraving line after line upon the tablets of memory, I can forget that
I am blind, and poor, and neglected, and that the dear saint I loved was
snatched from me in the noontide of our happiness."

Denzil talked much of John Milton in his conversations with Angela, during
those rides or rambles, in which Papillon was their only chaperon. Lady
Fareham sauntered, like her royal master; but she rarely walked a mile at a
stretch; and she was pleased to encourage the rural wanderings that brought
her sister and Warner into a closer intimacy, and promised well for the
success of her matrimonial scheme.

"I believe they adore each other already," she told Fareham one morning,
standing by his side in the great stone porch, to watch those three
youthful figures ride away, aunt and niece side by side, on palfrey and
pony, with Denzil for their cavalier.

"You are always over-quick to be sure of anything that suits your own
fancy, dearest," answered Fareham, watching them to the curve of the
avenue; "but I see no signs of favour to that solemn youth in your sister.
She suffers his attentions out of pure civility. He is an accomplished
horseman, having given all his life to learning how to jump a fence
gracefully; and his company is at least better than a groom's."

"How scornfully you jeer at him!"

"Oh, I have no more scorn than the Cavalier's natural contempt for the
Roundhead. A hereditary hatred, perhaps."

"You say such hard things of his Majesty that one might often take you to
be of Sir Denzil's way of thinking."

"I never think about the King. I only wonder. I may sometimes express my
wonderment too freely for a loyal subject."

"I cannot vouch for Angela, but I will wager that he is deep in love,"
persisted Hyacinth.

"Have it your own way, sweetheart. He is dull enough to be deep in debt, or
love, or politics, anything dismal and troublesome," answered his lordship,
as he strolled off with his spaniels; not those dainty toy dogs which had
been his companions at the gate of death, but the fine liver-and-black
shooting dogs that lived in the kennels, and thought it doghood's highest
privilege to attend their lord in his walks, whether with or without a gun.

       *       *       *       *       *

His lordship kept open Christmas that year at Chilton Abbey, and there
was great festivity, chiefly devised and carried out by the household,
as Fareham and his wife were too much of the modern fashion, and too
cosmopolitan in their ideas, to appreciate the fuss and feasting of an
English Christmas. They submitted, however, to the festival as arranged for
them by Mr. Manningtree and Mrs. Hubbuck--the copious feasting for servants
and dependents, the mummers and carolsingers, the garlands and greenery
which disguised the fine old tapestry, and made a bower of the vaulted
hall. Everything was done with a lavish plenteousness, and no doubt the
household enjoyed the fun and feasting all the more because of that
dismal season of a few years back, when all Christmas ceremonies had been
denounced as idolatrous, and when the members of the Anglican Church had
assembled for their Christmas service secretly in private houses, and as
much under the ban of the law as the Nonconformists were now.

Angela was interested in everything in that bright world where all things
were new. The children piping Christmas hymns in the clear cold morning
enchanted her. She ran down to kiss and fondle the smaller among them, and
finding them thinly clad promised to make them warm cloaks and hoods as
fast as her fingers could sew. Denzil found her there in the wide snowy
space before the porch, prattling with the children, bare-headed, her soft
brown hair blown about in the wind; and he was moved, as a man must needs
be moved by the aspect of the woman that he loves caressing a small child,
melted almost to tears by the thought that in some blessed time to come she
might so caress, only more warmly, a child whose existence should be their
bond of union.

And yet, being both shy and somewhat cold of temperament, he restrained
himself, and greeted her only as a friend; for his mother's influence was
holding him back, urging him not to marry a Papist, were she ever so lovely
or lovable.

He had known Angela for nearly three months, and his acquaintance with her
had reached this point of intimacy, yet Lady Warner had never seen her.
This fact distressed him, and he had tried hard to awaken his mother's
interest by praises of the Fareham family and of Angela's exquisite
character; but the Scarlet Spectre came between the Puritan lady and the
house of Fareham.

"There is nothing you can tell me about this girl, upon whom I fear you
have foolishly set your affection, which can make me forget that she has
been nursed and swaddled in the bondage of a corrupt Church, taught to
worship idols, and to cherish lying traditions, while the light of God's
holy word has been made dark for her."

"She is young enough to embrace a purer creed, and to walk by the clearer
light that leads your footsteps, mother. If she were my wife I should not
despair of winning her to think as we do."

"And in all the length of England was there no young woman of right
principles fit to be thy wife, that thou must needs fall into the snare of
the first Popish witch who set her lure for thee?"

"Popish witch! Oh, mother, how ill you can conceive the image of my dear
love, who has no witchcraft but beauty, no charm so potent as her truth and
innocency!"

"I know them--these children of the Scarlet Woman--and I know their works,
and the fate of those who trust them. The late King--weak and stubborn
as he was--might have been alive this day, and reigning over a contented
people, but for that fair witch who ruled him. It was the Frenchwoman's
sorceries that wrought Charles's ruin."

"If thou wouldst but see my Angela," pleaded the son, with a caressing arm
about his mother's spare shoulders.

"Thine! What! is she thine--pledged and promised already? Then, indeed,
these white hairs will go down with sorrow to the grave."

"Mother, I doubt if thou couldst find so much as a single grey hair in that
comely head of thine," said the son; and the mother smiled in the midst of
her affliction.

"And as for promise--there has been none. I have said no word of love; nor
have I been encouraged to speak by any token of liking on the lady's part.
I stand aloof and admire, and wonder at so much modesty and intelligence in
Lady Fareham's sister. Let me bring her to see you, mother?"

"This is your house, Denzil. Were you to fill it with the sons and
daughters of Belial, I could but pray that your eyes might be opened
to their iniquity. I could not shut these doors against you or your
companions. But I want no Popish women here."

"Ah, you do not know! Wait until you have seen her," urged Denzil, with the
lover's confidence in the omnipotence of his mistress's charms.

And now on this Christmas Day there came the opportunity Denzil had been
waiting for. The weather was cold and bright, the landscape was blotted out
with snow; and the lake in Chilton Park offered a sound surface for the
exercise of that novel amusement of skating, an accomplishment which Lord
Fareham had acquired while in the Low Countries, and in which he had
been Denzil's instructor during the late severe weather. Angela, at her
brother-in-law's entreaty, had also adventured herself upon a pair of
skates, and had speedily found delight in the swift motion, which seemed
to her like the flight of a bird skimming the steely surface of the frozen
lake, and incomparable in enjoyment.

"It is even more delightful than a gallop on Zephyr," she told her sister,
who stood on the bank with a cluster of gay company, watching the skaters.

"I doubt not that; since there is even more danger of getting your neck
broken upon runaway skates than on a runaway horse," answered Hyacinth.

After an hour on the lake, in which Denzil had distinguished himself by his
mastery of the new exercise, being always at hand to support his mistress
at the slightest indication of peril, she consented to the removal of her
skates, at Papillon's earnest entreaty, who wanted her aunt to walk with
her before dinner. After dinner there would be the swift-coming December
twilight, and Christmas games, snap-dragon and the like, which Papillon,
although a little fine lady, reproducing all her mother's likes and
dislikes in miniature, could not, as a human child, altogether disregard.

"I don't care about such nonsense as Georgie does," she told her aunt,
with condescending reference to her brother; "but I like to see the others
amused. Those village children are such funny little savages. They stick
their fingers in their mouths and grin at me, and call me 'Your annar,' or
'Your worship,' and say 'Anan' to everything. They are like Audrey in the
play you read to me."

Denzil was in attendance upon aunt and niece.

"If you want to come with us, you must invent a pretty walk, Sir Denzil,"
said Papillon. "I am tired of long lanes and ploughed fields."

"I know of one of the pleasantest rambles in the shire--across the woods
to the Grange. And we can rest there for half an hour, if Mrs. Angela will
allow us, and take a light refreshment."

"Dear Sir Denzil, that is the very thing," answered Papillon, breathlessly.
"I am dying of hunger. And I don't want to go back to the Abbey. Will there
be any cakes or mince pies at the Grange?"

"Cakes in plenty, but I fear there will be no mince pies. My mother does
not love Christmas dainties."

Henriette wanted to know why. She was always wanting the reason of things.
A bright inquiring little mind, perpetually on the alert for novelty; an
imitative brain like a monkey's; hands and feet that know not rest; and
there you have the Honourable Henrietta Maria Revel, _alias_ Papillon.

They crossed the river, Angela and Denzil each taking an oar, while
Papillon pretended to steer, a process which she effected chiefly by
screaming.

"Another lump of ice!" she shrieked. "We shall be swamped. I believe the
river will be frozen before Twelfth Night, and we shall be able to dance
upon it. We must have bonfires and roast an ox for the poor people. Mrs.
Hubbuck told me they roasted an ox the year King Charles was beheaded.
Horrid brutes--to think that they could eat at such a time! If they had
been sorry they could not have relished roast beef."

Hadley Grange, commonly known as the Grange, was in every detail the
antithesis of Chilton Abbey. At the Abbey the eye was dazzled, the mind was
bewildered, by an excess of splendour--an over-much of everything gorgeous
or beautiful. At the Grange sight and mind were rested by the low tone of
colour, the quaker-like precision of form. All the furniture in the house
was Elizabethan, plain, ponderous, the conscientious work of Oxfordshire
mechanics. On one side of the house there was a bowling green, on the
other a physic garden, where odours of medicinal herbs, camomile, fennel,
rosemary, rue, hung ever on the surrounding air. There was nothing modern
in Lady Warner's house but the spotless cleanliness; the perfume of last
summer's roses and lavender; the polished surface of tables and cabinets,
oak chests and oak floors, testifying to the inexorable industry of rustic
housemaids. In all other respects the Grange was like a house that had just
awakened from a century of sleep.

Lady Warner rose from her high-backed chair by the chimney corner in the
oak parlour, and laid aside the book she had been reading, to welcome her
son, startled at seeing him followed by a tall, fair girl in a black mantle
and hood, and a little slip of a thing, with bright dark eyes and small
determined face, pert, pointed, interrogative, framed in swansdown--a small
aërial figure in a white cloth cloak, and a scarlet brocade frock, under
which two little red shoes danced into the room.

"Mother, I have brought Mrs. Angela Kirkland and her niece to visit you
this Christmas morning."

"Mrs. Kirkland and her niece are welcome," and Lady Warner made a deep
curtsy, not like one of Lady Fareham's sinking curtseys, as of one near
swooning in an ecstasy of politeness, but dignified and inflexible,
straight down and straight up again.

"But as for Christmas, 'tis one of those superstitious observances which I
have ever associated with a Church I abhor."

Denzil reddened furiously. To have brought this upon his beloved!

Angela drew herself up, and paled at the unexpected assault. The brutality
of it was startling, though she knew, from Denzil's opinions, that his
mother must be an enemy of her faith.

"Indeed, madam, I am sorry that anybody in England should think it an ill
thing to celebrate the birthday of our Redeemer and Lord," she said.

"Do you think, young lady, that foolish romping games, and huge chines of
beef, and smoking ale made luscious with spices and roasted pippins, and
carol-singing and play-acting, can be the proper honouring of Him who was
God first and for ever, and Man only for one brief interval in His eternal
existence? To keep God's birthday with drunken rioting! What blasphemy! If
you can think that there is not more profaneness than piety in such sensual
revelries--why, it is that you do not know how to think. You would have
learnt to reason better had you known that sweet poet and musician, and
true thinker, Mr. John Milton, with whom it was my privilege to converse
frequently during my husband's lifetime, and afterwards when he
condescended to accept my son for his pupil, and spent three days and
nights under this roof."

"Mr. Milton is still at Chalfont, mother. So you may hope to see him again
with a less journey than to London," said Denzil, seizing the first chance
of a change in the conversation; "and here is a little Miss to whom I have
promised a light collation, with some of your Jersey milk."

"Mistress Kirkland and her niece shall have the best I can provide. The
larder will furnish something acceptable, I doubt not, although I and my
household observe this day as a fast."

"What, madam, are you sorry that Jesus Christ was born to-day?" asked
Papillon.

"I am sorry for my sins, little mistress, and for the sins of all mankind,
which nothing but His blood could wash away. To remember His birth is to
remember that He died for us; and that is why I spend the twenty-fifth of
December in fasting and prayer."

"Are you not glad you are to dine at the Abbey to-day, Sir Denzil?" asked
Papillon, by way of commentary.

"Nay, I put no restraint on my son. He can serve God after his own manner,
and veer with every wind of passion or fancy, if he will. But you shall
have your cake and draught of milk, little lady, and you too, Mistress
Kirkland, will, I hope, taste our Jersey milk, unless you would prefer a
glass of Malmsey wine."

"Mrs. Kirkland is as much an anchorite as yourself, mother. She takes no
wine."

Lady Warner was the soul of hospitality, and particularly proud of her
dairy. When kept clear of theology and politics she was not an ill-natured
woman. But to be a Puritan in the year of the Five Mile Act was not to
think kindly of the Government under which she lived; while her sense of
her own wrongs was intensified by rumours of over-indulgence shown to
Papists, and the broad assertion that King and Duke were Roman Catholic at
heart, and waited only the convenient hour to reforge the fetters that had
bound England to Rome.

She was fond of children, most of all of little girls, never having had a
daughter. She bent down to kiss Henriette, and then turned to Angela with
her kindest smile--

"And this is Lady Fareham's daughter? She is as pretty as a picture."

"And I am as good as a picture--sometimes, madam," chirped Papillon.
"Mother says I am _douce comme un image._"

"When thou hast been silent or still for five minutes," said Angela, "and
that is but seldom."

A loud hand-bell summoned the butler, and an Arcadian meal was speedily set
out on a table in the hall, where a great fire of logs burnt as merrily as
if it had been designed to enliven a Christmas-keeping household. Indeed
there was nothing miserly or sparing about the housekeeping at the Grange,
which harmonised with the sombre richness of Lady Warner's grey
brocade gown, from the old-fashioned silk mercer's at the sign of the
Flower-de-luce, in Cheapside. There was liberality without waste, and a
certain quiet refinement in every detail, which reminded Angela of the
convent parlour and her aunt's room--and contrasted curiously with the
elegant disorder of her sister's surroundings.

Papillon clapped her hands at sight of the large plum cake, the jug of
milk, and bowl of blackberry conserve.

"I was so hungry," she said, apologetically, after Denzil had supplied her
with generous slices of cake, and large spoonfuls of jam. "I did not know
that Nonconformists had such nice things to eat."

"Did you think we all lay in gaol to suffer cold and hunger for the faith
that is in us, like that poor preacher at Bedford?" asked Lady Warner,
bitterly. "It will come to that some day, perhaps, under the new Act."

"Will you show Mistress Kirkland your house, mother, and your dairy?"
Denzil asked hurriedly. "I know she would like to see one of the neatest
dairies in Oxfordshire."

No request could be more acceptable to Lady Warner, who was a housekeeper
first and a controversialist afterwards. Inclined as she was to rail
against the Church of Rome--partly because she had made up her mind upon
hearsay, chiefly Miltonian, that Roman Catholicism was only another name
for image-worship and martyr-burning, and partly on account of the favour
that had been shown to Papists, as compared with the cruel treatment of
Nonconformists--still there was a charm in Angela's gentle beauty against
which the daughterless matron could not steel her heart. She melted in the
space of a quarter of an hour, while Denzil was encouraging Henriette to
over-eat herself, and trying to persuade Angela to taste this or that
dainty, or reproaching her for taking so little; and by the time the child
had finished her copious meal, Lady Warner was telling herself how dearly
she might have loved this girl for a daughter-in-law, were it not for that
fatal objection of a corrupt and pernicious creed.

No! Lovely as she was, modest, refined, and in all things worthy to be
loved, the question of creed must be a stumbling-block. And then there were
other objections. Rural gossip, the loose talk of servants, had brought a
highly coloured description of Lady Fareham's household to her neighbour's
ears. The extravagant splendour, the waste and idleness, the late hours,
the worship of pleasure, the visiting, the singing, and dancing, and
junketing, and worst of all, the too-indulgent friendship shown to a
Parisian fopling, had formed the subject of conversation in many an
assembly of pious ladies, and hands and eyebrows had been uplifted at the
iniquities of Chilton Abbey, as second only to the monstrous goings-on of
the Court at Oxford.

Almost ever since the Restoration Lady Warner had been living in meek
expectancy of fire from heaven; and the chastisement of this memorable year
had seemed to her the inevitable realisation of her fears. The fiery rain
had come down--impalpable, invisible, leaving its deadly tokens in burning
plague spots, the forerunners of death. That the contagion had mostly
visited that humbler class of persons who had been strangers to the
excesses and pleasures of the Court made nothing against Lady Warner's
conviction that this scourge was Heaven's vengeance upon fashionable vice.
Her son had brought her stories of the life at Whitehall, terrible pictures
of iniquity, conveyed in the scathing words of one who sat apart, in a
humble lodging, where for him the light of day came not, and heard with
disgust and horror of that wave of debauchery which had swept over the city
he loved, since the triumph of the Royalists. And Lady Warner had heard the
words of Milton, and had listened with a reverence as profound as if the
blind poet had been the prophet of Israel, alone in his place of hiding,
holding himself aloof from an idolatrous monarch and a wicked people.

And now her son had brought her this fair girl, upon whom he had set his
foolish hopes, a Papist, and the sister of a woman whose ways were the
ways of--! A favourite scriptural substantive closed the sentence in Lady
Warner's mind.

No; it might not be. Whatever power she had over her son must be used
against his Papistical syren. She would treat her with courtesy, show her
house and dairy, and there an end. And so they repaired to the offices,
with Papillon running backwards and forwards as they went along, exclaiming
and questioning, delighted with the shining oak floors and great oak chests
in the corridor, and the armour in the hall, where, as the sacred and
central object, hung the breastplate Sir George Warner wore when he fell at
Hopton Heath, dinted by sword and pike, as the enemy's horse rode him down
in the _melée_. His orange scarf, soiled and torn, was looped across the
steel cuirass. Papillon admired everything, most of all the great cool
dairy, which had once been a chapel, and where the piscina was converted to
a niche for a polished brass milk-can, to the horror of Angela, who could
say no word in praise of a place that had been created by the profanation
of holy things. A chapel turned into a storehouse for milk and butter! Was
this how Protestants valued consecrated places? An awe-stricken silence
came upon her, and she was glad when Denzil remembered that they would have
barely time to walk back to the Abbey before the two o'clock dinner.

"You keep Court hours even in the country," said Lady Warner. "I dined half
an hour before you came."

"I don't care if I have no dinner to-day," said Papillon; "but I hope I
shall be able to eat a mince pie. Why don't you love mince pies, madam?
He"--pointing to Denzil--"says you do not."



CHAPTER X.

THE PRIEST'S HOLE.


Denzil dined at the Abbey, where he was always made welcome. Lady Fareham
had been warmly insistent upon his presence at their Christmas gaieties.

"We want to show you a Cavalier's Christmas," she told him at dinner, he
seated at her side in the place of honour, while Angela sat at the other
end of the table between Fareham and De Malfort. "For ourselves we care
little for such simple sports: but for the poor folk and the children Yule
should be a season to be remembered for good cheer and merriment through
all their slow, dull year. Poor wretches! I think of their hard life
sometimes, and wonder they don't either drown themselves or massacre us."

"They are like the beasts of the field, Lady Fareham. They have learnt
patience from the habit of suffering. They are born poor, and they die
poor. It is happy for us that they are not learned enough to consider the
inequalities of fortune, or we should have the rising of want against
abundance, a bitterer strife, perhaps, than the strife of adverse creeds,
which made Ireland so bloody a spectacle for the world's wonder thirty
years ago."

"Well, we shall make them all happy this afternoon; and there will be a
supper in the great stone barn which will acquaint them with abundance for
this one evening at least," answered Hyacinth, gaily.

"We are going to play games after dinner!" cried Henriette, from her place
at her father's elbow.

His lordship was the only person who ever reproved her seriously, yet she
loved him best of all her kindred or friends.

"Aunt Angy is going to play hide-and-seek with us. Will you play, Sir
Denzil?"

"I shall think myself privileged if I may join in your amusements."

"What a courteous speech! You will be cutting off your pretty curly hair,
and putting on a French perruque, like his"--pointing to De Malfort.
"Please do not. You would be like everybody else in London--and now you are
only like yourself--and vastly handsome."

"Hush, Henriette! you are much too pert," remonstrated Fareham.

"But 'tis the very truth, father. All the women who visit mother paint
their faces, so that they are all alike; and all the men talk alike,
so that I don't know one from t'other, except Lord Rochester, who is
impudenter and younger than the others, and gives me more sugar-plums and
pays me prettier compliments than anybody else."

"Hold your tongue, mistress! A dinner-table is no place for pert children.
Thy brother there has better manners," said her father, pointing to the
cherubic son and heir, whose ideas were concentrated upon a loaded plate of
red-deer pasty.

"You mean that he is greedier than I," retorted Papillon. "He will eat till
he won't be able to run about with us after dinner; and then he will sprawl
upon mother's satin train by the fire, with Ganymede and Phosphor, and she
will tell everybody how good and gentle he is, and how much better bred
than his sister. And now, if people are _ever_ going to leave off eating,
we may as well begin our games before it is quite dark. Perhaps _you_ are
ready, auntie, if nobody else is."

Dinner may have ended a little quicker for this speech, although Papillon
was sternly suppressed, and bade to keep silence or leave the table. She
obeyed so far as to make no further remarks, but expressed her contempt for
the gluttony of her elders by several loud yawns, and bounced up out of her
seat, like a ball from a racket, directly the little gentleman in black
sitting near his lordship had murmured a discreet thanksgiving. This
gentleman was the Roman Catholic priest from Oxford, who had said Mass
early that morning in the muniment room, and had been invited to his
lordship's table in honour of the festival.

Papillon led all the games, and ordered everybody about. Mrs. Dorothy
Lettsome, the young lady who was sorry she had not had the honour to be
born in France, was of the party, with her brother, honest Dan Lettsome, an
Oxfordshire squire, who had been in London only once in his life, to see
the Coronation, and had nearly lost his life, as well as his purse
and jewellery, in a tavern, after that august ceremonial. This bitter
experience had given him a distaste for the pleasures of the town which his
poor sister deplored exceedingly; since she was dependent upon his coffers,
and subject to his authority, and had no hope of leaving Oxfordshire unless
she were fortunate enough to find a town-bred husband.

These two joined in the sports with ardour, Squire Dan glad to be moving
about, rather than to sit still and listen to music which he hated, or to
conversation to which he could contribute neither wit nor sense, unless the
kennel or the gun-room were the topic under discussion. The talk of a lady
and gentleman who had graduated in the salons of the Hôtel de Rambouillet
was a foreign language to him; and he told his sister that it was all one
to him whether Lady Fareham and the Mounseer talked French or English,
since it was quite as hard to understand 'em in one language as in t'other.

Papillon, this rustic youth adored. He knew no greater pleasure than to
break and train a pony for her, to teach her the true knack of clearing a
hedge, to explain the habits and nature of those vermin in whose lawless
lives she was deeply interested--rats, weasels, badgers, and such-like--to
attend her when she hunted, or flew her peregrine.

"If you will marry me, sweetheart, when you are of the marrying age, I
would rather wait half a dozen years for you than have the best woman in
Oxfordshire that I know of at this present."

"Marry you!" cried Lord Fareham's daughter. "Why, I shall marry no one
under an earl; and I hope it will be a duke or a marquis. Marchioness is
a pretty title: it sounds better than duchess, because it is in three
syllables--mar-chion-ess," with an affected drawl. "I am going to be very
beautiful. Mrs. Hubbuck says so, and mother's own woman; and I heard that
painted old wretch, Mrs. Lewin, tell mother so. 'Eh, gud, your la'ship, the
young miss will be almost as great a beauty as your la'ship's self!' Mrs.
Lewin always begins her speeches with 'Eh, gud!' or 'What devil!' But I
hope I shall be handsomer than _mother_" concluded Papillon, in a tone
which implied a poor opinion of the maternal charms.

And now on this Christmas evening, in the thickening twilight of the
rambling old house, through long galleries, crooked passages, queer
little turns at right angles, rooms opening out of rooms, half a dozen
in succession, Squire Dan led the games, ordered about all the time by
Papillon, whom he talked of admiringly as a high-mettled filly, declaring
that she had more tricks than the running-horse he was training for
Abingdon races.

De Malfort, after assisting in their sports for a quarter of an hour with
considerable spirit, had deserted them, and sneaked off to the great
saloon, where he sat on the Turkey carpet at Lady Fareham's feet, singing
chansonettes to his guitar, while George and the spaniels sprawled beside
him, the whole group making a picture of indolent enjoyment, fitfully
lighted by the blaze of a yule log that filled the width of the chimney.
Fareham and the Priest were playing chess at the other end of the long low
room, by the light of a single candle.

Papillon ran in at the door and ejaculated her disgust at De Malfort's
desertion.

"Was there ever such laziness? It's bad enough in Georgie to be so idle;
but then,_ he_ has over-eaten himself."

"And how do you know that I haven't over-eaten myself, mistress?" asked De
Malfort.

"You never do that; but you often drink too much--much, much, much too
much!"

"That's a slanderous thing to say of your mother's most devoted servant,"
laughed De Malfort. "And pray how does a baby-girl like you know when a
gentleman has been more thirsty than discreet?"

"By the way you talk--always French. Jarni! ch'dame, n'savons joui d'
n'belle s'rée--n'fam-partie d'ombre. Moi j'ai p'du n'belle f'tune,
p'rol'd'nneur! You clip your words to nothing. Aren't you coming to play
hide-and-seek?"

"Not I, fair slanderer. I am a salamander, and love the fire."

"Is that a kind of Turk? Good-bye. I'm going to hide."

"Beware of the chests in the gallery, sweetheart," said her father, who
heard only this last sentence, as his daughter ran past him towards the
door. "When I was in Italy I was told of a bride who hid herself in an old
dower-chest, on her wedding-day--and the lid clapped to with a spring and
kept her there for half a century."

"There's no spring that ever locksmith wrought that will keep down
Papillon," cried De Malfort, sounding a light accompaniment to his words on
the guitar strings, with delicatest touch, like fairy music.

"I know of better hiding-places," answered the child, and vanished, banging
the great door behind her.

She found her aunt with Dorothy Lettsome and her brother and Denzil in
the gallery above stairs, walking up and down, and listening with every
indication of weariness to the Squire's discourse about his hunters and
running-horses.

"Now we are going to have real good sport!" cried Papillon. "Aunt Angy and
I are to hide, and you three are to look for us. You must stop in this
gallery for ten minutes by the French clock yonder--with the door shut. You
must give us ten minutes' law, Mr. Lettsome, as you did the hare the other
day, when I was out with you--and then you may begin to look for us.
Promise."

"Stay, little miss, you will be outside the house belike, roaming lord
knows where; in the shrubberies, or the barns, or halfway to Oxford--while
we are made fools of here."

"No, no. We will be inside the house."

"Do you promise that, pretty lady?"

"Yes, I promise."

Mrs. Dorothy suggested that there had been enough of childish play, and
that it would be pleasanter to sit in the saloon with her ladyship, and
hear Monsieur de Malfort sing.

"I'll wager he was singing when you saw him just now."

"Yes, he is always singing foolish French songs--and I'm sure you can't
understand 'em."

"I've learnt the French ever since I was as old as you, Mistress
Henriette."

"Ah! that was too late to begin. People who learn French out of books know
what it looks like, but not what it sounds like."

"I should be very sorry if I could not understand a French ballad, little
miss."

"Would you--would you, really?" cried Papillon, her face alight with impish
mirth. "Then, of course, you understand this--

    Oh, la d'moiselle, comme elle est sot-te,
    Eh, je me moque de sa sot-ti-se!
    Eh, la d'moiselle, comme elle est bê-te,
    Eh, je m'ris de sa bê-ti-se!"

She sang this impromptu nonsense _prestissimo_ as she danced out of the
room, leaving the accomplished Dorothy vexed and perplexed at not having
understood a single word.

It was nearly an hour later when Denzil entered the saloon hurriedly, pale
and perturbed of aspect, with Dorothy and her brother following him.

"We have been hunting all over the house for Mrs. Angela and Henriette,"
Denzil said, and Fareham started up from the chess-table, scared at the
young man's agitated tone and pallid countenance. "We have looked in every
room--"

"In every closet," interrupted Dorothy.

"In every corner of the staircases and passages," said Squire Dan.

"Can your lordship help us? There may be places you know of which we do not
know?" said Denzil, his voice trembling a little. "It is alarming that they
should be so long in concealment. We have called to them in every part of
the house."

Fareham hurried to the door, taking instant alarm--anxious, pale, alert.

"Come!" he said to the others. "The oak chests in the music-room--the great
Florentine coffer in the gallery? Have you looked in those?"

"Yes; we have opened every chest."

"Faith, to see Sir Denzil turn over piles of tapestries, you would have
thought he was looking for a fairy that could hide in the folds of a
curtain!" said Lettsome.

"It is no theme for jesting. I hate these tricks of hiding in strange
corners," said Fareham. "Now, show me where they left you."

"In the long gallery."

"They have gone up to the roof, perhaps."

"We have been in the roof," said Denzil.

"I have scarcely recovered my senses after the cracked skull I got from one
of your tie-beams," added Lettsome; and Fareham saw that both men had
their doublets coated with dust and cobwebs, in a manner which indicated a
remorseless searching of places unvisited by housemaids and brooms.

Mrs. Dorothy, with a due regard for her dainty lace kerchief and ruffles,
and her cherry silk petticoat, had avoided these loathly places, the abode
of darkness, haunted by the fear of rats.

Fareham tramped the house from cellar to garret, Denzil alone accompanying
him.

"We want no posse comitatus," he had said, somewhat discourteously. "You,
Squire, had best go and mend your cracked head in the eating-parlour with
a brimmer or two of clary wine; and you, Mrs. Dorothy, can go and keep her
ladyship company. But not a word of our fright. Swoons and screaming would
only hinder us."

He took Mrs. Lettsome's arm, and led her to the staircase, pushing the
Squire after her, and then turned his anxious countenance to Denzil.

"If they are not to be found in the house, they must be found outside the
house. Oh, the folly, the madness of it! A December night--snow on the
ground--a rising wind--another fall of snow, perhaps--and those two afoot
and alone!"

"I do not believe they are out-of-doors," Denzil answered. "Your daughter
promised that they would not leave the house."

"My daughter tells the truth. It is her chief virtue."

"And yet we have hunted in every hole and corner," said Denzil, dejectedly.

"Hole!" cried Fareham, almost in a shout. "Thou hast hit it, man! That one
word is a flash of lightning. The Priest's Hole! Come this way. Bring your
candle!" snatching up that which he had himself set down on a table, when
he stood still to deliberate. "The Priest's Hole? The child knew the secret
of it--fool that I was ever to show her. God! what a place to hide in on a
winter night!"

He was halfway up the staircase to the second story before he had uttered
the last of these exclamations, Denzil following him.

Suddenly, through the stillness of the house, there sounded a faint far-off
cry, the shrill thin sound of a child's voice. Fareham and Warner would
hardly have heard it had they not been sportsmen, with ears trained to
listen for distant sounds. No view-hallo sounding across miles of wood and
valley was ever fainter or more ethereal.

"You hear them?" cried Fareham. "Quick, quick!"

He led the way along a narrow gallery, about eight feet high, where people
had danced in Elizabeth's time, when the house was newly converted to
secular uses; and then into a room in which there were several iron chests,
the muniment room, where a sliding panel, of which the master of the house
knew the trick, revealed an opening in the wall. Fareham squeezed himself
through the gap, still carrying the tall iron candlestick, with flaring
candle, and vanished. Denzil followed, and found himself descending a
narrow stone staircase, very steep, built into an angle of the great
chimney, while as if from the bowels of the earth there came, louder at
every step, that shrill cry of distress, in a voice he could not doubt was
Henriette's.

"The other is mute," groaned Fareham; "scared to death, perhaps, like a
frightened bird." And then he called, "I am coming. You are safe, love;
safe, safe!" And then he groaned aloud, "Oh, the madness, the folly of it!"

Halfway down the staircase there was a sudden gap of six feet, down which
Fareham dropped with his hands on the lowest stair, Denzil following; a
break in the continuity of the descent planned for the discomfiture of
strangers and the protection of the family hiding-place.

Fareham and Denzil were on a narrow stone landing at the bottom of the
house; and the child's wail of anguish changed to a joyous shriek, "Father,
father!" close in their ears. Fareham set his shoulder against the heavy
oak door, and it burst inwards. There had been no question of secret spring
or complicated machinery; but the great, clumsy door dragged upon its rusty
hinges, and the united strength of the two girls had not served to pull it
open, though Papillon, in her eagerness for concealment in the first fever
of hiding, had been strong enough to push the door till she had jammed it,
and thus made all after efforts vain.

"Father!" she cried, leaping into his arms, as he came into the room, large
enough to hold six-men standing upright; but a hideous den in which to
perish alone in the dark. "Oh, father! I thought no one would ever find us.
I was afraid we should have died like the Italian lady--and people would
have found our skeletons and wondered about us. I never was afraid before.
Not when the great horse reared as high as a house--and her ladyship
screamed. I only laughed then--but to-night I have been afraid."

Fareham put her aside without looking at her.

"Angela! Great God! She is dead!"

No, she was not dead, only in a half swoon, leaning against the angle of
the wall, ghastly white in the flare of the candles. She was not quite
unconscious. She knew whose strong arms were holding her, whose lips were
so near her own, whose head bent suddenly upon her breast, leaning against
the lace kerchief, to listen for the beating of her heart.

She made a great effort to relieve his fear, understanding dimly that he
thought her dead; but could only murmur broken syllables, till he carried
her up three or four stairs, to a secret door that opened into the garden.
There in the wintry air, under the steely light of wintry stars, her senses
came back to her. She opened her eyes and looked at him.

"I am sorry I have not Papillon's courage," she said.

"Tu m'as donné une affreuse peur--je te croyais morte," muttered Fareham,
letting his arms drop like lead as she released herself from their support.

Denzil and Henriette were close to them. They had come to the open door
for fresh air, after the charnel-like chill and closeness of the small
underground chamber.

"Father is angry with me," said the girl; "he won't speak to me."

"Angry! no, no;" and he bent to kiss her. "But oh, child, the folly of it!
She might have died--you too--found just an hour too late."

"It would have taken a long time to kill me," said Papillon; "but I was
very cold, and my teeth were chattering, and I should soon have been
hungry. Have you had supper yet?"

"Nobody has even thought of supper."

"I am glad of that. And I may have supper with you, mayn't I, and eat what
I like, because it's Christmas, and because I might have been starved to
death in the Priest's Hole. But it was a good hiding-place, tout de meme.
Who guessed at last?"

"The only person who knew of the place, child. And now, remember, the
secret is to be kept. Your dungeon may some day save an honest man's life.
You must tell nobody where you were hid."

"But what shall I say when they ask me? I must not tell them a story."

"Say you were hidden in the great chimney--which is truth; for the Priest's
Hole is but a recess at the back of the chimney. And you, Warner," turning
to Denzil, who had not spoken since the opening of the door, "I know you'll
keep the secret."

"Yes. I will keep your secret," Denzil answered, cold as ice; and said no
word more.

They walked slowly round the house by the terrace, where the clipped yews
stood out like obelisks against the bleak bright sky. Papillon ran and
skipped at her father's side, clinging to him, expatiating upon her
sufferings in the dust and darkness. Denzil followed with, Angela, in a
dead silence.



CHAPTER XI.

LIGHTER THAN VANITY.


"I think father must be a witch," Henriette said at dinner next day, "or
why did he tell me of the Italian lady who was shut in the dower-chest,
just before Angela and I were lost in"--she checked herself at a look from
his lordship--"in the chimney?"

"It wants no witch to tell that little girls are foolish and mischievous,"
answered Fareham.

"You ladies must have been vastly black when you came out of your
hiding-place," said De Malfort. "I should have been sorry to see so much
beauty disguised in soot. Perhaps Mrs. Kirkland means to appear in the
character of a chimney at our next Court masquerade. She would cause as
great a stir as Lady Muskerry, in all her Babylonian splendour; but for
other reasons. Nothing could mitigate the Muskerry's ugliness; and no
disguise could hide Mrs. Angela's beauty."

"What would the costume be?" asked Papillon.

"Oh, something simple. A long black satin gown, and a brick-dust velvet
hat, tall and curiously twisted, like your Tudor chimney; and a cluster of
grey feathers on the top, to represent smoke."

"Monsieur le Comte makes a joke of everything. But what would father have
said if we had never been found?"

"I should have said that they are right who swear there is a curse upon all
property taken from the Church, and that the ban fell black and bitter upon
Chilton Abbey," answered his lordship's grave deep voice from the end of
the table, where he sat somewhat apart from the rest, gloomy and silent,
save when directly addressed.

Her ladyship and De Malfort had always plenty to talk about. They had the
past as well as the present for their discourse, and were always sighing
for the vanished glories of their youth--at Paris, at Fontainebleau, at St.
Germain. Nor were they restricted to the realities of the present and the
memories of the past; they had that wider world of unreality in which to
circulate; they had the Scudèry language at the tips of their tongues,
the fantastic sentimentalism of that marvellous old maid who invented the
seventeenth-century hero and heroine; or who crystallised the vanishing
figures of that brilliant age and made them immortal. All that little
language of toyshop platonics had become a natural form of speech with
these two, bred and educated in the Marais, while it was still the select
and aristocratic quarter of Paris.

To-day Hyacinth and her old playfellow had been chattering like children,
or birds in an aviary, and with little more sense in their conversation;
but at this talk of the Church's ban, Hyacinth stopped in her prattle and
was almost serious.

"I sometimes think we shall have bad luck in this house," she said, "or
that we shall see the ghosts of the wicked monks who were turned out to
make room for Fareham's great-grandfather."

"Tush, child! what do you know of their wickedness, after a century?"

"They were very wicked, I believe, for it was one of those quiet little
monasteries where the monks could do all manner of evil things, and raise
the devil, if they liked, without anybody knowing. And when Henry the
Eighth sent his Commissioners, they were taken by surprise; and the altar
at which they worshipped Beelzebub was found in a side chapel, and a
wax figure of the King stuck with arrows, like St. Sebastian. The Abbot
pretended it _was_ St. Sebastian; but nobody believed him."

"Nobody wanted to believe him," said Fareham. "King Henry made an example
of Chilton Abbey, and gave it to my worthy ancestor, who was a fourth
cousin of Jane Seymour's, and had turned Protestant to please his royal
master. He went back to the Church of Rome on his death-bed, and we Revels
have been Papists ever since. I wish the Church joy of us!"

"The Church has neither profit nor honour from you," said his wife, shaking
her fan at him. "You seldom go to Mass; you never go to confession."

"I would rather keep my sins to myself, and atone for them by the pangs of
a wounded conscience. That is too easy a religion which shifts the burden
of guilt on to the shoulders of a stipendiary priest, and walks away from
the confessional absolved by the payment of a few extra prayers."

"I believe you are either an infidel or a Puritan."

"A cross between the two, perhaps--a mongrel in religion, as I am a mongrel
in politics."

Angela looked up at him with sad eyes--reproachful, yet full of pity. She
remembered his wild talk, semi-delirious some of it, all feverish and
excited, during his illness, and how she had listened with aching heart to
the ravings of one so near death, and so unfit to die. And now that the
pestilence had passed him by, now that he was a strong man again, with half
a lifetime before him, her heart was still heavy for him. She who sat in
the theatre of life as a spectator had discovered that her sister's husband
was not happy. The trifles that delighted Hyacinth left Fareham unamused
and discontented; and his wife knew not that there was anything wanting to
his felicity. She could go on prattling like a child, could be in a fever
about a fan or a bunch of ribbons, could talk for an hour of a new play or
the contents of the French _Gazette_, while he sat gloomy and apart.

The sympathy, the companionship that should be in marriage was wanting
here. Angela saw and deplored this distance, scarce daring to touch so
delicate a theme, fearful lest she, the younger, should seem to sermonise
the elder; and yet she could not be silent for ever while duty and religion
urged her to speak.

At Chilton Abbey the sisters were rarely alone. Papillon was almost always
with them; and De Malfort spent more of his life in attendance upon Lady
Fareham than at Oxford, where he was supposed to be living. Mrs. Lettsome
and her brother were frequent guests; and coach-loads of fine people
came over from the court almost every day. Indeed, it was only Fareham's
character--austere as Clarendon's or Southampton's--which kept the finest
of all company at a distance. Lady Castlemaine had called at Chilton in her
coach-and-four early in July; and her visit had not been returned--a slight
which the proud beauty bitterly resented: and from that time she had lost
no opportunity of depreciating Lady Fareham. Happily her jests, not over
refined in quality, had not been repeated to Hyacinth's husband.

One January afternoon the longed-for opportunity came. The sisters were
sitting alone in front of the vast mediaeval chimney, where the Abbots of
old had burnt their surplus timber--Angela busy with her embroidery frame,
working a satin coverlet for her niece's bed; Hyacinth yawning over
a volume of Cyrus; in whose stately pages she loved to recognise the
portraits of her dearest friends, and for which she was a living key.
Angela was now familiar with the famous romance, which she had read with
deepest interest, enlightened by her sister. As an eastern story--a record
of battles and sieges evolved from a clever spinster's brain, an account of
men and women who had never lived--the book might have seemed passing dull;
but the story of actual lives, of living, breathing beauty, and valour that
still burnt in warrior breasts, the keen and clever analysis of men and
women who were making history, could not fail to interest an intelligent
girl, to whom all things in life were new.

Angela read of the siege of Dunkirk, where Fareham had fought; of the
tempestuous weather; the camp in the midst of salt marshes and quicksands,
and all the sufferings and perils of life in the trenches. He had been
in more than one of those battles which mademoiselle's conscientious pen
depicted with such graphic power, the _Gazette_ at her elbow as she wrote.
The names of battles, sieges, Generals, had been on his lips in his
delirious ravings. He had talked of the taking of Charenton, the key to
Paris, a stronghold dominating Seine and Marne; of Clanleu, the brave
defender of the fortress; of Châtillon, who led the charge--both killed
there--Châtillon, the friend of Condé, who wept bitterest tears for a loss
that poisoned victory. Read by these lights, the "Grand Cyrus" was a book
to be pored over, a book to bend over in the grey winter dusk, reading
by the broad blaze of the logs that flamed and crackled on wrought-iron
standards. Just as merrily the blaze had spread its ruddy light over the
room when it was a monkish refectory, and when the droning of a youthful
brother reading aloud to the fraternity as they ate their supper was the
only sound, except the clattering of knives and grinding of jaws.

Now the room was her ladyship's drawing-room, bright with Gobelins
tapestry, dazzling with Venetian mirrors, gaudy with gold and colour, the
black oak floor enlivened by many-hued carpets from our new colony of
Tangiers. Fareham told his wife that her Moorish carpets had cost the
country fifty times the price she had paid for them, and were associated
with an irrevocable evil in the existence of a childless Queen; but that
piece of malice, Hyacinth told him, had no foundation but his hatred of the
Duke, who had always been perfectly civil to him.

"Of two profligate brothers I prefer the bolder sinner," said Fareham.
"Bigotry and debauchery are an ill mixture."

"I doubt if his Majesty frets for the want of an heir," remarked De
Malfort. "He is not a family man."

"He is not a one family man, Count," answered Fareham.

Fareham and De Malfort were both away on this January evening. Papillon was
taking a dancing lesson from a wizened old Frenchman, who brought himself
and his fiddle from Oxford twice a week for the damsel's instruction. Mrs.
Priscilla, nurse and _gouvernante_, attended these lessons, at which the
Honourable Henrietta Maria Revel gave herself prodigious airs, and was
indeed so rude to the poor old professor that her aunt had declined to
assist at any more performances.

"Has his lordship gone to Oxford?" Angela asked, after a silence broken
only by her sister's yawns.

"I doubt he is anywhere rather than in such good company," Hyacinth
answered, carelessly. "He hates the King, and would like to preach at him,
as John Knox did at his great-grandmother. Fareham is riding, or roving
with his dogs, I dare say. He has a gloomy taste for solitude."

"Hyacinth, do you not see that he is unhappy?" Angela asked, suddenly, and
the pain in her voice startled her sister from the contemplation of the
sublime Mandane.

"Unhappy, child! What reason has he to be unhappy?"

"Ah, dearest, it is that I would have you discover. 'Tis a wife's business
to know what grieves her husband."

"Unless it be Mrs. Lewin's bill--who is an inexorable harpy--I know of no
act of mine that can afflict him."

"I did not mean that his gloom was caused by any act of yours, sister. I
only urge you to discover why he is so sad."

"Sad? Sullen, you mean. He has a fine, generous nature. I am sure it is not
Lewin's charges that trouble him. But he had always a sullen temper--by
fits and starts."

"But of late he has been always silent and gloomy."

"How the child watches him! Ma très chère, that silence is natural. There
are but two things Fareham loves--the first, war; the second, sport. If he
cannot be storming a town, he loves to be killing a fox. This fireside life
of ours--our books and music, our idle talk of plays and dances--wearies
him. You may see how he avoids us--except out-of-doors."

"Dear Hyacinth, forgive me!" Angela began, falteringly, leaving her
embroidery frame and moving to the other side of the hearth, where she
dropped on her knees by her ladyship's chair, and was almost swallowed up
in the ample folds of her brocade train. "Is it not possible that Lord
Fareham is pained to see you so much gayer and more familiar with Monsieur
de Malfort than you ever are with him?"

"Gayer! more familiar!" cried Hyacinth. "Can you conceive any creature
gay and familiar with Fareham? One could as soon be gay with Don Quixote;
indeed, there is much in common between the knight of the rueful
countenance and my husband. Gay and familiar! And pray, mistress, why
should I not take life pleasantly with a man who understands me, and in
whose friendship I have grown up almost as if we were brother and sister?
Do you forget that I have known Henri ever since I was ten years old--that
we played battledore and shuttlecock together in our dear garden in the Rue
de Touraine, next the bowling-green, when he was at school with the Jesuit
Fathers, and used to spend all his holiday afternoons with the Marquise?
I think I only learnt to know the saints' days because they brought me my
playfellow. And when I was old enough to attend the Court--and, indeed,
I was but a child when I first appeared there--it was Henri who sang my
praises, and brought a crowd of admirers about me. Ah, what a life it was!
Love in the city, and war at the gates: plots, battles, barricades! How
happy we all were! except when there came the news of some great man
killed, and walls were hung with black, where there had been a thousand wax
candles and a crowd of dancers. Châtillon, Chabot, Laval! _Hélas_, those
were sad losses!"

"Dear sister, I can understand your affection for an old friend, but I
would not have you place him above your husband; least of all would I have
his lordship suspect that you preferred the friend to the husband----"

"Suspect! Fareham! Are you afraid I shall make Fareham jealous, because
I sing duets and cudgel these poor brains to make _bouts rimés_ with De
Malfort? Ah, child, how little those watchful eyes of yours have discovered
the man's character! Fareham jealous! Why, at St. Germain he has seen me
surrounded by adorers; the subject of more madrigals than would fill a big
book. At the Louvre he has seen me the--what is that Mr. What's-his-name,
your friend's old school-master, the Republican poet, calls it--'the
cynosure of neighbouring eyes.' Don't think me vain, ma mie. I am an old
woman now, and I hate my looking-glass ever since it has shown me my
first wrinkle; but in those days I had almost as many admirers as Madame
Henriette, or the Princess Palatine, or the fair-haired Duchess. I was
called la belle Anglaise."

It was difficult to sound a warning-note in ears so obstinately deaf to
all serious things. Papillon came bounding in after her
dancing-lesson--exuberant, loquacious.

"The little beast has taught me a new step in the coranto. See, mother,"
and the slim small figure was drawn up to its fullest, and the thin little
lithe arms were curved with a studied grace, as Papillon slid and tripped
across the room, her dainty little features illumined by a smirk of
ineffable conceit.

"Henriette, you are an ill-bred child to call your master so rude a name,"
remonstrated her mother, languidly.

"'Tis the name you called him last week when his dirty shoes left marks
on the stairs. He changes his shoes in my presence," added Papillon,
disgustedly. "I saw a hole in his stocking. Monsieur de Malfort calls him
Cut-Caper."



CHAPTER XII.

LADY FAREHAM'S DAY.


A month later the _Oxford Gazette_ brought Lady Fareham the welcomest news
that she had read for ever so long. The London death-rate had decreased,
and his Majesty had gone to Hampton Court, attended by the Duke and Prince
Rupert, Lord Clarendon, and his other indispensable advisers, and a retinue
of servants, to be within easy distance of that sturdy soldier Albemarle,
who had remained in London, unafraid of the pestilence; and who declared
that while it was essential for him to be in frequent communication with
his Majesty, it would be perilous to the interests of the State for him to
absent himself from London; for the Dutch war had gone drivelling on ever
since the victory in June, and that victory was not to be supposed final.
Indeed, according to the General, there was need of speedy action and a
considerable increase of our naval strength.

Windsor had been thought of in the first place as a residence for the King;
but the law courts had been transferred there, and the judges and their
following had overrun the town, while there was a report of an infected
house there. So it had been resolved that his Majesty should make a brief
residence at Hampton Court, leaving the Queen, the Duchess, and their
belongings at Oxford, whither he could return as soon as the business of
providing for the setting out of the fleet had been arranged between him
and the General, who could travel in a day backwards and forwards between
the Cockpit and Wolsey's palace.

When this news came they were snowed up at Chilton. Sport of all kinds had
been stopped, and Fareham, who, in his wife's parlance, lived in his boots
all the winter, had to amuse himself without the aid of horse and hound;
while even walking was made difficult by the snowdrifts that blocked
the lanes, and reduced the face of Nature to one muffled and monotonous
whiteness, while all the edges of the landscape were outlined vaguely
against the misty greyness of the sky.

Hyacinth spent her days half in yawning and sighing, and half in idle
laughter and childish games with Henriette and De Malfort. When she was gay
she was as much a child as her daughter; when she was fretful and hipped,
it was a childish discontent.

They played battledore and shuttlecock in the picture-gallery, and my lady
laughed when her volant struck some reverend judge or venerable bishop a
rap on the nose. They sat for hours twanging guitars, Hyacinth taking her
music-lesson from De Malfort, whose exquisite taste and touch made a guitar
seem a different instrument from that on which his pupil's delicate fingers
nipped a wiry melody, more suggestive of finger-nails than music.

He taught her, and took all possible pains in the teaching, and laughed at
her, and told her plainly that she had no talent for music. He told her
that in her hands the finest lute Laux Maler ever made, mellowed by three
centuries, would be but wood and catgut.

"It is the prettiest head in the world, and a forehead as white as Queen
Anne's," he said one day, with a light touch on the ringletted brow, "but
there is nothing inside. I wonder if there is anything here?" and the same
light touch fluttered for an instant against her brocade bodice, at the
spot where fancy locates the faculty of loving and suffering.

She laughed at his rude speeches, just as she laughed at his flatteries--as
if there were safety in that atmosphere of idle mirth. Angela heard and
wondered, wondering most perhaps what occupied and interested Lord Fareham
in those white winter days, when he lived for the greater part alone in his
own rooms, or pacing the long walks from which the gardeners had cleared
the snow. He spent some of his time indoors, deep in a book. She knew as
much as that. He had allowed Angela to read some of his favourites, though
he would not permit any of the new comedies, which everybody at Court was
reading, to enter his house, much to Lady Fareham's annoyance.

"I am half a century behind all my friends in intelligence," she said,
"because of your Puritanism. One tires of your everlasting gloomy
tragedies--your _Broken Hearts_ and _Philasters_. I am all for the genius
of comedy."

"Then satisfy your inclinations, and read Molière. He is second only to
Shakespeare."

"I have him by heart already."

The _Broken Heart_ and _Philaster_ delighted Angela; indeed, she had read
the latter play so often, and with such deep interest, that many passages
in it had engraved themselves on her memory, and recurred to her sometimes
in the silence of wakeful nights.

That character of Bellario touched her as no heroine of the "Grand Cyrus"
had power to move her. How elaborately artificial seemed the Scudèry's
polished tirades, her refinements and quintessences of the grand passion,
as compared with the fervid simplicity of the woman-page--a love so humble,
so intense, so unselfish!

Sir Denzil came to Chilton nearly every day, and was always graciously
received by her ladyship. His Puritan gravity fell away from him like a
pilgrim's cloak, in the light air of Hyacinth's amusements. He seemed to
grow younger; and Henriette's sharp eyes discovered an improvement in his
dress.

"This is your second new suit since Christmas," she said, "and I'll swear
it is made by the King's tailor. Regardez done, madame! What exquisite
embroidery, silver and gold thread intermixed with little sparks of garnets
sewn in the pattern! It is better than anything of his lordship's. I wish I
had a father who dressed well. I'm sure mine must be the shabbiest lord at
Whitehall. You have no right to be more modish than monsieur mon père, Sir
Denzil."

"Hold that insolent tongue, p'tit drôle!" cried the mother. "Sir Denzil is
younger by a dozen years than his lordship, and has his reputation to make
at Court, and with the ladies he will meet there. I hope you are coming to
London, Denzil. You shall have a seat in one of our coaches as soon as the
death-rate diminishes, and this odious weather breaks up."

"Your ladyship is all goodness. I shall go where my lode-star leads,"
answered Denzil, looking at Angela, and blushing at the audacity of his
speech.

He was one of those modest lovers who rarely bring a blush to the cheek of
the beloved object, but are so poor-spirited as to do most of the blushing
themselves.

A week later Lady Fareham could do nothing but praise that severe weather
which she had pronounced odious, for her husband, coming in from Oxford
after a ride along the road, deep with melting snow, brought the news of a
considerable diminution in the London death-rate; and the more startling
news that his Majesty had removed to Whitehall for the quicker despatch of
business with the Duke of Albemarle, albeit the bills of mortality recorded
fifteen hundred deaths from the pestilence in the previous week, and
although not a carriage appeared in the deserted streets of the metropolis
except those in his Majesty's train.

"How brave, how admirable!" cried Hyacinth, clapping her hands in the
exuberance of her joy. "Then we can go to London to-morrow, if horses and
coaches can be made ready. Give your orders at once, Fareham, I beseech
you. The thaw has set in. There will be no snow to stop us."

"There will be floods which may make fords impassable."

"We can avoid every ford--there is always a _détour_ by the lanes."

"Have you any idea what the lanes will be like after two feet deep of snow?
Be sure, my love, you are happier twanging your lute by this fireside than
you would be stuck in a quagmire, perishing with cold in a windy coach."

"I will risk the quagmires and the windy coach. Oh, my lord, if you ever
loved me let us set out to-morrow. I languish for Fareham House--my
basset-table, my friends, my watermen to waft me to and fro between
Blackfriars and Westminster, the mercers in St. Paul's Churchyard, the
Middle Exchange. I have not bought myself anything pretty since Christmas.
Let us go to-morrow."

"And risk spoiling the prettiest thing you own--your face--by a
plague-spot."

"The King is there--the plague is ended."

"Do you think he is a God, that the pestilence will flee at his coming?"

"I think his courage is godlike. To be the first to return to that
abandoned city."

"What of Monk and the Archbishop, who never left it?"

"A rough old soldier! A Churchman! Such lives were meant to face danger.
But his Majesty! A man for whom existence should be one long holiday?"

"He has done his best to make it so; but the pestilence has shown him that
there are grim realities in life. Don't fret, dearest. We will go to town
as soon as it is prudent to make the move. Kings must brave great hazards;
and there is no reason that little people like us should risk our lives
because the necessities of State compel his Majesty to imperil his."

"We shall be laughed at if we do not hasten after him."

"Let them laugh who please. I have passed through the ordeal, Hyacinth. I
don't want a second attack of the sickness; nor would I for worlds that you
or your sister should run into the mouth of danger. Besides, you can lose
little pleasure by being absent; for the play-houses are all closed, and
the Court is in mourning for the French Queen-mother."

"Poor Queen Anne!" sighed Hyacinth. "She was always kind to me. And to
die of a cancer--after out-living those she most loved! King Louis would
scarcely believe she was seriously ill, till she was at the point of death.
But we know what mourning means at Whitehall--Lady Castlemaine in black
velvet, with forty thousand pounds in diamonds to enliven it; a concert
instead of a play, perhaps; and the King sitting in a corner whispering
with Mrs. Stewart. But as for the contagion, you will see that everybody
will rush back to London, and that you and I will be laughing-stocks."

The next week justified Lady Fareham's assertion. As soon as it was known
that the King had established himself at Whitehall, the great people came
back to their London houses, and the town began to fill. It was as if a God
had smiled upon the smitten city, and that healing and happiness radiated
from the golden halo round that anointed head. Was not this the monarch of
whom the most eloquent preacher of the age had written, "In the arms of
whose justice and wisdom we lie down in safety"?

London flung off her cerements--erased her plague-marks. The dead-cart's
dreadful bell no longer sounded in the silence of an afflicted city.
Coffins no longer stood at every other door; the pits at Finsbury, in
Tothill Fields, at Islington, were all filled up and trampled down; and the
grass was beginning to grow over the forgotten dead. The Judges came back
to Westminster. London was alive again--alive and healed; basking in the
sunshine of Royalty.

Nowhere was London more alive in the month of March than at Fareham
House on the Thames, where the Fareham liveries of green and gold showed
conspicuous upon his lordship's watermen, lounging about the stone steps
that led down to the water, or waiting in the terraced garden, which was
one of the finest on the river. Wherries of various weights and sizes
filled one spacious boathouse, and in another handsome stone edifice with
a vaulted roof Lord Fareham's barge lay in state, glorious in cream colour
and gold, with green velvet cushions and Oriental carpets, as splendid as
that blue-and-gold barge which Charles had sent as a present to Madame, a
vessel to out-glitter Cleopatra's galley, when her ladyship and her friends
and their singing-boys and musicians filled it for a voyage to Hampton
Court.

The barge was used on festive occasions, or for country voyages, as to
Hampton or Greenwich; the wherries were in constant requisition. Along
that shining waterway rank and fashion, commerce and business, were moving
backwards and forwards all day long. That more novel mode of transit, the
hackney coach, was only resorted to in foul weather; for the Legislature
had handicapped the coaching trade in the interests of the watermen, and
coaches were few and dear.

If Angela had loved the country, she was not less charmed with London
under its altered aspect. All this gaiety and splendour, this movement and
brightness, astonished and dazzled her.

"I am afraid I am very shallow-minded," she told Denzil when he asked her
opinion of London. "It seems an enchanted place, and I can scarcely believe
it is the same dreadful city I saw a few months ago, when the dead were
lying in the streets. Oh, how clearly it comes back to me--those empty
streets, the smoke of the fires, the wretched ragged creatures begging for
bread! I looked down a narrow court, and saw a corpse lying there, and
a child wailing over it; and a little way farther on a woman flung up a
window, and screamed out, 'Dead, dead! The last of my children is dead! Has
God no relenting mercy?'"

"It is curious," said Hyacinth, "how little the town seems changed after
all those horrors. I miss nobody I know."

"Nay, madam," said Denzil, "there have only died one hundred and sixty
thousand people, mostly of the lower classes; or at least that is the
record of the bills; but I am told the mortality has been twice as much,
for people have had a secret way of dying and burying their dead. If your
ladyship could have heard the account that Mr. Milton gave me this morning
of the sufferings he saw before he left London, you would not think the
visitation a light one."

"I wonder you consort with such a rebellious subject as Mr. Milton," said
Hyacinth. "A creature of Cromwell's, who wrote with hideous malevolence and
disrespect of the murdered King, who was in hiding for ever so long after
his Majesty's return, and who now escapes a prison only by the royal
clemency."

"The King lacks only that culminating distinction of having persecuted the
greatest poet of the age in order to stand equal to the bigots who murdered
Giordano Bruno," said Denzil.

"The greatest poet! Sure you would not compare Milton with Waller?"

"Indeed I would not, Lady Fareham."

"Nor with Cowley, nor Denham--dear cracked-brained Denham?"

"Nor with Denham. To my fancy he stands as high above them as the pole-star
over your ladyship's garden lamps."

"A pamphleteer who has scribbled schoolboy Latin verses, and a few short
poems; and, let me see, a masque--yes, a masque that he wrote for Lord
Bridgewater's children before the troubles. I have heard my father talk of
it. I think he called the thing _Comus_."

"A name that will live, Lady Fareham, when Waller and Denham are shadows,
remembered only for an occasional couplet."

"Oh, but who cares what people will think two or three hundred years hence?
Waller's verses please us now. The people who come after me can please
themselves, and may read _Comus_ to their hearts' content. I know his
lordship reads Milton, as he does Shakespeare, and all the cramped old
play-wrights of Elizabeth's time. Henri, sing us that song of Waller's,
'Go, lovely rose.' I would give all Mr. Milton has written for that
perfection."

They were sitting on the terrace above the river in the golden light of
an afternoon that was fair and warm as May, though by the calendar 'twas
March. The capricious climate had changed from austere winter to smiling
spring. Skylarks were singing over the fields at Hampstead, and over the
plague-pits at Islington, and all London was rejoicing in blue skies and
sunshine. Trade was awakening from a death-like sleep. The theatres were
closed; but there were plays acted now and then at Court. The New and the
Middle Exchange were alive with beribboned fops and painted belles.

It was Lady Fareham's visiting-day. The tall windows of her saloon were
open to the terrace, French windows that reached from ceiling to floor,
like those at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, and which Hyacinth had substituted
for the small Jacobean casements, when she took possession of her husband's
ancestral mansion. Saloon and terrace were one on a balmy afternoon like
this; and her ladyship's guests wandered in and out at their pleasure. Her
lackeys, handing chocolate and cakes on silver or gold salvers, were so
many as to seem ubiquitous; and in the saloon, presided over by Angela,
there was a still choicer refreshment to be obtained at a tea-table, where
tiny cups of the new China drink were dispensed to those who cared for
exotic novelties.

"Prythee, take your guitar and sing to us, were it but to change the
conversation," cried Hyacinth; and De Malfort took up his guitar and began,
in the sweetest of tenors, "Go, lovely rose."

He had all her ladyship's visitors, chiefly feminine, round him before he
had finished the first verse. That gift of song, that exquisite touch upon
the Spanish guitar, were irresistible.

Lord Fareham landed at the lower flight of steps as the song ended, and
came slowly along the terrace, saluting his wife's friends with a grave
courtesy. He brought an atmosphere of silence and restraint with him, it
seemed to some of his wife's visitors, for the babble that usually follows
the end of a song was wanting.

Most of Lady Fareham's friends affected literature, and professed
familiarity with two books which had caught the public taste on opposite
sides of the Channel. In London people quoted Butler, and vowed there was
no wit so racy as the wit in "Hudibras." In Paris the cultured were all
striving to talk like Rochefoucauld's "Maxims," which had lately delighted
the Gallic mind by the frank cynicism that drew everybody's attention to
somebody else's failings.

"Himself the vainest of men, 'tis scarce wonderful that he takes vanity to
be the mainspring that moves the human species," said De Malfort, when some
one had found fault with the Duke's analysis.

"Oh, now we shall hear nothing but stale Rochefoucauldisms, sneers at love
and friendship, disparagement of our ill-used sex! Where has my grave
husband been, I wonder?" said Hyacinth. "Upon my honour, Fareham, your brow
looks as sombre as if it were burdened with the care of the nation."

"I have been with one who has to carry the greater part of that burden, my
lady, and my spirits may have caught some touch of his uneasiness."

"You have been prosing with that pragmatical personage at Dunkirk--nay, I
beg the Lord Chancellor's pardon, Clarendon House. Are not his marbles
and tapestries much finer than ours? And yet he began life as a sneaking
lawyer, the younger son of a small Wiltshire squire----"

"Lady Fareham, you allow your tongue too much licence----"

"Nay, I speak but the common feeling. Everybody is tired of a Minister who
is a hundred years behind the age. He should have lived under Elizabeth."

"A pretty woman should never talk politics, Hyacinth."

"Of what else can I talk when the theatres are closed, and you deny me the
privilege of seeing the last comedy performed at Whitehall? Is it not rank
tyranny in his lordship, Lady Sarah?" turning to one of her intimates, a
lady who had been a beauty at the court of Henrietta Maria in the beginning
of the troubles, and who from old habit still thought herself lovely and
beloved. "I appeal to your ladyship's common sense. Is it not monstrous to
deprive me of the only real diversion in the town? I was not allowed to
enter a theatre at all last year, except when his favourite Shakespeare or
Fletcher was acted, and that was but a dozen times, I believe."

"Oh, hang Shakespeare!" cried a gentleman whose periwig occupied nearly as
much space against the blue of a vernal sky as all the rest of his dapper
little person. "Gud, my lord, it is vastly old-fashioned in your lordship
to taste Shakespeare!" protested Sir Ralph Masaroon, shaking a cloud of
pulvilio out of his cataract of curls. "There was a pretty enough play
concocted t'other day out of two of his--a tragedy and comedy--_Measure for
Measure_ and _Much Ado about Nothing_, the interstices filled in with the
utmost ingenuity. But Shakespeare unadulterated--faugh!"

"I am a fantastical person, perhaps, Sir Ralph; but I would rather my
wife saw ten of Shakespeare's plays--in spite of their occasional
coarseness--than one of your modern comedies."

"I should revolt against such tyranny," said Lady Sarah. "I have always
appreciated Shakespeare, but I adore a witty comedy, and I never allowed my
husband to dictate to me on a question of taste."

"Plays which her Majesty patronises can scarcely be unfit entertainment for
her subjects," remarked another lady.

"Our Portuguese Queen is an excellent judge of the niceties of our
language," said Fareham. "I question if she understands five sentences in
as many acts."

"Nor should _I_ understand anything low or vulgar," said Hyacinth.

"Then, madam, you are best at home, for the whole entertainment would be
Hebrew to you."

"That cannot be," protested Lady Sarah; "for all our plays are written by
gentlemen. The hack writers of King James's time have been shoved aside. It
is the mark of a man of quality to write a comedy."

"It is a pity that fine gentlemen should write foul jests. Nay, it is a
subject I can scarce speak of with patience, when I remember what the
English stage has been, and hear what it is; when I recall what Lord
Clarendon has told me of his Majesty's father, for whom Shakespeare was
a closet companion, who loved all that was noblest in the drama of the
Elizabethan age. Time, which should have refined and improved the stage,
has sunk it in ignominy. We stand alone among nations in our worship of the
obscene. You have seen plays enough in Paris, Hyacinth. Recall the themes
that pleased you at the Marais and the Hôtel de Bourgogne; the stories of
classic heroism, of Christian fortitude, of manhood and womanhood lifted
to the sublime. You who, in your girlhood, were familiar with the austere
genius of Corneille----"

"I am sick of that Frenchman's name," interjected Lady Sarah. "St. Évremond
was always praising him, and had the audacity to pronounce him superior to
Dryden; to compare _Cinna_ with the _Indian Queen_."

"A comparison which makes one sorry for Mr. Dryden," said Fareham. "I have
heard that Condé, when a young man, was affected to tears at the scene
between Augustus and his foe."

"He must have been very young," said Lady Fareham. "But I am not going to
depreciate Corneille, or to pretend that the French theatre is not vastly
superior to our own. I would only protest that if our laughter-loving King
prefers farce to tragedy, and rhyme to blankverse, his subjects should
accommodate themselves to his taste, and enjoy the plays he likes. It is a
foolish prejudice that deprives me of such a pleasure. I could always go in
a mask."

"Can you put a mask upon your mind, and preserve that unstained in an
atmosphere of corruption? Indeed, your ladyship does not know what you
are asking for. To sit and simper through a comedy in which the filthiest
subjects are discussed in the vilest language; to see all that is foolish
or lascivious in your own sex exaggerated with a malignant licence, which
makes a young and beautiful woman an epitome of all the vices, uniting the
extreme of masculine profligacy with the extreme of feminine silliness.
Will you encourage by your presence the wretches who libel your sex? Will
you sit smiling to see your sisters in the pillory of satire?"

"I should smile as at a fairy tale. There are no such women among my
friends----"

"And if the satire hits an enemy, it is all the more pungent," said Lady
Sarah.

"An enemy! The man who can so write of women is your worst enemy. The day
will come, perhaps, long after we are dust, when the women in _Epsom Wells_
will be thought pictures from life. 'Such an one,' people will say, as
they stand to read your epitaph, 'was this Lady Sarah, whose virtues are
recorded here in Latin superlatives. We know her better in the pages of
Shadwell.'"

Lady Sarah paled under her rouge at that image of a tomb, as Fareham's
falcon eye singled her out in the light-hearted group of which De Malfort
was the central figure, sitting on the marble balustrade, in an easy
impertinent attitude, swinging his legs, and dandling his guitar. She was
less concerned at the thought of what posterity might say of her morals
than at the idea that she must inevitably die.

"Not a word against Shad," protested Sir Ralph. "I have roared with
laughter at his last play. Never did any one so hit the follies of town and
country. His rural Put is perfection; his London rook is to the very life."

"And if the generality of his female characters conduct themselves badly
there is always one heroine of irreproachable morals," said Lady Sarah.

"Who talks like a moral dragoon," said Fareham.

"Oh, dem, we must have the play-houses!" cried Masaroon. "Consider how dull
town is without them. They are the only assemblies that please quality and
riffraff alike. Sure 'tis the nature of wit to bubble into licentiousness,
as champagne foams over the rim of a glass; and, after all, who listens to
the play? Half the time one is talking to some adventurous miss, who will
swallow a compliment from a stranger if he offer it with a china orange.
Or, perhaps, there is quarrelling; and all our eyes and ears are on the
scufflers. One may ogle a pretty actress on the stage; but who listens to
the play, except the cits and commonalty?"

"And even they are more eyes than ears," said Lady Sarah, "and are gazing
at the King and Queen, or the Duke and Duchess, when they should be
'following an intrigue by Shadwell or Dryden."

"Pardieu!" exclaimed De Malfort, "there are tragedies and comedies in the
boxes deeper and more human than anything that is acted on the stage. To
watch the Queen, sitting silent and melancholy, while Madame Barbara lolls
across half a dozen people to talk to his Majesty, dazzling him with her
brilliant eyes, bewildering him by her daring speech. Or, on other nights
to see the same lady out of favour, sitting apart, with an ivory shoulder
turned towards Royalty, scowling at the audience like a thunder-cloud."

"Well, it is but natural, perhaps, that such a Court should inspire such a
stage," returned Fareham, "and that for the heroic drama of Beaumont and
Fletcher, Webster, Massinger, and Ford, we should have a gross caricature
of our own follies and our own vices. Nay, so essential is foulness to the
modern stage that when the manager ventures a serious play, he takes care
to introduce it with some filthy prologue, and to spice the finish with a
filthier epilogue."

"Zounds, Fareham!" cried Masaroon, "when one has yawned or slept through
five acts of dull heroics, one needs to be stung into wakefulness by a
high-spiced epilogue. For my taste your epilogue can't be too pungent
to give a flavour to my oysters and Rhenish. Gud, my lord, we must have
something to talk about when we leave the play-house!"

"His lordship is spoilt; we are all spoilt for London after having lived in
the most exquisite city in the world," drawled Mrs. Danville, one of Lady
Fareham's particular friends, who had been educated at the Visitandines
with the Princess Henrietta, now Duchess of Orleans. "Who can tolerate the
coarse manners and sea-coal fires of London after the smokeless skies and
exquisite courtesies of Parisian good company in the Rue St. Thomas du
Louvre--a society so refined that a fault in grammar shocks as much as a
slit nose at Charing Cross? I shudder when I recall the Saturdays in the
Rue du Temple, and compare the conversations there, the play of wit and
fancy, the elaborate arguments upon platonic love, the graceful raillery,
with any assembly in London--except yours, Hyacinth. At Fareham House we
breathe a finer air, although his lordship's esprit moqueur will not allow
us any superiority to the coarse English mob."

"Indeed, Mrs. Danville, even your prejudice cannot deny London fine
gentlemen and wits," remonstrated Sir Ralph. "A court that can boast a
Buckhurst, a Rochester, an Etherege, a Sedley----"

"There is not one of them can compare with Voiture or Godeau, with Bussy or
St. Évremond, still less with Scarron or Molière," said De Malfort. "I have
heard more wit in one evening at Scarron's than in a week at Whitehall. Wit
in France has its basis in thought and erudition. Here it is the sparkle
and froth of empty minds, a trick of speech, a knack of saying brutal
things under a pretence of humour, varnishing real impertinence with mock
wit. I have heard Rowley laugh at insolences which, addressed to Louis,
would have ensured the speaker a year in the Bastille."

"I would not exchange our easy-tempered King for your graceful despot,"
said Fareham. "Pride is the mainspring that moves Louis' self-absorbed
soul. His mother instilled it into his mind almost before he could speak.
He was bred in the belief that he has no more parallel or fellow than the
sun which he has chosen for his emblem. And then, for moral worth, he is
little better than his cousin, Louis has all Charles's elegant vices, plus
tyranny."

"Louis is every inch a King. Your easy-tempered gentleman at Whitehall is
only a tradition," answered De Malfort. "He is but an extravagantly paid
official, whose office is a sinecure, and who sells something of his
prerogative every session for a new grant of money. I dare adventure, by
the end of his reign, Charles will have done more than Cromwell to increase
the liberty of the subject and to demonstrate the insignificance of kings."

"I doubt the easy-tempered sinecurist who trusts the business of the State
to the nation's representatives will wear longer than your officious
tyrant, who wants to hold all the strings in his own fingers."

"He may do that safely, so long as he has men like Colbert for puppets----"

"Men!" cried Fareham. "A man of so rare an honesty must not be thought of
in the plural. Colbert's talent, probity, and honour constitute a phoenix
that appears once in a century; and, given those rare qualities in the man,
it needs a Richelieu to inspire the minister, and a Mazarin to teach him
his craft, and to prepare him for double-dealing in others which his
own direct mind could never have imagined. Trained first by one of the
greatest, and next by one of the subtlest statesmen the world has ever
seen, the provincial woollen-draper's son has all the qualities needed to
raise France to the pinnacle of fortune, if his master will but give him a
free hand."

"At any rate, he will make Jacques Bonhomme pay handsomely for his
Majesty's new palaces and new loves," said De Malfort. "Colbert adores the
King, and is blind to his follies, which are no more economical than the
vulgar pleasures of your jovial Rowley."

"Who takes four shillings in every country gentleman's pound to spend
on the pleasures of London," interjected Masaroon. "Royalty is plaguey
expensive."

The company sighed a melancholy assent.

"And one can never tell whether the money they squeeze out of us goes to
build a new ship, or to pay Lady Castlemaine's gambling debts," said Lady
Sarah.

"Oh, no doubt the lady, as Hyde calls her, has her tithes," said De
Malfort. "I have observed she always flames in new jewels after a subsidy."

"Royal accounts should be kept so that every tax-payer could look into
them," said Masaroon. "The King has spent millions. We were all so
foolishly fond of him in the joyful day of his restoration that we allowed
him to wallow in extravagance, and asked no questions; and for a man who
had worn threadbare velvet and tarnished gold, and lived upon loans and
gratuities from foreign princes and particulars, it was a new sensation to
draw _ad libitum_ upon a national exchequer."

"The exchequer Rowley draws upon should be as deep and wide as the river
Pactolus; for he is a spendthrift by instinct," said Fareham.

"Yet his largest expenditure can hardly equal his cousin's drain upon the
revenue. Mansart is spending millions on Versailles, with his bastard
Italian architecture, his bloated garlands and festoons, his stone lilies
and pomegranates. Charles builds no palaces, initiates no war----"

"And will leave neither palace nor monument; will have lived only to have
diminished the dignity and importance of his country. Restored to kingdom
and power as if by a miracle, he makes it his chief business to show
Englishmen how well they could have done without him," said Denzil Warner,
who had been hanging over Angela's tea-table until just now, when they both
sauntered on to the terrace, the lady's office being fulfilled, the little
Chinese teapot emptied of its costly contents, and the tiny tea-cups
distributed among the modish few who relished, or pretended to relish, the
new drink.

"You are a Republican, Sir Denzil, fostered by an arrant demagogue!"
exclaimed Masaroon, with a contemptuous shake of his shoulder ribbons. "You
hate the King because he is a King."

"No, sir, I despise him because he is so much less than a King. Nobody
could hate Charles the Second. He is not big enough."

"Oh, dem, we want no meddlesome Kings to quarrel with their neighbours, and
set Europe by the ears! The treaty of the Pyrenees may be a fine thing for
France; but how many noble gentlemen's lives it cost, to say nothing of the
common people! Rowley is the finest gentleman in his kingdom, and the most
good-natured. Eh, gud, sirs! what more would you have?"

"A MAN--like Henry the Fifth, or Oliver Cromwell, or Elizabeth."

"Faith, she had need possess the manly virtues, for she must have been
an untowardly female--a sour, lantern-jawed spinster, with all the
inclinations but none of the qualities of a coquette."

"Greatness has the privilege of small failings, or it would scarce
be human. Elizabeth and Julius Caesar might be excused some harmless
vanities."

       *       *       *       *       *

The spring evenings were now mild enough for promenading St. James's Park,
and the Mall was crowded night after night by the finest company in London.
Hyacinth walked in the Mall, and appeared occasionally in her coach in
Hyde Park; but she repeatedly reminded her friends how inferior was the
mill-round of the Ring to the procession of open carriages along the Cours
la Reine, by the side of the Seine; the splendour of the women's dress,
outshone sometimes by the extravagant decoration of their coaches and the
richness of their liveries; the crowds of horsemen, the finest gentlemen in
France, riding at the coach doors, and bandying jests and compliments with
Beauty, enthroned in her triumphal chariot. Gay, joyous sunsets; light
laughter; delicate feasting in Renard's garden, hard by the Tuileries. To
remember that fairer and different scene was to recall the freshness of
youth, the romance of a first love.

Here in the Mall there was gaiety enough and to spare. A crowd of fine
people that sometimes thickened to a mob, hustled by the cits and
starveling poets who came to stare at them.

Yet, since St. James's Park was fashion's favourite promenade, Lady Fareham
affected it, and took a turn or two nearly every evening, alighting from
her chair at one gate and returning to it at another, on her way to rout
or dance. She took Angela with her; and De Malfort and Sir Denzil were
generally in attendance upon them, Denzil's devotion stopping at nothing
except a proposal of marriage, for which he had not mustered courage in a
friendship that had lasted half a year.

"Because there was one so favoured as Endymion, am I to hope for the moon
to come down and give herself to me?" he said one day, when Lady Fareham
rebuked him for his reticence. "I know your sister does not love me; yet I
hang on, hoping that love will come suddenly, like the coming of spring,
which is ever a surprise. And even if I am never to win her, it is
happiness to see her and to talk with her. I will not spoil my chance by
rashness; I will not hazard banishment from her dear company."

"She is lucky in such an admirer," sighed Hyacinth. "A silent, respectful
passion is the rarest thing nowadays. Well, you deserve to conquer, Denzil;
and if my sister were not of the coldest nature I ever met in woman she
would have returned your passion ages ago, when you were so much in her
company at Chilton."

"I can afford to wait as long as the Greeks waited before Troy," said
Denzil; "and I will be as constant as they were. If I cannot be her lover I
can be her friend, and her protector."

"Protector! Nay, surely she needs no protector out-of-doors, when she has
Fareham and me within!"

"Beauty has always need of defenders."

"Not such beauty as Angela's. In the first place, her charms are of no
dazzling order; and in the second, she has a coldness of temper and an
old-fashioned wisdom which would safeguard her amidst the rabble rout of
Comus."

"There I believe you are right, Lady Fareham. Temptation could not touch
her. Sin, even the subtlest, could not so disguise itself that her purity
would not take alarm. Yes; she is like Milton's lady. The tempter could
not touch the freedom of her mind. Sinful love would wither at a look from
those pure eyes."

He turned away suddenly and walked to the window.

"Denzil! Why, what is the matter? You are weeping!"

"Forgive me!" he said, recovering himself. "Indeed, I am not ashamed of a
tributary tear to virtue and beauty like your sister's."

"Dear friend, I shall not be happy till I call you brother."

She gave him both her hands, and he bent down to kiss them.

"I swear you are losing all your Anabaptist stiffness," she said,
laughingly. "You will be ruffling it in Covent Garden with Buckhurst and
his crew before long."



CHAPTER XIII.

THE SAGE OF SAYES COURT.


One of Angela's letters to her convent companion, the chosen friend and
confidante of childhood and girlhood, Léonie de Ville, now married to the
Baron de Beaulieu, and established in a fine house in the Place Royale,
will best depict her life and thoughts and feelings during her first London
season.

"You tell me, chère, that this London, which I have painted in somewhat
brilliant colours, must be a poor place compared with your exquisite city;
but, indeed, despite all you say of the Cours la Reine, and your splendour
of gilded coaches, fine ladies, and noble gentlemen, who ride at your coach
windows, talking to you as they rein in their spirited horses, I cannot
think that your fashionable promenade can so much surpass our Ring in Hyde
Park, where the Court airs itself daily in the new glass coaches, or outvie
for gaiety our Mall in St. James's Park, where all the world of beauty and
wit is to be met walking up and down in the gayest, easiest way, everybody
familiar and acquainted, with the exception of a few women in masks, who
are never to be spoken to or spoken about. Indeed, my sister and I have
acquired the art of appearing neither to see nor to hear objectionable
company, and pass close beside fine flaunting masks, rub shoulders with
them even--and all as if we saw them not. It is for this that Lord Fareham
hates London. Here, he says, vice takes the highest place, and flaunts in
the sun, while virtue blushes, and steals by with averted head. But though
I wonder at this Court of Whitehall, and the wicked woman who reigns
empress there, and the neglected Queen, and the ladies of honour, whose bad
conduct is on every one's lips, I wonder more at the people and the life
you describe at the Louvre, and St. Germain, and Fontainebleau, and your
new palace of Versailles.

"Indeed, Léonie, the world must be in a strange way when vice can put on
all the grace and dignity of virtue, and hold an honourable place among
good and noble women. My sister says that Madame de Montausier is a woman
of stainless character, and her husband the proudest of men; yet you tell
me that both husband and wife are full of kindness and favours for that
unhappy Mlle. de la Vallière, whose position at Court is an open insult to
your Queen. Have Queens often been so unhappy, I wonder, as her Majesty
here, and your own royal mistress? One at least was not. The martyred King
was of all husbands the most constant and affectionate, and, in the opinion
of many, lost his kingdom chiefly through his fatal indulgence of Queen
Henrietta's caprices, and his willingness to be governed by her opinions in
circumstances of difficulty, where only the wisest heads in the land
should have counselled him. But how I am wandering from my defence of this
beautiful city against your assertion of its inferiority! I hope, chère,
that you will cross the sea some day, and allow my sister to lodge you in
this house where I write; and when you look out upon our delightful river,
with its gay traffic of boats and barges passing to and fro, and its
palaces, rising from gardens and Italian terraces on either side of the
stream; when you see our ancient cathedral of St. Paul; and the Abbey of
St. Peter, lying a little back from the water, grand and ancient, and
somewhat gloomy in its massive bulk; and eastward, the old fortress-prison,
with its four towers; and the ships lying in the Pool; and fertile
Bermondsey with its gardens; and all the beauty of verdant shores and
citizens' houses between the bridge and Greenwich, you will own that London
and its adjacent villages can compare favourably with any metropolis in the
world.

"The only complaint one hears is of its rapid growth, which is fast
encroaching upon the pleasant fields and rustic lanes behind the Lambs
Conduit and Southampton House; and on the western side spreading so rapidly
that there will soon be no country left between London and Knightsbridge.

"How I wish thou couldst see our river-terrace on my sister's visiting-day,
when De Malfort is lolling on the marble balustrade, singing one of your
favourite chansons to the guitar which he touches so exquisitely, and when
Hyacinth's fine lady friends and foppish admirers are sitting about in the
sunshine! Thou wouldst confess that even Renard's garden can show no gayer
scene.

"It was only last Tuesday that I had the opportunity of seeing more of the
city than I had seen previously--and at its best advantage, as seen from
the river. Mr. Evelyn, of Sayes Court, had invited my sister and her
husband to visit his house and gardens. He is a great gardener and
arboriculturist, as you may have heard, for he has travelled much on the
Continent, and acquired a world-wide reputation for his knowledge of trees
and flowers.

"We were all invited--the Farehams, and my niece Henriette; and even I,
whom Mr. Evelyn had seen but once, was included in the invitation. We were
to travel by water, in his lordship's barge, and Mr. Evelyn's coach was to
meet us at a landing-place not far from his house. We were to start in the
morning, dine with him, and return to Fareham House before dark. Henriette
was enchanted, and I found her at prayers on Monday night praying St.
Swithin, whom she believes to have care of the weather, to allow no rain on
Tuesday.

"She looked so pretty next morning, dressed for the journey, in a light
blue cloth cloak embroidered with silver, and a hood of the same; but she
brought me bad news--my sister had a feverish headache, and begged us to go
without her. I went to Hyacinth's room to try to persuade her to go with
us, in the hope that the fresh air along the river would cure her headache;
but she had been at a dance overnight, and was tired, and would do nothing
but rest in a dark room all day--at least, that was her resolve in the
morning; but later she remembered that it was Lady Lucretia Topham's
visiting-day, and, feeling better, ordered her chair and went off to
Bloomsbury Square, where she met all the wits, full of a new play which had
been acted at Whitehall, the public theatres being still closed on account
of the late contagion.

"They do not act their plays here as often as Molière is acted at the
Hôtel de Bourgogne. The town is constant in nothing but wanting perpetual
variety, and the stir and bustle of a new play, which gives something for
the wits to dispute about. I think we must have three play-wrights to one
of yours; but I doubt if there is wit enough in a dozen of our writers to
equal your Molière, whose last comedy seems to surpass all that has gone
before. His lordship had a copy from Paris last week, and read the play to
us in the evening. He has no accent, and reads French beautifully, with
spirit and fire, and in the passionate scenes his great deep voice has a
fine effect.

"We left Fareham House at nine o'clock on a lovely morning, worthy this
month of May. The lessening of fires in the city since the warmer weather
has freed our skies from sea-coal smoke, and the sky last Tuesday was bluer
than the river.

"The cream-coloured and gold barge, with twelve rowers in the Fareham
green velvet liveries, would have pleased your eyes, which have ever loved
splendour; but you might have thought the master of this splendid barge too
sombre in dress and aspect to become a scene which recalled Cleopatra's
galley. To me there is much that is interesting in that severe and serious
face, with its olive complexion and dark eyes, shadowed by the strong,
thoughtful brow. People who knew Lord Stafford say that my brother-in-law
has a look of that great, unfortunate man--sacrificed to stem the rising
flood of rebellion, and sacrificed in vain. Fareham is his kinsman on
the mother's side, and may have perhaps something of his powerful mind,
together with the rugged grandeur of his features and the bent carriage of
his shoulders, which some one the other day called the Stratford stoop.

"I have been reading some of Lord Stafford's letters, and the account
of his trial. Indeed he was an ill-used man, and the victim of private
hatred--from the Vanes and others--as much as of public faction. His trial
and condemnation were scarce less unfair--though the form and tribunal may
have been legal--than his master's, and indeed did but forecast that most
unwarrantable judgment. Is it not strange, Léonie, to consider how much of
tragical history you and I have lived through that are yet so young? But
to me it is strangest of all to see the people in this city, who abandon
themselves as freely to a life of idle pleasures and sinful folly--at
least, the majority of them--as if England had never seen the tragedy of
the late monarch's murder, or been visited by death in his most horrible
aspect, only the year last past. My sister tells every one, smiling, that
she misses no one from the circle of her friends. She never saw the red
cross on almost every door, the coffins, and the uncoffined dead, as I saw
them one stifling summer day, nor heard the shrieks of the mourners in
houses where death was master. Nor does she suspect how near she was to
missing her husband, who was hanging between life and death when I found
him, forsaken and alone. He never talks to me of those days of sickness and
slow recovery; yet I think the memory of them must be in his mind as it is
in mine, and that this serves as a link to draw us nearer than many a real
brother and sister. I am sending you a little picture which I made of him
from memory, for he has one of those striking faces that paint themselves
easily upon the mind. Tell me how you, who are clever at reading faces,
interpret this one.

"Hélas, how I wander from our excursion! My pen winds like the river which
carried us to Deptford. Pardon, chèrie, sije m'oublie trop; mais c'est si
doux de causer avec une amie d'enfance.

"At the Tower stairs we stopped to take on board a gentleman in a very fine
peach-blossom suit, and with a huge periwig, at which Papillon began to
laugh, and had to be chid somewhat harshly. He was a very civil-spoken,
friendly person, and he brought with him a lad carrying a viol. He is an
officer of the Admiralty, called Pepys, and, Fareham tells me, a useful,
indefatigable person. My sister met him at Clarendon House two years ago,
and wrote to me about him somewhat scornfully; but my brother respects him
as shrewd and capable, and more honest than such persons usually are. We
were to fetch him to Sayes Court, where he also was invited by Mr. Evelyn;
and in talking to Henriette and me, he expressed great regret that his wife
had not been included, and he paid my niece compliments upon her grace and
beauty which I could but think very fulsome and showing want of judgment in
addressing a child. And then, seeing me vexed, he hoped I was not jealous;
at which I could hardly command my anger, and rose in a huff and left him.
But he was a person not easy to keep at a distance, and was following me to
the prow of the boat, when Fareham took hold of him by his cannon sleeve
and led him to a seat, where he kept him talking of the navy and the great
ships now a-building to replace those that have been lost in the Dutch War.

"When we had passed the Pool, and the busy trading ships, and all the noise
of sailors and labourers shipping or unloading cargo, and the traffic of
small boats hastening to and fro, and were out on a broad reach of the
river with the green country on either side, the lad tuned his viol, and
played a pretty, pensive air, and he and Mr. Pepys sang some verses by
Herrick, one of our favourite English poets, set for two voices--

    "'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
    Old Time still is a-flying;
    And this same flower that smiles to-day,
    To-morrow will be dying."

The boy had a voice like Mere Ursule's lovely soprano, and Mr. Pepys a
pretty tenor; and you can imagine nothing more silvery sweet than the union
of the two voices to the staccato notes of the viol, dropping in here and
there like music whispered. The setting was Mr. Pepys' own, and he seemed
overcome with pride when we praised it. When the song was over, Fareham
came to the bench where Papillon and I were sitting, and asked me what I
thought of this fine Admiralty gentleman, whereupon I confessed I liked the
song better than the singer, who at that moment was strutting on the deck
like a peacock, looking at every vessel we passed as if he were Neptune,
and could sink navies with a nod.

"Misericorde! how my letter grows! But I love to prattle to you. My sister
is all goodness to me; but she has her ideas and I have mine; and though I
love her none the less because our fancies pull us in opposite directions,
I cannot talk to her as I can write to you; and if I plague you with too
much of my own history you must not fear to tell me so. Yet if I dare judge
by my own feelings, who am never weary of your letters--nay, can never
hear enough of your thoughts and doings--I think you will bear with my
expatiations, and not deem them too impertinent.

"Mr. Evelyn's coach was waiting at the landing-stage; and that good
gentleman received us at his hall door. He is not young, and has gone
through much affliction in the loss of his dear children--one, who died
of a fever during that wicked reign of the Usurper Cromwell, was a boy
of gifts and capacities that seemed almost miraculous, and had more
scholarship at five years old than my poor woman's mind could compass were
I to live till fifty. Mr. Evelyn took a kind of sad delight in talking to
Henriette and me of this gifted child, asking her what she knew of this
and that subject, and comparing her extensive ignorance at eleven with his
lamented son's vast knowledge at five. I was more sorry for him than I
dared to say; for I could but think this dear overtaught child might have
died from a perpetual fever of the brain as likely as from a four days'
fever of the body; and afterwards when Mr. Evelyn talked to us of a manner
of forcing fruits to grow in strange shapes--a process in which he was
greatly interested--I thought that this dear infant's mind had been
constrained and directed, like the fruits, into a form unnatural to
childhood. Picture to yourself, Léonie, at an age when he should have been
chasing butterflies or making himself a garden of cut-flowers stuck in the
ground, this child was labouring over Greek and Latin, and all his dreams
must have been filled with the toilsome perplexities of his daily tasks. It
is happy for the bereaved father that he takes a different view, and that
his pride in the child's learning is even greater than his grief at having
lost him.

"At dinner the conversation was chiefly of public affairs--the navy, the
war, the King, the Duke, and the General. Mr. Evelyn told Fareham much of
his embarrassments last year, when he had the Dutch prisoners, and the sick
and wounded from the fleet, in his charge; and when there was so terrible
a scarcity of provision for these poor wretches that he was constrained to
draw largely on his own private means in order to keep them from starving.

"Later, during the long dinner, Mr. Pepys made allusions to an unhappy
passion of his master and patron, Lord Sandwich, that had diverted his mind
from public business, and was likely to bring him to disgrace. Nothing was
said plainly about this matter, but rather in hints and innuendoes, and my
brother's brow darkened as the conversation went on; and then, at last,
after sitting silent for some time while Mr. Evelyn and Mr. Pepys
conversed, he broke up their discourse in a rough, abrupt way he has when
greatly moved.

"'He is a wretch--a guilty wretch--to love where he should not, to hazard
the world's esteem, to grieve his wife, and to dishonour his name! And yet,
I wonder, is he happier in his sinful indulgence than if he had played a
Roman part, or, like the Spartan lad we read of, had let the wild-beast
passion gnaw his heart out, and yet made no sign? To suffer and die, that
is virtue, I take it, Mr. Evelyn; and you Christian sages assure us that
virtue is happiness. A strange kind of happiness!'

"'The Christian's law is a law of sacrifice,' Mr. Evelyn said, in his
melancholic way. 'The harvest of surrender here is to be garnered in a
better world.'

"'But if Sandwich does not believe in the everlasting joys of the heavenly
Jerusalem--and prefers to anticipate his harvest of joy!' said Fareham.

"'Then he is the more to be pitied,' interrupted Mr. Evelyn.

"'He is as God made him. Nothing can come out of a man but what his
Maker put in him. Your gold vase there will not turn vicious and produce
copper--nor can all your alchemy turn copper to gold. There are some of us
who believe that a man can live only once, and love only once, and be happy
only once in that pitiful span of infirmities which we call life; and that
he is wisest who gathers his roses while he may--as Mr. Pepys sang to us
this morning.'

"Mr. Evelyn sighed, and looked at my brother with mild reproof.

"'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most
miserable,' he said. 'My lord, when those you love people the Heavenly
City, you will begin to believe and hope as I do.'

"I have transcribed this conversation at full length, Léonie, because it
gives you the keynote to Fareham's character, and accounts for much that is
strange in his conduct. Alas, that I must say it of so noble a man! He is
an infidel! Bred in our Church, he has faith neither in the Church nor
in its Divine Founder. His favourite books are metaphysical works by
Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza. I have discovered him reading those pernicious
writings whose chief tendency is to make us question the most blessed
truths our Church has taught us, or to confuse the mind by leading us to
doubt even of our own existence. I was curious to know what there could
be in books that so interested a man of his intelligence, and asked to be
allowed to read them; but the perusal only served to make me unhappy. This
daring attempt to reduce all the mysteries of life to a simple sum in
arithmetic, and to make God a mere attribute in the mind of man, disturbed
and depressed me. Indeed, there can be no more unhappy moment in any life
than that in which for the first time a terrible 'if' flashes upon the
mind. _If_ God is not the God I have worshipped, and in whose goodness I
rest all my hopes of future bliss; _if_ in the place of an all-powerful
Creator, who gave me my life and governs it, and will renew it after the
grave, there is nothing but a quality of my mind, which makes it necessary
to me to invent a Superior Being, and to worship the product of my own
imagination! Oh, Léonie, beware of these modern thinkers, who assail the
creed that has been the stronghold and comfort of humanity for sixteen
hundred years, and who employ the reason which God has given them to
disprove the existence of their Maker. Fareham insists that Spinoza is a
religious man--and has beautiful ideas about God; but I found only doubt
and despair in his pages; and I ascribe my poor brother's melancholic
disposition in some part to his study of such philosophers.

"I wonder what you would think of Fareham, did you see him daily and
hourly, almost, as I do. Would you like or dislike, admire or scorn him?
I cannot tell. His manners have none of the velvet softness which is the
fashion in London--where all the fine gentlemen shape themselves upon the
Parisian model; yet he is courteous, after his graver mode, to all
women, and kind and thoughtful of our happiness. To my sister he is all
beneficence; and if he has a fault it is over-much indulgence of her whims
and extravagances--though Hyacinth, poor soul, thinks him a tyrant because
he forbids her some places of amusement to which other women of quality
resort freely. Were he my husband, I should honour him for his desire to
spare me all evil sounds and profligate company; and so would Hyacinth,
perhaps, had she leisure for reflection. But in her London life, surrounded
ever with a bevy of friends, moving like a star amidst a galaxy of great
ladies, there is little time for the free exercise of a sound judgment,
and she can but think as others bid her, who swear that her husband is a
despot.

"Mrs. Evelyn was absent from home on a visit; so after dinner Henriette and
I, having no hostess to entertain us, walked with our host, who showed
us all the curiosities and beauties of his garden, and condescended to
instruct us upon many interesting particulars relating to trees and
flowers, and the methods of cultivation pursued in various countries. His
fig trees are as fine as those in the convent garden at Louvain; and,
indeed, walking with him in a long alley, shut in by holly hedges of which
he is especially proud, and with orchard trees on either side, I was taken
back in fancy to the old pathway along which you and I have paced so often
with Mother Agnes, talking of the time when we should go out into the
world. You have been more than three years in that world of which you then
knew so little, but it lacks still a quarter of one year since I left that
quiet and so monotonous life; and already I look back and wonder if I ever
really lived there. I cannot picture myself within those walls. I cannot
call back my own feelings or my own image at the time when I had never seen
London, when my sister was almost a stranger to me, and my sister's husband
only a name. Yet a day of sorrow might come when I should be fain to find
a tranquil retreat in that sober place, and to spend my declining years in
prayer and meditation, as my dear aunt did spend nearly all her life. May
God maintain us in the true faith, sweet friend, so that we may ever have
that sanctuary of holy seclusion and prayer to fly to--and, oh, how
deep should be our pity for a soul like Fareham's, which knows not the
consolations nor the strength of religion, for whom there is no armour
against the arrows of death, no City of Refuge in the day of mourning!

"Indeed he is not happy. I question and perplex myself to find a reason for
his melancholy. He is rich in money and in powerful friends; has a wife
whom all the world admires; houses which might lodge Royalty. Perhaps it is
because his life has been over prosperous that he sickens of it, like one
who flings away from a banquet table, satiated by feasting. Life to him may
be like the weariness of our English dinners, where one mountain of food is
carried away to make room on the board for another; and where after people
have sat eating and drinking for over an hour comes a roasted swan, or a
peacock, or some other fantastical dish, which the company praise as a
pretty surprise. Often, in the midst of such a dinner, I recall our sparing
meals in the convent; our soup maigre and snow eggs, our cool salads and
black bread--and regret that simple food, while the reeking joints and
hecatombs of fowl nauseate my senses.

"It was late in the afternoon when we returned to the barge, for Mr. Pepys
had business to transact with our host, and spent an hour with him in his
study, signing papers, and looking at accounts, while Papillon and I roamed
about the garden with his lordship, conversing upon various subjects, and
about Mr. Evelyn, and his opinions and politics.

"'The good man has a pretty trivial taste that will keep him amused and
happy till he drops into the grave--but, lord! what insipid trash it all
seems to the heart on fire with passion!' Fareham said in his impetuous
way, as if he despised Mr. Evelyn for taking pleasure in bagatelles.

"The sun was setting as we passed Greenwich, and I thought of those who had
lived and made history in the old palace--Queen Elizabeth, so great, so
lonely; Shakespeare, whom his lordship honours; Bacon, said to be one of
the wisest men who have lived since the Seven of Greece; Raleigh, so brave,
so adventurous, so unhappy! Surely men and women must have been made of
another stuff a century ago; for what will those who come after us remember
of the wits and beauties of Whitehall, except that they lived and died?

"Mr. Pepys was somewhat noisy on the evening voyage, and I was very glad
when he left the barge. He paid me ridiculous compliments mixed with scraps
of French and Spanish, and, finding his conversation distasteful, he
insisted upon attempting several songs--not one of which he was able to
finish, and at last began one which for some reason made his lordship
angry, who gave him a cuff on his head that scattered all the scented
powder in his wig; on which, instead of starting up furious to return the
blow, as I feared to see him, Mr. Pepys gave a little whimpering laugh,
muttered something to the effect that his lordship was vastly nice, and
sank down in a corner of the cushioned seat, where he almost instantly fell
asleep.

"Henriette and I were spectators of this scene at some distance, I am glad
to say, for all the length of the barge divided us from the noisy singer.

"The sun went down, and the stars stole out of the deep blue vault, and
trembled between us and those vast fields of heaven. Papillon watched their
reflection in the river, or looked at the houses along the shore, few and
far apart, where a solitary candle showed here and there. Fareham came and
seated himself near us, but talked little. We drew our cloaks closer, for
the air was cold, and Papillon nestled beside me and dropped asleep. Even
the dipping of the oars had a ghostly sound in the night stillness; and we
seemed so melancholy in this silence, and so far away from one another,
that I could but think of Charon's boat laden with the souls of the dead.

"Write to me soon, dearest, and as long a letter as I have written to you.

"À toi de coeur,

"ANGELA."



CHAPTER XIV.

THE MILLBANK GHOST.


One of the greatest charms of London has ever been the facility of getting
away from it to some adjacent rustic or pseudo-rustic spot; and in 1666,
though many people declared that the city had outgrown all reason, and was
eating up the country, a two-mile journey would carry the Londoner from
bricks and mortar to rusticity, and while the tower of St Paul's Cathedral
was still within sight he might lie on the grass on a wild hillside,
and hear the skylark warbling in the blue arch above him, and scent
the hawthorn blowing in untrimmed hedge-rows. And then there were the
fashionable resorts--the gardens or the fields which the town had marked as
its own. Beauty and wit had their choice of such meeting-grounds between
Westminster and Barn Elms, where in the remote solitudes along the river
murder might be done in strict accordance with etiquette, and was too
seldom punished by law.

Among the rendezvous of fashion there was one retired spot less widely
known than Fox Hall or the Mulberry Garden, but which possessed a certain
repute, and was affected rather by the exclusives than by the crowd. It was
a dilapidated building of immemorial age, known as the "haunted Abbey,"
being, in fact, the refectory of a Cistercian monastery, of which all other
remains had disappeared long ago. The Abbey had flourished in the lifetime
of Sir Thomas More, and was mentioned in some of his familiar epistles.
The ruined building had been used as a granary in the time of Charles the
First; and it was only within the last decade that it had been redeemed
from that degraded use, and had been in some measure restored and made
habitable for the occupation of an old couple, who owned the surrounding
fields, and who had a small dairy farm from which they sent fresh milk into
London every morning.

The ghostly repute of the place and the attraction of new milk, cheese
cakes, and syllabubs, had drawn a certain number of those satiated
pleasure-seekers who were ever on the alert for a new sensation, among whom
there was none more active or more noisy than Lady Sarah Tewkesbury. She
had made the haunted Abbey in a manner her own, had invited her friends
to midnight parties to watch for the ghost, and to morning parties to eat
syllabubs and dance on the grass. She had brought a shower of gold into the
lap of the miserly freeholder, and had husband and wife completely under
her thumb.

Doler, the husband, had fought in the civil war, and Mrs. Doler had been
a cook in the Fairfax household; but both had scrupulously sunk all
Cromwellian associations since his Majesty's return, and in boasting, as he
often did boast, of having fought desperately and been left for dead at the
battle of Brentford, Mr. Doler had been careful to suppress the fact that
he was a hireling soldier of the Parliament. He would weep for the martyred
King, and tell the story of his own wounds, until it is possible he had
forgotten which side he had fought for, in remembering his personal prowess
and sufferings.

So far there had been disappointment as to the ghost. Sounds had been heard
of a most satisfying grimness, during those midnight and early morning
watchings; rappings, and scrapings, and scratching on the wall, groanings
and meanings, sighings and whisperings behind the wainscote; but nothing
spectral had been seen; and Mrs. Doler had been severely reprimanded by her
patrons and patronesses for the unwarrantable conduct of a spectre which
she professed to have seen as often as she had fingers and toes.

It was the phantom of a nun--a woman of exceeding beauty, but white as the
linen which banded her cheek and brow. There was a dark story of violated
oaths, priestly sin, and the sleepless conscience of the dead, who could
not rest even in that dreadful grave where the sinner had been immured
alive, but must needs haunt the footsteps of the living, a wandering shade.
Some there were who disbelieved in the traditions of that living grave,
and who even went so far as to doubt the ghost; but the spectre had an
established repute of more than a century, was firmly believed in by all
the children and old women of the neighbourhood, and had been written about
by students of the unseen.

One of Lady Sarah's parties took place at full moon, not long after the
visit to Deptford, and Lord Fareham's barge was again employed, this time
on a nocturnal expedition up the river to the fields near the haunted
Abbey, to carry Hyacinth, her sister, De Malfort, Lord Rochester, Sir Ralph
Masaroon, Sir Denzil Warner, and a bevy of wits and beauties--beauties who
had, some of them, been carrying on the beauty-business and trading in eyes
and complexion for more than one decade, and who loved that night season
when paint might be laid on thicker than in the glare of day.

The barge wore a much more festive aspect under her ladyship's management
than when used by his lordship for a daylight voyage like the trip to
Deptford. Satin coverlets and tapestry curtains had been brought from
Lady Fareham's own apartments, to be flung with studied carelessness over
benches and tabourets. Her ladyship's singing-boys and musicians were
grouped picturesquely under a silken canopy in the bows, and a row of
lanterns hung on chains festooned from stem to stern, pretty gew-gaws, that
had no illuminating power under that all-potent moon, but which glittered
with coloured light like jewels, and twinkled and trembled in the summer
air.

A table in the stern was spread with a light collation, which gave an
excuse for the display of parcel-gilt cups, silver tankards, and Venetian
wine-flasks. A miniature fountain played perfumed waters in the midst of
this splendour; and it amused the ladies to pull off their long gloves, dip
them in the scented water, and flap them in the faces of their beaux.

The distance was only too short, since Lady Fareham's friends declared the
voyage was by far the pleasanter part of the entertainment. Denzil, among
others, was of this opinion, for it was his good fortune to have secured
the seat next Angela, and to be able to interest her by his account of the
buildings they passed, whose historical associations were much better known
to him than to most young men of his epoch. He had sat at the feet of a man
who scoffed at Pope and King, and hated Episcopacy, but who revered all
that was noble and excellent in England's past.

"Flams, mere flams!" cried Hyacinth, acknowledging the praises bestowed on
her barge; "but if you like clary wine better than skimmed milk you had
best drink a brimmer or two before you leave the barge, since 'tis odds
you'll get nothing but syllabubs and gingerbread from Lady Sarah."

"A substantial supper might frighten away the ghost, who doubtless parted
with sensual propensities when she died," said De Malfort. "How do we watch
for her? In a severe silence, as if we were at church?"

"Aw would keep silence for a week o' Sawbaths gin Aw was sure o' seeing a
bogle," said Lady Euphemia Dubbin, a Scotch marquess's daughter, who had
married a wealthy cit, and made it the chief endeavour of her life to
ignore her husband and keep him at a distance.

She hated the man only a little less than his plebeian name, which she had
not succeeded in persuading him to change, because, forsooth, there had
been Dubbins in Mark Lane for many generations. All previous Dubbins had
lived over their warehouses and offices; but her ladyship had brought
Thomas Dubbin from Mark Lane to my Lord Bedford's Piazza in the Convent
Garden, where he endured the tedium of existence in a fine new house in
which he was afraid of his fine new servants, and never had anything to eat
that he liked, his gastronomic taste being for dishes the very names of
which were intolerable to persons of quality.

This evening Mr. Dubbin had been incorrigible, and had insisted on
intruding his clumsy person upon Lady Fareham's party, arguing with a dull
persistence that his name was on her ladyship's billet of invitation.

"Your name is on a great many invitations only because it is my misfortune
to be called by it," his wife told him. "To sit on a barge after ten
o'clock at night in June--the coarsest month in summer--is to court
lumbago; and all I hope is ye'll not be punished by a worse attack than
common."

Mr. Dubbin had refused to be discouraged, even by this churlishness from
his lady, and appeared in attendance upon her, wearing a magnificent
birthday suit of crimson velvet and green brocade, which he meant to
present to his favourite actor at the Duke's Theatre, after he had
exhibited himself in it half a dozen times at Whitehall, for the benefit
of the great world, and at the Mulberry Garden for the admiration of the
_bona-robas_. He was a fat, double-chinned little man, the essence of good
nature, and perfectly unconscious of being an offence to fine people.

Although not a wit himself, Mr. Dubbin was occasionally the cause of wit in
others, if the practice of bubbling an innocent rustic or citizen can be
called wit. Rochester and Sir Ralph Masaroon, and one Jerry Spavinger,
a gentleman jockey, who was a nobody in town, but a shining light at
Newmarket, took it upon themselves to draw the harmless citizen, and, as a
preliminary to making him ridiculous, essayed to make him drunk.

They were clustered together in a little group somewhat apart from the
rest of the company, and were attended upon by a lackey who brought a full
tankard at the first whistle on the empty one, and whom Mr. Dubbin, after
a rapid succession of brimmers, insisted on calling "drawer." It was very
seldom that Rochester condescended to take part in any entertainment on
which the royal sun shone not, unless it were some post-midnight marauding
with Buckhurst, Sedley, and a band of wild coursers from the purlieus of
Drury Lane. He could see no pleasure in any medium between Whitehall and
Alsatia.

"If I am not fooling on the steps of the throne, let me sprawl in
the gutter with pamphleteers and orange-girls," said this precocious
profligate. "I abhor a reputable party among your petty nobility, and if
I had not been in love with Lady Fareham off and on, ever since I cut my
second teeth, I would have no hand in such a humdrum business as this."

"There's not a neater filly in the London stable than her ladyship," said
Jerry, "and I don't blame your taste. I was side-glassing her yesterday in
Hi' Park, but she didn't seem to relish the manoeuvre, though I was wearing
a Chedreux peruke that ought to strike 'em dead."

"You don't give your peruke a chance, Jerry, while you frame that ugly phiz
in it."

"Why not buffle the whole company, my lord?" said Masaroon, while Mr.
Dubbin talked apart with Lady Euphemia, who had come from the other end of
the barge to warn her husband against excess in Rhenish or Burgundy. "You
are good at disguises. Why not act the ghost and frighten everybody out of
their senses?"

"Il n'y a pas de quoi, Ralph. The creatures have no sense to be robbed
of. They are second-rate fashion, which is only worked by machinery. They
imitate us as monkeys do, without knowing what they aim at. Their women
have virtuous instincts, but turn wanton rather than not be like the maids
of honour; and because we have our duels their men murder each other for
a shrugged shoulder or a casual word. No, I'll not chalk my face or smear
myself with phosphorus to amuse such trumpery. It was worth my pains to
disguise myself as a German Nostradamus, in order to fool the lovely
Jennings and her friend Price--who won't easily forget their adventures
as orange-girls in the heart of the city. But I have done with all such
follies."

"You are growing old, Wilmot. The years are telling upon your spirits."

"I was nineteen last birthday, and 'tis fit I should feel the burden of
time, and think of virtue and a rich wife."

"Like Mrs. Mallet, for example."

"Faith, a man might do worse than win so much beauty and wealth. But the
creature is arrogant, and calls me 'child;' and half the peerage is after
her. But we'll have our jest with the city scrub, Ralph; not because I bear
him malice, but because I hate his wife. And we'll have our masquerading
some time after midnight; if you can borrow a little finery."

Mr. Dubbin was released from his lady's _sotto voce_ lecture at this
instant, and Lord Rochester continued his communication in a whisper, the
Honourable Jeremiah assenting with nods and chucklings, while Masaroon
whistled for a fresh tankard, and plied the honest merchant with a glass
which he never allowed to be empty.

The taste for masquerading was a fashion of the time, as much as combing a
periwig, or flirting a fan. While Rochester was planning a trick upon the
citizen, Lady Fareham was whispering to De Malfort under cover of the
fiddles, which were playing an Italian pazzemano, an air beloved
by Henrietta of Orleans, who danced to that music with her royal
brother-in-law, in one of the sumptuous ballets at St. Cloud.

"Why should they be disappointed of their ghost," said Hyacinth, "when it
would be so easy for me to dress up as the nun and scare them all? This
white satin gown of mine, with a few yards of white lawn arranged on my
head and shoulders----"

"Ah, but you have not the lawn at hand to-night, or your woman to arrange
your head," interjected De Malfort quickly. "It would be a capital joke;
but it must be for another occasion and choicer company. The rabble
you have to-night is not worth it. Besides, there is Rochester, who is
past-master in disguises, and would smoke you at a glance. Let me arrange
it some night before the end of the summer--when there is a waning moon. It
were a pity the thing were done ill."

"Will you really plan a party for me, and let me appear to them on the
stroke of one, with my face whitened? I have as slender a shape as most
women."

"There is no such sylph in London."

"And I can make myself look ethereal. Will you draw the nun's habit for me?
and I will give your picture to Lewin to copy."

"I will do more. I will get you a real habit."

"But there are no nuns so white as the ghost."

"True, but you may rely upon me. The nun's robes shall be there, the
phosphorous, the blue fire, and a selection of the choicest company to
tremble at you. Leave the whole business to my care. It will amuse me to
plan so exquisite a jest for so lovely a jester."

He bent down to kiss her hand, till his forehead almost touched her knee,
and in the few moments that passed before he raised it, she heard him
laughing softly to himself, as if with irrepressible delight.

"What a child you are," she said, "to be pleased with such folly!"

"What children we both are, Hyacinth! My sweet soul, let us always be
childish, and find pleasure in follies. Life is such a poor thing, that if
we had leisure to appraise its value we should have a contagion of suicide
that would number more deaths than the plague. Indeed, the wonder is, not
that any man should commit _felo de se_, but that so many of us should take
the trouble to live."

Lady Sarah received them at the landing-stage, with an escort of fops and
fine ladies; and the festival promised to be a success. There was a better
supper, and more wine than people expected from her ladyship; and after
supper a good many of those who pretended to have come to see the ghost,
wandered off in couples to saunter along the willow-shaded bank, while only
the more earnest spirits were content to wait and watch and listen in the
great vaulted hall, with no light but the moon which sent a flood of silver
through the high Gothic window, from which every vestige of glass had long
vanished.

There were stone benches along the two side walls, and Lady Sarah's
_prévoyance_ had secured cushions or carpets for her guests to sit upon;
and here the superstitious sat in patient weariness, Angela among them,
with Denzil still at her side, scornful of credulous folly, but loving to
be with her he adored. Lady Fareham had been tempted out-of-doors by De
Malfort to look at the moonlight on the river, and had not returned.
Rochester and his crew had also vanished directly after supper; and for
company Angela had on her left hand Mr. Dubbin, far advanced in liquor, and
trembling at every breath of summer wind that fluttered the ivy round the
ruined window, and at every shadow that moved upon the moonlit wall. His
wife was on the other side of the hall, whispering with Lady Sarah, and
both so deep in a court scandal--in which the "K" and the "D" recurred
very often--that they had almost forgotten the purpose of that moonlight
sitting.

Suddenly in the distance there sounded a long shrill wailing, as of a soul
in agony, whereupon Mr. Dubbin, after clinging wildly to Angela, and being
somewhat roughly flung aside by Denzil, collapsed altogether, and rolled
upon the ground.

"Lady Euphemia," cried Mrs. Townshend, a young lady who had been sitting
next the obnoxious citizen, "be pleased to look after your drunken husband.
If you take the low-bred sot into company, you should at least charge
yourself with the care of his manners."

The damsel had started to her feet, and indignantly snatched her satin
petticoat from contact with the citizen's porpoise figure.

"I hate mixed company," she told Angela, "and old maids who marry
tallow-chandlers. If a woman of rank marries a shopkeeper she ought never
to be allowed west of Temple Bar."

This young lady was no believer in ghosts; but others of the company were
too scared for speech. All had risen, and were staring in the direction
whence that dismal shriek had come. A trick, perhaps, since anybody with
strong lungs--dairymaid or cowboy--could shriek. They all wanted to _see_
something, a real manifestation of the supernatural.

The unearthly sound was repeated, and the next moment a spectral shape, in
flowing white garments, rushed through the great window, and crossed the
hall, followed by three other shapes in dark loose robes, with hooded
heads. One carried a rope, another a pickaxe, the third a trowel and hod of
mortar. They crossed the hall with flying footsteps--shadowlike--the pale
shape in distracted flight, the dark shapes pursuing, and came to a stop
close against the wall, which had been vacated by the scared assembly,
scattering as if the king of terrors had appeared among them--yet with
fascinated eyes fixed on those fearsome figures.

"It is the nun herself!" cried Lady Sarah, apprehension and triumph
contending in her agitated spirits; for it was surely a feather in her
ladyship's cap to have produced such a phantasmal train at her party. "The
nun and her executioners!"

The company fell back from the ghostly troop, recoiling till they were all
clustered against the opposite wall, leaving a clear space in front of the
spectres, whence they looked on, shuddering, at the tragedy of the erring
Sister's fate, repeated in dumb show. The white-robed figure knelt and
grovelled at the feet of those hooded executioners. One seized and bound
her, with strange automatic action, unlike the movements of living
creatures, and another smote the wall with a pickaxe that made no sound,
while the third waited with his trowel and mortar. It was a gruesome sight
to those who knew the story--a gruesome, yet an enjoyable spectacle; since,
as Lady Sarah's friends had not had the pleasure of knowing the sinning
Sister in the flesh, they watched this ghostly representation of her
suffering with as keen an interest as they would have felt had they been
privileged to see Claud Duval swing at Tyburn.

The person most terrified by this ghostly show was the only one who had the
hardihood to tackle the performers. This was Mr. Dubbin, who sat on the
ground watching the shadowy figures, sobered by fear, and his shrewd city
senses gradually returning to a brain bemused by Burgundy.

"Look at her boots!" he cried suddenly, scrambling to his feet, and
pointing to the nun, who, in sprawling and writhing at the feet of her
executioner, had revealed more leg and foot than were consistent with her
spectral whiteness. "She wears yaller boots, as substantial as any shoe
leather among the company. I'll swear to them yaller boots."

A chorus of laughter followed this attack--laughter which found a smothered
echo among the ghosts. The spell was broken; disillusion followed the
exquisite thrill of fear; and all Lady Sarah's male visitors made a rush
upon the guilty nun. The loose white robe was stripped off, and little
Jerry Spavinger, gentleman jock, famous on the Heath, and at Doncaster,
stood revealed, in his shirt and breeches, and those light riding-boots
which he rarely exchanged for a more courtly chaussure.

The monks, hustled out of their disguise, were Rochester, Masaroon, and
Lady Sarah's young brother, George Saddington.

"From my Lord Rochester I expect nothing but pot-house buffoonery; but
I take it vastly ill on your part, George, to join in making me a
laughing-stock," remonstrated Lady Sarah.

"Indeed, sister, you have to thank his light-headed lordship for giving a
spirited end to your assembly. Could you conceive how preposterous you
and your friends looked sitting against the walls, mute as stockfish, and
suggesting nothing but a Quaker's meeting, you would make us your lowest
curtsy, and thank us kindly for having helped you out of a dilemma."

Lady Sarah, who was too much of a woman of the world to quarrel seriously
with a Court favourite, furled the fan with which she had been cooling her
indignation, and tapped young Wilmot playfully on that oval cheek where the
beard had scarce begun to grow.

"Thou art the most incorrigible wretch of thy years in London," she said,
"and it is impossible to help being angry with thee or to help forgiving
thee."

The saunterers on the willow-shadowed banks came strolling in. Lady
Fareham's cornets and fiddles sounded a March in Alceste; and the party
broke up in laughter and good temper, Mr. Dubbin being much complimented
upon his having detected Spavinger's boots.

"I ought to know 'em," he answered ruefully. "I lost a hundred meggs on him
Toosday se'nnight, at Windsor races; and I had time to take the pattern of
them boots while he was crawling in, a bad third."



CHAPTER XV.

FALCON AND DOVE.


"Has your ladyship any commands for Paris?" Lord Fareham asked, one August
afternoon, when the ghost party at Millbank was almost forgotten amid a
succession of entertainments on land and river; a fortnight at Epsom to
drink the waters; and a fortnight at Tunbridge--where the Queen and Court
were spending the close of summer--to neutralise the bad effects of Epsom
chalybeates with a regimen of Kentish sulphur. If nobody at either resort
drank deeper of the medicinal springs than Hyacinth--who had ordered her
physician to order her that treatment--the risk of harm or the possibility
of benefit was of the smallest. But at Epsom there had been a good deal of
gay company, and a greater liberty of manners than in London; for, indeed,
as Rochester assured Lady Fareham, "the freedom of Epsom allowed almost
nothing to be scandalous." And at Tunbridge there were dances by torchlight
on the common. "And at the worst," Lady Fareham told her friends, "a
fortnight or so at the Wells helps to shorten the summer."

It was the middle of August when they went back to Fareham House, hot, dry
weather, and London seemed to be living on the Thames, so thick was the
throng of boats going up and down the river, so that with an afternoon tide
running up it seemed as if barges, luggers, and wherries were moving in one
solid block into the sunset sky.

De Malfort had been attached to her ladyship's party at Epsom, and at
Tunbridge Wells. He had his own lodgings, but seldom occupied them,
except in that period between four or five in the morning and two in the
afternoon, which Rochester and he called night. His days were passed
chiefly in attendance upon Lady Fareham--singing and playing, fetching and
carrying combing her favourite spaniel with the same ivory pocket-comb that
arranged his own waterfall curls; or reading a French romance to her, or
teaching her the newest game of cards, or the last dancing-step imported
from Fontainebleau or St. Cloud, or some new grace or fashion in dancing,
the holding of the hand lower or higher; the latest manner of passaging
in a bransle or a coranto, as performed by the French King and Madame
Henriette, the two finest dancers in France; Condé, once so famous for his
dancing, now appearing in those gay scenes but seldom.

"Have you any commands for Paris, Hyacinth?" repeated Lord Fareham, his
wife being for the moment too surprised to answer him. "Or have you,
sister? I am starting for France to-morrow. I shall ride to Dover--lying a
night at Sittingbourne, perhaps--and cross by the Packet that goes twice a
week to Calais."

"Paris! And pray, my lord, what business takes you to Paris?"

"There is a great collection of books to be sold there next week. The
library of your old admirer, Nicolas Fouquet, whom you knew in his
splendour, but who has been a prisoner at Pignerol for a year and a half."

"Poor wretch!" cried De Malfort, "I was at the Chamber with Madame de
Sévigné very often during his long tedious trial. Mon dieu! what courage,
what talent he showed in defending himself! Every safeguard of the law was
violated in order to silence him and prove him guilty; his papers seized
in his absence, no friend or servant allowed to protect his interest,
no inventory taken--documents suppressed that might have served for his
defence, forgeries inserted by his foes. He had an implacable enemy, and
he the highest in the land. He was the scapegoat of the past, and had
to answer for a system of plunder that made Mazarin the richest man in
France."

"I don't wonder that Louis was angry with a servant who had the insolence
to entertain his Majesty with a splendour that surpassed his own," said
Lady Fareham. "I should like to have been at those fêtes at Vaux. But
although Fareham talks so lightly of travelling to Paris to choose a few
dusty books, he has always discouraged me from going there to see old
friends, and my own house--which I grieve to think of--abandoned to the
carelessness of servants."

"Dearest, the cleverest woman in the world cannot be in two places at once;
and it seems to me you have ever had your days here so full of agreeable
engagements that you can have scarcely desired to leave London," answered
Fareham, with his grave smile.

"To leave London--no! But there have been long moping months in Oxfordshire
when it would have been a relief to change the scene."

"Then, indeed, had you been very earnest in wanting such a change, I am
sure you would have taken it. I have never forbidden your going to Paris,
nor refused to accompany you there. You may go with me to-morrow, if you
can be ready."

"Which you know I cannot, or you would scarce make so liberal an offer."

"Très chère, you are pleased to be petulant. But I repeat my question. Is
there anything you want at Paris?"

"Anything? A million things! Everything! But they are things which you
would not be able to choose--except, perhaps, some of the new lace. I
might trust you to buy that, though I'll wager you will bring me a hideous
pattern--and some white Cypress powder--and a piece of the ash-coloured
velvet Madame wore last winter. I have friends who can choose for you, if
I write to them; and you will have but to bring the goods, and see they
suffer no harm on the voyage. And you can go to the Rue de Tourain and see
whether my servants are keeping the house in tolerable order."

"With your ladyship's permission I will lodge there while I am in Paris,
which will be but long enough to attend the sale of books, and see some old
friends. If I am detained it will be by finding my friends out of town, and
having to make a journey to see them. I shall not go beyond Fontainebleau
at furthest."

"Dear Fontainebleau! It is of all French palaces my favourite. I always
envy Diana of Poitiers for having her cypher emblazoned all over that
lovely gallery--Henri and Diane! Diane and Henri! Ah, me!"

"You envy her a kind of notoriety which I do not covet for my wife!"

"You always take one au pied de la lettre; but seriously, Madame de Brézé
was an honest woman compared with the lady who lodges by the Holbein Gate."

"I admit that sin wears a bolder front than it did in the last century.
Angela, can I find nothing for you in Paris?"

"No; I thank your lordship. You and sister are both so generous to me that
I have lost the capacity to wish for anything."

"And as Lewin crosses the Channel three or four times a year, I doubt we
positively have the Paris fashions as soon as the Parisians themselves,"
added Hyacinth.

"That is an agreeable hallucination with which Englishwomen have ever
consoled themselves for not being French," said De Malfort, who sat lolling
against the marble balustrade, nursing the guitar on which he had been
playing when Fareham interrupted their noontide idleness; "but your
ladyship may be sure that London milliners are ever a twelvemonth in the
rear of Paris fashions. It is not that they do not see the new mode. They
see it, and think it hideous; and it takes a year to teach them that it is
the one perfect style possible."

"I was not thinking of kerchiefs or petticoats," said Fareham. "You are a
book-lover, sister, like myself. Can I bring you no books you wish for?"

"If there were a new comedy by Molière; but I fear it is wrong to read him,
since in his late play, performed before the King at Versailles, he is so
cruel an enemy to our Church."

"A foe only to hypocrites and pretenders, Angela. I will bring you his
_Tartuffe_, if it is printed; or still better, _Le Misanthrope_, which I am
told is the finest comedy that was ever written; and the latest romance, in
twenty volumes or so, by one of those lady authors Hyacinth so admires, but
which I own to finding as tedious as the divine Orinda's verses."

"You can jeer at that poor lady's poetry, yet take pleasure in such
balderdash as Hudibras!"

"I love wit, dearest; though I am not witty. But as for your Princesse de
Cleves, I find her ineffably dull."

"That is because you do not take the trouble to discover for whom the
characters are meant. You lack the key to the imbroglio," said his wife,
with a superior air.

"I do not care for a book that is a series of enigmas. Don Quixote needs no
such guess-work. Shakespeare's characters are painted not from the petty
models of yesterday and to-day, but from mankind in every age and every
climate. Molière's and Calderon's personages stand on as solid a basis. In
less than half a century your 'Grand Cyrus' will be insufferable jargon."

"Not more so than your _Hamlet_ or _Othello_. Shakespeare was but kept in
fashion during the late King's reign because his Majesty loved him--and
will soon be forgotten, now that we have so many gayer and brisker
dramatists."

"Whoever quotes Shakespeare, nowadays?" asked Lady Sarah Tewkesbury, who
had been showing a rustic niece the beauties of the river, as seen from
Fareham House. "Even Mr. Taylor, whose sermons bristle with elegant
allusions, never points one of his passionate climaxes with a Shakespearian
line. And yet there are some very fine lines in _Hamlet_ and _Macbeth_,
which would scarce sound amiss from the pulpit," added her ladyship,
condescendingly. "I have read all the plays, some of them twice over. And I
doubt that though Shakespeare cannot hold the stage in our more enlightened
age, and will be less and less acted as the town grows more refined, his
works will always be tasted by scholars; among whom, in my modest way, I
dare reckon myself."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lord Fareham left London on horseback, with but one servant, in the early
August dawn, before the rest of the household were stirring. Hyacinth lay
nearly as late of a morning as Henrietta Maria, whom Charles used sometimes
to reproach for not being up in time for the noonday office at her own
chapel. Lady Fareham had not Portuguese Catherine's fervour, who was often
at Mass at seven o'clock; but she did usually contrive to be present at
High Mass at the Queen's chapel; and this was the beginning of her day. By
that time Angela and her niece and nephew had spent hours on the river, or
in the meadows at Chiswick, or on Putney Heath, ever glad to escape from
the great overgrown city, which was now licking up every stretch of green
sward, and every flowery hedgerow west of St. James's Street. Soon there
would be no country between the Haymarket and "The Pillars of Hercules."

Denzil sometimes enjoyed the privilege of accompanying Angela, children,
and _gouvernante_, on these rural expeditions by the great waterway; and on
such occasions he and Angela would each take an oar and row the boat for
some part of the voyage, while the watermen rested, and in this manner
Angela, instructed by Sir Denzil, considerably advanced her power as
an oarswoman. It was an exercise she loved, as indeed she loved all
out-of-door exercises, from riding with hawks and hounds to battledore
and shuttlecock. But most of all, perhaps, she loved the river, and the
rhythmical dip of oars in the fresh morning air, when every curve of the
fertile shores seemed to reveal new beauty.

It had been a hot, dry summer, and the grass in the parks was burnt to a
dull brown--had, indeed, almost ceased to be grass--while the atmosphere in
town had a fiery taste, and was heavy with the dust which whitened all the
roadways, and which the faintest breath of wind dispersed. Here on the
flowing tide there was coolness, and the long rank grass upon those low
sedgy shores was still green.

Lady Fareham supported the August heats sitting on her terrace, with a
cluster of friends about her, and her musicians and singing-boys grouped
in the distance, ready to perform at her bidding; but Henriette and her
brother soon tired of that luxurious repose, and would urge their aunt
to assist in a river expedition. The _gouvernante_ was fat and lazy and
good-tempered, had attended upon Henriette from babyhood, and always did as
she was told.

"Her ladyship says I must have some clever person instead of Priscilla
before I am a year older," Henriette told her aunt; "but I have promised
poor old Prissy to hate the new person consumedly."

Angela and Denzil laughed as they rowed past the ruined abbey, seen dimly
across the low water-meadow, where cows of the same colour were all lying
in the same attitude, chewing the cud.

"I think Mr. Spavinger's trick must have cured your sister's fine friends
of all belief in ghosts," he said.

"I doubt they would be as ready to believe--or to pretend to
believe--to-morrow," answered Angela. "They think of nothing from morning
till night but how to amuse themselves; and when every pleasure has been
exhausted, I suppose fear comes in as a form of entertainment, and they
want the shock of seeing a ghost."

"There have been no more midnight parties since Lady Sarah's assembly, I
think?"

"Not among people of quality, perhaps; but there have been citizens'
parties. I heard Monsieur de Malfort telling my sister about a supper given
by a wealthy wine-cooper's lady from Aldersgate. The city people copy
everything that their superiors wear or do."

"Even to their morals," said Denzil. "'Twere happy if the so-called
superiors would remember that, and upon what a fertile ground they sow
the seed of new vices. It is like the importation of a new weed or a new
insect, which, beginning with an accident, may end in ruined crops and a
country's famine."

Without deliberate disobedience to her husband, Lady Fareham made the best
use of her time during his absence in Paris. The public theatres had not
yet re-opened after the horror of the plague. Whitehall was a desert, the
King and his chief following being at Tunbridge. It was the dullest season
of the year, and the recrudescence of the contagion in the low-lying towns
along the Thames--Deptford, Greenwich, and the neighbourhood--together with
some isolated cases in London, made people more serious than usual, despite
of the so-called victory over the Dutch, which, although a mixed benefit,
was celebrated piously by a day of General Thanksgiving.

Hyacinth, disgusted at the dulness of the town, was for ordering her
coaches and retiring to Chilton.

"It is mortal dull at the Abbey," she said, "but at least we have the
hawks, and breezy hills to ride over, instead of this sickly city
atmosphere, which to my nostrils smells of the pestilence."

Henri de Malfort argued against such a retreat.

"It were a deliberate suicide," he said. "London, when everybody has
left--all the bodies we count worthy to live, _par exemple_--is a more
delightful place than you can imagine. There are a host of vulgar
amusements which you would not dare to visit when your friends are in town;
and which are ten times as amusing as the pleasures you know by heart. Have
you ever been to the Bear Garden? I'll warrant you no, though 'tis but
across the river at Bankside. We'll go there this afternoon, if you like,
and see how the common people taste life. Then there are the gardens at
Islington. There are mountebanks, and palmists, and fortune-tellers,
who will frighten you out of your wits for a shilling. There's a man at
Clerkenwell, a jeweller's journeyman from Venice, who pretends to practise
the transmutation of metals, and to make gold. He squeezed hundreds out of
that old miser Denham, who was afraid to have the law of him for imposture,
lest all London should laugh at his own credulity and applaud the
cheat. And you have not seen the Italian puppet-play, which is vastly
entertaining. I could find you novelty and amusement for a month."

"Find anything new, even if it fail to amuse me. I am sick of everything I
know."

"And then there is our midnight party at Millbank, the ghost-party, at
which you are to frighten your dearest friends out of their poor little
wits."

"Most of my dearest friends are in the country."

"Nay, there is Lady Lucretia Topham, whom I know you hate; and Lady Sarah
and the Dubbins are still in Covent Garden."

"I will have no Dubbin--a toping wretch--and she is a too incongruous
mixture, with her Edinburgh lingo and her Whitehall arrogance. Besides, the
whole notion of a mock ghost was vulgarised by Wilmot's foolery, who ought
to have been born a saltimbanque, and spent his life in a fair. No, I have
abandoned the scheme."

"What! after I have been taxing my invention to produce the most terrible
illusion that was ever witnessed? Will you let a clown like Spavinger--a
well-born stable-boy--baulk us of our triumph? I am sending to Paris for
a powder to burn in a corner of the room, which will throw the ghastliest
pallor upon your countenance. When I devise a ghost, it shall be no
impromptu spectre in yellow riding-boots, but a vision so awful, so true
an image of a being returned from the dead, that the stoutest nerves will
thrill and tremble at the apparition. The nun's habit is coming from Paris.
I have asked my cousin, Madame de Fiesque, to obtain it for me at the
Carmelites."

"You are taking a vast deal of trouble. But what kind of assembly can we
muster at this dead season?" "Leave all in my hands. I will find you some
of the choicest spirits. It is to be _my_ party. I will not even tell you
what night I fix upon, till all is ready. So make no engagements for your
evenings, and tell nobody anything."

"Who invented that powder?"

"A French chemist. He has it of all colours, and can flood a scene in
golden light, or the rose of dawn, or the crimson of sunset, or a pale
silvery blueness that you would swear was moonshine. It has been used in
all the Court ballets. I saw Madame once look as ghastly as death itself,
and all the Court was seized with terror. Some blundering fool had
burnt the wrong powder, which cast a greenish tint over the faces, and
Henriette's long thin features had a look of death. It seemed the forecast
of an early grave; and some of us shuddered, as at a prophecy of evil."

"You might expect the worst in her case, knowing the wretched life she
leads with Monsieur."

"Yes, when she is with him; but that is not always. There are
compensations."

"If you mean scandal, I will not hear a word. She is adorable. The most
sympathetic person I know--good even to her enemies--who are legion."

"You had better not say that, for I doubt she has only one kind of enemy."

"As how?"

"The admirers she has encouraged and disappointed. Yes, she is adorable,
wofully thin, and, I fear, consumptive, but royal: and adorable, 'douceur
et lumière,' as Bossuet calls her. But to return to my ghost-party."

"If you were wise, you would abandon the notion. I doubt that in spite of
your powders your friends will never believe in a ghost."

"Oh yes, they will. It shall be my business to get them in the proper
temper."

That idea of figuring in a picturesque habit, and in a halo of churchyard
light, was irresistible. Hyacinth promised to conform to Malfort's plans,
and to be ready to assume her phantom _rôle_ whenever she was called upon.

Angela knew something of the scheme, and that there was to be another
assembly at Millbank; but her sister had seemed disinclined to talk of
the plan in her presence--a curious reticence in one whose sentiments and
caprices were usually given to the world at large with perfect freedom. For
once in her life Hyacinth had a secret air, and checked herself suddenly in
the midst of her light babble at a look from De Malfort, who had urged her
to keep her sister out of their midnight party.

"I pledge my honour that there shall be nothing to offend," he told her,
"but I hope to have the wittiest coxcombs in London, and we want no prudes
to strangle every jest with a long-drawn lip and an alarmed eye. Your
sister has a pale, fragile prettiness which pleases an eye satiated with
the exuberant charms of your Rubens and Titian women; but she is not
handsome enough to give herself airs; and she is a little inclined that
way. By the faith of a gentleman, I have suffered scowls from her that I
would scarce have endured from Barbara!"

"Barbara! You are vastly free with her ladyship's name."

"Not freer than she has ever been with her friendship."

"Henri, if I thought----"

"What, dearest?"

"That you had ever cared for that--wanton----"

"Could you think it, when you know my life in England has been one long
tragedy of loving in vain--of sighing only to be denied--of secret
tears--and public submission."

"Do not talk so," she exclaimed, starting up from her low tabouret, and
moving hastily to the open window, to fresh air and sunshine, rippling
river and blue sky, escaping from an atmosphere that had become feverish.

"De Malfort, you know I must not listen to foolish raptures."

"I know you have been refusing to hear for the last two years."

They were on the terrace now, she leaning on the broad marble balustrade,
he standing beside her, and all the traffic of London moving with the tide
below them.

"To return to our party," she said, in a lighter tone, for that spurt of
jealousy had betrayed her into seriousness. "It will be very awkward not to
invite my sister to go with me."

"If you did she would refuse, belike, for she is under Fareham's thumb; and
he disapproves of everything human."

"Under Fareham's thumb! What nonsense! Indeed I must invite her. She would
think it so strange to be omitted."

"Not if you manage things cleverly. The party is to be a surprise. You can
tell her next morning you knew nothing about it beforehand."

"But she will hear me order the barge--or will see me start."

"There will be no barge. I shall carry you to Millbank in my coach, after
your evening's entertainment, wherever that may be."

"I had better take my own carriage at least, or my chair."

"You can have a chair, if you are too prudish to use my coach, but it shall
be got for you at the moment. We won't have your own chairman and links to
chatter and betray you before you have played the ghost. Remember you
come to my party not as a guest, but as a performer. If they ask why Lady
Fareham is absent I shall say you refused to take part in our foolery."

"Oh, you must invent some better excuse. They will never believe anything
rational of me. Say I was disappointed of a hat or a mantua. Well, it
shall be as you wish. Angela is apt to be tiresome. I hate a disapproving
carriage, especially in a younger sister."

Angela was puzzled by Hyacinth's demeanour. A want of frankness in one so
frank by nature aroused her fears. She was puzzled and anxious, and longed
for Fareham's return, lest his giddy-pated wife should be guilty of some
innocent indiscretion that might vex him.

"Oh! if she but valued him at his just worth she would value his opinion
second only to the approval of conscience," she thought, sadly, ever
regretful of her sister's too obvious indifference towards so kind a
husband.



CHAPTER XVI.

WHICH WAS THE FIERCER FIRE?


It was Saturday, the first of September, and the hot dry weather having
continued with but trifling changes throughout the month, the atmosphere
was at its sultriest, and the burnt grass in the parks looked as if even
the dews of morning and evening had ceased to moisten it, while the arid
and dusty foliage gave no feeling of coolness, and the very shadows cast
upon that parched ground seemed hot. Morning was sultry as noon; evening
brought but little refreshment; while the night was hotter than the day.
People complained that the season was even more sickly than in the plague
year, and prophesied a new and worse outbreak of the pestilence. Was not
this the fatal year about which there had been darkest prophecies? 1666!
Something awful, something tragical was to make this triplicate of sixes
for ever memorable. Sixty-five had been terrible, sixty-six was to bring
a greater horror; doubtless a recrudescence of that dire malady which had
desolated London.

"And this time," says one modish raven, "'twill be the quality that will
suffer. The lower 'classis' has paid its penalty, and only the strong and
hardy are left. We have plenty of weaklings and corrupt constitutions that
will take fire at a spark. I should not wonder were the contagion to rage
worst at Whitehall. The buildings lie low, and there is ever a nucleus
of fever somewhere in that conglomeration of slaughter-houses, bakeries,
kitchens, stables, cider-houses, coal-yards, and over-crowded servants'
lodgings."

"One gets but casual whiffs from their private butcheries and bakeries,"
says another. "What I complain of is the atmosphere of his Majesty's
apartments, where one can scarce breathe for the stench of those cursed
spaniels he so delights in."

Every one agreed that the long dry summer menaced some catastrophic change
which should surprise this easy-going age as the plague had done last year.
But oh, how lightly that widespread calamity had touched those light minds!
and, if Providence had designed to warn or to punish, how vain had been
the warning, and how soon forgotten the penalty that had left the worst
offenders unstricken!

There was to be a play at Whitehall that evening, his Majesty and the Court
having returned from Tunbridge Wells, the business of the navy calling
Charles to council with his faithful General--_the_ General _par
excellence_, George Monk, Duke of Albemarle, and his Lord High Admiral and
brother--_par excellence_ the Duke. Even in briefest residence, and on
sternest business intent, with the welfare and honour of the nation
contingent on their consultations, to build or not to build warships of the
first magnitude, the ball of pleasure must be kept rolling. So Killigrew
was to produce a new version of an old comedy, written in the forties,
but now polished up to the modern style of wit. This new-old play, _The
Parson's Widow_, was said to be all froth and sparkle and current interest,
fresh as the last _London Gazette_, and spiced with allusions to the
late sickness, an admirable subject, and allowing a wide field for the
ridiculous.

Hyacinth was to be present at this Court function; but not a word was to be
said to Angela about the entertainment.

"She would only preach me a sermon upon Fareham's tastes and wishes, and
urge me to stay away because he abhors a fashionable comedy," she told De
Malfort, "I shall say I am going to Lady Sarah's to play basset. Ange hates
cards, and will not desire to go with me. She is always happy with the
children, who adore her."

"Faute de mieux."

"You are so ready to jeer! Yes, I know I am a neglectful mother. But what
would you have?"

"I would have you as you are," he answered, "and only as you are; or for
choice a trifle worse than you are; and so much nearer my own level."

"Oh, I know you! It is the wicked women you admire--like Madame Palmer."

"Always harping upon Barbara. 'My mother had a maid called Barbara.' His
Majesty has--a lady of the same melodious name. Well, I have a world of
engagements between now and nine o'clock, when the play begins. I shall be
at the door to lift you out of your chair. Cover yourself with your richest
jewels--or at least those you love best--so that you may blaze like the sun
when you cast off the nun's habit. All the town will be there to admire
you."

"All the town! Why, there is no one in London!"

"Indeed, you mistake. Travelling is so easy nowadays. People tear to and
fro between Tunbridge and St James's as often as they once circulated
betwixt London and Chelsea. Were it not for the highwaymen we should be
always on the road."

Angela and her niece were on the terrace in the evening coolness. The
atmosphere was less oppressive here by the flowing tide than anywhere
else in London; but even here there was a heaviness in the night air, and
Henriette sprawled her long thin legs wearily on the cushioned bench where
she lay, and vowed that it would be sheer folly for Priscilla to insist
upon her going to bed at her usual hour of nine, when everybody knew she
could not sleep.

"I scarce closed my eyes last night," she protested, "and I had half a
mind to put on a petticoat and come down to the terrace. I could have come
through the yellow drawing-room, where the men usually forget to close the
shutters. And I should have brought my theorbo and serenaded you. Should
you have taken me for a fairy, chère, if you had heard me singing?"

"I should have taken you for a very silly little person who wanted to
frighten her friends by catching an inflammation of the lungs."

"Well, you see, I thought better of it, though it would have been
impossible to catch cold on such a stifling night I heard every clock
strike in Westminster and London. It was light at five, yet the night
seemed endless. I would have welcomed even a mouse behind the wainscot.
Priscilla is an odious tyrant," making a face at the easy-tempered
gouvernante sitting by; "she won't let me have my dogs in my room at
night."

"Your ladyship knows that dogs in a bed-chamber are unwholesome," said
Priscilla.

"No, you foolish old thing; my ladyship knows the contrary; for his
Majesty's bed-chamber swarms with them, and he has them on his bed
even--whole families--mothers and their puppies. Why can't I have a few
dear little mischievous innocents to amuse me in the long dreary nights?"

By dint of clamour and expostulation the honourable Henriette contrived
to stay up till ten o'clock was belled with solemn tone from St. Paul's
Cathedral, which magnificent church was speedily to be put in hand for
restoration, at a great expenditure. The wooden scaffolding which had been
necessary for a careful examination of the building was still up. Until
the striking of the great city clock, Papillon had resolutely disputed the
lateness of the hour, putting forward her own timekeeper as infallible--a
little fat round purple enamel watch with diamond figures, and gold hands
much bent from being pushed backwards and forwards, to bring recorded time
into unison with the young lady's desires--a watch to which no sensible
person could give the slightest credit. The clocks of London having
demonstrated the futility of any reference to that ill-used Geneva toy, she
consented to retire, but was reluctant to the last.

"I am going to bed," she told her aunt, "because this absurd old Prissy
insists upon it, but I don't expect a quarter of an hour's sleep between
now and morning; and most of the time I shall be looking out of the window,
watching for the turn of the tide, to see the barges and boats swinging
round."

"You will do nothing of the kind, Mrs. Henriette; for I shall sit in your
room till you are sound asleep," said Priscilla.

"Then you will have to sit there all night; and I shall have somebody to
talk to."

"I shall not allow you to talk."

"Will you gag me, or put a pillow over my face, like the Blackamoor in the
play?"

The minx and her governess retired, still disputing, after Angela had been
desperately hugged by Henriette, who brimmed over with warmest affection in
the midst of her insolence. They were gone, their voices sounding in the
stillness on the terrace, and then on the staircase, and through the great
empty rooms, where the windows were open to the sultry night, while the
host of idle servants caroused in the basement, in a spacious room with a
vaulted roof, like a college hall, where they were free to be as noisy or
as drunken as they pleased. My lady was out, had taken only her chair, and
running footmen, and had sent chairmen and footmen back from Whitehall,
with an intimation that they would be wanted no more that night.

Angela lingered on the terrace in the sultry summer gloom, watching
solitary boats moving to and fro, shadowy as Charon's. She dreaded the
stillness of silent rooms, and to be alone with her own thoughts, which
were not of the happiest. Her sister's relations with De Malfort troubled
her, innocent as they doubtless were: innocent as that close friendship of
Henrietta of England with her cousin of France, when they two spent the
fair midsummer nights roaming in palace gardens, close as lovers, but
only fast friends. Malicious tongues had babbled even of that innocent
friendship; and there were those who said that if Monsieur behaved liked
a brute to his lovely young wife, it was because he had good reason for
jealousy of Louis in the past, as well as of De Guiche in the present.
These innocent friendships are ever the cause of uneasiness to the
lookers-on. It is like seeing children at play on the edge of a cliff. They
are too near danger and destruction.

Hyacinth, being about as able to carry a secret as to carry an elephant,
had betrayed by a hundred indications that a plot of some kind was being
hatched between her and De Malfort. And to-night, before going out, she
had made too much fuss about so simple a matter as a basset-party at Lady
Sarah's, who had her basset-table every night, and was popularly supposed
to keep house upon her winnings, and to have no higher code of honour than
De Gramont had when he invited a brother officer to supper on purpose to
rook him.

Mr. Killigrew's comedy had been discussed in Angela's hearing. People who
had been deprived of the theatre for over a year were greedy and eager
spectators of all the plays produced at Court; but this production was an
exceptional event. Killigrew's wit and impudence and impecuniosity were the
talk of the town, and anything written by that audacious jester was sure to
be worth hearing.

Had her sister gone to Whitehall to see the new comedy, in direct
disobedience to her husband, instead of to so accustomed an entertainment
as Lady Sarah's basset-table? And was that the only mystery between
Hyacinth and De Malfort? Or was there something else--some ghost-party,
such as they had planned and talked about openly till a fortnight ago,
and had suddenly dropped altogether, as if the notion were abandoned and
forgotten? It was so unlike Hyacinth to be secret about anything; and
her sister feared, therefore, that there was some plot of De Malfort's
contriving--De Malfort, whom she regarded with distrust and even
repugnance; for she could recall no sentiment of his that did not make
for evil. Beneath that gossamer veil of airy language which he flung over
vicious theories, the conscienceless, unrelenting character of the man had
been discovered by those clear eyes of the meditative onlooker. Alas!
what a man to be her sister's closest friend, claiming privileges by long
association, which Hyacinth would have been the last to grant her dissolute
admirers of yesterday, but which were only the more perilous for those
memories of childhood that justified a so dangerous friendship.

She was startled from these painful reflections by the clatter of horses'
hoofs on the paved courtyard east of the house, and the jingle of
sword-belt and bit, sounds instantly followed by the ringing of the bell at
the principal door.

Was it her sister coming home so early? No, Lady Fareham had gone out in
her chair. Was it his lordship returning unannounced? He had stated no time
for his return, telling his wife only that, on his business in Paris being
finished, he would come back without delay. Indeed, Hyacinth had debated
the chances of his arrival this very evening with half a dozen of her
particular friends, who knew that she was going to see Mr. Killigrew's
play.

"Fate cannot be so perverse as to bring him back on the only night when his
return would be troublesome," she said.

"Fate is always perverse, and a husband is very lucky if there is but one
day out of seven on which his return would be troublesome," answered one of
her gossips.

Fate had been perverse, for Angela heard her brother-in-law's deep strong
voice talking in the hall, and presently he came down the marble steps to
the terrace, and came towards her, white with Kentish dust, and carrying an
open letter in his hand. She had risen at the sound of the bell, and was
hurrying to the house as he met her. He came close up to her, scarcely
according her the civility of greeting. Never had she seen his countenance
more gloomy.

"You can tell me truer than those drunken devils below stairs," he said.
"Where is your sister?"

"At Lady Sarah Tewkesbury's."

"So her major-domo swears; but her chairmen, whom I found asleep in the
hall, say they set her down at the palace."

"At Whitehall?"

"Yes, at Whitehall. There is a modish performance there to-night, I hear;
but I doubt it is over, for the Strand was crowded with hackney coaches
moving eastward. I passed a pair of handsome eyes in a gilded chair, that
flashed fury at me as I rode by, which I'll swear were Mrs. Palmer's; and,
waiting for me in the hall, I found this letter, that had just been handed
in by a link, who doubtless belonged to the same lady. Read, Angela; the
contents are scarce long enough to weary you." She took the letter from him
with a hand that trembled so that she could hardly hold the sheet of paper.

"Watch! There is an intrigue afoot this night; and you must be a greater
dullard than I think you if you cannot unmask a deceitful----"

The final word was one which modern manners forbid in speech or printed
page. Angela's pallid cheek flushed crimson at the sight of the vile
epithet. Oh, insane lightness of conduct which made such an insult
possible! Standing there, confronting the angry husband, with that
detestable paper in her hand, she felt a pang of compunction at the thought
that she might have been more strenuous in her arguments with her sister,
more earnest and constant in reproof. When the peace and good repute of two
lives were at stake, was it for her to consider any question of older or
younger, or to be restrained by the fear of offending a sister who had been
so generous and indulgent to her?

Fareham saw her distress, and looked at her with angry suspicion.

"Come," he said, "I scarce expected a lying answer from you; and yet you
join with servants to deceive me. You know your sister is not at Lady
Sarah's."

"I know nothing, except that, wherever she is, I will vouch that she
is innocently employed, and has done nothing to deserve that infamous
aspersion," giving him back the letter.

"Innocently employed! You carry matters with a high hand. Innocently
employed, in a company of she-profligates, listening to Killigrew's ribald
jokes--Killigrew, the profanest of them all, who can turn the greatest
calamity this city ever suffered to horseplay and jeering. Innocently
employed, in direct disobedience to her husband! So innocently employed
that she makes her servants--and her sister--tell lies to cover her
innocence!"

"Hector as much as you please, I have told your lordship no lies; and, with
your permission, I will leave you to recover your temper before my sister's
return, which I doubt will happen within the next hour."

She moved quickly past him towards the house.

"Angela, forgive me----" he began, trying to detain her; but she hurried
on through the open French window, and ran upstairs to her room, where she
locked herself in.

For some minutes she walked up and down, profoundly agitated, thinking out
the position of affairs. To Fareham she had carried matters with a high
hand, but she was full of fear. The play was over, and her sister, who
doubtless had been among the audience, had not come home. Was she staying
at the palace, gossiping with the maids-of-honour, shining among that
brilliant, unscrupulous crowd, where intrigue was in the very air, where no
woman was credited with virtue, and every man was remorseless?

The anonymous letter scarcely influenced Angela's thoughts in these
agitated moments--that was but a foul assault on character by a foul-minded
woman. But the furtive confabulations of the past week must have had some
motive; and her sister's fluttered manner before leaving the house had
marked this night as the crisis of the plot.

Angela could imagine nothing but that ghostly masquerading which had, in
the first place, been discussed freely in her presence; and she could but
wonder that De Malfort and her sister should have made a mystery about a
plan which she had known in its inception. The more deeply she considered
all the circumstances, the more she inclined to suspect some evil intention
on De Malfort's part, of which Hyacinth, so frank, so shallow, might be too
easy a dupe.

"I do little good doubting and suspecting and wondering here," she said to
herself; and after hastily lighting the candles on her toilet-table, she
began to unlace the bodice of her light-coloured silk mantua, and in a few
minutes had changed her elegant evening attire for a dark cloth gown, short
in the skirt, and loose in the sleeves, which had been made for her to wear
upon the river. In this costume she could handle a pair of sculls as freely
as a waterman.

When she had put on a little black silk hood, she extinguished her candles,
pulled aside the curtain which obscured the open window, and looked out on
the terrace. There was just light enough to show her that the coast was
clear. The iron gate at the top of the water-stairs was seldom locked, nor
were the boat-houses often shut, as boats were being taken in and out at
all hours, and, for the rest, neglect and carelessness might always be
reckoned upon in the Fareham household.

She ran lightly down a side staircase, and so by an obscure door to the
river-front. No, the gate was not locked, and there was not a creature
within sight to observe or impede her movements. She went down the steps to
the paved quay below the garden terrace. The house where the wherries were
kept was wide open, and, better still, there was a skiff moored by the side
of the steps, as if waiting for her; and she had but to take a pair of
sculls from the rack and step into the boat, unmoor and away westward, with
swiftly dipping oars, in the soft summer silence, broken now and then by
sounds of singing--a tipsy, unmelodious strain, perhaps, were it heard too
near, but musical in the distance--as the rise and fall of voices crept
along a reach of running water.

The night was hot and oppressive, even on the river. But it was better here
than anywhere else; and Angela breathed more freely as she bent over her
sculls, rowing with all her might, intent upon reaching that landing-stage
she knew of in the very shortest possible time. The boat was heavy, but she
had the incoming tide to help her.

Was Fareham hunting for his wife, she wondered? Would he go to Lady
Sarah's lodgings, in the first place; and, not finding Hyacinth there, to
Whitehall? And then, would he remember the assembly at Millbank, in which
he had taken no part, and apparently no interest? And would he extend his
search to the ruined abbey? At the worst, Angela would be there before him,
to prepare her sister for the angry suspicions which she would have to
meet. He was not likely to think of that place till he had exhausted all
other chances.

It was not much more than a mile from Fareham House to that desolate bit
of country betwixt Westminster and Chelsea, where the modern dairy-farm
occupied the old monkish pastures. As Angela ran her boat inshore, she
expected to see Venetian lanterns, and to hear music and voices, and
all the indications of a gay assembly; but there were only silence and
darkness, save for one lighted window in the dairyman's dwelling-house, and
she thought that she had come upon a futile errand, and had been mistaken
in her conjectures.

She moored her boat to the wooden landing-stage, and went on shore to
examine the premises. The revelry might be designed for a later hour,
though it was now near midnight, and Lady Sarah's party had assembled at
eleven. She walked across a meadow, where the dewy grass was cool under her
feet, and so to the open space in front of the dairyman's house--a shabby
building attached like a wen to the ruined refectory.

She started at hearing the snort of a horse, and the jingling of bit and
curb-chain, and came suddenly upon a coach-and-four, with a couple of
post-boys standing beside their team.

"Whose coach is this?" she asked.

"Mr. Malfy's, your ladyship."

"The French gentleman from St. James's Street, my lady," explained the
other man.

"Did you bring Monsieur de Malfort here?"

"No, madam. We was told to be here at eleven, with horses as fresh as fire;
and the poor tits be mighty impatient to be moving. Steady, Champion!
You'll have work enough this side Dartford,"--to the near leader, who was
shaking his head vehemently, and pawing the gravel.

Angela waited to ask no further questions, but made straight for the
unglazed window, through which Mr. Spavinger and his companions had
entered.

There was no light in the great vaulted room, save the faint light of
summer stars, and two figures were there in the dimness--a woman standing
straight and tall in a satin gown, whose pale sheen reflected the
starlight; a woman whose right arm was flung above her head, bare and
white, her hand clasping her brow distractedly; and a man, who knelt at
her feet, grasping the hand that hung at her side, looking up at her, and
talking eagerly, with passionate gestures.

Her voice was clearer than his; and Angela heard her repeating with a
piteous shrillness, "No, no, no! No, Henri, no!"

She stayed to hear no more, but sprang through the opening between the
broken mullions, and rushed to her sister's side; and as De Malfort started
to his feet, she thrust him vehemently aside, and clasped Hyacinth in her
arms.

"You here, Mistress Kill-joy?" he muttered, in a surly tone. "May I ask
what business brought you? For I'll swear you wasn't invited."

"I have come to save my sister from a villain, sir. But oh, my sweet, I
little dreamt thou hadst such need of me!"

"Nay, love, thou didst ever make tragedies out of nothing," said Hyacinth,
struggling to disguise hysterical tears with airy laughter. "But I am right
glad all the same that you are come; for this gentleman has put a scurvy
trick upon me, and brought me here on pretence of a gay assembly that has
no existence."

"He is a villain and a traitor," said Angela, in deep, indignant tones.
"Dear love, thou hast been in danger I dare scarce think of. Fareham is
searching for you."

"Fareham! In London?"

"Returned an hour ago. Hark!"

She lifted her finger warningly as a bell rang, and the well-known voice
sounded outside the house, calling to some one to open the door.

"He is here!" cried Hyacinth, distractedly. "For God's sake, hide me from
him! Not for worlds--not for worlds would I meet him!"

"Nay, you have nothing to fear. It is Monsieur de Malfort who has to answer
for what he has done."

"Henri, he will kill you! Alas, you know not what he is in anger! I have
seen him, once in Paris, when he thought a man was insolent to me. God! The
thunder of his voice, the blackness of his brow! He will kill you! Oh, if
you love me--if you ever loved me--come out of his way! He is fatal with
his sword!"

"And am I such a tyro at fence, or such a poltroon as to be afraid to meet
him? No, Hyacinth, I go with you to Dover, or I stand my ground and face
him."

"You shall not!" sobbed Hyacinth. "I will not have your blood on my head!
Come, come--by the garden--by the river!"

She dragged him towards the window; he pretending to resist, as Angela
thought, yet letting himself be led as she pleased to lead him. They had
but just crossed the yawning gap between the mullions and vanished into
the night, when Fareham burst into the room with his sword drawn, and
came towards Angela, who stood in shadow, her face half hidden in her
close-fitting hood.

"So, madam, I have found you at last," he said; "and in time to stop your
journey, though not to save myself the dishonour of a wanton wife! But it
is your paramour I am looking for, not you. Where is that craven hiding?"

He went back to the inhabited part of the house, and returned after a
hasty examination of the premises, carrying the lamp which had lighted his
search, only to find the same solitary figure in the vast bare room. Angela
had moved nearer the window, and had sunk exhausted upon a large carved oak
chair, which might be a relic of the monkish occupation. Fareham came to
her with the lamp in his hand.

"He has given me a clean pair of heels," he said; "but I know where to find
him. It is but a pleasure postponed. And now, woman, you had best return to
the house your folly, or your sin, has disgraced. For to-night, at least,
it must needs shelter you. Come!"

The hooded figure rose at his bidding, and he saw the face in the
lamplight.

"You!" he gasped. "You!"

"Yes, Fareham, it is I. Cannot you take a kind view of a foolish business,
and believe there has been only folly and no dishonour in the purpose that
brought me here?"

"You!" he repeated. "You!"

His bearing was that of a man who staggers under a crushing blow, a stroke
so unexpected that he can but wonder and suffer. He set down the lamp with
a shaking hand, then took two or three hurried turns up and down the room;
then stopped abruptly by the lamp, snatched the anonymous letter from his
breast, and read the lines over again.

"'An intrigue on foot----' No name. And I took it for granted my wife was
meant. I looked for folly from her; but wisdom, honour, purity, all the
virtues from you. Oh, what was the use of my fortitude, what the motive
of self-conquest here," striking himself upon the breast, "if you were
unchaste? Angela, you have broken my heart."

There was a long pause before she answered, and her face was turned from
him to hide her streaming tears. At last she was able to reply calmly--

"Indeed, Fareham, you do wrong to take this matter so passionately. You may
trust my sister and me. On my honour, you have no cause to be angry with
either of us."

"And when I gave you this letter to read," he went on, disregarding her
protestations, "you knew that you were coming here to meet a lover. You
hurried away from me, dissembler as you were, to steal to this lonely place
at midnight, to fling yourself into his arms. Tell me where he is hiding,
that I may kill him; now, while I pant for vengeance. Such rage as mine
cannot wait for idle forms. Now, now, now, is the time to reckon with your
seducer!"

"Fareham, you cover me with insults!"

He had rushed to the door, still carrying his naked sword; but he turned
back as she spoke, and stood looking at her from head to foot with a savage
scornfulness.

"Insult!" he cried. "You have sunk too low for insult. There are no words
that I know vile enough to stigmatise such disgrace as yours! Do you
know what you have been to me, Angela? A saint--a star; ineffably pure,
ineffably remote; a creature to worship at a distance; for whose sake it
was scarce a sacrifice to repress all that is common to the base heart of
man; from whom a kind word was enough for happiness--so pure, so far away,
so detached from this vile age we live in. God, how that saintly face has
cheated me! Mock saint, mock nun; a creature of passions like my own but
more stealthy; from top to toe an incarnate lie!"

He flung out of the room, and she heard his footsteps about the house, and
heard doors opened and shut. She waited for no more; but, being sure by
this time that her sister had left the premises, her own desire was to
return to Farebam House as soon as possible, counting upon finding Hyacinth
there; yet with a sick fear that the seducer might take base advantage of
her sister's terror and confused spirits, and hustle her off upon the fatal
journey he had planned.

The boat lay where she had moored it, at the foot of the wooden stair, and
she was stepping into it when Fareham ran hastily to the bank.

"Your paramour has got clear off," he said; and then asked curtly, "How
came you by that boat?"

"I brought it from Fareham House."

"What! you came here alone by water at so late an hour! You heaven-born
adventuress! Other women need education in vice; but to you it comes by
nature."

He pulled off his doublet as he stepped into the boat; then seated himself
and took the sculls.

"Has your lordship not left a horse waiting for you?" Angela inquired
hesitatingly.

"My lordship's horse will find his stables before morning with the groom
that has him in charge. I am going to row you home. Love expectant is bold;
but disappointed love may lack courage for a solitary jaunt after midnight.
Come, mistress, let us have no ceremony. We have done with that for
ever--as we have done with friendship. There are thousands of women in
England, all much of a pattern; and you are one of them. That is the end of
our romance."

He bent to his work, and rowed with a steady stroke, and in a stubborn
silence, which lasted till it was more strangely broken than such angry
silence is apt to be.

The tide was still running up, and it was as much as the single oarsman
could do, in that heavy boat, to hold his own against the stream.

Angela sat watching him, with her gaze rooted to that dark countenance and
bare head, on which the iron-grey hair waved thick and strong, for Fareham
had never consented to envelop his neck and shoulders in a mantle of dead
men's tresses, and wore his own hair after the fashion of Charles the
First's time. So intent was her watch, that the objects on either shore
passed her like shadows in a dream. The Primate's palace on her right hand,
as the boat swept round that great bend which the river makes opposite
Lambeth Marsh; on her left, as they neared London, the stern grandeur of
the Abbey and St. Margaret's. It was only as they approached Whitehall that
she became aware of a light upon the water which was not the reflection
of daybreak, and, looking suddenly up, she saw the fierce glare of a
conflagration in the eastern sky, and cried--

"There is a fire, my lord!--a great fire, I doubt, in the city."

The long roof and massive tower of St Paul's stood dark against the vivid
splendour of that sky, and every timber in the scaffolding showed like a
black lattice across the crimson and sulphur of raging flames.

Fareham looked round, without moving his sculls from the rowlocks.

"A great fire in verity, mistress! Would God it meant the fulfilment of
prophecy!"

"What prophecy, sir?"

"The end of the world, with which we are threatened in this year. God, how
the flames rage and mount! Would it were the great fire, and He had come
to judge us, and to empty the vials of His wrath upon profligates and
seducers!"

He looked at the face opposite, radiant with reflected rose and gold,
supernal in that strange light, and, oh, so calm in every line and feature,
the large dark eyes meeting his with a gaze that seemed to him half
indignant, half reproachful.

"Oh, what hypocrites these women are!" he told himself. "And all alike--all
alike. What comedians! For acting one need not go to the Duke's or the
King's. One may see it at one's own board, by one's own hearth. Acting,
nothing but acting! And I thought that in the universal mass of falsehood
and folly there were some rare stars, dwelling apart here and there, and
that she was one of them. An idle dream! Nature has made them all in one
mould, and it is but by means and opportunity that they differ."

Higher and higher rose that vast sheet of vivid colour; and now every tower
and steeple was bathed in rosy light, or else stood black against the
radiant sky--towers illuminated, towers in densest shadow; the slim spars
of ships showing as if drawn with pen and ink on a sulphur background--a
scene of surpassing splendour and terror. Fareham had seen Flemish villages
blazing, Flemish citadels exploding, their fragments hurled skyward in a
blue flame of gunpowder; but never this vast arch of crimson, glowing and
growing before his astonished gaze, as he paddled the boat inshore, and
stood up to watch the great disaster.

"God has remembered the new Sodom," he said savagely. "He punished us with
pestilence, and we took no heed. And now He tries us with fire. But if it
come not yonder," pointing to Whitehall, which was immediately above
them, for their boat lay close to the King's landing-stage--"if, like the
contagion, it stays in the east and only the citizens suffer, why, vive la
bagatelle! We--and our concubines--have no part in the punishment. We, who
call down the fire, do not suffer it."

Spellbound by that strange spectacle, Fareham stood and gazed, and Angela
was afraid to urge him to take the boat on to Fareham House, anxious as
she was to span those few hundred yards of distance, to be assured of her
sister's safety.

They waited thus nearly an hour, the sky ever increasing in brilliancy, and
the sounds of voices and tramp of hurrying feet growing with every minute.
Whitehall was now all alive--men and women, in a careless undress, at every
window, some of them hanging half out of the window to talk to people in
the court below. Shrieks of terror or of wonder, ejaculations, and oaths
sounding on every side; while Fareham, who had moored the boat to an iron
ring in the wall by his Majesty's stairs, stood gloomy and motionless, and
made no further comment, only watched the conflagration in dismal silence,
fascinated by that prodigious ruin.

It was but the beginning of that stupendous destruction, yet it was already
great enough to seem like the end of all things.

"And last night, in the Court theatre, Killigrew's players were making a
jest of a pestilence that filled the grave-pits by thousands," Fareham
muttered, as if awaking from a dream. "Well, the wits will have a new
subject for their mirth--London in flames."

He untied the rope, took his seat and rowed out into the stream. Within
that hour in which they had waited, the Thames had covered itself with
traffic; boats were moving westward, loaded with frightened souls in casual
attire, and with heaps of humble goods and chattels. Some whose houses were
nearest the river had been quick enough to save a portion of their poor
possessions, and to get them packed on barges; but these were the wise
minority. The greater number of the sufferers were stupefied by the
suddenness of the calamity, the rapidity with which destruction rushed upon
them, the flames leaping from house to house, spanning chasms of emptiness,
darting hither and thither like lizards or winged scorpions, or breaking
out mysteriously in fresh places, so that already the cry of arson had
arisen, and the ever-growing fire was set down to fiendish creatures
labouring secretly at a work of universal destruction.

Most of the sufferers looked on at the ruin of their homes, paralysed by
horror, unable to help themselves or to mitigate their losses by energetic
action of any kind. Dumb and helpless as sheep, they saw their property
destroyed, their children's lives imperilled, and could only thank
Providence, and those few brave men who helped them in their helplessness,
for escape from a fiery death. Panic and ruin prevailed within a mile
eastward of Fareham House, when the boat ground against the edge of the
marble landing-stage, and Angela alighted and ran quickly up the stairs,
and made her way straight to the house. The door stood wide open, and
candles were burning in the vestibule. The servants were at the eastern end
of the terrace watching the fire, too much engrossed to see their master
and his companion land at the western steps.

At the foot of the great staircase Angela heard herself called by a
crystalline voice, and, looking up, saw Henriette hanging over the banister
rail.

"Auntie, where have you been?"

"Is your mother with you?" Angela asked.

"Mother is locked in her bed-chamber, and mighty sullen. She told me to go
to bed. As if anybody could lie quietly in bed with London burning!" added
Papillon, her tone implying that a great city in flames was a kind of
entertainment that could not be too highly appreciated.

She came flying downstairs in her pretty silken deshabille, with her hair
streaming, and flung her arm round her aunt's neck.

"Ma chatte, where have you been?"

"On the terrace."

"Fi donc, menteuse! I saw you and my father land at the west stairs, five
minutes ago."

"We had been looking at the fire."

"And never offered to take me with you! What a greedy pig!"

"Indeed, dearest, it is no scene for little girls to look upon."

"And when I am grown up what shall I have to talk about if I miss all the
great sights?"

"Come to your room, love. You will see only too much from your windows. I
am going to your mother."

"Ce n'est pas la peine. She is in one of her tempers, and has locked
herself in."

"No matter. She will see me."

"Je m'en doute. She came home in a coach-and-four nearly two hours ago,
with Monsieur de Malfort; and I think they must have quarrelled. They bade
each other good night so uncivilly; but he was more huffed than mother."

"Where were you that you know so much?"

"In the gallery. Did I not tell you I shouldn't be able to sleep? I went
into the gallery for coolness, and then I heard the coach in the courtyard,
and the doors opened, and I listened."

"Inquisitive child!"

"No, I was not inquisitive. I was only vastly hipped for want of knowing
what to do with myself. And I ran to bid her ladyship good morning, for it
was close upon one o'clock; but she frowned at me, and pushed me aside
with a 'Go to your bed, troublesome imp! What business have you up at this
hour?' 'As much business as you have riding about in your coach,' I had
a mind to say, mais je me tenais coy; and made her ladyship la belle
Jennings' curtsy instead. She sinks lower and rises straighter than any of
the other ladies. I watched her on mother's visiting-day. Lord, auntie, how
white you are! One might take you for a ghost!"

Angela put the little prattler aside, more gently, perhaps, than the mother
had done, and passed hurriedly on to Lady Fareham's room. The door was
still locked, but she would take no denial.

"I must speak with you," she said.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE MOTIVE--MURDER.


For Lady Fareham and her sister September and October made a blank interval
in the story of life--uneventful as the empty page at the end of a chapter.
They spent those months at Fareham, a house which Hyacinth detested,
a neighbourhood where she had never condescended to make friends. She
condemned the local gentry as a collection of nobodies, and had never taken
the trouble to please the three or four great families within a twenty-mile
drive, because, though they had rank and consequence, they had not fashion.
The _haut gout_ of Paris and London was wanting to them.

Lord Fareham had insisted upon leaving London on the third of September,
and had, his wife declared, out of pure malignity, taken his family to
Fareham, a place she hated, rather than to Chilton, a place she loved,
at least as much as any civilised mortal could love the country. Never,
Hyacinth protested, had her husband been so sullen and ferocious.

"He is not like an angry man," she told Angela, "but like a wounded lion;
and yet, since your goodness took all the blame of my unlucky escapade upon
your shoulders, and he knows nothing of De Malfort's insolent attempt to
carry me off, I see no reason why he should have become such a gloomy
savage."

She accepted her sister's sacrifice with an amiable lightness. How could
it harm Angela to be thought to have run out at midnight for a frolic
rendezvous? The maids of honour had some such adventure half a dozen times
in a season, and were found out, and laughed at, and laughed again, and
wound up their tempestuous careers by marrying great noblemen.

"If you can but get yourself talked about you may marry as high as you
choose," Lady Fareham told her sister.

       *       *       *       *       *

Early in November they went back to London, and though all Hyacinth's fine
people protested that the town stank of burnt wood, smoked oil, and resin,
and was altogether odious, they rejoiced not the less to be back again.
Lady Fareham plunged with renewed eagerness into the whirlpool of pleasure,
and tried to drag Angela with her; but it was a surprise to both, and to
one a cause for uneasiness, when his lordship began to show himself in
scenes which he had for the most part avoided as well as reviled. For
some unexplained reason he became now a frequent attendant at the evening
festivities at Whitehall, and without even the pretence of being interested
or amused there.

Fareham's appearance at Court caused more surprise than pleasure in that
brilliant circle. The statue of the Comandante would scarcely have seemed
a grimmer guest. He was there in the midst of laughter and delight, with
never a smile upon his stern features. He was silent for the most part, or
if badgered into talking by some of his more familiar acquaintances, would
vent his spleen in a tirade that startled them, as the pleasant chirpings
of a poultry-yard are startled by the raid of a dog. They laughed at his
conversation behind his back; but in his presence, under the angry light
of those grey eyes, the gloom of those bent brows, they were chilled into
submission and civility. He had a dignity which made his Puritanical
plainness more patrician than Rochester's finery, more impressive than
Buckingham's graceful splendour. The force and vigour of his countenance
were more striking than Sedley's beauty. The eyes of strangers singled him
out in that gay throng, and people wanted to know who he was and what he
had done for fame.

A soldier, yes, cela saute aux yeux. He could be nothing else than a
soldier. A cavalier of the old school. Albeit younger by half a lifetime
than Southampton and Clarendon, and the other ghosts of the troubles.

Charles treated him with chill civility.

"Why does the man come here without his wife?" he asked De Malfort. "There
is a sister, too, fresher and fairer than her ladyship. Why are we to have
the shadow without the sun? Yet it is as well, perhaps, they keep away;
for I have heard of a visit which was not returned--a condescension from a
woman of the highest rank slighted by a trumpery baron's wife--and after an
offence of that kind she could only have brought us trouble. Why do women
quarrel, Wilmot?"

"Why are there any men in the world, sir? If there were none, women would
live together like lambs in a meadow. It is only about us they fight. As
for Lady Fareham, she is adorable, though no longer young. I believe she
will be thirty on her next birthday."

"And the sister? She had a wild-rose prettiness, I thought, when I saw her
at Oxford. She looked like a lily till I spoke to her, and then flamed
like a red rose. So fresh, so easily startled. 'Tis pity that shyness
of youthful purity wears off in a week. I dare swear by this time Mrs.
Kirkland is as brazen as the boldest of our young houris yonder," with
a glance in the direction of the maids of honour, the Queen's and the
Duchess's, a bevy of chatterers, waving fans, giggling, whispering,
shoulder to shoulder with the impudentest men in his Majesty's kingdom;
the men who gave their mornings to writing comedies coarser than Dryden or
Etherege, and their nights to cards, dice, and strong drink; roving the
streets half clad, dishevelled, wanton; beating the watch, and insulting
decent pedestrians; with occasional vicious outbreaks which would have been
revolting in a company of inebriated coal-heavers, and which brought these
fine gentlemen before a too lenient magistrate. But were not these the
manners of which St. Evremond lightly sang--

    "'La douce erreur ne s'appelait point crime;
    Les vices délicats se nommaient des plaisirs.'"

"Mistress Kirkland has an inexorable modesty which would outlive even a
week at Whitehall, sir," answered Rochester. "If I did not adore the matron
I should worship the maid. Happily for the wretch who loves her I am
otherwise engaged!"

"Thou insolent brat! To be eighteen years of age and think thyself
irresistible!"

"Does your Majesty suppose I shall be more attractive at six and thirty?"

"Yes, villain; for at my age thou wilt have experience."

"And a reputation for incorrigible vice. No woman of taste can resist
that."

"And pray who is Mrs. Kirkland's lover?"

"A Puritan baronet. One Denzil Warner."

"There was a Warner killed at Hoptown Heath."

"His son, sir. A fellow who believes in extempore prayer and republican
government; and swears England was never so happy or prosperous as under
Cromwell."

"And the lady favours this psalm-singing rebel?"

"I know not. For all I have seen of the two she has been barely civil to
him. That he adores her is obvious; and I know Lady Fareham's heart is set
upon the match."

"Why did not Lady Fareham return the Countess's visit?"

There was no need to ask what Countess.

"Be sure, sir, the husband was to blame, if there was want of respect for
that lovely lady. I can answer for Lady Fareham's right feeling in that
matter."

"The husband takes a leaf out of Hyde's book, and forgets that what may be
passed over in the Lord Chancellor, and a man of prodigious usefulness, is
intolerable in a person of Fareham's insignificance."

"Nay, sir, insignificance is scarcely the word. I would as soon call a
thunderstorm insignificant. The man is a volcano, and may explode at any
provocation."

"We want no such suppressed fires at Whitehall. Nor do we want long faces;
as Clarendon may discover some day, if his sermons grow too troublesome."

"The Chancellor is a domestic man; as your Majesty may infer from the size
and splendour of his new house."

"He is an expensive man, Wilmot I believe he got more by the sale of
Dunkirk than his master did."

"In that case your Majesty cannot do better than shift all the disgrace of
the transaction on to his shoulders. Dunkirk will be a sure card to play
when Clarendon has to go overboard."

That incivility of Lady Fareham's in the matter of an unreturned visit had
rankled deep in the bosom of the King's imperious mistress. To sin more
boldly than woman ever sinned, and yet to claim all the privileges and
honours due to virtue was but a trifling inconsistency in a mind so
fortified by pride that it scarce knew how to reckon with shame. That she,
in her supremacy of beauty and splendour, a fortune sparkling in either
ear, the price of a landed estate on her neck--that she, Barbara, Countess
of Castlemaine, should have driven in a windowless coach through dusty
lanes, eating dirt, as it were, with her train of court gallants on
horseback at her coach doors, her ladies in a carriage in the rear, to
visit a person of Lady Fareham's petty quality, a Buckinghamshire Knight's
daughter married to a Baron of Henry the Eighth's creation! And that
this amazing condescension--received with a smiling and curtsying
civility--should have been unacknowledged by any reciprocal courtesy was an
affront that could hardly be wiped out with blood. Indeed, it could never
be atoned for. The wound was poisoned, and would rankle and fester to the
end of that proud life.

Yet on Fareham's appearance at Whitehall Lady Castlemaine distinguished
with a marked civility, and even condescended, smilingly, as if there were
no cause of quarrel, to inquire after his wife.

"Her ladyship is as pretty as ever, though we are all growing old," she
said. "We exchanged curtsies at Tunbridge Wells the other day. I wonder how
it is we never get further than smiles and curtsies? I should like to show
the dear woman some more substantial civility. She is buried alive in your
stately house by the river, for the want of an influential friend to show
her the world we live in."

"Indeed, madam, my wife has all the pleasure she desires--her visiting-day,
her friends."

"And her admirers. Rochester is always hanging about your garden, or
landing from his wherry, when I go by; or, if he himself be not visible,
there are a couple of his watermen on your steps."

"My Lord Rochester has a precocious wit which amuses my wife and her
sister."

"And then there is De Malfort--an impertinent, second only to Gramont. He
and Lady Fareham are twin stars. I have seldom seen them apart."

"Since De Malfort has the honour of being somewhat intimate with your
ladyship, he has doubtless given you full particulars of his friendship for
my wife. I assure you it will bear being talked about. There are no secrets
in it."

"Really; I thought I had heard something about a sedan which took the wrong
road after Killigrew's play. But that was the night before the fire. Good
God! my lord, your face darkens as if a man had struck you. Whatever
happened before the fire should have been burnt out of our memories by this
time."

"I see his Majesty looking this way, madam, and I have not yet paid my
respects to him," Fareham said, moving away, but a dazzling hand on his
sleeve arrested him.

"Oh, your respects will keep; he has Miss Stewart giggling at his elbow.
Strange, is it not, that a woman with as much brain as a pigeon can amuse a
man who reckons himself both wise and witty?"

"It is not the lady who amuses the gentleman, madam. She has the good sense
to pretend that he amuses her."

"And no more understands a jest than she does Hebrew."

"She is conscious of pretty teeth and an enchanting smile. Wit or
understanding would be superfluous," answered Fareham, bowing his adieu to
the Sultana in chief.

There was a great assembly, with music and dancing, on the Queen's
birthday, to which Lord and Lady Fareham and Mistress Kirkland were
invited; and again Angela saw and wondered at the splendid scene, and
at this brilliant world, which calamity could not touch. Pestilence had
ravaged the city, flames had devoured it--yet here there were only smiling
people, gorgeous dress, incomparable jewels. The plague had not touched
them, and the fire had not reached them. Such afflictions are for
the common herd. Angela promenaded with De Malfort in the spacious
banqueting-hall, with its ceiling of such prodigious height that the
apotheosis of King James, and all the emblematical figures, triumphal cars,
lions, bears and rams, corn-sheaves and baskets of fruit, which filled
the panels, might as well have been executed by a sign-painter's
rough-and-ready brush, as by the pencil of the great Fleming.

"We are a little kinder to Rubens at the Louvre," said De Malfort, noting
her upward gaze; "for we allow his elaborate glorification of his Majesty's
grandfather and grandmother about half a mile of wall. But I forgot, you
have not seen Paris, nor those acres of gaudy colouring which Henri's
vanity inflicted upon us. Florentine Marie, with her carnation cheeks and
opulent shoulders--the Roman-nosed Béarnais, with his pointed beard and
stiff ruff. Mon Dieu, how the world has changed since Ravaillac's knife
snapped that valiant life! And you have never seen Paris? You look about
you with wide-open eyes, and take this crowd, this ceiling, those candlebra
for splendour."

"Can there be a scene more splendid?" asked Angela, pleased to keep him by
her side, rather than see him devote himself to her sister; grateful for
his attention in that crowd where most people were strangers, and where
Lord Fareham had not vouchsafed the slightest notice of her.

"When you have seen the Louvre, you will wonder that any King, with a
sense of his own consequence in the world, can inhabit such a hovel as
Whitehall--this congeries of shabby apartments, the offices of servants,
the lodgings of followers and dependents, soldiers and civilians--huddled
in a confused labyrinth of brick and stone--redeemed from squalor only by
one fine room. Could you see the grand proportions, the colossal majesty
of the great Henri's palace--that palace whose costly completion sat heavy
upon Sully's careful soul! Henri loved to build--and his grandson, Louis,
inherits that Augustan taste."

"You were telling us of a new palace at Versailles----"

"A royal city in stone--white--dazzling--grandiose. The mortar was scarcely
dry when I was there in March; but you should have seen the mi-careme ball.
The finest masquerade that was ever beheld in Europe. All Paris came in
masks to see that magnificent spectacle. His Majesty allowed entrance to
all--and those who came were feasted at a banquet which only Rabelais
could fairly describe. And then with our splendour there is an elegant
restraint--a decency unknown here. Compare these women--Lady Shrewsbury
yonder, Lady Chesterfield, the fat woman in sea-green and silver--Lady
Castlemaine, brazen in orange velvet and emeralds--compare them with
Condé's sister, with the Duchesse de Bouillon, the Princess Palatine----"

"Are those such good women?"

"Humph! They are ladies. These are the kind of women King Charles admires.
They are as distinct a race as the dogs that lie in his bed-chamber, and
follow him in his walks, a species of his own creation. They do not even
affect modesty. But I am turning preacher, like Fareham. Come, there is to
be an entertainment in the theatre. Roxalana has returned to the stage--and
Jacob Hall, the rope-dancer, is to perform."

They followed the crowd, and De Malfort remained at Angela's side till the
end of the performance, and attended her to the supper-table afterwards.
Fareham watched them from his place in the background. He stood ever aloof
from the royal focus, the beauty, and the wit, the most dazzling jewels,
the most splendid raiment. He was amidst the Court, but not of it.

Yes; the passion which these two entertained for each other was patent to
every eye; but had it been an honourable attachment upon De Malfort's side,
he would have declared himself before now. He would not have abandoned the
field to such a sober suitor as Denzil. Henri de Malfort loved her, and she
fed his passion with her sweetest smiles, the low and tender tones of the
most musical voice Fareham had ever listened to.

"The voice that came to me in my desolation--the sweetest sound that ever
fell on a dying man's ear," he thought, recalling those solitary days and
nights in the plague year, recalling those vanished hours with a fond
longing, "that arm which shows dazzling white against the purple velvet of
his sleeve is the arm that held up my aching head, in the dawn of returning
reason; those are the eyes that looked down upon mine, so pitiful, so
anxious for my recovery. Oh, lovely angel, I would be a leper again,
a plague-stricken wretch, only to drink a cup of water from that dear
hand--only to feel the touch of those light fingers on my forehead! There
was a magic in that touch that surpassed the healing powers of kings. There
was a light as of heaven in those benignant eyes. But, oh, she is changed
since then. She is plague-stricken with the contagion of a profligate age.
Her wings are scorched by the fire of this modish Tophet She has been
taught to dress and look like the women around her--a little more
modest--but after the same fashion. The nun I worshipped is no more."

Some one tapped him on the shoulder with an ostrich fan. He turned, and saw
Lady Castlemaine close at his elbow.

"Image of gloom, will you lead me to my rooms?" she asked, in a curious
voice, her dark blue eyes deepened by the pallor that showed through her
rouge.

"I shall esteem myself too much honoured by that office," he answered, as
she took his arm and moved quickly, with hurried footsteps, through the
lessening throng.

"Oh, there is no one to dispute the honour with you. Sometimes I have a
mob to hustle me to my lodgings, borne on the current of their
adulation--sometimes I move through a desert, as I do to-night. Your face
attracted me--for I believe it is the only one at Whitehall as gloomy as
my own--unless there are some of my creditors, men to whom I owe gaming
debts."

It was curious to note that subtle change in the faces of those they
passed, which Barbara Palmer knew so well--faces that changed, obedient to
the weathercock of royal caprice--the countenances of courtiers who
even yet had not learnt justly to weigh the influence of that imperial
favourite, or to understand that she ruled their King with a power which no
transient fancy for newer faces could undermine. A day or two in the sulks,
frowns and mournful looks for gossip Pepys to jot down in his diary, and
the next day the sun would be shining again, and the King would be at
supper with "the lady."

Perhaps Lady Castlemaine knew that her empire was secure; but she took
these transient fancies _moult serieusement_. Her jealous soul could
tolerate no rival--or it may be that she really loved the King. He had
given himself to her in the flush of his triumphant return, while he was
still young enough to feel a genuine passion. For her sake he had been a
cruel husband, an insolent tyrant to an inoffensive wife; for her sake he
had squandered his people's money, and outraged every moral law; and it may
be that she remembered these things, and hated him the more fiercely for
them when he was inconstant. She was a woman of extremes, in whose tropical
temperament there was no medium between hatred and love.

"You will sup with me, Fareham?" she said, as he waited on the threshold of
her lodgings, which were in a detached pile of buildings, near the Holbein
Gateway, and looking upon an enclosed and somewhat gloomy garden.

"Your ladyship will excuse me. I am expected at home."

"What devil! Perhaps you think I am inviting you to a _tête-à-tête_. I
shall have some company, though the drove have gone to the Stewarts' in a
hope of getting asked to supper--which but a few of them can realise in
her mean lodgings. You had better stay. I may have Buckhurst, Sedley, De
Malfort, and a few more of the pretty fellows--enough to empty your pockets
at basset."

"Your ladyship is all goodness," said Fareham, quickly.

De Malfort's name had decided him. He followed his hostess through a crowd
of lackeys, a splendour of wax candles, to her saloon, where she turned and
flashed upon him a glorious picture of mature loveliness, her complexion
the peach in its ripest bloom, the orange sheen of her velvet mantua
shining out against a background of purple damask curtains embroidered with
gold.

The logs blazed and roared in the wide chimney. Warmth, opulence,
hospitality, were all expressed in the brilliantly lighted room, where
luxurious fauteuils, after the new French fashion, stood about, ready to
receive her ladyship's guests.

These were not long waited for. There was no crowd. Less than twenty men,
and about a dozen women, were enough to add an air of living gaiety to the
brilliancy of light and colour. De Malfort was the last who entered. He
kissed her ladyship's hand, looked about him, and recognised Fareham with
open wonder.

"An Israelite in the house of Dagon!" he said, _sotto voce_, as he
approached him. "What, Fareham, have you given your neck to the yoke?
Do you yield to the charm which has subjugated such lighter natures as
Villiers and Buckhurst?"

"It is only human to love variety. You have discovered the charm of youth
and innocence."

"Do you think it needs a modish Columbus to discover that? We all worship
innocence, were it but for its rarity, as we esteem a black pearl or a
yellow diamond above a white one. Jarni, but I am pleased to see you here!
It is the most human thing I have known of you since you recovered of the
contagion; for you have been a gloomier man from that time."

"Be assured I am altogether human--at least upon the worser side of
humanity."

"How dismal you look! Upon my soul, Fareham, you should fight against that
melancholic habit. Her ladyship is in the black sulks. We are in for
a pleasant evening. Yet, if we were to go away, she would storm at us
to-morrow; call us sycophants and time-servers, swear she would hold no
further commerce with any manjack among our detestable crew. Well, she is
a magnificent termagant. If Cleopatra was half as handsome, I can forgive
Antony for following her to ruin at Actium."

"There is supper in the music-room, gentlemen," said Lady Castlemaine, who
was standing near the fire in the midst of a knot of whispering women.

They had been abusing the fair Frances, and ridiculing old Rowley, to
gratify their hostess. She knew them by heart--their falsehood and
hollowness. She knew that they were ready, every one of them, to steal her
royal lover, had they but the chance of such a conquest; yet it solaced her
soreness to hear Miss Stewart depreciated even by those false lips--"She
was too tall." "Her Britannia profile looked as if it was cut out of wood."
"She was bold, bad, designing." "It was she who would have the King, not
the King who would have her."

"You are too malicious, my dearest Price," said Lady Castlemaine, with more
good humour than had been seen in her countenance that evening. "Buckhurst,
will you take Mrs. Price to supper? There are cards in the gallery. Pray
amuse yourselves."

"But will your ladyship neither sup nor play?" asked Sedley.

"My ladyship has a raging headache. What devil! Did I not lose enough to
some of you blackguards last night? Do you want to rook me again? Pray
amuse yourselves, friends. No doubt his Majesty is being exquisitely
entertained where he is; but I doubt if he will get as good a supper as you
will find in the next room."

The significant laugh which concluded her speech was too angry for mirth,
and the blackness of her brow forbade questioning. All the town knew next
day that she had contrived to get the royal supper intercepted and carried
off, on its way from the King's kitchen to Miss Stewart's lodgings, and
that his Majesty had a Barmecide feast at the table of beauty. It was a
joke quite in the humour of the age.

The company melted out of the room; all but Fareham, who watched Lady
Castlemaine as she stood by the hearth in an attitude of hopeless
self-forgetfulness, leaning against the lofty sculptured chimney-piece, one
slender foot in gold-embroidered slipper and transparent stocking poised on
the brazen fender, and her proud eyelids lowered as if there was nothing
in this world worth looking at but the pile of ship's timber, burning with
many-coloured flames upon the silver andirons.

In spite of that sullen downward gaze she was conscious of Fareham's
lingering.

"Why do you stay, my lord?" she asked, without looking up. "If your purse
is heavy there are friends of mine yonder who will lighten it for you,
fairly or foully. I have never made up my mind how far a gentleman may be a
rogue with impunity. If you don't love losing money you had best eat a good
supper and begone."

"I thank you, madam. I am more in the mood for cards than for feasting."

She did not answer him, but clasped her hands suddenly before her face and
gave a heart-breaking sigh. Fareham paused on the threshold of the gallery,
watching her, and then went slowly back, bent down to take the hand
that had dropped at her side, and pressed his lips upon it, silently,
respectfully, with a kind of homage that had become strange of late years
to Barbara Palmer. Adorers she had and to spare, toadeaters and flatterers,
a regiment of mercenaries; but these all wanted something of her--kisses,
smiles, influence, money. Disinterested respect was new.

"I thought you were a Puritan, Lord Fareham."

"I am a man; and I know what it is to suffer the hell-fire of jealousy."

"Jealousy, yes! I never was good at hiding my feelings. He treats me
shamefully. Come, now, you take me for an abandoned profligate woman, a
callous wanton. That is what the world takes me for; and, perhaps, I have
deserved no better of the world. But whatever I am 'twas he made me so.
If he had been true, I could have been constant. It is the insolence of
abandonment that stings; the careless slights, scarce conscious that he
wounds. Before the eyes of the world, too, before wretches that grin and
whisper, and prophesy the day when my pride shall be in the dust. It is
treat ment such as this that makes women desperate; and if we cannot keep
him we love, we make believe to love some one else, and flaunt our fancy in
the deceiver's face. Do you think I cared for Buckingham, with his heart
of ice; or for such a snipe as Jermyn; or for a low-born rope-dancer?
No, Fareham; there has been more of rage and hate than of passion in my
caprices. And he is with Frances Stewart to-night. She sets up for a model
of chastity, and is to marry Richmond next month. But we know, Fareham, we
know. Women who ride in glass coaches should not throw stones. I will have
Charles at my feet again. I will have my foot upon his neck again. I cannot
use him too ill for the pain he gives me. There, go--go! Why did you tempt
me to lay my heart bare?"

"Dearest lady, believe me, I respect your candour. My heart bleeds for your
wrongs. So beautiful, so high above all other women in the capacity to
charm! Ah, be sure such loveliness has its responsibilities. It is a gift
from Heaven, and to hold it cheap is a sin."

"There is nothing in this life can be held too cheap. Beauty, love--all
trumpery! You would make life a tragedy. It is a farce, Fareham, a farce;
and all our pleasures and diversions only serve to make us forget what
worms we are. There, go--to cards--to supper--as you please. I am going to
my bed-chamber to rest this throbbing head. I may return and take a hand at
cards by-and-by, perhaps. Those fellows will game and booze till daylight."

Fareham opened the door for her, as she went out, regal in port and air.
She had moved him to compassion, even while she owned herself a wanton. To
love passionately--and to see another preferred! There is a brotherhood in
agony, that brings even opposite natures into sympathy. He passed into the
gallery, a long low room, hung with modern tapestries, richly coloured,
voluptuous in design. Clusters of wax tapers in gilded sconces lit up those
Paphian pictures. There were several tables, at which the mixed company
were sitting. Piles of the new guineas, fresh from his Majesty's Mint,
shone in the candle-light. At some tables there was a silent absorption in
the game, which argued high play, and the true gambler's spirit; at others
mirth reigned--talk, laughter, animated looks. One of the noisiest was the
table at which De Malfort was the most conspicuous figure; his periwig the
highest, his dress the most sumptuous, his breast glittering with orders.
His companions were Sir Ralph Masaroon, Colonel Dangerfield, an old
Malignant, who had hibernated during the Protectorate, and had never left
his own country, and Lady Lucretia Topham, a visiting acquaintance of
Hyacinth's.

"Come here, Fareham," cried De Malfort; "there is plenty of room for you.
I'll wager Lady Lucretia will pass you her hand, and thank you for taking
it."

"Lady Lucretia is glad to be quit of such dishonest company," said the
lady, tossing her cards upon the table, and rising in a cloud of powder and
perfume, and a flutter of lace and brocade. "If I were ill-humoured I would
say you marked the cards! but as I'm the soul of good nature, I'll only
swear you are the luckiest dog in London."

"You are the soul of good nature, and I am the luckiest dog in the universe
when you smile upon me," answered De Malfort, without looking up from his
cards, as the lady posed herself gracefully at the back of his chair,
leaning over his shoulder to watch his play. "I would not limit the area to
any city, however big."

Fareham seated himself in the chair the lady had vacated, and gathered up
the cards she had abandoned. He took a handful of gold from his pocket, and
put it on the table at his elbow, all with a somewhat churlish silence,
that escaped notice where everybody was loquacious. De Malfort went on
fooling with Lady Lucretia, whose lovely hand and arm, her strongest point,
descended upon a card now and then, to indicate the play she deemed wisest.

Once he caught the hand and kissed it in transit.

"Wert thou as wise as this hand is fair it should direct my play; but it is
only a woman's hand, and points the way to perdition."

Fareham had been losing steadily from the moment he took up Lady Lucretia's
cards; and his pile of jacobuses had been gradually passed over to De
Malfort's side of the table. He had emptied his pockets, and had scrawled
two or three I.O.U.'s upon scraps of paper torn from a note-book. Yet he
went on playing, with the same immovable countenance. The room had emptied
itself, the rest of the visitors leaving earlier than their usual hour in
that hospitable house. Perhaps because the hostess was missing; perhaps
because the royal sun was shining elsewhere.

Lackeys handed their salvers of Burgundy and Bordeaux, and the players
refreshed themselves occasionally with a brimmer of clary; but no wine
brightened Fareham's scowling brow, or changed the glooiay intensity of his
outlook.

"My cards have brought your lordship bad luck," said Lady Lucretia, who
watched De Malfort's winnings with an air of personal interest.

"I knew my risk before I took them, madam. When an Englishman plays against
a Frenchman he is a fool if he is not prepared to be rooked."

"Fareham, are you mad?" cried De Malfort, starting to his feet. "To insult
your friend's country, and, by basest implication, your friend."

"I see no friend here. I say that you Frenchmen cheat at cards--on
principle--and are proud of being cheats! I have heard De Gramont brag of
having lured a man to his tent, and fed him, and wined him, and fleeced him
while he was drunk." He took a goblet of claret from the lackey who brought
his salver, emptied it, and went on, hoarse with passion. "To the marrow of
your bones you are false, all of you! You do not cog your dice, perhaps,
but you bubble your friends with finesses, and are as much sharpers at
heart as the lowest tat-mongers in Alsatia. You empty our purses, and
cozen our women with twanging guitars and jingling rhymes, and laugh at us
because we are honest and trust you. Seducers, tricksters, poltroons!"

The footman was at De Malfort's elbow now. He snatched a tankard from the
salver, and flung the contents across the table, straight at Fareham's
face.

"This bully forces me to spoil his Point de Venise," he said coolly, as he
set down the tankard. "There should be a law for chaining up rabid curs
that have run mad without provocation."

Fareham sprang to his feet, black and terrible, but with a savage
exultation in his countenance. The wine poured in a red stream from his
point-lace cravat, but had not touched his face.

"There shall be something redder than Burgundy spilt before we have done!"
he said.

"Sacre nom, nous sommes tombes dans un antre de betes sauvages!" exclaimed
Masaroon, starting up, and anxiously examining the skirts of his brocade
coat, lest that sudden deluge had caught him.

"None of your ---- French to show your fine breeding!" growled the old
cavalier. "Fareham, you deserved the insult; but one red will wash out
another. I'm with your lordship."

"And I'm with De Malfort," said Masaroon. "He had more than enough
provocation."

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, no bloodshed!" cried Lady Lucretia; "or, if you are
going to be uncivil to each other, for God's sake get me to my chair. I
have a husband who would never forgive me if it were said you fought for my
sake."

"We will see you safely disposed of, madam, before we begin our business,"
said Colonel Dangerfield, bluntly. "Fareham, you can take the lady to her
chair, while Masaroon and I discuss particulars."

"There is no need of a discussion," interrupted Fareham, hotly. "We have
nothing to arrange--nothing to wait for. Time, the present; place, the
garden, under these windows; weapons, the swords we wear. We shall have no
witnesses but the moon and stars. It is the dead middle of the night, and
we have the world all to ourselves."

"Give me your rapier, then, that I may compare it with the Count's. You are
satisfied, monsieur? 'Tis you that are the offender, and Lord Fareham has
the choice of weapons."

"Let him choose. I will fight him with cannon--or with soap-bubbles,"
answered De Malfort, lolling back in his chair, tilted at an angle of
forty-five, and drumming a gay dance tune with his finger-tips on the
table. "'Tis a foolish imbroglio from first to last: and only his lordship
and I know how foolish. He came here to provoke a quarrel, and I must
indulge him. Come, Lady Lucretia"--he turned to his fair friend, as he
unbuckled his sword and flung it on the table--"it is my place to lead you
to your chair. Colonel, you and your friend will find me below stairs in
front of the Holbein Gate."

"You are forgetting your winnings," remonstrated the lady, pointing to the
pile of gold.

"The lackeys will not forget them when they clear the room," answered De
Malfort, putting her hand through his arm, and leaving the money on the
table.

Ten minutes later Fareham and De Malfort were standing front to front in
the glare of four torches, held by a brace of her ladyship's lackeys who
had been impressed into the service, and the colder light of a moon that
rode high in the blue-black of a wintry heaven. There was not a sound but
the ripple of the unseen river, and the distant cry of a watchman in Petty
France, till the clash of swords began.

It was decided after a brief parley that the principals only should fight.
The quarrel was private. The seconds placed their men on a piece of level
turf, five paces apart. They were bare-headed, and without coat or vest,
the lace ruffles of their shirt-sleeves rolled back to the elbow, their
naked arms ghastly white, their faces suggesting ghost or devil as the
spectral moonlight or the flame of the flambeaux shone upon them.

"You mean business, so we may sink the parade of the fencing saloon," said
Dangerfield. "Advance, gentlemen."

"A pity," murmured Masaroon, "there is nothing prettier than the salute _à
la Française_."

Dangerfield handed the men their swords. They were nearly similar in
fashion, both flat-grooved blades, with needle points, and no cutting edge,
furnished with shell-guards and cross-bars in the Italian style, and were
about of a length.

The word was given, and the business of engagement proceeded slowly and
warily, for a few moments that seemed minutes; and then the blades were
firmly joined in carte, and a series of rapid feints began, De Malfort
having a slight advantage in the neatness of his circles, and the swiftness
of his wrist play. But in these preliminary lounges and parries, he soon
found he needed all his skill to dodge his opponent's point; for Fareham's
blade followed his own, steadily and strongly, through every turn.

De Malfort had begun the fight with an insolent smile upon his lips, the
smile of a man who believes himself invincible, while Fareham's countenance
never changed from the black anger that had darkened it all that night. It
was a face that meant death. A man who had never been a duellist, who had
raised his voice sternly against the practice of duelling, stood there
intent upon bloodshed. There could be no mistake as to his purpose. The
quarrel was an artificial quarrel--the object was murder.

De Malfort, provoked at the unexpected strength of Fareham's fence,
attempted a partial disarmament, after the deadly Continental method.
Joining his opponent's blade near the point, from a wide circular parry,
he made a rapid thrust in seconde, carrying his forte the entire length of
Fareham's blade, almost wrenching the sword from his grasp; and then, in
the next instant, reaching forward to his fullest stretch, he lunged at his
enemy's breast, aiming at the vital region of the heart; a thrust that must
have proved fatal had not Fareham sprung aside, and so received the blow
where the sword only grazed his ribs, inflicting a flesh-wound that showed
red upon the whiteness of his shirt. Dangerfield tore off his cravat, and
wanted to bind it round his principal's waist; but Fareham repulsed him,
and lashed into hot fury by the Frenchman's uncavalier-like ruse, met
his adversary's thrusts with a deadly purpose, which drove De Malfort to
reckless lunging and riposting, and the play grew fast and fierce, while
the rattle of steel seemed never likely to end. Suddenly, timing his attack
to the fraction of a second, Fareham dropped on his left knee, and planting
his left hand upon the ground, sent a murderous thrust home under De
Malfort's guard, whose blade passed harmlessly over his adversary's head as
he crouched on the sward.

De Malfort fell heavily in the arms of the two seconds, who both sprang to
his assistance.

"Is it fatal?" asked Fareham, standing motionless as stone, while the other
men knelt on either side of De Malfort.

"I'll run for a surgeon," said Masaroon. "There's a fellow I know of this
side the Abbey--mends bloody noses and paints black eyes," and he was off,
running across the grass to the nearest gate.

"It looks plaguily like a coffin," Dangerfield answered, with his hand on
the wounded man's breast. "There's throbbing here yet; but he may bleed to
death, like poor Lindsey, before surgery can help him. You had better run,
Fareham. Take horse to Dover, and get across to Calais or Ostend. You were
devilish provoking. It might go hard with you if he was to die."

"I shall not budge, Dangerfield. Didn't you hear me say I wanted to kill
him? You might guess I didn't care a cast of the dice for my life when I
said as much. Let them find it murder, and hang me. I wanted him out of the
world, and don't care how soon I follow."

"You are mad--stark, staring mad!"

The wounded man raised himself on his elbow, groaning aloud in the agony of
movement, and beckoned Fareham, who knelt down beside him, all of a piece,
like a stone figure.

"Fareham, you had better run; I have powerful friends. There'll be an ugly
stir if I die of this bout. Kiss me, mon ami. I forgive you. I know what
wound rankled; 'twas for your wife's sister you fought--not the cards."

He sank into Dangerfield's arms, swooning from loss of blood, as Masaroon
came back at a run, bringing a surgeon, an elderly man of that Alsatian
class which is to be found out of bed in the small hours. He brought
styptics and bandages, and at once set about staunching the wound.

While this was happening a curtain had been suddenly pulled aside at an
upper window in Lady Castlemaine's lodgings, showing a light within. The
window was thrown open, and a figure appeared, clad in a white satin
night-gown that glistened in the moonlight, with a deep collar of ermine,
from which the handsomest face in London looked across the garden, to the
spot where Fareham, the seconds, and the surgeon were grouped about De
Malfort.

It was Lady Castlemaine. She leant out of the window and called to them.

"What has happened? Is any one hurt? I'll wager a thousand pounds you
devils have been fighting."

"De Malfort is stabbed!" Masaroon answered.

"Not dead?" she shrieked, leaning farther out of the window.

"No; but it looks dangerous."

"Bring him into my house this instant! I'll send my fellows to help. Have
you sent for a surgeon?"

"The surgeon is here."

The radiant figure vanished like a vision in the skies; and in three
minutes a door was heard opening, and a voice calling, "John, William,
Hugh, Peter, every manjack of you. Lazy devils! There's been no time for
you to fall asleep since the company left. Stir yourselves, vermin, and out
with you!"

"We had best levant, Fareham," muttered Dangerfield, and drew away his
principal, who went with him, silent and unresisting, having no more to do
there; not to fly the country, however, but to walk quietly home to Fareham
House, and to let himself in at the garden door, known to the household as
his lordship's.



CHAPTER XVIII.

REVELATIONS.


Lord Fareham stayed in his own house by the Thames, and nobody interfered
with his liberty, though Henri de Malfort lay for nearly a fortnight
between life and death, and it was only in the beginning of December that
he was pronounced out of danger, and was able to be removed from Lady
Castlemaine's luxurious rooms to his own lodgings. Scandal-mongers might
have made much talk of his lying ill in her ladyship's house, and being
tenderly nursed by her, had not Lady Castlemaine outlived the possibility
of slander. It would have been as difficult for her name to acquire any
blacker stain as for a damaged reputation to wash itself white. The secret
of the encounter had been faithfully kept by principals and seconds, De
Malfort behaving with a chivalrous generosity. He appeared, indeed, as
anxious for his antagonist's safety as for his own recovery.

"It was a mistake," he said, when Masaroon pressed him with home questions.
"Every man is mad once in his life. Fareham's madness took an angry turn
against an old friend. Why, we slept under the same blanket in the trenches
before Dunkirk; we rode shoulder to shoulder through the rain of bullets at
Chitillon; and to pick a trumpery quarrel with a brother-in-arms!"

"I wonder the quarrel was not picked earlier," Masaroon answered bluntly.
"Your courtship of the gentleman's wife has been notorious for the last
five years."

"Call it not courtship, Ralph. Lady Fareham and I are old playfellows. We
were reared in the _pays du tendre_, Loveland--the kingdom of innocent
attachments and pure penchants, that country of which Mademoiselle Scudéry
has given us laws and a map. Your vulgar London lover cannot understand
platonics--the affection which is satisfied with a smile or a madrigal.
Fareham knows his wife and me better than to doubt us."

"And yet he acted like a man who was madly jealous. His rudeness at the
card-table was obvious malice afore-thought. He came resolved to quarrel."

"Ay, he came to quarrel--but not about his wife."

Pressed to explain this dubious phrase, De Malfort affected a fit of
languor, and would talk no more.

The town was told that the Comte de Malfort was ill of a quartain fever,
and much was said about his sufferings during the Fronde, his exposure to
damp and cold in the sea-marshes by Dunkirk, his rough fare and hard riding
through the war of the Princes. This fever, which hung about him so long,
was an after-consequence of hardship suffered in his youth--privations
faced with a boyish recklessness, and which he had paid for with an
impaired constitution. Fine ladies in gilded chairs, and vizard-masks in
hackney coaches, called frequently at his lodgings in St. James's Street
to inquire about his progress. Lady Fareham's private messenger was at his
door every morning, and brought a note, or a book, or a piece of new music
from her ladyship, who had been sternly forbidden to visit her old friend
in person.

"You grow every day a gloomier tyrant!" Hyacinth protested, with more
passion in her voice and mien than ever her husband had known. "Why should
I not go to him when he is ill--dangerously ill--dying perhaps? He is my
old, old friend. I remember no joy in life that he did not share. Why
should I not go to him in his sorrow?"

"Because you are my wife, and I forbid you. I cannot understand this
passion. I thought you suffered the company of that empty-headed fop as you
suffered your lap-dogs--the trivial appendage of a fine lady's state. Had
I supposed that there was anything serious in your liking--that you could
think him worth anger or tears--should have ordered your life differently,
and he would have had no place in it."

"Tyrant! tyrant!"

"You astound me, Hyacinth! Would you dispute the favours of a fop with your
young sister?"

"With my sister!" she cried, scornfully.

"Ay, with your sister, whom he has courted assiduously; but with no
honourable motive! I have seen his designs."

"Well, perhaps you are right. He may care for Angela--and think her too
poor to marry."

"He is a traitor and a villain----"

"Oh, what fury! Marry my sister to Sir Denzil, and then she will be safe
from all pursuit! He will bury her alive in Oxfordshire--withdraw her for
ever from this wicked town--like poor Lady Yarborough in Cornwall."

"I will never ask her to marry a man she cannot love."

"Why not? Are not you and I a happy couple? And how much love had we for
each other before we married? Why I scarce knew the colour of your eyes;
and if I had met you in the street, I doubt if I should have recognised
you! And now, after thirteen years of matrimony, we are at our first
quarrel, and that no lasting one. Come, Fareham, be pleasant and yielding.
Let me go and see my old playfellow. I am heartbroken for lack of his
company, for fear of his death."

She hung upon him coaxingly, the bright blue eyes looking up at him--eyes
that had so often been compared to Madame de Longueville's, eyes that had
smiled and beamed in many a song and madrigal by the parlour poets of the
Hôtel de Rambouillet. She was exquisitely pretty in her youthful colouring
of lilies and roses, blue eyes, and pale gold hair, and retained at thirty
almost all the charms and graces of eighteen.

Fareham took her by both hands and held her away from him, severely
scrutinising a face which he had always been able to admire as calmly as if
it had been on canvas.

"You look like an innocent woman," he said, "and I have always believed you
a good woman; and have trusted my honour in your keeping--have seen that
man fawning at your feet, singing and sighing in your ear, and have thought
no evil. But now that you have told me, as plainly as woman can speak to
man, that this is the man you love, and have loved all your life, there
must needs come an end to the sighing and singing. You and Henri de Malfort
must meet no more. Nay, look not such angry scorn. I impute no guilt; but
between innocence and guilt there need be but one passionate hour. The wife
goes out an honest woman, able to look her husband in the face as you
are looking at me; the wanton comes home, and the rest of her life is a
shameful lie. And the husband awakes some day from his dream of domestic
peace to discover that he has been long the laughing-stock of the town.
I will be no such fatuous husband, Hyacinth. I will wait for no second
warning."

Lady Fareham submitted in silence, and with deep resentment. She had never
before experienced a husband's authority sternly exercised. She had been
forbidden the free run of London play-houses, and some of the pleasures of
Court society; but then she had been denied with all kindness, and had been
allowed so many counterbalancing extravagances, pleasures, and follies,
that it would have been difficult for her to think herself ill-used.

She submitted angrily, passionately regretting the man whose presence had
long been the brightest element in her life. Her cheek paled; she grew
indifferent to the amusements which had been her sole occupation; she
sulked in her rooms, equally avoiding her children and their aunt; and,
indeed, seemed to care for no one's society except Mrs. Lewin's. The Court
milliner had business with her ladyship every day, and was regaled with
cakes and liqueurs in her ladyship's dressing-room.

"You must be very busy about new gowns, Hyacinth," her husband said to her
one day at dinner. "I meet the harridan from Covent Garden on the stairs
every morning."

"She is not a harridan, whatever that elegant word may mean. And as for
gowns, it would be wiser for me to order no new ones, since it is but
likely I shall soon have to wear mourning for an old friend."

She looked at her husband, defying him. He rose from the table with a sigh,
and walked out of the room. There was war between them, or at best an armed
neutrality. He looked back, and saw that he had been blind to the things he
should have seen, dull and unobservant where he should have had sense and
understanding.

"I did not care enough for my honour," he thought. "Was it because I cared
too little for my wife? It is indifference, and not love, that is blind."

Angela saw the cloud that overshadowed Fareham House with deepest distress;
and yet felt herself powerless to bring back sunshine. Her sister met her
remonstrances with scorn.

"Do you take the part of a tyrant against your own flesh and blood?" she
asked. "I have been too tame a slave. To keep me away from the Court while
I was young and worth looking at--to deny me amusements and admiration
which are the privilege of every woman of quality--to forbid me the
play-house, and make a country cousin of me by keeping me ignorant of
modern wit. I am ashamed of my compliance."

"Nay, dearest, was it not an evidence of his love that he should desire you
to keep your mind pure as well as your face fair?"

"No, he has never loved me. It is only a churlish jealousy that would shut
me up in a harem like a Turk's wife, and part me from the friend I like
best in the world--with the purest platonic affection."

"Hyacinth, don't be angry with me for being out of the fashion; but indeed
I cannot think it right for a wife to care for the company of any other man
but her husband."

"And my husband is so entertaining! Sure any woman might be content
with such gay company--such flashes of wit--such light raillery!" cried
Hyacinth, scornfully, walking up and down the room, plucking at the
lace upon her sleeves with restless hands, her bosom heaving, her eyes
steel-bright with anger. "Since his sickness last year, he has been the
image of melancholy; he has held himself aloof from me as if _I_ had had
the pestilence. I was content that it should be so. I had my children and
you, and one who loved me better, in his light way, than any of you--and I
could do without Lord Fareham. But now he forbids me to see an old friend
that is dangerously ill, and every drop of blood in my veins boils in
rebellion against his tyranny!"

It was in the early dusk, an hour or so after dinner. Angela sat silent in
the shadow of a bay window, quite as heavy-hearted as her sister--sorry for
Hyacinth, but still sorrier for Hyacinth's husband, yet feeling that there
was treachery and unkindness in making him first in her thoughts. But
surely, surely he deserved a better wife than this! Surely he deserved a
wife's love--this man who stood alone among the men she knew, hating all
evil things, honouring all things good and noble! He had been unkind to
her--cold and cruel--since that fatal night. He had let her understand that
all friendship between them was at an end for ever, and that she had become
despicable in his sight; and she had submitted to be scorned by him, since
it was impossible that she should clear herself. She had made her sisterly
sacrifice for a sister who regarded it very lightly; to whose light fancy
that night and all it involved counted but as a scene in a comedy; and she
could not unmake it. But having so sacrificed his good opinion whose esteem
she valued, she wanted to see some happy result, and to save this splendid
home from shipwreck.

Suddenly, with a passionate impulse, she went to her sister, and put her
arms round her and kissed her.

"Hyacinth, you shall not continue in this folly," she cried, "to fret for
that shallow idler, whose love is lighter than thistledown, whose element
is the ruelle of one of those libertine French duchesses he is ever talking
about. To rebel against the noblest gentleman in England! Oh, sister,
you must know him better than I do; and yet I, who am nothing to him, am
wretched when I see him ill-used. Indeed, Hyacinth, you are acting like a
wicked wife. You should never have wished to see De Malfort again, after
the peril of that night. You should have known that he had no esteem
for you, that he was a traitor--that his design was the wickedest,
cruellest----"

"I don't pretend to know a man's mind as well as you--neither De Malfort's
nor my husband's. You have needed but the experience of a year to make you
wise enough in the world's ways to instruct your elders. I am not going to
be preached to----Hark!" she cried, running to the nearest window, and
looking out at the river, "that is better than your sermons."

It was the sound of fiddles playing the symphony of a song she knew
well--one of De Malfort's, a French chanson, her latest favourite, the
words adapted from a little poem by Voiture, "Pour vos beaux yeux."

She opened the casement, and Angela stood beside her looking down at a boat
in which several muffled figures were seated, and which was moored to the
terrace wall.

There were three violins and a 'cello, and a quartette of singing-boys with
fair young faces smiling in the light of the lamps that hung in front of
Fareham's house.

The evening was still, and mild as early autumn, and the plash of oars
passing up and down the river sounded like a part of the music--

    "Love in her sunny eyes doth basking play,
    Love walks the pleasant mazes of her hair,
    Love does on both her lips for ever stray,
    And sows and reaps a thousand kisses there;
    In all her outward parts love's always seen;
    But, oh, he never went within."

It was a song of Cowley's, which De Malfort had lately set to music, and to
a melody which Hyacinth especially admired.

"A serenade! Only De Malfort could have thought of such a thing. Lying ill
and alone, he sends me the sweetest token of his regard--my favourite air,
his own setting--the last song I ever heard him sing. And you wonder that I
value so pure, so disinterested a love!" protested Hyacinth to her sister,
in the silence at the end of the song.

"Sing again, sweet boys, sing again!" she cried, snatching a purse from her
pocket, and flinging it with impetuous aim into the boat.

It hit one of the fiddlers on the head, and there was a laugh, and in a
trice the largesse was divided and pocketed.

"They are from his Majesty's choir; I know their voices," said Hyacinth,
"so fresh, and pure. They are the prettiest singers in the chapel. That
little monkey with the cherub's voice is Purcell--Dr. Blow's favourite
pupil--and a rare genius."

They sang another song from De Malfort's repertoire, an Italian serenade,
which Hyacinth had heard in the brilliant days before her marriage, when
the Italian Opera was still a new thing in Paris. The melody brought back
the memory of her happy girlhood with a rush of sudden tears.

The little concert lasted for something less than an hour, with intervals
of light music, dances and marches, between the singing. Boats passed and
repassed. Strange voices joined in a refrain now and then, and the sisters
stood at the open window enthralled by the charm of the music and the
scene. London lay in ruins yonder to the east, and Sir Matthew Hale and
other judges were sitting at Clifford's Inn to decide questions of title
and boundary, and the obligation to rebuild; but here in this western
London there were long ranges of lighted windows shining through the wintry
mists, wherries passing up and down with lanterns at their prows, an air of
life and gaiety hanging over that river which had carried so many a noble
victim to his doom yonder, where the four towers stood black against the
starlit greyness, unscathed by fire, and untouched by time.

The last notes of a good-night song dwindled and died, to the accompaniment
of dipping oars, as the boat moved slowly along the tideway, and lost
itself among other boats--jovial cits going eastward, from an afternoon at
the King's theatre, modish gallants voyaging westward from play-house or
tavern, some going home to domesticity, others intent upon pleasure and
intrigue, as the darkness came down, and the hour for supper and deeper
drinking drew near. And who would have thought, watching the lighted
windows of palace and tavern, hearing those joyous sounds of glee or catch
trolled by voices that reeked of wine--who would have thought of the
dead-cart, and the unnumbered dead lying in the pest pits yonder, or the
city in ruins, or the King enslaved to a foreign power, and pledged to a
hated Church? London, gay, splendid, and prosperous, the queen-city of the
world as she seemed to those who loved her--could rise glorious from the
ashes of a fire unparalleled in modern history, and to Charles and Wren it
might be given to realise a boast which in Augustus had been little more
than an imperial phrase.



CHAPTER XIX.

DIDO.


The armed neutrality between man and wife continued, and the domestic sky
at Fareham House was dark and depressing. Lady Fareham, who had hitherto
been remarkable for a girlish amiability of speech which went well with her
girlish beauty, became now the height of the mode for acidity and slander.
The worst of the evil speakers on her ladyship's visiting-day flavoured the
China tea with no bitterer allusions than those that fell from the rosy
lips of the hostess. And, for the colouring of those lips, which once owed
their vermeil tint only to nature, Lady Fareham was now dependent upon Mrs.
Lewin, as well as for the carnation of cheeks that looked pallid and sunken
in the glass which reflected the sad mourning face.

Mrs. Lewin brought roses and lilies in her queer little china pots and
powder boxes, pencils and brushes, perfumes and washes without number. It
cost as much to keep a complexion as to keep a horse. And Mrs. Lewin was
infinitely useful at this juncture, since she called every day at St.
James's Street, to carry a lace cravat, or a ribbon, or a flask of essence
to the invalid languishing in lodgings there, and visited by all the town,
except Fareham and his wife. De Malfort had lain for a fortnight at Lady
Castlemaine's house, alternately petted and neglected by his fair hostess,
as the fit took her, since she showed herself ever of the chameleon breed,
and hovered betwixt angel and devil. His surgeon told him in confidence
that when once his wound was healed enough to allow his removal, the sooner
he quitted that feverish company the better it would be for his chance of a
speedy convalescence. So, at the end of the second week, he was moved in
a covered litter to his own lodgings, where his faithful valet, who had
followed his fortunes since he came to man's estate, was quite capable of
nursing him.

The town soon discovered the breach between Lord Fareham and his friend--a
breach commented upon with many shoulder-shrugs, and not a few coarse
innuendoes. Lady Lucretia Topham insisted upon making her way to the sick
man's room, in the teeth of messages delivered by his valet, which, even to
a less intelligent mind than Lady Lucretia's, might have conveyed the fact
that she was not wanted. She flung herself on her knees by De Malfort's
bed, and wept and raved at the brutality which had deprived the world of
his charming company--and herself of the only man she had ever loved. De
Malfort, fevered and vexed at her intrusion, and at this renewal of fires
long burnt out, had yet discretion enough to threaten her with his dire
displeasure if she betrayed the secret of his illness.

"I have sworn Dangerfield and Masaroon to silence," he said. "Except
servants, who have been paid to keep mute, you are the only other witness
of our quarrel; and if the story becomes town talk, I shall know whose busy
tongue set it going--and then--well, there are things I might tell that
your ladyship would hardly like the world to know."

"Traitor! If your purse has accommodated me once in a way when luck has
been adverse----"

"Oh, madam, you cannot think me base enough to blab of a money transaction
with a lady. There are secrets more tender--more romantic."

"Those secrets can be easily denied, wretch. However, I know you would not
injure me with a husband so odious and tyrannical that I stood excused in
advance for inconstancy when I stooped to wed country manners and stubborn
ignorance. Indeed, mon ami, if you will but take pains to recover, I will
never breathe a word about the duel; but if--if--" a sob indicated the
tragic possibility which Lady Lucretia dared not put into words--"I will do
all that a weak woman can do to get Fareham hanged for murder. There has
never been a peer hanged in England, I believe. He should be the first."

"Dear soul, there need be no hanging! I have been on the mending hand for a
week, or my doctors would not have let you upstairs. There, go, my pretty
Lucrèce; but if your milliner or your shoemaker is pressing, there are a
few jacobuses in the right-hand drawer of yonder escritoire, and you may
as well take them as leave them for my valet to steal. He is one of those
excellent old servants who make no distinctions, and he robs me as freely
as he robbed my father before me."

"Mrs. Lewin is always pressing," sighed Lady Lucretia. "She made me a gown
like that of Lady Fareham's, for which you were all eyes. I ordered
the brocade to please you; and now I am wearing it when you are not at
Whitehall. Well, as you are so kind, I will be your debtor for another
trifling loan. It is wicked to leave money where it tempts a good servant
to dishonesty. Ah, Henri"--she was pocketing the gold as she talked--"if
ten years of my life could save you ten days of pain and fever, how gladly
would I give them to you!"

"Ah, douce, if there were a market for the exchange of such commodities,
what a roaring trade would be done there! I never loved a woman yet but she
offered me her life, or an instalment of it."

"I have emptied your drawer," laughing coyly. "There is just enough to keep
Lewin in good humour till you are well again, and we can be partners at
basset."

"It will be very long before I play basset in London."

"Oh, but indeed you will soon be well."

"Well enough to change the scene, I hope. It needs change of places and
persons to make life bearable. I long to be at the Louvre again, to see a
play by Molière's company, as only they can act, instead of the loathsome
translations we get here, in which all that there is of wit and charm in
the original is transmuted to coarseness and vulgarity. When I leave this
bed, Lucrèce, it will be for Paris."

"Why, it will be ages before you are strong enough for such a journey."

"Oh, I will risk that. I hate London so badly, that to escape from it will
work a miraculous cure for me."

       *       *       *       *       *

An armed neutrality! Even the children felt the change in the atmosphere of
home, and nestled closer to their aunt, who never changed to them.

"Father mostly looks angry," Henriette complained, "and mother is always
unhappy, if she is not laughing and talking in the midst of company; and
neither of them ever seems to want me. I wish I was grown up, so that I
could be maid of honour to the Queen or the Duchess, and live at Whitehall.
Mademoiselle told me that there is always life and pleasure at Court."

"Your father does not love the Court, dearest, and mademoiselle should be
wiser than to talk to you of such things, when she is here to teach you
dancing and French literature."

"Mademoiselle" was a governess lately imported from Paris, recommended by
Mademoiselle Scudéry, and full of high-flown ideas expressed in high-flown
language. All Paris had laughed at Molière's _Precieuses Ridicules_; but
the Précieuses themselves, and their friends, protested that the popular
farce was aimed only at the low-born imitators of those great ladies who
had originated the school of superfine culture and romantic aspirations.

"Sapho" herself, in tracing her own portrait with a careful and elaborate
pencil, told the world how shamefully she had been imitated by the spurious
middle-class Saphos, who set up their salons, and vied with the sacred
house of Rambouillet, and the privileged coterie of the Rue de Temple.

Lady Fareham had not ceased to believe in her dear, plain, witty Scudéry,
and was delighted to secure a governess of her choosing, whereby Papillon,
who loved freedom and idleness, and hated lessons of all kinds, was set
down to write themes upon chivalry, politeness, benevolence, pride, war,
and other abstractions; or to fill in bouts-rimés, by way of enlarging her
acquaintance with the French language, which she had chattered freely all
her life. Mademoiselle insisted upon all the niceties of phraseology as
discussed in the Rue Saint Thomas du Louvre.

There had been a change of late in Fareham's manner to his sister-in-law,
a change refreshing to her troubled spirit as mercy, that gentle dew from
heaven, to the criminal. He had been kinder; and though he spent very few
of his hours with the women of his household, he had talked to Angela
somewhat in the friendly tone of those fondly remembered days at Chilton,
when he had taught her to row and ride, to manage a spirited palfrey and
fly a falcon, and had been in all things her mentor and friend. He seemed
less oppressed with gloom as time went on, but had his sullen fits still,
and, after being kind and courteous to wife and sister, and playful with
his children, would leave them suddenly, and return no more to the saloon
or drawing-room that evening. Yet on the whole the sky was lightening. He
ignored Hyacinth's resentment, endured her pettishness, and was studiously
polite to her.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was on Lady Fareham's visiting-day, deep in that very severe winter,
that some news was told her which came like a thunder-clap, and which it
needed all the weak soul's power of self-repression to suffer without
swooning or hysterics.

Lady Sarah Tewkesbury, gorgeous in velvet and fur, her thickly painted
countenance framed in a furred hood, entered fussily upon a little coterie
in which Masaroon, vapouring about the last performance at the King's
theatre, was the principal figure.

"There was a little woman spoke the epilogue," he said, "a little creature
in a monstrous big hat, as large and as round as a cart-wheel, which vastly
amused his Majesty."

"The hat?"

"Nay, it was woman and hat. The thing is so small it might have been
scarce noticed without the hat, but it has a pretty little, insignificant,
crumpled face, and laughs all over its face till it has no eyes, and then
stops laughing suddenly, and the eyes shine out, twinkling and dancing like
stars reflected in running water, and it stamps its little foot upon the
stage in a comic passion--and--_nous verrons_. It sold oranges in the pit,
folks tell me, a year ago. It may be selling sinecures and captaincies in a
year or two, and putting another shilling in the pound upon land."

"Is it that brazen little comedy actress you are talking of, Masaroon?"
Lady Sarah asked, when she had exchanged curtsies with the ladies of the
company, and established herself on the most comfortable tabouret, near
Lady Fareham's tea-table; "Mrs. Glyn--Wynn--Gwyn? I wonder a man of wit can
notice such a vulgar creature, a she-jack-pudden, fit only to please the
rabble in the gallery."

"Ay, but there is a finer sort of rabble--a rabble of quality--beginning
with his Majesty, that are always pleased with anything new. And this
little creature is as fresh as a spring morning. To see her laugh, to hear
the ring of it, clear and sweet as a skylark's song! On my life, madam, the
town has a new toy; and Mrs. Gwyn will be the rage in high quarters. You
should have seen Castlemaine's scowl when Rowley laughed, and ducked under
the box almost, in an ecstasy of amusement at the huge hat."

"Lady Castlemaine's brow would thunder-cloud if his Majesty looked at a fly
on a window-pane. But she has something else to provoke her frowns to-day."

"What is that, chère dame?" asked Hyacinth, snatching a favourite fan from
Sir Ralph, who was teasing one of the Blenheims with African feathers that
were almost priceless.

"The desertion of an old friend. The Comte de Malfort has left England."

Lady Fareham turned livid under her rouge. Angela ran to her and leant
over her, upon a pretence of rescuing the fan and chiding the dogs; and so
contrived to screen her sister's change of complexion from the malignity of
her dearest friends.

"Left England! Why, he is confined to his bed with a fever!" Hyacinth said
faintly, when she had somewhat recovered from the shock.

"Nay, it seems that he began to go abroad last week, but would see no
company, except a confidential friend or so. He left London this morning
for Dover."

"No doubt he has business in Burgundy, where his estate is, and at Paris,
where he is of importance at the Court," said Hyacinth, as lightly as she
could; "but I'll wager anything anybody likes that he will be in London
again in a month."

"I'll take you for those black pearls in your ears, ma mie," said Lady
Sarah. "His furniture is to be sold by auction next week. I saw a bill on
the house this afternoon. It is sudden! Perhaps the Castlemaine had become
too exacting!"

"Castlemaine!" faltered Hyacinth, agitated beyond her power of
self-control. "Why, what is she to him more than she is to other men?"

"Very little, perhaps," said Sir Ralph, and then everybody laughed, and
Hyacinth felt herself sitting among them like a child, understanding
nothing of their smiles and shrugs, the malice in their sly interchange of
glances.

She sat among them feeling as if her heart were turned to stone. He had
left the country without even bidding her farewell--her faithful slave,
upon whose devotion she counted as surely as upon the rising of the sun.
Whatever her husband might do to separate her from this friend of her
girlhood, she had feared no defection upon De Malfort's part. He would
always be near at hand, waiting and watching for the happier days that were
to smile upon their innocent loves. She had written to him every day during
his illness. Good Mrs. Lewin had taken the letters to him, and had brought
her his replies. He had not written so often, or at such length, as she,
and had pleaded the languor of convalescence as his excuse; but all his
billets-doux had been in the same delicious hyperbole, the language of
the Pays du Tendre. She sat silent while her visitors talked about him,
plucking a reputation as mercilessly as a kitchen wench plucks a fowl. He
was gone. He had left the country deep in debt. It was his landlord who
had stuck up that notice of a sale by auction. Tailors and shoemakers,
perruquiers and perfumers were bewailing his flight.

So much for the sordid side of things. But what of those numerous affairs
of the heart--those entanglements which had made his life one long
intrigue?

Lady Sarah sat simpering and nodding as Masaroon whispered close in her
ear.

Barbara? Oh, that was almost as old as the story of Antony and Cleopatra.
She had paid his debts--and he had paid hers. Their purse had been in
common. And the handsome maid of honour? Ah, poor silly soul! That was a
horrid, ugly business, and his Majesty's part in it the horridest. And Mrs.
Levington, the rich silk mercer's wife? That was a serious attachment. It
was said that the husband attempted poison, when De Malfort refused him the
satisfaction of a gentleman. And the poor woman was sent to die of _ennui_
and rheumatism in a castle among the Irish bogs, where her citizen husband
had set up as a landed squire.

The fine company discussed all these foul stories with gusto, insinuating
much more than they expressed in words. Never until to-day had they spoken
so freely of De Malfort in Lady Fareham's presence; but the story had got
about of a breach between Hyacinth and her admirer, and it was supposed
that any abuse of the defaulter would be pleasant in her ears. And then,
he was ruined and gone; and there is no vulture's feast sweeter than to
banquet upon a departed rival's character.

Hyacinth listened in dull silence, as if her sensations were suddenly
benumbed. She felt nothing but a horrible surprise. Her lover--her platonic
lover--that other half of her mind and heart--with whom she had been in
such tender sympathy, in unison of spirit, so subtle that the same thoughts
sprang up simultaneously in the minds of each, the same language leapt to
their lips, and they laughed to find their words alike. It had been only a
shallow woman's shallow love--but trivial woes are tragedies for trivial
minds; and when her guests had gradually melted away, dispersing themselves
with reciprocal curtsies and airy compliments, elegant in their modish
iniquity as a troop of vicious fairies--Hyacinth stood on the hearth where
they had left her, a statue of despair.

Angela went to her, when the stately double doors had closed on the last
of the gossips and lackeys, and they two were alone amidst the spacious
splendour. The younger sister hugged the elder to her breast, and kissed
her, and cried over her, like a mother comforting her disappointed child.

"Don't heed that shameful talk, dearest. No character is safe with them. Be
sure Monsieur de Malfort is not the reprobate they would make him. You have
known him nearly all your life. You know him too well to judge him by the
idle talk of the town."

"No, no; I have never known him. He has always worn a mask. He is as false
as Satan. Don't talk to me--don't kiss me, child. You have smeared my face
horribly with your kisses and tears. Your pity drives me mad. How can you
understand these things--you who have never loved any one? What can you
know of what women feel? There, silly fool! you are trembling as if I had
hit you," as Angela withdrew her arms suddenly, and stood aloof. "I have
been a virtuous wife, sister, in a town where scarce one woman in ten is
true to her marriage vows. I have never sinned against my husband; but I
have never loved him. Henri had my heart before I knew what the word, love
meant; and in all these years we have loved each other with the purest,
noblest affection--at least he made me believe my love was reciprocated.
We have enjoyed a most exquisite communion of thought and feeling. His
letters--you shall read his letters some day--so noble, so brilliant--all
poetry, and chivalry, and wit. I lived upon his letters when fate parted
us. And when he followed us to England, I thought it was for my sake that
he came--only for me. And to hear that he was her lover--hers--that woman!
To know that he came to me--with sweetest words upon his lips--knelt to
kiss the tips of my fingers--as if it were a privilege to die for--from
her arms, from her caresses--the wickedest woman in England--and the
loveliest!"

"Dear Hyacinth, it was a childish dream--and you have awakened! You will
live to be glad of being recalled from falsehood to truth. Your husband is
worth fifty De Malforts, did you but know it. Oh, dearest, give him your
heart who ought to be its only master. Indeed he is worthy. He stands
apart--an honourable, nobly thinking man in a world that is full of
libertines. Be sure he deserves your love."

"Don't preach to me, child! If you could give me a sleeping-draught
that would blot out memory for ever--make me forget my childhood in the
Marais--my youth at St. Germain--the dances at the Louvre--all the days
when I was happiest: why, then, perhaps, you might make me in love with
Lord Fareham."

"You will begin a new life, sister, now De Malfort is gone."

"I will never forgive him for going!" cried Hyacinth, passionately.
"Never--never! To give me no note of warning! To sneak away like a thief
who had stolen my diamonds! To fly for debt, too, and not come to me for
money! Why have I a fortune, if not to help those I love? But--if he was
that woman's lover--I will never see his face again--never speak his
name--never--from the moment I am convinced of that hellish treason--never!
Her lover! Lady Castlemaine's! We have laughed at her, together! Her lover!
And there were other women those spiteful wretches talked about just now--a
tradesman's wife! Oh, how hateful, how hateful it all is! Angela, if it is
true, I shall go mad!"

"Dearest, to you he was but a friend--and though you may be sorry he was so
great a sinner, his sins cannot concern your happiness----"

"What! not to know him a profligate? The man to whom I gave a chaste
woman's love! Angela, that night, in the ruined abbey, I let him kiss me.
Yes, for one moment I was in his arms--and his lips were on mine. And he
had kissed her--the same night perhaps. Her tainted kisses were on his
lips. And it was you who saved me! Dear sister, I owe you more than life--I
might have given myself to everlasting shame that night. God knows! I was
in his power--her lover--judging all women, perhaps, by his knowledge of
that----"

The epithet which closed the sentence was not a word for a woman's lips;
but it was wrung from the soreness of a woman's wounded heart.

Hyacinth flung herself distractedly into her sister's arms.

"You saved me!" she cried, hysterically. "He wanted me to go to Dover with
him--back to France--where we were so happy. He knelt to me, and I refused
him; but he prayed me again and again; and if you had not come to rescue
me, should I have gone on saying no? God knows if my courage would have
held out. There were tears in his eyes. He swore that he had never loved
any one upon this earth as he loved me. Hypocrite! Deceiver--liar! He loved
that woman! Twenty times handsomer than ever I was--a hundred times more
wicked. It is the wicked women that are best loved, Angela, remember that.
Oh, bless you for coming to save me! You saved Fareham's life in the plague
year. You saved me from everlasting misery. You are our guardian angel!"

"Ah, dearest, if love could guard you, I might deserve that name----"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was late in the same evening that Lady Fareham's maid came to her
bed-chamber to inquire if she would be pleased to see Mrs. Lewin, who had
brought a pattern of a new French bodice, with her humble apologies for
waiting on her ladyship so late.

Her ladyship would see Mrs. Lewin. She started up from the sofa where she
had been lying, her forehead bound with a handkerchief steeped in Hungary
water. She was all excitement.

"Bring her here instantly!" she said, and the interval necessary to conduct
the milliner up the grand staircase and along the gallery seemed an age to
Hyacinth's impatience.

"Well? Have you a letter for me?" she asked, when her woman had retired,
and Mrs. Lewin had bustled and curtsied across the room.

"In truly, my lady; and I have to ask your ladyship's pardon for not
bringing it early this morning, when his honour gave it to me with his own
hand out of 'his travelling carriage. And very white and wasted he looked,
dear gentleman, not fit for a voyage to France in this severe weather. And
I was to carry you his letter immediately; but, eh, gud! your ladyship,
there was never such a business as mine for surprises. I was putting on my
cloak to step out with your ladyship's letter, when a coach, with a footman
in the royal undress livery, sets down at my door, and one of the Duchess's
women had come to fetch me to her Highness; and there I was kept in her
Highness's chamber half the morning, disputing over a paduasoy for the
Shrove Tuesday masquerade--for her Highness gets somewhat bulky, and is
not easy to dress to her advantage or to my credit--though she is a beauty
compared with the Queen, who still hankers after her hideous Portuguese
fashions----"

"And employs your rival, Madame Marifleur----"

"Marifleur! If your ladyship knew the creature as well as I do, you'd call
her Sally Cramp."

"I never can remember a low English name. Marifleur seems to promise all
that there is of the most graceful and airy in a ruffled sleeve and a
ribbon shoulder-knot."

"I am glad to see your ladyship is in such good spirits," said the
milliner, wondering at Lady Fareham's flushed cheeks and brilliant eyes.

They were brilliant with a somewhat glassy brightness, and there was a
touch of hysteria in her manner. Mrs. Lewin thought she had been drinking.
Many of her customers ended that way--took to cognac and ratafia, when
choicer pleasures were exhausted and wrinkles began to show through their
paint.

Hyacinth was reading De Malfort's letter as she talked, moving about the
room a little, and then stopping in front of the fireplace, where the light
from two clusters of wax candles shone down upon the finely written page.

Mrs. Lewin watched her for a few minutes, and then produced some pieces of
silk out of her muff.

"I made so bold as to bring your ladyship some patterns of Italian silks
which only came to hand this morning," she said. "There is a cherry-red
that would become your ladyship to the T."

"Make me a gown of it, my excellent Lewin--and good night to you."

"But sure your ladyship will look at the colour? There is a pattern of
amber with gold thread might please you better. Lady Castlemaine has
ordered a Court mantua----"

Lady Fareham rang her hand-bell with a vehemence that suggested anger.

"Show Mrs. Lewin to her coach," she said shortly, when her woman appeared.
"When you have done that you may go to bed; I want nothing more to-night."

"Mrs. Kirkland has been asking to see your ladyship."

"I will see no one to-night. Tell Mrs. Kirkland so, with my love."

She ran to the door when the maid and milliner were gone, and locked it,
and then ran back to the fireplace, and flung herself down upon the rug to
read her letter.

"Chérie, when this is handed to you, I shall be sitting in my coach on the
dull Dover road, with frost-clouded windows and a heart heavier than your
leaden skies. Loveliest of women, all things must end; and, despite your
childlike trust in man's virtue, you could scarce hope for eternity to a
bond that was too strong for friendship and too weak for love. Dearest, had
you given yourself that claim upon love and honour which we have talked of,
and which you have ever refused, no lesser power than death should have
parted us. I would have dared all, conquered all, for my dear mistress.
But you would not. It was not for lack of fervid prayers that the statue
remained a statue; but a man cannot go on worshipping a statue for ever. If
the Holy Mother did not sometimes vouchsafe a sign of human feeling, even
good Catholics would have left off kneeling to her image.

"Or, shall I say, rather, that the child remains a child--fresh, and pure,
and innocent, and candid, as in the days when we played our _jeu de volant_
in your grandmother's garden--fit emblem of the light love of our future
years. You remained a child, Hyacinth, and asked childish love-making from
a man. Dearest, accept a cruel truth from a man of the world--it is only
the love you call guilty that lasts. There is a stimulus in sin and mystery
that will fan the flame of passion and keep love alive even for an inferior
object. The ugly women know this, and make lax morals a substitute for
beauty. An innocent intrigue, a butterfly affection like ours, will seldom
outlive the butterfly's brief day. Indeed, I sometimes admire at myself as
a marvel of constancy for having kept faith so long with a mistress who has
rewarded me so sparingly.

"So, my angel, I am leaving your foggy island, my cramped London lodgings,
and extortionate London tradesmen, on whom I have squandered so much of my
fortune that they ought to forgive me for leaving a margin of debt, which I
hope to pay the extortioners hereafter for the honour of my name. I doubt
if I shall ever revisit England. I have tasted all London pleasures, till
familiarity has taken the taste out of them; and though Paris may be only
London with a difference, that difference includes bluer skies, brighter
streets and gardens, and all the originals of which you have here the
copies. There, at least, I shall have the fashion of my peruke and my
speech at first hand. Here you only adopt a mode when Paris begins to tire
of it.

"Farewell, then, dearest lady, but let it be no tragical or eternal
parting, since your fine house in the Rue de Touraine will doubtless be
honoured with your presence some day. You have only to open a salon there
in order to be the top of the mode. Some really patrician milieu is needed
to replace the antique court of the dear old Marquise, and to extinguish
the Scudéry, whose Saturdays grow more vulgar every week. Yes, you will
come to Paris, bringing that human lily, Mrs. Angela, in your train; and I
promise to make you the fashion before your house has been open a month.
The wits and Court favourites will go where I bid them. And though your
dearest friend, Madame de Longueville, has retired from the world in
which she was more queenly than the Queen, you will find Mademoiselle de
Montpensier as faithful as ever to mundane pleasures, and, after having
refused kings and princes, slavishly devoted to a colonel of dragoons who
does not care a straw for her.

"Louise de Bourbon, a woman who can head a revolt and fire a cannon, would
think no sacrifice too great for a cold-hearted schemer like Lauzun--yet
you who swore you loved me, when the coach was waiting that would have
carried me to paradise, and made us one for all this life, could suffer a
foolish girl to separate us in the very moment of triumphant union. You
were mine, Hyacinth; heart and mind were consenting, when your convent-bred
sister surprised us, and all my hopes of bliss expired in a sermon. And now
I can but say, with that witty rhymester, whom everybody in London quotes--

    'Love in your heart as idly burns,
    As fire in antique Roman urns.'

"Good-bye, which means 'God be with you.' I know not if the fear of Him was
in your mind when you sacrificed your lover to that icy abstraction women
call virtue. The Romans had but one virtue, which meant the courage that
dares; and to me the highest type of woman would be one whose bold spirit
dared and defied the world for love's sake. These are the women history
remembers, and whom the men who live after them worship. Cleopatra,
Mary Stuart, Diana of Poictiers, Marguerite de Valois, la Chevreuse, la
Montbazon! Think you that these became famous by keeping their lovers at a
distance?

"'Go, lovely rose!'

"How often I have sung those lines, and you have listened, and nothing
has come of it; except time wasted, smiles, sighs, and tears, that ever
promised, and ever denied. Beauty, too choice to be kind, adieu!

"DE MALFORT."

When she had read these last words, she crushed the letter in her palm,
clenching her fingers over it till the nails wounded the delicate flesh;
and then she opened her hand, and employed herself in smoothing out the
crumpled paper, as if her life depended on making the letter readable
again. But her pains could not undo what her passion had done; and finding
this, she tossed the ragged paper into the flames, and began to walk about
the room in a distracted fashion, giving a little hysterical cry every now
and then, and clasping her hands upon her forehead.

Anger, humiliation, wounded love, wounded vanity, disappointment,
disillusion, were all in that cry, and in the passionate beating of her
heart, her stifled breath, her clenched hands.

"He was laughing when he wrote that letter--I am sure he was laughing.
There was not one serious moment, not one pang at leaving me! He has been
laughing at me ever since he came to London. I have been his fool, his
amusement. Other women have had his love, the guilty love that he praises!
He has come to me straight from their wicked houses, their feasting, and
riot, and drunkenness--has come and pretended to love poetry, and Scudéry's
romances, and music, and innocent conversation--come to rest himself after
dissolute pleasures, bringing me the leavings of that hellish company! And
I have reviled such women, and he has pretended an equal horror of them;
and he was their slave all the time, and went from me to them, and made a
jest of me for their amusement I know his biting raillery. And he was at
the play-house day after day, where I could not go, sitting side by
side with his Jezebels, laughing at filthy comedies, and at me that was
forbidden to appear there. He had pleasures of which I knew nothing; and
when I fancied our inmost souls moved in harmony, his thoughts were full of
wanton women and their wanton jests, and he smiled at my childishness, and
fooled me as children are fooled."

The thought was distraction. She plucked out handfuls of her pale gold
hair, the pretty blonde hair which had been almost as famous in Paris as
Beaufort's or Madame de Longueville's yellow locks. The thought of De
Malfort's ridicule cut her like a whalebone whip. She had fancied herself
his Beatrice, his Laura, his Stella--a being to be worshipped as reverently
as the stars, to make her lover happy with smiles and kindly words, to
stand for ever a little way off, like a goddess in her temple, yet near
enough to be adored.

And fondly believing this to be her mission, having posed for the
character, and filled it to her own fancy, she found that she had only
been a dissolute man's dupe all the time; and no doubt had been the
laughing-stock of her acquaintance, who looked at the game.

"And I was so proud of his devotion--I carried my slave everywhere with me.
Oh, fool, fool, fool!"

And then--the poor little brains being disordered by passionate
regrets--wickedest ideas ran riot in the confusion of a mind not wide
enough to hold life's large passions. She began to be sorry that she was
not like those other women--to hate the modesty that had lost her a lover.

To be like Barbara Castlemaine! That was woman's only royalty. To rule with
sovereign power over the hearts and senses of men. A King for her lover,
constant in inconstancy, always going back to her from every transient
fancy--her property, her chattel; and the foremost wits and dandies of the
age for her servants, her Court of adorers, whom she ruled with frowns
or smiles, as her humour prompted. To be daring, profuse, reckless,
tyrannical; to suffer no control of heaven or men--yes, that was, indeed,
to be a Queen! And compared with such empire, the poor authority of the
Précieuse, dictating the choice of adjectives, condemning pronouns,
theorising upon feelings and passions of which in practice she knows
nothing, was a thing for scornfullest laughter.



CHAPTER XX.

PHILASTER.


January was nearly over, the memorial service for the martyred King was
drawing near, and royalty and fashion had deserted Whitehall for Hampton
Court; yet the Farehams lingered at their riverside mansion. His lordship
had business in London, while Sir Denzil Warner, who came to Fareham House
daily, was also detained in the city by some special attraction, which made
hawk and hound, and even his worthy mother's company, indifferent to him.

Lady Fareham had an air of caring for neither town nor country, but on the
whole preferred town.

"London has become a positive desert--and the smoke from the smouldering
ruins poisons the garden and terrace whenever there is an east wind," she
complained. "But Oxfordshire would be a worse desert--and I believe I
should die of the spleen in a week, if I trusted myself in that great
rambling Abbey. I can just suffer life in London; so I suppose I had best
stay till his lordship has finished his business, about which he is so
secret and mysterious."

Denzil was more devoted, more solicitous to please than ever; and had a
better chance of pleasing now that most of her ladyship's fine visitors
had left town. He read aloud to Hyacinth and her sister as they worked--or
pretended to work--at their embroidery frames. He played the organ, and
sang duets with Angela. He walked with her on the terrace, in the cold,
bleak afternoon, and told her the news of the town--not the scandals and
trivialities which alone interested Lady Fareham, but the graver facts
connected with the state and the public welfare--the prospects of war or
peace, the outlook towards France and Spain, Holland and Sweden, Andrew
Marvel's last speech, or the last grant to the King, who might be relied
on to oppose no popular measure when his lieges were about to provide a
handsome subsidy or an increase of his revenue.

"We are winning our liberties from him," Denzil said.

"For the mess of pottage we give, the money he squanders on libertine
pleasures, England is buying freedom. Yet why, in the name of common sense,
maintain this phantom King, this Court which shocks and outrages every
decent Englishman's sense of right, and maintains an ever-widening hotbed
of corruption, so that habits and extravagances once unknown beyond that
focus of all vice, are now spreading as fast as London; and wherever there
are bricks and mortar there are profligacy and irreligion? Can you wonder
that all the best and wisest in this city regret Cromwell's iron rule, the
rule of the strongest, and deplore that so bold a stroke for liberty should
have ended in such foolish subservience to a King of whom we knew nothing
when we begged him to come and reign over us?"

"But if you win liberty while he is King, if wise laws are established--"

"Yes; but we might have been noble as well as free. There is something so
petty in our resumed bondage. Figure to yourself a thoroughbred horse that
had kicked off the traces, and stood free upon the open plain with arched
neck and lifted nostrils, sniffing the morning air! and behold he creeps
back to his harness, and makes himself again a slave! We had done with
the Stuarts, at the cost of a tragedy, and in ten years we call them back
again, and put on the old shackles; and for common sense, religion, and
freedom, we have the orgies of Whitehall, and the extravagance of Lady
Castlemaine. It will not last, Angela; it cannot last. I was with his
lordship in Artillery Row last night, and we talked with the blind sage who
would sacrifice the remnant of his darkened days in the cause of liberty."

"Sir Denzil, I hope you are not plotting mischief--you and my brother,"
Angela said anxiously. "You are so often together; and his lordship has
such a preoccupied air."

"No, no, there is no conspiring; but there is plenty of discontent. It
would need but little to fire the train. Can any man in his senses be happy
when he sees his country, which ten years ago was at the pinnacle of
power and renown, sinking to the appanage of a foreign sovereign; England
threatened with a return to Rome; honest men forbidden to preach the
gospel; and innocent seekers after truth hounded off to gaol, to rot
among malefactors, because they have dared to worship God after their own
fashion?"

"Where was your liberty of conscience under the Protectorate, when the
Liturgy was forbidden as if it were an unholy thing, when the Anglican
priests were turned out of their pulpits, and the Anglican service
tolerated in only one church in all this vast London?" Angela asked
indignantly.

"That was a revolt of deep thinkers against a service which has all the
mechanical artifice of Romanism without its strong appeal to the heart and
the senses--dry, empty, rigid--a repetition of vain phrases. If I am ever
to bow my neck beneath the Church's yoke, let me swallow the warm-blooded
errors of Papacy rather than the heartless formalism of English
Episcopacy."

"But what can you or Fareham--or a few good men like you--do to change
established things? Remember Venner's plot, and how many lives were wasted
on that foolish, futile attempt. You can only hazard your lives, die on the
scaffold. Or would you like to see civil war again; the nation divided into
opposite camps; Englishmen fighting with Englishmen? Can you forget that
dreadful last year of the Rebellion? I was only a little child; but it is
branded deep on my memory. Can you forget the murder of the King? He was
murdered; let Mr. Milton defend the deed as he can with his riches of big
words. I have wept over the royal martyr's own account of his sufferings."

"Over Dr. Gauden's account, that is to say. 'Eikon Basilike' was no more
written by Charles than by Cromwell. It was a doctored composition--a
churchman's spurious history, trumped up by Charles's friends and
partisans, possibly with the approval of the King himself. It is a fine
piece of special pleading in a bad cause."

"You make me hate you when you talk so slightingly of that so ill-used
King. You will make me hate you more if you lead Fareham into danger by
underhand work against the present King."

"Lies Fareham's safety so very near your heart?"

"It lies in my heart," she answered, looking at him, and defying him with
straight, clear gaze. "Is he not my sister's husband, and to me as a
brother? Do you expect me to be careless about his fate? I know you are
leading him into danger. Some mischief must come of these visits to Mr.
Milton, a Republican outlaw, who has escaped the penalty of his treasonous
pamphlets only because he is blind and old and poor. I doubt there is
danger in all such conferences. Fareham is at heart a Republican. It would
need little persuasion to make him a traitor to the King."

"You have it in your power to make me so much your slave, that I would
sacrifice every patriotic aspiration at your bidding, Angela," Denzil
answered gravely.

"I know not if this be the time to speak, or if, after waiting more than a
year, I may not even now be premature. Dearest girl, you know that I love
you--that I haunt this house only because you live here; that I am in
London only because my star shines there; that above all public interests
you rule my life. I have exercised a prodigious patience, only because I
have a prodigious resolution. Is it not time for me to reap my reward?"

"Oh, Denzil, you fill me with sorrow! Have I not said everything to
discourage you?"

"And have I not refused to be discouraged? Angela, I am resolved to
discover the reason of your coldness. Was there ever a young and lovely
woman who shut love out of her heart? History has no record of such an
one. I am of an appropriate age, of good birth and good means, not
under-educated, not brutish, or of repulsive face and figure. If your heart
is free I ought to be able to win it. If you will not favour my suit, it
must be because there is some one else, some one who came before me, or who
has crossed my path, and to whom your heart has been secretly given."

She had turned from red to pale as he spoke. She stood before him in the
winter light, with her colour changing, her hands tightly clasped, her eyes
cast down, and tears trembling on the long dark lashes.

"You have no right to question me. It is enough for you to have my honest
answer. I esteem you, but I do not love you; and it distresses me when you
talk of love."

"There is some one else, then! I knew it. There is some one else. For me
you are marble. You are fire for him. He is in your heart. You have said
it."

"How dare you----" she began.

"Why should I shrink from warning you of your danger? It is Fareham you
love. I have seen you tremble at his touch--start at the sound of his
footstep--that step you know so well. His footstep? Why, the very air he
breathes carries to you the consciousness of his approach. Oh, I have
watched you both, Angela; and I know, I know. Jealous pangs have racked me,
day after day; yet I have hung on. I have been very patient. 'She knows not
the sinful impulses of her own heart,' I said, 'knows not in her purity how
near she goes to a fall. Here, in her sister's house, passionately loved by
her sister's husband! She calls him 'brother,' whose eyes cannot look at
her without telling their story of wicked love. She walks on the edge of
a precipice--self-deceived. Were I to abandon her she might fall. My
affection is her only safeguard; and by winning her to myself I shall
snatch her from the pit of hell.'"

It was the truth he was telling her. Yes; even when Fareham was harshest,
she had been dimly conscious that love was at the root of his unkindness.
The coldness that had held them apart since that midnight meeting had been
ice over fire. It was jealousy that had made him so angry. No word of love,
directly spoken, had ever offended her ear; but there had been many a
speech of double meaning that had set her wondering and thinking.

And, oh! the guilt of it, when an honourable man like Denzil set her sin
before her, in plain language. She stood aghast at her own wickedness. That
which had been a sin of thought only, a secret sorrow, wrestled with in
many an hour of heartfelt prayer, with all the labour of a soul that sought
heavenly aid against earthly temptation, was conjured into hideous reality
by Denzil's plain speech. To love her sister's husband, to suffer his
guilty love, to know gladness only in his company, to be exquisitely happy
were he but in the same room with her--to sink to profoundest melancholy
when he was absent. Oh, the sin of it! In what degree did her guilt differ
from that of the women of the Court, who had each her open secret in some
base intrigue that all the world knew and laughed at? She had been kept
aloof from that libertine crew; but was she any better than they? Was
Fareham, who openly scorned the royal debauchee, was he any better than the
King?

She remembered how he had talked of Lord Sandwich, making excuses for a
perverted love. She had heard him speak of other offenders in the same
strain. He had been ever ready to recognise fatality where a good Catholic
would have perceived only sin.

"Angela, believe me, you are drifting helmless in perilous waters," Denzil
urged, while she stood beside him in mute distress. "Let me be your strong
rock. Only give me the promise of your hand. I can be patient still. I will
give time for love to grow. Grant me but the right to guard you from the
danger of an unholy passion that is always near you in this house."

"You pretend to be his lordship's friend, and you speak slander of him."

"I am his friend. I could find it in my heart to pity him for loving you.
Indeed, it has been in friendship that I have tried to interest him in a
great national question--to wean him from his darling sin. But were you my
wife he should never cross our threshold. The day that made us one should
make you and Fareham strangers. It is for you to choose, Angela, between
two men who love you--one near your own age, free, God-fearing; the other
nearly old enough to be your father, bound by the tie which your Church
deems indissoluble, whose love is insult and pollution, and can but end in
shame and despair. It is for you to choose between honest and dishonest
love."

"There is a nobler choice open to me," she said, more calmly than she had
yet spoken, and with a pale dignity in her countenance that awed him. A
thrill of admiration and fear ran along his nerves as he looked at her. She
seemed transfigured. "There is a higher and better love," she said. "This
is not the first time that I have considered a sure way out of all
my difficulties. I can go back to the convent where, in my dear Aunt
Anastasia, I saw so splendid an example of a holy life hidden from the
world."

"Life buried in a living grave!" cried Denzil, horror-stricken at the idea
of such a sacrifice. "Free-will and reason obscured in a cloud of incense!
All the great uses of a noble life brought down to petty observances and
childish mummeries, prayers and genuflections before waxen relics and
dressed-up madonnas. Oh, my dearest girl, next worst only to the dominion
of sin is the slavery of a false religion. I would have thee free as
air--free and enlightened--released from the trammels of Rome, happy in
thyself and useful to thy fellow-creatures."

"You see, Sir Denzil, even if we loved each other, we could never think
alike," Angela said, with a gentle sadness. "Our minds would always dwell
far apart. Things that are dear and sacred to me are hateful to you."

"If you love me I could win you to my way of thinking," he said.

"You mean that if I loved you I should love you better than I love God?"

"Not so, dear. But you would open your mind to the truth. St. Paul
sanctified union between Christian and pagan, and deemed the unbelieving
wife sanctified by the believing husband. There can be no sin, therefore,
despite my poor mother's violent opinions, in the union of those who
worship the same God, and whose creed differs only in particulars. 'How
knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?' Indeed, love, I
doubt not my power to wean you from the errors of your early education."

"Cannot you see how wide apart we are? Every word you say widens the gulf
betwixt us. Indeed, Sir Denzil, you had best remain my friend. You can be
nothing else."

She turned from him almost impatiently. Young, handsome, of a frank and
generous nature, he yet lacked the gifts that charm women; or at least this
one woman was cold to him. It might be that in his own nature there was a
coldness, a something wanting, the fire we miss in that great poet of the
age, whose verse could rise to themes transcendent, but never burnt with
the white heat of human passion.

Papillon came flying along the terrace, her skirts and waving tresses
spread wide in the wind, a welcome intruder.

"What are you and Sir Denzil doing in the cold? I have news for my dear,
dearest auntie. My lord is in a good humour, and _Philaster_ is to be acted
by the Duke's servants, and her ladyship's footmen are keeping places for
us in the boxes. I have only seen three plays in my life, and they were all
sad ones. I wish _Philaster_ was a comedy. I should like to see _Love in a
Tub_. That must be full of drollery. But his honour likes only grave plays.
Be brisk, auntie! The coach will be at the door directly. Come and put on
your hood. His lordship says we need no masks. I should have loved to wear
a mask. Are you coming to the play, Sir Denzil?"

"I know not if I am bidden, or if there be a place for me."

"Why, you can stand with the fops in the pit, and you can buy us some China
oranges. I heard Lady Sarah tell my mother that the new little actress with
the pretty feet was once an orange-girl, who lived with Lord Buckhurst.
Why did he have an orange-girl to live with him? He must be vastly fond of
oranges. I should love to sell oranges in the pit, if I could be an actress
afterwards. I would rather be an actress than a duchess. Mademoiselle
taught me Chiméne's tirades in Corneille's _Cid_. I learn quicker than any
pupil she ever had. Monsieur de Malfort once said I was a born actress,"
pursued Papillon, as they walked to the house.

_Philaster!_ That story of unhappy love--so pure, patient, melancholy,
disinterested. How often Angela had hung over the page, in the solitude of
her own chamber! And to hear the lines spoken to-day, when a tempest of
emotion had been raised in her breast, with Fareham by her side; to meet
his glances at this or that moment of the play, when the devoted girl was
revealing the secret of her passionate heart. Yet never was love freer from
taint of sin, and the end of the play was in no wise tragic. That pure
affection was encouraged and sanctified by the happy bride. Bellario was
not to be banished, but sheltered.

Alas! yes; but this was love unreturned. There was no answering warmth on
Philaster's part, no fire of passion to scathe and destroy; only a gentle
gratitude for the girl's devotion--a brother's, not a lover's regard.

She found Fareham and her sister in the hall, ready to step into the coach.

"I saw the name of your favourite play on the posts as I walked home," he
said; "and as Hyacinth is always teasing me for denying her the play-house,
I thought this was a good opportunity for pleasing you both."

"You would have pleased me more if you had offered me the chance of seeing
a new comedy," his wife retorted, pettishly.

"Ah, dearest, let us not resume an old quarrel. The play-wrights of
Elizabeth's age were poets and gentlemen. The men who write for us are
blackguards and empty-headed fops. We have novelty, which is all most of us
want, a hundred new plays in a year, of which scarce one will be remembered
after the year is out."

"Who wants to remember? The highest merit in a play is that it should be a
reflection of to-day; and who minds if it be stale to-morrow? To hold the
mirror up to nature, doesn't your Shakespeare say? And what more transient
than the image in a glass? A comedy should be like one's hat or one's gown,
the top of the mode to-day, and cast off and forgotten, in a week."

"That is what our fine gentlemen think; who are satisfied if their wit gets
three days' acceptance, and some substantial compliment from the patron to
whom they dedicate their trash."

His lordship's liveries and four grey horses made a stir in Lincoln's Inn
Fields, and startled the crowd at the doors of the New Theatre; and within
the house Lady Fareham and her sister divided the attention of the pit
with their royal highnesses the Duke and Duchess, who no longer amused
or scandalised the audience by those honeymoon coquetries which had
distinguished their earlier appearances in public. Duchess Anne was growing
stout, and fast losing her beauty, and Duke James was imitating his
brother's infidelities, after his own stealthy fashion; so it may be that
Clarendon's daughter was no more happy than her sister-in-law the Queen,
nor than her father the Chancellor, over whom the shadows of royal
disfavour were darkening.

Lady Fareham lolled languidly back in her box, and let all the audience see
her indifference to Fletcher's poetic dialogue. Angela sat motionless, her
hands clasped in her lap, entranced by that romantic story, and the acting
which gave life and reality to that poetic fable, as well it might when the
incomparable Betterton played Philaster. Fareham stood beside his wife,
looking down at the stage, and sometimes, as Angela looked up, their eyes
met in one swift flash of responsive thought; met and glanced away, as if
each knew the peril of such meetings--

    "If it be love
    To forget all respect of his own friends
    In thinking on your face."

Was it by chance that Fareham sighed as those lines were spoken? And
again--

    "If, when he goes to rest (which will not be),
    'Twixt every prayer he says he names you once."

And again, was it chance that brought that swift, half-angry, questioning
look upon her from those severe eyes in the midst of Philaster's tirade?--

    "How heaven is in your eyes, but in your hearts
    More hell than hell has; how your tongues, like scorpions,
    Both heal and poison; how your thoughts are woven
    With thousand changes in one subtle web,
    And worn so by you. How that foolish man
    That reads the story of a woman's face,
    And dies believing it is lost for ever."

It was Angela whose eyes unconsciously sought his when that passage
occurred which had written itself upon her heart long ago at Chilton when
she first read the play--

    "Alas, my lord, my life is not a thing
    Worthy your noble thoughts; 'tis not a life,
    'Tis but a piece of childhood thrown away."

What was her poor life worth--so lonely even in her sister's house--so
desolate when his eyes looked not upon her in kindness? After having lived
for two brief summers and winters in his cherished company, having learnt
to know what a proud, honourable man was like, his disdain of vice, his
indifference to Court favour, his aspirations for liberty; after having
known him, and loved him with silent and secret love, what better could she
do than bury herself within convent walls, and spend the rest of her days
in praying for those she loved? Alas, he had such need that some faithful
soul should soar heavenward in supplication for him who had himself so weak
a hold upon the skies! Alas, to think of him as unbelieving, putting his
trust in the opinions of infidels like Hobbes and Spinoza, rather than
leaning on that Rock of Ages the Church of St. Peter.

If she could not live for him--if it were a sin even to dwell under the
same roof with him--she could at least die for him--die to the world of
pleasure and folly, of beauty and splendour, die to friendship and love;
sink all individuality under the monastic rule; cease to be, except as
a part in a great organisation, an atom acting and acted upon by higher
powers; surrendering every desire and every hope that distinguished her
from the multitude of women vowed to a holy life.

    "Never, sir, will I
    Marry; it is a thing within my vow."

The voice of the actress sounded silver-clear as Bellario spoke her last
speech, finishing her story of a love which can submit to take the lower
place, and asks but little of fate.

    "It is a thing within my vow."

The line repeated itself in Angela's mind as Denzil met them at the door,
and handed her into the coach.

Should she prove of weaker stuff than the sad Eufrasia, and accept a
husband she did not love? This humdrum modern age allowed of no romance.
She could not stain her face with walnut juice, and disguise herself as
a footboy, and live unknown in his service, to wait upon him when he was
weary, to nurse him when he was sick. Such a life she would have deemed
exquisitely happy; but the hard everyday world had no room for such
dreams. In this unromantic age Dion's daughter would be recognised within
twenty-four hours of her putting on male attire. The golden days of poetry
were dead. Una would find no lion to fawn at her feet. She would be mobbed
in the Strand.

"Oh, that it could have been!" thought Angela, as the coach jolted and
rumbled through the narrow ways, and shaved awkward corners with its
ponderous wheels, and got its horses entangled with other noble teams, to
the provocation of much ill-language from postillions, and flunkeys, and
linkmen, for it was dark when they came out of the theatre, and a thick
mist was rising from the river, and flambeaux were flaring up and down the
dim narrow thoroughfares.

"They light the streets better in Paris," complained Hyacinth. "In the Rue
de Touraine we had a lamp to every house."

"I like to see the links moving up and down," said Papillon; "'tis ever so
much prettier than lanterns that stand still--like that one at the corner."

She pointed to a small round lamp that made a bubble of light in an abyss
of gloom.

"Here the lamps stink more than they light," said Hyacinth. "How the coach
rocks--those blockheads will end by upsetting it. I should have been twice
as well in my chair."

Angela sat in her place, lost in thought, and hardly conscious of the
jolting coach, or of Papillon's prattle, who would not be satisfied till
she had dragged her aunt into the conversation.

"Did you not love the play, and would you not love to be a princess like
Arethusa, and to wear such a necklace? Mother's diamonds are not half as
big."

"Pshaw, child, 'twas absolute glass--arrant trumpery."

"But her gown was not trumpery. It was Lady Castlemaine's last birthday
gown. I heard a lady telling her friend about it in the seat next mine.
Lady Castlemaine gave it to the actress; and it cost three hundred
pounds--and Lady Castlemaine is all that there is of the most extravagant,
the lady said, and old Rowley has to pay her debts--(who is old Rowley, and
why does he pay people's debts?)--though she is the most unscrupulous--I
forget the word--in London."

"You see, madam, what a good school the play-house is for your child," said
Fareham grimly.

"I never asked you to take our child there."

"Nay, Hyacinth; but a mother should enter no scene unfit for her daughter's
innocence."

"Oh, my lord, your opinions are of the Protectorate. You would be better in
New England--tilling your fields reclaimed from the waste."

"Yes, I might be better there, reclaimed from the waste--of London life.
Strange that your talk should hit upon New England. I was thinking of that
New World not an hour ago at the play--thinking what a happy innocent life
a man might lead there, were he but young and free, with one he loved."

"Innocent, yes; happy, no; unless he were a savage or a peasant," Hyacinth
exclaimed disdainfully. "We that have known the grace and beauty of life
cannot go back to the habits of our ancestors, to eat without forks, and
cover our floors with rushes instead of Persian carpets."

"The beauty and grace of life--houses that are whited sepulchres, banquets
where there is no love."

The coach stopped before the tall Italian doorway, and Fareham handed out
his wife and sister in silence; but there was one of the party to whom it
was unnatural to be mute.

Papillon sprang off the coach step into her father's arms.

"Sweetheart, why are you so sad?" she asked. "You look more unhappy than
Philaster when he thought his lady loved him not."

She would not be put off, but hung about him all the length of the
corridor, to the door of his room, where he parted from her with a kiss on
her forehead.

"How your lips burn!" she cried. "I hope you are not sickening for the
plague. I dreamt last night that the contagion had come back; and that our
new glass coach was going about with a bell collecting the dead."

"Thou hadst eaten too much supper, sweet. Such dreams are warnings against
excess of pies and jellies. Go, love; I have business."

"You have always business now. You used to let me stay with you--even when
you was busy," Henriette remonstrated, dejectedly, as the sonorous oak door
closed against her.

Fareham flung himself into his chair in front of the large table, with
its heaped-up books and litter of papers. Straight before him there lay
Milton's pamphlet--a publication of ten years ago; but he had been reading
it only that morning--"The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce."

There were sentences which seemed to him to stand out upon the page, almost
as if written in fire; and to these he recurred again and again, brooding
over and weighing every word. "....Neither can this law be of force to
engage a blameless creature to his own perpetual sorrow, mistaken for his
expected solace, without suffering charity to step in and do a confessed
good work of parting those whom nothing holds together but this of God's
joining, falsely supposed against the express end of his own ordinance....
'It is not good,' said He, 'that man should be alone; I will make him a
helpmeet for him.' From which words, so plain, less cannot be concluded,
nor is by any learned interpreter, than that in God's intention a meet and
happy conversation is the chiefest and noblest end of marriage.... Again,
where the mind is unsatisfied, the solitariness of man, which God had
namely and principally ordered to prevent by marriage, hath no remedy, but
lies in a worse condition than the loneliest single life; for in single
life the absence and remoteness of a helper might inure him to expect his
own comforts out of himself, or to seek with hope; but here the continual
sight of his deluded thoughts, without cure, must needs be to him, if
especially his complexion incline him to melancholy, a daily trouble and
pain of loss, in some degree like that which reprobates feel."

He closed the book, and started up to pace the long, lofty room, full of
shadow, betwixt the light of the fire and that one pair of candles on his
reading desk.

"Reprobate! Yes. Am not I a reprobate, and the worst, plotting against
innocence? New England," he repeated to himself. "How much the name
promises. A new world, a new life, and old fetters struck off. God, if it
could be done! It would hurt no one--no one--except perhaps those children,
who might suffer a brief sorrow--and it would make two lives happy that
must be blighted else. Two lives! Am I so sure of her? Yes, if eyes speak
true. Sure as of my own fond passion. The contagion, quotha! I have
suffered that, sweet, and know its icy sweats and parching heats; but
'tis not so fierce a fever as that devilish disease, the longing for your
company."



CHAPTER XXI.

GOOD-BYE, LONDON.


Sitting in her own room before supper, a letter was brought to Angela--a
long letter, closely written, in a neat, firm hand she knew very well.

It was from Denzil Warner; a letter full of earnest thought and warm
feeling, in which he pursued the subject of their morning's discourse.

"We were interrupted before I had time to open my heart to you, dearest,"
he wrote; "and at a moment when we had touched on the most delicate
point in our friendship--the difference in our religious education and
observance. Oh, my beloved, let not difference in particulars divide two
hearts that worship the same God, or make a barrier between two minds that
think alike upon essentials. The Christ who died for you is not less my
Saviour because I love not to obtrude the dressed-up image of His earthly
mother between His Godhead and my prayers. In the regeneration of baptism,
in the sanctity of marriage, in the resurrection of the body, and the
life of the world to come, in the reality of sin and the necessity for
repentance, I believe as truly as any Papist living. Let our lives be but
once united, who knows how the future may shape and modify our minds and
our faith? I may be brought to your way of thinking, or you to mine. I will
pledge myself never to be guilty of disrespect to your religion, or to
unkindly urge you to any change in your observances. I am not one of those
who have exchanged one tyranny for another, and who, released from the
dominion of Rome, have become the slave of the Covenant. I have been taught
by one who, himself deeply religious, would have all men free to worship
God by the light of their own conscience; and to my wife, that dearer half
of my soul, I would allow perfect freedom. I suffer from the lack of poetic
phrases with which to embellish the plain reality of my love; but be sure,
Angela, that you may travel far through the world, and receive many a
flowery compliment to your beauty, yet meet none who will love you as
faithfully as I have loved you for this year last past, and as I doubt I
shall love you--happy or unfortunate in my wooing--for all the rest of my
life. Think, dearest, whether it were not wise on your part to accept the
chaste and respectful homage of a suitor who is free to love and cherish
you, and thus to shield yourself from the sinful pursuit of one who offends
Heaven and dishonours you whenever he looks at you with the eyes of a
lover. I would not write harshly of a man whose very sin I pity, and whom
I believe not wholly vile; but for him, as for me, that were a happy day
which should make you my wife, and thus end the madness of unholy hopes. I
would again urge that Lady Fareham desires our union with all a sister's
concern for you, and more than a friend's tenderness to me.

"I beseech your pardon and indulgence for my rough words of this morning.
God forbid that I should impute one unworthy thought to her whose virtues I
honour above all earthly merit. If your heart inclines towards one whom it
were misery for you to love, I know that it must be with an affection pure
and ethereal as the love of the disguised girl in Fletcher's play. But, ah,
dearest angel, you know not the peril in which you walk. Your innocent mind
cannot conceive the audacious height to which unholy love may climb in a
man's fiery nature. You cannot fathom the black depths of such a character
as Fareham--a man as capable of greatness in evil as of distinction in
good. Forget not whose fierce blood runs in those veins. Can you doubt his
audacity in wrong-doing, when you remember that he comes of the same stock
which produced that renegade and tyrant, Thomas Wentworth--a man who would
have waded deep in the blood of a nation to reach his desired goal, all the
history of whose life was expressed by him in one word--'thorough'?

"Do you consider what that word means to a man over whose heart sin has
taken the upper hand? Thorough! How resolute in evil, how undaunted and
without limit in baseness, is he who takes that word for his motto! Oh, my
love, there are dragons and lions about thy innocent footsteps--the dragons
of lust, the lions of presumptuous love. Flee from thy worst enemy,
dearest, to the shelter of a heart which adores thee; lean upon a breast
whose pulses beat for thee with a truth that time cannot change.

"Thine till death,

"WARNER."

Angela tore up the letter in anger. How dared he write thus of Lord
Fareham? To impute sinful passions, guilty desires--to enter into another
man's mind, and read the secret cipher of his thoughts and wishes with
an assumed key, which might be false? His letter was a bundle of false
assumptions. What right had he to insist that her brother-in-law cared for
her with more than the affection authorised by affinity? He had no right.
She hated him for his insolent letter. She scorned the protection of his
love. She had her refuge and her shelter in a holier love than his. The
doors of the old home would open to her at a word.

She sat on a low stool in front of the hearth, while the pile of ship
timber on the andirons burnt itself out and turned from red to grey. She
sat looking into the dying fire and recalling the pictures of the past;
the dull grey convent rooms and formal convent garden; the petty rules and
restrictions; the so-frequent functions--low mass and high, benedictions,
vespers--the recurrent sound of the chapel bell. The few dull books,
permitted in the hour of so-called recreation; the sombre grey gown,
which was the only relief from perpetual black; the limitations of
that colourless life. She had been happy with the Ursulines under her
kinswoman's gentle sway. But could she be happy with the present Superior,
whose domineering temper she knew? She had been happy in her ignorance of
the outer world; but could she be happy again in that grey seclusion--she
who had sat at the banquet of life, who had seen the beauty and the variety
of her native land? To be an exile for the rest of her days, in the
hopeless gloom of a Flemish convent, among the heavy faces of Flemish nuns!

In the intensity of introspective thought she had forgotten one who had
forbidden that gloomy seclusion, and to whom it would be as natural for
her to look for protection and refuge as to convent or husband. From her
thoughts to-night the image of her wandering father had been absent. His
appearances in her life had been so rare and so brief, his influence on her
destiny so slight, that she was forgetful of him now in this crisis of her
fate.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was within a week of that evening that the sisters were startled by the
arrival of their father, unannounced, in the dusk of the winter afternoon.
He had come by slow stages from Spain, riding the greater part of the
journey--like Howell, fifty years earlier--attended only by one faithful
soldier-servant, and enduring no small suffering, and running no slight
risk, upon the road.

"The wolves had our provender on more than one occasion," he told them.
"The wonder is they never had us or our hackneys. I left Madrid in July,
not long after the death of my poor friend Fanshawe. Indeed, it was his
friendship and his good lady's unvarying courtesy that took me to the
capital. We had last met at Hampton Court, with the King, shortly before
his Majesty's so ill-advised flight; and we were bosom-friends then. And
so, he being dead of a fever early in the summer, I had no more to do but
to travel slowly homeward, to end my days in my own chimney-corner, and to
claim thy promise, Angela, that thou wouldst keep my house, and comfort my
declining years."

"Dear father!" Angela murmured, hanging over him as he sat in the
high-backed velvet chair by the fire, while her ladyship's footmen set
a table near him, with wine and provisions for an impromptu meal, Lady
Fareham directing them, and coming between-whiles to embrace her father in
a flutter of spirits, the firelight shining on her flame-coloured velvet
gown and primrose taffety petticoat, her pretty golden curls and sparkling
Sévigné, her ruby necklace and earrings, and her bright restless eyes.

While the elder sister was all movement and agitation, the younger stood
calm and still beside her father's chair, her hands clasped in his, her
thoughtful eyes looking down at him as he talked, stopping now and then in
his story of adventures to eat and drink.

He looked much older than when he surprised her in the Convent garden. His
hair and beard, then iron grey, were now silver white. He wore his own
hair, which was abundant, and a beard cut after the fashion she knew in the
portraits of Henri Quatre. His clothes also were of that style, which lived
now only in the paintings of Vandyke and his school.

"How the girl looks at me!" Sir John said, surprising his daughter's
earnest gaze. "Does she take me for a ghost?"

"Indeed, sir, she may well fancy you have come back from the other world
while you wear that antique suit," said Hyacinth. "I hope your first
business to-morrow will be to replenish your wardrobe by the assistance
of Lord Rochester's tailor. He is a German, and has the best cut for a
justau-corps in all the West End. Fareham is shabby enough to make a wife
ashamed of him; but his clothes are only too plain for his condition. Your
Spanish cloak and steeple hat are fitter for a travelling quack doctor than
for a gentleman of quality, and your doublet and vest might have come out
of the ark."

"If I change them, it will be but to humour your vanity, sweetheart,"
answered her father. "I bought the suit in Paris three years ago, and
I swore I would cast them back upon the snip's hands if he gave me any
new-fangled finery. But a riding-suit that has crossed the Pyrenees and
stood a winter's wear at Montpelier--where I have been living since
October--can scarce do credit to a fine lady's saloon; and thou art finest,
I'll wager, Hyacinth, where all are fine."

"You would not say that if you had seen Lady Castlemaine's rooms. I would
wager that her gold and silver tapestry cost more than the contents of my
house."

"Thou shouldst not envy sin in high places, Hyacinth."

"Envy! I envy a----"

"Nay, love, no bad names! 'Tis a sorry pass England has come to when the
most conspicuous personage at her Court is the King's mistress. I was with
Queen Henrietta at Paris, who received me mighty kindly, and bewailed with
me over the contrast betwixt her never-to-be-forgotten husband and his
sons. They have nothing of their father, she told me, neither in person nor
in mind. 'I know not whence their folly comes to them!' she cried. It would
have been uncivil to remind her that her own father, hero as he was, had
set no saintly example to royal husbands; and that it is possible our
princes take more of their character from their grandfather Henry than from
the martyr Charles. Poor lady, I am told she left London deep in debt,
after squandering her noble income of these latter years, and that she has
sunk in the esteem of the French court by her alliance with Jermyn."

"I can but wonder that she, above all women, should ever cease to be a
widow."

"She comes of a light-minded race and nation, Angela; and it is easy to her
to forget; or she would not easily forget that so-adoring husband whose
fortunes she ruined. His most fatal errors came from his subservience to
her. When I saw her in her new splendour at Somerset House, all smiles and
gaiety, with youth and beauty revived in the sunshine of restored fortune,
I could but remember all he was, in dignity and manly affection, proud and
pure as King Arthur in the old romance, and all she cost him by womanish
tyrannies and prejudices, and difficult commands laid upon him at a
juncture of so exceeding difficulty."

The sisters listened in respectful silence. The old cavalier cut a fresh
slice of chine, sighed, and continued his sermon.

"I doubt that while we, the lookers on, remember, they, the actors, forget;
for could the son of such a noble victim wallow in a profligate court,
surrender himself to the devilish necromancies of vicious women and viler
men, if he remembered his father's character, and his father's death? No;
memory must be a blank, and we, who suffered with our royal master, are
fools to prate of ingratitude or neglect, since the son who can forget such
a father may well forget his father's servants and friends. But we will not
talk of public matters in the first hour of our greeting. Nor need I prate
of the King, since I have not come back to England to clap a periwig over
my grey hairs, and play waiter upon Court favour, and wear out the back
of my coat against the tapestry at Whitehall, standing in the rear of the
crowd, to have my toes trampled upon by the sharp heels of Court ladies,
and an elbow in my stomach more often than not. I am come, like Wolsey,
girls, to lay my old bones among you. Art thou ready, Angela? Hast thou
had enough of London, and play-houses, and parks; and wilt thou share thy
father's solitude in Buckinghamshire?"

"With all my heart, sir."

"What! never a sigh for London pleasures? Thou hast the great lady's air
and carriage in that brave blue taffety. The nun I knew three years ago has
vanished. Can you so lightly renounce the splendour of this house, and your
sister's company, to make a prosing old father happy?"

"Indeed, sir, I am ready to go with you."

"How she says that--with what a countenance of woeful resignation! But I
will not make the Manor Moat too severe a prison, dearest. You shall visit
London, and your sister, when you will. There shall be a coach and a team
of stout roadsters to pull it when they are not wanted for the plough. And
the Vale of Aylesbury is but a long day's journey from London, while 'tis
no more than a morning's ride to Chilton."

"I could not bear for her to be long away from me," said Hyacinth. "She is
the only companion I have in the world."

"Except your husband."

"Husbands such as mine are poor company. Fareham has a moody brow, and a
mind stuffed with public matters. He dines with Clarendon one day, and with
Albemarle another; or he goes to Deptford to grumble with Mr. Evelyn; or he
creeps away to some obscure quarter of the town to hob-nob with Milton,
and with Marvel, the member for Hull. I doubt they are all of one mind in
abusing his Majesty, and conspiring against him. If I lose my sister I
shall have no one."

"What, no one; when you have Henriette, who even three years ago had
shrewdness enough to keep an old grandfather amused with her impertinent
prattle?"

"Grandfathers are easily amused by children they see as seldom as you have
seen Papillon. To have her about you all day, with her everlasting chatter,
and questions, and remarks, and opinions (a brat of twelve with opinions),
would soon give you the vapours."

"I am not so subject to vapours as you, child. Let me look at you, now the
candles are lighted."

The footmen had lighted clusters of wax candles on either side the tall
chimney-piece.

Sir John drew his elder daughter to the light, and scrutinised her face
with a father's privilege of uncompromising survey.

"You paint thick enough, i' conscience' name, though not quite so thick as
the Spanish señoras. They are browner than you, and need a heavier hand
with white and red. But you are haggard under all your red. You are not the
woman I left in '65."

"I am near two years older than the woman you left; and as for paint, there
is not a woman over twenty in London who uses as little red and white as I
do."

"What has become of Fareham to-night?" Sir John asked presently, when
Hyacinth had picked up her favourite spaniel to nurse and fondle, while
Angela had resumed her occupation at an embroidery frame, and a reposeful
air as of a long-established domesticity had fallen upon the scene.

"He is at Chilton. When he is not plotting he rushes off to Oxfordshire
for the hunting and shooting. He loves buglehorns and yelping curs,
and huntsmen's cracked voices, far before the company of ladies or the
conversation of wits."

"A man was never meant to sit in a velvet chair and talk fine. It is all
one for a French Abbé and a few old women in men's clothing to sit round
the room and chop logic with a learned spinster like Mademoiselle Scudéry;
but men must live _sub Jove_, unless they are statesmen or clerks. They
must have horses and hounds, gun and spaniel, hawk or rod. I am glad
Fareham loves sport. And as for that talk of conspiring, let me not hear it
from thee, Hyacinth. 'Tis a perilous discourse to but hint at treason;
and your husband is a loyal gentleman who loves, and"--with a wry
face--"reveres--his King."

"Oh, I was only jesting. But, indeed, a man who so disparages the things
other people love must needs be a rebel at heart. Did you hear of Monsieur
de Malfort while you were at Paris?"

The inquiry was made with that over-acted carelessness which betrays hidden
pain; but the soldier's senses had been blunted by the rough-and-tumble of
an adventurer's life, and he was not on the alert for shades of feeling.

Angela accepted her father's return, with the new duties it imposed upon
her, as if it had been a decree of Heaven. She put aside all consideration
of that refuge which would have meant so complete a renunciation and
farewell. On her knees that night, in the midst of fervent prayers, her
tears streamed fast at the thought that, secure in the shelter of her
father's love, in the peaceful solitude of her native valley, she could
look to a far-off future when she and Fareham might meet with out fear of
sin, when no cloud of passion should darken his brotherly affection for
her; when his heart, now estranged from holy things, would have returned to
the faith of his ancestors, reconciled to God and the Church. She could but
think of him now as a fallen angel--a wanderer who had strayed far from the
only light and guide of human life, and was thus a mark for the tempter.
What lesser power than Satan's could have so turned good to evil; the
friendship of a brother to the base passion which had made so wide a gulf
between them; and which must keep them strangers till he was cured of his
sin? Only to diabolical possession could she ascribe the change that had
come over him since those happy days when she had watched the slow dawn
of health upon his sunken cheeks, when he and she had travelled together
through the rich autumn woods, along the pleasant English roads, and when,
in the leisure of the slow journey, he had poured out his thoughts to her,
the story of his life, his opinions, expatiating in fraternal confidence
upon the things he loved and the things he hated. And at Chilton, she
looked back and remembered his goodness to her, the pains he had taken in
choosing horses for her to ride, their long mornings on the river with
Henriette, their hawking parties, and in all his tender brotherly care of
her. The change in him had come about by almost imperceptible degrees:
but it had been chiefly marked by a fitful temper that had cut her to the
quick; now kind; now barely civil; courting her company to-day; to-morrow
avoiding her, as if there were contagion in her presence. Then, after
the meeting at Millbank, there had come a coldness so icy, a sarcasm so
cutting, that for a long time she had thought he hated as much as he
despised her. She had withered in his contempt. His unkindness had
overshadowed every hour of her life, and the longing to cry out to him
"Indeed, sir, your thoughts wrong me. I am not the wretch you think,"
had been almost too much for her fortitude. She had felt that she must
exculpate herself, even though in so doing she should betray her sister.
But honour, and affection for Hyacinth, had prevailed; and she had bent her
shoulders to the burden of undeserved shame. She had sat silent and abashed
in his presence, like a guilty creature.

Sir John Kirkland spent a week at Fareham House, employed in choosing a
team of horses, suitable alike for the road and the plough, looking
out, among the coachmakers, for a second-hand travelling carriage, and
eventually buying a coach of Lady Fanshawe's, which had been brought from
Madrid with the rest of her very extensive goods and chattels.

One need scarce remark that it was not one of the late Ambassador's state
carriages, his ruby velvet coach, with fringes that cost three hundred
pounds, or his brocade carriage, but a coach that had been built for the
everyday use of his suite.

Sir John also bought a little plain silver, in place of that fine
collection of silver and parcel-gilt which had been so willingly sacrificed
to royal necessities; and though he breathed no sigh over past losses, some
bitter thoughts may have come across his cheerfulness as he heard of the
splendour and superabundance of Lady Castlemaine's plate and jewels, or of
the ring worth six hundred pounds lately presented to a pretty actress.

In a week he was ready for Buckinghamshire; and Angela had her trunks
packed, and had bid good-bye to her London friends, amidst the chatter of
Lady Fareham's visiting-day, and the clear, bell-like clash of delicate
china tea-cups--miniature bowls of egg-shell porcelain, without handles,
and to be held daintily between the tips of high-bred fingers.

There was a chorus of courteous bewailing at the notion of Mrs. Kirkland's
departure.

Sir Ralph Masaroon pretended to be in despair.

"Is it not bad enough to have had the coldest winter my youth can remember?
But you must needs take the sun from our spring. Why, the maids of honour
will count for handsome when you are gone. What's that Butler says?--

    'The twinkling stars begin to muster,
    And glitter with their borrowed lustre.'

But what's to become of me without the sun? I shall have no one to
side-glass in the Ring."

"Indeed, Sir Ralph, I did not know that you ever side-glassed me!"

"What, you have suffered my devotion to pass unperceived? When I have
broken half a dozen coach windows in your service, rattling a glass down
with a vehemence which would have startled a Venus in marble to turn and
recognise an adorer! Round and round the Ring I have driven for hours, on
the chance of a look. Nay, marble is not so coy as froward beauty! And at
the Queen's chapel have I not knelt at the Mass morning after morning, at
the risk of being thought a Papist, for the sake of seeing you at prayers;
and have envied the Romish dog who handed you the aspersoir as you went
out? And you to be unconscious all the time!"

"Nay, 'tis so much happier for me, Sir Ralph, since you have given me a
reserve of gratified vanity that will last me a year in the country, where
I shall see nothing but ploughmen and bird-boys."

"Look out for the scarecrows in Sir John's fields, for the odds are you
will see me some day disguised as one."

"Why disguised?" asked his friend Mr. Penington, who had lately produced a
comedy that had been acted three afternoons at the Duke's Theatre, and one
evening at Court, which may be taken as a prosperous run for a new play.

Lady Sarah Tewkesbury held forth on the pleasures of a country life, and
lamented that family connections and the necessity of standing well with
the Court constrained her to spend the greater part of her existence in
town.

"I am like Milton," she said. "I adore a rural life. To hear the cock--

    'From his watchtower in the skies,
    When the horse and hound do rise.'

Oh, I love buttercups and daisies above all the Paris finery in the
Exchange; and to steep one's complexion in May-dew, and to sup on a
syllabub or a dish of frumenty--so cheap, too, while it costs a fortune but
to scrape along in London."

"The country is well enough for a month at hay-making, to romp with a bevy
of London beauties in the meadows near Tunbridge Wells, or to dance to
a couple of fiddles on the Common by moonlight," said Mr. Penington;
whereupon all agreed that Tunbridge Wells, Epsom, Doncaster, and Newmarket
were the only country possible to people of intellect.

"I would never go further than Epsom, if I had my will," said Sir Ralph;
"for I see no pleasure in Newmarket for a man who keeps no running-horses,
and has no more interest in the upshot of a race than he might have in
a maggot match on his own dining-table, did he stake high enough on the
result."

"But my sister is not to be buried in Buckinghamshire all the year round,"
explained Hyacinth. "I shall fetch her here half a dozen times in a season;
and her shortest visits must be long enough to take the country freshness
out of her complexion, and save her from becoming a milkmaid."

"Gud, to see her freckled!" cried Penington. "I could as soon imagine
Helen with a hump. That London pallor is the choicest charm in a girl
of quality--a refined sickliness that appeals to the heart of a man of
feeling, an 'if-you-don't-lend-me-your-arm-I-shall-swoon' sort of air. Your
country hoyden, with her roses-and-cream complexion, and open-air manners,
is more shocking than Medusa to a man of taste."

The talk drifted to other topics at the mention of Buckingham, who had but
lately been let out of the Tower, where he and Lord Dorchester had been
committed for scuffling and quarrelling at the Canary Conference.

"Has your ladyship seen the Duke and Lord Dorchester since they came out of
the house of bondage?" asked Lady Sarah. "I think Buckingham was never so
gay and handsome, and takes his imprisonment as the best joke that ever
was, and is as great at Court as ever."

"His Majesty is but too indulgent," said Masaroon, "and encourages the Duke
to be insolent and careless of ceremony. He had the impertinence to show
himself at chapel before he had waited on his Majesty."

"Who was very angry and forbade him the Court," said Penington. "But
Buckingham sent the King one of his foolish, jesting letters, capped with
a rhyme or two; and if you can make Charles Stuart laugh you may pick his
pocket----"

"Or seduce his mistress----"

"Oh, he will forgive much to wit and gaiety. He learnt the knack of taking
life easily, while he led that queer, shifting life in exile. He was a
cosmopolitan and a soldier of fortune before he was a King _de facto;_ and
still wears the loose garments of those easy, beggarly days, when he had
neither money nor care. Be sure he regrets that roving life--Madrid, Paris,
the Hague--and will never love a son as well as little Monmouth, the child
of his youth."

"What would he not give to make that base-born brat Prince of Wales?
Strange that while Lord Ross is trying to make his offspring illegitimate
by Act of Parliament, his master's anxieties should all tend the other
way."

"Don't talk to me of Parliament!" cried Lady Sarah; "the tyranny of the
Rump was nothing to them. Look at the tax upon French wines, which will
make it almost impossible for a lady of small means to entertain her
friends. And an Act for burying us all in woollen, for the benefit of the
English trade in wool."

"But, indeed, Lady Sarah, it is we of the old faith who have most need to
complain," said Lady Fareham, "since these wretches make us pay a double
poll-tax; and all our foreign friends are being driven away for the same
reason--just because the foolish and the ignorant must needs put down the
fire to the Catholics."

"Indeed, your ladyship, the Papists have had an unlucky knack at lighting
fires, as Smithfield and Oxford can testify," said Penington; "and perhaps,
having no more opportunity of roasting martyrs, it may please some of
your creed to burn Protestant houses, with the chance of cooking a few
Protestants inside 'em."

       *       *       *       *       *

Angela had drawn away from the little knot of fine ladies and finer
gentlemen, and was sitting in the bay window of an ante-room, with
Henriette and the boy, who were sorely dejected at the prospect of losing
her. The best consolation she could offer was to promise that they should
be invited to the Manor Moat as soon as she and her father had settled
themselves comfortably there--if their mother could spare them.

Henriette laughed outright at this final clause.

"Spare us!" she cried. "Does she ever want us? I don't think she knows when
we are in the room, unless we tread upon her gown, when she screams out
'Little viper!' and hits us with her fan."

"The lightest touch, Papillon; not so hard as you strike your favourite
baby."

"Oh, she doesn't hurt me; but the disrespect of it! Her only daughter, and
nearly as high as she is!"

"You are an ungrateful puss to complain, when her ladyship is so kind as to
let you be here to see all her fine company."

"I am sick of her company, almost always the same, and always talking about
the same things. The King, and the Duke, and the General, and the navy;
or Lady Castlemaine's jewels, or the last new head from Paris, or her
ladyship's Flanders lace. It is all as dull as ditch-water now Monsieur de
Malfort is gone. He was always pleasant, and he let me play on his guitar,
though he swore it excruciated him. And he taught me the new Versailles
coranto. There's no pleasure for any one since he fell ill and left
England."

"You shall come to the Manor. It will be a change, even though you hate the
country and love London."

"I have left off loving London. I have had too much of it. If his lordship
let us go to the play-house often it would be different. Oh, how I
loved Philaster--and that exquisite page! Do you think I could act that
character, auntie, if his lordship's tailor made me such a dress?"

"I think thou hast impudence for anything, dearest."

"I would rather act that page than Pauline in _Polyeucte_, though
Mademoiselle swears I speak her tirades nearly as well as an actress she
once saw at the Marais, who was too old and fat for the character. How I
should love to be an actress, and to play tragedy and comedy, and
make people cry and laugh! Indeed, I would rather be anything than a
lady--unless I could be exactly like Lady Castlemaine."

"Ah, Heaven forbid!"

"But why not? I heard Sir Ralph tell mother that, let her behave as badly
as she may, she will always be atop of the tree, and that the young sparks
at the Chapel Royal hardly look at their prayer-books for gazing at her,
and that the King----"

"Ah, sweetheart, I want to hear no more of her!"

"Why, don't you like her? I thought you did not know her. She never comes
here."

"Are there any staghounds in the Vale of Aylesbury?" asked the boy, who had
been looking out of the window, watching the boats go by, unheeding his
sister's babble.

"I know not, love; but there shall be dogs enough for you to play with,
I'll warrant, and a pony for you to ride. Grandfather shall get them for
his dearest."

Sir John was fond of Henriette, whom he looked upon as a marvel of
precocious brightness; but the boy was his favourite, whom he loved with an
old man's half-melancholy affection for the creature which is to live and
act a part in the world when he, the greybeard, shall be dust.



CHAPTER XXII.

AT THE MANOR MOAT.


Solid, grave, and sober, grey with a quarter of a century's neglect, the
Manor House, in the valley below Brill, differed in every detail from the
historical Chilton Abbey. It was a moated manor house, the typical house of
the typical English squire; an E-shaped house, with a capacious roof that
lodged all the household servants, and clustered chimney-stacks that
accommodated a great company of swallows. It had been built in the reign
of Henry the Seventh, and was coeval with its distinguished neighbour, the
house of the Verneys, at Middle Claydon, and it had never served any other
purpose than to shelter Englishmen of good repute in the land. Souvenirs
of Bosworth field--a pair of huge jack-boots, a two-handed sword, and a
battered helmet--hung over the chimney-piece in the low-ceiled hall; but
the end of the civil war was but a memory when the Manor House was built.
After Bosworth a slumberous peace had fallen on the land, and in the
stillness of this secluded valley, sheltered from every bleak wind by
surrounding hills and woods, the gardens of the Manor Moat had grown into
a settled beauty that made the chief attraction of a country seat which
boasted so little of architectural dignity, or of expensive fantasy in
moulded brick and carved stone. Plain, sombre, with brick walls and heavy
stone mullions to low-browed windows, the Manor House stood in the midst
of gardens such as the modern millionaire may long for, but which only the
grey old gardener Time can create.

There was more than a mile of yew hedge, eight feet high, and three
feet broad, walling in flower garden and physic garden, the latter the
particular care of the house-mothers of previous generations, the former a
paradise of those old flowers which bloom and breathe sweet odours in the
pages of Shakespeare, and jewel the verse of Milton. The fritillary here
opened its dusky spotted petals to drink the dews of May; and here, against
a wall of darkest green, daffodils bloomed unruffled by March winds.

Verily a garden of gardens; but when Angela came there in the chill
February there were no flowers to welcome her, only the long, straight
walks beside those walls of yew, and the dark shining waters of the moat
and the fish-pond, reflecting the winter sun; and over all the scene a
quiet as of the grave.

A little colony of old servants had been left in the house, which had
escaped confiscation, albeit the property of a notorious Malignant, perhaps
chiefly on account of its insignificance, the bulk of the estate having
been sold by Sir John in '44, when the king's condition was waxing
desperate, and money was worth twice its value to those who clung to hope,
and were ready to sacrifice their last jacobus in the royal cause. The poor
little property--shrunk to a home-farm of ninety acres, a humble homestead,
and the Manor House--may have been thought hardly worth selling; or Sir
John's rights may have been respected out of regard for his son-in-law,
who, on the maternal side, had kindred in high places under the
Commonwealth, a fact of which Hyacinth occasionally reminded her husband,
telling him that he was by hereditary instinct a rebel and a king-slayer.

The farm had been taken to by Sir John's steward, a man who in politics was
of the same easy temper as the Vicar of Bray in religion, and was a staunch
Cromwellian so long as Oliver or Richard sat at Whitehall, or would have
tossed up his cap and cheered for Monk, as Captain-General of Great
Britain, had he been called upon to till his fields and rear his stock
under a military despotism. It mattered little to any man living at ease in
a fat Buckinghamshire valley what King or Commonwealth ruled in London, so
long as there was a ready market at Aylesbury or Thame for all the farm
could produce, and civil war planted neither drake nor culverin on Brill
Hill.

The old servants had vegetated as best they might in the old house, their
wages of the scantiest; but to live and die within familiar walls was
better than to fare through a world which had no need of them. The younger
members of the household had scattered, and found new homes; but the
grey-haired cook was still in her kitchen; the old butler still wept over
his pantry, where a dozen or so of spoons, and one battered tankard of
Heriot's make, were all that remained of that store of gold and silver
which had been his pride forty years ago, when Charles was bringing home
his fair French bride, and old Thames at London was alight with fire-works
and torches, and alive with music and singing, as the city welcomed its
young Queen, and when Reuben Holden was a lad in the pantry, learning to
polish a salver or a goblet, and sorely hectored by his uncle the butler.

Reuben, and Marjory, the old cook, famous in her day as any _cordon-bleu_,
were the sole representatives of the once respectable household; but a
couple of stout wenches had been hired from the cluster of labourers'
hovels that called itself a village; and these had been made to drudge as
they had never drudged before in the few days of warning which prepared
Reuben for his master's return.

Fires had been lighted in rooms where mould and mildew had long prevailed;
wainscots had been scrubbed and polished till the whole house reeked
of bees-wax and turpentine, to a degree that almost overpowered those
pervading odours of damp and dry rot, which can curiously exist together.
The old furniture had been made as bright as faded fabrics and worm-eaten
wood could be made by labour; and the leaping light of blazing logs,
reflected on the black oak panelling, gave a transient air of cheerfulness
to the spacious dining-parlour where Sir John and his daughter took their
first meal in the old home. And if to Angela's eye, accustomed to the
Italian loftiness of the noble mansions on the Thames, the broad oak
crossbeams seemed coming down upon her head, there was at least an air of
homely snugness in the low darkly coloured room.

On that first evening there had been much to interest and engage her. She
had the old house to explore, and dim childish memories to recall. Here was
the room where her mother died, the room in which she herself had first
seen the light--perhaps not until a month or so after her birth, since
the seventeenth-century baby was not flung open-eyed into her birthday
sunshine, but was swaddled and muffled in a dismal apprenticeship to life.
The chamber had been hung with "blacks" for a twelvemonth, Reuben told her,
as he escorted her over the house, and unlocked the doors of disused rooms.

The tall bedstead with its red and yellow stamped velvet curtains and
carved ebony posts looked like an Indian temple. One might expect to
see Buddha squatting on the embroidered counterpane--the work of half a
lifetime. When the curtains were drawn back, a huge moth flew out of the
darkness, and spun and wheeled round the room with an awful humming noise,
and to the superstitious mind might have suggested a human soul embodied in
this phantasmal greyness, with power of sound in such excess of its bulk.

"Sir John never used the room after her ladyship's death," Reuben
explained, "though 'tis the best bed-chamber. He has always slept in the
blue room, which is at the furthest end of the gallery from the room that
has been prepared for madam. We call that the garden room, and it is mighty
pretty in summer."

In summer! How far it seemed to summer-time in Angela's thoughts! What a
long gulf of nothingness to be bridged over, what a dull level plain to
cross, before June and the roses could come round again, bringing with them
the memory of last summer; and the days she had lived under the same roof
with Fareham, and the evenings when they had sat in the same room, or
loitered on the terrace, pausing now and then beside an Italian vase of
gaudy flowers to look at this or that, or to watch the mob on the river;
and those rare golden days, like that at Sayes Court, which she had spent
in some excursion with Fareham and Henriette.

"I hope madam likes the chamber we have prepared for her?" the old man
said, as she stood dreaming.

"Yes, my good friend, it is very comfortable. My woman complained of the
smoky chimney in her chamber; but no doubt we shall mend that by-and-by."

"It would be strange if a gentlewoman's servant found not something to
grumble about," said Reuben; "they have ever less work to do than any one
else in the house, and ever make more trouble than their mistresses. I'll
settle the hussy, with madam's leave."

"Nay, pray, Mr. Reuben, no harshness. She is a willing, kind-hearted girl,
and we shall find plenty of work for her in this big house where there are
so few servants."

"Oh, there's work enough for sure, if she'll do it, and is no fine city
madam that will scream at sight of a mouse, belike."

"She is a girl I had out of Oxfordshire."

"Oh, if she comes out of Oxfordshire, from his lordship's estate, I dare
swear she is a good girl. I hate your London trash; and I think the great
fire would have been a blessing in disguise if it had swept away most of
such trumpery."

"Oh, sir, if a Romanist were to say as much as that!" said Angela,
laughing.

"Oh, madam, I am not one of they fools that say because half London was
burnt the Papishes must have set it on fire. What good would the burning of
it do 'em, poor souls? And now they are to pay double taxes, as if it was
a sure thing their faggots kindled the blaze. I know how kind and sweet a
soul a Papish may be, though she do worship idols; for I had the honour to
serve your ladyship's mother from the hour she first entered this house
till the day I smuggled the French priest by the back stairs to carry her
the holy oils. Ah! she was a noble and lovely lady. Madam's eyes are of her
colour; and, indeed, madam favours her mother more than my Lady Fareham
does."

"Have you seen Lady Fareham of late years?"

"Ay, madam, she came here in her coach-and-six the summer before the
pestilence, with her two beautiful children, and a party of ladies and
gentlemen. They rode here from his Grace of Buckingham's new mansion by
the Thames--Clefden, I think they call it; and they do say his Grace do so
lavish and squander money in the building of it, that belike he will be
ruined and dead before his palace be finished. There were three coaches
full, with servants and what not. And they brought wine, and capons ready
dressed, and confectionery, and I helped to serve a collation for them in
the garden. And after they had feasted merrily, with a vast quantity of
sparkling French wine, they all rushed through the house like madcaps,
laughing and chattering, regular French magpies, for there was more of 'em
French than English, her ladyship leading them, till she comes to the door
of this room, and finds it locked, and she begins to thump upon the panels
like a spoilt child, and calls, 'Reuben, Reuben, what is your mystery? Sure
this must be the ghost-chamber! Open, open, instantly.' And I answered her
quietly, ''Tis the chamber where that sweet angel, your ladyship's mother,
lay in state, and it has never been opened to strangers since she died.'
And all in the midst of her mirth, the dear young lady burst out weeping,
and cried, 'My sweet, sweet mother! I remember the last smile she gave me
as if it was yesterday.' And then she dropped on her knees and crossed
herself, and whispered a prayer, with her face close against the door;
and I knew that she was praying for her lady-mother, as the way of your
religion is, madam, to pray for the dead; and sure, though it is a simple
thing, it can do no harm; and to my thinking, when all the foolishness is
taken out of religion the warmth and the comfort seem to go too; for I know
I never used to feel a bit more comfortable after a two hours' sermon, when
I was an Anabaptist."

"Are you not an Anabaptist now, Reuben?"

"Lord forbid, madam! I have been a member of the Church of England ever
since his Majesty's restoration brought the Vicar to his own again, and
gave us back Christmas Day, and the organ, and the singing-boys."

Angela's life at the Manor was so colourless that the first blossoming of a
familiar flower was an event to note and to remember. Life within convent
walls would have been scarcely more tranquil or more monotonous. Sir John
rode with his hounds three or four times a week, or was about the fields
superintending the farming operations, walking beside the ploughman as he
drove his furrow, or watching the scattering of the seed. Or he was in
the narrow woodlands which still belonged to him, and Angela, taking her
solitary walk at the close of day, heard his axe ringing through the wintry
air.

It was a peaceful, and should have been a pleasant, life, for father and
for daughter. Angela told herself that God had been very good to her in
providing this safe haven from tempestuous seas, this quiet little world,
where the pulses of passion beat not; where existence was like a sleep, a
gradual drifting away of days and weeks, marked only by the changing note
of birds, the deepening umber on the birch, the purpling of beech buds, and
the starry celandine shining out of grassy banks that had so lately been
obliterated under the drifted snow.

"I ought to be happy," she said to herself of a morning, when she rose from
her knees, and stood looking across the garden to the grassy hills beyond,
while the beads of her rosary slipped through her languid fingers--"I ought
to be happy."

And then she turned from the sunny window with a sigh, and went down the
dark, echoing staircase to the breakfast parlour, where her own little
silver chocolate-pot looked ridiculously small beside Sir John's quart
tankard, and where the crisp, golden rolls, baked in the French fashion
by the maid from Chilton, who had been taught by Lord Fareham's _chef_,
contrasted with the chine of beef and huge farmhouse loaf that accompanied
the knight's old October.

After all his Continental wanderings Sir John had come back to substantial
English fare with an unabated relish; and Angela had to sit down, day after
day, to a huge joint and an overloaded dish of poultry, and to reassure her
father when he expressed uneasiness because she ate so little.

"Women do not want much food, sir. Martha's rolls, and our honey, and the
conserves old Marjory makes so well, are better for me than the meat which
suits your heartier appetite."

"Faith, child, if I played no stouter a part at table than you do, I should
soon be fit to play living skeleton at Aylesbury Fair. And I dubitate as to
your diet-loaves and confectionery suiting you better than a slice of chine
or sirloin, for you have a pale cheek and a pensive eye that smite me to
the heart. Indeed, I begin to question if I was kind to take you from all
the pleasures of the town to be mewed up here with a rusty old soldier."

"Indeed, sir, I could be happier nowhere than here. I have had enough of
London pleasures; and I was meditating upon returning to the convent, when
you came to put an end to all my perplexities; and, sir, I think God sent
you to me when I most needed a father's love."

She went to him and knelt by his chair, hiding her tearful eyes against the
cushioned arm. But, though he could not see her face, he heard the break in
her voice, and he bent down and lifted her drooping head on his breast, and
kissed the soft brown hair, and embraced her very tenderly.

"Sweetheart, thou hast all a father's love, and it is happiness to me to
have thee here; but old as I am, and with so little cunning to read a
maiden's heart, I can read clear enough to know thou art not happy.
Whisper, dearest. Is it a sweetheart who sighs for thy favours far off, and
will not beard this old lion in his den? My gentle Angela would make no ill
choice. Fear not to trust me, my heart. I will love whom you love, favour
whom you favour. I am no tyrant, that my sweet daughter should grow pale
with keeping secrets from me."

"Dear father, you are all goodness. No, there is no one--no one! I am happy
with you. I have no one in the world but you, and, in a so much lesser
degree of love, my sister and her children--"

"And Fareham. He should be to you as a brother. He is of a black
melancholic humour, and not a man whom women love; but he has a heart of
gold, and must regard you with grateful affection for your goodness to him
when he was sick. Hyacinth is never weary of expatiating upon your devotion
in that perilous time."

"She is foolish to talk of services I would have given as willingly to a
sick beggar," Angela answered, impatiently.

Her face was still hidden against her father's breast; but she lifted her
head presently, and the pale calmness of her countenance reassured him.

"Well, it is uncommon strange," he said, "if one so fair has no sweetheart
among all the sparks of Whitehall."

"Lord Fareham hates Whitehall. We have only attended there at great
festivals, when my sister's absence would have been a slight upon her
Majesty and the Duchess."

"But my star, though seldom shining there, should have drawn some
satellites to her orbit. You see, dearest, I can catch the note of Court
flattery. Nay, I will press no questions. My girl shall choose her own
partner; provided the man is honest and a loyal servant of the King. Her
old father shall set no stumbling-block in the high-road to her happiness.
What right has one who is almost a pauper to stipulate for a wealthy
son-in-law?"



CHAPTER XXIII.

PATIENT, NOT PASSIONATE.


The quiet days went on, and the old Cavalier settled down into a tranquil
happiness, which comforted his daughter with the feeling of duty
prosperously fulfilled. To make this dear old man happy, to be his
companion and friend, to share in his rides and rambles, and of an evening
to play the games he loved on the old shovel-board in the hall, or an
old-fashioned game at cards, or backgammon beside the fire in the panelled
parlour, reconciled her to the melancholy of an existence from which hope
had vanished like a light extinguished. It seemed to her as if she had
dropped back into the old life with her great-aunt. The Manor House was
just a little gayer than the Flemish Convent--for the voices and footsteps
of the few inhabitants had a freer sound, which made the few seem more
populous than the many. And then there were the dogs. What a powerful
factor in home life those four-footed friends were! Out-of-doors a stone
barn had been turned into a kennel for five couple of foxhounds; indoors a
couple of setters, sent by a friend over sea from Waterford, had insinuated
themselves into the parlour, where they established themselves as household
favourites, to the damage of those higher hereditary qualities which fitted
them for distinction with the guns. Indeed, the old Knight was too fond of
his fireside companions to care very much if he missed a bird now and then
because Cataline was over-fed or Caesar disobedient. They stood sentinel on
each side of his chair at dinner, like supporters to a coat-of-arms. Angela
had her own particular favourite in a King Charles's spaniel. It was the
very dog which had first greeted her in the silence of the plague-stricken
house. She had chosen this one from the canine troop when her sister
offered her the gift of a dog at parting, though Hyacinth had urged her to
take something younger than this, which was over five years old.

"He will die just when you love him best," she said.

"Nay; but such partings must come. I love this one because he was with me
in fear and sadness. He used to cling to me, and look up and lick my face,
as if he were telling me to hope, when my brother seemed marked for death."

"Poor Fareham! Did you desire every dog in the house--and my spaniels are
of the same breed as the King's, and worth fifty pound apiece--you have
a right to take them. But, indeed, I would rather you chose a younger
dog--and with a shorter nose; but, of course, if you like this one
best----"

Angela held by her first choice, and Ganymede was the companion of all her
hours, walked and lived with her, and slept on a satin cushion at the foot
of her spacious four-post bed, and fretted and whined if she left him shut
in an empty room for half an hour; yet with all his refinements, and his
air of being as dainty a gentleman as any spark of quality, he had a gross
passion for the kitchen, and after nibbling sweet cakes delicately out
of his mistress's taper fingers, he would waddle through a labyrinth of
passages, and find his way to the hog-tub, there to wallow in slush and
broken victuals, till he all but drowned himself in a flood of pot-liquor.
It was hard to reconcile so much beauty and grace, such eloquent eyes and
satin coat, with tastes and desires so vulgar; and Angela sighed over him
when a scullion brought him to her, greasy and penitent, to crouch at her
feet, and deprecate her disgust with an abject tail.

Oh, tranquil, duteous life, how fair it might have seemed, as spring
advanced, and the garden smiled with the promise of summer, were it not for
that aching sense of loss, the some one missing, whose absence made all
things grey and cold!

Yes, she knew now, fully realising as she had never done before, how long
and how utterly her life had been influenced by an affection which even to
contemplate was mortal sin. Yet to extinguish memory was not within her
power. She looked back and remembered how Fareham's protecting love had
enfolded her with its gentle warmth, in those happy days at Chilton; how
all she knew of poetry and the drama, of ethics and philosophy, had been
learnt from him. She recalled his evident delight in opening the rich
treasures of a mind which he had never ceased to cultivate, even amidst the
vicissitudes of a soldier's life, in making her familiar with the writers
he loved, and teaching her to estimate, and to discuss them. And in
all their talk together he had been for the most part careful to avoid
disparagement of the religion in which she believed--so that it was only
some chance revelation of the infidel's narrow outlook that reminded her of
his unbelief.

Yes, his love had been round her like an atmosphere; and she had been
exquisitely happy while that unquestioning affection was hers. On her part
there had been neither doubt nor fear. It seemed the most natural thing in
the world that he should be fond of her and she of him. Affinity had made
them brother and sister; and then they had been together in sickness and in
peril of death. It might be true, as he himself had affirmed, that her
so happy arrival had saved his life; since just those hours between the
departure of his attendants and the physician's evening visit may have been
the crisis of his disease.

Well, it was past--the exquisite bliss, the unconscious sin, the
confidence, the danger. All had vanished into the grave of irrecoverable
days.

She had heard nothing from Denzil since she left London, nor had she
acknowledged his letter. Her silence had doubtless angered him, and all
was at an end between them, and this was what she wished. Hyacinth and her
children were at Chilton, whence came letters of complaining against the
dulness of the country, where his lordship hunted four times a week, and
spent all the rest of his time in his library, appearing only "at our
stupid heavy meals; and that not always, since on his hunting days he is
far afield when I have to sit down to the intolerable two-o'clock dinner,
and make a pretence of eating--as if anybody with more intellectuals than
a sheep could dine; or as if appetite came by staring at green fields! You
remember how in London supper was the only meal I ever cared for. There
is some grace in a repast that comes after conversation and music, or the
theatre, or a round of visits--a table dazzling with lights, and men and
women ready to amuse, and be amused. But to sit down in broad daylight,
when one has scarce swallowed one's morning chocolate, and face a
sweltering sirloin, or open a smoking veal pie! Indeed, dearest, our whole
method of feeding smacks of a vulgar brutishness, more appropriate to a
company of Topinambous than to persons of quality. Why, oh, why must these
reeking hecatombs load our tables, when they might as easily be kept out of
sight upon a buffet? The spectacle of huge mountains of meat, the steam and
odour of rank boiled and roast under one's very nostrils, change appetite
to nausea, and would induce a delicate person to rise in disgust and fly
from the dining-room. Mais, je ne fais que divaguer; and almost forget what
it was I was so earnest to tell thee when I began my letter.

"Sir Denzil Warner has been over here, his ostensible motive a civil
inquiry after my health; but I could see that his actual purpose was to
hear of you. I told him how happily your simple soul has accommodated
itself to an almost conventual seclusion, and a very inferior style of
living--whereupon he smiled his rapture, and praised you to the skies.
'Would that she could accommodate herself to my house as easily,' he said;
'she should have every indulgence that an adoring husband could yield her.'
And then he said much more, but as lovers always sing the same repetitive
song, and have no more strings to their lyre than the ancients had before
Mercury expanded it, I confess to not listening over carefully, and will
leave you to imagine the eloquence of a manly and honourable love. Ah,
sweetheart! you do wrong to reject him. Thou hast a quiet soothing
prettiness of thine own, but art no blazing star of beauty, like the
Stewart, to bring a King to thy feet--he would have married her if poor
Catherine had not disappointed him by her recovery--and to take a Duke as
_pis aller_. Believe me, love, it were wise of you to become Lady Warner,
with an unmortgaged estate, and a husband who, in these Republican times,
may rise to distinction. He is your only earnest admirer; and a love so
steadfast, backed by a fortune so respectable, should not be discarded
lightly."

Over all these latter passages in her sister's letter Angela's eye ran
with a scornful carelessness. Her womanly pride revolted at such petty
schooling--that she should be bidden to accept this young man gratefully,
because he was her only suitor. No one else had ever cared for her pale
insignificance. She looked at her clouded image in the oblong glass that
hung on the panel above her secrétaire, and whose reflection made any
idea of her own looks rather speculative than precise. It showed her a
thoughtful face, too pale for beauty; yet she could but note the harmony of
lines which recalled that Venetian type familiar to her eye in the Titians
and Tintorets at Fareham House.

"I doubt I am good-looking enough for any one to be satisfied with the
outward semblance who valued the soul within," she thought, as she turned
from the glass with a mournful sigh.

It was not of Denzil she was thinking, but of that other who in slow
contemplative days in the library where he had taught her what books
she ought to love, and where she might never more enter, must naturally
sometimes remember her, and cast some backward thoughts to the hours they
had spent together.

Hyacinth's letter of matronly counsel was but a week old when Sir
John surprised his daughter one morning, as they sat at table, by the
announcement of a visitor to stay in the house.

"You will order the west room to be got ready, Angela, and bid Marjory Cook
serve us some of her savourest dishes while Sir Denzil stays here."

"Sir Denzil!"

"Yes, ma mie, Sir Denzil! Ventregris, the girl stares as if I had said Sir
Bevis of Southampton, or Sir Guy of Warwick! I knew this young gentleman's
father before the troubles--an honest man, though he took the wrong side He
paid for his perversity with his life; so we'll say requiescat. The young
man is a fine young man, whom I would fain have something nearer to me than
he is. So at a hint from your sister I have asked him to bring his fishing
tackle and whip our streams for a May trout or two. He may catch a finer
fish than trout, perhaps, while he is a-fishing; if you will be his guide
through the meadows."

"Father, how could you----"

"Ah! thou art a sly one, fair mistress. Who was it told me there was no
one? 'No one, dear father, and indeed, sir, I was thinking of the convent
when you came to London,' while here was as handsome a spark as one would
meet in a day's march, sighing and dying for you."

"Father, I do protest to you----" she began, with a pale distressed look
that vouched for her earnestness; but the Knight had his face in the
tankard, and set it down only to pursue his own train of thought.

"If it had not have been for that little bird at Chilton you might have
hoodwinked me as blind as ever gerfalcon was hooded. Well, the young man
will be here before evening. I would not force your inclinations, but it is
the dearest desire of my heart to see you happily married before I blow out
the candle, and bid my last good night. And a man of honour, handsome and
of handsomest fortune, is not to be slighted."

Angela's spirit rose against this recurrence of her sister's sermon.

"If Sir Denzil is coming to this house as my suitor, I will go to Louvain
without an hour's delay that I can help," she said resolutely.

"Why, what a vixen! Nay, dearest, there is no need for that angry flush.
The young man is too courteous to plague you with unwelcome civilities.
I saw him in London at the tennis court, and was friendly to him for his
father's memory, knowing nothing of his desire to be my son-in-law. He is a
fine player at that royal game, and a fine man. He comes here this evening
as my friend; and if you please to treat him disdainfully, I cannot help
it. But, indeed, I wonder as much as your sister why you should not
reciprocate this gentleman's love."

"When you were young, father, did you love the first comer; only because
she was handsome and civil?"

"No, child; I had seen many handsome women before I met your mother. She
came over in '35 with the Marquise, who had been lady of honour to Queen
Marie before the Princess Henriette married our King, and Queen Henriette
was fond of her, and invited her to come to London, and she divided her
life between the two countries till the troubles, when she was one of the
first to scamper off, as you know. My wife was little more than a child
when I saw her at Court, hiding behind her mother's large sleeves. I had
seen handsomer women; but she was the first whose face went straight to
my heart. And it has dwelt there ever since," he concluded, with a sudden
break in his voice.

"Then you can comprehend, dear sir, that a man may be honourable, and
courteous, and handsome, and yet not win a woman's love."

"Ah, it is not the man; it is love that should win, sweetheart. Love is
worthy of love. When that is the true coin it should buy its reward. Indeed
I have rarely seen it otherwise. Love begets love. Louise de la Vallière is
not the handsomest woman at the French Court. Her complexion has suffered
from small-pox, and she has a defective gait; but the King discovered a so
fond and romantic attachment to his person, a love ashamed of loving, the
very poetry of affection; and that discovery made him her slave. The Court
beauties--sultanas splendid as Vashti--look on in angry wonder. Louise is
adored because she began by adoring. Mind, I do not praise or excuse her,
for 'tis a mortal sin to love a married man, and steal him from his wife.
Foolish child, how your cheek crimsons! I do wrong to shock your innocence
with my babble of a King's mistress."

Denzil arrived at sunset, on horseback, with a mounted servant in
attendance, carrying his saddle-bags and fishing tackle. It was but a short
day's ride from Oxford. Fareham's rides with the hounds must have brought
him sometimes within a few miles of the Manor Moat Hyacinth and her
children might have ridden over in their coach; and indeed she had promised
her sister a visit in more than one of her letters. But there had been
always something to postpone the expedition--company at home, or bad
weather, or a fit of the vapours--so that the sisters had been as much
asunder as if the elder had been in Yorkshire or Northumberland.

Denzil brought news of the household at Chilton. Lady Fareham was as
charming as ever, and though she had complained very often of bad health,
she had been so lively and active whenever the whim took her, riding with
hawk and hound, visiting about the neighbourhood, driving into Oxford, that
Denzil was of opinion her ailments were of the spirits only, a kind of
rustic malady to which most fine ladies were subject, the nostalgia of
paving-stones and oil lamps. Henriette--she now insisted upon discarding
her nick-name--was less volatile than in London, and missed her aunt
sorely, and quarrelled with mademoiselle, who was painfully strict upon all
points of speech and manners. George's days of unalloyed idleness were also
ended, for the Roman Catholic priest was now a resident in the house as
the little boy's tutor, besides teaching 'Henriette the rudiments, and
instructing her in her mother's religion.

Denzil told them even of the guests he had met at the Abbey; but of the
master of the house his lips spoke not, till Sir John questioned him.

"And Fareham? Has he that same air of not belonging to the family which I
remarked of him in London?"

"His lordship has ever an air of being aloof from everybody," Denzil
answered gravely. "He is solitary even in his sports, and his indoor life
is mostly buried in a book."

"Ah, those books, they will be the ruin of nations! As books multiply,
great actions will grow less. Life's golden hours will be wasted in
dreaming over the fancies of dead men; and the world will be over-full of
brooding philosophers like Descartes, or pamphleteers like your friend Mr.
Milton."

"Nay, sir, the world is richer for such a man as John Milton, who has
composed the grandest poem in our language--an epic on a scale and subject
as sublime as the Divine Comedy of Dante."

"I never saw Mr. Dante's comedy acted, and confess myself ignorant of its
merits."

"Comedy, sir, with Dante, is but a name. The Italian poem is an epic, and
not a play. Mr. Milton's poem will be given to the world shortly, though,
alas! he will reap little substantial reward for the intellectual labour
of years. Poetry is not a marketable commodity in England, save when it
flatters a royal patron, or takes the vulgarer form of a stage-play. But
this poem of Mr. Milton's has been the solace of his darkened life. You
have heard, perhaps, of his blindness?"

"Yes, he had to forego his office as Latin Secretary to that villain. To my
mind the decay of sight was a judgment upon him for having written against
his murdered King, even to the denial of his Majesty's own account of his
sufferings. But I confess that even if the man had been a loyal subject,
I have little admiration for that class; scribblers and pamphleteers,
brooders over books, crouchers in the chimney-corner, who have never
trailed a pike or slept under the open sky. And seeing this vast increase
of book-learning, and the arising of such men as Hobbes, to question our
religion--and Milton to assail monarchy--I can but believe those who
say that this old England has taken the downward bent; that, as we are
dwindling in stature, so we are decaying in courage and capacity for
action."

Denzil listened respectfully to the old man's disquisitions over his
morning drink; while Reuben stood at the sideboard carving a ham or a
round of powdered beef; and while Angela sipped her chocolate out of the
porcelain cup which Hyacinth had bought for her at the Middle Exchange,
where curiosities from China and the last inventions from Paris were always
to be had before they were seen anywhere else. Nothing could be more
reverential than the young man's bearing to his host, while his quiet
friendliness set Angela at her ease, and made her think that he had
abandoned his suit, and henceforward aspired only to such a tranquil
friendship as they had enjoyed at Chilton before any word of love had been
spoken.

Apart from the question of love and marriage, his presence was in no manner
displeasing to her; indeed, the long days in that sequestered valley lost
something of their grey monotony now that she had a companion in all her
intellectual occupations. Fondly as she loved her father, she had not been
able to hide from herself the narrowness of his education and the blind
prejudice which governed his ideas upon almost every subject, from politics
to natural history. Of the books which make the greater part of a solitary
life she could never talk to him; and it was here that she had so sorely
missed the counsellor and friend, who had taught her to love and to
comprehend the great poets of the past--Homer and Virgil, Dante and
Tasso, and the deep melancholy humour of Cervantes, and, most of all, the
inexhaustible riches of the Elizabethans.

Denzil was of a temper as thoughtful, but his studies had taken a different
direction. He was not even by taste or apprehension a poet. Had he been
called upon to criticise his tutor's compositions, he might, like Johnson,
have objected to the metaphoric turns of Lycidas, and have missed the
melody of lines as musical as the nightingale. In that great poem of which
he had been privileged to transcribe many of the finest passages from the
lips of the poet, he admired rather the heroic patience of the blind
author than the splendour of the verse. He was more impressed by the
schoolmaster's learning than by that God-given genius which lifted that one
Englishman above every other of his age and country. No, he was eminently
prosaic, had sucked prose and plain-thinking from his mother's breast; but
he was not the less an agreeable companion for a girl upon whose youth an
unnatural solitude had begun to weigh heavily.

All that one mind can impart to another of a widely different fibre, Denzil
had learnt from Milton in that most impressionable period of boyhood which
he had spent in the small house in Holborn, whose back rooms looked out
over the verdant spaces of Lincoln's Inn Fields, where Lord Newcastle's
palace had not yet begun to rise from its foundations, and where the
singing birds had not been scared away by the growth of the town. A theatre
now stood where the boy and a fellow-scholar had played trap and ball,
and the stately houses of Queen Street hard by were alive with rank and
fashion.

In addition to the classical curriculum which Milton had taught with the
solemn earnestness of one in whom learning is a religion, Denzil had
acquired a store of miscellaneous knowledge from the great Republican;
and most interesting among these casual instructions had been the close
acquaintance with nature gained in the course of many a rustic ramble in
the country lanes beyond Gray's Inn, or sauntering eastward along the banks
of the limpid Lee, or in the undulating meadows beside Sir Hugh Middleton's
river. Mixed with plain facts about plant or flower, animal or insect,
Milton's memory was stored with the quaint absurdities of the Hermetic
philosophy, that curious mixture of deep-reaching theories and old women's
superstitions, the experience of the peasant transmuted by the imagination
of the adept. Sound and practical as the poet had ever shown himself--save
where passion got the upper hand of common sense, as in his advocacy
of divorce--he was yet not entirely free from a leaning to Baconian
superstitions, and may, with Gesner, have believed that the pickerel weed
could engender pike, and that frogs could turn to slime in winter, and
become frogs again in spring. Whatever rags of old-world fatuity may have
lingered in that strong brain, he had been not the less a delightful
teacher, and had imparted an ardent love of nature to his little family of
pupils in that peripatetic school between hawthorn hedges or in the open
fields by the Lee.

And now, in quiet rambles with Angela, in the midst of a landscape
transfigured by that vernal beauty which begins with the waning of April,
and is past and vanished before the end of May, Denzil loved to expound the
wonders of the infinitesimal; the insect life that sparkled and hummed in
the balmy air, or flashed like living light among the dewy grasses; the
life of plant and flower, which seemed almost as personal and conscious a
form of existence; since it was difficult to believe there was no sense of
struggle or of joy in those rapid growths which shot out from a tangle of
dark undergrowth upward to the sunlight, no fondness in the wild vines that
clung so close to some patriarchal trunk, covering decay with the
beautiful exuberance of youth. Denzil taught her to realise the wonders of
creation--most wonderful when most minute--for beyond the picturesque
and lovely in nature, he showed her those marvels of order, and law, and
adaptation, which speak to the naturalist with a stronger language than
beauty.

There was a tranquil pleasure in these rustic walks, which beguiled her
into forgetfulness that this man had ever sought to be more to her than he
was now--a respectful, unobtrusive friend. Of London, and the tumultuous
life going on there, he had scarcely spoken, save to tell her that he meant
to stand for Henley at the next Parliament; nor had he alluded to the past
at Chilton; nor ever of his own accord had he spoken Lord Fareham's name;
indeed, that name was studiously avoided by them both; and if Denzil had
never before suspected Angela of an unhappy preference for one whom she
could not love without sin, he might have had some cause for such suspicion
in the eagerness with which she changed the drift of the conversation
whenever it approached that forbidden subject.

From his Puritanical bringing up, the theory of self-surrender and
deprivation ever kept before him, Denzil had assuredly learnt to possess
his soul in patience; and throughout all that smiling month of May, while
he whipped the capricious streams that wound about the valley, with Angela
for the willing companion of his saunterings from pool to pool, he never
once alarmed her by any hint of a warmer feeling than friendship; indeed,
he thought of himself sometimes as one who lived in an enchanted world,
where to utter a certain fatal word would be to break the spell; and
whatever momentary impulse or passionate longing, engendered by a look, a
smile, the light touch of a hand, the mere sense of proximity, might move
him to speak of his love, he had sufficient self-command to keep the fatal
words unspoken. He meant to wait till the last hour of his visit. Only when
separation was imminent would he plead his cause again. Thus at the worst
he would have lost no happy hours of her company. And, in the mean time,
since she was always kind, and seemed to grow daily more familiar and at
ease in his society, he dared hope that affection for him and forgetfulness
of that other were growing side by side in her mind.

In this companionship Angela learnt many of the secrets and subtleties of
the angler's craft, as acquired by her teacher's personal experience, or
expounded in that delightful book, then less than twenty years old, which
has ever been the angler's gospel. Often after following the meandering
water till a gentle weariness invited them to rest, Angela and Denzil
seated themselves on a sheltered bank and read their Izaak Walton together,
both out of the same volume, he pleased to point out his favourite passages
and to watch her smile as she read.

Before May was ended, she knew old Izaak almost as well as Denzil, and had
learnt to throw a fly, and to choose the likeliest spot and the happiest
hour of the day for a good trout; had learnt to watch the clouds and
cloud-shadows with an angler's keen interest; and had amused herself with
the manufacture of an artificial minnow, upon Walton's recipe, devoting
careful labour and all the resources of her embroidery basket--silks and
silver thread--to perfecting the delicate model, which, when completed, she
presented smilingly to Denzil, who was strangely moved by so childish a
toy, and had some difficulty in suppressing his emotion as he held the
glistening silken fish in his hands, and thought how her tapering fingers
had caressed it, and how much of her very self seemed, as he watched her,
to have been enwrought with the fabric. So poor, so trivial a thing; but
her first gift! If she had tossed him a flower, plucked that moment, he
would have treasured it all his life; but this, which had cost her so
much careful work, was far more than any casual blossom. Something of the
magnetism of her mind had passed into the silver thread drawn so daintily
through her rosy fingers--something of the soft light in her eyes had mixed
with the blended colours of the silk. Foolish fancies these, but in the
gravest man's love there is a vein of folly.

Sometimes they rode with Sir John, and in this way explored the
neighbourhood, which was rich in historical associations--some of the
remote past, as when King John kept Christmas at Brill; but chiefly of
those troubled times through which Sir John Kirkland had lived, an active
participator in that deadly drama. He showed them the site of the garrison
at Brill, and trod every foot of the earthworks to demonstrate how the hill
had been fortified. He had commanded in the defence against Hampden and
his greencoats--that regiment of foot raised in his pastoral shire, whose
standard bore on one side the watchword of the Parliament, "God with us,"
and on the other Hampden's own device, "_Vestigia nulla retrorsum_."

"'Twas a legend to frighten some of us, who had no Latin," said Sir John;
"but we put his bumpkin greencoats to the rout, and trampled that insolent
flag in the mire."

All was peaceful now in the hamlet on the hill. Women and children were
sitting upon sunny doorsteps, with their pillows on their knees and their
bobbins moving quickly in dexterous fingers, busy at the lace-making which
had been established in Buckinghamshire more than a century before by
Catherine of Aragon, whose dowry was derived from the revenues of Steeple
Claydon. The Curate had returned to the grey old church, and rural life
pursued its slumbrous course, scarce ruffled by rumours of maritime war,
or plague, or fire. They rode to Thame--a stage on the journey to Oxford,
Angela thought, as she noted the figures on a milestone, and at a flash her
memory recalled that scene in the gardens by the river, when Fareham had
spoken for the first time of his inner life, and she had seen the man
behind the mask. She thought of her sister, so fair, so sweet, charming in
her capriciousness even, yet not the woman to fill that unquiet heart,
or satisfy that sombre and earnest nature. It was not by many words that
Fareham had revealed himself. Her knowledge of his character and feelings
went deeper than the knowledge that words can impart. It came from that
constant unconscious study which a romantic girl devotes to the character
of the man who first awakens her interest.

Angela was grave and silent throughout the drive to Thame and the return
home, riding for the most part in the rear of the two men, leaving Denzil
to devote all his attention to Sir John, who was somewhat loquacious that
afternoon, stimulated by the many memories of the troubled time which the
road awakened. Denzil listened respectfully, and went never astray in his
answers, but he looked back very often to the solitary rider who kept at
some distance to avoid the dust.

Sometimes in the early morning they all went with the otter hounds, the
Knight on horseback, Denzil and Angela on foot, and spent two or three
very active hours before breakfast in rousing the otter from his holt, and
following every flash of his head upon the stream, with that briskness and
active enjoyment which seem a part of the clear morning atmosphere, the
inspiring breath of dewy fields and flowers unfaded by the sun. All that
there was of girlishness in Angela's spirits was awakened by those merry
morning scampers by the margin of the stream, which had often to be forded
by the runners, with but' little heed of wet feet or splashed petticoat.
The Parson and his daughters from the village of St Nicholas joined in the
sport, and were invited to the morning drink and substantial breakfast
afterwards, where the young ladies were lost in admiration of Angela's
silver chocolate-pot and porcelain cups, while their clerical father owned
to a distaste for all morning drinks except such as owed their flavour and
strength to malt and hops.

"If you had lived among green fields and damp marshes as long as I have,
miss, you would know what poor stuff your chocolate is to fortify a man's
bones against ague and rheumatism. I am told the Spaniards brought it from
Mexico, where the natives eat nothing else, from which comes the copper
colour of their skins."

       *       *       *       *       *

Denzi's visit lasted over a month, during which time he rode into
Oxfordshire twice, to see Lady Warner, stopping a night each time, lest
that worthy person should fancy herself neglected.

Sir John derived the utmost pleasure from the young man's company, who bore
himself towards his host with a respectful courtesy that had gone out of
fashion after the murder of the King, and was rarely met with in an age
when elderly men were generally spoken of as "old puts," and considered
proper subjects for "bubbling."

To Denzil the old campaigner opened his heart more freely than he had ever
done to any one except a brother in arms; and although he was resolute in
upholding the cause of Monarchy against Republicanism, he owned to the
natural disappointment which he had felt at the King's neglect of old
friends, and reluctantly admitted that Charles, sauntering along Pall Mall
with ruin at his heels, and the wickedest men and women in England for his
chosen companions, was not a monarch to maintain and strengthen the public
idea of the divinity that doth hedge a King.

"Of all the lessons danger and adversity can teach he has learnt but
one," said Sir John, with a regretful sigh. "He has learnt the Horatian
philosophy--to snatch the pleasures of the day, and care nothing what may
happen on the morrow. I do not wonder that predictions of a sudden end to
this globe of ours should have been bruited about of late; for if lust
and profaneness could draw down fire from heaven, London would be in as
perilous a case as Gomorrah. But I doubt such particular judgments belonged
but to the infancy of this world, when men believed in a Personal God,
interested in all their concerns, watchful to bless or to punish. We have
now but the God of Spinoza--a God who is in all things and everywhere about
us, of whom this Creation in which we move is but the garment--a Universal
Essence which should govern and inform all we are and all we do; but not
the Judge and Father of His people, to be reached by prayer and touched by
pity."

"Ah, sir, our life here and hereafter is encompassed with mystery. To think
is to be lost on the trackless ocean of doubt. The Papists have the easiest
creed, for they believe that which they are taught, and take the mysteries
of the unseen world at second hand from their Priests. A year ago, had I
been happy enough to win your daughter, I should have tried my hardest to
wean her from Rome; but I have lived and thought since then, and I have
come to see that Calvinism is a religion of despair, and that the doctrine
of Predestination involves contradictions as difficult to swallow as any
fable of the Roman Church."

"It is well that you should be prepared to let her keep her religion; for
I doubt she has a stubborn affection for the creed she learnt in her
childhood. Indeed, it was but the other day she talked of the cloister; and
I fear she has all the disposition to that religious prison in which her
great aunt lived contentedly for the space of a long lifetime. But it is
for you, Denzil, to cure her of that fancy, and to spare me the pain of
seeing my best-beloved child under the black veil."

"Indeed, sir, if a love as earnest as man ever experienced--"

"Yes, Denzil, I know you love her; and I love you almost as if you were my
very son. In the years that went by after Hyacinth was born, before the
beginning of trouble, I used to long for a son, and I am afraid I did
sometimes distress my dear wife by dwelling too persistently upon
disappointed hopes. And then came chaos--England in arms, a rebellious
people, a King put upon his defence--and I had leisure to think of none but
my royal master. And in the thick of the strife my poor lamb was born to
me--the bringer of my life's great sorrow--and there was no more thought of
sons. So, you see, friend, the place in my heart and home has waited empty
for you. Win but yonder shy dove to consent, and we shall be of one family
and of one mind, and I as happy as any broken-down campaigner in England
can be--content to creep to the grave in obscurity, forgotten by the Prince
whose father it is my dear memory to have served."

"You loved your King, sir, I take it, with a personal affection."

"Ah, Denzil, we all loved him. Even the common people--led as they were
by hectoring preachers of sedition, of no more truth or honesty than the
mountebanks that ply their knavish trade round Henry's statue on the Pont
Neuf--even they, the very rabble, had their hours of loyalty. I rode with
his Majesty from Royston to Hatfield, in '47, when the people filled the
midsummer air with his name, from hearts melting with love and pity. They
strewed the ways with boughs, and strewed the boughs with roses. So great
honour has been seldom shown to a royal captive."

"I take it that the lower class are no politicians, and loved their King
for his private virtues."

"Never was monarch worthier to be so esteemed. He was a man of deep
affections, and it was perhaps his most fatal quality where he loved
to love too much. I have no grudge against that beautiful and most
accomplished woman he so worshipped, and who was ever gracious to me; but I
cannot doubt that Henrietta Maria was his evil star. She had the fire and
daring of her father, but none of his care and affection for the people.
The daughter of the most beloved of kings had the instincts of a tyrant,
and was ever urging her too pliant husband to unpopular measures. She
wanted to set that little jewelled shoe of hers on the neck of rebellion,
when she should have held out her soft white hand to make friends of her
foes. Her beauty and her grace might have done much, had she inherited with
the pride of the Medici something of their finesse and suavity. But he
loved her, Denzil, forgave all her follies, her lavish spending and
wasteful splendour. 'My wife is a bad housekeeper,' I heard him say once,
when she was hanging upon his chair as he sat at the end of the Council
table. The palace accounts were on the table--three thousand pounds for
a masque--extravagance only surpassed by Nicholas Fouquet twenty years
afterwards, when he was squandering the public money. 'My wife is a bad
housekeeper,' his Majesty said gently, and then he drew down the little
French museau with a caressing hand, and kissed her in the presence of
those greybeards."

"His son is strangely unlike him in domestic matters."

"His son has the manners of a Frenchman and the morals of a Turk. He is a
despot to his wife and a slave to his mistress. There never was greater
cruelty to a woman than his Majesty's treatment of Catherine while she was
still but a stranger in the land, and when he forced his notorious paramour
upon her as her lady of honour. Of honour, quotha! There was sorry store of
honour in his conduct. He had need feel the sting of remorse t'other day
when the poor lady was thought to be on her death-bed--so gentle,
so affectionate, so broken to the long-suffering of consort-queens,
apologising for having lived to trouble him. Ned Hyde has given me the
whole story of that poor lady's subjugation, for he was behind the scenes,
and in their secrets. Poor soul! Blood rushed from her ears and nostrils
when that shameless woman was brought to her, and she was carried swooning
to her chamber. And then she was sullen, and the King threatened her, and
sent away all her Portuguese, save one ancient waiting woman. I grant
you they were ugly devils, fit to set in a field to frighten crows;
but Catherine loved them. Royal treatment for a Christian Queen from a
Christian King! Could the Sophy do worse? And presently the poor lady
yielded (as most women will, for at heart they are slavish and love to be
beaten), and after holding herself aloof for a long time--a sad, silent,
neglected figure where all the rest were loud and merry--she made friends
with the lady, and even seemed to fawn upon her."

"And now I dare swear the two women mingle their tears when Charles is
unfaithful to both; or Catherine weeps while Barbara curses. That would be
more in character. Fire and not water is her ladyship's element."

"Ah, Denzil, 'tis a curious change; and to have lived to see Buckingham
murdered, and Stafford sacrificed, and the Rebellion, and the Commonwealth,
and the Restoration, and the Plague, and the Fire, and to have skirmished
in the battles of Parliaments and Princes, t'other side the Channel, and
seen the tail of the Thirty Years' War, towns ruined, villages laid waste,
where Tilly passed in blood and fire, is to have lived through as wild a
variety of fortunes as ever madman invented in a dream."

       *       *       *       *       *

Denzil lingered at the Manor, urged again and again by his host to stay
over the day fixed for departure, and so lengthening his visit with a most
willing submission till late in June, when the silence of the nightingales
made sleep more possible, and the sunset was so late and the sunrise so
early that there seemed to be no such thing as night. He had made up his
mind to plead for a hearing in the hour of farewell; and it may have been
as much from apprehension of that fateful hour as even from the delight of
being in his mistress's company that he acceded with alacrity when Sir John
desired him to stay. But an end must come at last to all hesitations, and a
familiar verse repeated itself in his brain with the persistent iteration
of cathedral chimes--

    "He either fears his fate too much,
    Or his desert is small,
    Who fears to put it to the touch,
    And win or lose it all."

Sir John pushed him towards his fate with affectionate urgency.

"Never be dastardised by a girl's refusal, man," said the Knight, warm with
his morning draught, on that last day, when the guest's horses had been
fed for a journey, and the saddle-bags packed. "Don't let a simpleton's
coldness cow your spirits. The wench likes you; else she would scarce have
endured your long sermons upon weeds and insects, or been smiling and
contented in your company all these weeks. Take heart of grace, man; and
remember that though I am no tyrannical father to drag an unwilling bride
to the altar, I have all a father's authority, and will not have my dearest
wishes baulked by the capricious humours of a coquette."

"Not for worlds, sir, would I owe to authority what love cannot freely
grant--"

"Don't chop logic, Denzil. You want my daughter; and by God you shall have
her! Win her with pretty speeches if you can. If she turn stubborn she
shall have plain English from me. I have promised not to force her
inclination; but if I am driven to harsh measures 'twill be for her own
good I am severe. Ventregris! What can fortune give her better than a
handsome and virtuous husband?"

Angela was in the garden when Denzil went to take leave of her. She was
walking up and down beside a long border of June flowers, screened from
rough winds by those thick walls of yew which gave such a comfortable
sheltered feeling to the Manor gardens, while in front of flowers and turf
there sparkled the waters of a long pond or stew, stocked with tench and
carp, some among them as ancient and as greedy as the scaly monsters of
Fontainebleau.

The sun was shining on the dark green water and the gaudy flower-bed,
and Angela's favourite spaniel was running about the grass, barking his
loudest, chasing bird or butterfly with impotent fury, since he never
caught anything. At sight of Denzil he tore across the greensward, his
silky ears flying, and barked at him as if the young man's appearance in
that garden were an insufferable impertinence; but, on being taken up in
one strong hand, changed his opinion, and slobbered the face of the foe in
an ecstasy of affection.

"Soho, Ganymede, thou knowest I bear thee a good heart, plaything and mere
pretence of a dog as thou art," said Denzil, depositing their little bundle
of black-and-tan flossiness at Angela's feet.

He might have carried and nursed his mistress's favourite with pleasure
during any casual sauntering and random talk; but a man could hardly ask to
have his fate decided for good or ill with a toy spaniel in his arms.

"My horse is at the door, Angela, and I am come to bid you good-bye," he
said in a grave voice.

The words were of the simplest; but there was something in his tone that
told her all was not said. She paled at the thought of an approaching
conflict; for she knew her father was against her, and that there must be
hard fighting.

They walked the length of flower border and lawn in silence; and then, when
they were furthest from the house, and from the hazard of eyes looking out
of windows, he stopped suddenly, and took her unresisting hand, which lay
cold in his.

"Dearest, I have kept silence through all those blessed days in which you
and I have been together; but I have not left off loving you or hoping for
you. Things have changed since I spoke to you in London last winter. I have
a powerful advocate now whose pleading ought to prevail with you--a father
whose anxious affection urges what my passionate love so ardently desires.
Indeed, dear heart, if you will be kind, you can make a father and lover
happy with one breath. You have but to say 'Yes' to the prayer you know
of----"

"Alas! Denzil, I cannot. I am your true and faithful friend. If you were
sick and alone--as his lordship was--I would go to you and nurse you, as
your friend and sister. If you were poor and I were rich, I would divide my
fortune with you. I shall always think of you with affection--always take
pleasure in your society, if you will let me; but it must be as your
sister. You have no sister, Denzil--I no brother. Why cannot we be to each
other as brother and sister?"

"Only because from the hour when your beauty and sweetness began to grow
into my mind I have been your lover, and nothing else--your adoring lover.
I cannot change my fervent hope for the poor name of friend. I can never
again dare be to you what I have been in this happy season last past,
unless you will let me be more than I have been."

"Alas!"

Only that one word, with a sorrowful shake of the graceful head, covered
with feathery ringlets in the dainty fashion of that day, so becoming in
youth, so inappropriate to advancing years, when the rich profusion of
curls came straight from Chedreux, or some of his imitators, and baldness
was hidden by the spoils of the dead.

"Alas!"

No need for more than that sad dissyllable.

"Then I am no nearer winning this dear hand than I was at Fareham House?"
he said heartbrokenly, for he had built high hopes upon her kindness and
willing companionship in that Arcadian valley.

"I told you then that I should never marry. I have not changed my mind. I
never can change. I am to be Henriette's spinster aunt."

"And Fareham's spinster sister?" said Denzil. "I understand. We are neither
of us cured of our malady. It is my disease to love you in spite of your
disdain. It is your disease to love where you should not. Farewell!"

He was gone before she could reply. The livid anger of his face, the
deep resentment in his voice, haunted her memory, and made life almost
intolerable.

"My sin has found me out!" she said to herself, as she paced the garden
with the rapid steps that indicate a distempered spirit. "What right has he
to pry into the depths of my mind, and ferret out all that there is of evil
in my nature? Well, he goes the surest way to make me hate him. If ever he
comes here again, I will run away and hide from all who know me. I would
rather be a farm-servant, and rise at daybreak to work in the fields, than
endure his insolence."

She had to bear worse pain before Denzil had ridden far upon his journey;
for her father came to the garden to seek her, eager to know the result of
his _protégé's_ wooing.

"Well, sweetheart," he began, taking her to his bosom and kissing her. "Do
I salute the future Lady Warner?"

"No, sir; I am too well content with the name I inherit to desire any
other."

"That is gracefully said, chérie; but I want to see my ewe lamb happily
wedded. Has thy sweetheart stolen away without finding courage to ask the
question that has been on the tip of his tongue for the last six weeks?"

"He has been both importunate and impertinent, sir, and he has had his
answer. I hope I may never see him again."

"What! you have refused him? You must be mad!"

"No, sir; sober and sane enough to know when I am happy. I told you before
this gentleman came here that I did not mean to marry. Surely I am not so
unloving a daughter that I must be driven to take a husband, because my
father will not have me."

"Angela, it is for your own safety and welfare I would see you married.
What have you to succeed to when I am gone? An impoverished estate, in a
country that has seen such rough changes within a score of years that one
dare scarcely calculate upon a prolonged time of safety, even in this
sequestered valley. God only knows when cannon-balls may tear up our
fields, and bullets whistle through the copses. This Monarchy, restored
with such a clamorous approval, may endure no longer than the Commonwealth,
which was thought to be lasting. His Majesty's trivial life and gross
extravagance have disgusted and alarmed some who loved him dearly, and have
set the common people questioning whether the rough rule of the Protector
were not better than the ascendency of shameless women and dissolute men.
The pageantry of Whitehall may vanish like a parchment scroll in a furnace,
and Charles, who has tasted the sours of exile, may be again a wanderer,
dependent on the casual munificence of foreign states; and in such an evil
hour," continued the Knight, his mind straying from the contemplation of
his daughter's future to the memory of his own wrongs, "Charles Stuart
may remember the old puts who fought and suffered for his father, and how
scurvy a recompense they had for their services."

He reverted to Denzil's offer after a brief silence, Angela walking
dutifully by his side, prepared to suffer any harshness upon his part
without complaining.

"I love the young man, and he would be to me as a son," he said; "the
comrade and support of my old age. I am poor, as the world goes now; have
but just enough to live modestly in this retreat, where life costs but
little. He is rich, and can give you a handsome seat near your sister's
mansion; and a house in London if you desire one; less splendid, doubtless,
than Fareham's palace on the Thames, but more befitting the habits and
manners of an English gentleman's wife. He can give you hounds and hawks,
your riding-horses, and your coach-and-six. What more, in God's name, can
any reasonable woman desire?"

"Only one thing, sir. To live my own life in peace, as my conscience and my
reason bid me. I cannot love Denzil Warner, though of late I have grown
to like and respect him as a friend and most intelligent companion. Your
persistence is fast changing friendship into dislike; and the very name of
the man would speedily become hateful to me."

"Oh, I have done!" retorted Sir John. "I am no tyrant. You must take your
own way, mistress. I can but lament that Providence gave me only two
daughters, and one of them an arrant fool."

He left her in a huff, and had it not been for an astonishing event, which
convulsed town and country, and suspended private interests and private
quarrels in the excitement of public affairs, she would have heard much
more of his discontent.

The Dutch ships were at Chatham. English men-of-war were blazing at the
very mouth of the Thames, and there was panic lest the triumphant foe
should sail their fire-ships up the river to London, besiege the Tower,
relight the fire whose ashes were scarce grown cold, pillage, slaughter,
destroy--as Tilly had destroyed the wretched Provinces in the religious
war.

Here, in this sheltered haven, amidst green fields, under the lee of the
Brill, the panic and consternation were as intense as if the village of St.
Nicholas were the one spot the Dutch would make for after landing; and,
indeed, there were rustics who went to the placid scene where the infant
Thame rises in its cradle of reed and lily, half expectant of seeing
Netherlandish vessels stranded among the rushes.

The Dutch fleet was at Chatham. Ships were being sunk across the Medway, to
stop the invader.

Sheerness was to be fortified. London was in arms; and Brill remembered
its repulse of Hampden's regiment with a proud consciousness of being
invincible.

The Dutch fleet saved Angela many a paternal lecture; for Sir John rode
post-haste towards London, and did not return until the end of the month.

In London he found Hyacinth, much disturbed about her husband, who had
gone as volunteer with General Middleton, and was in command of a cavalry
regiment at Chatham.

"I never saw him in such spirits as when he left me," Lady Fareham told her
father. "I believe he is ever happiest when he breathes gunpowder."

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir John's leave-taking had been curt and moody, for Angela's offence
rankled deep in his mind; and it was as much as he could do to command his
anger, even in bidding her good-bye.

"Did I not tell you that we live in troubled times, and that no man can
foresee the coming evil, or how great our woes and distractions may be?" he
asked, with a gloomy triumph. "Whoever thought to hear De Ruyter's guns at
Sheerness, or to see the Royal Charles led captive? Absit omen! Who knows
what destruction may come upon that other Royal Charles, for whose safety
we pray morning and night, and who lolls across a basset-table, perhaps,
with his wantons around him, while we are on our knees supplicating the
Creator for him? Who knows? We may have London in flames again, and a
conflagration more fatal than the last, thou obstinate wench, before thou
art a week older, and every able-bodied man called away from plough and
pasture to serve the King, and desolation and famine where plenty now
smiles at us. And is this a time in which to refuse a valiant and wealthy
protector, a lover as honest as ever God made; a pious, conforming
Christian, of unsullied name; a young man after my own pattern; a fine
horseman and a good farmer; one who loves a pack of hounds and a well-bred
horse, a flight of hawks and a match at bowls, better than to give chase to
a she-rake in the Mall, or to drink himself stark mad at a tavern in Covent
Garden with debauchees from Whitehall?"

Sir John prosed and grumbled to the last moment, but could not refuse to
bend down from his saddle and kiss the fair, pale face that looked at him
in piteous deprecation at the moment of parting.

"Well, keep a brave heart, Mistress Wilful. Thou art safe here yet awhile
from Dutch marauders. I go but to find out how much truth there is in these
panic rumours."

She begged him not to fatigue himself with too long stages, and went back
to the silent house, thankful to be alone in her despondency. She felt as
if the last page in her worldly life had been written. She had to turn
her thoughts backward to that quiet retreat where there would at least be
peace. She had promised her father that she would not return to the Convent
while he wanted her at home. But was that promise to hold good if he were
to embitter her life by urging her to a marriage that would only bring her
unhappiness?

She had ample leisure for thought in one summer day of a solitude so
absolute that she began to shiver in the sultry stillness of afternoon,
and scarce ventured to raise her eyes from her embroidery frame, lest some
shadowy presence, some ghost out of the dead past, should hover near,
watching her as she sat alone in scenes where that pale spirit had been
living flesh. The thought of all who had lived and died in that house--men
and women of her own race, whose qualities of mind and person she had
inherited--oppressed her in the long hours of silent reverie. Before
her first day of loneliness had ended, her spirits had sunk to deepest
melancholy; and in that weaker condition of mind she had begun to ask
herself whether she had any right to oppose her father's wishes by denying
herself to a suitor whom she esteemed and respected, and whose filial
affection would bring new sunshine into that dear father's declining years.
She had noted their manner to each other during Denzil's protracted visit,
and had seen all the evidences of a warm regard on both sides. She had too
complete a faith in Denzil's sterling worth to question the reality of any
feeling which his words and manner indicated. He was above all things a
man of truth and honesty. She was roaming about the gardens with her dog
towards noon in the second day of her solitude, when across the yew hedges
she saw white clouds of dust rising from the high-road, and heard
the clatter of hoofs and roll of wheels--a noise as of a troop of
cavalry--whereat Ganymede barked himself almost into an apoplexy, and
rushed across the grass like a mad thing.

A great cracking of whips and sound of voices, horses galloping, horses
trotting, dust enough to whiten all the hedges and greensward! Angela stood
at gaze, wondering if the Dutch were coming to storm the old house, or the
county militia coming to garrison it.

The Manor Moat was the destination of that clamorous troop, whoever they
were. Wheels and horses stopped sharply at the great iron gate in front of
the house, and the bell began to ring furiously, while other dogs, with
voices that resembled Ganymede's, answered his shrill bark with even
shriller yelpings.

Angela ran towards the gate, and was near enough to see it opened to
admit three black-and-tan spaniels, and one slim personage in a long
flame-coloured brocatelle gown and a large beaver hat, who approached with
stately movements, a small, pert nose held high, and rosy upper lip curled
in patrician disdain of common things, while a fan of peacock's plumage,
that flashed sapphire and emerald in the fierce noonday sun, was waved
slowly before the dainty face, scattering the tremulous life of summer that
buzzed and fluttered in the sultry air.

In the rear of this brilliant figure appeared a middle-aged person in
a grey silk gown and hood, and a negro page in the Fareham livery, a
waiting-woman, and a tall lackey, so many being the necessary adjuncts to
the Honourable Henrietta Maria Revel's state when she went abroad.

Angela ran to receive her niece with a cry of rapture, and the tall slip of
a girl in the flame-coloured frock was clasped to her aunt's heart with a
ruthless disregard of the beaver hat and cataract of ostrich plumage.

"Prends garde d'abimer mon chapeau, p'tite tante," cried Henriette, "'tis
one of Lewin's Nell Gwyn hats, and cost twenty guineas, without the buckle,
which I stole out of father's shoe t'other day. His lordship is so careless
about his clothes that he wore the shoes two days and never knew there was
a buckle missing, and those lazy devils his servants never told him. I
believe they meant to rook him of t'other buckle."

"Chatterer, chatterer, how happy I am to see thee! But is not your mother
with you?"

"Her ladyship is in London. Everybody of importance is scampering off to
London; and no doubt will be rushing back to the country again if the Dutch
take the Tower; but I don't think they will while my father is able to
raise a regiment."

"And mademoiselle"--with a curtsy to the lady in grey--"has brought you all
this long way through the heat to see me?"

"I have brought mademoiselle," Henrietta answered contemptuously, before
the Frenchwoman had finished the moue and the shrug which with her always
preceded speech; "and a fine plague I had to make her come."

"Madame will conceive that, in miladi's absence, it was a prodigious
inconvenience to order two coaches, and travel so far. His lordship's groom
of the chambers is my witness that I protested against such an outrageous
proceeding."

"Two coaches!" exclaimed Angela.

"A coach-and-six for me and my dogs and my gouvernante, and a
coach-and-four for my people," explained Henriette, who had modelled her
equipage and suite upon a reminiscence of the train which attended Lady
Castlemaine's visit to Chilton, as beheld from a nursery window.

"Come, child, and rest, out of the sun; and you, mademoiselle, must need
refreshment after so long a drive."

"Our progress through a perpetual cloud of dust and a succession of narrow
lanes did indeed suggest the torments of purgatory; but the happiness
of madame's gracious welcome is an all-sufficient compensation for our
fatigue," mademoiselle replied, with a deep curtsey.

"I was not tired in the least," asserted Henriette. "We stopped at the
Crown at Thame and had strawberries and milk."

"_You_ had strawberries and milk, mon enfant. I have a digestion which will
not allow such liberties."

"And our horses were baited, and our people had their morning drink," said
Henriette, with her grown-up air. "One ought always to remember cattle and
servants. May we put up our horses with you, auntie? We must leave you soon
after dinner, so as to be at Chilton by sunset, or mademoiselle will
be afraid of highwaymen, though I told Samuel and Peter to bring their
blunderbusses in case of an attack. Ma'amselle has no valuables, and at the
worst I should but have to give them my diamond buckle, and my locket with
his lordship's portrait."

Angela's cheeks flushed at that chance allusion to Fareham's picture. It
brought back a vision of the Convent parlour, and she standing there with
Fareham's miniature in her hand, wonderingly contemplative of the dark,
strong face. At that stage of her life she had seen so few men's faces;
and this one had a power in it that startled her. Did she divine, by some
supernatural foreknowledge, that this face held the secret of her destiny?

She went to the house, with Henriette's lissom form hanging upon her, and
the grey governess tripping mincingly beside them, tottering a little upon
her high heels.

Old Reuben had crept out into the sunshine, with a rustic footman following
him, and the cook was looking out at a window in the wing where kitchen and
servants' hall occupied as important a position as the dining-parlour and
saloon on the opposite side. A hall with open roof, wide double staircase,
and music gallery, filled the central space between the two projecting
wings, and at the back there was a banqueting-chamber or ball-room, where
in more prosperous days, the family had been accustomed to dine on all
stately occasions--a room now shabby and grey with disuse.

While the footman showed the way to the stables, Angela drew Reuben aside
for a brief consultation as to ways and means for a dinner that must be the
best the house could provide, and which might be served at two o'clock, the
later hour giving time for extra preparation. A capon, larded after the
French fashion, a pair of trouts, the finest the stream could furnish, or a
carp stewed in clary wine, and as many sweet kickshaws as cook's ingenuity
could furnish at so brief a notice. Nor were waiting-woman, lackey, and
postillions to be neglected. Chine and sirloin, pudding and beer must be
provided for all.

"There are six men besides the black boy," sighed Reuben; they will devour
us a week's provision of butcher's meat."

"If you have done your housekeeping, tante, let me go to your favourite
summer-house with you, and tell you my secrets. I am perishing for a
_tête-à-tête!_ Ma'amselle"--with a wave of the peacock fan--"can take a
siesta, and forget the dust of the road, while we converse."

Angela ushered mademoiselle to the pretty summer-parlour, looking out upon
a geometrical arrangement of flower-beds in the Dutch manner. Chocolate
and other light refreshments were being prepared for the travellers; but
Henrietta's impatience would wait for nothing.

"I have not driven along these detestable roads to taste your chocolate,"
she protested. "I have a world to say to you: en attendant, mademoiselle,
you will consider everything at your disposal in the house of my
grandfather, jusqu'à deux heures."

She sank almost to the ground in a Whitehall curtsy, rose swift as an
arrow, tucked her arm through Angela's, and pulled her out of the room,
paying no attention to the governess's voluble injunctions not to expose
her complexion to the sun, or to sit in a cold wind, or to spoil her gown.

"What a shabby old place it is!" she said, looking critically round her as
they went through the gardens. "I'm afraid you must perish with _ennui_
here, with so few servants and no company to speak of. Yes"--contemplating
her shrewdly, as they seated themselves in a stone temple at the end of the
bowling-green--"you are looking moped and ill. This valley air does not
agree with you. Well, you can have a much finer place whenever you choose.
A better house and garden, ever so much nearer Chilton. And you will
choose, won't you, dearest?" nestling close to her, after throwing off the
big hat which made such loving contact impossible.

"I don't understand you, Henriette."

"If you call me Henriette I shall be sure you are angry with me."

"No, love, not angry, but surprised."

"You think I have no right to talk of your sweetheart, because I am only
thirteen--and have scarce left off playing with babies--I have hated them
for ages, only people persist in giving me the foolish puppets. I know more
of the world than you do, auntie, after being shut in a Convent the best
part of your life. Why are you so obstinate, ma chérie, in refusing a
gentleman we all like?"

"Do you mean Sir Denzil?"

"Sans doute. Have you a crowd of servants?"

"No, child, only this one. But don't you see that other people's liking
has less to do with the question than mine? And if I do not like him well
enough to be his wife----"

"But you ought to like him. You know how long her ladyship's heart has been
set on the match; you must have seen what pains she took in London to have
Sir Denzil always about you. And now, after a most exemplary patience,
after being your faithful servant for over a year, he asks you to be his
wife, and you refuse, obstinately refuse. And you would rather mope here
with my poor old grandfather--in abject poverty--mother says 'abject
poverty'--than be the honoured mistress of one of the finest seats in
Oxfordshire."

"I would rather do what is right and honest, my dearest It is dishonest to
marry without love."

"Then half mother's fine friends must be dishonest, for I dare swear that
very few of them love their husbands."

"Henriette, you talk of things you don't know."

"Don't know! Why, there is no one in London knows more. I am always
listening, and I always remember. De Malfort used to say I had a plaguey
long memory, when I told him of things he had said a year ago."

"My dear, I love you fondly, but I cannot have you talk to me of what you
don't understand; and I am sorry Sir Denzil Warner had no more courtesy
than to go and complain of me to my sister."

"He did not come to Chilton to complain. Her ladyship met him on the way
from Oxford in her coach. He was riding, and she called to him to come
to the coach door. It was the day after he left you, and he was looking
miserable; and she questioned him, and he owned that his suit had been
rejected, and he had no further hope. My mother came home in a rage. But
why was she angry with his lordship? Indeed, she rated him as if it were
his fault you refused Sir Denzil."

Angela sat silent, and the hand Henriette was clasping grew cold as ice.

"Did my father bid you refuse him, aunt?" asked the girl, scrutinising her
aunt's countenance, with those dark grey eyes, so like Fareham's in their
falcon brightness.

"No, child. Why should he interfere? It is no business of his."

"Then why was mother so angry? She walked up and down the room in a
towering passion. 'This is your doing,' she cried. 'If she were not your
adoring slave, she would have jumped at so handsome a sweetheart. This is
your witchcraft. It is you she loves--you--you--you!' His lordship stood
dumb, and pointed to me. 'Do you forget your child is present?' he said. 'I
forget everything except that everybody uses me shamefully,' she cried.
'I was only made to be slighted and trampled upon.' His lordship made
no answer, but walked to the door in that way he ever has when he is
angered--pale, frowning, silent. I was standing in his way, and he gripped
me by the arm, and dragged me out of the room. I dare venture there is a
bruise on my arm where he held me. I know his fingers hurt me with their
grip; and I could hear my lady screaming and sobbing as he took me away.
But he would not let me go back to her. He would only send her women. 'Your
mother has an interval of madness,' he said; 'you are best out of her
presence.' The news of the Dutch ships came the same evening, and my father
rode off towards London, and my mother ordered her coach, and followed an
hour after. They seemed both distracted; and only because you refused Sir
Denzil."

"I cannot help her ladyship's foolishness, Papillon. She has no occasion
for any of this trouble. I am her dutiful, affectionate sister; but my
heart is not hers to give or to refuse."

"But was it indeed my father's fault? Is it because you adore him that you
refused Sir Denzil?"

"No--no--no. My affection for my brother--he has been to me as a
brother--can make no difference in my regard for any one else. One cannot
fall in love at another's ordering, or be happy with a husband of another's
choice. You will discover that for yourself, Papillon, perhaps, when you
are a woman."

"Oh, I mean to marry for wealth and station, as all the clever women do,"
said Papillon, with an upward jerk of her delicate chin. "Mrs. Lewin always
says I ought to be a duchess. I should like to have married the Duke of
Monmouth, and then, who knows, I might have been a Queen. The King's other
sons are too young for me, and they will never have Monmouth's chance. But,
indeed, sweetheart, you ought to marry Sir Denzil, and come and live near
us at Chilton. You would make us all happy."

"Ma tres chère, it is so easy to talk--but when thou thyself art a
woman----"

"I shall never care for such trumpery as love. I mean to have a grand
house--ever so much grander than Fareham House. Perhaps I may marry a
Frenchman, and have a salon, and all the wits about me on my day. I would
make it gayer than Mademoiselle de Scudery's Saturdays, which my governess
so loves to talk of. There should be less talk and more dancing. But
listen, p'tite tante," clasping her arms suddenly round Angela's neck, "I
won't leave this spot till you have promised to change your mind about
Denzil. I like him vastly; and I'm sure there's no reason why you should
not love him--unless you really are his lordship's adoring slave,"
emphasising those last words, "and he has forbidden you."

Angela sat dumb, her eyes fixed on vacancy.

"Why, you are like the lady in those lines you made me learn, who 'sat like
patience on a monument, smiling at grief.' Dearest, why so sad? Remember
that fine house--and the dairy that was once a chapel. You could turn it
into a chapel again if you liked, and have your own chaplain. His Majesty
takes no heed of what we Papists do--being a Papist himself at heart, they
say--though poor wretches are dragged off to gaol for worshipping in a
conventicle. What is a conventicle? Will you not change your mind, dearest?
Answer, answer, answer!"

The slender arms tightened their caress, the pretty little brown face
pressed itself against Angela's pale, cold cheek.

"For my sake, sweetheart, say thou wilt have him. I will go to see thee
every day."

"I have been here for months and you have not come, though I begged you in
a dozen letters."

"I have been kept at my book and my dancing lessons. Mademoiselle told her
ladyship that I was a monster of ignorance. I have been treated shamefully.
I could not have come to-day had my lady been at home; but I would not
brook a hireling's dictation. Voyons, p'tite tante, tu seras miladi Warner.
Dis, dis, que je te fasse mourir de baisers."

She was almost stifling her aunt with kisses in the intervals of her eager
speech.

"The last word has been spoken, Papillon. I have sent him away--and it was
not the first time. I had refused him before. I cannot call him back."

"But he shall come without calling. He is your adoring slave," cried
Henriette, leaping up from the stone bench, and clapping her hands in
an ecstasy. "He will need no calling. Dearest, dearest, most exquisite,
delectable auntie! I am so happy! And my mother will be content. And no one
shall ever say you are my father's slave."

"Henriette, if you repeat that odious phrase I shall hate you!"

"Now you are angry. God, what a frown! I will repeat no word that angers
you. My Lady Warner--sweet Lady Warner. I vow 'tis a prettier name than
Revel or Fareham."

"You are mad, Henriette! I have promised nothing."

"Yes, you have, little aunt. You have promised to drop a curtsy, and say
'Yes' when Sir Denzil rides this way. You sent him away in a huff. He will
come back smiling like yonder sunshine on the water. Oh, I am so happy! My
doing, all my doing!"

"It is useless to argue with you."

"Quite useless. Il n'y a pas de quoi. Nous sommes d'accord. I shall be
your chief bridesmaid. You must be married in her Majesty's chapel at St.
James's. The Pope will give his dispensation--if you cannot persuade Denzil
to change his religion. Were he my suitor I would twist him round my
fingers," with an airy gesture of the small brown hand.

There is nothing more difficult than to convince a child that she pleads in
vain for any ardently desired object. Nothing that Angela could say would
reconcile her niece to the idea of failure; so there was no help but to let
her fancy her arguments conclusive, and to change the bent of her thoughts
if possible.

It wanted nearly an hour of dinner-time, so Angela suggested an inspection
of the home farm, which was close by, trusting that Henriette's love of
animals would afford an all-sufficient diversion; nor was she disappointed,
for the little fine lady was quite as much at home in stable and cowshed as
in a London drawing-room, and spent a happy hour in making friends with
the live stock, from the favourite Hereford cow, queen of the herd, to the
smallest bantam in the poultry-yard.

To this rustic entertainment followed dinner, in the preparation of which
banquet Marjory Cook had surpassed herself; and Papillon, being by this
time seriously hungry, sat and feasted to her heart's content, discussing
the marrow pudding and the stewed carp with the acumen and authority of a
professed gourmet.

"I like this old-fashioned rustic diet," she said condescendingly.

She reproached her governess with not doing justice to a syllabub; but
showed herself a fine lady by her complaint at the lack of ice for her
wine.

"My grandfather should make haste and build an icehouse before next
winter," she drawled. "One can scarce live through this weather without
ice," fanning herself, with excessive languor.

"I hope, dear, thou wilt not expire on the journey home."

The coaches were at the gate before Papillon had finished dinner, and
Mademoiselle was in great haste to be gone, reminding her pupil that she
had travelled so far against her will and at the hazard of angering Madame
la Baronne.

"Madame la Baronne will be enraptured when she knows what I have done to
please her," answered Papillon, and then, with a last parting embrace,
hugging her aunt's fair neck more energetically than ever, she whispered,
"I shall tell Denzil. You will make us all happy."

A cloud of dust, a clatter of hoofs, Ma'amselle's screams as the carriage
rocked while she was mounting the steps, and with much cracking of whips
and swearing at horses from the postillions who had taken their fill of
home-brewed ale, hog's harslet, and cold chine, and, lo, the brilliant
vision of the Honourable Henrietta Maria and her train vanished in the dust
of the summer highway, and Angela went slowly back to the long green walk
beside the fish-pond, where she was in as silent a solitude, but for a
lingering nightingale or two, as if she had been in the palace of the
sleeping beauty. If all things slumbered not, there was at least as marked
a pause in life. The Dutch might be burning more ships, and the noise of
war might be coming nearer London with every hour of the summer day. Here
there was a repose as of the after-life, when all hopes and dreams and
loves and hates are done and ended, and the soul waits in darkness and
silence for the next unfolding of its wings.

Those hateful words, "your adoring slave," and all that speech of
Hyacinth's which the child had repeated, haunted Angela with an agonising
iteration. She had not an instant's doubt as to the scene being faithfully
reported. She knew how preternaturally acute Henriette's intellect had
become in the rarified atmosphere of her mother's drawing-room, how
accurate her memory, how sharp her ears, and how observant her eyes.
Whatever Henriette reported was likely to be to the very letter and spirit
of the scene she had witnessed. And Hyacinth, her sister, had put this
shame upon her, had spoken of her in the cruelest phrase as loving one whom
it was mortal sin to love. Hyacinth, so light, so airy a creature, whom her
younger sister had ever considered as a grown-up child, had yet been shrewd
enough to fathom her mystery, and to discover that secret attachment which
had made Denzil's suit hateful to her. "And if I do not consent to marry
him she will always think ill of me. She will think of me as a wretch who
tried to steal her husband's love--a worse woman than Lady Castlemaine--for
she had the King's affection before he ever saw the Queen's poor plain
face. His adoring slave!"

Evening shadows were around her. She had wandered into the woods, was
slowly threading the slender cattle tracks in the cool darkness; while that
passionate song of the nightingales rose in a louder ecstasy as the quiet
of the night deepened, and the young moon hung high above the edge of a
wooded hill.

"His adoring slave," she repeated, with her hands clasped above her
uncovered head.

Hateful, humiliating words! Yet there was a keen rapture in repeating them.
They were true words. His slave--his slave to wait upon him in sickness and
pain; to lie and watch at his door like a faithful dog; to follow him to
the wars, and clean his armour, and hold his horse, and wait in his tent
to receive him wounded, and heal his wounds where surgeons failed to cure,
wanting that intensity of attention and understanding which love alone can
give; to be his Bellario, asking nothing of him, hoping for nothing, hardly
for kind words or common courtesy, foregoing woman's claim upon man's
chivalry, content to be nothing--only to be near him.

If such a life could have been--the life that poets have imagined for
despairing love! It was less than a hundred years since handsome Mrs.
Southwell followed Sir Robert Dudley to Italy, disguised as a page. But
the age of romance was past. The modern world had only laughter for such
dreams.

That revelation of Hyacinth's jealousy had brought matters to a crisis.
Something must be done, Angela told herself, and quickly, to set her
right with her sister, and in her own esteem. She had to choose between a
loveless marriage and the Convent. By accepting one or the other she must
prove that she was not the slave of a dishonourable love.

Marriage or the Convent? It had been easy, contemplating the step from a
distance, to choose the Convent. But when she thought of it, to-night, amid
the exquisite beauty of these woods, with the moonlit valley lying at her
feet, the winding streams reflecting that silvery light, or veiled in a
pale haze--to-night, in the liberty and loveliness of the earth, the vision
of Convent walls filled her with a shuddering horror. To be shut in that
Flemish garden for ever; her life enclosed within the straight lines of
that long green alley leading to a dead wall, darkened over by flowerless
ivy. How witheringly dull the old life showed, looking back at it after
years of freedom and enjoyment, action and variety. No, no, no! She could
not bury herself alive, could not forego the liberty to wander in a wood
like this, to gaze upon scenes as beautiful as yonder valley, to read the
poets she loved, to see, perhaps, some day those romantic scenes which
she knew but as dreams--Florence, Vallombrosa--to follow the footsteps of
Milton, to see the Venice she had read of in Howell's Letters, to kneel at
the feet of the Holy Father, in the City of Cities. All these things would
be for ever forbidden to her if she chose the common escape from earthly
sorrow.

She thought of her whose example had furnished the theme of many a
discourse at the Convent, Mazarin's lovely niece, the Princess de Conti,
who, in the bloom of early womanhood, was awakened from the dream of this
life to the reality of Heaven, and had renounced the pleasures of the most
brilliant Court in the world for the severities of Port Royal. She thought
of that sublime heretic Ferrar, whose later existence was one long prayer.
Of how much baser a clay must she be fashioned when her too earthly heart
clung so fondly to the loveliness of earth, and shrank with aversion from
the prospect of a long life within those walls where her childhood had been
so peaceful and happy.

"How changed, how changed and corrupted this heart has become!" she
murmured, in her dejection, "when that life which was once my most ardent
desire now seems to me worse than the grave. Anything--any life of duty in
the world, rather than that living death."

She was in the garden next morning at six, after a sleepless night, and
she occupied herself till noon in going about among the cottagers carrying
those small comforts which she had been in the habit of taking them, and
listening patiently to those various distresses which they were very glad
to relate to her. She taught the children, and read to the sick, and
was able in this round of duties to keep her thoughts from dwelling too
persistently upon her own trouble. After the one o'clock dinner, at which
she offended old Reuben by eating hardly anything, she went for a woodland
ramble with her dogs, and it was near sunset when she returned to the
house, just in time to see two road-stained horses being led away from the
hall door.

Sir John had come home. She found him in the dining parlour, sitting gloomy
and weary looking before the table where Reuben was arranging a hasty meal.

"I have eaten nothing upon the road, yet I have but a poor stomach for
your bacon-ham," he said, and then looked up at his daughter with a moody
glance, as she went towards him.

"Dear sir, we must try to coax your appetite when you have rested a little.
Let me unbuckle your spurs and pull off your boots, while Reuben fetches
your easiest shoes."

"Nay, child, that is man's work, not for such fingers as yours. The boots
are nowise irksome--'tis another kind of shoe that pinches, Angela."

She knelt down to unbuckle the spur-straps, and while on her knees she
said--

"You look sad, sir. I fear you found ill news at London."

"I found such shame as never came before upon England, such confusion as
only traitors and profligates can know; men who have cheated and lied and
wasted the public money, left our fortresses undefended, our ships unarmed,
our sailors unpaid, half-fed, and mutinous; clamorous wives crying aloud in
the streets that their husbands should not fight and bleed for a King who
starved them. They have clapped the scoundrel who had charge of the Yard at
Chatham in the Tower--but will that mend matters? A scapegoat, belike, to
suffer for higher scoundrels. The mob is loudest against the Chancellor,
who I doubt is not to blame for our unreadiness, having little power of
late over the King. Oh, there has been iniquity upon iniquity, and men know
not whom most to blame--the venal idle servants, or the master of all."

"You mean that men blame his Majesty?"

"No, Angela. But when our ships were blazing at Chatham, and the Dutch
triumphing, the cry was 'Oh, for an hour of old Noll!' Charles has played
his cards so that he has made the loyalest hearts in England wish the
Brewer back again. They called him the Tiger of the Seas. We have no tigers
now, only asses and monkeys. Why, there was scarce a grain of sense left in
London. The beat of the drums calling out the train-bands seemed to have
stupefied the people. Everywhere madness and confusion. They have sunk
their richest argosies at Barking Creek to block the river; but the Dutch
break chains, ride over sunken ships, laugh our petty defences to scorn."

"Dear sir, this confusion cannot last."

"It will last as long as the world's history lasts. Our humiliation will
never be forgotten."

"But Englishmen will not look on idle. There must be brave men up in arms."

"Oh, there are brave men enough--Fairfax, Ingoldsby, Bethell, Norton. The
Presbyterians come to the front in our troubles. Your brother-in-law is
with Lord Middleton. There is no lack of officers; and regiments are being
raised. But our merchant-ships, which should be quick to help us, hang
back. Our Treasury is empty, and half the goldsmiths in London are
bankrupt. And our ships that are burnt, and our ships that are taken, will
not be conjured back again. The _Royal Charles_ carried off with insulting
triumph! Oh, child, it is not the loss that galls; it is the dishonour!"

He took a draught of claret out of the tankard which Angela placed at his
elbow, and she carved the ham for him, and persuaded him to eat.

"Is it the public misfortune that troubles you so sadly, sir?" she asked,
presently, when her father flung himself back in his chair with a heavy
sigh.

"Nay, Angela, I have my peck of trouble without reckoning the ruin of my
country. But my back is broad. It can bear a burden as well as any."

"Do you count a disobedient daughter among your cares, sir?"

"Disobedient is too harsh a word. I told you I would never force your
inclinations. But I have an obstinate daughter, who has disappointed me,
and well-nigh broken my spirit."

"Your spirit shall not rest broken if my obedience can mend it, sir," she
said gently, dropping on her knees beside his chair.

"What! has that stony heart relented! Wilt thou marry him, sweetheart? Wilt
give me a son as well as a daughter, and the security that thou wilt be
safe and happy when I'm gone?"

"No one can be sure of happiness, father; it comes strangely, and goes we
know not why. But if it will make your heart easier, sir, and Denzil be
still of the same mind----"

"His mind his rock, dearest. He swore to me that he could never change. Ah,
love, you have made me happy! Let the fleet burn, the _Royal Charles_
fly Dutch colours. Here, in this quiet valley, there shall be a peaceful
household and united hearts. Angela, I love that youth! Fareham, with all
his rank and wealth, has never been so dear to me. That black visage
repels love. But Denzil's countenance is open as the day. I can say 'Nunc
Dimittis' with a light heart. I can trust Denzil Warner with my daughter's
happiness."



CHAPTER XXIV.

"QUITE OUT OF FASHION."


Denzil received the good news by the hands of a mounted messenger in the
following forenoon.

The Knight had written, "Ride--ride--ride!" in the Elizabethan style, on
the cover of his letter, which contained but two brief sentences--

"Womanlike, she has changed her mind. Come when thou wilt, dear son."

And the son-in-law-to-be lost not an hour. He was at the Manor before
night-fall. He was a member of the quiet household again, subservient to
his mistress in everything.

"There are some words that must needs be spoken before we are agreed,"
Angela said, when they found themselves alone for the first time, in the
garden, on the morning after his return, and when Denzil would fain have
taken her to his breast and ratified their betrothal with a kiss. "I think
you know as well as I do that it is my father's wish that has made me
change."

"So long as you change not again, dear, I am of all men the happiest. Yes,
I know 'tis Sir John's wooing that won you, not mine. And that I have
still to conquer your heart, though your hand is promised me. Yet I do not
despair of being loved in as full measure as I love. My faith is strong in
the power of an honest affection."

"You may at least be sure of my honesty. I profess nothing but the desire
to be your true and obedient wife----"

"Obedient! You shall be my empress."

"No, no. I have no wish to rule. I desire only to make my father happy, and
you too, sir, if I can."

"Ah, my soul, that is so easy for you. You have but to let me live in your
dear company. I doubt I would rather be miserable with you than happy with
any other woman. Ill-use me if you will; play Zantippe, and I will be more
submissive than Socrates. But you are all mildness--perfect Christian,
perfect woman. You cannot miss being perfect as wife--and----"

Another word trembled on his lips; but he checked himself lest he should
offend, and the speech ended in a sob.

"My Angela, my angel!"

He took her to his heart, and kissed the fair brow, cold under his
passionate kisses. That word "angel" turned her to ice. It conjured back
the sound of a voice that it was sin to remember. Fareham had called her
so; not once, but many times, in their placid days of friendship, before
the fiery breath of passion had withered all the flowers in her earthly
paradise--before the knowledge of evil had clouded the brightness of the
world.

A gentle peace reigned at the Manor after Angela's betrothal. Sir John was
happier than he had been since the days of his youth, before the coming
of that cloud no bigger than a man's hand, when John Hampden's stubborn
resistance of a thirty-shilling rate had brought Crown and People face to
face upon the burning question of Ship-money, and kindled the fire that was
to devour England. From the hour he left his young wife to follow the King
to Yorkshire Sir John's existence had known little of rest or of comfort,
or even of glory. He had fought on the losing side, and had missed the
fame of those who fell and took the rank of heroes by an untimely death.
Hardship and danger, wounds and sickness, straitened means and scanty fare,
had been his portion for three bitter years; and then had come a period of
patient service, of schemes and intrigues foredoomed to failure; of going
to and fro, from Jersey to Paris, from Paris to Ireland, from Ireland
to Cornwall, journeying hither and thither at the behest of a shifty,
irresolute man, or a passionate, imprudent woman, as the case might be; now
from the King to the Queen, now from the Queen to this or that ally; futile
errands, unskilful combinations, failure on every hand, till the last fatal
journey, on which he was an unwilling attendant, the flight from Hampton
Court to Titchfield, when the fated King broke faith with his enemies in an
unfinished negotiation.

Foreign adventure had followed English hardships, and the soldier had
been tossed on the stormy sea of European warfare. He had been graciously
received at the French Court, but only to feel himself a stranger there,
and to have his English clothes and English accent laughed at by Gramont
and Bussy, and the accomplished St. Évremond, and the frivolous herd of
their imitators; to see even the Queen, for whom he had spent his
last jacobus, smile behind her fan at his bévues, and whisper to her
sister-in-law while he knelt to kiss the little white hand that had led a
King to ruin. Everywhere the stern Malignant had found himself outside the
circle of the elect. At the Hôtel de Rambouillet, in the splendid houses of
the newly built Place Royale, in the salons of Duchesses, and the taverns
of courtly roysterers and drunken poets, at Cormier's, or at the Pine
Apple, in the Rue de la Juiverie, where it was all the better for a
Christian gentleman not to understand the talk of the wits that flashed and
drank there. Everywhere he had been a stranger and aloof. It was only under
canvas, in danger and privation, that he lost the sense of being one
too many in the world. There John Kirkland found his level, shoulder to
shoulder with Condé and Turenne. The stout Cavalier was second to no
soldier in Louis' splendid army; was of the stamp of an earlier race even,
better inured to hardship than any save that heroic Prince, the Achilles
of his day, who to the graces of a modern courtier joined the temper of an
ancient Greek.

His daughter Hyacinth had given him the utmost affection which such a
nature could give; but it was the affection of a trained singing-bird, or
a pug-nosed spaniel; and the father, though he admired her beauty, and was
pleased with her caresses, was shrewd enough to perceive the lightness
of her disposition and the shallowness of her mind. He rejoiced in her
marriage with a man of Fareham's strong character.

"I have married thee to a husband who will know how to rule a wife," he
told her on the night of her wedding. "You have but to obey and to be
happy; for he is rich enough to indulge all your fancies, and will not
complain if you waste the gold that would pay a company of foot on the
decoration of your poor little person."

"The tone in which you speak of my poor little person, sir, can but remind
me how much I need the tailor and the milliner," answered Hyacinth,
dropping her favourite curtsy, which she was ever ready to practise at the
slightest provocation.

"Nay, petite chatte, you know I think you the loveliest creature at Saint
Germain or the Louvre, far surpassing in beauty the Cardinal's niece, who
has managed to set young Louis' heart throbbing with a boyish passion. But
I doubt you bestow too much care on the cherishing of a gift so fleeting."

"You have said the word, sir. 'Tis because it is so fleeting I must needs
take care of my beauty. We poor women are like the butterflies and the
roses. We have as brief a summer. You men, who value us only for our
outward show, should pardon some vanity in creatures so ephemeral."

"Ephemeral scarce applies to a sex which owns such an example as your
grandmother, who has lived to reckon her servants among the grandsons of
her earliest lovers."

"Not lived, sir! No woman lives after thirty. She can but exist, and dream
that she is still admired. La Marquise has been dead for the last twenty
years, but she won't own it. Ah, sir, c'est un triste supplice to _have
been_! I wonder how those poor ghosts can bear that earthly purgatory which
they call old age? Look at Madame de Sablé, par exemple, once a beauty, now
only a tradition. And Queen Anne! Old people say she was beautiful, and
that Buckingham risked being torn by wild horses--like Ravaillac--only
to kiss her hand by stealth in a moonlit garden; and would have plunged
England in war but for an excuse to come back to Paris. Who would go to war
for Anne's haggard countenance nowadays?"

Even in Lady Fareham's household the Cavalier soon began to fancy himself
an inhabitant too much; a dull, grey ghost from a tragical past. He could
not keep himself from talking of the martyred King, and those bitter years
through which he had followed his master's sinking fortunes. He told
stories of York and of Beverley; of the scarcity of cash which reduced his
Majesty's Court to but one table; of that bitter affront at Coventry; of
the evil omens that had marked the raising of the Standard on the hill at
Nottingham, and filled superstitious minds with dark forebodings, reminding
old men of that sad shower of rain that fell when Charles was proclaimed at
Whitehall, on the day of his accession, and of the shock of earthquake on
his coronation day; of Edgehill and Lindsey's death; of the profligate
conduct of the Cavalier regiments, and the steady, dogged force of their
psalm-singing adversaries; of Queen Henrietta's courage, and beauty, and
wilfulness, and her fatal influence upon an adoring husband.

"She wanted to be all that Buckingham had been," said Sir John, "forgetting
that Buckingham was the King's evil genius."

That lively and eminently artificial society of the Rue de Touraine soon
wearied of Sir John's reminiscences. King Charles's execution had receded
into the dim grey of history. He might as well have told them anecdotes
of Cinq Mars, or of the great Henri, or of Moses or Abraham. Life went
on rapid wheels in patrician Paris. They had Condé to talk about, and
Mazarin's numerous nieces, and the opera, that new importation from Italy,
which the Cardinal was bringing into fashion; while in the remote past of
half a dozen years back the Fronde was the only interesting subject, and
even that was worn threadbare; the adventures of the Duchess, the conduct
of the Prince in prison, the intrigues of Cardinal and Queen, Mademoiselle,
yellow-haired Beaufort, duels of five against five--all--all these were
ancient history as compared with young Louis and his passion for Marie de
Mancini, and the scheming of her wily uncle to marry all his nieces to
reigning princes or embryo kings.

And then the affectations and conceits of that elegant circle, the sonnets
and madrigals, the "bouts-rimés," the practical jokes, the logic-chopping
and straw-splitting of those ultra-fine intellects, the romances where the
personages of the day masqueraded under Greek or Roman or Oriental aliases,
books written in a flowery language which the Cavalier did not understand,
and full of allusions that were dark to him; while not to know and
appreciate those master-works placed him outside the pale.

He rejoiced in escaping from that overcharged atmosphere to the tavern, to
the camp, anywhere. He followed the exiled Stuarts in their wanderings,
paid his homage to the Princess of Orange, roamed from scene to scene, a
stranger and one too many wherever he went.

Then came the hardest blow of all--the chilling disillusion that awaited
many of Charles's faithful friends, who were not of such political
importance as to command their recompense. Neglect and forgetfulness were
Sir John Kirkland's portion; and for him and for such as he that caustic
definition of the Act of Indemnity was a hard and cruel truth. It was an
Act of Indemnity for the King's enemies and of oblivion for his friends.
Sir John's spirits had hardly recovered from the bitterness of disappointed
affection when he came back to the old home, though his chagrin was seven
years old. But now, in his delight at the alliance with Denzil Warner, he
seemed to have renewed his lease of cheerfulness and bodily vigour. He rode
and walked about the lanes and woods with erect head and elastic limbs. He
played bowls with Denzil in the summer evenings. He went fishing with his
daughter and her sweetheart. He revelled in the simple rustic life, and
told them stories of his boyhood, when James was King, and many a queer
story of that eccentric monarch and of the rising star, George Villiers.

"Ah, what a history that was!" he exclaimed. "His mother trained him as if
with a foreknowledge of that star-like ascendency. He was schooled to shine
and dazzle, to excel all compeers in the graces men and women admire. I
doubt she never thought of the mind inside him, or cared whether he had a
heart or a lump of marble behind his waist-band. He was taught neither to
think nor to pity--only to shine; to be quick with his tongue in half a
dozen languages, with his sword after half a dozen modes of fence. He could
kill his man in the French, or the Italian, or the Spanish manner. He was
cosmopolitan in the knowledge of evil. He had every device that can make a
man brilliant and dangerous. He mounted every rung of the ladder, leaping
from step to step. He ascended, swift as a shooting star, from plain
country gentleman to the level of princes. And he expired with an
ejaculation, astonished to find himself mortal, slain in a moment by the
thrust of a ten-penny knife. I remember as if it were yesterday how men
looked and spoke when the news came to London, and how some said this
murder would be the saving of King Charles. I know of one man at least who
was glad."

"Who was he, sir?" asked Denzil.

"He who had the greatest mind among Englishmen--Thomas Wentworth.
Buckingham had held him at a distance from the King, and his strong
passionate temper was seething with indignation at being kept aloof by
that silken sybarite--an impotent General, a fatal counsellor. After the
Favourite's death there came a time of peace and plenty. The pestilence had
passed, the war was over. Charles was happy with his Henriette and their
lovely children. Wentworth was in Ireland. The Parliament House stood still
and empty, doors shut, swallows building under the eaves. I look back, and
those placid years melt into each other like one long summer. And then,
again, as 'twere yesterday, I hear Hampden's drums and fifes in the
lanes, and see the rebels' flag with that hateful legend, 'Vestigia nulla
retrorsum,' and Buckinghamshire peasants are under arms, and the King and
his people have begun to hate and fear each other."

"None foresaw that the war would last so long or end in murder, I doubt,
sir," said Angela.

"Nay, child; we who were loyal thought to see that rabble withered by the
breath of kingly nostrils. A word should have brought them to the dust."

"There might be so easy a victory, perhaps, sir, from a King who knew how
to speak the right word at the right moment, how to comply graciously with
a just demand, and how to be firm in a righteous denial," replied Denzil;
"but with Charles a stammering speech was but the outward expression of a
wavering mind. He was a man who never listened to an appeal, but always
yielded to a threat, were it only loud enough."

The wedding was to be soon. Marriages were patched up quickly in the
light-hearted sixties. And here there was nothing to wait for. Sir John had
found Denzil compliant on every minor question, and willing to make his
home at the Manor during his mother's lifetime.

"The old lady would never stomach a Papist daughter-in-law," said Sir John;
and Denzil was fain to confess that Lady Warner would not easily reconcile
herself with Angela's creed, though she could not fail of loving Angela
herself.

"My daughter would have neither peace nor liberty under a Puritan's roof,"
Sir John said; "and I should have neither son nor daughter, and should be a
loser by my girl's marriage. You shall be as much master here, Denzil, as
if this were your own house--which it will be when I have moved to my last
billet. Give me a couple of stalls for my roadsters, and kennel room for my
dogs, and I want no more. You and Angela may introduce as many new fashions
as you like; dine at two o'clock, and sip your unwholesome Indian drink of
an evening. The fine ladies in Paris were beginning to take tea when I was
last there, though by the faces they made over the stuff it might have been
poison. I can smoke my pipe in the chimney-corner, and look on and admire
at the new generation. I shall not feel myself one too many at your
fireside, as I used sometimes in the Rue de Touraine, when those strutting
Gallic cocks were quizzing me."

       *       *       *       *       *

There were clouds of dust and a clatter of hoofs again in front of the
floriated iron gate; but this time it was not the Honourable Henriette who
came tripping along the gravel path on two-inch heels, but my Lady Fareham,
who walked languidly, with the assistance of a gold-headed cane, and who
looked pale and thin in her apple-green satin gown and silver-braided
petticoat.

She, too, came attended by a second coach, which was filled by her
ladyship's French waiting-woman, Mrs. Lewin, and a pile of boxes and
parcels.

"I'll wager that in the rapture and romance of your sweethearting you have
not given a thought to petticoats and mantuas," she said, after she had
embraced her sister, who was horrified at the sight of that painted
harridan from London.

Angela blushed at those words, "rapture and romance," knowing how little
there had been of either in her thoughts, or in Denzil's sober courtship.
Romance! Alas! there had been but one romance in her life, and that a
guilty one, which she must ever remember with remorse.

"Come now, confess you have not a gown ordered."

"I have gowns enough and to spare. Oh, sister! have you come so far to talk
of gowns? And that odious woman too! What brought her here?" Angela asked,
with more temper than she was wont to show.

"My sisterly kindness brought her. You are an ungrateful hussy for looking
vexed when I have come a score of miles through the dust to do you a
service."

"Ah, dearest, I am grateful to you for coming. But, alas! you are looking
pale and thin. Heaven forbid that you have been indisposed, and we in
ignorance of your suffering."

"No, I am well enough, though every one assures me I look ill; which is but
a civil mode of telling me I am growing old and ugly."

"Nay, Hyacinth, the former we must all become, with time; the latter you
will never be."

"Your servant, Sir Denzil, has taught you to pay antique compliments. Well,
now we will talk business. I had occasion to send for Lewin--my toilet was
in a horrid state of decay; and then it seemed to me, knowing your foolish
indifference, that even your wedding gown would not be chosen unless I
saw to it. So here is Lewin with Lyons and Genoa silks of the very latest
patterns. She has but just come from Paris, and is full of Parisian modes
and Court scandals. The King posted off to Versailles directly after his
mother's death, and has not returned to the Louvre since. He amuses
himself by spending millions on building, and making passionate love to
Mademoiselle la Vallière, who encourages him by pretending an excessive
modesty, and exaggerates every favour by penitential tears. I doubt his
attachment to so melancholy a mistress will hardly last a lifetime. She is
not beautiful; she has a halting gait; and she is no more virtuous than any
other young woman who makes a show of resistance to enhance the merit of
her surrender."

Hyacinth prattled all the way to the parlour, Mrs. Lewin and the
waiting-woman following, laden with parcels.

"Queer, dear old hovel!" she exclaimed, sinking languidly upon a tabouret,
and fanning herself exhaustedly, while the mantua-maker opened her boxes,
and laid out her sample breadths of richly decorated brocade, or silver and
gold enwrought satin. "How well I remember being whipped over my horn-book
in this very room! And there is the bowling green where I used to race with
the Italian greyhound my grandmother brought me from Paris. I look back,
and it seems a dream of some other child running about in the sunshine. It
is so hard to believe that joyous little being--who knew not the meaning of
heart-ache--was I."

"Why that sigh, sister? Surely none ever had less cause for heart-ache than
you?"

"Have I not cause? Not when my glass tells me youth is gone, and beauty
is waning? Not when there is no one in this wide world who cares a straw
whether I am handsome or hideous? I would as lief be dead as despised and
neglected."

"Sorella mia, questa donna ti ascolta," murmured Angela; "come and look at
the old gardens, sister, while Mrs. Lewin spreads out her wares. And pray
consider, madam," turning to the mantua-maker, "that those peacock purples
and gold embroideries have no temptations for me. I am marrying a country
gentleman, and am to lead a country life. My gowns must be such as will
not be spoilt by a walk in dusty lanes, or a visit to a farm-labourer's
cottage."

"Eh, gud, your ladyship, do not tell me that you would bury so much beauty
among sheep and cows, and odious ploughmen's wives and dairy-women. A month
or so of rustic life in summer between Epsom and Tunbridge Wells may be
well enough, to rest your beauty--without patches or a French head--out of
sight of your admirers. But to live in the country! Only a jealous husband
could ever propose more than an annual six weeks of rustic seclusion to a
wife under sixty. Lord Chesterfield was considered as cruel for taking his
Countess to the rocks and ravines of Derbyshire as Sir John Denham for
poisoning his poor lady."

"Chut! tu vas un peu trop loin, Lewin!" remonstrated Lady Fareham.

"But, in truly, your ladyship, when I hear Mrs. Kirkland talk of a husband
who would have her waste her beauty upon clod-polls and dairy-maids, and
never wear a mantua worth looking at----"

"I doubt my husband will be guided by his own likings rather than by Mrs.
Lewin's tastes and opinions," said Angela, with a stately curtsy, which was
designed to put the forward tradeswoman in her place, and which took that
personage's breath away.

"There never was anything like the insolence of a handsome young woman
before she has been educated by a lover," she said to her ladyship's
Frenchwoman, with a vindictive smile and scornful shrug of bloated
shoulders, when the sisters had left the parlour. "But wait till her first
intrigue, and then it is 'My dearest Lewin, wilt thou make me everlastingly
beholden to thee by taking this letter--thou knowest to whom?' Or, in a
flood of tears, 'Lewin, you are my only friend--and if you cannot find me
some good and serviceable woman who would give me a home where I can hide
from the cruel eye of the world, I must take poison.' No insolence then,
mark you, Madame Hortense!"

"This demoiselle is none of your sort," Hortense said. "You must not judge
English ladies by your maids of honour. Celles là sont des drôlesses, sans
foi ni loi."

"Well, if she thinks I am going to make up linsey woolsey, or Norwich
drugget, she will find her mistake. I never courted the custom of little
gentlemen's wives, with a hundred a year for pin-money. If I am to do
anything for this stuck-up peacock, Lady Fareham must give me the order. I
am no servant of Madame Kirkland."

       *       *       *       *       *

Alone in the garden, the sisters embraced again, Lady Fareham with a
fretful tearfulness, as of one whose over strung nerves were on the verge
of hysteria.

"There is something that preys upon your spirits, dearest," Angela said
interrogatively.

"Something! A hundred things. I am at cross purposes with life. But I
should have been worse had you been obstinate and still refused this
gentleman."

"Why should that affect you, Hyacinth?" asked her sister, with a sudden
coldness.

"Chi lo sa? One has fancies! But my dearest sister has been wise in good
time, and you will be the happiest wife in England; for I believe your
Puritan is a saintly person, the very opposite of our Court sparks, who are
the most incorrigible villains. Ah, sweet, if you heard the stories Lewin
tells me--even of that young Rochester--scarce out of his teens. And the
Duke--not a jot better than the King--and with so much less grace in his
iniquity. Well, you will be married at the Chapel Royal, and spend your
wedding night at Fareham House. We will have a great supper. His Majesty
will come, of course. He owes us that much civility."

"Hyacinth, if you would make me happy, let me be married in our dear
mother's oratory, by your chaplain. Sure, dearest, you know I have never
taken kindly to Court splendours."

"Have you not? Why, you shone and sparkled like a star, that last night you
were ever at Whitehall, Henri sitting close beside you. 'Twas the night
he took ill of a fever. Was it a fever? I have wondered sometimes whether
there was not a mystery of attempted murder behind that long sickness."

"Murder!"

"A deadly duel with a man who hated him. Is not that an attempt at murder
on the part of him who deliberately provokes the quarrel? Well, it is past,
and he is gone. For all the colour of the world I live in, there might
never have been any such person as Henri de Malfort."

Her airy laugh ended in a sob, which she tried to stifle, but could not.

"Hyacinth, Hyacinth, why will you persist in being miserable when you have
so little cause for sadness?"

"Have I not cause? Am I not growing old, and robbed of the only friend who
brought gaiety into my life; who understood my thoughts and valued me? A
traitor, I know--like the rest of them. They are all traitors. But he would
have been true had I been kinder, and trusted him."

"Hyacinth, you are mad! Would you have had him more your friend? He was
too near as it was. Every thought you gave him was an offence against your
husband. Would you have sunk as low as those shameless women the King
admires?"

"Sunk--low? Why, those women are on a pinnacle of
fame--courted--flattered--poetised--painted. They will be famous for
centuries after you and I are forgotten. There is no such thing as shame
nowadays, except that it is shameful to have done nothing to be ashamed of.
I have wasted my life, Angela. There was not a woman at the Louvre who had
my complexion, nor one who could walk a coranto with more grace. Yet I have
consented to be a nobody at two Courts. And now I am growing old, and my
poor painted face shocks me when I chance on my reflection by daylight; and
there is nothing left for me--nothing."

"Your husband, sister!"

"Sister, do not mock me! You know how much Fareham is to me. We were chosen
for each other, and fancied we were in love for the first few years, while
he was so often called away from me, that his coming back made a festival,
and renewed affection. He came crimson from battles and sieges; and I was
proud of him, and called him my hero. But after the treaty of the Pyrenees
our passion cooled, and he grew too much the school-master. And when he
recovered of the contagion, he had recovered of any love-sickness he ever
had for me!"

"Ah, sister, you say these things without thinking them. His lordship needs
but some sign of affection on your part to be as fond a husband as ever he
was."

"You can answer for him, I'll warrant"

"And there are other claims upon your love--your children."

"Henriette, who is nearly as tall as I am, and thinks herself handsomer and
cleverer than ever I was. George, who is a lump of selfishness, and cares
more for his ponies and peregrines than for father and mother. I tell you
there is nothing left for me, except fine houses and carriages; and to show
my fading beauty dressed in the latest mode at twilight in the Ring, and to
startle people from the observation of my wrinkles by the boldness of my
patches. I was the first to wear a coach and horses across my forehead--in
London, at least. They had these follies in Paris three years ago."

"Indeed, dearest?"

"And thou wilt let me arrange thy wedding after my own fancy, wilt thou
not, ma très chère?"

"You forget Denzil's hatred of finery."

"But the wedding is the bride's festival. The bridegroom hardly counts.
Nay, love, you need fear no immodest fooling when you bid good night to the
company; nor shall there be any scuffling for garters at the door of your
chamber. There was none of that antique nonsense when Lady Sandwich married
her daughter. All vulgar fashions of coarse old Oliver's day have gone to
the ragbag of worn-out English customs. We were so coarse a nation, till we
learnt manners in exile. Let me have my own way, dearest. It will amuse me,
and wean me from melancholic fancies."

"Then, indeed, love, thou shalt have thy way in all particulars."

After this Lady Fareham was in haste to return to the house in order to
choose the wedding gown; and here in the panelled parlour they found the
two gentlemen, with the dust of the road and the warmth of the noonday sun
upon them, newly returned from Aylesbury, where they had ridden in the
freshness of the early morning to choose a team of plough-horses at
the fair; and who were more disconcerted than gratified at finding the
dinner-parlour usurped by Mrs. Lewin, Madame Hortense, and an array of
finery that made the room look like a stall in the Exchange.

It was on the stroke of one, yet there were no signs of dinner. Sir John
and Sir Denzil were both sharp set after their ride, and were looking by no
means kindly on Mrs. Lewin and her wares when Hyacinth and Angela appeared
upon the scene.

"Nothing could happen luckier," said Lady Fareham, when she had saluted
Denzil, and embraced her father with "Pish, sir! how you smell of clover
and new-mown grass! I vow you have smothered my mantua with dust."

Father and sweetheart were called upon to assist in choosing the wedding
gown--a somewhat empty compliment on the part of Lady Fareham, since she
would not hear of the simple canary brocade which Denzil selected, and
which Mrs. Lewin protested was only good enough to make his lady
a bed-gown; or of the pale grey atlas which her father considered
suitable--since, indeed, she would have nothing but a white satin, powdered
with silver fleurs de luces, which she remarked, _en passant_, would
have become the Grande Mademoiselle, had she but obtained her cousin's
permission to cast herself away on Lauzun.

"Dear sister, can you consider a fabric fit for a Bourbon Princess a
becoming gown for me?" remonstrated Angela.

"Yes, child; white and silver will better become thee than poor Louise, who
has no more complexion left than I have. She was in her heyday when she
held the Bastille, and when she and Beaufort were two of the most popular
people in Paris. She has made herself a laughing-stock since then. That is
settled, Lewin"--with a nod to the milliner--"the silver fleurs de luces
for the wedding mantua. And now be quick with your samples."

All Angela's remonstrances were as vain to-day as they had been on the
occasion of her first acquaintance with Mrs. Lewin. The excitement of
discussing and selecting the finery she loved affected Lady Fareham's
spirits like a draught of saumur. She was generous by nature, extravagant
by long habit.

"Sure it would be a hard thing if I could not give you your wedding
clothes, when you are marrying the man I chose for you," she protested.
"The cherry-coloured farradine, by all means, Lewin; 'tis the very shade
for my sister's fair skin. Indeed, Denzil"--nodding at him, as he stood
watching them, with that hopelessly bewildered air of a man in a milliner's
shop--"I have been your best friend from the beginning, and, but for me,
you might never have won your sweetheart to listen to you. Mazarine hoods
are as ancient as the pyramids, Lewin. Pr'ythee show us something newer."

It was late in the evening when the two coaches left the Manor gate.
Hyacinth had been in no haste to return to the Abbey. There was nobody
there who wanted her, she protested, and there would be a moon after nine
o'clock, and she had servants enough to take care of her on the road; so
Mrs. Lewin and her ladyship's woman were entertained in the steward's
room, where Reuben held forth upon the splendour that had prevailed in his
master's house before the troubles--and where the mantua-maker ate and
drank all she could get, and dozed and yawned through the old man's
reminiscences.

The afternoon was spent more pleasantly by the quality, who sat about in
the sunny garden, or sauntered by the fish pond and fed the carp--and took
a dish of the Indian drink which the sisters loved, in the pergola at the
end of the grass walk.

Hyacinth now affected a passion for the country, and quoted the late Mr.
Cowley in praise of rusticity.

"Oh, how delicious is this woodland valley," she cried.

    "'Here let me, careless and unthoughtful lying,
    Hear the soft winds, above me plying,
    With all their wanton boughs dispute.'

Poor Cowley, he might well love the country, for he was shamefully treated
in town--a devoted servant to bankrupt royalty for all the best years of
his life, and fobbed off with a compliment when the King came into power.
Ah me, 'tis an ill world we live in, and London is the most hateful spot in
it," she concluded, with a sigh.

"And yet you will have me married nowhere else, sister?"

"Oh, for a wedding or a christening one must have a crowd of fine people.
It would go about that Lady Fareham was quite out of fashion if I were
content to see only ploughmen and dairy-maids, and a petty gentleman or two
with their ill-dressed wives, at my sister's marriage. London is the only
decent place--after Paris--to live in; but the country is a peacefuller
place in which to die."

A heart-breaking sigh emphasised the sentence, and Angela scrutinised her
sister's face with increased concern.

"Dear love, I fear you are hiding something from me; and that you are
seriously indisposed," she said earnestly.

"If I am I do not know it. But when one is weary of living there is only
one sensible thing left to do--if Providence will but be kind and help one
to do it. I am not for dagger or poison, or for a plunge in deep water. But
to fade away in a gentle disease--a quiet ebbing of the vital stream--is
the luckiest thing that can befall one who is tired of life."

Alarmed at hearing her sister talk in this melancholy strain, and still
more alarmed by the change in her looks, sunken cheeks, hectic flush,
fever-bright eyes, Angela entreated Lady Fareham to stay at the Manor, and
be nursed and cared for.

"Oh, I know your skill in nursing, and your power over a sick person,"
Hyacinth interjected scornfully, and then in the next moment apologised for
the little spurt of retrospective jealousy.

"Stay with us, love, and let us make you happier than you are at Chilton,"
pleaded Angela; but Hyacinth, who had been protesting that nobody wanted
her, now declared that she could not leave home, and recited a list of
duties, social and domestic.

"I shall not have half an hour to spare until I go to London next week to
prepare for the wedding," she said. The date had been fixed while they sat
at dinner; Sir John and his elder daughter settling the day, while Denzil
assented with radiant smiles, and Angela sat by in pale silence, submissive
to the will of others. They were to be married on a Thursday, July 19, and
it was now the end of June--little more than a fortnight's interval in
which to meditate upon the beginning of a new life.

Mrs. Lewin promised the white and silver mantua, and as many of the new
clothes as a supernatural address, industry, and obligingness, could
produce within the time. Hyacinth grew more lively after supper, and parted
from her father and sister in excellent spirits; but her haggard face
haunted Angela in troubled dreams all that night, and she thought of her
with anxiety during the next few days, and most of all upon one long sultry
day, the 4th of July, which was the third day she had spent in unbroken
solitude since her father and Denzil had ridden away in the dim early
morning, while the pastures were veiled in summer haze, on the first stage
of a journey to London, hoping, with a long rest between noon and evening,
to ride thirty-seven miles before night.

They were to consult with a learned London lawyer, and to execute the
marriage settlement, Sir John vastly anxious about this business, in his
ignorance of law and distrust of lawyers. They were to stay in London only
long enough to transact their business, and would then return post-haste to
the Manor; but as they were to ride their own horses all the way, and as
lawyers are notoriously slow, Angela had been told not to expect them till
the fourth evening after their departure. In her lonely rambles that long
summer day, with her spaniel Ganymede, and her father's favourite pointer,
for her only companions, Angela's thoughts dwelt ever on the past. Of the
future--even that so near future of her marriage--she thought hardly at
all. That future had been disposed of by others. Her fate had been settled
for her; and she was told that by her submission she would make those she
loved happy. Her father would have the son he longed for, and would be
sure of her faithful devotion till the end of his days--or of hers, should
untimely death intervene. Hyacinth's foolish jealousy would be dispelled by
the act which gave her sister's honour into a husband's custody. And for
him, that presumptuous lover who had taken so little pains to hide his
wicked passion, if in any audacious hour he had dared to believe her guilty
of reciprocating his love, that insolent suspicion would be answered at
once and for ever by her marriage with Denzil--Denzil who was Fareham's
junior by fifteen years, his superior in every advantage of person, as
she told herself with a bitter smile; for even while she thought of that
superiority--the statuesque regularity of feature, the clear colouring of
a complexion warmed with the glow of health, the deep blue of large
well-opened eyes, the light free carriage of one who had led an active
country life--even while she thought of Denzil, another face and figure
flashed upon her memory--rugged and dark, the forehead deeper lined than
years justified, the proud eye made sombre by the shadow of the projecting
brow, the cheek sunken, the shoulders bent as if under the burden of
melancholy thoughts.

O God! this was the face she loved. The only face that had ever touched the
springs of joy and pain. It was nearly half a year since she had seen him.
Their meetings in the future need be of the rarest. She knew that Denzil
regarded him with a distrust which made friendship out of the question; and
it would be her duty to keep as far aloof from that old time as possible.
Family meetings there must be, considering the short distance between
Chilton and the Manor, feastings and junketings in company once or twice in
the summer, lest it should be thought Sir John and his lordship were ill
friends. But Angela knew that in any such social gathering, sitting at the
overloaded board, amid the steam of rich viands, and the noise of many
voices, she and Fareham would be as far apart as if the Indian Ocean rolled
between them.

Once, and very soon, they must meet face to face; and he would take her
hand in greeting, and would kiss her on the lips as she stood before him in
her wedding finery, that splendour of white and silver which would provoke
him to scornful wonder at her trivial pleasure in sumptuous clothes. Thus
once they must meet. Her heart thrilled at the thought. He had so often
shunned her, taking such obvious trouble to keep his distance; but he could
hardly absent himself from her wedding. The scandal would be too great.

Well, she had accepted her fate, and this dull aching misery must be lived
through somehow; and neither her father nor Denzil must ever have occasion
to suspect her unhappiness.

"Oh, gracious Mary, Mother of God, help and sustain me in my sorrow! Guard
and deliver me from sinful thoughts. What are my fanciful griefs to thy
great sorrows, which thou didst endure with holy patience? Subdue and bend
me to obedience and humility. Let me be an affectionate daughter, a dutiful
wife, a friend and comforter to my poor neighbours."

So, and with many such prayers she struggled against the dominion of evil,
kneeling meekly in the leafy stillness of that deep beechwood, where no
human eye beheld her devotions. So in the long solitude of the summer day
she held commune with heaven, and fought against that ever-recurring memory
of past happiness, that looking back to the joys and emotions of those
placid hours at Chilton Abbey, before the faintest apprehension of evil had
shadowed her friendship with Fareham. Not to look back; not to remember
and regret. That was the struggle in which the intense abstraction of
the believer, lifting the mind to heaven, alone could help her. Long and
fervent were her prayers in that woodland sanctuary where she made her
pious retreat; nor was her sister forgotten in those prayers, which
included much earnest supplication for the welfare here and hereafter
of that lighter soul for whom she had ever felt a protecting and almost
maternal love. Years counted for very little in the relations between these
sisters.

The day wore to its close--the most solemn day in Angela's life since that
which she had spent in the Reverend Mother's death-chamber, kneeling in the
faint yellow glow of the tall wax-candles, in a room from which daylight
was excluded. She remembered the detachment of her mind from all earthly
interests as she knelt beside that death-bed, and how easily her thoughts
had mounted heavenward; while now her love clung to this sinful earth. How
had she changed for the worse, how was she sunk from the holy aspirations
of that time!



CHAPTER XXV.

HIGH STAKES.


Angela had eaten her lonely supper, and was sitting at her embroidery frame
between nine and ten, while the sounds of bolts and bars in the hall and
corridors, and old Reuben's voice hectoring the maids, told her that the
servants were closing the house before going to bed. Reuben would be coming
to her presently, no doubt, to remind her of the lateness of the hour,
wanting to carry her candle to her chamber, and as it were to see her
safely disposed of before he went to his garret. She meant, on this
occasion, to resist his friendly tyranny, having so little inclination for
sleep, and hoping to find peace of mind and distraction in this elaborate
embroidery of gold thread and many-coloured silks, which was destined to
adorn her father's person, on the facings of a new-fashioned doublet.

Suddenly, as she bent over the candle to scrutinize the shading of her
silks, the hollow sound of hoofs broke upon the silence, and in a minute
afterwards a bell rang loudly.

Who could it be at such an hour? Her father, no doubt; no one else. He had
hurried his business through, and returned a day earlier than he had hoped.
Or could it be that he had fallen sick in London, and Denzil had come to
tell her ill news? Or was it a messenger from her sister? She had time to
contemplate several evil contingencies while she stood in the hall watching
Reuben withdraw various bolts and bars.

The door swung back at last, and she saw a man in high-riding boots and
slouched hat standing on the threshold, while in the moonlight behind him
she could distinguish a mounted groom holding the bridle of a led horse, as
well as the horse from which the visitor had just dismounted.

The face that looked at her from the doorway was the face which had haunted
her with cruel persistency through that long day, chaining her thoughts to
earth.

Fareham stood looking at her for a few moments, deadly pale, while she
was collecting her senses, trying to understand this most unlooked-for
presence. Why was he here? Ah, no doubt, a messenger of evil.

"Oh, sir, my sister is ill!" she cried; "I read sorrow in your
face--seriously ill--dangerously? Speak, my lord, for pity's sake!"

"Yes, she is ill."

"Not dead?"

"No, no."

"But very ill? Oh, I feared, I feared when I saw her that there was
something amiss. Has she sent you to fetch me?"

"Yes; you are wanted."

"Reuben, I must set out this instant. Order the coach to be got ready. And
Betty must go with me."

"You will need no coach, Angela. Nor is there time to spare for any such
creeping conveyance. I have brought Zephyr. You remember how you loved him.
He is swift, and gentle as the wind after which we named him; sure of foot,
easy to ride. The roads are good after yesterday's rain, and the moon will
last us most of our way. We shall be at Chilton in two hours. Put on your
coat and hat. Indeed, there is no time to be lost."

"Do you mean that she may die before I can reach her?"

"I know not," stamping his foot impatiently. "Fate holds the keys. But you
had best waste no time on questions."

His manner was one of command, and he seemed to apprehend no possibility
of hesitation on her part. Reuben ran to his pantry, and came back with a
tankard of wine, which he offered to the visitor with tremulous respect,
almost ready to kneel.

"Our best Burgundy, my lord. Your lordship must be dry after your long
ride; and if your lordship would care to sup, there is good picking on last
Monday's chine, and a capon from madam's supper scarce touched with the
carving-knife."

"Nothing, I thank you, friend. There is no time for gluttony."

Reuben, pressing the tankard upon him, he drank some wine with an automatic
air, and still stood with his eyes fixed on Angela's pallid countenance,
waiting her decision.

"Are you coming?" he asked.

"Does she want me? Has she asked for me? Oh, for God's sake, my lord, tell
me more! Is she dangerously ill? Have the doctors given her over?"

"No. But she is in a bad way. And you--you--you--are wanted. Will you come?
Ay or no?"

"Yes. It is my duty to go to her. But when my father and Denzil come back
to-morrow, Reuben must be able to tell them why I went; and the nature
of my sister's illness. Were it not so serious that there is no time for
hesitation, it would ill become me to leave this house in my father's
absence."

He gave his head a curious jerk at Denzil's name, as if he had been stung.

"Yes, I will explain; I can make all clear to this gentleman here while you
put on your cloak. Bring the black to the door," he called to his man.

"Will not your lordship bait your horses before you start?" Reuben asked
deferentially.

"No time, fellow. There is no time. How often must I tell you so?" retorted
Fareham.

Reuben's village breeding had given him an exaggerated respect for
aristocracy. He had grown up in the midst of small country gentlemen,
rural squires, among whom the man with three thousand a year in land was a
magnate, and there had never been more than one nobleman resident within a
day's ride of the Manor Moat. To Reuben, therefore, a peer was like a god;
and he would have no more questioned Lord Fareham's will than a disciple of
Hobbes would have imputed injustice to Kings.

Angela returned in a few minutes, having changed her silken gown for a neat
cloth riding-skirt and close-fitting hood. She carried nothing with her,
being assured that her sister's wardrobe would be at her disposal, and
having no mind to spend a minute more in preparation than was absolutely
necessary. Brief as her toilet was, she had time to consider Lord Fareham's
countenance and manner, the cold distance of his address, and to scorn
herself for having thought of him in her reveries that day as loving her
always and till death. It was far better so. The abyss that parted them
could not yawn too wide. She put a stern restraint upon herself, so that
there should be nothing hysterical in her manner, lest her fears about her
sister's health should be mistaken for agitation at his presence. She stood
beside the horse, straight and firm, with her hand on the pommel, and
sprang lightly into the saddle as Fareham's strong arm lifted her. Yet
she could but notice that his hand shook as he gave her the bridle, and
arranged the cloth petticoat over her foot.

Not a word was spoken on either side as they rode out at the gate and
through the village of St. Nicholas, beautiful in the moonlight. Such low
crumbling walls and deeply sloping roofs of cottages squatting in a tangle
of garden and orchard; such curious outlines of old brick gables in the
better class houses of miller, butcher, and general dealer; orchards and
gardens and farm buildings, with every variety of thatch and eaves, huddled
together in picturesque confusion; large spaces everywhere--pond, and
village green, and common, and copse beyond; a peaceful, prosperous
settlement, which had passed unharmed through the ordeal of the civil war,
safe in its rural seclusion. Not a word was spoken even when the village
was left behind, and they were riding on a lonely road, in so brilliant
a moonlight that Angela could see every line in her companion's brooding
face.

Why was he so gloomy and so unkind, in an hour when his sympathy should
naturally have been given to her? Was he consumed with sorrow for his
wife's indisposition, and did anxiety make him silent; or was he angry with
himself for not being as deeply distressed as a husband ought to be at
a wife's peril? She knew too well how he and Hyacinth had been growing
further apart day by day, till the only link between husband and wife
seemed to be a decent courtesy and subservience to the world's opinion.

She recalled that other occasion when they two had made a solitary journey
together, and in as gloomy a silence--that night of the great fire, when he
had flung off his doublet and taken the sculls out of her hands, and rowed
steadily and fast, with his eyes downcast, leaving her to steer the boat as
she would, or trusting to the lateness of the hour for a clear course. He
had seemed to hate her that night just as he seemed to hate her now, as
they rode mile after mile side by side, the groom following near, now at a
fast trot, now galloping along a stretch of waste grass that bordered the
highway, now breathing their horses in a walk.


In one of those intervals he asked her if she were tired.

"No, no. I have no power to feel anything but anxiety. If you would only
be kinder and tell me more about my sister! I fear you consider her in
danger."

"Yes, she is in danger. There is no doubt of that."

"O God! she looked so ill when I saw her last, and she talked so wildly. I
feared she was in a bad way. How soon shall we be at Chilton, my lord?"

"My lord! Why do you 'my lord' me?"

"I can find no other name. We seem to be strangers to-night; but, indeed,
names and ceremonies matter nothing when the mind is in trouble. How soon
shall we reach the Abbey, Fareham?"

"In an hour, at latest, Angela."

His voice trembled as he spoke her name, and all of force and passion that
could be breathed into a single word was in his utterance. She flushed at
the sound, and looked at him with a sudden fear; but his countenance might
have been wrought-iron, so cold and passionless and cruelly resolute looked
that rough-hewn face in the moonlight.

"I have a fresh horse waiting for you at Thame," he said. "I will not have
you wearied by riding a tired horse. We are within five minutes of the inn.
Will you rest there for half an hour, and take some refreshment?"

"Rest, when my sister may be dying! Not a moment more than is needed to
change horses."

"I have brought Queen Bess, another of your favourites. 'Twas she who
taught you to ride. She will know your voice, and your light hand upon her
bridle."

They found the Inn wrapped in slumber, like every house or cottage they had
passed; but a lantern shone within an open door in the quadrangle round
which house and stables were built. One of the Fareham grooms was there,
with an ostler to wait upon him, and three horses were brought out of their
stable, ready saddled, as the travellers rode under the archway into the
yard.

The mare was excited at finding herself on the road in the clear cool
night, with the moonlight in her eyes, and was gayer than Fareham liked to
see her under so precious a load; but Angela was no longer the novice by
whose side he had ridden nearly two years before. She handled Queen Bess
firmly, and soon settled her into a sharp trot, and kept her at it for
nearly three miles. The hour Fareham had spoken of was not exceeded by many
minutes when Chilton Abbey came in sight, the grey stone walls pale in the
moonlight. All things--the long park wall, the pillared gates, the open
spaces of the park, the depth of shadow where the old oaks and beeches
spread wide and dark, had a look of unreality which contrasted curiously
with the scene as she had last beheld it in all its daylight verdure and
homeliness.

She dropped lightly from her horse, so soon as they drew rein at an angle
of the long irregular house, where there was a door, half hidden under ivy,
by which Lord Fareham went in and out much oftener than by the principal
entrance. It opened into a passage that led straight to the library, where
there was a lamp burning to-night. Angela saw the light in the window as
they rode past.

He opened the door, which had been left on the latch, and nodded a
dismissal to the groom, who went off to the stables, leading their horses.
All was dark in the passage--dark and strangely silent; but this wing was
remote from the chief apartments and from the servants' offices.

"Will you take me to my sister at once?" Angela asked, stopping on the
threshold of the library, when Fareham had opened the door.

A lamp upon the tall mantelpiece feebly lighted the long low room, gloomy
with the darkness of old oak wainscot and a heavily timbered ceiling. There
were two flasks of wine upon a silver salver, and provisions for a supper,
and a fire was burning on the hearth.

"You had better warm yourself after your night ride, and eat and drink
something before you see her."

"No, no. What, after riding as fast as our horses could carry us! I must go
to her this moment. Can you find me a candle?"--looking about her hurriedly
as she spoke. "But, indeed, it is no matter; I know my way to her room in
the dark, and there will be light enough from the great window."

"Stop!" he cried, seizing her arm as she was leaving the room; "stop!"
dragging her back and shutting the door violently. "Your sister is not
there."

"Great God! what do you mean? You told me your wife was here--ill--dying
perhaps."

"I told you a lie, sweetheart; but desperate men will do desperate things."

"Where is my sister? Is she dead?"

"Not unless the Nemesis that waits on woman's folly has been swifter of
foot than common. I have no wife, Angela; and you have no sister that you
will ever care to own. My Lady Fareham has crossed the narrow sea with her
lover, Henri de Malfort--her paramour always--though I once thought him
yours, and tried to kill him for your sake."

"A runaway wife! Hyacinth! Great God!" She clasped her hands before her
face in an agony of shame and despair, falling upon her knees in sudden
self-abasement, her head drooping until her brow almost touched the ground.
And then, after but a few minutes of this deep humiliation, she started to
her feet with a cry of anger. "Liar! villain! despicable, devilish villain!
This is a lie, like the other--a wicked lie! Your wife--your wife a wanton?
My sister? My life upon it, she is in London--in your house, busy preparing
for my marriage. Unlock that door, my lord; let me go this instant--back to
my father. Oh, that I could be so mad as to leave his protection at your
bidding! Open the door, sir, I command you!"

She seemed to gain in height, and to be taller than he had thought her--he
who had so watched her, and whose memory held every line of that slender,
graceful figure. She stood straight as an arrow, looking at him with
set lips and flaming eyes, too angry to be afraid, trembling, but with
indignation, not fear of him.

"Nay, child," he said gravely, "I have got you, and I mean to keep you. But
you have trusted yourself to my hospitality, and you are safe in my house
as in a sanctuary. I may be a villain, but I am not a ruffian. If I have
brought you here by a trick, you are as much mistress of your life and fate
under this roof as you ever were in your father's house."

"I have but one thing to say, sir. Let me out of this hateful house."

"What then? Would you walk back to the Manor Moat, through the
night--alone?"

"I would crawl there on my hands and knees if I could not walk; anything to
get away from you. Oh, the baseness of it! To vilify my sister--for your
own base purposes. Intolerable villain!"

"Mistress, we will soon put an end to that charge. Lies there have been,
but that is none. 'Tis you are the slanderer there."

He took a letter from the pocket of his doublet, and handed it to her. Then
he took the lamp from the mantelshelf and held it while she read.

Alas, it was her sister's hand. She knew those hurried characters too well.
The letter was blotted with ink and smeared as with tears. Angela's tears
began to rain upon the page as she read:--

"I have tried to be a good woman and a true wife to you, tried hard for
these many years, knowing all the time that you had left off loving me,
and but for the shame of it would have cared little, though I had as many
lovers as a maid of honour. You made life harder for me in this year last
past by your passion for my sister, which mystery of yours, silent and
secret as you were, these eyes must have been blind not to discover.

"And while you were cold in manner and cruel of speech--slighting me
ever--there was one who loved and praised me, one whose value I knew not
till he left this country, and I found myself desolate without him.

"He has come back. He, too, has found that I was the other half of his
mind; and that he could taste no pleasure in life unshared by me. He has
come to claim one who ever loved him, and denied him only for virtue's
sake. Virtue! Poor fool that I was to count that a woman's noblest quality!
Why, of all attributes, it is that the world least values. Virtue! when the
starched Due de Montausier fawns upon Louise de la Vallière, when Barbara
Palmer is de facto Queen of England. Virtue!

"Farewell! Forget me, Fareham, as I shall try to forget you. I shall be
in Paris perhaps before you receive this letter. My house in the Rue de
Touraine is ready for me. I shall dishonour you by no open scandal. The man
I love will but rank as the friend I most value, and my other friends will
ask no questions so long as you are silent, and do not seek to disgrace me.
Indeed, it were an ill thing to pursue me with your anger; the more so as I
am weak and ailing, and may not live long to enjoy my happiness. You have
given me so little that you should in common justice spare me your hate.

"I leave you your children, whom you have affected to love better than I;
and who have shown so little consideration for me that I shall not miss
them."

       *       *       *       *       *

"What think you of that, Angela, for the letter of a she-cynic?"

"It is blotted with her tears. She wrote in sorrow, despairing of your
love."

"She managed to exist for a round dozen years without my love--or doubting
it--so long as she had her _cavalière servante_. It was only when he
deserted her that she found life a burden. And now she has crossed the
Rubicon. She belongs to her age--the age of Kings' mistresses and light
women. And she will be happy, I dare swear, as they are. It is not an age
of tears. And when the fair Louise ran away to her Convent the other day,
in a passion of penitence, be sure she only went on purpose to be brought
back again. But now, sweet, say have I lied to you about the lady who was
once my wife?" he asked, pointing to the letter in her hand.

"And who is my sister to the end of time; my sister in Eternity: in
Purgatory or in Paradise. I cannot cast her off, though you may. I will set
out for Paris to-morrow, and bring her home, if I can, to the Manor. She
need trouble you no more. My husband and I can shelter and pity her."

"Your husband!"

"He will be my husband a fortnight hence."

"Never! Never, while I live to fling my body between you at the altar.
His blood or mine should choke your marriage vows. Angela, Angela, be
reasonable. I have brought you out of that trap. I have cut the net in
which they had caught you. My love, you are free, and I am free, and you
belong to me. You never loved Denzil Warner, never would love him, were
you to live with him a quarter of a century. He is ice, and you are fire.
Dearest, you belong to me. He who made us both created us to be happy
together. There are strings in our hearts that harmonize as concords in
music do. We are miserable apart, both of us. We waste, and fade, and
torture ourselves in absence; but only to breathe the same air, to sit,
silent, in the same room, is to be happy."

"Let me go!" she cried, looking at him with wild eyes, leaning against the
locked door, her hands clutching at the latch, seeming neither to hear nor
heed his impassioned address, though every word had sunk deep enough to
remain in her memory for ever. "Let me go! You are a dishonourable villain!
I came to London alone to your deserted house. I was not afraid of death or
the plague then. I am not afraid of you now. Open this door, and let me go,
never to see your wicked face again!"

"Angela, canst thou so play fast and loose with happiness? Look at me,"
kneeling at her feet, trying to take her hands from their hold on the
latch. "Our fate is in our power to-night. The day is near dawning, and
at the stroke of five my coach will be at the door to take us to Bristol,
where the ship lies that shall carry us to New England--to a new world, and
liberty; and to the sweet simple life that will please my dear love better
than all the garish pleasures of a licentious court. Ah, dearest, I know
thy mind and heart as well as I know my own. I know I can make thee happy
in that fair new world, where we shall begin life again, free from all old
burdens; and where, if thou wilt, my motherless children can join us, and
make one loving household. My Henriette adores you; and it were Christian
charity to rescue her and her brother from Charles Stuart's England, and to
bring them up to an honest life in a country where men are free to worship
God as He moves them. Love, you cannot deny me. So sweet a life waits for
us; and you have but to lay that dear hand in mine and give consent."


"Oh, God!" she murmured. "I thought this man held me in honour and esteem."

"Do I not honour you? Ah, love, what can a man do more than offer his life
to her he loves----"

"And if he is another woman's husband?"

"That tie is broken."

"I deny it. But if it were, you have been my sister's husband, and you
could be nothing to me but my brother. You have made sisterly affection
impossible, and so, my lord, we must be strangers; and, as you are a
gentleman, I bid you open this door, and let me make my way to some more
peaceful shelter than your house."

"Angela!"

He tried to draw her to his breast; but she held him off with outstretched
arm, and even in the tumult of his passion the knowledge of her
helplessness and his natural shame at his own treachery kept him in check.

"Angela, call me villain if you will, but give me a fair hearing. Dearest,
the joy or sorrow of two lives lies in your choice to-night. If you will
trust me, and go with me, I swear I will make you happy. If you are
stubborn to refuse--well, sweetheart, you will but send a man to the devil
who is not wholly bad, and who, with you for his guardian angel, might find
the way to heaven."

"And begin the journey by a sin these lips dare not name. Oh, Fareham," she
said, growing suddenly calm and grave, and with something of that tender
maternal manner with which she had soothed and controlled him while he had
but half his wits, and when she feared he might be lying on his death-bed,
"I would rather believe you a madman than a villain; and, indeed, all that
you have done to-night is the work of a madman, who follows his own wild
fancy without power to reason on what he does. Surely, sir, you know me too
well to believe that I would let love--were it the blindest, most absorbing
passion woman ever felt--lead me into sin so base as that you would urge.
The vilest wanton at Whitehall would shrink from stealing a sister's
husband."

"There would be no theft. Your sister flings me to you as a dog drops the
bone he has picked dry. She had me when I was young, and a soldier--with
some reflected glory about me from the hero I followed--and rich and happy.
She leaves me old and haggard, without aim or hope, save to win her I
worship. Shall I tell you when I began to love you, my angel?"

"No, no; I will listen to no more raving. Thank God, there is the
daylight!" as the cold wan dawn flickered across the room. "Will you let me
beat my hands against this door till they bleed?"

"Thou shalt not harm the loveliest hands on earth," seizing them both in
his own. "Ah, sweet, I began to love thee before ever I rose from that bed
of horror where I had been left to perish. I loved thee in my unreason, and
my love strengthened with each hour of returning sense. Our journey, I so
weak, and sick, and helpless--was a ride through Paradise. I would have had
it last a year; would have suffered sickness and pain, aching limbs and
parched lips, only to feel the light touch of this dear hand upon my brow
'twixt sleep and waking; only to look up as I awoke, and see those sweet
eyes looking down at me. Ah, dearest, my heart arose from among the dead,
and came out of the tomb of all human affections to greet thee. Till I knew
you I knew not the meaning of love. And if you are stubborn, and will not
come with me to that new world, where we may be so happy, why, then I must
go down to my grave a despairing wretch that never knew a woman's love."

"My sister--your wife?"

"Never loved me. Her heart--that which she calls heart--was ever Malfort's
and not mine. She gave me to know as much by a hundred signs and tokens
which read plain enough now, looking back, but which I scarce heeded at the
time. I believed her chaste, and she was civil, and I was satisfied. I tell
you, Angela, this heart never beat for woman till I knew you. Ah, love, be
not stone! Make not our affinity an obstacle. The Roman Church will ever
grant dispensation for a union of affinities where there is cause for
indulgence. The Church would have had Philip married to his wife's sister
Elizabeth."

"The Church holds the bond of marriage indissoluble," Angela answered. "You
are married to my sister; and while she lives you can have no other wife."

Her brow was stern, her courage unfaltering; but physical force was failing
her. She leant against the door for support, and she no longer struggled
to withdraw her hands from that strong grasp which held them. She fought
against the faintness that was stealing over her senses; but her heavy
eyelids were beginning to droop, and there was a sound like rushing water
in her ears.

"Angela--Angela," pleaded the tender voice, "do you forget that afternoon
at the play, and how you wept over Bellario's fidelity--the fond girl-page
who followed him she loved; risked name and virtue; counted not the
cost, in that large simplicity of love which gives all it has to give,
unquestioning? Remember Bellario."

"Bellario had no thought that was not virtue's," she answered faintly; and
he took that fainter tone for a yielding will.

"She would not have left Philaster if he had been alone in the wilderness,
miserable for want of her love."

Her white lips moved dumbly, her eyelids sank, and her head fell back
upon his shoulder, as he started up from his knees to support her sinking
figure. She was in his arms, unconscious--the image of death.

He kissed her on the brow.

"My soul, I will owe nothing to thy helplessness," he whispered. "Thy free
will shall decide whether I live or die."

Another sound had mingled with the rushing waters as her senses left
her--the sound of knocking at a distant door. It grew louder and louder
momently, indicating a passionate impatience in those who knocked. The
sound came from the principal door, and there was a long corridor between
that door and Fareham's room.

He stood listening, undecided; and then he laid the unconscious form gently
on the thick Persian carpet--knowing that for recovery the fainting girl
could not lie too low. He cast one agitated glance at the white face
looking up at the ceiling, and then went quickly to the hall.

As he came near, the knocking began again, with greater vehemence, and a
voice, which he knew for Sir John's, called--

"Open the door, in the King's name, or we will break it open!"

There was a pause; those without evidently waiting for the result of that
last and loudest summons.

Fareham heard the hoofs of restless horses trampling the gravel drive, the
jingle of bit and chain, and the click of steel scabbards.

Sir John had not come alone.

"So soon; so devilish soon!" muttered Fareham. And then, as the knocking
was renewed, he turned and left the hall without a word of answer to those
outside, and hastened back to the room where he had left Angela. His brow
was fixed in a resolute frown, every nerve was braced. He had made up his
mind what to do. He had the house to himself, and was thus master of the
situation, so long as he could keep his pursuers on the outside. The upper
servants--half a dozen coach-loads--had been packed off to London, under
convoy of Manningtree and Mrs. Hubbock. The under servants--rank and
file--from housemaids to turnspits, slept in a huge barrack adjoining the
stables, built in Elizabeth's reign to accommodate the lower grade of a
nobleman's household. These would not come into the house to light fires
and sweep rooms till six o'clock at the earliest; and it was not yet four.
Lord Fareham, therefore, had to fear no interruption from his own people.

There was broad daylight in the house now; yet he looked about for a
candle; found one on a side-table, in a tall silver candlestick, and
stopped to light it, before he raised the lifeless figure from the floor
and lifted it into the easiest position for carrying, the head lying on his
shoulder. Then, holding the slender waist firmly, circled by his left arm,
he took the candlestick in his right hand, and went out of the room with
his burden, along a passage leading to a seldom-used staircase, which he
ascended, carrying that tall, slim form as if it had been a feather-weight,
up flight after flight, to the muniment room in the roof. From that point
his journey, and the management of that unconscious form, and to dispose
safely of the lighted candle, became more difficult, and occupied a
considerable time; during which interval the impatience of an enraged
father and a betrothed husband, outside the hall door, increased with every
minute of delay, and one of their mounted followers, of whom they had
several, was despatched to ride at a hand-gallop to the village of
Chilton, and rouse the Constable, while another was sent to Oxford for a
Magistrate's warrant to arrest Lord Fareham on the charge of abduction. And
meanwhile the battering upon thick oaken panels with stout riding-whips,
and heavy sword-hilts, and the calling upon those within, were repeated
with unabated vehemence, while a couple of horsemen rode round the house to
examine other inlets, and do picket duty.

The Constable and his underling were on the ground before that stubborn
citadel answered the reiterated summons; but at last there came the sound
of bolts withdrawn. An iron bar dropped from its socket with a clang that
echoed long and loud in the empty hall, the door opened, and Fareham
appeared on the threshold, corpse-like in the cold raw daylight, facing his
besiegers with a determined insolence.

"Thou most infernal villain!" cried Sir John, rushing into the hall,
followed closely by Denzil and one of the men, "what have you done with my
daughter?"

"Which daughter does your honour seek? If it be she whom you gave me for a
wife, she has broken the bond, and is across the sea with her paramour?"

"You lie--reprobate! Your wife had doubtless business relating to her
French estate, which called her to Paris. My daughters are honest women,
unless by your villainy, one, who should have been sacred, as your sister
by affinity, should bear a blighted name. Give me back my daughter,
villain--the girl you lured from her home by the foulest deceit!"

"You cannot see the lady to-day, gentlemen; even though you threaten me
with your weapons," pointing with a sardonic smile to their drawn swords,
"and out-number me with your followers. The lady is gone. I am alone in the
house to submit to any affront your superior force may put upon me."

"Our superiority can at least search your house," said Denzil. "Sir John,
you had best take one way and I another. I doubt I know every room and
passage in the Abbey."

"And your yeoman's manners offer a handsome return for the hospitality
which made you acquainted with my house," said Fareham, with a contemptuous
laugh.

He followed Denzil, leaving Sir John to grope alone. The house had been
deserted but for a few days, yet the corridors and rooms had the heavy
atmosphere of places long shut from sunshine and summer breezes; while
the chilling hour, the grey ghostly light, added something phantasmal and
unnatural to the scene.

Denzil entered room after room--below stairs and above--explored the
picture-gallery, the bed-chambers, the long low ball-room in the roof,
built in Elizabeth's reign, when a wing had been added to the Abbey, and of
late used only for lumber. Fareham followed him close, stalking behind him
in sullen silence, with an unalterable gloom upon his face which betrayed
no sudden apprehensions, no triumph or defeat. He followed like doom, stood
quietly on one side as Denzil opened a door; waited on the threshold
while the searcher made his inspection, always with the same iron visage,
offering no opposition to the entrance of this or that chamber; only
following and watching, silent, intent, sphinx-like; till at last, fairly
worn out by blank disappointment, Denzil turned upon him in a sudden fury.

"What have you done with her?" he cried, desperately. "I will stake my life
she has not left this house, and by Him who made us you shall not leave it
living unless I find her."

He glanced downward at the naked sword he had carried throughout his
search. Fareham's was in the scabbard, and he answered that glance with an
insulting smile.

"You think I have murdered her, perhaps," he said. "Well, I would rather
see her dead than yours. So far I am in capacity a murderer."

They met Sir John in Lady Fareham's drawing-room, when Denzil had gone over
the whole house, trusting nothing to the father's scrutiny.

"He has stabbed her and dropped her murdered body down a well," cried the
Knight, half distraught. "He cannot have spirited her away otherwise. Look
at him, Denzil; look at that haggard wretch I have called my son. He has
the assassin's aspect."


Something--it might be the room in which they were standing--brought back
to Angela's betrothed the memory of that Christmas night when aunt and
niece had been missing, and when he, Denzil, had burst into this room,
where Fareham was seated at chess; who, at the first mention of Angela's
name, started up, white with horror, to join in the search. It was he who
found her then; it was he who had hidden her now; and in the same remote
and secret spot.

"Fool that I was not to remember sooner!" cried Denzil. "I know where to
find her. Follow me, Sir John. Andrew"--calling to the servant who waited
in the hall--"follow us close."

He rushed along a passage, ran upstairs faster than old age, were it ever
so eager, could follow. But Fareham was nearly as fast--nearly, but not
quite, able to overtake him; for he was older, heavier, and more broken by
the fever of that night's work than his colder-tempered rival.

Denzil was some paces in advance when he reached the muniment room. He
found the opening in the wainscot, and the steep stair built into the
chimney. Half way to the bottom there was a gap--an integral part of the
plan--and a drop of six feet; so that a stranger in hurried pursuit would
be likely to come to grief at this point, and make time for his quarry to
escape by the door that opened on the garden. Memory, or wits sharpened by
anxiety, enabled Denzil to avoid this trap; and he was at the door of the
Priest's Hole before Fareham began the descent.

Yes, she was there, kneeling in a corner, a candle burning dimly on a stone
shelf above her head. She was in the attitude of prayer, her head bent, her
face hidden, when the door opened, and she looked up and saw her betrothed
husband.

"Denzil! How did you find me here?"

"I should be a poor slave if I had not found you, remembering the past.
Great God, how pale you are! Come, love, you are safe. Your father is here.
Angela, thou that art so soon to be my wife--face to face--here--before we
leave this accursed pit--tell me that you did not go with that villain,
except for the sake of your sick sister--that you were the victim of a
heartless lie--not a party to a trick invented to blind your father and
me!"

"I doubt I have not all my senses yet," she said, putting her hand to her
head. "I was told my sister wanted me, and I came. Where is Lord Fareham?"

The terror in her countenance as she asked that question froze Denzil.
Ah, he had known it all along! That was the man she loved. Was she his
victim--and a willing victim? He felt as if a great gulf had opened between
him and his betrothed, and that all his hopes had withered.

Fareham was at his elbow in the next moment. "Well, you have found her,"
he said; "but you shall not have her, save by force of arms. She is in my
custody, and I will keep her; or die for her if I am outnumbered!"

"Execrable wretch! would you attempt to detain her by violence? Come,
madam," said Denzil, turning coldly to Angela, "there is a door on those
stairs which will let you out into the air.

"The door will not open at your bidding!" Fareham said fiercely.

He snatched Angela up in his arms before the other could prevent him, and
carried her triumphantly to the first landing-place, which was considerably
below that treacherous gap between stair and stair. He had the key of the
garden door in his pocket, unlocked it, and was in the open air with his
burden before Denzil could overtake him.

He found himself caught in a trap. He had his coach-and-six and armed
postillions waiting close by, and thought he had but to leap into it with
his prey and spirit her off towards Bristol; but between the coach and the
door one of Sir John's pickets was standing, who the moment the door opened
whistled his loudest, and brought Constable and man and another armed
servant running helter-skelter round an angle of the house, and so crossing
the very path to the coach.

"Fire upon him if he tries to pass you!" cried Denzil.

"What! And shoot the lady you have professed to love!" exclaimed Fareham,
drawing himself up, and standing firm as a rock, with Angela motionless in
his arms.

He dropped her to her feet, but held her against his left shoulder with an
iron hold, while he drew his sword and made a rush for the coach. Denzil
sprang into his path, sword in hand, and their blades crossed with a shrill
clash and rattle of steel. They fought like demons, Fareham holding Angela
behind him, sheltering her with his body, and swaying from side to side in
his sword-play with a demoniac swiftness and suppleness, his thick dark
brows knitted over eyes that flamed with a fiercer fire than flashed from
steel meeting steel. A shriek of horror from Angela marked the climax, as
Denzil fell with Fareham's sword between his ribs. There had been little of
dilettante science, or graceful play of wrist in this encounter. The men
had rushed at each other savagely, like beasts in a circus, and whatever
of science had guided Fareham's more practised hand had been employed
automatically. The spirit of the combatants was wild and fierce as the rage
that moves rival stags fighting for a mate, with bent heads and tramping
hoofs, and clash of locked antlers reverberating through the forest
stillness.

Fareham had no time to exult over his prostrate foe; Sir John and his
servants, Constable and underlings, surrounded him, and he was handcuffed
and hauled off to the coach that was to have carried him to a sinner's
paradise, before any one had looked to Denzil's wound, or discovered
whether that violent thrust below the right lung had been fatal. Angela
sank swooning in her father's arms.



CHAPTER XXVI.

IN THE COURT OF KING'S BENCH.


The summer and autumn had gone by--an eventful season, for with it had
vanished from the stage of politics one who had played so dignified and
serious a part there. Southampton was dead, Clarendon disgraced and in
exile. The Nestor and the Ulysses of the Stuart epic had melted from the
scene. Down those stairs by which he had descended on his way to so many a
splendid festival, himself a statelier figure than Kings or Princes, the
Chancellor had gone to banishment and oblivion. "The lady" had looked for
the last time, a laughing Jezebel, from a palace window, exultant at her
enemy's fall; and along the river that had carried such tragic destinies
eastward to be sealed in blood, Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, had drifted
quietly out of the history he had helped to make. The ballast of that grave
intellect was flung overboard so that the ship of fools might drift the
faster.

But in Westminster Hall, upon this windy November morning, nobody thought
of Clarendon. The business of the day was interesting enough to obliterate
all considerations of yesterday. The young barristers, who were learning
their trade by listening to their betters, had been shivering on their
benches in the Common Pleas since nine o'clock, in that chilly corner
where every blast from the north or north-east swept over the low wooden
partition that enclosed the court, or cut through the chinks in the
panelling. The students and juniors were in their usual places, sitting at
the feet of their favourite Common-law Judge; but the idlers who came for
amusement, to saunter about the hall, haggle for books with the second-hand
dealers along the south wall, or flirt with the milliners who kept stalls
for bands and other legal finery on the opposite side, or to listen on
tiptoe, with an ear above the panelled enclosure, to the quips and cranks
or fierce rhetoric of a famous advocate--these to-day gravitated with one
accord towards the south-west corner of the Hall, where, in the Court of
King's Bench, Richard Revel, Baron Fareham, of Fareham, Hants, was to be
tried by a Buckinghamshire jury for abduction, with fraud, malice, and
violence, and for assault, with intent to murder.

The rank of the offender being high, and the indictment known to involve
tragic details of family history, there had been much talk of the cause
which was on the paper for to-day; and, as a natural consequence, besides
the habitual loungers and saunterers, gossips, and book-buyers, there was
a considerable sprinkling of persons of quality, who perfumed the not too
agreeable atmosphere with pulvilio and Florentine iris powder, and the
rustle of whose silks and brocades was audible all over the Hall. Not
often did such gowns sweep the dust brought in by plebeian feet, nor such
Venetian point collars rub shoulders with the frowsy Norwich drugget worn
by hireling perjurers or starveling clerks. The modish world had come down
upon the great Norman Hall like a flock of pigeons, sleek, iridescent,
all fuss and flutter; and among these unaccustomed visitors there was
prodigious impatience for the trial to begin, and a struggle for good
places that brought into full play the primitive brutality which underlies
the politeness of the civillest people.

Lady Sarah Tewkesbury had risen betimes, and, in her anxiety to secure a
good place, had come out in her last night's "head," which somewhat damaged
edifice of ginger-coloured ringlets and Roman pearls was now visible above
the wooden partition of the King's Bench to the eyes of the commonalty
in the hall below, her ladyship being accommodated with a seat among the
lawyers.

One of these was a young man in a shabby gown and rumpled wig, but with
a fair complexion and tolerable features--a stranger to that court, and
better known at Hicks's Hall, and among city litigators, with whom he had
already a certain repute for keen wits and a plausible tongue--about the
youngest advocate at the English Bar, and by some people said to be no
barrister at all, but to have put on wig and gown two years ago at Kingston
Assizes and called himself to the Bar, and stayed there by sheer audacity.
This young gentleman, Jeffreys by name, having deserted the city and
possible briefs in order to hear the Fareham trial, was inclined to resent
being ousted by an obsequious official to make room for Lady Sarah.

"Faith, one would suppose I was her ladyship's footman and had been keeping
her seat for her," he grumbled, as he reluctantly rose at the Usher's
whispered request, and edged himself sulkily off to a corner where he found
just standing-room.

It was a very hard seat which Mr. Jeffreys had vacated, and her ladyship,
after sitting there over two hours, nodding asleep a good part of the time,
began to feel internal sinkings and flutterings which presaged what she
called a "swound," and necessitated recourse to a crystal flask of strong
waters which she had prudently brought in her muff. Other of Lady Fareham's
particular friends were expected--Sir Ralph Masaroon, Lady Lucretia Topham,
and more of the same kidney; and even the volatile Rochester had deigned to
express an interest in the case.

"The man was mistaken in his métier," he had told Lady Sarah, when the
scandal was discussed in her drawing-room. "The _rôle_ of seducer was
not within his means. Any one could see he was in love with the pale
sister-in-law by the manner in which he scowled at her; but it is not every
woman who can be subjugated by gloom and sullenness, though some of 'em
like us tragical. My method has been to laugh away resistance, as my wife
will acknowledge, who was the cruellest she I ever tackled, and had baffled
all her other servants. Indeed she must have been in Butler's eye when he
wrote--

    'That old Pyg--what d'ye call him--malion
    That cut his mistress out of stone,
    Had not so hard a hearted one.'

Even Lady Rochester will admit I conquered without heroics," upon which her
ladyship, late mistress Mallett, a beauty and a fortune, smiled assent with
all the complacency of a six-months' bride. "To see a man tried for an
attempted abduction is a sight worth a year's income," pursued Rochester.
"I would travel a hundred miles to behold that rare monster who has failed
in his pursuit of one of your obliging sex!"

"Do you think us all so easily won?" asked Lady Sarah, piqued.

"Dear lady, I can but judge by experience. If obdurate to others you have
still been kind to me."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lady Sarah had nearly emptied her flask of Muscadine before Masaroon
elbowed his way to a seat beside her, from which he audaciously dislodged
a coffee-house acquaintance, an elderly lawyer upon whom fortune had not
smiled, with a condescending civility that was more uncivil than absolute
rudeness.

"We'll share a bottle in Hell after the trial, mon ami," he said; and on
seeing Lady Sarah's look of horror, he hastened to explain that Heaven,
Hell, and Purgatory, were the cant names of three taverns which drove a
roaring trade in strong drinks under the very roof of the Hall.

"The King's Attorney-general is prosecuting," answered Sir Ralph, replying
to a question from Lady Sarah, whose inquiries betrayed that dense
ignorance of legal technicalities common even to accomplished women. "It
is thought the lady's father would have been glad for the matter to be
quashed, his fugitive daughter being restored to his custody--albeit with a
damaged character--and her elder sister having run away from her husband."

"I will not hear you slander my dearest friend," protested Lady Sarah.
"Lady Fareham left her husband, and with good cause, as his after-conduct
showed. She did not run away from him."

"Nay, she had doubtless the assistance of a carriage-and-six. She would
scarce foot it from London to Dover. And now she is leading grand train in
Paris, and has taken almost as commanding a place as her friend Madame de
Longueville, penitent and retired from service."

"Hyacinth, under all her appearance of silliness, is a remarkably clever
woman," said Lady Sarah, sententiously; "but, pray, Sir Ralph, if Mistress
Angela's father has good reason for not prosecuting his daughter's
lover--indeed I ever thought her an underhand hussy--why does not Sir
Denzil Warner--who I hear has been at death's door--pursue him for assault
and battery?"

"Nay, is so still, madam. I question if he be yet out of danger. The
gentleman is a kind of puritanical Quixote, and has persistently refused to
swear an information against Fareham, whereby I doubt the case will fall
through, or his lordship get off with a fine of a thousand or two. We have
no longer the blessing of a Star Chamber, to supply state needs out of
sinners' pockets, and mitigate general taxation; but his Majesty's Judges
have a capacious stomach for fines, and his Majesty has no objection to see
his subjects' misdemeanours transmuted into coin."

And now the business of the day began, the panelled enclosure being by
this time crowded almost to suffocation; and Lord Fareham was brought into
court.

He was plainly dressed in a dark grey suit, and looked ten years older
than when Lady Sarah had last seen him on his wife's visiting day, an
uninterested member of that modish assembly. His eyes were deeper sunken
under the strongly marked brows. The threads of iron-grey in his thick
black hair were more conspicuous. He carried his head higher than he had
been accustomed to carry it, and the broad shoulders were no longer bent in
the Stafford stoop. The spectators could see that he had braced himself for
the ordeal, and would go through the day's work like a man of iron.

Proclamation was made for silence, and for information, if any person could
give any, concerning the misdemeanour and offence whereof the defendant
stood impeached; and the defendant was bid to look to his challenges, and
the Jury, being gentlemen of the county of Bucks, were called, challenged,
and sworn.

The demand for silence was so far obeyed that there followed a hush within
the enclosure of the court; but there was no cessation of the buzz of
voices and the tramp of footsteps in the hall, which mingled sounds seemed
like the rise and fall of a human ocean, as heard within that panelled
sanctuary.

The lawyers took snuff, shuffled on their seats, nudged each other and
whispered now and then, during the reading of the indictment; but among
Lady Fareham's friends, and the quality in general, there was a breathless
silence and expectancy; and Lady Sarah would gladly have run her hat-pin
into a snuffy old Serjeant close beside her, who must needs talk behind his
hand to his pert junior.

To her ladyship's unaccustomed ears that indictment, translated literally
from the Latin original, sounded terrible as an impeachment in the
subterranean halls of the Vehm Gericht, or in the most select and secret
council in the Venetian Doge's Palace.

The indictment set forth "that the defendant, Richard Revel, Baron Fareham,
on the 4th day of July, in the 18th year of our sovereign lord the King
that now is, at the parish of St. Nicholas in the Vale, in the county of
Bucks, falsely, unlawfully, unjustly, and wickedly, by unlawful and impure
ways and means, contriving, practising, and intending the final ruin and
destruction of Mrs. Angela Kirkland, unmarried, and one of the daughters
of Sir John Kirkland, Knight--the said lady then and there being under
the custody, government, and education of the said Sir John Kirkland, her
father--he, the said Richard Revel, Baron Fareham, then and there falsely,
unlawfully, devilishly, to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect, his most
wicked, impious, and devilish intentions aforesaid--the said Richard Revel,
Lord Fareham (then and long before, and yet, being the husband of Mrs.
Hyacinth, another daughter of the said Sir John Kirkland, Knight, and
sister of the said Mrs. Angela), against all laws as well divine as human,
impiously, wickedly, impurely, and scandalously, did tempt, invite, and
solicit, and by false and lying pretences, oaths, and affirmations,
unlawfully, unjustly, and without the leave, and against the will of the
aforesaid Sir John Kirkland, Knight, in prosecution of his most wicked
intent aforesaid, did carry off the aforesaid Mrs. Angela, she consenting
in ignorance of his real purpose, about the hour of twelve in the
night-time of the said 4th day of July, in the year aforesaid, and at the
aforesaid, parish of St. Nicholas in the Vale, in the county of Bucks
aforesaid, out of the dwelling-house of the said Sir John Kirkland, Knight,
did take and convey to his own house in the county of Oxford, and did then
and there detain her by fraud, and did there keep her hidden in a secret
chamber known as the Priest's Hole in his own house aforesaid, at the
hazard of her life, and did oppose her rescue by force of arms, and with
his sword, unlawfully, murderously, and devilishly, and in the prosecution
of his wicked purpose did stab and wound Sir Denzil Warner, Baronet, the
lady's betrothed husband, from which murderous assault the said Sir Denzil
Warner, Baronet, still lies in great sickness and danger of death, to the
great displeasure of Almighty God, to the ruin and destruction of the said
Mrs. Angela Kirkland, to the grief and sorrow of all her friends, and
to the evil and most pernicious example of all others in the like case
offending; and against the peace of our said sovereign lord the King, his
crown and dignity."

The defendant having pleaded "Not guilty," the Jury were charged in the
usual manner and with all solemnity.

"If you find him 'guilty' you are to say so; if you find him 'not guilty'
you are to say so, and no more, and hear your evidence."

The Attorney-General confined himself to a brief out-line of the tragic
story, leaving all details to be developed by the witnesses, who were
allowed to give their evidence with colloquial freedom and expansiveness.

The first witness was old Reuben, the steward from the Manor Moat, who had
not yet emerged from that mental maze in which he had found himself upon
beholding the change that had come to pass in the great city, since the
well-remembered winter of the King's execution, and the long frost, when
he, Reuben, was last in London. His evidence was confused and confusing;
and he drew upon himself much good-natured ridicule from the junior who
opened the case. Out of various muddle-headed answers and contradictory
statements the facts of Lord Fareham's unexpected appearance at the Manor
Moat, his account of his lady's illness, and his hurried departure,
carrying the young madam with him on horseback, were elicited, and the
story of the ruse by which Mrs. Angela Kirkland had been beguiled from her
home was made clear to the comprehension of a superior but rustic jury,
more skilled in discriminating the points of a horse, the qualities of an
ox, or the capacity of a hound, than in differentiating truth and falsehood
in a story of wrong-doing.

Sir John Kirkland was the next witness, and the aspect of the man, the
noble grey head, fine features, and soldierly carriage, the old-fashioned
habit, the fashion of an age not long past, but almost forgotten, enlisted
the regard and compassion of Jury and audience.

"Let me perish if it is not a ghost from the civil wars!" whispered Sir
Ralph to Lady Sarah. "Mrs. Angela might well be romanesque and unlike the
rest of us, with such a father."

A spasm of pain convulsed Fareham's face for a moment, as the old Cavalier
stood up in the witness-box, towering above the Court in that elevated
position, and, after being sworn, took one swift survey of the Bench and
Jury, and then fixed his angry gaze upon the defendant, and scarcely
shifted it in the whole course of his examination.

"Now, Gentlemen of the Jury," said the Attorney-General, "we shall tell you
what happened at Chilton Abbey, to which place the defendant, under such
fraudulent and lying pretences as you have heard of from the last witness,
conveyed the young lady. Sir John, I will ask you to acquaint the Jury
as fully and straightforwardly as you can with the circumstances of your
pursuit, and the defendant's reception of you and your intended son-in-law,
Sir Denzil Warner, whose deposition we have failed to obtain, but who could
relate no facts which are not equally within your own knowledge."

"My words shall be straight and plain, sir, to denounce that unchristian
wretch whom, until this miserable business, I trusted as if he had been my
son. I came to my house, accompanied by my daughter's plighted husband,
within an hour after that villain conveyed her away; and on hearing my old
servant's story was quick to suspect treachery. Nor was Sir Denzil backward
in his fears, which were more instantaneous than mine; and we waited only
for the saddling of fresh horses, and rousing a couple of grooms from
their beds, fellows that I could trust for prudence and courage, before we
mounted again, following in that wretch's track. We heard of him and his
victim at the Inn where they changed horses, she going consentingly,
believing she was being taken in this haste to attend a dying sister."

"And on arriving at the defendant's house what was your reception?"

"He opposed our entrance, until he saw that we should batter down his door
if he shut us out longer. We were not admitted until after I had sent one
of my servants for the nearest Constable; and before we had gained an
entrance into his house he had contrived to put away my daughter in a
wretched hiding-place, planned for the concealment of Romish Priests or
other recusants and malefactors, and would have kept her there, I believe,
till she had perished in that foul cavern, rather than restore her to her
father and natural guardian."

"That is false, and you know it!" cried Fareham. "My life is of less
account to me than a hair of her head. I hid her from you, to save her from
your tyranny, and the hateful marriage to which you would have compelled
her."

"Liar! Impudent, barbarous liar!" roared the old Knight, with his right arm
raised, and his body half out of the box, as if he would have assaulted
the defendant. "Sir John," said the Judge, "I would be very loath to deal
otherwise than becomes me with a person of your quality; but, indeed, this
is not so handsome, and we must desire you to be calm."

"When I remember his infamy, and that vile assumption of my daughter's
passion for him, which he showed in every word and act of that miserable
scene."

He went on to relate the searching of the house, and Warner's happy
inspiration, by which Angela's hiding-place was discovered, and she rescued
in a fainting condition. He described the defendant's audacious attempt
to convey her to the coach which stood ready for her abduction, and his
violence in opposing her rescue, and the fight which had well-nigh resulted
in Warner's death.

When Sir John's story was finished the defendant's advocate, who had
declined to question the old butler, rose to cross-examine this more
important witness.

"In your tracing of the defendant's journey between your house and Chilton
you heard of no outcries of resistance upon your daughter's side?"

"No, sir. She went willingly, under a delusion."

"And do you think now, sir, as a man of the world, and with some knowledge
of women, that your daughter was so easily hoodwinked; she having seen her
sister, Lady Fareham, so shortly before, in good health and spirits?"

"Lady Fareham did not appear in good health when she was last at the Manor,
and her sister was already uneasy about her."

"But not so uneasy as to believe her dying, and that it was needful to ride
to her helter-skelter in the night-time. Do you not think, sir, that the
young lady, who was so quick to comply with his lordship's summons, and
bustled up and was in the saddle ten minutes after he entered the house,
and was willing to got without her own woman, or any preparation for
travel, had a strong inclination for the journey, and a great kindness for
the gentleman who solicited her company?"

"Has that barbarous wretch set you on to slander the lady whose ruin he
sought, sir?" asked the Knight, pallid with the white heat of indignation.

"Nay, Sir John, I am no slanderer; but I want the Jury to understand the
sentiments and passions which are the springs of action here, and to bear
in mind that the case they are hearing is a love story, and they can only
come at the truth by remembering their own experience as lovers--"

The deep and angry tones of his client interrupted the silvery-tongued
Counsellor.

"If you think to help me, sir, by traducing the lady, I repudiate your
advocacy."

"My lord, you are not allowed to give evidence or to interrupt the Court.
You have pleaded not guilty, and it is my duty to demonstrate your
innocence. Come, Sir John, do you not know that his lordship's unhappy
passion for his sister-in-law was shared by the subject of it; and that she
for a long time opposed all your efforts to bring about a proper alliance
for her, solely guided and influenced by this secret passion?"

"I know no such thing."

"Do I understand, then, that from the time of your first proposals she was
willing to marry Sir Denzil Warner?"

"She was not willing."

"I would have wagered as much. Did you fathom her reason for declining so
proper an alliance?"

"I did not trouble myself about her reasons. I knew that time would wear
them away."

"And I doubt you trusted to a father's authority?"

"No, sir. I promised my daughter that I would not force her inclinations."

"But you used all methods of persuasion. How long was it before July the
4th that Mrs. Angela consented to marry Sir Denzil?"

"I cannot be over precise upon that point. I have no record of the date."

"But you have the faculty of memory, sir; and this is a point which a
father would not easily forget."

"It may have been a fortnight before."

"And until that time the lady was unwilling?"

"Yes."

"She refused positively to accept the match you urged upon her?"

"She refused."

"And finally consented, I will wager, with marked reluctance?"

"No, sir, there was no reluctance. She came to me of her own accord, and
surprised me by her submission."

"That will do, Sir John. You can stand down. I shall now proceed to call a
witness who will convince the Jury of my client's innocence upon the first
and chief count in the indictment, abduction with fraud and violence. I
shall tell you by the lips of my witness, that if he took the lady away
from her home, she being of full age, she went freely consenting, and with
knowledge of his purpose."

"Lies--foul lies!" cried the old Cavalier, almost strangled with passion.

He plucked at the knot of his cravat, trying to loosen it, feeling himself
threatened with apoplexy.

"Call Mistress Angela Kirkland," said the Serjeant, in strong steady tones
that contrasted with the indignant father's hoarse and gasping utterance.

"S'life! the business becomes every moment more interesting," whispered
Lady Sarah. "Will he make that sly slut own her misconduct in open court?"

"If she blush at her slip from virtue, it will be a new sensation in a
London law-court to see the colour of shame," replied Sir Ralph, behind his
perfumed glove; "but I warrant she'll carry matters with a high hand, and
feel herself every inch a heroine."

Angela came into the court attended by her waiting-woman, who remained near
the entrance, amid the close-packed crowd of lawyers and onlookers, while
her mistress quietly followed the official who conducted her to the
witness-box.

She was dressed in black, and her countenance under her neat black hood
looked scarcely less white than her lawn neckerchief; but she stood erect
and unfaltering in that conspicuous station, and met the eyes of her
interrogator with an untroubled gaze. When her lips had touched the dirty
little book, greasy with the kisses of innumerable perjurers, the Serjeant
began to question her in a tone of odious familiarity.

"Now, my dear young lady, here is a gentleman's liberty, and perhaps his
life, hanging on the breath of those pretty lips; so I want you to answer
a few plain questions with as plain speech as you can command, remembering
that you are to tell us the truth, and the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth. Come, now, dear miss, when you left your father's house on the night
of July 4, in this present year, in Lord Fareham's company, did you go with
him of your own free will, and with a knowledge of his purpose?"

"I knew that he loved me."

A heart-breaking groan from Sir John Kirkland was hushed down by an usher
of the court.

"You knew that he loved you, and that he designed to carry you beyond
seas?"

"Yes."

"And you were willing to leave your father's custody and go with the
defendant as his paramour?"

There was a pause, and the white cheek crimsoned, and the heavy eyelids
fell over agonised eyes.

"I went willingly--because I loved him;" and then with a sudden burst of
passion, "I would have died for him, or lived for him. It mattered not
which."

"And she has lied for him--has sworn to a lie--and that to her own
dishonour!" cried Sir John, beside himself; whereupon he was sternly bidden
to keep silence.

There was no intention that this little Buckinghamshire gentleman should
be indulged, to the injury of a person of Lord Fareham's wealth and
consequence. The favour of the Bench obviously leant towards the defendant.

Fareham's deep tones startled the audience.

"In truth, your Honour, the young lady has belied herself in order to help
me," he said. "I cannot accept acquittal at the cost of her good name."

"Your lordship has pleaded not guilty."

"And his lordship's chivalry would revoke that plea," cried the Counsel;
"this is most irregular. I must beg that the Bench do order the defendant
to keep silence. The witness can stand down."

Angela descended from the witness-box falteringly, and would perhaps have
fallen but for her father's strong grasp, which clutched her arm as she
reached the last step.

He dragged her out of the close-packed court, and into the open Hall.

"Wanton!" he hissed in her ear, "shameless wanton!"

She answered nothing; but stood where he held her, with wild eyes looking
out of a white, rigid countenance. She had done what she had come there
to do. Persuaded by Fareham's attorney, who had waited upon her at her
lodgings when Sir John was out of the way, she had made her ill-considered
attempt to save the man she loved, ignorant of the extent of his danger,
exaggerating the potential severity of his punishment, in the illimitable
fear of a woman for the safety of the being she loves. And now she cared
nothing what became of her, cared little even for her father's anger or
distress. There was always the Convent, last refuge of sin or sorrow, which
meant the annihilation of the individual, and where the world's praise or
blame had no influence.

Her woman fussed about her with a bottle of strong essence, and Sir John
dragged rather than led her along the Hall, to the great door where the
coach that had carried her from his London lodgings was in waiting. He saw
her seated, with her woman beside her, supporting her, gave the coachman
his orders, and then went hastily back to the Court of King's Bench.

The Court was rising; the Jury, without leaving their seats, had pronounced
the defendant guilty of a misdemeanour, not in conveying Sir John
Kirkland's daughter away from her home, to which act she had avowed herself
a consenting party; but in detaining her in his house with violence, and
in opposition to her father and proper guardian. The Lord Chief Justice
expressed his satisfaction at this verdict, and after expatiating with
pious horror upon the evil consequences of an ungovernable passion, a
guilty, soul-destroying love, a direct inspiration of Satan, sentenced the
defendant to pay a fine of ten thousand pounds, upon the payment of which
sum he would be set at liberty.

The old Cavalier heard the brief sermon and the sentence, which seemed to
him of all punishments the most futile. He had hoped to see his son-in-law
sent to the Plantations for life; had been angry at the thought that he
would escape the gallows; and for sole penalty the seducer was sentenced to
forfeit less than a year's income. How corrupt and venal was a bench
that made the law of the land a nullity when a great personage was the
law-breaker!

He flung himself in the defendant's way as he left the court, and struck
him across the breast with the flat of his sword.

"An unarmed man, Sir John! Is that your old-world chivalry?" Fareham asked,
quietly.

A crowd was round them and swords were drawn before the officer could
interfere. There were friends of Fareham's in the court, and two of his
gentlemen; and Sir John, who was alone, might have been seriously hurt
before the authorities could put down the tumult, had not his son-in-law
protected him.

"Sheath your swords, if you love me!" he exclaimed, flinging himself in
front of Sir John. "I would not have the slightest violence offered to this
gentleman."

"And I would kill you if I had the chance!" cried Sir John; "that is the
difference between us. I keep no measures with the man who ruined my
daughter."

"Your daughter is as spotless a saint as the day she left her Convent, and
you are a blatant old fool to traduce her," said Fareham, exasperated, as
the Usher led him away.

His detention was no more than a formality; and as he had been previously
allowed his liberty upon bail, he was now permitted to return to his
own house, where by an order upon his banker he paid the fine, and was
henceforward a free man.

The first use he made of his freedom was to rush to Sir John's lodgings,
only to hear that the Cavalier, with his daughter and two servants, had
left half an hour earlier in a coach-and-four for Buckinghamshire. The
people at the lodgings did not know which road they had taken, or at what
Inn they were to lie on the way.

"Well, there will be a better chance of seeing her at the Manor than in
London," Fareham thought; "he cannot keep so close a watch upon her there
as in the narrow space of town lodgings."



CHAPTER XXVII.

BRINGERS OF SUNSHINE.


It was December, and the fields and pastures were white in the tardy dawn
with the frosty mists of early winter, and Sir John Kirkland was busy
making his preparations for leaving Buckinghamshire and England with his
daughter. He had come from Spain at the beginning of the year, hoping to
spend the remnant of his days in the home of his forefathers, and to lay
his old bones in the family vault; but the place was poisoned to him for
evermore, he told Angela. He could not stay where he and his had been held
in highest honour, to have his daughter pointed at by every grinning lout
in hob-nailed shoes, and scorned by the neighbouring quality. He only
waited till Denzil Warner should be pronounced out of danger and on the
high-road to recovery, before he crossed the Channel.

"There is no occasion you should leave Buckinghamshire, sir," Angela
argued. "It is the dearest wish of my heart to return to the Convent at
Louvain, and finish my life there, sheltered from the world's contempt."

"What, having failed to get your fancy, you would dedicate yourself to
God?" he cried. "No, madam. I am still your father, though you have
disgraced me; and I require a daughter's duty from you. Oh, child, I so
loved you, was so proud of you! It is a bitter physic you have given me to
drink."

She knelt at his feet, and kissed his sunburnt hands shrunken with age.

"I will do whatever you desire, sir. I wish no higher privilege than to
wait upon you; but when you weary of me there is ever the Convent."

"Leave that for your libertine sister. Be sure she will finish a loose life
by a conspicuous piety. She will turn saint like Madame de Longueville.
Sinners are the stuff of which modern saints are made. And women love
extremes--to pass from silk and luxury to four-o'clock matins, and the
Carmelite's woollen habit. No, Angela, there must be no Convent for you,
while I live. Your penance must be to suffer the company of a petulant,
disappointed old man."

"No penance, sir, but peace and contentment; so I am but forgiven."

"Oh, you are forgiven. There is that about you with which one cannot long
be angry--a creature so gentle and submissive, a reed that bends under a
blow. Let us not think of the past. You were a fool--but not a wanton. No,
I will never believe that! A generous, headstrong fool, ready with thine
own perjured lips to blacken thy character in order to save the villain who
did his best to ruin thee. But thou art pure," looking down at her with a
severe scrutiny. "There is no memory of guilt in those eyes. We will go
away together, and live peacefully together, and you shall still be the
staff of my failing steps, the light of my fading eyes, the comfort of
my ebbing life. Were I but easy in my mind about those poor forsaken
grandchildren, I could leave England cheerfully enough; but to know them
motherless--with such a father!"

"Indeed, sir, I believe, however greatly Lord Fareham may have erred, he
will not prove a neglectful father," Angela said, her voice growing low and
tremulous as she pronounced that fatal name.


"You will vouch for him, no doubt. A licentious villain, but an admirable
father! No, child, Nature does not deal in such anomalies. The children are
alone at Chilton with their English gouvernante, and the prim Frenchwoman,
who takes infinite pains to perfect Henriette's unlikeness to a human
child. They are alone, and their father is hanging about the Court."

"At Court! Lord Fareham! Indeed, sir, I think you must be mistaken."

"Indeed, madam, I have the fact on good authority."

"Oh, sir, if you have reason to think those dear children neglected, is it
not your duty to protect and care for them? Their poor, mistaken mother has
abandoned them."

"Yes, to play the great lady in Paris, where, when I went in quest of
her last July--while thou wert lying sick here--hoping to bring back a
penitent, I was received with a triumphant insolence, finding her the
centre of a circle of flatterers, a Princess in little, with all the airs
and graces and ceremonies and hauteur of the French Blood-royal. When I
charged her with being Malfort's mistress, and bade her pack her traps and
come home with me, she deafened me with her angry volubility. I to slander
her--I, her father, when there was no one in Paris, from the Place Royale
to the Louvre, more looked up to! But when I questioned my old friends they
answered with enigmatical smiles, and assured me that they knew nothing
against my daughter's character worse than all the world was saying about
some of the highest ladies in France--Madame, to wit; and with this cold
comfort I must needs be content, and leave her in her splendid infamy."

"Father, be sure she will come back to us. She has been led into
wrong-doing by the artfullest of villains. She will discover the emptiness
of her life, and come back to seek the solace of her children's love. Let
us care for them meanwhile. They have no other kindred. Think of our sweet
Henriette--so rich, so beautiful, so over-intelligent--growing from child
to woman in the care of servants, who may spoil and pervert her even by
their very fondness."

"It is a bad case, I grant; but I can stir no finger where that man is
concerned. I can hold no communication with that scoundrel."

"But your lawyer could claim custody of the children for you, perhaps."

"I think not, Angela, unless there was a criminal neglect of their bodies.
The law takes no account of souls."

Angela's greatest anxiety--now that Denzil's recovery was assured--was for
the welfare of these children whom she fondly loved, and for whom she would
have gladly played a mother's part. She wrote in secret to her sister,
entreating her to return to England for her children's sake, and to devote
herself to them in retirement at Chilton, leaving the scandal of her
elopement to be forgotten in the course of blameless years; so that by the
time Henriette was old enough to enter the world her mother would have
recovered the esteem of worthy people, as well as the respect of the mob.

Lady Fareham's tardy answer was not encouraging. She had no design of
returning to a house in which she had never been properly valued, and
she admired that her sister should talk of scandal, considering that the
scandal of her own intrigue with her brother-in-law had set all England
talking, and had been openly mentioned in the London and Oxford Gazettes.
Silence about other people's affairs would best become a young miss who had
made herself so notorious.

As for the children, Lady Fareham had no doubt that their father, who had
ever lavished more affection upon them than he bestowed upon his wife,
might be trusted with the care of them, however abominable his conduct
might be in other matters. But in any case her ladyship would not exchange
Paris for London, where she had been slighted and neglected at Court as
well as at home.

The letter was a tissue of injustice and egotism; and Angela gave up all
hope of influencing her sister for good; but not the hope of being useful
to her sister's children.

Now, as the short winter days went by, and the preparations for departure
were making, she grew more and more urgent with her father to obtain the
custody of his grandchildren, and carry them to France with him, where they
might be reared and educated under his own eye. Montpelier was the place of
exile he had chosen, a place renowned alike for its admirable climate and
educational establishments; and where Sir John had spent the previous
winter, and had made friends.

It was to Montpelier the great Chancellor had retired from the splendours
of a princely mansion but just completed--far exceeding his own original
intentions in splendour, as the palaces of new-made men are apt to do--and
from a power and authority second only to that of kings. There the
grandfather of future queens was now residing in modest state, devoting the
evening of his life to the composition of an authentic record of the late
rebellion, and of those few years during which he had been at the head of
affairs in England. Sir John Kirkland, who had never forgotten his own
disappointments in the beginning of his master's restored fortunes, had a
fellow-feeling for "Ned Hyde" in his fall.

"As a statesman he was next in capacity to Wentworth," said Sir John, "and
yet a painted favourite and a rabble of shallow wits were strong enough to
undermine him."

The old Knight confessed that he had ridden out of his way on several
occasions when he was visiting Warner's sick-bed, in the hope of meeting
Henrietta and George on their ponies, and had more than once been so lucky
as to see them.

"The girl grows handsomer, and is as insolent as ever; but she has a
sorrowful look which assures me she misses her mother; though it was indeed
of that wretch, her father, she talked most. She said he had told her he
was likely to go on a foreign embassy. If it is to France he goes, there is
an end of Montpelier. The same country shall not hold him and my daughter
while I live to protect you."

Angela began to understand that it was his fear, or his hatred of Fareham,
which was taking him out of his native country. No word had been said of
her betrothal since that fatal night. It seemed tacitly understood that all
was at an end between her and Denzil Warner. She herself had been prostrate
with a low, nervous fever during a considerable part of that long period of
apprehension and distress in which Denzil lay almost at the point of death,
nursed by his grief-stricken mother, to whom the very name of his so lately
betrothed wife was hateful. Verily the papistical bride had brought a
greater trouble to that house than even Lady Warner's prejudiced mind had
anticipated. Kneeling by her son's bed, exhausted with the passion of long
prayers for his recovery, the mother's thoughts went back to the day when
Angela crossed the threshold of that house for the first time, so fair, so
modest, with a countenance so innocent in its pensive beauty.

"And yet she was guilty at heart even then," Lady Warner told herself, in
the long night-watches, after the trial at Westminster Hall, when Angela's
public confession of an unlawful love had been reported to her by her
favourite Nonconformist Divine, who had been in court throughout the trial,
with Lady Warner's lawyer, watching the proceedings in the interest of Sit
Denzil. Lady Warner received the news of the verdict and sentence with
unspeakable indignation.

"And my murdered son!" she gasped, "for I know not yet that God will
hear my prayers and raise him up to me again. Is his blood to count for
nothing--or his sufferings--his patient sufferings on that bed? A fine--a
paltry fine--a trifle for a rich man. I would pay thrice as much, though
it beggared me, to see him sent to the Plantations. O Judge and Avenger of
Israel! Thou hast scourged us with pestilence, and punished us with fire;
but Thou hast not convinced us of sin. The world is so sunk in wickedness
that murder scarce counts for crime."

The day of terror was past. Denzil's convalescence was proceeding slowly,
but without retrograde stages. His youth and temperate habits had helped
his recovery from a wound which in the earlier stages looked fatal. He was
now able to sit up in an armchair, and talk to his visitor, when Sir John
rode twenty miles to see him; but only once did his lips shape the name
that had been so dear, and that occasion was at the end of a visit which
Sir John announced as the last.

"Our goods are packed and ready for shipping," he said. "My daughter and I
will begin our journey to Montpelier early next week."

It was the first time Sir John had spoken of his daughter in that
sick-room.

"If she should ever talk of me, in the time to come," Denzil said--speaking
very slowly, in a low voice, as if the effort, mental and physical, were
almost beyond his strength, and holding the hand which Sir John had given
him in saying good-bye--"tell her that I shall ever remember her with
a compassionate affection--ever hold her the dearest and loveliest of
women--yes, even if I should marry, and see the children of some fair and
chaste wife growing up around me. She will ever be the first. And tell
her that I know she forswore herself in the court; and that she was the
innocent dupe of that villain--never his consenting companion. And tell her
that I pity her even for that so misplaced affection which tempted her to
swear to a lie. I knew, sir, always, that she loved him and not me. Yes,
from the first. Indeed, sir, it was but too easy to read that unconscious
beginning of unholy love, which grew and strengthened like some fatal
disease. I knew, but nursed the fond hope that I could win her heart--in
spite of him. I fancied that right must prevail over wrong; but it does
not, you see, sir, not always--not----" A faintness came over him;
whereupon his mother, re-entering the room at this moment, ran to him and
restored him with the strong essence that stood handy among the medicine
bottles on the table by his chair.

"You have suffered him to talk too much," she said, glancing angrily at Sir
John. "And I'll warrant he has been talking of your daughter--whose name
must be poison to him. God knows 'tis worse than poison to me!"

"Madam, I did not come to this house to hear my daughter abused----"

"It would have better become you, Sir John Kirkland, to keep away from this
house."

"Mother, silence! You distress me worse than my illness----"

"This, madam, is my farewell visit. You will not be plagued any more with
me," said Sir John, lifting his hat, and bowing low to Lady Warner.

He was gone before she could reply.

       *       *       *       *       *

The baggage was ready--clothes, books, guns, plate, and linen--all
necessaries for an exile that might last for years, had been packed for the
sea voyage; but the trunks and bales had not yet been placed in the waggon
that was to convey them to the Tower Wharf, where they were to be shipped
in one of the orange-boats that came at this season from Valencia, laden
with that choice and costly fruit, and returned with a heterogeneous cargo.
At Valencia the goods would be put on board a Mediterranean coasting
vessel, and landed at Cette.

Sir John began to waver about his destination after having heard from
Henriette of her father's possible embassy. Certainly if Fareham were to be
employed in foreign diplomacy, Paris seemed a likely post for a man who was
so well known there, and had spent so much of his life in France. And if
Fareham were to be at Paris, Sir John considered Montpelier, remote as it
was from the capital, too near his enemy.

"He has proved himself an indomitable villain," thought the Knight. "And I
could not always keep as close a watch upon my daughter as I have done
in the last six weeks. No. If Fareham be for France, I am for some other
country. I might take her to Florence, and put the Apennines between her
and that daring wretch."

It may be, too, that Sir John had another reason for lingering, after all
was ready for the journey. He may have been much influenced by Angela's
concern about his grandchildren, and may have hesitated at leaving them
alone in England with only salaried guardians.

"Their father concerns himself very little about them, you see," he told
Angela, "since he can entertain the project of a foreign embassy, while
those little wretches are pining in a lonely barrack in Oxfordshire."

"Indeed, sir, he is a fond father. I would wager my life that he is deeply
concerned about them."

"Oh, he is an angel, on your showing! You would blacken your sister's
character to make him a saint."

The next day was fine and sunny, a temperature as of April, after the
morning frost had melted. There was a late rose or two still lingering in
the sheltered Buckinghamshire valley, though it wanted but a fortnight of
Christmas. Angela and her father were sitting in a parlour that faced the
iron gates. Since their return from London Sir John had seemed uneasy when
his daughter was out of his sight; and she, perceiving his watchfulness and
trouble, had been content to abandon her favourite walks in the lanes and
woods and to the "fair hill of Brill," whence the view was so lovely and
so vast, on one side reaching to the Welsh mountains, and on another
commanding the nearer prospect of "the great fat common of Ottmoor," as
Aubrey calls it, "which in some winters is like a sea of waters." For her
father's comfort, noting the sad wistful eyes that watched her coming in
and going out, she had resigned herself to spend long melancholy
hours within doors, reading aloud till Sir John fell asleep, playing
backgammon--a game she detested worse even than shove-halfpenny, which
latter primitive game they played sometimes on the shovel-board in the
hall. Life could scarcely be sadder than Angela's life in those grey winter
days; and had it not been for an occasional ride across country with her
father, health and spirits must alike have succumbed to this monotony of
sadness.

This morning, as on many mornings of late, the subject of the boy and girl
at Chilton had been discussed with the Knight's tankard of home-brewed and
his daughter's chocolate.

"Indeed, sir, it would be a cruel thing for us to abandon them. At
Montpelier we shall be a fortnight's journey from England; and if either
of those dear creatures should fall ill, dangerously ill, perhaps, their
father beyond the seas, and we, too, absent--oh, sir, figure to yourself
Henriette or George dying among strangers! A cold or a fever might carry
them off in a few days; and we should know nothing till all was over."

Sir John groaned and paced the room, agitated by the funereal image.

"Why, what a raven thou art, ever to croak dismal prophecies. The children
are strong and well, and have careful custodians. I can have no dealings
with their father. Must I tell you that a hundred times, Angela? He is a
consummate villain: and were it not that I fear to make a bigger scandal,
he or I should not have survived many hours after that iniquitous
sentence."

A happy solution of this difficulty, which distressed the Knight much more
than his stubbornness allowed him to admit, was close at hand that morning,
while Angela bent over her embroidery frame, and her father spelt through
the last _London Gazette_ that the post had brought him.

The clatter of hoofs and roll of wheels announced a visit; and while they
were looking at the gate, full of wonder, since their visitors were of so
small a number, a footman in the Fareham livery pulled the iron ring that
hung by a chain from the stone pillar, and the bell rang loud and long in
the frosty air. The Fareham livery! Twice before the Fareham coaches and
liveries had taken that quiet household by surprise; but to-day terror
rather than surprise was in Angela's mind as she stood in front of the
window looking at the gate.

Could Fareham be so rash as to face her father, so daring as to seek a
farewell interview on the eve of departure? No, she told herself; such
folly was impossible. The visitor could be but one person--Henriette. Even
assured of this in her own mind, she did not rush to welcome her niece, but
stood as if turned to stone, waiting for the opening of the gate.

Old Reuben, having seen the footman, went himself to admit the visitors,
with his grandson and slave in attendance.

"It must be her little ladyship," he said, taking his young mistress's view
of the case. "Lord Fareham would never dare to show his deceiving face
here."

A shrill voice greeted him from the coach window before he reached the
gate.

"You are the slowest old wretch I ever saw!" cried the voice. "Don't you
know that when visitors of importance come to a house they expect to be let
in? I vow a convent gate would be opened quicker."

"Indeed, your ladyship, when your legs are as old as mine----"

"Which I hope they never will be," muttered Henriette, as she descended
with a languid slowness from the coach, assisted on either side by a
footman; while George, who could not wait for her airs and graces, let
himself out at the door on the off side just as Reuben succeeded in turning
the key.

"So you are old Reuben!" he said, patting the butler on the shoulder with
the gold hilt of his riding-whip. "And you were here, like a vegetable, all
through the Civil Wars and the Commonwealth?"

"Yes, your lordship, from the raising of Hampden's regiment."

"Ah, you shall tell me all about it over a pipe and a bottle. You must be
vastly good company. I am come to live here."

"To live here, your honour?"

"Yes; sister and I are to live here while my father represents his Majesty
beyond seas. I hope you have good stabling and plenty of room. My ponies
and Mistress Henriette's Arab horse will be here to-morrow. I doubt I shall
have to build a place for my hawks; but I suppose Sir John will find me a
cottage for my Dutch falconer."

"Lord, how the young master do talk!" exclaimed Reuben, with an admiring
grin.

The boy was so rapid in his speech, had such vivacity and courage in his
face, such a spring in every movement, as if he had quicksilver in his
veins, Reuben thought; but it was only the quicksilver of youth, that
Divine ichor which lasts for so brief a season.

"It made me feel twenty years younger only to hear him prattle," Reuben
said afterwards.

Sir John and his daughter had come to meet the children by this time,
and there were fond embracings, in the midst of which Henriette withdrew
herself from her grandfather's arms, and retired a couple of paces, in
order to drop him the Jennings curtsy, sinking almost to the ground, and
then rising from billows of silk, like Venus from the sea, and handing
him a letter, with a circular sweep of her arm, learnt in London from her
Parisian dancing mistress, an apprentice of St. André's, not from the
shabby little French cut-caper from Oxford.

"My father sends you this letter, sir."

"Is your father at Chilton?"

"No, sir. He was with us the day before yesterday, to bid us good-bye
before he started upon his foreign embassy," replied Henriette, struggling
with her tears, lest she should seem a child, and not the woman of fashion
she aspired to be. "He left us early in the afternoon to ride back to
London, and he takes barge this afternoon to Gravesend, to embark for
Archangel, on his way to Moscow. I doubt you know he is to be his Majesty's
Ambassador at Muscovy?"

"I know nothing but what you told me t'other day, Henriette," the Knight
answered, as they went to the house, where George began to run about on an
exploration of corridors, and then escaped to the stables, while Henriette
stood in front of the great wood fire, and warmed her hands in a stately
manner.

Angela had found no words of welcome for her niece yet. She only hugged
and kissed her, and now occupied herself unfastening the child's hood and
cloak. "How your hands shake, auntie. You must be colder than I am; though
that leathern coach lets in the wind like a sieve. I suppose my people will
know where to dispose themselves?" she added, resuming her grand air.

"Reuben will take care of them, dearest."

"Why, your voice shakes like your hands; and oh, how white you are. But you
are glad to see us, I hope?"

"Gladder than I can say, Henriette."

"I am glad you don't call me Papillon. I have left off that ridiculous
name, which I ought never to have permitted."

"I doubt, mistress, you who know so much know what is in this letter," said
Sir John, staring at Fareham's superscription as if he had come suddenly
upon an adder.

"Nay, sir, I only know that my father was shut in his library for a long
time writing, and was as white as my aunt is now when he brought it to me.
'You and George, and your gouvernante and servants, are to go to the Manor
Moat the day after to-morrow,' he said, 'and you are to give this letter
into your grandfather's hand.' I have done my duty, and await your Honour's
pleasure. Our gouvernante is not the Frenchwoman. Father dismissed her for
neglecting my education, and walking out after dark with Daniel Lettsome.
'Tis only Priscilla, who is something between a servant and a friend, and
who does everything I tell her."

"A pretty gouvernante!"

"Nay, sir, she is as plain as a pikestaff; that is one of her merits.
Mademoiselle thought herself pretty, and angled for a rich husband. Please
be so good as to read your letter, grandfather, for I believe it is about
us."

Sir John broke the seal, and began to read the letter with a frowning brow,
which lightened as he read. Angela stood with her niece clasped in her
arms, and watched her father's countenance across the silky brown head that
nestled against her bosom.

"SIR,--Were it not in the interests of others, who must needs hold a place
in your affection second only to that they have in my heart, I should
scarce presume to address you; but it is to the grandfather of my children
I write, rather than to the gentleman whom I have so deeply offended. I
look back, sir, and repent the violence of that unhappy night; but know no
change in the melancholy passion that impelled me to crime. It would have
been better for me had I been the worst rake-hell at Whitehall, than to
have held myself aloof from the modish vices of my day, only to concentrate
all my desires and affections there, where it was most sinful to place
them.

"Enough, sir. Did I stand alone I should have found an easy solution of all
difficulties, and you, and the lady my madness has so insulted, would have
been rid for ever of the despicable wretch who now addresses you.

"I had to remember the dear innocents who bring you this letter, and it was
of them I thought when I humbled myself to turn courtier in order to obtain
the post of Ambassador to Muscovy--in which savage place I shall be so
remote from all who ever knew me in this country, that I shall be as good
as dead; and you would have as much compunction in withholding your love
and protection from my boy and girl as if they were de facto orphans. I
send them to you, sir, unheralded. I fling them into the bosom of your
love. They are rich, and the allowance that will be paid you for them will
cover, I apprehend, all outlays on their behalf, or can be increased at
your pleasure. My lawyers, whom you know, will be at your service for all
communications; and they will spare you the pain of correspondence with me.

"I leave the nurture, education, and happiness of these, my only son and
daughter, solely in your care and authority. They have been reared in
over-much luxury, and have been spoiled by injudicious indulgence. But
their faults are trivial faults, and are all on the surface. They are
truthful, and have warm and generous hearts. I shall deem it a further
favour if you will allow their nurse, or nurse-gouvernante, Mrs. Priscilla
Baker, to remain with them, as your servant, and subject to your authority.
Their horses, ponies, hawks, and hounds, carriages, etc., must be
accommodated, or not, at your pleasure. My girl is greatly taken up with
the Arab horse I gave her on her last birthday, and I should be glad if
your stable could shelter him. I subscribe myself, perhaps for the last
time, sir,

"Your obedient servant, and a penitent sinner,

"FAREHAM."


When he had come to the end of the letter, reading slowly and thoughtfully,
Sir John handed it to his daughter, in a dead silence.

She tried to read; but at sight of the beloved writing a rush of tears
blinded her, and she gave the letter back to her father.

"I cannot read it, sir," she sobbed; "tell me only, are we to keep the
children?"

"Yes. Henceforward they are our children; and it will be the business of
our lives to make them happy."

"If you cry, tante, I shall think you are vexed that we have come to plague
you," said Henriette, with a pretty, womanly air. "I am very sorry for
his poor lordship, for he also cried when he kissed us; but he will have
skating and sledging in Muscovy, and he will shoot bears; so he will be
very happy."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

IN A DEAD CALM.


The great bales and chests, and leather trunks, on the filling whereof
Sir John's household had bestowed a week's labour, were all unpacked and
cleared out of the hall, to make room for a waggon load of packages from
Chilton Abbey, which preliminary waggon was followed day after day by other
conveyances laden with other possessions of the Honourable Henriette,
or the Honourable George. The young lady's virginals, her guitar, her
embroidery frames, her books, her "babies," which the maids had packed,
although it was long since she had played with them; the young gentleman's
guns and whips, tennis rackets, bows and arrows, and a mass of
heterogeneous goods; there seemed no end to the two children's personal
property, and it was well that the old house was sufficiently spacious to
afford a wing for their occupation. They brought their gouvernante, and a
valet and maid, the falconer, and three grooms, for whom lodgings had to
be found out-of-doors. The valet and waiting-woman spent some days in
distributing and arranging all that mass of belongings; but at the end of
their labour the children's rooms looked more cheerful than their luxurious
quarters at Chilton, and the children themselves were delighted with their
new home.

"We are lodged ever so much better here than at the Abbey," George told
his grandfather. "We were ever so far away from father and mother, and
the house was under a curse, being stolen from the Church in King Henry's
reign. Once, when I had a fever, an old grey monk came and sat at the
foot of the bed, between the curtains, and wouldn't go away. He sat there
always, till I began to get well again. Father said there was nothing
there, and it was only the fever made me see him; but I know it was the
ghost of one of the monks who were flung out to starve when the Abbey was
seized by Cromwell's men. Not Oliver Cromwell, grandfather; but another bad
man of the name, who had his head cut off afterwards; though I doubt he
deserved the axe less than the Brewer did."

There was no more talk of Montpelier or exile. A new life began in the old
house in the valley, with new pleasures, new motives, new duties--a life in
which the children were paramount. These two eager young minds ruled at the
Manor Moat. For them the fish-pond teemed with carp and tench, for them
hawks flew, and hounds ran, and horses and ponies were moving from morning
till twilight; for them Sir John grew young again, and hunted fox and hare,
and rode with the hawks with all the pertinacity of youth, for whom there
is no such word as enough. For them the happy grandfather lived in his
boots from October to March, and the adoring aunt spent industrious hours
in the fabrication of flies for trout, after the recipes in Mr. Walton's
agreeable book. The whole establishment was ordered for their comfort and
pleasure; but their education and improvement were also considered in
everything. A Roman Catholic gentleman, from St. Omer, was engaged as
George's tutor, and to teach Angela and Henriette Latin and Italian,
studies in which the niece was stimulated to industry by her desire to
surpass her aunt, an ambition which her volatile spirits never allowed her
to realise. For all other learning and accomplishments Angela was her only
teacher, and as the girl grew to womanhood aunt and niece read and studied
together, like sisters, rather than like pupil and mistress; and Angela
taught Henriette to love those books which Fareham had given her, and so in
a manner the intellect of the banished father influenced the growing mind
of the child. Together, and of one opinion in all things, aunt and niece
visited and ministered to the neighbouring poor, or entertained their
genteel neighbours in a style at once friendly and elegant. No existence
could have been calmer or happier, to one who was content to renounce all
passionate hopes and desires, all the romantic aspirations of youth; and
Angela had resigned herself to such renunciation when she rose from her
sick-bed, after the tragedy at Chilton. Here was the calm of the Convent
without its restrictions and limitations, the peace which is not of this
world, and yet liberty to enjoy all that is fairest and noblest in this
world; for had not Sir John pledged himself to take his daughter and niece
and nephew for the grand tour through France and Italy, soon after George's
seventeenth birthday? Father Andrea, who was of Florentine birth, would go
with them; and with such a cicisbeo, they would see and understand all the
treasures of the past and the present, antique and modern art.

Lord Fareham was still in the north of Europe; but, after three years in
Russia, had been transferred from Moscow to Copenhagen, where he was in
high favour with the King of Denmark.

Denzil Warner had lately married a young lady of fortune, the only child
and heiress of a Wiltshire gentleman, who had made a considerable figure in
Parliament under the Protector, but was now retired from public affairs.

And all that remained to Angela of her story of impassioned love, sole
evidence of the homage that had been offered to her beauty or her youth,
was a letter, now long grown dim with tears, which Henriette had given to
her on the first night the children spent under their grandfather's roof.

"I was to hand you this when no one was by," the girl said simply, and left
her aunt standing mute and pale with a sealed letter in her hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

"How shall I thank or praise you for the sacrifice your love made for one
so unworthy--a sacrifice that cut me to the heart? Alas, my beloved, it
would have been better for both of us hadst thou given me thyself rather
than so empty a gift as thy good name. I hoped to tell you, lip to lip, in
one last meeting, all my gratitude and all my hopeless love; but though I
have watched and hung about your gardens and meadows day after day, you
have been too jealously guarded, or have kept too close, and only with my
pen can I bid you an eternal farewell.

"I go out of your life for ever, since I am leaving for a distant country
with the fixed intention never to return to England. I bequeath you my
children, as if I left you a rag of my own lacerated heart.

"If you ever think of me, I pray you to consider the story of my life
as that of an invincible passion, wicked and desperate if you will, but
constant as life and death. You were, and are, and will be to my latest
breath, my only love.

"Perhaps you will think sometimes, as I shall think always, that we might
have lived innocently and happily in New England, forgetting and forgotten
by the rabble we left behind us, having shaken off the slough of an unhappy
life, beginning the world again, under new names, in a new climate and
country. It was a guilty dream to entertain, perhaps; but I shall dream
it often enough in a strange land, among strange faces and strange
manners--shall dream of you on my death-bed, and open dying eyes to see you
standing by my bedside, looking down at me with that sweetly sorrowful
look I remember best of all the varying expressions in the face I
worship.--Farewell for ever.

"F."

While her son and daughter were growing up at the Manor Moat, Lady Fareham
sparkled at the French Court, one of the most brilliant figures in that
brilliant world, a frequent guest at the Louvre and Palais Royal, and the
brand-new palace of Versailles, where the largest Court that had ever
collected round a throne was accommodated in a building of Palladian
richness in ornament and detail, a Palace whose offices were spacious
enough for two thousand servants. No foreigner at the great King's court
was more admired than the lovely Lady Fareham, whose separation from her
black-browed husband occasioned no scandal in a society where the husbands
of beautiful women were for the most part gentlemen who pursued their own
vulgar amours abroad, and allowed a wide liberty to the Venus at home; nor
was Henri de Malfort's constant attendance upon her ladyship a cause of
evil-speaking, since there was scarce a woman of consequence who had not
her _cavalière servante_.

Madame de Sévigné, in one of those budgets of Parisian scandal with which
she cheered a kinsman's banishment, assured Bussy de Rabutin that Lady
Fareham had paid her friend's debts more than once since her return to
France; but constancy such as De Malfort's could hardly be expected
were not the golden fetters of love riveted by the harder metal of
self-interest. Their alliance was looked on with favour by all that
brilliant world, and even tolerated by that severe moralist, the Due
du Montausier, who had been lately rewarded for his wife's civility to
Mademoiselle de la Vallière, now Duchess and reigning favourite, by being
made guardian of the infant Dauphin.

Every one approved, every one admired; and Hyacinth's life in the land
she loved was like a long summer day. But darkness came upon that day as
suddenly as the night of the tropics. She rose one morning, light-hearted
and happy, to pursue the careless round of pleasure. She lay down in a
darkened chamber, never again to mix in that splendid crowd.

Betwixt noon and twilight Henri de Malfort had fallen in a combat of eight,
a combat so savage as to recall that fatal fight of five against five
during the Fronde, in which Nemours had fallen, shot through the heart by
Beaufort.

The light words of a fool in a tavern, backed by three other fools, had led
to this encounter, in which De Malfort had been the challenger. He and
one of his friends died on the ground, while three on the other side
were mortally wounded. It would henceforth be fully understood that Lady
Fareham's name was not for ribald jesters; but the man Lady Fareham loved
was dead, and her life of pleasure had ended with a pistol-ball from an
unerring hand. To her it seemed the hand of Fate. She scarcely thought of
the man who had killed him.

As her life had been brilliant and conspicuous, so her retirement from the
world was not without _éclat_. Royalty witnessed the solemn office of the
Church which transformed Hyacinth, Lady Fareham, into Mère Agnes, of the
Seven Wounds; while, seated in the royal tribune, a King's mistress,
beautiful and adored, thought of a day when she, too, might bring to yonder
altar the sacrifice of a broken spirit and a life that had outlived earthly
happiness.

THE END.





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