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Title: Servants of Sin - A Romance
Author: Bloundelle-Burton, John
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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Transcriber's Notes:
   1. Page scan source: https://books.google.com/books?id=vapMAAAAMAAJ
      The Quiver, Annual Volume, 1905;
      Published by Cassell and Company, Limited;
      _London, Paris, New York & Melbourne_: which includes
      THE SWORD OF GIDEON, a Serial Story By J. Bloundelle-Burton
      pp. 1, 114, 317, 363, 502, 552, 698, 744, 840, 993, 1031, 1175,
          1226. Copyright, 1904, by John Bloundelle-Burton in the
          United States of America. All rights reserved.

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



[Illustration: VOLUNTEERS.
From the Painting by Arthur J. Black.
Exhibited in the Royal Academy, 1904.]



THE QUIVER

ANNUAL VOLUME, 1905


Principal Contributors

Elizabeth Banks
Katharine Tynan
The Rev. John Watson, D.D. ("Ian Maclaren")
The Rev. R. F. Horton, D.D.
D. L. Wookmer
The Rev. Principal Forsyth, M.A., D.D.
The Duke of Argyll
The Rev. High Black, M.A.
The Dean of Worcester
The Bishop of Derry
The Rev. J. H. Jowett, M.A.
Raymond Blathwayt
Fred E. Weatherly
J. Bloundelle-Burton
Richard Mudie-Smith, F.S.S.
The Rev. F. B. Meyer, B.A.
The Rev. Arthur Finlayson
Guy Thorne
Pastor Thomas Spurgeon
Morice Gerard
Dr. T. J. Macnamara, M.P.
The Rev. H. B. Freeman, M.A.
The Rev. R. J. Campbell, M.A.
Ethel F. Heddle
Sir Robert Anderson, K.C.B.
The Rev. Mark Guy Pearse
May Crommelin
The Lord Bishop of Manchester
Scott Graham
Amy Le Feuvre
The Venerable Archdeacon Sinclair,
etc. etc.


CASSELL AND COMPANY, LIMITED
_London, Paris, New York & Melbourne_
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Exerpt:
SWORD OF GIDEON. THE Serial Story By J. Bloundelle-Burton
   pp. 1, 114, 317, 363, 502, 552, 698, 744, 840, 993, 1031, 1175,
       1223. _Illustrated by W. H. Margetson_.
   Copyright, 1904, by John Bloundelle-Burton in the United States.
   _All rights reserved_.



THE SWORD OF GIDEON



CHAPTER I.

To north and south and east and west horsemen were spurring fast on
the evening of May 15th, 1702 (N.S.), while, as they rode through
hamlets and villages, they heard behind them the bells of the churches
beginning to ring many a joyous peal. Also, on looking back over their
shoulders, they saw that already bonfires were being lit, and observed
the smoke from them curling up into the soft evening air of the
springtime.

For these splashed and muddy couriers had called out as they passed
through the main streets of the villages that the long expected war
with France was declared at last by England, by Austria--or Germany,
as Austria was then called--and the States-General of the United
Netherlands.

Wherefore, it was no wonder that the bonfires were instantly set
blazing and the bells ringing, since now, all said to the others, the
great, splendid tyrant who for sixty years had given orders from his
throne for battles, for spoliation and aggrandisement, for the
humbling of all other countries beneath the heel of France, would meet
his match. He--he! this superb arbiter of others' fate, who had in his
younger days been called _Le Dieudonné_ and in his older _Le Roi
Soleil_--he who had driven forth from their homes countless
Protestants and had cruelly entreated those who had remained by their
hearths, while desiring only to worship God in their own way and
without molestation, must surely be beaten down at last.

"And--'tis good news!--Corporal John goes, they say," exclaimed
several of these horsemen as they drew bridle now and again at some
village inn, "as Captain-General of all Her Majesty's forces and chief
in command of the allied armies. He has been there before and hates
Louis; Louis who, although he gave him command of his English
regiment, would not give him command of a French one when he would
have served France. Let us see how he will serve _him_ now."

"I pity his generals and his armies when my lord the Earl of
Marlborough crushes them between his ranks of steel," said one who
stood by; "the more so that Lewis"--as they called him in this
country--"has insulted us by espousing the claims of James's son, by
acknowledging him as King of England. He acknowledges him who is
barred for ever from our throne by the Act of Succession, and also
because his father forswore the oath he took in the Abbey."

"He acknowledges the babe who, as I did hear Bishop Burnet say in
Salisbury Cathedral," a Wiltshire rustic remarked, "was no child at
all of the Queen, but brought into the palace in a warming pan, so
that an heir should not be wanting."

"He persecutes all of our faith," a grave and reverend clergyman
remarked now; "a faith that has never harmed him; that, in truth, has
provided him with many faithful subjects who have served him loyally.
And now he seeks to grasp another mighty country in his own hands,
another great stronghold of Papistry--Spain. And wrongfully seeks,
since, long ago, he renounced all claims to the Spanish throne for
himself and his."

A thousand such talks as this were taking place on that night of May
15th as gradually the horsemen rode farther and farther away from the
capital; the horsemen who, in many cases, were themselves soldiers, or
had been so. For they carried orders to commanders of regiments, to
Lord-Lieutenants, to mayors of country towns, and, in some cases, to
admirals and sea captains, bidding all put themselves and those under
them in readiness for immediate war service. Orders to the admirals
and captains to have their ships ready for sailing at a moment's
notice; to the commanders of regiments to stop all furlough and summon
back every man who was absent; to the Lord-Lieutenants to warn the
country gentlemen and the yeomanry. Orders, also, to the mayors to see
to the militia--the oldest of all our English forces, the army of our
freemen and our State--being called together to protect the country
during the absence of a large part of the regular troops. Beside all
of which, these couriers carried orders for food and forage to be
provided at the great agricultural centres; for horses to be purchased
in large quantities; for, indeed, every precaution to be taken and no
necessary omitted which should contribute towards the chance of our
destroying at last the power of the man who had for so long held the
destiny of countless thousands in his hand.


Meanwhile, as all the bells of London were still ringing as they had
been ringing from before midday, a young man was riding through the
roads that lay by the side of the Thames, on the Middlesex side of it.
A young man, well-built and as good-looking as a man should be; his
eyes grey, his features good, his hair long and dark, as was plainly
to be seen since he wore no wig. One well-apparelled, too, in a dark,
blue cloth coat passemented with silver lace, and having long
riding-boots reaching above his knees, long mousquetaire riding-gloves
to his elbows, and, in his three-cornered hat, the white cockade.

He passed now the old church at Chelsea on the river's brink, and
smiled softly to himself at the _tintamarre_ made by the bells, while,
as he drew rein the better to guide his horse betwixt the old
waterside houses and all the confusion of wherries and cordage that
lumbered the road, or, rather, the rutty passage, he said to himself:

"The torch is lighted. At last! 'Tis a grand day for England. And,
though I say it not selfishly, for me. Oh!" he went on, as now his
left hand fell gently to the hilt of his sword and played lovingly
with its curled quillon; "if I may draw you once again for England and
the Queen, and for all you represent for us," glancing at the old
church, wherein lay the bodies of such men as Sir Thomas More, who, in
his self-written epitaph, described himself in the bitterness wrung
from his heart as "_hereticisque_"; John Larke, an old rector of
Chelsea, executed at Tyburn for his Protestantism; and many other
staunch reformers. "Ah, yes," he continued, "if I may draw you against
Spain and her hateful Inquisition, against France and the tyrant who
persecutes all who love the faith you testify to; if I may but once
more get back to where I stood before, then at last shall I be happy.
Ah, well! I pray God it may be so. Let me see what cousin Mordaunt can
do."

He was free now of the encumbered road betwixt the river and the old
houses: the way before him lay through open fields in some of which
there grew a vast profusion of many kinds of vegetables and orchard
fruits, while, in others, the lavender scented all the afternoon air;
whereupon, putting his horse to the canter, he rode on until he came
to an open common and, next, to a kind of village green--a green on
two sides of which were antique houses of substance, and in which was
a pond where ducks disported themselves.

On the east side of the green, facing the pond, there stood embowered
in trees an old mansion, known as the Villa Carey. In after days, when
this old house had given place to a new one, the latter became known
as Peterborough House, doubtless to perpetuate the memory of the
dauntless and intrepid man who now inhabited it.

Arrived at the old, weather-beaten oak gate, against which the storms
that the southwesterly gales brought up had beaten for more than two
centuries, the young man summoned forth an aged woman and, on her
arrival, asked if Lord Peterborough were within.

"Ay, ay," the old rosy-cheeked lodge-keeper murmured; "and so in
truth he is. And to you always, Master Bracton. Always, always. Yet
what brings you here? Is't anything to do with the pother the bells
are making at Fulham and Putney and all around? And what is it all
about?"

"You do not know? You have not heard?" Bevill Bracton answered, as he
asked questions that were almost answers. "You have not heard, even
though my lord is at home. For sure he knows, at least."

"If he knows he has said nothing--leastways to me. After midday he sat
beneath the great tulip tree, with maps and charts on the carpet
spread at his feet above the grass, and twice he has sent off
messengers to Whitehall and once to Kensington, but still none come
anigh us in this quiet spot. But, Master Bevill," the old woman went
on, laying a knotted finger on the young man's arm--she had known him
from boyhood--"those two or three who have passed by say that great
things are a brewing--that we are going to war again as we went in the
late King's reign, and with France as ever; and that--and that--the
bells are all a-ringing because 'tis so."

"And so it is, good dame Sumner. We are going to see if we cannot at
least check the King of France, who seeks now to make Spain a second
half of France. But come; we must not trifle with time. Let me hook my
bridle rein here, and you may give my horse a drink of water when he
is cool, and tell me where my lord is now. Great deeds are afoot!"

"He is in the long room now. There shall you find him. Ay, lord! what
will he be doing now that war is in the air again? He who is never
still and in a dozen different cities and countries in a month."

With a laugh at the old woman's reflections on her master's
habits--which reflections were true enough--Bevill Bracton went on
towards the house itself and, entering it by the great front door,
crossed a stone-flagged hall, and so reached a polished walnut-wood
door that faced the one at the entrance. Arrived at it, he tapped with
his knuckle on the panel, and a moment later heard a voice from inside
call out:

"Who's there?"

"'Tis I--Bevill."

"Ha!" the voice called out again, though not before it had bidden the
young man come in, "and so I would have sworn it was. Why, Bevill,"
the occupant of the room exclaimed, as now the young man stood before
him, and when the two had exchanged handshakes, "I expected you hours
before. When first the news came to me this morning----"

"Your lordship knows?"

"Know? Why, i' faith, of course I know. Is there anything Charles
Mordaunt does not know when mischief is in the wind?--Mordanto, as
Swift calls me; Sir Tristram, as others describe me; I, whose 'birth
was under Venus, Mercury, and Mars,' and who, like those planets, am
ever wandering and unfixed. Be sure I know it. As, also, I knew you
would come. Yet, kinsman, one thing I do not know--that one thing
being, what it is you expect to gain by coming, unless it is the hope
of finding the chance to see those Catholics, amongst whom you lived
as a youth, beaten down by sturdy Protestants like yourself."

"For that, and to be in the fray. To help in the good cause--the cause
we love and venerate. Through you. By you--a kinsman, as you say."

"You to be in the fray--and by me? Yet how is that to be? You are----"

"Ah, yes! I know well. A broken soldier--one at odds with fortune.
Yet----"

"Yet?"

"Not disgraced. Not that--never that, God be thanked."

"I say so, too. But still broken, though never disgraced. What you did
you did well. That fellow, that Dutchman, that Colonel Sparmann, whom
you ran through from breast to back--he may thank his lucky stars your
spadroon was an inch to the left of his heart--deserved his fate."

"He insulted England," Bracton exclaimed. "He said that without King
William to teach us the art of war we knew not how to combat our
enemies. For that I challenged him, and ran him through. Pity 'twas I
did not----"

"Nay; disable thine enemy--there is no need to kill him. All the
same," Lord Peterborough continued drily, "King William broke you for
challenging and almost killing a superior officer."

"King William is dead. Death pays all debts."

"I would it did! There are a-many who will not forgive me when I am
dead."

"Queen Anne reigns, the Earl of Marlborough is at the head of the
army. My lord, I want employment; I want to be in this campaign. Oh,
cousin Mordaunt," Bevill Bracton said, with a break in his voice, "you
cannot know how I desire to be a soldier once again, and fighting for
my religion, my country, and the Queen. To be moving, to be a living
man--not an idler. I have never parted with this," and he touched the
hilt of the sword by his side, "help me; give me the right; find me
the way to draw it once more as a soldier."

"How to find the way! There's the rub. Marlborough and I are none too
much of cater-cousins now. We do not saddle our horses together. And
he is--will be--supreme. If you would get a fresh guidon you had best
apply to him."

"Even though I may have no guidon nor have any commission, still there
will surely be volunteers, and I may go as one."

"There will be volunteers," Lord Peterborough said, still drily, "and
I, too, shall go as one."

"You!"

"Yes, I. Only it will be later. When," and he smiled his caustic
smile, "the others are in trouble. If Marlborough, if Athlone, or
Ormond, who goes too, finds things going criss-cross and contrary,
then 'twill be the stormy petrel, Mordanto, who will be looked to."

"But when--when?" Bevill Bracton asked eagerly.

"When they have had time to flounder in the mire; when Ginkell--I mean
my Lord Athlone--has, good honest Dutchman as he is, fuddled himself
with his continual schnapps drinking; or when Jack Churchill, sweet as
his temper is and well under control, can bear no more contradictions
and cavillings from his brother commanders. Then--then Charles
Mordaunt will be looked to again; then--for I can cast my own
horoscope as well as any hag can do it for me--I shall be invited to
put my hand in my pocket, to stake my life on some almost impossible
venture, to give them the advice that, when I attempt to offer it,
they never care to take."

"But--but," Bevill said, "the time! The time!"

"'Twill come. Only you are young, impatient, hot-headed. I am almost
old, yet I am the same sometimes--but you will not wait. What's to do,
therefore?"

"I cannot think nor dream--oh, that I could!"

"Then listen to me. 'Tis not the way of the world to do so until it is
too late; in your case you may be willing. Do you know Marlborough?"

"As the subaltern knows the general, not being known by him. But no
more."

"'Tis pity. Yet--yet if you could bring yourself before his notice;
if--if--you could do something that should come under his eyes--some
deed of daring----"

"I must be there to do it--not here. At St. James's or Whitehall I can
do nought. The watch can do as much as I."

"That's very true; you must be there. There! there! Let me see for it.
Where are the charts?" and Lord Peterborough went towards a great
table near the window, which was all littered with maps and plans that
made the whole heterogeneous mass look more like a battlefield itself
after a battle than aught else.

"Bah!" his lordship went on, picking up first a plan and then a chart,
and throwing them down again. "Catalonia, Madrid, Barcelona, Cadiz. No
good! no good! Marlborough will not be there. The war may roll, must
roll, towards Spain, yet 'tis not in Spain that he will be. But
Holland--Brabant--Flanders. Ha!" he cried at the two latter names.
"Brabant--Flanders. And--why did I not think of it?--she is there, and
there's the chance, and--and, fool that I am! for the moment I had
forgotten it."

"_She!_ The chance! Brabant! Flanders!" Bevill Bracton repeated, the
words stumbling over each other in his excitement. "She! Who? And what
have I to do with women--with any woman? I, who wish to do all a man
may do in the eyes of men?"

"Sit down," Lord Peterborough said now, in a marvellously calm, a
suddenly calm, voice. "Sit down. I had forgotten my manners when I
failed to ask you to do so earlier."

"Ah, cousin Mordaunt, no matter for the manners at such a moment as
this. Alas! you set my blood on fire when you speak of where the war
will be, of where it must be, and then--then--you pour a douche of
chill cold water over me by talking of women--of a woman."

"Do I so, indeed? Well, hearken unto me," and his lordship leant
forward impressively and looked into the young man's eyes. "Hearken, I
say. This woman of whom I speak may be the guiding star that shall
light you along the path that leads to Marlborough, and all that he
can do for you. This woman, who may, in very truth, be your own
guiding star or----"

"Or?"

"She may lead to your undoing. Listen again."


[Illustration: "'Learn to know what Sylvia Thorne is like.'" (_p_.
6).]



CHAPTER II.


Had there been any onlooker or any listener at that interview now
taking place in the old house at Parson's Green, either the eyes of
the one or the ears of the other could not have failed to be impressed
by what they saw or heard.

Above all, no observer could have failed to be impressed by the
character of the elder man, Charles Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough and
Monmouth, who, although so outwardly calm, was in truth all fire
within.

For this man, who was now forty-seven years of age, had led--and was
still to lead for another thirty years--a life more wild and stirring
than are the dreams of ordinary men. As a boy he had seen service at
sea against the Tripoli corsairs, he had next fought at Tangiers, and,
on the death of Charles II., had been the most violent antagonist of
the Papist King James. An exile next in Holland, he had proposed to
the Prince of Orange the very scheme which, when eventually adopted,
placed that ungracious personage on the English throne, yet, at the
time, he had received nothing but snubs for his pains. He had, after
this, escaped shipwreck by a miracle, and, later, lay a political
prisoner in the Tower, from which he emerged to become not long
afterwards Governor of Jamaica. In days still to come he was to
capture Barcelona by a scheme which his allies considered to be, when
it was first proposed to them, the dream of a maniac; he was to rescue
beautiful duchesses and interesting nuns and other _religieuses_ from
the violence of the people, to be then sent back to England as a man
haunted by chimeras, next to be given the command of a regiment, to be
made a Knight of the Garter, and to be appointed an Ambassador. Nor
was this all. He flew from capital to capital as other men made trips
from Middlesex to Surrey; one of his principal amusements was planting
the seeds and pruning the trees in his garden with his own hands; he
would buy his own provisions and cook them himself in his beautiful
villa, and he was for many years married to a young and lovely wife,
who had been a public singer, and whom he never acknowledged until his
death was close at hand.

As still Lord Peterborough foraged among the mass of papers on the
table, turning over one after the other, and sometimes half a dozen
together, Bevill Bracton recognised that he was seeking for some
particular scroll or document amidst the confused heap.

"What is it, my lord?" the young man asked. "Can I assist you?"

"Nay. If I cannot find what I want for myself, 'tis very certain none
can do it for me. Ah!" he suddenly exclaimed, pouncing down like an
eagle on a large, square piece of paper which was undoubtedly a
letter. "Ah! here 'tis. A letter from the woman who is to give you
your chance."

"I protest I do not comprehend----"

"You will do so in time. Bevill," his lordship went on, "do you
remember some ten years ago, before you got your colours in the
Cuirassiers and, consequently, before you lost them, a little child
who played about out there?" and the Earl's eyes were directed towards
the great tulip tree on the lawn.

"Why, yes, in very truth I do. I played with her oft, though being
several years older than she. A child with large, grey eyes fringed
with dark lashes; a girl who promised to be more than ordinary tall
some day; one well-favoured too. I do recall her very well. She was
the child of a friend of yours, and her name was--was--Sophia, was it
now?--or Susan? Or----"

"Neither; her name was Sylvia, and is so still--Sylvia Thorne."

"Sylvia Thorne--ay, that is it. She promised to become passing fair."

"She is passing fair--or was, when I saw her last, two years ago. She
is not vastly altered if I may judge by this," and Lord Peterborough
went to a cabinet standing by one of the windows and, after opening a
drawer, came back holding in his hand a miniature.

"Regard her," he said to Bracton, as he handed him the miniature;
"learn to know what Sylvia Thorne is like. Learn to know the form and
features of the woman who may lead to restoring you to all you would
have, or--you are brave, so I may say it--send you to your doom."

"Why," Bracton exclaimed while looking at the miniature and, in actual
fact, scarce hearing Lord Peterborough's words, so occupied was he,
"she is beautiful. Tall, stately, queen-like, lovely. Can that little
child have grown to this in ten years?"

In absolute fact the encomiums the young man passed upon the form and
features that met his eye were well deserved.

The miniature, a large one, displayed a full, or almost full length
portrait of a young woman of striking beauty. It depicted a young
woman whose head was not yet disfigured by any wig, so that the dark
chestnut hair, in which there was now and again a glint of that ruddy
gold such as the old Venetians loved to paint, waved free and
unconfined above her forehead. And the eyes were as Bevill Bracton
recalled them, grey, and shrouded with long dark lashes. Only, now,
they were the eyes of a woman, or one who was close on the threshold
of womanhood, and not those of a little child; while a straight, small
nose and a small mouth on which there lurked a smile that had in it
something of gravity, if not of sadness, completed the picture. As for
her form, she was indeed "more than common tall," and, since there was
no suspicion of hoop beneath the rich black velvet dress she wore,
Bracton supposed that it was donned for some ball or festival.

"She is beautiful!" he exclaimed again. "Beautiful!"

"Ay, and good and true," Lord Peterborough said. "Look deep into those
eyes and see if any lie is hidden therein; look on those lips and
ponder if they are highroads through which falsehood is like to pass."

"It is impossible. If the eyes are the windows of the soul, as poets
say, then truth, and naught but truth, shelters behind them. And this
is Sylvia Thorne But still--still--I do not comprehend. How shall she
bring me before my Lord Marlborough? How advance my hopes and desires?
Stands she so high that she has power with him?"

"She is a prisoner of France."

"What? She, this beautiful girl, she a prisoner of France, of
chivalrous France, for chivalrous France is, though our eternal foe?"

"Yes, in company with some thousands of others, mostly Walloons--muddy
Hollanders all--and mighty few English, if any. She is shut up in
Liége, and the whole bishopric of Liége is in the hands of France
under the command of De Boufflers."

"What does she there--she, this handsome English girl, in a town of
Flanders now possessed by the French--she whom, I take it, since now I
begin to comprehend--and very well I do!--I am to rescue?"

"One question is best answered at a time. Martin Thorne, her father,
was my oldest friend. When James mounted the throne of England he,
like your father and myself, was one of those honest adherents of the
Stuarts who could not abide the practices James put in motion. He
himself had been in exile with Charles and James while Cromwell lived,
and he, again like your father, went into exile when James became a
Papist."

"My father never returned from abroad," Bevill remarked.

"I know--I know. But Thorne returned only to go abroad again. Your
father was, however, well to do. Thorne was not so. When a young exile
during Cromwell's rule he had been in Liége, in a great merchant's
house, since it was necessary he should find the means whereby to
live. When he returned to Liége twenty-six years afterwards he had
some means, and he became on this second occasion a merchant himself."

"I begin to understand."

"He thrived exceedingly. 'Tis true England was almost always at war
with France, but war is good for commerce. Thorne profited by this
state of affairs, and so grew rich. Sylvia is rich now, but the French
hold Liége. She would escape from that city."

"Will they not let her go? She is a woman. What harm can she do either
by going or staying?"

"They will let none go now who are strangers. Ere long this war, which
the claims of Louis to the Spanish succession on behalf of his
grandson have aroused, will have two principal seats--Flanders and
Spain. There are such things as hostages; there are such things as
rich people buying their liberty dearly. And Sylvia is rich, and they
know it. Much of her wealth is placed in England, 'tis true, but much
also is there, in Liége. Short of one chance, the chance that, in the
course of this campaign Liége should fall into the hands of one of our
allies, she may have to remain there until peace is made--and that
will not be yet. Not for months--perhaps years."

"But if she should escape--what of her wealth then?"

"She will be free, and still she will be rich; while if, as I say,
Liége falls into the allies' hands she will not even lose her property
there. But, at the moment, she desires only one thing; and that
desire, being a rich woman, she is anxious to gratify. She is anxious
to return to England."

"And I--I am to be the man to help her to do so--to aid her to escape
from Liége. I'll do it if 'tis to be done."

"Well spoken; especially those last words. 'If 'tis to be done.' Yet
pause--reflect."

"I have reflected."

Though, however, Bevill had said, "I have reflected," it would
scarcely seem as if Lord Peterborough placed much confidence in his
statement, since, either ignoring what his young kinsman had said or
regarding his words as of little worth, he now proceeded to tell the
latter what difficulties, what dangers, would lie in his path.

"I would not send you to that which may, in truth, lead to your doom
without giving you fair warning of what lies before you," his lordship
commenced, while, as he spoke, his eyes were fixed on Bevill
Bracton--fixed thus, perhaps, because he who, in this world, had never
been known to flinch at or fear aught, was now anxious to see if the
solemn speech he had just uttered could cause the other to blench.
Observing, however, that, far from such being the case, Bracton simply
received that speech with an indifferent smile, Peterborough went on.

"From the very instant you set foot on foreign ground, every step your
feet take will be environed with difficulty and danger. For, since you
could by no possibility go as an Englishman, it follows that you must
be a Frenchman."

"Am I not already half a Frenchman?" the young man asked. "From the
day my father took me to France until I got my colours, I spoke, I
read--almost thought--in French. I learnt my lessons in French; I had
French comrades, as every follower of the Stuarts had, since we were
welcome enough in France; I was French in everything except my
religion and my heart. They were always English."

"Therefore," Lord Peterborough continued, for all the world as though
Bracton had not interrupted him or uttered one word, "if you, passing
as a Frenchman, fell into the hands of the French and were discovered
to be an Englishman, your shrift would be short."

"I shall never be discovered."

"While," his lordship continued imperturbably, "if the English, or
the Dutch, or the Austrians, or the Hanoverians, or the troops of
Hesse-Cassel--for all are in this Grand Alliance, as well as the
Prussians and the Danes, who do not count for much, though even they
will be powerful enough to string a supposed spy up to the branch of a
tree--if any of these get hold of you, thinking you a spy of one or
t'other side, well! your life will not be worth many hours' purchase."

"I shall soon prove to the English that I am not a Frenchman, and to
the others that I am not a spy. I presume your lordship can provide me
with a passport?"

"I can do so, but it will be that of a Frenchman. Bolingbroke,
who is now, as you know, Secretary-of-War--oh! la-la! he
Secretary-of-War!--has some already prepared. His French hangers-on
have provided him with those. All Frenchmen are not loyalists. You
will not be the first or only English spy abroad."

"Yet I shall not be a spy."

"Not on the passport, but if you are limed you will be treated as one.
I disguise nothing from you."

"And terrify me not at all. As soon as I have that passport I am gone.
I shall not return until I bring Mistress Sylvia Thorne with me."

"Fore 'gad, you are a bold fellow! I am proud to have you of my kith
and kin. Yet you will want something else. What money have you?"

"I had forgotten that. Money, of course, I have, yet--yet----"

"Not enough. Is that it? Hey? Well, you shall have enough--enough to
help you bravely; to bring you, if Providence watches over you, safely
to Liége and before the glances of Sylvia's grey eyes. And, then,
Heaven grant you may both get back safely."

"I have no fear. What a man may do I will do. Yet, my lord, one thing
alone stands not clearly before my eyes. God, He knows, I go willingly
enough to obey your behests, your desires; to, if it may be, help a
young maiden to quit a town which may soon be ravaged by war; a town
to be, perhaps, held by our enemies for months or even years. From my
heart I do so. Yet--ah!--how shall I by this do that on which I have
set my heart? How get back again to the calling I have loved and
forfeited--though forfeited unjustly? How will this commend me to my
Lord Marlborough?"

"What! How? Why, heart alive! if Marlborough but hears you have done
such a thing as this, your new commission will be as good as signed by
Queen Anne. He hath ever an eye for a quick brain, a ready hand. 'Tis
thus that great men rise or, being risen, help to maintain their
eminence. The workman who chooses good tools does ever the best of
work."

"Therefore I need not fear?"

"Fear! Fear nothing; above all, fear not that you shall go unrewarded.
Moreover, remember Jack Churchill has ever been a valiant cavalier of
_le beau sexe, un preux chevalier_; remember his devotion to his wife,
handsome shrew though she be. Great commander though he is, he is not
above advancing those soldiers who can help beauty in distress.

"Now," Lord Peterborough concluded, "go and hold yourself in
readiness, remembering always that she whom you go to succour is the
child of a man I loved--of my dearest, my dead, friend. Remember, too,
that she is young and good and pure and honest. Now go, remembering
this; and when I send for you--'twill not be long--return. Then, when
you have my last instructions, as also the money and the passport,
with, too, a letter for Sylvia Thorne, I will bid you God speed.
Go--farewell!"



CHAPTER III.


[Illusration: "'Not forgotten, monsieur dares to hope.'"--_p_. 10.]


The bilander _Le Grand Roi_, flying French colours, was making her way
slowly up the Scheldt to Antwerp, as she had been doing for five
hours, namely, from the time she had entered the river. Two days
before this time she had left Harwich, while, since the proclamation
had been made in London and the principal cities of England that all
French and Spanish subjects were to quit the country, and that they
would be permitted to depart without molestation and also would not be
interfered with while proceeding on the high seas to their
destination, she had arrived safely. She was close to Antwerp now; the
spire of the cathedral had long since become visible as _Le Grand Roi_
passed between the flat, marshy plains that bordered the river; she
would be moored, the sailors said, within another hour--moored in
Antwerp, which, since the death of Charles II. of Spain, eighteen
months before this time, had been seized by the French. For the whole
of this region, the whole of Flanders, was now no longer the vast
barrier of Western Europe against the power and ambition of the Great
King, but was absolutely his own outworks and barrier against his
foes.

On board the old-fashioned craft--which had brought away from England
Frenchmen and Frenchwomen of all classes, from secretaries of the
Embassy and ladies attached to the suite of the ambassadress, down to
the croupiers of the faro banks and the women employed by the French
milliners in London, as well as a choice collection of French spies
who had been earning their living in the capital--all was now
excitement. For, ere anyone on board would be permitted to land, their
passports would have to be examined, their features, height, and other
details of their appearance compared with those passports, and any
baggage they might possess would be scrupulously inspected. If all
were ashore and housed by the afternoon, or were enabled to set out on
their further journey, the sailors told the travellers they might
indeed consider themselves lucky.

"Nevertheless," said a young man who sat on the small raised deck on
which the wheelhouse stood, while he addressed a young French lady who
sat by his side, "it troubles me but very little. So that I reach
Louvain in two days, or three, for the matter of that, or even four, I
shall be well content."

"Monsieur is not pressed?" this young lady said, after looking at her
mother who sat asleep on the other side of her, and then glancing at
the young man. And, in truth, the object of her second glance was
worthy of observation, since he was good-looking enough to merit
scrutiny. His dark features were  well set off by his wig, his manly
form was none the worse for the gallooned, dark blue travelling coat
and deep vest he wore. A handsome young man this, many had said in the
last two days on board; a credit to France, the land, as they, told
each other often--perhaps because they feared the fact might be
overlooked even by themselves--of handsome men and lovely women. Even
his _mouches_ on the cheeks, his extremely fine lace and his sparkling
rings were forgiven by his fellow-passengers, since, after all, were
not patches and lace of the best, and jewels, the appanage of a true
French gentleman? And a gentleman M. de Belleville was--a gentleman
worthy of the greatest country in the universe, they modestly added.

"Not the least in all the world," this graceful, airified young man
answered the young lady now in an easy manner; "not the least, I do
assure you, mademoiselle. In truth, I am so happy to have left England
behind that now I am out of it I care not where else I am."

"Monsieur has seemed happy since he has been on board. He has played
with the children, given his arm to the elderly ladies, assisted the
older men as they staggered about with the roll of the ship, played
cards with the younger. Monsieur will be missed by all when we part at
Antwerp."

"But not forgotten, monsieur dares to hope," the graceful M. de
Belleville said.

"Agreeable persons are never forgotten," his companion of the moment
replied, she being evidently accustomed to the _riposte_. "But,
monsieur, this war, this Grand Alliance, as our enemies term
it--tell me, it surely cannot last long? This Malbrouck of whom they
speak, this fierce English general--he cannot--undoubtedly he
cannot--prevail against King Louis' marshals!"

"Impossible, mademoiselle!" the young man exclaimed, while his eyes
laughed as he answered. "Impossible! What? Against De Boufflers,
Tallard, Villeroy, and the others? Yet there is one thing in his
favour, too. He served France once."

"He! This Malbrouck. He! Yet now he fights against her!"

"In truth he did, and so learnt the art of war. He was colonel of the
English regiment in the Palatinate under Turenne. That should have
taught him something. Also----"

But there came an interruption at this moment. The side of the
bilander grated against the great timbers of the dock, the hawsers
were thrown out; _Le Grand Roi_ had arrived at the end of her journey.
A moment later the _douaniers_ were swarming into the vessel, hoarse
cries were heard, the passengers were ordered to prepare their
necessaries for inspection, and to have their papers ready.

Among some of the first, though not absolutely one of the first, M. de
Belleville was subjected to inspection. His passport was perused by
the _douanier_, who mumbled out as he did so, "Height, five feet ten.
_Hein!_" raising his eyes to the young man's face. "I should have said
an inch more."

"I should have said two more," M. de Belleville replied with a laugh.
"_Mais, que voulez vous?_ The monsieur at our embassy would have it
so, in spite of my pardonable remonstrances. Therefore five feet ten I
have to be. And he was short himself. Let us forgive him."

"Monsieur is gay and debonair. _Bon!_ That is the way to live long.
Eyes, dark. _Bon!_ Hair," putting up a forefinger and lifting M. de
Belleville's peruke an inch or so, "dark. _Bon!_ Age, twenty-nine."

"Another affront. I assure you, monsieur, I told the gentleman I am
but twenty-eight and four months."

"_Ohé!_ Monsieur has a light vein. When a man has passed twenty-eight
he is twenty-nine in the eyes of the law. Monsieur's vanity need not
be offended. Now, monsieur, the pockets. 'Tis but a ceremony, I assure
monsieur."

The pockets were soon done with. The man saw a purse through which
glistened many pistoles and louis d'or and gold crowns, several bills
drawn by the great French banker Bernard, which could be changed
almost anywhere, and--a portrait.

"_Hein!_" the man said, though not rudely. "A beautiful young lady.
Handsome as monsieur himself, doubtless one whom----"

"Precisely. There is nothing more?"

"Except the baggage."

"I have none. By to-night, or to-morrow, or the next day, I hope to be
in Marshal de Boufflers' lines."

"Monsieur must ride then. The Marshal's lines stretch from----"

"I know. I shall reach them as soon as horse can carry me."

After which the young man was permitted to walk ashore.


"So," 'Monsieur de Belleville' said to himself, as now, with his
large cloak over his arm, he made his way to the vicinity of the
cathedral, "I am here. So far so good. Yet this is but the first step.
I must be wary. Vengeance confound the vagabond!" he went on as his
thought changed. "I wish he had not looked on that sweet face and
stately form of Sylvia Thorne. Almost it seems a sacrilege. Cousin
Mordaunt gave me that as my passport to her. I wonder if he dreams of
how many times I have gazed on it since I parted from him? Still, it
had to be shown."

Consoled with this reflection, the young man continued on his way
until the _carillons_ sounding above his head told him that the
cathedral was close at hand. Then, emerging suddenly from a narrow
street full of lofty houses, he found himself on the cathedral
_place_, and looked around for some hostelry where he might rest for
the day and part of the night.

His first necessity was a horse. This it was important he should
obtain at once, directly after he had procured a room and a meal. Yet,
he thought, there should be no difficulty in that. The French, who
never neglected the art of possessing themselves of the spoils of war,
were reported to have laid all the country round under such
contributions of food, cattle, forage, and other things, that he had
read in the _Flying Post_ ere he left London how, in spite of their
large armies scattered over Flanders, they were now selling back at
very small prices the things they had plundered.

"But first for an inn," said Bevill Bracton (the _soi-disant_ M. de
Belleville) to himself. Directing his steps, therefore, across the
wide _place_ and towards a deep archway, over which was announced the
name of an inn, he entered the house and stated that he wanted a room
for the night.

"A room?" the surly Dutch landlord repeated, looking up as he heard
himself addressed in the French language--doubtless he had good reason
to be surly! "A room? Two dollars a night, payable in advance."

"'Tis very well. You do not refuse French money?"

"No, 'specially as we see little enough of it. Hans," addressing a boy
in the courtyard after he had received the equivalent of two dollars,
"show the French gentleman to No. 89. All food and wine," he added,
"is also payable in advance."

"That can also be accomplished. Likewise the price of a horse, if I
can purchase one."

"_Ja, ja!_ Very well!" the man said, brisking up at this. "If monsieur
desires a horse, and will pay for it, I have many from which he may
choose."

"So be it; when I descend I will inspect them. Now," to the boy, "show
me to the room."

Arrived at No. 89, which, like all Dutch rooms, was scrupulously clean
if bare of aught but the most necessary furniture, Bevill, after
having made some sort of toilette, and one which would have to suffice
until he had bought a haversack and some brushes and other
necessaries, was ready for his meal.

He went downstairs now to where the surly Dutch landlord still sat in
his little bureau, and asked him if the horses were ready for
inspection. Receiving, however, the information that two or three had
been sent for from some stables that were in another street, he
decided to proceed to the long, low room where repasts were partaken
of. Before he did so, however, the landlord told him that it was
necessary to inscribe his name and calling in a register that was kept
of all guests staying at the inn.

Knowing this to be an invariable custom, as it had always been for
many long years--for centuries, indeed--on the Continent, Bevill made
no demur, but, taking a pen, he dipped it in the inkhorn and wrote
down, "André de Belleville, Français, Secrétaire d'Embassade récemment
à Londres," since thus ran the passport which had been procured for
him by Lord Peterborough.

After which, on the landlord having stated that this information was
all that the Lieutenant of Police would require, Bevill proceeded to
the room where a meal could be obtained--a meal which, as he had
already been warned, he would have to pay for in advance. For now--and
it was not to be marvelled at--there was no Dutchman in all Holland
who would trust any Frenchman a sol for bite, or sup, or bed.

By the time this repast was finished, the horses from which Bevill was
to select one were in the courtyard, and, being informed of this, he
went out to see them. One glance from his accustomed eye, the eye of
an ex-cuirassier who had followed William of Orange and fought under
his command, was enough to show him that any one of them was
sufficient for his purpose of reaching Liége by ordinary stages.
Therefore the bargain was soon struck, six pistoles[1] being paid for
the stoutest of the animals, a strong, good-looking black horse, and
the one that seemed as if, at an emergency, it could attain a good
speed--an emergency which, Bevill thought, might well occur at any
moment on his route through roads and towns bristling with French
soldiers.

As, however, the landlord and he returned to the bureau to complete
the transaction, Bevill saw, somewhat to his surprise, a man leave the
bureau--a man elderly and cadaverous--one who wore a bushy beard that
was almost grey, and who looked as though he was far advanced in a
decline. A man whose face appeared familiar to Bracton, yet one which,
while being thus familiar, did not at first recall to him the moment
or place where he had once seen or known him.

"Fore 'gad!" he said to himself. "Where have I seen that fellow?" And
Bevill Bracton glanced down the passage as though desiring that the
man would return. Not seeing him, however, he stepped back from the
gloom of the passage into the sunshine of the courtyard and counted
out into his hand the six pistoles he was to pay. Then, as he did so,
he heard a step behind him--a step which he imagined to be that of the
landlord as he came forth with the receipt, and, looking round, saw
that the strange man was now in the bureau, and bending over the
register. A moment later he heard him say to the landlord, while
speaking in a husky, soddened voice:

"There was no secretary named André de Belleville at the French
Embassy. The statement is false. I shall communicate with the
Lieutenant of Police at once. I warn you not to let him depart."

Then, in an instant, the man was gone, he passing down the passage and
out into the Dutch kitchen garden.

But Bevill had heard enough, had learnt enough.

The voice of the man, added to what he had already seen of him, aided
his wandering recollection--it told him who the man was.

"'Tis Sparmann," he said to himself. "Sparmann, who, two years ago,
had my sword through him from front to back. It is enough. There is no
rest here for me. To-night I must be far from Antwerp. My lord said
well. It is death if I am discovered."



CHAPTER IV.


The great high road that runs almost in a straight line from Antwerp
to Cologne passes through many an ancient town and village, each and
all of which have owned the sway of numerous masters. For Spain once
had its grip fast on them, as also did Austria, Spain's half-sister;
dukes, reigning over the provinces, fierce, cruel, and tyrannical,
have sweated the blood from out the pores of the back-bowed peasants;
prince-bishops, such as those of Liége and Antwerp and Cologne, have
also held all the land in their iron grasp; even the Inquisition once
heaped its ferocious brutalities on the dwellers therein. Also, France
has sacked the towns and cities of the land, while armies composed of
men who drew their existence from English soil have besieged and
taken, and then lost and taken again, those very towns and cities and
villages.

Among the cities, at this period garrisoned and environed by one of
the armies of Louis le Grand, none was more fair and stately than
Louvain, though over her now there hangs, as there has hung for two
hundred years, an air of desolation. For she who once numbered within
her walls a hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants has, since the War
of the Spanish Succession, been gradually becoming more and more
desolate; her great University, consisting once of forty colleges,
exists only in a very inferior degree; where streets full of stately
Spanish houses stood are meadows, vineyards, gardens, and orchards
now.

But Louvain was still stately, as, at sunset in the latter part of May
in the year of our Lord 1702, a horseman drew up at the western
_porte_ of the city walls, and, hammering on the great storm-beaten
gate, clamoured for admission to the city. A horseman mounted on a
bright bay--one that had a shifty eye, yet, judging by its lean flanks
and thin wiry legs, gave promise of speed and endurance. A rider to
whose shoulders fell dark, slightly curling hair, and whose complexion
was bronzed and swarthy as though from long exposure to the sun and
wind and rain.

"Cease! Cease!" a voice in French growled out from the inner side of
the great gate. "Cease, in the name of all the fiends! The gate has
had enough blows dealt on it in the centuries that are gone since it
first grew a tree. Thy sword hilt will neither do it good nor batter
it down. Also, I come. I do but swallow the last mouthful of my
supper."

"I do beseech thee, _bon ami_," the traveller called back with a
mocking laugh, "not to hurry thyself. My lady can wait thy time. The
air is fresh and sweet outside, the wild flowers grow about the gate,
and I am by no means whatever pressed. Eat and drink thy fill."

"Um--um!" the voice from inside grunted. "Whoe'er you are, you have a
lightsome humour, a jocund tongue. I, too, do love my jest. _Peste!_
These sorry Hollanders know not what wit and mirth are--therefore I
will open the gate. Ugh! ugh! ugh!"

"Hast choked thyself in thine eager courtesy? Wash it down, man--wash
it down with a flask of Rhine wine."

But as the traveller thus jeered the great gate grunted and squeaked
on its huge hinges; then slowly, with many more rasping sounds, one
half of it opened wide.

"A flask of Rhine wine," muttered the warder, an elderly man clad in a
soldierlike-looking dress, and one who looked as if not only the Rhine
wines, but those of Burgundy and Bordeaux, were well known to him. "A
flask of Rhine wine. Where should I, a poor soldier of the Régiment de
Beaume, and a wounded one at that, get flasks of wine?"

"Where? Why, _camarade_, from a friend. From me. Here," and, putting
his hand to his vest pocket, the cavalier tossed down a silver crown
to the warder.

"Monsieur is an officer," the soldier said, stiffening himself to the
salute, while his eye roamed over the points of the bright bay, and
observed the handsome, workman-like sword that lay against its flanks,
and also the good apparel of the rider. "He calls me _camarade_, and
is lavish."

"Aye, an officer. Now, also disabled by a cruel blow. One who is still
weak, yet who hopes ere long to draw this again," touching his
quillon. "Of the cavalry. Now, see to my papers, and then let me on my
way."

"To the lady who awaits monsieur," the man said with a respectful
smile.

"Tush! I did but jest. There is no lady fair for me. I ride
towards--towards--the Rhine, there to take part against the Hollanders
who cluster thick, waiting to join Malbrouck." As the horseman spoke,
he drew forth a paper from his pocket, and, bending over his horse's
neck, handed it to the man.

"Le Capitaine Le Blond," the latter read out respectfully, "capitaine
des Mousquetaires Gris. Travelling to Cologne. Bon, monsieur le
capitaine," saluting as he spoke. "Pass, mon capitaine."

"Tell me first a good inn where I may rest for the night."

"There are but two, 'L'Ours' and 'Le Duc de Brabant.' The first,
monsieur le capitaine, is the best. The wine is--_o_--_hé_--superb,
adorable. Also it is full of officers. Some mousquetaires are of them.
Monsieur should go there. There are none at the other."

"I will," the captain of mousquetaires said aloud as he rode on,
though to himself he muttered, "Not I. 'Le Duc de Brabant' will
suffice for me."


When Bevill Bracton recognised Sparmann in the inn at Antwerp he knew,
as has been told, that he already stood in deadly peril. Already,
though he had scarce been ashore two hours! Nevertheless, while he
recognised this and understood that at once, without wasting a moment,
he must form some plans for quitting Antwerp, and also, if possible,
assuming a fresh disguise, he could by no means comprehend the
presence of Sparmann in the city. Nor could he conceive what this man,
a Dutchman, could have to do with the French Lieutenant of Police, an
official who must surely be hated by the townspeople as much as, if
not more than, the rest of their conquerors.

Re-entering the passage now, and approaching the bureau with the
determination of discovering something in connection with his old
enemy, if it were possible to do so, Bevill observed that the
landlord's eyes were fixed upon him with a glance that was half
menacing and half derisive, while, as he perceived this, he reflected,
"Doubtless the man is rejoiced to see one of the hated French, as he
supposes me to be, outwitted by his own countryman." After which he
addressed the other, saying:

"Who is that man who throws doubt upon my identity and the passport I
carry, issued by the French Embassy in London?"

"He! _ach_ he! One who is a disgrace to the country that bore him--
to this city, for of Antwerp he is. He was once an officer in the
Stadtholder's bodyguard, the Stadtholder who was made King of England;
yet now he serves the French, your countrymen. Bah!" and the landlord
spat on the floor. "Now he is a spy on his own. A--a--a _mouchard_."

"But why? Why?"

"He has been disgraced. He was always in trouble. A soldier--a young
one, too; an English officer, as it is said--ran him through for
jeering at the English soldiers; then, since he was despised by his
own brother-officers for being beaten, he took to drinking. At last,
he was broken. Then he joined the French, your countrymen. Only, since
he had been beaten by an Englishman, they would not have him for a
soldier. So he became _un espion_. For my part, I would that the
English officer had slain him. To think of it! A Hollander to serve
the French!"

"I fear you do not love the French," Bevill said quietly, a sudden
thought, an inspiration, flashing to his brain even as the landlord
poured out his contempt on his own compatriot. "The English appear to
have your sympathy."

"Does the lamb love the tiger that crushes it between its jaws? Does
the hare love the spring in which it is caught? Yet--yet they say,"
the landlord went on, casting a venomous glance at Bevill, "your
country will not triumph over us long. Malbrouck is coming, forty
thousand more English soldiers are coming; so, too, are the soldiers
of every Protestant country in Europe Then, look out for yourselves,
my French friends."

"So you love the English?"

"We love those who pull us out of the mire. And they have been our
allies for years."

For a moment after hearing these words Bevill stood regarding this man
while pondering deeply; then, making up his mind at once, he said:

"If I told you that at this present time that young English officer
who ran Sparmann through--this renegade countryman of yours, this
_espion_, this spy of the French, _your conquerors_--stands in
imminent deadly danger in Antwerp--here, here, in your own city--would
you help and succour him? Would you strive to save him--from Sparmann,
the spy?"

"What!" the landlord exclaimed, his fishlike eyes extending as he
stared at Bracton. "What!" while in a lower tone he repeated to
himself the words Sparmann had uttered a quarter of an hour ago:
"There was no secretary named André de Belleville at the French
Embassy. 'The statement is false.'"

"Aye," replied Bevill Bracton, hearing his muttered words, and
understanding them too, since he had learnt some Dutch when in Holland
under King William. "Aye, the statement is false, but his is true.
There was no secretary of that name. The passport was procured to help
that young officer to reach Liége and assist a countrywoman. Also, if
the day should haply come, to assist, to join Protestant Holland
against Catholic France and Spain."

"And," the man said, still staring at him, "you are he? You are an
Englishman--a Protestant?"

"I am, God be praised. I trust in you. It is in your power to help me
to escape, or you can give me up to the Lieutenant. It is in your
power to enable me to quit Antwerp ere the alarm is given at the
gates. If it be already given, my chance is gone! You hate France; you
look to England for rescue and preservation. Speak. What will you do?"

"The spy saw," the landlord said, still muttering to himself, "that
you had bought the black horse. Therefore you cannot ride that, though
it is the best. But in my stable is a bay----"

"Ah!"

"A bay! _Ja wohl_, a bay! Tricky, ill-tempered, but swift as the wind.
Once outside the city----"

"Heaven above bless you!"

"----You are safe. You speak French like a Frenchman. You have passed
before as one, it seems; you can do so again. The bay belonged to a
mousquetaire who died here of a fever when first the accursed French
seized on the city. I would not give it up since his bill was large."

"One thing only! My passport will betray, ruin me."

"_Nein_. I have the mousquetaire's papers; his French pass. He was a
captain named Le Blond. With those, and with that thing off your
head," nodding at the peruke Bevill wore, "you will surely pass the
gate. But you must be quick. Quick! Time is money, as you English say.
With you it may be more. It may be life or death."

Even as the landlord spoke Bevill had torn off his wig and shaken out
his own dark hair, after which the former said:

"I will go get the papers. Then will I saddle the bay myself. She is
in the stable in the back of the garden. You can pass out that way and
through a back street. If you have luck, you are saved. If not----"

"I _shall_ be saved. I know it--feel it. But you--you--he warned you
of what might befall----"

"Bah! You will have escaped unknown to me. For proof, I can show that
you even left the black horse behind in your haste. How shall they
know that I gave you another in its place?" And the landlord left his
bureau and ran up the stairs, saying he would be back with the papers
of Captain Le Blond ere many moments had passed.

Thus it was that the supposed captain of mousquetaires escaped the
first peril he encountered on the road towards Liége, towards
assisting Sylvia Thorne to quit that city. He had escaped, yet he had
done so by means that were abhorrent to him--by a false passport, the
papers of a man now in his grave. He who--Heaven pardon him!--could he
have had matters as he desired, would have ridden boldly and openly to
every barrier, have faced every soldier of the enemy, and, announcing
himself as what he was, have got through or finished his mission
almost ere it was begun.

Yet that escape was indeed perilous, and, though Bevill Bracton knew
it not, he had, even with the aid of the landlord, only missed
discovery by a hair's breadth.

For, but a quarter of an hour before he rode towards the city barrier,
the guard had been changed; a troop of the Régiment d'Orléans had
relieved a troop of the Mousquetaires Gris. Had Bevill, therefore,
arrived before this took place, he would at once have been discovered
and his fate sealed, since all would have known that le Capitaine Le
Blond had been dead for months. But with the men of the Régiment
d'Orléans it was different, since they had but marched in a week or so
before, and probably--though it need by no means have been so--knew
not the name or appearance of the officers of the mousquetaires.


[Illustration: "'Would you strive to save him--from Sparmann, the
spy?'"]


Bevill soon learnt, however, that Sparmann had wasted no time. Had he
not acquired those papers, his undertaking must have ended here. The
sergeant at the barrier, who came forward to inspect the paper he
presented, carried in his hand another, which he read as Bevill rode
up; and the latter divined, by the swift glance the trooper cast at
his horse, and divined it with a feeling of actual certainty, that on
that paper was a description of the black horse and his own
appearance. But the horse was not the same, the peruke was wanting,
and his riding cloak hid all that was beneath. Consequently, with a
muttered "_Bon voyage_, M. le capitaine," and a salute, the sergeant
stood back as Bevill rode through on the bay mare, who justified the
character her recent owner had given her by lashing out with her hind
legs and prancing from one side of the road to the other in her
endeavour to unseat her rider. Soon finding, however, that she had her
master on her back, she settled down into a swinging stride and bore
him swiftly along the great, white east road.

And now he was in Louvain, after having passed by numberless
implements of warfare collected by the roadside and watched over by
French soldiery, as well as having passed also two French regiments
marching swiftly towards Antwerp, there to reinforce the garrison,
since, as war was declared, none knew how soon the forces of the
redoubtable Marlborough, or Malbrouck, as they called him, might
appear.

He was in Louvain, riding up an old, quiet street full of Spanish
houses with pointed roofs that almost touched those of the opposite
side, and allowed only a glimpse of the roseate hue of the early
summer sunset to be seen between them. And soon, following the
directions given him by the soldier at the gate, he reached the
hostelry "Le Duc de Brabant," a house that looked almost as old as
Time itself. One that, to each of its numerous windows, had huge
projecting balconies of dark discoloured stone, of which the house
itself was composed; an old, dark mansion, on whose walls were painted
innumerable frescoes, most of which represented sacred subjects but
some of which also depicted arrogantly the great deeds and triumphs of
the Dukes of Brabant. A house having, too, a huge pointed gateway, the
summit of which extended higher than the top of the windows of the
first floor, and down one side of which there trailed a coiled rope
carved in the stone, while, on the other side, was carved in the same
way an axe, a block, and a miniature gibbet.

"Ominous signs for those who enter here," Bevill thought to himself,
while the mare's hoofs clattered on the cobblestones as he rode under
the archway. "Ominous once in far-off days for those who entered here,
if this was some hall of justice, or the residence of their,
doubtless, tyrannical rulers. Yet will I not believe that they are
ominous for me. I have no superstitions, and, I thank Heaven devoutly,
I have no fear. Yet," he muttered to himself as he prepared to
dismount, "I would I had not to resort to so many subterfuges. Rather
would I be passing for what I should be--a soldier belonging to those
who have sworn to break down the power of this great ambitious king,
this champion of the bigotry that we despise." Then, in an easier vein
he added, as though to console himself, "No matter! What I do I do to
help, perhaps to save, a helpless woman; to reinstate myself in the
calling I love, the calling from which I was unjustly cast forth.
And," he concluded, as he cast the reins to the servitors who had run
into the courtyard at the clatter made by the mare's hoofs, "it is war
time, and so--_à la guerre, comme à la guerre!_"



CHAPTER V.


As Bevill dismounted in the great courtyard, and, addressing a man who
was evidently the innkeeper, told him that he desired accommodation
for the night, he recognised that, whatever might be the inferiority
of this house to its rival, "L'Ours," it had at least some traveller,
or travellers, of importance staying in it.

In one corner of the yard, round which ran a railed platform level
with the ground floor and having four openings with steps leading up
to that floor, there stood, horseless now, a large travelling coach,
of the kind which, later, came to be called a _berline_. This
construction was a massive one, since inside it were to be seen not
only the front and back seats--the latter so deep and vast that one
person might have made a bed of it by lying crosswise--but also a
small table, which was firmly fixed into the floor in the middle of
the vehicle. The body of the coach was slung on to huge leathern
braces, which also served as springs, and was a considerable height
from the ground--so high, indeed, that the steps outside the doors
were four in number, though, when the vehicle was in progress, they
were folded into one. On the panels were a count's coronet, a
coat-of-arms beneath it, and above it the word and letter "De V." On
the roof, and fitted into the grooves constructed for them, were some
travelling boxes of black leather, with others piled on top of them.
For the rest, there were on each side of the coach, in front, and at
the back, long receptacles for musketoons as well as another for a
horn, the weapons and instrument being visible.

"A fine carriage," Bevill said to the landlord, who seemed equally as
surly and ungracious, if not more so, than the man at Antwerp had been
while he supposed that the traveller was a Frenchman. "Some great
personage, I should suppose."

"A compatriot of yours," the man said. "_Mein Gott!_ Who travels thus
in our land but your countrymen--and women? Yet," he added still more
morosely, "it may not be ever thus."

Ignoring this remark, which naturally did not arouse Bevill's ire,
since he imagined that the state of things the man suggested might
most probably come to pass, he exclaimed:

"And women, you say? _Pardie!_ Are ladies travelling about during such
times as these, when war is in the air?"

"Aye, war is in the air," the landlord said, ignoring the first part
of the other's remark. "In the air, and more than in the air. Soon it
will be in the land and on the sea." After which, a waiting woman
having arrived to conduct Bevill to his room, and a stableman having
led the horse to a stall, the man turned away. Yet, as he went, he
muttered, "Then we shall see. England and Holland are stronger than
France on the sea, and on the land they are as good as France."

It was no part of Bevill's to assume indignation, even if he could
have done so successfully, at these contemptuous remarks about his
supposed country and countrymen; therefore he followed the woman to
the room to which she led him. On this occasion, doubtless because he
possessed a horse, and that horse was at the present moment in the
landlord's custody, no demand was made for payment in advance.

"And now," he said to himself, "a supper, the purchase of a few
necessaries in this town, and to bed. To-morrow I must be off and away
again. The sooner I am in Liége the better."

In the old streets of that old city, Bevill found a shop in which he
was able to provide himself with the few requisites that travellers
carried with them in such distracted times. Amongst the accoutrements
of the late Captain Le Blond's charger was his wallet-haversack for
fastening behind the cantle, or in front of the pommel; but it
required filling, and this was soon done. A change of linen was easily
procured, which, with a comb, generally completed a horseman's outfit,
and then Bevill set out on his return to "Le Duc de Brabant." But as
he passed along the street he came across an armourer's shop, and,
glancing into it, was thereby reminded that he was without pistols.

"And," he thought to himself, "good as my blade is, a firearm is no
bad accessory to a sword. It may chance, and well it may, that ere I
reach Liége, as in God's grace I hope to do, I may have need of such a
thing. So be it. Cousin Mordaunt has well replenished my purse; I will
enter and see if the armourer has any such toys."

Suiting the action to the thought, Bevill entered the shop, and,
seeing an elderly man engaged on polishing up a breastplate, asked him
if he had any pistols to dispose of.

"_Ja!_" the man replied. "And some good ones, too. Only they are dear.
Also the mynheer may not like them. Most of them were taken from the
French after Namur, and sold to me by an English soldier."

"Bah! What matters how I come by them so that 'tis honestly, and that
they will serve their purpose? Produce them."

Upon this the armourer dragged forth a drawer in which were several
weapons of the kind, some lying loose and some folded in the leather
or buckskin wrappings in which the man had enveloped them. At first,
those which met Bevill's eyes did not commend themselves much to him;
some were too old, some too clumsy, and some too rusty.

"Mynheer is difficult to please," the armourer remarked with a grunt;
"perhaps these will suit him better. Only they are dear," while, as he
spoke, he unfolded two of the buckskin wrappers and exhibited a pair
of pistols of a totally different nature from the others. These
weapons were indeed handsome ones, well mounted on ivory and with
long, unbrowned barrels worked with filigree. The triggers sprang
easily back and fell equally as easily to the light touch of a finger,
the flints flashing sparks bravely as they did so. On one was engraved
"_Dernier espoir_," on the other "_Mon meilleur ami_."

"How much for these?" Bevill asked, looking at the armourer.

"Two pistoles, with powder flask and bullet-box. Also the flask well
filled and two score balls."

"So be it. They are mine." And Bevill dropped one into each of the
great pockets of his riding-coat. "Now for the flask and bullets."

"With these," he said to himself, as he walked back to the inn, "my
sword, and the swift heels of the mare, I can give a good account of
myself if danger threatens."

The supper for the guests was prepared when he reached "Le Duc de
Brabant," and Bevill, taking his place at the table, glanced round to
see who his fellow-travellers might be, yet soon observed that, for
the present at least, there were none.

"So," he thought to himself, "the fellow at the gate spoke truly. 'Tis
very apparent that 'The Duke' is not in such high favour as his rival,
'The Bear.' However, the eating proves the pudding and the drinking
proves the wine. Let us see to it."

Whereupon he bade the drawer bring him a flask of good
Coindrieux--the list of wines hanging on a wall so that all the guests
might see and read. Then, ere the wine came, Bevill commenced to
attack the course set before him, though before he had eaten two
mouthfuls an interruption occurred.

Preceded by a servitor, whom Bevill supposed--and supposed truly, as
he eventually knew--to be a private servant and not one attached to
the inn, a lady came down the room towards the table at which the
Englishman sat: a lady still young, of about thirty years of age,
tall, and delicate-looking. Also she was extremely well favoured, her
blue-grey eyes being shielded by long dark lashes, and her features
refined and well cut. As for her hair, Bevill, who on her approach had
risen from his seat and bowed gravely, and then remained standing till
she was seated, could form no opinion, since it was disguised by her
wig. But he observed that she was clad all in black, even to her lace;
while, thrown over her wig, was the small coif, or hood, which widows
wore. Therefore he understood the solemnity of her attire--a solemnity
still more enhanced and typified by the look of sadness which her face
wore.


[Illustration: "He had hastened to the door to hold it open for
her."--_p_. 122.]


This lady, who had returned Bevill's courtesy by a slight inclination
of her head, was now served by the elderly manservant, who took the
dishes from the ordinary inn server, and, placing each before her who
was undoubtedly his mistress, then retired behind her chair until the
next dish was ready. But, as would indeed have been contrary to all
etiquette, neither Bevill nor the lady addressed a word to the other.

When, however, the drawer returned with the flask of Coindrieux, and
Bevill spoke some word to the man on the subject of not filling his
glass too full, he observed for one moment that the lady lifted her
eyes and looked at him somewhat curiously, and as though some tone or
intonation of his had attracted her attention. A moment later her eyes
were dropped to her plate again, though more than once during the
serving of the next dish he observed that she was again regarding him.

"Has my accent betrayed me?" Bevill mused. "When I spoke to the man,
did she recognise that I am no Frenchman? Has my tongue grown rusty?"

Yet, even as he so pondered, he told himself that there was no reason
that such should be the case. The lady might herself be no
Frenchwoman, but, instead, one belonging to this war-worn land.

"She may not be capable of judging who or what I am," he reflected.

Yet in another moment he had learnt that her powers of judging whether
he was a Frenchman or not were undoubtedly sufficient.

In a voice, an accent, which no other than a Frenchman or Frenchwoman
ever possessed, an intonation which none but those who had learnt to
lisp that language at their mother's knee could have acquired, the
lady spoke now to her elderly servant, saying:

"Ambroise, retire, and bid Jeanne prepare the valises. I have resolved
to go forward an hour after dawn."

The manservant bowed, then said:

"But the supper, Madame la Comtesse? Who shall serve, madame? The
remainder is not----"

"The server will do very well. Go and commence to assist Jeanne."

"Madame la Comtesse," Bevill thought to himself when the man had
departed. "So this is doubtless the owner of the grand coach. And she
is a Frenchwoman. It may well be that she understands I am no
countryman of hers, though I know not, in solemn truth, why she should
suppose I pretend to be one--unless the landlord or servants have told
her, or she has looked in the register of guests." For here, as
everywhere, all travellers had to give their names to the landlords,
and Bevill was now registered as "Le Capitaine Le Blond, of the
Mousquetaires Gris."

The supper went on still in silence, however, and the server attended
both to the lady who had been styled "La Comtesse" and to Bevill. But
he was nothing more than a raw Flemish boor, little accustomed to
waiting on ladies and gentlemen, and gave Bevill the idea that he was
not occupied in his usual vocations. Once he dropped a dish with such a
clatter that the lady started, and once he handed another to Bevill
before offering it to the countess.

"Serve madame!" Bevill said sternly, looking at the hobbledehoy and
covering him with confusion, while, as he did so, the lady lifted her
eyes to him and bowed stiffly, though graciously. Then, as if feeling
it necessary that some word of acknowledgment, some small token of his
civility, should be testified, the lady said:

"Monsieur is extremely polite. He is doubtless not native here?"

"No, madame. I am a stranger passing through the land on my way
towards the Rhine," while, as Bevill spoke, he was glad that, in this
case, there was no need for deception, since Liége was truly on the
road towards the Rhine.

"As am I. I set out to-morrow for Liége."

"For Liége? Madame will scarcely find that town a pleasant place of
sojourn. Yet I do forget--madame is French."

"As is monsieur," the Countess said, with a swift glance at her
companion, speaking more as though stating a fact than asking a
question.

Bevill shrugged his shoulders ever so slightly, but as much as good
breeding would allow. Then he said:

"Monsieur de Boufflers commands there. Madame will be at perfect
ease."

"Doubtless," the other said, with a slight shrug on her part now.
"Doubtless. Yet," and again she shrugged her shoulders, "war is
declared. The English and the Dutch will soon be near these barrier
towns. They say that the Earl of Marlborough will come himself in
person, that he will command all the armies directed against us. Would
it be possible that monsieur should know--that he might by chance have
heard--when the Earl will be in this neighbourhood?"

"I know nothing, madame," Bevill replied, while as he did so two
thoughts forced themselves into his mind. One was that this lady had
discovered easily enough that he was no Frenchman; the other, that she
was endeavouring to extract some of the forthcoming movements of the
enemy--the enemy of France--from him.

"What is she?" he mused to himself when the conversation had ceased,
or, at least, come to a pause. "What? Some spy passing through the
land and endeavouring to discover what the English plans may be; some
woman who, under an appearance of calm and haughty dignity, seeks for
information which she may convey to de Boufflers or Tallard. Yet--how
to believe it! Spies look not as she looks; their eyes do not glance
into the eyes of those they seek to entrap as hers look into mine when
she speaks. It is hard to credit that she should be one, and yet--she
is on her road to Liége--Liége that, at present, is in the grasp of
France, as so much of all Flanders is now."

Suddenly, however, as still these reflections held the mind of Bevill
Bracton, there came another, which seemed to furnish the solution of
who and what this self-contained, well-bred woman might chance to be.

"There are," he reflected, "there must be, innumerable officers of
high rank at Liége under Marshal de Boufflers; it may be that it is to
one of these she goes. Not a husband, since she is widowed; nor a son,
since, at her age, that is impossible; but a father, a brother. Heaven
only grant that, if she and I both reach that city safely, she may not
unfold her doubts of what I am. For doubt me she does, though it may
be that she does not suppose I am an Englishman. If she should do so,
'twill be bad for Sylvia Thorne and doubly bad for me."

As Bevill reached this stage in his musings, the Countess rose from
the table, and, when he had risen also and hastened o the door to hold
it open for her, passed through, after acknowledging his attention and
also his politely expressed hope that her journey to Liége would be
easily made.

After which, as he still stood at the door until she should have
passed the turn made by the great stone staircase, Bevill observed
this lady look round at him, though not doing so either curiously or
coquettishly. Instead, it appeared to the young man standing there
deferentially that the look on her face seemed to testify more of
bewilderment, of doubt, than aught else.

"So be it," he said to himself, as now he returned to the room in
which they had dined, and proceeded to adjust his sword-sash, which,
with the sword itself, had been removed before the meal, and would, in
any case, have been at once removed by him from his side on a lady
taking her seat at the table. "So be it. Forewarned is forearmed. She
misdoubts and mistrusts me. If we should meet again--as meet we surely
shall, since we travel the same road and go to the same place--I must
be on my guard. Yet, pity 'tis, if she should be a spy. Aye! if she
should be. If she should be! Almost it is beyond belief."

He went now towards the stables, to which he had seen the mare led
when he arrived. For Bevill had been a good soldier once, and hoped
that the day was not far off when he would be so again, and, above all
else, travellers such as he was at this time looked to the care and
comfort of their beasts. Also, in his ride from Antwerp, he had come
to like this tetchy, wayward creature, which, when her tantrums were
over, had borne him so well and swiftly on his road. Therefore he went
towards her stall now, and noticed that she looked at him over the
board of the division and whinnied as she recognised him, while
rubbing her soft muzzle against his arm as he stroked and petted her,
and, in doing this, he forgot the woman over whom, but a moment
before, his mind had been so much exercised.

The woman who, as she had passed up the great stone-carved staircase,
had said to herself:

"Who--what is he? Not a countryman of mine, well as he speaks our
tongue--aye, marvellously well--and courteous as he is. And neither a
Flemish nor a German boor. Is he an Englishman--is he--is he? Ah! if
he were only that! Oh! if he were--he who will be in Liége as soon as
I--he who will be there when the English forces draw near, as they
will surely do."



CHAPTER VI.


That night Bevill Bracton slept well, and as he had not slept since he
first went on board _Le Grand Roi_ at Harwich two days ago. For the
vessel had been full of persons, and especially children, who suffered
from the sea; the passage had been rough and, consequently, noisy;
while, although the wind was favourable for reaching the Dutch coast,
it had rendered sleep impossible.

But this night had made amends for all, and Bevill Bracton, springing
out of bed as he heard the clock of St. Peter's striking seven,
prepared to make himself ready for the day's journey. Overnight,
before he had sought sleep, he had thanked Heaven devoutly for having
allowed him to penetrate so far as even this old city of Louvain, and
into what was, in truth, the enemy's country--by seizure, though not
by right. Now once more he prayed that, as he had been thus far
favoured, so he might still be.

One thing he observed at once as he threw back the heavy shutters from
his windows, which looked down into the great courtyard. He saw that
the great travelling coach was gone. The Comtesse, whose title he had
learnt from the landlord ere he sought his bed overnight was De
Valorme, had departed with any following she might have other than the
ancient domestic he had seen at table, and the woman, Jeanne, of whom
they had spoken.

"Yet," Bevill said to himself, "at the pace La Rose," as he had now
named the mare, "can travel as against the speed that heavy lumbering
coach can attain, I should pass her ere she has accomplished half the
distance to Liége--long before she has reached St. Trond, indeed.
And," for still there was in his mind a thought, a fear--engendered
doubtless by the dangers with which he must be now surrounded, and
would be doubly surrounded as he progressed farther, and when he had
entered Liége--that in this woman there might be hidden something that
would imperil his safety, "and if she is a spy, at least it is as well
I should be there before her. Let me waste no time therefore."

He folded up his haversack and cloak, although, as he could see by the
courtyard, which was wet and had little pools of rain lying in the
hollows between the old, worn stones, it must have rained during the
night or early morning, although it was now a fair, sweet day. The
late May sun was shining down fiercely on the red roofs; a thrush was
singing blithely in its wicker cage as though rejoicing in the warmth
and light; one or two of the heavy, clownish domestics of the inn were
making an early meal of black bread and blacker beer at a table below
him; all nature smiled.

He descended, therefore, carrying his haversack and cloak, and with
his recently purchased pistols thrust in his sash under his coat,
since no traveller left such weapons far from his hand when he slept
in strange houses, and, going once more to the _Speiseraum_, ordered
some breakfast. Then he went out to see that all was well with La
Rose.

Half an hour later he was on the way to Liége, and was riding along
roads that passed through orchards which were now losing all their
pink and white blossoms as the fruit slowly developed on the trees.

Because he was young and strong and healthy; because, too, he had
great hopes before him, he took a keen delight in all that was around
him--in the fresh morning air that he drew into his lungs in great
draughts, in the sight of the full-leaved, half blossom and half fruit
gardens and orchards, even in the brooks that had been cut by the
sides of those orchards in long past days, and through which the water
ran with a swishing sound--he was jocund. He felt how good it was to
live and to be passing through the land on such a morning as this, to
hear the birds singing and twittering, and to see the cattle already
seeking shade from the morning sun; to cry out "Good-morning" to the
peasants in the fields or "God be with you" to the old people sitting
outside their houses, their life's labour done. He felt thus because
he was young, and strong, and full of life; because, too, his blood
was stirred by the thought of the adventures which must surely lie
before him; because almost he felt as though he were some young
knight-errant of dead and long-forgotten centuries riding forth to
rescue a lady fair who, immured in some gloomy town or fortalice,
waited for him with longing, eager eyes.

"And if the miniature does not belie sweet Sylvia Thorne," Bevill
murmured to himself as the mare cantered along the white roads which
the sun had now dried, "then no knight in armour ever rode in far-off
days to the assistance of woman more fair than she. As a child she was
winsome. I wonder if this stately woman, whose portrait I have gazed
on so of ten since my lord gave it into my charge, is winsome still?
Winsome--yes, it may well be so. But grave, almost austere, as those
eyes that look out at me whenever I gaze on the portrait proclaim;
stately in her bearing, almost cold. Well! Cold let her be. What
matters it to me? She is not the guerdon that I seek to win, but only
the means by which I shall win the guerdon I would have. Let me but do
my best, and all will be very well. Mistress Thorne may freeze me with
one glance from those calm eyes, and yet my lord Marlborough shall
warm me back to life with his approval."

The day went on, the sun rose high in the cloudless sky, and, except
for the various halts which Bevill made under shady trees, or on the
cool side of old Lutheran churches and quaint Flemish houses, to rest
La Rose--and once to refresh himself--he had wasted no time. So that
he knew, not only by the sign-posts and the hamlets he had passed
through, but also by a _routier_, or chart of the district, which hung
in the dark hall of the "Duc de Brabant," that he must be nearing a
small town called St. Trond, a place that lay nearer to Liége than to
Louvain.

"Madame de Valorme set out at six, the landlord told me," Bevill
reflected, "and I ere the clocks struck eight; I marvel much that I
have not come up with her coach yet. Her horses must travel faster
than I thought, or that coach be lighter than its appearance
warranted."

Then, at this moment, there came an interruption to any further
meditations on his part.

A shot rang out on the clear noontide air, one that caused the
nervous, excitable mare to swerve and spring across the road, almost
unseating Bevill; and then, while he recovered himself, to gallop
wildly along the white straight road bordered by pollard trees.

"Gently, gently," Bevill exclaimed, as he endeavoured to soothe her,
while, since he was a finished horseman, he knew better than to
attempt to check her suddenly, but drew her up gradually. "Gently.
Though, 'fore Heaven, that sudden report was enough to startle one
less flighty than she. Whence," he mused, "did that shot proceed? To
my left, surely, and from a side road which I passed a moment ere the
report rang forth. Was," with a dark look on his face, "the ball
intended for me? Well, we will see to it."

Whereupon, since now La Rose was, by the aid of much stroking of her
neck and patting and soothing, restored somewhat to calmness, Bevill
turned her head round in the direction they had come, and at last
persuaded her, though it was not easy to do, to retrace her steps to
the crossroads.

Also, he opened the covers of his holsters and threw them back, so
that the butt of each of his new pistols should be ready to his hand.

"I may be indebted for a favour to some marauder," he muttered, "and I
abhor debt. If I owe one, it shall be repaid in full." After which he
loosened his sword in its sheath, and so reached the crossroads.

As he turned into it he saw nothing at first, unless it was the
ominous twitching of the mare's ears; but a moment later he heard a
voice, and that a woman's--a voice that exclaimed:

"You cowardly dastards! You--you Flemish boors! To attack a woman--to
slay an old man!"

"Great powers!" exclaimed Bevill to himself, as now a touch of his
knee sent La Rose forward swiftly, while at the same time he drew
forth the pistol from the right holster. "'To slay an old man.' And
that voice hers. Hers!"

"French! French! French!" he heard several voices exclaim together in
the raucous, guttural, Low Frankish dialect of the district. "You are
all French Papists, servants of the great Papist King in Paris, of the
Italian Priest in Rome. We will not spare you. Or," one voice said,
"not your wealth, if we spare your lives. And he, this dead one,
should not have resisted us."

Whatever the ruffians who thus spoke might have intended doing was
now, however, doomed to be frustrated. Bevill Bracton was amongst
them--a party of seven men, armed some with great horse pistols, one
or two with reaping hooks, and another with a rusty sword. In a moment
they were, however, scattered, the mare knocking down two as she
lashed out, while one received a bullet in the shoulder from Bevill,
and, falling to the ground, vowed that he was dead.

But amidst the confusion, and while Bevill cried, "Stop, all of you.
He who attempts to fly shall be shot on the spot," he was able to see
at a glance what had happened.

The coach--the driver had doubtless been misdirected, or the horses'
heads had not been turned down this side road--stood lower down the
lane than those who had occupied it. At the feet of the horses lay the
man who was undoubtedly the coachman; by his side knelt the Comtesse
de Valorme, looking up at the boors who had attacked the party.
Jeanne, her maid, an elderly woman, seemed to have fainted inside the
coach; while old Ambroise, who was weeping and shaking all over, stood
with a footman close by the side of his mistress.

Now, as Bevill dismounted, Madame de Valorme, looking up at him,
exclaimed:

"Ah! The Capitaine Le Blond. Heaven be praised!"


[Illustration: "By his side knelt the Comtesse."]


But Bevill had no time to be startled at hearing himself addressed
thus, nor to speculate as to whether the Comtesse had discovered his
assumed name from the landlord, or had herself searched for it in the
register. His attention was otherwise needed.

"You brute dogs!" he exclaimed in the best Dutch he could muster. "So
'tis thus war begins with you--by attacks on women and old men."
While, as he spoke, he thrust his discharged pistol back into the
right holster and drew out that in the left.

"We are starving," one man said. "You--you--French trample us down,
take all--you, who are as bad as the Spaniards were. We retaliate when
we can."

"Is there a rope?" Bevill asked, looking down from his seat on the
horse and addressing Ambroise and the younger man, the footman. "One
used in the coach? If so, fetch it."

"A rope!" the men howled now, while two of them flung themselves on
their knees and whined and screamed for mercy. "A rope! Spare
us--spare us! We have taken nothing."

"Except a life," Bevill exclaimed, glancing at the body of the
coachman.

Meanwhile, the footman had mounted the box of the coach and was busily
engaged in uncording the valises piled up on top of it. But while he
did so the Comtesse de Valorme had risen to her feet and had held out
her hand to Bevill, which he, after dismounting, took in his.

"How shall a helpless woman, travelling with only serving men in
attendance on her, thank one who is strong and brave enough to rescue
her?" madame asked. "How? Ah! monsieur----"

"Madame in Comtesse." Bevill replied, "I have but done that which
every man would do for a woman. I beseech you say no more."

"It may be that at Liége," the Comtesse continued (and Bevill could not
but observe how, as she spoke, her blue eyes looked into his as though
endeavouring to read, to decipher, what impression her words might
make on him), "at Liége I can return----"

"Madame!"

"----Some of your chivalrous service. Even though proffered to a
French officer," and now those eyes shone like sapphires, "in
safety--in--a French garrison, a woman's assistance may be worth
acceptance."

"She knows me for what I am," Bevill thought; "or, rather, for what I
am not. And she will not betray me."

The few words that had been exchanged between him and the Comtesse de
Valorme were uttered in low tones, though, even had they been spoken
clearly, it is doubtful if the boors who were trembling close by them
would have heard, or, in hearing, have understood. For now their
courage, their Dutch courage, had left them; they deemed their fate at
hand, since, armed as this man was and with a horse on which to pursue
them, flight would have been vain.

At this moment their fears were at their height; their whimpers were
turned into shrieks and supplications. The footman had descended,
bearing in his hand a rope some ten or twelve feet long; while, as the
man who had shot one of them and, in a moment, terrified the rest into
abject fear, took it in his own hands, they saw that his eyes were
directed towards an elm that grew by the side of the road.

"In mercy's sake," the Comtesse whispered, since she, too, saw
Bevill's glance, "in the name of Him Who forgives all sinners, proceed
to no extremities. And--and--Joseph, my coachman, is not truly dead.
The ball has but grazed his face and stunned him. Monsieur, I beseech
you--nay, I----"

"Madame," Bevill replied, turning his back to the men who were, in
absolute fact, his prisoners, "I had no thought of executing them. But
still punishment is their meed. Therefore, I will have them bound to
that tree and, at the next village or town--it should be one called
St. Trond--there may be some Prévôt-Maréchal or Captain of
Maréchaussée to whom we can denounce them. The French, our troops----"

"Yes. Our troops?" with another swift glance.

"Are all about. The line stretches from Antwerp to Cologne, and across
the Rhine. Into their hands shall these ruffians be delivered. They
shall be the instruments of justice."

Half an hour after this decision had been come to the coach of the
Comtesse de Valorme was on its way once more; but now it was driven by
the young footman, at whose side Ambroise sat. Outside was Joseph
also, who had recovered from the shock he had received, and was now
engaged in thanking Heaven for the narrow escape that had been
vouchsafed to him, and in calling down blessings on the Comtesse and
Jeanne (on whose shoulder his head rested) and Bevill indiscriminately.

Sometimes ahead of the great travelling carriage, and
sometimes--though not often--by the side of the open window, where
Madame sat, Bevill Bracton rode now as escort. But, as he did so,
while keeping ever a vigilant look-out to right and left and in front
of him--for he knew not if other groups similar to those who were now,
with the exception of the man wounded by him, all tied firmly and back
to back to the elm tree, might be about--his thoughts did not dwell on
the rescue he had by chance effected, but on the woman he had
preserved from outrage and insult. Also, they dwelt on what must be
the state of that woman's mind at this time.

"For she is French, and I am a subject of her country's bitterest
foe--and she knows it. Or, not knowing, still suspects. And yet--and
yet--if I mistake her not, if I have read her aright, I have rendered
her harmless. Likewise, she is a good woman. She pleaded for mercy for
those vagabonds, not knowing that there was no need for pleading,
since I am no hangman; she spoke of Him Who pardons all sinners. 'Tis
not of such stuff as this that spies, denouncers, women who rend the
hand that is held out to them, are made. Yet, knowing all, she must be
torn with vastly conflicting feelings. How shall she reconcile herself
to befriending one who is of those who would render her ambitious,
evil King harmless? How shall she, a Frenchwoman, bring herself to be
the ally of an Englishman?"

But still, even as Bevill mused, he knew that he and his secret, or as
much as she knew or could guess of it, were safe in this woman's
hands.

A moment later, he had certain proof that he had divined aright.

They were drawing near St. Trond now; ahead of them they could see the
smoke curling up in the afternoon air, and they could also see the men
lounging at the barrier through which admission was gained to the
town.

"We shall be there," the Comtesse said to Bevill, who was at this time
riding by the window of the coach, while directing her glance to the
little place, "ere many moments are passed. Monsieur," and she put her
gloved hand upon the sash and leant forward towards him, "those men
will have suffered enough by the time they are released from that
tree. I ask you not to call the attention of any Prévôt or officer of
Maréchaussée to their being there, or to their attack on me."

"Madame is truly of a forgiving nature. Yet, since it is her concern,
not mine----"

"It would be best, even though, unhappily, forgiveness plays no part
in my desire. Questions might be asked, explanations required; nay,"
and once more the deep blue eyes looked full into Bevill's, "some of
monsieur's brother mousquetaires may be here." And now those eyes
looked strangely; almost it seemed as though they conveyed a menace.
Yet, Bevill asked himself, even as a chill seemed to strike to his
heart, as icy fingers seemed to clutch at it, could this woman be
false; a traitress to one who had helped and succoured her? Was she no
better than a female Sparmann?

"She spoke," he said to himself, "of Him Who pardons all sinners; she
besought mercy for those who had molested her. Can such as she be a
spy? I will never believe it."

Then, suddenly gazing down at her--and now the intensity of his glance
equalled her own, while he saw she did not blench beneath it--he said,
not roughly, yet determinately:

"Have done with equivocations, madame, with pointed words,"
remembering the accentuation of those words "monsieur's brother
mousquetaires." "Speak plainly. Truth, openness, are ever best."

"If," the Comtesse said now, though still all was not open, her
meaning not altogether apparent, "if you are what I believe--nay, what
I know you to be--and you are discovered, your life is in awful
danger. If you reach Liége you will, if betrayed, never quit it
alive."

"Who shall betray me to my death? Answer me. Since you have told so
much, tell more. What is it you know, and who and what are you?"

"A woman," the Comtesse answered. "One who does not betray gallant men
to their deaths."

"This death you speak of is certain?"

"Certain. Beyond all doubt. For you are----"

"What?"

"Listen. Bend down from your horse. Not even they," with a glance
above to where the servants were, "must hear."

"Great Heaven!" Bevill exclaimed when he had done so and she had
whispered in his ear.

For the words she had thus whispered were: "You are an Englishman, and
your name is not Le Blond. Have I not said truly? If you are
discovered your doom is certain."


CHAPTER VII.


The names of some of its past rulers as well as Spanish governors have
stamped themselves deeply over all Brabant; and scarcely was there an
inn or wayside hostelry to be found in the towns and villages
surrounding the old capital of Brussels that did not bear for sign
either that of "La Duchesse de Parma," "Le Duc de Brabant," "Le Comte
d'Egmont," or, greater still, "Le Prince d'Orange," it being William
the Silent, the great Liberator, to whom reference was made.

These names constituted a strange mixture, and combined to form a
strange gallery of reminiscences. The first recalled a stately woman
of high lineage on one side and base origin on the other. She was the
daughter of Charles Quint, of "_Charles qui triche_,"[2] and the
sister of Philip, the thousandfold murderer--a woman fierce as the
she-wolf when robbed of its whelps, yet often merciful; one who, to
her eternal glory, despised that other murderer, that persecutor of
all of the Reformed Faith, the Duke of Alva, and kept him in his
place, while sometimes forcing even him to cease from shedding the
blood of the innocent. The second recorded those rulers of Brabant,
among whose numbers had been produced holy men and scoffers, poets and
tyrants; _jongleurs_ and minstrels and buffoons; knights as brave as
ever Bayard was, and cowards who shuddered and whimpered in their
innumerable palaces if but a few of their subjects muttered in the
streets or congregated in small knots at the street corners. The third
perpetuated the name of Lamoral d'Egmont, brave, bold, and vain; one
who had been shipwrecked in corners of the world that had then been
hardly heard of; who had fought for the new faith like a lion, yet had
almost dreaded death, but had, nevertheless, died like a hero and a
martyr at the headsman's hands in the great square of Brussels. The
fourth was he who crushed Philip II. and Spain and all their myrmidons
under his heel, who established for ever the Reformed Faith as the
recognised national religion from the German Ocean to the Ural
Mountains, and who perished at the hand of an assassin bribed by
Philip to do the deed.

In St. Trond, where the Comtesse de Valorme had decided to rest for
the night, it was the same as at Louvain, Brussels, and all other
places. Those names were still perpetuated over the doors of the inn;
the lineaments of their bearers swung in the breeze or were painted on
the walls.

"Another 'Duc de Brabant,'" the Comtesse said to Bevill, as now the
coach passed an inn of this name. It was the first they came to, and
the landlord, running out bareheaded, begged of Madame to honour his
house.

"Well, so be it. It is to the former one that I owe my meeting with a
gallant defender. I will rest here. And Monsieur Le Blond--where does
he purpose sojourning for the night?"

Perceiving that there was probably in this question some feeling of
delicacy on the part of Madame de Valorme, some sentiment of propriety
as to their not entering the town in company--they who, until those
whispered words of an hour ago, had been all but unknown to each
other--and of afterwards staying in company in the same inn, Bevill,
casting his eyes across the _place_, said:

"There is another inn for travellers over there, and it is called 'Le
Prince d'Orange.' It has a quiet, peaceful air. It will do very well.
Also, since I have constituted myself the cavalier of Madame until
Liége is reached, I shall be near at hand to keep watch and ward."

"Monsieur is very good. Farewell, monsieur. Goodnight. When," she
asked, as an afterthought, "does monsieur intend to set out?"

"Early, madame. Even though 'tis but little distance to my
destination, yet I would fain be there and about the work I have to
do."

"If," Madame de Valorme said now, after observing with one glance from
her clear eyes that her servants--who had now all descended and were
directing the porters of the inn what baggage was to be taken into
the house and what might be left on the top of the coach for the
night--were out of earshot--"if monsieur seeks for peace and repose in
Liége--though in truth it is not very like that such as he will
require any such things in a French garrison "--and her eyes were on
Bevill, while almost seeming to smile at him and at the knowledge of
his secret, which he now knew she possessed--"I go to join some
kindred whose house will be open to him. Monsieur has been a gallant
chevalier to me----"

"I beseech madame to forget any foolish, trifling service I have
rendered her by chance."

"I shall not forget, and"--though now she paused, and said next a
word, and then paused again as though in hesitation and doubt, and
still, a moment later, went on again--"and it may be that all
service--all mutual service--is not yet at an end between us. If, as I
believe, there is some----"

"Some what, madame?"

"Nay; I will say no more. Or only this: I, too, go to Liége about a
work I have to do. A work"--and now she leant forward in the coach
from which she had naturally not yet descended, while continuing in a
low tone--"to which I am vowed, to which my life is vowed; a task in
which so long as I have life I will not falter. And I have a hope, a
belief, a supposition--call it what you will--that in you I may by
chance light on one who can help me at little cost to himself."

"I protest, madame," Bevill almost stammered at hearing these words,
"I protest that----"

"Listen, Monsieur le Blond," the Comtesse said, speaking so low that
now her voice was no more than a whisper, a murmur, yet a whisper so
clear that, by bending his head, the young man could catch every
syllable she uttered. "Listen. Yet, ere you do so, promise me that no
word I let fall, no thought I give utterance to, shall cause you
offence, or, if I may say it, fear?"

"Fear? I fear nothing on this earth. While as for the rest, I
promise."

"Enough." Then in, if it could be so, a yet lower tone, the Comtesse
de Valorme continued:

"As I have said, you are not what you seem to be. You are not le
Capitaine le Blond for he was a kinsman of mine and I knew him well.
I--I--a Frenchwoman--ah! shame on me, good as my cause is--only hope
you may be----"

"What?"

"As faithful to my desire, my secret, when you learn it, as I will be
to yours. If so, then all will be well!"

"What else can madame believe I shall be? Speak. I will answer
truthfully."

"No; I have said enough--for to-night. Farewell. I, too, leave this
place early. Farewell, or rather adieu." And the Comtesse put out her
hand to Bevill.

The landlord had been standing in the great stoop of his house while
this whispered colloquy had taken place; and now, while seeing with
extreme regret that the handsome, well-apparelled young horseman who
had escorted the lady in the coach to his door, was not himself going
to patronise him, he came forward to the carriage. Wherefore, as
Bevill turned the horse's head towards "Le Prince d'Orange" he
murmured respectfully, "Madame la Comtesse"--since the coronet on the
carriage, if not the servants' own words, had told him the personage
with whom he had to deal--"the necessaries have been taken to madame's
apartments. Will Madame la Comtesse please to enter?"

Meanwhile, Bevill had ridden across to the rival place of
entertainment, had given La Rose into the charge of the stableman, and
had chosen a front room on the first floor of that rambling but
substantial house.

"There is some strange mystery in this woman," he mused, as he stood
on the balcony to which the window of the room gave access, and gazed
across to the opposite inn. "Something that passes comprehension.
Still, no matter, since there is also a mystery about me. And she
knows it; she informs me she knows it, and yet proffers me help and
assistance. Whatever else she is, she is at least no traitor to the
man who has rendered her some light, trifling service. I am here; she
is across the _place_. If in the night aught of evil should befall
her--and in this disturbed land troubles may well come--I am near her.
We are friends, auxiliaries, though enemies by race."

But now, springing from out of these musings, there returned to
Bevill's mind the memory of one word that had risen to it; the
recollection that, in pondering over the mystery of the Comtesse de
Valorme, he had discarded from his thoughts the suggestion that she
could be a traitor of another description.

"To me? No! Never! Perish the thought!" he exclaimed, as he stepped
back from the balcony and threw himself on an old couch by the window.
"No; but what if she be a traitor to her country, to France! By birth,
by blood, by all hereditary instincts we are foes, and yet she offers
me help and protection. Le Blond, the man under whose name I
masquerade, whose very horse I ride, was kinsman to her; yet she,
knowing what I am, makes offers of assistance. She a Frenchwoman and I
an Englishman!

"She prayed," Bevill went on, "that I might be what she believes I am.
She asked earlier if I could give her information of my Lord
Marlborough's movements and plans. Great heavens! Does she desire to
betray her country into his hands?" Then, suddenly, he sprang from his
seat, exclaiming, "No, no! Never will I believe it! Never There is
some other cause that moves thig woman to act as she is doing. That is
the reason for her desire to reach Liége. It is not, cannot be,
treachery."

The evening was at hand now--one of the soft calm evenings which, in
the Netherlands, in fine weather, are at times almost as soft and calm
as the nights of more southern lands; nights when here, through all
this marshy country, made fertile and rich by centuries of toil, the
fireflies dance in the dusk as in far off Italy; when the sun sinks a
globe of flame into the bosom of the German Ocean, and when as it does
so, the stars begin to stud the skies.

Such a night, such a twilight as this was no time for indoors: and
Bevill, recognising that for two hours at least it would be folly to
seek his bed with any hope of sleeping, went forth after his supper to
take the air. Or rather, since his ride had given him sufficient of
that, to observe what might be doing in the little town.

Of French troops he observed that there were few about, though some
men of the Régiment de Monsieur (the Duc d'Orléans) and some others of
the Artillery were drinking outside an inn while being regarded with
lowering looks by groups of the inhabitants.

"French--French always!" he heard one man say to the other. "French
always and everywhere! When will the English or our own troops come?"

"Have patience," another said. "Already, a month ago, even before the
war was declared, was not Kaiserswörth besieged by the English general
Athlone? The city will soon fall now."

"English? Dutch--our countryman--you should say. Is not the Lord
Athlone a Dutchman? Is he not Ginkell?"

"What matters, so that one or the other does it? Soon Marlborough will
be here. Then we shall see."

"Meanwhile, he is not here, and the French are; and they eat us out of
house and home, and do not pay too well."

"They will pay with their skins ere long."

But Bevill knew as much as this himself, so, continuing his walk, he
soon returned towards the inns in which, he on the one side the
_place_ and the Comtesse de Valorme on the other, they were to rest
for the night. But when on the _place_ he could not refrain from
letting his eyes wander to the "Duc de Brabant," while speculating
idly as to where his companion might be installed in it.

He soon knew, however, since on the first floor of the house he
observed that the long wooden shutters were open, and the windows
thrown back, doubtless to admit the cool air of the coming night,
while he also saw that Jeanne passed once or twice before them. As he
did so he could not prevent his thoughts from turning once more to the
mystery in which the Comtesse seemed to be enveloped, or from
wondering again and again why she should testify such interest in him,
a stranger.

Could he have gazed into one of those rooms in the "Duc de Brabant";
could he have seen the Comtesse seated in a deep _fauteuil_ wrapped in
meditation; above all, could he have caught the occasional expressions
that fell from her lips; or, gazing into her mind, have probed her
innermost thoughts, he would have wondered no longer.

"For fourteen years now," he would in such a case have heard her say,
or have gathered from the Comtesse de Valorme's thoughts, "we have
suffered and borne all from him--and from her who sits by his side.
From her, the scourge and curse of France, the snake that sucks the
life-blood from all who do not worship as she does. Oh! God," he would
have heard the undoubtedly unhappy woman exclaim, as she lifted her
eyes, "how long is it to be? How long for all of us? Fathers, mothers,
husbands, all--all--dead--done to death, either on the wheel or the
gallows, or in the galleys or the dungeons. And for what? Because we
desire to worship God in our own way--the way his grandsire promised
solemnly that we should worship: the way for following which this one
burns us, racks us, destroys our homes, drives us forth to exile and
beggary."

Still gazing in at those open windows from the other side of the
_place_, while unable to see the woman on whom his thoughts rested,
Bevill did at last, however, discover that she was there. As he still
stood and meditated, her form came suddenly before his eyes and he
recognised that she must have suddenly sprung up from some chair or
couch; while, from her commencing to pace the room and by her almost
distracted appearance, he gathered that her mind was a prey to the
most agitating thoughts. Even then, however, he could not divine what
those thoughts might be, or that he was the central figure of them.
This was as impossible as it was for him to hear her say:

"And now this man, who is, since he does not deny it, an Englishman;
this man, disguised as a French soldier, while, in sober truth, I do
believe him to be an English one, is on his way to Liége on some
secret mission. 'Some work he has to do,' as he avowed. What work?
What? Is he a spy of the English generals? Above all, can he help me?
Can he bring me to Marlborough, give me the opportunity I have so long
desired of throwing myself at his feet, of beseeching him to hurry
forward that invasion of the South which can alone save those of us
who are still alive? Can he? Can he? Oh, if I did but know!"

Suddenly, as Bevill stood there gazing at the undoubtedly unhappy,
distracted woman there came the ripple of a cool evening breeze
through the heated air that the day had left behind. A light breeze
that shook the leaves of the orange trees in their tubs before the inn
doors, and also those of the pollards which grew round the _place_. A
moment later he saw Jeanne pull to the wooden shutters. Except for a
streak of light that issued from the air slits at the top of them, all
was now dark and veiled.

"Poor lady!" Bevill said to himself, as now, in the same manner as he
had done overnight, and as he would do every night whenever he might
be on the road, or on any journey--and as, perhaps, he would do should
he and Sylvia Thorne be able to make their way out of Liége, in the
endeavour to fall in with any of the English or Dutch forces--he
directed his steps towards the stables of the "Prince d'Orange" to see
that all was well with his horse.

Those stables were reached by passing down a small alley or _ruelle_
that ran by the side of the "Prince d'Orange," and lay behind the
house, entrance being obtained by a turn to the right when the end of
the alley was attained.

Finding an ostler, or horse-watcher, in this alley, Bevill requested
the man to accompany him to the door and unlock it; but, learning that
the stables were not yet closed and would not be for yet another hour,
and that there was a lanthorn hanging on the hook inside, he proceeded
alone.

A moment later he pushed open the door and called to the mare, who by
now knew not only his voice, but the new name he had given her, and
learnt by her whimper that she had recognised his presence.


[Illustration: "'I, too, go to Liége about a work I have to
do.'"--_p_. 318.]


But as he advanced to see that all was well with her, he heard a
rustle in the straw of an empty stall close by the door, and the next
instant saw a man walk swiftly out of that stall and through the door
into the alley--a man whose cloak was thrown across his face and held
by his right hand, and whose slouching hat fell over the upper part of
it. Yet this attempted and almost successful disguise did not
altogether serve to cloak the whole of his features. His eyes, dark
and flashing, appeared above the edging of the cloak. Where his hand
held the folds together there protruded a wisp of grizzled beard.

"Where have I seen those eyes, that beard before?" Bevill wondered,
while remembering a moment later.

"It is Sparmann!" he said. "Sparmann! And he is following either the
Comtesse or me--or both."

After which he went swiftly to the mare and made a rapid but thorough
inspection of her, thereby to discover if she was injured in any part;
and also looked to see if the fodder remained untampered with in the
manger; while, taking up next the half-emptied bucket, he threw the
water that remained in it away, and, going out into the alley,
refilled it.

"I will stay here until the stables are locked for the night," he
said, approaching the horse-watcher. "I mistrust that fellow I saw
creep out from here but a moment ago."



CHAPTER VIII.


"This threatens danger," Bevill thought to himself after he had spoken
to the man in the alley, and had received from him a surly grunt and
the information that the other was, like himself, a traveller having
his own horse in another stall. But the ostler did not add the words
that Bevill had expected to hear--viz., that this traveller was, also
like himself, a Frenchman. He remembered, however, a moment later,
that though Sparmann was now undoubtedly a French spy, he was
absolutely as much a Dutchman as any native of St. Trond, and could,
consequently, pass easily as a man who was voyaging from one part of
the Netherlands to another.

In recollecting this, there came suddenly into his mind a thought--an
inspiration--a reflection that, in such a circumstance lay the chance
of outwitting, of silencing--though only for a time, yet perhaps for
long enough--this fellow who, beyond almost all possibility of doubt,
was here with the view of causing harm to him.

"He is a Hollander," Bevill thought to himself as he stood outside the
courtyard of "Le Prince d'Orange," while undecided as to whether he
should endeavour to see, or at least to communicate with, the
Comtesse. "A Hollander, yet one who is now in the service of France,
and, consequently, an enemy to all things Dutch. If--if--I denounced
him to-night to some of the burghers of this place, to some native
magistrate here, as he will endeavour to denounce me to some of the
French who hold the place, it will go hard with him. These Dutch may,
because they must at present, tolerate the French army, but they will
not tolerate a spy who is their own countryman amongst them. Yet how
to do it? Above all, how to do it at once? Let me reflect."

As he so reflected, however, he was already crossing the _place_, and
in a moment was in front of the courtyard of "Le Duc de Brabant,"
which, although it was similar to that of the inn where he had put up,
was nevertheless considerably larger than the latter. Halting,
however, under the archway that led into this yard, he saw the great
coach of Madame de Valorme standing out in the dark, and observed
that, from some of the lower windows of the inn, there still gleamed
the rays of a lamp or other light, as well as the beams from a
lanthorn hung on a hook outside the stable door. Thus the coach and
the baggage on the top of it stood clearly out, thin and weakly though
the rays of light might be, and by their aid he was able to perceive
other things.

He saw that Joseph, the coachman, on account of whose ill-treatment by
the Brabant peasants that afternoon he had lodged a bullet in the
shoulder of one of them, was now strapping up a valise on the roof of
the coach; a valise that he divined easily had already been used this
evening and repacked and closed, and then sent down to be put in its
place in time for the morning's departure. Near the coachman, who now
seemed to be entirely recovered from his slight injury--which had been
only prevented by an inch from being a fatal one--there stood a
_facchin_, or porter of the inn, who had evidently brought down the
valise and was now going away to, in all probability, fetch another.

"Joseph," Bevill said now to the man as he descended from the box on
which he had been standing while strapping the valise, "Joseph, come
down. I wish to speak to you on a matter of serious concern."

Astonished at seeing beneath him the dashing horseman who, at a
critical moment for all concerned, had suddenly appeared amongst the
boors who had attacked his mistress's coach, and--which he did not
overlook--nearly killed him, Joseph sprang to the ground, while
doffing the hat he wore and instantly commencing a long series of
thanks and utterances of gratitude to Bevill, all of which he had
previously uttered many times during the continuation of the journey.

"No matter for that," said Bevill, while looking round to see that
they were out of earshot, and remarking that the _facchin_ had
disappeared. "I need no more thanks, nor have needed any. But,
Joseph--your mistress? Where is she? If it may be so, if it can be
compassed, I must speak with her to-night."

"To-night, monsieur? _Helas!_ it is impossible. She has retired; the
necessaries are all distributed there," glancing up at the roof of the
vehicle, "save one small chest that remains in the rooms for use in
the morning. It is impossible, monsieur," he repeated. "But," the man
went on, "if monsieur has anything to confide, if he requires any
service which one so humble as I can give, monsieur knows where he can
obtain it. Monsieur punished the ruffians who endeavoured to slay me.
If one so poor as I can----"

"Nay, no matter; yet--yet--it is of grave import. There has happened
that which thrusts against my hopes of reaching Liége, of reaching
that city in company of--almost, may I say, in charge of Madame----"

"What, monsieur, what?" the man exclaimed in a low voice. "Monsieur is
in some peril? And he, our preserver----"

"Listen," Bevill` said, thinking it best to at once tell this man the
worst. "It may be that ere morning I shall no longer be able to
accompany Madame La Comtesse on her road."

"Oh, monsieur!" Joseph exclaimed. "Oh, monsieur! Monsieur is indeed in
some peril. What is it, monsieur?"

"There is a man now staying at the inn where I am, at 'Le Prince
d'Orange,' who knows a secret of mine which may undo me if divulged.
He is a Dutchman, yet now he serves France--our country--as the basest
of creatures. He is a spy, one employed by France. What's that?"
Bevill broke off to say, hearing a slight noise in the stable close
by.

"I heard nothing, monsieur. Doubtless one of the horses moving. It is
nothing. Please go on, monsieur."

"Yet also is he, as I say, an enemy of mine. He may denounce me as one
having sympathy with these Dutch, as one favourable to this Grand
Alliance. Ha!" Bevill exclaimed, breaking off again. "Look! Did'st?
see. That man who passed outside the entry but now, his cloak about
him! One with dark, piercing eyes and a flash of grey beard showing.
That is the man. I will follow him, prevent him, if possible, from
carrying out his intentions to-night."

"And so also will I, monsieur. Let me but get my coat and whinyard,
and I will be with you. But an instant, monsieur. But an instant."

"Nay," Bevill called, even as the man sped towards the great wooden
staircase that led out of the courtyard up to the balconies outside
the various floors; "nay, stay here, I command you. Stay here by your
mistress to whom your service is due. I need no assistance. It is man
to man, as," he muttered grimly through set teeth, "it was two years
ago in England."

Then, seeing that Joseph had disappeared up the stairs, Bevill went
swiftly out of the courtyard and under the arch into the street.

But he did not know that, as he did so, another man had followed in
his footsteps.

A man who, almost ere he was outside the entrance, had softly pushed
open the stable door and then, after looking round stealthily to make
sure that he was not observed, had come out himself, while thrusting
into the folds of his coarse shirt something that gleamed for an
instant in the rays of the lanthorn.

"What was it he said?" this man muttered to himself in a hoarse,
raucous voice. "What? I could not hear all--yet enough. A Dutchman!
One of us--who has joined these accursed French as a spy on us. On
us--_ach! Himmel!_ On us, his countrymen. Ha! Let me but find him, and
he spies no more in this world."

And now this man was also in the _place_--the deserted place in which
glittered but one or two oil lamps hung on chains stretched across the
road, yet which was well lighted now by a late risen moon that was in
her third quarter--a moon that was topping now the pointed,
crenellated roofs of the old houses and flooding the whole space with
its beams. By this light the man saw that he was not yet too late.


[Illustration: "'He's mine,' the watcher whispered to himself."]


He saw the tall form of Bevill turning away from the door of "Le
Prince d'Orange," and understood that the man, who had in his hearing
denounced the other as a spy, had been to see if the latter had
entered the inn. He saw, too, by looking up the one long street that
led from the _place_, that the denouncer paused for a moment and then
went swiftly along it. Seeing this, he understood, and himself
followed swiftly, while now and again putting his hand in his breast
as though to make sure of what was hidden there.

"He is gone that way," he muttered, "and the other knows it. So, too,
do I know it now. Between us we shall run the fox to ground."

Thus they went on: the first man invisible to the last, but the second
kept well in view by that last; then suddenly the latter paused.

He paused, with a muttered imprecation; paused while withdrawing
himself into the deep, dark stoop of an old house.

"He has missed him! Missed him! He is coming back. The spy has
escaped. Ah! ah! the chance is gone. If he has missed him how shall I
ever find him?"

A moment later this watcher started, while giving utterance to some
sound that was, now, neither imprecation nor exclamation, but, in
truth, a gasp. A gasp full of astonishment, nevertheless; a gasp that
surprise seemed to have choked back into his throat.

For he who was coming back was not the tall, handsomely apparelled
young man who had started forth in pursuit of him whom he had
denounced as a renegade spy; but, instead, another. An older man, one
who held a dark cloak across his features from which some wisp of a
grey beard projected; one who, as he came swiftly towards that stoop
where the man was hidden, looked back and back, and back again, and
glinted a pair of dark eyes up and down the street as though in mortal
fear.

"He's mine," the watcher whispered to himself. "He's mine. He will spy
no more."

As he so spoke, the man who was returning drew near the stoop, his
footsteps fell outside it. He was before it!

                       *    *    *    *    *    *

"How did I miss him? What twist or turn did the vagabond take whereby
to avoid me?" Bevill pondered the next morning, as now the soft,
roseate hue of the sun suffused the skies that, half an hour before,
had been daffodil and, before that, lit by the moon. For it was four
o'clock now, and the daylight had dawned on one of the last remaining
days of May.

Four o'clock! And Bevill Bracton, after he had re-entered his room,
disheartened at having missed Sparmann, had sat from midnight until
now on a chair at a table by the window, while sternly refraining from
lying down for fear that, thereby, he might fall asleep and so be
trapped by some of the French soldiery whom the spy would possibly
have put on his track.

He had asked himself the above question a dozen, a score, a hundred
times during these hours. He had muttered again and again, "How did I
miss him? How lose sight of him?" yet was always unable to find an
answer to the question.

Also Bevill had asked himself another, a more important question
which, not only in his own mind but in actual fact, remained
unanswered. Why, since Sparmann had escaped him, had he not already
been denounced? Why, through the night as it passed away, or in the
cool coming of the dawn, had he heard no tread of provost's picket, or
corporal's guard, coming down the street to the inn to arrest him? Yet
his ancient enemy had but to warn them that here, in "Le Prince
d'Orange," was an Englishman on whom would be found a Frenchman's
passport, the passport of a secretary of the French Embassy in London,
for his doom to be swift and sure. A hurried examination, a still more
hurried trial, and--a platoon of soldiers! That was all.

Yet nothing had come during those hours of the passing night. Nothing
had disturbed the watcher and listener at that table by the window,
nothing had caused him to even glance towards his unsheathed sword as
it lay on the undisturbed bed, nothing to cause his hand to advance
one inch towards the pistols placed on a chair by his side. A dog
barking, some labourers going forth to their toil, the striking of the
hours by the church clock; but nothing more. And now the day was come
and he was still free and unsought for.

"Even had I been sought for it may be that I might have escaped from
out the town at break of day," Bevill mused now; "but what of her
opposite? What of the woman who depends on me and my succour if
needed--the woman who, knowing that I am no Frenchman and am, since
all the world is against France or France's king, doubtless her enemy,
does not betray me? Might have escaped? No! I could not have done
that."

"Why," he continued, still reflecting, "has that man held his peace?
Does he doubt that he may be mistaken, that I am not his old enemy and
victor; or does he fear that, as he might betray me to his new
masters, so might I find opportunity to betray him to his old ones, to
his countrymen? In truth, it may be so."

The little town was waking up to the work of the day by this time.
Windows were being thrown open to the rays of the bright morning sun.
Away, outside the town, the bugles and trumpets of those who held the
place in subjection could be heard, and, a moment later, Bevill saw
Jeanne thrust aside the shutters of the rooms of the first floor of
the "Duc de Brabant."

"I had best make my way across," Bevill mused, as now he refreshed
himself with some hearty ablutions and made the usual toilet of
travellers of that day. "It seems that I am to be unmolested for the
present. Therefore will I start at once, and the sooner the better!
leaving word that, as near as may be, I will await the coach of Madame
la Comtesse beyond the town."

Thrusting, therefore, his sword into his belt, and his pistols into
his deep pockets, he threw open the door of the room and went out into
the passage. As he did so, however, he saw the sun streaming through
the open door of another bedroom farther down, and heard voices
proceeding from inside the room.

"Not in all night!" he heard one voice say, while recognising it as
that of the landlady. "Not in all night! And he a man of years! Surely
he is not a wastrel and a roysterer? It may be so, since he says he is
a Frenchman, though he has not the air thereof. Perhaps he has been
carousing with their dissolute soldiery. Or--_ach!_--if he should have
ridden off without payment. _Ach!_ 'tis like enough!"

"His horse is in the stable," another voice, that of an ancient _femme
de chamber_, replied. "He has not done that. Yet, all the same, 'tis
strange. _Ja Wohl_, it is strange."

"It must be _him_ of whom they speak," Bevill thought to himself, as
now he passed the door, and, giving "good-day" to the women within the
room, went down the stairs and out into the street, after which he
crossed the _place_ to the "Duc de Brabant."

The coach of the Comtesse de Valorme was as he had seen it last night.
At present there was no sign of departure; the horses had not yet been
brought from the stable, and none of madame's servants were about. In
the courtyard, however, the stableman and _facchins_ were sluicing the
whole place with buckets of water and brushing and mopping the stones,
amongst them being the one who had brought down the valises to Joseph
overnight.

Calling this man towards him with the intention of asking him to bring
Jeanne Or Joseph down for a moment, so that he might leave a message
for the Comtesse, he observed that he had a huge bruise on his face,
one that was almost raw, and bled slightly.

"You have hurt yourself," Bevill said kindly to the fellow, after he
had asked him to do his behest; and after, also, putting a piece of
silver in his hand. "You would do well to put some styptic to your
face."

"'Tis nothing, mynheer, nothing," the man muttered, as he pocketed the
silver. "The lights were out as I went to my bed last night. The
passages in this old house are dark as a pocket. It is nothing. I fell
and bruised myself." After which he went away to summon one of the
servants of her whom he called "Matame la Gomdesse."

A moment later Joseph appeared on the scene, and, ere Bevill could bid
him inform Madame de Valorme that he thought it best to proceed past
the barrier and out of the town at once, the coachman exclaimed:

"And the enemy of monsieur? The spy! What of him?"

"I lost him," Bevill replied. "He evaded me."

"And evidently he has not betrayed monsieur?"

"Evidently. It may be, Joseph, he supposed that in betraying me I
might in return have betrayed him, if not to his new friends, at least
to his old. Now, Joseph, I go. Present my respects to madame and say
that a mile farther on the road to Liége I will await her coming."



CHAPTER IX.


Month before Bevill Bracton had set out on the task of endeavouring in
some way to assist Sylvia Thorne in quitting Liége, and, should
Providence prove favourable, of enabling her to return to England
under his charge, the whole of what was termed, comprehensively,
Flanders was filled with various bodies of troops that were drawn from
almost all the countries of Western and, consequently, civilised
Europe.

Used--as this great combination of various states had long been
called--as "The Great Barrier"--_i.e_., the barrier between the
aggressions of France and the safety of the Netherlands, it was,
therefore, now filled with the above-named troops of the contending
nations. To the most northern portion of it--from Antwerp on the west
to Cologne on the east, and then downward to Kaiserswörth and
Bonn--the French held possession under the ostensible command of the
royal Duke of Burgundy, but actually under the command of the Maréchal
de Boufflers, styled the second in command. With these were the troops
of Spain under the command of Le Marquis de Bedmar. Other marshals and
generals, such as Tallard (who was afterwards to lose the battle of
Blenheim) and De Chamarande held high command under them.

The English and Dutch troops, many of the former of which had never
been withdrawn since the Peace of Ryswick, made during the reign of
William III., still held and garrisoned the more northern portions of
the Flanders barrier. Of these, the principal commanders were, until
Marlborough was appointed by the English and Dutch Governments
Captain-General of the whole army of the Grand Alliance, Ginkell, Earl
of Athlone, who was a Dutchman, and Coehoorn, who was another. Of
towns and villages and outposts which the allied troops held at this
time, Maestricht, a few miles north of Liége, was the principal; but
rapidly, after the arrival of the Earl of Marlborough, many more were,
one after the other, to fall into our hands.

By the time, however, that Bevill Bracton had reached Flanders, not
only were continuous sieges and encounters taking place, but also
continuous marchings and counter-marchings and deployings of troops.
The ground which one week had been occupied and held by the French
would, the next, be occupied by English or Dutch, Austrian or
Hanoverian troops; Austria, which was the rival claimant to the throne
of Spain, being the only Catholic country in the Alliance. Had her
claims not been recognised and used as the pivot on which revolved the
determination of the other Powers to break down, once and for all, the
arrogant assumption of the King of France, she would never have been
admitted as partner in this great alliance of Protestant princes. She
was, however, the foundation stone of the great fabric, and could not
be omitted.

The land, therefore, which formed part of the eastern portion of
Brabant, as well as the whole of Limburg, the Electorate of Cologne,
and the Bishopric of Liége, was at this time the scene of skirmishes,
of attacks, and general hostilities that occurred almost daily; but,
since these never attained to the dignity of a battle, they have gone
unrecorded even in the most dry-as-dust of military annals. Indeed,
they were frequently bloodless and often unimportant, the occasional
hanging of a spy, or supposed spy, on one side or the other, or the
detention of a person who could give no satisfactory account of
himself, being unworthy of notice by any chronicler, even if any
chronicler ever heard of the incidents--which is probably doubtful.


Almost directly St. Trond was quitted, the great Cologne road parted,
as it still parts; the northern arm passing through Looz to Maestricht
and the southern running straight to Liége by Waremme, only to reunite
later out side Liége.

At this bifurcation Bevill Bracton, drawing up his horse, paused
beneath some trees and determined to await the coming of the Comtesse
de Valorme.

It was still quite early, and, since he had been subjected to no delay
at the gate, his passport having merely been glanced at by the soldier
stationed there (perhaps because of the excellent French he spoke,
which was a great deal better than that of the man, who belonged to
the Régiment de Perche from the far south of France) he knew that
there was no likelihood of the Comtesse appearing yet. Therefore he
rode on a few hundred paces farther towards where he had observed a
signboard swinging from the branch of a tree, and decided that he
would wait here for her arrival. Also, he had not yet broken his fast,
and determined that now would be a good opportunity for doing so.

As he came within twenty or thirty yards of the signboard, which bore
a heart painted on it--the emblem resembling more a heart painted on a
card than that which is a portion of the human frame--and had beneath
it, in Dutch, the words, "The Kindly Heart," he was astonished at
hearing a voice call out "Halt!" Yet he was not so astonished at
hearing the word, which is very similar in most languages, as in
hearing the voice that uttered that word, since, undoubtedly, it was
the voice of an Englishman.

Turning in the direction whence the sound came, Bevill did not see any
person whatever. But what he did see was the short, squat, unbrowned
barrel of a musquetoon projecting through the interstices of a
quickset hedge and covering him. A moment later the voice of the
invisible owner of it repeated:

"Halt, will you, or shall I put a plum into you?"

In absolute fact, Bevill had halted at the first injunction; but, on
hearing the above words delivered in a most unmistakably English tone
of voice, he said:

"My friend, you will pay me no such compliment as that. Since we
happen to be countrymen----"

"Countrymen!" the voice exclaimed now. "And so I think, in truth, we
must be. Yet, countryman, are you mad? Have you escaped out of some
Dutch Bedlam to be roaming about here alone?"

"No more mad than you who cry out to one who may be a Frenchman to
halt. Come out of that hedge and let me see you. What regiment are you
of?"

"What regiment? The Tangier Horse--the Royal Dragoons, as we are now
called.[3] What matters the name so long as the fruit is good!" the
speaker said, as now he came out of a little wicket gate in the hedge
and advanced toward where Bevill sat his horse. As he did so, however,
he still held his musquetoon in such a manner that he could have fired
its charge into the other's body at any instant.

"What are you doing here?" the latter asked, while recognising by the
man's accoutrements and banderole that he was undoubtedly that which
he stated himself to be. "Is," he continued, "your regiment near here?
Or any portion of our army? If not, you must be mad to betray yourself
to one who might belong to the present controllers of all this
neighbourhood."

"That," the trooper replied respectfully, since he saw that he had a
gentleman to deal with, and one who, though he wore no signs of being
an officer, might very well be one, "you had best ask my captain and
the lieutenant. They are breaking their fast in the inn."

"Your captain and lieutenant? Great heavens! Almost might I ask if
they too, if all of you, are demented. Here, in this place, surrounded
on all sides, garrisoned everywhere, by the enemy!"

"They are as like, sir, to go harmless as you. And we have a picket
near. The enemy cannot get near us without our being warned in time to
escape. We are spying out the land."

"Lead me to the officers," Bevill said.

Upon which the trooper motioned to him to dismount and leave his horse
and follow him through the little orchard, out of which he had
descended to the road. "They are," he said, "at the back of the
house." While, as he did so, he repeated himself and said, "We are
spying out the land, but wish no one to spy on us."

A burst of low, suppressed laughter reached Bevill's ears as now,
after tying La Rose's reins to a stake in the quickset hedge, he drew
near to the spot where the man had said the officers were. A burst of
laughter, suddenly hushed by one who formed the group, as he said,
"Silence! Silence! Here comes some stranger. If 'tis a Frenchman by
chance----"


[Illustration: "'He is no Frenchman,' Bevill answered for himself."]


"He will not be a Frenchman or any other man long, unless he is of
us."

"He is no Frenchman," Bevill answered for himself as he reached the
grass plot, on which several officers sat round a table, and while
taking off his hat in salutation as he did so; "but, instead, an
Englishman. One who was once an officer of cavalry like yourselves,
and hopes to be one again ere long."

"One who was an officer and hopes to be one again! One who _was!_ Pray
sir, of what regiment?" the older of the group asked.

"Of the Cuirassiers. By name, Bevill Bracton."

"Bevill Bracton? You are Bevill Bracton? The man who trounced that
insolent Dutchman for traducing our calling? The man who was broken
for doing so?" And the speaker held out his hand.

"The same. Yet one who is not yet quit of him. He is now a spy in the
pay of the French, and at Antwerp he almost betrayed me, and so again
last night at St. Trond."

"And this time you killed him?"

"No. He disappeared. Something doubtless befell him--though not at my
hands--since I passed safely out of the town half an hour ago."

After which, since Bevill's exploit of nearly killing Sparmann for his
insolence more than two years ago had brought him into considerable
notoriety (of an enviable character) with the whole of the army, while
the harshness of the unpopular William of Orange in removing him from
it had been very adversely commented on, these men, thrown so
curiously together, began to discuss their affairs.

"Yet," said Bevill, as they commenced to "I pray you let your corporal
keep watch and ward over the road leading from St. Trond past here.
From out of the town will come ere long a travelling coach containing
a lady and her servants----"

"What? Are English ladies travelling here, too, at such a time as
this? And have you become a squire of dames? Pray, who can the daring
lady be?"

"The lady is not English!"

"Oh. I protest! Surely, much as we are grappled to these good
Hollanders, there is no need for a British officer, as you have been
and will be again, to become a knight errant to their comely
womankind."

"Nay. To be brief, the lady is a Frenchwoman. Ah! I beseech you,"
Bevill continued, "do not misunderstand me."

"'Tis very strange!"

"'Tis very simple. Listen, gentlemen. I go to help a young lady, a
ward of my Lord Peterborough's----"

"What! A ward of Mordanto's!" the captain exclaimed, with a laugh.
"The knight-errant _par excellence!_"

"The very same. He is my cousin--or, rather, I should say in all
respect that I am his. I go to help this young lady to leave Liége in
safety, and to escort her first to the English lines, and afterwards,
if I can compass it, to England."

"She must be the only English lady there now. For very sure, if you
get into Liége you will also be the only Englishman in it."

"It may be so--for a time. Yet, for certain, Liége must fall to us ere
long. It is a place to be possessed of."

"But the Frenchwoman!" one of the younger officers exclaimed. "The
Frenchwoman?"

"She is a wayside companion--one whom I came to know at an inn we both
sojourned at. A widow, grave, serious, and withal somewhat young. A
serious-minded woman. Some slight assistance I rendered her on the
road 'twixt Louvain and that place," nodding towards St. Trond, "and
since then I ride as her escort. Yet, in solemn truth, my mind is
teased; for, French though she is beyond all doubt, and deemed me to
be the same at first----"

"At first! And now?"

"Now she has discovered by some tone or trick of accent--I having the
French well enough in ordinary since my father, Sir George Bracton,
dwelt in Paris, and I was brought up and schooled there--that I am
none. Yet, it may be, she knows not that I am English; but still--but
still she has asked me if I know of the movements of my lords Athlone
and Marlborough. If I can tell her when our army will draw near to
Liége, when it will come, where it is now----"

"Tell her nothing," the captain said decisively. "She is a spy."

"No; she is no spy, I will be sworn. The cunning of spies harbours not
behind such clear eyes or so honest a face as hers. If she is aught
she should not be, and still I almost reproach myself for dreaming of
such a thing, she is a woman who by some injustice, some wickedness
done to her, is false to her own country, to France. Listen,
gentlemen. This woman, the Comtesse de Valorme, desires one thing
above all."

"What is it!" everyone of the dragoons asked in the same breath.

"To be brought to Marlborough or Athlone as soon as may be. How, then,
shall she be a spy on us?"

"Upon a pretext to see one of these generals, upon seeing them, she
might discover much," the lieutenant said; "yet she is but a sorry
fool if she dreams of speaking with either of them or learning aught.
Bah! Athlone--Ginkell--would offer her a glass of his native schnapps,
bow before her with heavy, stolid grace, call her, 'Zhére Matam la
Gondesse,' and tell her nothing. While as for my Lord Marlborough----"

"Ay, my Lord Marlborough!" Bevill said. "Marlborough!"

"He would receive her with infinite grace. Doubtless, he would kiss
her hand with the most engaging look on his handsome face. Also, he
would let her think that he esteemed himself well fortuned in being
able to place himself and all the army at her disposal, and--he also
would do nothing. A man with the sweetest disposition in all the
world, one bred a courtier from his youth, one who has been a French
soldier himself, who knows France as other Englishmen know their
native hamlet, will not be hoodwinked by any scheming Frenchwoman."

"She is no schemer, or, if she is, it is against her own land," Bevill
exclaimed. "Oh! if I knew, if I could divine what reason there may be
for any French, in such times as these, to look to the English for
help and support! Gentlemen, you have been long on this foreign
service. Have you heard no word? Can any French, any portion of
France, be hoping for help from us against their own selves?"

But the officers could tell him nothing. They had, indeed, been abroad
some time, but that time had been passed only in the Netherlands. They
did not know--it was impossible they should know--that far away in the
South, whose shores and golden sands were laved by the soft waters of
the Mediterranean, things were being done that were turning honest,
faithful subjects into rebels. They did not know that homes were being
rendered desolate, children made orphans, and parents childless; that
the nobles were escaping, where possible, to other lands; that the
working classes were being succoured in Clerkenwell and Spitalfields,
beneath the Swiss snows and on the burning shores of Africa.
Therefore, they could neither think nor dream of what might be the
cause--if there were any such!--which could make this woman of the
French aristocracy false to France.

But now the trooper came back to where they sat with Bevill, and
stated that a great travelling coach was coming slowly along, it
having evidently issued from out St. Trond, which lay round a bend of
the road. Upon which Bevill, wishing them a hasty farewell and
exchanging swift handshakes with them, mounted La Rose.

"God speed!" they all cried out to him. "God speed" and "_Fortune de
la guerre!_" while the youngest exclaimed, in boyish enthusiasm, "If
you creep into Liége and cannot find your way forth again, keep ever a
brave heart. We shall be near; we, or some of us, will have you out."

"And, 'ware _les beaux yeux_ of Madame la Comtesse," the captain
called.

"And those of the ward of my Lord Peterborough," said the lieutenant.

"'There is more danger,'" cried the youngest, misquoting, "'in one
look of theirs than twenty of our foemen's swords,' as Betterton says
as Romeo."


"So, monsieur le Mousquetaire--_monsieur mon cousin_, Le Blond," the
Comtesse with emphasis said, as now Bevill rode back to the carriage
and took up his usual position by the window, "you can speak English
when you desire."

"Yes, madame, when I desire. I hope the sound of that tongue is not
offensive to madame."

"An Englishman," the Comtesse replied, her calm, clear eyes upon him,
"should ever speak the tongue he loves best--even as a valiant knight
is ever knightly, no matter what his land may be."



CHAPTER X.


Liége was before them. From a slight eminence in this land, in most
cases so utterly without eminence at all, they could look onward and
see its walls, especially those on the left bank of the Meuse. Also,
they could see upon what they saw was the citadel a great banner
streaming out to the soft south-west wind--a banner on which was
emblazoned the gold sun that was the emblem of him who gloried in the
name of "Le Roi Soleil." So, too, on the right side there floated out
that ostentatious, braggart flag from the roof of the Chartreuse.

Lying outside the city, as they were easily able to observe from the
eminence on which they had halted, were several regiments, their
colours displayed from the larger tents amongst the lines; and some of
these Bevill Bracton was able to recognise, since he had seen them
before, when in Holland and Flanders under William III.

"Those," he exclaimed, pointing towards a large blue banner that
streamed out above a great tent--a blue banner on which was a heraldic
emblazonment that, had they been nearer, they would have recognised as
a leopard _couchant_, "are the arms of a fierce, cruel general. The
pennon to the right is that of the cavalry of Orléans; that to the
left is the pennon of the dragoons of Piémont-Royal. We have met--I
should say I have seen them--before."

Remembering, however, that much as the Comtesse might suspect or,
indeed, actually know with regard to his being neither Frenchman nor
mousquetaire, she did not know all, Bevill refrained from adding, "I
have charged them in the past, and should know their colours."

"And this general you speak of--this man who is fierce and cruel? Who
is he?"

"Montrével," Bevill replied.

As he did so he heard the Comtesse give a slight gasp, or, if it were
so slight as to be unheard, at least he saw her lips part, while into
her eyes there came a strange look, one that expressed half fear and
half hate.

"Madame knows him?" he exclaimed.

"I know of him. He is, as monsieur says, fierce and cruel. He--he
comes from a part of France I know very well--from Orange. And, worse
than all, he is a--a--renegade."

"A renegade? He! One of Louis' most trusted leaders! He who has
received the _bâton_ of a Field-Marshal but recently! He a renegade?"

"One may be a renegade to others than king and country. To----"

"Yes! To what? To whom?"

"To God!"

After which the Comtesse seemed undesirous of saying more and sat
gazing down towards the army lying outside the walls of Liége, while
occasionally asking Bevill if he could tell her what other persons or
regiments were represented by the various colours flying from tents
and staffs.

But he, while doing his best to explain all that she had desired to
know, and while pointing out to her the regiments of Poitou and Royal
Roussillon--both of which he had also encountered--recognised that his
mind was far away from a subject that, in other circumstances, would
have occupied it to its fullest extent.

For now he could not keep his attention fixed on banners and bannerols
and regiments, deep as might be the import they must bear towards
England and his own safety. He could not even reflect upon how he, an
Englishman passing as a Frenchman, would in the next hour or so have
to make his way through the lines of those regiments while every word
he uttered might betray him to sudden death. Sudden death! as must,
indeed, be his only portion if, among those masses of troops below,
one word mispronounced, one accent to arouse suspicion, should be
observed. Sudden death! Yes, after a moment's interview with one of
the generals or marshals--such a marshal, to wit, as the fierce cruel
Montrével! Sudden death after another moment, and that but a short
one, allowed for a hasty prayer.

And still he could not force his mind to think upon these things,
since those words of the Comtesse de Valorme had driven all other
thoughts away.

"Why?" he asked himself again and again as he sat his horse by her
side. "Why does she speak thus of that truculent soldier? Why, among
so many other matters that must have possession of her thoughts now,
does this man's apostasy, for such it must be that she refers to,
affect her so deeply. Ah! if I could but know!" And, as he thought
thus, he let his eyes fall on those of the comtesse, and saw that hers
were resting on him.

Suddenly, as he did this, he saw in them something that seemed almost
as clear and distinct as spoken words would themselves have been; some
pleading in them which, unlike spoken words, he could not understand,
while still recognising that in her look there was a request. But yet
he could not understand. He could not comprehend what it was that she
desired of him, and so held his peace.

Now, however, the Comtesse spoke. She spoke as she leant forward, in
the same way she had done before since they had first travelled in
company, her gloved hand on the sash of the lowered window, her glance
full of earnestness.

"We are close to Liége, monsieur," she said. "Little more than an hour
will take us to the lines of that army lying outside the city. In two
hours, by Heaven's grace, we may be inside. Monsieur, shall we not be
frank with each other?"

"Frank, madame. How so? How frank?"

"Ah, monsieur, do not let us trifle further. Each of us has an object
in entering that city. Yours I can partly divine, as I think; but mine
I doubt your ever divining. Yet--yet--I know what you are, and I would
that you should know who and what I am. If--if it pleases you, can we
not confide in each other?"

Bevill bowed over his horse's mane as the Comtesse said these words;
then, in a low tone, he replied:

"Any confidence madame may honour me with shall be deeply respected.
Meanwhile, I have perceived that madame knows or suspects that I am
not what I seem to be. So be it. I am in her hands and I do not fear.
Let her tell me what she believes me to be and, if she has judged
aright, I will answer truly. A frank admission can harm me no more
than suspicion can do."

"I shall not harm you," the Comtesse said. "I have not forgotten your
succour when those boors had attacked me." Then, glancing round to
observe whether the servants were out of earshot, as was, indeed, the
case, since they had gone some little distance ahead of the coach the
better to gaze upon the troops environing the city, as well as on the
city itself, she said:

"You are, as I have said, an Englishman."

"Yes," Bevill replied calmly, fearing nothing from this avowal which,
made to any other French subject, would have been fraught with
destruction to him. "I am an Englishman."


[Illustration: "Liége was before them."--_p_. 363.]


"A soldier, doubtless, endeavouring to make his way to his own
forces."

"No; I am no soldier--now. I have been one. But my mission is far
different from that. I go, if it may be so, to escort a young
countrywoman of mine out of Liége, and to take her back in safety to
England."

"Alas! you will never succeed. That she may be permitted to leave
Liége is possible, though by no means probable. Those in the city who
are not French will scarcely obtain permission to depart, since they
would be able to convey far too much intelligence to the enemy of what
prevails within. While as for you----"

"Yes, madame?" Bevill said, still speaking quite calmly.

"You may very well stay in Liége unharmed since no Walloon would
betray you to his conquerors, and the French troops are in the
citadel, the Chartreuse, at the gates, and elsewhere. But you will
never get out with your charge."

"Not as a Frenchman?"

"No. Not with an Englishwoman. That is, unless she can transform
herself into a Frenchwoman as easily as you have transformed yourself
into a Frenchman."

"Yet you have discovered me to be none."

"I discovered you by some of your expressions, the turn of your
phrases, simply because--and this may astonish you--your French was
too good. You used some phrases that were those of a scholar and not
the idiom of daily life. It is often so." Then, with almost a smile on
the face that was generally so preternaturally grave, the Comtesse de
Valorme said:

"Captain Le Blond, as you call yourself, would you discover that I am
a Frenchwoman?"

And to Bevill's astonishment she spoke these words in perfect
English--so perfect, indeed, that they might have issued from the lips
of one of his own countrywomen.

"Heavens!" he exclaimed, forgetting for the moment the perfect
courtesy and deference which had marked his manner to her from the
first. "What are you? Speak. Are you English or French? Yet, no," he
continued. "No. There is the faintest intonation, though it has to be
sought for; the faintest suspicion of an accent that betrays you.
Madame," he exclaimed, not rudely, but only in a tone born of extreme
surprise, "what are you--English or French?"

"French," she replied, while still speaking in perfect English; "but I
have lived much in England, and--it may be that I shall die there."

"I cannot understand."

"You shall not be left long without doing so. Monsieur, as I must
still address you, it is more than twenty years since I first went to
England with my father, though I have returned to France more than
once during those years. Now I have returned yet again. And--you have
confided in me; I will be equally frank with you--listen. I am a
Protestant."

"A Protestant!" Bevill exclaimed. "A Protestant? Ah! I begin to
understand. A Protestant opposed to this war; linked with us against
Spain and France; desirous of seeing these two great Catholic Powers
subdued----"

"Alas!" the Comtesse said, "I cannot claim so noble an excuse for
being here in the midst of this war. My presence here is more selfish,
more personal. I--I--have suffered. God, He knows, how all of mine
have suffered in the South----"

"You are from the South?"

"I am. From Tarascon. You saw me start when you spoke of that
unutterable villain, Montrével. Montrével," she repeated, with bitter
scorn; "Field-marshal and swashbuckler! Montrével, born a Protestant,
but now of the Romish faith. A man who has persecuted us cruelly--one
who even now desires to be sent to the Cevennes to persecute us still
further."

Then, suddenly, the Comtesse ceased what she was saying, and, changing
from the subject, exclaimed:

"But come--come. We have tarried here too long. We should be once more
on our road to Liége. How do you propose to present yourself at the
gates and gain admission to the city? You will run deep risks if you
appear under the guise of a mousquetaire; for"--and now she took out a
scroll of paper from the huge pocket let into the leather padding of
her coach and looked at it, "there are two troops of the Mousquetaires
Noirs at the Chartreuse."

"You know that? You have a paper of the disposition of the French
forces?"

"I have, though with no view of betraying them to--the Allies. My
disloyalty to my country is not so deep as that, nor even is it to the
King who persecutes my people so evilly. Nevertheless, there are many
of the Reformed Faith in these armies. There is a De la Tremouille,
though he is but a lad, in the bodyguard of the Duc de Bourgogne; a De
Rohan with Tallard; a De Sully in the Mousquetaires Noirs; also there
are many others. I have means of learning much, though not all that I
would know. These 'heretics,'" she continued bitterly, "may help me if
trouble comes and I require help. Meanwhile, for yourself. You will
never obtain entrance as a mousquetaire."

"I have another passport--one procured for me by a grand personage in
England. With that I entered Antwerp, using only the papers of Captain
le Blond after I had been recognised by an ancient enemy."

"Under what guise, what description, do you appear in that?"

"A secretary of the French Embassy in London--the embassy that now
exists no longer."

The Comtesse de Valorme pondered for a few moments over this
information, while, as she did so, there came two little lines on her
white forehead, a forehead on which, as yet, Time had not implanted
any lines of its own. Then she said:

"And what name do you bear on that?"

"André de Belleville."

Again she pondered for a moment, then said:

"It should suffice. It is by no chance likely that any of the
secretaries from that embassy, now closed, should come here, or be
here. Also, those at the walls cannot doubt me. It would be best you
enter as a kinsman riding by my side as escort, as protector; for such
you have been to me. And we are kin in one thing at least--our faith."

"Madame, I am most deeply grateful to you. If----"

"Nay; gratitude is due from me to you. Yet what was it you said but
now? That you had an ancient enemy who recognised you at Antwerp. If
so, may he not follow you here?"

"I think not. At St. Trond he appeared again, only to again disappear.
Some evil may have befallen him, though not at my hands. He would have
denounced me by daybreak had that not happened."

"So be it then. Let us go forward. Once in Liége you will doubtless be
safe. If 'tis not so, then you must rely on Heaven, which has watched
over you so far, to do so still. Where have you dreamt of sojourning
when you are there? At the house where dwells this lady you go to seek
and help?"

"Nay; that cannot be. I have never seen her since she was a child. Her
father is dead. I know not in what part of the city she dwells. I must
seek some inn----"

"No, no. I have kinsmen and kinswomen there of your faith. Their
houses shall be--nay, will be, freely at your service. Speak but the
word and it shall be so."

For a moment Bevill Bracton pondered over this gracious offer, while,
even as he did so, he raised the gloved hand of the Comtesse to his
lips and murmured words of thanks for her politeness. But after a
moment's reflection he decided not to accept this offer.

He recognised at once that he ought not to do so; that the acceptance
of that offer would be unwise. For he knew, or, at least, he had a
presentiment, that from the moment he reached Sylvia Thorne his duty
must be dangerous; that what he had promised the Lord Peterborough--
ay! and also promised to do at all cost, all risk--might put him in
peril of his life. He had known this ere he set out from England; he
knew it doubly now. The French were all about and everywhere. Even
during the next hour or so he would have to pass through a portion of
that army to enter the city that lay before them. The difficulty of
leaving it would be increased twofold--tenfold, when he had with him
for charge a young girl, a young woman, who was also an English
subject.

"Therefore," he mused, or rather decided quickly, while still the
Comtesse de Valorme awaited his answer, "I must be unhampered; above
all, untrammelled in my movements. God alone knows with what dangers,
what difficulties, it may please Him to environ me; but be that as it
may, I must at all hazards be free and at liberty to either face or
avoid them. Courtesy, that courtesy as much due from guest to host as
from host to guest, could not be freely testified in such
circumstances as these. The quality of guest would not be fairly
enacted by me. I should be but a sorry inhabitant of any man's house!"

Therefore, in very courteous phrases, conveying many thanks, he spoke
these thoughts aloud to the Comtesse, while begging that the rejection
of her offer might not be taken ill by her.

"It must be as you say," the lady said; "yet--yet--we must not drift
from out each other's knowledge. Remember, I shall still be able to
help and assist you; also I look forward still to your guidance and
succour. You will not forget? It is imperative for me, if Heaven
permits, to obtain audience of the Earl of Marlborough when he draws
near, or, failing him, that of other of his generals. It is to England
alone that we poor Protestants can look for succour."



CHAPTER XI.


An hour later they had passed through the lines of circumvallation
thrown up by the French around Liége to prevent any attack from the
Allies; and through the earthworks bristling with cannon and culverin.
Also they had, since they were now arrived here, passed the first
inspection to which they must submit and the only one to which they
would be submitted until they were at the gates of the city itself.

As the carriage of the Comtesse de Valorme had approached the opening
left in those earthworks, the coachman being guided to it by a track
which ran between innumerable grenades piled up in triangular heaps
and numbers of tethered chargers as well as various other signs of
preparation to resist attack, Bevill, looking down at his companion,
saw that she was very white, and that her face, usually so calm and
impassive, gave signs of much internal agitation.

"You do not fear, madame?" he asked, more with a view to calming her
if necessary than, as a question.

"No," she replied, "I do not fear. My days for fear, for personal
fear, are passed. I have suffered enough. But I am in dread for you."

"Dread nothing on my behalf, I beseech you," Bevill said. "I have a
presentiment that that which I seek to do will be accomplished."

"I pray that it may be so. Yet--yet--I bear a name that stands not
well in the eyes of Louis, and worse, doubly worse, in the eyes of the
woman who rules him--the woman, De Maintenon. If the name of Valorme
is known here to any in command--the name of Valorme, the heretic, the
_reformée_, the _affectée_," she repeated bitterly, "it may go hard
with us. I should not have bidden you to pass under the garb of a
kinsman of mine. It would be best for you not to do so----"

But it was too late. Ere the Comtesse could finish the sentence, from
behind a number of superb horses tethered together there rang out the
words, "Halt, there!" and a moment later three officers and a trooper
came forward, all of whose splendid dress showed that they were of the
Mousquetaires Noirs.[4] Their blue riding coats were covered with gold
and silver lace; on their breasts were crosses of silver emitting
flames of gold, above each of which were stamped the _fleur-de-lis_;
while the whole was passemented with more lace. Near where the horses
stood, the banner of their regiment blew out to the warm afternoon
breeze; close by waved also the guidon of the Mousquetaires, with its
romantic legend, or motto, on it, "Mon Dieu, mon Roi, ma Dame."

"It is an officer's guard," Bevill murmured to the Comtesse.

"And of the Mousquetaires," she whispered back. "'Tis very well you
are not Captain le Blond any longer."

Seeing that a lady was seated in the great coach, one of the
mousquetaires advanced, hat in hand, towards the window, while
apologising profusely to Bevill for causing him to back his horse so
that he might speak to his companion. Then, in a tone as courtly as
though he and the Comtesse stood in the salons of Versailles, he said:

"Madame voyages in troublous times. Yet, alas! 'tis war time. As
officer of the exterior guard may I venture to ask for the papers of
madame?"

Out of his politeness and innate good-breeding the mousquetaire but
glanced at the papers handed to him, while muttering "La Comtesse de
Valorme"; then, with a bow, he returned them to their owner, saying,
"Madame is at liberty to pass. I regret to have been forced to cause
her trouble," after which, turning politely to Bevill, he now asked
for his papers.

"_Là! là!!_" he said, "Monsieur is from our embassy in London," while
adding, with a smile, "Monsieur may meet with some of the English ere
long again. They gather fast. We shall hope soon to give them a
courteous reception."

"Without doubt, monsieur."

"Were monsieur and his brother officials well treated in London?"

"He has nothing to complain of, monsieur. Every facility was given for
leaving England peaceably."

"I rejoice to hear it. Madame la Comtesse, I salute you," again
standing bareheaded before the lady. "Monsieur, I am your servitor.
_En route_," to Joseph on the box; but suddenly he said, "Yet stay an
instant. Jacques, _mon camarade_," to the trooper close by (the
troopers of the Mousquetaires were all gentlemen and often noblemen,
having servants to attend to their horses and accoutrements),
"accompany the carriage to the city walls."

"Yes, Monsieur le Duc," the man answered, saluting.

"Thereby," the former continued, "shall madame's way be made easier
for her. The ground is a little encumbered," he said, turning to the
Comtesse.

After which, and when more politenesses had been exchanged, the coach
proceeded on its way towards the city.

A few moments later Madame de Valorme spoke to the trooper who had
vaulted on to a horse on receiving his officer's orders, and was now
riding on the other side of the carriage from that on which Bevill
rode, and asked:

"Who is that officer who was so gallant to me? He is a very perfect
gentleman."

"He is, madame, the Duc de Guise."

"Ah!" she repeated, "the Duc de Guise!" while Bevill, who had glanced
into the carriage as she asked the question, saw that her face was
clouded as though by a sudden pain.

Still a few moments more and the trooper had moved his horse to the
front of those that were drawing the carriage, evidently with the
intention of piloting Joseph through the enormous mass of arms and
weapons of all kinds, gun carriages, and other materials of war with
which the track through the camp was encumbered. So that, seeing they
were free from being overheard by the man, Bevill said:


[Illustration: "'Madame is at liberty to pass."]


"That name caused madame some unpleasant thoughts. It is a great one,
though not now prominent."

"It is the name of the greatest persecutors we have ever known. The
bearer of it is the descendant of those who splashed the walls of
Paris and dyed the waters of the Seine with our ancestors' blood. Can
I--I--do aught but shudder at learning it, at being beholden to a de
Guise for courtesy?"

"Those days are passed----"

"Passed Are they passed? Does not their memory linger even now. Is not
the reflex of their wicked deeds cast on these present days? Oh, sir,
you do not know, you cannot know what is doing even now in France, in
the South. Ah, God! it seems to me as though the fact of this man,
this inheritor of all the wickedness and cruelty of his forerunners,
having been the first I encounter here, is an omen that I shall never
succeed in the task I have set myself."

"Madame, think not so, I implore you. The Ducs de Guise are harmless
now. Their power is gone, their teeth are broken. The ancient nobility
can do nothing against the people without the King's command. He
rules, directs all."

"Therein is the fear, the danger. Under that woman--faugh!--De
Maintenon, he does indeed rule and direct all, but he directs all for
cruelty. Who has filled the prisons, the galleys--ah! the galleys,"
the Comtesse repeated with an exclamation of such pain that Bevill
wondered if, in any of those hideous receptacles of suffering and
misery in which countless Protestants were now suffering, there might
be, in their midst, some person or persons dear to her. "Who has
filled those, who has strung thousands of innocent men and women upon
the gallows, to the lamps of their own villages, on the trees of their
own orchards, but Louis the King and those, his nobles, under him? Ah!
ah!" she went on, "do you know what, in the old days, far, far off,
long before they slaughtered us on St. Bartholomew's eve, the motto of
the Guises was? It was one word only--'Kill.' And killing is in their
blood. It cannot be eradicated; it is there. Is it strange that, in
encountering this man. I fear? I who go to save. I who pray nightly,
hourly, that my mission may help to save, to prevent, further
slaughter?" And, as the Comtesse de Valorme finished speaking, she
threw herself back upon the cushions of her carriage and buried her
face in her hands.

"I pray God, madame," Bevill said, he being deeply moved at her words,
"that the mission you are upon may bear good fruit. It is partly for
that, also, that we, the English, are banded against France and Spain.
Perhaps it may be that we desire not more to lower the pride, to break
down the power of this King, than to prevent those whom he rules over
from cruelly persecuting those of our faith."

Now, however, this discourse between them had to cease. They were at
the gates of Liége, outside the suburb of St. Walburg, which, although
not the nearest point of admission, was the one to which those who
were permitted to enter the city at all were forced to go.

Contrary, however, to any fears which either the Comtesse de Valorme
or Bevill might have felt as to their admission being made difficult,
they found that it was extremely easy. The fact of the trooper who
accompanied them having been sent by the Duc de Guise as an escort
brought about this state of things, since it was almost unheard of
that, whatever might be the detachment on guard at the exterior lines,
or whosoever might be the travellers, such thought for their
convenience should be exercised.

Consequently, the slightest examination of the papers of each was made
by those at this barrier, and a moment later the barrier was passed.

Bevill had accomplished part of the task he had set out to perform. He
was in the city where dwelt the woman whom he had come from England to
help and assist.

"I am in Liége," he whispered to himself. "Yet--yet the difficulties
do but now begin. May Heaven prosper me as it has done hitherto!"

They progressed now through the long, narrow streets that recalled, as
every street in the Netherlands recalled, and still in many cases
recalls, the ancient rule of Spaniard and Austrian. And thus,
continuing on their way, crossing old bridges over the canals and
watercourses that run from out the Meuse, observing the burghers
coming forth from the service of many of their churches, and remarking
the rich shops and warehouses full of silks and brocades from the
far-off Indies and Java, they came at last to one of the long quays
that border the river.

"And so," the Comtesse de Valorme said, as now the coach drew up at a
great solid house in a small square off this quay, "we part for the
present. Yet, monsieur, we are more than acquaintances now, more than
mere fellow-travellers----"

"Friends, if madame will permit."

"Ay, friends! Therefore will you not tell me what is your rightful
name? It may be well that I should know it."

"My name is Bevill Bracton, madame. I never thought when I set out
upon this journey that I should tell it to any but her whom I seek;
yet to you I now do so willingly."

"You may tell it in all confidence, and you know you may. 'Bevill
Bracton,'" she repeated to herself. "I shall not forget. 'Bevill
Bracton,'" she said again, as though desirous of impressing it
thoroughly on her memory. "But here," she went on, "you are to be
known always as André de Belleville!"

"It would be best, madame. I shall be known to few and, if fortune
serves, shall not be long here."

For a moment the Comtesse let her clear eyes rest on the young man, as
though she were meditating somewhat deeply; then suddenly, though
hesitating somewhat in her speech as she did so, she said:

"And this young countrywoman of yours--this lady whom you have come so
far to assist? May I not know her name also? It is no curiosity that
prompts me----"

"Madame," Bevill replied, "our confidence is well established, our
friendship made. The lady's name is Sylvia Thorne."

"Sylvia Thorne! Sylvia Thorne! Why, I know her. We, too, are friends,
and firm ones."

"You know her? You are friends?"

"In very truth. I have been here more than once before as guest of my
kinsman. And--yes, Sylvia Thorne and I are friends. Ah! what a double
passport would this have been to my friendship had I but known that
you were on your way to sweet Sylvia."

"She is, then, sweet? Doubtless gentle also?"

"She is both. In Sylvia Thorne, whom you say you knew once as a little
child, you will find a sweet, good woman. Grave, perhaps, beyond her
years--she has suffered much by the loss of both her parents--and too
calm and unruffled, it may be, for one whose footsteps have but now
passed over the threshold of womanhood. Sincere with those who win her
regard, contemptuous of those unworthy of the good opinion of any
honest man or woman; while yet placed here as she is, she possesses
one gift she had far better be without."

"And that is, madame?"

"The gift of beauty; for she is beautiful, but seems to know it not.
And it may be that her beauty is too cold and stately; it has not the
brightness, the joyousness, that should accompany the beauty of youth.
But you will see her ere long. Observe, those whom I come to dwell
with for a time are at the door. Farewell--nay, _au revoir_ only,
since you will not enter. _Adieu_ till next we meet. You know the
house now; the door stands ever open to those who are my friends."



CHAPTER XII.


On that long quay over which the coach had passed but just now, Bevill
Bracton, as he rode by its side, had observed an ancient inn, as all
things were ancient in this old-world land--one that bore on its front
the name, "Gouden Leeuw," and testified as to what its Walloon
significance might be by having beneath it a fierce-looking gilt
monster, that might be intended for a lion, as sign.

"That should be the house for me," Bevill thought, as now he rode back
towards it. "A front room here, on the lower floor, if it may be
obtained; the river almost at its feet, boats tied to old posts and
stanchions. All is well. If danger threatens, as well it may, then
have I the way open to me."

For Bevill had not been a soldier for nothing, nor had he forgotten
that he who attempts daring deeds should ever have a retreat open in
case of need.

That the business he was now about was, in absolute truth, of almost
foolhardy daring he had known and recognised from the moment he
decided to undertake it as he stood before the Earl of Peterborough at
Fulham; while, as he advanced farther and farther through a land
which, though not itself hostile to England, was in the clutches of
England's greatest enemy, he had more and more recognised this to be
the case. But now that he was here, in a city surrounded by those who
had possessed themselves of it during a peace that had never been a
complete one, a city whose heights and strong places were full of the
enemy, he allowed no delusions to prevent him from acknowledging the
perils by which he was surrounded. If he should be suspected, watched,
and either denounced or arrested, there would be no hope for him. He
was neither a soldier who would be saved by his calling nor a
political agent who could be saved by any mission that might have been
entrusted to him. He was merely a subject of the greatest enemy of
France, disguised under a French name; a man who could have no
ostensible reason for being here except as a spy.


[Illustration: "Impressed it with a ring he wore."]


As, however, he reflected on all this, while forgetting no point that
would tell deeply against him--there was not one that would tell in
his favour!--he felt no qualm of apprehension, and fear itself was
utterly absent. He had set his life upon this cast; the hazard of the
die must bring him either a restitution of all that he desired, or
total oblivion of all things in this world. He had elected to make the
throw, even as the soldier stakes his life against either Fortune's
buffets or rewards; fear had no part or parcel in the attempt. Yet, as
with the soldier, it behoved him to be wary, to fling no chance away,
to risk no more than every brave attempt requires to make it a
successful one.

What Bevill hoped to find at the "Gouden Leeuw" was, happily,
obtainable. A room was put at his disposal which, while looking across
the quay on to the river, had also, since it was at an angle of the
house, another window giving on to an alley that ran along the side of
the inn.

"Therefore," Bevill said to himself, "all is very well. Should I be
sought for when I am in this room I still have two other modes of
egress beside the door. Should they attempt to get at me from either
window, still I have the door. Short of surrounding the house, I can
hardly be trapped, and not at all without making a good fight of it."

"Yet," he continued to muse, as now he endeavoured to make himself
presentable and, at the least, well washed and brushed and combed,
since he intended at sunset to make his way to Sylvia according to the
directions on the letter he bore; "yet it may never come to this. I
obtained entrance easily to this city; I have but the brains of a bird
if, after I have made myself well acquainted with the place, I do not
discover some way of getting Mistress Thorne and myself out of it."

By this time the sun was beginning to dip towards where the North Sea
lay afar off; already its rays were slanting across the Meuse and into
the windows of his room. The air was becoming cooler; soon the evening
would be at hand; and then he would make his way towards the "Weiss
Haus," as he knew the abode of the late Mr. Thorne was termed; and, if
it might be, present his credentials to the young mistress of that
house.

But first he must make a meal, since he had eaten nothing since he set
out from St. Trond. Therefore he went now to the usual description of
room where travellers ate, and, ordering a good substantial repast, at
down to do justice to it. While he was waiting for his supper to be
brought to him, he drew from the pocket in his vest the letter which
Lord Peterborough had given him, and regarded it again.

It was addressed in the Earl's own hand to "Mistress Sylvia Thorne, of
the Weiss Haus, Liége, in the Bishoprick of Liége," and tied with
silk, but unsealed, his lordship having either adopted the ancient
courteous custom of leaving all letters of presentation open, or
perhaps desiring that the bearer of it should read the credentials he
bore.

Needless to say that Bevill was not one who would have availed himself
of the chance he had possessed for days of discovering what those
credentials were. He would not have been here as the accredited agent
of the Earl, and on such a mission as this, had it not been certain
that the recommendation was all that was necessary to induce Sylvia
Thorne to entrust herself to his hands. The confidence of Lord
Peterborough told him plainly enough what the contents of that letter
must be; while, even if it had not been so, Bevill would no more have
thought of untying the silk bow and reading those contents than of
breaking the seal had there been one.

But his astute lordship had made one slip in what he had written. In
one corner of the folds, where the superscription was, he had written,
"To present my cousin, Bevill Bracton, heretofore known to
you.--P. & M."

"My lord must have supposed this letter would leave my hand only to be
taken into the lady's," Bevill said to himself; "otherwise he would
never have written my name thus. He should have put in its place,
'Monsieur André de Belleville,' since it must pass through the hands
of some servitor or waiting maid to reach hers." Then, smiling to
himself, he went on, "He warned me of the danger I must encounter
should this letter fall into the hands of others than Mistress Thorne.
Those dangers might well have been added to by this forgetfulness.
However, it matters not now. 'Tis easily made safe."

He bade the serving man, who had not yet brought him his supper, fetch
a sheet of papers a white wax candle, and some Spanish wax, and, when
this was done, bade him bring also an inkhorn and pen. Then, folding
Lord Peterborough's letter in the fresh sheet, he lit the wax and
impressed it with a ring he wore, and, when the horn came, addressed
it in French to "Mistress Thorne, at the Weiss Haus." Adding also,
"The bearer waits."

"The house," he thought as now he ate his supper, "should be on this
or some other quay. My lord said that great was the merchandise in
which her father dealt, and also that he owned many vessels. He would
be near the water's edge, since the river is navigable to the sea."

For precaution--the precaution of not doing aught that might in
any way, if danger should arise, be inimical to Sylvia Thorne's
security--Bevill had resolved that he would ask no questions in the
"Gouden Leeuw" as to the situation of her house. He would give no
intimation whatever that could connect his appearance in this city
with the Englishwoman who, though not a captive, was at least not free
from the environment of her country's foes. He had resolved that the
man supposed to be a Frenchman named André de Belleville, residing at
this inn, should not be known, in it at least, to be a visitor to the
young Englishwoman at the Weiss Haus.

He went out shortly on to the quay and walked slowly along under the
row of trees planted on it and on a similar one across the river, and
observed that many of the burghers were taking the evening air with
their wives and children. In their aspect there was little to be
perceived that would have told a stranger that, either in their strong
places or outside their walls, there lay the hostile army of the most
dreaded monarch in Europe, which, at this time, meant almost the whole
world. Neither did he see any French about, and certainly no soldiers
of any rank; and he did not know that strict orders had been given in
the Duke of Burgundy's name that all of them were to keep apart from,
and, above all, not to molest, the inhabitants of any towns or cities
they either held or surrounded.

He saw, however, many monks and priests, which did not astonish him,
since he knew well that, though the Reformed Faith had been long since
adopted here by the inhabitants, the Bishopric of Liége was in the
Spanish interests, which meant the Romish, and always had been. Nay,
had he not heard that here was a college of English Jesuits, as well
as another of French?

Even, however, a Bevill continued his way, while thinking that, at
last, he would have to ask some honest burgher to direct him to where
the Weiss Haus might be, he passed a group of men, one or two of whom
were clad in the garb of a priest, while the others were
undistinguishable by their attire.

One of the latter, a young man of almost his own age, had fixed his
eyes on Bevill as he drew near--as, indeed, many other eyes had been
fixed on his erect figure and comely face before--while, as the group
passed him, this young man not only stared hard at him, but, as Bevill
could observe by a side glance, turned round to look again as he went
by.

"I' fags!" Bevill said to himself, walking on slowly, "the man seems
to know me, though never have I consorted with any of his seeming
friends to my knowledge or recollection. And yet--and yet--those dark
eyes that glinted at me under the trees do not appear strange, any
more than did his other features. Where have I seen him before, or
have I ever seen him? Tush! if 'twas ever, it must have been when I
was in the last campaign. We were much given to running against these
gentry."

He had reached the end of the most frequented part of the quay by now,
and had, indeed, come to a part of it where the high houses, built in
many cases of dark blue marble, no longer presented an unbroken array.
Instead, they were detached from one another, and stood in large
gardens having walls round them; while on the front, towards the quay,
were openings in which were enormous iron gates. In many cases great
warehouses close by lifted their heads high into the air, so that here
they alternated with the residences and spoilt the latter (whose
appearance was handsome) by their own unlovely though businesslike
aspect. But, farther away still, there stood another mansion deeply
embowered in trees and, at some considerable distance beyond it, an
enormous warehouse, yet one that was such a distance off that, since
the house itself was surrounded by the trees, it would in no way
disturb the peace of the latter or the views from it. And the mansion
itself now gleamed out white in the evening sun.

"It may well be her abode," Bevill thought to himself. "Very well it
may; and if it is not, then must I ask the whereabouts of the Weiss
Haus; or, maybe, it is across the river. Yet that matters not. I
passed a ferry but now."

When, however, he stood in front of that great white mansion he learnt
that he had found the house of her whom he had come from England to
seek.

Through the bars of the great iron gate which this mansion possessed
in common with the others hard by, Bevill could see the gardens laid
out in the stiff Dutch fashion he had so often seen before, though
still, it seemed to him as if some attempt had been made to give to
them an English appearance. Beyond the straight beds of tulips, the
flowers of which were now almost all gone, there was a lawn, or grass
plot, green as any lawn in England, smooth and well kept, and having
at its edges beds of roses placed in front of formal statues and
summer-houses.

"There is some touch of our land here," Bevill said to himself. "In
good truth, I do believe that I have found the lady."

Seeing through the bars an old man weeding 'twixt the rows of tulip
plants, though he seemed to do his work in a half-hearted way as
though indifferent to what success his efforts might produce, Bevill,
addressing him in the best Dutch he could summon up, asked, "Is this
the house of Mistress Thorne?"

"_Ja; Ja wohl_," the old man said, looking up from his work. "What do
you desire?"

"To see her. It is for that I am here."

The gardener let his eyes rove over Bevill as he received this answer,
and observed that he was well and handsomely dressed, although his
dress, and breast and neck lace, showed signs of travel in spite of
the brushing they had received; then he said:

"The Juffrouw sees little company now--none but old friends, and
specially none of those who lie out there or there," waving his hands
with a sweep which included, as Bevill very well understood, those who
lay outside the town and in the citadel and Chartreuse.

"It may be she will see me," Bevill said. "At least, I will make trial
of it. Take this," he continued, while drawing from his breast the
letter he had so recently furnished with a further wrapper and giving
it to the man; "and this for your labour," putting a rix-dollar into
his hand. "Now, go and do my bidding."

The coin did for Bevill that which, perhaps, neither the packet nor
his own tone of command might have been able to accomplish, and,
thrusting his hoe into one of the flower beds, the gardener went off
towards the white house, while muttering:

"I can take it as far as the stoop, but no farther. There it must be
given to a house servant, who may deliver it into the hands of the
Juffrouw. I can answer for no more."

"Do that, and it will serve. Make haste, the night falls; it is
growing late."

When the old man had shambled off, Bevill, standing by a thicket at
one side of the garden, let his eyes roam over the great white front
of the old, solid house while observing how firmly it had been built,
and how strong and handsome it was.

In front of the ground floor, to which three stone steps led up, there
ran a long verandah, also of stone: above, on the first floor, where,
Bevill supposed, the saloons were, there projected huge, bulging stone
balconies leading out from the windows, and on one of these there was
a great table placed, with chairs by it, so that he supposed people
sat out here in the cool of the evening when the sun was gone. Also,
there were flowers in china tubs everywhere, and orange trees and
shrubs all about, and awnings too, whereby the great house presented
not only a look of great solidity, but also one of comfort.

But now he saw the old gardener coming back towards him, and observed
that his hand no longer held the letter. And next he remarked
something else.

He saw a great striped curtain drawn back from behind the window, and
from behind a lace curtain also, and, a moment later, there stepped on
to the balcony a young woman clad all in black, though her long robe
was broidered with white lace--a woman who, he saw at one glance, was
tall and slight; while--also in the same glance--he perceived that she
was beautiful.

After which, as he advanced hat in hand, until he was almost directly
under that balcony where now the lady, her hands upon the edge, stood
looking down at him bowing before her, he saw that she waved a sign of
salutation to him, and, as she leant further over, said:

"Sir, for this visit I thank you. It is long since we have met. You
are vastly welcome. Enter my house, I beg. One of the domestics will
bring you to me."

With a bow, accompanied by a courteous acknowledgment of her words,
Bevill proceeded towards the house, when to his astonishment he heard
the old gardener, who had reached his side before this, mutter some
words in an angry voice--the words, "He here again! He! No matter.
To-night he shall not enter."

Attracted by these mutterings and also by the old man's glances
directed towards the great gate, Bevill could not refrain from
following those glances, and, as he did so, saw that a man's eyes were
staring in through the wrought-iron bars.

The eyes he recognised as those belonging to the same man who had
stared so inquiringly at him on the quay less than half an hour
before.



CHAPTER XIII.


The hall of this old house was large and square, its floor composed of
brown and yellow diamond-shaped marble tiles, over the greater part of
which were thrown down various rugs of gorgeous hues. Facing the
entrance was a large staircase, also of marble, that, after ascending
for five steps, turned to either side and so led up to a gallery
above, from which the first floor rooms opened all round.

Now, as Bevill entered the hall, he saw that Sylvia had descended from
that floor and was standing on the top step of the five awaiting him.
Then, as he approached, she descended the other four steps and, coming
swiftly towards him with both hands outstretched, exclaimed:

"So you are Bevill Bracton, who once played with me in the gardens of
Carey Villa at Fulham--the young man who pined to be a soldier and
became one. In truth, and I am well pleased to see you; yet, had I met
you elsewhere I should have scarce known you for my old playmate."

"Nor I you, Mistress Sylvia Thorne; for then you were a little winsome
child and now----"

"Now I am a woman. One too," she added, while a shade crept over her
face, "whom you find in sad and sorry plight. For, as you know, my
father has gone from me--from me who loved him so!--and I am here in
this beleaguered city, not knowing whether to leave it or stay on and
brave the worst. Yet be that as it may, I thank you for coming here,
for offering your services to your kinsman on my behalf."

Murmuring his regrets for the loss of her father and also for the
situation in which she found herself placed, while protesting that
that which he had done and hoped still more to do was nothing, Bevill
could not but let his eyes roam over the features of the young woman
who stood welcoming him. And, as he did so, he acknowledged how
truthfully the Comtesse de Valorme had spoken when she told him that
she had the gift of beauty.

For beautiful Sylvia Thorne was, with that beauty on which no man
gazes without giving instant acknowledgment thereof, even though that
acknowledgment is never outwardly expressed by eye or voice.

The child's large dark grey eyes--perhaps they were a dark hazel--yet
who may tell the shade of women's eyes at one swift glance!--fringed
with dark lashes, as he had recalled to the Earl of Peterborough,
were, of course, the same; but the rest had changed. The dark chestnut
hair that, in Sylvia's girlhood, had flowed loosely about her, was now
coiled in masses above her white forehead; the clear-cut features that
had promised so much in the young girl had redeemed in her young
womanhood that which they promised. And those quiet, calm eyes well
became the oval face, straight nose, and small mouth, the upper lip
being divinely short; while, when Lord Peterborough had agreed that
she was passing fair, and the Comtesse had said that she was beautiful
yet seemed not to know that she was so, each had judged aright. Also,
there was in her the tranquillity that the latter had spoken of, but
shadowed, too, by the memory of a recent sorrow. For the rest, she
was, like Rosalind, "more than common tall," upright, and full of
dignity; a woman who, as years went on--if they were peaceful, quiet
ones, with all that should accompany them, such as love, home, and
children; years undisturbed by the struggles for triumph or the tears
of failure--would develop into a stately, and it may be commanding
one.

Doubtless, as Bevill looked on Sylvia Thorne, so, also, she looked to
see what changes time had wrought in the youth who, once little better
than a stripling, was now a man, strong, firm, self-reliant. If so,
what she saw should not have impressed her unfavourably. The handsome
features had not altered, but only become more firmly set; the mouth,
well shaped, spoke of determination, and told of one who, without
obstinacy, would still remain unturned from any resolution he had come
to; the stalwart form of the man had taken the place of the tall,
promising youth.

Seated in that great hall into which by now the rays of the evening
sun were pouring, and to which two servants had brought great
candelabra filled with white wax candles, while they had already lit
those in the sconces on the pillars, Sylvia and Bevill spoke of what
the future might have before them. But that which Sylvia now told the
young man seemed scarcely to convey the idea that he had undertaken a
journey likely to bear much fruit.

"Since my dear father's death," she said, after Bevill had described
some portions of his journey from London, though omitting the fact of
his having been recognised by Sparmann, since he thought it
inadvisable to tell her that there was danger in his undertaking, "I
have lived here with a companion. Almost, one might say, a _chaperon_,
or, as the old tyrannical rulers of the land would have termed her, a
_duenna_. Yet now she has fallen sick--in truth, I think the French
have terrified her into a fever. Therefore she has departed--it was
but yesterday--to her own people at Brussels, where, however, she will
also find the French; and I am alone in this great house."

"What, in consequence, have you resolved on doing?"

"On shutting it up and seeking refuge at Mynheer Van Ryk's----"

"The house to which your friend the Comtesse de Valorme has gone!"
Bevill exclaimed.

They had already spoken of the Comtesse, Bevill telling Sylvia that
that lady had said the latter was well known to her, and also that she
had told him ere they parted that Van Ryk had married a connection of
hers.

"Yes, that is the house; yet--yet I know not if it is well for me to
go there. If----"

"But," said Bevill, "if you resolve to follow my lord's advice--and he
is left your guardian--and do me so great an honour as to permit me to
endeavour to escort you safely to England, you will scarce need to ask
for hospitality of Mynheer Van Ryk."

"I know not. Frankly, I know not what to do. To be very honest, you
should know I am in no danger here--from the French. They have their
faults, and those are neither few nor small; but they are gallant to
women, and, except that they drive hard bargains for all they require,
they have not molested those who dwell in the towns and cities they
either possess themselves of or surround."

"Until now," Bevill said, while feeling somewhat surprised and
somewhat disappointed, too, at this last utterance of Sylvia, since it
seemed to express a doubt on her part as to whether she should avail
herself of the service which he had come to perform--"until now they
have but made themselves secure of those towns and cities, with a view
to what the future may bring forth. But it is war time at last, and
half Europe has declared against France and Spain. Will France
restrain herself so much in the future? Especially since
Holland--the Netherlands--have banded with England against her?"

"Ah, yes; ah, yes," Sylvia replied meditatively. "It is true I had
forgotten that. Affairs will doubtless be much changed; and
also--also," she said in a low voice, as if speaking more to herself
than to Bevill, "I am averse to becoming an inmate of Mynheer Van
Ryk's house, hospitably as he has pressed me to do so."

Recognising that in this there lay hidden some reason which, probably,
Sylvia Thorne knew to be a good one for preventing her acceptance of
the hospitality of the Liégois house, yet still one which she did not
desire to confide to him, Bevill held his peace, and decided that it
did not become him to ask what that reason might be.

Yet, since he asked no question, nor, indeed, uttered any remark at
the conclusion of what Sylvia had said, she looked round at him as
though in wonderment at his silence.

Then, a moment later, she said:

"Between you and me there must be no secrets. The service you have
done me, the service you came here to render me, the service you may
yet do me--nay!" she said, seeing his motion of dissent, "it is in
truth a service. Do not refuse to regard it as one. There must, I say,
be no secrets between us. Therefore, I will be very frank, and tell
you why I do not like the thought of sojourning at Mynheer Van Ryk's."

Bevill made a motion with his hand, as though not only to deprecate
her appreciation of what he had undertaken to do on her behalf, but
also to prevent her from making any confidences to him that she would
have preferred not to divulge. But Sylvia, sitting upright in her
chair on the other side of the old carved oak table that was between
them--while he observed the calm, almost impassive, dignity with which
she spoke of a subject that must be far from pleasant to her--said:

"There is in that house a man--a young man--a kinsman of Madame
Van Ryk and, consequently, of the Comtesse de Valorme also,
who--who--well, wearies me with his attentions. He professes to admire
me, and desires that his admiration should be returned."

"Yes?" Bevill replied in a tone of inquiry, while in that tone there
was no expression of astonishment. It may be, indeed, that there was
no cause for astonishment in what Sylvia had told him. She was
beautiful--"passing fair," as he had himself said when musing on what
the child he had once known might have become by now, and as Lord
Peterborough had echoed; also she was young and--which might well
serve for much--wealthy. There was, he thought, no great cause for
wonderment. Therefore he said simply, "Yes?" and waited to hear more.

"The matter," Sylvia continued, "would be unworthy a thought, but that
it may make my sojourn at Mynheer Van Ryk's irksome to me."

"There being no hope of reciprocation?"

"It is impossible. To me this man--this Emile Francbois----"

"This _who?_" Bevill exclaimed in a voice that caused Sylvia to turn
round suddenly and glance at him under the lights of the great
candelabra. "Ah!" she exclaimed, "is it possible you know him, or know
of him?"

"No, no! The name struck me as--as one that I had heard before in--in
far-off days, while unable to recall where or in what circumstances I
had done so. I pray you pardon my interruption. You were about to say
that to you this man, this Emile--what is it?--Francbois was----"

"Repellent. He is--oh! I know not what--yet one whom I mistrust.
Neither know I why he is here. He is, of course, a Frenchman, yet he
consorts not with those who hold Liége in their hands, and speaks as
though his sympathy is with all who are Dutch."

"And, if he were different," Bevill asked quietly, "would your
sentiments be also different?"

"Oh--oh!" Sylvia exclaimed, "how can you ask? Yet it is true you do
not know him; you have not seen him yet. Doubtless you will do so,
however, if I am compelled to accept the hospitality of his kinsman's
house."

"Yet need there be no such compulsion. You will not have forgotten
what Lord Peterborough's desires are, what I am here for. To take you
away from Liége. Liége that, it is true, has not been harmful to you
as yet, but that may now become terribly so. The Earl of Marlborough
must be on his way here by this time; he may be in the Netherlands by
now; when he comes, war will be carried on in terrible earnest. Will
these French, who do but lie around this city at present, be
considerate for those who are within its walls when they themselves
are between those walls and the troops of the Allies?"

"For myself I do not fear. I am a woman, and therefore safe; but----"
"But--yes?"

"The risk will be terrible!"

"The risk? You are safe, yet fear the risk?"

"Not for myself," Sylvia answered with a half-smile; then, changing
her tone, speaking once more now in her calm, steady voice, she
continued: "Mr. Bracton, do you deem me a heartless, selfish woman
thinking only of her own safety? I pray not. Nay," seeing that he was
about to reply, "I entreat you, let me speak." After which she went
on: "For me there is little or no danger here. Your cousin, who has
ever had kindly thoughts for me, has overrated the danger in which I
stand. I repeat there is no danger. But--what of you? In what a
position has he placed you?"

"Ah! never think of it. What care I for danger? And--has he not told
you in the letter I was bearer of that I courted danger? I asked for
this office on which I now am. I besought him to let me be the
messenger who should reach you, who should be, if not the man who
saved you, at least the one who should accompany you, help you, serve
you in your journey to England."

"You are very brave," the girl said, looking up at him as now he stood
before her, since he had risen and taken up his hat, knowing that,
because the night had come, it was time he left her--"brave and
gallant. From my heart I thank you."

"No thanks are due. I do not deserve them. Do you know my unhappy
circumstances, and how I hope to mend them? Do you know how I, who
held not long ago the position I loved--the one I had hoped for since
I was a boy----"

"I know," Sylvia Thorne said, looking at him. "I know, and still I
thank you; and, in good faith, I would be gone willingly enough from
out this place, but not"--and for a moment, just a moment, her
stateliness left her, and she placed her hands before her eyes--"not
at the risk, the danger to you, that must surely arise."

"The danger is not worth a thought. The English are all around, are
near. Only a few hours ago I encountered some English officers not
twenty miles from here. Once we reach Athlone's forces, or those of
Lord Cutts, we are in safe hands. Our lines stretch from near Venloo
almost to Rotterdam; an English road would not be more safe. And the
sea is ours; the fleets of Rooke, of Shovel, are all about.
Decide--and come, I do beseech you."

"The danger to you," Sylvia said, as now she escorted him to the
verandah, "is neither in Holland nor on the high seas. It is here.
Here, in Liége! If it is once discovered that you, an Englishman, have
entered this city as a Frenchman, that you are endeavouring to quit it
while assisting a countrywoman to also do so, you will never leave it
alive. Never! Never! Your chivalry will have led you to your doom. Ah!
Mr. Bracton," she continued, "there is no danger to me; therefore, I
implore you, leave me. Leave me. Escape yourself, as, alone, you may
well do. Escape while there is time."

"Never!" While, as he spoke, Sylvia Thorne, looking at him in the
light of the now rising moon, saw that he smiled. "Never! If you will
not come, if you will not do your guardian's bidding, then I have
another resource."

"Another resource?"

"Why, yes: I stay here with you!"

"Ah, no! Ah, no!"

"Yes, I remain with you. When the Allies come near here, as come they
surely will--are they not besieging Kaiserswörth--do they not hold
Maestricht--is not Venloo, close by, threatened?--there will be
terrible trouble in Liége. Those French regiments outside will be
drawn nearer; some will be thrown into the city, besides those already
in the Citadel and the Chartreuse; a terrible state of things will
prevail, an awful licence. I know the French--we have met before!
Therefore I will not go and leave you, having found you. I undertook
to do this thing, and I will stand by my word--my word given to my
kinsman and your guardian. We leave this city together on our road to
the Allies, if not to England, or----"

"Yes--or----"

"We remain in it together. I will never set eyes on Peterborough's
face again till I stand before him with you by my side--and safe."

As Bevill Bracton spoke thus while standing, hat in hand, on the
crushed shells of the path below the verandah steps, and while looking
upwards at the young mistress of the great house, the summer night had
fallen almost entirely, and, beyond the faint light of the dusk and
that of the stars, all was dark around.

Also, the night was very still, save that, afar off, some nightingales
were singing in a copse, and, now and again, the voices of the boatmen
could be heard on the river and, sometimes, the splash and drip of
their oars as they touched the water.


[Illustration: "He could hear her words distinctly."--_p_. 506.]


The night was so still that, though Sylvia Thorne spoke now in little
more than a whisper, he, standing below and gazing up at her, could
hear her words distinctly.

"You will not go," she murmured; "you will not go, leaving me here.
Ah! well, you are truly brave and daring." Then, releasing the
tendrils of a passion flower growing round one of the great pillars,
with which she had been playing, she held out her hand while
continuing:

"A wilful man must have his way; but, at least, go now. Farewell.
Goodnight."

While, as Bevill turned away and went towards the gate, she murmured
to herself:

"Lord Peterborough should be proud to call you cousin, to have chosen
you as his emissary."



CHAPTER XIV.


Turning to look round once more, and to again salute Sylvia as he
reached the gate (at which he found the ancient gardener waiting to
let him out and make all fast when he had gone), he saw that the girl
still stood upon the balcony and, through the darkness of the night,
was looking towards the spot he had now reached. The flare of the
candles in the large candelabra within the hall streamed out of the
great open door, making a patch of light behind Sylvia and causing her
to stand out clearly before his eyes. By this he could perceive that
she was leaning against the pillar and looking down towards where he
was, and that behind her head the passion flowers gleamed white, as
though forming a setting to it.

Then, while doubting whether she could see his action, he nevertheless
raised his three-cornered hat again, and so passed out into the road
between the great gate and the river.

Once beyond the gate, however, he paused, and, dropping his hand to
his sash, took his sword-handle in it and softly drew the blade up and
down in the sheath to make sure that it ran loose and free.

"Francbois," he said to himself as he did so. "Francbois, Emile
Francbois! 'Tis strange I did not recall his name before. And he is
here in Liége. Also, he loves Sylvia, and would be loved by her. So,
so; that way trouble may come. Od's heart!--soon we shall have as good
a comedy here--or will it be a tragi-comedy?--as ever George Farquhar
or Mrs. Centlivre has written. Well, we will see to it."

Continuing his way towards the "Gouden Leeuw," and continuing it
warily too, for he knew not whether from behind some wall, either of
warehouse or solid, comfortable mansion, he might not see in the
moonlight a pair of dark eyes glinting at him, or the phosphorescent
sparkle of a rapier's blade that an instant later might be making
trial of his coat's thickness, he also continued to muse.

"Sparmann at Antwerp and then at St. Trond--what was it seized on that
vagabond and caused him to hold his hand and disappear?--and now
Francbois here! Francbois, who was at the Lycée in Paris with me--the
boy I sometimes beat for his impertinence regarding my countrymen, and
to whom I sometimes gave a trifle for doing my impositions. And I did
not know him this evening! Ah, well, 'tis not so strange either.
Thirteen years have changed him much. If they have done the same for
me, it may be that neither does he know me. And yet--and yet--I would
be sworn he did. One glances not at another as he glanced at me
without having good reason for't."

As Bevill Bracton reflected, so the matter was. This Emile Francbois,
this man who had stared so at him on the Quai as he went towards the
Weiss Haus--this man who had undoubtedly followed him to that house,
and peered in through the bars of the gate while evidently aghast at
discovering that the other, whom he knew to be an Englishman, was also
known to the woman whose love he desired--had been a schoolfellow of
Bevill's in Paris.

And, now, the latter recalled him, as he had done from the moment
Sylvia uttered his name. He recalled the slight, sickly-looking boy
who came from Limousin and dwelt with a priest outside the Lycée--the
boy who told tales of his comrades both inside and outside of school
that often earned for them beatings and punishments. Also, he recalled
how preternaturally clever this boy was, how easily he mastered
lessons and subjects that other scholars stumbled over, and how he
made money by his wits, by doing the lessons and impositions of those
others for them.

"The man is," Bevill continued to muse, "what the boy has been; the
boy is what the man will become. I doubt me not that as Emile
Francbois was, so he is now. Crafty and clever, fawning and malignant.
Ready to obtain money by any unclean trick. He knows my name; he will
not have forgotten it--if he has, he will soon recall it. If there is
aught to be earned by betraying, by denouncing me, then he will do it.
I must find the means of silencing him. Yet how? Shall I give him
money, or, better still, this," and he fingered the quillon of his
sword as thus he meditated.

"So he loves Sylvia, does he?" he went on, as now he drew near the
'Gouden Leeuw,' "and she despises him. Ah! 'tis very well; the game is
afoot. If she does not set out soon for England with me, it is as like
as not that I shall never set out at all. All the same, I will take no
trouble in advance."

After which he entered the inn, though not before he had looked well
around to see if anyone--if Francbois--might be hovering near to spy
on him; and so went to bed and slept peacefully.

Meanwhile, among many others in Liége who that night, as every night,
were full of thoughts and anxieties as to what was soon to take place
either in it or outside it, Sylvia Thorne was one. The Weiss Haus was
closed now for the night, the great hall door barred firmly, with, in
the house, some of her menservants keeping watch by turns. For these
were truly troublous times. At any moment the French might be attacked
by some of the forces of the Allies, in which case they would in all
probability instantly enter the city and quarter themselves wherever
accommodation might be found. Therefore, all property was in imminent
danger; at any moment the burghers old houses might be turned into
barracks and their warehouses into stables, their granaries taken
possession of, and their servants used as the beleaguerers' own.

To-night, however, all was peaceful; the city was very quiet;
excepting only the distant sounds that occasionally reached Sylvia's
ears from the French lines--the call of a trumpet or bugle and,
sometimes, the hoarse challenge of a sentry in the Citadel, or the
Chartreuse, borne towards her on the soft evening breeze--nothing
disturbed those who slept or watched.

Seated in her own room, with the window set open for coolness, Sylvia
was thinking deeply over the sudden appearance of Bevill Bracton, and,
womanlike, she was dreaming over that which never fails to appeal to a
woman's stronger senses--a man's bravery, the more especially when
that bravery has been testified, aroused, on her behalf.

Now, though still she knew that he had set out upon this perilous
journey towards her--this undertaking whose risks had scarce begun as
yet--intent on doing something gallant that should earn the
approbation of Marlborough when it came to his ears, she did not put
that in the balance against him. For, womanlike again, she told
herself that, no matter what his original object might have been in
entering on this task, no matter that he would as willingly have taken
part in some terrible siege or fought unaided against a dozen foemen
as endeavour to assist her, now her own personality was merged in his
great attempt, it must be she, and not his prospects, that would
henceforth be paramount.

Even had Sylvia not thought thus, even had it happened that Bevill
Bracton, sojourning in this beleaguered city, had chanced to hear that
she might stand in need of help, and, hearing, had proffered that
help, she would have admired his prompt, unselfish chivalry as much.

"'I stay here with you,'" she murmured now, repeating the words he had
uttered. "'We leave together or remain together.' Ah, my Lord
Peterborough," she murmured, "you spoke truly when you wrote that you
sent a knight to me, a sentinel to keep watch and ward for me."

She put her hand now to the lace she wore, and, drawing forth the
Earl's letter, read it again, as she had done thrice over since she
had entered the house after hearing the last footfall of Bevill
Bracton in the road when he left her. It ran:


"SWEET SYLVIA,

"War is declared now. Well I know that, placed as you are, your
situation is precarious. You will be alone in Liége; your house, your
goods, your own fair self in jeopardy. For the first two it matters
little. You may close the house up; dispose of the merchandise to some
of the steady burghers amongst whom you dwell. But you--you, my
stately, handsome ward! You must not be left alone. What shall become
of you? Now read, Sylvia. There was with me to-day one who, as Will
Shakespeare says, seeks his reputation--a restoration of it--at the
cannon's mouth. You knew him once; he has played with you oft in your
childhood. 'Tis Bevill Bracton, once of the Cuirassiers, who lost his
colours because our late sour Orange contemned him for wounding of a
Hollander who had insulted his service. He is young, yet steady and
calm; what he attempts to do he will do unless Death seizes on him.
Therefore he will attempt to reach you, to assist you to leave Liége,
to put you in security either in some of _les villes gagnées_ by us,
or in England itself. In return for which, use him; above all, trust
him. He will be your very knight, your sentinel to watch and ward over
you. Accept his service as he proffers it to you, the service of a
gallant gentleman. He seeks his restoration to his calling, I say;
that is the guerdon he aspires to for his pains. It may be that he
will win another, sweeter to wear than either corselet or plume. Yet
of this I would fain not speak. Only, above all, be merciful. Be not
too grave nor solemn--not more so than becomes a maiden placed 'midst
difficulties. Be gracious as you ever are, yet not too kind; above
all, veil those glances that even I, Mordanto, could not resist were I
as young as your cavalier that is to be.

"This for the last. He bears your miniature about him. I will be sworn
he will know your lineaments well long ere he reaches Liége. And still
one more last word. In your fair hands will be all his earthly
chances, even unto his life; his future career, when he has found you.
Make no false step that may mar his plans; hesitate not when he
suggests the road to safety; hamper him not. Follow where he will lead
you; it will not be astray. That soon may I welcome you to Carey Villa
is my prayer. That is if I, who long to draw the sword against these
French once more, be still thwarted and refused. Farewell. Out of my
love for your dead father and mother and your young self, I pray
heaven to prosper you.

"PETERBOROUGH AND MONMOUTH."


Sylvia let the letter fall to her lap as she finished the reading of
it, and sat gazing out of her window across the river beyond the
garden wall, while watching, without seeing, the stars that twinkled
in the skies; while listening to, without hearing, the nightingale
answering his mate or the swirl of the water against the bank.

"All his earthly chances, his life, his career in my hands," she
whispered at last, "when once he has found me. Alas! on me there falls
a heavy charge. And 'hesitate not when he suggests the road to
safety.' Ah, heaven, what shall I do?"

As still she pondered over these words she became almost o'erwrought;
but suddenly it seemed as though some swift decision, some decisive
banishment of all doubt, had come to her mind. Springing up from the
deep chair in which she had been sitting for so long, she went to the
window and out on to the great stone balcony which it, in common with
all the other windows on the front, possessed: and stood there, gazing
towards the city in which, one by one, the lights were rapidly
becoming extinguished.

"His life," she murmured once again, "his earthly chances in my hands.
His--the life, the chances of one so brave and gallant as he! Ah! and
my lord bids me not mar him, not thwart him, but, instead, follow him
where he leads. And still I hesitate--or--do I hesitate?" she went on,
whispering to herself.

Then, an instant later, she exclaimed, "What am I? What? That which I
averred to-night I was not? A selfish woman! Am I that? Am I? Because I
am not in personal danger shall I forget the awful, hideous peril in
which he has placed himself in undertaking this task? Nay, never," she
said now. "Never! Never! Perish the thought! To detain him here, as
detain him I shall if I refuse to go, means detection, ruin, death for
him. Oh! oh! the horror of it! And on my head! But to go--if heaven
above prospers us--may mean at least escape from this place, may
doubtless mean the reaching of the English or Dutch forces. Safety!
Safety for him! I am resolved." While, as Sylvia spoke, she struck the
stone parapet of the balcony lightly with her hand. "Aye, determined.
To-morrow--for to-morrow I shall surely see him--I will tell him so. I
will tell him that I fear for my safety--the pretence is pardonable
where a brave man's life is at stake--that we must go. All, all is
pardonable so that he be saved!"

On the morrow she did see him again, though not as early as she had
anticipated she would do. Yet she knew there was a reason for his
absence, and that a strong one.

From daybreak there had been a strange, unaccustomed stir through all
the city--a stir that made itself noticeable even here on the
outskirts. The Liégeois seemed to have arisen early, even for them,
and were gathering at street corners and on the stoops of their quaint
houses, and under market-halls that stood on high wooden posts. Also,
on the river, there was more movement than usual; boats were passing
up and down more continuously than they had done before; all was life
and movement.

Sylvia, who had herself risen early after a somewhat disturbed night,
was now regarding as much of this as possible from her balcony. On the
opposite bank she could see the rays of the morning sun strike on some
objects that glistened and sparkled beneath it, and recognised what
those things were--breast-pieces, corselets, the lace on scarlet or
blue coats, the scabbards of swords, and, often, the bare swords
themselves. She heard, too, the sounds of drums beating and bugles
sounding; while, from across the water, there came orders, issued in
sharp, decisive tones, and, next, pontoons filled with soldiers
crossing the river and disembarking at various points on the other
side.

After seeing which Sylvia descended to the hall and asked those who
were about downstairs what all the movement and excitement meant.

"It is the French coming into the city, Juffrouw," one of the
servitors replied. "They say the Earl of Athlone's forces draw near,
that Kaiserswörth is taken by the Allies. Also they say----"

"What?" Sylvia exclaimed, impatient of the man's slow, stolid speech.

"That the great English commander, Marlborough, has come; that he is
in Holland; that ere long he will march to relieve Liége."

Sylvia turned away as she heard these words, and went out slowly into
her garden and sat down in an arbour placed half-way between the house
and the great gate.

"Will this," she mused now, "tell for or against his chances--our
chances? The city will be occupied by the French, instead of having
them outside of it. Alas! alas! it will be against those chances. He
runs more risk with the streets and inns full of French officers and
soldiers than with none but the townspeople inside the walls. Also,
the difficulties of exit are multiplied now. Heaven send the English
forces here at once or keep them away until we are safely out of
Liége."

Thinking, pondering thus, the girl sat on for some time, though at
intervals she would return to the house to give some orders or to ask
if there were any further news from outside. In this manner the
morning ran away and the day went on; but, at last, when Sylvia began
to be alarmed at the absence of the man for whose safety she was so
concerned, she saw that he was before her. Raising her eyes, she
observed that he was standing outside the gate gazing in at her.

This gate, as always of late, was kept locked, the key being left in
the lock on the inside; and now, full of some feminine fear or
instinct which seemed to hint that while Bevill was outside the gate
he stood in more danger than if he were inside, with the great
structure between him and those who might seek to harm him, she went
swiftly down and turned the key, while bidding him come in quickly.
Pushing with his shoulder one of the great halves of that gate, he had
soon done as she bid him, while she, holding out her hand to him,
exclaimed:

"You have not--not been--oh! Danger has not threatened you?" seeming
to gasp a little as she spoke.

"Nay, nay; why should you fear?" he replied. "Though that you should
do so is but natural. The French are sending in two of their regiments
the better to hold the town if their out-lines are driven back; yet
you will not be molested?"

"I--" Sylvia said, though now she spoke in a more self-constrained
voice--a voice that, maybe, had in it a colder accent, "was not
concerned for--for--but no matter. I did but deem that with the city
full of French now you might have been--troubled--molested."

"Ah, forgive me. I misunderstood your thoughts. Now," he continued, "I
have brought you news that may be either pleasant to you or otherwise.
Marlborough is in Holland."

"I know," she said, as she led him out of the glare of the sun towards
the cool shade of the hall. "I know. Yet it may be that this news is
none too pleasant. I--I--had resolved last night to quit the city, as
both you and my Lord Peterborough think it best for me to do; to
consult"--and as she spoke her voice seemed even more grave, more cold
than before--"_my safety_. Now it may not be so easy to perform."

"I' faith," Bevill said, with a smile, "easy is not the word. The
gates are barred against all and everyone. Short of being a French
soldier there is no exit from Liége now."



CHAPTER XV.


Though the approach of the Allies had not taken place within a week
from the time when it was supposed to be near, and was at least
premature, the two regiments of soldiers--that of La Reine and that of
Les Gardes Françaises--as well as two squadrons of the Mousquetaires
Noirs, remained in the city. To supply these with temporary barracks
some of the large warehouses on the quays had been occupied by the
French (who, however, spared all dwelling-houses), and amongst them
were Sylvia's warehouses.

But the proximity of these troops had rendered the Weiss Haus no
longer an agreeable place of residence to her, and, consequently, she
had accepted the oft-repeated invitation of Mynheer Van Ryk and his
wife to occupy their house with them. Neither the would-be host or
hostess were, however, aware that she had come to the determination of
quitting Liége at any moment that an opportunity should arise.

Nor, indeed, would it have been easy for Sylvia to explain her reason
for thus desiring to be gone. If she had stated that it was her
intention to escape out of the city, the sober-reasoning minds of the
Van Ryks would simply have formed the opinion--which was, in absolute
fact, the one she had herself long since arrived at--that she was far
safer in Liége than she would have been in quitting it and traversing
a land now swarming with contending armies.

Yet how would it be possible for her to, on the other hand, inform
them that her reason for departing was not that of self-preservation
at all, but, instead, of consulting the safety of a man who, in his
desire to serve her, no matter what the origin of that desire was, had
placed himself in terrible peril?

One person existed, however, who was well aware of all Sylvia's
thoughts and intentions; who could understand the nobility of the
girl's mind in deciding to quit a place in which she was in no
likelihood of danger, simply with the view to the preservation of a
man who might at any moment be exposed to the greatest of dangers.
Consequently, this person, who was the Comtesse de Valorme, not only
admired Sylvia for her intentions, but, since she herself was equally
desirous of quitting Liége for her own purposes, had decided not only
to render assistance to the undertaking, if it were possible to do so,
but also to form one of the fugitives.

"Yet," said Sylvia to the Comtesse, as now they talked over the
determination they had both come to, "fresh troubles arise at every
step. 'Twas but this afternoon that M. de Belleville"--for so both
ladies spoke of Bevill for precaution's sake, though the Comtesse had
known for days that he was an Englishman--"confided to me that M.
Francbois was once at school with him in Paris, and that he can by no
chance have forgotten what his country is nor what his name is."

"Where should the trouble be?" the Comtesse asked. "Francbois is a
crafty man, especially when craft may serve his purpose. But here it
will serve none. Were he to denounce M de Belleville, it might, in
truth, lead to the latter's downfall, but would not enrich him. Your
friend would be tried as a spy and----"

"No, no! Say it not!" Sylvia exclaimed, with a shudder, understanding
well enough what the next word must have been. "Say it not. Think how
nobly, how chivalrously, he has found his way here."

"It would not enrich Francbois," the Comtesse repeated; "therefore he
has no reason to betray him."

As she spoke these words, however, Sylvia knew very well that
Francbois had not only one reason for betraying Bevill, but had very
plainly told her that, if driven to desperation, he would undoubtedly
betray him.

Living in the same house that Sylvia was now in, since he too was a
connection of the Van Ryks, Francbois had countless opportunities of
pressing his suit with her, and these opportunities he did not
neglect. And then, after he had discovered that not only was this
Englishman, whom he hated in his boyhood, here in Liége under a false
name and nationality but, as he had also learnt, was in the habit of
seeing Sylvia frequently, he had added to this discovery a very strong
suspicion that he was an English admirer, if not lover, of hers. But
that there was any intention on their part of quitting Liége he did
not as yet imagine. Even so, however, he knew enough.

This Englishman, passing as a Frenchman, was, he admitted, handsome,
gallant, and _debonnaire_--a man whom any woman might well love and be
proud to love. And Sylvia, he remembered, had refused all the
addresses that other men had attempted to pay her, including his own.
She was ever cold, stately, and almost contemptuous of men's
admiration. Yet now, now that this man had appeared, they had been
much together, as his own observations had shown him--was it not
possible that, in her frequent visits to England with her father, she
had met this countryman of hers and learnt to love him, and that now
he was here, not only to carry on his suit, but also to be with her in
time of trouble? He knew too that, although Bevill had not yet entered
Van Ryk's house, he had met Sylvia and the Comtesse on the quays and
in the public gardens of the city. He did, indeed, know enough.

Therefore, this very day, he had spoken plainly to the girl--so
plainly that, without indulging in any actual threats, he had made her
see clearly how much there was to fear from him if she still refused
to listen to his protestations, his desire to obtain her hand.


[Illustration: "This very day he had spoken plainly to the
girl."--_p_. 513.]


"What does he threaten, what hint at?" the Comtesse de Valorme asked
as she listened to all that Sylvia told her; while, as she spoke,
there was a strange look in her eyes.

"He threatens nothing, yet suggests much. He said but this morning
that a word to M. de Violaine, who is in command of the Citadel----"

"Monsieur de Violaine! De Violaine! The Brigadier! Is he in command of
the Citadel?"

"Why, yes. So Monsieur Francbois said. Do you know him?"

"Ay, very well, for many years. He is, like me, from the South. So! A
hint to him. Well! What is this hint to convey? What harm is it to
do?"

"To cause Mr. Brac--M. de Belleville to be arrested as an Englishman
passing as a Frenchman, and doubtless, in the French mind, as a spy.
To be tried as the latter--to be executed. Ah, no, no, no!" Sylvia
concluded. "Not that--surely not that."

"Let him denounce your compatriot to M. de Violaine. Bid him do so
when next he makes his vile suggestion. Only, to the defiance add
this: ask him if he knows to what faith M. de Violaine belongs; ask
him if he knows which man the Governor of the Citadel would deal
harder with--an Englishman passing under the garb of a Frenchman, or a
Frenchman who is----"

"What?"

"Ah! well, no matter for the present. Also, on second thoughts, do not
ask him that. Instead, say: Madame de Valorme is a friend of M. de
Belleville. He who injures him incurs her enmity. It will be enough.
Now tell me, when do you expect to see your countryman again?"

"He is coming to-night to see us both. Alas! he may not come in open
daylight, since he recognises that it is not well for him and
Francbois to meet here face to face. But still he would fain see you,
since you have promised to leave the city with us, if such a thing can
be accomplished; also he comes to tell us how stands the chance of our
succeeding."

"When does he come?"

"At nightfall. Knowing that Mynheer keeps his bed of a quinsy, and
Madame stays with him, while Francbois has gone to see his friends at
the Jesuits' College----"

"Ah! his friends at the Jesuits' College," the Comtesse repeated
quietly.

"Monsieur de Belleville will come in by the garden gate. It may be, he
says, that he will have discovered some chance, or, at least, have
conceived some scheme whereby we shall be enabled to leave the city
and make our way to the Allied Forces."

"Does he know my mission, the reason why I so ardently desire to see
Lord Marlborough? Does he know why I so long to cast myself at that
commander's feet--to beg him, to implore him on my knees to send the
long-promised aid of England to those of our persecuted faith in
Languedoc? To send it now--now--when France is attacked on all sides,
when England and Holland are hemming her in with bands of steel in the
north, when Prince Eugene is hurling his armies against her in Italy.
For now is the time. Now! Now!"

"He knows," Sylvia said, touching her friend's hand gently. "I have
told him."

"And does he know the rest? All. Have you told him that?"

"Oh, do not speak of it! Do not think of it! Ah, Radegonde!"
addressing the other by her Christian name. "Do not speak of it, I
entreat you."

"Not speak of it! Not think of it!" the Comtesse exclaimed, while as
she did so her eyes were wet with tears, her cheeks being also as wet
with them as leaves bedashed with rain, her whole frame being shaken
with emotion. "As well bid me not dream of it night by night, nor let
my existence be broken with unhappy memories. Not think of my father's
death--my father, an old, grey-haired, feeble man!--in the dungeons of
Nîmes--my father, who, had he not thus died, would have been broken on
the wheel. Not think of that! Nor, perhaps of my husband----"

"Oh, Radegonde!"

"----sent to the galleys, beaten, driven to his doom even as he sat
lashed to the oar. He! young, gallant, an honest, God-fearing man! And
all for what? For what? Because they and thousands like them--all good
and true subjects of this tyrant Louis, of this priest-ridden,
woman-ridden Louis--did but wish to worship in their own way! Not
think of it! My God! shall I ever cease to think of it?"

"Nay, do not weep, I implore you," Sylvia exclaimed. "The English will
help; so, too, will all the Netherlands. All who think and worship as
those in the South worship will help. And soon, soon, freedom, peace,
must come. An end must come to all their sufferings."

"Does he know all this?" the Comtesse asked again when her passionate
sorrow had somewhat spent itself. "Does he? If not, he must do so.
Otherwise, what will he deem me--me, a Frenchwoman seeking to reach
Marlborough, the most hated, the most feared foe of France!"

"He knows," Sylvia whispered, "and, knowing, understands all."

But by now the night was near at hand. Through the great, open,
bow-shaped window of the solid Dutch house was wafted the scent of
countless summer flowers, the perfume of the roses, now dashed with
the evening dews, mingling with that of many others. Also the sounds
that summer always brings more plainly to the ears were not wanting;
the birds were twittering in the trees ere roosting for the short
night; from the Abbey of St Paul the solemn sounds of the great bell
boomed softly while the silver-toned carillons joined in unison. In
other of the city gardens close by the voices of little children could
be heard as they played their last rounds ere going to their beds, all
unconscious, or, at least, unheeding, in their innocence that they
were in a beleaguered city that, if war's worst horrors rolled that
way, might ere long be the scene of awful carnage and see its old
streets drenched with blood.

"It is the time, Sylvia," the Comtesse said, "that he should come. Is
the gate unlocked?"

"Nay, not yet. I will go and see to it." And Sylvia, passing through
the low window and down the steps to the garden, went along the
neatly-kept path towards where the gate was.

Then, at the moment she was about to turn the key in the lock, and,
next, to leave the solid wooden gate an inch ajar, so that, when
Bevill came, he might push it open as he had done more than once since
she had taken up her abode in this house, she heard a footstep outside
in the lane--one that she had already learnt to know well enough!

"Ah," she exclaimed, turning the key quickly and drawing back the
door, while she held out her hand to Bevill a moment afterwards. "Ah!
you have come."

"To the moment," he replied, taking her outstretched hand and bending
over it. "Did I not say that I would be here before the carillon had
finished its chimes? And here am I! Yet--yet--almost I doubted if it
were well for me to come to-night----"

"You doubted that!" Sylvia exclaimed, while stopping on their way
towards the house to look up at him. "You doubted if you would come!
Knowing how we were waiting here, how we were expecting your coming!"

"Ay, knowing what danger lurks near to you; to your desire and that of
Madame de Valorme to quit Liége. Also, in a lesser degree, to me,
though that matters not----"

"That matters not!" the girl exclaimed, repeating his words again,
while in the dusk he could see her starry eyes fixed on his--eyes that
resembled the stars themselves gleaming through the mists of summer
nights--"that matters not!"

"Danger," he went on, unheeding, though not unobserving, "if Francbois
knows my movements, if he knows that we meditate aught like flight
from Liége. Have you not told me of his unwelcome desires and
hopes--of his----?"

"Hark! Stop!" Sylvia whispered, interrupting him. "Listen. There is
another footstep in the lane. It may be he--following, tracking you.
And the gate is open! Heavens, he is there! The footfall stops. If his
suspicions are aroused he will halt at nothing. He will denounce you!"

"Will he? We will see to that. Go back to the room, welcome him as he
returns----"

"But you? You! The danger is yours, not mine."

"I am safe. I fear nothing."

"Ah, yes; when he has entered you can escape, can leave by the door.
'Tis so. Farewell until to-morrow. Farewell." And as swiftly as might
be, the tall, graceful form of Sylvia sped back to the room while
Bevill, crossing the grass plot, entered an arbour at the side of it.

"Ha!" he said to himself. "Escape! Leave by the door! She does not
know me yet. Escape!" and as he spoke he drew still further within the
darkness of the arbour.

Neither he nor Sylvia had been too soon in their action. Looking
through the interstices of The vines which were trained to grow
outside the open woodwork of the arbour, Bevill saw that Francbois was
advancing up the path towards the steps leading to the open window of
the old room.

As he did so, however, a reflection entered his mind which caused him
to wonder if, after all, there was any connection between Francbois'
doing so and his own visit. The man lived here with the Van Ryks.
Might it not be, therefore, that this was his ordinary way of
returning home? A moment later, however, Bevill recognised that this
could not be so. The gate was always locked inside at night; as was
the case with himself but just now, and on former visits during the
week, it had to be unlocked from the inside for entrance to be
obtained.

"Francbois comes this way to-night," he muttered, "because he knows,
has seen, that I too did so!" and as he so thought he brought his sash
a little more round and felt to discover if his sword ran smoothly in
its sheath.

Meanwhile, the other had entered through the open window of the room,
and had found Sylvia by herself, since the Comtesse must have quitted
it for some purpose during the time the girl had gone to unlock the
gate. He could see that she was by herself, for the lamp, which had
been brought in some time earlier, was turned fully up.

"Mademoiselle is alone," Francbois said, though as he spoke his eyes
were peering into the corners of the room that, in spite of the lamp,
were in partial darkness; and also peering, as far as possible, behind
the great Java screens. "Alone!"

"Apparently," Sylvia replied in the usual indifferent tones she
adopted towards this man. "Madame de Valorme was here a moment since."

"Madame de Valorme!" Francbois echoed. "Madame de Valorme alone?"

"Whom else did you expect to see?"

"One whom I had good reason to suppose was here--your 'French' friend,
Monsieur de Belleville."

"Your eyes prove to you that your supposition is wrong."

"Surely he has entered the house. I followed behind him on my way
here."

"He has not entered the house. That you 'followed' him I do not doubt
And, even had he entered the house, which as I tell you he has not
done, you are not the master of it. Also, Mynheer Van Ryk, who is, has
bade me welcome here any whom I desire to receive."

"It is incredible!" Francbois said. "Incredible. He passed down the
lane before me. And--and--that door," pointing to one which led out of
the room into a small library or study, "is not fast shut. And there
is a light within."

"Monsieur Francbois," Sylvia said very quietly, and now she stood
before him drawn to her full height, stately, contemptuous, as an
affronted queen might stand, "if you choose to believe your own
thoughts as against what I tell you, do so. Look in that room and see
if my 'friend,' Monsieur de Belleville, is there. Only, from the
moment you have done so, never dare to address one word to me again.
There," extending her arm, "is the door. Enter the room and observe
for yourself. Afterwards, you will doubtless search the house."


[Illustration: "'Enter the room and observe for yourself.'"--_p_.
515.]


Vacillating, uncertain how to decide; sure, too, that his eyes had not
deceived him, Francbois knew not what to do. If he looked in the room
and did not find the Englishman, then his remotest chance with Sylvia
was gone for ever; while, if he did find him there, his recollection
of Bevill's earlier character told him that he would have to pay a
heavy reckoning for his curiosity. Yet, how could the man be there?
Would Sylvia have bidden him enter the room had that been so; would
she have bidden him do that which must stamp her as utterly untruthful
should the Englishman be found?

Still halting, not knowing what to do, he nevertheless took a step or
two towards the library door, while observing that Sylvia's glance was
fixed contemptuously on him; then, suddenly, he exclaimed, "I will
know!" and advanced close to the door.

At that moment it opened wide and the Comtesse de Valorme appeared.

"You see," she said, speaking with withering scorn, "I am the only
person the room contains. Now do as Sylvia suggested--search the
house."

"Monsieur Francbois need scarcely trouble so far as that," a voice
said from the foot of the garden steps, while all turned their eyes on
Bevill standing below. "I have heard enough to know that he seeks an
opportunity of speaking with me. Monsieur Francbois, I pray you to
descend. I, too, must have some talk with you. Afterwards, we can
arrange our affairs pleasantly, I do not doubt. You understand?"
looking at Francbois.



CHAPTER XVI.


Francbois, his face become suddenly ashy, as both ladies observed,
from the moment he had heard Bevill's voice and saw its owner standing
at the foot of the steps, nevertheless did as he was invited and went
out to the verandah. Then, seeing that, without any further word or
sign, the Englishman was slowly making his way towards the gate, he
followed him. Yet once the thought came to his mind as he did so, "If
this were not the garden of the house wherein I dwell, if those women
were not there, how easy 'twould be--now, as he walks ahead
disdainfully--to put him out of my path, for ever." While, as he thus
thought, his hand itched to draw the spadroon at his side.

In the room which he had left, the women were now standing at the open
window, gazing down at the figures of the retiring men. On Sylvia's
face there was a look of intense anxiety, of nervousness--an
expression that, on the face of a woman of less heroic mould, might
have been construed into one of fear. But, though this look was not,
truly, one that depicted fear, the agitation that possessed her whole
being was the outcome of fear. Not for herself--that could never
be!--but for him--him--the man whose every path, every footstep, was
day by day and hour by hour becoming more environed and beset by
danger.

"And the bitterness of it all is," she thought to herself, "that the
danger need never have arisen. I was safe. Short of this city being
besieged by the English and fired by grenades or bombarded, or sacked
and destroyed by the French in their rage, naught could harm me. Yet,
to protect me, to shield me from harm, as he deemed in his chivalry,
danger surrounds his every movement, his whole existence. How--
how--shall I therefore save him, how repay him in turn? If we
cannot leave this city, if I cannot save him by the pretence, the
make-believe, that he is saving me--oh! what shall become of him?
What?"

"They have passed out through the gate," the Comtesse said at this
moment. "They----"

"What! is he going to kill him? To force him into a duel?"

"'Twere well he should do so," the Comtesse de Valorme said in a hard,
dry voice that sounded strangely in Sylvia's ears, or would have done
so had she not been too agitated to observe the tone of the other.
"Very well it would."

"Radegonde! How can you speak so of one allied to you, one dwelling
beneath the same roof as you? He has not harmed you; he is only
dangerous in so far that we fear the harm he may do."

"While Francbois and Monsieur de Belleville inhabit this city there is
no safety for your friend. I know Francbois. He is treacherous, subtle
as a snake, and--and--it is much to his interests to have M. de
Belleville removed from--well, from your companionship."

"Why?" the girl asked, looking at her companion. "Why?" Though, as she
spoke, there came to her face the rose-blush that had but recently
quitted it.

"You should guess why as easily as I. M. de Belleville," the Comtesse
continued quietly, "is the representative of your guardian. Do you
imagine that, holding this office, he would look with approval on
Francbois' desires to--to--ah! you know what he desires."

"If," said Sylvia, speaking now with her usual calm, "neither my
guardian nor Monsieur de Belleville had any existence, M. Francbois'
desires would be no nearer their attainment. Ah," she exclaimed
suddenly, "what is that? Is it the clash of swords? Listen!"

"I heard nothing. The night is tranquil; there is no sound. Sylvia,
you are overwrought, overstrung. What do you fear? Such as Francbois
cannot slay one such as he, except by treachery, by betrayal."

"If I fear aught it is that he should slay Francbois. I would not have
a gallant gentleman stain his sword with the blood of such as that man
is. I would not have Monsieur de Belleville bring fresh trouble, fresh
risks of danger on himself."

That Sylvia was, indeed, overwrought must have been the case since,
undoubtedly, she could have heard as yet no clash of swords proceeding
from the spot which the two men had reached some minutes before.

When Bevill Bracton, followed by Francbois, had passed through the
gate giving from the garden into the lane, he had continued for some
paces until, arriving beneath the foliage of a tree that protruded
over the wall of another property, he halted and, turning round, faced
the other. Then he said:

"Monsieur Francbois, you remember me. We were at school years ago at
the Lycée Saint Philippe. You have not forgotten?"


[Illustration: "'Monsieur Francbois, you remember me.'"--_p_. 553.]


"I have forgotten nothing. You are an Englishman. Your name
is--_peste!_--I--I know it, yet for the moment it has escaped me.
Nevertheless, I shall recall it."

"It would be best that you should not endeavour to recall it," Bevill
said, looking down on the man--and there was light enough for
Francbois to see that the glance was a stern, determined one. "Also
that you do not intrude on my affairs. If you do so, it will be
dangerous for you."

"Dangerous for me!" the other exclaimed, with a contemptuous laugh.
"For me! On my life, monsieur, it is not I who stand in danger here.
Liége is dominated by the French, and I am a Frenchman. You are an
Englishman. Your life is not worth a fico if that is once known."

"Short of you and what you may do, it cannot be known. Now listen to
me. I am here in the garb of a private man, desiring not to draw my
sword either in the disputes between your country and mine, or in
personal quarrel. But that sword lies against my side ever ready to
leap from its scabbard--as it will if I am thwarted in what I have set
myself to do; if I am betrayed or falsely denounced by anyone--by you,
since there is no other here who can do so. Ponder therefore on
whether it will profit you to thwart, to betray me."

"_Ohé!_" Francbois exclaimed in a light and airy tone, which was
probably but a poor outward sign of what his inward feelings were. "If
it comes to drawing swords--ay, and crossing them too--there are
others who can do as much. We Frenchmen know something of the
swordsman's art. Witness how you English cross the Channel to take
lessons in it from us."

"That is true. I myself took those lessons, and I have profited by
them."

"Ah I it may be so," Francbois said, though the recollection of this
fact, which for the moment he had forgotten, did not add much to his
equanimity. "But as for the betrayal! Once betrayed, a man has little
chance of avenging himself on his betrayer. The rat in the cage cannot
bite his captor."

"He can bite him before he is caged. Now listen to me, Francbois. If I
supposed to-night that you came into that house with a view to
betraying me, you would never return to it. I know, however, why you
followed me to it, why you were resolved to discover if I was within
it. I know that you pester Mademoiselle Thorne with your
addresses----"

"And I know," Francbois exclaimed, stung beyond endurance at the
contemptuous tones of the other, "that you are an English lover of
hers; that you have come here to be by her side, to endeavour, if it
may be so, to remove her from Liége to your own land."

"It is false. I am no lover of hers. Except when she was a child of
ten I have never set eyes on her until I did so here a week ago."

"It is very strange," Francbois sneered. "You found your way, made
your entrance, to the Weiss Haus with ease. From the balcony
Mademoiselle Thorne extended you a gracious welcome, bade you enter.
Is it the habit for English donzelles to extend such cordial greetings
to every passer-by? Do----"

But he stopped, seeing that he had said too much, for he had gone too
far.

For the moment Bevill Bracton said nothing, yet his action was,
indeed, louder than any words could have been. His hand drew forth his
sword, lightly he ran the glittering blade across his left cuff; then,
pointing with his left hand to the weapon by Francbois' side, he
uttered one word--the word "Draw!"

"What if I refuse?" Francbois asked.

"Your fate will be the same, therefore you must defend yourself. You
rogue," he went on through his teeth, "you dare to make aspersions on
my countrywoman! You dare--you!--such as you!--to raise your eyes to
Sylvia Thorne and, to make yourself safe with her, as you suppose you
can do, you intend to denounce me to the French here. So be it. Only
there shall be no betrayal. Either you remove me from your path now
and for ever--now, this very instant--or I put an end to all your
hopes and all your intended treacheries."

"You had best beware," Francbois said, and Bevill perceived that there
was a laugh in his voice--a laugh that was half jeer, half sneer. Also
he observed, and the observation surprised him, that there was no fear
in the man. If he was treacherous and crafty--a villain--at least he
was a bold one.

"Far best," Francbois continued. "I have crossed the Alps in my time.
Monsieur may have heard of the _stoccala lunga_ and the _botte
secrete_ and other strange passes taught in Italy----"

"Ay," said Bevill, "as well as the _botte des laches!_ I will essay
them. Doubtless it is the latter I have most to fear. Monsieur I am
your servant. _En garde_."

And now, through the calmness of the night, the two women must have
heard--sorely they heard--a sound not often familiar to women's ears,
yet one that, once heard, especially in such days, could scarcely be
misunderstood, even if not fully recognised.

A sound not unlike the hiss of the hooded snake as it glides towards
its victims--or, as one of those old Italian fencing-masters has
described it, "water hissing on hot iron." Also they must have heard
the "tic-tac" that steel makes as it grates against steel--a sound
that is not noise. And once, also, they must have heard a voice, the
voice of Francbois, ejaculate, "Ah!"

"They are engaged," the Comtesse whispered hurriedly to Sylvia.
"They----"

"Engaged!" the girl replied. "He and that man! Oh, Radegonde, hasten!
Come! Come, ere it is too late."

"Ay," Madame de Valorme exclaimed, "Francbois is a master of fence.
Monsieur de Belleville's life is too good for such as he to take."

Then, together, they sped down the garden path and through the gate
into the lane.



But now the scraping of the steel had ceased, while the obscurity of
the night beneath the overhanging tree was such that they could
scarcely perceive the figures of the two men. Yet that they were there
they knew. The darkness of the lane could not disguise their presence.

"Stop!" the Comtesse said, advancing towards the deeper gloom that
stood out in that darkness and testified to, at least, the figure of
one man. "Stop, I command you. Monsieur de Belleville, hold your hand.
Francbois, if you injure him, you are lost!"

While uttering these sentences in a clear voice, though in a somewhat
incoherent manner, she, followed by Sylvia, reached the spot where the
men were.

That Bevill was uninjured the Comtesse and Sylvia recognised at once.
He was standing upright in the middle of the path between the hedges,
and in his hand he held his sword, point downwards to the earth; on
which Sylvia murmured, "Thank Heaven above!" as she recognised this to
be the case.

As for Francbois, he, too, was standing upright, only his sword was
not in his hand; and now both ladies heard Bevill say:

"As for your _lungas_ and _bottes_, Monsieur Francbois, truly they are
not wonderful. A somewhat strong wrist and a trick of disengaging has
defeated them. Pick up your weapon and sheathe it: we will renew the
matter elsewhere."

"Nay," the Comtesse said, "you will not renew it. I," she continued,
"have that which should render Emile Francbois harmless. Come," she
said now, turning to the other. "Came, follow me some steps farther
down the lane. I must speak with you, and at once. Come," she said
again, and this time she spoke in a tone that plainly showed she
intended to be obeyed--a tone that would have required no great effort
of imagination on a listener's part to cause him to suppose that a
disobedient dog was being spoken to.

"You are not hurt?" Sylvia asked softly, as she stood alone with
Bevill and looked up at him through the density of the night--a
density that now, however, the swift rising of the moon was
dispersing. "Oh! I pray not."

"In no way," Bracton replied. "He plays well, yet his defence is weak
in the extreme--and it may be that the darkness was my friend. But,
Sylvia," forgetting his courteous deference for the moment, yet
observing, as he recalled himself, that either she had not remarked
his utterance of her name, or heeded it not, "but I have left him
free--free for harm, for evil."

"I think not. It would appear the Comtesse has some hold over him,
knows something that may keep him silent; yet, nevertheless----"

"Yes--nevertheless?"

"We--we must go. Escape! I--we," she went on, speaking tremulously,
"are not safe. I am afeard."

"Afeard? You? Yet you have told me the French, even though the worst
befall, will not hurt a woman."

"I have changed my thoughts. It is--a--woman's privilege to do so. I
would put leagues and leagues betwixt myself--betwixt us--and Liége:
betwixt us and all this land ravaged by war and contending armies.
I--I--cannot bear to remain here longer. In truth, I fear--I am sick
with fear."

Remarking Sylvia's strange agitation, an agitation so strangely
new-born, so different from the calm indifference and absence of all
apprehension which she had testified when first he reached her, Bevill
could not but wonder at the change that had come over her. For now she
was but in little more danger--if any--than she had been a week past.
There were, it is true, the rumours that the Allies were drawing near,
that Kaiserswörth had fallen to them, that Nimeguen had either done so
too or was about to do so, that Marlborough was hastening to take
chief command of all the forces. Yet what mattered this! She, like
every other woman in all the land, in every hemmed-in, beleaguered
town and city, was safe from personal violence--safe as a child
itself.

"And she knew it," he thought, as he gazed at the outlines of Sylvia's
face, now plainly visible in the light cast by the moon through the
leafy branches of the great tree. "She knew it, and she knows it
still. What is it she fears? What fear has come to her?"

Suddenly he asked:

"Is it Francbois you fear?"

For a moment Sylvia did not answer, turning her head away instead, but
saying in a whisper a moment later, "Yes."

"And I have let him live--live, when I might have slain him without
effort," while adding the next instant, "How can he harm you? No man
can force a woman to listen to his plaint, to accede to it. And I--am
I not by your side?"

"Ah, yes," she whispered again, while murmuring next through closed
lips some words he did not catch--words that almost appeared to sound
as though they were the words "Knight" and "Sentinel."

After which, speaking more clearly, Sylvia went on, "Still I would
fain depart. Ah! let us go."

"In spite of my protection! Through fear of Francbois?"

"In fear of Francbois--yes," looking straight into his eyes, while
adding inwardly, "Fear of him--for you."

"But Liége, the exit from Liége, is forbidden to all except the
French, since all others would avail themselves of the opportunity of
divulging the disposition of their forces round the city and in the
city also. It is impossible to go."

"Yet you are French--are supposed to be French. You have the means
wherewith to be De Belleville, the _attaché_, or Le Blond, the
mousquetaire. You can baffle suspicion with your knowledge of their
tongue, with your accent."

"Nay; I could not baffle a true Frenchwoman, the Comtesse, whatever I
may do with these Netherlanders. Neither could I deceive a
mousquetaire, and Francbois knows I am an Englishman. I will not go. I
will not expose you--and Madame de Valorme to the danger of travelling
with me the few miles necessary, to the danger of endeavouring to pass
out of Liége."

As he uttered these words it seemed to him that there came a low, yet
swiftly suppressed moan from the girl's lips, and, looking down
wonderingly at her while not understanding--for had she not said that,
come what might, all women were safe in Liége--he was about to ask her
why his determination moved her so much, when the Comtesse and
Francbois returned to where they stood.

"Emile will not divulge your nationality," the former said now to
Bevill. "He--well, I have persuaded him. Is it not so!" addressing
Francbois.

"Monsieur de Belleville may rely on me. He--he--misunderstood my
intentions," Francbois replied, holding out his hand to Bevill.

Owing possibly to the darkness, the young man failed, however, to see
that hand, whereon, a moment later, its owner allowed it to drop to
his side.



CHAPTER XVII.


At this time the excitement in Liége among those who were shut up in
it and also among the French who lay around it, as well as in the
citadel and Chartreuse, had become intense. For the latter knew by
despatches from their field-marshals and generals, and the former from
those who, in spite of the besiegers' vigilance, still managed to pass
in and out of the city--when they were not caught and promptly hanged
at one of the gates--that the Allies were more or less triumphant in
the engagements that took place with their foes. Athlone had already
defeated detachments of the French in several encounters;
Kaiserswörth, if not already fallen into our hands, must undoubtedly
soon fall; Nimeguen, the frontier town of the United Provinces, was in
the same condition, and Venloo was in a very similar one.

Yet all heard--the French with anxiety, and the whole of the
inhabitants of Holland and the Netherlands with joy--of something
more. The Earl of Marlborough had undoubtedly arrived and after a
considerable discussion--in which such various and remarkably diverse
personages as the King of Prussia, the Archduke Charles of Austria,
the Elector of Hanover, and the Duke of Zell, including, of all
persons in Europe, Prince George of Denmark, supported by his wife,
Queen Anne, had all aspired to the commandership-in-chief--he had been
appointed to that high post.

Marlborough, as the French very well knew--and the knowledge of which
they did not disguise--had never yet lost any skirmish, battle, or
siege at which he had commanded. His present foes could not know that,
during the whole of his long military campaign in the future he was
never to lose one solitary skirmish, battle, or siege, and was to
stand out amongst the great commanders of all time as the single
instance of a soldier who had never experienced defeat.

The fact of this general's presence near Liége, since now he was
marching on Kaiserswörth to assist Athlone, was amply sufficient to
induce the French to tighten their hold over all places at present
under their domination. For their marshals and generals remembered him
as colonel of the English regiment in the service of France, as well
as what he had done in the Palatinate under Turenne; their King at
this time, growing old and timorous, remembered that once again
Marlborough had offered his sword to France, had asked for the command
of a French regiment--and had been refused. Now Le Roi Soleil
remembered that refusal, and recognised that it had raised up against
him and his country the most brilliant and powerful enemy France had
ever had to contend with.

Consequently, in Liége as elsewhere, no living soul who was not French
could quit the city except by cunning or strategy; it was useless to
attempt to do so. Also, pickets patrolled the streets day and night,
sentries were posted on the walls with orders to shoot any who could
not give the password; boats, filled with armed men, patrolled the
river, making inspection of all and every craft upon it; watch fires
burned around. On the other hand, none were molested nor their houses
visited; trade was carried on as far as possible in the city, though
only such trade as was necessary for provisioning the inhabitants and
supplying such food as was already inside the walls, since nothing
could now enter them.

"You see," said Bevill to Sylvia one morning at this period, which was
now the middle of June, as they talked over all these things, "how
impossible any attempt to leave Liége would be. We could not get as
far as one of the gates without being stopped and subjected to
rigorous examination."

"If it were not for us," the girl said, looking at him, "you could
doubtless do so.

"What!" he exclaimed, looking at her in turn. "What! You suggest that?
That I, who came here to enable you to leave this place, should now
consult only my own safety and go away again while leaving you behind?
Oh!"

"Ah, forgive me, but--but--I do so fear for you. For us there is no
actual danger; I am an inhabitant of the city; the Comtesse de Valorme
is a Frenchwoman. But you--oh, it is terrible--terrible!"

While, as Sylvia spoke, there came to her mind another thought to
which she quickly gave utterance.

"If it is dangerous," she said, "to attempt to leave Liége, is it more
so to you than remaining here? Once outside you would, at least, be
free from the treachery of Francbois."

"The treachery of Francbois! Do you still fear that?"

"Yes. No matter what hold the Comtesse may have over him--and that she
has one is undoubted--if he wishes to betray you he will do so."

"Yet why wish to do so?"

"Ah!" Sylvia exclaimed, and then was suddenly silent, her eyes
lowered.

For how could she tell him that which she knew must be the motive of
any treacherous act Francbois might perform; how tell him that which,
she thought, he should have divined for himself? She could not tell
Bevill that Francbois declared him to be his rival, the obstacle to
his hopes with her; that he believed that they had met often in
England, that they loved one another.

But still she thought he should have understood. Meanwhile, though
this divination came not, as yet, to Bevill's mind, there sprang
suddenly to it a light, a revelation.

He saw, he understood, that it was his safety she alone
considered--not her own.

He recognised the nobility of her character, the self-sacrifice she
was ready to make in being willing to quit a place where, if the
discomfort was great, her personal security was almost certain, so
that by acting thus the one chance of his safety, the one road to
it--if any such road existed--was open to him. And in recognising
this he also recognised another thing--a thing that he had not dreamt
of, not suspected in himself, but that he could no longer doubt
possessed him. He understood that, from the first, he had been drawn
towards this girl not more by her beauty and stately grace than by
her womanly attributes, her lack of thought for herself, her noble
self-respect and her personification of honest, upright, English
womanhood. This English womanhood, valiant, self-contained, was
fearless through consciousness of lacking every attribute that could
attract evil towards her; strong because girt with woman's strongest
armour--innocence.

And now he knew that, day by day, he had been gradually, though
unperceived by himself, learning to love her; he knew that as she had
said those words. "I do so fear for you," and not only had said them,
but had testified to their truth by the anxiety for his safety that
she showed, he was no longer beginning, learning to love her, but
_had_ learned to love her.

"What shall I do?" he asked himself as they sat on this summer day in
her host's garden. "How act? Now is no time to tell her what has
sprung full grown into my heart. Honour bids me be silent, and I must
obey. No word, no plea, must come from me until she stands free and
unfettered in her, in our, land. I must draw no interest, no credit,
from having placed myself here in a position of danger on her behalf,
'specially since the danger is not to her--but to me. That may procure
me her esteem and regard; it must not be used as a means whereby to
win her love."

Therefore he did not repeat his question as to why Francbois should
wish to betray him, but, when he had concluded the above reflections,
contented himself with saying:

"I must not, will not, go hence. Since you aver there is no danger to
you here, so shall there be none to me. I promised the Earl that I
would enable you to quit Liége; seeing there is no need nor call for
you to go, I remain also."

"You misunderstand me," she said. "The danger may be small, but the
existence is unbearable. I do most earnestly wish to go, to attempt to
reach England; yet I know. I feel--it is borne in on me--that if I
attempt to do so, to reach the allied forces or the coast in your
company, I shall bring harm to you; and--and--oh!" she said, "I could
not endure that. But by yourself alone you may pass safely. Oh, go,
go, go!"

"It is impossible. No more can I pass out alone than with you and the
Comtesse."

"What is to be done?" Sylvia almost wailed.

"We can stay here. Here, where I am in no danger----"

"Not from Francbois!" she exclaimed, recalling again to her mind that
which Bevill had undoubtedly not dreamt of--the fear that Francbois
deemed him his rival and would stop at nothing to remove him from his
path. "Not here," she went on, "where any stranger who enters the
'Gouden Leeuw' may chance to recognise you."

"It is improbable; yet, even so, I can leave that hostel."

"But where can you go? Here you would be welcome in the garb of one
who was of much assistance to Madame de Valorme, as one who is my
friend, my would-be protector; yet--there is Francbois to contend
with. While, if you choose another inn, the danger would be as great
as at the 'Gouden Leeuw.'"

As Sylvia uttered these words she saw by Bevill's face that some fresh
idea had sprung to his mind, that he was thinking deeply.

"What is it?" she asked. "What?"

For a moment he did not reply, but sat with his eyes fixed on hers,
then suddenly he asked: "You have said that I can escape alone; and I
know, I feel as sure as you yourself, that together we cannot escape.
But what if----"

"Yes, yes," she whispered, stirred to excitement at his words.

"What if I should go alone, and you and the Comtesse go together, we
meeting outside the French lines?"

"Ah, yes. That way! Yes, yes! What more? Tell me. Oh, tell me!"

Still speaking slowly, deliberately, so that she understood that he
was thinking deeply as he spoke, that he was weighing carefully each
word as it fell from his lips, he said:

"Your house is now deserted. There is no servitor there?"

"None," she answered, "excepting only the gardener, the old man you
saw. He dwells in a little cottage some distance behind. What is your
plan?"

"This. It may be best that I withdraw from the 'Gouden Leeuw.'
I--I can leave it at dusk, as though with the intention of passing out
of the city. The people of the house deem me a Frenchman, and
therefore hate me. They will not regard my departure as strange;
while, if it were well to confide in them, they would not betray me.
It was so with the landlord at Antwerp who, in truth, saved me. It
might be--would be so here, if needed. The French are their
oppressors; they look to the English to save them from the French."

"And afterwards?" Sylvia asked almost breathlessly. "Afterwards?"

"I should not leave the city--then; but if, instead, I might find
shelter in your house for some night or so----"

"Yet how will you live with none to minister to your wants? How
support your horse?"

"I must confide in the gardener. He, like the rest here, is heart and
soul for us, for the English. As for what remains to do, there shall
be no light in the house at night, and I will lie close and snug all
day. Thus Francbois will be deluded into the thought that I am gone.
If he has hoped to gain aught by my presence here, he will soon learn
that he has missed the mark."

"And for us--for Radegonde and myself? What shall we do? She is a
Frenchwoman, armed with all passes necessary; but I am an
Englishwoman, although resident in Liége. It may be they would not
harm me here, even if the worst comes to the worst--if the Allies
besiege the town, if the French are all driven into it; yet, since I
am English, neither will they let me go forth, fearing what
information I might convey outside."

Again reflecting for a moment, while still his eyes rested on the
soft, clear beauty of the girl whom now he knew he loved, though, in
truth, he was not at this moment thinking more of that beauty than of
how he might contrive that he and she should escape together out of
this city, he was silent. Then he said:

"The Comtesse is free to go or stay as pleases her. They will not
prevent her from doing either. Yet her domestics remain; they cannot
go. If she is persistent in reaching Marlborough or Athlone, she
cannot travel accompanied by that company. She is in the heart of war,
she will be surrounded by troops of all denominations. If she goes,
she must go unaccompanied or almost unaccompanied."

"She is very resolute. She will go. If only to throw herself at the
feet of our great generalissimo and plead for succour for those in the
South."

"Accompanied by one maid, or companion, or attendant, she would pass
unnoticed; while I, dressed in more sober clothes than these I wear,
might pass as follower--as a humble servant from the South. Thus
should I risk less chance of detection from any tone or trick of
voice."

"Ah!" Sylvia exclaimed, again stirred to excitement as Bevill unfolded
his ideas. "But the attendant, the companion?"

"Why, yes, the attendant," he replied. "And would you disdain to play
that part? Could you bring yourself for a few days, one day or two at
most, to sink yourself and your dignity----"


[Illustration: "Springing to her feet and with her blood on
fire"--_p_. 559.]


"Ah, ah!" the girl exclaimed, springing to her feet and with her blood
on fire--quicksilver--now at the scheme his suggestions unfolded
before her, at the prospect of safety--for him, above all for
him!--that they opened up. "My dignity! Ah, it shall be done! At once!
Yet, no," she went on; "not at once. It cannot yet be done; there are
precautions to be taken."

"What precautions?"

"That you should have safe entry to my house; also, be safe in it. And
yet," she added regretfully, "you will be so solitary and alone."

"It will not matter, so long as I find the means for our escape; yet
what other precautions are needed?"

"Above all, that of your safety, since 'tis you alone who stand in
danger; yet, still, some other precautions too. The Comtesse's
following are all bestowed at the 'Kroon,' there being no place for
them here. They must be warned to hold their peace until the Comtesse
returns, as she may do--alone. And, further, there is that firebrand,
Francbois. He cannot have the dust thrown in his eyes in one day. He
must not know that, as you are gone, so, too, are we; or that we are
going too. For that would arouse his suspicions once more, and
suspicion with him would lead to deadly action. Also I must see old
Karl, and bid him leave open a door in the Weiss Haus and in the
stable too, and--and provide sustenance for you. Our knight," she
added softly, "must not die for want of nourishment."

"You think of all--of all others but yourself," Bevill murmured.

"Ah, no! I think only that he who risks his life for me should have
that life cared for by me." After which, since perhaps she did not
desire that this portion of the subject should be pursued, she
continued: "When do you purpose putting your plan in action? When will
you commence seeking shelter in what will be but a dark, gloomy
refuge?"

"At once--the sooner the better. If Karl can be warned by you to-day,
then I will go to-night. If danger threatens from Francbois, it will
not grow less by being given time to grow and thrive."

At this Sylvia was herself silent for a moment, as though wrapt in
meditation. Then slowly she said:

"It may be best--very well it may. Francbois is away from home to-day;
he sleeps sometimes at the Jesuit College----"

"The Jesuit College? Is he a Jesuit?"

"He may be, so far as a layman can be one, if that is possible. But I
do not know. At least, he is greatly their friend, and is, Madame de
Valorme thinks or knows, used by them for their purposes. It is in
this that she has some hold over him which may keep him silent. The
French do not love them."

"And he is away from this portion of the city to-night?"

"Yes."

"So be it. To-night is the night of nights for me. If I can enter the
Weiss Haus after dark, I will do so. I do but wait your word."



CHAPTER XVIII.


The Weiss Haus lay that night beneath heavy black clouds that rolled
up from the west in threatening masses, and, of a surety, foretold
rain ere morning. Also there was the feeling in the air of coming
rain, of some storm that was swiftly approaching, or rather was close
at hand. The earth of the flower beds exuded a damp, moist odour, the
perfume from the flowers themselves--many of them tropical plants
brought from far-off Dutch possessions--was now a faint, sickly one
which spoke of what was near, while the leaves of the trees, after
hanging lifeless for some minutes, would then suddenly rustle with a
quivering noise as a cool, wet wind swept through them.

But now, gradually, the clouds, edged with an opal shade which hinted
that, from afar off, the late moon was rising behind them, banked
themselves into thicker and thicker masses, while from them fell some
few drops of rain--the heralds of a coming deluge. At this time, too,
the darkness all round the square, white house became more profound,
so that the mansion looked like some great, white stone gleaming in a
setting of ebony. Under the trees which bordered a great drive that
swept round the Weiss Haus the darkness was still more impenetrable,
and was so dense and thick that here nothing could be perceptible
against the deep obscurity unless it, too, was white or gleaming.

Yet one thing there was that nevertheless glinted occasionally from
out the gloom--a thing that only those accustomed to deciphering such
signs would have recognised as the startled glare of an eye; and that
not the eye of a human being, but of an animal--an animal made more
nervous than was natural to it by the presence of the approaching
storm and also by the deep muttering of the thunder.

"She will neigh in a moment," a man holding the creature's bridle said
to himself, while drawing off his cloak as he did so, and whispering
soothingly to La Rose, since it was she. After which he placed the
cloak over her head. "That must not be," he continued. "This house is
deserted by everyone. A horse's presence here would tell any who might
be about that something strange is happening."

Bevill led La Rose now towards where he knew the stables were
placed--towards where, also, he knew a door would be open, since
Sylvia had told him an hour or so ago that the old servitor had been
warned of what was to be done; and, in spite of the mare shivering all
over in her nervousness at the approaching storm, he managed to induce
her to enter them. Arrived there, his hands told him that the manger
was full of fodder and the rack above well filled with hay, as was
also the bucket with water; and then, having eased her of the saddle
and bridle and replaced the latter by a halter, he pondered as to
whether he should leave her or not. The key was in the stable door, he
had discovered, so that he could secure the mare from harm--if harm
should threaten--yet, should she neigh in terror at the storm, her
presence would be known, and, perhaps, his also.

Suddenly he came to the determination to remain with her until the
storm had passed. The night was cool now, it was true, yet the stable
was warm, and it was well littered down. In his earlier campaigning
days he had slept in worse places than such as this. To resolve his
doubts, at this moment there came a vivid flash of lightning, a
terrific crash of thunder broke over the spot, and a moment later he
heard the rain falling in a deluge, while La Rose whimpered and moaned
and gave signs of neighing.

Standing by her head, stroking her soft muzzle, whispering to her, he
contrived, however, to soothe the creature so that, at least, she did
not neigh, while, staying by her till at last the storm had rolled
away, he contrived to reduce her to calmness--such calmness, indeed,
that at last he felt her neck drooping over the manger and knew that
she was feeding.

"But still I will not leave her," he reflected. "Who can tell but that
another storm may follow swift upon the one now gone; also, if by any
chance I have been tracked from the 'Gouden Leeuw,' if it is known
that I am here, what would an enemy's first act be? To prevent my
further progress! To injure the one thing that can carry me to safety,
that can alone enable me to assist Sylvia and the Comtesse."

Whereupon, since the precautions that he, with every soldier, had long
learnt to take as regards his charger were well remembered, he lay
down now upon the straw in the next stall--so that he might be well
out of the reach of La Rose's heels should she become again
excited--and prepared to pass the night there, knowing that his voice
would be sufficient to soothe her.

In spite, however, of the fact that the mare was now quite tranquil,
except that once he heard her hoofs stamping in the straw and once
observed that she was drinking from her bucket, he could not sleep,
his thoughts being much occupied with two out of many things. The
principal of which things was that, by the blessing of heaven, it
might be granted to him to lead this girl in safety back to their
own land; another the love that had sprung into his heart for her;
while still there was a further thought, a thought that was truly a
fear--the fear that, much as he had now come to love Sylvia, there
might be no respondent love in her heart for him.

"Gratitude, yes!" he said to himself. "That is already there;
also, it may be, a tender hope, a gentle dread for me and of my
successful issue out of the conditions I have surrounded myself with.
But--love? Ah! how shall I know? Her calmness, her dignity will give
no sign that will help me on my way to the knowledge I desire; while,
when the time comes for me to speak, what will her answer be? 'Tis
well that that time is not yet, not now, since were it so my fears of
failure would so much unnerve me that I should also fail in all else I
have to do."

One other thought arose, however, in his mind and set him wondering at
a subtle change that had taken possession of him--a change caused by a
great desire that now triumphed over what he could not but deem at
this time a lesser one.

He recognised that, strong as had been his hopes that his present
undertaking should lead him back to the calling from which he had been
wrongfully cast out, those hopes were now but secondary, even if as
near as secondary, to a greater, a more supreme one--the hope that he
would win the love of Sylvia Thorne, win her for his wife.

And as he so thought it may be that he reproached himself. For he was
a man, and, being one, knew that he should set his career, his honour
in the world's eyes, before a woman's love!

As thus be became immersed in such reflections as these--reflections
that, he doubted not, had driven away all hope of slumber for the
present--an incident occurred that instantly dispelled those musings,
that stirred him once more into a man of action.

Upon the deep tranquillity of the night--since now the storm had quite
passed and, as he could see through the mica panes of the stable
window, the late risen moon was shining clear in the heavens--he heard
a door close violently within the Weiss Haus--close violently while
sending out into the silence a heavy, dull thud such as a noise made
in a shut-up house sends forth. As that noise reverberated he heard La
Rose's halter shaken suddenly as by a start, and a tremulous whinny
issue from her.

Quieting her with a gentle word as he rose from the position in which
he had been lying, and going towards her as he spoke, Bevill's
attention was still strained to the utmost for any further sounds.
Yet, now, all was still, the night was undisturbed by any noise. Even
from the warehouses some three hundred yards off, which were filled
with French troops, there came nothing to tell of their presence.

"Can my ears have been deceived?" Bevill mused. "And if not deceived,
how has that door closed thus? Ere I brought the mare from under the
trees I had made sure that the one at the back of the house was
closed, though unlocked, and it was not that door which shut so
violently, but one within. Why did it so? The wind has died down long
since; no current of air through any open window--if there were any
such, which is not to be supposed--could have closed it. What is best
to do?"

An instant later he had determined on his action. He would enter the
house and discover what had caused so strange an occurrence on a night
that was so perfectly calm as this one was now. It might be, it was
true, an occurrence for which he would be able to discover an
absolutely plain explanation; but if it were not so, then it were best
he determined the cause of it.

He spoke a few words to La Rose even as he drew his sword, intending
to carry it bare in his hand, and while hoping that Providence might
see fit to prevent her becoming frightened and, by her fears, calling
attention to her presence. Then he went forth from the stable door,
locking it behind him and dropping the key into his pocket.

As he did so, he heard the clock in the Abbey church strike three, as
well as the sound of the other clocks striking one after the other,
and, also, the chiming of the carillons on the calm night air.

"It is the time," he said to himself, "when those who break into the
houses of others seek to do so. It may, in truth, be some such as
they, or else an enemy, seeking me. Well," through his teeth, "it it
be Francbois, he shall find me--only, when he does so, let him beware.
If 'tis he, no _botte_ shall save him this time; and there is no
Comtesse now to help him."

A moment later he stood outside the door at the back of the Weiss
Haus--the door of which he had said to himself a moment since that "it
was closed though unlocked."

But now he discovered that it was no more closed than locked. Some
hand had opened it to enter the house, since even the wind could not
lift a latch--the hand of someone who had entered the house and
forgotten to shut the door behind him. Unless it had been purposely
left open, thereby to afford a means of easy exit!

"And still it was not this door that shut with such a report," Bevill
reflected, "but one above," and slowly he made his way into the
interior of the house, while resolving to discover and make sure of
who the intruder was. Because all shutters had been close fastened ere
Sylvia left her house, and, discharging her servitors for a time at
least, gave afterwards the care of the place into the hands of old
Karl, the darkness was intense.

Bevill did not know, therefore, where he was, though guessing by aid
of his knowledge of the mansion that he was now in the domestic
offices. Consequently he decided that, should he be enabled to
progress further without interruption from closed doors--or from an
enemy--he would ere long reach the hall. And then his way would be
clear before him. He knew the manner in which the stairs mounted to
the floor above.

He went on now, running his hand along the wall of the room he was in
while touching on various shelves the ordinary array of utensils used
for preparing meals--dishes, jars, and so forth--and at last his
fingers lighted on another door, a door that, like the first, was open
an inch or so.

"Whoever 'tis," Bevill thought now, "he leaves the road clear for his
return, for his escape. Yet that shall not be, or not, at least, until
I know who and what this lurking midnight intruder is." Whereupon he
drew the key of the door forth from the inner side of the lock and,
taking it with him, made fast the door on the other side when he had
felt for and found the key-hole; after which he went on, after putting
the key in his pocket.

He discovered now that he was in a long, narrow passage, one having,
as his touch told him, doors on either side of it, all of which were
locked, and with no keys in the locks; but as he still progressed,
doing so gently on his tiptoes, he saw ahead of him a patch of
gleaming light, and he understood what that light was. He knew that it
was the moonlight on the marble-tiled hall, and that the moonlight had
found its way in from the great window on the first floor, the window
that served to light the hall by day, and by night, too, when there
was a moon.

"I shall be upstairs," Bevill said to himself, "ere many moments are
passed. If you are there, my enemy, we should meet."


[Illustration: "He lifted the heavy brocade that curtained off the
passage."]


His sword in hand, he lifted with the other the heavy brocade that
curtained off the passage from the hall, and, observing carefully the
portion of it that was outside the great splash made by the moonbeams,
went on through the deepest shadow towards the lowest stair. Then,
keeping to the side of those stairs that was itself free of the rays,
he mounted to the first floor.

"Now," he thought, "we are near close quarters, if it be not the wind
that has played at tricks with me. Above this floor is nought but the
servitors' quarters; short of being driven up by fear, Francbois will
not attempt them."

At this moment Bevill saw that, suddenly, the great patch of moonlight
below was fading, and also that the light was obscured on the side of
the house that a moment before had been touched by it. Glancing up
through the roof-window, he observed the rim of a dense black cloud
passing beneath the moon.

"The house will be in utter darkness again ere long," he said to
himself. "Ah, well! if I cannot thereby find my enemy, at least he
cannot see me. And I can return and wait for him at the door I have
but now made fast, if I find him not up here. There, he will not foil
me."

As thus Bevill mused a step fell on his ear--a soft footfall, almost a
shuffling, halting one--a step that, in its creeping oncoming, caused
even creepiness to one so brave as he--a footfall that seemed ghostly
in its lagging progress towards where he stood. Yet, as the sound of
it approached nearer and nearer, he knew that, for the present, it was
not to his interest to obstruct whoever it might be that drew near,
but rather to watch, to follow, and at last bring to bay this
nocturnal intruder.

The night itself aided him even as he drew back against the wall, for
now the darkness was profound and, also, the rain beat down pitilessly
on the great window; while the wind, risen once more, was again
howling round the Weiss Haus. But ever still he heard--or did he
feel?--that footfall drawing stealthily nearer and nearer to him.

At last Bevill heard something also--something he could not
understand, something the meaning of which he could in no wise
comprehend.

He heard a sliding noise upon the wall in a line with the spot where
his face reached, and he fancied that it was varied now and again by
something else which sounded like the light touch of fingers tapping
on that wall.

"Whoe'er it is," he said to himself, suddenly recognising what that
scraping sound, interrupted by an occasional touch on the wall, was,
"he feels his way carefully. Let me be ready to greet him--ah!" he
ejaculated, lunging out straight before him with his sword, though
piercing nothing. "Ah!"

Fingers had passed across his face: an instant later something long
and hairy had swept across his left hand, even as he lunged with his
right: still a moment later the sound of a figure springing down the
wide staircase fell on his ears; and, ere another moment had elapsed,
he was springing after it.

But, even as he did go, he muttered to himself:

"This is not Francbois! He had no beard. Who, then, is it? Ah!
Sparmann perchance!"



CHAPTER XIX.


Some hours after the morning had broken grey and desolate, but with
still a promise in the heavens that the storms of the night were past,
Bevill Bracton arose from the great lounge in the hall on which he had
laid himself down and on which he had been enabled to snatch some
broken rest. For it was six o'clock ere he had deemed it prudent to
attempt this, and he had not even then done so until he had satisfied
himself that, whosoever the man might be whose hand had passed across
his face and whose beard had swept over his disengaged hand, he was
not present in the house now.

While, however, discovering this to be the case, he had made discovery
of something else. He had found signs that this man had not been the
only visitor to the Weiss Haus beside himself, but that there had been
another. Also, he had arrived at the conclusion that each of the men
had come here on some secret purpose unknown to the other, and that
they had met in the dark and had fought with each other. What that
purpose was might not be hard to discover, he thought, yet, even so,
he could not resolve why, if both of these intruders were his enemies,
they should have come into deadly contact with each other. But that
this had been the case there was no room left for doubt.

After chasing down the great staircase the form of the man whose hand
had crept over his face, he had, notwithstanding the fact of his
having locked the door at the end of the lone passage, missed his
quarry. In the darkness of the night that quarry had evaded him; in
the coming of the dawn he knew that it had done so effectively. He
made sure, in the grim light of the dayspring, that the house was
absolutely empty of all human existence except his own, doing so by
going into every apartment, large and small, that it contained.

Observing carefully the direction from which the man came, looking to
see if his fingers had left any marks on the wall along which he had
felt his way in the dark, regarding the sides of the passage that ran
round the balcony over the hall, Bevill discovered some signs of that
man's advance towards him. He saw that, before this midnight wanderer
through the house had drawn close to him, he had come from the farther
or northern part of it. He perceived, also, at twenty paces from the
spot where he himself had stood listening to the approach of his
footfall, a shred, a wisp, of black ribbon lying on the floor.
Stooping to look at this, while doubting for the moment if it might
not have been some ribbon that had fallen from Sylvia's black robe ere
she quitted the Weiss Haus some ten days before, he understood that
such was not the case. The piece of ribbon had at its end a little
tag, showing that it came from some "point" or aglet of a man's dress,
worn either at his wrist or knee. He noticed, too, that it was clean
cut as though with a knife or other sharp weapon; while, picking it
up, he discovered that it was damp and that the dampness left a red
stain on the finger and thumb between which he held it.

Then Bevill understood.

"It is from the man's sleeve-point," he said to himself. "Another
man's rapier has cut it asunder ere transfixing his arm. There has,
indeed, been an encounter in this house."

Going still farther down the passage, he came to an open room, a
little apartment that was more an alcove than a room in actual fact.
Here there was no longer a possibility of doubt left as to what had
taken place. A table of quaint Eastern make was half overturned and
leant against a wall, two chairs were entirely so, a man's hat lay on
the floor, and the carpet was splashed with blood. Also the window was
open to the balcony, and against the balcony there stood a ladder
reaching to it from the path below.


[Illustration: "A man's hat lay on the floor."--_p_. 699.]


"So, so!" Bevill said to himself, interpreting these signs easily
enough. "The one was here, the other came and found him, and--they
fought. Yet, it may be, each thought the other someone else and
thought me that someone. Whom else should they seek? 'Tis very well. I
have been shrewdly watched. Yet who were _they?_ Is that far to
discover? There can be but two in this land who thrust against my life
and security--the one whose grudge is undying, the other who deems me
his rival."

He took up now the hat lying on the floor, and, in the dim light of
the rain-soaked dawn, turned it over and regarded the lining to see if
that might tell him aught. Unhappily, however, it told him nothing.
The day had not yet come for hat-makers to stamp their names inside
their wares, and there was no private mark to testify to whom this hat
belonged.

"'Tis but a poor, common thing," Bevill mused, regarding the coarse
felt, the tawdry galloon and rough lining. "Doubtless 'tis Sparmann's.
Francbois apparels himself bravely; he would not wear such headgear as
this."

Still continuing his reflections, Bevill arrived at all, or almost
all, that had happened. He concluded that in the darkness, and also in
the noise of the storm, each of these men had decided that _he_ was
the other man. Doubtless, therefore, Francbois considered he had
thrust his rival from out his path; perhaps, indeed, thought he had
killed him, while Sparmann, being wounded, probably deemed that his
old enemy had again defeated him, and so would decide to try no more
conclusions with such an invincible foe.

"Wherefore," said Bevill, "I shall be safer here to-night than last;
neither victor nor vanquished will come again to molest me. Yet how
has Sparmann escaped from out the house?" while, glancing next at the
balcony and the head of the ladder resting against it, he added, "How
the other both came and went when his work was done is easy enough to
see."

Determined, nevertheless, to discover the method of Sparmann's
evasion, he returned to the spot where he who was undoubtedly Sparmann
had passed him, and whence he had sprung down the staircase. Arrived
at this point, he saw that a sign, a clue, was ready to his eyes.

In the now almost broad daylight, though a daylight still somewhat
retarded by the rain-charged clouds rolling away, he perceived that on
the white marble foot of the stairway there was a blood-stain and
still another to the left of it.

"To the left!" thought Bevill; "and the door I locked fast is to the
right! 'Twas to that I returned. No great wonder that I lost him."

And now all became as clear as noontide.

"Doubtless when he came in he would leave the door open behind him,"
Bevill pondered, even as he proceeded to the left of the staircase,
"thinking I was already in the house. Learning that he had not one but
two enemies to contend with, he may have feared to return the way he
came, not knowing but that a fourth might be awaiting him at the
entrance. Has he found an exit to the left, or has he dropped dead
before he did so? Here's to discover."

After which Bevill proceeded down the corridor on the left, which was
a similar one to that on the right, though leading towards a
_plaisance_ which he and Sylvia had one day visited when the sun was
on the other side of the house. But the door opening on to this was
fast locked and bolted; whoever the man was who had escaped from him
he had not done so that way.

Nevertheless, the mansion was empty of any other living creature than
himself, as now he made sure of by visiting every room and cupboard
that was open in the house. He could swear there was no human being
but himself within it, and, thus resolved, lay down upon the lounge
and slept--uneasily, as has been said.

He had slept all the same, and so awoke refreshed, while noticing that
the ancient clock in the hall pointed to noon. To noon! And he
remembered he had not gone near La Rose since he discovered that the
place was deserted of its recent visitors. Chiding, reproaching
himself for this neglect--above all, for seeking rest ere going to see
his most precious possession, the one by which he hoped soon to put a
long distance between himself and Liége when once Sylvia and the
Comtesse were ready to set out with him, he now left the house by the
door on the right and went toward the stable. As he put the key in the
door while calling to the mare, his ears were greeted by her usual
whinnying, and, going up to her, he at once discovered that all was
well. No matter who or what those men were who had been able to track
him to the Weiss Haus, and to themselves obtain admission to it within
a few hours of the time when he had left the "Gouden Leeuw," they
either had not known his steed was with him, or, had they done so and
desired to harm her, had found no opportunity for harm. In that
respect all was very well.

Filling La Rose's bucket for her now, and seeing that both rack and
manger were still well provided with fodder, he determined to return
to the house and there remain close until the evening came, at which
time Sylvia had promised that she would make her way to him
accompanied by Madame de Valorme. For then he was to learn what
provision they had been able to make for leaving Liége, and the time
when they would be prepared to depart.

Between the stables and the house itself--or, rather, between the
stables and this back entrance to the house--there was a little copse
of trees and shrubs which had doubtless been planted some long time
ago with the intention of shutting off the view of the former from the
latter, and more especially from the windows of the back rooms on the
floor above, which, as Bevill had observed in his search through the
house, were furnished as small sleeping apartments. Through the copse
there ran a path straight to the door, one that was probably used by
the stablemen and ostlers in their going to and fro, and, also, it
would seem, as some little retreat in which the domestics might sit in
their hours of leisure. This Bevill judged, since there was a bench
built round the largest tree of all, and, also, there were some rude
wooden chairs which seemed to suggest that, once, they might have
occupied a more honourable position on the lawn or in the arbours of
the front, but had afterwards been relegated to the back.

Walking slowly along this path when he had left La Rose, and doing so
because not only did the shrubbery and trees partly shelter him from
the fierce June sun, but likewise from any prying eyes that might be
on the watch, Bevill stopped with a start as he drew near the bench.

For, seated on it, his bare head bent forward on his breast while his
limbs presented an appearance which combined at one and the same time
an extraordinary suggestion of extreme lassitude and extreme rigidity,
was the figure of a man. The man's garments, even in the full noontide
heat, looked as though they were soaked with wet; a man on whose
breast there hung down a long, iron-grey beard.

"Who is that?" whispered Bevill, as he halted for an instant at this
sight, and the next went swiftly forward. "It is Sparmann! Is he
asleep--or dead?"

His closer approach determined for ever any doubts he might have
entertained. One touch of his finger on the man's wrist--a wrist that
was pierced through and through, and, in the sunshine that peeped
through and danced on the quivering leaves, was as red as if
painted--told him that he was already cold.

"Dead!" he whispered solemnly, fearfully, since, used as he had been
to the sight of and acquaintance with death in his campaigns, that had
at least been open death and not death dealt out in the darkness of
midnight. "Dead! Yet, I thank thee, Heaven, not at my hands. But how
has it come to him? How? That wound, bad as it is, would not slay, or,
at least, not so soon."

Looking farther, however, at the dead man, he learnt whence his death
had come. Beneath the rusty beard he saw that Sparmann's poor, common
linen frills--doubtless he had been very poor of late--were all torn
asunder as though in the agony of some mortal spasm, and in his chest
he saw a great gaping wound that was enough to tell all.

"So," Bevill whispered as he stood there gazing on his dead foe and
observing (as we so oft observe the most trivial matters in our most
solemn moments) how a butterfly settled on the dead man's hand for an
instant, as well as how the nether lip was caught between his teeth in
some final paroxysm of pain, and how wet and soaked his poor, shabby
garments were. "So this is the end of you--poor, broken soldier! Alas!
whate'er your failings you were a brave man once; none knew it better
than I who have crossed swords with you. Ah, well! you risked your
life last night to slay me--as I must think--and lost it, though not
by my hand, God be praised! Farewell. Death wipes out all bitterness."

As the young man stood before the poor, dead thing, while feeling
naught but compassion for his end, there did spring to his mind the
recollection that, with Sparmann gone, one of two bitter foes was
swept from out his path. Yet, had he but known what a few hours were
to bring forth, had he but been able to peer but a little way into the
future, he would have recognised that Sparmann dead might work him
even more ill than Sparmann alive and seeking to slay him in the
deserted Weiss Haus in the darkness of the night.

Now, however, his thoughts turned to present things, and he was
wondering, even as he still gazed on the dead man, what it was best
for him to do.

If the body remained where it now was it might be probable that none
would pass along this path in the copse until he and both the ladies
were out of Liége and far off from it. But what if the opposite should
happen? What if 'twere known that he who was being tracked by Sparmann
had harboured here that night? What if---- Then, suddenly, he broke
off in these cogitations, disturbed by a slow, heavy footfall that
approached behind him.

Looking round to see who the advancing intruder might be, he observed
old Karl coming towards him--old Karl, who, as he drew close to where
the living and the dead men were, asked, "Who is he? Does he sleep,
mynheer?"

"For ever," Bevill said, answering the second question first, while to
the former one he made reply, "His name was Sparmann. He was a
Hollander once----"

"Once, mynheer, once?" the old man's bleared, grey eyes glittering as
they looked curiously into Bevill's. "Can a man be born of one land
yet die the subject of its bitter foe?"

"This man did so. He sold himself to France. He was a spy of France."

"_Himmel!_ Therefore the enemy of us, of the land that gave him birth.
And yet, mynheer should be French--is French--and has slain him."

"Nay. He was slain by--another--Frenchman, as I believe."

"Here? In the garden?"

"In the house. He was my foe. He would have slain me, yet the other
slew him. He, too, was foe to me, yet thinking that this one was I,
took his life."

After which Bevill gave as much explanation as he considered safe to
the more or less bewildered old man.

"Who was the other?" Karl asked, after he had grasped as much as
Bevill cared to tell him.

"No friend of mine, I tell you; nor, which concerns you most, of the
Jouffrouw."

"Ha! a traitor to his country, no friend to my young mistress. So be
it. He is better dead than alive. What shall we do with him? He must
not be found till you and the Jouffrouw are safely gone."

"I know not. I am no ghost believer, nor am I afeard of the dead; yet
if I stay here another night or so I care not to have this man keeping
his silent watch outside the house."

"Leave all to me. I have a tool-house near my cottage; to-night I will
remove him there. When you and she and her friend are gone he shall
have Christian burial."

"It will bring no harm to you?"

"Nay, nay. I have been a soldier. I can still wield a sword. Also,
when the magistrates know of his treachery they will ask few
questions. They will think 'twas I who found him in the darkened house
and slew him for a robber. All will be well. But--you must go soon,
very soon. That tale will only be good if told near to the hour of his
death."



CHAPTER XX.


No matter though their conquerors lay around the city--for conquerors
in one form the French and their auxiliaries were--and no matter
whether their grasp would tighten more and more upon the beleaguered
place, or be suddenly relieved and loosed by the English and their
allies as they advanced near to Liége, the inhabitants did not cease
to continue as far as might be their ordinary pursuits, and also their
relaxations.

It is true, the business that they did was much curtailed: their silks
and satins, spices, and other tropical wares could now no longer reach
Liége either by water or land, or, having reached it, could not in
many cases enter. Also, it was true, the burghers could neither feast
nor drink as copiously as had once been their wont, since food was
required for the investors inside and outside the city, who took care
to be first served.

But some things there were that neither investment nor a reduction in
rations, nor, which was the same thing, a tremendous increase in the
price of all rations, could prevent them from enjoying. Such things,
to wit, as their walks and promenades along the quays on either side
of the river or in the public gardens and places of the city.

For which reason fathers and mothers still took their daughters out of
evenings and gave them an airing, and treated them to the coffee
drinking beloved of Dutch wives and maidens, while the men smoked
solemnly their pipes, since the city was well provisioned with such
things as coffee and tobacco, no matter how short it might fall of
fresh bread and meat and fish and vegetables.

And, because the heart can ever remain light so long as the most
terrible calamities have not yet befallen that can well befall, and
can especially do so when the heart is young, the daughters and sons
of the honest Liègois would laugh and talk and sip their coffee under
the flowering acacias, while, through the eyelits of their masks, the
former would cast many a glance of curiosity at those whom they were
taught to hate and loathe.

For now that the city, as well as the country that lay around it, was
filled with French soldiery, there would sometimes pass before their
eyes handsomely accoutred mousquetaires and dragoons, or sometimes a
fierce and swarthy Cravate, and sometimes a young cadet of the
regiment of Royal-Condé or of the superbly decorated Garde de la
Reine. And from the eyes that sparkled behind the half-masks would
be shot glances that told of one of two things--or it may be of
both!--namely, of hatred for the invader or of that admiration which
scarlet or blue, or gold and silver lace, scarcely ever fail to
extort.

Beneath the leafy branches of some acacia and ialanthus trees there
sat this evening a group of four people watching all the promenaders,
native and foreign, who passed before them. One, the chief of the
group, was an elderly man who seemed more immersed in intricate
thought than concerned in what met his eyes. By his side was a lady,
herself no longer young, and, consequently, unmasked; a woman with a
sweet, sad face, who might have given to any onlooker the idea that
her thoughts were little enough occupied with the affairs of this
world--an idea that would, perhaps, have been increased in the minds
of those who should regard her by the appearance of delicate health
which her face wore.

Next to her were two ladies, each masked and young, though one, if the
lower and uncovered portion of the face was sufficient to judge by,
was much younger than her companion. For surely the dark, chestnut
hair of this latter, as it curled beneath the broad-brimmed,
black-feathered hat she wore, while undisfigured by any wig or powder,
belonged only to a woman in her first blush of early womanhood. So,
too, must have done the tall, slight form clad outwardly in a long,
dark-coloured satin cloak, and the slim hands from which the white
gauntlets had been withdrawn. Also, the eyes that looked calmly
through the eyelets of the mask, the sweet yet grave-set mouth
beneath, and the white, smooth chin, would have told that here sat one
who was young yet sedate, beautiful but grave.

As for the lady next to her, she too was grave and solemn, and, for
the rest, clad much the same as her companion.

"And so," said the elderly gentleman, speaking now, though not until
he had looked carefully round the _bosquet_ in which they all sat to
see that there was no one about to overhear his words, "and so you are
resolved to go--both of you--and to inform your--your cavalier of your
determination to-night?"

"Yes," the elder of the two masked ladies replied, "we are resolved.
If for no other reason than for the one that, while we remain, he will
not go himself. And, ah! he is too brave, too noble, to have his life
sacrificed by us. Is it not so, Sylvia?"

"In very truth it is," the girl replied. "If he remains here he does
so at imminent deadly peril to himself; and that must not be. I, at
least, will not have it so."

"Nor I," said the Comtesse de Valorme.

"I do aver," Madame Van Ryk said now, with a half-smile upon her sad
face, "that Mademoiselle de Scudéry and Madame de Lafayette might have
drawn inspiration for one of their romances from you. And--how strange
a working of chance is here! This cavalier sets forth to rescue a
maiden who, in plain fact, needs no rescuer, but in her turn is forced
to save the cavalier. Our Netherlanders have no romance. 'Tis pity!
They should know this tale."

"Romance or no romance," Sylvia replied, "this gentleman shall throw
away no chance of safety, and it rests with me to prevent him from
doing so. Ah! ah!" she went on, "if evil should befall him through his
hopes of succouring me how should I bear my life?"

Van Ryk shot a glance at his wife as Sylvia spoke thus--a glance that
the lady well understood--then he said drily:

"At least he wins a rich reward, a rich guerdon"--and Sylvia started
at the word, remembering how the Earl of Peterborough had himself used
it, as well as in what sense he had used it--"in having gained your
interest in his welfare."

"Should he not gain reward, does he not deserve it, remembering the
interest he has testified in my welfare? And he will do so. If I
should chance to stand face to face with my Lord Marlborough, he shall
know how much 'Monsieur de Belleville' aspires to wear his sword for
the Queen."

"And so shall he know it from me," the Comtesse said, "if I, too, find
myself before this great commander."

"We go together," Sylvia said. "If I obtain the ear of his lordship so
shall you."

"What must be must be," Van Ryk said. "Now, see, the twilight is at
hand. Soon it will be dark. I will but call my wife's chair and send
her home, and then escort you to your own house. Monsieur de
Belleville will doubtless be awaiting your coming--your decision."

Half an hour later the three stood outside the wall of the Weiss Haus,
by the side entrance that led past the stables and through the little
copse in which, that morning, Bevill had found Sparmann seated dead.


[Illustration: "Sylvia heard a soft, yet firm footstep on the path."]


Tapping on the door gently as she sought admission to her own house,
Sylvia heard a soft, yet firm footstep on the path a moment later.
Another instant and the door was opened, and Bevill stood before them.

Then, when they had all exchanged greetings and Sylvia had asked him
how the previous night had passed, receiving for answer the
information that, after the storm was over, he had been enabled to
sleep, Bevill desired to know where they wished to retire to, there to
confer on any plans that she and Madame de Valorme might have decided
on.

"Let us remain outside," Sylvia replied, "in one of the arbours. The
night is warm, and the sun to-day has dried the wet of last night.
Come," she said, addressing the others, "to the _bosquet_ on the lawn.
There we can talk in comfort."

Upon which they proceeded along the path that ran through the
copse--there was no silent figure now on the seat around the great
tree, though Bevill could not refrain from casting one glance at the
spot where it had been in the morning--and so reached the arbour the
girl had spoken of.


One thing Bevill had determined on, and, in so doing, had also
impressed on old Karl, and this was that no word should be uttered to
Sylvia of all that had occurred in the house overnight. For he knew,
or, at least, already understood, that, should she be made cognisant
of these occurrences, no power on earth would prevent her from
instantly deciding to set out with him from Liége, so as, thereby, to
ensure, if possible, what she would believe to be his safety. Yet in
doing this she might not be absolutely ensuring his safety, while,
undoubtedly, she would be jeopardising her own. And he would not have
that. If Sylvia desired to go, she should go with him in her train,
but she should not go on his behalf. Never! He had come there to save
her, not to force her to imperil herself by saving him. That must
never be. While, for the rest, what mattered it to him now whether he
stayed here in danger, or, if she desired it, courted additional
danger by going with her? In either case he would be by her side
unless disaster came; while, if it came, he would still be near to, it
might be, shield and protect her, perhaps to save her. He would leave
the decision in her hands, would abide by her determination. He was
learning to love her--pshaw! _was_ learning! Nay, he did love her.
Nothing should drive him from her. As she decided so it should
be--short of her deciding to do aught that should part him from her.

Now that they were all seated in the arbour, Sylvia at once began to
unfold her plans by saying:


"Mr. Bracton, the Comtesse and I have decided to quit Liége to-morrow
night."


"Ah, yes," he answered, seeing that, beneath the stars now twinkling
in the evening sky, another pair of stars, not less bright than those
above, were looking into his eyes as though expectant of his reply.
"Ah, yes. Yet are you well advised? Have you thought deeply on what
you do? You told me but a few days past that you were safe here, being
a woman."

"Safe--yes, perhaps. Yet desperately desirous of leaving this
war-ridden land, of reaching my own; of imploring the assistance of
the Captain-General of our forces to put me in the way of doing so.
Also, I desire to snatch the chance of travelling with Madame de
Valorme, who is herself resolved to implore Lord Marlborough
to--to--ah! you know what her desires are."

"As all know here," the Comtesse said. "There is no need for silence.
England has promised help to us poor Protestants in Languedoc, and,
for the help that England can give, Lord Marlborough alone can decide.
Today, he stands here as England, he is England; he is the one foe
whom Louis fears, the one who may bring Louis to his demands. And the
time is now. Environed east and west and north and south by his
enemies, England's help given in the Cevennes may free us from our
sufferings; may enable us at last to worship God in our own way, as
his grandsire allowed our people to do. I must see Marlborough. I
must! I must!"

"Being resolved," Bevill said, "doubtless your plans for leaving Liége
are decided on. How have you determined to quit the city?"

"For our purpose," Sylvia answered, "we are all French. You are M. de
Belleville, Madame is truly the Comtesse de Valorme, I am her maid."

"Yet her actual maid is old," Bevill said.

"They will not know that at the gate."

"'Tis best," Van Ryk said now, speaking for the first time, while
remarking that the wind was rising and rustling the leaves behind the
arbour, "that you leave at a fixed time. The east gate is the last
left open, but even for the French themselves that is closed to them
and all and every as the clock from St. Lambert's strikes eleven,
after which none can enter or pass out. It will be well, therefore,
that you should meet the ladies," he continued, addressing Bevill,
"ere they reach the gate. If chance is with you all you should be
outside in safety ere the hour has struck."

"Where and when shall it be?" Bevill asked.

"By the Prince's palace at ten of the night. Then are our townsmen in
their houses and shortly after in their beds, and the streets are
therefore well-nigh deserted. Also our invaders," he went on bitterly,
"are all called in at sunset, the town is quiet. Beyond your
questioning at the gate there will be naught to impede you."

"Is it agreed on?" Sylvia asked of Bevill.

"As you command," he answered, "it shall be. At ten of the night
to-morrow I shall be outside the Prince's palace or no longer alive."

"Ah!" exclaimed Sylvia, shuddering at the very thought of Bevill's
being no longer in existence twenty-four hours hence. "Never speak nor
dream of it. If I thought there was danger of such horrors would I
quit Liége?"

An instant after Bevill had spoken he knew that his words were
ill-timed. He recognised that to alarm Sylvia at this moment--the
moment when she had decided to set out on the road to England--was
madness. Madness, because he knew--he could not help but know--that
after the episodes of the last night in the now gloomy and deserted
Weiss Haus his own life was in serious danger; not from any violence
that Francbois might attempt against him--that, he doubted not, he
could meet and overthrow--but from his treachery. And though,
soldier-like, he thought but little of his life and was willing to
freely set it against the prize that success and increase of honour
would bring, he was not willing to set it against the sweet, new-born
hopes that had sprung to his heart; against the desire to win this
beautiful and stately woman for his wife.

"Yet," he mused, even as he heard Van Ryk telling her how he charged
himself henceforth with all care of her property and affairs; how, in
truth, he would regard himself as her steward and agent in Liége until
brighter days should dawn, "yet, if I am betrayed, if I die here, I
lose more than my life, more than that life is worth; while she--ah!
no--I may not dream nor hope as yet to win what I desire. Though
still--still I fain would hope that this life of mine may grow
precious to her--that she would as little part from me as I from her.
If it should be so! If it should!"

They had all risen now, and were once more making their way towards
the thicket by the stables, Mynheer Van Ryk walking with Madame de
Valorme and Bevill by Sylvia's side; and as they went, he said to her:

"There is one fear within my heart, one dread that I would have
allayed. May I ask a question, hoping to receive an answer to it from
you?"

"Ask," Sylvia replied, looking at him in the starlight, while, since
she herself was tall, her eyes were not so far from his but that he
could gaze easily into them.

"You do not set out upon this journey, do not leave Liége on my
account alone!" he said now. "I could not bear to deem that you are
going on a perilous journey--for perilous it may be--only to ensure
the safety of one who, perhaps foolishly then, placed himself in a
position of which there was no need."

"Then--And now?" Sylvia murmured.

"But who now regards the enterprise he undertook as--it may well be
so--the happiest, the best determination he ever embarked upon. Ah!
answer me, Sylvia."

"I set out to-morrow night," the girl replied, "because I fain
would quit Liége--because I would be gone from out of it at once.
The place thrusts against my desires, my wishes--ay, all my hopes
of--happiness--to come. Ask me no more since I have answered you.
Farewell," holding out her slim, white hand to him. "Farewell until
to-morrow night. You will not fail, I know."

"I shall never fail you. Farewell. Goodnight."



CHAPTER XXI.


The next night was already very quiet, although it still wanted some
time ere ten should strike from St. Lambert's and all the other clocks
of the city.

Van Ryk had spoken truly when he said that by this time most of the
Liégois were in their homes, though some who had not yet retired to
them were on the various bridges over the streams running through the
city from the Meuse. For the night had grown almost insufferably hot,
and the interiors of many of the houses, which were built of timber
and stood in narrow, stuffy streets, were not inviting. Also, some few
were strolling about or seated on the quays.

Outside the Prince's palace--which was that of the
Prince-Bishop--there were, however, scarcely any persons about, and
those only beggars, who sometimes at night crept into the outer
cloisters to sleep.

In the darkest shadow cast by these cloisters Bevill Bracton sat on La
Rose's back while endeavouring to keep her as quiet as was possible,
though no efforts could prevent her from pawing the earth, or shaking
her bridoon, or snorting impatiently.

His dress, in which at one time he had thought of making some
alteration, he had, however, left as it was, since it was neither too
handsome nor too conspicuous for a secretary of legation on his
travels with a French lady of rank who, if necessity should call for
such a declaration, would state that they were family connections.

He had arrived at this spot and taken up the position he now occupied
some quarter of an hour ago, and during that time, while casting
searching glances to right and left of him to see if there were as yet
any signs of the approach of Madame de Valorme's carriage, his mind
had been much occupied with all that had transpired since Mynheer Van
Ryk had escorted the two ladies to the Weiss Haus.

Yet strange as had been one, or, at least, two, occurrences during the
past twenty-four hours, another matter, the recollection of one other
incident, dominated his mind more than aught else--the recollection
that the last words Sylvia uttered had been almost an avowal of her
regard--he dared not yet tell himself that it was an avowal of her
love--for him.

"Her voice, her tone, her anxiety to depart from Liége," he had said
to himself a hundred times since he parted from the girl, "scarce
leaves me room to doubt her sentiments for me, while throwing open the
door of a vast, a supreme hope. Ah, if it is so! If, when once we are
free of this place, I may dare to speak, and, in speaking, win the
reply I fain would receive, what happiness will be mine! With Sylvia
for my love, my promised wife; with her safe in England, what may I
not undertake in the future? Once more a soldier, as I hope to be, may
I not follow where duty summons me, knowing that, if it pleases
Providence to spare my life, it will be to find Sylvia awaiting me and
ready to fulfil her promise to be my wife when I return."

As he had thought thus during the past hours so he thought again
while, statue-like, he sat his steed in the deepest shadows of the
palace cloisters and waited to hear the tread of the Comtesse's horses
approaching, or to see the carriage emerging from one of the narrow
streets that led into the great open space around the palace.

Still, however, he had those other things to occupy his mind--strange
things that, had it not been for the overmastering thoughts of the
woman he had learnt to love--the woman who, he dared to hope, had
either come or was coming to love him--would have never left his mind.
Things, occurrences, that now cast a strangely different light on all
that had happened during the storm of the first night in the Weiss
Haus, and that had raised oft-recurring doubts as to whether he had
accurately understood all that had taken place in the darkness of that
night.

When Sylvia and the Comtesse de Valorme had departed with Mynheer Van
Ryk, Bevill--partly attracted by the beauty of the evening and partly
because it was still early, and perhaps, also, because he knew full
well that, after Sylvia's last words to him, there would be little
likelihood of his sleeping at present--determined to remain outside
the mansion for some time before attempting to obtain any rest.

Naturally--as, maybe, needs no telling--his steps were unconsciously
directed back to the arbour in which their late conversation had taken
place, and, as he approached the spot, the calm tranquillity of the
night, the entire absence of the lightest breeze, forced itself upon
his attention. Even, however, as this took place he recalled how Van
Ryk had said that the wind was rising and rustling the bushes and long
grasses; and, while doing so, Bevill wondered why the merchant should
have given utterance to such a remark; for, as he thought upon the
matter, he knew that no breath of wind had disturbed the air, that not
the slightest breeze had blown that would have stirred a leaf.

His faculties aroused by all the necessities for caution which had
formed part of his existence since he left England on the undertaking
he was now about--faculties that had long since been trained and
sharpened in his earlier campaigns--he stood gazing at the bushes and
tall, wavy, Eastern grasses which surrounded the arbour, as though in
them he might, dark as it was now, discover some natural cause that
would have furnished Van Ryck with the supposition that the wind was
rising.

Seeing nothing, however, that could suggest any such cause, he walked
round those bushes and grasses to the back of the arbour and
endeavoured to discover if the reason was to be found there.

At first he could perceive nothing in the darkness, while feeling
gently about him with his hands and feet, as those feel to whom the
aid of light is denied while they search for aught they may expect to
discover.

But, at last, it seemed to Bevill that the grass behind the arbour was
strangely flattened down longwise, and, pausing at this discovery, his
sharpened instincts were soon at work wondering what this might mean.

"A large dog sleeping here might almost have made for itself a bed,"
he reflected, "yet there is no dog about the place, nor, even though
there were, would it have lain so straight and long. What, therefore,
may have done this? What? Perhaps a man."

After which he stooped again, and, placing his hand on the
pressed-down grass, discovered that it was warm.

"Something has indeed lain here but recently," Bevill said to himself.
"Some eavesdropper who has heard our plans, who knows them all by now,
who has it in his power to foil us. Can it have been Francbois?"

Supposing this might well be the case, Bevill determined to search the
grounds and afterwards the house as thoroughly as might be, while
understanding that, no matter how much he might endeavour to make that
search complete, it could by no possibility be so. The gardens were
too vast, the house too extensive. As he approached one spot any
person whom he sought might easily move to another; chance alone, the
luckiest of all chances, could bring him into contact with any lurker
who should be about.

Nevertheless, he decided to attempt the search, and, feeling for his
pistols, which in no circumstances was he ever separated from, he
began to make as thorough an inspection of the place as was possible.
Yet, when all was concluded, and when he had been all about the
grounds, and had peered into the other arbours and _bosquets_ and
behind bushes, and had then once more wandered over the vast, lonely
house, he had found nothing. After which, since still he felt sure
there had been some listener crouching behind that arbour while the
plans of himself and the others were being determined, he brought out
a chair on to the lower verandah and, wrapping himself lightly in his
cloak, since now the night was growing cool, determined to keep watch
as long as possible.

The early summer dawn came, however, and Bevill was still awake, but
had seen nothing, whereupon he at last decided that it must have been
some animal that had been sleeping behind where they all sat.


[Illustration: "The gardener carried something else in his hand."]


An hour or so after this and when he had obtained some refreshing
sleep on the great lounge in the hall, old Karl appeared, bringing the
usual food which he had received instructions from Sylvia to provide
each day so long as Bevill should remain at the Weiss Haus. The
gardener carried, however, something else than this in his hand,
namely, a three-cornered hat, which he at once said he had found in
the path that led from a little wicket gate he alone used, and which
opened from the road leading from his cottage to the grounds behind
the stables.

"Another hat!" Bevill exclaimed, taking it from the old man's hands
and turning it over in his own. "Another! Whose this time?"

To whomsoever it might have belonged, it did not, however, appear to
the young man that it was any more likely to have belonged to
Francbois than had done the earlier discovered one. If anything, it
was an even poorer specimen of headgear than that had been, and was a
hat that, though originally not of a common order, gave signs that it
might in its existence have passed from one owner to another; from,
indeed, a well-to-do man down to one who would be willing to accept it
in its final state of usefulness.

"It is very strange," he said, half aloud and half to himself. "Were
there three of them here last night, or were there only two, and was
Francbois not one of them? Had I two enemies besides him, and still
have two with him since Sparmann is gone? It is vastly strange." After
which he turned to Karl, and said:

"You have just found this thing. Therefore it was not there last night
nor yesterday morning?"

"Ah," the old man replied, "I cannot tell. Yesterday I used not the
path at all, having gone first to the Jouffrouw at Mynheer Van Ryk's
in the morning; and, last night, I was busy with _him_," nodding his
head towards where the corpse by the stables had been, "after dark."

"What have you done with him?"

"He is gone," Karl said vaguely. "Gone. No matter where. He will not
come back to--to--the Weiss Haus or Liége."

By which remark Bevill was led to suppose that the old man had cast
Sparmann's body into the river.

"Therefore," the latter said, "we have no knowledge of whether that
hat was left behind by one who was here during the storm of the night
before, or last night. Yet," turning the thing over in his hands,
"surely it must have been the first night. See, it has recently been
soaked by rain, the lining is still damp, and last night there was no
rain whatever."

"It may be," Karl replied, apparently much astonished at this clear
reasoning. "It may be. Therefore, you had three visitors on that
night."

"I cannot say. I have but proof of two. The wearers of the two hats at
least were here. Yet they may well have been the only visitors; in
solemn truth there may not have been three. Though strange it is
that, if there were but two, both should have parted with their hats.
One must have lost his in the encounter in which he received his
death-wound, the other in fleeing away."

For, now, Bevill had grave doubts as to whether Francbois had been at
the Weiss Haus at all on the night before the one now past. Still, if
it were not Francbois who had mortally wounded Sparmann--while almost
of a certainty supposing Sparmann to be another person, namely,
himself--who was it? Who was the other enemy he possessed? He knew
neither of personal enemy nor spy tracking him, nor of French soldier
or official likely to do so.

All the same, there was, there must be, a third enemy, even though
Francbois had not been of the number that night, since it was almost
certain that neither of those hats would have been worn by him--even
as a disguise. There must be two others beside him while Sparmann was
alive!

"And still there is more mystery," Bevill mused as the old man stood
gazing up at him, "more that is inexplicable. Sparmann did not find
his way out through either of the doors, nor, since I followed him as
he fled down the stairs, did he do so by the ladder against the
balcony. How, then, did that come to pass? Did he hide somewhere in
the house until I had opened the door leading to the stables, or was
there some window near the ground through which a man wounded to the
death might yet escape?"

But no answer came to these reflections. Whatever had taken place in
the Weiss Haus, other than all which he already knew, had left no
trace behind.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

Ten had struck, and, next, the quarter, from all the city clocks ere
Bevill had concluded these reflections, and still the carriage which
he was to accompany to the gate (since, as has been told, it was
finally decided that all should leave the city together, or attempt to
leave it) had not appeared.

As, however, the half-hour rang out, Bevill perceived it drawing near.
On the box he recognised Joseph, he being, doubtless owing to the
necessity for a coachman, the only servant whom the Comtesse de
Valorme had thought fit to bring with her.

Slowly the carriage drew near until, now, it was almost abreast of
where Bevill sat his horse, when, allowing La Rose to advance, he rode
up to the side of it and, bowing low to its occupants, asked if all
was well with them.

"All is very well," the Comtesse and Sylvia said together, while the
latter added, "as we pray it is with you. Ah!" she went on, "how we do
pray that the next half-hour will see you safely out of this place."

"And I," Bevill said, "that we shall all be safely out of it
together."

Any further remarks they would have made were, however, checked by
what they deemed to be an ordinary occurrence in a city in the
condition that Liége now stood.

From the direction in which the travelling carriage had come there
appeared--their corselets gleaming under the oil lamps slung across
the end of the old street--half a dozen men of a dragoon regiment,
having at their head an officer. As they advanced at a trot, Bevill
observed that no sooner had they approached close to the party than the
officer gave an order for them to proceed slowly, so that now the
_cortège_ presented the appearance of a carriage accompanied first by a
gentleman as escort, and next by a guard--small as it was--of cavalry.
Still, however, as the  great vehicle proceeded through narrow, tortuous
streets, while emerging occasionally into little open spaces having
sometimes fountains in the middle of them and, here and there, an old
and timeworn statue, he saw that, wherever he and the carriage went,
the dragoons followed. Also, if any interruption occurred, or any halt
was made by Joseph in the confined streets, they halted too, so that, at
last, he felt sure that their close following of him and those with him
was no mere coincidence. This was, he soon decided, no night patrol
returning from its round to its own quarters, but resembled more a guard
which had taken possession of the travellers after having come across
them.

He saw, too, that the ladies knew what was behind and were already
alarmed.

Turning sound suddenly over his cantle, therefore, while raising his
hat at the same time, Bevill said to the officer:

"Monsieur proceeds in the same direction as ourselves. It is to be
hoped that we in no way interrupt his progress or that of his troops."

"In no way, monsieur," the officer answered equally politely, while
returning Bevill's salute. "But," speaking very clearly and
distinctly, "we are warned that an English spy will endeavour to leave
Liége to-night in company with two ladies who travel by coach, and,
until monsieur has satisfied those who are at the gate, he will pardon
us if we inflict our company on him and his friends."

"An English spy!" Bevill exclaimed.

"Unhappily, it is so. One whose name is as well known as the French
name with which he thinks fit to honour our country by assuming."



CHAPTER XXII.


When the officer of dragoons had uttered those last words there
remained no longer any hope of escape in Bevill's mind. It was
impossible to doubt that he was the person for whom this small body of
troops was searching, or to suppose that there was in Liége any other
Englishman who, as the officer had said with delicate sarcasm, was
honouring his country by assuming a French name.

At first he knew not what was best to do, though, had he been alone,
his perplexity might easily have been resolved, since there would have
been one of two things open to him, namely, on the one hand, an
attempt to escape by flight through the narrow streets which
surrounded them all at this time--an attempt to dash suddenly away on
the fleet-footed La Rose, in the hope that she would bear him more
swiftly through those cramped streets than the heavy troop-horses of
the dragoons could follow, or ride through, side by side. On the other
hand, an effort to cut his way through these soldiers, though they
were seven against him, might by supreme good fortune be successful.

But, now, these ideas could by no possibility be acted on. He was
there in company with Sylvia and the Comtesse as their cavalier and
escort; while, although it was his safety and not theirs which was in
peril, his place was by their side to the last. Consequently, there
remained one thing alone to do: to state that he was the Englishman of
whom these men were in search, while adding that he was no spy, but,
instead, one who had made his way from England to Liége with the sole
object of assisting a countrywoman to leave a city surrounded by the
eternal enemies of the English.

Before, however, Bevill could follow this determination, at which he
arrived suddenly, since from the time the officer of dragoons had
uttered his last words until now not two moments had elapsed, he saw
the face of Madame de Valorme at the window of the travelling
carriage, and, an instant later, heard her address the officer.

"Monsieur," she said, "ere we reach the gate may I beseech the favour
of speaking to the gentleman of our party in private? I have some few
words to say to him in connection with our journey when we shall be
outside the city. I am confident that monsieur will not refuse so
simple a request."

"Madame may rest well assured of that," the officer replied, as now he
sat his horse bareheaded before the Comtesse. "Madame shall not be
incommoded by listeners to anything she may have to say to her
friend." After which he ordered three of his men to advance twenty
paces in front of the carriage and halt there, and the other three to
retire twenty paces behind it; while he himself rode forward and took
up his position in front of the foremost men.

The Comtesse and Sylvia, with Bevill at the carriage window, were,
therefore, as free to discourse without being overheard as though the
soldiers had not been in the neighbourhood.

"Ah!" the former said now, speaking of course in a low tone, as at the
same time Sylvia thrust forth her hand and clasped Bevill's silently,
while one glance at her sweet face was enough to show him how agitated
she was, the look in her eyes telling him of that agitation as clearly
as the tremor of her gloved hand could do. "Ah! what is to be done?
Have we failed so soon in our undertaking? Have we brought you to your
destruction?"

"Nay, never, never!" Bevill whispered back. "If I have met my
fate"--while, as he spoke, he heard a moan, which was in truth a gasp,
from Sylvia's lips, and felt her hand tighten convulsively on his--"I
have brought it on myself; I can meet it boldly. I set myself to do
this thing, looking for a reward, though never dreaming how fair a
reward might at last be mine," he added, with a glance beyond the
Comtesse to where Sylvia was. "If I have lost shall I not pay the
stake, shall I not look ill-fortune bravely in the face?"

"How has this disaster come about?" Sylvia asked, speaking for the
first time. "What precaution has been omitted? Or is it----?"

"Treachery!" the Comtesse said. "Ay! that way the disaster has come.
Say, is it not so?"

"I fear, indeed, it is," Bevill replied. "Listen. Someone, either
Francbois or another, was in the garden of the Weiss Haus last night
behind the arbour, and overheard our plans. I have been denounced, our
plans have been revealed, by the eavesdropper."

"Maledictions on him!" the Comtesse whispered through her white teeth,
while now her eyes were worthy rivals in splendour of Sylvia's own as
they sparkled in the light cast by a lamp suspended across the narrow
street. "May vengeance confound him, whoe'er he is; and if 'tis
Francbois, let him beware! I hold him in my hand. If--if--you
are--are----"

"Cease in mercy's sake!" Sylvia exclaimed. "Ah, say it not. It
cannot--cannot--be."

"If you are betrayed by him, you shall be dearly avenged," the
Comtesse continued. "Yet, see, that officer gives some order to the
men by his side. Quick--what will you do? What?"

"Proclaim myself an Englishman, yet no spy. Speak truthfully, and
acknowledge that I came here to save my countrywoman----"

"Madame," the officer exclaimed now as, after turning his horse, he
rode back to the carriage, "the clocks are striking the last quarter.
If madame and her friends are not at the gate in ten minutes there
will be little hope of their passing through it to-night. Even
provided," he added below his breath, "that the papers are in order."

For this well-bred young dragoon had a full certainty that he had
found the quarry which he, as well as two or three other small parties
of soldiers, had been sent out that night to waylay if possible. Yet
he had caught a glimpse of Sylvia in the depths of the carriage and
more than a glimpse of the aristocratic though sad features of the
Comtesse, and he regretted that it had fallen to his lot to light on
those who were sought for. As for Bevill, he recognised that he was
one of his own class--a gentleman and, by his appearance, perhaps a
soldier; but he believed him to be what he had been described as
being, a spy, a thing accursed in every land, and for him the young
officer felt little sympathy.

"It must be so," Madame de Valorme said now. "Monsieur," speaking as
calmly to Bevill as she was able to do, "pray bid Joseph to proceed."

A moment later the group had again set forth, three of the troopers
riding ahead and three behind the carriage, only now the officer rode
very close behind Bevill.

It took but little longer after this to reach the gate set in the
walls, which at this time were very high and strong, the gate-house
itself looking like a small fortress built into a still greater
fortification. Inside it, three or four mousquetaires were standing as
sentries as the carriage approached, while, since all recognised the
young officer in front, no challenge was given, but, instead, a
salute.

Then the latter, speaking to one of the mousquetaires, said:

"Inform the officer of the guard that Captain d'Aubenay has arrived in
company with a party who desire to pass out."

Ere, however, this could be done, the officer himself had come forth
from the guard room, and as he did so the Comtesse uttered an
exclamation, while muttering beneath her breath:

"It is De Guise. Again! Ah, that man is fatal to all of us!"

In the manner of the young Duc de Guise there was, however, nothing to
suggest any disaster, since, courteous as he had been at the western
gate when the Comtesse entered with Bevill, so he was now as she and
Bevill endeavoured to leave by the eastern one.

"We meet again, madame," he said; "and, this time, when madame would
depart. The formality is nothing. I merely require to see the papers
of herself and friends. Yet I have seen it before," he went on, as now
he took the _laissez-passers_ of the Comtesse and Sylvia from the
former's hand. "Ah, yes, yes," he muttered, though as he did so he
glanced at Madame de Valorme and, past her, at Sylvia. "Madame la
Comtesse de Valorme and her _dame de compagnie_. _Si, si_. And
monsieur?" he continued, looking up now at Bevill, while all noticed
that he had not used one of the accustomed phrases, "_Passez,
madame_," or "_C'est tout en règle_," nor had he as yet returned the
papers.

"Ah, yes!" the young Duke said now, as he looked at the paper Bevill
handed down to him. "Monsieur de Belleville. I remember very well. Of
the embassy in London. Yes," still looking up. Then he said, "I regret
to do so, but I must ask monsieur to descend from his horse."

"Descend!"

"Unfortunately it must be so. We have received orders not to permit
monsieur to pass the gate for the moment. Doubtless for the moment
only. It is very regrettable----"

"And," asked the Comtesse, "has monsieur le Duc also received orders
not to permit me and my _dame de compagnie_ to pass out?"

"_Je suis désolé_, but, alas!----"

"Is it so?"

"It is so, madame."

"Are we to be detained here? And for how long?"

"Ah, Madame la Comtesse! For how long! But for a moment. Monsieur de
Violaine, the Governor, makes the night rounds regularly, reaching
here at eleven as the clocks strike, or very little later. Madame may
rely on seeing him in a few minutes. If he decides that it shall be so
the gate will be opened to let madame and mademoiselle pass out."

"And as for me, sir?" Bevill asked.

"Monsieur, I cannot say. Our orders were simply to detain you if you
presented yourself at the gate."

Then, again addressing the Comtesse, the young Duke said:

"Will not madame and mademoiselle give themselves the trouble to
descend from the coach? The guardroom is at their disposal: while,"
looking at Bevill, "monsieur is quite free to accompany his friends
inside."

After which the Comtesse and Sylvia left the great carriage, and
Bevill, after assisting them to do so, in which attention he was
joined by the Duke and another officer of mousquetaires, accompanied
them to the guardroom.

Hardly, however, had they set foot in the place than the clatter of
several horses' hoofs was heard outside; the voice of a sergeant was
also heard giving the order to salute, and, a moment later, the
Governor, M. de Violaine, entered the room. As he did so the eyes of
those three were turned on him whom they well knew was, for the time
being at least, the arbiter of their destiny; while Madame de Valorme
seemed to become even more pale than she usually appeared. For, as she
had said once, this man was well known to her, and, like her, belonged
to the South of France; while, in other days, he had aspired to win
her hand, though this no one in Liége but herself and De Violaine
knew.

The group was now one at which any onlooker, not knowing all that
agitated the hearts and minds of those present, might have gazed in
interested wonderment.


[Illustration: "De Violaine muttered beneath his breath, 'It is
she--Radegonde!'"--_p_. 747.]


De Violaine, tall and handsomely accoutred, had stopped short as he
entered the guardroom, and, his eyes fixed on the Comtesse, had
muttered beneath his breath, "It is she--Radegonde!"

By Bevill's side, to which she had drawn close as they entered through
the clamped door, was Sylvia, gazing at him, silent for some moments,
yet whispering next.

"You thought to save me--would have saved me. If on this earth there
exist any means by which I can do by you as you would have done by me,
they shall be used. You said last night that you would never fail me.
Now I exchange the pledge. By God's will never will I fail you."

"Sylvia!" Bevill murmured, and then was silent from agitation at her
words. But a moment later he said, speaking so low that none but she
could hear, "Sylvia, I am in God's hand, not knowing what His decree
may be; yet--yet--if this is not the end, if to-night we do not make
our last farewell----"

"No, no!" she moaned, turning her face away so that the others should
not see her fast falling tears. "Not that! Never! Ah, it cannot be!"

"I pray it may not be so; but, Sylvia, if happier days shall ever
dawn, if some day I may stand face to face with you again; if I should
then dare to tell you all that is in my heart? Ah!" he exclaimed, as
now he felt her hand touch his beneath the long, dark riding-cloak she
wore. "Ah! am I answered?"

"Yes," she whispered, "answered as none shall ever be again," and
turned her face away--from him this time, so that not even he should
see it.

Meanwhile, whatever emotion De Violaine and the Comtesse may have
experienced in meeting under such strange circumstances, circumstances
so different from those of other days, when he who now commanded
besought pity, and she who was now almost a captive could not
vouchsafe mercy to her then captive, they had at least obtained
control over themselves.

Quietly, with the easy calm of that old French _noblesse_ which, above
all things, permitted no emotion to be apparent, the Governor had
advanced towards Madame de Valorme and, in a few well-chosen words,
had informed her that matters which had come to his knowledge
prevented him from allowing her to use her right of quitting the city
at present, or of leaving Liége until she had answered some questions
satisfactorily.

"What matters? What questions, monsieur?" the Comtesse asked.

"Firstly," M. de Violaine said gravely, "the reasons for which you are
desirous of travelling at this moment. It is an unhappy time for
ladies to select for setting out upon a journey. They might," he
added, with significance, "come into contact with the English or some
other of our enemies; they are all around."

For a moment the Comtesse looked at the Governor; then, seeing that
the others in the room were not close, she said:

"Have you, a De Violaine of our unhappy province, forgotten how the
eyes of all there are turned towards England? Even though I should
'come into contact' with the English would that be harmful to me, or
those of whom I am one?"

"I have not forgotten that I am a soldier, a servant, of France," the
other answered. "As one who has sworn a soldier's duty to his King I
must, for the time, forget all else. Madame la Comtesse, I ask of you
to return to the house from which you set out and remain there. You
have been denounced to me as one who is desirous, for a purpose of
which I know as well as you, of obtaining an audience of Lord
Marlborough."

"Denounced! Naturally, I do not desire to be informed of the name of
my denouncer. I know it--and I pity him."

De Violaine looked at her for a moment; then, turning towards Bevill,
he said:

"Monsieur, the name on your passport is not your name. You are, I am
informed, an Englishman and a spy."

"I am an Englishman, monsieur. I am no spy."

"That you will have to prove, as well as your object in being here in
any position except that of a spy. For the present you will be
detained at the citadel. The gate," he said, addressing the Duc de
Guise, "will be opened no more to-night."



CHAPTER XXIII.


Through all that had taken place in the guardroom, M. de Violaine had
conducted himself as a gallant gentleman, and neither in his tone,
words, nor bearing had there been any of that hectoring or browbeating
towards one who, if he was what he had been denounced as being, might
well have been subjected to such treatment.

For a spy, found in a city subject to those who were already sore
pressed by the very country to which that supposed spy belonged, could
scarcely look for gentle treatment at the hands of one who was in
command of the principal fortress of that city; while, polished as the
French _noblesse_ and gentry might be, soldiering was conducted with a
considerable amount of roughness at this time, and it was the habit of
all in command in the chief European armies--which were the armies of
England and France alone--to treat suspected prisoners with scant
consideration.

Yet Bevill could not complain of any roughness on the part of the man
whose captive he now was. De Violaine, except that his manner was cold
and austere towards him, had behaved as well as one gentleman brought
into contact with another, and that other the subject of a hostile
country, could have been expected to behave. For all of which there
was a reason, over and above the fact that the prisoner was
undoubtedly the friend of the woman whom De Violaine had once loved
tenderly and hoped to win, as well as apparently something more than a
friend of the beautiful companion of the Comtesse--that stately,
handsome girl from whose eyes the tears had fallen fast in compassion
for the man who was now his prisoner.

This reason was that he had been face to face with the denouncer of
Bevill, and, later, with Bevill himself--the denounced--and the first
had impressed him unfavourably, while the second, Englishman though he
was, had produced a vastly different effect on him.

That morning, early, Francbois had obtained an audience with the
Governor, and, after many crafty hints and a considerable amount of
falsehood, had told sufficient to cause De Violaine to issue his
orders for preventing Bevill and his companions from leaving Liége.

But when Francbois, after stating that not only was the principal
accused an Englishman, but also a spy of the enemy, as well as
being a Protestant--whom he termed generally _heretiques_ and
_reformes_--but also one who had committed other crimes against France
which he would unfold, the soldier bade him be silent.

"You state," De Violaine said, "that you can prove he is an
Englishman; that he travels under a false name while bearing a
passport made out in that false name, a French one. That is sufficient
for his arrest."

"Sufficient, monsieur, for his arrest! His arrest! But surely not
sufficient--surely not--for his condemnation--his punishment?"

"That will come later--at the court-martial, since it is by that he
can alone be judged. Then you can tell all else you know."

"A court-martial! Is that necessary? Is he not a spy and are not spies
condemned without many formalities? Are not Protestants the enemies of
France?"

"No," De Violaine said, regarding coldly the man before him. "I am
one. Am I an enemy of France? So, too, are half the inhabitants of
this place, yet they submit."

"Monsieur le Gouverneur is a Protestant!" Francbois exclaimed, taken
aback at learning a fact of which he was in utter ignorance. "A
Protestant!" he said again.

"One of many who love France well and serve her well. Also, you speak
of la Comtesse de Valorme, and state that you know what she is in
Liége for. Knowing so much, you know too that she is of the reformed
faith. Do you not suppose, also, that this Mademoiselle Thorne, this
English girl of whom you speak, is the same?"

"There is nought against Mademoiselle Thorne."

"There will be if she attempts to leave Liége without my particular
permission. Now go, monsieur. You have told me enough to cause them
all to be prevented in their intention. Later, you can tell the
officers who will judge this Englishman all that you know. Only," with
a strange look in his eyes as De Violaine regarded Francbois, "be
careful not to leave Liége yourself: you will be wanted."

"I--I----" Francbois stammered, utterly taken aback, not only at the
knowledge he had now obtained that the Governor was a Protestant, but
also at learning that he himself would be required at whatever form of
trial there might be. "I hoped that I should not be called upon to
appear personally; I hoped that my information would be sufficient."

"You will have to be present. Where is your abode?"

"At--at----" But he paused. If he gave the house of Van Ryck as his
place of abode he stigmatised himself as one who betrayed a woman
dwelling under the same roof as he; while if, on the other hand, he
told this man sitting before him and regarding him so coldly and
contemptuously, that he was an inhabitant of the  Jesuit College, he
proclaimed himself as one whom this Protestant soldier would regard
with abhorrence and all other Frenchmen with mistrust.

"Answer me," the Governor said, seeing that the other hesitated.
"Answer, I say. Where do you dwell?"

"I--I--am for the moment at the Jesuit College, Monsieur le
Gouverneur," Francbois cried, seeing a look appear upon De Violaine's
face which he could not comprehend, so strange, so inscrutable was it.
"I am of the religion of France, as most Frenchmen are. There is no
crime in consorting with Jesuits."

But still De Violaine looked at Francbois, who now stood before him
with his features white as a corpse within its shroud; while, as the
former regarded him, he felt that he was trembling.

"No," De Violaine said at last, speaking very calmly; "there is no
harm in consorting with Jesuits, unless it be to do harm. Yet----"

But now he paused and added nothing further, though still looking
Francbois through and through with calm eyes.

Inwardly, however, his reflections were profound.

"The Jesuits' College!" he was saying to himself. "A portion of that
confraternity which secretly is opposed to the claims of France to the
Spanish Throne since, once possessed of Spain, France would attempt to
suppress the Inquisition. The Jesuits' College in this place, from
which De Boufflers has hinted more than once that news of our projects
and plans is disseminated to the enemy. Ah! who is the greater spy on
us--that Protestant Englishman of whom this man speaks, or he himself
who harbours in that college under the sheltering wing of the order.
_Carogne!_ if I trap one 'twere best I held the other in my hand as
well," and once more the Governor's eyes fell on the man before him.

"Monsieur," Francbois said now, as, still white and still trembling,
he again met De Violaine's glance, "Monsieur, is my presence needed
further? I--I--have affairs of consequence in hand."

"Doubtless! Yet I have changed my mind. When do you say this
Englishman masquerading as a Frenchman is about to quit the city with
those ladies?"

"To-night, Monsieur le Gouverneur--before the hour of eleven strikes."

"So be it. You have told me much, but not sufficient. To-night, before
eleven, they will all be stopped on their intended journey. The
Englishman will be brought here"--"here" being the citadel in which
this conversation was taking place--"and your charges against him must
be made at once. It may be that all you state is capable of
explanation."

"Here, monsieur? I would have desired not to be present, not to be
forced to accuse this spy face to face. A silent, an unknown, an
absent witness is sometimes more useful than a present one. Yet, since
monsieur desires it, it shall be so. I will be here. Monsieur may rely
on me."

"Reliance is not necessary," De Violaine replied, while knowing well
that, if once this man was allowed to go, the inside of the citadel
would never see him again. "You will remain here till the gate is shut
and that man in our hands. He shall be brought here at once; you shall
stand face to face with him and tell your tale. If what you state, and
that which you say you can state further against him, cannot meet
inquiry, he will be in grievous peril."

"But, Monsieur le----"

"No more. You will be well cared for, and, providing you speak truly,
no harm can come to you." After which De Violaine struck upon a bell
by his hand, and, upon the appearance of two of the men on guard
outside, bade them remove the gentleman before them to a room in the
north wing of the citadel and be careful to treat him with all care
and attend well to his wants. But before Francbois was removed from
his presence, and ere he reached the door, the Governor bade the men
retire outside the room again until he summoned them. Then, when once
more alone with Francbois, he said:

"There is some reason for your denunciation of this Englishman. What
is that reason? Is it to obtain money, reward?"

"Monsieur?" Francbois exclaimed, making a sorry attempt to draw
himself up to his full height and to look the Governor fairly in the
face. "I am a gentleman--a Frenchman and--a patriot." But,
impassively, De Violaine--though it may be that his shoulders were
shrugged almost imperceptibly--continued:

"Are these ladies with whom this Englishman will endeavour to leave
the city known to you?"

"Yes," Francbois replied, speaking truthfully, since he could not
doubt that ere long--by eleven o'clock this night, if no sooner--any
falsehood he might utter would be unmasked. "Yes. La Comtesse de
Valorme is, in a manner, of my kin."

"Of your kin?" while beneath his lips the other drew a quick breath.
"Of your kin? La Comtesse de Valorme is kin to you! But there are many
De Valormes in--in the South. Is she by chance the wife of Gabriel,
Comte de Valorme, who was sent to the galleys for his religion?"

"She is, monsieur, the widow of Gabriel. He died in the galley _Le
Requin_."

"Ah! so he is dead." And again De Violaine drew a subdued breath. Then
he went on:

"And the other lady? She is, you say, English. A countrywoman of this
man whom you denounce. Who is she? What is she? What does she here in
Liége?"

That the French Governor should not know this was natural, since,
between the military investors of Liége and those residing in the city
there could be no intercourse whatever, or only the very slightest
between the commanders of the former and the magistracy of the latter;
and, consequently, all that Francbois now told him was unknown
previously. But of Sylvia De Violaine asked no further questions, and,
going to the door again, called in the guards and bade them escort
Francbois to the room he had ordained.

After which, and when left alone, he sat down in his chair again and
gave himself up to his reflections and to many tender, yet sad,
memories.

"So Gabriel is dead," he said to himself. "Poor Gabriel. Dead in one
of those accursed galleys. Dead! He to be dead thus! And Radegonde is
here--here in Liége. Radegonde, the one woman who ever rose as a star
above my life, the one woman who might have been the flower of that
life. Yet it was never to be. Never! Never! When Gabriel came all hope
was gone for me. Gone! Nay, it never existed. What was it she told me
on that last night? That, had her heart been hers it should have been
mine--only Gabriel had gained possession of it and would hold
possession of it for ever. And now--now--Gabriel is dead, and it falls
to me to interrupt her, to thwart her--her, to whom once I would have
given my life had she demanded it."

De Violaine brushed his hand swiftly across his eyes, thrust his chair
back, and rose from it to pace the room, while muttering to himself,
"That is done with, put away for ever. Duty alone remains--the duty,
the allegiance I have sworn. A soldier's loyalty! No matter what he
ordains," and his thoughts flew to far-off Versailles, "no matter how
much she persuades him to evil, he is the King and I his soldier. Duty
to him--and France! Yet, oh! that he were different."

"As for this fellow," the Governor continued, contemptuously now, "who
and what is he? Has _he_ dared to raise his eyes to Radegonde, to
dream that he shall ever occupy the place Gabriel held; and does he
hope by some low cunning, some base intrigue, to bring her to his
hand? Emile Francbois! Emile Francbois! Ha! Have a care! You may have
thwarted her, you may have brought this Englishman to the halter,
but--there is rope enough in this fortress to hang more than one. A
spy deserves no worse fate than a traitor."

He sent for the officer of the guard now, and gave his orders for
despatching a handful of cavalry under the command of one officer to
one part of the town and a second to another part, and gave
instructions that from dusk each should be on the watch for a
carriage, containing two ladies and accompanied by a man on horseback,
that would be making its way towards the only gate open after sunset.
He also gave instructions that if this party was met with it should be
conducted to that gate and there detained until he arrived at the
conclusion of his rounds.

And so the trap that Francbois had baited was set. No travellers such
as he had described would be able to pass out of the city this night.
While, so strong was the sense of duty, of loyalty to France,
engrafted in the heart of De Violaine--badly as France was treating
that class of her subjects to which he belonged--that, even had Madame
de Valorme been his sister or his wife, he would not have permitted
her to continue her journey--a journey on which she went, as he could
very well imagine, with a view to conspiring with France's most
powerful enemy, England, as represented in the presence of
Marlborough.

Yet it was hard to do!--hard to thwart the woman whom he had loved and
lost, the woman he had once dreamed of winning for his wife; and hard,
too, to prevent that woman from endeavouring to obtain help for those
of his and her own faith now suffering for that faith.

But if he drew his existence from those of that faith, so, too, he
drew it from France, and, as one of her soldiers, he had sworn to
protect her.

Not even his love for a woman whom he had lost could make him false to
that vow.



CHAPTER XXIV.


When De Violaine gave the order to the young Duc de Guise that the
gate was to be opened no more for the night, Francbois, had he been
present instead of in the citadel, might well have considered that he
had succeeded in his betrayal of the man whom he regarded as his rival
in the affections of Sylvia Thorne. For that man was now a prisoner in
the hands of France; while the actual fact of his being in Liége by
aid of a false passport was one that must in any case tell heavily
against him. Also, some other statements--which were not facts--that
Francbois was prepared to weave into his denunciation would, beyond
all doubt, accomplish his destruction.

That those statements would soon be made none who were present at this
time could doubt when, following on the order to have the gate kept
fast until daybreak, another was issued by the Governor.

"Call Captain d'Aubenay," he said now to one of the mousquetaires
under the command of De Guise, while, turning to Bevill, he continued.
"You will be taken to the citadel; there you will hear the charge
against you--the charge upon which, later, you will be tried, as well
as upon another, of being present in a city under the control of
France while falsely passing as a Frenchman."

To which Bevill made no reply, except a courteous bow, since he deemed
silence best.

But, if he had nothing to say, one person at least--the Comtesse de
Valorme--saw no reason for also being silent.

Approaching De Violaine, who stood some little distance apart from the
rest, she said therefore:

"There is but one man in all Liége who can have denounced your newly
acquired prisoner. That man is named Emile Francbois"; while,
remarking that the other neither assented to nor denied this
statement, she added, "It is so, is it not?"

But still De Violaine kept silence, whereupon the Comtesse continued,
while adopting now a different form of inquiry--a more impersonal one.

"Whosoever the man may be," she said, "who has thought fit to testify
against monsieur, to formulate the charges against him of which you
speak--charges of which you could not otherwise have known--he must
have sought you out to do so. Monsieur, I beseech of you to at least
answer this, even though you answer nothing else."

Whereupon, stung by the coldness of his questioner, stung also by the
almost contemptuous tone in which she spoke--she whom once he had
loved so much--De Violaine replied:

"The person who has informed against the prisoner waited upon me at
the citadel."

"And is present there now to repeat his charges against--the
prisoner?"

To which question De Violaine contented him by answering with an
inclination of his head.

"So be it," the Comtesse replied, and there was in her tone a
bitterness that her listener could never have supposed her to be
possessor of. "So be it. I know--nay, we all know"--with a glance that
swept over Sylvia and Bevill--"who this informer is. But, since
Monsieur le Gouverneur is by the way of listening to his informers,"
and she saw De Violaine start and flush as she spoke, "he will not
refuse to give audience to another informer--at the citadel."

"Another!"

"Yes, another. Myself! Monsieur de Violaine will not perform his duty
to France in a half-hearted manner. He gives open ear to the first one
who tells him of spies being about he will not surely turn a deaf ear
to a second informer who wishes to denounce a traitor."

"A traitor? Who is he? And who is to denounce him?"

"I am the latter. The man you received in the citadel--Emile
Francbois--is the former. I claim the right to be received at the
citadel by you in the same manner that you received that man. Only, my
denunciation shall be an open one, made before others--not one made,
as doubtless this was, within closed doors."

"So be it. The right is yours. When will Madame la Comtesse honour me
by----"

"When? To-night. Now. At once!"

"At once? It grows late."

"Late! What matters the lateness of the night in comparison with the
exposure of a villain? Monsieur de Violaine, I demand to be allowed to
accompany your prisoner to the citadel and to hear what Emile
Francbois has to assert against him."

"And I also," Sylvia said, since [illegible] ...tion had ceased by now
to be c [illegible] ... tones and could easily be overheard in the
guardroom.

"You, Mademoiselle!" De Violaine exclaimed, not knowing but that
Sylvia was, in absolute truth, that which she was supposed to be,
namely the _dame de compagnie_ of Madame de Valorme. "You? Surely
Madame la Comtesse does not require your support at such a scene."

"That," Sylvia said, as she stood tall and erect before the Governor,
so that he no longer deemed he was speaking to any other than a woman
who was herself of equal rank and position with the Comtesse, "that is
not the question. It was to enable me, to assist me to leave Liége,
to protect me as I did so, that your prisoner made his way to this
city--for this that the base, crawling creature, Francbois, denounced
him to you."

"You are then Mademoiselle Thorne?"

"I am Mademoiselle Thorne. If Francbois has much to tell you about
Monsieur Bracton, since that is his rightful name, so too have I," and
as Sylvia spoke her eyes were turned for a moment towards Bevill--for
a moment only, but it was enough. Enough to tell Bevill that, even
though he should be condemned to-night and executed at dawn, it
mattered little now. That glance had told him more than a hundred
words could do: it had told him he was the possessor of Sylvia's love!

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

The _salle d'armes_ of the citadel, in which half an hour later De
Violaine, the Comtesse, Sylvia, and Bevill stood, was large enough for
half a regiment to bivouac in, and had, indeed, in past ages served
for such a purpose, as well as many another of blacker memory. For in
that great hall, wainscotted with oak from floor to roof, that dark
hall in which those who stood at one end of it by night could scarce
see to the other, deeds of blood and cruelty had been perpetrated the
recollection of which had not by then been effaced. Here prisoners
innumerable had heard their doom pronounced; while on other occasions
those within the citadel had made many a last stand ere being captured
or slain.

To-night this hall was but partly lighted by the wood that flamed in a
huge cresset at the further end of it, and by great, common candles
that flared from sconces fixed into the walls, while dropping masses
of grease to the open floor as they did so.

Yet, sombre as was the light thus obtained, it served well enough for
what was now occurring. It served to show De Violaine standing before
the enormous empty fireplace that reached to the roof--one in which
many persons might sit as in a room and warm themselves on winter
nights; to show, also, the Comtesse de Valorme and Sylvia seated
together on a huge oaken bench on which, in earlier days than these,
Spanish, Burgundian, French, and Walloon soldiers had lolled as the
citadel was held in turn by their various rulers and generals--a bench
on which at times trembling prisoners had awaited the pronouncement of
their doom. Also, that light showed Bevill standing erect and calm not
far from where Sylvia was seated, with, behind him, four troopers of
the Régiment de Risbourg, which was quartered partly in the citadel
and partly in the Chartreuse, or Carthusian, monastery.

There was, however, one other man present, behind whom there also
stood four soldiers. One other--Francbois. Francbois, white as a
phantom, yet speaking with an assumption of calm while protesting that
that which he was now saying was uttered in the interests of France
and justice.

This protestation made, Francbois went on to state how, from the
moment he had seen the prisoner on the Quai, he had recognised him as
an Englishman with whom he had been at school in Paris years before;
and, consequently, in the interests of his beloved France he had
resolved to discover what reasons he might have for being in Liége.

"Was it not possible," De Violaine asked, in his clear, quiet voice,
"that the reason the prisoner now gives for his presence here may have
been the true one--that he had come from England to escort his
compatriot, Mademoiselle Thorne, back to their country?"

"Monsieur, had that been so this Englishman, Bracton, would have
proceeded differently. From the moment he landed at Antwerp, almost
from the first moment, his actions were marked by deceit and, alas! by
wickedness unparalleled. He landed under the assumed name that he has
borne here--André de Belleville. When he was recognised as an
Englishman by one whom he had deeply injured in earlier days, one whom
he had driven to ruin, he passed as an officer of Mousquetaires named
Le Blond----"

"Le Blond of the Mousquetaires. He is long since dead. I knew him
well."

"And I," said the Comtesse. "He was my cousin."

"Monsieur," said Francbois, "it was that dead man's papers he
possessed himself of. The very horse he rides was that of Le Blond."

"How," asked De Violaine, still with ominous calm, "are you acquainted
with these matters?"

"Monsieur, the man whom he had so injured tracked him here--tracked
him when he had recovered from the wound inflicted on him at St. Trond
by the prisoner."

"It is false," Bevill said now, speaking for the first time; "by
whomsoever the man may have been wounded at St Trond, that wound was
not given by me." While, as he spoke, he learnt for the first time how
it was that Sparmann had not denounced him at St. Trond, how it was
that he had been enabled to quit St. Trond without molestation.

"In what way," said De Violaine, repeating what he had said before,
"are you acquainted with these matters? You tell me that they have
happened. What I desire to learn is who you have obtained your
knowledge of them?"

"Monsieur le Gouverneur, that man--his name was Sparmann--came to
Liége when his wound was healed, still determined to expose, to
denounce the Englishman. He and I met--by--by--accident, and I
discovered what his intention was."

"It is strange that the only two men in Antwerp who desired to
denounce the prisoner should have met. What was this man?"

"He was a Hollander who had been vanquished by the prisoner in a duel.
For that he fell into ill-favour. Later, he became a spy of France."

"A spy! You consort with spies!"

"Ah!" murmured the Comtesse de Valorme at these words of the Governor,
yet the murmur was loud enough for all present to hear, and to notice
also that it was full of meaning--so full that, unconsciously, De
Violaine's eyes were turned to her for an instant. Then the latter
continued:

"Nevertheless, this man has not denounced the prisoner. It may be he
confided that task to you."


[Illustration: "'I denounce this man.'"--_p_.755.]


"Monsieur," Francbois said now, and it was apparent to all that he was
about to make his supreme effort, "Monsieur," drawing himself up to
his full height, "I denounce this man, not because the task was
confided to me--I am no spy, no denouncer, whose office it is to do
these things--but because that other is not here to do it for himself.
He was murdered by that man, that Englishman, your prisoner!"

"Liar!" exclaimed Bevill, and in a moment he had sprung at Francbois,
when, seizing him in a grasp of iron, he would have throttled him had
not the troopers intervened and torn Francbois from his grasp. "Liar!
If 'twas any who slew him that night in the Weiss Haus 'twas you!"
though even as he spoke he had his doubts, remembering the signs he
had discovered of the presence of a third man beside himself in
Sylvia's house.

But now, amidst the excitement caused by Francbois' words and Bevill's
prompt action to avenge them, amidst the contemptuous exclamations of
both Sylvia and the Comtesse against Francbois (while, as the former
spoke, she had sprung from the oak bench and stood by Bevill's side,
whispering words of belief in his innocence of the horrible deed of
which he had been accused), De Violaine's quiet tones fell once more
on all their ears.

"You declare this man murdered that other one, that spy. What is your
proof?"

"I saw him do it," Francbois replied, though as he spoke he was
careful to draw close to the side of the soldiers. "I had gone there
with Sparmann to assist in capturing this man."

"Yet did not give help. Had you no weapon with which to assist your
'friend,' your '_confrère_,' or, unable to do that, no power to avenge
his death?"

"I--I----" Francbois stammered. "I----"

"Enough!" De Violaine said. "Your story does not bear the impress of
truth upon it. Remove him," he said now to four of the soldiers. "It
needs," he continued, "that I learn more of you--of who and what you
are. There lies more matter behind all this than you have seen fit to
divulge."

"That you shall know at once--on the instant!" the Comtesse exclaimed.
"Let him remain here and listen to what I have to narrate. Also let
Mr. Bracton remain. Beside what else there is to tell of that man,
Francbois, he hates this Englishman for a reason he has not deemed it
well to divulge--for the reason that he believes Sylvia Thorne----"

"What!" De Violaine exclaimed, startled.

"For the reason that he believes I love this man," Sylvia said,
drawing even closer to Bevill as she spoke, and holding out her hand
to him. Then, as Bevill clasped it in both of his, she turned and
looked the others proudly in the face, while adding: "As in truth I
do. If you slay him on that wretch's word, you slay the man I
love--the man who, I pray, may live to call me wife; the man who has
risked, perhaps thrown away, his life for me."



CHAPTER XXV.


The declaration by Sylvia of her love for Bevill had caused so much
agitation among those assembled in that gloomy _salle d'armes_ that,
for the moment, all forgot there was another declaration to be
heard--namely, the denunciation of Francbois by the Comtesse de
Valorme. To him who was most principally concerned--to Bevill
Bracton--the proclamation of Sylvia's love came not, however, so much
as a surprise--since, had she not loved him, the words she had but
hitherto whispered would never have been uttered at all by one so
calmly dignified and self-contained as she--as a joy supreme. In the
joy, too, was merged an honest, manly pride in having won for himself
the love of a woman who nobly, before all present, had not hesitated
openly to avow that love.

And still, even now that the love was acknowledged, every action of
the girl as he drew close to her and, in his deepest murmur, whispered
his own love and pride in her, but tended to increase his reverence.
For as she--disdained all assumption of embarrassment, of having
uttered words before others which, in ordinary cases, should have been
whispered in his ears alone--now stood by his side with her hand still
clasped in his, and with her calm, clear eyes fixed on him, he
recognised more fully than ever he had done before how royally she was
clad with womanly dignity. It was given to him to understand how that
outspoken love for him had become her even as, oft-times, the murmured
confession of their love by other women becomes them.

"Sylvia," he said now, "what shall I say, how prove to you all that is
in my heart? How repay the love you have given me, the love I hoped so
dearly to win?"


"Repay! Is it not mine to repay? You might have left me here alone. It
was in your power to go, yet you resolved to stay. And," she said,
gazing at him, "I love you. The words you uttered last night told me
of your love for me; to-night I have avowed my own in return. Yet,
ah!" she almost gasped, "in what a place, in what a spot, to plight
our troth, to exchange vows!"

"Fear not, sweet one. The place matters nothing; the balm is
administered, is here," and he touched the lace above his heart. "Even
though they keep me prisoner for months, even though they slay me for
being that which, God knows, I am not----"

"No, no, no! Not that! Not that!" she murmured, losing momentarily her
self-control and clenching her under-lip between her teeth to hide its
trembling. "Not that. It cannot be." Then looking up at him more
firmly, though now he saw her eyes were welling over with tears, she
added, "We have not met thus to part thus. It cannot, cannot be."

"By Heaven's grace we will never part. Once free of this, once safe,
and--together--always together--we will never part on earth again.
Heart up, my sweet! Heart up!" While, as he spoke, the pressure of his
hand by hers told him that, as far as resolution could come to her
aid, she would never despair. Nay, more--if such a thing might
be--it conveyed in some subtle form to him the knowledge, the
assurance, that if there lay in her power any chance of saving him,
that chance would be exerted. Yet how, he asked himself, could she do
aught towards saving him?

What was there to be done? His presence in this city, his assumption
of being French while actually the subject of France's most determined
enemy, was enough.

Meanwhile, there were others present--one other at least, the
Comtesse--to whom this declaration of Sylvia had, if it came as a
surprise at all, only come as one by the manner in which it was made.
For she had seen enough, had observed enough to comprehend how, day by
day, this man and woman had been gradually drawing nearer and nearer
to one another; to discern how dear to each was the presence of the
other, and to perceive that, as so they were drawn closer and closer
together, the strands that drew them must tighten more and more until
they could never be unloosed.

But if this avowal carried, therefore, no surprise to Madame de
Valorme, to Francbois it brought an added agony to that which had gone
before, even if, to him also, it brought no surprise. For he could not
but ask himself what he had gained by his betrayal of this man--a
betrayal that alone would have been justified, alone might have
claimed extenuation, had it been the outcome of an honest,
straightforward desire to serve the country he belonged to by injuring
its enemies.

"Gained?" he reflected. He had gained nothing, while losing much,
perhaps everything. Sylvia Thorne loved this man; she was not the
woman to ever love another--above all, not him who had betrayed the
beloved one. And, yes he had given this rival into the hands of the
enemy. It might be, it doubtless was the case, that he had brought
about his doom; but there--there!--but a few paces from him was one,
his own connection, who was now about to send him also to his doom.
For she knew enough to do so; she had told him so that night in the
lane when, after the Englishman had disarmed him, she had taken him
apart, even as, in the same breath, she had told him that if harm came
to that other so it should come to him. And now--now--it had come to
that other. In a few more moments it would come to him. She was about
to speak. Gained! Out of his own mouth, by his own evil disposition,
he had brought about his own fate.

As his mind was tortured thus the Comtesse de Valorme commenced the
exposure which must lead to his undoing.

"Monsieur de Violaine," he heard her saying now, even as every fibre
in his body trembled and seemed to become relaxed and flaccid, while
the moisture stood in great drops on his cheeks and forehead, "you
have heard Mr. Bracton proclaimed a spy, though he is none, but only a
man who assumed a false name, a false nationality, to help a woman
whom," she added, "he loves. He is no spy; but, if he were, is a spy
worse than a traitor?"

De Violaine started as she uttered these words, since he remembered
how the same thought, the same question, had arisen in his own mind
that very day; then in reply he said:

"Each is an evil thing--contemned by all honourable men. Yet one man's
evil-doing does not justify that of another."

"That is undoubted. Yet listen. This man," her eyes on Bevill, "is no
spy; this one," and they fell with withering contempt on Francbois,
"is a traitor."

"Have you proof of your words?" De Violaine asked, his marvellous calm
always maintained.

"Proof? Ay, as much as you require. Le Maréchal de Boufflers comes
here ere long, it is said, to see that all is prepared, all ready to
resist the Allies; to, it is also said, resist Marlborough himself.
When he comes show him these, after you have read them yourself." As
she spoke thus the Comtesse de Valorme thrust her hand beneath the
great _houppelande_, or travelling cloak, she had set out in and still
wore; while, thrusting it next into the lace of her dress, she drew
forth a small bundle of papers. "There is enough matter there," she
said, "to hang a score of traitors." After which, turning to
Francbois, she added: "You should have burnt those long ago instead
of keeping them; or, keeping them, should have found sanctuary for
them in the college of your friends and patrons, the Jesuits. Van
Ryk's house, the house of a heretic," she said bitterly, "was a poor
depository for such things; the bureau in a room sometimes occupied by
a heretic woman the worst place of all."

But Francbois was now almost in a state of collapse; it was necessary
for the stalwart troopers of the Risbourg dragoons to support him. For
at last he knew that, whatever might be the fate of this Englishman
whom he had striven to ruin, there was no ray of doubt about his own
fate; while--and this was the bitterest of all--he had brought that
fate upon himself. She, this tigress in woman's form, as he called her
to himself, had warned him in the lane behind Van Ryk's house that it
would be so if he betrayed the other; she had said the very same words
that she had but just now uttered; had said that she had enough proof
against him to hang a score of traitors. Only--she had not told him
the exact nature of that proof. While he, who received so many letters
by channels so devious that he could scarce remember how each reached
his hands, had lost all memory of how once, when disturbed, he had
thrust a small packet of them into the topmost drawer of an old bureau
in a room that he generally occupied, except when other guests were in
the house. In absolute fact, he had forgotten that bundle of letters
until now.

For some moments Francbois could not speak; his breath seemed to have
failed him. Nay more, even though the breath had been there to give
utterance to his words, his mind was incapable of forming thoughts
that, in their turn, should be expressed in words. He could but gasp
and whine and raise his hand to his brow to wipe away the hot sweat
oozing from it; he was so prostrate that the sturdy dragoons holding
him thought that he would sink lifeless to the floor. Yet all the time
he knew that the eyes of the others were upon him, were fixed coldly
and contemptuously on him; the eyes of all except those of De
Violaine, who, beneath the greasy candle guttering in their sockets,
was reading the papers he had but now received. Yet, once Francbois
saw that the Governor turned over a letter again and re-read it, and
that--then he raised his eyes from the sheet and also looked at him
for an instant. In that instant Francbois anticipated, perhaps
experienced, the agonies of death a hundred times.


[Illustration: "Francbois saw that the Governor turned over a letter
again."]


At last, however, he found his voice: thoughts to utter by its aid
came to him. Struggling in the troopers' arms, he raised himself into
a firmer, a more upright position and was able to assume something
more of the attitude of a man. Then, freeing his right hand from the
grasp of one of the soldiers--the hand in which he held his
handkerchief, now a rolled-up ball--he lifted and pointed it towards
the Comtesse; after which he said, in a harsh, dry, raucous voice:

"Spies! You--you--both--have talked of these." It may be he forgot in
his frenzy that from him alone had such talk originated. "So be it.
Yet, besides this English bully, this swashbuckler who slays in dark
houses, those who would bring him to justice, are then no others
present? What is this woman who in her self-righteousness denounces me
as a traitor----"

"She has done more; she has proved you to be one," the Comtesse said.

"What is she?" Francbois went on. "What? Her husband died a traitor at
the galleys; if women could be punished thus, she would be in a fair
way to do so, too. Is she no traitor? She? She who is here to meet
with Marlborough, or Cutts, or Athlone; to throw herself in their
path, to intrigue with them for an invasion of the South--she who
would have escaped to-night with those others had I not warned you of
her. Warned you! There was no need of that! You who, like her, are of
the South--a Camisard, a Cévenole."

Again De Violaine looked at this man, and the look had in it more
terror for the abject creature than a thousand words might have
possessed; after which, addressing the soldiers, he said:

"Remove both prisoners--each to a cell. Each of you," addressing both
Bevill and Francbois, "will be subjected to a general court-martial
when a sufficiency of officers can be collected to form it, and after
the Maréchal de Boufflers and the Duc de Maine have been consulted.
Mesdames," addressing the Comtesse and Sylvia, "you must return whence
you set out. The Captain d'Aubenay and his men shall escort you."

Thus the expedition, the escape from Liége, had failed, since all who
were to have gone on it, as well as he who prevented its
accomplishment, were prisoners. For that the Comtesse de Valorme and
Sylvia were now in a way--though a different one--as much prisoners as
Bevill Bracton and Francbois they could not doubt. Except that they
would be free of Van Ryk's house and gardens--free, possibly, of the
city itself--instead of being confined in some room, or rooms, in the
citadel, all freedom was gone from them, and they knew and understood
that it was so.

But, still, in each of those women's hearts there had sprung up some
hope for the future, the reason whereof neither could have explained,
since whence hope was to come neither of them knew. From De Violaine
there was, of a certainty, nothing to be looked for. Though no
Camisard or Cévenole, as Francbois had stated, he was, nevertheless, a
Protestant serving a cruel King who oppressed those of his faith; yet,
being one, the Comtesse de Valorme knew well that nothing would turn
him from his loyalty. Neither his early love for her, nor any hope
that, now she was free, he might win her love, nor his belief--if such
were possible--that Bevill had done nothing to merit condemnation as a
spy, would weaken his fidelity so long as he bore the commission of
Louis. From him there was nothing to be looked for but a stern,
unflinching execution of his duty. And, if not from him, whence should
hope come? At present they could find no answer to this question that
they had each asked of their own hearts; they saw no glimmering ray to
give them confidence. And still--still each hoped already, and the
hope would never die within their hearts until the last chance was
gone.

"I love him I love him! I love him!" Sylvia was whispering to herself
now, even as preparations were being made to remove Bevill from this
old, dark, and weird hall that reeked of the memories of innumerable
cruelties; Francbois being already removed. "I love him. And--and he
thought to save me. He deemed I needed assistance, rescue. Now it is
he who needs earthly salvation, he whose impending lot cries for
prompt succour. Ah, well! help, succour, shall be forthcoming unless I
die in an attempt to obtain it. Oh!" she gasped, her hands to her
breast, "they are leading him away--from me!"

With one swift movement she was by Bevill's side; a moment later she
was clasped to his heart; another, and he was murmuring words of love
and farewell in her ears.

"Adieu! Adieu, Sylvia," he said. "Nay, my sweet!" he whispered, "let
fall no tears; weep not for me. I have won your love; the happiest
hours of my life have come. Since I may be no more by your side--as
yet--I have the thoughts of you to solace me; the thought, the pride
of knowing I have won your love, that I alone dwell in your heart."

While, seeing that De Violaine in his delicacy had turned his eyes
away, and was gazing into the great empty fireplace until this sad
parting should be made; seeing, too, that even the rough troopers had
turned their eyes from them, he embraced Sylvia for the first
time--the first time and, as he feared, the last.

"I love you," he whispered. "Whate'er betide, remember my last words
are these. Remember that, if the worst befalls, my last thought shall
be of you, my last prayer for you, your name the last word on my lips.
Farewell."



CHAPTER XXVI.


The weather that, through the latter part of June and July, had held
so fine, had changed at last. With that persistency which for
centuries has caused all in the Netherlands to say that their climate
is the worst in Europe, or at least the most unreliable, a rainy
season had again set in accompanied by considerable cold. The rivers
were so swollen now that, in the case of all the great ones, the
usually slow, turgid streams had turned into swirling volumes of
water, resembling those which, in mountainous regions, pour forth from
their icy sources; even the smaller waterways had overflowed their
banks and submerged the low-lying fields around them. Thus, except in
some particular instances, all military operations had come to an end
for the time; the thousands of soldiers who composed the rival armies,
and were drawn from half the countries in Europe, lay idle in their
tents--when they had any--or in some town they had possessed
themselves of; or, in many cases, on the rain-soaked ground.

Of these armies none suffered worse than did the principal portion of
the English forces--namely, that under the Earl of Marlborough. For
the torrid heat of July was all gone now--that heat of which, but a
week or so before, Marlborough had made mention in one of his frequent
letters to his wife, while adding the hope that it would ripen the
fruit in their gardens at St. Albans, the gardens so dear to him since
he knew well enough that she walked in them daily and thought always
of him. For whatever John Churchill's faults might be, and whatever
the faults of his beautiful but shrewish wife might be, neither failed
in their absorbing love for one another--the love that had sprung into
their hearts when he was but a colonel and gentleman of the bedchamber
to the Duke of York and she a maid of honour to the Duchess.

The heat and fine weather were gone, and for refuge, there was little
but the open left for the English troops. It was true Kaiserswörth was
taken at this time, Breda was occupied by the English, Maestricht was
the same, and Nimeguen had been long in our hands; but with these
exceptions Marlborough, with 60,000 men under his command, lay almost
entirely in the open. His lordship was at this time at Grave on the
Meuse on his way to Venloo, there to attempt the siege and capture of
that town, it lying some forty-five miles south of Grave and fifty
miles north of Liége.

But however impassable, or almost impassable, the roads were at this
present moment, traffic on them, other than that caused by the French
and allied armies, had not ceased, for the sufficient reason that it
could by no possibility do so. Along every road there streamed wagons
and provisions, which, since the latter were to be offered to the
first would-be purchasers, were in little danger of being seized as
contraband of war by either side, especially as both the contending
forces paid for what they appropriated, though, as often as not, the
payment was not what the vendors demanded.

Horsemen were also frequent on these same roads, since, provided they
were neither soldiers nor spies, nor bearers of despatches or
disguised letters, as was soon apparent if they were stopped and
searched rigorously, they were not molested, though in many cases the
errands upon which they rode were more harmful than even secret news
might have been. For many of these men were, under the assumed titles
of suttlers and army agents, nothing more nor less than professional
gamblers and "bankers," who, once they had got within the lines of
either army, contrived not only to strip the officers of all the ready
money they possessed, but also, in cases where they knew the standing
and family of many of these officers, to lend them money (which they
afterwards won back from them) at exorbitant rates of interest, the
payment of which frequently crippled them or their families for years.

Besides these, there haunted the neighbourhood of the armies, like
ghouls or vampires, or those vultures which can scent bloodshed from
afar, a class of women, most of whom were horribly bedizened and
painted hags, who followed, perhaps, one of the most dreadful trades
to which women have ever turned their attention. But, though they
passed along these roads under false names and sometimes titles, and
rode in good hired vehicles and, as often as not, in handsome ones
that were their own property, they presented a different appearance
when a battle had taken place. For then their silks and satins, their
paint and patches, their lace and jewels, and also their pinchbeck
titles of marchionesses and countesses and baronesses, were discarded,
and they stood forth as they really were--as women still in women's
garb, it is true, yet in all else furies. With knives in their
girdles; with, in outside pockets or bags, the hilts of pistols and
some times--nay, often--rude surgical instruments bulging forth; with,
too, more than one gold-laced coat buttoned across them, or with the
sleeves knotted and with their other pockets crammed with scraps of
lace and costly wigs, and miniatures and gold pieces, they stood forth
as those earthly cormorants, _les chercheuses des morts_, and, in most
cases, as the murderesses of the living. With their knives or pistols
they put an end to the lives of wounded men, whom they afterwards
robbed of their money and trinkets, and, also with those knives, they
scalped the dying, since hair was valuable. Likewise, with their
surgical instruments they wrenched the teeth, also valuable, out of
dying or dead men's heads; while, if the wounded were still able to
protect themselves, they played another part, that of the Good
Samaritan, and offered them a drink of Nantz or usquebaugh, which
generally finished the business, since it was usually poisoned.

Along a road between Venloo and Grave, over which a dyke had
overflowed from the heavy rains, so that the horses passing over it
were fetlock deep in mud, there went now a vehicle, or, rather, rough
country cart, springless and having for shelter nothing but a rough
covering of coarse tarred canvas supported on bent lathes. Seated on
the shaft of this cart was an old man who, out of tenderness for the
value of the beast that drew it, if not for the beast itself, never
proceeded at any but the slowest pace possible. Inside, under the
awning or cover, were Sylvia and Madame de Valorme, who, as is now
apparent, had managed to escape out of Liége.

Yet it had been hard to do, and doubly hard to these two women, who,
the soul of honour, had to deal with one other--De Violaine--who was
himself a mirror of honour and loyalty.

And still they had done it.

In common with many other escapes recorded in past and even present
days, theirs had been accomplished in the most simple manner, namely,
by simplicity itself. Indeed, captives who, with their appearance
unknown to their warders, had walked out of their prisons, both before
and after this time; men who had been known to stroll out of such
places as the Bastille, or Vincennes, or Bicêtre, and sometimes from
English prisons and lockups, as well as he who, on the road to the
guillotine, had escaped by the simple device of dropping out of the
back of the _charrette_ and then crying "_Vive la Revolution!_" and
"_À bas les aristocrats!_" had not done so more easily than had these
two women.

Only, it had taken time for Sylvia and the Comtesse to arrange their
plans, and time, they soon knew, was of all things the most precious.
For De Violaine, who had one morning come down to the Comtesse de
Valorme from the citadel with a view to asking her why she had
jeopardised her own freedom by espousing the desires of the
Englishman, had confessed that, though Bevill could not at present be
brought to trial, his peril was still extreme.

"De Boufflers is here," he said; "he has come to draw off all troops
that can be spared, as well as to examine the state of defence in
which Liége is."

"To draw off the troops!" the Comtesse and Sylvia both exclaimed,
while the latter felt her heart sink within her at his words. "Is Lord
Marlborough not coming?"

"Alas! it is because he is coming, mademoiselle, that it is done. We
who are French desire to oppose your general in every way, so that he
shall not reach Liége," and De Violaine sighed as he spoke; for he
knew as well as De Boufflers that, if Marlborough appeared before
Liége with one-fifth of those 60,000 men who were now under his
command, the city would probably fall an easy prey to him.

"Why should this prevent an innocent or, at least, a harmless man from
being put to his trial and released?" the Comtesse asked. "What evil
has he, in truth, done? He has but committed a gallant action in
attempting to carry away to safety the compatriot whom he loves, the
woman who loves him."

Now, in one way, Sylvia and the Comtesse had thrown dust in the
Governor's eyes from the beginning; they had concealed from him the
knowledge that Sylvia and Bevill had not been lovers when first the
latter made his way into Liége--the one piece of information, as they
shrewdly guessed, which might stand as Bevill's excuse, his
justification, for doing that which he had done.

"And," the Comtesse continued, "beyond this, what sin against France
has Mr. Bracton committed? Is the fact that he, being an Englishman,
should also be a Protestant a crime?"

"Nay, nay," De Violaine said; "that is no crime, else you and I are
criminals; but----"

"But what?"

"There are other matters that may weigh heavily against him. Ah!
mademoiselle," he cried suddenly, hearing a slight exclamation issue
from Sylvia's lips while noticing that the rich colouring had fled
from her cheeks, and that she seemed about to swoon, "I beseech of you
to take this calmly. All may be well yet."

"What are these other matters, monsieur? On my part, I beseech you to
tell me," Sylvia almost gasped.

"I--I? Nay, what need to tell? He may be absolved by the court that
tries him; his attempt to save the woman he loved may justify all. We
of our land are sometimes self-sacrificing in our love," with a swift
glance at Madame de Valorme; "we should scarcely bear hardly on a foe
for being so."

Other glances that De Violaine did not see had, however, been
exchanged as he spoke thus--the glances of the two women as he uttered
those words, "his attempt to save the woman he loved may justify all."
Glances that conveyed to each the thought that was in the other's
mind--the understanding that, in no circumstances, must it ever be
known that the love had come to Bevill and Sylvia after they had met
in Liége, and not before. If that were known or discovered, one of
their principal hopes for his escape was gone. Also, as each of those
women flashed the signal to the other, each remembered, and in
remembering thanked Heaven, that even that base and crawling creature,
Francbois, believed the love to be of an earlier origin than Bevill's
arrival. Thence, therefore, sprang the hope that one frail chance in
his favour might still remain, and that, from this secret, aid might
be forthcoming.

In an instant, however, since glances are almost as swift as lightning
itself, the episode had passed and Sylvia had asked once more:

"What are those other matters? Ah! do not torture me with concealment.
You--surely you, must, noble as you appear to be--must have loved some
woman once, have won the desired love of some true woman. Think, I
implore you, think if her feelings had ever been wrung as mine are
now, if she had ever been distraught as I am, how your heart would
have been stirred with misery for her. Ah," she cried again, unable to
restrain her sobs, "if you cannot pity me, at least show pity for my
grief, my misfortune."

"From my heart I pity you, mademoiselle," De Violaine said, while as
he spoke his voice was calm as ever, though, nevertheless, both women
knew that the calmness was but due to self-control. "Even though," and
now it seemed as if he braced himself to utter the next words, "I
may--never--have known what love is; above all, have--never--known
what it is to win the desired love of some true woman. Yet is pity
shown to those who suffer, to those who fear, by placing our hand upon
the sore, by telling them where the evil lurks?"

"What we know is less than awful imaginings. Let me learn the worst
against the man I love," Sylvia continued, and now she was drawn to
her full height once more; except that her cheeks were still wet with
recent tears she was herself again. Tall, upright, almost commanding,
beautiful as ever, she stood before De Violaine, and, in her nobility
of nature, seemed to issue an order he dared not disregard. "Let me
know the worst. I will not live in further suspense."

"A letter has been found upon him."

"A letter! What letter?" her thoughts flying back fondly to the one he
had brought from her guardian--the letter that had commended Bevill
Bracton so much to her regard--the letter she had kept and read a
hundred times.

"A letter from one who is our bitterest foe--a restless, intriguing
man seeking ever his country's glory and aggrandisement at the expense
of ours; ever intriguing against us, setting those who are well
disposed to us against us----"

"Who is this man, perchance?"

"The Earl of Peterborough."

"Ah! and is he all that you say? He is my guardian, and was my
father's dearest, earliest friend."

"Your guardian! Your father's dearest friend!" De Violaine repeated,
while inwardly he said to himself, "This must never be known.
Otherwise, Heaven help her! She will stand in almost as much danger as
her lover stands now, should it be discovered that she is
Peterborough's ward."

But aloud he said, "In that letter Mr. Bracton"--De Violaine knowing
Bevill's proper name by this time as well as Sylvia or Madame de
Valorme knew it--"is addressed as 'cousin' by the Earl. Is he that?"

"He is," Sylvia replied fearlessly. "Some degrees removed, yet still
his cousin."

"He could scarcely own a worse kinsmanship--in--in De Boufflers'
eyes," De Violaine muttered once more--to himself.

To himself he had muttered these words, yet words were not needed to
tell either of the others that here was a circumstance which must tell
hardly, cruelly, against Bevill. They understood that by some act of
forgetfulness, some inadvertency, he must have kept about him a letter
that prudence should have warned him to destroy the instant he had set
foot in the neighbourhood of the French; and now--now it would tell
against him with awful force. They could not doubt this to be the
case; no further doubt could exist in either of their minds. De
Violaine's face, as he thought to himself that the unfortunate
prisoner could scarce claim kinship with a more dangerous man in the
eyes of France than the Earl of Peterborough, had been enough to tell
them all, to banish all hope from their hearts.



CHAPTER XXVII.


If the Comtesse de Valorme had taken but a secondary part in the
conversation that had occurred, it was because she recognised that, to
Sylvia, the moment was all important. Also she recognised, or
understood well, that at the present moment the preservation, the
earthly salvation of Bevill Bracton, if such were possible, stood
before all else. Her own desires, her own hopes of coming into contact
with the Generalissimo of the allied armies, or, short of him, of
someone in high command, must, if only temporarily, give place to the
saving of this man so young and so fearless. Yet, even as this thought
possessed itself of her mind, she acknowledged that all power of so
saving him was outside the efforts of Sylvia or herself.

What, she asked herself, was there that either of them could do to
assist in that salvation--they who were themselves in a sense
prisoners? De Boufflers was here at this moment; he would doubtless
make himself acquainted with everything in connection with the
prisoner, or, indeed, the prisoners; he would give orders as to what
was to be done in the form of a trial, a judgment; and against these
orders there could be no disobedience on the part of any. Nor could
there be any suggestions of mercy. There were none who could venture
to disobey or to suggest, or who, thus venturing, would be allowed a
moment's hearing; while, worse than all, the facts were overwhelming.
Bevill Bracton had placed himself in this position--a position that in
war time was the worst in which any alien could stand. For, having, as
an alien, obtained an entrance to Liége, he had next disobeyed the
stern order that no aliens who happened to be in the city should
attempt to leave it and thereby find the opportunity, should they
desire it, of communicating with the enemy. To all of which was added
the additional terror that, villain though he was, Francbois was a
Frenchman, and the Frenchmen who listened to what he had to say
might be tempted to believe his words. While, to cap everything,
a letter of Lord Peterborough's had been found in Bevill's
possession--Peterborough, of whom it was as well known in France as in
London itself that he had loudly denounced the French succession, had
counselled the rupture with France, and himself thirsted to take part
in the present war.

Yet, even as Madame de Valorme acknowledged that there were none who
could help him who now stood in such imminent deadly danger, a
counter-thought, a counter-question ran through her brain like
wildfire. "Is it so?" she asked herself. "Is it truly so?" and almost
sickened as she found the answer that there were two persons who still
had it in their power to afford timely help, though, in doing so,
their own feelings, their own self-respect, their sense of honour,
might be forfeited. The first was one who might be brought to
influence the council, the court-martial that decided the unlucky
man's fate--De Violaine!

And the second was one who might influence him. Ah, yes! She, the
woman he had loved and lost--the woman whom--since it was idle to
juggle with herself--he still loved. Herself!

Herself! and the moment had come when, if it were to be done she must
do it, though, even as she knew that it was so, she loathed, execrated
herself. For in her heart there dwelt, as there would ever dwell, the
thought, the memory, of her unhappy husband who had died beneath the
horrible tortures, the beatings, the sweat, the labour of the galleys;
while in De Violaine's own heart there dwelt one thing above all--his
honour, his loyalty to the country he loved and served and to the King
he despised, yet had deeply pledged himself to obey faithfully.

But still the essay must be made. The honest, upright life of Bevill
Bracton should not be sacrificed without some effort on her part,
wicked though that effort might be, and surely--surely God would
forgive her! The sweet, fair promise of Sylvia's young life should not
be wrecked if she stood, if she could stand, for aught.

And the moment had come. Sylvia had left the room, unable to bear
further emotion; had left it to retire to her own room, there to cast
herself on her knees and pray for Heaven's mercy on him she had learnt
to love so fondly. The Comtesse de Valorme and De Violaine were alone.
He was glancing out through the window at the garden, now drenched
with rain, while she was seated by the table as she had been seated
since first he was announced.


[Illustration: "Almost in a whisper the Comptess spoke."--_p_. 850.]


For an instant the silence between them was unbroken; then, almost in
a whisper, the Comtesse de Valorme spoke to the man who still stood
with his back to her. For this was no moment for the practising of
that ceremony which was the essence of all intercourse between the
well-bred of those days, but, instead, a moment when courtesy must
sink before those emotions that sometimes in men and women's lives
pluck at and rend their hearts At last, however, the woman spoke, and
the man was forced to turn round and meet her gaze.

"André de Violaine," she said now, and he observed how her voice
faltered as she uttered the words and how her colour came and went,
"have you forgotten a promise, a vow you once made me ten years ago,
while demanding no vow in return from me?"

"I have forgotten nothing," the other answered, his voice more calm
than hers as he turned towards her, yet with his eyes lowered so that
they did not meet hers. "I have forgotten neither vows nor
hopes--vows, the fulfilment of which has never been demanded; hopes
that withered even as they blossomed. Shall I recall them, to show how
clear my memory is?"

"Nay; rather let me do so. I recall a man who vowed in days gone
by--far off now--that there should be no demand a woman--I--could ever
make of him that he would not meet, not carry out by some means, even
though at the cost of his life."

"His life," De Violaine said, lifting his eyes suddenly to hers. "His
life. Yes."

"What can a man give that is more precious? What else is there for him
to fear who fears not death, the end of life?"

"Nothing," De Violaine said now, leaving that question unanswered,
"has ever been demanded of me by that woman--by you. Madame, there are
some men so lowly, so unheeded in this world, that favours from them
are scarce worth accepting or even asking for. Had you ever called on
me to do you any service, to give you even my life, the service would
have been done, would have been given without a moment's hesitation."

"How he dwells on the word life!" the Comtesse said to herself. "How
he shields himself behind it! Because he knows there is another word
neither of us dares utter." Yet, a moment later, she was to hear that
word uttered.

Then she continued:

"And now it is too late to ask for favours. That time is too long past
for vows to have kept fresh--even as, perhaps," and he saw she
trembled, it may be shuddered, as she spoke the words, "it is for
hopes."

"Too late for vows to be redeemed? No. For life to be freely given if
required? No. For hopes? Yes, since no price can be demanded for the
fulfilment of those vows."

"Is hope dead within your heart, or has it but turned to
indifference?"

"Radegonde," De Violaine said now, speaking quickly, yet with a tremor
in his voice, "all hope died within my heart ten years ago, on the day
when, at Nîmes, you married Gabriel de Valorme. Nay," seeing she was
about to speak, "do not tell me that he is dead; I know it now. But
his memory, your love for him, is not dead."

"Ah!" the Comtesse gasped. For De Violaine's words were true, and she
despised herself for having, even in so great a cause as this she was
now concerned in, endeavoured to rouse fresh hopes within De
Violaine's breast.

"Now," the latter said, "tell me what you desire--what your words
mean. Though you are still wedded in your heart to Gabriel, still
bound to him by memory's chain, there yet remains--my--life."

"No, no," she almost cried; "not that. Why should I ask your life--I
who slew the happiness of that life--I who could not give you what was
not mine to give? Instead----"

"Yes--instead?"

"I seek to save a life, a guiltless one." Then, rising from her chair
and advancing close to De Violaine, she said, "You can preserve this
Englishman. If," and she wrestled with herself, strung herself
masterfully to utter the words, "if you ever loved me, if in your
heart there still dwells the memory of that dead and gone love, I
beseech you to save him. He is innocent of aught against France."

"The memory of that love is there, never to be effaced; but for what
you ask--it is impossible."

"Oh! oh! And this is the man who vowed to give his life to me!" the
Comtesse murmured. "The man who is supreme here, in Liége, yet will
not do that!"

"My life is yours, now as it has ever been--to do with as you
will--instantly--to-day, at once. But you demand more of me; you ask
that which I cannot give--my honour! You have said that he who fears
not death fears nothing. Alas! you--you--Radegonde de Montigny, as
once you were when first I knew and--Heaven help me!--loved you; you,
Radegonde de Valorme as you now are, should know that death is little
beside honour: and I, before all, am a soldier."

"You will do nothing?"

"I can do nothing."

Madame de Valorme sank into the chair she had quitted a moment ago,
and sat there, no longer gazing at him, but, instead, at the ground.
Then, suddenly, she looked up at De Violaine, and he saw so strange a
light in her eyes that he was filled with wonderment at what the
meaning might be--filled with wonderment, though, as she spoke again,
he understood, or thought he understood; for now, though using almost
the same words she had but just uttered, they were uttered in so
different a tone that he deemed understanding had come to him.

"_In no case_ will you do anything?"

"In no case," he answered in a tone so sad that it wrung her heart.
"Whatever may be, can be, done, cannot be done by me."

After which, without attempting to touch her hand even in the most
formal way, De Violaine whispered the word "Farewell," and left her.

And she knew that in one way she had won what she desired. She knew
that, should she and Sylvia attempt anything which might have in it
the germ of a chance for Bevill's ultimate escape from death, that
attempt would not be frustrated by him, although he would have no hand
in it.

From this time the two women turned their thoughts to but one
thing--their own chances of quitting Liége and communicating with
Marlborough. While, as they did so, they remembered that, in a way at
least, these chances must be more favourable than heretofore. There
was now no such crawling snake as Francbois at liberty to spy on them
or to denounce them and their plans when once he knew them.

Meditating always on what steps might be taken to ensure the success
of this evasion, consulting with Van Ryk on what opportunities might
arise, even as, for exercise and fresh air, they walked about the
quays or drove in and round the city, it gradually became apparent to
them that the attempt need not be hard of accomplishment. Many of the
French soldiers had been at this moment withdrawn, since De Boufflers
had decided that it was best to mass them on the road the English
forces must traverse, and so, if possible, check Marlborough ere he
could reach Liége, instead of awaiting his attack on the city itself.
Meanwhile, they observed many other things. They saw that all the
gates were open in the mornings for the entrance of the peasantry with
their country produce, and, afterwards, for their exit; they perceived
also that those who came in with the sparse provender they still had
left for sale did so with the slightest of inspection, and, with their
baskets and panniers over their arms, went out entirely unmolested.

"Alone we could do it," the Comtesse said. "I know it, feel it. Only,
each must do it alone--you at one gate, I at another. And, outside, we
could meet directly it was done. Seraing is close--'tis but a
walk--so, too, is Herstal. And Herstal is better; it is on the way we
must go."

"Doubtless," said Sylvia, "it is best we go alone, apart. Thus, if one
is stopped, the other may escape, may be able to continue the attempt
alone. Ah! Radegonde, if we should succeed! If we should be in time to
save him!"

"Ay! 'tis that. If we should be in time! Yet time is one's best
friend! They will not try him yet. They cannot. Except at the citadel
and in the Chartreuse, Liége is almost denuded of troops for the
moment. There are not enough officers to try him now, and--and--I know
it, am sure of it--De Violaine will not advance matters. Oh! Sylvia,
we must succeed."

So now they made all plans for ensuring their success, and decided
that, on the next morning after this conversation, those plans should
be put into execution. Fortunately one thing--money--was not wanting
to aid them.

That next morning broke wet and stormy; the rain poured down at
intervals, though followed, also at intervals, by slight cessations in
the downpour, and by transient gleams of sunshine. Owing to which the
peasant women who had sold their fowls and eggs and vegetables, as
well as those who had been less successful, were forced to cower
under antique stoops around the markets or under the market roofs
themselves, or to trudge away in their heavy sabots--which, at least,
served to keep their feet dry--towards the gates and out into the open
country.

Amongst others who were doing the latter was a tall, fine peasant girl
whose eyes, gleaming out from beneath the coarse shawl thrown over her
head, belied, in their sombre gravity, the old Walloon song she hummed
as she went along. A tall, fine girl, who, with her basket over her
arm, splashed through the mud and slush until she reached the
northeast gate and asked the corporal, who stood carefully out of the
rain, if he did not require a fowl for his _pot-au-feu_ or some eggs
for his midday meal.

"If I had a wife like you to cook them for me!" the Frenchman
gallantly replied. "But, tell me, are all the girls from Herstal as
handsome as you?"

"Handsomer," the peasant girl replied lightly. "My sister to wit. Buy
some eggs from me, corporal."


[Illustration: "Seeing a strange look in the girl's eyes, he changed
the word he was about to utter"--_p_. 852.]


"I have no money, and eggs are dear here now. Give me one for----"
Then, seeing a strange look in the girl's eyes, he changed the word he
was about to utter into "luck."

But since the peasant was now outside the gate it may be that, even if
he had said "love" instead "luck," it would have made little
difference to her. For she was out of Liége; she was free--free to
begin her efforts, her attempt, mad as it might be, to rescue the one
man on earth with whom and whose name the word and meaning of love
could ever be associated in her mind.

Free to stride on in her coarse, rain-soaked peasant dress towards the
village of Herstal, and, when two hundred yards from it, to fling
herself into the arms of another peasant woman some few years older
than herself and to murmur, "Outside and free, Radegonde! Oh, thank
God! thank God! Free to attempt to save him."

"Ay, and free to set out at once. Mynheer Van Ryk's old domestic still
keeps the inn here. The _charrette_ is ready. We have but to remove
these peasants' clothes and sabots, and we can depart. Come, Sylvia,
come!"



CHAPTER XXVIII.


Had Philip Wouvermans lived half a century later than he did, the
splendid brush he wielded would have found greater scope in the region
he knew so well than it ever obtained, superb as his work was. For
now, over all that portion of Europe known generically as the
Netherlands, or Low Countries, there was the movement and the
colouring this master delighted in--armies marching and fro, encamping
one night at one place and at another on the next, bivouacking here
to-day and there to-morrow, attacking or attacked, conquering or being
repulsed. Armies, regiments, even small detachments, were clad
sometimes in the royal blue of France, sometimes in the scarlet of
England; while, intermixed with the former, might be seen the yellow
grey of Spain or the dark green of Bavaria; and, with the latter, the
snuff-brown of Holland or the pale blue of Austria. As they marched
along the roads, singing the songs of the lands from which they drew
their birth, or across fields, the ripened corn and wheat were
trampled under their and their chargers' feet or beneath the coarse,
iron-bound wheels of their gun carriages, since, now that war was over
and around all, the luckless peasants and landowners found but little
opportunity of reaping those fields.

Yet neither was it the passage of these armies alone that disturbed
those unfortunate dwellers in the scene of contest, since, sometimes,
their fields and orchards and copses would witness some small yet
sanguinary conflict between the hostile forces. On such occasions
their downtrodden corn would become dyed crimson; the branches of
their fruit trees would be cut down by whistling musket bullets or
heavy cannon balls; their copses, sought out for shelter, would become
the death-bed of many a gallant man whose eyes had opened to the light
in lands far distant from those in which they finally closed. And
then, routed, the vanquished would not march but rush along the roads
once more, the victors would hurry after them in furious pursuit, and
the unhappy owners of the soil and all it bore would be left bemoaning
the ruin that had befallen them, ruin that the passage of years could
alone repair.

Amid such scenes as these the Comtesse de Valorme and Sylvia were
passing now as gradually they drew near to Maestricht, where, as they
had learnt, they would, even if they did not come into touch with some
portion of the English army, at least discover something as to its
whereabouts. They knew this, they had learnt it, by words overheard
outside inns at which they halted at nights; by witnessing the frantic
gestures and listening to the excited talk of the half-Brabant,
half-Guelderland boors as they discussed the coming of the English and
others. Also, they had learnt by now that to make their way easily
along these roads it were best they should be anything but French; for
the English were sweeping like a tornado through all the land, the
French were in most instances retreating or fortifying themselves in
old towns and castles; the English, for whom all Netherlanders had
been looking so long, were at hand at last.

Therefore, from now, neither Sylvia nor the Comtesse spoke in anything
but English, excepting only when the native dialect was necessary to
cause their desires to be understood, when Sylvia, whose long
residence in Liége had enabled her to be well acquainted with the
local dialects, used that.

"There is no news of the approach of the allied forces as yet?" the
Comtesse asked, as Sylvia, looking out of a carriage they had taken
possession of when they had discarded the rough country _charrette_,
drew in her head after a slight conversation with a peasant.

"None," the girl answered wearily. "None. And during all this time
they may have----" and she paused, shuddering.

"Nay, dear heart," the Comtesse said, her English clear and distinct
as it had been when she astonished Bevill by addressing him in it.
"Nay, have no fear. I--I--extorted from De Violaine--Heaven help me! I
was but endeavouring to play on his memories of the past for our, for
your sake--the knowledge that he could not yet be brought to trial. I
myself have no fear of that."

"I myself cannot but have fears; for he has won my heart, my love. Oh!
Radegonde, had it been you who loved him, you whom he loved, you could
not be as calm as now you are."

"It may be so," the Comtesse said softly. "Doubtless it would have
been so had it chanced that I had learned to love him--if he had
learned to love me," and then was silent.

Something, however, some strange inflection in her voice caused Sylvia
to look round at her companion, when, seeing that the Comtesse's face
was averted, and that she was gazing out of the window, she added:

"Ah! forgive me. Who am I, a girl who has but now found happiness in a
man's love, to speak thus to you who have suffered so--to you whose
own heart died with M. de Valorme?"

But the Comtesse, beyond a whispered "Yes," said no more.

That, however, these two women, always good friends and companions and
now united in one great desire--the desire of saving the life of a man
who possessed in their eyes the greatest charm that can, perhaps,
appeal to woman's nature, that of heroism--should cease to talk of him
as much as they thought of him, is not to be supposed. While, as they
so thought and also talked, each was reflecting on every chance
favourable and unfavourable that might tell for or against their hero.

"Who was this spy, I wonder," Sylvia said now, "of whom Francbois
spoke? The man whom he accused Bevill of slaying that night in the
Weiss Haus? Radegonde, did he confide in you?"

"No more than in you," the Comtesse answered. "Surely, too, he would
have chosen the woman he loved for his confidante?"

"Or, rather, have doubly feared to confide in that woman and to,
thereby, bring fresh misery to the heart he had but just won for his
own."

"Ah, yes," the Comtesse said, again in a low voice. "Doubtless that
was his reason."

Returning, however, to the matter of the spy, Sylvia, who thought that
in this man's death might lurk some deeper danger to Bevill than even
that which was threatened by his obtaining entrance into a town
beleaguered by the French, and by his doing so under a false name, as
well as doubly threatened through a letter from Lord Peterborough
being found in his possession--asked again:

"Not even in your journey from Louvain to Liége did he mention him?"

"Yes, if this man is the same as he who sought to have him detained,
first at Antwerp and afterwards at St. Trond; if, too, Emile Francbois
has not coined one further lie in his desire to ruin him. Yet you know
all this as well as I, Sylvia. You have learnt from Mr. Bracton of his
escape from Antwerp on the horse, with the passport of Le Blond, and
of how, after seeing the man again at St. Trond, he left the place
next morning before I did so, though that man had then disappeared and
had not even returned to his lodging at the inn where they both put
up."

"Yes, that I know. He told me more than once of his escapes from the
broken soldier, Sparmann, who had become a spy in the service of his
country's enemies, as also he told me how he hated passing under a
false name, a false guise, no matter how good the cause was. Ah!" she
went on, "his honour, his full sense of honour shone forth in every
regret he uttered, even while he acknowledged how good was the cause
which compelled the subterfuge. It must be Sparmann who was wounded to
the death in my house, though not by Bevill, since he denies it. Yet,
had he in truth slain the man who sought to slay him, it would have
been no crime."

"He did not slay him. His every action, his every tone, when Francbois
denounced him as having done so, was a testimony to the truth of his
denial; though, since both Sparmann and Francbois were each working to
the same end, were each in that lonely deserted house, intent on
slaying Bevill--Mr. Bracton--why should they fight, why should each
attempt to slay the other?"

"Ah!" murmured Sylvia, "if we could but know that--which, alas! we
never shall, since Sparmann is dead, and Francbois will never utter
aught but lies--then that heavy charge against him would be removed."

"It is in truth the heaviest, if not the one that will bear hardest of
all against him."

"Which, then, is the worst?"

"The possession of Lord Peterborough's letter. Sylvia," the Comtesse
said, strangely agitated as she thought on all that threatened Bevill.
"If the Allies have not taken Liége ere he is tried, I dread to think
of what may befall him. I pray God that Lord Marlborough may already
be on his road."

After which both women became so overcome and, indeed, almost
hysterical by the terror of what might happen to Bevill, that for a
time they could speak no more, but, instead, took refuge in tears.

They could not, however, cease their endeavours to discover what
chances there were of Marlborough being somewhere in the immediate
neighbourhood. They recognised that, even if he were near and they
could reach him and obtain speech with him, the mission on which they
came could have but little, if indeed it had any, influence on his
plans, all-absorbing though that mission was to them. Only they were
distracted with grief and horror of what was impending in Liége, and
in their distraction clutched at the only hope in the existence of
which they could believe.

The carriage was at this time passing through one of those many
plantations of young trees that, from far-off times, it has been the
custom of the inhabitants of this rich marshy soil to plant at regular
intervals, with a view to always providing themselves with vast stocks
of timber for building as well as fuel. But since the road, if it were
worthy of the name, was not only a muddy track but also encumbered by
logs of felled wood that had been thrown across it by some of the many
contending forces with the intention of impeding the progress of their
rivals, the vehicle proceeded but slowly when it proceeded at all, and
often enough the wheels stuck fast.

Looking out of the window as an obstruction once more occurred for
about the tenth time since the carriage had entered this plantation,
or young forest, Sylvia suddenly uttered an exclamation; while,
drawing in her head, she said in a tone that the Comtesse could not
mistake for aught but one of joy:

"They are here! We have found them! Heaven above be praised!"

"Here? Who?" the Comtesse also exclaimed. "The English? The Allies?"

"Some of them at least. Oh! Radegonde, I have seen their scarlet
coats, and, on one, the gorget of our dragoon officers. Yet, alas!
alas! they are retiring; he who wears the gorget has disappeared
behind a larger tree than all the others."

"Cry out then! Cry to him! Call him back! Let us do anything to arrest
their attention. If we fail to speak with them now we may not find
their commander for days."

"No, no; we need not," Sylvia again exclaimed now. "They have observed
us. They are coming towards us, doubtless to see what this carriage
contains. Two officers. And they _are_ English. Thank God!"

As she said, so it was. The two officers now approaching the carriage
had seen it long before Sylvia had perceived them, and were at once
inspired with the scouts'--for such they and their men were--proper
sense of duty, namely, to discover what was the business of everyone
with whom they might chance to come into contact. But--as the phrase
which had sprung into use when the century, still so young, had but
just dawned, ran--"It was seventeen hundred and war time," and, above
almost all else, in war time prudence is necessary. Therefore, on
seeing the carriage approach, the officers had retreated behind the
great tree, while their troopers had ridden deeper into the plantation
and, from there, the former had been able to observe who and what were
those inside the vehicle.

"Women!" one said to the other. "Dangerous enough sometimes, when
armed for our subjection and clad in velvet and Valenciennes, yet
harmless here, unless they be spies of the enemy. No matter, 'tis our
duty to discover who and what they are." Whereupon the officers turned
their horses' heads towards the carriage, and the animals picked their
way through what was almost a quagmire until they reached it.


[Illustration: "Their laced hats in hand, the two young men drew near
the window."]


Their laced hats in hand, the two young men bowed gracefully as they
drew near the window, after which the captain, speaking in fair
French, though not such as Bevill Bracton spoke, asked in a gentle,
well-bred voice if there were any directions or assistance they could
give mesdames to aid them on their route? But, ere he had concluded
his courteous speech, he halted in it and finished it in but a
shambling manner; for his eyes, discreetly as he had used them to
observe the equal, though different, beauty of each woman, had told
him that one at least of those before him was not seen for the first
time. And that one--the Comtesse--was herself gazing fixedly at him.

"Madame travels far; madame's journey is not yet concluded," he
murmured. "Madame has left Liége."

"It is so, monsieur," the Comtesse said speaking in English. "I
understand monsieur. It was outside St. Trond that he saw me when his
late brother officer, Mr. Bracton, joined me," while as she spoke she
felt Sylvia start.

"That is the case, madame. But madame still travels on, though
unaccompanied by Bracton. Another companion," he said, with a faint
but respectful smile, "has usurped his place. Does he still remain in
Liége; has he not yet succeeded in that which he desired to
do--namely, in removing the lady he went to seek from out the grasp of
our good friends the French?"

It was not, however, Madame de Valorme who answered his question, but,
instead, her companion.

"Sir," said Sylvia--and as the captain's glance was drawn to her as
she spoke he saw that her large grey eyes were full of a sadness that,
to his mind at least, by no means obscured her beauty--"I am the woman
he went to seek."

"You? Yet you are here alone. Where, then, is he?"

"Alas! alas! he is a prisoner. He--oh! it is hard to tell, to utter.
He did all that man might do, but he was denounced to M. de Violaine
by a vile spy who recognised him, and--and--ah! God help him, he is a
prisoner in the citadel; and I--I--am free--I who should be by his
side in safety or in danger. I who should be as much a prisoner as
he."

Bewildered, the young man looked from Sylvia to the Comtesse and then
back to Sylvia, while muttering, "We heard something of that spy and
what he attempted on him at Antwerp and St. Trond----"

"That is not the man. He is dead----"

"Bracton slew him at last!"

"No, no! Another--some other did so. Perhaps the man who finally
betrayed him," the Comtesse de Valorme said, since Sylvia seemed now
almost incapable of speaking, so agitated had she become. After which,
seeing that the captain of dragoons appeared to be totally unable to
gather the meaning of what had happened, though recognising the danger
in which Bevill stood, the Comtesse at once proceeded to give him as
brief, though clear, an account of all that had occurred in Liége as
it was possible to do. And, also, she told him their fears for what
might still occur ere long. But one thing she did not tell
him--namely, of how her own original desire of reaching Marlborough
with a view to imploring his influence that aid might be sent to the
Cevennes had, for the moment, given place to a far greater desire--the
desire of in some way obtaining Bevill's earthly salvation, the
salvation of a man whose life, though now bound up in that of Sylvia's
as Sylvia's was in his, had become very precious to her.



CHAPTER XXIX.

Captain Barringer--as the young officer of dragoons had now told
Sylvia and the Comtesse his name was, while presenting the lieutenant
to them as Sir George Saxby--showed both by his tone and words that
the gravity of Bevill's position was extreme, though he took care to
add that the fact of there being no Court of Inquiry ready to be
formed at the present moment was a considerable point in his chance of
ultimate escape.

In absolute fact, however, had it not been for the grief-stricken face
of the handsome girl before him, the girl in whose eyes the tears now
welled and hung upon the lids, even if they did not drop, and also the
grave, solemn face of the Comtesse--he might have told them, as gently
as possible, that in his soldier's mind the chances of Bevill's escape
were almost nonexistent. "What," he asked himself, the question being
but a flash of thought through his brain, and not expressed in words,
"would our commanders have done had a Frenchman made his way into one
of the strong places we now hold, as Bracton has made his way into
Liége? What, if he were accused of slaying one of our supposed spies,
if he had in his possession a letter from as great a hater of England
as Lord Peterborough is of France, and if, contrary to all orders
issued, he had endeavoured to escape out of one of those places with a
young Frenchwoman who might divulge to her countrymen our plans and
intentions? What, also, if that Frenchman had passed as an Englishman
and had possession of two false passports made out in English names?"

Yet in another instant there had flashed to this astute young
officer's mind another thought--one that was, this time, a
recollection.

He recalled how at Nimeguen an almost similar case to this had
occurred a little before Marshal de Boufflers had attempted to
retrieve that city for the French, to wrest it from the Allies' hands.
A Frenchman, named the Marquis de Cabrieres, a gentleman and gallant,
too, had managed to obtain entrance into the place under the guise of
an Englishman--a Jersey man--armed with papers describing him as a
subject of the Queen; and had then endeavoured to assist a young
French lady, his affianced wife, to leave in disguise under his care.
Now he lay under sentence of death, since the warrant awaited the
signature of Marlborough or Athlone when they should be in the
neighbourhood again.

But a flash of thought alone, of memory, was all that passed through
the young officer's mind, even as Sir George Saxby was telling Sylvia
and the Comtesse that at this moment the Earl was encamped near a
village called Asch, but half a day's journey off; yet his sudden
recollection was enough--enough to convince him that, even as De
Cabrieres was doomed by the English, so must Bevill Bracton be by the
French for a parallel offence.

Now, however, he had no further time for reflection. Sylvia, hearing
of their nearness to the one man who, in their minds, could by any
possibility save her lover, was imploring both captain and lieutenant
to either conduct them to where the great English commander was, or at
least to direct them on the way to him.

"We can escort you," Captain Barringer now said, forcing himself to
drive the above thoughts away and answer her, "since we are even now
on our way to Asch. There is little more to be learnt here; for the
moment the ground is clear of Frenchmen and Spaniards. Though,
doubtless, ladies, you will scarcely believe," he went on in a
purposely assumed lighter vein, hoping thereby to banish the agony of
mind in which both the Comtesse and Sylvia were, "what excellent
neighbours, warm and close, we have been sometimes with those
Frenchmen and Spaniards. A hedge, a little copse, has sometimes only
divided our pickets and outposts from theirs; the very tables on which
we have broken our fast at some tavern have been used by them for the
same purpose but an hour before; and sometimes, too, we have
courteously exchanged a few volleys of musket balls with each other,
but that is all! The great battle that must come soon is not yet; not
yet. Still, it will come," he added more gravely.

And now they set forth for Asch, though but slowly and with
difficulty, since the wheels of the carriage (which was only a coarse
country thing, large and cumbersome and roughly made) had by now sunk
deep into the oozy morass, and required not only the efforts of the
driver, but also those of the troopers, to force it on its way.
Nevertheless, Sylvia and her companion were soon on their road towards
the goal of their hopes, but, although such was the case, Captain
Barringer deemed it necessary to say that it was by no means certain
that, even when they had reached the end of their journey, they would
be able to see and speak with Marlborough.

"For his secretary, Mr. Cardonnel, guards him like a fiery dragon,"
the captain said; "and he is surrounded by his staff, who are also
veritable watch-dogs; notwithstanding which we will hope for the best.
While, since my Lord Marlborough is a very gallant gentleman, he will
surely turn no deaf ear to ladies who desire to ask his services?"

With which, and many other courteous as well as hope-inspiring
phrases, not only Captain Barringer but also Sir George Saxby
endeavoured to cheer the way for these who were now under their
protection.


It was as the sun set that, from the windows of the rough carriage,
Sylvia and the Comtesse gazed out upon the lines of the English army
upon which were fixed the hopes of all who still trembled in fear of
the powerful and arrogant monarch who from Versailles sent out his
orders for wholesale spoliation and aggrandisement. He was the hope of
Protestants in the sunny south of France, as well as of those in the
more temperate land of Prussia and of those who dwelt all along the
fair banks of the Rhine; the hope of all those who inhabited that vast
district which stretched from the German ocean to the north of France
on one side, and to Hanover another. While--bitter mockery when
it is remembered what the origin of the present war was!--the same
hopes for the downfall of this Grand Monarque--this prince termed the
"God-sent"--were felt in far-off Spain by Roman Catholic hidalgos who
loathed the thought that a French king should sit upon the throne once
owned by those in whose veins ran the blood of Castile, of Aragon, the
Asturias, and Trastamara. Hopes shared, too, though silently, by the
rude fishermen of Biscay and Galicia as well as by the outlaws and
brigands of Traz os Montes and Cantabria, who, while they bowed the
knee to Romish emblems and statues, cursed in their lawless hearts the
monarch who would endeavour to obtain for himself the throne that they
and their forerunners of centuries had fought for, while putting aside
temporarily their existence of plunder and brigandage.

Beneath a blood-red sun setting behind purple clouds that told of
further storms and downpours still to come, the Comtesse de Valorme
and Sylvia saw the long English line stretching from village to
village; from the hamlet of Asch on the right to that of Ghenck on the
left, and with Recken and Grimi on either flank. Also, they saw that
with which both were well acquainted--the banner of England flying
from a large tent in the middle of the camp, as well as the colours of
regiments which, in that day, young in service, have since transmitted
and gloriously maintained the reputation then acquired.

"Here, if nowhere else," the Comtesse said, "one should feel safe;
yet, oh!" she whispered half to herself, "that I, a Frenchwoman,
should have to seek double succour from my country's enemies! Simply
because the ambition, the fanaticism of one man bears heavily on
thousands of lives. Double succour! On one side for my own people; on
the other for one, also my country's foeman, whom I have learned--to
pity."

But Sylvia heard her words, low as the murmur was in which they were
spoken, and answered gently:

"You are but one of all those thousands whose hearts he--this splendid
bigot--is turning from him; but one alone of those who, throwing off
their allegiance to him for ever, are peopling lands strange to them.
Regret it not, reproach not yourself for that. Better die an outcast,
yet free; a voluntary exile than an ill-treated subject, a slave.
While as for Bevill--but ah! I dare not speak, not think of him.
Beyond Heaven, in whose hands we all are, his--our--hopes are in him
whom now we go to seek."

The carriage, escorted by the two dragoon officers who rode ahead of
it, and by their handful of troopers behind, was now nearing that
great tent over which streamed in the light of the setting sun the
flag of England, and also passing through lines of English soldiers.
Past the Cuirassiers, or Fourth Horse, it went--Sylvia's hand to her
heart as she recognised that this was the regiment to which _he_ had
once belonged, from which he, wickedly, unjustly, had been cast out.
Past, too, the gallant Scots Regiment of White Horses, as well as
"Coy's Horse," or 2nd Irish Horse, the King's Carabineers, and many
others of the cavalry, as well as several infantry regiments,
including fourteen companies of the Grenadiers. And, at last, they
were outside Marlborough's tent: the moment to which both had looked
forward, from which they hoped so much, was at hand.

"I will enter to my lord's staff," Captain Barringer said, "and state
your desires. Meanwhile, something of your names and condition I must
know. What shall I tell him, whom announce?" and his eyes fell on the
Comtesse, perhaps because she was the elder. Upon which she answered:

"Tell him," she said, "that a Protestant Frenchwoman from Languedoc
seeks assistance from him on two matters--both grave, and one vital. A
Frenchwoman whose name is Radegonde, Comtesse de Valorme."

The captain bowed, while repeating the words to himself as though to
impress them thoroughly in his mind; then he looked at Sylvia.

"Tell him," she said in turn, "that an Englishwoman, one Sylvia
Thorne, is here to seek succour from him for the man she loves--the
man who, if God so wills it, is to be her husband. And that man is a
countryman to both my lord and her. Also he has been an English
soldier. But this you know."

It was half an hour later that the captain came back, and, speaking in
a low voice, said that the Earl of Marlborough would receive the
ladies who desired to speak with him. After which he handed them out
of the carriage, and, taking them to the opening of the tent, passed
them through the sentries on either side. From there he confided them
to a man who had the appearance of being a body-servant, one who bade
them respectfully follow him.

But as they left the captain he whispered in their ears:

"Have no fear, no trepidation; and tell him all--all! You are about to
see the most brilliant soldier, the most courtly gentleman, in
Europe."

A moment later the man had held a curtain aside and had retired after
letting it drop behind them again, and they were face to face with the
greatest captain of the age.

He was standing in front of a brazier in which burned some logs, for
the evenings were growing colder now and the damp was over all, and as
the women's eyes fell on that handsome presence and noted the
wonderful serenity of the features, any trepidation they might have
felt vanished.

Clad in his dark blue coat--he was Colonel of the Blues--with, beneath
it, the ribbon of the Garter across his breast, he stood facing the
curtain until they appeared, and then, advancing towards them, lifted
the hand of each to his lips, while murmuring some courteous phrase,
immediately after which he placed two rough chairs before them and
begged them to be seated.

"Madame la Comtesse," he said now, and they noticed the refined,
courtly tones of a voice that, though soft and even, was a little
shrill. "I have heard your tale briefly from Captain Barringer. If
help can come from me it shall. Yet am I vastly concerned to know how
I can offer aid."

"My lord," said Sylvia, lifting her eyes to his, while little knowing
how he had noticed her beauty in one swift glance, "it is said in
Liége that you will be soon there; and then--then--then the French
will be no longer in possession of that city."

His lordship smiled slightly as she said this and seemed to muse an
instant, after which he said:

"It may be so; but ere that can be, I must clear my way to Liége.
There are towns and fortresses upon the road. Venloo is one, and time
is necessary."

"Time! Oh!" the girl almost gasped. "Time! And in that time they may
have tried Mr. Bracton and--ah! I cannot utter it!"

"It may indeed be so," he murmured, seeing the look on Sylvia's face.
"I would not say a word to alarm you; but courts-martial, trials in
war time, are apt to be swift. And the condition of Mr. Bracton is
perilous; he has placed himself in a dangerous position."

"My lord," the Comtesse said, "we have heard but lately that in your
hands is one, the Marquis de Cabrieres, who lies under sentence of
death for a similar offence against you and a town in your possession.
Yet he still lives. May it not be the same, may we not hope the same
respite, for Mr. Bracton?"

As she spoke, not only she, but Sylvia too, saw that her words had had
some strange effect on the Earl. They observed a light come in his
eyes, a little more colour mount to his cheeks--evidences that those
words had produced in his mind some striking effect. That effect they
were soon to learn.

He went to a coarse, wooden table, covered with papers--a table that
had, doubtless, been purchased with many others for a few gulden at
some town through which the army passed, and, taking from off it two
of those papers, said, as he held them in his hand:

"Here is a letter to M. de Boufflers which I have caused to be
written--such things are usual enough between the conflicting
armies--suggesting an exchange of prisoners----"

"Ah!" exclaimed Sylvia. "I understand."

"Yet, see," Marlborough went on imperturbably, "I destroy it," and he
suited the action to the word. Then observing, as he observed
everything, the look of horror, of broken-hearted grief, on the faces
of the others at his action, he added, "Because Mr. Bracton's name is
not in it; because I was ignorant of him, though now I remember his
name and the circumstances of his removal from the Cuirassiers. Yet, I
beseech you, be easy in your minds. Another letter shall be written;
it shall contain his name."

"God in heaven bless you!" Sylvia murmured.

"This," his lordship went on, touching with his finger the second
paper, "is my warrant for the execution of the Marquis de
Cabrieres--as a spy; but that too shall be destroyed," and again he
suited the action to the word. "Each of those men has committed the
same offence--for an offence it is against the opposing forces. Only,
it is war time, and, as the offence is equal, so may the pardon be. If
it can be done, if Mr. Bracton has not yet paid the penalty, it may be
that the Maréchal de Boufflers and I can adjust matters."


[Illustration: "Sylvia flung herself at Marlborough's feet."]


With a sob wrung from her heart by those last words as to Bevill
having possibly paid the penalty, Sylvia flung herself at
Marlborough's feet while uttering all that she felt at his
graciousness and mercy. But, as she did so, as still she held his hand
and called on heaven again and again to bless and prosper him, and
while he, gallant, chivalrous as ever and always, endeavoured to raise
her to her feet, he said:

"Only, above all, hope not too much. Do not allow your hopes too full
a sway. England and France, Anne and Louis, De Boufflers and I are at
war to the death, and war is merciless. Further defeat may drive the
Marshal to desperation. Also, we know not what may be transpiring at
Liége. I would not rouse more fears in your heart than it already
holds. Heaven knows, I would not do so. Yet still I say again, 'Hope
not, expect not, too much.'"

"I must hope," Sylvia moaned. "I must, I must. I have nought but hope
left. I must hope in God's mercy first, and--under Him--in you."

It was well indeed that she should have hope to comfort her at this
time--well, too, that she did not know what was doing in Liége even as
she knelt at Marlborough's feet.

For had she done so she must have deemed there was no longer any hope
to be expected on earth either for her lover or herself.



CHAPTER XXX.


Some of the French troops had returned to Liége. For almost every day
now there came to the ears of the different commanders in the vicinity
the news that the Allies were sweeping south; that town after town and
fortress after fortress was falling, and that gradually, before the
serried ranks of steel and the discharge of the heavy guns that the
huge Flanders horses dragged over muddy roads and boggy swamps, the
"Barrier" army was being driven back. To which was added now the news
that Venloo was invested by Lord Cutts--he who had gained the
sobriquet of the "Salamander" from friends and foes alike, owing to
his contempt for the enemy's fire--and the Prince of Hanover, and like
enough to fall at once.

Therefore many of the French forces were now back in the citadel and
Chartreuse at Liége, or lying out on the heights of St. Walburg; while
Tallard, who was afterwards to command the French and be defeated at
Blenheim, was now second in command in the vicinity under De
Boufflers. For the Duke of Burgundy had some time since returned to
Paris, where he received but a freezing welcome from his august
grandsire, and the Maréchal de Boufflers became first in command and
Tallard second.

These changes in both the command of the French army and in the
redistribution of the French forces, provided a sufficient number
of officers to form a Court of Inquiry on the prisoners in the
citadel--a court which, as Tallard had left orders before marching
towards the Rhine, was to be commenced at once.

Of these prisoners there were now three, since another had been added
to Bevill and Francbois, all of whom were charged with separate
offences. The charge against those two has already been told; that
against the third had still to be promulgated, though it came under
the general one of treason, and was described in the quaint wording of
the time as "_Lèse majesté_ against the King, his State, and friends."

Of Francbois short work had been made by those assembled in the old
_salle d'armes_ in the citadel. The letters he had overlooked, and
which had been found by the Comtesse de Valorme and handed to De
Violaine, were sufficient to condemn any man in a time of peace, let
alone one of war; but further inquiries, subtly made in the city by
other such spies as Sparmann had been, showed that the traitor had
made considerable sums of money by obtaining early knowledge of the
French plans and future movements, and by selling them to the Dutch
agents who were instructed by the States General to obtain all
information of a similar nature. Francbois had consequently been
condemned to death by hanging, and that death only awaited the
signature of Tallard to be immediately effected. Meanwhile, he, proved
spy and traitor as he was, was not regarded as too base and ignoble to
be allowed to testify against one of the other prisoners--namely, the
Englishman, Bracton.

Against the third prisoner, a Hollander named Hans Stuven, the charge
was that he had attempted to slay two of his own countrymen in Liége,
who were now in the service of the French King as couriers and
frequent bearers of despatches from Louis to his marshals in the
Netherlands; and that, when in drink at a tavern, he had been heard to
announce that when he came into contact with the newly-created
marshal, Montrével, he would slay him as an apostate from the reformed
faith and a persecutor of the Protestants. For this man there could be
but one hope--that he should be found to be insane.

To try these two the Court sat in the _salle d'armes_, lit now by the
morning sun, De Violaine, in his capacity of Governor, being
President. As representative of the King of France, he wore his hat
and also the _just-au-corps au brevet_, or undercoat of the _noblesse_
and those holding high office; a garment of white satin on which was
stamped in gold the _fleur-de-lys_. Among the other officers who
formed the members of that court one, a mousquetaire, alone wore his
hat also, the plumed and laced hat of that aristocratic body. This
was the young Duc de Guise, who sat thus covered because there ran in
his veins the royal blood of an almost older race than the Bourbons,
and because, as he and his called the King--and all Kings of
France--cousin, it was his privilege to do so.

In face of these officers Bevill Bracton stood in the midst of a file
of soldiers, outwardly calm and imperturbable, but inwardly wondering
what Sylvia was doing and where she was, while knowing that, no matter
where she might be, her thoughts were with him alone. But, although he
was well resigned to whatever fate might befall him--a resignation
that many nights of solemn meditation had alone been able to bring him
to--there was in his heart a sadness, a regret, that could not be
stifled.

"We met but to love each other," he had whispered to himself a
thousand times during his incarceration in this fortress; "to love but
to be parted. And though the words could never be spoken, since I
scarce knew the treasure I had won ere we were torn asunder, in her
heart there must have sprung to life the same hopes, the same desires
that had dawned in mine. The hopes of happy years to come, to be
passed always side by side; together! The dreams of a calm and
peaceful end, also together. And now! Now, the thought of her sweet
face, her graciousness, her love, the only flower remaining in my soon
to be ended life; my memory all that can be left to brighten or to
darken her existence."

For never since the night he was arrested had he dared to dream
that he would leave Liége alive. His attempted escape from the city
with Sylvia, his passing under the false guise of two different
Frenchmen--the necessity for which he had always loathed, while
understanding that in this way alone could he reach her--the testimony
that Francbois would surely give against him, and the imputed murder
of a man in the pay and service of France, must overwhelm and confound
him.

Thinking still of the woman he had learnt to love so dearly, he
let his eyes roam over that gloomy, solemn hall and observe all that
it contained while heeding little. He saw the officers of his
country's immemorial foe conversing together ere they should begin to
question him. He saw, too, the ancient arms that hung all round the
walls--pikes, swords, maces, and halbards, musketoons and muskets;
also, he saw far down at the other end another man who was,
undoubtedly, like himself, a prisoner. A man guarded by more soldiers
and with his hands chained together; one whose face was bruised and
raw, as though, in his capture, he had been badly wounded; one who,
leaning forward with that face resting on his hands, and his eyes upon
the ground, presented an appearance of brutish indifference to his
surroundings as well as to his almost certain fate.

"The witness who will be produced before you, and the prisoner's own
actions, will give you the matter," De Violaine said now, addressing
the other members of the court, "upon which you have to form a
conclusion. The witness is the traitor, Francbois, whom you condemned
yesterday. What he knows he must tell in spite of his condemnation, or
means will be used to make him do so," and he glanced towards a man
leaning behind one of the great stone columns that, at regular
distances, supported the heavily-traced and groined roof. For there
was still another man within that hall, one on whom Bevill's eyes had
not yet lighted--a man, old and grizzled, yet strong and burly and
roughly clad--a man who stood by a strange-looking instrument that lay
along the floor and was a complicated mass of rollers and cords and
pulleys--a thing that was, in truth, the rack. Near this there stood,
also, four or five great copper pots, each holding several gallons of
water, and having great ladles of the same metal in each. These things
stood here close to the rack and that dark, forbidding man because, as
all of that Court knew well, when the rack failed to elicit the truth
from prisoner or suspected witness, the _question à l'eau_--namely,
the pouring of quart after quart of water down the throats of the
wretched victims, never failed in its effect.

"Let us hear the man," an officer who was in command of the Regiment
de Montemar said. "If he endeavours to lie or to deceive us the----"
and he glanced towards the executioner as he leant against the column.

"Bring in the man, Francbois," De Violaine said now, addressing some
of the soldiers who were near Bevill, and a few moments later the
already condemned traitor stood before those who had judged him
yesterday.

Whether it was the horror of that condemnation which now sat heavily
on his soul, or whether it was the fear of what might be the outcome
of any evidence he should soon give--he had glanced affrightedly at
the rack and the great water-pots and the grim attendant of both as he
was brought in--he presented now a pitiable aspect. His face was
colourless, or almost ashy grey, and resembled more the appearance of
a terrified Asiatic, or an Asiatic whose blood was mixed with that of
some white race, than the appearance of a European. His eyes had in
them the terrified look of the hare as it glances back, only to see
the hound that courses it upon its flank; his whole frame, in its
tremblings and flaccidity, bespoke the awful terror that possessed
him.

"_Pasquedieu!_" the young Duc de Guise muttered, as his eyes glanced
from the shivering object to the tall, sturdy form and calm,
unruffled, though solemn, countenance of the man against whom the
other was to testify. "_Pasquedieu!_ that this one should have his
life in the hand of such as that." And, though those by his side did
not hear the words muttered beneath the Duke's slight moustache, it
may well be that their thoughts kept company with his.

"Tell your tale again as you told it to me when you came here to
inform against this Englishman," De Violaine said now in an icy tone;
"and tell it truthfully, remembering that----" but he, too, paused in
his words, the sentence being finished by the one glance he cast
towards the column down the hall.

Then, in a voice that trembled in unison with the tremors of his
frame, though it gained strength--or was it audacity?--as he proceeded
without interruption from any of those listeners seated before him,
Francbois told the same story he had told at first to the Governor,
Only, if he were to die, as die he now knew he must, he was resolved
that he would leave no loophole through which this other--this
accursed, contemptuous Englishman who stood by his side so calmly, as
though he, too, were a judge and not a prisoner--should escape and
live.

He pictured him as a browbeating, turbulent Briton even in those
far-off days in Paris when both he and Bracton were schoolmates; he
told how he was ever filled with hatred of France and Frenchmen; and
how, even here in Liége, Bracton had boasted that he would outwit any
Frenchman in and around it, and slay all who attempted to thwart him.
And, next, he told how he and Sparmann, going to the Weiss Haus to
arrest this man, had been set upon in the dark by him; how Bracton had
stabbed Sparmann through the breast and disarmed him, Francbois, so
that he was unable to succour his companion.

But now he was forced to stop in the unfolding of his narrative.

Bracton, who until this moment had uttered no word but had contented
himself with standing calmly before his judges, spoke now.


[Illustration: "'Messiers--this story is false.'"]


"Messieurs," he said, very calmly, "this story is false. It may be
that in my attempt to save a woman I have learnt to love, a woman whom
I loved with my whole heart and soul even ere I went to the Weiss Haus
that night, I have put myself in the grasp of your military laws. But
be that so or not," and now his voice was more firm, even perhaps
stronger, "I will not be saddled with a false accusation and hold my
peace. Sparmann was already wounded to the death, as I know now,
though I knew it not when he passed me, touched me, in the dark and
then fled down the stairs from me, deeming me most probably the man
from whose hands a moment before he had received his death-wound. But
it was not from my hand he received it. I am no murderer, no midnight
assassin. I had fought once with Sparmann in England, and vanquished
him in fair fight. Messieurs, you know well enough that the man who
vanquishes another in the open does not murder him afterwards in the
dark. Had I found him in the Weiss Haus that night, I should have
seized on him, it may be I should have forced him to fight with me
again, but I should not have done that of which this traitor accuses
me."

These words had made a good impression on those to whom they were
addressed--so good a one, indeed, that, had there been no other charge
against Bevill, he might possibly have gone free at that moment.
Unhappily, however, there did remain the other charges that stood so
black against him, and those charges required neither the assertion
nor the corroboration of Francbois. They proved themselves.

But whatever impression his words may have made on those who were now
the arbiters of life and death to him, a far deeper impression--a
palpable one--had been produced on the man who sat with his head
buried in his hands close by that column against which the doomsman
leaned.

At the first sound of Bevill's voice this man, this fanatic who
appeared to have vowed himself to the slaughter of renegades and
apostates, had lifted his bloodstained and bruised face from his
hands, and had stared amazed as though a spectre had suddenly appeared
before him; yet even this expression of open-eyed astonishment gave
way to a still deeper appearance of bewilderment as now Francbois, in
answer to Bevill's words, repeated again his assertions while asking
if he who now stood on the threshold of his grave had any reason to
lie?

So deep an appearance, indeed, had that man's bewilderment assumed
that, at last, he appeared unable to support it further, and let his
face fall once more into its previous position. And in all that great
hall there was not one, or only one--the dreadful creature who stood
near Stuven--who had witnessed the man's astonishment and the lifting
of his face out of his hands.

"You say," De Violaine said now to Francbois, "that you have no reason
to lie since your grave already awaits you. Yet death is but the last
resource, and even that impending death shall not shield falsehood. If
you have lied to us----"

But he paused, astonished by what he now not only saw but also heard.

For at this moment the prisoner Stuven had sprung to his feet and was
gesticulating wildly, even as he struggled in the hands of the men who
guarded him--gesticulating wildly as he cried:

"He lies. He does lie! 'Twas I who slew Sparmann that night--Sparmann,
the Hollander, who sold himself to your country. I--I--alone did
it--but he, this false witness, was there too. Not to slay Sparmann,
but that man before you. I lost my hat there in the struggle with him
whom I slew; it may be in that deserted house now. But no matter
whether it be or not, I demand that you listen to me. I, at least,
will speak the truth, since I neither heed nor fear what my fate may
be."



CHAPTER XXXI.

Half an hour later Stuven's tale had been told; the Court knew that,
no matter what else might weigh heavily against the Englishman, at
least the murder of the Dutch spy in the pay of the French did not do
so.

At once, after startling all in the _salle d'armes_ by his frenzied
outcry, Stuven had been bidden to narrate all the incidents of the
night in question, while warned that it would be well to speak the
absolute truth, since, though nothing could save him from his fate,
that might at least save him from torture, from those awful
instruments which lay upon the stone floor of the great hall.

But the warning had been received by the man with such scorn and
contemptuous utterance that all present recognised that it might well
have remained unuttered.

"The truth! My fate!" Stuven had cried from the spot to which he had
now been dragged by the soldiers, a spot immediately facing his judges
and near to Bevill. "Why should I lie? You have enough against this
man already," glancing at Bevill, "to hang him; while, for that thing
there," with a second glance at Francbois, "who would lie to save him?
And, for my fate--bah! I regret it only that it will prevent me from
slaying more renegades whom you and your country buy with your
accursed gold."

"Tell what you know," De Violaine said sternly, "and make no
reflections on us who hold you in our hands. We can do worse than slay
you, should you merit it. Proceed."

Yet as the gallant Frenchman spoke, the loyalist who, in spite of his
ruler's own evil-doing and tyranny, served that ruler as he had sworn
to do long ere Louis had become the bitter oppressor of those of his
own faith, knew that, in his heart, this fellow's rude, stern hatred
of traitors and renegades, and those who employed them, was not
amazing. Stuven might be, might have become almost, a demoniac in his
patriotism and loyalty to the land that bare him, but at least he was
noble in comparison with such as Francbois and, perhaps, with such as
the dead traitor, Sparmann.

But now Stuven was speaking, partly in his Walloon _patois_, partly in
some sort of French he had acquired--Heaven knew the opportunities had
not been wanting during the last cycles of oppression and invasion of
the Netherlands by France!--he was telling what he knew, what he had
done in Holland's cause.

"It was," Stuven said now, his raw, bruised face bent forward towards
the members of the Court, his eyes gleaming red as he spoke, his
raucous voice made almost impressive by the intensity of his passion,
"at St. Trond I first attempted to slay the spy--_ach!_" and he spat
on the ground--"the traitor. At St. Trond where I learned who and what
he was, by overhearing this man, this Englishman, tell another.
And--and--I swore to kill him then--or later; some day, for sure. That
night I failed, even though waiting for him, having him in my hand. I
struck not deep enough, and, ere I could strike again, the patrol came
by. I missed his heart by an inch or so; I--I had done no more than
wound him in the shoulder. No matter, I told myself; I would not fail
next time.

"Some of the patrol carried him to the Lutheran Spital; some chased
me; one came so near that, with his pike, he tore my face, as your men
have torn it again in capturing me," and Stuven laughed horribly. "But
I knew the streets and alleys better than they--_I_ was no stranger,
no invader, so I escaped them.

"Then for three weeks I waited. I worked no more; I watched only. None
came out of the Spital, none went in, but I saw them. I begged at the
gate--it was a good vantage place--I tried to get into the Spital to
wait on the sick, to help bury, carry out the dead. Had I not failed
in my desire I need not have waited so long."

At this the young Duc de Guise muttered to his neighbour, "This fellow
should have lived in earlier days. For one's rival now--an enemy--our
dearest foe--he would have been the man."

"Nay," that neighbour, an older, grey-headed officer, muttered back,
"he would have been useless. His fire was for his country's enemy, for
his own. As a hired bravado, a paid assassin, he would have lacked the
necessary spark. A handful of crowns would have awakened nothing in
him."

"He came out at last," Stuven went on, even as those two whispered
together, "three weeks later. He found his horse at the inn where he
had left it; he rode slowly, a wounded man--wounded by me--to Liége.
But he never rode from me, out of my sight. We entered the gates close
together; he found a lodging, I slept in the street outside it.
Then--then--after I had tracked him for some days I knew that he was
tracking another. And at last I knew it was this man here," and again
Stuven's eyes were turned on Bevill. "If I could have warned you," he
said now to the latter, "I would have done so, but I could not leave
him and I never saw you except when he drew near to you.

"So it went on. Had he had time, I think he would have come to you and
denounced him," and now the man looked at De Violaine, "but he had
not. He rose early, went to his bed late; and he was wary. In dark
streets at night he had his sword drawn beneath his cloak; once, too,
he noticed me, and from that time he feared for his own life. I think
he understood that I was the man who fell on him at St. Trond.

"But now the night was come, the night of the storm. We--it was always
_we_--he intent on following this man, and I on following him--were on
our road to that great white house. Since dark I had been near the
Gouden Leeuw, and I saw this Englishman come forth, mount his horse
and ride to the house. I saw him enter a postern gate, opening it with
a key; it took him some time to help his horse through it. Then the
gate was shut again.

"A few moments later Sparmann went round to the wall on the other
side, and, finding another postern gate in that, took from his pocket
a key and entered; but he did not shut the gate, desiring doubtless to
leave the way clear to escape quickly if he needed to. Then I knew he
had been there before, or had been well directed how to gain entrance.
Also, I remembered that more than once I had seen him with a man who
on one occasion handed him something. I thought then that it was
money; now, on this night, I understood that it was the key that he
was using. And the man was _this_----" Stuven added, his eyes on
Francbois, the contempt of his voice as biting, as burning as the bite
of vitriol on live flesh; the very gesture of his hand, as he
indicated the other, blighting, withering, in its disdainful scorn.

And Francbois, trembling before his late judges and present warders,
and white, too, as the dead within their shrouds, could only mutter
"False, false, false--all false!"

"Since Sparmann had left the door open behind him, my way was clear,"
Stuven went on, ignoring Francbois' feeble moan. "Five minutes later I
knew that he was creeping slowly up the back stairs, and I, my knife
in hand, was near him. The storm was at its height; now and again the
great hall was lit by the lightning, so, too, was the whole house; it
penetrated even to where he was, where I was, too. And now I knew
that he feared something. The lightning showed me his backward
glance, the glare of fear in his eyes, the look of the rat hunted
through the streets by dogs. I guessed that he knew there was
someone--something--near him that threatened danger. It may be that he
thought it was this Englishman; or, also, he may have feared that it
was I, the man who had failed once, but would never fail again."

"It will be bad," the Duc de Guise muttered, brushing his jewelled
fingers across his forehead, "if all Louis' enemies are like this, all
who are opposed to us!"

And again the old grey-haired soldier answered him, saying, "Be at
peace, monseigneur. The man he tracked was his country's betrayer; he
is not the enemy of Louis or of us."

"Sparmann," Stuven continued, "had reached a room at the end of the
corridor; I was behind its open door, observing him through the chink
beneath its hinges. And again the lightning played, and I saw that he
was standing at the open window regarding something outside the
balcony of that window. It was the head of a ladder that rose above
the ledge some foot or more. And I heard him whisper to himself 'Can
it be Bracton has come this way; I do fear he lurks near. I--I--ah! he
will slay me.' While saying this he turned and made for the door to
flee the room. As he so left, I, from my place behind that door, drove
my knife deep into his breast, even as I whispered in his ear
'Traitor; renegade, foul, apostate!' and slashed at him again, missing
him, but striking, I think, his arm or hand. Then, as he staggered
down a great balcony round the hall, I knew that it was time for me to
go, and that the ladder outside was my road.

"The wind of the storm had closed the door noisily, heavily, as he
passed out; the noise reverberated through the empty house; opening
the door now, I rushed to the window. As I did so I saw the ladder
head slowly sliding to one side, and I knew that it was being removed
from its position against the balcony. And I leant over the ledge to
see who was this third man who had been in the room, believing I
should see this Englishman. But it was not he, but that other one,
that traitor to you and your country," and again Stuven's finger
pointed with scorn at Francbois. "And he saw me, but, in his turn,
since the night was black and dark, thought I was the Englishman.
Whereon he hissed, addressing me by some name I did not comprehend,
'So, so! English spy, English brigand, you add midnight murder to
other things, here in the house of the woman you and I both love, the
woman who--malediction on her!--loves you. I have you now--you!
you!--the murderer of those in the service of France. You will never
leave Liége alive!"

As Stuven reached this portion of his narrative, which was in absolute
fact the end of it, since none cared to hear, or he to tell, of how he
had left the house on the other side of it, losing his hat in the
hurry of his flight, there came to his ears the sound of a thud, a
heavy fall. Looking round, as did also Bevill, while the members of
the Court of Inquiry and the soldiers could see what had happened, he
perceived that Francbois had fallen in a swoon to the floor. What he
had heard from this man's lips was, in truth, sufficient to cause him
to swoon, since it was now proved that one of his principal charges
against Bracton was false; though, had he known that against his enemy
there still remained a graver charge than all--namely, of being in
correspondence with one of the most bitter enemies of France--his
agony of mind might not have been so great. For though Francbois could
not hope that there remained the thousandth portion of a chance for
his own life, the rendering up of that life might have been less
bitter had he been certain that, with his existence, his enemy's would
likewise be forfeited. Also, the sweetness of vengeance was lost to
Francbois if, in death, that enemy should fail to recognise that it
was to him he owed it.

Had the wretch but retained his faculties some moments longer, or,
instead of being borne out of the _salle d'armes_ by the men in whose
custody he was, had he been allowed to lie until he regained his
senses--as he shortly did when removed--some of the wild delirium of
fulfilled revenge would have been his.

Now that Stuven had told his story, of the truth of which no person
present had entertained a doubt, De Violaine addressed Bevill, saying:

"That you are innocent of the murder of that wretched man who was in
the service of France, of the King," and he and the Duke touched their
hats while the others bowed as he mentioned their august ruler, "the
Court allows. But of the other charges it is not easy to acquit you.
You entered a city invested by us under false names, bearing false
papers; you endeavoured to leave the city, while also endeavouring to
remove from it a woman who by our orders--orders common in war--was
not to quit it. Also a letter has been found on you from your
countryman, Lord Peterborough, in which he tells you he hopes soon to
take part in this war against us, and bids you, at the same time,
observe carefully our strength and the disposition of our forces, and
to communicate with him thereupon. You have been a soldier in your own
country's service, you have fought against France in the time of your
late King, therefore you know the laws of war. You know, too, what
action the present commander of the English forces would take if he
discovered a Frenchman in the position in which you have placed
yourself."

As De Violaine ceased his eyes were not removed from Bevill's face,
wherefore the latter, taking this as an intimation that if he desired
to speak this was the time, said:

"To what you say, Monsieur le Gouverneur, my answer must be brief,
since, in truth, I have but little answer to make. Yet I crave hearing
for my words. I am one who was cast out of his country's service
because he avenged the insults uttered against it by that dead spy,
Sparmann. When once more your country and mine were at war, I sought
fresh service in the field, yet, being but a broken man, it needed to
obtain that employment that I should bring myself before the eyes of
those who might bestow it on me. A chance arose; I deemed it
Heaven-sent. The woman whom now I love with my whole heart and soul,
whose image is enshrined in my heart, and will be ever there till my
last hour is told, was here. I thought I saw the chance, and snatched
at it as one that might make me a soldier again. You, to whom I speak,
are all soldiers; had your case been mine, had the chance come to you
to reinstate yourselves, would you have refused to do so? Enough of
this.

"And the rest is soon answered. I am no spy. Had I escaped from here
with her whom I love, no word of your plans and dispositions should
have ever passed, not even though Peterborough had bade me speak and
divulge all; though he had told me that on my utterance all my future
hopes rested. As for the passports, listen, messieurs, I beg. I
loathed landing under an assumed name on the soil acquired by you; had
it been possible, I would have come in plume and corselet, as once I
came against you when an English cuirassier. But that was not
possible, while as for the second papers--ah, well! there was no other
way. That unhappy man now dead would have avenged my honourable defeat
of him--one given face to face, by man to man--by himself denouncing
me behind my back in his new shape of spy, of informer; he who had
been our ally, the countryman of our King! In Antwerp, in St. Trond,
he would have done so; also in Liége, had not this man whom you have
heard slain him. Messieurs, there is no more. I have been what you are
all. I have faced death before; it will not fright me now, much though
I desire to live." And beneath his breath Bevill added, "For her."

He ceased, and, in ceasing, knew that in his few, quietly spoken words
he had better pleaded his cause than if he had uttered one word for
mercy. For though the eyes of all his judges had never left his face,
they had been grave, but not hostile. He knew--he felt--that, had
there existed no absolute code by which they were forced to condemn
him for that which he had done, there would be no condemnation. But
still there was the code, as he had known from the moment when
Peterborough had first opened to him the matter of his quest for
Sylvia; from the moment he set out upon his enterprise.

The heads of the members of the Court were close together now; the
registrar was reading a paper to them he had written; a moment later
the paper and a pen were handed to the Duc de Guise, who, although the
highest in position, was the lowest in military rank, and was
therefore to sign first.

For a moment this young man of superb lineage, though a lineage on
which there rested, as it had rested for more than a century, so dark
and awful a blot, sat gazing at the paper before him while biting the
feather of the pen; then he said, or asked:

"The prisoner is a Protestant?"

"He is," De Violaine answered, gazing astonished at him.

"I will not sign," the Duke said, throwing down the pen.

"Monseigneur!"


[Illustration: "'I will not sign,' the Duke said, throwing down the
pen"--_p_. 1034.]


"No, I will not sign. We," and the Duke's hand caught the lace at his
breast in its grasp, as though its owner were stirred by some internal
agitation, "we--ah!--we of our line have testified in the past all
that we have felt towards those of his faith. I will not have it said
that another Guise should sign the finding of this Court against a man
whom he respects, no matter how much that man has erred, because he is
a Protestant."

"I, too, respect him," De Violaine said, even as he laid his hand,
unseen by the others, upon the young Duke's and pressed it. "But I
myself am a Protestant, and also the President of this inquiry. Yet I
shall sign. Neither will I have it said that, being of the prisoner's
faith, I used that bond between us to shield him from the punishment
he has brought on his own head."



CHAPTER XXXII.


To die. That was the sentence, awaiting only confirmation from Tallard
to be at once carried into effect. To die--though, because he had once
been that which his judges were now, because the "one touch of nature"
had made these French soldiers and that English soldier kin; because,
too, his quiet, manly bearing, his restraint from all plea for mercy,
had touched the hearts of those who sentenced him--not by the rope,
but by the hands of soldiers. Not to be hanged, as Francbois and
Stuven were to be, but to be shot as he stood upright before a platoon
of soldiers; his eyes unbandaged, so that he might look them and the
death they dealt him as straight in the face as he had often before
looked the enemy and death.

Also, it may be, the hearts of those judges had been softened to this
extent by the avowal of his love for the stately, beautiful woman whom
some of them--De Guise, De Violaine, D'Aubignay--had seen; whom these,
at least, had heard cry "I love him, I love him, I love him!"
Remembering that cry of Sylvia's, remembering how in that moment, so
fraught with evil to both their destinies, the girl had cast aside all
sense of mock diffidence, and how nobly she had avowed her love while
recognising that, in doing so, no reproach of want of reserve could
come anigh her, De Violaine, as he signed the finding of the Court
over which he had presided, muttered to himself:

"To have heard Radegonde thus proclaim her love for me would have
caused this sentence to fall harmless. Harmless! Nay, rather,
welcome."

While, as for De Guise, duke and peer of France though he might be,
with, in his veins, the old illustrious blood of Lorraine and
Burgundy--what would he not have given to hear one woman utter that
cry on his behalf from the depths of her heart? He who might,
doubtless, obtain such avowals from many a nobly born woman hovering
round the garish, bizarre Court of the great King, yet would, in doing
so, scarce be able to bring himself to believe in the truth of even
one of them.

Some days had passed since Bevill had heard his doom pronounced by De
Violaine in a voice full of emotion; days in which he had stood,
sometimes for hours together, at the window of the great cell, which
was in truth a room, gazing across the town. Across the town, since
the citadel was built on the brow of a hill that overhung it, to
where, perhaps, he dreamt that, even at the last moment, succour might
be expected to come. For though he did not know that the Comtesse de
Valorme and Sylvia had by now contrived to escape out of Liége, he
knew that this was the direction in which Marlborough must be; that,
if there was any hope to be looked for, it was thence it must arrive.
Yet he knew, too, that, if it came, also must it come swiftly.

"De Violaine said," he had told himself a hundred times, "that the
finding of the Court would be sent at once to the Marshal Tallard for
his approval. Ah, well! the time will not be long. With Marlborough as
near as he must be by now, Tallard cannot be far away. Whispers filter
even through these prison walls; the soldiers amongst whom I am
allowed to walk below, and to get the air, are gloomy and depressed.
Also, I have caught ere now the name of Venloo on their lips. If
Venloo has fallen, then Liége will be the next. It will be its turn.
But mine!" Bevill would add, with almost the shadow of a smile upon
his face, "will my turn come first?"

"And she, my sweet, my love," he would continue. "What of her? Where
is she, what is she doing? Yet why ask, why ponder? She is dreaming,
musing, thinking of me now, I know; pitying my fate--it may be
endeavouring in some way to avert it. Ah! Sylvia, Sylvia, if ere I go
from out this world we might stand face to face again; if I might look
once more into those fond, pure eyes, and read therein the love that I
must part with, leave behind, death would not seem so bitter and
parting be lighter sorrow than I deem it now."

Yet even as he spoke he chided himself for his consideration of
himself alone; for thinking only of the love that he, going out into
the darkness, must leave behind, not of the one left behind in a
deeper, because a living, darkness.

As thus he mused one morning by the spot at the window at which he
always stood while these, or similar, reflections occupied his mind,
he heard the great bunch of keys in the possession of one of the
soldier-gaolers rattling outside, and a moment later heard his cell
being unlocked. Knowing that this was not the time for the man to
visit him, either to bring food or to take him forth to walk in the
courtyard of the citadel, he wondered who might be coming, and, with a
leap at his heart, a quick bound of hope, wondered also if it were she
who might have obtained admission to him.

A moment later De Violaine entered the room, and again Bevill's heart
leapt within him, since he could suppose that this visit must bode but
one thing, the announcement of the hour fixed for his execution.
Wherefore he murmured to himself:

"Be brave. Fear naught. Remember 'tis but a dozen bullets. What are
they to one who has faced thousands?"

If, however, the Governor of the citadel had come with any such
intention as that which Bevill supposed, he at least did not declare
it at once. Instead, he asked his prisoner if, so far as might be, he
had been well attended and treated well.

"I have no complaint to urge," Bevill replied, "even if one placed as
I am might venture to do so." Then, bracing himself to that which was
nearest to, was never out of, his heart, he said: "Yet, monsieur, I
may, perhaps, ask of you a question I might scarce put to those who
have me in their charge." Then, seeing that De Violaine showed no
signs of dissent, he continued: "I would fain know how it is with
her--the woman whose affianced husband I am, and shall be while life
remains. Also, if all is well with that noble lady the Comtesse de
Valorme."

"I have seen neither of them since your appearance before the Court of
Inquiry."

"Yet you were the friend of one of them at least--of Madame la
Comtesse."

"Yes, of Madame la Comtesse--once."

"If--if--" Bevill said, while observing the hesitation in the other's
words, the pause before that last word "once"--"if my doom is not
close at hand, if still there remains even one day, some few hours, to
me of life in this world, I would fain crave a boon at your hands,
make one request. Ah! if it might be granted it would make my parting
with life easier; it may be she would better be able to bear our
eternal separation."

"What is it you desire?" De Violaine asked in a low voice, his eyes
fixed on the other.

"To see her once again. To bid her one last farewell, to hold her in
my arms for the first and last time. You know, you must know, that our
love grew from out this attempt for which I am now to suffer; that,
even as the knowledge came to both our hearts that the love was there,
so, too, the parting, the end was at hand. Ah! if to you the love for
a woman has ever come, if it has ever so fortuned that you should love
and lose----"

"It is impossible!" De Violaine interrupted, his voice at war with his
features. For, though there seemed to be a harshness in the former,
there were tears in the latter. And Bevill, hearing the harshness even
as he saw the tears, was amazed--staggered, too, as he showed while
repeating the word "Impossible."

"Ay. They are not here. Not in Liége. They have left--evaded--the
city."

"Left! Gone!"

"Yes. Doubtless you of all others best know whither."

"I know nothing."

"You knew where they would go when you sought to accompany them. You
can have little doubt where they are gone without you."

To say now that he did not know, that he could not conceive which way
those two women had for certain directed their steps would, Bevill
recognised, be but to add one more equivocation, one more evasion of
the absolute truth, to those he had been obliged to perpetrate in his
desire to escape with Sylvia from Liége. But now--and if he could
welcome the perilous position in which he stood he was almost brought
to do so by De Violaine's last utterance--equivocations, evasions,
were no longer necessary. Henceforth, since he had failed and Sylvia
had escaped from Liége, and also was undoubtedly either with the
English or some portion of the Allies, he need never again utter one
word that was not absolutely a true one. He had failed in that which
he had undertaken, yet, he thanked God, that failure mattered not. Out
of it had at least come the escape of her he loved.

He stood, therefore, before De Violaine neither asserting nor denying
the last words of the other; while that other, observing the calm
frankness of his manner, thought that, should there be any future
before this man, should he and the woman he loved ever come by any
chance together, how proud, how happy in her possession of him, should
that woman be.

A moment later he said, perhaps as though desirous of answering his
own suggestion, perhaps of showing his prisoner that he, too, was
under no doubt of where Sylvia and her friend--the one a woman the
prisoner loved, the other the woman he loved--were.

"Doubtless," he said, "they are not very far. Venloo has fallen," and
De Violaine sighed as he told of one more defeat to his country.

"To Marlborough!"

"To the Allies at least. Marlborough draws near. Yet Liége may not
fall so easy a prey to him as other of these towns and cities have
done. If Tallard returns from the Rhine, if Boufflers but succours
us--ah! England cannot win for ever!"

"The time is almost past," Bevill said now, and even as his words fell
from him the noble heart of De Violaine, the heart of the man who held
this other in his grasp, was full of pity and compassion; "the time is
almost past when it matters for me whether Marlborough or Tallard
reaches Liége first, whether England or France wins at last. My day is
almost done. But to go leaving her behind, unmarried yet widowed,
since no other man will ever win the love she gave to me; to leave her
to a long life cheerless and blank! Ah! ah!" he murmured, breaking
off, "I dare not, must not think of that," while, his manly stoicism
giving way, he turned his back on the other so that he should not see
his face, and moved towards the deep embrasure of the window.

As he did so De Violaine, observing Bevill's emotion, his poignant
grief, stood for a moment looking at him. Then, some feeling stronger
than a soldier's duty, a soldier's necessary harshness towards a
prisoner, an enemy, one taken as Bevill had been taken, under a false
name and bearing false papers, stirred him deeply. They were no
longer, he felt, captor and captive, French soldier or English, but
man and man. Advancing towards the embrasure, yet hesitating ere he
did so, De Violaine placed his hand on Bevill's sleeve.

"Be cheered," he said, impelled to do that which his humanity, in
contradistinction to his duty, prompted him towards. "Be cheered.
Until either De Boufflers or Tallard comes, the warrant for
your--your--for the end--cannot be made. The finding of the Court
cannot be carried out. And there is another chance, a hope for you. At
Nimeguen the English hold a prisoner of our side who is to suffer for
doing that which you have done."

"Ah! if they should spare him."

"If Marlborough has not signed his warrant, and almost I doubt it,
seeing that day by day he places a greater distance between him and
that city, there is a possibility of an exchange; while until Tallard
returns here he cannot sign. No messenger from us can reach him now,
since, Heaven help us! an iron ring is round us. Also, it may be,
Tallard cannot fight his way here. Even though the worst befalls you,
your fate is not yet."

"But still prolonged, still in the balance! Ah! if she were here,"
Bevill said again.

"She is not. She and Ra--Madame de Valorme--have taken their own
way--have placed leagues between them and this place. If she were
here, she should see you."

After which, as though feeling that he had said more than became the
Governor of this fortress, and of others in the city, who held in his
hands a prisoner belonging to the enemy, De Violaine went towards the
door. Arrived at it, however, he paused, and looked back while saying:

"Whatever faults you have committed against France, there was not one
of those who judged you a week ago who did not sympathise with, nay
pity, you. You heard the noble reason De Guise gave for not signing;
the reason I gave for signing. And of the others--some of them worn
veterans who have crossed swords with those of England scores of
times--all acquitted you in their hearts, even while, in duty,
condemning you. Tallard will be no harder than they, provided ever
that Marlborough has himself been merciful to De Cabrieres, the
prisoner whose fault is as yours."

"All sympathised with, all pitied me," Bevill said to himself when De
Violaine was gone. "Even though they condemned me as they did so. Ah!
well, I must bear my lot whate'er befall. I knew the chances and faced
them ere I left England; they have gone against me--let me face that,
too."

"Yet," he continued to muse, "'twas strange that the one from whom the
Comtesse de Valorme feared the worst might come--De Guise--should have
been the only one who refused to sign my condemnation."

But now, as ever, his thoughts wandered from any fate, good or bad,
that hovered over him to what she, his love, was doing, to where she
might be. And in those thoughts there was always one surety strong and
triumphant over all the rest. The thought, the certainty, that his
image was never absent from her heart, the confidence that, since she
had escaped out of Liége, the escape had only been made with a view to
endeavouring to obtain succour for him.

Though whether that endeavour, wild, almost hopeless as it must be,
could meet with success was more than he dared dream of.

"I am in God's hand," he murmured. "In God alone I must put my trust."



CHAPTER XXXIII.


October had come by now, Marlborough's camp was at Sutendal, and the
army was but waiting to receive the latest information as to the
disposal of the French round Liége to throw their pontoons across
the river Jaar, and, after crossing, to march in two columns on that
city. Venloo was taken, so, too, were Ruremond and Stevenswaert; the
Earl, to use his own words, had now but one enemy between him and
Liége--the weather.

Meanwhile, there had passed between Marlborough and Le Maréchal de
Boufflers some of those courteous epistles which, at that time, it was
customary for the principal commanders of hostile forces to indite to
each other. Cartels, as they were then termed, in which the one would
inform the other that he had so many prisoners in his hands whom he
desired to exchange for some of his own men who might happen to be in
the hands of his adversary, and that he would be obliged by the
consent of the other being given. In one of the most recent of these,
Marlborough had stated briefly the case of Bevill Bracton, while
making comparisons between it and that of the Marquis de Cabrieres,
and had informed the French commander that he was willing to exchange
the latter gentleman against his own countryman, now a prisoner in
Liége.

To this there had been returned an answer by De Boufflers in which he
stated that, with regard to the ordinary prisoners in his and
Marlborough's hands, the exchange should be willingly made, but that a
regards the Englishman now a prisoner at Liége it was not in his power
to do anything. The decision, he continued, rested with M. Tallard,
who was at the moment near Bonn, although De Boufflers added that, if
it were possible for him to communicate with Liége, he, as supreme
commander of the French army of the Netherlands, would send orders
that, presuming the English prisoner had not been already found guilty
and executed, the execution should be delayed.

"This is, perhaps, no very satisfying news," the Earl of Marlborough
said, when, after having received this letter from his adversary, he
proceeded to a tent near his own pavilion in which the Comtesse de
Valorme and Sylvia were installed. Nor were they the only women
present in this camp, since, wherever an army definitely halted for
any length of time, there always appeared on the scene the wives and
daughters of the local peasantry intent on selling any provisions and
drink they might chance to be possessed of. Also, they were always
willing to hire out their services in washing and mending, attending
to the sick and wounded, and, sometimes, if they were of the worst
species, of robbing the latter. But in the case of Sylvia and the
Comtesse, an honest, respectable creature had been found at Asch who
acted as general maid to both, and, when the camp was removed to
Sutendal some few miles off, was willing to accompany them in that
capacity.

"Yet, my lord," Sylvia said, in answer to the Earl's remark, "at least
it is something. Except for those last awful words, 'if the prisoner
has not yet been found guilty and executed,' there is much hope in the
letter. Le Maréchal de Boufflers says if he could communicate with
Liége he would send orders for delay."

"That, however," the Earl replied, "it is impossible for him to do. We
are between him and Liége, and another portion of our forces is
between M. Tallard and Liége. In no way can that letter reach the
Governor."

"Therefore," said the Comtesse, "neither can the warrant, which your
Lordship says would undoubtedly have to be signed by one of these two
generals, reach him either. If one of the enemy, bearing that which
will save Bevill Bracton, cannot reach M. de Violaine, how is it
possible for the warrant to reach M. Tallard, and how be returned?"

"That is indeed true," Marlborough said reflectively. "While, for our
army, we cannot invest Liége yet. We must wait for our reinforcements.
And even at the last moment, when the men of the garrison find
themselves attacked by us, they might proceed to the extreme. Or--" but
he paused. He would not repeat again that which must at least be as
obvious to those women as to him, that which had been obvious to the
Maréchal de Boufflers--the possibility of Bevill having been already
found guilty and executed.

A moment later, however, the Earl added.

"'Tis pity--a thousand pities--we cannot yet advance on Liége or
communicate with the Governor--reach his ear somehow. For this reply
from De Boufflers to me would be sufficient. With that letter from the
Generalissimo of the French army in his hand, not even the signed
warrant of Tallard could have effect."

"You cannot reach him, you cannot communicate with him, my lord!"
Sylvia exclaimed, her whole body quivering with excitement as she
spoke, her eyes glistening like stars. "You cannot reach him!"

"It is impossible. If I send forward a regiment they will be fallen
upon, annihilated by some out of the thirty thousand troops that are
near here; even an English regiment cannot fight half the army of
France and Spain. Though," he added, "it is our curse to be always too
self-vaunting and to believe we can perform superhuman feats."

"They will not annihilate me," Sylvia said. "What an English regiment
cannot do an English woman hastening to save her lover can."

"You, Mistress Thorne! You!" Marlborough exclaimed, taken almost
aback, if one so calm as he could by any means be startled. "You!"

"Yes, I. I reached here in safety. I can return."

"But you will be stopped; your reasons will be demanded. And--you may
not fall into the hands of French officers--of gentlemen. Their
patrols, pickets, outposts, are commanded by sergeants and corporals.
They are not always even French but, instead, Spanish, and mercenaries
at that. Also they may not be able to read the Maréchal's letter, to
understand----"

"They will understand what I tell them," Sylvia exclaimed, carried
away by the excitement of her thoughts and desires. "That I, an
Englishwoman, one who, after escaping out of Liége when her lover was
to be tried for his life as a spy, was forced--by her love--to return
to his side. And," she continued, "they, those French and Spanish who
hate us English so dearly, will not thwart but rather assist me to
re-enter the jaws of the trap. Only they will not know that in my
possession will be that letter of their supreme commander; one that
will o'erweigh even the orders of M. Tallard, should he have sent
them. If," she added, almost hysterically, as her memory reverted to
those written words of the French marshal, "it is not too late. If it
is not--ah! Heaven grant it may not be."


[Illustration: "Sylvia threw herself weeping into the arms of the
Comtesse."--_p_. 1176.]


And Sylvia threw herself weeping into the arms of the Comtesse.

For a moment--only a moment--Marlborough's eyes rested on her even as,
it may be, he thought that here was a woman whose love and heroism,
whose loyalty to the man who had gained her heart, might match with
the love and loyalty of the woman who was his own wife--the woman who,
hated by many for her imperious nature and haughty spirit, was the
most fond, proud wife whom any husband's arms had ever enfolded. The
woman who, even while she teased and vexed him with her overbearing
temper and violent disposition, loved him as deeply and fondly as the
day when first they became lovers.

A moment later and when now Sylvia stood once more upright before him,
he, taking her hand and raising it to his lips, said:

"It may not be that he shall perish. Mr. Bracton must live even to
claim you for his bride. Therefore, your desire to return to Liége
with the letter--it is a shrewd one, worthy of a woman's wit!--shall
not be gainsaid. While, for the rest, you shall be accompanied some
part of the way, 'Tis but a day's ride. Also," and now his voice sank
a little lower so that the shrillness that was so often apparent in it
was no longer perceptible, "if they permit that you should see him,
your affianced husband----"

"Ah!" Sylvia said. "If--if I should see him! If--no! no!" she
almost moaned. "I cannot say the words." But recovering herself a
moment later, forcing herself to be valiant, she continued, "If
he--is--still--alive it may be we shall become fellow prisoners. Once
M. de Violaine has me in his keeping again he will give me no further
chance of escape."

"Nor me," the Comtesse said. "In his stern sense of honour he will
deem me a traitor. Though I am none to France but only to the King and
'her'--to the woman he has made his wife." For it was as "her" and
"she" that all France spoke of the "dark and fatal woman," De
Maintenon--all France, no matter of what faith, while at the same time
refusing to accord her the title of Queen or the right to bear that
title. De Maintenon who, born a Protestant, had now been for years the
most cruel and vindictive oppressor of all Protestants.

"If it may be so," Marlborough continued; "say to him, I beg, that
from the moment we meet again he shall become once more a soldier of
the Queen. Even though he has not accomplished that which he set out
to do, the attempt was gallant, was well worthy of reward."

"Heaven above bless you," Sylvia said, and now she held out her hand
to Marlborough, while, as he took it and as, for a moment, his eyes
scanned all the troubled beauty of her face, she added: "Henceforth,
no matter what befall, in the prayers of a humble subject of that
Queen her greatest subject shall be remembered. Farewell, my lord. I
thank you from my heart."

"Not farewell. We shall meet again at Liége. We and one other--your
future husband. I pray it may be so. Such noble bravery as yours
cannot surely go unrewarded."

And now, ere departing, he turned from Sylvia to the Comtesse de
Valorme, his manner to her equally full of the chivalrous courtesy
which never failed him.

"Madame," he said, "ere you, too, depart with your friend, believe
that, as I have already said, England is preparing to make the cause
of those in the South of France hers. Already there are thousands of
French Protestants who have found succour and shelter in our land; the
Queen's intentions towards all of the Protestant religion cannot be
doubted. The matter is already broached. The Council is deliberating
on sending a fleet to the Mediterranean to succour those of your faith
and ours. Rest assured, madame, nothing will be forgotten that can aid
them."

As the Earl of Marlborough spoke, doubtless through the information he
was regularly supplied with from England, so things occurred. Sir
Cloudesley Shovel, the English admiral, did send the _Pembroke_ and
the _Tartar_ to the Gulf of Narbonne with a view not only to supply
the Camisards with money and arms and ammunition, but also to land men
to assist them. But, when they arrived off the coast and made signals
all night, there were none on shore who could comprehend them, for the
simple reason that the French Protestant who had been sent by the Earl
of Nottingham from London with the key to these signals, had been
arrested before he could reach Cette, and his body was at the
very time lying broken to pieces and mutilated on the wheel at
Aigues-Mortes. Later, but unhappily much later, the peace that was
patched up between Louis and his Protestant subjects came about not by
the force of arms but by the humanity of a French general, De Villars.

But neither the Comtesse de Valorme nor the Earl of Marlborough could
look into the glass of Time or tell what seeds should grow and what
should not, and, consequently, if the former did not set out with
Sylvia with her heart thoroughly at ease, at least that heart was full
of hope. Hope that those of her faith might at last be free from the
miseries they had endured so long; from the burnings, the wheels and
dungeons, the gallows formed by their own fruit trees, the deaths from
starvation of their old parents and helpless children, the galleys and
the forced exile to stranger lands.

And also, she set out with one other great, one supreme hope in her
heart for the immediate future. The hope, coupled with a prayer that
she and Sylvia might be in time to save Bevill from the fate that
still must threaten him, if already the worst had not befallen--the
prayer that, at last, he and Sylvia might be happy.

"For," she told herself again as she had done many times before, "they
love each other. Let my happiness in this world be to see their
happiness; my greatest hope never to lose hope that they may yet be
united, since, for me, there can never be any other," and, as these
thoughts passed through her mind, the tears fell from her eyes.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


As the night fell over Liége, a night sombre and dark, and with no
stars beginning to twinkle above, Bevill Bracton turned away from his
accustomed place at the embrasure of the room that was his prison,
while wondering how many more days and nights would pass over his head
ere he left this place for freedom--of one kind or another. For the
days had followed each other in weary rotation--he had, indeed, lost
count of them now, and, except for the continuous clanging of all the
bells on Sundays, and a question sometimes asked of the warder who
brought his meals, he scarce recollected what period of each week he
had arrived at. Nay, more, except that he had rigorously forced
himself to scratch a mark each day with his nail on the rough,
whitewashed wall, he could not have told whether he had been there a
month or two months. There was nothing but the absence of the swallows
that had built under the eaves, the deepening of the russet on the
leaves of the trees outside, and then the fall of the leaves, the
increasing chill of the room in which he had been so long incarcerated
and the shortening of the days, to tell him of the progress of time.

De Violaine had come to him no more. He had been left entirely to
himself, except for the visits of that one man, the soldier, who acted
as his gaoler.

Nor did he see or hear aught outside that could relieve the weariness
of his existence. Alone, morning after morning, he observed the
soldiers driving up the mules laden with bread and vegetables for the
supply of all in the Citadel, while, also, morning after morning, he
perceived that the loads on the backs of the animals became more
scanty and that the peasants, who came with their baskets when he was
first brought here, came no more now. Whereby he knew that, gradually,
the provisions of the locality were giving out, or that--and each
morning and night he prayed it might be so--the Allies must be drawing
closer and closer round the French lines, and that either they or his
own countrymen were approaching. For a week now he had also noticed
that the rations brought to him had become more and more scanty, and
that, when his gaoler had placed them before him he had done so with a
surly look which might have been intended for an apology for their
meagreness, or, on the other hand, as one intended to suggest that, at
this time, the fewer unnecessary mouths there were to feed the better
for the others. Not knowing, however, what the man's looks might truly
mean, he made no observation on the sparseness of the meals now
supplied him, to which, in absolute fact, he was utterly indifferent.

As, however, on this dark, early autumn night Bevill turned away from
the deep window to cast himself on his pallet, neither bedclothes nor
light having ever been supplied him since his detention, he heard
voices speaking below on the stone courtyard which was between the
wall of the fortress itself and the gate known as the Porte de la
Ville. And not only did he hear those voices, but, on turning his eyes
back towards the window, he saw the reflection of some light cast upon
the upper part of the embrasure. A moment later, and even before he
could return to the window to glance below, he heard the sound of
planks and boards being cast down upon the stones.

"The Allies must be near," he whispered to himself, "very near. And
their presence is known. Some further protection against them is about
to be undertaken, something is to be erected, perhaps to shield or
obscure the defenders. Some mantlets, it may be."

Then, his heart stirred, his pulses beating at the hopes that had
sprung to his breast; the hopes that even now, at the eleventh hour,
the chance of escape, of rescue, was at hand, Bevill glanced towards
the stone courtyard again.

The soldiers below were, he saw, undoubtedly about to raise some
erection with the planks and boards they had brought into the
courtyard. Yet, to the mind of the prisoner above, who, in his time,
had not only taken part in sieges but had himself on more than one
occasion been besieged in some strong fortress or town of the
Netherlands, it did not appear that either mantlet or temporary shield
against sharpshooters of the enemy was about to be erected.

Instead, four large stones, each forming the corner of a square, had
been removed from the earth below, and easily removed, too, as though
this was not the first time they had been subjected to the process.

A moment later, in the spots those stones had occupied four short
posts had taken their place, while, next, two other stones were
removed in the middle of the square space. A second later a platform,
itself a square of about eight feet, had been lifted on to the top of
those posts and was being nailed down to them at each corner.

"I misdoubt me of what it is they do," Bevill murmured to himself as
he saw this, while now the warm glow, the throb, the tremor of happy
anticipation that had sprung to his heart but a few moments ago ebbed
from it, leaving in its place a chill as of ice, one that he thought
must be as the chill of death.

"Ah!" he gasped now. "Ah! It is so. That tells all."

For the soldiers, still working steadily below, had lifted first one
piece of framework and then another--two long posts that, in their
way, resembled signal posts at crossroads--on to the wooden platform,
had thrust the lower ends through it into the two holes last left
empty, and had gradually fitted them into the vacant spaces.

As now those things stood there towering some eight feet above the
platform, he almost reeled back into the embrasure. For it needed
nothing more, it needed no rope thrown over the cross-beams that,
illumined alone in the dusky light by the flare of the torches which
burnt flickeringly in the night air, seemed like some ghastly hands
pointing the sombre road to death--to tell him that they were gibbets
awaiting their victims.

"The hour is at hand," he whispered. "At dawn to-morrow if not now,
I--" then suddenly he paused. "No, no," he exclaimed a moment later.
"Not I! Neither of them is for me. My hour is not yet. They are for
those others--Francbois, Stuven. My death is to be more noble or, at
least, less ignominious. 'Tis true. There is still a chance for me--a
chance for life. For her. For our love and happiness together."

Yet in an instant Bevill knew that he had spoken too soon.

As still he gazed below, fascinated by the sight of those awful,
hideous things, he saw the man who was in command of this party, a
sergeant of the dragoons of Risbourg, look round the courtyard as
though in search of something. Next, he saw him advance towards the
farther wall, while evidently counting his footsteps as he did so.
Then, having touched the wall, he recounted them backwards, stopped
two paces short of the spot whence he had before started, and, taking
a chisel out of the hand of one of the others, stooped down and
scratched a long line on the stones. After which he returned to the
wall, made some other rough scratchings on it at about the height of a
man's head, and, pointing his hand at the mark on the stones and
afterwards at that on the wall, said something to the soldier which,
naturally, Bevill could not hear.

Not hear! Nay, what hearing was necessary--to him, a soldier; to him
who had ere now seen the place marked out where a condemned man was to
stand while, at another place, the spot was marked where the platoon
that should despatch him was to be drawn up! A million words uttered
trumpet-tongued could have told him no more than those significant
actions of the dragoon had done.

Now that Bevill knew the worst all tremors, all trepidations were
gone, even as every warm glow of hope was gone too. The end was close
at hand, and he knew it. Therefore, all bitterness was past. He was a
soldier, he told himself, an Englishman who had faced thousands of
bullets: a dozen could not fright him now.

Calmly, as though watching curiously the actions of strangers who
interested him but disturbed him not at all, he leant against the
window frame looking down at the preparations for his death and that
of the others. Counting indifferently, too, the distance between the
scratches on the stones and those on the wall, and endeavouring to
decide whether the muzzles of the muskets would be fourteen or sixteen
paces from his heart as the soldiers presented them!

Then, suddenly, he saw the men below draw themselves up stiffly to an
attitude of attention, and perceived that De Violaine, enveloped in a
long blue cavalry cloak, had entered the courtyard, and was regarding
the scaffold. Also, he appeared to be giving some directions about one
of the gallows supports, judging by the manner in which he pointed
with his gloved hand to it and by the fact that, a moment later, one
of the men mounted the scaffold and began to make the post more firm
in the socket below it. Next, De Violaine gazed at the marks on the
stones and on the wall, after which he shrugged his shoulders, said a
word to the sergeant, and turned away and left the place. The moment
he was gone Bevill saw that the soldiers had gathered round the
sergeant and seemed to be asking him questions, and that they all
gesticulated earnestly.

"It will be to-morrow, at dawn," he said to himself as he saw the men
retiring with the almost burnt-out torches in their hands, leaving the
courtyard in darkness. "To-morrow. Ah! I have still six hours or so
left," as now he heard the clock of St. Lambert boom out ten over the
city--the clock he had grown so accustomed to listening to--and
listening for--during his long period of imprisonment. "Six hours in
which to make my peace with God, to humbly fit myself to go before
Him. Hours in which to pray for her who sits at home wondering what
may have befallen me and whether I live or am dead and gone before
her."

For now, as his hour of death drew near, his thoughts turned not to
the girl whom he had but lately known and learnt to love, but to his
grey-haired mother whose love had been his from the moment of his
birth; at whose knees he had learned to lisp his first prayer.

Yet still there was not absent from his mind the stately form, the
beautiful face of Sylvia--the latter ever present to him as he had
seen it last--bedashed with tears and piteous in its sorrow. Of her he
could think, too, and would think as the order to the platoon was
given, as the flints fell, and, a second later, the bullets found his
heart.

"Sylvia! Mother!" he murmured. "The two I had in the world to love me
and to love; the two who will mourn my end. The one but for a short
time, since now she is grown old and feeble; but the other--ah! God,
it may be for years."

In the darkness he had reached his pallet, intent on casting himself
on his knees by it and so passing his last few hours--later, there
would be a long sleep!--when he heard a sound he had grown well
accustomed to in the last few weeks--the sound of a soldier's tread,
of the keys jangling in his hand as he came on.

"Is it now?" Bevill whispered. "Now? At once? If so, be brave. A
soldier. And--remember. Their names the last upon your lips, their
memories the last in your thoughts."

A moment later the key grated in the lock, the door was opened, and a
soldier bearing a flambeau came in accompanied by De Violaine.

"Set down the light," the latter said, "place it in the socket and
leave us." After which, and when the man was gone, De Violaine
advanced towards where Bevill stood and said quietly, yet while
seeming to brace himself to speak:

"Means were found to communicate with M. Tallard."

"Ah!"

"To summon him to our assistance. He has not come, but----"

"I understand," Bevill said, instantly, divining the remainder of what
the other would say; "I have seen the preparations made below. The
warrants are signed. Is it?" he asked calmly, "to be now or at dawn?"

"It had to be done, no matter what pity, what sympathy you aroused. In
the position that all who judged you stood, they had to be inflexible
in their honour, in their duty."

"I need hear no more. Yet, my time is short. I would spend it alone."

"Do not misunderstand me. The warrants are signed but a message has
come from--from De Boufflers--that overrides those warrants. A
message has been brought by a swift, a willing messenger--one who
would speak with you."

Utterly bewildered, yet with once more that mad rush of joy to his
heart as he comprehended that the Marshal's message nullified the
signed warrant of his subordinate; that, for a time at least, his life
was safe, Bevill could scarcely understand clearly De Violaine's
latter words, nor, as a matter of fact, his halting manner and strange
agitation. Yet one thing alone he did understand, namely, that De
Violaine seemed to suppose some self-extenuation to be necessary in
regard to the inflexibility of which he had spoken--an extenuation for
which, in truth, Bevill himself saw no occasion, remembering De
Violaine's position and the position in which he, by his own actions,
had placed himself.

But now he found his voice; his words fell pell-mell over each other
as he said:

"I am bewildered. I--I--the suddenness of this reprieve, even though
it be no more, has dulled my senses. I cannot understand. A messenger
here from Le Maréchal de Boufflers--to me--a condemned spy! Brought by
a swift, a willing messenger."

"A messenger, now a prisoner like yourself!"

"In mercy, I beseech you explain--" But he stopped. For, even as De
Violaine uttered these last words, he went towards the door and
returned a moment later, leading a woman by the hand--a woman who was
wrapped in a long _houppelande_, or lady's riding cloak, but who,
since the furred hood was thrown back from her face, was a moment
later clasped to Bevill's heart.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

"I am in time. Thank God, thank God," Sylvia had said again and again
after that fond embrace, and when now they were alone, or
comparatively alone, since De Violaine had departed as those two met,
though leaving the turnkey outside in the corridor and also leaving
the door open--open because, it may be, of what he knew was now going
on outside the city. Because, if all happened as he feared, those
locked within the cells or rooms of that Citadel would soon have very
little chance of leaving them alive. Marlborough was within three
miles of Liége; already the magistracy and the commissioners of the
Cathedral chapter were arranging to deliver up the city to him, and
St. Walburgh had been set on fire by the French garrison. Already,
too, De Violaine had been summoned by the advance portion of
Marlborough's army to surrender, but had replied that "it would be
time enough to consider that when their provisions were exhausted, six
weeks hence."

"My love, my love," Sylvia murmured. "I have saved you--you who would
have died to save me--you who strove so valiantly."

"And failed! Yet did not fail either, since are not you, my sweet, the
gain of a loss?"

"Also another reward is yours. Lord Marlborough restores you to the
life you covet, the life that I would have you lead, except only for
one thing."

"One thing. What, Sylvia?"

"That, following this life, I must part from you; must let you go from
my side. You whom I would have ever near to me, you from whom I would
never part more, you whom I love with my whole heart and soul."



CHAPTER XXXV.


The suburb of St. Walburgh was in flames, the French soldiers,
consisting of twelve battalions who had been stationed there, had come
into the Citadel and the Chartreuse. A hundred houses had been set on
fire by them, and, ere dawn came, all that part of Liége was as light
as day. The magistracy and the chapter against whom no orders, even if
they had been issued, could have had any effect since now the gates
were neglected by the French, had visited Marlborough in his camp
outside, and had signed articles as to the disposition of the city and
all in it, while three English battalions under Lord Cutts, and three
Dutch, held the North gate and endeavoured to keep order in the
streets. It only remained now that the artillery should arrive, the
fascines be cut and the trenches opened for the Citadel and Chartreuse
to be attacked, unless those within them surrendered.

Inside that room in which Bevill had passed so many weary days,
waiting to meet the doom that had been pronounced on him, there were
now three prisoners, namely, he who had so long occupied it, the woman
he loved so tenderly, and the Comtesse de Valorme. For she, too, had
been detained by De Violaine in consequence of her having escaped with
Sylvia out of Liége, and placed herself in communication with the
enemy. Inflexible to the last, strong in his duty towards the
interests of the country he loved and the King whom he despised, he
had done that which honour demanded and made prisoners of both women.

"Yet," he said bitterly to the Comtesse, as he informed her of what
must be done, "be cheered. Our positions must soon be reversed. The
old walls of this Citadel and of the Chartreuse will not long resist
the battering pieces and mortars, or the double grenades, that the
Earl of Marlborough is known to have with him, and then--well,
then!--you will be free. I shall be the prisoner."

"At least," Sylvia, who had heard his words, said, "you will be a
noble one--noble as I shall ever esteem you, though now I know that
your hand signed the condemnation of my lover; that in your stern,
rigid sense of honour you found the means of communicating with M.
Tallard, of obtaining his confirmation of the sentence. Ah!" she
continued, "that one so loyal as you should serve so evil a master."

"Duty before all, mademoiselle," De Violaine answered. "When Louis
gave me my first brevet, when I vowed fidelity to him and France,
there was no more noble king in Europe, in the whole world. There was
no master less cruel to his subjects, no matter what their faith was."

Now, on this night, however, De Violaine was not there, but, instead,
on the battlement of the Citadel directing all preparations to be made
for resisting the siege. For already the English artillery which had
come up the Meuse was disembarked and most of it dragged up the hill
upon which the Citadel stood, as were also forty-eight huge mortars
invented by the great engineer C[oe]horn (who was now present with the
force), as well as several Seville mortars, the bombs from which could
blow to pieces the walls and doors of fortresses. And, ominous sign
for those within the Citadel! the fuses were all lighted.

Behind these lay the troops of General Ingoldsby and Brigadier
Stanley, as well as four companies of the Grenadiers, while, to
protect them from being taken in the rear, were the dragoons and
Bevill's old regiment, the Cuirassiers.

Afar off the autumn dawn was coming now; away towards where the Rhine
lay, the eyes of those three watchers could see the darkness of the
night changing to grey, and, swiftly, the grey to a pale daffodil that
told of the dayspring which was at hand; then, next, a fleck of flame
shot like a barbed arrow above the daffodil that was changing to pink
and opal; the rim of the sun was seen to be swiftly mounting behind.
At this moment, clearly on the still, cold morning air a trumpet rang
out beneath the Citadel; another answered from below the Chartreuse
across the river; a moment later the C[oe]horns had belched forth
their bombs and the six and twelve pounders of the artillery had made
their first discharge.

"Oh! to be there!" Bevill cried. "There behind them, with the old
regiment, instead of a helpless man, a waster, here. Yet, no, no! My
place is here by you, my heart, my very own, to save and help you even
as you have saved me."

But from Sylvia there came no response, or, at least, none in answer
to his words. Instead, from the lips of both these women, brave as
each was, there came a cry, a gasp that was in actual fact a
suppressed shriek. Already against the wall of the Citadel more than
one bomb had struck and exploded with an awful crash; they saw falling
swiftly before the window huge masses of detached masonry that
thundered a moment later on to the stones of the courtyard below; they
saw, through the grime and smoke that rolled suddenly away on the
breathless, unstirred morning air, that slowly the English infantry
was creeping up nearer the great guns in preparation for a rush. For
already a breach was made below; it was not only the side of the
Citadel that was now being battered by the attackers.

Still, a little later, the mouth of the embrasure was closed by the
explosion of a bomb, that, while shattering the window into a million
pieces, burst in the stone framework and also dislodged the stones
above. Those in the room were therefore in darkness once more, a
darkness as profound as that of the night now passed away, and, with
an anxious cry, Bevill demanded if either of his companions had been
struck by the dislodged masonry.

"Ah! heaven be praised," he cried, finding both were safe. "But now,
now, the time has come to leave this. The door is still open; even
were it not so, none would keep us confined here at such a moment.
Come! Come At least let us make our way below."

Then, hurriedly escorting Sylvia and the Comtesse through the
corridors in which--though they passed now and again French soldiers
hurrying either up or down the staircase--they met with no
molestation, they reached the _salle d'armes_ on the lower floor.

Yet, as they did so, they saw also the terrible devastation that the
bombardment had already wrought. One side of a corridor, the outer one
formed by the great front of the Citadel, was entirely blown away; a
room or large cell that presented the appearance of having been
recently occupied--since they saw within it the _débris_ of a
shattered pallet and a table--was a mass of ruins; the three remaining
sides were open to the morning air. Also, more than once, the women
had to raise their dresses to step over wounded men lying in the
passages, who had doubtless been shot while themselves firing from the
windows.

But still they were in the _salle d'armes_: here, since it was not
quite so exposed to the fire of the besiegers, they might hope to
remain in comparative safety.

"Come," Bevill said to his companions. "Come to this corner. At this
spot you are farthest removed from the outer wall which is alone
likely to be struck. Meanwhile, since one knows not what violence
these soldiers may attempt in the bitterness of their defeat, it is as
well I should be armed." Saying which he moved towards the trophies of
ancient weapons that decorated all the inner side of the great
_salle_, and let his eyes rove over the swords that hung upon the
wall.

"This should serve," he said to himself, reaching out his hand towards
a great Schiavona or Venetian broadsword; one with a long bi-convex
blade that, in the hands of an expert and powerful swordsman, might do
terrible execution.

Returning now to where Sylvia and Madame de Valorme were, Bevill
seated himself by the former's side while telling both that the
Citadel must soon surrender before such an attack as this now being
made, and that, doubtless, the Chartreuse must be in the same
position. Yet his words fell almost unheard upon their ears, so awful
was the din around. From the roof of this old fortress discharge
followed discharge unceasingly; from the windows the crack of muskets
went on, and still against the walls the artillery balls and the bombs
of the besiegers thundered and crashed.

"It must cease ere long," Bevill said. "Ah! do not look. Avert your
glances. They are already bringing down the wounded from above," while
he added beneath his breath, "and the slain."

As he spoke, what was evidently either a powder magazine or one for
grenades blew up with an awful roar, while the concussion caused even
that old solid hall to rock. And now Sylvia and the Comtesse threw
themselves on their knees by the bench on which they had been sitting,
and prayed that further slaughter and devastation might be spared.

Also, each prayed for him who, by their side, was keeping watch and
ward over them; for him who, entering but a few months earlier into
their lives, had now become so dear to them.

Unwilling to disturb them even by the closeness of his presence,
Bevill softly withdrew towards the other end of the _salle d'armes_;
towards that spot where he had stood to hear his fate pronounced, the
spot where Stuven had denounced Francbois as a liar and himself as the
executioner of the renegade, Sparmann. Towards, also, that spot where
the doomsman had stood above the awful instruments of his calling. He
stood there, looking on the scene where all these things had happened,
when, suddenly, there rang through the hall the shriek of a woman,
and, next, a cry from Sylvia's lips. "Bevill! Look, look! Beware. Look
behind you!"

In an instant he saw that which had so much terrified the girl he
loved. Creeping from behind a pillar there came towards him a man with
a weapon in his hand that had, doubtless, also been taken earlier from
the collection of arms--a man whom at first he did not recognise, so
ghastly was his face, so wildly staring his eyes, so dishevelled his
whole appearance. But in a moment he knew him. He knew that this was
Francbois, Francbois who should have died this morning, but who, in
the confusion of the siege, had escaped from wherever he had been
confined.

"Wretch!" he exclaimed, as, turning, he recognised him. "Doubly
treacherous wretch! Again you seek my life, again attempt it behind my
back."

"I love her," the other hissed. "Her, her! And she loves you. So
be it. She shall have nought but your memory left to love," and he
sprang full at Bevill, while brandishing the sword he held. For a
moment--only a moment--it was in Bevill's mind to run the craven
through from breast to back, as he came on. Yet, in a second moment
the thought was gone. If Francbois were not mad he was still beneath
his vengeance. Whatever his doom might be, now or in the future, he
should not find it at his hands; those hands should not be stained by
the blood of such as he.


[Illustration: "A moment later Bevill's foot was on the blade."]


Stepping back, therefore, as the other came full at him, one turn of
the Schiavona, as it met the blade wielded by the other, was enough.
That blade fell with a clang from Francbois' hand to the stone floor;
a moment later Bevill's foot was on it.

"Go, hangdog," he said. "Seek another executioner than I."

With a cry--almost pitiful in its tone of misery, vile as the creature
was--with a howl of wild despair, Francbois rushed now across the
_salle d'armes_ to the other side of it; the side against which the
English bombs and cannon balls were being hurled, and there
endeavoured to snatch a huge mace out of another trophy of arms. But,
suddenly, not only he but Bevill, and also the two affrighted women,
started with terror at that which they saw now.

From another door than the one by which they had entered they saw a
second figure approaching, creeping towards Francbois; a figure in
whose eyes there was a more awful light than even those of Francbois
possessed; one whose lips gibbered as the lips of the raving maniac
gibber; whose face was flecked with the foam from them. It was the
form of Stuven, also free, of Stuven, now an absolute demoniac, that
they saw; the form of the man whose thirst for the blood of spies and
traitors was at its height. Armed also with an ancient weapon, a thing
pointed and sharp like the shell-dag of mediæval days, he crept as
swiftly towards Francbois as the panther creeps towards its prey,
while uttering incoherent sounds yet telling plainly all that was in
his distraught brain by the look that shone from out those awful,
scintillating eyes, and by the hideous twitching of that mouth. And
Francbois, paralysed with fear, shrieked aloud and turned to flee. At
this moment the madman flew with a bound at him, the great two-handled
knife was raised--yet it was never fated to be buried in the unhappy
wretch's breast.

There came a fresh discharge of bombs and artillery against the wall
of the _salle d'armes_, that wall already so sorely tried; the
trembling, half-fainting women, with Bevill now by their side, saw the
whole mass bulge inwardly, even as a sail bulges when a fierce gust of
wind catches it; a horrible, cracking roar was heard, a blinding dust
filled the room. In front of them a fearful chasm yawned as the
greater portion of that side of the hall fell in, while carrying below
part of the floor, and, at the same time, exposing the whole of the
besiegers to their gaze.

Francbois's would-be executioner had found him, and together they had
perished.

An instant later Bevill, looking out through the great opening made by
the fall of that side of the _salle d'armes_, observed that an order
had been suddenly given by the English for all firing to cease, and
knew that, above the Citadel, a white flag must be flying now. Also,
he saw the English flag run up upon the outer wall, he heard the
soldiers huzzaing and singing the National Anthem--then so new, now
known over all the world! he knew that Liége was in Marlborough's
hands.

Clasping Sylvia to his heart with one hand, as with the other he held
that of Madame de Valorme, he murmured: "The end of these griefs has
come," while a moment later he whispered in Sylvia's ear, "Sweet love,
all fears are done with. Hope shines resplendent on us at last."



CHAPTER XXXVI.


Outside Mynheer Van Ryck's house, a month or so later, there stood a
coach upon which was placed a small amount of baggage. By its side,
held by a groom who had some considerable difficulty in restraining
its restlessness, a bright bay mare emitted great gusts from her
nostrils and pawed the stones impatiently--a mare on the corners of
whose saddle-cloth were stamped a crown, the letters "A.R." and a pair
of cross swords, as was also the case with the holsters and the
bridle-plate.

After the fall of the Citadel, and before the French were allowed to
march out on condition that they returned at once into France and
separated, the whole place had been ransacked by the English troops,
and amongst the horses found was one that, later, a mousquetaire said
belonged to the English prisoner who should have been shot the day the
Citadel fell. That prisoner, being now at liberty, was sent for by
orders of General Ingoldsby, and, when the meeting between him and the
animal was witnessed, there was no need for him to confirm the
statement.

For La Rose, on hearing Bevill's voice, created such a stampede among
the other horses and rushed at him with such endearments--testified by
nearly knocking him down with her head and then by rubbing her soft,
velvet muzzle all over him as she whinnied loudly--that there and then
before the English victors and French captives he vowed that never
would he part from her.

Now, therefore, she waited for him to come forth and mount her, so
that he might ride by the coach that conveyed his wife to England.

For, a fortnight since, in one of those churches of the Reformed Faith
that had sprung up in every part of the Netherlands since the days of
William the Liberator, Sylvia and Bevill had been made man and wife,
my lord Marlborough's chaplain having performed the ceremony. And,
though there were not many present to witness the bridal, they were
mostly those amongst whom Bevill's lot had been cast since first he
made the attempt to assist Sylvia to escape from Liége--an attempt
that again and again he told himself had resulted only in failure, yet
a failure that brought so fair and welcome a success in its train as
that which now he experienced.

From Van Ryck's hands he received his bride; close by them stood the
Comtesse de Valorme, her face calm and tranquil, but revealing nothing
of whatever might be within. Also there were present Captain Barringer
and Sir George Saxby, as well as one or two officers of the
Cuirassiers who had been junior to Bevill in the regiment but were now
captains. Yet there was one other person present, clad as before in
the blue coat and still wearing across his breast the blue ribbon of
the Garter; still tranquil, too, as became a man able to read and
forecast his destiny and the splendour of a near future. He who was
now, in the space of a month or so, to attain the highest rank an
English subject can hold; he who, two years hence, was to crush beyond
all power of recovery the armies of the most superb despot Europe had
ever known.

Bevill's kiss--the first kiss as her husband--on Sylvia's brow, her
hand upon his arm, they left the altar, and, when the after
formalities had been concluded, made their way from out the church.
But ere they left it the Earl of Marlborough, taking from his breast a
paper, said:

"For wedding-gifts there is no opportunity, yet one I would
proffer to you. Mr. Bracton, I know the hopes with which you set
out from England. It is in my power to gratify them, since I, as
Captain-General, stand here for the Queen. Our late ruler removed you
from the service you loved; I, in the name of our present one, restore
you to it. Some years of opportunity, of promotion, you must lose of
necessity; your brother officers of the Cuirassers who were your
juniors will now be your seniors. Yet, take heart. You possess two
things that should go far to spur you on to gallant efforts: a fair, a
noble bride--and youth."

Then, without giving Bevill time to utter the thanks that, though his
breast was full of them, his lips might have found difficulty in
uttering, the Earl left the church, after kissing the hands of Sylvia
and the Comtesse, and giving his own to Bevill.

The absence of that one whom Bevill would fain have seen present in
the church, his late custodian, the gallant De Violaine, was felt
regretfully by him. Yet it was not to be. As the breach was made soon
after the siege began, De Violaine, rushing from the roof to where the
English grenadiers were pouring through it, received a thrust from one
of the officers' swords. Later, as Bevill and Sylvia passed from the
_salle d'armes_, they saw him lying in the covered way and being
ministered to by one of the regimental surgeons. This sad sight
produced in the tender heart of Radegonde de Valorme a feeling, a
recollection of past years and of the fortitude with which this man
had borne the blighting of the one great hope that had filled his
heart during those years. As she saw him stretched now upon the coarse
sacking on which he had been laid; as she recognised that, from first
to last, he had had no companion but his duty to cheer his lonely
life, her memory flew swiftly back to earlier days--the days when he,
young, elated with the promise of his career, favoured by fortune, had
craved only one other thing, a woman's--her own love--and had failed
to obtain his heart's desire.

Swiftly she advanced now towards him; a moment later she was kneeling
by his side; still a moment later she was murmuring. "André! André!
Ah! say this is not the end. Ah, no! it cannot, cannot be. You are
still young--oh!" And she wept.

"He may live," the surgeon who had been told off to watch by De
Violaine's side said. "If the fever from his wound abates to-night he
may do so."

"I pray God," the Comtesse said, then whispered again to the wounded
man, "André, I will not leave Liége until I see you restored. You
shall be removed to Van Ryck's house. I alone will nurse you back to
recovery."

But De Violaine, understanding her words, murmured:

"As well leave me. What matters now my life or death!"


The impatience of La Rose grew greater as still the rider whom the
wayward creature had loved to carry on her back, the rider for whom
she had pined and fretted during their long separation, did not come.
Yet soon, though she did not know it, that impatience would be at an
end. Inside the old Dutch house the last partings were being made; the
two who were going forth from it, never perhaps to cross its threshold
again, were bidding farewell to those left behind. Even now Bevill was
standing by the couch on which De Violaine lay through the long days,
while from his lips fell the last words that he supposed he would ever
utter to him whose prisoner he had been, to him who had been so humane
a custodian.

"I pray," he was saying now, "that your recovery may be swift and
assured; I pray that between your land and mine peace may exist at
last. Above all, I pray that we may never meet as opposing soldiers;
that, where'er the tide of war shall roll, it shall not bring us face
to face. But, as friends--ah, yes! For, Monsieur de Violaine, be my
life long or short as best it pleases God, I shall ever hold dear the
memory of him who, when he had me in his hand, treated me neither as
spy nor foreign foe, but with a gentleness such as a noble heart alone
could prompt."

"Farewell. Heaven bless you!" De Violaine said. "You should be very
happy. I, too, will pray for that happiness. And, should we ever meet
again it shall be as brothers, an' you will. For brothers we are in
our faith and in our calling. Farewell."

And now all were parted with, excepting only one--Radegonde. Madame
Van Ryck could not leave her bed, so Bevill and Sylvia had gone in to
her. There remained no more than the parting with that true friend and
the last handshake with Van Ryck, himself true to the core.

"Ah how can I leave you!" Sylvia sobbed, as now the two women were
locked in each other's arms. "You--you whom I have always loved; you
without whom I could have done nought for him. Oh! Radegonde, shall we
never meet again?"

"God He knows," the other answered reverently. "I pray so. Ah, Sylvia!
Sweet Sylvia."

But at last they forced themselves apart; at last Bevill stood face to
face with her who, from almost the first moment they met at Louvain,
had been staunch and firm to him--face to face for the last time,
Sylvia standing back by the door open to the great porch. Then, ere he
could find his voice, which, indeed, it seemed to him was impossible,
he heard her saying even as her hand held his:

"Farewell. If ever in happy days to come for you your memory should
chance to wander back to that night in Louvain when first our
knowledge of each other arose; to the woman who was to play some
little part in your existence--for--a time, spare her a--a--one
moment's thought. Think of her as--as one----" But now her voice
failed her, too, and she was silent.

Neither could Bevill speak yet, and still stood there holding her hand
in his even as he observed the trembling of her lips, the tears
standing in her soft blue, eyes--even as he heard the word "Bevill"
murmured through those lips.

But, also, he observed something else as his troubled glance fell now
upon his wife. He saw Sylvia's own lips move though no sound issued
from them; he saw some suggestion, some prompting in Sylvia's own
clear, grey eyes; and, seeing, grasped what they conveyed. Bending
therefore to her who stood before him, he parted the hair that grew
low down upon her forehead; bending still lower, he kissed her
once--even as a brother might have kissed a loved sister. "Farewell,
Radegonde;" he whispered, "Farewell," and saw by one swift glance at
Sylvia's face that he had comprehended her meaning.

Yet never through the long life that was to be his did he know what
Sylvia's womanly heart had told her, nor understand that which she
understood.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

Embosomed in the woods of Surrey there stands a house once white, now
grey, on the face of which the lichen and the ivy picturesquely
mingle. In front of it sweeps down a lawn to where a little river
bubbles over the pebbles of its bed; round it are arbours and bosquets
of quaint shape over which grows clematis many-hued--white, purple,
flame-coloured. Round that lawn, too, grow trees that are ancient now,
and that, when young, drew their existence from other lands than ours.
Against the pilasters of the great porch, which gives entrance to a
vast hall and supports a balcony on to which all the windows of the
first floor open, trails a passion flower, old--perhaps, indeed,
oft-times renewed in memory of him who planted the first one; of him
who may have whispered as he did so: "'Twas by such flowers as these
you were embowered, enshrined, on that night when first we met; so
long as may be shall that flower grow against our home, the White
House." For if from Holland, in those far-off days, some had wandered
here who had ever gazed on a white house standing on the outskirts of
Liége, they must have seen, and, seeing, recognised another house so
like to it that its resemblance could be no fanciful one, but, in
truth, a resemblance carefully studied and wrought.

In the great hall whose vast stairs at the farther end curve up on
either side, many pictures hang and tell of what the originals must
have been in life. Bevill, first Lord Bracton, is there, mounted on a
bay horse, his uniform that of the Cuirassiers, or 4th Horse, his
ribbons and orders showing that he held general's rank. On one side of
this picture the painter has placed in a vertical line the words,
"Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, Malplaquet," to testify that he who
looks down took part in those glorious victories.

Yet if, as in truth, he does thus look down, either the limner's art,
or the light cast at certain times from the great roof above, appears
to make those eyes rest on one whose full-length portrait hangs by the
side of his. On her! On his wife--some few years older in the picture
than when first she learnt to love him and when, through rain and
mire, she rushed as fast as might be to gain the help of Marlborough.
A little older, yes; but not less fair and sweet. Stately as ever in
her grace of matronhood; noble in her height, beautiful in feature,
and with her clear, pure eyes undimmed, though in her rich brown hair
some silver threads are seen. In each hand the woman holds the hand of
a child.


[Illustration: "Now the two were locked in each other's arms."]


On Lord Bracton's left there is another portrait, the picture of a
woman no longer young, her almost grey hair massed above her head, but
her eyes clear and bright as when first they gazed on Bevill Bracton
in Louvain, while over all her features there is a look of content. By
her side stands a youth still in his teens, one so like this woman
that none can doubt he is her son.

Facing the entrance hangs a larger picture than all--
that of a handsome man in scarlet and covered with orders and
decorations; one whose tranquil features and soft lineaments bespeak
calm self-reliance; confidence. On a medallion beneath this are the
words: "John, first Duke of Marlborough and Marquess of Blandford,
Prince of the Holy Roman Empire and Prince of Mindelheim in Suabia."

Around the house are copses and thickets, and outside them the woods,
in all of which have played five or six generations of children, some
of them Bractons, some of them named De Violaine. Also, in the dead
and gone days that Time has powdered for ever with its dust, these
children have grown up and intermarried in the old church near by, the
living of which has been held perpetually for over a hundred and fifty
years by De Violaines, all of whom are descended from a French refugee
officer who settled here. It must be, therefore--since that refugee
would never have taken any but one woman for his wife--that, at last,
Radegonde de Valorme was enabled to forget the sufferings of him who
died at the galleys for his religion's sake, to reconcile herself to
seeing Sylvia wedded to the Englishman who came once into her life and
troubled her thoughts; that she was contented to eventually make happy
the gallant soldier who had loved her so long.

There is one little copse to which those children of different
generations have always loved to resort, and, after playing, to sit
there and talk of its associations with old days--a little copse of
nut-trees and red may, in which they find the earliest white violets
and where, they say, the robins always build their nests and the
nightingales love to sit and sing on summer nights. Yet, as they tell
their little stories to each other and weave not only fancies of the
past, but, it may be, of the future as well, their eyes rest upon a
great stone slab that lies along the ground embedded in grass and
overgrown with moss--moss that, however, many tiny hands have often
scraped and brushed away so that they might once more read the two
words cut into that stone by some old graver of bygone days--the
words, "La Rose."



FOOTNOTES

[Footnote 1: The pistole at this period was worth £3 6s. 6d.]

[Footnote 2: Brantôme, who lived shortly after Charles V.'s time, says
all the other monarchs called him this because he never kept a treaty,
and cheated everybody.]

[Footnote 3: Now the 1st (Royal) Dragoons.]

[Footnote 4: The Mousquetaires Noirs and Gris were thus described from
the colour of their horses. They were the _corps d'élite_ of France.
The one had been established by Louis XIV., the other by Mazarin.]



THE END.





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