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Title: The Crimson Sign - A Narrative of the Adventures of Mr. Gervase Orme, Sometime - Lieutenant in Mountjoy's Regiment of Foot
Author: Keightley, S. R.
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 Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_.

Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected. Please
see the transcriber’s note at the end of this text for details.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration]

                                                  [See page 288.
              “GERVASE DROPPED NOISELESSLY INTO THE WATER”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            THE CRIMSON SIGN

                   _A Narrative of the Adventures of
                       Mr. Gervase Orme, Sometime
                        Lieutenant in Mountjoy´s
                           Regiment of Foot_



                                   BY
                            S. R. KEIGHTLEY
                       AUTHOR OF “THE CAVALIERS”


                           WITH ILLUSTRATIONS


[Illustration]


                          NEW YORK AND LONDON
                      HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
                                  1898

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

                                  ---

THE CAVALIERS. A Novel. By S. R. KEIGHTLEY. Illustrated. Post 8vo,
  Cloth, Ornamental, $1 50.

“The Cavaliers” is healthy in tone, spirited in treatment, and written
in a manner calculated to attract lovers of historical adventure.... A
capital book.--_Academy_, London.

                                  ---

               PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK.



                                CONTENTS

        CHAPTER                                              PAGE

            I. OF WHAT BEFELL ON THE ROAD TO                   1
               ENNISKILLEN

           II. OF THE ENTERTAINMENT THEY HAD AT THE INN       28

          III. OF THE WAY MY LORD GALMOY SAT IN               44
               JUDGMENT

           IV. OF HOW THE VICOMTE PAID HIS DEBT               54

            V. OF A MAN´S MEMORY                              69

           VI. OF HOW THE HEROINE COMES UPON THE STAGE        81

          VII. OF THE RESCUE FROM GREAT PERIL                101

         VIII. OF THE RETURN TO THE CITY                     130

           IX. OF HOW CAPTAIN MACPHERSON FULFILLED HIS       151
               TRUST

            X. OF THE STAND IN THE TRENCHES                  159

           XI. OF A SERIOUS COMMUNICATION                    184

          XII. OF A WARM MORNING´S WORK                      195

         XIII. OF A STRATAGEM OF WAR                         208

          XIV. OF A GAME OF CHANCE                           222

           XV. OF HOW THE VICOMTE WAS BROUGHT BACK TO        245
               LIFE

          XVI. OF A DEED OF TREACHERY                        259

         XVII. OF A GREAT ADVENTURE                          280

        XVIII. OF HOW GERVASE REACHED THE SHIPS              304

          XIX. OF A STORMY INTERVIEW                         313

           XX. OF HOW THE GREAT DELIVERANCE WAS WROUGHT      325

          XXI. OF HOW THE VICOMTE MADE HIS GREAT             336
               RENUNCIATION

                             ILLUSTRATIONS

                                  ---

  "GERVASE DROPPED NOISELESSLY INTO THE WATER"  _Frontispiece_

  "THE STRANGER CAUGHT HIS HORSE BY THE REIN"    _Facing page_     62

  "SHE STOPPED SHORT AND LOOKED ROUND HER              ”          188
    CAUTIOUSLY"

  “JASPER BUCKLING HIS SWORD ABOUT HIM”                ”          254



                           THE CRIMSON SIGN.



                               CHAPTER I.
               OF WHAT BEFELL ON THE ROAD TO ENNISKILLEN.


In the year of grace 1689 men were not a whit more long-suffering nor
more patient than they are to-day. The choleric captain who had been
pacing the guard-room for a quarter of an hour showed evident signs that
he was fast losing what temper he possessed. As he marched with a hasty
stride up and down the oaken floor, and wheeled with military abruptness
on the broad stone that formed the hearth, the rafters of black oak rang
with the clank of his sword and the jingling of the spurs on his heavy
jack-boots. He pulled with a gesture of impatience at the grizzled white
moustache that concealed his mouth, and muttered anathemas which, had
they been heard in the pious city of Londonderry, would have been deemed
little in keeping with his reputation. Nor did he seem a man with whom
others would take unwarrantable liberties, or keep dangling upon their
careless will and pleasure.

At first sight there was no mistaking him for anything but a soldier,
and one who had seen lengthened service where hard blows had been struck
and long marches had to be made. His lean face was brown and seamed with
lines, each of which had in all likelihood its history; and a great
scar, half concealed by his broad beaver, ran from the temple almost to
his chin. His mouth was firm and resolute, giving its character to a
face that did not seem apt either to lighten in humour or to soften in
pity. He wore his own hair, which was nearly white, and, though he must
have been close on sixty, his carriage was upright and soldierly, with a
certain stiffness, probably learnt in early life from the drill-master.

The Town clock struck five. Halting suddenly in his walk he turned to
the door, and his hand was on the latch when a young man entered
hurriedly and stumbled against him. When they recovered themselves, they
stood looking at one another inquiringly for a moment. Then the young
fellow, who wore a military uniform, drew back a step and saluted
gravely. “You are Captain Macpherson, I think?”

“I was Captain Macpherson, sir,” the other answered, “a moment since,
but what I am now I hardly know till my wits come back. You have a
strange way of forcing your company on your neighbours.”

“Such sudden acquaintanceship was wholly unexpected, I assure you, sir,”
the young man answered, with a pleasant smile that lit up his handsome
face. “I was directed to meet you here. My name is Orme.”

The old soldier, without speaking, retired into the embrasure of the
window followed by the younger man, and then turned round sternly.

“Mr. Orme, you must know it hath struck five by the Town clock. A
soldier´s first duty is discipline, and here have I, your commanding
officer, for such I take myself to be, been awaiting your coming a full
quarter of an hour. I have been in countries where the provost-marshal
would have known how to deal with such offences. Cities have been sacked
and great battles lost and won, by less delay than that.”

“I have left the Colonel but now, sir. He said nothing of the time, but
told me that I should meet you here.”

“Very like, very like,” growled the other. “I know the breed of old.
Feather-bed soldiers who need a warming-pan in camp. They take no heed
of time. I was brought up in a different school, and would have you know
that while you keep me company, you must learn my ways. How long have
you served?” He asked the question abruptly, bending on his companion a
keen and penetrating look that nothing seemed to escape.

“I have carried the colours for nearly two years in Mountjoy´s
regiment.”

"And never seen man stricken in fair fight, I warrant; that is before
you and will come speedily. Hath Colonel Lundy spoken of the work we are
about to take in hand?"

“Only that I was to receive my instructions from you, and place myself
under your orders.”

“That is well, at any rate. You are green and tender for the business,
but you may show the right stuff when the time comes. Things are going
crookedly here in Londonderry and elsewhere, Mr. Orme. We go neither
back nor forward, but stand swaying like men who know not whether to
turn to the right hand or to the left. We would fight but we dare not;
we would flee but we cannot. And all the while there are stout fellows
here who would handle a musket or trail a pike with the best troops in
Europe, if there were a man to lead them. These cursed councils and
divided plans breed nothing but failure. You will see Hamilton with his
levies across the Bann and round the wall of Londonderry, before the
month is out.”

“I humbly trust not, but if we do never fear but we shall give a good
account of ourselves.”

The old soldier smiled dubiously. “There is plenty of talk and
furbishing of weapons, but little of the strict drill and discipline
that makes soldiers; I am but a plain man myself and I have spoken out
plainly. The city is open as a village. There are ramparts to be
strengthened, ravelines and fascines to be constructed, supplies to be
furnished, and arms to be collected. We talk of standing a leaguer, as
if these things would do themselves. But needs must when the Devil
drives, and I know whither that carries. These councils have many
tongues and no head. They put forth declarations and think all is done
when they set their hands to paper with much spluttering of ink. I
remember when Francesco de Mello and de Fuentes----But that is an old
story and may be told again.”

“I doubt not,” said Orme, “you have ripe experience, but I would do my
own work like a simple gentleman, and leave these things to those whose
business they are.”

“Fairly rebuked. You are right, my lad, and I am an old fool to stand
prating of what hath no concern for you. But ´tis an old trick of mine
to find fault where I cannot mend. Natheless, the onfall at the castle
of Carrickfergus and the break of Dromore give me cause to grumble, and
Rawdon and Beresford and the rest of them might have taken a lesson from
a plain soldier like myself, that they might have profited by. They
think me only good enough to fetch and carry, spaniel-like--and you say
that Colonel Lundy hath told you nothing?”

“Merely that I should place myself at your disposal; nothing else.”

“We ride pell-mell for Enniskillen; you and I and some dozen troopers,
less or more, without drawing bridle or tarrying by the way. There is a
precious cartel these Enniskilleners must digest forthwith, inviting
them to leave the safety of their water-walls and, as I hear, good store
of provender, to take their chance with us and fight it out behind these
petty dykes and fences here. If they ask counsel of mine--but it is our
business to see that it carries safely.”

“I had hoped,” said Orme, “that we might have seen some service; this
doth not hold out much hope of that.”

“Hear how these young cockerels are given to crowing!” cried Macpherson;
“I promise you this means no evening stroll upon the battlements, but a
work of danger which may try your mettle. I mean not the gathering of
the desperadoes who make war upon the defenceless, though these have
stood to their half-pikes and other outlandish weapons ere now, but I am
much mistaken if the royal troops be not on the roads and give us play
enough. In this barbarous country we do not look for the courtesies of
war, or even the interchange of prisoners; my Lord Galmoy and others,
whom I hope to remember, have shown that a gentleman can play the
hangman, and a soldier hath other trades than fighting. The journey is
like to prove adventurous though it end in nothing. See that your horse
be sure and fresh, and your pistols such that a man may place his life
on them. I remember me when my life was placed in jeopardy once by a
rotten girth. It was in Flanders in sixty-nine--but this gossip hath no
interest for you. It were more to the purpose that I told you we set out
at three in the morning with what secrecy we can observe, and that you
meet me at the Bishop´s gate. Hackett, who is, I am told, a sergeant of
your company, and knows the country, will bring our horses to the gate.
You know the man; of what character is he?”

“As true and loyal as any in the city--the best man, I think, in the
regiment.”

“And discreet? these good men are ofttimes inconsiderate.”

“He is no babbler, sir,” Orme answered, somewhat nettled by the tone of
his companion, “though a pious man and God-fearing.”

“I, Ninian Macpherson, like him none the worse for that, young
gentleman,” answered the other gravely. “Our religion hath placed you
and me, I humbly trust, in arms this day, and sends us forth on this
embassage to the no small peril of our lives. But the ways of grace are
not always the ways of worldly prudence, and it behoves me who am
answerable for our safety to act with diligence. Now, look you, Mr.
Orme, I have watched you carefully, and I think you honest--dull it may
be but honest, and I speak you plainly. I am suspicious of your
colonel--I do not understand his ways. There is treason in the air,
though who is free and who is touched I hardly know, but I who have
lived among designing men for nigh on seven-and-fifty years think I know
somewhat of honest work, and I was fearful this was but another trap.”

“I think, sir, Colonel Lundy is honest and devoted to Their Majesties.”

“I do not doubt you do, but we shall see. The citizens will give him a
short shrift if they find him a rogue. But I had liked to see such zeal
as befits one who commands a city, and would not be taken unprepared.
When the regiments arrive from England they will find their
entertainment of the poorest. If empty magazines and disordered
companies are evidence of loyalty you might find a sign to hang up
before every house in the city. But Ulster hath a proud heart and a
stiff neck and will fight when she is pushed.”

“The Kingdom´s safety and the Protestant religion depend upon her
stoutness; she will die hard.”

“It may come to that. Now, young gentleman, get you gone. He that would
be early afoot should be early abed, and see that you get to rest
betimes. Let there be no late revelling. We meet at three.”

Gervase Orme who had been lately an ensign in Mountjoy´s regiment of
foot, had been quartered with his company in Londonderry, when his
Colonel was appointed Governor of the City. Like other gentlemen of his
faith he had not wavered in his allegiance or dreamed of taking up arms
against the House of Stuart, till loyalty had become a crime and
resistance an imperative duty. His own slender patrimony was in peril;
his faith was threatened and in danger of being proscribed; his friends,
whose safety and honour were his own, were placed at the mercy of their
bitter and hereditary foes. Civil war was imminent and he could not
hesitate as to the course he should adopt. James had broken faith with
his people; the native Celtic population, steadfast in this, while they
were wayward and fickle in all else, were determined to drive the
English garrison into the sea, and the instincts of religion and of race
intensified their hatred of the dominant caste.

When Colonel Lundy took the oath of allegiance to William and Mary,
Gervase Orme willingly followed the example of his Colonel, and embarked
with enthusiasm on the impending struggle. To him it was the one course
left open, and he felt, like the other simple gentlemen of his time,
that when he drew his sword it was for fatherland, for faith, and even
for life itself. Nor did he very much doubt the result. The descendent
of a Saxon colonist he looked down on the men of Munster and of
Connaught as a race fit only for hewing wood and drawing water, for
Fontenoy and other stricken fields had yet to be fought in which the
Irish proved their splendid qualities as fighting men. And he had the
Saxon´s profound faith in himself and his people.

Therefore it was when Colonel Lundy had directed him to place himself
under Macpherson´s orders, with some prospect of service, he had obeyed
with alacrity, hopeful that their destination might be one of those
towns upon the Bann where the Protestant forces were awaiting the coming
of the Irish army which was rapidly advancing north. In this he had been
disappointed, but he was glad to forsake for a time the comparative
inactivity of garrison life, and almost hoped that Macpherson´s
anticipation of danger might be realized.

The night was raw and cold when he arose unwillingly from his bed, and
his preparations being complete overnight, hurriedly dressed and
endeavoured to partake of the meal his careful landlady had provided the
evening before. When he reached the gate Macpherson was already there
before him. The old soldier, wrapped in a long military cloak, was
standing with his back to the wall, reading from a small volume in a
loud monotonous tone, and the men were drawn in a circle round him,
holding their horses by the bridle. One of the troopers held a lantern
for the reader, who closed the book as Orme came up, and thrust it into
his breast.

“You are close on your time, Mr. Orme. We have just been having our
stirrup-cup from the Word, that, mayhap, will put us in heart for our
cold ride. ´Tis an excellent morning dram. The sergeant hath seen to the
arms and tells me they will serve.”

“Both arms and men, sir,” said Hackett, in a low tone, “I will answer
for them with my life.”

“´Tis well. Now open the gate and get to horse, for we must put many a
mile between us and the city before daybreak. A mile at the start is
worth two at the end.”

Macpherson leapt with surprising activity on the grey charger that
Hackett had brought down to the gate, and the little troop sat patiently
on their horses waiting till the drawbridge had been lowered and the
great gate swung open. With a solemn “God speed” from the men on duty,
they rode silently out into the darkness, Hackett leading at a round
trot over the rough and broken road.

For three hours they pursued their way in a silence broken only by an
occasional word of command, or by a cry of warning from one of the
troopers who had stumbled over some obstacle, or had floundered deep in
the bog by the road side. They were all rejoiced to see the first grey
streak of light that gave promise of the coming day.

The morning had broken red through the mists that lay thick along the
valley as they gained the top of the hill up which they had been
climbing. The road was already visible, winding through a deep gorge,
and skirted by great masses of rock, green with ferns and bramble. Here
and there scattered through the uplands lay a farm steading, surrounded
by its stretch of tilth and orchard close. But no sound of morning
labour could be heard. The fields were lying waste and untilled, and the
homesteads stood deserted. The clank of the horses hoofs made a
melancholy music in the silence. The life and movement of the little
troop brought into still greater relief the desolation round them.

Macpherson halted on the top of the hill, and dismounting loosened his
horse´s girths. Then he removed the saddle and taking off his gloves,
began to rub down the charger.

“That is my prince of steeds,” he said, contemplating his task and
caressing the glossy neck with pride and affection; “nearly four hours´
hard riding and never turning a hair! An old soldier, my young friend,”
he continued, turning to Gervase, “learns a good many things on his
rough journey through the world. He learns to weigh a prince´s promises
and favours, the strength of friendship and the worth of love. And he
finds they are all vanity, even the vanity of vanities, as the Hebrew
hath it. But he grows to love his horse. Together they have faced the
scathe of the battle, and the privations of the march. Often and often
this sleek skin hath been my pillow, and but for him these useless bones
had been whitening on the sandy plains of Utrecht, or the rolling
uplands of the Maas. And for beauty--you youths go mad for beauty--is
there aught in the world to compare with him for comeliness? That little
head and graceful neck, those swift strong legs and deep shoulders
fashioned as if by a cunning sculptor--there is perfect beauty. And he
is faithful even to death. He will carry me till he drops and leave a
royal stable at the whistle of his homeless master. I tell you, young
sir, there is nothing in the world like a noble horse and the joy of
battle in a righteous cause.”

“In truth,” said Gervase, “you are proud of your horse with reason, but
I trust there are other things in the world one may love with as good
cause.”

“Aye,” answered the other bitterly, “you are young, and youth is full of
hope and trust. The man you call your friend cajoles and tricks you, and
the woman whose favour is the breath of your nostrils, deserts you at
the first whisper of misfortune. These things are of the world and they
endure for an hour; the son of perdition baits his traps with them, but
the man whose hope is fixed, learns to shun them as a snare.”

“I have been taught otherwise,” said Gervase, “and I have had no reason
to question what I have learnt. I have no trick of speech, but I hold by
love and friendship.”

“And I tell you they are but shadows. Here there is no abiding city, and
these things but wean our hearts from the eternal. Seven-and-fifty years
have been the days of my pilgrimage, and at eighteen I saw my first
battle. The blood of the youth is hot, the lusts of the flesh are strong
upon him, and he is slow to see the finger of God writing upon the
tablets of the heart. Mine was a wild youth and a wayward, and like
another prodigal I went forth to riotous living. Surely I dwelt in the
tents of Meshech, but God hath seen good to open the eyes of his
servant.”

“Captain Macpherson,” said Gervase gravely, “I do not ask you to
vouchsafe me your confidence, and I leave theology to the parson. I
serve God after the fashion of the Church of England, and will do my
duty as becomes my name and manhood. In all other things I am at your
service, but in this we cannot walk together.”

He turned away and left the old soldier gazing after him earnestly.

The sun had already risen above the morning mists that had gathered
themselves into fantastic shapes and were dispersing slowly down the
valley--the promise of a lovely day in spring. The troopers had
dismounted, and were making a frugal meal of dry rye bread and cold
bacon, washed down by a draught of the spring water that trickled down
the rock by the roadside. Weary with their long march, covered with mud
and flaked with foam, the horses cropped the long grass that grew
luxuriantly under the hedge of thorn. Gervase threw himself down on the
grassy sward by the road-side, and watched the picturesque scene around
him. Then, tired as he was, a heavy drowsiness overtook him, and the
deep valley and the swelling uplands, and the horses, and the
travel-stained troopers became part of a broken dream. Over his head he
seemed to hear the jubilant notes of a thrush in the white thorn, and in
a little while a deep voice reading one of the psalms that glow with the
rapture of battle and thrill with the triumph of faith, followed by the
loud “Amen” of the troopers.

Then he fell into a profound sleep. When he awoke the sunshine filled
the valley, and Macpherson was standing over him with a smile on his
rugged face.

“Is it time to march?” cried Gervase.

“It is time to be up and doing,” Macpherson answered solemnly. “This day
will try of what stuff the Lord hath made your sinews and fashioned your
heart. Yonder is the enemy.”

Gervase leapt hastily from his resting-place. Already the men were in
their saddles and were examining the priming of their carbines. Far down
the valley he could see a small body of horse, the sunshine glancing on
their swords and steel head-pieces, and the dust rising thickly under
the hoofs of the chargers. A little in advance were riding two officers,
one of whom rode a grey horse and was conspicuous by the scarlet cloak
he wore over his armour.

Gervase watched Macpherson with surprise and admiration. The old soldier
seemed like another man under the inspiration of the coming struggle;
his eyes flashed, his chest heaved, and his deep strong voice thrilled
like a trumpet. Leaping like a youth into his saddle and laying his hand
lightly for a moment on the restive charger´s neck, he drew his sword
from the scabbard. Then he placed himself across the road in front of
the troopers and pointed with his sword to the enemy, who had already
quickened their pace and were advancing at a sharp trot.

“Yon are Galmoy´s Horse, gentlemen. They are nearly three to one, and I
am told they can fight. What say ye?”

Already the troopers had caught the joyous spirit of their grim leader;
his voice stirred them like a trumpet. They had caught the contagion of
his hope, his faith, and his enthusiasm.

“We are doing God´s work, sir,” said Sergeant Hackett soberly, as he
gathered up his reins and drew his hat tightly over his brow. “We will
follow you, Captain Macpherson, even to the mouth of the pit. Not one of
us will fail you.”

“Then we will show the butchers what we can do. Remember, let ‘no
quarter´ be our word this day. Do not crowd together until we have drawn
their fire. Then give them a salvo steadily, and like brave men and
careful. Thereafter in God´s name, let them feel the sword´s edge and
the power of the true religion.”

Macpherson had risen in his stirrups, his face glowing with the joy of
battle. Already the enemy had shortened the distance between them, and a
few minutes more would bring them within pistol shot. They could already
hear the heavy trampling of the horses as they came galloping up the
hill, the jingling of the bridles and the clank of the swords. As the
little troop swept up the hillside it made a gallant show. Gervase felt
his heart beat fast and loud; his hand trembled with excitement on the
hilt of his sword, and his breath came quick. He found himself longing
with feverish impatience for the word to charge, but Macpherson kept his
men well in hand, trying their temper, and watching them narrowly like a
wary soldier. Not a man showed sign of fear or indecision.

“You are a young soldier, Mr. Orme,” said Macpherson, with a joyous
laugh, “and young soldiers are ever rash and heedless. Let us give yon
sons of Belial time to think of what they do. You will feel in good time
the thirst to trample down and slay, and the Devil driving you to rend
and to destroy. Wait till they come to where the road widens into the
marsh. Yon fellow rides like a gallant gentleman--a Frenchman too, I
think, and knows his work. Ha! here they come. Now, my children, follow
me, and may God defend his cause this day!”

Macpherson put spurs to his horse, and his troopers followed in an
orderly array at a hard gallop.

It was clear the enemy was uncertain as to their intentions, for
immediately Macpherson had put his horse in motion, they drew up short
and halted. But still the little troop kept on steadily, riding two
abreast along the narrow road, and holding their carbines in readiness
to fire. The young officer on the grey charger had thrown off his
scarlet cloak, and was giving directions to his men with the point of
his sword. Several of the troopers had dismounted and lined the roadside
where a fence of loose stones presented a sort of low screen, or
parapet.

And now barely a hundred yards divided the combatants. Already a shot or
two had been fired, but as they came within range the dragoons, without
waiting for further orders, fired wildly. Gervase, who rode in advance,
turned to see if any of the men behind him had been struck; not a man
moved in his saddle. Then Macpherson rose in his stirrups and shouted in
a voice of thunder----

“Now, my gallant fellows, fire! Aim at the horses and let every shot
tell.”

For an instant, as it seemed, the little troop stood fast, and orderly
as on parade, took aim and fired. Several horses went down, and for a
minute all was confusion and disorder in the royal ranks.

That minute was the turning tide of battle. With a wild shout and a deep
oath, Macpherson waved his sword above his head and gave the charge.
Instinctively Gervase drove his spurs into his horse´s flanks, and
grasped the hilt of his sword with a tighter clutch. In another moment
he was in the middle of the red-coats and almost without knowing how it
was done, he saw his blade buried in the body of the dragoon who had
first encountered him. As in a dream he saw the man catch convulsively
at the horse´s mane and fall in a heap to the ground. Macpherson was at
his side, hammering on sword and head-piece. His voice could be heard
above the clank and clash of steel and the shouts of the fighting men.
“No quarter to the men of Belial. Strike home for the true religion.
God´s wounds! you must have it.”

Two troopers had thrown themselves across his path; one he had charged
so violently that his horse had stumbled and gone down, crushing his
rider; the other parried his thrust and then turned to flee. But his
doom was on him. Down came the deadly steel on the iron head-piece.
Nothing could withstand that blow, but the sword was shivered at the
hilt.

“The curse of Heaven light on the hand that fashioned thee!” cried
Macpherson, hurling the hilt from him and drawing his pistol from the
holster. His men followed close upon his heels, hacking and hewing with
their heavy swords. No man failed in his duty that day.

Gervase saw the young officer before him gallantly striving to rally his
men, and imploring them to stand. Quick as thought their swords were
crossed, and Gervase saw his eyes light up with inexpressible hate. “Ah!
canaille,” he cried, “you will see at least how a gentleman can fight.”

It was not a time for nice tricks of fence, and Gervase saw in a moment
that his opponent was a more skilful swordsman than himself. He saw the
flash of his opponent´s blade and felt the warm blood streaming down his
face, but he did not give him time to repeat the blow. Throwing himself
upon him he caught him round the neck, and together they fell to the
ground. It was indeed a miracle how they escaped beneath the hoofs of
the trampling horses as they grappled with one another in the dust. Then
the tide of battle swept past them, and they were left alone to fight it
out. But the delicate Frenchman was no match for the stout young giant
whose arms were as strong as an oak sapling. Gervase placed his knee
upon his breast, and wrenched the sword from his hand.

“It is enough, Monsieur; I yield myself prisoner.”

Gervase leapt to his feet and reached out his hand to assist his
prisoner from the ground. But the other refused the proffered courtesy,
and when he had risen, nonchalantly began to arrange his disordered
dress, and to brush the dust from his clothes with an embroidered
handkerchief. “Your arms, monsieur, are very strong, but I do not
understand the fashion of your country. We do not fight thus in France.
It is my regret that you should not see the end of this gallant affair.”

There was a covert sneer in the tone that there was no mistaking.

“I have seen the beginning and the end, sir,” Gervase said simply. “Your
men do not seem to relish the fare we have provided for them.”

“My men are not soldiers; they are poltroons. Let us dismiss them. May I
inquire into whose hands it has been my good fortune to fall?”

“My name, sir, is Gervase Orme, sometime ensign in Mountjoy´s regiment,
and now in arms for the Protestant religion and the liberties of the
kingdom. I am very much at your service.”

“You are very good, but Victor de Laprade, whom men call Vicomte of that
name, seeks favour from none. I think,” he continued, looking down the
road along which the pursuit had rolled, “we are likely to be better
acquainted.”

“It is not to be doubted, sir: the skirmish is over and your men are
wholly broken.”

“Nay, Luttrel was a brave man; I am sorry for him, but the rest--let
them go.”

The moment that the Vicomte de Laprade had gone down in Gervase´s grasp,
the dragoons had broken and fled, followed hard by Macpherson and his
troop. The pursuers were in no mood to give quarter that day. The
atrocities of Galmoy some time before had filled their hearts with a
thirst for vengeance; it was a sacred duty not to spare, but to slay,
and slay without remorse or pity. Far down the road thundered the
headlong flight, pursuers and pursued mingled together. De Laprade had
seated himself on the fence by the roadside, and watched without
apparent interest the incidents of the pursuit. It was impossible to
tell from his face what his real feelings might have been.

"_C´est fini_," he said lightly, as the troopers halted and turned to
retrace their footsteps to where the conflict had commenced.

Macpherson came up, wiping the perspiration from his brow.

“I saw you go down,” he said to Gervase, “and feared it was all over
with you. I should have been sorry to my dying day, for you have shown
the right soldier spirit,--you have been touched?”

“A mere scratch, but we have gained a great success.”

“A pretty affair. What popinjay have we yonder?” and he pointed to De
Laprade.

“One of King James´s new French gentlemen,” said Gervase smiling, “who
is the first captive of my bow and spear.”

“One of the accursed race,” said Macpherson grimly. “And the message
hath come to me; ‘no quarter,´ was our word this day. His blood be upon
his own head.” He drew his pistol from the holster, and dismounted from
his horse. Gervase saw the deep gloom gather on his brow.

“What would you do?” Gervase cried, catching his arm and placing himself
between his Captain and the Vicomte. “In God´s name, you do not mean to
say that you would slay him in cold blood?”

“In cold blood, no, but in righteous vengeance for the evil that hath
been wrought upon our people. Do you forget Dixie and Charleton? I have
taken a vow before the Lord this day that not one of them shall escape
me. The blood of Abel is crying from the ground, and shall I, the least
of his servants, suffer that cry to go unheard?”

“While I live you shall not injure one hair of his head. The lessons
that you have learned in the school of Turenne we will not practise
here. No prisoner shall be slain in cold blood while Gervase Orme can
wield a sword to defend him.”

Macpherson turned away and replaced his pistol in the holster without a
word, and stooping down began to examine the forelegs of his charger.
While this scene was being enacted on which his life depended, the
Vicomte continued sitting upon the fence, flicking the dust from his
riding boots with his handkerchief and smiling an easy smile of apparent
indifference. He seemed to be the only one who had no interest in the
issue of the quarrel. Then he rose, and going over to Gervase held out
his hand.

“However you may yet decide this trivial affair,” he said, “I thank you
for your courtesy. I declined to take your hand; I beg your pardon. You
are a brave man and a gentleman. But it is a matter of regret that you
should quarrel with your friend on my poor account.”

“There is no quarrel, sir,” said Macpherson, who had overheard his
words, raising himself to his full height, and looking steadily as he
spoke. “This young gentleman was right, and I was wrong. He had given
you quarter, which matter he may yet live to repent, and you were under
his protection by the laws of war. I might have shot you down in the
melee but I left him to deal with you. He hath seen good to spare your
life, and in your presence, sir, I now ask his pardon, which will not be
denied me.”

“I cannot pardon where there is no offence, Captain Macpherson,” said
Gervase. “It was my good fortune to fight on the side that can afford
protection, and had it been otherwise I am certain that M. de Laprade
would have rendered me the like service.”

The Vicomte bowing low, raised his hat with a grand air. Then he said,
addressing Macpherson, “Monsieur le Capitaine appears to regret that he
did not shoot me. It is not yet too late to try his skill. By the
kindness of this gentleman I have still my sword, and if you, sir, do
not think it beneath your dignity to try a pass with a poor soldier and
gentleman like myself, I shall be happy to give you the opportunity you
desire. Here is a pretty piece of heath--how say you, sir?”

“I say that I fight only in the way of my duty, but at another time when
public necessity may give way to private entertainment I shall have no
objection to oblige you either with sword or pistol, on foot or
horseback. No man that knows him will say that Ninian Macpherson
declined a duello because he feared the thrust of a rapier or the shot
of a pistol. When our journey is ended and the business now on hand
completed----”

“Be assured I shall afford you what you are pleased to call your
entertainment. And now may I ask whither you purpose to carry me?”

“We shall carry you, sir, as far as Enniskillen, and, mayhap, if you so
desire it back to Londonderry.”

“I have no desires; I have learnt the uses of adversity.”

“Then you have learnt the last lesson a man can learn,” answered
Macpherson, abruptly turning on his heel, and joining Hackett who was
looking after one of the men who had been wounded.

The skirmish had in every sense been a complete success. Only one man
had been slightly, and another severely wounded, and these raw and
undisciplined yeomen had shown a wonderful steadiness and gallantry.
When the horses of the dragoons had been collected, for Macpherson
believed in gathering the fruits of victory, they were ready to start on
the march.

“The prisoner is in your charge, Sergeant Hackett,” he said. “Shoot him
through the head if he tries to run away.”

De Laprade shrugged his shoulders. “Bah!” he said, “your Captain eats
fire. Whither would he have me run?”

“Not outside the reach of my carbine,” said Hackett drily.

Gervase had fallen into the rear, where he was presently joined by
Macpherson, whose passion had apparently died away, and left his face
pale with an almost ghastly pallor. They rode side by side, neither
speaking a word. Macpherson´s head was bent on his breast, and Gervase
could hear him muttering to himself in a low tone, but he could not
catch the meaning of his words. He was evidently struggling with some
violent emotion. Then he seemed to wake up from the profound reverie in
which he had been sunk, and laying his hand on the arm of his companion,
said in a low voice,

“Mr. Orme, thou art a well-conditioned and, I think, a godly young man,
and though it does not beseem one of my gray hairs and length of years
to open his heart to one young and lacking in experience as thou art,
yet the spirit within me prompts me to speak.”

Gervase was silent.

“There are times,” he continued, “when the Spirit of the Lord is upon
me. Then I can hear the strains of a rich and heavenly minstrelsy, and
my soul is possessed with the joy of everlasting hope. Alas! I do begin
to fear it is but the snare of the fowler. This day the evil one took
possession of me. I relapsed into the gall of bitterness and the bonds
of iniquity. I sware evil oaths; I rejoiced in the shedding of blood,
nor was it the cause of the Lord that I followed this day, but the
promptings of my own carnal heart. Can the Lord of Righteousness and the
Prince of the powers of the air dwell in the same breast?”

“I do not know how these things may be,” Gervase answered, “but I know
that you have done your duty this day like a good and valiant soldier.
It may be that old habits are strong upon you, and an old warhorse like
yourself lifts his ears at the sound of the charge.”

“The hearts of the elect are purified, and old habits cannot draw the
soul from God.”

He looked at Gervase with a look of profound sadness in his eyes, and
there was an undertone of despair in his voice. It was impossible to
doubt his sincerity. Spiritual despair had seized upon him, and his
narrow creed had no word of consolation to offer him in his hour of
doubt. He had drawn aside the veil that concealed the workings of his
heart.

“All the days of my youth were vanity,” he continued; “I squandered my
substance in riotous living, and spent my strength in the lap of
harlots. Then the Lord found me in the wilderness, and for ten years I
have walked in the narrow way, till now mine enemy has found me this
day; nay, not this day, but the hour I girt this sword on my side. I am
the same man that fought at St. Gothard, and walked up the breach at
Philisbourg.”

“And may I never fight by the side of a better soldier,” cried Gervase
with assumed gaiety. "The Protestant cause could ill afford to lose an
arm like yours. But for you we had never charged this day.

“Ah! it was a gallant onfall;” said the old soldier meditatively, “I
have seldom seen a brisker, but it is vanity, vanity.” He sighed, and
relapsed into silence, nor did Gervase venture to address him again till
they rode into the village where they intended to pass the night.



                              CHAPTER II.
               OF THE ENTERTAINMENT THEY HAD AT THE INN.


At the door of the inn Hackett dismounted, and unfastening the latch
with some difficulty entered the kitchen. A fire of peat was smouldering
on the hearth, and the remains of what was evidently a hurried meal were
scattered on the table. A number of pike heads and scythe blades were
piled in a corner. There was no one in the room. He rapped loudly with
the hilt of his sword on the table and presently a woman made her
appearance from one of the inner rooms. She seemed greatly alarmed at
the unexpected arrival of her guests, and as she entered she cast a look
of fear and expectancy round the kitchen. Her eyes fell on the weapons
in the corner and she stopped short.

“We want food and lodgings for the night,” said the sergeant, who had
been examining one of the pewter mugs carefully, “lodgings for the men
and horses. Bacon, I see, you have in plenty. Is there hay in the
stable?”

“Ay,” she answered nervously, “but my man is from home and I cannot
serve you.”

“Oh, for that we will just wait upon ourselves and be beholden to ye all
the same. Your man, I doubt not, has taken to another trade, and belike
it were as well we did not fall across him. And for what do ye keep
these toys?” he asked, kicking the heap of weapons with his jack boot.
“These are not tools an honest man would willingly handle, but we will
inquire further thereinto.”

So saying he went out to make his report to Macpherson, who was awaiting
his return with undisguised impatience. “Things have an ill look, sir,”
he said, with a stiff salute, “and I doubt not there is mischief brewing
hereabouts; but there is a can of ale for ourselves and fodder for the
beasts.”

“We can go no further if we would,” said Macpherson, “there is not
another mile in the horses. And,” he continued, glancing at the
capability of the house to withstand an attack, “we can make good this
place against a hundred. Let the horses be looked to carefully. I myself
will examine the stable. Come, sweetheart, thou hast done a good day´s
work and hast well earned a night´s repose.”

Gervase and the Vicomte entered the house together. The woman had
replenished the fire and was busily engaged making her preparations for
the reception of her unwelcome guests. As De Laprade came in she gave a
start of surprise, but the look of recognition, which for a moment
lighted up her face, immediately gave place to the dull, stolid
expression she had worn in her interview with the sergeant. She
continued her work apparently unconscious of the presence of the two
strangers. The Vicomte threw his hat and sword on the table and sat down
on a stool close to the hearth.

“I am destined to see Madame again,” he said, stretching out his hands
towards the warmth of the hearth, for the evening had grown chilly. “And
how is la belle Marie?”

As he spoke a tall girl of eighteen, barefooted and bareheaded, entered
the door, tall and straight as a young poplar, lissom and graceful, with
the deep blue black eyes and low broad brow that one meets again and
again among the peasants of the West country. Here is the pure Greek,
instinct with life, but touched with a certain grace of sad and pensive
beauty. She also started with surprise when her eyes fell on the young
Frenchman.

“I thought, mother,” she said hesitating--"I thought--"

“Have done thinking and help me with the supper,” her mother answered,
with a glance of warning. “The gentlemen have ridden far and will stay
the night.”

“Madame does not recognize her old friends, ma belle,” said De Laprade
lightly, “but you will not be so cruel. When we parted this morning, I
did not dream that we should meet so soon, but it is the fortune of
war.”

“And the rest,” cried the girl eagerly, “are they also--”

The woman looked up anxiously for a moment. "Poof!--they are
gone--_ecrasés_; they need no roof over their heads to-night, nor a
pretty maiden to wait on them. They drank too deep last night to have
cool heads this morning, and now they will never hear the reveille sound
again. It is a great pity, but the fortunes of war--"

“I don´t understand,” said the girl. “What has become of them?”

“They are lying yonder by the roadside and will waken never again.”

The woman threw up her hands with a loud cry and fell on the floor.

“These barbarians have then some touch of humanity,” said De Laprade
softly, while Gervase ran forward and raised her head upon his knee, and
the girl seized a water can which stood on the table and bathed her
cheeks and forehead. In a few minutes the woman recovered consciousness
and looked round her wildly.

“It is not true,” she cried; “´tis a lie. My beautiful boy that left me
singing this morning with the lovelight dancing in his eyes is not dead.
The sword was never sharpened that could slay him. I care not for King
James or King William and for--why should they not leave me in peace?
Tell me, for the Holy Virgin´s sake, that it is not true.” She rose and
staggering forward threw herself at De Laprade´s feet and caught him
round the knees, with streaming eyes and a look of wild entreaty in her
face.

He endeavoured ineffectually to disengage himself, but she clung to him
with desperate earnestness. His look of placid indifference gave way to
one of profound pity. “It may be,” he said, gently endeavouring to raise
her to her feet, “it may be that I was wrong and your son is not dead. I
remember me he was our guide and did not carry arms. He may have escaped
the fate that befell the others, but one of these gentlemen will tell
you.”

At this moment Macpherson, accompanied by the sergeant, entered the
house.

“What pother is this?” he said roughly. “If you are unwilling to serve
us we will even wait upon ourselves. We do not make war on women, but
they must not hinder us.”

Gervase drew him aside by the sleeve, hastily explaining how matters
stood; but there was no comfort or hope in his answer. He had not seen
the boy, but there might be good reason for that; the woman should have
kept the lad at home if she was unwilling he should take his chance, and
no one could be blamed if he went down with the rest. One more or less,
what did it matter?

The girl stood listening to their brief conversation with flashing eyes,
and then took her mother by the arm, and drawing her into the inner room
closed the door behind them.

Macpherson was in the enemy´s country and accordingly made himself at
home. Under his direction a meal was soon prepared, and a cask of
home-brewed ale that had been discovered in a recess, was rolled into
the middle of the floor, and the men helped themselves. They were too
tired for much speech and devoted themselves to their repast in silence,
addressing one another occasionally in undertones, and making huge
inroads on the rashers and coarse bread that rapidly disappeared before
them. Macpherson sat moodily apart, eating and drinking but sparingly--a
marked contrast to De Laprade who seemed to forget that he was a
prisoner, and laughed at his own conceits with light-hearted gaiety. He
had divested himself of his peruke and riding boots, and stretched
himself along the rude settle that stood near the hearth. He appeared to
pay no attention to the stern leader who scowled more and more deeply as
the Vicomte´s laugh grew louder, and the tone of his conversation
assumed a more unbecoming levity. Gervase could not help feeling
interested, for the type was altogether new to him--there was a life and
colour about the stories to which he was a stranger; it was a little bit
of Versailles, brilliant and careless, set down in the wilds of
Fermanagh.

“Pardieu!” said the Vicomte, “it was play that did it; there was nothing
else left. My creditors will miss me, I do not doubt, but they were
troublesome and I hate trouble; so I hastened to seek glory--bah! it is
a greater trouble than the other. Where is the glory when your soldiers
will not fight, and your king is a poltroon? There is no music like the
rattle of the dicebox, when fortune, the beautiful goddess, is smiling
like a lover. Love and play are the two things that make life worth
living.”

“Of love,” said Gervase, “I know nothing, but for play--I leave that to
the fool and the knave. Nay, I mean not to say that men of honour have
not ere now given themselves up to its strange fascination, but it was
their weakness. For me, I like rather to hear the yelp of the otter
hounds when the morning is young and the spring woods are full of life
and beauty, or the cry of the beagles when the scent is lying strong.
You have never seen the brown trout in the freshet?”

“There were no fish in the ponds at Versailles,” said the Vicomte drily,
“but when a great lady dropped her fan--”

Macpherson rose to his feet and drew out the small leather-bound volume
that Gervase had seen him use before. “There has been enough of this
untimely jesting,” he said. “These are not manners that suit our station
or our work, and if you, sir, care not to join in the devotions of
Christian men, I shall not compel you to remain, but you may retire to
your repose. But as for us, we will thank God for His watchful care this
day.”

“Your devotions, sir, will interest me beyond measure.”

“Hackett, give me the light,” said Macpherson, looking for a moment
sternly at the speaker from under his heavy eyebrows. The sergeant went
to the hearth and taking up a blazing piece of resinous fir held it up
to his leader, who opened the book and began solemnly to read one of
those Psalms that breathe forth vengeance and savage triumph.

“Plead my cause, oh Lord, with them that strive with me, fight against
them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler and stand up
for my help.”

Then he closed the book and dropping on his knees (an example which was
followed by all the company except the Vicomte, who was apparently fast
asleep) he prayed loudly and fervently. His prayer was to some extent a
repetition of the verses he had been reading, clothed in more homely
language. He prayed that God would lead His people forth in safety
through the perils and dangers that encompassed them; and that the
wicked oppressor might be taken in his own toils and destroyed utterly.
Then from the language of supplication he passed to the enthusiasm of
prophecy. The day was at hand when a great deliverance would be wrought
for the people of God. The scarlet woman, sunken in her adulteries and
witchcraft, would pass into the darkness of Tophet; they who lived by
the sword would perish by the sword, and the Protestant cause would
triumph over all its enemies. When he had finished, and his loud Amen
was repeated by the kneeling men around him, he remained for some time
on his knees apparently engaged in private prayer. Then he rose to his
feet with the prompt alacrity that distinguished him, and gave the few
necessary instructions for the night.

“We march at three,” he said abruptly. “Ralston will do duty at the
Bridge, and Given will take the church at the upper end of the village.
In three hours they will be relieved. There must be no sleeping on
sentry duty, my lads,” he added, with additional sternness in his tone,
“for we do not want our throats cut while we sleep. This is not child´s
play, and if you fail in aught be assured you have a man to deal with
who knows how to punish laggards.”

With these words he left the room abruptly and the men, with the
exception of the two who had been selected for duty, settled themselves
on the earthen floor of the kitchen to snatch a brief repose. Gervase
had secured for himself a small room at the end of the house in which
there was a rude bed, and which he had proposed to share with the
Vicomte who, however, had declined his offer. The door of the room,
which was of oak, was secured by a heavy bolt and this he fastened
carefully behind him when he entered the apartment. The moon was shining
bright and the sky was full of stars. From the little window Gervase
could see the church tower standing square and black in the soft yellow
moon-light, and the little river winding down the valley like a tangled
silver thread. Placing his sword within reach and his pistols under his
pillow, he threw himself on the pallet. But for some time his mind was
too busy with the events of the day to allow him to settle himself to
sleep. Half dreaming, half awake, he saw again and again in its deadly
agony and unspeakable terror, the face of the man whom he had run
through in the skirmish. He heard ringing in his ears the wild shouts of
the charging horsemen, and his sword was raised aloft to strike, when
his strength seemed suddenly to become as the strength of a little
child, and his heart to die for fear within him. At length, worn out
with the labour of the day, he fell into a profound and dreamless sleep.

It was long past midnight when he was awakened by the sound of the
crashing and splintering of wood, the clash of weapons and the glare of
blazing lights. Leaping, dazed and bewildered, from his bed, he caught
up his sword, and placing his back against the wall, prepared to sell
his life as dearly as possible. Already the stout oak panels had given
way under the heavy blows that were being dealt from the outside. In
another minute the door fell in with a crash, and the room was filled
with flashing lights and a crowd of armed ruffians. At the sight of him
standing with his weapon drawn, his assailants halted for a moment; then
someone raised the cry: “Cut the throat of the heretic,” and there was a
simultaneous rush upon him. They were so crowded together that they
could not effectually use their weapons, and to his own surprise Gervase
was able to keep them at bay.

When the first shock of surprise had passed, and it passed almost
immediately, he felt his eyes clear and his nerves steady themselves
into a cool and deliberate resolve to die, if needs must, like a valiant
fighting man. He realized at a glance the extreme desperateness of the
situation, and his very despair gave him courage. His grasp was firm and
strong on the hilt of his sword, and the pulses of his blood began to
beat steadily. In after days he wondered that it should be so, and like
a simple and courageous gentleman, he set it down to no heroism of his
own, but to the inspiration and direction of a higher Power. In a moment
standing there he knew what had happened. The sentinels had been
surprised at their post, the men below had been taken unawares and
overpowered without resistance, and the hostelry was completely in the
hands of the enemy. For him there was no hope of escape, and he knew he
need expect no quarter. Leaping upon the bed, he parried the blows that
were dealt at him. Again and again his assailants came surging up, and
again and again he cleared the deadly circle round him. Already two or
three bodies lay on the floor below him: his sword streamed with blood
from the point to the hilt. For a moment there was a pause--his courage
and coolness had checked the first rush. Then with a deep oath one of
the fellows sprang forward, and caught him round the knees with a grasp
that he could not disengage, and another leaping on the bed beside him,
sought to wrest the weapon from his hand. He thought that the end was
come and that in another minute it would be all over. But he felt his
strength the strength of ten. Dealing one of the fellows a tremendous
blow fair and straight in the face, he shortened his sword and ran the
other through the body; without a sound the man rolled over and fell in
a heap on the floor. Again the circle cleared round him and he drew a
deep breath. Then there was a sound of rushing water in his ears; the
room swam round him; tottering and falling he clung to the wall for
support. Through a blinding mist he saw, or dreamt he saw, the gleam of
uplifted weapons round him ready to strike, and he wondered that they
did not make an end of him; then the tall figure of De Laprade with his
rapier drawn, striking up the weapons that were aimed at him; surely,
too, that was the voice of the gallant Vicomte?--"What, cowards! would
you slay the boy now that he is down, when you could not face him with
his sword in his hand? Ah, _sang de Dieu_! you shall not touch him. I
command you; I, Victor de Laprade. _Mille de Diables!_ take up these
carcases and see if there is any life left in them. He is a gallant
gentleman, and you shall not injure a hair of his head."

To the reeling brain of Gervase all was wild tumult and disorder; the
lights blazed round him; the flash of gleaming steel and the shadow of
dark passionate faces came and went; the strident clamour of angry
voices sounded as from immeasurable distances. And then his senses
failed him and he remembered no more.

When consciousness returned he was lying on the bed with the Vicomte
bending over him, while a little dark man in a shabby cloak and wig very
much the worse for wear, was stanching the blood that flowed from a
wound in his shoulder. The room had been cleared, but some fellows whose
faces showed that they had been robbed of their spoil, were gathered
round the door, and looked on with countenances that betokened little
goodwill toward the wounded man. The little surgeon went on busily with
his work and when he had finished, rubbed his hands with an air of
satisfaction.

“A neat bit of work, Vicomte; as pretty a piece of accidental
skilfulness as ever I saw in my life. The one hundred and twelfth part
of an inch would have relieved this tenement of clay of its immortal
soul, and being a heretic----” and he shook his head vigorously.
“However, ´tis but a trifle to one who hath youth and vigour. This
excessive bleeding will relieve him of sundry humours and affections
that lurk in the veins of youth, and in a day or two at the furthest his
natural strength will assert itself. He must avoid the use of
intoxicating fluids. But I´m thinking,” he added, with a twinkle in his
eyes, “there will be little for him after my lord and myself.”

Gervase opened his eyes and attempted to rise, but De Laprade, sitting
beside him on the bed, gently restrained him.

“Be not in too great haste, my friend,” he said. “My Lord Galmoy will
want to see you presently and you will need all your strength for the
interview.”

“A very deadly disease for which there is no remedy known to the
faculty,” added the surgeon; “especially when he is in his cups.”

“Monsieur le Medicin,” continued De Laprade, “tells me your wound is not
serious, and if you can listen I should like to give you a word of
advice, though little accustomed to give it.”

“I begin to feel better,” Gervase answered. “The wound is a trifle
painful and my head is somewhat dull withal, but I have strength enough
left to thank you, Vicomte, for your help. I doubt not but for your
kindly assistance I had now been past this gentleman´s skill.”

“I assure you, my friend, ´twas nothing. These wolves have a taste for
blood, but they like their game better dead than alive and are easily
shaken off. But the wolf--I mean the gentleman--who will presently be
inquiring for you is altogether different. Him you cannot so easily
satisfy. I should advise you, in all friendship, to answer his questions
as fully as becomes a man of honour, and not needlessly to offend him.
For myself, if I can be of assistance, you may rely upon me.”

“I shall strive to do as you say. But for the others--what became of
Macpherson?”

A smile passed over the Vicomte´s face. “When la belle Marie brought my
Lord Galmoy to the house, he made sure that all your party were within,
and made your men prisoners before they could draw a sword or fire a
shot. But your captain, for what reason I know not, was passing the
night in the stable, and when he was discovered he was already armed and
putting the saddle on his great horse. For a pious Christian who is
given to long prayers, he swears strangely. But he is a brave man and
can fight _sans doute_. It was beautiful to see him swinging his long
sword and swearing great oaths that I did not wholly understand. They
went down before him like the corn, and the others fled crying that it
was the devil. For myself I admire brave men and did not care to help
the cowards. I doubt not he and I will meet again; and we shall finish
our little quarrel and one of us will return no more.”

“Then he made his escape--on foot or on horseback?”

“The great horse is still standing in the bastle and your captain must
walk far, Monsieur Orme, before he is at home. But you cannot kill such
men; they do not easily die. If M. le Medicin will pardon me, I might
suggest that we can now spare him, for I am assured that there are
others who need his services.”

“Faith,” said the surgeon, “you are speaking the truth, Vicomte, for the
mellow Falernian has been going round, and I can hear the gentlemen
already in their cups. For you, sir, I hope to see you in the
morning--though,” he added, under his breath, “as like as not with a
cord round your neck and your feet in the air.”

“And now, my friend,” said De Laprade, when the doctor had left the
room, “I doubt not you have heard of what manner is my Lord Galmoy. It
is best to speak plainly. He can feel no pity nor show mercy. He cares
not for the laws of war. Every prisoner is only an enemy. Should you
answer him boldly I think your death is certain; even I who have some
influence with him could not save you.”

“Have no fear for me,” said Gervase, rising to his feet and feebly
attempting to stand; “for I have little fear for myself. Life is sweet
and I do not wish to die, but the dread of death will not make me a
coward. I shall die as I have humbly striven to live--though,” he added,
with a faint smile, “hanging is hardly seemly for a gentleman. I knew
poor Charleton, and they say he met his death like a man. I hope I may
do the same when my time comes.”

“These are but heroics,” said the Vicomte; “we must not grumble at our
cards but play the game, and yours--Well, sir, what do you want?”

A sergeant of dragoons entered the room and swaggered forward, “My Lord
would see the prisoner, and I was sent to fetch him.”

“Tell my Lord Galmoy he will be with him in an instant, and that he is
badly wounded. I myself will attend him and you need not wait.”

"Now, my dear Orme," he continued, as the man left the room with a
doubtful nod, “take my arm and rely on my services; I have not forgotten
yours. But act like a man of sense and forget your sermons until you are
among your friends.”

De Laprade gave him his arm, and Gervase painfully descended the crooked
staircase, his heart beating loudly and his hand trembling from weakness
and exhaustion as he leaned on his companion.



                              CHAPTER III.
               OF THE WAY MY LORD GALMOY SAT IN JUDGMENT.


The character of Lord Galmoy had recently gained an unenviable notoriety
by his barbarous murder of Cornet Charleton and Captain Dixie at Fermoy,
nor were there wanting those who asserted there were still darker stains
on his character as a soldier. Such a man, Gervase well knew, would not
stretch the laws of war in his favour, and it was more than likely that
this savage cavalry-leader would not be disposed to treat him as a
lawful enemy taken in battle, but as a rebel and a spy. For such there
was a short shrift and a long rope.

When they entered the kitchen, the scene was one of the liveliest
disorder and confusion. The room was filled with soldiers attired in
every describable costume, some smoking by the fire, some eating and
drinking, and all endeavouring to make themselves heard in a perfect
babel of tongues. Hats, cloaks, and swords were piled upon the table, at
the furthest end of which was seated a small knot of officers, among
whom Gervase recognized the little surgeon who had attended to his
wound, now busily engaged in discussing the contents of a pewter
measure. At the head of the table was an officer of superior rank, and
near him stood Hackett, with his hands bound behind his back and a great
gash on his forehead. He had evidently been under examination, and his
replies had not been satisfactory to the officer who was cross-examining
him. At a glance Gervase recognized Lord Galmoy. His wig was pushed
back, showing the closely-cropped black hair that came low down on the
forehead. His eyes were bloodshot and his lips trembled with passion.
Yet the face was a handsome one, though marked by the signs of excess
and unbridled indulgence; a face weak in its almost feminine regularity,
with delicately marked eyebrows, regular nose, and rounded chin; his
hands were small and white as those of a woman.

As De Laprade made his way through the troopers who turned to stare at
his companion, Galmoy said to the men who were in charge of Hackett, “Do
not remove him. I may have further questions to put to him. And now for
this young cock who crowed loud enough to bring the barn down about our
ears; I think we shall soon cut his spurs. How say you, Vicomte?”

“I am under obligations to the gentleman, my Lord,” said De Laprade, “I
trust your Lordship will not deal too harshly with him.”

“Why, damme, we shall all be under obligations presently, but we shall
see. And now, sir, what is your name?”

Gervase caught the eye of the Vicomte fixed on him with a look of
warning. “My name is Orme,” he said, feeling weak and faint with the
loss of blood and the great heat of the atmosphere.

“And your rank?”

“A private gentleman, now serving with other gentlemen of the North in
defence of our liberties.”

“And, prithee, who gave the gentlemen of the North commission to raise
regiments or levy war on His Majesty´s subjects? Do you know, sir, that
being found with arms in your hand without lawful authority to carry
them, ´tis my duty to string you up as a warning to other malcontents.
His Majesty has shown too much long-suffering, and had he been wise we
had stamped out this cursed rebellion in a month. There is one King in
Ireland, and with the help of God and His holy saints one King there
will be. You shall drink his health, and that, damme, in a bumper.”

“That, with your Lordship´s pardon, I shall not do,” said Gervase,
disregarding De Laprade´s gesture of warning. “I have taken the oath of
allegiance to William and Mary, and to do what your Lordship asks would
be an act either of disloyalty or hypocrisy.”

“We shall see,” Galmoy answered, with a smile that was full of meaning.
“Fill up a cup, Whitney, for no one shall say that we did not give this
damned rebel a chance. And now, sir, whither and on what errand were you
away when we interrupted your journey?”

“Our destination was Enniskillen, but for our errand, from answering on
that matter I pray your Lordship to hold me excused. My knowledge of our
real purpose was but slight and would advantage you little.”

“And do you refuse to answer a plain question, sir?”

“I have given your Lordship my answer.”

Galmoy pushed his chair back from the table and his face grew purple
with passion. Then he turned to the officers who were sitting round him,
bringing his hand heavily down on the table. “God´s blood, gentlemen,
what think you of that? I have been blamed by those who should know
better, for the practice of a little just severity, and His Majesty
would pet and pamper these rebels and treat them as faithful subjects
who had been led astray. And here you have the issue. Every peasant and
scurvy citizen struts about with armour on his back and a weapon in his
hand, as if by the grace of God he had divine right to use the same.
These are airs that will find no countenance while I am master of
ceremonies.”

“This young gentleman should know better,” said one of the officers with
a sneer, “for if I mistake not I have seen him before. Pray, sir, have
we not met in Dublin when you were of Mountjoy´s regiment?”

“You can do what you please,” said Gervase, forgetting the caution he
had promised himself to observe; “I am in your hands, but I will answer
no questions; and if it be your good pleasure to murder me, on your
heads is the infamy.”

“We will answer for ourselves whatever we do,” Galmoy answered. “But
remember, the toast is waiting, and no man in my presence will refuse to
drink to the health of His Majesty.”

“I will not drink it, and no man living will force me. I have already
given you my reasons.”

“In good time,” said Galmoy, “we shall see. How say you, Major? Do you
recognize this stiff-necked Whig as being lately in the service of His
Majesty?”

“On that head,” was the answer, “I have no doubt. He was lodged at the
Bunch of Grapes hard by the Castle, and though we were not intimate, I
have seen him too frequently to be mistaken.”

“Then, by Heaven, the cup of his transgression is full and the
provost-marshal must see that he drinks it. I will take the matter on my
own shoulders and answer for it to whomsoever may question me. Look you,
sergeant, take the prisoner without, and see that he drinks that measure
of wine. A lighted match, if properly applied, will bring him to reason.
In the morning you will see that he is shot before the door an hour
before we march, for I do not like these things arranged hurriedly. For
the other ´twere a pity he should not bear him company. Let them both go
together.”

Weakened as he was by the loss of blood, and unstrung by the ordeal he
had just passed through, Gervase tottered and fell on the bench beside
which he had been standing. The room swam round him, and though he
strove against it he felt that his senses were rapidly failing him. He
would have fallen upon the floor, but De Laprade springing forward and
placing his arm round him, supported him on the seat.

Then the Vicomte turned to Galmoy. “I have said nothing, my Lord,
because I did not wish to interfere, as I thought your Lordship would
have treated this gentleman as a fair prisoner of war. It is now my duty
to speak; I trust your Lordship will hear me.”

Galmoy had now recovered his temper and answered De Laprade with a show
of courtesy. “Certainly, my dear Vicomte, there is no one to whom I
listen with greater pleasure. But I trust you will not ask me to alter
this little arrangement.”

“You will pardon me; I have told you that I am under an obligation to
this gentleman, and but for that obligation I should have been lying
beside Luttrel on the high-road. I always endeavour to pay my debts of
honour, and if need be I borrow from my friends to discharge them.”

“Faith! my creditors will tell you that I find it hard enough to
discharge my own.”

“When the fight was over, the captain who has escaped showed a great
mind to pistol me, when this Monsieur Orme, at great peril to his life,
for I apprehended a pretty quarrel, stepped between us and compelled him
to forbear. To him I owe my life, and I should be wanting in gratitude
if I failed to avow the service he has done me.”

“There is not a traitor or a rebel in the country who has not a loyal
subject to plead for him. God´s wounds! Viscount, you forget that he
first attacked you on the high road, and that he has worn the uniform of
His Majesty, whom Heaven preserve.”

“But, my Lord, I do not forget. These rebels have not saved my life and
I do not intercede for them. I have lent my sword and service to the
King of England, but I do not forget that I am a gentleman and a man of
honour. In France we do not put our prisoners to the torture, nor will I
fight in the company of those who do. Rather would I break my sword
across my knees and disown the name I bear.”

“The Vicomte de Laprade is right, my Lord,” said the officer who had
recognized Gervase. “Gratitude is a most estimable virtue, and
exceedingly rare. In return for his services perhaps your Lordship will
pretermit the young gentleman´s drinking the health, and merely give him
his dry quietus in the morning.”

“With you, sir,” said De Laprade coldly, “I have no dealings now nor at
any future time. I ask you, my Lord, for this gentleman´s life. ´Tis the
only return I am likely to receive, and indeed it is all I ask.”

“I regret, my dear Vicomte, that I am unable to do your will in this
matter, but we must hold out a warning to others. However, as Butler has
suggested, he need not dance to-night. Sergeant, you need not apply the
thumbscrew. And for you, sir, you can make up your mind to set the
example you hinted at. As it is, you may thank Viscount de Laprade that
you have escaped a dram that was like to prove bitter enough, but had I
had my own way, you should have had both the dram and the halter for a
renegade deserter.”

“Am I then, my Lord Galmoy, to understand that you refuse to accede to
my request? and that the gentleman in whom your Lordship sees I am so
deeply interested must die in the morning?”

Galmoy nodded and motioned to the officer who sat nearest him to pass
the wine.

“I know not,” De Laprade continued, drawing himself up haughtily,
“whether it is because my sword and friendship are of so little value
and are held in so slight esteem, that this simple favour is denied me,
or because in this country gentlemen are deaf to the voice of
expediency. But I know that the brave Luttrel, and a braver man never
drew a sword, met his death because you, sir, have seen good to bring in
the executioner where the soldier fails.”

“Bah! we will not quarrel, though I will not answer for my temper should
you provoke me further. You do not understand these matters, but for my
part I hold it a safe rule to let every country manage its own affairs
according to its own customs. Damme, man, this is not the court of
Versailles, but the country of Whiggery and pestilent traitors, where
every Jack-pudding is up in arms against his king and master. In a few
months you will have learned not to be so whimsical.”

“I trust that I shall never learn to forget that I am a gentleman.”

De Laprade´s manner was so pointed and his tone so full of fine, studied
disdain that Galmoy, who could not fail to see that an insult was
intended, leapt to his feet and drew his sword. In an instant his
example was followed by the Vicomte. But they were not permitted to
fight out their quarrel, for several gentlemen threw themselves between
them, and succeeded in disarming them both; not, however, without
difficulty in the case of Galmoy, who seemed almost to have been
deprived of his reason in the excess of his passion. In vain they
endeavoured to assure him that no insult had been intended, and that he
had misinterpreted the Vicomte´s words, while the Vicomte himself stood
looking on with a smile playing round his lips, cool and unconcerned as
was his wont.

In the midst of the confusion Gervase was removed from the room into the
open air. His guards permitted him to sit down on the stone
drinking-trough outside the door, while one of them went to prepare a
place in which he might pass the night securely. Bending down till his
forehead touched his knees, he endeavoured vainly to collect his
thoughts and to realize what had happened, for his mind was still
confused and weak. He knew that he was about to die, but it seemed to
him at that moment as if it were another and not himself who had taken
part in the drama that had just concluded. For himself, he was drifting
blindly among shadows that grew thicker and darker as he sought to
dispel them. The voices he had heard were still ringing in his ears; the
faces he had seen were still coming and going. Then he heard the voice
of Hackett and looked up. The old sergeant was standing beside him with
his hands still bound behind his back, and his grey hair hanging, matted
and stained with blood, about his face.

“Be of good cheer, Mr. Orme, it will soon be over, sir,” he said, with
homely dignity. “I am proud to think that you bore yourself bravely, and
showed them that a gentleman and a Christian does not fear death. I
should have liked, if it had so pleased the Almighty, to have died on
the field of battle, but since ´tis His will, then His will be done. It
is not for us to complain or dispute the great decrees. I will see you
in the morning, sir,” he added, as his guards prepared to lead him away,
“and it may hap that we shall enter the Kingdom together.”

Gervase was conducted to a low outhouse where a quantity of fresh straw
had been spread for him, and one of the troopers, with rough goodnature,
threw a horse cloth over his shoulders, for the night had grown chilly
and he was shivering with cold. Then they withdrew, locking the door
behind them, and left him to await the arrival of the provost-marshal in
the morning.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                   OF HOW THE VICOMTE PAID HIS DEBT.


Orme lay for a considerable time in a dull stupor, unable to collect his
thoughts, but by degrees his senses came back, and he awoke to the
situation in which he was placed. He believed that it was idle to hope
for mercy; he was in the hands of a man who was not likely to trouble
himself further about his fate. He felt that he must die, and that he
must face death with what courage he could command. He had never thought
much about it before, but now when he stood face to face with death, it
became so real and so terrible that for a time he stood aghast at the
contemplation. He saw with awful vividness the preparations of the
morning, and he thought of the moment when his soul and body would part
company for ever. He was young, and the great mysteries of life and
death had never troubled him. The path of his duty had been simple and
plain; to stand by the truth, to show himself modest and pure and
valorous always, to betray no trust, and to worship God according to the
custom of his fathers--this was his creed and his plan of life;
according to this he had sought to live and die. He had no desire for
the martyr´s death and the martyr´s crown; he loved life and clung to
it, and now all the more when he was in danger of losing it. Men like
Hackett might find consolation and support in religion at a time like
this, but for himself it could not lift him superior to the fear of
suffering and the dread of death. There was, however, some consolation
in the thought that he had striven honestly to do his duty, and that he
had not begged in any unmanly way for life. Then his thoughts took
another turn, and his whole past life unrolled itself before him.
Incidents of his boyhood that he had long forgotten came fresh into his
mind. He saw the stream and the stepping-stones where he had been used
to fish, and the patches of sunshine glinting on the water through the
willows; the old stone house and its tall chimneys lifting themselves
among the oaks and firs; the dark wainscoted room where his father had
taught him from Tacitus and Cæsar; and he longed with a great longing
for life.

He raised himself from the straw and stretched out his hands in the
darkness. The walls of the shieling in which he was confined were of
wood, and he did not doubt that had he not been disabled he could have
forced his way out. As it was escape even yet might be possible. To feel
again the fresh wind blowing across the hillside and see the clear light
of the stars, and the dark green fields stretching under them--the
thought gave him strength and courage. Feeling carefully along the walls
of the shed, and searching for a loose plank he came to the door which
opened from without. He stood listening for the tread of the sentry´s
feet, but there was no sound audible but the beating of his own heart
that throbbed wildly with the hope of escape. The door was not guarded.
The planks of which the door was made, were light and had been roughly
put together, but he found it impossible to make any impression upon
them, though he strained and pulled till his wound broke out afresh. In
the darkness he searched for a weapon that might assist him, but he
could find nothing suited to his purpose. Again he followed the walls of
the shed with his hands, searching carefully for a weak place in the
timbers, but again he was unsuccessful. Then the great wave of hope
subsided, and he threw himself once more upon the straw to compose his
mind to meet with resignation the fate that was before him. There seemed
to be no hope of escape left. By degrees he grew calm, and from some odd
corner in his brain there came to his mind the lines--

                   “Stone walls do not a prison make,
                   Nor iron bars a cage;
                   Minds innocent and quiet take
                   That for an hermitage.”

Again and again they repeated themselves until they seemed almost to
lose their meaning for him; but the feeling remained with him, and by
and by he found himself looking forward to the morning with resignation.

Suddenly in the unbroken quiet he heard the sound of footsteps on the
causeway without; then the door of the shed was opened, someone entered,
and the flash of a lantern for a moment dazzled his eyes. It was De
Laprade, flushed with wine and somewhat unsteady in his gait. Closing
the door behind him, he looked round and saw Gervase lying in the
corner.

“Eh, mon ami!” he said, laying down the lantern and removing his cloak,
“but you have had a bad quarter of an hour. It was my fear that they
would hang you at once, for these gentlemen are not nice in their
manners nor long in their grace. It would give me much delight to
measure swords with Galmoy, but the barbarian will not fight save when
he is drunk, and then I am generally far from sober myself. These are
not comfortable quarters,” he added abruptly, looking round him and
shrugging his shoulders.

“They are good enough for a dying man who has but a few hours to live,”
said Gervase gravely.

“For that we shall see,” was the answer. “They have succeeded, not
without difficulty, in putting my colonel to bed, and his condition is
such that he will be hard to awake. I, Victor de Laprade, will now
proceed to arrange matters for him. Are you able to stand?”

Gervase caught a glimpse of his meaning and again a wild hope arose in
his heart. But reflecting for a moment, he felt that he could not take
advantage of the gallant Frenchman´s generosity, and he shook his head.
“I cannot allow you,” he said, “to undergo further risk for me; I cannot
do it; already you have far more than repaid any kindness I was able to
render you.”

“Have no fear for me; I am able to answer any man who may dare to
question me in what I do or leave undone. You do not know me, Mr. Orme.
No man shall prevent my paying my debts of honour, whether they be debts
of friendship or enmity. And shall I refuse to give him his life to whom
I owe my own, when I have merely to turn the key in the door and say,
‘Friend, that is your road´? It is impossible.”

“But you do not recollect----”

“I recollect perfectly. Let us not enter into heroics, my friend, for
this thing is simple and easy. Galmoy shall not know that to me you owe
your escape; indeed it is probable that in the morning he will have
forgotten you altogether, and remember only his headache. I have already
provided you with a horse; your captain´s great beast is the best in the
stable; and for a passport, this will have to serve your turn, though it
will be best that you should avoid showing it too frequently. The name
of De Laprade will not carry you far in this barbarous country. But, in
faith, the signature might pass for that of His Majesty King Louis
himself, or for that matter, of my Lord Galmoy. The handwriting is
hardly as sober as I could wish--indeed, it is cursedly tipsy. When we
next meet it may be at the sword´s point, in which case it were well to
forget this interlude of Corydon and Strephon and try what yesterday we
failed to finish. I have a pretty thrust in tierce that I should like to
show you.”

“If we meet I hope it will never be as enemies,” said Gervase with
warmth, “for I can never forget how much I owe you. I fear you undergo
great risk in thus serving me.”

“Find yourself safe on shipboard or within the walls of Londonderry, and
trouble not yourself about any danger that I may run. I can protect my
reputation and my honour with my sword, and for this act if need be I
shall answer to the king himself, though I fear he has not the nice
sense of honour. I knew him in Whitehall; he is no king, but a priest in
the purple, and a priest without piety. Your William is cold, but he is
the better man. There is but one thing more. Should you again find your
captain, tell him that I have not forgotten his promise, and that I look
forward with eagerness to our next interview. I have crossed swords with
Lauzun and Hamilton and will teach the clown to threaten a gentleman.
That is finished, and now to horse.”

Raising Gervase from the ground, he supported him to the door, in the
meantime wrapping his own cloak about his shoulders and warning him that
the night air was bad for a green wound. Then he left him for a minute
and returned almost immediately with Macpherson´s grey charger, already
harnessed. The windows of the tavern were still aglow with light, and
the sound of loud and uproarious laughter rang on the quiet night as he
helped Gervase into the the saddle. There was little likelihood of
pursuit, for it was clear that no precautions had been taken to guard
the prisoners, and before Gervase was missed he would have put many a
good mile between himself and his pursuers. The only fear was, that weak
and exhausted as he was, it would be impossible for him to continue his
journey for any length of time. Still, there was the sense of the
removal of a great dread, and a feeling of joyous freedom that gave him
new heart and strength. He gathered up the reins in his hands and at
that moment the recollection of Hackett flashed upon his mind.

“It was selfish and cowardly of me to have forgotten,” he said. “Is it
not also possible to save the sergeant? I feel that I am deserting a
comrade and I should not like to leave him.”

“What can you do for him,” said De Laprade, “but make one more for the
hangman? Your remaining will not save him; your going cannot harm him. I
cannot do more than I have done, but I tell you to be of good courage
regarding his safety, for I give you my word of honour that I will do
what I can for the psalm-singing rogue. Be of good cheer. And now you
will find a pistol in your holster which may be of some use. It may be
we shall meet again. Farewell!”

Gervase wrung De Laprade´s hand in silence and giving his impatient
horse the rein passed through the yard, and found himself in the village
street which lay quiet and dark before him. The tower of the church was
darkly outlined against the starlit sky, and from a distance the murmur
of the little stream stole with a hushed and solemn music through the
night. Nowhere was there sight or sound of life; to the ear of the rider
the hoofs of the horse rang upon the road with startling distinctness,
though he walked him slowly past the sleeping houses. Then he came to
the bridge, and on the bridge the the horse started suddenly and sniffed
at something lying at his feet. The night was dark with the moon lifting
faintly through a bank of cloud, but Gervase saw on the road the body of
a man lying on his back with his arms outspread. He dismounted with
difficulty and stooping down, saw it was Ralston. The body was already
cold and the pulse had ceased to beat. It was evident that he had been
surprised at his post, for his carbine lay undischarged at his side, and
the long sword he had carried lay under him, unloosed from the scabbard.
This was the young fellow whose merry song had disturbed Macpherson in
the morning--his lips were silent enough now. Gervase bent down and
touched the cold forehead. As yet he had not grown callous to the sight
of sudden death, and it was with a lump in his throat and a mist before
his eyes that he again set out on his perilous journey.

The road, a mere cart-track, wound for several miles up the hill,
climbing for the most part through a dense growth of stunted firs, but
here and there winding through the open bog and hardly to be
distinguished from it. But the great horse seemed to have a natural
instinct for the beaten track, and put his generous shoulders bravely to
it. So steady he was and so footsure, that his rider let the reins fall
upon his neck and left him to choose his path as he pleased. A small
rain had begun to fall and there was a sharpness in the wind blowing
down the mountain-gap. But Gervase heeded neither the rain nor the wind.
For a time the sense of deliverance swallowed up every other thought,
but presently he began to consider what fate was in store for him. It
was hardly likely that he could reach Londonderry in safety, for the
enemy would by that time no doubt have completely invested the city; and
there was only a remote chance of his finding a ship in Lough Foyle,
could he get so far. He had now no doubt that the enemy held possession
of the roads; should he be fortunate enough to meet with part of the
regular force he did not much doubt that as a prisoner he would receive
honourable terms, but should he meet with a body of those marauders who
hung on the skirts of the regular army and whose main business was
robbery and murder, there was little hope of his life. But, after all,
was it not idle to hope to escape at all? Wounded as he was he could not
long continue his journey but must inevitably sink from weakness and
exhaustion.

[Illustration: “THE STRANGER CAUGHT HIS HORSE BY THE REIN”]

The road began to descend once more into the valley, and under the grey
light of the early dawn he could see the fields and hedgerows sloping
down to where the little river ran through clumps of hazel and osier. As
he drew towards the river the sound of running water was pleasant to
hear in the unbroken silence--a sign of movement and life. After a while
the road grew narrow and ran through an arch of tall poplars, through
which he could see the dull red light of the rising dawn at the further
end. On one side of the road was a sluggish pool of water and on the
other a high hedge of thorns. He had ridden half way through this dark
colonnade when he saw the figure of a man standing in the shadow,
apparently awaiting his approach. He could not see his face but he could
see that he had a weapon in his hand. He instinctively drew from his
holster the pistol with which De Laprade had provided him, and was about
to drive his spurs into the charger´s flanks, when the stranger sprang
forward, caught his horse by the rein, and placed the point of a sword
at his throat. Gervase presented his pistol at the head of his assailant
and fired point-blank, but the hammer snapped ineffectually on the
flint. Then he drave the spurs deep into the horse´s sides, but he
stopped short and refused to move.

“This has come as an answer to prayer,” said a deep voice. “Dismount,
sir, and that speedily; I have business to do that will not brook delay
and your necessity, however pressing, must yield to mine.”

In a moment Gervase recognized the full sonorous voice as that of
Macpherson. The horse, too, had recognized his master, for he gave a
joyous whinney.

“Use no force, Captain Macpherson,” said Gervase; “right glad am I to
see you, for I had begun to fear that we should meet no more.”

“It is Mr. Orme,” said the old soldier, lowering the point of his weapon
and placing his hand on the horse´s neck. “I knew not what withheld my
hand that I did not strike, but now I know. Little did I think as I
heard the sound of the horse´s feet far down the road that I was
listening to the tramp of my brave Bayard, or that it was for you that I
held my sword and prepared to strike hard and deep. It was God´s mercy
that my pistol was left behind or I should have brought you down like a
laverock on the wing. And how have the others fared?”

Gervase told him briefly what had happened, explaining how he owed his
life to the kindness of De Laprade, and how Hackett had been left
behind, with the prospect of a violent death before him.

Macpherson interrupted him with many interjaculations, and when he had
finished exclaimed dejectedly:

“My fault, my fault! that comes of sending a boy to do a man´s errand.
The lad fell asleep and the villains stole a march on us. There is no
use crying over milk that is spilt, but I would that I had arranged it
otherwise. And old Hackett--I saw he was made of the right stuff; they
may break but they will not bend him. I will yet make them pay for it.
And now let us hold a council of war, for in no case can we let the
grass grow under our feet.”

“I fear,” said Gervase, leaning forward on the horse´s neck and feeling
faint and ill, “that I am not in a condition to travel with much
expedition. I have lost some blood though I do not think the wound is
serious.”

“Hell´s fury! man, why did you not tell me that you had been touched?
Here have we been talking like a pair of garrulous gossips, while haply
in the meantime your wound needs that I should look to it. A hospital
hath been made ready to our hand, and if needs be we can pass a day or
two here in safety, for I do not think the enemy will trouble us. I had
already made my bivouac, when I heard Bayard on the road, and turned out
to see if I could not better my fortune.”

Taking the horse by the bridle he led him a short distance down the
road, and then turning abruptly up a path to the right through a small
plantation of oaks and poplars, came upon an open space, lately used as
a farm-yard, before a low thatched house built of stone and roughly
plastered over. The roof had been fired at one end, but the oak rafters
were still standing blackened and charred; at the other, where the
thatch had not ignited, the roof was still intact. The door lay open,
through which shone the glow of a hospitable fire that burned in the
open hearth. Macpherson had fastened his cloak against the open window
to shut in the light and prevent it being seen from the outside. The
greater portion of the simple furniture still stood as the owner had
left it--a high-backed oak chair drawn up to the hearth, the rough
earthenware ranged upon a dresser against the wall, a bed, known as a
settle, in a corner, and a small table roughly put together, under the
window.

Macpherson helped his young friend off the horse and gently supported
him into the kitchen. “We will look to your wound presently,” he said,
“but first it behoves us to set our guard and prepare against the
approach of the enemy. Howbeit they will not trouble us here; we may lie
_perdu_ for a week if needs must, though it were well we should be astir
as soon as you think you can travel.”

“A day´s rest will set me on my feet, I doubt not,” said Gervase
wearily, “but we cannot live without food, though the bullet they have
bestowed on me has somewhat robbed me of an appetite.”

“Be not troubled on that score; I am too long campaigning not to have an
eye to the commissariat, which matter is too often neglected by the
great masters of strategy; ´tis half the art of war. There are several
measures of meal in the chest yonder; there are some lean fowl roosting
in the byre, and I heard the lowing of a cow in the little meadow at the
foot of the orchard, though I cannot understand why her owner should
have left her behind, unless, as I take to have been the case, his
flitting was of the speediest. But why the rogues should have overlooked
spoil so much to their mind passes my comprehension.”

“Perchance,” said Gervase, with a wan smile, “´tis _vox et praeterea
nihil_.”

“A vox that runs on four legs, and will furnish us with some excellent
beef when I have passed my sword across the throat of the same. I
remember that such a beast furnished five of us with excellent, if
scanty, sustenance for a month, until we fell out over the horns and
hoofs, and two of us were removed thereafter from all need of earthly
provender. But ´tis not likely that thou and I will come to such a
pass,” he added, holding out his broad brown palm, while a gleam of
kindly humour lighted up his rugged face.

“I am but fit for the hospital, and am like to be a heavy burden on your
hands.”

“Tut, tut, man, never despair till the last shot is fired, and the
garrison has hauled down its ensign in token of surrender. I had been a
passable leech had I not rather cared to break heads than to mend them,
whereby it seems to me the two trades are but complements the one of the
other. In a day or two at the furthest you will be able to hold your own
with any cut-throat rascal who cries for James Stuart. For that you may
trust Ninian Macpherson.”

The old soldier had a good many sides to his character; as yet Gervase
had only seen the praying and the fighting sides. He was now to see him
as a loyal comrade, ready to cheer him with words of comfort; helpful as
a brother, tender as a woman. In half an hour he had looked to his
wound, which had opened afresh and bled considerably, had prepared a
meal, and had stretched a bed for him along the hearth, which though
rough and hard, was very acceptable in his present condition. Then
Bayard was stabled at the further end of the building, and the day had
already risen broad and clear with the singing of birds and the whisper
of the soft spring wind, as Macpherson wrapped himself in his cloak and
with his saddle under his head, gave himself up to sleep.



                               CHAPTER V.
                           OF A MAN´S MEMORY.


For upwards of a week Gervase was too ill to travel, though he rapidly
recovered under the care that Macpherson bestowed upon him. No woman
could have nursed him with more tenderness and solicitude. Every want
that he had was anticipated, and during the tedium of the day the old
soldier beguiled the time with stories of the camp and battle-field. He
seemed to have no care or thought for his own comfort but waited
assiduously on his wounded comrade with a simple kindness that touched
Gervase deeply. The darker side of his character seemed to have
disappeared completely; even his devotions he conducted in private, and
it was only at Gervase´s request that he read from the little volume
that he carried about with him continually.

They were left undisturbed in the farm-house, though they heard on two
occasions the jingling of bridles, the clank of weapons, and the tramp
of marching men upon the road, bound apparently for Londonderry; and
upon one occasion they were upon the point of being discovered. Gervase
was alone in the house when he heard the sound of voices without, and
going to the window, he saw half a dozen dragoons drawing water from the
well in the farm-yard. They evidently thought the house deserted, for
they bestowed no attention upon it. At that moment Macpherson came
swinging down the lane in the rear of the house, and was about to enter
the yard when he caught sight of the steel head-pieces, and stopped
short. Having filled their bottles, the fellows rejoined their comrades
without suspecting the discovery they were on the point of making.
Thereafter Macpherson was more careful, going out only when the twilight
came down, and carefully avoiding the highway.

The chickens in the byre had gone the way of all flesh, and the cow in
the meadow had been turned into wholesome beef, from which the old
soldier concocted many a savoury stew. He was a rare hand at cooking,
setting about the matter with sober and becoming earnestness, and
mightily proud of his achievements therein. All the herbs of the field
lent themselves to his purpose; he had studied their uses aforetime, and
now he turned the knowledge to account. He knew something, too, of their
medicinal qualities, and insisted with a solemn persistence on Gervase
swallowing many nauseous draughts, which, indeed, the latter did rather
from a feeling of good comradeship than from any liking for the dose. He
greatly preferred the stories of Macpherson´s earlier days when he
carried a halbert with Turenne, or one of the ballads--of which he had
quite a store--which he crooned in a low tone with a solemn shaking of
the head. They were all of battles, sieges, and warlike fortunes, and
touched not at all upon the lighter passions. “Mary Ambree” was a great
favourite of his, and another whose refrain ran thus:--

 “Then be stout of heart when the field is set, and the smoke is hanging
    low,
 And the pikeheads shine along the line to meet the advancing foe.”

But chiefly he preferred to sing from the psalms in Francis Rous´s
version, especially those which speak of battle and vengeance, and the
rugged metre and halting lines lost their homeliness, and were clothed
with a fine vigour and glowed with inspired fervour as he followed the
measure with the motion of his hand. So earnest he was, indeed, and so
direct, with a touch of childlike simplicity, that Gervase was lost in
continual wonder.

As a rule he was reticent regarding his past life and spoke of it in
only a general way. On one occasion he had been more communicative.
Gervase had become perfectly convalescent and was able to move about
without being supported, the fever having entirely disappeared, and his
strength having returned in some considerable degree. They were sitting
together discussing the various plans by which they might reach
Londonderry, and Macpherson´s brows were drawn into a curious frown, as
always happened when he was engaged in deep thought.

“Could we,” he said, “come haply on a garron, the thing were as good as
done; I doubt not we shall find one to our hand as we proceed, and in
the meantime you will ride Bayard while I tramp as best I can. I have
done as much before, and with a little strategy, which is just and
necessary we shall be able to satisfy all civil inquiries.”

“´Tis out of the question,” Gervase answered. “Turn and turn will I take
if you will; and it may be that this passport of De Laprade´s will be of
some service after all, though I do not think the rogues we may meet
will care much for aught but a strong arm and the sword´s point.”

“´Tis a curious document,” said Macpherson, spreading it out before him
and laying his open palm upon it. “I am not a great scholar, but I think
no man could tell in what language it was written, or what may be its
purport. Even his name has so fallen to vinous pieces that ´tis
impossible to pick up the fragments. But I think he hath a good heart, a
very good heart.”

“That I will answer for,” said Gervase, “and I will answer for it also
that you are rejoiced that you did not harm him. I was not brought up to
understand his ways, but I know he is brave as a lion and true as steel;
and what a handsome fellow he is!”

“Pooh! wax and paint. I have seen too many pretty fellows to care for
the tribe. But he is as you say, I doubt not, though he be a
Frenchman--for which latter reason I do not love him.”

“Still, it is no reason why you should hate him.”

“I know not that; the narrow seas divide us for some wise reason, and we
speak with different tongues for a purpose. I have lived too long with
Frenchmen not to love my own country best. God forbid, however, that I
should hate any, though it is permitted to hate their works. He is, as
you say, a gallant fellow. I remember when I was of an age with him, I
thought as little of the end whereunto all life tends, and wine and
women were the gods I worshipped. The devil is a liberal paymaster but
he pays in his own currency; I have a bagful of his ducats.”

“Then you carry them easily,” said Gervase, feeling that he was treading
on tender ground.

“That do I not. Alas; memory will not die; we cannot slay it even with
prayer, though we may fall back on that to help us to bear the pain. Why
I should talk thus to you I know not, but the spirit prompts me, and
´tis ever safe to follow its promptings. I shall open for you one of the
pages that I have striven to tear out of the book of my life, and
failing in that, to blot out with the tears of penitence and
contrition--haply in vain. ´Twas in ´64, and the April of that year I
was in the service of the Elector of Brandenburg, and we were quartered
at Spandau. Our company was wicked enough, but I think none could touch
me in all manner of iniquity. We drank deep, quarrelled and fought at
will, and rejoiced greatly in fearing not God nor regarding man. I knew
my work as a soldier, and men said I had some skill in the art of war.
Howbeit I had got some preferment which I held lightly enough, as I
cared but little whom I served as long as there was wine in the measure
and women for the asking. One man I was drawn toward in a special
manner, for we had both known better things and had some sorrow together
when our cups were spilt, and the headache and heartache came in the
morning. Jack Killigrew (for he was an Englishman, and well born, as I
have since learnt) should have been a parson, but the devil set him
trailing a pike and drinking deep as the rest of us. After a while I
noticed a change in his ways, which change I could not well understand
at first, but soon I discovered. He drank no more, foreswore the
dicebox, would not beat up the town, and I shrewdly suspected took to
saying his prayers in secret. Then one day he made his confession--I
laughed loud enough thereat--that he was in love with the daughter of
the Protestant parson outside the city gates. He would not rest
satisfied until I had gone thither with him, and in an evil hour I
consented. Beware, boy, of women; avoid them like the pestilence, and
trust not the fairest. Delilah, Jezebel, and Herodias, these are but
samples of the smiling, treacherous, beautiful devils that go up and
down on the earth to catch men´s souls in a silken snare. Annchen was of
the same order but carried her wickedness more demurely. Poor Jack gave
her all his heart, and the little vixen was not content therewith, but
needs must have mine too. And mine she had, ay, and my soul too--all,
all.”

Macpherson rose and paced the kitchen with a hasty stride, his long
brown hands clasped before him, and his leonine head thrown back. His
eyes were filled with the strange, wild light Gervase had noticed once
or twice before; his voice thrilled with suppressed emotion.

“How she purred and ogled and slighted honest Jack, to whom she had
plighted her troth, and whom she was to marry in a sennight! God help
me! I was wicked and mad; I forgot my friend and robbed him of his
mistress. Then the end came. Never, never shall I forgot it. ´Twas a
moonlight night in the pleasant summer time; I was drunken with the
passion of lust, and Annchen and I had forgotten the hours as we stood
locked in each other´s arms, under the shadow of the city´s walls.
Suddenly a tall form came between us, and a sword flashed out in the
moonlight. I knew it was Jack Killigrew, and knew that either he or I
must die for this deed. Our blades crossed, and while Jezebel stood
looking on, my friend and I (and truer comrade had no man) sought each
the heart´s blood of the other. May God in His mercy forgive me, for I
shall never forgive myself. Oh! we fought a bitter fight under the walls
that June night, and he died hard. For I killed him; yes, I killed him.
Do not start or turn away from me--his sweetheart did not, Nay, when he
was down and his life blood was flowing from his breast, she threw her
arms about me, and told me that I was a man, and she loved a man. You do
not know what it is when love turns to hate. I flung her from me,
cursing her, with anguish in my heart that I had not words to speak of.
I never saw her again, but often I see the face of Jack Killigrew lying
there turned up to the moonlight and frowning as he died. ´Twas the sin
against the Holy Ghost, I sometimes think. An ocean of tears will not
wash out the deed.”

“´Tis a sad story,” said Gervase, with emotion, “and better left untold.
But I think not that all women are like Annchen, whom I cannot
understand, else were life hardly worth living, and death better than
life.”

“That it is--that it is. Life is a burden we must bear as best we can--a
heavy load for the back of the strongest. You are young and cannot yet
understand the matter, but for me I would that my salvation was assured,
as sometimes I have hoped it is, and that I were entering into my rest.
But youth cannot understand this, nor will I compel you to listen to
me.”

“Nay,” answered Gervase, “rather would I be by your side fighting in the
good cause, for Heaven knows strong arms like yours are needed now, if
need ever was. I cannot foresee how it will end.”

“Have no fear for the end; Londonderry may fall, but Dutch William is
stronger than a walled city. I know the Stadtholder of old, and I tell
you behind that cold look and slow speech there is the power of many
regiments. I have seen his eyes in the day of battle. He is one of a
race that never knows when it is beaten. I think that he will not leave
the men in Londonderry to die like so many rats. But, believe me, they
are the stuff whereof fighting men are made, and will make a gallant
stand.”

“I would,” said Gervase, “we were among them once more. By this time, I
doubt not, if Colonel Lundy be a true and loyal man, Roaring Meg and her
iron sisters have given joyful voice.”

“Bah! How goes your burghers ditty?”

                 “‘Scour me bright and keep me clean--
                 I´ll carry a ball to Calais green.´”

“Your colonel is no true man, but a hypocrite and a coward, and I put no
faith in the long guns, though they have their uses, but in stout and
loyal hearts that will hold out in trial and privation. The Irish do not
understand the practice of artillery; they may not batter down the walls
or breach them, while there are men there to say ‘stand back´; but
hunger and disease are enemies that few can fight against: and hunger
and disease Londonderry will have to face. ´Tis here the Protestant
faith must make its last stand. Should the city fall before relief may
come, then the end is far off, and the Stuart may yet wear the crown of
his ancestors. Relief ever comes slowly--how slowly, only that man knows
who, like myself, with wasted shanks and shrunken jaws, has kept his
place on the ramparts, while women and children were dying indoors by
the score, and brave fellows were struck down at his side by an enemy no
man could see.”

“But William of Orange is a soldier, as you say, and, being a soldier,
will not leave the city to stand alone. Besides, the Irish cannot fight
a stubborn fight.”

“There you are wrong utterly, and here I speak of what I have seen and
known. In the army of Louis is many a gallant gentleman of Irish birth,
who has displayed a courage and devotion in a foreign country that he
might not show in his own. These wild kernes want but the sergeant´s
drill and a cause to fight for to prove the stoutest soldiers in Europe.
But they care not for James Stuart, and I think he has no general who
can take their measure. Rosen is a foreigner, and Hamilton a man of few
parts; while Sarsfield, of whom I have heard much, lacks discretion and
temperate wisdom, else might he do greatly. ´Tis ever the general that
makes the soldier--that is the difference between a rabble and a
regiment. Tilly and Gustavus and Turenne, all of whom fought great
battles, first put heart into their men, and then taught them to fight
as if fighting were the easiest trade in the world.”

“But in Londonderry,” said Gervase, “we fight for all that men hold
dear--for liberty, religion, wife, child, and even for life itself. If
that does not give men heart and inspire them with courage, there is no
general in the world can do it.”

“You are right, and therein I rest my confidence. Religion is the best
cordial in the world to tune the coward´s heart. If all goes well,
behind yon poor walls I look to see as bold a stand as ever was made in
Christendom, even should England leave us to tread our own path--which
Heaven forfend. But ´twere easy to succour the city. With the Foyle
running close by the city walls, men and provisions were easily
furnished. Heaven send a man with a wise head on his shoulders, for
Providence never yet wrought through fools and cowards. Howsoever, it is
for us to do as best we may, and I doubt not, my lad, you will do your
part bravely.”

“Mine is a small part and easily played,” Gervase answered, “but how we
are to get into the town, I see not, even were we so far on our
journey.”

“A way will be provided, I doubt not, with a little strategy. For you,
that fine cloak and hat, even those riding boots, must be left behind,
while like the stage-player, you must enact the rapparee and speak
nought but the Irish speech, or what will pass for such, till you are
behind stone walls. For myself, I think the story I shall tell and my
knowledge of the French tongue, will carry me through. As David played
the madman in the city of Achish, and as the spies went into the walled
city of Jericho and abode in the house of the harlot Rahab, so shall we
do with the like success.”

“I hate all masquerading,” Gervase said, “and had rather take my chance
even as I am.”

“Ay, and find a pikehead between your ribs for your scruples. We have
Scripture precedent which it is ever safe to follow. In this you shall
not thwart me. So to bed, for at cockcrow we must start, first having
commended our lives to Providence, and put a new edge on this sword,
whose late owner was a careless fellow and knew not how to care for a
good blade.”



                              CHAPTER VI.
                OF HOW THE HEROINE COMES UPON THE STAGE.


It was an hour after dawn when they bade farewell to the farm-house and
set out upon their journey, Gervase mounted upon Bayard, and Macpherson
trudging sturdily upon foot. The latter had made his preparations for
the journey with abundant care and forethought. The night before he had
baked the little meal that remained, and cooked a portion of the meat,
of which there was still a considerable quantity left, all of which he
stored carefully in the saddle-bags. He then turned his attention to
Gervase, and with very little trouble succeeded in transforming him into
a formidable-looking desperado, whose attire owed nothing to the art of
the tailor, but hung together merely by fortuitous circumstances.
Macpherson had, with studied humour, turned the embroidered coat inside
out and rolled it in the mud that lay round the well in the farmyard,
and then considerately removed one of the skirts with the edge of his
sword. His beaver was divested of all form and shape; and a rope of
straw rolled round the jackboots, which Gervase had refused to part with
on any terms, completed his nondescript costume. He was now a reasonable
representative of any of those lawless marauders who were swarming upon
the roads, or hanging upon the skirts of the Irish army, in the
expectation of plunder.

Macpherson had refused to make any change in his own costume. His rôle
was that of a French soldier on his way to Londonderry--in such a
character De Laprade´s passport would lend verisimilitude to his story,
if there were any learned enough to read it, about which he had his
misgiving. Gervase was to act apparently as his guide, and in such
character the old soldier did not doubt but that with ordinary
discretion, they might smuggle themselves though the Irish lines if the
investment had been completed. If they failed, there was some chance
that the stab of a pike or the end of a rope would put a stop to their
further adventures in this world.

Notwithstanding, Gervase was in high spirits at starting. He was now
completely recovered from his wound, and the eight days´ confinement had
made the anticipation of action and enterprise doubly welcome. He
revelled in the fresh spring wind that blew softly across the bog and
heathy mountain side, and could with difficulty restrain his horse to
keep pace with Macpherson, who trudged at his side with a long swinging
stride.

The hedges were green with verdure, and the sunshine touched with a
warmer colour the bog myrtle and flowering blackthorn in which the birds
were busy building. It was hard to realize that dangers were spread
round them on every side, and that the entire country was up in arms in
a quarrel that could have no end, till one of the combatants went down
utterly. Even Macpherson, whose feelings were not easily moved, was
affected by the brightness of the morning and the beauty of the scene.
His emotions took their own method of expression. For a time he had been
entirely silent, or replied only in monosyllables, as if engrossed in
his own secret meditations, when suddenly he began to sing in loud
resonant tones:

                 “The Lord doth reign and clothed is He
                 With majesty most bright.”

When he had finished he threw up his beaver with an air of jubilant
exultation.

“There, young sir, is a song for you to sing when you are merry; that
eases the oppressed heart, and runs along the nerves and sinews,
strengthening them to acts of endurance and valour. Were I a maker of
songs these were the verses I should write--great words wherewith to
hammer out a weapon.”

“I cannot help thinking,” said Gervase, “of the song poor Ralston was
singing as we passed this way, hardly a fortnight ago. We little thought
then that you and I should return alone.”

“They did their duty,” Macpherson answered, “and died in doing it; brave
men want no more. I hope I shall not flinch when my time comes, as come
it will, and that shortly. I have gotten the message and it doth not
sadden me.”

Gervase looked at him inquiringly, but he offered no explanation of his
mysterious speech and again relapsed into silence.

They continued their journey till noon, when they halted to refresh
themselves, Macpherson asserting that if it were not for his great boots
he would as readily walk as ride.

On resuming their march Gervase insisted on Macpherson taking his turn
upon horseback, which the latter did very unwillingly.

“One horse to two is out of all reason,” he said. “You are yet too soft
for this work and your wilfulness will bring its own punishment.”

And Gervase found his words come true. Long after his strength had
exhausted itself, he found himself toiling by Macpherson´s side, too
proud to own his weakness and determined to keep on till he dropped from
sheer fatigue. Macpherson watched him for a while in silence, with the
flicker of a grim smile playing about his lips. Then he spoke;

“´Tis ever wise to confess your weakness in the ear of a friend--keep
your bold looks and your wooden guns for the enemy. My dear lad, thou
art but pickling a rod for thine own whipping, and that to serve no good
or wise purpose. Thank Heaven, I am stout of limb, and nought can tire
me; but for you, your bones are still soft, and I would not have you
again a burden on my hands. There is no need for immediate haste, for we
can accomplish to-morrow all that we might do to-day. Then mount, and
let us proceed leisurely.”

That day they made good progress, and by nightfall were a considerable
distance on their journey. By the next evening they hoped to reach the
ford of the Finn. But in the meantime it was necessary to pass the night
under the open sky, for the country was completely deserted, and nowhere
within sight was there trace of a human dwelling-place--only broad
tracts of rough uncultivated land, and rolling hills of wild heath and
tangled wood. A few houses they had passed, but the roofless walls
afforded neither shelter nor protection. Every dwelling had been given
up to fire and destruction, and the inmates had fled elsewhere for
refuge. A great curse seemed to have fallen on the devoted land; all was
silence and desolation.

That night they passed under a thorn hedge, which proved, as Gervase
found, a cold and uncomfortable lodging, and afforded little protection
from the night dews and the wind that blew across the open with a shrewd
and penetrating keenness. To Macpherson it mattered not at all, for,
rolled in his cloak, he slept the sleep of the just, and did not awake
till the morning was some way up. But Gervase could not sleep. Above his
head the jewels in the sword-belt of Orion flashed with a bright and
still a brighter lustre, and the wind seemed to call with almost a human
articulateness from the distant hills. The lonely night with its mystery
and silence, was instinct with life. In such a presence his own fate
seemed to dwindle into infinitely little importance, and all human
endeavour appeared of no greater moment than that of the ant or the mole
in the ditch hard by. Gervase was not given to talking sermons nor to
much introspection, but he felt these things in his own way. He was glad
when he saw the morning coming up; and when he arose from his damp
uncomfortable couch, felt little inclination for a day´s hard work. But
when he had bathed his face and hands in the neighbouring rivulet, and
partaken of the breakfast Macpherson insisted on their making before
they started, life assumed a somewhat brighter outlook, and his flagging
spirits revived a little.

Macpherson´s spirits were keen and high. The prospect of danger ever
acted upon him like wine, and Gervase saw his eyes kindle, now and
again, under his rugged brows, with that sudden flashing light he had
seen in them before, in the time of peril. He had loaded his pistol
afresh and carefully looked to its priming.

“We may fall in with the enemy now at any moment,” he said, “and it
behoves us to be ready either for peace or war. Peace I should prefer,
but if, haply, the rogues number not more than half a dozen, a skirmish
were not out of place to afford us a little amusement. A young soldier
requires practice, and cannot have his hand in too often.”

“Faith!” said Gervase laughing, “fighting would seem to be meat and
drink to you, but I have not yet acquired such relish for the fare that
I cannot do without it. I fear you are like to prove a troublesome
companion for all your boasted diplomacy.”

“Tut, man, do not fear. We are not an army, nor even a troop, and may
not carry things as we would. But a little fighting is a wonderful
medicine, and clears the humours better than any elixir. I mean but that
when we can we may as well be honest, and keep our stratagems for such
times as we shall be hard pushed, and must employ them, will we, nill
we. D´ye see?”

“Oh! ´tis not easy to mistake your meaning. You give it just emphasis
with that long sword and pistol handle. But I had rather you were less
inclined to violence; there were more chance of our reaching Londonderry
in safety.”

“All in good time, we shall see. By evening we shall arrive at the ford,
which we had better cross in the dark. One pair of legs will then be
worth two pairs of hands, even with toys like these in them;” and he
touched the sword he carried with a smile. Then after a pause he went
on, “Who knows what may have befallen since we left the city last? There
are brave hearts within the walls, but there are traitors and cowards
too; and the latter have sometimes the best of it in this world. Still,
I think not, and will wager that the Protestant cause goes bravely on.
They are a stiff-necked race, these men of Ulster; bend they cannot and
break they will not. I have watched them narrowly; if they did break at
Dromore it was because they were fearful of the treachery of their
friends, not of the violence of their enemies. But I know not what
Colonel Lundy means--if he be not a traitor and a knave at heart, I know
not what he is.”

For the greater part of the day they continued their journey without
adventure. Several small parties of the enemy they met with, but were
subjected to no very rigorous cross-examination. Their replies proved
perfectly satisfactory. The story Macpherson told was eminently
plausible, and about Gervase they did not trouble themselves. There were
many French gentlemen in the Irish army, and it was not a strange thing
to find one on his way to head-quarters accompanied by a guide. One
troop of dragoons had, indeed, stopped them and put several questions to
Gervase, but he managed, with the voluble assistance of Macpherson, to
disarm their suspicions. Fortunately his questioners spoke English only,
and the fragments of the Irish tongue that Gervase had acquired, stood
him in good stead.

It was now two hours to sundown, and they anticipated that another
hour´s travel would bring them to the ford. They were toiling uphill,
Gervase a little in advance mounted upon Bayard, and Macpherson stepping
out sturdily in the rear. On the top of the hill Gervase halted, reined
the horse back hastily within shelter of a clump of hazel, and called
out to Macpherson, who hurried up and joined him where he stood.
Together they looked down the valley.

“What is the matter yonder?” Macpherson asked, instinctively placing his
hand on his pistol-butt.

“I know not,” said Gervase, “but I think it is robbery and murder.”

“Then, my young friend,” said the other, laying his hand on the horse´s
bridle, “it is not our business, and we have cares enough of our own
without taking on us the troubles of others. But how is the day going?”

A quarter of a mile down the steep road lay a post-chaise overturned:
one of the horses lay dead in the ditch, the other was flying with
broken traces over a neighbouring field. A man with his back to the
coach and a sword in his hand, was valiantly striving to keep at bay
half-a-dozen wild-looking fellows armed with half-pikes. Two bodies lay
at his feet, another a little distance away, and outside the ring of
assailants that surrounded the solitary swordsman, a young woman was
kneeling in an agony of distress over the prostrate body of a man. The
man with the sword fought with skill and strength, but the odds were
terribly against him. In the end he must succumb.

“By the living God, it is a woman,” said Gervase, grappling blindly and
eagerly at the holster.

“Softly, what would you--what have we to do with women?”

“Follow me, follow me, for God´s sake, as speedily as you can,” Gervase
cried, dashing his unarmed heels into the horse´s flank, and giving him
free head.

Away went the brave steed thundering down the steep road, as Gervase
gave a great shout and flourished the long pistol above his head.
Macpherson watched his breakneck career down the hill for a few seconds,
and then proceeded to follow him with the best speed that he could make.

“I would not lose the youth or my good horse for all the women in
Christendom. This is but the beginning of trouble, and it begins with a
woman.”

Hearing the shout, the swordsman had turned his head for a moment, and
at that instant one of his assailants sprang within his guard, and
plunged his skene deep into his breast. With one last convulsive effort
the wounded man struck his opponent fair in the face with the sword
hilt, and they both dropped on the road together. Seeing Gervase
approaching, the ruffians appeared to doubt whether they should take to
flight or await his attack, but while they were making up their minds,
Gervase was on the top of them.

Reserving his fire until he was among them, he discharged his pistol
pointblank at the head of one fellow with deadly effect, and riding down
another, wrenched the half-pike from his hand. Then they were utterly
panic-stricken and fled right and left, leaving Gervase master of the
situation.

Meanwhile the young lady had risen to her feet, and was standing looking
in wonder at her unexpected deliverer, who had reined up his horse, and
was watching the fugitives as if in doubt whether to follow them or to
allow them to depart unpursued. Then Gervase turned towards her and
raising his hat, was silent for a moment.

She was only a girl in years, but of a sweet and stately figure and
striking beauty. Her abundant hair loosed from its confinement, streamed
in disorder over her shapely shoulders, and fell in thick folds to her
waist. Her lips were trembling and her cheeks were blanched and
colourless, but her great, dark eyes looked with a steady and courageous
glance. There was no sign of fear in the sweet face--only a high,
resolute courage. Her scarf had been torn from her shoulders, and showed
too much of her white and heaving bosom. Instinctively she put up her
hand to cover it.

“I fear,” said Gervase, hat in hand, “that I have come too late to save
this gallant fellow from these wretched cowards. But I am glad that I
was still in time to render you some service. Haply,” he continued,
dismounting from his horse, “the wound may not be fatal, and something
may still be done.”

The girl looked in great surprise at the strange figure before her, and
was evidently lost in wonder at hearing her wild-looking and ragged
champion deliver himself in such excellent English, and with such a
well-bred air. To outward seeming he was as much a cateran as any of the
scoundrels he had lately put to flight.

“I thank you, sir,” she said simply. “It may be poor Martin is still
living.”

She knelt down by the side of the fallen man and raised his head upon
her knees. But the skene, driven with great force, had passed beneath
the breast-bone and had penetrated the heart--the man was dead. A glance
was sufficient to show that life was extinct. She allowed the head to
remain resting upon her lap for some minutes, gazing at the rugged face
of the dead man in silence, and then she looked up, her eyes filled with
tears. “I have known him all my life,” she said, “and never was there a
braver or a kinder heart. Years ago he saved my father´s life, and now
he has died to save mine.”

Gervase had knelt down beside her, and had been endeavouring to catch
some feeble sign of movement in the pulse. “Yes, he is dead,” he said,
“and we can do nothing for him, but it may be the other needs our help.”

“My grandfather has not been injured,” she said. “He swooned when they
came round the coach, and though they used him roughly, I do not think
he hath suffered from aught but fright. Still, he is an old man and very
frail, and it may be--”

But the old man had raised himself on his elbow, and was looking round
him with an expression of bewilderment, as though not yet able to
realize what had happened. Then suddenly his eye fell upon the chaise
lying overturned, and with a nimbleness that one could not have
expected, he leapt to his feet, and walked with rapid strides to the
vehicle.

“Dorothy,” he shouted, “Dorothy, help me, girl! The rogues have stolen
my treasure. Good God! I am a beggar--a beggar. Why the ---- did they
not take my life? The gold that I have watched growing and growing, and
the precious stones that I would not have parted with for a kingdom! Oh
God! I am a beggar, and will die on the road-side after all.”

The old man seemed entirely beside himself with grief and rage, and
began to pour forth such a string of oaths, wild and incoherent, that
Gervase felt deeply for the girl who was in vain endeavouring to calm
him.

“I think, grandfather,” she said, “it is still safe, but I had thought
the matter was of little worth--”

“Worth! Great Heaven! there were ten thousand pounds--” here he stopped
short and looked at Gervase, whose appearance did not tend to reassure
him.

“I am an old man, sir,” he went on piteously, “and I know not what I
say. These are but wild words of mine, and, I prithee, forget them. They
meant nothing--nothing, and I ask you to let them pass. Would it trouble
you too much to assist my servant?--Where the devil is Martin, the
rascal?”

“Your servant, sir, is dead,” said Gervase, losing his temper somewhat,
“and this young lady and yourself are left alone, in great straits and
peril. Therefore I would ask you to dismiss all thoughts of the trash
from your mind, and let me know what you purpose doing.”

But the old man had already clambered into the coach, and in a few
seconds reappeared with a heavy, brass-bound box in his arms, which he
clutched with every expression of delight.

At this moment Macpherson, who seeing Gervase completely victorious, had
been strolling down the hill in a leisurely fashion, had come up.

“What is this Punchinello?” he said roughly, but as he saw the old man
cower terrorstricken, he continued in a more kindly tone, “Fear hath
turned his brain, and, haply, he takes me for one of those marauding
rascals, of whom, I doubt not, we have not yet seen the last. And now,
madam,” he said, turning to the girl, “as you see, this gentleman and I
are your friends and are bound to serve you, though I tell you plainly,
I would it had fallen to other hands. We were even trying to bring
ourselves to some place of safety, which is like to prove a matter of
some difficulty.”

“Then, sir,” and here the girl´s eyes flashed proudly, “I pray you do
not trouble yourself further, or imperil your safety on our account. For
the gallant service this--this gentleman hath rendered me and my
grandfather, I give him our best thanks, poor as they are, but we would
not be a burden to you, and therefore think not of us, but go your way.”

“My friend,” said Gervase, “speaks not as he means, nor will I let him
do discredit to his own kind heart. The sword which this poor fellow
drew to defend you, will still be used for that end in my hands, and if
I cannot use it as well it will be the power and not the will fails me.”

Macpherson turned away, muttering under his breath, “Humph! the young
fool is caught already. I see that she hath him in the snare.”

“We were on the road to Londonderry, and though my friend is somewhat
rough and discourteous withal, I doubt not he will do his best to help
you thither, if such be, as I imagine, your desire.”

“We were on the way to the city when we were attacked as you saw. My
grandfather, who is Colonel Carew of Castleton, refused to believe that
there was any danger in remaining at home; but last night, hearing that
the enemy was burning and plundering round us, he set off at midnight,
and we have been travelling ever since; and now I think the terror has
turned his brain, for I never saw him thus before. What we shall do I
know not, but if we can trust you----”

“Appearances are against me, I admit,” said Gervase, with a smile, and
feeling, with perhaps excusable vanity, that he would have preferred to
cut a gallanter figure. “Still, I hope that you will believe me when I
say that I am a gentleman, and most desirous of serving you. I have
carried the colours in Mountjoy´s regiment and----”

“And I think that I can trust you,” she said, holding out her hand, with
a frank look in her eyes, and a sweet, sad smile upon her lips.

“In your service wholly,” said Gervase, bending low over her hand, which
he pressed with unnecessary fervour. “My friend is an old soldier who
has a grudge against your sex for some reason known to himself, but I
have cause to know that a more loyal and faithful friend there never
was. He will scoff and rail, I doubt not, but believe me, he will serve
you with the last drop of blood in his heart. He hath great experience
in matters of danger, and I doubt not some scheme may be devised whereby
we may convey you to Londonderry in safety.”

“I care not for myself,” she answered; “it is for my grandfather that I
fear. He seems to have lost his reason.”

The old man had carried the box to a distance, and had sat down before
it, examining the contents eagerly, and talking to himself in a loud
excited tone. From time to time he glanced round furtively to see if he
was observed, and then went on with his examination. “Safe! safe!” he
muttered. “That was the Spaniard´s gold, and you wear bravely, my
beautiful doubloons. How you shine, my beauties, and I thought you were
gone for ever! It would have broken my old heart--I could not have lived
without you. And my stones of price----What want you, sir?” he said,
closing the box, and turning round savagely as Macpherson approached.

“I know not what devil´s trinkets you have enclosed there,” said the
soldier, “but I would have you act like a reasonable man, and tell me
what you purpose doing. Yonder lady is young and unprotected, and we
would not willingly leave you, but this is no time to give heed to such
trash as you have shut up there, when your life is in danger every
moment.”

“My life is here,” answered the old man, “and I pray you, for God´s
sake, leave me in peace. I know you not.”

Macpherson turned on his heel and rejoined Gervase and the girl. “His
mind is gone utterly,” he said, “and it is useless endeavouring to
reason with him. My young friend, madam, has, I doubt not, told you how
matters stand with us. If you will, we shall endeavour to carry you with
us, and trust to the fortunes of war to bring you safely through.
Another hour should bring us to the ford. I trust that you are able to
ride, for the chaise is rendered useless, and were it not, we have not
horses to draw it. In the meantime I had better secure your nag.”

Macpherson went after the stray horse which was now quietly grazing at
some distance, and shortly returned with it. “And now,” he said, “I
regret that we cannot give this brave fellow Christian burial, but if
you, madam, will look after your grandfather, my young friend and I will
even place him where he may sleep his last sleep decently, like a brave
and honest man as I doubt not he was.”

The girl went over to the dead man, and kneeling down kissed his
forehead, and then rising without a word, but with a great sob which she
bravely strove to repress, went over to her grandfather. Macpherson and
Gervase carried the body into the field, and placing it in the ditch,
cut a quantity of bramble with which they reverently covered it.

“Sorry I am that we cannot dig a grave,” said Macpherson, “but it may be
that is a pagan thought. He hath died like a man, and at the last day he
will rise, knowing that he fell in the path of duty. What does it matter
for this poor carcase what becomes of it? ´Tis for the living, not for
the dead, that we should mourn. And now look you, Gervase Orme, I love
you like a son, and would not willingly see you come to evil. Yonder
damsel is goodly to look upon and hath the tender ways of a woman. I can
see that you are already drawn towards her, and are ready even now to
let her lead you as she will. Be warned by me, and shun the snare while
you are still heart-whole and your wings are still unplucked. Nay, you
are angry at the wise counsel of a friend; I speak only for your good,
and will say no more. But I would that we had not met them, and would
yet--”

“Surely,” said Gervase, with warmth, “you would not leave this
defenceless girl and the feeble old man, even if you might?”

“Nay, I said not that. In some sort they have been committed to our
care, but it means for both of us, or I am much mistaken, either the
length of a rope or the inside of a prison. I am older than you, my
young friend, and think there is no woman worth the sacrifice either of
my life or of my liberty. Now, go your way, and see her mounted upon
Bayard, while I look after the old man, for I will have nothing to do
with the wench. The rogues you dispersed will be looking for us
presently. Before we meet them I should prefer being within sight of the
Royal troops.”

The old world laughs at Love, as laugh it may. And yet from generation
to generation unheeding youth takes up the foolish old song, and dances
to the ancient measure with a light and joyful heart. What though the
roses wither and the garlands fade? These are fresh, and the morning dew
is on them. What though the lips grow dumb, and the sound of the flute
and the song is hushed and stilled? In the fresh and roseate morning as
yet there are no shadows and no regrets; the heart is full of hope and
joy. And so it has been since the lips of our first parents met in
newly-awakened bliss, in the time when the world was young, and pain and
satiety were unknown to mortals.

As yet Gervase was not in love, but his heart throbbed with an
indefinable emotion as Dorothy Carew rested her hand upon his shoulder,
and placing her dainty foot in his hand, sprang upon the great military
saddle and thanked him with a smile.

“This is a dear old horse,” she said, patting the charger´s neck, and
gathering up the reins in her hand. “We begin early to trouble you, and
shall never be able to repay you and your friend.”

“It were repayment enough,” said Gervase, “to find you safe within the
walls of Londonderry, and I am pleased to think that I have been able to
serve you a little.”

“That is the speech of a gentleman, after all,” she said smiling. “I
little thought you were a friend as you came shouting down the road;
indeed, you would make a great hit at Drury Lane or Sadler´s Wells; and
what a figure you would cut at Saint James´s!”

“I confess I do not make a very gallant show,” said Gervase, “but these
rags will serve their turn, and help us both, I trust, to better
fortune.”

The old man had been helped upon the second horse, and, with his box
placed before him, followed them along the rough and broken road. He
seemed wholly oblivious to what was taking place, and so long as his
treasure was safe, seemed perfectly content to act as he was bidden.
Macpherson, with his head bent, walked by the horse´s bridle and
listened with a frown upon his face to the conversation of Gervase and
the girl. He had cast no glance in her direction, but after he had
delivered his mind to Gervase, had busied himself about the old man with
a rough kindliness.

“Thus we trudge on,” he said, as if talking to himself, “as the world is
doing everywhere. The old fool, at the end of his journey, thinking only
of the pieces of gold for which he will have his throat cut in all
likelihood before sunset. Heaven and Eternity are shut up in his box.
The young fool, thinking only of the brown eyes and tender speeches of
the wench, and willing to dare all things for her foolish sake, while
the wench herself, woman that she is, baits her trap with honied words
and draws the manhood out of him with the glance of her eye. And I--I
must go where the Providence of God directs my steps, though avarice and
vanity and the folly of youth be my companions and my guide. ´Tis a
strange world and full of shadows, and these are of them.”



                              CHAPTER VII.
                    OF THE RESCUE FROM GREAT PERIL.


Colonel Carew was the third in descent from the original planter who by
right of conquest and the grace of James the First, had settled upon the
broad lands of Castleton, and having swept the ancient possessors from
the soil, had planted there a hardy race of colonists, and built himself
a great house, half mansion, half fortress. The first Jasper Carew had
looked upon himself as the instrument in the hands of Providence to
civilize the land and found a family. He had ruled with despotic
severity, and when he was laid in the family vault in the new church
that he had built, left a name of undying hatred to the native Irish.
The second Jasper followed in the footsteps of his father; he built and
planted, and like a strong man armed, ruled his own demesne and showed
neither mercy nor tolerance toward the ancient race. They were a
God-fearing stock and showed no compassion nor kindly pity. Virtues they
had, but only toward their friends, and never forgot that they had won
by the sword´s right and must continue to hold by its power. The present
Colonel Carew had been wild in his youth, and had left the home of his
fathers in disgrace. For a time he had entirely disappeared; there were
vague rumours that he had prospered in the Virginias and had made a
fortune there. However that might be, he had returned home on the death
of his father, bringing with him an only son, and lived a moody, retired
life in the great house, attended only by a servant who had shared his
adventures abroad. His son had early obtained a commission, and served
with distinction on the Continent. He had married against the wish of
his father, a young lady of great beauty and slender fortune, the
daughter of a Huguenot refugee, and when he fell at Senef some years
afterwards, left an orphan son and daughter to the care of his father,
who received the unwelcome legacy with little outward show of favour or
affection. Colonel Carew had brought his grandson home, but permitted
the girl to remain under the care of her relatives in London. Here
Dorothy had remained until she was sixteen, when the death of her aunt
compelled her to seek a home with her grandfather, who was unable to
make any other provision for her, however anxiously he desired to do so.
At Castleton, Dorothy Carew had spent two years of her life--not very
happy or pleasant years, but her sweet and joyous spirit had broken down
in some slight degree the barrier that her grandfather had raised
between himself and all the world.

He was growing old and frail, and his mind seemed to have gone wholly
back to the early years which he had spent in wild adventure and lawless
wanderings. The care of his estate he had left to his grandson, who paid
little heed to the old man, but went his way with the headstrong and
reckless selfishness that was the characteristic of his race. The
presence of his grand-daughter seemed to give him pleasure, but
companionship between them there was none. He accepted her attentions,
not, indeed, with an ill grace, but without any apparent sign of
affection, though at times, as he sat watching her moving about his
room, her figure appeared to arouse him from his fit of abstraction, and
to awaken a chord of memory that was not wholly painful.

So she passed these two years at Castleton--dull enough for a girl of
spirit and used to the excitement and life of a great city; and when the
news of a great Catholic rising and massacre arrived, it found her alone
and unprotected, with a number of panic-stricken domestics and a
helpless old man looking to her for assistance and advice. Her brother
had gone to Londonderry on business of his own, and there was no one
near her on whom she could rely. The servants had remained at their
posts for some time, but as the excitement deepened, and the tenantry
fled to Enniskillen or to Londonderry for safety and shelter, they
refused to remain longer, and while imploring her to join them in their
flight, one morning they departed in a body. She herself would willingly
have accompanied them, but her grandfather refused to move. It was, he
said, mere moonshine. It was only when the Irish army had marched
northward, and there came the frequent and alarming reports of robbery
and murder, that he was seized with an uncontrollable dread, and
insisted on fleeing to Londonderry forthwith. The girl had no one to
assist her in their hasty flight but a brave and trusty servant who had
served with her father abroad, and who had been since taken into her
grandfather´s service. Together they had bundled the old man into the
coach, and leaving the great house to its fate, had set out for the city
of refuge. How they fared on their way thither we have already seen.

Gervase walked by Bayard´s bridle, unmindful of all weariness and
regardless of all dangers, seeking, after the manner of young men, to
make the most of the sweet society into which chance had so strangely
thrown him. He was indignant with himself that he was ashamed of his
rags, though by way of making up for these, he began to talk of his life
in Dublin and the gay doings of the capital.

At this Dorothy´s sense of humour was touched, and much to his confusion
she began to laugh aloud. “Your talk in such a figure, of the Castle and
of Tyrconnell and of my Lady, is a most excellent remedy for lowness of
spirits. I cannot set matters straight, and must become accustomed to
your mode. And yet I think I could have told that you were a gentleman.”

“That is something,” said Gervase, a little mollified, “and how?”

“Because,” she answered, with a naïve glance that disarmed his
resentment, “your present garments fit you so ill. But I am very wrong
to jest at such a time, and your friend does not seem to admire
laughter. I think that I could have told anywhere that he was a soldier.
You could not mistake his carriage.”

“A better soldier and a truer friend there never was,” Gervase answered
warmly; “and that you will have cause to admit before your journey
ends.”

“I think,” she said, “that you yourself fight not so badly. Oh! why was
I not a man that I might strike for religion and liberty? it is a
miserable thing to be a woman in times like these.”

“I hope I am not a coward,” Gervase answered, “but I have already seen
enough of warfare to dislike my trade, and would never fight if it were
possible to avoid it. But fight we must for our rights and liberties
and,” he added, after a pause, “in defence of those we love.”

“And,” she said, smiling, “is it for these last that you are fighting?
But I have no right to ask you that, though I have been told that men
say love is out of fashion. Indeed I think that it is no longer in
vogue.”

“I care not for fashion in these things, but I have begun to think that
there might be such loving as would make life a royal thing to live. I
mean not love that asks to be loved in return, though I should like that
too, but a love that fills the heart with great and splendid thoughts,
and raises it above contemptible and base designs; the love I mean is
wholly pure and unselfish and lifts the lover above himself. I know not
whether you know the lines of that sonnet--”

“I think,” she said smiling, “we will change the subject. It seems to me
that you are far too romantic to conduct a young and unprotected damsel
on a dangerous journey like this. Your grim Captain Macpherson were a
far fitter and more becoming companion--he would not breathe out his
aspirations in rhyme, or relieve his love-laden soul in a ballad.
Heigho! I shall never understand you men. But now tell me about your
journey from Londonderry, and how it came about that you were wounded?”

And thereupon Gervase proceeded to relate the story of his ride by night
and the skirmish on the road, passing lightly over such incidents as
might be unfitting for a woman´s ear to listen to.

But when he mentioned the name of De Laprade she stopped him. “And you
have met my cousin Victor, for it can be no other? I had not heard that
he had come to Ireland.”

“I mean the Vicomte de Laprade. He is not much older than myself, with a
slight lisp, and very fair for a Frenchman.”

“Yes, that is he. You do not know that he is in some sort my cousin, my
mother having been of his family. He was in London when I was a girl
living with my aunt, and he would come to visit us whenever he could
tear himself away from the cards and the festivities of Whitehall. Poor
Victor! he was a sad rake in those days, and I fear he would never have
come to Ireland had he not run through his fortune.”

“He hinted, indeed, at something of that sort,” said Gervase, “but he is
a gallant fellow, and one cannot but like him. He hath done a great deal
for me.”

“It would be strange should we meet here, yet who can tell? For it is as
likely we shall find ourselves within the Irish camp as within the walls
of Londonderry. I wonder in what manner we should be treated there?”

“Camps are ever lawless places,” Gervase answered, “and offer little
entertainment for a lady. I trust that you will not be called upon to
make the trial. But Macpherson is calling upon us to stop; we have
already travelled too far in advance.”

The road now ran through a wooded and undulating country, and they were
coming close to the ford by which they hoped to cross. At times they had
been able to catch a distant glimpse of the river bright with the fading
sunset, but so far as Gervase was able to see, there was no sign of the
enemy, and he had begun to hope that they might pass unmolested.

“It is time,” said Macpherson, as he came up, “that we should determine
on our plan of action, for we can go no further. The ford yonder is
guarded. I caught the gleam of arms but a minute ago from the top of the
hill, and there is part of a troop of horse in the little grove yonder
to the right. I know the sound too well to mistake it. If it be possible
to cross I shall soon know; though--and here I speak, not with any
selfish or dishonourable intention, but as a man of honour and a
soldier, it were, perhaps, best that this lady and her grandfather
should place themselves of their free will in the hands of yonder
gentry, and trust to their humanity for generous treatment. It is a
perilous undertaking that we have in hand, and bullets may presently be
flying. However, as Providence has in some measure placed you under our
care, should it be your good pleasure, we will do as best we can.”

“My grandfather is an old and defenceless man,” answered Dorothy, with
spirit, “and as you have seen, carries with him a great quantity of
treasure, which I would that I had never seen. What treatment, think
you, is he likely to receive at the hands of those who live on the fruit
of robbery and murder?”

“Miss Carew is right, Captain Macpherson,” said Gervase, “and whatever
your design may be, I shall abide with her, and so far as my help goes,
shall see that she and her grandfather pass unscathed.”

“I well knew,” answered Macpherson bitterly, “that you would do nothing
less, though it may come to pass that you will both suffer for it
hereafter. My design, as you phrase it, is even to go gently forward,
and see in what manner yon loons have set their guard, and of what
strength they may be. In the meantime, I should advise that you withdraw
into that clump of oak trees where you may safely await my coming, which
will be within the hour. I had looked for some sense from you, Mr. Orme,
but I find that you are no wiser than the rest of them. ´Fore God we are
all fools together.”

Before Gervase had time to reply he had disappeared within the
undergrowth that grew densely by the roadside, and Gervase and the girl
stood looking at one another in silence; the same grave suspicion had
presented itself to both of them. “What think you of your friend?” she
said, with indignation.

“For a moment I hardly knew what to think,” Gervase answered, “but my
faith in him is not a whit shaken. Believe me, we may trust him
unreservedly, and in good time he will prove that I am right. He will do
whatever a man may to bring you safely through, and will risk life and
limb to serve you. And now let us follow his directions, for if the ford
be indeed guarded, ´tis a wonder that we were not long since
discovered.”

Taking Colonel Carew´s horse by the bridle, Gervase led him into the oak
wood followed by Dorothy. Here there proved to be excellent shelter, for
the underwood had grown thick and high, and discovery was impossible so
long as the enemy kept to the road, which it was likely they would do
unless their suspicions were aroused.

The old man was helped from his horse and seated himself upon a fallen
tree, with his precious box clasped upon his knees, speaking no word,
but looking straight before him, with a fixed unmeaning gaze. He
appeared to be unconscious of what was taking place round him, and
insensible of the dangers to which they were exposed. Dorothy knelt down
beside him and placed her hands on his. He was muttering wild and
incoherent words.

“Grandfather,” she said, “do you know me?”

He looked at her with a frown. “Ay, girl, wherefore not?” he answered.
"Talk no more, but fill up my glass till the red wine runs over. There
is plenty where it came from--plenty, and gold that is better than wine,
girl; and bars of silver and stones of price. We who sail under the
_Jolly Roger_ cannot afford to be scrupulous. You are sly, wench,
damnably sly, but you will not overreach me. Nay, you shall have a
doubloon or two for yourself and a bundle of silks from our next
venture. I am grown stiff with this long lying ashore, and am well
wearied for a breath of the Spanish Main.

        “‘For the guns are all ready and the decks are all clear
        And the prize is awaiting the bold Buccaneer!´”

Dorothy rose and wrung her hands with a gesture of despair. Gervase
could see that the wild words of the old man had touched her beyond
description. It was not so much that they showed his mind had left him;
they had revealed the terrible secret of his early life--a secret that
till now she had never dreamed of. She had instinctively guessed the
truth, and it had covered her with shame, as though the crime and the
reproach were her own. Gervase out of regard for her feelings withdrew
to a distance, and busied himself in getting ready a supper, which
matter, necessary as it was, had quite escaped his thoughts. But
Dorothy, though he pressed her strongly, refused to partake of it.

“I cannot taste of food,” she said, “and you know the reason--you also
have heard the dreadful words. That accursed money comes--Oh! I might
have guessed it, but who would have thought?--and he is so old and so
frail and--and I think he is going to die. Oh! it is very terrible. I
was so proud of my name, and the honour of my house, and now----”

Gervase had no words with which to comfort her, and so the three--the
two men and the girl--sat here in the thicket, speaking never a word.
But for the young man, he could not take his eyes off the sweet, strong
face that looked so lovely in its grief--the lips that trembled, and the
eyes that were dimmed with unshed tears. Half an hour passed in silence;
only the far-off murmur of the river came faintly through the twilight,
and the whirr of a startled bird, or the hasty scamper of a rabbit or a
rat, broke the stillness round them. As yet there was no appearance of
Macpherson. And then Gervase began to wonder whether, after all, Dorothy
might not have been right in her hasty surmise, and whether he might not
have sought his own safety in flight, and left them to their fate. But
he instantly dismissed the suggestion from his mind as ungenerous and
unjust.

Then, at that moment, a shot rang out in the evening air, and another,
and another. The sound came from the river, and as they stood and
listened, they could hear the jinging of bridles and the clank of
weapons, for the air was somewhat frosty and very still. They had risen
to their feet and stood listening, only Gervase had drawn his sword, and
instinctively stepped nearer to where the girl was standing. Soon they
heard the sound of hasty footsteps and the crashing of branches, as
someone made his way with impetuous haste through the underwood. Then
Macpherson appeared bareheaded, with a smoking pistol in his hand.

“There is not a moment to lose,” he cried. “Into the road and make what
terms you can. They are regular troops and may not use you ill, but
escape you cannot, and I may not tarry here. I have done for one of
them, and, I think, another will never hear ‘boots and saddle´ sounded
again. ´Tis your only hope.”

“And what,” cried Gervase, “do you purpose doing?”

“Saving my neck if it be possible. I cannot serve you, but would only
make your case the worse. It goes against my heart to leave you, but for
your sake and my own I can do naught else. Stay,” he continued, “there
is one thing more. For that box they would cut your throats, and they
must not find it with you. Madam, can you trust me? I am rugged and I am
rough, but I think I am honest.”

Dorothy looked at him fairly a moment and their eyes met. “Yes,” she
said, in a clear, strong voice, “I can trust you wholly.”

“Then, sir,” he said, stepping forward to the old man, “By your leave
and license I must, for your own good, relieve you of your toys.” With a
quick movement he took the box out of the hands of the old man who
stared at him with a bewildered gaze, and then with a hurried farewell,
he passed out of sight. Colonel Carew uttered a loud, shrill scream and
fell forward on the grass. Dorothy ran forward and tried to turn him
over, but she had not strength enough. Then Gervase knelt down to help
her, but when he saw the white, frowning face, one glance was sufficient
to show him how it was. The old adventurer, with all his sins fresh in
his memory and his wicked life rekindled, as it were, out of the ashes
of the past, had gone to his account.

The dragoons, who had hastily mounted on discovering Macpherson, and had
been riding down the road, reined in their horses, and dismounting,
plunged into the coppice. The old man´s sudden and startling outcry had
guided them to the fugitives´ place of concealment. They set up a loud
shout when they were discovered, and one fellow was about to pistol
Gervase when another struck up his hand and restrained him.

“Time enough for that. We´ll put a question or two first,” said the
sergeant who commanded the party. “Tie his hands behind his back, and
bring him out into the road. The old man is dead as a nail,” he
continued, touching the lifeless body with his foot, “and the wench is
no doubt his daughter. By my soul! she´s a beauty: now look you, the
first man-Jack of you who lays his finger on her, I´ll blow his brains
out, so help me God! and you know I´m a man of my word. Don´t fear,
madam; they´re rough but kindly.”

As they led Gervase out into the road, one hope was uppermost in his
mind, and that was that they might fall in with some officer of
sufficient authority to whose care he might confide Dorothy, and to
whose sense of honour he should not appeal in vain. There were still
many gallant gentlemen in the Irish army in whose eyes a woman´s
reputation would be sacred.

The dragoons who guarded him followed the sergeant out into the open,
and they halted under a great oak that threw its broad branches across
the road. Dorothy had implored them to bring her grandfather´s body with
them, and on their refusing had seated herself beside it. But without
using any great violence, they had insisted on her following the rest of
the party. She had shed no tears, but her face was very white, and her
breath came quickly in little, convulsive sobs. Gervase looked at her
for a moment, and then turned away his head.

“Now,” said the sergeant, “we´ll see what stuff he´s made of. How say
you, sir? On what side are you? Are you for King James?”

“I am for law and order,” answered Gervase. “This young lady and I were
on a peaceful journey, wishing ill and intending hurt to no one, and I
know not what right you have to hinder us.”

“That is no answer to my question, sir; but I´ll answer for you--you´re
a Whig and in arms against the King, or would be. Where is your
authority? And now another question and I have done with you: Where is
the prickeared knave gone who pistolled poor Cornet White and sent
another of ours to kingdom come? I´ll take my oath he was of your
party.”

“I saw no pistolling,” said Gervase; “is it like in such force as you
see us, we should fall upon a troop of dragoons? Why, man, it was
because we were afraid to venture near you that we hid ourselves in the
tangle yonder.”

“This jesting will not answer, Master Whig. I´ll give you one chance of
saving your neck and only one--what way went he?”

“Look you here, sergeant,” said Gervase, seeing the desperate position
in which he was placed, “I´m a gentleman, and it would profit you little
to shoot or hang me. See this lady and myself safe through to
Londonderry, and you will have twenty golden guineas for yourself and
five for every man here in your company. I cannot say you fairer, and if
not for my sake or the money´s, then for the sake of this helpless
lady.”

“This lady will be well cared for, never fear, and for your guineas, I´m
thinking by the time you got to Londonderry, they would be own brothers
to the lads they are making in Dublin. Come, my man, you´ll have sixty
seconds to answer my question, and then Hurrah for the kingdom of
glory.” So saying he took a piece of rope from the hands of one of the
men and began leisurely to measure it, a foot at a time, looking up
occasionally from the operation to see how it affected the prisoner.

“My God! you would not hang me?”

“Ay, that I would, with a heart and a half and high as Haman, if the
rope were long enough. The time is nearly up--How say you?”

“I say that I care not how you use me, if you see the lady safe. Hang me
if you will.”

“The time is up and you have not answered an honest question. Now, lads,
we´ll see if this heretic rogue can do anything but prate. It seems to
me he looks a strolling player and may be one for all I know.” So saying
he deftly threw the rope round the thick branch that grew over the road,
and placed his hand on the prisoner´s shoulder.

Up to this time Dorothy could not believe that he meant to carry out his
savage threat, but she saw now that this was no mere jest but a matter
of life and death. The business was evidently to the taste of the
troopers, and two of them laid aside their firelocks and placed their
hands upon the rope. Then she sprang forward and caught the sergeant by
the arm. “You do not mean what you say,” she cried, “he has never
wronged you, nor have I, and had it not been for me and the dead old man
yonder, he had not been in your power now. For my sake, for God´s sake,
you will not injure him.”

The man seemed touched for a minute, so wild was she, and so beautiful,
in her despair, and then he shook her off roughly. “Women have nothing
to do in these affairs. Two of you fellows take her away, and leave us
to finish this business in peace. Now, make haste about the matter, and
get this damnable job out of hand. We must look after the other fellow
before night comes down.”

Dorothy turned white and faint, and seemed like to have fallen on the
road as Gervase held out his hand to her and said, with a lump in his
throat,

“Good-bye, Miss Carew, I regret quitting life less than leaving you in
this company, but my last prayer on earth is for your safety. Could my
life have brought you help, I should have given it up without regret.”

Then she broke down utterly, and they led her away, with her face buried
in her hands. Suddenly, at that moment there was heard the sound of a
horse coming rapidly along the road, and the men who were busied placing
the noose round Gervase´s neck, stopped short in their work. Dorothy
heard the sound also, and looked up. An officer, apparently of
distinguished rank, accompanied by a couple of dragoons, was advancing
at a rapid trot.

His military cloak, richly embroidered, was thrown open, and showed a
burnished cuirass underneath. His broad-brimmed hat adorned with a
single white feather, nearly concealed his face. As he approached,
Dorothy struggled in the hands of the man who held her and freeing
herself, ran swiftly down the road to meet him. As he came up he reined
in his black charger.

“Thank God!” she cried, “you have come in time. You, at least, are a
gentleman, and you will save him.”

“I hope, madam, I am a gentleman,” he said, with a high, courteous
manner and in a voice that was at once strong and musical. “I shall
examine into this matter, and if I can in duty and in honour render you
this service, you may rely upon me.”

Then hurriedly, and almost incoherently, she told him her story, or as
much as she thought necessary for her purpose; and when she had finished
he called out to one of the mounted troopers to take his horse.

“Now, Miss Carew,” he said, dismounting, and raising his hat with a
stately courtesy, “having heard your story, I am rejoiced that I have
arrived in time. These lambs of mine are hasty in their work and, I
fear, have not always warrant for what they do. Believe me, I am sorry
for your case and will do what I can to aid you. And now let us see how
the gentleman has borne himself, who has so fair an advocate to plead
his cause.”

With these words, taking her hand he led her up to the group which stood
under the tree awaiting his approach. Gervase had given himself up for
lost, and had commended his soul to his Maker, for the rope had already
been adjusted round his neck, and willing hands were only waiting for
the word of command from the sergeant to turn him off. But as the
mounted officer rode up and the fellows suspended their work, he felt
instinctively that he had been saved. The look of baffled hate on the
sergeant´s face showed that. The officer came up leading Dorothy by the
hand, and the dragoons saluted him silently. He gave Gervase one quick
searching look, a look that flashed with keen intelligence and seemed to
take in every detail in a moment, and then said sternly, “Unbind the
prisoner, and take down that rope.” He stood quietly, speaking no word,
but waited with his keen eyes fixed on Gervase, until the dragoons had
unbound the prisoner´s hands and removed the hempen cord from his neck.
The work being completed, the men fell back a few paces.

“Now, sirrah!” he said, turning to the sergeant, “what does this mean?
By whose orders or instructions were you about to hang this gentleman?
Is it thus that you do your duty? While the fellow who shot down your
officer has been making his escape, you have been preparing to murder an
unoffending traveller whom it was your duty to protect. Had I been five
minutes later, I do not doubt that I should have strung you up beside
him. Good God! it is fellows like you who make me blush for my
countrymen. Now, look you, the man who has made his escape must be
brought in before nightfall. Should you fail to capture him you will see
how I deal with men who forget that they are soldiers and act like
caterans.”

“This fellow, if it please your honour----” began the sergeant.

“Silence, sirrah! Take your men and search the wood. This man must not
escape, and when you return, report yourself to me at the house by the
ford. Take all the men with you; I shall return alone. Stay, there is
one thing more.” Here glancing hastily at Dorothy, he walked a short
distance away, and in a low tone gave orders with regard to the remains
of Colonel Carew, which he directed to be brought down to the post and
await his instructions there. The man saluted, and giving the necessary
orders with a sullen and crestfallen air, left his superior standing
alone with the prisoner.

“Give me no thanks, sir,” he said, interrupting Gervase. “For I have
only done for you what an Irish gentleman is bound in honour to do. Our
men will do these lawless deeds, but with the party to which you belong
rests the blame, having made them what they are. Till now they have been
slaves with all the vices of the slave; they cannot learn the moderation
and restraint of freemen in a day. However,” he continued, with a smile
that lighted up his dark face, “this is no speech to address to a man
who has just escaped the gallows. Miss Carew tells me you are now on
your way to Londonderry seeking refuge and safety there. I do not
propose to advise you, but within a fortnight the city will be in our
hands, and meanwhile must undergo the dangers of a siege. We do not make
war on women, and Miss Carew may rely on me to help her to a place of
safety.”

“My friends are there,” said Dorothy; “I have not elsewhere to go.”

“We have indeed proposed,” said Gervase, “to take refuge in Londonderry,
and since Miss Carew has lost--is alone, I know not where else she can
betake herself. For myself I am indebted to you, sir, for my life, and
you may dispose of me as you will; but for the lady, I would beg you to
allow her to pass safely through your lines and join her friends in the
city.”

“That might easily be done, but surely Dublin were safer?”

“As I have said,” answered Dorothy, “my friends are all in Londonderry,
and I should prefer to share their danger.”

“Well! we shall see how it may be, but in the meantime, I shall ask you
to share my hospitality, such as it is, to-night, and to-morrow we will
devise some plan for your security. Miss Carew may safely place herself
in the hands of Patrick Sarsfield,” and he raised his hat with the _bel
air_ that sat so easily upon him.

Gervase looked with curiosity on the great Irish leader, than whom no
more notable figure and chivalrous gentleman fought in the Irish ranks,
and lent lustre and honour to a somewhat tarnished cause. He was little,
indeed, above the middle height, but his bold and gallant bearing gave
him the appearance of being of more than the ordinary stature. His brow
was frank and open, and his eyes had the clear and resolute gaze of a
man accustomed to bold and perilous action--ardent, impetuous, and
courageous. His speech came rapidly, and his utterance was of the
clearest and most decisive. Accustomed to camps he had yet the air of a
well-bred man of the world, and when he smiled his face lost the fixed
and somewhat melancholy air it wore when in repose.

“And you are Colonel Sarsfield?” Dorothy inquired. “Then we are friends,
for you were the friend of my aunt Lady Bellasis.”

“Truly she was my very good friend, and her son Will--your cousin, I
presume--was my dear crony and companion-in-arms. We served together
during Monmouth´s campaign, and I might almost say that he died in my
arms at Taunton. You are then the Dorothy of whom I heard him speak. I
think his death broke his mother´s heart. It is strange that we should
meet here, but life is made up of strange things; we should wonder at
nothing. Now, Mr. Orme, I shall give the lady my arm, and we will see
whether even here in the desert they cannot furnish us with a bottle of
wine, that we may drink to peace and a settlement of differences. Only I
should like to say this: I ask no questions, and look upon you only as
Miss Carew´s companion and protector; I expect that you will close your
eyes to anything that you may see, and ever after be silent on the
matter.”

“I hope,” answered Gervase, “I know better than to take advantage of
your great kindness. I shall observe your instructions to the letter.”

“´Tis very well. Come, Miss Carew,” Sarsfield said, extending his hand,
“this hath been a melancholy journey for you, and henceforth I wish you
happier fortune. I have given orders regarding the interment of your
kinsman, and will spare you all the pain I can.”

Dorothy thanked him with a look, and was silent. Beside the river was a
farm-house which was evidently used as a military station, for before
the door a number of dragoons--perhaps a dozen--were gathered in small
groups, and several horses were picketed in the enclosure which had
formerly been used as a garden.

As they entered the house they were saluted by the strong odour of
tobacco-smoke. A man was engaged in cooking at the open hearth, and
another was seated on a chair hard by, watching the operation as he
smoked his pipe in silence, and beat a tattoo with his heels upon the
earthen floor. The latter was a remarkable-looking man in every way. He
was dressed in a plain red coat, with a tangled weather-beaten wig
hanging down at full length. He wore a faded beaver with a narrow brim,
and had a dirty yellow-coloured cravat tied carelessly round his neck.
His legs were very long, his face was full of freckles, and his nose was
tilted up in what had been a good-humoured fashion but for the heavy and
forbidding expression of his mouth. As they came in he did not rise but
merely removed his pipe from his lips.

“How now?” he asked.

“My special mission hath already borne fruit, Colonel Luttrel,” said
Sarsfield stiffly. “This lady is the kinswoman of a late very dear
friend of mine, and your dragoons have used her with the scantest
courtesy.”

“The young lady hath reason to be thankful ´tis no worse, for they
cannot stand the sight of a petticoat, and they could not be expected to
know of the relationship. We´ll trust to the supper, which is nearly
ready, to cure her wounded feelings.”

“This lady is my friend, sir,” said Sarsfield, with a frown.

“And Colonel Luttrel´s also, I hope,” said Dorothy, with a sweeping
curtesy, which made the soldier open his eyes to their widest with
wonder and admiration, and drew a smile to Sarsfield´s lips. “I think,
sir, you speak very sensibly and am glad to hear that supper is ready.”

The Colonel rose from his chair, laid down his pipe, and held out his
hand. “You are of the kind that pleases me,” he said, “and I would, my
dear, that I was thirty years younger for your sake. Fine airs never
pleased me yet and, damme! you´re a beauty.” Again Dorothy curtesied
with becoming gravity. “Now, sit you down,” he went on, “and let me hear
of what the Colonel yonder complains, for he and I,” and here he lowered
his voice, “strike it off but ill. If any man of mine but dared to lay
his finger on you, I´ll give him a round dozen for your sake.”

“I´m sure you are very generous,” Dorothy said, demurely enough, and
thereafter she and the old soldier began to talk together with great
ease and friendliness. Presently he was laughing loudly at her playful
sallies, and before he was aware she drew the heart out of him till he
was completely her servant.

I have seen the lady´s portrait painted but a few years after the events
here narrated, and I say in all soberness that I do not wonder at her
power. Of her mere beauty I can give no just description, but to my mind
her chief charm lay in her eyes, the expression of which the painter--a
Fleming, whose name has escaped my memory--had caught with marvellous
fidelity. Full of pride and stateliness, they were yet prone to light up
with tenderness and playful humour, to which her lips gave just and
fitting emphasis. Had I not already known something of her life I should
yet have willingly taken her for a heroine. And yet the contemplation of
that sweet face saddened me beyond expression. Hanging there among the
portraits of forgotten statesmen, and old-world soldiers who fought at
Ramillies and Oudenarde, the presentment of that young and smiling face,
so full of tender light and gracious sweetness, looked out of the past
with pathetic warning that all things have the same fate and must go the
same inevitable way.

In this little comedy it must not be supposed she was altogether acting
a part, or that in anything she said or did she was inspired by any
other feeling than friendliness, and it may be the frolicsome humour,
that was in her a characteristic trait. From time to time she looked up
archly at Colonel Sarsfield who stood smiling by the window, and then
resumed her conversation with increased sprightliness.

“I never understand women, my dear,” Luttrel said.

“And you never will, sir, for we do not understand ourselves. I think
you have never been married?”

“The Lord be praised for all His mercies, that blessing is still a long
way before me. I mean, my dear young lady, no offence to you, but my
brother Phil married and saved the rest of the family.”

“With Colonel Luttrel´s permission we will draw a veil over his family
history.”

“´Tis mighty well,” said the other; “commissary-general to a ragged army
of fifteen, and his wife still a rare recruiting sergeant.”

So saying he took his place stiffly behind his chair, waiting till
Dorothy was seated at the supper table. “And I hope,” he growled,
looking askance at Gervase, “that this person is of fit condition to sit
at the table with people of quality.”

“Of that matter, sir,” said Sarsfield, “I am perhaps the best judge. Mr.
Orme, will you do me the favour to take this chair beside me? I remember
when I was of your age I did not require much invitation after a long
day. You will tell Miss Carew that soldiers´ fare is ever of the
plainest. And as far as prudence and honour will permit, I should like
to hear something of your journeying, which seems to have been of the
strangest, or so this fair advocate would have me believe.”

Gervase long remembered this strange evening spent in this curious
company. He was wholly unable to resist the fascination of the great
soldier´s manner, and long after that fiery soul had passed away in the
onset at Landen, would dwell upon his memory with admiration and regret.
He treated Gervase with perfect friendliness, delicately avoiding all
matters that might cause offence. He related many incident in his own
career with perfect frankness and vivacity, and spoke with great
shrewdness and insight of many famous men that he had met. Of
Marlborough, whom he had known in Monmouth´s campaign, he spoke with
great enthusiasm in his character as a soldier, though he affected to
despise him as a man; and Gervase remembered the conversation in after
years, when the hero of Blenheim returned amid the plaudits of the
nation and crowned with the laurels of victory.

Luttrel listened with a hard and solemn visage; it was abundantly clear
that he was determined that he should not go to bed sober, and was
already far advanced in his cups before Dorothy left the table. But he
was entirely silent under Sarsfield´s eye, and merely plied the bottle
with great assiduity. Presently Dorothy quitted the room. Sarsfield
standing with his hands on the back of his chair, wished her a stately
“good-night.” When she had retired he turned to Gervase.

“I shall not see you again this evening, Mr. Orme,” he said, “and I have
not asked you for your parole. Nor is such my intention. On your word I
know that I could rely, but I know that I have better security for your
safe custody there,” and he pointed towards Dorothy´s room. “Good-night,
gentlemen, and I trust that you will not quarrel,” with which words he
went out.

Luttrel put his arms on the table and looked at Gervase with a drunken
sneer. “The Colonel thinks that he is a mighty pretty fellow, and that
no man knows the points of a woman but himself. And he flirts with the
bottle like a quaker, which I have never taken to be the first sign of
manhood. Indeed, you are a damnable drinker yourself. Come, sir, fill up
your glass cheerfully, or I shall be compelled to think you have an
objection to your company.”

“I have no fault to find with my entertainment,” Gervase answered good
humouredly, unwilling to create any dissension, and making a show of
replenishing his glass.

“Why, there, that´s right! But I may tell you frankly, Mr.
What´s-your-name, that had this thing been left to me, you should not
now have been sitting drinking of this excellent usquebaugh in the
company of your betters. I speak in the way of friendship, for I ever
like to be honest, and, mark you, I mean no offence in the world, but if
I had my will, I should even string you up with a hempen cravat round
your neck to show you what I think of your principles.”

“Meaning thereby that you would hang me?” Gervase said with a smile.

“Ay, that I would, with the best intentions in the world, but since I
cannot carry out my purpose, I will even drink with you or fight with
you, as you will.”

“I should stand no chance with you either way, I am afraid; but I am
very tired and with your permission”--and here Gervase offered to rise.

The other clapped his hand upon his sword, and rose to his feet with a
drunken stagger. “Nay, that you shall not. I am a hospitable man, and
none shall say that I did not give you an opportunity of going to bed
like a gentleman.”

Finding himself thus placed between two fires, Gervase unwillingly
resumed his seat, and watched his truculent host growing more and more
intoxicated, while he entered into a rambling disquisition on his own
fortunes and the wrongs of his unhappy country. He did not doubt but
that the time of deliverance had come. The Irish gentlemen were about to
strike a great blow for freedom and for James Stuart, though they cared
not a whit for the quarrel, but he served their purpose as well as
another. For the pestilent heretics in Londonderry, they would be taught
a wholesome lesson: they would be made a warning to all traitors. His
father was a man in Cromwell´s day. Then his talk grew more and more
incoherent, and finally, with his head fallen upon his arms, and the
contents of the overturned measure streaming over the table, he fell
fast asleep. Gervase then rose and sought his own bed, glad that, after
all, the night had passed so amicably.



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                       OF THE RETURN TO THE CITY.


Colonel Sarsfield more than fulfilled the promise he had made. Seeing
that Dorothy had set her heart upon joining her friends in Londonderry,
he had accompanied her part of the way himself, and had provided her
with an escort for the remainder of her journey. To Gervase he had shown
unaffected kindness. He had provided him with a horse and apparel
befitting his condition, and at parting had wrung his hand with an
appearance of great warmth and friendship.

“It is right, perhaps,” he had said, “that we should be on different
sides of this quarrel, but we can part with mutual good-will. I have but
one hope and one thought--to see my country once more a nation, great
and free. I would that all our people were of one mind, and were
striking together for their fatherland. But it is still our curse to be
divided--torn and rent by civil feuds. But believe me when I say that
Patrick Sarsfield has only one desire on earth, and that is that his
country should have her own laws and her own government, and freedom for
the meanest. I think I shall meet my fate on the field of battle, but I
hope not before I have seen that splendid day. Think well of us, Mr.
Orme, and though you do your duty on your own side, remember that there
are among us those whose cause is sacred in their eyes, and whose
country is dearer to them than their lifeblood.”

They never met again, but Gervase felt in after days that there was one
man in Ireland who might have saved his cause, had he not been checked
by narrow prejudices and the bitter envy of those who did not understand
his proud and chivalrous nature. At Limerick that fiery spirit blazed
out for a while in all its native strength, but his cause was already
doomed.

When Gervase had reached Londonderry in safety, and had seen Dorothy
placed under the protection of her aunt, he returned to his old lodgings
over a linendraper´s shop in a small house near the Bishop´s-gate.

In the meantime, memorable events had transpired in his absence. The
Irish army, breaking through the defences of the Bann, had pressed on
toward Londonderry, and having crossed the Finn, had closed upon the
city. Colonel Lundy, whether through vacillation and cowardice or from
deliberate treachery, had made no effort to oppose their approach, and
had done his best to secure the surrender of the city. At the very
moment when he was about to carry out his designs, the citizens awakened
to his intentions, and took the authority into their own hands. They
seized the keys and took possession of the walls; a new government was
established in the city; the garrison was divided into regiments, and
preparations were made to stand a long and stubborn siege.

A great change had taken place in the city and in the spirit of the
citizens since Gervase had ridden out of the gate, a fortnight before.
The old look of dejection and irresolution had disappeared; one of
unbounded enthusiasm and zeal had taken its place. Every able-bodied man
carried arms and bore himself like a soldier. Swords clanked on the
causeway; rusty muskets had been furbished up, and gentlemen and yeomen
alike were filled with the same ardour, and wore the same determined
air. Every regiment had its post. On the ramparts the guards were posted
at regular intervals; little knots of armed and resolute men were
gathered in the great square, and companies were being drilled from
morning till night in the Bogside. A spirit of unyielding loyalty filled
the air. The paving stones had been raised from the streets and were
carried to the walls; blinds had been erected to screen the men on the
ramparts. From the grey Cathedral tower two guns looked down on the
Waterside, and on every bastion were others ready for use. At the Market
house also cannon were planted to sweep the streets. At every gate there
was a great gun.

The siege had indeed commenced. Yonder beyond the Foyle lay Lord
Lumley´s command, three thousand strong, the white tents catching the
last gleam of the sunset as the evening mists crept up the river. At
Brookhall and Pennyburn Mill was a strong force that shut off
communication with Culmore. Away towards St. Johnston´s and Carrigans
was the main army of the enemy under Eustace and Ramsay. From the
heights of Clooney one could see at long intervals a swift leap of
flame, and hear the sullen roar of a great gun breaking on the evening
air. All thought of compromise or capitulation was at an end; here the
citizens must make their last stand, and show the world how dearly they
held their faith and freedom.

At first sight resistance might have seemed a midsummer folly.

On both sides of the river the high ground looked down upon the city,
and that within the range of cannon. The streets clomb up the gradual
slope toward the square-towered Cathedral; the walls were low and might
be easily breached. Still, there were seven thousand men of the imperial
race within those walls, and while one stone stood upon another they had
sworn to make good their defence.

Gervase was up betimes on the morning following his return. He had seen
Colonel Murray the night before at the guard house, whither that gallant
soldier had just returned after a hot encounter with the enemy, and had
heard from his lips an account of their first skirmish that had taken
place that very day. Murray had promised him a vacant cornetcy in his
own regiment of horse, and the prospect of plenty of service.

Gervase buckled on his sword after a hasty breakfast, his mind full of
the hope that a high-spirited young-fellow naturally indulges in at such
a time. His imagination had been touched and his heart had been stirred
by the peril of the situation. He had caught the joyous enthusiasm of
the time, and he whistled merrily a bar of Lillibullero as he went down
the crooked stair, and came into the ill-lighted shop. The door was
lying open, but the shutters had not been taken down. Trade was not of
the briskest of late days, and the stock was somewhat meagre. The varied
assortment of wares--linens, broadcloth, and laces--had nearly
disappeared, and the little linen-draper, Simon Sproule, was seated with
a rueful countenance at his desk, with his ledger spread open before
him. So intent was he on the open page that he had not heard Gervase
come clanking down the stairs, and it was only when the latter stepped
forward and laid his hand on his shoulder, that he raised his head with
a startled look. Then he jumped up and held out his hand.

“God bless my soul! I am glad to see you, Mr. Orme; I had never thought
to have laid my eyes on you again. It was only on Thursday I was telling
Elizabeth--and she´ll bear me out in what I say--that ´twas likely your
dust was mingled by this time with the clods of the valley, and we were
both grieved to have lost you.”

“I am sure I am much bound to both of you,” Gervase answered, laughing,
“but you can see that I look little like a dying man yet; just as much
as you look like an honest tradesman.”

The little man surveyed himself ruefully, and with such solemnity of
visage that Gervase could not suppress a smile of amusement. His coat of
claret-coloured cloth had given place to a buff jacket which had already
seen considerable service on a man larger than himself, and he was
encased to the thighs in a pair of jack-boots that gave his nether
extremities a very striking appearance. On a stool hard by was a steel
head-piece of an antiquated pattern, and leaning against the counter was
a musket, the lock of which he had apparently recently been oiling. The
bulging forehead with its overhanging tuft of red hair, the nose that
providence had carefully tilted up, and the blue eyes that always met
you with a look of mild wonder in them, harmonized but ill with his
military equipment. He shook his head sadly.

“These are but ill times that we have fallen upon. ´Tis very well, sir,
for a young man like yourself whose trade is fighting, to go swaggering
up and down with a long sword by your side and a murderous weapon like
that in your hand, but for a married man like myself with eight children
to his own share, ´tis altogether another matter. But I´m a loyal man
and a good Protestant, and I´ll even try to do my duty, hard as it
seems, with the best of you.”

“Why, Simon, three weeks ago you were the boldest man in the city, and I
remember you made a great speech that was mightily applauded!”

“Ay, but the enemy had not crossed the Bann then, and it is a different
thing, let me tell you, when the bullets begin to whistle about your
head. I was out yesterday, Mr. Orme, and do you know”--here he looked
round to see that there was no one within hearing--"I discovered that I
was no better than a coward."

“But you stood your ground like a man?”

“Indeed I did no such thing. I dare not tell Elizabeth, but no sooner
did I see those devils of Berwick come galloping up, than I even ran
like a coward for the walls, and never thought of my duty till I was out
of reach of their sword-blades. It was too late to turn back then, had I
been so minded. God hath made us all after our own fashion, and he never
made me for a soldier.”

“All young soldiers feel like that in their first battle,” said Gervase,
with the air of a veteran. “A fortnight hence you will be as bold as a
lion. Mistress Sproule will see that you do not flinch, for I think she
could carry arms herself.”

“You know my wife, Mr. Orme,” said the little man sadly, “and that is
one of my main troubles, for I dare not tell her what I have told you.
She must needs know the whole story when I came back last night, and my
invention would not serve me better than my yard stick yonder. Do you
think, sir, that there will be a great deal of work of the same kind?”

“In faith, Simon, I can give you but little comfort,” said Gervase, half
in amusement, half pitying his evident distress; “these are troublous
times we are living in, and hard knocks are in fashion. You must even
pluck up courage and show a stout heart in that buff coat of yours.
You´ll come to like the smell of powder by and by, and instead of
running you´ll go out to meet them as blithely as the boldest.”

“What I have said I have spoken in confidence, Mr. Orme, and should you
have speech with my wife on the matter, I know you will say a word in my
favour. But I wish with all my heart we could see the end of our
troubles. My trade is even ruined, and there is a list of debts for you
that will never return me the value of a penny. Colonel Lundy himself
owes me eight pounds sterling, which I do not think he will ever return
to discharge.”

“Indeed I do not think he will, and if that were all he owed us the city
would be well quit of him. Are you on duty to-day, Simon?”

“I must turn out at twelve o´clock on the Church bastion,” he answered
gravely, “and I know not what devil´s work I may have to do before the
day is over. But I will take what you have said to heart, sir, and hope
for the time when I´ll have a taste for fighting.”

“I´ll be there to see,” said Gervase, smiling, “and should it give you
courage, I´ll even blow your brains out should you try to run away.”

As Gervase passed up Bishop´s-gate street, he could not help laughing
aloud at the look of consternation depicted on the face of his little
landlord, who had been among the loudest and most eloquent advocates of
resistance while the enemy were at a distance.

The morning was bright and clear, with a warm breath of spring in the
air that blew across the river. The streets were alive with men hurrying
hither and thither; men who carried every imaginable description of
musket and side-arms, and wore the most diverse kinds of defensive
armour, but men who looked as if they had a work to do and meant to do
it. Four companies of Parker´s regiment of foot he met on their way to
the Bogside, and he was struck by their soldierly bearing and the
precision and regularity of their march. From the Royal Bastion a great
gun was firing slowly, in reply to the cannon of the enemy that spoke
iron-lipped from Strong´s orchard on the other side of the river. But
what struck him chiefly was that there were neither women nor children
abroad; the city looked like a great barrack-yard under arms.

In the Diamond, before the guard-house, he met Colonel Murray in company
with Captain Ashe, and Walker, the newly-made governor. Gervase knew the
fighting parson of Donaghmore at a glance. The tall, burly figure and
frank face full of boldness and resolution spoke of action rather than
of study, and the sword that he carried at his side was little in
keeping with his clerical calling. As Gervase came up he was engaged in
an animated conversation, emphasizing his points with copious gestures
and disregarding all interruptions.

“This is the young gentleman of whose adventures I have been telling you
but now, Governor Walker,” said Murray, placing his hand on his arm as
Gervase doffed his beaver.

“I am pleased to meet with you, sir,” said Walker with a fine, pleasant
smile. “I learn that your mission miscarried, as I doubt not it was
intended it should by those who sent you, and that you alone of your
party have returned in safety. We have now, I trust, cleared out the
nest of traitors, and brave men can fight without fearing the treachery
of their friends. You were of Mountjoy´s regiment, I think?”

Gervase bowed in acquiescence.

“Then, sir, you must show that your Colonel was the only traitor in the
regiment, and I do not doubt you will. Our men are eager, but they want
discipline. I am no soldier myself, but I have set myself to learn, and
we want you gentlemen of the sword to teach us. You were not here for
the fight of yesterday?”

“I had not the good fortune.”

“´Tis ever ill fortune, sir, to be in a fight, but being there, ´tis
well to strike hard and stand to it. You would then have seen what it is
our soldiers lack. Their zeal outran their discretion.”

“And some of them outran the enemy,” added Murray, with a shrug of his
shoulders, “but I have no doubt Mr. Orme will do his duty. Have you yet
heard anything of Captain Macpherson?”

“Not a word. I fear he has fallen into the hands of the enemy or we
should have seen him ere now. He is not a man to let the grass grow
under his feet.”

“We can ill spare him now, for a stouter soldier I never met, and one
with knowledge gathered on half the battle-fields of Europe.”

“Was his heart in the cause?--that is the main thing.”

“You would not ask the question if you knew the man; Cromwell won Naseby
with his fellows.”

“H´m!” Walker said, turning away. “Captain Ashe, will you walk as far
with me as the Town House? Good-morning, sir.”

Murray stood for a moment looking after the tall retreating figure of
the old parson, and then turned to Gervase with a smile. “That smacks
too much of dissent for the Governor´s nose, Mr. Orme. There´s a great
heart in yon cassock but half of him is only a parson, after all. He
would have us drilled from the pulpit steps, and no man may march but to
the tune of the prayer-book. A very good tune too, but every man can´t
step to the time. But I wonder how it has gone with your old captain--I
wouldn´t lose Macpherson for a regiment.”

“I spent a fortnight in his company,” said Gervase, “and none can know
his worth better than I do.”

“He will need to make haste if he is alive. In a week not a mouse could
creep into the city. Even now, you can see how the enemy´s lines are
drawn round us, and I can hardly hope he will get through. And they will
draw them closer yet, for they will have to starve us out; storm us they
cannot. Pray God, they do not sleep in England. Now, Mr. Orme, your
commission has been made out, as I promised, and I would have you carry
a message to Colonel Crofton at Windmill Hill. We have much work to do
to-day.”

Gervase found his first day of garrison life full of interest and
excitement. Apparently satisfied with the sharp skirmish of yesterday,
the enemy had not attempted any further offensive operations, but lay
sullenly in their quarters, or employed themselves in exercising their
levies. Occasionally indeed, a great gun sent its iron missive into the
city, but the artillery practice was very imperfect, and as yet did
little injury.

At Windmill Hill Gervase found four companies under arms in the
trenches, but the enemy never came within musket-range, and to Gervase
it seemed that the royal army had very little advantage in discipline
and order over the silent and determined men who sat in the trenches
round him. Ill-armed and ill-clad, the royal troops were wanting in the
fine spirit that inspired the defenders of the city. In his own mind
Gervase came to the conclusion that whatever might be the issue the
struggle would be a long and bitter one.

It was nearly six o´clock when he returned home. Mistress Sproule was
standing in the doorway, like a colossal statue of domestic virtue, with
two of her eight children clutching at her gown. That something had
disturbed her equanimity was evident, for her lips refused to relax in
their severity, as Gervase came up with his customary salutation.

“´Tis a pity you had not come an hour ago, Mr. Orme; your supper is
gone, and your friend is hardly satisfied. One would think he had not
broken bread for a week.”

“I had bidden no one to supper,” Gervase answered in surprise.

“Then he hath bidden himself and overlooked your invitation. Had Simon
been at home, I should have known more about him, but he stopped me
short and told me to mind my own business. He hath very ill manners, and
says that no man should reason with a woman.”

In a moment Gervase surmised that Macpherson had returned. Leaving the
exasperated matron at the door in her growing indignation, he rushed up
the staircase, and burst into the room. Macpherson was still seated at
the table, the empty dishes ranged before him. His long jaws were leaner
than ever, and his clothes were torn and covered with dirt. His head was
bound up with a handkerchief which was deeply stained with blood.

He rose up, holding out both his hands. “I met with a stout resistance,
but nevertheless I have taken possession and wasted your commissariat,”
he said, with a smile on his brown face. “You have a stout guard below
stairs, but an old soldier does not fear the rattle of an empty musket.”

“You are a thousand times welcome,” Gervase said, pushing him back into
his seat, “and all the more as you seem to have fared but ill. We
thought you had fallen into the enemy´s hands.”

“I have been fighting with the wild beasts at Ephesus these two days
past, and since we parted I have not tasted food till now. Have you
brought the lady safely back?”

“Ay, safe and sound.”

“I´m glad of that, I´m glad of that. The thought of her hath weighed on
my mind like lead. I could not but think she fancied I was playing the
poltroon, and deserting my company when it came to the push of sword.
But I could see no other way to help you after I shot yon swaggering
ruffian through the head, and that in lawful self-defence. They were a
score too many to deal with openly. Right glad am I you brought her
through.”

“Having looked through a hempen collar by the way,” said Gervase. “Let
me tell you, Captain Macpherson, it needs cool courage to look the
hangman in the face.”

“And the rogues would have hanged you? I had not thought of that. But in
truth I did not think of you at all. ´Twas the brave wench that I feared
for; she that stood up before me in the oak wood, and with the look in
her eyes that I never saw in a woman before--told me she trusted me.
´Twas like the handshake of a comrade before the battle. She hath a
fearless spirit, and a heavy burden, I doubt not, with the doited old
man on her hands, and I know not what trouble besides.”

“That burden has been taken away,” Gervase said soberly, “We buried him
the next morning, hard by where you left him.”

“You do not mean they murdered him?”

“No, not that; the loss of the treasure broke his heart, and hardly had
you left him when he was dead.”

Macpherson rose to his feet, his two hands resting on the back of his
chair, and a look on his face as of one stricken by a great fear.

“You are jesting with me.”

“In truth, it is no matter for jest. Hardly had you gone than he gave a
great cry and fell dead. The loss of what he loved better than life was
more than he could bear, and he never moved again after he fell. Then
the troopers came up, and had it not been that a gallant gentleman
proved my friend, I should not have been here to tell you the tale.”

“I knew there was a curse on it,” said Macpherson. “A curse on it in his
hands, and a curse on it in mine. A day and a night I carried it with me
and all the while I felt like one pursued by a legion of spirits
clamouring for a man´s soul. I could not rest; I could not sleep; and I
felt that in the end it must drive me mad. As I lay through the night in
the bramble by the river-side, as God is my witness, I could see through
the lid the glint of the gold and the shimmer of the precious stones,
and I, who never feared before, quaked like a schoolboy at the birch
rod. I prayed for light, but I could find no comfort. Then I rose up
with my load, for the girl had placed her trust in me, and come what
might I was minded that she should find me faithful. A while after, I
had some fighting to do which raised my spirits a little and let out
some unwholesome blood. But I have come in empty-handed after all, and
have but a pitiful story to tell for one who boasted so bravely of his
skill and discretion.”

“And the treasure?”

“´Tis safely buried, I trust, where I left it. You see, it happened in
this wise: As ill luck would have it I came on a sergeant and two of his
company, of Gormanstown´s regiment, I think, rifling a poor fellow who
had but lately fallen, and catching sight of me through a tangle of
briars that I had hoped would screen me, they called on me to stand. I
could not do otherwise, for my load would not let me run. That was how I
came by my knock--a shrewd one too; but for them, they will never answer
to their names again till the muster roll is called at the Judgment. I
must have lost my senses for a while, for when I came to reason there
were we four lying stretched upon the road, but myself on the top with
that devil´s box at my feet. With my load under my arm I set off again,
but what with the loss of blood, and the enemy gathered round me so
closely that I could not see my way through, I even crept into the
shelter of a hedge and began to consider what I should do. Then it came
into my mind that it were best buried out of sight for the present, and
I even dug a hole for it where I sat with my sword blade; and marking
the spot with what care I might--indeed, I have the record here--I went
on blithely, with a great weight off my mind. That is the complete
history of the venture, and I would that it had a different end.”

“It was better fortune after all than I had hoped for; but how came you
to get in?”

“Oh! that was no great matter. Putting on a bold face, as though no man
had a right to question me, I even saluted all that I met, inquiring
what way lay Butler´s command, as one having urgent business there. It
passed very well till a meddlesome captain of horse must needs take me
under his protection, and know more of my business than I had a mind he
should. I lied boldly and vehemently, which is a matter permissible by
the laws of war, and having brought me hard by our lines at the
Windmill, I even knocked him down with my fist, and ran for it as fast
as my legs would carry me. They might have brought me down with their
muskets had they taken time to aim, but though I heard the bullets
singing about my ears, never a one touched me, and here I am in no very
ill condition, after eating your supper and thanking Heaven for a
merciful deliverance. And now let me hear how things fell out with you.”

Gervase told his story with little circumlocution, but dwelling,
unconsciously, more than seemed necessary in a plain statement of facts,
on the courage and devotion of Dorothy Carew, a thing which brought a
twinkle into Macpherson´s eyes and a grave smile to his lips. Indeed,
from the beginning to the end the adventure was hers, and the young
soldier was only the companion who had shared her fortune in a humble
way. He told how she had won the heart of Sarsfield; how she had broken
down the boorish ill-will of Luttrel; and how she had carried herself
throughout with a patience and fortitude that a man might envy; and all
the while Macpherson watched him under his half-closed eyelids with the
same grave smile upon his face. It was evident he was no less interested
in the speaker than in the narrative, and when it was done he rose up
and placed his hand on Gervase´s shoulder, and bade him forget that he
had spoken a word in her disparagement. “God hath made few women like
her, my lad,” he went on, “and had I met such another in my youth, I
might not now have been the homeless vagrant that I am. Loyal she is and
true, if the face and the eye have any meaning, and her voice hath a
tender ring in it that might well touch a man´s heart, even if he be an
old fool like myself--which indeed I think I am growing. I have come to
think of you, Gervase Orme, as a son, I who never had wife or child of
my own, and I think here is a woman who might make your life happier
than mine has ever been.”

“Your conversion is of the suddenest,” Gervase said smiling, but the
praise of Dorothy brought a warm flush of pleasure to his cheek. His
love was a thing so new and so incomprehensible to himself that he
preferred to dwell upon it in secret; and besides, he felt that she was
so lifted above him that he dared not trust himself to speak of her. It
did not come to him with surprise that Macpherson, whose cynicism he
regarded as a matter of course, should have been captivated by her grace
and spirit. It was the most natural thing in the world. But when he came
to think of himself as her lover, the thought of his own unworthiness
grew so great that it seemed to raise a barrier between them that it was
a vain presumption to attempt to surmount.

So he passed lightly over Macpherson´s suggestion, and assured him that
he had not forgotten the warning that he had given him before the
journey began. Then, with some solicitude, he insisted on his having his
wound looked to, and making use of his own wardrobe as far as it would
supply his wants.

The old soldier in his careless camaraderie, was at no time loath either
to lend or to borrow, and after his wound (which, he said, proved the
thickness of his skull) had been dressed, arrayed himself in a clean
shirt and stockings, and then lighted a pipe of fragrant Virginia, to
which he had been for some time a stranger.

Gervase in the meantime had with some difficulty prevailed on Mistress
Sproule to furnish him with a second supper, and as she placed it on the
table she cast a look of indignation on the unconscious Macpherson. She
watched him with lowering brows, blowing a cloud of smoke in his placid
contentment; then her pent-up feelings broke out. “Marry,” she said,
“there are some folk who care not what trouble they make in the world.
To break into your house, and eat up your meat without even a ‘by your
leave´, may be manners in some parts, but here we call it by a harder
name.”

“In some parts where I have been,” said Macpherson grimly; “they have a
bridle for the mouth of the shrew, and lead her down to the
Market-place, where she stands for a warning to her neighbours. Your
husband would be a happier man did the custom hold here.”

Long accustomed to an easy conquest in the domestic battle-field, she
was staggered for a moment at this bold attack, but when her surprise
was over, the storm broke out with renewed violence, and while
Macpherson placed his fingers in his ears, Gervase intervened as a
peacemaker with little success. It was only when her passion had
completely exhausted itself, that she flung out of the room with a
tragic stride.

“The tow´s in the fire,” said Macpherson. “Man, that´s a terrible woman.
Have you often to meet a charge like that?”

Gervase laughed good-humouredly at Macpherson´s serious countenance. “We
have none of us the courage to cross her. Poor Simon fears her more than
he fears the bullets of the enemy, and I think I am somewhat in terror
of her myself. But she hath her virtues, and I will not hear her
wronged.”

“I will avoid her for the future like the pestilence. Now finish your
supper, or so much as I have left you. I would have you accompany me to
Miss Carew, and I think you will be willing enough, for I must give her
an account of my stewardship before I sleep, through how I shall bring
myself to tell her what I have done after all my boasting, I do not
know. When one has a man to deal with, he can take him by the hand or by
the throat, but one cannot use plain speech with a woman.”



                              CHAPTER IX.
             OF HOW CAPTAIN MACPHERSON FULFILLED HIS TRUST.


Lady Hester Rawdon´s house stood not far from the Cathedral, something
larger and uglier than its neighbours, with a stone staircase running
along the outside, and the lower windows heavily grated with iron bars.
Gervase and his companion were shown into a long, low-ceiled room on the
ground floor, wainscoted in black oak and looking out on a small garden.

In a corner of the room stood a harpsichord; a piece of fine embroidery
lay on the table. On a chair by the window lay an open book with the
pages turned downwards. Some spring flowers in a vase gave out a perfume
which, somehow, Gervase came to associate with Dorothy, and brought her
vividly before him.

Presently she came in herself, clad in a simple black gown without any
touch of colour. To Gervase she gave her hand without a word, but with a
quiet smile of welcome on her lips, and then she turned to Macpherson,
who stood drawn up to his full height, with his hat under his left arm
and his hand resting on his sword hilt. “I am very glad to see you,” she
said. “We talked much of you, Mr. Orme and myself, and I never doubted
that we should meet again. But,” and she looked at him with inquiring
sympathy, “you have been wounded?”

“A mere scratch,” he answered hastily. “And before I go further, you
will let a rough old soldier say a word, Miss Carew?--though he cannot
speak fairly, and in set terms such as please a woman. When we first met
I spoke harshly and in anger, for which speech I am sorry now. In my
rough journeys I have had knocks that somewhat hardened me, but I ask
your pardon if I have in anywise offended you. I can do no more.”

“I would not have you speak of that,” she answered; “I only remember
your service.”

“The which I did not render you.” Then he went on in evident
perturbation: “You see before you one who played the coward and betrayed
the trust he compelled you to place in his hands. Had I to go through
with it again, it may be I should have done otherwise, but I acted for
the best and followed the light I had. I know you will listen to me
patiently.”

“Surely I will listen to you, but I am certain you have broken no trust
of mine.”

Gervase retired to the window, while Macpherson went through his
narrative without interruption and with an air of self-deprecation that
he seldom showed. When he had done, he drew a piece of parchment from
his breast and laid it on the table. On one side was written the message
that Colonel Lundy had commissioned him to deliver at Enniskillen, on
the other a number of lines and points were traced apparently in red
ink.

“Now,” he said, “that is the whole story, and here is the plan on which
is marked, with what skill I could command, the bearings by which the
spot may be found. I could indeed walk blindfold thither, but I shall
not be here when the time comes. Perhaps Mr. Orme will follow me as I
point out to you the meaning of this scratch.”

Gervase came up to the table, and Dorothy and he together looked down on
the red lines on which the old soldier had placed his forefinger. Then
she looked up hastily: “With what have you done this?” she cried.

“Even with the first ink that came to my hand; ´tis none the less plain
for that. Now,” he continued, “here is the way from the city, and here
are the cross-roads which you cannot miss. Fifty paces further from that
point bring you to a sycamore. Ten steps due west is the hedge, traced
thus. And there at the foot of the wild apple-tree you will find the
hole I digged. ´Tis covered with a flat stone and concealed by bracken,
but by those who know the sign cannot be missed.”

“And I hope,” said Dorothy calmly, looking up in Macpherson´s face,
“that it will never be found. Let it lie buried there for ever. Never
let me look on it again. I would give the world that I had never seen
it.”

Macpherson looked at her in wonder.

“You do not understand me I know, but Mr. Orme does, and I know my
secret is safe with him. Truly,” she added bitterly, and with a certain
wildness, “your chart was well written with blood.”

“´Twas the best I could do: I am sorry that it does not please you.”

“You mistake Miss Carew´s meaning,” said Gervase. “She finds no fault
with what you have done, and I think you have acted discreetly. But
others are concerned in this, and she must not act without
consideration.”

“However I may act,” said Dorothy, “you will promise to say nothing of
this till you have my permission; neither to my aunt nor to my brother.
They must know nothing of it now. And, Mr. Orme, I know the favour that
I ask is great, but I cannot bear the sight of this now; will you keep
it till I ask it from you?”

Gervase consented with some misgiving, but had she ordered him at that
moment to go in search of the treasure single handed, ´tis likely that
he would have done her bidding cheerfully, and gone without a word.

Having no clue to Dorothy´s meaning, Macpherson looked upon it as a
piece of the whimsical extravagance one always found in a woman, and was
content that he had delivered his message, however abruptly, and rid
himself of his responsibility. For himself, he had no desire to meddle
with family secrets, and a young fellow like Gervase Orme was a far
fitter companion to share the confidence of a girl, than a rugged and
plain-spoken soldier like himself. It might be there was more than her
grandfather´s death in the matter, but whatever it was, he would avoid
other people´s business for the future, and keep the beaten road, where
he saw plain ground for his feet.

“Of my own motion,” he said, “I will not speak of this thing, and though
´tis a pity to have the bonny stones and brave pieces lying in a ditch
side, I would not for their worth have carried them a day longer. I even
felt like Judas with the forty pieces--the price of the blood, hanging
about his neck.”

Dorothy shuddered, and hid her face in her hands.

“All is done now,” said Gervase, seeing her distress, “and words will
not mend it. Captain Macpherson and myself must even make for the walls
presently, where he will find work in plenty to his taste. The guns have
been speaking loudly for an hour.”

“Nay,” said Dorothy rising, “you will not go till you have seen my aunt;
she hath been most anxious to thank you for the service you did me. She
is seldom able to see strangers, but she is something better to-day, and
bade me call her before you left.”

Macpherson demurred stoutly and insisted on making his immediate
departure, for he felt by no means at home as it was, and foresaw with a
feeling akin to dismay, an interchange of meaningless civilities with a
silly old woman of rank. But Dorothy would take no refusal; Lady Hester
would not forgive her if she permitted them to leave without seeing her,
and she was gone before Macpherson had finished his protest.

“This is what comes of dealing with a woman, Gervase, my son,” he said,
in a mournful tone, apparently still meditating retreat. “I had rather
face a clump of pikes than come under the artillery of a woman´s tattle.
One is bound up hand and foot, and feels his manhood oozing out through
the pores of his skin, while he beats his brains for a civil speech and
looks in vain for a way of escape. They can talk of nothing I have
knowledge of, and I am too old for quips and gallant speeches. But she
is a brave lass, and I think I wronged her, so that I must suffer for it
now with patience. But for this Lady Hester, a rough old war-horse like
myself hath other business in the world than to stand like a page in a
lady´s chamber and hearken to her gossip. For young fellows like
yourself it may answer, but were I out of this----”

His resolution, whatever it may have been, remained unspoken, for at
this moment Lady Hester Rawdon came in, leaning on her nephew´s arm--a
frail old lady much broken with illness, who received Gervase with a
show of homely kindness, and strongly expressed her sense of the
good-will he had shown toward her niece. Motioning to him to sit down
beside her on the couch, she drew from him the story of his recent
adventure, and Gervase seeing the interest and pleasure she took in the
narrative, entered at some length into the particulars of his journey.
Regarding the Vicomte de Laprade she made many inquiries--the Vicomte´s
mother being her half sister--and regretted the unhappy state of the
country that prevented her seeing a lad she was very fond of in his
youth. No doubt he was a Catholic, which was to be deplored, but
religion should not weaken the ties of kinship. He was of the same age
with her nephew Jasper, and a fine lad when she saw him last. That was
at Meudon, a great many years ago. There were many changes since then,
and she supposed that she would not know him now. These were dreadful
times and the roaring of the guns frightened her beyond measure, but
there would soon be peace.

So the poor lady rambled on. All the while her nephew stood near without
taking any part in the conversation. He was considerably older than
Dorothy and very like her in appearance, but without the expression and
vivacity which was the great charm of his sister. Gervase thought there
was a look of unfriendliness in his eyes, and resented with some inward
heat, the supercilious air with which he treated him. Macpherson had
stood for some time preserving an awkward silence, until Dorothy
withdrew him to the window, and by slow degrees broke down his silence,
till he suddenly found himself talking with great ease and friendliness.

It was many years since he had looked so nearly in the face of youth and
beauty and listened to the tones of a girlish voice, and who can tell
what secret springs of memory had suddenly been unlocked? Certain it is
that when Gervase and he made their way to the walls half an hour
afterwards, there was an undertone in his voice and a softened look in
his eyes that Orme had never heard or seen before.

“There are hard times,” he said, “before yon sweet lass, harder than she
dreams of, but you and I must help to make them easier if we can. That
rambling old woman and that gay spark of a brother will be a poor help
to her in the day of her trial. I like not yon lad; his eyes shift too
much, and they are ever counting the buttons on your coat while you are
trying to find what is the thought in his mind. I´m thinking he would be
glad to be out of this, could he carry the old woman´s fortune with him.
But the lass herself hath a great heart, and if God sees good will make
a fit mother to a noble race of bairns.”

But Gervase paid very little attention to his speech. The presence of
Dorothy and the look she had given him at parting, so rapid but at the
same time so complete in perfect confidence, had filled him with
happiness, and given him food for contemplation. The old stories that he
had read of wandering knights and heroic paladins had come to be
fulfilled for him; he had found a cause in which to use his sword, and a
lady who was worthy of his devotion; and so a golden vista of great
deeds opened out before him, and he saw glory and love at the end of it.
We will not quarrel with the young fellow´s idle fancies, but leave him
with the girl´s last words----"You have proved yourself my friend,"
keeping him awake that night and mingling with the substance of his
dreams.



                               CHAPTER X.
                     OF THE STAND IN THE TRENCHES.


“What is the hour?”

“Somewhat after three. The bell in the Cathedral struck the hour as we
left the gate. ´Tis very dark.”

"And colder than frost. The wind blows from the river like a
stepmother´s breath, and dries the very marrow in your bones. On my
word, Orme, I thought the relief would never come. Here have I been
since the last night, getting what warmth I could from the shelter of
the rampart, and keeping these fellows from sleeping on guard, while my
own eyes rebelled against this sentry duty and closed in spite of me.
I´m sleepy, and hungry, and tired, and am going to take a lesson in
swearing from wicked Will Talbot:

       “Oh, roll me down the brae and walk me up the hill,
       And all the while you carry me, I´m only standing still.”

“´Tis well to have a merry heart, Jack.”

“And, prithee, why should I not be merry if I choose? Who could be sad
with six hours of guard in the twenty-four; a measurable quantity of
meat and French butter, with a qualified modicum of very thin beer, and
a chance of getting knocked on the head every hour in the day. Is not
that enough for one man, my dear Ajax, or will nothing satisfy you? Here
we have been for a fortnight at this work, and only twice have we
measured swords with the red-coated ruffians yonder, who prefer to bowl
us over with their long guns and bury us in the mortar yonder. This
soldiering is but dull work.”

“We are like to find it brisk enough if all that I hear is true. There
is talk in the camp yonder of a general onset on our position here at
the Windmill, and when I left, Baker was sending a reinforcement to
strengthen the guard. Have you heard aught in front?”

“Not a mouse stirring. Did I think it true, I should even snatch what
sleep I could in the earthworks here, and be ready to stand by you when
the knocks were going. But following the voice of wisdom for once, I´ll
even go home to bed and leave you to enjoy that frosty wind by yourself.
Should the attack come you´ll find me among the first.”

Giving a brief word of command to his company, the young fellow went
away whistling, and left Gervase Orme to his solitary meditations as he
paced up and down the rampart, peering out into the darkness, and
devoutly longing for the first streak of sunrise. Windmill Hill was a
post of great importance and in some measure the key of the position.
The highest point of the river to the south of the city, it entirely
commanded the town; and only a fortnight before the enemy had made a
bold effort to drive in the guard, and entrench themselves upon it. In
this they had failed after a stubborn resistance, and since then the
position had been strengthened by throwing up a rampart that ran across
the summit of the hill almost to the river. The guards had been greatly
strengthened, for the recollection of the first attack had taught the
garrison a salutary lesson which they could not afford to throw away. It
had become a thing of vital importance that the hill should not fall
into the hands of the enemy, and from some source--it was scarcely known
what--they had learned that the Irish intended to attack the position in
force, and make a bold push once for all, to secure it.

Six weeks of hardship had had their effect on Gervase Orme. He had grown
accustomed to danger, and had come to look upon death as an event that
happened every day, and might be his own lot tomorrow. It had come to
seem natural now that he should waken up in the morning to find his
sword at his pillow, and listen all day to the thunder of the guns in
the batteries on Creggan and the Waterside. Successful resistance had
awakened in him as in others, an intense enthusiasm he was far from
feeling the first day he had stood on the walls and watched the white
tents stretching out on every side. At that time resistance had seemed
almost hopeless; it was their duty to fight for a cause they looked on
as sacred; but now they had measured their strength with the foe, and
they had proved the valour of the fighting-men who manned the walls and
lined the ramparts, and if relief came while there was a barrel of meal
in the magazine they would make good their defence.

It was a fine thing to see the alacrity and courage with which the rough
yeomen and citizens went into the fight, and the spirit with which they
handled their muskets. Grumble at times they would, for horse flesh is
but poor meat to the Anglo-Saxon mind; and French butter (only a
cheerful pseudonym for tallow) and meal were somewhat apt to turn upon
the stomach of a morning. But even the grumblers did their duty, and the
cordial of religion was dealt out in plentiful doses in the Cathedral
twice a day. It was a sight to see Walker, his duty as a stout Colonel
of foot being laid aside for the nonce, mounting the pulpit with his
martial air, and drilling his flock in the duty of resistance. When the
sermon was over, and they came crowding through the door--men, women,
and children--there was a look in their eyes and a catching of their
breath, that spoke volumes for the powers of the homely orator and the
earnestness of his appeal. There was indeed nothing wanting to inflame
their zeal and strengthen their pride. The Celt was in their eyes an
inferior and a servile race, and his religion the superstition of the
scarlet woman. On them hung the fate of the kingdom, and if Londonderry
fell, Enniskillen must also surrender, and Ireland would go with James
from the Cove of Cork to Bloody Foreland. Their brethren in England--so
they said--would not let them die of want; William of Nassau was a
soldier trained in arms who knew the importance of the place they held,
and he was not one to let the grass grow under his feet. Any morning
they might rise to see a friendly fleet in the river; and they fought on
from day to day with the roofs crashing over their heads, and the first
pinch of want warning them of what might be in store.

We left Gervase Orme pacing the ramparts with his heavy cloak gathered
closely round him, looking anxiously towards the enemy´s lines. There
was not a sound to be heard; only a light glanced here and there for a
moment and then vanished into the darkness. The men lay in the trenches,
screening themselves from the sharp wind, for though it was now early in
June the nights were cold. It was weary work, this waiting for the
morning, for a light that would never break, and an attack that would
never come.

Then Gervase seated himself on an empty cask, with his face toward the
bitter east wind, and fell to thinking of Dorothy Carew. It was a habit
that had grown on him of late, for it was wonderful how it shortened the
hours, and relieved the tedium of his guard. He had seen her frequently
during the last six weeks, and though no word of love had ever been
spoken between them, he had striven to show her that he looked on her as
something more than a friend, and he thought that, though with maidenly
reserve, she returned his affection. He was seldom able to see her
alone, for Lady Hester was always anxious to see the young soldier fresh
from duty with his news of how the siege was going; and though Gervase
often longed for a tender _tête-à-tête_ he seldom managed to secure it.
How he had come to evoke the ill-will of Jasper Carew he did not know,
but the latter took little pains to conceal his enmity and on more than
one occasion, only the presence of his sister prevented Gervase from
coming to an open breach with him. He took no part in the defence, and
openly laughed at his sister´s zeal. And yet Gervase knew that he was no
coward, for he had come through several affairs of honour, and pinked
his man very creditably. But however much Gervase might have desired his
friendship, he saw no other way to peace than to avoid him so far as he
could, and let his gibes pass unnoticed when they met. He could see that
Dorothy was anxious to atone for her brother´s coldness, and that was in
itself compensation enough. And as Gervase sat on his cask, and drew his
cloak closer about him, he saw again the tender smile in her eyes and
felt the pressure of her hand. What mattered this dreary guard and the
long watching and the hardship of his life, if she loved him?

So wrapped up was he in his meditations that the sky was all flecked
with gray and barred with red, and the morning wind was blowing round
him, before he awakened from his dream. The men of his company were
walking in twos and threes below him, or were still lying crouched under
the shelter of the ramparts. He himself was numb and stiff with cold,
and as he rose to stretch his limbs his eye caught sight of the grey
tents in the valley below him. The clear note of a solitary bugle was
sounding fitfully. The camp was already astir, and away to the left
several companies of horse were moving rapidly toward the strand. In a
moment his dreams were dissipated and he was keenly on the alert. It
seemed to him that a great body of men were being massed in the hollow.
Already, as it grew clearer, he could see them gathering round the
standards, and the grey glint of steel came fitfully through the morning
mists. There was not a moment to lose, for he did not doubt that the
attack was about to be made in force, and if they were to hold their
ground, it would need every available fighting man the garrison could
send out to defend the whole line of the rampart. He could not be
mistaken; the attack they had been looking for so long, was about to
come at last.

Leaping hastily into the trench, he collected the men of his command. He
spoke to them briefly and to the point. “Now,” he said, throwing off his
cloak and drawing his sword, “Sinclair, you will make for the City with
what haste you can. Tell Baker we must stand a general attack, and that
the horse are gone toward the river. I think the grenadiers are upon the
left moving toward the bog. You, Bowden, will pass the alarm along the
line, and I myself will even go forward to reconnoitre, and see more
clearly what their meaning is. Now, my lads, see that your priming is
fresh, for we must stand to it this day like men.”

The note of alarm spread rapidly down the ramparts, and wherever the
little companies were gathered the excitement grew deep and strong, and
preparations were made for the coming struggle. There was now no longer
any reason to doubt that the enemy were preparing to make a general
advance. In the grey dawn they could see dark masses in motion to the
right and to the left, and hear the drums beating their lively call, and
the note of the bugle ringing out clear and loud.

Dropping from the rampart Gervase crept down the hillside, taking
advantage of the straggling line of defence that ran zig-zag down the
hill in the direction of the enemy. As he drew nearer and bent his ear
to the ground, he could hear the measured tread of marching feet and the
ring of iron hoofs. The dawn had come up with a leap; the light was now
broad and clear, and lying screened by the shelter of the fence, he
could see the different regiments rapidly taking up their position with
as much order as the irregularities of the ground would permit. What
their strength was he could not rightly estimate, but the regiment
before him was Butler´s foot, and on the left were Nugent´s grenadiers.
He could hear the hoarse word of command shouted down the ranks and the
rattle of the firelocks as the men shouldered their guns. Already they
were in motion. There was not a moment to be lost if the rampart was to
be kept that day. With the speed of a deer he made his way back to the
lines, calling out as he came up, and took the deep trench at a bound.

“They are coming,” he said, clambering up the breastwork; “they are
coming, and will be up in a quarter of an hour. We must give them a warm
welcome here. Bring out the powder, and remember to fire low; we are not
shooting snipe to-day, and must not waste a shot.”

He looked anxiously toward the city for the support that had been
promised, for he knew the little body of men who surrounded him could
not stand for a moment against the force in front of them. But the city
was all astir. The Cathedral bell was pealing out its warning summons,
and already a stream of men was pouring from the Bishop´s-gate without
order or formation. And they were not a moment too soon, for the enemy
came pouring up the hillside, a dark, crimson wave that seemed to
undulate, swaying with a slow uncertain motion, as it advanced.

The men stood within the shelter of the ramparts clutching their muskets
and watching far below them the enemy advancing slowly to the assault.

“I´m thinking I could put a brace of slugs into yon young cockerel with
the feathers in his bonnet,” said a tall, raw-boned man of Down,
glancing along the barrel of the fowling piece he carried, and turning
to Gervase with an inquiring look. “It were a pity not to let them have
a foretaste of what they´ll get by and by.”

“You must not draw a trigger till they are close up; then you may bring
him down if you will. God be praised! here come the reinforcements. I´m
glad to see you, Colonel Baker, with all my heart. They would scarce
have waited for you had you tarried.”

“Tis very well done, Mr. Orme. You deserve no small praise for your
watchfulness. This had been a serious business had they caught us
napping, but there is not a man in the camp yonder who is worth a pinch
of powder, and they come on like so many drunken drabs. Now we will show
the rogues what they may expect when they call on honest men at home.”

Rapidly and with a joyful alacrity he drew up the men into three ranks,
rank behind rank, and bade them look carefully to the loading of their
pieces, and not to waste their shot. Then he directed the first rank
that they should wait till the enemy came within forty paces of the
rampart, and when he gave the word they should fire their volley
steadily and all together; that having fired the second rank should take
their place, and that they in turn should give way to the third. The
simple measure was easily understood, and the men smiled in silence as
they handled their muskets and waited for the word.

“The women are coming to see how you have done, my sons,” Baker said,
“but I think you will not want their help to-day. Yonder fellows are but
three to one; you could spare them greater odds than that and beat them
still. I would wager a golden guinea never a man of them will touch the
rampart.”

The enemy had advanced to within a hundred yards of the ramparts and
then halted to complete their formation, which had been broken by the
straggling fences of which we have already spoken. The silence behind
the earthworks had been so complete that they looked for an easy victory
over the guards on duty there. It was now broad day, and the defenders
could see all along the line their enemies hastening to the attack. With
a loud cheer the latter advanced at the double, and were close upon the
ramparts when they were met by a sudden spurt of fire that ran
simultaneously along the line, and by a shower of bullets that brought
them to a stand. But the check was only momentary. Believing that they
had now to deal with empty barrels, they sprang forward with redoubled
ardour, and were within a few paces of that fatal rampart when a second
time the leaden hail smote them with withering effect. They halted in
confusion and fired wildly into the smoke-covered curtain. Above the
clamour and din rang out the voice of Baker--

“Steadily, my children, they are nearly satisfied. Advance! Fire!”

And the men of Londonderry with sublime faith in their captain and with
the steadiness of men on the parade ground, took their place and gave
another volley. Then the foe broke up into confusion and lost all
semblance of formation. Many of them threw away their muskets and made
what speed they could for the rear; while others encouraged by the
shouts of their officers and still full of fight, made for the ramparts,
and leaping into the trench climbed up the curtain with muskets clubbed.
But they had little chance of success. All along the line they were met
by an enemy flushed with the first success and having the advantage of a
superior position. In some places, indeed, they succeeded in topping the
line, and a hand to hand fight took place, but they could not keep their
hold on the ground they had won. They were driven back into the trench
with their assailants on the top of them. But for the most part the
garrison stood stoutly by the ramparts, meeting their enemy with the
muzzles of their guns and a steady fire.

Then Baker turned to Gervase with his face all aglow. “Should you live a
thousand years you will never see a prettier fight than that. ´Tis over
now, for we have taken the heart out of them and they will not form
again. I pray God we have done as well elsewhere, but I fear the horse
have pressed us harder by the Waterside. You must not tarry here. Away
thither like the wind, and tell Gladstanes that I can spare him a half
dozen companies if he need their help.”

However reluctant to leave till he had seen the end, Gervase obeyed and
made what haste he could down the line of the ramparts towards the
strand. All along the earthworks the men were standing steadily to their
guns, but down by the river the fight was going hard.

Two hundred horse, gentlemen, for the most part, of high spirit and
rank, had taken a solemn oath, as the chroniclers say, to top the line
or perish in the attempt. Gervase came up as they were about to make the
charge and delivered his message to the stout soldier who commanded
there. “Not another man do I want,” was the answer; “we have enough for
glory. Now, my lads, here they come, and let them have it!”

Carrying faggots before them with which to fill up the trench, the horse
came on at a gallop, the steel swords and scarlet coats making a gallant
show. Dashing up within thirty yards of the ramparts, they suddenly
wheeled to the right, and made for the open space between the rampart
and the river, intending to take the enemy on the flank. As they came on
they were met by a storm of bullets that seemed without effect, for
barely a man went down. Then Gervase heard a familiar voice call
out--the deep trumpet tone of Macpherson: “They carry armour under their
gay clothes. Aim at the horses and we´ll take the riders afterwards.”

But the order had come too late. Already they had passed the line of
defence and gained the open ground within. Hastily clambering out of the
trench, the defenders rushed to meet them with pikes and muskets, in a
compact and stubborn body.

Gervase was looking about him for some more serviceable weapon than the
small sword he carried, when he saw Simon Sproule making prodigious
efforts to lift himself out of the trench under the weight of his heavy
firelock. The face of the little linen-draper was ghastly pale, the
perspiration was running in streams down his face, and his eyes were
like those of a startled hare. Reaching him his hand, Gervase helped him
to his feet.

“Now,” he said, “steady yourself and play the man. If you attempt to
flee, which I verily think you do, I´ll even run you through the body,
and tell your wife why I did it.”

“Never fear for me, Mr. Orme; I´ll stand by you like a man; but this is
a fearful trade for a citizen. D--do you think they´ll run?”

“We´ll do our best to make them,” answered Gervase, picking up a pike;
“follow me, and do the best you can.”

“Never fear for me.”

The horsemen came on gallantly, but could make no impression on the iron
wall that met them at every point. The horses went down in dozens, but
the riders leaping to their feet still strove to make good the vow they
had taken, and fought with a stubborn spirit. On every side they were
surrounded by that cruel wall of pikes and scythes, and a spirit as
stubborn as their own. Then they were broken up into little knots, and
it became a hand to hand fight in which the advantage was altogether on
the side of the garrison.

Gervase had lost sight of Simon Sproule in the melée, and, indeed, had
altogether ceased to think of him, having business enough of his own to
attend to at present. As yet the fortune of the fight hung in the
balance. Back to back, and shoulder to shoulder, stood the men of the
garrison, handling their muskets and pikes with the steadiness and
precision of veterans. Never since the siege began and the first shot
had been fired, had there been a fight like this. It was dry work and
warm work, and Gervase felt his throat baked like a kiln. He heard some
of the men crying round him for water and saw them go staggering, faint
and exhausted, to the rear. And though Gervase did not see it there was
help for them there. The women of the city, who had been watching with
anxious hearts from the walls, could bear the suspense no longer, and
regardless of the bullets and cannon shot from across the river, had
come down to their aid with food and drink. It was even said, and the
chroniclers record it with a touch of pride, that they took their share
in the conflict, and fought with stones with as bold a heart as the
stoutest among the men. Certain it is that they put new life into the
weary fellows who were tired of hacking at the steel breastplates and
head-pieces, and who for the most part had not tasted food since the
evening before. It seemed to Gervase that the slaughter of horses and
brave men would never cease. No sooner was one down than another had
taken his place, hewing for his life at those pikes that would not bear
back an inch.

“Stand close and strike home,” a voice would cry, and a little knot of
horsemen went rolling to the ground. There was now no hope of escape for
them. A dense phalanx of pikemen and musketeers had drawn between them
and the entrance to the lines. Back to back each man fought only for his
life. No quarter was given or asked, but each man went down where he
stood.

For nearly two hours by the sun the battle had been raging, and the end
was now at hand. Gervase had been carried in the melée down toward the
river, and was making his way back toward the ramparts among the
slaughtered horses and dead and wounded men, when he saw half a dozen
pikemen surrounding a dismounted horseman, who was making gallant play
with his sword. Anxious to save his life Gervase was about to interfere,
when he heard the sound of his voice raised in disdain of his
assailants; “Five to one! _ventre de Dieu_, I care not for you all. A
gentleman of France has never learned to yield.”

It was the voice of his friend De Laprade. Gervase was just in time;
another minute and he would have been too late. Pushing his way into
their midst, he warded off a blow that was aimed at the Vicomte, and
loudly commanded his assailants to forbear. Covered as he was with blood
and grime, De Laprade did not at first recognize him, but still stood on
the defensive.

“This gentleman is my friend,” cried Gervase, placing himself before him
and guarding him with the pike he still carried. “I will not have him
touched.”

Then as the men fell back willingly enough, the Vicomte recognized his
deliverer, and flinging away his sword, held out his hand. “There is no
need for this now,” he said, “and I could not surrender it even to you.
This is the second time, Mr. Orme, I have to thank you for my life. I
grow weary of your kindness.”

“I am very troublesome without doubt,” Gervase answered with a smile. “I
hope you have not been touched.”

“Not the prick of a pin point, but these men of yours fight like devils
and against all the rules of war.”

“They are learning their trade,” Gervase answered, “and you cannot
expect beginners to be perfect But they have made a complete rout of
your horse, and left but few of them to carry back the story to the
camp. They have got Butler yonder, and are carrying him to the town.”

“Whither, I suppose, I must bear him company? I am weary of the camp and
would prefer to visit your city for a change. You do not eat your
prisoners?”

“It has not come to that yet, but I think it may. Now, Vicomte, if I can
do aught to lighten your captivity be assured I will do my best to that
end. But in the meantime, I must send you in with the guard as my work
is not yet finished.”

“Put yourself to no inconvenience for me,” said the Vicomte cheerfully,
“I am quite content.”

Placing De Laprade in custody of the guard which had already secured the
other prisoners, and telling them that he was under obligations to the
gentleman, whom, he hoped, they would treat with consideration, Gervase
went to assist in looking after the wounded.

Only three or four of the horsemen had succeeded in cutting their way
back to the camp, and it was a matter of congratulation that so complete
a victory had been won with so little loss. A great victory, won in the
open field against the very flower of the enemy´s cavalry and with no
great superiority of numbers, was a thing of which they might be fairly
proud. The women were looking after those who had fallen, many of whom
had crawled back to the trench and were waiting there to be carried to
the city. A crowd of soldiers were gathered round their colonel, who was
reading them a striking homily on the lessons of the day.

Gervase did what he could for the brave fellows who were lying round
him, and was about to make his way back to the city, when he came upon
Mistress Sproule looking the picture of despair.

“Oh! Mr. Orme, for the love of God, have you seen Simon anywhere? I´m
told he was here among you in the very front of the fighting, but I
cannot find him yonder, and I cannot find him here.”

Then Gervase remembered having helped the little citizen out of the
trench, and though he did not think there was much likelihood of his
being very forward in the melée, he was concerned to hear that he had
not made his appearance to receive his wife´s congratulations on their
successful stand, as he probably would have done had he been in the land
of the living.

“I saw him,” he answered, “when we were going into the fight, but I have
not seen him since. Never fear for Simon; you will find him safe and
sound, I have no doubt. He will have gone back to the city.”

“That he hath not--he´s killed, I tell you. Had he been alive he would
have been yonder where the Colonel is preaching his sermon. He was ever
fond of preaching.”

Gervase was heartily sorry to think the little man should have been
knocked on the head, and did all he could to comfort his inconsolable
spouse. “Come with me,” he said, “and I´ll show you where I left him.
We´ll make inquiries by the way, and you´ll find him, I warrant, safe
and sound, as I say.”

But no one had seen Simon either in the fight or afterwards, nor could
anyone tell what had become of him, though he was well known for a
courageous and eloquent little man, ever forward with bold counsels.
Then they came to the trench where Gervase had lifted him up with his
musket on his shoulder, and as they stood there looking up and down,
Gervase caught sight of a figure lying half hidden under the shelter of
the rampart. Leaping into the trench he ran down and bent over the
prostrate body. The face was lying buried in the arms, and the feet were
drawn up almost to the chin. Beside him lay his musket. There was no
doubt of his identity; it was Simon Sproule. Gervase was almost afraid
to touch him; then he bent down and turned him slightly over.

The little man raised his face with the fearful look in his eyes that
Gervase had seen before. “Don´t hurt me,” he cried, “I surrender
peacefully. Why, God bless me! Mr. Orme, is it you? Is it all over, sir?
and have we held our own? It hath been a dreadful day. I do not think I
shall ever walk again.”

“Your wife is here to look for you, Simon,” Gervase said, with a gravity
he found it hard to maintain; “she will look after your wound; where is
it?”

“Oh! it is even all over--from the crown of the head to the sole of the
foot. This hath been a terrible time for me. Thank God! Elizabeth, you
have come to see the last of me.”

Raising himself upon his elbow, he looked at his wife with so forlorn
and piteous an expression that Gervase imagined for a moment that he was
wronging him by his suspicions, and that the little man had in reality
been wounded. It never for a moment occurred to the mind of his wife
that he had crept under the parapet to be out of the way of evil, and it
was with grief and consternation that she began to investigate his
injuries. With the aid of Gervase he was lifted out of the trench, and
though no wound could be found on his person that would account for his
condition, his wife continued to ply him with questions which he as
resolutely refused to answer.

“I think,” he said, after a while, “I shall try to stand. I thought my
back was broken, but the feeling hath come back into my extremities, and
I may yet recover the use of my faculties. Thank God for our merciful
deliverance!”

“Had you been killed, Simon,” said his wife, “I should have grieved
sorely, but it would have been my consolation that you fell in the way
of your duty.”

“Truly that is the case,” her husband answered in the same tone, “but I
have, I hope and trust been mercifully spared to you and the children. I
think, though, I have got this day what will shorten my arm for the
future. I even fear I have seen my last fight.”

“I am thinking,” said his wife, whose strong common sense was gradually
overcoming her alarm, “that you are more frightened than hurt. I would
just like to know how it came that we found you in the trench with never
a scratch on your body?”

“And you´ll know that,” said Simon, plucking up heart and sending his
imagination on an airy flight, a course his mind would seldom take.

“You will remember, Mr. Orme, how you and I were even plunged in the
thick of it, with those swearing devils swinging their long swords and
cracking their pistols about our ears. I saw you borne forward and like
to come to evil, but I could not help you, strive as I might. I had work
enough of my own to save my head, and I and some others--who they were I
know not--were borne back here. We made a stout defence, but I was
struck or pushed from behind and only remember falling back heels over
head into the trench thinking I should never see wife or children again.
And now, God be thanked! we have gained a great victory, and that let
none gainsay.”

“The day is hardly over,” said Gervase, who could not restrain his
amusement; “they are still pushing us hard in the ramparts down by the
Bogside, and I heard a whisper that our men had been driven in there. If
you feel able we might go thither and see if we cannot strike a brave
blow together.”

“The Lord forbid--I mean--that is--I have had my share of this day´s
fight, and so look you, Mr. Orme, I say with all courage, I think I´ll
even turn my steps homeward, if my wife will lend me her arm, and will
not keep you waiting here. You are young and lusty, and hot blood must
have hot blood.”

Mistress Sproule who was herself so courageous, that she was unable to
suspect cowardice in others, still imagined that Simon had sustained
some internal injury, and with great tenderness and solicitude took him
under her arm and led him to the city.

This was a memorable day in the annals of the siege. The men of the
garrison had fought with heroic courage, and only in the intrenchment by
the Bog had there for a moment been any doubt as to the result. There,
indeed, the defenders had been taken by surprise, and the grenadiers had
gained possession of the trenches, but only to hold them for an hour.
That night the bell in the Cathedral rang out a joyous peal, and hearts
that were beginning to despond took fresh courage.

Starvation and disease were now the only enemies they feared, but as
they gathered on the walls that night and shook one another by the hand
in joyful congratulation, they were unable to foresee the horror and
despair that lay before them and the suffering they had yet to undergo.

Gervase had supped early and was about to retire to bed, when, with a
humble knock, Simon Sproule opened the door and came into the room.
“Elizabeth thinks I am safe in bed,” he said apologetically, “but I
could not go to sleep till I had seen you. I would not ask you to strain
your conscience, but I will take it as a favour if you will tell her
that I have done my best, which is but the plain and simple truth.”

“But how can I do that, Simon?”

“With a full heart, sir. I did my best though I´m free to admit, it was
far from well. I can march with the bravest and carry my musket like a
man, but when the bullets begin to fly, and I catch sight of those
murdering sword-blades, the Lord knows my knees are loosened under me
and my heart dies in my breast. And all the while I would, if I might,
be up and playing the hero, but I cannot. ´Tis a fearful position for an
honest man to be placed in; my wife who is as bold as a lion itself
thinks there is not a braver man in the city, and the neighbours that I
have lived among all my life, cry out ‘There goes the gallant Sproule,´
and all the while I´m but a pitiful coward. I declare to God this life
will kill me, Mr. Orme, and I want your aid and counsel----”

“Make a clean breast of the matter, Simon, and tell them how you feel.”

“No, that I cannot do now. I have boasted like the Philistine and talked
loudly like a man of war and how can I, who am an elder in my church and
an honest burgher that may sometime be an alderman, confess that I am
but a liar and a braggart. I could never hold up my head again among my
neighbours; and for my wife--no, Mr. Orme, I cannot do it.”

“Then I am afraid I cannot help you. You know”, and Gervase smiled
significantly, “you have been wounded, and such wounds are ever long in
healing.”

“A month?” Simon asked doubtfully.

“I trust to heaven less than that, but even a month if need be.”

“You have struck the mark for me and saved my credit,” cried Simon
joyfully. “Twill be hard work but there is no help for it. And you will
lend me your countenance as far as your conscience will let you?”

“Nay,” said Gervase, “I cannot be a partner in your fraud, but no man
will know from me that you are not as stout as Murray himself, and that
you have not got a wound as deep as the well of St. Colomb. I can go no
further than that. Now, Simon, away to bed, for Mistress Sproule must
not find the wounded knight keeping his vigil here.”

“Remember, Mr. Orme, I rely on your discretion,” cried Simon, halting
for a moment at the door; “and I think with your help I shall be able to
save my reputation.”



                              CHAPTER XI.
                      OF A SERIOUS COMMUNICATION.


The prisoners who had been taken by the garrison had been for the most
part confined in Newgate, but several gentlemen of rank had been
permitted on giving their parole to dwell at large with private persons
in the city.

Among the latter was the Vicomte de Laprade. No sooner had Lady Hester
Rawdon learned that her nephew was a prisoner than she insisted on his
being brought to her house, and De Laprade willingly exchanged the
confinement of his prison for the society of his cousin and the
comparative freedom of her house. With his ready power to adapt himself
to his circumstances he was soon at home, and his gay songs and cheerful
wit enlivened for a time the gloom that was gradually settling down on
the household in common with the rest of the city. But even the lively
humour of the Vicomte was unable to withstand the horror and distress
that surrounded them on every side and deepened day by day. The pressure
of famine, as silent as it was terrible, began to make itself sorely
felt. Pestilence that had been lurking in the byways of the city, spread
on every side, and all through the month of June the shells were
crashing through the roofs and ploughing up the streets. The hope of
relief that had burned steadily for a while was now growing fainter and
fainter. Early in June three ships had come up the river as far as
Culmore, but finding the fort in possession of the enemy, had not
attempted to dispute the passage. And again, a little later, the
garrison had seen from the Cathedral tower the friendly fleet far down
the Lough, and had watched them with anxious hearts, till they saw them
riding of Three Trees in the western glow of that summer evening. In the
morning the sails were gone, and now the enemy had thrown a boom across
the river which shut out the passage to the sea. But still the men of
the garrison stood by the walls and manned the great guns and handled
their muskets with a cheerful courage. There were traitors, no doubt,
who deserted to the enemy, and traitors who murmured and plotted
secretly; but for the most part the citizens stood loyally by their
leaders.

Gervase Orme had suffered with the rest. He had seen poor Simon Sproule
bury two of his children, and all the humour out of it, had listened to
the heart-broken little man declare that God had visited him for his
cowardice. The wasted faces and hollow cheeks that he met began to haunt
his dreams; it became his only relief to lose himself in action and
forget the horrors he had seen. His visits to the Rawdon household
lightened the gloom a little. Dorothy bore her troubles with a quiet
strength that put his manhood to shame, and alone in the household
declared that the garrison should keep their guard while one stone stood
upon another. Since De Laprade´s coming, Gervase´s visits had not been
so frequent, for it was now impossible for him to find Dorothy alone
during the day. The light badinage of the Vicomte jarred on his nerves,
and it might be without knowing it he had become jealous of his
presence. For the Vicomte´s admiration of the girl was open and declared
and though he treated her with a quiet deference, it was plain he would
willingly have surrendered his cousinship for a closer relation still.
Dorothy appeared unconscious of his advances and turned away his
flattery with a quiet smile.

Gervase had not called for several days, and had not seen any member of
the household during that time. He was surprised to receive a note in
Dorothy´s hand, asking him to call upon her during the evening, if his
duties permitted him. It was the first letter he had ever received from
her, and though he could not surmise its cause, his heart beat somewhat
faster in his breast, as he pressed it to his lips in the quiet of his
room. Yes, it was Dorothy´s hand, like herself, very strong and free,
yet full of grace; and the words: “Yours in confidence, Dorothy Carew,”
sent him forthwith into a pleasant reverie full of tender hopes.

All day he went about his work with a light and buoyant heart, with the
precious missive out of which he had read so much carefully buttoned up
in his breast, and did his duty none the worse for thinking of the girl
who wrote it. When he called he was shown into the room by Jasper´s
servant Swartz, and Dorothy was waiting to receive him.

“I hope, Miss Carew,” said Gervase, “there is nothing wrong--that Lady
Hester is not worse?”

“My aunt is very well,” Dorothy answered, “but a little nervous and
excited. This is a trying time for her, but she bears up wonderfully. I
did not think she could have endured so much with so great patience.”

“And the Vicomte?”

“Nay, he is well. My brother has lately kept much to his own room, and
Victor has grown tired of our society and joins him often there. How
they spend their hours I hardly know, but I think they both are fond of
play, and give themselves to cards. Your hours are spent otherwise, Mr.
Orme.”

“Yes,” Gervase answered, “but you see I am a soldier and have my work to
look to.”

“And why should all men not be soldiers?” said the girl excitedly. “If a
woman might carry arms--but this is wild talk, and you know I do not
mean it. What news is there to-day?”

“Nothing of much importance: the enemy have hardly fired a shot, but I
hear there is talk of an expedition to-night, I know not whither. As for
the ships, they have not been seen since Thursday, but the wind is from
the north and they may be here to-morrow.”

“If Colonel Kirke should be another traitor?” Dorothy said; “one hardly
knows whom to trust.”

“I hope,” Gervase answered, “you will never find me false.”

“I do not think I shall, and that is why I sent for you to-day. Will you
come with me into the garden, for we may be interrupted here.”

Gervase followed her out through the open window and down the path,
wondering what confidence she was about to impose in him that required
to be so carefully guarded. They came to a little, open space of smooth
lawn where she stopped short and looked round her cautiously.

“I have thought much of this,” she said, “and I know no one but yourself
to whom I can look for advice. I thought, indeed, of Captain Macpherson,
but I did not know how he might act, and was afraid to trust him. What I
am going to say I speak to yourself alone, and must be whispered to no
other till you have my permission. Will you promise that?”

Gervase consented, hardly knowing what he promised, but seeing only the
look of entreaty in her eyes.

“No matter what you feel to be your duty?”

“If it does not touch my honour nor the safety of the city.”

“Then I cannot tell you, for I do not know. Surely,” she went on
pleadingly, “you can trust me, Gervase Orme? I stand alone and have none
to counsel me, and--and I thought you were my friend. Surely you can
trust me?”

“Every drop of blood in my veins is at your service, and though it may
be weak and wrong and we may both regret it, I promise.”

[Illustration: “SHE STOPPED SHORT AND LOOKED ROUND HER CAUTIOUSLY”]

She smiled a little sadly, and said with a touch of her old humour, “I
had rather you had not promised, but you cannot go back on your word
now. Do you think,” she said, putting her hand to her breast and looking
round her, “do you think there are traitors in the city?”

“Indeed I think there are,” Gervase answered, “but we watch them
narrowly and they do little harm. They would stir up rebellion if they
might, but the Town-Major keeps them well in hand.”

“But I mean more than that. Do you think there are any in the city who
hold communication with the enemy?”

“It may be there are, but I hardly see how they could carry out their
treachery. The walls are strictly guarded, and the men on the outposts
are faithful and true; it were a bold thing to attempt it.”

“Then tell me what you think of this.”

Putting her hand into her bosom, she drew out a small scroll of paper
and placed it in his hands. Gervase looked at her in amazement.

“Read it, and tell me what you think of it.”

Gervase took the paper, and his astonishment deepened as he read:

    “_June 9. Pass the bearer through the lines. He is doing faithful
service. Given under our hand. Hamilton._

“Miss Carew, where did you get this? If the man who held this paper be
in the city, he is a traitor and a spy, and we should not lose a moment
in discovering his villainy.”

“I knew you would use words like these. But there is something more.
Three days ago, Mr. Orme, I found this paper on the staircase. Now you
know my secret and why I sent for you.”

“Perhaps the Vicomte----” Gervase began.

“Nay, nay, you see the date, and my cousin Victor is still a man of
honour. He has given his parole, nor would he break it for the world. It
almost breaks my heart to say it, but I feel that this is my brother; I
saw him searching for it where I found it, and he would have questioned
me about it had he dared. And now I know why he left his room at night
and seldom returned before the morning. What is to be done?”

Gervase knit his brow and stood thinking. If Dorothy was right, her
brother was a traitor and in the habit of supplying the enemy with
information. It was clearly his duty to report the matter to the
authorities. But on the other hand he had given his word, however rashly
and inconsiderately, from which he could not withdraw, and stood pledged
to silence. He could not use the woman he loved as a witness against her
brother and destroy him by her hands; he shrank in pain at the thought
of such a course. Had it not been for the mysterious midnight rambles,
the passport might perhaps have been explained. Hamilton had been in the
habit of giving passes to persons in the city who had interest at
head-quarters, but this was of another sort. If Jasper Carew was the
bearer, and that seemed evident, then he must be a traitor in active
communication with the enemy.

“It is hard,” Gervase said, “to know what to do, but I think you may let
me deal with this. There is no need at present that any other person
should know what has come to your knowledge, but meanwhile keep the
paper safely, and tell me if your brother leaves the house at night. I
will try to save him in his own despite, and for your sake and his own,
because he is your brother, will watch him closely. Remember that you
only suspect his guilt, and it may be you judge him wrongly,”

“This is more than suspicion,” said Dorothy holding up the passport.
“Shall I tell him I have found it?”

“There is no need for that; we cannot undo what has been done, but we
can prevent him doing harm in the future. Do not let this grieve or
distress you. Your brother sees things in a different light from you and
me, and while circumstances have kept him here, his heart is still with
the enemy. He makes no secret of it.”

But he could not drive Dorothy from the simple fact. “But to play the
spy! To steal out by night, and to lie hidden through the day while
brave men were fighting, and a great cause is being lost or won! He is
no brother of mine. Say no more or I shall think----”

“Only this, Miss Carew, that as long as I live I shall not forget the
confidence you have placed in me, and I shall do what I can to show that
I am not wholly unworthy of it. This is no time or place to say more
than that. If it were in my power to save you any pain----”

“I am sure,” she said frankly, “you would do me a service; I know you
are my friend.”

As he took her hand and led her into the house, she turned to him and
said, “You must not ask too great a price for all you have done for me
when I come to pay you the debt I owe you.”

“One word will repay it all,” Gervase answered, about to forget the
moderation he had promised himself to observe, when she suddenly
withdrew her hand and entered the room before him. There was a certain
restraint in her manner now that was foreign to her native frankness,
and she kept Gervase strictly to his budget of news, and prevented him
from again entering on any personal topic. Presently they heard De
Laprade´s voice in the hall, and he came in followed by Jasper Carew.

“Ah! ma belle cousin, we tire of one another and come to you to bring us
peace. M. Orme, you do not often come to visit--what do you call it, my
cousin?--valour in tribulation.”

“Vice in bonds,” growled Jasper, looking moodily at his sister.

“The Vicomte thinks his visit is growing tedious, Mr. Orme,” said
Dorothy, “and would be back among his friends. He has now exhausted all
the gaieties of Londonderry.”

“If every prison had so fair a jailor,” answered the Vicomte, “I should
prefer captivity to freedom, but my jailor prefers to leave me to the
society of her kinsman, whose virtues are exalted and whose graces
are--what you see.”

Jasper turned his back and walked over to the window where he stood
beating with his fingers upon the panes. In a few minutes Orme walked
over and joined him.

“There is a matter, Mr. Carew,” he said in a low tone, “on which I would
speak with you in private.”

Carew lifted his eyes furtively, and looked at him with a questioning
air. He was about to speak but hesitated as if in doubt, and then
motioning to Gervase to precede him, followed him into the garden.

“Now, sir,” he said, turning round, “what is the matter of mystery that
cannot be spoken before my sister and kinsman? I think you take too much
upon you.”

“I shall pass by your discourtesy, for I have come to you in all
kindness, as one anxious for your welfare. What I wished to say to you
is this, and I will put it briefly. The night airs are dangerous to the
health, Mr. Carew, and should be avoided for the future.”

Carew turned pale for a moment, but the moody composure that was natural
to him remained. Gervase could see from his eyes that he would have been
dangerous had there been a fitting opportunity, but the window was open
near them, and De Laprade was watching them where they stood.

“I do not apprehend your meaning, sir; or is this a further instance of
your damned impertinence?”

“I have no wish to be offensive, but I will put the matter in another
form, and if you fail to take my meaning, you must yourself take the
consequences. It has been said,” Gervase went on calmly, “that there are
certain persons in the city, even gentlemen of rank, who are in
correspondence with the enemy. Rumour is ever full of exaggeration, but
the name of one at least is known,” here he paused, “and others may be
suspected. Perhaps you had not heard of this. But remember, sir, we will
not quarrel, for I make no charge against you. And again I tell you that
they who are not on duty should not walk of nights.”

“We cannot quarrel here, or by heaven! I would even kill you where you
stand.”

“Neither here nor elsewhere,” Gervase answered imperturbably. “I have
given you a friend´s advice, with all a friend´s sincerity, and wish you
well. Your prudence will direct you in your future conduct.”

Gervase left him as he was about to speak and re-entered the house,
where he shortly after took his leave and returned to his duty at the
outposts.



                              CHAPTER XII.
                       OF A WARM MORNING´S WORK.


The next morning Gervase was lying longer abed than usual, having had a
double share of duty the night before, when he was awakened by the sound
of Mistress Sproule´s voice raised high in expostulation and anger. Of
late she had lost much of her alacrity and it was only on great
occasions and against those to whom her antipathy was strong, that the
old fighting spirit manifested itself.

“The poor lad shall not be awakened, I tell you. He does the work of
three, and you can see that he is even wearing himself to death, if you
can see anything. When he first came to live in my house he had a cheek
like a rose, and now he goes about like an old man as crossgrained as
yourself. This blessed morning he will have his rest, if Elizabeth
Sproule can keep you out.”

Then Gervase heard the low tones of a man´s voice endeavouring to reason
with her. But the honest woman was not to be driven from her position.
“Not for all the colonels or governors who ever wore sword or sash. He
has neither wife nor mother to look after his welfare, and though he is
a gentleman I love him nearly like one of my own. For a week you have
kept the poor lad marching and watching, and you are one of the worst of
them, Captain Macpherson.”

Gervase smiled where he lay, for he dearly loved a battle royal between
the two, in which the victory usually lay with the weaker. Macpherson
had gone grimly to the attack, but he had ended by falling nearly as
much under her power as her husband himself.

“You are very right, Mistress Sproule,” Gervase heard the voice of the
old soldier say, “and though it is an urgent matter, he will have half
an hour more. You are right to be careful for him, and I like you none
the worse for your watchfulness. It may be you will let me sit down
within till he wakens?”

“That I will not. And you may even go whither you came from and tell
them that.”

But Gervase, who had been greatly amused at his friend´s conciliatory
tone, thought it time to interfere, and called out that he was awake and
would see him.

“You see how well I am guarded,” he said, as Macpherson came into the
room, “and I think you did not dispute the passage very warmly. The
enemy was too sharp for you.”

“I have been learning my own weakness,” answered Macpherson, sitting
down on the bed. “Now, my dear lad, how is the world going with you? I
would that I did not see those deep lines on your young face, and the
youth dragged out of you before your manhood has well begun. Did I not
tell you what it was to stand behind stone walls, and hope against hope
for the relief that would never come, and see the tender women and
children stricken down without help or pity?”

“Nay, Macpherson, you are ill or you would not talk thus.”

“Indeed, I think I am, and I am growing old and childish. But I have
been mad or worse for a week. With the deep water to the quays, and the
good ships yonder with brave hearts on board of them, to think of what
might be done and is not! ´Twas all very well,” he went on bitterly,
“for Kirke, the lying rogue, to dragoon the poor ploughmen who stood
gallantly by Monmouth, but ´tis hard to think that for want of a little
courage we should die here like dogs. Better throw open the gates and
let them murder us where we stand, than fight for those who will not
help us.”

“This is but wild talk,” said Gervase.

“Truly, I know that, and I would be apt to shoot another through the
head did he prate as I have done, but twelve hours´ want of food and
rest have somewhat weakened me.”

Gervase sprang from his bed, and hastily dressing himself set out his
scanty breakfast, for meat and meal had become precious, and he could
not afford to waste them. “There is enough for both of us,” he said,
“and there is still tobacco for your pipe. The guns are going merrily
yonder, and we´ll set ourselves to work as merrily here. We march to the
tune of ‘No Surrender.´”

Macpherson smiled at the young man´s simulated gaiety, and set himself
down beside him to their frugal meal. When he had finished, he lighted
his pipe and took a more hopeful tone. “I have not yet told you,” he
said, “why I came here this morning, but the day is young and we have
two good hours before us yet. We had a brave night of it.”

“A raid on the fish-house?” Gervase inquired. “I heard an expedition was
forward, but I did not know that you were out. Have you succeeded?”

“In truth,” Macpherson answered, “we came off better than I hoped. But
the fish had never been caught that we hoped to catch, and we shot our
nets in vain. Having given up hope of Kirke and his ships, the Fourteen
thought we might open up communication with Enniskillen, and Walker
found a lad who thought he knew the way, and had the heart to make the
journey. So having first set the story going that we purposed making a
push for the fish-house, we waited until dark, and then pushed off up
the river with the purpose of landing the lad outside the enemy´s lines.
So there we were in the dark, Murray and myself and some fifteen others
of the die-hard sort, holding by the gunwhale, and listening to the
Irish mounting their guard and singing their idle songs. It passed very
well till we got as far as Evan´s Wood, and then by ill luck the moon
must come out and ruin us wholly. They caught sight of us there in the
boat pulling hard in mid-stream, and then a great gun sent the shot
driving past our ears like ducks in winter. They kept up the fire from
the shore, but the night was, as you know, dark and stormy, and the moon
that had given us so ill a start, went down behind the clouds again. I
was strong for turning back, for I saw the lad had lost his spirit, but
they must needs hold on as far as Dunnalong, and so we got so far and
proposed to land our messenger. But we might as well have been abed, for
the great gun had taken away his appetite for the venture, and he would
not set a foot on shore. There was nothing for it but to go back the way
we came, and put the best face we could on our bootless errand. So we
came pulling down stream, never knowing the minute when a round shot
would send us to the bottom, when we saw two boats making for us in the
gray of the dawn that was now something too clear for safety. They were
our old friends the dragoons, and soon the bullets began to fly, and we
returned their fire with so much fervour that they kept their distance,
like the careful lads they are. Then says Murray, who likes nothing
better than a melée, ‘Lay us alongside the rascals, and we´ll treat them
to a morning dram;´ and though they would have sheered off when they saw
us resolute to close, we even ran up under their stern, and had
clambered on board in a twinkling. We made short work of them and threw
them overboard with a will. Some of them went to the bottom, and some of
them got ashore, but for their boat we brought it with us, and it is
even now lying by the quay.”

“And what became of the other?”

“Oh! they did not like our entertainment and begged to be excused; so
they stole off and left us with our prize.”

“It is good news,” said Gervase; “the best we have had for many a day. I
would have ventured something to have been of your company.”

“I thought of you, my lad, as we clambered over the gunwhale and gave
them the ends of our muskets. But there is still fun in the fair, and I
have come for you this morning to join in it. With the boats we purpose
paying them a visit yonder by the orchard, and drawing the teeth of the
great guns that have been barking somewhat vehemently of late. Baker
himself hath asked for you, which is to your credit in a garrison where
brave men are not few. I think myself, you have come to handle your
sword in a pretty fashion.”

“There is no lack of opportunity to learn,” said Gervase laughing, “but
you must not spoil me with praise before I have deserved it.”

The old soldier looked at him with a friendly glance, as he bent down to
examine the lock of his pistol. Most men were drawn towards Gervase
Orme. His frankness, his courage, and his ready sympathy had no touch of
affectation, while his handsome face and stalwart presence had made him
many friends; but Macpherson, who had been on terms of intimacy with few
for years, had come to look upon him as a father looks on a son. Gervase
had found his way to a heart that had long been closed to human
sympathy, and without knowing it, had brought light to a mind warped and
darkened by a narrow and visionary creed. It was not that Macpherson´s
character had undergone a change, but during the fortnight he had spent
in the farmhouse, a part of his nature had awakened to life which he had
been sedulously trying to stifle, and which he had not been able to
reconcile with the hard and narrow creed he had adopted.

“Lay down your weapon,” he said, as Gervase with some eagerness was
making his preparations to set out, “lay down your weapon, and listen to
me. We have a good hour still; a man should never hurry to put his head
in danger. Have you made it up yet with the sweet lass--you know whom I
mean.”

“I saw Miss Carew last night,” said Gervase with some confusion.

“Tut, man, you will not put me off the scent like a young puppy that
hath not yet found its nose. She is a wench in ten thousand--the good
woman of the preacher, and was made to nurse a brave man´s bairns. You
must not let your gay spark of a Frenchman cut out the prize before your
eyes, as he means to do, if I have an eye to read his purpose. You know
not how to woo, my lad. Women are not to be taken like a town, with the
slow approach of parallels and trenches; they ever love to be carried
with a rush. The bold wooer is twice a man. You must go blithely about
it and tell her what you mean.”

“It is true that I love Miss Carew,” said Gervase, “but this is no time
to make love, and I will not distress her with any importunity of mine.”

“Listen to the lad!” cried Macpherson, with a gesture of impatience;
“importunity of his, quoth he! Our troubles will not last for ever, and
a woman will not find her trouble the harder to bear because a brave man
tells her he would have her to be his wife.”

“You do not know Dorothy Carew,” said Gervase good-humouredly. “I think
she would not love a man the better for thinking of himself when other
work is to be done.”

“Being a woman, I think she would love him none the worse; but you are
an obstinate lad and will take your own course. Her brother favours you
but little, and the Frenchman is not much burdened with tender scruples.
You will see what you will see. But I have spoken my word of warning,
and will start when you please.”

Gervase could see that Macpherson was dissatisfied, but he thought it
useless to prolong the argument and prepared to accompany his friend.

The boats were lying at the quay, and the adventurers were already
embarking when Macpherson and Gervase arrived. The expedition was full
of danger. Every man who took part in it knew that he was taking his
life in his hand; but there was glory to be gained, for the eyes of the
whole city were upon them. On the other side of the river, encircled by
its green hedge, lay the orchard with its battery of guns that seldom
were silent for a day together. Only one company lay in the farmhouse
hard by to protect the gunners, and it was hoped that by a bold and
rapid push, the garrison might cross the river and spike the guns before
a stronger force had time to interfere. But they must first face the
fire of the guns, and having landed, must take their chance of finding
the enemy prepared to give them a warm reception.

It was a fine thing to see the gay courage with which the men of the
garrison took their seats, and examined the priming of their muskets. It
seemed, from their bearing, rather a work of pleasure than one of life
and death they were engaged upon.

Gervase took his seat in the stern of the smaller and lighter boat--the
only one the garrison possessed before they took their prize that
morning. Colonel Murray, who had inspired the venture, sat in the stern
sheets, holding the tiller in his hand. A saturnine man, with the
reserve and silent energy of his race, his face was lighted with the
glow of excitement, and his voice was loud and deep, as he bade them
push off into the stream.

“Now, my lads,” he said, “this is a race for glory--we must be first
across, and first we shall be. Keep low in the boat, and do not fire a
single shot till we meet them on the bank; then we shall treat them to a
taste of our cold steel.”

The boat swung out into the stream, and the rowers bent to their work
with a will. The other boat was heavier, and soon they had out-distanced
it considerably. Murray had been watching the gunners in the orchard,
who had already wakened up to the fact that they were threatened with an
attack.

“What do you make of that, Orme? your eyes are younger than mine, but if
I do not mistake they are about to carry off the guns.”

“You are right,” said Gervase. “One they have already carried past the
farmhouse, and are preparing to do the same with the other. And the foot
are coming down in force to their support.”

“Let them come. We are still in time, and will not turn for twenty
regiments. Now, my sons, bend to it with a will.”

Already they were met with a dropping musket fire which sent the bullets
singing about their ears and splashed up the water round them, but they
held on stoutly and redoubled their efforts. The enemy had been taken by
surprise. They had not dreamt that so small a force, in the light of
open day, would have ventured to make so hazardous an attempt. But they
were now undeceived, and made their preparations to receive their
visitors. They were dragging off the guns to a place of safety, and
three companies of foot were lining the hedge that ran parallel with the
bank. Then the bow of the boat grated on the beach, and the men of the
garrison leaped into the water, holding their muskets above their heads.

Without waiting for their comrades who were straining every nerve to
come up to their support, they clambered up the bank, and rushed at the
hedge where the red-coats showed through the green foliage. As they came
up they fired a volley, and clubbing their muskets, came crashing
through the thorns with the spirit of men who would not be denied. The
fight was short but stubborn. Foot by foot the defenders of the hedge
were driven back, and then as the men of the second boat came up, they
broke and fled. The guns were now being hurried down the road, and every
moment the chance of overtaking them grew less. The delay caused by that
bold stand was fatal. But still the assailants kept pressing on, hoping
that they would be in time to reach the guns before they were
intercepted.

As they came up the gunners abandoned the pieces, but it was too late
now to wait to spike them. Already a strong force was drawing between
them and the boats, and it was with a bitter sense of failure that they
turned their faces towards the river, and prepared to cut their way back
again. The odds were four to one against them. It seemed as if they had
been caught in a trap of their own making. From every clump of bushes
flashed the blaze of the muskets, and here one and there another went
down in his tracks.

“This will not do,” rang out the voice of their leader. “We must try
them hand to hand. After me, my lads!” Leaping the orchard fence they
met the enemy hand to hand, but still pushing forward to where the boats
were lying in the river. The trees that grew closer here and were
covered with their summer foliage, protected them from the fire of the
foot who lay on the other side. Then Gervase saw Macpherson in front of
him stumble and fall, and he feared it was all over with the brave old
soldier. But he was on his feet before Gervase could reach him.

“Don´t tarry for me,” he said, as Gervase seeing him stagger forward,
took him by the arm. “Make what haste you can and do not mind for me.
This trifle will not stop me.”

“We´ll find our way together then. Hold on a little longer and we´ll
reach the boats in spite of them. Ah! that is bravely done.”

From tree to tree and from hedge to hedge the men of the garrison cut
their way, presenting a front, that though ragged and broken, sent the
enemy to right and left. Then they reached the open space by the river,
and restraining the impulse that would have driven them to rush to the
boats, fell back slowly and steadily. The wounded whom they carried with
them were first helped on board, and then they rapidly embarked; the
last man to leave the bank being Murray, who with his sword held in his
teeth pushed off the boat into the deep water. How they lived through
the storm of bullets that were rained upon them Gervase hardly knew, but
barely a man was touched, and they sent back a ringing cheer of defiance
as they passed rapidly beyond reach of the muskets.

It was a glorious, if fruitless and foolhardy deed--one which only brave
men would have undertaken in a spirit of despair, but one that they
might look back on in after years with pride for the glory of it. The
deed was done in sight of all the city. Their friends had watched the
charge from the walls, and seen the stubborn fight for safety, and now
they poured out to meet them as they came through Ship Quay Gate, and
welcomed them back as if they had come in triumph. From want of the
sacred poet their names have grown dim through the gathered years, but
they did not fight for renown--only simple men who sought to do their
homely duty.

Macpherson´s wound had proved a trifling one after all, and with the
help of Gervase he was able to make his way home on foot. A spent bullet
had struck him on the knee, and the wound though painful, was not likely
to incapacitate him for service. He thought, on the whole, they had had
a pleasant morning´s work, and declared that with such stirring
entertainment he would need but half his rations.



                             CHAPTER XIII.
                         OF A STRATAGEM OF WAR.


Day by day the time crept on toward the end of June, and brought no
change to the garrison. There were fewer mouths, it is true, to feed
now, for disease and battle had laid them under heavy contribution, but
the store of provisions was rapidly becoming exhausted. A fortnight
more, so they believed and said, would bring them face to face with
actual starvation, and the city must fall from want of men to line the
walls and man the guns. For surrender they would not. “First the
prisoners and then each other,” was their grim jest that had an edge of
earnest with it. No man now dared to whisper the prudence of surrender,
for the spirit of resistance, which had been strong before, now burned
with a wild and splendid flame as they felt the end was coming. The
enthusiasm of the Ulster man does not find its outlet in boisterous
speech--as his excitement increases his silence deepens, and he is,
unlike his Celtic countryman, ever readier with his hand than with his
tongue. And now, though hope was growing fainter as the days dragged on,
their pride--the stern pride of religion and of race--inspired them with
an obstinacy that had something sublime in it. Yet all the while the
ships lay in the Lough and made no effort to come to their relief. Day
by day they signalled in vain from the Cathedral tower and the great
guns rang out, but Kirke would make no move. So close was the investment
now, every loophole guarded with the extremest vigilance, that
communication was impossible. One brave man had indeed made his way from
the fleet to the city after passing through perils innumerable; but
though he made the attempt, he found himself unable to return. Another
messenger had bravely volunteered to carry out their message of despair,
but he never reached the ships. A day or two after, the enemy erected a
gallows on the bastion across the river, and there in the sight of the
city the gallant fellow met his fate.

Dorothy Carew never looked back on this time without a shudder. She
suffered more than many, for to the hardships she endured she added a
private and peculiar sorrow of her own. The first she bore cheerfully
and uncomplainingly, but her brother´s secret, so base and so
contemptible, oppressed her with a terrible feeling of shame and
distress. After her first outburst of confidence to Gervase Orme, which
she sometimes half regretted, she watched her brother jealously, and lay
night after night listening for his footsteps.

But whether the warning he had received had taught him caution, or
whether he had fulfilled his mission, his midnight excursions were now
abandoned and he kept closely to the house. Still, to her keen and high
sense of honour it was intolerable that her brother--the head of the
house--should be a traitor whose guilt might be discovered at any time,
and among so many brave men should act the coward and the spy. Had he
gone over boldly to the enemy and thrown in his lot with them, she could
have loved him. But now her love had been crushed out of her heart, and
only comtempt and shame were left. Physical suffering seemed a light
thing in comparison, and she envied the women who sent their husbands
out to fight, and prayed for their safety when they were absent. But
still she bore up with uncomplaining fortitude, and no one guessed the
secret grief that was preying on her mind. Lady Hester, who had suffered
agonies of fear while the bombs were raining on the city, she had
encouraged with a simulated cheerfulness, and ordered her little
household as she might have done in times of peace. The pinch of famine
had hardly affected them yet--that was to come--but even that she looked
forward to without any fear for herself.

But besides all this, she had another source of future trouble in her
cousin. She could not long remain blind to the fact that his admiration
for her was undisguised, and that beneath his cynical and flippant
manner there had grown up a regard that was more than cousinly. It is
true that he did not annoy her with his attentions, for Jasper and
himself spent much of their time together. But he had shown clearly on
more than one occasion that he was only waiting for a fitting
opportunity to declare himself her lover. That opportunity she was
anxious should not present itself. It was not, she reasoned with
herself, that she loved another better, but she did not love De Laprade,
and she did not wish to wound him. She did not wholly understand him,
and could not tell whether he was ever in earnest or felt sincerely
about anything. Then she thought of Gervase Orme, with his frank
laughter and quiet speech, who treated her with a distant reverence and
that was all. It was a pleasant thing to have him as a friend, full of
quiet strength and honest as the day. But these were no times to think
of such things, and so she put away the thought and went about her
simple duties, hoping that Gervase would call to see her soon.

That evening she was seated by the open window, for the day had been
close and sultry and the night was warm, a volume of Quarles´ Emblems
spread open on her knees. Her brother and the Vicomte had been closeted
together during the day, and Lady Hester, fatigued and desponding, had
retired for the night. She was very busy with her own thoughts, and had
not heard De Laprade enter the room. He came softly up and took a chair
beside her.

“Of what is my cousin Dorothy so full of thought?” he said.

She looked up with a blush, for just at that moment she was wondering
what a certain fair-haired, long-limbed young giant was doing in the
outposts or elsewhere, and the voice recalled her to herself with a
feeling of self-reproach.

“I am afraid,” she answered, “my thoughts would have little interest for
you. A woman´s head is ever full of idle thoughts.”

“Not the wise head of my cousin; it is only the men of her family who
give themselves to folly.”

“The Vicomte de Laprade for example?”

“Truly he is a chief offender, but he is growing wise and sober and
hardly knows himself. He has not smiled for a week, and thinks he never
will be able to smile again. Even his cousin Jasper has ceased to amuse
him.”

“You are greatly to be pitied,” she said with a smile. “But it is not
duller than you would have found Vincennes. There too you would have
grown wiser.”

“Nay, I think not. A long time ago--it seems like years, I grow so
old--I was for six months a prisoner in the Bastille, and when His
Majesty relented and I returned to court I was no wiser than before. My
folly only took another turn. But then I had not found a friend to warn,
nor a counsellor like my fair cousin to teach me better things.”

“I dare say you deserved your punishment. Now tell me something of your
offence.”

“Indeed, I hardly know myself, but I think it was--yes, I think it was a
lady. By accident I trod on her train in a minuet and she refused to
accept my apology. I could only smile and do penance for my clumsiness,
for one may not lightly offend a great lady like Madame de----”

“Madame de----?”

“I have forgotten her name, but it does not matter now. She has
forgotten Victor de Laprade, as he has forgotten her.”

“I do not believe that, my cousin Victor.”

“That I have forgotten the circumstances? Ah, well! it is possible that
I might recall them to memory, but I would, rather let them die, as I
would all that belongs to the past. If my cousin Dorothy would but give
me leave I would begin a new life to-day with new thoughts, new
feelings, and a new heart. She smiles, and thinks it is not possible
that I, who have wasted my youth, should try to save my manhood.”

“Indeed you have my leave, but your reformation is too sudden, and you
know you are not serious.”

“I have been serious all my life; my cousin does not know her kinsman.
Because I followed the fashion of my time, and fought and drank and
played, wasting my youth like many another reckless fellow, therefore I
was merry and had no thought or care. Because I am a gentleman, and not
a solemn citizen who looks with a grim frown on all the devil´s works,
therefore my heart knows no sadness. It is thus the world has judged me,
and so it may. But it is because I am sad and weary that I would have my
cousin judge me differently.”

For the first time since Dorothy had known him, he had lost his light
and cynical manner and spoke with simple earnestness. He had made no
display of emotion, but though he was calm and self-restrained, it was
yet evident he spoke with abundant feeling. If he was not sincere, his
humility and contrition were well assumed.

“I have been looking all my life,” he went on, looking at her steadily
as she kept her eyes bent on the book that still lay open on her knees;
“I have been seeking all my life for a quiet heart--I, the libertine,
the gambler who have squandered my patrimony and wasted my heritage. It
was not to be found where I sought it, and my search was in vain. But
now I know the secret that I was too blind to see before. Do you know,
my cousin, what it is? Nay, you will not rise, for you must hear me out.
It is love--the love a man may feel for what is purer and better than
himself, the love that fills him with fresh hopes and new desires, the
love that raises him to the pure heights of her he worships.”

Then he suddenly stopped. Hardly knowing what answer to make, Dorothy
rose from her seat and the Vicomte stooped down to pick up the book that
had fallen to the floor. He said gravely as he reached it to her, “That
is all my secret, my cousin, and does not sound so terrible when all is
said. I trust you will remember it, for some day I may tell you how I
came to make the great discovery.”

“Lady Hester would have made a better confidante or, perhaps, my brother
Jasper. And that reminds me, Victor,” she continued, with a too evident
anxiety to change the subject of this conversation, “I have often longed
to ask what Jasper and yourself find to talk about during the long hours
you spend together in his chamber.”

“Jasper is learning a very useful lesson,” answered De Laprade resuming
his old manner, “which I teach him out of my experience. But now his
education is nearly finished and we shall see whether he will profit by
it.”

“I suppose like all who learn their lesson in that school,” said Dorothy
soberly enough, “he will pay for it?”

De Laprade looked at her gravely, and then took her hand in both of his.
“It would be an idle affectation in me to pretend that I am ignorant of
your meaning, but I think you are wronging me with an unjust thought. I
am a gambler, it is true, and love the music of the dice, but your
brother, heedless as he is, will not suffer at my hands. Were he not my
kinsman who has given me shelter, he is the brother of Dorothy Carew.”

“I know you will forgive me,” said Dorothy contritely. “But if I know
Jasper he will look to you for payment of your losses. And he is rich
while you----”

“Am standing in my kingdom,” laughed De Laprade. “Do not trouble your
mind about our play--´tis all for love.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

While this conversation had been going on, a little knot of officers
were gathered on the bastion near Butcher´s Gate. Hard by was Alexander
Poke, the gunner, loading a great gun carefully with Gervase Orme seated
near watching the operation. The siege had already placed its mark on
all of them: the daily horrors were not passing over them without
leaving their traces. Anxious and depressed in mind and wasted in body,
they were like men who had passed through a long vigil without hope.
Their clothes hung loosely about them and were torn and frayed; and it
was clear they had long since ceased to regard appearances and only
looked to what was serviceable. They moved slowly and without
enthusiasm, but on the faces of all of them was to be read the same hard
and stubborn look, as of men who knowing the worst were determined to
endure to the end. A month ago they might have listened to liberal terms
of compromise; now they were determined there should be no surrender
while a man remained alive.

Walker, with his snow-white head and stately presence, bore up under his
anxiety with a higher spirit than many of the younger men, and as he
stood in the centre of the little group, appeared to have suffered less
than any other among them.

“I know not, gentlemen,” he had been saying, “what this missive means
with which this barbarous soldier has favoured us, but this I know, that
they cannot frighten us with a cartel of paper when they have failed to
do so with their guns. For the threat of putting us to the sword and
refusing quarter even to the women, that they may do when they have it
in their power, but for the other--I think ´tis mere bravado spun out of
the Frenchman´s brain. What say you, Colonel Mitchelburn?”

“I have served with De Rosen,” said Mitchelburn, “and know that he hath
the heart to do this and more, and while it seems to us an act too base
and cowardly for words, for him ´tis but an ordinary stratagem of war.
To drive a few hundred wretched women and children under the walls to
starve there, will not trouble the man who has seen the sack of fifty
cities. But there are gallant gentlemen yonder, men of spirit and
honour, who will never suffer this savage Russian to carry out his
threat.”

“I know not that--I know not that. They will believe we cannot help but
take them in, and how in Heaven´s name, can we do otherwise? We cannot
stand here and see them starved before our eyes. It is not well to meet
sorrow half way but at most there is not more than a fortnight´s food in
the magazine and then”----

“No, Colonel Walker, though it break our hearts to see it, there is
nothing must drive us from our purpose, and though my wife and children
stood yonder they should not enter by my will.”

“Then let us pray God that He may harden our hearts, a prayer I never
hoped to pray. But I take this letter, such as it is, for an omen of
good. They are growing weary of the stand we make and fearful that
relief is coming, though whence we cannot tell, and so would hurry us by
threats. Is Kirke about to make a push at last, think you?”

“When they have strung the bully up to the yard-arm and put a stout
heart in his place, we may look to see the vessels at the quay, but not
till then. And if we had another month´s supplies I do not think we
should need their help, for they have their own troubles in the camp
yonder, and have lost nearly as many men as we. The prisoners say the
sickness is increasing.”

“And the supplies are failing fast.”

“Nay, they say more than that. One fellow declared roundly that there
are still traitors among us who supply the enemy with information. I saw
him myself and questioned him roundly, but he did not know the names or
kept the secret to himself.”

“The traitors, if there are such, can harm us little now unless they are
strong enough to hold the gates and drive us from the walls, and that
could hardly be without its coming to our knowledge. You may have a
quiet mind on that head; treachery has done its worst, and we have all
our foes in front now. And now I think we may quietly disperse, for De
Rosen has not kept his promise, or more humane counsels have turned him
from his purpose. Had he meant to fulfil his threat, we had seen his
victims under the walls before this.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Half an hour afterwards the alarm bell rang out calling the citizens to
their posts, and word went round that the enemy was about to make an
attack in full force. In the grey evening they could see them from the
walls advancing over the hill opposite Butcher´s Gate, and coming down
steadily towards the lines. The citizens hurrying from their houses,
came thronging to the walls, buckling on their weapons as they came. And
the great gun was turned upon the force that came steadily down the hill
in silence. Once the great gun flashed and only once, for as they came
nearer the men upon the walls listened and held their breath, and then
set up a great cry. The army that came down the hill came without
purpose of offence; not the regiments of Slane or Gormanstown, but a
crowd of tender women and fearful children and old men whose day of
labour and strife was over. On they came with the sound of weeping and
of sorrow, that to hear once was to hear for ever, for the memory of it
would never pass away.

The savage marshal had fulfilled his promise. Torn from their homes and
hurried to the front with expectation of a sudden and violent death,
they had been collected in a body and driven to the walls. Pregnant
women and women carrying their babies in their arms; old men who could
hardly totter forward; the weak, the infirm, all who had not the power
to escape; were gathered together for his purpose, and driven forward
without remorse. And there in sight of their friends, of sons and
brothers, of fathers and lovers, they stood between the famine-stricken
city on the one side and on the other an enemy who showed no pity.

The first impulse of the garrison, an impulse that could hardly be
restrained, was to throw open the gates and bring them within the
shelter of the walls. But an instant´s consideration checked their
generous instincts. It was to this end that they were collected here;
and once admitted, they might as well throw open the gates and throw
down their arms. There was no food for so many mouths--nay, there was no
food for themselves.

No greater trial, no trial half so great, had overtaken them since the
siege began, or brought them so much suffering. They were not given to
emotion, but there was not a dry eye among them on the walls that night,
as they hardened their hearts and swore a deep oath of vengeance.

Then Walker and others went out to have speech with the wretched crowd
of outcasts, and in a little while after came back, filled with
admiration and wonder. Far from desiring shelter with their friends,
they refused to enter the city, and were content to die where they stood
rather than that the safety of the city should be put in peril. So they
made their way toward the lines by the Windmill Hill, and spent the
night huddled together under the open sky, while the enemy looked on in
wonder, and their friends turned away, as if the sight was more than
they could bear.

But a gallows was hastily erected on the Double Bastion in full sight of
the camp, and it was resolved to hang all the prisoners if De Rosen
persisted in his savage purpose. Hitherto they had been treated with
consideration, but now those who were at large were collected and placed
in Newgate, and Gervase Orme who was answerable for the safe custody of
De Laprade, went late in the evening, with a sorrowful heart, to carry
his friend thither.



                              CHAPTER XIV.
                          OF A GAME OF CHANCE.


Jasper Carew appeared but seldom in public, and then with a moody brow
and a preoccupied air. For the most part he kept to his own chamber,
attended only by Swartz, who was as silent and reserved as his master.
In the daily incidents of the siege he appeared to take no interest
whatever, seeming regardless of his own safety and wholly careless of
the safety of his friends. He seldom saw his sister, and then only in
the most casual way. It was in vain that she endeavoured to break
through the icy barrier that had grown up between them. He repelled her
efforts and frequently left her in tears. It is true he had seldom
troubled himself with any display of affection, but latterly his entire
character seemed to have undergone a change. Between himself and De
Laprade a close intimacy had sprung up. They were closeted together for
hours, and it not unfrequently happened that their evening sitting was
prolonged far into the morning following.

Sitting in her lonely room when the household had retired for the night,
Dorothy would hear the gay laugh of the Vicomte breaking at times on the
quiet of the house, the rattling of the dice box, and the muttered oaths
of her brother as fortune went against him. To her high spirit the shame
of it was intolerable; she did not dare to speak and she could not be
silent. With De Laprade she knew that she had much influence, but she
had now reasons of her own for declining to make him her confidant--with
her brother she was long since aware that entreaties would prove
unavailing. But the fact could not be denied. A fatal passion for play
had seized upon his heart; it had completely absorbed and overmastered
him; he was entirely its slave. Night after night and day after day, the
two--De Laprade and himself--were closeted together, and the cloud upon
her brother´s brow grew blacker and his speech harsher and more abrupt.
In De Laprade there had been no change perceptible. He carried himself
with an easy _insouciance_ and treated her with tender deference.

                  *       *       *       *       *

On the day in which De Rosen had executed his barbarous threat they had
spent many hours together in the little chamber in the basement. The
roar of the cannon that had been sounding all day, the marching of men,
and the tumult of the crowded street, had been hushed to a still and
almost unnatural quiet. Swartz had carried away the remains of the
supper that had been served to them here, and had lighted the candles in
the tall silver candlesticks that stood upon the table. They had both
already drunk more than enough, but this was perceptibly the case with
Jasper. His face was flushed, his eyes were bloodshot, and his hands
shook upon the dice-box: he had loosened his lace cravat from his throat
and it lay on the floor beside him. He frowned heavily and flung down
the dice-box with an oath.

“Seven´s the main,” said the Vicomte, gaily rattling the box. “We who
woo fortune should court her lovingly. Ah, _grace de Dieu_! I told you
so!”

Carew pushing back his chair and walking to the window, threw it wide
open. The cool air blowing freshly through the lattice, caused the
candles to flicker where they stood. The night was cold and the sky was
full of stars. All the while the Vicomte sat watching him with a faint
smile on his face and balancing the dice in his hand. The other after a
moment turned round and looked at him. His face was now deadly pale.
Neither spoke a word. Only the distant challenging of the sentinels
broke the silence of the chamber.

The Vicomte pushed back his chair and gently snuffed the candles. His
face displayed no emotion. Then after a while he said, “That completes
the play. Your revenge has been a costly one, my friend.”

“My revenge has been a costly one,” answered Carew; “there remains but
one thing more.”

“And that?”

“To send my life after my houses and lands. There is nothing more left.”

“Bah! you are but a fool; I have gone the same way myself. With a light
heart I have lost more in a night than would buy your barren acres three
times over. I, who was already a pauper, have staked my mistress, my
buckles, my rings, nay, my very peruke itself and lost them too. And I
did not complain. I had my sword and my honour, and could wait on
fortune with a cheerful mind. I laughed at misfortune.”

“Oh! ´tis very well for you to talk thus,” cried Carew moodily, “with
the first estate in the country in your pocket--a rare exchange for your
castles in Spain.”

“Monsieur Carew will remember that I did not press him to play. He who
tempts the fortunes of the hazard should learn to bear his loss with
equanimity. One should bear misfortune like a gentleman.”

“I will have no sermons, my lord; ´tis enough that you should have
stripped me of every rood of my land and every doit that I could raise,
without presuming to lecture me on deportment. I would have you know
that I will follow my own manner. I find no fault with you--´tis my own
accursed folly that has made my heirship of the briefest, and left me a
beggar before I had entered on my inheritance.”

“Play is an admirable moralist,” said De Laprade, altering the position
of the candlesticks, "and preaches excellent homilies. You have had
three weeks in the society of the coyest mistress in the world, and now
you grudge the tavern charges.

                      ‘Je crois Jeanneton,
                      Aussi douce que belle;
                      Je crois Jeanneton
                      Plus douce qu‘un--mouton.´"

“You are mocking me, my lord.”

“In good faith I do not think I am. Sit down, Carew, and let us look the
matter in the face as sensible men should. I have no wish to put your
money in my pocket or act the country squire on your beggarly paternal
fields, but my ears are for ever itching for the pleasant rattle of the
dice-board, and I thirst for the sight of a royal hand at cards.
Fortune, which hath hitherto treated me so scurvily, hath taken a turn
at last, and I am richer by some thousands than when I landed in your
island with nothing in the world but a sword and two portmanteaux. For
that, I am wholly indifferent, and will stake my new possessions as
readily as I threw away my old. I am sorry for you, but I do not think
you would take back what you have lost as a gift, even if I offered it
now.”

“Would I not?” said Carew, with a hoarse laugh, throwing up his hand.

“I do not think you would,” answered the Vicomte gravely, but with a
certain elevation of his eyebrows. “Your sense of honour would forbid.
But there is a matter for which I have some concern--how will this
affect your sister?”

“Leave my sister out of the question. I am her protector and allow no
man to question me on that head.”

The two looked at one another steadily--the one frowning, the other
coldly impassive, but there was that look in De Laprade´s eyes that made
Carew shift his gaze. To carry off his confusion, he poured himself out
a full glass and drank it at a breath.

“There need be no secrets between us, my good cousin. I have never
doubted that you have already staked your sister´s fortune and that it
has gone after the rest into my pocket. I have known even honourable men
tempted to do such things, but for my own part, I do not care to lend
myself to aid them. The question still remains--how does this affect
your sister?”

“In the name of God, do you purpose driving me mad?” cried Carew,
flinging his empty glass into the fireplace, and leaping to his feet in
the access of ungoverned passion. “You have stripped me bare as a bone
and brought me to shame and dishonour; now you sit laughing at your
handiwork.”

“Your own, sir,” said the Vicomte sternly. “These heroics will not serve
their purpose; the question still remains unanswered. I would not
willingly take on my shoulders any portion of your disgrace, though
indeed I think you would not be loath to let me bear it all. In fine,
what do you purpose doing?”

“Oh! you are a rare moralist.”

“There is not a better in the world. From the pulpit of my own
transgressions I shall read you an excellent sermon. But, again, this is
not to the purpose. I would have you know, my excellent cousin, I love
your sister and would willingly make her my wife.”

“Before that I will see you----”

“You may spare yourself the trouble. Were the lady willing, I think not
that I should ask your favour. But she is not willing. I fear she loves
a better man who deserves her better--for which I do not find fault with
her taste.”

“You appear to have studied my family affairs to some purpose, sir.”

“Mr. Orme is a better man than I, nor would I willingly do him an
injury,” continued De Laprade softly, “but all things are fair in love,
and I think I must ask your help.”

“What hath Mr. Orme to do with the matter? You put more, sir, on me than
I can bear, and by heaven, I will put up with your gibes no longer. I am
not a schoolboy to be lectured by a bully.”

“I have told you that we will not quarrel. I ask not your friendship but
your help, and it may be also much to your own advantage. Therefore
listen to me with all the patience you can command. I am mad enough to
love Miss Carew--I, the prodigal, the spendthrift, whose career was run
before I was a man, but so it is! She is much under your influence--the
wise and prudent elder brother. Lend me your assistance, not to coerce
her affections or thwart her will, for by heaven, I would not wrong her
tender heart! but to bring her with all kindness to think favourably of
her poor kinsman, and in the end it may be to return his passion. Hear
me to the conclusion. I would not buy your help--you would not sell your
aid. We both love the rattle of the dice-box. On the one side I place my
gains, the rich lands, the fair demesnes, the ancestral house, the broad
pieces--and on the other you will stake your persuasive speeches and
fraternal affection. Let chance decide the fate: I would not do
dishonour to your sister even by a thought. I do not think the stakes
unequal; why should you?”

Carew stared at the speaker, unable to gather his meaning, and said
never a word.

“Why, my friend, there is your chance of redemption,” said the Vicomte,
taking up the box and rattling it gaily, “three is the number of the
Graces; three throws for fortune and love; three throws for honour,
riches, and reputation. Ah! there is a royal stake, and heaven send me
favour.”

“This is but a piece of midsummer fooling; you do not mean this?”

“Truly I am in a sad and serious vein. Your barren acres grow heavy on
my back and I would be rid of them.”

“Then have with you,” cried the other eagerly.

But hardly had he spoken than the sound of footsteps was heard on the
stone passage, and an importunate knocking upon the door. Carew rose to
his feet, pushing back his chair with an oath. The Vicomte did not stir.

“It is best to see your impatient visitor,” he said. “Do not hurry
fortune.”

Carew went to the door and threw it open. “Well, sir, what is your
errand at this unseasonable hour?” he said, peering out into the
darkness which screened the intruder.

“My errand is with Vicomte de Laprade,” said a voice, “and is of the
most urgent. I must see him immediately.”

“Ah! that is the true Israelite, Mr. Orme,” said the Vicomte, in his
usual nonchalant tone, without turning in his chair. “You are arrived
most opportunely. This is the Temple of Fortune and here are her
worshippers.”

“This is no time for jesting, my lord,” said Gervase, gravely. “I have
come to carry you to the guardhouse, where I can promise you no
favourable reception. Our hearts have been sadly stirred; your life even
is in danger.”

“So much the more reason that we should decide this matter now. Look
you, Mr. Orme, my friend and I have a difference, the nature of which I
cannot now make clear to you, though it may also concern you nearly, and
we have agreed to leave it to the arbitrament of chance. A few minutes
more or less will not imperil the safety of the city. Pray be seated,
and see how fortune deals her favours.”

“Oh! this is past a jest,” cried Gervase, “I tell you, my lord, you are
in deadly peril.”

“And I tell you, sir, this is a matter of more importance. Nay, my good
friend”--and here he held out his hand, “my mind is set on this, and I
pray you to indulge me.”

Though his eyes and lips laughed, there was a serious undertone in his
voice, and after hesitating for a moment, Gervase finally said, “Ten
minutes you may have, my lord, but with your pardon, I shall wait
without. My mind is full of care and my heart is heavy as a stone. I can
take no part in this. I have seen this day that which I shall not forget
did I live a thousand years. Good night, Mr. Carew. My lord, you will
not keep me waiting.”

His steps rang along the stone pavement; then there was the sound of an
opening door and the whispering of voices in the basement hall.

“‘Jacob was a plain man and dwelt in tents,´” murmured De Laprade.
“Come, Carew, we who tempt the fickle goddess must not sleep. Jacob
yonder would filch my birthright, and I will not lose the lovely
Rachel.”

Carew, who had been as one bewildered and suddenly awakened out of a
dream with the terror of it still upon him, drew a chair to the table
and caught up the dice-box with a trembling hand. As his fingers closed
upon the box, his face grew deadly pale; his heart stood still in his
breast in an overmastering agony of fear and hope and hate. To him this
meant everything in the world. The man opposite to him had stripped him
naked--the man whose smile stabbed him like a knife, and whom he hated
with a bitterness of hatred that he had no language to measure. Should
he retrieve his fortune, and on how little that depended, not all the
powers on earth would again tempt him to such unspeakable folly. A mere
gull who had flung away his inheritance before he had possessed it! The
happy chance of redemption had come to him unexpectedly. What had moved
De Laprade to make this strange and curious proposal, he did not stop to
ask, he did not care to know. It was enough for him that it had been
made. He knew that he could exert no influence on his sister´s mind;
that his intercession would rather injure than advance the cause he
advocated. That was the Vicomte´s business. He was a gambler and
accustomed to take the chances, and it was he who had proposed the
stakes. He passed his hand across his eyes to clear away the mists; the
room seemed full of moving haze through which the candles burned with a
feeble and uncertain light. He drew a deep breath.

The first throw Carew won; the second fell to the Vicomte. Then there
happened a curious thing--when Carew was about to throw for the third
time, the Vicomte stooped down to lift his handkerchief from the floor
where it had fallen a moment before. While he did this somewhat clumsily
for one in general so dexterous, the dice rattled on the table. Making a
slight motion with his fingers Carew, hardly pausing, cried “Sixes.”

The Vicomte slowly raised his head. “Your play improves, sir,” he said
drily; “that was a lucky throw. Come, sir, you are not yet out of the
wood, and perhaps I shall yet see you through.” Then he threw himself.
“By all the saints, the Venus! This grows interesting. We must have one
more cast for fortune.”

“The devil´s in them,” cries Carew, his eyes fairly aglow and his lips
twitching like one in a fit.

This time the Vicomte won. “I knew how it would be,” he said, with an
air of pensive sadness; “I have no luck, I can do no more.”

Carew laughed loudly, almost as if this last stroke had touched his
brain. “Luck, what more would you have? Here have I been sitting for
three weeks while you plucked me like a hen feather by feather, with a
smile on your face, and I know not what devil´s craft in your fingers.”

“These are foolish words, sir, for which I will not ask you to account.
To talk of craft comes but ill from one who himself----” Here he stopped
and looked at Carew steadily. “God knows I am but a pitiful fellow
myself, and yet I would I had never seen your face.”

The words were spoken slowly, with an emphasis that carried home their
hidden meaning; they struck home like a knife. Then without warning
Carew reached suddenly across the table, and struck the Vicomte a blow
with his closed hand fairly on the lips.

“You are a liar and a cheat,” he said, “and I will kill you like a dog.”

For a moment or more the Vicomte did not stir; apparently he was afraid
to trust himself to speak; only with his handkerchief, which he all the
time carried in his hand, he wiped the thin trickle of blood from his
lips. Then he rose to his feet and going over to the door, turned the
key in the lock. Thereafter he whipped out his sword and advanced into
the middle of the room. There was a high colour in his cheeks and his
eyes shone with a fine glow in them. Otherwise his manner was perfectly
calm, and his voice came slowly and with distinct utterance. “Mr.
Carew,” he said, “no man living will dare to do what you have done
to-night and live to tell it. I would have borne with much for your
sister´s sake; here not even she can save you. And yet it is almost a
dishonour to cross swords with you and treat you as a gentleman--you,
whom I have myself seen to cheat and cozen like a common tavern-brawler.
And you have dared to use these opprobrious words to me--to me who did
my best to return your losses without offending your nice sense of
honour. Now, sir, draw your sword and say your prayers, for I think you
are going to die.”

Carew was not wanting in physical courage, nor backward at any time in a
quarrel. But at this moment it was his own vehement and overmastering
desire--a desire too deep for any mere speech--to find an outlet for his
passion of hate and shame in a struggle with the man who held his
fortune and good name in his hand. To hold him at his mercy was at this
time his dearest wish on earth. He drew his sword, and taking his ground
lowered the point sullenly as the Vicomte saluted with his weapon.

Then their blades were crossed. The light was faint and low, for the
candles had nearly burnt themselves out, and as the spacious chamber
rang with the clash of the sword blades, the deep shadows came and went
with a grotesque and everchanging motion. Carew had the advantage in the
length of reach and once he touched his opponent in the arm, but after a
few passes he saw he had met his superior, and a feeling of great dread
overtook him. How he hated the man with the cold, impassive face and
disdainful smile! But for that bit of glittering steel that guarded him
like a wall, how gladly he would have taken him by the throat and
glutted himself with vengeance. And he saw that the Vicomte played with
him as if unwilling to strike him down too soon, and that, too, added to
his passion of fury and hate.

The Vicomte still stood on the defensive and parried his thrusts with
the greatest ease in the world. Again and again he tried to enter upon
his guard, but always with the same result. Then there came a violent
knocking upon the door and the sound of voices raised in alarm and
expostulation.

“We must end this,” cries the Vicomte deliberately parrying a thrust in
tierce, and almost at the same time Carew passaged rapidly, and catching
the Vicomte´s sword in his left hand, buried his own sword to the hilt
in the Vicomte. The stricken man swung round, threw up his hands, and
fell in a heap to the floor without uttering a sound.

Gervase had left the room with contempt and indignation strongly present
in his mind. It had seemed incredible to him that men should become
absorbed in these trifles, surrounded by the horrors that he daily
witnessed, and lose themselves wholly in this degrading passion. No
doubt it was none of his business--so he told himself--but his sense of
fitness revolted at it. He had reached the outer door and his hand was
on the lock to open it, when he heard a door open on the staircase
above, and a voice calling in low tones, “Is that Mr. Orme?”

“It is I, Miss Carew,” Gervase answered, feeling that the hope of this
rencontre was the real reason why he had left the Vicomte to decide his
matter of importance by himself.

Dorothy came down the stairs holding a taper in her hand--Gervase could
see the traces of tears on her cheeks, and he was greatly struck by the
change that the last week had made in her looks. Not that her beauty was
in any way dimmed or diminished, but sorrow and care had set their seal
upon it.

“Swartz has told me the news,” she said, “and the horror of it gives me
no rest. Will they not bring them into the City?”

“God knows it is what we all desire,” Gervase answered, “but it is not
possible. To bring them in would mean that we have fought and you have
suffered for nothing; it would but make their fate ours. Londonderry
must not fall.”

He continued in a sad constrained tone, “I think I shall never forget
till I die what I have seen today. There are children there, and babies
at the breast, and tender women, and, Miss Carew, we must let them die.
We dare not take them in. There is hardly food for a fortnight longer
and then----”

“Then,” said Dorothy, “we can die. I almost think I shall be glad to
die.”

“Nay,” said Gervase taking her hand, “if all were as brave and strong as
you are! Macpherson says that yours is the boldest heart in the city.”

“He does not know me,” Dorothy answered, withdrawing her hand with a
faint gleam of her old humour kindling in her eyes; “he does not
understand women. I am a poor coward. But why should I talk of myself?
Will nothing be attempted to save the poor wretches who are now below
the walls?”

“Ay,” said Gervase pausing, “it is proposed to make use of the prisoners
we have taken, and, indeed, that is the reason I am here to-night. The
Vicomte must quit your house and take up his abode in the guard-house,
but I trust not for long.”

“They will not injure him?”

“I hope not, and I do not think you need fear for him. My lord
Netterville hath writ to De Rosen, who is surely a devil, to tell him
how it stands with himself and the other prisoners, and I do not doubt
his letter will move him more than the voice of humanity, assisted as it
is by the gallows we have now erected.”

“There is nothing but horror on horror,” said Dorothy. “It is just, but
it is hard to bear. And I think I could bear it all but for the great
trouble I told you of--but why should I thrust my own private griefs on
a stranger?”

“Nay, no stranger; your troubles are all mine. You know that I love you
better than my life.”

A moment before he would not have ventured to make this speech, but
something in her voice had for the first time awakened a wild hope in
his breast. She looked at him with a frank and honest look. “Yes,” she
answered, “I think you love me better than I deserve, but this is no
time to talk or think of such things.”

“But, Dorothy--”

“Nay, I will not have a word. Listen! Oh God! what is that? They have
quarrelled, and that is the sound of swords.”

The clash of steel could be heard plainly, and the sound of feet moving
rapidly.

“Remain where you are,” said Gervase, hastening down the passage; “I
shall prevent this.”

Dorothy stood at the foot of the passage, her hands held tightly against
her breast; the taper had fallen to the floor, and she was in darkness.
Then she heard the voice of Gervase at the door.

“Out of my way or I will run you through; I must enter.”

“By your leave you shall not. My master must fight this out; I´ve taught
him to fence, and I´ll see that he gets fair play.”

It was the voice of Swartz. Gervase had found the man at the door
listening to the sound of the strife within.

“Out of my way,” said Gervase, losing his temper.

“Damn you! I tell you I shall not stir. The Frenchman hath robbed my
master and he´ll pay dearly for it to-night. No man in Londonderry will
pass the door till he hath settled with that thief.”

Gervase was in no humour for temporizing at this moment. He caught the
old servant by the throat and with a quick movement hurled him to the
other side of the passage. Then placing his shoulder against the door
and exerting all his strength, the strong framework fell in with a
crash. The room was in complete darkness and he stood to listen. There
was not a sound. Then Dorothy came down the passage with a light.

“You must not come any further, Miss Carew,” said Gervase, advancing to
meet her, with a white face. “I am sure something has happened.” He took
the light from her and entered the room, Swartz who had picked himself
up muttering a malediction, following close on his heels. Lying in the
middle of the room in a dark pool of blood was De Laprade, while Jasper
Carew stood over the body, with the point of his rapier on the ground
and his hands resting on the handle.

“I killed him in fair fight,” he said as Gervase came into the room, and
running over, knelt down by the fallen man. Gervase opened the Vicomte´s
coat and placed his hand on his heart; it was still beating feebly.

“He is not dead yet. For God´s sake run for the surgeon; he may yet be
saved,” he cried, turning to Swartz who stood behind him.

“I´ll not stir a step to save his life,” the old man answered doggedly.

“Do as you are bidden, sir,” said Jasper, without moving, “and make what
haste you can.” Then he went over and sat down by the table, looking on
coldly as the man went out and Gervase tried to stop the bleeding with
his handkerchief. Dorothy had crept into the room, pale and frightened,
and knelt down beside Gervase.

“Is he dead?” she said with a gasp.

“No, he still lives. I can hear his heart beating.”

“I would give my own life a hundred times over to save his. He must not
die; I say, he must not die.”

“It is as God wills,” answered Gervase gravely. “I think he is coming
round.”

The Vicomte opened his eyes and smiled a faint smile of recognition as
his eyes fell on Dorothy; she lifted his hand and pressed it within her
own; then she shuddered at the touch--it was clammy with blood. No one
spoke or stirred--only the feeble tide of life appeared to be slowly
returning. The minutes seemed to drag themselves into hours while they
waited for the coming of the surgeon. Dorothy had placed her hand under
De Laprade´s head, and anxiously watched the deathlike pallor
disappearing from his cheeks. Her heart leapt joyfully as she saw him
attempting to speak.

“´Twas a fair fight but--but,” and he spoke as if communing with
himself, “he should not have caught my sword.”

Gervase looked suddenly up at Carew where he sat by the table looking on
sullenly, and he was filled with horror at the awful likeness that he
bore to the old man, his grandfather, whose frowning face he had seen in
its death agony. It was the same face, the same dark passionate look,
transformed from age to youth. He had never noticed the likeness before
and he wondered at it now.

Jasper rose and coming over looked down at the Vicomte with a look of
bitter hate. “The man is a liar,” he said; “a liar while he lived and a
liar now that he is dying, for I hope that I have killed him. I fought
him fairly, and I should have stabbed him where he sat. I shall answer
the world for what I have done.”

He turned on his heel and left the room, as Swartz and the surgeon
entered it. The latter, a tall, gaunt Scotchman with an exasperating
precision and judicial slowness of manner, began to examine his patient
carefully; it seemed as if he never would have done. Then he turned to
Gervase and spoke almost for the first time since he had entered the
room.

“Wherefore did you drive the puir laddie sae hard? Less would have done.
You young callants have no sense.”

“Will he die?” said Gervase eagerly.

“How can I tell you that? I´m no´ a prophet, but I´m thinking his vitals
have not been touched. These small swords make clean work; they´re no´
effectual like the pike or the broad sword--and he was a likely lad. I
think we may even bring him round yet, but he must not be stirred. Have
ye not unco´ guid sport outside that ye must begin to throttle ither
within?”

“God knows that is true, but you do not understand.”

“Nae doubt, nae doubt,” answered the other drily, “but I understand the
lad has gotten a whinger through his body, and that is a fact anybody
can understand. Howsoever the care of the body is my concern, and my two
hands are full enough. I´m tell´t you´re mighty quick with your weapon,
Mr. Orme.”

“This is none of my work,” said Gervase. “I would have given my right
hand to prevent it.”

The surgeon looked doubtfully at Swartz who stood near with his hands
behind his back. “Why! that body there--but it is none of my business.
We´ll even make him comfortable now and we can talk more about it in the
morn, for I´m thinking they must hear of this work outside. This bonny
lassie will be my care next,” he continued, turning to Dorothy. “This is
no place for you, my dear,” he said, laying his large hand with a rough
sympathy on her shoulder.

“Indeed I could rest nowhere else in the world. Do you think he will
live?”

“I´m sure he´ll no´ die if your sweet heart will save him. He´s a gay,
likely lad and he´ll give a deal of trouble in the world yet before he
leaves it, if he keeps clear of small swords in the future.”

“Thank God for that!” cried Dorothy, bursting into tears for the first
time.

Saunderson looked at her with a grim smile on his homely features.

“Women sometimes thank God for unco´ little. But he´ll do for the now,
and I´ll be back in an hour. Come, Mr. Orme, you´ll see me to the door,
for I have some directions to give you and my time is precious.”

Gervase went out with him to the door and they stood on the great stone
steps together. Then the surgeon laid his two broad hands on Gervase´s
shoulders and looked at him steadily. “Look ye here,” he said, “I learnt
the practice of medicine in the University of Glasgow, but there´s ane
thing I learnt since. I´m no sure I´ve got to the bottom of this
devildum, but I´m sure o´ this, that if yon chiel dies, the lassie will
even break her bonnie heart and the same small sword will have killed
them both. Swartz says the deed was yours, but he´s a fause loon to look
at, and I ken now it´s a lee. I ken you love her too well--I´ve learnt
that too--to do her scaith, and I leave him in your hands till the
morning. When a woman´s in love she´s no´ to be trusted. I´ll send you a
draught and ye´ll see to it that he gets it.”

He left Gervase hardly understanding the speech he had heard. Then its
full meaning dawned on him. Till now it had not occurred to him that
Dorothy had cared for De Laprade, but the mere suggestion awoke a
thousand trivial recollections that lent colour to the thought. He had
believed that her great distress was only due to the fact that her guest
and kinsman had fallen by her brother´s hand. But if it was
otherwise--if she loved De Laprade and looked on himself only as a
friend--it took the strength out of his heart to think of it. This great
passion, the first that he had known, had transformed his life and
inspired him in the midst of all the dangers and privations he was
passing through. And now it seemed to him that his hopes had fallen like
a house of cards. He was a fool to think that she should care for
him--and yet who could tell? So with hope that was not altogether dead,
and doubt, and a touch of jealousy, as has been since love came first
into the world, he went back to help his stricken rival.



                              CHAPTER XV.
              OF HOW THE VICOMTE WAS BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE.


For several days De Laprade hovered between life and death, apparently
conscious and that was all. Dorothy hardly left his bedside night or
day, attending upon him with sedulous care and devotion. Seeing that she
was about to give way under the strain, Saunderson took affairs into his
own hands and forbade her the room altogether. While she had been in the
sick chamber De Laprade had used to follow her with his eyes--eyes in
which there was little sign of intelligence--but now that she came no
more, he sank into a deep and deathlike lethargy from which he seldom
awakened. Whether for Dorothy´s sake or from the nature of the case,
Saunderson gave up much of his time to the wounded Viscount, and
invariably reported his patient´s progress to the anxious girl who was
awaiting his departure from the sick chamber. So far from adopting the
physician´s usual diplomacy, he had endeavoured to keep up her spirits
from the beginning, assuring her that with skill and care, ill as he
seemed, he would yet dance at her wedding.

“You will see,” he had said, with rough kindliness “there are twa bodies
tha´ll no die lichtly--he that´s gain to be married and he that´s gain
to be hangit; and when this braw callant hath had both prospects before
him he´ll no leave us this gait. He should have been a corp three days
syne by every rule of the faculty, but yon bit thing never touched his
vitals after all. You´ll no greet your bonnie een out, Miss Carew, but
just tak your rest and leave him to Providence and me.”

For Saunderson had come to the conclusion that the Vicomte was Dorothy´s
lover, and that in some way or other, that was the cause of the quarrel
in which he had been wounded. He had at first believed that Gervase had
been the assailant, but Dorothy had undeceived him on that head; but on
the other she had remained entirely silent and made no effort to remove
his misunderstanding. She had, however, seen, or thought she had seen,
through the friendly deception of the surgeon, and when she had been
closed out of the sick room she had believed the end was approaching.
She had not understood, though she had guessed, the nature of the
tragedy that had been enacted between her brother and her cousin; and
though she was not aware of all the circumstances she had come to think
she owed the Vicomte a great debt. She had remembered every word of
their brief conversation an hour or two before the brawl, and knowing
his high sense of honour, she had laid the blame entirely on her
brother. All that was passing without seemed like a dream now--only the
death chamber was real to her and this tragedy with its deep and
indelible stain of guilt. She had felt that she was grieved for the
wretches who had been driven to starve under the walls, and she felt
rejoiced when she heard that De Rosen had relented, but she felt also
that she had not realized the news. It seemed wholly remote. This
domestic tragedy, so near and so terrible, entirely filled her mind with
its abiding horror. She felt there was no sacrifice she would not
willingly make to avert this calamity, and each day she waited with a
suspense that was intolerable for the coming of the surgeon from the
sick room. Even Jasper´s treachery had passed into the background in the
presence of this new and more appalling crime. Gervase Orme had called
every day but she had refused to see him, for though she yearned for
sympathy in her distress her pride compelled her to nurse her sorrow in
secret. Jasper came and went with perfect _sang froid_; he seemed to be
the only person in the household to whom the wounded man´s condition was
a matter of indifference.

So the days went past and there seemed to be little or no change in the
Vicomte´s condition. But at length he recovered perfect consciousness
and asked eagerly for Dorothy. It was indeed his first question after he
recovered speech. Saunderson was in the room and seated by his patient´s
side feeling his thin and languid pulse, when De Laprade suddenly looked
at him with an eager and questioning gaze. The change was so sudden that
the surgeon was startled. “I saw Dorothy--Miss Carew--but now,” said the
Vicomte. “Where is she?”

“She´ll no be long, my friend; just keep yourself cool and ye´ll see her
the now. That´s a good laddie.”

“I have little time to spare and I must see her before I die.”

“Ye´ll no die this time. Ye´ll scratch grey hairs yet, if ye keep
yersel´ blate and dinna fash without reason.”

“You´re a good fellow,” said De Laprade, with a faint smile on his thin,
wasted face, “I think I have seen you here in the room with me for
months, but I will not trouble you much longer. Now bring Miss Carew
here and complete your kindness.”

“Ye must not excite yoursel´ in that fashion. Ye have been ower long in
coming round, and we maun keep ye here when we hae you. Now drink this
like a good laddie, and I’ll even fetch her mysel’.”

He poured out a draught and held it to the Vicomte´s lips, who drank it
obediently. Saunderson believed that the crisis had come and though he
hoped that he was wrong for Dorothy´s sake, had come to the conclusion
that this was the last feeble flicker of consciousness in his patient
before the end. As he left the room De Laprade followed him with the
same eager gaze. He found Dorothy in the corridor and told her what had
happened. “And now,” he said, “ye´ll just keep him quiet and humour him
like a baby. Let him gang his ain gait and say ‘Ay´ to all his clavers.
I´d rather you were elsewhere, but he´ll no bide till he has seen you.”

It was with a heavy heart that Dorothy entered the sick room. There was
something in the surgeon´s manner that told her she must hope no longer;
and as she saw De Laprade lying with the deathlike pallor on his wasted
face and the eager famished look in his dark eyes she thought that he
was dying. She went over noiselessly to the bed and sat down beside him,
laying her hand on the coverlet. Neither of them spoke, and it was with
an heroic effort that she restrained her tears. Then De Laprade took her
hand in his and a look of contentment lighted up his dark face. She
wondered to herself at the change that had taken place in so short a
time. There was something almost boyish in the face that was turned
toward her.

“I am starting on a long journey, my cousin,” he said, “and I would see
you before I go. You will not think unkindly of me when----”

She could make no answer but only bent over his hand to hide the tears
that were welling to her eyes, though she strove to repress them.

“This is a fit end for me,” he went on, “but, believe me, I tried to
keep my promise toward your brother; he did not understand and----”

“You must say no more,” said Dorothy; “I never doubted of your faith and
honour. You will yet live to know that I trust you.”

“Too late, too late!” he said, sorrowfully. “Why should I live? I have
had my chance and wasted it. In all the world there is no one who will
regret me but yourself, and you will forget me when--it is but right you
should. Victor De Laprade--a stranger--that is all, and I deserve no
better.”

“I will never forget you,” she said, touched beyond expression by the
pathos of his speech; “you must not think such thoughts; you will yet
live to smile at them.”

“Why should I live for whom there is no room and no need? I have wasted
my life. As I lay here I have lived it all again, and seen its folly.
You have helped me to see what I never saw before, and I could not go
before I told you. Nay, it is best for me to die. It is not hard to say
farewell with your hand in mine. I had hoped some day to tell you what I
am going to speak, some day when I had shown myself not altogether
unworthy, but I cannot wait for that now, and must say it here if it is
ever to be spoken.”

She knew what he was about to say; full of pity she did not withdraw her
hand, but continued to hold his in her own. At that moment she almost
felt she loved the man who looked at her with such fervent longing in
his eyes.

“I have come to love you, my cousin, with such love as I never felt or
dreamed of before--a love that makes me ashamed of my life, and desire
to forget the past and all its follies. That love has taken the terror
away from death. I do not think I should have made you happy. I had too
much to forget. And you know you did not love me, Dorothy; as indeed why
should you.”

“Indeed, I think I do,” she answered honestly, and lifted his hand to
her lips with the tears in her eyes. “Oh! Victor, do not wrong yourself
in speaking thus.”

“I am but a poor fellow, Dorothy,” he said slowly, “but if this is true
I would not change my place with His Christian Majesty. In happier times
you will remember me as one who loved you, and died content because he
loved you.”

“You will not die, but live to let me help you to forget the past. There
is no sacrifice I would not make to bring you happiness.”

“I would not let you sacrifice your life for me, my cousin.”

“Nay, I did not mean that. I am but a weak and thoughtless girl and
cannot say all that I would, but I love no other, and--and I think I
love you dearly.”

She could not have imagined before she came into the room that she would
have spoken these words, but the pitiable sight of this wrecked and
wasted life filled her with a great flood of compassion, and she spoke
almost without thinking of the meaning of her words. Then she bent over
and pressed her lips to his forehead. His pallid cheeks flushed a
little; the act was so spontaneous and so foreign to her manner, that it
carried to his heart the happiness of hope and love. For a time he did
not speak.

“I do not know,” he said, “whether this is a part of my dream; it seems
too much to believe that this great happiness should have come to me at
the end; but I shall believe it true, and carry your love with me
whither I am going. It will be a light to the way. The good Saunderson
would not let me die when I desired, and you make it hard to go. You see
I thought you loved----”

She interrupted him hastily, “I have not thought of love till now. My
foolish Victor, you must drive these idle fancies from your head; if I
do not love you, I love no one.”

"If this were not the shadow of a dream, the happiness is too great!

          "‘Amis, le temps nous presse;
          Menageons les moments que le transport nous laisse!´

“Kiss me again, my sweet Dorothy, for the darkness is coming.”

She thought that all was over and the end was come. He lay pale and
exhausted, with his hand in hers and his breathing so low and faint that
she could not catch the sound of it. There was the shadow of a smile on
the open lips; a smile of contentment like that a child smiles while
dreaming. She was afraid to move or withdraw her hand, and when
Saunderson came into the room she made a gesture of warning.

He came over quietly beside her. “I think,” he said, “ye have given him
a more efficacious remedy than any in the pharmacopœia. He is
sleeping finely, puir laddie! Ye may leave him now and ye´ll see a
change for the better when ye come again. I kenned ye would either kill
or cure him, though I thocht ye would do him little harm if ye could
help it.”

“He is not dying?”

“Indeed, that he is not, but just making up his mind to live bravely. I
would like to bottle up your specific and carry it about in a phial;
it´s what I have been wanting this many a day.”

However it came about the surgeon´s prediction was verified, and a
sudden change for the better took place in the Vicomte´s condition that
evening; he had fallen into a refreshing slumber which lasted for some
hours; and when he awakened, the fever had entirely disappeared, leaving
him very weak indeed but on the high road toward convalescence. With the
considerateness that was always natural to him, he had refused to allow
Dorothy to remain in his room, and had asked to see Jasper, with whom he
was anxious to make his peace. What passed between them no one ever
knew, for De Laprade was silent on the subject, but Carew was heard
whistling gaily as he returned to his own room.

Dorothy was for a long time unable to realize the events of the day. It
filled her with happiness to think that De Laprade was likely to
recover, and that the shadow of crime was to be removed; but when she
began to think of the new relation that was springing up between herself
and her cousin, an indefinable and restless feeling took possession of
her. She knew that she had been carried away by pity and regret to speak
without examining her own heart;--she had desired to bring a momentary
happiness to the forlorn and wasted life that she thought was passing
away before her, and she had spoken with deep feeling and entire
sincerity. But when she came to think over it now that the danger had
passed away and her mind had grown calm and reasonable, she felt that
she had spoken rashly and without due premeditation. She feared that she
had mistaken compassion for love. But if she did not love him now with a
strong and devoted affection, it might grow and all might yet be well.
She could not now tell him that she only pitied him. Then her thoughts
went further afield, and with a start she wakened up wondering what
Gervase Orme would say when he heard that she had plighted her troth to
his friend. The idea filled her with pain; she shrank from it with a
feeling akin to dismay. While Orme was nothing more to her than a
friend, her thoughts had involuntarily dwelt much on him, and she had
come to look to his strong and silent nature for help and consolation,
sure of perfect sympathy and understanding. She knew, though she now
strove to forget it, that he loved her. Had she been free to choose her
own way, and had duty so plain and so self-evident not lain in her
path--but no, she did not love him and must not allow her mind to dwell
on these idle imaginings. There was only one thing for her to do,--to be
true to the words she had spoken and bring her wayward heart to respond
to the promise she had made. There was no one to whom she could go for
advice or help; she must rely upon herself alone, and happen what might,
there was at least one Carew who would be found faithful to her word and
jealous of her honour. The sin and wrongdoing of her house might be
visited upon her, but she would bear it cheerfully.

[Illustration: “JASPER BUCKLING HIS SWORD ABOUT HIM”]

She had visited Lady Hester at midnight and was about to retire to her
own room, when she heard her brother´s door open and someone passing
down the corridor. Without waiting to think, she came down the stairs
hurriedly, and found Jasper in the hall with his cloak and hat on,
buckling his sword about him. He was evidently very angry at seeing her.

“These are no hours for a woman,” he said; “you should have been abed
hours ago.”

“They are not hours for some men either,” she said, looking at him
earnestly. She knew from the look that he cast on her that he was
certain she had learnt his guilty secret. She did not flinch but stood
up before him, with a firm and steadfast look. He drew on his gloves
slowly without raising his eyes to meet hers. Though there was neither
sympathy nor love between them, and though she had striven devotedly to
win his confidence without success, she longed to save him from this
dishonour, and to hold him back from ruin, for that ruin and dishonour
were impending she did not doubt.

“These are not hours for some men either. For your own sake and for
mine, you must not leave the house to-night.”

“And pray, madam, why not? It is not enough that I should be mewed up in
this damned town with a couple of women and a mad Frenchman for my
companions, but that I must have my actions spied upon and my coming and
going brought in question. I have borne with you in patience, my good
sister, but I will not let you spy upon me longer. There must be an end
on´t.”

“You can speak no words that will make me fear you,” she said quietly.
“I would have been your loyal and loving sister, but you know what I
know, and if I can prevent it you shall not play the traitor longer. It
is true that I have watched you, watched you day and night; and was
there not need? Shall it be said that a Carew, for I know not what base
reward, sold his honour and flung away his good name? Can Hamilton or
Tyrconnell or James himself save you from this disgrace?”

“These are mad words,” he said doggedly; “I know not what you mean.”

“I am only a woman with a woman´s weakness, and I cannot turn you from
your purpose. But before I had carried such a paper as I have seen you
carry, I would have died a thousand times. Jasper,” she continued
pleadingly, laying her hand on his arm, “It is not yet too late.”

“I was right after all, and it was you who set yon slow-witted coxcomb
to lecture me with his mysterious threats. Now listen to me, Miss Carew;
you have shown a more than sisterly interest in my affairs; and you may
as well know it all. I have followed my own course, and laid my plans
that I will suffer no woman to wreck with her whims and fancies. These
beggarly citizens and these foolish country gentlemen are nothing to me.
I stand by my lawful king, and on that side is my service and my
interest, I have taken no great pains to conceal my thoughts, and
perhaps to-morrow----” here he checked himself.

“Then go over to your friends.”

“It does not suit my purpose. Now I will give you a word of advice
before I go. Make no more confidences for the future--they are dangerous
for those who speak and for those who listen to them, and I will not
have my acts questioned by you or others. For the paper you speak of,
you may keep it now and it may prove useful hereafter, but for your
friend I shall call him to a reckoning if I live. I think that hereafter
you will keep my secret more closely, for it does not redound to the
credit of the family that you should take the world into your
confidence.”

He opened the door and stood looking at her threateningly; then he went
out, drawing it noiselessly after him.

Though he had borne himself with a high hand, she could see that he had
felt her words keenly, and that he was already fearful for his own
safety. What course she should take she did not know, for she shrank
from making his treachery public and from bringing punishment by any act
of her own on the offender. It was clear that no entreaty nor
expostulation of hers would have any weight with him; she knew his
headlong and obstinate nature too well to hope that it might.

She remained standing for a long time lost in thought, and then she
crept to her own room, wondering whether, after all, Gervase Orme might
not keep his word. They had not renewed their conversation since the day
that she had placed the pass in his hands, but she felt certain that he
had not relaxed in his vigilance. And then it struck her suddenly that
by this act she might have imperilled his safety, for her brother had
already threatened him, and she knew that in this, at least, he would
keep his word, if he had the power or the opportunity to injure him. She
regretted now that she had not taken the initiative earlier herself, but
on this she was determined, that she and her brother should not remain
under the same roof, even if she was compelled publicly to denounce his
crime. But she was saved the pain, for she never saw her brother again.



                              CHAPTER XVI.
                        OF A DEED OF TREACHERY.


Gervase had not forgotten the promise he had made to Dorothy, but in the
intervals of his duty had watched the house narrowly, and so far as he
was able to discover, Jasper had not attempted to repeat his visits to
the enemy. He had begun to think that his thinly-veiled threat had had a
salutary effect, and that Jasper knowing himself to have been
discovered, would not again rashly put his safety in peril. The task was
not one for which he had any great relish, but he had determined,
however irksome and unpleasant it might prove, that he would save
Dorothy from a public exposure and from the pain that such exposure must
necessarily inflict upon her. Had it not been for her he would have
taken a summary method with the traitor, but his long vigils were
rendered light by the thought that they were undertaken for her sake.
While he stood in the dark street in the shadow of the opposite doorway,
his heart was stirred when he caught sight of her crossing the window of
her chamber, and so long as her light burned there he felt that he was
not altogether alone. For matter-of-fact as he was, his love had waked
whatever of the pathetic and the heroic there was in his nature; and he
felt that this service was a link that bound them more closely together.
Macpherson who knew something of his solitary watching, had laughed in
his own fashion, and told him that no woman could be won in such a
fashion, for while one was sitting sad outside another was fiddling in
the chamber. But Gervase had kept his post, though nothing came of it
and though he had not spoken to Dorothy for days.

To-night he had been ordered with his company to the lines. The enemy
who had been waiting in sullen patience for the famine-stricken garrison
to surrender, had made some show of movement, and it was believed they
meditated another night attack. The guards had therefore been doubled,
and precautions were taken to prevent a surprise. Gervase went the more
willingly since he believed his services in the city were no longer
needed, as a fortnight had elapsed and Jasper had made no sign of
renewing his intrigue; and it was a relief once more to find an outlet
for his feelings in vigorous action. He felt that he had lost his youth
and that he was growing old in witnessing the sights he saw every
day--the gaunt hollow-eyed wretches who came tottering from their ruined
houses in search of food; the men stricken down with hunger where they
stood on duty at the walls; women who had lost their children; children
motherless and fatherless, and left without a protector; the want, the
sorrow, and the death that increased every day. If they might but have
fought out the fight upon the open field, and in one brave struggle have
decided their fate, how willingly he would have taken his part! But half
the fighting men had fallen since they closed the gates, and of the
other half many of them could hardly shoulder their muskets and drag
themselves to the walls.

It was a relief to pass out of the gates, and the sight and sound of so
much misery, into the quiet night with the cool air blowing about him
and the new moon lifting itself slowly through the summer haze. In the
distance he could see the gleam of the watch-fires of the enemy, but
there was a great and unbroken silence round them, as the company made
its way along the path that had been beaten into white dust with
frequent marching. Macpherson was in command of the outpost that night,
and Gervase found him seated by himself in the bastion on the carriage
of a gun that had been brought up from the city. He was quietly
communing with himself while he drew consolation from his favourite
pipe. Of late days the old soldier had been foremost in attack and
counsel. Hard work and scanty fare had had no effect upon him, but his
spirits seemed to have risen the higher as their privations and
hardships increased. In all expeditions of danger he was among the
foremost to volunteer, and on more than one occasion his coolness and
resource had been of immense service to the besieged. Walker´s antipathy
he had long since overcome, for though they had serious differences on
points of doctrine, they had each come to recognize the excellent
qualities of the other.

When Gervase had completed the arrangement of his company, he joined the
old soldier in the bastion. He made the usual inquiries as to the
movement in front, but Macpherson, apparently in a fit of abstraction,
had answered his questions in monosyllables. There was in the face of
the latter the hardness and solemnity that Gervase had seen early in
their acquaintance, but which had disappeared of recent days. Then he
rose up and laid his hand on the young fellow´s shoulder.

“Let us walk down the rampart,” he said, as if awaking from his reverie,
“my legs have grown stiff, and there is something that I would say to
you. Our lads are veterans in the service now and stand up unwinking
without the need of a ramrod.”

With his hand resting on Gervase´s shoulder, they walked along the
trench down the hill. There was no need for speech between them now, for
Gervase had come to understand his friend´s varying moods, and had long
since ceased to resent the fits of silence into which the other was
accustomed to fall. “Here is another day gone,” he said, “and no move
from the Tangier Butcher. Whether he come by Inch or by the river, he
will come too late, if he come at all. I have been thinking that I might
hurry him.”

"You are not serious?

“Faith! the man who drops into the river, and floats himself clear of
the lines yonder till he reaches the ships by the good guidance of God,
would need to have a serious mind. I have been thinking it all over, as
I sat there to-night, and of the poor souls in their tribulation yonder.
If I was a year or two younger I would try it blithely, and I think
Kirke would listen to his old comrade. There were certain passages
between us once--however, as I say, this might be done by one who took
his life in his hand, and I think I am the man. Do you believe in omens,
lad?”

“I know not.” Gervase answered; “I think they are but an idle
superstition.”

“Then you may laugh at me if you will, but as surely as my name is
Ninian I have been called this night to that work, and perhaps to more
also.”

“I had thought,” said Gervase, “you had forgot these idle dreams and
warnings.”

“Though I am a man of prayer,” he went on, disregarding the
interruption, “I am not gifted with the vision, but twice before I have
heard the same voice, and twice my life was put in grievous jeopardy.
When I heard it before, it spoke as if in anger, but to-night it was
sweet and soft like his voice that was my friend. You see I was sitting
there on the bastion figuring out how I might reach the ships, and
reproaching myself for my backwardness in desiring to make the venture,
when I heard a voice as if a great way off coming from up the river
yonder. I listened attentively but there was a deep silence, and I began
to think that it was a mere trick of fancy. Then it came again, sounding
nearer, till I heard the words of his voice.”

“Whose voice?” said Gervase, wonderingly.

Macpherson turned towards him with a white face. “The voice of my old
friend--him that I told you of. But, thank God, I know his spirit is at
peace with mine, and I can die content. I could see him before me with
my mortal eyes, as I heard that familiar voice that has not sounded in
mine ears for twenty years. He has called me and I am going yonder.”

There was no trace of excitement in his manner or in his speech, but he
spoke with the calm deliberateness of a man who has fully made up his
mind and cannot be shaken in his opinion. Gervase knew that it was
useless to attempt to reason with him; and indeed, if the truth must be
told, he himself was not a little impressed by the tale he had heard.
The supernatural played a large part in the lives of the people among
whom he lived, and it was not curious that his own mind should have been
touched by the prevailing spirit. But to Macpherson it was a fact that
required no explanation and hardly seemed to call for wonder.

“And were you not afraid to hear that disembodied voice?” Gervase asked,
“if it be that it was not more than your fancy?”

“Wherefore should I be afraid? was it not the voice of my friend who
spoke to me no longer in anger? I know that my sin is forgiven. Some
day, my lad,” he continued, with the kindly and almost caressing tone he
had adopted towards Gervase, “some day you will understand what I mean,
but not yet. Now forget what I have spoken and help me with your young
and nimble wits.”

“It is madness for you to dream of it,” Gervase answered. “No man could
reach the ships by the water alone, and to land would be certain death.”

“When we were campaigning on the Danube I swam further than that and was
none the worse for it, while the Janissaries were potting at us from
their flat-bottomed boat a good part of the way. But this is an old
story now.”

“Ay! and you were a young man then. If any should undertake this task,
why should not I? I am sick and weary to death of what I have seen
yonder, and I had rather die once and for all than die by inches. Were
there but a chance----”

“My lad, you must not think of it. You are young and there is still need
for you in the world. The bonnie wench yonder could ill spare you; but
there´ll be none, but mayhap yourself, to wait for the home-coming of
Ninian Macpherson; and the folk yonder are worth venturing a man´s life
for. I have been through many a siege, but I think since the beginning
of time there hath been none like this.”

“Truly there is a fat Cathedral yard,” said Gervase bitterly, “and God
knows when it will end. There are two more of Simon´s sturdy lads dead
yesterday, and I hardly think the little girl I told you of will hold
out till the morning.”

“Poor soul, poor soul!” he continued, “and to think that it should all
be happening under that--” and he lifted up his hand. The night was
clear and cloudless. The river lay before them reflecting the starlight
in its calm unbroken waters, and the moon lifted its slender crescent
through a mellow haze. They were about to retrace their steps along the
lines when Macpherson, whose sight was marvellously keen, caught sight
of a figure moving rapidly under the shelter of a sunken fence. He had
seen it for a moment as it showed clear against the river, as it made
its way swiftly in the shadow. He caught Gervase by the arm, pulling him
under cover of the embankment.

“There is foul play here,” he whispered. “Yon binkie travels too fast to
have an honest errand. He will come this way, if he intend, as I verily
think he does, to pass through to the camp yonder.”

The man made his way toward them rapidly, without stopping for a moment.
It was clear that he intended to pass the angle were they stood, and
they would not have to stir to intercept him as he passed.

“There may be need of this,” said Macpherson, drawing his sword, “but I
think not; the traitor is nearly always a coward.”

They could now hear the man breathing hard as he ran; he was preparing
to leap into the trench, when Macpherson presented himself before him,
with his drawn sword in his hand.

“Stand, and give me the word.”

The man stopped short as if astonished at the unexpected rencontre, and
then thrust his hand into his breast. But Macpherson divined his
purpose. “If you move that hand I will run you through the body,” and he
held the point of the sword perilously near the man´s throat.

Gervase had not moved forward but was still standing in the shadow.
Something warned him that the traitor whom he had been watching so long
had made his attempt to-night, and was discovered at last.

“Now, sir, what is your errand here to-night? if you do not answer me I
shall call the guard.”

“You need not call the guard, Captain Macpherson. I am here on no
sinister business, but have come to seek for Mr. Gervase Orme, who, I am
told, is in the lines to-night.”

He lifted off his hat and stood bareheaded in the midnight. As he
listened, Gervase knew that it was a lie, but did not move from his
place of concealment.

“Good God,” cried Macpherson, “´tis the brave wench´s brother. I´m
thinking, Mr. Carew, it was a strange way you took to find the gentleman
you speak of. It looked like as if you thought to find him yonder.”

“I am not familiar with your outworks, sir,” answered Jasper, who had
recovered his composure, and spoke with studied coolness, “and I thought
you had another line of defence along the hill.”

“There is no accounting for a man´s thoughts,” said Macpherson, “but the
message must have been urgent that needed so much haste. In the future I
would advise you to move more circumspectly when musket balls are
plenty. Now, perhaps, as the gentleman is my friend, you will even give
me your news and I will contrive that it reaches him.”

“It can be delivered to none but himself. If you will tell me where I
may find him, I have no doubt I can make my way thither myself.”

“I have no doubt you could, but you see I cannot let you out of my
sight. We must even see the gentleman together.”

“You do not mean that you doubt my word?”

“Your word, sir, cannot interfere with my plain duty. I am one of those
who strive to give no tongue to their loose thoughts. I would think well
of you for your sister´s sake; and I think we will hear, after all, what
Mr. Orme has to say about the matter.”

“I have no doubt,” said Carew, changing his ground as he saw that
Macpherson was inflexible, “that I have acted heedlessly in venturing
hither, and it may be best for me to return to the city. If you should
consider it well, I am ready to give any explanation that may be
necessary in the morning.”

Macpherson smiled grimly. “I have no doubt you would, but it is a pity
that you should have come so far without fulfilling your errand; and I
think Mr. Orme hath been waiting with some impatience to hear what you
have to say to him.”

Gervase stepped quickly forward.

“You can go no further with this deception, Mr. Carew,” he said, “I gave
you a friendly warning before which you have not followed, and you must
suffer the consequences.”

Carew stepped back with a look of hate on his face. “The curse of heaven
light on you for an intermeddling rogue!” he cried. “Do what you will, I
care not.”

“You knew,” Gervase continued, “that I had learned your secret, and I
think though I may be deceived, you knew how I had learned it. I was
anxious to spare you the humiliation of making a confession of your
treachery, and for the sake of others would have averted the punishment.
But you have not taken my counsel to heart, and for myself I bitterly
regret it.”

“I want neither your counsel nor your regret. Tell me what you mean to
do and let us have an end of it. I cannot see why I should not leave the
city if I would.”

Macpherson had listened to this brief conversation in surprise. He had
not imagined that Gervase had had any suspicion of Jasper´s treachery,
and for a moment it pained him to think that he had withheld his
confidence. Then he said in a low tone, “Does his sister know of this?”

“There is no need for concealment,” Gervase answered; “it was from her
that I first learned it, and I have been watching for a fortnight that
this did not happen. It will break her heart.”

“That need not be: we will even take the law into our own hands, come of
it what will. Now, sir,” he said, turning round towards Jasper, “there
is no need for further deception, for it cannot profit you a whit. I
never doubted that you were a traitor from the moment that I caught
sight of you by the dyke yonder. You know what is the punishment of a
traitor? Hanging is not a very fit end for any man, and hanged you will
be if we carry you back to the city. I cannot tell what is your intent
in stooping to this dishonour, but I think in letting you pass I can do
but little harm. They know how it stands with us, and you can bring them
but little fresh news. Did I think of you alone, as God is my witness, I
should string you up with my own hand without compunction, but for the
sake of them that loved you, unworthy as you are, the way is open for
you. You may go. You may tell them from Ninian Macpherson that never a
man of them will put his foot inside the walls, and you have seen the
last of the city yourself.”

For a moment Jasper could not realize the good news, and appeared
overcome by surprise. “I may be able to return your favour some day,
sir,” he said, “however poor a figure I may cut now.”

“I would take no favour from your hands,” answered Macpherson; “now go
before my mind changes, for I doubt whether I do right in letting you
pass thus easily.”

Without a word Carew crossed the trench and clambered up the rampart. On
the top he turned short, “I have to thank you for your kindness,” he
said, “and for the courteous speech you have made. You, sir, as I have
said I will do my best to repay, but for you, Mr. Orme, you may take my
favour now.”

Quick as thought Gervase saw the barrel of a pistol flashing in the
moonlight, presented straight at his breast. Macpherson saw it too, and
sprang forward as if to leap the trench, when there came a blinding
flash and a loud cry as Macpherson fell forward on his face.

Gervase followed his impulse, which was to secure the miscreant who had
done this base and cowardly act, but when he had reached the summit of
the rampart, he was rapidly disappearing in the darkness and it was
impossible to overtake him. So with a bitter feeling in his heart and
something that sounded like an imprecation on his lips, he turned back
to his wounded friend.

The sound of the shot had attracted the attention of the men nearest to
them in the trenches; they came hurrying up believing that the attack
had begun, but when they saw Macpherson lying on the ground and Gervase
kneeling by his side, their alarm was changed to suspicion and surprise.
There was an unbroken silence in front under the quiet summer sky; not a
blade of grass was stirring on the hillside. It was clear to them that
this blow had not come from the enemy, and full of surprise and wonder,
they watched Gervase as he bent over the fallen man and opened his vest
to find the wound.

Macpherson was still conscious; the blood that was pouring from a wound
in his breast had dyed his shirt deep red, and they noticed that he had
not let go his hold upon the hilt of his sword. But there was that look
in his face that every man in that company had seen too frequently for
months to mistake--that look in the presence of which there is no hope,
and which speaks inevitably of a speedy dissolution. It was clear to
them all that the last sands of his life had nearly run out.

A sergeant of his regiment running up the lines had brought down a
blazing brand of fir, by the light of which Gervase stanched the flowing
blood as well as he was able. He felt his hand shaking as he bound up
the wound, nor could he trust himself to make any answer to the eager
questions that were poured upon him. It required no skill to tell that
the wound was mortal; it was only a question of hours, perhaps of
minutes; and the thought that pressed most strongly upon him was that it
was to save his life that Macpherson had lost his own. Rugged and
staunch and true, a loyal friend, a valiant soldier, he had hardly
recognized his worth or the affection he had begun to bear toward him,
until the time had come for them to part.

From the moment that he fell Macpherson had not spoken; he lay
motionless with his face turned up and the light of the blazing torch
falling on it. Only once he pressed the hand of Gervase with a gentle
pressure; that was all the sign he gave of consciousness. A surgeon had
been sent for but there seemed to be no probability of his arriving in
time, and they hastily began to construct a hurdle on which to carry the
old soldier home. Though he had been quick to punish any breach of
discipline, he had always been forward with his praise, and they had
long since learnt that he would not ask them to go where he was not
ready to lead them. They had come to impose implicit confidence in his
wisdom and courage, while they had seen in a thousand instances that a
warm and kindly heart lay under his rugged manner and surly speech. They
had been wont to say that Roaring Meg and the old Captain were children
of the same mother; but there was many a moist eye in the trenches that
night when they learned that the old fire-eater had come to his end.

While they were getting ready the hurdle on which to carry him to the
city, Gervase had not moved but still knelt holding his head on his
knees. The blow was so sudden and so unexpected that he had not had time
to realize it. Notwithstanding the evidence of his senses, he could not
believe that he was in the presence of death. He did not once think of
his own miraculous escape nor of how this might affect the woman he
loved, but stunned and bewildered, he endeavoured to make clear to his
own mind that his friend was dying.

Macpherson´s lips moved and Gervase bent down to catch the words, but
for a time they were broken and inaudible. Then with an effort he lifted
his hand and motioned to the men who were gathered round, to withdraw.
He had still much difficulty in speaking but Gervase was able to catch
the meaning of his words now.

“I´m going home, lad,” he said, “going home. I was called, and--and--you
will promise me.”

Gervase did not speak but only pressed his hand.

“She must never know who has done this--never till the Judgment. She is
proud, and it would break her heart. Only you and I--we know, and we
will keep the secret. You will promise; you are a good lad, and my old
heart was turned toward you.”

Gervase was not ashamed of the tears that streamed down his face. He
brushed them away with the back of his hand, and tried to speak as well
as his feelings would permit him.

“I am glad you promised. Don´t grieve for me; it was better that I
should go than you. The campaign is over and I am going home.”

They placed him on the stretcher and carried him back to the city.

Already as they passed through Bishops-Gate, the crimson light of the
dawn had filled the sky, and the stars had failed, and the shadows had
passed away in the rosy glow of the pleasant summer morning.

As the bearers of the hurdle halted with their burden on the stone steps
of the house in which Macpherson lodged, he called out to them to stop.
“Let me look at it once more before I go. I´ll never see it again.”

And so they stood there in silence fronting the sunrise; he raised his
head for a minute and then motioned to them to carry him in. They laid
him in his own bed, and left Gervase and the surgeon to examine his
wound.

But it was evident that nothing could be done for him. He was already
past all mortal aid, and as he suffered from no pain they had only to
wait for the end that would not be long in coming.

“He´ll no´ need my aid, Mr. Orme,” said Saunderson, “for there´s none of
us could bring him round. ´Tis a pity there´s no woman body to close his
eyes; but I´m told he was a fine soldier, and I´ll look in and see the
last of him mysel´.”

“No one shall touch him but myself,” said Gervase, “I shall never have
such a friend again, and God knows there is none will miss him as I
will.”

Gervase had never been in the room before, and as he sat down by the bed
he looked round him with a saddened interest. On the table lay the
leather-bound volume he remembered so well. Above the bed hung a broad
sword with its hilt of silver richly chased, and he could see from where
he sat, that there was a legend upon the blade. A pair of spurs, a
silver-mounted pistol, and a long pipe of foreign make, lay on the
mantelshelf. A couple of high-backed chairs, a few simple cooking
utensils in the hearth, and an oak press, the doors of which lay open,
were all the furniture in the room. It looked bare and comfortless, and
it seemed to add to the pathos of the tragedy that a man with so much
that was gallant and loveable, should die friendless and unregretted in
a room like this.

Gervase had found a little wine in a bottle and with this he moistened
Macpherson´s lips from time to time. He lay motionless all day with his
eyes half closed, but toward evening he seemed to Gervase to grow
delirious, and began to talk in a rambling way, with a thick and broken
utterance. His mind was busy with his old campaigning days, and his
speech was full of foreign cities, and of battles and sieges and
ambuscades, and of women he had loved in his wild free life. There was
no coherence in the matter; only a meaningless confusion of unfamiliar
names. Only once before had he raised the curtain that hung over his
past life, but he had made no secret of the fact that his youth had been
a riotous one and full of wayward passion; and he had seemed to have
broken with it utterly. But now it had all come back again, and his mind
was full of the tavern brawl and the low intrigue and the horrors of
sack and siege. It was strange to hear the old man with the white head
and haggard face that had grown so old looking in a day, babbling of the
fierce delights of his youth as if he were living among them again.
Gervase would willingly have closed his ears but he was in a manner
fascinated by it.

“A thousand devils, here they come. Lord, what a change! They ride as if
Hell were loose after them. The pike men will never stand. Close down
your ranks. There they go, rolling one after another. Pooh! a mere
scratch. I´ll pour out my own wine and drink it too; a woman´s lips are
sweeter after a draught like that. Open the windows; we want air--air
and a song. Jack will----”

Then he gave a loud cry and started up as if in pain. “Oh, God! I have
killed him--wipe it off, that is his blood upon my sword--wipe it off, I
tell you. You see how his eyes will not shut; they stare at me as if he
were still alive. You she-devil, I will kill you as I killed him. I
cannot draw this blade from the scabbard. Listen, and I will tell you
why: his blood hath glued it fast, and I can never draw it again--never.
Pooh! you are a fool.”

So he rambled on, while Gervase sat compelled to listen and put together
the history of that stirring and eventful life. Then the paroxysm died
away, and exhausted with his passion he lay quiet, only his lips moving
and his spare brown hands catching at the coverlet. Once or twice
Gervase thought he heard his own name, but it might have been mere
fancy, for it was now impossible to catch the words his lips tried to
frame.

According to his promise, Saunderson had looked in during the course of
the evening, but as he said, rather to cheer the watcher than in the
hope of assisting the patient. He had been amazed at the great hold he
had upon life, for no ordinary man could have survived such a wound for
an hour. “He’ll be away before the morn,” he said; “you can see how he´s
trying to loose himsel´. Man, ´tis a strange thing this dying, and we a´
take our ain gait about it. Some die hard like the auld man there, and
some slip off easily, but licht or hard ´tis a´ ane. I´ve seen a guid
few lately. I´m afeard ye can´t sit here this nicht, and I´ll look up
some stout body to tak´ your place.”

But Gervase would not hear of it. He had determined to see the last of
his friend and was determined to spend the night at his bedside. He had
seated himself in the chair by the window, and had taken up the little
book which bore the owner´s name on the title page and the words
“Utrecht, 1664,” and was worn and marked by repeated using. He read on
till the sunset had died away and it became too dark to see the page.
Then he closed the book and went downstairs in search of a light.

When he came back with the lighted candle in his hand, Macpherson was
sitting up in the bed, with his eyes staring wide open and his hands
stretched out. The wound had burst out afresh and the blood had stained
the white counterpane.

“Listen, Gervase,” he said, “listen, my son! Do you hear how he is
calling me? I would know the sound of his voice among ten thousand--the
sound of his voice that I loved. I would have waited for you, but I knew
him first and loved him first, and I cannot tarry. Jack, dear Jack, good
comrade, I am coming. Oh! the marvellous light--” He struggled as if to
leave the bed and Gervase was running forward to restrain him, when he
fell back on the pillow, with his eyes and mouth wide open. At a glance
Gervase saw that it was all over; his faithful friend was dead, and
there was no need for watching now. As he stood for a long time looking
at him, the hard and rugged face seemed to soften into a smile, and the
lines that were cut deep in the forehead and the cheeks had disappeared,
and he lay like one asleep. The fight was indeed over, and the reveille
would awaken him from his rest no more.

                  *       *       *       *       *

They buried him the next day in the Cathedral yard, four men of his own
regiment carrying the body on the stretcher on which they had brought
him home. As Gervase saw him laid in the shallow grave, he felt that he
had lost the best friend and the truest comrade he was ever likely to
find. And there the ashes of the old soldier still lie mingled with
those of many another who fell in the same quarrel and found a
resting-place there from all their labours. In after days Gervase
erected a tablet to his memory, with nothing more than the name and the
date upon it and these words: “He laid down his life for his friend.”



                             CHAPTER XVII.
                         OF A GREAT ADVENTURE.


Macpherson died toward the end of the second week in July, when the city
had already begun to suffer the dire extremities of famine. The
provisions in the magazines were almost exhausted; the meal and the
tallow were doled out with a sparing hand. Already the citizens had
begun to live upon food that at other times they would have turned from
in disgust and loathing. Horse-flesh was almost becoming a luxury, dogs,
rats, and cats were greedily devoured, and even of these the supply was
beginning to fail. Putrid fevers had broken out which carried off
multitudes; loathsome diseases of the skin grew common, and even the
strongest began to find it hard to draw themselves to the walls or to
help in repelling the frequent attacks on the outposts. Added to this,
there was hardly a whole roof in the city, for during two months the
iron hail had been continually pouring upon them. Many of them felt
indeed that death would be a welcome relief, and they envied those who
were already laid in the churchyard. But still they held out grimly, and
with faces blackened with hunger, declared that they were ready to die
rather than surrender. The spirit that may still be found here and there
in the Imperial Province burned with an unabated flame--a pride which
two centuries has not been able to remove, and strong almost to
fanaticism. Yet it was not to be wondered at that discontent and
suspicion should grow and spread. Some few proved insubordinate, others
deserted to the enemy, but for the most part they stood loyally by their
leaders.

Hamilton who was now in command of the royal troops, believing that the
time had come when his overtures would be listened to, had sent a
message containing liberal terms, but after some fruitless negotiations,
they refused his offer and determined to hold out. A messenger had been
able to find his way from the ships with a letter which had revived
their hopes a little, but they had lost all faith in Kirke, and looked
only with stubborn despair to the time when they could defend themselves
no longer.

After the death of Macpherson, Gervase had gone about his duty as
before, but he had greatly missed the wise and faithful counsellor whose
friendly comfort had helped him to bear his trials. The blow that he had
sustained had been very great, and he had felt unwilling to face Dorothy
Carew while the wound was still fresh. He had determined to observe the
old soldier´s dying injunction that she should not know by whose hand he
had fallen; and he himself would have desired even if the command had
not been laid upon him that she should remain in ignorance of it. He
knew that she had already suffered much, and he was desirous of sparing
her further pain. Jasper had not appeared again in the city nor was it
likely that he would, so that it could serve no purpose of any sort to
denounce him as the murderer.

When he had summoned up courage and met Dorothy for the first time since
Macpherson´s death, she had displayed much emotion, but it had not
occurred to her that she was connected in any way with the old soldier´s
end. She had told Gervase that her brother had disappeared, and that she
had no doubt he had gone over to the enemy, but the subject was one on
which she seemed naturally unwilling to dwell much, and he on his part
did not press it. It struck him, however, as singular that she did not
mention De Laprade; and it was only in answer to his inquiry that she
told him that he was making rapid progress towards recovery. She herself
was looking very ill and wretched--so ill that Gervase was alarmed at
her appearance, and her eyes were red as if she had been weeping
recently.

“I thought I was strong and able to bear anything,” she said, “but my
heart is breaking. Is there no hope for us anywhere?”

“There is always hope----”

“I see that you can give me no comfort. My aunt is dying slowly, and she
bears it very patiently. In a day or two there will be no more food and
then----”

“And then there will be plenty if God helps us, Miss Carew,” Gervase
went on. “You have not despaired till now. You have shown us an example
in patient courage we might all have profited by, and you must not let
your heart fail you now. You may tell Lady Hester she will not have long
to wait. In three days the ships will be at the quays and all will be
well.”

“I think you have always told me the truth,” she said; “but how is this
to happen?”

“When we meet again I shall tell you that and more; you must not ask me
now, but I believe I speak sincerely and with truth.”

“I have always trusted you.”

“And always may; there is nothing I would not try to do for your sake.
But I am growing a boaster, and I have done nothing and perhaps can do
nothing. Only do not let your heart fail. When we meet again I trust the
joybells will be ringing, and there will be bonfires on the ramparts; if
not----”

“It is too good news. We have waited so long but it seems as far away as
ever.”

“I think it is coming now. Miss Carew, if we should never meet again, I
want you to remember that I thought of you till the last, and that all I
did was done--nay I should not say that. I feel that we shall meet
again.”

She looked at him with a look of awakened fear. “You are not going into
any great peril?”

“We live among them, one and all of us.”

“But you----”

“Would only carry your thoughts with me--Dorothy, my best beloved,” he
cried, taking her hand in his, “before I go I want you to say you love
me as I love you.”

She drew her hand away quickly.

“I cannot I cannot. I will tell you why hereafter. My God! I love you.”

He caught her in his arms and kissed her again and again unresistingly.
Then she tore herself from his embrace, and with a stifled cry rushed
from the room. But he went away happy, with her last words ringing in
his ears, and feeling himself ready to do the work he was about to
undertake. For while he was talking to Dorothy he had hastily formed a
resolution that was lying dormant in his mind for days. In his last
conversation with Macpherson, the old soldier had declared his intention
of reaching the ships, and Gervase had been dwelling on the project for
the last ten days. He knew the task was full of deadly peril--it had
already been twice attempted without success, and it seemed so hopeless
that he had shrunk from undertaking it. But the sight of Dorothy´s thin
and wasted face had removed all his doubts, and he had determined to
make one last effort to induce Kirke to undertake the relief. He himself
believed that the undertaking was not nearly so formidable as it seemed,
and if once a move was made he did not doubt that the boom would prove
no very serious barrier. But the great problem was to reach the ships
which were lying far down the river. On both sides of the bank the enemy
were watching with a vigilance which it seemed impossible to escape.
Even if he succeeded in eluding them, he could hardly hope to swim the
long six miles in the condition he was in, and to land was almost
certain death. But he made up his mind to make the attempt and to trust
to the chapter of accidents to carry him safely through.

                  *       *       *       *       *

As he went to look for Walker from whom he desired to obtain his
credentials, he felt strong enough for anything. Had not he heard from
the sweetest lips in the world the sweetest words he had ever heard
spoken. Had he not everything to move him to the attempt? If he lived he
would show her that he was not unworthy of her love, for this deed was
one that all men would not attempt, and few could carry safely through.
There was glory in it and renown, though it was neither glory nor renown
that he sought.

When he had told the old colonel of his intentions, the latter at first
tried to dissuade him. He was only flinging his life away, he said, for
nothing. Others had tried and failed; he could not hope to succeed. Even
if he succeeded in reaching the ships, which he could not do, he could
tell them nothing that they did not know there. Kirke was a coward or a
traitor, and they could not hope for help from him. He could send them
letters that meant nothing, but that was all. But Gervase was not to be
dissuaded by any argument. He had set his heart upon making the attempt,
and his resolution was so evident that at length Walker unwillingly
consented, and with a homely piety commended him to the protection of
Providence that, however it might frown, had not forsaken them.

“We will say nothing of this to any,” he had said, “but will keep the
matter closely to ourselves, for the folk yonder have long ears and can
hear our whispers here. Some time before midnight we will even go down
to the Waterside together, and as you are a brave man and a courageous,
there is one old man who will pray for your safe keeping and
deliverance. I shall have the epistle writ out, and I pray God Kirke may
be the first to read it.”

Gervase´s preparations for his adventure were easily made. He had left a
letter in which he had made a disposal of his effects, in case anything
happened to him, and had written another which was addressed to Dorothy
Carew. The only weapon he had provided himself with was a small hunting
knife that had belonged to Macpherson, which he hoped he would not
require to use but which might prove useful in an emergency. There had
been some rain during the day, and the night promised to be dark and
cloudy. So long as there was no moonlight there was a possibility of his
making the attempt with a reasonable chance of success, but should the
moon show herself he could hardly hope to remain undiscovered.

The time hung heavily on his hands while he waited for the hour when he
was to meet Walker, and then he found himself trembling with feverish
impatience. Walker, however, insisted on his taking supper before he
left, and it was weeks since Gervase had seen so plentiful a meal spread
before him. The old colonel watched him with a serious admiration as he
made huge inroads on the food, and when Gervase had finished, he went to
a cupboard and produced a flask.

“You have had the last of the meat,” he said, taking the cork out of the
bottle, “and now you are going to have the last of the drink. There are
two glasses left, and you shall have both of them. Whenever we meet
again, if Heaven pleases, we will crack a bottle together. I love a
brave lad, and if age had not taken the oil out of my joints, I should
have liked nothing better than to bear you company. Now drink that off
for it will keep you warm in the water.”

Going down Ship Quay Street together, they passed through the gate and
came out upon the quay. The night was very dark and a slight drizzling
rain had begun to fall. On both sides of the river they could see many
lights, some moving, some stationary, and could hear the sound of voices
calling and answering from the other bank. But the river was flowing
darkly at their feet, and a night better suited for his purpose Gervase
could hardly have found. When he had divested himself of his boots coat
and vest, he stuck the short knife in his belt, and fastened round his
waist with a strip of canvas the piece of bladder in which the letter
from Walker was rolled.

“God bless you, my lad, and send you safe back to us. I feel even like
the patriarch when he would have offered up his son, but here too, it is
my trust the Lord will not require a life.”

“I feel that I shall come back, colonel,” said Gervase; “never fear for
me. Have the bonfires ready to give us a welcome.”

The old man in the excess of his emotion, took him in his arms and
kissed him on the forehead, and then Gervase wringing his hand, dropped
noiselessly into the water and struck out into the stream. He knew that
it was necessary for him to husband his strength for it would all be
needed; so after he found himself well in the middle of the river, he
began to swim slowly, and to let the current carry him down. If the
night should continue dark it would be impossible that he could be
discovered from the land; he himself could only dimly make out the
banks, and trusted to the lights to help him to direct his course. But
the rain had ceased and he feared that the clouds were beginning to
break; in the moonlight they could hardly fail to see him.

Still, every yard he made was a yard nearer safety, and to some extent
lessened the chances of discovery, for the further he descended the
stream, the more lax in all likelihood would their vigilance become.

As he swam on steadily with a slow strong stroke, his thoughts were busy
with many things.

He thought of Dorothy, who loved him and would repay him for his labour;
of Macpherson, whose brave spirit was perhaps keeping him company on
this perilous venture; and pardonably enough, of the honour he would
gain for this deed. It never occurred to him that having reached the
ships there would be any difficulty about the relief of the city. When
once his story had been told, they must up with their anchors, if there
was any manhood among them, and try the mettle of their guns. He
imagined to himself with what joy Dorothy would welcome him back when he
came among the first with the good news.

So he swam on for half an hour carried slowly down by the current, and
then for the first time he began to feel that he had overestimated his
strength, and that his extremities were growing numb and cold. He had
long since passed the lights of Pennyburn; he must now be coming close
to the boom where would be his first great danger, for the lights yonder
on either side of the river must be the lights of the forts that guarded
the barrier. The water seemed somehow to have grown colder and less
buoyant, and worst of all, the moon was beginning to show through the
masses of broken cloud. Three months ago he would have found little
difficulty in swimming twice the distance, but now he dragged himself
with difficulty through the water, and his shoulders were growing stiff
and painful. What if he failed to reach the fleet after all! His mind
was filled with despair at the thought, and he pulled himself together
with an effort and swam on with an obstinate determination to keep
himself afloat. With the wind blowing freshly, the waves came leaping
past him with an icy shiver that seemed to take away his strength.

But there was gradually forcing itself upon his mind the conviction
that, after all, he must land and make his way upon foot till he came
opposite to where the ships were riding at anchor. It would be better to
make for the shore at once while three hours of darkness still remained,
for when the light came it would be impossible to travel. While he was
making up his mind as to where it would be safest for him to land, the
moon came out suddenly with a startling brilliance, lighting up the
river and the banks on either side. He could now see Charles Fort
distinctly, and he fancied that he could discern lying across the river
the dark fabric of the boom, with the water leaping into white waves
against it. It was out of the question to attempt to cross the barrier
now; even where he was swimming his position was perilous in the
extreme.

Then he saw, near the shore, a small hooker lying at anchor, and almost
without knowing why he struck out towards it. There was little or no
likelihood of there being anyone on board and if, as seemed to be the
case, he should have to lie concealed the whole of the day, he might
find some food on board the little craft. He swam cautiously round her,
but he could hear no sound; then catching hold of the cable, he lifted
himself up by the bowsprit and found himself on board. She was decked
forward, and though he did not know for what purpose she was used, there
was a large gun covered with a piece of canvas lying amidships. But
though there was no one on board, a small lamp suspended from a beam was
burning dimly in the forecastle. He felt that it would not be wise to
tarry long, so diving hastily down the companion, he began to
investigate the contents of the lockers. In one he found several louis
which he left undisturbed, but in another to his joy he discovered some
oat-cakes and a quantity of rum in a case bottle. The latter was
particularly welcome, and after a dram he felt that he had got a new
lease of strength and vigour.

The circulation was beginning to return to his hands and feet. He sat
down on the edge of a bunk and chafed his limbs till the cramp that he
had begun to experience, was entirely gone. He was beginning to think
that it was time to take his departure, when he heard the sound of oars
creaking in their rowlocks and voices almost alongside. Hastily
extinguishing the light he drew out the knife with which he was armed,
and creeping out of the forecastle dropped cautiously down close to the
great gun, where he concealed himself under the canvas. Then as the bow
of a boat grated against the side of the hooker, he could see from where
he lay a man and a lad clambering on board, the latter with the painter
in his hand. “Make fast,” said the former, “and come and help me to get
the mainsail up. They´ll be aboard in an hour.”

The man made his way into the forecastle growling and swearing at the
lamp having gone out, while the boy clambered over the boom and made
fast the painter to a ring in the stern-sheets. Gervase had hoped that
the boy might have followed the man into the forecastle, and that he
himself might then have dropped overboard unperceived. But in this he
was disappointed, for the boy instead of going below began to unloose
the earing by which the mainsail was fastened, whistling as he did so
with a clear shrill note that Gervase remembered for years afterwards.

Presently the man came up from below swearing at the boy for the noise
he was making, and began to take in a fathom or two of the cable by
which the craft was moored. There seemed to Gervase no chance of
escaping unperceived, and a better opportunity than this might not
present itself. So while the man knelt with his back turned towards him,
and the boy was fumbling with the halyards in the darkness, he rose from
his place of concealment and leaped upon the bulwark.

The lad hearing the noise turned round with a look of terror on his
face. “Holy Mother of God!” he cried, “it´s a spirit;” and as the man
turned round where he was kneeling at the cat-heads, he seemed for a
moment to share his belief and participate in his alarm.

As Gervase dropped noiselessly into the water they were both too
bewildered to raise any alarm, and the river bed was already under his
feet before he heard their outcry. Then they called out loudly to
someone on the shore. Wading through the water toward the land, Gervase
noticed for the first time a low fort built of sods and rough timber
close to the bank. At the hubbub that was raised by the crew of the
hooker, the door was opened and a man came down towards the water´s edge
in the uniform of a French sergeant.

Seeing Gervase come upon the bank and mistaking him for one of the crew
he called out, “_Que le diable faites-vous ce bruit, coquin?_” But as he
came down and saw the young fellow closer, clad only in his shirt and
breeches, he immediately divined what was wrong and came running down
the bank. Gervase waited till he came close up; then, and it was an old
trick he had learned years before, he put out his foot and struck him a
tremendous blow with his left hand. The man went headlong into the
water, and without waiting to see what became of him, Gervase ran at
full speed along the bank, and never halted to take breath till he found
himself in the shelter of the wood, that at that time grew thick along
the bank.

He knew that in a short time the pursuit would be hot after him and that
there was not a moment to be lost. But to hasten was another matter; his
feet were torn and bleeding, and so painful that he could hardly put
them to the ground. While he sat down to rest his head swam like one in
a vertigo. But if he was to carry out his mission he could not rest now.
He tore off a piece of his shirt which he wrapped tightly round his
wounded feet, and set off again. The only way in which he could make
certain that he was travelling in the right direction was by keeping
close to the river, which he caught sight of from time to time through
the trees. But his motion was necessarily slow; it was terrible work
picking his way over the fallen branches and rough stones that jarred
his nerves whenever he set his feet upon them. But the fate of the city
was on his shoulders and the hope of the woman he loved.

It seems strange to me, the writer, and may seem strange to you who
read, but the last words of his sweetheart restored his drooping heart
and renewed his failing strength whenever he thought of them through
this adventurous journey.

The night was nearly over and the dawn was coming up, when he still
found himself in the wood, dragging one foot slowly after another. How
far he had gone he could not tell, but he knew that he must have
travelled several miles, and could not be far from his destination. He
feared to leave the shelter of the wood, but he knew that he could not
spend the day here, for he was already becoming weary and was consumed
by a raging thirst. After a while the wood broke and there was a stretch
of fields before him, with farther on some growing timber and a ruined
building.

But with awakened hope he could now see the ships where they rode at
anchor some two miles away. While it was yet a grey light he determined
to take advantage of it, and gladly left the tangle of the wood for the
soft, green turf that gave him some relief in walking. Then he came to a
running water where he quenched his thirst and bathed his wounds.
Following the course of the stream would bring him to the beach where
there was standing a house, probably a fisherman´s cottage, surrounded
by a fence and a few fruit trees growing about it. It was yet probably
too early for the inmates to be astir, and the hope dawned upon him that
he might perhaps be able to find a boat upon the beach, for he knew that
any thought of swimming was now out of the question. There was a further
advantage in following the little stream, for the briars grew thick
along its course and would afford him shelter, while the country was
open beyond. He did not hesitate, but set off with as much speed as he
could make. His destination was now in sight and his chance of escape
had considerably increased. If he had only another half hour of
twilight, he thought; but this was not to be, for it was rapidly growing
lighter, and as he came down to the cottage it was already broad day.

He had just gained the fence that surrounded the cottage, when looking
back he saw a body of dragoons beating the edge of the wood that he had
left half an hour before. They had not caught sight of him for their
attention was fixed on the fern and briars that skirted the wood, but he
had not a moment to lose. He could not retrace his steps and so gain the
friendly shelter of the little stream, nor could he now make for the
beach as had been at first his intention. But crushing his way through
the thorn hedge, he came into a little garden. The door of the house was
lying open, and he saw what he had not noticed before, that the inmates
must be already astir, for a thick smoke was rising into the morning
air. He knew that his pursuers could not fail to find him in the garden,
and he determined to take his chance, and to trust to the humanity of
the people in the cottage to conceal him. This resolution he had taken
not without some hope of finding friends, for there was a homeliness and
air of comfort in the place that seemed to him little in keeping with
the character of the Celt.

When he entered the door he found himself in a spacious kitchen. A woman
was standing on the hearth cooking some fish that gave forth an
appetizing smell. As she heard him coming in she dropped the frying pan,
and running over to the corner of the dresser, seized an old musket that
was lying against it.

“For God´s sake, hear me,” cried Gervase; “do not shoot.”

“What do you want?” she said, still holding the weapon ready for use and
looking at him with a doubtful air. Her speech at once assured him that
he had found a friend.

“I have come from the city,” he said; “I have been travelling all night
and am trying for the ships. The dragoons are after me now, and if you
do not help me, I will be taken.”

She dropped the musket, and running over took hold of him by both hands.
“My poor lad, my poor lad,” she cried, “you are but a woeful sight. If
they haven´t seen you coming in I think I can save you. My good man lay
a day in the loft and they couldn´t find him, though they searched high
up and low down. He´s in the city like yourself and now--but I would
like to ask you a question or two. Where are they now?”

“Close by the edge of the wood and I think they are coming down this
way.”

“Then my questions will keep. You´ll step softly after me, for the young
folk are still asleep upstairs, and it would never do they should see
you now. I was before Derry myself,” she continued, as she led the way
up the ladder to the loft above the kitchen, “but they are well-mannered
enough and don´t trouble me now.”

In the loft above were two beds, in one of which three flaxen-headed
boys were lying sound asleep, and as Gervase followed her the woman gave
a warning gesture, and stopped for a moment to look at them. Then with
Gervase´s assistance she noiselessly pulled away the other bed, and
disclosed a recess in the wall which was wide enough to admit him. “Get
in there,” she said, “and I´ll call you when they are gone. If they
haven´t seen you they´ll never think of looking there; if they have, God
help me and the children--but I´ll do more than that for the good
cause.”

When she had left him and had gone down the ladder after replacing the
bed, Gervase began to regret that he had imperilled the safety of the
kindly soul who had shown anxiety to assist him. But it was not his own
safety that was at stake; it was that of the city and the lives of the
citizens.

He lay listening for the sound of his pursuers, but the moments seemed
to lengthen into hours and still they did not make their appearance.
Meanwhile the good woman downstairs had gone on cooking the breakfast
for herself and the children, and had set out the rough earthenware on
the table by the window. When she saw the dragoons coming across the
fields straight toward the house, she walked to the threshold and met
them with an unconcerned smile on her face. “You are early astir this
morning,” she said. “Is there to be more trouble in these parts? I´m
thinking, Captain Lambert, I´ve seen you before.”

“Troth, that is very possible,” was the answer, “and I don´t think you
have seen the last of me either. Now, look here, I want you to tell me
the truth, a thing most women find hard enough to do, but the truth I
must have or I´ll know the reason, why. Have you seen anybody afoot this
morning?”

She looked at him with an air of well-assumed astonishment.--"Why, ´tis
barely five, and the children, bless their hearts, are still abed. My
good man, you know, is away yonder, and the neighbours don´t trouble me
now."

“Come, my lads, we must search the house. We´ll get nothing out of her,
she´s as close as perdition.”

“If you´ll tell me what you want,” she said, “I would try and answer
you. The boys are sleeping upstairs and there is nobody below but
myself.”

“A fellow from the city has come this way, and I´ll take my oath he´s
here or hereabouts.”

“God help him then, for I think he´ll get little further.”

“That´s as may be, but we´ll see if he´s here at any rate. Now, my men,
don´t leave a mousehole that you don´t go to the bottom of. I´ve a
shrewd suspicion that he´s not far off.”

They searched the garden and lower part of the house without success,
and then ascended the ladder into the loft. The boys were asleep when
they came up, but the noise awakened them, and frightened at the red
coats of whom they stood in deadly terror, they set up a great crying
which highly amused the soldiers. It may also have somewhat diverted
their attention, for they failed to find the hiding-place in which
Gervase lay concealed. Returning downstairs they reported that it was
impossible that the prisoner could have concealed himself above, at
which the good woman who was entertaining the captain, expressed her
unbounded surprise.

“I thought,” she said, “you would have brought him down with you. I´m
sure my man would be glad to hear there was somebody in his wife´s
bedroom. But you have strange notions, you soldiers, and I´m sorry,
Captain, I can´t ask you to stay and share the breakfast with me.”

The dragoon laughed good-humouredly and flung a couple of coins on the
table. “We´re not so black as we´re painted,” he said, “and there´s for
your trouble; but had we found him it would have been another story.
Now, my men, to the rightabout and let us make up the stream the way we
came. He hasn´t left the wood yet.”

When they had quitted the house, the woman took her pail and followed
them as far as the well, watching them till they had reached the wood
and disappeared among the trees. Then she released Gervase from his
hiding-place and he was now in no enviable condition either of mind or
of body. He was so weak that he found it difficult to make his way down
the ladder into the kitchen, and he could scarcely set his feet to the
ground. The woman looked at him with a face on which compassion was
plainly written; then she went over to a press and took out a coat that
belonged to her husband, a coarse shirt, and a pair of worsted
stockings. “Now,” she said, “just step behind there, and make yourself
cosy in these. If Sandy Graham was at home he would make you welcome to
the best he has. Then you´ll come and sit down and tell me about my good
man and the city, and how they fare there while I make ready something
to eat, for God knows you look as if you needed it.”

Gervase gladly did as he was directed, and when he was dressed, as
gladly fell to upon the fresh fish and coarse bread which seemed to him
the sweetest meat he had ever partaken of in his life.

While he went on with his breakfast he answered the numerous inquiries
as well as he was able, while the boys, who were now stirring, gathered
round in admiration of the young giant for whom their father´s ample
coat was far too scanty. “I´m sorry you don´t know Sandy,” she said; “it
would have been some comfort to know that you had seen him. I knew it
was ill with you in the city, but I never thought it was as bad as that.
They´ll be thinking of ye now with an anxious heart.”

“They know nothing about me,” Gervase said; “only Colonel Walker and
myself are in the secret. If I fail----”

“Tut, man, ye´ll not fail now. I think,” she went on, looking at him
admiringly, “ye could find a way in anything. You just take a rest on
the bed upstairs, and I´ll watch that you´re not disturbed. They´re not
bad bodies, the redcoats, and they haven´t troubled me much since I came
back from Londonderry. In the evening I´ll see you farther.”

“If I only could find a boat,” Gervase said: “I could never reach the
fleet by swimming now.”

“I´ve been thinking of that,” she answered; “there´s a bit of a coble
lying in the cove, but the oars are gone and it must be leaky as a
sieve, for it had been lying there all the summer.”

Gervase caught the idea eagerly. “Anything that will keep me afloat; I
care not what it is. Mistress Graham, we´ll save the city between us.”

“There ye go,” she said, with a smile of gratified vanity. “Ye could
never make the two miles in yon crazy tub, but I´ll see through the day
if I can´t turn my hand to caulking her myself. I´ve seen it done and I
think I can try it, but what you´ll do for oars I know not. However, the
tide will help you and you´ll manage somehow, never fear. It will be a
great day when ye meet Sandy in the Diamond, and tell him I helped you
through.”

Throughout the day Gervase remained undisturbed in the cottage. A patrol
had been stationed a little distance further along the shore, but they
had not again visited the house. Two or three times he heard their
shouts as they passed at a distance. Mistress Graham had kept her
promise, and as well as she was able, had patched up the little boat,
which she dragged into the water and left floating in the cove. By using
one of the planks which had been left in the little craft as a paddle,
she hoped that he would be able to make his way to the ships. All was
now ready for his journey, and it only wanted the help of the darkness
to allow him to set out.

                  *       *       *       *       *

It was a bright moonlight night when they went down to the beach
together. There was not an air to ruffle the surface of the water, and
they could see very plainly a couple of miles away the riding lights of
the ships at anchor. The patrol that had been in the vicinity of the
cottage during the day had apparently been withdrawn, for they had not
been in sight since sundown. Gervase found the coble more than half full
of water, which took him some time to bale out, and when he was ready to
start he wrung the hand of the kind-hearted woman warmly. “I have no
time to spare,” he said. “God reward you for all your kindness! You had
better go back to the house now, for if I should be discovered it would
only bring you into trouble. I hope we´ll meet under better fortune.
Farewell.”

He pushed off, and sitting down amid ships began to make his way slowly
from the shore. The woman returned to the door of the cottage, where she
stood watching till the black speck was swallowed up in the darkness.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.
                   OF HOW GERVASE REACHED THE SHIPS.


The coble was a poor sea boat and very heavy for its size. The piece of
timber that Gervase used was a wretched substitute for an oar, and while
the tide carried him rapidly down he could see that he made little
progress towards the ships. If he should drift past them it was
impossible that he could ever make his way against the current, and he
must be carried out to sea. Fortunately the night was clear, and the
wind blew in fitful airs, coming from the shore. Notwithstanding his
utmost exertion the boat hardly seemed to move, and when he looked round
it was already two hundred yards from the shore. He knew that he was
still far from being safe from pursuit. He could still easily be seen
from the shore in the broad moonlight, and once observed his pursuers
would have no difficulty in finding a boat in which they might easily
overtake him. He put his heart into every stroke, till the perspiration
began to run from his brows and his arms ached till he could almost have
cried out for the pain. But he was making his way, however slowly; he
could now see the vessels and the yards with the sails flapping idly
against the masts. Over the water came the sound of a bell, perhaps
calling up the watch, and for the first time he realized how near he was
to safety. But the boat seemed to him to go more slowly, and to have
grown more difficult to move. Then he looked down and saw that the water
was almost up to the thwarts. There was nothing for it but to abandon
the paddle and bale out the water, which proved a long and laborious
task. When he had accomplished little more than half the work, he saw
that a little more delay would bring him opposite to the ships and still
far from being within hail. Again he seized his paddle and strained
every nerve to make up the way he had lost. His mind was almost
distraught with fear; he worked like one possessed; nearer indeed, he
came, but Oh! how slowly. The boat would not move in this sea of lead;
his muscles were beginning to refuse to act, and to his eyes the sea had
grown red, like a sea of blood. His last hope was dying in his heart. To
be so near the end of his journey, to have passed through such perils,
and to have failed after all--the thought was maddening. Still he would
not give way, and he knitted his brows and set his teeth hard. Then as
he bent forward the paddle slipped from his hand, and went floating away
astern. With a despairing cry, weakened as he was, he fell down in the
bottom of the boat, and covered his face with his hands. It was all
over; he was beaten at last, and had failed as the others had failed
before him. For a minute or two he lay overcome by his despair; the
sense of hopeless failure swallowed up every other feeling. The thought
of present danger did not present itself to his mind; he had seen too
many brave men meet their death in these latter days not willingly to
adventure his own life lightly. His head reeled, his mouth was parched,
and his eyes throbbed with an intolerable pain. Then almost without
knowing what he did, he rose to his feet and tried to call out. At first
he could not articulate the words, but his voice died away in a feeble
murmur. How near he seemed! the spars stood out plainly against the sky,
and the lights were burning clear and bright. He thought once he could
hear the sound of the mariners calling as they lay out on the spars of
the brig that was riding nearest to him.

Again he called out--"Ship Ahoy!" and this time his voice came strong
and full, but though he stood and listened there was no response to his
shout. A third time he called out, and then to his inexpressible delight
he heard a hoarse voice coming over the water, “Ahoy! what boat is
that?”

Rising once more to his feet he called through his hands, “Help! Help!”
and sank exhausted in the bottom of the boat, incapable of making any
further effort. He waited anxiously but there came no further response,
and the little boat went drifting down with the tide. He began to fear
that they had not heard his second call. Then--hours after it seemed--he
heard the measured sweep of oars and the sound of voices coming nearer.
But for his life he could not raise himself above the gunwhale; his
strength had left him, and he was as feeble as a child.

But they had caught sight of the little craft where it tossed about in
the space of moonlit water, and in a minute or two the ship´s boat was
alongside. Gervase was trying without success to answer the questions
the mate of the brig was putting to him. Divining at a glance his
condition they lifted him into the boat, and one of the seamen with
kindly pity threw his rough jacket over him as they rowed to the brig.
He lay in the bottom of the boat utterly helpless and unable to move;
but his heart was full of inexpressible emotion, for he had accomplished
his work and saved the city.

He remembered rowing round the brig and seeing the words “Phoenix of
Coleraine” painted in large white letters on the stern, but he fainted
away as they lifted him over the side of the boat, and knew nothing more
till he found himself lying in the round-house of the brig.

“What piece of goods have ye got there, McKeller?” the master said,
standing by the shrouds, and looking over the bulwark as they lifted
Gervase aboard.

“As fine a lad as ever I saw in my life, but thin as a whipping-post--a
messenger I think, from Londonderry. Gently, my lads, easy with his
head. Six feet two of manhood, and I guess a rare good one with his
whinger if he had his senses about him.”

They carried him to the round-house, and laying him on the floor, poured
a dram of aqua-vitæ down his throat, but for a long time he showed no
sign of life. Then they noticed the letter where it was secured.

“You were right, McKeller,” said the master, as he handed the case
bottle to the mate, “the youngster comes from Londonderry, and he brings
the message with him. Mayhap ´twill stir up the Colonel at last, and I
trust it will, for the sake of Tom Robinson and my sister Marjorie. My
God! what that young fellow must have come through; and a gentleman too,
as I judge by the gewgaws on his finger.”

“Ay,” answered the mate drily, “and you have given him a pint of pure
spirits by way of welcome. You´ll hardly hear about Tom Robinson for a
while after that.”

“Never fear; these long-legged fellows stand a lot of moistening. I
wouldn´t for half my share in the good ship Phoenix have missed hearing
the lad´s hail this night; he never would have lived through a night in
the boat--but he´s beginning to come round.”

Gervase showed signs of returning consciousness. His first action was to
feel for the precious letter, and then he opened his eyes and looked
round him with a gaze of vacant inquiry. “Where am I?” he said.

“Why, just aboard the brig _Phoenix_, Andrew Douglas, Master, hailing
from Coleraine, and bound with the help of God, for the port of
Londonderry; and among your friends if you are what I take you to be.
Now don´t trouble your head but just take a drop more of this.” The
kindly shipmaster put the bottle to his lips and insisted on his
drinking.

“Ye´ll kill him,” said the mate; “ye think that everybody has the same
stomach for strong waters as yourself. It´s food he wants, I´ll warrant,
not drink.”

“And food he´ll have,” cried the master excitedly, “when I´ve brought
back the colour to his cheeks, and he´ll be on his legs in a twinkling.
Here, Jack, you skulking rogue, set out the best there is on board, and
make us a bowl of punch, for by ----, I´ll drink the health of the
bravest fellow I´ve clapt eyes on for a twelvemonth.”

“You would drink with less provocation than that,” said the mate,
lifting Gervase to his feet and helping him to a seat. “Now ye can tell
us the news from Londonderry, lad, if it´s true ye come from there.”

“I came thence to-day--yesterday,” said Gervase. “They can hold out no
longer. Where is Colonel Kirke? I must see him immediately.”

The master looked at his mate with a broad grin on his face. “Faith
ye´ll not see the Colonel to-night, nor early in the morning either. If
he´s not abed by this time and as drunk as a lord, he´s on the fair way
to it, and swearing like a dragoon with a broken head. He´s a terrible
man in his cups, is Kirke, and they keep it up rarely on board the
_Swallow_. I love the clink of a glass sometimes myself, but--hoot!
there´s no use talking. If you´re able, spin us your yarn while they´re
getting you something warm, for you must want a heap of filling out to
look like the man you were.”

Gervase told his story shortly as well as he was able, interrupted
repeatedly by exclamations of wonder and horror by the captain and the
mate, and when he had finished they sat staring at him open-mouthed.

“That is the tale as briefly as I can tell it,” said Gervase, “and you
will not wonder that I would put the letter in Kirke´s hands with all
the haste I can. Next Wednesday there will not be a scrap of food in the
city, and if you wait till then you may lift your anchors and go back to
where you came from. For God´s sake, tell me what you are waiting for?”

“Till Kirke has emptied his puncheons,” said the mate bitterly.

“Not a soul on board the fleet thought it was going so hard with you,
but you had better see Leake, who is a plain-spoken man with some
authority. I hear he is all for making up the river, and your story will
help him to move the scarlet-coated butcher who is but half-hearted in
the business.”

“Colonel Kirke I must see first,” said Gervase; “my message is to him,
and when he reads Walker´s letter he can hesitate no longer. All that is
wanted is the wind and the tide. There need be no fear of the guns, for
in Londonderry we have learned what they can do.”

The skipper had said nothing, but sat leaning his head on his horny
hand. Then he seemed to awaken from his fit of abstraction. “And poor
Tom is gone, you tell me? He was a younger man than myself by half a
score of years, and as likely a fellow as ever lived when I danced at
his wedding nine years syne. A putrid fever, you say. Odds, I would like
you could have told me how it is with Marjorie and the young ones.”

“He chanced to be of my regiment,” said Gervase, “and that is how I came
to know his end. But many a brave fellow has fallen into his last sleep
yonder, and all for want of a little manhood here.”

“For God´s sake tell me no more of your story,” said the master, “but
even fall to on the boiled beef, and don´t spare the liquor. For myself,
please Heaven, I´ll drink the taste of your yarn out of my mouth, though
belike it will take a hogshead at the least to do it.”

The master was as good as his word; while Gervase and the mate sat down
at the lower end of the table, he produced a great bottle from a locker,
and poured out a large measure of spirit, which he drank at a draught
without any dilution of water. He filled the glass a second time and
drank it without a word. It was clear that he was determined to drown
his grief, and as Gervase glanced at him from time to time in amazement,
he went on steadily until the bottle was nearly empty. The mate said
nothing, only shaking his head as though the sight was not a novel one
and remonstrance was out of the question. “He´ll maunder a bit
by-and-by,” he said in an undertone, “and then he´ll turn in; ´tis the
way of him--he´s a good Christian and a rare seaman, but liquorish.
We´ve all our faults and he was born with a thirst. Surely ye haven´t
finished? why, man, I thought ye were starved yonder, and ye haven´t
done more than nibble at the good meat!”

“Try the punch,” said the master, by this time some way in his cups,
with his face shining like a furnace; “try the grog, and never mind
McKeller; I have to do his drinking and my own as well, and ´tis
devilish hard work, let me tell you. No man can say that Andrew Douglas
ever shirked his duty.”

“When it came in the shape of rum puncheons,” said the mate. “Now ye´ll
just turn in, and I´ll see that the young gentleman is made
comfortable.”

The master was induced to retire with a good deal of difficulty, while
Gervase and the mate sat down to a long talk together, as the result of
which Gervase came to the conclusion that all his difficulties were not
yet over. Then he turned in and forgot all his troubles in a sound and
refreshing sleep.



                              CHAPTER XIX.
                         OF A STORMY INTERVIEW.


Gervase slept soundly that night on board the _Phoenix_, and in the
morning the mate insisted on his making use of his shore-going suit,
into which Gervase was able to get with some difficulty. When he came on
deck the day was bright and cloudless, with a warm sweet air blowing
from the north-west and the sea hardly broken by a ripple. The ships lay
at anchor near them; the _Dartmouth_ with her rows of guns showing
through the open ports; beyond lay the _Swallow_ and a little further
away the _Mountjoy_, both of which vessels Gervase had seen before.

But his first glance was toward the city lying far up the river, and he
was filled with joy when he caught sight of the crimson flag still
flying from the Cathedral Tower.

The master was early astir and met Gervase on the deck, with his red
face freshly shaven and clad in his best suit which had been brought out
for the occasion. He was very contrite over his last night´s potations,
and made many polite inquiries as to how his guest had passed the night.
The anxiety of Gervase to be put on board the _Swallow_ to deliver his
message to Kirke, was so great that he could hardly restrain his
impatience during the breakfast to which the master and himself sat down
together. But they had assured him that the Colonel had not slept off
the fumes of his last night´s excesses, and that of all men he was the
least approachable in the morning. It was necessary to find Kirke in
good humour; so Gervase stifled his impatience, though his feelings were
so strong and so bitter that he doubted whether a less fitting messenger
than himself could have been found for his errand.

“Ye´ll just tell him your plain story like a plain man,” said the mate,
“and leave the rest in the hands of the Almighty. I know ye´ll find it
hard to shorten sail, but ´tis the only way ye´ll make the port after
all.”

“I don´t understand the matter at all,” Gervase answered. “Here am I
with a message to yon sluggard that should make his ears tingle for the
duty he has neglected and the days he has wasted in useless waiting. One
would think ´twas a favour I was begging at his hands. When His Majesty
hears----”

“Tut, man, His Majesty--God bless him! will never come to know the
rights of it. Just put your pride in your pocket and take as a
favour--when ye get it--what should come to you by right. I don´t see
myself that the thing is as easy as ye make it. A ship´s timbers are
dainty enough, and yon boom´s an ugly sort of thing; not to speak of the
cannon in the forts and the channel--that´s ticklish at the best of
times.”

“When a kingdom´s at stake, one might run a little danger without being
foolhardy.”

“I´m not saying that he mightn´t and I would willingly try it myself if
I had the chance, but you must make allowances. I hear they had a parson
aboard there the other day who gave them some plain speech and got a
flea in his ear for his pains. Fair and softly will carry for many a
mile. I´ll go with you myself and maybe put in a good word if I can. The
boats are ready and we´ll be alongside in a twinkling.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

As they rowed towards the _Swallow_, which carried Kirke´s flag,
Gervase´s mind was full of the way in which he should deliver his
message, while Douglas sat beside him pouring his homely counsel into
his ear. It was evident that the latter stood in no little dread of the
commander who had won for himself an unenviable notoriety for cruelty
and severity, and was clearly doubtful of the reception that awaited an
envoy who knew so little regarding the character of the man with whom he
had to deal. But Gervase had determined that if all else failed he would
speak out his mind without any fear of the consequences. He had not
undertaken this perilous journey and faced so many dangers to shrink
from plain speech if that would serve his purpose.

The master of the _Phoenix_ on the news being brought that Kirke would
receive them immediately in the gunroom, was like to have turned tail
incontinently and left Gervase to face the redoubtable soldier alone.
“The boatswain yonder is an old crony of mine,” he said, “and we don´t
often have a chance of a quiet word. I wish you all luck, but I think
I´ll step forward and have a bit of speech while you do your errand.”

“By your leave, but the General must see you both, Master Douglas,” said
the man who had brought the message; “if you don´t come now I´ll have to
fetch you by the ears by-and-by. He hath ten thousand blue devils
tearing his liver this morning, so that we cannot bind or hold him. But
you have seen the General after a wet night with a head wind in the
morning.”

“I was a fool to come aboard,” Douglas muttered. “Speak to him fair and
soft, Mr. Orme,” he continued, taking Gervase by the arm, “if ye would
have the tyke listen to ye, but for God´s sake don´t cross him.”

“I´ll tell him a plain story that wants no gloss,” Gervase answered.
“You need not be afraid that I shall speak outside my commission. Now,
sir, I am at your service.”

“He´ll get a flea in his ear,” muttered Douglas, letting go his arm, and
dropping behind. “Send me well out of this.”

When they entered the gunroom, Gervase saw a small knot of officers
seated at breakfast, which was nearly over. At the head of the table was
the man he had come so far to seek and who carried the destiny of the
city in his hands. His dark brow was blotched and seamed by excesses,
his eyes were prominent and bloodshot, and his jaws, heavy and coarse,
gave to his face an expression of ferocity and obstinacy. He lay back
lazily in his chair, his throat divested of his cravat, and his
richly-laced waistcoat unbuttoned and thrown open. For a time he did not
seem to notice the new-comers, but continued his conversation in a
languid way with the gentleman who sat on his left hand. Gervase who had
come into the centre of the room, stood silent for a minute or two,
waiting for some sign of recognition, but Kirke, studiously ignoring his
presence, never once looked up. Then Gervase stung into action by what
seemed merely studied insult, quietly came forward and laid Walker´s
letter on the table.

“I was charged, sir, to deliver this into your hand without fail at the
earliest moment. It brooks of no delay.”

“And who the devil are you, sir?”

“A humble gentleman who with some peril to himself has succeeded in
escaping from the city and finding his way thither. But the letter I
carry will tell its own tale.”

“They might have chosen a messenger with better manners,” said Kirke,
taking up the missive, “but these citizens know no better.”

“These citizens, sir, have set you a lesson which you have not been fain
to follow,” cried Gervase, disregarding all the hints he had received
and giving vent to the indignation that had become ungovernable. “For
nine weeks they have served His Majesty as king was never served before;
spent themselves in his service; seen their wives and children dying
before them; and now they want to know what you have done and what you
purpose doing?”

For a moment or two the general, who was not accustomed to such speech
in the mouth of a rough seaman, as Gervase seemed, sat astonished and
aghast. Then he leapt to his feet and pushed over the chair he had been
sitting on. “God´s wounds! I´ll teach you to use such words to me if
there´s a yard-arm on the ship. Who are you that dares to question me in
my own vessel. You hear him, gentlemen, you hear him, by ----”

“They have heard us both, sir, and I wish His Majesty could have heard
us also,” cried Gervase, who saw that there was only one way to deal
with the hectoring bully of whom most men stood in awe. “They have heard
us and they may judge between us. I hold the King´s commission like
yourself, and can answer for my conduct in any fitting time or place.
But this matter is of more importance than your dignity or mine. The
salvation of some thousand lives depends upon it, and the last hold of
His Majesty upon Ulster and Ireland. Colonel Walker hath bidden me place
this letter in your hands without delay. I have only done my duty, and
am no whit afraid of you or of any other man living.”

Gervase had spoken quietly and with a fine glow on his cheeks. The
gentlemen at the table who had preserved an expectant silence, looked at
one another with a chuckle of amusement as Kirke broke the envelope
without a word. In the reading he glanced once or twice at Gervase, and
when he had finished he threw the paper with an oath across the table.
“Read that, Leake,” he said. “This parson in the buff coat thinks that
round shot can be cooked like peas, and that a ship´s sides are harder
than stone walls. To hear him one would think that we had no more than
an hour´s sail to find ourselves at the quay, with meat and mutton to
fill these yokels´ bellies.”

The gentleman to whom he had thrown the letter, a bluff, red-faced
sailor, with a frank brave look that met you honestly, read the letter
in silence, and then spread it open before him. “You had better hear
what the young gentleman has to say. Colonel Walker seems to trust him
implicitly, and I should like to hear how he came from the city. ´Twas a
bold feat and deserves a better reception than you have given him.”

“My reception hath not closed yet,” said Kirke savagely. “But I am ready
to hear what he hath to say, and if I find him tripping, fore God----”

“I have faced death too often during these three weeks,” said Gervase
gravely, “to fear the threats of any man, and I will speak what is on my
mind boldly----”

“And briefly, for I am not a patient man.”

“We in the city trusting to the expectation of speedy succour from
England, have made our defence as I think defence was never made before.
We have lost seven thousand men; those who remain are but living
skeletons, stricken with sore diseases. We are distraught with our
afflictions, and almost fear rather to live than to die. We can do no
more. On Wednesday morning there will not be a pound of meat in the
magazines, and the last stronghold of faith and freedom in Ireland will
have fallen. And this is what they say yonder and--and what I say here.
In the Lough are ships and men and food and guns, and a water-way to the
city walls. A little courage, a bold push, and the boom that you seem to
fear would snap like a thread. And they know not how to use their guns.
We who have listened to their music for months have ceased to fear
them.”

“And the boom,” cried Leake; “how know you that?”

“This I know, that there never was wood yet that could resist the edge
of an axe if there were strong arms to will it. You have long boats and
men courageous enough to try it. With your leave I´ll show them how it
can be done myself.”

“By Heaven, the lad is right If we were once past Culmore----”

“There is no great danger there,” said Gervase, feeling that he had met
a spirit as bold and resolute as his own, “their balls fly as innocent
as wild duck. Let the frigate hold by the fort, so that under her
shelter the smaller vessels may pass unscathed.”

“We want none of your lessons,” cried Kirke; “you have listened to
sermons so long that you have caught the trick of preaching yourself.”

“My sermon is not yet finished, General Kirke,” continued Gervase,
disregarding the hint the friendly sailor gave him, and determined to
unburden his mind once and for all. “You have lain here and done nothing
for us. The king, I am told, hath sent you an urgent message that the
relief should be undertaken without delay. To-day you may carry out his
commands; to-morrow you may return to England and tell him your
cowardice hath lost him a kingdom. The lives of the starving souls
yonder will be on your head. These are bitter words, but I speak them
out of a full heart, and if you will not listen to me now, His Majesty
will hear me presently, for as God is my witness, I will carry my story
to the foot of the throne.”

“You will carry it into the Lough with a shot at your feet,” cried
Kirke, purple with passion.

“You dare do nothing of the sort, sir, here in the sight of these
gentlemen and in the full sight of the people of England, who will soon
know the whole matter. I am the ambassador of the governor who holds the
city for His Majesty, and it is by his authority that I speak the words
that I have used. I am a gentleman like yourself holding His Majesty´s
commission, and owing you neither respect nor authority.”

Kirke leaped to his feet, his face swollen red, and his eyes blazing
with a fierce passion that over-mastered his speech. He caught up the
scabbard of the sword that lay beside him and attempted to draw the
blade. Then Leake, who was sitting near Gervase, caught the outspoken
envoy by the shoulders, and while Kirke still stood swearing
incoherently, hurried him out of the gun-room. When they reached the
deck he clapped him on the back with his broad palm, and cried with
enthusiasm, “I like your spirit, my lad; that was the way to stand by
your guns and rake him fore and aft. But it was ticklish work, let me
tell you, to tackle him that way. He has got the wolf´s tusk in his
mouth (he learnt that in Tangier) and likes to see a pair of heels
dancing in the air. But you´ve done the trick, I think, this time, and
the old _Dartmouth_ will have a chance of trying her ribs against the
iron yonder. Now, clear your mind a bit and just tell me your story like
a sensible lad, for you´ve got some common sense, and let me see if I
can´t make some use of your knowledge after all.”

“I´ve been a weak fool,” said Gervase, “to forget myself when so much
depended on my discretion. I´ve ruined the best cause in the world.”

“You have done nothing of the sort, sir, if I can lay a ship´s head by
the compass. You have carried your point and the burghers yonder will
hear the roaring of our guns before the day is out. The general hath
been told what we dared not tell him in plain speech that there is no
mistaking. Now let me know how matters are in the city, and what men and
guns they have in the fort yonder at Culmore.”

Then Gervase told his whole story soberly and plainly, without colour or
exaggeration, but with such truth and effect that his hearer was so lost
in admiration that he never interrupted him till he had drawn his tale
to a close. Then he swore many oaths, but swearing with such honest and
kindly feeling that Gervase forgave him, that such brave fellows were
worth putting their lives in peril for, even if it did not profit His
Majesty a farthing. And then he questioned Gervase searchingly, his eye
scanning him narrowly all the time, about the forts between the city and
the castle of Culmore, and where the cannon were posted and what was the
weight of the guns. “Now,” he said, in conclusion, “get you back with
Andrew Douglas, who is an honest man and a good mariner, and you´ll see
what you will see. If there should be a little more wind and more
northing in it, I´ll stake my reputation we´ll try of what strength yon
timbers are, and you and I will get our share of the glory! Glory, lad!
That stirs the blood. That thought about the long boats was a shrewd
one, and I have an idea of my own about the way to draw their teeth at
Culmore.”

Douglas was waiting for Gervase in the boat of the _Phoenix_, and
welcomed him with a grim smile as he took his place beside him. He said
nothing, but motioned to the two sailors to push off and row to the
brig. When they got out of earshot, he burst into a hoarse cackle of
laughter that grated unpleasantly on Gervase´s overstrung nerves.

“I wouldn´t have missed it,” he cried, clapping his brown hands on his
knees, “for a puncheon of rum. Man, ye gave it to him finely, and ye
talked like a book straight up and down. A good wholesail breeze all the
way and lying your course as straight as an arrow. It did my heart good
to hear you. And he couldn´t get in a word--never a word, but stared at
you out of his red bulging eyes, and choked about the jaws like a turkey
cock strangling in a passion. You´re a well plucked one and no mistake.
I had thought to see you, as he said, at the end of the yard-arm.”

“Yon swaggering bully is an arrant coward,” said Gervase, “and I wonder
how he came to be chosen for a work like this. For all his bluster I saw
that he was quailing, and I was determined that he should hear the truth
for once in his life.”

“He didn´t hear a third of it, but I´m thinking he heard as much as was
good for him. Will they move, think ye?”

“Leake says----”

“He´s a man at any rate; I´d like to know what he says.”

“That we´ll see what we´ll see. He thinks my speech hath done little
harm, but I know not whether it hath done any good. God grant that it
hath.”

“Amen and Amen to that. Now let us go aboard, and let us see whether
your adventure has taken away your appetite.”



                              CHAPTER XX.
               OF HOW THE GREAT DELIVERANCE WAS WROUGHT.


On their regaining the deck of the _Phoenix_ McKeller manifested great
anxiety to hear the result of the interview, and the master had a
greatly interested audience as he proceeded to describe the scene with
many embellishments and quaint touches of his own. What seemed to have
struck him most was Kirke´s helpless rage, and the speechless anger he
exhibited at the attack upon his courage and capacity.

Gervase lay against the bulwarks listening without a word; his eyes were
fixed on the square tower of the Cathedral rising through the pall of
smoke that overhung the city. In thought he saw the haggard gunners on
the war-torn battlements, and the sorrowing crowd pouring out from the
morning service. His mind was filled with the horror and misery of it,
and his heart was bitter within him. He suddenly started and cleared his
eyes as if he could not trust his sight; then he looked again. “Merciful
God!” he cried, “the flag is down.”

The little knot of men round him turned to look too, and they saw with
sinking hearts that the flag, the garrison´s token of defiance, was no
longer waving on the Cathedral tower. A great silence fell upon them
all--a silence in which one heard the lapping of the water about the
bows and the distant scream of the sea-birds, startling and shrill.

“God´s curse light on all traitors and cowards!” cried McKeller.

Then they saw two jets of fire spurt forth from the tower, and a little
later the sullen roar of the ordnance, and the hope came into their
hearts that it was only in sign of their dire extremity that the
garrison had hauled down the flag. And they waited and watched, and
again they heard the thunder of the cannon pealing from the tower. Then
above the crown of smoke they saw the crimson flag run up the staff, and
they knew the city was still inviolate. An involuntary cheer broke from
the crew of the _Phoenix_, which was taken up by the other vessels, and
a minute or two afterwards the _Swallow_ fired a salvo in response.

“They have awakened up at last,” cried the master. “Now we´ll even go
below and try the boiled beef, and mayhap a runnel of grog.”

“Not a drop of grog,” cried McKeller, “but what boiled beef you like.
The wind is freshening from the north, and the Lord may want sober men
for this day´s work.”

The captain was not destined to join in their midday meal; hardly had
they sat down and hardly had McKeller, who generally acted as chaplain
by reason of his superior gravity, finished the long grace by which the
meal was introduced, than a messenger came from Kirke, that Douglas was
to hasten with all expedition on board the _Swallow_.

“The more haste the less speed,” cried the Captain, to whom the summons
was by no means a welcome one, and who had no taste for a further
interview with Kirke. “I´ll have to answer for your speech, Mr. Orme,
I´m thinking. I wish McKeller there was in my shoes.”

“You were still good to McKeller,” laughed the mate, “but this time
you´ll have to do your own business.”

“I hope,” said Gervase, “that this time it means business and not more
speech. And I think it does. Bring us the news, Master Douglas, that you
are to lift your anchor, and I´ll not forget you as long as I live.”

“Please Heaven, you may look for your night-cap in Derry to-night.”

“With a sound head to put it in.”

“The boat is waiting, and so is the General,” added the mate.

The captain hurried out of the round-house, and Gervase and the mate sat
down to finish their midday meal with but little appetite for their
repast. The conversation between them flagged, and then the mate went
out and presently returned with his prayer-book under his arm, from
which he began to read in a low monotonous tone, following the words,
like a backward schoolboy, with his forefinger. He never looked up but
sat with his rough unkempt head bent over the book.

Half an hour passed in this way, when they heard the sound of the boat
alongside and the Captain´s voice shouting to get the mainsail set.

Presently he burst into the cabin, his face all glowing with excitement
and his small blue eyes dancing in his head. He ran forward and caught
Gervase in both his arms, “It´s come at last, dear lad, ´tis come at
last. Your speech hath done it, and we´ll moor by the quay to-night with
the blessing of God. This is no time for books, McKeller, no time for
books. The Lord be praised! We´re up the river in an hour. Browning and
myself and the old _Dartmouth_, with Leake to give us the lead.”

Gervase and McKeller were on their feet shaking one another by the hand.
They could hardly believe the good news. Then, overcome by his feelings
so long pent up, Gervase burst into tears and sobbed aloud. The captain
stood aghast, but the mate laid his hand on the young fellow´s shoulder
and said with rugged kindliness: “I like you all the better for your
tears, Mr. Orme; you have shown that you can do a man´s work, with a
man´s heart under your jacket; ´twill do you good,--rain on the parched
grass, as the book has it. Now, you old sea dog, what are you staring
at? Go on with your story and let us know what we have to do.”

“I´ll clap you in irons for a rank mutineer,” laughed the captain. “Lord
love you, when I got aboard Kirke was like a lamb; not a damn in him,
but all ‘By your leave´ and ‘At your pleasure´. The council of officers
had resolved to attack the passage that afternoon, the wind and the tide
being favourable, and the messenger, that being you, Mr. Orme, having
brought news that rendered their instant moving imperative, and more
stuff of that kind. I could have laughed in his face, but for the cruel
white and red in his eye. I don´t like a man to have too much white in
his eye.”

“Go on with your story.”

The _Dartmouth_ goes first, and draws the fire at Culmore; we go on with
what speed we can till we get to the barrier. That must give way by hook
or crook, and then up the river. A good day´s work, I´m thinking, but
the little _Phoenix_ will do her share if Andrew Douglas be alive to see
it."

“With the help of God we´ll all see it,” cried the mate. “This will be a
great day for all of us.”

“Serve out a measure of rum to every man-jack on board, and get under
way with all the haste ye can. In a quarter of an hour ye´ll see the
little _Phoenix_ slipping through the water like a seagull. Come, Mr.
Orme, and lend a hand with the weapons. I take it you are well used to
them.”

Gervase followed the captain on deck where the men were busy with the
halliards, and all was lively confusion and disorder. The seamen were
already swarming on the yards of the _Dartmouth_, and the long boat of
the _Swallow_ was in the water, with the carpenters hammering upon the
rough barricado with which they were protecting her sides. The wind
which from the morning had been blowing in quiet airs from the
north-west, had gone round to the north and had freshened somewhat. In
the summer sky there was hardly a cloud; the waves leapt and flashed in
the sunshine, and the vessels were beginning to plunge at their cables
in the livelier sea.

By the time that Gervase had finished his scrutiny of the cutlasses and
muskets, and had seen to the loading of the three guns that the
_Phoenix_ carried, McKeller and the men had the vessel under sail. Then
the windlass was manned, and it was only when the anchor had been
lifted, and the little vessel was slipping through the water that
Gervase felt their work was really begun and his task was about to be
completed. The captain himself had taken the tiller, standing square and
firm, with his coat thrown aside, and the sleeves of his shirt rolled up
and showing his brown, muscular arms.

“There goes the _Dartmouth_,” he cried to Gervase, who was standing near
him, “well done, and seamanly. And the _Mountjoy_--she has the lead of
us, being weightier and more strongly timbered. I don´t grudge it to
Browning; he´s a good fellow and a gallant seaman. We´ve sailed together
ere now. And the old _Jerusalem_--she´ll come up when the eggs are
boiled. We´ll have to knock once or twice before they let us in.”

The _Dartmouth_ led the way with her ports open and the iron muzzles of
her guns all agrin, the white sails on her lofty spars swelling out
under the freshening wind. She did not wait for her consorts, but held
her way steadily toward the river´s mouth where the castle of Culmore
guarded the entrance. The _Mountjoy_ outsailed the _Phoenix_ much to the
chagrin of Douglas, and three cables´ lengths already divided them. The
men leaned over the bulwarks watching the fort where they could see the
soldiers hastening to the guns, and could hear the drums beating the
alarm. As yet the _Dartmouth_ was not within range of the cannon, but
already a round shot or two had come skipping along the water and had
fallen short. As they drew toward the river´s mouth the breeze had grown
lighter, and Gervase feared that the afternoon would set in a stagnant
calm. But they had the tide with them, and the wind blew fairly up the
river.

“There´s the music now,” cried Douglas, as the guns of the fort flashed
along the ramparts; “there´s a hole in the royal yonder, but ´twill take
more than that to turn old Leake. Will he never let them hear him?”

The _Dartmouth_ was already within range, but she held on her way
gallantly, never answering the fire that was poured upon her. Again and
again the guns of the fort flashed out, and the frigate´s canvas was
torn by the shot, but her spars remained untouched. Still Leake held on
steadily, his guns still silent and his men sheltering themselves as
best they could behind the bulwarks. Only when he came within close
range so that every shot might tell, his guns spoke for the first time.
Again and again the living sheet of flame leapt from the open ports, and
the great shot went crashing into the fort. As the fire of the enemy
slackened perceptibly the seamen set up a great cheer, which was caught
up by the men of the _Mountjoy_ that had now come nearly alongside and
was holding its way up the river. Lying abreast of the fort and within
musket shot the crew of the frigate plied the fort with cannon and with
small arms, while the _Mountjoy_, followed by the _Phoenix_, came
drifting slowly up channel past the castle and safely out of range of
its guns. Then the _Dartmouth_, her work being done, was moored in the
bend of the river above Culmore, while the merchant ships went slowly up
the narrow and winding channel, and the men in the _Swallow´s_ long boat
kept them company and bent to their oars with a will. The great guns in
the earthen forts along the river gave them welcome as they came, and
the musket balls went singing by their ears.

It was a sight to see Douglas at the tiller, with a broad smile on his
face and the dancing light of battle in his eyes. Once or twice he
laughed aloud as some of the smaller spars came tumbling to the deck.
And now in the pauses of the great guns and above the rattle of the
muskets, they could hear in the summer air the shouts of the citizens
from the walls--shouts of triumph and delight. On that scene the
chroniclers have dwelt with some pride and much pathos. Every man who
could drag himself to the wall was gathered there that summer day. Gaunt
and hollow-eyed; so hunger-stricken that they could scarcely stand,
wasted by fever and by wounds, they took up the joyous shout of triumph.
Stout soldiers gave way to tears upon the necks of their comrades. Their
anguish and despair were swallowed up in the hope of present
deliverance. Here and there little groups were kneeling as in prayer for
the safety of those who were bringing them succour, and never was prayer
more earnest offered to the God of battles.

Meanwhile the _Mountjoy_ and the _Phoenix_ were coming close upon the
boom, and the forts on either side were plying them with shot. Douglas
never moved. One of the seamen was struck down beside him, but he never
turned his head. The wind was coming in little airs, but the tide was
running hard. Gervase saw the _Mountjoy_ through the smoke, a cable´s
length ahead, suddenly strike upon the wooden barrier that lay across
the river. Then the gallant little vessel swung round and grounded in
the narrow channel. A great cheer went up from the banks, while they saw
the redcoats hastening to their boats to board the stranded ship. “Now,
McKeller, see what you can do with the long gun,” cried Douglas, as the
mate with Gervase´s assistance brought the cannonade to bear on the mass
of men who were moving to the bank. But the master of the _Mountjoy_ was
a stout seaman and knew his work. Quickly his guns were brought to the
landward side, and at the discharge the little vessel slipped into the
channel again, and went floating toward the boom with the running tide.
Meanwhile the _Swallow_´s long boat under the boatswain´s mate had been
laid alongside the barrier, and the bluejackets were plying it with
cutlasses and hatchets. Every man did his best that hour, and as the
_Mountjoy_ struck the boom a second time, the great barrier cracked and
broke and went swinging up the river.

McKeller leapt upon the bulwarks regardless of the risk he ran, and
waved his hat with fine enthusiasm: “God save Their Majesties,” he
cried, “and down with Popery.”

Every man on board knew that the work was done and the city was saved.
But the wind had fallen with the afternoon and it was a dead calm. Only
with the tide the vessels came slowly up the river; then the long boats
of the _Swallow_ took them in tow, and with the setting sun the vessels
came drifting into Ross´s bay. It was ten o´clock at night when the
_Phoenix_, Andrew Douglas, Master (and a proud man was he!), came to its
moorings at the little quay close by Ship Quay Gate.

                  *       *       *       *       *

No man has such gift of speech as to describe the scene when the master
stepped ashore and raised his hat in presence of the thronging crowd.
Men and women went frantic in their joy. Falling upon each other´s necks
and wringing one another by the hand, they forgot that stern reserve
that marks their race and people. Bonfires were lighted upon the
ramparts, and the bells rang out a joyous peal, and all the while the
unlading of the ship went on, till all men were satisfied, and the
terror of the morning seemed like a dream that had passed away.

Gervase left the _Phoenix_ unnoticed in the tumult, and made his way
through the deserted streets to his old lodging. The door was lying
open, but the house was deserted. Simon and all his family were in all
likelihood among the crowd at the quay. Then he lighted his lamp and sat
down to enjoy his golden dreams alone. His heart was filled with the
thought of what he had done and of the reward he hoped to win.

He would call upon Dorothy in the morning--Dorothy, whose sweet face had
kept him company through his perils, and the thought of whom had moved
him in his dangers. She had told him that she loved him.

The darkness was gone and they had come into the sweet sunshine at last.
And so he dreamed his dreams till Mistress Sproule returned laden with
her spoils, and gave him a joyous welcome as to one who had come back
from death.



                              CHAPTER XXI.
            OF HOW THE VICOMTE MADE HIS GREAT RENUNCIATION.


On the following morning Gervase was up betimes. It seemed to him that a
new world had opened out before him with boundless possibilities of joy
and hope. For weeks he had been dragging himself about like one bent
under the infirmities of age; to-day the blood of youth ran quick in his
veins. With a pride that was pardonable, he felt that he had done his
task manfully and performed his share in a work as memorable as any in
his time. He had won honour for himself, and he had found the one woman
who realized his boyhood´s ideal. She was waiting for him now--waiting
with that glad and joyous look in her steadfast eyes that had thrilled
him at times when his grief had weighed upon him. She must know that the
work he had undertaken was done for her sake, and that he would be with
her presently to claim his reward.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Simon Sproule came to see him when he was seated at breakfast, a good
deal shrunk and wasted, but bearing himself with his brave and confident
air for all the troubles he had passed through. The young soldier was
one of the linendraper´s heroes, and Simon had come this morning to
offer abundant incense at the altar of his worship.

“We are both proud of you, Mr. Orme, Elizabeth and myself. I heard the
whole story from Andrew Douglas last night, and it was done like an
ancient Roman, sir, but in no foreign or pagan spirit. It was a great
feat and should be remembered for many a day.”

“It will be forgotten in good time,” said Gervase cheerfully, “and was
no very wonderful business after all. But I am glad for your sake the
fighting is over, for yours and your wife´s and----”

“Do not mention them. Oh! I cannot bear it, sir. There were eight of
them when you came back with the old captain, eight white-haired
youngsters that gathered about the table and made music for me--and now
there are but four of them. It was the judgment of God for their
father´s cowardice.”

“I think you did your best, Simon,” Gervase said gently.

“I did all that I could, and that was nothing; but it was the pretending
that was my sin. I, who was made for nothing but to measure lace and
lawns, should not have given myself over as a man of war, and boasted of
deeds that I knew that I could not perform. It has broken their mother´s
heart, and I think it has broken mine. I cannot think they are gone;
indeed I cannot. Why, I stood listening to their footsteps on the stairs
even as I came into your room, and I heard them calling ‘Daddy,´ every
one of them. But ´tis a sin to mourn.”

“Nay, nay, man, weep to your heart´s content, and tell them I said a
man´s tears are as manly as his courage. We must all face it some day.”

“I cannot help it,” said Simon, drying his eyes, “but you do not know
what it is for a father to part with the red-cheeked boys he loved: we
have come through a great tribulation.”

“Thank God there is an end of it now. In a day or two there will not be
an Irish Regiment north of the Boyne, and I hope we´ll get back to the
works of peace again. I myself will turn husbandman and beat my sword
into a pruning hook.”

“And marry the sweet lass by the Bishop´s-Gate, and nurse your brave
boys on your knee. You see we have had eyes, Mr. Orme.”

“I do not know how that may be, but----”

“And,” Simon went on, “if you will do me the honour to let me furnish
you with the wedding coat, I´ll warrant it of the finest--a free gift at
my hands, for all your kindness to me and the boys.”

“We must first find the lady,” laughed Gervase.

“I think she is already found, and I know she is very sweet to look at.”

In the forenoon Gervase found himself in the wainscoted parlour that was
for ever associated in his mind with Dorothy Carew. He had dressed
himself with some care, and looked a handsome fellow as he stood by the
window looking out on the grass plot that he remembered so well. It
seemed to him years since he had stood there; a whole life was crowded
between that time and this--a life in which he had seen many strange
sights and come through some memorable fortunes. Dorothy, he did not
doubt, was still the same, but Macpherson, so rugged and so kindly, was
gone, and the tragedy of his death came vividly before him as he stood
in the room where he had first met the man by whose hands he had fallen.
He was determined that Dorothy should never know the secret which could
only bring her grief; this was the one secret in which she should not
share. It was hardly likely that Jasper Carew would ever cross his path
again--if he did it would then be time enough to think in what manner he
should deal with him. In the meantime here was Arcady with the pipe and
the lute, with the springtime crowned with the sweetest love, and care
and sorrow laid aside for a season. His heart seemed to rise into his
throat and a mist to cloud his eyes, as he heard a light footstep behind
him. The gallant speeches that he had been rehearsing vanished from his
memory, and he stood with his mind all blank as Dorothy came softly into
the room, with her hand extended, and her eyes cast down. Her manner was
awkward and constrained, though he did not notice it. He would have held
her hand in his but she withdrew it gently and seated herself by the
window.

“Dorothy, Miss Carew,” he began, with an overmastering desire to take
her in his arms, “my words have come true, the words I spoke that last
afternoon when----”

“Yes,” she said, “I remember.”

“I said when we next met the joybells would be ringing. Listen, you can
hear them now; the old time is all gone.”

“Yes, it is all gone--and--and, Mr. Orme, I cannot say all that is in my
heart. The city is ringing with your great exploit, but I knew it all.
All the night I watched you as you floated down the dark tide. Oh! it
was a gallant deed; no man ever did a braver. You did not tell me what
was in your mind, but I felt and knew it. I knew you would not fail.”

“I want no other reward but to hear you say that. But you must not
praise me overmuch, for I have done nothing but my plain and simple
duty. When I look back on it, it has seemed an easy thing to do. There
was no risk like what I ran with Sarsfield´s troopers, when you--nay, I
had not thought to have awakened that memory.”

“I have not forgotten that either,” she said, “I was a girl then, but I
am a woman, and I think a very old woman, now,” she added with a sad
smile. “I owe you a great deal since we first met. I shall never be able
to repay you, but when we part, and perhaps I shall not see you again, I
shall remember your kindness as long as I live.”

“We have not parted yet,” said Gervase, trying to take her hand.
“Dorothy, I have come here to speak what I have not dared to say before.
Nay, nay, you must listen to me, for all our life depends on it. From
the first moment that we met, I have had one thought, one hope. I have
watched you in silence, for it was not a time to talk of love. Every day
on duty, every night on guard, you have been with me consoling and
sustaining me. I have no words to tell you all that I would tell you. I
have reproached myself for my selfishness. While others were overcome
with their misery, I went about with a light and joyous heart; it was
enough for me to be near you, to feel your presence, to serve you with
my life. Dorothy, I love you.”

“Oh! I cannot hear you,” she cried, rising to her feet and hiding her
face in her hands; “it is wrong for me to listen to you.”

“Nay, nay, my best beloved, you shall listen to me,” he went on, with
all a lover´s gentle but fierce insistence. “You have spoken words that
you cannot recall. All the night in the river and in the woods they rang
like music in my ears, and kept my heart from failing in me. I knew you
loved me.”

“I will not hear you,” she cried; “they were weak words and wicked. I
had no right to speak them.”

“But they were true,” he said, with no clue to her meaning, “and I will
hold you to your words. I dare not let you go; there is nothing stands
between us and nothing will.”

“Everything stands between us.” Then with a great effort she calmed
herself and went on gently, “My words were wrung from me, I should not
have spoken them, but I stand by them--they were the truth. I do love
you. Nay, you must hear me out; you must not come nearer, now nor ever
again. When they were spoken I had no right to speak them; I was the
betrothed wife of Victor De Laprade.”

He stared at her incredulously.

“I was alone; there was no one to whom I could go for advice. I was only
a girl; I did not know my own heart. Then the Vicomte de Laprade was
struck down unfairly by my brother to whom he had given back his fortune
and--and I thought he was going to die. What reparation I could make, it
was my duty and my will to make. I had not thought of love--or you. Oh!
why did you speak to me?”

“Nay, but, Dorothy, this means the sacrifice of your life. De Laprade is
generous. He will not ask----”

She turned to him with a look of pride in her tearful eyes. “He will
never know, for I shall stand loyally by the word that I have given him.
I shall school my feelings; I shall subdue myself; I shall rise above my
wayward thoughts. And you will help me. You will say, ‘Farewell, my
sister´, and think of me always as a sister you have loved and is dead.”

“But consider----”

“I consider all. When he lay there dying, faithful, loyal, as he is, I
thought I loved him and I brought him back to life. My love, worthless
as it is, is precious to him, and there is one Carew who keeps her word
at any cost. Speak no more to me of love. You demean yourself and me. I
belong to another.”

“Oh! this is madness.” Gervase cried, knowing in his heart that he could
not change nor turn her. “There is no code of honour in the world to
make you give your life to one you do not love. Such marriage is no true
marriage. You are mine by every right, and I will not let you go.”

“There was a time when I should have liked to hear you talk like that,
but it will never be again. I shall give him all duty and honour, and in
time, perhaps--you will help me to bear my burden, Gervase Orme, nor
make it heavier for me? I see my duty clearly, and all the world will
not drive me from it.”

Gervase took her two hands, feverish and trembling in his own. He saw
there was no need for further argument; he could not change her.

“I have no gift of speech to show you what you do. Your will has been my
law and I shall try to obey you utterly. God knows I loved you, Miss
Carew, and still love you. But you will hear no more of me nor my
importunate love; there is room abroad for a poor soldier like myself.
And De Laprade is a gallant gentleman and worthy of his splendid
fortune. I can say no more than that I envy him with all my heart.”

He drew her to him unresistingly, and kissed her on the forehead. There
was nothing lover-like in the act; it was simply in token of sorrowful
surrender, and she recognized it as such. She did not dare to raise her
eyes to his but kept them bent upon the ground; he could see the lashes
were trembling with unshed tears.

“I knew,” she said, “you would speak as you have spoken. It was my duty
to see you; it is very hard. You will go now?”

“I will go, Miss Carew, and I ask you to remember that through life, in
good and evil fortune, you have no more loving and loyal friend than
Gervase Orme, your faithful servant. Time will not change nor alter me.
It was too great fortune for me to deserve it.”

Before she could speak he was gone, and she heard in a dream the door
close behind him. One of his gloves had fallen to the ground and was
still lying at her feet. She caught it up and pressed it passionately
against her bosom. She was now able to read her own heart in all its
depth and fulness; standing there with her eyes fixed on the door
through which he had departed, she saw the greatness of the sacrifice
she had made. She felt that moment that she stood utterly alone, closed
out from all love and sympathy. She had believed that she had become
resigned, and that she had succeeded in mastering her feelings, but they
had burst out afresh and with a fervour and passion that terrified
herself. “Oh! God,” she cried, “how I love him!”

Throwing herself in the chair from which she had risen, and burying her
face in her hands, she gave way to her sorrow, feeling all the while
that she dare not reason with herself, for however much she suffered she
determined that she would not break her faith. She would bring herself
to love De Laprade; love him as she honoured and admired him, the loyal
and courteous gentleman, who treated her rather as a goddess than as a
woman.

She did not hear the footsteps coming from the open window; she was
thinking at the moment of how she could meet her betrothed with an air
of gaiety. Then a hand was laid lightly on her shoulder and she looked
up. De Laprade was standing over her, with a pleasant smile playing
about his lips. His face was pale and his voice trembled a little when
he spoke, but only for a moment; otherwise his manner was free and
pleasant, with something of his old gaiety in it.

“I am a dull fellow, Cousin Dorothy,” he said, “but a dull fellow
sometimes awakens, and I have aroused myself. I have been sleeping for
weeks, I think, with dreams too, but poof! they are gone. You have been
weeping--that is wrong. The eyes of beauty should ever be undimmed.”

She did not answer him, and he sat down on the chair beside her, taking
Orme´s glove from her lap where it lay, and examining the embroidery
critically. “Monsieur Orme is a pretty fellow, and I have much regard
for him. I am going to make you very happy, my cousin.”

“I am not----”

“Nay, I know what you would say. But I have a long story to tell, so
long that I know not how to begin, nor how to make an end. It will be
easier by what you call a parable.”

Dorothy looked at her lover curiously. For some time his old manner of
jesting with something of gay cynicism about it had disappeared, but all
at once it had returned with something else she did not recognize. He
could not have learned her secret, for she had guarded that too
carefully, but her woman´s instinct warned her that perhaps after all he
had guessed the truth.

“There was once,” he went on, “a prodigal who spent his youth in his own
way; he drank, he diced, he knew not love nor reverence; no law, but
that poor thing that men call honour. But it was well he knew even that.
So far, he did not think, for he had no mind nor heart. He only lived
for pleasure. Then he found that he had spent his fortune, burst like a
bubble, gone like a dream, and his friends--they were many--left him to
beg with his outstretched hands, and turned their faces as he passed
them on the way. But he had grown old, and loved pleasure and the
delights of riotous living. Then there came to him a great good
fortune--to him unworthy, beggared, disgraced. He seized it eagerly and
he thought--what will men think?--that he would again be happy. It was
not to be. He carried with him the stain of his early riot, the shame of
his sinful life, the thoughts that will not die, the habits, even, he
could not alter. His fortune hung heavily about his neck and pressed him
down to the ground. He knew that it was of priceless value, but it was
not for him. Then being a wise prodigal, he said: ‘I am selfish. This
cannot make me happy. I will place it in the hands of another who will
know how to use it rightly, and so rid me of my load.´ And he gave the
treasure to another, and then went away and the world saw him not any
more. There, my cousin, is my story. Monsieur La Fontaine must look to
his laurels.”

“You are jesting with me, Victor; I do not understand your parable.”

“It must be that I shall speak more plainly. My story must have its
moral.”

He still held Orme´s glove upon his knee and was unconsciously plucking
to pieces the lace with which it was embroidered. But neither of them
noticed it. Dorothy was waiting breathlessly for what was to come, and
determined on her part to refuse the generous offer De Laprade was about
to make.

“It shames me to think I was an unwilling listener but now, and I heard,
not all, but enough. The window was open and I heard before I could
withdraw. But I had known it all before and was only waiting.”

“You shall not wait,” Dorothy cried impetuously. “I am true and loyal.”

“I never doubted you, but I am not. I am inconstant as the wind, and
change my mind a hundred times a day. Fortune, not love, is my goddess,
the fickle and the strange. I am out of humour already and long for
change. Your city chokes me, a bird of prey mewed up among the sparrows.
You must cut the silken thread and give me my freedom, _ma belle_.”

“I shall never,” Dorothy said, disregarding the words and thinking only
of the spirit that prompted them, “I shall never forgive the weakness I
have shown. Indeed you have my regard and my esteem, and some time I
hope you will have my love. I shall keep my faith, truly and loyally. I
shall not change.”

“Then I must help myself when you will not. You are cruel, my cousin,
and force me to speak. I, Victor De Laprade, a poor gentleman, having
found that in all honour I cannot marry Dorothy Carew, here declare that
I am a pitiful fellow and leave her to go my own way, hoping that she
will trouble me no further with her importunity. Now, that being done,
let us be friends, which we should never have been had you married me.”

“This is like you, Victor,” she said sadly; “I am a pitiful creature
when I measure myself with you.”

“You are a woman, my dear; I have served them long and bought my
knowledge dearly. But you are better than most of them,” he added with a
smile, “for some that I have known would have held me despite all that I
have said. I was not made for your Shakespeare´s Benedict, I think it
was.”

“Oh!” she said, “but I cannot treat your words as serious; you are but
playing with my weakness. I will not let you--how can I, a woman, say
what I should say?”

“You should say: Monsieur le Vicomte, I am happy that you have
discovered yourself in time. You are free--go--farewell?”

“But I cannot say that.”

“Then I shall do it for you. My cousin,” he went on, more seriously, “my
mind is made up. To-morrow I start again on my pilgrimage, and you are
as free as air. Do not think that your words have pained me, for I have
long known that I was unworthy and I myself almost desire to be free. We
cannot live twice.”

“You are too generous.”

“By no means. I am only a prodigal; even this treasure I could not keep,
but I must let it slip through my fingers with the rest. Now I shall
leave you to think upon what I have said. Do not judge me hardly.”

“I shall think of you always as the best gentleman in the world. Oh!
Victor,” she cried, as though interrogating herself, “why cannot I love
you?”

“Because, my dear, I would not let you. There is but one thing more to
do and then I leave your cold North for ever to seek my fortune
elsewhere.

            ‘Et je m´en vais chercher du repos aux enfers.´

I shall send you a peace-offering that I know you will receive as much
for my sake as its own. And now I kiss your hand.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

He had borne himself throughout with a cheerful gaiety, never once
complaining or reproaching her, but placing himself in the wrong as
though he were to blame for her inconstancy. She knew that he was only
playing a part and that he was suffering while he jested; that he was
making his sacrifice in such a way as to avoid giving her pain. She
reproached herself bitterly that she had been unable to control her
heart and guide her wayward feelings. It was true she had been loyal in
outward act but her heart had been a traitor to her vow. She was not
worthy of so much heroic sacrifice; she was but a Carew after all, with
the taint and sin of her race; she, who had cried out for loyalty and
truth. She had boasted of her strength and constancy, and this man who
had laughed at virtue had shown a sovereign strength that put her quite
to shame. What had been done would never be undone; her weakness, her
want of faith, her treachery of affection, had been made plain to the
two men whose regard she esteemed the most in the world. Yet all the
time she had tried to follow the path of duty; she had striven to do
what was right and trample her inclinations under foot.

And so she sat and thought while De Laprade went out to complete the
great work of his renunciation. He smiled bitterly to himself as he
passed down the street, wondering what sudden change had taken place
within himself that he had surrendered so easily what he had so
earnestly desired to obtain. He knew that he loved Dorothy Carew as he
had never loved before, and that he had never loved her half so well as
that moment when he bade her farewell. He was unable to recognize
himself or the new spirit that had prompted this stupendous sacrifice.
“If,” he thought, “I was inviting him under the walls to a repast of
steel, I should be acting like a sensible fellow anxious to cure my
wounded honour. But that is not my humour. I think I have lost all my
manhood. Oh! my cousin, you have taken from me more than you will ever
dream of. It was hard to bear, but now that it is done it will not have
to be done again. A year ago I had not given up so easily, but the
battle is to the strong. Orme will make her happy.”

Gervase was surprised to see De Laprade entering his room, and though he
bore him no ill will, he would have preferred that he should not meet
him. He had not yet faced his bitter disappointment and resigned himself
to the sudden fall of his house of cards. He had come home to realize
what his rejection meant for him, for he had been so certain, so blindly
certain, of Dorothy´s love, that she had seemed a part, and a great
part, of his life. The cup of happiness had been dashed from his hand
when it was already at his lips; he was still smarting and sore, and it
would be idle for him to attempt to offer congratulations to his
successful rival. He was not magnanimous enough for that. But he wished
him well and wished that he would leave him in peace. He took De
Laprade´s hand without ill-will but with no great show of cordiality.

“I could not leave your city, Monsieur Orme,” said De Laprade, “without
bidding you farewell. We have been friends, I think, and done one
another some service in our time.”

“Your departure is sudden; I had not heard----”

“Only an hour ago I found that I must leave. We strolling players live
at large, and shift our booth a hundred times a year.”

“When do you return?”

“I disappear for ever,” answered Victor with a laugh. “Your country
suits me not; your speech is barbarous, your manners are strange, and
your climate dries the marrow in my bones. I want sunshine and life and
pleasure. Your blood runs slowly here.”

“It has been running fast enough for nine weeks,” said Gervase, with a
grim humour, though feeling in no mood for jesting.

“Ay, you fight very prettily, and you not among the worst, but
phlegmatically. I have heard the story of your journey, but I did not
come to talk of that.”

“I am glad of that at least. I have heard nothing else all day, and
´twas no great feat when all was said.”

“Perhaps. Your people are proud and cold and lack sympathy. But I want
sympathy.”

“Vicomte de Laprade,” said Gervase, “I am in no mood for playing upon
words. I tell you that I am but now bearing a great trial, the nature of
which no man can know but myself, you, perhaps, least of all. I
sincerely value your friendship; I have seen your goodness of heart, but
it is best that you should shorten this interview. With all my heart I
wish you all good fortune, though I shall not see it. I leave by the
first ship for Holland.”

“We shall see, my friend, we shall see, but I think not.”

“How?”

“I said but now you were phlegmatic. I was wrong--you are too impetuous.
There are many things which you must put in order before you set out,
and perhaps you will never take ship at all.”

“I do not understand you, sir.”

“Mr. Orme, I know you think I am laughing at you, but it is only a trick
that I have, and I am in no mood for jesting any more than yourself. I
know you think me a coxcomb, a trifler who hath no depth or height of
feeling. But I am come here to speak serious words. I had hoped to marry
Miss Carew,” he continued softly, looking Gervase full in the face with
his eyes fixed and bright, “but that is past. I found that she loved a
better man and a worthier than myself, and that I--perhaps that I did
not love her as she deserved to be loved. With a deep sense of honour,
duty merely--mistaken duty--she would have remained steadfast and
allowed me to mar her happiness. I tell you--why should I not speak
it?--I loved her too well to marry her, and she is free to give herself
to the man she loves. I owe this speech to her, for she hath suffered,
and I would not add to her sorrow.”

The two men had risen to their feet, and before Gervase knew De Laprade
was holding him by the hand, with the tears running down his face.

“God knows,” said Gervase, steadying his voice, for he felt himself
visibly affected by the other´s excessive emotion, “you are a far better
and stronger man than I am. I could not have given her up.”

“I am a weak fool,” said De Laprade, with a forced laugh. “But I know
that you will make her happy. You must not tell her of my weakness
else--There, the comedy is played out and the curtain having fallen,
leaves me a sensible man again. As I have said, I depart to-morrow, to
return never again, but I shall hope to hear that all goes well with
you. And meantime remember Victor de Laprade, who will not forget you.”

“Why,” cried Gervase, “should my happiness be gained in your loss?”

“That is past,” the other said simply. “You will see Miss Carew when I
leave you. She will reproach herself, and you will comfort her, for she
is only a woman after all, and will find happiness and consolation. You
will sometimes think of me when I am gone and perhaps--perhaps she may
name one of her boys after her poor kinsman who by that time will have
found rest.”

When the evening came down it found Gervase Orme alone with a great
happiness and a great regret.

The curtain rings down and the players pass from view while the humble
showman to whom this mimic stage has been a great reality, wakens from
his dream, rubs his eyes and goes about his business. He has lived for a
while in the stormy days of which he has written--days in which men made
heroic sacrifices and performed most memorable deeds, the memory of
which still stirs the languid pulses of the blood. Not the muse of
history has been his companion; not his is the lofty task to write the
story of his people with their valour, their endurance and their
intolerant pride; it was only his to tell an idle tale for weary men by
winter fires. The men and women of whom he has written did their work
for good and evil, and in due time went the way of all flesh.

Simon Sproule again blossomed out in the sunshine of prosperity, and the
archives of the city show that he was elected an Alderman, and did his
duty faithfully, which cannot be said of all men. And though history is
silent on the subject, there can be little doubt that his wife
stimulated his civic ambition, inspired his speeches, and kept him in
excellent order. There are still Sproules in the North Country who look
to Simon as the head of the race, and when touched by family pride they
tell the story of his gallant deeds in the memorable siege. But they
will find the true history here.

Jasper Carew fell with many a better man on that day when the fate of
the kingdom was decided on the banks of the Boyne. He was seen heading
the gallant charge of Berwick´s horse on Hanmer´s men coming out of the
river, and as the smoke and dust closed on the broken ranks, he went
down and was never seen again.

Of Gervase Orme there is little more to tell. He married the woman he
loved, and had sons and grandsons, and served his king like a good and
loyal subject. There are certain manuscripts extant which speak of these
things, and an escritoire filled with precious letters which came too
late to hand to use in this narrative. Especially interesting are
certain letters relating to the search after and discovery of a great
treasure. But of all the memorials I think the most precious is that
portrait in the gallery, of which I have spoken--the portrait of Dorothy
Orme taken some two years after her marriage. Above the picture there
hangs a rapier, whether by design or by accident I know not, which they
tell you vaguely belonged to a kinsman of the lady, who had served in
Ireland with Rosen, and fell a year or two afterwards, a gallant
gentleman, on the slopes of Steinkirk. He had a history, but they do not
remember it; not even his name. _Sic nobis._



                                THE END.

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                           Transcriber’s Note

Errors deemed most likely to be the printer’s have been corrected, and
are noted here. The references are to the page and line in the original.
The following issues should be noted, along with the resolutions.

 7.6      answered the other gravely[,/.]                Replaced.

 18.19    the other parried his th[ur/ru]st              Transposed.

 20.7     My men are not soldiers; they are poltroons[.] Added.

 90.27    and was watching the fug[u/i]tives             Replaced.

 127.20   Presently Dorothy quit[t]ed the room.          Inserted.

 137.24   I´ll have a taste for fighting.[”]             Added.

 137.27   should you try to run away.[”]                 Added.

 143.5    “Ay, safe and sound.[”]                        Added.

 157.12   th[o/e] roaring of the guns                    Replaced.

 164.14   and le[f/t] his gibes pass unnoticed           Replaced.

 176.28   there was much lik[e]lihood                    Inserted.

 181.21   “But how can I do that, Simon[./?]”            Replaced.

 186.25   and the words[./:] "Yours in confidence,       Replaced.

 186.29   with a light and b[ou/uo]yant heart            Transposed.

 188.4    that is why I sent for you to[ /-]day          Replaced.

 232.4    What had moved De Laprade to[o] make           Removed.

 241.30   [l/L]ess would have done.                      Replaced.

 248.20   I’ll even fetch her mysel[.’/’]                Transposed.

 278.1    [“]He’ll be away before the morn,” he said;    Added.

 309.31   I love the clink of a glass sometim[se/es]     Transposed.

 331.31   set up a great [cheer which,/cheer, which] was Replaced.
          caught up





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