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Title: My Lady Clancarty - Being the True Story of the Earl of Clancarty and Lady Elizabeth Spencer
Author: Taylor, Mary Imlay
Language: English
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My Lady Clancarty



_Mary Imlay Taylor’s Novels_


  ON THE RED STAIRCASE.
  AN IMPERIAL LOVER.
  A YANKEE VOLUNTEER.
  THE HOUSE OF THE WIZARD.
  THE CARDINAL’S MUSKETEER.
  THE COBBLER OF NÎMES.
  ANNE SCARLETT.
  LITTLE MISTRESS GOOD HOPE AND OTHER FAIRY STORIES.
  THE REBELLION OF THE PRINCESS.
  MY LADY CLANCARTY.


[Illustration: ALICE BARBER STEPHENS 1905]



  My Lady Clancarty

  BEING THE
  TRUE STORY OF THE EARL OF CLANCARTY
  AND LADY ELIZABETH SPENCER

  BY

  MARY IMLAY TAYLOR

  Author of “On the Red Staircase,” “The Cobbler of Nîmes,”
  “The Rebellion of the Princess,” etc.

  ILLUSTRATED BY
  ALICE BARBER STEPHENS

  BOSTON
  LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY



  _Copyright, 1905_,
  BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

  _All rights reserved_


  Printers
  S. J. PARKHILL & CO., BOSTON, U. S. A.



  TO MY MOST CONSTANT READER,

  MY MOTHER



_CONTENTS_


  CHAPTER                                     PAGE

       I. “ROSEEN DHU”                           1

      II. BROTHER AND SISTER                    11

     III. LADY BETTY AND HER FATHER             18

      IV. IN THE WOODS OF ALTHORPE              27

       V. LADY SUNDERLAND                       42

      VI. LADY BETTY’S TOILET                   52

     VII. AT THE RACES                          61

    VIII. LADY BETTY AND AN IRISH JACOBITE      72

      IX. THE WEARING OF THE GREEN              81

       X. AN IRISH DEFIANCE                     89

      XI. A NIGHT OF PORTENTS                  104

     XII. MASTER AND MAN                       110

    XIII. LADY BETTY TAKES THE FIELD           120

     XIV. THE INN GARDEN                       129

      XV. MY LADY SUNDERLAND TAKES TEA         139

     XVI. MY LORD CLANCARTY                    147

    XVII. AT THE TOY-SHOP                      157

   XVIII. THE DUEL                             165

     XIX. MY LORD SAVILE REAPS HIS REWARD      170

      XX. LADY BETTY’S SEARCH                  180

     XXI. THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW             186

    XXII. “UNTIL DEATH US DO PART”             196

   XXIII. MY LORD SPENCER                      211

    XXIV. MELISSA                              221

     XXV. MR. SECRETARY VERNON                 229

    XXVI. THE ARREST                           235

   XXVII. THE TRAITOR’S GATE                   245

  XXVIII. ALICE AND DENIS                      256

    XXIX. FATHER AND DAUGHTER                  260

     XXX. MY LORD OF DEVONSHIRE                268

    XXXI. LADY RUSSELL                         276

   XXXII. THE KING                             284

  XXXIII. DONOUGH!                             293



_MY LADY CLANCARTY_

  _Being the True Story of the Earl of Clancarty
  and Lady Elizabeth Spencer_



CHAPTER I

“ROSEEN DHU”


LADY BETTY shaded her eyes with her hand and looked out on the rose
garden of Althorpe.

At her feet the lawn was close clipped and green; beyond was a garland
of many colors, roses by hundreds and tens of hundreds, the warmth
and glow of the sun upon them; behind them, the long avenue of limes
and beeches, and between the trees vistas of level land with the deer
moving to and fro.

The butterflies—a little host of them—whirled under the window, and
her ladyship smiled.

“Come, Alice,” she said, “’tis too fair a day to linger indoors. Bring
your lute, girl, and we’ll sing one of those dear Irish ballads where
none may hear it, to carp and scold,—none, indeed, but the rooks and
butterflies, or perchance the roses. What sayst thou, Alice, may not a
rose hear sweet sounds when it exhales such sweet perfume?”

“I know not, madam,” replied her handmaid soberly, as she laid aside
her needlework and reached for her lute; “but sometimes, truly, I think
’twould be well if ears were fewer in this world.”

“Ay, or tongues more gentle,” assented Lady Betty laughing, as she
stepped out of the window to the lawn, followed by her attendant.

Both were young girls, but youth and the rosy comeliness of youth
sat more lightly on the handmaid Alice, whose simple face and figure
suggested nothing more subtle than the virtue and homely wisdom of a
country girl. It was quite different with Lady Betty Clancarty, the
daughter of the Earl of Sunderland and the maiden wife of an Irish
peer. There was a slight pensiveness to her beauty, for beautiful she
was; yet there were times when the gayety of a vivacious spirit broke
through all restraints, and she was the light-hearted, witty girl that
nature had intended her to be. Her eyes—beautiful eyes they were,
too,—were large, clear and sparkling with spirit, and the soft tints
of her complexion and the glossy waves of her dark hair combined to
make a charming picture, far more human and bewitching, indeed, than
her own portrait from the brush of Lely, hanging in the great gallery
at Althorpe. The pensiveness of her expression showed only when her
face was in repose; when she smiled the sun shone through the cloud.
Her figure was gracefully tall in its gown of white dimity flowered
with pink, the neck dressed open with falls of lace, and the full
sleeves loose and flowing at the elbow.

She moved lightly and swiftly across the lawn, one white hand resting
on the shoulder of her handmaid, who was shorter and fuller in outline
than her mistress. Though their stations were thus widely sundered,
a frank girlish friendship existed between them, and Lady Betty had
few secrets that were not shared by Alice Lynn. They had grown up in
the same household; the one child waiting on the other on all state
occasions, but usually her playmate, after the fashion of those days
when the feudal tie of lord and vassal still bound old servants and
their descendants to their masters. The ancestors of Alice Lynn
had borne the banner of the Despencers in many a bloody field; she
came of good yeoman stock, worthy of honor and trust, and she was
single-hearted in her devotion to Lady Clancarty. They made a charming
picture, walking through winding paths and talking freely, with little
reference to their respective stations in the great world beyond
Althorpe.

“Ah, the roses,” Lady Betty said, “I know not whether I love them best
in their first budding or in their prime, or when the last few pale
blossoms struggle to unfold under wintry skies, like our poor hearts,
Alice, that need to be warmed by the sunshine of prosperous love. Mine
should have shrivelled up long ago—like an old dried leaf. But it has
not,” she added, smiling and laying her hand on her bosom; “I feel
it—it throbs—it is warm and strong and whole, Alice, and yet—I am a
wife and, for aught I know, a widow too!”

“There be many wives who would fain be widows, I trow,” retorted Alice,
bluntly, and Lady Betty laughed gayly and lightly, the sun shining in
her lustrous eyes.

“Perchance I am happy, then, in not knowing my husband’s face,” she
said; and added musingly, “a strange fate is mine, Alice, married at
eleven and then separated forever from my husband by a gulf as wide
as—as the infinite space; I know no stronger simile. Here am I, the
daughter of a Whig peer, who is a counsellor of King William’s, and the
sister of a burning Whig—for Spencer is on fire, I am sure—and yet I
am the wife, the wedded wife, of an Irish rebel and Jacobite; an outlaw
from his country and a stranger even to me. What a fate!” and she shook
her head with a pensive air, though a smile lurked about her lips for,
after all, she could not mourn the absence of an unknown spouse.

“’Twas wrong to marry a child of such tender years, my lady,” the
handmaid said indignantly; “to tie you up—one of the loveliest women
in England—to a—a—” she broke off confused, catching Lady Betty’s
eye.

“A what, Alice?” the countess asked dryly; “ay, I know by your blushes
and confusion that you have caught the contagion, that you believe with
Lord Spencer that my husband is a consummate villain. But look you, my
girl, if there is one thing above another that would make me love a
man and take up his cause, it is to find him the object of senseless
and bitter abuse. What of it if Clancarty has not sought me? how could
he? Is he not banished from the kingdom, stripped of his estates, and
denied even his most natural and sacred rights?” Lady Clancarty’s
eyes sparkled with indignation. “What of it, if he is a Jacobite
and a Papist? Is he the only man who has changed his faith? I trow
not!—though I should be the last one to say it,” and she broke off,
blushing crimson.

The thought of her own father’s apostasy, of his frequent political
somersaults, overwhelmed her, and she recollected her own dignity in
time to bridle her impulsive tongue.

Alice was too discreet to take up the argument; she stooped, instead,
to gather some violets, and arranged them slowly and in silence. Lady
Betty walked ahead of her to a little rustic seat, and sitting down
held out her hand with an impatient gesture.

“Give hither the violets, Alice,” she said imperiously, “and sing me
a song. I am in as black a mood as ever Saul was, and may do you a
mischief if you do not soothe me.”

Alice smiled. “I fear you not, dear Lady Betty,” she said, tuning her
lute; “your anger passes over as quickly as a storm-cloud in April
weather. What shall I sing you, madam?”

A roguish smile twinkled in Lady Clancarty’s eyes.

“You shall do penance, lass, and sing me either a Papist hymn or an
Irish ballad.”

“Nay, I am no Papist, but a good Protestant,” said Alice, stiffly,
“therefore it must be an Irish ballad, which is what you really want,
my lady!”

Lady Betty laughed softly.

“’Tis true, my girl,” she said, clasping her hands about her knees,
the full sleeves falling away from arms as white as milk. “I love the
ballads; whether for his sake or their own, I know not,” and she bent
her head listening as the handmaid played the first plaintive notes on
her lute.

Alice was no contemptible musician, and she touched the instrument
softly with loving fingers, playing the first sweet sad chords of that
old Irish air and Jacobite ballad, “Roseen Dhu,” or “Dark Rosaleen.”

The garden and the great park beyond and around it were quiet save for
the cawing of the hundreds of rooks that haunted those stately avenues
of trees. The warmth and the soft murmuring of the late summer were
there; here was the deep shadow of stately groves, yonder the wide
sunshine on level lawns, but the place was deserted save for the two
young women and the deer that were so tame that they pressed close
about them, looking through the trees with soft brown eyes, and seeming
to listen to the wild, plaintive notes of the ballad, as Alice sang in
a full, mellow voice:

  “All day long in unrest
  To and fro do I move,
  The very soul within my breast
  Is wasted for you, love!
  The heart in my bosom faints,
  To think of you, my queen,
  My life of life, my saint of saints,
    My dark Rosaleen!
    My own Rosaleen!
  To hear your sweet and sad complaints,
  My life, my love, my saint of saints,
    My dark Rosaleen!”

Midway in the song the girl paused, still playing the air softly.

“My lady,” she said, in an undertone, “there is some one yonder in the
shrubbery.”

“’Tis Melissa,” replied Lady Clancarty; “I have seen her. She loves to
lurk behind a bush, and to slip along softly as a cat upon nut-shells;
’tis her nature. Faith, I must buy her some bells for her toes. Go on,
my girl; I care not,” she added, laughing, “and I do love the tune. Ah,
‘Rosaleen, my own Rosaleen!’” she hummed, keeping time with her slender
hand.

Alice sang again:

  “Over dews, over sands,
  Will I fly for your weal:
  Your holy white hands
  Shall gird me with steel.
  At home—in your emerald bowers,
  From morning’s dawn till e’en,
  You’ll pray for me, my flower of flowers,
    My dark Rosaleen!
    My fond Rosaleen!
  You’ll think of me, through daylight’s hours,
  My virgin flower, my flower of flowers,
    My dark Rosaleen!”

Suddenly Lady Clancarty started and half rose, interrupting the singer;
but as Alice looked up in alarm, she sat down again, rosy and defiant.

“Pshaw!” she said; “go on, Alice, there comes Spencer himself, and,
forsooth, I would not be frightened out of my pleasure.”

“But, my lady,” protested Alice, in confusion, “he will be dreadfully
angry, he always is!”

“To be sure he will,” retorted Lady Betty, with a ripple of laughter,
“therefore sing, lass, and I will sing, too.”

Alice still hesitated, her eyes on the figure of a young man who was
coming swiftly across the lawn, but her mistress stamped her foot.

“Sing!” she commanded so sharply that Alice obeyed hastily, and in a
moment the countess’ rich contralto joined her voice in singing the
last passionate verse of “Roseen Dhu.”

  “O! the Erne shall run red
  With redundance of blood,
  The earth shall rock beneath our tread,
  And flames wrap hill and wood,
  And gun peal and slogan cry
  Wake many a glen serene,
  Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die,
    My dark Rosaleen!
    My own Rosaleen!
  The judgment hour must be nigh
  Ere you can fade, ere you can die,
    My dark Rosaleen!”



CHAPTER II

BROTHER AND SISTER


LORD CHARLES SPENCER paused in the centre of the triangle.

“A very pretty performance,” he said with a sneer, “a very proper
performance—to sing Jacobite ballads here!”

“I trow they are not the first that have been sung here, brother,”
retorted Lady Betty pertly.

“You have a saucy tongue, Elizabeth,” replied her brother rudely,
turning white rather than red, for in this young man’s disposition
anger went white, not red. “’Twould go hard with you if my father heard
that.”

“’Twould go hard with you if my father heard _that_!” mocked Lady Betty
incorrigible. “Come, come, Charles, talk of something agreeable.
What is the volume under your arm? Noah’s observations on droughts?
or Adam’s reflections on mothers-in-law? or Cain’s on brotherly love?
Faith, I always expect something profound from the most erudite
ornament of the Whig party.”

“I wish I might look as certainly for discretion in Elizabeth Spencer,”
he replied with acrimony.

“In Elizabeth Clancarty,” corrected the countess, flashing an indignant
glance at him.

“You are marvellously proud of that beggar’s name,” retorted her
brother, with cutting irony.

Lady Clancarty’s face crimsoned with anger.

“You are a hypocrite, Spencer!” she said, stamping her foot.

“Family insults in public are always becoming,” said Lord Spencer,
controlling himself with an effort, but white to the lips.

“Forsooth, who began it?” recriminated his high-spirited sister; “you
might better indeed talk of other things. Of your fine clothes, for
instance; you are truly ‘the glass of fashion,’ my lord, pink satin
waistcoat and breeches, gray plush coat, point of Venice ruffles,
white silk stockings, clocked, too, with pink, French shoes and
buckles,—mercy on us, sir! what splendor for beggarly Lady Clancarty
and quiet Althorpe!”

Lord Spencer, who was indeed dressed in the extreme of fashion, bit his
lip, scowling darkly at Lady Betty and Alice, who remained discreetly
in the background.

“You do well to boast of your dishonored name, madam,” he said coldly,
“but my Lord Sunderland intends that you shall be divorced from that
disreputable Irish rebel.”

“And what if I will not, my lord?” asked the countess, her face blazing
with defiance.

“You are a fool,” said Spencer sharply; “happy you would be—dragged
into exile by a rake and a scapegrace—but, pshaw! what nonsense I
talk—”

“You do, sir!” interrupted his sister defiantly.

“Nonsense because Clancarty does not want you.” He continued, with a
provoking drawl, “Where is your husband, my lady? Forsooth you do not
know—but I do! At Saint Germain and at Paris; a gambler, a rake, a
cutpurse, with half a dozen lady-loves to—”

“Silence!” cried Lady Betty furiously, rising in her indignation.
“Shame on you, sir, to insult a woman and she your sister, and to
blacken a gallant gentleman behind his back. Is that your virtue?
Faith, I believe a witty rogue would be a happier companion than a
virtuous bore!”

“Your tongue will cut your throat yet, madam,” said Spencer harshly;
“you have worked yourself into this passion; you have never seen your
husband since childhood, and you do not know him. It is my duty as your
brother, a painful duty, I admit,” he said pompously, “to tell you
the truth. Lord Clancarty is a notorious scamp, a dissolute fellow, a
murderer and oppressor; and, as for you, what does he care for you?
You little fool, he has never sought you—and never will!” and with
this taunt my lord turned on his heel and walked decorously but swiftly
away, wise enough to fly before his sister could retaliate.

Lady Betty stood as he had left her for a moment, her little hands
clenched and her face crimson.

“The mean hypocrite!” she cried, “to fling it in my teeth. I vow I
sometimes almost hate Spencer—and yet he is my brother. I’m a beast,
Alice, a wretch! but oh!” and suddenly her mood changed; she threw
herself on the garden-seat, trembling with emotion, tears on her dark
lashes. “Oh, why must I be so cruelly insulted? ’Tis true, Alice, ’tis
true; Clancarty has never even cared to claim his wife! Think of it,
I—I—Betty Spencer, scorned by an Irish Jacobite!” and she burst into
tears.

“My lady,” purred a smooth voice, as the other attendant suddenly and
softly stepped into view, from the friendly shadow of an elm; “be
consoled, ’tis even as Lord Spencer—”

“Go!” cried the countess furiously, dashing away her tears and stamping
her foot at Melissa. “Go! What do I want of your consolation, you
eavesdropper!”

“My lady, I beg pardon,” stammered the confused waiting-woman, “I—”

“Go!” repeated the countess imperiously, with a gesture of disdain.
“When I want you, I will summon you.”

With a look of ill-disguised anger on her smooth face, but with an
attempted air of humility, the attendant withdrew as softly as she had
approached, and Lady Betty recalled her dignity.

“Pshaw!” she said, “what a creature I am, Alice, so to betray myself,
and to stoop to quarrel with that worm, Melissa! I did not think, I
never think; but, oh, my girl, my lot has many thorns! Alas, and alas!

  ‘Once I bloomed a maiden young
  A widow’s woe now moves my tongue;’

and a widow by desertion. Ah, how I hate the taunt!” and she stamped
her foot.

“Heed it not, dear Lady Betty,” murmured Alice, “’tis not true.”

“Ah, but it is, girl, it is,” cried Lady Clancarty, with an impatient
gesture, “and I despise myself for caring.”

“Are you sure, madam, that Lord Clancarty has made no effort to claim
his bride, or to see you?” Alice asked soberly, standing alone in the
triangle opposite Lady Betty, the sun shining in a friendly fashion on
her comely, honest face.

“Am I sure?” repeated the countess in surprise, and her expression
changed swiftly; “do you think he may have tried to communicate with me
and failed?”

“Why not, my lady?” replied the handmaid simply; “we know how my Lord
Spencer feels; and your father, the earl, madam, is, perhaps, as little
inclined toward your husband.”

Lady Betty sat looking down reflectively, tapping her foot on the
gravel path.

“It may be so,” she said thoughtfully; “your brain is growing keen,
Alice, from crossing swords with mine!” and she laughed, for she was an
April creature with swift-changing moods. She rose, throwing out her
hands with a pretty gesture, as though she threw care to the winds.

“O Donough Macarthy, Earl of Clancarty, art worthy all these heart
beats of mine?” she cried, and laughed as gayly as a child. “I tell
thee, Alice, he has not seen me for years, not since I was eleven, and
he pictures me with a turned-up nose and freckles and red hair, and is
half frightened to death at the thought of his English bride.”

“Your hair was never red, my lady,” said Alice soberly.

“Pshaw, child, he has forgotten, poor lad!” laughed Lady Betty, herself
again; “he may think my nose red, too!”



CHAPTER III

LADY BETTY AND HER FATHER


IT was after sundown and the light was dim in the great gallery of
Althorpe. Candles were set in silver sconces at intervals down its
whole length of over a hundred feet, but between lay soft shadows,
and the pictured faces of many famous men and women, of sovereigns of
England, statesmen, soldiers, and court beauties, looked down from the
walls on either hand. Holbein and Van Dyke and Lely had wrought upon
these canvases. Here was the famous Duchess of Cleveland, painted by
Lely, and the Countess of Grammont, and yonder was Lady Portsmouth and
Nell Gwynne herself; and in this strange company, the fair, sweet,
coquettish face of Betty Clancarty, lovely as any of the court beauties
and far more lovable and true.

The floor was polished and strewn with splendid rugs; far-off
India, Turkey, Italy, France, and Holland had contributed rugs and
tapestries, paintings, beautiful bric-a-brac and statuary to decorate
the famous gallery of the Spencers, where Anne of Denmark, Queen of
James the First, and the young Prince Charles, the future royal martyr,
saw the Masque of Ben Jonson. Here, too, came doubtless King Charles
the First, he who created Henry Spencer Earl of Sunderland; here, also,
reigned the daughter of the Sidneys, Dorothy, Countess of Sunderland,
the heroine of Waller’s verses and the grandmother of Lady Betty. A
gallery full of memories, where royalty and beauty smiled dimly from
the great canvases, and every footstep woke an echo of the past.

At that sunset hour the place was quiet save for the cawing of the
rooks under the eaves, for they haunted every corner of the house and
congregated in the long avenues that enfiladed the park; yet even the
sound of bird consultations did not disturb the revery of the man
who slowly paced up and down the gallery—a man past middle age with
an inscrutable face, his head a little bowed as he walked, his hands
behind his back, his dress a long gown of black velvet, ruffles of
lace at the throat and over the slender white hands—a strange man,
self-possessed, complacent, smooth, infinitely winning of address, and
one of the most unscrupulous politicians and time-servers of that
time-serving age when William the Third knew not where to look among
his English counsellors for steady faith, when it was no uncommon thing
for a man to swear allegiance both at Westminster and Saint Germain,
and to be an apostate besides. Even in that age of falsehood and double
dealing, Robert, second Earl of Sunderland, excelled his fellows; but
if he excelled them in falsehood, so did he also in discernment, in the
power to read men, and to win them by his polished and smooth address,
the charm of a personality that had won even upon the cold astuteness
of the king himself.

Whatever his thoughts were now, Lord Sunderland’s face was placid, his
perfect mask of serenity immutable, as he walked to and fro, now and
then pausing to look critically at a fine picture, or to take counsel
with himself, and he looked up with a calm smile when the door at the
farther end of the gallery opened and the graceful figure of Lady Betty
came swiftly toward him. He admired his daughter deeply, but subtle
as he was he did not understand her. His standard of womanhood was
different, and he had no ennobling example in his wife; she had been
false to him and he had known it, and had used the services of her
lover to smooth his own way with William of Orange, while he himself
was vowing fealty to James the Second and walking barefoot, taper in
hand, to the chapel royal to be admitted into the Roman communion—a
communion he renounced as easily at a convenient season. This daughter
who had grown up unlike either parent in simplicity and retirement,
this beautiful, spirited, pure-souled creature he did not understand,
but he admired her, and after his own fashion he loved her. On the
other hand, Lady Betty understood him in many ways more thoroughly than
he dreamed; she had a woman’s intuitions, and she did not reverence
him; his subtlety, his falsehood, his smooth affability did not deceive
her; she looked at him with clear eyes, and knew him better than the
wise and watchful sovereign whom he served. But she was his daughter
and she inherited all his charm of manner, his smooth tongue, his easy
address, and he saw it and always smiled upon her.

She came up to him now with a sparkle in her eyes which portended more
than he imagined.

“Are you better, sir?” she asked, with solicitude; “your absence from
table disturbed me. Was it illness or politics?”

“Both, Betty,” replied the earl smiling; “but you missed me not, you
had a younger and a better man in Spencer.”

“Faith, sir, I would rather have a worse one,” retorted Lady Betty,
with a shrug, “such piety and virtue are too much, they overwhelm me.
’Tis a pity that good men are so often bores!”

Sunderland smiled, amusement twinkling in his deep-set eyes.

“I have often found them so, Betty,” he admitted; “but Charles is a
worthy youth, my dear, and his advice, though often somewhat tedious
and long winded, is weighty and merits consideration.”

“It may be so,” replied the countess, with an arch smile; “but upon my
soul, sir, he was so long and loud in braying it at me that I fell to
looking at his ears, expecting to see them start up on either side of
his head and grow long and pointed. He is tedious!” and her ladyship
yawned.

“Brothers often are, Betty,” remarked the earl smiling; “you must
have other and gayer company. In fact, I was but now planning to send
you to Newmarket for the races; Lady Sunderland is there, Spencer is
going, and I go presently. You have lived too much in retirement here;
you must go to Newmarket and hear gayer talk than the discourses of our
young sage.”

“I shall be glad to escape the oracle,” said the countess; but she
glanced searchingly at her father and added quietly, “My retirement
becomes me, sir; I am practically a widow.”

The earl’s expression changed a trifle, but such a trifle that his
daughter made little of it.

“We will not refer to that unhappy contract,” he said smoothly; “it was
an error on my part, Elizabeth, and I assure you I repent it.”

“Has Lord Clancarty written to you, father?” she asked, so abruptly
that Sunderland started, and for an instant his eye faltered under
hers, and he hesitated before he was himself again.

“Never,” he said calmly, closing his silver snuff-box and giving the
lid a friendly little tap.

His momentary confusion, though, was nearly his undoing; his daughter
laid a white hand on his arm.

“He has written you,” she said imperiously, “and lately, too!”

“Upon my word, Elizabeth,” said the earl frowning, “you go too far.”

“I cannot help it,” she cried impetuously. “Have I no rights? Ought it
to be concealed from me and confided to my brother, who only taunts me?
My husband has written you!”

Sunderland had recovered himself now, however, and smiled calmly at her.

“You are too headstrong, my love,” he said smoothly, “too easily
suspicious. If Clancarty wrote, why should I conceal it? As you remark,
he is your husband in the eyes of the law, but your husband in fact he
is not, and trust me, Betty, he is too great a Jacobite to risk himself
in England.”

“But, father, the Peace of Ryswick has brought many back,” she said,
“and we all know—it is notorious how easy King William is—and you,
you could get Clancarty’s pardon a thousand times over, if you would!”

“Hear the child!” said Sunderland, with a gesture of mock despair.
“Why, Betty, ’twas marvellous hard to get my own, and the politicians
hate me so that not even Spencer’s devotion to the Whigs appeases that
party. Clancarty’s pardon!—’twould cost me my liberty and, perhaps, my
head.”

“Nonsense!” pouted Lady Betty; “you are the king’s friend; I will not
believe you. And you might, at least, take thought of me; I am his
wife.”

“O child, child!” laughed Lord Sunderland, “as little his wife as
my Lady Devonshire or the Princess Anne. Married to him, through
your father’s folly, when you were eleven and parted from him on the
instant. What virtue is there in such a contract? Be sure, my love, he
has in no wise respected it—nor will he while I have my daughter safe
with me. Think not of him, Betty! ’Twas my folly, but then he possessed
large estates in Munster and it promised to be a great match; for,
believe me, I had no thought of tying you to a proscribed and penniless
scapegrace.”

“Ay,” said Lady Betty, with spirit, “he was rich and now he is poor;
therefore, my lord, I will not desert him!”

Lord Sunderland laughed, but his eyes did not laugh with him.

“There is no question of desertion, my child,” he said smoothly, “you
are not his wife, and you never shall be.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” retorted the incorrigible countess, “I am his
wife, and I will be no other man’s.”

“Tush!” replied the earl impatiently, “you know not what you say. Go
to your apartment, Elizabeth, and reflect upon the matter until you
recollect your duty to me. Here comes Spencer now with some visitors,
and I have no more leisure for your childish folly.”

But Lady Betty would not be silenced; as she retired toward the door
opposite the one that was opening to admit the earl’s visitors, she
murmured low but distinctly,—

“I am his wife, my lord, and I will be no less,” and she swept out with
her face aflame and her head high.

She came to the head of the great staircase and stood looking down,
gracefully poised, her finger on her lips; a charming figure, musing
upon destiny, with the soft candle-light shining down upon her stately
young head and her flowing white robes. She began to hum softly to
herself the air of “Roseen Dhu.”

  “And one beaming smile from you
  Would float like light between
  My toils and me, my own, my true,
      My dark Rosaleen!
      My fond Rosaleen!
  Would give me life and soul anew,
  A second life, a soul anew!
      My dark Rosaleen!”



CHAPTER IV

IN THE WOODS OF ALTHORPE


ALTHORPE, called in Domesday Books “Ollethorp,”—and held before the
Conquest, as the freehold of Tosti and Snorterman,—had been the
home of the Spencers since the days of Henry the Seventh, when one
John Catesby, second son of John Catesby of Legus Ashby, sold it to
John Spencer, Esquire, son of William Spencer of Wormleighton, in
Warwickshire, descended from the younger branch of the Despencers,
anciently Earls of Gloucester and Winchester, and still more remotely
from Ivo, Viscount Constantine, who married Emma, daughter of Alan of
Brittany, before the Conquest—coming, therefore, by blood from one of
the great feudal lords of France.

Althorpe House was built of freestone, in the form of the letter H,
the two long wings joined by a central building in which was the main
entrance facing south. It stood in a beautiful spot, level and well
wooded. The old gatehouse, remnant of the feudal strength of Althorpe,
had once been surrounded by a moat, but that had long since run dry
and was overgrown with turf as smooth as velvet. The long avenues of
elms and beeches and limes ran from it to the very doors of the earl’s
house, and about it lay the park, enfiladed by those avenues of stately
trees, while beyond were the meadows—in the old time it was said
that there were eight acres of meadowland and two of thornwood in one
small portion of the freehold of Ollethorp—and now the great domain
stretched out on every hand, beautified by nature and by art.

It was in the woods of the park that Lady Betty and her attendant,
Alice Lynn, walked on the morning after her interview with her father.
It was too threatening to set out upon the journey to Newmarket,
so they strolled on the outskirts of the earl’s domain. Both girls
were cloaked and hooded and prepared for rain and, indeed, more than
once there was the sharp pattering of drops on the thick foliage
overhead. They did not hasten their steps, for neither of them feared
the elements, and Lady Betty really feared nothing greatly, being a
high-spirited and daring young creature who loved adventure well.
A fresh breeze began to blow, rustling the leaves, and the branches
swayed and creaked above them, a trellis-work of wavering green through
which the gray sky blinked occasionally. To the left was a coppice,
black with shadows; before them, here and there, a wide vista of open
fields showed the grass rippling in a thousand waves; and again the
tree-tops that seemed to touch the long, ragged clouds scudding so
low, heavy with moisture and torn by wind. And the same wind—grown
caressing—tossed the soft locks of Lady Betty’s hair into little curls
about her face under the yellow bird’s-eye hood.

“What have you there, Alice?” she asked, as the girl stooped and peeped
into a patch of grass growing in an opening between the trees.

“’Tis but a four-leafed clover, madam,” Alice replied, pulling it.

Lady Clancarty took it and looked at it with a quizzical eye.

“There is a saying in Devonshire,” she said, “that if you find a
four-leafed clover and an even-leafed ash on the same day you will
surely see your love ere sundown.”

“I have none, my lady,” replied Alice demurely.

Lady Betty laughed with a delicious ripple of merriment.

“You have none, girl?” she said archly. “What a prompt confession! I
grow suspicious, Alice, and see, there is the tell-tale blood creeping
up to your hair. Fie, girl, fie! Where is thy true love, thine own love
now?”

“Indeed, I know not, madam,” replied Alice meekly; “no one ever wooed
me but the parson, and his mouth was so large that it frightened me; it
did open his head like a lid.”

“Mercy on us, girl, ’twas an opening in life for you,” laughed Lady
Betty; “and ’tis said that a large mouth is generous.”

“He was a great eater, madam,” replied the handmaid bluntly.

“Then were you surely meant for him, lass, for you are a famous maker
of pastries, as I know. But tell me, Alice, did ever you have your
fortune told?”

“Nay, ’twas not thought seemly by my aunt,” replied Alice; “I was
reared as strict as any Calvinist.”

“And yet live with a sinner,” said Lady Clancarty with a smile. “I
would inquire my fate, if there be any fortune-teller or sooth-sayer
near. I grow more curious every day, Alice, to know what the end may
be.”

“Ignorance is ofttimes best, my lady,” quietly replied her attendant.

“It may be,” Lady Clancarty said; “but sooth, Alice, ’tis very trying.
I would fain know—I would fathom that dark cloud that hangs upon my
destiny.”

“Dear Lady Betty,” Alice said, “is there indeed a dark cloud upon it?
It seems to my humble vision fair as summer sunshine, and high and
noble.”

The mistress sighed. “Ah, simple maid,” she said, “look not
enviously upon high estate. Light hearted I was born, gay and full of
recklessness, I believe, but happy—ah, Alice, once I was! But now,
my mind keeps turning ever to the thought of one less happy; I have a
home and he—he has none; I have friends—belike, he is friendless. I
have money, a dower cut from his estates in Munster; he is a beggar!
O Alice, it grieves me; I would fain help him; I would fain give him
back my dower; I would—oh, do you not see what I must seem to him?
Heartless, cold, without sense of my duty, a robber and an enemy? I who
am true, I who have only too kind a heart, I who would give my all to
help him—what is the song?

  ‘Oh, I could kneel all night in prayer,
  To heal your many ills!’

Alice, I must know how my husband fares, I—mercy on us, girl, what
ails you?” she cried, for Alice had given a scream of alarm, starting
back from the coppice near at hand.

“There’s some one there!” cried the handmaid, in agitation, “I saw a
man’s boot and spur yonder.”

“Where?” demanded Lady Betty impatiently, “where is your scare-crow,
you little simpleton?”

But before Alice could reply a large man emerged from the beeches and
advanced toward them. He was clad in a long riding coat of dark blue
with deep capes, and his high boots were splashed with mud. As he
approached he lifted his wide-brimmed, beplumed hat, uncovering a head
which was striking in contour. His face was of a bold and handsome type
and his dark gray eyes were keen; he wore the full, long periwig of the
prevailing fashion and a flowing cravat of Flemish lace.

“A likely bugbear, my girl,” whispered Lady Betty roguishly, pinching
Alice’s arm, but turning an innocent face upon the stranger.

“I crave pardon,” he said, with an easy salutation, “I have lost my
way; will you direct me to Northampton?”

“The town lies five miles from us, sir,” replied Lady Betty, “and the
tavern of the King’s Arms is upon the high street.”

“I thank you,” he replied courteously, but with no apparent desire
to depart, and gazed at Lady Clancarty with an open admiration that
offended Alice, who plucked at her mistress’ sleeve.

“Will you tell me what place this is?” he added, pointing at Althorpe
House.

“It belongs to our master, the Earl of Sunderland,” replied Lady Betty,
affecting the pert air of a waiting-maid; “’tis a fine place, sir, with
a gallery full of pictures and another full of books and books and
books! Dear me, sir, a sight of ’em! Your worship should go and look at
’em; ’tis a very hospitable house, too, and strangers are made welcome.”

“Indeed,” he said, with a smile, “I would be glad to avail myself of
the opportunity—at another season. And you, my pretty maids, are the
keeper’s daughters?”

“Faith, yes, sir,” said Lady Clancarty, dropping a courtesy, “we’re
twins.”

“By Saint Patrick, you are strangely untwinlike!” remarked the stranger
frankly; “never saw I two birds from one nest with less resemblance;
one a pigeon and the other—”

“What, your honor?” demanded Lady Betty roguishly, while Alice plucked
at her skirts in genuine confusion and fear.

“A bird of Paradise,” said he gallantly, kissing the tips of his
fingers to her.

Lady Betty hung her head, simpering like the veriest country girl.

“Faith, sir,” she said, fingering her kerchief, “I don’t know what that
is. Is it poultry?”

“It has wings, my dear,” he replied smiling, “but, in this case, they
are only figurative.”

“La, sir!” cried Lady Betty, “what’s that? It sounds like something
strange.”

“It’s a figure of speech, my girl,” he replied, a daring smile in his
gray eyes as he drew a step nearer and Betty retreated a step, partly
drawn by Alice; “but eyes like stars and cheeks like roses do not
belong to the barnyard.”

Her ladyship, suspecting that she had betrayed herself, bridled a
little, but her love of mischief kept her from flight.

“Faith!” she said, looking down, “you fine gentlemen talk so finely
that a poor maid cannot follow you. Go to the tavern, sir, and there
your worship will find a listener after your own heart, for they do
say that saucy Polly can talk up to Lord Spencer himself, and he’s the
most learned man in England, sir; and, indeed, I do believe that all
the others that ever knew half as much died of it immediately and were
buried! Go to the tavern, sir, and good cheer to you and good by,” and
her ladyship dropped another awkward courtesy.

“Here, lass, a kiss and a crown for your pains,” said the stranger,
making a sudden attempt to catch her by the arm.

But Lady Betty danced off as light as a feather, laughing roguishly
under her hood.

“Nay, sir,” she said wickedly, “girls do not kiss strangers in this
country if they do—in France!”

“Confound the witch!” ejaculated the traveller, with a start of
surprise. “Pshaw! ’twas my French coin she saw,” he added, and smiled
as he watched the two girlish figures flying through the trees.

Meanwhile Lady Betty was laughing and Alice remonstrating.

“Oh, my lady, how could you?” she said; “he might recognize you, he
might have kissed you!”

“So he might!” admitted Lady Clancarty gleefully, “and how handsome he
is! Did you mark him, Alice, is he not handsome?”

“Nay, madam,” said the discreet handmaid, still shocked and frightened,
“that I know not, but he was overbold in staring at your ladyship.”

“Did he so?” asked Lady Betty pensively, blushing in a tell-tale
fashion; “I noted it not; but was he not tall and strong and finely
framed, Alice, with a bonny gray eye?”

“Oh, comely enough in appearance, my lady, but bold and with a reckless
air; I trembled lest he should insult you.”

“Pooh, pooh, girl, you would love a milksop!” said Lady Betty
petulantly; “he has the very eye and front of a soldier. I’ll wager he
is some gallant who can strike a good blow for his sweetheart. What
fun would there be in life without a harmless jest? He took me for a
waiting-woman.”

“That he did not!” cried Alice, “he knew you, take my word for it, and
he would have kissed you, the daring wretch!”

The handmaid shuddered at the thought and the mistress laughed at her
perturbation, laughed with sweet gayety, her mirth rippling in low,
joyous notes.

“You have no eye for a fine man, Alice,” she said blithely; “you little
prude, do you think I would have let him? Nay, then do you not know me;
but ’twas rare fun to see the dare-devil in those gray eyes of his. He
has French gold, too, and mercy, how startled he was at my haphazard
shot. ’Tis some Jacobite, and there are fierce Whigs at Northampton!
Lackaday, the poor gentleman may come into trouble, I must warn him.”

“My lady, my lady,” protested Alice, and then stood aghast. “The saints
help us,” she murmured, “there she runs after that bold gallant, like a
village lass, and if the earl should see her!”

But generous-hearted Lady Clancarty thought of neither Alice nor the
earl. Light of foot as any fawn, she flew over the green after the
stranger’s retreating figure, for he had turned in another direction
and was leading a black horse by the bridle. The swift run and the
excitement of the moment brought the blood to Betty’s cheeks, and she
panted for breath when she overtook him.

He turned with a smile. “What, lass,” he said gayly, “hast come for
your kiss?”

Lady Clancarty gasped and grew crimson with shame; then drawing herself
up to her full height, she flashed at him a look of withering scorn.

“You mistake, sir,” she said haughtily, “you are addressing Lady
Clancarty.”

He took off his hat and the long plumes swept the ground at her feet as
he made her a profound obeisance.

“I beseech your ladyship’s pardon,” he said, graceful and gracious—but
not one whit abashed, “my eyes were dazzled—else they would have made
no such mistake.”

But Betty would not be appeased; like a child who has been naughty and
repented, she tried to appear as if it had not been. She was cold and
haughty.

“Sir, I would merely warn you to be less careless of your French gold
at Northampton,” she said; “we do not love St. Germain here,” and with
a courtesy as low as his bow she left him.

Left him staring after her with a glow in his gray eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alice Lynn usually slept in a little anteroom of Lady Betty’s
bedchamber, and that night as she lay abed she was awakened suddenly.
The room was full of moonlight, and in it stood Lady Betty in her
night-rail,—a charming figure, with softly dishevelled hair about her
shoulders, and eyes that seemed to sparkle in the pale duskiness of her
face. The tirewoman started up in alarm.

“My lady, oh, my lady!” she cried, “are you ill? Has aught happened?”

“Hush, no, no!” whispered Lady Betty, with a soft little laugh; “but,
Alice, didn’t you notice that he said ‘by Saint Patrick’?”

“He! Who?” groaned poor Alice sleepily.

“The stranger, little goose!”

“Nay, madam,” said the poor handmaid; “I noticed naught but his bold
eyes; I was afraid of him.”

“Nonsense!” Lady Betty exclaimed with a gesture of impatience; and she
tripped lightly to the window and stood looking out over the moonlit
park.

Alice yawned, drawing herself together on the edge of her bed in a
crumpled attitude, one pink foot swinging near the floor; she was
fairly nodding with sleep. Not so her mistress. Lady Betty brushed the
soft hair from her face and stood in the moonlight a lovely figure,
half revealed and half concealed by thin white draperies.

“I wonder,” she said musingly, “if—if Clancarty looks at all like this
man?”

“I cannot tell, madam,” replied Alice demurely; “but it may be so.”

“You rogue!” laughed her mistress, “you would insinuate that two rakes
may well resemble each other! Ah, Alice, he is my husband, mind you
that, and a woman’s husband is not as other men.”

“You know him not at all, my lady,” yawned Alice, rubbing her eyes,
“and if he’s like some—”

“Fudge, my girl, what do you know of husbands?” said Betty gayly; “I
believe you have never even glanced out of the tail of that blue eye of
yours at any bold gallant yet.”

The handmaid sighed sleepily.

“’Tis better so, my lady,” she said meekly.

“The parson not excepted!” laughed Lady Betty, dancing back lightly
over the floor and pinching the girl’s cheek as she passed.

  “Oh! that my hero had his throne,
  That Erin’s cloud of war were flown,
  That proudest prince would own his sway
  Over the hills and far away!”

sang my lady, taking dancing steps as she tripped toward her own door;
she was full of gayety, incorrigible and delightful as ever, though
the great clock on the stairs was striking twelve. But Alice sighed
drearily, and her mistress heard her.

“Poor lass!” she laughed, “go to sleep; I am a heartless wretch,” and
she ran off laughing to her room, and Alice sank on her pillows again
with a sigh of despair.



CHAPTER V

LADY SUNDERLAND


IT was at night too, a week later, that Lady Betty’s coach rumbled up
the long street at Newmarket. But no moon shone; instead, the rain
came down in torrents and the wind dashed it against the glass windows
and rattled and shook the heavy doors, while the horses slipped and
floundered, knee deep in mud; the great coach itself lurched heavily
out of one huge rut into another, and the postilions, dripping and
profane, cracked their whips and shouted. Lady Clancarty and her
attendants, Alice Lynn and the woman, Melissa Thurle, bounced about
within the vehicle, coming now and then into collision with endless
boxes and bundles, a part only of the countess’ impedimenta, the most
perishable, and therefore gathered within the carriage to save it from
the deluge, instead of being strapped on top with the heavier luggage.

Through the moist darkness lights began to twinkle. As they neared the
inn these lanterns increased in numbers, their yellow radiance dimmed
and blurred by the rain but showing in a broad circle of warmth before
the tavern door. There, too, the water flooding the kennels had poured
out, making a small lake in the courtyard. The coach went splashing
into it and halted with muddy water rising to the hubs. The inn door
was open, and the hall overflowed with noise and good cheer; lackeys
and grooms came bustling at the sound of an arrival; and at the sight
of a private carriage, with an earl’s crest emblazoned upon the door,
mine host himself came hurrying forward but stood aghast at the puddle.

“Here, you varlets,” he shouted, clapping his hands, “a plank from the
door to the carriage steps, or her ladyship cannot descend.”

Her ladyship’s roguish face was at the window as he spoke and she
watched the men placing a board for her. As they opened the coach
door the innkeeper bowed low, his broad back in the air, but stepping
carefully on the plank and tottering uneasily, for he was a stout man
and in terror of falling headlong into the flood.

“Who have I the honor to serve, my lady?” he inquired, all smiles in
spite of his perilous position.

“Venus rising from the waves, sir,” replied Lady Betty flippantly, as
she sprang lightly across the improvised bridge, scarcely touching his
shoulder with her fingers and quite regardless of his open-mouthed
astonishment.

“Look to it that my women are not drowned!” she added imperiously, as
he retreated after her, leaving her attendants to climb out unassisted.

But the man was sorely perplexed by her ladyship’s announcement of
herself, and he only stared at her, trying to place her in the gallery
of a fertile brain well stored with great ladies; but this face—albeit
one of the most charming he had ever seen—was not among them, and
he stared, perhaps a trifle rudely, for Lady Betty’s eye, suddenly
alighting on him, her chin went up.

“You will show me to my Lady Sunderland’s apartments,” she said in an
icy tone, as she waved her hand toward the stair.

In a moment the innkeeper’s supple back bent double again; he threw out
his fat hands and stammered a hundred apologies.

“Lady Sunderland did not look for your ladyship until to-morrow,” he
sputtered, hurrying on ahead, while Lady Clancarty followed, with her
chin still scornfully elevated, her two weary and dishevelled women
behind her. “The countess will be rejoiced—we are all rejoiced, your
ladyship; the storm was so heavy, the roads so fearful, we scarcely
dared to hope that your carriage would reach Newmarket to-night,”
continued the host, all smiles again, rubbing his hands and flourishing
before her ladyship.

But Lady Betty walked on in silence, scarce glancing at him as he
opened a door and, with many flourishes and bows, announced her at
the threshold and stood aside, still bowing, to let her pass into a
large, well-lighted room, where a bright fire burned upon the hearth,
great logs ablaze upon the high, polished brass andirons. The dark wood
floor was polished too, reflecting the blaze, and in a great chair
by the fire sat a woman past middle age, yet showing little of her
years, and dressed in the extreme affectation of a youthful fashion, a
petticoat of white brocade, which was short in front to show her feet
in white and gold pantoffles, and a bodice and overdress of peachblow
satin; a face that had been handsome and was now much rouged, the
eyes brightened by dark rings beneath them, while her hair—or her
periwig—was frizzed full at the sides after a fashion much in vogue in
the time of Charles the Second. Her throat was covered with jewels,
and her hands and arms; on either side of her stood two young men of
fashion, beaux of Newmarket, in gay velvet coats and ruffles of lace,
and long curled and scented French periwigs, white satin breeches and
silk stockings, and slippers with high red heels, then much in favor at
Versailles.

It was a group that amused Lady Clancarty,—the great lady and her
two youthful admirers, for Betty knew her mother well. They in their
turn stared a little at the traveller’s unexpected advent, and for a
moment no one spoke. There was a strange contrast between the painted
and bejewelled countess and her daughter: Lady Clancarty wore a long,
dark riding-coat with capes, her full skirts trailing below the coat,
and her hat—a large one with plumes—set over her brows. The cool damp
night air had brought the freshness of a rose to her cheeks and her
eyes sparkled as she viewed the party by the fire, and made her mother
a courtesy.

“I have been in the deluge, madam,” she said gayly. “Faith! I had
expected to be drowned, but lo! our ark landed here, and here am I—a
dove with an olive branch, in fact—for I come with kind messages from
Althorpe for your ladyship.”

“My dear Betty,” said Lady Sunderland, recovering from her amazement,
“I am delighted; come and kiss me, my love, and here—my Lord Savile
and Mr. Benham, this is my daughter, Lady Elizabeth Spencer.”

The young men bowed profoundly, Lord Savile’s bold eyes on Lady Betty’s
face, for he saw it flush with sudden indignation.

“My mother’s memory plays her false,” she said coldly, scarcely
acknowledging their greetings; “I am the Countess of Clancarty.”

Lady Sunderland laughed angrily but pretended to be merry.

“The child is foolish about a trifle,” she said, winking behind her fan
at young Savile. “We can afford to humor her whims, my lord; we will
call her Lady Clancarty.”

“We shall call her ladyship divine, if she wills it,” replied Lord
Savile, with a smile at Betty; “it is all one to us as long as she is
pleased.”

Lady Clancarty’s foot tapped the floor impatiently and there was a
dangerous sparkle in her eyes. Lady Sunderland observed her uneasily.

“My love, you are tired,” she said, mildly solicitous, “sit down and
let me send for a cup of tea; Mr. Benham—ah, my lord, thank you, yes,
the bell—a dish of tea for Lady Spen—Lady Clancarty. There—there, my
dear, don’t frown at me; it is all quite ridiculous! Mr. Benham will
arrange the cushions in that chair for you; I don’t know what I should
do without him! We were playing gleek, Betty, when you were announced.”

Betty was now ensconced in an armchair by the fire, her little feet
on the cushion that Mr. Benham had placed for her; and she viewed the
situation with an expression more composed.

“Yes, I take tea,” she said to Lord Savile, who was handing her a
smoking cup, “and what is this?” she added, for he had managed to drop
a flower from his buttonhole into her lap with an air of gallantry.

“A poor blossom,” he said gracefully, “to compare with such a rose as
blooms here to-night.”

Lady Betty looked at him and then at the flower curiously.

“Ah,” she said calmly sipping her tea, “it _is_ a rose—I thought ’twas
a thistle!”

Lady Sunderland coughed and dropped her fan and frowned at her
daughter; but the incorrigible countess did not glance in her
direction. She was smiling blandly at the fire and warming first one
foot and then the other.

“You are from Althorpe?” Mr. Benham asked, smiling at the beauty, for
he was not displeased at Lord Savile’s discomfiture; “and my friend,
Spencer, is there now.”

“He is indeed,” replied Betty, with a sigh, “and may he stay there!”
she added mentally; but to Mr. Benham, “Has the king come?”

“He came yesterday, and with him, Lord Albemarle; the Princess Anne is
here too, and my Lady Marlborough.”

“Dear me,” said Lady Betty, with an unconcealed yawn, “the world is
here, it seems, and I am so weary that I must crave your ladyship’s
license to retire.”

“Nay,” said Mr. Benham gallantly, “it is my lord and I who should
retire and permit your ladyship to rest.”

“I protest!” cried Lady Sunderland; “the gleek was but half played.”

But she made no great effort to detain them; indeed, she wanted an
opportunity to speak plainly to her daughter, so the beaux were allowed
to bow themselves out, with more than one lingering glance at the
beautiful, haughty face by the fireside. No sooner was the door closed,
however, than Lady Sunderland turned on her daughter.

“Your folly passes belief, Elizabeth,” she said tartly, quite oblivious
of the two attendants quietly waiting in the background; “I am tired of
the name of Clancarty; your father and I intend to divorce the rascal.
To parade the matter as you do is simply childish, my love, quite
childish.”

Lady Betty sipped her tea and looked into the fire.

“I am not divorced,” she remarked placidly, “and Lord Clancarty, being
a Romanist, may object to divorces.”

Lady Sunderland laughed unpleasantly, tapping her fan on the arm of her
chair.

“Lord Clancarty has probably never respected his marriage,” she
remarked, in a biting tone, though she smiled; “you are very childish,
Elizabeth, for your years.”

“I _am_ quite advanced,” her daughter replied, rising and setting her
cup on the table where the cards were scattered, “and perhaps I am too
old to think of divorces.”

“Nonsense,” Lady Sunderland said frowning, “your father and I mean to
see you well married when we are rid of this Irish nuisance.”

“Indeed,” said Lady Betty coldly, elevating her brows, “to whom? My
Lord Savile, for instance, or Mr. Benham?”

“You might do worse,” retorted Lady Sunderland stiffly; “they are both
fine young men and in favor at court.”

“Precisely,” said Lady Betty, “and ’tis strange that my taste is so
perverted. Dear madam, I bid you good-night. We will discuss their
excellencies later; now I am perishing with sleep,” and she dropped
her mother a courtesy and slipped out of the room, leaving the older
countess frowning and biting her lips, the rouge showing red on her
cheeks.

But once alone with Alice Lynn, Betty laughed, with tears shining in
her eyes.

“Ah, the trap is set, Alice, dear,” she said, “the trap is set, if
only this poor little mouse will nibble at the cheese!”



CHAPTER VI

LADY BETTY’S TOILET


NIGHT and the rain departed together. The wind had swept the sky clear,
not even a white feather curled there; it was blue—blue as English
skies seldom are. Lady Betty, opening her own window shutter, looked
up and smiled, and then looked down into the courtyard of the inn. The
waters were subsiding, and the uneven flagging showed muddy, wet and
glistening in the sunlight. To the left lay the stables, where she
could occasionally hear a horse neigh or stamp an impatient foot. To
the right the court was railed off by an old balustrade of gray stone,
mossy and green with age and opening in the centre with two vases
on either side filled with geraniums and mignonette. Between these,
steps descended into an old garden, laid out in quaint flower-beds,
surrounded with rows of box that hedged in the winding gravel paths and
grew high as a man’s head. It was September, but many flowers bloomed
there besides the roses; though it was but poorly tended at this late
season, it was still a spot of beauty for the guests of the tavern
to look upon, and there was a restful air about it, a fragrance and
quaintness, with the early sunshine on it. It was so early, indeed,
that the garden was deserted, and only the stable-boys were stirring
and the servants running to and fro across the court engaged in
preparations for breakfast. Here and there was a red-coated hostler,
and one of these was leading a black horse up and down. The horse had
just been unsaddled and was heated from hard riding. There was mud on
his flanks, too, which was natural enough after the storm, and there
were flecks of foam upon his breast. Lady Betty looked at him long
and pensively, noting that the bridle was not of English make; the
man, too, who had him, was a stranger, for the other hostlers did not
speak to him, and his broad, humorous face and twinkling black eyes
were quite un-English. He was a short man, with bowed legs and a bulky
frame, plainly dressed as the plainest groom of a gentleman could be,
and yet these two, the horse and man, held Lady Betty’s attention
long—so long, indeed, that she did not notice the soft opening of a
door, or the soft tread on the floor behind her, and started to find
Melissa Thurle at her elbow.

The woman had a smooth face and pale eyes that squinted like those of
a near-sighted person, though she was not short-sighted. She moved,
too, as softly as a cat, and her manners were always apologetic, humbly
ingratiating; she cringed a little now under Lady Betty’s eye.

“Where is Alice?” Lady Clancarty demanded sharply.

“Her ladyship, your mother, sent for her,” Melissa said gently; “her
tirewoman is ill to-day, and Lady Sunderland sent to your rooms for
one.”

“Why did Alice go?” asked Lady Betty imperiously. “You know you cannot
do my hair; besides, you would suit my mother exactly. Why did you stay
here?”

Melissa looked down meekly. “My lady, the countess sent for Alice
Lynn,” she replied.

Lady Betty’s brows went up. “Strange,” she remarked; “we all know that
she will not be up until eleven,—why Alice now? I cannot do without
Alice.”

“I will do my best, my lady,” Melissa said, with a deprecating purr;
“if you will but choose your costume for the races I can surely arrange
everything for you quite as well as Alice, and indeed your ladyship
needs no very skilful tirewoman; where there is so much beauty there is
no need for much skill.”

Betty eyed the woman with a distinct feeling of repugnance and yet
thought herself unjust.

“Go fetch me a dish of tea,” she said languidly, “and I will think
about to-day. Dear me, what a bore it is to wear clothes; if only one
had feathers!”

Melissa stared but went to fetch the tea, a luxury much affected by the
rich, for tea-drinking came into fashion at the East India houses in
the time of Charles the Second.

Lady Betty did not wish the tea; however, she wanted to be rid of
Melissa, and she went back to the window and looked out eagerly. The
black horse and groom were both gone, and she turned away disappointed.

Two hours later, Alice being still with Lady Sunderland, Melissa Thurle
dressed Lady Clancarty for the gala day at the Newmarket races. And
a wonderful work it was to dress a belle in those days of brocaded
farthingales and long, narrow-waisted bodices, and heads covered
with many waves and puffs and ringlets. It was not then the fashion
to powder the hair, and Lady Betty’s beautiful glossy black tresses
curled naturally, so that Melissa’s task was not the most difficult.
The mass of soft, wavy hair was knotted low on the back of the head
and escaped in curls about the brow and cheeks and fell upon the neck,
while one or two black patches on brow and cheek were supposed to
enhance the whiteness of the complexion. Melissa was skilful enough, in
spite of her mistress’ prejudices, and her deft fingers arranged the
curls, letting some escape in coquettish waves and ringlets and binding
others back into the loose knot, which still allowed them to ripple in
a lovely confusion.

Lady Betty sat, meanwhile, before a dressing-table, furnished with a
small oval glass in which she could not only watch Melissa, but could
observe, also, every curve and dimple of her own charming face. Whether
its reflection really satisfied her, or she had other and more fruitful
sources of content, can only be conjectured, but certain it is that she
smiled a little and bore the tirewoman’s deft touches with apparent
complacence. Melissa, encouraged by her expression, began to talk to
her in a soft purring fashion as she worked.

“The house is full, my lady,” she said, “’tis all agog below stairs
now, and ’tis said there are two dukes, an earl, and five baronets
under this roof, besides the countess and your ladyship.”

“Dear me,” said Lady Betty, “who are all these great people, and when
did they come?”

“The Duke of Bedford has been here two days, my lady,” replied the
newscarrier, “and the Duke of Ormond came yesterday; Mr. Godolphin,
too, and Lord Wharton,—the others?—I know not when they came.”

“Who came this morning?” asked her mistress carelessly, at the same
moment turning her head to admire a new knot that Melissa had made of
her hair.

The tirewoman stopped, comb in hand, and admired too, her narrow eyes
more narrow than usual.

“This morning?” she repeated thoughtfully, “I cannot think,—oh, yes,
one of the housemaids told me that a stranger came late, on a black
horse that he had ridden hard.”

Lady Clancarty listened attentively, forgetting to appear indifferent,
and unconscious of the peculiar vigilance of Melissa’s pale eyes.

“The horse was in the yard this morning and showed hard riding,” she
said thoughtfully. “Who was the stranger, Melissa?”

“’Tis said he is a horse jockey from London,” purred the tirewoman.

Her mistress darted a searching look at her but read nothing in that
smooth face that was by nature as placid as a platter.

“Bring me my pale blue paduasoy petticoat, Thurle,” Lady Betty said,
sharply imperious, “and my white and silver brocaded gown, and the
mantle of silver lace, and my hat with the white plumes. Do you not
know how to fasten a petticoat?—there—so!—and, stupid, my white
silk stockings with the blue clocks, and the French slippers with blue
enamel buckles,” and she made the woman fetch garment after garment
with alacrity, and the glow in her cheeks would have warned even a less
observant person than Melissa that Lady Clancarty was out of temper.

But the woman’s smooth manner remained unruffled, and not even angry
words made her fingers quiver. She arrayed Lady Clancarty from head
to foot, deftly and swiftly, and when the task was completed, and the
beauty looked at her own reflection, a smile was forced to play about
her lips, for never had a mirror reflected a vision more charming.
Lady Betty, with her rich coloring, her full white throat, her perfect
form, clad in a marvellous gown of white and silver, ruffled and
ruffled with lace, and looped up at one side a little to show the blue
petticoat; open, too, to show a neck as white as snow,—and arms to
match were half revealed by the elbow sleeves, while her hat cast a
shadow on those sparkling eyes. She gave the vision a look and then
turned and motioned Melissa away.

“You have done very well, Thurle,” she said calmly, “and now you may
go—ah, here is Alice!” and she relented at the sight of her favorite
attendant.

Melissa, meanwhile, humble as usual, courtesied and withdrew, but not
without casting a lingering look behind her.

When the door closed, Lady Betty gave her gown a few touches, turning
around before the mirror again.

“Will I do, Alice?” she asked.

“Supremely well, madam,” Alice replied soberly, standing off to view
her with a critical eye.

Lady Betty turned suddenly and laid her hand on the girl’s shoulder.

“Hast said thy catechism, Alice?” she asked.

The handmaid looked up at her blankly, her slower mind struggling to
understand.

“What, my lady?”

“Your catechism, goosie,” repeated Lady Clancarty laughing; “did not my
mother question you close of me?”

“She did, madam,” retorted Alice bluntly, with an ingenuous blush, “she
asked me many questions.”

“And what answer did you give?” asked her mistress smiling.

“Truthful answers, dear Lady Betty,” Alice replied earnestly,
apparently much troubled, “save when I answered not at all.”

“You did not answer!” exclaimed her mistress, in surprise, “and
wherefore?”

“Because she asked me what you said to me of—of my Lord Clancarty,”
stammered Alice, “and, madam, that I will not tell!”

Betty laughed and blushed, and suddenly she kissed the girl.



CHAPTER VII

AT THE RACES


THERE was no finer race-course in the country in those days than the
long heath at Newmarket, and there for years the court of England
kept festival. Charles the Second came there, with a train of gay and
dissolute courtiers and fair, frail women; there too came the more
solemn James with much the same following, if a more decorous manner
prevailed, and there came that silent, collected, small man, whose
body so little expressed his soul,—one of the greatest men of his
time,—William the Third.

The king came to his summer palace, and the great lords kept up their
state about him. Euston was famed for the balls of my Lord Arlington
in the days of Charles the Second, and times were little changed in
that respect. In contrast to the courtly splendor, the heath was
fringed with an encampment as gay and varied as any gypsy gathering.
Here were people of all conditions: gypsies, in fact, in their gay
raiment, telling fortunes on the edge of the throng, strolling players,
dancing bears and merry Andrews, and the farmers’ families come as
to a festival to see the stream of fashion. For here were all the
great; even the cockpit at noon was surrounded by stars and ribbons,
and there were hunting and hawking and riding. There too were the
long gowns and black caps of the University dons, so well received by
William, mingling with the motley throng. The world, melted down into
this little space, throbbed and bubbled like a cauldron filled and
boiling over, and never paused except for the sermon on a Sunday.

At midday when the king went to the race-course all Newmarket streamed
out at his heels, from the highest peers and greatest courtiers to
the pickpockets of London; from my Lord of Devonshire to Captain Dick
the horse jockey; from an orange girl of Drury Lane to the Princess
of Denmark; the high and the low, the rich man and the cutpurse, all
were there, and in that mass of many-colored costumes, like a bed of
King William’s tulips at Loo, there were a thousand emotions,—hopes,
fears, hatreds, and ambitions. Money flowed like water, and wagers ran
high; fortunes were made and unmade, and the faces of men and women
had often the tense expression of the gambler. But whatever evil was
there—and much there was—was hidden under an air of jollity, and the
setting of the scene was as variegated as a rainbow.

The long course was cleared for the horses, and on either side, and
especially about the pavilion of the king, the crowd was packed
close, palpitating and murmuring in the sunshine, white and pink,
blue and crimson, green and gold, ribbon upon ribbon of color, men
and women vying with each other in the brilliant beauty and richness
of apparel; and behind, the great emblazoned coaches—drawn usually
by Flanders horses—stood tier upon tier, sometimes empty, when their
owners were promenading, sometimes brimful of lovely smiling faces and
fluttering fans; and beyond these, the farmers and teamsters, gypsies
and tipsters, honest men and thieves. Meanwhile the jockeys rode their
horses out upon the turf for exercise and inspection; no people loved
a fine horse better than the English, and it put the throng in an
excellent humor.

In the midst of the satins and velvets, gold lace and jewels, one small
man was plainly dressed in dark colors with a star upon his breast,—a
man with a pale, dark face and sparkling dark eyes. Every head was
bared before him, and every great dame there courtesied almost to
the ground, and the trumpets sounded as King William took his place.
The warm September air was filled with the hum of many voices, the
trampling of horses, the blare of military music, and the great races
began when the king quietly waved his hand.

Lady Sunderland kept her seat in her own carriage, and all the old
beaux of the court came there to pay their compliments and exchange
rare morsels of gossip with her ladyship, whose wit was keen as her
tongue was merciless. But Lady Clancarty was not of this party. She
had left her seat in the gorgeously emblazoned coach, and escorted by
my Lord of Devonshire himself, she made her way nearer to the scene of
action. Though she had lived much at Althorpe, Lady Clancarty was not
unknown, and she was greeted on every hand as she passed. Her beauty,
her winning address, the place her father occupied in the king’s favor,
made her at once the cynosure of all eyes. Old beaux and young ones
crowded forward for an introduction. Devonshire stood near her, Ormond
and Bedford joined her coterie; in fact, in two hours Lady Betty was
the belle of Newmarket. She looked about her smiling, roguish, keenly
amused, and everywhere she read approbation and admiration, not only in
the faces that she knew, but in the strange ones. Everywhere men paid
her homage; over there the courtiers of the Princess Anne were thinning
out; the circle of my Lady Marlborough grew narrower, but Lady Betty’s
extended like a whirlpool. In the midst of her little triumph, she saw
a tall man coming toward her, singling her out amidst all the others;
his dress was plain and his periwig was of a different fashion, but
she could not mistake that eye or that bearing; she had seen both in
the woods of Althorpe. In a moment more he was bowing before her, and
Ormond introduced him.

“My dear Lady Betty, let me present another admirer, Mr. Richard
Trevor; an Irishman as I would have your ladyship know,” the duke added
in her ear, with a laugh.

Lady Clancarty courtesied, casting a roguish look at the stranger.

“Faith, we have met before, my lord,” she said, and laughed softly.

“Twice before, my lady,” corrected Mr. Trevor, smiling into her eyes.

Betty stared. “Once, sir,” she said.

“As you will, Lady Clancarty,” he replied, and smiled again, the
dare-devil leaping up in his gray eyes—and Betty blushed.

At the moment Lord Savile came up with Mr. Benham.

“Are you betting, Savile?” asked the Duke of Devonshire, with a smiling
glance at the young man.

Savile made a wry face.

“Confound it, my lord, I’ve lost fifty pounds on my mare, Lady Clara,”
he said, “and Benham here has made a hundred on that little black mare
of Godolphin’s,—the devil’s in it.”

“Ah, look at them!” cried Betty, pointing at the track, “they come
flying like birds. Is that your black mare in the lead, Mr. Benham?”

“I’ll hang for it, if he hasn’t won again,” ejaculated Lord Savile, as
they leaned forward to watch the squad of horses coming in on the home
stretch.

There could scarcely be a finer sight: the smooth turf, the shimmer of
sunshine, the beautiful animals running fleetly, for the joy of it,
heads out, eyes flashing fire, foam on the lips, and manes flying,
while the jockeys, like knots of color, hung low over their necks. The
sharp clip of steel-shod feet, a stream of color, sparks flying, and
they were past, going on to the stakes, while silence fell on the great
throng of people; men scarcely breathed, every eye strained after them.
Then suddenly a shout of exultation and despair, strangely mingled, and
the whole crowd blossoming out into a mass of waving handkerchiefs and
tossing hats.

“Ah, was there ever anything so pretty!” cried Lady Betty; “there is
nothing finer than a beautiful horse.”

“Except a beautiful woman,” said my Lord of Ormond gallantly.

“Pray, my lord, do not put us in the same category,” said Lady Betty
laughing; “’tis said that some men rate their horses dearer than their
wives.”

“That is because there are so few Lady Clancartys,” replied Ormond
smiling, and Betty swept him a courtesy.

“Benham’s won again,” remarked Savile, too chagrined to notice anything
else.

“And so have I,” said Mr. Trevor, with a little smile; “’tis an ill
wind that blows nobody good.”

Savile eyed him from head to foot; his quick ear had detected a
peculiarity of voice and accent.

“Are you from Ireland, sir?” he asked insolently.

“Where gentlemen are bred,—yes, my lord,” replied Trevor, his gray
eyes gleaming like steel.

Lady Betty stirred uneasily. “Whose horse was that which came in last?”
she asked.

“Savile’s,” laughed Benham, “don’t you see his brow of thunder?”

“Hard luck, my boy,” remarked Lord Devonshire, smiling, “but there are
many here who will have worse to-day.”

“Ay, and the king’s cough is worse,” remarked Ormond significantly.

“Dr. Radcliffe told him that he would not have his two legs for his
three kingdoms,” said Lord Savile, with a sullen laugh.

Devonshire smiled a little and so did Ormond, but Lady Betty looked
straight before her over the sunny turf.

“My Lord Savile,” she said, “the king has the wisest head in Europe.”

“A king is richest in the hearts that love him,” said Richard Trevor
smoothly, “and the King of England is rich in these.”

Lady Betty darted a quick glance at him, and so did my Lord of Ormond,
but they read nothing. It was a handsome, daring face, with gray eyes
and thin lips,—a face to fear in anger.

“There are riddles and innuendoes everywhere,” remarked Lord Savile
with a shrug; “one knows not how to read them.”

“What I say, I am quite ready to explain, my lord,” Trevor replied
smiling, his eyes hard as flint.

As he spoke my Lady Sunderland came up from her carriage, and with her
two other dames of fashion. In the stir and flutter of their entrance,
Lady Betty and the two young men, Trevor and Lord Savile, were, to all
intents and purposes, alone, and she was perforce a listener to their
talk, which was by no means friendly.

Lord Savile thrust his hands into his pockets.

“What flowers bloom at Saint Germain, sir?” he asked, with a drawl.

“The poppies of Neerwinden, I am told,” replied the Irishman.

Lord Savile’s face turned scarlet. “A very vile joke, sir,” he said, in
a low voice, “and one you may repent of—here!”

“When I am in the society of informers—it may be so,” replied Trevor
haughtily and very low, intending it only for my lord’s ear, but Lady
Betty heard it.

“I would fain walk a little way,” she said suddenly, turning on them,
“they will not race again for half an hour, and I feel the heat here.
My Lord Savile, will you make way for me through the crowd?”

“I will, my lady,” Trevor said, offering his arm.

“Nay, sir,” retorted Savile, “I am the lady’s friend, not you.”

Trevor noticed him as little as a poodle; he still smiled and offered
his hand to Lady Betty.

“Lady Clancarty will choose, sir, not you,” he said contemptuously.

“Lady Clancarty will go with me,” cried Savile, hotly and
authoritatively.

“Faith, she will not, sir,” said Betty laughing; “Lady Clancarty will
be commanded by none, my lord, and Mr. Trevor will do her this small
service. But there are my thanks for your kindness.”

And she courtesied prettily before she laid her hand lightly on the
stranger’s arm and moved at his side through the throng toward the open
heath beyond. Their progress was necessarily slow, and followed by many
admiring glances, for the roses had deepened in Lady Betty’s cheeks.
The tall Irishman beside her was no less a striking figure; his height
and proportions, the clean-cut face, steel-gray eyes, and close-shut
thin lips had a history of their own; no one could doubt it.

As for Lord Savile, he stood fuming and vowing vengeance on the cursed
Irish Jacobite, as he was pleased to name his rival; if a stanch Whig
hated any man, by instinct, he must needs be a Papist and a Jacobite.



CHAPTER VIII

LADY BETTY AND AN IRISH JACOBITE


LADY BETTY and her companion walked on. The crowd, still huzzaing and
noisy about the victors, was dropped behind them, all its gorgeous
colors knotted into one huge rosette upon the track; beyond were green
meadows and the blue shadows of a grove of limes. The two walked
slowly, Lady Betty a little in advance, her long skirts gathered in one
hand, the other holding her fan, the sun and the breeze kissing the
soft curves of her cheeks. Beside her, holding his hat behind his back,
was Richard Trevor, his eyes on her, while hers were on the landscape;
the long, level stretch of turf, the grove of limes, and farther
off—veiled in golden mist—the wavy outlines of forest and hills.
Above, the sky was blue—blue as larkspur; the air was sweet too, as if
the fragrance of flowers floated on the soft September breeze. A flock
of pigeons, with the whir of many wings, rose from the ground as Betty
approached, and she looked up after them and sighed.

“Is it true that the French king wears red heels to his shoes?” she
asked suddenly and quite irrelevantly.

Mr. Trevor started perceptibly, giving her a quizzical glance.

“They are frequently purple,” he replied, with perfect gravity.

“Because, I suppose, it is a royal color,” she remarked absently; “you
are a Jacobite, Mr. Trevor.”

“Either my disguise is a flimsy one, or your penetration is great, Lady
Clancarty,” he replied, with a whimsical smile; “but I’ll swear I’m not
alone at Newmarket.”

Lady Betty elevated her brows a little.

“It has been frequently hinted that King William was one,” she remarked
tranquilly.

“By the Whigs out of office,” he said, with a short, hard laugh; “he is
not counted one on the Continent.”

“Or in Ireland,” she said; “you were at Londonderry, of course.”

“There were two sides to the wall at Londonderry, my lady,” he
replied; “I was on one—I’ll admit that.”

“It is safe not to be explicit,” she said smiling; “you are an
Irishman, a Papist, and a Jacobite,” she told off each point on her
fingers, “and you are from Munster.”

“Precisely,” said Mr. Trevor, with great composure; “you have nailed me
to the wall, madam; I am a sinner of the blackest dye, a subject for
the gallows.”

“So I supposed,” she said cheerfully, nodding her head at him, “and
being all these things, and from the Continent, can you tell me—” for
the first time she hesitated, stopped short, looking at the turf under
her daintily shod feet, her face crimson.

He waited, smiling, composed, watchful; not helping her by a word or
sign, and she could not read his eyes when she looked into them.

“Do you know Lord Clancarty?” she asked bluntly.

He took time to consider, studying, meanwhile, every detail of her
charming, ingenuous face and perfect figure.

“I have met him,” he said deliberately, “in Dublin and in Paris.”
Betty’s agitation was quite apparent, but she commanded herself and
looked up bravely.

“He is my husband,” she said simply.

Mr. Trevor smiled involuntarily.

“He is a happy man,” he said gallantly.

She made an impatient gesture, laughing and blushing.

“Tell me how he looks?” she asked; “I have never seen him since he was
fifteen and I eleven. Is he a bugbear? They would have me believe so.”

“On the contrary, I have always thought him handsome, my lady,”
Mr. Trevor said, smiling imperturbably, “and altogether the most
companionable man I know.”

“Indeed!” she exclaimed; “yet you told me you had only met him—twice.”

“In two places,” corrected Mr. Trevor quite unmoved, “but frequently.
He’s a fine man, madam, take my word for it; I love him like a brother;
he has only one fault, madam, one sin, and that, I’ll admit, is
unpardonable.”

“And that?” she queried, with uplifted brows, a little haughtily.

“And that,” replied Mr. Trevor calmly, “is the fact that he has been
able to live for fourteen years without his wife.”

Lady Clancarty flushed angrily, and then she laughed that delicious,
mirthful laugh of hers.

“He has existed, sir,” she corrected him, “because he never knew how
delightful Lady Clancarty is.”

“Exactly,” replied Trevor, “a mere existence; life uncrowned by
love—such love as he ought to have won, confound him—is not life. He
might as well be a turnip.”

“So I have always thought,” she replied, with a charming smile; “but
then, you know, Mr. Trevor, he might not have been able to win it.”

“Not win it!” he exclaimed, “not win it, when he is a husband to begin
with. By Saint Patrick, madam, I’d cut his acquaintance for life! Not
win it? What cannot a man do under the inspiration of a beautiful and
noble woman? Kingdoms have been won and lost for them. If Troy fell for
Helen, an empire might well fall for a woman as beautiful and far more
womanly. I’d run Clancarty through, my lady, if he were not willing to
die for his true love. Irishmen are not made of such poor stuff. No,
no, he would win it, never fear.”

Lady Betty’s chin was up and her eyes travelling over the green turf
again.

“An idle boast, sir,” she said carelessly; “no woman would be lightly
won after years of neglect.”

“Nor should be,” he replied, in a deep tone of emotion, “nor should
be! By the Virgin, Clancarty ought to go on his knees from Munster to
Althorpe in penitence.”

“Faith, what would he do about the Channel, Mr. Trevor?” she asked
wickedly.

“Swim it, madam,” he replied promptly; “a true man and a lover would
not drown—with such a saint enshrined before him.”

“A Protestant saint for a Papist penitent,” remarked Lady Betty
smiling; “what a poor consolation.”

“Love laughs at obstacles, my Lady Clancarty,” said Mr. Trevor, “and it
forgets creed.”

“Oh!” she said and her brows went up.

“There is one excuse, though,” he went on, “one—or I would never speak
to Donough Macarthy again.”

“Oh, there is one, then?” she asked doubtfully.

“One—yes,” he replied gravely; “he is a proscribed exile, madam, this
king of yours has excepted him from the Act of Grace; he cannot return
except, indeed, to the Tower and the block. But, after all, to lose a
head is less than to lose a heart.”

Lady Betty laughed.

“Only one can recover a heart,” she said wickedly, “but a head—I never
heard of one that was put on after the headsman.”

“Nor I,” he admitted, “but, after all, one can die but once.”

“And one can love many times,” suggested Betty; “I have heard that my
Lord Clancarty’s heart is tender.”

“Mere fables, madam,” he replied, with cool mendacity; “his heart is
made for one image only and would keep that—to eternity.”

“His must be a valuable and rare heart,” Lady Clancarty remarked
demurely, “too good, sir, to exchange for a human one.”

“Verily too good to give without a fair exchange, madam,” he replied,
smiling audaciously; “nor will Clancarty cast it by the wayside. I know
him for a man who will love and be loved again. He’s no moonstruck
youth, my lady; when he gives he will demand a return.”

She carried her head proudly. “He should have to win it,” she said.

“He would win it,” Trevor retorted boldly, “and he would hold it.
Pshaw, madam, I despise a milksop, and so do you!”

“You are overbold in your assertions, sir,” Betty said, stopping short
and looking back over the heath, shading her eyes with her fan.

“Bold for a friend, my lady,” he said gracefully, “bold for the absent
who has none to plead his cause.”

Lady Betty laughed.

“Do you see that whirling, frantic thing yonder?” she asked, pointing;
“’tis my Lady Sunderland’s India shawl; she is waving to me. We must go
back, sir; she thinks I venture too near the lions.”

“We must go back, it seems, since you command it,” he replied
regretfully, “but I may see Lady Clancarty again? I may speak to her
of—her husband?”

Betty hesitated for the twentieth part of a second and then she smiled.

“We are at the Lion’s Head,” she said, “and I shall receive my friends
after supper—but do not talk of Lord Clancarty.”

He bowed profoundly, and she moved on, for the India shawl was waving
frantically now and Savile and the others were coming toward them.

“I thank you for the privilege,” said Richard Trevor with his daring
smile; “we will talk of Lady Clancarty.”

But Betty answered not a word; she walked back across the heath,
proudly silent, nor did she cast a single relenting glance behind
her—and thus failed to see the quizzical expression in his eyes.



CHAPTER IX

THE WEARING OF THE GREEN


THAT night was the night of Devonshire’s great ball and all Newmarket
was agog, streets were blocked with fours and sixes—the great coaches
jammed in rows, with fighting, swearing coachmen and postilions. As for
the chairs, they were blocked in so closely that half the chairmen had
black eyes or bloody noses in the morning; and the link-boys, let loose
in this carnival, ran hither and yon, with their lanthorns flaring
in the wind like ministering imps in an inferno, while the country
people and the tavern tipsters and the market women filled up the
last crevices, to see beauty and fashion pass in and out the flaring
doorway, whence came strains of music and the sounds of laughter. The
king, it was true, would not be there; his cough—or despatches from
France, it was whispered—would keep him in bed that festive night, but
Lady Marlborough was there and in her train the Princess Anne. People
had begun already to put the pair in this sequence, and laughed, in
their sleeves, at it and at William’s tolerance, for no one despised my
Lord Marlborough more than that astute, cool-headed monarch, who knew
him to be as false as he was brilliant.

Excepting only the king himself, the whole world of fashion was at
the ball, and the house was dressed with green boughs and flowers,
rushes and sweet seg, and a wassail bowl stood in the hall wreathed
with blossoms. The band was stationed on the staircase landing, the
musicians clad for the occasion in scarlet waistcoats and shorts, deep
clocked scarlet stockings, and coats of yellow velvet stamped on the
back with red roses and on the left breast with the Devonshire arms.
There were female attendants, too, attired quaintly in gay flowered
silks and wearing vizards, who served the fyne of pocras, sobyll bere
and mum below stairs, while above the rooms were lighted by flambeaux
and the floors polished like mirrors for the dancers. There were to be
dances of every sort, from the country romp, “cuckolds all awry,” with
“hoite come toite,” and the more stately galliard, to “Trenchemore” and
the cushion dance and “tolly polly.”

Her Grace of Marlborough, in towering headdress and a gown of red
velvet over a petticoat of cloth of gold, led the first dance with his
Grace of Devonshire, the Princess Anne and the duke being _vis-à-vis_,
but only a poor spectacle by comparison.

The whole house overflowed with the throng. The greatest of the court
were there, Bedford and Ormond and Hartington,—and there, too,
were Godolphin and Somers and a bevy of beauty; ruffles of lace and
gleams of jewels, and here and there the rosy cheeks of the daughters
of the country squires. Old dames looked on from the wall, smiling
and delighted when a daughter danced and frowning at a more favored
neighbor, and the young beaux had no rest, but danced in their tight
French shoes and bowed until their backs were doubled.

But the greatest stir was when Lady Clancarty led the galliard with her
noble host, my lady all in white and gold, with one pink rose in her
hair, her eyes shining, and her cheeks fresher than the rose. Down the
long room they came and her feet scarcely seemed to touch the floor,
and she held her head so high that it almost overlooked his grace,
who bowed smilingly toward her, a stately figure himself as he moved
in his splendid dress down the space left by the dancers, the music
scarcely drowning the murmur of applause. Her Grace of Marlborough was
outshone and she bit her lip and tossed her head.

It was after this, when my Lady Clancarty, flushed and lovely, stood
surrounded by a throng that the Irishman, Mr. Trevor, pushed through
them all to her side. A handsome figure, too, and one which had won
more than one admiring glance that night; a graceful figure clad in
white satin, self-possessed, accomplished. French in manner; he had
caught the trick at Versailles, and his gray eyes looked straight into
hers. The strains of the dance floated up the stairs; my Lord Savile
pressed forward.

“Our dance, my lady,” he said, almost imperatively thrusting between.

For an instant she hesitated and then she smiled and laid her hand in
Mr. Trevor’s, so near that it brushed Savile’s sleeve.

“This dance is promised, my lord,” she said sweetly, and passed out on
the floor with her partner.

The young lord swore in a subdued voice, happily unheard by any one.
All eyes were on my lady and her partner.

“What a pair!” they murmured.

“Mars and Venus!” cried a courtier.

“Venus and Apollo!” said another, and every eye was on them.

Yet the two thought not of it, they danced superbly, it is true, and
with a joy in it, being adepts in the art, but Betty could think of
no one but the man who held her hand, whose eyes held hers, too, by a
spell. Perhaps, she feared a little the mastery of his ways, yet she
had never danced before with such a partner.

“You have learned to dance in France, sir, I think,” she said lightly,
laughing a little.

“Perhaps,” he replied, smiling too, “but I think I learned on the mossy
fields of old Ireland, that I was born a dancer.”

Afterwards they went out on the balcony together, the night air cooling
their faces. Below was the garden, for this was the rear of the house.
It was dark and silent without, but the strains of music floated
through the open windows and the light from within fell on her.

He took something from his breast and pressing it to his lips, held it
out to her.

“Will you wear it, my lady,” he said softly, “the symbol of an
unfortunate country and—of a loyal heart?”

She looked at it strangely, it was a piece of shamrock. Perhaps she
meant to refuse it, but she saw Savile coming and a malicious imp
leaped into her eyes. She took it and tried to fasten it in her hair
but her fingers faltered, and Savile drew nearer; the music, too,
heralded another dance.

“Permit me,” said Richard Trevor, and deftly fastened the shamrock
where the rose had been, that slipped and fell between them on the
floor.

Lady Clancarty’s face was crimson. Trevor knelt on one knee and taking
up the rose kissed it.

“A fair exchange,” he said.

She bit her lip and stretched out her hand to snatch the flower.

“You will dance with me now, my lady?” said Lord Savile.

“You were long in coming,” replied her ladyship wickedly, with mock
eagerness, but not without a backward glance to see the effect of it;
but the coquette was disappointed.

At her words, the Irishman let her flower lie where it had fallen,
and in a few minutes she saw him dancing with the pretty daughter of
a country squire. Lady Clancarty liked it so little that she set her
teeth on her lip and gave my Lord Savile a bit of her temper. Yet she
wore the shamrock, though half the room began to comment upon it.

It was morning when the great rout broke up and the stream of coaches
began to move again. The crowd had stayed; they knew my lord duke’s
generosity and that the broken meats from that fête would keep them for
a sevennight, and they waited to pour at last into the kitchenway and
come out heavy-laden; they were there when the great people went away
in their coaches and chairs.

Lady Sunderland was already in her chair and her daughter was coming
down the stair with a throng of followers, but it was Richard Trevor
who walked beside her.

“The rose I would not take from the ground,” he whispered, “I am no
beggar of crumbs—but the shamrock—”

She smiled and her bright eyes looked beyond him at the throng below.

“The shamrock!” he murmured.

It was not in her hair; had she thrown it away? A step lower down and
she held out her hand and dropped the sprig into his.

“A poor thing, sir, but ’tis yours,” she said, “and you were long in
claiming it,” she added, laughing softly.

At the moment a wreath of flowers, cast from the balcony above, fell
lightly on her shoulders, and she stood laughing, the petals showering
her and falling all about her feet.

He kissed her finger tips gallantly.

“The Queen of the Rout is crowned!” he said.



CHAPTER X

AN IRISH DEFIANCE


MELISSA stood meekly before her mistress.

“My Lady Sunderland’s compliments, madam,” she said, with her usual
purr; “will you play basset to-night?”

“No,” replied Lady Clancarty; “many thanks; but tell my mother that I
am to have guests, and my purse is too thin for basset.”

As the door closed on Melissa, Lady Clancarty rose from her
dressing-table.

“I will wear the pink flowered brocade, Alice,” she said.

Alice opened her eyes. “Oh, my lady,” she remonstrated, “it is too
lovely; I thought you meant it only for the king’s levees.”

Her mistress smiled. “May not the king come here—if he chooses?” she
said mischievously. “The brocade, Alice.”

Unconvinced, Alice brought the garment, a beautiful and costly thing
frosted with rare lace, and as she helped Lady Betty put it on she was
more and more impressed with its charms.

“Oh, my lady,” she murmured, “you do look lovely in it—’tis too fine
by half.”

Betty craned her neck backward, looking over her shoulder into the
glass; the folds of the sheeny satin fell about her, the bodice fitted
like a glove, displaying every curve of her well-rounded form, and
it was low cut, revealing a neck and shoulders like snow. The beauty
smiled.

“Bring me my string of pearls,” she said.

Alice brought them without a word and helped her fasten them about her
throat. Betty looked into the mirror again and then fell to fingering
the bracelet on one round arm.

“Alice,” she said, half laughing, “he is here.”

The handmaid started, looking at her in wonder.

“Who, my lady?—not Lord Clancarty?”

“The stranger we met in the woods at Althorpe,” her mistress replied,
“who would have kissed me for a milkmaid.”

“Indeed, madam, I think he would as lief kiss you as a queen,” Alice
said blushing, “the bold gallant! He is here—and who is he?”

Lady Clancarty clasped and unclasped her bracelet while the roses
deepened in her cheeks.

“He is called Richard Trevor,” she said softly; “a pretty name, Alice,
Richard—rich-hearted, lion-hearted—like our great Plantagenet.”

Alice looked at her in bewilderment. Lady Betty had as many moods as
April: did she mean to fall in love, at last, after all her loyalty to
that unknown and terrible exile? Alice wondered. But saying nothing she
stooped down, instead, to smooth the shining folds of the beautiful
gown.

“Go fix the candles, Alice,” Lady Clancarty said, with a soft little
sigh, “and place a table for cards—and the lute and guitar—place them
there also. Presently my guests will be here.”

The handmaid obeyed, too perplexed by this new mood of my lady’s to
venture on the smallest observation. She had arranged the room with
simple taste when Lady Betty entered it a few moments later. It was not
as large a room as her mother’s, but it was furnished, too, with an
open fireplace where a single log burned, for the nights were chilly.
Candles were set on the mantel and the table, while through the open
door came the buzz of conversation, for Lady Sunderland was deep in a
game of basset with Lady Dacres and his Grace of Bedford. Betty did not
disturb them but observed them from a distance, noticing her mother’s
rouged face and nodding headdress, and Lady Dacres’s pinched and eager
features. The old dame was as keen as any gamester. The mother and
daughter had so little in common that they seemed like strangers, and
the younger countess stood looking at the log in deep thought when
Richard Trevor was announced. As she courtesied, she gave him a quick,
keen glance, but made nothing of that bold handsome face of his, though
quick to note the distinction of his appearance and bearing, those of a
man used to courts as well as camps. She saw it all at a glance, as she
had seen it at first, but she chose to receive him with cool politeness.

“You play basset, of course, sir?” she said demurely.

But he saw the pitfall.

“I’m too poor, madam,” he replied smiling. “I can remember hearing an
old courtier tell how he lost his fortune to King Charles at basset.”

“I trust the king gave it back to him,” she said quickly.

“He made him a lottery cavalier,” rejoined Mr. Trevor calmly.

Betty smiled scornfully. “And for such a king men have died!” she said
significantly.

“Ingratitude is only human at the worst,” he replied, laughing softly,
“and you know, ‘the king can do no wrong!’”

Lady Betty put her finger on her lip, with a glance toward the
card-players.

“You are right,” he said, regardless of her caution, “’tis quite
useless to die for any king. There is only one thing worth dying for,
and that—is supremely worth living for, too.”

“And it is not a king?” she commented thoughtfully, “or a queen?”

“A queen, yes,” he admitted, “but the queen of hearts. The only thing
worth living for,” he said, and his voice grew deep and tender, “and
dying for, my Lady Clancarty, is—Love.”

She blushed and her eyes fell. He had the most compelling glance she
had ever encountered. Those eyes of his would enthrall hers, and she
looked away.

“I never heard of any man dying of it,” she remarked, with a bitter
little laugh.

“That’s because a wise man would rather live for it,” he said; “what
exquisite torment for a man to die and leave it behind him—in the
shape of a lovely widow.”

“Ah,” said Lady Betty, with a roguish smile, “therein lies the sting!”

“Precisely,” admitted the Irishman; “if there’s one thing that could
bring me back to this vale of tears it is my successor!”

“I have heard that in India the widows are burnt on the funeral pyres,”
she remarked, a glow of amusement in her eyes; “you might arrange it so
for the future Mrs. Trevor.”

He shook his head disconsolate. “She’s sure to be a woman of spirit,”
he said; “I couldn’t get her consent.”

Betty shrugged her shoulders. “After all you have said of love you
can’t find a woman to die for it?”

“I would rather she lived for it,” he said, with his daring smile, “and
for me!”

“Men are purely selfish,” she retorted with fine indifference, “it’s
always ‘for me’; hadn’t you better dream of living for her?”

“I do!” he replied promptly; “faith, if I didn’t dream of her I should
immediately expire—she’s the star of my life.”

“Oh!” said Lady Betty, in a strange voice, “it has gone as far as
that?—she is French, I suppose?” she added with polite interest and
elevated brows.

“I never inquire into the nationality of divinities,” he said coolly;
“she’s an angel, and that’s enough for her humble adorer.”

“You Papists are fond of saints,” remarked my lady, tapping the floor
with her foot.

“And sinners,” he admitted.

Betty turned her shoulder toward him.

“What color are her eyes?” she asked, playing with her fan.

“I can’t look into them at this moment,” he replied with audacity, “but
I hope to tell you later.”

She flashed a withering glance at him.

“They are brown,” he announced coolly.

Anger and amusement struggled for a moment on Lady Betty’s face, and
then she laughed and dropped her fan.

He stooped to pick it up and something green and shrivelled fell before
her. Lady Betty put her foot on it. He handed her the fan with a bow.
The voices in the other room rose a little in a dispute.

“What are they saying?” she asked, swaying her fan before her face.

He listened and smiled. “They are talking of Lady Horne’s divorce,” he
said; “what is your ladyship’s view of it?”

She hesitated—and there is a proverb!

“You are a Papist,” she said, “do you believe that a marriage—even a
foolish one—is indissoluble?”

“Certainly I do,” he replied piously; “perish the thought of severing
the tie!”

She reddened.

“So, ’tis ‘for better or for worse’!” she said bitterly, “and usually
for worse.”

“‘Until death us do part,’” he quoted piously again.

Lady Betty started and turned from red to white.

“’Tis a horrible idea,” she said, with a shudder,—Lord Sunderland
would have heard her with amazement,—“no escape for a poor woman who
has been ensnared into a wretched union!”

“A wretched union,” he repeated slowly, a change coming over his face,
“a wretched union; are all marriages so wretched, my lady?”

“A great many of them,” she retorted tartly, and he could only see the
curve of her white shoulder and the back of her head.

He knelt on one knee and began to look around on the floor with an
anxious face. After a moment she looked at him over her shoulder.

“What is it?” she asked, blushing and biting her lip.

“My shamrock,” he said, peeping under the table with an air of
perplexity.

“Do you always carry vegetables with you?” she asked witheringly.

“I have—since last night,” he retorted, still searching.

“And you dropped it here?” she asked innocently.

He passed his sword under a chair and drew it back slowly over the
floor.

“Yes,” he replied, in a tone of deep anxiety, “’twas here.”

She moved to the other side of the fireplace.

“Is that it?” she asked, coolly pointing.

He pounced upon the withered sprig and kissed it, and rising stood
looking at her.

“But,” he said, and a daring smile played about his mouth; he took a
step nearer, “but some marriages are made—in heaven.”

“And others—” Lady Clancarty pointed downward with a wicked smile.

“Ah,” he answered, “those are of earth, earthy; but when love steps in,
then, my lady, then—”

“There comes my Lord Savile,” she said, and smiled sweetly.

“Damn him!” he muttered beneath his breath.

The door opened to admit Lord Savile and Mr. Benham, and her greeting
was cordiality itself.

“Here’s a gentleman who has staked all his fortune on his gray mare and
lost it!” Mr. Benham said, his hand on Savile’s shoulder, “and he has
done nothing but weep for it.”

“Saint Thomas!” exclaimed that nobleman, “I’m not the first to stake
all on a woman and lose.”

“Leave the saint out of it, my lord, when you put the sinner in,” said
Lady Betty.

“Oh, Saint Mary, there goes my last crown!” came from the other room in
the shrill lament of Lady Dacres.

Both Savile and Trevor laughed.

“Change the sex of your saint and you have an honorable example,”
remarked Trevor, as he picked up the countess’ guitar and began to
finger it lightly.

“I’m a ruined man,” said Savile recklessly, “unless that fickle
dame—Fortune—smiles on me to-morrow.”

“You ought to call her a fickle mare, my lord,” suggested Lady Betty
artlessly; “when Fortune runs upon four legs it must needs be more
fleet than upon two.”

Lord Savile looked into her eyes with a smile.

“If love were kind, fortune might fly, my lady,” he said daringly, but
very low.

Lady Clancarty flushed hotly as she turned to greet a newcomer, Sir
Edward Mackie, one of Devonshire’s gentlemen; a young fellow with a
round, boyish face, who had worn his heart upon his sleeve until he
lost it to Lady Betty. But so ingenuous was he, so frankly generous and
devoted, that she gave him now her sweetest smile.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trevor still tuned the guitar, but he had heard Savile’s
whisper to my lady and had watched her face with keen and searching
eyes. Young Mackie brought news for Lady Clancarty.

“Your brother has come,” he said eagerly, “my Lord Spencer; I have
just had the honor to wait upon him. Very proud I am too, my lady,
for is he not one of the new lights of the party, and one of the most
learned young men in Britain?”

She shrugged her white shoulders laughing.

“He is all that, Sir Edward,” she said, “and more—much more,” she
added with a droll expression of despair.

“Much learning doth make him mad,” said Mr. Trevor smiling. “I have
known such cases on the Continent.”

“’Tis instructive,” Betty admitted, smiling at Sir Edward’s boyish
face, “but ’tis dry.”

“Give me a fine horse, a fine woman, and fine music, and all the books
in England might burn,” said Benham.

“Oh!” said Lady Betty, and she lifted her brows with a contemptuous
glance.

“In sequence, according to your valuation of them, sir,” remarked Mr.
Trevor, with a cool smile, “a poor compliment to the sex. But music
expresses something—something only—of the beauty and charm of a fair
woman.”

“Sing to us, do!” interposed the countess, “I despise comparisons.”

“To hear is to obey, my lady,” he replied, beginning at once to play
the sad wild air that made her start and change color.

Would he dare to sing that here? she thought, her heart beating hard;
would he dare? How little she knew him! In a moment his rich tenor
voice, a voice of peculiar charm and timbre, filled the room and even
startled the card-players.

  “’Tis you shall reign alone,
      My dark Rosaleen!
      My own Rosaleen!
  ’Tis you shall have the golden throne,
  ’Tis you shall reign, and reign alone,
      My dark Rosaleen!”

He sang the wild ballad through to the end, and as he ceased, Lady
Betty turned to him and smiled, applauding softly. But she said
nothing, although young Mackie was openly delighted, and Lady
Sunderland exclaimed that it was a marvellous fine performance of a
poor song.

“’Tis an old ballad, madam,” Mr. Trevor replied courteously, “and
perhaps a poor one, but dear to the Irish heart.”

“Sing an English one next time, sir, or a Dutch—la—yes, your Grace of
Bedford, we grow to love everything Dutch.”

Lord Savile meanwhile, with his hands thrust into his pockets and his
face flushed, lounged nearer to the singer.

“A very pretty performance,” he said, with an insolent drawl, “worthy
a tavern musician. By Jove, sir, the tune is pestiferous here; an
Irishman and a cow-stealer are synonymous.”

Richard Trevor smiled, his gray eyes flashing dangerously.

“And English noblemen are often cowards, and liars to boot, sir,” he
said in an undertone, his hand still on the guitar.

“I am at your service,” said Savile, in a passionate voice.

Trevor glanced warningly at Lady Clancarty.

“Elsewhere, my lord, with pleasure,” he said, still smiling, “I might
add with joy.”

Lady Sunderland came in now with her guests; she had won at basset and
was in high good humor.

“A song,” she cried, “another song.”

Her eyes sought Trevor and he bowed gravely.

“At another time, my lady,” he said; “now I must wait on a friend, who
has the first claim upon me. My ladies all, good-night,” and he bowed
gracefully, a certain merry defiance in his glance.

Lady Betty held out her hand involuntarily.

“I thank you for the ballad,” she said and smiled.

He carried her hand to his lips and, it may be, kissed it with more
fervor than courtesy required, for the rosy tide swept over her white
neck and her cheeks and brow.

As he went out, Lady Sunderland tapped her fan upon her lips. “Don’t
tell it,” she said, with the coquetry of a girl of sixteen, “don’t tell
it, but la!—he has the finest figure I ever saw, and the legs of an
Apollo.”

“’Pon my soul, madam, that’s a compliment that’s worth dying for,” Mr.
Benham said, with a peculiar smile at Savile.

Betty seeing it, went over and stood staring into the embers on the
hearth, though she pretended to be talking to young Mackie.



CHAPTER XI

A NIGHT OF PORTENTS


ALICE was combing Lady Betty’s hair late that night.

The two girls were in Betty’s bedroom, a solitary taper burning on the
table. In this rosy twilight both faces showed indistinctly. Betty’s
finery lay upon a chair near by; she wore only a flowing white robe
over her night-rail, and one rosy foot, out of the slipper, rested on
the rug. Her luxuriant hair falling about her almost hid her face, and
her eyes were fixed pensively upon the fire. Meanwhile, Alice stood
behind her combing and brushing her hair with hands that actually
trembled, while her face was very white. If Lady Clancarty had looked
at her, she would have divined some trouble, but as it was she was only
aroused from her revery by the girl’s unwonted awkwardness.

“Dear me, Alice!” she exclaimed, “that is the third time you have
pulled my hair. I shall be as bald soon as Lady Dacres without her
perukes. What ails you, girl?”

“I’m nervous,” Alice said, her voice breaking suspiciously, “I can’t
help it.”

Lady Betty tossed back her hair, snatched up a taper and looked at her
sharply.

“Nervous?” she exclaimed, “why, you are naturally as tame as any
barnyard fowl. Nervous! Why, your eyes are sticking out of your head.
What is it, girl? Hast met your friend the parson again?”

“No, no,” faltered Alice, with a little sob. “I—I overheard some talk
between two gentlemen to-night in the hall—and it scared me.”

Betty laughed merrily.

“Fie, Alice, fie!” she cried, “an eavesdropper! What horrible thing was
it they said? Mercy on us, girl, you look as if they plotted bloody
murder!”

“So they did, madam,” Alice said soberly.

Lady Betty stared.

“The child’s demented,” she remarked, shaking her head.

“That I’m not,” Alice replied bluntly, wiping a tear from her pale
cheek, “but I hate to think of one of them dead—for some folly, too.”

“Oh, ho!” said her mistress, setting down the taper, “now I
understand—there is to be a duel;” then suddenly her mood changed.

“Who were they?” she demanded sharply.

Alice began to show reluctance and her eyes avoided Betty’s.

“Two guests of the inn, madam,” she said, averting her face.

But Lady Clancarty caught her arm and turned her to the light.

“Out with it, Alice,” she said imperiously, “I will know.”

“It was Lord Savile,” the girl said slowly, “and—and another—a
stranger.”

“Our stranger of Althorpe, Alice?” Lady Betty said, a sudden
indefinable change in her whole aspect.

Alice nodded sullenly.

Her mistress stood quite still for a moment, pressing her hands
together. She had shaken her hair about her face again, so that it
was concealed. There was something in her attitude so unusual, in the
silence, too, of the room, where only the fire crackled, and in the
girl’s own nervousness, that quite overcame Alice. She began to cry.

“They fight to-morrow,” she sobbed, “in the meadow beyond the grove of
limes—at sunrise.”

“Who are their seconds?” Lady Betty asked, in a strangely quiet tone.

“Mr. Benham, so I heard them say, and a young fellow with a face like a
boy. He was to act for the stranger because he had no friends.”

“Young Mackie!” said Lady Clancarty. “You heard this and did not tell
me, Alice? I find it hard to forgive you.”

“But why should I?” cried Alice trembling, “what could your ladyship
do?”

Betty gave a strange little laugh. “You shall see what I will do
to-morrow,” she said quietly, “for you shall go with me.”

“Go where, my lady?” Alice asked in surprise.

“To the meadow behind the limes,” replied her mistress calmly; “there
I shall go to-morrow, at sunrise, and stop this folly. It began in my
rooms, Alice, over a ballad, and I have no mind that it shall end in
bloodshed.”

“Indeed, madam, I think you are in the right,” said Alice simply, “but
what can we do? They will never listen to a woman!”

Lady Clancarty shut her lips firmly, and held her little bare foot out
to the fire, warming it.

“I fear you cannot stop them,” Alice went on; “Lord Savile was very
fierce, but the other gentleman—oh, madam, I feared him more! he was
so cool; and those eyes of his—they are like steel.”

“So they are,” said Betty absently, “and hath he not a handsome face?”
and she looked pensively into the fire. “To-morrow we shall go, Alice,
to-morrow at sunrise, and I shall stop this duel—I will stop it, if I
have to go to the king!”

But the little handmaid did not reply; she was watching her mistress
with an anxious face. She did not know the meaning of this new Lady
Betty, and some hint of impending trouble weighed upon her. She was
country bred, too, and timid, and the thought of the gray dawn with the
shadowy trees looming through the mist and only the flash of steel to
illumine the scene, made her tremble. But Betty, usually so observant
and sympathetic and light hearted, did not heed her; she was suddenly
self-absorbed, pensive, quietly determined. She went to the window and
peeped out into the night.

“How many hours until sunrise, Alice?” she asked.

“Six, my lady,” the girl replied with a sigh, “and I wish it might be
sixteen!”

Betty laughed, a strange little embarrassed laugh, coming back and
sinking on her knees before the hearth, the firelight playing on her
lovely face, and the shadowy masses of her hair, and the gleaming white
of her draperies.

“I cannot sleep,” she said softly; “I cannot sleep—I am not fit for a
soldier’s wife!”

Alice shuddered. “Indeed, my lady, I’d as lief marry a butcher!” she
cried, with such genuine horror and disgust that she moved her mistress
to merriment.

“There, my girl, I told you so,” cried Lady Betty, “you were meant for
that same parson.”



CHAPTER XII

MASTER AND MAN


MEANWHILE, under the same roof, but in far different quarters, the
young Irishman called Richard Trevor was talking to his servant, the
same who had led his horse up and down in the inn-yard under Lady
Betty’s window. The room—an attic one—was scarcely ten feet square,
and almost devoid of furniture; there was a pallet, a table, and two
chairs; and a mat of braided straw at the foot of the master’s bed
served for the man’s. A single candle burned low in its socket on the
table, and here Richard Trevor sat with some writing materials before
him, but he was not writing; he leaned back in his chair and listened,
with his amused smile, to the glib talk of his attendant.

“Faix, sir, they be afther charging more here for a bite of mate or
a dhrap of liquor thin in anny ither place in th’ kingdom,” said the
man dolefully; “I’ve bin afther minding yer lordship’s insthructions
about the money, an’ by the Powers, me stomach is loike to clave to me
backbone.”

“We can starve respectably, however, Denis,” said his master smiling,
and turning the contents of his purse out on the table; “a small sum
for our needs, but it must serve,” he added, counting the money with a
reckless air; “besides, one of us may die before we come to the end of
it.”

“We’ll be afther doin’ it here, yer honor,” said Denis gloomily, “from
an impty stomach. Betwane th’ landlord an’ the ranting, tearing Whig
gintry in th’ stable-yard, sir, I’m clane daft.”

“So they’re all for the king in possession, are they?” said Trevor,
in an amused tone; “I hope you’ve heeded my instructions to keep your
tongue quiet in your head and mind your own business.”

“Faix, me lord, I’ve bin afther minding mine, but they’re afther
minding it too, th’ ill-favored thribe!”

“That is because you are an Irishman, Denis; they know that at once.”

“Indade, yer lordship’s mistaken intirely; they’ve no idee at all that
I’m a Munster man,” said his servant, with an air of satisfaction,
“divil a bit of it! Sometimes I’m a Frenchy an’ sometimes I’m a
Dutchy—but an Irishman niver! Lady Clancarty’s woman—a sly divil
with a pair of eyes that be winking etarnally—she’s bin swate to me.
By the Virgin, sir, she’s bin afther thryin’ to sound me about yer
lordship. She looks at me and purrs, for all th’ wurruld, loike a big
white tabby, an’ says she, ‘You’re an Irishman, sir!’ ‘Divil a bit, me
darlint,’ says I, ‘I’m a Dutchman, born at th’ Hague and me mither was
forty-first cousin, wanst removed, to th’ king’s grandmither,’ says I.
‘Ye don’t tell me!’ says she, and her little pale eyes blinked loike a
candle in th’ wind. ‘An’ what’ll be yer name, sir?’ she asks, as swate
as honey. ‘Mynheer Tulipius,’ says I, for I couldn’t think of anither
name for th’ life of me. ‘La, sir,’ says she with a simper, ‘you look
loike a tulip, to be shure.’ ‘So I do, me darlint,’ I replied, and I
thried to make up me mind to kiss her, but, bedad, sir, I couldn’t
do it; there’s something about her that sinds the cowld creeps up me
spine.”

“You’re a great coward, Denis,” said his master smiling, “afraid of a
woman! It’s a new fault in you, and one that I did not expect. As for
this creature, what were her questions about me?”

“‘Yer master’s an Irishman, Mynheer Tulipius,’ says she, ‘that we
all know fer a fact.’ ‘Is he, indade?’ says I, with the greatest
amazement; ‘’tis the first time I iver heard it,’ says I; ‘he was born
in London and his fayther was one of Gineral Cromwell’s Ironsides.’
‘Ye don’t say so,’ says she, ‘how iver did he get on so well at Saint
Germain thin?’ and she blinked a hundred times in a second. ‘Saint
Germain!’ says I, opening my eyes wide; ‘indade, they were so cowld
to him there that he was afther laving before he got there,’ says I,
‘it’s quite well known,’ I wint on, as slick as silk, ‘that whin the
man Jimmy Stuart, rayalized that my masther was in France he put on
a shirt of mail an’ niver took it off at all, even av he was aslape
in his ruffled silk night-rail, for fear he’d be kilt on th’ field of
honor.’ ‘Is that so?’ says she; ‘an’ thin p’r’aps ye’ve met me Lord
Clancarty out there?’ ‘Clancarty?’ says I, squinting hard with wan eye,
‘there was a gintleman of that same name hung jist as I was afther
laving Holland—mebbe he’s yer friend?’ By Saint Patrick, me lord, you
ought to have sane her stare! She sthopped winking thin, an’ looked
loike a cat that’s sane a bird; on me sowl, sir, I looked to see av
there wasn’t a furry tail swinging behind, to wurk th’ charm on me.
‘Clancarty hung?’ says she, clapping her hand to her heart, ‘what for?’
‘Faix, I don’t know, me darlint,’ says I, ‘unless it was for being too
much of a Whig.’ ‘Pshaw!’ cries she, stamping her foot, ‘ye’re a paddy
fool!’ ‘Niver a bit,’ says I, ‘I’m a Dutch wizard, me darlint; just
let me be afther telling yer fortune.’ But away she wint in a towering
rage, an’ left me with me heart broken intirely at the siparation.”

“I fear you did not deceive her,” said Clancarty, with a laugh, and
he unsheathed his sword, running his finger along the blade. “My old
friend needs polishing, Denis,” he added, with his careless air of good
humor, “I’ve a duel on my hands for the morning.”

The Irishman’s face sobered in an instant, and he cast a look of
concern at his master.

“I’m sorra for it, me lord,” he said, with an honest ring in his voice,
“ye’ve no friends here.”

“Except you, Denis,” said his master kindly, “and if I fall, all
my effects are yours—and—” he paused an instant and then laughed
recklessly, “and you can tell the widow.”

“She’s a foine lady, me lord,” said Denis artfully, “’tis a pity to
throw away yer life now.”

“She’s a woman to die for, Denis,” exclaimed his lord, a sudden glow
passing over his face; “but I shall not die—faith, I’ve fought too
many duels to die in one.”

“There’s always loike to be wan too many, yer honor,” said Denis
gravely, “and wan thrust of th’ sword and th’ house of Macarthy loses
its head.”

The young man laughed recklessly.

“And a beggarly exile dies,” he said bitterly. “I fear you are not a
man of courage, Denis; I think I’ve heard of you in the retreat from
Boyne,” he added, with a laughing glance at the dark-faced, sturdy
Irishman.

“Ah, sir, that was the fault of me shoes, an’ I blush for it,” Denis
replied.

“Your shoes,” repeated his master, “and wherefore your shoes?”

“’Twas afther this fashion, me lord,” said Denis gravely; “there was
a scamp of a shoemaker in Dublin that was accused, an’ rightly as I
b’lave, of being allied with the Powers of Darkness, and he was afther
making me shoes. About that time money was scarce, sir, as ye know,
in spite of King James’s brass pieces, and it was glad I was to get
the shoes at all, without bein’ over an’ above particular about the
maker. So whin Danny O’Toole says to me that he’ll make me a blooming
pair of boots an’ thrust me fer the money, niver a thought had I av
the divilish plot he was afther laying aginst me honor. ‘Make ’em
aisy,’ says I, ‘for me feet are sore with the chasing of the English
an’ the Dutch.’ ‘Don’t ye worry,’ says he with a wink, ‘I’ll make ’em
so aisy they’ll walk off without ye,’—and faith, so he did! They were
the beautifullest shoes, me lord, and they fitted me loike the skin
on a potaty, and as fer walking in ’em, they niver touched the ground
unless they stuck fast in a bog, and that wasn’t often. I niver had
such a pair of shoes, nor such comfort, and all wint along as smooth as
lying—until that cursed day of the battle of Boyne.”

“A day when a good many Irishmen had no shoes, Denis,” remarked his
master, “or lost them in running—to our eternal shame!”

“That wasn’t what happened to me, my lord,” said Denis regretfully;
“’twas a black day fer Ireland; yer lordship niver spake a thruer
word! But, as fer me, my shoes had bin running away from me so—the
very divil seemed to be in ’em—that I cut some stout thongs of hide
and bound those boots to me legs before I wint into the battle, fer,
thought I, av I don’t I’ll be afther losing them, the jewels! I was
right in the thick of it, an’ a hot day it was, as yer honor knows,
and but for that divil of a Dutchman that they call king, we moight
have won, but he drove his men through the river loike a demon! Well,
sir, I was right in the thick of the carnage; I’d jist cut a clane
swathe through the Dutch Blues, and I was daling death and desthruction
on ivery side, following in th’ thrack of Sarsfield, whin, all of a
suddent, me shoes turned me around and comminced to run. I was beside
meself with the shame of it, me lord. I cut at those thongs with my
sword an’ I swore an’ called on the saints and the divils, but niver
a bit could I get those boots off, and away they ran, loike the wind,
splash through the mud and the mire, and they niver sthopped until we
reached Dublin; but, my lord,” Denis lowered his voice and winked one
eye, “even my shoes didn’t get there—before King James!”

“Alas, no,” said his master sternly, “it was a king we lacked,” and he
rose and walked twice across the room, his face darkly clouded.

His man watched him keenly, with an expression of deep concern and
simple affection,—the humble devotion of a faithful dog.

“You will clean my sword and call me an hour before sunrise, Denis,” he
said; “I will snatch some hours’ rest, even if it happens to be my turn
to-morrow,” and he laughed as he began to cast off his garments with
his servant’s help.

Denis shook his head sadly. “Ah, me Lord Clancarty,” he said with a
break in his voice, “’twould be a sad day fer me, and you are so ready
to die with a smile on your lips. Ye were iver so, but ye’ll break a
heart some day, me lord, jist as recklessly—an’ ye’ll forgive me fer
saying it.”

“There is not much that I would not forgive you, old Denis,” said the
young nobleman kindly, “we’re old friends and tried. But what have I to
live for at best, unless it be the headsman’s block? I am a proscribed
and penniless outlaw, Denis; if, by any chance, I am recognized, I go
to the Tower. I have no friends here; not even my wife knows who I
am—and why should she? It seems but folly to think of her, when I have
only an exile’s life to offer her—I am a fool, a wretched fool!”

“Indade, me lord, ye greatly misjudge a woman av you think she’ll be
afther counting yer money—or the costs ayther,” said Denis quietly; “a
woman niver thinks of it, bless her heart, she jist falls in love, and
thin to the divil with prudence or wisdom ayther. And, by the Virgin,
me Lady Clancarty is none of yer cowards. I’ve sane the spark in her
eye, me lord, and if it plazes her, she’ll fight yer battles, sir, to
the ind of time.”

Lord Clancarty smiled. “Exactly, Denis,” said he, “but if I do not
please her?”

Denis was on his knees, drawing off his master’s shoes.

“She’d be a blind woman, thin, sir,” he said, “and faix, I’ll wager me
lady knows a foine man whin she sees wan. But, pshaw, sir, by to-morrow
night ye may be stark and stiff and ready for the churchyard,” and
Denis shook his head dolefully.

The earl laughed, throwing himself upon his hard bed.

“Put out the taper, Denis,” he said, “we’ll hope for the best. If
I can’t live for my lady, at least I can die for her—with a light
heart,” and he turned his face to the wall with a laugh.

Denis wiped his eyes on his sleeve and wagged his head again and again,
his mind on the morrow.



CHAPTER XIII

LADY BETTY TAKES THE FIELD


THE sun had not yet risen: earth and sky were softly gray and brown,
with green where the meadows lay, and purple in the shadows. Morning,
like a white flower with a heart of gold, opened in the east. Shafts
of light—the sun’s gold-tipped arrows—quivered on the distant hills,
while the vapors, smokelike and fantastic, floated along the level
lands and the trees loomed spectre-like.

It was chilly, too, with the chill of dawn in the early autumn, and
Lord Clancarty and young Mackie were muffled in their cloaks as they
walked across the fields together. The Irishman was smiling, in his
usual daring fashion, but the younger man was sober and even nervous as
he listened to him.

“I have to thank you, Sir Edward,” Clancarty said, “for standing by a
stranger, but I should look for no less at your hands.”

“I am very glad to serve you, Mr. Trevor,” the young man replied,
blushing like a girl, “I thought Lord Savile’s attitude toward you
quite unwarranted.”

“We Irishmen do not look for courtesy at the hands of our conquerors,
except in a few rare instances,” Clancarty said; “but it is due to
you, Sir Edward, to tell you that my name is not Trevor; I assumed it
for convenience only; I am the proscribed exile, Donough Macarthy of
Clancarty.”

Young Mackie stopped short with a gasp.

“Lady Clancarty’s husband!” he cried, turning deadly pale.

Lord Clancarty bowed. “The same,” he said smiling, “and in telling
you, I confide in your honor not to reveal my identity—even to Lady
Clancarty, unless I fall, and then—I would have her ladyship know that
she was free.”

But young Mackie had not yet recovered his composure; he stared at the
earl strangely.

“Does she not divine your identity?” he asked, and the pain in his face
was so easy to read that Lady Clancarty’s husband smiled again.

“I think not,” he responded; “but we must go on unless we would be
tardy at keeping the tryst.” Then he glanced sharply at the boy, “I
take it for granted that you are willing to stand by me; if not—I
fully pardon you, Sir Edward, and I can go alone.”

Young Mackie’s face crimsoned.

“Nay, my lord,” he said bluntly, “I did not offer to stand by you for
love, but for honor’s sake, and now—I will—for her sake,” and he
raised his hat reverently.

Lord Clancarty bared his own head and kissed the hilt of his sword.

“For her dear sake, sir,” he said; “so let it be, I love you for it,”
and they walked on in silence.

They passed through the grove of limes and entered the field. As they
did so, the sunbeams, sloping from the hills, fell on the tree tops,
but the long meadow was in the shadow. The sweetness of new-mown hay
was in the air; there was a glint of white blossoming still upon the
hedgerow, and beyond, the red brown of new turned earth and green, the
green of the turf and the hawthorn.

Across the meadow from the farther side came Lord Savile and Mr.
Benham, and as the two parties approached they saluted courteously.
Clancarty was smiling, gracious, perfectly at ease, but his opponent
scowled sullenly; some instinct—a brute one doubtless—made him hate
this daring Irishman. Sir Edward, full of boyish importance, beckoned
Mr. Benham aside.

“Can’t we adjust this difference, sir?” he asked; “there is a serious
reason why they should not fight.”

Benham stared at him coolly. “To be sure, so I supposed,” he drawled
indifferently; “but Savile will give you twenty reasons why they
should.”

“For all that, we might adjust it honorably,” urged Mackie, with
feverish anxiety.

“Pshaw, man, we can’t!” said Benham, with contempt; “they’re both in
love with the same woman. You are inexperienced, sir,” he added aloud,
smiling scornfully. “Measure the paces, Sir Edward; the sun is rising,
and the advantage will lie then with the man whose back is toward
it. We will draw lots, sir, so—ah, Lord Savile has drawn the best
position,” and he laughed complacently.

Young Mackie, crimsoned with confusion and annoyance, made no further
effort at a compromise; instead he busied himself with the weapons and
in helping Lord Clancarty strip off coat and waistcoat. Then the two
men confronted each other, sword in hand, and as they did so the sun
looked over the horizon and the meadow suddenly lay in a golden mist as
the sparks flew from the steel.

This was the picture that Betty saw floating in a golden haze, two
strong, lithe figures swaying lightly from side to side and the flash
of their naked swords at play.

“For shame!” she cried, thrusting their weapons aside with her own
white hands, “for shame! So, there is no better cause for a fight than
a song?”

At the sight of her the two men stepped back in sheer amazement,
sinking their sword points in the ground at her feet.

“Ay, shame on you both!” she cried with sparkling eyes; “’tis but a
pretty fashion of murder—and I’ll none of it! Put up your weapons,
gentlemen, for he who draws his here is my friend no more!”

Lord Savile’s sword leaped into its sheath, but Clancarty kissed the
hilt of his and handed it to Lady Betty.

“Madam, my honor is involved,” he said, “and I place it in your hands.”

The color rose in her cheeks and she turned on Savile.

“My lord,” she said wilfully, “I heard it all, and ’tis you who should
ask pardon.”

Savile flushed darkly and folded his arms.

“My lady,” he said, “my sword is at your service, but you ask too much
now.”

“Ah, you will not trust me with your honor, my lord,” she retorted,
with a little laugh.

“Nay,” he replied testily, “a man may not grovel to his foe.”

“Oh,” said Lady Betty, and she glanced at him archly, “is your
reasoning quite sound, my lord?”

Savile bit his lip; he saw Lord Clancarty smile and brush a fallen leaf
from his sleeve with elaborate care.

“Come, come,” interposed Mr. Benham, “let there be peace, since my lady
wills it; and here, too, is young Mackie pining to mediate. My lord,
we cannot quarrel before a lady,” and he spoke a few words very low in
Savile’s ear.

Betty, meanwhile, stood between them, holding Clancarty’s sword in her
hand; her tall young figure outlined in the heavenly morning sunshine,
and the glory of the day in her eyes.

“To put up your sword is naught, my lord, unless there be peace,” she
said, smiling ingenuously, “pshaw, what a petty quarrel! ’Tis like two
women over a cup of tea or a new gown,” and she shrugged her shoulders
prettily.

Lord Savile crossed over to Clancarty.

“Your hand, sir,” he said, and then, as he clasped it, very low,
“another time and another place.”

“I am always at your service,” replied Clancarty with a scornful smile,
and he took out his handkerchief and wiped the palm of his right hand.

The gesture made Lady Betty smile and bite her lip, though she had not
heard the undertone.

“Faith, the morning is so lovely that it augurs a peaceful day,” she
said, with her sweetest manner. “Gentlemen, you are all bidden to join
my Lady Sunderland and me at eleven for a cup of chocolate before we go
to the races.”

“Who could refuse?” Mr. Benham said gallantly; “when men make peace for
your sake, my lady, what would they not do?”

But Lady Betty’s quick eye caught the gloom on the boyish face of young
Mackie. She held out her hand.

“Sir Edward, you will take me home to the inn?” she said.

He colored like a girl and involuntarily glanced at Lord Clancarty;
then catching his lordship’s falcon eye, he bowed in deep confusion.

“I’m only too happy, my lady,” he said.

She stood quite still, her bright eyes on Lord Savile and Mr. Benham.
Then she pointed with her finger toward the farther end of the field.

“Yonder,” she said, “one combatant and his friend retire, and,” she
turned quickly, pointing in the opposite direction, “yonder, the others
go!”

Clancarty laughed. “A safe device, my lady,” he said, “but I could not
fight without my sword.”

She blushed prettily and held it out to him.

“I forgot, sir,” she said.

He took it gracefully, kissing the hand that gave it in spite of her
quick frown of displeasure.

Lord Savile bowed profoundly, his hand on his heart.

“Madam, I obey,” he said gallantly, and retreated with Mr. Benham in
the direction she had chosen, and at the same time Lord Clancarty went
in the other, leaving Lady Betty alone in the field with young Mackie.

Hovering in the distance was the muffled figure of Alice, who had
accompanied her mistress to the grove of limes and halted there, with
her fingers in her ears, lest she should hear the clash of swords.

But Lady Betty saw her not, nor the glory of the day, nor the green
of hedgerows and fields, nor the blooming daisy at her feet. Her eyes
followed the figure of Clancarty, and there was a shadow on her face.
She shivered and drew her cloak about her.

“Come, Sir Edward,” she said, “we must run for it; I am a truant, and
Lord Spencer will put me upon bread and water if he finds me upon such
errands, and faith, sir, I deserve it!”



CHAPTER XIV

THE INN GARDEN


BETWEEN two vases that overflowed with scarlet geraniums, the worn
stone steps of the inn-yard descended directly upon a gravel path in
the old garden. The path—flanked on either side by tall hedges—wound
completely around the garden and through the centre, in a kind of true
lovers’ knot, in the loops of which were all old-fashioned flowers;
pale tea roses—the last of September’s bloom—and mignonette; pansies
and rosemary grew there, and the blue of larkspur. Only a few windows
looked out upon it, and it was a secluded spot where the sun shone
and the pigeons flocked. So still was it, in the farther corners,
that there was scarcely a sound but the soft “kourre, kourre!” of the
feathered visitors.

Here Lady Betty walked slowly, her hands behind her, her head a little
on one side, as she talked to Clancarty, whom she still knew only as
Richard Trevor. She was dressed in white, a bunch of red flowers at her
belt and red plumes in her hat, and either its broad brim or her mood
cast a shadow in her eyes. They were softer, more pensive, and less
sparkling than usual.

“I was only eleven years old, sir,” she said, “a mere baby, and I have
never seen Lord Clancarty since. How should I know how he looks? Is not
my curiosity pardonable? Pray, Mr. Trevor, describe him.”

Her companion had been watching her keenly and now he smiled.

“I’m poor at descriptions, my lady,” he said calmly, “but take my word
for it, Clancarty’s a handsome man.”

“About your height, sir?” asked Lady Betty, casting a quizzical,
sidelong glance at him.

He took time to consider. “Very nearly, I should think, Lady
Clancarty,” he said, “and straight as an arrow—with a good head and
keen eyes, a fine nose, a firm chin—oh, a very handsome rascal, madam,
and quite unworthy of you.”

“Indeed,” said Betty, amused; “you take the side, then, of my family;
they too believe him unworthy.”

“He is unworthy, madam,” said the disguised nobleman gravely, “he is
unworthy; but, in spite of that, I can’t advise you to cast him off.
But for his skill as a swordsman I should have lost my life; I am
therefore, of necessity, his true vassal, Lady Clancarty, and I must
plead his cause.”

Lady Betty’s face changed and she made a petulant gesture.

“No one can plead it, sir,” she said sharply, “he should plead it
himself.”

“He should indeed, madam,” he said earnestly, “but how? Many things
keep back a proscribed exile and a beggar. How can he plead his cause
with the heiress of an earl, a beautiful and gifted and wealthy woman?
What can he offer her? A life of exile, poverty, and obscurity? My Lady
Clancarty, any proud man might well pause.”

But Betty’s chin was elevated, her eyes scornful.

“The pride is, of course, all on his side, sir,” she said coolly;
“there is naught to be said for her. How, think you, does a woman feel
who is deserted by her husband? Ay, more, who is unacknowledged by
him—unclaimed!”

He started and looked at her earnestly.

“You are right, madam,” he said, “it is a grievous fault. I despise
my Lord Clancarty for it, but I know that the day will come when he
will sue for your forgiveness with all his heart. And he has never
known you. He has been in battles, in sieges, in exile, in poverty, in
illness, and he was but a lad when you were wedded. My lady, I can say
no more, even for him; I would fain say it for myself—but for him.”

She flashed a startled, wondering look at him; her heart stood
still—after all, was he? was he not? She did not know, but his eyes
held her; she blushed, palpitated, shrank like a mere child. From the
first, she had thought this man her husband, but now—? An awful doubt
shook her soul. Could it be that he was not? She put out her hands with
a strange gesture as though she would hold him off.

“’Tis fourteen years, sir,” she said, “and he has never written me one
word—or to my family for me.”

“That is not true,” he replied gravely; “I know, from Lord Clancarty’s
own lips, that he has written to your father within a short time, ay,
madam, twice since the Peace of Ryswick.”

“Ah,” said Lady Betty, for a light broke in upon her, and she thought
of the tall old man walking in the gallery at Althorpe, “I never knew
it,” she added quietly, “my whole family opposes any mention of—of my
husband.”

She pronounced the word with a soft adorable hesitation, blushing
rosily up to her very ears, and his eyes glowed as he looked at her.
They turned a loop of the gravel walk and passed Melissa, who huddled
against the hedge, courtesying low. Betty scarcely glanced at her.

“Then there is no one to plead my friend’s cause but your own heart,
Lady Clancarty,” he said quietly, “your own heart and the tie that must
plead for itself a little. I have no eloquence to match the occasion,
willingly as I serve my benefactor.”

“I tell you plainly, sir,” she retorted, “that I will hear only one
suit, and that is from him; nor will I, mark you, promise to hear that
favorably. Love, sir, is not cold and a laggard and full of excuses. If
I am worth having I am worth winning.”

“Madam, I am constrained to tell the truth,” he said in a tone of deep
emotion; “I believe that Lord Clancarty would die to win you.”

“Die, sir,” she said archly, “rather live. Dead he could not win me.”

“Ay, and ’twould be the bitterness of death to lose you,” he said;
“’tis so—even to think of it!”

The break in his words made her heart beat fast, but she was mistress
of herself now.

“Especially after fourteen years of absence,” she mocked wickedly.

“Fourteen years in purgatory, madam,” he replied, his tone full of
pathos, of powerful emotion under restraint; “and when the poor exile
sees at last the gates of paradise!—ah, my lady, you will not close
them in his face?”

She bowed her head a little, looking pensively at the ground. A
thousand emotions swept across her charming face. Then she looked up,
her eyes dancing with mischief,—arch, naughty, daring.

“A singular paradise for my Lord Clancarty,” she said, “a paradise
with a Whiggish Protestant wife in it, and a Whiggish Protestant
mother-in-law, and the greatest Whig in England for a brother-in-law.
Sir, I need enumerate no more.”

The Irishman laughed a little bitterly.

“Madam,” he said, with daring tenderness in his tone, “you know not
what love is! Who would count the cost—who loved? By all the saints,
my lady, love burns away both politics and creeds; death itself is
beaten by it—and hell! Ah, to teach you how to love. ’Twould be worth
purgatory!” his gray eyes flashed, his strong face set itself sternly.

Lady Betty looking at him drew her breath hard; she was almost
frightened. Here was a nature she could not conquer and she could not
scorn. She bit her lip and looked steadily away, her heart beating in
her throat.

“If Lord Clancarty came here,” he said after a moment, in a constrained
voice, “would you see him? would you listen to him?”

She hesitated; she no longer believed that this man might be her
husband; he had succeeded in misleading her, and her whole soul was
tossing and burning in the fire of a new and passionate emotion, but
she tried to think.

“I would see him, yes,” she said with white lips, glancing defiantly at
him, “he is my husband.”

His eyes darkened and his face changed; she could not read it. They had
come back to the old stone steps. At the top appeared Lady Sunderland
and Lady Dacres, too far off as yet to be heard.

“He shall come, then, my lady,” he said very low, looking straight into
her eyes, “he shall come—if he dies for it.”

Lady Betty’s face was as white as her gown, and her fingers trembled as
she swept her skirts aside on either hand and courtesied gracefully.

“I bid you adieu, sir,” she said, and walked up the steps just as Lady
Sunderland called out sharply,—

“Betty, Betty, come and take tea with us, my love, and teach Lady
Dacres that old game of ‘Angel Beast’; she hath forgotten it. La, how
white you are, my dear; a touch of rouge and a patch—you look like a
ghost.”

“I am, madam,” said Lady Betty.

And the two dames stared.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night the ruthless Lady Betty awakened her attendant.

“Alice,” she said, “hast ever heard the legend of King Arthur?”

The poor handmaid yawned.

“Nay, madam,” she replied sleepily, “who was he?”

“A king of long ago, Alice,” Lady Betty explained, “I have heard the
legend from my old Welsh nurse, and part of it relates to his wife, his
queen. She was very beautiful, and she had never seen the king when the
marriage was arranged.”

“Oh, mercy on us, madam!” exclaimed Alice, “and she didn’t know what
he looked like?”

“Not at all,” declared her mistress, “and she set out with all her
maidens to go to his kingdom to be married—”

“Indeed, my lady, couldn’t he come for her—like a decent civil
gentleman?” asked Alice rousing up.

“No, no, he couldn’t come,” said Lady Clancarty, “but he sent his best
friend, a brave and noble knight, to meet her, and she—she thought he
was the king in disguise and—and she fell in love with him, and when
she found out her mistake, and that the king was wholly unlike this
knight, she couldn’t love her husband—she loved instead his friend.”

“My goodness, Lady Betty, how improper!” said Alice horrified, “his
friend was a false man—and no true knight!”

Lady Betty had been sitting on the edge of Alice’s bed but she rose now
and stood quite still, her white figure showing in the darkness.

“But, Alice, she was so beautiful, so fascinating—he couldn’t help it,
he loved her!”

“He could help it,” said Alice stoutly, “he stole her love from her
husband! He could help it, just as a man can help stealing a horse.”

Betty gave a little gasp.

“And the queen?” she said faintly.

“She was a very wicked woman, madam,” declared the moralist, shaking
up her pillows vigorously. “They do say that King Charles had an awful
court; perhaps it was the fashion.”

“Perhaps it was,” admitted Lady Betty, and crept softly back to bed and
wept salt tears in solitude.



CHAPTER XV

MY LADY SUNDERLAND TAKES TEA


A SMOKING teapot and some cups of India ware adorned a table of
polished mahogany, the very best tea service in the possession of the
landlord of the Lion’s Head. And before it sat Lady Sunderland and
her intimate, Lady Dacres. Opposite, Lady Betty was stirring a cup
of chocolate. There was a little black patch on her white forehead
and another on the tip of her rosy chin, and her gown of gold-colored
paduasoy became her well.

A servant brought in a tray with some glasses and a bottle of
usquebaugh, and served the elder dames, who had been pretending to sip
tea. The two worthies were just from the cockpit and had won forty
pounds between them. Lady Sunderland, in a flowered brocade, with a
painted and patched face, could do nothing but simper, and even old
Lady Dacres grinned placidly, while the younger countess watched them
from under her dark lashes and made no comments.

“La, Betty, there never was such an obliging man as young Savile,” said
Lady Sunderland, sipping her usquebaugh; “he ran about at the cockpit
to wait upon us, and his wit—take my word for it, we’d have lost fifty
pounds but for his judgment of the birds.”

“Oh, he knows whose mamma to wait upon!” said Lady Dacres, with a sly
wink at her friend; “how sweet the young fellows are to the mother of
such a daughter.”

Lady Sunderland tittered. “There was a time when I thought it was the
mamma and not the daughter,” she said, with a simper; “but now it’s,
‘How’s Lady Clancarty?’ and ‘Where’s your ladyship’s daughter?’ and ‘My
compliments to the fair Lady Elizabeth.’ La, how the beaux smirk and
bow!”

“Now’s your chance, Betty, dear,” said Lady Dacres; “don’t make ’em
dance too long, my girl, we can’t be young but once.”

Betty gave her a cold stare. “I’m already married, madam,” she said,
and pushed the bottle nearer to the elbow of the old peeress; “take
another drop, my lady, ’twill sustain you under the blow.”

Lady Sunderland set down her glass and fixed her daughter with an
irate eye, but before she could give voice to her wrath they were
interrupted by the entrance of Lord Spencer. He came in with an air
of cool elegance, faultlessly attired, and bowing gracefully to the
three women, kissed his mother’s hand, and took his place with his back
to the window, overlooking them with an air of superiority that was
peculiarly exasperating to his high-spirited sister.

“La, my dear, what a happy woman you are,” Lady Dacres said, in an
audible aside to Lady Sunderland, “to be the mother of two such
beautiful children. ’Pon my soul, Spencer would have broken my heart at
eighteen!”

“Nay, you would have broken mine, madam,” Lord Spencer replied
gracefully.

She giggled and took another draught of usquebaugh, following Lady
Clancarty’s suggestion.

“Tell us the news, Spencer,” said Lady Betty impatiently, with a
contemptuous glance at the old woman.

“The king is better,” said her brother, with a drawl, “and the Princess
of Denmark did not go out to-day because of a quarrel with Lady
Marlborough.”

“Poor soul, she’s little better than a slave,” remarked Betty
scornfully; “is that all?”

“No; the news of the day is the duel. It has just come out that Sir
Thomas Compton shot and killed his brother-in-law last Tuesday.”

Lady Sunderland gave a little scream of surprise. “What? Shot Lord
Fraunces?”

Spencer nodded gloomily.

“And wherefore?” demanded his sister.

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Because he was a traitor,” he said coolly; “he kept his horse saddled
in his stable ready for flight, and two grooms at his beck; this made
Compton suspect him. So he went down to Deptford, on pretence of seeing
his sister, and he found the fellow was in league with the French party
and—There was a quarrel and he shot him. There’s an article about it
in the _Post-Boy_.”

“The cold-hearted brute!” cried Betty; “his poor sister loved her
husband dearly. Where is she?”

“Mad as Bedlam,” replied her brother coolly; “a man must do his duty,
even if it kills his sister.”

“Oh, I suppose so,” said Lady Betty, rising, “he must stab her to the
heart and glory in it—for his party,” she added mockingly; “a fine
spirit, sir, I admire it!”

“So do I,” he replied pompously, staring at her with hard eyes; “a man
must do his duty, like a Spartan, to his king, his conscience, and his
party. There are examples enough in the history of Greece and of Rome,
lofty—”

“Nonsense!” cried Lady Betty vigorously, “to the wind with your
examples. Give me a noble heart, a Christian life, a brotherly love, a
willingness to live and die for high purposes. Poor Lady Fraunces!”

“Oh, never you mind, my dear,” put in old Lady Dacres, with a titter,
“she’ll get over it. Grief doesn’t kill; her mother had three husbands
and—” she whispered a scandal behind her fan to Lady Sunderland, who
was so overcome with her wit that she rocked with laughter, wiping the
tears from her eyes.

“Your sympathy is quite absurd,” said Spencer, looking straight into
Betty’s eyes. “Sir Thomas did his duty. I would have sent a traitor
brother-in-law to the block, madam, quite as cheerfully.”

“And your sister also, I presume,” she replied, courtesying
profoundly; “from my heart I thank you, my lord.”

“Oh, la, Betty, drink your chocolate and don’t be a fool,” said her
mother petulantly.

Betty smiled sweetly.

“I thank you,” she said, “I have quite finished it. I will send some
more to my Lord Spencer,” and she walked out of the room with her head
in the air.

Half way across the hall she met a servant, the Irishman Denis. He
stopped her with a bow, one hand on his heart and an air of great
secrecy and gallantry, and he handed her a letter. She took it as
silently, and when she reached her own door she hid it in her bosom for
she knew that Alice Lynn was there. The girl had been folding up her
ladyship’s finery and looked up at her entrance.

“Everything is ready now, my lady,” she said, “and if it pleases you, I
will go into town a little way to buy that ribbon for you.”

“Certainly, Alice,” Betty assented with alacrity, “and here is the
money; and stop, too, at the haberdasher’s and buy some more of that
silk; and here, my girl, get some pink ribbon for that Sunday frock of
yours, I will have you look your best.”

Alice courtesied and thanked her, blushing with pleasure.

“You are so dear a mistress to me, madam,” she said tenderly, “I am not
half worthy of it.”

Lady Clancarty patted her cheek.

“Do you love me, Alice?” she asked pensively.

“Dearly, madam,” said the girl, simply, “and I would serve you—as my
family served yours—faithfully forever.”

Lady Betty sighed.

“I may need it,” she said, and busied herself examining some lace and
ribbons that Alice had just laid aside.

“I trust you may need nothing but my love and service, madam,”
Alice said; “may happiness and love and honor ever attend my dear,
dear lady,” and she went on talking cheerfully of the fair day, the
sunshine, and the gay scene without, for she saw a shadow on the
countess’ face and it troubled her loyal heart.

But Lady Clancarty said not a word. Instead, her eyes avoided the
girl’s honest glance; she blushed and paled like a guilty thing, but
an adorable smile trembled on her lips. Not until Alice went out,
closing the door behind her, did Betty move. Then she shot the bolts
and drew forth the paper from her bosom; she looked over her shoulder,
smiled, carried it half way to her face, started, and held it off
again, opening it, at last, under the window. The sheet was closely
covered with writing and she read it eagerly, and her hands quivered so
that the paper shook, and she fell on her knees beside the window and
leaning her arms upon the sill, buried her face upon them. She knelt
there a long time, the sunlight touching her hair and the beautiful
curves of her shoulders. After a while she rose, and going slowly to
the mirror stood looking at herself, the crumpled paper in her hand.
Her face was white as snow but beautiful, with quite a new and tender
beauty. She scarcely knew herself, even when she smiled, nodding at her
own reflection.

“’Tis he!” Lady Betty murmured to the mirror, laughing softly, “’tis
he! Oh, my prophetic heart—I knew it!”



CHAPTER XVI

MY LORD CLANCARTY


THERE was a ball that night at Newmarket, but Lady Clancarty did
not go, in spite of the commands and entreaties of Lady Sunderland.
The elder countess was particularly anxious to display her handsome
daughter at the assembly, and nothing could exceed her anger and
chagrin at the younger woman’s obstinacy. By afternoon the quarrel
waxed so hot that Betty pleaded illness and went to bed, as a last
resort, and stayed there, too, in spite of her mother’s rage. Lady
Sunderland, who in a passion could forget herself and use such language
as only a fish-wife or a woman of fashion could command, heaped
recriminations on her daughter, and screamed and chattered and swore
a little, too, for my lady was a pupil—and an apt one—of the court
of Charles the Second. But Lady Betty was more than her match in wit
and strength of will, and she won the victory. When the hour for the
ball arrived, her mother had to go with Lord Spencer and leave her
daughter calmly ensconced in bed, defiant and triumphant. The Countess
of Sunderland’s chair was brought to the inn door, preceded by the
link-boys with their lanthorns, and the lady was helped into it by her
son, her very headdress quivering with rage and the color of the paint
upon her cheeks enhanced by the flush of anger.

“The minx!” she exclaimed to Spencer, “I don’t believe she’s ill at
all; it’s nothing but her obstinacy and some fancy she has about that
scapegrace, Clancarty. The saucy little baggage defied me, and looked
as lovely as any nymph all the time! Your father must see to it—there
must be a divorce from that creature, or next thing, she’ll run away to
France with him; she’s equal to it, the little wretch!”

“Never, madam,” said Spencer solemnly, “I’d see her dead first—before
she disgraced the family!”

If the truth be told, this was too much for the countess; she gasped
and stared uneasily at this self-righteous young man, who certainly
resembled her as little as he did the versatile and unprincipled
Sunderland.

Meanwhile, the invalid at the Lion’s Head had miraculously recovered
and dressed herself with the assistance of Alice, who viewed the whole
proceeding with amazement and distinct disapproval. She knew that Lady
Clancarty had not been ill and she looked upon the stratagem as an
unworthy deceit. Her mistress, reading her as easily as an open book,
understood the girl’s mood and said nothing to her. Instead, she set
her the task of lighting the candles in the room where she received
her guests, and seeing that the servant replenished the wood fire and
drew the curtains. Finally she came in herself, a charming figure in
pink, with a single rose in her hair. Finding everything arranged to
her satisfaction, she dismissed her attendant and waited quite alone,
standing before the hearth and gazing pensively at the fire. Though she
was outwardly calm, a storm was raging in her bosom. He had asked for
this interview and he was coming, and now she shrank from the thought
of this meeting with sudden trepidation. She bit her lip and stared
into the fire, but her hands quivered and her heart beat almost to
suffocation. She had thought of this moment many, many times—girlish
day-dreams of her lover and husband coming to claim her—but she
had never pictured anything like this. A proscribed rebel, who was
forced to see her secretly, and the man himself—ah, that was it! Here
was a powerful personality that she had never imagined; there was
something in his eyes, his voice that drew her to him with so strange
a fascination that it frightened her. She knew just how he would look,
just the flash in his gray eyes, the deep tones of his voice, before
she saw him enter. She struggled with herself when she heard his tread
in the hall and knew it—and she was listening with strained ears, when
the door was opened for him. But Lady Betty was not one to show the
white feather; she drew her breath hard and straightened herself, and
then she opened that fan of hers—a beautiful affair from one of the
India houses in London—and she swayed it to and fro shading her face.

Lord Clancarty came into the room with a springing step, his face
flushed and his eyes shining; he wore, indeed, the air of a conquering
hero. But, almost at the threshold, he halted and stood gazing at Betty
in amazement. She was still standing before the fire, slowly wielding
the fan, her face averted, pale, cold, her chin up. Nothing could have
been more frozen than her attitude; it chilled even his ardor, and
he stood, with his hat in his hand, and for a few moments there was
silence. Then Lady Betty broke it.

“I received your note, my lord,” she said, in an icy tone.

“The devil you did, madam,” he said, “I should think that I had sent
you a cartel—from your manner of receiving me! Faith, my lady, you
seem marvellous glad to see your husband.”

A shadow of a smile flickered in Betty’s eyes.

“A welcome kept too long grows cold, sir,” she replied.

He took a step toward her, tossing his hat upon the table, and
something in his face made her back closer to the fire; he saw it and
stopped, smiling.

“You do not believe in me,” he said reproachfully; “I would have wooed
you and won you, dear, but for the cruelty of fate. I am your husband,”
he added softly; “does not that plead a little?”

“A childish contract, a mere formal mockery,” replied Lady Betty, cool
as ice, looking at him across the candles, “I should not dream of
being bound by it—no generous man would base any claim upon it, sir;”
she told this falsehood glibly, though her very soul shook under his
glance.

The blood rushed up to his forehead.

“Have I based any claim upon it, madam?” he asked proudly.

This blow went home; her ladyship turned crimson and bit her lips in
silence.

“Nay, you do not know me,” he said, and his rich Irish voice deepened
and softened with restrained emotion; “I would scorn to base any claim
upon a tie not freely made—for you were a child—but I thought,” he
paused, searching her face keenly, “I thought your husband might win
your heart, my lady.”

She gave him a quick look, and then her eyes avoided his and she
struggled hard for self-mastery. If he had known it then—one word
more, one step farther—but he waited for her reply, and the wayward
mood came back upon her.

“Fourteen years, my lord,” she said, shrugging her shoulders, “and
then, you plead your title to my—my affections!”

“Fourteen years,” he repeated slowly, “fourteen years less of paradise,
Betty, is not that enough punishment for me?”

She averted her face and did not reply. He came a step nearer and she
felt his hand closing over hers.

“Would you have come but for the Peace of Ryswick?” she asked, looking
up into his eyes.

He smiled. “If we had won before,” he replied, “if we had only won—I
would have come, a victor, to claim you. Betty, I did not know you, I
had never pictured you as you are! I went to Althorpe like a thief in
disguise, to see you, and from that moment in the greenwood, I loved
you—I love you madly now!” he whispered, and she felt his breath warm
on her cheek.

She did not dare to look at him now.

“I love you,” he said softly, “and—does my wife care nothing for me?”

Before she realized it he had his arm around her, his lips almost
touched hers. Then she broke away from him, her eyes flashing, her face
on fire.

“You go too far, sir,” she cried angrily, “you say you base no claim
upon our relation, and then—and then—” she stopped, her breast
heaving, tears in her eyes.

He smiled. “And then? I would have kissed you,” he said, “by Saint
Patrick, I would give a kingdom—if it were mine—to kiss you, but I
will not force you to it, Lady Clancarty!”

“You dare not!” she flashed at him angrily.

His eyes blazed. “I dare not?” he repeated, “forsooth, madam, that is
an ill word to use to Donough Macarthy; I dare—anything! But I want no
woman against her will. I wouldn’t give that, madam,” he snapped his
fingers, “not that—for you without your heart!”

She was silent for a moment, but the expression of his face, his
masterful manner, stung her pride and angered her.

“You are a proscribed traitor, my lord,” she said angrily, “how can you
ask me to share your life?”

His look withered her.

“Madam,” he said, “I ask for your love. No loving woman ever thought
of valuing her husband by his misfortunes. I am a beggar and an exile,
my lady, and I have done wrong to sue for your heart. I see that—like
your father—you value men by their positions in the world!”

Her face was crimson. “You insult me, my lord!” she cried passionately.

“Did you not insult me?” he asked bitterly; “do you not infer that I
only ask you because I am broken in fortune and name—a bankrupt? But
look you, my lady, I cringe at no rich man’s door for his daughter!”
he paused, and his red-hot anger suddenly turned to ashes; his eyes
dwelt on her with an affection that moved her deeply; “I love you,”
he said, “I would have sued for your heart on my knees—but, madam, I
will take scorn from no one—not even from you. In exile, in illness,
in suffering, I have often thought of you—your face shone like a star
upon me, your pictured face, Betty, and when I saw you, ah,” he paused,
looking into the fire, “I love you still—but you are Lord Sunderland’s
daughter. He has scorned the ruined Irishman, and you—you scorn me
too, it seems. Farewell, my lady, you are my wife—but henceforth I
seek you no more. If you love me, ’twill be for you to tell the exile,
the proscribed traitor, so.”

Betty threw out her hands wildly.

“You wrong me, sir,” she protested faintly; “I did not mean to reproach
you with poverty; I—I spoke in anger.”

But he stood like a statue.

“You do not love me,” he said, his deep voice quivering, “and mark you,
Lady Clancarty, I will have nothing but your love—your love; I shall
take no less! I love you, you are my very own, my wife,” his tone was
masterful, “but I, who love you, I will not sue for your heart. I am
too poor, madam, I will not ask you to share an exile’s lot, you are
too great a lady,” he took his hat from the table and bowed profoundly.

He longed to catch her in his arms and kiss her, but he was too proud;
he bowed and she courtesied low, and in the dim light of the candles he
could not see the pallor of her face, he could not hear her heart beat.
Pride met pride.

“I bid you farewell, my lady,” he said, and bowed himself out of the
room.

And Betty fell upon her knees beside the table and laid her proud head
down upon it and wept as though her heart would break.

“Oh,” she sobbed to herself, “I am a beast, a heartless little beast,”
and then she wept again, this being the manner of women.

And she did not see the door of Lady Sunderland’s room open
noiselessly, upon a tiny crack, stay so a moment, and then close again
as silently. She neither saw nor heard it in the passion of her grief.



CHAPTER XVII

AT THE TOY-SHOP


THE star of Lady Clancarty’s fortune for that week at Newmarket was an
evil star. For it was the very day after that fateful interview with
her husband, a day that dawned after a night of repentance and good
resolutions, that another straw turned the tide against reconciliation.
Lady Sunderland’s party had spent the forenoon at the theatre, and on
their way to the race-course they stopped at Master Drake’s toy-shop on
the promenade; a shop famous not only for the toys and trinkets of a
kind that amused the women of fashion, but for the tea that he served
in a little room in the rear, which was divided into stalls like those
in coffee-rooms. Here both beaux and belles congregated to sip tea, and
gossip, and raffle for some choice toy from India.

The shop, recently replenished by its wily proprietor, was a glittering
mass of novelties and almost vied with the famous India houses of
London in its collection of Oriental articles. Here were hideous
dragons of porcelain, snuff-boxes with jewelled lids, and canes of
the latest fashion, jars of snuff and pulvillo, and bottles of rare
perfumes, gilded flasks of cut glass, boxes of patches ready cut for
the cheeks and brows of the beauties, ivory combs and fans of wonderful
and beautiful design, delicate tea-sets and many bits of Dutch china,
first accepted because of the example of Queen Mary, gloves and laces
and even India shawls. Here, too, were toys, jewelry, cogged dice,
masks, dominoes and vizors, and here, as in London, the discreet
toy-men handed _billets-doux_ back and forth and made appointments
between the beaux and belles; and here many a meeting took place, and
many a momentous question was settled for all time, either in the
toy-shop itself or in the stalls behind it, where the world of fashion
reigned.

My Lady Sunderland and my Lady Dacres were no sooner there than they
were plunged in the excitement of a raffle for a hideous china dragon,
and almost came to blows for the possession of the treasure. But Lady
Betty, quite indifferent, stood apart talking to a group of gay young
people near the entrance. My Lord of Devonshire was there, and the
Marquis of Hartington, and in their train, young Mackie, upon whom
the Countess of Clancarty smiled; and there, too, was Lord Savile,
who had been at her elbow all the morning and would have declared his
passion for her had he dared. And she was in a reckless mood; her eyes
sparkled, her cheeks glowed, and she laughed and jested, though her
heart ached.

The king was well enough to be present at the race in the afternoon
and all the world was agog to see him. The throng at the toy-shop grew
greater as the people stopped on their way from the theatre to the
track, and the group at the door grew larger with Lady Betty in the
centre of it, sparkling and flushing and laughing, the picture of a
beautiful coquette.

“All the great men go up to Parliament next Wednesday, Lady Clancarty,”
said Mr. Benham, “and we shall see your brother shine as the bright
particular star of the Whig firmament.”

“A star—a constellation rather; the Little Bear of the party,” laughed
Lady Betty roguishly; “what will you do this season, my Lord of
Devonshire?”

The great man smiled benevolently upon the beauty.

“Whatever your heart desires, madam,” he replied gallantly.

Betty flashed a quick look at him.

“Will you indeed, my lord?” she asked archly; “what if I should ask a
great boon—even half thy kingdom?”

Devonshire looked at the beautiful, flushed face and marvelled.

“Even that, dear Lady Betty,” he replied courteously, “even that.”

“I have your word, my lord,” she said, and laughed softly.

“And mine,” murmured Savile, in her ear, “you have not asked—but it is
the whole of my kingdom.”

“Ah,” she said, and gave him a roguish glance, “I do remember—but not
your entire trust in my decision!”

He blushed crimson. “I upheld my honor then,” he murmured, looking into
her eyes; “my heart is yours—to break at will!”

Her expression changed, changed so sharply that he looked around,
following the direction of her glance, and saw the face of the man he
hated—the Irish Jacobite. Lord Clancarty stood just within the door,
his eyes holding Betty’s against her will. Savile heard her quick gasp,
saw her hands flutter, and he thrust himself between with a black look
at Clancarty. But Lady Betty, trying to collect herself, met young
Mackie’s eyes and saw that he knew. The blood rushed to her temples but
she laughed.

“My lord,” she said to Devonshire, “does your horse run to-day? or my
Lord Savile’s gray mare?”

Devonshire smiled. “Both, my lady,” he said, “and Savile will be a
bankrupt before night—in all but love, I suspect.”

“A poor substitute for a full purse, my lord,” she said recklessly,
without taking thought of her words until she felt rather than saw
Clancarty’s grave look at her. “I mean,” she stammered, “in my Lord
Savile’s case—” and then she stopped, covered with confusion.

Never had Lady Betty made so many mistakes, but young Mackie came
valiantly to her aid.

“Have you heard the rumor that the King of Spain is dying?” he asked
innocently.

“He has been dying for a long time,” remarked Mr. Benham laughing, “and
the King of France and the emperor are dying of anxiety.”

“Precisely, and but for our king there would be a war for the
succession within a week,” said Devonshire thoughtfully; “as it is, the
peace of Europe hangs by a thread—the narrow thread of a sickly man’s
life.”

“Yes,” put in Betty, herself again, “and Parliament is for cutting down
the military establishment.”

Devonshire smiled. “The people do not love a standing army, Lady
Clancarty,” he replied.

“No,” she responded quickly, “they would perhaps prefer a French fleet
in the Thames.”

“Some of ’em would,” said Savile sullenly.

“No, sir, you are wrong,” declared Devonshire, “no Englishman
would—not even a Jacobite—when it came to that. You remember how the
southern counties rose to repulse Tourville’s squadron in ’90?”

“You are in the right, my lord; no true Briton has ever thought of
seeing his country under the heel of Louis,” said Clancarty, suddenly
taking part in the conversation.

“Some traitors—who are not Englishmen—would, Mr. Trevor,” sneered
Savile, with an emphasis on the name.

The disguised earl shot a fierce glance at him and smiled dangerously.

“Little dogs snarl when they dare not bite, my lord,” he said suavely.

“Since the famous peace, sir, all the renegades and cutpurses talk
loud,” replied Savile, in an insolent undertone.

“Cowards always insult men in the presence of women,” retorted
Clancarty smiling.

At this moment they were interrupted by a movement of the throng, some
passing out, and my Lady Sunderland, having won her Chinese dragon from
all competitors, bore down upon them flushed with triumph, and the
chairs were called.

Betty stood a moment at the threshold. Clancarty was beside her, his
face quite grave. She looked up; the impulse was in her heart to speak
and their eyes met but his were cold.

“You choose wisely, my lady,” he said, in a bitter undertone, “a full
purse is better than a beggarly love, it seems.”

She flushed crimson.

Savile thrust himself forward and held out his hand.

“Permit me to put you in your chair, my lady,” he said, grace and
courtesy personified; handsome, well dressed, courtly, the very picture
of a deferential lover.

“A thousand thanks, my lord,” she said sweetly, putting her hand in his.

He put her in her chair and the procession started, Lady Sunderland
screaming to the toy-man about the careful packing of her dragon, and
Betty looked out smiling, more charming than ever.

A moment afterwards, Clancarty and Savile faced each other.

“This very evening would be propitious, my lord,” said the Irishman
coolly, “the same spot, I believe, and the same seconds?”

“At your service, sir,” said Savile fiercely, “and damn you, I mean to
kill you!”

“I’m beholden to you, my lord,” replied the earl, and laughed as he
walked away.

“Ah, Betty,” he said to himself, as he passed on toward the Lion’s
Head, “is a coquette worth dying for?” and then, after a moment, he
hummed two lines of the old song:—

  “A second life, a soul anew,
      My dark Rosaleen!”



CHAPTER XVIII

THE DUEL


“DENIS,” said Lord Clancarty laughing, “in five minutes they will be
here and in ten I may be dead.”

“Divil a bit, my lord,” said Denis hopefully, “unless you are kilt
intirely.”

But there was a strange look in the faithful Irishman’s eyes, a look of
mute suffering. Lord Clancarty slipped a ring off his finger and gave
it to him.

“Denis,” he said, in an even voice, quiet and cheerful, “if I fall,
take that to Lady Clancarty and tell her that she is free.”

“Yes, my lord,” replied Denis, in a dull tone, not looking up.

“Even if I do not fall, you will take it to her with that message,”
continued the earl, looking across the meadow at the approaching
figures of his opponent and their seconds and, perhaps, his thoughts
dwelt on that morning when Lady Betty put the swords aside. “We will
leave here to-morrow, Denis, or—” he shrugged his shoulders, “there is
little money left.”

“Faix, we’ll have to see th’ Jews again, me lord,” said the man
dolefully; “they’re afther bein’ me most familiar friends, the jewels!”

Clancarty laughed.

A moment later he was bowing with ceremonious courtesy to Lord Savile
and Mr. Benham. Young Mackie came up, too, bringing a fourth person.

“I brought a surgeon, gentlemen,” he said half apologetically; “Dr.
Radcliffe, my Lord Savile and—Mr. Trevor.”

Dr. Radcliffe, a large man wearing a rich but old-fashioned dress and a
huge periwig, bowed gravely. He had a large practice and was famous for
a freedom of speech that had once gone so far as to offend King William.

“I have to thank you, gentlemen, for furnishing me with patients,” he
remarked dryly; “let me beg you not to be too thorough.”

“’Tis to be to the finish, doctor,” said Clancarty coolly, that
dangerous smile on his lips.

“A devilish poor plan,” said the doctor, with a shrug; “it will take
more than my skill to resuscitate a corpse.”

“We shall not expect a miracle—even from the great Dr. Radcliffe,”
replied Clancarty.

Mr. Benham and young Mackie were measuring the ground. Denis, in the
meantime, turned his face away and looked toward the setting sun; it
may be that he was wishing for the shoes he wore at Boyne, but it is
not recorded. The clouds overhead were red and the level meadows bathed
in the slanting rays of light; long shadows fell across the scene; a
bird sang in the grove of limes.

The two men stepped into the open, stripped of coats and waistcoats,
their white shirts showing vividly against the green background. Lord
Savile was flushed, but Clancarty’s face was singularly serene. The
signal was given; their weapons flashed, and there was the sudden ring
of steel on steel.

Ah, ’twas a wonderful duel; afterwards, men spoke of it as a kind of
triumph in the art of duelling, and Dr. Radcliffe described it to the
Princess Anne and the Duke of Marlborough. Clancarty was an Irishman
and therefore a born fighter, though the Englishmen of that day thought
all Irishmen cowards because the poor, barefoot peasants ran before
the trained battalions of the English and Dutch. Moreover, the young
earl had served a long apprenticeship on the Continent; and in France
duelling was the breath of men’s nostrils. Clancarty fought that day
recklessly and beautifully; he was lithe and graceful as a panther,
with a wrist like steel and an eye that never faltered, and he had
met no mean antagonist; my Lord Savile was counted one of the best
swordsmen in the Guards, and hating his opponent he fought with fury.

Steel ground on steel and the sparks flew, thrust and parry, point and
blade, stroke on stroke. The others watched in breathless admiration;
they even forgot their individual interest in the struggle and stood
gaping like schoolboys. Both men were tired, yet both played on, evenly
matched, relentless and reckless. There was a sudden thrust over
Savile’s guard and then, in an instant, Lord Clancarty’s sword snapped
at the hilt, just as Savile’s crossed it and passed into his breast. It
was over in a moment, and he lay full length on the turf and the blood
was flowing from a cut in his antagonist’s neck.

“Oh, my lord, my own dear lord!” wailed Denis, falling on his knees,
and even Lord Savile’s face was white as chalk.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the dimly lighted hall of the inn that night, Denis, with a lined,
drawn face, white as a dead man’s, laid something in Lady Betty’s hand.

“Me lord’s greetings to me lady,” he said in a strained voice; “I was
to give ye that an’ say, ‘Ye are quite free’!”

Lady Betty stared at him wildly. She read a message of calamity in his
face.

“What is it? What has happened?” she cried.

But the Irishman only gave her one look of deep reproach and plunged
down the stairs into the hubbub of the court.

Clancarty’s ring and “you are free”!

She swayed so that Alice Lynn, who came running toward her, caught her
in her arms and almost carried her to her room.



CHAPTER XIX

MY LORD SAVILE REAPS HIS REWARD


LADY SUNDERLAND was, as usual, playing cards with her crony. The game
was gleek, and Lady Dacres was determined to be avenged for the loss
of the Chinese dragon—grinning hideously from the mantel—and she was
betting and cheating desperately. Dr. Radcliffe made a third, and Lord
Spencer looked on—politely bored.

The tapers burned brightly and Lady Sunderland simpered and nodded her
head at Dr. Radcliffe, though she would not have tolerated his society
if he had not been physician to the Princess Anne and she hoped to
extract some royal gossip from him.

The host of the Lion’s Head came in himself, with a servant bearing a
large loving-cup of silver. The good man was flushed and obsequious and
plainly out of sorts, keeping a weather eye on Lord Spencer.

“Will your ladyship be pleased to try this hypocras?” he said, bowing
low; “’tis of my own brewing and I’ll warrant it the finest in the
county—I had the rule from the keeper of Man’s,” and he rubbed his fat
hands together unctuously.

Lady Dacres tasted first and rolled her eyes up.

“Ambrosia!” she said, “oh, la—I mean nectar, don’t I, Lord Spencer?”
and she tittered like a girl of sixteen.

Dr. Radcliffe drank some deliberately.

“Better than the brandy you sent us this afternoon,” he remarked, with
a twinkle in his eye.

The man grew crimson. “’Tis for a better purpose,” he stammered.

The great physician raised his eyebrows.

“Chut! that’s a strange notion,” he said bluntly; “it is not a good
purpose, then, to save life?”

The innkeeper worked his hands nervously.

“I’ve heard strange things since, your worship,” he faltered, his eye
on the young nobleman.

“You harbor strange guests,” remarked Spencer sternly, his cold glance
transfixing the little man.

“I can’t always know their antecedents, my lord,” said the host, redder
than ever, and in an agony of uneasiness.

“What’s the matter?” asked Lady Sunderland, “you look as if you’d seen
a ghost. What in the wide world are you hatching now, Spencer?”

“Oh, nothing of importance,” he replied coolly; “the Lion’s Head is
turning Jacobite, that’s all.”

“Mercy on us!” ejaculated Lady Sunderland, with pious horror, “I
thought ’twas a noted Whig house—and the king still in Newmarket, too.”

“Indeed, madam—your ladyship, I do protest,” put in the landlord.

“Tut, tut!” said Dr. Radcliffe, waving him aside, “we’ll excuse you. A
dead Jacobite’s no great matter.”

“A dead Jacobite?” screamed Lady Dacres shrilly; “you make me faint!
Here man, another glass of what-d’-ye-call-it?—hypocrite?” and she
drank it with a sigh, fanning herself.

Spencer frowned, rising and walking to the window, and apparently
looking out into the black night beyond. The landlord, taking advantage
of his opportunity, slid out of the door with alacrity.

“There has been a duel, madam,” explained Radcliffe, shuffling the
cards, “in the long meadow—and the provost-marshal may look into it
later.”

“Dear, dear,” simpered Lady Sunderland, looking over her cards, “was
any one killed? I’ll raise the wager to nine shillings—oh, la—the
doctor has a mourneval!” she added, aside to Lady Dacres.

“A young Irishman, Trevor, was desperately wounded,” replied Radcliffe;
“a splendid swordsman, but his blade broke.”

“What!” exclaimed Lady Sunderland, “that charming young man?” she shook
her head mournfully; “his legs were beautifully symmetrical.”

“Did he lose one?” tittered Lady Dacres, clutching at her cards with
greedy fingers; “you said nine shillings more?”

Lady Sunderland nodded; she held three kings and hoped to win. “The
doctor has Tiddy and Towser both,” she whispered behind her fan.

At the moment, Betty came into the room. Her face was pale but she
showed no signs of the tempest.

“He had an ugly wound, madam,” Dr. Radcliffe said, playing a card
leisurely; “his chances of life amount to that,” the physician made a
significant gesture.

“Dear me, Betty, come here and listen to this awful tale,” said Lady
Sunderland; “your friend, Mr. Trevor, killed—oh, by the way, who did
it, doctor?”

Lord Spencer had turned from the window.

“Savile,” he answered coldly, “and he did well. It seems he suspected
him—thought him a disguised Jacobite and has called him out twice to
kill him—this time he has probably done it. And now it is rumored that
the fellow is one of those excepted in the late act of Parliament. The
country is flooded with these rascals, constantly menacing its safety
and the king’s life.”

“How romantic,” sighed Lady Sunderland, throwing her cards; “there,”
she crowed, “three kings—Meg, I’ve got you!”

Lady Dacres replied by tossing her cards on the table with a scream of
triumph.

“Oh, confound it!” cried Lady Sunderland furiously; “the hussy has a
gleek of aces! You’re an old cheat, Meg!”

Lady Dacres laughed immoderately, gathering in the coin with eager
fingers. The other old gambler eyed her with fury, her headdress
quivering. Dr. Radcliffe, who knew it was the fashion to fleece the
men at table, looked on indifferently, keeping up his talk with Spencer.

“I cannot see why Savile had to kill him for a Jacobite,” he remarked,
deliberately taking snuff from an elaborate box with the arms of the
Princess of Denmark on it; “the provost-marshal can see to them. We all
know that the Habeas Corpus Act is suspended on account of the plots
against the king’s life. Savile’s motive must have been more human than
that, my lord.”

Spencer shrugged his shoulders.

“He was doing a high duty, sir,” he replied pompously, “he was ridding
his country of a traitor. Savile’s a fine fellow.”

“He’s a murderer!” said Betty sharply.

She stood with her hand on the back of her mother’s chair and her tall
figure seemed to tower. The doctor gave her a shrewd glance.

“You love heroics, Elizabeth,” her brother replied with a drawl, but
his face turned white—a danger signal.

Betty did not look at him; she fixed her eyes on the doctor.

“Will he die?” she asked, and her voice was perfectly controlled.

Radcliffe was thoughtful and did not answer for a moment.

“There is one chance in a thousand,” he said, “there would have been
more, but this political stir and hubbub has compelled them to spirit
him away, and a journey—” he shrugged his shoulders; “I should say six
feet of earth, madam, would end it.”

She drew her breath sharply; to her all the candles in the room seemed
to be revolving in a death-dance.

“He ought to die,” said Spencer piously, “a Jacobite and a renegade. By
Saint Thomas, we’re well rid of him!”

“La, how romantic it is!” Lady Sunderland said, shuffling her cards and
glaring at her simpering rival.

Betty walked past them and out into the anteroom, where she met Lord
Savile leaning on Mr. Benham’s arm. His neck was bound up and swathed
in lace, and one arm was in a sling. He bowed low with a white face and
languishing eyes.

“Here’s a brave fellow half killed for love of you, my lady,” said Mr.
Benham, with gallantry.

Betty halted; tall and straight as an arrow, her eyes sparkling. No one
anticipated the lightning.

Savile smiled. “Dear Lady Clancarty,” he said, in a weak voice, “I am
your humblest servant.”

“You are a murderer, sir,” she replied, in a terrible tone; “let me
never see your face again.”

And she swept on and left them standing there in blank amazement.

In her own room she fell on Alice’s neck in a passion of tears.

“O Alice, Alice!” she cried, “I have driven him to his death.”

And Alice—who had heard all that evening, in the agony of her
ladyship’s first grief and terror—Alice clasped her close, forgetting
the great distance between them and remembering only her devotion to
this beautiful and wilful creature.

“I did not know you cared so much,” she said, “I never thought that he
might be Lord Clancarty.”

“Ah, I felt it from the first, Alice,” Lady Betty said; “there was
something in his bearing toward me—his tone—I knew he was my husband,
I felt it!”

“And yet—and yet—my lady, you sent him away!” the girl murmured, in a
tone of wonder.

Betty’s head dropped. “Yes, he has gone!” she said, “gone—my own true
love—and desperately wounded, too!”

“Yes, gone,” said Alice, venturing on a tearful remonstrance; “I can’t
understand you, my lady, I can’t indeed! One moment, you are all
tenderness for the poor gentleman, the next, you are driving him into
exile with your coldness.”

“Exile? Oh, no, no!” cried Lady Betty passionately, “he shall not go
without me. I love him, my girl, I love him—can’t you understand?
’Twas that which made me feel so—feel that he only claimed me, did
not woo me. You are as dull as any man, Alice,” she walked to and fro,
beating her hands together, “my love, my poor love!” she sighed and
then suddenly her mood changed, she raised her head resolutely.

“My hood and cloak, Alice,” she said quickly, “and my vizard.”

“Madam, ’tis very late,” remonstrated the girl.

Betty stamped her foot. “I am your mistress,” she said, “obey me—you
forget your place.”

“Nay, my lady,” said Alice sadly, “I do not forget—but I love you!”

Her generous-hearted mistress repented in a moment.

“Forgive me,” she said gently, “I know it, Alice, but I cannot be
advised—I must find him.” She stopped, her face white under the hood
that the girl was adjusting: “O Alice, he may be dying!”



CHAPTER XX

LADY BETTY’S SEARCH


THOUGH the stars were out, the night was black as pitch and the
courtyard of the inn was only lighted by the broad bands of red that
flared across it from the gaping doors of hall and kitchen, serving to
make the surrounding darkness more palpable. So it was that Lady Betty
and Alice—cloaked and hooded—nearly stumbled against young Mackie,
and would not have known him but for his exclamation of impatience. He
took them for kitchen wenches, and when Lady Betty cried out his name,
he stopped short with a gasp of sheer amazement.

“Oh, Sir Edward, ’twas you—of all men—I wanted to see!” she cried.

Poor Mackie, if he could have taken her at her word! But, alas, her
tone belied her words and his heart sank drearily.

“You here, my lady!” he exclaimed, “what has happened? I am at your
service; I pray you—”

But she cut him short.

“Where is he?” she whispered.

She mentioned no name, but the young man understood.

“His servant removed him two hours ago, Lady Clancarty,” he replied
quietly, “whither, I know not. The man, a wild Irish clown, would not
trust me, though, ’pon my honor, I meant to serve—Mr. Trevor,” his
voice faltered so at the name that she was again assured that he had
divined their secret and a weight slipped from her heart.

“Was he dying?” she asked very low, but the tremor in her voice
thrilled her listener.

“I do not know,” he stammered, “I pray not, my lady, for he is a brave
man.”

She laid her hand on his arm.

“Thank you,” she said simply, “he is my husband.”

Young Mackie bent his head and kissed her fingers reverently.

“He also trusted me, madam,” he said, and she did not see the pain in
the boy’s eyes; “I shall endeavor to deserve it.”

But Betty was not thinking of him.

“I must find him,” she said shivering, “I must find him!” and a sob
choked her voice.

Young Mackie was silent. From the kitchen came the hubbub of voices,
the clatter of dishes; while, looking over Betty’s shoulder, he saw
Spencer and Savile cross the main hall, arm in arm, their heads
together. Sir Edward knew well enough that Savile had tried to kill
Clancarty and he set his teeth, for he saw her cloaked figure sway and
quiver in the passion of emotion that shook her. He was a generous
fellow and he forgot himself.

“I will try to find him, my lady,” he said in a low tone, glancing
cautiously at the hall door, “he can’t be very far away, he could not
travel; that man has hidden him somewhere because of the stir made by
the duel—I think his identity was very near discovery.”

“I know it,” she said, “but how to find him—oh, Sir Edward, I must do
it! He—he may be in need of a surgeon—of care—of everything!” she
broke off wildly, and then, “Come, Alice, we must go on.”

But he detained her. “Whither, madam?” he asked gravely, “not in a vain
search—at night—for—for him?”

She drew herself up proudly. “Do you think I will let my husband die
thus?—and stir no finger to help him?” she asked bitterly.

“Then you will let me go with you,” he said quietly, taking his place
beside her.

She hesitated and quickly assented. “If you will,” she replied, “since
it is late and we are only two women—but we must make haste,” and she
ran down the old stone steps into the garden, taking the very path she
had walked with Clancarty. Mackie and Alice followed her silently,
though both were convinced of the fruitlessness of such an errand at
such an hour.

But the night had worn on many hours more and the moon had risen before
Betty acknowledged that her quest was vain. Meanwhile, young Mackie had
patiently searched in every tavern and inn in Newmarket; he had invaded
all the alleys and byways, all the nooks and corners, and inquired
of grooms and porters and stable-men—but to no purpose. Denis had
covered his retreat with more skill than Sir Edward had looked for. If
the truth be told, the Irishman was no new hand at the business and he
understood it well, having followed Lord Clancarty in his adventurous
life, from Dublin, and later in a wild career on the Continent when
the gay young nobleman had kept pace with his fellow exiles of high
birth and slim purses, but unlimited daring. It was not the first duel
nor the first cause for flight, and Denis had spirited the wounded
man away and left no sign. Even Betty, determined and vigilant as
she was, was forced to acknowledge herself defeated, and she walked
drearily back to the Lion’s Head with an aching heart. He believed her
indifferent to him—would he ever send her a message or a token again?
Never; she was sure of it, and she bowed her head in dejection—Lady
Betty, who was never crestfallen. She and Alice crept in, at last, by
the garden way and fled to her apartments in no little trepidation, but
they fancied themselves safe when they found that Lady Sunderland had
gone to bed, to get her beauty sleep, and the woman, Melissa, slept in
her room that night, in the absence of the countess’ own attendant.

Lady Betty did not sleep nor did she open her heart to the faithful
girl who was nearly as grieved as she was to see her trouble. She
knelt for hours by the window looking out over the moonlit garden
where the shadows were black between the hedgerows. It was a night of
agony; to know that he might be dying—dying with hard thoughts of
her indifference—almost within reach of her and yet so far. She was
his wife, she thought with sharp pain, and yet he could not send her
word—and she did not deserve it. He was dying, because Savile had
been determined to kill him: he had divined the secret, he was resolved
to remove her husband. Betty saw it all; she had wrung some admissions
from Mackie, the rest she knew by intuition.

She had a high spirit—all her life she had had her way at last, in
spite of her heartless, frivolous mother and her selfish, brilliant
father, and this was a trial hard to bear. Clancarty was the first man
who had not done her homage, who met her on her own ground and demanded
that she should love him. Perhaps it was that which won her; howbeit,
her eyes were dim with tears as she looked out of the window and
looked, indeed, until the sun rose on another day.



CHAPTER XXI

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW


IT was a small and desolate room, with bare rafters overhead, and the
wind rattling fiercely at the old casements, while Denis was trying
to keep a sickly fire of green wood alive upon the hearth. The floor
was of stone, cold and bare, save for a few rushes strewn beside the
truckle bed, and there was no light but that from the sputtering logs
and one poor taper; there were only two chairs and one small table in
the room beside the bed, but all was scrupulously clean, though barren
and chilly beyond description.

And on the bed lay Lord Clancarty, his cheeks flushed with fever,
his hair dishevelled, his eyes shining, and his hands ever and anon
clutching at the coverlet fiercely whenever any chance movement gave
him pain.

If the aspect of the place was poor, it was also desolately lonely;
no sound reached their ears but the rustling of the wind in the tree
tops without and the creaking of the old building itself. It was an
old farmhouse, the dwelling of the widow of a Jacobite—for England
was honey-combed with conspiracies and counter-conspiracies—and this
woman, a rigid believer in the old order of things, had the courage
to take the wounded nobleman under her roof; she could give him
shelter, but as for comforts she had none to give. Here, too, with
her connivance, Denis smuggled a young surgeon, one of the faithful,
to tend the wound that the famous Radcliffe had dressed with his own
hands on the field. The young practitioner shared the doubts of his
senior, and shook his head gravely; the wounded man might live, but he
was quite as likely to die. So, with these gloomy predictions, and the
still more gloomy aid of the solemn visaged widow, Denis was left with
almost an empty purse to guard and nurse the feverish patient.

Stricken with profound anxieties, the faithful Irishman fed the fire,
kneeling before it, his back toward his master, to hide a face that
betrayed his feelings too plainly. On the table lay Lord Clancarty’s
cloak and plumed hat and the hilt of the sword that had served him so
ill and there, too, was his pistol primed and ready for use. He lay
watching Denis, fever flushed but in his senses, though more than once
that night his mind had wandered.

The stillness of the place was broken by the stamping of a horse’s feet
at no great distance.

“What is that?” the wounded man asked sharply.

“Our horses, sir,” replied Denis, still kneeling at the hearth;
“they’re in the shed outside, me lord, an’ indade ’tis fitter fer thim
than fer yer lordship here.”

Clancarty smiled sadly. “It matters little, Denis, and is like to
matter less. How far are we from Newmarket?”

“Not far, sir, this house stands off th’ road ter Bishop-Stortford,
a half mile loike from the road, in a patch of timber; a very pretty
hiding-place—I’ve hed me eye on it fer a couple of wakes.”

“You thought I would come to this, then? Ah, Denis, I fear you know me
too well, old rogue!”

“Indade, sir, I’ve known ye from a boy in Munster, an’ I nivir knew
ye to take care of yerself. Faix, it’s a broken head ye’ll be afther
havin’ more often thin a whole wan.”

Clancarty laughed softly, his feverish eyes on the fire.

“Denis,” he said dreamily, “do you remember the wild rides over the
green fields of Ireland?”

Denis bent low over the hearth fanning the blaze, fighting the damp and
the green wood.

“I’m afther remimbering, yer lordship,” he replied hoarsely.

“It’s a long way back, to those days,” said Lord Clancarty; “the skies
were blue then. I’m a poor devil now, Denis, and like to die—” his
voice died away, more from faintness than emotion, and after awhile he
asked for water.

Denis rose and gave it to him, lifting his head as gently as a woman,
and as he took the glass from the wounded man’s lips he turned his own
head away—but not soon enough, a hot tear fell on the earl’s forehead.

“Saint Patrick, Denis, I must be far gone when you weep!” Clancarty
said, touched in spite of himself, “I did not know you could, you old
heart of oak!”

Denis brushed the moisture from his eyes.

“I remimber an ould man in County Kerry, me lord, who nivir shid a tear
until his wife was coming out of a fit, and thin he took on loike anny
wild gossoon. He’d bin gitting ready fer a wake an’ hed ter give it all
up, and whin his neighbors accused him of it, he said he nivir wept
unless a person was gitting well, an’ thin he wept fer joy—’tis so
with me, me lord.”

Lord Clancarty smiled, turning his face to the wall. He was deeply
touched at the simple fellow’s devotion. There was silence for awhile;
the fire crackled and leaped up the chimney, lighting up the room just
in time, for the single taper sputtered and went out.

It was at this time that Lady Clancarty and Sir Edward were searching
the streets of Newmarket.

Lord Clancarty turned his head wearily and looking down at his own hand
remembered.

“Denis,” he said in a low tone, “did you give the ring and the message
to my lady?”

Denis had his back to him again, his square sturdy outline between him
and the blaze.

“Yes, me lord,” he answered stolidly.

“And she?” the fever burned on Clancarty’s cheeks, his eyes shone; “how
did she take it?”

“Very quiet loike, me lord,” replied Denis bluntly, “she wanted to
know what hed happened, but I dared not tell her ladyship.”

“She inquired, though? she was anxious?” asked the earl eagerly.

Denis was stubborn. “Me lord, she asked what hed happened—nothing
more. She’s a great lady, sir, and as proud as anny quane.”

The wounded lover sighed and turned again to the wall: here was no
consolation, and in his bitterness he called her heartless. The
desolate place, his almost exhausted resources, his painful wound,
all combined to shake even his proud resolution; he was lonely and he
was desperate. In his fevered brain rose many visions of Betty, the
beautiful, the careless, charming Betty that he had known. What heart
there was beneath that beautiful exterior he did not know; but this he
knew—he was an outcast from home and friends, a desperate and forsaken
man and dangerously wounded. He was no novice in affairs of this kind
and knew well the nature of his hurt and what lack of care would do
for it. His life passed in quick review before him; its ambitions,
its wild adventures, its dark spots of reckless dissipations, and now
this end—this wretched, thwarted, forsaken end—creeping away like a
wounded beast to die alone. It might well bring bitterness to so proud
and daring a spirit as his. He cursed his fate, but it is to be feared
that he did not pray. His religion had been a matter of convenience,
like the religion of many gay young soldiers of his time. It failed him
now and she failed him too,—the woman who had taken such possession of
his heart and swept him out of the common way into a higher passion.
He loved her—and she despised him. He groaned sharply as if in bodily
pain; the faithful Irishman was at his side in a moment, but he waved
him away. His soul was wrestling with despair and with hunger for
the sight of her. He, a strong man and a proud one, in that hour of
physical agony and loneliness, longed to see her, to hear her voice
before he died—if die he must, yet he would have died rather than send
for her—such was his pride.

The night wore on; the horses stamping restlessly in the shed, the wind
increasing in violence until the old house creaked, quivering like a
broken reed. Denis sat staring at the fire, his honest face distorted
with grief and now and then a slow tear creeping down his furrowed
cheek. The wound was a desperate one, and counting all the things
against the patient,—exposure, lack of nursing and food and comforts,
the man did not believe he would live, and he loved him like a son; he
had carried him on his shoulder as a baby; he had taught the little
lad to sit his horse and use his sword, and he had followed him in
Ireland, in France, in Flanders, through weal and woe—to this! Poor
Denis, he too had his night of tears and lamentations.

Toward midnight Clancarty’s mind wandered a little and he babbled like
a child of the green turf of Ireland and the streams where he had
paddled barefoot, and of the wild birds overhead. He talked of battles
and sieges and at last of her, of Betty, and Denis cursed her in his
heart as their evil angel, the lodestar that had drawn the young earl
to his fate. Now and then through the night the wounded man called for
water, but toward morning he fell asleep, and Denis dropped on his
knees, praying to all the saints to send healing on the wings of that
fitful slumber.

But with the night the delirium and the weakness of spirit passed
together. At daybreak the earl opened his eyes and looked quietly into
Denis’s worn face. He smiled, the old reckless smile, if somewhat
weaker and paler than usual. He groped feebly under his pillow and
handed the man his purse.

“A small store, Denis,” he said, “but ’tis yours now, to do with as
you can. If I die—ah, you must even bury me here, I suppose, though I
long for Irish soil to cover me! For the rest—go home, Denis, take no
risks for my sake. Faith, a dead man will not need you.”

Denis said nothing, he could not; he stood staring at the floor.

Lord Clancarty laughed a little bitterly.

“Go tend the horses, man,” he said; “you saw Neerwinden—why do you
stand there like a woman? Death comes but once.”

“Ah, my lord,” said Denis, and the tears ran down his cheeks, “ye shall
not die.”

Clancarty turned his face to the wall lest he, too, should show
weakness.

    “My dark Rosaleen,
    My fond Rosaleen!
  Would give me life and soul anew,
  A second life, a soul anew!
    My dark Rosaleen!”

he murmured faintly,

  “My own Rosaleen!”

So Denis went to tend the horses, drawing his sleeve across his eyes
and hating Lady Clancarty from the bottom of his simple devoted heart.

“The foine lady,” he muttered; “faix—I’d loike ter make her shid a
tear or two—fer all her bright eyes an’ her red cheeks—th’ heartless
colleen!”



CHAPTER XXII

“UNTIL DEATH US DO PART”


IT was nearly a week later and Lady Betty’s chair was passing down
the main street of Newmarket when she espied Denis at the corner of
a lane that ran between a mercer’s shop and Drake’s. She stopped her
chair, and springing from it ran after him, ran quite regardless of
the people in the street who stood gaping at the charming young woman
running after a groom. She overtook him at the end of the lane; they
were behind the mercer’s shop, and Denis started at the sight of her
and stood irresolute, eying her grimly. She snatched the vizard from
her face.

“Where is your master?” she demanded breathlessly, “where is Lord
Clancarty?”

The Irishman shut his lips stubbornly; he did not trust the daughter of
Lord Sunderland.

“Will you not tell me?” cried Betty, in distress, “I know that he is
wounded—I must see him! I will not be denied! I command you—nay,” she
added, reading his inflexible face, “I beg and pray you,—give me news
of him!”

Denis eyed her closely, relenting just a little, and that little was
enough.

“He’s very ill,” he said sullenly.

“Is he in danger?” cried Lady Clancarty, tears gathering in her eyes,
“tell me, man, tell me,” and she wrung her hands. “Can’t gold tempt
you? Take me to him!”

Denis made a strange motion; it seemed as if he would snatch her purse
and then forbore to do it, but his eyes devoured it.

“Faix, I don’t know av I can thrust ye,” he said, looking at her
keenly; “ye’ve done him harm enough already.”

“But I trust you!” cried Lady Betty, “I am your master’s wife,—take me
to him. See, I will go with you alone—can’t you trust me now?”

The man looked down yet a little while, in evident hesitation, and she
watched him, trembling, not with fear, like another woman, but with
hope.

“Faix, I’ll take ye,” he said bluntly, “if ye’ll go alone. Look ye, me
lady, if ye bethray him, I’d as lief kill ye as not. I love me lord!”

The color rose in Betty’s face, softly, sweetly, her eyes shone.

“And so do I!” she said; “lead on, I will follow—and alone.”

“Come, thin,” he said at last, “’tis a long way an’ the place isn’t fit
fer a foine lady, but he’s there—tho’, by the Virgin, I don’t know
what he’ll say ter me fer bringing ye!”

As he spoke he cast a glance back at the chair and its bearers waiting
at the mouth of the lane, the men staring after their mistress, and
with them a knot of idlers who had gathered to watch the countess. Lady
Clancarty turned her back upon them.

“Lead on!” she commanded, impatient and imperious.

Denis led the way down the narrow lane, out of sight of the group
at the mercer’s shop, and into another byway, and so on through the
outskirts of Newmarket. He did not take the public road but struck
across the fields, passing close to the spot where Lord Clancarty had
fought the duel. Lady Betty shuddered as they approached it. They were
out of sight of the last straggling houses now, crossing the meadows;
the sun shone as it had upon that day when she had walked first with
Clancarty, but there was more of a touch of autumn upon the scene.
Here, beyond the light green turf, was a field of stubble, and there,
in the green hedgerow, were yellow leaves; and the stream, too, that
flowed across the meadows, had brown depths and shadows where the
pebbles lay thickest, and the purple distance took on gray.

They had left the open and were skirting a little woodland where the
dry leaves rustled overhead, and once she heard the “kourre, kourre!”
of the pigeons.

Whither was he going? Lady Betty wondered. The place grew more and more
solitary; they followed a path, but one so little used that briars fell
across it and one of them tore her frock: but she went on fearlessly,
for never did a braver heart throb in a woman’s bosom. Her spirit was
intrepid. She looked about her through the sparsely growing trees and
saw long distances without a sign of life or habitation, and still
Denis plodded on and she followed, pity and love and remorse growing
in her heart at every step. Her lover and her husband in poverty
and obscurity, a proscribed rebel, and she rich. Nothing could have
appealed so to her full heart. The thought stung her and the tears
gathered on her dark lashes.

As Denis had predicted, the walk was a long one, but she did not heed
it, she kept steadily on behind him; and at last, through an opening in
the trees, she saw two horses grazing in a little strip of greensward,
and beyond, the lonely farmhouse. As her guide turned towards it Betty
caught her breath and stood still—for a single moment—the place was
so poor, so dark, so uninviting, and the vicinity of Newmarket swarmed
with banditti; even when the king’s coach took the road it had to be
strongly guarded. This old, weather-stained brown house, with half its
window shutters broken, the green moss on its slanting gables, and the
strong, iron-bound door, with the broken stone before it, was sad and
forbidding enough without the silence and the woodland shadows that
enfolded it. Betty stood and stared at it apprehensively, and then she
thought of Clancarty. Her hesitation was so soon over that the man, her
guide, was scarcely aware of it. He went on steadily, hearing her light
step rustling on the fallen leaves behind him, and at last he stopped
at the door and waited.

“Is he here?” she whispered.

Denis nodded, opening the door and guiding her into the kitchen where
the widow, Clancarty’s hostess and nurse, stood before the hearth
stirring a stew in a great pot that was suspended on a hook over
blazing logs. At the sound of their entrance she turned sharply and
stared at Lady Clancarty in grim amazement, not uttering a word. Her
stern, sad face and suspicious eye sent the hot blood up under her
ladyship’s vizard, but even this, though it embarrassed her, could not
hold her back. She stood an instant, though, in the centre of the bare
kitchen, in her gay furbelows, holding up her skirts with one hand
while the other involuntarily adjusted her mask. Meanwhile, the widow
continued to eye her sternly, even while she stirred the broth.

Denis was quick enough to perceive the difficulty.

“’Tis Lady Clancarty,” he said bluntly to the woman, indicating Lady
Betty’s lovely figure with a backward sweep of the hand.

Clancarty’s hostess courtesied profoundly, but the fair intruder felt
that those stern eyes said plainly, “A likely story, the brazen hussy!”

“I have come to see my husband,” Betty faltered, her voice trembling a
little.

“Very well, ma’am,” retorted the widow grimly, and turning her back
deliberately, she began to flourish the huge spoon again.

The poor young wife, meanwhile, fled after Denis across the kitchen,
her heart beating wildly. He was waiting in the entry and led her down
the hall to the opposite side of the house, before he finally halted at
a closed door and waited. At a sign from her he let her enter alone.
The place was poorly lighted by small windows, and as she entered and
heard the door close behind her, her heart stood still. And then—

Poor Betty, her tears blinded her; she forgot the suspicious widow.
The room was so poor, so bare, so wretched; the low, dark rafters, the
stone floor, the miserable furniture. And stretched on the bed lay her
husband, white as death; his head turned so that he could not see her,
but she saw him, saw the pallor, the wasted cheek, the helpless figure.
She did not move and he had not heard her enter, he seemed to be
sleeping. She took off her mask and stood waiting. What would he say?
For the first time her courage failed her, her knees trembled under
her. Would he hate her, and despise her for coming? She stirred and he
heard the rustle and looked up. In a moment it seemed as if the sun had
risen and shone full upon his face: it was glorified, but still she did
not go nearer to him.

“Ah,” he said, “I see it is but a dream! It has mocked me before. My
fever must be upon me again, but, oh, sweet vision, stay with me this
time, else I perish here of despair.”

“Can you forgive me?” she sobbed, running to him and falling on her
knees beside the bed, “oh, I have suffered too, the wound that hurt you
pierced me also to the heart! Forgive me!”

He put his arm around her, drawing her close, with all his feeble
strength, and looking at her with hungry eyes.

“My darling!” he said tenderly, “’tis you—you in the flesh?—and you
came to see me?—the beggar, the exile, the traitor—”

“Don’t, don’t!” cried Betty, in a passion of grief, “I never meant
it—it was my tongue, my reckless, wicked tongue—oh, my lord, forgive
me!”

He smiled; he was so weak that tears gathered in his eyes.

“What have I to forgive, ‘my own Rosaleen’?” he asked tenderly; “I am
not worthy of you—I am, indeed, an exile and a vagrant, my queen, and
no mate for you.”

“You are my husband,” Betty said, blushing divinely.

“Betty,” he whispered soft and low, “you have never kissed me!”

“I have never kissed any man, my Lord Clancarty,” she replied softly,
her face radiant, “I will never kiss any man—but the one I love best!”

He looked at her silently, his eyes glowing, holding her closer.

“Betty,” he murmured, “do you love me?—your husband?”

Betty did not reply in words. She put her arms around his neck and
kissed him tenderly, laying her soft cheek against his with a sob.

“My darling,” he said, after a pause, “it is too much to ask you to
leave all and follow me—too much. I am only a beggar, Betty, and an
outcast!”

She looked up into his eyes and he thought her face had never been so
beautiful.

“My husband,” she said.

His tears wet her cheek as he kissed her again and again.

“My best beloved,” he said, “‘my own Rosaleen’! ‘Until death us do
part,’ do you remember? The bond was made in heaven, Betty!”

She smiled through her tears.

“I love you,” she murmured, “and shall forever and forever.”

“Will you leave all, Betty?” he asked longingly, “all, and follow me
into exile and poverty?”

“Unto the ends of the earth, my lord and master,” she answered smiling,
the old Betty suddenly peeping out at him from her dark eyes; “if I
have you I have all!” she whispered.

Warm hearted, impulsive, careless Lady Betty was not one to give her
heart unless she gave it royally.

After a moment she raised her face, rosy and tear-stained, but smiling.

“Did you know me at first?” she asked, “in the woods at Althorpe? Did
you divine who I was?”

He laughed softly, taking her face between his hands and holding it
fondly, framed thus, so she could not hide it from him.

“Did I know the sun when it shone?” he asked. “Ah, my little witch, I
knew you! I had been watching you for two days and more, whenever I
could catch a glimpse of you. Did you know me, madam?”

She smiled adorably and tried to hide her blushes in his hands.

“I felt it,” she whispered, “I think I knew you by intuition—from
that first moment—but afterwards—”

“But afterwards?” he asked relentlessly.

She laughed, her eyes shining. “You tried to deceive me,” she said, “in
the garden—you remember?—for a little while, I thought you couldn’t
be _you_, and—” her voice trailed off, her face was as scarlet as any
poppy.

“And?” he persisted gleefully, holding her still.

“I thought—I thought that I had given my heart to a stranger—and I
was married—and—” she broke off, she could not speak for his kisses.

“Would you have divorced the beggar for me?” he whispered maliciously.

“O Donough!” she cried, throwing her arms around his neck in the very
ecstasy of her joy at her escape from such a dilemma, “O Donough, it
would have broken my heart if you hadn’t been—_you_!”

Again a silence and then,—

“Why did you put your foot on the shamrock?” he whispered.

She hid her face on his neck. “I wanted it,” she confessed, in a
smothered tone, “I wanted it to keep! Where is it?”

He drew it from his breast, a withered sprig folded in a piece of
paper, and she seized upon it and kissed it.

“Nay,” he said, “that you shall not—not even my shamrock shall share
your kisses with me! That is one stolen from me, madam, give me the
shamrock.”

“Never!” she defied him, clasping it to her own bosom, “never—’tis
mine to wear for your sake.”

His eyes shone. “My Irish beauty,” he said, “_roisin bheag dubh_!—if I
may not have the shamrock I must have the kiss back.”

“Why did you treat me so that last night?” he went on, “you perverse
witch, you tormentor, you deserve to suffer for flouting your lord and
master.”

“That was it,” she said, “you came in with the air of a conquering
hero; I thought you would not woo me, that you claimed me too much like
a master; that, perhaps, you didn’t love me, but only felt that you
were my husband.”

He laughed quietly. “You coquette!” he said fondly, “you knew I loved
you—you saw it in my eyes, for I know they devoured you—you felt it!”

Betty hung her head guiltily. “I could not help it,” she said, with a
little sob, “I loved you,—and suddenly I thought you knew it, and
were careless of it!”

He kissed her hands softly. “You knew I loved you!” he exclaimed
reproachfully.

She looked up through her tears. “I love to hear you say it,” she
murmured rapturously.

After awhile she looked around the miserable room.

“My love,” she cried, “can’t I take you away from this awful place? It
breaks my heart to have you here! With that female dragon, too.”

“Nay, grieve not, Betty,” he answered smiling, “it shines with you in
it. How I shall picture you here—in your white and pink gown, with the
little hood on your head—the house is a palace, dear! It is too good
for a poor man now.”

“And you are poor!” she exclaimed, her tears breaking out afresh, “you
are poor and I—I have everything!”

“Nay,” he replied, “I am rich in having you!”

But her tears fell. She could not leave him so, she cried, clinging to
him; the thought of that poor place would break her heart! And it took
all his persuasion and caresses to win a smile from her again.

“And I must go,” she said at last, showing an April face, smiles and
tears together, “I must go, or else they will miss me, and if Spencer
found you here, I know not what he would do; he hates a Jacobite! But,
oh, my darling, ’twill not be long ere I shall send some token to you,
or have some message from you.”

“Not long,” he said, his eyes sparkling, “not long, dear Betty! As soon
as I can walk—a plague upon this wound—as soon as I can move I will
come to you! I can’t die now!”

“Oh, the risk of it!” she cried, but her face shone, and then suddenly,
“Donough,” she said, “why had you to fight my Lord Savile? and after
all I did to prevent it!”

“He insulted me, my love,” Clancarty replied, “and—and, well, dear
heart, after that night I thought you might care for him and not for
me, and it drove me mad.”

Betty smiled enchantingly.

“You were jealous,” she said, “jealous of me!”

“I was mad with it, Betty,” he declared passionately; “and here I lie,
curse this wound, like a log, and other men are near you, bask in your
smiles, kiss your hand! It drives me to destruction!”

And she looking down at him in his weakness, thin and fever
flushed,—she fell upon her knees again beside him, holding her soft
cheek against his, and saying only two words—softly, sweetly, with
adorable tenderness—“My husband!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Afterwards, in the loneliness of the woodland, Betty pressed a full
purse into Denis’s unreluctant hand.

“Not a word to your lord—on your life!” she charged him; “but
get all he needs and come to me for more—and we must move him to
some comfortable refuge at once. Mind you, everything he needs and
instantly.”

Denis’s face widened into a seraphic smile as he pressed the purse
fondly.

“By the Virgin, my lady,” he said, “I shall have to be afther telling
him a legend—faix, he’ll think I’ve found an angel of a Jew, yer
ladyship!”



CHAPTER XXIII

MY LORD SPENCER


IT happened that when Lady Clancarty came back from her visit to the
house in the forest, weary and tear-stained but happier and more
peaceful, she found herself in trouble. She had been gone a long time
and unhappily her absence had been noticed and commented upon. Faithful
and devoted as Alice was, she was not quickwitted enough to invent
excuses, and was, indeed, thoroughly frightened and distressed by her
mistress’ absence which she could not help connecting in some way
with Lord Clancarty. There had been, in consequence, a great hubbub
at the Lion’s Head, and men were running hither and yon; while the
servants, who had carried her chair, to save themselves from blame
had not failed to give a highly colored account of her meeting with
a strange man in the lane and her disappearance in his company. When
Lady Betty came quietly back through the garden, hoping to escape to
her room unobserved, she met Lord Spencer with his face as white as a
sheet and his lids drooped low over his eyes. He stood in the door of
the inn that opened upon the court, and his sister came upon him so
unexpectedly that she had no time for flight. She knew the signs too
well, however, not to be prepared, and her old spirit returned to her
stronger than ever, and she held her head high. But Spencer did not
intend to open the quarrel there in a public place, his mood was more
dangerous. He was quite aware that the servants, and even the landlord,
were peeping at them from the kitchen way, and he bowed courteously to
his sister and offered her his hand.

“Permit me, madam, to escort you to our mother,” he said so suavely
that the culprit shivered.

“I can go quite well alone, Charles,” she replied passing him with a
careless manner that was scarcely a faithful indication of her mood; “I
am too weary to drink tea or play gleek,” she added yawning; “faith,
’tis tiresome to walk in the fields.”

“Extremely so,” replied my lord, as smooth as silk, “especially when
you bring wood briars back upon your farthingale.”

Lady Betty blushed red as a poppy as she glanced down at the tell-tale
twig caught in the ruffles of her skirts.

“Pull it off, my dear,” she said sweetly.

“Nay, I fear the thorns,” he replied, with distant politeness.

She plucked it away herself with a little grimace.

“You are wise, Charles,” she said, “’tis well to keep your fingers out
of other people’s troubles.”

He bit his lip, giving her a furious glance as she tripped up the
stairs ahead of him. But, though he followed more deliberately, he
entered Lady Sunderland’s room but a moment after her, and in time to
hear her reply to his mother’s sharp inquiry.

“I walked a little way in the meadows, madam,” said Betty, with
delightful mendacity; “you know you recommended it for my complexion.”

“A fine diversion,” remarked Lord Spencer, with a sneer, “but who,
pray, was your companion?”

Lady Betty gave him a sidelong look that spoke volumes.

“Faith,” she retorted, with a shrug, “the world would be a dull place
with no men in it.”

Lady Sunderland tittered behind her fan; if anything appealed to her,
it was her daughter’s absolute audacity. But Spencer was furious.

“You choose a fine subject for a jest,” he said; “I would have you
know, madam, that my sister cannot run about Newmarket with a groom!”

Then Betty turned upon him like a fury.

“Do not dare to say that to me again,” she cried, her bosom heaving
with passion; “you forget to whom you speak! Do you think—do you dare
to think—that I am not as capable as you of defending my own honor and
dignity? More, sir, I would have you know that I am accountable to none
but my father and—my husband!” and she swept past him and out of the
room like a whirlwind.

The older countess sank back in her chair and giggled like a girl.

“La!” she exclaimed, “her spirit!—I’d give ten guineas to see her do
that over again,—and you deserved it, Charles, my love.”

Her son gave her an exasperated look.

“That fellow is Clancarty—I am sure of it,” he said fiercely, “and the
minx is in communication with him—but, by Saint Thomas, I’ll break it
up—if I have to break his head!”

“Fudge, my love,” replied the countess tittering, “’twill take more
than your wit to keep two lovers apart; but never fear, she’ll not give
up her wealth and comfort to run away with him—she has too much sense.”

Lord Spencer’s eyelids drooped lower. “I’ll see that she never has the
opportunity, madam,” he said, in a cool voice that had the effect of
making Lady Sunderland shiver much as Betty had.

Meanwhile, Lady Clancarty poured out her hopes and fears and
half-formed plans to Alice Lynn. The first thing to be done was to get
the wounded man into a place of comfort, where he would also be secure,
and in this Alice could help more than her mistress had dreamed.
The girl had an uncle living in Cambridge, a mercer, and a man with
Jacobite leanings, and she at once suggested his house as a possible
shelter for Lord Clancarty. After some discussion, her mistress eagerly
accepted this opportunity, especially as she must leave Newmarket soon
for London to join her father, and Cambridge would be near. There were
many secret missives passing to and fro between the house in the woods
and the Lion’s Head, but Betty found herself too closely watched by
Spencer to dare another visit, and by the end of a week Lord Clancarty
was strong enough to be moved to Cambridge, to her infinite relief.
The journey was safely and secretly accomplished, and she had the
happiness of knowing that he would have both care and nursing, besides
greater security.

By this time the races were over, and the stream of people had poured
back to the capital, where Parliament had been opened by the king, and
Newmarket was empty and quiet. Lady Sunderland went to Windsor, leaving
her daughter to go on to London to the earl’s house, where Sunderland
and Spencer had preceded her.

Lady Clancarty went up to London, therefore, with her two women, Alice
and Melissa Thurle, and tried to wait with patience for an opportunity
to see her husband again. She was cheered and solaced, however, by
frequent secret messages that assured her, not only of his safety, but
that he was mending rapidly. He had even been able to write her one
letter himself, which she kept hidden in her bosom by day and under her
pillow by night, though it was only a meagre little letter, written
while his hand was still unsteady.

“Dear heart,” he wrote, “was it a dream—that lovely vision in the
dark cabin? Were those soft kisses immaterial too? Or did I really hold
you in my arms and feel your cheek against my own? Dear heart, dear
wife, I love you, yet am I parted from you—but not for long—not for
long! Else would this earth be a purgatory and I should wish the wound
had been fatal! Forgive me, I do not doubt you,—I should rather die.”

But the time came, at last, when it was even dangerous to receive or
send these missives, for Lord Spencer was watchful and suspicious
still, and for Clancarty’s sake Betty forced herself to be
patient,—the sharpest trial of all.

The weeks passed and the cold Saint Agnes weather was upon them.
Parliament was in the depths of its wrangles over the military
establishment, but the House of Commons, though never more unruly
than in these last years of William the Third, was in a somewhat
milder mood—alarmed by the threatened difficulty of the Spanish
Succession—and it permitted the ministers to put the most favorable
interpretation upon the law and retain ten thousand fighting men.
Further, it expressed its attachment to the sovereign’s person
by suspending the benefit of the Habeas Corpus Act twelve months
longer from Bernardi and the other conspirators involved in the late
Assassination Plot. Lord Sunderland was almost constantly at the
king’s elbow, absorbed in political affairs, and Spencer stood out as a
shining light among the younger Whigs.

Meanwhile, Lady Clancarty fretted her heart out because she could
neither see Clancarty nor get a message from him. Her suite of rooms
at Leicester House—which was now the town house of the Earl of
Sunderland—were never so dreary. She paced them day and night in her
anxiety, and struggle as she would to hide it, there were signs of it
upon her face. Yet she played her part well as the mistress of her
father’s house, and she had never been more lovely or more courted. Her
receptions were always crowded, and at every ball she was the centre of
a lively group of admirers and friends. But with it all her heart ached.

It was one evening, the night of my Lord Bridgewater’s ball at his
house in the Barbican, that Lady Clancarty stood looking at her own
reflection, all dressed for the rout. Her gown, a wondrous affair of
silver lace and white brocade, became her well, and her luxuriant hair
was deftly dressed with one large diamond flashing like a star amidst
the curls. She turned away from the glass smiling—she could not help
a certain pleasure in the picture—but the next she sighed and looked
about for Alice.

“Where is the girl?” she said to herself; “alas! what a silly fool I am
to deck myself out like this—for what? I know not, since he cannot see
me and I cannot tell how it fares with him.”

Her mood changed swiftly; a moment before she had thought of herself
and of the ball—now she stood dejected, her head bowed, tears in her
eyes.

“Ah, if I only knew how he was,” she murmured softly, “if I could only
see him well!”

As she spoke the door opened gently and Alice looked in, glancing
around the room.

“What ails you, Alice?” asked her mistress, “you wear the face of a
conspirator; where have you been?”

Alice laid her finger on her lips and withdrew—to Betty’s infinite
astonishment—and the next instant the door opened wider and a tall
man, cloaked and booted for riding, crossed the threshold.

Betty uttered a strange little cry; her beautiful India fan fell on the
floor and broke in a thousand pieces. Lord Clancarty sprang toward her
and caught her in his arms in time to keep her from falling.

“My darling!” he said, “I came too unexpectedly—I have done wrong.”

“O Donough!” she cried, smiling through her tears, “I am so glad—so
glad!” and she held him off to look at him; “pale,” she said, “and
thin—but mine—mine own!”

“Ah, Betty darling!” he whispered, covering her face with kisses, “I
have been dying for this—to come to you again!”

“And you came here!” she said, a little catch in her voice, “here,
in this house,—oh, the danger of it! Spencer hates your very name,
darling; how dared you come?”

He caressed her soft hair, smiling.

“How dared I, Betty?” he replied, “ah, my child, you do not know me.
Are you glad to see me even here?”

“Am I glad?” she murmured, tears in her eyes. “Ah, Donough, the days
have seemed like weeks—the weeks eternities!”

“I am not worthy of you,” he said, laying his cheek against her soft
one, “I am not worthy of you; but above all else I love you—ay,
better than my own soul!”



CHAPTER XXIV

MELISSA


MEANWHILE, Alice Lynn, with a pale face and watchful eyes, ran down
the gallery that opened into Lady Clancarty’s private apartments; she
locked the door at the upper end and thrust the key into her pocket;
she ran back to the only other entrance, the door upon the staircase,
and there she seated herself upon the upper step, a devoted sentinel,
though her heart beat almost to suffocation. If Clancarty were
discovered here—here in his wife’s rooms! Alice shook from head to
foot; some awful intuition warned her that peril was at hand.

The gallery was long and dim; two tall tapers in the sconces upon the
landing cast a soft radiance in a little space, but left deep shadows.
The great house was strangely still. Alice sat and listened to the
beating of her own heart which seemed louder than the faint sound of
voices behind the closed door at her back. So great was her love for
Lady Betty that, like Catharine Douglas, she would have thrust her arm
into the staples and held the door against a host, but for all that
she was frightened. Presently she started and looked down the stairs.
She had heard a soft tread below—yes, she was not mistaken; a woman
was coming up, the one woman whom she had thought safely out of the
house that night, the one she trusted least, Melissa Thurle. At the
moment Alice hated her, and set her teeth and waited, but she trembled,
too. As for Melissa, she came up softly, a quiet smile on her smooth
face, serenity in her shifting eyes; soft, stealthy, feline in every
movement. She pretended to be startled when she stumbled upon Alice,
who barred the stairs. Melissa pressed her hand to her heart.

“Why, how you frightened me!” she cried; “what is it, Alice?”

“Nothing,” retorted Alice, who was little skilled in subterfuge and
only stubbornly determined; “I thought you were gone to your aunt’s.”

“I started,” replied Melissa sweetly, “but ’twas too cold. I came
back, and I have a message for Lady Betty from Lord Sunderland.”

“She has a headache,” said Alice; “you can leave the message with me;
no one is to disturb her ladyship to-night unless she calls me.”

“Dear, dear!” exclaimed Melissa, undisturbed, however; “this is
unusual—but, unhappily, I must see my lady; Lord Sunderland’s orders
are explicit. I dare not disobey.”

“I do!” declared Alice stubbornly, though she quaked, for she heard
voices again and she knew, by Melissa’s face, that she heard them, too,
for a gleam passed over it, swift as the drawing of a knife.

“You are of no consequence,” said the woman firmly; “I will see her,”
and she made a sudden spring to set the girl aside.

But Alice was strong, if she was not diplomatic, and she caught her
firmly by the waist.

“You shall not see her!” she cried, her face blazing with honest anger,
“you shall not worry her. I am stronger than you, and you will never
get past me—never!” and she swung Melissa bodily back to the lower
step.

At the moment, while the two eyed each other furiously, both heard a
man’s voice behind the closed door of Lady Clancarty’s room. Alice
turned white, and Melissa laughed.

She said not a word more. She laughed and shrugged her shoulders, and
Alice’s face burned with shame and anger. “The hateful wretch, the
insulting, crawling creature,” the girl thought; yet she was relieved
to see her turn and walk quietly away. At the landing, however, she
stopped and laughed.

“I beg your pardon,” she said sweetly, “I’ll not interrupt you again,
Miss Prude.”

And she went on, while Alice burned to run after her and box her ears.
But she kept her post, not daring to leave the door unguarded, and
after awhile, she called to Lady Betty and warned her, but in vain; the
lovers could not part so soon. Clancarty lingered—lingered while the
precious minutes flew and fate travelled nearer and yet nearer.

Once out of Alice’s sight, Melissa crept, with her soft, catlike
tread, along the lower gallery, felt her way down a narrow stair, the
same by which Clancarty had ascended, and looking over her shoulder
occasionally to see if the girl followed her, she opened another door
noiselessly, crept on down a long room and through a hall. About her
was every sign of luxury and magnificence, rich soft rugs upon the
floors, long mirrors, beautiful statuary, rare bric-a-brac from the
India houses, every evidence of culture and extravagance, and she
crept like a panther ready to spring. Her face was like a white patch
in the dusk of the candle-light, her green eyes shone, too, like a
cat’s. On, on she crept, stealthy, determined, venomous; a dangerous
creature bent on a miserable errand. Again, looking back for Alice,
another flight of stairs, and then a pause before a pair of closed
folding-doors. She drew her breath and pressed her hand to her heart.
It took courage, but she had it, of an evil sort, the courage that
crawls in secret places and strikes a man behind the back. She opened
the door gently and stood in a sudden flood of light, looking at Lord
Spencer.

He sat by a great candelabrum, reading some pages of manuscript, and he
did not hear her. But having come so far, she would not be balked; she
glided nearer and began to purr at him. The sound was scarcely human,
but he looked up quickly and bent his eyes sternly upon her. He was so
cold a man, so pompous and important, that even this creeping creature
recoiled a little. But it was too late now; his very glance was a
command.

“I beg pardon, my lord,” she murmured, soft as oil, “but my love for
the family—my duty drove me here!”

“What for?” he demanded coolly, viewing her from head to foot.

She was a little frightened.

“My lord,” after all she blurted it out under those eyes of his,
“there’s a man in your sister’s rooms!”

He sprang from his chair with clenched hands.

“You damned lying cat, you!” he exclaimed, between his teeth.

Melissa fell on her knees.

“Oh, my lord,” she whined, “I did not mean that! ’Tis her husband—’tis
Lord Clancarty himself!”

It was as though a white mask had fallen on his face, his figure was
rigid, his eyes glittered; rage was almost choking him.

“How do you know, woman?” he asked fiercely.

“I know him, sir, he has been haunting her,” hurried on Melissa, “at
Althorpe, at Newmarket, and now here. ’Twas he who fought the duel in
the meadow. They have tried to hide it from me but they could not. He
is in her room now.”

Spencer glared at her, his hands twitching; when he spoke it was
hoarsely.

“How came he there? How came he in this house?” he demanded.

“Alice Lynn admitted him,” said Melissa, glibly enough now, her eyes
narrow and pale; “and she is trying to guard the doors. You may see her
for yourself, my lord,” and she fastened her eager gaze upon him.

She thought to see him take his sword and go in search of his enemy;
she had whetted her appetite for revenge for her mistress’ scorn of her
with the thought of a duel in Lady Clancarty’s rooms, and of Clancarty
in blood at his wife’s feet, or driven out into the night—whipped! Ah,
how she licked her lips at the thought; that would be the very acme of
triumph, and the young countess had treated her with such contempt.

But Lord Spencer disappointed her.

“Send hither Giles,” he said sharply, and as she went out, reluctant to
close the scene, she saw him pick up his hat and cloak.

Wild with eagerness and curiosity, she hung about the door; she heard
some orders to Giles, the confidential servant, and she saw Spencer go
out alone, and gasped in surprise and disappointment. Was he afraid?

And Giles looked askance at her as he passed.

“Where did he go?” she whispered eagerly.

“To the devil,” said the man sullenly, “you’re a pretty bird, you are,”
and he measured her with rough scorn, even while he sat down by the
main door with his pistol on his knee.

Melissa wetted her lips, creeping along by the wall opposite, watchful
and feline.

“Are you to catch him here?” she demanded, meaning Lord Clancarty.

The man stared at her again.

“Yes,” he replied, “I’m told to shoot him, but steer clear, my girl,
people don’t always hit the mark,” and he grinned.

“I shall tell Lord Spencer!” she hissed at him.

“Do! ’tis your business,” retorted the man, “and ’twill hang you
sometime, my lady-bird!”



CHAPTER XXV

MR. SECRETARY VERNON


AT the door of Leicester House Lady Clancarty’s coach stood waiting
to take her to the ball at my Lord Bridgewater’s, and she had quite
forgotten both the ball—which was a grand affair—and the coach. So
it was that Lord Spencer found it waiting his convenience for a very
different purpose. He entered it at once and directed the coachman to
go to Westminster to the house of the Under Secretary of State, and
away the great, rumbling, emblazoned coach rolled on its deadly errand,
not freighted with the charming and vivacious countess but with a young
nobleman, whose heart swelled with passion and another emotion, which
his lordship mistook for virtue—the virtue of the Roman who slew his
daughter.

As he rode through the dark streets of London that night, a link-boy
running at the horses’ heads, a tumult of strange feelings struggled
in his bosom. Passion ran high then, and party hatreds led men to
the dagger and the sword. The very fact that his father’s political
roguery was a byword made the young man more zealous for his own
reputation. He burned to be a Whig of the Whigs, a shining example as
a party leader, a distinguished patriot, and now he found sedition in
his own household, a viper in his bosom. His hatred of his Jacobite
brother-in-law ran so entirely in accord with his political creed and
his ideas of patriotism, that he mistook it for a virtuous indignation.
He moved, therefore, with an air of righteous displeasure, of calm
dignity, when he descended from the coach at the secretary’s door.

He was received with obsequious respect by the servants and ushered up
the stairs to the private office. Mr. Secretary Vernon had entertained
friends at supper and was playing shovel-board with his guests at the
time. He came in, therefore, in a genial mood, to urge Lord Spencer to
join them. He had every reason to propitiate the young Whig, to soothe
and flatter a man who had already gained some weight in Parliament. But
Lord Spencer cut short his civilities.

“I come on pressing business, Mr. Secretary,” he said gravely, with
a dejected air; “a young girl’s folly can, perhaps, be excused, yet
’tis hard to tell you that my sister—from compassion—has received a
traitor into my father’s house;” he paused, looking solemnly at the
secretary.

Vernon pricked up his ears. The assassination plot of Barclay and
Bernardi and the little band of conspirators which had thought to cut
off King William, was not yet old enough to have lost its terrors, and
the Blue Posts Tavern was known to swarm with Jacobites, made bold—as
most Whigs believed—by William’s lenity.

“Your lordship distresses me,” he said politely, as Spencer seemed to
wait for him; “may I hear more?”

“You know the story,” his lordship said regretfully, “the foolish
marriage between my sister and the Earl of Clancarty?”

Vernon nodded, a sudden change coming over his face.

“Clancarty is in London,” said Spencer, “and my sister has received
him. You can picture my despair at such folly! Mr. Secretary, I must
have a warrant, at once, and a guard to send the villain to the Tower.”

Secretary Vernon shot a look at him that a wiser man would have called
disdainful, but Spencer was too self-absorbed to see it.

“I remember that Clancarty is excepted from the king’s amnesty,” said
the secretary thoughtfully, “he falls under the penalties of the last
Treason Act—but your sister—can’t we manage this more adroitly, my
lord?”

Lord Spencer looked at him with sternly virtuous anger. “Sir,” he
replied, “I put my duty before all else—I desire his immediate arrest.
Delay may mean his ultimate escape.”

Vernon bowed. “My lord,” he said, and his lip curled scornfully, “you
have truly Roman virtue. I will fill out the warrant at once and place
it at your disposal. You desire a guard from the Tower?” he added, as
he went to his table and began to write.

“I do, and speedily,” replied the young nobleman, with a sort of savage
eagerness.

“Your lordship shall be accommodated,” Vernon said, and touched the
bell which summoned his clerk, and to him the secretary gave a few
sharp orders. Then he turned to Lord Spencer.

“This young man will accompany you, my lord,” he said blandly, “and
will give this warrant into the hands of the proper officer, who will
go with you also, taking a sufficient guard to effect the capture.”

Spencer thanked him. “Your zeal is commendable, Mr. Secretary,” he said
proudly, “’tis an hour of peril to the state, and believe me, sir, when
I serve my country thus, I sacrifice my dearest feelings at its altar.”

Vernon bowed profoundly.

“My lord,” he responded, “you deserve the plaudits of a grateful
people. The misfortunes of civil war and civil dissensions have divided
many a house against itself in this kingdom.”

But after Spencer left, the secretary walked back into the room where
a party of young men were playing shovel-board, and he told the story
with a shrug.

“I thought of offering him thirty pieces of silver,” he remarked, “for
his sister’s husband.”

“Zounds!” exclaimed one young gallant, “my Lady Clancarty will be a
widow—’tis an ill wind that blows nobody good.”

But another guest cursed Lord Spencer as a cowardly villain. It was Sir
Edward Mackie.

“There’s a story that it was Clancarty who fought the duel with Lord
Savile at Newmarket,” said another; “what say you to that, Mackie?”

But he was gone.

“Jove!” exclaimed one of the secretary’s guests, “I’ll wager ten pounds
he’s gone to warn them!”

And Vernon only smiled.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE ARREST


IN spite of Alice’s warning, in spite of the deadly peril that
surrounded him, Clancarty lingered at his wife’s side. It was hard to
say farewell, hard to leave her, and though her heart was filled with
misgivings and anxieties, Lady Betty could not urge him to go; indeed,
she clung to him, weeping at the thought of a parting that involved
such perils and hardships for him and such sorrow for her. Moreover,
there was much to talk of and to plan. They did not mean to be
separated long; she was to go with him to the Continent or to Ireland,
and there were a thousand details to arrange, a thousand hopes and
fears to strengthen or allay—and they were lovers, and when did lovers
ever learn to watch the tedious hand of time?

The ball at Lord Bridgewater’s was forgotten, Spencer was forgotten,
all the world, in fact, while Betty—lovely with happiness, glowing
and smiling in her splendid gown—thought of no one but her husband,
and desired no admiration but his.

“Ah, my darling,” he whispered, looking down at her as her face lay
against his breast, “can you give up all this?” he touched her lace and
jewels, “and this?” he pointed at the luxurious room, “and all you have
and are—to follow a poor exile into poverty and obscurity?”

She smiled divinely.

“To follow my beloved even to the ends of the earth,” she said, “‘for
better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, until death do us
part,’” she murmured tenderly.

“Amen!” he said, and laid his face against her soft hair, moved—how
deeply she could not know; her utter trust, her fondness touched him
to the heart. This splendid woman, with every gift of nature and of
fortune, willing to renounce all for him—he held her close and his
eyes dimmed.

“Ah,” he said, “’tis worth living, dear heart, for your sake! When I
thought you scorned my poverty and would rather be the wife of Savile
than mine, I cared not if I died—but now! Ah, Betty, you could make a
dungeon paradise.”

“Nay,” she replied, “it shall not be a dungeon, but a home, my husband,
somewhere—even where these quarrelling kings cannot disturb our
paradise. Faith, my politics grow strangely mixed,” she added, with a
smile.

“Love knows no politics,” he answered, smiling too, “you and I shall
not quarrel over our principles, sweetheart.”

As he spoke, the door was thrown open and Alice ran into the room with
a ghastly face.

“Oh, my lady,” she cried, “there’s something wrong—I hear strange
voices below, there are men upon the stairs! My lord must hide.”

Betty sprang to her feet.

“Quick!” she cried, “Donough, there is the other door!”

“’Tis useless,” cried Alice; “they come from both sides—I saw them!”

“Then I will hide you!” Betty cried wildly, catching her husband’s arm.

For an instant he hesitated; he, too, heard the heavy feet in the
gallery, then he shook his head.

“No, Betty, dear,” he said, “I cannot be hunted like a rat in a hole; I
must face them like a man, like your husband.”

She uttered a little cry of despair and clung to him, while Alice wrung
her hands.

“Oh, the window, my lord!” she cried, “there is a balcony!”

“Too late, my girl,” Lord Clancarty replied calmly, the light flashing
in his gray eyes, his head erect; “no, no, I’ve never let an enemy see
my back—I can’t learn to run now.”

Betty looked up at him and caught her breath; here was a man after
her own heart. She felt his hand go to his sword and she, too, looked
toward the door. They had not even thought of barring it, but it would
have been useless, for it was thrown wide open by a sheriff’s deputy,
who was followed by a guard of stout yeomen from the Tower.

“Is Donough Macarthy, Earl of Clancarty, here?” demanded the sheriff,
fixing his eyes on the earl as he stood there, with his wife clinging
to him.

“I am Clancarty,” he replied proudly. Resistance would have been worse
than useless, and he only pressed his dear Betty closer to his heart;
he knew that separation was inevitable.

“I have a warrant to seize the body of the Earl of Clancarty and carry
him to the Tower, on the charge of high treason,” said the officer,
producing the parchment and reading the warrant aloud in the king’s
name.

“I do not acknowledge the authority of the Prince of Orange,” said
Clancarty calmly, “but I must submit to superior numbers,” he added,
with a scornful glance at the six stout yeomen who had filed into the
room and stood gaping at Lady Clancarty. “You have arrested me in the
apartments of my wife. I came to London solely to see the Countess of
Clancarty, but I will go with you without further protest.”

The officer bowed to Lady Clancarty.

“I am reluctant to part you, my lord,” he said grimly, “but we have no
time to lose; my orders are explicit.”

“You might find a better office, sir,” said Lady Betty, withering
him with a look, and then breaking down when her husband kissed her
farewell.

“Have comfort, dear heart,” he whispered, though he knew the case was
desperate; “bear up for my sake—now!”

But she clung to him in a passion of grief, begging to go with him to
the Tower until it wrung his heart anew to leave her. Even the soldiers
glanced away in grim silence, and she was half unconscious when
Clancarty unclasped her hands from his neck and laid her in Alice’s
arms.

“Care for her, Alice,” he said, in a tone of deep but restrained
emotion, “guard her tenderly, do not leave her in this hour of
trial—for they will tear me from her! My poor darling—my poor wife!”

He lingered to kiss her again, to push the soft hair back from her
forehead, and it was only a final order from the sheriff that took him
from her side.

The guards had escorted him out at last, or rather he had walked
out proudly with them, though his heart was aching for her. They
were already at the lower door when Lady Clancarty, recovering
consciousness, sprang up to come face to face with Spencer. Then the
truth flashed upon her and she stood before him with a terrible face.

“You—you betrayed him!” she cried, “you sent those men here to drag
him away!”

Lord Spencer took it as a compliment.

“I did,” he said piously; “I delivered the traitor to his fate; I would
do it were he my own flesh and blood. No sacrifice is too great for
truth and justice.”

“You hypocrite!” cried Lady Betty passionately; “you have broken your
sister’s heart for the sake of your pride—your politics! You have
murdered my husband—my husband!” she wrung her hands in agony.

“I have done my duty,” he replied coldly.

“Your duty?” she cried bitterly; “was it then your duty to betray your
sister’s husband? To force an officer and his guard into your sister’s
rooms—to trample on her tenderest feelings—to mortify and crush
her? Duty!” she repeated scornfully, “then may no man henceforth do
his duty! Such virtue is more vile than vice—such courage worse than
cowardice! How dare you face me or look at me? An injured woman! I mark
your white face, sir, and I marvel at its pallor; it should burn with
shame.”

Spencer ground his teeth in anger. “You saucy minx,” he said, “how
dared you have that man here?”

“How dared I?” she repeated, “how dared I have my husband with me? Whom
should I have with me if not my husband?”

She paused for breath; her bosom rose and fell, she put her hands to
her throat as if she choked. It was a moment before she could speak.

“What have you done?” she went on passionately, her slender figure
towering, her eyes on fire; “you have torn him from my arms, you
have sent him to his death, but you cannot tear him from my heart!
While that beats, while the blood runs through these veins, I will
love him—love him! And he is my husband—my husband, do you hear,
you coward? I bear his name, I am his, his flesh and blood, his very
own—you cannot separate us! Even if you kill him, our souls are one;
you cannot part them any more than you can rend the sky asunder! I am
not your sister—I am Clancarty’s wife.”

“Shame on you, madam,” said Spencer bitterly, his face like ashes, gray
and white; “shame on you to declare yourself so passionately enamoured
of a Jacobite—a reprobate—a—”

“Of my husband,” she said, and her low voice cut like a lash.

“Your husband,” he mocked; “are you sure that he is your lawful
husband? A sneaking rogue who crept to your room by a back-stair—who
would not face your family like a man of honor!”

“What insult more have you for me?” she cried; “’tis you who dared not
face him; you crept behind him like a coward, you—you Judas!”

She caught her breath, her hands at her throat again.

“Sit down, madam,” said his lordship coldly; “your fury suffocates you.
It will not avail,” he laughed, “to set the rogue free!”

She looked at him strangely.

“Are you human?” she asked, “are you like other men?—or some
monster, some abortive creature, cast upon the earth to wreck the
lives of others? How could any woman marry you? I think you are not
human—though we are of the same mother!”

Spencer laughed bitterly.

“Quite human, Elizabeth,” he said sneering, “as human as my termagant
sister—as the rogue they are carrying now to the Tower, where, I
trust, he’ll rest well—and safe.”

She recoiled half way across the room and stared at him wildly, as if
her very senses were bewildered.

“To the Tower?” she repeated, like a child who had a lesson by rote,
“the great gloomy Tower yonder?”

“Would you have preferred Newgate?” my lord asked maliciously,
beginning to find some joy in a situation that had not been without
humiliation.

“They carry my husband to the Tower!” Lady Betty cried wildly, clasping
her hands to her bosom as if to still the tumult there, “and I stand
here talking to the Judas who betrayed him! Go hang yourself, my
lord,—surely you cannot want to live,” she went on, mad with her
despair; “let me see your face no more. The very air you breathe
poisons me. Never, never shall the same roof shelter us again! I go,
sir, your sister no longer, but the beggar’s wife. I go to share his
fate, to starve with him, to die for him or with him! But to see you no
more forever and forever!”

She rushed past him, sweeping her skirts aside that they might not so
much as touch him, and ran wildly out of the room.

Fleeing through the long galleries and down the stairs, in her splendid
dress, and heedless of the gaping servants and of the bitter cold she
went out, bareheaded, into the night.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE TRAITOR’S GATE


POOR Lady Betty, half distracted, fled from the house into Leicester
Fields, trying to find the party that had preceded her with her husband
as a prisoner. The darkness and the peril of the London streets at that
late hour did not enter her thoughts. Bareheaded and without a cloak to
shield her from the cold night air, she ran around the square.

She saw lights in the adjacent houses, she heard voices in the
distance, but she only looked for one—her husband. She took no thought
of the madness of her project; she sped on and on, and might have come
into some great peril had she not fallen almost into the arms of a
man who was running toward Lord Sunderland’s mansion. They came upon
each other in the darkness; in her grief and nervousness she uttered a
little cry, and he knew her voice.

“Lady Clancarty!” he exclaimed, stopping short.

It was young Mackie.

At first she did not recognize him, but when she did, she caught his
arm with a frantic appeal. The light from a dim lantern overhead shone
on her white face.

“My husband!” she cried, “my Lord Clancarty. They have dragged him away
to prison. My—nay, I will not call him my brother—that man yonder,
Charles Spencer, betrayed him—betrayed my husband, and they came into
my very rooms to arrest him—to tear us apart, and he has gone,” she
added wildly, “gone to the Tower.”

“I know,” he replied, deeply moved, “I know. I was at Vernon’s house
and heard it after your—after Lord Spencer got the warrant. I came to
warn you but, alas, I am too late.”

“Yes, too late!” cried Betty, a little wildly, “too late; but I am
going to the Tower—I am going to my husband!”

They had walked on a little way as they talked, and were so near
Aylesbury House that the lights from within fell on her. He saw her
uncovered head and dazzling gown.

“Lady Clancarty,” he said persuasively, “let us go back for your cloak
and mask. You can’t go down the river to the Tower thus—in the cold!”

“I care not for it,” she replied; “go back?” she shuddered, “I could
not—I cannot breathe the same air with Spencer, it poisons me!”

Without another word young Mackie took off his own cloak and wrapped it
around her, and she, in her excitement, took no thought of his exposure
to the cold in his thin suit of velvet and satin.

“I must go!” she reiterated, “the very shortest way—I must go to my
husband!” and her voice broke pitifully.

“You shall go, dear Lady Clancarty,” he said gently, setting himself to
face the task, though a sharp pain rankled in his own bosom, and when
he drew her hand through his arm he set his teeth.

He loved her, too, and she took no more thought of him than of a
stone—such is the way of women.

The night wind cut their faces as they walked toward the river. She was
so used to service from men, to their devotion, that she took his for
granted; she did not even try to talk to him, but he heard her weeping
softly and the pitiful little sound made him shiver. He longed to
comfort her, but he set his teeth harder—he knew she wept for Lord
Clancarty.

When they reached the water stairs she was resolute again and alert.
She walked unassisted down the steps and urged him to take any boat
for the Tower, impatient of the wrangling of the boatmen. She stamped
her foot at them, in fact, and took so high a tone that, at last, the
blackguards subsided and took them meekly enough, though the order,
“the Traitor’s Gate,” caused some murmurs.

Once on the water she sat erect and silent, straining eyes and ears for
the king’s boat, which had, of course, preceded hers, with her husband
aboard. She hoped to be close enough behind to gain admission with him;
she had no other hope, no other prayer but to share his fate, however
wretched, to follow him to prison and to death. Her impulsive nature
stirred at last to its depths swept her on. She could be as heroic now
and as resolute as she had been careless and happy in the summer time
of her life. She was imperial woman to her finger tips; she loved and
hated with the full, fierce tide of her rich nature. She gave all and
kept nothing back.

Young Mackie looking at the dark outline of her figure against the gray
river, felt all this keenly and admired her the more. She was a woman
to die for, he thought, and turned his boyish face away, for he dared
not look at her—it tried him too far.

Something in her mood seemed to cast a spell upon the boatmen; the
wherry swept on in silence, save for the sound of the oars and the
ripple of water under its bow. The lights of the city, feeble lanterns
swung across the narrow, reeking streets, gleamed dimly; the river was
as still as death.

At last the frowning bastions of the Tower—that inexorable fortress,
dark with secrets, grim as Fate,—cast their black shadow over them.
And then,—Betty’s heart stood still—the boat turned and began to
creep under the vaulted arch at the Traitor’s Gate. The faint gleaming
of night upon the waters narrowed behind them and was swallowed up in
darkness, while before, the red lights at the gate began to shine. The
boat jarred on the steps. She looked up and saw the closed wicket and
the guard of yeomen looking down, and suddenly despair seized upon her
and she trembled so that Mackie had almost to lift her from the boat.

Then arose the question of admittance. She wished to see the warden;
but Sir Edward knew this was no easy matter and resorted to a
stratagem.

“We come from Mr. Secretary Vernon,” he said boldly, with an air of
authority.

The sergeant at the gate hesitated, and asked for a permit.

“The matter is pressing,” Mackie said firmly; “we must be admitted.”

The sergeant shook his head, looking gravely out upon them. A yeoman
lifted his torch and the light streamed on Lady Betty’s beautiful face.

“I cannot admit you at this hour,” the old soldier replied firmly but
not unkindly; “my orders are explicit.”

Betty’s face changed and seemed to shrink into childish proportions;
she held out her hands pitifully.

“I beg you,” she said, her voice quivering, “I am Lady Clancarty, the
wife of the earl who has just been arrested. Is he here? I pray you
tell me?”

The two men at the wicket exchanged significant glances, and the elder
looked down at her again in open pity.

“He was committed about twenty minutes ago, madam,” he replied kindly.

“Twenty minutes? O Sir Edward, twenty minutes ago, and I might have
seen him!” and she wept bitterly.

She drew a ring from her finger, a costly jewel, and pressed it upon
the soldier.

“I pray you let me enter too!” she cried, “I would only share his
prison. See, I have no weapons—nothing! I cannot set him free—I only
want to share his fate!”

The sergeant waved aside her jewel.

“Nay,” he said firmly, “bribes I may not take. Truly, madam, if I could
let you see your husband I would do it, but I dare not.”

Mackie urged him then, using the name of the Duke of Devonshire, though
he had felt from the first that without a permit she could never be
admitted. Lady Clancarty would not give way so readily; she struggled
with her grief and commanded her voice again, going closer to the
wicket and laying her hands upon it—that famous wicket which had
closed behind so many prisoners; on Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey,
on Sir Thomas More and Cranmer and on the Duke of Norfolk; the wicket
stained with a long history of terror and despair—was clasped now by
Lady Betty’s slender fingers, and she prayed for admittance—a new
prayer, indeed, at the Traitor’s Gate.

“You will let me in,” she said; “I must speak with the captain of
the guard! I am the daughter of the Earl of Sunderland. I demand this
much—to see the captain of the guard.”

At this the man gave way a little; he sent a yeoman for the captain of
the watch, but he kept the wicket closed and stood grim and silent,
looking out upon them. The torchlight flared up and down, the water
rippled below them on the stone steps—it seemed like the tongue of a
hungry wolf lapping blood—and there was silence.

At last came the echo of heavy feet upon the stone floor, the rattle of
arms, and the tall, gray-headed captain came to the wicket and looked
out, inexorable as fate, though his eyes changed a little at the sight
of Lady Clancarty, common as a woman’s grief was there. He listened to
Mackie’s explanation, gravely respectful but unrelenting.

“I ask only to see him—to share his fate,” Betty said, as Sir Edward
concluded, “’tis so little!”

But the officer shook his head.

“Nay, madam,” he replied kindly, “not without the king’s orders.”

“At least permit her to see her husband, to speak with him,” urged Sir
Edward.

“’Tis a small thing to grant me,” cried Betty, “I pray you, sir,
think of your own wife in a like case, and show compassion on the
unfortunate!”

“Nay, madam, I need no urging,” said the captain, “if it were in my
power—but it is not; since the last assassination plot we have been
strictly enjoined to guard our prisoners of state and hedge them
in with every precaution. Your case is in higher hands than mine.
Surely, Lady Clancarty, you can obtain influence enough to grant your
wish,—your father, Secretary Vernon.”

“My father,” Lady Clancarty repeated bitterly, as she stood thinking,
her white face downcast.

The two men exchanged significant glances; neither of them had hope.
Clancarty was scarcely an object for the king’s clemency; he was a
notorious Jacobite, a man of daring, whose personal prominence as an
Irish earl, no less than his political affiliations, marked him out for
probable example.

Happily, she did not see their looks, she stood leaning against the
wicket, her head bent. She looked up and began to plead again to see
her husband.

“You may put me behind bolts and bars,” she said passionately, “I care
not; indeed, I pray to be a prisoner too, since he is one. Ah, it is
so little that I ask. What could I do? I could not break his chains—I
could not set him free! I only pray—pray you,” she stretched out her
hands in fervent supplication, “to let me share his prison! I cannot be
free while he is here—I will not be free!”

The old soldier shook his head, he was deeply touched.

“I cannot, madam,” he replied; “but let me beg you to carry this
petition to one who can and will surely hear you.”

“You mean the king?” said Mackie.

The officer inclined his head. “I know of no one in these three
kingdoms so merciful,” he replied quietly.

“’Tis a wise thought,” said Sir Edward gently, as if he spoke to a
child; “come, Lady Clancarty, let us carry our petition to his majesty.”

For the moment she had completely broken down. She wept and her sobs
shook her from head to foot.

“I cannot leave him here,” she cried; “how dare you ask me?”

Young Mackie bowed his head; he, too, was shaken by her emotion.

“I only beg of you to appeal to one who has the power to grant your
petition,” he said, very low.

It was a little while yet before she conquered herself and looked up
through her tears at them both.

“I believe you mean kindly to me,” she said, with a humility strangely
touching in one of her high spirit; “I will go to my father, Sir
Edward, he may hear me—but I have little hope—so little hope!” and
she fell to weeping again.



CHAPTER XXVIII

ALICE AND DENIS


WHEN Lady Clancarty fled wildly from her father’s house, poor Alice was
too much overwhelmed with the agony of the recent scene to know what to
do. For the moment she gave way only to her grief, fleeing from Spencer
and from the woman, Melissa, as she would have fled from pestilence.
But she was too sensible and too faithful to remain long without making
an effort to follow her mistress. In less than an hour, therefore, she
had gathered up a heavy cloak and hood of Lady Betty’s, and assuming
her own mantle, went out into the night. It took no small courage to
do this, when the streets of London were beset by rogues of every
class and description, and the dim streaks of light from an occasional
lantern swung in some archway served only to make the darkness visible.
Alice, who was urged on by no frenzy like Lady Clancarty’s, went out
with a sinking heart, her sharp sense of duty alone keeping her to her
purpose. She had not dared to ask even a lackey from the house to
attend her; these town servants were strangers to her, and everywhere
she looked for treachery. Poor Alice wrapped her cloak around her and
set out alone upon a devious course of wanderings, through every lane
and byway in the vicinity, in a fruitless quest for her dear lady.
Sometimes the girl proceeded quietly through a deserted street; again
she shrank into the shelter of a friendly doorway at the sound of high
voices and drunken laughter; and again—and more than once—she dodged
some ruffian who would have pounced upon her, and fled, saved by swift
running, for she was fleet as any deer. The terrors of the night grew
upon her until her knees shook under her. She could not imagine what
evil had befallen her lovely and unhappy mistress and more than once
she stopped, blinded by tears.

Just as her despair reached a climax, she came in sight of the Standard
Tavern and glanced at it timidly; even at that hour it was well lighted
and full of company. As she watched, a figure came out of the door
and stood by the lantern under the sign—a short, sturdy figure and a
homely Irish face. She recognized Denis, and Denis was Lord Clancarty’s
faithful servant. She did not know that he had only just discovered
the arrest of his master in Sunderland’s house and had put his own
interpretation upon it. She rushed blindly—as we do—upon fate.

“O Mr. Denis!” she cried, revealing her white face under her hood,
“have you seen my mistress? my dear Lady Clancarty?”

Denis wheeled and eyed her with an expression that she did not
understand.

“Begorra!” he ejaculated, beneath his breath, and swept down upon her
like an avalanche.

“I know ye, me darlint,” he said, and there was something in his tone
that sent a shiver through Alice, “ye’ll walk a stip with me an’ tell
me thrue all ye know of this, ivery wurd! Come on, mavourneen, ’tis fer
me ear alone.”

“I can’t go with you,” Alice said, trying to pull away from him, but
his grip was a vise; “my poor lady is out here in the night—I must
find her.”

“A curse upon her!” said Denis fiercely, “a curse upon her smilin’,
desateful face; may she dhry up an’ wither away loike a did leaf—an’
may—”

Alice cried out a little.

“Let me go!” she said, “you bloody Irishman, let me go. I thought you
were a faithful servant to Lord Clancarty.”

“I’ll not let ye go,” retorted Denis savagely, dragging her along,
“I’ll not let ye go until I make yer teeth rattle!”

Alice screamed aloud in an agony of fright; but of what avail was it? A
woman’s scream in the black mouth of a London lane at midnight; it was
only a drop upon the surface of a black pool.

“Scrame away, ye little threacherous, spiteful cat, ye!” said Denis,
shaking her fiercely; “ye’d bethray me masther, would ye? Begorra, I’d
loike ter kill ye intirely! Take that, ye hizzy!” and he gave her a
sound blow that made the poor girl reel.

Alice was no weakling and she put out all her strength and fought him,
screaming.

“Oh, ye cat, ye!” he said harshly, shaking her again; “take that—an’
that, ye lyin’, desateful hizzy! I’ll teach ye,” and he shook her much
as a big dog shakes a kitten.

Alice screamed; if she even dimly conceived his error, she had no
breath to argue with him; she believed, indeed, that her last hour
had come, and shrieked with all her strength. And Denis shook her,
and would have gone on shaking her indefinitely but for a timely
interruption.



CHAPTER XXIX

FATHER AND DAUGHTER


WHEN Lady Clancarty ascended the water stairs on her return from the
Tower she was outwardly calm, the floodtide of her emotion having spent
itself in the outburst at the Traitor’s Gate. Young Mackie, still
acting as her sole escort, came up the steps behind her and the two,
pausing at the top, saw dawn breaking over the river. Like a wraith the
fog rolled up along the water, the sky grew pale and in the far east a
light shone, keen and cold. The streets were unusually quiet; it was a
little before the hour when a city stirs for its first breath; darkness
lay deeply in the narrow lanes, and silence. On the river, which
bristled with a forest of masts, some ships put up their sails.

Suddenly they heard a woman’s scream and saw two figures struggling
at the mouth of the lane before them. Mackie started toward them,
but the woman broke away and ran screaming to the water side, almost
brushing against Lady Clancarty, and as she did so there was a cry of
recognition and she fell upon her neck, weeping and exclaiming. It was
Alice Lynn. Sir Edward seized the man.

“You rogue!” he exclaimed, “you would abuse a woman, would you?”

But the fellow, struggling lustily for his liberty, broke out with an
Irish oath, and Mackie knew him.

“You are Lord Clancarty’s man,” he said in surprise, releasing him;
“what means this? I am Sir Edward Mackie.”

“Faix, there’s naything the matther,” replied Denis sullenly, rubbing
his neck; “I was jist givin’ thet dasignin’ hizzy a shaking fer
bethrayin’ me Lord Clancarty—curse her!”

“You are mistaken, my man,” said Mackie, understanding Denis’s error,
“I was at Secretary Vernon’s when Lord Spencer came in for the warrant.
Lady Clancarty has just come from the Tower where she would fain have
shared your master’s imprisonment. Her woman here, I doubt not, is as
faithful.”

“The saints be praised!” exclaimed Denis piously, “I couldn’t b’lave
ill of her ladyship, but whin there’s snake wurrk loike this, yer
honor, I’m afther looking fer th’ woman; ’twas a woman, sir, that
started in these dalings with th’ ould serpent himself. Me lord’s as
good as did now,—woe’s me!”

“Say nothing like that to my lady, I charge you,” said Mackie sharply,
“she cannot bear it.”

At the moment, Betty called Denis, having heard Alice’s story and
divining his mistake.

“I will forgive you, Denis,” she said, “since it was for my lord’s
sake; but you have nearly killed my poor girl with fright and she was
only seeking me.”

“Forgive me, your ladyship,” he said humbly, “I can but die fer ye, me
poor lord—” he broke down, and Lady Clancarty said no more; she, too,
was overcome.

It did not occur to Denis to apologize to the victim of his mistaken
vengeance, but when he learned that Lady Clancarty intended to make
another attempt to get into the Tower, he joined himself to her party,
without asking permission, and followed on, determined to go with her
to his master, ignoring Alice’s abhorrence.

It was with this strangely assorted company that Lady Clancarty
returned at daybreak to her father’s house. Not to remain, as she told
young Mackie, for never again would she dwell under the same roof with
the man who had betrayed her husband.

The events of the night, quite as exciting at home as abroad, had
made the Earl of Sunderland wakeful, so it happened that he was out
of bed when his daughter sought him in his own room. She found him,
clad in a great shag gown, sitting in an armchair by the fire, calmly
sipping a cup of chocolate, his bland countenance showing no sign of
perturbation, no matter what his emotions might have been. Nor did he
express any surprise at his daughter’s appearance in her strange guise
at that unusual hour. He smiled upon her quite benignly and waved her
toward a chair.

“A cup of chocolate, my love,” he said, “you look fatigued.”

Betty looked at him sadly. She knew only too well how hard it was to
touch his heart under that polished exterior, if heart he had at all,
and she had often doubted it.

“You will not sit down?” he asked with apparent surprise; “you must be
tired.”

“I do not wish to rest here,” she replied sadly, “I cannot under the
same roof with Spencer,”—she would not call him her brother; “I know
you have heard all, sir,” she added, watching him keenly—hoping,
fearing; “I have come here to pray your good offices with the king—to
ask you to help your own daughter to save her husband from death!”

Lord Sunderland held up his hand deprecatingly.

“My love,” he said, “I feared as much! Pray do not ask the impossible!
You know how they hate me in Parliament because I am supposed to have
the king’s ear. If I meddle in this they will bring in a bill of
attainder,—it is a favorite scheme of theirs,” he added bitterly.

“But, father, they will kill my husband,” cried Betty, “they will
behead him for high treason, and he only came here to see me!”

Lord Sunderland smiled and sipped his chocolate, quite unmoved.

“He is a traitor, though, my dear,” he remarked, “and quite a notorious
one. My dear Betty, don’t make a scene—you know nothing about the man.”

“He is my husband,” she cried with passionate grief, “is that no tie?”

“I’ve known several fine ladies who did not consider it one,” replied
the earl, with a titter, “notably my Lady Shrewsbury the elder.”

“An infamous creature, and you know it!” cried Betty, with something
of her old spirit, and then she threw herself on her knees beside him;
“father, father,” she pleaded, “you were ever kind to me—oh, pity me,
help me to save him!”

Sunderland tried to raise her; he even caressed her bowed head. He
detested a scene, and he did not know how to manage this beautiful
young creature.

“My child,” he said, “this will pass; you do not know him well enough
to feel his loss. The marriage was my folly; your release—though
doubtless painful and cruel—will be a blessing in disguise.”

Betty recoiled from his touch, her face white.

“I love him,” she declared simply, “his death upon the block would kill
me.”

“Tut, tut!” replied her father heartlessly; “we young people always die
so easily.”

“I would rather die than find those of my own blood so indifferent to
my wretchedness,” cried Betty.

“Perhaps you are indifferent, too,” rejoined the earl; “your mother
lies ill now at Windsor.”

“I am sorry,” Betty said, “but I must try to save my husband. Father,
father!” she clung to his hand weeping, “if you ever loved me—as an
infant, as a child, as a young girl,—do not abandon me now. Oh, help
me to save him! Do you not remember when you used to carry me in your
arms—your little girl? Oh, you were kind to me, father, kinder than
any one else! You will not break my heart now? My mother never cared
for me as you did—never caressed me so, never brought me toys. I loved
you then, sir, and I love you now. Have you no place in your heart for
me—your daughter, your little girl, Elizabeth? Go to the king—you
have but to ask; they say he is merciful, and he trusts you. Oh, save
Donough!”

Lord Sunderland sighed. “My dear,” he said, “I would gladly help you,
but you ask the impossible. I have no power to save a traitor. You know
as well as I that even the Habeas Corpus Act is suspended on account
of that rogue Bernardi and his accomplices; you know the story of the
Fenwick attainder. How can you ask me to risk my head and my family
reputation for this Irishman? You fancy you love him, Betty, but ’tis
only your fancy. There are other men as brave,” he added, with a smile;
“you need not be a widow long.”

Betty sprang to her feet.

“You, too, insult me—and you are my father. Oh, I have no father,
then, any more—the old, dear memories are but dreams—the hand that
caressed my childish head can deal me such a blow as this! Ah, it
breaks my heart! Alas, there is no earthly hope!”

Lord Sunderland poured out another cup of chocolate.

“No,” he replied calmly, “not for Clancarty. Really, my dear, I must
be firm, I cannot and I will not risk my reputation, perhaps my life,
for—” he shrugged his shoulders, “a Jacobite rogue.”

She said nothing, but she gave him a look so eloquent that he shrank
a little, with all his effrontery, as she turned to leave the room.
At the door she paused and waved her hand to him with a gesture of
infinite sadness.

“Farewell, father,” she said softly, “farewell! I loved you—I love
you still—and I forgive you—as I pray to be forgiven. I go, your
daughter no longer—since you disown Clancarty’s wife. I have no home,
no father—only my husband! Farewell, farewell!”

He heard the low sound of her weeping as she went out, her head bowed
and her whole beautiful young figure full of dejection. She felt
herself an outcast.



CHAPTER XXX

MY LORD OF DEVONSHIRE


LADY BETTY’S weakness passed. She was too strong, too loving, and too
determined by nature, to give way to the tears and sighs of a whining
woman. So stern was her face and so resolute that even Alice, with all
the old claims of faithful service and affection, dared not offer her
any consolation save to kiss her hand humbly and sadly.

“Ah, Alice,” she said, “I cannot talk to you. When I was happy I
chattered like a magpie; but now that I feel so much I am tongue-tied;
yet I understand, my girl, I understand.”

“I wish I could help you,” Alice said, in tears, “I wish I could do
something for you both!”

Betty shook her head sadly. “There is no one but the king. Ah, Alice,
in my careless days I have mocked his Dutch accent and his Dutch
ways—but now—I go to him as my one hope under heaven! How foolish I
have been, how heartless!”

She would not stay in Leicester House; she only lingered long enough
to select her plainest gown and a cloak and hood, and to take such
jewels and money as belonged to her individually, before she and Alice
set out, attended by the tireless Sir Edward. Not this time to the
Tower, however, but to a mediator who might approach the king with
more likelihood of success than any one; the widow of the martyred
Lord Russell. From Sir Edward Mackie, Lady Russell learned that
morning the whole story, and her heart was touched by the despair
of the young countess, suffering as she had suffered. Though of all
women Lady Russell was the last one to sympathize with a Jacobite, yet
her compassion moved her to forgive her enemies, and from her Lady
Clancarty might look for more help than from any one, for she was an
honored and revered friend of King William’s.

So to Lady Russell’s house in Bloomsbury the young Countess of
Clancarty directed her steps, and it was on the way thither that they
met the coach of my Lord of Devonshire. The great emblazoned coach
drawn by four stout Flanders mares, with outriders in crimson and gold
lace, came clattering and rumbling along the street, the men cursing
and shouting at the other vehicles that threatened to stop his grace’s
way. Betty and her escort stood back to escape the mud from the kennel
as it passed.

The news of Spencer’s despicable act and of Clancarty’s arrest had been
spread over the town by the young men at Secretary Vernon’s dinner.
When his grace saw Lady Clancarty afoot at that early hour, therefore,
he ordered his coach to stop and descended with great dignity.

She did not wait for him to speak, running up to him with an eager face.

“My lord, my lord,” she cried, “I claim your promise at Newmarket. You
will help me save my Lord Clancarty.”

Devonshire gracefully kissed her hand.

“Dear Lady Clancarty,” he replied, “I would hesitate only at John the
Baptist’s head upon a charger! I shall keep my promise. Indeed, ’tis
partly kept already, for I have just arranged with my Lords of Ormond
and Bedford to go with me to Kensington for your sake. But,” the great
man paused, glancing at the beautiful face, “my dear child, you would
be the best suppliant,” he added.

“I will go,” Betty answered, “though, indeed, my lord, I do not know
how the king will receive me—he is so cold! And my father—” her voice
broke at the word; “Lord Sunderland will not help me. Sir Edward has
suggested Lady Russell as an intercessor.”

An expression of surprise passed over Devonshire’s face, but it
brightened.

“I know of no one better,” he said gravely; “nay, dear Lady Clancarty,
take heart of grace; your cold king is a merciful one.”

Betty drew a sharp breath.

“My Lord Clancarty is out of his clemency,” she said faintly; “the
Habeas Corpus Act—” she could say no more.

Devonshire looked grave and his eyes met Mackie’s significantly, but he
took her hand.

“My child,” he said kindly, “you will go in my carriage to Lady
Russell’s and then I will go to Kensington; we will not surrender until
we are beaten. You are not wont to be faint hearted.”

“I am changed,” she replied; “the old Betty is quite dead, I think, my
lord; now I am only the shadow of Clancarty; as he suffers so also do
I. If I could but see him!”

“I have sent to the Tower,” said the duke reassuringly, “and I think I
may get a letter for you. Would a word be any comfort?”

“Ah, my lord!” she exclaimed, and kissed his hand impulsively.

Once in the coach they travelled rapidly; the duke talking of other
things, seeing well enough that her strength was overtaxed. He was
still talking when the carriage turned from Little Queen Street and
stopped in Bloomsbury Square. He led her by the hand into the presence
of Rachel, Lady Russell, his kinswoman by marriage, and Lady Betty
never forgot the benevolence of the great man’s face, the kindly
pressure of his hand, the fatherly interest of his glance, as he walked
beside her in the splendid dress he had assumed to go to court. Nor did
she forget the sad, sweet dignity of the widow who rose to meet them
and came forward with such reserve of manner until she saw Lady Betty’s
face, then she held out both hands, tears glistening in her eyes; she
scarcely courtesied to the duke.

“My child!” she exclaimed, “my poor child, I too have suffered so. Ah,
my lord, when will the Traitor’s Gate close, save on a woman’s bleeding
heart?” and she kissed the young countess on brow and cheek.

“My husband,” faltered Betty, “you know, dear madam, that he is a
Jacobite?”

“I know it,” Lady Russell answered sadly; “but he is also a brave man
and, as I know, the idol of one woman’s heart. Alas, my lord,” she
added gravely to Devonshire, “do you love us well enough to make amends
for the broken hearts—the faithful broken hearts?”

His Grace of Devonshire only bowed his head while the elder sufferer
clasped the younger in her arms and caressed her, speaking kind and
soothing words, like a mother to the daughter of her heart. A moment
later, when she glanced an inquiry at him over Betty’s head, he shook
his gravely, framing “no” with his lips, for he had no hope, or next to
none. So he told young Mackie as they left the house together.

“Poor young creature,” said his grace gravely, “she shall command my
utmost endeavors; Spencer is a cold-hearted rogue—and her father!” the
duke shrugged his shoulders; “as for Clancarty, he’s more likely to be
made an example than an exception.”

“He’s a brave man, your grace,” said Mackie generously, “and there are
many of his persuasion.”

“A poor philosophy, my boy,” replied the duke; “this fellow is
notorious, besides. Do you know his history?”

“No,” said Mackie sadly, “I see only her agony.”

“It was Ormond who introduced him to her at Newmarket, and I suspect
that his grace knew who ‘Mr. Trevor’ really was, though he doesn’t
admit it. But I believe she divined it at once. Clancarty has a
history,” his grace went on; “he was bred a Protestant, but when
he went back to Ireland, in the late king’s time, he fell in with
Papist kinsfolk and it served his turn at court to be a Papist, so my
young lord turned his coat; a wild rogue, sir, let me tell you, yet
this young girl loves him! He sat in the Celtic Parliament at King’s
Inns,—a very pretty recommendation to King William,—he commanded
a regiment in King James’s army and was taken by Marlborough, but
succeeded in getting off. The estates of Clancarty—they are held to
be worth ten thousand a year—are confiscated, and you know who has
the greater share?” added the duke significantly, “my Lord Woodstock.
William will not despoil his Dutch favorites for a Jacobite.”

Young Mackie’s face was grave.

“She asks only for his life,” he said, “and she pleads so eloquently
that I think no man but one of stone can refuse her.”

Devonshire smiled broadly.

“Not you, at least, my dear sir,” he replied, “if my eyes mistake not.”

The young man turned crimson.

“Your grace,” he said, “I do confess it; but I have seen her so like an
angel in her devotion, so forgetful of all but him, that, loving her, I
would risk my life to give him back to her.”

The duke took a pinch of snuff and stood tapping the jewelled lid of
the box thoughtfully.

“A very pretty sentiment, Sir Edward,” he said genially, “and I honor
you for it. By my faith, I would not risk my own heart against her
tears, or her smiles, either,” he added smiling, “though you need not
mention it. But I have small hope, sir, small hope; the king has been,
as we know, over merciful and fostered rebellion at his very door. What
is it the great bard says?

  “‘What doth cherish weeds but gentle air?
  And what make robbers bold but too much lenity?’

And at this time, after the recent troubles, his majesty is not like
to be advised to mercy,” and his grace shook his head; “there is but
little hope!”



CHAPTER XXXI

LADY RUSSELL


IT happened that Lady Russell advised delay in the appeal to the king;
she wished to wait for the results of the interview between his majesty
and the three dukes. Surely no fair woman ever won greater mediators as
quickly as did poor Lady Betty.

Lady Russell hoped little, however, from their efforts, though she said
not a word of this to the distracted young wife but, instead, pointed
out the advantages of waiting until they could appeal to William quite
alone—as two women in distress—and with no connection with any
political embroglio. Indeed, the older woman knew the king well enough
to be sure that his heart might be touched by a woman’s grief, though
in affairs of state he could be adamant. In spite of Betty’s impatience
and misery, they waited, and Devonshire, Ormond, and Bedford, two great
English peers and the greatest Irish one, went up to Kensington to save
one young woman’s heart from breaking, caring little enough for the
Jacobite earl himself.

It was during this season of delay, when despair and hope were mingled,
that one of Devonshire’s gentlemen brought a packet from the Tower and
gave it to Lady Clancarty with much elaborate courtesy. And she? She
fled with it to her room—Lady Russell had insisted upon keeping her
under her own roof—and she kissed and wept over it, before she opened
it, although she knew that the Governor of the Tower had read it all
before her, hard necessity!

It contained a ring, a letter, and the dried sprig of shamrock, and her
eyes were half blinded with tears as she tried to read.

“My own dear wife,” it ran, “a gentleman from my Lord of Devonshire
has just been with me and has told me of your noble devotion to me in
this dark hour, of your efforts in my behalf. Dear heart, dear heart,
how can I write all I feel, or tell my gratitude to the great duke for
befriending you? To tell the truth, I have little hope that my pardon
can be obtained, but I do hope and pray to see you once more! Ah, the
separation, Betty, I did not know how hard it would be to bear—doubly
hard now that I know you suffer, too. Bear up, brave heart, under the
despair also; indeed, I know you will, for my sake, and afterwards—you
will go to see my mother, who is, I know, broken hearted—and you
will comfort her for me. Ah, I did not mean to write to you sadly,
sweetheart, but the loss of you drives me to distraction. I see you
constantly as you looked unconscious in my arms, and it wrings my
heart. Dear love, I send you my ring and our bit of shamrock, and I
will not believe that I shall not see you again—’twould be too cruel.

“Dear heart, sweet wife,—farewell!”

Poor Lady Betty, she wept over it and caressed it like a living thing,
for he had touched it; and she hid the shamrock and the ring in her
bosom.

In this distracted state she waited forty-eight hours longer, until she
knew that the three dukes had obtained no definite promise from the
king and that the Earl of Sunderland, who was supposed to command his
majesty’s ear, was proclaiming everywhere his approval of Spencer’s
deed. The cloud grew darker rather than brighter, and in her agony she
would have gone alone to Kensington, for Lady Russell’s caution seemed
to her only distracting delay.

However, the older woman only lingered to take her steps more surely.
She drew up, with Devonshire’s help, a formal petition to the king, not
trusting to any verbal or interrupted statement of the case, and at
last, just when the young countess was reduced almost to madness, she
signified her readiness to accompany her to court.

The king was at Kensington and the two set out, a little before noon,
in Lady Russell’s carriage, for the palace. Betty had worn her heart
out with grief and impatience; she had not slept and she had scarcely
tasted food, except under compulsion, and was a shadow of herself—but
still a beautiful one. Lady Russell knew intuitively all that the
younger woman had suffered, and when they were in the carriage, she
laid her hand gently over Betty’s.

“My dear,” she said, “I know how cruel this delay has seemed, but,
believe me, ’twas for the best. Our appeal must be quite distinct from
that of the three dukes, and it must be only from our hearts—as two
desolate women.”

Betty forced herself to speak with composure.

“You know the king, madam,” she said, “and I do not—or, at
least, only slightly and, alas, he has ever seemed cold to me and
unapproachable.”

“You truly do not know him,” Lady Russell rejoined gently; “I do not
think, dear Lady Clancarty, that a great man is ever heartless, and
this man is great.”

Betty, who looked at the Dutch king with thoroughly English eyes,
raised her brows expressively but said nothing.

“Yes,” continued, the older woman, looking thoughtfully out of
the carriage window, “after awhile the English people will do him
justice. What other man could have held the coalition of European
powers together against France? or could have raised England from
the degradation into which his uncles had plunged her to her present
dignity?”

Lady Betty sighed wearily; her heart was in the Tower.

“I know that I have heard him called the arbiter of Europe,” she
replied, “but he is so very Dutch, dear Lady Russell, and so stern and
cold in his way.”

“Not cold,” said Lady Russell, “but merciful. His uncle James was
cold—look at the pleading of Monmouth, ’twould have moved a heart of
stone—and Charles was often cruel.”

“Alas! King William may turn as deaf an ear to me,” cried the young
countess, with a quivering voice; “was ever fate more cruel? If he is
beheaded I shall die!”

Lady Russell said nothing, but gave her so eloquent a look that Betty
broke down.

“Forgive me!” she cried, “oh, forgive me! How selfish grief makes us; I
forgot—”

“I lived,” said the widow quietly.

Betty fell to weeping silently.

“’Twould be worse to live!” she moaned.

“It is worse,” retorted Lady Russell; “grief eats into the heart like a
canker; but I lived for his son!”

Betty’s head went lower down; sobs shook her from head to foot. The
older woman put her arm around her.

“I know,” she said, “I know, but we are going to a great man—a great
king. Dear child, let us hope. You do not know King William. Melancholy
and personal misfortunes seem to be wrapped in the birthright of the
Stuarts, but, ah, my dear, this man is descended also from the house
of that great prince who set Holland free. Mercy belongs, of right, to
mighty princes.”

“I love a great man,” said Betty, drying her tears.

“So do all women,” replied Lady Russell; “it is born in us; we do not
love littleness or weakness. This is a very solemn matter and we may
not judge the king, or judge for him.”

Lady Clancarty did not reply, she could not; she was struggling to
conquer her emotions, to prepare herself for the coming interview, and
Lady Russell took her hand and held it in silent sympathy.

The agony of that hour of suspense was almost too much to bear; her
husband’s life hanging in the balance, at the will of this stern,
silent man; this man who seemed to her—as he did to many of the
English, an unsympathetic, phlegmatic Dutchman—an alien in the land.

“Yonder is the palace,” remarked Lady Russell, in a strangely quiet
voice, though her hand clasped tightly over Betty’s.

They both looked out on the palace and the green before it, the barrack
buildings and the gates, at which a dozen or more emblazoned coaches
waited, and they could see the sun flash on the arms of the guards
within and without the gates.

The girl drew her breath sharply; she shook from head to foot.

“Ah, madam,” she cried wildly, “if he says—‘no’!”

Lady Russell bowed her head, her lips moved; her thoughts went back to
the dreadful days of the Rye House Plot; she thought of herself beside
her husband at his trial, of his last hours; she seemed to see him in
the coach, driven almost past his home on his way to die in Lincoln’s
Inn Fields. She shuddered, too, but in a moment her serene sadness
returned.

“We must put our trust in the King of kings,” she said gently, clasping
her hands and looking upward.

Betty wept silently; at that moment every hope seemed to die in her
heart.

Meanwhile, the coach rolled heavily and surely as fate itself along the
High Street of Kensington, and at last through the palace gates.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE KING


KENSINGTON PALACE was an offence in those days to English eyes. The
burning of Whitehall had furnished William with the opportunity to
escape, not only from the air of London, which aggravated his asthma,
but also from the crowd of sycophants who choked the galleries of the
city palace. Long muddy roads and exorbitant charges for conveyance
made it no easy matter for the spendthrift courtier and the needy
adventurer to torment the king at Kensington. He was as well pleased at
the escape as they were disgruntled; but even here they could pursue
him with annoyances.

The malcontents in Parliament had stripped him of his beloved Dutch
guards, and in their stead the Life Guards saluted at his threshold.

It was through a file of these gay gentlemen that Betty passed with
Lady Russell, and they stared not a little at the lovely face of the
young countess, though they received both with every token of respect
and courtesy. Lady Russell was, indeed, a well-known and honored guest
at the palace, and they were conducted by an officer of the household
to the anteroom of the king’s presence chamber, there to await his
pleasure.

The long room was already filled with visitors of almost every degree,
come upon various errands, and Lady Clancarty found it no light thing
to face the ill-disguised curiosity and admiration that assailed her on
all sides.

Here was a peer, in the splendid dress of the court, glittering with
jewels and gold lace, curled and perfumed and ruffled; here a plainly
dressed shrewd fellow, with a bundle of papers, a clerk from the
foreign office, for the king was his own minister of foreign affairs;
there was a richly dressed magnate of the city, with an eye on the
interests of the East India Company; there an eager applicant for
office; and farther off, a despairing petitioner who glanced in open
sympathy at Lady Clancarty.

A king’s anteroom! How many secret histories are written here; what
comedy, what tragedy!

The low murmur of talk rose and fell; great ladies, powdered and
patched, swept their furbelows through the crowd and swayed their fans,
chattering lightly of a hundred things; great lords bowed and smiled
and took snuff and cursed the king, in their hearts, for keeping them
waiting. A pair of lovers, two young things, were cooing in a window
recess, as indifferent to the public as a pair of turtledoves, and
Betty looked at them with dull eyes. The wait seemed to be for hours,
and the heated atmosphere and the flutter of talk almost suffocated
her. She looked up and saw the door open and her father coming out of
the king’s closet, pleased, smiling, courteous to all, greeting them
right and left, bowing here, extending a hand there. Betty felt that he
saw her, but he averted his face and she stepped back into the window
recess near at hand and opened the sash; she could not breathe. While
she stood there his Grace of Devonshire came up and had a few words
with Lady Russell.

“Is there any hope?” her ladyship asked sadly, with a meaning glance
aside at the young figure in its plain black garb.

His grace shook his head.

“I see none,” he replied, very low; “there has been such a demand for
examples; the people are so tired of these conspiracies, and they are
like to class Clancarty with the worst. You know the king, that reserve
of his betrays nothing, but I think I never saw him less inclined to
mercy.”

Lady Russell’s face became intensely grave.

“I shall do all I can,” she said, “my utmost. Poor young thing, her
heart is breaking!”

The duke cast a look of deep concern toward Lady Clancarty and shook
his head again. The next moment he smiled, as she turned to them,
smiled and kissed her hand as an open sign of his sympathy and support.
She said nothing; she only looked searchingly into his eyes and her
lips quivered. Would it be much longer?

The talk rose and fell; some woman laughed, the shallow cackling laugh
that comes from the empty heart and the empty head; the crackling of
thorns under a pot.

An usher bowed before Lady Russell and she held out her hand to Betty.
The duke smiled again reassuringly; and the two women walked slowly
through the throng, passed in at a low doorway, and in a moment there
was stillness.

They had entered a low-ceiled room, lighted by one large window; it
was plainly but richly furnished and near a table strewn with papers
stood a small, thin man. He was dressed in black velvet, with a ruffled
cravat of Mechlin and a star on his breast; he wore a great curled
periwig. Insignificant in size but with a wonderful majesty of bearing;
the king of three kingdoms and the stadt-holder of Hollander—William
of Orange.

As they entered he turned and stood looking at them. His complexion
was a clear, pale olive; his eagle nose and brilliant eyes immediately
commanding attention, with something, too, in the cold majesty of his
mien and the habitual sadness of his expression. His face, narrow at
the chin, expanded widely at the brows, and his glance was singularly
luminous. His eyes a clear hazel, with a depth to them like the clear
brown of some mountain pool undisturbed by any ripple upon the surface,
deep and transparent; his thin figure was inclined to stoop, and he had
a racking cough, left behind by smallpox.

He greeted Lady Russell and the young countess with perfect courtesy,
but his reserve remained as icy as ever, and like a cloak about him;
warm-hearted Betty shivered, stricken silent.

“Sire, we come to you as humble suppliants,” Lady Russell said, “to
pray you to graciously receive our petition. I need not tell your
majesty that this is Lord Sunderland’s daughter, the unhappy wife of
the Earl of Clancarty.”

“My Lords of Devonshire and Ormond have already told me,” the king
said, coughing a little as he cast a thoughtful look at the young
countess; “I am sorry,” he added, “that it is so.”

“Ah, sire, have mercy on us both,” murmured Lady Betty, finding her
tongue at last; “to you belongs the glory of mercy. Spare him, your
majesty, he came here only to see me—to see his wife.”

The king did not reply, but took the petition from Lady Russell and
laid it on the table.

“Let me plead for her, sire,” said the widow gently, “I need not remind
your majesty that I have suffered as she is suffering. I knelt to plead
for life to King Charles, as she kneels now to King William, and I
knelt in vain. They carried my husband—almost past his own home—to
his death and I—ah, my king, I lived! That is the terror of it, and
the cruelty; you cannot divine it,—’tis martyrdom!” the widow’s voice
was shaken by the agony of recollection and for the moment she could
say no more. “I pray you humbly, if I have ever served your majesty
or deserved well at your hands, to consider our petition. We ask but
life—all else we leave in your hands. Let us remind you, sire, that of
all the qualities that most adorn your gracious character that of mercy
has ever shone conspicuous, has won the hearts of your people—”

William held up his hand with a bitter smile.

“Say no more, madam,” he interrupted ironically; “’tis not often that I
am reminded of my conquest of the hearts of the English people!”

Lady Betty threw herself on her knees before him.

“Sire,” she cried, “I pray for mercy—for life! Ah, think, your
majesty, the day must come when you, too, will look for mercy—and
I am sure your pity for us now will comfort you then. I only ask my
husband’s life—his life!”

Her voice broke pitifully; how little she could say! Agony ties the
tongue; she looked up through her tears and wrung her hands together
with a gesture of despair, an appeal more eloquent than words.

“O gracious sovereign,” she murmured faintly, “life—life! That is my
cry to you—only spare him to me.”

A cough racked the king, and for the moment he was silent. Lady Russell
trembled for the effect of the appeal. He raised the countess kindly.

“My child,” he said, “these matters are not always as much at the
king’s disposal as they seem; you forget my parliament;” a dry smile
flickered across his face; “I can make you no unconditional promise
until I have considered your petition, and those of others in this
matter. Your husband has been a conspicuous offender, but if I can save
him—” he broke off, closing his lips tightly, his face singularly
stern and sad.

Betty thought he had yielded and began to pour out her thanks weeping,
but the king held up his hand coldly.

“I can make no unconditional promise,” he repeated dryly, “reserve your
thanks until there is a certainty—but,” he added, after a moment’s
hesitation, “think not hardly hereafter of your Dutch king.”

Betty turned crimson and William gave Lady Russell a significant
glance.

“Your husband is an old offender, Lady Clancarty,” he added, with his
rasping little cough; “he not only fought in Ireland but he sat in that
parliament at King’s Inns, and there are others who might base a claim
for indemnity upon any clemency that he received. But rest assured,”
he continued, “that the king has as much feeling as any other man—and
heavier sorrows.”

He gently and kindly dismissed them, but Betty having gone half way
across the room ran back, as impulsive as any child, and kneeling on
one knee kissed his hand, and then ran out weeping, as unmindful of
etiquette as a country lass.

On the stairs she looked up through her tears at Lady Russell.

“I understand you now,” she said, deeply moved; “I felt his
greatness—he is a king! But, oh, will he be merciful? Will he spare my
poor husband?”

Lady Russell could not answer; she turned her face aside. She felt
that the king had given them so little hope, that his answer had been
enigmatical. She took Betty’s hand again, but neither of them could
speak; and in silence they went home to the house in Bloomsbury.



CHAPTER XXXIII

DONOUGH!


THE night of suspense—longer than a year of happiness—wore to an end,
because all things end. At noon Lady Betty stood in Lady Russell’s
drawing-room, leaning against the window and looking out, so wan and
wasted that her hostess started at the sight of her as she entered. The
two women greeted each other with an affection born of sympathy, in
spite of their brief acquaintance, and as they stood there with clasped
hands, they heard the clatter of hoofs in the street below, a noise at
the door, steps on the stair.

Betty uttered a cry and stood rigid; it had come, good or ill! The door
was flung open and Devonshire’s messenger, plashed with mire from hard
riding, bowed at the threshold, holding up a letter.

“From his grace to Lady Russell,” he said.

Lady Russell tore it open with shaking hands but Betty did not
stir; she stood like a statue; she thought her heart had stopped
beating. The older woman clasped the paper to her bosom, murmuring a
thanksgiving.

“He is saved!” she cried joyfully, holding out the letter to Lady
Clancarty, “your husband is saved! The king grants his life, but exiles
him.”

Lady Betty swayed and would have fallen but for her friend. The good
woman caught her in her arms.

“That merciful king!” cried Lady Russell, tears streaming down her
face; “ah, if I had been so blessed!”

Betty flung her arms around her neck and kissed her.

“I must go to the Tower!” she cried eagerly, after a moment, “I may go
now.”

“Nay, madam,” interposed the duke’s messenger respectfully, “his grace
did especially charge me to beg you to remain here until he came for
you.”

“Ay,” said Lady Russell, glancing at the letter, “he speaks of it here.”

A shade of deep disappointment crossed the youthful face, but she bowed
her head.

“I shall await the duke’s pleasure,” she said.

After the messenger withdrew, Lady Russell touched her friend’s frock
playfully.

“My dear,” she remarked, “you will not go to welcome him back to the
world in this sombre garb?”

Betty glanced down dolefully.

“I brought no other,” she replied.

Lady Russell smiled and sent for Alice.

“My child,” she said, “I heard this morning that there was strong
hope—yet I dared not tell you, for fear of disappointment. But I sent
Alice for a gayer gown than this for your lover.”

Betty blushed like a rose, for in walked Alice, carrying in her arms
the flowered brocade that her mistress had worn at Newmarket, and Alice
was all smiles and tears. Nothing would do but that Lady Russell and
Alice must array her as for a festival.

“For the Tower!” protested Betty, between tears and laughter, trembling
and listening for a sound.

“For your husband,” whispered Lady Russell, kissing her cheek,
“the king has granted you a pension sufficient for you on the
Continent—alas, that you must go.”

“Ah, but with him,” said Lady Betty smiling divinely.

It was while they talked that Alice came by chance upon Denis on the
staircase; Denis was smiling like a cherub. He stood before her
awkwardly.

“Faix,” he said, “I was afther thinking ye a sneak, my darlint, but,
shure, I misjudged ye,” he paused, shuffling his feet with unfamiliar
shyness in his aspect, while Alice eyed him with prim disapproval.

“My darlint,” he said, “I’m afther makin’ some aminds fer th’ batin’;
will—will ye be Mrs. Dinis now?”

But Alice withered him with a look.

“There’s no need of ill will, my darlint,” he continued nervously;
“faix, I know a man that always bates his wife whin his affection
overcomes him.”

“You don’t know me!” exclaimed Alice indignantly, red as a poppy.

Denis, not a whit abashed, would have caught her hand.

“There’s nathing in th’ wurrld to kape us from gittin’ acquainted, me
love,” he said gallantly.

“Deliver me from a bloody Papist!” said Alice piously, escaping up
the stair and leaving Denis grinning openly in his relief, for he had
contemplated a noble sacrifice of his own feelings.

Meanwhile Lady Russell and the countess had descended to the
drawing-room again to await my Lord of Devonshire’s arrival. Like a
rose, Betty had bloomed out with joy, radiant in her beautiful gown,
trembling and impatient. She paced the floor, Lady Russell watching her.

“Ah,” she said, “why can I not go at once to the Tower? ’Tis so hard to
wait!”

“The duke would go with you,” Lady Russell replied quietly, “and it is
best so.”

“He has been so good to me—to us!” Betty murmured, a break in her
voice.

She was thinking of her father’s averted face, her brother’s cruelty,
her tittering, painted, heartless mother. “He is kinder than my own
blood,” she said, “he and the king.”

“He remembered even the pension,” Lady Russell assented, “that good
king!”

But Lady Betty scarcely heard her; she strained her ears to catch far
other sounds. The rumble of a heavy coach, the closing of a door, steps
in the hall. She fled to the top of the staircase, like a startled
bird, and looked down; through a window beside her the sun shone in.
There were many below, my Lord of Devonshire, a stately figure, the
Duke of Ormond, young Sir Edward Mackie, half a dozen gentlemen. But
she did not see them; what were they to her?

She saw a tall figure, a handsome, eager face, as Clancarty sprang up
the stairs.

Lady Betty held out her arms, the sun shining in her face.

“Donough!” she cried, “my own true
love!”

THE END

[Illustration]



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:

  Text in italics is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Inconsistencies in spelling, hyphenation, and punctuation have been
    standardized.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.





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