By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Bath Comedy
Author: Castle, Egerton, Castle, Agnes
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bath Comedy" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

  Bath Comedy_


  _Agnes & Egerton Castle_

  _Authors of 'The Pride of Jennico,' &c._

  Macmillan and Co., Limited

  _All rights reserved_


  to our Sister
  Mrs. Francis Blundell of Crosby
  ("M. E. Francis")
  who, over the MS. of this frivolous
  drama, was the first to
  give us the kindly
  criticism of




_The Royal Crescent--_

  "_Open we here on a Spring day fine..._"

_the first scene of this Bath Comedy._

_The precise year, however, may not be given.  A sufficient reason for
reticence in the matter of exact date will be found in the unfortunate
predicament of the then Bishop of Bath and Wells: undoubtedly a most
mortifying episode in the life of an invariably dignified Divine.  Now
there were several Bishops of Bath and Wells during the second half of
the 18th century, and this trifling lack of circumstantiality will do
away with the least trace of scandal._

_The second half of the century, however, is admitted.  The fact,
indeed, would be revealed at once to the curious in the matter, by the
mention, on the one hand, of the King's Circus (which dates from the
last years of second George), and on the other by the reference to
Bathwick Meadows as a solitary site and still fitted at the time to an
honourable meeting, whereas it has been known as a place of popular
resort (under the name of Sydney Gardens) since the year 1795._

_A few other points, again (should anyone think worth his while to
consider so trifling a question), might serve to fix within a few
lustres the date of Mrs. Kitty Bellairs' cantrips as they affected,
among other things, Lady Standish's domestic happiness, Mr. O'Hara's
connubial hopes, and my Lord Verney's sentimental education._

_It may be noticed, for instance, that the gentlemen wear their swords.
That was, as most people know, a distinction strenuously denied them so
long as the immortal Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Richard Nash, reigned as
King of Bath.  Now, his autocratic rule came to an end before George
the Third was King.  As another landmark it will be recalled that the
notorious and indecorous encounter between Richard Brinsley Sheridan
and that unpleasant personage, Captain Matthews, was the last duel with
swords fought in the Kingdom: and it was fought in 1772._

_Furthermore, our Captain Spicer (whether veraciously or not) claims to
have been a favoured pupil of the famous Angelo--and such a perfecting
course in the noble art could not have been acquired before the early
sixties.  Then, again, there is still a good deal of powder in our
actors' head-dress.  The slippers of our actresses are still delicious
and high-heeled: the sandal of the nineties has not yet made its
dreadful appearance.  And the ladies visard, if not so universal as it
once had been, is still an accepted institution._

_It will suffice, in short, to say of our characters (if once more we
may be allowed to paraphrase some of Mr. Austin Dobson's dainty verses)

  _They lived in that past Georgian day,
  When men were less inclined to say
  That "Time is Gold" and overlay
  With toil their pleasure...._

_Those were, on the whole, rather more joyous times than our own, and
more different than the mere lapse of one century seems to account for.
The gentlemen then, dressed almost as handsomely, prinked and plumed
themselves as elaborately, as the ladies.  Gallantry in both senses and
ready wit were their most precious claim: a fight was considered a full
remedy to a slight, a sharp epigram to an injury.  Heavy drinking was
held an indispensable accompaniment to good-fellowship; and love-making
was a far suppler art than seems known to this more earnest century--a
pastime for "the quality," something on par with the gambling passion.
"Virtue" not modesty, was woman's fair fame.  A forcible abduction
would at a pinch be argued as an undeniable compliment.  Life ran like
a dance then, with merry, tapping heels and light-hearted interchange
of partner: those old-world days were much younger than ours._

_So much for the times, and for the characters.  For scenery we have
this gem among prosperous towns.  The grey stone city of wealthy,
sedate residences, arranged with noble architectural effect in broad
straight streets, wide open squares, parades, terraces, crescents; tier
upon tier on the slope of a hill down to the water's edge; set serenely
in a wooded valley, with much green in perspective beyond the lazy,
slowly winding Avon._

_Indeed, of its kind, Bath is unique among the cities of Europe:
deprived as it is, by modern conditions, of its former social
attractions, it is still one of the most beautiful._

_Like so many very old towns, it has had a long Roman existence; its
luxurious baths and other remains testify to its splendour when it was
known as Aquae Solis.  It filled, also, an important place in the land
as a Mediaeval Borough, wall-girt and defensible: of that period the
Abbey Church, the "Lantern of England" remains a handsome bequest.
But, on the surface at least, there is now nothing to recall vividly
any older past than the days of periwig, of powder and patches, of
"wine and walnut" wit.  Its characteristic charm, one which, happily,
the present age has had little power to efface, is par excellence that
of the 18th Century; for it was in early and middle Georgian years
that, with a strange suddenness "The Bath" became an accepted centre of
fashion and pleasure, and assumed its special physiognomy of leisure,
wealth and exclusiveness._

_This old-world air still hangs about the residential part of the Town
and in a singularly haunting way.  In those broad streets, calm and
silent and almost deserted at most hours, in those high-windowed
houses, typical of stateliness and cold elegance rather than of lolling
comfort, the very atmosphere seems to this day redolent of
"Chippendale" notions.  The sordidly plain modern dress of man is
painfully incongruous.  The rattling cab is a discord.  It would be a
relief, much more than an astonishment, to note an obvious
three-cornered hat, a broad-skirted coat, on one's fellow man, to hear
on the flags the regular tramp of Chairmen swinging along some dainty
charge deliciously powdered and rouged!_

_The course of an hundred and odd years has obliterated some scenes,
and modified all to some extent.  Orange Grove has lost, 'tis true,
much of its discreet character; and its neighbouring chocolate rooms,
so handy to intrigues, are now only memories.  The Assembly Rooms are
shorn of all fashion.  The new Great Pump Room is not quite a replica
of the old, though it has retained its general air--but the Crescents,
Royal and Lansdowne, the Circus, Gay Street and Queen Square, the
Parades, and the flags of Abbey Place, are still for us.  At certain
hours, if we have the mood, we can readily people them again in our
mind's eye with notable guests of "The Bath" in its great days....  Dr.
Johnson and my Lord Chesterfield, Pops, Oliver Goldsmith, Sheridan,
Smollett, Chatham, Gainsborough, Fanny Burney, according to the
fleeting thought--all "faithfuls of the Spa"--Greatness, Literature,
Art, mere Fashion--or, again, shall we say Squire Bramble, or Lydia
Languish, or Sir Anthony Absolute; or blushing, too ingenuous

_Why, the place is alive with suggestion!  Here a house front, with its
carved stone wreaths and urns and bosses, with its pedimented windows
or its shell-canopied door (still provided with its long since honorary
link-extinguisher) if you look at it enquiringly, seems ready to tell
its tale of by-gone life.  But, unlike that of so many buildings of a
past age, the tale of a house in Bath rarely takes the earnest romantic
turn: it is irresistibly a "Comedy," comedy of intrigue and manners, of
fashion and all its consequent frivolity (with perhaps just a little
pathos, but never beyond the limits of elegance) Comedie à la Française
mostly.  Je trompe, tu trompes, nous trompons...!_

_In this guise the first stately building at the western extremity of
the Royal Crescent, its pilasters, its stone steps, curvetting
iron-work, clamoured to tell of Lady Standish's so nearly disastrous
experiment on her husband's credulity.  The corner house of Gay Street
near George Street (opposite the alluring old-book store of Mr.
Meehan--the genial Bath Antiquary) proclaimed at all the pores of its
crumbling stones, as clearly as if the commemorative tablet had duly
been erected, that the warm-hearted Irishman, the Honble. Denis O'Hara,
had dwelt there in the year 17--.  There is another house, at the
southern corner of Queen Square, adorned with Cupid's heads and
cornucopiae, which beyond all manner of doubt in that same year was the
"lodging" (Fashion spoke of lodgings then!) of the ingenious young
widow Bellairs.  In the same manner the middle building, facing west,
of Pierrepont's Street, one of the most correct in Bath, has still all
the conscious air of having sheltered once that most excellent young
man, Lord Verney._

_One of the drawbacks of setting down a comedy in narrative form is the
necessary curtailing of all descriptive passages and explanatory
ethical disquisitions: in such a frame, pen and ink pictures of
scenery, and the rendering of atmosphere, are out of place._

_Let it therefore be borne in mind that, in this Butterfly Drama, with
the exception of the penultimate scene enacted at the Inn in Devizes,
the scenery is altogether cast in or about the handsome old grey town;
in its lofty-ceiled, polished-floored rooms, rather bare; on its broad
pavement, clean and trim and as little crowded as any conventional
stage.  Of the rest it must be understood that we are in the midst of
what has been extolled as "the Bath manner" and that throughout, as was
said of another, but world-wide known, Bath Comedy,_

  "_Love gilds the scene, and woman guides the plot._"
                                          _A. & E. C._

  49 Sloane Gardens, S.W.,
      _April_, 1900.

The Bath Comedy


"What?  My sweet Lady Standish in tears!"

Mistress Kitty Bellairs poised her dainty person on one foot and cast a
mocking, somewhat contemptuous, yet good-humoured glance at the slim
length of sobbing womanhood prone on the gilt-legged, satin-cushioned

"Tears," said Mistress Kitty, twirling round on her heel to look at the
set of her new sacque in the mirror and admire its delicate flowered
folds, as they caught the shafts of spring sunshine that pierced into
the long dim room from the narrow street.  "Tears, my dear, unless you
cry becomingly, which I would have you know not one in the thousand
can, are a luxury every self-respecting woman ought to deny herself.
Now I," said Mistress Kitty, and tweaked at a powdered curl and turned
her head like a bird for a last glimpse at the mirror before sinking
into an arm-chair and drawing closer to her afflicted friend, "have not
shed a tear since I lost my first lover, and that is--I will not say
how many years ago.  I was a mightily precocious child!  When I say a
tear, mind you, 'tis a figure of speech.  Far be it from me to deny the
charm of a pearly drop--just one: enough to gather on the tip of the
finger, enough just to suffuse the pathetic eye.  Oh, that is not only
permissible, 'tis to be cultivated.  But such weeping as yours--sobs
that shake you, tears that drench the handkerchief, redden the eyes,
not to speak of the nose--fie! fie! it is clean against all reason.
Come!" with a sudden gentle change of tone, putting her hand on the
abased head, where fair curls luxuriated in all their native sunshine,
"what is it all about?"

Lady Standish slowly and languidly drew herself into a sitting posture,
and raised a countenance marred out of its delicate beauty by the
violent passion of her grief.  Swimming blue eyes she fixed upon the
Mistress Kitty's plump dimpling face.

"Alas!" she breathed upon the gust of a sigh that was as wet as an
April breeze, and tripped up by a belated sob.  "Alas! you see in me
the most miserable of women.  Alas! my heart is broken!"

Here the kerchief, soaked indeed beyond all possible utility, was
frantically held to streaming eyes once more.

"Mercy!" cried the pretty widow, "you could not take on worse if you
had the smallpox: you a three-months' wife!"

"Ah me!" moaned Lady Standish.

"So," said Mistress Kitty, "he has been a brute again, has he?  Come,
Julia, weep on my bosom.  What is it now?  Did he kiss you on the
forehead instead of on the lips?  Or did he say: 'Zounds, madam!' when
you upset a dish of tea over his waistcoat?  Or yet did he, could he,
the monster!--nay it is not possible, yet men are so--could he have
whispered that Lady Caroline looked--passable last night?"

Lady Standish rose to her feet, crumpled her kerchief in one small hand
and faced her friend with tragic passion.

"It is useless to blind myself," she said.  "Cease to gibe at me, pray,
Mistress Bellairs; I must face the truth!  My husband loves me no
longer.  Oh!  Kitty, Kitty," dropping from her height of tragedy very
quickly and landing on a whimper again, "is it not sad?  I have tried,
Heaven is my witness, to win him back by the tenderest love, by the
most pitiful pleading.  He has seen me weep and pine.  'Rob me of your
love,' I have told him, 'and you rob me of life.'  And he, he--oh, how
shall I tell you!  As the days go by he is with me less and less.  He
walks abroad with others.  His evenings he gives to strangers--ay, and
half his nights--while I may sob myself to sleep at home.  I saw him
to-day but for two minutes--'twas half an hour ago.  He entered here
upon me, looking, ah Kitty! as only he can look, the most elegant and
beautiful of men.  I was singing, piping as a poor bird may to strive
and call its mate to the nest.  He passed through the room without a
word, without a sign; he that used to say 'twas heaven to sit and
listen to my voice.  'What!' I exclaimed as he reached the door, 'not a
word for poor Julia?'  Kitty, at the sound of that cry, wrung from my
heart, he turned and frowned, and said----  (Oh, oh, oh.)"

"Ha!" cried Mistress Kitty, "what said he?" ("Heaven help him," said
she aside; "the woman's a fountain.")

"He said," sobbed Julia, "'Mayn't a man even go for a stroll?'  Oh, had
you but heard the cold indifferent tone, you would have understood how
it cut me to the heart.  I ran to him and laid my hand upon his sleeve,
and he said----"

Again grief overcame her.

"Well, what said he?"

"He said--oh, oh--he said, 'Julia don't paw me.'"

Mistress Kitty Bellairs, the reigning toast of Bath, the prettiest
woman, in the estimation of her admirers, in all England, and the
wittiest, laughed low to herself, then rose from her chair, took her
tall friend by the shoulders, and walked her up to the mirror.

"Look at yourself," said she, "and look at me."

Lady Standish winced.  The contrast between her own dishevelled hair,
her marbled swollen countenance, her untidy morning gown, and the
blooming perfection of the apparition beside her, was more than she
could contemplate.  Kitty Bellairs--as complete in every detail of
beauty as a carnation--smiled upon herself sweetly.

"My dear," said she, "I have had thirty-seven _declared_ adorers these
three years, and never one tired of me yet.  Poor Bellairs," she said
with a light sigh, "he had two wives before me, and he was sixty-nine
when he died, but he told me with his last breath that 'twas I gave him
all the joy he ever knew."

Lady Standish ceased weeping as suddenly as if her tears had been
mechanically turned off.  She regarded the widow earnestly.

"Now, child," said Mistress Bellairs, with all the authority of her
twenty-six years, "here we have been four weeks acquainted, and you
have more than once done me the honour of saying that you considered me
your friend."

"'Tis so," said Lady Standish.

"Then listen to me.  There are three great rules to be observed in our
dealings with men.  The first rule comprises an extraordinary number of
minor details, but briefly and comprehensively it runs thus: _Never be
monotonous_!  Second rule: _Never let a man be too sure of you_!  Oh
that is a wonderful wise maxim: reflect upon it.  Third: _Never, never
let a man see how--well, how far from lovely you can look_!  Tush,
tush, you are a better-looking woman than I am, but not when you have
been blubbering and not when you are fretful."

Lady Standish suddenly sat down as if her limbs could support her no
more.  She looked up at the ceiling with tear-dimmed eyes.

"Pray," said Mistress Kitty inquisitorially _ex cathedra_, "how many
times a day do you tell that unfortunate man that you love him?  And,
worse still, how many times a day do you want him to say that he loves
you?  I vow 'tis enough to drive him to cards, or wine, or something
infinitely worse that also begins with a w!  And, pray, if you spend
all you have, and empty your purse, do you think your purse becomes a
very valuable possession?  'Tis a mere bit of leather.  Nay, nay, keep
your gold, and give it out piece by piece, and do not give it at all
unless you get good change for it.  Oh," cried Kitty, a fine flush of
indignation rising scarlet behind her rouge, "I marvel that women
should be such fools!--to act the handmaid where they should ever rule
as mistress; to cast forth unsought what they should dole out only to
the supplicant on bended knee.  Hath a man ever had from _me_ an
unsolicited avowal?  Have I ever thrown the most ardent lover more than
a 'perhaps' and 'it may be,' a smile, a dimple, a finger-tip?  (What
they have stolen I have not given, that is obvious!  And, besides, 'tis
neither here nor there.)  And pray, Lady Standish, since when have you
left off putting on rouge and having your hair tired and powdered, and
wearing a decent gown of mornings and a modish sacque, and a heel to
that pretty foot, a jewel in the ear and a patch beneath the lip?"

Lady Standish had ceased contemplating the ceiling; she was looking at
her friend.

"But, madam," she said, "this is strange advice.  Would you have me
coquette with my husband, as if--God forgive me for even saying such a
thing--as if I were not wife, but mistress?"

"La, you there," said Mistress Bellairs, and clapped her hands, "there
is the whole murder out!  You are the man's lawful, honest wife, and
therefore all tedium and homeliness, all fretful brow and tearful eye.
God save us! who shall blame him if he seek a pleasant glint of vice to
change him of you?"

There fell a silence.  Lady Standish rose indignant, grew red, grew
pale, caught a glimpse of herself again in the mirror, shrank from the
sight, and crept back to the sofa with a humble and convicted air.
Then she cast a look of anguished pleading at Mistress Bellairs's
bright unfeeling countenance.

"Tell me," she said with a parched lip, "what shall I do?"

"Do!" cried the widow, rising with a brisk laugh, "get some powder into
your hair, and some colour into those cheeks!  And when Sir Jasper
returns (he left you in tears, he will be sullen when he comes home;
'tis a mere matter of self-defence) let him find you gay, _distraite_;
say a sharp thing or two if you can; tell him you do not need his
company this afternoon.  Ah, and if you could make him jealous!  'Tis a
very, very old trick, but then, you see, love is a very old game, the
oldest of all.  Make him jealous, my dear, make him jealous and you'll
win the rubber yet!"

"Jealous!" cried the three-months' wife, and all the blood of the
innocent country girl leapt to her brow.  "Oh, madam, how could that

"Look out a beau, nay, two or three, 'tis safer!  Talk discreetly with
them in the Pump-Room, let them fan you at the ball, let them meet you
in Orange-Grove.  Or, if you have not spirit enough--and indeed, my
sweet life, you sadly lack spirit--start but an imaginary one, merely
for the use of your lord and master: I wager you he will rise to the

"I am afraid Sir Jasper could be _very_ jealous," said the other
uneasily.  "I remember before we were wed, when my cousin Harry would
ride with me to the meet, oh, how angry Sir Jasper was!  He swore he
would shoot himself, ay, and he was all for shooting Harry too."

"But he was not the less ardent with you on the score of it, I'll
warrant him," said the experienced Mistress Bellairs.

"Ah, no," said Lady Standish, and her lip trembled over a smile, while
the ready water sprang to her eyelashes, and: "Ah, no!" she said again.
"Indeed, he loved me then very ardently."

"And he'll love you so still if you have but a spark of courage.  Get
you to your room," said the widow, goodhumouredly, "bustle up and play
your part.  Where is that woman of yours?"

She pushed Lady Standish before her as she spoke, herself rang the
call-bell for the tire-woman, and gave a few pregnant suggestions to
that worthy, who advanced all sour smiles and disapproving dips.  Then
she strolled back into the drawing-room and paused a moment as she
slipped on her long gloves.  Next she drew a letter from her pocket and
began to read it with a thoughtful brow.

"No, no, Sir Jasper," she said half aloud, "you're a fine gentleman,
and a pretty fellow, you have a neat leg, and an eloquent turn of
speech, but I will not have the child's heart broken for the amusement
of an idle day."

She took the letter between each little forefinger and thumb as if to
tear it, thought better of it, folded it again and thrust it back into
its place of concealment.

Presently she smiled to herself, and walked out of the long open window
across the little strip of garden, and so through the iron gate into
the shady back street.


Sir Jasper Standish halted on the flags of the Royal Crescent in front
of his own door and his face darkened.  He took a pinch of snuff.

"Now!  I shall find my lady in tears.  What a strange world it is!  The
girl you woo is as merry as a May day: the wife you wed is like naught
but early November.  Equinoctial gales and water enough to drown the
best spirits that ever were stilled.  'Tis a damp life," said Sir
Jasper, "and a depressing."

He sighed as the door was thrown open by the footman, and crossed the
hall into the morning-room, where he had left his lady weeping.  He
beheld a flowered brocade, a very shapely back, and a crisp powdered
head outlined against the window, and thought he had come upon a
visitor unawares.

"I crave ten thousand pardons," quoth he, and swept from his gallant
head his knowing three-cornered hat.  But slowly the figure at the
window turned and he saw his wife's eyes strangely brilliant over two
pink cheeks, beneath the snow of her up-piled hair.

"Julia!" said he in amaze, and stared and stared again.  ("And did I
doubt my own taste?" thought he to himself.  "Why, she is the prettiest
woman in Bath!")  "Expecting visitors, Julia?"  He smiled as he spoke:
in another minute that arm, shining pearl-like from the hanging lace of
her sleeve, would be round his neck, and those lips (how red they were,
and what a curve!) would be upon his.  Well, a loving woman had her

"No," said Lady Standish to his query.  She dropped the word with a
faintly scornful smile, and a dimple came and went at the corner of her
lip.  There was a patch just above the dimple.  Then she turned away
and looked forth into the still, solemn, grey and green Crescent as

Sir Jasper stood bewildered.  Then he put his hat upon a table and came
up to his wife and placed his arm round her waist.

"My sweet life," said he, "your gown is vastly becoming."

"Sir Jasper," said Lady Standish, "you do me proud."  She slipped from
his embrace, sketched a curtesy, and moved to the next window.

Sir Jasper passed his hand across his brow.  That was Julia, Julia his
wife, sure enough; and yet, faith, it was a woman he did not know!

"You are mightily interested in the Crescent," said he, with some

My lady shrugged her shoulders.

"I believe you were vexed with me this morning, love," said he.

"I, vexed?" said she.  "Nay, why should I be vexed?" and then she
tapped her foot and looked at the clock.  "These servants grow
monstrous unpunctual," she said; "are we not to dine to-day?"

He glanced down at the tapping shoe, its little pointing toe and
curving heel.  'Twas a smart shoe, and boasted a diamond buckle in a
knot of rose-coloured ribbon.

"Egad!" said he, "I doubt if there is another foot in Bath that could
slip into that case."

And Sir Jasper was a connoisseur!  His opinion of himself, his faith in
his own discrimination (which had waned sadly these last days) began to
rise again, not disagreeably.  He smirked.  My Lady Standish, who,
after a way that only women can practise, seemed absorbed in the
contemplation of the empty Crescent the while she was intent upon each
shade of expression upon her husband's countenance, felt a sudden glow
of confidence in her own powers that she had never known before.  The
game she had started with a beating heart and a dry throat began to
have a certain charm of its own.  Was it so easy really?  Was a man so
lightly swayed?  There was contempt in the thought, and yet pleasure.
Was all a woman's loving heart to count for so little, and a pretty
gown, a new shoe, a coquettish manner for so much?  Ah, there was
bitterness in that!  But yet the immediate result of this new method:
that look in his eye, that softening of his lip, it was too sweet to be
forborne.  Kitty was right!

Sir Jasper took her hand.

"It wants," said he, "full half-an-hour to dinner-time, love.  Nay, do
not draw your hand away.  You are vexed with me?  I left you weeping,
'twas unkind."

"Weeping?" said Julia, and her heart fluttered to her throat, so that
she could hardly speak, and Kitty's maxims kept dancing before her eyes
as if written in letters of fire.  "Make him jealous--oh, if you make
him jealous you will win the rubber yet!"

"If I wept," said she, "must my tears have been for you?"

"How now?" said Sir Jasper, and dropped the little hand that struggled
so gently yet determinedly to be free.

"Oh, dear me," said Lady Standish, "how droll you men are!"  She
shrugged her shoulders and laughed affectedly.  Like all budding
actresses she over-did the part.  But Sir Jasper was too much stirred,
too much bewildered to be critical.  Moreover his armour was not
without vulnerable joints, and with a wanton word she had found one at
the first pass.

"How now?" said he.  "Madam, and what might that mean?"

Lady Standish trilled the bar of a song, and again directed her
attention to the view.

"Julia," said her husband in a deep voice.  "Julia," he repeated with a
threatening growl of passion.

"Sir?" she said, and tilted her little head.

"Who then were your tears for, if they were not for me?  What signify
these manners?  What do these insinuations mean?  By Jupiter, I will
have the truth!"  His face flushed, the veins on his temples swelled,
his nostrils became dilated.

Lady Standish lifted the hanging lace of her sleeve with one hand and
examined it minutely.

"I would rather," she said, and her voice shook, "I would rather you
did not question me, Sir Jasper."  Then she flashed upon him in anger,
swift and lovely, as he had never seen her flash before.  "You go your
own way free enough," she said.  "These last three weeks you have not
spent one evening in my company, and half your days are given to others
of whom I know nothing, Oh, I am not complaining, sir!  I did complain,
but that is over.  I was wrong, for I see adversities have their
advantages."  Here she smiled.  (Had the man but known how near she was
to tears!)  "Your neglect leaves me free."

"Free!" cried Sir Jasper, and choked.  "Free!  Good heavens, free!
What in the name of God do you mean?  Free, madam?"

"Sir Jasper," said Lady Standish, looking at him very earnestly, "you
will never hear me ask again whose society it is you find so much more
attractive than your wife's."

"Indeed," cried Sir Jasper, and hesitated upon a gust of anger, at a
loss in which direction to drive it forth.

"No," said my lady, "and I expect the same good taste from you.  'Tis
not too much to ask.  Indeed you should rejoice if I have found
consolation for your absence."

He broke out with a fearful oath, and almost leaped upon her.

"Consolation!"  He plunged his hands into his powdered hair, and
quivered into silence for the very impotence of words.

"I said 'if,'" said she.  She was surprised to find how readily the
words came to her; and yet her hands were clammy with fright, and her
breath ran short between her rouged lips.  "Let us leave it at the

She turned to the window and leant against it, drew her kerchief and
fanned herself.

Passing along the railings opposite the Crescent, not twelve yards
distant, a tall, slender young gentleman of attractive appearance,
though very dark in complexion, caught sight of her lovely glowing
face, stared first in unconscious admiration, then with recognition,
and finally, blushing swarthily, saluted with some appearance of
agitation.  Lady Standish, aware that her husband had approached close
behind her, and hearing in every creak of his satin coat the flattering
emotion of his senses, felt herself driven more and more by the unknown
demon of mischief that had taken possession of her.  She fluttered her
little handkerchief back at the young gentleman with a gesture that
almost indicated the wafting of a kiss.

"Death and damnation," cried Sir Jasper, "before my very eyes!"

He seized her by the wrist and flung her down upon the settee.  "Nay,"
he cried, "there may be husbands that would put up with this, but I am
not of them.  So that is the Consoler!  That is the Beau for whom you
prink yourself with such fine feathers, whom you lie in wait for at the
window to make signals to and smirk at!  Oh, my innocent country daisy!
Faugh!  I might have known you were too fond--hypocrite!"  He dashed at
the window and burst its fastenings.

"Hey! you, you my Lord Verney, a word with you!"  Sir Jasper was
already foaming at the mouth.

The slim gentleman paused, surprised.

"Oh, heavens!" cried Lady Standish, "what have I done?  Sir Jasper! my
husband!"  She threw herself upon him.  "Sir Jasper, what do you
suspect?  Oh, heavens!"  She was half fainting and scarce could
articulate a coherent word.  "It was all to tease you.  It was but the
sport of an idle moment.  Oh, I implore you, believe me, believe me!"

"Ay, deny!" cried he.  "Deny what I have seen with my own eyes!  Let me
go, madam."  He thrust her aside, and, bareheaded, dashed down the
stairs and out of the house towards Lord Verney, who, with a bashful,
yet a pleasant smile, began to retrace his steps.

"'Tis a fair day, Sir Jasper," said he courteously, and then became
aware of Sir Jasper's convulsed face, and noted that Lady Standish,
whom but a moment before he had beheld all smiling beauty, now clung
despairingly to the window-post, her countenance ghastly behind her

Lord Verney was a shy young man.

"Ah--ah, good morning," said he, bowed politely, and turned with

Sir Jasper flung a look of infinite derision and contempt towards his

"You have chosen," it seemed to say, "a pretty hare!"  Then he arrested
the slim swift figure with an aggressive shout:

"Stand--stand, Lord Verney--Lord Verney--a word with you."

The youth stopped, wheeled round, and:

"I am at your service," said he.  A certain pallor had replaced the
ingenuous young blushes upon his cheek, but into his eye there sprang a
fine spark of spirit.

Sir Jasper marched upon him and only halted when his six feet of sinewy
bulk were within a yard of the stripling's willowy shape.  His hot
red-brown eyes shot fire and fury, death and annihilation upon the
innocent young peer.  His full lips endeavoured to sneer, but rage
distorted them to a grimace through which his white teeth shone forth

"Come, come, we understand each other," said he; "will you walk with
me?  There is no time like the present and a couple of friends are easy
to come by."

"'Tis vastly well," said Lord Verney with an attempt at dignity that
betrayed the boy in every line of him.  Then all at once colour flushed
into his face again, and his rigid demeanour was broken up.  "Come,
devil take it all, Sir Jasper," said he, "and what is it about?"

Sir Jasper threw bloodshot eyes upwards.

"This fellow," quoth he, appealing to Heaven--"oh! this pretty fellow!
You want reasons, my Lord Verney?"

Lord Verney blushed and stammered.  Gad, he'd like to know what he had
done.  He was at Sir Jasper's disposition, of course, but before
drawing swords on a man----

Sir Jasper uttered a sound which was between a groan and a roar.  He
indicated with sweeping gesture the figure of Lady Standish strained in
anguish watching, clinging still to the window-post.  Then he hissed:

"I know!"

"Sir Jasper!"

"I know, I tell you," repeated Sir Jasper, "let that suffice."

"Good heavens," gasped Lord Verney, "here is some most grievous
mistake.  Do you mean, sir--am I to understand, Sir Jasper--?  'Tis
monstrous."  White dismay and crimson confusion chased each other
across his candid brow.  "Surely you do not mean me to understand that
Lady Standish has any connection with this extraordinary scene?"

Sir Jasper's trembling hand was furiously uplifted, then blindly sought
his sword hilt, and then dropped in impotent disgust at his side.

"My lord," said he, "Lady Standish is the pearl of womanhood, I would
have you know it!  There never breathed a female more virtuously
attached to her husband and her duty--I would have you know it!"  His
face was quite horrible to look at in its withering sarcasm.  "My
quarrel with you, sir, is--"  He paused and cast a roving eye upon the
young gentleman, who now began to show unequivocal signs of fear.  A
jealous husband, a contingency that may have to be met any day--but a
raving maniac! ...

"'Tis the shape of your leg that mispleases me, sir.  You have a vile
calf, I cannot endure that so offensive an outline should pass and
repass my windows."

"I understand, Sir Jasper, yes, yes," said Lord Verney soothingly,
backing as he spoke and casting nervous eyes round the empty street.
"And so, good-morning."

He bowed and turned.

"Rat!" cried Sir Jasper, and shot forth a clutching hand.

"I will bear it in mind," cried Lord Verney.  "Good-morning,

He was fleeing away on a swift foot.

"Rat!  Rat!" screamed the enraged baronet, starting in pursuit.  But
his passion made him clumsy.  He stumbled, lurched, struck his foot
against a stone, fell upon his knee and rose in another mood: one of
darkling sullen determination for revenge.

Lord Verney was a timid young man.  Had it been with anyone else that
this scene in the Royal Crescent had taken place all Bath would have
known within the hour that Sir Jasper Standish had been seized with
sudden lunacy.  But Lord Verney was of those who turn a word over three
times before they speak and then say something else.  Moreover, he was
not sure that he himself had cut a brilliant figure in the amazing
duologue, so he held his tongue upon it.


Sir Jasper came striding back to the house.  In the morning-room he
passed his wife without a word.

"Sir Jasper," quoth she, and shot out a timid hand.  "Oh, Sir Jasper,
will you not listen to me?  This is the most terrible mistake.  Sir
Jasper, I swear I am true to you, not only in deed but in every inmost

"Do not swear, madam," said he, and shut the door in her face.

Ten minutes later he sallied forth again.  She heard his steps ring
out: they sounded very desperate.  She sat on the pink-striped settee
in a misery too deep this time for tears.  How puerile, how far away,
seemed the morning's storm.  She sat with her hands locked and her eyes
starting, revolving terrible possibilities, and fruitless plans for
preventing them.  Dinner was served in vain.  Her ladyship's woman
brought her a dish of tea.  This poor Julia drank, for she felt faint
and weary.  Then a sudden thought struck her.

"'Tis Mistress Bellairs who made the mischief," she thought, "now she
must mend it."  She dashed off a despairing note to the lady and
dispatched her black page with all possible celerity.

    "I have followed your advice, to my undoing.  You told me to make
    Sir Jasper jealous; I tried to make him jealous, and succeeded far
    too well.  He fancies there is something between me and Lord
    Verney.  Poor young man, I have spoken to him but three times in my
    life!  There will be a duel and they will both be killed.  Come to
    me, dear Mistress Bellairs, and see what is to be done, for I am
    half dead with fear and anguish."

The dusk was falling when, with incredible celerity, the sedan-chair of
Mistress Bellairs rounded the corner at a swinging pace; her bell-like
voice might be heard from within rating the chairmen with no gentle
tone for their sluggishness.

"'Tis snails ye are--snails, not men.  La! is there one of you that is
not a great-grandfather?  It is not, I would have you know, a coffin
that you are carrying, but a chair.  Oh, Gad, deliver me from such lazy

In a storm she burst open the door; in a whirlwind tore through the
passage.  Lady Standish's obsequious footmen she flounced upon one
side.  Into that afflicted lady's presence she burst with undiminished

"So," said she, "these are fine goings on!  And why Lord Verney, may I

"Oh, Mistress Bellairs," ejaculated her friend, with a wail, "'tis
indeed terrible.  Think of Sir Jasper's danger, and all because of my
folly in listening to your pernicious advice."

"My advice!" cried Mistress Kitty.  "My advice--this is pretty hearing!
Here, where is that woman of yours, and where are those stuffed owls
you keep in the hall.  What is the use of them if they do not do their
business?  Light up, light up--who can speak in the dark?"  She ran
from one door to another calling.

"Oh, dear," sighed Lady Standish, and leant her distraught head against
the cushions.

"Come, come," cried Mistress Bellairs, heedless of the presence of
footmen with tapers, and lady's-maid with twinkling curl paper.  "Sit
up this minute, Julia, and tell me the whole from the beginning.  It is
no use your trying to extenuate, for I will know all that has happened."

But before her friend, whose back was beginning to stiffen under this
treatment, had had time to collect her thoughts sufficiently for a
dignified reply, Mistress Kitty herself proceeded with great volubility:

"And so, madam, not content with having a new young husband of your
own, you must fix upon Lord Verney for your manoeuvres.  Why, he has
never so much as blinked the same side of the room as you.  Why, it was
but yester-night he vowed he hardly knew if you were tall or short.
Put that out of your head, my Lady Standish, Lord Verney is not for
you.  Oh, these country girls!"

Lady Standish rose, quivering with rage.

"Be silent, madam," she said, "your words have neither sense nor truth.
I was ill-advised enough to listen to your unwomanly counsels.  I tried
to deceive my husband, and God has punished me."

"Ah," said Mrs. Kitty, "deceit is a very grievous sin.  I wonder at
you, that you must fix upon Lord Verney.  Oh, Julia!" here her voice
grew melting and her large brown eyes suffused.  "You had all Bath,"
she said, "and you must fix upon Lord Verney.  The one man I thought
... the one man I could have....  Oh, how did you dare?  Nay!  It is a
blind," she cried, flaming again into indignation and catching her
friend by the wrist.  "There was more in your game than you pretend,
you sly and silken hypocrite!  If he is killed, how will you feel then?"

"Oh," exclaimed Lady Standish, "cruel woman!  Is this your help?  Sir
Jasper killed!"

"Sir Jasper?  Sir Fiddle!" cried Mistress Kitty, with a fine scorn.
"Who cares for Sir Jasper?  'Tis my Harry I think of.  Oh, oh!" cried
the widow, and burst into tears.

Lady Standish stood confounded.

"What!" cried she, "_you_ love Lord Verney?"

"'Tis the only man of them," sobbed Kitty, "who does not pester me with
his devotion--the only one who does not come to my call like a lap-dog.
If I look at him he blushes for bashfulness, and not for love; if his
hand shakes it is because he is so sweetly timid, not because my touch
thrills him.  I had set my heart," said Mistress Kitty through her
clenched teeth--"I had set my heart upon Lord Verney, and now you must
needs have him ki--ki--killed before I have even had time to make him
see the colour of my eyes."

"Oh, oh!" sighed Julia Standish, still beyond tears.


"Oh!" sobbed Kitty Bellairs, quite forgetful of red noses and swollen

There was a silence broken only by the sobs of the widow and the sighs
of the wife.

Then said Mistress Kitty, in a small, strangled voice: "Let this be a
lesson to you never to deceive."

"I never told a single lie before," moaned Lady Standish.

"Ah!" said Kitty, "there never was a single lie, madam.  A lie is wed
as soon as born, and its progeny exceeds that of Abraham."

The two women rose from their despairing postures, and, mutually pushed
by the same impulse, approached each other.

"What is to be done now?" said Lady Standish.

"What is to be done?" said Mistress Bellairs.

"Let us seek Sir Jasper," said his wife, "and tell him the whole truth."

Kitty, through wet eyelashes, shot a glance of withering scorn upon her

"Ay," she said sarcastically, "that would be useful truly.  Why, child,
let you and me but go and swear your innocence to Sir Jasper, and it
will be enough to establish you steeped in guilt in the eyes of every
sensible person for the rest of your life.  No," said she, "better must
be thought of than that.  We must act midwife to the lie and start the
little family as soon as possible."

"I will lie no more," said Lady Standish.

"I am told," said Mistress Kitty musingly, "that Lord Verney has
learned swordsmanship abroad."

"Oh, cruel!" moaned the other.

Mistress Kitty paused, bit a taper finger, scratched an arch eyebrow,
drew white brows together, pondered deeply.  Suddenly her dimples
peeped again.

"I have it!" said she.  "'Tis as easy as can be.  Will you leave it to

Lady Standish began to tremble.  She had wept much, she had not eaten,
her heart was full of terror.  Faintness she felt creep upon her.

"What will you do?" she said, grasping after the vanishing powers of
reflection with all her failing strength.

"Do?" said Mistress Bellairs.  "First of all, prevent the duel.  Will
that serve you?"

"Oh, yes," cried Julia, and grew livid behind her paint.

"She has got the vapours again," thought the other.  "What a poor weak
fool it is!"

But these vapours came in handy to her plans; she was not keen to
restore Lady Standish too promptly.  She called her woman, however, and
helped her to convey the sufferer to her room and lay her on the couch;
then she advised _sal volatile_ and sleep.

"Leave it all to me," she murmured into the little ear uppermost upon
the pillow; "I will save you."

Lady Standish groped for her friend's hand with her own that was cold
and shaking.  The ladies exchanged a clasp of confidence, and Mistress
Bellairs tripped down to the drawing-room.

"Now," said she to herself, "let us see."  Sudden inspiration sparkled
in her eye.  She plunged her hand into the depth of the brocade pocket
dangling at her side, drew forth sundry letters, and began to select
with pursed lips.  There was Sir Jasper's own.  Those gallant
well-turned lines, that might mean all or nothing, as a woman might
choose to take them--that was of no use for the present.  Back it went
into the brocade pocket.  There was a scrawl from Harry Verney
declining her invitation to a breakfast party because he had promised
(with two "m's") my Lord Scroop to shoot (with a "u" and an "e").
Kitty Bellairs looked at it very tenderly, folded it with a loving
touch, and replaced it in its nest.  Here was a large folded sheet,
unaddressed, filled inside with bold black writing.  A crisp auburn
curl was fastened across the sheet by an emerald-headed pin.

    "Most cruel, most beautiful, most kind!"

ran the ardent lines,

    "most desired, most beloved!  Was it last night or a hundred years
    ago that we met?  This is the lock of hair the loveliest hand in
    all the world deigned to caress.  It became upon that moment far
    too precious a thing for its poor owner.  He ventures, therefore,
    to offer it at the shrine of the goddess who consecrated it.  Will
    she cast it from her?  Or will she keep it and let it speak to her,
    every hair a tongue, of the burning flame of love that she has
    kindled in this mortal breast?  Did I dream, or can it be
    true?--there was a patch above the dimple at the corner of your
    lip.  I kissed it.  Oh, it must have been a dream!  One word,
    fairest:--When may I dream again?

    "Your own and ever your own.

    "P.S.--The lock was white before you touched it, but you see you
    have turned it to fire!"

Mistress Kitty read and smiled.  "The very thing!" Then she paused.
"But has the woman a dimple?" said she.  "Has she?  Never mind,
something must be risked.  Now, if I know men, Sir Jasper will spend
the whole night prowling about, trying to discover confirmation of his

The letter was folded up.  "It must seem as if it dropped from my
lady's bosom.  Here, at the foot of the sofa, just peeping from behind
the foot-stool!  A jealous eye cannot miss it!"

The deed was done.

She caught up her cloak and hood, glanced cheerfully round the room,
satisfied herself that the letter showed itself sufficiently in the
candle light to attract a roving eye and, bustling forth, summoned her
chair for her departure in a far better humour than that which had
marked her arrival.

"They could not fight till morning," she said to herself, as she
snuggled against the silken sides.  "Now heaven speed my plan!"  She
breathed a pious prayer as her bearers swung her onwards.


For the first time for over a fortnight Sir Jasper returned to the very
fine mansion he had taken for the Bath season, before the small hours.

It was about ten o'clock of the evening that his impatient hand upon
the knocker sent thunder through the house, startled the gambling
footmen in the hall below and the fat butler from his comfortable nook
at the housekeeper's fireside and his fragrant glass of punch.  The
nerves of the elder footman were indeed so shaken that he dropped an
ace from his wide cuff as he swung back the door.  Breathing hot lemon
peel, the butler hurried to receive his master's cloak and cane.  The
ribbons of Mistress Tremlet's cap quivered over the staircase: the
whole household was agog with curiosity, for her ladyship's woman had
told them to a tear the state of her ladyship's feelings.

Sir Jasper cursed freely as he entered, struck the younger footman with
his cane over the calves for gaping, requested a just Creator to
dispose of his butler's soul with all possible celerity, and himself
obligingly suggested the particular temperature most suitable to it;
then strode he to the drawing-room with the brief announcement that he
expected the visit of some gentlemen.

He looked round scowlingly for his wife.  The room was empty and
desolate in spite of bright chandeliers.  He paused with a frowning
brow, stood a moment irresolute, then shaped his course for the stairs
and mounted with determined foot.  In my lady's dressing-room, by one
dismal candle, sat her woman, reading a book of sermons.  She had a
long pink face, had been her ladyship's mother's own attendant; and
much Sir Jasper hated her.  She rose bristling, dropped him a curtesy
eloquent of a sense of his reprobation; and he felt that with every
line of the homily she laid by on his appearance she had just damned
him as comfortably as he the butler.

Oh, Lud, Lud! (thus she prayed Sir Jasper in a frightful whisper) would
he in mercy walk softer?  My lady was asleep.  Her ladyship had been so
unwell, so indisposed, that she, Megrim, had seen the moment when she
must send for the apothecary, and have Sir Jasper looked for all over
Bath.  Sir Jasper did not seem to realise it, but my lady was of a
delicate complexion: a tender flower!  A harsh look from Sir Jasper, an
unkind word, much less cruel treatment, and she would slip through his
fingers.  Ay, that she would.

Sir Jasper cast a lowering suspicious look around.  He glared at the
woman, at the corners of the room, at the closed door.  He felt his hot
jealousy sicken and turn green and yellow within him.  He stretched out
his hand towards the lock of his wife's door; but Mistress Megrim came
between him and his purpose with determined movement, her stout bust
creaking in its tight stays.

"No," said she, "no, Sir Jasper, unless it be across my dead corpse!"
Here she trembled very much and grew red about the eyes and nose.

"Pshaw!" said Sir Jasper, and walked away down the stairs again and
into the empty, lighted drawing-room.  First he halted by the window,
where Lady Standish had stood and smiled upon Lord Verney.  Then he
went to her writing-desk, and laid his hand upon the casket where she
kept her correspondence, then withdrawing it with a murmured curse,
turned to the chair where she sat, and lifted up her bag of silks.  But
this he tossed from him without drawing the strings.  Another moment
and his eye caught the gleam of the letter so artfully hidden and
exposed by Mistress Bellairs.  He picked it up and surveyed it; it bore
no address, was vaguely perfumed and fell temptingly open to his hand.
He spread the sheet and saw the ruddy curl.  Then his eyes read in
spite of himself.  And as he read the blood rushed to his brain and
turned him giddy, and he sank on the settee and tore at the ruffles at
his neck.  For a moment he suffocated.  With recovered breath came a
fury as voluptuous as a rapture.  He brought the paper to the light and
examined the love-lock.

"Red!" said he, "red!"

He thought of Lord Verney's olive face, and looked and glared at the
hair again as if he disbelieved his senses.  Red!  Were there two of
them, a black and a ruddy?  Stay; oh! women were sly devils!  Lord
Verney was a blind.  This, _this_ carrot Judas was the consoler!
"There was a patch above the dimple at the corner of your lip.  I
dreamed I kissed it."  Sir Jasper gave a sort of roar in his soul,
which issued from his lips in a broken groan.  The dimple and the
patch!  Ay, he had seen them!  Only a few short hours ago he had
thought to kiss that dimple with a husband's lordly pleasure, that
dimple, set for another man!

"Blast them! blast them!" cried Sir Jasper and clenched his hands above
his head.  The world went round with him, and everything turned the
colour of blood.  The next instant he was cold again, chiding himself
for his passion.  He must be calm, calm, for his vengeance.  This lock
he must trace to its parent head, no later than to-night, if he had to
scour the town.  He sat down, stretched the fatal missive before him,
and sat staring at it.

It was thus that a visitor, who was announced as Captain Spicer,
presently found him.  Captain Spicer was an elongated young gentleman,
had a tendency to visual obliquity and was attired in the extreme of
fashion.  He minced forward, bowing and waving white hands with
delicately crooked fingers.

His respects he presented to Sir Jasper.  He had not up to this had the
pleasure and honour of Sir Jasper's acquaintance, but was charmed of
the opportunity--any opportunity which should afford him that pleasure
and honour.  Might he, might he?  He extended a snuff-box, charmingly
enamelled, and quivered it towards his host.  Sir Jasper had risen
stiffly, in his dull eye there was no response.

"You do not, then?" said Captain Spicer, himself extracting a pinch and
inhaling it with superlative elegance and the very last turn of the
wrist.  "And right, my dear sir!  A vicious habit.  Yet positively,"
said he, and smiled engagingly, "without it, I vow, I could not exist
from noon to midnight.  But then it must be pure Macabaw.  Anything
short of pure Macabaw, fie, fie!"

Sir Jasper shook himself and interrupted with a snarl:

"To what, sir, do I owe the honour?"

"I come," said Captain Spicer, "of course you have guessed, from my
Lord Verney.  There was a trifle, I believe about--ha--the shape of his
nether limbs.  Upon so private a matter, sir, as his, ahem, nether
limbs, a gentleman cannot brook reflection.  You will comprehend that
my Lord Verney felt hurt, Sir Jasper, hurt!  I myself, familiar as I am
with his lordship, have never ventured to hint to him even the name of
a hosier, though I know a genius in that line, sir, a fellow who has a
gift--a divine inspiration, I may say--in dealing with these intimate
details!  But Gad, sir, delicacy, delicacy!"

Sir Jasper, meanwhile, had lifted the letter from the table, and was
advancing upon Captain Spicer, ponderingly looking from the lock of
hair in his hand to that young gentleman's head, which, however, was
powdered to such a nicety that it was quite impossible to tell the
colour beneath.

"Sir," interrupted he at this juncture, "excuse me, but I should be
glad to know if you wear your hair or a wig?"

Captain Spicer leaped a step back, and looked in amaze at the Baronet's
earnest countenance.

"Egad!" thought he to himself, "Verney's in the right of it, the
fellow's mad.  Ha! ha!" said he aloud, "very good, Sir Jasper, very
good.  A little conundrum, eh?  'Rat me, I love a riddle."  He glanced
towards the door.  Sir Jasper still advanced upon him as he retreated.

"I asked you, sir," he demanded with an ominous rise in his voice, "if
you wore your own hair?"  ("The fellow looks frightened," he argued
internally--"'tis monstrous suspicious!")

"I," cried the Captain, with his back against the door fumbling for the
handle as he stood.  "Fie, fie, who wears a peruke now-a-days, unless
it be your country cousin?  He, he!  How warm the night is!"

Sir Jasper had halted opposite to him and was rolling a withering eye
over his countenance.

"His mealy face is so painted," said the unhappy baronet to himself,
"that devil take him if I can guess the colour of the fellow."  His
hand dropped irresolute by his side.

Beads of perspiration sprang on Captain Spicer's forehead.

"If ever I carry a challenge to a madman again!" thought he.

"Your hair is very well powdered," said Sir Jasper.

"Oh, it is so, it is as you say--Poudre à la Maréchale, sir," said the
Captain, while under his persevering finger the door-handle slowly
turned.  An aperture yawned behind him; in a twinkling his slim figure
twisted, doubled, and was gone.

"Hey, hey!" cried Sir Jasper, "stop, man, stop, our business together
has but just begun."

But Captain Spicer had reached the street-door.

"Look to your master," said he to the footman, "he is ill, very ill!"

Sir Jasper came running after him into the hall.

"Stop him, fools!" cried he to his servants, and then in the next
breath, "Back!" he ordered.  And to himself he murmured, "'Tis never
he.  That sleek, fluttering idiot never grew so crisp a curl nor wrote
so sturdy a hand, no, nor kissed a dimple!  _Kissed a dimple_!


As he stood turning the seething brew of his dark thoughts, there came
a pair of knowing raps upon the street-door, and in upon him strode
with cheery step and cry the friends he was expecting.

"Ah, Jasper, lad," cried Tom Stafford, and struck him upon his
shoulder, "lying in wait for us?  Gad, you're a blood-thirsty fellow!"

"And quite right," said Colonel Villiers, clinking spurred legs, and
flinging off a military cloak.  "Zounds, man, would you have him sit
down in his dishonour?"

Sir Jasper stretched a hand to each; and holding him by the elbows they
entered his private apartment and closed the door with such carefulness
that the tall footman had no choice but to take it in turns to listen
and peep through the key-hole.

"Tom," said Sir Jasper, "Colonel Villiers, when I begged you to favour
me with this interview, I was anxious for your services because, as I
told you, of a strong suspicion of Lady Standish's infidelity to me.
Now, gentlemen, doubt is no longer possible, I have the proofs!"

"Come, come, Jasper, never be down-hearted," cried jovial Tom Stafford.
"Come, sir, you have been too fond of the little dears in your day not
to know what tender yielding creatures they are.  'Tis their nature
man; and then, must they not follow the mode?  Do you want to be the
only husband in Bath whose wife is not in the fashion?  Tut, tut, so
long as you can measure a sword for it and let a little blood, why,
'tis all in the day's fun!"

"Swords?" gurgled Colonel Villiers.  "No, no, pistols are the thing,
boy.  You are never sure with your sword: 'tis but a dig in the ribs, a
slash in the arm, and your pretty fellow looks all the prettier for his
pallor, and is all the more likely to get prompt consolation in the
proper quarter.  Ha!"

"Consolation!" cried Sir Jasper, as if the word were a blow.  "Ay,
consolation! damnation!"

"Whereas with your bullet," said the Colonel, "in the lungs, or in the
brain--at your choice--the job is done as neat as can be.  Are you a
good hand at the barkers, Jasper?"

"Oh, I can hit a haystack!" said Sir Jasper.  But he spoke vaguely.

"I am for the swords, whenever you can," cried comely Stafford,
crossing a pair of neat legs as he spoke and caressing one rounded calf
with a loving hand.  "'Tis a far more genteel weapon.  Oh, for the feel
of the blades, the pretty talk, as it were, of one with the other!
'Ha, have I got you now, my friend?'--'Ha, would you step between me
and my wife? or my mistress? or my pleasure?'--as the case may be.
'Would you?  I will teach you, sa--sa!'  Now--now one in the ribs!  One
under that presuming heart!  Let the red blood flow, see it drop from
the steel: that is something like!  Pistols, what of them! pooh!  Snap,
you blow a pill into the air, and 'tis like enough you have to swallow
it yourself!  'Tis for apothecaries, say I, and such as have not been
brought up to the noble and gentlemanly art of self-defence."

"Silence, Tom," growled the Colonel; "here is no matter for jesting.
This friend of ours has had a mortal affront, has he not?  'Tis
established.  Shall he not mortally avenge himself upon him who has
robbed him of his honour?  That is the case, is it not?  And, blast me,
is not the pistol the deadlier weapon and therefore the most suited?

Sir Jasper made an inarticulate sound that might have passed for assent
or dissent, or merely as an expression of excessive discomfort of

"To business then," cried Colonel Villiers.  "Shall I wait upon Lord
Verney and suggest pistols at seven o'clock to-morrow morning in
Hammer's Fields?  That is where I generally like to place such affairs:
snug enough to be out of disturbers' way, and far enough to warm the
blood with a brisk walk.  Gad, 'twas but ten days ago that I saw poor
Ned Waring laid as neatly on his back by Lord Tipstaffe (him they call
Tipsy Tip, you know) as ever it was done; as pretty a fight!  Six
paces, egad, and Ned as determined a dog as a fellow could want to
second.  'Villiers,' said he, as I handed him his saw-handle, 'if I do
not do for him, may he do for me!  One of us must kill the other,' said
he.  'Twas all about Mistress Waring, you know, dashed pretty woman!
Poor Ned, he made a discovery something like yours, eh?  Faith! ha, ha!
And devil take it, sir, Tip had him in the throat at the first shot,
and Ned's bullet took off Tipstaffe's right curl!  Jove, it was a
shave!  Ned never spoke again.  Ah, leave it to me; see if I do not
turn you out as rare a meeting."

"But stay," cried Stafford, as Sir Jasper writhed in his arm-chair,
clenched and unclenched furious hands and felt the curl of red hair
burn him where he had thrust it into his bosom.  "Stay," cried
Stafford, "we are going too fast, I think.  Do I not understand from
our friend here that he called Lord Verney a rat?  Sir Jasper is
therefore himself the insulting party, and must wait for Lord Verney's
action in the matter."

"I protest," cried the Colonel, "the first insult was Lord Verney's in
compromising our friend's wife."

"Pooh, pooh," exclaimed Stafford, recrossing his legs to bring the left
one into shapely prominence this time, "that is but the insult
incidental.  But to call a man a rat, that is the insult direct.
Jasper is therefore the true challenger; the other has the choice of
arms.  It is for Lord Verney to send to our friend!"

"Sir!" exclaimed the Colonel, growing redder about the gills than
Nature and port wine had already made him.  "Sir, would you know better
than I?"

"Gentlemen," said Sir Jasper, sitting up suddenly, "as I have just told
you, since I craved of your kindness that you would help me in this
matter, I have made discoveries that alter the complexion of the affair
very materially.  I have reason to believe that if Lord Verney be
guilty in this matter it is in a very minor way.  You know what they
call in France _un chandelier_.  Indeed it is my conviction--such is
female artfulness--that he has merely been made a puppet of to shield
another person.  It is this person I must find first, and upon him that
my vengeance must fall before I can attend to any other business.  Lord
Verney indeed has already sent to me, but his friend, Captain Spicer, a
poor fool (somewhat weak in the head, I believe), left suddenly without
our coming to any conclusion.  Indeed, I do not regret it--I do not
seek to fight with Lord Verney now.  Gentlemen," said Sir Jasper,
rising and drawing the letter from his breast--"gentlemen, I shall
neither eat nor sleep till I have found out the owner of this curl!"

He shook out the letter as he spoke, and fiercely thrust the tell-tale
love-token under the noses of his amazed friends.  "It is a red-haired
man, you see!  There lives no red-haired man in Bath but him I must
forthwith spit or plug lest the villain escape me!"

Colonel Villiers started to his feet with a growl like that of a tiger
aroused from slumber.

"Zounds!" he exclaimed.  "An insult."

"How!" cried Jasper, turning upon him and suddenly noticing the sandy
hue of his friend's bushy eyebrows.  "You, good God!  You?  Pooh, pooh,
impossible, and yet....  Colonel Villiers, Sir!" cried Sir Jasper, in
awful tones, "did you write this letter?  Speak!  Yes or no, man!
Speak, or must I drag the words from your throat?"

Purple and apoplectic passion well-nigh stifled Colonel Villiers.

"Stafford, Stafford," he spluttered, "you are witness.  These are gross
affronts, affronts which shall be wiped out."

"Did you write that letter?  Yes or no!" screamed Sir Jasper, shaking
the offending document in the Colonel's convulsed countenance.

"I?" cried the Colonel, and struck away Sir Jasper's hand with a
furious blow, "I?  I write such brimstone nonsense?  No, sir!  Now,
damn you body and soul, Sir Jasper, how dare you ask me such a

"No," said Sir Jasper, "of course not!  Ah, I am a fool, Villiers.
Forgive me.  There's no quarrel between us!  No, of course it could not
be you!  With that nose, that waistcoat, your sixty years!  Gad, I am
going mad!"

"Why, man," said Stafford, as soon as he could speak for laughing,
"Villiers has not so much hair on all his head as you hold in your hand
there.  Off with your wig, Villiers, off with your wig, and let your
bald pate proclaim its shining innocence."

The gallant gentleman thus addressed was by this time black in the
face.  Panting as to breath, disjointed as to speech, his fury had
nevertheless its well-defined purpose.

"I have been insulted, I have been insulted," he gasped; "the matter
cannot end here.  Sir Jasper, you have insulted me.  I am a red-haired
man, sir.  I shall send a friend to call upon you."

"Nay, then," said Sir Jasper, "since 'tis so between us I will even
assure myself that Tom has spoken the truth and give you something to
fight for!"  He stretched out his hand as he spoke, and plucked the wig
from Colonel Villiers' head.

Before him indeed spread so complete an expanse of hairless candour,
that further evidence was not necessary; yet the few limp hairs that
lingered behind the Colonel's ears, if they had once been ruddy, shone
now meekly silver in the candle-light.

"I thank you," said Sir Jasper, "that is sufficient.  When you send
your friend to call upon me, I shall receive him with pleasure."  He
handed back the Colonel's wig with a bow.

The Colonel stood trembling, his knotted hand instinctively fumbled for
his sword.  But remembering perhaps that this was eminently a case for
pistols, he bethought himself, seized his wig, clapped it on defiantly,
settled it with minute care, glared, wheeled round and left the room,
muttering as he went remarks of so sulphurous a nature as to defy

Sir Jasper did not seem to give him another thought.  He fell into his
chair again and spread out upon his knee the sorely crumpled letter.

"Confusion!" said he.  Who can it be?  "Tom, you scamp, I know your
hair is brown.  Thou art not the man, Tom.  Oh, Tom, oh, Tom, if I do
not kill him I shall go mad!"

Stafford was weak with laughter, and tears rolled from his eyes as he

"Let us see, who can the Judas be?  (Gad, this is the best joke I have
known for years.  Oh, Lord, the bald head of him!  Oh, Jasper, 'tis
cruel funny!  Stab me, sir, if I have known a better laugh these ten
years!)  Nay, nay, I will help thee.  Come, there's his Lordship the
Bishop of Bath and Wells, he is red, I know, for I have seen him in the
water.  Gad, he was like a boiled lobster, hair and all.  Could it be
he, think you?  They have a way, these divines, and Lady Standish has a
delicate conscience.  She would like the approval of the Church upon
her deeds.  Nay, never glare like that, for I will not fight you!  Have
you not got your rosary of red polls to tell first.  Ha! there is
O'Hara, he is Irish enough and rake enough and red enough.  Oh, he is
red enough!"

"O'Hara," cried Sir Jasper, struck.

There came a fine rat-tat-tat at the door, a parley in the hall, and
the servant announced Mr. Denis O'Hara.

"Talk of the devil," said Stafford.

Sir Jasper rose from his armchair with the air of one whose enemy is
delivered into his hands.


The Honourable Denis O'Hara, son and heir of Viscount Kilcroney in the
peerage of Ireland, entered with a swift and easy step, and saluted
airily.  He had a merry green eye, and the red of his crisp hair shone
out through the powder like a winter sunset through a mist.

"Sir Jasper," said he, "your servant, sir.  Faith, Tom, me boy, is that
you?  The top of the evening to ye."

Uninvited he took a chair and flung his careless figure upon it.  His
joints were loose, his nose aspired, his rich lace ruffles were torn,
his handsome coat was buttoned awry; Irishman was stamped upon every
line of him, from his hot red head to his slim alert foot; Irishman
lurked in every rich accent of his ready tongue.

Sir Jasper made no doubt that now the Lothario who had poached on his
preserves, had destroyed his peace, had devastated his home, was before
him.  He turned to Stafford and caught him by the wrist.

"Tom," whispered he, "you will stand by me, for by my immortal soul, I
will fight it out to-night!"

"For God's sake, be quiet," whispered the other, who began to think
that the jealous husband was getting beyond a joke.  "Let us hear what
the fellow has got to say first.  The devil!  I will not stand by to
see you pink every auburn buck in the town.  'Tis stark lunacy."

"But 'tis you yourself," returned Sir Jasper, in his fierce
undertone--"you yourself who told me it was he.  See, but look at this
curl and at that head."

"Oh, flummery!" cried Stafford.  "Let him speak, I say."

"When you have done your little conversation, gentlemen," said Mr.
O'Hara good-naturedly, "perhaps you will let me put in a word edgeways?"

Sir Jasper, under his friend's compelling hand, sank into a chair; his
sinews well-nigh creaked with the constraint he was putting upon

"I have come," said Denis O'Hara, "from me friend Captain Spoicer.  I
met him a whoile ago, fluttering down Gay Street, leaping like a hare
with the hounds after him, by St. Patrick!  'You're running away from
someone, Spoicer,' says I.  And says he, 'I'm running away from that
blithering madman Sir Jasper Standish.'  Excuse me, Sir Jasper, those
were his words, ye see."

"And what, sir," interrupted Sir Jasper in an ominous voice--"what,
sir, may I ask, was your purpose in walking this way to-night?"

"Eh," cried the Irishman, "what is that ye say?"

"Oh, go on, O'Hara," cried Stafford impatiently, and under his breath
to Standish, "Faith, Jasper," said he, "keep your manners, or I'll wash
my hands of the whole matter."

"Oh, is that the way with him," said O'Hara, behind his hand to
Stafford, and winked jovially.  "Well, I was saying, gentlemen, that to
see a man run, unless it be a Frenchman, is a thing that goes against
me.  'Why, what did he do to you?' said I (meaning you, Sir Jasper).
'Oh,' says me gallant Captain, 'I went to him with a gentlemanly
message from a friend and the fellow insulted me so grossly with
remarks about my hair, that sure,' says he, 'tis only fit for Bedlam he
is.'  'Insulted you,' says I, 'and where are you running to?  To look
for a friend, I hope,' says I.  'Insults are stinking things.'  'Sure,'
says he, 'he is mad,' says he.  'Well, what matter of that?' says I.
'Sure, isn't it all mad we are more or less?  Come,' says I, 'Spoicer,
this will look bad for you with the ladies, not to speak of the men.
Give me the message, me boy, and I will take it; and sure we will let
Sir Jasper bring his keepers with him to the field, and no one can say
fairer than that.'"

Sir Jasper sprang to his feet.

"Now, curse your Irish insolence," he roared; "this is more than I
would stand from any man!  And, if I mistake not, Mr. O'Hara, we have
other scores to settle besides."

"Is it we?" cried O'Hara, jumping up likewise.  "'Tis the first I've
heard of them--but, be jabers, you will never find me behind hand in
putting me foot to the front!  I will settle as many scores as you
like, Sir Jasper--so long as it is me sword and not me purse that pays

"Draw then, man, draw!" snarled Sir Jasper, dancing in his fury.  He
bared his silver-hilted sword and threw the scabbard in a corner.

"Heaven defend us!" cried Stafford, in vain endeavouring to come
between the two.

"Sure, you must not contradict him," cried O'Hara, unbuckling his belt
rapidly, and drawing likewise with a pretty flourish of shining blade.
"'Tis the worst way in the world to deal with a cracked man.  Sure, ye
must soothe him and give in to him.  Don't I know!  Is not me own first
cousin a real raw lunatic in Kinsale Asylum this blessed day?  Come on,
Sir Jasper, I'm yer man.  Just pull the chairs out of the way, Tom, me
dear boy."

"Now sir, now sir!" said Sir Jasper, and felt restored to himself again
as steel clinked against steel.  And he gripped the ground with his
feet, and knew the joy of action.

"Well, what must be, must be," said Stafford philosophically, and sat
across a chair; "and a good fight is a good fight all the world over!
Ha! that was a lunge!  O'Hara wields a pretty blade, but there is
danger in Jasper's eye.  I vow I won't have the Irish boy killed.  Ha!"
He sprang to his feet again and brandished the chair, ready to
interpose between the two at the critical moment.  O'Hara was as
buoyant as a cork; he skipped backwards and forwards, from one side to
another, in sheer enjoyment of the contest.  But Sir Jasper hardly
moved from his first position except for one or two vicious lunges.
Stafford had deemed to see danger in his eye; there was more than
danger--there was murder!  The injured husband was determined to slay,
and bided his time for the fatal thrust.  The while, O'Hara attacked
out of sheer lightness of heart.  Now his blade grazed Sir Jasper's
thigh; once he gave him a flicking prick on the wrist so that the blood
ran down his fingers.

"Stop, stop," cried Stafford, running in with his chair, "Sir Jasper's

"No, dash you!" cried Sir Jasper.  And click, clank, click, it went
again, with the pant of the shortening breath, and the thud of the
leaping feet.  Sir Jasper lunged a third time, O'Hara waved his sword
aimlessly, fell on one knee, and rolled over.

"Halt!" yelled Stafford.  It was too late.  Sir Jasper stood staring at
his red blade.

"You have killed him!" cried Stafford, turning furiously on his friend,
and was down on his knees and had caught the wounded man in his arms
the next second.

"Devil a bit," said O'Hara, and wriggled in the other's grasp, too
vigorously indeed for a moribund, found his feet in a jiffy and stood
laughing with a white face and looking down at his dripping shirt.
"'Tis but the sudden cold feel of the steel, man!  Sure I'm all right,
and ready to begin again!  'Tis but a rip in the ribs, for I can
breathe as right as ever."  He puffed noisily as he spoke to prove his
words, slapped his chest, then turned giddily and fell into a chair.
Stafford tore open the shirt.  It was as O'Hara had said, the wound was
an ugly surface rip, more unpleasant than dangerous.

"Let us have another bout," said O'Hara.

"No, no," said Stafford.

"No, no," said Sir Jasper advancing and standing before his adversary.
"No.  Mr. O'Hara, you may have done me the greatest injury that one can
do another, but gad, sir, you have fought like a gentleman!"

"Ah!" whispered O'Hara to Stafford, who still examined the wound with a
knowing manner, "'tis crazed entoirely he is, the poor dear fellow."

"Not crazed," said Stafford rising, "or if so, only through
jealousy.--Jasper, let us have some wine for Mr. O'Hara, and one of
your women with water and bandages.  A little sticking plaister will
set this business to rights.  Thank God, that I have not seen murder

"One moment, Stafford."  said Jasper, "one moment, sir.  Let us clear
this matter.  Am I not right, Mr. O'Hara, in believing you to have
written a letter to my wife?"

"Is it me?" cried O'Hara in the most guileless astonishment.

"He thinks you are her lover," whispered Stafford in his ear.  "Zooks,
I can laugh again now!  He knows she has got a red-haired lover, and
says he will kill every red-haired man in Bath!"

"Sure I have never laid eyes on Lady Standish," said O'Hara to Sir
Jasper, "if that is all you want.  Sure, I'd have been proud to be her
lover if I'd only had the honour of her acquaintance!"

"Mr. O'Hara," said Sir Jasper, "will you shake hands with me?"

"With all the pleasure in loife!" cried the genial Irishman.  "Faith,
'tis great friends we will be, but perhaps ye had better not introjuce
me to ye'r lady, for I'm not to be trusted where the dear creatures are
concerned, and so 'tis best to tell you at the outset."

The opponents now shook hands with some feeling on either side.  The
wound was attended to and several bottles of wine were thereafter
cracked in great good-fellowship.

"There is nothing like Canary," vowed O'Hara, "for the power of

      *      *      *      *      *

It was past midnight when, on the arm of Mr. Stafford, Denis O'Hara set
out to return to his own lodgings.

The streets were empty and the night dark, and they had many grave
consultations at the street corners as to which way to pursue.  If they
reeled a little as they went, if they marched round King's Circus, and
round again more than once, and showed a disposition to traverse Gay
Street from side to side oftener than was really required by their
itinerary, it was not, as O'Hara said, because of the Canary, but all
in the way of "divarsion."

"Sir Jasper's a jolly good fellow," said Lord Kilcroney's heir as he
propped himself against his own door-post, and waggled the knocker with
tipsy gravity.  "And so are you," said he to Stafford.  "I like ye
both."  Here he suddenly showed a disposition to fall upon Stafford's
neck, but as suddenly arrested himself, stiffened his swaying limbs and
struck his forehead with a sudden flash of sobriety.  "Thunder and
'ouns," said he, "if I did not clean forget about Spoicer!"

He was with difficulty restrained by Stafford (who, having a stronger
head, was somewhat the soberer), with the help of the servants who now
appeared, from setting forth to repair his negligence.  By a tactful
mixture of persuasion and force, the wounded gentleman was at length
conducted to bed, sleepily murmuring:

"Won't do at all--most remiss--affair of honour--never put off!" until
sleep overtook him, which was before his head touched the pillow.

Meanwhile Sir Jasper sat, with guttering candles all around him, in the
recesses of an armchair, his legs extended straight, his bandaged wrist
stuffed into his bosom, his head sunk upon his chest, his spurious
flash of gaiety now all lost in a depth of chaotic gloom.  Dawn found
him thus.  At its first cold rays he rose sobered, and could not have
said whether the night had passed in waking anguish or in hideous
nightmare.  He looked round on the cheerless scene, the blood-stained
linen, the empty wine-glasses with their sickening reek, the smoking
candles, the disordered room; then he shuddered and sought the haven of
his dressing-room, and the relief of an hour's sleep with a wet towel
tied round his throbbing head.


Mistress Bellairs was up betimes.  In truth she had slept ill, which
was a strange experience for her.  What her thirty-seven lovers had
never had the power to wring from her--a tear and a sleepless
night--this had she given to the one man who loved her not.

She was tortured with anxiety concerning the danger which her caprice
(or, as she put it, Lady Standish's inconceivable foolishness) might
have brought upon Lord Verney.  At daybreak she rang for her maid, and
with the eight o'clock chocolate demanded to be posted with all the
news of the town.  She was of those who possess the talent of making
themselves served.  The chocolate was to the full as perfumed and
creamy as ever, and Miss Lydia was bursting with tidings of importance,
as she stood by her lady's couch.

"Well, Lydia, well?" cried her mistress, sharply.

"Oh, lud, ma'am, the whole town's ringing with it!  My Lady Standish
has been found out.  There, I for one never trust those solemn prudes
that ever keep their eyes turned up or cast down, and their mouths
pursed like cherries.  You would not be so proper if there was not a
reason for it, I always think."

"Lydia," said Mistress Bellairs, "do not be a fool.  Go on; what has
Lady Standish been found out in, pray?"

"Oh, ma'am," said Lydia, "it ain't hard to guess.  'Tis what a woman's
always found out in, I suppose.  But, lud, the shamelessness of it!  I
hear, ma'am," she came closer to her mistress and bent to whisper,
almost trembling with the joy of being tale-bearer to such purpose, "I
hear, ma'am, Sir Jasper found Colonel Villiers there yesterday
afternoon.  Oh, ma'am, such goings on!"

"Pshaw!" said Mistress Kitty.

"Well, they're going to fight, anyhow," cried the girl, "and Sir Jasper
tore off the Colonel's wig and beat him about the face with it, ma'am,
and the Colonel's been like a madman ever since, and he vows he will
shoot him this morning."

Mistress Bellairs gave a sigh of relief.

"Let them shoot each other," said she, sinking back on her pillows and
stirring her chocolate calmly.  "I do not find the world any better for
either of them."

"But that is not all, ma'am, for poor Sir Jasper no sooner had he
thrashed the Colonel, than he finds Mr. Denis O'Hara behind the

"Denis O'Hara!" exclaimed Mistress Bellairs, sitting up in amaze.
"You're raving!"

"No, ma'am, for I have it from Mr. O'Hara's own man; and did not he and
Sir Jasper fight it out then and there, and was not Mr. O'Hara carried
home wounded by the Watch!"

"Mercy on us!" exclaimed the lady.

"And that is not all, ma'am," said the maid.

"You frighten me, child."

"There is Captain Spicer too, whom you can't a-bear, and Lord Verney."

"Lord Verney!" cried Mistress Kitty.

"Ay, ma'am; he and Sir Jasper are going to fight this morning.  Sir
Jasper's going to fight them all, but Lord Verney is to be the first,
for Sir Jasper found him kissing Lady Standish yesterday at noon; the
others were later on.  So it's my Lord comes first you see, ma'am."

"La, girl," cried Mistress Bellairs with a scream, and upset her
chocolate, "going to fight this morning?  'Tis not true!"  Her pretty
face turned as white as chalk under its lace frills.

"Yes, ma'am," pursued the maid, gabbling as hard as she could.  "Yes,
ma'am, first there's Lord Verney.  Sir Jasper, they say, behaved so
oddly to Captain Spicer who brought the first challenge, that Lord
Verney sent another by a chairman this morning.  And then Colonel
Villiers.  Of course, as Mr. Mahoney says (that's Mr. O'Hara's man,
ma'am), Sir Jasper is safe to kill Lord Verney, and Colonel Villiers is
safe to kill Sir Jasper.  But if the Colonel do not kill Sir Jasper,
then Sir Jasper will fight Captain Spicer!  La! ma'am, the chocolate's
all over the bed."

"Oh, get out of that, you silly wench," cried Mistress Bellairs, "let
me rise!  There is not a moment to lose.  And where is Sir Jasper
supposed to fight my Lord Verney?  (Give me my silk stockings, useless
thing that you are!)  I don't believe a word of your story.  How dare
you come and tell me such a pack of nonsense?  But where are they
supposed to fight?  Of course you must have heard the hour?"  She was
pulling silk stockings over her little arched foot, and up her little
plump leg as fast as her trembling hands would obey her.

"I do not know where, ma'am," said the maid demurely, "but the Colonel
is to meet Sir Jasper in Hammer's Fields at noon, so I suppose my Lord
Verney and he will be fighting about this time."

"Oh, hold your tongue," cried her mistress; "you're enough to drive one
mad with your quacking!"

Not a dab of rouge did the widow find time to spread upon pale cheeks,
not a dust of powder upon a black curl.  The pretty morning hood was
drawn round a very different face from that which it usually shaded;
but who shall say that Kitty, the woman, running breathless through the
empty streets with the early breeze playing with her loose hair, was
not as fair in her complete self-abandonment, as the fashionable lady,
powdered, painted, patched and laced, known under the name of Mrs.
Bellairs?  Her small feet hammered impatiently along, her skirts
fluttered as she went.  She would not wait for a coach; a chair would
have sent her crazy.

At the turning of the Crescent, another fluttering woman's figure, also
hooded, also cloaked, also advancing with the haste that despises
appearances, passed her with a patter and a flash.  They crossed, then
moved by the same impulse halted with dawning recognition.

"Mistress Bellairs!" cried Lady Standish's flute-like voice.

"Julia Standish!" screamed Mistress Bellairs.  They turned and caught
at each other with clinging hands.

"Oh, heavens," said Mistress Bellairs, "is what I hear true?  Is that
devil Sir Jasper going to fight Lord Verney this morning?  Why,
Verney's but a child; 'tis rank murder.  You wicked woman, see what you
have done!"

"Ah, Mistress Bellairs," cried Julia, and pressed her side, "my heart
is broken."

"But what has happened, woman, what has happened?" cried Kitty, and
shook the plaintive Julia with a fierce hand.

"Sir Jasper will not see me," sobbed Julia, "but I have found out that
he is to meet my Lord Verney in an hour in Bathwick Meadows.  There
have been messages going backwards and forwards since early dawn.  Oh,
Heaven have pity on us!"

"Where are you going?" cried Kitty, and shook her once more.

"I was going to Lord Verney to plead for my husband's life," said Lady
Standish, and the tears streamed down her face like the storm-rain upon
lily flowers.

"The Lord keep you," cried Mistress Bellairs with feelings too deep for
anger; "I believe you are no better than an idiot!"

The most heroic resolves are often the work of a second!  "Now go back
home again, you silly thing," said Kitty.  "'Tis I--yes, Lady Standish,
you do not deserve it of me--but I will sacrifice myself!  I will
prevent this duel, I will go to my Lord Verney!"

"You," said Julia, and wondered, and but half understood the meaning of
the words.

"Go home, go home," said Mistress Kitty, "and I tell you that if I do
not make Lord Verney fail at the meeting, my name is not Kitty

Lady Standish hesitated, and meekly bowed her head, turned and began to
retrace her steps, her slim figure bending and swaying as if the fresh
morning wind were too stern for her.

Mistress Bellairs looked at her watch.

"Did she say an hour?" murmured she to herself.  "Then, ten minutes
before the looking-glass, and ten minutes to get to my Lord's lodgings,
and I will find him about to start.  'Tis his first affair of honour,
poor boy, and he is sure to be as early at it as a country cousin to a

The sun broke out from a cloudy sky, and Mrs. Bellairs shook herself
and felt her spirits rise.  A dimple peeped in either cheek.

"After all," said she as she tripped along, and the dimples deepened as
the smile broadened, "who knows?  'Tis an ill wind that blows nobody

      *      *      *      *      *

My Lady Standish returned home.  The servants stared at her curiously
as she crossed the hall.  Mistress Tremlet, the housekeeper, passed her
with pursed lips.  Her own maid, she knew, was dissolved in tears and
plunged in Doctor Persel's discourses against heresy.  White as new
fallen snow was her conscience, nevertheless she felt herself smirched
in the eyes of all these people.  Yet she cared not.

Outside Sir Jasper's dressing-room she listened.  She could hear him
stamp about as he made his toilet, and curse his man.  She put out her
hand to knock, but the memory of his stern repulse to her last appeal
robbed her of all courage.

"I will not go in upon him," thought she, "but when he comes out I will

"These swords," said Sir Jasper within, "I will take in the carriage.
I expect Mr. Stafford and a friend to call for me in half-an-hour.  Do
you understand, sirrah!  And hark ye, where are the pistols?"

"Pistols!" echoed Lady Standish, and her heart beat to suffocation.

There was a pause.

"Here, Sir Jasper," said the valet then.

"Now, mark what I say," said Jasper impressively.  "Lord Markham will
call at eleven.  Let the curricle be in waiting; tell my Lord that I
will meet him five minutes before the half-hour at Hammer's Fields.
Forget at your peril!  You are to take these pistols there yourself.
Stay, tell my Lord Markham that if I am not at the _rendezvous_, 'twill
only be because I have not life enough left to take me there, and he
must make it straight with Colonel Villiers.  Have you understood,
rascal?  Nay--damn you!--I will give you a letter for my Lord Markham."

"Oh God! oh God!" cried poor Lady Standish, and felt her knees tremble,
"what is this now?  Another meeting!  The Colonel! ... In God's name
how comes he upon Colonel Villiers?  Why, this is wholesale slaughter!
This is insanity!  This must be prevented!"  She caught her head in her
hands.  "Sir Jasper's mad," she said.  "What shall I do?  What shall I
do?  They will kill him, and I shall have done it.  Why now, if Kitty
prevents the first duel, cannot I prevent the second?  Oh, I am a false
wife if I cannot save my husband.  Heaven direct me!" she prayed, and
to her prayer came inspiration.

There was the Bishop, the Bishop of Bath and Wells!  That reverend
prelate had shown her much kindness and attention; he would know how to
interfere in such a crisis.  He was a man of authority.  Between them
could they not enforce the peace at Hammer's Fields, and could not Sir
Jasper be saved in spite of himself, were it by delivering him into the
hands of the law?

Lady Standish flew into her room and called the sniffing Megrim.

"Paper and ink," cried she, "and get you ready to run on a message.
'Tis a matter of life and death."

"My Lady," said Megrim primly, "I will serve your Ladyship in all
things that are right; but I hope I know my dooty to my Creator; and
stoop to connive at irregularities, my Lady, I won't and never will."
She had been ready to condemn her master overnight, but the talk in the
servants' hall had, as she expressed it, "opened her eyes."  And what
woman is not ready to judge her sister woman--above all, what maid to
condemn her mistress?

Lady Standish stared.

"What means this?" said she.  "You shall do as I bid you, Mistress
Megrim.  How dare you!" cried Lady Standish with a sudden flash of
comprehension.  "Why, woman, my letter is to the Bishop!"

"Oh," quoth Mistress Megrim, still with reserve, yet condescending to
approval, "that is another matter!  Shall I," she sniffed, "be stricter
than becomes a Christian?  Shall I refuse aid to the bruised sinner or
to the smoking lamp whose conscience is awakened?  May his Lordship be
a tower of strength to your Ladyship along the rocky paths of


In ten minutes a fair lady may do much to enhance her fairness.  As
Mistress Bellairs took a last look at her mirror, while Lydia bustled
out to call a hired chair, she bestowed upon her reflection a smile of
approval which indeed so charming an image could not fail to call
forth.  Then she huddled herself in a mysterious and all enveloping
cloak, caught up a little velvet mask from the table, and sped upon her
errand.  She sallied forth as the gallant soldier might to battle, with
a beating heart yet a high one.

Lord Verney and Captain Spicer had just finished breakfast at the
former's lodgings in Pierrepoint Street, near North Parade.  Captain
Spicer, babbling ineptly of his own experience as a duellist, of his
scorn of Sir Jasper's lunacy, yet of his full determination to slay the
vile madman, had done ample justice to his young principal's table.
But Lord Verney, his cheek now darkly flushed, now spread with an
unwholesome pallor, found it hard to swallow even a mouthful of bread,
and restlessly passed from the contemplation of the clock and the
setting of his watch to the handling of his pistols, or the hasty
addition of yet another postscript to the ill-spelt, blotted farewell
epistle he had spent half the night in inditing to the Dowager his
mother: "In case, you know..." he had said to his friend, with a quiver
in his voice.

Captain Spicer had earnestly promised to carry out his patron's last
wishes in the most scrupulous manner.

"My dear Lord," he had said, grasping him by the hand, "rely upon me.
Gad, Sir Jasper is a devil of a shot I hear, and of course, he, he! we
all know the saying--the strength of a madman.  But no sooner has he
laid you, Harry, than I vow, upon my honour, I shall hold him at my
sword's point.  I will revenge thee, Harry, never fear of that.  'Twill
be a mighty genteel story, and the world will ring with it.  Egad, he
will not be the first I have spitted as easy as your cook would spit a
turkey.  Have I not learnt of the great Angelo Malevolti himself?  He,
he--'A woman's hand,' he would say, 'and the devil's head!'"

Here Captain Spicer shook out his bony fingers from the encumbering
ruffles and contemplated them with much satisfaction.

"Oh, hang you, Spicer, be quiet, can't you!" cried Lord Verney

The Captain leant back on his chair and began to pick his teeth with a
silver toothpick.

"Pooh, these novices!" said he, as if to himself.  "Keep your nerves
steady, my Lord, or, stab me, I may as well order the mourning-coach
before we start.  He, he!  'Tis well, indeed, you have a friend to
stand by you!"

A discreet tap was heard at the door, and Lord Verney's impassive new
servant (especially engaged on his behalf by the Captain, who indeed,
some ill-natured wag had it, shared his wages and perquisites) stood in
the doorway.

"There is a lady downstairs, my Lord," he said in his mechanical voice.
"She particularly requests to see your Lordship and will take no
denial, although I informed her that your Lordship was like to be
engaged until late in the morning."

Lord Verney merely stared in amazement; but Captain Spicer sprang up
from his chair, his pale eyes starting with curiosity.

"A lady, gad!  Verney, you dog, what is this?  A lady, Ned?  Stay, is
she tall and fair and slight?"

"No, sir, she is under-sized, and seems plump, though she is wrapt in
so great a cloak I could hardly tell."

"Pretty, man?"

"Cannot say, sir, she wears a mask."

"A mask?  He, Verney, Verney, this is vastly interesting!  And she
won't go away, eh, Ned?"

"No, sir, she must see his Lordship, she said, if only for five

"Plump, under-sized, masked," ejaculated Captain Spicer in burning
perplexity.  "Gad, we have ten minutes yet, we will have her up, eh,
Verney?  Show her up, Ned."

The servant withdrew, unheeding Lord Verney's stammered protest.

"Really, Captain Spicer," said he, "I would have liked to have kept
these last ten minutes for something serious.  I would have liked,"
said the lad with a catch in his voice and a hot colour on his cheek,
"to have read a page of my Bible before starting, were it only for my
mother's sake, afterwards."

The led Captain threw up hand and eye in unfeigned horror.

"A page of your Bible!  Zounds!  If it gets out, we are the
laughing-stock of Bath.  A page of your Bible!  'Tis well no one heard
you but I."

"Hush!" said Lord Verney, for in the doorway stood their visitor.
'Twas indeed a little figure, wrapt in a great cloak, and except for
the white hand that held the folds, and the glimpse of round chin and
cherry lip that was trembling beneath the curve of the mask, there was
naught else to betray her identity, to tell whether she were young or
old, well-favoured or disinherited.  But it was a charming little hand,
and an engaging little chin.

Lord Verney merely stood and stared like the boy he was.  But Captain
Spicer leaped forward with a spring like a grasshopper, and crossing
his lean shanks, he presented a chair with the killing grace of which
he alone was master.  The lady entered the room, put her hand on the
back of the chair, and turned upon Captain Spicer.

"I would see Lord Verney alone, sir," she said.  It was a very sweet
voice, but it was imperious.  The masked lady had all the air of one
who was accustomed to instant obedience.

In vain Captain Spicer leered and languished; the black eyes gleamed
from behind the disguise very coldly and steadily back at him.  Forced
to withdraw, he endeavoured to do so with wit and elegance, but he was
conscious somehow of cutting rather a poor figure; and under the
unknown one's hand the door closed upon him with so much energy as to
frustrate utterly his last bow.

Kitty Bellairs deliberately turned the key in the lock, and put it in
her pocket.  Lord Verney started forward, but was arrested by the sound
of his own name, pronounced in the most dulcet and plaintive tone he
thought he had ever heard.

"Lord Verney," said Kitty, flinging back her cloak and hood and
allowing her pretty brown curls, and a hint of the most perfect shape
in Bath, to become visible to the young peer's bewildered gaze.  "Lord
Verney," said she, and clasped her hands, "a very, very unhappy woman
has come to throw herself upon your compassion."

"Madam," said Lord Verney, "what can I do for you?"  His boyish soul
was thrilled by these gentle accents of grief; he thought he saw a tear
running down the white chin; the rounded bosom heaved beneath its
bewitching disorder of lace.  He glanced at the clock and back at the
suppliant in a cruel perplexity.  "Madam," said he, "time presses; I
have but a few minutes to give you.  Tell me, madam, how can I serve
you?  To do so will be a comfort to me in what is perhaps the last hour
of my life."

The lady gave a cry as soft as a dove's, and as plaintive.

"Oh," said she, "it is true, then, what I heard?" and the white hands
were wrung together as in extremest anguish.

"Madam," cried he, with outspread arms, and, though without daring to
touch her, drawing closer, so close as to hear the quick catch of her
breath and to inhale the subtle fragrance of violets that emanated from

"Oh," said she, "it is true!"  She staggered and caught at the
fastenings of her cloak and threw it open.

"You are faint," he cried, strangely moved; "let me call."

But she caught him by the hand.  Her fingers were curiously warm for
one seized with faintness, but the touch of them was pleasant to the
young man as never woman's touch had been before.  Out flew the fellow
hand to keep his prisoner, and they clung round his great boy's wrist.

He never knew how, but suddenly he was on his knees before her.

"You are going to fight," said she, "to fight with Sir Jasper.  Oh, my
God, you do not know, but it is because of me, and if you fight it will
break my heart."  She leant forward to look eagerly at him as he knelt.
Her breath fanned his cheek.  Through her mask he saw beautiful black
eyes, deep, deep.  How white the skin was upon her neck and chin--how
fine its grain!  What little wanton curls upon her head!  What a
fragrance of flowers in the air!  How he longed to pluck that mask
away--and yet how the very mystery lured him, held him!

"Who are you?" said he, in a low quick whisper.  "Let me see your face."

She forbade his indiscreet hand with a little shriek.

"No, no, no, you must never see, never know; that would be terrible."

Then he placed both his hands, all unconsciously, upon hers, and then
she caught them both and held them, and he felt that her weak grasp was
to him as strong as iron.

"Why do you fight?" said she.  "Tell me."

He blushed.

"'Tis for nothing, the merest misunderstanding.  Sir Jasper is mad, I

"Sir Jasper is jealous," breathed she, and nearer came the gaze of the
eyes.  "Is it true that you love Lady Standish?"

"I?" cried he vehemently, and rapped out a great oath--so eager was he
to deny.  "I?  No!  God is my witness.  No!"

"Then do not fight," said she.

He wanted to look at the clock; he wanted to spring up and rush to the
door; he was conscious that Spicer was knocking gently, and that it was
time to go where the conventions of honour called him.  The soft clasp
held him, and the mysterious eyes.  He was a very boy, and had never
loved before, and--she was masked!

"Let me advise you," said she.  "Believe me, your welfare is dearer to
me than you can imagine--dearer to me than I ought to tell you.
Believe me, if you give up this duel you will live to be glad of it.
Sir Jasper will thank you no later than this very day, as never man
thanked man before.  And you will make me so happy!  Oh, believe me,
your honour is safe with me."

"Only let me see your face," said he, while Spicer knocked louder.  "I
will see her, and kiss her," he thought to himself, "and that will be
something to carry to my death."

"How dare you ask it?" she said.  "Must I grant your request when you
refuse me mine?"

"And if I grant you yours," said he, as his heart beat very fast, "what
will you give me?"

"Oh, give," said she, "give!  Who cares for gifts?  A man must take."
Her red lip beneath the mask here became arched so bewitchingly over a
row of the whitest teeth in all the world, that Harry Verney, whose
head had been rapidly going, lost it and his heart together.

"That is a challenge," said he, as he drew a hand away and lifted it to
the mask.

"Ah, traitor!" she cried, and made a dainty start of resistance.  His
fingers trembled on the soft scented locks.

"You shall not," said she, and bent her head to avoid his touch, so
that as he knelt their faces were closer together than ever.

"Oh!" cried he, and kissed her on the chin beneath the mask.


"My Lord," clamoured Captain Spicer at the
door, "the coach is waiting and we have but
half an hour to reach Bathwick Meadows.
Egad, Lord Verney, would you be last at the

Lord Verney sprang to his feet.  The words,
the impatient raps penetrated to his dizzy brain
with sudden conviction.

"Heavens!" cried he, and glanced at the
clock, and made a leap for the door.

"And will you go," said the stranger, "without
having seen my face?"

He ran back to her and then back to the door
again, distracted, as you may see a puppy dog
between two calls.  Finally he came back to the
lady with a new and manly dignity upon him.

"I must go," he said.  "Would you show
yourself as kind as you seem, madam, remove
your mask that I may see you before I go."

Outside Captain Spicer was dancing a sort of
hornpipe of impotent impatience, and filling the
air with shrill strange oaths.

Mistress Bellairs put the lean swarthy boy
very composedly on one side by the merest
touch of her hand, then she went over to the
door, unlocked it and admitted Captain Spicer,
green and sweating.

"I am coming, Spicer," cried Lord Verney
desperately, and made a plunge for his hat and
cloak, murmuring as he passed the lady: "Oh

Kitty Bellairs nibbled her little finger and
looked at the clock.

"It will not take you, you know," said she,
"more than five minutes to drive down to the
Bathwick ferry, therefore if you start in three
you will still have twenty-six to spare.  My
Lord Verney, will you give me those three

Lord Verney flung aside hat and cloak again,
his face glowing with a dark flush.

"Oh," cried he, like a school-boy, "for God's
sake, Spicer, wait outside."

"Nay," said Mistress Kitty, smiling to herself
under her mask, "nay, I have need of Captain

Lord Verney's face fell,

"Come hither," said she, and took him crestfallen
by the hand and brought him to the table,
where lay the writing materials he had been
using but a little while ago.  "Here," said she,
"is a sheet of paper.  Sit down, my Lord, and
write, write," she said, and tapped his shoulder;
"write, sir--thus:--

'Lord Verney begs to inform Sir Joseph Standish that he
understands the grounds of the quarrel between them to lie
in a gross misconception of Lord Verney's feelings for Lady

"Write, write!"  She leaned over him, dictating.

Half spell-bound, yet protesting incoherently,
he began to cover the page with his awkward

"Quick," said she.  "(Child, how do you
spell quarrel?) Never mind, on with you:--

'Lord Verney begs to assure Sir Jasper that, so far from
presuming to entertain any unlawful sentiments for Lady
Standish, he has never addressed more than three words to
her or as many glances at her in his-life; that his whole
heart is given to another lady, the only woman he has ever
loved and ever will love.'"

The pen nearly dropped from Lord Verney's
fingers.  He started and turned round on his
chair to graze in amaze into the countenance of
his mysterious visitor, and again was at once
attracted and foiled by her mask.

"Surely you would not contradict a lady?"
she whispered in his ear; "haste, we have but
one minute more.  Here, give me the pen, I
will finish."  She snapped the quill from his
hand, her curls touched his cheek as she bent
forward over him to the page.  Swiftly her
little hand flew:--

"If upon this explanation Sir Jasper does not see his way
to retract all the offensive observations he made to Lord
Verney, Lord Verney will be ready to meet him as arranged
without an instant's delay.  The truth of all these statements
is guaranteed by the woman Lord Verney loves."

She seized the sheet and folded it.

"Now, Captain Spicer," said she, "take your
coach and hie you to Sir Jasper's house, and
if you bring back an answer before the clock
strikes, I will let you take off my mask, and that
will save you from dying of curiosity and, also,
give you something to tattle about for the next
month.  Oh, you will find Sir Jasper," she said;
"he is a seasoned hand, and does not, like your
virgin duellist, make it a point of honour to
bring his high valour to the rendezvous twenty
minutes before the time."

Within his meagre body Captain Spicer
carried the soul of a flunkey.  He would have
given worlds to rebel, but could not.

"So long as it is not a put-off," said he.
"Not even for a fair one's smile could I barter
a friend's honour."

Kitty held the letter aloft tantalizingly and
looked at the clock.

"If you won't be the bearer," said she, "I
will send it by the chairman, and then you will
never know what is in it.  Moreover," said she,
and smiled archly, "if Sir Jasper apologises to
Lord Verney, which, upon receipt of this letter,
I make no doubt he will, you can take his place,
you know, and will not be done out of a gallant

"Of course, ha, of course!" cried Spicer with
a yellow smile.

Laughing, Mistress Kitty closed the door
behind his retreating figure.

"Now," said she.

"Oh, what have you done, what have you
made me do?" cried Harry Verney in a sudden

"Hush," said Mistress Kitty.  "Did I not
tell you your honour was safe with me?  Do
you not believe me?" said she meltingly.
"Ah, Verney!"  She put her hand to her
head, and at her touch the mask fell.

He looked at her face, blushing and quivering
upon him, and once more fell on his knee
at her feet.

"Oh, tell me your name!" cried he, pleadingly.

"Why, Lord Verney," she said, "how ungallant!"  She
smiled and looked bewitchingly
beautiful; looked serious and reproachful, and
he fell beyond his depths in rapture.

"Why, you know me, you know me well,"
said she, "am I not Mistress Bellairs, Kitty
Bellairs--am I not, Kitty?"

"No, no," cried he, "I never knew you
till this hour, madam, Mistress Bellairs Kitty!
I see you," he cried, "for the first time!  Oh,
God, be kind to me, for I love her!"

"And yet," she whispered archly, "they say
that love is blind."

Upon this he kissed her as he had kissed
her beneath the mask; and if anything could
have been sweeter than the first kiss it was
the second.

Ah, love, how easy an art to learn, how hard
to unlearn!

While Harry Verney thus forgot the whole
world, his first duel, and the code of honour.
Sir Jasper sat inditing an answer to his

"Sir Jasper Standish has received my Lord Verney's
explanation in the spirit in which it is offered.  He is
quite ready to acknowledge that he has acted entirely
under a misapprehension, and begs Lord Verney to receive
his unreserved apologies and the expression of his admiration
for Lord Verney's gallant and gentlemanly behaviour,
together with his congratulations to him and the unknown
lady upon their enviable situation."

Captain Spicer did not offer to supply his
principal's place in the field.  Indeed, he
displayed to Sir Jasper, who received him
with the most gloomy courtesy, the extreme
suppleness of his spine, and pressed his
unrivalled snuff upon him with a fluttering and
ingratiating air.

When he returned to Pierrepoint Street he
found the mysterious stranger already in her
sedan, Lord Verney leaning through the window
thereof, engaged in an earnest whispering
conversation.  Captain Spicer jocularly pulled him
back by the coat-tails and inserted his own
foolish face instead.  The lady was masked
and cloaked as he had left her.

"Madam, I have done your errand," said
he.  "It was," said he, "a matter of difficult
negotiation, requiring--ahem--requiring such
tact as I think I may call my own.  Sir
Jasper was vastly incensed, one might as well
have tried to reason with a bull.  'But gad,
sir,' said I, 'would I, I, Captain Spicer, come
with this message if it were not in accordance
with the strictest rule of honourable etiquette?'  That
floored him, madam----"

Here Mistress Kitty snatched the letter
flickering in his gesticulating hand with scant
ceremony, turned her shoulder upon him, read
it and handed it out to Lord Verney, who
had lost no time in coming round to the
other window.

"Now," said she, "bid the man take me
to the Pump Room."  She leaned her head
out and Lord Verney put his close to hers,
and there followed another conclave.

"Madam, madam, I demand the fulfilment
of your promise!" from the other side came
Captain Spicer's clamouring thin voice.--"Verney,
my good fellow, I must request you
to retire, there is a compact between this lady
and me----"

"A compact?" said the mask turning her head.

"Oh, madam, the vision of that entrancing

He strove to unfasten the chair door, when:

"What?" cried she, "and rob you of all
the charm of uncertainty and all the joy of
guessing and all the spice of being able to
take away the character of every lady in
Bath.  Oh," she said, "I hope I have been better
taught my duty to my neighbour!"  Out went
her head again to Lord Verney; there was
another whisper, a silver laugh.  "On men!"
she cried.

Lord Verney skipped round and in his turn
dragged the discomfited Captain out of the
window and restrained him by main force
from running after the retreating chairman and
their fair burden.


Lord Markham was a person of indefinite appearance, indefinite age and
indefinite manners.  He wore an ill-fitting wig, but he had a high
reputation as a man of honour.  He sat beside Sir Jasper on the front
seat, while on the back sat Tom Stafford; and the curricle sped
cheerily along through the up-and-down Bath streets out into the
country budding with green, down, down the hill, to Hammer's Fields by
the winding Avon.  Sir Jasper's face bespoke great dissatisfaction with
life at large, and with his own existence in particular.  Tom Stafford
was beginning to feel slightly bored.

"'Tis an early spring," said Lord Markham, in the well-meant endeavour
to beguile away the heavy minutes and distract his principal's mind.
"'Tis very mild weather for the time of year; and the lambs are

"Ugh!" said Sir Jasper.

"Speak not to him of lambs," whispered Stafford; "do not you see he is
all for blood and thunder?"

Then he added maliciously; "There is but one animal in the whole fauna
that Sir Jasper takes an interest in at present; and that's not easy,
it seems, to find in these purlieus, though we know it does haunt them:
'tis the red dear!"  He chuckled, vastly delighted with the conceit.

"Let us hope we shall not have rain," said Lord Markham; "these clouds
are menacing."

"Nay, they will hold up for half-an-hour.  Enough to serve our
purpose," growled Sir Jasper, and tipped the horses with the lash so
that they spurned the slope.

"But we shall get wet returning," pleaded the well-meaning Earl, "I
said so all along; 'twould have been better to have gone in a coach."

"I vow," cried Sir Jasper with a sudden burst of spleen, "I vow that I
have it in my heart to wish that Villiers' ball may speed so well that
I may feel neither rain nor shine, coming home again.  Home again,"
said he with a withering smile; "blast it, a pretty home mine is!"

"And a pretty cheerful fellow you are to bring out to a merry meeting,"
quoth Stafford from the back, "and a nice pair of fools you and the
Colonel be, plague on you both!  And when you are shot, 'twill be a
fine satisfaction to think that your wife can console herself with the
owner of the red curl, eh?  What are you going to fight old Villiers
about, I should like to know?"

"You do know," growled Sir Jasper, then he exploded.  "You goad me,
sir; do _I_ want to fight Villiers?  Is not this business the merest
fooling; sheer waste of time when the real fellow--villain!--has eluded
me?"  His hold on the reins tightened, he laid on the whip, and the
curricle swayed as the horses leaped and plunged.

"Really," said Lord Markham, "I wish I had come in a coach."

And: "Hold on," cried Stafford, "hold on, Jasper; we don't all want to
leave our bones in this business."

There came a pause in the conversation.  They bowled alone a more level
road with the wind humming in their ears, and the rhythmic trot of the
greys beating a tune.  Then Stafford remarked vaguely:

"I have a notion there will be no duel to-day at Hammer's Fields,
Jasper, that you will be able to return with undiminished vigour to the
hunt of the unknown culprit."

"How now," cried Sir Jasper fiercely, "have you heard from Villiers?
Are they all rats now-a-days?  Verney first, then that Spicer, then the
Colonel!  No, no, the fellow was mad with me, sir; and--gad!--the
offence was mine!"

"Nevertheless," said Stafford unmoved, "I happen to know that Colonel
Villiers' man was sent in all haste for his physician, Sir George
Waters, at such an unconscionable hour this morning that Sir George
despatched the apothecary in his stead, and the apothecary found our
fire-eating Colonel roaring in a fit of the most violent gout 'tis
possible to imagine.  So violent, indeed, that poor Mr. Wigginbotham
was soundly beat by the Colonel for not being Sir George.  Villiers'
foot is as large as a pumpkin, old Foulks tells me; I had it all from
Foulks over a glass of water in the Pump Room this morning, and zooks,
sir, his false teeth rattled in his head as he tried to describe to me
the awful language Colonel Villiers was using.  He's to be Villiers'
second, you know, but he swore 'twas impossible, rank impossible, for
any man to put such a foot to the ground."

They were rounding the corner of Hammer's Fields as he spoke, and
Stafford's eyes roaming over the green expanse of grass rested upon the
little group drawn up towards the entrance gate.

"Unless," he went on, "the Colonel comes upon crutches.  No, zounds!
ha, ha!  Jasper I will always love you, man, for the capital jokes you
have provided of late.  Strike me ugly if the old fellow has not
come--_in a bath-chair_!"

"Really," said Lord Markham, "this is very irregular.  I have never
before been privy to a duel where one of the combatants fought in a
chair.  And I am not sure that I can undertake the responsibility of
concluding arrangements in such circumstances."

"Blasted nonsense!" said Sir Jasper with all his former urbanity of
demeanour.  He flung the reins to his man as he spoke, and clambered
down from the curricle.  Stafford had gone before him to the gate and
was now stamping from one foot to another in exquisite enjoyment of the

"(Ha, ha, ha!) Hello!  Morning, Colonel, sorry to see you this way!
(Ha, ha!)  Have you brought another bath-chair for our man?  Oh come,
yes.  'Twon't be fair if he do not sit in a bath-chair too!  Say,
Foulks, you wheel one chair, I'll wheel the other, and we will run them
one at the other and let them fire as soon as they please.  Gad, what a

Colonel Villiers turned upon his volatile friend a countenance the
colour of which presented some resemblance to a well-defined bruise on
the third day; it was yellow and green with pain where it was not
purple with fury.

"Mr. Stafford, sir, these jokes, sir, are vastly out of place.  (Curse
this foot!)  Mr. Foulks, have the kindness to explain....  Major
Topham, explain to these gentlemen that I have come out to fight, sir,
and that fight I will, by the living jingo!"  He struck the arm of the
chair in his fury, gave his suffering foot a nasty jar and burst into a
howl of rage and agony.

"Stap me," said Stafford, "I'd as soon fight an old bear!  Whisper,
Foulks, is he going to shoot in his cage--beg pardon, I mean his chair?"

"Such is his intention," said Mr. Foulks, grinning nervously as he
spoke, and showing the set of fine Bond Street ivory already referred
to by Mr. Stafford.  "But it strikes me it is somewhat irregular."

"Somewhat irregular?" ejaculated Lord Markham; "it is altogether
irregular.  I decline to have anything to say to it."

Sir Jasper remained standing, gloomily looking at the ground and
driving his gold-headed malacca into the soft mud as if all his
attention were directed to the making of a row of little tunnels.

"What is the difficulty, what is the difficulty?" bellowed Colonel
Villiers.  "You wheel me into position, and you mark the paces, eight
paces, Foulks, not a foot more, and you give me my pistol.  What is the
difficulty--hang me, hang you all, I say!  What _is_ the difficulty?"

"The combatants will not be equal," suggested Major Topham.  "I told
Villiers that I will gladly take his place."

"No no, no!" screamed the old man turning round, and then, "Oh," cried
he, and screwed up his face.  And then the gout had him with such fury
that he gripped the arms of his chair and flung back his head,
displaying a ghastly countenance.

"I remember," champed old Foulks, "the dear Duke of Darlington insisted
upon fighting Basil Verney (that's Verney's father, you know) with his
left arm in splints, but as my Lord Marquis of Cranbroke, his Grace's
second, remarked to me at the time----"

"Oh, spare us the Marquis!" interrupted Stafford brutally.  "Let us
keep to the business on hand, if you please.  The whole thing is
absurd, monstrous!  Look here, Jasper, look here, Colonel, you two
cannot fight to-day.  How could you be equally matched even if we got
another bath-chair for Jasper.  We cannot give him the gout, man, and
'twould be too dashed unfair.  Gad, Colonel you would shoot too well or
too ill, 'twon't do!  Come, come, gentlemen, let us make a good
business out of a bad one.  Why should you fight at all?  Here's Jasper
willing to apologise.  (Yes you are, Jasper, hold your tongue and be
sensible for once; you pulled off his wig, you know.  Gad, it was not
pretty behaviour, not at all pretty!)  But then, Colonel, did not he
think you had cut him out with his wife, and was not that a compliment?
The neatest compliment you'll ever have this side the grave!  He was
jealous of you, Colonel; faith, I don't know another man in Bath that
would do you so much honour, now-a-days."

"Oh, take me out of this," cried the Colonel, suddenly giving way to
the physical anguish that he had been struggling against so valiantly.
"Zounds, I will fight you all some day!  Take me out of this.  Where is
that brimstone idiot, my servant?  Take me out of this, you devils!"

Between them they wheeled his chair into the road and his screams and
curses as he was lifted into the coach were terrible to hear.

"Lord, if he could but call out the gout!" cried Stafford.  "Look at
him, gentlemen!  Ha, he has got his footman by the periwig!  Oh, 'tis
as good as a play, he is laying it on to the fellow like a Trojan!
Why, the poor devil has escaped, but his wig is in the Colonel's hands.
Ha, ha, he has sent it flying out of the coach!  Off they go; what a
voice the old boy has got, he is trumpeting like the elephant at the
fair!  Well, Jasper, what did I say?  No duel to-day."

"Do not make so sure of that," said Sir Jasper.  He was moving towards
the curricle as he spoke, and turned a sinister face over his shoulder
to his friend.

"Oh," cried the latter, and fell back upon Markham, "the fellow's look
would turn a churn-full of cream!  No, I will not drive back with ye,
thankye, Sir Jasper; I will walk.  Devil take it," said Stafford, "I
don't mind a little jealousy in reason myself; but if I were to drive
home in that company, I'd have no appetite for dinner.  Come,
gentlemen, 'tis a lovely day, let us walk."

So Sir Jasper rolled home alone, and, as his coachman observed a little
later as he helped to unharness the sweating horses, "drove them cruel!"


Lady Standish was one of those clinging beings who seem morally and
physically to be always seeking a prop.  Before adversity she was
prostrate, and when his lordship the Bishop of Bath and Wells was
ushered into her sitting-room, half-an-hour after Sir Jasper's
departure for Hammer's Fields, he found the poor lady stretched all her
length upon the sofa, her head buried in the cushions.

"Dear me," said his lordship, and paused.  He was a tall, portly,
handsome gentleman with sleek countenance, full eye, and well-defined
waistcoat.  Could human weakness have touched him, he would have felt a
pride in those legs which so roundly filled the silk stockings.  But
that human weakness could ever affect the Bishop of Bath and Wells was
a thing that dignitary (and he gave his Maker thanks for it) felt to be
utterly inconceivable.

"Lady Standish," said the Bishop; then he waved his hand to the curious
servants.  "Leave us, leave us, friends," said he.

Lady Standish reared herself with a sort of desperate heart-sickness
into a sitting posture and turned her head to look dully upon her

"You come too late," she said; "my lord.  Sir Jasper has gone to this
most disastrous meeting."

"My dear Lady Standish," said Dr. Thurlow, "my dear child," he took a
chair and drew it to the sofa, and then lifted her slight languid hand
and held it between his two plump palms.  "My dear Lady Standish,"
pursued he in a purring, soothing tone.  If he did not know how to deal
with an afflicted soul (especially if that afflicted soul happened to
belong to the aristocracy and in preference inhabited a young female
body), who did?  "I came upon the very moment I received your letter.
I might perhaps have instantly done something to help in this matter,
had you been more explicit, but there was a slight incoherence ... very
natural!"  Here he patted her hand gently.  "A slight incoherence which
required explanations.  Now tell me--I gather that your worthy husband
has set forth upon an affair of honour, eh?  Shall we say a duel?"

Lady Standish gave a moaning assent.

"Some trifling quarrel.  Hot-headed young men!  It is very
reprehensible, but we must not be too hard on young blood.  Young blood
is hot!  Well, well, trust in a merciful Providence, my dear Lady
Standish.  You know, not a sparrow falls, not a hair of our heads, that
is not counted.  Was the, ah--quarrel about cards, or some such social

"It was about me," said the afflicted wife in a strangled voice.

"About you, my dear lady!"  The clasp of the plump hand grew, if
possible, a trifle closer, almost tender.  Lady Standish was cold and
miserable, this warm touch conveyed somehow a vague feeling of strength
and comfort.

"About me," she repeated, and her lip trembled.

"Ah, is it so?  And with whom does Sir Jasper fight?"

"With Colonel Villiers," said she, and shot a glance of full misery
into the benign large-featured face bending over her.

"Colonel Villiers," repeated the Bishop in tones of the blankest
astonishment.  "Not--eh, not--er, old Colonel Villiers?"

"Oh, my lord," cried Lady Standish, "I am the most miserable and the
most innocent of women!"

"My dear madam," cried the Bishop, "I never for an instant doubted the
latter."  His hold upon her hand relaxed, and she withdrew it to push
away the tears that now began to gather thick and fast on her
eyelashes.  The Bishop wondered how it was he had never noticed before
what a very pretty woman Lady Standish was, what charming eyes she had,
and what quite unusually long eyelashes.  It was something of a
revelation to him too, to see so fair and fine a skin in these days of
rouge and powder.

"And yet," sobbed Lady Standish, "'tis my fault too, for I have been
very wrong, very foolish!  Oh, my lord, if my husband is hurt, I cannot
deny 'tis I shall bear the guilt of it."

"Come, tell me all about it," said the Bishop, and edged from his chair
to her side on the sofa, and re-possessed himself of her hand.  She let
it lie in his; she was very confiding.  "We are all foolish," said Dr.
Thurlow, "we are all, alas, prone to sin." He spoke in the plural to
give her confidence, not that such a remark could apply to any Bishop
of Bath and Wells.

"Oh, I have been very foolish," repeated the lady.  "I thought, my
lord, I fancied that my husband's affection for me was waning."

"Impossible!" cried his lordship.  But he felt slightly bewildered.

"And so, acting upon inconsiderate advice, I--I pretended--only
pretended indeed, my lord--that I cared for someone else, and Sir
Jasper got jealous and so he has been calling everybody out thinking
that he has a rival."

"Nevertheless," said the Bishop, "he has no rival.  Do I understand you
correctly, my dear child?  These suspicions of his are unfounded?
Colonel Villiers?"

"Colonel Villiers," cried she, "that old stupid red-nosed wretch!  No,
my lord, indeed, there is no one.  My husband has my whole heart!"  She
caught her breath and looked up at him with candid eyes swimming in the
most attractive tears.  "Colonel Villiers!" cried she.  "Oh, how can
you think such a thing of me?  But my husband will not believe me;
indeed, indeed, indeed I am innocent!  He was jealous of Lord Verney
too, and last night fought Mr. O'Hara."

The Bishop smiled to himself with the most benign indulgence.  His was
a soul overflowing with charity, but it was chiefly when dealing with
the foibles of a pretty woman that he appreciated to the full what a
truly inspired ordinance that of charity is.

"My dear child, if I may call you so, knowing your worthy mother so
well, you must not grieve like this.  Let me feel that you look upon me
as a friend.  Let me wipe away these tears.  Why, you are trembling!
Shall we not have more trust in the ruling of a merciful Heaven?  Now I
am confident that Sir Jasper will be restored to you uninjured or with
but a trifling injury.  And if I may so advise, do not seek, my dear
Lady Standish, in the future to provoke his jealousy in this manner; do
not openly do anything which will arouse those evil passions of anger
and vengeance in him!"

"Oh, indeed, indeed," she cried, and placed her other little hand
timidly upon the comforting clasp of the Bishop's, "indeed I never will

"And remember that in me you have a true friend, my dear Lady Standish.
Allow me to call myself your friend."

Here there came a sound of flying wheels and frantic hoofs without, and
the door-bell was pealed and the knocker plied so that the summons
echoed and re-echoed through the house.

"Oh, God!" screamed Lady Standish springing to her feet, "they have
returned!  Oh, heavens, what has happened?  If he is hurt I cannot bear
it, I cannot--I cannot!"  She clasped her head wildly and swayed as if
she would have fallen.  What could a Christian do, a gentleman and a
shepherd of souls, but catch her lest she fall?  Half mad with terror
she turned and clung to him as she would have clung to the nearest

"Have courage," he purred into the little ear; "I am with you, dear
child, have courage."

So they stood, she clasping the Bishop and the Bishop clasping her,
patting her shoulder, whispering in her ear, when Sir Jasper burst in
upon them.

It was his voice that drove them apart, yet it was neither loud nor
fierce, it was only blightingly sarcastic.

"So!" said he.

What was it Stafford had said: "There's the Bishop of Bath and Wells.
He's red, as red as a lobster, from top to toe!  They have a way, these
divines."  Oh, Stafford knew doubtless: all Bath knew!  Sir Jasper
cursed horribly in his heart, but aloud only said: "So!"

Lady Standish flew half across the room to him with a joyful cry, but
was arrested midway by his attitude, his look.  The Bishop said "Ahem,"
and "ahem" again, and then said he:

"I rejoice, I rejoice, Sir Jasper, to see you return unscathed.  Lady
Standish has been greatly distressed."

"And you," said Sir Jasper, drily, "have been consoling her."

"To the best of my poor power," said the Bishop, and felt, he knew not
why (if indeed it were possible for him to feel that way!) a shade

Sir Jasper closed the door and bowed.

"I think," said he, "I ought to crave pardon for this intrusion."

"Oh Jasper!" cried my lady.

Her husband turned towards her for a second.  She wilted beneath his
eye and sank into a chair.

"Oh, Sir Jasper," said she, floundering.  "The Bishop has been very
kind.  I have been so unhappy about you."

"I see," said Sir Jasper, "that his lordship has been very kind.  His
lordship, as I said, has been administering consolation."

Here all at once his stoniness gave way.  He walked towards the Bishop
and bent a ghastly face close to the florid uneasily smiling

"My Lord," said Sir Jasper, "your cloth will not protect you."

"Sir!" ejaculated the divine.

"Your cloth will not protect you!" repeated Sir Jasper in that voice of
strenuous composure that seems to tremble on a shriek.  "Oh, shepherd,

"Sir!" cried the Bishop, "do you mean to insinuate----"

"I insinuate nothing," cried the other and sneered.  "So madam," he
turned again to his wife, "this is your choice, eh?  You were always a
pious woman, were you not?  You would like to have the approval of the
Church upon your acts, would you not?"  Indescribable was the sarcasm
upon his lip.

"Really," said the Bishop, "I am seriously annoyed."  He looked
reproachfully at Lady Standish.  "Madam," said he, "I came to you, as
you know, in pure charity, in unsuspecting friendship.  I was not
prepared for this."

"Ha, ha," said Sir Jasper with a hideous laugh.  "No, sir, I have no
doubt you were not prepared for this.  Pure, ha--unsuspecting--this is
pleasant!  Be silent, madam, these groans, these crocodile tears have
no effect upon me.  Come, my Lord Bishop, your sanctimonious airs
cannot take me in.  Have I not read your letter?  Oh, you have got a
very fine head of hair, but I know ... _there is a curl missing_!  Ha,
Julia, you should take better care of your love-tokens."

"I vow," said Dr.  Thurlow, majestically, "that your behaviour, your
words are quite beyond my poor comprehension.--Madam, I pity you from
my heart!--Sir Jasper, sir," folding his arms fiercely, "your servant.
I wish you good-morning."  He strode to the door, his fine legs
quivering with indignation beneath their purple silk meshes.

"No!" said Sir Jasper, and seized him roughly by the skirts.  "No, you
do not escape me thus!"

"How now!" cried the Bishop, the veins on his forehead swelling, and
the nostrils of his handsome Roman nose dilating.  "Would you lay hands
upon the Lord's anointed?  Let go my coat, Sir Jasper!"

He struck at Sir Jasper's retaining hand with his own plump fist
clenched in a fashion suggestive of pulpit eloquence.

"Ha! you would, would you?" exclaimed Sir Jasper, and leaped at the
Episcopal throat.

The next instant, to his intense astonishment, Sir Jasper found himself
in an iron grip; lifted into the air with an ease against which all his
resistance was as that of a puppet; shaken till his teeth rattled, and
deposited on the flat of his back upon the floor.

"Oh, help, help, help!" screamed Lady Standish.

"Really," said the Bishop, "I don't know when I have been so insulted
in my life.  'Tis the whole Church, sir, the Church of England, the
State itself, that you have assaulted in my person!"

He stood glaring down on the prostrate foe, breathing heavy rebuke
through his high dignified nose.

"You have committed blasphemy, simony, sacrilege, rank sacrilege,"
thundered Dr. Thurlow.

Sir Jasper gathered himself together like a panther, and sprang to his
feet; like a panther, too, he took two or three stealthy steps and,
half crouching, measured the muscular Bishop with bloodshot eyes,
selecting the most vulnerable portion of anatomy.  He panted and
foamed.  The air was thick with flying powder.

Lady Standish flung herself between them.

"In mercy, my lord," she cried, "leave us--leave us!"

Here the door opened and butler and delighted footmen burst into the

The Bishop turned slowly.  The grace of his vocation prevailed over the
mere man.

"May heaven pardon you," he said.  "May Heaven pardon you, sir, and
help you to chasten this gross violence of temper.  And you, madam,"
said he, turning witheringly upon the unfortunate and long-suffering
lady, "may you learn womanly decorum and circumspection!"

"You shall hear from me again," growled Sir Jasper,
murderously--"Toombs," cried he to the butler with a snarl, "show the
Bishop the door!"

The Bishop smiled.  He wheeled upon them all a stately back, and with
short deliberate steps withdrew, taking his cane from the footman with
a glassy look that petrified Thomas, and refusing Mr. Toombs' proffered
ministrations as he might have waved aside a cup of poison.  "_Vade
retro Satanas_," he seemed to say; and so departed, leaving his
pastoral curse voicelessly behind him.


"How beautiful you are!" said Lord Verney.

He was sitting on a stool at Mrs. Bellairs' feet.  She had abandoned to
him one plump taper-fingered hand.  The gay little parlour of the Queen
Square house was full of sunshine and of the screeching ecstasy of
Mistress Kitty's canary bird.

"How beautiful you are!" said he; it was for the fourth time within the
half-hour.  Conversation between them had languished somehow.

Kitty Bellairs flung a sidelong wistful look upon her lover's
countenance.  His eyes, gazing upwards upon her, devoured her beauty
with the self-same expression that she had found so entrancing earlier
in the day.  "Deep wells of passion," she had told herself then.  Now a
chill shade of misgiving crept upon her.

"His eyes are like a calf's," she said to herself suddenly.

      *      *      *      *      *

"How beautiful----" thus he began to murmur once again, when his
mistress's little hand, twitching impatiently from his grasp, surprised
him into silence.

"Oh dear! a calf in very truth," thought she.  "Baah--baa ooh....  What
can I have seen in him?  'Twas a sudden pastoral yearning....!"

"May I not hold your hand?" said he, shifting himself to his silken
knees and pressing against her.

Yet he was a pretty boy and there was a charm undoubted in the
freshness of this innocence and youth awakening to the first glimmer of
man's passion.

"Delightful task----" she quoted under her breath, and once more
vouchsafed him, with a sweep like the poise of a dove, her gentle hand.

As it lay in his brown fingers, she contemplated it with artistic
satisfaction and played her little digits up and down, admiring the
shape and colour of the nails, the delicate dimples at the knuckles.
But Lord Verney's great boy's paw engulfed them all too quickly, and
his brown eyes never wavered from their devout contemplation of her


Mistress Kitty sprang to her feet.

"I vow," she cried, "'tis my hour for the waters, and I had clean
forgot them!"

She called upon her maid:

"Lydia, child, my hat!--Lord Verney, if it please you, sir, your arm as
far as the Pump Room."  ("At least," she thought to herself, "all Bath
shall know of my latest conquest")

She tied her hat ribbons under her chin.

"How like you the mode?" said she.  And, charmed into smiles again by
the rosy vision under the black plumes, she flashed round upon him from
the mirror.  "Is it not, perhaps, a thought fly-away?  Yet 'tis the
latest.  What says my Verney?"

The poor youth vainly endeavoured to discriminate and criticise.

"It is indeed a very fine hat," said he ... "and there seem to be a
vast number of feathers upon it."  He hesitated, stammered.  "Oh, what
care I for modes!  'Tis you, you----"

"What are you staring at, girl?" cried Mistress Bellairs sharply, to
her Abigail.  "Out with you!"

"Well, my Verney?" said she.  "Mercy, how you look, man!  Is anything
wrong with my face?"

She tilted that lovely little piece of perishable bloom innocently
towards him as she spoke.  And the kiss she had read in his eyes landed
with unprecedented success upon her lips.

"Why, who knows?" thought she, with a little satisfied smile, as she
straightened her modish hat.  "There may be stuff in the lad, after

She took his arm.  Dazed by his own audacity, he suffered her to lead
him from the room.  They jostled together down the narrow stairs.

"How beautiful you are!" said he; and kissed her again as they reached
the sombre dark-panelled vestibule.

"Fie!" said she with a shade of testiness and pushed him back, as her
little black page ran to open the door.

The kiss, like his talk, lacked any heightening of tone--and what of a
lover's kiss that shows no new ardour, what of a vow of love that has
no new colour, no fresh imagery?  But the trees in Queen Square were
lightly leafed with pale, golden-green.  The sunshine was white-gold,
the breeze fresh and laughing; the old grey town was decked as with
garlands of Young Love.

"He is but new to it," she argued against her fleeting doubts, "and he
is, sure, the prettiest youth in all Bath."

Love and Spring danced in Mistress Kitty's light heart and light heels
as she tripped forth.  And Love and Spring gathered and strove and
sought outlet in Verney's soul as inevitably, and irresistibly, and
almost as unconsciously as the sap in the young shoots that swayed
under the caress of the breeze and amorously unfurled themselves to the

      *      *      *      *      *

The Pump Room was cool and dim after the grey stone street upon which
the young year's sunshine beat as fierce as its youth knew how.  The
water droned its little song as it welled up, faintly steaming.

"Listen to it," quoth Mistress Kitty.  "How innocent it sounds, how
dear it looks!"

With a smile she took the glass transferred to her by Verney, and:
"Ugh!" said she, "how monstrous horrid it tastes, to be sure!  'Tis, I
fear," she said, again casting a glance of some anxiety at her new
lover's countenance, "a symbol of life."

"Yet," said he, "these waters are said to be vastly wholesome."

"Wholesome!" cried Mistress Kitty, sipping again, and again curling her
nose upwards and the corners of her lips downwards, in an irresistibly
fascinating grimace.  "Wholesome, my lord!  Heaven defend us!  And what
is that but the last drop to complete their odiousness!  Wholesome,
sir?  I would have you know 'tis not for wholesomeness I drink."  She
put down her glass, undiminished save by the value of a bird's draught.
"Do I look like a woman who needs to drink waters for 'wholesomeness?'"

"Indeed, no," floundered he in his bewildered way.

"There are social obligations," said she, sententiously.  "A widow,
sir, alone and unprotected, _must_ conform to common usage.  And then I
have another reason, one of pure sentiment."

She cocked her head and fixed her mocking eye upon him.

"My poor Bellairs," said she, "how oft has it not been my pleasure and
my duty to fill such a glass as this and convey it to his lips?  In his
last years, poor angel, he had quite lost the use of his limbs!"

Lord Verney had no answer appropriate to these tender reminiscences;
and Mistress Kitty, having, it seemed, sufficiently conformed to the
usage of Bath, as well as sacrificed to the manes of the departed,
turned briskly round, and, leaning against a pilaster, began to survey
the room.

"La! how empty!" quoth she.  "'Tis your fault if I am so late, my lord.
Nobody, I swear, but that Flyte woman, your odious Spicer, sir--ha, and
old General Tilney.  Verily, I believe these dreadful springs have the
power of keeping such mummies in life long after their proper limit.
'Tis hardly fair on the rest of the world.  Why, the poor thing has
scarce a sense or a wit left, and yet it walks!  Heaven preserve us!
why, it runs!" she cried suddenly with a little chirp, as the
unfortunate veteran of Dettingen, escaping from the guiding hands of
his chairman, started for the door with the uncontrolled trot of
semi-paralytic senility.

"And that reminds me," said Mistress Kitty, "that Sir George is most
particular that I should walk five minutes between every glass.  Here
comes your estimable aunt, Lady Maria, and her ear-trumpet, and the
unfortunate Miss Selina.  I protest, with that yellow feather she is
more like my dear dead Toto than ever.

"Was that your pet name for your husband?" murmured Lord Verney, in a
strangled whisper.

"Fie, sir!" cried the widow.  "My cockatoo--I referred to my cockatoo."
She sighed profoundly.  "I loved him," she said.

He looked at her, uncertain to which of the lamented bipeds she

"Selina," cried Lady Maria, in the strident tones of the deaf woman
persuaded of her own consequence (the voice of your shy deaf one loses
all sound in her terror of being loud)--"Selina, how often must I tell
you that you must clip in my glass yourself!  Who's that over there?
Where are my eyeglasses?  Who's that, did you say?  Mistress Bellairs?
Humph!  And who's she got with her in tow now?  Who did you say?
Louder, child, louder.  What makes you mumble so?  Who?  Verney--Lord
Verney?  Why, that's my nevvy.  Tell him to come to me this minute.  Do
you hear, Selina, this minute!  I won't have him fall into the net of
widow Bellairs!"

The cockatoo top-knot nodded vehemently.  Poor Miss Selina, agitated
between consciousness that the whole Pump Room was echoing to Lady
Maria's sentiments and terror of her patroness, took two steps upon her
errand, and halted, fluttering.  Lord Verney had flushed darkly purple.
Mistress Kitty hung with yet more affectionate weight upon his arm and
smiled with sweet unconsciousness.  For the moment she was as deaf as
Lady Maria.

The latter's claw-like hand had now disengaged a long-stemmed eyeglass
from her laces.

"'Tis indeed," she pronounced in her commanding bass, "my nevvy Verney
with that vile Bellairs!---Nevvy!  Here, I say!--Selina, fool, have you
gone to sleep?"

An echo, as of titters, began to circle round the Pump Room.  The
painted face of Lady Flyte was wreathed into a smile of peculiar
significance, as she whispered over her glass to her particular friend
of the moment, Captain Spicer.  This gentleman's pallid visage was
illumined with a radiance of gratified spite.  His lips were pursed as
though upon a plum of superdelicious gossip.  He began to whisper and
mouthe.  Young Squire Greene approached the couple with an eager ear
and an innocent noddy face that strove to look vastly wise.

"I assure you," mouthed the Captain.  "Was I not there?"

"In his bedroom?" cried Lady Flyte, with a shrill laugh.

Lady Maria's cockatoo crest rose more fiercely.  It seemed to Kitty
Bellairs as if she heard the old lady's jaws rattle.  It was certain
that in her wrath she squawked louder than even the late lamented Toto.
Then Mistress Kitty, who, to say the truth, began to find the scene a
little beyond enjoyment, felt the young arm upon which she leaned
stiffen, the young figure beside her rear itself with a new manliness.

"Pray, Mistress Bellairs," said my Lord Verney, he spoke loudly and, to
her surprise, with perfect facility, even dignity, "will you allow me
to introduce you to my aunt, Lady Maria Prideaux?--Aunt Maria," said
he, and his voice rang out finely, imposing a general silence, "let me
present Mistress Bellairs.  This lady has graciously condescended to
accept me as her future husband.  I am the happiest and the most
honoured of men."

The last sentence he cried out still more emphatically than the rest,
and then repeated it with his eye on Kitty's suddenly flushed cheek,
almost in a whisper and with a quiver of strong emotion.

The astounded Mistress Kitty rose from her deep curtesy with a swelling

"The dear lad," she said to herself.  "The dear, innocent chivalrous

There was almost a dimness in her brilliant black eye.  Her emotion was
of a kind she had never known before: it was almost maternal.

Under stress of sudden genuine emotion, the wit of intrigue in the
cleverest woman falls in abeyance.  Mistress Bellairs found no word out
of the new situation.

Lady Maria's deafness had increased to an alarming extent.

"Gratified, I'm sure," she mumbled, stuck out her dry hand and withdrew
it before Mistress Bellairs had time to touch it.

"My future wife," bawled the budding peer, in his aged relative's ear.

It was curious to note how old Lady Maria seemed suddenly to have
become.  Huddled in herself she nodded vacantly at her nephew.

"Thank ye for asking, child," said she, "but the waters try me a good

Lord Verney attempted another shout in vain.

"So Sir George says," remarked my lady.

"'Tis the very eye of my poor dear Toto," thought Mistress Bellairs.

Lord Verney looked round in despair.  Miss Selina thought him monstrous
handsome and gallant, and her poor old-maid's heart warmed to the lover
in him.  She approached Lady Maria and gently lifted her trumpet.

Lady Maria, glad enough of a diversion, applied it to her ear with
unwonted affability.

"What is it, my dear?  Any sign of the Duchess?"

"Your nephew," said Miss Selina in modest accents, "your nephew, my
Lord Verney, wishes to inform you that he is about to contract a
matrimonial alliance with the lady he has just introduced to you."

Miss Selina blushed behind the mouthpiece as she made this
announcement.  Then she cried: "Oh," with an accent of suffering, for
Lady Maria had rapped her over the knuckles with the instrument.

"Matrimonial fiddlesticks!" said Lord Verney's aunt.  "Selina, you're a
perfect fool!--Madam," remarked the wraith of the departed cockatoo,
inclining her crest with much dignity towards the blooming Kitty, "I
wish you good-morning."


There must have been a curious magic in the words, "My future wife,"
for no sooner had he pronounced them than Lord Verney became several
inches taller, a distinct span broader and quite unreasonably older.
In fact, from boyhood he had stepped to man's estate.  He looked down
protectingly at the little woman hanging on his arm.  The seriousness
of responsibility settled upon his brow.

"Ah!  Verney," quoth Mr. Stafford, flicking a hot brow, as he dashed in
out of the sunshine, powdered with white dust from his walk and still
bubbling with laughter.  "Ah, Verney, playing butterfly in the golden
hours while other fellows toil in the sweat of their brow!  Jingo! lad,
but you've lit on the very rose of the garden.--Mistress Kitty
Bellairs, I kiss your hand."

At this Mistress Kitty felt her future lord's arm press her fingers to
his ribs, while he straightened his youthful back.

"Mr. Stafford," began he in solemn tones, "this lady----"

But she, knowing what was coming, interrupted ruthlessly.

"And pray, Mr. Stafford," quoth she, cocking her head at him with those
birdlike airs and graces that were as natural to her as to any mincing
dove--Mistress Kitty being of those that begin by making eyes in their
nurses' arms, before they can speak, and end in a modish lace nightcap
for the benefit of the doctor--"and whence may you come so late, and
thus heated?"

"Whence?" cried Mr. Stafford, and overcome by the humour of his
recollections, roused the solemn echoes of the Pump Room by his jovial
laugh.  "Ah, you may well ask! from the merriest meeting it has ever
been my fate to attend.  Oh, the face of him in his chair, between his
gout and his temper!  And fire-eating Jasper all for bullets; and old
Foulks' teeth ready to drop out of his head at the indecorousness of it
all!--Spicer, man, aha! hold me up.--Oh, madam," cried Mr. Stafford,
wiping tears of ecstasy from his eyes and leaning as unceremoniously
against Spicer as if the latter's lank figure were a pilaster specially
intended for his support--"oh, madam, I could make you laugh had I the
breath left for it."

"Indeed," cried Mistress Kitty, plunging in again, as it became evident
to her that Lord Verney, with the gentle obstinacy that was part of his
character, was once more preparing to make his nuptial statement.  "Mr.
Stafford, please speak then, for in sooth it seems to me a vastly long
time since I have laughed."

"Gad! you actually make me curious," put in Mr. Stafford's prop.

"Oh dear, oh dear!" sighed Mr. Stafford, in a fresh fit, "ha, ha!  By
the way, Verney, weren't you also to have walked with the jealous
husband this morning!--Ah, by the same token, and you too, Spicer?
Gad.  I'm glad you didn't, for if either of you had put lead in him I'd
have missed the best joke of the season.  Gad, I may say so.  He, he,
aha-ha, ho, ho!"

"Mr. Stafford," said my Lord Verney, as solemn as any owl, while
Mistress Kitty, caught by the infection of the genial Stafford's mirth,
tittered upon his arm, "I have deeper reason than you think of to
rejoice that the absurd misunderstanding was cleared up between Sir
Jasper and myself.  This lady and I----"

"Oh dear, the joke, the joke!" cried Mistress Bellairs, with loud
impatience, and stamped her little foot.

"Oh, my fair Bellairs," gasped Mr. Stafford, "had you but been there to
share it with me!"

"This lady----" quoth Lord Verney.

"I wish indeed I had been!" cried she.  And in very truth she did.

"Mrs. Bellairs," said the determined lover, "has consented to make me
the happiest of men."

"Eh?" cried Mr. Stafford, and stopped on the edge of another guffaw.

Mistress Kitty cast down her eyelids.  She felt she looked demure and
almost bashful, and she hated herself in this character.

Mr. Stafford was one of the thirty-seven lovers of whom the lady had
spoken so confidently, and as such was far from realising the solemn
meaning of Lord Verney's announcement.

"Ah, madam," cried he reproachfully, "is't not enough to keep me for
ever in Hades, must you needs add to my torture by showing me another
in Paradise?  But, my little Verney," he went on, turning
good-naturedly to his young rival, "it is but fair to warn you that you
will be wise to pause before getting yourself measured for your halo:
the Paradise of this lady's favour is (alack, do I not know it?) of
most precarious tenure."

"This lady, sir," said Lord Verney, with rigid lips, "has promised to
be my wife."

It was fortunate that Mr. Stafford had a prop: under the shock he
staggered.  Man of the world as he was, the most guileless astonishment
was stamped on his countenance.

Oh, how demure looked Mistress Kitty!

Spicer, a trifle yellow, became effusive in congratulations which were
but coldly received by his patron.

"Ah, Kitty," whispered Mr. Stafford in Mistress Bellairs' shell-like
ear, "do you like them so tender-green?  Why, my dear, the lad's chin
is as smooth as your own.  What pleasantry is this?"

Kitty scraped her little foot and hung her head.  Mistress Kitty coy!
And yon poor innocent with his air of proprietorship--'twas a most
humorous spectacle!

"I'm sure, Verney," cried Mr. Stafford, "I wish you joy, ha, ha! with
all my heart!  And you madam, he, he!--forgive me, friends--the thought
of Sir Jasper's duel is still too much for me.  Ha, ha!  Support me,

"She'll marry him, she'll marry him," cried Spicer with bilious
vindictiveness, looking over his shoulder at the couple, as they moved

"Marry him!--never she!" cried Stafford.  "Kitty's no fool.  Why, man,
the little demon wouldn't have _me_!  She loves her liberty and her
pleasures too well.  Did you not see?  She could not look up for fear
of showing the devilment in her eye.  Cheerily, cheerily, my gallant
Captain!" cried the spark, and struck the reedy shoulders that had
buttressed him, in contemptuous good-natured valediction.  "You need
not yet cast about for a new greenhorn to subsist upon."

      *      *      *      *      *

Mistress Kitty, glancing up at her Calf, found, something to her
astonishment and further displeasure, a new expression in his eyes.
Ardour had been superseded by an unseasonable gravity.

"The creature is a complete menagerie!" she thought to herself,
indignantly.  "I vow he looks like nothing but an owl in the twilight!"

They wandered together from the Pump Room on to the Abbey Flags, and
so, slowly, into the cool and shady Orange Grove; and in a sequestered
spot they sat them down on a stone bench.

"When a man," said he, "has been, as I have, brought face to face,
within the space of one short morning, with the great events of
existence, Death and Love, how hollow and how unworthy do the mock joys
and griefs of Society appear to him!"

"Oh la!" said she.  "You alarm me.  And when did you see Death, my

"Why," said he, with his innocent gravity, "had you not intervened, my
dearest dear, between Sir Jasper and me, this morning, who knows what
might have happened?"

"Oh, that!" said she, and her lip curled.

"Ay," said he, "where should I be now, Kitty?  The thought haunts me in
the midst of my great happiness.  Had I killed Sir Jasper, could I have
looked upon myself other than as a murderer?"

"Oh, fie, fie," interpolated his mistress impatiently, "who ever thinks
of such things in little matters of honour!"

In her heart she told herself that the young man showed a prodigious
want of _savoir-vivre_.  In all candour he proceeded to display a still
greater lack of that convenient quality.

"On the other hand, had I fallen, and that indeed was the more likely
contingency, it being my first affair of the kind, I tremble to think
in what state my soul would have appeared before its Maker."  His voice
quivered a moment.

"My Lord Verney," cried Kitty, turning upon him a most distressed
countenance, "you have no idea how you shock me!"

And indeed he had not.

He took her distress for the sweetest womanly sympathy, and was
emboldened to further confidence.

"I blush to tell you," he said, "that since I came to this gay Society
of Bath, my life has not been all my conscience could approve of.  The
pious practices, the earnest principles of life so sedulously
inculcated in me by my dear mother, have been but too easily cast

"Oh dear!" cried Kitty in accents of yet greater pain.

"When we are married, my dear love," pursued Lord Verney, quietly
encircling his mistress's little waist with his arm as he spoke, but,
absorbed as he was in his virtuous reflections, omitting to infuse any
ardour into his embrace, "we shall not seek the brilliant world.  We
shall find all our happiness with each other, shall we not?  Oh, how
welcome my dear mother will make you at Verney Hall!  It has always
been her dream that I should marry early and settle on the estate."

Little shivers ran down Kitty's spine.  "Is it your intention to live
with your mother when you are married?" she faltered, and leaned weakly
against the inert arm.

Enthusiastically he cried that the best of mothers and he could never
be parted long.

"Oh, how you will love her!" he said, looking fondly at the Kitty of
his imagination.

"From your tenderest years she sedulously inculcated in you earnest
principles and pious practices, did she not?" murmured the Kitty of
reality, with what was almost a moan.

"She did indeed," cried the youth.

Mistress Kitty closed her eyes and let her head droop upon his shoulder.

"I fear I am going to have the vapours," said she.

"'Tis, maybe, the spring heats," said he, and made as if he would rise.

"Maybe," said Mistress Kitty, becoming so limp all at once that he was
forced to tighten his clasp.  He glanced at her now in some alarm.  She
half opened bright eyes, and glimmered a languid little smile at him.

"At least," thought the widow, "if we must part (and part we must, my
Calf and I) we shall part on a sweet moment.  What--in a bower, every
scent, every secret bird and leaf and sunbeam of which calls on thought
of love, and I by his side--he to prate of his mother!  An at least he
does not bleat of my beauty again, my name is not Kitty!"

She sighed and closed her eyes.  The delicate face lay but a span from
his lips.

"I fear indeed you are faint," said he with solicitude.  "My mother has
a sovereign cordial against such weakness."

Mistress Bellairs sat up very energetically for a fainting lady.

"Your mother..." she began with a flash of her eye, then checked
herself abruptly.  "Adieu, Verney," said she, and stretched out her
hand to him.

"Adieu!" he repeated, all bewilderment.

"Ay," said she, "there chimes the Abbey its silly old air.  How long
have I been with you, sir, alone?  Fie, fie, and must I not think of my

"Surely, as my future wife..." said he.

"Why then the more reason," she said, cutting him short; "must I not
show myself duly discreet?  Think of your lady mother!  Come, sir, take
your leave."

A moment she was taunting; a moment all delicious smiles.

"I'll make him bleat!" she thought, and stamped her foot upon it.

"As far as your door?" said he.

"Not a step," she vowed.  "Come, sir, adieu."

He took her hand; bent and kissed her sedately.

"I will," said he, "go write the news to my mother."

"Oh go!" said she, and turned on her heel with a flounce and was out of
his sight, round the corner of an ally, with a whisk and flutter of
tempestuous petticoats, before his slow boy's wits had time to claim
the moment for the next meeting.

There were actually tears in Mistress Kitty's eyes as she struck the
gravel with her cane.  She rubbed her cherry lips where his kiss had
rested with a furious hand.

"'Twas positively matrimonial," she cried within herself, with angry
double-threaded reminiscence--"the Calf!  Did ever woman spend a more
ridiculous hour--and in Heaven's name, what's to be done?"


Denis O'Hara appropriately lived in Gay Street.  As all the world
knows, Gay Street runs steeply from the green exclusiveness of Queen
Square, to the lofty elegance, the columnal solemnity of the King's
Circus.  Being a locality of the most fashionable, Gay Street was apt
to be deserted enough at those hours when Fashion, according to the
unwritten laws of Bath, foregathered in other quarters.

Towards eight o'clock of the evening of the day after his duel with Sir
Jasper, Mr. Denis O'Hara, seated at his open window, disconsolate in a
very gorgeous dressing-gown and a slight fever fit, found it indeed so
damnably deserted that the sight of a sedan-chair and two toiling
chairmen coming up the incline became quite an object of interest to

"To be sure," thought he, "don't I know it's only some old hen being
joggled home to roost, after losing sixpence and her temper at piquet?
But what's to prevent me beguiling myself for a bit by dreaming of some
lovely young female coming to visit me in me misfortune?  Sure it's the
rats those fellows are, that not one of them would keep me company
to-night!  There's nobody like your dear friends for smelling out an
empty purse.  Musha!" said Mr. O'Hara, putting his head out of the
window, "if the blessed ould chair isn't stopping at me own door!"

A bell pealing through the house confirmed his observation.

"It's a woman!  By the powers, it's a woman!  Tim, Tim, ye devil!"
roared Mr. O'Hara, "come to me this minute, or I'll brain ye."

Conscious of his invalid _negligé_, he rose in his chair; but,
curiosity proving stronger than decorum, was unable to tear himself
from his post of vantage at the window.

"Oh! the doaty little foot!" he cried in rapture, as arched pink-silk
instep and a brocade slipper of daintiest proportion emerged, in a
little cloud of lace, from the dim recesses of the chair, upon his
delighted vision.

He turned for a moment to bellow again into the room:

"Tim, you limb of Satan, where are you at all?  Sure, I'm not fit to be
seen by any lady, let alone such a foot as that!"

When he popped his head once more through the window, only the chairmen
occupied the street.

"It's for the ground floor, of course; for the French marquis," said
O'Hara, and sat down, feeling as flat as a pancake.

The next instant a knock at the door sent the quick blood flying to the
red head.  The "limb of Satan," more generally known as Tim Mahoney, an
ingratiating, untidy fellow, with a cunning leer and a coaxing manner,
stood ogling his master on the threshold; then he jerked with his thumb
several times over his shoulder, and grinned with exquisite enjoyment.

"What is it?" said O'Hara fiercely.

Tim winked, and jerked his thumb once more.

"Speak, ye ugly divil, or by heavens I'll spoil your beauty for you!"

"Your sisther!" cried Tim, with a rumbling subterraneous laugh.

"Me sisther, man?"

"Ay, yer honour," said the scamp, who, as O'Hara's foster-brother, was
well aware that his master boasted no such gentle tie.  "Sure she's
heard your honour's wounded, and she's come to visit you.  'I'm Misther
O'Hara's sister,' says she----"

"And am I not?" cried a sweet voice behind him, "or, if not, at least a
very, very dear cousin, and, in any case, I must see Mr. O'Hara at
once, and alone."

"To be sure," cried O'Hara, eagerly rising in every way to the
situation, and leaping forward.  "Show in the lady, you villain!--Oh,
my darling!" cried the Irishman, opening generous arms, "but I am glad
to see ye!--Tim, you scoundrel, shut the door behind you!"

The visitor was much enveloped, besides being masked.  But there was
not a moment's hesitation in the ardour of Mr. O'Hara's welcome.

"Sir, sir!" cried a faint voice from behind the folds of lace, "what
conduct is this?"

"Oh, sisther darling, sure, me heart's been hungering for you!  Another
kiss, me dear, dear cousin!"

"Mr. O'Hara!" cried Mistress Bellairs, in tones of unmistakable
indignation; tore off her mask, and stood with panting bosom and fiery

"Tare and ages!" exclaimed the ingenuous Irishman.  "If it isn't me
lovely Kitty!"

"Mistress Bellairs, if you please, Mr. O'Hara," said the lady with
great dignity.  "I am glad to see, sir, that that other passion of
which I have heard so much has not interfered with the strength of your
family affections."

She sat down, and fanned herself with her mask, and, looking haughtily
round the room, finally fixed her gaze, with much interest, upon the
left branch of the chandelier.

For a second, Mr. O'Hara's glib tongue seemed at a loss; but it was
only for a second.  With a graceful movement he gathered the skirts of
his fine-flowered damask dressing-gown more closely over the puce satin
small clothes, which, he was sadly conscious, were not in their first
freshness, besides bearing the trace of one over-generous bumper of
what he was fond of calling the ruby-wine.  Then, sinking on one knee,
he began to pour a tender tale into the widow's averted ear.

"And it's the fine ninny ye must think me, Kitty darling--I beg your
pardon, darling; ma'am it shall be, though I vow to see ye toss your
little head like that, and set all those elegant little curls dancing,
is enough to make anyone want to start you at it again.  Oh, sure, it's
the divine little ear you have, but, be jabers, Kitty, if it's the back
of your neck you want to turn on me--there now, if I was to be shot for
it, I couldn't help it--with the little place there just inviting my

"Keep your kisses for your sister, sir, or your cousin!"

"What in the world----  And d'ye think I didn't know you?"

"A likely tale!"

"May I die this minute if I didn't know you before ever you were out of
the ould chair!"

"Pray, sir," with an angry titter, "how will even your fertile wits
prove that?"

"Sure, didn't I see the little pink foot of you step out, and didn't I
know it before ever it reached the ground?"

"Lord forgive you!" said Mistress Kitty gravely.  But a dimple peeped.

He had now possessed himself of her hand, which he was caressing with
the touch of the tentative lover, tenderer than a woman's, full of mute
cajoling inquiry.

"I hope the Lord may forgive me for setting up and worshipping an idol.
I believe there's something against that in the commandments, darling,
but sure, maybe, old Moses wouldn't have been so hard on those
Israelites if they'd had the gumption to raise a pretty woman in the
midst of them, instead of an old gilt Calf."

At this word, Mistress Kitty gave a perceptible start.

"Oh, dear," said she, "never, never speak to me of that dreadful animal
again!  Oh, Denis," she said, turning upon him for the first time her
full eyes, as melting and as pathetic just then as it was in their
composition to look, "I am in sad, sad trouble, and I don't know what
to do!"

Here she produced a delicate handkerchief, and applied it to her
eyelashes, which she almost believed herself had become quite moist.

"Me jewel!" cried Mr. O'Hara, preparing to administer the first form of
consolation that occurred to him.

"Be quiet," said Mistress Kitty testily.  "Get up, sir!  I have to
consult you.  There, there, sit down.  Oh, I am in earnest, and this is
truly serious."

Mr. O'Hara, though with some reluctance, obeyed.  He drew his chair as
near to the widow's as she would permit him, and pursed his lips into

"You know my Lord Verney," began the fascinating widow.

"I do," interrupted the irrepressible Irishman, "and a decent quiet lad
he is, though, devil take him, he makes so many bones about losing a
few guineas at cards that one would think they grew on his skin!"

"Hush," said she.  "_I can't abide him!_"

Mr. O'Hara half started from his armchair.

"Say but the word," said he, "and I'll run him through the ribs as neat

"Oh, be quiet," cried the lady, in much exasperation.  "How can you
talk like that when all the world knows he is to be my husband!"

"Your husband!"  Mr. O'Hara turned an angry crimson to the roots of his
crisp red hair.  Then he stopped, suffocating.

"But I don't _want_ to marry him, you gaby," cried Mistress Kitty, with
a charming smile.

Her lover turned white, and leaned back against the wing of his great
chair.  The physician had blooded him that morning by way of mending
him for his loss of the previous night, and he felt just a little shaky
and swimming.  Mistress Kitty's eye became ever more kindly as it
marked those flattering signs of emotion.

"The noodle," said she vindictively, "mistook the purport of some
merely civil words, and forthwith went about bleating to all Bath that
he and I were to be wed."

"I'll soon stop his mouth for him," muttered Mr. O'Hara, moved to less
refinement of diction than he usually affected.  "Oh, Kitty," said he,
and wiped his pale brow, "sure, it's the terrible fright you've given

Here Mistress Bellairs became suddenly and inexplicably agitated.

"You don't understand," said she, and stamped her foot.  "Oh, how can I
explain?  How are people so stupid!  I was obliged to go to his rooms
this morning--a pure matter of friendship, sir, on behalf of my Lady
Standish.  Who would have conceived that the calf would take it for
himself and think it was for _his_ sake I interfered between him and
that madman, Sir Jasper!  'Tis very hard," cried Mistress Kitty, "for a
lone woman to escape calumny, and now there is my Lord Verney, after
braying it to the whole of Bath, this moment writing to his
insufferable old mother.  And there is that cockatoo aunt of his
looking out her most ancient set of garnets and strass for a
wedding-gift.  And, oh dear, oh dear; what _am_ I to do?"

She turned over the back of her chair, to hide her face in her
pocket-handkerchief.  In a twinkling, O'Hara was again at her feet.

"Soul of my soul, pulse of my heart!" cried he.  "Sure, don't cry,
Kitty darling, I'll clear that little fellow out of your way before you
know where you are."

"Indeed, sir," she said, flashing round upon him with a glance
surprisingly bright, considering her woe.  "And is that how you would
save my reputation?  No, I see there's nothing for it," said Mistress
Kitty with sudden composure, folding up her handkerchief deliberately,
and gazing up again at the chandelier with the air of an early martyr,
"there's nothing for it but to pay the penalty of my good-nature and go
live at Verney Hall between my virtuous Lord Verney and that paragon of
female excellence and domestic piety, his mother."

"Now, by Saint Peter," cried O'Hara, springing to his feet, "if I have
to whip you from under his nose at the very altar, and carry you away
myself, I'll save you from that, me darling!"

"Say you so?" cried the lady with alacrity.  "Then, indeed, sir," she
proceeded with sweetest coyness, and pointed her dimple at him, "I'll
not deny but what I thought you could help me, when I sought you
to-night.  There was a letter, sir," she said, "which yester morning I
received.  'Twas signed by a lock of hair----"

"Ah, Kitty!" cried the enraptured and adoring Irishman, once more
extending wide his arms.

"Softly, sir," said she, eluding him.  "Let us to business."

      *      *      *      *      *


"But you must understand," said the lady, "that you carry me off
against my will."

"To be sure," said he.  "Isn't poor Denis O'Hara to run away with you
merely to save your reputation?"

"So if I scream, sir, and give you a scratch or two, you will bear me
no malice?"

"Bear you malice, is it?" said he, stopping to kiss each finger-tip of
the hand which he contrived somehow should never be long out of his
clasp.  "Me darling, sure, won't I love to feel your little pearls of
nails on my cheek?"

"And spare no expense upon chaise or horses," said she.

"Eh?" cried Mr. O'Hara, while a certain vagueness crept into his gaze.
"Me dear love, the best that money can produce--that money can
produce," said Mr. O'Hara, and his eye rolled under the stress and
strain of an inward calculation: ("There's my grandfather's watch; I'm
afeared the works are not up to the gold case, but it might run to four
guineas.  And there's my jewelled snuff-box that the Chevalier gave my
father--no dash it, that's gone!  There's my silver-hilted sword--I
could exchange it for a black one and perhaps five guineas.  And
there's my three sets of Mechlin...")

While he cogitated, the lady smiled upon him with gentle raillery; then
she popped her hand in her pocket and drew forth a well-filled case.

"And did you think," said she, laying the case on the table, "that I
would have the face to ask a _rich_ lover to elope with me?"

"Faith," said he, pursuing now aloud his silent addition, "there's the
gold punch-bowl, too!  I vowed as long as I'd a drop to mix in it I'd
never part with the thing; but, sure, I little guessed what was in
store for me--that will make twenty guineas or more.  Put up your
money, Kitty; I'll not consent to be paid for carrying you off,
except," said he, "by your sweet lips."

"Now listen, sir," she cried, lifting up her finger, "you're a poor

"I am that," said he.

"And I," said she, "am a rich woman."

"Oh!" cried he, "Kitty, my darling, and sure that's the last thing in
the world I'd ever be thinking of now.  When I laid my heart at your
feet, my dear, 'twas for your own sweet sake, with never a thought of
the lucre.  What's money to me," said he, snapping his fingers, "not
_that_, Kitty darling!  I despise it.  Why," he went on with his
charming infectious smile, "I never had a gold piece in my pocket yet,
but it burned a hole in it."

She listened to him with a curious expression, half contemptuous, half
tender.  Then she nodded.

"I well believe you," said she.  "Come, come Denis, don't be a fool.
Since the money is there, and we know for what purpose, what matters it
between you and me who puts it down."

"Ah," he cried, with a sort of shame, abandoning his light tone for one
of very real emotion, "you're an angel!  I'm not worthy of you, but
I'll try, Kitty, I'll try."

The lady looked slightly embarrassed.

"I protest, sir; I cannot have you going on your knees again," she
cried sharply, "and it's getting late, and the business is settled, I

"Leave it to me," said he; "sure, I could do it blindfold."

"Have the post-chay at the corner of Bond Street and Quiet Street, 'tis
the darkest in Bath, I think."

"Ay, and the relay at Devizes, for we'll have to push the first stage."

"And after?" said she, and looked at him doubtingly.

"And after that--London.  And sure I know an old boy in Covent Garden
that will marry us in a twinkle."

She nibbled her little finger.  The rapture evoked on his countenance
by this last prospect was not reflected upon hers.

"But you forget," said she, "that I am to be abducted against my will,
and what will people say if I marry you at the end of the journey
without more ado?"

"Oh, faith," said he, without a shade of uneasiness, "shouldn't I be a
poor fellow if I did not contrive to persuade you on the way?  And
then, what would the world say if you did not marry me after travelling
all night with such a wild Irish devil?  Sure," said he, with a wink,
"what else could a poor woman do to save her reputation?"

"True," said she, musingly, and tapped her teeth.

She tied on her mask once more and drew up her hood, passive, in her
mood of deep reflection, to his exuberant demonstrations.  At the door
she paused and looked back at him, her eyes strangely alluring through
the black velvet peep-hole, her red lips full of mysterious promise
beneath the black lace fall.

"And I never asked," said she, in a melting tone, "after your wound?
Does it hurt you?  Will you be able, think you, to face the fatigues
to-morrow night?"

"Ah, I have but one complaint, Kitty," he cried, "and that's my mortal
passion for you.  And when a man's weak with love," he said, "sure it's
then he's the strength of twenty."

"Not a step further," said she, "than this door.  Think of the chairmen
and Bath gossip.  Good-night."


"And now, child, what's the town talk?" said Mistress Bellairs.

The nights were chilly, and a log crackled on the hearth.  Kitty, in
the most charming _déshabillé_, stretched a pink slippered foot airily
towards the blaze.

"La, ma'am," said Miss Lydia, as with nervous fingers she uncoiled one
powdered roll and curl after another, "all the morning the gossip was
upon Sir Jasper's meeting with Colonel Villiers at Hammer's Fields.
And all the afternoon----" she paused and poised a brush.

"All the afternoon?  Speak, child.  You know," said her mistress
piously, "that I had to spend my evening by the side of a dear sick

"Well, ma'am," said the maid, "the talk is all about your own marriage
with the young Lord Verney."

"Mercy, girl," cried the lady with a little scream, "you needn't hit my
head so hard with those bristles!  What's taken you?  And what do
people think of that?"

"Why, ma'am," said the Abigail, wielding her brush more tenderly, and
permitting her irritation to betray itself only in the sharp snap of
her voice, "my Lord Verney's man says he pities anyone that will have
to go and live with her old la'ship at Verney Hall."

"Ha!" said Kitty, and gave herself a congratulatory smile in the

"And Mr. Burrell, ma'am, that's Lady Maria's butler, and a wise old
gentleman he is, he says the marriage'll never take place, ma'am, for
neither his own la'ship, nor the lady at Verney Hall, would allow of
it, ma'am."

"Oh, indeed?" exclaimed Mistress Bellairs, stiffening herself, "that's
all they know about it!  Lydia, you untruthful, impertinent girl, how
dare you tell me such a story?"

"I'm sure I beg your pardon, ma'am," said Lydia, sniffing.  "I'm sure I
up and told Mr. Burrell that if you'd set your heart on wedding such a
poor ninny as Lord Verney--I beg pardon, ma'am, I'm sure he'll be a
very nice young nobleman, when his beard begins to grow--'twas not
likely a deaf old cat like his mistress could prevent him.  And I told
Lord Verney's man, ma'am--and an impudent fellow he is--that you'd soon
teach the dowager her place, once you were mistress in Verney Hall."

"Well, well," said the lady, mollified, "and what says the rest of your
Bath acquaintance?"

"Squire Juniper's head coachman says his master'll drink himself to
death, as sure as eggs, on the day that sees you another's, ma'am.
He's been taking on terrible with Madeira ever since he's heard the
news.  And the Marquis' running footman, he says 'that Lady Flyte'll
have it all her own way with his lordship now, and mores the pity,
for,' says he, 'her la'ship's not fit to hold a candle to the widow';
excuse the language, he knows no better, his strength is mostly in his
legs, ma'am.  And Mr. Stafford's jockey says, ma'am, that in his
opinion you're a lady as will never be drove again in double harness."

"Did he say so, indeed!" said Mistress Bellairs, reflectively.  "Well,
my good creature, and what say you?"

"La!" said the maid, and the brush trembled over her mistress's curls,
"I say, ma'am, that if you was to make such a sacrifice, you so young,
and lovely, and so much admired, I humbly hopes you might pick out
someone livelier than my Lord Verney."

"Now, whom," said Mistress Bellairs, in a tone of good-humoured banter,
"would you choose, I wonder?  What would you say to the Marquis, Lydia?"

"Oh, ma'am!  His lordship is a real nobleman--as the prize-fighters all
say--and a better judge in the cockpit, Mr. Bantam, the trainer, says,
never breathed, drunk or sober; and no doubt when he's sober, ma'am,
he'd make as good a husband as most."

"Well, well, girl, enough of him.  What of Mr. Stafford, now?"

"Oh, Mr. Stafford, ma'am, that's a comely gentleman; not one bit of
padding under his stockings, and an eye 'twould wheedle the very heart
out of one's bosom!  And, no doubt, if you ever thought of him, ma'am,
you'd see that he paid off the little French milliner handsome.  He's a
very constant gentleman," said Miss Lydia, with a suspicion of spite.

"Pooh," cried the lady, and pushed her chair away from the fire, "what
nonsense you do talk!  And pray what thinks your wisdom of Mr. O'Hara?"

"Lud! ma'am," cried the guileless maiden, "that's the gentleman as was
found behind Lady Standish's curtains."

"If you were not a perfect idiot," cried the widow, "you would not
repeat _that_ absurd tale, much less expect me to believe it.  Mr.
O'Hara has never even spoken to Lady Standish."

The unusual warmth in her mistress's tone struck the girl's sharp wits.
She glanced quickly at the lady's reflection in the glass, and made no

"Come," said Mistress Bellairs, "what else have you against him?  Is he
not handsome, child?"

"Why, ma'am, handsome enough for such as like red hair."

"And merry, and good company?"

"Oh, ma'am, none better, as half the rogues in Bath know."

"Tush--you mean he is good-natured, I suppose?"

"He never said 'no' in his life, ma'am, I do believe, to man or woman."

"Well, then?" cried her mistress testily.

"And generous," gabbled Lydia, charmed by the cloud she beheld
gathering on the brow reflected in the glass, "open-handed, ma'am.  Mr.
Mahoney--that queer peculiar servant of his--many a time he's told me,
ma'am, that his only way to keep his wages for himself, and seldom he
sees the sight of them, is to spend them at once, for his good master
is that free-handed, ma'am, he'd give the coat off his servant's back."

"I'm quite aware," said the lady loftily, "that Mr. O'Hara's estates in
Ireland are slightly embarrassed."

"I don't know what they call it, ma'am," cried Lydia shrilly.  "It's
not a ha'porth of rent the old lord's seen these twelve months.  Last
year they lived on the pictures.  And now it's the plate, I'm told.
But, indeed, ma'am, as Mr. Mahoney says, what does it matter to a gay
gentleman like Mr. O'Hara?  Sure, he's the sort, as he says to me only
yesterday, that would come to a fortune on Monday and be sending to the
pawnshop on Saturday."

"You may go to bed, Lydia," cried Mistress Bellairs, rising hastily;
"you've half deafened me with your chatter."

Left alone the little lady sat down by the fire in a melancholy mood.

"The sort that would come to a fortune on Monday, and be sending to the
pawnshop on Saturday....  I'm afraid it's true.  Yet, I believe, he
loves me, poor Denis!  I vow," she said to herself, "'tis the only one
of them all that I could _endure_.  Yes, I could endure Denis, vastly
well ... for a while at least.  And now," said she, "what's to be done!
Oh, I'd be loath to baulk him of the pleasure of running away with me!
'tis the only decent way indeed of breaking with my Lord Verney.  And
it certainly struck me that Master Stafford was mighty cool upon the
matter.  I've been too quiet of late, and that odious Bab Flyte thinks
she can have everything her own way....  But, I'll be rescued," she
said, "at Devizes--I shall have to be rescued at Devizes.  My poor
dear; he may be happy at least for an hour or two ... as far as

Her brow cleared; the dimples began to play.

"We shall see," she smiled more broadly, "if we cannot prod his
Calfship into a night trot.  'Twill do his education a vastness of
service....  But the poor creature," she reflected further, "is scarce
to be depended on.  Who knows whether his mother would approve of his
breathing the night air....  I must," Mistress Kitty's pretty forehead
became once more corrugated under the stress of profound thought--"I
must," she murmured, "have another string to my bow, or my sweet O'Hara
will marry me after all.  Dear fellow, how happy we should be from
Monday ... till Saturday!  Who?  Who, shall it be? ... My Lord Marquis
might take the _rôle_ in earnest and spoil my pretty fellow's beauty.
Squire Juniper?  He would sure be drunk.  And Master Stafford?  Oh,
_he_ may stay with the French milliner for me!"

Suddenly the lady's perplexed countenance became illumined.  "Sir
Jasper?" she said.  "Sir Jasper--the very man!  The good Julia--I owe
it to her to bring matters to an _éclaircissement_.  And, Sir
Jasper--oh, he richly deserves a midnight jolt, for 'tis owing to his
monstrous jealousy that I am put to all this trouble.  'Twill be a fine
thing indeed," thought Mistress Bellairs with a burst of self-satisfied
benevolence, "if I can demonstrate to Sir Jasper, once for all, the
folly into which this evil passion may lead a man."


"If you please, my lady," said Mistress Megrim, "I should like to quit
your ladyship's service."

"How?" cried Lady Standish, waking with a start out of the heavy sleep
of trouble, and propping herself upon her elbow, to gaze in blinking
astonishment at the irate pink countenance of her woman.  Lady Standish
looked very fair and young, poor little wife, with her half-powdered
curls of hair escaping in disorder from the laces of her nightcap, and
her soft blue eyes as full of uncomprehending grief as a frightened

Mistress Megrim gazed upon her coldly and her old-maid's heart hardened
within her.

"No, your ladyship," said she, with a virtuous sniff, "I shouldn't feel
as I was doing my duty to her ladyship, your mother, nor to my humble
self, were I to remain an hour longer than I could help, the Handmaid
of Sin."

"Oh, dear," said Lady Standish, letting herself fall back on her
pillows with a weary moan, "I do wish you'd hold your tongue, woman,
and allow me to rest!  Pull the curtain again; oh, how my head aches!"

"Very well, my lady," ejaculated Megrim, all at once in a towering
passion.  "Since you're that hardened, my lady, that a sign from Heaven
couldn't melt your heart--I allude to that man of God, his lordship the
Bishop (oh, what a holy gentleman that is!); and, my lady, me and
Mistress Tremlet saw him out of the pantry window as he shook the dust
of this House of Iniquity from his shoes; if that vessel of
righteousness could not prevail with your ladyship, what hopes have I
that you'll hear the voice of the Lord through me?"

"Megrim, hold your tongue," said her mistress in unwontedly angered
tones, "pull the curtains and go away!"

With a hand that trembled with fury Mistress Megrim fell upon the
curtains and rattled them along their pole.  Then she groped her way to
Lady Standish's bedside and stood for some seconds peering malevolently
at her through the darkness.

"I wouldn't believe it, my lady," she hissed in a ghastly whisper,
"although indeed I might have known that such a gentleman as Sir Jasper
would never have taken on like that if he hadn't had grounds.  But
you've mistaken your woman, when you think you can make an improper
go-between of me!  Oh," cried she, with a rigid shudder, "I feel myself
defiled as with pitch, that these fingers should actually have touched
sich a letter!"

"For goodness sake," moaned the lady from her pillows, "what are you
talking about now?"

"My lady," said Megrim sepulchrally, "when that minx with her face
muffled up in a hood, came and had the brazen boldness to ask for me
this morning, saying she had some lace of your ladyship's from the
mender's, and that it was most particular and must be given into my
hands alone, my mind misgave me.  'Twas like an angel's warning.  The
more so as there isn't a scrap of your ladyship's lace as has been to
the mender's since we came here."

"Mercy, Megrim, how you do ramble on!  I can't make head or tail of
your stupid story."  Even a dove will peck.

"Ho, do I, my lady!  Can't you indeed?  Perhaps your ladyship will
understand better when I tell her, that that same bold thing had no
lace at all--but a letter.  'Give it to your mistress,' says she, 'in
secret, and for your life don't let Sir Jasper see it.'"

"Well, give it to me," said Lady Standish, "and hold your tongue, and
go and pack your trunks as soon as you like."

"Ho, my lady," cried the incorruptible Megrim, with an acid laugh, "I
hope I know my Christian duty better.  I brought the letter to my
master, according to the Voice of Conscience.  And now," she concluded,
with a shrill titter, "I'll go and pack my trunks."

Yet she paused, expecting to enjoy Lady Standish's outburst of terror
and distress.  There was no sign from the bed, however, not even a
little gasp.  And so Mistress Megrim was fain to depart to her virtuous
trunks without even that parting solace.

Meanwhile, with the pillow of her spotless conscience to rest upon, and
deadened to fresh disturbances by the despairing reflection that
nothing for the present could make matters much worse between her and
her husband, Lady Standish, without attempting to solve the fresh
problem, determinedly closed her weary eyes upon the troubles of the
world and drifted into slumber again.

      *      *      *      *      *

"I shall catch them red-handed," said Sir Jasper.

This time all doubt was over: in his hand lay the proof, crisp and
fluttering.  He read it again and again, with a kind of ghastly joy.
Unaddressed, unsealed, save by a foolish green wafer with a cupid on
it, the document which Mistress Megrim's rigid sense of duty had
delivered to him instead of to his guilty wife, was indited in the
self-same dashing hand as marked the crumpled rag that even now burned
him through his breast-pocket like a fly-blister.

    "I never got a wink of sleep, dreaming of you, dearest dear, so
    soon to be my own at last!  The chay shall be drawn by horses such
    as Phoebus himself, my darling, would have envied.  And, so you
    fail me not, we shall soon be dashing through the night--a world of
    nothing but happiness and love before us.  I could find it in my
    heart to bless the poor foolish individual who shall be nameless,
    since, had it not been for my lovely one's weariness of him, she
    might never have turned to the arms of her own devoted,


    P.S.--I'll have as good a team as there is in England (barring the
    one that shall bring us there), waiting for us at the Black Bear,
    Devizes.  We ought to arrive before midnight, and there shall be a
    dainty trifle of supper for your Beautyship--while the nags are
    changed.  Ah, my dear, _what_ rapture!"

Indescribable were the various expressions that crossed Sir Jasper's
countenance upon the perusal and re-perusal of this artless missive.
Now he gnashed his teeth; now snorts of withering scorn were blown down
the channels of his fine aquiline nose; now smiles of the most deadly
description curled and parted luridly his full lips.

"Ha, ha!" said Sir Jasper, "and perhaps the poor foolish individual may
give you cause for something less than blessings, Master Carrots!  And
I think, madam, your beautyship may find at Devizes something harder to
digest than that trifle of supper!  Till then, patience!"

He folded the letter, placed it beside its fellow, and once more, with
a sort of bellow, he cried, "_Patience!_"

      *      *      *      *      *

"Well, Lydia?" said Bellairs.  She had but just finished her chocolate,
and looked like a rose among her pillows.

"Well, madam," said Lydia, still panting from her hurried quest, "'tis
safe delivered.  I gave it into Mistress Megrim's own hands, and----"

"And can you reckon," said the lady, smiling at the amusing thought,
"upon her bringing it straight to Sir Jasper?"

"Ah, lud, ma'am, yes.  I told the sour, ugly old cat, that if her
master caught sight of it, Lady Standish would be ruined.  You should
have seen how she grabbed at it, ma'am!"

"Lydia," said her mistress, looking at her admiringly, "I question
whether I'd have risked it myself; you're a bold girl!  But there, if
anything fail, you know that rose-coloured pelisse remains hanging in
my closet."

"Never fear, ma'am," said Lydia, smiling quietly to herself, as she
pulled her mistress's long pink silk stocking over her hand, and turned
it knowingly from side to side, looking for invisible damage, "the
pelisse is as good as mine already."

"But, think you, was Sir Jasper at home?" said Mistress Bellairs, after
a few moments' reflection.

"I am sure of that," said Lydia triumphantly, peeling off the stocking.
"I thought it best to go in by the mews, ma'am, and I heard that Sir
Jasper had not left the house since that little--that little affair
with the Bishop, you know, ma'am.  But all the night, and all the
morning, he kept William and Joseph (those are the grooms, ma'am) going
backwards and forwards with challenges to the Bishop's lodgings."

"Oh!" cried Kitty, and kicked her little toes under the silk
counterpane with exquisite enjoyment, "and what does the Bishop answer,
I wonder?"

"Sends back the letter every time unopened, ma'am, with a fresh text
written on the back of it.  The texts it is, William says, that drive
Sir Jasper mad."

"Oh! oh! oh!" cried Mistress Kitty faintly, rolling about her pillows.
"Child, you'll be the death of me! ... Well, then, to business.  You
know what you are to do to-night?"

"No sooner are you gone to the Assembly Rooms this evening, ma'am, than
I take a letter from you for Lady Standish, and this time deliver it
myself to her own hand, and, if needs be, persuade her to follow your
advice, ma'am."

"Right, girl; thou shalt have the gold locket with the Turkey

"Thank you, ma'am.  Well, then, I'm to scurry as fast as I can to the
corner of Bond Street and Quiet Street, and watch you being carried off
by the gentleman.  And then----"

"Be sure you wait till the chaise has well started."

"Yes, ma'am, of course!  When you're safely on the London Road, I'll go
and give the alarm at the Assembly Rooms."

"Remember, you ask first for Lord Verney."

"Oh, ay, ma'am.  'My mistress is carried off, is carried off!  Help,
help, my lord!' I'll say.  Oh, ma'am, I'll screech it well out, trust

"Don't forget," said her mistress, whose mood became every moment
merrier, "don't forget to say that you heard the ravisher mention
London, by Devizes."

"Well, ma'am," said Lydia, "I thought of saying that he first flung you
swooning upon the cushions of the chay; then, stepping in himself,
cried out to the coachman, with an horrible oath, 'If you're not in
Devizes before twelve, I'll flay you with your own whip, and then hang
you with it to the shaft!'"

"Aha, ha, Lydia," laughed her mistress.  "I see I must give you a gold
chain to hang that locket upon.  But pray, child," she added warningly,
"be careful not to overdo it."


The livelong day Lady Standish had not beheld the light of her lord's

Upon their last meeting, his behaviour to the Bishop having roused in
her gentle bosom a feeling as nearly akin to resentment as it was
capable of harbouring, she would not be (she had resolved) the one to
seek him first.  She had, therefore, passed the day in her own
apartment in writing to her mother, and in practising her last song to
the harp--a piece of audacity and independence which she expected would
have goaded Sir Jasper into an instant interview with herself.

When the dusk rose, however, and the candles were brought in by the
round-eyed handmaid, whose ministrations replaced those of Megrim (the
latter was still packing, and seemed like to take some weeks in the
process), and the said round-eyed damsel immediately began to inform
her mistress that Sir Jasper had set forth in his coach, Lady
Standish's small flame of courage began to flicker woefully.

"Alone?" she asked in white dismay.

"Please, my lady, Mr. Bowles was driving, and there was Mr. Thomas
behind, my lady."

"Pshaw, girl!  Did Sir Jasper take any luggage?"

"Oh yes, my lady; there was his yellow bag, Mr. Toombs says, and a
small wooden case."

"Heavens!" cried Lady Standish, with increasing alarm.  "And whither
went they?"

"Please, my lady, Mr. Toombs says they took the London Road."

Fain would the round-eyed maid have lingered and told more, but Lady
Standish waved her hand faintly, and so dismissed her.

An hour later, Lydia, brisk with importance, and sparkling with
conscious power, found the much-tried soul sunk in a sort of apathetic
weariness of misery.

"Mistress Bellairs' love, my lady, and will you read this letter at

Lady Standish took the letter from the black-mittened hand.

"Please my lady, 'tis of the utmost importance," said Lydia, "and I was
to wait and see if I could not be of use to you."

Something magnetic in the girl's lively tone gave impetus to Lady
Standish's suspended energies.  She broke the seal.

    "My sweet child," wrote Mistress Kitty.  "If you want to know what
    has become of your husband, you will instantly take a chaise and
    start off for the Black Bear at Devizes.

    "Your true friend,
    "K. B.

    "Postscriptum.--Do not go alone.  Get some old hag (if possible
    Lady Maria Prideaux) to accompany you.  You will find her in the
    Assembly Rooms.  She's as curious as our first mother--you can
    easily persuade her.  _This is good advice!_"

"I am much too ill," cried Lady Standish, upon a moan.  "Tell your
mistress," said she, looking vaguely in Lydia's direction, "that indeed
'tis quite impossible I should do as she suggests."

"Very well, my lady," said Lydia cheerfully.  "I'm sure I shouldn't
trouble myself if I was you.  Gentlemen _must_ have their diversions, I
always say.  If ladies would but shut their eyes a little more, 'twould
be for the peace of all parties.  Indeed, my lady, though my mistress
would be angry to hear me say so, I'd go to bed, for you look sorely
tired, and Sir Jasper'll be glad enough to come home bye-and-bye."

"Wretched girl," cried Julia, and her eyes flashed, "what dost thou

"La, now!" said Lydia, all innocence, "how my tongue do run away with
me, to be sure!  Why, my lady, what can a poor servant-maid like me
know of the goings on of gentles?  'Tis but a few words of gossip here
and there."

"Oh, merciful heavens, _what_ gossip mean you?"

"My lady, have a sip of _volatile_, do!  Oh, my mistress would be like
to kill me if she knew what I've been saying!  'Poor Julia,' she cried
when she got the news.  'Poor Julia, my poor confiding Julia!  Oh, the
villain, the monster!'"

"Good God, and whom did she refer to?"

"Lud, madam, how can I tell?  '_It shall not be!_' cries my mistress,
and down she sits and writes off to you, as if for bare life."

Lady Standish, rising from her seat, rushed to the light, and with
starting eyes and bristling hair began to read afresh her fond Kitty's

"La, my lady," cried the guileless Lydia, "you're all of a shake!  I'd
never be that upset about Sir Jasper.  Why, if your la'ship'll allow me
to say so, all Bath knows how jealous he is of your la'ship; and,
certain that shows a husband's affection."

"True," cried Julia, "that's true, girl!"

"And as for those who say, my lady, that some men are so artful that
they put on a deal of jealousy to cover a deal of fickleness, I'd
despise myself if I was to pay heed to such mean suspiciousness."

"My cloak!" cried Lady Standish.  "Megrim, Susan!"  She flew to the
hall.  "My cloak, let a post-chaise be ordered immediately!"

"If I may make so bold, my lady," said Lydia, retiring gracefully upon
the conviction of a well-accomplished errand, "don't forget to take
Lady Maria with you, if you can.  The gentlemen have such a way of
turning tables on us poor women--at least," said the damsel demurely,
"so I've heard said.  And 'tis a long lonely road, my lady!"


Mistress Bellairs took her departure early.

Attired in unusually sober colours, floating in an atmosphere of
chastened, matronly dignity, she had shown herself this evening,
thought Lord Verney, quite worthy to be his mother's daughter-in-law.

"Monstrous dull," Lady Flyte called the pretty widow's demeanour.

Beyond a _gavotte_ with Lord Verney, she had not danced, but sat for
half-an-hour on the chair next to Lady Maria, who presented her with
the vision of a shoulder-blade which had seen better days, and an
impenetrability of hearing which baffled even Kitty's undaunted energy.

When Verney had tucked her up in her sedan she insisted upon the young
peer allowing her to proceed home unescorted.

"Indeed," said she, "I pray you, nay, I order you.  People talk so in
this giddy place, and have you not your aged aunt to wait upon?  I am
sure," said Mistress Kitty piously, "that your dear mother would wish
it thus."

He submitted.  He had no doubt that his mother would indeed entirely
concur with such sentiments, and blessed his Kitty for her sweet

"Good-night, then," she said, thrusting her pretty face out of the
window with a very tender and gentle smile.

"Good-night," he replied, with his young, gracefully-awkward bow.

She fully expected to hear his footstep pursue the chairman, for she
had not been able to refrain from throwing her utmost fascination into
that parting look.  But nothing broke the silence of the parade save
the measured slouching tramp of the bearers.

At once disappointed and relieved, she threw herself back in her seat.

"What, not a spark left," said she, "of the fine flame 'twas so easy to
kindle this morning!  'Tis the very type of the odious British husband.
Let him be but sure of you, and the creature struts as confident of his
mastery as the cock among his hens.  Lord!" she shuddered, "what an
escape I have had!  We women are apt to fancy that very young men are
like very young peas, the greener, the tenderer, the better; whereas,"
said the lady, with a sigh, "they are but like young wine, crude where
we look for strength, all head and no body, and vastly poor upon the

She sighed again, and closed her eyes, waiting for the moment of the
impending catastrophe with a delicate composure.

In truth, Mr. O'Hara conducted the performance with so much _brio_ as
to convince Mistress Bellairs that he must have had previous experience
of the kind.

At the dark appointed corner the two muffled individuals who, each
selecting his own astonished chairman, enlaced him with overwhelming
brotherly affection, seemed such thorough-paced ruffians in the dim
light, that Mistress Kitty found it quite natural to scream--and even
had some difficulty in keeping her distressful note down to the pitch
of necessary discretion.

And her heart fluttered with a sensation of fear, convincing enough to
produce quite a delightful illusion, when she found herself bodily
lifted out of her nest and rapidly carried through the darkness in an
irresistibly close and strong embrace.

"Oh, oh, oh!" cried the lady, in a modulated sequence of little shrieks.

"Merciful heavens!" she thought to herself, with a great thump of the
heart, astonished at her ravisher's silence, "what if it should be
someone else after all?"

But the next instant the rich brogue of a tender whisper in her ear
dispelled all doubt.

"You've forgotten the scratches, my darling," said O'Hara, as he laid
her preciously upon the cushions of the chaise.

Here Mr. Mahoney and his comrade--which latter bore a curious
resemblance in build and gait to one of the sporting Marquis's own
celebrated gladiators--came running up to take their seats.  In leaped
O'Hara--the coachman lifted his whip, and the team that Phoebus might
have envied started up the length of Milsom Street in style.

      *      *      *      *      *

The chairmen, drawing their breath with some difficulty after their
spell of strangulation, stared in amazement at the clattering shadow as
it retreated up the steep street; and then back, and in fresh
amazement, at the yellow guinea which had been pressed, and now
glinted, in the palm of their hands.

Presently a simultaneous smile overspread their honest countenances.

"A queer go," said the first, easing and readjusting his necklace.
"Lud, the little madam did squeak!"

"I'd let them all squeak at the same price," said the other, pocketing
his coin, and resuming his place in rear of the sedan.  "But come,
Bill, we must go report this 'orrible crime.  Rabbit me!--what's that?"

A blood-curdling wail had risen out of the night, from his very elbow
it seemed.  It circled in frightful cadence, and died away in
ghost-like fashion.

"'T--'tis but a sick cat, I hope," stammered the first chairman, and
dived for the chair-poles in marked hurry.

"O--o--o--o," moaned the voice, "oh, my mistress!"  There was a
flutter, a patter, and: "Merciful heavens, you wretches!" cried
Mistress Bellairs's devoted woman, emerging like a gust of wind from
the blackest shadow of Bond Street and falling upon the nearest
chairman with a well-aimed flap of her shawl, followed up by a couple
of scratches.  "Wretches, monsters, you've let my mistress be carried
away!  Oh heavens, my unhappy mistress!" cried Lydia, and rent the
night with her cries.

      *      *      *      *      *

Mistress Kitty's chair had no sooner left the precincts of the Assembly
Rooms when my Lady Standish's post-chaise came clattering round the

Lord Verney, who was just about to go in again, arrested by curiosity,
turned to wonder at a visitor who arrived in so unwonted a conveyance.
Recognising Lady Standish he was somewhat abashed and somewhat
disconcerted, but felt he could do no less than advance through the
crowd of foot and chair men and offer his hand.

"O, pray, Lord Verney," said she in a strenuous whisper, "conduct me to
your aunt, for I have great need of her help and counsel.  Take me to
her at once," said the poor lady, in ever-increasing agitation.

They passed through the elegant throng, she unconscious alike of
recognition, comment, or titter, he feeling to his boy's marrow, the
sensation created by her travelling gear and distraught appearance.

"Would I were back at Verney Hall," thought he, and found that this
wish had been long gathering in his heart.

No need of an ear-trumpet for Lady Maria now.  The dowager recovered
her powers of hearing with almost miraculous celerity.

"Oh, Lady Maria!" said Lady Standish, holding out both her hands.  And
incontinently she burst into tears.  "Oh, Lady Maria, Sir Jasper has
left me, I am in sad trouble!  I'm told he has gone to Devizes.  I must
follow him.  You are my mother's oldest friend; will you give me the
support of your company and protection?"

There was quite a buzz in the interested circle.  Lady Maria nodded
round, charmed with the situation; bristling with delighted curiosity,
she was more like Mistress Kitty's cockatoo than ever.

"Poor young thing, poor young thing," she said, patting Lady Standish's
hand; "your mother's oldest friend, quite so--quite right and proper to
come to me.  And so Sir Jasper's left you; so Sir Jasper's gone; and
with whom, my dear?"

Lady Maria fondly believed that she spoke these last words in a gentle
aside; but never had her sepulchral bass resounded more sonorously.
Lady Standish's faint cry of shocked disclaimer was, however,
completely drowned in the fresh rumour, lacerated by shrill feminine
shrieks, which now arose in the vestibule of the Assembly Rooms and
rapidly advanced.

"My Lord Verney!  My mistress!  Where is my Lord Verney?" wailed the
distraught Lydia, who thoroughly enjoyed her _rôle_.

A hundred voices took up the cry; the astounding news passed from group
to group: "The pretty widow has been carried off!"  "Mistress Bellairs
has been abducted!"  And then, in counter clamour and antiphone: "and
my Lady Standish is looking for Sir Jasper!"

Meanwhile, before Lord Verney, dumb and suffocating under a variety of
emotions, Lydia wringing her hands and with the most thrilling notes of
tragic woe (as nearly copied from Mistress Susanna Cibber as she could
remember), narrated her tristful tale.

"He flung my unhappy mistress, swooning and shrieking, into the chaise.
And 'Drive like the devil,' cries he in a voice of thunder to the
coachman.  'I'll flay you with your own whip and hang you to your own
shaft,' says he, 'if you're not in Devizes before midnight!'"

"Devizes!" cried Lady Standish with a scream.  Hanging on Lydia's
utterance, every word of which confirmed the awful suspicion that had
entered her heart, she now could no longer doubt the real extent of her

"Oh, Lord Verney, save my mistress!"  Lydia's pipe dominated the
universal chorus with piercing iteration.

And now Lady Maria's bass struck in again.

"What did I say?" cried she triumphantly.  "Nevvy, you'd better go to
bed! you're well out of her.  Julia, my dear, don't faint, we can catch
them at Devizes yet.  Someone tell that wench to stop that screeching!
Julia, come!  You've got the chay, I understand.  Fortunately, my house
is near; we shall just call for Burrell and make him ride behind with
his blunderbuss.  Child, if you faint I wash my hands of the whole
affair.  We'll nip them, I tell you, if you'll only brisk up."

"I won't faint," said Lady Standish setting her teeth.

      *      *      *      *      *

Lord Verney suddenly awoke to the fact that he had been grievously
injured, and that he was in a towering passion.  Spluttering, he
demanded vengeance of gods and men.  Post-chaise, ho, and pistols,
forthwith!  "My sword!" cried he, feeling for the blade which, however,
according to the regulations enforced by the immortal Master of the
Bath Ceremonies, was absent from its natural post on his noble hip in
this polite assembly.

"Come with me," cried Captain Spicer, clapping his patron on the
shoulder in a burst of excitement.  "I'll stand to you, of course, lad!
You'll want a witness.  Gad!" exclaimed the amiable Captain, "we'll
have Sir Jasper's liver on the spit before crow of cock!"


The side-rays of the chaise-lamps played on the widow's soft, saucy
face, threw beguiling shadows under her eyes, and fleeting dimples
round those lips that seemed perpetually to invite kisses.

Cosily nestling in the corner of the carriage, her head in its black
silk hood tilted back against the cushions, in the flickering uncertain
gleam, there was something almost babyish in her whole appearance;
something babyish, too, in her attitude of perfect confidence and

Denis O'Hara, with one arm extended above her head, his hand resting
open on the panel, the other hand still clasping the handle of the
door, gazed upon the woman who had placed herself so completely in his
power, and felt smitten to the heart of him with a tenderness that was
well-nigh pain.  Hitherto his glib tongue had never faltered with a
woman that his lips were not ready to fill the pause with a suitable
caress.  But not so to-day.

"What's come to me at all?" said he to himself, as, frightened by the
very strength of his own passion, he could find no word at once ardent
and respectful enough in which to speak it.  And, indeed, "What had
come to him?" was what Mistress Kitty was thinking about the same time.
"And what may his arm be doing over my head?" she wondered.

"How beautiful you are!" babbled the Irishman at last.

Mistress Bellairs sat up with an angry start.  It was as if she had
been stung.

"Heavens!" cried she, thrusting her little forefingers into her ears.
"Mr. O'Hara, if you say that again, I shall jump out of the chay."

Her eyes flashed; she looked capable of fulfilling her threat upon the

"Me darling heart," said he, and had perforce to lay his hands upon her
to keep her still.  "Sure what else can I say to you, with my eyes upon
your angel face?"

Apparently the lady's ears were not so completely stopped but that such
words could penetrate.

"'Tis monstrous," said she in hot indignation, "that I should go to all
this trouble to escape from the bleating of that everlasting refrain,
and have it buzzed at me," she waxed incoherent under the sense of her
injuries, "thus at the very outset!"

"My dear love," said he, humbly, capturing the angry, gesticulating
hand, "sure me heart's so full that it's just choking me."

She felt him tremble beside her as he spoke.

Now the trembling lover was not of those that entered into Mistress
Kitty's scheme of existence.  She had, perhaps, reckoned, when planning
her escapade, upon being made to tremble a little herself.  She had
certainly reckoned upon a journey this evening that should be among the
most memorable in the annals of her impressions.  O'Hara bashful!
O'Hara tongue-tied!  O'Hara with cold fingers that hardly dared to
touch hers!  O'Hara, the gay rattler, with constrained lips!

This was an O'Hara whose existence she had not dreamed of, and for
whose acquaintance, to say the truth, she had small relish.

"What has come to you?" she cried aloud, with another burst of

"Faith," said he, "and I hardly know myself, Kitty darling.  Oh,
Kitty," said he, "'tis vastly well to laugh at love, and play at love;
but when love comes in earnest it takes a man as it were by the throat,
and it's no joke then."

"So I see," said she, with some dryness.

O'Hara clenched his hand and drew a laboured breath.

      *      *      *      *      *

Straining, slipping now and again, breaking into spurts of trot, to
fall into enforced walking pace once more, the gallant team had dragged
the chaise to the summit of the great rise at a speed quite
unprecedented, yet comparatively slow.

Now the way lay down-hill.  The coachman waved his whip.  Bounding
along the fair road the wheels hummed; the night-wind blowing in
through the half-opened window, set Mistress Kitty's laces flapping on
her bosom, and a stray curl of Mr. O'Hara's dancing on his pale

The exhilaration of the rapid flight, the crack of the whip, the mad
rhythm of the hoofs, the witchery of the night hour, the risks of the
situation, the very madness of the whole enterprise, all combined to
set the widow's gay blood delightfully astir, mounting to her light
brain like sparkling wine.

What! were all the accessories of the play to be so perfect, and was
the chief character to prove such a lamentable failure in his part?
What! was she, Kitty Bellairs, to be carried off by the most notorious
rake in Bath, only to find him as awkward, as dumb, as embarrassed with
the incomparable situation as the veriest greenhorn?  "It shall not,
and it cannot be," said she to herself.  And thereupon she changed her

"Why," said she aloud, with the cooing note of her most melting mood,
"I protest one would think, sir, that you were afraid of me."

"Aye, Kitty," said he, simply; "and so I am."

"Oh, fie!" she laughed.  "And how have I alarmed you?  Think of me,"
said she, and leaned her face towards him with a smile of archest wit,
"not as a stranger, but as a sisther, as a dear, dear cousin."

His eye flamed back at her.  Her merry mood was as incongruous to his
sudden, storm-serious growth of passion as the gay lilt of a tambourine
might be to a solemn chant.

"I think of you," he said, and there was a deep thrill in his voice,
"as my wife that is to be."

And so saying he fell upon his knees in the narrow space, and tenderly
kissed a fold of her lace, as one, from the knowledge of his own fire,
afraid of a nearer touch.

The word "wife" had never a pleasing sound in the lovely widow's ears.
From neither the past nor the future did it evoke for her an attractive

Coming from those lips, by which it was the very last name she desired
to hear herself called, it aroused in her as pretty a fit of fury as
ever she had indulged in.

"Now, indeed, is the murder out!" she cried.  "Oh, you men are all
alike.  As lovers--all fire, capsicums Indian suns!  Bottles of Sillery
always bursting!  Torrents not to be stemmed....  But, lo you! let the
lover once fancy himself the husband, let the vision of the coveted
mistress but merge into the prospect of the secured wife....  Merciful
heavens, what a change!  For fire we have ice; for the red, biting
capsicum, the green, cool cucumber; for joyous, foaming Sillery, the
smallest ale; small ale--nay, toast and water!" cried Mistress Kitty,
lashing herself to finer frenzy.  "And if the mere sense of your
security thus transforms the lover in you, what a pleasing prospect,
indeed, lies before the wedded wife!  No, thank you, sir," said the
lady, and pushed the petrified O'Hara with an angry foot, "I have had
one wintry, toast-and-water husband, and that shall be enough for my
lifetime.  Thank God, it is not too late yet!" she fumed.  "I am not
yet, sir, Mistress O'Hara."

And in the very midst of her indignation: "This will," she thought,
"simplify the parting at Devizes."  But no whit was her wrath thereby
abated, that the fool should have spoiled her pretty ride.

For a moment, after the angry music of her voice had ceased to ring,
there was a breathless silence, broken only by the straining progress
of horses and chaise up the sides of another hill.  Then O'Hara broke
forth into a sort of roar of wounded tenderness, passion, and ire.
Flinging himself back upon the seat, he seized her wrist in a grip,
fierce, yet still gentle under its fierceness.

"How dare ye!" cried the man, "how dare ye doubt my love!  Sure the
flames of hell are cold compared to me this minute.  May my tongue
wither in my mouth, may it be cut out of my jaws and never speak a word
of sense again, may I be struck dead at your feet, Kitty, for the rest
of my life, if it's not gospel truth!  Listen to my heart," he cried,
with yet greater vehemence, pressing her captive hand against his
breast, "isn't it _Kitty, Kitty, Kitty_ ... that it's saying?  Sure
it's nothing but a bell, and your name is the clapper in it! ... And
you to be railing at me because it's so much I have to say that never a
word can I bring out!  Oh," pursued Mr. O'Hara, waxing louder and more
voluble still, "sure what could I say, with my heart in my mouth
stopping the way?  Look at it, you cruel woman; isn't it all yours, and
aren't you sticking pins into it for sheer devilment, this minute?  God
forgive me, that I should say such a thing of an angel!  Look at it,
now, Kitty!  Is that the heart of a cucumber? ... If you had said a
love-apple itself....  Och, indeed, it's the real cool cucumber I am,
and it's toast and water that's running through my veins like fire! ...
Laugh, madam, laugh, it's a grand joke entirely!  Make a pin-cushion of
the cucumber!  See, now, is that small ale that bursts from the wounds?
Upon my soul," he cried, arrived at the height of his tempest, "I have
a mind to show you the colour of it!"

He reached violently towards the back seat for his sword as he spoke,
and Mistress Bellairs, suddenly arrested in her delighted paroxysm, was
sufficiently convinced of the strength of his feelings to stop him with
clinging hands and clamouring little notes of terror:

"O'Hara! madman!--for God's sake, Denis!"

"Ah!" cried he.  "It's not hot enough I was for ye.  It's the cold
husband you're afraid of.  Ah, Kitty, you've stirred the sleeping dog,
you mustn't complain now if you can't put out the fire!"

So saying, he turned and clasped her in an embrace that left her
scarcely breath to scream, had she so wished, and had indeed the kisses
which he rained upon her lips allowed her space in which to place a

Her light soul, her easy shallow nature, was carried as it were off its
feet in the whirlwind of a passion the mere existence of which, with
all her experience, she had never even guessed.  To say the truth, so
much as she had deemed him vastly too cold, so now she found him vastly
too hot.  She was a woman of niceties, an epicure in life and love, and
nothing met with her favour but the delicate happy mean.  This was a
revelation, with a warning.

"Mr. O'Hara," she gasped, at length released, fluttering like a ruffled
dove, all in anger and fear, "such treatment!  For a gentleman, sir,
you strangely forget yourself."  She laid her hand on the window strap.
"Not a word, sir, or I will instantly give the order to turn back."

"Oh," cried the unhappy lover, and tore at his hair with desperate
fingers, filling the ambient air with flakes of powder which shone
silvery in the moonlight.  "You drove me to it.  Ah, don't be
frightened of me, my darling; that hurts me the worst of all!  I'm
quiet now, Kitty."

His labouring breath hissed between his words, and his satin coat
creaked under each quivering muscle.

"I'm as quiet as a lamb," said he; "sure a baby might put its head in
my jaws--the devil's gone out of me, Kitty."

"I'm glad to hear it, sir," said she, unappeased.  She sat, swelling
with ruffled plumes, looking out of the window and biting her lips.

"A moon, too," she thought, and the tears almost started to her eyes,
for the vexation of the wasted opportunity and the complete failure of
a scene so excellently staged.  "How wise, oh, how wise I was, to have
secured my exit at Devizes!"

"I frightened her," thought O'Hara; and in the manly heart of him he
lamented his innate masculine brutality and formed the most delicate
chivalrous plans for the right cherishing in the future of the dear
lady who had confided herself to him.


In the white moonlight Sir Jasper Standish paced up and down the
cobble-stoned yard with as monotonous a restlessness as if he had been
hired this night to act the living sign at the Bear Inn, Devizes.

Each time he passed the low open window of the inn parlour, in which
sat Mr. Stafford by the dim yellow light of two long-tongued tallow
candles, the baronet would pause a moment to exchange from without a
few dismal words with his friend.  The latter, puffing at a long clay
pipe, endeavoured in the intervals to while away the heavy minutes in
the perusal of some tome out of mine host's library--a unique
collection and celebrated on the Bath Road.

"Tom Stafford," said Sir Jasper, for the twentieth time, "how goes the

"Damned slowly, friend," said Stafford, consulting with a yawn the most
exact of three watches at his fob.  "To be precise, 'tis two minutes
and one third since I told you that it wanted a quarter of midnight."

Sir Jasper fell once more to his ursine perambulation, and Stafford,
yawning again, flicked over a page.  He had not reached the bottom of
it, however, before Sir Jasper's form returned between him and the

"What," said the injured husband, "what if they should have taken
another road?"

"Then," cried Stafford, closing his book with a snap between both his
palms, tossing it on to the table and stretching himself desperately,
"I shall only have to fight you myself for this most insufferably dull
evening that you have made me spend, when I was due at more than one
rendezvous, and had promised pretty Bellairs the first minuet."

"It shall be pistols," said Sir Jasper, following his own thoughts with
a sort of gloomy lust, "pistols, Tom.  For either he or I shall breathe
our last to-night."

"Pistols with all my heart," said Stafford, stopping his pipe with his
little finger.  "Only do, like a good fellow, make up your mind--just
for the sake of variety.  I think the last time we considered the
matter, we had decided for this"--describing a neat thrust at Sir
Jasper's waistcoat through the window with the long stem of his
churchwarden.  "There's more blood about it, Jasper," he suggested

"True," murmured the other, again all indecision.  "But pistols at five

"Well--yes, there's a charm about five paces, I admit," returned the
second with some weariness, dropping back again into his chair.  "And
we can reload, you know."

"If I fall," said Sir Jasper, with the emotion which generally
overtakes a man who contemplates a tragic contingency to himself, "be
gentle with her.  She has sinned, but she was very dear to me."

"She'll make a deuced elegant widow," said Stafford, musingly, after a
little pause, during which he had conjured up Lady Standish's especial
points with the judgment of a true connoisseur.

"You must conduct her back to her home," gulped Sir Jasper, a minute
later, slowly thrusting in his head again.  "Alack, would that I had
never fetched her thence....  Had you but seen her, when I wooed and
won her, Tom!  A country flower, all innocence, a wild rose....  And
now, deceitful, double-faced!"

"'Tis the way of the wild rose," said Stafford, philosophically.  "Let
you but transplant it from the native hedgerow, and before next season
it grows double."

Here the speaker, who was always ready with a generous appreciation of
his own conceits, threw his head back and laughed consumedly, while Sir
Jasper uttered some sounds between a growl and a groan.

The volatile second in waiting wiped his eyes.

"Go to, man," cried he, turning with sudden irascibility upon his
friend, "for pity's sake take that lugubrious countenance of thine out
of my sight.  What the devil I ever saw in thee, Jasper, to make a
friend of, passes my comprehension: for, of all things, I love a fellow
with a spark of wit.  And thou, lad, lackest the saving grace of humour
so wofully, that, in truth, I fear--well--thou art in a parlous state:
I fear damnation waits thee, for 'tis incurable.  What! in God's name
cannot a man lose a throw in the game of happiness and yet laugh?
Cannot a husbandman detect a poacher on his land and yet laugh as he
sets the gin?  Why," cried Mr. Stafford, warming to his thesis, and
clambering lightly out of the window to seat himself on the outer sill,
"strike me ugly!  shall not a gentleman be ever ready to meet his fate
with a smile?  I vow I've never yet seen Death's head grin at me, but
I've given him the grin back--split me!"

"Hark--hark!" cried Sir Jasper, pricking his strained ear, "d'ye hear?"

"Pooh!" said Mr. Stafford, "only the wind in the tree."

"Nay," cried Sir Jasper; "hush man, listen!"

An unmistakable rumbling grew upon the still night air--a confused
medley of sounds which gradually unravelled themselves upon their
listening ears.  It was the rhythmical striking of many hoofs, the roll
of wheels, the crack of a merciless whip.

"Faith and faith," cried Stafford, pleasantly exhilarated, "I believe
you're right, Jasper; here they come!"

The moonlight swam blood-red before Sir Jasper's flaming eye.  "Pistols
or swords?" questioned he again of himself, and grasped his hilt as the
nearest relief, pending the decisive moment.

Out slouched a couple of sleepy ostlers, as Master Lawrence, mine host,
rang the stable bell.

Betty, the maid, threw a couple of logs on the fire, while the dame in
the bar, waking from her snooze, demanded the kettle, selected some
lemons, and ordered candlesticks and dips with reckless prodigality.

      *      *      *      *      *

Mistress Kitty, peering out of the carriage window, her shoulder still
turned upon the unhappy and unforgiven swain, hailed the twinkling
lights of the _Bear Inn_ with lively eyes.

While the chaise described an irreproachable curve round the yard, her
quick glance had embraced every element of the scene.  Sir Jasper's
bulky figure, with folded arms, was leaning against the post of the inn
door, awaiting her approach--retribution personified--capriciously
illumined by the orange rays of the landlord's lantern.  Out in the
moonlight, shining in his pearl gray satin and powdered head, all
silver from crest to shoe-buckle, like the prince of fairy lore, sat
Stafford on his window-ledge, as gallant a picture to a woman's eye,
the widow had time to think, as one could wish to see on such a night.

"Oh," she thought, "how we are going to enjoy ourselves at last!"

And being too true an artist to consider her mere personal convenience
upon a question of effect, she resolved to defer the crisis until the
ripe moment, no matter at what cost.  Accordingly, even as O'Hara cried
out, in tones of surprise and disgust: "Thunder and turf! my darling,
if there isn't now that blethering ox, Sir Jasper!"  Mistress Kitty
instantly covered her face with her lace and swooned away on the
Irishman's breast.

Sir Jasper charged the coach door.  "Blethering ox!" he bellowed.
"I'll teach you, sir, what I am!  I'll teach that woman--I'll, I'll----"

Here Stafford sprang lightly to the rescue.

"For Heaven's sake," said he, "think of our names as gentlemen; let it
be swords or pistols, Jasper, or swords and pistols, if you like, but
not fistycuffs and collaring.  Be quiet, Jasper!  And you, sir," said
he to O'Hara, as sternly as he could for the tripping of his laughter,
"having done your best to add that to a gentleman's head which shall
make his hats sit awry for the remainder of his days, do you think it
generous to give his condition so precise a name?"

"O hush," cried O'Hara, in too deep distress to pay attention either to
abuse or banter, "give me room, gentlemen, for God's sake.  Don't you
see the lady has fainted?"

With infinite precaution and tenderness he emerged from the chay with
his burden, elbowing from his path on one side the curious and
officious landlord, on the other the struggling husband.

"Oh, what have I done at all!" cried the distracted lover, as the
inertness of the weight in his arms began to fill him with apprehension
for his dear.  "Sure, alanna, there's nothing to be afraid of!  Sure,
am I not here?  Och, me darling, if----"

But here Sir Jasper escaped from his friend's control.  "I'll not stand
it," cried he.  "'Tis more than flesh and blood can endure.  Give her
up to me, sir.  How dare you hold her?"  He fell upon O'Hara in the
rear and seized him, throttling, round the neck.

"I'll dare you in a minute, ye mad divil!" yelled O'Hara, in a fury no
whit less violent than that of his assailant.  Thus cried he, then

In the scuffle they had reached the parlour.

"Oh, Jasper, Jasper, in the name of decency!" protested Stafford,
vainly endeavouring to pluck the baronet from the Irishman's back.
"And you, Denis lad, I entreat of you, cease to provoke him.  Zooks, my
boy, remember he has some prior claim--what shall I say? some little
vested interest----"

"I'll stuff him with his own red hair!" asseverated Sir Jasper, foaming
at the mouth as, under a savage push from O'Hara's elbow he fell back,
staggering, into Stafford's power.

"Prior claims--vested interest is it!  Some of you will have to swallow
those words before I'll be got to swallow anything here," swore Denis
O'Hara, almost gaily, in the exaltation of his Celtic rage.  "Sure,
'tis mad, I know ye are, lepping mad, Sir Jasper, but ought you not to
be ashamed of yourself before the lady?  She's quivering with the
fright....  Lie here, my angel," said he, vibrating from the loudest
note of defiance to the tenderest cooing.  "Lie here; there's not a
ha'porth to frighten ye, were there fifty such twopenny old crazy
weathercocks crowing at you!"

So saying, he deposited his burthen tenderly in the leather-winged
arm-chair by the fire-place, and turned with a buoyant step towards Sir

"Come out," said he, "come out, sir.  Sure, leave him alone, Tom, 'tis
the only way to quiet him at all.  Sure, after our little game the
other night, wasn't he that dove-like, poor fellow, a child might have
milked him?"

The quivering form in the chair here emitted a scale of hysterical
little notes that seemed wrung from her by the most irrepressible
emotion.  And:

"Oh, oh," exclaimed Mr. Stafford, unable, in the midst of his laughter,
to retain any further grip upon his friend.

"My darling," once more began the solicitous O'Hara, turning his head
round towards the arm-chair, but:

"Judas!" hissed Sir Jasper, and furiously interposed his bulk between
the Irishman and his intention.

"Faith," cried Stafford, "can't you cover that head of yours, somehow,
O'Hara?  I vow the very sight of it is still the red rag to the
bull....  The bull, aha!"

"Ha! ha! ha!" broke in, this time uncontrolled, the merriment from the

The three men were struck into silence and immobility.

Then, on tip toe, Mr. Stafford approached and peeped round the wing of
the arm-chair.  He looked, and seemed blasted with astonishment; looked
again and made the rafters ring with his sonorous laugh, till the
apprehensive landlord in the passage and the trembling dame in the bar
were comforted and reassured by the genial sound.

The high feminine trill of Mistress Kitty's musical mirth rang in
sweetly with his.

"Oh, Kitty Bellairs, Kitty Bellairs!" gasped Mr. Stafford, shook his
finger at her, felt blindly for a support, and rolled up against Sir

The baronet straightway fell into an opportunely adjacent chair and
there remained--his legs extended with compass stiffness, his eyes
starting with truly bovine bewilderment--staring at the rosy visage,
the plump little figure, that now emerged from the inglenook.

"Oh dear, oh dear!" faintly murmured Stafford.  And with a fresh breath
he was off again.  "Aha ha ha! for an ox, my Jasper, thou hast started
on a lovely wild goose chase--as friend O'Hara might say."  While:

"Mercy on us!" rippled the lady.  "I protest, 'tis the drollest scene.
Oh, Sir Jasper, Sir Jasper, see what jealousy may bring a man to!"

"Musha, it's neither head nor tail I can make of the game," said
O'Hara, "but sure it's like an angel choir to hear you laugh again, me

The guileless gentleman approached his mistress as he spoke, and
prepared to encircle her waist.  But with a sudden sharpness she
whisked herself from his touch.

"Pray, sir," she said, "remember how we stand to each other!  If I
laugh 'tis with relief to know myself safe."

"Safe?" he echoed with sudden awful misgiving.

"Aye," said she, and spoke more tartly for the remorseful smiting of
her own heart, as she marked the change in his face.  "You would seem
to forget, sir, that you have carried me off by violence--treacherously
seized me with your hired ruffians."  Her voice grew ever shriller, as
certain rumours, which her expectant ears had already caught
approaching, now grew quite unmistakable without, and hasty steps
resounded in the passage.  "Oh, Mr. O'Hara, you have cruelly used me!"
cried the lady.  "Oh, Sir Jasper, oh, Mr. Stafford, from what a fate
has your most unexpected presence here to-night thus opportunely saved

At this point she looked up and gave a scream of most intense
astonishment: for there, in the doorway, stood my Lord Verney; and,
over his shoulder, peered the white face of Captain Spicer, all
puckered up with curiosity.


O'Hare drew himself up.  He had grown all at once exceedingly still.

Mr. Stafford, gradually recovering from his paroxysms, had begun to
bestow some intelligent interest upon the scene.  There was a mist of
doubt in his eyes as he gazed from the victimised, but very lively,
lady to her crestfallen "violent abductor," and thence to the gloomy
countenance of the new-comer on the threshold.  There seemed to be, it
struck him, a prodigious deliberation in Mistress Kitty's cry and start
of surprise.

"What is my pretty Bellairs up to now?  Well, poor Irish Denis, with
all his wits, is no match for her anyhow, and, faith, she knows it,"
thought he.  Aloud he said, with great placidity: "Fie, fie, this is
shocking to hear!" and sat, the good-humoured Chorus to the Comedy, on
the edge of the table, waiting for the development of the next scene.
Sir Jasper, wiping a beaded brow and still staring, as if by the sheer
fixing of his bloodshot eye he could turn these disappointing puppets
into the proper objects of his vengeance, was quite unable to follow
any current but the muddy whirl of his own thoughts.

Lord Verney alone it was, therefore, who rose at all to Mistress
Kitty's situation.

"Are _you_ the scoundrel, then," said he, marching upon O'Hara, "who
dared to lay hands upon an unprotected lady in the very streets of

"Monstrous!" remarked Captain Spicer behind him.  Then jogging his
patron's elbow, "'Twas well spoke, Verney, man.  At him again, there's
blood in this."

Mr. O'Hara looked steadily at Lord Verney, glancing contemptuously at
Captain Spicer, and then gazed with long, full searching at the
beguiling widow.

She thought to scent danger to herself in the air; and, womanlike, she
seized unscrupulously upon the sharpest weapon in her armoury.

"Perhaps," she said, with an angry, scornful laugh, "Mr. O'Hara will
now deny that he and his servants attacked my chairmen in the dark,
threw me, screaming with terror, into his carriage, and that his
intention was avowedly to wed me by force in London to-morrow."

All eyes were fixed on the Irishman, and silence waited upon his reply.
He had grown so pale that his red head seemed to flame by contrast.  He
made a low bow.

"No, Kitty," said he, in a very gentle voice, "I deny nothing."  Then
sweeping the company with a haughty glance.  "This lady," said he, "has
spoken truth; as for me, I am ready to meet the consequences of my

His eye finally rested once more on Lord Verney.  The latter grew white
and then scarlet; while Spicer whispered and again jogged.

"Of course," blustered the youth, and wished that he had the curious
digestion of his contemporaries, that his stomach did not so
squeamishly rebel at the prospect of a dose of steel, "of course, sir,
you must be aware----"

"It shall be swords," interrupted the irrepressible Spicer; "and gad,
sir, what my noble friend will have left of your body I will myself
make mince of this night!  Aye, sir," said the Captain, beginning to
squint as was his wont under excitement, and slapping his bony chest;
"I will fight you myself, sir."

"Fight _you_!" exclaimed O'Hara, suddenly stung into magnificent
contempt.  "Fight you, sir?" he ran a withering eye over the
grasshopper anatomy of the toady as he spoke, "you, sir, you, the
writer of that dirty note this morning, bidding me
apologise--apologise!" cried Denis, with his most luscious brogue, "to
the man, Sir Jasper there, for having insulted you on the subject of
your miserable mealy head--fight you, sir?  Sure, rather than fight
you," said Mr. O'Hara, searching for the most emphatic asseveration
conceivable, "I'd never fight again for the rest of my life!  But I'll
tell you what I'll do for you: next time you thrust that ugly face of
yours within the reach of me arm Oi'll pull your nose till it's as long
as your tongue, and as slender as your courage, damme!"

"Oh, gad! what a low scoundrel," murmured Captain Spicer, withdrawing
quickly several paces, and with an intensified cast in his eye; "'tis
positive unfit for a gentleman to speak to him!"

"Now, my lord?" said O'Hara, resuming his easy dignity.

But that her comedy should drift into tragedy was none of Mistress
Kitty's intentions.  Briskly stepping between the laboriously
pugnacious Verney and the poor Irishman, whose eye (for all his present
composure) shone with the lust of the fray, she thus addressed them
collectively and in turn:

"Shame, shame, gentlemen, I protest!  Is it not enough that a poor
woman's heart should be set a-fluttering by over-much love, must it now
go pit-a-pat again for over-much hate?  My Lord Verney, think of your
mother.  Think of her, of whose declining years you are the sole prop
and joy; recall to mind those principles of high morality, of noble
Christian duty, which that paragon of women so sedulously inculcated in
you!"  Her voice quivered on the faintest note of mockery.  "Oh, what
would that worthy lady's feelings be, were you to be brought home to
her--a corse!  What, ah what indeed! would _your_ feelings be if, by
some accident," here she shot involuntarily what was almost the
suspicion of a wink in the direction of O'Hara, "you had to answer for
the life of a fellow-creature before to-morrow's dawn?  Why, you could
never open your Bible again without feeling in your bosom the throbbing
heart of a Cain!"  She stopped to draw breath.

Mr. Stafford, one delighted grin, slid the whole length of the table on
which he sat with dangling legs, to get a fuller view of the saucy
face: "Incomparable Bellairs," he murmured to himself with keen
appreciation, And: "So, ho, my noble friend," thought he, as he shot a
glance at the solemn Verney, "now do I know what has closed to you for
ever the gates of Paradise."

"And you, Mr. O'Hara," resumed the lady, turning her eye, full of
indefinable and entrancing subtleties upon the honest gentleman, "would
you have me forgive you this night's work?  Do not, then, do not force
this impetuous young man to an unnecessary quarrel.  Allow him to
withdraw his challenge.  Do that in _atonement_, sir," said she, with
much severity of accent; but her eye said sweetly enough, "Do that for
me" and gave further promise of unutterable reward.

"Madam," said O'Hara, glancing away as if the sight of her beauty were
now more pain than pleasure to him, "'tis for my Lord Verney to speak;
I am entirely at his orders.  I understand," and here, for all his
chivalrousness, he could not refrain him from a point of satire, "I
understand, ma'am, that you have given him the right to espouse your

"Most certainly," said the crimson Verney, who had been monstrously
uneasy during his lady's sermon, not only because every word of it hit
some tender point of his abnormally developed conscience, but also
because of an indefinable sensation that he was being held up to
ridicule, "most certainly, sir, it is as Mistress Bellairs's future
husband that I find it incumbent--that I find myself forced,
reluctantly--no, I mean----" here he floundered and looked round for
Spicer, who, however, was ostentatiously turning his back upon the
proceedings and gazing at the moon.  "In fact," resumed the poor youth,
falling back on his own unguided wits, "I have no alternative but to
demand satisfaction for an attempt on the honour of the future Lady

"Mercy on us!" cried Mistress Kitty, with a shrill indignant little
scream.  "Oh fie, my lord, who would have deemed you so bloodthirsty?
Before heaven," she cried piously, glancing at the raftered ceiling,
"before heaven, it would be the death of me, were there to be
quarrelling, strife, contention for me--for _me_!  Who am I," she said
with the most angelic humility, "that two such gallant gentlemen should
stake their lives for me?  Rather," said she, "will I give you back
your word, my lord.  Indeed," this with a noble air of sacrifice, "I
feel Providence has but too clearly shown me my duty.  Hush, hush,
Verney, bethink yourself!  How could I ever face your mother (were you
indeed to survive the encounter) with the knowledge that I had exposed
you to danger; that for me you had loaded your soul with

She shuddered and looked delicious.

"Child," said she meltingly, as Lord Verney faintly protested, "it must
be so.  I have felt it more than once; you are too young."  There was a
conviction in her voice that gave no hope of reprieve, and Lord Verney,
who had already found out that Mistress Bellairs was too dangerous a
delight to pursue with comfort, accepted his sentence with a Christian
resignation that did justice to his mother's training.

"All, all must now be over between us," said Kitty pathetically, "save
a gentle friendship!  Your hand, my Lord."

She reached for his clumsy paw with her determined little fingers.

"Mr. O'Hara," said she, turning round.  "_I forgive you_.  Your hand
also, sir."

If the clasp she extended to Verney was purely official, that with
which she now seized O Hara's cold right hand was eloquent enough with
quick and secret pressure.  But, for the first time in his life,
perhaps, O'Hara was slow in returning a woman's token.

"Shake hands," ordered Mistress Bellairs decisively, and joined the
belligerents' palms.

Here Stafford sprang jovially to the assistance of the pretty

"Right, right," cried he.  "Shake hands on it like good fellows.  Fie!
who could keep up a feud under those beaming eyes?--Never be downcast,
Verney, lad!  What did I tell thee, only yesterday, in the Pump Room,
about thy halo?--Denis, my boy, I've always loved thee, but now I'll
love thee more than ever, if only thou wilt mix us a bowl of punch in
right good Irish fashion, so that in it we may drown all enmity and
drink good friendship--and above all toast the divine Kitty Bellairs!"

"Hurroosh," cried O'Hara, and with a valiant gulp determined to swallow
his own bitter disappointment and flood in a tide of warm gaiety the
cold ache in his heart.  "By all means," cried he, wrung Verney's hand
with feverish cordiality, and gave one last sadly-longing look at Kitty
and his lovely delusive dream.

Then spinning round upon himself he demanded loudly of the willing
landlord, lemons and "the craythur--a couple of bottles, my friend--a
bowl of sugar and a trifle of wather--the smaller the kittle the better
it boils."  And: "Wake up, man," cried he, slapping Sir Jasper on the
back so that the powder flew from that baronet's queue.  "Sure we're
all happy, now."

"Where's my wife, sir?" said the gloomy husband, springing to his feet
fiercely.  "I've been made a fool of between you, but all this does not
tell me where my wife is!  Stafford, man, I see it now: this has been a
blind."  He struck his forehead.  "Ha, yes I have it now, it was a
false scent--the villain, the fox is off with her on another road, with
his tongue in his cheek, grinning to think of me sitting and waiting
for them at Devizes!--Tom, the chaise, the horses!  There's not a
moment to be lost!"

"Devil a horse or chay for me, sir," cried his friend.  And nodding at
Kitty: "I know when I'm in good company," he pursued, "if you
don't.--Sit down, man, there's punch brewing.  Your vengeance will keep
hot enough, ha, ha, but the punch won't."

"Glory be to God," cried O'Hara, staring at Sir Jasper as if he were a
natural curiosity, "I've known many a madman, but I never knew one mad
enough yet to run away from a punch-bowl!"

With lace ruffles neatly turned back from his deft hands, O'Hara began
to peel the lemons.

"Do you," now said Captain Spicer with an ingratiating chirp.  "Do you
really care for _quite_ so much peel in the bowl ... ahem?"

The speaker stopped suddenly and seemed to wither quite away under a
sudden look from the punch-brewer (who had made a movement as though to
put his knife and lemons down and employ his fingers differently) and
the next instant found him whispering in Stafford's ear:

"You're a man of the world, I know, friend Stafford," said he.  "No
doubt you will laugh at my over-nice sense of delicacy, but just now,
in his ravings, poor O'Hara made a kind of threat, I believe, about
pulling my nose.  What would _you_ advise me to do in the matter?  Look
over it, eh?"

"Certainly," cried the spark, with a glance of the most airy contempt.
"Look over it, _as straight as you can_.  Look over it, by all means,
but as you value the symmetry of that ornament to your countenance,
Captain Spicer--if I were you I should keep it well-buttered."

      *      *      *      *      *

With an art of which he alone was master, Captain Spicer hereupon
vanished from the company, without being missed.


"'Tis an orgy!" exclaimed Lady Maria.

"Oh, Jasper!" sobbed Lady Standish.

"'Twould be interesting to know," further trumpeted Lady Maria, "which
of these gentlemen is supposed to have run away with the widow

"Oh, Kitty!" sobbed Lady Standish.

"My God!" said Sir Jasper, laying down his reeking glass and hardly
believing his eyes.

Mistress Kitty (seated between O'Hara and Stafford at the end of the
table, while Lord Verney and Sir Jasper faced each other), continued,
unmoved, to sip her fragrant brew and cocked her wicked eye at the
newcomers, enjoying the situation prodigiously.  She laid an arresting
hand upon the cuffs of her neighbours, who, all polite amazement, were
about to spring to their feet.  "Keep still," said she, "keep still and
let Sir Jasper and his lady first have their little explanation
undisturbed.  Never intermeddle between husband and wife," she added
demurely: "it has always been one of my guiding axioms!"

"Well, Sir Jasper Standish, these are pretty goings on!" cried Lady
Maria, "for a three months' husband.... (Hold up, my poor dear Julia!)
Profligate!" snorted the old lady, boring the baronet through with one
gimlet eye.  "Dissolute wretch! highwayman!"

"I demand," fluted Lady Standish's plaintive treble (in her gentle
obstinate heart she had come to the fixed resolution of never allowing
Sir Jasper out of her sight again), "I demand to be taken back to my
mother, and to have an immediate separation."

"Running away with women out of the streets of Bath!--A lady," (sniff)
"supposed to be engaged to my nevvy!  Poor deluded boy----"

"And my dearest friend!--oh, Jasper!  _How could you_?"

Sir Jasper broke in upon his wife's treble with the anguished roar of
the goaded: "The devil take me," cried he, "if I don't think the whole
world's going mad!  _I_ elope with the widow Bellairs, Lady Maria,
ma'am?  _I_ treacherous, my Lady?  Ha!"  He positively capered with
fury and wounded feeling and general distraction, as he drew the
incriminating documents from his breast, and flourished them, one in
each hand, under the very nose of his accusers.  "What of _Red Curl_,
madam?  What of the man who kissed the dimple, madam?  What of your
lover, madam!"

In his confusion he hurled the last two demands straight in Lady
Maria's face, who, with all the indignation of outraged virtue,
exclaimed in her deepest note:

"Vile slanderer, I deny it!"

Here Mistress Bellairs deemed the moment ripe for her delicate

"My lovely Standish," she cried, "you look sadly.  Indeed I fear you
will swoon if you do not sit.  Pray Mr. Stafford, conduct my Lady
Standish to the arm-chair and make her sip a glass of cordial from the
bowl yonder."

"Oh, Kitty!" cried Lady Standish, and devoured the widow's face with
eager eyes to see whether friend or enemy was heralded there.

"My dear," whispered Kitty, "nothing could be going better.  Sit down,
I tell you, and I promise you that in ten minutes you will have Sir
Jasper on his knees."

Then running up to Sir Jasper and speaking with the most childlike and
deliberate candour:

"Pray, Sir Jasper," said she, "and what might you be prating of letters
and red curls?  Strange now," she looked round the company with dewy,
guileless eyes, "_I_ lost a letter only a day or two ago at your
house--a," she dropped her lids with a most entrancing little simper,
"a rather private letter.  I believe I must have lost it in dear
Julia's parlour, near the sofa, for I remember I pulled out my

"Good God!" said Sir Jasper, hoarsely, and glared at her, all doubt,
and crushed the letters in his hand.

"Could you--could _you_ have _found_ it, Sir Jasper, I wonder?  Mercy
on me!  And then this morning ... 'tis the strangest thing ... I get
another letter, another rather private letter, and after despatching a
few notes to my friends, for the life of me, I could not find the
letter any more!  And I vow I wanted it, for I had scarce glanced at

"Oh, Mistress Bellairs!" cried Sir Jasper.  "Tell me," cried he
panting, "what did these letters contain?"

"La!" said she, "what a question to put to a lady!"

"For God's sake, madam!" said he, and in truth he looked piteous.

"Then, step apart," said she, "and for dear Julia's sake I will confide
in you, as a gentleman."

She led him to the moonlit window, while all followed them with curious
eyes--except Verney, who surreptitiously drank his punch, and slid away
from the table, with the fear of his aunt in his heart.  And now
Mistress Kitty hung her head, looked exceedingly bashful and
exceedingly coy.  She took up a corner of her dainty flowered gown and
plaited it in her fingers.

"Was there," she asked, "was there anything of the description of a--of
a trifling lock of hair, in the first letter--'twas somewhat of an
auburn hue?"

"Confusion!" exclaimed the baronet, thrust the fateful letters into her
hand, and turning on his heel, stamped his foot, muttering furiously:
"Curse the fool that wrote them, and the feather-head that dropped

"And what of the fool that picked them up and read them?" whispered
Mistress Kitty's voice in his ears, sharp as a slender stiletto.

She looked him up and down with a fine disdainful mockery.

"Why will you men write?" said she meaningly.  "Letters are dangerous

He stood convicted, without a word.

"La! what a face!" she cried aloud now.  "I protest you quite frighten
me.  And how is it you are not overjoyed, Sir Jasper?  Here is your
Julia proved whiter than the driven snow and more injured than
Griselidis, and you not at her feet!"

"Where is she?" said Sir Jasper, half strangled by contending emotions.

"Why, there, in that arm-chair in the inglenook."

Mistress Kitty smoothed her restored treasures quite tenderly, folded
them neatly and slipped them into the little brocade bag that hung at
her waist.

      *      *      *      *      *

"Indeed, Lady Standish," said Mr. Stafford, "a glass of punch will do
you no harm."

"Punch?" echoed Lady Maria--then turning fiercely on her nephew: "What,
my Lord!" said she, "would your mother say?  Why you are positively
reeking with the dissolute fumes!"

"My dear Lady Maria," interposed the urbane Stafford, "a mere cordial,
a grateful fragrance to heighten the heart after fatigue and emotions,
a sovereign thing, madam, against the night air--the warmest antidote!
A sip of it, I assure you, would vastly restore you."

"I," she said, "I, drink with the profligate and the wanton!  The
deceiving husband and the treacherous friend!" She gave the fiercer
refusal for that she felt so strongly in her old bones the charm of his

"Pooh, pooh! my dear ladies, if that is all," said Mr. Stafford, "then,
by Heaven, let the glass circulate at once!  Indeed, your La'ship,"
turning to Lady Standish, "so far from our good Jasper having anything
to say to Mistress Bellairs's presence here to-night, let me assure you
that he and I set out alone at an early hour this evening, with no
other object but to be of service to your ladyship--whom your anxious
husband had been led to believe was likely to come this way ...
somewhat--ah--unsuitably protected, as he thought."

Then he bent down and whispered into Lady Standish's pretty ear (which
she willingly enough lent to such consoling assurances): "As for your
friend," he went on, "our delightful if volatile Bellairs--she came
here with a vastly different person to Sir Jasper: poor O'Hara
yonder--who's drinking all the punch!  She will tell you herself how it
happened....  But, gracious stars, my _dear_ Lady Maria, have you not
yet been given a glass of the--of Mr. O'Hara's restorative!"

"Allow me," cried Kitty, who, having just settled Sir Jasper's business
for him, had now freedom to place her energies elsewhere.  "Dearest
Lady Maria--how sweet of you to join us in our little reconciliation
feast!"  She took a brimming glass from O'Hara's hands and held it,
with a winning smile, for Lady Maria's acceptance.

"Madam," responded the matron, scowled, drew her voluminous skirts
together and became impenetrably deaf.

"Ah," cried the widow in her topmost notes, "Madam, how I should have
revered such a relative as yourself!  Next to the joy of calling my
Lord Verney's mother, _my_ mother, would have been that of calling his
aunt, _my_ aunt!  But the dream is over.  Lord Verney and I can never
be more to each other than we are now."

"Eh?" and the Dowager recovered her hearing.  "What's that, what's
that, nevvy?"

"'Tis, alas, true," said Lord Verney, with great demureness.  "Mistress
Bellairs has given me back my word."

"Forgive me, dear Lady Maria," trilled the widow.

"Mercy on us!" ejaculated the old lady; then, as if unconsciously,
groped for the glass in Mistress Kitty's hand.

"Sit down, sit down all!" cried Mistress Bellairs.  Stafford echoed
with a jovial shout.  There was a call for a fresh bowl.  O'Hara's eyes
began to dance, his tongue to resume its glibness.  And Lady Maria was
surprised to find how long her tumbler took to empty, but, curiously,
never failed to be looking the other way when Mistress Bellairs with
tenderest solicitude plied the silver ladle in her direction.

"I hope," said the ancient lady, now wreathed in smiles, "I hope that
Mr. O'Hara's cordial is not really stronger than Madeira wine--which my
physician, that charming Sir George, says is all I ought to drink."

"Madeira?" cried Mr. O'Hara, "Madeira wine is a very fair drink ... it
is a fine stirring dhrink.  But 'tis apt, I'm afraid, to heat the blood
overmuch.  Now Claret," he went on, pursuing the thesis, "Claret's the
wine for gentlemen--only for the divil of a way it has of lying cold
upon the stomach ... after four or five bottles....  Do I hear you say:
'Port,' over there, Tom, me boy?  I'll not deny but that Port has
qualities.  It's strong, it's mellow--but it's heavy.  It sends a
fellow to sleep, and that's a tirrible bad mark against it; for 'tis
near as bad for a man to sleep when he has a bottle going, as when he
has a lady coming.  Then there's Champagne for you: there's
exhilaration in Champagne, 'tis the real tipple for a gentleman when
he's alone--in a _tête-à-tête_--but 'tis not the wine for great
company.  Now, my dear friends," said O'Hara, stirring his new brew
with the touch of a past master, "if you want to know a wine that
combines the fire of the Madeira with the elegance of the Claret, the
power and mellowness of the Port with the exhilaration of the
Champagne--there's nothing in the world can compare to a fine
screeching bowl of Brandy Punch!"


When Mistress Kitty had sipped half a glass with great show of relish
and rakishness, and Lady Standish, under protest, had sucked a few
spoonfuls; when Lady Maria, stuck in the middle of her fourth helping,
protested that she really could not finish the tumbler and forthwith
began to show signs of incoherence and somnolence; when O'Hara broke
into snatches of song, and Lord Verney began to make calf's eyes afresh
at the lost Mistress Kitty; when Sir Jasper, hanging round his wife's
chair, showed unequivocal signs of repentance and a longing for
reconciliation: when Stafford himself became more pointed in his
admiration of Mistress Kitty and a trifle broader in his jests than was
quite consistent with his usual breeding, the little widow deemed it,
at last, time to break up the party.

There was a vast bustle, a prodigious ordering and counter-ordering.

"Never mind me," whispered Stafford, ever full of good humour and tact,
into Sir Jasper's ear, "take your wife home, man, I'll sleep here if
needs be."

"Not a foot," asserted O'Hara, apparently quite sober, and speaking
with the most pleasant deliberation in the world, "not a foot will I
stir from this place, so long as there is a lemon left."

"The cursed scoundrel," cried Lord Verney, babbling with fury as he
returned from the stables, "the scoundrel, Spicer, has driven off with
my curricle!"

"Then shall we be a merry trio to drink daylight in," said Stafford,
and cheered.

"Come, _dear_ Lady Maria," said Kitty.  "I shall take care of you.  I
will give you a seat in my chaise; we shall drive home together."

"Certainly, my dear, certainly," mumbled the Dowager.  "Who is that
remarkably agreeable person?" she requested to know of Stafford in her
prodigiously audible whisper.  "My dear," she turned again to Kitty, "I
like you wonderfully.  I cannot quite remember your name, my dear, but
we will go home together."

"Dear, _dear_ Lady Maria!" cried Mistress Kitty, honey sweet.  "My Lord
Verney, give your arm to your revered relative--mind you lead her
carefully," she said, with all the imps in her eyes dancing, "for I
fear Mr. Stafford's cordial has proved a little staggering--_after the
night air_!  And warn her ladyship's attendant to be ready to escort us
back in my carriage."

Then, taking advantage of Sir Jasper's absence--that gentleman might
even then be heard cursing his sleepy servants in the yard--Mistress
Kitty ran over to Lady Standish, who stood wistful and apart at the

"My dear," she murmured, "the game is now in your hands."

"Ah, no!" returned the other.  "Oh, Kitty, you have been an evil

"Is this your gratitude?" retorted Kitty, and pinched her friend with
vicious little fingers.  "Why, woman, your husband never thought so
much of you in his life as he does to-day!  Why, there has never been
so much fuss made over you since you were born.  Are these your thanks?"

"Oh, for the moment when I can fly to his bosom and tell him all!  My
foolish endeavour to make him jealous, my sinful pretence that he had a
rival in my heart!"

"What?" exclaimed the widow, and her whisper took all the emphasis of a
shriek.  "Fly to his bosom?  Then I have done with you!  Bring him to
his knees you mean, madam.  Tell him all?  Tell him all, forsooth, let
him know you have made a fool of him, all for nothing; let him think
that you had never had an idea beyond pining for his love; that no
other man ever thought of you, that he has never had a rival, never
will have one, that you are merely his own uninteresting Julia whom
nobody wants.  Why, Lady Standish, 'tis laying down the arms when the
battle is yours.  Sheer insanity!  Prodigious, prodigious!" cried
Mistress Kitty.  "Is it possible that you and I are of the same sex?"

Bewildered, yet half convinced, Lady Standish listened and wondered.

"Be guided by me," whispered Kitty again.  "Indeed, my dear, I mean
well by you.  Keep your secret if you love your husband.  Keep it more
preciously than you would keep jour youth and your beauty; for I tell
you 'tis now your most valuable possession.  Here," said she, and took
a letter from her famous bag and thrust it into Julia's hands, "here is
what will bring him to his knees!  Oh, what a game you have upon this
drive home if you know how to play it!"

"What is this, now?" cried Lady Standish.

"Hush!" ordered Kitty, and clapped her friend's hand over the letter.
"Promise, promise!  Here comes your lord!"

Sir Jasper had approached them as she spoke; he now bowed confusedly
and took his wife's hand.  But:

"A word in your ear," said Mistress Kitty, arresting him as they were
about to pass out.  "A word in your ear, sir.  If a man has a treasure
at home he would keep for himself, he will do well to guard it!  An
unwatched jewel, my good sir, invites thieves.  Good-night!"

      *      *      *      *      *

And now in the great room of the _Bear Inn_ were left only three: the
two gallant gentlemen, O'Hara and Stafford, and Mistress Kitty.

Mistress Kitty's game had been successfully played out; and yet the
lady lingered.

"Good night," she began, then shot a glance at Stafford.  "I wonder,"
she said innocently, "if my carriage be ready, and whether Lady Maria
is well installed?"

"I will see," said Stafford simply, and vanished.

O'Hara stood by the table, slowly dipping the ladle into the punch and
absently pouring the liquor back into the bowl again.  She sidled round
to him.

"Denis!" said she.

He turned his wildly-bright eyes upon her, but made no answer.

"I'm going back," said she, and held out her hand.

He carefully put down the ladle, took the tips of her little fingers
and kissed them.  But his hands and his lips were cold.

"Glory be to God," said he, "it's a grand game you played with me ...
the Bath Comedy entirely, Kitty."

Then he dropped her hand and took up the punch-ladle again with
downcast looks.

"Will you not give me your arm to my carriage?" said she, after a
slight pause.

"Ah, Kitty, sure haven't you broke my heart for me ... and has not the
punch robbed me of my legs!"

His wild bright eyes were deeply sad as he turned them on her, and he
was pale as death.

She drew back quickly, frowned, hesitated, frowned again, and then
brightened up once more.

"Then, sir," said she, "when your legs are restored to you, pray let
them conduct your heart round to my lodgings, and we shall see what can
be done towards mending it."

She dropped him a curtsey and was gone.

As Stafford folded her into the chaise, he whispered:

"If ever _I_ have a chance of running away with you, Kitty, I'll take
very good care not to let you know which road I mean to choose!"

      *      *      *      *      *


As the carriage rolled homewards on the Bath Road, Lady Standish, both
hands folded over the mysterious letter, sat staring out of the window
with unseeing eyes.  The dawn had begun to break upon a cloudless sky;
the air was chill and brisk; mists wreathed white scarves over the
fields.  She felt conscious in every fibre of her being that Sir Jasper
was eagerly contemplating her in the cold grey light.  Heart and brain
were in a turmoil; the anguish, the violent emotions, the successive
scenes of the last forty-eight hours passed again before her mind like
a phantasmagoria.  Partly because of Mistress Bellairs's advice and
partly because of a certain womanly resentment, which, gentle as she
was, still reared itself within her, she did not even cast a look upon
her husband, but sat mutely, gazing at the land.  Presently she became
aware that he had slid an arm behind her waist.  She trembled a little,
but did not turn to him.

"Julia," said he, in a muffled uncertain tone, "Julia, I--I have done
you injustice."  Then, for jealousy is as ill to extinguish as a fire
that smoulders, a flame of the evil passion leaped up again with him.
"But you must admit," said he, "that I had cause.  Your own words, I
may say your own confession----"

Lady Standish turned her head, lifted heavy lids and for a moment fixed
upon him the most beautiful eyes in the world.

"Nay," said she, "I made no confession."  Her tongue trembled upon
other protestations, yet Kitty's warning carried the day.

"Tell me," said he, and bent to her, "tell me was it Lord Verney after

Lady Standish again raised her eyes to his face, and could such a thing
have been possible in a creature whose very being was all tenderness,
he would have sworn that in her gaze there was contempt.

"Sir Jasper," said she, "it never was Lord Verney!"  And then she
added: "Has there not been enough of this?"

As she spoke she moved her hands and involuntarily looked down at the
letter she held.  Then she sat as if turned to stone.  The letter was
in Sir Jasper's writing and addressed to Mistress Bellairs!

"What have you there?" cried he.

"Nay," said she, "I know not, for 'tis not my letter.  But you will
know."  And she held it up to him, and her hand did not tremble, yet
was a cold fear upon her.  "You wrote it," she said.  He stared and his
countenance changed, utter discomposure fell upon him.

"Julia," cried he, "Julia, upon my honour!  I swear 'twas nothing, less
than nothing, a mere idle bit of gallantry--a jest!"  As he spoke he
fell upon one knee in the chaise, at her feet.

"Then I may read it?" said she.

"Ah, Julia!" cried he, and encircled her with his arms.  She felt the
straining eagerness of his grasp, she felt his heart beat stormily.
With a sudden warmth she knew that after all his love was hers.

Then she had an inspiration, one worthy of a cleverer woman: but love
has his own geniuses.  She disengaged herself from his embrace and put
the letter into his hand.

"Take it," said she.

"Julia," he cried, and shook from head to foot, and the tears sprang to
his eyes, "I never gave her a serious thought.  I vow I hate the woman."

"Then tear it up," said Lady Standish, with a superhuman magnanimity
that almost turned her faint.

He rose and tore the letter in shreds (quickly, lest she should repent)
and flung them out of the window.  She watched the floating pieces
flutter and vanish.  In her secret soul she said to herself:

"Mistress Bellairs and I shall be very good friends at a distance!"

Her husband was kneeling at her feet again.  "Angel," cried he
pleadingly, and once more she was in his arms; and yet his jealous
heart kept growling within him, like a surly dog that will not be
silenced.  "Julia," said he in her ear, "but one word, one word, my
love!  Julia, is there anyone, anything between us?"

"Oh, that," she said, and smiled archly, "that, sir, you must discover
for yourself."  Her head sank on his shoulder as she spoke.

"You torture me!" he murmured.  But she knew that he had never kissed
her with such passion in all his life before.

      *      *      *      *      *

As her chaise followed on the road, some hundred yards or so behind Sir
Jasper's, Mistress Bellairs, sitting beside Lady Maria (who snored the
whole way with rhythmic steadiness) gazed across the livid fields
towards the low horizon where the slow fires of dawn were pulsing into
brightness.  She was in deeply reflective mood.

In her excited, busy brain she revolved many important questions and
weighed the gains and losses in her game of "Love and Hazard" with all
the seriousness of the gambler homeward bound after a heavy night.

"At least," she thought, with a little sigh, but with some complacency,
"I did a vastly good turn to my Lady Standish.  But the woman is a
fool, if a sweet one, and fools are past permanent mending.  I did
well," thought she, "to condemn the Calf--there is no doubt of that."
She glanced at Lady Maria's withered countenance, unlovely and
undignified in her stupor----  "The menagerie would have been the death
of me, promptly....  But, my poor O'Hara!  How could I ever have called
him a cucumber?  _There_ was love for the taking, now--yet no!
Worshipper, vastly well; but husband? not for me, not for me!  Bless
me," she cried to herself testily; "is a woman to have no choice
between mid-winter, green spring, or the dog days?  If I ever allow
myself to be abducted again, 'twill be with your Man of the World--one
with palate enough to _relish me_ without wanting to swallow me at a

She paused in her train of thought to laugh at the recollection of Mr.
Stafford's parting speech.  "There is an easy heart for you!" she
murmured.  "A gallant gentleman, with as pretty a wit as O'Hara
himself, and every whit as good a leg.  Perhaps," thought Mistress
Kitty, yawned and grew sleepy; nodded her delicate head; dreamed then a
little dream and saw a silver Beau in the moonlight, and woke up with a
smile.  The spires of Bath Cathedral pierced silver grey through a
golden mist; far beneath her gaze, as the chaise began to tip the crest
of the great hill, like a silver ribbon ran the river.  "Perhaps....
We shall see," said the widow.



  Young April.
  The Light of Scarthey.
  La Bella and Others.
  Marshfield the Observer.

  The Pride of Jennico.  [_With Agnes Castle._]

  The Jerningham Letters.  [_With portraits and illustrations._]

  English Book-plates, ancient and modern.  [_Illustrated._]

  Schools and Masters of Fence, from the
    Middle Ages to the XIXth Century.  [_Illustrated._]

  Le Roman du Prince Othon.  [_A rendering in French of
    R. L. Stevenson's Prince Otto._]


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bath Comedy" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.