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A Reputed Changeling by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 6 out of 8

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home all the winter.

Before this, however, Princess Anne had been at the King's House at
Winchester for a short time; and Lady Archfield paid due respects to
her, with Anne in attendance. With the royal faculty of remembering
everybody, the Princess recognised her namesake, gave her hand to be
kissed, and was extremely gracious. She was at the moment in the
height of a quarrel with her sister, and far from delighted with the
present regime. She sent for Miss Woodford, and, to Anne's
surprise, laughed over her own escape from the Cockpit, adding, "You
would not come, child. You were in the right on't. There's no
gratitude among them! Had I known how I should be served I would
never have stirred a foot! So 'twas you that carried off the child!
Tell me what he is like."

And she extracted by questions all that Anne could tell her of the
life at St. Germain, and the appearance of her little half-brother.
It was impossible to tell whether she asked from affectionate
remorse or gossiping interest, but she ended by inquiring whether
her father's god-daughter were content with her position, or desired
one--if there were a vacancy--in her own household, where she might
get a good husband.

Anne declined courteously and respectfully, and was forced to hint
at an engagement which she could not divulge. She had heard
Charles's expressions of delight at the arrangement which gave his
boy to her tender care, warming her heart.

Lady Archfield had fits of talking of finding a good husband for
Anne Woodford among the Cathedral clergy, but the maiden was so
necessary to her, and so entirely a mother to little Philip, that
she soon let the idea drop. Perhaps it was periodically revived,
when, about three times a year, there arrived a letter from Charles.
He wrote in good spirits, evidently enjoying his campaigns, and with
no lack of pleasant companions, English, Scotch, and Irish
Jacobites, with whom he lived in warm friendship and wholesome
emulation. He won promotion, and the county Member actually came
out of his way to tell Sir Philip what he had heard from the
Imperial ambassador of young Archfield's distinguished services at
the battle of Salankamen, only regretting that he was not fighting
under King William's colours. Little Philip pranced about cutting
off Turks' heads in the form of poppies, 'like papa,' for whose
safety Anne taught him to pray night and morning.

Pride in his son's exploits was a compensation to the father, who
declared them to be better than vegetating over the sheepfolds, like
Robert Oakshott, or than idling at Portsmouth, like Sedley
Archfield.

That young man's regiment had been ordered to Ireland during the
campaign that followed the battle of Boyne Water. He had suddenly
returned from thence, cashiered: by his own story, the victim of
the enmity of the Dutch General Ginkel; according to another
version, on account of brutal excesses towards the natives and
insolence to his commanding officer. Courts-martial had only just
been introduced, and Sir Philip could believe in a Whig invention
doing injustice to a member of a loyal family, so that his doors
were open to his nephew, and Sedley haunted them whenever he had no
other resource; but he spent most of his time between Newmarket and
other sporting centres, and contrived to get a sort of maintenance
by bets at races, cock-fights, and bull-baitings, and by extensive
gambling. Evil reports of him came from time to time, but Sir
Philip was loth to think ill of the son of his brother, or to
forbode that as his grandson grew older, such influence might be
dangerous.

In his uncle's presence Sedley was on his good behaviour; but if he
caught Miss Woodford without that protection, he attempted rude
compliments, and when repelled by her dignified look and manner,
sneered at the airs of my lady's waiting-woman, and demanded how
long she meant to mope after Charley, who would never look so low.
"She need not be so ungracious to a poor soldier. She might have to
put up with worse."

Moreover, he deliberately incited Philip to mischief, putting foul
words into the little mouth, and likewise giving forbidden food and
drink, lauding evil sports, and mocking at obedience to any
authority, especially Miss Woodford's. Philip was very fond of his
Nana, and in general good and obedient; but what high-spirited boy
is proof against the allurements of the only example before him of
young manhood, assuring him that it was manly not to mind what the
women said, nor to be tied to the apron-strings of his grand-dame's
abigail?

The child had this summer thus been actually taken to the outskirts
of a bull-fight, whence he had been brought home in great disgrace
by Ralph, the old servant who had been charged to look after his
out-door amusements, and to ride with him. The grandfather was
indeed more shocked at the danger and the vulgarity of the sport
than its cruelty, but Philip had received his first flogging, and
his cousin had been so sharply rebuked that--to the great relief of
Anne and of Lady Archfield--he had not since appeared at Fareham
House.

The morrow would be Philip's seventh birthday, a stage which would
take him farther out of Anne's power. He was no longer to sleep in
her chamber, but in one of his own with Ralph for his protector, and
he was to begin Latin with Dr. Woodford. So great was his delight
that he had gone to bed all the sooner in order to bring the great
day more quickly, and Anne was glad of the opportunity of finishing
the kite, which was to be her present, for Ralph to help him fly
upon Portsdown Hill.

That great anniversary, so delightful to him, with pony and whip
prepared for him--what a day of confusion, distress, and
wretchedness did it not recall to his elders? Anne could not choose
but recall the time, as she sat alone in the window, looking out
over the garden, the moon beginning to rise, and the sunset light
still colouring the sky in the north-west, just as it had done when
she returned home after the bonfire. The events of that sad morning
had faded out of the foreground. The Oakshott family seemed to have
resigned themselves to the mystery of Peregrine's fate. Only his
mother had declined from the time of his disappearance. When it was
ascertained that his uncle had died in Russia, and that nothing had
been heard of him there, it seemed to bring on a fresh stage of her
illness, and she had expired at last in Martha Browning's arms, her
last words being a blessing not only to Robert, but to Peregrine,
and a broken entreaty to her husband to forgive the boy, for he
might have been better if they had used him well.

Martha was then found to hold out against the idea of his being
dead. Little affection and scant civility as she had received from
him, her dutiful heart had attached itself to her destined lord, and
no doubt her imagination had been excited by his curious abilities,
and her compassion by the persecution he suffered at home. At any
rate, when, after a proper interval, the Major tried to transfer her
to his remaining son, she held out against it for a long interval,
until at last, after full three years, the desolation and
disorganisation of Oakwood without a mistress, a severe illness of
the Major, and the distress of his son, so worked upon her feelings
that she consented to the marriage with Robert, and had ever since
been the ruling spirit at Oakwood, and a very different one from
what had been expected--sensible, kindly, and beneficent, and
allowing the young husband more liberty and indulgence than he had
ever known before.

The remembrance of Peregrine seemed to have entirely passed away,
and Anne had been troubled with no more apparitions, so that though
she thought over the strange scene of that terrible morning, the
rapid combat, the hasty concealment, the distracted face of the
unhappy youth, it was with the thought that time had been a healer,
and that Charles might surely now return home. And what then?

She raised her eyes to the open window, and what did she behold in
the moonlight streaming full upon the great tree rose below? It was
the same face and figure that had three times startled her before,
the figure dark and the face very white in the moonlight, but like
nothing else, and with that odd, one-sided feather as of old. It
had flitted ere she could point its place--gone in a single flash--
but she was greatly startled! Had it come to protest against the
scheme she had begun to indulge in on that very night of all nights,
or had it merely been her imagination? For nothing was visible,
though she leant from the window, no sound was to be heard, though
when she tried to complete her work, her hands trembled and the
paper rustled, so that Philip showed symptoms of wakening, and she
had to defer her task till early morning.

She said nothing of her strange sight, and Phil had a happy
successful birthday, flying the kite with a propitious wind, and
riding into Portsmouth on his new pony with grandpapa. But there
was one strange event. The servants had a holiday, and some of them
went into Portsmouth, black Hans, who never returned, being one.
The others had lost sight of him, but had not been uneasy, knowing
him to be perfectly well able to find his way home; but as he never
appeared, the conclusion was that he must have been kidnapped by
some ship's crew to serve as a cook. He had not been very happy
among the servants at Fareham, who laughed at his black face and
Dutch English, and he would probably have gone willingly with
Dutchmen; but Anne and her uncle were grieved, and felt as if they
had failed in the trust that poor Sir Peregrine had left them.

CHAPTER XXV: TIDINGS FROM THE IRON GATES

"He has more cause to be proud. Where is he wounded?"

Coriolanus.

It was a wet autumn day, when the yellow leaves of the poplars in
front of the house were floating down amid the misty rain; Dr.
Woodford had gone two days before to consult a book in the Cathedral
library, and was probably detained at Winchester by the weather;
Lady Archfield was confined to her bed by a sharp attack of
rheumatism. Sir Philip was taking his after-dinner doze in his arm-
chair; and little Philip was standing by Anne, who was doing her
best to keep him from awakening his grandfather, as she partly read,
partly romanced, over the high-crowned hatted fishermen in the
illustrations to Izaak Walton's Complete Angler.

He had just, caught by the musical sound, made her read to him a
second time Marlowe's verses,

'Come live with me and be my love,'

and informed her that his Nana was his love, and that she was to
watch him fish in the summer rivers, when the servant who had been
sent to meet His Majesty's mail and extract the Weekly Gazette came
in, bringing not only that, but a thick, sealed packet, the aspect
of which made the boy dance and exclaim, "A packet from my papa!
Oh! will he have written an answer to my own letter to him?"

But Sir Philip, who had started up at the opening of the door, had
no sooner glanced at the packet than he cried out, "'Tis not his
hand!" and when he tried to break the heavy seals and loosen the
string, his hands shook so much that he pushed it over to Anne,
saying, "You open it; tell me if my boy is dead."

Anne's alarm took the course of speed. She tore off the wrapper,
and after one glance said, "No, no, it cannot be the worst; here is
something from himself at the end. Here, sir."

"I cannot! I cannot," said the poor old man, as the tears dimmed
his spectacles, and he could not adjust them. "Read it, my dear
wench, and let me know what I am to tell his poor mother."

And he sank into a chair, holding between his knees his little
grandson, who stood gazing with widely-opened blue eyes.

"He sends love, duty, blessing. Oh, he talks of coming home, so do
not fear, sir!" cried Anne, a vivid colour on her cheeks.

"But what is it?" asked the father. "Tell me first--the rest
after."

"It is in the side--the left side," said Anne, gathering up in her
agitation the sense of the crabbed writing as best she could. "They
have not extracted the bullet, but when they have, he will do well."

"God grant it! Who writes?"

"Norman Graham of Glendhu--captain in his K. K. Regiment of
Volunteer Dragoons. That's his great friend! Oh, sir, he has
behaved so gallantly! He got his wound in saving the colours from
the Turks, and kept his hands clutched over them as his men carried
him out of the battle."

Philip gave another little spring, and his grandfather bade Anne
read the letter to him in detail.

It told how the Imperial forces had met a far superior number of
Turks at Lippa, and had sustained a terrible defeat, with the loss
of their General Veterani, how Captain Archfield had received a
scimitar wound in the cheek while trying to save his commander, but
had afterwards dashed forward among the enemy, recovered the colours
of the regiment, and by a desperate charge of his fellow-soldiers,
who were devotedly attached to him, had been borne off the field
with a severe wound on the left side. Retreat had been immediately
necessary, and he had been taken on an ammunition waggon along rough
roads to the fortress called the Iron Gates of Transylvania, whence
this letter was written, and sent by the messenger who was to summon
the Elector of Saxony to the aid of the remnant of the army. It had
not yet been possible to probe the wound, but Charles gave a
personal message, begging his parents not to despond but to believe
him recovering, so long as they did not see his servant return
without him, and he added sundry tender and dutiful messages to his
parents, and a blessing to his son, with thanks for the pretty
letter he had not been able to answer (but which, his friend said,
was lying spread on his pillow, not unstained with blood), and he
also told his boy always to love and look up to her who had ever
been as a mother to him. Anne could hardly read this, and the scrap
in feeble irregular lines she handed to Sir Philip. It was--

With all my heart I entreat pardon for all the errors that have
grieved you. I leave you my child to comfort you, and mine own
true love, whom yon will cherish. She will cherish you as a
daughter, as she will be, with your consent, if God spares me to
come home. The love of all my soul to her, my mother, sister,
and you."

There was a scrawl for conclusion and signature, and Captain Graham
added--

Writing and dictating have greatly exhausted him. He would have
said more, but he says the lady can explain much, and he repeats
his urgent entreaties that you will take her to your heart as a
daughter, and that his son will love and honour her.

There was a final postscript--

The surgeon thinks him better for having disburthened his mind.

"My child," said Sir Philip, with a long sigh, looking up at Anne,
who had gathered the boy into her arms, and was hiding her face
against his little awe-struck head, "my child, have you read?"

"No," faltered Anne.

"Read then." And as she would have taken it, he suddenly drew her
into his embrace and kissed her as the eyes of both overflowed. "My
poor girl!" he said, "this is as hard to you as to us! Oh, my brave
boy!" and he let her lay her head on his shoulder and held her hand
as they wept together, while little Phil stared for a moment or two
at so strange a sight and then burst out with a great cry--

"You shall not cry! you shall not! my papa is not dead!" and he
stamped his little foot. "No, he isn't. He will get well; the
letter said so, and I will go and tell grandmamma."

The need of stopping this roused them both; Sir Philip, heavily
groaning, went away to break the tidings to his wife, and Anne went
down on her knees on the hearth to caress the boy, and help him to
understand his father's state and realise the valorous deeds that
would always be a crown to him, and which already made the little
fellow's eye flash and his fair head go higher.

By and by she was sent for to Lady Archfield's room, and there she
had again to share the grief and the fears and try to dwell on the
glory and the hopes. When in a calmer moment the parents
interrogated her on what had passed with Charles, it was not in the
spirit of doubt and censure, but rather as dwelling on all that was
to be told of one whom alike they loved, and finally Sir Philip
said, "I see, dear child, I would not believe how far it had gone
before, though you tried to tell me. Whatever betide, you have won
a daughter's place."

It was true that naturally a far more distinguished match would have
been sought for the heir, and he could hardly have carried out his
purpose without more opposition than under their present feelings,
his parents supposed themselves likely to make, but they really
loved Anne enough to have yielded at last; and Lady Nutley, coming
home with a fuller knowledge of her brother's heart, prevented any
reaction, and Anne was allowed full sympathies as a betrothed
maiden, in the wearing anxiety that continued in the absence of all
intelligence. On the principle of doing everything to please him,
she was even encouraged to write to Charles in the packet in which
he was almost implored to recover, though all felt doubts whether he
were alive even while the letters were in hand, and this doubt
lasted long and long. It was all very well to say that as long as
the servant did not return his master must be safe--perhaps himself
on the way home; but the journey from Transylvania was so long, and
there were so many difficulties in the way of an Englishman, that
there was little security in this assurance. And so the winter set
in while the suspense lasted; and still Dr. Woodford spoke Charles's
name in the intercessions in the panelled household chapel, and his
mother and Anne prayed together and separately, and his little son
morning and evening entreated God to "Bless papa, and make him well,
and bring him home."

Thus passed more than six weeks, during which Sir Philip's attention
was somewhat diverted from domestic anxieties by an uninvited visit
to Portchester from Mr. Charnock, who had once been a college mate
of Mr. Fellowes, and came professing anxiety, after all these years,
to renew the friendship which had been broken when they took
different sides on the election of Dr. Hough to the Presidency of
Magdalen College. From his quarters at the Rectory Mr. Charnock had
gone over to Fareham, and sounded Sir Philip on the practicability
of a Jacobite rising, and whether he and his people would join it.
The old gentleman was much distressed, his age would not permit him
to exert himself in either cause, and he had been too much disturbed
by James's proceedings to feel desirous of his restoration, though
his loyal heart would not permit of his opposing it, and he had
never overtly acknowledged William of Orange as his sovereign.

He could only reply that in the present state of his family he
neither could nor would undertake anything, and he urgently pleaded
against any insurrection that could occasion a civil war.

There was reason to think that Sedley had no hesitation in promising
to use all his influence over his uncle's tenants, and considerably
magnifying their extremely small regard to him--nay, probably,
dwelling on his own expectations.

At any rate, even when Charnock was gone, Sedley continued to talk
big of the coming changes and his own distinguished part in them.
Indeed one very trying effect of the continued alarm about Charles
was that he took to haunting the place, and report declared that he
had talked loudly and coarsely of his cousin's death and his uncle's
dotage, and of his soon being called in to manage the property for
the little heir--insomuch that Sir Edmund Nutley thought it
expedient to let him know that Charles, on going on active service
soon after he had come of age, had sent home a will, making his son,
who was a young gentleman of very considerable property on his
mother's side, ward to his grandfather first, and then to Sir Edmund
Nutley himself and to Dr. Woodford.

CHAPTER XXVI: THE LEGEND OF PENNY GRIM

"O dearest Marjorie, stay at hame,
For dark's the gate ye have to go,
For there's a maike down yonder glen
Hath frightened me and many me."

HOGG.

"Nana," said little Philip in a meditative voice, as he looked into
the glowing embers of the hall fire, "when do fairies leave off
stealing little boys?"

"I do not believe they ever steal them, Phil."

"Oh, yes they do;" and he came and stood by her with his great
limpid blue eyes wide open. "Goody Dearlove says they stole a
little boy, and his name was Penny Grim."

"Goody Dearlove is a silly old body to tell my boy such stories,"
said Anne, disguising how much she was startled.

"Oh, but Ralph Huntsman says 'tis true, and he knew him."

"How could he know him when he was stolen?"

"They put another instead," said the boy, a little puzzled, but too
young to make his story consistent. "And he was an elf--a cross
spiteful elf, that was always vexing folk. And they stole him again
every seven years. Yes--that was it--they stole him every seven
years."

"Whom, Phil; I don't understand--the boy or the elf?" she said,
half-diverted, even while shocked at the old story coming up in such
a form.

"The elf, I think," he said, bending his brows; "he comes back, and
then they steal him again. Yes; and at last they stole him quite--
quite away--but it is seven years, and Goody Dearlove says he is to
be seen again!"

"No!" exclaimed Anne, with an irrepressible start of dismay. "Has
any one seen him, or fancied so?" she added, though feeling that her
chance of maintaining her rational incredulity was gone.

"Goody Dearlove's Jenny did," was the answer. "She saw him stand
out on the beach at night by moonlight, and when she screamed out,
he was gone like the snuff of a candle."

"Saw him? What was he like?" said Anne, struggling for the
dispassionate tone of the governess, and recollecting that Jenny
Dearlove was a maid at Portchester Rectory.

"A little bit of a man, all twisty on one side, and a feather
sticking out. Ralph said they always were like that;" and Phil's
imitation, with his lithe, graceful little figure, of Ralph's clumsy
mimicry was sufficient to show that there was some foundation for
this story, and she did not answer at once, so that he added, "I am
seven, Nana; do you think they will get me?"

"Oh no, no, Phil, there's no fear at all of that. I don't believe
fairies steal anybody, but even old women like Goody Dearlove only
say they steal little tiny babies if they are left alone before they
are christened."

The boy drew a long breath, but still asked, "Was Penny Grim a
little baby?"

"So they said," returned Anne, by no means interfering with the
name, and with a quailing heart as she thought of the child's ever
knowing what concern his father had in that disappearance. She was
by no means sorry to have the conversation broken off by Sir
Philip's appearance, booted and buskined, prepared for an expedition
to visit a flock of sheep and their lambs under the shelter of
Portsdown Hill, and in a moment his little namesake was frisking
round eager to go with grandpapa.

"Well, 'tis a brisk frost. Is it too far for him, think you,
Mistress Anne?"

"Oh no, sir; he is a strong little man and a walk will only be good
for him, if he does not stand still too long and get chilled. Run,
Phil, and ask nurse for your thick coat and stout shoes and
leggings."

"His grandmother only half trusts me with him," said Sir Philip,
laughing. "I tell her she was not nearly so careful of his father.
I remember him coming in crusted all over with ice, so that he could
hardly get his clothes off, but she fancies the boy may have some of
his poor mother's weakliness about him."

"I see no tokens of it, sir."

"Grand-dames will be anxious, specially over one chick. Heigho!
Winter travelling must be hard in Germany, and posts do not come.
How now, my man! Are you rolled up like a very Russian bear? The
poor ewes will think you are come to eat up their lambs."

"I'll growl at them," said Master Philip, uttering a sound
sufficient to disturb the nerves of any sheep if he were permitted
to make it, and off went grandfather and grandson together, Sir
Philip only pausing at the door to say--

"My lady wants you, Anne; she is fretting over the delay. I fear,
though I tell her it bodes well."

Anne watched for a moment the hale old gentleman briskly walking on,
the merry child frolicking hither and thither round him, and the
sturdy body-servant Ralph, without whom he never stirred, plodding
after, while Keeper, the only dog allowed to follow to the
sheepfolds, marched decorously along, proud of the distinction.
Then she went up to Lady Archfield, who could not be perfectly easy
as to the precious grandchild being left to his own devices in the
cold, while Sir Philip was sure to run into a discussion with the
shepherd over the turnips, which were too much of a novelty to be
approved by the Hampshire mind. It was quite true that she could
not watch that little adventurous spirit with the same absence of
anxiety as she had felt for her own son in her younger days, and
Anne had to devote herself to soothing and diverting her mind, till
Dr. Woodford knocked at the door to read and converse with her.

The one o'clock dinner waited for the grandfather and grandson, and
when they came at last, little Philip looked somewhat blue with cold
and more subdued than usual, and his grandfather observed severely
that he had been a naughty boy, running into dangerous places,
sliding where he ought not, and then muttered under his breath that
Sedley ought to have known better than to have let him go there.

Discipline did not permit even a darling like little Phil to speak
at dinner-time; but he fidgeted, and the tears came into his eyes,
and Anne hearing a little grunt behind Sir Philip's chair, looked
up, and was aware that old Ralph was mumbling what to her ears
sounded like: 'Knew too well.' But his master, being slightly
deaf, did not hear, and went on to talk of his lambs and of how
Sedley had joined them on the road, but had not come back to dinner.

Phil was certainly quieter than usual that afternoon, and sat at
Anne's feet by the fire, filling little sacks with bran to be loaded
on his toy cart to go to the mill, but not chattering as usual. She
thought him tired, and hearing a sort of sigh took him on her knee,
when he rested his fair little head on her shoulder, and presently
said in a low voice--

"I've seen him."

"Who? Not your father? Oh, my child!" cried Anne, in a sudden
horror.

"Oh no--the Penny Grim thing."

"What? Tell me, Phil dear, how or where?"

"By the end of the great big pond; and he threw up his arms, and
made a horrid grin." The boy trembled and hid his face against her.

"But go on, Phil. He can't hurt you, you know. Do tell me. Where
were you?"

"I was sliding on the ice. Grandpapa was ever so long talking to
Bill Shepherd, and looking at the men cutting turnips, and I got
cold and tired, and ran about with Cousin Sedley till we got to the
big pond, and we began to slide, and the ice was so nice and hard--
you can't think. He showed me how to take a good long slide, and
said I might go out to the other end of the pond by the copse, by
the great old tree. And I set off, but before I got there, out it
jumped, out of the copse, and waved its arms, and made _that_ face."

He cowered into her bosom again and almost cried. Anne knew the
place, and was ready to start with dismay in her turn. It was such
a pool as is frequent in chalk districts--shallow at one end, but
deep and dangerous with springs at the other.

"But, Phil dear," she said, "it was well you were stopped; the ice
most likely would have broken at that end, and then where would
Nana's little man have been?"

"Cousin Sedley never told me not," said the boy in self-defence; "he
was whistling to me to go on. But when I tumbled down Ralph and
grandpapa and all _did_ scold me so--and Cousin Sedley was gone.
Why did they scold me, Nana? I thought it was brave not to mind
danger--like papa."

"It is brave when one can do any good by it, but not to slide on bad
ice, when one must be drowned," said Anne. "Oh, my dear, dear
little fellow, it was a blessed thing you saw _that_, whatever it
was! But why do you call it Pere--Penny Grim?"

"It was, Nana! It was a little man--rather. And one-sided looking,
with a bit of hair sticking out, just like the picture of Riquet-
with-a-tuft in your French fairy-book."

This last was convincing to Anne that the child must have seen the
phantom of seven years ago, since he was not repeating the popular
description he had given her in the morning, but one quite as
individual. She asked if grandpapa had seen it.

"Oh no; he was in the shed, and only came out when he heard Ralph
scolding me. Was it a wicked urchin come to steal me, Nana?"

"No, I think not," she answered. "Whatever it was, I think it came
because God was taking care of His child, and warning him from
sliding into the deep pool. We will thank him, Phil. 'He shall
give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.'"
And to that verse she soothed the tired child till he fell asleep,
and she could lay him on the settle, and cover him with a cloak,
musing the while on the strange story, until presently she started
up and repaired to the buttery in search of the old servant.

"Ralph, what is this Master Philip tells me?" she asked. "What has
he seen?"

"Well, Mistress Anne, that is what I can't tell--no, not I; but I
knows this, that the child has had a narrow escape of his precious
life, and I'd never trust him again with that there Sedley--no, not
for hundreds of pounds."

"You _really_ think, Ralph--?"

"What can I think, ma'am? When I finds he's been a-setting that
there child to slide up to where he'd be drownded as sure as he's
alive, and you see, if we gets ill news of Master Archfield (which
God forbid), there's naught but the boy atween him and this here
place--and he over head and ears in debt. Be it what it might that
the child saw, it saved the life of him."

"Did you see it?"

"No, Mistress Anne; I can't say as I did. I only heard the little
master cry out as he fell. I was in the shed, you see, taking a
pipe to keep me warm. And when I took him up, he cried out like one
dazed. 'Twas Penny Grim, Ralph! Keep me. He is come to steal me."
But Sir Philip wouldn't hear nothing of it, only blamed Master Phil
for being foolhardy, and for crying for the fall, and me for letting
him out of sight."

"And Mr. Sedley--did he see it?"

"Well, mayhap he did, for I saw him as white as a sheet and his eyes
staring out of his head; but that might have been his evil
conscience."

"What became of him?"

"To say the truth, ma'am, I believe he be at the Brocas Arms, a-
drowning of his fright--if fright it were, with Master Harling's
strong waters."

"But this apparition, this shape--or whatever it is? What put it
into Master Philip's head? What has been heard of it?"

Ralph looked unwilling. "Bless you, Mistress Anne, there's been
some idle talk among the women folk, as how that there crooked slip
of Major Oakshott's, as they called Master Perry or Penny, and said
was a changeling, has been seen once and again. Some says as the
fairies have got him, and 'tis the seven year for him to come back
again. And some says that he met with foul play, and 'tis the ghost
of him, but I holds it all mere tales, and I be sure 'twere nothing
bad as stopped little master on that there pond. So I be."

Anne could not but be of the same mind, but her confusion, alarm,
and perplexity were great. It seemed strange, granting that this
were either spirit or elf connected with Peregrine Oakshott, that it
should interfere on behalf of Charles Archfield's child, and on the
sweet hypothesis that a guardian angel had come to save the child,
it was in a most unaccountable form.

And more pressing than any such mysterious idea was the tangible
horror of Ralph's suggestion, too well borne out by the boy's own
unconscious account of the adventure. It was too dreadful, too real
a peril to be kept to herself, and she carried the story to her
uncle on his return, but without speaking of the spectral warning.
Not only did she know that he would not attend to it, but the hint,
heard for the first time, that Peregrine was supposed to have met
with foul play, sealed her lips, just when she still was hoping
against hope that Charles might be on the way home. But that Ralph
believed, and little Philip's own account confirmed, that his cousin
had incited the little heir to the slide that would have been fatal
save for his fall, she told with detail, and entreated that the
grandfather might be warned, and some means be found of ensuring the
safety of her darling, the motherless child!

To her disappointment Dr. Woodford was not willing to take alarm.
He did not think so ill of Sedley as to believe him capable of such
a secret act of murder, and he had no great faith in Ralph's
sagacity, besides that he thought his niece's nerves too much
strained by the long suspense to be able to judge fairly. He
thought it would be cruel to the grandparents, and unjust to Sedley,
to make such a frightful suggestion without further grounds during
their present state of anxiety, and as to the boy's safety, which
Anne pleaded with an uncontrollable passion of tears, he believed
that it was provided for by watchfulness on the part of his two
constant guardians, as well as himself, since, even supposing the
shocking accusation to be true, Sedley would not involve himself in
danger of suspicion, and it was already understood that he was not a
fit companion for his little cousin to be trusted with. Philip had
already brought home words and asked questions that distressed his
grandmother, and nobody was willing to leave him alone with the ex-
lieutenant. So again the poor maiden had to hold her peace under an
added burthen of anxiety and many a prayer.

When the country was ringing with the tidings of Sir George
Barclay's conspiracy for the assassination of William III, it was
impossible not to hope that Sedley's boastful tongue might have
brought him sufficiently under suspicion to be kept for a while
under lock and key; but though he did not appear at Fareham, there
was reason to suppose that he was as usual haunting the taverns and
cockpits of Portsmouth.

No one went much abroad that winter. Sir Philip, perhaps from
anxiety and fretting, had a fit of the gout, and Anne kept herself
and her charge within the garden or the street of the town. In fact
there was a good deal of danger on the roads. The neighbourhood of
the seaport was always lawless, and had become more so since Sir
Philip had ceased to act as Justice of the Peace, and there were
reports of highway robberies of an audacious kind, said to be
perpetrated by a band calling themselves the Black Gang, under a
leader known as Piers Pigwiggin, who were alleged to be half
smuggler, half Jacobite, and to have their headquarters somewhere in
the back of the Isle of Wight, in spite of the Governor, the
terrible Salamander, Lord Cutts, who was, indeed, generally absent
with the army.

CHAPTER XXVII: THE VAULT

"Heaven awards the vengeance due."

COWPER.

The weary days had begun to lengthen before the door of the hall was
flung open, and little Phil, forgetting his bow at the door, rushed
in, "Here's a big packet from foreign parts! Harry had to pay ever
so much for it."

"I have wellnigh left off hoping," sighed the poor mother. "Tell me
the worst at once."

"No fear, my lady," said her husband. "Thank God! 'Tis our son's
hand."

There was the silence for a moment of intense relief, and then the
little boy was called to cut the silk and break the seals.

Joy ineffable! There were three letters--for Master Philip
Archfield, for Mistress Anne Jacobina Woodford, and for Sir Philip
himself. The old gentleman glanced over it, caught the words
'better,' and 'coming home,' then failed to read through tears of
joy as before through tears of sorrow, and was fain to hand the
sheet to his old friend to be read aloud, while little Philip,
handling as a treasure the first letter he had ever received, though
as yet he was unable to decipher it, stood between his grandfather's
knees listening as Dr. Woodford read--

DEAR AND HONOURED SIR--I must ask your pardon for leaving you
without tidings so long, but while my recovery still hung in
doubt I thought it would only distress you to hear of the
fluctuations that I went through, and the pain to which the
surgeons put me for a long time in vain. Indeed frequently I had
no power either to think or speak, until at last with much
difficulty, and little knowledge or volition of my own, my
inestimable friend Graham brought me to Vienna, where I have at
length been relieved from my troublesome companion, and am
enjoying the utmost care and kindness from my friend's mother, a
near kinswoman, as indeed he is himself, of the brave and
lamented Viscount Dundee. My wound is healing finally, as I
hope, and though I have not yet left my bed, my friends assure me
that I am on the way to full and complete recovery, for which I
am more thankful to the Almighty than I could have been before I
knew what suffering and illness meant. As soon as I can ride
again, which they tell me will be in a fortnight or three weeks,
I mean to set forth on my way home. I cannot describe to you how
I am longing after the sight of you all, nor how home-sick I have
become. I never had time for it before, but I have lain for
hours bringing all your faces before me, my father's, and
mother's, my sister's, and that of her whom I hope to call my
own; and figuring to myself that of the little one. I have
thought much over my past life, and become sensible of much that
was amiss, and while earnestly entreating your forgiveness,
especially for having absented myself all these years, I hope to
return so as to be more of a comfort than I was in the days of my
rash and inconsiderate youth. I am of course at present
invalided, but I want to consult you, honoured sir, before
deciding whether it be expedient for me to resign my commission.
How I thank and bless you for the permission you have given me,
and the love you bear to my own heart's joy, no words can tell.
It shall be the study of my life to be worthy of her and of you.--
And so no more from your loving and dutiful son, CHARLES
ARCHFIELD.

Having drunk in these words with her ears, Anne left Phil to have
his note interpreted by his grandparents, and fled away to enjoy her
own in her chamber, yet it was as short as could be and as sweet.

Mine own, mine own sweet Anne, sweetheart of good old days, your
letter gave me strength to go through with it. The doctors could
not guess why I was so much better and smiled through all their
torments. These are our first, I hope our last letters, for I
shall soon follow them home, and mine own darling will be mine.--
Thine own, C. A.

She had but short time to dwell on it and kiss it, for little Philip
was upon her, waving his letter, which he already knew by heart; and
galloping all over the house to proclaim the good news to the old
servants, who came crowding into the hall, trembling with joy, to
ask if there were indeed tidings of Mr. Archfield's return,
whereupon the glad father caused his grandson to carry each a full
glass of wine to drink to the health of the young master.

Anne had at first felt only the surpassing rapture of the
restoration of Charles, but there ensued another delight in the
security his recovery gave to the life of his son. Sedley Archfield
would not be likely to renew his attempt, and if only on that
account the good news should be spread as widely as possible. She
was the first to suggest the relief it would be to Mr. Fellowes, who
had never divested himself of the feeling that he ought to have
divined his pupil's intention.

Dr. Woodford offered to ride to Portchester with the news, and Sir
Philip, in the gladness of his heart, proposed that Anne should go
with him and see her friend.

Shall it be told how on the way Anne's mind was assailed by feminine
misgivings whether three and twenty could be as fair in her
soldier's eyes as seventeen had been? Old maidenhood came earlier
then than in these days, and Anne knew that she was looked upon as
an old waiting-gentlewoman or governess by the belles of Winchester.
Her glass might tell her that her eyes were as softly brown, her
hair as abundant, her cheek as clear and delicately moulded as ever,
but there was no one to assure her that the early bloom had not
passed away, and that she had not rather gained than lost in dignity
of bearing and the stately poise of the head, which the jealous
damsels called Court airs. "And should he be disappointed, I shall
see it in his eyes," she said to herself, "and then his promise
shall not bind him, though it will break my heart, and oh! how hard
to resign my Phil to a strange stepmother." Still her heart was
lighter than for many a long year, as she cantered along in the
brisk March air, while the drops left by the departing frost
glistened in the sunshine, and the sea lay stretched in a delicate
gray haze. The old castle rose before her in its familiar home-like
massiveness as they turned towards the Rectory, where in that
sheltered spot the well-known clusters of crocuses were opening
their golden hearts to the sunshine, and recalling the days when
Anne was as sunny-hearted as they, and she felt as if she could be
as bright again.

In Mrs. Fellowes's parlour they found an unexpected guest, no other
than Mrs. Oakshott.

'Gadding about' not being the fashion of the Archfield household,
Anne had not seen the lady for several years, and was agreeably
surprised by her appearance. Perhaps the marks of smallpox had
faded, perhaps motherhood had given expression, and what had been
gaunt ungainliness in the maiden had rounded into a certain
importance in the matron, nor had her dress, though quiet, any of
the Puritan rigid ugliness that had been complained of, and though
certainly not beautiful, she was a person to inspire respect.

It was explained that she was waiting for her husband, who was gone
with Mr. Fellowes to speak to the officer in command of the soldiers
at the castle. "For," said she, "I am quite convinced that there is
something that ought to be brought to light, and it may be in that
vault."

Anne's heart gave such a throb as almost choked her.

Dr. Woodford asked what the lady meant.

"Well, sir, when spirits and things 'tis not well to talk of are
starting up and about here, there, and everywhere, 'tis plain there
must be cause for it."

"I do not quite take your meaning, madam."

"Ah, well! you gentlemen, reverend ones especially, are the last to
hear such things. There's the poor old Major, he won't believe a
word of it, but you know, Mistress Woodford. I see it in your face.
Have you seen anything?"

"Not here, not now," faltered Anne. "You have, Mrs. Fellowes?"

"I have heard of some foolish fright of the maids," said Naomi,
"partly their own fancy, or perhaps caught from the sentry. There
is no keeping those giddy girls from running after the soldiers."

Perhaps Naomi hoped by throwing out this hint to conduct her
visitors off into the safer topic of domestic delinquencies, but
Mrs. Oakshott was far too earnest to be thus diverted, and she
exclaimed, "Ah, they saw him, I'll warrant!"

"Him?" the Doctor asked innocently.

"Him or his likeness," said Mrs. Oakshott, "my poor brother-in-law,
Peregrine Oakshott; you remember him, sir? He always said, poor
lad, that you and Mrs. Woodford were kinder to him than his own
flesh and blood, except his uncle, Sir Peregrine. For my part, I
never did give in to all the nonsense folk talked about his being a
changeling or at best a limb of Satan. He had more spirit and sense
than the rest of them, and they led him the life of a dog, though
they knew no better. If I had had him at Emsworth, I would have
shown them what he was;" and she sighed heavily. "Well, I did not
so much wonder when he disappeared, I made sure that he could bear
it no longer and had run away. I waited as long as there was any
reason, till there should be tidings of him, and only took his
brother at last because I found they could not do without me at
home."

Remarkable frankness! but it struck both the Doctor and Anne that if
Peregrine could have submitted, his life might have been freer and
less unhappy than he had expected, though Mrs. Martha spoke the
broadest Hampshire.

Naomi asked, "Then you no longer think that he ran away?"

"No, madam; I am certain there was worse than that. You remember
the night of the bonfire for the Bishops' acquittal, Miss Woodford?"

"Indeed I do."

"Well, he was never seen again after that, as you know. The place
was full of wild folk. There was brawling right and left."

"Were you there?" asked Anne surprised.

"Yes; in my coach with my uncle and aunt that lived with me, though,
except Robin, none of the young sparks would come near me, except
some that I knew were after my pockets," said Martha, with a good-
humoured laugh. "Properly frightened we were too by the brawling
sailors ere we got home! Now, what could be more likely than that
some of them got hold of poor Perry? You know he always would go
about with the rapier he brought from Germany, with amber set in the
hilt, and the mosaic snuff-box he got in Italy, and what could be
looked for but that the poor dear lad should be put out of the way
for the sake of these gewgaws?" This supposition was gratifying to
Anne, but her uncle must needs ask why Mrs. Oakshott thought so more
than before.

"Because," she said impressively, "there is no doubt but that he has
been seen, and not in the flesh, once and again, and always about
these ruins."

"By whom, madam, may I ask?"

"Mrs. Fellowes's maids, as she knows, saw him once on the beach at
night, just there. The sentry, who is Tom Hart, from our parish,
saw a shape at the opening of the old vault before the keep and
challenged him, when he vanished out of sight ere there was time to
present a musket. There was once more, when one moonlight night our
sexton, looking out of his cottage window, saw what he declares was
none other than Master Perry standing among the graves of our
family, as if, poor youth, he were asking why he was not among them.
When I heard that, I said to my husband, 'Depend upon it,' says I,
'he met with his death that night, and was thrown into some hole,
and that's the reason he cannot rest. If I pay a hundred pounds for
it, I'll not give up till his poor corpse is found to have Christian
burial, and I'll begin with the old vault at Portchester!' My good
father, the Major, would not hear of it at first, nor my husband
either, but 'tis my money, and I know how to tackle Robin."

It was with strangely mingled feelings that Anne listened. That
search in the vault, inaugurated by faithful Martha, was what she
had always felt ought to be made, and she had even promised to
attempt it if the apparitions recurred. The notion of the deed
being attributed to lawless sailors and smugglers or highwaymen, who
were known to swarm in the neighbourhood, seemed to remove all
danger of suspicion. Yet she could not divest herself of a vague
sense of alarm at this stirring up of what had slept for seven
years. Neither she nor her uncle deemed it needful to mention the
appearance seen by little Philip, but to her surprise Naomi slowly
and hesitatingly said it was very remarkable, that her husband
having occasion to be at the church at dusk one evening just after
Midsummer, had certainly seen a figure close to Mrs. Woodford's
grave, and lost sight of it before he could speak of it. He thought
nothing more of it till these reports began to be spread, but he had
then recollected that it answered the descriptions given of the
phantom.

Here the ladies were interrupted by the appearance of Mr. Fellowes
and Robert Oakshott, now grown into a somewhat heavy but by no means
foolish-looking young man.

"Well, madam," said he, in Hampshire as broad as his wife's, "you
will have your will. Not that Captain Henslowe believes a word of
your ghosts--not he; but he took fire when he heard of queer sights
about the castle. He sent for the chap who stood sentry, and was
downright sharp on him for not reporting what he had seen, and he is
ordering out a sergeant's party to open the vault, so you may come
and see, if you have any stomach for it."

"I could not but come!" said Madam Oakshott, who certainly did not
look squeamish, but who was far more in earnest than her husband,
and perhaps doubted whether without her presence the quest would be
thorough. Anne was full of dread, and almost sick at the thought of
what she might see, but she was far too anxious to stay away. Mrs.
Fellowes made some excuse about the children for not accompanying
them.

It always thrilled Anne to enter that old castle court, the familiar
and beloved play-place of her childhood, full of memories of Charles
and of Lucy, and containing in its wide precincts the churchyard
where her mother lay. She moved along in a kind of dream, glad to
be let alone, since Mr. Fellowes naturally attended Mrs. Oakshott,
and Robert was fully occupied in explaining to the Doctor that he
only gave in to this affair for the sake of pacifying madam, since
women folk would have their little megrims. Assuredly that tall,
solid, resolute figure stalking on in front, looked as little
subject to megrims as any of her sex. Her determination had brought
her husband thither, and her determination further carried the day,
when the captain, after staring at the solid-looking turf, stamping
on the one stone that was visible, and trampling down the bunch of
nettles beside it, declared that the entrance had been so thoroughly
stopped that it was of no use to dig farther. It was Madam Martha
who demanded permission to offer the four soldiers a crown apiece if
they opened the vault, a guinea each if they found anything. The
captain could not choose but grant it, though with something of a
sneer, and the work was begun. He walked up and down with Robert,
joining in hopes that the lady would be satisfied before dinner-
time. The two clergymen likewise walked together, arguing, as was
their wont, on the credibility of apparitions. The two ladies stood
in almost breathless watch, as the bricks that had covered in the
opening were removed, and the dark hole brought to light. Contrary
to expectation, when the opening had been enlarged, it was found
that there were several steps of stone, and where they were broken
away, there was a rude ladder.

A lantern was fetched from the guard-room in the bailey, and after
much shaking and trying of the ladder, one of the soldiers
descended, finding the place less deep than was commonly supposed,
and soon calling out that he was at the bottom. Another followed
him, and presently there was a shout. Something was found! "A
rusty old chain, no doubt," grumbled Robert; but his wife shrieked.
It was a sword in its sheath, the belt rotted, the clasp tarnished,
but of silver. Mrs. Oakshott seized it at once, rubbed away the
dust from the handle, and brought to light a glistening yellow piece
of amber, which she mutely held up, and another touch of her
handkerchief disclosed on a silver plate in the scabbard an oak-
tree, the family crest, and the twisted cypher P. O. Her eyes were
full of tears, and she did not speak. Anne, white and trembling,
was forced to sink down on the stone, unnoticed by all, while Robert
Oakshott, convinced indeed, hastily went down himself. The sword
had been hidden in a sort of hollow under the remains of the broken
stair. Thence likewise came to light the mouldy remnant of a broad
hat and the quill of its plume, and what had once been a coat, even
in its present state showing that it had been soaked through and
through with blood, the same stains visible on the watch and the
mosaic snuff-box. That was all; there was no purse, and no other
garments, though, considering the condition of the coat, they might
have been entirely destroyed by the rats and mice. There was indeed
a fragment of a handkerchief, with the cypher worked on it, which
Mrs. Oakshott showed to Anne with the tears in her eyes: "There! I
worked that, though he never knew it. No! I know he did not like
me! But I would have made him do so at last. I would have been so
good to him. Poor fellow, that he should have been lying there all
this time!"

Lying there; but where, then, was he? No signs of any corpse were
to be found, though one after another all the gentlemen descended to
look, and Mrs. Oakshott was only withheld by her husband's urgent
representations, and promise to superintend a diligent digging in
the ground, so as to ascertain whether there had been a hasty burial
there.

Altogether, Anne was so much astonished and appalled that she could
hardly restrain herself, and her mind reverted to Bishop Ken's
theory that Peregrine still lived; but this was contradicted by the
appearance at Douai, which did not rest on the evidence of her
single perceptions.

Mrs. Fellowes sent out an entreaty that they would come to dinner,
and the gentlemen were actually base enough to wish to comply, so
that the two ladies had no choice save to come with them, especially
as the soldiers were unwilling to work on without their meal.
Neither Mrs. Oakshott nor Anne felt as if they could swallow, and
the polite pressure to eat was only preferable in Anne's eyes to the
conversation on the discoveries that had been made, especially the
conclusion arrived at by all, that though the purse and rings had
not been found, the presence of the watch and snuff-box precluded
the idea of robbery.

"These would be found on the body," said Mr. Oakshott. "I could
swear to the purse. You remember, madam, your uncle bantering him
about French ladies and their finery, asking whose token it was, and
how black my father looked? Poor Perry, if my father could have had
a little patience with him, he would not have gone roaming about and
getting into brawls, and we need not be looking for him in yonder
black pit."

"You'll never find him there, Master Robert," spoke out the old
Oakwood servant, behind Mrs. Oakshott's chair, free and easy after
the manner of the time.

"And wherefore not, Jonadab?" demanded his mistress, by no means
surprised at the liberty.

"Why, ma'am, 'twas the seven years, you sees, and in course when
them you wot of had power to carry him off, they could not take his
sword, nor his hat, not they couldn't."

"How about his purse, then?" put in Dr. Woodford.

"I'll be bound you will find it yet, sir," responded Jonadab, by no
means disconcerted, "leastways unless some two-legged fairies have
got it."

At this some of the party found it impossible not to laugh, and this
so upset poor Martha's composure that she was obliged to leave the
table, and Anne was not sorry for the excuse of attending her,
although there were stings of pain in all her rambling lamentations
and conjectures.

Very tardily, according to the feelings of the anxious women, was
the dinner finished, and their companions ready to take them out
again. Indeed, Madam Oakshott at last repaired to the dining-
parlour, and roused her husband from his glass of Spanish wine to
renew the search. She would not listen to Mrs. Fellowes's advice
not to go out again, and Anne could not abstain either from watching
for what could not be other than grievous and mournful to behold.

The soldiers were called out again by their captain, and reinforced
by the Rectory servant and Jonadab.

There was an interval of anxious prowling round the opening. Mr.
Oakshott and the captain had gone down again, and found, what the
military man was anxious about, that if there were passages to the
outer air, they had been well blocked up and not re-opened.

Meantime the digging proceeded.

It was just at twilight that a voice below uttered an exclamation.
Then came a pause. The old sergeant's voice ordered care and a
pause, somewhere below the opening with, "Sir, the spades have hit
upon a skull."

There was a shuddering pause. All the gentlemen except Dr.
Woodford, who feared the chill, descended again. Mrs. Oakshott and
Anne held each other's hands and trembled.

By and by Mr. Fellowes came up first. "We have found," he said,
looking pale and grave, "a skeleton. Yes, a perfect skeleton, but
no more--no remains except a fine dust."

And Robert Oakshott following, awe-struck and sorrowful, added,
"Yes, there he is, poor Perry--all that is left of him--only his
bones. No, madam, we must leave him there for the present; we
cannot bring it up without preparation."

"You need not fear meddling curiosity, madam," said the captain. "I
will post a sentry here to bar all entrance."

"Thanks, sir," said Robert. "That will be well till I can bury the
poor fellow with all due respect by my mother and Oliver."

"And then I trust his spirit will have rest," said Martha Oakshott
fervently. "And now home to your father. How will he bear it,
sir?"

"I verily believe he will sleep the quieter for knowing for a
certainty what has become of poor Peregrine," said her husband.

And Anne felt as if half her burthen of secrecy was gone when they
all parted, starting early because the Black Gang rendered all the
roads unsafe after dark.

CHAPTER XXVIII: THE DISCLOSURE

"He looked about as one betrayed,
What hath he done, what promise made?
Oh! weak, weak moment, to what end
Can such a vain oblation tend?"

WORDSWORTH.

For the most part Anne was able to hold her peace and keep out of
sight while Dr. Woodford related the strange revelations of the
vault with all the circumstantiality that was desired by two old
people living a secluded life and concerned about a neighbour of
many years, whom they had come to esteem by force of a certain
sympathy in honest opposition. The mystery occupied them entirely,
for though the murder was naturally ascribed to some of the lawless
coast population, the valuables remaining with the clothes made a
strange feature in the case.

It was known that there was to be an inquest held on the remains
before their removal, and Dr. Woodford, both from his own interest
in the question, and as family intelligencer, rode to the castle.
Sir Philip longed to go, but it was a cold wet day, and he had
threatenings of gout, so that he was persuaded to remain by the
fireside. Inquests were then always held where the body lay, and
the court of Portchester Castle was no place for him on such a day.

Dr. Woodford came home just before twilight, looking grave and
troubled, and, much to Anne's alarm, desired to speak to Sir Philip
privately in the gun-room. Lady Archfield took alarm, and much
distressed her by continually asking what could be the meaning of
the interview, and making all sorts of guesses.

When at last they came together into the parlour the poor lady
looked so anxious and frightened that her husband went up to her and
said, "Do not be alarmed, sweetheart. We shall clear him; but those
foolish fellows have let suspicion fall on poor Sedley."

Nobody looked at Anne, or her deadly paleness must have been
remarked, and the trembling which she could hardly control by
clasping her hands tightly together, keeping her feet hard on the
floor, and setting her teeth.

Lady Archfield was perhaps less fond of the scapegrace nephew than
was her husband, and she felt the matter chiefly as it affected him,
so that she heard with more equanimity than he had done; and as they
sat round the fire in the half-light, for which Anne was thankful,
the Doctor gave his narration in order.

"I found a large company assembled in the castle court, waiting for
the coroner from Portsmouth, though the sentry on guard would allow
no one to go down, in spite of some, even ladies, I am ashamed to
say, who offered him bribes for the permission. Everything, I
heard, had been replaced as we found it. The poor Major himself was
there, looking sadly broken, and much needing the help of his son's
arm. 'To think that I was blaming my poor son as a mere reprobate,
and praying for his conversion,' says he, 'when he was lying here,
cut off without a moment for repentance.' There was your nephew,
suspecting nothing, Squire Brocas, Mr. Eyre, of Botley Grange, Mr.
Biden, Mr. Larcom, and Mr. Bargus, and a good many more, besides Dr.
James Yonge, the naval doctor, and the Mayor of Portsmouth, and more
than I can tell you. When the coroner came, and the jury had been
sworn in, they went down and viewed the spot, and all that was
there. The soldiers had put candles round, and a huge place it is,
all built up with large stones. Then, as it was raining hard, they
adjourned to the great room in the keep and took the evidence.
Robert Oakshott identified the clothes and the watch clearly enough,
and said he had no doubt that the other remains were Peregrine's;
but as to swearing to a brother's bones, no one could do that; and
Dr. Yonge said in my ear that if the deceased were so small a man as
folks said, the skeleton could scarce be his, for he thought it had
belonged to a large-framed person. That struck no one else, for
naturally it is only a chirurgeon who is used to reckon the
proportion that the bones bear to the body, and I also asked him
whether in seven years the other parts would be so entirely
consumed, to which he answered that so much would depend on the
nature of the soil that there was no telling. However, jury and
coroner seemed to feel no doubt, and that old seafaring man, Tom
Block, declared that poor Master Peregrine had been hand and glove
with a lot of wild chaps, and that the vault had been well known to
them before the gentlemen had had it blocked up. Then it was asked
who had seen him last, and Robert Oakshott spoke of having parted
with him at the bonfire, and never seen him again. There, I fancy,
it would have ended in a verdict of wilful murder against some
person or persons unknown, but Robert Oakshott must needs say, "I
would give a hundred pounds to know who the villain was." And then
who should get up but George Rackstone, with "Please your Honour, I
could tell summat." The coroner bade swear him, and he deposed to
having seen Master Peregrine going down towards the castle somewhere
about four o'clock that morning after the bonfire when he was
getting up to go to his mowing. But that was not all. You
remember, Anne, that his father's cottage stands on the road towards
Portsmouth. Well, he brought up the story of your running in there,
frightened, the day before the bonfire, when I was praying with his
sick mother, calling on me to stop a fray between Peregrine and
young Sedley, and I had to get up and tell of Sedley's rudeness to
you, child."

"What was that?" hastily asked Lady Archfield.

"The old story, my lady. The young officer's swaggering attempt to
kiss the girl he meets on the road. I doubt even if he knew at the
moment that it was my niece. Peregrine was coming by at the moment,
and interfered to protect her, and swords were drawn. I could not
deny it, nor that there was ill blood between the lads; and then
young Brocas, who was later on Portsdown than we were, remembered
high words, and had thought to himself that there would be a
challenge. And next old Goody Spore recollects seeing Master Sedley
and another soldier officer out on the Portsmouth road early that
morning. The hay was making in the court then, and Jenny Light
remembered that when the haymakers came she raked up something that
looked like a bloody spot, and showed it to one of the others, but
they told her that most likely a rabbit or a hare had been killed
there, and she had best take no heed. Probably there was dread of
getting into trouble about a smugglers' fray. Well, every one was
looking askance at Master Sedley by this time, and the coroner asked
him if he had anything to say. He spoke out boldly enough. He
owned to the dispute with Peregrine Oakshott, and to having parted
with him that night on terms which would only admit of a challenge.
He wrote a cartel that night, and sent it by his friend Lieutenant
Ainslie, but doubting whether Major Oakshott might not prevent its
delivery, he charged him to try to find Peregrine outside the house,
and arrange with him a meeting on the hill, where you know the
duellists of the garrison are wont to transact such encounters.
Sedley himself walked out part of the way with his friend, but
neither of them saw Peregrine, nor heard anything of him. So he
avers, but when asked for his witness to corroborate the story, he
says that Ainslie, I fear the only person who could have proved an
alibi--if so it were--was killed at Landen; but, he added, certainly
with too much of his rough way, it was a mere absurdity to charge it
upon him. What should a gentleman have to do with private murders
and robberies? Nor did he believe the bones to be Perry Oakshott's
at all. It was all a bit of Whiggish spite! He worked himself into
a passion, which only added to the impression against him; and I own
I cannot wonder that the verdict has sent him to Winchester to take
his trial. Why, Anne, child, how now?"

"'Tis a terrible story. Take my essences, child," said Lady
Archfield, tottering across, and Anne, just saving herself from
fainting by a long gasp at them, let herself be led from the room.
The maids buzzed about her, and for some time she was sensible of
nothing but a longing to get rid of them, and to be left alone to
face the grievous state of things which she did not yet understand.
At last, with kind good-nights from Lady Archfield, such as she
could hardly return, she was left by herself in the darkness to
recover from the stunned helpless feeling of the first moment.

Sedley accused! Charles to be sacrificed to save his worthless
cousin, the would-be murderer of his innocent child, who morally
thus deserved to suffer! Never, never! She could not do so. It
would be treason to her benefactors, nay, absolute injustice, for
Charles had struck in generous defence of herself; but Sedley had
tried to allure the boy to his death merely for his own advantage.
Should she not be justified in simply keeping silence? Yet there
was like an arrow in her heart, the sense of guilt in so doing,
guilt towards God and truth, guilt towards man and justice. She
should die under the load, and it would be for Charles. Might it
only be before he came home, then he would know that she had
perished under his secret to save him. Nay, but would he be
thankful at being saved at the expense of his cousin's life? If he
came, how should she meet him?

The sense of the certain indignation of a good and noble human
spirit often awakes the full perception of what an action would be
in the sight of Heaven, and Anne began to realise the sin more than
at first, and to feel the compulsion of truth. If only Charles were
not coming home she could write to him and warn him, but the thought
that he might be already on the way had turned from joy to agony.
"And to think," she said to herself, "that I was fretting as to
whether he would think me pretty!"

She tossed about in misery, every now and then rising on her knees
to pray--at first for Charles's safety--for she shrank from asking
for Divine protection, knowing only too well what that would be.
Gradually, however, a shudder came over her at the thought that if
she would not commit her way unto the Lord, she might indeed be the
undoing of her lover, and then once more the higher sense of duty
rose on her. She prayed for forgiveness for the thought, and that
it might not be visited upon him; she prayed for strength to do what
must be her duty, for safety for him, and comfort to his parents,
and so, in passing gusts of misery and apprehension, of failing
heart and recovered resolution, of anguish and of prayer, the long
night at length passed, and with the first dawn she arose, shaken
and weak, but resolved to act on her terrible resolution before it
again failed her.

Sir Philip was always an early riser, and she heard his foot on the
stairs before seven o'clock. She came out on the staircase, which
met the flight which he was descending, and tried to speak, but her
lips seemed too dry to part.

"Child! child! you are ill," said the old gentleman, as he saw her
blanched cheek; "you should be in bed this chilly morning. Go back
to your chamber."

"No, no, sir, I cannot. Pray, your Honour, come here, I have
something to say;" and she drew him to the open door of his justice-
room, called the gun-room.

"Bless me," he muttered, "the wench does not mean that she has got
smitten with that poor rogue my nephew!"

"Oh! no, no," said Anne, almost ready for a hysterical laugh, yet
letting the old man seat himself, and then dropping on her knees
before him, for she could hardly stand, "it is worse than that, sir;
I know who it was who did that thing."

"Well, who?" he said hastily; "why have you kept it back so long and
let an innocent man get into trouble?"

"O Sir Philip! I could not help it. Forgive me;" and with clasped
hands, she brought out the words, "It was your son, Mr. Archfield;"
and then she almost collapsed again.

"Child! child! you are ill; you do not know what you are saying. We
must have you to bed again. I will call your uncle."

"Ah! sir, it is only too true;" but she let him fetch her uncle, who
was sure to be at his devotions in a kind of oratory on the farther
side of the hall. She had not gone to him first, from the old
desire to keep him clear of the knowledge, but she longed for such
support as he might give her, or at least to know whether he were
very angry with her.

The two old men quickly came back together, and Dr. Woodford began,
"How now, niece, are you telling us dreams?" but he broke off as he
saw the sad earnest of her face.

"Sir, it is too true. He charged me to speak out if any one else
were brought into danger."

"Come," said Sir Philip, testily; "don't crouch grovelling on the
floor there. Get up and let us know the meaning of this. Good
heavens! the lad may be here any day."

Anne had much rather have knelt where she was, but her uncle raised
her, and placed her in a chair, saying, "Try to compose yourself,
and tell us what you mean, and why it has been kept back so long."

"Indeed he did not intend it," pleaded Anne; "it was almost an
accident--to protect me--Peregrine was--pursuing me."

"Upon my word, young mistress," burst out the father, "you seem to
have been setting all the young fellows together by the ears."

"I doubt if she could help it," said the Doctor. "She tried to be
discreet, but it was the reason her mother--"

"Well, go on," interrupted poor Sir Philip, too unhappy to remember
manners or listen to the defence; "what was it? when was it?"

Anne was allowed then to proceed. "It was the morning I went to
London. I went out to gather some mouse-ear."

"Mouse-ear! mouse-ear!" growled he. "Some one else's ear."

"It was for Lady Oglethorpe."

"It was," said her uncle, "a specific, it seems, for whooping-cough.
I saw the letter, and knew--"

"Umph! let us hear," said Sir Philip, evidently with the idea of a
tryst in his mind. "No wonder mischief comes of maidens running
about at such hours. What next?"

The poor girl struggled on: "I saw Peregrine coming, and hoping he
would not see me, I ran into the keep, meaning to get home by the
battlements out of his sight, but when I looked down he and Mr.
Archfield were fighting. I screamed, but I don't think they heard
me, and I ran down; but I had fastened all the doors, and I was a
long time getting out, and by that time Mr. Archfield had dragged
him to the vault and thrown him in. He was like one distracted, and
said it must be hidden, or it would be the death of his wife and his
mother, and what could I do?"

"Is that all the truth?" said Sir Philip sternly. "What brought
them there--either of them?"

"Mr. Archfield came to bring me a pattern of sarcenet to match for
poor young Madam in London."

No doubt Sir Philip recollected the petulant anger that this had
been forgotten, but he was hardly appeased. "And the other fellow?
Why, he was brawling with my nephew Sedley about you the day
before!"

"I do not think she was to blame there," said Dr. Woodford. "The
unhappy youth was set against marrying Mistress Browning, and had
talked wildly to my sister and me about wedding my niece."

"But why should she run away as if he had the plague, and set the
foolish lads to fight?"

"Sir, I must tell you," Anne owned, "he had beset me, and talked so
desperately that I was afraid of what he might do in that lonely
place and at such an hour in the morning. I hoped he had not seen
me."

"Umph!" said Sir Philip, much as if he thought a silly girl's
imagination had caused all the mischief.

"When did he thus speak to you, Anne?" asked her uncle, not
unkindly.

"At the inn at Portsmouth, sir," said Anne. "He came while you were
with Mr. Stanbury and the rest, and wanted me to marry him and flee
to France, or I know not where, or at any rate marry him secretly so
as to save him from poor Mistress Browning. I could not choose but
fear and avoid him, but oh! I would have faced him ten times over
rather than have brought this on--us all. And now what shall I do?
He, Mr. Archfield, when I saw him in France, said as long as no one
was suspected, it would only give more pain to say what I knew, but
that if suspicion fell on any one--" and her voice died away.

"He could not say otherwise," returned Sir Philip, with a groan.

"And now what shall I do? what shall I do?" sighed the poor girl.
"I must speak truth."

"I never bade you perjure yourself," said Sir Philip sharply, but
hiding his face in his hands, and groaning out, "Oh, my son! my
son!"

Seeing that his distress so overcame poor Anne that she could
scarcely contain herself, Dr. Woodford thought it best to take her
from the room, promising to come again to her. She could do nothing
but lie on her bed and weep in a quiet heart-broken way. Sir
Philip's anger seemed to fill up the measure, by throwing the guilt
back upon her and rousing a bitter sense of injustice, and then she
wept again at her cruel selfishness in blaming the broken-hearted
old man.

She could hardly have come down to breakfast, so heavy were her
limbs and so sick and faint did every movement render her, and she
further bethought herself that the poor old father might not brook
the sight of her under the circumstances. It was a pang to hear
little Philip prancing about the house, and when he had come to her
to say his prayers, she sent him down with a message that she was
not well enough to come downstairs, and that she wanted nothing,
only to be quiet.

The little fellow was very pitiful, and made her cry again by
wanting to know whether she had gout like grandpapa or rheumatics
like grandmamma, and then stroking her face, calling her his dear
Nana, and telling her of the salad in his garden that his papa was
to eat the very first day he came home.

By and by Dr. Woodford knocked at her door. He had had a long
conversation with poor old Sir Philip, who was calmer now than under
the first blow, and somewhat less inclined to anger with the girl,
who might indeed be the cause, but surely the innocent cause, of
all. The Doctor had done his best to show that her going out had no
connection with any of the youths, and he thought Sir Philip would
believe it on quieter reflection. He had remembered too, signs of
self-reproach mixed with his son's grief for his wife, and his
extreme relief at the plan for going abroad, recollecting likewise
that Charles had strongly disliked poor Peregrine, and had much
resented the liking which young Madam had shown for one whose
attentions might have been partly intended to tease the young
husband.

"Of course," said Dr. Woodford, "the unhappy deed was no more than
an unfortunate accident, and if all had been known at first,
probably it would so have been treated. The concealment was an
error, but it is impossible to blame either of you for it."

"Oh never mind that, dear uncle! Only tell me! Must he--must
Charles suffer to save that man? You know what he is, real murderer
in heart! Oh I know. The right must be done! But it is dreadful!"

"The right must be done and the truth spoken at all costs. No one
knows that better than our good old patron," said the Doctor; "but,
my dear child, you are not called on to denounce this young man as
you seem to imagine, unless there should be no other means of saving
his cousin, or unless you are so questioned that you cannot help
replying for truth's sake. Knowing nothing of all this, it struck
others besides myself at the inquest that the evidence against
Sedley was utterly insufficient for a conviction, and if he should
be acquitted, matters will only be as they were before."

"Then you think I am not bound to speak--The truth, the whole truth,
nothing but the truth," she murmured in exceeding grief, yet firmly.

"You certainly may, nay, _must_ keep your former silence till the
trial, at the Lent Assizes. I trust you may not be called on as a
witness to the fray with Sedley, but that I may be sufficient
testimony to that. I could testify to nothing else. Remember, if
you are called, you have only to answer what you are asked, nor is
it likely, unless Sedley have any suspicion of the truth, that you
will be asked any question that will implicate Mr. Archfield. If
so, God give you strength my poor child, to be true to Him. But the
point of the trial is to prove Sedley guilty or not guilty; and if
the latter, there is no more to be said. God grant it."

"But he--Mr. Archfield?"

"His father is already taking measures to send to all the ports to
stop him on his way till the trial is over. Thus there will be no
actual danger, though it is a sore disappointment, and these wicked
attempts of Charnock and Barclay put us in bad odour, so that it may
be less easy to procure a pardon than it once would have been. So,
my dear child, I do not think you need be in terror for his life,
even if you are obliged to speak out plainly."

And then the good old man knelt with Anne to pray for pardon,
direction, and firmness, and protection for Charles. She made an
entreaty after they rose that her uncle would take her away--her
presence must be so painful to their kind hosts. He agreed with
her, and made the proposition, but Sir Philip would not hear of it.
Perhaps he was afraid of any change bringing suspicion of the facts,
and he might have his fears of Anne being questioned into dangerous
admissions, besides which, he hoped to keep his poor old wife in
ignorance to the last. So Anne was to remain at Fareham, and after
that one day's seclusion she gathered strength to be with the family
as usual. Poor old Sir Philip treated her with a studied but icy
courtesy which cut her to the heart; but Lady Archfield's hopes of
seeing her son were almost worse, together with her regrets at her
husband's dejection at the situation of his nephew and the family
disgrace. As to little Philip, his curious inquiries about Cousin
Sedley being in jail for murdering Penny Grim had to be summarily
hushed by the assurance that such things were not to be spoken
about. But why did Nana cry when he talked of papa's coming home?

All the neighbourhood was invited to the funeral in Havant
Churchyard, the burial-place of the Oakshotts. Major Oakshott
himself wrote to Dr. Woodford, as having been one of the kindest
friends of his poor son, adding that he could not ask Sir Philip
Archfield, although he knew him to be no partner in the guilt of his
unhappy nephew, who so fully exemplified that Divine justice may be
slow, but is sure.

Dr. Woodford decided on accepting the invitation, not only for
Peregrine's sake, but to see how the land lay. Scarcely anything
remarkable, however, occurred, except that it was painful to
perceive the lightness of the coffin. A funeral sermon was
previously preached by a young Nonconformist minister in his own
chapel, on the text, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his
blood be shed;" and then the burial took place, watched by a huge
crowd of people. But just as the procession was starting from the
chapel for the churchyard, over the wall there came a strange peal
of wild laughter.

"Oh, would not the unquiet spirit be at rest till it was avenged?"
thought Anne when she was told of it.

CHAPTER XXIX: THE ASSIZE COURT

"O terror! what hath she perceived? O joy,
What doth she look on? whom hath she perceived?"

WORDSWORTH.

Time wore away, and the Lent Assizes at Winchester had come. Sir
Philip had procured the best legal assistance for his nephew, but in
criminal cases, though the prisoner was allowed the advice of
counsel, the onus of defence rested upon himself. To poor Anne's
dismay, a subpoena was sent to her, as well as to her uncle, to
attend as a witness at the trial. Sir Philip was too anxious to
endure to remain at a distance from Winchester, and they travelled
in his coach, Sir Edmund Nutley escorting them on horseback, while
Lucy was left with her mother, both still in blissful ignorance.
They took rooms at the George Inn. That night was a strange and
grievous one to Anne, trying hard to sleep so as to be physically
capable of composure and presence of mind, yet continually wakened
by ghastly dreams, and then recollecting that the sense of something
terrible was by no means all a dream.

Very white, very silent, but very composed, she came to the sitting-
room, and was constrained by her uncle and Sir Philip to eat, much
as it went against her. On this morning Sir Philip had dropped his
sternness towards her, and finding a moment when his son-in-law was
absent, he said, "Child, I know that this is wellnigh, nay, quite as
hard for you as for me. I can only say, Let no earthly regards hold
you back from whatever is your duty to God and man. Speak the truth
whatever betide, and leave the rest to the God of truth. God bless
you, however it may be;" and he kissed her brow.

The intelligence that the trial was coming on was brought by
Sedley's counsel, Mr. Simon Harcourt. They set forth for the County
Hall up the sharply-rising street, thronged with people, who growled
and murmured at the murderer savagely, Sir Philip, under the care of
his son-in-law, and Anne with her uncle. Mr. Harcourt was very
hopeful; he said the case for the prosecution had not a leg to stand
on, and that the prisoner himself was so intelligent, and had so
readily understood the line of defence to take, that he ought to
have been a lawyer. There would be no fear except that it might be
made a party case, and no stone was likely to be left unturned
against a gentleman of good loyal family. Moreover Mr. William
Cowper, whom Robert Oakshott, or rather his wife, had engaged at
great expense for the prosecution, was one of the most rising of
barristers, noted for his persuasive eloquence, and unfortunately
Mr. Harcourt had not the right of reply.

The melancholy party were conducted into court, Sir Philip and Sir
Edmund to the seats disposed of by the sheriff, beside the judge,
strangely enough only divided by him from Major Oakshott. The judge
was Mr. Baron Hatsel, a somewhat weak-looking man, in spite of his
red robes and flowing wig, as he sat under his canopy beneath King
Arthur's Round Table. Sedley, perhaps a little thinner since his
imprisonment, but with the purple red on his face, and his prominent
eyes so hard and bold that it was galling to know that this was
really the confidence of innocence.

Mr. Cowper was with great ability putting the case. Here were two
families in immediate neighbourhood, divided from the first by
political opinions of the strongest complexion; and he put the
Oakshott views upon liberty, civil and religious, in the most
popular light. The unfortunate deceased he described as having been
a highly promising member of the suite of the distinguished Envoy,
Sir Peregrine Oakshott, whose name he bore. On the death of the
eldest brother he had been recalled, and his accomplishments and
foreign air had, it appeared, excited the spleen of the young
gentlemen of the county belonging to the Tory party, then in the
ascendant, above all of the prisoner. There was then little or no
etiquette as to irrelevant matter, so that Mr. Cowper could dwell at
length on Sedley's antecedents, as abusing the bounty of his uncle,
a known bully expelled for misconduct from Winchester College, then
acting as a suitable instrument in those violences in Scotland which
had driven the nation finally to extremity, noted for his
debaucheries when in garrison, and finally broken for
insubordination in Ireland.

After this unflattering portrait, which Sedley's looks certainly did
not belie, the counsel went back to 1688, proceeded to mention
several disputes which had taken place when Peregrine had met
Lieutenant Archfield at Portsmouth; but, he added with a smile, that
no dart of malice was ever thoroughly winged till Cupid had added
his feather; and he went on to describe in strong colours the insult
to a young gentlewoman, and the interference of the other young man
in her behalf, so that swords were drawn before the appearance of
the reverend gentleman her uncle. Still, he said, there was further
venom to be added to the bolt, and he showed that the two had parted
after the rejoicings on Portsdown Hill with a challenge all but
uttered between them, the Whig upholding religious liberty, the Tory
hotly defending such honour as the King possessed, and both parting
in anger.

Young Mr. Oakshott was never again seen alive, though his family
long hoped against hope. There was no need to dwell on the strange
appearances that had incited them to the search. Certain it was,
that after seven years' silence, the grave had yielded up its
secrets. Then came the description of the discovery of the bones,
and of the garments and sword, followed by the mention of the
evidence as to the blood on the grass, and the prisoner having been
seen in the neighbourhood of the castle at that strange hour. He
was observed to have an amount of money unusual with him soon after,
and, what was still more suspicious, after having gambled this away,
he had sold to a goldsmith at Southampton a ruby ring, which both
Mr. and Mrs. Oakshott could swear to have belonged to the deceased.
In fact, when Mr. Cowper marshalled the facts, and even described
the passionate encounter taking place hastily and without witnesses,
and the subsequent concealment of guilt in the vault, the purse
taken, and whatever could again be identified hidden, while
providentially the blocking up of the vault preserved the evidence
of the crime so long undetected and unavenged, it was hardly
possible to believe the prisoner innocent.

When the examination of the witnesses began, however, Sedley showed
himself equal to his own defence. He made no sign when Robert
Oakshott identified the clothes, sword, and other things, and their
condition was described; but he demanded of him sharply how he knew
the human remains to be those of his brother.

"Of course they were," said Robert.

"Were there any remains of clothes with them?"

"No."

"Can you swear to them? Did you ever before see your brother's
bones?"

At which, and at the witness's hesitating, "No, but--" the court
began to laugh.

"What was the height of the deceased?"

"He reached about up to my ear," said the witness with some
hesitation.

"What was the length of the skeleton?"

"Quite small. It looked like a child's."

"My lord," said Sedley, "I have a witness here, a surgeon, whom I
request may be called to certify the proportion of a skeleton to the
size of a living man."

Though this was done, the whole matter of size was so vague that
there was nothing proved, either as to the inches of Peregrine or
those of the skeleton, but still Sedley made his point that the
identity of the body was unproved at least in some minds. Still,
there remained the other articles, about which there was no doubt.

Mr. Cowper proceeded with his examination as to the disputes at
Portsmouth, but again the prisoner scored a point by proving that
Peregrine had staked the ring against him at a cock-fight at
Southampton, and had lost it.

Dr. Woodford was called, and his evidence could not choose but to be
most damaging as to the conflict on the road at Portsmouth; but as
he had not seen the beginning, 'Mistress Anne Jacobina Woodford' was
called for.

There she stood, tall and stately, almost majestic in the stiffness
of intense self-restraint, in her simple gray dress, her black silk
hood somewhat back, her brown curls round her face, a red spot in
each cheek, her earnest brown eyes fixed on the clerk as he gabbled
out the words so awful to her, "The truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth;" and her soul re-echoed the words, "So help
you God."

Mr. Cowper was courteous; he was a gentleman, and he saw she was no
light-minded girl. He asked her the few questions needful as to the
attack made on her, and the defence; but something moved him to go
on and ask whether she had been on Portsdown Hill, and to obtain
from her the account of the high words between the young men. She
answered each question in a clear low voice, which still was audible
to all. Was it over, or would Sedley begin to torture her, when so
much was in his favour? No! Mr. Cowper--oh! why would he? was
asking in an affirmative tone, as if to clench the former evidence,
"And did you ever see the deceased again?"

"Yes." The answer was at first almost choked, then cleared into
sharpness, and every eye turned in surprise on the face that had
become as white as her collar.

"Indeed! And when?"

"The next morning," in a voice as if pronouncing her own doom, and
with hands clinging tight to the front of the witness-box as though
in anguish.

"Where?" said the counsel, like inexorable fate.

"I will save the gentlewoman from replying to that question, sir;"
and a gentleman with long brown hair, in a rich white and gold
uniform, rose from among the spectators. "Perhaps I may be allowed
to answer for her, when I say that it was at Portchester Castle, at
five in the morning, that she saw Peregrine Oakshott slain by my
hand, and thrown into the vault."

There was a moment of breathless amazement in the court, and the
judge was the first to speak. "Very extraordinary, sir! What is
your name?"

"Charles Archfield," said the clear resolute voice.

Then came a general movement and sensation, and Anne, still holding
fast to the support, saw the newcomer start forward with a cry, "My
father!" and with two or three bounds reach the side of Sir Philip,
who had sunk back in his seat for a moment, but recovered himself as
he felt his son's arm round him.

There was a general buzz, and a cry of order, and in the silence
thus produced the judge addressed the witness:--

"Is what this gentleman says the truth?"

And on Anne's reply, "Yes, my Lord," spoken with the clear ring of
anguish, the judge added--

"Was the prisoner present?"

"No, my Lord; he had nothing to do with it."

"Then, brother Cowper, do you wish to proceed with the case?"

Mr. Cowper replied in the negative, and the judge then made a brief
summing-up, and the jury, without retiring, returned a verdict of
'Not guilty.'

In the meantime Anne had been led like one blinded from the witness-
box, and almost dropped into her uncle's arms. "Cheer up, cheer up,
my child," he said. "You have done your part bravely, and after so
upright a confession no one can deal hardly with the young man. God
will surely protect him."

The acquittal had been followed by a few words from Baron Hatsel,
congratulating the late prisoner on his deliverance through this
gentleman's generous confession. Then there was a moment's
hesitation, ended by the sheriff asking Charles, who stood up by his
old father, one arm supporting the trembling form, and the other
hand clasped in the two aged ones, "Then, sir, do you surrender to
take your trial?"

"Certainly, sir," said Charles. "I ought to have done so long ago,
but in the first shock--"

Mr. Harcourt here cautioned him not to say anything that could be
used against him, adding in a low tone, much to Sir Philip's relief,
"It may be brought in manslaughter, sir."

"He should be committed," another authority said. "Is there a
Hampshire magistrate here to sign a warrant?"

Of these there were plenty; and as the clerk asked for his
description, all eyes turned on the tall and robust form in the
prime of manhood, with the noble resolute expression on his fine
features and steadfast eyes, except when, as he looked at his
father, they were full of infinite pity. The brown hair hung over
the rich gold-laced white coat, faced with black, and with a broad
gold-coloured sash fringed with black over his shoulder, and there
was a look of distinction about him that made his answer only
natural. "Charles Archfield, of Archfield House, Fareham,
Lieutenant-Colonel of his Imperial Majesty's Light Dragoons, Knight
of the Holy Roman Empire. Must I give up my sword like a prisoner
of war?" he asked, with a smile.

Sir Philip rose to his feet with an earnest trembling entreaty that
bail might be taken for him, and many voices of gentlemen and men of
substance made offers of it. There was a little consultation, and
it was ruled that bail might be accepted under the circumstances,
and Charles bowed his thanks to the distant and gave his hand to the
nearer, while Mr. Eyre of Botley Grange, and Mr. Brocas of Roche
Court, were accepted as sureties. The gentle old face of Mr.
Cromwell of Hursley, was raised to poor old Sir Philip's with the
words, spoken with a remnant of the authority of the Protector:
"Your son has spoken like a brave man, sir; God bless you, and bring
you well through it."

Charles was then asked whether he wished for time to collect
witnesses. "No, my lord," he said. "I thank you heartily, but I
have no one to call, and the sooner this is over the better for
all."

After a little consultation it was found that the Grand Jury had not
been dismissed, and could find a true bill against him; and it was
decided that the trial should take place after the rest of the
criminal cases were disposed of.

This settled, the sorrowful party with the strangely welcomed son
were free to return to their quarters at the George. Mr. Cromwell
pressed forward to beg that they would make use of his coach. It
was a kind thought, for Sir Philip hung feebly on his son's arm, and
to pass through the curious throng would have been distressing.
After helping him in, Charles turned and demanded--

"Where is she, the young gentlewoman, Miss Woodford?"

She was just within, her uncle waiting to take her out till the
crowd's attention should be called off. Charles lifted her in, and
Sir Edmund and Dr. Woodford followed him, for there was plenty of
room in the capacious vehicle.

Nobody spoke in the very short interval the four horses took in
getting themselves out of the space in front of the County Hall and
down the hill to the George. Only Charles had leant forward, taken
Anne's hand, drawn it to his lips, and then kept fast hold of it.

They were all in the room at the inn at last, they hardly knew how;
indeed, as Charles was about to shut the door there was a smack on
his back, and there stood Sedley holding out his hand.

"So, Charley, old fellow, you were the sad dog after all. You got
me out of it, and I owe you my thanks, but you need not have put
your neck into the noose. I should have come off with flying
colours, and made them all make fools of themselves, if you had only
waited."

"Do you think I could sit still and see _her_ put to the torture?"
said Charles.

"Torture? You are thinking of your barbarous countries. No fear of
the boot here, nor even in Scotland nowadays."

"That's all the torture you understand," muttered Sir Edmund Nutley.

"Not but what I am much beholden to you all the same," went on
Sedley. "And look here, sir," turning to his uncle, "if you wish to
get him let off cheap you had better send up another special
retainer to Harcourt, without loss of time, as he may be off."

Sir Edmund Nutley concurred in the advice, and they hurried off
together in search of the family attorney, through whom the great
man had to be approached.

The four left together could breathe more freely. Indeed Dr.
Woodford would have taken his niece away, but that Charles already
had her in his arms in a most fervent embrace, as he said, "My
brave, my true maid!"

She could not speak, but she lifted up her eyes, with infinite
relief in all her sorrow, as for a moment she rested against him;
but they had to move apart, for a servant came up with some wine,
and Charles, putting her into a chair, began to wait on her and on
his father.

"I have not quite forgotten my manners," he said lightly, as if to
relieve the tension of feeling, "though in Germany the ladies serve
the gentlemen."

It was very hard not to burst into tears at these words, but Anne
knew that would be the way to distress her companions and to have to
leave the room and lose these precious moments. Sir Philip, after
swallowing the wine, succeeded in saying, "Have you been at home?"

Charles explained that he had landed at Gravesend, and had ridden
thence, sleeping at Basingstoke, and taking the road through
Winchester in case his parents should be wintering there, and on
arriving a couple of hours previously and inquiring for them, he had
heard the tidings that Sir Philip Archfield was indeed there, for
his nephew was being tried for his life for the wilful murder of
Major Oakshott's son seven years ago.

"And you had none of my warnings? I wrote to all the ports," said
his father, "to warn you to wait till all this was over."

No; he had crossed from Sluys, and had met no letter. "I suppose,"
he said, "that I must not ride home to-morrow. It might make my
sureties uneasy; but I would fain see them all."

"It would kill your mother to be here," said Sir Philip. "She knows
nothing of what Anne told me on Sedley's arrest. She is grown very
feeble;" and he groaned. "But we might send for your sister, if she
can leave her, and the boy."

"I should like my boy to be fetched," said Charles. "I should wish
him to remember his father--not as a felon convicted!" Then putting
a knee to the ground before Sir Philip, he said, "Sir, I ask your
blessing and forgiveness. I never before thoroughly understood my
errors towards you, especially in hiding this miserable matter, and
leaving all this to come on you, while my poor Anne there was left
to bear all the load. It was a cowardly and selfish act, and I ask
your pardon."

The old man sobbed with his hand on his son's head. "My dear boy!
my poor boy! you were distraught."

"I was then. I did it, as I thought, for my poor Alice's sake at
first, and as it proved, it was all in vain; but at the year's end,
when I was older, it was folly and wrong. I ought to have laid all
before you, and allowed you to judge, and I sincerely repent the not
having so done. And Anne, my sweetest Anne, has borne the burthen
all this time," he added, going back to her. "Let no one say a
woman cannot keep secrets, though I ought never to have laid this on
her."

"Ah! it might have gone better for you then," sighed Sir Philip.
"No one would have visited a young lad's mischance hardly on a loyal
house in those days. What is to be done, my son?"

"That we will discuss when the lawyer fellow comes. Is it old Lee?
Meantime let us enjoy our meeting. So that is Lucy's husband.
Sober and staid, eh? And my mother is feeble, you say. Has she
been ill?"

Charles was comporting himself with the cheerfulness that had become
habitual to him as a soldier, always in possible danger, but it was
very hard to the others to chime in with his tone, and when a

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