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A Reputed Changeling by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 7 out of 8

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message was brought to ask whether his Honour would be served in
private, the cheery greeting and shake of the hand broke down the
composure of the old servant who brought it, and he cried, "Oh, sir,
to see you thus, and such a fine young gentleman!"

Charles, the only person who could speak, gave the orders, but they
did not eat alone, for Sir Edmund Nutley and Sedley arrived with the
legal advisers, and it was needful, perhaps even better, to have
their company. The chief of the conversation was upon Hungarian and
Transylvanian politics and the Turkish war. Mr. Harcourt seeming
greatly to appreciate the information that Colonel Archfield was
able to give him, and the anecdotes of the war, and descriptions of
scenes therein actually brightened Sir Philip into interest, and
into forgetting for a moment his son's situation in pride in his
conduct, and at the distinction he had gained. "We must save him,"
said Mr. Harcourt to Sir Edmund. "He is far too fine a fellow to be
lost for a youthful mischance."

The meal was a short one, and a consultation was to follow, while
Sedley departed. Anne was about to withdraw, when Mr. Lee the
attorney said, "We shall need Mistress Woodford's evidence, sir, for
the defence."

"I do not see what defence there can be," returned Charles. "I can
only plead guilty, and throw myself on the King's mercy, if he
chooses to extend it to one of a Tory family."

"Not so fast, sir," said Mr. Harcourt; "as far as I have gathered
the facts, there is every reason to hope you may obtain a verdict of
manslaughter, and a nominal penalty, although that rests with the
judge."

On this the discussion began in earnest. Charles, who had never
heard the circumstances which led to the trial, was greatly
astonished to hear what remains had been discovered. He said that
he could only declare himself to have thrown in the body, full
dressed, just as it was, and how it could have been stripped and
buried he could not imagine. "What made folks think of looking into
the vault?" he asked.

"It was Mrs. Oakshott," said Lee, "the young man's wife, she who was
to have married the deceased. She took up some strange notion about
stories of phantoms current among the vulgar, and insisted on having
the vault searched, though it had been walled up for many years
past."

Charles and Anne looked at each other, and the former said, "Again?"

"Oh yes!" said Anne; "indeed there have been enough to make me
remember what you bade me do, in case they recurred, only it was
impossible."

"Phantoms!" said Mr. Harcourt; "what does this mean?"

"Mere vulgar superstitions, sir," said the attorney.

"But very visible," said Charles; "I have seen one myself, of which
I am quite sure, besides many that may be laid to the account of the
fever of my wound."

"I must beg to hear," said the barrister. "Do I understand that
these were apparitions of the deceased?"

"Yes," said Charles. "Miss Woodford saw the first, I think."

"May I beg you to describe it?" said Mr. Harcourt, taking a fresh
piece of paper to make notes on.

Anne narrated the two appearances in London, and Charles added the
story of the figure seen in the street at Douai, seen by both
together, asking what more she knew of.

"Once at night last summer, at the very anniversary, I saw his face
in the trees in the garden," said Anne; "it was gone in a moment.
That has been all I have seen; but little Philip came to me full of
stories of people having seen Penny Grim, as he calls it, and very
strangely, once it rose before him at the great pond, and his fright
saved him from sliding to the dangerous part. What led Mrs.
Oakshott to the examination was that it was seen once on the beach,
once by the sentry at the vault itself, once by the sexton at Havant
Churchyard, and once by my mother's grave."

"Seven?" said the counsel, reviewing the notes he jotted down.
"Colonel Archfield, I should recommend you pleading not guilty, and
basing your defence, like your cousin, on the strong probability
that this same youth is a living man."

"Indeed!" said Charles, starting, "I could have hoped it from these
recent apparitions, but what I myself saw forbids the idea. If any
sight were ever that of a spirit, it was what we saw at Douai;
besides, how should he come thither, a born and bred Whig and
Puritan?"

"There is no need to mention that; you can call witnesses to his
having been seen within these few months. It would rest with the
prosecution to disprove his existence in the body, especially as the
bones in the vault cannot be identified."

"Sir," said Charles, "the defence that would have served my innocent
cousin cannot serve me, who know what I did to Oakshott. I am _now_
aware that it is quite possible that the sword might not have killed
him, but when I threw him into that vault I sealed his fate."

"How deep is the vault?"

Mr. Lee and Dr. Woodford both averred that it was not above twenty
or twenty-four feet deep, greatly to Charles's surprise, for as a
lad he had thought it almost unfathomable; but then he owned his
ideas of Winchester High Street had been likewise far more
magnificent than he found it. The fall need not necessarily have
been fatal, especially to one insensible and opposing no resistance,
but even supposing that death had not resulted, in those Draconian
days, the intent to murder was equally subject with its full
accomplishment to capital punishment. Still, as Colonel Archfield
could plead with all his heart that he had left home with no evil
intentions towards young Oakshott, the lawyers agreed that to prove
that the death of the victim was uncertain would reduce the matter
to a mere youthful brawl, which could not be heavily visited. Mr.
Harcourt further asked whether it were possible to prove that the
prisoner had been otherwise employed than in meddling with the body;
but unfortunately it had been six hours before he came home.

"I was distracted," said Charles; "I rode I knew not whither, till I
came to my senses on finding that my horse was ready to drop, when I
led him into a shed at a wayside public-house, bade them feed him,
took a drink, then I wandered out into the copse near, and lay on
the ground there till I thought him rested, for how long I know not.
I think it must have been near Bishops Waltham, but I cannot
recollect."

Mr. Lee decided on setting forth at peep of dawn the next morning to
endeavour to collect witnesses of Peregrine's appearances. Sir
Edmund Nutley intended to accompany him as far as Fareham to fetch
little Philip and Lady Nutley, if the latter could leave her mother
after the tidings had been broken to them, and also to try to trace
whether Charles's arrival at any public-house were remembered.

To her dismay, Anne received another summons from the other party to
act as witness.

"I hoped to have spared you this, my sweet," said Charles, "but
never mind; you cannot say anything worse of me than I shall own of
myself."

The two were left to each other for a little while in the bay
window. "Oh, sir! can you endure me thus after all?" murmured Anne,
as she felt his arm round her.

"Can you endure me after all I left you to bear?" he returned.

"It was not like what I brought on you," she said.

But they could not talk much of the future; and Charles told how he
had rested through all his campaigns in the knowledge that his Anne
was watching and praying for him, and how his long illness had
brought before him deeper thoughts than he had ever had before, and
made him especially dwell on the wrong done to his parents by his
long absence, and the lightness with which he had treated home
duties and responsibilities, till he had resolved that if his life
were then spared, he would neglect them no longer.

"And now," he said, and paused, "all I shall have done is to break
their hearts. What is that saying, 'Be sure your sin will find you
out.'"

"Oh, sir! they are sure not to deal hardly with you."

"Perhaps the Emperor's Ambassador may claim me. If so, would you go
into banishment with the felon, Anne, love? It would not be quite
so mad as when I asked you before."

"I would go to the ends of the world with you; and we would take
little Phil. Do you know, he is growing a salad, and learning
Latin, all for papa?"

And so she told him of little Phil till his father was seen looking
wistfully at him.

With Sir Philip, Charles was all cheerfulness and hope, taking such
interest in all there was to hear about the family, estate, and
neighbourhood that the old gentleman was beguiled into feeling as if
there were only a short ceremony to be gone through before he had
his son at home, saving him ease and trouble.

But after Sir Philip had been persuaded to retire, worn out with the
day's agitations, and Anne likewise had gone to her chamber to weep
and pray, Charles made his arrangements with Mr. Lee for the future
for all connected with him in case of the worst; and after the
lawyer's departure poured out his heart to Dr. Woodford in deep
contrition, as he said he had longed to do when lying in expectation
of death at the Iron Gates. "However it may end," he said, "and I
expect, as I deserve, the utmost, I am thankful for this
opportunity, though unhappily it gives more pain to those about me
than if I had died out there. Tell them, when they need comfort,
how much better it is for me."

"My dear boy, I cannot believe you will have to suffer."

"There is much against me, sir. My foolish flight, the state of
parties, and the recent conspiracy, which has made loyal families
suspected and odious. I saw something of that as I came down. The
crowd fancied my uniform French, and hooted and hissed me.
Unluckily I have no other clothes to wear. Nor can I from my heart
utterly disclaim all malice or ill will when I remember the thrill
of pleasure in driving my sword home. I have had to put an end to a
Janissary or two more than once in the way of duty, but their black
eyes never haunted me like those parti-coloured ones. Still I
trust, as you tell me I may, that God forgives me, for our Blessed
Lord's sake; but I should like, if I could, to take the Holy
Sacrament with my love while I am still thus far a free man. I have
not done so since the Easter before these troubles."

"You shall, my dear boy, you shall."

There were churches at which the custom freshly begun at the
Restoration was not dropped. The next was St. Matthias's Day, and
Anne and her uncle had already purposed to go to the quiet little
church of St. Lawrence, at no great distance, in the very early
morning. They were joined on their way down the stair into the
courtyard of the inn by a gentleman in a slouched hat and large dark
cloak, who drew Anne's arm within his own.

Truly there was peace on that morning, and strength to the brave man
beyond the physical courage that had often before made him bright in
the face of danger, and Anne, though weeping, had a sense of respite
and repose, if not of hope.

Late in the afternoon, little Philip was lifted down from riding
before old Ralph into the arms of the splendid officer, whose
appearance transcended all his visions. He fumbled in his small
pocket, and held out a handful of something green and limp.

"Here's my salad, papa. I brought it all the way for you to eat."

And Colonel Archfield ate every scrap of it for supper, though it
was much fitter for a rabbit, and all the evening he held on his
knee the tired child, and responded to his prattle about Nana and
dogs and rabbits; nay, ministered to his delight and admiration of
the sheriff's coach, javelin men, and even the judge, with a strange
mixture of wonder, delight, and with melancholy only in eyes and
undertones.

CHAPTER XXX: SENTENCE

"I have hope to live, and am prepared to die."

Measure for Measure.

Ralph was bidden to be ready to take his young master home early the
next morning. At eight o'clock the boy, who had slept with his
father, came down the stair, clinging to his father's hand, and Miss
Woodford coming closely with him.

"Yes," said Charles, as he held the little fair fellow in his arms,
ere seating him on the horse, "he knows all, Ralph. He knows that
his father did an evil thing, and that what we do in our youth finds
us out later, and must be paid for. He has promised me to be a
comfort to the old people, and to look on this lady as a mother.
Nay, no more, Ralph; 'tis not good-bye to any of you yet. There,
Phil, don't lug my head off, nor catch my hair in your buttons.
Give my dutiful love to your grandmamma and to Aunt Nutley, and be a
good boy to them."

"And when I come to see you again I'll bring another salad," quoth
Philip, as he rode out of the court; and his father, by way of
excusing a contortion of features, smoothed the entangled lock of
hair, and muttered something about, "This comes of not wearing a
periwig." Then he said--

"And to think that I have wasted the company of such a boy as that,
all his life except for this mere glimpse!"

"Oh! you will come back to him," was all that could be said.

For it was time for Charles Archfield to surrender himself to take
his trial.

He had been instructed over and over again as to the line of his
defence, and cautioned against candour for himself and delicacy
towards others, till he had more than once to declare that he had no
intention of throwing his life away; but the lawyers agreed in
heartily deploring the rules that thus deprived the accused of the
assistance of an advocate in examining witnesses and defending
himself. All depended, as they knew and told Sir Edmund Nutley, on
the judge and jury. Now Mr. Baron Hatsel had shown himself a well-
meaning but weak and vacillating judge, whose summing up was apt
rather to confuse than to elucidate the evidence; and as to the
jury, Mr. Lee scanned their stolid countenances somewhat ruefully
when they were marshalled before the prisoner, to be challenged if
desirable. A few words passed, into which the judge inquired.

"I am reminded, my Lord," said Colonel Archfield, bowing, "that I
once incurred Mr. Holt's displeasure as a mischievous boy by
throwing a stone which injured one of his poultry; but I cannot
believe such a trifle would bias an honest man in a question of life
and death."

Nevertheless the judge put aside Mr. Holt.

"I like his spirit," whispered Mr. Harcourt.

"But," returned Lee, "I doubt if he has done himself any good with
those fellows by calling it a trifle to kill an old hen. I should
like him to have challenged two or three more moody old Whiggish
rascals; but he has been too long away from home to know how the
land lies."

"Too generous and high-spirited for this work," sighed Sir Edmund,
who sat with them.

The indictment was read, the first count being "That of malice
aforethought, by the temptation of the Devil, Charles Archfield did
wilfully kill and slay Peregrine Oakshott," etc. The second
indictment was that "By misadventure he had killed and slain the
said Peregrine Oakshott." To the first he pleaded 'Not guilty;' to
the second 'Guilty.'

Tall, well-made, manly, and soldierly he stood, with a quiet set
face, while Mr. Cowper proceeded to open the prosecution, with a
certain compliment to the prisoner and regret at having to push the
case against one who had so generously come forward on behalf of a
kinsman; but he must unwillingly state the circumstances that made
it doubtful, nay, more than doubtful, whether the prisoner's plea of
mere misadventure could stand. The dislike to the unfortunate
deceased existing among the young Tory country gentlemen of the
county was, he should prove, intensified in the prisoner on account
of not inexcusable jealousies, as well as of the youthful squabbles
which sometimes lead to fatal results. On the evening of the 30th
of June 1688 there had been angry words between the prisoner and the
deceased on Portsdown Hill, respecting the prisoner's late lady. At
four or five o'clock on the ensuing morning, the 1st of July, the
one fell by the sword of the other in the then unfrequented court of
Portchester Castle. It was alleged that the stroke was fatal only
through the violence of youthful impetuosity; but was it consistent
with that supposition that the young gentleman's time was
unaccounted for afterwards, and that the body should have been
disposed of in a manner that clearly proved the assistance of an
accomplice, and with so much skill that no suspicion had arisen for
seven years and a half, whilst the actual slayer was serving, not
his own country, but a foreign prince, and had only returned at a
most suspicious crisis?

The counsel then proceeded to construct a plausible theory. He
reminded the jury that at that very time, the summer of 1688,
messages and invitations were being despatched to his present
Gracious Majesty to redress the wrongs of the Protestant Church, and
protect the liberties of the English people. The father of the
deceased was a member of a family of the country party, his uncle a
distinguished diplomatist, to whose suite he had belonged. What was
more obvious than that he should be employed in the correspondence,
and that his movements should be dogged by parties connected with
the Stewart family? Already there was too much experience of how
far even the most estimable and conscientious might be blinded by
the sentiment that they dignified by the title of loyalty. The
deceased had already been engaged in a struggle with one of the
Archfield family, who had been acquitted of his actual slaughter;
but considering the strangeness of the hour at which the two cousins
were avowedly at or near Portchester, the condition of the clothes,
stripped of papers, but not of valuables, and the connection of the
principal witness with the pretended Prince of Wales, he could not
help thinking that though personal animosity might have added an
edge to the weapon, yet that there were deeper reasons, to prompt
the assault and the concealment, than had yet been brought to light.

"He will make nothing of that," whispered Mr. Lee. "Poor Master
Peregrine was no more a Whig than old Sir Philip there."

"'Twill prejudice the jury," whispered back Mr. Harcourt, "and
discredit the lady's testimony."

Mr. Cowper concluded by observing that half truths had come to light
in the former trial, but whole truths would give a different aspect
to the affair, and show the unfortunate deceased to have given
offence, not only as a man of gallantry, but as a patriot, and to
have fallen a victim to the younger bravoes of the so-called Tory
party. To his (the counsel's) mind, it was plain that the prisoner,
who had hoped that his crime was undiscovered and forgotten, had
returned to take his share in the rising against Government so
happily frustrated. He was certain that the traitor Charnock had
been received at his father's house, and that Mr. Sedley Archfield
had used seditious language on several occasions, so that the cause
of the prisoner's return at this juncture was manifest, and only to
the working of Providence could it be ascribed that the evidence of
the aggravated murder should have at that very period been brought
to light.

There was an evident sensation, and glances were cast at the
upright, military figure, standing like a sentinel, as if the
audience expected him to murder them all.

As before, the examination began with Robert Oakshott's
identification of the clothes and sword, but Mr. Cowper avoided the
subject of the skeleton, and went on to inquire about the terms on
which the two young men had lived.

"Well," said Robert, "they quarrelled, but in a neighbourly sort of
way."

"What do you call a neighbourly way?"

"My poor brother used to be baited for being so queer. But then we
were as bad to him as the rest," said Robert candidly.

"That is, when you were boys?"

"Yes."

"And after his return from his travels?"

"It was the same then. He was too fine a gentleman for any one's
taste."

"You speak generally. Was there any especial animosity?"

"My brother bought a horse that Archfield was after."

"Was there any dispute over it?"

"Not that I know of."

"Can you give an instance of displeasure manifested by the prisoner
at the deceased?"

"I have seen him look black when my brother held a gate open for his
wife."

"Then there were gallant attentions towards Mrs. Archfield?"

Charles's face flushed, and he made a step forward, but Robert
gruffly answered: "No more than civility; but he had got
Frenchified manners, and liked to tease Archfield."

"Did they ever come to high words before you?"

"No. They knew better."

"Thank you, Mr. Oakshott," said the prisoner, as it was intimated
that Mr. Cowper had finished. "You bear witness that only the most
innocent civility ever passed between your brother and my poor young
wife?"

"Certainly," responded Robert.

"Nothing that could cause serious resentment, if it excited passing
annoyance."

"Nothing."

"What were your brother's political opinions?"

"Well"--with some slow consideration--"he admired the Queen as was,
and could not abide the Prince of Orange. My father was always _at
him_ for it."

"Would you think him likely to be an emissary to Holland?"

"No one less likely."

But Mr. Cowper started up. "Sir, I believe you are the younger
brother?"

"Yes."

"How old were you at the time?"

"Nigh upon nineteen."

"Oh!" as if that accounted for his ignorance.

The prisoner continued, and asked whether search was made when the
deceased was missed.

"Hardly any."

"Why not?"

"He was never content at home, and we believed he had gone to my
uncle in Muscovy."

"What led you to examine the vault?"

"My wife was disquieted by stories of my brother's ghost being
seen."

"Did you ever see this ghost?"

"No, never."

That was all that was made of Robert Oakshott, and then again came
Anne Woodford's turn, and Mr. Cowper was more satirical and less
considerate than the day before. Still it was a less dreadful
ordeal than previously, though she had to tell the worst, for she
knew her ground better, and then there was throughout wonderful
support in Charles's eyes, which told her, whenever she glanced
towards him, that she was doing right and as he wished. As she had
not heard the speech for the prosecution it was a shock, after
identifying herself a niece to a 'non-swearing' clergyman, to be
asked about the night of the bonfire, and to be forced to tell that
Mrs. Archfield had insisted on getting out of the carriage and
walking about with Mr. Oakshott.

"Was the prisoner present?"

"He came up after a time."

"Did he show any displeasure?"

"He thought it bad for her health."

"Did any words pass between him and the deceased?"

"Not that I remember."

"And now, madam, will you be good enough to recur to the following
morning, and continue the testimony in which you were interrupted
the day before yesterday? What was the hour?"

"The church clock struck five just after."

"May I ask what took a young gentlewoman out at such an untimely
hour? Did you expect to meet any one?"

"No indeed, sir," said Anne hotly. "I had been asked to gather some
herbs to carry to a friend."

"Ah! And why at that time in the morning?"

"Because I was to leave home at seven, when the tide served."

"Where were you going?"

"To London, sir."

"And for what reason?"

"I had been appointed to be a rocker in the Royal nursery."

"I see. And your impending departure may explain certain strange
coincidences. May I ask what was this same herb?" in a mocking
tone.

"Mouse-ear, sir," said Anne, who would fain have called it by some
less absurd title, but knew no other. "A specific for the whooping-
cough."

"Oh! Not 'Love in a mist.' Are your sure?"

"My lord," here Simon Harcourt ventured, "may I ask, is this
regular?"

The judge intimated that his learned brother had better keep to the
point, and Mr. Cowper, thus called to order, desired the witness to
continue, and demanded whether she was interrupted in her quest.

"I saw Mr. Peregrine Oakshott enter the castle court, and I hurried
into the tower, hoping he had not seen me."

"You said before he had protected you. Why did you run from him?"

She had foreseen this, and quietly answered, "He had made me an
offer of marriage which I had refused, and I did not wish to meet
him."

"Did you see any one else?"

"Not till I had reached the door opening on the battlements. Then I
heard a clash, and saw Mr. Archfield and Mr. Oakshott fighting."

"Mr. Archfield! The prisoner? Did he come to gather mouse-ear
too?"

"No. His wife had sent him over with a pattern of sarcenet for me
to match in London."

"Early rising and prompt obedience." And there ensued the inquiries
that brought out the history of what she had seen of the encounter,
of the throwing the body into the vault, full dressed, and of her
promise of silence and its reason. Mr. Cowper did not molest her
further except to make her say that she had been five months at the
Court, and had accompanied the late Queen to France.

Then came the power of cross-examination on the part of the
prisoner. He made no attempt to modify what had been said before,
but asked in a gentle apologetic voice: "Was that the last time you
ever saw, or thought you saw, Peregrine Oakshott?"

"No." And here every one in court started and looked curious.

"When?"

"The 31st of October 1688, in the evening."

"Where?"

"Looking from the window in the palace at Whitehall, I saw him, or
his likeness, walking along in the light of the lantern over the
great door."

The appearance at Lambeth was then described, and that in the garden
at Archfield House. This strange cross-examination was soon over,
for Charles could not endure to subject her to the ordeal, while she
equally longed to be able to say something that might not damage
him, and dreaded every word she spoke. Moreover, Mr. Cowper looked
exceedingly contemptuous, and made the mention of Whitehall and
Lambeth a handle for impressing on the jury that the witness had
been deep in the counsels of the late royal family, and that she was
escorted from St. Germain by the prisoner just before he entered on
foreign service.

One of the servants at Fareham was called upon to testify to the
hour of his young master's return on the fatal day. It was long
past dinner-time, he said. It must have been about three o'clock.

Charles put in an inquiry as to the condition of his horse. "Hard
ridden, sir, as I never knew your Honour bring home Black Bess in
such a pickle before."

After a couple of young men had been called who could speak to some
outbreaks of dislike to poor Peregrine, in which all had shared, the
case for the prosecution was completed. Cowper, in a speech that
would be irregular now, but was permissible then, pointed out that
the jealousy, dislike, and Jacobite proclivities of the Archfield
family had been fully made out, that the coincidence of visits to
the castle at that untimely hour had been insufficiently explained,
that the condition of the remains in the vault was quite
inconsistent with the evidence of the witness, Mistress Woodford,
unless there were persons waiting below unknown to her, and that the
prisoner had been absent from Fareham from four or five o'clock in
the morning till nearly three in the afternoon. As to the strange
story she had further told, he (Mr. Cowper) was neither
superstitious nor philosophic, but the jury would decide whether
conscience and the sense of an awful secret were not sufficient to
conjure up such phantoms, if they were not indeed spiritual,
occurring as they did in the very places and at the very times when
the spirit of the unhappy young man, thus summarily dismissed from
the world, his corpse left in an unblessed den, would be most likely
to reappear, haunting those who felt themselves to be most
accountable for his lamentable and untimely end.

The words evidently told, and it was at a disadvantage that the
prisoner rose to speak in his own defence and to call his witnesses.

"My lord," he said, "and gentlemen of the jury, let me first say
that I am deeply grieved and hurt that the name of my poor young
wife has been brought into this matter. In justice to her who is
gone, I must begin by saying that though she was flattered and
gratified by the polite manners that I was too clownish and awkward
to emulate, and though I may have sometimes manifested ill-humour,
yet I never for a moment took serious offence nor felt bound to
defend her honour or my own. If I showed displeasure it was because
she was fatiguing herself against warning. I can say with perfect
truth, that when I left home on that unhappy morning, I bore no
serious ill-will to any living creature. I had no political
purpose, and never dreamt of taking the life of any one. I was a
heedless youth of nineteen. I shall be able to prove the commission
of my wife's on which this learned gentleman has thought fit to cast
a doubt. For the rest, Mistress Anne Woodford was my sister's
friend and playfellow from early childhood. When I entered the
castle court I saw her hurrying into the keep, pursued by Oakshott,
whom I knew her to dread and dislike. I naturally stepped between.
Angry words passed. He challenged my right to interfere, and in a
passion drew upon me. Though I was the taller and stronger, I knew
him to be proud of his skill in fencing, and perhaps I may therefore
have pressed him the harder, and the dislike I acknowledge made me
drive home my sword. But I was free from all murderous intention up
to that moment. In my inexperience I had no doubt but that he was
dead, and in a terror and confusion which I regret heartily, I threw
him into the vault, and for the sake of my wife and mother bound
Miss Woodford to secrecy. I mounted my horse, and scarcely knowing
what I did, rode till I found it ready to drop. I asked for rest
for it in the first wayside public-house I came to. I lay down
meanwhile among some bushes adjoining, and there waited till my
horse could take me home again. I believe it was at the White
Horse, near Bishops Waltham, but the place has changed hands since
that time, so that I can only prove my words, as you have heard, by
the state of my horse when I came home. For the condition of the
remains in the vault I cannot account; I never touched the poor
fellow after throwing him there. My wife died a few hours after my
return home, where I remained for a week, nor did I suggest flight,
though I gladly availed myself of my father's suggestion of sending
me abroad with a tutor. Let me add, to remove misconception, that I
visited Paris because my tutor, the Reverend George Fellowes, one of
the Fellows of Magdalen College expelled by the late King, and now
Rector of Portchester, had been asked to provide for Miss Woodford's
return to her home, and he is here to testify that I never had any
concern with politics. I did indeed accompany him to St. Germain,
but merely to find the young gentlewoman, and in the absence of the
late King and Queen, nor did I hold intercourse with any other
person connected with their Court. After escorting her to Ostend, I
went to Hungary to serve in the army of our ally, the Emperor,
against the Turks, the enemies of all Christians. After a severe
wound, I have come home, knowing nothing of conspiracies, and I was
taken by surprise on arriving here at Winchester at finding that my
cousin was on his trial for the unfortunate deed into which I was
betrayed by haste and passion, but entirely without premeditation or
intent to do more than to defend the young lady. So that I plead
that my crime does not amount to murder from malicious intent; and
likewise, that those who charge me with the actual death of
Peregrine Oakshott should prove him to be dead."

Charles's first witness was Mrs. Lang, his late wife's 'own woman,'
who spared him many questions by garrulously declaring 'what a work'
poor little Madam had made about the rose-coloured sarcenet, causing
the pattern to be searched out as soon as she came home from the
bonfire, and how she had 'gone on at' her husband till he promised
to give it to Mistress Anne, and how he had been astir at four
o'clock in the morning, and had called to her (Mrs. Lang) to look to
her mistress, who might perhaps get some sleep now that she had her
will and hounded him out to go over to Portchester about that silk.

Nothing was asked of this witness by the prosecution except the time
of Mr. Archfield's return. The question of jealousy was passed
over.

Of the pond apparition nothing was said. Anne had told Charles of
it, but no one could have proved its identity but Sedley, and his
share in it was too painful to be brought forward. Three other
ghost seers were brought forward: Mrs. Fellowes's maid, the sentry,
and the sexton; but only the sexton had ever seen Master Perry
alive, and he would not swear to more than that it was something in
his likeness; the sentry was already bound to declare it something
unsubstantial; and the maid was easily persuaded into declaring that
she did not know what she had seen or whether she had seen anything.

There only remained Mr. Fellowes to bear witness of his pupil's
entire innocence of political intrigues, together with a voluntary
testimony addressed to the court, that the youth had always appeared
to him a well-disposed but hitherto boyish lad, suddenly sobered and
rendered thoughtful by a shock that had changed the tenor of his
mind.

Mr. Baron Hatsel summed up in his dreary vacillating way. He told
the gentlemen of the jury that young men would be young men,
especially where pretty wenches were concerned, and that all knew
that there was bitterness where Whig and Tory were living nigh
together. Then he went over the evidence, at first in a tone
favourable to the encounter having been almost accidental, and the
stroke an act of passion. But he then added, it was strange, and he
did not know what to think of these young sparks and the young
gentlewoman all meeting in a lonely place when honest folks were
abed, and the hiding in the vault, and the state of the clothes were
strange matters scarce agreeing with what either prisoner or witness
said. It looked only too like part of a plot of which some one
should make a clean breast. On the other hand, the prisoner was a
fine young gentleman, an only son, and had been fighting the Turks,
though it would have been better to have fought the French among his
own countrymen. He had come ingenuously forward to deliver his
cousin, and a deliberate murderer was not wont to be so generous,
though may be he expected to get off easily on this same plea of
misadventure. If it was misadventure, why did he not try to do
something for the deceased, or wait to see whether he breathed
before throwing him into this same pit? though, to be sure, a lad
might be inexperienced. For the rest, as to these same sights of
the deceased or his likeness, he (the judge) was no believer in
ghosts, though he would not say there were no such things, and the
gentlemen of the jury must decide whether it was more likely the
poor youth was playing pranks in the body, or whether he were
haunting in the spirit those who had most to do with his untimely
end. This was the purport, or rather the no-purport, of the charge.

The jury were absent for a very short time, and as it leaked out
afterwards, their intelligence did not rise above the idea that the
young gentleman was thick with they Frenchies who wanted to bring in
murder and popery, warming-pans and wooden shoes. He called stoning
poultry a trifle, so of what was he not capable? Of course he
spited the poor young chap, and how could the fact be denied when
the poor ghost had come back to ask for his blood?

So the awful suspense ended with 'Guilty, my Lord.'

"Of murder or manslaughter?"

"Of murder."

The prisoner stood as no doubt he had faced Turkish batteries.

The judge asked the customary question whether he had any reason to
plead why he should not be condemned to death.

"No, my lord. I am guilty of shedding Peregrine Oakshott's blood,
and though I declare before God and man that I had no such purpose,
and it was done in the heat of an undesigned struggle, I hated him
enough to render the sentence no unjust one. I trust that God will
pardon me, if man does not."

The gentlemen around drew the poor old father out of the court so as
not to hear the final sentence, and Anne, half stunned, was taken
away by her uncle, and put into the same carriage with him. The old
man held her hands closely and could not speak, but she found voice,
"Sir, sir, do not give up hope. God will save him. I know what I
can do. I will go to Princess Anne. She is friendly with the King
now. She will bring me to tell him all."

Hurriedly she spoke, her object, as it seemed to be that of every
one, to keep up such hope and encouragement as to drown the terrible
sense of the actual upshot of the trial. The room at the George was
full in a moment of friends declaring that all would go well in the
end, and consulting what to do. Neither Sir Philip nor Dr. Woodford
could be available, as their refusal to take the oaths to King
William made them marked men. The former could only write to the
Imperial Ambassador, beseeching him to claim the prisoner as an
officer of the Empire, though it was doubtful whether this would be
allowed in the case of an Englishman born. Mr. Fellowes undertook
to be the bearer of the letter, and to do his best through
Archbishop Tenison to let the King know the true bearings of the
case. Almost in pity, to spare Anne the misery of helpless waiting,
Dr. Woodford consented to let her go under his escort, starting very
early the next morning, since the King might immediately set off for
the army in Holland, and the space was brief between condemnation
and execution.

Sir Edmund proposed to hurry to Carisbrooke Castle, being happily on
good terms with that fiery personage, Lord Cutts, the governor of
the Isle of Wight as well as a favoured general of the King, whose
intercession might do more than Princess Anne's. Moreover, a
message came from old Mr. Cromwell, begging to see Sir Edmund. It
was on behalf of Major Oakshott, who entreated that Sir Philip might
be assured of his own great regret at the prosecution and the
result, and his entire belief that the provocation came from his
unhappy son. Both he and Richard Cromwell were having a petition
for pardon drawn up, which Sir Henry Mildmay and almost all the
leading gentlemen of Hampshire of both parties were sure to sign,
while the sheriff would defer the execution as long as possible.
Pardons, especially in cases of duelling, had been marketable
articles in the last reigns, and there could not but be a sigh for
such conveniences. Sir Philip wanted to go at once to the jail,
which was very near the inn, but consented on strong persuasion to
let his son-in-law precede him.

Anne longed for a few moments to herself, but durst not leave the
poor old man, who sat holding her hand, and at each interval of
silence saying how this would kill the boy's mother, or something
equally desponding, so that she had to talk almost at random of the
various gleams of hope, and even to describe how the little Duke of
Gloucester might be told of Philip and sent to the King, who was
known to be very fond of him. It was a great comfort when Dr.
Woodford came and offered to pray with them.

By and by Sir Edmund returned, having been making arrangements for
Charles's comfort. Ordinary prisoners were heaped together and
miserably treated, but money could do something, and by application
to the High Sheriff, permission had been secured for Charles to
occupy a private room, on a heavy fee to the jailor, and for his
friends to have access to him, besides other necessaries, purchased
at more than their weight in gold. Sir Edmund brought word that
Charles was in good heart; sent love and duty to his father, whom he
would welcome with all his soul, but that as Miss Woodford was--in
her love and bravery--going so soon to London, he prayed that she
might be his first visitor that evening.

There was little more to do than to cross the street, and Sir Edmund
hurried her through the flagged and dirty yard, and the dim, foul
hall, filled with fumes of smoke and beer, where melancholy debtors
held out their hands, idle scapegraces laughed, heavy degraded faces
scowled, and evil sounds were heard, up the stairs to a nail-studded
door, where Anne shuddered to hear the heavy key turned by the
coarse, rude-looking warder, only withheld from insolence by the
presence of a magistrate. Her escort tarried outside, and she saw
Charles, his rush-light candle gleaming on his gold lace as he wrote
a letter to the ambassador to be forwarded by his father.

He sprang up with outstretched arms and an eager smile. "My brave
sweetheart! how nobly you have done. Truth and trust. It did my
heart good to hear you."

Her head was on his shoulder. She wanted to speak, but could not
without loosing the flood of tears.

"Faith entire," he went on; "and you are still striving for me."

"Princess Anne is--" she began, then the choking came.

"True!" he said. "Come, do not expect the worst. I have not made
up my mind to that! If the ambassador will stir, the King will not
be disobliging, though it will probably not be a free pardon, but
Hungary for some years to come--and you are coming with me."

"If you will have one who might be--may have been--your death. Oh,
every word I said seemed to me stabbing you;" and the tears would
come now.

"No such thing! They only showed how true my love is to God and me,
and made my heart swell with pride to hear her so cheering me
through all."

His strength seemed to allow her to break down. She had all along
had to bear up the spirits of Sir Philip and Lady Archfield, and
though she had struggled for composure, the finding that she had in
him a comforter and support set the pent-up tears flowing fast, as
he held her close.

"Oh, I did not mean to vex you thus!" she said.

"Vex! no indeed! 'Tis something to be wept for. But cheer up, Anne
mine. I have often been in far worse plights than this, when I have
ridden up in the face of eight big Turkish guns. The balls went
over my head then, by God's good mercy. Why not the same now? Ay!
and I was ready to give all I had to any one who would have put a
pistol to my head and got me out of my misery, jolting along on the
way to the Iron Gates. Yet here I am! Maybe the Almighty brought
me back to save poor Sedley, and clear my own conscience, knowing
well that though it does not look so, it is better for me to die
thus than the other way. No, no; 'tis ten to one that you and the
rest of you will get me off. I only meant to show you that
supposing it fails, I shall only feel it my due, and much better for
me than if I had died out there with it unconfessed. I shall try to
get them all to feel it so, and, after all, now the whole is out, my
heart feels lighter than it has done these seven years. And if I
could only believe that poor fellow alive, I could almost die
content, though that sounds strange. It will quiet his poor
restless spirit any way."

"You are too brave. Oh! I hoped to come here to comfort you, and I
have only made you comfort me."

"The best way, sweetest. Now, I will seal and address this letter,
and you shall take it to Mr. Fellowes to carry to the ambassador."

This gave Anne a little time to compose herself, and when he had
finished, he took the candle, and saying, "Look here," he held it to
the wall, and they read, scratched on the rough bricks, "Alice
Lisle, 1685. This is thankworthy."

"Lady Lisle's cell! Oh, this is no good omen!"

"I call it a goodly legacy even to one who cannot claim to suffer
wrongfully," said Charles. "There, they knock--one kiss more--we
shall meet again soon. Don't linger in town, but give me all the
days you can. Yes, take her back, Sir Edmund, for she must rest
before her journey. Cheer up, love, and do not lie weeping all
night, but believe that your prayers to God and man must prevail one
way or another."

CHAPTER XXXI: ELF-LAND

"Three ruffians seized me yestermorn,
Alas! a maiden most forlorn;
They choked my cries with wicked might,
And bound me on a palfrey white."

S. T. COLERIDGE.

Yet after the night it was with more hope than despondency, Anne, in
the February morning, mounted en croupe behind Mr. Fellowes's
servant, that being decided on as the quickest mode of travelling.
She saw the sunrise behind St. Catherine's Hill, and the gray mists
filling the valley of the Itchen, and the towers of the Cathedral
and College barely peeping beyond them. Would her life rise out of
the mist?

Through hoar-frosted hedges, deeply crested with white, they rode,
emerging by and by on downs, becoming dully green above, as the sun
touched them, but white below. Suddenly, in passing a hollow,
overhung by two or three yew-trees, they found themselves surrounded
by masked horsemen. The servant on her horse was felled, she
herself snatched off and a kerchief covered her face, while she was
crying, "Oh sir, let me go! I am on business of life and death."

The covering was stuffed into her mouth, and she was borne along
some little way; then there was a pause, and she freed herself
enough to say, "You shall have everything; only let me go;" and she
felt for the money with which Sir Philip had supplied her, and for
the watch given her by King James.

"We want you; nothing of yours," said a voice. "Don't be afraid.
No one will hurt you; but we must have you along with us."

Therewith she was pinioned by two large hands, and a bandage was
made fast over her eyes, and when she shrieked out, "Mr. Fellowes!
Oh! where are you?" she was answered--

"No harm has been done to the parson. He will be free as soon as
any one comes by. 'Tis you we want. Now, I give you fair notice,
for we don't want to choke you; there's no one to hear a squall. If
there were, we should gag you, so you had best be quiet, and you
shall suffer no hurt. Now then, by your leave, madam."

She was lifted on horseback again, and a belt passed round her and
the rider in front of her. Again she strove, in her natural voice,
to plead that to stop her would imperil a man's life, and to implore
for release. "We know all that," she was told. It was not rudely
said. The voice was not that of a clown; it was a gentleman's
pronunciation, and this was in some ways more inexplicable and
alarming. The horses were put in rapid motion; she heard the
trampling of many hoofs, and felt that they were on soft turf, and
she knew that for many miles round Winchester it was possible to
keep on the downs so as to avoid any inhabited place. She tried to
guess, from the sense of sunshine that came through her bandage, in
what direction she was being carried, and fancied it must be
southerly. On--on--on--still the turf. It seemed absolutely
endless. Time was not measurable under such circumstances, but she
fancied noon must have more than passed, when the voice that had
before spoken said, "We halt in a moment, and shift you to another
horse, madam; but again I forewarn you that our comrades here have
no ears for you, and that cries and struggles will only make it the
worse for you." Then came the sound as of harder ground and a stop--
undertones, gruff and manly, could be heard, the peculiar noise of
horses' drinking; and her captor came up this time on foot, saying,
"Plaguy little to be had in this accursed hole; 'tis but the choice
between stale beer and milk. Which will you prefer?"

She could not help accepting the milk, and she was taken down to
drink it, and a hunch of coarse barley bread was given to her, with
it the words, "I would offer you bacon, but it tastes as if Old Nick
had smoked it in his private furnace."

Such expressions were no proof that gentle blood was lacking, but
whose object could her abduction be--her, a penniless dependent?
Could she have been seized by mistake for some heiress? In that
moment's hope she asked, "Sir, do you know who I am--Anne Woodford,
a poor, portionless maid, not--"

"I know perfectly well, madam," was the reply. "May I trouble you
to permit me to mount you again?"

She was again placed behind one of the riders, and again fastened to
him, and off they went, on a rougher horse, on harder ground, and,
as she thought, occasionally through brushwood. Again a space, to
her illimitable, went by, and then came turf once more, and by and
by what seemed to her the sound of the sea.

Another halt, another lifting down, but at once to be gathered up
again, and then a splashing through water. "Be careful," said the
voice. A hand, a gentleman's hand, took hers; her feet were on
boards--on a boat; she was drawn down to sit on a low thwart.
Putting her hand over, she felt the lapping of the water and tasted
that it was salt.

"Oh, sir, where are you taking me?" she asked, as the boat was
pushed off.

"That you will know in due time," he answered.

Some more refreshment was offered her in a decided but not
discourteous manner, and she partook of it, remembering that
exhaustion might add to her perils. She perceived that after
pushing off from shore sounds of eating and low gruff voices mingled
with the plash of oars. Commands seemed to be given in French, and
there were mutterings of some strange language. Darkness was coming
on. What were they doing with her? And did Charles's fate hang
upon hers?

Yet in spite of terrors and anxieties, she was so much worn out as
to doze long enough to lose count of time, till she was awakened by
the rocking and tossing of the boat and loud peremptory commands.
She became for the first time in her life miserable with sea-
sickness, for how long it was impossible to tell, and the pitching
of the boat became so violent that when she found herself bound to
one of the seats she was conscious of little but a longing to be
allowed to go to the bottom in peace, except that some great cause--
she could hardly in her bewildered wretchedness recollect what--
forbade her to die till her mission was over.

There were loud peremptory orders, oaths, sea phrases, in French and
English, sometimes in that unknown tongue. Something expressed that
a light was directing to a landing-place, but reaching it was
doubtful.

"Unbind her eyes," said a voice; "let her shift for herself."

"Better not."

There followed a fresh upheaval, as if the boat were perpendicular;
a sudden sinking, some one fell over and bruised her; another
frightful rising and falling, then smoothness; the rope that held
her fast undone; the keel grating; hands apparently dragging up the
boat. She was lifted out like a doll, carried apparently through
water over shingle. Light again made itself visible; she was in a
house, set down on a chair, in the warmth of fire, amid a buzz of
voices, which lulled as the bandage was untied and removed. Her
eyes were so dazzled, her head so giddy, her senses so faint, that
everything swam round her, and there that strange vision recurred.
Peregrine Oakshott was before her. She closed her eyes again, as
she lay back in the chair.

"Take this; you will be better." A glass was at her lips, and she
swallowed some hot drink, which revived her so that she opened her
eyes again, and by the lights in an apparently richly curtained
room, she again beheld that figure standing by her, the glass in his
hand.

"Oh!" she gasped. "Are you alive?"

The answer was to raise her still gloved hand with substantial
fingers to a pair of lips.

"Then--then--he is safe! Thank God!" she murmured, and shut her
eyes again, dizzy and overcome, unable even to analyse her
conviction that all would be well, and that in some manner he had
come to her rescue.

"Where am I?" she murmured dreamily. "In Elf-land?"

"Yes; come to be Queen of it."

The words blended with her confused fancies. Indeed she was hardly
fully conscious of anything, except that a woman's hands were about
her, and that she was taken into another room, where her drenched
clothes were removed, and she was placed in a warm, narrow bed,
where some more warm nourishment was put into her mouth with a
spoon, after which she sank into a sleep of utter exhaustion. That
sleep lasted long. There was a sensation of the rocking of the
boat, and of aching limbs, through great part of the time; also
there seemed to be a continual roaring and thundering around her,
and such strange misty visions, that when she finally awoke, after a
long interval of deeper and sounder slumber, she was incapable of
separating the fact from the dream, more especially as head and
limbs were still heavy, weary, and battered. The strange roaring
still sounded, and sometimes seemed to shake the bed. Twilight was
coming in at a curtained window, and showed a tiny chamber, with
rafters overhead and thatch, a chest, a chair, and table. There was
a pallet on the floor, and Anne suspected that she had been wakened
by the rising of its occupant. Her watch was on the chair by her
side, but it had not been wound, and the dim light did not increase,
so that there was no guessing the time; and as the remembrance of
her dreadful adventures made themselves clear, she realised with
exceeding terror that she must be a prisoner, while the evening's
apparition relegated itself to the world of dreams.

Being kidnapped to be sent to the plantations was the dread of those
days. But if such were the case, what would become of Charles? In
the alarm of that thought she sat up in bed and prepared to rise,
but could nowhere see her clothes, only the little cloth bag of
toilet necessaries that she had taken with her.

At that moment, however, the woman came in with a steaming cup of
chocolate in her hand and some of the garments over her arm. She
was a stout, weather-beaten, kindly-looking woman with a high white
cap, gold earrings, black short petticoat, and many-coloured apron.
"Monsieur veut savoir si mademoiselle va bien?" said she in slow
careful French, and when questions in that language were eagerly
poured out, she shook her head, and said, "Ne comprends pas." She,
however, brought in the rest of the clothes, warm water, and a
light, so that Anne rose and dressed, exceedingly perplexed, and
wondering whether she could be in a ship, for the sounds seemed to
say so, and there was no corresponding motion. Could she be in
France? Certainly the voyage had seemed interminable, but she did
not think it _could_ have been long enough for that, nor that any
person in his senses would try to cross in an open boat in such
weather. She looked at the window, a tiny slip of glass, too thick
to show anything but what seemed to be a dark wall rising near at
hand. Alas! she was certainly a prisoner! In whose hands? With
what intent? How would it affect that other prisoner at Winchester?
Was that vision of last night substantial or the work of her
exhausted brain? What could she do? It was well for her that she
could believe in the might of prayer.

She durst not go beyond her door, for she heard men's tones,
suppressed and gruff, but presently there was a knock, and wonder of
wonders, she beheld Hans, black Hans, showing all his white teeth in
a broad grin, and telling her that Missee Anne's breakfast was
ready. The curtain that overhung the door was drawn back, and she
passed into another small room, with a fire on the open hearth, and
a lamp hung from a beam, the walls all round covered with carpets or
stuffs of thick glowing colours, so that it was like the inside of a
tent. And in the midst, without doubt, stood Peregrine Oakshott, in
such a dress as was usually worn by gentlemen in the morning--a
loose wrapping coat, though with fine lace cuffs and cravat, all,
like the shoes and silk stockings, worn with his peculiar
daintiness, and, as was usual when full-bottomed wigs were the rule
in grande tenue, its place supplied by a silken cap. This was olive
green with a crimson tassel, which had assumed exactly the
characteristic one-sided Riquet-with-a-tuft aspect. For the rest,
these years seemed to have made the slight form slighter and more
wiry, and the face keener, more sallow, and more marked.

He bowed low with the foreign courtesy which used to be so offensive
to his contemporaries, and offered a delicate, beringed hand to lead
the young lady to the little table, where grilled fowl and rolls,
both showing the cookery of Hans, were prepared for her.

"I hope you rested well, and have an appetite this morning."

"Sir, what does it all mean? Where am I?" asked Anne, drawing
herself up with the native dignity that she felt to be her defence.

"In Elf-land," he said, with a smile, as he heaped her plate.

"Speak in earnest," she entreated. "I cannot eat till I understand.
It is no time for trifling! Life and death hang on my reaching
London! If you saved me from those men, let me go free."

"No one can move at present," he said. "See here."

He drew back a curtain, opened first one door and then another, and
she saw sheets of driving rain, and rising, roaring waves, with surf
which came beating in on the force of such a fearful gust of wind
that Peregrine hastily shut the door, not without difficulty.
"Nobody can stir at present," he said, as they came into the warm
bright room again. "It is a frightful tempest, the worst known here
for years, they say. The dead-lights, as they call them, have been
put in, or the windows would be driven in. Come and taste Hans's
work; you know it of old. Will you drink tea? Do you remember how
your mother came to teach mine to brew it, and how she forgave me
for being graceless enough to squirt at her?"

There was something so gentle and reassuring in the demeanour of
this strange being that Anne, convinced of the utter hopelessness of
confronting the storm, as well as of the need of gathering strength,
allowed herself to be placed in a chair, and to partake of the food
set before her, and the tea, which was served without milk, in an
exquisite dragon china cup, but with a saucer that did not match it.

"We don't get our sets perfect," said Peregrine, with a smile, who
was waiting on her as if she were a princess.

"I entreat you to tell me where we are!" said Anne. "Not in
France?"

"No, not in France! I wish we were."

"Then--can this be the Island?"

"Yes, the Island it is," said Peregrine, both speaking as South
Hants folk; "this is the strange cave or chasm called Black Gang
Chine."

"Black Gang! Oh! the highwaymen, the pirates! You have saved me
from them. Were they going to send me to the plantations?"

"You need have no fears. No one shall touch you, or hurt you. You
shall see no one save by your own consent, my queen."

"And when this storm is passed--Oh!" as a more fearful roar and dash
sounded as if the waves were about to sweep away their frail
shelter--"you will come with me and save Mr. Archfield's life? You
cannot know--"

"I know," he interrupted; "but why should I be solicitous for his
life? That I am here now is no thanks to him, and why should I give
up mine for the sake of him who meant to make an end of me?"

"You little know how he repented. And your own life? What do you
mean?"

"People don't haunt the Black Gang Chine when their lives are secure
from Dutch Bill," he answered. "Don't be terrified, my queen;
though I cannot lay claim, like Prospero, to having raised this
storm by my art magic, yet it perforce gives me time to make you
understand who and what I am, and how I have recovered my better
angel to give her no mean nor desperate career. It will be better
thus than with the suddenness with which I might have had to act."

A new alarm seized upon Anne as to his possible intentions, but she
would not forestall what she so much apprehended, and, sensible that
self-control alone could guard her, since escape at present was
clearly impossible, she resigned herself to sit opposite to him by
the ample hearth of what she perceived to be a fisherman's hut, thus
fitted up luxuriously with, it might be feared, the spoils of the
sea.

The story was a long one, and not by any means told consecutively or
without interruption, and all the time those eyes were upon her, one
yellow the other green, with the effect she knew so well of old in
childish days, of repulsion yet compulsion, of terror yet
attraction, as if irresistibly binding a reluctant will. Several
times Peregrine was called off to speak to some one outside the
door, and at noon he begged permission for his friends to dine with
them, saying that there was no other place where the dinner could be
taken to them comfortably in this storm.

CHAPTER XXXII: SEVEN YEARS

"It was between the night and day,
When the Fairy King has power,
That I sunk down in a sinful fray,
And 'twixt life and death was snatched away
To the joyless Elfin bower."

SCOTT.

This motto was almost the account that the twisted figure, with
queer contortions of face, yet delicate feet and hands, and dainty
utterance, might have been expected to give, when Anne asked him,
"Was it you, really?"

"I--or my double?" he asked. "When?"

She told him, and he seemed amazed.

"So you were there? Well, you shall hear. You know how things
stood with me--your mother, my good spirit, dead, my uncle away, my
father bent on driving me to utter desperation, and Martha Browning
laying her great red hands on me--"

"Oh, sir, she really loved you, and is far wiser and more tolerant
than you thought her."

"I know," he smiled grimly. "She buried the huge Scot that was
killed in the great smuggling fray under the Protector, with all
honours, in our family vault, and had a long-winded sermon preached
on my untimely end. Ha! ha!" with his mocking laugh.

"Don't, sir! If you had seen your father then! Why did no one come
forward and explain?"

"Mayhap there were none at hand who knew, or wished to meddle with
the law," he said. "Well, things were beyond all bearing at home,
and you were going away, and would not so much as look at me. Now,
one of the few sports my father did not look askance at was fishing,
and he would endure my being out at night with, as he thought, poor
man, old Pete Perring, who was as stern a Puritan as himself; but I
had livelier friends, and more adventurous. They had connections
with French free-traders for brandy and silks, and when they found I
was one with them, my French tongue was a boon to them, till I came
to have a good many friends among the Norman fishermen, and to know
the snug hiding-places about the coast. So at last I made up my
mind to be off with them, and make my way to my uncle in Muscovy. I
had raised money enough at play and on the jewels one picks up in an
envoy's service, and there was one good angel whom I meant to take
with me if I could secure her and bind her wings. Now you know with
what hopes I saw you gathering flowers alone that morning."

Anne clasped her hands; Charles had truly interfered with good
cause.

"I had all arranged," he continued; "my uncle would have given you a
hearty welcome, and made our peace with my father, or if not, he
would have left us all his goods, and secured my career. What call
had that great lout, with a wife of his own too, to come thrusting
between us? I thought I should make short work of him, and give him
a lesson against meddling--great unlicked cub as he was, while I had
had the best training at Berlin and Paris in fencing; but somehow
those big strong fellows, from their very clumsiness, throw one out.
And he meant mischief--yes, that he did. I saw it in his eyes. I
suppose his sulky rustic jealousy was a-fire at a few little
civilities to that poor little wife of his. Any way, when he bore
me down like the swing of a windmill, he drove his sword home. Talk
of his being innocent! Why should he never look whether I were dead
or alive, but fling me headlong into that pit?"

Anne could not but utter her eager defence, but it was met with a
sinister smile, half of scorn, half of pity, and as she would have
gone on, "Hush! your pleading only fills up the measure of my
loathing."

Her heart sank, but she let him go on, listening perhaps less
attentively as she considered how to take him.

"In fact," he continued, "little as the lubber knew it, 'twas the
best he could have done for me. For though I never looked for such
luck as your being out in the court at that hour, I did think the
chance not to be lost of visiting the garden or the churchyard, and
there were waiting in the vault a couple of stout Normans, who were
to come at my whistle. It seems that when I came tumbling down in
their midst, senseless and bleeding like a calf, they did not take
it quite so easily as your champion above, but began doing what they
could for me, and were trying to staunch the wound, when they heard
a trampling and a rumbling overhead, and being aware that our
undertaking might look ugly in the sight of the law, and thinking
this might be pursuers, they carried me off with all speed, not so
much as stopping to pick up the things that have made such a
commotion. Was there any pursuit?"

"Oh no; it must have been the haymakers."

"No doubt. The place was in no great favour with our own people;
they were in awe of the big Scot, who is in comfortable quarters in
my grave, and the Frenchmen could not have found their way thither,
so it was let alone till Mistress Martha's researches. So I came to
myself in the boat in which they took me on board the lugger that
was waiting for us; and instead of making for Alderney, as I had
intended, so as to get the knot safely tied to your satisfaction,
they sailed straight for Havre. They had on board a Jesuit father,
whom I had met once or twice among the Duke of Berwick's people, but
who had found Portsmouth too hot to hold him in the frenzy of
Protestant zeal on the Bishops' account. He had been beset, and
owed his life, he says, to the fists of the Breton and Norman
sailors, who had taken him on board. It was well for me, for I
doubt if ever I was tough enough to have withstood my good friends'
treatment. He had me carried to a convent in Havre, where the
fathers nursed me well; and before I was on my legs again, I had
made up my mind to cast in my lot with them, or rather with their
Church."

"Oh!"

"I had been baulked of winning the one being near whom my devil
never durst come. And blood-letting had pretty well disposed of
him. I was as meek and mild as milk under the good fathers.
Moreover, as my good friend at Turin had told me, and they repeated
it, such a doubly heretical baptism as mine was probably invalid,
and accounted for my being as much a vessel of wrath as even my
father was pleased to call me. There was the Queen's rosary drawing
me too. Everything else was over with me, and it seemed to open a
new life. So, bless me, what a soft and pious frame I was in when
they chastened me, water, oil, salt and all, on what my father raged
at folks calling Lammas Day, but which it seems really belongs to
St. Peter in the Fetters. So I was named Pierre or Piers after him,
thus keeping my own initial."

"Piers! oh! not Piers Pigwiggin?"

"Pierre de Pilpignon, if you please. I have a right to that too;
but we shall come to it by and by. I can laugh now, or perhaps
weep, over the fervid state I was in then, as if I had trodden down
my snake, and by giving up everything--you, estate, career, I could
keep him down. So it was settled that I would devote myself to the
priesthood--don't laugh!--and I was ordered off to their seminary in
London, partly, I believe, for the sake of piloting a couple of
fathers, who could not speak a word of English. It was, as they
rightly judged, the last place where my father would think of
looking for me, but they did not as rightly judge that we should
long keep possession there. Matters grew serious, and it was not
over safe in the streets. There was a letter of importance from a
friend in Holland, carrying the Prince of Orange's hypocritical
Declaration, which was to be got to Father Petre or the King on the
night--Hallowmas Eve it was--and I was told off to put on a secular
dress, which I could wear more naturally than most of them, and
convey it."

"Ah, that explains!"

"Apparition number one! I guessed you were somewhere in those
parts, and looked up at the windows, and though I did not see you, I
believe it was your eyes that first sent a thrill through me that
boded ill for Roman orders. After that we lived in a continual
state of rumours and alarms, secret messages and expeditions, until
I, being strong in the arm and the wind and a feather-weight, was
one of those honoured by rowing the Queen and Prince across the
river. M. de St. Victor accepted me. He told me there would be two
nurses, but never knew or cared who they were, nor did I guess, as
we sat in the dark, how near I was to you. And only for one second
did I see your face, as you were entering the carriage, and I
blessed you the more for what you were doing for Her Majesty."

He proceeded to tell how he had accompanied the Jesuit fathers, on
their leaving London, to the great English seminary at Douai, and
being for the time convinced by them that his feelings towards Anne
were a delusion of the enemy, he had studied with all his might, and
as health and monotony of life began to have their accustomed effect
in rousing the restlessness and mischievousness of his nature, with
all the passions of manhood growing upon him, he strove to force
them down by fasting and scourging. He told, in a bitter, almost
savage way, of his endeavours to flog his demon out of himself, and
of his anger and disappointment at finding Piers Pilgrim in the
seminary of Douai, quite as subject to his attacks as ever was Perry
Oakshott under a sermon of Mr. Horncastle's.

Then came the information among the students that the governor of
the city, the Marquis de Nidemerle, had brought some English
gentlemen and ladies to visit the gardens. As most of the students
were of British families there was curiosity as to who they were,
and thus Peregrine heard that one was young Archfield of the
Hampshire family, with his tutor, and the lady was Mistress Darpent,
daughter to a French lawyer, who had settled in England after the
Fronde. Anne's name had not transpired, for she was viewed merely
as an attendant. Peregrine had been out on some errand in the town,
and had a distant view of his enemy as he held him, flaunting about
with a fine lady on his arm, forgetting the poor little pretty wife
whom no doubt he had frightened to death."

"Oh! you little know how tenderly he speaks of her."

"Tenderly!--that's the way they speak of me at Oakwood, eh? Human,
not to say elf, nature, could not withstand giving the fellow a
start. I sped off, whipped into the Church, popped into a surplice
I found ready to hand, caught up a candle, and!--Little did I think
who it was that was hanging on his arm. So little did I know it
that my heart began to be drawn to St. Germain, where I still
imagined you. Altogether, after that prank, all broke out again. I
entertained the lads with a few more freaks, for which I did ample
penance, but it grew on me that in my case all was a weariness and a
sham, and that my demon might get a worse hold of me if I got into a
course of hypocrisy. They were very good to me, those fathers, but
Jesuits as they were, I doubt whether they ever fathomed me. Any
way, perhaps they thought I should be a scandal, but they agreed
with me that their order was not my vocation, and that we had better
part before my fiend drove me to do so with dishonour. They even
gave me recommendations to the French officers that were besieging
Tournay. I knew the Duke of Berwick a little at Portsmouth, and it
ended in my becoming under-secretary to the Duke of Chartres. A man
who knows languages has his value among Frenchmen, who despise all
but their own."

Peregrine did not enter into full details of this stage of his
career, and Anne was not fully informed of the habits that the young
Duke of Chartres, the future Regent Duke of Orleans, was already
developing, but she gathered that, what the young man called his
demon, had nearly undisputed sway over him, and she had not spent
eight months at St. Germain without knowing by report of the
dissolute manners of the substratum of fashionable society at Paris,
even though outward decorum had been restored by Madame de
Maintenon. Yet he seemed to have been crossed by fits of vehement
penitence, and almost the saddest part of the story was the mocking
tone in which he alluded to these.

He had sought service at the Court in the hope of meeting Miss
Woodford there, and had been grievously disappointed when he found
that she had long since returned to England. The sight of the
gracious and lovely countenance of the exiled Queen seemed always to
have moved and touched him, as in some inexplicable manner her eyes
and expression recalled to him those of Mrs. Woodford and Anne; but
the thought had apparently only stung him into the sense of being
forsaken and abandoned to his own devices or those of his evil
spirit.

One incident, occurring some three years previously, he told more
fully, as it had a considerable effect on his life. "I was
attending the Duke in the gardens at Versailles," he said, "when we
were aware of a great commotion. All the gentlemen were standing
gazing up into the top of a great chestnut tree, the King and all,
and in the midst stood the Abbe de Fenelon with his little pupils,
the youngest, the Duke of Anjou, sobbing piteously, and the Duke of
Burgundy in a furious passion, stamping and raging, and only
withheld from rolling on the ground by the Abbe's hand grasping his
shoulder. 'I will not have him killed! He is mine,' he cried. And
up in the tree, the object of all their gaze, was a monkey with a
paper fluttering in his hand. Some one had made a present of the
creature to the King's grandsons; he was the reigning favourite, and
having broken his chain, had effected an entrance by the window into
the King's cabinet, where after giving himself the airs of a
minister of state, on being interrupted, he had made off through the
window with an important document, which he was affecting to peruse
at his leisure, only interrupting himself to hurl down leaves or
unripe chestnuts at those who attempted to pelt him with stones, and
this only made him mount higher and higher, entirely out of their
reach, for no one durst climb after him. I believe it was a letter
from the King of Spain; at any rate the whole Cabinet was in agony
lest the brute should proceed to tear it into fragments, and a
musqueteer had been sent for to shoot him down. I remembered my
success with the monkey on poor little Madam Archfield's back--nay,
perhaps 'twas the same, my familiar taking shape. I threw myself at
the King's feet, and desired permission to deal with the beast. By
good luck it had not been so easy as they supposed to find a musquet
fit for immediate use, so I had full time. To ascend the tree was
no more than I had done many times before, and I went high in the
branches, but cautiously, not to give Monsieur le Singe the idea of
being pursued, lest he should leap to a bough incapable of
supporting me. When I had reached a fork tolerably high, and where
he could see me, I settled myself, took out a letter, which
fortunately was in my pocket, read it with the greatest
deliberation, the monkey watching me all the time, and finally I
proceeded to fold it neatly in all its creases. The creature
imitated me with its black fingers, little aware, poor thing, that
the musqueteer had covered him with his weapon, and was waiting for
the first sign of tearing the letter to pull the trigger, but
withheld by a sign from the King, who did not wish to sacrifice his
grandson's pet before his eyes. Finally, after finishing the
folding, I doubled it a second time, and threw it at the animal. To
my great joy he returned the compliment by throwing the other at my
head. I was able to catch it, and moreover, as he was disposed to
go in pursuit of his plaything, he swung his chain so near me that I
got hold of it, twisted it round my arm, and made the best of my way
down the tree, amid the 'Bravos!' started by the royal lips
themselves, and repeated with ecstasy by all the crowd, who waved
their hats, and made such a hallooing that I had much ado to get the
monkey down safely; but finally, all dishevelled, with my best cuffs
and cravat torn to ribbons, and my wig happily detached, unlike
Absalom's, for it remained in the tree, I had the honour of
presenting on my knee the letter to the King, and the monkey to the
Princes. I kissed His Majesty's hand, the little Duke of Anjou
kissed the monkey, and the Duke of Burgundy kissed me with arms
round my neck, then threw himself on his knees before his
grandfather to ask pardon for his passion. Every one said my
fortune was made, and that my agility deserved at least the cordon
bleu. My own Duke of Chartres, who in many points is like his
cousin, our late King Charles, gravely assured me that a new office
was to be invented for me, and that I was to be Grand Singier du
Roi. I believe he pushed my cause, and so did the little Duke of
Burgundy, and finally I got the pension without the office, and a
good deal of occasional employment besides, in the way of
translation of documents. There were moments of success at play.
Oh yes, quite fairly, any one with wits about him can make his
profit in the long-run among the Court set. And thus I had enough
to purchase a pretty little estate and chateau on the coast of
Normandy, the confiscated property of a poor Huguenot refugee, so
that it went cheap. It gives the title of Pilpignon, which I
assumed in kindness to the tongues of my French friends. So you
see, I have a station and property to which to carry you, my fair
one, won by myself, though only by catching an ape."

He went on to say that the spot had been chosen advisedly, with a
view to communication with the opposite coast, where his old
connection with the smugglers was likely to be useful in the
Jacobite plots. "As you well know," he said, "my father had done
his utmost to make Whiggery stink in my nostrils, to say nothing of
the kindness I have enjoyed from our good Queen; and I was ready to
do my utmost in the cause, especially after I had stolen a glimpse
of you, and when Charnock, poor fellow, returning from reconnoitring
among the loyal, told me that you were still unmarried, and living
as a dependent in the Archfields' house. Our headquarters were in
Romney Marsh, but it was as well to have, as it were, a back door
here, and as it has turned out it has been the saving of some of
us."

"Oh, sir! you were not in that wicked plot?"

"Nay; surely _you_ are not turned Whig."

"But this was assassination."

"Not at all, if they would have listened to me. The Dutchman is no
bigger than I am. I could have dropped on him from one of his trees
at Hampton Court, or through a window, via presto, and we would have
had him off by the river, given him an interview to beg his uncle's
pardon, and despatched him for the benefit of his asthma to the
company of the Iron Mask at St. Marguerite; then back again, the
King to enjoy his own again, Dr. Woodford, archbishop or bishop of
whatever you please, and a lady here present to be Marquise de
Pilpignon, or Countess of Havant, whichever she might prefer. Yes,
truly those were the hopes with which I renewed my communications
with the contraband trade on this coast, a good deal more numerous
since the Dutchman and his wars have raised the duties and driven
many good men to holes and corners.

"Ever since last spring, when the Princess Royal died, and thus
extinguished the last spark of forbearance in the King's breast, I
have been here, there, and everywhere--Romney Marsh, Drury Lane,
Paris, besides this place and Pilpignon, where I have a snug harbour
for the yacht, Ma Belle Annik, as the Breton sailors call her. The
crew are chiefly Breton; it saves gossip; but I have a boat's crew
of our own English folk here, stout fellows, ready for anything by
land or sea."

"The Black Gang," said Anne faintly.

"Don't suppose I have meddled in their exploits on the road," he
said, "except where a King's messenger or a Royal mail was
concerned, and that is war, you know, for the cause. Unluckily my
personal charms are not easily disguised, so that I have had to lurk
in the background, and only make my private investigations in the
guise of my own ghost."

"Then so it was you saved the dear little Philip?" said Anne.

"The Archfield boy? I could not see a child sent to his destruction
by that villain Sedley, whoever were his father, for he meant
mischief if ever man did. 'Twas superhuman scruple not to hold your
peace and let him swing."

"What was it, then, on his cousin's part?"

Peregrine only answered with a shrug. It appeared further, that as
long as the conspirators had entertained any expectation of success,
he had merely kept a watch over Anne, intending to claim her in the
hour of the triumph of his party, when he looked to enjoy such a
position as would leave his brother free to enjoy his paternal
inheritance. In the failure of all their schemes through Mr.
Pendergrast's denunciation, Sir George Barclay, and one or two
inferior plotters, had succeeded in availing themselves of the
assistance of the Black Gang, and had been conducted by Peregrine to
the hut that he had fitted up for himself. Still trusting to the
security there, although his name of Piers Pilgrim or de Pilpignon
had been among those given up to the Privy Council, he had insisted
on lingering, being resolved that an attempt should be made to carry
away the woman he had loved for so many years. Captain Burford had
so disguised himself as to be able to attend the trial, loiter about
the inn, and collect intelligence, while the others waited on the
downs. Peregrine had watched over the capture, but being unwilling
to disclose himself, had ridden on faster and crossed direct,
traversing the Island on horseback, while the captive was rounding
it in the boat. "As should never have been done," he said, "could I
have foretold to what stress of weather you would be exposed while I
was preparing for your reception. But for this storm--it rages
louder than ever--we would have been married by a little parson whom
Burford would have fetched from Portsmouth, and we should have been
over the Channel, and my people hailing my bride with ecstasy."

"Never!" exclaimed Anne. "Can you suppose I could accept one who
would leave an innocent man to suffer?"

"People sometimes are obliged to accept," said Peregrine. Then at
her horrified start, "No, no, fear no violence; but is not something
due to one who has loved you through exile all these years, and
would lay down his life for you? you, the only being who overcomes
his evil angel!"

"This is what you call overcoming it," she said.

"Nay; indeed, Mistress Anne, I would let the authorities know that
they are hanging a man for murdering one who is still alive if I
could; but no one would believe without seeing, and I and all who
could bear witness to my existence would be rushing to an end even
worse than a simple noose. You were ready enough to denounce him to
save that worthless fellow."

"Not ready. It tore my heart. But truth is truth. I could not do
that wickedness. Oh! how can you? This _is_ the prompting of the
evil spirit indeed, to expect me to join in leaving that innocent,
generous spirit to die in cruel injustice. Let me go. I will not
betray where you are. You will be safe in France; but there will
yet be time for me to bear witness to your life. Write a letter.
Your father would thankfully swear to your handwriting, and I think
they would believe me. Only let me go."

"And what then becomes of the hopes of a lifetime?" demanded
Peregrine. "I, who have waited as long as Jacob, to be defrauded
now I have you; and for the sake of the fellow who killed me in will
if not in deed, and then ran away like a poltroon leaving you to
bear the brunt!"

"He did not act like a poltroon when he saved the life of his
general, or when he rescued the colours of his regiment, still less
when he stood up to save me from the pain of bearing witness against
him, and to save a guiltless man," cried Anne, with flashing eyes.

Before she had finished her indignant words, Hans was coming in from
some unknown region to lay the cloth for supper, and Peregrine, with
an imprecation under his breath, had gone to the door to admit his
two comrades, who came into the narrow entry on a gust of wind as it
were, struggling out of their cloaks, stamping and swearing.

In the middle of the day, they had been much more restrained in
their behaviour. There had at that time been a slight clearance in
the sky, though the wind was as furious as ever, and they were in
haste to despatch the meal and go out again to endeavour to stand on
the heights and to watch some vessels that were being tossed by the
storm. Almost all the conversation had then been on the chances of
their weathering the tempest, and the probability of its lasting on,
and they had hurried away as soon as possible. Anne had not then
known who they were, and only saw that they were fairly civil to
her, and kept under a certain constraint by Pilpignon, as they
called their host. Now she fully knew the one who was addressed as
Sir George to be Barclay, the prime mover in the wicked scheme of
assassination of which all honest Tories had been so much ashamed,
and she could see Captain Burford to be one of those bravoes who
were only too plentiful in those days, attending on dissolute and
violent nobles.

She was the less inclined to admit their attentions, and shielded
herself with a grave coldness of stately manners; but their talk was
far more free than at noon, suggesting the thought that they had
anticipated the meal with some of the Nantz or other liquors that
seemed to be in plenty.

They began by low bows of affected reverence, coarser and worse in
the ruffian of inferior grade, and the knight complimented Pilpignon
on being a lucky dog, and hoped he had made the best use of his time
in spite of the airs of his duchess. It was his own fault if he
were not enjoying such fair society, while they, poor devils, were
buffeting with the winds, which had come on more violently than
ever. Peregrine broke in with a question about the vessels in
sight.

There was an East Indiaman, Dutch it was supposed, laying-to, that
was the cause of much excitement. "If she drives ashore our fellows
will neither be to have nor to hold," said Sir George.

"They will obey me," said Peregrine quietly.

"More than the sea will just yet," laughed the captain. "However,
as soon as this villainous weather is a bit abated, I'll be off
across the Island to do your little errand, and only ask a kiss of
the bride for my pains; but if the parson be at Portsmouth there
will be no getting him to budge till the water is smooth. Never
mind, madam, we'll have a merry wedding feast, whichever side of the
water it is. I should recommend the voyage first for my part."

All Anne could do was to sit as upright and still as she could,
apparently ignoring the man's meaning. She did not know how
dignified she looked, and how she was daunting his insolence. When
presently Sir George Barclay proposed as a toast a health to the
bride of to-morrow, she took her part by raising the glass to her
lips as well as the gentlemen, and adding, "May the brides be happy,
wherever they may be."

"Coy, upon my soul," laughed Sir George. "You have not made the
best of your opportunities, Pil." But with an oath, "It becomes her
well."

"A truce with fooling, Barclay," muttered Peregrine.

"Come, come, remember faint heart--no lowering your crest, more than
enough to bring that devilish sparkle in the eyes, and turn of the
neck!"

"Sir," said Anne rising, "Monsieur de Pilpignon is an old neighbour,
and understands how to respect his most unwilling guest. I wish you
a good-night, gentlemen. Guennik, venez ici, je vous prie."

Guennik, the Breton boatswain's wife, understood French thus far,
and comprehended the situation enough to follow willingly, leaving
the remainder of the attendance to Hans, who was fully equal to it.
The door was secured by a long knife in the post, but Anne could
hear plainly the rude laugh at her entrenchment within her fortress
and much of the banter of Peregrine for having proceeded no further.
It was impossible to shut out all the voices, and very alarming they
were, as well as sometimes so coarse that they made her cheeks glow,
while she felt thankful that the Bretonne could not understand.

These three men were all proscribed traitors in haste to be off, but
Peregrine, to whom the yacht and her crew belonged, had lingered to
obtain possession of the lady, and they were declaring that now they
had caught his game and given him his toy, they would brook no
longer delay than was absolutely necessitated by the storm, and
married or not married, he and she should both be carried off
together, let the damsel-errant give herself what haughty airs she
would. It was a weak concession on their part to the old Puritan
scruples that he might have got rid of by this time, to attempt to
bring about the marriage. They jested at him for being afraid of
her, and then there were jokes about gray mares.

The one voice she could not hear was Peregrine's, perhaps because he
realised more than they did that she was within ear-shot, and
besides, he was absolutely sober; but she thought he silenced them;
and then she heard sounds of card-playing, which made an
accompaniment to her agonised prayers.

CHAPTER XXXIII: BLACK GANG CHINE

"Come, Lady; while Heaven lends us grace,
Let us fly this cursed place,
Lest the sorcerer us entice
With some other new device.
Not a word or needless sound
Till we come to holier ground.
I shall be your faithful guide
Through this gloomy covert wide."

MILTON.

Never was maiden in a worse position than that in which Anne
Woodford felt herself when she revolved the matter. The back of the
Isle of Wight, all along the Undercliff, had always had a wild
reputation, and she was in the midst of the most lawless of men.
Peregrine alone seemed to have any remains of honour or conscience,
and apparently he was in some degree in the hands of his associates.
Even if the clergyman came, there was little hope in an appeal to
him. Naval chaplains bore no good reputation, and Portsmouth and
Cowes were haunted by the scum of the profession. All that seemed
possible was to commit herself and Charles to Divine protection, and
in that strength to resist to the uttermost. The tempest had
returned again, and seemed to be raging as much as ever, and the
delay was in her favour, for in such weather there could be no
putting to sea.

She was unwilling to leave the stronghold of her chamber, but Hans
came to announce breakfast to her, telling her that the Mynheeren
were gone, all but Massa Perry; and that gentleman came forward to
meet her just as before, hoping 'those fellows had not disturbed her
last night.'

"I could not help hearing much," she said gravely.

"Brutes!" he said. "I am sick of them, and of this life. Save for
the King's sake, I would never have meddled with it."

The roar of winds and waves and the beat of spray was still to be
heard, and in the manifest impossibility of quitting the place and
the desire of softening him, Anne listened while he talked in a
different mood from the previous day. The cynical tone was gone, as
he spoke of those better influences. He talked of Mrs. Woodford and
his deep affection for her, of the kindness of the good priests at
Havre and Douai, and especially of one Father Seyton, who had tried
to reason with him in his bitter disappointment, and savage
penitence on finding that 'behind the Cross lurks the Devil,' as
much at Douai as at Havant. He told how a sermon of the Abbe
Fenelon's had moved him, and how he had spent half a Lent in the
severest penance, but only to have all swept away again in the wild
and wicked revelry with which Easter came in. Again he described
how his heart was ready to burst as he stood by Mrs. Woodford's
grave at night and vowed to disentangle himself and lead a new life.

"And with you I shall," he said.

"No," she answered; "what you win by a crime will never do you
good."

"A crime! 'Tis no crime. You _know_ I mean honourable marriage.
You owe no duty to any one."

"It is a crime to leave the innocent to undeserved death," she said.

"Do you love the fellow?" he cried, with a voice rising to a shout
of rage.

"Yes," she said firmly.

"Why did not you say so before?"

"Because I hoped to see you act for right and justice sake," was
Anne's answer, fixing her eyes on him. "For God's sake, not mine."

"Yours indeed! Think, what can be his love to mine? He who let
them marry him to that child, while I struggled and gave up
everything. Then he runs away--_runs away_--leaving you all the
distress; never came near you all these years. Oh yes! he looks
down on you as his child's governess! What's the use of loving him?
There's another heiress bespoken for him no doubt."

"No. His parents consent, and we have known one another's love for
six years."

"Oh, that's the way he bound you to keep his secret! He would sing
another song as soon as he was out of this scrape."

"You little know!" was all she said.

"Ay!" continued Peregrine, pacing up and down the room, "you know
that all that was wanting to fill up the measure of my hatred was
that he should have stolen your heart."

"You cannot say that, sir. He was my kind protector and helper from
our very childhood. I have loved him with all my heart ever since I
durst."

"Ay, the great straight comely lubbers have it all their own way
with the women," said he bitterly. "I remember how he rushed
headlong at me with the horse-whip when I tripped you up at the
Slype, and you have never forgiven that."

"Oh! indeed I forgot that childish nonsense long ago. You never
served me so again."

"No indeed, never since you and your mother were the first to treat
me like a human being. You will be able to do anything with me,
sweetest lady; the very sense that you are under the same roof makes
another man of me. I loathe what I used to enjoy. Why, the very
sight of you, sitting at supper like the lady in Comus, in your
sweet grave dignity, made me feel what I am, and what those men are.
I heard their jests with your innocent ears. With you by my side
the Devil's power is quelled. You shall have a peaceful beneficent
life among the poor folk, who will bless you; our good and gracious
Queen will welcome you with joy and gratitude; and when the good
time comes, as it must in a few years, you will have honours and
dignities lavished on you. Can you not see what you will do for
me?"

"Do you think a broken-hearted victim would be able to do you any
good?" said she, looking up with tears in her eyes. "I _do_
believe, sir, that you mean well by me, in your own way, and I
could, yes, I can, be sorry for you, for my mother did feel for you,
and yours has been a sad life; but how could I be of any use or
comfort to you if you dragged me away as these cruel men propose,
knowing that he who has all my heart is dying guiltless, and
thinking I have failed him!" and here she broke down in an agony of
weeping, as she felt the old power in his eyes that enforced
submission.

He marched up and down in a sort of passion. "Don't let me see you
weep for him! It makes me ready to strangle him with my own hands!"

A shout of 'Pilpignon!' at the door here carried him off, leaving
Anne to give free course to the tears that she had hitherto been
able to restrain, feeling the need of self-possession. She had very
little hope, since her affection for Charles Archfield seemed only
to give the additional sting of jealousy, 'cruel as the grave,' to
the vindictive temper Peregrine already nourished, and which
certainly came from his evil spirit. She shed many tears, and
sobbed unrestrainingly till the Bretonne came and patted her
shoulder, and said, "Pauvre, pauvre!" And even Hans looked in,
saying, "Missee Nana no cry, Massa Perry great herr--very goot."

She tried to compose herself, and think over alternatives to lay
before Peregrine. He might let her go, and carry to Sir Edmund
Nutley letters to which his father would willingly swear, while he
was out of danger in Normandy. Or if this was far beyond what could
be hoped for, surely he could despatch a letter to his father, and
for such a price she _must_ sacrifice herself, though it cost her
anguish unspeakable to call up the thought of Charles, of little
Philip, of her uncle, and the old people, who loved her so well, all
forsaken, and with what a life in store for her! For she had not
the slightest confidence in the power of her influence, whatever
Peregrine might say and sincerely believe at present. If there
were, more palpably than with all other human beings, angels of good
and evil contending for him, swaying him now this way and now that;
it was plain from his whole history that nothing had yet availed to
keep him under the better influence for long together; and she
believed that if he gained herself by these unjust and cruel means
the worse spirit would thereby gain the most absolute advantage. If
her heart had been free, and she could have loved him, she might
have hoped, though it would have been a wild and forlorn hope; but
as it was, she had never entirely surmounted a repulsion from him,
as something strange and unnatural, a feeling involving fear, though
here he was her only hope and protector, and an utter uncertainty as
to what he might do. She could only hope that she might pine away
and die quickly, and _perhaps_ Charles Archfield might know at last
that it had been for his sake. And would it be in her power to make
even such terms as these?

How long she wept and prayed and tried to 'commit her way unto the
Lord' she did not know, but light seemed to be making its way far
more than previously through the shutters closed against the storm
when Peregrine returned.

"You will not be greatly troubled with those fellows to-day," he
said; "there's a vessel come on the rocks at Chale, and every man
and mother's son is gone after it." So saying he unfastened the
shutters and let in a flood of sunshine. "You would like a little
air," he said; "'tis all quiet now, and the tide is going down."

After two days' dark captivity, Anne could not but be relieved by
coming out, and she was anxious to understand where she was. It
was, though only in March, glowing with warmth, as the sun beat
against the cliffs behind, of a dark red brown, in many places
absolutely black, in especial where a cascade, swelled by the rains
into imposing size, came roaring, leaping, and sparkling down a

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