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Fair Margaret by H. Rider Haggard

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_Author of "King Solomons Mines" "She" "Jess" etc._


Paternoster Row 1907.















































It was a spring afternoon in the sixth year of the reign of King Henry
VII. of England. There had been a great show in London, for that day his
Grace opened the newly convened Parliament, and announced to his
faithful people--who received the news with much cheering, since war is
ever popular at first--his intention of invading France, and of leading
the English armies in person. In Parliament itself, it is true, the
general enthusiasm was somewhat dashed when allusion was made to the
finding of the needful funds; but the crowds without, formed for the
most part of persons who would not be called upon to pay the money, did
not suffer that side of the question to trouble them. So when their
gracious liege appeared, surrounded by his glittering escort of nobles
and men-at-arms, they threw their caps into the air, and shouted
themselves hoarse.

The king himself, although he was still young in years, already a weary-
looking man with a fine, pinched face, smiled a little sarcastically at
their clamour; but, remembering how glad he should be to hear it who
still sat upon a somewhat doubtful throne, said a few soft words, and
sending for two or three of the leaders of the people, gave them his
royal hand, and suffered certain children to touch his robe that they
might be cured of the Evil. Then, having paused a while to receive
petitions from poor folk, which he handed to one of his officers to be
read, amidst renewed shouting he passed on to the great feast that was
made ready in his palace of Westminster.

Among those who rode near to him was the ambassador, de Ayala,
accredited to the English Court by the Spanish sovereigns, Ferdinand and
Isabella, and his following of splendidly attired lords and secretaries.
That Spain was much in favour there was evident from his place in the
procession. How could it be otherwise, indeed, seeing that already, four
years or more before, at the age of twelve months, Prince Arthur, the
eldest son of the king, had been formally affianced to the Infanta
Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, aged one year and nine
months? For in those days it was thought well that the affections of
princes and princesses should be directed early into such paths as their
royal parents and governors considered likely to prove most profitable
to themselves.

At the ambassador's left hand, mounted on a fine black horse, and
dressed richly, but simply, in black velvet, with a cap of the same
material in which was fastened a single pearl, rode a tall cavalier. He
was about five-and-thirty years of age, and very handsome, having
piercing black eyes and a stern, clean-cut face.

In every man, it is said, there can be found a resemblance, often far
off and fanciful enough, to some beast or bird or other creature, and
certainly in this case it was not hard to discover. The man resembled an
eagle, which, whether by chance or design, was the crest he bore upon
his servants' livery, and the trappings of his horse. The unflinching
eyes, the hooked nose, the air of pride and mastery, the thin, long
hand, the quick grace of movement, all suggested that king of birds,
suggested also, as his motto said, that what he sought he would find,
and what he found he would keep. Just now he was watching the interview
between the English king and the leaders of the crowd whom his Grace had
been pleased to summon, with an air of mingled amusement and contempt.

"You find the scene strange, Marquis," said the ambassador, glancing at
him shrewdly.

"Seņor, here in England, if it pleases your Excellency," he answered
gravely, "Seņor d'Aguilar. The marquis you mentioned lives in Spain--an
accredited envoy to the Moors of Granada; the Seņor d'Aguilar, a humble
servant of Holy Church," and he crossed himself, "travels abroad--upon
the Church's business, and that of their Majesties'."

"And his own too, sometimes, I believe," answered the ambassador drily.
"But to be frank, what I do not understand about you, Seņor d'Aguilar,
as I know that you have abandoned political ambitions, is why you do not
enter my profession, and put on the black robe once and for all. What
did I say--black? With your opportunities and connections it might be
red by now, with a hat to match."

The Seņor d'Aguilar smiled a little as he replied.

"You said, I think, that sometimes I travel on my own business. Well,
there is your answer. You are right, I have abandoned worldly
ambitions--most of them. They are troublesome, and for some people, if
they be born too high and yet not altogether rightly, very dangerous.
The acorn of ambition often grows into an oak from which men hang."

"Or into a log upon which men's heads can be cut off. Seņor, I
congratulate you. You have the wisdom that grasps the substance and lets
the shadows flit. It is really very rare."

"You asked why I do not change the cut of my garments," went on
d'Aguilar, without noticing the interruption. "Excellency, to be frank,
because of my own business. I have failings like other men. For
instance, wealth is that substance of which you spoke, rule is the
shadow; he who has the wealth has the real rule. Again, bright eyes may
draw me, or a hate may seek its slaking, and these things do not suit
robes, black or red."

"Yet many such things have been done by those who wore them," replied
the ambassador with meaning.

"Aye, Excellency, to the discredit of Holy Church, as you, a priest,
know better than most men. Let the earth be evil as it must; but let the
Church be like heaven above it, pure, unstained, the vault of prayer,
the house of mercy and of righteous judgment, wherein walks no sinner
such as I," and again he crossed himself.

There was a ring of earnestness in the speaker's voice that caused de
Ayala, who knew something of his private reputation, to look at him

"A true fanatic, and therefore to us a useful man," he thought to
himself, "though one who knows how to make the best of two worlds as
well as most of them;" but aloud he said, "No wonder that our Church
rejoices in such a son, and that her enemies tremble when he lifts her
sword. But, Seņor, you have not told me what you think of all this
ceremony and people."

"The people I know well, Excellency, for I dwelt among them in past
years and speak their language; and that is why I have left Granada to
look after itself for a while, and am here to-day, to watch and make
report----" He checked himself, then added, "As for the ceremony, were I
a king I would have it otherwise. Why, in that house just now those
vulgar Commons--for so they call them, do they not?--almost threatened
their royal master when he humbly craved a tithe of the country's wealth
to fight the country's war. Yes, and I saw him turn pale and tremble at
the rough voices, as though their echoes shook his throne. I tell you,
Excellency, that the time will come in this land when those Commons will
be king. Look now at that fellow whom his Grace holds by the hand,
calling him 'sir' and 'master,' and yet whom he knows to be, as I do, a
heretic, a Jew in disguise, whose sins, if he had his rights, should be
purged by fire. Why, to my knowledge last night, that Israelite said
things against the Church----"

"Whereof the Church, or its servant, doubtless made notes to be used
when the time comes," broke in de Ayala. "But the audience is done, and
his Highness beckons us forward to the feast, where there will be no
heretics to vex us, and, as it is Lent, not much to eat. Come, Seņor!
for we stop the way."

Three hours had gone by, and the sun sank redly, for even at that spring
season it was cold upon the marshy lands of Westminster, and there was
frost in the air. On the open space opposite to the banqueting-hall, in
front of which were gathered squires and grooms with horses, stood and
walked many citizens of London, who, their day's work done, came to see
the king pass by in state. Among these were a man and a lady, the latter
attended by a handsome young woman, who were all three sufficiently
striking in appearance to attract some notice in the throng.

The man, a person of about thirty years of age, dressed in a merchant's
robe of cloth, and wearing a knife in his girdle, seemed over six feet
in height, while his companion, in her flowing, fur-trimmed cloak, was,
for a woman, also of unusual stature. He was not, strictly speaking, a
handsome man, being somewhat too high of forehead and prominent of
feature; moreover, one of his clean-shaven cheeks, the right, was marred
by the long, red scar of a sword-cut which stretched from the temple to
the strong chin. His face, however, was open and manly, if rather stern,
and the grey eyes were steady and frank. It was not the face of a
merchant, but rather that of one of good degree, accustomed to camps and
war. For the rest, his figure was well-built and active, and his voice
when he spoke, which was seldom, clear and distinct to loudness, but
cultivated and pleasant--again, not the voice of a merchant.

Of the lady's figure little could be seen because of the long cloak that
hid it, but the face, which appeared within its hood when she turned and
the dying sunlight filled her eyes, was lovely indeed, for from her
birth to her death-day Margaret Castell--fair Margaret, as she was
called--had this gift to a degree that is rarely granted to woman.
Rounded and flower-like was that face, most delicately tinted also,
with rich and curving lips and a broad, snow-white brow. But the wonder
of it, what distinguished her above everything else from other beautiful
women of her time, was to be found in her eyes, for these were not blue
or grey, as might have been expected from her general colouring, but
large, black, and lustrous; soft, too, as the eyes of a deer, and
overhung by curling lashes of an ebon black. The effect of these eyes of
hers shining above those tinted cheeks and beneath the brow of ivory
whiteness was so strange as to be almost startling. They caught the
beholder and held him, as might the sudden sight of a rose in snow, or
the morning star hanging luminous among the mists of dawn. Also,
although they were so gentle and modest, if that beholder chanced to be
a man on the good side of fifty it was often long before he could forget
them, especially if he were privileged to see how well they matched the
hair of chestnut, shading into black, that waved above them and fell,
tress upon tress, upon the shapely shoulders and down to the
slender waist.

Peter Brome, for he was so named, looked a little anxiously about him at
the crowd, then, turning, addressed Margaret in his strong, clear voice.

"There are rough folk around," he said; "do you think you should stop
here? Your father might be angered, Cousin."

Here it may be explained that in reality their kinship was of the
slightest, a mere dash of blood that came to her through her mother.
Still they called each other thus, since it is a convenient title that
may mean much or nothing.

"Oh! why not?" she answered in her rich, slow tones, that had in them
some foreign quality, something soft and sweet as the caress of a
southern wind at night. "With you, Cousin," and she glanced approvingly
at his stalwart, soldier-like form, "I have nothing to fear from men,
however rough, and I do greatly want to see the king close by, and so
does Betty. Don't you, Betty?" and she turned to her companion.

Betty Dene, whom she addressed, was also a cousin of Margaret, though
only a distant connection of Peter Brome. She was of very good blood,
but her father, a wild and dissolute man, had broken her mother's heart,
and, like that mother, died early, leaving Betty dependent upon
Margaret's mother, in whose house she had been brought up. This Betty
was in her way remarkable, both in body and mind. Fair, splendidly
formed, strong, with wide, bold, blue eyes and ripe red lips, such was
the fashion of her. In speech she was careless and vigorous. Fond of the
society of men, and fonder still of their admiration, for she was
romantic and vain, Betty at the age of five-and-twenty was yet an
honest girl, and well able to take care of herself, as more than one of
her admirers had discovered. Although her position was humble, at heart
she was very proud of her lineage, ambitious also, her great desire
being to raise herself by marriage back to the station from which her
father's folly had cast her down--no easy business for one who passed as
a waiting-woman and was without fortune.

For the rest, she loved and admired her cousin Margaret more than any
one on earth, while Peter she liked and respected, none the less perhaps
because, try as she would--and, being nettled, she did try hard
enough--her beauty and other charms left him quite unmoved.

In answer to Margaret's question she laughed and answered:

"Of course. We are all too busy up in Holborn to get the chance of so
many shows that I should wish to miss one. Still, Master Peter is very
wise, and I am always counselled to obey him. Also, it will soon
be dark."

"Well, well," said Margaret with a sigh and a little shrug of her
shoulders, "as you are both against me, perhaps we had best be going.
Next time I come out walking, cousin Peter, it shall be with some one
who is more kind."

Then she turned and began to make her way as quickly as she could
through the thickening crowd. Finding this difficult, before Peter could
stop her, for she was very swift in her movements, Margaret bore to the
right, entering the space immediately in front of the banqueting-hall
where the grooms with horses and soldiers were assembled awaiting their
lords, for here there was more room to walk. For a few moments Peter and
Betty were unable to escape from the mob which closed in behind her, and
thus it came about that Margaret found herself alone among these people,
in the midst, indeed, of the guard of the Spanish ambassador de Ayala,
men who were notorious for their lawlessness, for they reckoned upon
their master's privilege to protect them. Also, for the most part, they
were just then more or less in liquor.

One of these fellows, a great, red-haired Scotchman, whom the priest-
diplomatist had brought with him from that country, where he had also
been ambassador, suddenly perceiving before him a woman who appeared to
be young and pretty, determined to examine her more closely, and to this
end made use of a rude stratagem. Pretending to stumble, he grasped at
Margaret's cloak as though to save himself, and with a wrench tore it
open, revealing her beautiful face and graceful figure.

"A dove, comrades!--a dove!" he shouted in a voice thick with drink,
"who has flown here to give me a kiss." And, casting his long arms about
her, he strove to draw her to him.

"Peter! Help me, Peter!" cried Margaret as she struggled fiercely in his

"No, no, if you want a saint, my bonny lass," said the drunken
Scotchman, "Andrew is as good as Peter," at which witticism those of the
others who understood him laughed, for the man's name was Andrew.

Next instant they laughed again, and to the ruffian Andrew it seemed as
though suddenly he had fallen into the power of a whirlwind. At least
Margaret was wrenched away from him, while he spun round and round to
fall violently upon his face.

"That's Peter!" exclaimed one of the soldiers in Spanish.

"Yes," answered another, "and a patron saint worth having"; while a
third pulled the recumbent Andrew to his feet.

The man looked like a devil. His cap had gone, and his fiery red hair
was smeared with mud. Moreover, his nose had been broken on a cobble
stone, and blood from it poured all over him, while his little red eyes
glared like a ferret's, and his face turned a dirty white with pain and
rage. Howling out something in Scotch, of a sudden he drew his sword and
rushed straight at his adversary, purposing to kill him.

Now, Peter had no sword, but only his short knife, which he found no
time to draw. In his hand, however, he carried a stout holly staff shod
with iron, and, while Margaret clasped her hands and Betty screamed, on
this he caught the descending blow, and, furious as it was, parried and
turned it. Then, before the man could strike again, that staff was up,
and Peter had leapt upon him. It fell with fearful force, breaking the
Scotchman's shoulder and sending him reeling back.

"Shrewdly struck, Peter! Well done, Peter!" shouted the spectators.

But Peter neither saw nor heard them, for he was mad with rage at the
insult that had been offered to Margaret. Up flew the iron-tipped staff
again, and down it came, this time full on Andrew's head, which it
shattered like an egg-shell, so that the brute fell backwards, dead.

For a moment there was silence, for the joke had taken a tragic turn.
Then one of the Spaniards said, glancing at the prostrate form:

"Name of God! our mate is done for. That merchant hits hard."

Instantly there arose a murmur among the dead man's comrades, and one of
them cried:

"Cut him down!"

Understanding that he was to be set on, Peter sprang forward and
snatched the Scotchman's sword from the ground where it had fallen, at
the same time dropping his staff and drawing his dagger with the left
hand. Now he was well armed, and looked so fierce and soldier-like as he
faced his foes, that, although four or five blades were out, they held
back. Then Peter spoke for the first time, for he knew that against so
many he had no chance.

"Englishmen," he cried in ringing tones, but without shifting his head
or glance, "will you see me murdered by these Spanish dogs?"

There was a moment's pause, then a voice behind cried:

"By God! not I," and a brawny Kentish man-at-arms ranged up beside him,
his cloak thrown over his left arm, and his sword in his right hand.

"Nor I," said another. "Peter Brome and I have fought together before."

"Nor I," shouted a third, "for we were born in the same Essex hundred."

And so it went on, until there were as many stout Englishmen at his side
as there were Spaniards and Scotchmen before him.

"That will do," said Peter, "we want no more than man to man. Look to
the women, comrades behind there. Now, you murderers, if you would see
English sword-play, come on, or, if you are afraid, let us go in peace."

"Yes, come on, you foreign cowards," shouted the mob, who did not love
these turbulent and privileged guards.

By now the Spanish blood was up, and the old race-hatred awake. In
broken English the sergeant of the guard shouted out some filthy insult
about Margaret, and called upon his followers to "cut the throats of the
London swine." Swords shone red in the red sunset light, men shifted
their feet and bent forward, and in another instant a great and bloody
fray would have begun.

But it did not begin, for at that moment a tall seņor, who had been
standing in the shadow and watching all that passed, walked between the
opposing lines, as he went striking up the swords with his arm.

"Have done," said d'Aguilar quietly, for it was he, speaking in Spanish.
"You fools! do you want to see every Spaniard in London torn to pieces?
As for that drunken brute," and he touched the corpse of Andrew with his
foot, "he brought his death upon himself. Moreover, he was not a
Spaniard, there is no blood quarrel. Come, obey me! or must I tell you
who I am?"

"We know you, Marquis," said the leader in a cowed voice. "Sheath your
swords, comrades; after all, it is no affair of ours."

The men obeyed somewhat unwillingly; but at this moment arrived the
ambassador de Ayala, very angry, for he had heard of the death of his
servant, demanding, in a loud voice, that the man who had killed him
should be given up.

"We will not give him up to a Spanish priest," shouted the mob. "Come
and take him if you want him," and once more the tumult grew, while
Peter and his companions made ready to fight.

Fighting there would have been also, notwithstanding all that d'Aguilar
could do to prevent it; but of a sudden the noise began to die away, and
a hush fell upon the place. Then between the uplifted weapons walked a
short, richly clad man, who turned suddenly and faced the mob. It was
King Henry himself.

"Who dare to draw swords in my streets, before my very palace doors?" he
asked in a cold voice.

A dozen hands pointed at Peter.

"Speak," said the king to him.

"Margaret, come here," cried Peter; and the girl was thrust forward to

"Sire," he said, "that man," and he pointed to the corpse of Andrew,
"tried to do wrong to this maiden, John Castell's child. I, her cousin,
threw him down. He drew his sword and came at me, and I killed him with
my staff. See, it lies there. Then the Spaniards--his comrades--would
have cut me down, and I called for English help. Sire, that is all."

The king looked him up and down.

"A merchant by your dress," he said; "but a soldier by your mien. How
are you named?"

"Peter Brome, Sire."

"Ah! There was a certain Sir Peter Brome who fell at Bosworth Field--not
fighting for me," and he smiled. "Did you know him perchance?"

"He was my father, Sire, and I saw him slain--aye, and slew the slayer."

"Well can I believe it," answered Henry, considering him. "But how comes
it that Peter Brome's son, who wears that battle scar across his face,
is clad in merchant's woollen?"

"Sire," said Peter coolly, "my father sold his lands, lent his all to
the Crown, and I have never rendered the account. Therefore I must live
as I can."

The king laughed outright as he replied:

"I like you, Peter Brome, though doubtless you hate me."

"Not so, Sire. While Richard lived I fought for Richard. Richard is
gone; and, if need be, I would fight for Henry, who am an Englishman,
and serve England's king."

"Well said, and I may have need of you yet, nor do I bear you any
grudge. But, I forgot, is it thus that you would fight for me, by
causing riot in my streets, and bringing me into trouble with my good
friends the Spaniards?"

"Sire, you know the story."

"I know your story, but who bears witness to it? Do you, maiden, Castell
the merchant's daughter?"

"Aye, Sire. The man whom my cousin killed maltreated me, whose only
wrong was that I waited to see your Grace pass by. Look on my
torn cloak."

"Little wonder that he killed him for the sake of those eyes of yours,
maiden. But this witness may be tainted." And again he smiled, adding,
"Is there no other?"

Betty advanced to speak, but d'Aguilar, stepping forward, lifted his
bonnet from his head, bowed and said in English:

"Your Grace, there is; I saw it all. This gallant gentleman had no
blame. It was the servants of my countryman de Ayala who were to blame,
at any rate at first, and afterwards came the trouble."

Now the ambassador de Ayala broke in, claiming satisfaction for the
killing of his man, for he was still very angry, and saying that if it
were not given, he would report the matter to their Majesties of Spain,
and let them know how their servants were treated in London.

At these words Henry grew grave, who, above all things, wished to give
no offence to Ferdinand and Isabella.

"You have done an ill day's work, Peter Brome," he said, "and one of
which my attorney must consider. Meanwhile, you will be best in safe
keeping," and he turned as though to order his arrest.

"Sire," exclaimed Peter, "I live at Master Castell's house in Holborn,
nor shall I run away."

"Who will answer for that," asked the king, "or that you will not make
more riots on your road thither?"

"I will answer, your Grace," said d'Aguilar quietly, "if this lady will
permit that I escort her and her cousin home. Also," he added in a low
voice, "it seems to me that to hale him to a prison would be more like
to breed a riot than to let him go."

Henry glanced round him at the great crowd who were gathered watching
this scene, and saw something in their faces which caused him to agree
with d'Aguilar.

"So be it, Marquis," he said. "I have your word, and that of Peter
Brome, that he will be forthcoming if called upon. Let that dead man be
laid in the Abbey till to-morrow, when this matter shall be inquired of.
Excellency, give me your arm; I have greater questions of which I wish
to speak with you ere we sleep."



When the king was gone, Peter turned to those men who had stood by him
and thanked them very heartily. Then he said to Margaret:

"Come, Cousin, that is over for this time, and you have had your wish
and seen his Grace. Now, the sooner you are safe at home, the better I
shall be pleased."

"Certainly," she replied. "I have seen more than I desire to see again.
But before we go let us thank this Spanish seņor----" and she paused.

"D'Aguilar, Lady, or at least that name will serve," said the Spaniard
in his cultured voice, bowing low before her, his eyes fixed all the
while upon her beautiful face.

"Seņor d'Aguilar, I thank you, and so does my cousin, Peter Brome, whose
life perhaps you saved--don't you, Peter? Oh! and so will my father."

"Yes," answered Peter somewhat sulkily, "I thank him very much; though
as for my life, I trusted to my own arm and to those of my friends
there. Good night, Sir."

"I fear, Seņor," answered d'Aguilar with a smile, "that we cannot part
just yet. You forget, I have become bond for you, and must therefore
accompany you to where you live, that I may certify the place. Also,
perhaps, it is safest, for these countrymen of mine are revengeful, and,
were I not with you, might waylay you."

Now, seeing from his face that Peter was still bent upon declining this
escort, Margaret interposed quickly.

"Yes, that is wisest, also my father would wish it. Seņor, I will show
you the way," and, accompanied by d'Aguilar, who gallantly offered her
his arm, she stepped forward briskly, leaving Peter to follow with her
cousin Betty.

Thus they walked in the twilight across the fields and through the
narrow streets beyond that lay between Westminster and Holborn. In front
tripped Margaret beside her stately cavalier, with whom she was soon
talking fast enough in Spanish, a tongue which, for reasons that shall
be explained, she knew well, while behind, the Scotchman's sword still
in his hand, and the handsome Betty on his arm, came Peter Brome in the
worst of humours.

John Castell lived in a large, rambling, many-gabled, house, just off
the main thoroughfare of Holborn, that had at the back of it a garden
surrounded by a high wall. Of this ancient place the front part served
as a shop, a store for merchandise, and an office, for Castell was a
very wealthy trader--how wealthy none quite knew--who exported woollen
and other goods to Spain under the royal licence, bringing thence in his
own ships fine, raw Spanish wool to be manufactured in England, and with
it velvet, silks, and wine from Granada; also beautiful inlaid armour of
Toledo steel. Sometimes, too, he dealt in silver and copper from the
mountain mines, for Castell was a banker as well as a merchant, or
rather what answered to that description in those days.

It was said that beneath his shop were dungeon-like store-vaults, built
of thick cemented stone, with iron doors through which no thief could
break, and filled with precious things. However this might be, certainly
in that great house, which in the time of the Plantagenets had been the
fortified palace of a noble, existed chambers whereof he alone knew the
secret, since no one else, not even his daughter or Peter, ever crossed
their threshold. Also, there slept in it a number of men-servants, very
stout fellows, who wore knives or swords beneath their cloaks, and
watched at night to see that all was well. For the rest, the
living-rooms of this house where Castell, Margaret his daughter, and
Peter dwelt, were large and comfortable, being new panelled with oak
after the Tudor fashion, and having deep windows that looked out upon
the garden.

When Peter and Betty reached the door, not that which led into the shop,
but another, it was to find that Margaret and d'Aguilar, who were
walking very quickly, must have already passed it, since it was shut,
and they had vanished. At his knock--a hard one--a serving-man opened,
and Peter strode through the vestibule, or ante-chamber, into the hall,
where for the most part they ate and sat, for thence he heard the sound
of voices. It was a fine room, lit by hanging lamps of olive oil, and
having a large, open hearth where a fire burned pleasantly, while the
oaken table in front of it was set for supper. Margaret, who had thrown
off her cloak, stood warming herself at the fire, and the Seņor
d'Aguilar, comfortably seated in a big chair, which he seemed to have
known for years, leaned back, his bonnet in his hand, and watched
her idly.

Facing them stood John Castell, a stout, dark-bearded man of between
fifty and sixty years of age, with a clever, clean-cut face and piercing
black eyes. Now, in the privacy of his home, he was very richly attired
in a robe trimmed with the costliest fur, and fastened with a gold chain
that had a jewel on its clasp. When Castell served in his shop or sat in
his counting-house no merchant in London was more plainly dressed; but
at night, loving magnificence at heart, it was his custom thus to
indulge in it, even when there were none to see him. From the way in
which he stood, and the look upon his face, Peter knew at once that he
was much disturbed. Hearing his step, Castell wheeled round and
addressed him at once in the clear, decided voice which was his

"What is this I am told, Peter? A man killed by you before the palace
gates? A broil! A public riot in which things went near to great
bloodshed between the English, with you at the head of them, and the
bodyguard of his Excellency, de Ayala. You arrested by the king, and
bailed out by this seņor. Is all this true?"

"Quite," answered Peter calmly.

"Then I am ruined; we are all ruined. Oh! it was an evil hour when I
took one of your bloodthirsty trade into my house. What have you
to say?"

"Only that I want my supper," said Peter. "Those who began the story can
finish it, for I think their tongues are nimbler than my own," and he
glanced wrathfully at Margaret, who laughed outright, while even the
solemn d'Aguilar smiled.

"Father," broke in Margaret, "do not be angry with cousin Peter, whose
only fault is that he hits too hard. It is I who am to blame, for I
wished to stop to see the king against his will and Betty's, and
then--then that brute," and her eyes filled with tears of shame and
anger, "caught hold of me, and Peter threw him down, and afterwards,
when he attacked him with a sword, Peter killed him with his staff,
and--all the rest happened."

"It was beautifully done," said d'Aguilar in his soft voice and foreign
accent. "I saw it all, and made sure that you were dead. The parry I
understood, but the way you got your smashing blow in before he could
thrust again--ah! that----"

"Well, well," said Castell, "let us eat first and talk afterwards. Seņor
d'Aguilar, you will honour my poor board, will you not, though it is
hard to come from a king's feast to a merchant's fare?"

"It is I who am honoured," answered d'Aguilar; "and as for the feast,
his Grace is sparing in this Lenten season. At least, I could get little
to eat, and, therefore, like the seņor Peter, I am starved."

Castell rang a silver bell which stood near by, whereon servants brought
in the meal, which was excellent and plentiful. While they were setting
it on the table, the merchant went to a cupboard in the wainscoting, and
took thence two flasks, which he uncorked himself with care, saying that
he would give the seņor some wine of his own country. This done, he said
a Latin grace and crossed himself, an example which d'Aguilar followed,
remarking that he was glad to find that he was in the house of a good

"What else did you think that I should be?" asked Castell, glancing at
him shrewdly.

"I did not think at all, Seņor," he answered; "but alas! every one is
not a Christian. In Spain, for instance, we have many Moors and--Jews."

"I know," said Castell, "for I trade with them both."

"Then you have never visited Spain?"

"No; I am an English merchant. But try that wine, Seņor; it came from
Granada, and they say that it is good."

D'Aguilar tasted it, then drank off his glass.

"It is good, indeed," he said; "I have not its equal in my own cellars

"Do you, then, live in Granada, Seņor d'Aguilar?" asked Castell.

"Sometimes, when I am not travelling. I have a house there which my
mother left me. She loved the town, and bought an old palace from the
Moors. Would you not like to see Granada, Seņora?" he asked, turning to
Margaret as though to change the subject. "There is a wonderful building
there called the Alhambra; it overlooks my house."

"My daughter is never likely to see it," broke in Castell; "I do not
purpose that she should visit Spain."

"Ah! you do not purpose; but who knows? God and His saints alone," and
again he crossed himself, then fell to describing the beauties
of Granada.

He was a fine and ready talker, and his voice was very pleasant, so
Margaret listened attentively enough, watching his face, and forgetting
to eat, while her father and Peter watched them both. At length the meal
came to an end, and when the serving-men had cleared away the dishes,
and they were alone, Castell said:

"Now, kinsman Peter, tell me your story."

So Peter told him, in few words, yet omitting nothing.

"I find no blame in you," said the merchant when he had done, "nor do I
see how you could have acted otherwise than you did. It is Margaret whom
I blame, for I only gave her leave to walk with you and Betty by the
river, and bade her beware of crowds."

"Yes, father, the fault is mine, and for it I pray your pardon," said
Margaret, so meekly that her father could not find the heart to scold
her as he had meant to do.

"You should ask Peter's pardon," he muttered, "seeing that he is like to
be laid by the heels in a dungeon over this business, yes, and put upon
his trial for causing the man's death. Remember, he was in the service
of de Ayala, with whom our liege wishes to stand well, and de Ayala, it
seems, is very angry."

Now Margaret grew frightened, for the thought that harm might come to
Peter cut her heart. The colour left her cheek, and once again her eyes
swam with tears.

"Oh! say not so," she exclaimed. "Peter, will you not fly at once?"

"By no means," he answered decidedly. "Did I not say it to the king, and
is not this foreign lord bond for me?"

"What can be done?" she went on; then, as a thought struck her, turned
to d'Aguilar, and, clasping her slender hands, looked pleadingly into
his face and asked: "Seņor, you who are so powerful, and the friend of
great people, will you not help us?"

"Am I not here to do so, Seņora? Although I think that a man who can
call half London to his back, as I saw your cousin do, needs little help
from me. But listen, my country has two ambassadors at this Court--de
Ayala, whom he has offended, and Doctor de Puebla, the friend of the
king; and, strangely enough, de Puebla does not love de Ayala. Yet he
does love money, which perhaps will be forthcoming. Now, if a charge is
to be laid over this brawl, it will probably be done, not by the
churchman, de Ayala, but through de Puebla, who knows your laws and
Court, and--do you understand me, Seņor Castell?"

"Yes," answered the merchant; "but how am I to get at de Puebla? If I
were to offer him money, he would only ask more."

"I see that you know his Excellency," remarked d'Aguilar drily. "You are
right, no money should be offered; a present must be made after the
pardon is delivered--not before. Oh! de Puebla knows that John Castell's
word is as good in London as it is among the Jews and infidels of
Granada and the merchants of Seville, at both of which places I have
heard it spoken."

At this speech Castell's eyes flickered, but he only answered:

"May be; but how shall I approach him, Seņor?"

"If you will permit me, that is my task. Now, to what amount will you go
to save our friend here from inconvenience? Fifty gold angels?"

"It is too much," said Castell; "a knave like that is not worth ten.
Indeed, he was the assailant, and nothing should be paid at all."

"Ah! Seņor, the merchant is coming out in you; also the dangerous man
who thinks that right should rule the world, not kings--I mean might.
The knave is worth nothing, but de Puebla's word in Henry's ear is
worth much."

"Fifty angels be it then," said Castell, "and I thank you, Seņor, for
your good offices. Will you take the money now?"

"By no means; not till I bring the debt discharged. Seņor, I will come
again and let you know how matters stand. Farewell, fair maiden; may the
saints intercede for that dead rogue who brought me into your company,
and that of your father and your cousin of the quick eye and the
stalwart arm! Till we meet again," and, still murmuring compliments, he
bowed himself out of the room in charge of a manservant.

"Thomas," said Castell to this servant when he returned, "you are a
discreet fellow; put on your cap and cloak, follow that Spaniard, see
where he lodges, and find out all you can about him. Go now, swiftly."

The man bowed and went, and presently Castell, listening, heard a side
door shut behind him. Then he turned and said to the other two:

"I do not like this business. I smell trouble in it, and I do not like
the Spaniard either."

"He seems a very gallant gentleman, and high-born," said Margaret.

"Aye, very gallant--too gallant, and high-born--too high-born, unless I
am mistaken. So gallant and so high-born----" And he checked himself,
then added, "Daughter, in your wilfulness you have stirred a great rock.
Go to your bed and pray God that it may not fall upon your house and
crush it and us."

So Margaret crept away frightened, a little indignant also, for after
all, what wrong had she done? And why should her father mistrust this
splendid-looking Spanish cavalier?

When she was gone, Peter, who all this while had said little, looked up
and asked straight out:

"What are you afraid of, Sir?"

"Many things, Peter. First, that use will be made of this matter to
extort much money from me, who am known to be rich, which is a sin best
absolved by angels. Secondly, that if I make trouble about paying, other
questions will be set afoot."

"What questions?"

"Have you ever heard of the new Christians, Peter, whom the Spaniards
call Maranos?"

He nodded.

"Then you know that a Marano is a converted Jew. Now, as it chances--I
tell you who do not break secrets--my father was a Marano. His name does
not matter--it is best forgotten; but he fled from Spain to England for
reasons of his own, and took that of the country whence he
came--Castile, or Castell. Also, as it is not lawful for Jews to live in
England, he became converted to the Christian faith--seek not to know
his motives, they are buried with him. Moreover, he converted me, his
only child, who was but ten years old, and cared little whether I swore
by 'Father Abraham' or by the 'Blessed Mary.' The paper of my baptism
lies in my strong box still. Well, he was clever, and built up this
business, and died unharmed five-and-twenty years ago, leaving me
already rich. That same year I married an Englishwoman, your mother's
second cousin, and loved her and lived happily with her, and gave her
all her heart could wish. But after Margaret's birth, three-and-twenty
years gone by, she never had her health, and eight years ago she died.
You remember her, since she brought you here when you were a stout lad,
and made me promise afterwards that I would always be your friend, for
except your father, Sir Peter, none other of your well-born and ancient
family were left. So when Sir Peter--against my counsel, staking his all
upon that usurping rogue Richard, who had promised to advance him, and
meanwhile took his money--was killed at Bosworth, leaving you landless,
penniless, and out of favour, I offered you a home, and you, being a
wise man, put off your mail and put on woollen and became a merchant's
partner, though your share of profit was but small. Now, again you have
changed staff for steel," and he glanced at the Scotchman's sword that
still lay upon a side table, "and Margaret has loosed that rock of which
I spoke to her."

"What is the rock, Sir?"

"That Spaniard whom she brought home and found so fine."

"What of the Spaniard?"

"Wait a while and I will tell you." And, taking a lamp, he left the
room, returning presently with a letter which was written in cipher, and
translated upon another sheet in John Castell's own hand.

"This," he said, "is from my partner and connection, Juan Bernaldez, a
Marano, who lives at Seville, where Ferdinand and Isabella have their
court. Among other matters he writes this: 'I warn all brethren in
England to be careful. I have it that a certain one whose name I will
not mention even in cipher, a very powerful and high-born man, and,
although he appears to be a pleasure-seeker only, and is certainly of a
dissolute life, among the greatest bigots in all Spain, has been sent,
or is shortly to be spent, from Granada, where he is stationed to watch
the Moors, as an envoy to the Court of England to conclude a secret
treaty with its king. Under this treaty the names of rich Maranos that
are already well known here are to be recorded, so that when the time
comes, and the active persecution of Jews and Maranos begins, they may
be given up and brought to Spain for trial before the Inquisition. Also
he is to arrange that no Jew or Marano may be allowed to take refuge in
England. This is for your information, that you may warn any whom it

"You think that d'Aguilar is this man?" asked Peter, while Castell
folded up the letter and hid it in the pocket of his robe.

"I do; indeed I have heard already that a fox was on the prowl, and that
men should look to their hen-houses. Moreover, did you note how he
crossed himself like a priest, and what he said about being among good
Christians? Also, it is Lent and a fast-day, and by ill-fortune,
although none of us ate of it, there was meat upon the table, for as you
know," he added hurriedly, "I am not strict in such matters, who give
little weight to forms and ceremonies. Well, he observed it, and touched
fish only, although he drank enough of the sweet wine. Doubtless a
report of that meat will go to Spain by the next courier."

"And if it does, what matter? We are in England, and Englishmen will not
suffer their Spanish laws and ways. Perhaps the seņor d'Aguilar learned
as much as that to-night outside the banqueting-hall. There is something
to be feared from this brawl at home; but while we are safe in London,
no more from Spain."

"I am no coward, but I think there is much more to be feared, Peter. The
arm of the Pope is long, and the arm of the crafty Ferdinand is longer,
and both of them grope for the throats and moneybags of heretics."

"Well, Sir, we are not heretics."

"No, perhaps not heretics; but we are rich, and the father of one of us
was a Jew, and there is something else in this house which even a true
son of Holy Church might desire," and he looked at the door through
which Margaret had passed to her chamber.

Peter understood, for his long arms moved uneasily, and his grey eyes

"I will go to bed," he said; "I wish to think."

"Nay, lad," answered Castell, "fill your glass and stay awhile. I have
words to say to you, and there is no time like the present. Who knows
what may happen to-morrow?"



Peter obeyed, sat down in a big oak chair by the dying fire, and waited
in his silent fashion.

"Listen," said Castell. "Fifteen months ago you told me something, did
you not?"

Peter nodded.

"What was it, then?"

"That I loved my cousin Margaret, and asked your leave to tell her so."

"And what did I answer?"

"That you forbade me because you had not proved me enough, and she had
not proved herself enough; because, moreover, she would be very wealthy,
and with her beauty might look high in marriage, although but a
merchant's daughter."

"Well, and then?"

"And then--nothing," and Peter sipped his wine deliberately and put it
down upon the table.

"You are a very silent man, even where your courting is concerned," said
Castell, searching him with his sharp eyes.

"I am silent because there is no more to say. You bade me be silent, and
I have remained so."

"What! Even when you saw those gay lords making their addresses to
Margaret, and when she grew angry because you gave no sign, and was
minded to yield to one or the other of them?"

"Yes, even then--it was hard, but even then. Do I not eat your bread?
and shall I take advantage of you when you have forbid me?"

Castell looked at him again, and this time there were respect and
affection in his glance.

"Silent and stern, but honest," he said as though to himself, then
added, "A hard trial, but I saw it, and helped you in the best way by
sending those suitors--who were worthless fellows--about their business.
Now, say, are you still of the same mind towards Margaret?"

"I seldom change my mind, Sir, and on such a business, never."

"Good! Then I give you my leave to find out what her mind may be."

In the joy which he could not control, Peter's face flushed. Then, as
though he were ashamed of showing emotion, even at such a moment, he
took up his glass and drank a little of the wine before he answered.

"I thank you; it is more than I dared to hope. But it is right that I
should say, Sir, that I am no match for my cousin Margaret. The lands
which should have been mine are gone, and I have nothing save what you
pay me for my poor help in this trade; whereas she has, or will
have, much."

Castell's eyes twinkled; the answer amused him.

"At least you have an upright heart," he said, "for what other man in
such a case would argue against himself? Also, you are of good blood,
and not ill to look on, or so some maids might think; whilst as for
wealth, what said the wise king of my people?--that ofttimes riches make
themselves wings and fly away. Moreover, man, I have learned to love and
honour you, and sooner would I leave my only child in your hands than in
those of any lord in England."

"I know not what to say," broke in Peter.

"Then say nothing. It is your custom, and a good one--only listen. Just
now you spoke of your Essex lands in the fair Vale of Dedham as gone.
Well, they have come back, for last month I bought them all, and more,
at a price larger than I wished to give because others sought them, and
but this day I have paid in gold and taken delivery of the title. It is
made out in your name, Peter Bromo, and whether you marry my daughter,
or whether you marry her not, yours they shall be when I am gone, since
I promised my dead wife to befriend you, and as a child she lived there
in your Hall."

Now moved out of his calm, the young man sprang from his seat, and,
after the pious fashion of the time, addressed his patron saint, on
whose feast-day he was born.

"Saint Peter, I thank thee--"

"I asked you to be silent," interrupted Castell, breaking him short.
"Moreover, after God, it is one John who should be thanked, not St.
Peter, who has no more to do with these lands than Father Abraham or the
patient Job. Well, thanks or no thanks, those estates are yours, though
I had not meant to tell you of them yet. But now I have something to
propose to you. Say, first, does Margaret think aught of that wooden
face and those shut lips of yours?"

"How can I know? I have never asked her; you forbade me."

"Pshaw! Living in one house as you do, at your age I would have known
all there was to know on such a matter, and yet kept my word. But there,
the blood is different, and you are somewhat over-honest for a lover.
Was she frightened for you, now, when that knave made at you with
the sword?"

Peter considered the question, then answered:

"I know not. I did not look to see; I looked at the Scotchman with his
sword, for if I had not, I should have been dead, not he. But she was
certainly frightened when the fellow caught hold of her, for then she
called for me loud enough."

"And what is that? What woman in London would not call for such a one as
Peter Brome in her trouble? Well, you must ask her, and that soon, if
you can find the words. Take a lesson from that Spanish don, and scrape
and bow and flatter and tell stories of the war and turn verses to her
eyes and hair. Oh, Peter! are you a fool, that I at my age should have
to teach you how to court a woman?"

"Mayhap, Sir. At least I can do none of these things, and poesy wearies
me to read, much more to write. But I can ask a question and take
an answer."

Castell shook his head impatiently.

"Ask the question, man, if you will, but never take the answer if it is
against you. Wait rather, and ask it again--"

"And," went on Peter without noticing, his grey eyes lighting with a
sudden fire, "if need be, I can break that fine Spaniard's bones as
though he were a twig."

"Ah!" said Castell, "perhaps you will be called upon to make your words
good before all is done. For my part, I think his bones will take some
breaking. Well, ask in your own way--only ask and let me hear the answer
before to-morrow night. Now it grows late, and I have still something to
say. I am in danger here. My wealth is noised abroad, and many covet it,
some in high places, I think. Peter, it is in my mind to have done with
all this trading, and to withdraw me to spend my old age where none will
take any notice of me, down at that Hall of yours in Dedham, if you will
give me lodging. Indeed for a year and more, ever since you spoke to me
on the subject of Margaret, I have been calling in my moneys from Spain
and England, and placing them out at safe interest in small sums, or
buying jewels with them, or lending them to other merchants whom I
trust, and who will not rob me or mine. Peter, you have worked well for
me, but you are no chapman; it is not in your blood. Therefore, since
there is enough for all of us and more, I shall pass this business and
its goodwill over to others, to be managed in their name, but on shares,
and if it please God we will keep next Yule at Dedham."

As he spoke the door at the far end of the hall opened, and through it
came that serving-man who had been bidden to follow the Spaniard.

"Well," said Castell, "what tidings?"

The man bowed and said:

"I followed the Don as you bade me to his lodging, which I reached
without his seeing me, though from time to time he stopped to look about
him. He rests near the palace of Westminster, in the same big house
where dwells the ambassador de Ayala, and those who stood round lifted
their bonnets to him.

"Watching I saw some of these go to a tavern, a low place that is open
all night, and, following them there, called for a drink and listened to
their talk, who know the Spanish tongue well, having worked for five
years in your worship's house at Seville. They spoke of the fray
to-night, and said that if they could catch that long-legged fellow,
meaning Master Brome yonder, they would put a knife into him, since he
had shamed them by killing the Scotch knave, who was their officer and
the best swordsman in their company, with a staff, and then setting his
British bulldogs on them. I fell into talk with them, saying that I was
an English sailor from Spain, which they were too drunk to question, and
asked who might be the tall don who had interfered in the fray before
the king came. They told me he is a rich seņor named d'Aguilar, but ill
to serve in Lent because he is so strict a churchman, although not
strict in other matters. I answered that to me he looked like a great
noble, whereon one of them said that I was right, that there was no
blood in Spain higher than his, but unfortunately, there was a bend in
its stream, also an inkpot had been upset into it."

"What does that mean?" asked Peter.

"It is a Spanish saying," answered Castell, "which signifies that a man
is born illegitimate, and has Moorish blood in his veins."

"Then I asked what he was doing here, and the man answered that I had
best put that question to the Holy Father and to the Queen of Spain.
Lastly, after I had given the soldier another cup, I asked where the don
lived, and whether he had any other name. He replied that he lived at
Granada for the most part, and that if I called on him there I should
see some pretty ladies and other nice things. As for his name, it was
the Marquis of Nichel. I said that meant Marquis of Nothing, whereon the
soldier answered that I seemed very curious, and that was just what he
meant to tell me--nothing. Also he called to his comrades that he
believed I was a spy, so I thought it time to be going, as they were
drunk enough to do me a mischief."

"Good," said Castell. "You are watchman tonight, Thomas, are you not?
See that all doors are barred so that we may sleep without fear of
Spanish thieves. Rest you well, Peter. Nay, I do not come yet; I have
letters to send to Spain by the ship which sails to-morrow night."

When Peter had gone, John Castell extinguished all the lamps save one.
This he took in his hand and passed from the hall into an apartment that
in old days, when this was a noble's house, had been the private chapel.
There was an altar in it, and over the altar a crucifix. For a few
moments Castell knelt before the altar, for even now, at dead of night,
how knew he what eyes might watch him? Then he rose and, lamp in hand,
glided behind it, lifted some tapestry, and pressed a spring in the
panelling beneath. It opened, revealing a small secret chamber built in
the thickness of the wall and without windows; a mere cupboard that once
perhaps had been a place where a priest might robe or keep the
sacred vessels.

In this chamber was a plain oak table on which stood candles and an ark
of wood, also some rolls of parchment. Before this table he knelt down,
and put up earnest prayers to the God of Abraham, for, although his
father had caused him to be baptized into the Christian Church as a
child, John Castell remained a Jew. For this good reason, then, he was
so much afraid, knowing that, although his daughter and Peter knew
nothing of his secret, there were others who did, and that were it
revealed ruin and perhaps death would be his portion and that of his
house, since in those days there was no greater crime than to adore God
otherwise than Holy Church allowed. Yet for many years he had taken the
risk, and worshipped on as his fathers did before him.

His prayer finished, he left the place, closing the spring-door behind
him, and passed to his office, where he sat till the morning light,
first writing a letter to his correspondent at Seville, and then
painfully translating it into cipher by aid of a secret key. His task
done, and the cipher letter sealed and directed, he burned the draft,
extinguished his lamp, and, going to the window, watched the rising of
the sun. In the garden beneath blackbirds sang, and the pale primroses
were abloom.

"I wonder," he said aloud, "whether when those flowers come again I
shall live to see them. Almost I feel as though the rope were tightening
about my throat at last; it came upon me while that accursed Spaniard
crossed himself at my table. Well, so be it; I will hide the truth while
I can, but if they catch me I'll not deny it. The money is safe, most of
it; my wealth they shall never get, and now I will make my daughter safe
also, as with Peter she must be. I would I had not put it off so long;
but I hankered after a great marriage for her, which, being a Christian,
she well might make. I'll mend that fault; before to-morrow's morn she
shall be plighted to him, and before May-day his wife. God of my
fathers, give us one month more of peace and safety, and then, because I
have denied Thee openly, take my life in payment if Thou wilt."

Before John Castell went to bed Peter was already awake--indeed, he had
slept but little that night. How could he sleep whose fortunes had
changed thus wondrously between sun set and rise? Yesterday he was but a
merchant's assistant--a poor trade for one who had been trained to arms,
and borne them bravely. To-day he was a gentleman again, owner of the
broad lands where he was bred, and that had been his forefathers' for
many a generation. Yesterday he was a lover without hope, for in himself
he had never believed that the rich John Castell would suffer him, a
landless man, to pay court to his daughter, one of the loveliest and
wealthiest maids in London. He had asked his leave in past days, and
been refused, as he had expected that he would be refused, and
thenceforward, being on his honour as it were, he had said no tender
word to Margaret, nor pressed her hand, nor even looked into her eyes
and sighed. Yet at times it had seemed to him that she would not have
been ill-pleased if he had done one of these things, or all; that she
wondered, indeed, that he did not, and thought none the better of him
for his abstinence. Moreover, now he learned that her father wondered
also, and this was a strange reward of virtue.

For Peter loved Margaret with heart and soul and body. Since he, a lad,
had played with her, a child, he loved her, and no other woman. She was
his thought by day and his dream by night, his hope, his eternal star.
Heaven he pictured as a place where for ever he would be with Margaret,
earth without her could be nothing but a hell. That was why he had
stayed on in Castell's shop, bending his proud neck to this tradesman's
yoke, doing the bidding and taking the rough words of chapmen and of
lordly customers, filling in bills of exchange, and cheapening bargains,
all without a sign or murmur, though oftentimes he felt as though his
gorge would burst with loathing of the life. Indeed, that was why he had
come there at all, who otherwise would have been far away, hewing a road
to fame and fortune, or digging out a grave with his broadsword. For
here at least he could be near to Margaret, could touch her hand at morn
and evening, could watch the light shine in her beauteous eyes, and
sometimes, as she bent over him, feel her breath upon his hair. And now
his purgatory was at an end, and of a sudden the gates of joy were open.

But what if Margaret should prove the angel with the flaming sword who
forbade him entrance to his paradise? He trembled at the thought. Well,
if so, so it must be; he was not the man to force her fancy, or call her
father to his aid. He would do his best to win her, and if he failed,
why then he would bless her, and let her go.

Peter could lie abed no longer, but rose and dressed himself, although
the dawn was not fully come. By his open window he said his prayers,
thanking God for mercies past, and praying that He would bless him in
his great emprise. Presently the sun rose, and there came a great
longing on him to be alone in the countryside, he who was country-born
and hated towns, with only the sky and the birds and the trees
for company.

But here in London was no country, wherever he went he would meet men;
moreover, he remembered that it might be best that just now he should
not wander through the streets unguarded, lest he should find Spaniards
watching to take him unawares. Well, there was the garden; he would go
thither, and walk a while. So he descended the broad oak stairs, and,
unbolting a door, entered this garden, which, though not too well kept,
was large for London, covering an acre of ground perhaps, surrounded by
a high wall, and having walks, and at the end of it a group of ancient
elms, beneath which was a seat hidden from the house. In summer this was
Margaret's favourite bower, for she too loved Nature and the land, and
all the things it bore. Indeed, this garden was her joy, and the flowers
that grew there were for the most part of her own planting--primroses,
snowdrops, violets, and, in the shadow of the trees, long
hartstongue ferns.

For a while Peter walked up and down the central path, and, as it
chanced, Margaret, who also had risen early and not slept too well,
looking through her window curtains, saw him wandering there, and
wondered what he did at this hour; also, why he was dressed in the
clothes he wore on Sundays and holidays. Perhaps, she thought, his
weekday garments had been torn or muddied in last night's fray. Then she
fell to thinking how bravely he had borne him in that fray. She saw it
all again; the great red-headed rascal tossed up and whirled to the
earth by his strong arms; saw Peter face that gleaming steel with
nothing but a staff; saw the straight blows fall, and the fellow go
reeling to the earth, slain with a single stroke.

Ah! her cousin, Peter Brome, was a man indeed, though a strange one, and
remembering certain things that did not please her, she shrugged her
ivory shoulders, turned red, and pouted. Why, that Spaniard had said
more civil words to her in an hour than had Peter in two years, and he
was handsome and noble-looking also; but then the Spaniard was--a
Spaniard, and other men were--other men, whereas Peter was--Peter, a
creature apart, one who cared as little for women as he did for trade.

Why, then, if he cared for neither women nor trade, did he stop here?
she wondered. To gather wealth? She did not think it; he seemed to have
no leanings that way either. It was a mystery. Still, she could wish to
get to the bottom of Peter's heart, just to see what was hid there,
since no man has a right to be a riddle to his loving cousin. Yes, and
one day she would do it, cost what it might.

Meanwhile, she remembered that she had never thanked Peter for the brave
part which he had played, and, indeed, had left him to walk home with
Betty, a journey that, as she gathered from her sprightly cousin's talk
while she undressed her, neither of them had much enjoyed. For Betty, be
it said here, was angry with Peter, who, it seemed, once had told her
that she was a handsome, silly fool, who thought too much of men and too
little of her business. Well, since after the day's work had begun she
would find no opportunity, she would go down and thank Peter now, and
see if she could make him talk for once.

So Margaret threw her fur-trimmed cloak about her, drawing its hood over
her head, for the April air was cold, and followed Peter into the
garden. When she reached it, however, there was no Peter to be seen,
whereon she reproached herself for having come to that damp place so
early and meditated return. Then, thinking that it would look foolish if
any had chanced to see her, she walked down the path pretending to seek
for violets, and found none. Thus she came to the group of great elms at
the end, and, glancing between their ancient boles, saw Peter standing
there. Now, too, she understood why she could find no violets, for Peter
had gathered them all, and was engaged, awkwardly enough, in trying to
tie them and some leaves into a little posy by the help of a stem of
grass. With his left hand he held the violets, with his right one end of
the grass, and since he lacked fingers to clasp the other, this he
attempted with his teeth. Now he drew it tight, and now the brittle
grass stem broke, the violets were scattered, and Peter used words that
he should not have uttered even when alone.

"I knew you would break it, but I never thought you could lose your
temper over so small a thing, Peter," said Margaret; and he in the
shadow looked up to see her standing there in the sunlight, fresh and
lovely as the spring itself.

Solemnly, in severe reproof, she shook her head, from which the hood had
fallen back, but there was a smile upon her lips, and laughter in her
eyes. Oh! she was beautiful, and at the sight of her Peter's heart stood
still. Then, remembering what he had just said, and certain other things
that Master Castell had said, he blushed so deeply that her own cheeks
went red in sympathy. It was foolish, but she could not help it, for
about Peter this morning there was something strange, something that
bred blushes.

"For whom are you gathering violets so early," she asked, "when you
ought to be praying for that Scotchman's soul?"

"I care nothing for his soul," answered Peter testily. "If the brute had
one, he can look after it himself; and I was gathering the
violets--for you."

She stared. Peter was not in the habit of making her presents of
flowers. No wonder he had looked strange.

"Then I will help you to tie them. Do you know why I am up so early? It
is for your sake. I behaved badly to you last night, for I was cross
because you wanted to thwart me about seeing the king. I never thanked
you for all you did, you brave Peter, though I thanked you enough in my
heart. Do you know that when you stood there with that sword, in the
middle of those Englishmen, you looked quite noble? Come out into the
sunlight, and I will thank you properly."

In his agitation Peter let the remainder of the flowers fall. Then an
idea struck him, and he answered:

"Look! I can't; if you are really grateful for nothing at all, come in
here and help me to pick up these violets--a pest on their
short stalks!"

She hesitated a little, then by degrees drew nearer, and, bending down,
began to find the flowers one by one. Peter had scattered them wide, so
that at first the pair were some way apart, but when only a few
remained, they drew close. Now there was but one violet left, and, both
stretching for it, their hands met. Margaret held the violet, and Peter
held Margaret's fingers. Thus linked they straightened themselves, and
as they rose their faces were very near together and oh! most sweet were
Margaret's wonderful eyes; while in the eyes of Peter there shone a
flame. For a second they looked at each other, and then of a sudden he
kissed her on the lips.



"Peter!" gasped Margaret--"_Peter!_"

But Peter made no answer, only he who had been red of face went white,
so that the mark of the sword-cut across his cheek showed like a scarlet
line upon a cloth.

"Peter!" repeated Margaret, pulling at her hand which he still held, "do
you know what you have done?"

"It seems that you do, so what need is there for me to tell you?" he

"Then it was not an accident; you really meant it, and you are not

"If it was, I hope that I may meet with more such accidents."

"Peter, leave go of me. I am going to tell my father, at once."

His face brightened.

"Tell him by all means," he said; "he won't mind. He told me----"

"Peter, how dare you add falsehood to--to--you know what. Do you mean to
say that my father told you to kiss me, and at six o'clock in the
morning, too?"

"He said nothing about kissing, but I suppose he meant it. He said that
I might ask you to marry me."

"That," replied Margaret, "is a very different thing. If you had asked
me to marry you, and, after thinking it over for a long while, I had
answered Yes, which of course I should not have done, then, perhaps,
before we were married you might have--Well, Peter, you have begun at
the wrong end, which is very shameless and wicked of you, and I shall
never speak to you again."

"I daresay," said Peter resignedly; "all the more reason why I should
speak to you while I have the chance. No, you shan't go till you have
heard me. Listen. I have been in love with you since you were twelve
years old--"

"That must be another falsehood, Peter, or you have gone mad. If you had
been in love with me for eleven years, you would have said so."

"I wanted to, always, but your father refused me leave. I asked him
fifteen months ago, but he put me on my word to say nothing."

"To say nothing--yes, but he could not make you promise to show

"I thought that the one thing meant the other; I see now that I have
been a fool, and, I suppose, have overstayed my market," and he looked
so depressed that Margaret relented a little.

"Well," she said, "at any rate it was honest, and of course I am glad
that you were honest."

"You said just now that I told falsehoods--twice; if I am honest, how
can I tell falsehoods?"

"I don't know. Why do you ask me riddles? Let me go and try to forget
all this."

"Not till you have answered me outright. Will you marry me, Margaret? If
you won't, there will be no need for you to go, for I shall go and
trouble you no more. You know what I am, and all about me, and I have
nothing more to say except that, although you may find many finer
husbands, you won't find one who would love and care for you better. I
know that you are very beautiful and very rich, while I am neither one
nor the other, and often I have wished to Heaven that you were not so
beautiful, for sometimes that brings trouble on women who are honest and
only have one heart to give, or so rich either. But thus things are, and
I cannot change them, and, however poor my chance of hitting the dove, I
determined to shoot my bolt and make way for the next archer. Is there
any chance at all, Margaret? Tell me, and put me out of pain, for I am
not good at so much talking."

Now Margaret began to grow disturbed; her wayward assurance departed
from her.

"It is not fitting," she murmured, "and I do not wish--I will speak to
my father; he shall give you your answer."

"No need to trouble him, Margaret. He has given it already. His great
desire is that we should marry, for he seeks to leave this trade and to
live with us in the Vale of Dedham, in Essex, where he has bought back
my father's land."

"You are full of strange tidings this morning, Peter."

"Yes, Margaret, our wheel of life that went so slow turns fast enough
to-day, for God above has laid His whip upon the horses of our Fate,
and they begin to gallop, whither I know not. Must they run side by
side, or separate? It is for you to say."

"Peter," she said, "will you not give me a little time?"

"Aye, Margaret, ten whole minutes by the clock, and then if it is nay,
all your life, for I pack my chest and go. It will be said that I feared
to be taken for that soldier's death."

"You are unkind to press me so."

"Nay, it is kindest to both of us. Do you then love some other man?"

"I must confess I do," she murmured, looking at him out of the corners
of her eyes.

Now Peter, strong as he was, turned faint, and in his agitation let go
her hand which she lifted, the violets still between her fingers,
considering it as though it were a new thing to her.

"I have no right to ask you who he is," he muttered, striving to control

"Nay, but, Peter, I will tell you. It is my father--what other man
should I love?"

"Margaret!" he said in wrath, "you are fooling me."

"How so? What other man should I love--unless, indeed, it were

"I can bear no more of this play," he said. "Mistress Margaret, I bid
you farewell. God go with you!" And he brushed past her.

"Peter," she said when he had gone a few yards, "would you have these
violets as a farewell gift?"

He turned and hesitated.

"Come, then, and take them."

So back he came, and with little trembling fingers she began to fasten
the flowers to his doublet, bending ever nearer as she fastened, until
her breath played upon his face, and her hair brushed his bonnet. Then,
it matters not how, once more the violets fell to earth, and she sighed,
and her hands fell also, and he put his strong arms round her and drew
her to him and kissed her again and yet again on the hair and eyes and
lips; nor did Margaret forbid him.

At length she thrust him from her and, taking him by the hand, led him
to the seat beneath the elms, and bade him sit at one end of it, while
she sat at the other.

"Peter," she whispered, "I wish to speak with you when I can get my
breath. Peter, you think poorly of me, do you not? No--be silent; it is
my turn to talk. You think that I am heartless, and have been playing
with you. Well, I only did it to make sure that you really do love me,
since, after that--accident of a while ago (when we were picking up the
violets, I mean), you would have been in honour bound to say it, would
you not? Well, now I am quite sure, so I will tell you something. I love
you many times as well as you love me, and have done so for quite as
long. Otherwise, should I not have married some other suitor, of whom
there have been plenty? Aye, and I will tell you this to my sin and
shame, that once I grew so angry with you because you would not speak or
give some little sign, that I went near to it. But at the last I could
not, and sent him about his business also. Peter, when I saw you last
night facing that swordsman with but a staff, and thought that you must
die, oh! then I knew all the truth, and my heart was nigh to bursting,
as, had you died, it would have burst. But now it is all done with, and
we know each other's secret, and nothing shall ever part us more till
death comes to one or both."

Thus Margaret spoke, while he drank in her words as desert sands,
parched by years of drought, drink in the rain--and watched her face,
out of which all mischief and mockery had departed, leaving it that of a
most beauteous and most earnest woman, to whom a sense of the weight of
life, with its mingled joys and sorrows, had come home suddenly. When
she had finished, this silent man, to whom even his great happiness
brought few words, said only:

"God has been very good to us. Let us thank God."

So they did, then, even there, seated side by side upon the bench,
because the grass was too wet for them to kneel on, praying in their
simple, childlike faith that the Power which had brought them together,
and taught them to love each other, would bless them in that love and
protect them from all harms, enemies, and evils through many a long
year of life.

Their prayer finished, they sat together on the seat, now talking, and
now silent in their joy, while all too fast the time wore on. At
length--it was after one of these spells of blissful silence--a change
came over them, such a change as falls upon some peaceful scene when,
unexpected and complete, a black stormcloud sweeps across the sun, and,
in place of its warm light, pours down gloom full of the promise of
tempest and of rain. Apprehension got a hold of them. They were both
afraid of what they could not guess.

"Come," she said, "it is time to go in. My father will miss us."

So without more words or endearments they rose and walked side by side
out of the shelter of the elms into the open garden. Their heads were
bent, for they were lost in thought, and thus it came about that
Margaret saw her feet pass suddenly into the shadow of a man, and,
looking up, perceived standing in front of her, grave, alert, amused,
none other than the Seņor d'Aguilar. She uttered a little stifled
scream, while Peter, with the impulse that causes a brave and startled
hound to rush at that which frightens it, gave a leap forward towards
the Spaniard.

"Mother of God! do you take me for a thief?" he asked in a laughing
voice, as he stepped to one side to avoid him.

"Your pardon," said Peter, shaking himself together; "but you surprised
us appearing so suddenly where we never thought to see you."

"Any more than I thought to see you here, for this seems a strange place
to linger on so cold a morning," and he looked at them again with his
curious, mocking eyes that appeared to read the secret of their souls,
while they grew red as roses beneath his scrutiny. "Permit me to
explain," he went on. "I came here thus early on your service, to warn
you, Master Peter, not to go abroad to-day, since a writ is out for your
arrest, and as yet I have had no time to quash it by friendly
settlement. Well, as it chanced, I met that handsome lady who was with
you yesterday, returning from her marketing--a friendly soul--she says
she is your cousin. She brought me to the house, and having learned that
your father, whom I wished to see, was at his prayers, good man, in the
old chapel, led me to its door and left me to seek him. I entered, but
could not find him, so, having waited a while, strayed into this garden
through the open door, purposing to walk here till some one should
appear, and, you see, I have been fortunate beyond my expectations
or deserts."

"So!" said Peter shortly, for the man's manner and elaborated
explanations filled him with disgust. "Let us seek Master Castell that
he may hear the story."

"And we thank you much for coming to warn us," murmured Margaret. "I
will go find my father," and she slipped past him towards the door.

D'Aguilar watched her enter it, then turned to Peter and said:

"You English are a hardy folk who take the spring air so early. Well, in
such company I would do the same. Truly she is a beauteous maiden. I
have some experience of the sex, but never do I remember one so fair."

"My cousin is well enough," answered Peter coldly, for this Spaniard's
very evident admiration of Margaret did not please him.

"Yes," answered d'Aguilar, taking no notice of his tone, "she is well
enough to fill the place, not of a merchant's daughter, but of a great
lady--a countess reigning over towns and lands, or a queen even; the
royal robes and ornaments would become that carriage and that brow."

"My cousin seeks no such state who is happy in her quiet lot," answered
Peter again; then added quickly, "See, here comes Master Castell
seeking you."

D'Aguilar advanced and greeted the merchant courteously, noticing as he
did so that, notwithstanding his efforts to appear unconcerned, Castell
seemed ill at ease.

"I am an early visitor," he said, "but I knew that you business folk
rise with the lark, and I wished to catch our friend here before he went
out," and he repeated to him the reason of his coming.

"I thank you, Seņor," answered Castell. "You are very good to me and
mine. I am sorry that you have been kept waiting. They tell me that you
looked for me in the chapel, but I was not there, who had already left
it for my office."

"So I found. It is a quaint place, that old chapel of yours, and while I
waited I went to the altar and told my beads there, which I had no time
to do before I left my lodgings."

Castell started almost imperceptibly, and glanced at d'Aguilar with his
quick eyes, then turned the subject and asked if he would not breakfast
with them. He declined, however, saying that he must be about their
business and his own, then promptly proposed that he should come to
supper on the following night that was--Sunday--and make report how
things had gone, a suggestion that Castell could not but accept.

So he bowed and smiled himself out of the house, and walked thoughtfully
into Holborn, for it had pleased him to pay this visit on foot, and
unattended. At the corner whom should he meet again but the tall,
fair-haired Betty, returning from some errand which she had found it
convenient to fulfil just then.

"What," he said, "you once more! The saints are very kind to me this
morning. Come, Seņora, walk a little way with me, for I would ask you a
few questions."

Betty hesitated, then gave way. It was seldom that she found the chance
of walking through Holborn with such a noble-looking cavalier.

"Never look at your working-dress," he said.

"With such a shape, what matters the robe that covers it?"--a compliment
at which Betty blushed, for she was proud of her fine figure.

"Would you like a mantilla of real Spanish lace for your head and
shoulders? Well, you shall have one that I brought from Spain with me,
for I know no other lady in the land whom it would become better. But,
Mistress Betty, you told me wrong about your master. I went to the
chapel and he was not there."

"He was there, Seņor," she answered, eager to set herself right with
this most agreeable and discriminating foreigner, "for I saw him go in a
moment before, and he did not come out again."

"Then, Seņora, where could he have hidden himself? Has the place a

"None that I have heard of; but," she added, "there is a kind of little
room behind the altar."

"Indeed. How do you know that? I saw no room."

"Because one day I heard a voice behind the tapestry, Seņor, and,
lifting it, saw a sliding door left open, and Master Castell kneeling
before a table and saying his prayers aloud."

"How strange! And what was there on the table?" "Only a queer-shaped box
of wood like a little house, and two candlesticks, and some rolls of
parchment. But I forgot, Seņor; I promised Master Castell to say nothing
about that place, for he turned and saw me, and came at me like a
watchdog out of its kennel. You won't say that I told you, will
you, Seņor?"

"Not I; your good master's private cupboard does not interest me. Now I
want to know something more. Why is that beautiful cousin of yours not
married? Has she no suitors?"

"Suitors, Seņor? Yes, plenty of them, but she sends them all about their
business, and seems to have no mind that way."

"Perhaps she is in love with her cousin, that long-legged, strong-armed,
wooden-headed Master Brome."

"Oh! no, Seņor, I don't think so; no lady could be in love with him--he
is too stern and silent."

"I agree with you, Seņora. Then perhaps he is in love with her."

Betty shook her head, and replied:

"Peter Brome doesn't think anything of women, Seņor. At least he never
speaks to or of them."

"Which shows that probably he thinks about them all the more. Well,
well, it is no affair of ours, is it? Only I am glad to hear that there
is nothing between them, since your mistress ought to marry high, and be
a great lady, not a mere merchant's wife."

"Yes, Seņor. Though Peter Brome is not a merchant, at least by birth, he
is high-born, and should be Sir Peter Brome if his father had not fought
on the wrong side and sold his land. He is a soldier, and a very brave
one, they say, as all might see last night."

"No doubt, and perhaps would make a great captain, if he had the chance,
with his stern face and silent tongue. But, Seņora Betty, say, how comes
it that, being so handsome," and he bowed, "you are not married either?
I am sure it can be from no lack of suitors."

Again Betty, foolish girl, flushed with pleasure at the compliment.

"You are right, Seņor," she answered. "I have plenty of them; but I am
like my cousin--they do not please me. Although my father lost his
fortune, I come of good blood, and I suppose that is why I do not care
for these low-born men, and would rather remain as I am than marry
one of them."

"You are quite right," said d'Aguilar in his sympathetic voice. "Do not
stain your blood. Marry in your own class, or not at all, which, indeed,
should not be difficult for one so beautiful and charming." And he
looked into her large eyes with tender admiration.

This quality, indeed, soon began to demonstrate itself so actively, for
they were now in the fields where few people wandered, that Betty, who
although vain was proud and upright, thought it wise to recollect that
she must be turning homewards. So, in spite of his protests, she left
him and departed, walking upon air.

How splendid and handsome this foreign gentleman was, she thought to
herself, really a great cavalier, and surely he admired her truly. Why
should he not? Such things had often been. Many a rich lady whom she
knew was not half so handsome or so well born as herself, and would make
him a worse wife--that is, and the thought chilled her somewhat--if he
were not already married.

From all of which it will be seen that d'Aguilar had quickly succeeded
in the plan which only presented itself to him a few hours before. Betty
was already half in love with him. Not that he had any desire to possess
this beautiful but foolish woman's heart, who saw in her only a useful
tool, a stepping-stone by means of which he might draw near to Margaret.

For with Margaret, it may be said at once, he was quite in love. At the
sight of her sweet yet imperial beauty, as he saw her first,
dishevelled, angry, frightened, in the crowd outside the king's
banqueting-hall, his southern blood had taken sudden fire. Finished
voluptuary though he was, the sensation he experienced then was quite
new to him. He longed for this woman as he had never longed for any
other, and, what is more, he desired to make her his wife. Why not?
Although there was a flaw in it, his rank was high, and therefore she
was beneath him; but for this her loveliness would atone, and she had
wit and learning enough to fill any place that he could give her. Also,
great as was his wealth, his wanton, spendthrift way of life had brought
him many debts, and she was the only child of one of the richest
merchants in England, whose dower, doubtless, would be a fortune that
many a royal princess might envy. Why not again? He would turn Inez and
those others adrift--at any rate, for a while--and make her mistress of
his palace there in Granada. Instantly, as is often the fashion of those
who have Eastern blood in their veins, d'Aguilar had made up his mind,
yes, before he left her father's table on the previous night. He would
marry Margaret and no other woman.

Yet at once he had seen many difficulties in his path. To begin with, he
mistrusted him of Peter, that strong, quiet man who could kill a great
armed knave with his stick, and at a word call half London to his side.
Peter, he was sure, being human, must be in love with Margaret, and he
was a rival to be feared. Well, if Margaret had no thoughts of Peter,
this mattered nothing, and if she had--and what were they doing together
in the garden that morning?--Peter must be got rid of, that was all. It
was easy enough if he chose to adopt certain means; there were many of
those Spanish fellows who would not mind sticking a knife into his back
in the dark.

But sinful as he was, at such steps his conscience halted. Whatever
d'Aguilar had done, he had never caused a man to be actually murdered,
he who was a bigot, who atoned for his misdoings by periods of remorse
and prayer, in which he placed his purse and talents at the service of
the Church, as he was doing at this moment. No, murder must not be
thought of; for how could any absolution wash him clean of that stain?
But there were other ways. For instance, had not this Peter, in
self-defence it is true, killed one of the servants of an ambassador of
Spain? Perhaps, however, it would not be necessary to make use of them.
It had seemed to him that the lady was not ill pleased with him, and,
after all, he had much to offer. He would court her fairly, and if he
were rejected by her, or by her father, then it would be time enough to
act. Meanwhile, he would keep the sword hanging over the head of Peter,
pretending that it was he alone who had prevented it from falling, and
learn all that he could as to Castell and his history.

Here, indeed, Fortune, in the shape of the foolish Betty, had favoured
him. Without a doubt, as he had heard in Spain, and been sure from the
moment that he first saw him, Castell was still secretly a Jew. Mistress
Betty's story of the room behind the altar, with the ark and the candles
and the rolls of the Law, proved as much. At least here was evidence
enough to send him to the fires of the Inquisition in Spain, and,
perhaps, to drive him out of England. Now, if John Castell, the Spanish
Jew, should not wish, for any reason, to give him his daughter in
marriage, would not a hint and an extract from the Commissions of their
Majesties of Spain and the Holy Father suffice to make him change
his mind?

Thus pondering, d'Aguilar regained his lodgings, where his first task
was to enter in a book all that Betty had told him, and all that he had
observed in the house of John Castell.



In John Castell's house it was the habit, as in most others in those
days, for his dependents, clerks, and shopmen to eat their morning and
mid-day meals with him in the hall, seated at two lower tables, all of
them save Betty, his daughter's cousin and companion, who sat with them
at the upper board. This morning Betty's place was empty, and presently
Castell, lifting his eyes, for he was lost in thought, noted it, and
asked where she might be--a question that neither Margaret nor Peter
could answer.

One of the servants at the lower table, however--it was that man who had
been sent to follow d'Aguilar on the previous night--said that as he
came down Holborn a while before he had seen her walking with the
Spanish don, a saying at which his master looked grave.

Just as they were finishing their meal, a very silent one, for none of
them seemed to have anything to say, and after the servants had left the
hall, Betty arrived, flushed as though with running.

"Where have you been that you are so late?" asked Castell.

"To seek the linen for the new sheets, but it was not ready," she
answered glibly. "The mercer kept you waiting long," remarked Castell
quietly. "Did you meet any one?"

"Only the folk in the street."

"I will ask you no more questions, lest I should cause you to lie and
bring you into sin," said Castell sternly. "Girl, how far did you walk
with the Seņor d'Aguilar, and what was your business with him?"

Now Betty knew that she had been seen, and that it was useless to deny
the truth.

"Only a little way," she answered, "and that because he prayed me to
show him his path."

"Listen, Betty," went on Castell, taking no notice of her words. "You
are old enough to guard yourself, therefore as to your walking abroad
with gallants who can mean you no good I say nothing. But know this--no
one who has knowledge of the matters of my house," and he looked at her
keenly, "shall mix with any Spaniard. If you are found alone with this
seņor any more, that hour I have done with you, and you never pass my
door again. Nay, no words. Take your food and eat it elsewhere."

So she departed half weeping, but very angry, for Betty was strong and
obstinate by nature. When she had gone, Margaret, who was fond of her
cousin, tried to say some words on her behalf; but her father
stopped her.

"Pshaw!" he said, "I know the girl; she is vain as a peacock, and,
remembering her gentle birth and good looks, seeks to marry above her
station; while for some purpose of his own--an ill one, I'll warrant--
that Spaniard plays upon her weakness, which, if it be not curbed, may
bring trouble on us all. Now, enough of Betty Dene; I must to my work."
"Sir," said Peter, speaking for the first time, "we would have a
private word with you."

"A private word," he said, looking up anxiously. "Well, speak on. No,
this place is not private; I think its walls have ears. Follow me," and
he led the way into the old chapel, whereof, when they had all passed
it, he bolted the door. "Now," he said, "what is it?"

"Sir," answered Peter, standing before him, "having your leave at last,
I asked your daughter in marriage this morning."

"At least you lose no time, friend Peter; unless you had called her from
her bed and made your offer through the door you could not have done it
quicker. Well, well, you ever were a man of deeds, not words, and what
says my Margaret?"

"An hour ago she said she was content," answered Peter.

"A cautious man also," went on Castell with a twinkle in his eye, "who
remembers that women have been known to change their minds within an
hour. After such long thought, what say you now, Margaret?"

"That I am angry with Peter," she answered, stamping her small foot,
"for if he does not trust me for an hour, how can he trust me for his
life and mine?"

"Nay, Margaret, you do not understand me," said Peter. "I wished not to
bind you, that is all, in case----"

"Now you are saying it again," she broke in vexed, and yet amused. "Do

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