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Mistress Penwick by Dutton Payne

Part 2 out of 5

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would go to her and give her the brotherly kiss as heretofore, and
take notice if there was aught in her manner to denote verification of
the miserable gipsy's story. He would put an end to such feeling, if
'twere there. He sent word if he might see her for himself, and be
assured her illness was not feigned, in order she might shirk the
duty--like a wicked sister--of presenting her fair face for the
enlightenment of the gloom that seemed about to penetrate, from
without, the castle walls.

Constance lay propped amongst pillows, in a gorgeous _peignoir_ of
lace, arranged for the moment to display advantageously her plump arms
and a slender white neck encircled with pearls. Her brow was high and
narrow; her dark hair was carefully arranged in wavy folds upon
the pillow; her eyes, under drooping lids, glittered coldly and
imperiously. The nose was straight, and too thin for beauty. Her lips,
touched with rouge, were also thin and full of arrogance. There she
lay, impatient for the love of this one man, who was e'en now at the
door.

When Constance was a baby, she had watched Cedric upon his nurse's
knee taking his pap, and a little later amused him with her dolls. She
had played with him at bat and ball; had ridden astride behind him
upon a frisking pony; had learned and used the same oaths when none
were by to note her language but grooms and stable-boys--always when
Angel, the head nurse, was not about. She would outswear the young lad
and then tease him because he could not find words to equal hers.
They had played at "Lord and Lady," and rode about the terraces in
a miniature sedan chair, and cooks and scullions winked and nodded,
wisely and predictively. And when they came to man's and woman's
estate, Cedric's regard for her was as a brother's; but hers for
him, alas! was deep love. It seemed to her as if the world was just
beginning; a bright, glorious world full of untold wealth of love,
when she thought perhaps she might yet win him for her own; and indeed
she thought, as already possessing him. On his part there was
being born in his heart a great joy: that of a new and first love.
Heretofore he and Constance had known all things in common, and now
suddenly he was satiate of her. But Katherine, he had thought, was
so young and bright and beautiful; a child that had lived within the
cloister and had grown to maidenhood in sweet innocence. 'Twas like
finding in some tropic clime, embowered and shaded by thick, waxy
leaves, a glorious, ripe pomegranate, which he would grasp and drink
from its rich, red pulp, a portion that would cool and 'suage a
burning thirst; while Constance, by the side of Katherine, was like a
russet apple, into whose heart the worm of worldly knowledge had eaten
its surfeit and taken all sweetness away, and the poor thing hung low,
all dried and spiritless upon a broken bough to the convenience of any
passing hand. "Nay, nay; give me only the rich, ripe pomegranate; my
Katherine, Kate! Kate!" and blinded thus by the fever of desire to
possess only his sweet Kate, he swung wide the door of Constance's
room and passed to the bedside and leant over and kissed her.

She flushed red as she met his eyes--now cold and
unimpassioned--looking into the very depths of her own. He saw the
sudden scarlet that mantled her face, and knew--knew she loved him.
And his heart went out to her, for he was attached to the russet
thing, an attachment heretofore unnamed, but now--now suddenly
christened with that parsimonious appellation--pity; the object
of which is never satisfied. But he had naught else to give, for
Katherine had suddenly impoverished him.

"'Tis generous of thee, Cedric, to break from thy gay company; what
are they engaged in?"

"Various,--some at cards, others at music--"

"And what was thy pastime that thou couldst sever thyself so
agreeably?"

"I was listening to Bettie, and she on a sudden remarked of thy
indisposition. I straightway came to note thy ailing. I have talked
not with thee in private since thy arrival, and there is much news.
Hast seen her, Constance, to talk with her?"

"Whom meanest thou? There are many 'hers' in the house!"

"The beauty that flew to me over seas, of course; whom else could I
mean?"

"Oh! oh! to be sure; the maid from Quebec. Aye, I talked with her
some. Thou sayest she is Sir John Penwick's daughter?"

"Aye, and she's a glorious beauty, eh, Constance?"

"But how camest thou by her?"

Cedric reached to that nearest his heart and drew forth Sir John's
letter and gave it opened into Constance's hand. She read it with
blazing eyes and great eagerness; for 'twas a bundle of weapons she
was examining and would take therefrom her choice. She flashed forth
queries as to the probability of this or that with a semblance of
interest that disarmed Cedric and made him wonder if this woman
loved to such an extent, she could fling aside her own interests
and submerge all jealousy, all self-love into the purest of all
sacrifices, abnegation?

"What! no estates? That looks ill, for at one time Sir John was
affluent, for Aunt Hettie has told me of him many a time."

"But he lost it all, as I've heard ofttime from father; he has spoken
not infrequent of Sir John's high living; he had great demesne, a
great heart and great temper; and 'tis the last named that has fallen
clear and uncumbered to his daughter; and the heart will be found by
careful probing, no doubt; and the demesne she will have when she
condescends to take me as spouse."

"Thou, thou espouse her?" and Constance feigned surprise, as if 'twere
a new thing to her, when in reality she had suffered agony from its
repetition.

"Aye, and why not, pray? Am I not of ripe years and know my mind?"

"And why so?--because thou shouldst wed one of high degree and fortune
and worldly wisdom."

"Nay, thou art wrong. 'Tis enough that she is of noble blood from
father and mother; and I have fortune for us both; and worldly
wisdom--bah! Constance, dost thou expect her to know all the intrigues
of court, when she is but lightly past fifteen?"

"Fifteen?--Now by heaven, Cedric, thou wouldst not lie to me?"

"Nay, Con, I would not--I have no object in this case, 'tis a truth."

"Fifteen, and indeed she is well-formed for such youth!"

"And what a beautiful and innocent face she has, too?"

"Beauteous, admitted; but innocent of what?"

"Innocent of all we know; she knows naught of this great world. Janet
keeps all evil from her. We cannot conceive of such innocence in any
one. The child has eaten the simplest things all her life; milk and
gruel and beef-whey; 'tis no great wonder she is so pink and strong;
Janet says in hand-to-hand battle in their convent chamber, the child
hath thrown her oft in fair wit of strength;--such rough sport was not
indulged in openly and Janet taught her thrusts and flings to broaden
her chest and strengthen hip and back; she is stout and strong, and
yet she makes one think of a beautiful flower until she falls in
anger; then she shows a stout temper as well, and is wilful to all
save Janet, who governs her by some strange method I ne'er saw before;
for 'tis odd to see servant lead mistress. But, 'twas an awful thing
happened me; I knew not, or had forgotten rather, the arrival of the
babe Sir John speaks of. As thou knowest, I came home unexpectedly,
and I found the letter here. It had arrived some time before, and
I read it hastily, told Wasson my duty and passed the letter to a
convenient pocket, and thence until the night of the _masque_ forgot
all about the arrival of the infant. I was masqued, mad and raving at
Christopher for not mending my bag-pipe, and I rushed swearing after
him and Mistress Penwick heard my oaths, my broad Scotch ones thou
knowest I love to use when in anger. She hates me for it, and I can
do naught to win the confidence due me as her rightful guardian. So I
have settled upon an immediate espousal--"

"Immediate? Thou marry a child,--'tis unseemly--"

"Nay, 'tis not unseemly; 'tis the most proper thing to do. Janet
says so, too, and will urge her to accept me as soon as I wish to
wed--which shall be at the earliest moment."

"Janet, indeed! What right has a servant to forward the doings of
master and mistress? Thou hadst best wait and have her Grace of
Ellswold present her at Court and give the child at least one season
in London to improve her convent ways."

"Nay, Constance, if she were to grow one whit more beautiful, 'twould
kill me dead."

"I am afraid thou art easily slain; indeed, I never knew beauty was so
murderous before. Thou art surely beside thyself; she here alone in
this great castle without a mother's love to guide! No one to whom she
can tell her troubles! How must the poor child feel to be forced into
a marriage she most like--hates;"--and her ladyship's voice took
on such a tone of pity one would think she was about to break into
tears,--"'tis a barbarous act for thee to talk of marriage so soon to
a helpless being."

"There is nothing helpless about Kate, she can take her own part. She
hath wit and temper for a half dozen."

"But thou wilt acknowledge if she will have _her_ way she must leave
the castle; for thou art bent upon _thy_ way--thou wilt not listen to
reason; so, see to it, and wed her straightway if--if thou canst." He
was about to answer her with an oath, when suddenly Katherine stood in
the half-open door smiling over the top of a great bunch of roses.
On Constance' face was a look of triumph, as she noted Cedric's
confusion; but Katherine's words put Cedric at ease.

"I was told thou wert ill and that Lord Cedric was uneasy and had come
to thee; and I reproached myself for not coming earlier to see if thou
wert in need of aught." She placed the vase of roses on a table close.
Constance thanked her and took the tapering fingers and hugged them
between her own. Katherine looked down upon her thin, arrogant lips;
and as there always comes to the innocent--when dealing with those of
other mould--a warning, a feeling of repulsion, took possession of her
and she withdrew her hand, and, in a moment, her presence.

"'Tis a vision of loveliness more refreshing than the nosegay she
brought, thinkest thou not so, Constance?"

"Thou dost see with lover's eyes. How soon wilt thou espouse her;
thy house is somewhat taken up by company, who are to remain for
the summer, and how wilt thou get through the irksomeness of grand
ceremonies without great preparation, for much will be expected of thy
wealth and rank?"

"Damme, I'll have no pranks and ceremonies and entertainments; I
have not time. I must wed her at once. Canst thou not see, under the
circumstances, scandal-mongers will make eyes and prate of wrong for
me thus to have a young maid here alone?" Now indeed this thought had
not occurred to Constance in just this way; but now it struck her with
a mighty force, and she shot at him a piercing glance through the
half-closed imperious eyes.

"I had thought of it, but determined mine should not be the first
breath to breathe forth scandal, even in private converse with thee;
'twas an awful thing for her to come here knowing of thy youth."

"But she did not know, as that letter and thou thyself can testify."

"But the world--the Court where thou wilt go to hold sway--they know
not the circumstances."

"Now, by God, Constance, one would think thou wert an alien to King
Charles' Court. If Charles knew I had here this maid and had not yet
taken her to wife--why--why, he would take her away himself and laugh
me to scorn for my slothfulness. But all London knows by now, as I
have sent a message to my solicitors."

"But if she be set upon not marrying thee. What wilt thou do?" Lord
Cedric hung his head, as if in profound meditation; then, without
raising it, but remaining in a hopeless attitude, said:

"I will guard her from all evil. I will stand between her and harm and
wait. And thou must help me, Constance. Wilt thou persuade her?"

"Have I not always taken thy part, even--when thou wert in the wrong?"

When Cedric left Lady Constance, he sought Janet and poured into her
willing ears his woes. He feared lest some gallant should win his
Kate's love, and Janet must tell him of some way to win it for
himself.

Janet now loved Lord Cedric as if he were already Katherine's lord;
and she, knowing 'twould be one of the best matches in all England,
vowed 'twas best for them to marry at once; beside, Kate, being wilful
and having a tendency for men of foreign birth, with nothing in their
favour but a small share of good looks and some musical ability, might
see fit to plant her affections with such, and 'twas plain mischance
would kill Cedric outright, for he was passionate to self-destruction;
so when he said: "'Twould be instant death to me, Janet. What wouldst
thou advise me to do--thou dost so fully understand her?" she answered
him:

"'Tis somewhat the way with maidens to sigh for that not easily
attained, and it might serve thee to put forth an indifferent air and
incline thy attentions toward another and act a mighty cold lord and
coddle not her desires."

"That would take so long a time; I cannot wait. I will speak to her
once more, then I will be cold and indifferent as thou sayest. When
shall I have an opportunity to speak with her?"

"How soon dost expect the chests with my lady's raiment, my lord?"

"On the morrow they should be here."

"'Tis then she will think of thy goodness, and I will put in a word
for thee, and perchance thou wilt come to see if all things came, and
'twill give thee opportunity to speak of other things. She is wanting
many things for the Chapel; she wishes to reopen it; and 'tis in
matters of religion thy hot tempers will clash, for Mistress Penwick
is a Roman Catholic, and thou art of the English Church."

"Thou art a wise Janet! I will turn the people, and they shall become
Catholics."

"Nay, if thou dost undertake it, thy people will rise in arms against
thee."

"So be it, let her have her way. I'll bother her not in her simple
ideas of religion."

"Not so simple, my lord. Thou hast not seen the teachings of nine
years take root and spread and grow as I have. Dost think she would
allow thy Chaplain to bind thee to her? Nay, she will be wed by none
but a priest. But she is kindly intentioned and feels sorry for thy
poor Chaplain, who hath so hard a time to keep his flock together.
I look any day for her to carry in a cross and hang it behind his
pulpit, then--then he will faint away from fright of her."

"Nay, Janet, he will fall down and worship it, and--her."

CHAPTER VII

THE BRANTLE

Mistress Penwick sat in her chamber, trying to calm herself to reason;
for the chest had come from London-town laden with splendid raiment;
all had been unpacked and examined, and 'twas enough to cure all
grievances, the very sight of such adornings; but her ladyship
was disappointed that there were no stays. Janet for the time was
distraught and said:

"I would that had been sent that would mend thy untowardness and bring
thy temper to a comelier mould. 'Tis past time for thee to clothe
thyself in that in which thy noble lord hath seen fit to purchase for
thee; I heard some moments since the arrival of the hunters and it's
time--" There was a sounding rap and 'twas his Lordship's lackey
begging the admittance of his master. Janet bade Lord Cedric enter. He
came forth in riding-coat and field boots and rattling spurs. Mistress
Penwick vouchsafed a nod of recognition and turned her eyes away. The
hot blood mounted Cedric's face and at a look at Janet understood all
was not well; he essayed to speak with coolness:

"Art not happy with the contents of thy chest, Kate?"

"'Tis more than one could expect, but--sadly it lacked that I wished
for most--a thing that marks one as lady and not child in grown-up
people's clothes."

"And what might that be, Kate?" for indeed he had forgotten about her
order that stays be sent.

"Simple, modest, commonplace stays, my lord," and she said it slowly
and with a mighty air.

"Nay, nay--stays they did forget?" and he stamped his foot in seeming
wrath and broke forth:--"I'll thrash that damned lackey blue for
so forgetting!" and he turned as if to quit the room, but Mistress
Penwick ran to stay his hurry.

"Nay, thou wilt not hurt him, 'twas not his fault, 'twas not by his
hand the order was writ." And Cedric feigned further show of temper,
and Katherine's tapering fingers ventured upon either lapel of his
lordship's velvet coat, and he turned red and white and could hardly
contain himself with delight. Janet, fearing a confusion of her
master's words, put forth her arms and drew away Katherine's hands and
said, softly:

"His Lordship will not thrash the lad, if thou wilt don thy most
beautiful frock and forget the stays."

"That will I, if 'tis his desire; and--" she looked up into his
Lordship's face with a look that was almost tender--"thou wilt say no
word to the boy?" His voice was soft and pleading as he answered:

"Anything thou wouldst ask of me thus, thou couldst have it without
the asking."

"Then, my lord, when there is aught I would have, I may take it
without thy spoken yea?"

"Nay, not so; that would be highway robbery; for thou wouldst take
from me the dearest thing that has yet happened to me; 'tis thy sweet
pleading for that 'tis already thine."

"'Tis a generous thing for thee to say, but if I might have perfect
freedom to do all things as I desire--"

"And what are the 'all things' that thou wouldst desire?"

"I should like to have many changes made in the Chapel, and bring one
who is well able to play on the great organ. And 'twould be a wondrous
good thing to bring from the village of Crandlemar youths for the
training of a choir, such as I have heard are of much repute among the
poor lads for strength and sweetness of voice; and after all things
are made ready, have the Chapel opened again with pomp of priest and
solemn ceremony."

"If such are thy desires, I will put forward the work at once." Now
indeed Katherine forgot the sad lack of stays and for the moment
forgot all else save that the handsome Cedric stood before her flushed
and eager to gratify her every whim. He, one of the richest noblemen
in Great Britain, whom she could have for a look; the stretching out
of the hand. And she quite well knew that he was ready at the first
opportunity to renew the subject of marriage, and for this very thing
she turned from him thinking that some time she would consider his
proposal. So again he went from her presence with a throbbing in his
breast that was half-hope, half-despair and knew not what to do.

'Twas the last ball at Crandlemar Castle, for the hunting season was
over. A goodly company gathered from neighbouring shires, and Mistress
Pen wick was the mark of all eyes in a sweeping robe of fawn that
shimmered somewhat of its brocadings of blue and pink and broiderings
of silver. She had decorously plaited a flounce of old and rare lace
and brought it close about her shoulders and twined her mother's
string of pearls about her white throat, the longer strands reaching
below her waistband and caught low again upon the shoulder with a knot
of fresh spring violets. Cedric stood apart with his kinsman, his
Grace of Ellswold, who enjoyed the freedom of speech of all Charles'
Court; indeed it appeared that not only looseness of tongue but morals
also held sway in the most remote as well as the best known portions
of the kingdom. And at his Grace's first sight of Katherine he uttered
an oath and some other expression that savoured of common hackney; for
Cedric had been telling him of the soothsayer's words.

"The soothsayer spoke false and I'll wager thee the East Forest thou
hast coveted against thy Welsh demesne. I tell thee, Cedric, a jewel
hast thou found. Never have I seen her equal. And that is John
Penwick's daughter!" and he took a great pinch of snuff and looked
at Cedric. "She will make thee a fine wife,--but who is the man that
dangles after her now? Indeed, I would say thou hadst better watch out
for him. I do not like the look in his eyes; he is--"

"Egad, uncle! I would as soon think of being jealous of--of thee. He
is Constance' cousin from Russia, and as she is staying here for some
time, at her request I asked him also. Bah! I could never imagine him
as a rival!"

"Well, so be it; but how about the wager of the East Forest?"

"Thou art on the winning side. So thou couldst not wager without an
opponent, and 'twill be futile to find one, lest thou dost charge upon
some landless bumpkin."

"And how soon wilt thou espouse her?"

"At the first moment of her consent--"

"Consent 'tis thou art waiting for? Thou hadst better keep her close;
for if his Majesty gains inkling of such fresh, young beauty and finds
her out of bans, 'twill go hard with thee to sword thy way to a lady
in waiting or--perhaps----"

"'Sdeath, by God! I had not thought of that! 'Twould be too bold
and out of place, she being under my guardianship, to press her to
espousal without fair consent;--but I know best; 'twould be for her
own safety, is it not so, uncle?"

"If she knows naught of the frailties of all mankind and the Court in
particular, I should say as thou art her rightful guardian and the
suitor chosen of her father, and 'twas thy wish for her immediate
espousal, 'twould best serve thee to use all manner of means to gain
her consent, and if this prove abortive, I would abduct the maid and
have thy Chaplain ready to marry thee to her; and after he pronounces
thee man and wife, what can she do but love thee straightway for thy
strong handling; 'tis the way of women. I would marry such a beauty in
haste, ere another takes the vantage."

Lord Cedric chose Mistress Penwick for the brantle and led her forth.
They moved with such majestic grace, they attracted all eyes. It
seemed Cedric could not contain himself for love of Kate, and he vowed
to gain her ear this very night and know for a certainty if she would
ever marry with him.

It pleased Mistress Penwick to dance with Cedric, for she was more at
ease with him than any other, and she was hardly pleased when he bade
her rest and took her to another room, where they were quite alone.
But she would not sit down, and stood fanning and smiling up into his
face, saying half pettishly:

"Thou art soon tired; the brantle has just begun."

"Kate, hast thou patience?"

"Aye, but 'tis of dwarfish mould."

"Kate, dost love any human being?"

"Aye, 'tis a poor thing that loves not."

"Dost love me, Kate?"

"As a father or brother and as one should love her father's best
friend."

"Then--give me a--kiss as thou wouldst give thy brother." The hot
blood suffused her face. At sight of it, Cedric's heart leapt with a
mighty gladness.

"Not having had a brother, I know not how to give that thou
askest;--and 'tis unseemly of thee to ask for that that makes one
blush for very shame to be questioned of."

"Blushes are not always for shame--'tis for love, sometimes. Kate,
'tis time I knew thy heart, for thou knowest I am about to die for
love of thee. Dost not understand that thy father wished thee to marry
at an early age and to marry the son of his bosom friend to whom he
gave his daughter's keeping?"

"Nay, he said naught of my marriage with thee, as he knew not thou
wert in existence."

"Aye, of a truth he hath done so; it is here next my heart," and he
drew forth Sir John's letter. "Wilt read but the lines I show thee;
for there are secrets belonging to thy father and me alone?" He marked
the lines with his jewelled finger, his love locks falling against her
cheek as she read: "My last wish and the one of greatest import to my
child is that thou find for her a spouse of rank and fortune. 'Tis my
desire she marry early to such an one.--Ah! Cedric, if thou had hadst
a son, their union would have been our delight--"

"Ah! ah!" and Katherine's eyes grew wide. "Thou hast said naught of
this--as it appears here before me now; and it might have been too
late."

"Too late! What meanest thou?"

"The noble--nay, now I cannot tell thee, for 'tis a secret but half
mine."

"My God! who dares have secrets with thee save thy nurse and guardian;
whose damned heart hath played the lover to thee?" His hand fell upon
his sword and he drew it half way. "What guest hath so dishonoured
name as to make profit of that I have already made known as my
espoused? Tell me, Kate!" Seeing her frightened eyes, that were justly
so, he pushed back the jewelled hilt and threw his arm about her and
drew her close, so close she was well-nigh crushed by his warm and
passionate embrace and choked by pulverulent civet as her face was
pressed against the folds of his steenkirk. She felt the tumultuous
beating of his heart, and 'twas a great, new feeling came to her and
she trembled and swayed, and loved and hated both, in one brief moment
and drew from him and looked with angry eyes. "Kate, Kate, what saidst
the false lover; tell me every word. Did he ask thee for espousal?"
Now Mistress Penwick faltered and flushed, for she dare not tell him
who her suitor was and thought if she told him well what was said,
he would not press her for name, and 'twas meet she should tell him
truthfully. She feared his hot temper not a little, for she had heard
that one time he locked Lady Constance in the tower for two whole days
for telling him a falsehood.

"Aye, he asked me to espouse him."

"And what didst thou say?"

"I said him nay, 'twas too soon to wed, 'twould be wiser to speak a
year hence."

"And what answer did he make thee?"

"He said the king's sister, Princess Mary, when but ten married
William, Prince of Orange, and--"

"And what?" said Cedric, leaning forward his hand upon his sword, a
curse between his white teeth and a line of light from between
his half-closed lids like the flashing of a two-edged sword.
"What--'sdeath?" And Kate trembled forth--

"And fifteen was none too soon to wed."

"And did he say naught else appertaining thereto?"

"Nay, I know naught else he could say!" and the innocence of her
inquiring face proved his evil imagining a perjury. He caught his
breath in a flutter of sheer heart's-ease.

"Now who is this swain who hath taken advantage of my invitation and
come up from among the rustics yonder to make love to thee? I will
run him through the first time I meet his insolence. Who is he, Kate;
what's his name?" She vouchsafing no answer, aroused his suspicion.

"'Sdeath! what ails thy tongue? Haste thee, what is his name?" and he
glared at her, furiously, 'til she was well nigh cold with fright.

"Sooth, thou art strong with temper for the very meagre cause a maiden
will not bewray a poor man's name."

"Poor, indeed, when such as thou bestoweth upon him the priceless
gift of thy heart as a locker for his secrets; by God! give his name,
quick, ere I slay a dozen for one paltry fool that would rob me!"
She read aright the steely light 'neath his half-closed lids and was
distraught, for she dared not give him the name of one of his guests;
for the noble Russian Adrian Cantemir had pressed his suit and was
upheld by Lady Constance, who told him of Katherine's vast demesne,
knowing well he could not marry one without estates, as his were in
great depletion. And the noble Cantemir had well nigh won her heart by
his voice and music, and now that he was in danger of Lord Cedric's
anger, he became an object of commiseration, and not for her life
would she give his name to this raging man with murder in his heart.

"Nay, nay, my lord; give me grace. I have told thee truly all else,
and now I beg--"

"Dost thou say thou wilt not give his name? Then, by God, I will cut
my way to his black heart!" He drew his sword and strode forth to
slash the curtain that barred his way, and Katherine caught his
upstretched arm and fell upon her knees, bursting into tears. At sight
of tears and touch of fingers he dropped his sword and raised her
quickly, saying:

"Nay, nay, not tears. Dry them, Sweet, they wring my heart to greater
pain than all thy secrets, and for this one thou boldest I will take
thy shoulder-knot instead." She looked up surprised at the sudden
surcease of storm, and seeing his handsome face becalmed, she
wondered at the magic that had caused it, and her heart smote her for
withholding aught from one that loved her so. She hastily drew from
her shoulder the knot of violets that were still humid with freshness;
and as she drew the fastenings the lace fell from her shoulder,
disclosing her too-low cut bodice, and Cedric's quick eye saw why the
screen of lace was used, and with trembling fingers caught up the lace
and drew from his steenkirk a rare jewel and pinned it safe as deftly
as her maid. He touched her hand with his warm red lips, saying in
a voice resonant as music: "God bless thee, Kate, for thy sweet
modesty!" He thought if the modish beauties in yonder rooms could
boast of such perfect charm, 'twould not be hid by a fall of lace and
a shoulder knot of violets. And he pressed the nosegay to his heart
and left them there, folded within her father's letter. A calmness
settled upon him, such as had not come to him heretofore, and
trembling with happiness he led Katherine forth in the brantle; she
feeling quite like an heroine for being able to hold her secret from
this passionate man.

For all the convent had environed Mistress Pen wick with sacred
influences, and she had absorbed its most potent authority, religion,
yet even that was not efficacious to the annihilating that 'twas
born within; and one can but excuse the caprice and wantonness of a
coquette, when 'tis an inheritance. She adhered pertinaciously to the
requirements of a lady of title, and loved opulence and luxury and
admiration. She foresaw--young as she was and reared as she had been
with all simpleness--an opportunity, being a noblewoman and the ward
of a wealthy titled gentleman, to become a favourite at Court. This
idea, however, was not altogether original; for Lady Constance
had given her a graphic description of her presentation, and the
requirements due to all ladies of note. And while Katherine fully
intended to carry out her father's wishes for an early and noble
marriage; yet she felt there was no haste; she was sure it would be
his desire for her to enjoy one of those seasons at Court she had
heard so much converse of. 'Tis not much wonder, having been so short
a time in the great world and having won the hearts of two noblemen,
she should wish for fresh fields to conquer. But now was not the time
for a trip to London, for spring was upon them and there was much to
look after in Crandlemar. His Lordship had sadly neglected his duties
in keeping up the village and looking after the poor. The church
must be built up. It had not occurred to her that there were other
religions beside the Catholic; and when Lord Cedric's chaplain made
known to her the difficulties of arranging Catholic orders in a
Protestant Church, she could not understand. Janet explained to her
what she would be compelled to surmount to bring her religion to be
the accepted one in Crandlemar. Again her mind was turned to Count
Adrian, and she thought 'twould be well to wed with one of her
own faith, and he was as warm a Catholic as herself. Cedric was a
Protestant and a very poor one, indeed it seemed he had no religion.
And yet he had told her that he petitioned not to God for aught;
but 'twas his diurnal duty to thank Him for His benevolence and
chastening; ever deeming chastisement the surety of his alien thought
or action, and he speedily mended his ways or made an effort to; but
what great sin he had committed that her love should not be given him
was more than he could tell, and he should keep on trying to find out
what his faults were, that he might receive that he wished for most.
He wrangled not of religion, but ever kept the divine spark in his own
heart alive, if not fanned to flame. Indeed so indifferent was his
Lordship to the great questions of the times, he thought not of the
ancient monastery in the depths of the vast forest upon his estate,
where still resided recluses. 'Twas seldom he thought of these simple
monks. They lived in seeming quiet, enjoying the freehold of their
castle. But there was a storm brewing, and in its midst his Lordship
was to be severely reminded of their presence.

CHAPTER VIII

THE ANCIENT MONASTERY

Lord Cedric's guests all departed after the Saxon dance, save their
Graces of Ellswold, Lady Constance, Lady Bettie Payne and Count
Cantemir. And with their exit spring seemed to burst forth in sward,
bourgeon and bud, and the clinging tendrils upon the castle walls grew
heavy and pink with their greedy absorption of carbon dioxide from the
warm atmosphere. It seemed the unfolding of nature brought ten times
more pain and uneasiness and mad love to Lord Cedric's heart. He had
not yet learned who had been talking to Katherine of love. Janet
had mentioned Adrian Cantemir; he had laughed at her. Constance
had pointed to Lord Droylsden, a man of distinction and strong
personality, whose estates joined his own. This appeared more
plausible than the suit of Cantemir, and his Lordship watched
Katherine when she was with these two and soon found, so he thought,
it was for the latter she cared; indeed 'twas hard for him to follow
the trend of her vacillating mind.

'Twas a glorious, warm spring morning. Mistress Penwick had ridden
forth, attended by a groom, to the village. She spent the entire
morning in visiting the poor and sick and did not fail to note the
dilapidated state of the cottages. She rode home flushed and eager
with plans. She made known to Lord Cedric her desires to build up
these poor cottages. Without question he doubled the amount of money
she asked for, and paid her a large sum for immediate use among the
poor. Katherine's heart was touched by his goodness to her, and spoke
with more warmth than 'twas her wont and opined 'twould be a glorious
afternoon for their ride in the forest! He had kept his eyes
steadily from her; for 'twas his mood to play the disinterested and
unconcerned; but at this innovation on her part he raised his eyes and
spoke indifferently:

"Aye, if this weather continues, we will have roses in a fortnight."

"Speaking of roses reminds me; as I started forth this morning I saw
a gardener upon the upper terrace trimming about some bushes of
wonderful grace and beauty, and as I stepped among them I saw an
ancient sundial; 'tis the first I've yet seen, and I made bold to ask
him to plant some rare rose near it, that its leaves and blossoms
might enfold its cold marble whiteness and warm it to greater beauty."

"And didst not thou suggest some choice?"

"Nay; just so 'twas healthy and prolific of bloom."

"Then as thou hast named a rose, I will name its kind!"

He smiled significantly, and the hot blood flushed his cheek. She came
a step nearer and bent toward the table before him, her riding dress
wrapping her perfect mould.

"One thing more I would ask thee; 'tis that I might have a bolder
steed, the one thou gavest me is not near spiritful enough for one who
wishes to ride well and gayly. I would have one that shakes his head
and rattles his bit and stamps about uneasily." This was more than his
Lordship could stand, and he broke forth in a mirthful laugh,--

"Thou shalt have the most buoyant palfrey can be found; he shall have
a wicked black eye, and--an honest heart for his mistress." Cedric
arose and bent gracefully to the fingers of Katherine as she held
them out to him, then turned quickly to the fire and crushed a
half-famished ember beneath his heel as he heard her cross the
threshold. A moment after he strode out upon the upper terrace to the
gardener, who stood with bared head as his Lordship gave command to
plant by the dial a bridal rose.

The afternoon was glorious with the scent of a million shooting
sprouts, and delicate with the perfume of violets. But the sunshine
of the day was not to stay, for the party from the castle were scarce
three miles within the confines of the forest when the sun became
overcast. But they rode on, however, taking delight in the fine air,
and caring naught of cloud and threatening weather.

They soon came to intricate windings of the forest path, where two
might not ride side by side, and as the Duke of Ellswold rode in
behind his wife, he suddenly reeled and would have fallen had it not
been for his groom. They all turned quickly save Mistress Penwick and
Adrian, who had made the sharp turn and were galloping forward. Cedric
bade a lackey ride with all speed to the castle for a coach; and as
the anxious group waited, they wondered somewhat that Katherine and
Cantemir did not return. And Cedric's heart, while well-nigh taken up
by his uncle's state, had still room for jealousy, and he grew hot
with anger that for once he kept hid under the semblance of anxiety.

His Grace was tenderly lifted and taken to the conveyance that waited
upon the broader road some distance away. The little caravan moved
slowly, and before it reached the castle the wind began to blow
furiously, bringing heavy showers.

The physician from Crandlemar had been summoned, and after a hurried
examination gave them encouragement, saying that the duke had probably
been riding too fast and his condition was not dangerous.

A courier had been despatched for his Grace's physicians and all
things done for his comfort; and Cedric for the time relieved from the
anxiety of actual and impending danger concerning his kinsman, now
felt the full force of his disappointment in Mistress Penwick's
absence with Cantemir. He determined to ride forth in quest; and with
a groom laden with all sorts of cloaks for her protection from the
storm, that now raged furiously, started, feeling naught but the pain
at his heart.

The Catholics and Protestants being at variance throughout the
kingdom, and there were passing constantly under cover of forests and
unfrequented highways groups of riotous men of both parties; for the
life of him Cedric could not tell with which party he would rather his
Katherine would come in contact--she unattended save by a modish fop.

After reaching the depths of the forest, 'twas no easy matter to find
the exact paths they had traversed in the afternoon. The groom carried
a lantern, but 'twas Lord Cedric's order not to light it. There were
shooting lodges and forester's cabins, other abodes there were none
save the old monastery, and to which of these places to go was left
altogether to the toss of a penny. Beside, they were not sure of
finding a shooting lodge, should they start for it; the night was so
black and the paths so numerous and winding. Very often Cedric would
stop and listen for the tramp of horses' feet; but there was naught
save the occasional cracking of twigs as some wild thing jumped from
the roadside frightened, or the stir of the high wind in the giant
trees. On they rode, and Cedric's heart was first sorry for his
kinsman's ills, then--he would rant because Katherine had taken no
notice of his importunities, and he swore under his breath in good,
round Scotch oaths for his allowing her to go thus long without
espousal; and again he looked at the matter dispassionately. She was a
very young maid, without the protection of womankind of her own rank
or an aged guardian. Then began to find fault, and on a sudden saw she
loved admiration, and this sin became unpardonable and he became
so wrought upon, he swore he would lock her in the tower until she
consented to their espousal. Then he thought of Janet's words as he
left her but a short time before: "I would vouch for her innocence
with my life! Be not harsh with her, my lord!" and he ground his teeth
in rage for his _espionage_ of her. Then he thought of the king and
what if she came under his eye,--"Ah, 'sdeath! 'twould make me mad!"
and he laid spur to his horse and galloped on with hot curses in his
throat.

How long or how far they had ridden 'twas impossible to tell, until
suddenly they saw a light and at once Lord Cedric knew they were at
the monastery. He halted instantly and dismounted. Throwing the reins
to the groom, he crept cautiously forward alone. To his astonishment
he beheld a great number of horses about the enclosure, and he became
still more cautious. "'Tis a Catholic _rendezvous_, by God!" said he.

He followed close to the wall, and was about to reach the window when
the door was thrown wide open and a group of three stood upon the
threshold. Two of them, Cedric saw, as the light from within fell upon
their faces, were noted leaders of the Catholic party, the other was a
monk, and 'twas he that was speaking. His voice was low and intense:

"If his Majesty has but one glimpse, he will pitch the Castlemaine
overboard. This one is a religionist of no common order and will do
much for the cause; and when she has done this thing, I shall do all I
can to withdraw her from further communication with Charles. She shall
not become one of his household, she is too good for that."

"'Twas rare luck that brought her to thine abode this afternoon, for
our case was well-nigh hopeless, and soon it would have been too late,
for once Sir John gets to this country--sh! Didst hear something stir
hereabout?"

"Nay, 'twas naught but the wind; but when thou dost speak of Penwick,
thou hadst better whisper."

"'Twas a pity we came not earlier according to agreement, and we
should have feasted our eyes upon the beauty."

"If thou hadst been one-half hour sooner, thou wouldst have seen her
with the gay youth that will give her little peace 'til she doth say
the word. I tell thee both, the Virgin Mary doth plead our cause, and
no doubt 'twas through her agency the rain came upon the maid and
drove her here. We offered special prayer to Holy Mary this morning.
And the youth with her is also of the only religion. Mistress Penwick
was greatly frightened of my Lord Cedric; for she would go forth in
the heart of the storm, fearing a longer stay would bring uneasiness
to the castle; so I gave her protection, a guide and a promise to
receive her in a few days for the confessional and some religious
direction; and I feel sure she will visit me within the week."

"'Tis an easy way to reach the king's heart; he doth so love a pretty
face and fine parts; and we may be able to use the youth as well--eh?"
They said a good-night and passed on to their steeds, mounting and
riding away.

The monk returned to those within, and Cedric hurried away, anxious
only to see Katherine once more,--to behold her once again with his
own eyes and never, never again would he allow her to leave him. He
would not be turned aside again from his purpose, she must come to his
terms at once. Then he fretted and fumed, fearing she had fallen under
the stormy blast and had taken cold, and perhaps would have a fever.
Then he grew hot and angry with her for riding so fast and beyond
ear-shot of the company. And jealousy and all evil passions took
possession of him.

Meanwhile Mistress Penwick had arrived at the castle, and was grieved
when she heard of his Grace's condition, and sorry she had ridden
ahead and was so late getting home.

Janet had hurried her to her chamber and disrobed her of wet garments,
and bathed her in hot and cold baths, and was rubbing her with
perfumed olive oil when Lord Cedric arrived.

He went to his uncle's bedside, and finding him resting, quietly
hastened to his own apartments and sent to inquire of Mistress
Penwick.

'Twas Janet's pleasure to answer her lord's inquiry in person, and
after swathing her lady in fine flannels, she hastened to Lord
Cedric's presence.

She found him standing in satin breeches, silk hose and buckled
high-heeled shoes, and shirt of sheer white lawn and rare lace. He
raised his drooping eyelids lazily, and looked at Janet as he lifted
from the dressing-table before him rings--rare jewelled--and adjusted
them on his white fingers. At his side was a valet, placing fresh
sachets filled with civet within false pockets of the satin lining of
his lord's waistcoat. The cold, proud gleam from Cedric's dark orbs
daunted not Janet. She courtesied with grave respect. There was that
in her eyes, as she raised them, that called for the dismissal of the
lackeys. As they passed beyond to the ante-chamber, she approached and
spoke low in tones vibrant with suppressed emotion.

"My lord, as I am with thee in the chiefest thought of thine heart, I
make bold to inform thee of a virulent action that is about to be made
against thee; one flagrant of state intrigue and court duplicity."

"Damme, what now?" and his Lordship leaned heavily upon the table;
the conversation at the monastery recurring to his mind with force as
Janet proceeded.

"Not being able to contain my anxiety for Mistress Penwick, I wrapt
myself and went forth in the storm to watch and listen for aught of
her return. I passed some little distance within the confines of the
forest, and was soon put upon my guard by the approaching tramp of
horses' feet, and then, low-keyed voices, and in very truth I thought
my lady was come; instead, three horsemen came within a few feet of my
hiding and one said,--'We are even now hard by the Castle courtyard;
'tis possible the lackeys are waiting for the beauty who is perchance
now started from the monastery. Didst ever see such beauty?' They
halted and dismounted some distance from the open road. Then one
said,--''Twill send his Majesty to madness when he sees before him
such perfect mould, suing for his most gracious clemency toward our
cause.' ''Tis a wonder my lord of Crandlemar does not take such beauty
to wife,' said another. 'He may bid her farewell when once her fame
reaches the Court; and 'twill be there in less than two days from this
hour. Who will remain with the despatches while we find that rascal
Christopher?' ''Twill best serve for one to go, and two guard the
horses and bags. Thou hadst best go, Twinkham, thou art as subtle as
the wind. Prod the villain Christopher to haste and enjoin upon him
secrecy in the name of His Most Catholic Majesty, the Pope,--and do
not thou be hindered by some scullion wench.' These things I heard,
well-seasoned with imprecation against the king. I hastened from the
_rendezvous_ to my chamber and thought upon it, and--and there is
naught can be done, unless thou wed Mistress Penwick straightway."

His Lordship fell into furious rage, and vowed he would sever
Christopher's head from his rotting body with a cleaver, and honour
him not with a thought of Tyburn Hill. He would burn yonder monastery
and all within to ashes for the wind to carry away; and he would lock
Katherine in the tower with his own hands; and he started toward the
door, half-dressed as he was, and flung it wide open.

Her Grace of Ellswold stood upon the threshold with a warning finger
raised.

"Thou hast a clamourous tongue, Cedric; the doctor hath enjoined
silence, as holding for the moment the greatest good for his Grace."

"Now God forgive me! I was so wrought upon by foul communication I am
well nigh distraught.--How is his Grace?"

"He is resting quietly; but I thought but now, as I heard thy
voice--indistinctly, 'tis true,--his pulse did flutter extraly."

"Dear aunt, forgive; thou shalt not be thus annoyed again." He turned
and strode up and down the room with bent head.

Janet watched him narrowly, wondering the while that any female, of
whatsoever age, could withstand such fine mould, masculine grace and
handsome features; such strong heart and hot blood. What maid beside
her Lambkin would not be overjoyed to see him so mad with love of her?
Who could resist kneeling before him and pleading, and watch his anger
take flight; and feel his strong arms raise her and fold the maiden
bosom to his heart, where 'twould throb and flutter as he held it
close pressed--ah! 'twas not his anger that would kill, nay! nay!
'twas his tender passion.

"Janet, these are troublous times come upon us. They have come within
these walls. We have traitors about us. That knave Christopher shall
die by the hand of the lowest scullion in the kitchen; for 'twould
dishonour a better to mix with blood of swine. And thou wilt take thy
mistress to the tower and there be bolted in, and 'twill be given out
that her ladyship is ill and must needs have quiet--"

"If my lord values her health, 'twould be best to put her in a less
windy chamber; the room is large and ill-heated for damp, spring
days."

"Canst keep her safe where she is?"

"Aye, leave it to me, my lord."

"And thou shalt allow of no communication with those outside, save
her Grace, and Angel thou canst rely upon--stay--thou mayest allow
Constance to keep my lady company."

"Nay, my lord, I would refute the idea of safety in my Lady
Constance."

"'Sdeath, what meanest thou; art thou also turned from serving me?"

"My lord, dost remember the night thou didst have dancers from London?
Lady Constance sat late with Mistress Penwick, and at last complained
of thirst and they two stole below stair and I followed, and as if by
accident Lady Constance brought Mistress Katherine to the curtained
archway, and she saw thee swaying in thy cups, and after a while my
lady led mistress to her room while she hastened away to a room apart
and donned the garb of one of the dancing maids and came to thee as a
gipsy, and she told thee false things concerning Mistress Penwick--"

"Is what thou sayest true, or is't thou art going mad?"

"'Tis true, my lord, as Mistress Penwick will tell thee if thou carest
to ask."

"And Constance would do such an act?--" he spoke half aloud and
incredulously,--"Nay, I cannot and do not believe it! Thou must have
dreamt it, Janet,--and yet,--I did have like visions!--Thou art right;
no one shall see thy mistress, no one, mind, but Angel and her Grace.
'Tis possible the king may send for me within a few days; and if so, I
must go and leave thee to fight the battle alone. Art able, Janet?"

"Trust me, my lord."

"I can trust thee, good Janet. Look after her health; keep the windows
open for fine air, but let her not go from her chamber. How thinkest
thou she will take such imprisonment?"

"She will be angry, but so proud she will not petition for freedom;
she may even brag 'tis to her liking to be so rid of thee."

"'Sdeath, Janet, thy tongue can cut! Dost believe she cares a jot for
my anger?"

"Nay, not a jot, for 'tis the outcome of love, and 'tis my noble lady
Innocence that is well aware that thy anger will fall to spray when
she hath a notion to turn the tide."

"Nay, not again shall she win from me aught but cold looks 'til she
hath a mind to espouse me;--and yet my mind was made up to marry,
whether she consented or not; for the time has come when the one who
waits will wait still, and the one who rushes on, will take the prize,
whether by foul or fair means;--but nothing can be done to-night. In
the meantime I will steel my heart to harsh deeds, and, by God! I will
bear out my course. Janet, go now to thy mistress, and should I be
despatched for before I see thee again, there will be no one here
to defend her as thou canst do. Thou must not allow the servants to
attend upon her; thou must do it all thyself--a sweet duty! so, 'tis
left thee to defend with thy quick wit."

'Twas near noon the next day that Mistress Penwick arose and would
prepare her for a ride to the village, when Janet told her of the
imprisonment imposed upon her for safety. She at once became angry and
accused her nurse of being a traitor and tool for Lord Cedric.

"Nay, Lambkin, in truth, there are dark deeds abroad. Those monastery
celibates, who are well equipped to bandy with their equals, are mere
braying bumpkins when they have to do with embroidered waistcoats
and amorous hearts. They have surreptitiously corrupted one of Lord
Cedric's lackeys and the fellow is condemned to die."

"Condemned to die! and who hath done the condemning, pray?"

"His master, to be sure!"

"Ah! if he should put forth the accomplishment of such a deed, 'twould
be the act of a barbarian. What are the charges against him?"

"Just what it is I know not; but my lord deems the charge most grave
and--he may be even now dead."

"Janet, thou dost so frighten me. Does the matter concern my lord's
person,--is his life in danger?"

"Not his life but his love; 'tis for thy sake he does it."

"For my sake!--then it shall not be done; I will see to it. Let me go
to Lord Cedric straightway."

"His orders would not permit it."

"For shame, Janet; to save a man's life? Let me go; I am not afraid of
his anger."

"'Tis impossible; he would send me away if I disobeyed him."

"Then thou must bring him here, Janet."

"'Twill do no good to see him; he will not come. He is thoroughly out
of all patience with thy perverseness,--thou wilt never find another
such a noble lord and one 'twill love thee with such love;--and for a
face and figure--well, thou art surely blind to masculine beauty;--and
should his Grace go hence, my lord will be his Grace of Ellswold, and
second to none in the realm; he will become as much to the king as the
Duke of Buckingham, and will far outshine Monmouth and Shaftesbury."

"Nay, Janet, he will ne'er become great when he doth so confuse
justice with viciousness;--but, nurse, I would have thee haste. Tell
my lord that I beg his presence, if for a moment only; he surely would
not refuse so trifling a request."

"But it is not trifling, as he well knows thou art upon the keen edge
of want before thou wilt so much as smile upon him." At the moment
there struck upon Mistress Penwick's ears the tramp of horses' feet,
and straightway she ran to the window and leant out and saw Cedric
about to ride forth.

"My lord, my lord!" she cried, and dropped a rose to attract him. His
horse sprung aside and trod upon it; but Cedric looked up and saw
the anxious face embrazured by ivy-clad sill; and with involuntary
courtesy he speedily uncovered and waited thus her pleasure.

"May I have a word with thee, my lord?"

"Indeed, Mistress, it doth rack me with pleasure to accord thee so
slight a service," and he dismounted quickly and strode into the great
hall and bounded up the oaken stairway. It seemed to Mistress Penwick,
as she heard his rattling spurs, that 'twas a sound of strength, and
she felt a happy, exultant tremour, knowing her cause already won.
But for once there was not wisdom in her conceit. She made a sweeping
courtesy as he entered. He bent low before her, waiting her first
words.

"My lord, wilt thou permit me to inquire somewhat of thy mercy?"

"Thou dost make me insolvent of such a quality when thy keen
penetration doth not discover, without inquiry, its existence." She
was not daunted by his severe answer, but flushed slightly at his
imperturbance.

"Then, if thou dost acknowledge thyself so pampered, I beg thou wilt
conjoin to justice its semblance and forgive thy poor servant the
penalty of death."

"Ah! ah! and 'tis Christopher's cause thou art pleading. Happy
Christopher!" he sighed deeply. "If the King would thus condemn me,
Mistress Penwick wouldst thou thus care for me?"

"The query is of that so premature 'twould be impossible to frame a
reply,--hence I beg to continue converse upon an affair thoroughly
elaborated and arranged."

"'Twould grieve me to say at once 'nay'; for that would end at once
for me these supreme moments in thy presence; however, I will repeat
the adverb of negation with a rising inflection that thou mayst
continue with amplification."

"Dost thou mean to discontinue converse with me?"

"Nay, I beg not."

"Then thou meanest thou wilt not forgive thy poor servant, and wilt
impose such extreme penalty; and further importunities would be
useless?"

"I forgive the dead all things."

"My lord, he is not already dead?" and she fell from him aghast.

"Nay, but soon will be."

Mistress Penwick saw no softening in Cedric's manner, and she became
alarmed and threw some tenderness in her voice and spoke softly, that
she might lead or manage her lord by gentleness and tact.

"My lord, do not look so cold and hard." She drew nearer and her voice
became more pleading. "'Tis a little thing for thee to grant me this
one desire. I beg with all my heart for thy servant's life."

"Nay, I have given order for his despatch before sunset."

"Nay, nay, my lord, I beg." She came close to him and laid one hand
caressingly upon the silver fastenings of his coat and he turned white
and trembled and caught her hand within his own and bent down and
pressed his lips to her fingers. She saw her advantage and followed it
close.

"Wilt grant me this one thing, my lord, and I will hold myself--ready
to--hear thy suit renewed--if thou so will it?" His voice vibrant and
low with passion he could hardly restrain, broke forth,--

"Kate, Kate, I could not call so base a life worthy of thy
consideration, and I could not grant thee that 'twould sully thy sweet
tongue to barter for."

"Thou art most unrelenting, my lord!" The maid was angry for having
offered her lord the privilege of renewing his suit; which he didn't
seem inclined to do; and finding her pleadings were of no avail, and
being angry and annoyed, she broke into tears, knowing of a certainty
she would now have her way, even though her dignity was lowered.
Cedric could not stand and see her thus; he turned from her
quickly and was about to leave her, when she called to him almost
impatiently,--

"My lord, wilt grant his life until the morrow?" He hesitated, then
turned and bowing low, murmured,

"Until the morrow, Kate," and left the chamber.

CHAPTER IX

SIR JULIAN POMPHREY

"Now time is something to have gained! Janet, thou must go to yonder
monastery and bring a priest to shrive Christopher."

"And how didst thou know Christopher was shriveable?"

"'Tis unseemly of thee to make jest of divine ordinances."

"Nay, I would not jest but know where 'twas thou learnt of his
religion?"

"All of the Catholic faith know one another by intuition; 'tis
God-given."

"Then thou didst also know him to be a rascal?"

"Neither do I know it now. Wilt thou not find some way to bring a
priest hither? Pray, Janet, do; for if I let it go past, 'twill bring
me miserable thoughts and wicked dreams. Janet, thou didst once love
me and hadst a fond way of anticipating my desires; but thou hast on
a sudden forgotten thine whilom usages. Beshrew thee for falling away
from thine old friends and taking up with new ones. Lord Cedric's
nurse watches him from morn until eve and deigns not to cajole him or
win his desires from their natural bent."

"'Tis wisely said; for his desires are inclined in the right
direction. 'Twas but last night when he was well-nigh distraught with
thy absence with the Russian Jew that doth ogle thee, that Angel
brought his riding-cloak and threw it over his shoulders as he tore up
and down his chamber; and she said, lowly,--'Go, my lord, 'twill ease
thy mind to ride,' and he flew to horse. She is ever helping him to
thee."

"And now I would have thee to help me to my lord's good graces and my
desires; but thou art evil bent."

"Nay, my precious Lambkin, if I could I would help thee this night to
the nuptial altar; but as to helping thee to thy desires, 'twould be
helping thy peace of mind and him to utter ruin; and such calamity
would render thy young life incomplete; for without this noble lord
thy perfectness will be unfinished."

"Cease carving epitaphs, Janet, and help me assist this poor
unfortunate. How long will my lord be gone?"

"He has only gone to the village to meet the workmen who were to
renovate the nurseries and ride home with Lady Constance, who rode
away early this morning when thou were dreaming of Russia."

"Then I will write him my petition, and thou shalt give it to Angel
to give my lord, immediately upon his return." She sat down with
parchment and quill and wrote rapidly; and as Janet noticed not, she
wrote two letters instead of one. The first she folded evenly and put
beneath a book, the other she gave to Janet, who took it and left the
chamber to seek Angel. Mistress Penwick, thus left alone, wondered how
she should convey her other letter to Count Adrian. She approached the
window, and lo! upon the upper terrace paced her Grace of Ellswold and
Cantemir. 'Twas not the first hour that day the latter had so paraded
the sward, ever and anon casting glances toward Mistress Penwick's
windows. Again he glanced up and saw her wave a white paper and
immediately leave the window. He guessed at once 'twas something more
than indisposition that held her to her room. Again she looked; they
had turned from the window. She flung forth the paper and it floated
down as Janet came into the room.

'Twas late that evening Katherine sat in _peignoir_ and unbound hair,
ready for retiring, when there came a soft rap and a pleading voice
asking for admission. Now Janet was not one whit afraid of double
dealing when she was present, and being proud of Mistress Penwick and
not wishing it to appear that she was a prisoner, she opened the door
and in came Lady Constance smiling and shy, a hollow-hearted creature
of the world. Now it so happened that Lady Constance had kept herself
from Katherine for some little time, wishing not to be disturbed by
the maid's beauty; as it usually stirred her to frenzy and she wanted
perfect quiet for calm reasoning. It took some time to plan her
campaign that was already full started, and she now came forth from
her chamber refreshed, the course of her slothful blood hastened; her
eyes gleamed with impatience for action; her whole being changed,
rejuvenated, filled with a new life. She came also with a full
knowledge of all that had taken place in the _interim_ of her absence
from Katherine. She came well prepared for a bout, and blushed not at
the subterfuges and mean, paltry artifices, aye, a full battery of
chicaneries that awaited her use, as she crossed the maid's chamber
threshold. "'All is fair in love and war,'" she quoted--"'Tis an
egregious platitude adopted alike by king and fool!"

"I could not sleep without first seeing thee and knowing thy
condition. It must be more than hard for thee to keep thy chamber?"
said Constance.

"Nay, thou art wrong; the convent doth inure one to quiet and
solitude."

"Dost think thy ailments will allow thee to go abroad on the morrow?"

"I know not, I am at Janet's mercy and I cannot leave my seclusion
without her permission. I feel quite well, but Janet says I am ill."

"Oh! that I had a nurse to so fondle me; indeed, she has kept all
looks of illness from thee; thy face is as clear as if thou hadst been
fed on wild honey all thy days;--and such hair! Dost leave it thus for
the night?"

"The tangles would never submit, should I so leave it."

"'Tis my delight to fuss with hair and thine is so beauteous--" she
arose and went to Katherine and smoothed the amber threads--"See, when
I turn it thus, 'tis like rare bronze, and when I place it to the
light, 'tis a glorious amber. May I plait it for thee,--I should love
so much to do it?"

"If 'twill give thee pleasure thou mayest assuredly plait it," replied
Katherine. Janet now watched for a whispered word or some sign of
intercourse; but her vigilance was of no avail, for Lady Constance
deftly placed a tiny paper in Mistress Penwick's hair and plaited
tightly over it.

"'Tis such a pleasure to fuss with hair--and such fine threads, too;
indeed, I have half a mind to become a _peruquier_,--there, 'tis
finished!"

"How is his Grace, Lady Constance?"

"He bids fair to pass a comfortable night,--'tis too bad his
physicians cannot arrive before the day after the morrow. They have
also sent for Sir Julian Pomphrey--a favourite of the duke and an
intimate and college fellow of Lord Cedric. Sir Julian is a most
wonderful man. When but nine years of age, he entered Eton school,
and having pursued his studies there with great success for one of
such light years, he was sent to travel upon the continent, where he
studied in Geneva for some time; thence he went to Florence, remaining
there many months,--afterward visiting Rome and Geneva and other
continental cities of note. He returned to England a scholar, a
soldier, a gallant, a conqueror of female hearts,--in brief, he holds
all the requirements of a charming cavalier of King Charles' Court.
He has modish habits that so completely masque his strong will and
determination that before one is aware they are caught and wound in
the meshes of his duplicity. He is a literate, poet and musician."

"Thou dost indeed stir me to great interest, Lady Constance; he must
be a wonderful man. It seems we seldom have so many great qualities in
one human being. He must be quite along in years?"

"Nay, not at all! His very youthfulness is what makes him such a
wonder. If I remember rightly, he is but two years senior of Cedric,
and I will venture there is not ten pounds' difference in their
weight. They are very much the same mould, and their voices blend as
one, but Cedric has the handsomer face. Sir Julian, however, has a
countenance of no common order; 'tis like a rock of strength already
well lined and marked by the passions that have swayed him to battle
and death or--perchance a lover's intrigue. He is in great repute for
his smile that is transcendent in its beauty, but one can never tell
what note it rings, whether true or false; its condiment may be of
malice, hate, reserve, flippancy, deception. And one looks on and
fears to take part in his mirth, for the reason one knows not what
lies beneath in Sir Julian's heart."

"Indeed, and he is to arrive soon?--Sir Julian Pomphrey--I like the
name!"

"It is one of the best names in England. I shall be very glad to see
him, and hope he will come soon. When he gets word his Grace is so
ill, he will probably come as fast as the ship and post-horses can
travel. He is at present a special emissary to France. He did write
Cedric some time since that he was about to return to England, that
his work there was nearly finished."

"He will doubtless be playing fine French airs, and have much gossip
of the composers and will perchance bring music with him that will
stir us to greater study of execution."

"It may be, and it mayhap so move thee; but I am foreign from the
rudiments of counterpoint and technique and such lollipops of
harmony."

"Then it must be wearisome to hear me prate of the divine art, and
much more to hear my poor drummings on the harpsichord, I am sorry--"

"Nay, be not so. I am more content when thou art at practice than at
all other time, save when I am with thee thus, alone." And there was a
covert meaning in her flattery. "Now, my dear Katherine, if thou art
thus beset on the morrow, I will engage to come at thy retiring hour
and dress thy hair; 'twill give me such pleasure."

As Lady Constance retired from the chamber, Mistress Penwick stretched
her lithe body and yawned and expressed a desire for the bed. Soon
she was left alone, and she stole from her couch and knelt at the
hearthstone and read the missive eagerly and flushed not a little
at Count Cantemir's warm words of love that were a prelude to the
weightier matters appertaining. She crept back noiselessly and lay
pondering of many things. It seemed to her as if all earth breathed of
love; that she was the nucleus around which all flowers and perfume
and everything beautiful revolved. And now she was about to open a
mystic shrine, into which she would step and see and know and feel
with youth's ecstasy a strange development of essential existence. And
after wondering and speculating upon the affairs of love, she entered
into prayerful thought of Lord Cedric's servant, and soon fell into
sound slumber.

CHAPTER X

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE BUTLERY

"'Behold thou art fair, my love; behold thou art fair; thou hast
dove's eyes within thy locks; thy hair is as a flock of goats, that
appear from Mount Gilead.

"'Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which come
up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren
among them.

"'Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely; thy
temples are like a piece of pomegranate within thy locks.

"'Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armory, whereon
there hang a thousand buckles--'"

"Nay, nay, Janet, thou must not idolize me thus, 'tis--"

"Beshrew thy conceit. 'Tis Solomon I repeat. Thou were not thought of
when 'twas writ."

Katherine raised upon her elbow and looked surprised at Janet, who
knelt by the bed.

"Thy tongue is sharp, Janet, for a day yet in its swaddling hours."

"Aye, 'twill be whetted two-edged e'er the day waxes old. 'To
everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the
heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a
time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to
heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep,
and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to
get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a
time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love and a time
to hate; a time for evil communication to be thrown from young maid's
window, a time to look for answer to a pleading letter sent to a
justly angered lord; a time when his Lordship deigns not to give
answer; a time when a young lord to a tender parchment pregnant
with importunities says: 'Damme, she would set one thief to shrive
another;' a time when his Lordship slams with a bang the outside cover
to a book _blase_ of many turned leaves."

"Dear, dear sweet Janet; where is Lord Cedric? And has he said nothing
of Christopher?" The nurse averred that his Lordship had ridden forth
early, without giving his destination, and had left no word concerning
the servant.

"Perhaps my lord's better nature hath prevailed, and he will keep the
poor fellow in durance yet for a time," said Katherine, hopefully.

"Nay, his decision is irrevocable. He is not dealing in hearts now,
Lambkin."

There was no doubt in Mistress Penwick's mind but that his Lordship
would kill, or cause to be killed, the condemned lackey, and Janet
knowing, 'twas his Lordship's temper and not his heart that vowed the
death, dissembled and impressed upon her mistress that the deed was as
good as done.

Katherine's wit was sharpened by the exigency, and she managed to use
the window again as a post, only fearing--from Janet's anomaly of
Solomon's words--that some one waited below to capture the flying
missive. This issue was accomplished as the nurse was listening to the
Duke of Ellswold's message; when, late in the morning, the duke after
swallowing a stimulant declared he must have the more substantial
refreshment of Mistress Penwick's beauteous countenance.

The duke was too ill to remain up long; and though Katherine was less
than an hour from her chamber, the day was much shortened by the
diversion. As night approached she became more and more anxious about
Christopher. Indeed, it seemed to her as if the moments were hours
after candle-light. And she moved restlessly about her chamber and
listened and sighed for the return of his Lordship. Surely the silence
was more pronounced than usual; it became ominous to her, and she
spoke out quickly in a voice that was peevish:

"The castle is very quiet to-night. His Grace is not suffering again,
I hope? Wilt see, Janet? I'm in a perfect fever of impatience!"

"Nay, he is very comfortable. Her Grace is with him. Lady Constance,
Lady Bettie and the Russian are at cards."

"Will my lord arrive soon, dost think, Janet?"

"I know not. Why art thou so solicitous on a sudden of his outgoings
and incomings?"

"I would make another effort to save Christopher, if I could but
converse with my lord."

"And what wouldst thou give him in exchange for the fool's life?"

"Everything, Janet,--all that I have to give should be his."

"Then that includes thy heart, Lambkin?"

"Nay, dear nurse, my heart is already given."

"Of all the powers that be! And what knave hath attempted to steal
that that thou wert born without?"

"'Tis unjust of thee to speak thus. I have a mind not to tell thee!"

"Thou wilt tell me straightway, for thou wilt turn all colours when I
say Adrian Cantemir," and quickly Mistress Penwick turned her back, "I
am aggrieved at thy folly. What hath he said to thee? Tell me every
word, Lambkin."

"He hath said more than I could tell thee, Janet, in a whole hour."

"It is impossible! And what were all of these hour sayings,--love
pratings?"

"If I told thee, thou wouldst then know as much as both of us, and
there are but two in a marriage contract; so I will have to begin
barring secrets from thee."

"And did he tell thee what marriage meant to two people knowing not
their own minds?"

"He said 'twas a most perfect life. All was sunshine and flowers and
great happiness. First of all, he will take me to Russia, as 'tis his
pleasure to hasten home with me. Then we will visit the French and
English courts, and we will see all the beauties of this life. I shall
become known among the musicians and meet--"

"And said he naught of home-life, and the extent of his riches?"

"Nay, we are to live at Court always, free and happy, consorting ever
with kings and queens--"

"Did his High-mightiness ever consider that court dignitaries consort
not with a rogue who hath entrapt an angel for spouse?"

"I will not listen to thy rough tongue, Janet," and she straightway
closed her ears with her tapering fingers and walked up and down as a
spoilt child would do.

The prandium hour was past, and the evening far spent when Mistress
Penwick desired to retire.

"'Tis most likely his Lordship will not return to-night, Janet?"

"He has gone on a journey of some import, as Angel hath just said; so
I could not say when to look for his return."

Janet had been asleep some time when she was aroused by some subtle
thing that brought her upright and from thence to the floor and from
the floor to the closet that connected her apartment with that of her
mistress. The door was locked; this was an innovation that startled
Janet to a keen alertness. She rattled the knob and knocked upon the
panelling. Stooping, she saw the key was turned in the door. She
hurried from the place to her own room and into the hall, and from the
hall to a small corridor, and from thence to the grand corridor, where
opened the door of her mistress' ante-chamber. In she flew, and tried
the inner door. 'Twas fast locked, and the key gone. It seemed she
sped on wings as she descended the oaken stairway in her trailing
gown. She reached Lord Cedric's bed-chamber with trepidation and not a
little daunted; for should his Lordship be within 'twas possible his
anger would know no bounds; and while she loved his good hot temper,
she feared it when so justly aroused. Within the ante-chamber was
a steward and two or three lackeys, all asleep; she passed them
silently, and without hesitation opened the door. Lord Cedric sat
before the table in riding boots and spurs, divested of coat and
waistcoat; writing, and looked up surprised and amazed at one
who dared to so enter his presence; but he read that in Janet's
countenance that brooked not at delay.

"My lord, Mistress Penwick hath deserted her chamber, and I know not
where to find her, nor can think of where she may be gone." Lord
Cedric stood before her still and white as marble, his face glistened
with the cold sweat of fear.

"By God, Janet, thy tale doth take from me all strength!" Even as he
spoke he sunk down upon his chair. Janet brought from a stool hard by
a posset-pot and pressed it to his lips. He drank gurglingly, as if
his throat was paralyzed.

"Janet," he breathed forth, "call the lackeys." He had somewhat
recovered, and stood upright while his valet buckled on his sword. He
took from the table a polished dagger and placed it in his belt; he
called for candles and bade the lackeys lead on. Janet was well-nigh
distraught at this awful cloud of anger that was about to break forth
in the thunder of his tongue and stroke of sword. The steward of the
household was aroused, and keys were brought to unfasten Mistress
Penwick's door, that they might ascertain if she had fled afar.
Her hoods and hats were all in place upon the shelves of the
dressing-closet, but there was gone a white camelot cloak. The footman
near the outer entrance said none had passed since Lord Cedric's
arrival.

"But, my God! I have just arrived; who passed before?"

"Not one soul since nightfall, save the village doctor, your
Lordship."

Lord Cedric had enjoined perfect silence, fearing lest some noise
might disturb his Grace of Ellswold.

The lackeys bearing lighted tapers--behind them the young lord of the
castle, with the attendant Janet--moved solemnly like a procession.

They passed thus from room to corridor, from hall to gallery, and
through passages; examining secret exits and closets. They traversed
the long banquet-hall and were upon the threshold of a carved and
lofty doorway, when Janet espied upon the parquetry a cobweb bit of
lace protruding from beneath the tapestry of a chair. Lord Cedric's
keen eyes marked her movement as she essayed to reach it without his
notice. He turned quickly and fierce upon her, knocking his sword with
a loud noise upon the chair's carving.

"Give me thy treasure, Janet!" She gave it to him with something like
a sob; for 'twas her mistress' handkerchief, and she feared mightily
her lord's anger.

"Your Lordship! If it so turned out that she be holding some
_rendezvous_ with thy Russian guest--"

"Ah, 'sdeath!" he interrupted.

"I beg thou wilt forgive much, she being of such slender age and
knowing not the great wrong of clandestine--"

"Ah! ah! she holdeth court here in the chief butlery."

The door before them had been thrown open by the lackeys. They stood
upon either side for his Lordship to pass through. Beyond, framed in
the dark embrasure of the archway, stood Mistress Penwick in gleaming
white. Her hands behind her rested upon a table from which long leaves
depended to the floor, upon either side, her camelot cloak was thrown
carelessly upon the further end, its long fulness draping to the
floor, and in the centre of the polished top of the table rested a
tall, silver candlestick with lighted taper. Upon the hearthstone
there shot up a cheerful blaze, for the night was damp and chilly, and
the flickering light sent Mistress Penwick's hair first amber, then
bronze. Her face was still and white, and her eyes flashed wide and
boldly. Her heart beat high and her breath came fast and hard.

For a moment only his Lordship's glance fell upon her, then it swept
the room from end to end, and from ceiling to parquetry. Then occurred
a strange thing to them all; for 'twas ever Cedric's way to swear
and curse, using holy names and blasphemous phrases; and it startled
Katherine more than all, as he spoke low and calmly, holding out his
jewelled hand to her:

"Come, Mistress Penwick, I will escort thee to thy chamber; 'tis a
childish trick of thine to seek bread and butter at such unseemly
hours."

"But, my lord, I am not yet begun."

"Ah!--with one pair of shapely hands unused to spreading butter, it
doth take long in preparation." The snowy whiteness of his Lordship's
waist reflected upon his face, where now came and went its wonted
colour, as doubt and certainty fought for supremacy. He stepped nearer
and glanced behind her upon the table.

"Thou hast not even brought forth bread. I will aid thee," and he went
to 'the cupboards that lined the room, and opened and looked within
each large door, until he was satisfied of his search, and those about
stood watching and trembling, fearing lest some one should be found in
hiding.

"I find naught here of bread or butter, Mistress Penwick; we will have
to seek elsewhere!"

"And thou wilt not have far to seek, my lord; my whey sits freshly
made upon the cellaret in yonder closet adjoining; if thou wilt be so
kind as to bring it hither, Janet will provide me with bread," and
Katherine looked triumphant.

"I would first learn whom I follow. Who hath so cavalierly concocted
it for thee at this late hour? Where is the person, my lady?"

"One who is in the habit of following thy orders; but at mine he hath
made it; 'twas Tompkins." Her voice rung with so much of truth, his
Lordship was satisfied and looked at her with a lighter heart; then,
as she pointed toward the door--a mute command for him to bring the
whey--he frowned and drew back and spoke,--

"Hiary will bring it thee, for 'tis said a hand put forth by an angry
heart doth curdle that it toucheth and--I am of no mind to be either
kind or courteous." At these words, the colour that had come into
Katherine's face a moment before, left it.

As Hiary turned to do his lord's bidding, a door opened and Tompkins
entered with a lighted candle and large basket. Seeing the unexpected,
coughed to hide his confusion; indeed he knew not which way to turn,
when his Lordship walked to his side and raised the cover of the
basket and looked within.

"It appears that 'twas a feast thou wert preparing;--everything
suitable for a full meal. Here is fowl and cheese and mutton tarsal
and bread and ale,--Egad! we shall not want now, shall we, Mistress
Penwick? Set the table, Tompkins!"

"Ah!" came in an asperate tone from the now trembling and frightened
maid. His Lordship heard it and saw her turn white and tremble. Slowly
he walked to the hearthstone, eyeing her askance, then he swept his
brow where the cold perspiration lay in beads;--then turned to her
again with a world of love for her in his eyes and a great crushing
self-pity; and the menials looked away from the abject misery they
beheld in their lord's face; Tompkins fumbled nervously with his
burden, daring not to look up; Janet leant forward, intent, pained,
sorrowing, scanning the two countenances she loved best on earth. His
Lordship stretched forth his arms and with a great sob that broke upon
that one word "Kate," he took a step forward and essayed again to
speak, but the words would not come. Then with a great effort he
seemed to fling all tenderness from him and spoke most harshly,--

"Where hast thou hid thy lover, Mistress Penwick, tell me where he
is!" She drew herself up quickly to her full height and smiled, for
this was one thing and she had thought another, and the reality was
better than her fancy. And she said, as she drew a long, relieved
breath,--

"He is safe, my lord!"

"Nay, nay, by God! he is not nor ever will be again. He hath so dealt
with me and my honour, even though I stand within mine own threshold
'twould be heinous to allow him to leave it with life in his accursed
body. I tell thee now, there is nothing of hell or heaven that can
take thee from me. Dost hear--dost hear, maid?" He again wiped his
brow and looked about him. "It does somewhat appear as if my brain
were turning!--Janet--bring thy maid here to me! Janet made a step
forward, but was checked by Katherine's warning look.

"Mistress Penwick, remove thyself from the table; Tompkins, set it,
set it, set it quickly I say!" Tompkins put the basket upon the table
and turned to a linen closet and brought therefrom a cloth and made
as if to spread it upon a small table near him. His Lordship saw his
move, and broke forth in angry tones,--"The table of honour, there,
there Tompkins!" As he shook his fingers toward it, his hand fell back
upon the hilt of his sword.

"Nay, I forbid him to do it," said Katherine.

"By all the foul fiends! raise the leaves or I smite thee down," said
Lord Cedric to the frightened Tompkins. And he drew and leaned forward
his body well nigh to the floor. His eyes were wild and bloodshot. As
Tompkins raised the leaves Mistress Penwick threw herself between his
Lordship and the table. With one bound Cedric swayed aside and like
one frenzied, gazed beneath the table, and there looked out to him the
white face of Christopher.

His Lordship broke forth into such a wild laugh, even the affrighted
and condemned servant crept from his hiding and looked on amazed.
Finally, when his laughing had well-nigh ceased, his Lordship drew
from his belt the dagger and threw it across the room at Hiary,
saying,--"There; stick him as thou wouldst a wild boar--no probing,
mind; but death!"

"Nay, nay, my lord! my lord!" broke from Mistress Pen wick, and Janet
ran to her crying,--"My lord, not so harsh a deed before my lady's
eyes!"

"Ah! ah! and she hath carved my heart to pieces! Commit thy office,
Hiary!" The lithe lackey sprang upon Christopher and drove the knife,
it appeared, to the hilt, and with a gurgling cry the lad fell.

Mistress Penwick looked on wild-eyed with terror. His Lordship came
near and leant close to her ear and said,--

"Thou hast turned thy charms to ill account, thou stirrest me to evil
deeds. Didst thy love help thee to this _rendezvous_, and was he
satisfied to leave thee when he heard my sword flap upon the chair
without to fight thy battles alone, or did he sate his desire on thy
innocent face and fled aforetime to prepare for a greater sating? Now
by God, none shall wrest thee from me again. Arouse the chaplain!
Come, Mistress, thou shalt have a husband who loves thee within the
hour, and the morrow's sun will look in on a sweet young wife with a
light heart."

He laid hold on her without violence, she drew from him even more
frightened than heretofore.

"Come, we will wed straightway and before dawn thou wilt have
forgotten my haste and stout urging," and he started forth drawing her
with him by force. She struggled wildly and cried,--

"Nay, nay; I'll not marry with one who would strike down and kill the
unfortunate; nay, nay!" and she screamed again and again.

From the doorway came a voice of thunder, its power seemed to crush
out all other presence. 'Twas but one word, but it rung and vibrated
and stirred each breast with its vehemence.

"Cedric!"

His Lordship let go the maid and turned and sprang to the open arms of
him who called. The awful tension of his nerves relaxed and he uttered
in rapid succession,--

"Julian, Julian, Julian!" and fell to sobbing, his form trembling with
his emotion.

"Hath gore of _canaille_ sapped thy noble blood and impregnated in
thy veins vile clots to turn thee purple with choler?" and he pushed
Cedric from him. "What doeth this _couchant_ dog here?" He turned and
stirred the prostrate form of Christopher. "'Tis ill to so fall upon
the seething caldron of thy passion, the noxious fumes of which
penetrate yonder to our kinsman's couch of suffering--and at the same
time thou dost pound to pomace the heart of yonder Junoesque figure."

"Julian, thy tongue hath an awful strength, it doth goad me to
something like reason. I was indeed rough, but I was looking after
mine own. The maiden there is plighted to me for espousal and I was
taking her to the chaplain."

"It may be thou dost take her rightfully; but if 'twere me I would
bring her to it by soft and gentle words, not by handling. It doth
take away the sweetness."

"Indeed, Julian, I have used all things worth using to gain her. I
have played all parts and have asked and sued and prayed, aye, begged.
I have honoured and loved and pampered her every whim; I have coerced
and threatened,--all to no avail; indeed, I have gone mad for very
effort to please."

"Hast thou tried cold indifference and haughtiness? It oft haps that a
maid is won by a lofty and arrogant mien." Sir Julian Pomphrey glanced
askance at Mistress Penwick, who lay with her face buried upon Janet's
ample bosom. "Methinks 'twould be a good beginning, if thou wouldst
renew thy suit by sending the maid to her chamber and let her espouse
Morpheus and 'suage her grief upon a bosom thou needst not be jealous
of." Janet arose and led forth Katherine. Lord Cedric stepped after
them and held out his hands and sobbed,--

"Kate, Kate, forgive, forgive!" She deigned not a backward look.

As they passed from sight, he fell upon his knees and shook with his
great emotion and groaned aloud in his misery.

Sir Julian Pomphrey dressed as a gentleman of France in riding
apparel; his overhanging top-boots displaying a leg of strength
and fine proportions; the curls of his periwig sweeping his broad
shoulders; his hands, half-hid by rare lace, gleaming white and
be-jewelled; a mustachio so flattened with pomade it lay like a black
line over his parted lips, through which shone strong white teeth,
was veritably a man of noble character and distinction. He was the
counterpart of Lord Cedric in all save visage and temperament.

Gracefully he strode across the room with the confidence of one
who had already mastered the situation; planned for his Lordship a
complete victory, and there was naught left to do but carry out the
methodical arrangements thus quickly formulated. He placed his hand
lightly upon Cedric's shoulder. His touch was like magic, for his
Lordship started.

"Cedric, I have rid hard and would seek my bed. Come with me and calm
thyself. Yonder maid thou shalt have, so sure as thou dost do my
bidding; and she will sigh and draw quick breath and preen herself
to gain from thee one amorous glance; and will do penance for her
untowardness and offer hecatombs as high as zenith will allow."

"Dost think so, Julian? It gives me hope to hear thee thus speak."

"Indeed, I may say--'tis done--even though 'twere precipitately
avowed;--but oft, 'tis the premature babe that doth become the most
precocious child, and 'tis well to foster that 'tis fecund."

"But, Julian, she hath another lover,--and now that I think on't,
didst thou meet a knave upon horse, perhaps, attended by a swaggering
groom as thou cam'st through the village or thereabouts?"

"Thou hast said it. A half-league beyond Crandlemar there past me at
furious speed a devil-upon-horse. I hallowed once and again to no
avail, so I prodded the fellow with my sword to assist his respiratory
organs, as he flew by. 'Twas a kindly act, for he immediately found
his breath and--swore."

"And didst notice his livery?"

"Nay, for the trees were too ostentatious and flaunted their new,
green finery impudently and hid Neptune's satellite or--'twas cloudy,
I could not see. Come, come, I must and thou, too, have sleep if
the God thereof doth not wantonly spend too much time with thy
mistress;--but thou shalt soon offset him and I may have, for one
night at least, his undivided attention."

"Ah, heaven, that thy words may prove true. 'Tis hard to bide the
time. Come, let us begone from this foul nest that reeks of blood."

CHAPTER XI

JACQUES DEMPSY

To Katherine's untutored vision of social and religious matters,
all appeared like a placid sea; but beneath, political dissension
complicated by religious wrangling produced a vigorous under-current
into which she was to be drawn.

The exegencies of poverty and exile through which King Charles had
passed made him resolve not to "go again upon his travels," and for
this cause he tolerated the Episcopal religion, of which system the
cavaliers were votaries; and they supported the royal prerogative.
Being an alien to honour, truth and virtue, he was not stirred to
a wholesome interest of importunities, save when a voluptuously
beautiful female solicited his attention. Now 'twas Lady Constance'
plan to forward Count Cantemir's suit with Mistress Penwick and hasten
a marriage that could only be clandestine, owing to Lord Cedric's
vigilance. If this scheme should prove abortive, it was her intention
to bring the maid to the king's notice. Here were two lines of battle,
each surrounded by skirmishing detachments. She was subtle in the
extreme, and arranged warily these side issues, which had more of
death and utter destruction in them than an open onset.

Rigidly she had kept from Cantemir the knowledge of Mistress Penwick's
insolvency, likewise the death of her father; knowing the condition of
the count's fortunes, she feared he would retreat; his love for the
maid might be of such a nature 'twas possible he would not take
part in the ugly skirmish against her. So Constance had set
about systematically to bring Mistress Penwick and Adrian to an
understanding of each other.

He believed Katherine to be a wealthy heiress of Sir John Penwick, who
was being held as hostage at some point in America. At her marriage
her estates would be placed in her own hands. All these things Lady
Constance could vouch for, as she had read the letter herself that Sir
John had written Lord Cedric. Mistress Penwick was at a marriageable
age, and her father being ill and hopelessly bound by ties of war
never expected to see her again and had made provision for her future
happiness. Knowing these things, and being in love beside with so
beautiful and youthful creature, Cantemir was well-nigh mad to win
her, without any urging from Constance.

On the other hand, Mistress Penwick never forgot his slender grace and
pale, patrician features, as she beheld him first upon the stairway
the evening of her arrival. He had ingratiated himself into all her
thoughts of music and court life and religious duties. Being like her
a Catholic, he sat by the hour and spoke of their ill usage by the
nobles of England, and insinuated that the cavaliers (Lord Cedric
being one, of course) were combined to rout out the Catholics and
confiscate all their properties, both public and private.

At one time Lady Constance said to Katherine that her father, Sir
John, was an Episcopalian and she had made answer,--"'Twould be absurd
to suppose him anything else than a Catholic." Upon this, Constance
spoke to Adrian, and he, casually as it were, asked Mistress Penwick
if she were not afraid her demesne would be seized by the Protestants.
Thus she had come gradually to know of the chasm between the two great
religious orders, and had even written her father of the dangers in
which she believed she was placed. These letters of course were kept
by Janet. The seals remained unbroken and the missives were carefully
laid aside until Mistress Penwick should know the truth. And neither
she nor Janet receiving news from him, stirred her to confide her
fears to Cantemir, who questioned her of the letter which her father
wrote, bidding her to depart for England. She became startled and
uneasy, when she remembered that Janet had refused to show her the
letter and having promised herself to Cantemir in marriage, she spoke
of the matter to him. But her love of and confidence in Janet was
deeper than she thought, and at his first words against her, she fell
from him. He said 'twas possible Janet, being so great a Protestant,
she would undoubtedly take his Lordship's part against her, should any
serious trouble arise. He even went so far as to suggest that perhaps
there was a-foot a ruse to get from her those possessions her father
had written of. Katherine rebelled at these insinuations and thought
that "dear, good, sweet Janet would never take a pin from her Lambkin
to save Church or State. And Lord Cedric, too, even though he would
condemn his servant, he would never take her property, he loved her
too well for that; beside, he was a gentleman of honour, even though
his evil temper did goad him to fearful deeds." She tried to make
herself believe that she truly loved Cantemir, and 'twas her religious
duty to marry him; but when he spoke either against Cedric or Janet,
she was quite sure she hated him.

In pursuance of Lady Constance' diplomacy, she had assisted Cantemir
in arranging the _rendezvous_ for himself first, and finally for
Christopher, who was to escape with provision for a long journey, as
'twas not certain what Lord Cedric would do if he found him at the
monastery. And Katherine had this night pledged to wed the count in
three days' time. Even as they were arranging their plans Cantemir's
valet had rushed to him saying that his Lordship's page had come to
his apartments, and finding him gone his master had vowed death to any
who would intrigue at such hours with his promised wife. Cantemir, a
polished, hollow-hearted, selfish sycophant and coward, made more so
perhaps by Constance' influence over him, at Katherine's command, as
it were, had taken flight.

Constance listened eagerly the next morning, as she sat 'neath her
maid's hands, to every detail of the evening's adventure; but her
disappointment at such mischance was greatly allayed by the unexpected
presence of Sir Julian Pomphrey. He was second only to Lord Cedric in
her affections. Her greatest desire was to gain his Lordship's love;
if she could not have that, then she would try for the king's favour
whereby she would be able to live at court and be ever near Sir
Julian, whose mistress she had been and might be again.

She had begun well to bombard for the accomplishment of her first
desire.

As soon as possible she rode forth, passing beyond Crandlemar village,
where a short way from its confines she came upon a certain innocent
looking tree that had some six feet above its broad trunk a loosened
knot, which could be removed at will. She plucked it forth and looked
within. It was empty and barren of even a bird's nest. Constance had
no compassion for its loneliness when she laid therein a small, white
piece of paper and filled the orifice with the rough knot. She rode
away content and doubting not that Count Cantemir would soon have her
letter.

He had halted some five leagues beyond Crandlemar at an inn remote
from the highway, the landlord of which was a monk, dissembling his
name to Jacques Dempsy of the Cow and Horn, and his religion to
anything that was the king's pleasure.

The two sat in the deserted drinking-room; their heads bent together
and speaking in subdued tones. Cantemir's hand rested upon his leg,
that had been freshly washed and bound by the landlord.

Sir Julian's sword-prick had goaded Cantemir to an anger that was
'suaged neither by good old wine nor the council of the monk.
He fretted for an opportunity to thrust his assailant in the
back--anywhere. "Surely," said he, "the day is not far when I shall
kill that devil Pomphrey," His groom had seen Sir Julian full in the
face at a small opening in the trees.

"Sh!" said Dempsy, "there is other work for thee now. 'Tis best for

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