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Mistress Penwick by Dutton Payne

Part 4 out of 5

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egress 'twould be a veritable slaughter hole and from the first they
had kept together, preferring the direction of retreat.

Suddenly one of the men in front of Buckingham leant down and traced
with his finger on the dusty stone,--

"They have moved it in this direction, and there is no mistaking it,"
and he pointed from the ladder.

They followed the direction, holding the light low, and came at once
upon what appeared to be a solid stone wall. Inadvertently the man
bearing the lighted taper rested his arm for a moment against the
stones. Instantly a blaze flared up and showed a very cleverly
concocted wall. A canvas had been padded in shape of unhewn stone and
painted in imitation; the oil in the paint had ignited and despoiled
the illusion.

The blaze was quenched in a moment, the canvas door pried open and the
three men passed beyond, carefully closing the door behind them.

Buckingham was close upon them.

They fled rapidly along, Cantemir following his servants and ever
glancing behind with eyes staring with fear.

Buckingham was not to be caught by fear-staring eyes and kept well in
shadow.

The passage was narrow with many windings and appeared to be
interminable.

The men began to run, which was very incautious under the
circumstances, for in a moment they were precipitated into a small
chamber occupied by two stalwart monks. The latter had barely time to
throw themselves upon the defensive ere they were attacked.

Cantemir had the advantage, as the monks were encumbered with their
long robes.

Then ensued a short fight, in which Cantemir's men won the day--he
remaining well in the background.

One of the servants was wounded and lay helpless upon the floor, his
head falling against some object that held him in a semi-upright
posture. Cantemir turned with the torch he had taken from the floor,
and looked about him, stumbling over the prostrate bodies of the monks
as they lay wounded. Noting his injured servant's position, he ran to
him, and seeing the thing upon which his head rested, kicked his body
from the chest, as if the fellow had been his enemy's dog, instead of
his own serving man.

With a cudgel he and his comrade opened the chest, after first finding
it too heavy to carry at speed and for an indefinite distance.

Cantemir's eyes waxed big with greed and delight, as he looked
within. He spread out his long fingers, as if to grasp all the chest
contained.

"These small caskets must be filled with jewels. Anson, fasten the
torch somehow and put these in the bags. Here are some rare laces,
looted from some dead Croesus, I warrant,--put those in too;--those
infernal papers--they can be of no consequence--"

"Then I will take them, my lord," said the servant. Cantemir eyed him
with no fondness and slipped the papers within his own bag.

Buckingham, watching them from his little cove in the rocks, caught a
sound that made him start. It was very distant and indistinct, yet he
was quite certain some one was coming, and without further delay he
cried out and drew his sword upon the man nearest him, which happened
to be Anson.

The fellow used his sword fairly, but no match for his adversary.

Buckingham run him through before the Russian had regained his
presence of mind.

As the unfortunate Anson fell, the Duke turned to Cantemir, who was
separated from him by two prone figures and the chest. The Count held
the advantage and meant to use it by springing ahead into the opening.
There was no opportunity for Buckingham to either reach him or head
him off. Cantemir had caught up the filled bags and was smiling
insolently across at him. Buckingham was exasperated, not by the
fellow's triumph, but at his own helplessness to cut him off. But
there was no time to be lost; those other sounds were growing nearer.

The Duke made a bound toward the opening. Cantemir, with an exultant
laugh, sprung also toward the opening, but his laugh was turned into
a yell of fear, as his leg was caught in a death-like grip by the
servant he had kicked from the chest.

In an instant Buckingham was upon him and binding his arms tight
behind; the poor, cowardly knave begging at every breath for his life.
He was completely undone with fright, his heart melted and his knees
bent.

"And would it not be thy meed to run thee through also, for serving
thy wounded knave with a kick? 'twas inhuman--by God! 'tis a pity it
takes a man with a soul to suffer the tortures of hell, for thou wilt
never get thy deserts!" He looked down and saw the poor servant's eyes
raised to his pleadingly. The Duke drew from his pocket a flask of
wine and gave it to him; then gathered the bags that lay filled by the
chest and hurriedly looked at their contents. As he did so the wounded
knave feebly raised his voice,--

"I will be killed if I am found here."

"Nay, a gentleman--" and he cast a scornful glance at
Cantemir,--"would not kick thee when thou art down; say nothing of
our most noble fathers putting to flight what small life thou hast in
thee. What is thy name?"

"Christopher," came in weakened tones from his pallid lips.

In another moment the Duke was gone with his looted treasures.

He flew along at a most undignified gait, bearing his pack as a
labourer. His shoulders, unused to such burden, grew tired. He
began to wonder if the passage would never end. He was growing more
exhausted than he cared to own, and beside, he apprehended he was
pursued.

At last he felt almost compelled to leave one of the bags behind, and
stopped to think which, one he should leave. Yet he was a-mind to
carry them all if he broke his back; and beside, it was so dark he was
unable to tell which was the more important.

As he stood undecided he heard distinctly the fast approach of
footsteps. He gathered his strength and bags and flung along, somewhat
refreshed by the change of burdens. As he made a turn, the fresh
outside air blew upon him. He grew cautious and moved more slowly,
listening now in both directions. He might not be overtaken, but some
one might be at the opening of the passage. There was no light or
sound beyond, and soon he stood in the deep darkness of the outer
night 'neath dripping trees. Warily he stepped, lest some cracking
twig exposed his presence.

He ascertained his surrounding was a thicket, and was about to make
his way into its labyrinthine density, step by step; for the way
was difficult, when there was a tramping of horses' hoofs upon the
rain-soaked road that appeared to be in close proximity.

Under cover of the noise he swept hastily and boldly through the
briery bushes that were thickly entangled, and was able to make
considerable headway whence he had come, when the noise ceased and a
peculiar whistle rang out; then there were a few moments of quiet, as
if those who signalled were listening for an answer.

There appeared to be a chaise with several outriders, as Buckingham
thought, by the tramp of horses' feet, and a creaking of wheels
pulling heavily along.

As he gazed anxiously in their direction, a torch was suddenly set
a-glow and a horseman rode up with it to the mouth of the subterranean
passage. He leant from his steed and examined the ground closely,
noting doubtless the footprints that led away from the road and
directly to the place where the Duke stood. He turned abruptly back to
the group upon the highway and conversed in low tones.

Buckingham was not a little perturbed, for a horseman could with less
trouble than it takes to tell it, track and overtake him in a moment's
time. He fain would have a few minutes to ease his burden, but his
peril was great. There was no doubt but what these men were monks,
come to assist their fellows with the chest and convey them to a place
of safety.

Indeed, the secret of the chest must be royal, but whether in jewels
or papers he did not know, nor was it the time and place to find out.
If he only knew in which pack was the bone of contention he would
certainly lighten his burden.

Again he lifted the bags and strode on lightly, for he still could be
heard to the highway, if one should listen.

He had not gone far, however, when there was a shout from the
subterranean opening and much confusion following upon it.

The Duke was now thoroughly aroused. Doubtless the monks within the
passage had at that moment arrived at its mouth, there to make known
to their comrades the robbery of the chest's contents. They were in
pursuit; he could hear the bushes crackling beneath horses' feet.
Never before had the wily Duke felt so hard pressed. He could afford
to be taken himself, for he was sure of a release sooner or later;
but his whole being revolted at the idea of losing the riches of his
burden and above all--the secret, the secret that would make his
fortunes thribble, the secret that would make him more powerful than
heretofore. The King's favour would be boundless. And George Villiers
turned abruptly and--fell into a swollen ravine that was throbbing
with its over-filled sides. He straightened himself to his full height
and thanked God for the stream, for truly 'twas life-giving water.

He waded in and found it hardly came to his waist in the deepest part.
After crossing to its farthest bank, he kept the watery path for
nearly a league, thereby throwing his pursuers effectually off the
trail. But where his course trended, 'twas impossible to tell, as
there was no moon, and the stars were veiled by thick cloud that
vomited forth rain in gusts.

The leather bags were very near rain-soaked and had become so heavy
'twas impossible for anything less than a beast of burden to carry
them further, so leaving the friendly stream, he walked some little
distance from it, gaining to his surprise an open road. This was not
what he wished, and was turning from it when he stumbled and fell
prone. Being hot with anger and fatigue, he reached for the obstacle
that had so unmanned him to damn it. 'Twas a large, round knot. It
struck his memory, as he held it, with a thought of the morning
before.

"_Eureka_!" he cried, as he felt the very presence of the tall tree by
the public highway that led from Crandlemar, London way. He arose and
reached for the aperture.

"Egad, 'tis there!"

Fortunately the royal tree was not far from the unused cabin that had
afforded him accommodation some hours before. He immediately sat down
upon the bags and rested.

There passed him several horsemen and a chaise; whether they were his
whilom companions of the thicket or not he did not care. It was
sure they were in haste to leave the village as far behind them as
possible.

When the sound of the horses' hoofs had died away, he again donned his
leathery burden and made for the depths behind him.

He was not long in reaching the _rendezvous_, and was met by his
anxious servant, who had but just arrived from seeking him.

The exhausted Duke gave orders for one hour's rest, then fell upon a
pile of blankets that were spread upon the damp and open floor.

An hour later saw the Duke astride his horse, that stood with flaring
nostrils, caring not a whit for his extra burden of saddle-bags and
flew along the wet road, regardless.

Hours after his master jumped from his back at Hornby's.

The morning was far advanced and Mistress Penwick was fretting under
the delay.

Monmouth had plead that the weather was too wet and Lady Constance was
too ill to proceed until the following day.

The maid had demurred, saying Janet might remain with her ladyship;
but Monmouth was not quite at liberty to take Katherine without first
seeing Buckingham, whom he thought should have arrived early in the
morning.

As Buckingham came into the great room of the inn, Katherine proposed
they set out at once, as she would reach Whitehall, if possible,
before Sunday.

It was not the Duke's wish to proceed further without resting himself
and horse; but being anxious to please Mistress Penwick, he said
'twould be his pleasure to start at her convenience; whereupon she
relaxed her ardour, finding no opposition, and asked him if he thought
the weather would permit. He answered that the weather must permit,
and that they could easily reach their destination without killing
more than three relays.

"Nay, nay, your Grace, if one horse only were to die, I would not
permit such hurry!"

Suffice it; the Duke had his rest, and being of no mind to remain
longer, at five o'clock in a gale of wind and rain set forth.

They had but common post-chaises as any squire would have, as these
travelled about without drawing the attention that a London coach
would. They rattled and slid along at their own convenience on the
muddy road, and the postilion were soon reeking with mire thrown from
the horses' feet.

For five hours the chaise jostled Constance, until she declared she
would go no farther. Buckingham, who rode with his secret in the
chaise that followed, said if they stopped to rest over night, they
could not reach Whitehall before the King should leave.

This was a ruse planned by himself and Monmouth, as the latter had
settled where he should take Katherine, and the former, not having had
time to examine the contents of the bags, was loath she should see the
King ere he had done so.

Katherine, seeing that Constance' lips were blue and her face pale,
and forgetting her ladyship's evil ways, agreed they should stop at
the first inn and there lie until the next morning; Janet having
declared privately to her mistress that she should not waste any time
with her ladyship.

Though the night was black and the road uncertain, yet they maintained
a fair pace over the open downs, having left the shadowy trees behind;
but there were no lights ahead and the prospects of getting shelter
for the night were dubitable.

Constance became more and more impatient, pulling up the window every
few minutes to inquire if any lights were to be seen, each time
letting in a shower of rain that deluged her dress. This dampness was
soon felt by her ladyship, whose temper could hardly keep her warm,
and she called for blankets. There were none. At this knowledge she
grew worse, and cried that she was in a chill and must have aid from
somewhere.

For a truth, her teeth were chattering and her hands were cold, but
it was nothing but mimosis brought on by the evil caldron that boiled
within her wicked body. She had heard Buckingham tell Katherine that
the King would be gone from Whitehall if they were delayed. Her plans
were now made, and this sudden illness was a ruse to detain the maid.
No, she must not see the King. She must now, first of all, become
Monmouth's mistress, then Cedric in his wild despair would turn again
to her; his playfellow, his old love, Constance.

Whether the postilion were in their master's confidence or not is not
certain, but just before midnight they plunged into a narrow, miry
road that traversed wastes and low coppices; the plash of the horses'
feet showed the tract to be marshy and full of pools. Her ladyship
looked out across the dreary fen and exclaimed,--

"I'll be damned, they have set us out like ducks!" At her words
Katherine drew from her with disgust. It was the first she had heard
her swear; but she had not yet seen her true nature.

On a sudden the chaise made a lunge and stopped in a deep rut. Some
one plodded laboriously to the door and thrust in a rain-soaked
visage, saying,--

"Their Graces beg your patience, as we cannot move until help comes.
There is a light ahead, and we hope to get on directly."

It was hours, however, before the lumbering equipages were pried out
and started on. The light beyond had paled as dawn broke. They were
once more upon the causeway, and the horses' feet beating with loud
and even step upon the wet road.

Constance had calmed, and with the other occupants slept through the
long delay. Nor did she wake until they had entered a thick wood where
the branches of the trees swept tumultuously against the window. Then
she opened her eyes with a start and saw Katherine still sleeping,
her head pillowed on Janet's bosom. Her limbs were stiff from their
cramped position. Vainly she essayed to stretch, and cried out as a
rheumatic pain took her. She swore roundly and vowed she would alight
at the first hut they should come upon.

It seemed hours before they came to a long, low stone building,
evidently an old-time lodge. It was covered with ivy that trembled and
glistened in the wind and rain.

The chaises stopped at the door, which was thrown open by an outrider
who knocked up the locker with his whip handle.

The opening disclosed great, high-backed pews and an altar and pulpit.
It was indeed a place of refuge to the weary travellers. It was dry
and clean and afforded rest. Katherine stepped inside first, and
immediately knelt and crossed herself. Monmouth did the same, knowing
that the maid's eyes were upon him.

They took seats not far from the altar and settled themselves
comfortably; for the servants had gone to find food and fresh horses.

Katherine was stirred by the sacredness of the day and place, and
took little part in the conversation that was becoming more and more
animated, as the Dukes and Constance drank heavily of wine brought
from Monmouth's box in the chaise. And when meat, bread and cheese
were brought and more wine was drank, her ladyship became maudlin and
cast her eye about for diversion.

It fell upon the pulpit, and she tripped up to it, passing over the
sacred altar in vulgar _insouciance_.

It pained Katherine to see the place so lightly esteemed, and she gave
a little cry of "Oh!" as Constance threw open the Bible and began to
preach in mockery of the Methody parson.

Buckingham's face was as stolid as Janet's; Monmouth's bearing a smile
that was bastard of mirth.

Hardly was her ladyship started, when a tall form, strong boned and
sinewy, strode through the open door. His ruddy face disclosed what
appeared to be a stern and rough temper. His forehead was high; his
nose well set over a mouth moderately large. His habit was plain and
modest. The rain dripped from his red hair and the bit of mustachio
that he wore on his upper lip. His quick, sharp eye noted the men and
women that sat apart, and then turned like a flash upon the woman in
the pulpit.

As Constance saw the man full in the face, there was a bathos in her
zeal, and she stopped, open-mouthed, and closed the book.

Neither Buckingham nor Monmouth could see the countenance of him that
entered, so they held quiet and wondered at her ladyship's behaviour.
Katherine had bent her head upon the back of the seat.

The tall man proceeded up the aisle, his eyes upon the titled woman
whose face was now covered with a genuine blush. For the first time in
her life she felt ashamed. She felt a presence near her that was not
altogether of this earth's mould.

At last regaining a semblance of her usual _aplomb_, she stepped from
the pulpit and made toward the door, where others were entering. She
looked back when half-way down the aisle and beckoned to the others of
her party to follow. As she did so, there came from the pulpit a voice
so rich and sweet, so penetrating the soul, the woman trembled and
listened.

It was the "Kyrie Eleison" sung in a new tune with clear, strong
English words, and they rung and rung in Constance' ears, as they
continued to do for the rest of her days.

"He is a Ranter. Let us stay and hear him?" Monmouth said.

"Nay," said Katherine; "I am without covering for my head. Let's
begone, the meeting is gathering. What a glory is in his countenance,
and his voice is like music!"

"The lack of a bonnet need not hinder. Thou art a lady and
privileged."

"Nay, nay. I would know who he is?" Monmouth plucked the sleeve of
a passer-by and inquired. The man answered with a question put in a
whisper,--

"Hast never read 'Pilgrim's Progress'?" The Duke threw back a glance
at the form in the pulpit, then strode forward and jumped into the
chaise.

CHAPTER XXII

TELLS OF THE DOINGS OF ALL CONCERNED

The house stood surrounded by a beautiful lawn that sloped gradually
to the river. Trees in full leaf and woody perennial plants in full
blossom, dotted the sward. The long, low stone building was covered
with vines that hung in rich purple bloom. All was quiet, refined,
subdued--without pomp. Not so was the chief inmate of this charming
abode. She stood gowned in filmy white, waiting for Janet to spread
her repast, but the nurse moved at leisure, resolving to give the maid
meat for thought, as she did for the body. She said:

"When a maid is without father or mother, and away from her rightful
guardians, and has presented her such frocks as thou dost wear, 'tis
the maid's duty to find out whence such gorgeous and unmonastic
apparel comes."

"But, Janet, I do know. The Abbes have made provision for me. They
bade me leave the castle without incumbrance, and the chest was sent
for my necessity. I mean to pay it all back when I return--or when I
send to Lord Cedric."

"And when will that be, Lambkin?"

"When the King gives me audience."

"And thou art expecting the Duke of Monmouth to bring the word from
Whitehall?"

"He said 'twas his pleasure so to do."

"Now God pity me this day; I would I had never seen it!"

"Why wearest thou so sorry a face, Janet?"

"For thy too fat zeal. Is it not enough to make an ingrowing visage?"

"How so?" said Katherine in feigned _insouciance_.

"A surfeit of good, like a too-full cup, boils over and falls to ill."

"Then, Janet, surfeit sin 'til it bubbles up, runs over,--perhaps a
better cup to fill."

"Alack, alas, for youth's philosophy!"

"At what art thou driving, nurse; thou canst neither affect
Shakespeare nor the Bible!"

"Have I not always loved thee, Lambkin; search thy memory; did I ever
tell thee lies or use the veil of falsehood to cover from thee that
which I would not have thee know?"

"Nay; but thou hast used artifice 'til it is threadbare, and I now
behold its naked warp."

"But hast well served, thou canst not deny. It has made thee the sweet
innocent bud thou art, and we will enshrine its shade, though it hath
no soul to join it hereafter, and I will resort to vulgar frankness,
employed by the truculent commonplace, and say we live in an age of
swaggering, badgering, immoral-begotten, vice-ridden, irreligious
decrepitude--" Katherine made a hissing noise with her teeth, as if
she had been suddenly and severely pricked by a pin, then put up her
hands and stopped her ears--this day, Mistress Penwick thou shalt know
the character of thy King--Nay, thou shalt know. I will tell thee that
'twill poison thy mind of one of so great station--"

"Wouldst thou assail his morals, Janet?"

"'Tis impossible to assail that a man hath not."

"Then 'twould be a field for sweet mission to teach him morals."

"And wouldst thou delegate thyself to such an office?"

"Aye, why not?"

"Because he would steal thy knowledge ere thou hadst found his heart,
and thou wouldst find thyself insolvent of virtue."

"Thou hast overreached artifice, Janet, and gone back to Bible days
and corrupted them by borrowing parabolic speech to waste upon
deaf-eared seventeenth century maid."

"Ah, Lambkin; with closed ears thou dost not becalm sight and wit,
they cease not to fructify under suasion of childhood impregnations.
I fear not for thee, if thou art forewarned. If thou art taken to the
King, he will straightway be enamoured of thy beauteous face and will
wish to have thee near him, and because he is of so great a title, he
will expect to mould thee to his desires, whether 'tis thy will or
not. He may perhaps overawe thee, and thou wilt feel flattered by his
approaches, which will seem sincere to thy untutored perceptions.
'Twill be thy first meeting with a King. There is one thing most sure,
thou wilt not think him handsome; he has not the rich colouring that
so marks Lord Cedric's face, nor yet the clearness of countenance. The
King is most swarthy, gross featured and unfitted to thy fancy.
And how wouldst thou like such to approach thee and fondle thy
hand--perhaps imprint thy cheek with a caress, or his long fingers to
go a foraging on thy slender neck?"

"Nay, nay, Janet; I should most surely hate such an one. I am sure I
should hate! hate!"

"But 'tis surely to what thou art coming."

"But, Janet, the Duke of Monmouth is the King's son, and his Grace of
Buckingham his friend; and with these two at my side, what harm could
come to me?"

"Should the King propose to keep thee with him, could they lie like
slaves or dogs across thy threshold in the dead hours of night to keep
unwelcome visitors from thy door?" Katherine's eyes appeared on a
sudden to open wide upon a thing she had not dreamed of before.

"Indeed, Janet, I think I see the trend of thy parables. He is then
debauched and given to entering rooms not his own at any hour he
chooses. I will be most careful and avoid spending the night."

"But he may insist on thy presence, and no one dare gainsay the Royal
will."

"I am for the time of his dominion, but we can claim at any moment
King Louis' protection, and therefore I may defy him if I wish?"

"'Twill be like jumping from the river into the sea. I understand,
Lambkin, thou art bent upon paying well for thy popish idolatry. If
his Majesty sets black eyes on thee, thou art undone. If thou art
determined to go, we must have some way to prevent his falling in love
with thee. Thou wilt be willing to do this for me and--thyself, Love?"

"Then I might not become that I so much wish--a Lady of Honour!"

"That phrase, my Lambkin, is paradoxical--'Lady of Honour.'"

"Janet, thou dost turn all sweets to bitterness!--Then I will mottle
my face and wear a hump and be spurned outright. 'Twill ill serve me.
'Twill not accord a safe issue."

"Thou must not forget the King hath a tender heart for distress, and
now I think on it, 'tis possible, if thou didst so disfigure thyself,
thou wouldst gain his reply the quicker. We will mottle thy face with
leprous spots and cover thee with old woman's clothes, placing a hump
upon thy shoulder. And no one shall be privy to our scheme but his
Grace, and my lord of Buckingham, if they are to attend us." Janet
felt satisfied with the turn affairs had taken.

"I think I shall enjoy it hugely. 'Twill be fine sport to so puzzle
the King, and when he sees me as I am--" and Mistress Penwick turned
proudly to a mirror--"he will be pleased!"

"We will not think of that now, Lambkin. When dost thou expect her
ladyship?"

"She did not say, but I think perchance she will come before the Duke
of Monmouth returns."

"And he will not come before the morrow, didst thou say?"

"When I demurred at not going straight to his Majesty, he said 'twould
be meet for me to remain here until he should first see him; then
he should return in a day. Those were his words, Miss Wadham,
_verbatim_,--now thou dost know everything I do, but--the church
secret; and if thou wert not insolvent for ways and means, thou
wouldst have had that." With a sudden step, the maid flung her arms
about Janet, who ever felt hurt when called Miss Wadham.

Katherine sat to her evening meal with many flutterings of pleasure in
her young and guileless heart. Her first thought was of Cedric. He was
going to live and doubtless would follow her as soon as he was able,
and she would again see his handsome features and hear him admonish
her with a tenderness she was sure he would show after being so
frightened by her absence. It did not come to her that she should be
in sackcloth and ashes for causing him such woeful pain and misery.
She only tried to remember how he looked, as many a love-sick maiden
hath done heretofore. She pictured the rich colouring of his cheeks
and how his dark eyes had looked into hers; and she remembered how
once he had thus beheld her, his glance sweeping her face, then he had
taken her hand and pressed his lips to it passionately. Her face grew
rose red and she trembled with ecstasy. She, so perfect in mould
and health, was capable of extravagant and overpowering emotion; a
rapturous exaltation that filled her and took possession of her whole
being. She tried to turn her thoughts to Sir Julian, and wondered
vaguely why he had not come to London. He had intended leaving the
castle before this; and why had he not found her? He might know she
would like to inquire of those at home,--the Duke of Ellswold and the
others that were ill. The thought seemed to grow upon her, and she
wondered more and more why no one had been sent after her, and how
very welcome Sir Julian would be. Could it be that Lord Cedric was too
ill for him to leave?

The Dukes had fairly left Constance and Katherine at the very door of
this villa belonging to one of Monmouth's friends, and proceeded at
once to Whitehall, where they needs must report of their visit to the
Duke of Ellswold. The King detained them near his person, much to
the annoyance of Buckingham and serious discomfort to Monmouth. The
latter, so anxious for the companionship of Mistress Penwick, could
not help but show his uneasiness and hurry to withdraw, which made his
Majesty still more obstinate.

Two days Katherine had been thus alone at the villa, little knowing
the idea of bringing her cause to the King's notice was the most
foreign to either Buckingham or Monmouth, the latter wishing to
promote his own cause with her until she should become satisfied to
remain at his side, without seeking further Court favour. The former
gentleman had among his looted treasures certain papers that made
necessary, for his own personal aggrandizement, the strict seclusion
of Mistress Penwick.

Lady Constance had been so thwarted--her mode of battle proving so
abortive--she resolved to fight as things came in her way, without
method or forethought. There was only one settled arrangement; that
was the full and complete destruction of this woman that had come
between her and Cedric. She had gone, after a few hours of rest at the
villa, to the mercer's for silks and velvets and furbelows to array
herself for conquest and take--now that she had fair hold on Royalty
itself--some masculine heart; if not the heart, the hand without it;
if not Cedric's, be it whose it might, so it were titled and rich. She
also sought Cantemir and news from Crandlemar.

As she stood at the polished counter in the mercer's shop, she glanced
without and saw--or thought as much--Lord Cedric himself, pale, yet
stepping in full strength from a chair. She quitted the counter and
hastened to the entrance and looked up and down the busy street with
longing eyes. But there was no sign of my lord's handsome figure.
After securing her purchase, she repaired at once to Lord Taunton's--a
kinsman of Cedric's--'twas possible he would be stopping there. But he
was not.

She rode from place to place, hoping at every turn to see him; but to
her chagrin she found him not, even at a certain inn in Covent Garden,
where he had been wont to stay. She drove in her cream-hued coach to
the Mall, but he was not to be found.

Her first act after reaching London had been to dispatch a letter
posthaste to the castle, telling of her abduction by the Duke of
Monmouth, who, she believed was determined to bring herself and
Mistress Penwick to the King's notice, as he avowed Court was not
Court without such faces. She, being so widely known and so well
connected, had been allowed her freedom, on condition that she
returned promptly and keep their hiding place a secret. Then came that
she felt would touch Cedric.

"I overheard some converse about your Lordship, a hint that some knave
gave thee a slight wound. Now, if this be true, if thou art hurt at
all--which I cannot allow myself to think--tell me, tell me, Cedric,
and I will fly from Court and all the world to thee, my sweet cousin,
my playfellow, my beloved friend, now."

This letter fortunately did not reach Cedric in time to give him a
relapse, as he was on his way to London when the courier arrived at
the castle.

He had drawn rein at Tabard Inn, Southwark. It abutted on the Thames
and was opposite the city, and it suited his fancy to stop here,
rather than ride into London. His business was private and not far
from his present quarters. His wound had healed enough to give him no
trouble, and action kept his mind easy. He had seen Constance with
as fleeting a glimpse as hers had been of him. It was quite enough,
however, he wishing never to set eyes upon her again.

That evening he went to seek Buckingham at the Royal Palace. He had no
austere regard for the pomp and splendour of the Court at best, and
now he was almost unconscious of his surroundings. His azure-hued
costume was magnificent in its profusion of embroidery and precious
stones. There were none more handsome of face or figure. Courtiers and
wits abounded, but none more courtly or witty than he, when he was
moved. None bowed before his Majesty's dais with more grace, appearing
more a king than he who filled the Royal chair. He erred not in the
most minute detail of demeanour. There was no one in the realm that
held more of his Majesty's regard.

After being detained some moments at the Royal chair, he went to seek
Buckingham, whose first words smote him foolishly.

"It is said, my lord, that Love hath Cupid's wings, and I verily
believe William was right, or else how couldst thou have fluttered
from a couch of painful wounds to London either by chaise or a horse?
Ah!--Love is nascent; after cycles of time it may become mature enough
to be introduced into Court--eh!--my lord?"

"Contemporary chronicles relate that the mind is capable of greater
suffering than the body, and when both are affected, if we give
precedence to the employment of the mind, the body is at once cured;
hence my sound chest. Hast thou seen Sir Julian?"

"He is with Monmouth in his chamber. They have been drinking deep, or
at least the Duke, who is pouring out in Pomphrey's ear confidences
almost too maudlin to be understood;" and there was a covert sneer
on the haughty lips of his Grace. At the name of Monmouth and the
knowledge that he was not with Katherine, Cedric's great tension
appeared to snap asunder. For a moment Buckingham gazed at his
companion as if in him there were undiscovered mines. Then suddenly
his mind and eye returned to the tangible, and he run his arm through
that of Cedric's and drew him away. When they were quite alone, the
Duke, without the shadow of compunction, said,--

"You, my lord, are ambitious of nothing but domesticity. Is it not
so?" His Lordship looked up with a start. If there was one thing he
hated more than another, it was intrigue. And though he was ever
environed by it, yet 'twas not his business now. He had come seeking
Buckingham for the purpose of asking his assistance with the Duke
of Monmouth, and at these words, so foreign from his interests, he
frowned slightly and answered,--

"'Twould be difficult to say at what I aspire, seeing the thing I
coveted most is taken from me. If that were mine, it might open up a
vista of aspirations I had ne'er thought on heretofore I see only one
thing at the present worth possessing."

"And to possess that--thou art one of the richest nobles in the
realm--eh! Cedric?" His Lordship thought he saw the trend of his
Grace's mind, and felt better.

"I'm rich to be sure, egad! What's the game, faro, loo, crib,
langquement or quinze?" and he tapped his pouncet-box nervously.

"We have always been good, true friends, my lord. Your father and mine
have shared in many and continued vicissitudes, and for this cause
alone, barring our friendships of more recent years, I would give thee
a secret of which I am only half owner."

"And what is this secret, your Grace? I am interested."

"A secret cut into is only half a secret, and--"

"Ah! ah! how stupid I have grown! By all means, we are dealing in
fractions, and to get the other half I must either pay or go a-hunting
for it."

"And thou, being hot-foot after most precious game, methought 'twould
best serve to give thee a clue, as to the value of the secret, that
thou couldst determine whether 'twas worth the finding;--whether 'twas
worth the leaving off pursuit of that thou art after,"--and the Duke
threw open his waistcoat and revealed its lining of rare satin and a
pocket that contained a paper written upon in a writing that made Lord
Cedric start, for he recognized it as Sir John Penwick's. And there
recurred to him the conversation he overheard at the monastery, when
one said,--"and once Sir John gets to this country." But nay; his
very last words in his own waistcoat pocket? So he spoke out
disdainfully,--

"And thou dost embroider thy facings with dead men's autographs?"

"They are the better preserved, my lord," said the Duke, with a smile.

"Then I am to understand the secret doth nearly concern Mistress Pen
wick, and if I should show her favour, I would pay well for a sequel
to that thou art about to unfold, eh! Duke?"

"Aye, pay well; for the demand will be more than thou dost imagine,"
and he took the paper and gave it into Cedric's hands.

At a glance Cedric saw that the outside paper only was written on by
Sir John; the inner document, containing the whole story, being made
in a strange hand. And Cedric said to himself,--"Aye, 'tis a ruse.
Sir John is dead and I'll wager on't."

"Thou mayest occupy my chamber, which for the present is here." The
Duke left the anxious Cedric to read at leisure.

Lord Cedric knew 'twas not his Grace's way to waste time on things of
no moment, and he therefore apprehended evil and his fingers trembled;
his dark eyes grew large as he read; his face changing from red
to white as the different emotions were awakened; his white teeth
crushing his lips. Sir John Penwick had left England, taking all his
worldly goods--which were of no mean value--with him. He settled his
possessions in the New World. These in time became very great and he
was known as one of the wealthiest men in the locality in which he
lived. After six years of married life, a great grief came upon him;
his wife died, leaving him a baby girl of five. This so unsettled
him--having loved his wife beyond measure--he turned again to warfare,
having interest and inclination for naught else. He sent his baby
daughter with her nurse, Janet Wadham, to the Ursuline Convent
at Quebec, where they remained until coming to England. Sir John
travelled about from one country to another, engaging in all kinds of
intrigue and war. One Jean La Fosse--a Jesuit priest--had been for
many years the tried and true friend of Sir John, having been in his
early years a suitor to Lady Penwick. This friendship had grown so
stout that when they met again in the New World, Sir John put his
possessions, in trust, into La Fosse's keeping. When Sir John was
taken prisoner, a sort of treaty had been entered into between the
French and English, and hostages were required for prisoners of
importance. La Fosse was now holding high office in the ranks of his
adopted country--England. Therefore, when hostage was asked by the
English for Sir John Penwick, La Fosse saw the chance he had waited
for for years, and his John was every inch an Englishman, and since
being prisoner of the French, determined as far as possible to place
his belongings with his own country. He had thought it all out and
wrote his desires to La Fosse. Of course, what belonged to Sir John
belonged to England, but his possessions were on French soil and his
daughter in a French convent. And now Sir John felt 'twould be an
opportunity to place his child forever in the hands of his own
country. La Fosse had so shaped affairs, that Sir John was at his
mercy, and at Sir John's proposal that his child should be held as
hostage for himself, he had answered that the babe was of too tender
years to be accepted unless accompanied by lands, tenements and
hereditaments. This was a happy thought to Sir John, and his old trust
of La Fosse came back. "After all," he thought, "the French would
rather give up my child than a man, but my possessions they would
never give." So, not suspecting La Fosse's duplicity, he gave him
legal right to place his property as hostage also. The child was to
remain at the convent, unless England preferred to have her under
their own _regime_. La Fosse was sure Sir John would never again be
free and could never, of course, claim his lands. He went so far as
to make sure--as sure as was in his power--that Penwick should not be
released. He, being a man of shrewdness, at once manipulated affairs
without the knowledge of his sovereign or the higher powers about him.
In a very short time these possessions were built upon by the Jesuits,
who, through La Fosse, claimed all right and title. But La Fosse was
forgetful. He never gave the babe a second thought, it being of no
consequence whatever. It would, no doubt, sicken and die without a
mother's care. He was aware of its whereabouts, but even that in time
was forgotten, his mind being occupied by more pertinent thoughts.
This was a great victory for the Catholics, whose lands had been
confiscated in England, and La Fosse felt he had dealt a master stroke
for his religion. But no mortal man can equal Time as an adept in
chicanery. He brings forth truths unheard of or dreamt by poor
humanity.

Years went by and La Fosse was suspicioned. At the first smell of
smoke, La Fosse fled. No one knew whither. He escaped, however, to
the monastery upon Lord Cedric's estates. The sudden appearance of
Mistress Penwick at the monastery was believed to be a direct answer
to their prayers. When, too, it was found without a doubt she was Sir
John's daughter, they felt she belonged to them to do with as they
pleased, so all things were accomplished for the benefit of the only
divine church. Their rights in the New World were now being meddled
with and this God-send was to give them, with her own hand, all right
and title to the property in question.

Sir John had vaguely heard while in prison of Jean La Fosse's
duplicity, and at once sought to save his daughter from his hands by
sending her to his old friend, Lord Cedric of Crandlemar. He, angry at
himself for being so duped, and heartbroken at his loss of property,
knew of nothing else to do but call upon his Lordship for his child's
protection; yet he was too proud to tell him why these calamities
had come upon him. Indeed, any man would take him for a fool for so
trusting another. He had been ill when writing those letters. He never
expected to arise from bed again and thought 'twas best to say he was
dying; 'twould perhaps touch Cedric's heart as nothing else would!
Thus ended a document that was still incomplete, and his Lordship sat
wondering and thinking. This meant that the Catholics were exposing
Katherine to the King's pleasure. She was being sent to him for
a title--a title that was to give them all her possessions. And
Buckingham held the clue that would save those lands or--or her
father--if he were alive. Aye, he should have all the money he asked;
for the Catholics should not have their way. "They shall not, by God,
they shall not!"

"They shall not!" quoted Buckingham behind him.

CHAPTER XVIII

AT MONMOUTH'S VILLA

Lord Cedric looked about him. He had heard no sound and was surprised
and not well pleased that Buckingham had so caught him off his guard;
for he now understood that the Duke was undoubtedly deriving some
benefits from this fiendish plot, and the greater his perturbation the
easier mark for his Grace.

"The maid proposes at all hazards to see the King. Monmouth is as
determined she shall not. However, if she escapes the Duke, she will
visit Whitehall and present her plea to his Majesty for his signature.
He is--after seeing her--not supposed to refuse her anything. And not
knowing the value of these lands will sign the paper, thereby giving
the Catholics the property. Then if he sees fit--which of course he
will--will retain the beauty as a Maid of Honour. If he should refuse
the plea, she is to hand him a sealed paper, which will give him the
knowledge that he has before him a hostage who wishes his signature to
the willing of her property to her beloved Church. They do not count
on his putting two and two together and seeing their scheme. They
think he will be so infatuated, that 'twill be 'aye, aye, aye,' to her
every look. She only knows half the contents of the thing she presses
'neath the folds of her dress."

"By God, Buckingham, this is despicable! She to be made the tool of
her religion!"

"There are other complications, my lord. Providing thou art successful
in running the gauntlet with Monmouth first, then the King, thou,
thyself, art in danger of the Tower or Tyburn-tree." With a bound
Cedric was upon his feet and sprang toward the Duke,--

"A thousand devils, man, I care not for myself,--'tis the maid;
beside--what have I done, why am I so threatened?"

"The scheme for thy destruction is already set a-foot. If thou
shouldst get the maid in any wise, it appears thou art doomed. Take my
advice, look to thyself and let the--"

"'Sdeath! finish it not!" and there was that in the young lord's eyes
that curtailed the Duke's words, and he stood frowning at Cedric and
thinking what next to say.

"When thou art acquainted with the circumstances, my lord, thou wilt
see thy peril. One Christopher, whom I once befriended with a bottle
of wine in a certain close passage, came tottering to me, asking for
my patronage, which I accorded him, as he was a sorry spectacle. As a
reward for my seeming kindness, he told me that the knave Cantemir
was arousing the Protestants by speaking of the monastery being a
_rendezvous_ for all good Catholics, naming the lord of Crandlemar as
one of them. The knave is working with both factions. He has gained
some powerful help. These are to come upon the King and demand a
confiscation of thy lands, thou art also to be sent to Tower or
Tyburn-tree for the murder of thy servant--"

"Enough, enough, my heaven! I did kill the bastard Christopher."

"Ah! not so. 'The bastard Christopher' is still on his legs and gives
Cantemir's plans away; for the knave kicked him when he was down. Thou
art to have thy head, but--"

"Nay, my friend, tell me no more. Ah!--is there any limit to this
devil's industry! I have to thank thee to-night, on the morrow--"

"I'm expecting to leave Whitehall early--" Cedric started.

"Will Monmouth bear thee company?"

"Nay, his Majesty seems on a sudden to have an undue fondness for
him."

"God strengthen it."

"'Tis a pity there is such thing, else his Grace would not care to
go."

"And thou and I might not have been brought into this world."

"And Adam have had eyes only for the serpent, not even coveting the
apple."

"_Adieu_, my lord!"

"_Adieu_, your Grace!"

The candles were just a-light within the villa, where the thick
foliage of tree and vine brought a premature gloaming. Outside fell
upon the sward the last rays of the setting sun. In the depths of the
shadowy leaves the glow-worms displayed their phosphorescent beauty;
the lampyrid beetles plied between gloom and obscurity, impatient for
the mirror of night to flaunt therein their illumined finery. In
the distance was heard the lusty song of the blowsy yokels, as they
clumsily carted homeward the day's gathering. The erudite nightingale
threw wide the throttle of his throat and taught some nestling kin the
sweetness of his lore.

From the villa doorway passed out Mistress Pen wick in fluttering
white, with the waxy jasmine upon breast and hair. Down she came,
unattended, through aisles bordered by fragrant blossoms, traversing
the way from door to postern-gate with quick, light steps.

She was not aware Monmouth had left a strong guard and orders to allow
no one to enter save those he made provision for.

As her hand rested upon the gate, a guard stepped from behind a bower
of iris and gently opened it for her. She was somewhat taken aback by
his presence. The stalwart guard strode after her; she, noticing it,
turned about and said sweetly for him to hold the gate open 'til she
returned, that she would only be gone a very few minutes.

"My lady is alone upon the highway, and I could not suffer her to be
so, begging permission."

"Nay, I wish to be alone. Remain at the gate."

"It may not be, my lady; 'tis his Grace's order to give thee proper
escort outside the gate."

"Ah, then--" she turned from him and beckoned to a monk who appeared
to be walking aimlessly upon the opposite side of the way, but at her
bidding moved with alacrity. When the guard saw her intention, he
begged her to consider the Duke's wish that she should communicate
with no one.

"I was not aware, sir, that I am held as prisoner. I'm quite sure his
Grace was only kindly intentioned for my safety;--and as for further
vigilance, 'tis beyond his power to use it." The three now stood at
the gate. The monk looking intently at the guard, said,--

"Where hath flown thy religion, Eustis?"

"'Tis a poor religion that hath not the grace to offer its adherents
an honest living."

"Ah! then thy faith is hinged upon the _largesse_ of the damned.
There!--take for the nonce thy meed in honest coin." The Abbe gave him
a piece of gold and passed within the gate. The sun now dropped from
sight, leaving the villa terraces in sombreness, and brought into
prominence glow worm and firefly and the sheen of Mistress Penwick's
frock.

"I have watched for thee ever since thou arrived, hoping to catch
thine eye.--Hast guarded the billet to the King, my child?"

"Here it is." She took from her bosom the letter. The keen eyes of the
Abbe saw the seal was intact and quickly put out his hand deprecating
what her act implied.

"'Twas not that, my child; 'twas the fear that thou hadst been robbed,
as we have. We trust thee with all our hearts," and she read not
hypocrisy in the feint of benignancy.

"Thou hast been deceived into thinking that the Duke of Monmouth or
Buckingham will arrange a meeting between thee and the King. The
former Duke is evil-intentioned toward thee."

"Ah, my Father; thou dost sorely grieve me! If thou didst not say it,
'twould be hard to believe; for surely he has been most kind to me."

"But 'tis true, nevertheless. He is now with the King and fretting for
being so detained from thee. He means to offer thee the protection of
his favour; which means thou art to become an inmate of his seraglio.
Dost understand me, my child?"

"Ah!--I understand," and Mistress Penwick looked up into the face that
the darkness veiled.

"And I have heard that the King is sometimes poorly intentioned" The
monk coughed behind his hand and moved uneasily,--"'Tis said of him,
as other like things are reported; but 'tis false. He is a good
Catholic at heart, and he will offer thee no insult, else we would
not allow thee to approach him. Our first thought is to get thee from
Monmouth's hold and place thee in safety elsewhere. The noble Lady
Constance is helping us and hopes that by to-night to have arranged
certain matters, so with our aid thou mayest be able to see his
Majesty very soon. One of the Brotherhood will accompany thee to his
presence or meet thee there; for we are anxious of the issue. Thou
wilt--" The conversation was interrupted by the sound of wheels. The
guard came running to them, crying half aloud,--

"Methinks some one of importance is about to arrive, as there is a
coach and outriders and a score of mounted escort. If thou, Father,
art found here, I'm doomed. I prithee hide thyself;--and my lady's
gown can be seen for a league. Hide here, behind this bunch of iris,
'til the cavalcade hath passed."

It was in truth the young Duke of Monmouth, who was hurrying with the
impatience of young, warm blood to his mistress. For all Katherine was
indignant with him for having such wicked intentions toward her, yet
she was moved by the fact that he was a Prince, the son of the King;
and susceptible as are all womankind to masculine beauty, she hardly
could withhold her admiration. She did not fear him, on the contrary
she wished to play with firebrands and see how he would appear in her
eyes, now that she understood him. On a sudden she wished to see him
more than any one else in the world, Lord Cedric excepted; and in her
adventurous heart vowed to torment and give him pangs to remember her
by. Her pride was wrought upon. That any one should presume to love
her without thought of espousal! and Janet's words came back to her
with great force, making her see her error in accompanying the Duke.

There were a few hasty words spoken by the monk as he left her, and
passed through the postern-gate, where none save Eustis saw his tall
form. Katherine took her time, as she crossed the lawn to her former
seat, stopping here and there to gather a nosegay; exulting all the
time at his Grace's discomfort when he found her not within doors.
Suddenly she thought of Christopher and of what might happen to the
servants if the Duke undertook to vent his displeasure upon them. At
the thought, she leant forward, straining her ear for any signs of
violence; but she only heard Janet say,--

"My eyes have not been off her, your Grace. I'm just taking her a
wrap."

"Give it to me," the Duke said in a voice surprisingly calm and
gentle. It piqued Katherine. It was disappointing not to hear a
fierce voice like Cedric's was wont to be. She saw the Duke's form
silhouetted by a bush of white blossom and heard from his lips a
quaint love ditty. It so set her very susceptible heart to fluttering
she knew not whether to be glad or sorry that he was there. She was
weaving a garland in a peculiar manner learned at the convent. The
finished strands she placed under the bench upon which she sat,
pretending the while neither to see nor hear his Grace as he walked
about from bush to bush, singing softly. But he soon caught the
glimmer of her dress, and he came bounding toward her.

"Pray what does Mistress Penwick out alone on so dark a night?"

"Ah!"--she started in feigned alarm, dropping her flowers and rising
hurriedly--"'tis your Grace of Buckingham. I admit I was startled."
She made a sweeping courtesy.

"We who love never forget its voice, Mistress. I believed that thou
wouldst never be able to find it in Buckingham's tones; for if 'twas
there, thou only could note its tenderness." He so ignored her
feint--and she knew he understood that she knew not whether to keep up
her hypocrisy or recant.

"Didst see the King, your Grace, upon my affair?" He stooped to
recover the flowers she had dropped. She hindered him, fearing lest he
should see her schoolgirl play beneath the bench.

"Ah! ah! what hast thou hid there?" She exulted.

"Nothing, your Grace, only--the flowers are not worth the exertion."

"Aye, they are worth the bended knee of a thousand, when dropped from
such fair hands," and he again essayed to reach them; but she stood
between, and holding her hand out to him, said,--

"Nay. I pray thee come. I am going to the villa. 'Tis growing damp."
She timidly made as if to go. He on the instant drew his sword and
lunged beneath the bench and drew out upon its point the maid's
flowers. He laughed at his disappointment, for he was certain some one
was beneath. She felt ashamed of her childish pastime and hastened
within doors. He followed, carrying the interwoven hearts upon the
point of his sword. He held them high for inspection as he entered the
lighted room, and was transported with delight when he saw the design,
and complimented her upon its significance.

"Thou dost seem to know that two hearts are to be entwined, at any
rate! Even if a voice full of passion doth corrupt thine ears to
hearing tones that are vibrantless of love." He broke into a
great laugh and looked upon Katherine's blushing face with tender
admiration. "Come, Mistress, I have played thee very uncavalierly,
inasmuch as I have not answered thy question. Sit with me and sup.
There--his Majesty is indisposed. He will not be able to see thee for
at least a week. Then I am to bring the most beautiful woman in the
world to Court."

"I am very sorry; my business is imperative--"

"Imperative!--imperative! that such words should fall from cherry lips
that will become irresistible should they turn to pouting;--so take
heed and tempt me not." He had already swallowed several glasses of
wine and was fast becoming audacious.

Janet stood behind Mistress Penwick's chair; her face appearing
immutable. The Duke bade the maid drink her wine. She touched her lips
to the glass and set down the cup. He swept it passionately to his
own. Katherine's boldness was fast declining. She began to wish that
something would happen to take the Duke's attention from her. Even
Constance' presence would be a relief. If she were only in the garden
again--free--she would fly to some place of safety.

He lowered his voice into a passionate whisper and leant over,
catching her hand as she would withdraw it. He began to draw her
toward him. Her fear was evident, for Monmouth, drunk as he was, saw
it, and fell to coaxing. His voice, not yet maudlin, was sweet and
impassioned.

"Thou were not afraid when that Russian knave claimed thee and was
about to carry thee off, and now thou hast the King's son to guard and
love thee--love--dost hear it, my Precious? And I came to claim thee
this night, to tell thee all I know, to make the little Convent Maid
wise." He threw his arm about her, almost drawing her from the chair.
Katherine was white and trembling, knowing not which way to turn.

"Indeed, sir, I know not thy meaning."

"My meaning? Dost not thou know what love is? Of course thou dost
not--if thou didst, it might be I should not care to be thy tutor.
Come, I will teach thee this night--now, my Pretty,--now. Come, come
with me." He arose and essayed to draw her toward the door that led
to an inner chamber. Katherine was well nigh to swooning, and perhaps
would have, had not there fell upon her ear the sound of some one
entering the house. "Ah, heaven!" she thought, "if it were only Father
La Fosse or Sir Julian or even--ah!" She did hear Constance' voice.
"Aye, even Constance could think of some way for her to escape." She
knew Janet was behind her chair, but she might have lost her usual wit
and have become incapable of helping at the very moment she was most
needed. Monmouth drank another glass of wine, then withdrew from
his chair and leant over that of the maid, drawing her close in his
embrace. He was now so drunk he did not hear the door creak as Janet
and Katherine did; the former, seeing the pale, triumphant face of
Constance reflected in a mirror, as she stood half-way inside the
door. Katherine tried to disengage herself by reaching for another
glass of wine. The Duke reached it for her and would hold it to her
lips; but she, looking up at him with a feint of a smile, said in
coaxing tones,--

"I was getting it for thee; your Highness will drink it?"

"Could I refuse--there!--there! Come!--" He put his arms about her
and was carrying her forth, when Janet plucked him by the sleeve and
whispered something in his ear. He loosed for a moment her trembling
form and she began to weep. These tears made him forget Janet's words,
and he turned again to Katherine.

"There, there, my wife; thou dost break my heart at each sob. Here,
see here what I brought thee," and he placed on her arm a circlet of
rubies. "There, hush thy tears. I will not teach thee anything but how
kind I may be--there, sit thee down. I will let thee wait until thou
art accustomed to man's caresses." Monmouth's heavy drinking trended
to strengthen his good humour, else he might have resented roundly the
interruption of his love-making by the entrance of Lady Constance. He
held out his hand to her, saying,--

"Come, my lady; see my poor dear. The poor child is affrighted at my
love-making. Thou wouldst not be so frightened, Constance,--eh?"

"I am not a child, your Highness, to fall to weeping if so honourable
a gentleman as some should choose to kiss my hand." The Duke reached
to the table and pressed another cup of wine to his lips, that were
already stiffened by excess.

"Come, Sweet; give me one kiss--" and he bent over her close.

"Nay, nay, I'll not suffer thee." And Katherine drew from him with
flashing eyes.

"Come, silly child; one, just one." She fled from his reach. He sought
to catch her but was stopped by Constance who whispered something
hurriedly. The Duke turned upon Janet and frowned, then broke into a
mocking laugh, and with a sly wink at Constance, said,--

"Thou art a trickster, good nurse; thou didst play upon me foully.
Good, good nurse! Come, go quickly. Thou shalt see no more
love-making; I forbid thee; kiss thy nestling and go. I will watch
over her. Come, my sweet, come!" His Grace took the maid in his strong
arms, and though his legs threatened collapse, bore her toward the
door.

Janet saw the look of devilish menace and triumph upon Lady Constance'
face and--beyond--what did she see behind the curtain of the window
that looked upon the garden? Surely 'twas something more than the
evening breeze that stirred those hangings. 'Twas a familiar face
that looked from behind the folds; aye, of a truth, 'twas Sir Julian
Pomphrey's. When Monmouth, half carrying Katherine, reached the door
and stood some little way beyond its deep embrazure, he turned to
Janet again, saying,--

"Go, good nurse. I wait for thine exit. Come, begone!"

"I beg your Grace to forgive the lie I told and give pledge of thy
forgiveness by taking this." She handed him a brimming cup.

"Then, good nurse, I forgive thee. Here is to the maid thou dost let
go and to the woman I shall bring back." He threw back his head and
lifted the cup. As it touched his lips a handkerchief fell about his
eyes and a strong hand covered his mouth and the Duke lay helpless
upon the floor.

Janet carried the half-fainting maid from the room. As she did so, Sir
Julian and Lord Cedric, who had also come through the window, carried
the young Duke to another chamber; binding him fast; keeping his eyes
well blindfolded and their own tongues still. Constance was left
standing in the middle of the floor in dumb surprise and chagrin. In a
moment Lord Cedric returned, and his voice rang steel as he faced her,
nor was there shadow of pity as he saw her white face grow ghastly in
fear.

"Thou, Constance, art the receptacle of all the damned ills flung from
mortals, whether of the mind or body. As for soul, that unknown thing
to thee--thou canst not recognize in another and therefore canst take
on nothing of it save its punishment hereafter, when thou shalt have
no choice of condiment. Thy heart lies festering in the rheum that
exuviates from its foul surroundings. Conscience thou art bankrupt of,
and in its place doth lurk the bawd that envenoms thy senses and turns
thy narrow body into prodigious corruption--"

"Cedric,--my God; stay thy tongue!"

"Nay, nay; my tongue is a well-matched Jehu for thy devil's race. I
would I might scorch thee with it, to give thee foretaste of that to
come; perchance 'twould seethe thy rottenness to the quick--if thou
of that art not also bereft--and turn thee from thy course. Thou dost
pander for the King's son and steal an innocent maid of unripe years
to gratify his lust--ah, 'sdeath! thou art but a pernicious wench,
as false as hell. And when the nurse whispered that 'twould save the
child from shame, thy protrusile tang-of-a-serpent didst sibilate in
his ready ear a denial--"

"Cedric, Cedric; cease, I pray!" And Constance fell upon her knees
sobbing. But the young lord's storm had not yet spent itself, and he
sped on in fury:

"I would thy noxious blood had all run out ere mingling with its
better, and I had naught of so foul a taint within. If I held the
apothecary's skill, I would open my veins and purge from them thy
jaundiced blood and let in slime of snakes and putrid matter to
sweeten the vessel thus set free--"

"My lord, we must hasten. The maid is ready to depart with her
nurse," said Sir Julian. As the young lord turned to him, Lady
Constance--crushed and broken--said,--

"Couldst thou not see why I have so misused my better self; have thine
eyes been blind all these years not to see how I have loved thee,
Cedric--thee--thee--with all my heart and soul?"

"I would not hear thee prate of anything so sacred as love,--'tis
sacrilege."

"Nay, not so, Cedric! I love thee more than heaven. I love thy scorn,
if to be free from it were to deprive me of thy presence. I would
follow thee to the end of time, even though thy brow lowered in ever
threatening storm--"

"Nay! thou shalt not follow me. Would I draw such as thou to yonder
maid? From this moment thou art none of mine, and I fling thee from me
as I would a snake.--Thou didst think to take Mistress Katherine from
me; put her beyond my reach, first, by marriage, then by ruin. Thanks
to heaven, both of thy infernal schemes miscarried and she is again in
my keeping. And soon I shall fold her to me as my own; pillow her head
here, Constance, here, where thou sayest thou shouldst love to lie. I
shall press her to my heart as wife, wife--ah! I have at last touched
the quick within thee. We may hope there is some redemption--some
possibility of bringing thee back from thy foulness--"

"Come, Cedric, come; we are late!" cried Sir Julian at the door. Lord
Cedric turned to go, but Constance flew to his side and grasped his
hand,--

"Nay, nay; thou shalt not leave me thus. Thou shalt not leave me to go
to one who cares not one jot for thee! Cedric, turn not away. Do not
leave me here. Cedric, hear me, take me, take me with thee! I will be
so good--"

Again Sir Julian came and called hastily,--"Indeed, my lord, there is
a chaise upon the highway, and if we mistake not 'tis the King's."
Cedric loosed himself from Constance and hurried from the room. She
flew after him; but he had passed Sir Julian and flung himself upon a
horse. Pomphrey saw her plight, and, whether from pity, gallantry, or
intrigue, lifted her quickly--before she had time to withdraw from
him--into a coach. Cedric remonstrated with him; but Julian was
confident of his motive and started the coach at full speed. They flew
along in the opposite direction from whence came the King.

It was his Majesty, who had heard of his son's hiding with some
beauteous maid and was resolved to play a trick and come upon him
unawares.

It was feared, when he should find Monmouth in such a plight, he would
pursue the offenders, if for nothing but to see with his own eyes the
maid who had so wrought upon his son's affections.

The coaches bearing Katherine and Constance sped along at a rapid
swing. The one bearing Katherine, with Janet by her side, was some
distance ahead; Constance alone in the rear. Cedric and Julian rode at
either side of the first coach, their horses in full gallop.

They reached Southwark after two hours' hard riding. Katherine was
not aware of Lord Cedric's presence, and he avoided meeting her or
attracting her attention in any way. He was content with the thought
that she was near him.

They proposed to remain at Tabard Inn at least until the next night,
when they would set out under cover of the darkness for Crandlemar,
where Lord Cedric had given orders to have all things ready for
his immediate espousal. He knew that Katherine loved him, and felt
sanguine that after passing through so many vicissitudes she would
come to her senses and give up the ideas of churchly duties and
religious requirements.

Lady Constance feared the worst, now that Cedric was once more with
Katherine. What could she do to stave the matter off? She knew
Cantemir would hardly be able to place Cedric in the Tower before
another week. She was tempted to poison or kill in some way the maid.
Aye, she would kill her--that would be safest. Then Cedric could not
have her. They would be parted forever.

CHAPTER XIX

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE COACH

In the meantime his Majesty had entered the villa and found his son
bound and in drunken sleep. Seeing he was uninjured, the King fell
to laughing at his plight, his ringing tones awakening Monmouth. The
King's gentlemen unbound him and brought him to a chair. The youth was
not long in collecting himself, quickly making a tale for his father's
ears.

"I have caught thee, James,"--said the King,--"but where, oh! where is
the maid? Has she flung thee off and escaped with thy guard, who left
the gates wide, or didst thou expect us and had them placed so for our
convenience?"

"'Tis certain, Sire, I have been foully treated. I have been drugged
and some valuable papers taken I had got hold on."

"And who held the papers before thee, a pretty wench, eh?" Monmouth
glanced suspiciously at Buckingham, who stood behind the King.

"Now indeed, Sire, I should like thy opinion upon her, and--she hath
a secret, as the Duke there can testify." Buckingham started, but met
the King's glance with a stolid countenance.

"And what is this secret, George?"

"'Tis something the Papists have enveigled the maid into bringing to
thy notice, your Majesty," and the Duke cast a contemptuous glance at
Monmouth, who had made a wrong move.

"Then, by God! why was she detained? Why did any one take the papers
from her?" His Majesty looked not too kind at his son, who was now
fair caught. "We will send for her posthaste." The lackeys were
questioned of the direction taken by the coaches that had just left
the grounds, and a courier was sent after them, bearing the Royal
command to Mistress Penwick to appear before his presence within three
days.

The courier did not reach the inn until the party were about to set
forth, on account of being turned repeatedly from his course by
designing lackeys left along the way for the purpose.

Sir Julian, Katherine and Janet were standing at the coach door when
Lady Constance came hurrying down the stairs to join them, unasked;
for she was of no mind to let Cedric carry off Katherine without her.
She felt it would be worse than death. As she opened her mouth to ask
of Cedric--for she saw he was not with the party--the King's messenger
rode into the courtyard. Mistress Penwick received the order from the
courier with her own hand, and was rejoiced at it; Lady Constance flew
to her chamber in an ecstasy; Sir Julian roundly disappointed at the
news he must send Cedric, who had gone on toward Crandlemar. There
was no help for them now. They were under the King's order; but--what
might not happen in three days?

Sir Julian was as adamant when Constance proposed a trip to London,
and would under no circumstances allow her to leave the inn. Janet
kept Katherine in complete seclusion, fearing lest some new thing
should come upon them. She did not fail, however, to tell Sir Julian
of the monk's visit to the grounds of the villa and of his project to
accompany her to the King, when an audience should be granted.

"I am glad thou didst apprise me of this, Janet, for it gives me an
idea. I have seen lurking about several of the Order and have watched
them carefully."

The morning of the eventful day arrived. Mistress Penwick was already
gowned in a sombre old woman's dress. A hump was fastened to her
shoulder; her face was darkened skillfully and leprous blotches
painted thereon. She stepped like a Queen, for all that, and 'twas
feared her falseness would become evident to the King's eye.

Lady Constance was to remain at the inn, a prisoner, until Sir Julian
saw fit to release her. With curious eyes she watched for Katherine,
whom she conceived would be decked in irresistible finery. She even
pictured her beauty, clad in that soft brocade of peach and green that
so became her figure and enhanced the richness of her youthful bloom.

"Ah! ah!" she cried under her breath, as she saw the maiden's masque,
and fairly bit her lips in rage at the clever ruse about to be played
upon the King. Back she flew from the window and pranced up and down
her chamber in rage, her brain on fire. She sought in its hot depths
some way--some way. "It must be done. The King must know. It would be
the convent wench's ruin--and what would his Majesty not do for one
who should give him hint?" She was not kept under close guard. She
could go about the corridors as she chose. Out she flew into one of
these and saw near by a scullion furbishing a brass knob.

"Come, fool, hast thou a close mouth?" she said, almost in a whisper.

"Aye, too close for the comfort of my stomach."

"Then here--but first, bring me from anywhere thou canst a gentleman's
suit that will cover me in plenty--not too scant, remember, and bring
a horse from where thou likest to the door below. Haste thee, and thou
shalt have this." She jingled a well-filled purse in his face. Off he
ran in hot haste, soon returning with the desired outfit; no doubt
looted from some gentleman's closet near by. Quickly she donned it;
but here and there were slight alterations to be made, and her fingers
were all a-tremble, slackening speed to a meagre haste. She donned a
red-hued periwig and cockle hat, then strutted back and forth, proud
of her fine appearance, as, indeed, she looked a roguish fop of no
mean parts. She flung out into the passage and asked the lad if the
horse was ready.

"Aye, Sir!" he said, impudently. She flung him a bag of gold with a
show of masculine strength. Out it flew through the open window, down
to the pavement, frightening the steed from his groom, who first
stopped to pluck the bag before giving chase to the wily horse. Down
came the scullion, followed close by the gay young fop, who waited
impatiently outside the door. The guard looked on indifferently,
his eyes fixed upon the groom, rather than the young man that paced
restlessly up and down the courtyard.

At last Lady Constance dashed out upon the highway with a smile of
cunning on her face, a devil's flash from her eyes, a haughty curving
on her lips, and her heart beating faster and faster, the nearer she
drew to the King's palace. "One masque is as fair as another, and
methinks the King's eye will open wider at my boldness than at
Mistress Penwick's plain dissembling, should he require a fair show of
our feigning. He will love me for my daring and for bringing him the
knowledge aforetime of the maid's deception. And when the wench smiles
in triumph, he will bring her down upon her knees by one fair blow of
tongue. 'Twould be like his Majesty to deprive her of decent covering,
if I can only make her designing plain to him." On she rode in high
good humour with her adventure; for if this move was without laches or
mischance, 'twould be a triumph indeed. The maid would be ruined and
her own fortunes made.

The coach arrived at the Royal Palace upon the stroke of four.
Mistress Penwick was conducted to the King's ante-chamber. She was
visibly nervous; trying vainly to calm the fast beating of her heart.
When at last she was called, Sir Julian walked beside her to the
threshold of his Majesty's chamber. The King, ever _insouciant_,
had never thought to ask Monmouth the maid's name, and when she was
presented as "Mistress Wick," and he beheld her form and attire,
he was amazed. He felt he had been made a dupe; that Monmouth had
purposely made him believe this girl was beautiful for some subtle
cause, perhaps just to gain an audience for her;--then, as he saw the
spots upon her face, he recoiled and a horrible thought came. Had she
some loathsome disease and been sent to him that he might--He started,
his blood boiling with indignation. "Treason," he cried in his heart,
and before the maid had arisen from her knees, he called for her
dismissal. She was taken precipitately from the King's presence before
she had time to open her mouth.

The King was greatly wrought upon, giving Monmouth the blame. The
matter must be sifted. He would write an order for his son's arrest,
and--yes, the woman must be taken also.

Sir Julian saw it all in Katherine's disappointed and half-angry face,
but without giving her time to relate her grievances, rushed her to
the coach, putting her into it with very little ceremony. They were
fairly flying from the Palace, turning from the sight of a young fop
as he came at full gallop through the throng that crowded near the
Royal House.

The youth made known his desire to see the King, saying the matter was
an imperative one. Even as he spoke, his Majesty came from within and
heard the breathless request.

"What now, my pretty rogue; what is thy wish?"

"May I speak with thee apart?" said the lad, as he knelt and kissed
the King's hand. "'Tis something of import--a trick is about to be
played upon thee." The King took alarm.

"We are about to start forth, my lad. Come, thou mayest walk by our
side, and if thy speech is as neat and comely as thy body, 'tis
possible ere we reach the end of yonder corridor thy tongue will have
won for thee the Royal favour." The King leant upon Constance as they
swaggered along down the passage.

"May I be so bold as to inquire of your Majesty if there has not come
to thee a woman with swart marks upon her face and a hump on her back,
preferring a petition for thy signature to some lands now held by the
Catholics?" The King started and looked now with great interest upon
the girlish fop, and speaking slowly as he answered,--

"Why, yes; she hath come and gone. What of her?"

"She hath played foully upon her King. I would give, Sire, half my
life to have seen your Majesty compel her to wash the painted spots
from her face and take from her shoulder the false hump, and she--"

"Ah! ah!" came from the thoroughly awaked King.

"--is the greatest beauty in England." For the first time Constance
gave Katherine her dues.

"Dost thou speak truth, lad?"

"I fear my King too much to speak otherwise, unless, indeed, it were
to save his life."

"Then--" said the King, with flashing eyes.--"We shall have her back;
we'll send for her at once; and, my pretty lad, thou shalt remain here
to see the fun, with your King. 'Twill be rare sport, eh?" He gave
Constance so sound a smack upon the shoulder, it came near to knocking
her flat. It brought the tears and made her bite her tongue. The King
fairly roared with laughter.

Buckingham heard the King's order to recall the woman. He also knew
the King's informant, and for reasons of his own sent straightway one
to intercept his Majesty's messenger.

Lady Constance, believing that Sir Julian, with Katherine, would
return to Tabard Inn, mentioned it. This, of course, allowing they
followed Constance' suggestion, gave Sir Julian a good start and
Buckingham's messengers time to reach their several destinations.

The night had come with even greater heat than the day. The sultry
gloaming foretold a near-by storm. Clouds were brewing fast and thick,
with ominous mutterings. Already every inch of blue sky was overcast
with a blackness that was heavy and lowering. Occasionally the sullen
thunder was prefaced by a jaundiced light that swathed the skies from
end to end. The coach bearing Katherine and Janet left the causeway
and entered a thick forest. The great trees seemed even larger; their
silence becoming portentous. There was not a breath of air. Katherine
fanned herself with Janet's hat, but hardly did her efforts create a
breeze large enough to move the threads of hair that waved above her
forehead.

They had proceeded but a short way into the forest when the postilion
got down to light the lamps.

Sir Julian rode close to the window and spoke of the approaching
storm. The stillness was ominous; there being no sound save the plash
of a muskrat as he skurried through a dismal, dark pool near by.
Katherine jumped at the noise and her small hand grasped the arm of
Sir Julian, as it lay across the ledge of the window. She gave a
little gasp--just enough to touch Sir Julian tenderly.

"'Tis nothing but a lusty genet, my dear," and his hand closed over
hers for a moment. There was something about that touch that thrilled
them both; he leant farther toward her as another flash came through
the trees and was sure he saw a flush upon her face. The lights from
the lanterns flashed up, then--stood silent and unmoved, the boy's
breath who stood over them was swallowed in the hot air. Then the
coach began to move and at the same time the giant trees stirred in
a peculiar way. They, like a vast army, bent low with a sound as of
heavy artillery rumbling over a bridge that covered vacuous depths.
Then they began a deafening noise, their branches sweeping hard
against the coach windows.

Katherine lay back languidly against the cushions, still trembling
from the gentle pressure of Sir Julian's hand. For a moment only she
enjoyed this sweet dissipation, then turned from it as if duty called
her to think of her visit to the King. She consoled herself that she
had done all she could now. When she reached Crandlemar, she should
be better able to collect her thoughts and see what would be the next
best thing to do. She longed to see Lord Cedric and the Duke and
Duchess. She even fell to imagining how the grand, old place would
look in midsummer. It seemed like she had been gone months. Would
Cedric be changed, she wondered? Would he be pale and fragile looking?

So great was Sir Julian's haste, and so great was the heat, the horses
were soon exhausted and began to lag. Sir Julian thought they were
near an inn, as it soon proved. He flung open the door and almost
lifted Katherine from the coach, so great was his haste. Supper
was awaiting them and Katherine for the moment alone, near an
open window,--the room appeared close to suffocation with humid
heat--waited for Sir Julian to take his seat at her side. Janet was
arranging a posset. Suddenly Katherine heard a soft voice behind her;
it was low and intense. Hardly could she distinguish it from the
soughing of the wind in the trees. She half-turned her head to listen
as Sir Julian came toward her. But she caught the words:

"Abbe ---- will be in the coach upon thy return. Enjoin silence upon
thy nurse and be not afraid."

She thought Sir Julian looked at her suspiciously; but was quite sure
he had not seen or heard the person behind her.

Janet, while in the coach had bathed the maid's face and taken from
her the garb of disguise, and Katherine now looked her sweet self
again, flushed and thoughtful over this new adventure. She was most
like her father, ever looking for new fields to conquer. Sir Julian
asked her if she would be frightened at a severe storm. She answered
it made her somewhat nervous to be abroad.

"Then I will ride inside with thee--"

"Nay, I could not think of allowing thee. The air is too oppressive."
Sir Julian insisted, but to no avail. As they were about to leave the
inn, Katherine whispered to Janet that an Abbe would be in the coach
and enjoined silence and deaf ears.

"I did not catch his name, but I'm quite sure his voice rung like Abbe
La Fosse's. They have doubtless heard I am on my way to the castle,
and, knowing 'twould be impossible to see me there, they have taken
this way, being impatient to know how fell my suit with the King."
Janet for once had no answering word, but uttered a groan of seeming
dissent and followed her mistress, who leant upon Sir Julian's arm.

The dim light cast from the lanterns was well-nigh swallowed up in the
intense gloom. The rain was already falling rapidly and Sir Julian
opined that it was a hopeful sign, as it presaged no sudden gust that
would tear things to pieces. The door of the coach slammed to and the
horses started at gallop through the windy forest. Mistress Penwick,
now for the first time alone, that is without the surveillance of
Cantemir or Eustis, with a beloved Father of her church, flung herself
upon her knees at his side, saying:

"Beloved Father, my visit to the King was fruitless; he received me
most coldly." The Abbe lifted her from her knees as she spoke, placing
her beside him. Her face was close to his, for the noise of the
horses' hoofs and the rattling of spurs and bits and the ever-rumbling
thunder made speech difficult. His face turned toward her was hid
in the shadow of his cowl, and he drew the hood even closer as he
answered,--

"We feared it, mightily," and his voice was barely heard above the
noise.

"But it grieves me more than I can tell."

"Nay. Thou must not let it."

"But it does, I cannot help it; and I see also thy disappointment, for
thy hands tremble."

"We have had much to unnerve us, and I am still under restraint."

"I would thou hadst sent a better _embassage_!"

"We could not have found a fairer." At these words Mistress Penwick
shrunk from him, remembering her disguise; which, though it was a
custom of the time for one to go masqued when and where they pleased,
upon whatsoever mission, yet she felt guilty to positive wickedness
for having so cloaked her beauty, and did not the Father's words imply
that her charms should have won success? For a moment she remained
silent. A flash of lightning fell broad through the open window. She
quickly glanced at Janet, who appeared to be asleep in her corner.
Katherine bent her face close to the Abbe's and whispered,--

"Father, might I not here make my confessions? I would have come to
thee at the monastery if it had been possible. The confessional has
not been open to me since I left the convent, and I feel I must
confess. I must now; for I know not when I shall be able again to have
converse with a priest. May I, Father?"

"'Tis a noisome, stormy night and thy nurse there--"

"I will speak low, beside I care not if she does hear that that
doth concern myself; for, indeed she understands me better than I
understand myself. Then I may speak, Father?"

"I will hear that I deem needful for the peace of thy soul; if
perchance thy soul be wrought upon unhappily; and for sins innocently
done I absolve thee already." Mistress Penwick half knelt by the
cowled figure and placed her elbows upon his knees, and after saying
the prayers of contrition leant her face close to his.

"I have been guilty of what I believe to be a very great sin. Father,
I disguised myself to go before the King!" She trembled and bent her
head. The priest's voice was calm and unperturbed.

"And why didst thou that?"

"I heard 'twas an unsafe thing for a maid boasting of some fairness to
visit the King."

"Why so?"

"I have heard he keeps them for his own pleasure, allowing not their
return."

"And didst thou think we would have let thee go to him, had it not
been safe?"

"But I thought, good Father, living as closely as thou dost, thou
didst not know of the matters of the world, and I ventured to use my
own judgment, meaning no harm. But I will go to him unmasqued if thou
dost appoint it so. I intend to do so. Shall I not?"

"Nay, thou hast done all and more than is expected of thee."

"How, more?"

"'Twas brave to go at all after hearing of his Majesty's demeanour."

"But I was not very much afraid; indeed, I became very calm as I
entered his presence."

"If I understand, thou wert ambitious to become a Maid of Honour."

"At one time, but having better acquaintance with the Court, I feel my
ardour has cooled."

"We have gone somewhat astray, my child. We will finish thy
confessions for I soon must leave thee. Indeed, if this is the weighty
part of thy sins, there is no need to confess any more."

"One thing I am particularly anxious to inquire of thee. Since love
comes and we cannot help it, 'twould be wrong not to give it place?"

"If the love is love and not masquerading passion, and it comes from
one who is not altogether unworthy of thee?"

"Indeed, he is most worthy, barring his religion, which is Protestant.
I would have advice upon this matter, for I believe the love is
mutual."

"My child, if his heart is good and true, and thou lovest him, and he
thee, the manner of worshipping God should not be of question, since
one shows his love one way and another another. The common scullion,
who, from year's end to year's end sees not inside the holy sanctuary,
may carry in his heart the divine image of God and pay him homage
every breath he draws; while he who walks in sacred robes and abides
ever in the shadow of the cross, taking part in all the forms, pomps,
vanities and varied monotony, may have Satan within him and breathes
out flames of hell as he intones. We can in all things beside religion
discern punctilio. There is no sect that has the control of the Holy
Spirit; it is the exclusive property of the individual who gains the
right and title of it by the keeping of the ten commandments. So, if
thou art sure thou dost love the youth, and art most sure he loves
thee sincerely, then--"

"Then, indeed, I am most happy; for I am sure he is noble and good
and--loves me."

"When didst thou learn that he loved thee; for if I mistake not, thou
wert recently bent upon marrying one Adrian Cantemir, who, I must
declare, is altogether unworthy of a maid who doth possess such
virtue."

"I have learned to since--since--I can't tell when--I knew I loved
him--yesterday--the day before. I know it now. I tremble when I think
of how well I love him. I have been so uncertain, Father. I thought I
loved this one, and then another, and for a time I was not sure I knew
what love was. Then it came to me on a sudden that I would rather die
than live all my life without the one I so desired. And yesterday I
knew of a certainty that I loved and that I was loved."

"Yesterday?"--and the priest winced, and there was pain in the tone of
his voice as he uttered the word.

"Aye, yesterday--I was thinking. I thought of his kindness to me--of
the deference he has shown me, of his great patience toward me; and I
saw how well he loved me."

"Was it the King's son, my child?"

"Nay, one not nearly so gentle as the Duke. He is more noble at heart
and hath a most noble name. He hath a handsome countenance, more
even than the Duke's, and Janet says he hath the finest mould in all
England. Indeed, I do not know so much about such things, but I am
sure his hands are near as small as mine, but with a grasp like iron.
He is wonderfully strong and hath an awful stamp when in rage, and his
temper is most violent and bad, and his tongue is vicious;--indeed,
Father, I know not what to do with his oaths. They frighten me."

"Perhaps if thou shouldst go to him and ask in all gentleness, he
would leave off blasphemy."

"But I have no influence with him. When anger takes him, he is
terrible."

"Then I'm afraid he does not love thee."

"Aye, he loves me; but wants his own way, and--to be sure, I love him
quite as well when he does have his way--which is not often. Janet
says I provoke him to swear." Again the priest started and his white
hands trembled suspiciously.

"And how dost thou so provoke him, child?"

"He would marry me straightway and give me not time to know whether I
wanted him or not, and I refused and he fell into an awful fury and
swore oaths and I could not stop him,--Father, I said I hated him, and
now he so believes, and I would have him think otherwise; yet I would
not tell him for the world. When I meet him, it shall be--with cold
looks."

"Then how is he to know thy mind?"

"I know not." Katherine shook her head dolefully.

"Then when he greets thee, why not smile at him and look thy
feelings?"

"I know not, only 'tis my way. I shall love to hear him plead again. I
hated to hear it once; but now--'twill be like music."

"What if he is cold to thee?"

"If he is cold, I will go to him and ask him to forgive me for what I
have done."

"Then thou art culpable?"

"Aye, I fear I am, for he now suffers for my fault, or rather for his
love of me."

"But if he greets thee with all love and holds out his arms to thee?"

"Then I shall be most happy, but shall act indifferently."

"I am afraid thou dost treat a serious matter lightly; for 'tis a
fickle thing; if he meets thee with open arms, thou wilt be cruel;
if he greets thee coldly, thou wilt be indifferent--for fear of thy
maiden scruples. What if he takes thee unawares?"

"How, unawares?"

"He might trick thee into a thing thou couldst not recede from. If
thou didst find thyself so placed, wouldst thou forgive him and love
him just the same?"

"I must always love him, no matter what trick he plays;--but he will
play me no trick. If he should again threaten to lock me up, as he has
done heretofore, I would go to him and say,--'Nay, I will marry thee
now, Cedric!'"

"God, Kate! Kate!" And the priest threw his arms about her, almost
crushing her in his great embrace. The cowl slipt from his head and
his dark curls swept her face as he bent over her. Instantly she knew
him and straightway fell into a rage.

"Thou, thou, Lord Cedric, dare to receive confession from one whose
life thou hast no part in. Dost thou know the penalty of such
wickedness? All evil will be visited upon thee for playing the part of
a holy priest. Indeed, of all the sins I had deemed thee capable, I
had ne'er thought of one so wicked as this!" She fell back in
the corner of the coach in such fury, she could not find further
utterance.

CHAPTER XX

UNPROCLAIMED BANNS

"Indeed, Mistress Penwick, I asked not for thy confessions. But now
that I have heard them, 'tis my meed to be punished by thy sharp
tongue for that I could not help. Come, Sweet, forgive and love me.
Have I not suffered enough?"

"Lambkin, I am out of all humour with thee. Thou art half a termagant,
I admit!"

"And thou, too, wert privy to this deception. I am truly without
friends!" and the maid began to weep softly behind her handkerchief.
Lord Cedric was beside himself with his folly.

"If I only could have withstood thee; but how could I with thy tender
words and thy closeness--"

"There is nothing accomplished but mistakes!" Janet ventured, being
impatient with both Cedric and Kate.

"--Kate!--Kate! dost not thou know how I have longed for thee; how my
heart has ached in thine absence? Those two whole days I lay abed were
like so many years, and when I thought of thy danger, I fell into a
fever and I arose and leapt upon the fleetest steed and rode until my
fever cooled; and then--when I had thee once more, I could not keep
from thee longer; I resolved upon this plan that I might be with thee,
and ride by thy side. And thou dost murder me outright. Thou dost kill
me, Kate! I was a fool to undertake it, I know; but I thought of two
whole days I should be separated from thee and felt I could not bear
to wait. Thy words, Kate, were so sweet. Kate, come to me once more
and see how loving I can be. Let me dry thy tears,--let thy head rest
here upon my heart and close thine eyes and dream--dream, Kate, of
what we must be to each other, and then wake and find me bending over
thee. Come, Sweet, come!" He sought her elusive fingers and tried to
draw her to him with a tenderness she could hardly withstand; but she
would not unbend, drawing from him, sinking further into the corner.

"And did Sir Julian know of this ruse of thine?" she asked, haughtily.

"Janet, methinks the maid speaks with thee!"

"What is it, Lambkin? I was not listening."

"I will wait until the storm ceases, perhaps thou wilt find thy
hearing by then." There was a long silence within the coach. The tears
of Mistress Penwick were dried and she sat sullen, deliberately trying
to hate Lord Cedric. There came a sudden burst of thunder that turned
the tide of her thoughts from him to Sir Julian, who rode by her
window constantly. At every flash of lightning she saw his spurs
glisten, saw the foam fly from the bits of his horse's bridle. He rode
there in the storm, heedless of all but her safety and comfort, he
that had wounds on his body that spake of great deeds of nobleness and
valour! Why should he care for her so? Like a flood he swept into
her heart, and she accepted his presence with gladness--shutting out
Cedric as well as she was able. She inclined her head toward the
window and watched the handsome figure of Sir Julian with a new
interest. His form, so like that of Cedric, she began to compare with
ancient warriors she had read about and seen pictures of,--then his
tender and meaning hand pressure recurred to her, and she flushed
mightily. After awhile she fell to thinking of the Duke of Monmouth,
the tender thoughts of whom she had not yet resigned,--such were the
vacillations of the mind of strong, warm, youthful Mistress Penwick.

The storm grew furious, and the wind blew such a gale it appeared at
times as if the trees swept the earth. They bended and swung rudely,
brushing hard against the windows. In the midst of its severity the
coach came to a stand-still and Lord Cedric threw open the door. Janet
leant quickly toward him,--

"I pray thee not to go forth in the storm, my lord; 'tis enough to
give thee thy death."

"Nay, nay, Janet, 'twill not be summer rain that will kill me, but
cold looks and threatening mien." And he stepped out into the night.

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