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Mistress Penwick by Dutton Payne

Part 5 out of 5

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"What, Lambkin, if Lord Cedric should catch cold and die? 'Twould kill
thee, too; for remorse would give thee no rest."

"I never so disliked him as I do now. I never want to see him again.
How shall I look him in the face after confessing such things? I shall
die of shame. That is all he wanted to hear me say, and--he heard
it--and that is all the benefit he will get." Again she fell to
weeping, finding she could wring no sympathy from Janet, who sat
coldly listening to her nursling's plaints.

They reached Crandlemar late the second evening, tired and weary. The
Duchess of Ellswold greeted them with a happy countenance, so pleased
that she could make known to them that her lord was better and the
physicians had given permission to remove him to his own county seat.
Her greeting to Katherine in particular was evidently a forced one;
she feeling sorely distressed at her capricious nature.

Never did the great old seat look so beautiful as it did in its
midsummer glory. Mistress Penwick had arisen early and walked out upon
the rich greensward. She wandered from place to place, enjoying the
gorgeous fullness of leaf and bloom. She felt a strange disquiet, a
longing for love and knowing not the meaning of her unrest vainly
tried to find comfort in the beauty of the outer world, that only
inclined her heart the more to its desire. She passed from flower to
flower, endeavouring to 'suage the uprisings of Cupid. Suddenly she
heard the organ peal forth, and straightway she entered the library
to hear those great, soothing chords the better. She, being shaken by
love, fell upon her knees and tried to pray for comfort, for she felt
at the moment she had not one to comfort her. Janet had been taciturn,
showing not her affection as had been her wont heretofore. The tears
came, and she wept aloud. Then the organ ceased and a moment later Sir
Julian stood upon the landing of the stairway, looking down upon her.
Without noise he descended and stood by her side. His voice, when he
spoke, appeared shaken as if a storm of love wrought upon it.

"Katherine! It pains me to see thee thus. Can I not give thee some bit
of comfort?"

"I am comforted already, Sir Julian; thy music did that."

"Then why dost still remain with bowed head and thy sobs unassuaged?"

"I do not know. I must either laugh or cry and--'tis easier to do the
latter."

"Come! Mistress Penwick, what can I do for thee? Ask, I pray,
anything, for thy happiness--Katherine--" and for the first time in
his life he looked guiltily about him. But no one was near to hear
him, and he continued lowly--"thou dost know, surely, that man cannot
look on thee without loving?" and he raised her from her knees.

"I am unloved," she answered, the social lie tinging her cheek to a
brighter hue.

"Not so, for I love thee."

"Thou, thou, Sir Julian, who art used to spurning woman's heart?"

"Not spurn, nay! I have not found one yet I could do that to, and on
the other hand I have found but one I could love, and--that is thine."

"Ah, Sir Julian. I wonder if thou dost love me. 'Tis a great thing to
be loved by one who has fought in great battles."

"And thou dost not know that the battle of hearts is much deadlier
than that of arms?"

"I do not know; but thou seemest like a warrior of olden time. And for
thee to love me!"

"Is it enough? Wilt thou give thyself to me?" There was a silence so
long and unbroken Katherine was made to realize that her reply was
not to be lightly uttered, so she answered with all the strength of a
plaything of caprice,--

"If thou wilt have it so, Sir Julian, I will be thine."

She had hardly finished, when he laid his lips, to her astonishment,
coldly and with formal grace upon her forehead.

"I will not ask thee if thou lovest me, but will say instead dost
think thou mayest?"

"But I think I love thee now--"

"Nay, sweet Mistress, thou dost not--" A look of fear came into her
eyes. Had Lord Cedric told her confessions? Nay, nay! he would not,
she knew.

"How dost come by so much knowledge?" she said, coquettishly.

"I have ascertained by subtleness, but--let it pass. Let us talk of
thee now. When wilt thou marry me? If thou art kind, thou wilt say at
once."

"Nay, I shall not say that--but--whenever thou dost wish it."

"Of a surety? When I name the hour, wilt thou not gainsay?"

"Nay, my lord. I will not gainsay."

"Then--at eleven, Katherine." She caught her breath quickly and cried
forth,--

"This day, Sir Julian! Indeed, thou art in haste, I--I--"

"Thou hast given thy word. At eleven, Katherine."

"By sands or dial?"

"Ah, sweet Katherine, both shall have a bridal favour. We will confer
with each. When the golden sand runs out at the eleventh hour, the
dial will be alone and in shadow; for if it please thee, we must be
wed secretly and in haste. I noticed but awhile ago how beautiful the
dial was. So the sands shall give us the hour, the dial the altar, and
the nightingale the nuptial mass."

"But the priest, Sir Julian--"

"He shall give us the blessing--"

"Nay, nay; where wilt thou find a priest?" This was not an unexpected
question, and Sir Julian was ready for it.

"Lord Cedric's Chaplain can wed us as securely as one of thy church,
and as there is no one else, he will serve, will he not, Katherine?"

"Until we find a better."

"Then, not to arouse suspicion, to-night at eleven thou wilt come to
the sun-dial and I will meet thee at the foot of the stair that leads
from thy chamber to the terrace, and then--'twill be soon over and
thou, thou, Katherine, will be--wife. Wilt not regret it,--art sure?"
he repeated as she shook her head negatively.

"But why do all men appear in such haste to wed? I would have time to
at least think upon it."

"Dost forget that at any moment may come a courier from the King to
recall thee; and if so, thou wouldst be obliged to go and be separated
from us, perhaps forever? Thou dost not know what may befall thee
at any moment. Thou dost belong to France, and art hostage to
England--thou wilt be ready at eleven?"

"Aye, at eleven."

"We will be cautious and not speak above a whisper. The Chaplain will
speak low, too; but he is a good soul and would make us fast wed
whether we heard him or not." Again he kissed her forehead; she turned
rose-red and ran from him hastily. She thought not once of Cedric. Had
she done so, 'tis possible she never would have gone to the dial that
summer night. She flew to her chamber aflame with this new thing she
thought was love. And felt relief that soon Sir Julian, the strong and
brave, would take away all her discomfort. He would fight her battles
for her, go with her to the King and stand by her side and his Majesty
would not dare to offer her insult. It would be a sweet task to
convert Sir Julian to her faith. He would became a great Catholic
leader. Her breast fairly swelled with pride in anticipation.

CHAPTER XXI

THE ESPOUSAL

Night had come richly laden with the perfume of many flowers, that the
darkness seemed to make more pungent, and more distinct to the ear
the night sounds. There was no moon, and the thick foliage produced a
deep, dark density, mysterious and sweet. The grand terraces about the
castle were still, save for the buzz of summer insects and the low,
sleepy twittering of birds. There was not a star to be seen and only
the glow-worm lent an occasional lilliputian effulgence to the great,
dark world. All within the castle appeared to have retired earlier
than usual; perhaps for the purpose of an earlier awakening, as their
Graces of Ellswold were to set out early on the morrow morning, aiming
to make some great distance on their journey before the heat of
midday. At a quarter after the hour of ten Janet had kissed her
mistress, leaning over her pillow with even more affection than usual.

"Good-night, my Lambkin, my child, my precious maid--good-night and
God bless thee!" then snuffed the candles and left her.

Katherine gave no thought to regret, indeed she went so far as to
smile at Janet's consternation, when she should find out that for
once her "Lambkin" had fooled her. Quickly she leapt from her bed and
dressed herself for the first time alone. Though her fingers were deft
and skillful at the tapestry frame, and neat and clever at limning,
they were slow and bungling when drawing together the laces of her
girdle, indeed 'twas very insecurely done, and when she was dressed
she had forgotten her stays, and but for the lateness of the hour
would have disrobed and donned them. It seemed like an endless task to
try and dress again by the poor light of the single candle, screened
by her best sunshade in the far corner of the room. She had donned
a pale, shimmering brocade. About her neck she twined her mother's
pearls, and took up the opal shoulder knot of Cedric's mother's and
was about to fasten it when some subtle thought stole the desire from
her, and she laid it back in the casket with a sigh. Instead, she
placed a bunch of jasmine as her shoulder-brooch, and extinguishing
the light went forth to meet her husband by the sun-dial.

She passed out by the door that led on to a small balcony and a-down
the flight of outside stairs that were covered with vines in purple
bloom. Although the darkness was almost impenetrable, she could
distinguish a form waiting at the foot of the stair. For an instant
she paused and whispered timourously,--

"Who art thou?"

"Julian," came as softly back, and a white hand was stretched out to
her. Down she flew, intrepid.

"Would I send another to meet thee; didst thou think to turn back, my
Katherine?"

"Nay, I should not have turned back; but 'twas assuring to hear thy
name. I am not afraid, yet--yet I tremble."

"And 'tis sweet of thee so to do; 'tis maidenly that thou shouldst;
'tis the way of woman. Thou art not afraid, yet thou dost tremble;
thou dost try to be brave, yet thou must be assured, and I am here by
thy side to assure thee ever," he whispered in her ear.

Down they swept across the upper terrace. Slowly they crossed the
greensward, with fairy-like light of firefly to illumine the way;
speaking as lovers will, with bated breath. The wind blew gently now
and again, casting a shower of petals upon them as they passed. When
the leaves shone white, the cavalier would say:

"We are so blessed, nature herself doth sprinkle the bridal path with
flowers;"--or, when there fell a darksome shower, Katherine would
press close to her lover's side and say,--

"Indeed, Julian, these are petals from those blood-red roses that have
hung in such profusion all summer. It may have some significance. I
believe I must return; 'tis not too late to recede."

Then the cavalier drew her closer than before, and so tenderly did
plead with her, she forgot her fears. So step by step they neared the
thicket where stood the ancient sun-dial that was well-nigh hid with
bridal roses.

The Chaplain stood ready; his fragile, pale countenance, hid by the
darkness. There was no faltering now. Katherine did not think to turn
back; that her heart was not with Sir Julian, that she would ever
regret this greatest moment in her life, but stood resolute.

The Chaplain began the ceremony at once, and so softly one could
scarcely hear a yard away. Katherine was agitated with the thought
that she was really being wedded, and hardly heeded when the Chaplain
raised or lowered his voice; appearing almost like one in a dream, so
blinded was she with the glamour of her new estate.

At last the Chaplain said the final words, pronouncing the twain as
one, and gave his blessing in a somewhat stronger voice that carried
in it a note of triumph, and was about to step down from the pedestal
of the dial when there flew out from the darkness a young man with
drawn sword, who dashed immediately upon the young husband. Barely had
the cavalier time to draw aside his wife, and drawing his sword as he
did so, when his _de trop_ guest made a fierce attack upon him. The
young husband cried out as he met the thrust,--

"Nay, nay, nay, by God nay!" It appeared his antagonist was becalmed
of speech, for he answered not but struggled to do so. Failing to find
his voice, however, he gave a lunge, which was met by a parry that
made him mad, and for a moment ground his teeth as fiercely as he
wielded his sword. The young cavalier threw himself on guard in carte,
which sent his opponent to giving such thrusts that quickly betrayed
his lack of skill and also his deadly intentions. These were met by
quick parries. Then the mad antagonist made a sweeping bend and thrust
at the cavalier's heart. This was met with a disengage. The mad youth,
well spent with anger and want of breath, broke out pantingly,--

"Thou wouldst play the honourable as thou playest the part of Sir
Ju--" His last word was cut short by a quick thrust of steel that
felled him to the sward. Mistress Katherine stood as if frozen, her
hands held tightly in those of the Chaplain, who whispered that it
might cost her husband his life should she interfere. He also assured
her, saying that the adversary was no swordsman, as she herself soon
saw. Some one came running from the castle at the same time Katherine
knelt beside the fallen man. But her husband whispered quickly,--

"Nay, nay; arise, Sweet; he is unworthy thy solicitude. Come with me.
I gave him but a puny thrust. The Chaplain will look after him." He
put his arm about her and raised her up and drew her away, saying,
much out of breath,--"I must not be seen, dost know?" She took fright,
fearing her lord's danger. Quickly they traversed the terrace and
reached the stair leading to Katherine's chamber. As she laid her hand
upon the railing, she said timourously,--"I would hear how serious is
the wound before I go inside!"

"But, Katherine," he whispered, "'twas no more than the prick of a
pin; beside, dost not thou have anxiety for thy lover's freedom; hast
forgotten our lord's temper when he finds I have so disgraced his
house by fighting 'neath the very windows? And if the fellow can talk
and tells of the marriage, why, I'm undone, and they will begin a
search." All the while he led her further up the stair, she unwitting,
until they stood fairly inside the threshold and his foot struck
against some obstacle.

"Sh-sh!" she enjoined, "Janet is within yonder room and will hear
thee; she may already be awake and prying about to know what is astir
upon the terrace!"

"Indeed, I think thou hadst better hide me!"

"Nay, I cannot; I know of no place. Dost thou not know of a safe
hiding?"

"I am safest here in thy chamber, I am sure. I know of no other place.
And if Janet come--which I hardly think possible--thou must fly to her
lighted taper and blow it out, and tell some sweet fib,--say the light
pains thine eyes."

"A ruse holds not good with Janet. I cannot play upon her wit."

"Then, Sweet, I will lock the door and--"

"Nay, nay, she will hear thee, and will come to see if I have been
awakened."

"Then I had best keep quiet and wait to see what will happen."

"There is naught else for thee to do, for surely thou canst not go
below, thou wouldst be seen, and--"

"--and, what, Sweet?"

"--and be taken prisoner."

"And wouldst thou be pained, Sweet?" He drew her close, his dark curls
swept her face as he bent his head. Nor did he wait for an answer, but
plied her with another question that the moment and the closeness gave
license to. "Wilt give, Sweet, the nuptial kiss--'tis my due?" She
raised her head from his shoulder ever so slightly to answer him, but
the words came not, for his lips were upon hers. She was thrilled with
his tenderness; 'twas more than she ever could have thought. And as
he held her close, she, not unwilling, declared separation would be
instant death. She wondered how she ever could have withstood love so
long. And he kissed her again and again, saying heaven could not offer
greater favour. "Dost feel happy now, Sweet?"

She answered not, but stood, her head leant against the rare and
scented lace of his steenkirk, held captive, trembling with an ecstasy
too sweet to be accounted for.

"Thou dost tremble, Kate; has thy fear not left thee yet?"

"Nay," came soft and breathless from her full red lips. "I am still
afraid."

"But what dost thou fear now, so close wrapped?"

"I know not; 'tis a strange fear. If thou shouldst be taken from me,
I should die; 'tis this I fear most of all, and even for a
separation--nay, nay, I could not live."

"Oh, Sweet, 'tis excess of gladness that thou art wife--wife, the word
alone fills me with rapturous exaltation. Wouldst be glad if we had
never met thus, should separation come?"

"Nay, a thousand times, nay, these moments are worth more than all my
life heretofore."

"Hast forgotten, I must leave the castle before very long, and an
_adieu_ must be said to thee?"

"I have not forgotten, but 'twill only be for a day. 'Twould be
hazardous for thee to go until everything is quiet about."

"And until I have quieted thy fears; until I have told thee of a
strong man's love--my love for thy glorious, youthful beauty. Thy
hair, Kate, is more precious than all the amber and bronze the world
holds; 'tis rich, soft and heavy, with glorious waves. Thy face so
filled with love's blushes warms my breast where it doth lie. The
glory of thy eyes that are ever submerging me in their azure depths.
Thy slender, white neck and graceful sloping shoulders. Indeed, Sweet,
thou art wonderfully made. There could not be a more perfect being.
And thou art mine, Sweet; 'tis a wonder that rough man could be so
blest. Thou dost often feign coldness, Kate, and now I wonder where
thou didst find such condition. 'Twas most unnatural, and how thou
couldst so well assume it--but I have found thy true heart. Sweet
Kate, thou hast at last fallen victim to Cupid's darts, and fortune
hath played me fair and put me in the way to receive such priceless
gift, whose dividends are to be all my own." His warm words came so
fast and he was so passionate and tender that Katherine took fright
and thought 'twas not like Sir Julian to be so, and yet to have him
otherwise? nay, she loved him thus, and she remembered the moment he
had pressed her hand as they rode through the forest; aye, he could be
as loving and tender as--as--She did not finish the thought, for her
lord's jewelled fingers had caught her hand and his arm held her
close, pressing her tenderly; his lips resting upon hers until she
grew faint with his ardour.

At last night paled into dawn. The cocks began to crow lustily. About
the edges of the great windows in the chamber the light began to peep
as if loath to cast one disturbing glance athwart the room. There was
a fluttering sigh from the folds of the maiden's handkerchief as her
lover bent over her, saying,--

"_Adieu_, Sweet, _adieu_ once more. Let me kiss thy eyelids close
until they pent these tears that parting hath wrung from thee, and
yet, were they not, I would be without weapon, void of panoply,
equipped not--"

"But thy urgent tongue and tenderness doth armour thee for conquest!"

"Aye, 'tis love's armour; but thy tears make me strong to enter strife
with men. I know 'tis love drives thee, and when that love is for me,
I can win all battles."

"Thou must haste before dawn, or thou wilt be taken; for we do not
know whether the young man still lives; and Lord Cedric will kill thee
if he can."

"There is no doubt but what he lives. His Grace's physicians have no
doubt healed the burden of his pain long ago. But do not thou think of
him, think only of this sweet night and--dream of our meeting again.
And if his lordship keeps thee prisoner, tell Janet thou art fast wed
and she will help thee to our _rendezvous_ to-morrow. Pray, Sweet,
that the day may be short, for now I see only cycles of time until the
set of morrow's sun."

Dawn broke into a new day. Sunshine bathed old Earth in golden
splendour. The day grew warm, as higher and higher leapt Phoebus,
until he rested high and hot upon Zenith's bosom, causing all mankind
to pant by his excess.

Slowly Katherine raised her lazy eyelids until the shining blue
beneath lay in quivering uncertainty. She smiled up at Janet, saying,
sleepily,--

"I've a notion not to arise to-day. 'Twill be long and wearisome, and
hot. What is the use? There is nothing in the world to get up for!"

"Indeed there is a very great deal to get up for. 'Tis a glorious day.
The gardens are aglow with beauty and the air is fine, though warm."

"I know, Janet, and 'tis thy desire that I arise, but the castle seems
most empty. Their Graces have departed and--"

"Nay, not so. There has been a great change in the Duke, and the
physicians will not allow his leaving his couch."

"Ah, I'm sorry! What time did this change take place?" said Katherine
with a feeling of subtleness that for once she had tricked Janet and
knew of great things that had happened in the deep night, when her
faithful nurse thought her in dreamland.

"Her Grace says there was a great change in him yesterday, that she
noticed it as he ate his dinner."

"And was there no change in the night?" said Katherine sagely.

"Speak out, Lambkin, that 'tis on thy mind--if thou dost mean, was he
disturbed when the castle was aroused?--why, no, he was not."

"But how didst thou know there was an arousal?"

"I did play the simpering bride's maid, and stood for witness to thine
espousal."

"Ah! ah! ah! Janet, I can keep no secret from thee!" Quickly she
sprang to the floor. Her foot struck her lover's sword. She stooped
and raised it, and there flashed forth from the jewel encrusted handle
the noble armourial bearings, charged upon a gold escutcheon, of Lord
Cedric's house. Wonderingly, she examined it and swept her brow with
the back of her slender hand. Slowly she spoke, and in a voice vibrant
with portent, her eyes now wide open.

"This--this doth trend to set my brain a-whirl, and doth connive to
part sense from understanding and mind from body. To be sure, 'twas
dark,--and allowing that I was well-nigh intoxicated with love--my
brain could truly swear 'twas Sir Julian; and yet this he flung aside
doth confute reason, and I must either ponder upon the this and that
in endeavouring to conjoin mental and physical forces to sweet amity
or give over that reaching wife's estate hath made of me a sordid
fool, as hath it oft made woman heretofore. My senses up until I met
one of two at the foot of the stair, I could make affidavit on. The
mould of either could well trick the other, providing their heads were
as muddled as mine, and in this matter I am also clear. 'Twas meet
to speak lowly and the voice was not betrayed. But--there was some
restraint at first; for his words came slow and with much flaunting of
French--indeed 'twas overdone.--And the duel--ah! ah!--'twas Cedric's
'Nay, nay, nay!--' with an oath that had no note of Sir Julian in it.
And hard he strove not to fight, nor did he until the other cried out
to him--I see it all plainly; 'twas Cedric, 'twas Cedric! If I could
mistake all else, I could not mistake his passion; 'twas: 'Kate' this,
and 'Kate' that. Sir Julian never called me else than Katherine. And
his words were over plain, and in truth they became not so slow and
studied, and there was a leaving off of French. 'Twas he! Ah! and he
was so sweet and gentle and near drowned me by his tenderness--'twas
such sweet love--" Quickly she hid her blushing face in the pillow,
for she forgot she was speaking aloud.

"Hast thou then married mind to body? If thou hast them well mated and
art sure thou art through espousing, I will straightway wed thee to
thy clothes, that thou mayest first pay thy respects to their Graces,
then go out into the sunshine and walk thee up and down for the half
of an hour, where, 'tis most like thou wilt find thy lord, who is too
impatient to remain indoors."

"Nay, I shall not see him!"

"Tut, Lambkin! thou wouldst not play the shrew to so noble a lord,
that soon, no doubt, will be a great Duke?"

"He hath tricked and deceived me. I will punish him for it. Nay; I
have no mind to see him. I could not bear it, Janet. 'Twas this he
meant, for I wondered when he said he had fought two duels and had
been victor in both. Nay; he shall not see me nor I him." And with
these thoughts came others, and thus she fostered malice, promoting
but a puny aversion that she cherished the more for its frailty.

"Art thou set upon affecting the manners of an orange girl?"

"Janet, I would not make feint at that I am not."

"Neither would I, if 'twere me, make feint at that thou art. If thou
hast the name of Lady, I would fit my demeanour to the word. And it
should be an easy thing, for thou art born to the manner."

"But bad nursing doth corrupt good blood!"

"And a froward child doth denote a spared rod!"

"And moral suasion is oft an ethical farce!"

"A votary of non-discipline is impregnable to ethics."

"Oh, Janet, dear Janet, I am weary. How is the young man that was
wounded?"

"The same as ever; save his ardour is somewhat cooled."

"Thou dost speak as if thou hadst known him."

"Indeed, any cock of the hackle is essentially commonplace."

"But he carried the sword of a gentleman?"

"Thou dost mean he carried a gentleman's sword."

"Dost thou know who he is, Janet?"

"I have not inquired."

"In other words, thou didst see him. And 'twas--I am sure--Adrian
Cantemir."

"'Twas none other."

"I will go down now and see their Graces."

"Art sure thou wilt not see thy lord?"

"Aye, quite!"

"Then--here this is for thee." She handed her a dainty billet,
scented with bergamot. Katherine took it in trembling haste, her face
rose-hued. It read: "To My Lady of Crandlemar. Greeting to my sweet
wife, Kate. I await my reprimand and sword. When I am so honoured, I
shall enlist to serve thee with my presence, which, until then, is
held by thee in abeyance. Thou canst not rob me of my thoughts,
which hold naught else but thee; nor yet that dainty girdle that did
encompass thy fair and slender mould. I have it on my heart, close
pressed; but it doth keep that it lieth on in turmoil by such
proximity. I know thou dost love me, even though I tricked thee. Janet
was to tell thee this morning who thy true lord is, for, Sweet, I
would have no other image but mine in thy heart, for soon--soon--aye,
in a very short time--I may be a prisoner in the Tower. Do not think,
Sweet, this is a ruse--but should I be taken where I might not see thy
face, 'twould be sweet to know thou didst hold my image, dear.
Forgive me, Sweet, and--_au revoir!_--Perhaps thy heart will relent
before--before the nightingale sings.--Relent, sweetheart, wife." Kate
pressed the billet to her lips without thinking, then turned her
back quickly to hide the action; but 'twas too late. Janet had been
watching every movement and was satisfied.

"I wish I had not opened it; such letters are disturbing. Janet, go
below and find if I may see her Grace without meeting any one." When
alone, she devoured again and again the billet, and as Janet returned,
thrust it quickly within the bosom of her gown.

"His lordship has returned from the terrace and is in the picture
gallery. Her Grace wishes to see thee and waits breakfast."

For an hour Katherine was with the Duchess, who talked very plainly of
the possible death of her husband and the duties of a great estate and
noble name that would fall to Cedric and his wife to keep up. Nor
did she let the young wife go without telling her into what an awful
condition she might not only lead herself but Cedric, when she allowed
her caprice to manage her better self. It did her ladyship much good,
and she sauntered out upon the lawn and shyly sought the sun-dial and
brought from it a nosegay of bridal-roses and fled, shamefaced, with
them to her own chamber, there to seat herself by the open window to
wait and watch for her young lord.

CHAPTER XXII

CEDRIC IN THE TOILS

In the French colony where lay the valuable lands of Sir John Penwick,
there was a lively insurrection of the English. The Papist party, who
had built and lived upon the property for the past ten years, was
strong, having among the Protestants lively adherents who were
Catholics at heart and wore the Protestant cloak that they might the
better spy upon them. The English, being so much the weaker, had been
lead by a few men who were bought by the Catholics. La Fosse had had
to do with these few men only, when he had made a show of settling
Sir John's affairs. These men had heretofore held the secret of the
hostage; but recent events had stirred them to strife and they had
fallen at variance over the spoil. The secret had been let out. The
English rose in arms when the French suggested that such a small
colonial matter should be settled among themselves; 'twas a shame to
bother the Crown.

Upon the sudden outburst, Sir John made his escape from prison. The
French said he had been stolen by the English and immediate reparation
must be made; his person or a ransom must be had. Or, if they would
give up all claim to the property and child,--the latter being
produced at once--the French were willing to call the matter
settled. Indeed, this was all they wished, and if Sir John could be
conveniently made away with forever, and it proven that the English
had accomplished it, they would certainly be entitled to his
hereditaments.

Buckingham held the key to the situation. He saw a way to pay a ransom
for Sir John; also a way to gain enough gold from the enterprise to
make himself independent for life. He found Sir John in London,
but not until after Cantemir had gained the former's confidence.
Buckingham took alarm at Cantemir's knowledge and insisted upon Sir
John removing to a place of greater seclusion; it being feared that he
would be murdered.

Sir John was fond of the Duke, and beside taking his advice, he laid
bare his heart and told him of his great distress over Katherine.
Cantemir had said that she was being held dishonourably by the old
lord's son, who was profligate and only sought her favour without
marriage.

Buckingham assured him to the contrary, and made him acquainted with
the true circumstances; not failing to tell him of Mistress Penwick's
unsettled disposition; her ambitions, and intractable nature; that
she was refractory and vexatious; petulant and forever thwarting Lord
Cedric's advances.

The Duke concluded this friendly visit by insinuating strongly--that
Sir John might infer--that the friendship which amounted to nothing
less than love, between himself and Lord Cedric, would alone--barring
the question of a beautiful daughter--suffice to bring the latter to
a full appreciation of Sir John's case. And if a ransom was decided
upon, as being the surest means for his immediate safety, my Lord
Cedric would pay and not feel its loss.

"And," went on the Duke, "when chance or design brings thee together,
if thou wouldst not be made to feel utterly unhappy, mention not the
matter to him. He is eccentric like the old lord, and would fall
into the spleen, which condition, when entered into by his lordship,
becomes of the temperature of that nondescript bourne the other side
of Paradise."

Buckingham knew that two emissaries were upon the seas from the New
World. They were coming to interest the King in behalf of Sir John. So
far the Duke had kept everything from his Majesty and must also keep
these "bumpkins" from tormenting him with importunities of so rustic a
nature as "western lands."

But the Duke had made provision,--should his designs be curtailed by
laches--delegating himself to the post of intercessor, whereby he
could fool both the King and the emissary. Serious injury would be
done to no one, unless Cedric might feel poor for a short time. But
what were the odds; the Duke of Ellswold would soon die and Cedric's
wealth would be unlimited. He would, with a handsome young wife,
forget his finances ever were in depletion.

Buckingham had already disposed of some of Sir John's jewels and
rare laces, brought over by La Fosse and stored in the chest at
the monastery. There was, however, in the great Duke a vein of
compunction, and for its easement he had refrained from selling some
rare and costly miniatures belonging to Sir John's wife, evidently
handed down through a long line of consanguinity. These he resolved in
some way to return; perhaps he should find it convenient to present
them to Mistress Penwick.

And so the thick, fierce clouds rolled up and gathered themselves
together, hanging low, over the head of handsome, careless, rich,
young Lord Cedric.

The village of Crandlemar was indignant that he had allowed to
exist for so long a time the privilege of the monastery. And these
exceptions, with a hint of some foul murder committed at the castle,
reached the nobles roundabout and stirred up a general demur. Beside,
it was whispered in the shire-moot that the woman about to be espoused
by him was a rank Papist and had already placed popish pictures about
the Chapel that was contiguous to the castle. This was all that
possibly could be said against her, as she was known to be most
gracious to the poor Protestants in and about Crandlemar; giving
equally to both factions with a lavish hand. But these matters were
all brought up to militate against his lordship.

Lord Cedric was already feeling the first thrusts of his enemy,
Misfortune; for 'twas very evident that his Grace of Ellswold was
near his death. Warming-pans were of no avail. He grew very cold; his
extremities were as ice; while the attendants of his bed-chamber were
as red as cooked lobsters from the natural heat of the midsummer's day
and the steaming flannels that were brought in at short intervals.

Her Grace walked back and forth outside his door continually, Lord
Cedric joining her at times.

The Castle seemed inured to quiet by his Grace's long illness; but now
there fell a subtle silence that presaged the coming of an unwholesome
visitant. In a room apart lay Adrian Cantemir, weak and sick, but
cursing every breath he drew; excited at times to actual madness, and
saying,--Why had he come a minute too late? Why had he not followed
his own inclinations and broken away from the gambling table at the
inn an hour earlier? such thoughts making him absolutely furious.

He had arrived some time after dark at Crandlemar village, and,
putting up at the hostelry, he resolved to pay his visit to the castle
early on the morrow. He was now beginning to feel that he was destined
to gain his point, or why had he so far thwarted Lord Cedric, and why
had he escaped the anger of the monks by a well worded and quickly
manufactured tale, and even gained their help by it, when they found
him bound in the passage, left so by Buckingham. So he had felt
somewhat at ease, but love and ambition were strong and stirred him to
leave wine and cards and ride out into the open; and, unwitting it may
be, to the castle gates. He travelled without groom; so fastening his
horse, he entered the avenue a-foot, soon reaching the dark pile of
stone which appeared in absolute darkness. Aimlessly he left the
avenue and sauntered across the terraces. He had heard a peculiar low
murmuring of voices and drew near only to hear Katherine made the
wife of another man; hardly understanding until the Chaplain gave the
blessing. He knew what Katherine did not; that she was the wife of
Lord Cedric and not Sir Julian. He flung himself with all his fury
upon the bridegroom to no avail, as has been seen.

These inflammable thoughts, as Cantemir rehearsed them over and over,
set his brain afire and before night he was in a fever. The kind and
gentle Lady Bettie Payne, who had arrived late in the afternoon, had
gathered nosegays and made bright his chamber, for she truly had
compassion upon him. He called her Katherine, as she gave him cooling
draughts with her own hand.

Lord Cedric was somewhat surprised the next evening to that of his
wedding to see the Duke of Buckingham standing in the great hall of
the castle. And when the Duke's business was thrust upon him, there
came also dark forebodings; a separation of indefinite length from his
young wife, should he be taken to the Tower. Great was his surprise
at the Duke's first words, for they were that Katherine's father was
alive and well and in London. He gave quickly the whole story of Sir
John's escape, also the attempt to recapture him. Then came what his
Lordship expected;--a request for a fortune. Of course, while Cedric
thought the amounts asked would not be wholly a loss, yet he knew the
amounts allowed of a great margin of perquisites, and to whom these
perquisites would go, he could guess. However, without question or
complaint, he agreed to give what the Duke asked for; indeed the
matters were settled there and then.

"If Sir John's life is in danger, I know of no better place of safety
than here. He had better come with all haste--'twould be my wife's
desire!"

"Wife, so soon?" And the great Duke raised his eyebrows--a small
action, but with him it had a world of meaning in it. "I congratulate
thee, my lord, but--if her ladyship knew the danger that would beset
her father upon such a journey, I feel sure she would wait patiently
a time that must of necessity be of some length. I beg my lord not to
think of bringing Sir John hither. As I hinted before, if this matter
is brought out and he is proven guiltless of those little matters
hinted of, then he could meet her without this heaviness that so
weights him. I am sure if such a thought as meeting his daughter were
mentioned, he would heartily beg for its postponement and--especially
now that she is my Lady of Crandlemar." It stood Buckingham much in
hand to keep Sir John and Lord Cedric from meeting, for he had, not
only told truth, but had heartlessly impugned the former's character
to line his own pocket with the latter's wealth. The truth of the
matter was that he was tight caught in a network of financial and
political intrigue, and this was the only means to disentangle
himself.

After this first business was settled, a second affair was introduced
and the Duke spoke of his lordship's matters at Court. He said:

"The King is hard pressed by the nobles--or a portion of them. They
insisted that thou wert aiding the Catholics in such a manner that
the lives of Protestants in this vicinity were in danger. They even
whisper that a plot is being formulated to murder Monmouth. The King
felt it incumbent to send for thee, and as the courier was about
to start forth, he received word that the messenger he had sent in
pursuit of my Lady of Candlemar had been foully dealt with by no other
hand than thine. This stirred the King into a frenzy and straightway
he charged thee with treason and--one comes now to take thee to the
Tower or wherever it pleases his Majesty to put thee. Indeed, he may
have so far forgiven thee by the time thou dost see London, he will
offer thee half his bed or--any unusual favour. So take heart. The
King loves thee." The illness of Ellswold precluded the Duke from
paying any visits within the castle, and he hastened back to London.

Lord Cedric felt if he could only tell Katherine that her father was
well and in London, it might bring a reconciliation, and his eyes
wandered to the hour-glass, and as he noted the golden sands, he
thought there was yet time for a lover's quarrel and then a sweet
making-up, which should have no limit of time; but, alas! such
blissful moments would doubtless be cut short by the arrival of
the King's messenger. All of a sudden a wicked thought came, as he
remembered how but a few moments before she had turned coldly from him
as he met her in the gallery, and he resolved 'twould be a good time
to make her feel a little of how he had suffered. Separation from her
was all he feared now, and she could not help that. She was fast tied
to him, and he was satisfied; and now why not torment some of those
Satanic whims out of her. "Aye, 'tis the thing to do!" Even as he
thought of her, she had gone with Janet and Lady Bettie to Cantemir's
chamber, for the latter in a lucid moment begged Lady Bettie to bring
her to him. He gave her the letter he bore from her father, requesting
her to come to him at once. She was quite beside herself with joy;
yet, such is human nature, she on a sudden was in no hurry to leave
Lord Cedric. Then she thought he might go with her--but she never
would ask him. So after much thinking and feverish deliberation, she
sent the letter to him by Janet. Cedric compared the handwriting with
the letter he still carried of Sir John's. There was no doubt that the
chirography was the same. He was again thwarted by the Russian. He was
to gain his wife's ear by this very news. But there were other ways,
and he said,--

"I have but a few moments to spend with her ladyship; go to her and
tell her so; say that a courier is now upon the highway and--will soon
arrive to conduct me to Tyburn-tree by order of the King--"

"Good heavens, surely your Lordship is not serious!"

"I have been forewarned, Janet. Go, tell her the news. Do not mince
the sorry tale. Let her have the weight of it--if weight it be for her
pent affection. Indeed, make it strong, blandish it with no 'ifs' or
'mayhaps' or 'possible chances of a change of mind with the King.'
Thou must make up quickly a whole catalogue of the horrors enacted at
Tyburn. Go, go, hasten thyself, good nurse. I will wait for her here."

Hardly had Janet disappeared when the door again was thrown open and
the footman announced a gentleman upon the King's errand. 'Twas indeed
his Majesty's guardsman with his order, and Cedric listened with
flushed face and beating heart, not to what he said, but for the sound
of a silken rustle upon the great hall parquetry; and as he heard it,
he raised his voice and said sternly to the courier,--

"And this means Tyburn-tree--a farewell forever to my friends--" There
was at these last words a suspicious trembling in his tones that was
not wholly natural,--"an _adieu_ to all this world that begun for me
only--yesterday at the singing of the nightingale--" the sentence was
left unfinished, for Katherine now fell at his feet and embraced his
knees and said with blanched lips,--

"What is this horrible tale, my lord? Say 'tis not so!" Great unbroken
sobs made her voice tremble, and there was such extreme misery in her
face and attitude the guardsman was about to utter a protest, for the
order had said nothing of Tyburn, and at such unwarranted display of
grief at a summons--why he would put a stop to it; but his lordship
put up his hand. "Say 'tis not so," she repeated.

"Nay, I cannot say it, for I know not what lies before me." Katherine
was unable to control her grief, and as it broke out, the guardsman
discreetly walked to the farther end of the room. Cedric had raised
her from the floor and half-supported her as she poured out her grief
in words of pleading and entreaty; but Cedric was as adamant, he would
not bend to offer any hope. This unbending quality she could not
understand, and took it as an omen of ill. In very truth she felt she
was to lose for all time her heart's idol. And when Cedric spoke to
the guard and told him he was ready to go, she cried "Nay, nay, nay!"
in such awful agony he came near relenting. She turned white and would
have fallen, had not Cedric supported her. Janet had already entered
the room and now came running to her mistress, whom she took in her
arms. Cedric turned to the guardsman, saying,--

"My wife is ill. If thou wilt return to London, I will follow within a
day or so!"

"In the name of the King I beg my Lord of Crandlemar--"

Janet broke in at this and said with a ringing voice,--

"Thy order is for the Lord of Crandlemar?"

"It is, madam."

"Then I will tell thee, sir, Lord Cedric of Crandlemar is not here.
This is the Duke of Ellswold." She turned to his lordship as she spoke
and saw his face grow white. He loved his uncle tenderly. There was a
moment of palpable silence; the guardsman bowed to the floor, and the
long plumes of his hat swept it in homage, as he raised his hand to
his breast. Katherine had swooned and did not hear Janet's assertion,
nor did she hear the King's other order for the Duke of Ellswold.
The King was aroused and would allow of no mischance. Cedric must go
before his Majesty at once.

After a few moments in the death chamber, Cedric started for London.
Before they had reached the confines of the city, however, the news of
the old Duke's demise had reached the King, who was in high humour,
and the result was, a courier had been sent to tell Cedric to return
to his castle until after the funeral. So Cedric, accompanied by the
King's guard, rode on to the Seat of the Dukes of Ellswold, where in
the old Abbey there was much pomp in the putting away of the late
Duke.

It was a great disappointment to Cedric not to see Katherine, and
he was grieved to learn she had not, after so many days, entirely
recovered from her swoon. He was consoled, however, by his aunt's
assertion that her illness was not serious. He turned from Ellswold
and hastened back London way, impatient to know why he was sent for,
and to have matters settled satisfactorily for all time, that he might
with an unburdened heart go to Crandlemar and claim his Duchess; who,
he now knew, would be the sweet and loving wife she should. He was
truly sad at the loss of his uncle, and for this cause alone he rode
into London with downcast appearance. He feared not the evils of the
Tower or Tyburn-tree or the menace of either Catholic or Protestant
party; neither the importunities of Buckingham; had he not now a great
fortune?--ah! but death had brought it him,--and the bitter was mixed
with the sweet. There were other matters to menace his peace of mind
that had not come until that very moment. What if the Crown should
confiscate his property; what was he to do with his wife? There was
his aunt, Sir Julian and Lady Bettie Payne, they would care for her.
Then his thoughts wandered to Constance, and for a while he half
believed he had forgiven her. Then he wondered if she had aught to do
with his present condition.

The King in the meantime was not to be duped by Lady Constance. She
prided herself upon being discreet, but she was not enough so for the
King's sharp eyes.

"Odd's fish," said he, "the boy is a woman!" And though he had a
saturnine and harsh countenance, his disposition was both merry and
lenient. He teased her unmercifully, threatening to promote so fine
a lad to a gentleman of his bed-chamber. He bade a woman bring some
clothing suitable for a female and gave the lady into the hands of
female attendants.

The easy manner of the time gave the courtiers license to taunt her.
This made her very uncomfortable. The queen's ladies' eyes were upon
her. The King's mistresses, not recognizing her as a rival, poked fun
at her from behind their fans. But Lady Constance would bear a great
deal for the sake of gaining her point. She had posted herself upon
the King's affairs with the Duke of Ellswold, and was in a state of
great expectation when she heard that the latter was to be brought to
the Tower immediately after his uncle's funeral. His entire demesne
was out of his hands, he was sadly impoverished; this she bought from
Buckingham's menials. It greatly delighted her, for she had more
wealth than she knew what to do with, and Cedric, seeing her so
pampered by his Majesty, would surely begin to see what a great lady
she was, and perhaps would offer her some attention. She did not know
that Katherine was already the Duchess of Ellswold. She heard from
Monmouth that Mistress Penwick was to be brought to the palace at the
same time Cedric was brought to London, and that 'twas not altogether
sure whether his Grace of Ellswold would be taken to the Tower or be
made a Royal guest, as the King was first cursing, then praising the
new Duke. So Constance began to picture Cedric standing before her,
his face flushed as she remembered it to be, his eyelids that he knew
so well how to lower, then raise ever so slightly, sending forth from
beneath an amorous glance that made her tremble with a sweet thrill
of pleasure. Thus she lived from hour to hour, waiting for his Grace,
little guessing the awful disappointment that awaited her. She fairly
counted the moments.

To her great joy she saw him again. He was brought to the palace,
instead of to the Tower. When the King saw the Duke, he forgot, or
appeared to forget, that the Duke was a prisoner, and openly embraced
him and had him placed near his own apartments. His Majesty was in
high good humour, hearing from the Duke's own lips that he had nothing
to do with the hiding away of his messenger, and explaining sundry
other matters to his satisfaction. "The Duchess," for so the Duke
spoke of Katherine for the first time before his Majesty, was unable
to arise from her couch, and therefore could not as yet be brought
to the palace. The King said he was pleased that so noble a Duke had
gained his point, even though he had outwitted his King.

"Odd's fish, and to be separated so soon! it must not be!"

Lady Constance was joyous when she saw Cedric arrive without
Katherine, but at once it made her very curious to know why the "wench
was left behind; for was it not the King's order?" She sent a maid to
inquire among the servants of the Duke. When the maid returned and
told her that Katherine was the Duke's wife, she fainted away. But
after a few hours of awful depression and heart-sickness she again
nerved herself to battle harder, if possible, than heretofore.

The Duke's trial was begun, and nothing it seemed could be absolutely
proven against him. It appeared the King shut his eyes and ears to
anything that would incline against his Grace. Not so Constance, who
worked secretly. She was determined, if possible, to see him go to the
Tower, as the only immediate means of separating him from his wife,
who was expected any week at the Royal abode. She informed some of
the nobles that were against him that their principal witness, Adrian
Cantemir, lay ill from a sword thrust at Crandlemar Castle. To be
sure, they had almost forgotten the young man, who had been such a
leader in the beginning. This held the case in suspension and the Duke
still a prisoner; but the King gave him no time for thought; they
rode, walked, drank, theatred and supped together. If 'twere not for
the Duke's love for his wife, and his mourning for his uncle, which
cast so deep a shadow over his natural gaiety, 'twas possible he might
have been drawn by his Majesty into intrigues of a feminine character.

Constance was ever throwing herself in his path, but he deigned not a
glance her way. She appeared content to watch him, whether he paid her
any attention or not. She was careful to learn of his fortunes, as the
King to appease the Protestant nobles had confiscated the Ellswold
estates and everything else that Buckingham had not taken. But this
sort of thing was a matter of form with his Majesty. His mind was
fully made up. He was not to be frighted or cajoled. He even went so
far as to assure the Duke that as soon as his character was proven,
giving the nobles no chance to gainsay, he should at once take
possession of his estate. The Duke, however, had only his jewels to
borrow on, and that was insufferable to his pride. He had a large
retinue to support, servants that were aged; these he must look after.
Thus matters stood for weeks and months.

Cantemir was at last able to be moved, and was brought to London,
where he again tried to communicate with Sir John Penwick, but
Buckingham intercepted all letters. There also came word from the new
Lord of Crandlemar, that he was about to take up his abode in England.
This made Ellswold uneasy and impatient; for he had not money
sufficient to place his Duchess in his town house, had he been at
liberty to do so, for the great place had not been kept in repair and
it must be renovated according to her own ideas. If his trial could
only be at once and he could go for her and take her to Ellswold! The
King saw his unusual depression and gained from him a confession of
his troubles, and without letting the Duke know, sent for the Duchess,
who he said should remain at the palace until the Duke should be free
to go. When his Majesty told the Duke--for he could not keep the
secret--the latter was grateful and felt it was the only alternative,
and was much comforted that soon he should see and be with his
Duchess, who, he had learned had regained her colour and was in good
spirit.

"The King, not caring for the pomp and state his predecessors had
assumed, was fond of exiling the formality practiced by a sovereign
and taking on the easy manners of a companion. He had lived, when in
exile, upon a footing of equality with his banished nobles, and had
partaken freely and promiscuously in the pleasures and frolics by
which they had endeavoured to sweeten adversity. He was led in this
way to let distinction and ceremony fall to the ground as useless and
foppish, and could not even on premeditation, it is said, act for a
moment the part of a King either at parliament or council, either
in words or gesture. When he attended the House of Lords, he would
descend from the throne and stand by the fire, drawing a crowd about
him that broke up all regularity and order of the place." In this free
and unrestrained way he had put his arm through the Duke's and said
confidently,--

"The House of Ellswold shall be honoured in an unusual way; that at
least should be a great comfort to thee; but I promise, no matter how
the Council act in these matters of thine, thou shalt soon enjoy the
comfort of thy new estate at Ellswold."

CHAPTER XXIII

THE COCOANUTS OF THE KING'S CELLAR

Matters at Crandlemar were comparatively quiet. There was nothing
unusual, unless indeed it was the assiduousness of the young Duchess,
who from morning until night ceased not to offer hecatombs for the
safety and freedom of her lord. She prayed, fasted and sacrificed for
her every desire. She gave alms, offering condolence and sympathy.
In her petitions she threw aside all contumely, calling the poorest,
sister. She allowed not her thoughts to go astray, striving
continually for a pure and meek heart, begging forgiveness for her
untowardness toward her husband. Perhaps one of the most remarkable of
her acts was the one performed at twilight--discovered by Janet, the
wise.

The nurse went to seek her one evening, and found the young woman in
a dense cloud of blue that emanated from a costly thurible, which she
was swinging before the crucifix in the Chapel. Ascending with the
sweet incense was a psalm of contrition uttered from a truly penitent
heart. A tall candle burned, lighting up the white-robed figure, and
the filmy incense that enveloped it to a saintly vision. Though Janet
watched her mistress thus environed with sacredness, yet the deep
impression was somewhat charged with a sense of humour; "for," she
opined to herself, "people are so much more ridiculous in mending a
breach than they are in making it!" But Janet was not a Catholic, and
beside, she made few mistakes and could condone an offence only when
made by one she loved. Knowing Katherine as she did, she admired the
outward show more than the spirit, and thought of the two the former
was more stable. Katherine often prayed aloud, and Janet hearing her,
caught the burden of her prayer, and there was actual pain in her
voice when she cried out that Cedric might be forgiven for the murder
of Christopher. Now Janet knew that the lad had only been slightly
injured by Hiary and had fully recovered, and she determined to send
for him, and at the Vesper service introduce him into the Chapel and
thereby cause to cease her mistress' plaints. And so it came about in
the late autumn, when Crandlemar was about to receive its new master
from Wales, and the plate and all belongings of the Duke had been sent
to Ellswold, and Katherine herself was to set forth for London within
a few days, she entered the Chapel for her customary devotions. As she
prayed, she was aroused by the opening of the outer door. She looked
up and saw Christopher before her. Janet was surprised at her calmness
and was amazed when Katherine said to him that she had been expecting
to see him all day, as she had heard the evening before that he was
alive and had been seen near the castle grounds. Now it was impossible
to make Katherine think it was a direct answer to prayer, though Janet
did her best. But as it proved, a great weight had fallen from the
Duchess' heart, for she became perfectly joyous and positively
neglected her devotions in the Chapel. She was delighted to set forth,
for the moment had actually arrived, and within a few days she would
see Cedric, and, she hoped, her father also; but the latter's abode
was unknown to her, save only that 'twas in London.

The night of her arrival at the Royal Palace had closed down dark
and stormy. The King and Queen, with the ladies and gentlemen of the
Court, had repaired to the Duke of York's theatre to see played the
"Black Prince," written by the Earl of Orrery. The King had insisted
upon the Duke of Ellswold accompanying them, but the latter declared
the play would be a torture, when he should be thinking that perhaps
his wife might arrive in his absence. Other thoughts also assailed
him, of which he hinted not to the King; but he was confident
Constance meant mischief, and he was unwilling to give her any chance
to put the weight of her anger on the Duchess.

The great cream-hued chariot bearing Katherine rolled past the Mall
and up to the palace. The sleet was falling rapidly and the wind
blowing such a gale the sound of the coach was not heard by the Duke,
as he paced his chamber. She was trembling and eager, and heard not
the admonitions of Janet and Angel to mind the ice-clad step that was
let down. She was expectant and eager to see her spouse; but she stood
within her apartment and Janet was loosening her capes when the Duke
came bounding to her side. He took her in his arms and gazed and
gazed, and they minded not the presence of the two nurses, who on a
sudden became busy unpacking her Grace's chests. He kissed her until
her face was rose-red, and she was drunken with love.

When Lady Constance heard that Katherine had arrived, she became very
impatient to catch one glimpse of her. She had heard many things about
the young wife, and she had her suspicions and upon them she formed
a plan to throw a taunt upon her Grace, bringing both Monmouth and
Cantemir into the case. She resolved to make Katherine as unhappy
as possible. She scrupled at nothing. Now the fair Constance prided
herself upon being a prisoner of the King; but she was not so certain
of his favour that she dare make one single open move against
Katherine. She must taunt her in secret; but how to do this was
puzzling, for she kept her apartment, partly from fatigue after her
long ride, and it may be from a disinclination to go abroad. So she
bided her time and ungraciously as she saw the popularity of the noble
woman grow and grow; she was fast becoming a great favourite. Indeed,
she was constantly visited by the King and Queen, and the greatest
ladies of the Court. The Queen had grown very fond of her, spending
hours in her company and oftentimes taking her for a walk or ride.
Before the Duchess had been within the Palace a month, she was
imitated in every way. Great ladies became so familiar, they would
take up her articles of the toilet and copy the manufacturer's name.
They in a short time were using the same concoction of rouge and
perfumes. Their maids must learn what Janet did for her mistress in
the way of baths, for "never was there such healthful and dainty
complexion." And when the Duke began buying cocoanuts by the wagon
load at an enormous expense, and 'twas known that her Grace drank the
milk of it by the quart, the King's cellar became too small to hold
the quantities that were brought to the ladies of the Court. And 'twas
said many of the young fops also used the milk for their complexion.
Constance had not yet ordered any of this fruit, but she ascertained
where the Duke's were kept and how it might be possible to obtain a
few of them for an object that was at least original. Before, however,
she resorted to the arts of chemistry, there was an opportunity to
give the Duchess a thrust. Two great chests were being unbound in
the corridor just outside of her Grace's door. Constance knew they
contained an elaborate and costly _layette_; so she hurried to her own
apartment and wrote in a disguised hand a billet that threw out the
worst of insinuations, and as a finale she added a _pasquinade_ copied
hastily from some low and bitter lampoon. She returned through the
corridor, and, unnoticed, thrust the paper into a crevice of one of
the chests. But Katherine never saw the billet, she was not disturbed
in the least, and her ladyship soon saw some one else had gotten hold
of it, for there was not a shadow on her Grace's face. This goaded
Constance to a perfect fury, and she resolved upon extreme measures.

One very dark and stormy day she left the palace dressed as a servant,
and drove in a public conveyance to an old chemist's, who resided in
a remote portion of the city. Here she procured materials that if
properly handled and successively served would bring the youthful
Duchess to her death. She resolved in this case to work slowly and
cautiously, allowing of no mischance. It so happened the chemist did
not have the articles she required, but promised for a liberal sum to
procure them from a certain celebrated physician. This of course would
take some time. But the physician was in France and would not return
for at least a fortnight. So a fortnight went by and another and
another, until Constance' patience was exhausted, and as she went to
the shop for the last time, vowing to wait no longer, if the chemist
had not the things, lo! they were there; and after learning how simple
it was to use them, she hastened to the palace, there to be met by the
news that the Duchess had brought forth a son of rousing weight and
strength. Constance fell into a fever, and was obliged to keep her bed
for some weeks; then she arose and after being seen again among the
ladies of the Court and appearing as unconcerned as possible, when
speaking of the Ellswold heir, she found her way below stair and made
siege upon the King's cellar and looted a good dozen cocoanuts.

She had procured from the chemist a protrusile instrument for letting
fluid through the hard outer covering, and in this manner intended to
inoculate the milk of the nut with a slow poison. These, of course,
after such treatment, would be returned to their fellows, and the
death of Katherine with that of the young lord would be assured.

After a few trials she succeeded in obtaining a result that was
entirely satisfactory, if the hole thus made could be effectually
plugged. She filled the aperture with a viscous matter that would in
a few moments harden if placed in the sun, and to this end she opened
the window and laid the cocoanut in the sun's rays upon the sill.

She was quite alone, yet she feared; indeed, so deadly was her intent,
she jumped at every noise, and upon hearing some sound without,
slipped on tip-toe from the window to the door and listened, then
cautiously drew the bolt and looked without. The corridor seemed even
more quiet than usual. Her fears were subdued and as she turned about
to close the door, a suction of air caught the curtain and swelled
it through the open window, thereupon sweeping the cocoanut to the
ground, where it fell at the very feet of his Majesty. When Constance
saw what the vile wantonness of the wind had done, she fell upon her
knees in wild despair and tremblingly remained thus for an instant
only, for a bit of hope sprang up. She arose and quickly ran to the
window,--she hesitated, then, ever so slowly she peeped over the sill,
and there stood the King with the nut in his hand. "Ah!" she said,
drawing back quickly, for they were not looking up, and she felt
relief that they did not see her, but unfortunately for her, a lackey
was standing some little distance from his Majesty and saw everything.

Of course treason was suspected. It was thought the nut had been
dropped to crush the King's head; but upon examination 'twas found
there oozed from a small opening curdled milk. The Royal chemist was
summoned, and in a moment all knew that the fruit was poisoned. The
lackey had already told the King from what window it fell. Constance
was cold with fright. She forgot her love, ambition, revenge, her
whole paraphernalia of desires, in this disaster.

Out she went into the corridor to ascertain, if possible, what was
a-foot below stairs. "Would they be able," she thought, "to find from
whence the nut came?" At the very idea she fled back to her chamber
and gazed about in agony, for there lay every condemning thing in the
floor, and where was she to hide them, for a search would certainly
be made in a few moments. A hiding-place must first be found for
the nuts. She looked at the bed; surely that would be searched. She
thought to sew them in the sleeves of her gowns, but that would look
bulky and there was not time. She flew about in wild anxiety. She
listened at the door to the sounds below, and, seeing a lackey, asked
what the noise meant. He said a cocoanut had been dropped and they
were going to search for the one who did it. Again her ladyship
fled to her chamber and began to look behind chairs and screens and
portable cabinets; but to no avail; she found no safe hiding. At last,
the great, high, nodding tester caught the glance of her anxious eye.
She hastily placed first a small table--the only one she was able to
carry--then a chair upon the bed, and with the one upon the other
was able to see the top of the tester. But alas! it was cone-shape.
Invention, however, was not out of Constance' line, and quickly she
placed a box upon the pinnacle and in it five cocoanuts. There
were yet at least a half-dozen more to hide, beside the poison and
instrument. She thought to place these in one of her great hats
and raise them to the tester also. As she was about to mount the
improvised lift, she heard approaching footsteps. Hardly had she
withdrawn the table and chair and placed the hat--well bent--beneath
the low stool whereon she had been sitting, and arranged the folds of
her heavy brocade like a valance about her, when the door was thrown
open.

"My God!" said she, under her breath; "'tis the King himself!"

His Majesty accompanied by a number of gentlemen in waiting, entered
the room. He appeared in high, good humour, and inclined to be
facetious. He advanced straight to her. She, hardly rising from the
stool, made a deep curtesy. It was well done, without disarranging the
full folds of her stiff brocade, that inclined to stand whether she
so honoured the King or not. He laid his hand familiarly upon her
shoulder, bearing somewhat upon it, until she turned quite red, either
from his intent or her own guilt.

"We are looking for secrets. Hast thou any, my little beauty?"

"Your Majesty doth honour me greatly; first by thy presence and
secondly by thy thought that I might have a secret--as if woman could
keep even the shade of one from her King!"

"But sometimes there is more happiness in the shade than in the
substance." His keen eyes did not leave her face. But hers were turned
with an apprehensive stare upon the King's gentlemen, who were looking
and prying impudently here and there about the rooms and closets. Her
gowns were even pressed here and there among their paddings. Tables
and cabinets were opened; the bed was examined. They lifted the heavy
valance and one got upon his knees and prodded beneath with his sword.
As he withdrew with a very red face, some one shook the curtains with
such vigour the tester miscarried and down rolled, one by one, the
cocoanuts. The King fairly yelled with laughter, holding on to his
sides, his gentlemen joining him with mirth restrained somewhat by the
seriousness of the case.

"Indeed, the young Duchess hath turned all heads by her gorgeous
beauty, and all would be like her, whether or no!" said the King
between great bursts of laughter. Lady Constance' mind was ready and
caught quickly at his words, and she turned to him with a gay laugh
that somewhat veiled her terrible fear and nervousness.

"Indeed, 'tis the fashion to use the cocoanut milk for drinking and
ointment, and the silly wenches of maids doth steal it dreadfully and
I was compelled to hide them."

"But 'twill do thee no good, 'tis not thy nature to be round. Hast
thou seen the young heir? He is a lusty fellow; and 'tis well worth a
journey to the nursery to see him," and he took her hand and raised
her to her feet. "Come, we will go and call upon his lordship."

There was an agonized expression on Constance' face as she was
compelled to move at the King's bidding. Slowly she moved. It
seemed every motion was full of painful effort. All eyes, for some
unaccountable reason, appeared to turn to the train of her dress that
rustled subtlely; even Constance turned to look back and down with
bulging eyes on that silken train, and though she moved ever so
cautiously the bristling folds caught upon the edge of the stool and
turned it over, the cocoanuts, poison bottle and all falling a-sprawl.
The King bent down and picked up the vial, then dropped it quickly,
saying,--

"Odd's fish, the female that did don man's attire and flirt about with
foppish airs is trying to play the hen and has made a nest and gone
to setting on spoiled eggs that will hatch nothing but shades, and
wraiths, and mandrakes!" And he lifted a cocoanut, from which the milk
was oozing out slowly and in a curdled state.

"And who, mistress of the chemist's shop, hath taught thee his art?"

"'Tis a great and awful thing that hath happened; indeed, oh! King, I
knew not the things were under the stool--"

"Then 'twas unfortunate thou shouldst remain seated before thy King;
in this case 'twas condemning." And he turned and cried,--

"Hi! hi! call the guard! Thou shalt go into durance until I have
sifted this dairy business." Before the unfortunate woman could open
her mouth to plead further, the King was gone and two stalwart guards
stood at either side of her, ready to conduct her behind bolts and
bars.

Now the King was inclined to be easy with all his subjects, but when
treason lay so open before him, he was quick to punish. Constance,
being a cousin of the Duke of Ellswold, he put the case before him. On
the instant, the Duke gave a solution to Constance' aims, explaining
everything to the King. He also--for he dreaded what the King might
do--said 'twas possible she was not of sound mind. His Majesty saw the
Duke's drift and declared that death should not come upon her, but she
should be imprisoned. This satisfied the Duke, for he was seriously
afraid for the young heir and his wife.

Now Constance was utterly without hope. She was degraded at Court,
nevermore to rise again, and of course this state of things would be
known at every street corner. Even though she could make her escape,
where could she go? Who would accept her as the noble Lady Constance
again? She would wander up and down the world, friendless; while
Katherine would have love, wealth and honour, all one could wish for,
all there was in life to have.

"Nay, nay, nay!" she cried in her agony. "I shall have one more
chance." She threw out her arms to the air and ground her teeth and
dragged herself from end to end of her bare and lonely cell. "One more
chance," she cried, "and 'twill be death to her; aye, death!"

CHAPTER XXIV

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE TOWER

Sir Julian had been striving for months to make peace with the young
Duchess; but all effort appeared futile, until Providence suddenly
stepped in and aided him. Cantemir had turned religious, owing to the
taking hold upon him of a mortal disease; and though he had not been
about to undo any of his schemes in Cedric's case, yet he intended to
do so as soon as he was able. He was not idle, however, as he wrote
many letters and received visits from the ones who were foremost in
the fight. Nor was he long in discovering that their feelings were
already changed toward Ellswold, for they saw 'twas unpopular to be
striving against the King's desires, and against a nobleman who would
be very powerful when he should regain his fortunes. The Count wrote
to Pomphrey, saying he wished to speak face to face with him.

At this interview the Russian unburdened his heart of all malice and
hatred, and gave vent to ill-gotten secrets, of which Buckingham's
schemes were foremost. So open and frank was the Count in his
assertions there was no doubt in Sir Julian's mind but what he had
created an wholesome feeling with his conscience; and for himself,
recognized the interview as nothing more nor less than the comely
intervention of Providence.

Sir Julian determined upon an immediate _rendezvous_ with Sir John
Penwick, to the end that a concerted movement might effectually bring
the Duke to his senses. He loved Buckingham, but he loved the Duchess
of Ellswold more, and for this cause of peace, intended to hedge the
Duke about with an impenetrable wall.

Buckingham soon saw that the strings were closing about him, and that
'twas Sir Julian who held the taut ends. But the great Duke had still
one more move, a move so venturesome, so involved with hazard, that
when 'twas made, the King himself admired and paid homage to its
projector.

The Duke knew that Sir Julian, with a whisper in the King's ear,
could send him to the Tower. So at the point of Sir Julian's
sword--metaphorically--he was forced to go to the King and straighten
matters as best he could. This the great Duke did, with the most
exquisite urbanity. He knew well the King's humour, and the most
propitious moment in it, and propinquity played him fair, and there
vibrated in his Majesty's ear the dulcet tones of George Villiers
magnetic voice, saying,--

"Oh, King! may I tell thee of what foul issue fulsome Nature hath
brought forth, and what travail I suffer for--"

"Odd's fish! what hast thou been doing, George, what hast thou--"

"Oh, King!" and the Duke bowed upon his knee and touched with his lips
the great ring upon his Majesty's hand; "I did engender with a brain
unwebbed by wine, a body ample of strength and health, my soul
absolved, my heart palpitant with pure love and rich intention; but
corruptible Nature hath adulterated and brought forth an oaf, to which
I lay no claim--"

"Egad! Duke; we'll wager a kilderkin of chaney oranges at four pence
each and a dozen cordial juleps with pearls that thy conscience is
about to bewray thee."

"Your Royal Highness doth honour me by the assumption that such a
kingly component is mine. I cannot gainsay thy assertion, but who but
my King could touch to life the almost undefined limning of moral
faculty that has been my poor possession heretofore--"

"And who but thy King would give to thy swart issue a, no doubt,
condign interest; come, curtail loquacity!"

"Then, your Majesty, to be brief, I have raised for thee the subsidies
thou were too modest to ask the House for--"

"Odd's fish, and this is thine oaf; oaf, callest thou it, when it
has brought unspeakable joy to thy King? Not so, 'tis an issue that
outshines in weight, point of beauty and actual worth that bouncing
youngster of Ellswold's."

"But, oh! King, I counted not upon the exigencies of thy love. I
thought only of the pleasure 'twould give thee to have subsidies
without plea, and I have made two of thy favourites my victims. How
should I know that the Duke and Duchess of Ellswold were to become
nestlings in thy cradle of love?" The King's face darkened, but for a
moment only, as the sunshine of full coffers had penetrated the vista
of his needs, and a cloud even though it bore the after-rain was not
to darken his expectations. "I beg thine indulgence to allow me to
presume upon fancy. Supposing Sir John Penwick was alive and had
committed a crime that made it impossible for him to seek the aid of
his beloved King; that the said Sir John has vast possessions in the
New World that rightfully belonged to the English crown as hostage for
his own life, that had been in the hands of the French; that these
matters had been brought to the King's ear, but his Royal Highness had
been troubled with weightier affairs at home, and that one of his very
lowly but loyal subjects had undertaken, without aid of Government,
to secure these possessions for his King, calling to his aid the
generosity of Ellswold, who was willing to give all without knowing
why, save 'twas for his King and--"

"And Penwick has proven guiltless and comes to his King to claim his
rightful possession;--and the subsidies--"

"Are still thine, and thou shalt have them within a fortnight, if thou
wilt grant me one small request, oh! King."

"Thou hast it. Be brief."

"Of my appointment, a new keeper of the Tower." The King started and
half turned from the Duke, while through his mind ran hurriedly the
names of "Chasel, Howard, Baumais" and "who hath he in mind." Then
like a flash came the thought of Lady Constance, and he turned about
quickly and said with severity,--

"Thou hast our word," and with a gesture gave the Duke his _conge_.

That very night just as the early moon began to whiten the Towers of
old London, the key turned in the door of Lady Constance' cell; but
turned so lazily--either from indolence or an unaccustomed hand--that
her ladyship looked up and saw to her surprise a new gaoler. He
smiled, thereby giving to the heart of its object a great thrill of
joy, for it meant kindliness and kindliness is often predicated of
selfishness or a desire for things one has not.

"What is thy name, fool?"

"Just plain Fool," and he gave her due obeisance.

"And why so?"

"Is it not enough to be so christened by so great a lady?"

"Then thou art not a subsidiary but chief factotum?"

"Aye, the other is ill and I have spent the afternoon in learning
the--names."

"Thou shouldst be well paid for so short a season.--Is he serious?"

"I hope so, good lady."

"Oh! if thou wouldst make profit of thy time, begin by bringing hither
for my supper good ale and wine, with sugar and spices; and I will
brew thee such a horn as thou hast ne'er thought on before. And thou
for each good turn shalt drink a wassail to thy buxom wench and shalt
have money for the basset-table."

It is needless to say that Buckingham knew his man, and Constance'
desires for one whom she could bribe. The latter's first and only
desire was for means of escape, and to this end tried to bribe the
keeper for man's attire. This was not the Duke's aim, and Constance,
being thwarted, struck quickly upon another means.

She succeeded in getting the promise of a visit from Cantemir, who was
little able to be about, but he intended to see her of his own accord,
that he might move her to a lively interest in the salvation of her
soul.

In anticipation of his visit, Constance had obtained through the
gaoler certain drugs of nondescript virtues. These she carefully hid
and made her final preparations for a speedy flight.

Cantemir stopped for a moment, as he stepped from the chair, and
looked up at the prison walls, that were made grey and indistinct by
the clouded moon and falling rain. Religion had changed him even more
than the ravages of disease. His true self had awakened, and the
beauty of it had devoured the Satanic expression that was wont to lie
upon his countenance. His face fairly beamed with a light that came
from within, where his soul stirred now free from sin's fetters.

He was conducted by the keeper through the windings of the sombre
corridors to the cell of Constance, who greeted him with the words:

"Now, Adrian, we can excuse wantonness in the devil, but never
slothfulness in religion. We have no shrines here as abroad; what has
kept thee from thy captive cousin?"

"I am not late, Constance; thou art impatient, and as for shrines, I
carry one in my heart all the time, and thou must have one, too--"

"Damn! We have no time to prate. I must get out of this vile
hole.--Hast thou seen the devil Duchess lately?"

"Aye, yesterday I saw her riding out. She is very beautiful, but she
has changed--"

"Changed--how?"

"She has grown fleshy--"

"Ah! say not 'fleshy' but fat! fat! Now what good fortune is this? The
Duke will be getting a divorce, for he doth abominate a fat woman.
Good, good! I must see her. I shall pay her a visit before I leave for
France."

"Thou wilt have far to journey, for they leave at once for Ellswold.
The case will be settled within a few days at most."

"A few days at most? Legal folderol, a mere shade of a trial. Aye; I
must see her Grace. I have a message for her."

"I will serve thee; Constance, I will take thy message--" Adrian was
interrupted by the entrance of the gaoler, who brought in cordial
juleps. Her ladyship made the fellow drink, before she would allow him
to go. Then, as he left them again, she said,--

"Thou canst not; it is a message no one can deliver but me," and as if
to seal her words she poured down a good, round bumper.

"What dost mean, Constance? Thou art too subtle for me!"

"Too subtle? Hast thou lost the art of penetration? Then I'll tell
thee, thou--the 'Ranter,' as they call thee. Thou who hast become
Bunyan's squire. I am going to poison my lady or give her a dagger
thrust. She must die."

"Thou art the devil, Constance; but there is one who can outwit the
devil, and he will do it, too."

"What hast thou to say about it?"

"Thou shalt not do it."

"What wilt thou do to prevent it?"

"I will put the house of Ellswold on their guard."

"Thou wilt not help me to escape, and thou wilt run with tales to
Ellswold. Thou wouldst keep me here, that I might soon die, so thou
couldst have my estates. Poor, puny thing, that art upon death's
threshold now. Thou wouldst have me die, so thou couldst live
luxuriously and use as much of my wealth as thou couldst, leaving
behind a paltry residue for the Crown. Thou wouldst indeed!" said
Constance, scornfully, as she fumbled in the folds of her dress for
the small bottle hidden there.

"Constance," said Cantemir, under his breath, as he lifted one of the
mixtures before him, "thou must not kill. Let me awaken thy better
nature--"

"Nay; she must die!"

"I will not remain longer with thee, if thou dost hold such foul
intent. Take back thy words. I will give thee no rest until thou dost.
There is a God who will sweeten thy ill feeling for Katherine--"

"Shut thy mouth, fool!" and she spoke with such fury Adrian's heart
sank within him, and his head fell upon his arms upon the table. "Thou
wilt have a season of prayer, then; so be it. Maybe, if thou prayest
with thy whole heart for sixty seconds, mine will change," and as she
said the words, she dropped some deadly thing into his glass.

The wine was not moved nor discoloured, and as Cantemir raised his
head, took hold upon it, and lifted and drank it nearly half.

"I love thee, cousin, with a Christian spirit, and I cannot see thee
lose thy--soul." A shiver passed through his thin frame, and when
he again began to speak, he drooled sick'ningly. "I say thou shalt
not--kill her--and some one--else says it--I will watch thee in
spirit--"

Constance wished him to die quickly, that she might not be obliged to
look upon prolonged horrors. She could easily arrange his position,
with his head upon the table, to look quite natural, as if in drunken
sleep, and when the keeper came, she would give him a like portion,
before he could make any discovery, and when they were both
despatched, she would don Cantemir's attire and take the keeper's
keys and be gone. She quickly poisoned another glass, then looked at
Cantemir. So horrible was the glassy glare in his eye, she made as
if to arise from the table, but he leant over and grasped her hand.
Constance' face was livid with fear, and beside, she heard the gaoler.
As the keys were turned in the door, Cantemir's head dropped back
against the chair, and he sat upright, but dead; his hand fastened
tight upon his cousin's. She screamed and fell, half-fainting, across
the table. The keeper sprung to her aid, and took hold of the full
goblet of wine and pressed it to her lips. She tried to recover
herself, seeming to know 'twas not the time to indulge in a fainting
fit; but the strain was too much, her body was stronger than her mind,
and she mechanically took the goblet and poured the contents down
her throat. A thought must have come to her with the rapidity of
lightning, for she jerked the goblet from her mouth, spilling the dark
fluid over her. She glared at the empty cup with distended eyeballs,
and screaming once wildly, fell heavily across the table.

It had turned out differently and better than Buckingham had thought;
and after making a hasty trip into France, whence he was immediately
recalled by his King--who was luxuriating in the easement of pecuniary
difficulties--he journeyed to Ellswold to present to the young
Duchess certain rare laces, gems and porcelains he had found--so he
intimated--among the Russian Count's possessions.

CHAPTER XXV

THE GARDEN OF YOUTH

The meeting of Katherine and her father was a joyous one. As Sir John
pressed her to his heart, Janet knelt at his feet, kissing the hand
he held out to her. And there stood by the Duke of Ellswold and Sir
Julian, the latter having received at last the most gracious welcome
from the Duchess.

But yet Pomphrey was not happy; his conscience troubled him beyond
measure. So he set about to make himself right with the world. He
argued that adoration should be given to God only, and when one was so
selfish and thoughtless to give it to another being, it was time he
looked to his soul. And for the correction of this serious fault,
he left Ellswold and went into France, and in a short time became a
devout _religieux_.

Lady Bettie Payne was so wrought upon by this great change in Sir
Julian's life, for a fortnight she remained within her chamber, trying
to feel what 'twould be like to live the life of a nun. But this
season of devotion was suddenly interrupted by a visit from St. Mar,
of whom she was very fond. He asked her hand in marriage and was
accepted.

In course of time a family of three boys and two girls were born to
the Duke and Duchess. A great christening party was in preparation.
The Duchess was worried about the christening robe, that had not yet
arrived, and she said to Janet,--

"Indeed, Janet, this delay reminds me of my anxiety over the chests
that were to bring me my first finery--dost remember, at Crandlemar?"

"Aye. It does not take much of a memory to think back seven years!"

"Seven years! Why, Janet, thou art growing old!"

"Nay, sweet Mistress; but the two generations I now nurse are very
young."

"'Tis true.--But what thinkest thou could detain the chest? Father
Pomphrey cannot be kept waiting for a christening robe. And to think
of Lady Ann being baptized in a common frock! 'Twould make Bettie St.
Mar laugh; she already feels quite jealous because we are the first
to have Father Pomphrey. And methinks, Janet, now that she is in
expectancy--she will so vibrate 'twixt France and England,--fearing
she will not be near Father Pomphrey for the christening--that little
Julian and Francois will forget which is home."

"She need not do that; he could go to France."

"Nay, not so; for he leaves at once for Rome and will not return to
England ere summer, meaning not to stop at all in France."

"Ah! that makes me think of what I heard him say to Monsieur St. Mar
in the nursery. 'Twas something about a christening. Monsieur said:
'Thou art expected at Crandlemar Castle?' and Father Pomphrey
answered: 'Aye, sometime before next Michaelmas.'"

"Then Lady Bettie will remain in England mayhap."

"'Tis possible."

"What did he say of the children, Janet?"

"Of my lord Duke's and thine?"

"Aye."

"He said not a word of them in particular, but fondled all alike,
calling each by name, and now I think on't, I wonder he could remember
a dozen or so, when he has not yet been three days in the castle.
'Twas 'Lady Mary' and 'Sir Jasper' and 'Lady Jane' and 'Lady Kate' and
'Lord Ivor'; and for each he had a story. And Monsieur grew tired, and
my lord Duke asked Sir Julian if the children did not tire him also,
and he answered: 'Duke, there is a peculiarly wholesome knowledge
that we cannot obtain save through a child's mind; and while in the
companionship of children, we are surrounded by a field of flowers,
whose glory fructifies the good germ within us, and Wisdom--that
tallest flower, that knows no harvest--springs up at prime, blossoms
forth at compline and grows a fragrant staff, upon which man leans in
the night of life.' Then they walked away, and I heard no more."

"Dear Father Pomphrey--" Then for a moment the Duchess looked with a
far-away expression out upon the snow-covered landscape, then, on
a sudden, she said, almost pettishly,--"But, Janet, what keeps the
chest?"

"Perhaps 'tis Providence."

"What dost mean; how Providence?"

"Thou hast ordered the robe to be so perfect, so in accordance with
the Royal mode, the child will be in torment. Indeed, I am afraid
'twill make the little lady ill to be so encased. Ah! but thou art
great folk, and, as Dent hath said, such people 'spend their time in
tricking and trimming, pricking and pinning, pranking and pouncing,
girding and lacing and braving up themselves in most exquisite
manner;--these doubled and redoubled ruffles, these strouting
fardingales, long locks and fore tufts;--it was never a good world
since starching and steeling, buskes and whalebones, supporters and
rebatoes, full moons and hobbyhorses came into use.' I doubt not that
Father Pomphrey himself will demur at such cruelty."

But the chest came in time, and Katherine was satisfied.

The castle was filled with guests, and the nurseries full of
bright young children waiting impatiently to be taken to the great
picture-gallery, where, under the limned faces of many generations,
the christening was to take place.

An altar had been raised; and upon it was the golden service, a little
apart the font, and upon either side of the long gallery were flowers
banked 'neath specially honoured portraits.

At the appointed hour the children defiled down the long room, then
came the other guests, and finally Sir Julian Pomphrey in his robe of
office--Father Pomphrey, so elegant, loving, good; a princely priest.
Then came Janet with little Lady Ann in her arms; the child appearing
like an Egyptian mummy in white bands. The Duke and Duchess looked
handsome and proud, And when the celebration was concluded, all form
was dissipated, the children gathering about the youngster for a
"peep," then scampered to the flowers. And as the elder folk looked
on, some one opined that the human nosegay was more gorgeous of
apparel and glow of cheek than the Ayrshire rose or the twisted
eglantine. Then suddenly the children gathered about a single portrait
of remarkable rich colouring, and little Lady Margaret came running
and saying with a lisp,--

"Come, see, Father; 'tis the prettiest picture here, and there are no
flowers 'neath it."

"What, no flowers?" and Father Pomphrey looked down in feigned
surprise.

"Why, here _is_ a flower!" and the child lifted a crushed immortelle
from the parquetry and gave it to the priest, who quickly made the
sign of the cross and said something almost inaudible about the flower
being prophetic; and then he leant close to the child's ear, saying,--

"Will Lady Margaret do something for Father Pomphrey?"

"Aye, anything--"

"Remember always to pray for the soul of Lady Constance Clarmot." Then
raising the flower, he said abstractedly,--"What gems of thought we
find in the Garden of Youth!"

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