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The Brown Mask by Percy J. Brebner

Part 4 out of 6

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cry from suddenly parted lips, there was no sign of agitation about
Barbara as her hands idly played with the folds of her gown for a few
moments; it seemed doubtful whether she realised the full meaning of the

"What does your master expect me to do?" she asked, looking up after a

Harriet Payne may have rehearsed a scene in which she would be called
upon to soothe a stricken woman and speak comfort to a breaking heart.
She had supposed that love was the same the world over, whether it went
in silk brocade or coarse homespun. She had apt phrases ready to meet
the expected, plenty of well-prepared sympathy to bestow, but she had no
answer for this quiet, deliberate manner, and remained silent.

"Perhaps you can help me to a decision by telling me more," said
Barbara. "You need not be afraid to speak."

"By Mr. Crosby's manner I thought you had some power, madam; I imagined
that if you knew my master's position you would be able to help him."

"Who has accused Mr. Crosby of having anything to do with rebels?"
Barbara asked.

"I cannot tell, but there is no doubt as to what he has done. It is well
known that he has helped many of the rebels into safe hiding. There is
another who is doing the same, a highwayman called 'Galloping Hermit.'
You may have heard of him."

"Is he, too, in Dorsetshire?"

"The country people speak of him; now he is here, now there, but--"

"Do you think your master and this highwayman are the same person?"
asked Barbara, and with more eagerness than she had asked her other

"I have heard other people wonder whether they were, but I do not
believe it; still, if Mr. Crosby is 'Galloping Hermit,' he is a man to
be proud of. I would--"

"Yes, yes, I know," said Barbara; "but you can hardly expect me to take
much interest in a highwayman."

"No, madam, of course not. I was not thinking of the highwayman, but of
my master. It is on his account that I have journeyed to see you."

"It was good and honest of you to come," said Barbara. "I must think
what I can do. Are you remaining in London?"

"I have a cousin in the city who is married to a mercer's assistant; I
shall remain with her for a day or two," the girl answered.

"Come to-morrow about noon; I shall have decided something then."

"And if not you could help me to find this fiddler, perhaps?" said the

When she had gone Martin came from behind the screen, and Barbara looked
at him, her eyes full of questions.

"Yes, mistress, I fear her story is true. What she says of Mr. Crosby's
doings is correct, also it is a fact that Galloping Hermit has been in

"You have seen him?"

"I have heard of him."

"I must try and help him though he is a highwayman," said Barbara.
"There can be no longer any doubt, Martin, that the two are one."

"Yet you will help him? How?"

"There is a way, a hard way, and I am not yet certain what it may mean
to me, but it shall be done; yes, it shall be done."

As she turned to a window and looked down into the square, Martin saw
that there were tears in her eyes.

"Tell me, mistress. You have told me your troubles before now, and it
has not been always in vain."

"I will tell you later, Martin.".

"Perhaps it will be too late then," he answered. "Count the cost,
mistress; is a highwayman worth the price?"

"That girl was right," said Barbara, turning a glowing face to Martin.
There were tears in her eyes, but they had not fallen. "She was right;
even a highwayman is a man to be proud of when he helps the suffering
from their brutal persecutors, as this Galloping Hermit is doing. I
would sacrifice much even for a highwayman, and when he is Gilbert
Crosby, too--ah! Martin, I have had dreams, pleasant dreams. I am awake
now, they are only a memory, but, if need be, I will pay for them to the
uttermost farthing."

"You will not tell me the price?"

"When I know it, and that will be to-morrow. Come to-morrow afternoon,
Martin, unless you are going back to Aylingford at once."

"I shall come," he answered; but listen, mistress, there are more ways
than one of helping Gilbert Crosby. Do not pay too high a price. I wish
you would tell me with whom you are bargaining."

"To-morrow, Martin, and until then--"

"You would be alone," said Martin quietly, and then his figure suddenly
stiffened, his hands were clenched until the muscles in them stood out
like whipcord, and his speech was quick and fierce. "Understand,
mistress, no word you speak, no promise you may be compelled to give,
binds me. No matter how fettered you may be, I am free to do as I will,
and God help the man who seeks to work you evil!"

Barbara had seen him in many moods, known him as dreamer, jester,
counsellor, and philosopher, always with an air of unreality in what he
did and said, always "Mad Martin," yet with strange wisdom and cunning
in his madness at times. In this mood she had never seen him before. His
face, indeed, the whole man, was changed. Madness must have got the
upper hand entirely for a moment.

"Why, Martin, you--"

But he had gone. She had been too astonished to speak at once, and the
door had closed before she could finish her sentence. The mood seemed to
pass quickly, too, for looking from the window, Barbara saw him cross
the square, the familiar figure, in spite of the conventional garments
which he wore in town and which suited him so ill. He could never be the
real Martin Fairley away from that tower in the ruins at Aylingford,
Barbara thought.

Not without reason was Fairley's warning, for if a woman will make a
sacrifice she seldom counts the full cost. She must give generously,
with both hands wide open, or not at all. Barbara did not think of the
highwayman, but of Gilbert Crosby, and for him she was determined to
sacrifice herself. Dreams she had had, dreams which ended in happiness;
now such an ending was impossible, but the man who had inspired those
dreams was still worthy the sacrifice. It was a woman's argument,
absolutely conclusive to a woman. She had the power to help, and she
meant to use that power.

There was a brilliant company that night at Lady Bolsover's, and
probably Barbara Lanison had never appeared more fascinating. She had
been very careful to wear what became her best; she was bent on
conquest, and so that she conquered fully and completely she recked
little how. Her beauty and her ready wit quickly gathered a crowd about
her, and not one of her enthusiastic admirers guessed that under her
merry speech and laughter was an anxious, sorrowful heart and a wealth
of restrained tears. One or two, whose love and hope had made their
understanding of her keener, may have noticed that her eyes were sharp
to mark each new guest who entered the room. There was someone she
expected and for whom she was waiting. One man beside her looked at her
quickly when Sydney Fellowes entered the room, possibly he had reason to
suppose that Fellowes loved her and might prove no mean rival, but it
seemed evident that he was not the man expected to-night. Sydney
Fellowes bowed over her hand presently, murmured some conventional
phrase, and passed on; but from a corner, and unobserved, he watched
her. When she passed into another room he followed her at a distance,
and took note of every man and woman with whom she talked. He saw that
she was restless, for who was there who could understand her moods
better than he did? How often had he sat beside her, learning to read
her thoughts in the blue eyes which were more beautiful than any other
eyes in the world.

She was standing in the doorway between two rooms when he saw her start
suddenly, and, following the direction of her eyes, he saw Sir John
Lanison. He had just entered the room, and was explaining his presence
to his sister, Lady Bolsover, who was evidently surprised to see him. He
turned to greet several acquaintances, and then, seeing his niece,
advanced towards her. He looked at her a little curiously, realising for
the first time, perhaps, how beautiful she was. Barbara's face hardened
for a moment, but the next instant she smiled. This man was her enemy,
all the more dangerous because he was also her guardian, but it would be
wise to keep him in ignorance of how fully she understood him.

"Your arrival is unexpected, sir."

"Yet not altogether unwelcome, I trust," said Sir John, treating her
with studied courtliness, a manner he could use to perfection. "I was
obliged to come to town, and could not refrain from coming to see you.
You may guess why, perchance?"

"Has it to do with a young person in trouble?" asked Barbara.

Sir John looked puzzled for a moment. "Oh, you mean that girl who came
to the Abbey. Did she really travel all the way to London to see you? I
am surprised. She did not tell me her story, but I told her where you
were to be found, never supposing that she would come to you."

"She came, and I have heard her story," said Barbara.

"It bears a close relationship to many another young woman's story, I
wager," said Sir John with a smile. "Truly, I was not much impressed
with her. If I may be allowed to speak a word of warning, I should say
beware of her. She could lie easily, I fancy, with never a blush or the
flicker of an eyelid to betray her. No, it was not about her I wished to
see you."

"Then, sir, I cannot guess," said Barbara.

"I wished to apologise," said Sir John. "As I grow older my ill temper
gains on me, I fear. Thwarted, I am senseless enough at times to become
like a bullying schoolboy, and I say the first outrageous things which
come to my tongue--conduct worthy only of a harridan. It was so that
night at Aylingford. You were entirely right, I was entirely wrong.
Forgive me, Barbara."

"I forgive, yes, but you must not expect me to forget so readily," she
answered. "Forgetfulness can only come with time, Sir John, you must
understand that."

"Perfectly. I do not expect to enjoy the luxury of being ill-tempered
without having to pay the price for it. I only ask that you may not make
the price too heavy. When you choose to return to the Abbey you shall
find a welcome."

Sir John did not wait for any answer, nor had Barbara the opportunity of
thinking over what he had said just then, for the moment her uncle left
her another claimed her attention.

Still Sydney Fellowes watched her. It was evidently not her uncle for
whom she had been waiting. It seemed as evident that she was doomed to
disappointment to-night. Fellowes was one of the last to leave, and it
was impossible that any other guest could arrive now.

Barbara dismissed her maid quickly, almost impatiently, that night. She
wanted to be alone. She expected to have done so much this evening,
expected that she would have known her fate by now. She had faced the
worst, she was prepared to pay the price, whatever it might be, always
with a hope that it would not be as bad as she anticipated. Everything
was yet to do, the uncertainty was still hers; the delay gave her lonely
hours in which to realise all that this sacrifice might involve, and
involuntarily she shrank from it. She was not less resolved, however,
and there was an added incentive in the fact that the difficulties in
her way were greater than she had expected. Sir John's arrival could
have only one meaning; he must know, or had guessed, the real reason of
Harriet Payne's coming to the Abbey, and had immediately travelled to
town to ensure that, if he could possibly prevent it, no help should be
given to Gilbert Crosby. His apology made no impression upon her, and
she believed him capable of committing any villainy to get his own way.
Surely, after what had happened at Aylingford, she had ample reason for
her opinion. How was she to meet his designs and defeat them? There was
only one way, the full sacrifice of herself. She looked critically at
herself in the mirror, dashed the tears from her eyes, and smiled,
touched her hair that the curls might fall most becomingly, and turned
her head this way and that, coquetting with her own reflection.

"Can I smile so winningly that a man will think possession of me cheaply
bought at any price?" she murmured. "I think so, I believe so. I will
make the bargain. Whatever beauty I have shall be staked against your
villainy, Sir John; and I think the woman will win."

She was strong in her determination, yet she sobbed herself to sleep.

Not having been a frequent visitor at Aylingford Abbey in recent years,
Lady Bolsover knew nothing about the company so constantly assembled
there, nothing about her brother's pursuits and interests. That he must
have fallen behind the times and become uninteresting, she took for
granted; nothing else was to be expected of one who resided constantly
in the country, she argued; yet she admitted to herself that Sir John
looked a fine gentleman as he passed amongst her guests, and was rather
surprised to find how full he was of town graces. After all, he was the
owner of Aylingford, a circumstance which marked him as a man of
importance, and some of the scandal which had been attached to his name
as a younger man had not died out. She heard one woman inquire who he
was, and, receiving an answer, say quickly, "_the_ Sir John Lanison, do
you mean?" The interest displayed rather pleased Lady Bolsover, for
surely fame, however obtained, was preferable to insignificance and
nonentity. She therefore received her brother very graciously when he
called on the following morning, and felt very contented that he should
have chanced last night upon such a brilliant evening, and must realise
how big a position his sister filled in the social world of London. If
she had been inclined to despise him for burying himself at Aylingford,
she was conscious that he had never looked upon her as a very important

Sir John was full of flattery this morning. He regretted that his niece
had a headache, but it enabled him to have his sister to himself.

"A few days here, amongst men and women of wit and standing, would cure
you of your absurd love of the country," said Lady Bolsover.

"At least it has done wonders for my niece," he answered.

"Surely you have not come to drag her back into exile!"

Sir John smiled. It was evident that Barbara had not entered into an
explanation of her reasons for leaving the Abbey.

"No, I think she is in very good hands for the present. She appears to
have many admirers."

"Can you wonder at it? She is as pretty as a picture, and when such a
picture has an exceedingly heavy golden frame--"

"My dear Peggy, you hit the centre of the target with the first shaft.
For most of these admirers the frame is the chief attraction. In this
fact arises the difficulty of my guardianship."

"Barbara has spirit; you must not draw the rein too tightly or she will
kick over the traces," said Lady Bolsover.

"Exactly, and show herself a true Lanison," said Sir John. "I propose to
let the reins hang very loosely indeed. Let her have her own way. She
will find it so uninteresting not to meet with any opposition that she
will probably end in doing exactly as I wish."

"And to whom have you decided to marry her?"

Sir John held up his hand with his fingers apart.

"There are at least five to choose from," he said.

"All country bumpkins who affect outrageous clothes and delight in muddy
boots?" inquired his sister.

"On the contrary, they are all lovers of the town, whole-heartedly for
King James, and with those convenient morals which go so far to make a
gallant gentleman."

"You pique my curiosity."

"Then I do you a service, and would not spoil it by satisfying that
curiosity," said Sir John. "Watch Barbara, and you may see my little
comedy in the playing, for some of these five are not infrequently your

Lady Bolsover found her brother entertaining, and it was late in the
afternoon when he spoke of taking his leave.

"I will let Barbara know; she will like to see you before you go."

A servant was sent to inform Mistress Lanison of her uncle's departure,
and in a few minutes he returned to say that Mistress Lanison was out.

"Out! Where?"

"I have made inquiries, my lady, but no one seems to know," said the
servant. "Madam went out with her maid quite early this morning, but
returned shortly afterwards. A young person who came to see her
yesterday came again to-day, just after noon, and it seems that Mistress
Lanison went out with her. The maid left the house barely an hour ago."

Lady Bolsover looked at her brother, who glanced swiftly at the servant.
Lady Bolsover understood, and told the servant to go.

"What can have happened?" she said as the door was closed.

"Nothing serious, I warrant, my dear Peggy. Like all you women, Barbara
is enjoying some harmless intrigue. Do you mind that day at Aylingford
when I horsewhipped your first admirer? How old were you then?"

"But Barbara is--"

"Young," said Sir John, "and to indulge a frolic has taken advantage of
the loose rein. You will find her in her room presently, with her head
still aching, but slightly better, and to-night she will be as radiant
as a young Diana."

"I trust so."

"Take my word for it. Long residence in the country has not made me
forget that I once understood women very well." And with a smile Sir
John departed.



There were few coaches and lackeys in the square when Sydney Fellowes
left Lady Bolsover's. Hastily taking leave in the hall of an
acquaintance who seemed inclined to bear him company, he hurried away,
too much absorbed in his thoughts to think of the dangers of the streets
for a lonely man at that hour of the night. He went quickly to Pall
Mall, and entered a coffee-house there. A man at once rose from a corner
to attract his attention. It was Martin Fairley.

"She evidently expected someone to-night," said Fellowes in a low tone
as they sat down together, "but I cannot guess who, nor whether it was
man or woman. Of one thing I am certain, whoever she expected, Mistress
Lanison was disappointed."

"Who was there?"

"Sir John Lanison for one, Martin. No, his niece did not expect him, nor
Lady Bolsover either. His arrival was a surprise to both of them."

"And to me," Martin answered; "but it is bad news. What brings him from
Aylingford? Can Rosmore be in town?"

"No, that is impossible," returned Fellowes. "He is busy with
preparations for the assizes, and is in command of the military force
placed at the disposal of Judge Jeffreys. For the present Rosmore is
tied to the West. I would he might find a speedy grave there."

"Sir John comes like an ill-omened bird; I wish I knew his reason," said
Martin thoughtfully. "Did he speak with his niece?"

"A few words only, and there was the courtesy as of strangers between
them. I could not hear what was said, but it was nothing that had any
special interest for Mistress Lanison. Her expression did not change."

"Do you imagine you can read her so easily?"

"Ah, Martin, I know; there is no imagination in it. Were I cunning with
a brush and colour, I could paint you a thousand of her expressions and
tell you the thoughts which lay behind them all. I am a lover, remember,
with all a lover's quick perception, although the lady I worship thinks
no more of me than of the soiled glove she casts aside."

Martin looked at him for a moment in silence, and then laid his hand on
his arm.

"Soiled gloves go in pairs, Master Fellowes."

"You mean--"

"There is small difference sometimes between a lover and a madman. Had I
my fiddle with me I might play to you all that I mean."

Fellowes drummed with his fingers on the little table before him for a
moment, and then seemed to shake himself out of a dream.

"There must be too few women in the world, Martin, when the desires of
so many men are for one. To-morrow--what must be done to-morrow?"

"I shall see her to-morrow afternoon; until then I cannot tell what is
to be done. A message will find you at your lodging?"

"Yes, I shall wait. If I do not hear, I shall make some excuse for being
at Lady Bolsover's again in the evening."

Outside the coffee-house they separated. Where Martin went at nights
Fellowes did not know, nor did he inquire. Fairley could find him, if
necessary, and that was enough.

Neither did Barbara know where Martin lived, or she would surely have
sent him a message next day, for long before noon she had made up her
mind to act without delay.

The coming of Sir John was as ill-omened to her as it was to Martin. In
some manner, she was convinced, his presence in London nearly concerned
her, and much might depend on her promptness in carrying out the
resolution she had made. So she awoke with a convenient headache, and
had the news conveyed to her aunt. Then, assured that she would be left
undisturbed, she dressed very carefully, anxious to look her best, and
even practised her most winning smiles before her mirror. Her maid, who
could be trusted and was a child of intrigue by nature, loyally assisted
her mistress, and they were able to leave the house together without
hindrance. Calling a coach, they were driven to the Temple, where Judge
Marriott had his lodging. Barbara had determined to appeal to him. If he
would, he certainly could save Gilbert Crosby, and, if she hoped so to
entreat him that the reward he asked for his help should not be too
heavy, she was prepared to pay whatever price he demanded. In
imagination she saw herself his wife, and though she shuddered at the
thought she never contemplated stopping the coach and going back to St.
James's Square, her mission unfulfilled.

"Judge Marriott has left London," said the servant when Barbara inquired
for him.

"When does he return?"

The servant did not know. It seemed evident that his general
instructions were to be reticent concerning his master's going and

"I must see him without delay on a matter of the gravest importance--the
gravest importance to him," said Barbara, and she was surely speaking
nothing but the truth, for the easy winning of her must be of great
moment to any man. "Can you tell me where I shall find him? Has he gone
to Aylingford Abbey?"

The man thought not, but his imagination did not appear to help him
further than that.

"It is most important," repeated Barbara, and in her hand was a golden

"I ought not to give any information," said the man, "but you say it is
important to my master. He has set out for Dorchester to deal with some
of the rebel prisoners there."

"You are sure he goes first to Dorchester?"

"Quite certain, madam."

Barbara was deeply thoughtful as the coach drove back to St. James's
Square. An unforeseen obstacle was placed in the way of her
self-sacrifice, an obstacle so great that it did not seem possible to
overcome it. Was Judge Marriott's absence of her uncle's contriving? It
did not seem probable, but she was in the mood to connect him with all
disaster, and when, on returning to the house, she learnt that Sir John
was there with Lady Bolsover, her suspicions seemed confirmed. Barbara
was the more determined to defeat his schemes. She would certainly have
sent to Martin had she known where to find him, but as it was she was
obliged to act for herself.

Harriet Payne came at noon, with a sad and gloomy countenance.

"What is it?" Barbara asked. "Is there further and worse news?"

"No, nothing further."

"Your face has a wealth of trouble in it."

"Indeed, madam, and is it any wonder?" the girl asked. "I am so
helpless, and I could wish to be so strong. Every hour counts, and what
can I do?"

"You have travelled far to ask my help, that is something."

"Yes, madam; but yesterday you gave me little hope, and even that little
is gone. In this matter you are as helpless as I am."

Barbara laughed, a little hardly perhaps, remembering in which direction
her power lay.

"Had I been powerless, do you suppose your master would have sent you to
me? I have had to decide whether I shall use that power."

"And you will use it?"

"I have already tried to do so this morning, and failed."

"Here? In London?"

"Yes. In which direction did you imagine my power lay?"

"I could not tell, but I thought--I thought it must be in Dorchester
where my master is a prisoner. Madam, there are powerful men in the West
who may be bribed, who are being bribed every day. I thought it was with
them you would have to deal."

"The man I hoped to see in London is gone to the West," said Barbara.


"Yes, I intend to follow him, and at once. In this enterprise you will
be of more service to me than my own maid. Will you go with me?"

"Gladly, madam," and the girl's face brightened at once. "I have made
the journey to London more than once, and know that at the house where
the coach stops a carriage and horses can be procured."

"You are beginning to make yourself useful at once," Barbara returned.
"Wait here for me. I have to give my maid instructions, and then we will
start without delay."

Barbara told her maid to be on the watch for Martin Fairley, and to tell
him that she had gone to Dorchester.

"He will understand why," she said; "and as I shall not want you with
me, and yet do not want you to be questioned, you had better return to
the Abbey as soon as you have seen Martin. Be sure and do not let anyone
hear you give the message."

The girl had friends in London, and asked if she might spend a day or
two with them before returning to Aylingford.

"It will fit my plan excellently," Barbara answered. "Leave this house
as soon as you possibly can after seeing Martin, and if your friends
will have you, stay with them until I send for you. You will be well out
of the way of questions."

"No questions would make me betray you," said the girl.

"I know, but your face is a tell-tale one," Barbara answered. "You have
the virtue of not being able to lie easily."

The girl was honest, and it was no fault of hers that she failed to
deliver her message to Martin Fairley. She saw him come to the house,
and hurried down to him, meaning to catch him in the square and speak to
him where none could overhear her, and so carry out her mistress's
instructions to the letter. But Fairley had departed quickly, and was
nowhere to be seen. For some time she waited for his return, and when he
did not come, thought it best to fulfil the other part of her
instructions and leave the house at once.

The servants at Lady Bolsover's knew nothing of Martin Fairley, not even
his name. He had twice been admitted to see Mistress Lanison, but, for
all the servants knew, he was some tradesman with whom she had dealings.
Many such came to Lady Bolsover's. As Martin came to the door that day
one servant called to another to fetch a coach for Sir John Lanison,
and, hearing that Sir John was in the house, Martin departed quickly,
saying that he would come at a more convenient hour. He did not want Sir
John to know that he was in London, but he was curious to know upon what
mission Sir John had come to town. Here was an opportunity to satisfy
his curiosity which he had not counted upon, and he turned swiftly into
the first alley which presented itself, and waited. He was so intent on
watching for Sir John that he failed to notice Barbara's maid, who on
her side was not anxious to attract too much attention either from those
who might be at the windows of the house or from idlers in the square.

Fairley had to wait nearly an hour, and then Sir John came. He took no
notice of the coach, had no doubt given the servants some instructions
concerning it, but walked leisurely across the square with the air of a
man at peace with himself and all the world. Whatever plot might be on
foot, it had received no check, and Fairley argued the worst from that
handsome, smiling face.

"He is delighted with some great villainy," he said to himself as he
came from his hiding-place and followed him.

Sir John Lanison was conscious that some attention was paid to him as he
passed. He was a fine gentleman, and retained a little of that
old-fashioned grace which had been the admiration of the town a couple
of decades ago, when foolish women had looked upon him almost as a hero
of romance, and men had thought twice before raising the anger of so
accomplished a swordsman. A remembrance of former triumphs, with perhaps
a little sigh to keep it company, came to him as he went towards the
Haymarket, but certainly no thought of Martin Fairley was in his mind.
His destination was a hostelry where he was evidently known, and there
was a rush to do his bidding. He was travelling to Aylingford to-morrow,
and must needs have the best coach and horses procurable. He was going
alone; yes, and would start at an early hour. His orders were received
with bows and much obsequiousness.

"Tell me, landlord, have you sent out a coach in that direction to-day?"

"Not to Aylingford, sir."

"But in that direction. The road does not only lead to the Abbey."

"Why, yes, sir; a coach started for the West early this afternoon," was
the answer.

"In these days the traffic sets more this way," said Sir John. "What
kind of passengers were they?"

"Two women; one closely veiled, but if her face were equal to her
figure, to hide it was cheating mortals out of a pleasure. The other was
a maid, a pert little baggage who ordered us about somewhat."

"Going to Exeter?"

"No, to Dorchester."

Sir John nodded, and the smile of satisfaction seemed permanent.

"You observe closely, landlord. I warrant you could describe the
mistress's clothing for all you were so ordered about by the maid."

The landlord grinned, and proved his observation by a somewhat close

"I get asked such questions sometimes," he said, "when a mistress runs
away, or a rebel makes hastily for the sea-coast and safety. It is well
to be observant."

Sir John laughed, and having demanded that the post-boys supplied
to-morrow should not be of the sort who see a highwayman in every broken
tree trunk by the wayside, he departed.

The conversation had been overheard by a crowd of loafers in the
adjoining room, who had suspended their drinking to watch this fine
gentleman to whom the landlord was so attentive. Then the clatter and
conversation began again, and only one man was interested enough to seek
further information. He had only entered a few moments ago; now he
approached the landlord.

"I heard your description just now; it interested me."

The landlord looked at Fairley from head to foot, and then brought his
eyes to bear keenly on his face.

"You are not known to me."

"But I am to the lady, unless I mistake not. You spoke of runaway
mistresses, and truly I think that shot at a venture found its mark."

"You would follow her?"

"If your answer to a question or two satisfies me, I will ride without
delay the best horse you have."

The questions were asked, and Martin was so satisfied that he was
impatient to be gone.

"So that I am well paid it's no odds to me," said the landlord. "I made
the lady no promise, and she's not the first who has grown tired of her
husband, nor will she be the last."

"She may thank you for giving me the information," Fairley answered.
"Ink and paper quickly, landlord; I must write a letter before I go."

By the time the horse was ready the letter was written.

"Find a messenger for this, landlord, and see that it is delivered
without delay. There is payment for the messenger; tell him he will
receive a like sum from the gentleman to whom this is addressed."

There was a certain awkwardness about Martin Fairley as he rode out of
the yard, enough to show that he was not so accomplished a horseman as
some men; yet he had improved in his riding since he had borne Gilbert
Crosby company from "The Jolly Farmers" that night.

The letter was delivered to Sydney Fellowes before Fairley had gone many
miles upon his journey.

"I believe Mistress Lanison is on her way to Dorchester, and I am
following," Fellowes read. "What plan is in her mind I cannot tell, but
since it seems to give Sir John much satisfaction, I argue that some
trap lies in the way. It is possible that I may be mistaken, so will you
go to Lady Bolsover's to-night and make sure that Mistress Lanison has
gone. If she has, and you can come, make all haste to Dorchester. There
is a little tavern called 'The Anchor' in West Street. No one of
consequence would use it, so you shall find word of me there."

Not many hours later Sydney Fellowes was also riding towards the West.



There was an atmosphere of unrest about the inn at Witley this evening.
An hour ago a coach had arrived, and the best rooms were in requisition
for the travellers, a lady and her maid. It was whispered amongst the
loungers in the common room that she was a great lady, in spite of the
fact that she travelled in a hired coach, but this idea was perhaps due
to the fact that the maid was imperious, and demanded attention in a
manner that carried weight. The servant of an ordinary person would
hardly have been so dictatorial.

Even before the arrival of the coach the inn had been far more alive
than usual, for a company of troopers had galloped up to it late in the
afternoon making inquiry concerning a fugitive. He might be alone, but
probably had a companion with him. Both men were minutely described, and
it would seem that the capture of the companion would be likely to give
the greater satisfaction.

No one at the inn had either seen or heard anything of them, and the
troop had given up the pursuit. After refreshment, and a noisy halt of
half an hour, the men had returned by the way they had come, leaving two
of their company behind. These two were in the common room when the
coach arrived, and, like everyone else in the house, were mightily
interested in the lady and her maid. When the bustle had subsided a
little they called for more ale and settled themselves comfortably in a

"Well, for my part I'm not sorry the fellow got away," said one man,
stretching out his legs easily. "We've enough prisoners to make examples
of already."

"One more or less makes no matter," was the answer, "but it's wonderful
how many have managed to slip through our fingers by the help of this
fellow Crosby. I'd give something to lay him by the heels."

"Aye, that would mean gold enough in our pockets to jingle."

"And we shall get him presently," the other went on. "He is known to
many of us now that he does not always hide himself behind the brown

"If there were no money in it, I wouldn't raise a hand against him,"
said his companion, "for I've a sneaking fondness for the fellow. He's
got courage and brains, and they've got the better of us up to now. Mark
me, we shan't take him easily when the opportunity does offer. He'll
make a corpse of one or two of us in the doing it."

"More guineas for those who are left," was the answer. "The other affair
trots nicely," and he winked slowly over the tilted edge of his tankard.

"Wait!" said the other. "The netting of such fish may be sport enough,
but there are handsome fish which are the devil to handle, and the taste
of them is poison. Hist!"

His companion turned quickly at the warning, and through the open door
saw the maid, who attended the great lady, in the passage without. She
inquired for the landlord, who came quickly, and at the same time the
trooper got up and crossed the room, giving no explanation to his

"Must we start early to reach Dorchester to-morrow?" the maid inquired
of the landlord.

"Yes, very early. The roads--"

"The roads are good, mistress," volunteered the trooper. "I have ridden
over them to-day."

"You may be able to tell me better than the landlord, then," said the
girl, and for some minutes they talked in a low tone as they stood in
the doorway of the inn.

"A fine night, mistress," said the man as the girl was about to leave
him. "With the moon up like this, lovers should be abroad. It's but a
hundred yards to the open fields; will you come?"

"With you!" exclaimed the girl scornfully, looking him up slowly from
his boots to his eyes.

"Why not?" The maid's eyes were attractive, her figure was neat, and the
man had sufficient ale in him to make him bold. For an instant they
looked at each other; then the girl laughed derisively.

"When the master grows tired, the man may prove useful, and the man has
a fancy for sampling the wares forthwith," said the trooper as he caught
hold of the girl and would have kissed her. Perhaps he did not expect
any great resistance, and was unprepared, but at any rate she slipped
from his embrace, dealing him a resounding box upon the ears as she did

"You shall be punished further before many hours are over," said the
girl as she ran lightly up the stairs.

The man growled an oath as he stood with his hand to his assaulted ear.

"Did I not say that some were the devil to handle?" remarked his
companion, who had come to the common-room door, and was smiling grimly.

"I grant she takes first trick, and with a heavy hand for so small a
person, but the game is only commencing. One more draught of ale to
drink success to the end of it, and then to horse."

As the troopers rode out of Witley presently a horseman drew back into
the shadow of some trees by the roadside to let them pass.

"The remaining two," he murmured. "That's well; they have given up the
pursuit," and he turned and went at a brisk canter across country.

The maid said nothing about the trooper to her mistress; she only told
her that an early start would have to be made.

"Very well, Harriet, I shall want nothing more to-night, and will put
myself to bed."

But Barbara Lanison was in no haste to seek sleep. She was tired, bodily
tired, but mentally she was wakeful. There were some hours still before
she could reach Dorchester, and many more hours might elapse before she
could get speech with Judge Marriott. Having determined to make the
sacrifice, she was eager that it should be over and done with, that she
should know the full extent of the sacrifice. And perhaps, at the back
of her mind, there was a little fear of herself. The question would
arise, again and again, no matter how she tried to suppress it, was she
justified in acting as she intended to do? Who was this man for whom she
was prepared to give so much? A notorious highwayman, upon whose head
there was a price. Yes, it was true, but he was also Gilbert Crosby, the
man who had taken possession of her thoughts since the first moment she
had seen him, the man who had sheltered and helped the peasantry fleeing
from an inhuman persecution, and who must now pay for his courage with
his life unless she pleaded for him. Was she justified? The question
sounded in her ears when she fell asleep; she heard it when she awoke
next morning. Yes, and mentally she flung back the answer, yes, for to
her Gilbert Crosby was something more than a brave man, and was dear to
her in spite of everything. He was the man who had set an ideal in her
heart, he was the man she loved. Hardly to herself would she admit it,
but it was love that sent her to the West.

It was still early when the coach rolled out of Witley, but it was not
early enough, nor was the pace fast enough, to satisfy Barbara. She
became suddenly fearful of pursuit which might stop her from reaching
Dorchester. She began to dread some breakdown which might delay her and
cause her to arrive too late.

"Shall we be in time?" she asked more than once, turning to Harriet

"Yes, madam, you need have no fear. The assizes have not yet begun in

Pursuit was behind, but it was the pursuit of a friend. Whether it was
the fault of the horseman or his mounts, disaster rode with Martin
Fairley. To begin with, his horse cast a shoe, and by the time a smith
was found and his work done, an hour had been wasted. Before the end of
the first stage the horse collapsed; there was considerable difficulty
in getting a remount, and the animal procured was a sorry beast for
pace. Martin fretted at the delay, and cursed the adverse fates which so
hindered him. Once he was within three miles of the coach, and then his
horse went dead lame. Hours were lost before he could get another horse
and resume the journey, and during those hours much might have happened.

The coach had left only an hour when he arrived at the inn at Witley.

"Yes, the travellers were a lady and her maid," the landlord told him.

"Going to Dorchester?" Martin asked.

"Yes. They started early."

"Has anyone inquired for them?"


"Some breakfast, landlord--ale and bread and cheese will do--and a horse
at once."

"Yes, sir."

"And for heaven's sake give me a horse with four sound legs and with
wind enough in its bellows to stand a gallop."

Fairley was soon in the saddle again, and this time with a better horse
under him. His spirits rose as the miles were left rapidly behind, and
as he turned each bend in the road he looked eagerly for a dust cloud
before him proclaiming that his pursuit was nearly at an end.

Barbara sat silently in the corner of the carriage, Harriet Payne sat
upright, looking from the window. It was Harriet who first noticed that
the post-boy was suddenly startled, and that, in looking back, he had
almost allowed the horses to swerve from the roadway.

"What is it?" she called from the window, as she looked back along the
road they had come.

The post-boy pointed with his whip. Barbara looked hastily from the
other window. There was much dust from their own wheels, but, beyond,
there was another cloud surrounding and half concealing a horseman who
was fast overtaking them.

"Looks like a highwayman," said the post-boy.

"Better a highwayman than some others who might have followed us," said
Barbara, leaning back in her corner again. "Tell the boy to go on
quietly, Harriet. This may be a very worthy gentleman who has need of

A few minutes later the horseman galloped up to the window.

"Martin! You!" Barbara exclaimed.

"Had I not been delayed upon the journey I should have caught you before
this. I wish I had."

"Why, Martin? Do you suppose I am to be turned from my purpose?"

Fairley rode beside the open window, and Barbara leaned forward to talk
with him.

"I do not know your purpose," he said, "but I fear a trap has been set
for you."

"A trap!" Harriet exclaimed.

"Why do you think so, Martin?" Barbara asked.

Fairley told her how he had followed Sir John to the hostelry in the

"You see, mistress, he knew where you would hire. He went direct to this
place and made his inquiries as though he knew beforehand what answers
he would receive. His smile was so self-satisfied that I scented

"And you see we are safe, nothing has happened."

"Not yet," was the answer. "There is presently a by-road I know of, and
by your leave we will take it."

Barbara felt a little quick tug at her sleeve, and turned to Harriet.

"Do not give him leave. I do not trust him," whispered the girl.

"Why not?"

"Some who seem to be your friends are no friends to Mr. Crosby."

"This is no friend to be afraid of," laughed Barbara. "Were you not told
to seek a fiddler at Aylingford if you failed to find me? This is he!"

"A fiddler!" Harriet exclaimed. She had evidently not expected the
fiddler to be a man of this sort, and was not satisfied.

Barbara turned to the window again. "Tell me what you fear, Martin. I
must not be hindered in reaching Dorchester, but take this by-road you
talk of if you think it safer."

"It will be a wise precaution, and will not delay us long upon the
journey." He rode forward a little, and spoke to the post-boy.

"He will delay us, I know he will," said Harriet. "I have no faith in
him, and it may just make the difference in saving my master."

"Don't be foolish, girl. Your master has no better friend in the world."

"I cannot help it, but I do not believe it," sobbed the girl.

"You have told me the assizes have not begun in Dorchester. We shall not
be too late."

"But they have hanged and shot men without waiting for a trial. I know;
I have seen them. They hate my master, and were they to learn you were
hurrying to his rescue, they would kill him before you came."

"I am doing my best," said Barbara.

"Keep to the high road, mistress," urged the girl.

Barbara turned from her impatiently, and Martin came back to the window.

"What is your purpose when you arrive in Dorchester?" he asked.

"I cannot tell you."

Martin made a little gesture to indicate Harriet Payne.

"I have told no one, and shall not do so until my purpose is
accomplished," said Barbara.

"Mistress, I have some knowledge of things in the West. My fiddle and I
hear many things, and I might give you useful news."

"You cannot help me in this, Martin."

"I am under no oath not to thwart you should the price you are prepared
to pay be too large."

"That is why I do not tell you, Martin."

Fairley asked no further question, but rode on by the carriage in
silence. He believed that she was going to bargain with Lord Rosmore,
and his brain was full of schemes to frustrate her, or at least to
prevent her fulfilling the bargain, even if it were made. It was not
necessary to be honest in dealing with such a scoundrel, he argued, and
even if it were wise to let the bargain be struck, he would see to it
that Lord Rosmore should not profit by it.

"This is the road," he said to the post-boy, and the carriage swung
round into what was little more than a lane.

Harriet Payne gave a little cry, and looked from the window.

"I thought we were over, but we are off the road. Forbid this way,
mistress; I pray you forbid it."

For an instant Barbara wondered whether this was a scheme of Martin's to
keep her from her purpose but the idea was absurd. He was as anxious
that Gilbert Crosby should be rescued as she was. She commanded Harriet
to keep quiet.

Progress was slower now, for this side road was heavy, and the coach
came near to being overturned more than once.

"It will be better presently," said Martin, but it was a long time
before his prophecy came true, and when it did, the improvement was not
very great.

"I wouldn't have come if I had known," growled the post-boy.

"You'll go where you're told," said Martin, "and the more words about
it, the less pay."

They had travelled slowly for an hour or more, along a winding road
between thick copses and high-hedged fields, when Martin suddenly
brought his horse to a standstill and listened.

"Stop!" he said to the post-boy, and immediately the grinding wheels
were still.

There was the quick thud of hoofs behind them, coming so rapidly that
there was no hope of escape if they were pursued. Barbara leaned
forward, looking at Martin as he unfastened the holster and half drew
out a pistol; but Harriet Payne had thrust her head from the other

"I knew it! He has betrayed us!" she said shrilly.

"The devil take that wench!" growled Martin.

Two men rode round the bend in the road, then two more, then others, a
score of them at least. With an oath Martin let the pistol fall back
into the holster. The odds were too great. His head sunk a little, and
he looked strangely limp in his saddle.

"Fire at them! Be a man and defend us!" shrieked Harriet, but Martin did
not move.

Barbara looked at him with wondering eyes; she was still looking at him
when the coach was surrounded.

"Your servants, Mistress Lanison," said a man at the door. "We are sent
to bring you to Dorchester."

"By whom?"

"I had my orders from my superior; I cannot say who first gave them."

"I am travelling to Dorchester."

"We must be your escort, madam."

"Am I a prisoner?"

"One that shall be well treated by us and by all, I trust. This rogue
here has led you off the road. A little further from the highway and I
suppose you would have robbed them, you scoundrel."

"No, sir, I only thought the dust would be less this way," Fairley
answered meekly.

Another man looked keenly at Martin, and then laughed.

"Surely this is that fiddler fellow we know something of?"

"Yes, sir," said Martin, crooking his arm as though a fiddle were in it,
and in a timid voice he sang a few notes, like a wail, but they had
often seemed a laugh to Barbara. She could not tell which they were now.
"My fiddle is lost, or I would play for you, so long, so sweetly, that
you would see flagons of ale around you, and think you tasted them too."

"I would the fiddle were found, then," said one.

"Having lost it, you carry pistols instead."

"Yes, sir, every gentleman does so, but there's many dare not use them.
I didn't use them. You'll remember that, for it's to my credit, and let
me go."

The man removed the pistols from his holster.

"They're dangerous toys for a fool."

"Truly, I feel much happier without them," said Martin.

"Coward!" said Harriet Payne from the window as the coach was turned.

Barbara said nothing.

"Please let me ride by the other window," pleaded Martin. "This wench
has no music in her soul, and does not like me."

"You shall ride behind," was the answer.

"Thank you, sir; I shall not see her then. She is not beautiful to look

The man laughed.

"Look to this fool, some of you, and give him a cuff if he grows

"Sleepy! Never in good company," said Martin.

The post-boy whipped up the horses, and the carriage went slowly back
towards the main road, surrounded by its escort.

Barbara was still bound for Dorchester, but a prisoner. Would she now be
able to get speech with Judge Marriott?



The grinding of wheels, the sharp stroke of horses' hoofs, and the
voices of men lessened and died into silence. No sound disturbed the
narrow, winding lane which twisted its way now between neglected and
forlorn looking fields, presently through woods of larch and pine, again
across some deserted piece of common land. One might have followed the
lane for hours without meeting a soul, without hearing a human sound
beyond the echoes of one's own footsteps sent back from the depth of a
copse. For miles it went, turning now this way, now that, until a
stranger would wonder whither it was leading him, and speculate whether,
at the end, he might not find himself on the same high road which he had
left long ago. At one part, for a mile or more, the lane skirted a
forest, where, down short vistas, could be seen deeper depths beyond,
solemn gloom which might serve to hide in, or might contain lurking
danger. Old cart ruts here and there made short incursions into it,
their limit marked by a small clearing and a few tree stumps, showing
that timber had been brought out; but no such track gave any sign of
penetrating far, and offered little temptation to explore. There was a
track, however, so casual in its departure from the lane that a stranger
would hardly have noticed it, which ran deeply into the forest, losing
itself at intervals in a small clearing, but going on again, although
anyone but those who had knowledge of it might miss it a score of times,
and wander hopelessly amongst tangled undergrowths and into swampy
depressions. This track presently crossed a larger clearing, where was a
hut set up by charcoal burners long ago. Time had cracked and warped its
planks, but pieces had been nailed across weak places, giving the hut a
botched and tumble-down appearance but keeping it weather-tight. The hut
was divided into a shed for tools and storage, or perhaps for stabling a
horse upon occasion, and a larger chamber which served as a dwelling.
From a hole in the roof of this part a thin wreath of smoke was curling
upwards towards the overhanging trees, losing itself in their foliage.
Twilight came early here, and the great world seemed shut out

Presently the door of the hut opened, but he was no charcoal-burner who
stood on the threshold, listening and looking up at the sky above the
clearing. His hair was white, his figure a little bent, and there was an
anxious look upon his face, a permanent expression rather than one
caused by any tardy arrival this evening. The man he waited for was too
erratic in his goings and comings to make a few hours', or even a day's,
delay a cause of wonder.

He went back into the hut, but in half an hour or so came to the door
again. He was not a woodsman used to distinguishing sounds at a long
distance, and the sound that presently reached him was close by. In
another moment a man, leading a horse, came out of the gloomy shadows
into the clearing.

"Master Gilbert! Master Gilbert! You're late. Thank God you're back once
more. I've a hare in the pot which begins to smell excellently."

"I'll do justice to your cooking, Golding, never fear. I'll look to the
mare first; she's had a trying day."

He led the animal into the small shed, and for some time was busy making
her comfortable for the night.

"Ah! the smell is appetising," he said as he joined Golding, "and I am

"And in good spirits, surely."

"Yes, we baulked them again, Golding. Yesterday afternoon we made in the
direction of Witley, and had as narrow a squeak of capture as I want to
experience. A troop was before us on the road, and one fellow with the
eyes of a lynx sighted us. The poor fellow I was helping was a bit of a
coward--no, I won't call him that, but constantly being hunted had taken
the heart out of him, and he was inclined to give up the struggle. I
urged him on, and we made for Witley, openly, and as if we were
confident of a hiding-place in the town. Fortune favoured us, and we
pulled up short in a hollow, the troop riding by us in desperate haste.
Hot footed they poured into Witley, but for some reason which I did not
understand they went no further. Half an hour afterwards they came back,
all but two of them. I had counted them as they passed. Those two
remained in Witley until long after nightfall, then they rode back, and
my man had a free country before him."

"You'll run the risk once too often, Master Gilbert."

"That is probable, but, by Jove! I shall have done some good with my
life. This was the thirty-eighth man I've helped out of the clutches of
these devils."

"And I was the first," said Golding. "It's wonderful how you schemed to
get me out of Dorchester, Master Gilbert."

"And it's marvellous how you manage to make this hut a home that one is
glad to get back to, Golding."

"Maybe we'll get back to Lenfield presently, Master Gilbert, and you'll
then shudder at the thought of what you had to put up with here."

"It will be some time before there will be safety for me at Lenfield,"
said Crosby.

"And meanwhile a hare's no such bad fare, if the preparing and cooking
of it does present some difficulties in a place like this," said Golding
as he replenished his master's plate.

Crosby had eaten little in the last twenty-four hours, and was silent
for some time.

"Thirty-eight is something, but it's a drop in the ocean," he said
presently. "I wish I could open the prison doors in Dorchester before
the assizes commence. There'll be murder enough done there in a few
days, Golding."

"That is beyond your power, Master Gilbert," and the old man said it as
if he feared his master would make the attempt.

"Yes, I am powerless. I wonder what became of that girl, Golding."

"Do you mean Harriet Payne?"

"I had forgotten her name for the moment," said Crosby. "When I came to
Dorchester after they had arrested you, I found out where you were, but
I could hear nothing about her. I would give a great deal to set her

"Yes, Master Gilbert."

"It is frightful for a woman to be in the clutches of these devils, and
when that fiend Jeffreys comes to Dorchester, God help the women he
judges! I wonder what has become of the girl."

"She may have been released."

"Why should they release her when they would think it was within her
power to betray me?"

Golding shrugged his shoulders. "It was only a suggestion," he said.

"What is in your mind?" Crosby asked.

"An unjust thought, Master Gilbert. Since thirty years ago the one woman
I ever thought of jilted me, I've had no love for any woman. I'm afraid
of them and unjust in my thoughts of them. My opinion concerning women
is of no value."

"What were you thinking about Harriet Payne?"

"She was a bit flighty, Master Gilbert, and rather given to look down on
the other servants. That kind of girl is open to flattery."

"And then, Golding?"

"Then! Well, I'm no judge of women, but it seems to me that once they're
fond of flattery you can make them do almost anything. She was a
good-looking girl, was Harriet Payne, and if some young slip of a dandy
got hold of her--well, she might make a bargain with him and get
released that way."

"Was she that kind of girl?"

"I'm not saying so; I'm only putting it as a possibility," Golding
answered. "Such bargains have been made, Master Gilbert, if the tales
they tell be true."

Crosby clenched his teeth suddenly, and struck his fist irritably on his
knee. One such tale he had heard, told of the brutal Colonel Kirke, a
woman's honour sacrificed to save her lover, and sacrificed in vain. He
was prepared to believe any villainy of such a man, and there were many,
little better than Kirke, free to work their will in the West Country
to-day. He was conscious of the ribbon about his neck, he remembered
that handclasp in the hidden chamber below Aylingford Abbey, and thanked
Heaven that the fair woman who had done so much to help him was in

"Such thoughts make me sick, Golding," he said after a long pause. "I
feel that I must rush into the midst of such villains and strike, strike
until I am cut down. Sometimes there comes the belief that if a man had
the courage to charge boldly into such iniquity, God Himself would fight
beside him and give him victory."

"There peeps out the Puritan faith of your fathers, Master Gilbert. It's
a good faith, but over confident of miracles. You'd be foolish throwing
your life away trying the impossible when there is so much you are able
to do well."

"I argued like that only a few hours since," said Crosby. "But, for all
that, there's a taste of cowardice left behind in the mouth. I should
have been back early this afternoon but for the fact that this troop I
spoke of was still hanging about the highway yonder."

"They did not see you!" Golding said in alarm. "They will not track you

"They were not watching for me. I take it the men were ordered not to
follow us beyond Witley, but to wait for other prey that was expected. I
did not see how it happened, nor where, only the result. They had
captured a coach, and were guarding it on the way to Dorchester. What
unfortunate travellers it contained I do not know, I was at too great a
distance to see. But in the midst of the villains there was a captured
horseman, and they seemed to be ill-treating him. I touched the mare
with the spur, thinking to go to his aid, but drew rein again
immediately. There was at least a score of men to 'do battle with."

"A wise second thought," said Golding.

"Leaving a taste in my mouth," said Crosby. "I thought I heard
something, Golding."

"It was the mare in the shed."

"I heard her, but something else besides, I fancy," and, with Golding at
his heels, he went out of the hut to listen. There were stars in the sky
over the clearing. The night had fallen, and strange sounds came from
the gloomy depths of the forest, sounds which might well set an
unaccustomed ear intent to catch their meaning. Gilbert Crosby may not
have been able to account for all of them, but they did not trouble him.
It was another sound he waited and listened for.

"There is nothing, Master Gilbert," Golding whispered.


Golding saw that a pistol was in his master's hand, so he took one
slowly from his pocket and tried to look into the darkness.

It was well that Gilbert Crosby saw the coach from such a distance, that
he could not catch a glimpse of the travellers. Had he known who the
travellers were, the spurs would have been driven deep into the mare's
flanks and there would have been no drawing rein; had he even recognised
the horseman who was being ill-treated he would not have paused to count
the cost. A trooper or two might have gone down before his fierce
attack, but a score of men, trained in fighting and on the alert, cannot
be scattered by one. Gilbert Crosby would have been flung lifeless on
the roadside, or overpowered and carried a prisoner to Dorchester.

The two women sat silently in the coach. Harriet Payne sobbed quietly.
She was tired of abusing Martin, weary of telling her mistress that they
ought to have kept to the high road and safety. At first she had broken
out at intervals with her wailing, and Barbara's commands to be silent
had not much effect.

Barbara did not answer her, did not look at her. Her own thoughts and
fears were trouble enough. A trap had been laid for her, doubtless it
was of her uncle's contriving, and it was unlikely that she would be
able to send even a message to Judge Marriott. Her mission was doomed to
failure, and she was in the hands of her enemies. What could they compel
her to do? Was marriage with Lord Rosmore the only way out? She would
never take that way. Though they accused her of treason, though death
threatened her, she would never marry him. To Judge Marriott she was
prepared to sacrifice herself, but to Lord Rosmore never, not even to
save the life of the man she loved. There had been moments when an
alliance with Rosmore had not appeared so dreadful to her, moments when
her disappointment concerning Gilbert Crosby had helped to make Rosmore
less repugnant to her; but from the moment she had determined to
sacrifice herself these two men stood in clear and definite antagonism.
The one she loved, the other she hated. Why she should so love and so
hate she could not have explained fully, but the love and hate were
facts, and she made no attempt to reason about them.

She heard Martin's voice at intervals, complaining, garrulous, and then
suddenly jesting, jests not meant for her ears, but fitted to the rough
company in the midst of which he rode. Poor Martin, she thought, Mad
Martin. This might make him mad indeed, drive from him entirely that
strange wit he had and which he used so wonderfully at times. He had
been her playfellow, and her teacher, too, in many things, yet he was
one of God's fools. There was compensation in that surely.

Barbara winced presently when Martin's voice was raised in higher

"What are you trying to do, you fool?" cried a gruff voice.

"I want to see that my mistress is happy. She would like me to ride
beside her window; and I will, too."

It was probably at this moment that Gilbert Crosby caught sight of the
cavalcade, and thought the prisoner was being vilely ill-used. Well
might he think so, for Martin attempted to force his way through the
troopers and get to the window.

"She's used to me," he literally screamed. "See what an ugly fellow is
beside the window now! Truth, I never saw so many ugly men together. Let
me pass!"

"Peace, Martin, I am all right!" Barbara called from the window, fearful
that these men might do him an injury.

"Take that idiot further back!" roared the voice of the man in command
of the troop. "He does naught but frighten the lady."

Martin received a cuff on the head, and was hustled to the rear, a man
riding on either side of him.

"Who was the gentleman who struck me?" whined Martin, rubbing his head.

"Sayers. His is a good hand for dusting off flies," laughed one of the
men beside him, willing to get some sport out of this madman.

"Flies! To judge by my head he must have fancied he saw a bullock before
him. Lucky I dodged somewhat, or I'd have no head for flies to settle
on. And who is the gentleman with the voice of thunder?"

"That's Watson."

"It's a good voice, but there's no music in it. You have never heard him
sing, eh?"

"Aye, but I have. He can roar a fine stave about wine and women."

"I'll go and ask him to favour us," said Martin, jerking his horse

"Stay where you are," and the man's hand shot out to the horse's bridle.

"Very well, very well, if you like my company so much. It's a strange
thing that they should put wine and women into the same song."

"Strange, you fool! Strong enough and beautiful enough, are they not
both intoxicating?"

"I know not," Martin answered. "I have no experience of strong women."

"Strong wine and beautiful women," I said.

"Did you. I am rather dull of hearing."

"You're a dull-witted fellow altogether to my thinking."

"It is most true, sir. I am so dull that I cannot see the wit in your

"I can cuff almost as vigorously as Sayers," said the man a little
angrily, when his companion on the other side of Martin laughed.

"I will believe it without demonstration," said Martin, cringing in his
saddle. "You frighten me, and now I have lost my stirrups. I am no rider
to get on without them. I shall fall. Of your kindness, gentlemen, find
me my stirrups."

"Plague on you for a fool," said one.

"A blessing on you if you get my feet into the stirrups."

"Stop, then, a moment."

Martin pulled up, and the cavalcade went on. The two men, one on either
side, brought their horses close to Martin's, and bent down to find the
stirrups. Martin suddenly gave both horses the spur in the flanks with a
backward fling of his heels, and at the same time struck each man a
heavy blow on his lowered head. The horses sprang aside, one rider
falling in the roadway, the other stumbling with his animal into the
ditch by the roadside. The next instant Martin had whipped round his own
horse, and was galloping back along the road.

It had been the work of a few seconds, and a few seconds more elapsed
before the cavalcade came to a standstill.

Then a voice roared orders, half a dozen shots sang about the fugitive,
and there were galloping horses quickly in pursuit.

Expecting the shots, Martin had flung himself low on the horse's neck.
The animal, frightened by the swinging stirrups and driven by the spur,
plunged madly along the road. So long as the road was straight, Martin
let the horse go, but at the first bend, when there was no chance of his
pursuers seeing him, he checked the animal a little, slipped from his
back, and with a blow sent him careering riderless along the road.

"He'll make a fine chase for them, and should find his way back to
Witley," said Martin as he crouched down in a ditch which divided the
road from a wood. Cracking branches might have betrayed him had he
entered the wood just then. Half a dozen horsemen passed him, galloping
in pursuit, and when the sounds had died away, and he was convinced that
no others followed, he crawled from the ditch and went straight before
him into the wood. At a clearing he stopped and looked at the stars,
then continued his way along a narrow track that went towards the
south-west, in which direction lay Dorchester. He had no mind to enter
the town as a prisoner, but he meant to reach it all the same, and as
soon as possible.

For an hour he pushed forward, and then came suddenly to the edge of a
clearing of some size. He stopped. He saw nothing, he was not sure that
he heard anything, but the air seemed to vibrate with some presence
besides his own.

Perhaps he had heard the low sound which the opening door of the hut

"You're a dead man if you move," said a voice out of the darkness.

Fairley started and made a step forward, but stopped in time.

"I should know that voice. I am Martin Fairley."


Crosby hurried forward to meet him.

"Have you been a prisoner in Dorchester?" Martin asked.

"A prisoner! No."

"The devil take that wench!"

"What wench?" Crosby asked.

"Give me something to drink and a mouthful of food. The story may be
told in a few words, and then we must get to Dorchester."

"Martin! Why? Surely she--"

"Yes; she will be there within an hour or so. That is why we go to
Dorchester to-night."



Barbara's prison was an old house in a narrow street of Dorchester, the
ground floor of which had been turned into temporary barracks for
soldiers and militiamen. The prisoner passed to rooms on the upper floor
through a rough, gaping crowd, and in some faces pity shone through
brutality for a moment. Something worse than death might await so fair a

The rooms to which she was taken were sparsely furnished and rather
dark, the windows looking out upon a blank wall, two rooms
communicating, but with only a single entrance from the passage without.
The most hopeful would have seen little prospect of escape, and the most
spirited might wonder if depression could be successfully conquered in
such surroundings. Half a dozen soldiers had followed them up the
stairs, but only Watson, whose stentorian voice seemed to fit him to
command a troop of ruffians, entered the room with them.

"There are so many prisoners in Dorchester that we have to make shift to
find room for them," he said, as though to make apology for the

"Indeed, I might be much worse lodged," Barbara answered.

Harriet Payne looked round the rooms in dismay, but said nothing.

"May I know what charge is brought against me?" asked Barbara.

"With that I have naught to do," Watson answered. "I'm a soldier, not a
lawyer, madam. My orders are to keep you in safe custody until your
presence is required, and I am told to see that you have everything in
reason to make you comfortable."

"It would appear that I have friends in Dorchester."

"It is not unlikely, madam; as for this young person," he went on,
looking at Harriet, "she will see to your wants and may pass in and out.
I suppose, therefore, that nothing is known against her beyond the fact
that she is found in your company."

"Your temporary mistress is evidently a dangerous person, Harriet,"
Barbara said with a smile. "Had I not forced you to make this perilous
journey with me, you would have been better off."

This deliberate attempt to dissociate her from any treasonable intention
rather startled Harriet Payne.

"At least you shall find the comfort of having a maid with you, madam,"
she said quickly.

"If the young person will come with me, I will show her where certain
things you may require can be found," said Watson. "There will be a
sentry constantly in the passage, madam, so if you hear footsteps in the
night you need not fear."

Barbara made no answer to this indirect warning that any thought of
flight was hopeless, and Harriet followed Watson out of the room.

"It was well done," he whispered as they went down the passage, leaving
a sentry by the locked door.

"I was not looking for your praise."

"It is given gratis," the man answered, "and in the same spirit I'll
give you a warning: don't attempt the impossible, whatever happens. A
woman like her yonder might succeed in wheedling any man, or woman."

"I want neither your praise nor your warning," said Harriet.

"And I'm not looking for another clout on the ear, mistress, such as you
gave me at Witley, though, for that matter, I like a woman of spirit. If
you're in want of a comforter later on, you may reckon on Sam Watson."

"And Sam Watson had best be careful, or he may find himself in hot water
with his master," Harriet answered with a toss of her head.

For herself, Barbara Lanison had little thought, but her fears for
others troubled her. As a prisoner her power to help Gilbert Crosby was
grievously lessened. Doubtless she herself was to be accused of treason,
and Judge Marriott might be afraid to say a word at her bidding, or
perchance he would refuse if the power to make the sacrifice she
intended were taken from her. Death might be her punishment for treason,
and if so, where was Judge Marriott's reward? There was another
contingency: he might be able to save her, and he would certainly use
his efforts to this end instead of troubling about Crosby, no matter
what pleading she might use. As a prisoner she was, indeed, of little
use to Gilbert Crosby. She must see Judge Marriott and do her best, but
her hope of success was small. Who had brought this disaster upon her?
Surely her guardian, and Barbara's hands clenched in impotent rage to
think that he had outwitted her. Yet he could not be alone in the
matter, for it was not probable that he had openly accused her himself.
Had Rosmore anything to do with it? It was a new thought to Barbara. She
knew her uncle for a villain, but about Lord Rosmore she was undecided.
True, he had threatened her, but he also loved her, she could not doubt
that in his own fashion he did so. Would a man place the woman he loved
in such jeopardy as that in which she was placed? Barbara could not
believe it possible; besides, how should Lord Rosmore know that she was
on her way to Dorchester? The coming of Harriet Payne to Aylingford had
aroused Sir John's suspicions, but there was no circumstance which would
lead Rosmore to suppose that she intended journeying to the West.

Martin Fairley also troubled her. Had he made good his escape, or had he
been retaken and confined somewhere else in the town? She had asked the
man Watson as the cavalcade had started again, and his gruff reply was
that the fool would be left dead in the ditch by the roadside. She did
not believe Martin was dead; in fact, Martin puzzled her. He could not
have had a hand in her betrayal, yet, at the very moment when courage
was most needed, he had been a coward. Probably he had saved himself,
but he had deserted her. The one person upon whose fidelity she would
have staked her honour had utterly forsaken her at a supreme moment.
Full as her mind was of Gilbert Crosby, the failure of this half-witted
companion depressed her as, perhaps, nothing else could have done.

Had he really deserted her? The question came through the long, wakeful
hours of the night. It came with the memory of that little cadence of
notes, the same notes in which his fiddle laughed. He had sung them in a
foolish fashion when the men surrounded the coach; had he meant to speak
to her by them? The thought brought hope and sleep, sleep giving
strength, hope bringing new courage when the day came.

"To help Mr. Crosby I must Speak with Judge Marriott, who is in
Dorchester," she told Harriet Payne. "You must find him and ask him to
come to me."

"Will he come, madam?"

"I think so."

"Alas, you have need of help yourself now."

"Perhaps not such need as may appear. To arrest me does not prove me
guilty of treason."

"It is not only the guilty who are suffering."

"Out upon you, girl, for whining so easily," said Barbara. "Courage
lends help against every ill, even against death itself. You will find
where Judge Marriott is lodged, and tell him where I am."

"They may not let me have speech with the judge."

"You must contrive, use art, use--Ah, you are a woman, and need no
lesson from me."

So Harriet Payne went upon her mission, and Barbara was impatient until
her return. Disappointment was upon the girl's face when she came back.
It had been easy to find out the judge's lodgings, but impossible to get
speech with him. He was too engaged to see anyone that day.

"I must try again to-morrow," said the girl.

"Yes, and the next day and the next," said Barbara. "Did anyone carry a
message for you?"

"I contrived so far, but whether it came to the judge's ears or not I
cannot tell."

"I'll ask this man Watson to take a message," said Barbara.

"Not yet," said the girl. "That might be dangerous. Wait until I have
entirely failed"; and, to prove how dangerous it might be, she began to
tell her mistress some of the gloomy forebodings which were whispered
about the town.

Dorchester was in terror, and spoke its fears with bated breath. There
were three hundred prisoners awaiting judgment, and the dreaded Jeffreys
was coming; the cruel, the brutal, the malignant judge whose fame, like
an evil angel, came before him, speaking of death. There was to be no
pity, no mercy. If Alice Lisle, for no greater fault than compassion for
two fugitives, was condemned with all the barbarity that the inhuman law
could render possible; if the appeal of clergy, of ladies of high
degree, of counsellors at Whitehall, of Feversham himself, could only
move the King to grant that she should be beheaded instead of burned
alive, what hope for the prisoners in Dorchester who would have no such
powerful appeal made in their favour?

The Court was already prepared, its hangings of scarlet. Judge Marriott,
busily awaiting his learned brother, chuckled at the innovation. It was
like Jeffreys--an original thing, a stroke of genius. Men quaked because
of those scarlet hangings; this was to be no ordinary assizes, but a
marked occasion which should put fear into the souls of all who should
even think upon rebellion. Some man, in an awed undertone, spoke of it
as a bloody assizes, and the name passed from lip to lip until it
reached Judge Marriott's lodging. He chuckled still more, and said to
those about him that Jeffreys would act up to the name, here and
wherever else in this cursed West Country there were prisoners to be

Bloody Assizes! It was almost the first articulate sound that Lord
Rosmore heard as he galloped into the town, a troop of men about him,
and those who watched him pass knew that the judge must be on his way
from Winchester. Rosmore laughed, but his thoughts were complex, schemes
ran riot in his brain. Immediately upon entering his lodging he sent for
Watson and Sayers, and was restless until they came.

He looked quickly towards the door as it opened.

"The lady is safe in Dorchester," said Watson.

"And the fugitive?"

"We followed him to Witley. We should have run him to earth, only your
orders were not to go beyond Witley."

"This cursed fellow Crosby, what of him?"

"He was with this fugitive."

"And you let him go!" exclaimed Rosmore, stamping his foot passionately.

"We obeyed orders, sir, and it is well we did so. We, Sayers and I, were
in Witley when the coach arrived. I had speech with Mistress Payne."

A grim smile overspread Sayers' face as he remembered the box on the ear
his companion had received, but he saw that Lord Rosmore was in no mood
to relish such a tale just now, and held his tongue.

"I told her something of what was to happen, and the place," said
Watson, "but had I not known at what hour the coach was to start, and
when we might expect it at the spot chosen, we should have been
outwitted. In the morning that fiddler from Aylingford caught the coach,
and in some manner had got wind that a trap was set. He persuaded the
lady to take a by-road. I waited, and then, marvelling at the delay,
ordered the troop to ride forward to meet the coach. At the corner where
this by-way turns from the high road, we found a handkerchief lying on
the grass--Mistress Payne's handkerchief. Had it not been for such a
signal we had ridden past, and might have failed to catch them."

"Fairley! Then you have him too?"

"We had, sir, but he escaped."


"I have the two men who let him go under arrest," Watson answered. "One
so badly hurt by the fall from his horse that it will be weeks before he
can fling his leg across saddle again."

"You fools! The girl has more sense in her finger than you can muster in
the whole of your carcasses. How did he get away?"

"By a trick," said Sayers. "He was taken to the rear to keep him from
his mistress, and, on pretence of losing his stirrups, got the men
beside him to come close, when he spurred their horses, striking the men
at the same time. He was round in a minute and galloping back upon the
road. Half a dozen of us went in pursuit, when the shots fired after him
failed to stop him. We went the whole way back to Witley, and there, at
the inn, found the horse lathered with foam. The animal had entered the
yard riderless!"

"What fools I have to serve me!" said Rosmore, laughing derisively.
"Apart from the woman, it would have been failure from beginning to

The derision hurt Watson.

"Care must be taken even of her, my lord."

"What do you mean?"

"There is generally a tender spot in a woman somewhere, and Mistress
Lanison may chance to find it in Harriet Payne."

"Mistress Payne is to be trusted, Watson. I'll see to that."

"She would turn her wits against you, my lord, if she thought she were
deceived. That's as sure as the coming of the Sabbath."

"Do you suppose, Watson, I throw away the skin before I have used all
the fruit? Send the girl to me to-night."

The men saluted and turned.

"And Watson, you might put a little misery into your face and
commiserate with Mistress Lanison on her position. It might interest her
to hear the story of Alice Lisle of Winchester. She is high-spirited,
and I would have that spirit broken."

"I will play Jeremiah, sir, like any Puritan."

"And Sayers, keep your eyes open in Dorchester. Crosby and this fiddler
are too cunning not to be dangerous. I warrant they are not far away
from Mistress Lanison. By Heaven! if you let her slip through your
fingers now, you shall suffer for it!"

Bloody Assizes! Along West Street the name travelled to the "Anchor
Inn," that hostelry of mean repute in Dorchester, and to a small upper
room where three men sat. They leaned towards each other as they spoke.

"I have failed to find out where they have taken her." said one. "It
must have been dark when they entered Dorchester; I can find no one who
remembers such a cavalcade in the streets. I am at a loss how to
discover her prison."

"Think, Martin."

"I have never been so barren of schemes as I am how. Have you no
suggestion, Crosby?"

"I want to kill Rosmore."

"And you, Mr. Fellowes?"

"Here I may be of service. I am known as a soldier and a King's man," he
answered. "My presence in Dorchester will not be called in question, and
I may learn what is the real plot on foot. Until we know it, we can
hardly scheme to prevent it."

"An excellent plan," said Martin. "There is another scheme half-born
within me. I will let it mature to-night. Courage, comrades. Three
honest men are worth many scoundrels. Three lovers of one woman, for so
we are in our different fashions."

"That is true," said Crosby.

"Quite true," murmured Fellowes.

"And we strive together," said Martin, letting his hand fall on the
table. It was covered immediately by the other men's hands.

"Heart and soul for Mistress Lanison," said Fellowes.

"Heart and soul," said Crosby.

"Three honest and true men," murmured Fairley, and tears were in his
eyes. "A triple alliance."



Lord Rosmore thought little about the assizes as he supped alone and
drank his wine, unconscious of the many times he filled and emptied the
glass. The hunting of fugitives was not to his taste, unless the
fugitive chanced to be his personal enemy. He was sick at some of the
cruelties he had been forced to witness; he hated and despised Judge
Jeffreys, and almost shuddered at the thought of the punishment which
was about to fall upon the crowd of ignorant peasants imprisoned in
Dorchester. Had he been judge he would have treated them leniently, and
probably no fear of the King's displeasure would have made him act
otherwise; but for the furtherance of his own desires he had another
standard of morality. It was not a standard made to suit the present
circumstances, but one that had guided him through life, the primitive
ideal that what a man desires he must fight for and take as best he may.
From his youth upwards he had coveted little that he had not obtained;
the success was everything, the means used did not trouble him. If fair
ones failed, foul ones were resorted to, and his conscience troubled him
not at all. If, without hindrance to himself, he could return some
service for one rendered, he did so, and with a certain class of men and
women won for himself a name for generosity. To withstand him, however,
no matter in how small a thing, to baulk his aims and desires, directly
or indirectly, was to turn him into an implacable enemy, the more
dangerous because no scruple of honour would weigh with him or direct
his actions. At the present moment he knew three persons were opposed to
him--Gilbert Crosby; the fiddler, Martin Fairley; and Barbara Lanison.
Had the first two been in his hands he would have destroyed them. If, to
accomplish this, false witnesses had to be found, he would have found
them, and would have slept not one whit the less at night. He hated them
both, and was still scheming for their downfall. Had circumstances so
chanced that these two were powerless to be of further danger to him, he
would still have hated them, would still have crushed them at the first
opportunity. He was not a man to forgive an injury.

Truly, they were almost powerless to baulk him now, he argued, as he
drained his glass again. What could two men do in Dorchester at the
present moment, with the town full of soldiers, and Jeffreys at hand to
deal out summary justice? The brown mask no longer hid a person of
mystery; the features of Gilbert Crosby were known to dozens of men who
had been outwitted by him. He would not dare to walk the streets by day.
As for this fiddler fellow, what power had he to cajole rough soldiery?
He might work upon the superstition of Sir John Lanison at Aylingford,
might play upon the heartstrings of a woman, but these hard-drinking,
hard-swearing men were not likely to fall victims to his fooleries. Even
if he discovered where his mistress was lodged, he would not be able to
come near her.

"I have played the trump card and taken the trick," laughed Rosmore.
"Now comes the taming of Mistress Lanison. I should hate her for defying
me did I not desire her so much."

What he chose to think love was perhaps not far removed from hate. He
longed to possess, to bend to his will, to have the woman who stood for
so much in the estimation of so many men. Self-gratification controlled
him, the desire that men should once again know how useless it was to
attempt rivalry with him. He had a reputation to maintain, and he would
maintain it at all hazards. He had begun to weigh carefully in his mind
the plans he had formed, when the door opened.

"Ah! you loveable little trickster!" he exclaimed as Harriet Payne
entered. "Come and let me thank you. Gold and trinkets I have none
to-night; but--"

"I do not want them," she said.

"Love and kisses, my love and kisses," he said, drawing her on to his
knee. "I've spent wakeful nights thinking of you; now I am happy again."

After a while she disengaged herself a little from his embrace.

"Playing the traitor is not pleasant," she said.

"It is a despicable game," he answered, filling a glass with wine and
handing it to her. "Drink confusion to all traitors."

"That would be to curse myself."

"You are so clever that I wonder you should think me capable of asking
you to do a treacherous action, even for love of me," said Rosmore. "You
shall know my great scheme now that you have so well earned full
partnership in it. But tell me the whole story first. I heard of the
dropped handkerchief. That was excellently conceived."

Harriet told him of her visit to Barbara Lanison in London, repeating
almost word for word what had been said. She told him of the journey to
Dorchester, almost acted for his benefit the part of sobbing and
frightened woman which she had played so well, and Rosmore laughed and
applauded her.

"Excellent! Most excellent!"

"And now?" said the girl, "what is to happen? What is in store for her
now she is in Dorchester? You swore to me that I should not be bringing
her into the hands of Judge Jeffreys. Into whose hands have I delivered

"Into mine," said Rosmore.

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