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The Brown Mask by Percy J. Brebner

Part 5 out of 6

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"For what purpose?"

"To save her from herself. It is a long story, but you shall have it
presently. I shall still want your help."

"You do not love her?" the girl questioned almost fiercely, "There are
those about you who believe that I am your plaything, useful to do your
bidding, only to be thrown aside when you have no more need of me."

"Who has dared to say so? Tell me!" Rosmore was splendid in his sudden
wrath, and Harriet Payne was a little frightened.

"Nay, I will not injure anyone. It is natural for a man to think so
seeing what you are and what I am."

Rosmore turned her towards a mirror on the wall.

"Learn, mistress, to value yourself at something nearer your true worth.
I see in the mirror as dainty a piece of womanhood as this fair land,
with all its treasures of beauty, holds. Hast heard of Trojan Helen,
that woman who was a world's desire, whose beauty made men sigh for her
until they fell ill with their desire; for whom two nations fought,
pouring out their noblest blood for her possession through ten long
years, and at the end dooming a city to flames and massacre? I would not
have you so like this ancient Helen that all the world should be my
rival, for then could I not hope to have my arms about you as now they
are; but as she was fair, so are you; as beside her all women were
naught, so to me are all women naught beside you. Kiss me, and, if you
will not tell me who has done me such slander, at least know this that
they were lying words which he spoke."

She kissed him, contented.

"Then you will not treat her harshly?" the girl said. "Mistress Lanison
is a true, brave woman; I would not have her hurt in any way."

"It is my desire to help her, as I will show you presently," Rosmore
returned. "Tell me what she has said to you. Two women in adversity ever
grow confidential."

"I do not know whether she loves Mr. Crosby--I think there are barriers
which even love cannot break down--but she is willing to make some great
sacrifice for him, that is why she consented to come to the West. No
sooner were we lodged in Dorchester than she sent me with a message to
Judge Marriott praying him to go to her."

"And you delivered the message."

"I made pretence of doing so, but told her that I could not get speech
with the judge."

"You are as wise as you are fair," said Rosmore. "I must see Marriott at
once. He is a blundering fool, this judge, and might ruin everything.
Tell me, have you seen Mr. Crosby since he fled from Lenfield?"

"And you threatened to have my shoulders bared and whipped!" laughed the
girl. "No, I have not seen him since then."

"It was the bare shoulders I thought of, not the whipping, you witch."

"Now, tell me your purpose concerning Mistress Lanison," said the girl.

"She is a woman in love," said Rosmore, "and loves not as her guardian
would have her do. It is the usual way of women who have guardians. Had
you such an ogre to direct your actions and you loved me, he would be
certain to have some other lover for you and would hate me. This is
Mistress Lanison's case, and although she does not like me, I would do
her a service and outwit her guardian. I would--"

He stopped suddenly. There were footsteps in the passage, and Harriet
slipped from his knee and was standing sedately at a little distance
from him when the door opened and a servant entered.

"Judge Marriott is asking to see you, my lord."

"I was thinking of him. Bring him in." Then, as the servant departed, he
turned to Harriet: "Come this way, into this other room."

"Your room!" she exclaimed. "I would not have anyone find me here."

"No one shall enter unless they kill me first upon the threshold. Have
no fear. You could not leave the house unseen by Judge Marriott, and I
would not have him see you for the world. He is foul-mouthed and
foul-minded. Let the curtain fall close, so, to keep from you as much of
his conversation as possible."

Lord Rosmore crossed the room to meet his guest as the door opened.

"This assize work makes one thirsty, Rosmore, and, hearing you had
arrived, a longing came over me to drink a bottle with you."

"You are welcome. Within a few minutes I should have been knocking at
your door had you not come."

"Good! Then we may have an hour's peace. The town's astir, Rosmore;
there'll be great doings in Dorchester. Do you hear what that wag
Jeffreys has done? He has had the court hung with scarlet to mark the
occasion. He does not mean his lesson to die quickly out of the memory."

"That is what they mean, then, by 'Bloody Assizes.' I heard the name
whispered as I entered the town."

"Oh, they were quick enough to see that this was no ordinary
dispensation of law," laughed Marriott. "The dogs are sleepless and
trembling to-night, I warrant."

"Aye, it is certainly the King's turn now, and I would he were making
better use of his opportunity."

"What a glutton you are, Rosmore. There are over three hundred prisoners
in Dorchester alone."

"And most of them might be released," was the answer. "Such clemency
would do more for the King" than will be accomplished by this revengeful

"Since when have you turned sentimental?"

"I think I was born with a horror of wholesale injustice."

Marriott laughed, then grew serious.

"We are old friends, Rosmore, and there is no danger in free speech
between us, but it would not be wise to say such things in the hearing
of Jeffreys."

"Even Jeffreys may have a weak spot to touch which would be to compel
him to silence. Most men have."

"They hide it successfully as a rule."

"Or think so," said Rosmore. "Amongst these three hundred prisoners are
there any of importance?"

The judge shrugged his shoulders.

"Not in our world. I dare say in this neighbourhood there are a few with
some standing."

"You have had no personal appeals made to you?"

"Many, but none which counted," and then Marriott dropped his voice to a
whisper. "The escape of anyone you are interested in might be arranged."

"I might even contrive that without your assistance, eh, Marriott,"
laughed Rosmore. "He who holds the key can easiest open the door. Don't
look so astonished, man. It is an open secret that, from the King
downwards, personal aims enter into this rebellion. Jeffreys has his, a
stretching out towards power; you have yours, which are no concern of
mine; I have mine, which are nothing to you."

"You are too honest, and perhaps you bark too loudly," said the judge,
glancing round the room.

"I take care to examine walls well before I live between them," said
Rosmore; "but see for yourself. This curtain hangs before the door of my
bedroom, this before a window looking into a side street," and he drew
the curtains aside for a moment to show that he spoke truly.

Marriott nodded and drank more wine.

"We can talk quite freely," said Rosmore, seating himself again at the
table opposite to his guest. "There is a woman you have promised to help
should she ask you."

"No; you are mistaken."

"Think, Marriott. The promise may have been made at Aylingford Abbey."

"Do you mean Mistress Lanison?"

Rosmore nodded his head slowly.

"Ah, yes, I did make some kind of promise," said Marriott. "A gallantry,
Rosmore, and I would make my words good if I had the chance."

"And the bribe?" Rosmore asked.

"As you have just said, that can be no concern of yours."

"That is not so certain. It happens that you have the chance. Mistress
Lanison is in Dorchester--a prisoner."

Marriott sprang to his feet.

"The devil! Who had her arrested?"

Rosmore shrugged his shoulders.

"I do not know, but the fact remains, she is a prisoner. This I can tell
you, she journeyed to the West to appeal to you on behalf of Gilbert
Crosby, and was arrested on the way."

"But Crosby has not been captured?"

"Don't you think you and I could make up our minds that he has?" said

"I do not see the necessity. My influence will have to be exerted to
procure her release. I shall have kept my word, and--"

"And the reward?" asked Rosmore.

"It will not be so great that it will be beyond her power to pay," was
the answer.

"Shall I make a guess?" said Rosmore. "If your influence is exerted,
Barbara Lanison becomes the wife of Judge Marriott. Ah! I see I have hit
near the mark. I have another plan. You shall write me two orders, one
for the release of Mistress Lanison, the other for the release of
Gilbert Crosby. The execution of these orders shall be at my discretion
as to time. They may be given because of your love for her, if you will,
but you must be self-sacrificing and claim no reward."

"My dear Rosmore, if you are serious, your impudence is colossal, if you
are in jest, I fail to see the point of it."

"I have not come to the point, for jest it is, and one you may profit
by. Sit down again and fill your glass--we can enjoy the joke together.
Although you do not ask for any reward, you get one--five hundred or a
thousand guineas, the exact amount we can decide, but at any rate a
goodly sum for two scraps of paper. I should advise you to close with
such an offer."

"Still the jest does not appeal to me."


"You want Mistress Lanison--"

"Released," Rosmore interrupted sharply.

"She shall be, but in my own fashion."

"In mine, I think," said Rosmore quietly.

Marriott rose to his feet again, his face purple with anger. A string of
oaths and invectives poured suddenly from his lips.

"You are not in court, Marriott, and I am not a prisoner," said Rosmore
quietly. "Do you happen to remember a prisoner who was tried some months
ago? Was his name Josiah Popplewell?"

The judge was suddenly silent, and his purple face became livid.

"He was a rich merchant in the City, I fancy, full of crime and treason,
and, moreover, very wealthy. His wealth was tempting to--let us say to
those in high authority, and there was plenty of evidence against him,
manufactured, perhaps, but still apparently irrefutable. At the crucial
moment, however, there came forward a witness who, in the clearest
manner, was able to prove that the evidence was false, and Popplewell
got off. That is the case from the world's point of view. But there was
another side to it. This witness was well paid, and by whom do you
think? By the judge himself, who accepted an immense bribe from the
prisoner. I wonder what the King would have to say if he knew, or in
what estimation Judge Jeffreys would hold his learned brother? Do you
remember the case?"

"A pretty story. I wonder if you could prove it?"

"Easily. The witness named Tarrant is in my employment. He declares that
the judge made an effort to have him accidentally killed, not unwisely,
perhaps, for the man has in his possession a scrap of writing which
would ruin the judge."

"It is a lie."

"I have seen the writing," said Rosmore. "I could lay the case before
Jeffreys whilst he is in Dorchester. That might make a sensation.
Amongst the gibbeted wretches we might see hanging one of the judges who
had been sent to punish them; that would be more original than a court
hung with scarlet."

Marriott sat down slowly.

"Your glass is empty, let me fill it," said Rosmore. "Shall we say five
hundred guineas for the two orders, no further questions asked, and
presently, when the prisoners are in safety, the return of that
incriminating scrap of paper?"

"You swear that--"

"My dear Marriott, I have not mentioned the name of the judge, why tell
me what you chance to know of the story?"

"You shall have the orders," Said Marriott.

"Here are paper, ink, and pen."

Rosmore watched him as he wrote.

"Will that suffice?" Marriott asked.

"It is worded exactly as I would have it."

"So Mistress Lanison--"

"Did we not say no further questions?" asked Rosmore, smiling. "What
should you say if I made a match between her and this notorious
highwayman, Gilbert Crosby?"

"You must catch him first."

"Should you see him in Dorchester, you will do me a service by having
him arrested. With this paper I can have him released at a convenient
time. You are going? There is still wine in the bottle."

"Just enough for you to drink to the success of your night's work," said
Marriott savagely.

"And to your health," Rosmore answered as he crossed the room with his

As the door was closed, Harriet Payne took hold of the curtain to draw
it aside, but paused in the act of doing so. Her eyes, wide open and
fixed, stared at the curtains which hung on the opposite wall across the
window. A hand, a man's hand, grasped them. Then they parted silently,
and fell together again, slowly and silently.

Rosmore did not wish to be disturbed again, but the lock was stiff and
the key difficult to withdraw. With a sigh of satisfaction he turned
presently, but the Sigh became a sudden gasp of astonishment.

Against the background of the window curtains stood Gilbert Crosby!



Harriet Payne did not move. The curtain over the door concealed her, but
it hung a little apart at one side, and she could see into the room,
could see both men as they stood facing each other. For a while there
was absolute silence, then Rosmore made a quick movement towards a side
table on which lay a pistol.

"Stop, or you are a dead man!" said Crosby.

Rosmore stopped. He knew too much about his unwelcome guest to imagine
that he would not be as good as his word. He paused a moment, then went
to the table on which were the remains of the supper.

"I have no fear that you will shoot an unarmed man, Mr. Crosby," he said
quietly. "I have heard many things against you, but never that you were
a coward. I marvel that you have the courage to walk abroad in
Dorchester, and wonder, even more, that you come into this room."

Crosby also walked to the table, and so they stood erect on either side
of it, face to face, man to man, deadly enemies feeling each other's

"We may come to the point at once, Lord Rosmore. Where is Mistress
Barbara Lanison?"

"I hear that she is a prisoner in Dorchester."

"By your contriving."

"It is natural you should think so, seeing the position I hold in the
West Country at the present time."

"I do not think, I know," Crosby answered. "By a trick, and through a
lying messenger, you induced her to travel to Dorchester and had her
arrested on the journey."

"Let us suppose this to be the case, is it not just possible that there
may be a legitimate reason for such a trick?"

"I am ready to listen," said Crosby.

"Always supposing that your knowledge is correct, is it not possible
that Mistress Lanison may foolishly believe herself enamoured of a
certain somewhat notorious person, and that those who have her
well-being at heart think it necessary to protect her from this
notorious person until she becomes more sensible?"

Harriet Payne watched him as he spoke. There was a smile upon his
handsome face such as any honest man's might wear when dealing with an
excitable and imaginative opponent. Then, as Crosby spoke, she looked at

"I will tell you the truth," he said, speaking in a low, clear, and
incisive tone. "You would yourself marry Barbara Lanison, and, having
established a hold over her guardian, you have attempted to force her to
such an alliance by threats. At every turn in the game you have been
foiled. You have failed to impress Mistress Lanison; you failed in a
villainous endeavour to defend her against a drunken man who was acting
on your suggestion; you failed to capture me at Lenfield when you had no
warrant but your own will for attempting such a capture."

"You have sat at the feet of an excellent taleteller, sir, or else you
have a prodigious imagination of your own."

Harriet Payne's eyes were fixed upon Rosmore. She watched him, and
looked no more at Crosby.

"Failing in these endeavours, you made other schemes," Crosby went on.
"Having taken a servant girl from Lenfield, you make use of her. She was
an honest girl, I believe, not ill-intentioned towards me, but in your
hands she was as clay. How you have deceived her, or what promises you
have made to her, I do not know, I can only guess, but, to serve your
own purposes, you have made a liar and a cheat of her. She has brought
Mistress Lanison to Dorchester for you, that you may once more attempt
to force a marriage which is distasteful to the lady. That is the story
up to this moment."

"You appear to know the lady's secrets as well as mine."

"No, not as well as I know yours," Crosby answered. "Had I done so, I
might have outwitted you and have prevented her coming to Dorchester."

"For a man who so easily believes every tale he hears, you are an
exceedingly self-reliant person."

"And fortunate, too," said Crosby, "since I have an opportunity of
showing you the end of the story."

"A prophet, by gad!" exclaimed Rosmore.

"I entered this room in time to hear your transaction with Judge
Marriott," said Crosby. "Now the story ends in one of two ways. You have
two orders of release, one for Mistress Lanison, one for me. I know
their value, or you would not have been so anxious to get them, and I
have at least one friend in Dorchester who can execute those orders
without any question being raised. Those orders you will deliver to me,
here and now."

"May I know how else the story might end?" Rosmore asked contemptuously.

"With your death," was the quiet answer. "Oh, no, not murder; death in
fair fight. You are hardly likely to scream for help, I take it; you
have yourself carefully locked the door, and no one is likely to pass
along the alley outside that window. You may choose which way the story
shall end."

"You so nearly make me laugh at you, Mr. Crosby, that I find the utmost
difficulty in quarrelling with you. The orders I shall not part with,
and I am half minded to call for help."

"You would not need it when it arrived," Crosby answered.

"And you would hang to-morrow."

"You have worked so secretly that I hardly think suspicion would fall
upon me. I could go as quietly as I came, and no one be any the wiser."

"You shall be humoured, Mr. Crosby. I never thought to cross blades with
a man ripe for Tyburn Tree, but the blade can be snapped afterwards."

"It is the way I should prefer the story to end," Crosby returned.

Rosmore pushed back the table, then the swords rang from their

The girl behind the curtain did not move. She had watched Rosmore's face
to try and learn whether Crosby's story were true. She travelled from
doubt to belief, then back to doubt again, and now as the swords crossed
she was fascinated, held there, it seemed, by some power outside
herself, unable to move, powerless to cry out. She knew not what to
believe. Lord Rosmore had not admitted the truth of the story, still he
had not denied it. He had fenced with it. Harriet Payne had been at
Lenfield long enough to understand the estimation in which her master,
Gilbert Crosby, was held; he was not a man to lie deliberately, and she
dared not face him, knowing the part she had played. She had played it
because she loved this other man, but, dispassionately described as
Crosby had told it, the offence she had committed seemed far greater
than she had imagined. If Rosmore had deceived her! The thought burnt
into her soul and sent the hot blood to her cheeks. Was she merely a
silly wench, as were hundreds of others, won by a smooth tongue,
stepping easily down into shame at the bidding of the first man whose
words had enough flattery in them? Was there truth in what the trooper
Watson had suggested? So, with her hand strained against her side, and
leaning forward a little, she watched the play of the swords.

Rosmore was not smiling now. He was a master of fence, had proved it a
dozen times, more than once had sent his man to his account. He had
never yet faced an antagonist whose skill was quite equal to his own.
Even to-night he would not admit to himself that he had found his equal.
He remembered that he had drunk much wine, yet, before this, he had not
fought the worse upon such a quantity. He had known sudden encounters
over dice and cards when the settlement followed hard upon the quarrel,
as well as more formal duels, and in none had he been beaten. Truly this
Crosby was no mean opponent, but no glow of satisfaction at meeting a
worthy foeman came to Lord Rosmore. This must be a fight to the death,
and twice in quick succession he attempted a thrust, a famous thrust of
his, which had so often carried death with it. Now it was parried,
easily it seemed, and barely could he turn aside the answering point
which flashed towards him. For a few moments he was entirely on the
defensive, with never an opening to attack.

Gilbert Crosby's actual experience was not equal to his skill. Once only
had he fought a duel, and had wounded his man on that occasion. He was
confident of his skill as he faced Lord Rosmore, but he knew that he
must lack something of that assurance which comes to the persistent
duellist, that detachment of self which so often helps to victory. He
was conscious of a certain anxiety which made him more than usually
cautious. He fought as a man who must, not as one who glories in it, and
it was well for Rosmore, perhaps, that it was so. It was for Barbara
Lanison that he fought, the conviction in his mind that now or never
must she be saved. No other way seemed open. It was of her he
thought--of all she must have suffered, of the despicable trickery which
had been practised upon her, of the fate which awaited her if she were
not rescued. He loved her, that was as sure as that he lived, but it was
not his love he thought of just then. As Rosmore once more attacked him
fiercely the idea of defeat came to him for an instant. For himself he
cared not, but what would it mean for her! The fight must end. It should
end soon in the only possible way, honesty triumphant over villainy.

Lord Rosmore's thoughts wandered, too. The end did not really trouble
him; he had never known defeat--why should it come to him now? Other men
had parried a difficult thrust twice, and had failed to do so the third
time; yet he remembered Barbara Lanison's speculation when he had spoken
of breaking his sword after killing the highwayman. What would the
highwayman do, she had wondered, if he should prove the victor, and
Rosmore found himself wondering what Crosby would do in the event of
such an end. Then he remembered Harriet Payne. What was the girl doing
behind the curtain? Why had she not rushed into the room, as he had
fully expected she would do? Had she swooned at the sight of the
fighting? That he fought in an unrighteous cause he did not think about.
For him right meant the attainment of what he desired, and his head was
scheming as he parried Crosby's attack. The fight must end quickly. It
was very certain that the wine he had taken was telling upon his
endurance. He almost wished that the girl would scream for help; he was
half inclined to call for it himself. It would be an easy way to bring
the end. Lord Rosmore was not himself to-night.

Harriet stood motionless and watched. In her ignorance she thought that
each thrust must end it, so impossible did it seem to turn aside, now
this flashing blade, now that; but presently it was evident, even to
her, that the fight was fiercer. The panting breaths came quicker, the
blades rang more sharply. She wondered that the house had not been
aroused, wondered that those passing in the streets had not heard this
quarrel of steel with steel, and sought to know the reason. Then for the
first time through long, long minutes her eyes wandered. The power which
held her immovable and speechless was lessening, but the tension was not
gone yet. Her eyes wandered, and her ears heard something besides the
ringing steel. The curtains over the window shook a little, stirred by a
breath of wind from the alley without. Then the window must have been
left open! How was it no one without had heard the noise?

Crosby's back was to the window; he could not see that the curtains
stirred, his ear caught no sound to startle him.

Rosmore, although he faced the window, saw nothing, heard nothing. His
eyes were fixed upon those of his enemy, who was growing fiercer, more
deadly every moment. The end was coming. Rosmore knew it, and felt
weary. Every moment his enemy's point came nearer. It was parried this
time and that, and again; but still it came. It touched him that time,
not enough to scratch even, still it touched him! Next time! No, once
more it was turned aside, and then it touched him again. It was nothing,
but there was blood on his arm. In a moment that blade which had begun
to dazzle him would be in his heart.

The curtains stirred again, floating out slightly into the room.
Harriet's eyes turned to Rosmore, and saw the blood on his arm. She knew
that this was the end. Then the curtains parted swiftly, and Crosby's
blade fell with a clatter to the floor. For an instant he was struggling
in the grasp of two men who had rushed upon him from behind, and was
then borne to the ground. It was at this moment, too, that Harriet flung
back the curtain from the door and stood in the room. Perhaps she
expected Rosmore to make one late thrust at the falling man.

For a moment there was silence.

"Tie this handkerchief round my arm, mistress," said Rosmore; "the
honours have gone against me."

She did as she was told.

"Shall we secure him, sir?"

"Yes, Sayers, but gently. I would not have him hurt. Forgive me, Crosby,
I had no hand in this interruption; but, since it comes, I am glad to
take advantage of it. What brought you here, Sayers?"

"Chance," was the answer. "We were wondering where the alley led to, saw
the window unfastened, and heard the steel."

"Thank you, Harriet," said Rosmore, as she finished binding up his arm.
"Help Mr. Crosby to a chair, Sayers. Give me that pistol on the table
yonder. Here is the key of the door--catch; shut the window, one of you.
Now go, and wait in the passage until I call you."

"Shall I go?" said Harriet.

"No; stay."

"You may well want to go, girl," said Crosby. "You have betrayed an
innocent woman into the hands of her enemies, and for reward--what has
this man promised you for reward?"

"Will you listen to me a moment, Mr. Crosby?" said Rosmore.

"Your confederates have made it impossible for me to refuse."

"That is unworthy of you," Rosmore answered. "I assure you I had no
knowledge of their presence until I had made up my mind that your point
was in my heart. I am glad they came for my own sake. I should have been
a dead man had they been a moment later. I admit my defeat. Technically
I am in your debt. If these bottles on the table are some excuse for me,
I yet own that to-night the better man won."

"It hardly looks like it, does it?"

"Life is full of queer chances," said Rosmore, smiling. "You could find
only two ways of ending your story. You see there is at least a third."

"It but delays the true ending," Crosby answered.

"No; believe me, I see in it a happy ending to the tale, but the tale is
not quite as you imagine it. It is true that I take a sincere interest
in Mistress Lanison, and I grieve to think that she has somewhat
misjudged me, even as you have. You have also spoken some hard words
against my valued companion here, Mistress Payne. Few men can see eye to
eye, Crosby. You know Mistress Payne only as in your service--an
honourable service, I know, yet one she was not intended for. I have
seen her in different circumstances. Will you favour me by taking back
the hard words you have said?"

"Yes, when she can prove her innocence, when she can prove that she has
not betrayed another woman into your hands."

"I think I can prove that," said Rosmore. "Finding Mistress Payne here
to-night may lead you to surmise many things. Strange to say, I was
beginning to explain matters to her when we were interrupted, first by
Judge Marriott, then by you. That is so, is it not?"

"Yes," Harriet answered in a whisper.

"The explanation may be made for your benefit, too, Mr. Crosby, but
first let me assure you that Barbara Lanison is a woman I would
befriend, and is nothing more to me. Mistress Payne has done me the
honour to see in me a worthy man. As soon as this detestable work of
taking inhuman revenge on poor peasants is over, Mistress Payne will
become Lady Rosmore--my wife."



A wave of colour swept into Harriet's face as Rosmore turned to her with
a smile. Doubt and uncertainty had been hers a moment ago, and the sting
of Crosby's words had hurt her; now this open declaration clothed her
with a pleasant confusion, vindicated her presence in these rooms, and
it was natural, perhaps, that there should be gratification in her heart
that her former master should understand how important a person she had

Crosby remained silent. Was Rosmore speaking the truth? Could such a man
marry such a woman? It seemed impossible, and yet where love rules the
impossible constantly happens. He had grown so used to seeing Harriet
Payne a serving maid at his manor at Lenfield that he had thought of her
in no other position. As he looked at her now, standing with her hand in
Rosmore's, he was bound to admit that she made a pretty figure, that
many an eye might turn upon her with pleasure, that she certainly looked
something more than a mere serving maid.

"Have you no congratulations to offer, Mr. Crosby?" said Rosmore. "Will
you not withdraw some of the hard words you have spoken against this

"I cannot forgive even your future wife for deceiving Mistress Lanison."

"You will presently, when you understand that Mistress Lanison has been
saved from the intrigues of her uncle and guardian. For the rest, her
happiness lies chiefly in your hands, and you may find me more useful as
a living friend than I should have proved as a dead enemy. Gad! you look
as if you doubted it. No man is such a villain as he is painted, and,
being a lover myself, I sympathise with all lovers. Perhaps you are
right to be cautious, wise not to trust me until I have proved myself.
For a day or two you must be my guest, and you will forgive me if I,
too, am cautious. You know my position in the West, and, truth to tell,
I have used it in somewhat unwarrantable fashion on Mistress Lanison's
behalf. I cannot afford to let you loose in Dorchester while you still
think me an enemy. You must not blame me, then, if I have you guarded so
that you must remain my guest even against your will. It will only be
for a day or two. To-morrow we will go into my scheme in detail, and in
the meanwhile I would remind you that your capture would rejoice the
hearts of many. You will be wise to accept quietly the asylum I offer
you in this house."

"I hope I shall live to thank you for your generosity," said Crosby.

"Indeed, I hope so," Rosmore answered, and he called to the men who were
waiting without. "Make Mr. Crosby comfortable in one of the rooms
upstairs. He is my guest, Sayers, and is to be well treated. That I have
such a visitor is not to be spoken of, but you must see that he remains
my guest. I do not ask for your parole, Mr. Crosby, because I do not
believe you would give it, but I ask you to be wise for--for the sake of
Mistress Lanison. Unfasten those bonds, Sayers--we do not keep prisoners

"I do not understand you, Lord Rosmore," said Crosby, standing up. "It
may be that I shall know you better to-morrow."

"You will have slept, I trust, and clearer vision often comes with the
new day. Good-night."

With a slight inclination of the head Crosby left the room with his two
gaolers, for gaolers they surely were, although he had been called a
guest. One of the triple alliance had grievously failed in his endeavour
to help the woman who was in such sore distress; would the others fail
as ignominiously?

"Are you satisfied?" asked Rosmore, turning to Harriet. "This pretty
head of yours must have thought of hating me as you heard my character
so basely spoken of."

"I am a woman, and was suspicious."

"And now, though still a woman, have no evil thoughts about me. I
warrant you, this fellow Crosby will hardly be gracious enough to thank
me when I place the woman he loves in his arms."

"You have not told me your scheme." "Scheme!" Rosmore exclaimed. "My
head is full of schemes, and one comes uppermost at this moment. It is
natural since it concerns you. I cannot let you serve another any
longer. There are many rooms in this house; you shall stay here. Nay,
let this kiss stop all remonstrance. I will send at once for some decent
woman in the town who shall be your maid for the present, and Mistress
Lanison shall have someone to wait on her in your place. I cannot have
the lady who is to be my wife stooping even to serve Mistress Lanison.
Rosmores ever looked eye to eye with their fellows, and long ancestry
and loyalty have given them privileges even in the presence of the King.
Are you angry that I already teach you something of what my love means?"

"Angry? No; proud."

"Come, then. Let us see what is the best this house can do for you."

"Am I to be guarded like your other guest?" she asked demurely.

"Aye, far more strongly guarded, for at every exit Love shall stand

She leaned towards him, and he kissed her again, even as a man will kiss
the woman he worships. Then they went out.

Barbara Lanison was sorely troubled when Harriet Payne did not return.
The girl had gone to try once more to get speech with Judge Marriott,
and her mistress waited for her impatiently. So much depended on her
success, and never for a single instant had Barbara doubted her loyalty.
As the hours passed and the girl did not return she grew anxious. The
town was in the hands of rough soldiers, whose licence, if even half the
stories she had heard were true, had gone unpunished. The officers were
no better than their men, and there must be a thousand dangers for a
girl like Harriet Payne in the streets of Dorchester. Barbara blamed
herself for letting her run into such danger, and, as she thought more
of her, thought less of the mission upon which she had sent her.

It was late when the door opened and Watson came in. Barbara had crossed
the room hurriedly, supposing that it was Harriet, but stopped, seeing
who her visitor was.

"I have just heard that your maid will not return," Said Watson.

"Where is she?"

The man shrugged his shoulders.

"How can I know? She has probably found freedom more attractive than
this place."

"Tell me the truth," said Barbara.

"I know no more than that she will not return. That was the bald message
she sent, with a suggestion that someone else must be found to serve
you. To-night, it is too late to search the town for a woman willing to
undertake the duty, but to-morrow--"

"I want no other maid," said Barbara. "There is some reason why the girl
does not return to me, and you know that reason."

"I can guess."

"It is easy to understand," Barbara returned. "The streets of Dorchester
are not safe for any honest woman to-day."

"That may be so, madam, but I do not think it is the reason of Mistress
Payne's desertion. I think fear has stepped in. At the best she did not
seem to me a courageous person, at the worst she would be an easy
coward. At any moment Judge Jeffreys may arrive in the town, and it
would seem that he has less pity on those who help rebels than on the
rebels themselves; I think that is why your maid does not return."

Barbara did not answer. The coming of Judge Jeffreys must seal the fate
of Gilbert Crosby. So important a prisoner would be quickly tried and
speedily executed. Her mission had failed.

"Yes, I believe that is the reason," Watson went on after a pause. His
conscience awoke for a moment and pricked him sharply, but the breaking
of this woman's spirit meant money in his pocket, and his manner of life
had made him an easy victim to such a temptation. Had Barbara shown fear
and pleaded with him, she might have prevailed and gained a friend; as
she did not, the man found a certain brutal satisfaction in doing his
best to destroy her courage by carrying out his master's instructions.
"I have no doubt that is the reason," he repeated with some emphasis,
"and I hardly care to blame her. It is a good thing to keep out of the
way of Judge Jeffreys. Have you heard about Lady Alice Lisle and what
they did to her lately at Winchester?"

"I have heard of her," said Barbara.

"She was no rebel, I take it," said Watson, "She only assisted a couple
of fugitives, and for that paid the penalty."

Barbara looked at him questioningly, and he entered into details,
sparing her nothing of the history of this fiendish judicial murder, and
contrived to let her see that her own case was not unlike Lady Lisle's.
Barbara did not move, uttered no sound during the recital. When Watson
had finished she looked at him.

"It is a marvel to me that rebellion has been confined to the West," she
said quietly. "Were I a strong man, I should be in revolt at such

"You would be as others, afraid to speak."

"There are some who are not afraid," she answered.

"Aye, and will dangle from a gibbet for their pains. May a rough trooper
give you a word of advice?"

She bowed her head slowly.

"If you have friends, make petition to them," said Watson. "Be humble,
and endeavour to escape standing before Judge Jeffreys."

"Can you tell me of what I shall be accused?" Barbara asked.

"No, but means will be found to destroy you. I hear the gossip, and I
draw my conclusions."

"Can you suggest anyone to whom I can apply?"

Watson had no suggestion to make, but he promised that any message she
might send should be delivered.

"I thank you for the advice and for the promise," said Barbara. "I can
think of no friend in Dorchester, and I am not sure that being a rebel
is not the more honourable position to-day."

"It means death."

"Well? Are there not worse things than death?"

"Truly, I think not. From all other ills a man may perchance recover,
but from death--never."

Barbara smiled. It was not likely that this man would understand.

"Think over my advice to-night," said Watson. "There are many in
Dorchester who might help you. Think to-night, and give me the names of
some friends to-morrow. I shall know whether they are in the town, and
would help you. To-morrow also I will seek for a new maid to serve you."

"Spare yourself that trouble," Barbara said as he went to the door. "So
short a service as I shall require is not worth anyone's taking."

Watson was a soldier, and in his way a good soldier. He would have faced
death at a moment's notice so long as he was well paid for doing so, and
would be loyal to those he served, unless perchance a very heavy bribe
were offered him and there was a reasonable probability of safety in
accepting it. He had risen to some authority amongst his fellows, and
did not think meanly of himself. He was convinced that his treatment of
Barbara Lanison had been diplomatic, whereas his whole manner and
conversation had put her upon her guard. He had succeeded in convincing
her that he was laying a trap for her indiscretion, and that to trust
him would be only playing into the hands of her enemies. In the morning
she had thought of no friend to mention to him, and had decided not to
trust him even with a message to Judge Marriott. Such a message was more
likely to be used against her than on her behalf. Shrugging his
shoulders, Watson departed, and did not disturb her again until the
evening. Then he entered the room quietly, and dropped his voice to a

"I have found you a friend," he said, "a powerful friend who runs some
risk to serve you. Take my advice, and treat him courteously."

"Who is he?"

Watson did not answer, but went to the door. A closely-cloaked figure
entered, and Watson went out, closing the door. Then the cloak was
thrown back.

"Lord Rosmore!" Barbara exclaimed.

"At your service, but speak low. I come secretly. This trooper found me
out, but I had already been scheming on your behalf. He was able to help
me in my one remaining difficulty."

She drew back from him.

"I have not asked for your help," she said.

"I know. You have misunderstood me, Mistress Lanison, and I grant you
have had some reason. I would have won you if I could, and, as many
another lover has done, I have thought all ways honest. I was wrong. I
ask your pardon."

"What is the purpose of this visit?" she asked. She knew that she was a
helpless prisoner, she knew that this man was powerful in the West, yet
she stood before him, looking straight into his eyes, defying him to
frighten her or to bend her to his will.

"To help you."

"I have no need of your help," she answered.

"I have more than words to prove my sincerity, yet I would justify
myself a little. I have loved you; even now I may think that your coming
to the West was foolish, that the man you have jeopardised yourself to
save is hardly worthy, but--"

"You have beaten me, Lord Rosmore," said Barbara quietly. "I am
convinced that I owe my position here in Dorchester to you and to my
uncle. It may save you trouble and time if I tell you that your success
ends here. I would rather die the death of a traitor than marry you."

"I know that," he returned just as quietly. "Love plays the fool with us
all, even making Mistress Lanison of Aylingford Abbey fall a victim to
the worship of a highwayman. To help him you are even willing to
sacrifice yourself to a brute like Judge Marriott."

"I have indeed been betrayed by those I trusted," said Barbara.

"It is the common fortune, and help conies, as it often does, from those
we distrust and hate," was the answer. "Marriott would have let you
sacrifice yourself, but he would have done little else. It makes me sick
to think that I should have a rival in such a man. But let that pass.
You were doomed to failure, for it is my business to know everything
that happens in the West just now."

"Again I say, Lord Rosmore, that between us there can be no terms."

"Still, you must listen to me; so far you are in my power. Your
infatuation for Galloping Hermit seemed to me so impossible a thing that
I confess I have done my utmost to save you. You are not to be saved;
therefore I will help you. What your sacrifice could never have done, my
knowledge of Marriott's vile character has accomplished. I have in my
possession two orders--one for your release, one for the release of
Gilbert Crosby."

A quick intake of her breath showed Barbara's sudden excitement. For an
instant the good news was everything, the next moment she remembered
from whom it came. Either the news was untrue, or there would be

"I can see that you do not trust me," said Rosmore, reading the look in
her eyes. "These are the orders signed by Judge Marriott."

She looked at the papers which he held out.

"Even these shall not tempt me to make terms."

"There are no conditions except that you and your lover leave
Dorchester--together," he said with a short laugh. "He will probably
hasten to get out of the country as soon as possible, since he has
become too notorious to live in it in safety, unless he still prefers
the excitement of the road to the quiet peacefulness of your love."

"Is this some new trickery?" she asked.

"Perhaps there is some little revenge in it," he answered. "There comes
a time when a scorned lover may cease to care for the woman who flouts
him, and will remember that the world holds fairer women. When he finds
this fairer love he is happy, but a spirit of retaliation may remain. I
think this is my case. To be the wife of a notorious highwayman would
not appeal to many women; most women would prefer to be Lady Rosmore,
whatever the drawbacks to such a position might be. Mistress Lanison
will go her own way, and I should be more than human if I did not hope
that she may live to regret it. There is no trickery, and no condition
except that you leave Dorchester together. Once safely in his hands, I
can trust Gilbert Crosby not to let you escape him."

"I ought to thank you, Lord Rosmore, but--"

"But you may live to curse me for my help. It is possible, probable
even. You have three days to think it over. Escape will not be possible
until then."

"There is some scheme against me," said Barbara passionately. "You and
my guardian have--"

"I said I had more than words to prove my sincerity," said Rosmore,
going to the door. He went out. "I will give you an hour," Barbara heard
him say, and then another closely-cloaked figure entered and the door
was shut and locked.

"Gilbert!" she cried, and the next moment she was sobbing in his arms.




It was the first time she had called him by his name, and surely on her
lips there was unexpected music in it. She had come into his arms and,
with a sob, had nestled there as if she had found safety and content.
Her face was hidden against him, and he kissed her hair reverently, not
daring to attempt to turn her face to him. His possession of her was so
sudden that he was as a man who dreams a dream, half conscious that it
is a dream, which he would not have broken. Until he was in the room
Crosby could not believe that the promise which Rosmore had made would
be fulfilled. He could not believe that Barbara was close to him, that
he would see her. He had listened to Rosmore as he unfolded his scheme
for their escape, trying to detect the direction of his villainy, never
for an instant believing that he was sincere; and, after all, he had
done as he had promised, he had brought him to Barbara Lanison. The
woman he loved was in his arms. It was wonderful, wonderfully true! The
rest would happen in its due time. Life with love in it was to be his.
The man he hated had proved a friend. So he kissed the beautiful fair
hair and waited for Barbara to look up, that he might read her heart
through her eyes and kiss her lips.

Barbara did not look up. Almost unasked she had crept into the arms that
opened to her, quickly and without question. From the first moment she
had seen Gilbert he had been more to her than any other man, and, if she
had not dared to admit it even to herself, she knew she loved him. Had
she not come to the West to save him? Had she not been ready to
sacrifice herself for him? She, too, had placed no trust in Lord
Rosmore, yet the unexpected had happened. He had brought Gilbert Crosby
to her. They were to escape together. She and Galloping Hermit, the
notorious wearer of the brown mask, were to go together! He was a man, a
true man, she had said it, she meant it, but--Ah, strive to forget them
as she would, Rosmore's words had left a sting behind them. For all he
was a man, he was a highwayman, and she was Barbara Lanison, of
Aylingford Abbey! She did not look up as she gently disengaged herself
from his arms.

"Tell me everything," she said quietly. "We have only an hour. I heard
him tell you so when you came in."

If Crosby was disappointed, if at that moment the desire to hold her in
his arms and kiss her lips was almost beyond his control, he let her go
without protest. It was for him to do her will, and how should he, who
had never squandered spurious love, know the ways of a woman with a man.
She sat down, leaning a little forward in her chair, her hands clasped
in her lap. She did not look at him as he stood beside her, telling her
shortly and quickly what he had done in the West. He told her how Martin
Fairley had found him in the wood, and how they had come to Dorchester
on the night of her capture.

"You had not been a prisoner at all?" she asked.

"No, you were brought to the West by a lie; but I shall never forget
that you came, and why you came. What did you think you could do?"

"I thought I could help you."


"Judge Marriott had once made me a promise that if I asked him he would
contrive the escape of anyone I--anyone I was interested in."

"Such a man would not make a promise for nothing."


"What was his reward to be?"

"I hoped he would let me off," Barbara said, covering her face with her
hands, "but he wanted me to marry him. That would have been his price,
and I should have paid it."

"Oh, my dear, don't you know I would rather have died a score of

"And then, when you came to Dorchester?" she asked. She did not look at
him; her head was lowered and her hands clasped in her lap again.

"We tried to find you, Martin and Fellowes and I."

"Sydney Fellowes?" she said.

"It was a triple alliance," said Crosby. "What the others have done
since I parted with them I do not know. I sought out Rosmore," and then
he told her of the duel and of Harriet Payne. "I should have killed him
that night had we been undisturbed a moment longer, and then I might
never have found you."

"Harriet Payne to be Lady Rosmore, is it possible?" said Barbara. "Do
you suppose Lord Rosmore is honest with her or with us?"

"How can I think otherwise now? He has brought me to you when he could
so easily have kept us apart. Why should he not fulfil the rest of his

"Has he told you his scheme?" she asked.

"Yes. In three days we are to leave Dorchester together. I shall wait
with a coach just outside the town, on the road which leads down to the
River Frome, and you are to join me there. It is not far from this
house, and you will be safely guarded on your way to me. Then--"

Crosby paused, hoping to see her look up with the light of love in her
eyes. She remained with her head lowered.

"Then we shall be free," he said. "And it is for you to command which
road we take, and how far we journey upon it together."

She moved a little restlessly. In this one short hour, which was
slipping away so fast, she had to decide upon what her future was to be.
She loved, but she was the daughter of a proud race, whose blood mingled
with the best blood of which England could boast. The man beside her was
more to her than any other man could ever be, yet he was the highwayman,
"Galloping Hermit," the notorious wearer of the brown mask, the man upon
whose head a price was set, and who would surely perish miserably at
Tyburn if he fell into the hands of his enemies. Great provocation might
have made him a knight of the road, romance had succeeded in setting him
apart from his brethren, but was she justified in loving such a man,
could she give herself into his keeping? And she dared not tell him all
that was in her heart, for she knew instinctively how he would answer
her. She knew that he would sacrifice himself for her without a moment's
hesitation; she believed that, without her, life would be of little
worth to him. Their love was a strange thing, binding them together in
silence. He had never said that he loved her; knowing what he was he had
not dared to speak, perhaps, yet he had opened his arms and she had gone
to him without a question. What words were needed to tell such a love as
this? Her lover must be saved at any cost, and afterwards--

The silence seemed long as these thoughts sped through her mind. She was
conscious that his eyes were fixed upon her, felt that he understood
something of the doubts which troubled her.

"I do not trust Lord Rosmore," she said.

"Nor should I if I could conceive any advantage he could gain from his
present action," Crosby answered. "He knows that I am a valuable
prisoner. He might reasonably hope that he is now in a position to bring
pressure upon you. He and I have stood face to face, letting cold steel
settle our quarrel. I say it not boastingly, but I should have killed
him. He admitted defeat, although I was robbed of victory. Under all the
evil that is in him may there not be some generosity? I am inclined to
think this is his reason for helping us."

"He gave me another reason," said Barbara quietly.

"Tell me."

"Revenge. I should live to regret leaving Dorchester with Gilbert
Crosby, who would never let me go, once I was in his hands. I have
scorned him for a--"

"For me," said Crosby. "True, I have no such name as Rosmore has, I
cannot offer you a tithe of what he can give you. My most precious
possession is my love, but in love he is bankrupt beside my wealth.
True, too, that I will not easily let you go, but you shall choose your
own path. We will seek safety together, and then--then if along the road
I would have you take you see difficulties and dangers, if in your mind
there stands a single shadow which you fear, you shall take your own way
unhindered and alone. If you will it, I will pass out of your life and
you shall never hear of me again. Can you not trust me?"

"You know I do; you should not even ask the question, but--ah, Gilbert,
cannot you understand the trouble that is mine?"

"Yes, dearest; I know, I know," he said, falling on his knees beside
her. "Chance brought me into your life, chance gave us a few sweet hours
together, yet how little can you know of me. We are not like other
lovers who have told each other their secrets, who have dreamed long
dreams together. Only to-night you have been in my arms for the first
time. I have never told you that I love you, yet you know it."

"Yes, I know it," she whispered.

"And yet you are afraid. I do not blame you, my dearest; you know so
little about me, but you shall question me once we are free."

"And you will answer all my questions?"

"All of them, even if the answer should bring a blush of shame to my
cheek," he said.

"And if--if I asked you to give up something, to begin a new life, to
forsake old friends, old associations?"

"I shall live only for you," he said.

Then for the first time she looked straight into his eyes. What was the
question in them? She was waiting, for some answer--what was it?

"You must be lenient with me," he said. "When a man answers all a
woman's questions, it is because he worships her, only because of that,
and then he understands how poor a thing, how unworthy he is. I shall
answer them all, you must be lenient and forgive."

She still looked at him, but did not speak.

"I may argue with you, use all the power I have to win your forgiveness,
use all the depths of my love to show you that our way henceforth must
be together. Be sure I shall not easily let you go. Rosmore was wrong,
you shall be free to choose; but I will use every artifice I have to
make you choose to stay with me. It has never seemed to me that words
were necessary. Love came to me as the sunshine and the wind come, given
to me, a free gift from Heaven. One moment I was without it, ignorant of
it, and the next it was a part of my life. Before, to live had seemed a
great thing, to be a man, to do a man's work was enough; afterwards,
life could not be life without love. Rob me of love now, and you leave
me nothing."

"When was the moment, Gilbert?"

"When I saw you shrinking from the crowd as it poured out of Newgate,"
he whispered.

"Even then?" she said.

"Yes; and I did not know who you were, Barbara. It did not seem to
matter. Love had come--I thought to us both. I could not understand that
it should come to me so suddenly, so wonderfully, and not come to you
also. A little waiting, and then you would be mine. It must happen so.
And then came my token and talisman. See how close it has clung to me."

With fingers that trembled a little, he drew out the white ribbon which
was fastened about his neck. She touched it, looked at it and at him.

"It fell from your throat, or waist, when you moved to come with me. I
caught it as it fluttered to the ground and hid it. I have worn it ever
since. I have kissed it night and morning, and it has brought the vision
of you to my waking eyes and into my dreams. I have seen you going from
room to room in my old home at Lenfield, I have seen you descending the
stairs, so vividly that I have found myself holding out my arms to you.
Sometimes when the days were dark, and I was troubled, an awful sadness
has crept into my soul. Doubts have come. Should I ever see you in those
rooms, on those stairs? And then, dearest, I have touched this ribbon
and hope has come again like sunshine after storm. Aye, you shall
question me as you will, but be very sure I shall not easily let you

Barbara stood up suddenly. Her hands were in his, and she made him rise
from his knees. She stood before him, her eyes looking into his.

"And, Gilbert, when you have ridden in the night, alone, have you
thought of me then?"

"Since love came I have never ridden alone," he answered. "No matter if
the stars were clear, or the night had wind and rain in it, you have
been beside me. At times, lately, a hundred difficulties have stood in
my path. It seemed impossible that I could win safety for some poor
wretch of a fugitive, so impossible that I might have given up the task
in despair only that you seemed to speak to me, encouraging me. No; I
have never been alone since love came."

"I am glad," she said.

"And you love me, Barbara?"

"Yes--yes, I must love you, I cannot help it, but--" and then she
stopped, for there were sounds of footsteps in the passage. "Is the hour
gone so soon? Kiss me, Gilbert; I love you. No matter who you are, or
what you have done, I love you. I am yours, always; no other shall kiss
me or hold me in his arms. But, remember, I have your promise, I may
take which road I choose, alone and unhindered if I will it so," and
then, as the door opened, she pushed him gently from her, and they were
standing apart when Rosmore entered.

"It has seemed a long hour, Mistress Lanison, to a waiting man. To

"Long enough to hear the plan you have made for my escape," said

"For your escape and Mr. Crosby's," said Rosmore, laying some stress
upon his words.

"For which we both thank you," she went on. "For my part I have had,
perhaps, unjust thoughts concerning you, your present generosity makes
me understand that in many ways I have misjudged you. Please forgive

"You certainly have misjudged me in many ways, Mistress Lanison, and, as
I have said, you may not have much cause to thank me for what I do now."

"I have decided to run the risk."

"You have yet three days in which to alter your decision if you so
wish," Rosmore returned. "The delay is necessary. The road will be freer
and safer then, and the town too much occupied with Judge Jeffreys to
pay much attention to anyone else. Mr. Crosby has told you the place of
meeting. The trooper Watson will follow you and see you safely into Mr.
Crosby's company, and then freedom and happiness. Until then you must
not meet. I must think of myself, and bringing Mr. Crosby here is a
risk. Should you, even at the eleventh hour, change your mind, I will
let Mr. Crosby know. Once upon the road, no one is likely to stop you,
especially if you go southwards, as I presume you will; but in case of
accident, there is Judge Marriott's order for your release. With that in
your possession, I know of none who would refuse to let you pass."

Barbara took the paper.

"And there is your order, Mr. Crosby. It is time we went. Your servant,
Mistress Lanison," and Rosmore bent low over her hand.

"Thank you," she said in a whisper. Crosby in his turn bent over her
hand, his lips touching it.

"Until you come to me," he said, "God keep you."

A swift pressure of his fingers was her only answer. Then the door
opened and shut again, the key was turned in the lock, and she was

As Gilbert Crosby had been brought there, in a coach and blindfolded, so
he left, and went back with Lord Rosmore to his lodgings.

"In view of your kindness in helping us, the bandage hardly seemed
necessary," said Crosby, as he took it off, when they had entered
Rosmore's room, the same room in which they had fought.

"You might grow weary of waiting, and attempt to see her. Lovers are
like that, and often spoil the best-laid schemes," Rosmore laughed. "Oh,
I am thinking chiefly of myself. Jeffreys has no profound love for me,
and would rejoice to catch me tripping. You are no longer my guest, Mr.
Crosby. I have done my part, and your presence here is a danger to me.
You are free to go. Perhaps you had better tell me where you are to be
found during the next three days. Women are sometimes as changeful as a
gusty wind, and Mistress Lanison might alter her decision."

Although astonished at being set at liberty at once, Crosby was not so
off his guard as to mention "The Anchor" in West Street. He gave the
address of Fellowes' lodging. It was the only other place he knew where
a message could reach him.

"Good-bye, then," said Rosmore. "You will be wise to keep within doors
until you leave Dorchester for good. There are many who know Gilbert
Crosby, and once in the hands of Jeffreys you would have short shrift."

"Thank you. I shall take care. I believe you have proved a friend, Lord
Rosmore," and Crosby held out his hand.

For a moment Rosmore hesitated.

"No; we will not shake hands," he said. "If I have found consolation, I
cannot forget who you are and that you have robbed me of Mistress
Lanison. To clasp your hand would mean to wish you good luck, and I
cannot do that. I want her to know that she has chosen badly. You and I
could never be friends, Mr. Crosby."

"As you will; yet I would repay your kindness if ever the opportunity
should offer."

Rosmore shrugged his shoulders as he crossed the room and Crosby went
out, Sayers joining him in the passage and seeing that no one hindered
his going.

For a few minutes Rosmore remained in deep thought, and then Harriet
Payne came in.

"You look strangely ill-tempered," was her greeting.

"My face must be a poor index to my thoughts," he answered, with quick
yet forced gaiety. "I have just finished a good work."

"What is that?"

"Making two people happy. Come and kiss me, and I'll tell you all about
it." Yet all her kisses and arts of pleasing could not keep the
thoughtfulness out of his face as he told her how Barbara Lanison and
Gilbert Crosby were to leave Dorchester together.



There was little danger of anyone recognising Gilbert Crosby as he
passed through the streets of the town. A swinging lantern might
illumine his face for a moment, or the beam of light from some
unshuttered window might have betrayed him to some watching enemy, but
everyone in the houses and in the streets had enough to think about
to-night. Judge Jeffreys had come to Dorchester. To-morrow his ferocious
voice would be dooming dozens to death in that court with the scarlet
hangings. The Bloody Assizes would have commenced in earnest, and there
were few families in Dorchester which had not one relative or friend
waiting in the prisons to be tried for rebellion. There was already
mourning in the city, and the soldiers were in readiness lest
desperation should drive to riot. Crosby might have gone with less care
than he did and yet passed unnoticed.

In the upper room at "The Anchor" he found Fellowes, who sprang up at
his entrance.

"Gad! I had lost all hope," he exclaimed. "I have been searching the
town for you. I thought Rosmore must have caught you."

"He did. A miracle has happened. Where is Fairley?"

"I have not seen him since we parted the other night," Fellowes
answered. "I have picked up some information, but have had no one to
tell it to."

"And I have seen Mistress Lanison."

"Seen her!"

"Seen her and spoken to her. It is a miracle, I tell you." And Crosby
gave him the history of his dealings with Lord Rosmore, omitting no
detail from the moment he had stepped into the room and overheard part
of the conversation with Judge Marriott to his leaving Rosmore's lodging
less than an hour ago.

"It is well that you did not tell him of this place," said Fellowes.

"You do not trust him?"

"No. Do you?"

"I cannot see how he is possibly to profit out of such a plan," said

"The devil tempts in the same way," answered Fellowes. "If we could
always see through the devil's plans we should less often fall a victim
to his wiles. If an angel came and bid me trust Rosmore, I should have
no faith in the angel."

"Let us find the weak places in the scheme if we can," said Crosby.

"There is one I see at once," said Fellowes. "You are taken blindfold to
Mistress Lanison's prison. You do not know in what part of the town she
is. You cannot watch the house. Why the delay of three days?"

"I am inclined to think Rosmore has been generous this time," Crosby

"If by some strange chance he has, there are three days in which he may
repent of his generosity," was the answer. "I have seen Marriott. He
told me of his interview with Rosmore, and that the orders had been
stolen from him, he did not explain how. Rosmore has no fiercer enemy at
the moment than the judge. Marriott knew nothing of Mistress Lanison's
capture; indeed, he declared that he did not believe she was in
Dorchester. One thing he was certain of, that Rosmore intended to force
her to marry him."


"Perhaps by letting her appear before Jeffreys, allowing her to be
accused and condemned, and then rescuing her at his own price. This is
Marriott's idea."

"She would not pay the price."

"And I fear Marriott would not be powerful enough to save her, although
he says he could, if Rosmore took this course. The outlook is black,
man, black as hell, and only one feeble ray of light can I bring into
it. Marriott has promised to help me to open her prison doors should she
be condemned. To his own undoing I believe he will keep that promise, so
great is his hatred of Rosmore."

"What can we do?" said Crosby, pacing the room with short, nervous
strides. "It is damnable to be so helpless."

"Wait; there is nothing else to do. Marriott is doing his best to find
out where Mistress Lanison is imprisoned. He is to let me know. If we
can find that out we may yet beat this devil Rosmore."

"He may be honest in this," said Crosby.

"We will have the coach waiting," Fellowes answered, "but I do not
believe Rosmore is ever going to help you to use it. I wish Martin were

"Where can he have gone?"

"Working somewhere for his mistress," said Fellowes. "That is certain
unless he is dead. You recollect he said he had a half-formed scheme in
his mind. Next morning I found a message here that he might be absent
for a day or two."

"Some forlorn hope," said Crosby.

"Perhaps, but Martin's forlorn hopes have a way of proving useful. You
will lie low here, I suppose, Crosby? I will get back to my lodgings,
and if I hear from Marriott I will come to you at once--or from Rosmore.
It may be part of his design to make you think Mistress Barbara has
changed her mind."

"If he sent such a message I should know he was lying."

"Don't leave here, Crosby. Much may depend on my being able to find you
at a moment's notice, and Martin may return at any time. You and I have
only discovered how great our difficulties are. Let us hope Martin will
have found the way out of them."

Would he? Crosby wondered, when he was left alone. In what direction
could Martin be seeking a solution to the problem? Not in Dorchester,
surely, or he would have come to the "Anchor" tavern. Where else? In
London? At Aylingford? Yes, perhaps at Aylingford; an appeal to
Barbara's guardian. If Martin Fairley had attempted such a forlorn hope
as this it was unlikely that he would bring much help with him when he
returned. Hour after hour Crosby sat there alone, now staring vacantly
at the opposite wall, now pacing the narrow room like a caged and
impotent animal. The dawn found him asleep in his chair.

News travelled slowly. Messengers, with instructions not to spare their
horses, might ride to London, to the King at Whitehall, yet Lady Lisle
had been executed at Winchester before the story of her trial was known
in parts of Hampshire even. If one were far from the main road, where
news might be had from the driver or guard of a coach, information could
only come from some wandering pedlar to a remote village, and might or
might not be true. Vague stories were told, and forgotten as soon as
told. Men and women, with a hard living to earn, cared little what was
happening fifty or a hundred miles away, unless a son or brother or
friend had had part in the rebellion. At the village of Aylingford no
one appeared to have this personal interest, and they were ignorant of
the fact that at least one messenger had ridden to the Abbey with news
for Sir John. He had come at nightfall, had been with Sir John for an
hour, and had then departed. He had not lingered in the servants'
quarters to whisper something of his news, nor had Sir John mentioned
his coming to his guests. There were not many guests at Aylingford just
now, and Mrs. Dearmer yawned openly, and confessed herself bored. She
seemed to have taken up her abode permanently at the Abbey, playing the
hostess, and to some extent ruling Sir John.

"I vow, Abbot, you're less lively than a ditch in a dry summer," she
said to him the day after the messenger had been.

"What shall we do to make us merry? You have only to command," he

"Plague on it, I am at a loss to know. In all our present company
there's not a wit worth listening to, nor a woman with sufficient vice
or virtue to make her interesting. I feel like turning saint for the
sake of a new sensation."

"There are some things even you cannot do, and turning saint is one of

"I would have said as much for you," she returned. "But this morning
your face has already begun to play the part. It might belong to the
painted window of a chapel."

"Is it so uninteresting?" laughed Sir John. "Truly, you and I must
devise some wickedness to pass the time until kindred spirits return to
the Abbey. Half the monks of Aylingford are in the West, and the nuns
find it dull without them."

"Next week we will go to town," said Mrs. Dearmer. "I love you, Abbot
John, with all the wickedness that is in me, but truly you have grown
dull lately."

No one was better qualified to pass judgment on Sir John than Mrs.
Dearmer. To her he was dull, perhaps the worst crime a man can be guilty
of in the eyes of such a woman, yet the accusation did not trouble him
now as much as it would have done at another time. He was restless, and
if his conscience was too moribund to have the power of pricking, he had
become introspective. Fear and superstition took hold of him, and he
could not shake himself free. The news which the messenger had brought
him was good news, yet, even as the man had delivered it, a candle had
guttered and gone out, and Sir John saw a warning of disaster in the
fact. He was constantly on the watch for such omens, and saw them within
the house and without. He met a new kitchen wench who looked at him with
eyes askew, sure sign of evil. Three crows with flapping wings settled
at dusk upon the terrace wall and called to him as he passed. A vase of
quaint workmanship, brought from the East Indies by his brother,
Barbara's father, split suddenly in twain, and Sir John trembled as with
an ague at so sure a premonition of evil as this. There were moments
when he could not bear to be shut in a room, when the confinement
between four walls seemed to stifle him, and like a half suffocated man
he would stagger on to the terrace and gasp for breath.

He promised Mrs. Dearmer that next week he would go with her to town,
and all that day he tried to prove that he was not dull. The effort was
successful until the evening, and then came the feeling of suffocation
and the need for deep draughts of air. With a muttered excuse he left
his guests to their play and laughter, and hurried to the terrace.

The night was still, not a breeze stirred in the trees, and the light of
a young moon was upon the terrace, casting faint, motionless shadows
over greensward and stone flags. For a little while Sir John stood
looking down into the stream, which seemed asleep to-night. Upon it the
shadows quivered, but scarce a ripple of music came from underneath its
banks. A man might well feel some regrets for the past on such a night
of peace, might well hear the small voice of conscience distinctly, but
with Sir John there was only superstition and fear.

Motionless shadows on the terrace, and yet Sir John turned suddenly, as
though he were conscious of movement, and his eyes rested upon a shadow
in the angle of a wall. He had not noticed it before; now for a little
space it seemed like other shadows, but Sir John was not deceived. It
moved, coming out from the wall and towards him, and a man stood there.


Sir John was not a coward, but a sigh of relief escaped him when he
realised that this was no phantom, but a thing of flesh and blood--only
Mad Martin.

"I have waited for you, Sir John."

"The doors were not locked against you, though they well might have
been. Where do you spring from to-night, and what have you been doing?"

"Wandering and dreaming."

"In a mad mood, eh?"

"Yes, when I see things and hear voices," said Martin in a sing-song
tone, as though he were dreaming now and unconscious of the words his
lips uttered. "I heard my mistress calling me. Where is she, Sir John?"

"In London, Martin."

"No; she was, but not now. She was calling from a dark room, and the
door was locked. I could see the room, a miserable room, but I could not
see her, only hear her. She was in the power of Lord Rosmore."

Sir John bent forward to see Fairley's face more clearly in the
moonlight. He had known him in this mood before, known him to give
strange but good advice while in this state. He was satisfied that
Martin was unconscious now, and was eager to question him.

"What will happen, Martin?"

"I cannot see."

"But why come to the Abbey?"

"She sent me to you. I know not why, but I have waited. I heard her say
that I must not be seen. She thought you could save her."


Martin put his arm across his eyes for a moment.

"It is all a mist, and the voices are muffled," he said. "You would know
what Lord Rosmore would do, and would tell me."

"It will be good for her to marry Lord Rosmore," said Sir John.

"Not good for her, but good for you," was the answer; "she said that.
She said you were afraid of him, that you must do as he willed. It was
very clear in my dreams."

"Why should I fear him?"

"So many questions give me pain. I was dreaming; I cannot remember
everything. One thing is clear. She called to me that you might be free
from Lord Rosmore if you knew a secret which the Abbey holds."

"Do you know it, Martin?"

"Yes; she told me, and it is a secret."

"What is it, Martin?"

"A secret, but I was to tell you if you helped her."

"Stop this foolery!" said Sir John, seizing his arm sharply. "You shall
be locked up until this wayward niece of mine is safely married."

"Married! Would you die, master?"


"Surely. The stars showed it me long ago. Two planets in conjunction,
that was the marriage, and then across the night sky the flash of a
meteor, dead and cold in a moment."

"Curse your dreams and the stars!"

"Listen!" said Fairley. "Cannot you hear the music of chinking money?
Look, master! I see gems like eyes--white and red and blue--diamonds,
rubies, and sapphires. That is all part of the secret, that and the
Nun's Room."

"Tell me the secret," said Sir John.

"If you help my mistress."

"I know nothing."

"I have forgotten the secret," Martin whispered.

He moved away slowly and then stopped.

"Master, why not be rich? What is it to you and me what happens to
Mistress Barbara, so we can be rich? I would be rich, too. If Lord
Rosmore has power over you, money and jewels will buy freedom. It is
true, somewhere in the Abbey the wealth of the Indies has been buried. I
know it."

"Then tell me, Martin."

"You fool, you fool, you have made me forget, but I shall remember if
you will only let me. In dreams, when we promise and do not fulfil, we
forget everything. You must help my mistress, or I cannot remember. See,
I have a proof. Once, long ago, I found that in the Nun's Room; I
thought it was glass, but Mistress Barbara's voice says it is a diamond.
Take it, master, you will know."

It was a diamond which Sir John held between his finger and thumb. In
the moonlight the colours sparkled, such deep, clear colours as never
came from glass. It was a stone that had been set; how had it come into
the Nun's Room? Sir John's pulses quickened. If he told what he knew,
what harm would be done?

"It is a diamond, Martin."

"One among hidden hundreds. Help the mistress, master, and let us be
rich. You must give me a little of all we find, so that I may always
have a fire in winter and can eat and drink when I like; that is to be
rich, indeed."

"I will tell you what I know, Martin, but how can it help Barbara?"

"She has command of my thoughts, as you speak she will hear; but a
warning, master--you must speak the truth. I shall not know the truth
from a lie, but she will, and if you lie we shall not find the

"Barbara went to Dorchester to try and save the highwayman, Gilbert
Crosby," said Sir John. "It was Rosmore's device to send her word that
Crosby was a prisoner, and on the way she was captured, not by the
King's troops as a rebel, but by men in Rosmore's pay. She is in no real
danger, but she does not know this. She will not be brought before
Jeffreys or any other judge, but she will be treated as though this were
to be her fate. Rosmore will save her, do you understand, and in her
gratitude she will give him his reward."

"How will he save me?" came the question in a monotonous voice, and Sir
John started, for it did not seem as if Martin had asked it.

"The day of the trial will be fixed--it may be to-day or to-morrow, I
cannot tell; but the night before she will be smuggled into a waiting
coach and driven here to Aylingford."

"Must she promise to marry Lord Rosmore first?"

"Probably. Yes, he will certainly make her promise that before he helps
her. It is not a hard promise to make, Martin; Lord Rosmore is a better
mate than 'Galloping Hermit.'"

Martin sighed and rubbed his eyes. He looked round him and then at Sir

"I thought I was speaking to Mistress Barbara," he said. "Ah, I
remember, I was. We have helped her, Sir John. How she will use that
help does not matter. Is she to give a promise to Rosmore? I wonder what
will happen if she will not give it?"

"I do not know. Such is Lord Rosmore's plan, but circumstances might
make him alter it."

"And if he fails he may denounce her and leave her to her fate," said
Martin. "She won't be the only woman to suffer, and, whichever way it
ends, we have something else to think of--riches."

"Is it true about this treasure, Martin?" said Sir John.

"True! As true as that Lady Lisle was foully executed at Winchester for
just such a crime as Mistress Barbara may be accused of if she will make
no promise to Lord Rosmore."

"That is a horrible thought," said Sir John, shrinking from him.

"We mustn't think. Those who would get rich quickly must act. Come."

He led the way along the terrace towards the ruins, and Sir John
followed him almost as if he expected to see movement in the motionless
shadows about him. The prospect of finding this hidden wealth, and all
it would mean to him, shut out every other thought. The legend of buried
treasure at the Abbey was not a new one. The monks who had lived in it
had grown wealthy--why should they not have left their wealth behind
them? Martin was mad, but in his madness he had strange visions; Sir
John was satisfied that he had had many proofs of this, and he followed
him now, never doubting that the treasure existed and would be found.

They came to the opening of the Nun's Room.

"The creepers in this corner are a natural ladder, Sir John."

"But we cannot go down into it, Martin."

"How else shall we get the riches?"

"Those who enter the Nun's Room die within the year," said Sir John,

"A tale made to keep the curious from looking for the treasure," Martin
answered. "I have gone down many times, but I searched in vain, not
having the key to the secret. To-night I have it. I will go first," and,
kneeling down, he grasped the creepers, which grew strongly here, and
lowered himself quickly.

Sir John was not so agile, but he went down after him. He would have
accomplished a far more difficult feat rather than remain behind.

"I wonder whether Mistress Barbara will make that promise?" said Martin,
as Sir John came to the floor beside him.

"I wonder."

"If she doesn't, death. If she does, Rosmore will have a wife; the poor
highwayman will doubtless hang at Tyburn; but we shall be rich. That
matters, nothing else does."

"Nothing else, Martin," and, indeed, Sir John was too excited to be
troubled by any other thought.

Martin guided him across the room.

"Feel, Sir John. This is the ledge where they say the Nun slept;
creepers hang over it, and behind these creepers--listen, Sir John,
listen!" and he knocked sharply against the stone wall. "Hollow! It's
true! This is no solid wall as it seems. Feel, Sir John, your finger on
the edge of this great slab. A doorway built up, and not so long ago.
Listen! Hollow! It's true, it's true!" and Martin jumped and clapped his
hands like a child.

"Yes, it's hollow, sure enough," said Sir John.

"Light and a pick. We'll be in the treasure chamber before morning.
Wait, Sir John, I'll get them."

"Stop, Martin; where are you going?"

"For a light and a pick," and he climbed out by the creepers in the
corner. "I know the treasure has been hidden there. I have seen it in my

"Be quick, Martin."

"I shall make more haste than I have ever done in my life before," he
answered, bending over the edge by the corner. "Poor Rosmore! poor
highwayman! Only a wife and a gibbet for them. But for us--"

"Stop talking, Martin, and let us get to work," came the answer from

"I wonder whether Mistress Barbara will make a promise?" And Martin cut
and wrenched at the creepers where they clung to the stone floor and
fallen masonry at the top.

"What are you doing?" said Sir John.

"Freeing myself from the creepers. That's done. I'll hasten, Sir John,
never fear."

Something moved in the dark, sunken room, scraping and sliding.


Sir John could hear the sound of his footsteps quickly lessening in the
distance, but there was no answer to his call.


Still no answer, and the sound of the footsteps had gone. Sir John, with
his hands stretched out before him, crossed to the corner where he had
come down. His hands came in contact with a tangle of creepers, hanging
loose, from the wall. The ladder was broken!

Martin Fairley went swiftly to the terrace and on to one of the stone
bridges over the stream. Then he paused and listened.

"He will have to cry loudly to be heard to-night. Grant that he may find
no escape until morning."

Then he crossed the bridge and went swiftly through the woods.



Dorchester was in mourning. If there had been any hope that Mercy and
Justice would go hand in hand, if there were a lingering belief that
Judge Jeffreys might not be so cruel as it was said, such hopes and
beliefs were quickly dispelled the moment that court with its scarlet
hangings was opened. Even Judge Marriott shrank a little as his learned
brother bullied and laughed and swore at the prisoners, bidding them
plead guilty as their only hope of escape, and then condemning them to
the gibbet with the ferocity of a drunken fiend. Pity crept into the
hard faces of rough soldiers; the devilishness of this judge appalled
even them.

Since she had no maid to attend to her, Watson took Barbara her food;
but, although he had received no instructions to discontinue his efforts
to break her courage by detailing the horrors of the punishment which
was being administered to rebels, he spoke of them no more. He pitied
this fair woman, and was deeply impressed with her bravery. He was not
wholly in his master's confidence, and believed that his prisoner was in
grave danger. He did not doubt that under certain conditions she might
be saved, but she was not the woman from whom promises could be forced,
and no one could know better than Watson did how ruthless his master was
in clearing obstacles out of his path, how cruel he was when he became
revengeful. He knew that Gilbert Crosby had been allowed an interview
with Barbara Lanison, but was ignorant of the purpose. He did not know
that her escape had been arranged for, nor that he was to have a part in
it; and there were times when he weighed against each other his pity for
the woman and his fear of Lord Rosmore, finding it so difficult to tell
which outbalanced the other that he went a step further and thought out
plans for getting Mistress Lanison away from Dorchester. Not one of his
schemes could possibly have succeeded, but the trooper found a
satisfaction in making them.

Barbara was speedily aware of the change in Watson's manner towards her,
but she was not astonished. It was natural under the changed conditions
of her imprisonment. Every hour brought her freedom nearer, and the man
knew this, she supposed, and treated her accordingly. Concerning her
escape she did not question him, but she did ask him whether Judge
Jeffreys had arrived, and if the Assizes had begun.

"Truth, madam, my duty keeps me in this house, and I know little of what
is happening in the town."

"Nor how the prisoners will be treated?" Barbara asked.

"Some say this and some say that," Watson replied evasively, "and I have
enough to do without thinking about the lawyer's work. When I hear
lawyers talk I can't tell right from wrong. You have to be trained to
understand the jargon."

So Barbara Lanison heard nothing of the mourning that was in the town,
and had naught to do during the long waiting hours but think of the
future and all that it meant to her. She was going with Gilbert Crosby,
but he had promised that, once they were in safety, she should choose
her own way. Would she take his road? She loved him. The fact was so
absorbing that nothing else seemed to matter; yet she had many lonely
hours for thought, and it would have been strange indeed if none of the
circumstances of her life, of her position, had demanded her
consideration. To trust this lover with her future meant the snapping of
every tie which bound her to the past; it must mean, in the world's
eyes, bringing contempt upon her name. She faced the truth bravely. It
seemed an impossible thing that Barbara Lanison of Aylingford should
marry Galloping Hermit the highwayman. Such a thing might appeal as a
romantic tale, but in the real world it meant disgrace. In another land
love might be hers, such love, perchance, as few women have ever had,
but could it obliterate the past? Would she ever be able to forget that
the man beside her, his face hidden behind the brown mask, had waited,
pistol in hand, upon the high road, to rob passing travellers? All men
were not cowards, nor did they travel unprepared for danger; there must
have been times when the pistols had spoken in the silence of the night,
when some hapless traveller had died upon the roadside. Surely there was
blood upon the hands of the man she loved! The thought bowed her head,
and her hands clasped as if a spasm of sudden pain had seized her. No
repentance in the long years to come, not all the good that might be
done in them, could wipe out the past. And then she tried to find
excuses for that past, some reason that could justify the life he had
chosen. Some very definite reason there must have been. The artificial
glamour of the life would not attract such a man as Gilbert Crosby. He
must have imagined that justice was on his side, that there was some
wrong to right, to make him defy all the laws of life and property and
become a menace and a terror to his fellows.

Stories concerning Galloping Hermit had already passed into legend. His
greatest exploits always seemed to be against those who were cruel in
their dealings with others, who were unjust, or those whose lives were
notoriously bad; and there were many tales of courtesy, of
consideration, of help, which were totally out of keeping with the
ordinary career of a highwayman. Barbara remembered his treatment of
Judge Marriott, remembered what he had said. He was, the world said it,
quite apart from all other highwaymen; nevertheless, there was a price
upon his head, and the shadow of Tyburn lay dark across his path. And
yet he was Gilbert Crosby, the man she loved, the man who was blessed
and nightly prayed for in many a humble home in this West Country. What
did the world hold for her that she should thrust such a man out of her
life? Which way was she to choose--that which led Lack in her uncle's
world, with its Rosmores, its Branksomes, its Marriotts, its Mistress
Dearmers, and its shams of love which was vice, and of life which was
moral death; or that which led to quiet obscurity with the man she
loved, a sinner, but repentant, in whose worship she could trust, and
whose touch thrilled her very soul? Had she not almost promised
already--to take her way with him?

The second day of her waiting had ended, darkness had come; to-morrow
night she would go. At about this hour galloping horses would be
hurrying her away from Dorchester. Her thoughts were full of to-morrow,
when the key turned quietly in the lock and Watson entered.

"Good news, madam. I only heard it an hour ago, and was never more
pleased in my life."

"What news?"

"That you are to leave Dorchester, and with Mr. Crosby. Craving your
pardon, madam, I know something of your reason for coming to the West;
and, for all I'm so rough a fellow, I'm fond o' lovers."

"Thank you," said Barbara, for the man was evidently pleased.

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