Part 2 out of 5
Where the lane from Fortis Green crosses the high road there stood an
ale-house. On the wettest days, and some others, the place was Harry's
resort. Not that he had a liking for ale-house company--or indeed any
company. But within the precincts of the Wavertons' house tobacco was
forbidden and--all the more for that--tobacco he loved with a solid
devotion. The alehouse of the cross roads offered a clean floor, a clean
fire, air not too foul, a tolerable chair, a landlord who did not talk,
and until evening, sufficient solitude. There Harry smoked many pipes in
tranquillity until the day when on his entry he found Mr. Hadley's
sardonic face waiting for him. He liked Charles Hadley less than many men
whom he more despised. Nobody in a position just better than menial can
be expected to like the condescending mockery which was Mr. Hadley's
_metier_. But Harry--it is one of his most noble qualities--bore being
laughed at well enough. What most annoyed him was Mr. Hadley's parade of
a surly, austere virtue. He did not doubt that it was sincere. He could
more easily have forgiven it if it had been hypocritical. A man had no
business to be so mighty honest.
Mr. Hadley nodded at Harry, who said it was a dirty day, and called for
his pot of small ale and his pennyworth of Spanish tobacco. Mr. Hadley
was civil enough to pass him a pipe from the box. Both gentlemen smoked
in grave silence.
"So you are still with us," said Mr. Hadley.
"By your good leave, sir."
"I had an apprehension the Colonel was going to ravish you away."
"I hope I am still of some use to Mr. Waverton."
"Damme, you might be the old family retainer. 'Faithful service of the
antique world,' egad. I suppose you will end your days with Geoffrey, and
be buried at his feet like a trusty hound."
"If you please, sir."
They looked at each other. "Well, Mr. Boyce, I beg your pardon," Hadley
said. "But you'll allow you are irritating to a plain man."
"I do not desire it, sir."
"I may hold my tongue and mind my own business, eh? Why not take me
"I intend you no harm, Mr. Hadley."
"That's devilish good of you, Mr. Boyce. To be plain with you, what do
you want here?"
"Here? Oh Lord, sir, I come to smoke my pipe!"
"And what if I come to smoke you? Odds life, I know you are no fool. Do
me the honour to take me for none. And tell me, if you please, why do you
choose to be Master Geoffrey's gentleman in waiting? You are good for
better than that, Mr. Boyce."
"No doubt, sir. But it brings me bread and butter."
"You could earn that fighting in Flanders."
Harry shrugged. "I am not very brave, Mr. Hadley."
"You count upon staying here, do you?"
"If I can satisfy Mr. Waverton," said Harry meekly.
Hadley's face grew harder. "I vow I do my best to wish you well,
Mr. Boyce. I should be glad to hear that you'll give up walking in
There was a moment of silence. "I did not know that I had asked for your
advice, sir." Harry said. "I am not grateful for it."
"Damme, that's the first honest answer you have made," Hadley cried.
"Look 'e, Mr. Boyce, I am as much your friend as I may be. I have an
uncle which was the lady's guardian. If I said a word to him he would
carry it to Lady Waverton in a gouty rage. There would be a swift end of
Mr. Boyce the tutor. Well, I would not desire that. For all your airs,
I'll believe you a man of honour. And I ask you what's to become of Mr.
Boyce the tutor seeking private meetings with the Lambourne heiress?
Egad, sir, you were made for better things than such a mean business."
"Honour!" Harry sneered. "Were you talking of men of honour? I suppose
there is good cover in the woods, Mr. Hadley."
Hadley stared at him. "It was not good enough, you see, sir." He knocked
out his pipe and stood up. "Bah, this is childish. You don't think me a
knave, nor I you. I have said my say, and I mean you well."
"I believe that, Mr. Hadley"--Harry met him with level eyes--"and I am
"You know who she is meant for."
"I know that the lady might call us both impudent."
"Would that break your bones? Come, sir, the lady hath been destined for
Master Geoffrey since she had hair and never has rebelled."
"Lord, Mr. Hadley, are you destiny?"
Mr. Hadley let that by with an impatient shrug. "So if you be fool enough
to have ambitions after her, you would wear a better face in eating no
more of Master Geoffrey's bread."
"It's a good day for walking, Mr. Hadley. Which way do you go? For I go
"I hope so," Mr. Hadley agreed, and on that the two gentlemen parted,
both something warm.
We should flatter him in supposing Harry Boyce of a chivalrous delicacy.
Whether the lady's fair fame might be the worse for him was a question of
which he never thought. It is certain that he did not blame himself for
using his place as Geoffrey's paid servant to damage Geoffrey in his
affections. And indeed you will agree that he was innocent of any
designed attack upon the lady. Yet Mr. Hadley succeeded in making him
What most troubled him, I conceive, was the fear of being ridiculous. The
position of a poor tutor aspiring to the favours of the heiress destined
for his master invites the unkind gibe. And Harry could not be sure that
Alison herself was free from the desire to make him a figure of scorn.
Such a suspicion might disconcert the most ardent of lovers. Harry
Boyce, whatever his abilities in the profession, was not that yet. But
the very fact that he had come to feel an ache of longing for Alison made
him for once dread laughter. If he had been manoeuvring for what he could
get by her, or if he had been merely taken by her good looks, he might
have met jeering with a brazen face. But she had engaged his most private
emotions, and to have them made ludicrous would be of all possible
punishments most intolerable. The precise truth of what he felt for her
then was, I suppose, that he wanted to make her his own--wanted to have
all of her in his power; and a gentleman whom the world--and the
lady--are laughing at for an aspiring menial cannot comfortably think
about his right to possess her.
There was something else. He was not meticulously delicate, but he had a
complete practical sanity. He saw very well that even if Alison, by the
chance of circumstance, had some infatuation for him, she might soon
repent: he saw that even if the affair went with romantic success--a
thing hardly possible--his position and hers might be awkward enough.
Her friends would be long in forgiving either of them, and find ways
enough to hurt them both. Mr. Hadley, confound him, spoke the common
sense of mankind.
There was one solution--that estimable father. By the time he came back
to the house on Tether-down, Harry was resolved to enlist under the
ambiguous banner of Colonel Boyce.
GENEROSITY OF A FATHER
With grim irony Harry congratulated himself on his decision. When first
he came into the house he heard Alison singing. There was indeed (as he
told himself clearly) nothing wonderful about her voice--it resembled
the divine only in being still and small. Yet he could not (he called
himself still more clearly a fool) keep away from it, and so he slunk
into Lady Waverton's drawing-room. Only duty and stated hours were wont
to drag him there. Lady Waverton showed her appreciation of his unusual
attendance by staring at him across the massed trifles of the room with
sleepy and insolent amazement. But it was not the glassy eyes of Lady
Waverton which convinced Harry that flight was the true wisdom. Over
Alison at the harpsichord, Geoffrey hung tenderly: their shoulders
touched, eyes answered eyes, and miss was radiant. She sang at him with a
naughty archness that song of Mr. Congreve's:
"Thus to a ripe consenting maid,
Poor old repenting Delia said,
Would you long preserve your lover?
Would you still his goddess reign?
Never let him all discover,
Never let him much obtain.
Men will admire, adore and die
While wishing at your feet they lie;
But admitting their embraces
Wakes 'em from the golden dream:
Nothing's new besides our faces,
Every woman is the same."
She contorted her own face into smug folly by way of illustration. Then
she and Geoffrey laughed together. "I vow you're the most deliciously
wicked creature that ever was born a maid."
"D'ye regret it, sir? Faith, I could not well be born a wife."
"No, ma'am, that's an honour to be won by care and pains."
"Pains! Lud, yes, I believe that. But, dear sir, I reckon it the
punishment for folly. Why,"--she chose to see Harry--"why, here is our
knight of the rueful countenance!"
Mr. Waverton laughed. "It is related of the Egyptians--"
"God help us," Alison murmured.
He went on, giggling. "It is related of the Ancient Egyptians that they
ever had a corpse among the guests at their feasts."
"Were their cooks so bad?" said Alison.
"To remind them that all men are mortal. Now you see why we keep Harry."
"I wonder if he looked as happy when he was alive," said Alison,
surveying his wooden face.
"_De mortuis nil nisi bonum_," Geoffrey laughed. "No jests about the
dead, Alison. But to tell you a secret, he never was alive. He doesn't
like it known."
Colonel Boyce, who had listened to the song and the first
coruscations of wit with the condescending smile of a connoisseur,
now exhibited some impatience. "Egad, Harry, why will you dress like
a parson out at elbows?"
"His customary suit of solemn black," said Geoffrey.
"He is in mourning for himself, of course," Alison laughed.
"I have two suits of clothes, ma'am," said Harry meekly. "This is
"Poor Harry!" Geoffrey granted him a look of protective affection. "I vow
we are too hard on him, Alison." And then in a lower voice for her
private ear. "A dear, worthy fellow, but--well, what would you have?--of
no spirit." Alison bit her lip.
"Oh, Mr. Waverton," Harry protested, "indeed, I am proud to be the cause
of such wit."
Colonel Boyce stared at his son with an enigmatic frown. Alison's eyes
brightened. But Geoffrey suspected no guile. "Not witty thyself, dear
lad, but the cause of wit in others, eh? Odds life, Harry, you are
"'Tis your kindness for me makes you think so, Mr. Waverton. And, to be
sure, I could ask no more than to amuse your lady."
Alison said tartly, "Oh, it takes little to amuse me, sir."
"I am sure, ma'am," Harry agreed meekly.
"It's a happy nature." and he bowed to Geoffrey, humbly congratulating
him on a lady of such simple tastes.
Geoffrey, who had now had enough of his good tutor, eliminated him by a
compliment or so on Alison's voice and the demand that she should sing
again. He found her in an awkward temper. She would not sing this, she
would not sing that, she found faults in every song known to Mr.
Waverton. Yet in a fashion she was encouraging. For this new method of
keeping him off was governed by a queer adulation of him: no song in the
world could be worth his distinguished attention; her little voice must
be to his accomplished ear vain and ludicrous; the kind things he was so
good as to say were vastly gratifying, to be sure, but they were merely
his kind condescension. And, oh Lud, it was time she was gone, or poor,
dear Weston would be imagining her slaughtered on the highway.
Geoffrey could not make much of this, but was pleased to take it as
flattering feminine homage to his magnificence. By way of reward, he
announced an intention of riding home with her carriage. "Faith, you are
too good"--her eyes were modestly hidden--"but then you are too good to
everybody. Is he not, Mr. Boyce?"
"Oh, ma'am, we all practise on his kindness," Harry said.
"A good night to your mourning," she said sharply, "dear Lady Waverton."
They kissed. "Colonel Boyce, I hold you to your promise."
"With all my heart, ma'am. Your devoted."
She was gone, and Harry, with a look of significance at his father, went
In that shabby upper chamber of his, Harry again offered the Colonel a
choice between the bed and the one chair. Colonel Boyce made a gesture
and an exclamation of impatience, and remained standing. "Now, what the
devil do you want with me?" he complained.
"I want to be very grateful. I want to enlist with you. When shall
His father frowned, and in a little while made a crooked answer, "Do you
know, Harry, you are too mighty subtle. I was so at your years. It's very
pretty sport, but--well, it won't butter your parsnips. The women can't
tell what to make of it. Having, in general, no humour, pretty
"I am obliged for the sermon, sir. Shall we leave to-morrow?"
"Egad, you are in a fluster," his father smiled. "Well, to be sure, he is
a teasing fellow, the beautiful Geoffrey."
Harry made an exclamation. "You'll forgive me, sir, if I say you are
"Oh Lud, yes," his father chuckled.
"Whether I am agreeable to women, whether Mr. Waverton is agreeable to
me--odds life, sir, I don't trouble my head about such things. Pray,
why should you? As well sit down and cry because my eyes are not the
"No. No. There is something taking about that, Harry," his father
"When you please to be in earnest, sir," Harry cried, "if this affair of
yours is in earnest--" "Oh, you may count on that." Colonel Boyce was
still enjoying himself.
"Then I am ready for it. And the sooner the better."
"Hurry is a bad horse. The truth is, something more hangs on this affair
than Mr. Harry's whims. Oh, damme, I don't blame you, though. He is
tiresome, our Geoffrey."
"Why, sir, if we have to waste time, we might waste it more comfortably
than with the Waverton family. Shall we say to-morrow?"
Colonel Boyce tapped his still excellent teeth. "Patience, patience," he
said, and considered his son gravely. "As for to-morrow, I have friends
to see, and so have you. Your pretty miss engaged me to ride over with
you to her house. And behind the brave Geoffrey's back, if you please.
She is a sly puss, Harry." He expected so obviously an angry answer that
Harry chose to disappoint him.
"I shall be happy to take leave of Miss Lambourne. And shall I ride
pillion with you, sir? For I have no horse of my own."
"Bah, dear Geoffrey will lend me the best in the stable."
"I give you joy of the progress in his affections."
Colonel Boyce laughed. "You are pledged for the forenoon then," he
paused. "And as to that little affair of mine--you shall know your part
"It cannot be too soon, sir."
"No." Colonel Boyce nodded. "I think it's full time."
He took leave of his son with what the son thought superfluous
Half an hour afterwards he was in Mr. Waverton's room--a place very
precious. Everything in it--and there were many things--had an air of
being strange. Mr. Waverton slept behind curtains of black and silver.
His floor was covered with some stuff like scarlet velvet. There was a
skull in the place of honour on the walls, flanked by two Venetian
pictures of the Virgin, and faced by a blowsy Bacchus and Ariadne from
Flanders. The chairs were of the newest Italian mode, designed rather to
carry as much gilding as possible than to comfort the human form. Colonel
Boyce, regarding them with some apprehension, stood himself before the
fire and waved off Geoffrey's effusive courtesy.
"I hope you have good news for me, Mr. Waverton?" So he opened the
"Why, sir, I have considered my engagements," Geoffrey said
magnificently. "I believe I could hold myself free for some months--if
the enterprise were of weight."
"You relieve me vastly. I'll not disguise from you, Mr. Waverton, that I
am something anxious to secure you. I could not find a gentleman so well
equipped for this delicate business. You'll observe, 'tis of the first
importance that we should have presence, an air, the _je ne sais quoi_ of
dignity and family."
"Sir, you are very obliging." Geoffrey swallowed it whole.
"When I came here I confess I was at my wit's end. Indeed, I had a mind
to go alone. The gentlemen of my acquaintance--either they could not be
trusted with an affair of such value, or they had too much of our English
coarseness to be at ease with it. Faith, when I came to see my poor, dear
Harry, little I thought that in his neighbourhood I should find the very
man for my embassy." The two gentlemen laughed together over the
incompatibility of Harry with gentlemanly diplomacy.
"Not but what Harry is a faithful, trusty fellow," said Mr. Waverton,
with magnificent condescension.
"You are very good to say so. A dolt, sir, a dolt; so much the worse for
me. Now, Mr. Waverton, to you I have no need of a word more on the
secrecy of the affair. Though, to be sure, this very morning I had
another note from Cadogan--Marlborough's _âme damnée_ you know--pressing
it on me that nothing should get abroad. So when we go, we'll be off
without a good-bye, and if you must leave a word behind for the anxieties
of my lady, let her know that you are off with me to see the army in
"I profess, Colonel, you are mighty cautious."
"Dear sir, we cannot be too cautious in this affair. There's many a
handsome scheme gone awry for the sake of some affectionate farewell.
Mothers, wives, lady-loves--sweet luxuries, Mr. Waverton, but damned
dangerous. Now here's my plan. We'll go riding on an afternoon and not
come back again. Trust my servant to get away quietly with your baggage
and mine. We must travel light, to be sure. We'll go round London. I have
too many friends there, and I want none of them asking where old Noll
Boyce is off to now. Newhaven is the port for us. There is a trusty
fellow there has his orders already. I look to land at Le Havre. Now, the
Prince, by our latest news, is back at St. Germain. As you can guess, Mr.
Waverton, to be seen in Paris would suit my health even less than to be
seen in London. Too many honest Frenchmen have met me in the wars, and,
what's worse, too many of them know me deep in Marlborough's business. I
could not show my face without all King Louis's court talking of some
great matter afoot. What I have in mind is to halt on the road--at
Pontoise maybe--while you ride on with letters to Prince James. I warrant
you they are such, and with such names to them, as will assure you a
noble welcome. It's intended that he should quit St. Germain privately
with you to conduct him to me. Then I warrant you we shall know how to
deal with the lad." He paused and stared at Geoffrey intently, and
gradually a grim humour stole into his eyes. He began to laugh. "Egad, I
envy you, Mr. Waverton. To be in such an affair at your years--bah, I
should have been crazy with pride."
"You need not doubt that I value the occasion, sir," Geoffrey said
grandly. "Pray, believe that I shall do honour to your confidence."
"To be sure you will. Odds life, to chaffer with a king's son about
kingdoms, to offer a realm to a prince in exile (if only he will be a
good boy)--it's a fine, stately affair, sir, and you are the very man to
take it in the right vein."
"Sir, you are most obliging. I profess I vaunt myself very happy in your
kindness. Be sure that I shall know how to justify you."
"Egad, you do already," Colonel Boyce smiled, still with some touch of
cruelty in his eyes.
"Pray, sir, when must we start?"
"When I know, maybe I shall need to start in an hour."
"I shall not fail you. I shall want, I suppose, some funds in hand?"
Colonel Boyce shrugged. "Oh Lud, yes, we'll want some money. A matter of
five hundred pounds should serve."
"I will arrange for it in the morning," said Mr. Waverton, too
magnificent to be startled. "Pray, what clothes shall we be able
"Damme, that's a grave matter," said Colonel Boyce, and with becoming
gravity discussed it.
MISS LAMBOURNE LOOKS SIDEWAYS
Thus Colonel Boyce blandly arranged the lives of his young friends. It is
believed that he had a peculiar pleasure in manoeuvring his
fellow-creatures from behind a veil of secrecy. For in this he sought not
merely his private profit (though it was never out of his calculations);
he enjoyed his operations for their own sake; he liked his trickery as
trickery; to push and pull people to the place in which he wanted them
without their knowing how or why or to what end they were impelled was to
him a pleasure second to none in life. And on a survey of his whole
career he is to be accounted successful. Though I cannot find that he
ever achieved anything of signal importance even for himself, at one time
or another he brought a great number of people, some of them powerful,
and some of them honourable, under his direction, he had his complete
will of many of them, and was rewarded by the bitter hostility of the
majority. He contrived, in fact, to live just such a life as he liked
best. What more can any man have?
So he told Harry nothing of his engagement of Mr. Waverton, and Harry,
you have seen, was not likely to guess that anyone would enlist his
Geoffrey for a serious enterprise. On the next morning, indeed, Harry did
remark that Geoffrey was more portentous than usual, but thought nothing
of it. He was embarrassed by thinking about himself.
There was, as Colonel Boyce predicted, no difficulty about a horse for
Harry. When the Colonel suggested it, Geoffrey showed some satirical
surprise at Harry's daring, but (advising one of the older carriage
horses) bade him take what he would. Colonel Boyce spoke only of riding
with his son. He said nothing of where they were going. Harry wondered
whether Geoffrey would have been so gracious if he had known that Alison
was their destination, and, a new experience for him, felt some qualms of
conscience. It was uncomfortable to use a favour from Geoffrey, even a
trifling favour granted with a sneer, for meeting his lady; still more
uncomfortable to go seek the lady out secretly. But if he announced what
he was doing, there would be instantly something ridiculous about it, and
he would have to swallow much of Geoffrey's humour. Geoffrey might even
come with them, and Alison and he be humorous together--a fate
intolerable. There was indeed an easy way of escape. He had but to stay
away from the lady. But, though he despised himself for it, he desired
infinitely to see her again. She compelled him, as he had never believed
anything outside his own will could compel. After all, it was no such
matter, for he would soon be gone with his father to France. He might
well hope never to see her again.
So on that ride through the steep wooded lanes to Highgate, his father
found him morose, and complained of it. "Damme, for a young fellow that's
off to his lady-love you are a mighty poor thing, Harry."
"My lady-love! I have no taste for rich food. I thought it was your lady
we were going to see."
"What the devil do you mean by that?" Colonel Boyce stared.
"Oh, fie, sir! Why be ashamed of her?"
"God knows what you are talking about." Colonel Boyce was extraordinarily
irritated. "Ashamed of whom?"
"Of the peerless Miss Lambourne, to be sure. Oh, sir, why be so innocent?
How could she resist your charms? And indeed--"
"Miss Lambourne! What damned nonsense you talk, Harry."
"I followed your lead, sir," said Harry meekly. "But if we are to talk
sense--when shall we start for France?"
"You shall know when I know."
And on that they came to the top of the hill and the gates of the Hall.
The wet weather had yielded to St. Martin's summer. It was a day of
gentle silver-gold sunlight and benign air. With her companion, Mrs.
Weston, Miss Lambourne was walking in the garden. She met the gentlemen
at a turn of the drive by rampant sweetbriers. "Here's our knight of the
rueful countenance, and faith, on Rosinante, poor jade," she patted
Harry's aged carriage horse. "Oh, and he has brought with him Solomon in
all his glory," she made a wonderful curtsy to the splendours of Colonel
Boyce. "Now, who would have dreamt Don Quixote's father was Solomon?"
"I suppose I take after my mother, ma'am," Harry said meekly. "It's a
hope which often consoles me."
"Why, they say Solomon had something of a variety in wives, and
Colonel Boyce dismounted with so much noise that the jest was hardly
heard and the end of it altogether lost.
"You did not tell me"--Mrs. Weston was speaking and seemed to find it
difficult--"Alison, you did not tell me the gentlemen were coming." It
occurred to Harry that she looked very pale and ill.
"Why, Weston; dear, I could not tell if they would keep troth." She
began to hum:
"Men were deceivers ever,
One foot on sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never."
"Nay, ma'am, sigh no more for here are we," Colonel Boyce said brusquely.
"Oh Lud, he overwhelms us with the honour." She laughed. "How can we
entertain him worthily? Sir, will you walk? My poor house and I await
"I am vastly honoured, ma'am. I have never had a lady-in-waiting."
"Oh, celibate virtue!" quoth Miss Lambourne. And so to the house Colonel
Boyce led her and his horse, and a little way behind Harry followed with
his and Mrs. Weston.
She had nothing to say for herself. She looked so wan, she walked so
slowly, and with such an air of pain that Harry had to say something
about fearing she was not well. Then he felt a fool for his pains; as she
turned in answer and shook her head he saw such a sad, wistful dignity in
her eyes that the small coin of courtesy seemed an absurd offering. A
fancy, to be sure, in itself absurd. Yet he could not make the woman out.
There was something odd and baffling in the way she looked at him.
She led off with an odd question, "Pray, have you lived much with
"Not I, ma'am." Harry laughed. "If I were not a very wise child I should
hardly know my own father. Lived with him? Not much more than with my
mother, whom I never saw."
"Oh, did you not?" Her eyes dwelt upon him. After a little while, "Who
brought you up then?"
"Schools. Half a dozen schools between Taunton and London, and
Westminster at last."
"Were you happy?"
"When I had sixpence."
"But Colonel Boyce is rich!" she cried.
"I have no evidence of it, ma'am."
"I cannot understand. You hardly know him. But he comes to you at Lady
Waverton's; he stays with you; he brings you here. I believe you are
closer with him than you say."
"Why, ma'am, it's mighty kind in you to concern yourself so with my
affairs. And if you can't understand them, faith, no more can I."
She showed no shame at this rebuke of impertinence. In a minute Harry was
sorry he had amused himself by giving it. There was something strangely
affecting in the woman. Middle-aged, stout, faded, bound in manner and
speech by a shy clumsiness, she refused to be insignificant, she made an
appeal to him which he puzzled over in vain. Her simplicity was with
power, as of a nature which had cared only for the greater things. He
felt himself meeting one who had more than he of human quality, richer in
suffering, richer in all emotion, and (what was vastly surprising) under
her dullness, her feebleness, of fuller and deeper life.
From vague, intriguing, bewildering fancies, her voice brought him back
with a start. "He brought you here?" she was asking.
To be sure, she was wonderfully maladroit. This buzzing, futile curiosity
irritated him again into a sneer. "He is no doubt captivated by the
beautiful eyes of Miss Lambourne."
"He! Mr. Boyce?"--she corrected herself with a stammer and a
blush--"Colonel Boyce? Oh no. Indeed, he is old enough to be her father."
"I think we ought to tell him so." Harry chuckled. "It would do
"I think this is not very delicate, sir." Mrs. Weston was still blushing.
"Egad, ma'am, if you ask questions, you must expect answers," Harry
snapped at her.
"Why do you sneer at her? Why should you speak coarsely of her? I suppose
you come to the house of your own choice? Or does he make you come?"
Harry saw no occasion for such excitement. "Why, you take away my breath
with your pronouns. He and she--she and he--pray, let's leave him and
her out of the question. Here's a very pretty garden."
"Indeed, we need not quarrel, I think." She laughed nervously, and gave
him an odd, shy look. "Pray, do you stay with the Wavertons?"
"Alas, ma'am, I make your acquaintance and bid you farewell all in one
"Make my acquaintance!" Again came a nervous laugh, and it was a moment
before she went on. "We have met before to-day."
"Oh Lud, ma'am, I would desire you forget it."
"I am to forget it!" she echoed. "Oh ... Oh, you are very proud."
"Not I, indeed. The truth is, ma'am, that silly affair with our
highwayman, it embarrasses me mightily. I want to live it down. Pray,
help me, and think no more about it."
"I suppose that is what you say to Alison?" For the first time there was
a touch of fun in her eyes.
"Word for word, ma'am."
"Why do you come here then?"
"As I have the honour to tell you--to say good-bye."
She checked and stared at him. She was very pale. But now they were at
the steps of the house, and Colonel Boyce, who had resigned his horse to
a groom, turned with Alison to meet them.
"I am hot with the Colonel's compliments, Weston, dear," she announced.
"I must take a turn with Mr. Boyce to cool me. 'Tis his role. A
convenient family, faith. One makes you uncomfortably hot and t'other
freezes you. You go get warm, my Weston. Though I vow 'tis dangerous to
trust you to the Colonel. He has made very shameless love to me, and you
have a tender heart."
It occurred to Harry that Mrs. Weston and his father, thus forced to look
at each other, wore each an air of defiance. They amused him.
"I am not afraid," Mrs. Weston said.
"I profess I am abashed," said Colonel Boyce. "Pray, ma'am, be gentle to
my disgrace," and he offered his arm. She bowed and moved away, and he
Harry and Alison, face to face, and sufficiently close, eyed each other
with some amusement.
"Oh, Mr. Boyce," said she, and shook her head.
"Oh, Miss Lambourne," Harry exhorted in his turn.
"You have fallen. You have walked into my parlour."
"I am the best of sons, ma'am. I endure all things at my father's
She still eyed him steadily, searching him, and was still amused. She
moved a little so that the admirable flowing lines of her shape were more
marked. Then she said, "Why are you afraid of me?"
Harry shook his head, smiling. "Vainly is the net spread in the sight of
the bird, ma'am. But, faith, it was a pretty question, and I make you my
"So. Will you walk, sir?" She turned into a narrow path in the shadow of
arches, clothed by a great Austrian brier, on which here and there a
yellow flame still glowed. "Mr. Boyce--when I meet you in company you
shrink and cower detestably; when I meet you alone, you fence with me
impudently enough and shrewdly; and always you avoid me while you can. I
suppose there's in all this something more than the freaks of a fool.
Then it's fear. Prithee, sir, why in God's name are you afraid of me?"
"Miss Lambourne got out of bed very earnest this morning," Harry grinned.
"But oh, let's be grave and honest with all my heart. Why, then, ma'am,
I've to say that a penniless fellow has the right to be afraid of Miss
Lambourne's money bags."
"Fie, you are no such fool. If one is good company to t'other, which is
rich and which is poor is no more matter than which fair and which dark."
"In a better world, ma'am, I would believe you."
"And here you believe kind folks would sneer at Harry Boyce for scenting
an heiress. So you tuck your tail between your legs and go to ground. I
suppose that is called honour, sir."
"Oh no, ma'am. Taste."
"La, I offend monsieur's fine taste, do I?"
"Not often, ma'am. But by all means let us be earnest. I believe I mind
being sneered at no more than my betters. _Par exemple_, ma'am, when you
laugh at me for being shabby, I am not much disturbed."
She blushed furiously. "I never did."
"Oh, I must have read your thoughts then," Harry laughed. "Well, what
matters to me is not that folks laugh at me but why they laugh. That they
mock me for being out at elbows I swallow well enough. That they should
sneer at me for making love to a woman's purse would give me a nausea."
Miss Lambourne was pleased to look modest. "Indeed, sir, I did not know
that you had made love to me."
"I am obliged by your honesty, ma'am."
Miss Lambourne looked up and spoke with some vehemence. "It comes
to this, then, you would be beaten by what folks may say about you.
"Lud, we are all beaten by what folks might say. Would you ride into
London in your shift?"
"I don't want to ride in my shift," she cried fiercely.
"Perhaps not, ma'am. But perhaps I don't want to make love to your
"Od burn it, sir, am I nothing but a purse?"
"I leave it to your husband to find out, ma'am, and beg leave to take my
leave. My kind father offers me occupation at a distance, and I embrace
it ardently. Who knows? It may provide me with a coat."
"You are going away?"
"I have had the honour to say so."
"And why, if you please?"
Harry shrugged. "Because, ma'am, without my assistance, Mr. Waverton can
very well translate Horace into his own sublime verse and Miss Lambourne
into his own proud wife."
He intended her to rage. What she did was to say softly: "You do not want
to see me that?"
"I have no ambition to amuse you, ma'am." Miss Lambourne looked
sideways. "What if I don't want you to go away?"
"Egad, ma'am, I know you don't." Harry laughed. "You amuse yourself
vastly (God knows why) with baiting me."
"Why, it amuses me." Alison still looked at him sideways. "Don't you
He did not choose to answer.
"Indeed, then, if I am nought to you why do you care what folks say of
you and me?"
Harry made a step towards her. "You mean to have it again, do you?"
"Pray, sir, what?" and still she looked sideways.
"What you dragged out of me in the wood."
"Dragged out of--oh!" She blushed, she drew back, and so had occasion to
do something with her cloak which let a glimpse of white neck and bosom
come into the light. "You flatter us both indeed."
"I'll tell you the truth of us both"--he, too, was flushed: "you are a
curst coquette and I am a curst fool."
Now she met his eyes fairly, and in hers there was no more laughter,
but she smiled with her lips: "I think you know yourself better than
you know me."
Harry gripped her hands. "You go about to make me mad with desire for
"I want you so," she breathed, and leaned back, away from him, her eyes
He had his arms about her body, held her close. The red lips curved in a
riddle of a smile. He saw dark depths in the shadowed eyes.
"_Malbrouck s'en va t'en guerre_" she murmured.
Harry exclaimed something, felt her against him, was aware of all her
form--and heard footsteps.
Alison was out of his grasp, her back to him, plucking a rose. "You will
see me again--you shall see me again. I ride in the wood to-morrow
morning," she muttered.
"You'll pay for it," Harry growled.
His father arrived, Mrs. Weston, a servant at their heels.
Alison came round with a swirl of skirts. "Dear sir, I doubt you have
burnt up dinner by your long passages with my Weston. Come in, come in,"
and she led the way.
For once Colonel Boyce was without an answer. Harry, who was dreading
witticisms, looked at him in surprise, and with more surprise saw that he
looked angry. Mrs. Weston hurried on before them all. Her eyes were red.
ANGER OF AN UNCLE
It seems certain that on this day Alison wore a dress of a blue like
peacock's feathers. That colour--as you may see, she wears it in both the
Kneller and the Thornhill portraits--was much a favourite of hers, and
indeed it set off well the rare beauty of her own hues. The clarity, the
delicacy, of her cheeks were such as you may see on one of those roses
which, white in full flower, have a rosy flush on the outer petals of the
bud, and the same rose open may serve for the likeness of a neck and
bosom which she guarded no more prudishly than her day's fashion
demanded. For all the daintiness, her lips, a proud pair, were richly red
(stained of raspberries, in Charles Hadley's sneer), and with the black
masses of her hair and grey eyes almost as dark, gave her an aspect of,
what neither man nor woman ever denied her, eager and passionate life.
All this was flowering out of her peacock blue velvet, and Harry, I
infer, went mad.
She never expanded into the larger extravagances of the hoop, preferring
to trust to her own shape. Her waist made no pretence of fine-ladyship,
but the bodice was close laced _à la mode_ to parade the riches of her
bosom. Strong and gloriously alive, and abundantly a woman--so she smiled
at the world.
It was a delirious hour for Harry, that dinner. He knew that Alison was
pleased to be in the gayest spirits, and his father, in his father's own
flamboyant style, seconded her heartily. He joined in, too, and seemed to
himself loud and vapid, yet had no power of restraint. It was as though
his usual placid, critical mind were detached and watched himself in the
happy exuberance of drunkenness--which was a state unknown to him, for
excess of liquor could only move him with drowsy gloom. And in the midst
of the noise Mrs. Weston sat, pale and silent, a ghost at the feast.
He was glad when his father spoke of going, though he found himself
talking some folly against it, on Alison's side, who jovially mocked the
Colonel for shyness. But Colonel Boyce, it appeared, had made up his
mind, and Harry was surprised at the masterful ease with which, keeping
the empty fun still loud, he extricated himself and his unwilling son.
They were all at the door, a noisy, laughing company, and the
"It's no use, ma'am," Harry cried, "he knows how to get his way,
_monsieur mon père_."
"Pray heaven he hath not taught his son the art!"
"Oh Lud, no, I am the very humble servant of any petticoat."
"Fie, that's far worse, sir. I see you would still be forgetting which
covered your wife."
"Never believe him, Madame Alison." quoth the Colonel. "It's a strong
rogue and a masterless man,"
"Why, that's better again. And yet it's not so well if he'll be
"Fight it out, child," the Colonel cried. "'Lay on, Macduff, and curst be
she that first cries hold, enough!' Come, Harry, to horse."
"See, Weston, he deserts me, and merrily!"
There came upon the scene two other horsemen--Mr. Hadley's gaunt,
one-armed frame and a big, lumbering elder with a rosy face.
Harry bowed over Alison's hand. It was she who put it to his lips, and
nodding a roguish smile at the other gentlemen, "So you run away,
sir?" she said.
Harry looked at her and "Give me back my head," he said in a low voice.
"I have lost it somewhere here."
"Oh, your head!" She laughed. "Well, maybe it's the best part of you."
He mounted, and Colonel Boyce, already in the saddle, kissed his hand to
her. They rode off, compelled to single file by the plump old gentleman
who held the middle of the road and glowered at them. Mr. Hadley made an
The old gentleman watched them out of sight round the curve of the drive,
then sent his horse on with an oath and, dismounting heavily at Alison's
toes, roared out: "What the devil's this folly, miss?" He made angry
puffing noises. "I vow I heard you laughing at Finchley. Might have heard
him kissing too."
"Kissing? Oh la, sir, my hand, and so may you." She held it out and made
an impudent little curtsy. "I protest the gentleman is all maidenly. That
is why he and I make so good a match."
The old gentleman spluttered and was still redder. "Match, miss? What,
"Oh no, sir. Pray come in, sir. I see you are in a heat, and I fear for a
chill on your gout."
"You are mighty civil, miss. You are too civil by half," the old
gentleman puffed, and stalked past her.
Alison stood in the way of Charles Hadley as he made to follow. There was
some pugnacity on her fair face. "It's mighty kind of Mr. Hadley to
concern himself with me."
"Egad, ma'am, if I come untimely it's pure happy chance."
She whirled round on that and they went in. "Will you please to drink a
dish of tea, Sir John?"
"You know I won't, miss." The old gentleman let himself down with a grunt
into the largest chair in her drawing-room. "Now who the plague is this
"Sure, sir, it's the gentleman Mr. Hadley told you of," said Alison
meekly. She hit both her birds. Mr. Hadley and his uncle looked at each
other. Sir John snorted. Mr. Hadley shrugged and gave an acid laugh.
"What, what, that fellow of Waverton's? Od burn it, miss, he's a
"Oh, sir, don't be hasty. I dare say he'll be fat when he's old."
"Don't be pert, miss. D'ye know all the county's talking of you and
Alison paled a little. She spoke in a still small voice. "I did not know
how much I was in Mr. Hadley's debt. I advise you, Sir John, don't be one
of those who talk."
"You advise me, miss! Damme, ain't I your guardian?"
"I am trying to remember that you once were, sir. But you make it
"What the devil do you mean?"
"I vow neither of you knows what you mean," Mr. Hadley drowned her in a
drawl. "I never saw such fire-eaters. Look 'e, Alison, we come riding
over in a civil way and--"
"Tell me you have been planning a scandal about me. Oh, I vow I am
obliged to you."
Mr. Hadley laughed. "Lud, child, you ha' known me long enough. Do I deal
in tattle? And if we have seen what we should not ha' seen, if you're hot
at being caught, prithee, whose fault is it? Egad, you know well enough
there's things beneath Miss Lambourne's dignity."
"Yes, indeed, and I see Mr. Hadley is one of them."
"You're a fool for your pains, Charles," John shouted. "What's sense to a
wench? Now, miss, I'll have an end of this. You're old Tom Lambourne's
daughter for all your folly, and I'll not have his flesh and blood the
sport of any greedy rogue from the kennel."
There was a moment of silence. Then Alison, whose colour was grown high,
said quietly, "Pray, Sir John, will you go or shall I? I do not desire to
see you again in my house."
"Go?" The old gentleman struggled to his feet. "Damme, Charles, the
girl's mad. Yes, miss, I'll go--and go straight to my Lady Waverton. Od
burn it, we'll have your fellow out of the county in an hour. Egad, miss,
you're besotted. Why, what is he?--a trickster, a knight of the road.
'Stand and deliver,' that's my gentleman's trade. He's for your father's
money, you fool."
"Good-bye, Sir John," Alison said, and turned away.
With unwonted agility, Mr. Hadley came between her and the door. "You are
not fair to us, Alison," he said. "Prithee, be fair to yourself." She
passed him without a word. Mr. Hadley turned and showed Sir John a rueful
face. "We have made a bad business of it, sir."
Sir John swore. "Brazen impudence, damme, brazen, I say."
"Oh Lord! Don't make bad worse."
Sir John swore again. Upon his rage came Alison's voice singing:
"When daffodils begin to peer
With heigh! the doxy, over the dale,
Why, then comes in the sweet o' the year,
For the red blood reigns in the winter's pale."
Sir John spluttered, and went out roaring for his horse.
There is reason to believe that from the first Mr. Hadley suspected he
was making a fool of himself. This sensation, the common accompaniment of
an attempt to do your duty, was just of the right strength to ensure that
all his actions should be disastrous. It was, as you see, not strong
enough to restrain him from exciting the dull and choleric mind of Sir
John Burford; it did not avail to direct the ensuing storm. And then,
having first failed to be sufficient check, it developed into a very
Startled by the furies he had roused in Alison, Mr. Hadley found that
suspicion of his own folly develop into a gruesome conviction. It
compelled him to labour with Sir John vehemently until that blundering
knight consented to wait before exploding his alarms upon Lady Waverton.
Even as the first blundering remonstrances had irritated Alison's wanton
will into passionate resolution, so this ensuing vacillation and delay
gave it opportunity.
If the tale had been told to Lady Waverton, no doubt but Harry would have
been banished from Tetherdown that night. It is likely, indeed, that the
ultimate fates of Alison and Harry would have been the same. But many
antecedent adventures must have been different or superfluous.
Mr. Hadley was now full of common sense. Mr. Hadley sagely argued with
his uncle that they would do more harm than good by carrying their tale
to Lady Waverton. The woman was a fool in grain, and whatever she did
would surely do it in the silliest way. Tell her a word, and she would
swiftly give birth to a scandal which the world would not willingly let
die, in which Mr. Harry Boyce, if he were indeed the knave of their
hypothesis, might easily find a means to strengthen his grip of Alison.
It was better to wait and (so Mr. Hadley with a sour smile) "see which
way the cat jumped."
Perhaps Madame Alison, who was no kitten, might not be altogether
infatuated. The shock of the afternoon, for all her heroics, might have
waked in her some doubt of the charms of Mr. Boyce. The girl was shrewd
enough. She had dealt with fortune-hunters before--remember the Scottish
lord's son--and shown a humorous appreciation of the tribe. She was not a
chit with the green sickness; she was neither so young nor so old that
she must needs fall into the arms of any man who made eyes at her. After
all, likely enough she was but amusing herself with Mr. Boyce. Not a very
delicate business, but they were full-blooded folk, the Lambournes.
Remember old Tom, her father: there was a jolly bluff rogue. Well, if
miss was but having her fling, it would do no good to tease her.
Thus Mr. Hadley, cautiously recoiling, doubting or hoping he was making
the best of things, brought Sir John, in spite of some boilings over,
safe back to his home and his jovial daughter.
When Harry and his father rode away from Alison, for once in a while
Harry found his father's mood in tune with his own. Colonel Boyce
suddenly relapsed from hilarity into a perfect silence. He soon reined
his horse to a walk, and his wonted alert, soldierly bearing suffered
eclipse. He gave at the back, he was thoughtful, he was melancholy--a
very comfortable companion.
"Pray, sir, when do we start for France?" said Harry at length.
"What's that? Egad, you're in a hurry, ain't you? Not to-night nor yet
to-morrow. Time enough, time enough. Make the best of it, Harry." It
occurred to Harry that his father was preoccupied.
But with that he did not concern himself. He was in too much tumult. It
appeared that he would be able to meet Alison in the morning. He did
not know whether he was glad. He had been telling himself that he would
have snatched at the excuse to fail her, and yet was not sure that if
his father had announced instant departure he would not have bidden his
father to the devil. But still in a fashion he was angry, in a degree
he was frightened. He knew that he would go meet the girl now; he could
not help himself--an exasperating state. And when he was with her--her
presence now set all his nature rioting--with other folk by, it was
hard enough to be sane; when he was alone with her in the wood, what
would the wild wench be to him before they parted? There was no love in
him. He had no tenderness for her, he did not want to cherish her,
serve her, glorify her. Only she made him mad with passion. But,
according to his private lights, he was honest, and wished to be, and
was therefore commanded to try to save the girl from his wicked will
and hers. He despised himself for the gleam of cautious duty. What in
the world was worth so much as the rose petals of her face, the round
swell of her breast?
"Damme, Harry, a man's a fool to be ambitious," so his father broke in
upon this tumult. "Why do we fret and trick after a place, or a purse, or
a trifle of power?"
Harry stared at him. "Lord, sir, why are you so moral?"
And then Colonel Boyce began to laugh. "I grow old, I think. Oh, the
devil, I never had regrets worse than the morning's headache for last
night's wine. I suppose if you live long enough, life's a procession of
morning headaches. Well, I vow I've not lived long enough yet, Harry."
"I dare say you are the best judge," Harry admitted.
"There's a higher court, eh? Who knows? Maybe we are all the toys of
chance." He shrugged. "Why then, damme, I have never been afraid to take
what I chose and wait for the bill. Dodge it, or pay it. Odso, there is
no other way for a hungry man."
"Lord, sir, now you are philosophical! What's the matter?"
"Humph, I suppose my stomach is weakening," said Colonel Boyce. "I don't
digest things as I did."
In this pensive temper they came back to Tetherdown. The Colonel's
servant was waiting for him with letters, and he was seen no more that
night. Harry did not know till afterwards that Mr. Waverton, as well as
letters, was taken to the Colonel's room.
Madame Alison was left by the exhortations of her anxious friends feeling
defiant of all the world. It is a comfortable condition, but, for a
passionate girl of twenty-two, fruitful of delusions.
Alison was so far happier than Harry in that she knew what she wanted.
You may wonder if you will how Harry Boyce, with nothing handsome about
him but his legs, could rouse in the girl just such a wild longing as her
beauty set ablaze in him. These problems, comforting to the conceit of
man, are numerous. And, as usual, madame had dreamed her gentleman into a
wonderful fellow. The overthrow of the highwayman became from the first a
splendid achievement. Sure, Mr. Boyce must be of rare courage and
strength, even as he was deliciously adroit, and that insolent air with
which he did his devoir gave one a sweet thrill.
Afterwards, he progressed in her imagination from victory to victory.
What served him best was his capacity for puzzling her. That its hero
should want to keep such a gallant affair secret proved him of amazing
modesty or amazing pride--perhaps both--a titillating combination. It
surprised her more that he should dare rebuff the advances of Miss
Lambourne. Madame knew very well the power of her beauty over men. If she
gave one half an inch she expected that he should be instantly mad to get
an ell of her. But here was Mr. Boyce, though she gave him a good many
inches, as supercilious about her as if he were a woman. It was
incredible that the creature had no warm blood in him. Indeed, she had
proof--she could still make herself feel the ache of his grasp in the
wood--that he was on occasion as fierce as any woman need want a man.
Why, then, monsieur must be defying her out of wanton pride. A marvellous
fellow, who dared think himself too good for her.
She made no account of all his wise, honest talk about being poor while
she was rich. To her temper it was impossible that a man who wanted her
in his arms should stop to weigh his purse and hers, or to consider what
the world would say of him for wooing her. All that must be mere fencing,
To be sure, he fenced mighty cleverly. The smug meekness which he put on
when she attacked him before others was bewildering. If she had never
seen him in action she must have been deceived. And, faith, it seemed
certain that he wanted to deceive her, to put her off, to put her aside.
The haughty gentleman dared believe that he could be very comfortable
without Miss Lambourne. It must not be allowed. He was by far too fine a
fellow to be let go his way. Faith, it was mighty noble, this
self-sufficient power of his, capable of anything, caring for nothing,
hiding itself behind an impenetrable mask, and living a secret life of
its own. She was on fire to enter into him and take possession, and use
him for herself.
So she was driven by a double need, knew it, and was not the least
ashamed. She longed to have Harry Boyce in her arms and his grip cruel
upon her. But also she wanted to conquer him and hold his mind at her
order. She imagined him under her direction winning all manner of fame.
And she believed herself mightily in love....
There is a moss on the birch trunks which makes a colour of singular
charm, a soft, delicate, grey green. A hood of that colour embraced
Alison's black hair and the glow of the dark eyes and her raspberry lips.
The cloak of the same colour she drew close about her with one gauntleted
hand, so that it confessed her shape.
The birches could still show a few golden leaves, though each moment
another went whirling away as the crests bowed and tossed before the
wind. In the brown bracken beneath Harry Boyce stood waiting. His graces
were set off with his customary rusty black. His hat was well down upon
his bobwig, and he hunched his shoulders against the wind, making a
picture of melancholy discomfort. He rocked to and fro a little,
according to a habit of his when he was excited.
Alison was very close to him before she stopped.
"What have you come for?" he growled.
She drew a breath, and then, very quietly, "For you," she said.
"You have had enough fun with me, ma'am."
Her breast was touching him, and he did not draw back.
"Then why did you come?" She laughed.
"Because I'm a fool."
"A fool to want me?"
"By God, yes. You know that, you slut."
"No. You would be a fool if you didn't, you--man."
"Be careful." Harry flushed.
"Oh Lud, was I made to be careful?"
He gripped her hand, and, after a moment, "Take off your hood," he
"Is that all?" She laughed, and let it fall from hair and neck, and
looked as though sunlight had flashed out at her. "Honest gentleman, you
are lightly satisfied."
"So are not you, I vow."
She was pleased to answer that with a scrap of a song:
"Jog on, jog on the footpath way,
And merrily hent the stile-a!
A merry heart goes all the way,
A sad one tires in a mile-a."
"Faith, yours is a mighty sad one, Harry. Pray, what are you the better
for stripping me of this?" She flirted the hood.
"I can see those wicked colours of yours. Lord, what a fool is a man to
go mad for a show of pink and white!"
"And is that all I am?"
Harry shrugged. "Item--a pair of eyes that look sideways; item--a woman's
body with arms and sufficient legs."
"Lud, it's an inventory! I'm for sale, then. Well, what's your bid?"
"I've a shilling in my pocket ma'am and want it to buy tobacco."
"Oh, silly, what does a man pay for a woman?"
Harry laughed. "Why, nothing, if she's worth buying."
Then Alison said softly, "Going--going--gone," and clapped her hands
"You go beyond me at least," Harry said in a moment.
She put her hands behind her and leaned forward till her bosom pressed
upon him lightly, and then, with her head tilted back so that he saw the
white curve from under her chin, and the line of the blue vein in it,
"You want me, Harry," she said.
"You know that too well, by God."
"Too well for what, sir?"
"Too well for my peace, ma'am." He flushed.
"His peace!" She laughed. "Oh Lud, the dear man wants peace!"
He flung himself upon her, holding her to him as she staggered back, and
kissed her till she was gasping for breath, gripped her head to hold it
against his kisses, buried his face in the fragrance of her neck. She
gave herself, her arms still behind her, offering the swell of her
breasts to him, her eyes gay....
"You are mine, now. You're mine, do you hear?" he said unsteadily.
"I want you," she smiled, and was crushed again.
When he let her go, it was to step back and look at her, wondering and
intent. She stood something less than her full height, her bosom beating
fast. She was all flushed and smiling, but now her eyes were dim and they
met his shyly.
"Egad, you're exalting," he said with a wry smile.
"I feel all power when you grasp at me so--power--just power."
"No, faith, you are not. When I hold you to me, when you yield for me, I
am all the power there is. Damme, the very life of the world."
"So then," she looked at him through her eyelashes, "and have it so. For
it's I who give you all."
"In effect," Harry said: and then, "go to, you make us both mad."
"I am content."
"Yes, and for how long?"
She made an exclamation. "Have I worn out the poor gentleman already?"
"Would you keep yourself for me? Will you wait?"
"Why, what have we to wait for now?"
"Till I am something more than this shabby usher."
"I despise you when you talk so." Her face flamed. "Fie, what's a word
and a coat? You have lived with me in your arms. You are what I make of
you then. Is it enough, Harry, is it not enough?"
"I'll come to your arms something better before I come again. I am off
"Ah!" Then she studied him for a little while. "You meant to run away,
then. Oh, brave Harry! Oh, wise! Pray, are you not ashamed?"
"Yes, shame's the only wear."
"I'll not spare you, I vow."
"Egad, ma'am, mercy never was a virtue of yours."
"Is it mercy you want in a woman?"
"I'll take what I want, not ask for it."
"Why, now you brag! And if there is not in me what monsieur wants?"
"So much the worse for us both. But you should have thought of
"Faith, Harry, you take it sombrely." She made a wry mouth at him. "Pluck
up heart. I vow I'll satisfy you."
"You'll not deny me anything you have."
She paused a moment. "Amen, so be it. And must we never smile again?"
"I wonder"--he took her hands; "I wonder, will you be smiling to-morrow
when I am away to France."
"Oh, are you still set on that fancy?" She gave a contemptuous laugh.
"Prithee, Harry, shall I like you the better for waiting till you have
French lace at your neck and a frenchified air?"
"You'll please to wait till I bring Miss Lambourne a fellow who has done
something more than snuffle over a servitor's books. I want to prove
"You have proved yourself on me, sir. What, am I a lean wench in despair
to hunger for a snuffling servitor? If you were that, I were not for you.
But I know you better, God help me, my Lord Lucifer. Why then, take the
goods the gods provide you and say grace over me." Harry shook his head,
smiling. "Lord, it's a mule! Pray what do you look to do in France?"
"I am pledged to my father and his policies--to go poking behind the
curtains of the war and deal with the go-betweens of princes."
"So. You talk big. Well, I like to hear it. What is the business?"
"My father, if you believe him, has Marlborough's secrets in his pocket
and is sent to chaffer for him. You may guess where and why. Queen Anne
hath a brother."
Her eyes sparkled. "You like the adventure, Harry?"
"Egad, I begin to think so."
"I love you for that!" she cried, and it was the first time she spoke the
word. "Why then, first go with me to church and call me wife!"
He drew in his breath. "By God, do you mean that?"
"Why, don't you mean me honourably?" She gave an unsteady laugh, her eyes
He sprang at her.
ABSENCE OF MR. WAVERTON
It was always in after life alleged by Mr. Hadley that his steady
interest in the family of his uncle was nothing but a desire to keep the
old gentleman out of mischief. Sir John Burford was indeed of a temper
too irascible to be safe with his bucolically English mind: a man who in
throwing tankards at his servants and challenges at his friends was a
source of continuous anxiety to his reasonable kinsfolk. But he had also
She received the benevolent Mr. Hadley when on the morning after the
explosions in Alison's house he came to see whether Sir John was still
dangerous or his daughter any thinner. It was the latter purpose which he
professed to Susan Burford. She was not annoyed. In her cradle she had
been instructed that she was a jolly, fat girl, and through life she
accepted the status, like every other which was given her, with great
good humour. She was, in fact, no fatter than serves to give a tall woman
an air of genial well-being. It was conjectured by her friends that her
father, needing all his irascibility for himself, had allowed her to
inherit only his physical qualities. She had indeed the largeness of Sir
John and his open countenance. Her supreme equanimity perhaps came from
her mother. She was by a dozen years at least younger than Mr. Hadley,
and always thought him a very clever boy.
"Sir John is gone out to the pigs, Mr. Hadley. Perhaps you'll go too,"
she said, and looked innocent.
"Well, they are peaceful company, Susan. And you're so surly."
"I thought you would find some joke in that," said Susan, with kindly
"Damme, don't be so maternal. It's cloying to the male. Be discreet,
Susan. You will talk as though you had weaned me but a year or two, and
still wanted me at the breast."
Susan was not disconcerted. "Will you drink a tankard?" said she. "Or Sir
John has some Spanish wine which he makes much of."
"Susan, you despise men. It is a vile infidel habit." He paused, and
Susan dutifully smiled. "Why now, what are you laughing at? You! You
don't know what I mean."
"To be sure, no," said Susan. "Does it matter?"
"Oh Lud, your repartees! Bludgeons and broadswords! I mean, ma'am, you
think men are nought but casks--things to fill with drink and victuals.
Is it not true?" Susan considered this, her head a little on one side and
smiling. She wore a dress of dark blue velvet cut low about the neck, and
so, nature having made her sumptuous, was very well suited. "Egad, now I
know what you're like," Mr. Hadley cried. "You're one of Rubens' women,
Susan; just one of those plump, spacious dames as healthy as milk and
peaches, and blandly jolly about it."
Susan looked down at herself with her usual amiable satisfaction and
patted the heavy coils of her yellow hair and said: "Sir John often
talks of having me painted. But that's after dinner. Will you stay
dinner, Mr. Hadley?"
"Damme, Susan, what should I say after dinner, if I say so much now?"
Susan smiled upon him with perfect calm. "Why, I never can tell what you
will say. Can you?"
"You're a hypocrite, Susan. You look as simple as a baby, and the truth
is you're deep, devilish deep. Here!" He fumbled in his pocket. "Here's a
guinea for your thoughts if you tell them true. Now what are you
"Why, I am thinking that you came to see my father, and yet you stay here
talking to me;" she gurgled pleasant laughter and held out her hand for
Mr. Hadley still retained it. "That pleases you, does it?"
"Yes, indeed. You're so comical."
Mr. Hadley surrendered the guinea, looked at his empty left sleeve and
made a wry face. "Lord, yes, I am comical enough. A lop-sided grotesque."
"That's not fair!" He had at last made her blush. "You know well I did
not mean that. I think it makes you look--noble."
"It makes me feel a fool," said Mr. Hadley. "Lord, Susan, one arm's not
enough to go round you."
"So we'll kill the Elstree hog for Christmas;" that apposite
interruption came in her father's robust voice. Sir John strode rolling
in. "What, Charles! In very good time, egad. You can come with me."
"What, sir, back to the swine? I profess Susan makes as pretty company."
Sir John was pleased to laugh. "Ay, the wench pays for her victuals, too.
Damme, Sue, you look good enough to eat." He chucked her chin paternally.
"Well, my lad, I ha' thought over that business and I'm taking horse to
ride over to Tetherdown."
"Oh Lord," said Mr. Hadley. "And what then, sir?"
"I'll talk to Master Geoffrey."
"Oh Lord," said Mr. Hadley again. "Do it delicately."
"Delicate be damned," said Sir John.
"I had better ride with you," said Mr. Hadley.
"Good boy. Here, Roger--Mr. Hadley's horse."
Susan stood up. "Lud, sir, you will not be here to dinner then?"
Sir John shook his head. Mr. Hadley scratched his chin. "I am not so sure
that Geoffrey will give us a dinner," said he.
"Why, sir," Susan was interested, "what's your business with Mr.
"To tell him he's a fool, wench," quoth Sir John.
"Oh. And will Mr. Waverton like that?"
"Like it! Odso, he'll like it well enough if he has sense."
Mr. Hadley grinned. "That's logic, faith. Well, sir, have with you."
So off they rode. On the way Sir John was pleased to expound to Mr.
Hadley the profound sagacity of his new plan. He would rally Geoffrey on
his flaccidity; accuse him of being an oaf; and, describing all the while
in an inflammatory manner the charms of Alison, hint that Geoffrey's
tutor had ambitions after them. "And if that don't wake up my gentleman,
he may go to the devil for me and deserve it."
It crossed Mr. Hadley's lucid mind that a gentleman who required so much
waking up did not deserve Miss Lambourne. But she was quite capable of
discovering that for herself, if indeed she had not already. And
certainly it would do Geoffrey no harm to be made uncomfortable. So Mr.
Hadley rode on with right good will.
But when they came to Tetherdown it was announced that Mr. Waverton had
gone riding. "Why, then we'll wait for him." Sir John strode in. The
butler looked dubious. Mr. Waverton had said nothing of when he would
"Why the devil should he?" Sir John stretched his legs before the fire.
"He'll dine, won't he?"
The butler bowed.
"Prithee, William," says Mr. Hadley, "is Mr. Boyce in the house?"
"Mr. Boyce, sir, is gone walking."
Mr. Hadley shrugged. "Odso, away with you," Sir John waved the man off.
"Let my lady know we are here."
The butler coughed. "My lady is in bed, Sir John."
"What, still?" quoth Sir John, for it was close upon noon.
"Hath been afoot, Sir John. But took to her bed half an hour since."
"What, what? Is she ailing?"
The butler could not say, but looked a volume of secrets, so that Sir
John swore him out of the room.
"Vaporous old wench, Charles," Sir John snorted. And a second time Mr.
In a little while the butler came back even more puffed up. Her ladyship
hoped to receive the gentlemen in half an hour.
Oh, Harry, Harry, I give in. I am the weaker vessel. At least, I have the
"What, you're asking me to spare you already? Lord, how will you bear me
as a husband?"
They were under the great beeches in Hampstead Lane, breasting the rise
to the heath, on their march for that kindly chapel, where, if you dined
in the tavern annexed, the incumbent would marry you for nothing, charge
but the five shillings, cost price of the Queen's licence, and ask no
Harry shortened his stride, and looked down with grim amusement at
Alison's breathless bosom.
"I believe you mean to make an end of me before you have begun with me,"
she panted. "Lord, sir, what a figure you'll cut if you bring me to
church too faint to say, 'I will.'"
"Why, the Levite would but take it for maiden modesty. Not knowing you."
"You are trying to play the brute. It won't save you, Harry. I shan't be
"You! No, faith, it's I. I am beside myself with terror."
"I do believe that's true!" She laughed at him. "But, oh, dear
"Lest I should not fulfil the heroical expectations of Miss Lambourne.
Confess it, ma'am; you count on me to exalt you into heavens of ecstasy,
to bewilder the world with my glories, and be shaved by breakfast-time."
"To be sure, I'll always expect the impossible of you."
"There it is. I suppose you expect me to begin by creating a
"Why, you have created me."
"Oh, no, no, no. You're a splendid iniquity, but not mine, I vow."
"This woman of yours never lived till you made her. I profess Miss
Lambourne was ever known for a dull cold thing born 'to suckle fools and
chronicle small beer.'"
"So she wrote me down her property. Egad, ma'am, it was very natural."
"You know what you have made of me," Alison said.
"God knows what you'll make of me. And now in the matter of the ring--"
"Oh Lud, what a trivial thing is a man!" She drew off her glove and held
out a hand with two rings on it. "Marry me with which you will." One was
a plain piece of gold, paler than the common, carved into an odd device
of a snake biting its tail.
"With thine own ring I thee wed," Harry said, and took it off. "I
take you to witness, Mrs. Alison, the snake was in your paradise
before I came."
They were across the heath now and going down the steep, narrow lane
beyond. The chapel of the Hampstead marriages stood raw red beside a
garden with lawns and arbours shaggy in winter's untidiness. Even the
tavern at the gate, a spreading one-story place of timber, looked dead
Harry forced open the sticking door and strode in, Madame Alison
loitering behind. He was met by a dirty lad whose gaping clothes were
half hidden by a leather apron, and whose shoes protruded straw--a lad
who smelt of the stable and small beer.
"Where's the priest?" said Harry.
"In the tap," said the boy, and shuffled off.
There came out into the passage, wheezing and wiping his chops, a little
bloated man in a cassock, with his bands under his right ear. He leered
at Harry and tried to look round him at Alison.
"You're out of season, my lord," said he. "These chill rains, they play
the mischief with lusty blood. Go to, you'll not be denied, won't you? Do
you dine here?"
"We have no time for it."
"What, you're hasty, ain't you?" He gave a hoarse laugh. "There's my fee
to pay then."
"Here's a guinea to pay for all," said Harry.
The dirty fist took it, the little red eyes peered at it closely, the
dirty mouth bit it and was satisfied. "Go you round to the chapel door
and wait. Lord, but man and wench never had to wait for me." He
Harry turned upon Alison. "So with all my worldly goods I thee endow," he
said, with a crooked smile. "God give you joy of them. I vow I was never
so frightened of spending a guinea."
"Why, d'ye doubt if I'm worth it? Nay, sir, I'm honest stuff and
challenge any trial."
Harry looked down at her and was met by eyes as bold as his own.
The chapel door opened, and the little priest beckoned them in. A pair of
witnesses were already posted by the altar, the dirty lad of the tavern
and a shock-headed wench.
"Licence first, licence first." The parson bustled off to a table in a
corner. "I warrant you we do things decently in Sion. Aye, and tightly,
my pretty. Never a lawyer can undo my knots, never fear."
He scratched laboriously over their names, while the dank smell of the
place sank into them.
They were marched to the altar. A hoarse muttering poured from the
priest. He made no pretence of solemnity or even of meaning. He was
concerned only to make an end and have done with them. Of all the service
they heard nothing clearly but what they said themselves, and while they
were deliberate over that the little priest grunted and puffed at them.
He ended with a leer and drove them before him back to the table. There
was more scratching in his register. The two uncouth witnesses scrawled
something for their names and shambled off.
"Let's breathe some free air," said Harry, and laid hold of his wife.
The parson chuckled. "Free? You'll never be free again, my lord. I can
see that in madame's eye. What, you ha' sold your birthright for a mess
of pottage, ain't you? And mighty savoury pottage, too, says you." He
rolled his eyes and smacked his lips. "Softly now, softly, madame wants
her certificate. Madame wants to warrant herself a lawful married wife,
if you don't ... There, my lady. And happy to marry you again any day at
the same price."
They were away from him at last and in clean air stretching their legs up
the hill again.
"Poor Harry!" Alison laughed. "Before you looked like a man fighting
for his life. Now you look like a man going to be hanged. Dear lad!
Pray how much would you give to escape me now?" She put her arm into
his. He let her shorten his stride a little, but made no other
confession of her existence. "Fie, Harry, it's over early to repent. In
all reason you should first be sure of your sin. Who knows? I may not
be deadly after all. 'Alack,' says he, 'I will not be comforted. Egad,
the world's a cheat. A fool and his folly are soon parted they told me,
and here am I tied to her till death us do part. So, a halter, gratis,
for God's sake.'"
"You're full of other folks' nonsense, Mrs. Boyce," said Harry with a
grim look at her.
"Oh, noble name!" She bobbed a curtsy. "Full? I am full of nothing but
fasting, aye," she sighed, and turned up her eyes--"fasting from all but
They were upon the ridge of the heath and Harry checked her, and stood
looking away over the wide prospect of mist-veiled meadow and dim blue
woods. She was beginning her mocking chatter again when he broke in
with, "Ods life, ha' done!" and turned to look deep into her eyes.
"There's mystery in this, and I think you see nothing of it."
"Why, yes, faith. If you were no mystery, should I want you? If you had
discovered all of me, would you want me?"
"Bah, what do we know of living, you and I, or--or of love?"
She laughed, with a scrap of twisted song:
"Most living is feigning.
Most loving mere folly,
Then heigho the holly,
This life is most jolly."
He shrugged and marched her on again.
"Pray, sir, will you dine at home?" she said demurely.
Harry flushed. "I must go tell my father and all," he growled. "I'll be
with you soon enough, madame wife."
"Oh brave! Dear sir, have with you. I must see Geoffrey's face."
"Egad, let's be decent!" Harry cried.
"Decent! For shame, sir! What's more decent than man and wife?"
"Man and wife!" Harry echoed it with a sour laugh. "Do you feel a wife? I
never felt less of a man."
"You shall be satisfied," she said, and looked at him gravely. "And I--I
am not afraid, Harry."
DISTRESS OF A MOTHER
Mr. Hadley and Sir John Burford in the hall at Tetherdown looked at each
other across the fire. "Would you call for a pipe now, Charles?" says Sir
"There'll be none in the house, sir. Geoffrey has no stomach for
"Damme, if I know what he hath a stomach for," Sir John grumbled, and
kicked at the burning logs. "He don't eat no more than an old woman, nor
drink so much as a young miss. Ain't the half-hour gone, Charles?"
"That's a poetic phrase, sir. It means a year or so--while she's tiring
"What and painting her face, too? Same as Jezebel."
My lady's waiting-woman, Arabella, came in. She minced in the manner of
her mistress, but, being a foot shorter, with different effect. She stood
before Sir John, who had the largest chair, and stared at him, with
languid insolence. "Ods my life, don't ogle me, woman," says he.
"At your leisure, sir, if you please." She tossed her head.
"Leisure! Oh Lord, I'm at leisure, thank 'e."
"I think you are in madame's chair, sir," Mr. Hadley explained.
"What, then? She ain't here, nor I don't carry the plague."
"The lady-in-waiting wants to compose it for madame."
"Compose!" Sir John exploded an oath, and jumped up. "I ha'n't
Arabella dusted the chair, wheeled it a little this way and that, put two
footstools before it, and three cushions into it, contemplated them for
some time, and then shifted them a little. After which she minced out
with a great sigh.
"Good God!" says Sir John.
"I wonder," says Mr. Hadley--"I wonder if we've come to take the breeks
off a Highlander?"
"What's your will?" Sir John gasped.
"I wonder if my lady knows all we can tell her. It might have made her
"Hip who? Odso, I am hipped myself."
My lady came. She had so much flowing drapery about her that she seemed
all robes. She moved very slowly, she was bowed, and she leaned upon the
shoulder of Arabella. With care she deposited herself in the big chair.
Arabella arranged her draperies, arranged the cushion, and stood aside.
My lady lay back, put back the lace about her head, and showed them her
large pale face and sighed. "You are welcome, gentlemen," said she. "You
are vastly kind."
"Odso, ma'am, what's the matter?" Sir John cried.
"Why, have you not heard? Arabella, he has not heard!" My lady was
convulsed, and clutched at the maid, who comforted her with a
scent-bottle. "He has gone!" she sighed. "He has gone."
"What the devil! Who the devil?"
My lady recovered herself. From somewhere in her voluminous folds she
produced a letter. "If it would please you, be patient with me. My
unhappy eyes." She dabbed at them with a handful of lace, and read:
"My lady, my mother,--I have but time for these few unkempt lines,
wherein to bid you for a while farewell. My good friend, Colonel Boyce,
has favoured me with an occasion to go see something of the warring world
beyond the sea. And I, since the inglorious leisure of the hearth irks my
blood, heartily company with him. It needs not that you indulge in tears,
save such as must fall for my absence. I seek honour. So, with a son's
kiss, I leave you, my mother. G.W."
On which his mother's voice broke, and she wept.
"Lord, what a fop!" said Sir John. My lady swelled in her draperies. "So
he's gone to the war, has he? Odso, I didn't think he had it in him."
"Sir, if you jeer at my bereavement!" my lady sobbed.
"And where's Harry Boyce?" says Mr. Hadley.
Sir John stared at him. "Why, seeking honour too, ain't he? What's in
your head, Charles?"
"This is rude," my lady sobbed; "this is brutal. The tutor! Oh, heaven,
what is the tutor to me? I would to God I had never seen him--him nor his
Sir John tugged at Mr. Hadley's empty sleeve and drew him aside. "What
are you pointing at, Charles? D'ye mean the two rogues have took Geoffrey
off to make away with him between 'em?"
"Lord, sir, you've a villainous imagination." Mr. Hadley grinned. "I mean
no such matter. Nay, I'll lay a guinea, Harry Boyce is not gone at all."
"Sir John"--my lady raised herself and was shrill--"what are you
"What, what? You mean the old fellow took Geoffrey off to leave the young
fellow a clear field with Ally Lambourne? Odso, that's devilish deep,
ain't it? But we can set the young fellow packing, my lad. We--"
"Sir John!" my lady's voice rose higher yet.
"Coming, ma'am, coming. Od burn my heart and soul!" That last invocation
was not directed at her but an invading tumult.
The butler entered backwards, protesting, between two men who did not
take off their hats. They were in riding-boots and cloaks, and splashed
from the road. They had pistol butts ostentatious in their side pockets,
and one carried some papers in his hand.
"Stand back, my bully, stand back, or you'll smell Newgate," says he to
"Burn your impudence," Sir John roared, and strode forward.
"In the Queen's name. Messengers of the Secretary of State, with his
warrant." The man waved his papers under Sir John's nose. "Master of the
house, are you?"
"I am Sir John Burford of Finchley, and be hanged to you."
"There is the mistress of the house, sirrah," says Mr. Hadley
"Thank'e. In the Queen's name, ma'am. Warrants to take Oliver Boyce,
Colonel, and Geoffrey Waverton, Esquire."
My lady shrieked, fell back, and was understood to be fainting.
"You come too late, sirrah," says Mr. Hadley. "Your foxes be gone away."
The man tapped his nose and grinned. "That won't do, sir. Set about it,
Joe," and he nudged his fellow.
"What's the charge against them?" says Mr. Hadley.
The man laughed. "Come, sir, you know better than that. I ain't here to
answer questions." Mr. Hadley put his hand in his pocket. The man grinned
and shook his head, and went out pushing his comrade in front of him. Mr.
Hadley followed them. As soon as they were out in the corridor and the
door was shut behind them, the man turned and held out his hand to Mr.
Hadley, who dropped into it a couple of guineas. "Lord, now, what did you
think it was?" says the messenger genially. "Treasonable
correspondence--Pretender--Lewis le Grand and so forth. Quite
gentleman-like, d'ye smoke me?"
"Prithee, who set you on?" says Mr. Hadley.
"Now you go too far, ecod, you do. I don't mind obliging a gentleman,
but you want to lose me my place. We'll be searching the house, by
Off they went, and Mr. Hadley went back to my lady. She had been revived,
and the air was heavy with scent. She fluttered her hands at the
ministering Arabella and said faintly, "What is it, Charles?"
"It seems there's some talk of their having dealings with the Pretender."
"Lord bless my soul," Sir John puffed.
"The Pretender?" Lady Waverton smiled through her powder. "La, now,
Geoffrey's father always had a kindness for the young Prince."
"I vow, ma'am, you take it with a fine spirit," says Mr. Hadley in
"You'll find, Mr. Hadley, that such families as ours, the older families,
know how to bear themselves in this cause."
Sir John stared at her and puffed the louder, and muttered very audibly,
"Here's a turnabout!"
"Oh, ma'am, to be sure it's a well-born party," Mr. Hadley shrugged.
"D'ye give us leave to remain and see that these fellows show no
"Oh, sir, you are very obliging," says my lady superciliously.
Mr. Hadley bowed, and withdrew to the recess of a window with Sir John
following. "Here's a queer thing, Charles. Did ever you know Master
Geoffrey was a Jacobite?" Mr. Hadley shook his head. "Nor this Colonel
"I never saw a Jacobite in so good a coat, and I never thought Geoffrey
would risk his coat for any king. And thirdly and lastly, I never knew
Whitehall put itself out in these days whether a man was Jacobite or no.
Why, damme, they be all half Jacobites themselves, from the Queen down."
"Aye, aye," says Sir John sagely. "A devilish queer thing indeed."
And on that came Alison and Harry--Alison rosy and smiling, Harry a
pale and deliberate appendage. "Dear Lady Waverton, let me present
Lady Waverton sat up straight. Lady Waverton embraced the pair of them
with a bewildered glare.
"I married him this morning," Alison laughed.
"Alison, this is unmaidenly jesting," said my lady feebly.