Part 3 out of 5
"Why, if it were, so it might be. But the truth is, it's unmaidenly
truth. For I am Mrs. Harry Boyce. Give me joy."
"Joy!" my lady gasped. "It's unworthy! It's cruel! Oh, Geoffrey,
Geoffrey! How dare you?" She was again understood to faint.
Through the rustle of Arabella and the odours of scent came the
explosions of Sir John, swearing.
Mr. Hadley moved forward, and, ignoring Alison, addressed himself to
Harry. "Pray, sir, did you know that Mr. Waverton this morning left
Tetherdown in your father's company, your father taking him, as he says
in a letter, to the wars?"
"Knew?" Lady Waverton chose to speak out of her swoon. "To be sure they
knew. They would not have dared else. Dear Geoffrey! A villain! And you,
miss--you whom he trusted! Oh!" She again took scent.
"La, ma'am, he trusted me no more than I him. You are not well, I think."
"You give me news, Mr. Hadley," Harry said. "I knew that my father meant
to go abroad, and understood that I was to go with him."
"Perhaps you'll go after him." Mr. Hadley shrugged and turned away.
"Why, what's all this, Harry?" Alison laughed. "Your wise father hath
chosen to take Geoffrey instead of you?"
"In spite of my modesty, I'm surprised, ma'am," says Harry.
"Burn your impudent face," quoth Sir John from the background.
"Well, sir, if you were in your father's plans, maybe you'll pay your
father's debts," quoth Mr. Hadley.
"What do I owe you, Mr. Hadley?" says Harry, bristling.
The two messengers came back again. "Right enough, sir, gone away." The
spokesman nodded at Mr. Hadley. "We'll be riding. Trust no offence?" He
"Here's Colonel Boyce's son, wishing to answer for his father."
The man looked Harry up and down and chuckled.
"Lord, and mighty like. Servant, sir," he winked at Harry. "Tell the
Colonel, sorry we missed him," He winked again and laughed.
"What's this comedy of yours, Mr. Hadley?" says Harry.
"Your friends have warrants to arrest your father and Mr. Waverton for
treasonable correspondence with the Pretender. But none for you, I fear,
"Devil a one," the man laughed. "Come, Ned, we'll be jogging," Out
A bewildered company, full of suspicions, stared at one another.
"Come, Harry, let us go home," Alison said.
"Home!" Lady Waverton gasped with an hysterical laugh. "Hear her!"
"My lady"--Alison made her a curtsy--"gentlemen--all the friends of Mr.
Boyce will be very welcome to me."
Sir John swore. "You for a fool and he for a knave, damme, you're
"When you were younger, sir, I suppose you were less of a boor," says
Harry. "Mr. Hadley--my lady--" he made two stiff bows and gave his arm
"Humph, they go off with the honours." Mr. Hadley shrugged, and held out
his arm in front of Sir John, who was plunging after them.
"Be hanged to you. What did the rogue mean, telling me I was old?"
"Why, he meant that a man who is too old to fight should be civil."
"Too old?" Sir John fumed. "Burn him for a coward."
"I think not," says Mr. Hadley. "But for the rest--God be with you. My
lady--sincerely your servant."
My lady was now weeping. "You never loved him," she complained. "You were
never his friend," and she became speechless.
The two men looked at each other. "Well, Charles, we'll to horse," Sir
John concluded. "Servant, ma'am." They left her in the scented embraces
To Harry as he went out came the butler, who, with something of a furtive
manner, produced and gave him a letter. Harry looked at the writing and
thrust it into his coat. Alison saw and took no notice.
They walked on for some way before silence was broken. Then Harry said:
"Well, madame wife, so you feel you've been bit."
"Who--I? What do you know of what I feel?"
"Oh, I can tell hot from cold. I know when you are thinking you ought to
have thought twice. Egad, I agree with you. You've been badly bit. Here
you were told that I was just off out of the country; that you must catch
me at once if you wanted to catch me; that if you took me you would soon
have me off your hands. And now we're tied up, you find I'm not going at
all. I vow it's disheartening. But if you'll believe me, I did honestly
believe my old rogue of a father. I did think he meant to take me."
"And now you can't be comforted because you have to stay with me. Oh,
Harry, you're a gloomy fellow to own a new wife. But why did the good man
take Geoffrey when he might have had you? I should have thought he knew a
goose when he saw one."
"I can't tell. I never saw much meaning in the old gentleman."
"You might as well look at his letter."
Harry stared. "How did you know that was his?"
"You like doing things mysteriously, the family of Boyce."
The letter said this:
"MR. HARRY,--I flatter myself that you will be offended. But 'tis all for
your good. When I came after you I did not know that you were so clever a
fellow. No more did I expect that I should have to like you. But since I
do, I prefer that I should do without you. And since you have some of my
wits, you may very well do without me. But I believe you will do the
better without friend Geoffrey. Therefore I take him, who will indeed do
my business much more sincerely than your worthy self. With the dear
fellow safe out of the way, I count upon you to push on bravely with Mrs.
Alison. You'll not find two such chances in one life. If you were master
of her you could promise yourself anything in decent reason you please to
want. For all your wits you are not the man to make his own way out of
nothing. So don't be haughty. Why should you? It's a mighty pretty thing,
Harry, and (trust an old fellow who hath made some use of the sex in his
day) as tender as you may hope for in an heiress. She has looked your way
already, and in her pique at the good Geoffrey deserting her, you'll find
her warmer for you. If you don't make her warm enough for wiving, you're
an oaf, which is not in my blood--nor your mother's, to be honest. Nor if
I was young again and played your hand, I wouldn't let her grow cold when
I had her safe.... So be a man, and I give you my blessing.
Harry held it out to Alison. "We're a noble family--the family of
Boyce," said he.
But Alison read it without a blush or a sneer, and when she gave it back
she was laughing. "Oh, he's more cunning than any beast of the field! Oh,
he knows the world! Poor, dear fellow."
"Oh Lud, yes, he's a fool for his wisdom. But he's my father."
"Well, sir?" Harry scowled at the ground. "Oh, what does he matter?
Harry, what does anything matter to-day--or to-morrow, or to-morrow's
"I had no guess of all this." Harry crushed the paper. "You
"Oh, silly, silly."
"You're still content?"
"Not yet," Alison said.
SPECTATORS OF PARADISE
In the old house on the hill Mrs. Weston sat alone. She was looking out
of the oriel window at a garden of wintry emptiness and wind swept. The
westerly gale roared and moaned, the heavy earth was sodden and beaten
into hollows and pools through which broke tiny pale points of snowdrops.
Away beyond the first terrace of lawn the roses bowed and tossed wild
arms. A silvery gleam of sunlight fell on the turf, glistened, and was
gone. Mrs. Weston sat with her hands in her lap and her needle at rest in
a half-worked piece of linen. A veil of languor had fallen upon the
wistfulness of her face. Her bosom hardly stirred. The sound of the
opening door broke her dream, and she picked up her work and began to sew
eagerly. It was Susan Burford who came in, royally neat in her
riding-habit, for all the storm. She walked in her leisurely, spacious
fashion to Mrs. Weston, who started and stood up, laughing nervously.
"Indeed Alison will be pleased. You are kind. I know she has been longing
to see you."
Susan laughed and, a large young goddess of health, stooped to kiss the
worn face. "You always talk about somebody else. Are you pleased?"
"My dear!" Mrs. Weston protested. "You know I am."
"We match very well. You never want to talk, and I never have anything to
say." Susan sat down, and for some time the only sound was from Mrs.
Weston's needle. At last, "You are still here, then," Susan said.
"My dear! Why not, indeed?"
"Oh. But you would always stay by Alison if she needed you."
"Why, she never has needed me. And now less than ever."
"Oh." Susan considered that. "And is he kind to you?"
Mrs. Weston flushed. "Indeed he has been very good to me."
"That is all I wanted to ask you," said Susan, and again there was
After a little while Mrs. Weston dropped her sewing and looked anxiously
at Susan. "Have you ever seen him?"
"Only his back. He used to keep in the corners at Tetherdown."
"I suppose people--talk about him."
"I don't listen," said Susan, "People are always in such a hurry. I
can't keep up."
"I suppose you think Alison was in a great hurry."
"Only Alison knows about that."
"Yes." Mrs. Weston looked at her with affectionate admiration, as though
she had been endowed with rare understanding of the human heart. "Do you
know you are the only one of the people Alison liked who has come
"Oh." (Susan's favourite eloquent reply.) "I don't mind about people."
"He doesn't mind at all. She doesn't mind yet."
"What is that you are working?" said Susan.
"But indeed they are most perfectly happy," said Mrs. Weston, in a hurry.
"Is it for a tucker?" said Susan.
In a greater hurry, Mrs. Weston began to explain. She was still at it
when Alison and Harry came back.
They too had been riding. The storm had granted Alison none of Susan's
majestic neatness. She looked a wild creature of the hills, her wet habit
clinging about her, black ringlets broken loose curling about her, brown
eyes fierce with life, and all the dainty colours of her face very clear
and bright. She saw Susan and cried out, "Oh, my child, I love you."
Susan rose leisurely to her majestic height and smiled down upon her. "I
think you are the loveliest thing that ever was made," said she. Alison
laughed, and they kissed.
"I am quite of your mind, ma'am," said Harry. "Or I was," he made Susan a
bow, "till this moment."
"I was going to ask her if she was happy, sir," Susan said. "I shan't ask
her." She held out her hand.
"But I want you to ask me a thousand things." Alison put an arm round
her, "Come away, come. At least I am going to tell you"--she shot a
wicked glance at Harry--"everything." Off they went.
"What's this mean, ma'am?" Harry stood over Mrs. Weston. "Is our wise
Sir John sending to spy out the land?"
"I wish you would not talk so." Mrs. Weston shivered. "It is like your
father. Oh, sure, you have no need to be suspicious of every one."
"Suspicious? Faith, I don't trouble myself." Harry laughed. "All the
world may go hang for me. But you'll not expect me to believe in it."
"I think you need fear no one's ill will. You are fortunate enough now."
"Miraculously beyond my deserts, ma'am. As you say. But there's the
wisdom of twenty years' shabbiness in me. And I wonder if the good Sir
John wants to be meddling."
"You need not be shabby now."
"Lord, I bear him no malice. For he can do nought. Only I would not have
him plague Alison."
At last Mrs. Weston smiled upon him. "Aye, you are very careful of her."
"I vow I would not so insult her." Harry laughed.
"But you need not be afraid. Susan is here for herself. She is like that.
She is the most independent woman ever I knew. She has come because she
"Why, then, I love her. And egad it will be easy. She's a splendid
Mrs. Weston gave him an anxious glance. "She is very loyal," said she,
with some emphasis.
"It's a virtue. To be sure it's a virtue of the stupid." Harry cocked a
teasing eye at her. "And I--well, ma'am, you wouldn't call me stupid."
"I don't think it clever to jeer at what's good--and true--and noble."
"Egad, ma'am, you are very parental!" Harry grinned. "You will be talking
to me like a mother--and a stern mother, I protest."
"Am I stern?" Mrs. Weston looked at him with eyes penitent and tender.
"Only to yourself, I think. Lud, ma'am, why take me to heart?"
"What now, Harry?" Alison and Susan close linked came back again. "Whose
heart are you taking?"
"Why, madame's," said Harry, with a flourish. "You see, ma'am," he turned
to Susan, "I've a gift for making folks cry."
"Oh. Like an onion," says she, in her slow, grave fashion.
"Susan dear! How perfect," Alison laughed. "Now I know why I am growing
tired of him. A little, you know, was piquant. But a whole onion to
myself--God help us!"
"Yet your onion goes well with a goose," Harry said.
"Alack, Harry, but there's nothing sage about you and me."
"Oh, fie! See there she sits, our domestic sage"--he waved at Mrs.
"To be sure we couldn't do without her." Alison caressed the grey hair.
"I must be riding, Alison," Susan said.
Alison began to protest affectionate hospitality. Harry shook his head.
"I have warned you of this, Alison. We are too conjugal. It embarasses
"I am not embarassed," said Susan, with her placid gravity. "I want to
"By the fifth or sixth time, ma'am, I may feel that I am forgiven."
"I have nothing to forgive you, Mr. Boyce."
"Then you can do it the more heartily." Harry smiled and held out his
"Oh." There was a faint shadow of a blush. "I did not think I should like
you." She turned. "I beg your pardon, Alison."
"I beg, ma'am, you'll come teach my wife to be kind. She also is frank.
But for kindness--well, we are all sinners."
"There it is, Mr. Boyce," said Susan, holding out her hand.
And when she was gone. "Now, why did I not marry her first?" said Harry
"Because she would never have married you, child. Being of those who like
the man to ask."
As Susan rode down the north slope of the hill, she was met by Mr.
Hadley, gaunt upon a white horse, like death in the Revelation. The
comparison did not occur to Susan, who had a fresh mind, but she did
think white unbecoming to Mr. Hadley, and said, gurgling, "Where did you
find that horse? Or why did you find it?"
"He was a bad debt. But he has a great soul. And don't prevaricate,
Susan. Where have you been?" Mr. Hadley bent his sardonic brows.
"To gossip with Alison."
"Odso, I guessed you would turn traitor."
"No. I haven't turned at all, Mr. Hadley."
"She has declared war on us. Your dear father fizzes and fumes like a
grenade all day. And you go gossip with her. It's flat treason, miss.
Come, did you tell Sir John you were going?"
"No. But he would guess. He is so clever about me. Like you."
"Humph. If he guesses you're a woman, it's all he does. And, damme, I
suppose it's enough. So your curious sex bade you go and pry. Well, and
what did you see in Mr. Harry Boyce?"
"I suppose you are scolding me," said Susan placidly.
"With all my heart."
"Oh. Why do you ride that horse?"
"Damme, miss, don't wriggle. You had no business at Highgate!"
"He looks as if he had the gout."
Mr. Hadley grinned. "But as you went, let's hear what you saw."
"I always loved Alison."
"Your business is to love your father, Susan--till some other man
"I love her better now. She is so happy."
"Damn her impudence," said Mr. Hadley.
"Why did you lose your temper with her?"
"I never lose my temper with any one but you."
"Well. You made my father lose his."
"Ods life, Susan, don't you know it's a man's right to tell women how
they ought to live? Dear Alison wouldn't listen."
Susan laughed. "She has made you look very foolish."
"If she has I'll forgive her."
"Oh. You do then," said Susan.
"On your honour, miss, what did you think of Mr. Harry Boyce?"
"I wondered Alison should love him."
"Ods life, yes. But what's this you're saying?"
"He is so quiet and simple."
"Simple! Damme, the fellow's an incarnate mask."
"Oh. I think I know all about him. I never thought I knew all about
Alison. She wants so much."
"And she hasn't got all she wants, eh?"
"Yes, I believe," said Susan, after a moment.
"Pray God you're right."
"Oh. I like to hear you say that. You have been so"--for once her placid
words stumbled--"so sordid about this."
"Damme, Susan, don't be a saint." Mr. Hadley grinned. "They die virgins."
It was a time of wild plots. The long war of Marlborough had left England
impregnably triumphant, and France ambitious of nothing but peace. No
fear remained that foreign arms would carry James, the Pretender by right
divine, to his sister's throne. Who should reign when Anne's growing
weakness ended in death was for England alone to decide, and English law
gave the succession to Prince George of Hanover. But there was a party,
or at least the leaders of a party, who saw more profit to themselves in
importing the Pretender.
Harley and Bolingbroke, they had thrust out of the Queen's confidence and
the government the friends of Hanover. They had undermined the authority
of Marlborough at home and abroad, and were now ready, honourably or
dishonourably, to put an end to the war which made him necessary. If he
were dispatched into ignominy or exile, there could be no one strong
enough, they believed, to prevent them driving England the way they
chose. What that way would be no one clearly knew, themselves, perhaps,
least of all. But together and singly they set going many strange secret
schemes which were to make a new king, a new England, and new
magnificence for themselves, singly or together. All which the mass of
England watched with shrewd, incurious eyes. It could not long be a
secret that plots were afoot. To shoulder out of power all who were
committed friends of the lawful order was a confession of designs against
it. As if that were not enough, Bolingbroke and Harley so managed their
business that everything they did was wrapped in a mist of trickery and
intrigue. And yet, though they were vastly mysterious over what could
have borne the light without much shame, they contrived to let the agents
of their deeper treachery blunder into notice and fill the air with
rumours of untimely truth. Still England gave no sign.
"Under which King"--Hanoverian or Pretender--perhaps there were few in
England who cared. If the Pretender was bred French and a Papist, Prince
George was a German born. Some of those who had joined heartily in
driving out his father began to put it about that the son would be a
better king for that lesson. George of Hanover had the right of law, but
the Parliament of to-morrow might undo what the Parliament of yesterday
had done. Who could be ardent for the right of an unknown foreigner over
England? And few were ardent, but there were many who, caring nothing for
Pretender or Hanoverian, had a solid resolution that England should not
be torn in the cause of either. Whatever was done, must be done quietly
and in good order. Since it seemed that the Hanoverian had no need to
change anything in law or State or Church, best that he should be king.
As for the devious politics, the tricks, and the mystery of Harley and
Bolingbroke, they were of no account to plain men.
There was yet another party not content to watch and wait till the
plotters lost themselves in their own mysteries. The men whom Harley and
Bolingbroke had driven from power had no mind to submit to impotence.
They well knew what they wanted: the Hanoverian, the lawful, limited king
upon the throne and themselves as his ministers. They were not delicate
about the means they used. Since there were treason and plots, they too
turned their hands to plotting and with a vigour and ruthless resolution
of which the other camp was innocent.
So the wise and eminent were busy while Harry Boyce and his Alison made
trial of their marriage. Harry lived in a dream of bewildered happiness.
He had counted on nothing but the need of his passion, hoped for nothing
but its ecstasy in her beauty, and at its wildest the strain of gloom in
him had bade him dread what lay beyond. She gave him a miracle of mad
delight. A new force of life was born in him while he enjoyed her joy. It
was a discovery of intoxicating power that he could wake that rare,
consummate creature to such eager exultation as his own. In those
wonderful hours it seemed that they passed out of themselves into a world
where every part of their being was one and in the happiness of unbounded
strength. So passion and she kept faith with him and something more. But
the miracle of passion in her arms had less enchantment than the joy of
the quiet hours. It was with this that she bewildered him. Before she
yielded to him, he would have jeered at the hope that she might bring the
gift of peace in her bosom. As the first days of marriage passed he
learnt that all his placid loneliness had been the mere endurance of
hunger. He had stayed himself with the husk of life. She satisfied him
with the fruit. For she too could be calm, delighting in the little daily
things, utterly happy with nonsense. To share all that with her was to
find in it a strange, lulling enchantment of content.
His fortune seemed too good to be real. For he possessed all that ever
fancy had pretended was worth coveting: his life was a perfect happiness.
No doubts from within, no troubles from without, had power to assail him.
All the old, reasonable, practical fears were become ludicrous cowardice,
only remembered for Alison to tease with. As for other people, and what
they said and thought and did, some folks were kind and were welcome, no
folks were of account. He and she deliciously sufficed themselves. And
there was no dread of change, save in age and death, infinitely distant
and insignificant--no matter but to glorify the power of life. Sometimes
he was aware that the wonder of passion must grow faint and fail, but he
saw nothing which could take from him the quiet, exquisite, daily joys.
Was it real, or a charmed dream, this perfect fortune of content? Indeed,
nothing was real in those days but the delight in being with her.
Alison had her share. He did not deceive himself. She had her ecstasies
and her exultations, she thought herself even madder than he was. And in
these days, perhaps, her passion was deeper and stronger than his. She
was satisfied, she felt herself accomplished, and gloried in her new
power with a more profound, a more secret delight than his. She had given
him eagerly all that she had, and in the giving found herself more than
ever her own. For all the union, the deepest, truest self in her stood
aloof in a mystery. It was not of her will, for she desired to deny him
nothing. She did not reckon him weak in failing to take all of her. This
must needs be the way of life. No man's passion could be stronger than
his. Doubtless he too had his secret soul apart. And indeed it was
glorious not to lose self in love, to stay always, through the ecstasies,
aloof, to give always anew of will and choice--never to merge helpless in
some unknown double being and become only half a body, half a soul,
capitulating always to the rest, to the other.
This self-glorious pride of hers gave her for a while that zest in all
the trivial common things which made her a companion so delightful to
Harry's temper. But she enjoyed them in a spirit different from his. All
the bread-and-butter business of living was to him delightful in itself
and for itself. He was born to want no better bread than is made of
wheat. She played with it, made a dainty mock of it, amused herself with
it, and at the back of her mind despised it.
So they lived, and you imagine Mrs. Weston's dim, wistful eyes watching
them with a great tenderness. For she understood them no better than
It was Alison who first grew tired. Not of love or passion, but of the
trivialities and the quiet life at Highgate. She had ambitions, or
thought she had. It had been just rediscovered that women could be
leaders in the world--at least in politics and the tricks of statecraft.
Women were the fiercest partisans and their voices powerful in the
warring parties. It was a woman, his termagant duchess, who had given
Marlborough his ascendancy in England, made him dominate all Europe. It
was a clever woman who had contrived Marlborough's downfall and given his
enemies the government of England. It was a woman--another duchess--who
beat Swift. You need not suspect Alison, who had some humour, of
imagining Harry Boyce a Marlborough. But he did believe him able to make
a noise in the world, and coveted much the sensation of owning him while
the world listened. She did not see herself controlling queens and kings
and parties, but she was well aware of her beauty and its power, and had
a mind to use it widely. She was hungry for excitement.
So Mrs. Alison determined to set her man upon a larger, busier stage. The
decree went forth that old Tom Lambourne's house in the Lincoln's Inn
Fields was again to be inhabited. Harry was asked for his advice
afterwards. Perhaps he would have been wiser if he had begun their first
quarrel then. But he was enjoying her too much to deny her her ways or
her whims, and he only laughed at her. He was not pleased, to be sure. He
had a taste, which cannot have come from his father, for copse and
field. He never found anything in the town which was worth the living in
other folk's smoke. He disliked crowds and in particular crowds of fine
ladies and gentlemen. So with some horror he saw before him a vista of
polite splendours, and said so.
"Oh Lud, sir," says she, "if I had wanted to sleep my life away I should
not have married you. And if you wanted to sleep out yours you should not
have married me."
"I was born for innocence and green fields. You'll make me a bull in a
"I'll love you the better, child. Faith, Harry, I would be very glad to
have you break something."
"Madame's heart, _par exemple_?"
"That would be an adventure."
So you find them arrived in the Lincoln's Inn Fields as the first step
to the conquest of the world. The world was not as excited as Alison
thought fit. Her father, old Tom Lambourne, had commanded reverence in
the City and some respect even as far west as St. James's by sheer
weight of wealth. A rare capacity for living hard had won him an army of
diverse friends. But neither his business nor his pleasures provided him
with many who could be bequeathed to his daughter. Her mother, born a
baker's daughter in Shoe Lane, having died in giving Alison birth, had
left her nothing besides her admirable body but some grumbling objects
of charity. It remained for Alison to make her own way in the world of
fine ladies and gentlemen. Since she was by certain fame an heiress of
great possessions, her way might have been easy if she had not found
herself a husband. The taint of the city, if she had borne herself
humbly, need not have made her quite intolerable to people of birth. But
since her money was already married she could only be reckoned as a city
goodwife; pretty enough, indeed, to be game for fine gentlemen, but to
fine ladies a nobody.
Folks were slow in coming to the grand house in Lincoln's Inn Fields;
slower still, if they had houses of elegance, to ask Mrs. Alison back. It
suited Harry very well. He would, as his wife complained, go mooning
across the fields to Islington almost as happily as through the woods at
Highgate. His books had almost as good a savour in town as in the
country. When she dragged him to hear Nicolini or Wilks or the
Bracegirdle, he could console himself by gentle jeering over the fact
that in a playhouse where everybody knew everybody not a creature had a
bow for him or her. Of course she smarted. Day by day he chose to affect
astonishment over her failures, believing with infatuated content that he
was slowly driving her back to the country and sanity, though he was but
driving her away from him. And she, choosing to feel humiliated, blamed
him for the shame of it.
"Why, child," says he in his supercilious way, "'tis not failing to be in
the _beau monde_ that's ridiculous, but wanting to be."
To such monitions she began not to answer back--a symptom very dangerous.
She set up a basset table. That, if anything could, must proclaim her a
woman of fashion--a woman, indeed, who had a fancy to be a trifle
daring. There's no doubt that Alison about this time and afterwards did
want to dabble in danger. She was not her father's daughter for nothing.
She encouraged high play. For herself, she enjoyed the excitement of it,
having no need to care if she lost. She wanted to have about her people
who affected heavy stakes, believing in the innocence of her heart that
they were exhilarating company. So she made for herself a queer society,
which Harry to her angry disgust defined as a mixture of sheep and
wolves. There were good wives and lads from the city anxious to make a
jingling show with the funds of the family counting-house, there were
hungry beaux and madames from the other end of the town seeking their
fortune impudently wherever it might be found.
To one of these happy parties there was introduced a Mrs. Boyce. She
was a faded, handsome creature much jewelled about lean shoulders.
Alison, who hardly heard her name in the rout, took no account of it
and little of her. But on the next day this Mrs. Boyce came early and
caught Alison alone.
She began with such a fuss about apologizing for her earliness that
Alison set her down for an ill-bred, tiresome creature. She had a high
voice which, like the rest of her, was a trifle faded. "I protest, ma'am,
I have long desired to know you better." Alison languidly muttered
something civil. "Let me make myself known first, I beg. I am the niece
of Sir Gilbert Heathcote."
Alison, of course, had heard of Sir Gilly--one of the chiefs of high
finance--but cared nothing about him. "I am vastly honoured, ma'am. I was
only born Thomas Lambourne's daughter."
"There is no need; ma'am." A long, lean hand was waved. "I wonder if we
are in some fashion connected. We are both called Mrs. Boyce. The Boyces
of Oxfordshire, ma'am?"
Alison's laugh had something of a sneer in it, "Of nowhere that I know,
ma'am. My husband is Mr. Harry Boyce, son of Colonel Oliver Boyce."
The lady fluttered her fan, settled herself afresh in her chair,
rearranged her close-fitting lips. Alison was reminded of a hen preening
itself. "I had heard so, ma'am. And my husband is Colonel Oliver Boyce."
"La, ma'am, do you mean the same?" Alison cried.
Mrs. Oliver Boyce gave a lifeless smile. "That is why I did myself the
honour of giving you my confidence, ma'am. I think there are not two
Colonel Oliver Boyces. The younger son of one of the Oxfordshire family."
"Oh Lud, how should I know? I never looked into the grandfathers."
"No, ma'am?" The tone was patronizing contempt. "You might have been the
wiser of it. Colonel Oliver Boyce--he has taken the title lately--when I
knew him he was something in the service of the Duke of Marlborough. Oh,
a fine man to the eye, ma'am, and very splendid in his talk."
"Why, that's his likeness," Alison laughed. "And what then, ma'am? Have
you come seeking the Colonel? He is the Lord knows where. Or is
it--faith, you don't tell me Harry is your son?"
"No, ma'am. At least I was spared bearing children."
"Oh--why, give you joy if you would have it so. But how can I serve you?
Maybe your Colonel is not my Colonel after all. At least he and Harry are
father and son heartily enough."
"It may be so, ma'am," said the lady heavily, and here Harry came in.
Alison looked up laughing and then frowned. Harry would not ever dress
fine. His wig was still unfashionably small, he wore some sombre stuff,
and to her eye (as she said) looked like a mole. "Here's Mr. Boyce,
ma'am. Harry, Mrs. Oliver Boyce, who is come to say that you never had
father nor mother."
"Your obliged servant, ma'am." Harry opened his eyes. "Pray, has my
father married again?"
"You'll find, sir, that Colonel Boyce has only been married once."
"If you please, ma'am," said Harry blandly. "Pray, are you blaming him?
Or--" a gesture expressed his complete ignorance of what she was doing.
The lady seemed to force herself to laugh. "Oh, fie, sir. Sure it is not
for me to blame him."
"No, ma'am?" Harry was first interrogative then acquiescent. "No, ma'am.
I wonder if you could give me the Colonel's direction."
"I, sir? You are pleased to amuse yourself."
"I vow, ma'am, I was never less amused."
"Colonel Boyce was pleased to leave me five years ago. I have not
forgotten it, if you have."
"Faith, this is very distressing," Harry protested in bewilderment. "But
you do me injustice, ma'am. I have forgotten nothing about my father. For
I never knew anything."
"As you please, sir," the lady drawled. "I was talking, by your leave, to
"Oh, ma'am, a hundred pardons," Harry took himself off in a hurry. His
chief emotion over the lady seems to have been satisfaction that she
wanted nothing to do with him. As for her story of being his father's
deserted wife, he had long supposed his father capable of anything. As
for the lady herself, he wrote her down a tiresome busybody and perhaps
he was not far wrong.
Alison too was much of the same opinion, but it was unfortunately
hampered by a natural curiosity to hear what the lady could tell
about the mystery of Harry and his father. "You had something to say
to me, ma'am?"
"I count it my duty, ma'am, to give you warning of Colonel Boyce."
Alison stood up. "Duty? I know nothing of your duty, ma'am. But I think
it is mine not to listen to you."
"I protest, I should have said the same," the lady drawled. "I too had
spirit once, child. That was before I suffered. I would I had known you
earlier. And yet perhaps I may do something to save you even now."
"I cannot tell how, ma'am."
"Listen, if you please!" the lady said dramatically. "I was something of
an heiress as you are and maybe something of a toast too. The worse for
me. I choose to believe it was not only my money which brought Oliver
Boyce upon me. He took all I could give him and very soon gave me
nothing, not even common courtesy. When I began to be careful he began to
be brutal. But for my family--I told you that Sir Gilbert Heathcote was
my uncle--he would have stripped me of every penny. When they stepped in
to save me some rag of my fortune, my good Mr. Boyce left me. I have
never had a word from him since. Pray, child, take warning."
"If it is so, I am sorry for it," said Alison coldly, "I believe I hear
company." She began to walk to the outer room.
Behind her, "As for your Harry Boyce," said the lady, "oh, I make no
doubt he's Oliver's son, though certainly he is none of mine."
Alison made as if she did not hear, and she was spared more by the coming
of some of her guests. The card tables filled. There was no more danger
of being private with Mrs. Oliver Boyce. Indeed, the lady, as if she had
done all she wanted, took her leave early. She was affectionate about it,
for which Alison liked her none the better. Through most of that evening,
amid the flutter of cards and the clatter--"Spadillio, on my life! What,
it's Basto, is it? Did you hear of Mrs. Prue? She'll not show for a
month. We win the Codille, ma'am. They say the Duchess and she pulled
caps"--Alison was telling herself over and over that the creature was a
detestable low thing who only wanted to make mischief. It should, you
think, have needed no effort to believe that. But the obvious malice had
power to annoy a mind already discontented. Alison could not stop
wondering what the mystery was about Harry's birth and his father.
Perhaps Harry knew more than the little he professed. Perhaps he was not
the careless, indolent fellow he chose to seem, but something more
cunning and less lofty. What if he were just such another as the woman
painted his father--a fellow on the hunt for an heiress, who, once he had
her and her money, cared no more about her? To be sure there was some
evidence for that. Since they had come to town, he was always off by
himself. If she wanted him with her, she had to plead and plague him. A
proud office! Why, that very night monsieur did not please to appear at
the card tables. He was too fine for her and her company. So she fretted
and rubbed the poison in. And naturally, she fared ill at the card table.
Her cards were bad and she made the worst of them. She was not a good
loser and it was a wife much inflamed who, when her guests were gone,
sought out her husband.
Harry sat with Mrs. Weston, who was at needlework and, if Alison had been
able to see, looked very benign. But it was he who demanded all the
wife's angry eyes. His wig was on the table beside him. He had a pipe in
his mouth. He was lolling in the deeps of a chair and smiling to himself
over a book. "You might be in an ale-house, you look so slovenly."
Harry grinned up at her. "Oh, madame wife hasn't been winning to-night.
Tell me all about it."
"Faugh! Your pipe," Alison coughed. "For God's sake keep it to the
tavern. It's enough that you reek of it without making my house
Harry gave a great sigh and put the pipe down. "We were so comfortable
till you came. I am glad to see you, dear."
"I was comfortable till you came." Alison snapped.
"Pray, mother Weston," says Harry, "forgive our public caresses. We have
not long been married."
Alison looked ice at him. "Weston dear, would you leave us? I have
something to say to Harry." Harry opened his eyes. Mrs. Weston looked at
her anxiously, bade them a nervous good-night, and hurried out.
"Harry--who was your mother?" Alison stood stern over the lolling
"Egad, what's this? Have you been brooding over your bony friend?
Who is she?"
"She says she is your father's wife; and says he left her."
"Well, if she is his wife, I wager he did leave her. Faith, she was made
to be deserted."
"What do you know of her?"
"Nothing, by the grace of God. Why should I? If my father got drunk and
married her, he would not want to talk about it when he was sober."
"I despise you when you talk so," Alison cried.
"And yet you listened to her, child."
"She says that he took all her money before he left her."
"Oh! Pray, why has she so much to say, and to you?"
"She wanted to warn me against Colonel Boyce."
"And against his son, I think. And you were so kind as to listen. Egad,
ma'am, I am obliged to you. Well, now you know what to do. You have the
money and I have none. Pray, lock up your purse to-night."
"You are childish," said Alison with lofty scorn. "Harry--who was
"Oh, I thought your kind friend told you I had none. I dare say it's as
true as the rest."
"You don't know?"
"I never saw her."
"She said--" Alison hesitated.
"Oh Lud, don't be squeamish now."
"She said your father had never been married except to her."
"Odso! That is what you had to tell me. I am a bastard, am I?" He laughed
and turned in his chair. "Give you good-night, madame wife."
"Oh, God save you!" He took up his pipe. "I am no company for you. And,
by God, you are no company for me."
She looked at him a moment, hesitated, went slowly out.
THE AFFAIR OF SIR GEORGE
The irruption of Mrs. Oliver Boyce could not easily have been foretold.
That the past life of Colonel Boyce was likely to throw shadows over his
son Harry might have considered, but the nature of the lady and her care
and the successful opportunity of her malice were hardly to be
calculated. There is less excuse for him in the affair of Sir George
Anville. Given the conditions of that hasty marriage and the state into
which it had brought them and the society about them, some Sir George or
other was a natural consequence.
The ugly quarrel which Mrs. Oliver Boyce had made for them was never
composed. When they met again in the morning they were coldly and
haughtily civil, and so they chose to remain. Mrs. Weston, not being
blind, saw that something was amiss and tried with blundering motherly
affection to push them back into one another's arms. She hardened, as is
usual, their hostility. Each was mortally afraid of weakening, each
suspected the other at once of softness and of guile and so held aloof
and fed upon scorn. They had both enough of that pride of sex which gives
one pleasure in the sufferings of the other. And of course the quarrel
was poisoned with a sordid taint. The colder, the haughtier Harry was,
the more Alison inclined to believe that he had wanted nothing of her but
her money. The haughtier, the colder Alison was, the more Harry raged
against her for a mean creature who desired to make him feel his
dependence upon her money bags.
In himself Sir George Anville was of no importance. If Harry had been
comfortable he could never have taken the trouble to be angry over the
man. It is certain that Alison never thought him worth any thought of
hers, still less worth one finger's surrender. And yet Sir George
contrived to be disastrous to the pair of them.
That was not, as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu said of him in another matter,
altogether his fault. "The fool has excuses," quoth she, "which others
have not. He is so great a fool that you hardly believe his folly is but
folly." Sir George was a man born without impulse or capacity for
anything. Lady Mary, who was fond of using him for her wit, made a
grammarian's jest on him, "The creature's an anomaly: active in form,
passive in meaning." He was bred in a society which made it a fashion to
be vicious. He affected to follow the fashion. If vice must needs be
something active, or at least, something of the will, Sir George Anville
must escape punishment. But he was to a wholesome taste more offensive
than sinners who did more damage. It was Harry's worst blunder in the
affair that he treated Alison as if she did not feel that.
Sir George knew no other way of passing his life than in dangling about
women. He was generally tolerated as a butt, and being impervious to
contempt, supposed that his fascinations procured him immunity. He
did--it must be reckoned the first of his two accomplishments--he did
know a pretty woman from a plain one, and therefore as soon as he knew
Alison much resorted to her. His other accomplishment was to dress well.
He was lean and had an air of languor which was not affected, but a
natural lack of vigour. It may be believed that Alison tolerated him
because he made a not disagreeable decoration to her rooms. But at this
era she was cynical, and perhaps told herself that Sir George was as good
a man as another.
He began to come at hours when she could be found alone and was sometimes
admitted. So Harry caught him once or twice, was ironically obsequious to
him (which Sir George took for solemn earnest), and afterwards amused
himself by congratulating Mrs. Alison on the power of her charms. "Odds
fish, I can't tell where you'll stop, ma'am. You'll have a corpse on his
knees to you yet. Maybe the corpse of a lord. I vow I'm proud of you."
Which was not likely to get the door shut on Sir George.
So that dangling gentleman became convinced that Alison was yielding to
his embraces. He was, in a limp way, gratified. A devilish fine woman to
be sure. She might be a trifle exhausting to a man of _ton_. But what
would you? Women were greedy and must be satisfied with what one could
spare them. And it was pleasant to see the pretty creatures pining. He
would lure madame on with a few tit-bits. In this kindly mood he went to
her on a wet April day when Alison was fretting for a wild walk or a
wilder ride in wind and rain. But even to herself she would not confess
that she was tired of the town. It would have assimilated her to Harry.
Sir George sat himself down by Alison's side, simpered at her, sniffed,
put his thin hands on his thin knees and ogled them. Alison held out to
him a cup of tea. He arranged his rings before he took it and then again
simpered at her. After some humming and hawing, "D'ye go to the play
to-night, ma'am?" he drawled.
"What play is it?"
"Ah--some curst play or other," said Sir George; and exhausted by that
effort relapsed for a while into silence.
Alison did not help him out. It is possible that she was wondering how a
creature so vapid could go on existing. She looked Sir George over with
an odd, close inspection. Sir George, who had some perceptions, became
aware of it and according to his nature misunderstood it. He sniffed
again, and "Pray, ma'am, what perfume do you use?" Alison stared at him.
"I am delicate in such things," said he, and smelt his own handkerchief.
Alison hesitated between disgust and amusement. To be sure the creature
was such a fool that it was not fair to think of him save as a buffoon.
So unfortunately she chose amusement. "Oh, I vow, Sir George, your
delicacy is rare," she laughed.
The poor creature took it for a compliment. He leered at her: "But you
are exquisite, my Indamora."
"It's an amorous lady in a play," Sir George explained. "Pretty
creature," he patted Alison's arm, and leaned upon her to kiss her neck.
She was so surprised that his lips had almost time to reach her. "Lord,
sir, are you mad?" she cried, as she thrust him off.
"Pretty creature," Sir George giggled, and clung to her.
"Your carriage is at the door, Sir George." Harry stood over them. His
face was as much a mask as ever, his voice placid.
Alison started up and stood to face him with a lowering brow. He did not
appear to see her. Sir George shook down his ruffles. "Carriage? What
d'ye mean?" says he. "I ha' had no carriage this year. I came in a
Harry turned away from him and opened the door.
"Eh? Oh, stap me!" Sir George giggled and got on to his feet, "Madame,
your eternally devoted." He went out with a strut, waving his scented
handkerchief in the direction of Harry.
Then Alison spoke. Her eyes were furious. "You--oh, you boor! How
"Egad, that's very good!" Harry laughed.
She beat her foot on the floor. "Oh, you are not to be borne! To make a
noise of it! To make a scandal of me and that--that creature!"
"To be sure, I came untimely. Well, ma'am, if you wanted to be quiet
about it, I had rather it made a noise."
"My God!" she was white. "You dare say that to me! Be careful, Harry."
"Pray, ma'am, no heroics."
"I warn you, there are things I'll not bear."
"Is it possible?" Harry sneered.
She swept past him and away.
RETURN OF MR. WAVERTON
It seems that, years afterwards, Harry and Alison were afflicted with a
dreary and remorseful wonder at these wars. Both, as they grew older, had
something of a turn for moralising, and in their copious letters to their
several children is evidence of much penitence and puzzling over the
disasters of their youth. Each plainly took all the blame. Each is
eloquent about the sins of pride and hardness. Harry preaches the duty of
trust; Alison the folly of easy intimacies. Both of them, in those latter
days when they could calmly estimate what they had lost, still wondered
with a gloomy scorn how they had come to let the ugly, ridiculous affair
of Sir George set them against each other. You find them both trying to
recall (or guess) what exactly it was that, in the time of crisis, they
felt and believed.
When it was all part of their history, Harry could hardly persuade
himself that ever he had fancied Alison untrue, even disloyal; or Alison
believe that she had stormed against him for driving out of the house a
man who had been impudent to her. Yet it is not to be doubted that Harry
did let suspicions of her honesty poison him. He could not, at the worst
of his anger, believe that she would play false with such a husk of a
fop; but he told himself that she wanted to make the fellow into a
waiting gentleman, a servant, and a toy at once--a thing more nauseous
than a lover. And Alison, though at the back of her brain she was aware
that Harry had excuse for what he had done, raged the more against him
for the intolerable things he had said. His suspicions made her despise
him. For his assumption of authority she hated him.
There were almost from the first the usual sage and kindly friends to
tell them that it was all a misunderstanding, that they had only to be
frank with each other and commonly reasonable and there would be no
quarrel left. But it is doubtful whether this sagacious advice could
have done them much good if they had taken it. "Talk things over like
rational creatures," was (as usual) the prescription. But if they had
really been rational, they would only have come to the conclusion that
they ought not to be married. The force of their passion, to be sure,
was real enough and still moved in them. To hold them together they had
nothing else. There was no consciousness of other need, no longing for a
common life, no desire to help or give. If they had been most calmly
wise and wisely calm in a dozen conversations, they would but have made
this all the clearer.
Still it is true, as the sagacious friends guessed, that they did not
try to compose the quarrel. Each was by far too proud. Harry was
pleased to consider that he had done his duty by a flighty wife, and
would take no more account of her unless she were penitent--or provoked
him again. Alison, reckoning herself meanly insulted, was resolved that
he could never again be more than an unwelcome guest in her house. They
were, to be sure, ridiculous. In private they avoided each other. In
public they continued to meet, for each was too proud to confess to the
world the failure of their marriage. You imagine how poor Mrs. Weston
enjoyed life in an icy atmosphere, the temperature of which she was not
permitted to notice.
Such were their relations when the final blow fell upon them. They dined
late in the Lincoln Inn Fields. It was as much as six o'clock and they
were still at table--as jovial as usual. The butler came to Alison with
an elaborate whispering. "Pray him come up," she said aloud, and looked
defiance down the table at Harry. "It is Mr. Waverton."
"Lord, Lord, is he still alive?" Harry grinned. "That's heroic."
"Back from France? Is Colonel Boyce come back?" Mrs. Weston cried.
"I know nothing of Colonel Boyce," said Alison coldly.
"You couldn't please him better," Harry laughed. "Dear Geoffrey! I wonder
if he knows anything? Well I It would be a new experience."
Mr. Waverton came. He was more stately than ever--browner also, but not
changed otherwise. His large and handsome face affected all the old
"Oh, Mr. Waverton!" Harry grinned. "You do honour me. Pray let me present
you to my poor wife."
Geoffrey took no notice of him. "Madame, your obedient," he bowed to
Alison. "I beg leave to have some speech with you."
"There's still some dinner. Draw up a chair," said Harry.
"I did not come to dine, sir."
"Oh, that's a sad stomach of yours. A glass of wine, then?"
"I do not take wine with you, Mr. Boyce."
"I wonder if you have made a mistake. For you have come into my house."
"I will answer for all my mistakes, sir, with hearty goodwill."
"Egad, you'll be busy."
"Oh, be silent!" Alison cried. "You are welcome, Mr. Waverton. How can I
"I understand the gentleman's desire to hurry me into a quarrel, ma'am.
Be sure that I shall not permit it." Harry laughed disagreeably. "It's
very well, sir. But I choose first that you should listen to what I
have to say."
"Listen I Oh Lud, is it a poem?"
Mr. Waverton flushed. "You are impertinent, sir. It shall not serve
you. I intend that madame shall know the truth of your father's
treachery and yours."
Harry stood up. "Are we to stay for more of this, ma'am?"
"I shall stay," Alison said.
"You remark the gentleman's impatience to silence me, ma'am. I promise
you that I shall tell you nothing which he or any man can deny."
"It's a dull tale, then," Harry muttered.
"I think it will excite you enough, ma'am. You are advised that I went to
France with Colonel Boyce. The office which he offered me was to
negotiate with Prince James. This I undertook readily, for to his party
my family hath ever had an inclination, nay, an affection, and I saw in
the affair duties of honour and moment."
"To the greater glory of Geoffrey, first Duke of Waverton, whom God
preserve," quoth Harry.
"I did not, I will avow, foresee that the thing was but a trick to take
me away from my house and out of the country. Though I may regret,
ma'am"--he bowed magnificently to Alison--"I do not even now blame myself
for my blindness, for I have ever accounted it unworthy of a man of
honour to fear treachery in his servants"--he glared at Harry--"or
weakness--ah--weakness in those to whom he gives his devotion"--he made
melancholy eyes at Alison. "No more of that. In fine, I did not suspect
that a fellow who was taking wages from my hand had plotted to rob me of
what was my dearest hope, or that another--another--would surrender
herself a prey to his crafty greed."
"Damme, it is a poem after all," Harry groaned.
"You said you had something to tell me, sir," said Alison coldly.
"Nay, ma'am, be patient. I give you no reproaches. But what is, is. If it
irks you that I remind you of it, do not give the blame to me."
"I shall blame you for being tedious, by your leave." Alison yawned.
"Wait till all's told. Well, ma'am, I left Tetherdown with Colonel
Boyce, and we rode posthaste to Newhaven. He was there joined by some
half-dozen fellows, low fellows to my eye. This much surprised me, and I
took occasion to tell him so, for he had given out that his was a very
secret errand of Marlborough's privy policy, into which he would admit
none but me. He made out that these fellows were but messengers and
escort, and I permitted myself to be satisfied, though I remarked that
he was on familiar terms with them. But that gave me little concern, for
I had from the first remarked in Colonel Boyce a coarse habit of
intimacy with the vulgar."
"Aye, aye, you and he took to each other famously," says Harry.
"Lud, sir, must you be so wordy?" Alison cried.
"You will find that every word has its import, ma'am. From some of these
fellows Colonel Boyce learnt that there was a warrant out against him for
treasonable practices with the Pretender. This affected him to great
indignation, in which, as I frankly told him, I found matter for
bewilderment. Since he was, as he professed, about to deal with the
Pretender, it was but fair that the Government should arraign him on that
charge. Over which he was pleased to laugh at me, and then, to explain
his mirth, averred that the Government, and in particular Mr. Secretary
St. John, was much more Jacobite than he, and so had no title to meddle
with him. Then he said that what irked him was that they should have
heard of his dealings with France, which must be done secretly or fail.
So we went in a hurry aboard the schooner which was ready for him, and
crossed to Dieppe, landing by night beyond the town. I make no doubt from
his adroitness that Colonel Boyce hath done business in France before,
but of what kind I leave you to guess when you have heard all. We were
well furnished with horses and upon the road to Paris before noon. He
gave out to some officers which questioned him that we were of Prince
James's service upon our way to St. Germain. We rode to Pontoise, and
there, as it had been planned from the first, Colonel Boyce stayed while
I rode on to the Prince. He dared not, as he said, go himself to Paris,
for fear that some of the French officers should recognize him as
Marlborough's man and denounce him for a spy. Therefore was I to go with
letters to the Prince, and messages which should persuade him to ride out
to Pontoise and come to business with Colonel Boyce. I went on then
alone, save that Colonel Boyce gave me one of his fellows to be my guide
and servant, and he stayed with the rest at Pontoise. Thus far, I beg you
remark, I had no cause to apprehend treachery. Upon the face, the scheme
was fair enough, and all had been done even as Colonel Boyce proposed to
me in England. I will maintain myself honourably free of any blame in the
affair against any man whomsoever."
"God bless you," said Harry heartily.
Mr. Waverton visibly laboured with a repartee.
"Oh, sir, a prayer from you is a rare honour," he said at length.
"You're to understand, ma'am, that I was furnished with letters of
credence from certain of the Jacobite agents in England--John Rogers and
Mrs. White, I remember. How they were come by, I cannot now tell, though
I may guess, for it is plain that there was no stint of money in the
affair. So I came easily to speech with the Prince and his secretary, my
Lord Middleton. And I will ever maintain that His Royal Highness is
altogether such as a prince should be. Being of a dark complexion and a
melancholy dignity, there is in him no lightness of thought or word. To
me he was, I profess, very flattering, showing me courtesies beyond my
rights or expectations. He received me, in a word, most favourably, and
being influenced, as I regret I cannot doubt, by my person and address,
was easily inclined to ride out to Pontoise. Only my Lord Middleton made
difficulties. He is of a sardonic turn, and permits his wit to outrun his
civility. He set me questions in a fashion which my honour could not
brook. Yet I can relate that in the end I prevailed over my Lord
Middleton's jealousy. For he said to the Prince: '_Enfin_, sir, I can
tell no reason why you should not go see this Colonel if you choose. If
there were any guile in the business, faith, they would never have
trusted it to this fellow!'
"So the thing was agreed. In the morning we rode for Pontoise, the
Prince, my Lord Middleton, myself. His Royal Highness was pleased to
limit himself to one servant. The man with whom Colonel Boyce had
provided me went on to carry advice of our coming. We came to Pontoise
towards evening. Colonel Boyce had put up at the Lion d'Or. He was
waiting for us in the courtyard and received us, as I thought, something
shortly, hurrying us into the house. But once inside, he made ceremony
enough, with endless speeches about the condescension of His Royal
Highness. All this too obsequious, in a boorish taste, so that the Prince
bade him have done and come to business. Therewith Colonel Boyce was as
full of apologies as he had been of servilities. I vow I never heard him
so copious as that night.
"He took us, you are to understand, to an upper room. And what first
moved my suspicion was that he bade me be gone. Then my Lord Middleton
countered him with, 'I believe, sir, the gentleman had best stay.'
Immediately Colonel Boyce was all smiles over his blunder, and we sat
down about the table in that upper room and came to the substance of his
negotiation. He kept, I'll allow, to the purposes which, from the first,
he had pretended to me: whether Prince James, if assured of support from
Marlborough and his friends, would choose to avow himself Protestant; but
he made so many conditions over it, he was so vague and wary that 'twas
hard to tell what he would be at. When my Lord Middleton tried to pin him
to something plain and certain he would ever evade, till it began to grow
late and the Prince talked of supper and bed. This Colonel Boyce took up
very heartily, and was indeed giving his orders when there came a noise
in the courtyard and he ran to the window and looked out.
"My Lord Middleton was behind him, with a 'What's your anxiety, sir?'
"'Why, my lord, I would not have these roysterers break upon the Prince's
incognito. Pray, sir, this way and you'll be secure'; he points to an
"'I believe we are as safe here, sir,' says my Lord Middleton.
"'Egad, sir, come away,' says Colonel Boyce; and he was in fact dragging
the Prince across the room when the door bursts open and in comes a
stranger, a little man. He flung himself across the room upon Colonel
Boyce, making some play with a pistol. There was some grappling and
wrestling. I recall that they gasped and breathed hard. But it's odd, I
believe, that there was no word spoken. Then Colonel Boyce freed himself
and bolted through that inner door. The stranger fired a shot after him,
and while we were all deaf and sneezing with it and utterly amazed he
turns on us. 'That's a miss,' says he. 'Please God they'll bag him below.
Eh, Charles,' he wags his head at my Lord Middleton, 'I thought you had
"'Damme,' says my lord, 'it's Hector McBean. And prithee what's all this
"'Why, you have let His Majesty walk into a stinking trap. That fellow
Boyce, he hath been Marlborough's spy, Sunderland's spy, the devil's spy
this twenty year.'
"'Why, I thought he had something the smack of it,' says my lord.
"'Who's this now?' Captain McBean turned on me. 'Yours or his?'
"'His ambassador in fact,' My lord looked me over and took snuff. 'You
won't tell me that hath any guile in it. Prithee, what is it you have
against the man Boyce?'
"'Eh, did ye see him run?' says Captain McBean. 'A man's not in that
hurry if he hath a good conscience. If ye'll please to have him up, maybe
we'll hear a tale.'
"But as he spoke there came into the room a French officer of dragoons,
who, saluting the Prince, asked Captain McBean if he had found his rogue.
On which 'Have I found him?' Captain McBean cries out, 'Eh, sir, did he
not run into your arms?' But it appeared that Colonel Boyce had not been
caught, and they determined at last that he must have made his way out by
a door at the back of the inn and won clear away. But I am sorry to tell
you, ma'am, that he hath not yet been found. For if they catch him in
France, he may count on a hanging."
"Pray, sir, how did you dodge the rope?" Harry said. "Did you talk them
to death, your Pretender and his tail?"
"You're too eloquent for me, Mr. Waverton," Alison yawned. "I can't tell
what you want to say. What is this mighty crime which you and Colonel
Boyce were compassing?"
"Sneers become you ill, ma'am," says Mr. Waverton magnificently. "I
repudiate any charge whatsoever; and tell my story my own way. Some hot
words passed between Captain McBean and the Frenchman, each blaming the
other for Colonel Boyce's escape. Then Captain McBean says 'The fellows
that were drinking in the tap, I suppose you've let them dodge you too?
No? Well, that's a wonder. Tie this rogue up with them and have them in
guard.' So he mocked at me, but the Prince brought him up roundly.
"'You go too fast for me, my good captain,' quoth he. 'What's your charge
against the gentleman?--who is to my mind a very simple gentleman.' So
His Royal Highness was pleased to honour me."
"Egad, he was right, Waverton," Harry laughed.
"I think I know how to value your fair words now, sir," says Mr. Waverton
grandly. "Be pleased to spare them. Upon that, as I was saying, Captain
McBean lost command of himself and was grossly violent. Roaring that I
was none the less a knave because I was so natural a fool, and the like
empty insolence. Accusing me of being art and part in a vile plot with
Colonel Boyce to kidnap and murder His Royal Highness."
"Now we have it," Alison murmured and looked at Harry strangely.
"Aye, ma'am. Now, perhaps (though late enough) your eyes are opened,"
said Mr. Waverton with relish. "Well, I let the man run on. He was indeed
not to be stopped. A rude, vehement fellow. When he was exhausted, I
addressed His Royal Highness."
"Lack a day, I believe you," says Harry.
"I made it clear to him, sir, that my birth and position must warrant me
innocent of any treachery, and though I might well disdain to answer
these reckless charges I owed it to myself to remark to His Royal
Highness that, but for my desire to serve him, I had never meddled in the
affair. So that when I had done, my Lord Middleton says, laughing, 'Egad,
sir, it seems you owe this fine gentleman thanks for his kindly
condescension to you'; and the Prince was pleased to answer, 'We are too
small for his notice, faith. But is he finished yet?' Then I bowed to His
Royal Highness and sat down, well enough pleased, as you may believe.
"But this Captain McBean called out in his rude fashion, 'Eh, sir, he may
e'en be the booby he pretends. The better decoy, I allow. But by your
leave, we'll look into it more narrowly. Would Your Majesty please to
permit me have up the other rogues?'
"This, in a word, they did, and Captain McBean and my Lord Middleton (who
is to my mind something more of the attorney than becomes a man of rank)
questioning the fellows shrewdly, it was made put--I crave your
attention, madam--it was made out that Colonel Boyce had undertaken for
the service of the Hanoverian junto here to kidnap or kill Prince James.
And the plan was to bring the Prince out to Pontoise and so drag out
affairs that he passed the night there. Then in the night they were to
invade his room and command him to follow them. They pretended indeed
that they meant only to carry him off. But 'tis not to be doubted that
they looked for resistance and a bloody issue to the affair. So, ma'am,
here is the trade of the family of Boyce--to procure murder, and the
murder of a prince of the blood royal, of our lawful king. I give you joy
of the name you bear."
Alison bent her head. "You may well be proud of your part, Mr.
"They let you go, did they?" says Harry; "your captain and your lord and
"Let me go, sir? There is nothing against me. I defy your impudence. Nay,
I thank you, I thank you. You lead me gracefully to the end of my story."
"Good God! It has an end!"
"When these rogues were questioned about me, not a man of them could
pretend to have anything against me. They openly confessed that Colonel
Boyce had warned them that I must be kept in innocence of the affair lest
I should thwart it. For he said that he had brought me into it to show a
good face to the Prince as one beyond suspicion of treachery. Nay and
moreover--and here's my last word to you, ma'am--he avowed that he chose
me because he wanted me out of England where I stood between his own son
and a pretty heiress. At which, as I remember, my Lord Middleton chose to
"Damme, I like that man," says Harry.
"So, ma'am," Mr. Waverton tossed his head. "Here you have it. I am drawn
into a murderous, vile, base treason that I may be kept out of the way
while Mr. Boyce prosecutes his designs upon you. I give you joy of the
loyal fidelity which yielded to him. I leave you to enjoy him with what
appetite you may."
He made a majestic bow, he turned and was gone.
Harry and Alison were left staring at each other.
From behind came a small strained voice: "Colonel Boyce--he--he is safe,
then?" It was Mrs. Weston.
The two turned with a start, surprised by her existence.
Harry laughed. "Oh aye, he is safe. He would be."
Mrs. Weston rose slowly and then made a rush for the door.
The husband and wife were left alone.
HARRY IS DISMISSED
Alison turned and stared into the fire. Harry filled himself a glass of
port and drank it and laughed. She looked round at him. "Faith, Mr.
Waverton is mighty good entertainment," he explained.
"Is that all you want to say?"
Harry would not be awed by that ominous voice. "Oh Lud, how could I dare
talk after him? Our poetic orator!" He made flourishes in the air after
Mr. Waverton's manner. "Nay, but I would give my new wig to have been in
that upper chamber at Pontoise. Dear Geoffrey on his defence booming
noble periods--and the Prince, poor gentleman, with his fingers in his
ears! If dear Geoffrey was telling the truth. I wonder."
"Oh, is that what you'll pretend?"
"Pretend? I pretend nothing, ma'am. Why, to be sure, our Geoffrey always
means to tell the truth--having, God bless him, no imagination. But
you'll remark what when he tells a tale, it's Mr. Waverton has always the
_beau rôle_. He sees the world like that, dear lad. So I should be glad
to hear the Caledonian gentleman's notion of what happened."
"I see. You'll make that your defence. Geoffrey imagined it all."
"Egad, ma'am, you may lower your tone. I have nothing to defend, nor are
you set in judgment."
Alison started up. "Do you suppose all this is to make no change?"
"You're a splendid creature, by heaven," says Harry, tilting his chair
back and watching her with a little epicurean smile, the proud vigour of
her, the blood in her cheeks, the flash of her eyes, and the sweep of the
"I could hate you for that," she said, and her lips set.
"Yes. I think you're in a fair way to it," says Harry. "I wonder if you
"Because I have come to despise you," she cried sharply.
"You will be solemn, will you?" says Harry. "Much good may it do you. And
so, egad, have at you heartily. For you have said things which both of us
will find it hard to forget."
"Oh, you can feel that?"
"Look 'e, ma'am, if we are to be in earnest, we had best not snap at each
other like a pair of puppies. Now, what's happened?"
"You have to ask that? My God, if you have to ask, there's no use in
words between you and me."
"Oh Lud, don't be mystical. Mr. Waverton comes here to do his poor
possible to make mischief between us. I suppose you saw that. He tells us
that he went blundering with my father into a muddle of a plot."
"He tells us that your father planned a vile base murder and sought to
make him, a man of honour, part in it. Pray, sir, is that not infamous?"
"Egad, if you haven't caught his style! You believe all that, do you?"
"We shall go far to-night, I think," Harry shrugged. "And shall I tell
you why you believe it, ma'am? It's because you are looking about to find
matter for blackening me."
Alison hesitated a moment. "You cannot deny it. It is proved. Your father
would not stay to face them."
"Face a pistol and a furious Scot? Well, I never said he was a hero."
"Do you pretend it was only a fight he feared? Do you dare tell me it was
an honest, honourable plan? Nay, come, let me see if there's anything you
Harry shrugged. "I know my father not much better than you do, ma'am. I
never thought him a Bayard. Some plot there was, I think, and these
political plots are all dirty enough. But, Lord, who is clean of them?
And I'm not ready to write my father off a murderer because Mr. Waverton
went blundering into a business which, on his own confession, he does not
"He went in your place. You should have gone with your father."
"Should have gone? D'ye wish I had, ma'am?"
Harry started up. "Oh, say it out. I knew we should go far to-night."
They stood close, fronting each other fiercely. "My God, is it strange
if I wish you had gone? Your father is a base wretch who should be on the
gallows, and I am to be his son's wife and bear the name, and the while
he goes bragging that he took Geoffrey Waverton off so that you should be
free to come at me."
"Aye, that. To be sure, that rankles. But you have known it long. I
showed you the letter he left me which said he had taken Geoffrey out of
my way and bade me snatch my chance of you. And you made light of that,
ma'am. Oh, it was a base thing, if you will, but you know well enough it
went for nought. We had done our work before. By God, Alison, Geoffrey
there or Geoffrey here, you would have come to me."
"Ah!" It was like a cry of pain. "You brag of it. I forced myself on you,
I suppose." Harry exclaimed something, made a gesture. "Oh yes, you were
all cold virtue and chastity and honour, and I--what was I?" She
shuddered and drew back from him. "Yes, you would turn on me. You would
taunt me with that."
"Egad, you're in a frenzy," says Harry. "You cry aloud and cut yourself
with knives. You will be hurting yourself."
"I loathe you for that calm way of yours," she cried. "You mock me till
I am mad, and then you please to be grave and lofty. You--I took you out
of the gutter."
"What now, ma'am?" Harry stiffened.
"It's all a mask!" she cried. "Nothing of you shows in your voice or your
face--your face, bah, it's always the same, when you kiss and when you
strike. A mask! You're always in a mask. That's how you took me. I was a
fool, and thought there must be something fine behind it." She laughed.
"You were clever enough. You knew the trick and the mystery of it would
take a woman. A mask! Yes, faith, that is the wear for a highwayman. I
remember how Charles Hadley used to laugh at your 'Curst
stand-and-deliver stare.' I liked it, I liked the challenge of it. But he
knew you better. That's your trade, the highwayman, faith, the
highwayman! You trick us all and prey upon us, as you dare. So you marked
me down, who was rich and a girl, and you have caught me, and you have
rifled me, and, for what you care I may now go hang. I ask you for my
pride again, my honour, and you mock at me. Oh, I am ashamed for a fool
and worse, and you know it, God help me, but you--you--"
Harry shrugged. "I suppose we have come to the end now," he said coolly.
"Well, ma'am, to be sure we married in haste, and it seems we have both
come to repentance. As for wrong that I have done you--why, I can't make
you a maid again, and, if you please, more's the pity. My apologies and
regrets. For the rest, all of your money that hath been spent on me will
go in a small purse, and, I promise you, you shall spend no more. So you
may sleep sound, and I wish you good night."
She watched him cross the room, and, as he was opening the door, cried
out, "What do you mean?"
He turned. "Why, would you still be talking?" Their eyes met in
defiance. "You can go," she said.
"I have had the honour to tell you so," he said, and was gone.
ALISON FINDS FRIENDS
It was on the second day after that Susan Burford and Mr. Hadley rode in
to the Lincoln's Inn Fields. They found Alison and Mrs. Weston together,
and both sewing--a fact which failed to interest Mr. Hadley, but
surprised Susan, who knew Alison, without a taste for needlework.
"My dear," says Susan, embracing Alison physically and spiritually in her
large, buxom, genial way.
"You have been a long time finding me," says Alison and put her off. "I
suppose I know why you kindly come to me now."
"B-r-r-r-r!" Mr. Hadley made the sound of one who comes into a cold
draught. "The truth is, Susan has been so busy improving herself that she
has had no time for her friends. In fine, she has been trying to make
herself worthy the honour of my affections and large enough to support
the burden of my dignity. I don't say she satisfies me, but she does her
best." He propelled Susan forward with his one hand. "'A poor thing,
ma'am, but mine own.'"
"Oh, he is amusing himself, you see," says Susan, in her leisurely
"Damme, Susan, you're so mighty innocent that sometimes I believe you
"But you have known me so long," Susan protested.
Alison stood up with an air of ceremony. Her pale face constrained itself
at last to smile at them. "My dear, I wish you may be very happy," says
she, and gave Susan a matronly kiss. "Mr. Hadley, you're a fortunate
man." She put out a stately hand.
Having bowed over it. "B-r-r-r," says Mr. Hadley.
"Damn these east winds. Susan, you're a plague with your affections. You
will have me talk about you, and I can't make you interesting, I hope,
ma'am, we find Mr. Boyce well?"
Alison drew back. "Why do you ask that? You have seen Mr. Waverton,
Mrs. Weston put down her work and folded her hands upon it.
"Why, yes, I have seen Geoffrey; and what's worse, heard him. I hope he
did not plague you too long."
"Pray, Mr. Hadley, don't be ironical. You can spare me that. Mr. Waverton
told us his story the night before last. Thereupon Mr. Boyce and I parted
company. He left my house immediately and I do not know where he is."
Mr. Hadley distinguished himself by containing an oath. Susan said, "Oh,
my dear," in that slow, calm way which might mean anything.
It was Mrs. Weston who cried out, "Alison, you never told me."
"You asked once or twice where he was, and I told you I did not know.
What does it matter?"
"You quarrelled with him?"
"Because of what this Mr. Waverton said?"
"Do you think it could make no difference?"
Mrs. Weston clasped her hands and swayed in her chair.
"Alison; we had no guess of this. I am sorry. I am so sorry," Susan said.
"There is no need." Alison held her head high.
"If we have, in some sort, forced your confidence, I beg you believe,
ma'am, it was not meant," So Mr. Hadley in the grand style. "For I
protest it never came into my head that Geoffrey would make mischief
between you and Mr. Boyce."
"You say that?" Alison stared at him. "Oh, you mean I was so besotted
Mr. Hadley relapsed to his ordinary manner. "Damme, d'ye think we came
for nothing but to jeer at you? I promise you we have pleasanter matter
to hand. Neither to jeer at you, nor to meddle with you, Alison, but
friendly. So take us friendly in God's name. If you will go about to find
a sneer in every word, why, a sneer you'll find, but not of my making. We
bring you nothing but goodwill, and want nothing more of you. But if we
irk you, why, let us go and we'll see you again in good time."
"That's a pretty speech to begin with an oath," Alison said, through the
flicker of a smile. "And, faith, I should be slow to take offence at you.
For we quarrelled before, because you were at pains to warn me. Well,
sir, I humble myself before your wisdom."
There was a pause. "Oh. Now we are all ill at ease," says Susan.
"Odso, ma'am, it's not fair," Mr. Hadley cried. "I am not here to say, 'I
told you so,' I am not so proud of it. Well, damme, I have no temptation
to be meddling in your affairs. But I think you will have to know. It is
with Mr. Waverton I have fallen out now."
"With Mr. Waverton?" Alison repeated. "What is there between you and
"I believe he had the impertinence to expect my sympathetic admiration.
While I was thinking him a low fellow. Which I took occasion to tell him.
Without result." Mr. Hadley shrugged. "But I believe he did not feel it.
It's a thick hide."
"And what was your difference?"
"Why, this precious story of his."
There was some little time of silence. "You don't believe it," Alison
said slowly. "Come, you must say more than that."
"I profess, ma'am, I have no will to say anything. Whatever I say, I'll
"Oh. Shall we mark it in you?" Susan said.
"Well, sir, you were not always so shy of scolding me," says Alison, and
again with a faint smile.
"Scold you! God warn us, I have no commission. I can tell you what I
thought of Waverton and his tale. Did I believe it? Ods fish, I never
remember believing Geoffrey. If he had to tell you two and two was four,
he would pretend that his genius first discovered it. So I don't know
what happened at Pontoise. Likely the old Colonel did mix him up in some
plot which some other fellows smoked. Maybe it was even such as Geoffrey
said, kidnapping and murder to follow. These plots, they grow nastier and
nastier the longer they are afoot. And Colonel Boyce--well, by your
leave, I don't think him delicate. But for the rest of it, I'll wager
that's Geoffrey's sprightly invention. You know very well, ma'am, I have
no kindness for your Mr. Boyce. But, damme, he never thought of tricking
Geoffrey out of the way to give himself a free hand with you. And it's a
low trick in Geoffrey to go about with that tale."
"Oh! But he is stupid," Susan said.
"What if Colonel Boyce thought of the trick?" says Alison.
"Egad, Mr. Boyce is unfortunate in his father. Maybe he knows that as
well as we. But--damme, ma'am, you will have it--I believe there was not
much trick in his affair with you."
"I believe you once warned me of his tricks," Alison said coldly. "It's
no matter now. I tease you with my affairs."
"If I can serve you, I'm heartily at your command."
"Oh, you have worked hard to make the best of a bad business. But I can
do that for myself, and I like my own way of it."
Mr. Hadley bowed.
"Oh! Let us go home," Susan said.
Alison looked at her in some surprise, and, as she stood up, came quickly
to kiss her. "Have I been rude?" she whispered.
"That would be no matter," Susan said, "You choose to be angry with me?"
"Oh! One isn't angry. One is sorry," Susan said.
Alison let her go, and Mr. Hadley, ceremonious but with visible relief,
went after her.
Then Mrs. Weston said suddenly, quickly, "Where is he?"
"He?" Alison chose to be slow. "Mr. Boyce? I have no notion."
"You drove him out?"
"I could not endure him longer. Or he could endure me no longer. He went
heartily enough. I think we were both glad it was over."
"You taunted him till he had to go?"
"Weston, dear!" Alison laughed at the sudden fierceness of the meek.
"What's the matter?"
"I have heard you mocking him."
"Maybe. We both have sharp enough tongues."
"You used to jeer at him for being poor."
"Good lack, are you calling me to account, ma'am?"
"Yes, you may well be ashamed! Where is he?"
"Ashamed? What do you mean, Weston? What is the man to you?"
"I am his mother," Mrs. Weston said.
"You!... You! Oh, but this is mad!"
"I am not mad."
"But, Weston, dear, you knew nothing about him till he came; nor he of
you. How could he be your son?"
"I had never seen him since he was a baby. I was not married."
"That is why you would not tell me? Oh, Weston, dear!"
"I did not mean to tell you now. I knew it would hurt him with you. But I
suppose it's no matter now. But these are my affairs, not yours."
"You need not pity me."
"What am I to say?" Alison held out her arms.
"You have nothing to say now. You are not his wife now. You have never
been anything but a bad wife." She gathered up her work with unsteady
hands and turned away.
"Where are you going?"
"I am going out of your house. Away from you."
"But, Weston--not now, not to-night. Where can you go? What can you do?"
"I can do well enough without you, as he can.... Why don't you tell me
that I have been living on your money? You told him so often enough."
"Oh ... you're cruel," Alison said.
"What does it matter? You'll not be hurt. You are too hard." She hurried
to the door.
"Ah, don't go like this," Alison cried. "Weston, let's part kindly. I
could not know. I have done nothing against you." Mrs. Weston laughed.
"Stay a moment at least. I want to know. Harry's father--is Colonel
"Yes, there it is. That is all you want--to pry into all the story. It is
nothing to you. He is nothing to you now."
The door closed behind her.
RETURN OF CAPTAIN McBEAN
Harry was not gone far. In Long Acre stood a tavern calling itself 'The
Hand of Pork.' This had always tempted Harry, whose tastes were of the
people. While still a domesticated husband, he had tried its ale with
satisfaction. When he left Alison it was to 'The Hand of Pork' that he
brought his small, battered box.
He had a few guineas in his pocket, and made a wry face over them.
"Ill-gotten gains," says he, for some were the scraped savings of
Geoffrey Waverton's tutor and some the pocket money of Alison's husband.
But he was in no case to be delicate. Beef and bread had to be paid for,
and, in fact, his scruples were little more than a joke. It is not to be
concealed that in minor things Harry Boyce was not nicely honest. If you
can imagine him seriously arguing over that money--a thing impossible--he
would have said that the guineas were of consequence to him and none to
Geoffrey and Alison, that whether he had dealt honestly by them or not,
it would not better his case to pay them back a few shillings. You have
seen that he had qualms of conscience over the rights of Geoffrey's
service and Alison's arms. But the ugly, awkward details gave him no
trouble. He may, if you please, have swallowed a camel or so, but he
never strained at a gnat.
Now that he was done with Geoffrey and Alison, both, his first feeling
was comfort. It was a huge relief to be his own man again. He told
himself indeed that he was mighty grateful to Geoffrey for bringing on
the final explosion. For one thing, it wiped off all Geoffrey's score. If
Master Geoffrey had been treated shabbily, Master Geoffrey had played a
shabby trick. They could call quits--a pleasant sensation. It would have
been awkward if Geoffrey had chosen to be magnanimous nobility. But he
was never intelligent, the poor Geoffrey.
He had done his best to be damaging, bless him, and in all ways had been
a benefactor. For, in fact, it was a great relief to be done with Alison.
What with her fretful discontent, her rages, her industrious hate, she
had made herself intolerable. I do not suppose that he forgot, even in
the heat of the divorce, the exquisite pleasure which for a while she had
given him. I think he was always ready to acknowledge that to himself,
for it is certain that he bore her no malice, and if he blamed her for
their catastrophe, blamed himself as much. He might make the most or more
of all the taunts, of her zeal to find occasions for despising him. He
forgot nothing and forgave her nothing; he wrote her down a cruel enemy.
But he did not pay her back with equal hate; he dismissed all the warfare
and the wounds with a shrug of sagacious cynicism.
She hated him? She had the right, she was his wife. And perhaps she was
in the right too. He must fairly be reckoned a very poor match for her
beauty and her wealth and her not insignificant brains. After all, he was
essentially a nobody--a nobody in every department, body, mind, and soul.
She might even claim that she had been cheated, for if she ought to have
known that she was marrying a nobody, she could not guess that he had a
bar-sinister or a disreputable father. Certainly Madame Alison could
plead something of a case.
You are not to suppose Harry in an ecstasy of meek devotion. He was quite
sure that she had behaved to him very badly. He admitted no excuse for
her eagerness to hurt him as soon as she was tired of him. She might hate
him; but after all there were obligations of courtesy, of decency, of
womanhood, and her venomous temper had broken them all. He was well rid
of her. In fine, she and he could call quits as well as he and Geoffrey.
There was no occasion to rage against her. She had treated him badly,
but, first, he had brought her into an awkward mess. Faith, she ought not
to have hurried into a marriage for passion if passion was so soon to
sate her. But then, what man would blame a woman for marrying for
passion? Not the man she married, who might rather humble himself because
he had not been able to keep her passion alive. Well, it was over, and
since it was over, nothing for it but to part. God be with her! She had
given him his hour. And he--why, at least she had lived with him moments
she would not forget. A glorious woman. It is probable that in these
first hours of their parting he began to love her.
So much for his emotions. But you will not suppose that Harry Boyce was
wholly occupied with emotions. He could not indeed afford it. He had to
make some provision for keeping alive. Perhaps you will be surprised to
hear that he had a friend or two. There was an usher at Westminster, and
a hack writer of Lintot's in Little Britain. He did not propose to live
on them, who had hardly enough to feed themselves. But he looked for them
to put him in the way of some pittance, and they did. The usher had news
that, after Ascension-Day, Westminster would be wanting a writing master,
for the man in possession hoped by then to marry the dean's cook and set
up an ale-house. The author procured a commission to write two lampoons
and a pamphlet against French wines. In the intervals of this occupation,
Harry looked for his father.
It would be hard to guess--Harry himself could not have told--what he
hoped to gain by that. He wanted, of course, to find out the truth of the
mission to France. Whether his father was likely to tell it, he could not
make up his mind. What he would do with the truth if ever he learnt it,
he did not know in the least. Suppose the best event: suppose his father
could declare excellent intentions and Geoffrey a liar. Harry imagined
himself going to Alison with the news and demanding to be taken on again.
A nightmare joke.
Yet to come at the truth seemed the most important task in life. The
first step, though you think it impossibly difficult, did not dismay
him. He had no doubt of discovering his father. That Colonel Boyce should
have been killed or even caught was incredible. He was not the man so to
oblige his enemies. It was incredible, too, that he would go long into
hiding. Away from the importance of bustle and intrigue he could not
exist. Therefore he would certainly come back to London: therefore sooner
or later he would be found at one of the coffee-houses favoured by the
brisk fellows in the underworld of politics--at Tom's, or the British, or
Diggory's by the Seven Dials. He might be heard of among the fire-eating
Jacobites of Sam's. There were not so many likely places, but Harry laid
down more pennies than he could spare at the bars, and all in vain.
He sat in Sam's on an afternoon chopping Greek tags with a jolly,
fanatical old parson. The days were fast lengthening, and for one reason
or another--the company at Sam's were not too fond of light--only a
candle here and there was burning. A little man came in with a party very
obsequious to him. As he walked up to the bar Harry had a glimpse of a
lean, brown face. He remembered it and yet no more than faintly, and
could not tell where he had seen it. It did not much engage him, and he
went on with his Greek and his parson. The little man made some noise
with the pretty girl behind the bar, claiming the privileges of an old
friend and a good deal of liquor, and it was a little while before he was
established at a table with his party. Harry chose to mouth out something
Homeric and sounding. The little man stopped in the middle of lighting
his pipe. "I know that roll, _pardieu_!" he muttered, and in a florid
fashion declaimed, "Fol de rol de row," and laughed alcoholically. "Who's
talking Hebrew here?"