Part 4 out of 5
One of his party pointed out Harry and the parson. The little man blinked
through the smoky twilight. He stood up, took his candle and lurched
across the room to Harry. Down under Harry's nose he put the candle with
a bang. Harry jerked back and glared at him, and he, rocking a little and
blinking, said thickly, "It's a filthy likeness, after all, it is."
"No, sir, there's only one of me," said Harry. "If you see two, give God
the glory and go to bed."
"I'm saying, bully, I'm saying," the little man's accent became more
Caledonian and he clutched at Harry's shoulder. "I'm saying, my
"Damme, that's what I complain of."
"I'm saying I do not like your complexion. It's yellow, my jo, it's a
wee rotten orange, it is so." His company, a faithful tail, shook
"Sleep it off, sir," says Harry, with a shrug.
"What's your will? Clip it off, do ye say so? Losh, you would have a face
or two to spare. Eh, but I'm doubting you know too much o' clipping.
There's clippit ears, and maybe you have a pair." He twitched Harry's bob
wig awry; and with singular luck reeled out of the reach of Harry's
answering blow. "Ay, and there's clippit shillings and maybe ye make your
filthy living by their parings and shavings. Well a well, and there's
clippit wings; and I'll clip yours, my bonny goose, the night." He
clutched at the wig again and tossed it into the fire.
Harry sprang up and struck at him. He flung himself backwards into the
arms of his friends and with a surprising adroitness plucked out his
sword. "Have at ye, my man;" he giggled and made a pass.
"Easy, Captain," says one of his company. "The boy hath no sword."
"Oh ay, 'tis the Lord that's a man of war. The devil was aye for peace.
Well, what ails ye not to lend the imp a bodkin?"
The fat old keeper of the coffee-house waddled into the midst. "Sure,
Captain, you don't mean it. I would need to set my lads upon you. 'Tis
disorderly homicide, indeed. Ye can't mean it. Not downstairs. I'll not
deny there's the elegant parlour on the first floor."
"Ye're a canting old devil, Sam," says the little man. "But I'll oblige
you. Come up, my bully, and I'll show you a thing."
"Here's for you, cully." One of the company thrust upon Harry a sword.
"Oh, by your leave,"--Harry waved it oft--"I don't fight a drunken man."
"Drunk!" the little man screamed. "Ods blades, there's a naughty way to
mock a gentleman. I'll school you, bully; fou or fasting, I'll school
you. What, you'll not lug out, like a bonny lad should? I jaloused it.
I'm thinking you would take a beating like a lamb, laddie. Well a well.
I'll be blithe to rub you down with an oaken towel. Here, Patrick, give
us your staff."
"Oh, I see you must be let blood." Harry shrugged. "Well, sir, do I
fight the whole platoon?"
"You're peevish, do you know, you're peevish. Here, Fraser, give him your
hanger. Do you second the bairn, Donald? Come, Patrick, I'll have you.
There's one for you and one for me, my man, and damn all favours."
It seemed to Harry that the little man's company were something surprised
at this turn, but they took it in a disciplined silence. So the party of
four marched up the stairs. You will believe that Harry liked the
business ill enough. He shot glances at the two chosen for seconds. There
was nothing sottish about them. They were very soberly alert, they had
the tan and the vigour of open-air life. They looked anything but the fit
comrades for a swashbuckling tavern hero. They were as stiff as pokers,
they said not a word, they showed not a sign of interest in the
affair--rather like two soldiers on guard than ready seconds in a drunken
brawl. Once in the upper room they made their arrangements with solemn
care, locking the door, clearing a sufficient space, and setting the
candles so that the light fell fairly. Harry was taken aside, helped out
of his coat, asked if he needed anything, gravely advised to risk nothing
and play close.
"We are at your service, Mr. O'Connor," says Donald.
"At your pleasure, Mr. Mackenzie," says the other.
Harry was set against the little man and the swords crossed. It then
occurred to him that the little man was very suddenly recovered from his
liquor. The blustering chatter had been cut off as soon as they started
up the stairs. Since then the little man had spoken not one word. Of the
unsteadiness, the blinking, the rocking to and fro, nothing remained. He
had marched to his place with a formal precision. There was the same
manner, a correctness exact and staccato, about this sword play.
The knave can never have been drunk, Harry said to himself as he
sweated and was the more embarrassed by bewilderment. But he dared not
let himself think. The little man was urgently dangerous, and Harry
knew enough to know it. Harry had no pretensions to science. All he
could use was the rudiments. He had kept his head at singlestick, held
his own with the foil against other lads, and never before faced a
point. The little man had the speed and certainty of a _maître
d'armes_. So Harry fought, breathing hard, every muscle aching, mind
numb and dazed under the strain, expecting--hoping--every moment the
thrust that would make an end.
It did not come. The ache and fever of the fight went on and on. Still
the little man was masterful and precise. Still he demanded all Harry's
vigour and more than all, kept him struggling desperately, beset by fear
on the edge of death. Harry felt himself weakening, faltering, and still
the opposing blade searched his defence sharply, still the little man was
an exemplar of easy precision. And yet Harry's maladroitness always
sufficed to save his skin. He was puzzled, and blundered and fumbled the
more. The play grew slower and slower, and he was the more tortured,
enduring many times the shame and the pain of defeat.
At last he had hit upon the truth. He was wondering in a dazed fashion
why that other sword seemed always to wait on him when he made a gross
mistake. Visibly, palpably, the little man's blade halted to give him
time for a parry. Harry dropped his point and gasped out, "Damme, sir,
you are playing with me."
"What's your will? I fight my own way. At your convenience, sir."
"The Captain's within his right, sir," says Harry's solemn second.
"Damn you, for a pack of mountebanks!" Harry cried.
"On guard, sir," says the little man.
Harry gave him an oath and dashed at him. There was a moment's wild
fighting and then the little man forced it back to order. They were at
the old game again, precise scientific thrust, pause, and blundering
parry, when to Harry's amazement the little man's sword wavered and flew
from his hand.
Through a long minute Harry stood staring at him, and he waiting unarmed
for Harry's thrust. Again Harry lowered his sword. At once the little
man stooped and picked up his. "Do you demand to continue, Captain?"
says his second.
"You're a fool, Patrick," quoth the little man.
The impenetrable second saluted and turned to his fellow. "Another bout,
if you please, Mr. Mackenzie."
"Would you grant it, sir?" says Harry's solemn Scot.
"Egad, we are all mad here," Harry wiped his brow. "Oh, play it
out to hell."
The little man saluted formally and again they engaged. And now Harry was
enveloped in another kind of fighting. Scientific it might be, but
science far beyond his understanding. The little man's point was
everywhere upon him and he thrusting blindly at the air. He might have
been pinked a score times over, he was for all he knew. And then on a
sudden his own point touched something. Next moment it was struck up to
the ceiling. Some one called out "A hit." He saw the two seconds standing
between the swords and a red scratch on the little man's cheek.
"_Touché_," says he with a bow. "My compliments, if you please. It's some
while since a man marked me. I am glad to know you, sir. Pray, what's
"Harry Boyce, sir."
"Egad, it's wonderful!" says the little man, with a laugh which appealed
to Harry. "Hector McBean, at your service." Harry stared. "Aye, aye, I'm
thinking we'll explain ourselves. Will you walk, sir?"
"If you please."
Captain McBean took his arm, said over his shoulder to the two seconds
"To-morrow," and marched off with him. Once they were out in the
street, "So you are Colonel Noll Boyce's son," says Captain McBean with
an odd look.
"He has often told me so."
"If you had not such a look of him I wouldn't believe it. Oh, pardon,
monsieur, _mille pardons_, _ma foi._ I have been insolent to you in all
this affair. You'll please to observe that the whole of it, and the
issue, is to your honour. Will I have to say more?"
"Oh Lud, no. Pray, let's talk sense."
"I take to you marvellously, _mon enfant_. Well now, have you
heard of me?"
"Enough to want much more."
"What, has father been talking?"
"D'ye know where he is, Captain McBean?"
"I wish I did."
"So do I. It was Mr. Waverton who told the tale. Now you know why I am
eager to hear what you can say of my father or my father of you."
"Are you a good son, Mr. Boyce?"
"I pay my debts."
"There's a crooked answer. Are you in the Colonel's secrets?"
"I have no reason to think so."
"I guess he did not trust you. I guess he was right. Do you remember
where you met me first?"
"I remember that I can't remember."
"And me that thought I was a beauty! Well, but you were busy. You were
making mud pies with Ben."
"I have it. You were his captain on the horse. Pray, sir, what was my
"I am going to trust you, Mr. Boyce. I shall not require you to trust me
unless you choose. I tell you frankly I hope for it. And so--come in
They turned out of the Strand into Bow Street. Captain McBean let
himself into a house, and took Harry up to a room very neat and cosy.
"D'ye drink usquebaugh? A pity. It's the cleanest liquor. Well, draw up."
He pushed a tobacco-box across the table. "That's right Spanish. Now,
_mon cher_, are you Jacobite or Hanoverian?"
"I never could tell."
"Oh, look you, I ask no confidences. And I make no doubt of your honour.
If you had a mind to play tricks you would have tried one on me to-night.
Well, I have proved you. Your pardon again. But when I saw Noll Boyce's
son lurking in Sam's, how could I know he was without guile? Now there is
something I must say to you. But how much I say is a question. I have no
desire to embarrass you with awkward knowledge. So which is your king,
_mon enfant_, James or George?"
"I care not a puff of smoke for either."
"So. I suppose there is something you care for. Well--you asked about
Ben's mystery. It's a good beginning. The rascal should have stopped the
Duke of Marlborough's coach and held it till I came up with my fellows.
Instead of which he went about some private thieving. I am your debtor
for giving the knave his gruel. What's Marlborough to me? It's not his
dirty guineas I was after, but his papers. He was then pretending to
negotiate with St. Germain. There were those of us who doubted the old
villain had some black design in his head again, and it was thought that
if we could turn over his private papers, we should know where to have
him. It was certified that he had with him something from his agents
abroad. Well, we missed him, and how deep he is dipped in this business,
I know no more than you.
"Now I come to your father, _mon enfant_, and I promise you I will be as
delicate as I may. Do you know, _par exemple_, how Colonel Boyce is in
the mouths of gentlemen?"
"Oh, sir, that's another of the matters for which I care nothing."
"_Tenez donc_. You were born old, I think. Well, Colonel Boyce has been
in some few plots, devices, and manoeuvres. No man ever denied him wit,
nor will I, _mordieu_. But it's his virtue that neither his friends nor
his enemies were ever sure of him. I believe, Mr. Boyce, that if he heard
me he would thank me for a compliment. _Bien_--I come back to my tale.
"It was known to us poor Jacobites in England that Colonel Boyce was
making salutes to St. Germain. Which much intrigued us, for we would not,
by your leave, have him of our side. They don't know him there as we do,
and King James, God save him! is young and honourable and sanguine."
"Poor lad," says Harry with a shrug.
"You may keep your pity, Mr. Boyce," McBean said stiffly. "I would have
him so, by your leave. Now we heard that letters went to St. Germain from
Colonel Boyce full of windy promises--_verbosa et grandis epistola_. D'ye
keep up your humanities?--in the name of my Lord Sunderland and my Lord
Stair. Black names both. But they were vastly intrigued at St. Germain.
If Sunderland and Stair were ready to turn honest, then _pardieu_, there
was hope of the devil himself. Oh, I don't blame the King nor even
Charles Middleton, though he is old enough to be slow. The times are
changing, and maybe Stair and Sunderland they see it as well as we, and
mean to find salvation. I can't tell. But the thing looked ill. Stair and
Sunderland--there is no treachery too foul for those names. And if they
meant honestly, why--saving your presence, _mon enfant_--why did they
choose Colonel Boyce for their agent? It was no good warranty. So we
adventured a counter. We have friends enough now in the Government, _mon
cher_, and it was arranged that the Colonel should be arrested as a
Jacobite. A good stroke, I think. It was mine. Only the old gentleman
"Pray, what did you know of Mr. Waverton?"
"That sheep's-head!" McBean laughed. "Why, a letter came to hand in which
the Colonel talked of taking the pretty gentleman to France. So he was
joined in the warrant. _D'ailleurs_--it made a good appearance. However,
we missed him; but we found something in his papers which made me queasy.
So I e'en was off to France after him.
"The Colonel stayed at Pontoise and sent your Waverton off to St. Germain
with a mighty plausible letter about secret proposals from the chiefs of
the Whigs, which brought the King out to hear them secretly. _Ma foi_! I
think Charles Middleton should have smelt a rat. But it was a clever
trick, and to choose your Waverton to play it was masterly. For who could
think that peacock would be in anything crafty? At Pontoise I tumbled in
upon them, and your father, _mon cher_, he ran off on sight of me.
Observe, I press nothing against him. I allow that the best evidence I
have against him is just that--he ran away when he saw me. Secondly, he
had with him some three-four rascals whose faces would hang them. And
thirdly and lastly, beloved brethren, these fellows, when put to it and
charged with a plot to murder King James, were frightened for their lives
and babbled wildly, of which the sum was that they had been brought but
to kidnap him. I grant ye, they may have lied, and I would not hang a dog
(who was not a Whig) upon their word. But confess, _mon cher_, the thing
is black enough. What did the Colonel want with King James alone? Why did
he need his bullies? Why did he run away? I leave it with you."
Harry knocked out his pipe. "I am obliged for the story, sir. Why did
you tell it?"
"You have a cold blood in you, _mon enfant_" says Captain MacBean.
"Observe, I look for nothing wonderful from you. I allow your position is
very difficult to a man of honour. And with all my heart--"
"Oh Lud, sir, let's have nothing pathetic."
"Aye, aye," McBean bowed. "Mr. Boyce! I do profess I feel the delicacy of
the affair, and I detest it, _pardieu_. But I dare not absolve ye from
"Oh, sir, you are very sublime."
"Hear me out, Mr. Boyce. I have shown you cause to fear that your
father has it in mind to compass a vile treachery, perhaps a murder.
Would you deny it?"
"Damme, sir, I am not the day of judgment."
"_Bien_. I believe that is an answer. I declare to you there is yet a
chance that he may succeed, aye, here in London."
Harry swore. "If your friends must go walking into traps what is
it to me?"
"Well, sir, though you will own no loyalty to king or queen or country,
I'll not be deceived. I call on you for your aid. It's believed your
father is in London. It is likely he will seek you out, as he did before.
Maybe at this hour you know where he is."
"If I did, should I betray him to you, sir?"
"I ask no treachery. But I do call on you, discover his purpose if you
can, and if he intends violence to the King, prevent it. Lord, sir, it's
to save your father from infamy, and your own name."
"The King? The Pretender is in London?" Harry cried.
"I told you that I should trust you far, Mr. Boyce."
Harry stared at him, and after a moment stood up. "I can do nothing," he
said. "It is of all things most unlikely that I should do anything. For
what I know, my father is dead. He has been nothing else to me all my
life. But I believe I should thank you."
"Well!" quoth McBean. "God help you. I ha' drawn a bow at a venture. I
think I have hit something, Mr. Boyce."
CONSOLATIONS BY A FATHER
Do you remember how frightened Swift was of the Mohocks? How he came
home early, and even (that was bitter) spent some pence on being carried
in a sedan chair to avoid the "race of rakes that play the devil about
this town every night, slit people's noses," and so forth? He had some
reason to fear.
"Was there a Watchman took his hourly rounds
Safe from their blows or new invented wounds"
in these last days of Queen Anne? Their way was to gather and take
plenty of liquor, "then make a general sally and attack all that are
so unfortunate as to walk the streets through which they patrol. Some
are knocked down, others stabbed, others cut and carbonadoed." The
women would be turned upside down or clapped into barrels and rolled
over the stones.
It was a dark night with but a glimpse of the new moon when Harry left
Captain McBean. From Bow Street to the "Hand of Pork" in Long Acre was
only a few hundred yards, but murky enough, and Harry took Mr. Gay's
advice for such night walking:
"Let constant Vigilance thy footsteps guide,
And wary Circumspection guard thy side."
Nevertheless, as he was coming by the corner into Long Acre, he was
surprised by a sound at his heels. He stepped quickly aside and turned
upon it, felt a blow upon his head, saw flashes of light and the street,
whirling round, rose up to meet him, and he knew no more.
When he came to himself he was in a room with fire and lights. He raised
himself and heard voices. Then some one was standing over him. He looked
up into his father's face. "Who was that?" he said feebly.
"Don't you see yet, Harry? It will soon pass off."
"Lord, I know you. Who are the others?"
"There is none here but me," said Colonel Boyce.
Harry looked painfully round the room and saw that it had become empty.
"What was it? A pistol?" said he, and began to feel his head.
"Egad, nothing so gentlemanly. A cudgel, by the look of the bruise. A
Mohock's club, I suppose. I found you lying in the kennel as I was
"Oh, you're at home are you?" Harry laughed stupidly. "And where is
"These are my lodgings in Martin's Lane, Harry, and you are welcome. But
what have you to do in town? Young husbands should not be night walkers."
Harry stared at him for a moment. "I thought you knew everything," he
said. Then, beginning to scramble up, he became aware that his clothes
were all undone--coat, shirt, even breeches. "Odso, why were you
"I found you so. They shave you close, the Mohocks."
"They are a queer crew, your Mohocks." Harry looked at his father. "What
should I carry inside my shirt?" Then he thrust his hands into his
pockets. "Well, I had not much, but all's gone."
"Damned rogues," said his father with honest indignation. "How much have
you lost, Harry?"
"Five guineas or so."
"I can make that good at least. But what is it to you? You are a warm
fellow now. What, you've made no hole in Madame Alison's money bags yet."
"You're offensive, do you know?" Harry said. "I have been itching to
tell you so."
Colonel Boyce's face set. "What now? Are you against me, sirrah?"
"Ods fish, you're a martyr, ain't you?" Harry laughed. But we are
beginning at the end, I think. If you remember, sir, you promised to take
me to France and went off without me."
"D'ye quarrel with that? Why, you had a fatter fish to fry than you could
catch with me. So I left you at her and you ha' dined upon her. What's
the matter then?"
"You were not honest with me--"
Colonel Boyce laughed, "Ah, bah, you will be a Puritan. It must be your
mother in you."
"My mother! Thank you. We'll come to her. But one tale at a time. You let
me think I was to go with you till you were gone without me. You took
Waverton and told me nothing of that till you had him safe away."
"Egad, boy, it was all for your good."
"Perhaps you did think so," said Harry after a moment. "In fact it's what
I complain of. You want to play Providence to me. Pray, sir, go about
Colonel Boyce shrugged. "You're a proper grateful son. So be it. You have
your wealthy wench and want no more of me. Well, go to the devil your own
"By your leave, I prefer it. But there's more, sir. Now comes Mr.
Waverton and declares to my wife and me that you enticed him into a vile
plot: for your pretence of a mission to the Pretender was nothing but a
device for murder."
"Mr. Waverton said that to Mrs. Harry Boyce? Egad, it wasn't civil of Mr.
Waverton. And what did the lady say to him?"
"That's no matter. What do you say to him, sir? Did you intend murder?"
"Lud, Harry, you talk like a ranting parson. It was not your way. Who has
put this buzz of morality into your head? I suppose your pretty wife
would have you break with your father. He's a low, coarse fellow, faith,
who might want some of her money."
"We will leave my wife out, if you please. She will not trouble you. She
and I have parted."
"God's my life! What's the quarrel?"
Harry shrugged. "Does one ever know? I was not good enough for her, I
believe. And perhaps she was not good enough for me."
"Damn you for a prig," says his father.
"If you like. But you'll remark that I do not complain of her."
"Bah, you make me sick, sir! Not complain of her! That luscious piece!
Egad, you should be drunk with her. But you're not a man, Harry, you're
"Oh, command your emotions! She rebelled against being wed to a man whose
father ran about the world compassing murder, to a man who was withal a
low fellow, a bastard. So far, it is your affair."
"I see you are no hand with a woman."
"Do I take after you, sir? We came upon a woman who said she was Mrs.
Oliver Boyce and could not live with him, and boasted vehemently that she
was no mother of mine."
Colonel Boyce plucked at his mouth. "So dear Rachel has got her finger
into the pie. Why, Harry, you have had no luck."
"She is your wife, then. Oh, I admire your taste, sir. And pray, who was
Colonel Boyce began to say something and stopped. "It's no matter. I
believe she would not wish you to know. Why, Harry, I profess I am sorry.
If we had been married, better for us all."
"Oh, you will be mysterious still. I suppose you are as tender of her
honour as of mine or your own. And this matter of murdering the
Pretender, pray, is that a mystery too?"
Colonel Boyce became restless. "Ods life, sirrah, there is no matter
of murder. Who told you so? The fool Waverton. And where did he get
"A gentleman who runs away tells his own tale."
"Now mark, Harry. The plan was but to bring Prince James to England--"
"Dead or alive," Harry laughed.
"Pshaw. I had him at Pontoise and was doing well with him. Then in comes
a swashbuckling Scots Jacobite which is my private enemy, and a dozen
bullies at his tail. Well, I had no mind to have him stick me or turn me
over to the French as a spy of Marlborough's, so I went off. The fool
Waverton let himself be taken. I make no doubt the Scot filled him to the
brim with slanders of me. But is that my fault?"
"So you're done with the Pretender?"
Colonel Boyce gave his son a queer look. "Why, there's not much to be
done with him in Martin's Lane, boy."
"Then what are you doing?"
"Egad, Harry, I should think you want to lay an information against
me. Waiting for better times is all my business now. My bolt's shot.
And pray, sirrah, what may be your business now you've cut loose from
Harry laughed. "Living on my means."
"Why, does she settle something on you?"
Harry looked at his father without affection. "Do you know, sir, I am not
always proud of your name."
"Egad, but you must have money somehow."
"The family motto, I suppose. Well, sir, I write for the Press."
"Good God, not for the newspapers? You have not fallen to that?"
"Oh, sir, the shillings are clean by comparison."
They looked at each other for a minute or two. "You walk abroad late, Mr.
Author," says Colonel Boyce. "Do you make friends in your profession?"
"I believe I have two in the town--a hack writer for Lintot and an usher
at Westminster. And what then, pray?"
"You were with them to-night?"
"You are paternal on a sudden, sir. Do you think of putting me out to
"So." Colonel Boyce stood up as if he had finished and then forced a
laugh and slapped his son's shoulder, "Come, Harry, why quarrel? There's
room enough for you here. I allow I owe you something. Join in with me."
"I have no luck in mysteries, sir. I'll wish you goodnight."
"Now you bear me a grudge," his father protested.
"What, for getting me born? Sometimes, perhaps."
"Egad, Harry, I should like to do something for you."
"Then give me a sword."
"A sword? And what for i' God's name?"
"In case I meet any more of your Mohocks."
Colonel Boyce was taken aback for a moment. Then he cried out heartily:
"Damme, the rogues took five guineas from you too. Here, fill your purse,
child." He shot out gold on the table.
"I'll take back my five guineas," said Harry, and counted them, while
his father watched with a frown.
"There are swords of mine below," said Colonel Boyce.
They went down and from a rack of arms Harry chose a plain black hanger
with an agate hilt. As he did it on he saw below it some heavy staves
loaded with lead--just such as the Mohocks used.
"And where do you lodge?" says Colonel Boyce.
"At the 'Hand of Pork' in Long Acre. Goodbye, sir."
Colonel Boyce nodded, and for some time after he had gone stood at the
Alison was gone back to her house at Highgate--and immediately regretted
it. She took her adventures in a youthful, egoistic fashion: saw herself
as a lovely woman made the prey of man and robbed of her right to her
own life, a tender, confiding soul deceived and tortured into despair.
The Lincoln's Inn Fields became the abomination of desolation, her fine
society was dust and ashes and mankind in general all mocking villainy.
So it was natural that she should retire from the world and become a
recluse of tragic dignity. What other part is there for the deserted
wife to play?
But she came upon awkward difficulties. The world would not be left
behind. It was much more closely about her among the woods and meadows of
Highgate than in her London drawing-room. The would-be fine ladies and
gentlemen of her routs and her card parties, so the sweetmeats and the
wines and strong waters were good enough, cared nothing whether she had a
husband upstairs or somewhere else. Out in the country every one, gentle
and simple, had a curious eye upon her. The very woods and meadows must
be jogging her memory and putting her questions. Every one had known Miss
Lambourne of the Hall and gone whispering about her strange, passionate
marriage. Each pleasant path and lane had seen something of that first
wild happiness. All day long she was driven back upon herself and what
she had lost.
There is no doubt that she suffered. Of course she still told her heart
wonderful tales about the shame that she had to bear and her torturing
wrongs, and beyond doubt she believed most of them. For she could still
profess to herself a miserable degradation in being married to a man of
no name: she would be gloomily convinced that Harry was by his father's
villainy a proven knave. But what hurt her most was the growing suspicion
that she was much to blame for her own plight. Alison Lambourne, who
acknowledged no law but her own will, who had never dreamed that she
could be wrong in her desires, driven to confess a ruinous blunder!
Imagine her distress. At first she chose to pretend that she had been
overthrown by passion. The more she tried to despise Harry, the more that
fancy shamed her. But there was in her a strength which refused to be
content with that. She would still boast to herself that she was not the
woman to be swept away by a gust of longing for the man who chanced to
take her eye. And so she brought down on herself the inexorable
question--if Harry were man enough to wake passion in her and deserve her
magnificence, why had she driven him off? For all her selfishness and her
insolent pride, she had a vehement desire, a part perhaps of her very
pride in her womanhood, to owe him nothing, to play him fair, to give
him all that a man could ask. Little by little she forced herself to
believe that she had failed of that. After all, he had offered her
nothing but himself, poor, friendless, of no repute, indolent, careless
of all the world--and she had professed content. What his father might do
was no matter to that. He had offered her what he was and given it
faithfully. And she had not played fair. When she found herself
confessing that, she discovered a new power of being wretched. All the
romantic, egoistic melancholy went down the wind. The finest, proudest of
her, her own honour, told of a torturing wound.
"I'll satisfy you"--that had been the boast before the wild marriage was
done. And after all she had chosen to deny him. Nothing else could
matter. There could be no excuse. It was he that she had taken, not his
name or what he might be, and he had not changed. It was herself that she
had promised--what other honour for woman or man than to give like for
like?--and she had broken faith. She was humiliated--a state of all
others the most dolorous for Alison.
To it came on a merry spring day Mr. Waverton. She was in two minds
whether to let him see her, and then--too proud to hide from him or
greedy of a chance to hurt him--had him in.
Mr. Waverton had decorated himself for a house of mourning. His large
form was all black and silver and drooped sympathetically. His handsome
face was set in a chastened melancholy as of one who grieves for
another's trouble with a modest satisfaction. "Dear lady," says he
tenderly, and bowed over her hand.
"Dear Geoffrey," says she. "Here's a new song."
"'Vengeance is mine' was the refrain last time. Now it's weeping over the
penitent prodigal. How I love you, Geoffrey."
Mr. Waverton made a gesture of emotion, an exclamation. "I wronged you,
Alison," he said in a deep voice. "Nay, but you must forgive me. I have
suffered too. Remember! I had lost all."
"Ah, no," says Alison tragically, "you had still yourself, Geoffrey."
His emotion was understood to be too much for Mr. Waverton. In a little
while, "We have both been the sport of villainy," he said. "Forgive me,
Alison. I remember that I spoke bitterly. Can you wonder? I had dreamed
of you in his arms. To see you there in that knave's power--ah, I was
beside myself. And he laughed, do you remember, he laughed!"
"He never would take you to heart, in fact."
"A treacherous hound!" said Mr. Waverton with startling vehemence.
"Oh, he was honest when he laughed."
Mr. Waverton swept Harry out of the conversation. "Forgive me, Alison, I
should have known. My heart should have told me."
"Oh Lud, and is your heart to give tongue now?"
"My heart," said Mr. Waverton with dignity, "my heart is always crying to
you. And now--now that the first agony is past, I know all."
"I wish I did," said Alison and looked in his eyes.
"But even then--ah, Alison, I have blamed myself cruelly--even then I
should have known that when your eyes were opened, when you knew the
truth, you would have no more of him."
"You might have known," Alison said slowly. "You might have judged me by
"Aye, that indeed," says Mr. Waverton heartily. "For we are very like,
Alison, we are of the same spirit, you and I."
"You make me proud."
"It's our tragedy: we so like, so made to answer each other, should be
betrayed to our ruin by this same vile trickster. Oh, I blame you no more
"This is too generous."
"No," says Mr. Waverton. "No. When I came on that woman of yours, that
Mrs. Weston--faith, I am glad that you have cut her off too. I never
liked that woman."
"Yes, she is poor."
"There it is! I doubt she was in Boyce's pay."
Alison opened her eyes at him. "Oh, Geoffrey, you surpass yourself
to-day. Go on, go on."
"If you please," says Mr. Waverton, something ruffled. "I believe he
hired her to play his game with you. Had you a suspicion of it when you
sent her packing?"
"By God, Geoffrey, I could suspect anyone when you talk to me."
"She is bitter against you. When I heard from her that you had driven
the fellow away from you, I was on fire to come to you."
"To forgive the prodigal! Oh, your nobility, Geoffrey. And pray where did
you meet Mrs. Weston?"
"Why, in the High Street here. She lodges in one of those wretched
cottages behind the street."
"She is here?" Alison shivered a little.
"Perhaps she has some game to play yet. She may be his spy. Be warned
Alison leant forward in her chair. Her face was hidden from him. "You are
giving me a lesson, Geoffrey. I'll profit by it, I promise you!"
"Alison!" Mr. Waverton gave a laugh of triumph. "I fight for us both. And
I promise you I am eager enough. As soon as I learnt that you had left
him, why, he was delivered into my hand. By heaven, he shall find no
mercy now. Already I have him watched. I went to an attorney much
practised in these treasonous cheating plots, and of him I have hired
trusty fellows who know all the rogues in London and their hiding-holes.
You said something?"
But Alison was laughing.
"I believe there is some humour in it," Mr. Waverton conceded grandly.
"Well, they have tracked him down. Our gentleman lies at a filthy tavern
in the Long Acre. The 'Leg of Pork,' or some such lewd name. He haunts
Jacobite coffeehouses and the like low places. They believe that he makes
some dirty money by scribbling for the Press. A writer in the newspapers!
He is sunk almost to his right depth. They make no doubt that before
long we shall catch him dabbling in some new treasonous matter. And
then--" he made gestures of doom.
"Well? And then?"
"The law may revenge us on the treacherous rogue," said Mr. Waverton
Alison stood up. Mr. Waverton, always polite, started up too. "I give you
joy, Geoffrey," she said very quietly.
"Not yet! Not yet!" Mr. Waverton put up a modest hand.
"I believe there is nothing you could feel." Mr. Waverton recoiled
and stared his bewilderment. "You carry a sword, Geoffrey. Oh, that I
were a man!"
"To use it upon him! Bah, such rogues are not worth the honour of steel."
"Oh! Honour! Honour!" she cried and flung out her arms, trembling. "The
honour of you and me!"
What was Mr. Waverton to make of that? "I believe I have excited
you," says he.
"By God, it is the first time," Alison cried and turned on him so
fiercely that he started back.
There was a servant at the door saying something which went unheard. Then
Susan Burford came into the room, an odd contrast in her placid
simplicity to the amazed magnificence of Mr. Waverton or Alison's
tremulous, furious beauty. Alison was turned away from her and too much
engaged to hear or be aware of her.
"Here is Miss Burford," said Waverton in a hurry.
Alison whirled upon her. "You! You have nothing to do here."
"My dear Alison!" Waverton protested. "Miss Burford, your very obedient."
Susan made him a small leisurely curtsy and sat down. "Oh, please give me
a dish of tea," she said.
"We have not seen you at Tetherdown in this long while," Mr. Waverton
"I believe not," says Susan.
Alison stared at her. "Why do you come here? You know you despise me."
"I do not come to people I despise," says Susan placidly.
"Well. I am private with dear Geoffrey, if you please."
"My dear Alison! I must be riding. We have finished our business, I
think. I'll not fail to be with you again soon. I hope to have news for
you. Miss Burford, your most obedient." Susan bent her head. "Alison--"
he held out his hand and smiled at her protective affection.
"Geoffrey," said Alison, and looked in his eyes. She did not take the
hand. She was very pale.
Mr. Waverton's smile was withered. He took himself out with a jauntiness
that sat upon him awkwardly.
Then Alison turned again upon Susan. "You want to know what I have to do
with him?" she said fiercely.
"No," says Susan.
Alison stared at the fair, placid face and cried out: "You are a fool."
"Oh, my dear," says Susan.
"I hate that cold, flabby way of yours. You think it is all good and
wise and kind. It's like a silly mother with a spoilt child. You've not
spirit enough to scold, and all the while you are thinking me vile and
base and mean."
"But that is ridiculous. Nobody could think you mean," Susan said.
"There it is again. You believe it is kind to talk so, and it drives me
mad. I am shameful--do you hear? I am shameful and perhaps I want to be,
and I loathe myself. Now, go. I shall not stay with you. Go."
Susan stood up. "Alison, oh, Alison," she said. Alison flung out
of the room.
THE HOUSE IN KENSINGTON
Late in that evening one of Alison's servants rode up to the "Hand of
Pork" and inquired for Mr. Boyce. After some parley, he was told that Mr.
Boyce had not been in the tavern that day. So he left a letter in the tap
and rode back to Highgate.
That letter, which was not heard of till long afterwards, ran thus:
"Mr. Boyce,--I desire that you would come to me at Highgate. I have
to-day heard from Geoffrey Waverton what you must instantly know. And the
truth is, I cannot be content till I speak with you. But I would not have
you come for this my asking. Pray believe it is urgent for us both that
we meet, and I do require it of you, not desiring of you what you may
have no mind to, but to be honest with you, and lest that should befall
which I hope you would not have me bear.--A."
An ungainly, confused composition, as you see, but it set forth very
clearly the state of Alison's unhappy mind. She was revolted, of course,
by Geoffrey's scheme of spying and trapping, loathed him for
propounding it to her, and was eager to warn Harry against it and clear
herself of any part in the vile business. But she would not have Harry
suppose that she was praying him to come back to her. This time, at
least, there should be no wooing on her side. If she wanted him
hungrily, shamefully, he should not know till he chose to take her. But
he must come to her and be told all the tale, and hold her free of any
part in Geoffrey's baseness.
So she fought with herself and wrote of her strife, and, as things
went, it mattered nothing to Harry, for he never knew of it till much
else had happened.
When he woke on the morning after his affairs with Captain McBean and the
Mohocks and his father--woke with a sore head and a very stiff shoulder,
he was a prey to puzzled excitement. There is no doubt that McBean had
engaged his affections. He was not, indeed, very grateful for the
fantastic duel. Of all men, Harry Boyce was the least likely to be
pleased by oddity or an extravagance of chivalry. He always thought, I
believe, that Captain McBean was a little mad, and liked him none the
better for it. But he confessed that with the madness there was allied a
most persuasive mind, a very reasonable reason. The combination may not
be so surprising to you as to Harry Boyce. He thought that McBean's
exposition of the affair of his father, and his consequent duty, was
exactly and delicately true--which means, of course, that it agreed with
his own temper. He had no more doubt than McBean that his father had
planned, was planning, treachery which, win or lose, would disgrace him.
He admitted that it was his own wretched duty to do what he might to make
an end of these plans.
You smile, perhaps, at Harry Boyce claiming for himself the commands of
duty. He was eminently not a saint. He was not delicate. And yet, thrust
upon an awkward choice, it is certain that he chose what must be
difficult, hazardous, and distressing, rather than stand aloof and let
his father's villainy go its way.
I make no pretence of exalting him into a tragic fellow. He had no
affection for his father, no respect. Merely to work against his father's
will, to smash his father's schemes, would certainly not have cost him
one twinge. He had no hate for his father either, not the least ambition
to ruin him or make him suffer. But he would heartily have liked to bring
these murderous plots to nothing and yet save his father from vengeance.
Harry had his share of the common human instinct to keep one's family out
of mischief--or at least out of the newspapers.
And it is not to be denied that there was also active in him a simple
human animosity. He bore his father a grudge for being publicly a knave:
a man who had received nothing from his parents but the gift of birth
might fairly demand that they should not bother him with their rogueries.
He did not extenuate his father's share in the catastrophe of the
marriage. Perhaps it was in itself fated to miscarry, but if Colonel
Boyce had not mixed up his affairs with it, the end need not have been
ignominious. Harry vigorously condemned the old gentleman's meddling. It
was an impertinence at the best to manipulate other folks, and a father
who did it so stupidly as Colonel Boyce was a pestilent nuisance. But all
this, I believe, rankled less than the behaviour of Colonel Boyce on the
night before. If the old gentleman had acknowledged his offences, if he
had even been content to talk of them frankly, man to man, he might have
been forgiven. But his affectation of profound wisdom, his patronage, and
above all, his parade of mystery infuriated Harry's lucid mind.
It sought further causes of offence and had no difficulty in finding
them. Everything about that conversation was suspicious. For how did it
begin? With a broken head, with every button of his clothes torn open as
though he had just been searched to the skin, he woke up in his father's
presence. The father might pose as a good Samaritan who had come upon a
sufferer by the wayside, but he should not have shown so nervous an
anxiety to know what the sufferer had been about. The father talked of
Mohocks; but what Mohocks were these who knocked a man down before making
sport of him and, not content with taking his money, went through all his
clothes? Why was a Mohock's club lying there beneath the father's swords?
Harry made a ready guess at the riddle. His father must have fellows
watching McBean's house. They had knocked him down to search him for
papers. Then the father must have known that he had been with McBean, and
those anxious questions were to discover how much he was McBean's friend.
Colonel Boyce must have a lively interest in the affairs of McBean--and
yet he professed that he had now nothing in hand. What if he knew of the
secret of the Pretender's coming to London? What if he was still seeking
a chance to accomplish his plot of murder?
Well, Captain McBean expected no less of him. Captain McBean was in the
right of it. It became a good son's duty to confound his father's
politics. There's no denying that Harry went into the business with zest.
While he ate his breakfast in the taproom, he caught sight of a fellow
lurking about outside. Whose spy this was is, in fact, not certain.
Afterwards Colonel Boyce vehemently denied that he had commissioned any
man against Harry. Though you may not believe him, it is possible that
the fellow was one of those in Waverton's pay. Harry made no doubt that
his father was the offender.
He went upstairs again and put a book in his pocket. (He had been
commissioned for a translation of Ovid, which, let us be thankful, never
came into print.) Thus characteristically provided, he went out to
baffle the spy and the father. In the courts between Drury Lane and Bow
Street he did some ingenious marching and counter-marching whereby--he
was always confident and we cannot be quite sure--the spy was shaken
off. He then came into St. Martin's Lane by the north end, and dodging
in and out of it more than once, made for a tavern close to his father's
lodging. He planted himself inside by a window, called for a tankard and
a pipe, and divided his attention between the Tristia and his father's
door across the lane.
It soon appeared that Colonel Boyce was to have a busy morning. By ones
and twos a dozen men went into his house. They were not, even to Harry's
hostile eye, brazenly ruffians. Something of the bully they might have
about them, for they ran to brawn and swagger, but they were trim enough
and brisk, and had no smack of debauch--a company of old soldiers, by the
look of them, and still not past their prime. They were with Colonel
Boyce a long time, and Harry grew very sick of the Tristia, and had to
drink more beer over it than was his habit of a morning.
They came out at last singly, and yet with very short intervals between
them. They all turned the same way--across Leicester Fields. There seemed
to Harry something so uncommon in this that he was moved to follow. He
made his way out by the back door and the tavern yard. As he came into
Leicester Fields, he saw that the units had already amalgamated into
three companies. They were all steadily marching westward. Keeping behind
a cart he followed them, and after a while bought for twopence a lift in
an empty hay wagon. I record all this because he seems to have been very
proud of it, which is characteristic of his simple nature. The hay wagon
rumbled him past two companies of them halted and coalescing at an inn.
The first still headed him at a good round pace all the way to
The wagon was going through Kensington village when he saw that this
vanguard too had found an inn. A little farther on he abandoned his
wagon and, buying bread and cheese at a farm, made his dinner under
the hedge. It was a long while before he saw anything more of the
gentlemen of the inn, and lying among primroses and cowslips he nearly
forgot all about them and his excitement and his wonderful tactics. He
was, in fact, becoming sentimental, and had made three neat
hendecasyllabics to the cowslips when the gentlemen came out again.
They split into pairs and marched on briskly. Harry went through the
hedge, and from behind it he watched them pass. Then, as now, the road
ran straight, and it was not safe to come out and follow them till they
were far ahead. While he waited he heard more tramping, and in a little
while the rest of the company went by. He peeped out after them and saw
an odd thing: though the road ran straight for a mile or more, the
first party had vanished already.
Harry climbed a tree. It was some little time before he discovered the
lost party. They had scattered, they had taken to the fields and, under
hedges, they were making southward. The rest of the company did likewise.
Soon he saw what they were after. There was a lane running from the high
road towards Fulham. A little way back from it, in a good garden, stood a
house of modest comfort, doubtless the place to which some gentleman
about town came for his pleasures or a breath of fresh air. About its
grounds the company went into hiding.
Harry came down from his tree in a hurry and, like an honest man, took to
the high road. It was, you know, his one uncommon capacity to go easily
at a round pace. He did his best along the road and down the lane and,
though he caught a glimpse of a coat here and there, unchallenged he came
up the drive and across the garden to the door of the house. He had
hardly knocked before he was being inspected through a peep-hole. The
door was opened and instantly shut behind him. He was in darkness dimly
lit by one candle. The windows had their shutters closed and barred.
"What's your will, sir?" says the man who let him in.
"The master of the house, if you please," Two other men lounged
into the hall.
"And your name, sir?"
"You may say that I came from Captain McBean."
The man appeared to think it over. "That's true enough, faith," says
another, advancing out of the shadow. Harry recognised one of the solemn
seconds of the duel, Patrick O'Connor. "Will I serve your turn, sir?"
"If you're master here."
"I am not. Come on now." He led the way to a room where a cadaverous man,
richly dressed, sat huddled over a fire. "'Tis a gentleman from the
captain, my lord. Mr. Boyce, my Lord Sale."
Harry bowed. My lord yawned. "You've a devil of a name, Mr.
Boyce," says he.
"I deplore it, and hope to disgrace it."
"Is it possible?" said my lord, and yawned again.
"I had the honour to tell you, my lord, that I answer for the gentleman,"
says Mr. O'Connor.
"You may endorse the devil, if you please," my lord sneered.
Harry struck in, "I came to tell you, my lord, that your house is
watched, and by now surrounded."
"Damn them, they have found it out, have they?" says my lord, and spread
out his lean hands to the fire.
"How many, if you please?" says O'Connor.
"A dozen or so. They marched out this morning, scattered, and met again
in the village and came here across country. They are well-armed, I
believe, and look men who would fight."
"Ods fish, that nets this hole," says my lord. "Pray, Mr. Boyce, when
will they put the ferret in?" Harry shrugged. "Oh, there's a limit to
your kindness, is there? Do you choose to tell us who sent them?"
Harry was silent a moment and then blurted out: "They came from Colonel
My lord laughed.
"Sure, 'tis an honour to know you, sir," says O'Connor, and bowed to
"Damned filial, indeed," my lord chuckled.
O'Connor turned upon him. "They have you beat easily, my lord," he said
fiercely. "Damned courageous indeed." But my lord only nodded at him.
"What, we be six--to count Mr. Boyce. Sure, we could hold the house
against the devil's christening."
There came in briskly a tall fellow crying: "Come, Sale, it's full time,
My Lord Sale got on his feet, "Stap me, sir, I believe not," he drawled.
"We must stay at home. They have smoked us. Here's a gracious youth come
to tell us that his Whiggish friends beset the house."
The Pretender frowned and seemed slow to understand. Harry looked him
over. He was certainly a fine figure of a man, and bore himself gallantly
enough. His face was darkly handsome in a melancholy fashion, not unlike
the youth of his uncle, Charles II. He turned upon Harry. "What is all
"Oh, sir, it's that old rogue Noll Boyce," my lord put in. "And here's
his son betraying the father."
"Faith, my lord, I'll remind you of that," O'Connor said. "Sir, the
gentleman is an honest gentleman."
"Colonel Boyce--he is your father, sir?" the Pretender bent his black
brows over Harry.
"He begot me, he says." Harry shrugged. "I desire to defend you from him.
He has surrounded your house here with a dozen sturdy knaves who intend
you, I believe, the worst."
"I am obliged by your service, sir," says the Pretender coldly. "Pray, my
lord, is the coach ready?"
My lord shook his head. "I don't advise it, sir. The good Mr. Boyce
cannot be lying. Or allow the knaves mean but to frighten you. I dare not
risk your person."
"Dare? You dare too much, my lord, who command neither my person nor my
honour. I do not thank you for your advice. You will have the coach
"I ask your pardon, sir, and beg you to consider. What will the world
say of me if I let you run into a gang of murderers? We can maintain
the house against them till our friends come seeking us. In the open
we are outnumbered desperately. Nay, sir, be advised; what is to lose
by waiting? If you go, you grasp at a shadow and may throw away your
life for it."
"I say, my lord, I do not thank you for your care of me, which is
careless of my honour and your own. I am promised to our friends. Do you
desire me to go afoot, my lord?"
"I have done, sir." My lord bowed and went out.
"Sir, I believe they will not spare you," says Harry.
"I have heard you," the Pretender said haughtily, and waved him away.
"I'll not be put off so." The Pretender turned upon him. "Sir, I have
done what I could to save your life from a base plot. If it succeeds, the
shame of it must fall upon me and my name, for it's my cursed father that
planned it. And you choose to run upon the danger. I entreat you, do me
right. Your blood should not be upon my head."
"You have done your duty, Mr. Boyce," the Pretender bowed. "I thank you.
But I must do mine."
"Why, faith, sir, 'tis the right principle of war to wait the rogues
here," says O'Connor. "You will not?"
"Go to, man, I say it again and again."
For the first time in their acquaintance, Harry saw Mr. O'Connor smile.
"I have the honour to take your orders, sir. But sure, we are not at the
end of our tactics. I'll presume to advise you. Let the coach come to the
door, and me and the other gentlemen will make some display of mounting
her and guarding her; she moves off slowly; it's any odds the rogues will
believe we have you with us and deliver their main attack, while you'll
be mounting quietly in the yard with my lord and ride off with him to
"The plan is well enough. Have it so," said the Pretender carelessly.
O'Connor went out in a hurry and Harry followed him. "I'll join you, if
you please, Mr. O'Connor."
O'Connor laughed. "Oh, your servant, your servant. No offence, Mr.
Boyce. I profess I have an admiration for you. But, faith, you are not a
man of war. Do you go round to the stable-yard, now, and watch there to
see they prepare nothing against us from the back." He bustled off,
calling up his fellows.
So Harry, with a long face, I suppose, drifted away to the back of the
house. The coach was already moving out of the yard, and he saw no sign
of his father's legion. In a moment the groom, with one of O'Connor's
men to help him, was busy again in the stable. Still the legion did not
reveal themselves. O'Connor's man ran back into the house, leaving two
horses saddled in the stable. Then the Pretender and my lord hurried
out, and the horses were brought to meet them. As they mounted, Harry
heard the clatter of the coach and then pistols and shouts, and the
clash of fighting.
The Pretender spurred off, my lord taking the lead of him through the
gate. As they passed, a shot was fired out of the hedge. My lord swayed,
fumbling at his holsters, and crying out: "Ride on, sir, ride," fell from
the saddle. His foot was caught in the stirrup, and the frightened horse
dragged him along the ground.
Harry ran up and snatched the bridle. "How is it with you, my lord?"
"I have enough, I believe," my lord gasped. "Damme, sir, don't fumble at
me. Mount and after him."
So Harry went bumping in the saddle after the Pretender.
QUEEN ANNE IS DEAD
The Pretender looked over his shoulder as Harry came up. "Where is he
"He has it in the body and he suffers."
The Pretender muttered something. "I bring ill-luck to my friends, you
see. Best ride off, Mr. Boyce."
"You can do me no harm, sir. God knows if I can do you any good."
The Pretender looked at him curiously. "I think you are something of my
own temper. In effect, there is little to hope with me."
"Who knows?" Harry shrugged. "_Par exemple,_ sir, do you know where we
are going now?"
"This is a parable, _mordieu_! I leave my friends to be shot for me and
die, perhaps, while I ride off and know not the least of my way."
"Egad, sir, you were in enough of a hurry to go somewhere." Harry reined
up. "Am I to be trusted in the affair?"
The Pretender amazed Harry by laughing--a laugh so hearty and boyish that
he seemed another man from the creature of stiff, pedantic melancholy.
"Oh Lud, Mr. Boyce, don't scold. You might be a politician. Tell me,
where is this damned palace?"
"Kensington, sir? Bear to the left, if you please."
So they swung round, and soon hitting upon a lane saw the village and the
trees about the palace. In a little while, "Mr. Boyce: how much do you
know?" the Pretender said; and still he was more the boy than the
"Egad, sir, no more than I told you: that my father had bullies
watching for you."
"And I believe I have not thanked you."
It was Harry's turn to laugh. "Faith, sir, you ought to be grateful to
the family of Boyce."
"I shall not forget."
"He takes care that you shall remember him, my honourable father."
"I do not desire repartees, Mr. Boyce. Come, sir, you carry yourself too
proudly. You are not to disdain what you have done, or yourself."
Harry bowed,--permitted himself, I suppose, some inward ironic smile,--he
was not born with reverence, and the royal airs of this haughty, gloomy
lad had no authority over him. Then and always the pretensions of the
Pretender appeared to him pathetically ridiculous. But for the man he
would sometimes profess a greater liking than he had learnt to feel for
any other in the world.
Harry was careful to avoid most of the village. As they came into it on
the eastward side a horseman galloped up to them. "From my Lord Masham,
sir. Pray you follow me at speed." He led them on to the palace, but not
by the straight approach, and brought them to a little door in the garden
wall upon the London side.
There a handsome fellow stood waiting for them, and bowed them in with a
"Sir, sir, we have been much anxious for you. I trust to God nothing has
fallen out amiss?"
"There was a watch set for me, my lord, and I fear some of our friends
are down. But for this gentleman I had hardly been here."
Masham swore and cried out, "They have news of the design! I profess I
feared it. Pray, sir, come on quickly. The Queen is weaker, and my lady
much troubled for her. By God, we have left it late. And the ministers
must still be wrangling, and my Lord Bolingbroke like a man mazed. We
must be swift and downright with the Council."
Then at last Harry understood. The Pretender was to be brought face to
face with his sister, the weakening weak Queen, and a Privy Council was
to be in waiting. Suppose she declared him her heir; suppose she
presented him to a Council all high Tories and good Jacobites! A good
plot, a very excellent plot, if there were a man with the courage and the
will to make it work.
Within the palace it was now twilight. They were hurried up privy
stairways and along corridors, and Harry fancied behind the gloom a
hundred watching eyes, and could not be sure they were only fancy. As
they crossed the head of the grand staircase Masham made an exclamation
and checked and peered down. The Pretender turned and Harry, but Masham
plunged after them and wildly waved them on.
"What is it, my lord? Have you seen a ghost?" The Pretender smiled.
"Oh God, sir, go on!" Masham gasped. "We can but challenge the hazard
now," and he muttered to himself.
"You are inconvenient, my lord," says the Pretender with a shrug. "Go
before. Conduct me, if you please," Masham brushed by him and hurried on.
Harry understood my lord's alarm. He, too, had seen a little company
below by the grand entry, and among them one of singular grace, a rare
nobility of form and feature, a strange placidity. There was no
forgetting, no mistaking him. It was the gentleman of the bogged coach,
the Old Corporal, the Duke of Marlborough.. Marlborough, who was in
disgrace, who should be in exile, back at the palace when the Tories were
staking their all on a desperate, splendid throw: Marlborough, who had
betrayed and ruined James II, come back to baffle his son! No wonder
Lord Masham was uneasy for his head.
They were brought to a small room, blatantly an antechamber, and Masham,
brusquely bidding them wait, broke through the inner door. He was back in
a moment as pale as he had been red. "Come in, sir," he muttered. "I
believe we had best be short." And through the open door Harry heard
another voice. It was thin and strained, and seemed to make no words,
like a baby's cry or an animal's.
Across another antechamber, they came into a big room of some prim
splendour, and as they passed the door Harry made out what that feeble
voice was saying: "The Council, Abbie: we must go to the Council: we keep
the Council waiting, Abbie:" that came over and over again, and he knew
why he had not understood. The words were run together and slurred as if
they were shaped by a mind drowsy or fuddled.
A great fire was burning though the day was warm enough, and by the fire
sat a mound of a woman. She could be of no great height, perhaps she was
not very stout, but she sat heaped together and shapeless, a flaccid
mass. She had a table by her, and on it some warm drink that steamed.
Through the drifting vapour Harry saw her face, and seemed to see it
change and vanish like the vapour. For it was all bloated and loose, and
it trembled, and it had no colour in it but a pallid grey. And as he
looked there came to him a sense of death.
Yet she was pompously dressed, in a dress cut very low, a dress of rich
stuff and colour, and there was an array of jewels sparkling about her
neck and at her bosom, and her hands lay heavy with rings.
There hung about her a woman buxom and pleasant enough, yet with
something sly in her plump face. "Fie, ma'am, fie," she was saying, "the
Council is here but for your pleasure:" she looked up and nodded
imperiously at Masham.
"The Prince James, ma'am," Masham cried.
The Queen, who had seemed to see nothing of their coming, started and
shook and blinked towards him. "He is loud, Abbie. Tell him not to be
loud," she complained.
"Look, ma'am, look," Lady Masham patted at her. "It is your brother, it
is Prince James."
The Pretender came forward, holding out his hand. "Am I welcome, Anne?"
he said heavily.
The Queen stared at him with dull eyes. "It is King Charles," she said,
and stirred in her chair and gave a foolish laugh. "No, but he is like
King Charles. But King Charles had so many sons. Who is he, Abbie? Why
does he come? The Council is waiting."
"I am your brother, Anne," the Pretender said.
"What does he say, Abbie?" the Queen turned to Lady Masham and took her
hand and fondled it feebly. "I am alone. There is none left to me. My boy
is dead. My babies--I am alone. I am alone."
"I am your brother and your King," the Pretender cried.
She fell back in her chair staring at him. Her mouth opened and a mumble
came from it. Then there was silence a moment, and then she began to
shake, and one hand beat upon the table with its rings. So they waited a
while, watching the tremulous, shapeless mass of her, and the tap, tap,
tap of her hand beat through the room.
Lady Masham took command. "Nay, sir, leave her. You can do no more now.
Let her be. I will handle her if I can." She rustled across the room
and struck a bell. "Masham, bring Dr. Arbuthnot. He irks her less than
Harry followed the Pretender into the outer room, shambling
awkwardly. The progress from failure to failure dazed him. He recalled
afterwards, as many petty matters of this time stayed vivid in his
memory, a preposterous blunder into a chair. The Pretender sat down
and stretched at his ease. "We are too late, I think," he said coldly.
"It is the genius of my family." He took snuff. "You may go, if you
will, Mr. Boyce."
Harry looked up and struggled to collect himself. "Not till you are in
safety," he said, and was dully aware of some discomfort. The dying
woman, the sheer ugliness of death, the sordid emotions about her numbed
the life in him. He felt himself in a world inhuman. Yet, even
afterwards, he seems not to have discovered anything ignoble in his
admired Pretender. The blame was fate's that mocked coldly at the hopes
and affections of men.
"I am obliged, sir," said the Pretender, and so they waited together....
After a little while of gloomy silence in that bare room, Masham broke
in, beckoning and muttering: "Sir, sir, the Queen is dead."
The Pretender stood up. "_Enfin_" said he, with a shrug.
SAUVE QUI PEUT
"Sir, you must be gone instantly," says Masham.
"You are officious, my lord." The Pretender stared at him. "I have
nothing to fear."
"I warrant you have," Masham cried. "And so have others."
"I believe that, _pardieu_. Come, my lord, command yourself. Where is
this Council? I may still show myself to the lords and challenge them."
"Damme, you cannot be so mad! 'Tis packed with Whigs. They must have wind
of you, curse them. Marlborough is there, and Argyll and Sunderland, burn
his foxy face. It might have gone amiss though the Queen armed you to her
chair. Now she is dead, there is no hope for you. Go to the Council! Go
to the Tower--go to the block."
The Pretender turned to Harry with a smile and a shrug. "He trims his
"That's unworthy, by God," Masham cried.
"My lord is in the right, sir," Harry said. "It's true enough,
Marlborough is here and he makes sure. You'll but extinguish yourself to
try more now. The need is to bring you safe to your friends."
"You also!" The Pretender shrugged again. "Faith, Mr. Boyce, you
show yourself vastly anxious for my life. You are not much concerned
for my honour."
"Egad, sir, I should have thought your honour was to maintain your cause.
You'll not do that from a prison or coffin."
"Who knows?" the Pretender said. "My grandfather--"
Masham was stamping with impatience. "Oh Lud, sir, must we gossip
about your grandfather? Stay here, you cannot. It is not decent. The
Queen's a corpse behind that door. Why, and if they take you in the
palace, it's ruin for you and for us all. Oh, we shall not be spared
if you are caught."
"Yes. I am a curse to my friends." The Pretender laughed drearily. "Well,
my lord, you shall be delivered at least. Lead the way." Masham hurried
out on the word. As they followed the Pretender took Harry's arm. "I wish
you may be right, Mr. Boyce," he said. "But my heart bids me stay."
"Oh, sir, a king has no right to a heart," says Harry.
They were suddenly thrown upon Masham as he checked and drew back without
warning. He had come upon a woman who was leaving the Queen's apartments,
a woman who had once been handsome, and was still proud of it. She
stared haughtily at Masham and his companions, and swept on before them.
He was much agitated.
"What alarms you, my lord?" The Pretender sneered.
"Carrots from Somerset, egad," Masham muttered, gazing after the
disdainful lady's red head. "It's the Duchess of Somerset, sir, the
damnedest Whig, and she came from the Queen. Now they will all know the
Queen is gone. Come on, sir, come on for God's sake."
They hurried after him through the palace. All was quiet enough.
Afterwards, indeed, Harry could hardly believe that fancy had not played
tricks with his memory; for the emptiness, the silence of the corridors
must needs have been a dramatic invention of his own mind and no reality.
But it is true that as they hurried their retreat he was haunted by the
quiet of the place--the quiet of death, a quiet ominous of storm.
They were down at the door by which they had entered, and Masham's
servant-in-waiting there was dispatched for the horses. Masham fumed at
the minutes of delay, ran out and in again, and then with some
awkwardness apologized for himself. "Egad, sir, I warrant you we have
done what we could. It is for you I fear, by God. I promise you, I doubt
damnably how things may go. Pray, sir, put yourself in safety."
"I am grateful for your emotions, my lord."
Masham stared at him and then cried out, "Ods life, what now?" The horses
were coming, but before the horses came two of the Guards at the double.
They halted at the door, panting, and grounded their muskets. "What the
devil's this, my lad?" says Masham.
"None is to leave the palace, my lord."
"Damme, sirrah, you know me?"
"It won't do, my lord. That's the order. You must go speak with the
captain at the main gate."
"Come, sir, I have no time. Forget that you were here soon enough to stop
me. You shall not lose by it."
"It won't do, my lord. Nay, nay, don't force me to it." The corporal
crossed muskets with his fellow as Masham was thrusting by. "Order is to
"Damme, sir, what do your mean?"
"Sure, my lord, you know better than that." The corporal grinned. "Ask
the captain, if you please."
Masham recoiled and drew the others back into the palace. They heard the
corporal shout: "Put the nags up, my bully. My lord won't ride to-day."
"They know you are here, sir," Masham said, with a very white face. "Damn
the Somerset! She lost no time. What is to do now?"
"It seems my own plan was the best, gentlemen. If I had gone into the
Council we should at the worst have been in no worse case."
"Oh Lud, sir, must we wrangle that out again?"
"You are impudent, my lord. I will do without your company."
"Good God, sir, it's no time for forms. What would you be at?"
"I shall go to the main gate of your palace and see who will stand
in my way."
"That's ruin for certain," Masham groaned.
"Be easy, my lord. I shall not boast myself your guest."
"Oh, you are mad."
"By your leave, sir," says Harry. "We need not so soon despair, I think,
nor you run upon your death. There is something more to be tried. These
sentries, they'll be on the watch for a gentleman of your distinction and
in my lord's company or of some noble attendance. But a common fellow may
pass them. If you would lend me your fine clothes and that great wig, and
condescend to my subfuse and bob, there's no one would take so shabby a
fellow for yourself. Maybe I might make a show to break out one way,
while you slipped past by another."
"And left you to bear the brunt for me? I complain of you again, Mr.
Boyce--you do not much value my honour."
"And I say again, sir, your honour is to maintain your cause. Nay, but
what can they do to me? Faith, it's no sin to wear fine clothes. And
I--well, I think the Whigs will never bring me into court. I know too
much of my father."
"Oh, you are specious, Mr. Boyce," the Pretender smiled at him. "Nay, if
all my friends were such as you, I should not be in this queer plight."
He put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "How am I to thank you, sirrah?"
"Pray, sir, do as I advise."
The hand pressed harder. "Be it so then."
"Egad, I like it very well," says Masham heartily. The two exchanged a
shrug and a sneer at him. "If Mr. Boyce will risk it, he may make a show
of marching out by the garden entrance while you slip away by the
servants' wicket beyond."
"I believe I can trust you to get rid of me, my lord," the Pretender
shrugged. "Pray, where may we exchange our characters--and our breeches?"
"Oh, sir, follow me; we must be private about that."
Harry burst out laughing. "Aye, faith, he is a gentleman of delicacy, our
Masham," the Pretender said.
But my lord had no ears or no understanding for irony. He brought them to
his own quarters and, fervidly entreating them to lose no time, shut them
in and mounted guard outside the door.
They cut queer figures to their own eyes when they came out, and Masham
was distressed by their laughter. "What ails you?" he protested
nervously. "It does well enough, I swear."
"I am flattered by your admiration, _pardieu_," says the Pretender, with
a rueful grin down at the shabby clothes which were so tight upon him,
and a clutch at the bob-wig's jauntiness.
"Some are born great," says Harry, "and some have greatness thrust upon
'em. I believe I can keep inside your periwig, sir, but damme if I am
sure about your breeches. They disdain me, egad."
"God's life, sir, if you make a jest of it you'll ruin us all," Masham
cried. "I vow it's not seemly, neither. The Queen's dead but this
half-hour, and--and, by God, our own heads are loose on our shoulders."
"My lord's in the right, sir. It's no laughing matter," says Harry.
"Aye, he's all noble feeling," the Pretender shrugged.
"Come on, sir, in God's name," Masham groaned.
"Look you, thus it goes. I'll bring you within sight of the garden
entry. Then you make to go out, Mr. Boyce, with what parade you can. And
you, sir, I'll take you to the head of the back stairs. You have but to
go straight down and out, and I wish you God speed with all my heart.
They marched along the corridor and must needs pass the end of that which
led to the Queen's apartments. Masham was a little ahead of the others.
He passed the corner. Then he checked and he turned sharp about and
charged back on them, crowding them against the wall, trying to stand in
front of both of them and hide them.
It was Marlborough who alarmed my lord, Marlborough who came, alone,
pacing slowly from the room where the Queen lay dead. No dismay, no
emotion troubled his supreme grace. He disdained his splendours and his
beauty with the wonted calm.
He saw them, could not but see them, huddled together as they were and
striving not to be seen. His face betrayed nothing. He paced slowly up to
them. It seemed to Harry that from the first his placid eyes looked at
none of them but the Pretender. "We have met before, sir, I think," he
"On the field of battle," says the Pretender in French.
Marlborough bowed. "Give me your company."
"Oh, your family has always been too kind to mine."
Marlborough pointed the way.
The Pretender shrugged, and "_Enfin_," says he with a bitter laugh, and
marched on with an air.
Masham, leaning against the wall and very white, muttered to himself, "My
God, my God!"
Harry ran forward to look after them. He saw Marlborough glance over the
Pretender's shabby clothes and then, making some ostentation of it, put
on his hat. The Pretender with a stare of disdain put on his--or Harry's.
They came to the head of the grand staircase and went down. The servants
in the hall sprang up and ran to open the doors for His Grace. Harry
heard a din and a clang and saw a flash of steel as the guard outside
presented arms. The two passed out and out of sight. For a little while
the servants stood staring after them, and then came back to their chairs
Harry turned round to Masham. "What now?"
"Now?" Masham stared. "Now we may go hang ourselves."
"Like Judas? Damme, I don't feel the obligation. Do you, my lord?"
Masham swore at him and began to walk off.
"Can you lend me a humbler coat, my lord?" Harry cried. "I am no more
use in this."
"I'll do no more in it," Masham growled. "Look to yourself."
"_Enfin,_ as His Majesty says," quoth Harry with a laugh, and went on to
look for the garden entry or any other humble door. He found it soon
enough and was going through it--to be instantly beset by a sergeant's
party and a joyful shout, "Odso, 'tis himself, 'tis the Chevalier."
"You flatter me," says Harry, and they marched him off.
Harry was kept a long time in a guard room. Once or twice an officer came
in and looked him over, but he was asked no questions, and he asked none.
He was ill at ease. Not, I believe, from any fear for himself. He knew,
indeed, that he might hang for his pains. What he had done for the
Pretender was surely treason, or would be adjudged treason, with the
Whigs in power and the Hanoverian King. But death seemed no great matter.
He was not a romantic hero, he had no faith, no cause to die for, and he
saw the last scene as a mere horror of pain and shame. Only it must be
some relief to come to the end. For he was beset by a hopeless, reckless
distrust of himself. Everything that he did must needs go awry. He was
born for failure and ignominy. Memories of his wild delight in Alison
came stabbing at his heart, and he fought against them, and again they
opened the wounds. Yes, for a little while he had been given the full
zest of life, all the wonder and the glory--that he might know what it
was to live maimed and starving. It was his own fault, faith. He should
never have dared venture for her, he, a dull, blundering, graceless fool.
How should he content her? Oh, forget her, forget all that and have done.
She would be free of him soon, and so best. Best for himself, too; it was
a dreary affair, this struggling from failure to failure. Whatever he put
his hand to must needs go awry. Save the Pretender from the chance of a
fight and deliver him into the hands of Marlborough! Marlborough, who
would send him to the scaffold with the noblest air in the world! Why,
but for that silly meddling at Kensington, the lad might have won free.
Now he and his cause must die together before a jeering mob. So much for
the endeavours of Mr. Harry Boyce to be a man of honour! Mr. Harry Boyce
should have stayed in his garret with his small beer and his rind of
cheese. He was fit for nothing better, born to be a servitor, an usher.
And he must needs claim Alison Lambourne for his desires and rifle her
beauty! Oh, it was good to make an end of life if only he could forget
her, forget her as she lay in his arms.
The door opened. The guard was beckoning to him. He was marched to a
room in which one man sat at a table, a small man of a lean, sharp
face. Unbidden, Harry flung himself into a chair. He must have been a
ridiculous figure, overwhelmed by the black wig and the rich clothes
too big for him. The sharp face opposite stared at him in
"La, you now!" Harry laughed. "I don't know you neither. And, egad, I can
"I am the Earl of Sunderland."
"Then, damme, I am sorry for you."
"Your name, I say?"
"Why, didn't your fellows tell you? They told me."
"Impudence will not serve you. I warn you, the one chance to save
yourself is to be honest with me."
Harry began to hum a song, and, between the bars, he said, "You may go to
the devil. I care not a curse for anything you can do. So think of your
dignity, my lord. And hold your silly tongue."
Sunderland considered him keenly. A secretary came in and whispered. "I
will see him," Sunderland said, and lay back in his chair.
It was Colonel Boyce who broke in, Colonel Boyce something flushed and
out of breath. "Egad, my lord," he began. Sunderland held up his hand.
Colonel Boyce checked and stood staring at his son.
Harry began to laugh. "Oh, sir, you're infinitely welcome. It only needed
you to complete my happiness."
"Od's life, sirrah." Colonel Boyce advanced upon him. "Are you crazy?
What damned folly is this?"
"You know him then?" says Sunderland.
"Oh, my lord, it's a wise father knows his own son. And he is not
wise, you know. Are you, most reverend? No, faith, or you would never
have begot me. No, faith, nor enlist me to do murder neither. For I do
but bungle it, you see. And make a fool of my Lord Sunderland, God
"Is he mad?" says Sunderland.
"I profess I begin to think so." Colonel Boyce frowned. "Lud, Harry,
stop your ranting. What brought you here?"
"You, sir, you. Your faithful striving to do my Lord Sunderland's murders
for him. _Imprimis_, that work of grace. But, finally, some good soldiers
who assured me I was the man my lord wanted to murder."
"You came here with the Pretender?"
Harry laughed and began to sing a catch:
"'Tis nothing to you if I should do so,
And if nothing in it you find,
Then thank me for nothing and that will be moe
Than ever I designed."
"What a pox are you doing in his clothes, sirrah?" Colonel Boyce cried.
"Faith, I try to keep them on me. Which is more difficult than you
suppose. If I were to stand up in a hurry, my lord, we should all
"The lad is an idiot," said Sunderland, with a shrug.
"Come, Harry, you have fooled it long enough. I had a guess of this mad
fancy of yours. But the game is up now, lad. King George is king to-day,
and his friends have all power in their grip. There's no more hope for
your Jacobites. Tell me now--the Pretender is in your clothes, I
see--where did you part from him?"
"Why, don't you know?" Harry stared at him. "Oh, faith, that's bitter
for you. You who always know everything! And your friends 'with all
power in their grip,' Oh, my dear lord, I wonder if there's those who
don't trust you?"
Some voices made themselves heard from outside. Sunderland and Colonel
Boyce looked at each other, and my lord bit his fingers. The Colonel
muttered something in Sunderland's ear.
Harry laughed. "Do you bite your thumb at me, my lord? No, sir, says he,
but I bite my thumb. Odso, I bite my thumb."
"Be silent, sirrah," Sunderland cried.
The door opened. "Announce me," says a placid voice, and the secretary
cried out in a hurry: "His Grace the Duke of Marlborough."
Harry went on laughing. The contrast of Marlborough's assured calm and
the agitation of the others was too impressive. "Oh, three merry men,
three merry men, three merry men are ye," he chanted. "No, damme, it's
more Shakespeare. The three witches, egad. And I suppose Duncan is
murdered in the next act. When shall you three meet again? In--"
"Oh, damn your tongue, Harry," his father exploded.
Marlborough was not disturbed. His eye had picked out Sunderland. "Is
this the whole conspiracy, my lord?" said he.
"I beg your Grace's pardon," Sunderland started up. "You see, I am not
private," and he called out: "Guard, guard."
"No," Marlborough said, and, as the soldiers came in, dismissed them with
"You are not needed."
Sunderland fell back in his chair. "Oh, if you please," he cried
peevishly. "At your Grace's command."
"You have no secrets from Mr. Boyce, my lord." He turned to Harry. "Sir,
we have met before," and he bowed.
"Yes. The first time your wife was stuck in the mud. Now it's you."
"Sir, you have obliged me on both occasions," Marlborough said. "Well, my
lord? You had Mr. Boyce under examination. Pray go on."
"I don't understand your Grace," Sunderland said sulkily. "I have done
with the gentleman."
Colonel Boyce thrust forward. "By your Grace's leave, I'll take the lad
away. Time presses and--"
"You may be silent," said Marlborough. For the first time in their
acquaintance Harry saw his father look at a loss. It was an ugly,
ignominious spectacle. Marlborough turned to Harry, smiling, and his
voice lost its chill: "Well, Mr. Boyce, how far had it gone? Were they
asking you what you had done with Prince James?"
Harry stared at the bland, handsome condescension and hated it. "Oh,
you have always had the devil's own luck," he cried. "Devil give you
joy of it, now."
"You mistake me, I believe. I can forgive you more easily than some
others." He turned upon Sunderland. "I will tell you where Prince James
is, my lord. Safe out of your reach. On his way to France."
Sunderland made a petulant exclamation and spread out his hands. "Your
Grace goes beyond me, I profess. Do you choose to be frank with me?"
"Frank?" Marlborough laughed. "You know the word, then? By all means let
us be frank. I found Prince James in the palace. He accepted my company.
We had some conversation, my lord. I present to you the results. You have
used my name to warrant a silly, knavish plot for murdering Prince James
in France. You entered upon a silly, knavish plot to murder him on this
mad visit to London, and while engaging me to aid your motions against
the Jacobites you gave me no advice of this damning folly. To complete
your blunders--but for the chance that I came upon him and took him
through your guards you would have been silly enough to plant him on our
hands in prison. I do not talk to you about honour, my lord, or your
obligations. I advise you, I resent my name being confused with these
Sunderland, who had been wriggling and become flushed, cried out: "I'll
not submit to this. I don't choose to answer your Grace. You shall hear
from me when you are cooler."
"My compliments," Marlborough laughed. "I do not stand by my friends? I
lose my temper? You will easily convince the world of that, my lord.
Colonel Boyce!" Before Harry's wondering eyes his father came to
attention and, with an expression much like a guilty dog's, waited his
reward. "You have had some of my confidence and I think you have not lost
by it. You have repaid me with an impudent treachery. I shall arrange
that you have no more opportunity at home or abroad."
"Pray leave to ask your Grace's pardon," Colonel Boyce muttered. "I
"You may be silent," Marlborough said, and turned away from them. "Pray,
Mr. Boyce, will you walk?" Something bewildered by this time, Harry stood
up and they went out together. "I require a carriage for this gentleman,"
said Marlborough to the sergeant of the guard, and with a smile to Harry,
"That will be convenient, I think?"
"Egad, sir, you might say, decent," says Harry with a wary hand on
"Spare me a moment while you wait," Marlborough turned into a recess of
the corridor. "Prince James expressed himself much in your debt, Mr.
Boyce. Consider me not less obliged. Thanks to you, I have freed myself
of suspicions which I profess it had irked me to bear."
"Your Grace owes me nothing. I never thought of you. Or if I did you were
the villain of the piece."
Marlborough laughed. "And now you are sorry to find I am not so
distinguished. Why is it a pleasure to despise me, Mr. Boyce?"
Harry had to laugh too. "It's a hit, sir. I suppose your Grace is so
great a man that we all envy you and are eager for a chance to defame you
and bring you down to our own level."
"You're above that, Mr. Boyce," Marlborough said. "I make you my
compliments on your conduct in the affair. And pray remember that I am in
your debt. I don't know your situation. If I can serve you, do me the
pleasure of commanding me."
"Oh, your Grace does everything magnificently," says Harry, with a wry
smile, and liked him none the better.
VIRTUE IS ITS OWN REWARD
There is reason to believe that the Earl of Sunderland and Colonel Boyce
fell out. Sunderland, never an easy man, suspected that he had been
ridiculous and was nervously eager to make some one smart for it. Colonel
Boyce was in a despondent rage that any one should have heard Marlborough
rate him so. They seem to have had some cat and dog business before they
parted: each, I infer, blaming the other for their ignominy.
But they took it in very different fashions. Colonel Boyce suffered in
the more respectable part of his soul. Sunderland merely fumed and felt
venomous. For it is certain (if absurd) that Colonel Boyce had a sincere
reverence for Marlborough. He much desired (one of his few simple human
emotions) that Marlborough should think well of him. If he had tacked
Marlborough's name to a dirty business about which Marlborough knew
nothing, he had honestly believed that His Grace would be very well
content to know nothing of the means, and profit by the end. That his
hero should retort upon him disgust and contempt wounded him painfully.
Final proof of his devotion--he never thought of questioning
Marlborough's judgment. He had no doubt that he had managed the affair
with miserable stupidity, and bowed a humiliated head.
Unfortunately, he was not ready to bow it before Sunderland. If there was
to be scolding between him and Sunderland, he had a mind to give as much
as he took. My lord had been art and part in the whole affair, and could
have his share, too, in the disaster. But Sunderland had no notion of
accepting Marlborough's opinion of him. Sunderland had no reverence for
any of God's creatures, and with Marlborough safe out of the room,