Part 1 out of 6
The Lion's Skin
by Rafael Sabatini
I. THE FANATIC
II. AT THE "ADAM AND EVE"
III. THE WITNESS
IV. Mr. GREEN
VI. HORTENSIA'S RETURN
VII. FATHER AND SON
IX. THE CHAMPION
X. SPURS TO THE RELUCTANT
XI. THE ASSAULT-AT-ARMS
XII. SUNSHINE AND SHADOW
XIII. THE FORLORN HOPE
XIV. LADY OSTERMORE
XV. LOVE AND RAGE
XVI. Mr. GREEN EXECUTES HIS WARRANT
XVII. AMID THE GRAVES
XVIII. THE GHOST OF THE PAST
XIX. THE END OF LORD OSTERMORE
XX. Mr. CARYLL'S IDENTITY
XXI. THE LION'S SKIN
XXII. THE HUNTERS
XXIII. THE LION
THE LION'S SKIN
Mr. Caryll, lately from Rome, stood by the window, looking out
over the rainswept, steaming quays to Notre Dame on the island
yonder. Overhead rolled and crackled the artillery of an
April thunderstorm, and Mr. Caryll, looking out upon Paris in
her shroud of rain, under her pall of thundercloud, felt
himself at harmony with Nature. Over his heart, too, the
gloom of storm was lowering, just as in his heart it was still
little more than April time.
Behind him, in that chamber furnished in dark oak and leather
of a reign or two ago, sat Sir Richard Everard at a vast
writing-table all a-litter with books and papers; and Sir
Richard watched his adoptive son with fierce, melancholy eyes,
watched him until he grew impatient of this pause.
"Well?" demanded the old baronet harshly. "Will you undertake
it, Justin, now that the chance has come?" And he added:
"You'll never hesitate if you are the man I have sought to
Mr. Caryll turned slowly. "It is because I am the man that
you - that God and you - have made me that I do hesitate."
His voice was quiet and pleasantly modulated, and he spoke
English with the faintest slur - perceptible, perhaps, only to
the keenest ear - of a French accent. To ears less keen it
would merely seem that he articulated with a precision so
singular as to verge on pedantry.
The light falling full upon his profile revealed the rather
singular countenance that was his own. It was not in any
remarkable beauty that its distinction lay, for by the canons
of beauty that prevail it was not beautiful. The features
were irregular and inclined to harshness, the nose was too
abruptly arched, the chin too long and square, the complexion
too pallid. Yet a certain dignity haunted that youthful face,
of such a quality as to stamp it upon the memory of the merest
passer-by. The mouth was difficult to read and full of
contradictions; the lips were full and red, and you would
declare them the lips of a sensualist but for the line of
stern, almost grim, determination in which they met; and yet,
somewhere behind that grimness, there appeared to lurk a
haunting whimsicality; a smile seemed ever to impend, but
whether sweet or bitter none could have told until it broke.
The eyes were as remarkable; wide-set and slow-moving, as
becomes the eyes of an observant man, they were of an almost
greenish color, and so level in their ordinary glance as to
seem imbued with an uncanny penetration. His hair - he dared
to wear his own, and clubbed it in a broad ribbon of watered
silk - was almost of the hue of bronze, with here and there a
glint of gold, and as luxuriant as any wig.
For the rest, he was scarcely above the middle height, of an
almost frail but very graceful slenderness, and very graceful,
too, in all his movements. In dress he was supremely elegant,
with the elegance of France, that in England would be
accounted foppishness. He wore a suit of dark blue cloth,
with white satin linings that were revealed when he moved; it
was heavily laced with gold, and a ramiform pattern broidered
in gold thread ran up the sides of his silk stockings of a
paler blue. Jewels gleamed in the Brussels at his throat, and
there were diamond buckles on his lacquered, red-heeled shoes.
Sir Richard considered him with anxiety and some chagrin.
"Justin!" he cried, a world of reproach in his voice. "What
can you need to ponder?"
"Whatever it may be," said Mr. Caryll, "it will be better that
I ponder it now than after I have pledged myself."
"But what is it? What?" demanded the baronet.
"I am marvelling, for one thing, that you should have waited
Sir Richard's fingers stirred the papers before him in an
idle, absent manner. Into his brooding eyes there leapt the
glitter to be seen in the eyes of the fevered of body or of
"Vengeance," said he slowly, "is a dish best relished when
'tis eaten cold." He paused an instant; then continued: "I
might have crossed to England at the time, and slain him.
Should that have satisfied me? What is death but peace and
"There is a hell, we are told," Mr. Caryll reminded him.
"Ay," was the answer, "we are told. But I dursn't risk its
being false where Ostermore is concerned. So I preferred to
wait until I could brew him such a cup of bitterness as no man
ever drank ere he was glad to die." In a quieter,
retrospective voice he continued: "Had we prevailed in the
'15, I might have found a way to punish him that had been
worthy of the crime that calls for it. We did not prevail.
Moreover, I was taken, and transported.
"What think you, Justin, gave me courage to endure the rigors
of the plantations, cunning and energy to escape after five
such years of it as had assuredly killed a stronger man less
strong of purpose? What but the task that was awaiting me?
It imported that I should live and be free to call a reckoning
in full with my Lord Ostermore before I go to my own account.
"Opportunity has gone lame upon this journey. But it has
arrived at last. Unless - " He paused, his voice sank from
the high note of exaltation to which it had soared; it became
charged with dread, as did the fierce eyes with which he raked
his companion's face. "Unless you prove false to the duty
that awaits you. And that I'll not believe! You are your
mother's son, Justin."
"And my father's, too," answered Justin in a thick voice; "and
the Earl of Ostermore is that same father."
"The more sweetly shall your mother be avenged," cried the
other, and again his eyes blazed with that unhealthy,
fanatical light. "What fitter than the hand of that poor
lady's son to pull your father down in ruins?" He laughed
short and fiercely. "It seldom chances in this world that
justice is done so nicely."
"You hate him very deeply," said Mr. Caryll pensively, and the
look in his eyes betrayed the trend of his thoughts; they were
of pity -but of pity at the futility of such strong emotions.
"As deeply as I loved your mother, Justin." The sharp, rugged
features of that seared old face seemed of a sudden
transfigured and softened. The wild eyes lost some of their
glitter in a look of wistfulness, as he pondered a moment the
one sweet memory in a wasted life, a life wrecked over thirty
years ago - wrecked wantonly by that same Ostermore of whom
they spoke, who had been his friend.
A groan broke from his lips. He took his head in his hands,
and, elbows on the table, he sat very still a moment,
reviewing as in a flash the events of thirty and more years
ago, when he and Viscount Rotherby - as Ostermore was then -
had been young men at the St. Germain's Court of James II.
It was on an excursion into Normandy that they had met
Mademoiselle de Maligny, the daughter of an impoverished
gentleman of the chetive noblesse of that province. Both had
loved her. She had preferred - as women will - the outward
handsomeness of Viscount Rotherby to the sounder heart and
brain that were Dick Everard's. As bold and dominant as any
ruffler of them all where men and perils were concerned, young
Everard was timid, bashful and without assertiveness with
women. He had withdrawn from the contest ere it was well
lost, leaving an easy victory to his friend.
And how had that friend used it? Most foully, as you shall
Leaving Rotherby in Normandy, Everard had returned to Paris.
The affairs of his king gave him cause to cross at once to
Ireland. For three years he abode there, working secretly in
his master's interest, to little purpose be it confessed. At
the end of that time he returned to Paris. Rotherby was gone.
It appeared that his father, Lord Ostermore, had prevailed
upon Bentinck to use his influence with William on the errant
youth's behalf. Rotherby had been pardoned his loyalty to the
fallen dynasty. A deserter in every sense, he had abandoned
the fortunes of King James - which in Everard's eyes was bad
enough - and he had abandoned the sweet lady he had fetched
out of Normandy six months before his going, of whom it seemed
that in his lordly way he was grown tired.
>From the beginning it would appear they were ill-matched. It
was her beauty had made appeal to him, even as his beauty had
enamoured her. Elementals had brought about their union; and
when these elementals shrank with habit, as elementals will,
they found themselves without a tie of sympathy or common
interest to link them each to the other. She was by nature
blythe; a thing of sunshine, flowers and music, who craved a
very poet for her lover; and by "a poet" I mean not your mere
rhymer. He was downright stolid and stupid under his fine
exterior; the worst type of Briton, without the saving grace
of a Briton's honor. And so she had wearied him, who saw in
her no more than a sweet loveliness that had cloyed him
presently. And when the chance was offered him by Bentinck
and his father, he took it and went his ways, and this sweet
flower that he had plucked from its Normandy garden to adorn
him for a brief summer's day was left to wilt, discarded.
The tale that greeted Everard on his return from Ireland was
that, broken-hearted, she had died - crushed neath her load of
shame. For it was said that there had been no marriage.
The rumor of her death had gone abroad, and it had been
carried to England and my Lord Rotherby by a cousin of hers -
the last living Maligny - who crossed the channel to demand of
that stolid gentleman satisfaction for the dishonor put upon
his house. All the satisfaction the poor fellow got was a
foot or so of steel through the lungs, of which he died; and
there, may it have seemed to Rotherby, the matter ended.
But Everard remained - Everard, who had loved her with a great
and almost sacred love; Everard, who swore black ruin for my
Lord Rotherby - the rumor of which may also have been carried
to his lordship and stimulated his activities in having
Everard hunted down after the Braemar fiasco of 1715.
But before that came to pass Everard had discovered that the
rumor of her death was false - put about, no doubt, out of
fear of that same cousin who had made himself champion and
avenger of her honor. Everard sought her out, and found her
perishing of want in an attic in the Cour des Miracles some
four months later - eight months after Rotherby's desertion.
In that sordid, wind-swept chamber of Paris' most abandoned
haunt, a son had been born to Antoinette de Maligny two days
before Everard had come upon her. Both were dying; both had
assuredly died within the week but that he came so timely to
her aid. And that aid he rendered like the noble-hearted
gentleman he was. He had contrived to save his fortune from
the wreck of James' kingship, and this was safely invested in
France, in Holland and elsewhere abroad. With a portion of it
he repurchased the chateau and estates of Maligny, which on
the death of Antoinette's father had been seized upon by
Thither he sent her and her child - Rotherby's child - making
that noble domain a christening-gift to the boy, for whom he
had stood sponsor at the font. And he did his work of love in
the background. He was the god in the machine; no more. No
single opportunity of thanking him did he afford her. He
effaced himself that she might not see the sorrow she
occasioned him, lest it should increase her own.
For two years she dwelt at Maligny in such peace as the
broken-hearted may know, the little of life that was left her
irradiated by Everard's noble friendship. He wrote to her
from time to time, now from Italy, now from Holland. But he
never came to visit her. A delicacy, which may or may not
have been false, restrained him. And she, respecting what
instinctively she knew to be his feelings, never bade him come
to her. In their letters they never spoke of Rotherby; not
once did his name pass between them; it was as if he had never
lived or never crossed their lives. Meanwhile she weakened
and faded day by day, despite all the care with which she was
surrounded. That winter of cold and want in the Cour des
Miracles had sown its seeds, and Death was sharpening his
scythe against the harvest.
When the end was come she sent urgently for Everard. He came
at once in answer to her summons; but he came too late. She
died the evening before he arrived. But she had left a
letter, written days before, against the chance of his not
reaching her before the end. That letter, in her fine French
hand, was before him now.
"I will not try to thank you, dearest friend," she wrote.
"For the thing that you have done, what payment is there in
poor thanks? Oh, Everard, Everard! Had it but pleased God to
have helped me to a wiser choice when it was mine to choose!"
she cried to him from that letter, and poor Everard deemed
that the thin ray of joy her words sent through his anguished
soul was payment more than enough for the little that he had
done. "God's will be done!" she continued. "It is His will.
He knows why it is best so, though we discern it not. But
there is the boy; there is Justin. I bequeath him to you who
already have done so much for him. Love him a little for my
sake; cherish and rear him as your own, and make of him such a
gentleman as are you. His father does not so much as know of
his existence. That, too, is best so, for I would not have
him claim my boy. Never let him learn that Justin exists,
unless it be to punish him by the knowledge for his cruel
desertion of me."
Choking, the writing blurred by tears that he accounted no
disgrace to his young manhood, Everard had sworn in that hour
that Justin should be as a son to him. He would do her will,
and he set upon it a more definite meaning than she intended.
Rotherby should remain in ignorance of his son's existence
until such season as should make the knowledge a very anguish
to him. He would rear Justin in bitter hatred of the foul
villain who had been his father; and with the boy's help, when
the time should be ripe, he would lay my Lord Rotherby in
ruins. Thus should my lord's sin come to find him out.
This Everard had sworn, and this he had done. He had told
Justin the story almost as soon as Justin was of an age to
understand it. He had repeated it at very frequent intervals,
and as the lad grew, Everard watched in him - fostering it by
every means in his power - the growth of his execration for
the author of his days, and of his reverence for the sweet,
departed saint that had been his mother.
For the rest, he had lavished Justin nobly for his mother's
sake. The repurchased estates of Maligny, with their handsome
rent roll, remained Justin's own, administered by Sir Richard
during the lad's minority and vastly enriched by the care of
that administration. He had sent the lad to Oxford, and
afterwards - the more thoroughly to complete his education -
on a two years' tour of Europe; and on his return, a grown and
cultured man, he had attached him to the court in Rome of the
Pretender, whose agent he was himself in Paris.
He had done his duty by the boy as he understood his duty,
always with that grim purpose of revenge for his horizon. And
the result had been a stranger compound than even Everard
knew, for all that he knew the lad exceedingly well. For he
had scarcely reckoned sufficiently upon Justin's mixed
nationality and the circumstance that in soul and mind he was
entirely his mother's child, with nothing - or an
imperceptible little - of his father. As his mother's nature
had been, so was Justin's - joyous. But Everard's training of
him had suppressed all inborn vivacity. The mirth and
diablerie that were his birthright had been overlaid with
British phlegm, until in their stead, and through the blend, a
certain sardonic humor had developed, an ironical attitude
toward all things whether sacred or profane. This had been
helped on by culture, and - in a still greater measure - by
the odd training in worldliness which he had from Everard.
His illusions were shattered ere he had cut his wisdom teeth,
thanks to the tutelage of Sir Richard, who in giving him the
ugly story of his own existence, taught him the misanthropical
lesson that all men are knaves, all women fools. He
developed, as a consequence, that sardonic outlook upon the
world. He sought to take vos non vobis for his motto,
affected to a spectator in the theatre of Life, with the
obvious result that he became the greatest actor of them all.
So we find him even now, his main emotion pity for Sir
Richard, who sat silent for some moments, reviewing that
thirty-year dead past, until the tears scalded his old eyes.
The baronet made a queer noise in his throat, something
between a snarl and a sob, and he flung himself suddenly back
in his chair.
Justin sat down, a becoming gravity in his countenance. "Tell
me all," he begged his adoptive father. "Tell me how matters
stand precisely - how you propose to act."
"With all my heart," the baronet assented. "Lord Ostermore,
having turned his coat once for profit, is ready now to turn
it again for the same end. From the information that reaches
me from England, it would appear that in the rage of
speculation that has been toward in London, his lordship has
suffered heavily. How heavily I am not prepared to say. But
heavily enough, I dare swear, to have caused this offer to
return to his king; for he looks, no doubt, to sell his
services at a price that will help him mend the wreckage of
his fortunes. A week ago a gentleman who goes between his
majesty's court at Rome and his friends here in Paris brought
me word from his majesty that Ostermore had signified to him
his willingness to rejoin the Stuart cause.
"Together with that information, this messenger brought me
letters from his majesty to several of his friends, which I
was to send to England by a safe hand at the first
opportunity. Now, amongst these letters - delivered to me
unsealed - is one to my Lord Ostermore, making him certain
advantageous proposals which he is sure to accept if his
circumstances be as crippled as I am given to understand.
Atterbury and his friends, it seems, have already tampered
with my lord's loyalty to Dutch George to some purpose, and
there is little doubt but that this letter" - and he tapped a
document before him - "will do what else is to be done.
"But, since these letters were left with me, come you with his
majesty's fresh injunctions that I am to suppress them and
cross to England at once myself, to prevail upon Atterbury and
his associates to abandon the undertaking."
Mr. Caryll nodded. "Because, as I have told you," said he,
"King James in Rome has received positive information that in
London the plot is already suspected, little though Atterbury
may dream it. But what has this to do with my Lord
"This," said Everard slowly, leaning across toward Justin, and
laying a hand upon his sleeve. "I am to counsel the Bishop to
stay his hand against a more favorable opportunity. There is
no reason why you should not do the very opposite with
Mr. Caryll knit his brows, his eyes intent upon the other's
face; but he said no word.
"It is," urged Everard, "an opportunity such as there may
never be another. We destroy Ostermore. By a turn of the
hand we bring him to the gallows." He chuckled over the word
with a joy almost diabolical.
"But how - how do we destroy him?" quoth Justin, who suspected
yet dared not encourage his suspicions.
"How? Do you ask how? Is't not plain?" snapped Sir Richard,
and what he avoided putting into words, his eloquent glance
made clear to his companion.
Mr. Caryll rose a thought quickly, a faint flush stirring in
his cheeks, and he threw off Everard's grasp with a gesture
that was almost of repugnance. "You mean that I am to enmesh
him . . . ."
Sir Richard smiled grimly. "As his majesty's accredited
agent," he explained. "I will equip you with papers. Word
shall go ahead of you to Ostermore by a safe hand to bid him
look for the coming of a messenger bearing his own family
name. No more than that; nothing that can betray us; yet
enough to whet his lordship's appetite. You shall be the
ambassador to bear him the tempting offers from the king. You
will obtain his answers - accepting. Those you will deliver
to me, and I shall do the trifle that may still be needed to
set the rope about his neck."
A little while there was silence. Outside, the rain, driven
by gusts, smote the window as with a scourge. The thunder was
grumbling in the distance now. Mr. Caryll resumed his chair.
He sat very thoughtful, but with no emotion showing in his
face. British stolidity was in the ascendant with him then.
He felt that he had the need of it.
"It is . . . ugly," he said at last slowly.
"It is God's own will," was the hot answer, and Sir Richard
smote the table.
"Has God taken you into His confidence?" wondered Mr. Caryll.
"I know that God is justice."
"Yet is it not written that `vengeance is His own'?"
"Aye, but He needs human instruments to execute it. Such
instruments are we. Can you - Oh, can you hesitate ?"
Mr. Caryll clenched his hands hard. "Do it," he answered
through set teeth. "Do it! I shall approve it when 'tis
done. But find other hands for the work, Sir Richard. He is
Sir Richard remained cool. "That is the argument I employ for
insisting upon the task being yours," he replied. Then, in a
blaze of passion, he - who had schooled his adoptive son so
ably in self-control - marshalled once more his arguments.
"It is your duty to your mother to forget that he is your
father. Think of him only as the man who wronged your mother;
the man to whom her ruined life, her early death are due - her
murderer and worse. Consider that. Your father, you say!"
He mocked almost. "Your father! In what is he your father?
You have never seen him; he does not know that you exist, that
you ever existed. Is that to be a father? Father, you say! A
word, a name - no more than that; a name that gives rise to a
sentiment, and a sentiment is to stand between you and your
clear duty; a sentiment is to set a protecting shield over the
man who killed your mother!
"I think I shall despise you, Justin, if you fail me in this.
I have lived for it," he ran on tempestuously. "I have reared
you for it, and you shall not fail me!"
Then his voice dropped again, and in quieter tones
"You hate the very name of John Caryll, Earl of Ostermore,"
said he, "as must every decent man who knows the truth of what
the life of that satyr holds. If I have suffered you to bear
his name, it is to the end that it should remind you daily
that you have no right to it, that you have no right to any
When he said that he thrust his finger consciously into a raw
wound. He saw Justin wince, and with pitiless cunning he
continued to prod that tender place until he had aggravated
the smart of it into a very agony.
"That is what you owe your father; that is the full extent of
what lies between you - that you are of those at whom the
world is given to sneer and point scorn's ready finger."
"None has ever dared," said Mr. Caryll.
"Because none has ever known. We have kept the secret well.
You display no coat of arms that no bar sinister may be
displayed. But the time may come when the secret must out.
You might, for instance, think of marrying a lady of quality,
a lady of your own supposed station. What shall you tell her
of yourself? That you have no name to offer her; that the
name you bear is yours by assumption only? Ah! That brings
home your own wrongs to you, Justin! Consider them; have them
ever present in your mind, together with your mother's
blighted life, that you may not shrink when the hour strikes
to punish the evildoer."
He flung himself back in his chair again, and watched the
younger man with brooding eye. Mr. Caryll was plainly moved.
He had paled a little, and he sat now with brows contracted
and set teeth.
Sir Richard pushed back his chair and rose, recapitulating.
"He is your mother's destroyer," he said, with a sad
sternness. "Is the ruin of that fair life to go unpunished?
Is it, Justin?"
Mr. Caryll's Gallic spirit burst abruptly through its British
glaze. He crushed fist into palm, and swore: "No, by God! It
shall not, Sir Richard!"
Sir Richard held out his hands, and there was a fierce joy in
his gloomy eyes at last. "You'll cross to England with me,
But Mr. Caryll's soul fell once more into travail. "Wait!" he
cried. "Ah, wait!" His level glance met Sir Richard's in
earnestness and entreaty. "Answer me the truth upon your soul
and conscience: Do you in your heart believe that it is what
my mother would have had me do?"
There was an instant's pause. Then Everard, the fanatic of
vengeance, the man whose mind upon that one subject was become
unsound with excess of brooding, answered with conviction: "As
I have a soul to be saved, Justin, I do believe it. More - I
know it. Here!" Trembling hands took up the old letter from
the table and proffered it to Justin. "Here is her own
message to you. Read it again."
And what time the young man's eyes rested upon that fine,
pointed writing, Sir Richard recited aloud the words he knew
by heart, the words that had been ringing in his ears since
that day when he had seen her lowered to rest: "`Never let him
learn that Justin exists unless it be to punish him by the
knowledge for his cruel desertion of me.' It is your mother's
voice speaking to you from the grave," the fanatic pursued,
and so infected Justin at last with something of his
The green eyes flashed uncannily, the white young face grew
cruelly sardonic. "You believe it?" he asked, and the
eagerness that now invested his voice showed how it really was
"As I have a soul to be saved," Sir Richard repeated.
"Then gladly will I set my hand to it." Fire stirred through
Justin now, a fire of righteous passion. "An idea - no more
than an idea - daunted me. You have shown me that. I cross
to England with you, Sir Richard, and let my Lord Ostermore
look to himself, for my name - I who have no right to any name
- my name is judgment!"
The exaltation fell from him as suddenly as it had mounted.
He dropped into a chair, thoughtful again and slightly ashamed
of his sudden outburst.
Sir Richard Everard watched with an eye of gloomy joy the man
whom he had been at such pains to school in self-control.
Overhead there was a sudden crackle of thunder, sharp and
staccato as a peal of demoniac laughter.
AT THE "ADAM AND EVE"
Mr. Caryll, alighted from his traveling chaise in the yard of
the "Adam and Eve," at Maidstone, on a sunny afternoon in May.
Landed at Dover the night before, he had parted company with
Sir Richard Everard that morning. His adoptive father had
turned aside toward Rochester, to discharge his king's
business with plotting Bishop Atterbury, what time Justin was
to push on toward town as King James' ambassador to the Earl
of Ostermore, who, advised of his coming, was expecting him.
Here at Maidstone it was Mr. Caryll's intent to dine, resuming
his journey in the cool of the evening, when he hoped to get
at least as far as Farnborough ere he slept.
Landlady, chamberlain, ostler and a posse of underlings
hastened to give welcome to so fine a gentleman, and a private
room above-stairs was placed at his disposal. Before
ascending, however, Mr. Caryll sauntered into the bar for a
whetting glass to give him an appetite, and further for the
purpose of bespeaking in detail his dinner with the hostess.
It was one of his traits that he gave the greatest attention
to detail, and held that the man who left the ordering of his
edibles to his servants was no better than an animal who saw
no more than nourishment in food. Nor was the matter one to
be settled summarily; it asked thought and time. So he sipped
his Hock, listening to the landlady's proposals, and amending
them where necessary with suggestions of his own, and what
time he was so engaged, there ambled into the inn yard a
sturdy cob bearing a sturdy little man in snuff-colored
clothes that had seen some wear.
The newcomer threw his reins to the stable-boy - a person of
all the importance necessary to receive so indifferent a
guest. He got down nimbly from his horse, produced an
enormous handkerchief of many colors, and removed his
three-cornered hat that he might the better mop his brow and
youthful, almost cherubic face. What time he did so, a pair
of bright little blue eyes were very busy with. Mr. Caryll's
carriage, from which Leduc, Mr. Caryll's valet, was in the act
of removing a portmantle. His mobile mouth fell into lines of
Still mopping himself, he entered the inn, and, guided by the
drone of voices, sauntered into the bar. At sight of Mr.
Caryll leaning there, his little eyes beamed an instant, as do
the eyes of one who espies a friend, or - apter figure - the
eyes of the hunter when they sight the quarry.
He advanced to the bar, bowing to Mr. Caryll with an air
almost apologetic, and to the landlady with an air scarcely
less so, as he asked for a nipperkin of ale to wash the dust
of the road from his throat. The hostess called a drawer to
serve him, and departed herself upon the momentous business of
Mr. Caryll's dinner.
"A warm day, sir," said the chubby man.
Mr. Caryll agreed with him politely, and finished his glass,
the other sipping meanwhile at his ale.
"A fine brew, sir," said he. "A prodigious fine brew! With
all respect, sir, your honor should try a whet of our English
Mr. Caryll, setting down his glass, looked languidly at the
man. "Why do you exclude me, sir, from the nation of this
beverage?" he inquired.
The chubby man's face expressed astonishment. "Ye're English,
sir! Ecod! I had thought ye French!"
"It is an honor, sir, that you should have thought me
The other abased himself. "'Twas an unwarrantable
presumption, Codso! which I hope your honor'll pardon." Then
he smiled again, his little eyes twinkling humorously. "An ye
would try the ale, I dare swear your honor would forgive me.
I know ale, ecod! I am a brewer myself. Green is my name,
sir - Tom Green - your very obedient servant, sir." And he
drank as if pledging that same service he professed.
Mr. Caryll observed him calmly and a thought indifferently.
"Ye're determined to honor me," said he. "I am your debtor
for your reflections upon whetting glasses; but ale, sir, is a
beverage I don't affect, nor shall while there are vines in
"Ah!" sighed Mr. Green rapturously. "'Tis a great country,
France; is it not, sir?"
"'Tis not the general opinion here at present. But I make no
doubt that it deserves your praise."
"And Paris, now," persisted Mr. Green. "They tell me 'tis a
great city; a marvel o' th' ages. There be those, ecod! that
say London's but a kennel to't."
"Be there so?" quoth Mr. Caryll indifferently.
"Ye don't agree with them, belike?" asked Mr. Green, with
"Pooh! Men will say anything," Mr. Caryll replied, and added
pointedly: "Men will talk, ye see."
"Not always," was the retort in a sly tone. "I've known men
to be prodigious short when they had aught to hide."
"Have ye so? Ye seem to have had a wide experience." And Mr.
Caryll sauntered out, humming a French air through closed
Mr. Green looked after him with hardened eyes. He turned to
the drawer who stood by. "He's mighty close," said he.
"Ye're not perhaps quite the company he cares for," the drawer
Mr. Green looked at him. "Very like," he snapped. "How long
does he stay here?"
"Ye lost a rare chance of finding out when ye let him go
without inquiring," said the drawer.
Mr. Green's face lost some of its chubbiness. "When d'ye look
to marry the landlady?" was his next question.
The man stared. "Cod!" said he. "Marry the - Are ye daft?"
Mr. Green affected surprise. "I'm mistook, it seems. Ye
misled me by your pertness. Get me another nipperkin."
Meanwhile Mr. Caryll had taken his way above stairs to the
room set apart for him. He dined to his satisfaction, and
thereafter, his shapely, silk-clad legs thrown over a second
chair, his waistcoat all unbuttoned, for the day was of an
almost midsummer warmth - he sat mightily at his ease, a
decanter of sherry at his elbow, a pipe in one hand and a book
of Mr. Gay's poems in the other. But the ease went no further
than the body, as witnessed the circumstances that his pipe
was cold, the decanter tolerably full, and Mr. Gay's pleasant
rhymes and quaint conceits of fancy all unheeded. The light,
mercurial spirit which he had from nature and his unfortunate
mother, and which he had retained in spite of the stern
training he had received at his adoptive father's hands, was
The mild fatigue of his journey through the heat of the day
had led him to look forward to a voluptuous hour of indolence
following upon dinner, with pipe and book and glass. The hour
was come, the elements were there, but since he could not
abandon himself to their dominion the voluptuousness was
wanting. The task before him haunted him with anticipatory
remorse. It hung upon his spirit like a sick man's dream. It
obtruded itself upon his constant thought, and the more he
pondered it the more did he sicken at what lay before him.
Wrought upon by Everard's fanaticism that day in Paris some
three weeks ago, infected for the time being by something of
his adoptive father's fever, he had set his hands to the task
in a glow of passionate exaltation. But with the hour, the
exaltation went, and reaction started in his soul. And yet
draw back he dared not; too long and sedulously had Everard
trained his spirit to look upon the avenging of his mother as
a duty. Believing that it was his duty, he thirsted on the
one hand to fulfill it, whilst, on the other, he recoiled in
horror at the thought that the man upon whom he was to wreak
that vengeance was his father - albeit a father whom he did
not know, who had never seen him, who was not so much as aware
of his existence.
He sought forgetfulness in Mr. Gay. He had the
delicate-minded man's inherent taste for verse, a quick ear
for the melody of words, the aesthete's love of beauty in
phrase as of beauty in all else; and culture had quickened his
perceptions, developed his capacity for appreciation. For the
tenth time he called Leduc to light his pipe; and, that done,
he set his eye to the page once more. But it was like
harnessing a bullock to a cart; unmindful of the way it went
and over what it travelled, his eye ambled heavily along the
lines, and when he came to turn the page he realized with a
start that he had no impression of what he had read upon it.
In sheer disgust he tossed the book aside, and kicking away
the second chair, rose lythely. He crossed to the window, and
stood there gazing out at nothing, nor conscious of the
incense that came to him from garden, from orchard, and from
It needed a clatter of hoofs and a cloud of dust approaching
from the north to draw his mind from its obsessing thoughts.
He watched the yellow body of the coach as it came furiously
onward, its four horses stretched to the gallop, postillion
lusty of lungs and whip, and the great trail of dust left
behind it spreading to right and left over the flowering
hedge-rows to lose itself above the gold-flecked meadowland.
On it came, to draw up there, at the very entrance to
Maidstone, at the sign of the "Adam and Eve."
Mr. Caryll, leaning on the sill of his window, looked down
with interest to see what manner of travellers were these that
went at so red-hot a pace. From the rumble a lackey swung
himself to the rough cobbles of the yard. From within the inn
came again landlady and chamberlain, and from the stable
ostler and boy, obsequious all and of no interest to Mr.
Then the door of the coach was opened, the steps were let
down, and there emerged - his hand upon the shoulder of the
servant - a very ferret of a man in black, with a parson's
bands and neckcloth, a coal-black full-bottomed wig, and under
this a white face, rather drawn and haggard, and thin lips
perpetually agrin to flaunt two rows of yellow teeth
disproportionately large. After him, and the more remarkable
by contrast, came a tall, black-faced fellow, very brave in
buff-colored cloth, with a fortune in lace at wrist and
throat, and a heavily powdered tie-wig.
Lackey, chamberlain and parson attended his alighting, and
then he joined their ranks to attend in his turn - hat under
arm - the last of these odd travellers.
The interest grew. Mr. Caryll felt that the climax was about
to be presented, and he leaned farther forward that he might
obtain a better view of the awaited personage. In the silence
he caught a rustle of silk. A flowered petticoat appeared -
as much of it as may be seen from the knee downwards - and
from beneath this the daintiest foot conceivable was seen to
grope an instant for the step. Another second and the rest of
Mr. Caryll observed - and be it known that he had the very
shrewdest eye for a woman, as became one of the race from
which on his mother's side he sprang - that she was middling
tall, chastely slender, having, as he judged from her high
waist, a fine, clean length of limb. All this he observed and
approved, and prayed for a glimpse of the face which her
silken hood obscured and screened from his desiring gaze. She
raised it at that moment - raised it in a timid, frightened
fashion, as one who looks fearfully about to see that she is
not remarked - and Mr. Caryll had a glimpse of an oval face,
pale with a warm pallor - like the pallor of the peach, he
thought, and touched, like the peach, with a faint hint of
pink in either cheek. A pair of eyes, large, brown, and
gentle as a saint's, met his, and Mr. Caryll realized that she
was beautiful and that it might be good to look into those
eyes at closer quarters.
Seeing him, a faint exclamation escaped her, and she turned
away in sudden haste to enter the inn. The fine gentleman
looked up and scowled; the parson looked up and trembled; the
ostler and his boy looked up and grinned. Then all swept
forward and were screened by the porch from the wondering eyes
of Mr. Caryll.
He turned from the window with a sigh, and stepped back to the
table for the tinder-box, that for the eleventh time he might
relight his pipe. He sat down, blew a cloud of smoke to the
ceiling, and considered. His nature triumphed now over his
recent preoccupation; the matter of the moment, which
concerned him not at all, engrossed him beyond any other
matter of his life. He was intrigued to know in what relation
one to the other stood the three so oddly assorted travellers
he had seen arrive. He bethought him that, after all, the odd
assortment arose from the presence of the parson; and he
wondered what the plague should any Christian - and seemingly
a gentleman at that - be doing travelling with a parson. Then
there was the wild speed at which they had come.
The matter absorbed and vexed him. I fear he was inquisitive
by nature. There came a moment when he went so far as to
consider making his way below to pursue his investigations in
situ. It would have been at great cost to his dignity, and
this he was destined to be spared.
A knock fell upon his door, and the landlady came in. She was
genial, buxom and apple-faced, as becomes a landlady.
"There is a gentleman below - " she was beginning, when Mr.
Caryll interrupted her.
"I would rather that you told me of the lady," said
"La, sir!" she cried, displaying ivory teeth, her eyes cast
upwards, hands upraised in gentle, mirthful protest. "La,
sir! But I come from the lady, too."
He looked at her. "A good ambassador," said he, "should begin
with the best news; not add it as an afterthought. But
proceed, I beg. You give me hope, mistress."
"They send their compliments, and would be prodigiously
obliged if you was to give yourself the trouble of stepping
"Of stepping below?" he inquired, head on one side, solemn
eyes upon the hostess. "Would it be impertinent to inquire
what they may want with me?"
"I think they want you for a witness, sir."
"For a witness? Am I to testify to the lady's perfection of
face and shape, to the heaven that sits in her eyes, to the
miracle she calls her ankle? Are these and other things
besides of the same kind what I am required to witness? If
so, they could not have sent for one more qualified. I am an
"Oh, sir, nay!" she laughed. "'Tis a marriage they need you
Mr. Caryll opened his queer eyes a little wider. "Soho!" said
he. "The parson is explained." Then he fell thoughtful, his
tone lost its note of flippancy. "This gentleman who sends
his compliments, does he send his name?"
"He does not, sir; but I overheard it."
"Confide in me," Mr. Caryll invited her.
"He is a great gentleman," she prepared him.
"No matter. I love great gentlemen."
"They call him Lord Rotherby."
At that sudden and utterly unexpected mention of his
half-brother's name - his unknown half-brother - Mr. Caryll
came to his feet with an alacrity which a more shrewd observer
would have set down to some cause other than mere respect for
a viscount. The hostess was shrewd, but not shrewd enough,
and if Mr. Caryll's expression changed for an instant, it
resumed its habitual half-scornful calm so swiftly that it
would have needed eyes of an exceptional quickness to have
"Enough!" he said. "Who could deny his lordship?"
"Shall I tell them you are coming?" she inquired, her hand
already upon the door.
"A moment," he begged, detaining her. "'Tis a runaway
marriage this, eh?"
Her full-hearted smile beamed on him again; she was a very
woman, with a taste for the romantic, loving love. "What
else, sir?" she laughed.
"And why, mistress," he inquired, eying her, his fingers
plucking at his nether lip, "do they desire my testimony?"
"His lordship's own man will stand witness, for one; but
they'll need another," she explained, her voice reflecting
astonishment at his question.
"True. But why do they need me?" he pressed her. "Heard you
no reason given why they should prefer me to your chamberlain,
your ostler or your drawer?"
She knit her brows and shrugged impatient shoulders. Here was
a deal of pother about a trifling affair. "His lordship saw
you as he entered, sir, and inquired of me who you might be."
"His lordship flatters me by this interest. My looks pleased
him, let us hope. And you answered him - what?"
"That your honor is a gentleman newly crossed from France."
"You are well-informed, mistress," said Mr. Caryll, a thought
tartly, for if his speech was tainted with a French accent it
was in so slight a degree as surely to be imperceptible to the
"Your clothes, sir," the landlady explained, and he bethought
him, then, that the greater elegance and refinement of his
French apparel must indeed proclaim his origin to one who had
so many occasions of seeing travelers from Gaul. That might
even account for Mr. Green's attempts to talk to him of
France. His mind returned to the matter of the bridal pair
"You told him that, eh?" said he. "And what said his lordship
"He turned to the parson. `The very man for us, Jenkins,'
"And the parson - this Jenkins - what answer did he make?"
"`Excellently thought,' he says, grinning."
"Hum! And you yourself, mistress, what inference did you
"Aye, inference, ma'am. Did you not gather that this was not
only a runaway match, but a clandestine one? My lord can
depend upon the discretion of his servant, no doubt; for other
witness he would prefer some passer-by, some stranger who will
go his ways to-morrow, and not be like to be heard of again."
"Lard, sir!" cried the landlady, her eyes wide with
Mr. Caryll smiled enigmatically. "'Tis so, I assure ye,
ma'am. My Lord Rotherby is of a family singularly cautious in
the unions it contracts. In entering matrimony he prefers, no
doubt, to leave a back door open for quiet retreat should he
repent him later."
"Your honor has his lordship's acquaintance, then?" quoth the
"It is a misfortune from which Heaven has hitherto preserved
me, but which the devil, it seems, now thrusts upon me. It
will, nevertheless, interest me to see him at close quarters.
As they were going out, Mr. Caryll checked suddenly. "Why,
what's o'clock?" said he.
She stared, so abruptly came the question. "Past four, sir,"
He uttered a short laugh. "Decidedly," said he, "his lordship
must be viewed at closer quarters." And he led the way
In the passage he waited for her to come up with him. "You
had best announce me by name," he suggested. "It is Caryll."
She nodded, and, going forward, threw open a door, inviting
him to enter.
"Mr. Caryll," she announced, obedient to his injunction, and
as he went in she closed the door behind him.
>From the group of three that had been sitting about the
polished walnut table, the tall gentleman in buff and silver
rose swiftly, and advanced to the newcomer; what time Mr.
Caryll made a rapid observation of this brother whom he was
meeting under circumstances so odd and by a chance so
He beheld a man of twenty-five, or perhaps a little more, tall
and well made, if already inclining to heaviness, with a
swarthy face, full-lipped, big-nosed, black-eyed, an obstinate
chin, and a deplorable brow. At sight, by instinct, he
disliked his brother. He wondered vaguely was Lord Rotherby
in appearance at all like their common father; but beyond that
he gave little thought to the tie that bound them. Indeed, he
has placed it upon record that, saving in such moments of high
stress as followed in their later connection, he never could
remember that they were the sons of the same parent.
"I thought," was Rotherby's greeting, a note almost of
irritation in his voice, "that the woman said you were from
It was an odd welcome, but its oddness at the moment went
unheeded. His swift scrutiny of his brother over, Mr.
Caryll's glance passed on to become riveted upon the face of
the lady at the table's head. In addition to the beauties
which from above he had descried, he now perceived that her
mouth was sensitive and kindly, her whole expression one of
gentle wistfulness, exceeding sweet to contemplate. What did
she in this galley, he wondered; and he has confessed that
just as at sight he had disliked his brother, so from that
hour - from the very instant of his eyes' alighting on her
there - he loved the lady whom his brother was to wed, felt a
surpassing need of her, conceived that in the meeting of their
eyes their very souls had met, so that it was to him as if he
had known her since he had known anything. Meanwhile there
was his lordship's question to be answered. He answered it
mechanically, his eyes upon the lady, and she returning the
gaze of those queer, greenish eyes with a sweetness that gave
place to no confusion.
"I am from France, sir."
"But not French?" his lordship continued.
Mr. Caryll fetched his eyes from the lady's to meet Lord
Rotherby's. "More than half French," he replied, the French
taint in his accent growing slightly more pronounced. "It was
but an accident that my father was an Englishman."
Rotherby laughed softly, a thought contemptuously. Foreigners
were things which in his untraveled, unlettered ignorance he
despised. The difference between a Frenchman and a South Sea
Islander was a thing never quite appreciated by his lordship.
Some subtle difference he had no doubt existed; but for him it
was enough to know that both were foreigners; therefore, it
logically followed, both were kin.
"Your words, sir, might be oddly interpreted. 'Pon honor,
they might!" said he, and laughed softly again with singular
"If they have amused your lordship I am happy," said Mr.
Caryll in such a tone that Rotherby looked to see whether he
was being roasted. "You wanted me, I think. I beg that
you'll not thank me for having descended. It was an honor."
It occurred to Rotherby that this was a veiled reproof for the
ill manners of the omission. Again he looked sharply at this
man who was scanning him with such interest, but he detected
in the calm, high-bred face nothing to suggest that any
mockery was intended. Belatedly he fell to doing the very
thing that Mr. Caryll had begged him to leave undone: he fell
to thanking him. As for Mr. Caryll himself, not even the
queer position into which he had been thrust could repress his
characteristics. What time his lordship thanked him, he
looked about him at the other occupants of the room, and found
that, besides the parson, sitting pale and wide-eyed at the
table, there was present in the background his lordship's man
- a quiet fellow, quietly garbed in gray, with a shrewd face
and shrewd, shifty eyes. Mr. Caryll saw, and registered, for
future use, the reflection that eyes that are overshrewd are
seldom wont to look out of honest heads.
"You are desired," his lordship informed him, "to be witness
to a marriage."
"So much the landlady had made known to me."
"It is not, I trust, a task that will occasion you any
"None. On the contrary, it is the absence of the marriage
might do that." The smooth, easy tone so masked the inner
meaning of the answer that his lordship scarce attended to the
"Then we had best get on. We are in haste."
"'Tis the characteristic rashness of folk about to enter
wedlock," said Mr. Caryll, as he approached the table with his
lordship, his eyes as he spoke turning full upon the bride.
My lord laughed, musically enough, but overloud for a man of
brains or breeding. "Marry in haste, eh?" quoth he.
"You are penetration itself," Mr. Caryll praised him.
"'Twill take a shrewd rogue to better me," his lordship
"Yet an honest man might worst you. One never knows. But the
lady's patience is being taxed."
It was as well he added that, for his lordship had turned with
intent to ask him what he meant.
"Aye! Come, Jenkins. Get on with your patter. Gaskell," he
called to his man, "stand forward here." Then he took his
place beside the lady, who had risen, and stood pale, with
eyes cast down and - as Mr. Caryll alone saw - the faintest
quiver at the corners of her lips. This served to increase
Mr. Caryll's already considerable cogitations.
The parson faced them, fumbling at his book, Mr. Caryll's eyes
watching him with that cold, level glance of theirs. The
parson looked up, met that uncanny gaze, displayed his teeth
in a grin of terror, fell to trembling, and dropped the book
in his confusion. Mr. Caryll, smiling sardonically, stooped
to restore it him.
There followed a fresh pause. Mr. Jenkins, having lost his
place, seemed at some pains to find it again - amazing,
indeed, in one whose profession should have rendered him so
familiar with its pages.
Mr. Caryll continued to watch him, in silence, and - as an
observer might have thought, as, indeed, Gaskell did think,
though he said nothing at the time - with wicked relish.
At last the page was found again by Mr. Jenkins. Having found
it, he hesitated still a moment, then cleared his throat, and
in the manner of one hurling himself forward upon a desperate
venture, he began to read.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight o f God,"
he read, and on in a nasal, whining voice, which not only was
the very voice you would have expected from such a man, but in
accordance, too, with sound clerical convention. The bridal
pair stood before him, the groom with a slight flush on his
cheeks and a bright glitter in his black eyes, which were not
nice to see; the bride with bowed head and bosom heaving as in
response to inward tumult.
The cleric came to the end of his exordium, paused a moment,
and whether because he gathered confidence, whether because he
realized the impressive character of the fresh matter upon
which he entered, he proceeded now in a firmer, more sonorous
voice: "I require and charge you both as ye will answer on the
dreadful day of judgment "
"Ye've forgot something," Mr. Caryll interrupted blandly.
His lordship swung round with an impatient gesture and an
impatient snort; the lady, too, looked up suddenly, whilst Mr.
Jenkins seemed to fall into an utter panic.
"Wha - what?" he stammered. "What have I forgot?"
"To read the directions, I think."
His lordship scowled darkly upon Mr. Caryll, who heeded him
not at all, but watched the lady sideways.
Mr. Jenkins turned first scarlet, then paler than he had been
before, and bent his eyes to the book to read in a slightly
puzzled voice the italicized words above the period he had
embarked upon. "And also speaking unto the persons that shall
be married, he shall say:" he read, and looked up inquiry, his
faintly-colored, prominent eyes endeavoring to sustain Mr.
Caryll's steady glance, but failing miserably.
"'Tis farther back," Mr. Caryll informed him in answer to that
mute question; and as the fellow moistened his thumb to turn
back the pages, Mr. Caryll saved him the trouble. "It says, I
think, that the man should be on your right hand and the woman
on your left. Ye seem to have reversed matters, Mr. Jenkins.
But perhaps ye're left-handed."
"Stab me!" was Mr. Jenkins' most uncanonical comment. "I vow
I am over-flustered. Your lordship is so impatient with me.
This gentleman is right. But that I was so flustered. Will
you not change places with his lordship, ma'am?"
They changed places, after the viscount had thanked Mr. Caryll
shortly and cursed the parson with circumstance and fervor.
It was well done on his lordship's part, but the lady did not
seem convinced by it. Her face looked whiter, and her eyes
had an alarmed, half-suspicious expression.
"We must begin again," said Mr. Jenkins. And he began again.
Mr. Caryll listened and watched, and he began to enjoy himself
exceedingly. He had not reckoned upon so rich an
entertainment when he had consented to come down to witness
this odd ceremony. His sense of humor conquered every other
consideration, and the circumstance that Lord Rotherby was his
brother, if remembered at all, served but to add a spice to
Out of sheer deviltry he waited until Mr. Jenkins had labored
for a second time through the opening periods. Again he
allowed him to get as far as "I charge and require you both
-," before again he interrupted him.
"There is something else ye've forgot," said he in that sweet,
quiet voice of his.
This was too much for Rotherby. "Damn you!" he swore, turning
a livid face upon Mr. Caryll, and failed to observe that at
the sound of that harsh oath and at the sight of his furious
face, the lady recoiled from him, the suspicion lately in her
face turning first to conviction and then to absolute horror.
"I do not think you are civil," said Mr. Caryll critically.
"It was in your interests that I spoke."
"Then I'll thank you, in my interests, to hold your tongue!"
his lordship stormed.
"In that case," said Mr. Caryll, "I must still speak in the
interests of the lady. Since you've desired me to be a
witness, I'll do my duty by you both and see you properly
"Now, what the devil may you mean by that?" demanded his
lordship, betraying himself more and more at every word.
Mr. Jenkins, in a spasm of terror, sought to pour oil upon
these waters. "My lord," he bleated, teeth and eyeballs
protruding from his pallid face. "My lord! Perhaps the
gentleman is right. Perhaps - Perhaps - " He gulped, and
turned to Mr. Caryll. "What is't ye think we have forgot
now?" he asked.
"The time of day," Mr. Caryll replied, and watched the puzzled
look that came into both their faces.
"Do ye deal in riddles with us?" quoth his lordship. "What
have we to do with the time of day?"
"Best ask the parson," suggested Mr. Caryll.
Rotherby swung round again to Jenkins. Jenkins spread his
hands in mute bewilderment and distress. Mr. Caryll laughed
"I'll not be married! I'll not be married!"
It was the lady who spoke, and those odd words were the first
that Mr. Caryll heard from her lips. They made an excellent
impression upon him, bearing witness to her good sense and
judgment - although belatedly aroused - and informing him,
although the pitch was strained just now; that the rich
contralto of her voice was full of music. He was a judge of
voices, as of much else besides.
"Hoity-toity!" quoth his lordship, between petulance and
simulated amusement. "What's all the pother? Hortensia, dear
"I'll not be married!" she repeated firmly, her wide brown
eyes meeting his in absolute defiance, head thrown back, face
pale but fearless.
"I don't believe," ventured Mr. Caryll, "that you could be if
you desired it. Leastways not here and now and by this." And
he jerked a contemptuous thumb sideways at Mr. Jenkins, toward
whom he had turned his shoulder. "Perhaps you have realized
it for yourself."
A shudder ran through her; color flooded into her face and out
again, leaving it paler than before; yet she maintained a
brave front that moved Mr. Caryll profoundly to an even
greater admiration of her.
Rotherby, his great jaw set, his hands clenched and eyes
blazing, stood irresolute between her and Mr. Caryll.
Jenkins, in sheer terror, now sank limply to a chair, whilst
Gaskell looked on - a perfect servant - as immovable outwardly
and unconcerned as if he had been a piece of furniture. Then
his lordship turned again to Caryll.
"You take a deal upon yourself, sir," said he menacingly.
"A deal of what?" wondered Mr. Caryll blandly.
The question nonplussed Rotherby. He swore ferociously. "By
God!" he fumed, "I'll have you make good your insinuations.
You shall disabuse this lady's mind. You shall - damn you! -
or I'll compel you!"
Mr. Caryll smiled very engagingly. The matter was speeding
excellently - a comedy the like of which he did not remember
to have played a part in since his student days at Oxford, ten
years and more ago.
"I had thought," said he, "that the woman who summoned me to
be a witness of this - this - ah wedding" - there was a whole
volume of criticism in his utterance of the word - "was the
landlady of the `Adam and Eve.' I begin to think that she was
this lady's good angel; Fate, clothed, for once, matronly and
benign." Then he dropped the easy, bantering manner with a
suddenness that was startling. Gallic fire blazed up through
British training. "Let us speak plainly, my Lord Rotherby.
This marriage is no marriage. It is a mockery and a villainy.
And that scoundrel - worthy servant of his master - is no
parson; no, not so much as a hedge-parson is he. Madame," he
proceeded, turning now to the frightened lady, "you have been
grossly abused by these villains."
"Sir!" blazed Rotherby at last, breaking in upon his
denunciation, hand clapped to sword. "Do ye dare use such
words to me?"
Mr. Jenkins got to his feet, in a slow, foolish fashion. He
put out a hand to stay his lordship. The lady, in the
background, looked on with wide eyes, very breathless, one
hand to her bosom as if to control its heave.
Mr. Caryll proceeded, undismayed, to make good his accusation.
He had dropped back into his slightly listless air of thinly
veiled persiflage, and he appeared to address the lady, to
explain the situation to her, rather than to justify the
charge he had made.
"A blind man could have perceived, from the rustling of his
prayer book when he fumbled at it, that the contents were
strange to him. And observe the volume," he continued,
picking it up and flaunting it aloft. "Fire-new; not a
thumbmark anywhere; purchased expressly for this foul venture.
Is there aught else so clean and fresh about the scurvy
"You shall moderate your tones, sir - " began his lordship in
"He sets you each on the wrong side of him," continued Mr.
Caryll, all imperturbable, "lacking even the sense to read the
directions which the book contains, and he has no thought for
the circumstance that the time of day is uncanonical. Is more
"So much was not needed," said she, "though I am your debtor,
Her voice was marvelously steady, ice-cold with scorn, a royal
anger increasing the glory of her eyes.
Rotherby's hand fell away from his sword. He realized that
bluster was not the most convenient weapon here. He addressed
Mr. Caryll very haughtily. "You are from France, sir, and
something may be excused you. But not quite all. You have
used expressions that are not to be offered to a person of my
quality. I fear you scarcely apprehend it."
"As well, no doubt, as those who avoid you, sir," answered Mr.
Caryll, with cool contempt, his dislike of the man and of the
business in which he had found him engaged mounting above
every other consideration.
His lordship frowned inquiry. "And who may those be?"
"Most decent folk, I should conceive, if this be an example of
"By God, sir! You are a thought too pert. We'll mend that
presently. I will first convince you of your error, and you,
"It will be interesting," said Mr. Caryll, and meant it.
Rotherby turned from him, keeping a tight rein upon his anger;
and so much restraint in so tempestuous a man was little short
of wonderful. "Hortensia," he said, "this is fool's talk.
What object could I seek to serve?" She drew back another
step, contempt and loathing in her face. "This man," he
continued, flinging a hand toward Jenkins, and checked upon
the word. He swung round upon the fellow. "Have you fooled
me, knave?" he bawled. "Is it true what this man says of you
- that ye're no parson at all?"
Jenkins quailed and shriveled. Here was a move for which he
was all unprepared, and knew not how to play to it. On the
bridegroom's part it was excellently acted; yet it came too
late to be convincing.
"You'll have the license in your pocket, no doubt, my lord,"
put in Mr. Caryll. "It will help to convince the lady of the
honesty of your intentions. It will show her that ye were
abused by this thief for the sake of the guinea ye were to pay
That was checkmate, and Lord Rotherby realized it. There
remained him nothing but violence, and in violence he was
exceedingly at home - being a member of the Hell Fire Club and
having served in the Bold Bucks under his Grace of Wharton.
"You damned, infernal marplot! You blasted meddler!" he
swore, and some other things besides, froth on his lips, the
veins of his brow congested. "What affair was this of yours?"
"I thought you desired me for a witness," Mr. Caryll reminded
"I did, let me perish!" said Rotherby. "And I wish to the
devil I had bit my tongue out first."
"The loss to eloquence had been irreparable," sighed Mr.
Caryll, his eyes upon a beam of the ceiling.
Rotherby stared and choked. "Is there no sense in you, you
gibbering parrot?" he inquired. "What are you - an actor or a
"A gentleman, I hope," said Mr. Caryll urbanely. "What are
"I'll learn you," said his lordship, and plucked at his sword.
"I see," said Mr. Caryll in the same quiet voice that thinly
veiled his inward laughter - "a bully!"
With more oaths, my lord heaved himself forward. Mr. Caryll
was without weapons. He had left his sword above-stairs, not
deeming that he would be needing it at a wedding. He never
moved hand or foot as Rotherby bore down upon him, but his
greenish eyes grew keen and very watchful. He began to wonder
had he indulged his amusement overlong, and imperceptibly he
adjusted his balance for a spring.
Rotherby stretched out to lunge, murder in his inflamed eyes.
"I'll silence you, you - "
There was a swift rustle behind him. His hand - drawn back to
thrust - was suddenly caught, and ere he realized it the sword
was wrenched from fingers that held it lightly, unprepared for
"You dog!" said the lady's voice, strident now with anger and
disdain. She had his sword.
He faced about with a horrible oath. Mr. Caryll conceived
that he was becoming a thought disgusting.
Hoofs and wheels ground on the cobbles of the yard and came to
a halt outside, but went unheeded in the excitement of the
moment. Rotherby stood facing her, she facing him, the sword
in her hand and a look in her eyes that promised she would use
it upon him did he urge her.
A moment thus - of utter, breathless silence. Then, as if her
passion mounted and swept all aside, she raised the sword, and
using it as a whip, she lashed him with it until at the third
blow it rebounded to the table and was snapped. Instinctively
his lordship had put up his hands to save his face, and across
one of them a red line grew and grew and oozed forth blood
which spread to envelop it.
Gaskell advanced with a sharp cry of concern. But Rotherby
waved him back, and the gesture shook blood from his hand like
raindrops. His face was livid; his eyes were upon the woman
he had gone so near betraying with a look that none might
read. Jenkins swayed, sickly, against the table, whilst Mr.
Caryll observed all with a critical eye and came to the
conclusion that she must have loved this villain.
The hilt and stump of sword clattered in the fireplace,
whither she hurled it. A moment she caught her face in her
hands, and a sob shook her almost fiercely. Then she came
past his lordship, across the room to Mr. Caryll, Rotherby
making no shift to detain her.
"Take me away, sir! Take me away," she begged him.
Mr. Caryll's gloomy face lightened suddenly. "Your servant,
ma'am," said he, and made her a bow. "I think you are very
well advised," he added cheerfully and offered her his arm.
She took it, and moved a step or two toward the door. It
opened at that moment, and a burly, elderly man came in
The lady halted, a cry escaped her - a cry of pain almost -
and she fell to weeping there and then. Mr. Caryll was very
The newcomer paused at the sight that met him, considered it
with a dull blue eye, and, for all that he looked stupid, it
seemed he had wit enough to take in the situation.
"So!" said he, with heavy mockery. "I might have spared
myself the trouble of coming after you. For it seems that she
has found you out in time, you villain!"
Rotherby turned sharply at that voice. He fell back a step,
his brow seeming to grow blacker than it had been. "Father!"
he exclaimed; but there was little that was filial in the
Mr. Caryll staggered and recovered himself. It had been
indeed a staggering shock; for here, of course, was his own
There was a quick patter of feet, the rustle of a hooped
petticoat, and the lady was in the arms of my Lord Ostermore.
"Forgive me, my lord!" she was crying. "Oh, forgive me! I
was a little fool, and I have been punished enough already!"
To Mr. Caryll this was a surprising development. The earl,
whose arms seemed to have opened readily enough to receive
her, was patting her soothingly upon the shoulder. "Pish!
What's this? What's this?" he grumbled; yet his voice, Mr.
Caryll noticed, was if anything kindly; but it must be
confessed that it was a dull, gruff voice, seldom indicating
any shade of emotion, unless - as sometimes happened - it was
raised in anger. He was frowning now upon his son over the
girl's head, his bushy, grizzled brows contracted.
Mr. Caryll observed - and with what interest you should well
imagine - that Lord Ostermore was still in a general way a
handsome man. Of a good height, but slightly excessive bulk,
he had a face that still retained a fair shape. Short-necked,
florid and plethoric, he had the air of the man who seldom
makes a long illness at the end. His eyes were very blue, and
the lids were puffed and heavy, whilst the mouth, Mr. Caryll
remarked in a critical, detached spirit, was stupid rather
than sensuous. He made his survey swiftly, and the result
left him wondering.
Meanwhile the earl was addressing his son, whose hand was
being bandaged by Gaskell. There was little variety in his
invective. "You villain!" he bawled at him. "You damned
villain!" Then he patted the girl's head. "You found the
scoundrel out before you married him," said he. "I am glad
on't; glad on't!"
"'Tis such a reversing of the usual order of things that it
calls for wonder," said Mr. Caryll.
"Eh?" quoth his lordship. "Who the devil are you? One of his
"Your lordship overwhelms me," said Mr. Caryll gravely, making
a bow. He observed the bewilderment in Ostermore's eyes, and
began to realize at that early stage of their acquaintance
that to speak ironically to the Earl of Ostermore was not to
speak at all.
It was Hortensia - a very tearful Hortensia now who explained.
"This gentleman saved me, my lord," she said.
"Saved you?" quoth he dully. "How did he come to save you?"
"He discovered the parson," she explained.
The earl looked more and more bewildered. "Just so," said Mr.
Caryll. "It was my privilege to discover that the parson is
"The parson is no parson?" echoed his lordship, scowling more
and more. "Then what the devil is the parson?"
Hortensia freed herself from his protecting arms. "He is a
villain," she said, "who was hired by my Lord Rotherby to come
here and pretend to be a parson." Her eyes flamed, her cheeks
were scarlet. "God help me for a fool, my lord, to have put
my faith in that man! Oh!" she choked. "The shame - the
burning shame of it! I would I had a brother to punish him!"
Lord Ostermore was crimson, too, with indignation. Mr. Caryll
was relieved to see that he was capable of so much emotion.
"Did I not warn you against him, Hortensia ?" said he. "Could
you not have trusted that I knew him - I, his father, to my
everlasting shame?" Then he swung upon Rotherby. "You dog!"
he began, and there - being a man of little invention - words
failed him, and wrath alone remained, very intense, but
Rotherby moved forward till he reached the table, then stood
leaning upon it, scowling at the company from under his black
brows. "'Tis your lordship alone is to blame for this," he
informed his father, with a vain pretence at composure.
"I am to blame!" gurgled his lordship, veins swelling at his
brow. "I am to blame that you should have carried her off
thus? And - by God! - had you meant to marry her honestly and
fittingly, I might find it in my heart to forgive you. But to
practice such villainy! To attempt to put this foul trick
upon the child!"
Mr. Caryll thought for an instant of another child whose child
he was, and a passion of angry mockery at the forgetfulness of
age welled up from the bitter soul of him. Outwardly he
remained a very mirror for placidity.
"Your lordship had threatened to disinherit me if I married
her," said Rotherby.
"'Twas to save her from you," Ostermore explained, entirely
unnecessarily. "And you thought to - to - By God! sir, I
marvel you have the courage to confront me. I marvel!"
"Take me away, my lord," Hortensia begged him, touching his
"Aye, we were best away," said the earl, drawing her to him.
Then he flung a hand out at Rotherby in a gesture of
repudiation, of anathema. "But 'tis not the end on't for you,
you knave! What I threatened, I will perform. I'll
disinherit you. Not a penny of mine shall come to you. Ye
shall starve for aught I care; starve, and - and - the world
be well rid of a villain. I - I disown you. Ye're no son of
mine. I'll take oath ye're no son of mine!"
Mr. Caryll thought that, on the contrary, Rotherby was very
much his father's son, and he added to his observations upon
human nature the reflection that sinners are oddly blessed
with short memories. He was entirely dispassionate again by
As for Rotherby, he received his father's anger with a
scornful smile and a curling lip. "You'll disinherit me?"
quoth he in mockery. "And of what, pray? If report speaks
true, you'll be needing to inherit something yourself to bear
you through your present straitness." He shrugged and
produced his snuff-box with an offensive simulation of
nonchalance. "Ye cannot cut the entail," he reminded his
almost apoplectic sire, and took snuff delicately, sauntering
"Cut the entail? The entail?" cried the earl, and laughed in
a manner that seemed to bode no good. "Have you ever troubled
to ascertain what it amounts to? You fool, it wouldn't keep
you in - in - in snuff!"
Lord Rotherby halted in his stride, half-turned and looked at
his father over his shoulder. The sneering mask was wiped
from his face, which became blank. "My lord - " he began.
The earl waved a silencing hand, and turned with dignity to
"Come, child," said he. Then he remembered something. "Gad!"
he exclaimed. "I had forgot the parson. I'll have him
gaoled! I'll have him hanged if the law will help me. Come
Ignoring the invitation, Mr. Jenkins scuttled, ratlike, across
the room, mounted the window-seat, and was gone in a flash
through the open window. He dropped plump upon Mr. Green, who
was crouching underneath. The pair rolled over together in
the mould of a flowerbed; then Mr. Green clutched Mr. Jenkins,
and Mr. Jenkins squealed like a trapped rabbit. Mr. Green
thrust his fist carefully into the mockparson's mouth.
"Sh! You blubbering fool!" he snapped in his ear. "My
business is not with you. Lie still!"
Within the room all stood at gaze, following the sudden flight
of Mr. Jenkins. Then Lord Ostermore made as if to approach
the winnow, but Hortensia restrained him.
"Let the wretch go," she said. "The blame is not his. What
is he but my lord's tool?" And her eyes scorched Rotherby
with such a glance of scorn as must have killed any but a
shameless man. Then turning to the demurely observant
gentleman who had done her such good service, "Mr. Caryll."
she said, "I want to thank you. I want my lord, here, to
Mr. Caryll bowed to her. "I beg that you will not think of
it," said he. "It is I who will remain in your debt."
"Is your name Caryll, sir?" quoth the earl. He had a trick of
fastening upon the inconsequent, though that was scarcely the
"That, my lord, is my name. I believe I have the honor of
sharing it with your lordship."
"Ye'll belong to some younger branch of the family," the earl
"Like enough - some outlying branch," answered the
imperturbable Caryll - a jest which only himself could
appreciate, and that bitterly.
"And how came you into this?"
Rotherby sneered audibly - in self-mockery, no doubt, as he
came to reflect that it was he, himself, had had him fetched.
"They needed another witness," said Mr. Caryll, "and hearing
there was at the inn a gentleman newly crossed from France,
his lordship no doubt opined that a traveller, here to-day and
gone for good tomorrow, would be just the witness that he
needed for the business he proposed. That circumstance
aroused my suspicions, and - "
But the earl, as usual, seemed to have fastened upon the minor
point, although again it was not so. "You are newly crossed
from France?" said he. "Ay, and your name is the same as
mine. 'Twas what I was advised."
Mr. Caryll flashed a sidelong glance at Rotherby, who had
turned to stare at his father, and in his heart he cursed the
stupidity of my Lord Ostermore. If this proposed to be a
member of a conspiracy, Heaven help that same conspiracy!
"Were you, by any chance, going to seek me in town, Mr.
Mr. Caryll suppressed a desire to laugh. Here was a way to
deal with State secrets. "I, my lord?" he inquired, with an
assumed air of surprise.
The earl looked at him, and from him to Rotherby, bethought
himself, and started so overtly that Rotherby's eyes grew
narrow, the lines of his mouth tightened. "Nay, of course
not; of course not," he blustered clumsily.
But Rotherby laughed aloud. "Now what a plague is all this
mystery?" he inquired.
"Mystery?" quoth my lord. "What mystery should there be?"
"'Tis what I would fain be informed," he answered in a voice
that showed he meant to gain the information. He sauntered
forward towards Caryll, his eye playing mockingly over this
gentleman from France. "Now, sir," said he, "whose messenger
may you be, eh? What's all this - "
"Rotherby!" the earl interrupted in a voice intended to be
compelling. "Come away, Mr. Caryll," he added quickly. "I'll
not have any gentleman who has shown himself a friend to my
ward, here, affronted by that rascal. Come away, sir!"
"Not so fast! Not so fast, ecod!"
It was another voice that broke in upon them. Rotherby
started round. Gaskell, in the shadows of the cowled
fireplace jumped in sheer alarm. All stared at the window
whence the voice proceeded.
They beheld a plump, chubby-faced little man, astride the
sill, a pistol displayed with ostentation in his hand.
Mr. Caryll was the only one with the presence of mind to
welcome him. "Ha!" said he, smiling engagingly. "My little
friend, the brewer of ale."
"Let no one leave this room," said Mr. Green with a great
dignity. Then, with rather less dignity, he whistled shrilly
through his fingers, and got down lightly into the room.
"Sir," blustered the earl, "this is an intrusion; aan
impertinence. What do you want?"
"The papers this gentleman carries," said Mr. Green,
indicating Caryll with the hand that held the pistol. The
earl looked alarmed, which was foolish in him, thought Mr.
Caryll. Rotherby covered his mouth with his hand, after the
fashion of one who masks a smile.
"Ye're rightly served for meddling," said he with relish.
"Out with them," the chubby man demanded. "Ye'll gain nothing
by resistance. So don't be obstinate, now."
"I could be nothing so discourteous," said Mr. Caryll. "Would
it be prying on my part to inquire what may be your interest
in my papers?"
His serenity lessened the earl's anxieties, but bewildered
him; and it took the edge off the malicious pleasure which
Rotherby was beginning to experience.
"I am obeying the orders of my Lord Carteret, the Secretary of
State," said Mr. Green. "I was to watch for a gentleman from
France with letters for my Lord Ostermore. He had a messenger
a week ago to tell him to look for such a visitor. He took
the messenger, if you must know, and - well, we induced him to
tell us what was the message he had carried. There is so much
mystery in all this that my Lord Carteret desires more
knowledge on the subject. I think you are the gentleman I am
Mr. Caryll looked him over with an amused eye, and laughed.
"It distresses me," said he, "to see so much good thought
Mr. Green was abashed a moment. But he recovered quickly; no
doubt he had met the cool type before. "Come, come!" said he.
"No blustering. Out with your papers, my fine fellow."
The door opened, and a couple of men came in; over their
shoulders, ere the door closed again, Mr. Caryll had a glimpse
of the landlady's rosy face, alarm in her glance. The
newcomers were dirty rogues; tipstaves, recognizable at a
glance. One of them wore a ragged bob-wig - the cast-off, no
doubt, of some gentleman's gentleman, fished out of the
sixpenny tub in Rosemary Lane; it was ill-fitting, and wisps
of the fellow's own unkempt hair hung out in places. The
other wore no wig at all; his yellow thatch fell in streaks
from under his shabby hat, which he had the ill-manners to
retain until Lord Ostermore knocked it from his head with a
blow of his cane. Both were fierily bottle-nosed, and neither
appeared to have shaved for a week or so.
"Now," quoth Mr. Green, "will you hand them over of your own
accord, or must I have you searched?" And a wave of the hand
towards the advancing myrmidons indicated the searchers.
"You go too far, sir," blustered the earl.
"Ay, surely," put in Mr. Caryll. "You are mad to think a
gentleman is to submit to being searched by any knave that
comes to him with a cock-and-bull tale about the Secretary of
Mr. Green leered again, and produced a paper. "There," said
he, "is my Lord Carteret's warrant, signed and sealed."
Mr. Caryll glanced over it with a disdainful eye. "It is in
blank," said he.
"Just so," agreed Mr. Green. "Carte blanche, as you say over
the water. If you insist," he offered obligingly, "I'll fill
in your name before we proceed."
Mr. Caryll shrugged his shoulders. "It might be well," said
he, "if you are to search me at all."
Mr. Green advanced to the table. The writing implements
provided for the wedding were still there. He took up a pen,
scrawled a name across the blank, dusted it with sand, and
presented it again to Mr. Caryll. The latter nodded.
"I'll not trouble you to search me," said he. "I would as
soon not have these noblemen of yours for my valets." He
thrust his hands into the pockets of his fine coat, and
brought forth several papers. These he proffered to Mr.
Green, who took them between satisfaction and amazement.
Ostermore stared, too stricken for words at this meek
surrender; and well was it for Mr. Caryll that he was so
stricken, for had he spoken he had assuredly betrayed himself.
Hortensia, Mr. Caryll observed, watched his cowardly yielding
with an eye of stern contempt. Rotherby looked on with a dark
face that betrayed nothing.
Meanwhile Mr. Green was running through the papers, and as
fast as he ran through them he permitted himself certain
comments that passed for humor with his followers. There
could be no doubt that in his own social stratum Mr. Green
must have been accounted something of a wag.
"Ha! What's this? A bill! A bill for snuff! My Lord
Carteret'll snuff you, sir. He'll tobacco you, ecod! He'll
smoke you first, and snuff you afterwards." He flung the bill
aside. "Phew!" he whistled. "Verses! `To Theocritus upon
sailing for ALbion.' That's mighty choice! D'ye write
"Heyday! 'Tis an occupation to which I have succumbed in
moments of weakness. I crave your indulgence, Mr. Green."
Mr. Green perceived that here was a weak attempt at irony, and
went on with his investigations. He came to the last of the
papers Mr. Caryll had handed him, glanced at it, swore
coarsely, and dropped it.
"D'ye think ye can bubble me?'" he cried, red in the face.
Lord Ostermore heaved a sigh of relief; the hard look had
faded from Hortensia's eyes.
"What is't ye mean, giving me this rubbish?"
"I offer you my excuses for the contents of my pockets," said
Mr. Caryll. "Ye see, I did not expect to be honored by your
inquisition. Had I but known - "
Mr. Green struck an attitude. "Now attend to me, sir! I am a
servant of His Majesty's Government."
"His Majesty's Government cannot be sufficiently
congratulated," said Mr. Caryll, the irrepressible.
Mr. Green banged the table. "Are ye rallying me, ecod!"
"You have upset the ink," Mr. Caryll pointed out to him.
"Damn the ink!" swore the spy. "And damn you for a Tom o'
Bedlam! I ask you again - what d'ye mean, giving me this
"You asked me to turn out my pockets."
"I asked you for the letter ye have brought Lord Ostermore."
"I am sorry," said Mr. Caryll, and eyed the other
sympathetically. "I am sorry to disappoint you. But, then,