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The Lion's Skin by Rafael Sabatini

Part 4 out of 6

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"Indeed, no - " she began.

"Indeed, yes," said he. "How can this compare with what you
have done for me? For I have learnt how greatly it is to you,
yourself, that I owe my recovery - the saving of my life."

"Ah, but that is not true. It - "

"Let me think so, whether it be true or not," he implored her,
eyes between tenderness and whimsicality intent upon her face.
"Let me believe it, for the belief has brought me happiness -
the greatest happiness, I think, that I have ever known. I
can know but one greater, and that - "

He broke off suddenly, and she observed that the hand he had
stretched out trembled a moment ere it was abruptly lowered
again. It was as a man who had reached forth to grasp
something that he craves, and checked his desire upon a sudden

She felt oddly stirred, despite herself, and oddly
constrained. It may have been to disguise this that she half
turned to the table, saying: "You were about to smoke when I
came." And she took up his pipe and tobacco - jar to offer

"Ah, but since you've come, I would not dream," he said.

She looked at him. The complete change of topic permitted it.
"If I desired you so to do?" she inquired, and added: "I love
the fragrance of it."

He raised his brows. "Fragrance?" quoth he. "My Lady
Ostermore has another word for it." He took the pipe and jar
from her. "'Tis no humoring, this, of a man you imagine sick
- no silly chivalry of yours?" he questioned doubtfully. "Did
I think that, I'd never smoke another pipe again."

She shook her head, and laughed at his solemnity. "I love the
fragrance," she repeated.

"Ah! Why, then, I'll pleasure you," said he, with the air of
one conferring favors, and filled his pipe. Presently he
spoke again in a musing tone. "In a week or so, I shall be
well enough to travel."

"'Tis your intent to travel?" she inquired.

He set down the jar, and reached for the tinderbox. "It is
time I was returning home," he explained.

"Ah, yes. Your home is in France."

"At Maligny; the sweetest nook in Normandy. 'Twas my mother's
birthplace, and 'twas there she died."

"You have felt the loss of her, I make no doubt."

"That might have been the case if I had known her," answered
he. "But as it is, I never did. I was but two years old -
she, herself, but twenty - when she died."

He pulled at his pipe in silence a moment or two, his face
overcast and thoughtful. A shallower woman would have broken
in with expressions of regret; Hortensia offered him the
nobler sympathy of silence. Moreover, she had felt from his
tone that there was more to come; that what he had said was
but the preface to some story that he desired her to be
acquainted with. And presently, as she expected, he continued

"She died, Mistress Winthrop, of a broken heart. My father
had abandoned her two years and more before she died. In
those years of repining - ay, and worse, of actual want - her
health was broken so that, poor soul, she died."

"O pitiful!" cried Hortensia, pain in her face.

"Pitiful, indeed - the more pitiful that her death was a
source of some slight happiness to those who loved her; the
only happiness they could have in her was to know that she was
at rest."

"And - and your father?"

"I am coming to him. My mother had a friend - a very noble,
lofty-minded gentleman who had loved her with a great and
honest love before the profligate who was my father came
forward as a suitor. Recognizing in the latter - as he
thought in his honest heart - a man in better case to make her
happy, this gentleman I speak of went his ways. He came upon
her afterwards, broken and abandoned, and he gathered up the
poor shards of her shattered life, and sought with tender but
unavailing hands to piece them together again. And when she
died he vowed to stand my friend and to make up to me for the
want I had of parents. 'Tis by his bounty that to-day I am
lord of Maligny that was for generations the property of my
mother's people. 'Tis by his bounty and loving care that I am
what I am, and not what so easily I might have become had the
seed sown by my father been allowed to put out shoots."

He paused, as if bethinking himself, and looked at her with a
wistful, inquiring smile. "But why plague you," he cried,
"with this poor tale of yesterday that will be forgot

"Nay - ah, nay," she begged, and put out a hand in impulsive
sympathy to touch his own, so transparent now in its
emaciation. "Tell me; tell me!"

His smile softened. He sighed gently and continued. "This
gentleman who adopted me lived for one single purpose, with
one single aim in view - to avenge my mother, whom he had
loved, upon the man whom she had loved and who had so ill
repaid her. He reared me for that purpose, as much, I think,
as out of any other feeling. Thirty years have sped, and
still the hand of the avenger has not fallen upon my father.
It should have fallen a month ago; but I was weak; I
hesitated; and then this sword-thrust put me out of all case
of doing what I had crossed from France to do."

She looked at him with something of horror in her face. "Were
you - were you to have been the instrument?" she inquired.
"Were you to have avenged this thing upon your own father?"

He nodded slowly. "'Twas to that end that I was reared," he
answered, and put aside his pipe, which had gone out. "The
spirit of revenge was educated into me until I came to look
upon revenge as the best and holiest of emotions; until I
believed that if I failed to wreak it I must be a craven and a
dastard. All this seemed so until the moment came to set my
hand to the task. And then - " He shrugged.

"And then?" she questioned.

"I couldn't. The full horror of it burst upon me. I saw the
thing in its true and hideous proportions, and it revolted

"It must have been so," she approved him.

"I told my foster-father; but I met with neither sympathy nor
understanding. He renewed his old-time arguments, and again
he seemed to prove to me that did I fail I should be false to
my duty and to my mother's memory - a weakling, a thing of

"The monster! Oh, the monster! He is an evil man for all
that you have said of him."

"Not so. There is no nobler gentleman in all the world. I
who know him, know that. It is through the very nobility of
it that this warp has come into his nature. Sane in all
things else, he is - I see it now, I understand it at last -
insane on this one subject. Much brooding has made him mad
upon this matter - a fanatic whose gospel is Vengeance, and,
like all fanatics, he is harsh and intolerant when resisted on
the point of his fanaticism. This is something I have come to
realize in these past days, when I lay with naught else to do
but ponder.

"In all things else he sees as deep and clear as any man; in
this his vision is distorted. He has looked at nothing else
for thirty years; can you wonder that his sight is blurred?"

"He is to be pitied then," she said, "deeply to be pitied."

"True. And because I pitied him, because I valued his regard
-however mistaken he might be - above all else, I was
hesitating again - this time between my duty to myself and my
duty to him. I was so hesitating - though I scarce can doubt
which had prevailed in the end - when came this sword-thrust
so very opportunely to put me out of case of doing one thing
or the other."

"But now that you are well again?" she asked.

"Now that I am well again - I thank Heaven that it will be too
late. The opportunity that was ours is lost. His - my father
should now be beyond our power."

There ensued a spell of silence. He sat with eyes averted
from her face - those eyes which she had never known other
than whimsical and mocking, now full of gloom and pain -
riveted upon the glare of sunshine on the pond out yonder. A
great sympathy welled up from her heart for this man whom she
was still far from understanding, and who, nevertheless -
because of it, perhaps, for there is much fascination in that
which puzzles - was already growing very dear to her. The
story he had told her drew her infinitely closer to him,
softening her heart for him even more perhaps than it had
already been softened when she had seen him - as she had
thought - upon the point of dying. A wonder flitted through
her mind as to why he had told her; then another question
surged. She gave it tongue.

"You have told me so much, Mr. Caryll," she said, "that I am
emboldened to ask something more." His eyes invited her to put
her question. "Your - your father? Was he related to Lord

Not a muscle of his face moved. "Why that?" he asked.

"Because your name is Caryll," said she.

"My name?" he laughed softly and bitterly. "My name?" He
reached for an ebony cane that stood beside his chair. "I had
thought you understood." He heaved himself to his feet, and
she forgot to caution him against exertion. "I have no right
to any name," he told her. "My father was a man too full of
worldly affairs to think of trifles. And so it befell that
before he went his ways he forgot to marry the poor lady who
was my mother. I might take what name I chose. I chose
Caryll. But you will understand, Mistress Winthrop," and he
looked her fully in the face, attempting in vain to dissemble
the agony in his eyes - he who a little while ago had been
almost happy - "that if ever it should happen that I should
come to love a woman who is worthy of being loved, I who am
nameless have no name to offer her."

Revelation illumined her mind as in a flash. She looked at

"Was - was that what you meant, that day we thought you dying,
when you said to me - for it was to me you spoke, to me alone
- that it was better so?"

He inclined his head. "That is what I meant," he answered.

Her lids drooped; her cheeks were very white, and he remarked
the swift, agitated surge of her bosom, the fingers that were
plucking at one another in her lap. Without looking up, she
spoke again. "If you had the love to offer, what would the
rest matter? What is a name that it should weigh so much?"

"Heyday!" He sighed, and smiled very wistfully. "You are
young, child. In time you will understand what place the
world assigns to such men as I. It is a place I could ask no
woman to share. Such as I am, could I speak of love to any

"Yet you spoke of love once to me," she reminded him, scarcely
above her breath, and stabbed him with the recollection.

"In an hour of moonshine, an hour of madness, when I was a
reckless fool that must give tongue to every impulse. You
reproved me then in just the terms my case deserved.
Hortensia," he bent towards her, leaning on his cane, "'tis
very sweet and merciful in you to recall it without reproach.
Recall it no more, save to think with scorn of the fleering
coxcomb who was so lost to the respect that is due to so sweet
a lady. I have told you so much of myself to-day that
you may"

"Decidedly," came a shrill, ironical voice from the arbor's
entrance, "I may congratulate you, sir, upon the prodigious
strides of your recovery."

Mr. Caryll straightened himself from his stooping posture,
turned and made Lady Ostermore a bow, his whole manner changed
again to that which was habitual to him. "And no less
decidedly, my lady," said he with a tight-lipped smile, "may I
congratulate your ladyship's son upon that happy circumstance,
which is - as I have learned - so greatly due to the steps
your ladyship took - for which I shall be ever grateful - to
ensure that I should be made whole again."



Her ladyship stood a moment, leaning upon her cane, her head
thrown back, her thin lip curling, and her eyes playing over
Mr. Caryll with a look of dislike that she made no attempt to

Mr. Caryll found the situation redolent with comedy. He had a
quick eye for such matters; so quick an eye that he deplored
on the present occasion her ladyship's entire lack of a sense
of humor. But for that lamentable shortcoming, she might have
enjoyed with him the grotesqueness of her having - she, who
disliked him so exceedingly - toiled and anguished, robbed
herself of sleep, and hoped and prayed with more fervor,
perhaps, than she had ever yet hoped and prayed for anything,
that his life might be spared.

Her glance shifted presently from him to Hortensia, who had
risen and who stood in deep confusion at having been so found
by her ladyship, and in deep agitation still arising from the
things he had said and from those which he had been hindered
from adding by the coming of the countess.

The explanations that had been interrupted might never be
renewed; she felt they never would be; he would account that
he had said enough; since he was determined to ask for
nothing. And unless the matter were broached again, what
chance had she of combatting his foolish scruples; for foolish
she accounted them; they were of no weight with her, unless,
indeed, to heighten the warm feeling that already she had
conceived for him.

Her ladyship moved forward a step or two, her fan going gently
to and fro, stirring the barbs of the white plume that formed
part of her tall head-dress.

"What were you doing here, child?" she inquired, very coldly.

Mistress Winthrop looked up - a sudden, almost scared glance
it was.

"I, madam? Why - I was walking in the garden, and seeing Mr.
Caryll here, I came to ask him how he did; to offer to read to
him if he would have me."

"And the Maidstone matter not yet cold in its grave!"
commented her ladyship sourly. "As I'm a woman, it is
monstrous I should be inflicted with the care of you that have
no care for yourself."

Hortensia bit her lip, controlling herself bravely, a spot of
red in either cheek. Mr. Caryll came promptly to her rescue.

"Your ladyship must confess that Mistress Winthrop has
assisted nobly in the care of me, and so, has placed your
ladyship in her debt."

"In my debt?" shrilled the countess, eyebrows aloft,
head-dress nodding. "And what of yours?"

"In my clumsy way, ma'am, I have already attempted to convey
my thanks to her. It might be graceful in your ladyship to
follow my example."

Mentally Mr. Caryll observed that it is unwise to rouge so
heavily as did Lady Ostermore when prone to anger and to
paling under it. The false color looks so very false on such

Her ladyship struck the ground with her cane. "For what have
I to thank her, sir? Will you tell me that, you who seem so
very well informed."

"Why, for her part in saving your son's life, ma'am, if you
must have it. Heaven knows," he continued in his
characteristic, half-bantering manner, under which it was so
difficult to catch a glimpse of his real feelings, "I am not
one to throw services done in the face of folk, but here have
Mistress Winthrop and I been doing our best for your son in
this matter; she by so diligently nursing me; I by responding
to her nursing - and your ladyship's - and so, recovering from
my wound. I do not think that your ladyship shows us a
becoming gratitude. It is but natural that we fellow-workers
in your ladyship's and Lord Rotherby's interests, should have
a word to say to each other on the score of those labors which
have made us colleagues."

Her ladyship measured him with a malignant eye. "Are you
quite mad, sir?" she asked him.

He shrugged and smiled. "It has been alleged against me on
occasion. But I think it was pure spite." Then he waved his
hand towards the long seat that stood at the back of the
arbor. "Will your ladyship not sit? You will forgive that I
urge it in my own interest. They tell me that it is not good
for me to stand too long just yet."

It was his hope that she would depart. Not so. "I cry you
mercy!" said she acidly, and rustled to the bench. "Be
seated, pray." She continued to watch them with her baleful
glance. "We have heard fine things from you, sir, of what you
have both done for my Lord Rotherby," she gibed, mocking him.
with the spirit of his half-jest. "Shall I tell you more
precisely what 'tis he owes you?"

"Can there be more?" quoth Mr. Caryll, smiling so amiably that
he must have disarmed a Gorgon.

Her ladyship ignored him. "He owes it to you both that you
have estranged him from his father, set up a breach between
them that is never like to be healed. 'Tis what he owes you."

"Does he not owe it, rather, to his abandoned ways?" asked
Hortensia, in a calm, clear voice, bravely giving back her
ladyship look for look.

"Abandoned ways?" screamed the countess. "Is't you that speak
of abandoned ways, ye shameless baggage? Faith, ye may be
some judge of them. Ye fooled him into running off with you.
'Twas that began all this. Just as with your airs and
simpers, and prettily-played innocences you fooled this other,
here, into being your champion."

"Madam, you insult me!" Hortensia was on her feet, eyes
flashing, cheeks aflame.

"I am witness to that," said Lord Ostermore, coming in through
the side-entrance.

Mr. Caryll was the only one who had seen him approach. The
earl's face that had wont to be so florid, was now pale and
careworn, and he seemed to have lost flesh during the past
month. He turned to her ladyship.

"Out on you!" he said testily, "to chide the poor child so!"

"Poor child!" sneered her ladyship, eyes raised to heaven to
invoke its testimony to this absurdity. "Poor child."

"Let there be an end to it, madam," he said with attempted
sternness. "It is unjust and unreasonable in you."

"If it were that - which it is not - it would be but following
the example that you set me. What are you but unreasonable
and unjust - to treat your son as you are treating him?"

His lordship crimsoned. On the subject of his son he could be
angry in earnest, even with her ladyship, as already we have

"I have no son," he declared, "there is a lewd, drunken,
bullying profligate who bears my name, and who will be Lord
Ostermore some day. I can't strip him of that. But I'll
strip him of all else that's mine, God helping me. I beg, my
lady, that you'll let me hear no more of this, I beg it. Lord
Rotherby leaves my house to-day - now that Mr. Caryll is
restored to health. Indeed, he has stayed longer than was
necessary. He leaves to-day. He has my orders, and my
servants have orders to see that he obeys them. I do not wish
to see him again - never. Let him go, and let him be thankful
- and be your ladyship thankful, too, since it seems you must
have a kindness for him in spite of all he has done to
disgrace and discredit us - that he goes not by way of Holborn
Hill and Tyburn."

She looked at him, very white from suppressed fury. "I do
believe you had been glad had it been so."

"Nay," he answered, "I had been sorry for Mr. Caryll's sake."

"And for his own?"


"Are you a father?" she wondered contemptuously.

"To my eternal shame, ma'am!" he flung back at her. He
seemed, indeed, a changed man in more than body since Mr.
Caryll's duel with Lord Rotherby. "No more, ma'am - no more!"
he cried, seeming suddenly to remember the presence of Mr.
Caryll, who sat languidly drawing figures on the ground with
the ferrule of his cane. He turned to ask the convalescent
how he did. Her ladyship rose to withdraw, and at that moment
Leduc made his appearance with a salver, on which was a bowl
of soup, a flask of Hock, and a letter. Setting this down in
such a manner that the letter was immediately under his
master's eyes, he further proceeded to draw Mr. Caryll's
attention to it. It was addressed in Sir Richard Everard's
hand. Mr. Caryll took it, and slipped it into his pocket.
Her ladyship's eyebrows went up.

"Will you not read your letter, Mr. Caryll?" she invited him,
with an amazingly sudden change to amiability.

"It will keep, ma'am, to while away an hour that is less
pleasantly engaged." And he took the napkin Leduc was

"You pay your correspondent a poor compliment," said she.

"My correspondent is not one to look for them or need them,"
he answered lightly, and dipped his spoon in the broth.

"Is she not?" quoth her ladyship.

Mr. Caryll laughed. "So feminine!" said he. "Ha, ha! So
very feminine - to assume the sex so readily."

"'Tis an easy assumption when the superscription is writ in a
woman's hand."

Mr. Caryll, the picture of amiability, smiled between
spoonfuls. "Your ladyship's eyes preserve not only their
beauty but a keenness beyond belief."

"How could you have seen it from that distance, Sylvia?"
inquired his practical lordship.

"Then again," said her ladyship, ignoring both remarks, "there
is the assiduity of this fair writer since Mr. Caryll has been
in case to receive letters. Five billets in six days! Deny
it if you can, Mr. Caryll."

Her playfulness, so ill-assumed, sat more awkwardly upon her
than her usual and more overt malice towards him.

"To what end should I deny it?" he replied, and added in his
most ingratiating manner another of his two-edged compliments.
"Your ladyship is the model chatelaine. No happening in your
household can escape your knowledge. His lordship is greatly
to be envied."

"Yet, you see," she cried, appealing to her husband, and even
to Hortensia, who sat apart, scarce heeding this trivial
matter of which so much was being made, "you see that he
evades the point, avoids a direct answer to the question that
is raised."

"Since your ladyship perceives it, it were more merciful to
spare my invention the labor of fashioning further
subterfuges. I am a sick man still, and my wits are far from
brisk." He took up the glass of wine Leduc had poured for

The countess looked at him again through narrowing eyelids,
the playfulness all vanished. "You do yourself injustice,
sir, as I am a woman. Your wits want nothing more in
briskness." She rose, and looked down upon him engrossed in
his broth. "For a dissembler, sir," she pronounced upon him
acidly, "I think it would be difficult to meet your match."

He dropped his spoon into the bowl with a clatter. He looked
up, the very picture of amazement and consternation.

"A dissembler, I?" quoth he in earnest protest; then laughed
and quoted, adapting

"'Tis not my talent to conceal my thoughts
Or carry smiles and sunshine in my face
Should discontent sit heavy at my heart"

She looked him over, pursing her lips. "I've often thought
you might have been a player," said she contemptuously.

"I'faith," he laughed, "I'd sooner play than toil."

"Ay; but you make a toil of play, sir."

"Compassionate me, ma'am," he implored in the best of humors.
"I am but a sick man. Your ladyship's too keen for me."

She moved across to the exit without answering him. "Come,
child," she said to Hortensia. "We are tiring Mr. Caryll, I
fear. Let us leave him to his letter, ere it sets his pocket

Hortensia rose. Loath though she might be to depart, there
was no reason she could urge for lingering.

"Is not your lordship coming?" said she.

"Of course he is," her ladyship commanded. "I need to speak
with you yet concerning Rotherby," she informed him.

"Hem!" His lordship coughed. Plainly he was not at his ease.
"I will follow soon. Do not stay for me. I have a word to
say to Mr. Caryll."

"Will it not keep? What can you have to say to him that is so

"But a word - no more."

"Why, then, we'll stay for you," said her ladyship, and threw
him into confusion, hopeless dissembler that he was.

"Nay, nay! I beg that you will not."

Her ladyship's brows went up; her eyes narrowed again, and a
frown came between them. "You are mighty mysterious," said
she, looking from one to the other of the men, and bethinking
her that it was not the first time she had found them so;
bethinking her, too - jumping, woman-like, to rash conclusions
- that in this mystery that linked them might lie the true
secret of her husband's aversion to his son and of his oath a
month ago to see that same son hang if Mr. Caryll succumbed to
the wound he had taken. With some women, to suspect a thing
is to believe that thing. Her ladyship was of these. She set
too high value upon her acumen, upon the keenness of her

And if aught were needed to cement her present suspicions, Mr.
Caryll himself afforded that cement, by seeming to betray the
same eagerness to be alone with his lordship that his lordship
was betraying to be alone with him; though, in truth, he no
more than desired to lend assistance to the earl out of
curiosity to learn what it was his lordship might have to say.

"Indeed," said he, "if you could give his lordship leave,
ma'am, for a few moments, I should myself be glad on't."

"Come, Hortensia," said her ladyship shortly, and swept out,
Mistress Winthrop following.

In silence they crossed the lawn together. Once only ere they
reached the house, her ladyship looked back. "I would I knew
what they are plotting," she said through her teeth.

"Plotting?" echoed Hortensia.

"Ay - plotting, simpleton. I said plotting. I mind me 'tis
not the first time I have seen them so mysterious together.
It began on the day that first Mr. Caryll set foot at Stretton
House. There's a deal of mystery about that man - too much
for honesty. And then these letters touching which he is so
close - one a day - and his French lackey always at hand to
pounce upon them the moment they arrive. I wonder what's at
bottom on't! I wonder! And I'd give these ears to know," she
snapped in conclusion as they went indoors.

In the arbor, meanwhile, his lordship had taken the rustic
seat her ladyship had vacated. He sat down heavily, like a
man who is weary in body and in mind, like a man who is
bearing a load too heavy for his shoulders. Mr. Caryll,
watching him, observed all this.

"A glass of Hock?" he suggested, waving his hand towards the
flask. "Let me play host to you out of the contents of your
own cellar."

His lordship's eye brightened at the suggestion, which
confirmed the impression Mr. Caryll had formed that all was
far from well with his lordship. Leduc brimmed a glass, and
handed it to my lord, who emptied it at a draught. Mr. Caryll
waved an impatient hand. "Away with you, Leduc. Go watch the
goldfish in the pond. I'll call you if I need you."

After Leduc had departed a silence fell between them, and
endured some moments. His lordship was leaning forward,
elbows on knees, his face in shadow. At length he sat back,
and looked at his companion across the little intervening

"I have hesitated to speak to you before, Mr. Caryll, upon the
matter that you know of, lest your recovery should not be so
far advanced that you might bear the strain and fatigue of
conversing upon serious topics. I trust that that cause is
now so far removed that I may put aside my scruples."

"Assuredly - I am glad to say - thanks to the great care you
have had of me here at Stretton House."

"There is no debt between us on that score," answered his
lordship shortly, brusquely almost. "Well, then - " He
checked, and looked about him. "We might be approached
without hearing any one," he said.

Mr. Caryll smiled, and shook his head. "I am not wont to
neglect such details," he observed. "The eyes of Argus were
not so vigilant as my Leduc's; and he understands that we are
private. He will give us warning should any attempt to
approach. Be assured of that, and believe, therefore, that we
are more snug here than we should be even in your lordship's

"That being so, sir - hem! You are receiving letters daily.
Do they concern the business of King James?"

"In a measure; or, rather, they are from one concerned in it."

Ostermore's eyes were on the ground again. There fell a
pause, Mr. Caryll frowning slightly and full of curiosity as
to what might be coming.

"How soon, think you," asked his lordship presently, "you will
be in case to travel?"

"In a week, I hope," was the reply.

"Good." The earl nodded thoughtfully. "That may be in time.
I pray it may be. 'Tis now the best that we can do. You'll
bear a letter for me to the king?"

Mr. Caryll passed a hand across his chin, his face very grave.
"Your answer to the letter that I brought you?"

"My answer. My acceptance of his majesty's proposals."

"Ha!" Mr. Caryll seemed to be breathing hard.

"Your letters, sir - the letters that you have been receiving
will have told you, perhaps, something of how his majesty's
affairs are speeding here?"

"Very little; and from that little I fear that they speed none
too well. I would counsel your lordship," he continued slowly
- he was thinking as he went - "to wait a while before you
burn your boats. From what I gather, matters are in the air
just now."

The earl made a gesture, brusque and impatient. "Your
information is very scant, then," said he.

Mr. Caryll looked askance at him.

"Pho, sir! While you have been abed, I have been up and
doing; up and doing. Matters are being pushed forward
rapidly. I have seen Atterbury. He knows my mind. There
lately came an agent from the king, it seems, to enjoin the
bishop to abandon this conspiracy, telling him that the time
was not yet ripe. Atterbury scorns to act upon that order.
He will work in the king's interests against the king's own
commands even."

"Then, 'tis possible he may work to his own undoing," said Mr.
Caryll, to whom this was, after all, no news.

"Nay, nay; you have been sick; you do not know how things have
sped in this past month. Atterbury holds, and he is right, I
dare swear - he holds that never will there be such another
opportunity. The finances of the country are still in chaos,
in spite of all Walpole's efforts and fine promises. The
South Sea bubble has sapped the confidence in the government
of all men of weight. The very Whigs themselves are shaken.
'Tis to King James, England begins to look for salvation from
this topsy-turveydom. The tide runs strongly in our favor.
Strongly, sir! If we stay for the ebb, we may stay for good;
for there may never be another flow within our lifetime."

"Your lordship is grown strangely hot upon this question,"
said Caryll, very full of wonder.

As he understood Ostermore, the earl was scarcely the
sentimentalist to give way to such a passion of loyalty for a
weaker side. Yet his lordship had spoken, not with the cold
calm of the practical man who seeks advantage, but with all
the fervor of the enthusiast.

"Such is my interest," answered his lordship. "Even as the
fortunes of the country are beggared by the South Sea Company,
so are my own; even as the country must look to King James for
its salvation, so must I. At best 'tis but a forlorn hope, I
confess; yet 'tis the only hope I see."

Mr. Caryll looked at him, smiled to himself, and nodded. So!
All this fire and enthusiasm was about the mending of his
personal fortunes - the grubbing of riches for himself. Well,
well! It was good matter wasted on a paltry cause. But it
sorted excellently with what Mr. Caryll knew of the nature of
this father of his. It never could transcend the practical;
there was no imagination to carry it beyond those narrow
sordid confines, and Mr. Caryll had been a fool to have
supposed that any other springs were pushing here. Egotism,
egotism, egotism! Its name, he thought, was surely Ostermore.
And again, as once before, under the like circumstances, he
found more pity than scorn awaking in his heart. The whole
wasted, sterile life that lay behind this man; the unhappy,
loveless home that stood about him now in his declining years
were the fruits he had garnered from that consuming love of
self with which the gods had cursed him.

The only ray to illumine the black desert of Ostermore's
existence was the affection of his ward, Hortensia Winthrop,
because in that one instance he had sunk his egotism a little,
sparing a crumb of pity - for once in his life - for the
child's orphanhood. Had Ostermore been other than the man he
was, his existence must have proved a burden beyond his
strength. It was so barren of good deeds, so sterile of
affection. Yet encrusted as he was in that egotism of his -
like the limpet in its shell - my lord perceived nothing of
this, suffered nothing of it, understanding nothing. He was
all-sufficient to himself. Giving nothing, he looked for
nothing, and sought his happiness - without knowing the quest
vain - in what he had. The fear of losing this had now in his
declining years cast, at length, a shadow upon his existence.

Mr. Caryll looked at him almost sorrowfully. Then he put by
his thoughts, and broke the silence. "All this I had
understood when first I sought you out," said he. "Yet your
lordship did not seem to realize it quite so keenly. Is it
that Atterbury and his friends - ?"

"No, no," Ostermore broke in. "Look'ee! I will be frank -
quite frank and open with you, Mr. Caryll. Things were bad
when first you came to me. Yet not so bad that I was driven
to a choice of evils. I had lost heavily. But enough
remained to bear me through my time, though Rotherby might
have found little enough left after I had gone. While that
was so, I hesitated to take a risk. I am an old man. It had
been different had I been young with ambitions that craved
satisfying. I am an old man; and I desired peace and my
comforts. Deeming these assured, I paused ere I risked their
loss against the stake which in King James's name you set upon
the board. But it happens to-day that these are assured no
longer," he ended, his voice breaking almost, his eyes
haggard. "They are assured no longer."

"You mean?" inquired Caryll.

"I mean that I am confronted by the danger of beggary, ruin,
shame, and the sponging-house, at best."

Mr. Caryll was stirred out of his calm. "My lord!" he cried.
"How is this possible? What can have come to pass?"

The earl was silent for a long while. It was as if he
pondered how he should answer, or whether he should answer at
all. At last, in a low voice, a faint tinge reddening his
face, his eyes averted, he explained. It shamed him so to do,
yet must he satisfy that craving of weak winds to unburden, to
seek relief in confession. "Mine is the case of Craggs, the
secretary of state," he said. "And Craggs, you'll remember,
shot himself."

"My God," said Mr. Caryll, and opened wide his eyes. "Did you
- ?" He paused, not knowing what euphemism to supply for the
thing his lordship must have done.

His lordship looked up, sneering almost in self-derision. "I
did," he answered. "To tell you all - I accepted twenty
thousand pounds' worth of South Sea stock when the company was
first formed, for which I did not pay other than by lending
the scheme the support of my name at a time when such support
was needed. I was of the ministry, then, you will remember."

Mr. Caryll considered him again, and wondered a moment at the
confession, till he understood by intuition that the matter
and its consequences were so deeply preying upon the man's
mind that he could not refrain from giving vent to his fears.

"And now you know," his lordship added, "why my hopes are all
in King James. Ruin stares me in the face. Ruin and shame.
This forlorn Stuart hope is the only hope remaining me.
Therefore, am I eager to embrace it. I have made all plain to
you. You should understand now."

"Yet not quite all. You did this thing. But the inspection
of the company's books is past. The danger of discovery, at
least, is averted. Or is it that your conscience compels you
to make restitution?"

His lordship stared and gaped. "Do you suppose me mad?" he
inquired, quite seriously. "Pho! Others were overlooked at
the time. We did not all go the way of Craggs and Aislabie
and their fellow-sufferers. Stanhope was assailed afterward,
though he was innocent. That filthy fellow, the Duke of
Wharton, from being an empty fop turned himself on a sudden
into a Crown attorney to prosecute the peculators. It was an
easy road to fame for him, and the fool had a gift of
eloquence. Stanhope's death is on his conscience - or would
be if be had one. That was six months ago. When he
discovered his error in the case of Stanhope and saw the fatal
consequences it had, he ceased his dirty lawyer's work. But
he had good grounds upon which to suspect others as highly
placed as Stanhope, and had he followed his suspicions he
might have turned them into certainties and discovered
evidence. As it was, he let the matter lie, content with the
execution he had done, and the esteem into which he had so
suddenly hoisted himself - the damned profligate!"

Mr. Caryll let pass, as typical, the ludicrous want of logic
in Ostermore's strictures of his Grace of Wharton, and the
application by him to the duke of opprobrious terms that were
no whit less applicable to himself.

"Then, that being so, what cause for these alarms some six
months later?"

"Because," answered his lordship in a sudden burst of passion
that brought him to his feet, empurpled his face and swelled
the veins of his forehead, "because I am cursed with the
filthiest fellow in England for my son."

He said it with the air of one who throws a flood of light
where darkness has been hitherto, who supplies the key that
must resolve at a turn a whole situation. But Mr. Caryll
blinked foolishly.

"My wits are very dull, I fear," said he. "I still cannot

"Then I'll make it all clear to you," said his lordship.

Leduc appeared at the arbor entrance.

"What now?" asked Mr. Caryll.

"Her ladyship is approaching, sir," answered Leduc the



Lord Ostermore and Mr. Caryll looked across the lawn towards
the house, but failed to see any sign of her ladyship's

Mr. Caryll raised questioning eyes to his servant's stolid
face, and in that moment caught the faintest rustle of a gown
behind the arbor. He half-turned to my lord, and nodded
slightly in the direction of the sound, a smile twisting his
lips. With a gesture he dismissed Leduc, who returned to the
neighborhood of the pond.

His lordship frowned, angered by the interruption. Then: "If
your ladyship will come inside," said he, "you will hear
better and with greater comfort."

"Not to speak of dignity," said Mr. Caryll.

The stiff gown rustled again, this time without stealth. The
countess appeared, no whit abashed. Mr. Caryll rose politely.

"You sit with spies to guard your approaches," said she.

"As a precaution against spies," was his lordship's curt

She measured him with a cool eye. "What is't ye hide?" she
asked him.

"My shame," he answered readily. Then after a moment's pause,
he rose and offered her his seat. "Since you have thrust
yourself in where you were not bidden, you may hear and
welcome, ma'am," said he. "It may help you to understand what
you term my injustice to my son."

"Are these matters wherewith to importune a stranger - a

"I am proposing to say in your presence what I was about to
say in your absence," said he, without answering her question.
"Be seated, ma'am."

She sniffed, closed her fan with a clatter, and sat down. Mr.
Caryll resumed his long chair, and his lordship took the

"I am told," the latter resumed presently, recapitulating in
part for her ladyship's better understanding, "that his Grace
of Wharton is intending to reopen the South Sea scandal, as
soon as he can find evidence that I was one of those who
profited by the company's charter."

"Profited?" she echoed, between scorn and bitter amusement.
"Profited, did ye say? I think your dotage is surely upon you
- you that have sunk nigh all your fortune and all that you
had with me in this thieving venture - d'ye talk of profits?"

"At the commencement I did profit, as did many others. Had I
been content with my gains, had I been less of a trusting
fool, it had been well. I was dazzled, maybe, by the glare of
so much gold. I needed more; and so I lost all. That is evil
enough. But there is worse. I may be called upon to make
restitution of what I had from the company without
paying for it - I may give all that's left me and barely cover
the amount, and I may starve and be damned thereafter."

Her ladyship's face was ghastly. Horror stared from her pale
eyes. She had known, from the beginning, of that twenty
thousand pounds' worth of stock, and she had had - with his
lordship - her anxious moments when the disclosures were being
made six months ago that had brought the Craggses, Aislabie
and a half-dozen others to shame and ruin.

His lordship looked at her a moment. "And if this shipwreck
comes, as it now threatens," he continued, "it is my son I
shall have to thank for't."

She found voice to ask: "How so?" courage to put the question
scornfully. "Is it not rather Rotherby you have to thank that
the disclosures did not come six months ago? What was it
saved you but the friendship his Grace of Wharton had for

"Why, then," stormed his lordship, "did he not see to't that
he preserved that friendship? It but needed a behavior of as
much decency and honor as Wharton exacts in his associates -
and the Lord knows how much that is!" he sneered. "As it is,
he has gone even lower than that abandoned scourer; so low
that even this rakehell duke must become his enemy for his own
credit's sake. He attempts mock-marriages with ladies of
quality; and he attempts murder by stabbing through the back a
gentleman who has spared his worthless life. Not even the
president of the Hell Fire Club can countenance these things,
strong stomach though he have for villainy. It is something
to have contrived to come so low that even his Grace of
Wharton must turn upon him, and swear his ruin. And so that
he may ruin him, his grace is determined to ruin me. Now you
understand, madam - and you, Mr. Caryll."

Mr. Caryll understood. He understood even more than his
lordship meant him to understand; more than his lordship
understood, himself. So, too, did her ladyship, if we may
judge from the reply she made him.

"You fool," she railed. "You vain, blind, selfish fool! To
blame Rotherby for this. Rather should Rotherby, blame you
that by your damned dishonesty have set a weapon against him
in his enemy's hands."

"Madam!" he roared, empurpling, and coming heavily to his
feet. "Do you know who I am?"

"Ay - and what you are, which is something you will never
know. God! Was there ever so self-centered a fool?
Compassionate me, Heaven!" She rose, too, and turned to Mr.
Caryll. "You, sir," she said to him, "you have been dragged
into this, I know not why."

She broke off suddenly, looking at him, her eyes a pair of
gimlets now for penetration. "Why have you been dragged into
it?" she demanded. "What is here? I demand to know. What
help does my lord expect from you that he tells you this? Does
he - " She paused an instant, a cunning smile breaking over
her wrinkled, painted face. "Does he propose to sell himself
to the king over the water, and are you a secret agent come to
do the buying? Is that the answer to this riddle?"

Mr. Caryll, imperturbable outwardly, but very ill at ease
within, smiled and waved the delicate hand that appeared
through the heavy ruffle at his wrist. "Madam, indeed - ah -
your ladyship goes very fast. You leap so at conclusions for
which no grounds can exist. His lordship is so overwrought -
as well he may be, alas! - that he cares not before whom he
speaks. Is it not plainly so?"

She smiled very sourly. "You are a very master of evasion,
sir. But your evasion gives me the answer that I lack - that
and his lordship's face. I drew my bow at a venture; yet
look, sir, and tell me, has my quarrel missed its mark?"

And, indeed, the sudden fear and consternation written on my
lord's face was so plain that all might read it. He was - as
Mr. Caryll had remarked on the first occasion that they met -
the worst dissembler that ever set hand to a conspiracy. He
betrayed himself at every step, if not positively, by
incautious words, why then by the utter lack of control he had
upon his countenance.

He made now a wild attempt to bluster. "Lies! Lies!" he
protested. "Your ladyship's a-dreaming. Should I be making
bad worse by plotting at my time of life? Should I? What can
King James avail me, indeed ?"

"'Tis what I will ask Rotherby to help me to discover," she
informed him.

"Rotherby?" he cried. "Would you tell that villain what you
suspect? Would you arm him with another weapon for my

"Ha!" said she. "You admit so much, then?" And she laughed
disdainfully. Then with a sudden sternness, a sudden nobility
almost in the motherhood which she put forward - "Rotherby is
my son," she said, "and I'll not have my son the victim of
your follies as well as of your injustice. We may curb the
one and the other yet, my lord."

And she swept out, fan going briskly in one hand, her long
ebony cane swinging as briskly in the other.

"O God!" groaned Ostermore, and sat down heavily.

Mr. Caryll helped himself copiously to snuff. "I think," said
he, his voice so cool that it had an almost soothing
influence, "I think your lordship has now another reason why
you should go no further in this matter."

"But if I do not - what other hopes have I? Damn me! I'm a
ruined man either way."

"Nay, nay," Mr. Caryll reminded him. "Assuming even that you
are correctly informed, and that his Grace of Wharton is
determined to move against you, it is not to be depended that
he will succeed in collecting such evidence as he must need.
At this date much of the evidence that may once have been
available will have been dissipated. You are rash to despair
so soon."

"There is that," his lordship admitted thoughtfully, a little
hopefully, even; "there is that." And with the resilience of
his nature - of men who form opinions on slight grounds, and,
therefore, are ready to change them upon grounds as slight -
"I' faith! I may have been running to meet my trouble. 'Tis
but a rumor, after all, that Wharton is for mischief, and - as
you say - as like as not there'll be no evidence by now..
There was little enough at the time.

"Still, I'll make doubly sure. My letter to King James can do
no harm. We'll talk of it again, when you are in case to

It passed through Mr. Caryll's mind at the moment that Lady
Ostermore and her son might between them brew such mischief as
might seriously hinder him from travelling, and he was very
near the truth. For already her ladyship was closeted with
Rotherby in her boudoir.

The viscount was dressed for travelling, intent upon
withdrawing to the country, for he was well-informed already
of the feeling of the town concerning him, and had no mind to
brave the slights and cold-shoulderings that would await him
did he penetrate to any of the haunts of people of quality and
fashion. He stood before his mother now, a tall, lank figure,
his black face very gloomy, his sensual lips thrust forward in
a sullen pout. She, in a gilt arm-chair before her
toilet-table, was telling him the story of what had passed,
his father's fear of ruin and disgrace. He swore between his
teeth when he heard that the danger threatened from the Duke
of Wharton.

"And your father's destitution means our destitution - yours
and mine; for his gambling schemes have consumed my portion
long since."

He laughed and shrugged. "I marvel I should concern myself,"
said he. "What can it avail me to save the rags that are left
him of his fortune? He's sworn I shall never touch a penny
that he may die possessed of."

"But there's the entail," she reminded him. "If restitution
is demanded, the Crown will not respect it. 'Twill be another
sop to throw the whining curs that were crippled by the
bubble, and who threaten to disturb the country if they are
not appeased. If Wharton carries out this exposure, we're
beggars - utter beggars, that may ask an alms to quiet

"'Tis Wharton's present hate of me," said he thoughtfully, and
swore. "The damned puppy! He'd make a sacrifice of me upon
the altar of respectability, just as he made a sacrifice of
the South Sea bubblers. What else was the stinking rakehell
seeking but to put himself right again in the eyes of a town
that was nauseated with him and his excesses? The
self-seeking toad that makes virtue his profession - the
virtue of others - and profligacy his recreation!" He smote
fist into palm. "There's a way to silence him."

"Ah?" she looked up quickly, hopefully.

"A foot or so of steel," Rotherby explained, and struck the
hilt of his sword. "I might pick a quarrel with him. 'Twould
not be difficult. Come upon him unawares, say, and strike
him. That should force a fight."

"Tusk, fool! He's all empanoplied in virtue where you are
concerned. He'd use the matter of your affair with Caryll as
a reason not to meet you, whatever you might do, and he'd set
his grooms to punish any indignity you might put upon him."

"He durst not."

"Pooh! The town would all approve him in it since your
running Caryll through the back. What a fool you were,

He turned away, hanging his head, full conscious, and with no
little bitterness, of how great had been his folly.

"Salvation may lie for you in the same source that has brought
you to the present pass - this man Caryll," said the countess
presently. "I suspect him more than ever of being a Jacobite

"I know him to be such."

"You know it?"

"All but; and Green is assured of it, too." He proceeded to
tell her what he knew. "Ever since Green met Caryll at
Maidstone has he suspected him, yet but that I kept him to the
task he would have abandoned it. He's in my pay now as much
as in Lord Carteret's, and if he can run Caryll to earth he
receives his wages from both sides."

"Well - well? What has he discovered? Anything?"

"A little. This Caryll frequented regularly the house of one
Everard, who came to town a week after Caryll's own arrival.
This Everard - Sir Richard Everard is known to be a Jacobite.
He is the Pretender's Paris agent. They would have laid him
by the heels before, but that by precipitancy they feared to
ruin their chances of discovering the business that may have
brought him over. They are giving him rope at present.
Meanwhile, by my cursed folly, Caryll's visits to him were
interrupted. But there has been correspondence between them."

"I know," said her ladyship. "A letter was delivered him just
now. I tried to smoke him concerning it. But he's too

"Astute or not," replied her son, "once he leaves Stretton
House it should not be long ere he betrays himself and gives
us cause to lay him by the heels. But how will that help us?"

"Do you ask how? Why, if there is a plot, and we can discover
it, we might make terms with the secretary of state to avoid
any disclosure Wharton may intend concerning the South Sea

"But that would be to discover my father for a Jacobite! What
advantage should we derive from that? 'Twould be as bad as
t'other matter."

"Let me die, but ye're a slow-witted clod, Charles. D'ye
think we can find no way to disclose the plot and Mr. Caryll -
and Everard, too, if you choose - without including your
father? My lord is timidly cautious, and you may depend he'll
not have put himself in their hands to any extent just yet."

The viscount paced the chamber slowly in long strides, head
bent in thought, hands clasped behind him. "It will need
consideration," said he. "But it may serve, and I can count
upon Green. He is satisfied that Caryll befooled him at
Maidstone, and that he kept the papers he carried despite the
thoroughness of Green's investigations. Moreover, he was
handled with some roughness by Caryll. For that and the other
matter he asks redress - thirsts for it. He's a very willing
tool, as I have found."

"Then see that you use him adroitly to your work," said his
mother. "Best not leave town at present, Charles."

"Why, no," said he. "I'll find me a lodging somewhere at
hand, since my fond sire is determined I shall pollute no
longer the sacrosanctity of his dwelling. Perhaps when I have
pulled him out of this quicksand, he will deign to mitigate
the bitterness of his feelings for me. Though, faith, I find
life endurable without the affection he should have
consecrated to me."

"Ay," she said, looking up at him. "You are his son; too much
his son, I fear. 'Tis why he dislikes you so intensely. He
sees in you the faults to which he is blind in himself."

"Sweet mother!" said his lordship, bowing.

She scowled at him. She could deal in irony herself - and
loved to - but she detested to have it dealt to her.

He bowed again; gained the door, and would have passed out but
that she detained him.

"'Tis a pity, on some scores, to dispose so utterly of this
Caryll," she said. "The pestilent coxcomb has his uses, and
his uses, like adversity's, are sweet."

He paused to question her with his eyes.

"He might have made a husband for Hortensia, and rid me of the
company of that white-faced changeling."

"Might he so?" quoth the viscount, face and voice,

"They were made for each other," her ladyship opined.

"Were they so?"

"Ay - were they. And faith they've discovered it. I would
you had seen the turtles in the arbor an hour ago, when I
surprised them."

His lordship attempted a smile, but achieved nothing more than
a wry face and a change of color. His mother's eyes,
observing these signs, grew on a sudden startled.

"Why, fool," quoth she, "do you hold there still? Art not yet
cured of that folly?"

"What folly, ma'am?"

"This folly that already has cost you so much. 'Sdeath! As
I'm a woman, if you'd so much feeling for the girl, I marvel
ye did not marry her honestly and in earnest when the chance
was yours."

The pallor of his face increased. He clenched his hands. "I
marvel myself that I did not," he answered passionately - and
went out, slamming the door after him, and leaving her
ladyship agape and angry.



Lord Rotherby, descending from that interview with his mother,
espied Hortensia crossing the hall below. Forgetting his
dignity, he quickened his movements, and took the remainder of
the stairs two at a stride. But, then, his lordship was
excited and angry, and considerations of dignity did not
obtain with him at the time. For that matter, they seldom

"Hortensia! Hortensia!" he called to her, and at his call she

Not once during the month that was past - and during which he
had, for the most part, kept his room, to all intents a
prisoner - had she exchanged so much as a word with him.
Thus, not seeing him, she had been able, to an extent, to
exclude him from her thoughts, which, naturally enough, were
reluctant to entertain him for their guest.

Her calm, as she paused now in acquiescence to his bidding,
was such that it almost surprised herself. She had loved him
once - or thought so, a little month ago - and at a single
blow he had slain that love. Now love so slain has a trick of
resurrecting in the guise of hate; and so, she had thought at
first had been the case with her. But this moment proved to
her now that her love was dead, indeed, since of her erstwhile
affection not even a recoil to hate remained. Dislike she may
have felt; but it was that cold dislike that breeds a deadly
indifference, and seeks no active expression, asking no more
than the avoidance of its object.

Her calm, reflected in her face of a beauty almost spiritual,
in every steady line of her slight, graceful figure, gave him
pause a moment, and his hot glance fell abashed before the
chill indifference that met him from those brown eyes.

A man of deeper sensibilities, of keener perceptions, would
have bowed and gone his way. But then a man of deeper
sensibilities would never have sought this interview that the
viscount was now seeking. Therefore, it was but natural that
he should recover swiftly from his momentary halt, and step
aside to throw open the door of a little room on the right of
the hall. Bowing slightly, he invited her to enter.

"Grant me a moment ere I go, Hortensia," he said `between
command and exhortation.

She stood cogitating him an instant, with no outward sign of
what might be passing in her mind; then she slightly inclined
her head, and went forward as he bade her.

It was a sunny room, gay with light color and dainty
furnishings, having long window-doors that opened to the
garden. An Aubusson carpet of palest green, with a festoon
pattern of pink roses, covered two-thirds of the blocked,
polished floor. The empanelled walls were white, with here a
gilt mirror, flanked on either side by a girandole in ormolu.
A spinet stood open in mid-chamber, and upon it were sheets of
music, a few books and a bowl of emerald-green ware, charged
now with roses, whose fragrance lay heavy on the air. There
were two or three small tables of very dainty, fragile make,
and the chairs were in delicately-tinted tapestry illustrating
the fables of La Fontaine.

It was an apartment looked upon by Hortensia as her own
withdrawing-room, set apart for her own use, and as that the
household - her very ladyship included - had ever recognized

His lordship closed the door with care. Hortensia took her
seat upon the long stool that stood at the spinet, her back to
the instrument, and with hands idle in her lap - the same cold
reserve upon her countenance-she awaited his communication.

He advanced until he was close beside her, and stood leaning
an elbow on the corner of the spinet, a long and not
ungraceful figure, with the black curls of his full-bottomed
wig falling about his swarthy, big-featured face.

"I have but my farewells to make, Hortensia," said he. "I am
leaving Stretton House, to-day, at last."

"I am glad," said she, in a formal, level voice, "that things
should have fallen out so as to leave you free to go your

"You are glad," he answered, frowning slightly, and leaning
farther towards her. "Ay, and why are you glad? Why? You
are glad for Mr. Caryll's sake. Do you deny it?"

She looked up at him quite calm and fearlessly. "I am glad
for your own sake, too."

His dark brooding eyes looked deep into hers, which ,did not
falter under his insistent gaze. "Am I to believe you?" he

"Why not? I do not wish your death."

"Not my death - but my absence?" he sneered. "You wish for
that, do you not? You would prefer me gone? My room is
better than my company just now? 'Tis what you think, eh?"

"I have not thought of it at all," she answered him with a
pitiless frankness.

He laughed, soft and wickedly. "Is it so very hopeless, then?
You have not thought of it at all by which you mean that you
have not thought of me at all."

"Is't not best so? You have given me no cause to think of you
to your advantage. I am therefore kind to exclude you from my

"Kind?" he mocked her. "You think it kind to put me from your
mind - I who love you, Hortensia!"

She rose upon the instant, her cheeks warming faintly. "My
lord," said she, "I think there is no more to be said between

"Ah, but there is," he cried. "A deal more yet." And he left
his place by the spinet to come and stand immediately before
her, barring her passage to the door. "Not only to say
farewell was it that I desired to speak with you alone here."
His voice softened amazingly. "I want your pardon ere I go.
I want you to say that you forgive me the vile thing I would
have done, Hortensia." Contrition quivered in his lowered
voice. He bent a knee to her, and held out his hand. "I will
not rise until you speak my pardon, child."

"Why, if that be all, I pardon you very readily," she
answered, still betraying no emotion.

He frowned. "Too readily!" he cried. "Too readily for
sincerity. I will not take it so."

"Indeed, my lord, for a penitent, you are very difficult to
please. I pardon you with all my heart."

"You are sincere?" he cried, and sought to take her hands; but
she whipped them away and behind her. "You bear me no

She considered him now with a calm, critical gaze, before
which he was forced to lower his bold eyes. "Why should I
bear you an ill-will?" she asked him.

"For the thing I did - the thing I sought to do."

"I wonder do you know all that you did?" she asked him,
musingly. "Shall I tell you, my lord? You cured me of a
folly. I had been blind, and you made me see. I had
foolishly thought to escape one evil, and you made me realize
that I was rushing into a worse. You saved me from myself.
You may have made me suffer then; but it was a healing hurt
you dealt me. And should I bear you an ill-will for that ?"

He had risen from his knee. He stood apart, pondering her
from under bent brows with eyes that were full of angry fire.

"I do not think," she ended, "that there needs more between
us. I have understood you, sir, since that a day at Maidstone
- I think we were strangers until then; and perhaps now you
may begin to understand me. Fare you well, my lord."

She made shift to go, but he barred her passage now in
earnest, his hands clenched beside him in witness of the
violence he did himself to keep them there. "Not yet," he
said, in a deep, concentrated voice. "Not yet. I did you a
wrong, I know. And what you say - cruel as it is - is no more
than I deserve. But I desire to make amends. I love you,
Hortensia, and desire to make amends."

She smiled wistfully. "'Tis overlate to talk of that."

"Why?" he demanded fiercely, and caught her arms, holding her
there before him. "Why is it overlate?"

"Suffer me to go," she commanded, rather than begged, and made
to free herself of his grasp.

"I want you to be my wife, Hortensia - my wedded wife."

She looked at him, and laughed; a cold laugh, disdainful, yet
not bitter. "You wanted that before, my lord; yet you
neglected the opportunity my folly gave you. I thank you -
you, after God - for that same neglect."

"Ah, do not say that!" he begged, a very suppliant again. "Do
not say that! Child, I love you. Do you understand?"

"Who could fail to understand, after the abundant proof you
have afforded me of your sincerity and your devotion?"

"Do you rally me?" he demanded, letting through a flash of the
anger that was mounting in him. "Am I so poor a thing that
you whet your little wit upon me?"

"My lord, you are paining me. What can you look to gain by
this? Suffer me to go."

A moment yet he stood, holding her wrists and looking down
into her eyes with a mixture of pleading and ferocity in his.
Then he made a sound in his throat, and caught her bodily to
him; his arms, laced about her, held her bound and crushed
against him. His dark, flushed face hovered above her own.

Fear took her at last. It mounted and grew to horror. "Let
me go, my lord," she besought him, her voice trembling. "Oh,
let me go!"

"I love you, Hortensia! I need you!" he cried, as if wrung by
pain, and then hot upon her brow and cheeks and lips his
kisses fell, and shame turned her to fire from head to foot as
she fought helplessly within his crushing grasp.

"You dog!" she panted, and writhing harder, wrenched free a
hand and arm. Blindly she beat upwards into that evil satyr's
face. "You beast! You toad! You coward!"

They fell apart, each panting; she leaning faint against the
spinet, her bosom galloping; he muttering oaths decent and
other - for in the upward thrusting of her little hand one of
its fingers had prodded at an eye, and the pain of it - which
had caused him to relax his hold of her - stripped what little
veneer remained upon the man's true nature.

"Will you go?" she asked him furiously, outraged by the
vileness of his ravings. "Will you go, or must I summon

He stood looking at her, straightening his wig, which had
become disarranged in the struggle, and forcing himself to an
outward calm. "So," he said. "You scorn me? You will not
marry me? You realise the chance, eh? And why? Why?"

"I suppose it is because I am blind to the honor of the
alliance," she controlled herself to answer him. "Will you

He did not move. "Yet you loved me once - "

"'Tis a lie!" she blazed. "I thought I did - to my undying
shame. No more than that, my lord - as I've a soul to be

"You loved Me," he insisted. "And you would love me still but
for this damned Caryll - this French coxcomb, who has crawled
into your regard like the slimy, creeping thing he is."

"It sorts well with your ways, my lord, that you ,could say
these things behind his back. You are practiced at stabbing
men behind."

The gibe, with all the hurtful, stinging quality that only
truth possesses, struck his anger from him, leaving him limp
and pale. Then he recovered.

"Do you know who he is - what he is?" he asked. "I will tell
you. He's a spy - a damned Jacobite spy, whom a word from me
will hang."

Her eyes lashed him with her scorn. "I were a fool did I
believe you," was her contemptuous answer.

"Ask him," he said, and laughed. He turned and strode to the
door. Paused there, sardonic, looking back. "I shall be
quits with you, ma'am. Quits! I'll hang this pretty turtle
of yours at Tyburn. Tell him so from me."

He wrenched the door open, and went out on that, leaving her
cold and sick with dread.

Was it but an idle threat to terrorize her? Was it but that?
Her impulse was to seek Mr. Caryll upon the instant that she
might ask him and allay her fears. But what right had she?
Upon what grounds could she set a question upon so secret a
matter? She conceived him raising his brows in that
supercilious way of his, and looking her over from head to toe
as though seeking a clue to the nature of this quaint thing
that asked him questions. She pictured his smile and the jest
with which he would set aside her inquiry. She imagined,
indeed, just what she believed would happen did she ask him;
which was precisely what would not have happened. Imagining
thus, she held her peace, and nursed her secret dread. And on
the following day, his weakness so far overcome as to leave
him no excuse to linger at Stretton House, Mr. Caryll took his
departure and returned to his lodging in Old Palace Yard.

One more treasonable interview had he with Lord Ostermore in
the library ere he departed. His lordship it was who reopened
again the question, to repeat much of what he had said in the
arbor on the previous day, and Mr. Caryll replied with much
the same arguments in favor of procrastination that he had
already employed.

"Wait, at least," he begged, "until I have been abroad a day
or two, and felt for .myself how the wind Is setting."

"'Tis a prodigiously dangerous document," he declared. "I
scarce see the need for so much detail."

"How can it set but one way?"

"'Tis a question I shall be in better case to answer when I
have had an opportunity of judging. Meanwhile, be assured I
shall not sail for France without advising you. Time enough
then to give me your letter should you still be of the same

"Be it so," said the earl. "When all is said, the letter will
be safer here, meantime, than in your pocket." And he tapped
the secretaire. "But see what I have writ his majesty, and
tell me should I alter aught."

He took out a drawer on the right - took it out bodily - then
introduced his hand into the opening, running it along the
inner side of the desk until, no doubt, he touched a spring;
for suddenly a small trap was opened. From this cavity he
fished out two documents - one the flimsy tissue on which King
James' later was penned; the other on heavier material Lord
Ostermore's reply. He spread the latter before him, and
handed it to Mr. Caryll, who ran an eye over it.

It was indited with stupid, characteristic incaution;
concealment was never once resorted to; everywhere expressions
of the frankest were employed, and every line breathed the
full measure of his lordship's treason and betrays the
existence of a plot.

Mr. Caryll returned it. His countenance was grave.

"I desire his majesty to know how whole-heartedly I belong to

"'Twere best destroyed, I think. You can write another when
the time comes to dispatch it."

But Ostermore was never one to take sensible advice. "Pooh!
'Twill be safe in here. 'Tis a secret known to none." He
dropped it, together with King James' letter, back into the
recess, snapped down the trap, and replaced the drawer.
Whereupon Mr. Caryll took his leave, promising to advise his
lordship of whatever he might glean, and so departed from
Stretton House.

My Lord Rotherby, meanwhile, was very diligent in the business
upon which he was intent. He had received in his interview
with Hortensia an added spur to such action as might be
scatheful to Mr. Caryll. His lordship was lodged in Portugal
Row, within a stone's throw of his father's house, and there,
on that same evening of his moving thither, he had Mr. Green
to see him, desiring news.

Mr. Green had little to impart, but strong hope of much to be
garnered presently. His little eyes twinkling, his chubby
face suffused in smiles, as though it were an excellent jest
to be hunting knowledge that should hang a man, the spy
assured Lord Rotherby that there was little doubt Mr. Caryll
could be implicated as soon as he was about again.

"And that's the reason - after your lordship's own express
wishes - why so far I have let Sir Richard Everard be. It may
come to trouble for me with my Lord Carteret should it be
smoked that I have been silent on the matters within my
knowledge. But - "

"Oh, a plague on that!" said his lordship. "You'll be well
paid for your services when you've rendered them. And,
meanwhile, I understand that not another soul in London - that
is, on the side of the government - is aware of Sir Richard's
presence in town. So where is your danger?"

"True," said Mr. Green, plump hand caressing plumper chin.
"Had it not been so, I should have been forced to apply to the
secretary for a warrant before this."

"Then you'll wait," said his lordship, "and you'll act as I
may direct you. It will be to your credit in the end. Wait
until Caryll has enmeshed himself by frequent visits to Sir
Richard's. Then get your warrant - when I give the word - and
execute it one fine night when Caryll happens to be closeted
with Everard. Whether we can get further evidence against him
or not, that circumstance of his being found with the
Pretender's agent should go some way towards hanging him. The
rest we must supply."

Mr. Green smiled seraphically. "Ecod! I'd give my ears to
have the slippery fellow safe. Codso! I would. He bubbled
me at Maidstone, and I limped a fortnight from the kick he
gave me."

"He shall do a little more kicking - with both feet," said his
lordship with unction.



Five days later, Mr. Caryll - whose recovery had so far
progressed that he might now be said to be his own man again -
came briskly up from Charing Cross one evening at dusk, to the
house at the corner of Maiden Lane where Sir Richard Everard
was lodged. He observed three or four fellows lounging about
the corner of Chandos street and Bedford street, but it did
not occur to him that from that point they could command Sir
Richard's door - nor that such could be their object - until,
as he swung sharply round the corner, he hurtled violently
into a man who was moving in the opposite direction without
looking whither he was going. The man stepped quickly aside
with a murmured word of apology, to give Mr. Caryll the wall
that he might pass on. But Mr. Caryll paused.

"Ah, Mr. Green!" said he very pleasantly. "How d'ye? Have ye
been searching folk of late?"

Mr. Green endeavored to dissemble his startled expression in a
grin that revealed his white teeth. "Ye can't forgive me that
blunder, Mr. Caryll," said he.

Mr. Caryll smiled fondly upon him. "From your manner I take
it that on your side you practice a more Christian virtue. It
is plain that you forgive me the sequel."

Mr. Green shrugged and spread his hands. "You were in the
right, sir; you were in the right," he explained. "Those are
the risks a man of my calling must run. I must suffer for my

Mr. Caryll continued to smile. But that the light was
failing, the spy might have observed a certain hardening in
the lines of his mouth. "Here is a very humble mood," said
he. "It is like the crouch before the spring. In whom do you
design to plant your claws? - yours and your friends yonder."
And he pointed with his cane across the street towards the
loungers he had observed.

"My friends?" quoth Mr. Green, in a voice of disgust. "Nay,
your honor! No friends of mine, ecod! Indeed, no!"

"No? I am at fault, then. Yet they look as if they might be
bumbailiffs. 'Tis the kind ye herd with, is't not? Give you
good-even, Mr. Green." And he went on, cool and unconcerned,
and turned in through the narrow doorway by the glover's shop
to mount the stairs to Sir Richard's lodging.

Mr. Green stood still to watch him go. Then he swore through
his teeth, and beckoned one of those whose acquaintance he had

"'Tis like him, ecod! to have gone in in spite of seeing me
and you! He's cool! Damned cool! But he'll be cooler yet,
codso!" Then, briskly questioning his satellite: "Is Sir
Richard within, Jerry?"

"Ay," answered Jerry - a rough, heavily-built tatterdemalion.
"He's been there these two hours."

"'Tis our chance to nab 'em both, then-our last chance, maybe.
The game is up. That fine gentleman has smoked it." He was
angry beyond measure. Their plans were far from ripe, and yet
to delay longer now that their vigilance was detected was,
perhaps, to allow Sir Richard to slip through their fingers,
as well as the other. "Have ye your barkers?" he asked

Jerry tapped a heavily bulging pocket, and winked. Mr. Green
thrust his three-cornered hat a-cock over one eye, and with
his hands behind the tails of his coat, stood pondering. "Ay,
pox on't!" he grumbled. "It must be done to-night. I dursn't
delay longer. We'll give the gentlemen time to settle
comfortably; then up we go to make things merry for 'em." And
he beckoned the others across.

Meanwhile Mr. Caryll had gone up with considerable misgivings.
The last letter he had received from Sir Richard - that day at
Stretton House - had been to apprise him that his adoptive
father was on the point of leaving town but that he would be
returned within the week. The business that had taken him had
been again concerned with Atterbury the obstinate. Upon
another vain endeavor to dissuade the bishop from a scheme his
king did not approve had Sir Richard journeyed to Rochester.
He had had his pains for nothing. Atterbury had kept him
there, entertaining him, and seeking in his turn to engulf the
agent in the business that was toward - business which was
ultimately to suck down Atterbury and his associates. Sir
Richard, however, was very firm. And when at last he left
Rochester to return to town and his adoptive son, a coolness
marked the parting of those two adherents of the Stuart

Returned to London - whence his absence had been marked with
alarm by Mr. Green - Sir Richard had sent a message to Mr.
Caryll, and the latter made haste to answer it in person.

His adoptive father received him with open arms, and such a
joy in his face, such a light in his old eyes as should have
gladdened his visitor, yet only served sadden him the more.
He sighed as Sir Richard thrust him back that he might look at

"Ye're pale, boy," he said, "and ye look thinner." And with
that he fell to reviling the deed that was the cause of this,
Rotherby and the whole brood of Ostermore.

"Let be," said Mr. Caryll, as he dropped into a chair.
"Rotherby is undergoing his punishment. The town looks on him
as a cut-throat who has narrowly escaped the gallows. I
marvel that he tarries here. An I were he, I think I'd travel
for a year or two."

"What weakness made you spare him when ye had him at the point
of your sword?"

"That which made me regret that I had him there; the
reflection that he is my brother."

Sir Richard looked at him in some surprise. "I thought you of
sterner stuff, Justin," he said presently, and sighed, passing
a long white hand across his bony brow. "I thought I had
reared you to a finer strength. But there! What of Ostermore

"What of him?"

"Have you not talked again with him of the matter of going
over to King James?"

"To what end, since the chance is lost? His betrayal now
would involve the betrayal of Atterbury and the others - for
he has been in touch with them."

"Has he though? The bishop said naught of this."

"I have it from my lord himself - and I know the man. Were he
taken they'd wring out of him whatever happened to be in him.
He has no discretion. Indeed, he's but a clod, too stupid
even to be aware of his own stupidity."

"Then what is to be done?" inquired Sir Richard, frowning.

"We'd best get home to France again."

"And leave matters thus?" He considered a moment, and shook
his head, smiling bitterly. "Could that content you, Justin?
Could you go as you have come - taking no more than you
brought; leaving that man as you found him? Could you?"

Mr. Caryll looked at the baronet, and wondered for a moment
whether he should persevere in the rule of his life and deal
quite frankly with him, telling him precisely what he felt.
Then he realized that he would not be understood. He could
not combat the fanaticism that was Sir Richard's in this
matter. If he told him the truth; how he loathed the task;
how he rejoiced that circumstances had now put it beyond his
reach - all he would achieve would be to wound Sir Richard in
his tenderest place and to no purpose.

"It is not a matter of what I would," he answered slowly,
wearily almost. "It is a matter of what I must. Here in
England is no more to be done. Moreover, there's danger for
you in lingering, or I'm much mistaken else."

"Danger of what?" asked Sir Richard, with indifference.

"You are being spied upon."

"Pho! I am accustomed to it. I have been spied upon all my

"Like enough. But this time the spies are messengers from the
secretary of state. I caught a glimpse of them lurking about
your doorway - three or four at least - and as I entered I all
but fell over a Mr. Green - a most pertinacious gentleman with
whom I have already some acquaintance. He is the very man who
searched me at Maidstone; he has kept his eye upon me ever
since, which has not troubled me. But that he should keep an
eye on you means that your identity is suspected, and if that
be so - well, the sooner we are out of England the better for
your health."

Sir Richard shook his head calmly. The fine-featured, lean
old face showed no sign of uneasiness. "A fig for all that!"
said he. "I go not thus - empty-handed as I came. After all
these years of waiting "

A knock fell upon the door, and Sir Richard's man entered.
His face was white, his eyes startled.

"Sir Richard," he announced, his voice lowered portentously,
"there are some men here who insist upon seeing you."

Mr. Caryll wheeled in his chair. "Surely they did not ask for
him by name?" he inquired in the same low key employed by the

The man nodded in silence. Mr. Caryll swore through his
teeth. Sir Richard rose.

"I am occupied at present," he said in a calm voice. "I can
receive nobody. Desire to know their business. If it
imports, bid them come again to-morrow."

"It is over-urgent for that, Sir Richard Everard," came the
soft voice of Mr. Green, who thrust himself suddenly forward
past the servant. Other figures were seen moving behind him
in the ante-room.

"Sir," cried Sir Richard angrily. "This is a most insolent
intrusion. Bentley, show this fellow the door."

Bentley set a hand on Mr. Green's shoulder. Mr. Green nimbly
twisted out of it, and produced a paper. "I have here a
warrant for your apprehension, Sir Richard, from my Lord
Carteret, the secretary of state."

Mr. Caryll advanced menacingly upon the tipstaff. Mr. Green
stepped back, and fell into a defensive attitude, balancing a
short but formidable-looking life-preserver.

"Keep your distance, sir, or 'twill be the worse for you," he
threatened. "Hi!" he called. "Jerry! Beattie!"

Jerry, Beattie, and two other ruffians crowded to the doorway,
but advanced little beyond the threshold. Mr. Caryll turned
to Sir Richard. But Mr. Green was the first to speak.

"Sir Richard," said he, "you'll see that we are but
instruments of the law. It grieves me profoundly to have you
for our object. But ye'll see that 'tis no affair of ours,
who have but to do the duty that we're ordered. Ye'll not
give these poor fellows trouble, I trust. Ye'll surrender

Sir Richard's answer was to pull open a drawer in the
writing-table, by which he was standing, and whip out a

What exactly he may have intended, he was never "allowed to
announce. An explosion shook the room, coming from the
doorway, upon which Mr. Caryll had turned his shoulder; there
was a spurt of flame, and Sir Richard collapsed forward onto
the table, and slithered thence to the ground.

"Jerry, taking fright at the sight of the pistol Sir Richard
had produced, had forestalled what he supposed to be the
baronet's intentions by firing instantly upon him, with this
disastrous result.

Confusion ensued. Mr. Caryll, with no more thought for the
tipstaves than he had for the smoke in his eyes or the stench
of powder in his nostrils, sped to Sir Richard. In a passion
of grief and anxiety, he raised his adoptive father, aided by
Bentley, what time Mr. Green was abusing Jerry, and Jerry was
urging in exculpation how he had acted purely in Mr. Green's
interest, fearing that Sir Richard might have been on the
point of shooting him.

The spy went forward to Mr. Caryll. "I am most profoundly
sorry - " he began.

"Take your sorrow to hell," snarled Mr. Caryll, his face
livid, his eyes blazing uncannily. "I believe ye've murdered

"Ecod! the fool shall smart for't if Sir Richard dies,"
grumbled Mr. Green.

"What's that to me? You may hang the muckworm, and what shall
that profit any one? Will it restore me Sir Richard's life?
Send one of your ruffians for a doctor, man. And bid him

Mr. Green obeyed with alacrity. Apart from his regrets at
this happening for its own sake, it would suit his interests
not at all that Sir Richard should perish thus. Meanwhile,
with the help of the valet, who was blubbering like a child -
for he had been with Sir Richard for over ten years, and was
attached to him as a dog to its master - they opened the
wounded man's sodden waistcoat and shirt, and reached the
hurt, which was on the right side of the breast.

Between them they lifted him up gently. Mr. Green would have
lent a hand, but a snarl from Mr. Caryll drove him back in
sheer terror, and alone those two bore the baronet into the
next room and laid him on his bed. Here they did the little
that they could; propping him up and stemming the bleeding,
what time they waited through what seemed a century for the
doctor's coming, Mr. Caryll mad - stark mad for the time -
with grief and rage.

The physician arrived at last - a small, bird-like man under a
great gray periwig, with pointed features and little eyes that
beamed brightly behind horn-rimmed spectacles.

In the ante-room he was met by Mr. Green, who in in a few
words told him what had happened. Then the doctor entered the
bedchamber alone, and deposing hat and cane, went forward to
make his examination.

Mr. Caryll and Bentley stood aside to give place to him. He
stooped, felt the pulse, examined the lips of the wound,
estimating the locality and direction of the bullet, and his
mouth made a clucking sound as of deprecation.

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