Part 6 out of 6
his hands, he sprang up, and fled away.
All this time, the attendant, George, had been sitting, very much
at his ease, on horseback, looking after Sir Norman's charger and
admiring the beauties of sunrise. He had seen Sir Norman in
conversation with a strange female, and not much liking his near
proximity to the plague-pit, was rather impatient for it to come
to an end; but when he saw the tragic manner in which it did end,
his consternation was beyond all bounds. Sir Norman, in his
horrified flight, would have fairly passed him unnoticed, had not
George arrested him by a loud shout.
"I beg your pardon, Sir Norman," he exclaimed, as that gentleman
turned his distracted face; "but, it seems to me, you are running
away. Here is your horse; and allow me to say, unless we hurry
we will scarcely reach the count by sunrise."
Sir Norman leaned against his horse, and shaded his eyes with his
hand, shuddering like one in an ague.
"Why did that woman leap into the plague-pit?" inquired George,
looking at him curiously. "Was it not the sorceress, La Masque?"
"Yes, yes. Do not ask me any questions now," replied Sir Norman,
in a smothered voice, and with an impatient wave of his hand.
"Whatever you please, sir," said George, with the flippancy of
his class; "but still I must repeat, if you do not mount
instantly, we will be late; and my master, the count, is not one
who brooks delay."
The young knight vaulted into the saddle without a word, and
started off at a break-neck pace into the city. George, almost
unable to keep up with him, followed instead of leading, rather
skeptical in his own mind whether he were not riding after a
moon-struck lunatic. Once or twice he shouted out a sharp-toned
inquiry as to whether he knew where he was going, and that they
were taking the wrong way altogether; to all of which Sir Norman
deigned not the slightest reply, but rode more and more
recklessly on. There were but few people abroad at that hour;
indeed, for that matter, the streets of London, in the dismal
summer of 1665, were, comparatively speaking, always deserted;
and the few now wending their way homeward were tired physicians
and plague-nurses from the hospitals, and several hardy country
folks, with more love of lucre than fear of death bending their
steps with produce to the market-place. These people, sleepy and
pallid in the gray haze of daylight, stared in astonishment after
the two furious riders; and windows were thrown open, and heads
thrust out to see what the unusual thunder of horses' hoofs at
that early hour meant. George followed dauntlessly on,
determined to do it or die in the attempt; and if he had ever
heard of the Flying Dutchman, would undoubtedly have come to the
conclusion that he was just then following his track on dry land.
But, unlike the hapless Vanderdecken, Sir Norman came to a halt
at last, and that so suddenly that his horse stood on his beam
ends, and flourished his two fore limbs in the atmosphere. It
was before La Masque's door; and Sir Norman was out of the saddle
in a flash, and knocking like a postman with the handle of his
whip on the door. The thundering reveille rang through the
house, making it shake to its centre, and hurriedly brought to
the door, the anatomy who acted as guardian-angel of the
"La Masque is not at home, and I cannot admit you," was his sharp
"Then I shall just take the trouble of admitting myself," said
Sir Norman, shortly.
And without further ceremony, he pushed aside the skeleton and
entered. But that outraged servitor sprang in his path,
indignant and amazed.
"No, sir; I cannot permit it. I do not know you; and it is
against all orders to admit strangers in La Masque's absence."
"Bah! you old simpleton!" remarked Sir Norman, losing his
customary respect for old age in his impatience, "I have La
Masque's order for what I am about to do. Get along with you
directly, will you? Show me to her private room, and no
He tapped his sword-hilt significantly as he spoke, and that
argument proved irresistible. Grumbling, in low tones, the
anatomy stalked up-stairs; and the other followed, with very
different feelings from those with which he had mounted that
staircase last. His guide paused in the hall above, with his
hand on the latch of a door.
"This is her private room, is it!" demanded Sir Norman.
"Just stand aside, then, and let me pass."
The room he entered was small, simply furnished, and seemed to
answer as bed-chamber and study, all in one. There was a
writing-table under a window, covered with books, and he glanced
at them with some curiosity. They were classics, Greek and
Latin, and other little known tongues - perhaps Sanscrit and
Chaldaic, French belles lettres, novels, and poetry, and a few
rare old English books. There were no papers, however, and those
were what he was in search of; so spying a drawer in the table,
he pulled it hastily open. The eight that met his eyes fairly
dazzled him. It was full of jewels of incomparable beauty and
value, strewn as carelessly about as if they were valueless. The
blaze of gems at the midnight court seemed to him as nothing
compared with the Golconda, the Valley of Diamonds shooting forth
sparks of rainbow-fire before him now. Around one magnificent
diamond necklace was entwined a scrap of paper, on which was
"The family jewels of the Montmorencis. To be given to my
sisters when I am dead."
That settled their destiny. All this blaze of diamonds, rubies,
and opals were Leoline's; and with the energetic rapidity
characteristic of our young friend that morning, he swept them
out on the table, and resumed his search for papers. No document
was there to reward his search, but the brief one twined round
the necklace; and he was about giving up in despair, when a small
brass slide in one corner caught his eye. Instantly he was at
it, trying it every way, shoving it out and in, and up and down,
until at last it yielded to his touch, disclosing an inner
drawer, full of papers and parchments. One glance showed them to
be what he was in search of - proofs of Leoline and Hubert's
identity, with the will of the marquis, their father, and
numerous other documents relative to his wealth and estates.
These precious manuscripts he rolled together in a bundle, and
placed carefully in his doublet, and then seizing a
beautifully-wrought brass casket, that stood beneath the table,
he swept the jewels in, secured it, and strapped it to his belt.
This brisk and important little affair being over, he arose to
go, and in turning, saw the skeleton porter standing in the
door-way, looking on in speechless dismay.
"It's all right my ancient friend!" observed Sir Norman, gravely.
"These papers must go before the king, and these jewels to their
"Their proper owner!" repeated the old man, shrilly; "that is La
Masque. Thief-robber-housebreaker - stop!"
"My good old friend, you will do yourself a mischief if you bawl
like that. Undoubtedly these things were La Masque's, but they
are so no longer, since La Masque herself is among the things
"You shall not go!" yelled the old man, trembling with rage and
anger. "Help! help! help!"
"You noisy old idiot!" cried Sir Norman, losing all patience, "I
will throw you out of the window if you keep up such a clamor as
this. I tell you La Masque is dead!"
At this ominous announcement, the ghastly porter fell back, and
became, if possible, a shade more ghastly than was his wont.
"Dead and buried!" repeated Sir Norman, with gloomy
sternness, "and there will be somebody else coming to take
possession shortly. How many more servants are there here beside
"Only one, sir - my wife Joanna. In mercy's name, sir, do not
turn us out in the streets at this dreadful time!"
"Not I! You and your wife Joanna may stagnate here till you
blue-mold, for me. But keep the door fast, my good old friend,
and admit no strangers, but those who can tell you La Masque is
With which parting piece of advice Sir Norman left the house, and
joined George, who sat like an effigy before the door, in a state
of great mental wrath, and who accosted him rather suddenly the
moment be made his appearance.
"I tell you what, Sir Norman Kingsley, if you have many more
morning calls to make, I shall beg leave to take my departure.
As it is, I know we are behind time, and his ma - the count, I
mean, is not one who it accustomed or inclined to be kept
"I am quite at your service now," said Sir Norman, springing on
horseback; "so away with you, quick as you like."
George wanted no second order. Before the words were well out of
his companion's mouth, he was dashing away like a bolt from a
bow, as furiously as if on a steeple-chase, with Sir Norman close
at his heels; and they rode, flushed and breathless, with their
steeds all a foaming, into the court-yard of the royal palace at
Whitehall, just as the early rising sun was showing his florid
and burning visage above the horizon.
The court-yard, unlike the city streets, swarmed with busy life.
Pages, and attendants, and soldiers, moving hither and thither,
or lounging about, preparing for the morning's journey to Oxford.
Among the rest Sir Norman observed Hubert, lying very much at his
ease wrapped in his cloak, on the ground, and chatting languidly
with a pert and pretty attendant of the fair Mistress Stuart. He
cut short his flirtation, however, abruptly enough, and sprang to
his feet as he saw Sir Norman, while George immediately darted
off and disappeared from the palace.
"Am I late Hubert?" said his hurried questioner, as he drew the
lad's arm within his own, and led him off out of hearing.
"I think not. The count," said Hubert, with laughing emphasis,
"has not been visible since he entered yonder doorway, and there
has been no message that I have heard of. Doubtless, now that
George has arrived, the message will soon be here, for the royal
procession starts within half an hour."
"Are you sure there is no trick, Hubert? Even now he may be with
Hubert shrugged his shoulders.
"He maybe; we must take our chance for that; but we have his
royal word to the contrary. Not that I have much faith in that!"
"If he were king of the world instead of only England," cried Sir
Norman, with flashing eyes, "he shall not have Leoline while I
wear a sword to defend her!"
"Regicide!" exclaimed Hubert, holding up both hands in affected
horror. "Do my ears deceive me Is this the loyal and
chivalrous Sir Norman Kingsley, ready to die for king and country - "
"Stuff and nonsense!" interrupted Sir Norman, impatiently. "I
tell you any one, be he whom he may, that attempts to take
Leoline from me, must reach her over my dead body!"
"Bravo! You ought to be a Frenchman, Sir Norman! And what if
the lady herself, finding her dazzling suitor drop his barnyard
feathers, and soar over her head in his own eagle plumes, may not
give you your dismissal, and usurp the place of pretty Madame
"You cold-blooded young villain! if you insinuate such a thing
again, I'll throttle you! Leoline loves me, and me alone!"
"Doubtless she thinks so; but she has yet to learn she has a king
for a suitor!"
"Bah! You are nothing but a heartless cynic," said Sir Norman,
yet with an anxious and irritated flush on his face, too: "What
do you know of love?"
"More than you think, as pretty Mariette yonder could depose, if
put upon oath. But seriously, Sir Norman, I am afraid your case
is of the most desperate; royal rivals are dangerous things!"
"Yet Charles has kind impulses, and has been known to do generous
"Has he? You expect him, beyond doubt, to do precisely as he
said; and if Leoline, different from all the rest of her sex,
prefers the knight to the king, he will yield her unresistingly
"I have nothing but his word for it!" said Sir Norman, in a
distracted tone, "and, at present, can do nothing but bide my
"I have been thinking of that, too! I promised, you know, when I
left her, last night, that we would return before day-dawn, and
rescue her. The unhappy little beauty will doubtless think I
have fallen into the tiger's jaws myself, and has half wept her
bright eyes out by this time!"
"My poor Leoline! And O Hubert, if you only knew what she is to
"I do know! She told me she was my sister!"
Sir Norman looked at him in amazement.
"She told you, and you take it like this?"
"Certainly, I take it like this. How would you have me take it?
It is nothing to go into hysterics about, after all!"
"Of all the cold-blooded young reptiles I ever saw," exclaimed
Sir Norman, with infinite disgust, "you are the worst! If you
were told you were to receive the crown of France to-morrow, you
would probably open your eyes a trifle, and take it as you would
a new cap!"
"Of course I would. I haven't lived in courts half my life to
get up a scene for a small matter! Besides, I had an idea from
the first moment I saw Leoline that she must be my sister, or
something of that sort."
"And so you felt no emotion whatever on hearing it?"
"I don't know as I properly understand what you mean by emotion,"
said Herbert, reflectively. "But ye-e-s, I did feel somewhat
pleased - she is so like me, and so uncommonly handsome!"
"Humph! there's a reason! Did she tell you how she discovered it
"Let me see -no - I think not - she simply mentioned the fact."
"She did not tell you either, I suppose, that you had more
sisters than herself?"
"More than herself! No. That would be a little too much of a
good thing! One sister is quite enough for any reasonable
"But there were two more, my good young friend!"
"Is it possible?" said Hubert, in a tone that betrayed not the
slightest symptom of emotion. "Who are they?"
Sir Norman paused one instant, combating a strong temptation to
seize the phlegmatic page by the collar, and give him such
another shaking as he would not get over for a week to come; but
suddenly recollecting he was Leoline's brother, and by the same
token a marquis or thereabouts, he merely paused to cast a
withering look upon him, and walked on.
"Well," said Hubert, "I am waiting to be told."
"You may wait, then!" said Sir Norman, with a smothered growl;
"and I give you joy when I tell you. Such extra
communicativeness to one so stolid could do no good!"
"But I am not stolid! I am in a perfect agony of anxiety," said
"You young jackanapes!" said Sir Norman, half-laughing, half-
incensed. "It were a wise deed and a godly one to take you by
the hind-leg and nape of the neck, and pitch you over yonder
wall; but for your mister's sake I will desist."
"Which of them?" inquired Hubert, with provoking gravity.
"It would be more to the point if you asked me who the others
were, I think."
"So I have, and you merely abused me for it. But I think I know
one of them without being told. It is that other fac-simile of
Leoline and myself who died in the robber's ruin!"
"Exactly. You and she, and Leoline, were triplets!"
"And who is the other?"
"Her name is La Masque. Have you ever heard it?"
"La Masque! Nonsense!" exclaimed Hubert, with some energy in his
voice at last. "You but jest, Sir Norman Kingsley!"
"No such thing! It is a positive fact! She told me the whole
"And what is the whole story; and why did she not tell it to me
instead of you."
"She told it to Leoline, thinking, probably, she had the most
sense; and she told it to me, as Leoline's future husband. It is
somewhat long to relate, but it will help to beguile the time
while we are waiting for the royal summons."
And hereupon Sir Norman, without farther preface, launched into a
rapid resume of La Masque's story, feeling the cold chill with
which he had witnessed it creep over him as he narrated her
"It struck me," concluded Sir Norman, "that it would be better to
procure any papers she might possess at once, lest, by accident,
they should fall into other hands; so I rode there directly, and,
in spite of the cantankerous old porter, searched diligently,
until I found them. Here they are," said Sir Norman, drawing
forth the roll.
"And what do you intend doing with them?" inquired Hubert,
glancing at the papers with an unmoved countenance.
"Show them to the king, and, though his mediation with Louis,
obtain for you the restoration of your rights."
"And do you think his majesty will give himself so much trouble
for the Earl of Rochester's page?"
"I think he will take the trouble to see justice done, or at
least he ought to. If he declines, we will take the matter in
our own hands, my Hubert; and you and I will seek Louis
ourselves. Please God, the Earl of Rochester's page will yet
wear the coronet of the De Montmorencis!"
"And the sister of a marquis will be no unworthy mate even for a
Kingsley," said Hubert. "Has La Masque left nothing for her?"
"Do you see this casket?" tapping the one of cared brass dangling
from his belt; "well, it is full of jewels worth a king's ransom.
I found them in a drawer of La Masque's house, with directions
that they were to be given to her sisters at her death. Miranda
being dead, I presume they are all Leoline's now."
"This is a queer business altogether!" said Hubert, musingly;
"and I am greatly mistaken if King Louie will not regard it as a
very pretty little work of fiction."
"But I have proofs, lad! The authenticity of these papers cannot
"With all my heart. I have no objections to be made a marquis
of, and go back to la belle France, out of this land of plague
and fog. Won't some of my friends here be astonished when they
hear it, particularly the Earl of Rochester, when he finds out
that he has had a marquis for a page? Ah, here comes George, and
bearing a summons from Count L'Estrange at last."
George approached, and intimated that Sir Norman was to follow
him to the presence of his master.
"Au revoir, then," said Hubert. "You will find me here when you
Sir Norman, with a slight tremor of the nerves at what was to
come, followed the king's page through halls and anterooms, full
of loiterers, courtiers, and their attendants. Once a hand was
laid on his shoulder, a laughing voice met his ear, and the Earl
of Rochester stood beside him!
"Good-morning, Sir Norman; you are abroad betimes. How have you
left your friend, the Count L'Estrange?"
"Your lordship has probably seen him since I have, and should be
able to answer that question best."
"And how does his suit progress with the pretty Leoline?" went on
the gay earl. "In faith, Kingsley, I never saw such a charming
little beauty; and I shall do combat with you yet - with both the
count and yourself, and outwit the pair of you!"
"Permit me to differ from your lordship. Leoline would not touch
you with a pair of tongs!"
"Ah! she has better taste than you give her credit for; but if I
should fail, I know what to do to console myself."
"May I ask what?"
"Yes! there is Hubert, as like her an two peas in a pod. I shall
dress him up in lace and silks, and gewgaws, and have a Leoline
of my own already made its order."
"Permit me to doubt that, too! Hubert is as much lost to you as
Leaving the volatile earl to put what construction pleased him
best on this last sententious remark, he resumed his march after
George, and was ushered, at last, into an ante-room near the
audience-chamber. Count L'Estrange, still attired as Count
L'Estrange, stood near a window overlooking the court-yard, and
as the page salaamed and withdrew, he turned round, and greeted
Sir Norman with his suavest air.
"The appointed hour is passed, Sir Norman Kingsley, but that is
partly your own fault. Your guide hither tells me that you
stopped for some time at the house of a fortune-teller, known as
La Masque. Why was this!"
"I was forced to stop on most important business," answered the
knight, still resolved to treat him as the count, until it should
please him to doff his incognito, "of which you shall hear anon.
Just now, our business is with Leoline."
"True! And as in a short time I start with yonder cavalcade,
there is but little time to lose. Apropos, Kingsley, who is that
mysterious woman, La Masque?"
"She is, or was (for she is dead sow) a French lady, of noble
birth, and the sister of Leoline!"
"Her sister! And have you discovered Leoline's history?"
"And her name!"
"And her name. She is Leoline De Montmorenci! And with the
proudest blood of France in her veins, living obscure and unknown
- a stranger in a strange land since childhood; but, with God's
grace and your help, I hope to see her restored to all she has
lost, before long."
"You know me, then?" said his companion, half-smiling.
"Yes, your majesty," answered Sir Norman, bowing low before the
As the last glimpse of moonlight and of Hubert's bright face
vanished, Leoline took to pacing up and down the room in a most
conflicting and excited state of mind. So many things had
happened during the past night; so rapid and unprecedented had
been the course of events; so changed had her whole life become
within the last twelve hours, that when she came to think it all
over, it fairly made her giddy. Dressing for her bridal; the
terrible announcement of Prudence; the death-like swoon; the
awakening at the plague-pit; the maniac flight through the
streets; the cold plunge in the river; her rescue; her interview
with Sir Norman, and her promise; the visit of La Masque; the
appearance of the count; her abduction; her journey here; the
coming of Hubert, and their suddenly-discovered relationship. It
was enough to stun any one; and the end was not yet. Would
Hubert effect his escape? Would they be able to free her? What
place was this, and who was Count L'Estrange? It was a great
deal easier to propound this catechism to herself than to find
answers to her own questions; and so she walked up and down,
worrying her pretty little head with all sorts of anxieties,
until it was a perfect miracle that softening of the brain did
Her feet gave out sooner than her brain, though; and she got so
tired before long, that she dropped into a seat, with a
long-drawn, anxious sigh; and, worn out with fatigue and
watching, she, at last, fell asleep.
And sleeping, she dreamed. It seemed to her that the count and
Sir Norman were before her, in her chamber in the old house on
London Bridge, tossing her heart between them like a sort of
shuttlecock. By-and-by, with two things like two drumsticks,
they began hammering away at the poor, little, fluttering heart,
as if it were an anvil and they were a pair of blacksmiths, while
the loud knocks upon it resounded through the room. For a time,
she was so bewildered that she could not comprehend what it
meant; but, at last, she became conscious that some one was
rapping at the door. Pressing one hand over her startled heart,
she called "Come in!" and the door opened and George entered.
"Count L'Estrange commands me to inform you, fair lady, that he
will do himself the pleasure of visiting you immediately, with
Sir Norman Kingsley, if you are prepared to receive them."
"With Sir Norman Kingsley!" repeated Leoline, faintly. "I-I am
afraid I do not quite understand."
"Then you will not be much longer in that deplorable state," said
George, backing out, "for here they are."
"Pardon this intrusion, fairest Leoline," began the count, "but
Sir Norman and I are about to start on a journey, and before we
go, there is a little difference of opinion between us that you
are to settle."
Leoline looked first at one, and then at the other, utterly
"What is it?" she asked.
"A simple matter enough. Last evening, if you recollect, you
were my promised bride."
"It was against my will," said Leoline, boldly, though her voice
shook, "You and Prudence made me."
"Nay, Leoline, you wrong me. I, at least, need no compulsion."
"You know better. You haunted me continually; you gave me no
peace at all; and I world just have married you to get rid of
"And you never loved me?"
"I never did."
"A frank confession! Did you, then, love any one else?"
The dark eyes fell, and the roseate glow again tinged the pearly
"Mute!" said the count, with an almost imperceptible smile.
"Look up, Leoline, and speak."
But Leoline would do neither. With all her momentary daring
gone, she stood startled as a wild gazelle.
"Shall I answer for her, Sir Count?" exclaimed Sir Norman, his
own cheek dashed. "Leoline! Leoline! you love me!"
Leoline was silent;
"You are to decide between us, Leoline. Though the count
forcibly brought you here, he has been generous enough to grant
this. Say, then, which of as you love best."
"I do not love him at all," said Leoline, with a little disdain,
"and he knows it."
"Then it is I!" said Sir Norman, him whole lace beaming with
"It is you!"
Leoline held out both hands to the loved one, and nestled close
to his side, like a child would to its protector.
"Fairly rejected!" said the count, with a pacing shade of
mortification on his brow; "and, my word being pledged, I most
submit. But, beautiful Leoline, you have yet to learn whom you
Clinging to her lover's arm, the girl grew white with undefined
apprehension. Leisurely, the count removed false wig, false
eyebrows, false heard; and a face well known to Leoline, from
pictures and description, turned full upon her.
"Sire!" she cried, in terror, calling on her knees with clasped
"Nay; rise, fair Leoline," said the king, holding out his hand to
assist her. "It is my place to kneel to one so lovely instead of
having her kneel to me. Think again. Will you reject the king
as you did the count?"
"Pardon, your majesty!", said Leoline, scarcely daring to look
up; "but I must!"
"So be it! You are a perfect miracle of troth and constancy, and
I think I can afford to be generous for once. In fifteen
minutes, we start for Oxford, and you must accompany us as Lady
Kingsley. A tiring woman will wait upon you to robe you for your
bridal. We will leave you now, and let me enjoin expedition."
And while she still stood too much astonished by the sudden
proposal to answer, both were gone, and in their place stood a
smiling lady's maid, with a cloud of gossamer white in her arms.
"Are those for me?" inquired Leoline, looking at them, and trying
to comprehend that it was all real.
"They are for you - sent by Mistress Stuart, herself. Please sit
down, and all will be ready in a trice."
And in a trice all was ready. The shining, jetty curls were
smoothed, and fell in a glossy shower, trained with jewels - the
pearls Leoline herself still wore. The rose satin was discarded
for another of bridal white, perfect of fit, and splendid of
feature. A great gossamer veil like a cloud of silver mist over
all, from head to foot; and Leoline was shown herself in a
mirror, and in the sudden transformation, could have exclaimed,
with the unfortunate lady in bother Goose, shorn of her tresses
when in balmy slumber: "As sure as I'm a little woman, this is
none of it!" But she it was, nevertheless, who stood listening
like one in a trance, to the enthusiastic praises of her
Again there was a tap at the door. This time the attendant
opened it, and George reappeared. Even he stood for a moment
looking at the silver-shining vision, and so lost in admiration,
that he almost forgot his message. But when Leoline turned the
light of her beautiful eyes inquiringly upon him, he managed to
remember it, and announced that he had been sent by the king to
usher her to the royal presence.
With a feet-throbbing heart, flushed cheeks, and brilliant eyes,
the dazzling bride followed him, unconscious that she had never
looked so incomparably before in her life. It was but a few
hours since she had dressed for another bridal; and what
wonderful things had occurred since then - her whole destiny had
changed in a night. Not quite sure yet but that she was still
dreaming, she followed on - saw George throw open the great doors
of the audience-chamber, and found herself suddenly in what
seemed to her a vast concourse of people. At the upper end of
the apartment was a brilliant group of ladies, with the king's
beautiful favorite in their midst, gossiping with knots of
gentlemen. The king himself stood in the recess of a window,
with his brother, the Duke of York, the Earl of Rochester, and
Sir Norman Kingsley, and was laughing and relating animatedly to
the two peers the whole story. Leoline noticed this, and
noticed, too, that all wore traveling dresses - most of the
ladies, indeed, being attired in riding-habits.
The king himself advanced to her rescue, and drawing her arm
within his, he led her up and presented her to the fair Mistress
Stuart, who received her with smiling graciousness though
Leoline, all unused to court ways, and aware of the lovely lady's
questionable position, returned it almost with cold hauteur.
Charles being in an unusually gracious mood, only smiled as he
noticed it, and introduced her next to his brother of York, and
her former short acquaintance, Rochester.
"There's no need, I presume, to make you acquainted with this
other gentleman," said Charles, with a laughing glance at Sir
Norman. "Kingsley, stand forward and receive your bride. My
Lord of Canterbury, we await your good offices."
The bland bishop, in surplice and stole, and book in hand,
stepped from a distant group, and advanced. Sir Norman, with a
flush on his cheek, and an exultant light in his eyes, took the
hand of his beautiful bride who stood lovely, and blushing, and
downcast, the envy and admiration of all. And
"Before the bishop now they stand,
The bridegroom and the bride;
And who shall paint what lovers feel
In this, their hour of pride?"
Who indeed? Like many other pleasant things is this world, it
requires to be felt to be appreciated; and, for that reason, it
is a subject on which the unworthy chronicler is altogether
incompetent to speak. The first words of the ceremony dropped
from the prelate's urbane lips, and Sir Norman's heart danced a
tarantella within him. "Wilt thou?" inquired the bishop,
blandly, and slipped a plain gold ring on one pretty finger of
Leoline's hand and all heard the old, old formula: "What God
hath joined together, let no man put asunder!" And the whole
mystic rite was over.
Leoline gave one earnest glance at the ring on her finger. Long
ago, slaves wore rings as the sign of their bondage - is it for
the same reason married women wear them now? While she yet
looked half-doubtfully at it, she was surrounded, congratulated,
and stunned with a sadden clamor of voices; and then, through it
all, she heard the well-remembered voice of Count L'Estrange,
"My lords and ladies, time is on the wing, and the sun is already
half an hour high! Off with you all to the courtyard, and mount,
while Lady Kingsley changes her wedding-gear for robes more
befitting travel, and joins us there."
With a low obeisance to the king, the lovely bride hastened away
after one of the favorite's attendants, to do as he directed, and
don a riding-suit. In ten minutes after, when the royal
cavalcade started, she turned from the pest-stricken city, too
and fairest, where all was fair, by Sir Norman's side rode
Sitting one winter night by a glorious winter fire, while the
snow and hail lashed the windows, and the wind without roared
like Bottom, the weaver, a pleasant voice whispered the foregoing
tale. Here, as it paused abruptly, and seemed to have done with
the whole thing, I naturally began to ask questions. What
happened the dwarf and his companions? What became of Hubert?
Did Sir Norman and Lady Kingsley go to Devonshire, and did either
of them die of the plague? I felt, myself, when I said it, that
the last suggestion was beneath contempt, and so a withering look
from the face opposite proved; but the voice was obliging enough
to answer the rest of my queries. The dwarf and his cronies
being put into his majesty's jail of Newgate, where the plague
was raging fearfully, they all died in a week, and so managed to
cheat the executioner. Hubert went to France, and laid his
claims before the royal Louis, who, not being able to do
otherwise, was graciously pleased to acknowledge them; and Hubert
became the Marquis de Montmorenci, and in the fullness of time
took unto himself a wife, even of the daughters of the land, and
lived happy for ever after.
And Sir Norman and Lady Kingsley did go to the old manor in
Devonshire, where - with tradition and my informant - there is to
be seen to this day, an old family-picture, painted some twelve
years after, representing the knight and his lady sitting
serenely in their "ain ingle nook" with their family around them.
Sir Norman,- a little portlier, a little graver, in the serious
dignity of pater familias; and Leoline, with the dark, beautiful
eyes, the falling, shining hair, the sweet smiling lips, and
lovely, placid face of old. Between them, on three hassocks, sit
three little boys; while the fourth, and youngest, a miniature
little Sir Norman, leans against his mother's shoulder, and looks
thoughtfully in her sweet, calm face. Of the fate of those four,
the same ancient lore affirms: "That the eldest afterward bore
the title of Earl of Kingsley; that the second became a lord high
admiral, or chancellor, or something equally highfalutin; and
that the third became an archbishop. But the highest honor of
all was reserved for the fourth, and youngest," continued the
narrating voice, "who, after many days, sailed for America, and,
in the course of time, became President of the United States ."
Determined to be fully satisfied on this point, at least, the
author invested all her spare change in a catalogue of all the
said Presidents, from George Washington to Chester A. Arthur,
and, after a diligent and absorbing perusal of that piece of
literature, could find no such name as Kingsley whatever; and has
been forced to come to the conclusion that he most have applied
to Congress to change his name on arriving in the New World, or
else that her informant was laboring reader a falsehood when she
told her so. As for the rest,
"I know not how the truth may be;
I say it as 'twas said to me."