Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Steven desJardins and Distributed Proofreaders
THE NEST OF THE SPARROWHAWK
_A ROMANCE OF THE XVIIth CENTURY_
BY THE BARONESS ORCZY
I. THE HOUSE OF A KENTISH SQUIRE
II. ON A JULY AFTERNOON
III. THE EXILE
IV. GRINDING POVERTY
V. THE LEGAL ASPECT
VI. UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE ELMS
VII. THE STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES
VIII. PRINCE AMEDE D'ORLEANS
IX. SECRET SERVICE
X. AVOWED ENMITY
XII. A WOMAN'S HEART
XIII. AN IDEA
XIV. THE HOUSE IN LONDON
XV. A GAME OF PRIMERO
XVI. A CONFLICT
XVII. RUS IN URBE
XVIII. THE TRAP
XX. MY LORD PROTECTOR'S PATROL
XXI. IN THE MEANWHILE
XXII. BREAKING THE NEWS
XXIII. THE ABSENT FRIEND
XXIV. NOVEMBER THE 2D
XXV. AN INTERLUDE
XXVI. THE OUTCAST
XXVII. LADY SUE'S FORTUNE
XXVIII. HUSBAND AND WIFE
XXX. ALL BECAUSE OF THE TINDER-BOX
XXXI. THE ASSIGNATION
XXXII. THE PATH NEAR THE CLIFFS
XXXIII. THE DAY AFTER
XXXV. THE SMITH'S FORGE
XXXVI. THE GIRL-WIFE
XXXVII. THE OLD WOMAN
XXXVIII. THE VOICE OF THE DEAD
XXXIX. THE HOME-COMING OF ADAM LAMBERT
XL. EDITHA'S RETURN
XLI. THEIR NAME
XLII. THE RETURN
XLIII. THE SANDS OF EPPLE
XLIV. THE EPILOGUE
The Nest of the Sparrowhawk
THE HOUSE OF A KENTISH SQUIRE
Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy folded his hands before him ere he spoke:
"Nay! but I tell thee, woman, that the Lord hath no love for such
frivolities! and alack! but 'tis a sign of the times that an English
Squire should favor such evil ways."
"Evil ways? The Lord love you, Master Hymn-of-Praise, and pray do you
call half an hour at the skittle alley 'evil ways'?"
"Aye, evil it is to indulge our sinful bodies in such recreation as doth
not tend to the glorification of the Lord and the sanctification of our
He who sermonized thus unctuously and with eyes fixed with stern
disapproval on the buxom wench before him, was a man who had passed the
meridian of life not altogether--it may be surmised--without having
indulged in some recreations which had not always the sanctification of
his own immortal soul for their primary object. The bulk of his figure
testified that he was not averse to good cheer, and there was a certain
hidden twinkle underlying the severe expression of his eyes as they
rested on the pretty face and round figure of Mistress Charity that did
not necessarily tend to the glorification of the Lord.
Apparently, however, the admonitions of Master Hymn-of-Praise made but a
scanty impression on the young girl's mind, for she regarded him with a
mixture of amusement and contempt as she shrugged her plump shoulders
and said with sudden irrelevance:
"Have you had your dinner yet, Master Busy?"
"'Tis sinful to address a single Christian person as if he or she were
several," retorted the man sharply. "But I'll tell thee in confidence,
mistress, that I have not partaken of a single drop more comforting than
cold water the whole of to-day. Mistress de Chavasse mixed the
sack-posset with her own hands this morning, and locked it in the
cellar, of which she hath rigorously held the key. Ten minutes ago when
she placed the bowl on this table, she called my attention to the fact
that the delectable beverage came to within three inches of the brim.
Meseems I shall have to seek for a less suspicious, more
Christian-spirited household, whereon to bestow in the near future my
Hardly had Master Hymn-of-Praise finished speaking when he turned very
sharply round and looked with renewed sternness--wholly untempered by a
twinkle this time--in the direction whence he thought a suppressed
giggle had just come to his ears. But what he saw must surely have
completely reassured him; there was no suggestion of unseemly ribaldry
about the young lad who had been busy laying out the table with spoons
and mugs, and was at this moment vigorously--somewhat ostentatiously,
perhaps--polishing a carved oak chair, bending to his task in a manner
which fully accounted for the high color in his cheeks.
He had long, lanky hair of a pale straw-color, a thin face and high
cheek-bones, and was dressed--as was also Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy--in
a dark purple doublet and knee breeches, all looking very much the worse
for wear; the brown tags and buttons with which these garments had
originally been roughly adorned were conspicuous in a great many places
by their absence, whilst all those that remained were mere skeletons of
their former selves.
The plain collars and cuffs which relieved the dull color of the men's
doublets were of singularly coarse linen not beyond reproach as to
cleanliness, and altogether innocent of starch; whilst the thick brown
worsted stockings displayed many a hole through which the flesh peeped,
and the shoes of roughly tanned leather were down at heel and worn
through at the toes.
Undoubtedly even in these days of more than primitive simplicity and of
sober habiliments Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy, butler at Acol Court in
the county of Kent, and his henchman, Master Courage Toogood, would have
been conspicuous for the shabbiness and poverty of the livery which they
The hour was three in the afternoon. Outside a glorious July sun spread
radiance and glow over an old-fashioned garden, over tall yew hedges,
and fantastic forms of green birds and heads of beasts carefully cut and
trimmed, over clumps of late roses and rough tangles of marguerites and
potentillas, of stiff zinnias and rich-hued snapdragons.
Through the open window came the sound of wood knocking against wood, of
exclamations of annoyance or triumph as the game proceeded, and every
now and then a ripple of prolonged laughter, girlish, fresh, pure as the
fragrant air, clear as the last notes of the cuckoo before he speaks his
final farewell to summer.
Every time that echo of youth and gayety penetrated into the
oak-raftered dining-room, Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy pursed his thick
lips in disapproval, whilst the younger man, had he dared, would no
doubt have gone to the window, and leaning out as far as safety would
permit, have tried to catch a glimpse of the skittle alley and of a
light-colored kirtle gleaming among the trees. But as it was he caught
the older man's stern eyes fixed reprovingly upon him, he desisted from
his work of dusting and polishing, and, looking up to the heavy oak-beam
above him, he said with becoming fervor:
"Lord! how beautifully thou dost speak, Master Busy!"
"Get on with thy work, Master Courage," retorted the other relentlessly,
"and mix not thine unruly talk with the wise sayings of thy betters."
"My work is done, Master."
"Go fetch the pasties then, the quality will be in directly," rejoined
the other peremptorily, throwing a scrutinizing look at the table,
whereon a somewhat meager collation of cherries, raspberries and
gooseberries and a more generous bowl of sack-posset had been arranged
by Mistress Charity and Master Courage under his own supervision.
"Doubtless, doubtless," here interposed the young maid somewhat
hurriedly, desirous perhaps of distracting the grave butler's attention
from the mischievous oglings of the lad as he went out of the room, "as
you remark--hem--as thou remarkest, this place of service is none to the
liking of such as ... thee ..."
She threw him a coy glance from beneath well-grown lashes, which caused
the saintly man to pass his tongue over his lips, an action which of a
surety had not the desire for spiritual glory for its mainspring. With
dainty hands Mistress Charity busied herself with the delicacies upon
the table. She adjusted a gooseberry which seemed inclined to tumble,
heaped up the currants into more graceful pyramids. Womanlike, whilst
her eyes apparently followed the motions of her hands they nevertheless
took stock of Master Hymn-of-Praise's attitude with regard to herself.
She knew that in defiance of my Lord Protector and all his Puritans she
was looking her best this afternoon: though her kirtle was as threadbare
as Master Courage's breeches it was nevertheless just short enough to
display to great advantage her neatly turned ankle and well-arched foot
on which the thick stockings--well-darned--and shabby shoes sat not at
Her kerchief was neatly folded, white and slightly starched, her cuffs
immaculately and primly turned back just above her round elbow and
On the whole Mistress Charity was pleased with her own appearance. Sir
Marmaduke de Chavasse and the mistress were seeing company this
afternoon, and the neighboring Kentish squires who had come to play
skittles and to drink sack-posset might easily find a less welcome sight
than that of the serving maid at Acol Court.
"As for myself," now resumed Mistress Charity, after a slight pause,
during which she had felt Master Busy's admiring gaze fixed persistently
upon her, "as for myself, I'll seek service with a lady less like to
find such constant fault with a hard-working maid."
Master Courage had just returned carrying a large dish heaped up with
delicious looking pasties fresh from the oven, brown and crisp with
butter, and ornamented with sprigs of burrage which made them appear
Charity took the dish from the lad and heavy as it was, she carried it
to the table and placed it right in the very center of it. She
rearranged the sprigs of burrage, made a fresh disposition of the
baskets of fruit, whilst both the men watched her open-mouthed, agape at
so much loveliness and grace.
"And," she added significantly, looking with ill-concealed covetousness
at the succulent pasties, "where there's at least one dog or cat about
"I know not, mistress," said Hymn-of-Praise, "that thou wast over-fond
of domestic pets ... 'Tis sinful to ..."
"La! Master Busy, you ... hem ... thou mistakest my meaning. I have no
love for such creatures--but without so much as a kitten about the
house, prithee how am I to account to my mistress for the pasties and
... and comfits ... not to speak of breakages."
"There is always Master Courage," suggested Hymn-of-Praise, with a
movement of the left eyelid which in the case of any one less saintly
might have been described as a sly wink.
"That there is not," interrupted the lad decisively; "my stomach rebels
against comfits, and sack-posset could never be laid to my door."
"I give thee assurance, Master Busy," concluded the young girl, "that
the county of Kent no longer suits my constitution. 'Tis London for me,
and thither will I go next year."
"'Tis a den of wickedness," commented Busy sententiously, "in spite of
my Lord Protector, who of a truth doth turn his back on the Saints and
hath even allowed the great George Fox and some of the Friends to
languish in prison, whilst profligacy holds undisputed sway. Master
Courage, meseems those mugs need washing a second time," he added, with
sudden irrelevance. "Take them to the kitchen, and do not let me set
eyes on thee until they shine like pieces of new silver."
Master Courage would have either resisted the order altogether, or at
any rate argued the point of the cleanliness of the mugs, had he dared;
but the saintly man possessed on occasions a heavy hand, and he also
wore boots which had very hard toes, and the lad realized from the
peremptory look in the butler's eyes that this was an occasion when both
hand and boot would serve to emphasize Master Busy's orders with
unpleasant force if he himself were at all slow to obey.
He tried to catch Charity's eye, but was made aware once more of the
eternal truth that women are perverse and fickle creatures, for she
would not look at him, and seemed absorbed in the rearrangement of her
With a deep sigh which should have spoken volumes to her adamantine
heart, Courage gathered all the mugs together by their handles, and
reluctantly marched out of the room once more.
Hymn-of-Praise Busy waited a moment or two until the clattering of the
pewter died away in the distance, then he edged a little closer to the
table whereat Mistress Charity seemed still very busy with the fruit,
and said haltingly:
"Didst thou really wish to go, mistress ... to leave thy fond, adoring
Hymn-of-Praise ... to go, mistress? ... and to break my heart?"
Charity's dainty head--with its tiny velvet cap edged with lawn which
hardly concealed sufficiently the wealth of her unruly brown hair--sank
meditatively upon her left shoulder.
"Lord, Master Busy," she said demurely, "how was a poor maid to know
that you meant it earnestly?"
"Meant it earnestly?"
"Yes ... a new kirtle ... a gold ring ... flowers ... and sack-posset
and pasties to all the guests," she explained. "Is that what you mean
... hem ... what _thou_, meanest, Master Busy?"
"Of a surety, mistress ... and if thou wouldst allow me to ... to ..."
"To what, Master Busy?"
"To salute thee," said the saintly man, with a becoming blush, "as the
Lord doth allow his creatures to salute one another ... with a chaste
Then as she seemed to demur, he added by way of persuasion:
"I am not altogether a poor man, mistress; and there is that in my
coffer upstairs put by, as would please thee in the future."
"Nay! I was not thinking of the money, Master Busy," said this daughter
of Eve, coyly, as she held a rosy cheek out in the direction of the
'Tis the duty even of a veracious chronicler to draw a discreet veil
over certain scenes full of blissful moments for those whom he portrays.
There are no data extant as to what occurred during the next few
seconds in the old oak-beamed dining-room of Acol Court in the Island of
Thanet. Certain it is that when next we get a peep at Master
Hymn-of-Praise Busy and Mistress Charity Haggett, they are standing side
by side, he looking somewhat shame-faced in the midst of his obvious
joy, and she supremely unconcerned, once more absorbed in the apparently
never-ending adornment of the refreshment table.
"Thou'lt have no cause to regret this, mistress," said Busy
complacently, "we will be married this very autumn, and I have it in my
mind--an it please the Lord--to go up to London and take secret service
under my Lord Protector himself."
"Secret service, Master Busy ... hem ... I mean Hymn-of-Praise, dear ...
secret service? ... What may that be?"
"'Tis a noble business, Charity," he replied, "and one highly commended
by the Lord: the business of tracking the wicked to their lair, of
discovering evil where 'tis hidden in dark places, conspiracies against
my Lord Protector, adherence to the cause of the banished tyrants and
... and ... so forth."
"Sounds like spying to me," she remarked curtly.
"Spying? ... Spying, didst thou say?" he exclaimed indignantly. "Fie on
thee, Charity, for the thought! Secret service under my Lord Protector
'tis called, and a highly lucrative business too, and one for which I
have remarkable aptitude."
"Aye! See the manner in which I find things out, mistress. This house
now ... thou wouldst think 'tis but an ordinary house ... eh?"
His manner changed; the saintliness vanished from his attitude; the
expression of his face became sly and knowing. He came nearer to
Charity, took hold of her wrist, whilst he raised one finger to his
"Thou wouldst think 'tis an ordinary house ... wouldst thou not?" he
repeated, sinking his voice to a whisper, murmuring right into her ear
so that his breath blew her hair about, causing it to tickle her cheek.
She shuddered with apprehension. His manner was so mysterious.
"Yes ... yes ..." she murmured, terrified.
"But I tell thee that there's something going on," he added
"La, Master Busy ... you ... you terrify me!" she said, on the verge of
tears. "What could there be going on?"
Master Busy raised both his hands and with the right began counting off
the fingers of the left.
"Firstly," he began solemnly, "there's an heiress! secondly our
master--poor as a church mouse--thirdly a young scholar--secretary, they
call him, though he writes no letters, and is all day absorbed in his
studies ... Well, mistress," he concluded, turning a triumphant gaze on
her, "tell me, prithee, what happens?"
"What happens, Master Hymn-of-Praise? ... I do not understand. What
"I'll tell thee," he replied sententiously, "when I have found out; but
mark my words, mistress, there's something going on in this house ...
Hush! not a word to that young jackanapes," he added as a distant
clatter of pewter mugs announced the approach of Master Courage. "Watch
with me, mistress, thou'lt perceive something. And when I have found
out, 'twill be the beginning of our fortunes."
Once more he placed a warning finger on his lips; once more he gave
Mistress Charity a knowing wink, and her wrist an admonitory pressure,
then he resumed his staid and severe manner, his saintly mien and
somewhat nasal tones, as from the gay outside world beyond the
window-embrasure the sound of many voices, the ripple of young laughter,
the clink of heeled boots on the stone-flagged path, proclaimed the
arrival of the quality.
ON A JULY AFTERNOON
In the meanwhile in a remote corner of the park the quality was
assembled round the skittle-alley.
Imagine Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse standing there, as stiff a Roundhead
as ever upheld my Lord Protector and his Puritanic government in this
remote corner of the county of Kent: dour in manner, harsh-featured and
hollow-eyed, dressed in dark doublet and breeches wholly void of tags,
ribands or buttons. His closely shorn head is flat at the back, square
in front, his clean-shaven lips though somewhat thick are always held
tightly pressed together. Not far from him sits on a rough wooden seat,
Mistress Amelia Editha de Chavasse, widow of Sir Marmaduke's elder
brother, a good-looking woman still, save for the look of discontent,
almost of suppressed rebellion, apparent in the perpetual dark frown
between the straight brows, in the downward curve of the well-chiseled
mouth, and in the lowering look which seems to dwell for ever in the
handsome dark eyes.
Dame Harrison, too, was there: the large and portly dowager, florid of
face, dictatorial in manner, dressed in the supremely unbecoming style
prevalent at the moment, when everything that was beautiful in art as
well as in nature was condemned as sinful and ungodly; she wore the dark
kirtle and plain, ungainly bodice with its hard white kerchief folded
over her ample bosom; her hair was parted down the middle and brushed
smoothly and flatly to her ears, where but a few curls were allowed to
escape with well-regulated primness from beneath the horn-comb, and the
whole appearance of her looked almost grotesque, surmounted as it was by
the modish high-peaked beaver hat, a marvel of hideousness and
discomfort, since the small brim afforded no protection against the sun,
and the tall crown was a ready prey to the buffetings of the wind.
Mistress Fairsoul Pyncheon too, was there, the wife of the Squire of
Ashe; thin and small, a contrast to Dame Harrison in her mild and
somewhat fussy manner; her plain petticoat, too, was embellished with
paniers, and in spite of the heat of the day she wore a tippet edged
with fur: both of which frivolous adornments had obviously stirred up
the wrath of her more Puritanical neighbor.
Then there were the men: busy at this moment with hurling wooden balls
along the alley, at the further end of which a hollow-eyed scraggy
youth, in shirt and rough linen trousers, was employed in propping up
again the fallen nine-pins. Squire John Boatfield had ridden over from
Eastry, Sir Timothy Harrison had come in his aunt's coach, and young
Squire Pyncheon with his doting mother.
And in the midst of all these sober folk, of young men in severe
garments, of portly dames and frowning squires, a girlish figure,
young, alert, vigorous, wearing with the charm of her own youth and
freshness the unbecoming attire, which disfigured her elders yet seemed
to set off her own graceful form, her dainty bosom and pretty arms. Her
kirtle, too, was plain, and dull in color, of a soft dovelike gray,
without adornment of any kind, but round her shoulders her kerchief was
daintily turned, edged with delicate lace, and showing through its filmy
folds peeps of her own creamy skin.
'Twas years later that Sir Peter Lely painted Lady Sue when she was a
great lady and the friend of the Queen: she was beautiful then, in the
full splendor of her maturer charms, but never so beautiful as she was
on that hot July afternoon in the year of our Lord 1657, when, heated
with the ardor of the game, pleased undoubtedly with the adulation which
surrounded her on every side, she laughed and chatted with the men,
teased the women, her cheeks aglow, her eyes bright, her brown
hair--persistently unruly--flying in thick curls over her neck and
"A remarkable talent, good Sir Marmaduke," Dame Harrison was saying to
her host, as she cast a complacent eye on her nephew, who had just
succeeded in overthrowing three nine-pins at one stroke: "Sir Timothy
hath every aptitude for outdoor pursuits, and though my Lord Protector
deems all such recreations sinful, yet do I think they tend to the
development of muscular energy, which later on may be placed at the
service of the Commonwealth."
Sir Timothy Harrison at this juncture had the misfortune of expending
his muscular energy in hitting Squire Boatfield violently on the shin
with an ill-aimed ball.
"Damn!" ejaculated the latter, heedless of the strict fines imposed by
my Lord Protector on unseemly language. "I ... verily beg the ladies'
pardon ... but ... this young jackanapes nearly broke my shin-bone."
There certainly had been an exclamation of horror on the part of the
ladies at Squire Boatfield's forcible expression of annoyance, Dame
Harrison taking no pains to conceal her disapproval.
"Horrid, coarse creature, this neighbor of yours, good Sir Marmaduke,"
she said with her usual air of decision. "Meseems he is not fit company
for your ward."
"Dear Squire Boatfield," sighed Mistress Pyncheon, who was evidently
disposed to be more lenient, "how good-humoredly he bears it! Clumsy
people should not be trusted in a skittle alley," she added in a mild
way, which seemed to be peculiarly exasperating to Dame Harrison's
"I pray you, Sir Timothy," here interposed Lady Sue, trying to repress
the laughter which would rise to her lips, "forgive poor Squire John.
You scarce can expect him to moderate his language under such
"Oh! his insults leave me completely indifferent," said the young man
with easy unconcern, "his calling me a jackanapes doth not of necessity
make me one."
"No!" retorted Squire Boatfield, who was still nursing his shin-bone,
"maybe not, Sir Timothy, but it shows how observant I am."
"Oliver, pick up Lady Sue's handkerchief," came in mild accents from
"Quite unnecessary, good mistress," rejoined Dame Harrison decisively,
"Sir Timothy has already seen it."
And while the two young men made a quick and not altogether successful
dive for her ladyship's handkerchief, colliding vigorously with one
another in their endeavor to perform this act of gallantry
single-handed, Lady Sue gazed down on them, with good-humored contempt,
laughter and mischief dancing in her eyes. She knew that she was good to
look at, that she was rich, and that she had the pick of the county,
aye, of the South of England, did she desire to wed. Perhaps she thought
of this, even whilst she laughed at the antics of her bevy of courtiers,
all anxious to win her good graces.
Yet even as she laughed, her face suddenly clouded over, a strange,
wistful look came into her eyes, and her laughter was lost in a quick,
A young man had just crossed the tiny rustic bridge which spanned the
ha-ha dividing the flower-garden from the uncultivated park. He walked
rapidly through the trees, towards the skittle alley, and as he came
nearer, the merry lightheartedness seemed suddenly to vanish from Lady
Sue's manner: the ridiculousness of the two young men at her feet,
glaring furiously at one another whilst fighting for her handkerchief,
seemed now to irritate her; she snatched the bit of delicate linen from
their hands, and turned somewhat petulantly away.
"Shall we continue the game?" she said curtly.
The young man, all the while that he approached, had not taken his eyes
off Lady Sue. Twice he had stumbled against rough bits of root or branch
which he had not perceived in the grass through which he walked. He had
seen her laughing gaily, whilst Squire Boatfield used profane language,
and smile with contemptuous merriment at the two young men at her feet;
he had also seen the change in her manner, the sudden wistful look, the
quick sigh, the irritability and the petulance.
But his own grave face expressed neither disapproval at the one mood nor
astonishment at the other. He walked somewhat like a somnambulist, with
eyes fixed--almost expressionless in the intensity of their gaze.
He was very plainly, even poorly clad, and looked a dark figure even
amongst these soberly appareled gentry. The grass beneath his feet had
deadened the sound of his footsteps but Sir Marmaduke had apparently
perceived him, for he beckoned to him to approach.
"What is it, Lambert?" he asked kindly.
"Your letter to Master Skyffington, Sir Marmaduke," replied the young
man, "will you be pleased to sign it?"
"Will it not keep?" said Sir Marmaduke.
"Yes, an you wish it, Sir. I fear I have intruded. I did not know you
The young man had a harsh voice, and a strange brusqueness of manner
which somehow suggested rebellion against the existing conditions of
life. He no longer looked at Lady Sue now, but straight at Sir
Marmaduke, speaking the brief apology between his teeth, without opening
his mouth, as if the words hurt him when they passed his lips.
"You had best speak to Master Skyffington himself about the business,"
rejoined Sir Marmaduke, not heeding the mumbled apology, "he will be
He turned abruptly away, and the young man once more left to himself,
silently and mechanically moved again in the direction of the house.
"You will join us in a bowl of sack-posset, Master Lambert," said
Mistress de Chavasse, striving to be amiable.
"You are very kind," he said none too genially, "in about half-an-hour
if you will allow me. There is another letter yet to write."
No one had taken much notice of him. Even in these days when kingship
and House of Lords were abolished, the sense of social inequality
remained keen. To this coterie of avowed Republicans, young Richard
Lambert--secretary or what-not to Sir Marmaduke, a paid dependent at any
rate--was not worth more than a curt nod of the head, a condescending
acknowledgment of his existence at best.
But Lady Sue had not even bestowed the nod. She had not actually taken
notice of his presence when he came; the wistful look had vanished as
soon as the young man's harsh voice had broken on her ear: she did not
look on him now that he went.
She was busy with her game. Nathless her guardian's secretary was of no
more importance in the rich heiress's sight than that mute row of
nine-pins at the end of the alley, nor was there, mayhap, in her mind
much social distinction between the hollow-eyed lad who set them up
stolidly from time to time, and the silent young student who wrote those
letters which Sir Marmaduke had not known how to spell.
But despite outward indifference, with the brief appearance of the
soberly-garbed young student upon the scene and his abrupt and silent
departure, all the zest seemed to have gone out of Lady Sue's mood.
The ingenuous flatteries of her little court irritated her now: she no
longer felt either amused or pleased by the extravagant compliments
lavished upon her beauty and skill by portly Squire John, by Sir Timothy
Harrison or the more diffident young Squire Pyncheon.
"Of a truth, I sometimes wish, Lady Sue, that I could find out if you
have any faults," remarked Squire Boatfield unctuously.
"Nay, Squire," she retorted sharply, "pray try to praise me to my female
In vain did Mistress Pyncheon admonish her son to be more bold in his
"You behave like a fool, Oliver," she said meekly.
"But, Mother ..."
"Go, make yourself pleasing to her ladyship."
"But, Mother ..."
"I pray you, my son," she retorted with unusual acerbity, "do you want a
million or do you not?"
"But, Mother ..."
"Then go at once and get it, ere that fool Sir Timothy or the odious
Boatfield capture it under your very nose."
"But, Mother ..."
"Go! say something smart to her at once ... talk about your gray mare
... she is over fond of horses ..."
Then as the young Squire, awkward and clumsy in his manner, more
accustomed to the company of his own servants than to that of highborn
ladies, made sundry unfortunate attempts to enchain the attention of the
heiress, his worthy mother turned with meek benignity to Sir Marmaduke.
"A veritable infatuation, good Sir Marmaduke," she said with a sigh,
"quite against my interests, you know. I had no thought to see the dear
lad married so soon, nor to give up my home at the Dene yet, in favor of
a new mistress. Not but that Oliver is not a good son to his
mother--such a good lad!--and such a good husband he would be to any
girl who ..."
"A strange youth that secretary of yours, Sir Marmaduke," here
interposed Dame Harrison in her loud, dictatorial voice, breaking in on
Mistress Pyncheon's dithyrambs, "modest he appears to be, and silent
too: a paragon meseems!"
She spoke with obvious sarcasm, casting covert glances at Lady Sue to
see if she heard.
Sir Marmaduke shrugged his shoulders.
"Lambert is very industrious," he said curtly.
"I thought secretaries never did anything but suck the ends of their
pens," suggested Mistress Pyncheon mildly.
"Sometimes they make love to their employer's daughter," retorted Dame
Harrison spitefully, for Lady Sue was undoubtedly lending an ear to the
conversation now that it had the young secretary for object. She was not
watching Squire Boatfield who was wielding the balls just then with
remarkable prowess, and at this last remark from the portly old dame,
she turned sharply round and said with a strange little air of
haughtiness which somehow became her very well:
"But then you see, mistress, Master Lambert's employer doth not possess
a daughter of his own--only a ward ... mayhap that is the reason why his
secretary performs his duties so well in other ways."
Her cheeks were glowing as she said this, and she looked quite defiant,
as if challenging these disagreeable mothers and aunts of
fortune-hunting youths to cast unpleasant aspersions on a friend whom
she had taken under her special protection.
Sir Marmaduke looked at her keenly; a deep frown settled between his
eyes at sight of her enthusiasm. His face suddenly looked older, and
seemed more dour, more repellent than before.
"Sue hath such a romantic temperament," he said dryly, speaking between
his teeth and as if with an effort. "Lambert's humble origin has fired
her imagination. He has no parents and his elder brother is the
blacksmith down at Acol; his aunt, who seems to have had charge of the
boys ever since they were children, is just a common old woman who lives
in the village--a strict adherent, so I am told, of this new sect, whom
Justice Bennet of Derby hath so justly nicknamed 'Quakers.' They talk
strangely, these people, and believe in a mighty queer fashion. I know
not if Lambert be of their creed, for he does not use the 'thee' and
'thou' when speaking as do all Quakers, so I am told; but his empty
pockets, a smattering of learning which he has picked up the Lord knows
where, and a plethora of unspoken grievances, have all proved a sure
passport to Lady Sue's sympathy."
"Nay, but your village of Acol seems full of queer folk, good Sir
Marmaduke," said Mistress Pyncheon. "I have heard talk among my servants
of a mysterious prince hailed from France, who has lately made one of
your cottages his home."
"Oh! ah! yes!" quoth Sir Marmaduke lightly, "the interesting exile from
the Court of King Louis. I did not know that his fame had reached you,
"A French prince?--in this village?" exclaimed Dame Harrison sharply,
"and pray, good Sir Marmaduke, where did you go a-fishing to get such a
"Nay!" replied Sir Marmaduke with a short laugh, "I had naught to do
with his coming; he wandered to Acol from Dover about six months ago it
seems, and found refuge in the Lamberts' cottage, where he has remained
ever since. A queer fellow I believe. I have only seen him once or
twice in my fields ... in the evening, usually ..."
Perhaps there was just a curious note of irritability in Sir Marmaduke's
voice as he spoke of this mysterious inhabitant of the quiet village of
Acol; certain it is that the two matchmaking old dames seemed smitten at
one and the same time with a sense of grave danger to their schemes.
An exile from France, a prince who hides his identity and his person in
a remote Kentish village, and a girl with a highly imaginative
temperament like Lady Sue! here was surely a more definite, a more
important rival to the pretensions of homely country youths like Sir
Timothy Harrison or Squire Pyncheon, than even the student of humble
origin whose brother was a blacksmith, whose aunt was a Quakeress, and
who wandered about the park of Acol with hollow eyes fixed longingly on
the much-courted heiress.
Dame Harrison and Mistress Pyncheon both instinctively turned a
scrutinizing gaze on her ladyship. Neither of them was perhaps
ordinarily very observant, but self-interest had made them keen, and it
would have been impossible not to note the strange atmosphere which
seemed suddenly to pervade the entire personality of the young girl.
There was nothing in her face now expressive of whole-hearted
partisanship for an absent friend, such as she had displayed when she
felt that young Lambert was being unjustly sneered at; rather was it a
kind of entranced and arrested thought, as if her mind, having come in
contact with one all-absorbing idea, had ceased to function in any other
direction save that one.
Her cheeks no longer glowed, they seemed pale and transparent like those
of an ascetic; her lips were slightly parted, her eyes appeared
unconscious of everything round her, and gazing at something enchanting
beyond that bank of clouds which glimmered, snow-white, through the
"But what in the name of common sense is a French prince doing in Acol
village?" ejaculated Dame Harrison in her most strident voice, which had
the effect of drawing every one's attention to herself and to Sir
Marmaduke, whom she was thus addressing.
The men ceased playing and gathered nearer. The spell was broken. That
strange and mysterious look vanished from Lady Sue's face; she turned
away from the speakers and idly plucked a few bunches of acorn from an
"Of a truth," replied Sir Marmaduke, whose eyes were still steadily
fixed on his ward, "I know as little about the fellow, ma'am, as you do
yourself. He was exiled from France by King Louis for political reasons,
so he explained to the old woman Lambert, with whom he is still lodging.
I understand that he hardly ever sleeps at the cottage, that his
appearances there are short and fitful and that his ways are passing
mysterious.... And that is all I know," he added in conclusion, with a
careless shrug of the shoulders.
"Quite a romance!" remarked Mistress Pyncheon dryly.
"You should speak to him, good Sir Marmaduke," said Dame Harrison
decisively, "you are a magistrate. 'Tis your duty to know more of this
fellow and his antecedents."
"Scarcely that, ma'am," rejoined Sir Marmaduke, "you understand ... I
have a young ward living for the nonce in my house ... she is very rich,
and, I fear me, of a very romantic disposition ... I shall try to get
the man removed from hence, but until that is accomplished, I prefer to
know nothing about him ..."
"How wise of you, good Sir Marmaduke!" quoth Mistress Pyncheon with a
sigh of content.
A sentiment obviously echoed in the hearts of a good many people there
"One knows these foreign adventurers," concluded Sir Marmaduke with
pleasant irony, "with their princely crowns and forlorn causes ... half
a million of English money would no doubt regild the former and bolster
up the latter."
He rose from his seat as he spoke, boldly encountering even as he did
so, a pair of wrathful and contemptuous girlish eyes fixed steadily upon
"Shall we go within?" he said, addressing his guests, and returning his
young ward's gaze haughtily, even commandingly; "a cup of sack-posset
will be welcome after the fatigue of the game. Will you honor my poor
house, mistress? and you, too, ma'am? Gentlemen, you must fight among
yourselves for the privilege of escorting Lady Sue to the house, and if
she prove somewhat disdainful this beautiful summer's afternoon, I pray
you remember that faint heart never won fair lady, and that the citadel
is not worth storming an it is not obdurate."
The suggestion of sack-posset proved vastly to the liking of the merry
company. Mistress de Chavasse who had been singularly silent all the
afternoon, walked quickly in advance of her brother-in-law's guests, no
doubt in order to cast a scrutinizing eye over the arrangements of the
table, which she had entrusted to the servants.
Sir Marmaduke followed at a short distance, escorting the older women,
making somewhat obvious efforts to control his own irritability, and to
impart some sort of geniality to the proceedings.
Then in a noisy group in the rear came the three men still fighting for
the good graces of Lady Sue, whilst she, silent, absorbed, walked
leisurely along, paying no heed to the wrangling of her courtiers, her
fingers tearing up with nervous impatience the delicate cups of the
acorns, which she then threw from her with childish petulance.
And her eyes still sought the distance beyond the boundaries of Sir
Marmaduke's private grounds, there where cornfields and sky and sea were
merged by the summer haze into a glowing line of emerald and purple and
It was about an hour later. Sir Marmaduke's guests had departed, Dame
Harrison in her rickety coach, Mistress Pyncheon in her chaise, whilst
Squire Boatfield was riding his well-known ancient cob.
Everyone had drunk sack-posset, had eaten turkey pasties, and enjoyed
the luscious fruit: the men had striven to be agreeable to the heiress,
the old ladies to be encouraging to their proteges. Sir Marmaduke had
tried to be equally amiable to all, whilst favoring none. He was an
unpopular man in East Kent and he knew it, doing nothing to
counterbalance the unpleasing impression caused invariably by his surly
manner, and his sarcastic, often violent, temper.
Mistress Amelia Editha de Chavasse was now alone with her brother-in-law
in the great bare hall of the Court, Lady Sue having retired to her room
under pretext of the vapors, and young Lambert been finally dismissed
from work for the day.
"You are passing kind to the youth, Marmaduke," said Mistress de
Chavasse meditatively when the young man's darkly-clad figure had
disappeared up the stairs.
She was sitting in a high-backed chair, her head resting against the
carved woodwork. The folds of her simple gown hung primly round her
well-shaped figure. Undoubtedly she was still a very good-looking woman,
though past the hey-day of her youth and beauty. The half-light caused
by the depth of the window embrasure, and the smallness of the glass
panes through which the summer sun hardly succeeded in gaining
admittance, added a certain softness to her chiseled features, and to
the usually hard expression of her large dark eyes.
She was gazing out of the tall window, wherein the several broken panes
were roughly patched with scraps of paper, out into the garden and the
distance beyond, where the sea could be always guessed at, even when not
seen. Sir Marmaduke had his back to the light: he was sitting astride a
low chair, his high-booted foot tapping the ground impatiently, his
fingers drumming a devil's tattoo against the back of the chair.
"Lambert would starve if I did not provide for him," he said with a
sneer. "Adam, his brother, could do naught for him: he is poor as a
church-mouse, poorer even than I--but nathless," he added with a violent
oath, "it strikes everyone as madness that I should keep a secretary
when I scarce can pay the wages of a serving maid."
"'Twere better you paid your servants' wages, Marmaduke," she retorted
harshly, "they were insolent to me just now. Why do you not pay the
girl's arrears to-day?"
"Why do I not climb up to the moon, my dear Editha, and bring down a
few stars with me in my descent," he replied with a shrug of his broad
shoulders. "I have come to my last shilling."
"The Earl of Northallerton cannot live for ever."
"He hath vowed, I believe, that he would do it, if only to spite me. And
by the time that he come to die this accursed Commonwealth will have
abolished all titles and confiscated every estate."
"Hush, Marmaduke," she said, casting a quick, furtive look all round
her, "there may be spies about."
"Nay, I care not," he rejoined roughly, jumping to his feet and kicking
the chair aside so that it struck with a loud crash against the flagged
floor. "'Tis but little good a man gets for cleaving loyally to the
Commonwealth. The sequestrated estates of the Royalists would have been
distributed among the adherents of republicanism, and not held to
bolster up a military dictatorship. Bah!" he continued, allowing his
temper to overmaster him, speaking in harsh tones and with many a
violent oath, "it had been wiser to embrace the Royal cause. The Lord
Protector is sick, so 'tis said. His son Richard hath no backbone, and
the present tyranny is worse than the last. I cannot collect my rents; I
have been given neither reward nor compensation for the help I gave in
'46. So much for their boasted gratitude and their many promises! My
Lord Protector feasts the Dutch ambassadors with music and with wine, my
Lords Ireton and Fairfax and Hutchinson and the accursed lot of canting
Puritans flaunt it in silks and satins, whilst I go about in a ragged
doublet and with holes in my shoes."
"There's Lady Sue," murmured Mistress de Chavasse soothingly.
"Pshaw! the guardianship of a girl who comes of age in three months!"
"You can get another by that time."
"Not I. I am not a sycophant hanging round White Hall! 'Twas sheer good
luck and no merit of mine that got me the guardianship of Sue. Lord
Middlesborough, her kinsman, wanted it; the Courts would have given her
to him, but old Noll thought him too much of a 'gentleman,' whilst I--an
out-at-elbows country squire, was more to my Lord Protector's liking.
'Tis the only thing he ever did for me."
There was intense bitterness and a harsh vein of sarcasm running through
Sir Marmaduke's talk. It was the speech of a disappointed man, who had
hoped, and striven, and fought once; had raised longing hands towards
brilliant things and sighed after glory, or riches, or fame, but whose
restless spirit had since been tamed, crushed under the heavy weight of
Poverty--grinding, unceasing, uninteresting poverty, had been Sir
Marmaduke's relentless tormentor ever since he had reached man's estate.
His father, Sir Jeremy de Chavasse, had been poor before him. The
younger son of that Earl of Northallerton who cut such a brilliant
figure at the Court of Queen Elizabeth, Jeremy had married Mistress
Spanton of Acol Court, who had brought him a few acres of land heavily
burdened with mortgage as her dowry. They were a simple-minded,
unostentatious couple who pinched and scraped and starved that their two
sons might keep up the appearances of gentlemen at the Court of King
But both the young men seemed to have inherited from their brilliant
grandfather luxurious tastes and a love of gambling and of show--but
neither his wealth nor yet his personal charm of manner. The eldest,
Rowland, however, soon disappeared from the arena of life. He married
when scarce twenty years of age a girl who had been a play-actress. This
marriage nearly broke his doting mother's heart, and his own, too, for
the matter of that, for the union was a most unhappy one. Rowland de
Chavasse died very soon after, unreconciled to his father and mother,
who refused to see him or his family, even on his deathbed.
Jeremy de Chavasse's few hopes now centered on his younger son,
Marmaduke. In order to enable the young man to remain in London, to mix
freely and to hold his own in that set into which family traditions had
originally gained him admittance, the fond mother and indulgent father
denied themselves the very necessities of life.
Marmaduke took everything that was given him, whilst chafing at the
paucity of his allowance. Determined to cut a figure at Court, he spent
two years and most of his mother's dowry in a vain attempt to capture
the heart of one or the other of the rich heiresses who graced the
entourage of Charles I.
But Nature who had given Marmaduke boundless ambition, had failed to
bestow on him those attributes which would have helped him on towards
its satisfaction. He was neither sufficiently prepossessing to please an
heiress, nor sufficiently witty and brilliant to catch the royal eye or
the favor of his uncle, the present Earl of Northallerton. His efforts
in the direction of advantageous matrimony had earned for him at Court
the nickname of "The Sparrowhawk." But even these efforts had soon to be
relinquished for want of the wherewithal.
The doting mother no longer could supply him with a sufficiency of money
to vie with the rich gallants at the Court, and the savings which Sir
Jeremy had been patiently accumulating with a view to freeing the Acol
estates from mortgage went instead to rescue young Marmaduke from a
Poor Sir Jeremy did not long survive his disappointment. Marmaduke
returned to Acol Court only to find his mother a broken invalid, and his
Since then it had been a perpetual struggle against poverty and debt, a
bitter revolt against Fate, a burning desire to satisfy ambition which
had received so serious a check.
When the great conflict broke out between King and Parliament, he threw
himself into it, without zest and without conviction, embracing the
cause of the malcontents with a total lack of enthusiasm, merely out of
disappointment--out of hatred for the brilliant Court and circle in
which he had once hoped to become a prominent figure.
He fought under Ireton, was commended as a fairly good soldier, though
too rebellious to be very reliable, too self-willed to be wholly
Even in these days of brilliant reputations quickly made, he remained
obscure and practically unnoticed. Advancement never came his way and
whilst younger men succeeded in attracting the observant eye of old
Noll, he was superseded at every turn, passed over--anon forgotten.
When my Lord Protector's entourage was formed, the Household organized,
no one thought of the Sparrowhawk for any post that would have satisfied
his desires. Once more he cursed his own poverty. Money--the want of
it--he felt was at the root of all his disappointments. A burning desire
to obtain it at any cost, even that of honor, filled his entire being,
his mind, his soul, his thoughts, every nerve in his body. Money, and
social prestige! To be somebody at Court or elsewhere, politically,
commercially,--he cared not. To handle money and to command attention!
He became wary, less reckless, striving to obtain by diplomatic means
that which he had once hoped to snatch by sheer force of personality.
The Court of Chancery having instituted itself sole guardian and
administrator of the revenues and fortunes of minors whose fathers had
fought on the Royalist side, and were either dead or in exile, and
arrogating unto itself the power to place such minors under the
tutelage of persons whose loyalty to the Commonwealth was undoubted, Sir
Marmaduke bethought himself of applying for one of these official
guardianships which were known to be very lucrative and moreover,
Fate for once favored him; a half-contemptuous desire to do something
for this out-at-elbows Kentish squire who had certainly been a loyal
adherent of the Commonwealth, caused my Lord Protector to favor his
application. The rich daughter of the Marquis of Dover was placed under
the guardianship of Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse with an allowance of
L4,000 a year for her maintenance, until she came of age. A handsome
fortune and stroke of good luck for a wise and prudent man:--a drop in
an ocean of debts, difficulties and expensive tastes, in the case of Sir
A prolonged visit to London with a view either of gaining a foothold in
the new Court, or of drawing the attention of the malcontents, of Monk
and his party, or even of the Royalists, to himself, resulted in further
debts, in more mortgages, more bitter disappointments.
The man himself did not please. His personality was unsympathetic; Lady
Sue's money which he now lavished right and left, bought neither
friendship nor confidence. He joined all the secret clubs which in
defiance of Cromwell's rigid laws against betting and gambling, were the
resort of all the smart gentlemen in the town. Ill-luck at hazard and
dice pursued him: he was a bad loser, quarrelsome and surly. His
ambition had not taught him the salutary lesson of how to make friends
in order to attain his desires.
His second return to the ancestral home was scarcely less disastrous
than the first; a mortgage on his revenues as guardian of Lady Sue
Aldmarshe just saved him this time from the pursuit of his creditors,
and this mortgage he had only obtained through false statements as to
his ward's age.
As he told his sister-in-law a moment ago, he was at his last gasp. He
had perhaps just begun to realize that he would never succeed through
the force of his own individuality. Therefore, money had become a still
more imperative necessity to him. He was past forty now. Disappointed
ambition and an ever rebellious spirit had left severe imprints on his
face: his figure was growing heavy, his prominent lips, unadorned by a
mustache, had an unpleasant downward droop, and lately he had even
noticed that the hair on the top of his head was not so thick as of
The situation was indeed getting desperate, since Lady Sue would be of
age in three months, when all revenues for her maintenance would cease.
"Methinks her million will go to one of those young jackanapes who hang
about her," sighed Mistress de Chavasse, with almost as much bitterness
as Sir Marmaduke had shown.
Her fortunes were in a sense bound up with those of her brother-in-law.
He had been most unaccountably kind to her of late, a kindness which his
many detractors attributed either to an infatuation for his brother's
widow, or to a desire to further irritate his uncle the Earl of
Northallerton, who--a rigid Puritan himself--hated the play-actress and
her connection with his own family.
"Can naught be done, Marmaduke?" she asked after a slight pause, during
which she had watched anxiously the restless figure of her
brother-in-law as he paced up and down the narrow hall.
"Can you suggest anything, my dear Editha?" he retorted roughly.
"Pshaw!" she ejaculated with some impatience, "you are not so old, but
you could have made yourself agreeable to the wench."
"You think that she would have fallen in love with her middle-aged
guardian?" he exclaimed with a harsh, sarcastic laugh. "That girl? ...
with her head full of romantic nonsense ... and I ... in ragged doublet,
with a bald head, and an evil temper ... Bah!!! ... But," he added, with
an unpleasant sneer, "'tis unselfish and disinterested on your part, my
dear Editha, even to suggest it. Sue does not like you. Her being
mistress here would not be conducive to your comfort."
"Nay! 'tis no use going on in this manner any longer, Marmaduke," she
said dejectedly. "Pleasant times will not come my way so long as you
have not a shilling to give me for a new gown, and cannot afford to keep
up my house in London."
She fully expected another retort from him--brutal and unbridled as was
his wont when money affairs were being discussed. He was not accustomed
to curb his violence in her presence. She had been his helpmeet in many
unavowable extravagances, in the days when he was still striving after a
brilliant position in town. There had been certain rumors anent a
gambling den, whereat Mistress de Chavasse had been the presiding spirit
and which had come under the watchful eye of my Lord Protector's spies.
Now she had perforce to share her brother-in-law's poverty. At any rate
he provided a roof over her head. On the advent of Lady Sue Aldmarshe
into his bachelor establishment he called on his sister-in-law for the
part of duenna.
At one time the fair Editha had exercised her undoubted charms over
Marmaduke's violent nature, but latterly she had become a mere butt for
his outbursts of rage. But now to her astonishment, and in response to
her petulant reproach, his fury seemed to fall away from him. He threw
his head back and broke out into uncontrolled, half-sarcastic, almost
"How blind you are, my dear Editha," he said with a shrug of his broad
shoulders. "Nay! an I mistake not, in that case there will be some
strange surprises for you within the next three months. I pray you try
and curb your impatience until then, and to bear with the insolence of a
serving wench, 'Twill serve you well, mine oath on that!" he added
Then without vouchsafing further explanations of his enigmatic
utterances, he turned on his heel--still laughing apparently at some
pleasing thought--and walked upstairs, leaving her to meditate.
THE LEGAL ASPECT
Mistress de Chavasse sat musing, in that high-backed chair, for some
considerable time. Anon Sir Marmaduke once more traversed the hall,
taking no heed of her as he went out into the garden. She watched his
broad figure moving along the path and then crossing the rustic bridge
until it disappeared among the trees of the park.
There was something about his attitude of awhile ago which puzzled her.
And with puzzlement came an inexplicable fear: she had known Marmaduke
in all his moods, but never in such an one as he had displayed before
her just now. There had been a note almost of triumph in the laughter
with which he had greeted her last reproach. The cry of the sparrowhawk
when it seizes its prey.
Triumph in Sir Marmaduke filled her with dread. No one knew better than
she did the hopeless condition of his financial status. Debt--prison
perhaps--was waiting for him at every turn. Yet he seemed triumphant!
She knew him to have reached those confines of irritability and
rebellion against poverty which would cause him to shrink from nothing
for the sake of gaining money. Yet he seemed triumphant!
Instinctively she shuddered as she thought of Sue. She had no cause to
like the girl, yet would she not wish to see her come to harm.
She did not dare avow even to herself the conviction which she had, that
if Sir Marmaduke could gain anything by the young girl's death, he would
not hesitate to ... Nay! she would not even frame that thought.
Marmaduke had been kind to her; she could but hope that temptation such
as that, would never come his way.
Hymn-of-Praise Busy broke in on her meditations. His nasal tones--which
had a singular knack of irritating her as a rule--struck quite
pleasingly on her ear, as a welcome interruption to the conflict of her
"Master Skyffington, ma'am," he said in his usual drawly voice, "he is
on his way to Dover, and desired his respects, an you wish to see him."
"Yes! yes! I'll see Master Skyffington," she said with alacrity, rising
from her chair, "go apprise Sir Marmaduke, and ask Master Skyffington to
She was all agitation now, eager, excited, and herself went forward to
meet the quaint, little wizened figure which appeared in the doorway.
Master Skyffington, attorney-at-law, was small and thin--looked doubly
so, in fact, in the black clothes which he wore. His eyes were blue and
watery, his manner peculiarly diffident. He seemed to present a
perpetual apology to the world for his own existence therein.
Even now as Mistress de Chavasse seemed really overjoyed to see him, he
backed his meager person out of the doorway as she approached, whereupon
she--impatiently--clutched his arm and dragged him forward into the
"Sit down there, master," she said, speaking with obvious agitation, and
almost pushing the poor little man off his feet whilst dragging him to a
chair. "Sir Marmaduke will see you anon, but 'twas a kind thought to
come and bring me news."
"Hem! ... hem! ..." stammered Master Skyffington, "I ... that is ... hem
... I left Canterbury this morning and was on my way to Dover ... hem
... this lies on my way, ma'am ... and ..."
"Yes! yes!" she said impatiently, "but you have some news, of course?"
"News! ... news!" he muttered apologetically, and clutching at his
collar, which seemed to be choking him, "what news--er--I pray you,
"That clew?" she insisted.
"It was very slight," he stammered.
"And it led to naught?"
Her eagerness vanished. She sank back into her chair and moaned.
"My last hope!" she said dully.
"Nay! nay!" rejoined Master Skyffington quite cheerfully, his courage
seemingly having risen with her despair. "We must not be despondent. The
noble Earl of Northallerton hath interested himself of late in the
search and ..."
But she shrugged her shoulders, whilst a short, bitter laugh escaped her
"At last?" she said with biting sarcasm. "After twelve years!"
"Nay! but remember, ma'am, that his lordship now is very ill ... and
nigh on seventy years old.... Failing your late husband, Master
Rowland--whom the Lord hath in His keeping--your eldest son is ... hem
... that is ... by law, ma'am, ... and with all respect due to Sir
Marmaduke ... your eldest son is heir to the Earldom."
"And though his lordship hates me, he still prefers that my son should
succeed to his title, rather than Sir Marmaduke whom he abhors."
But that suggestion was altogether too much for poor Master
Skyffington's sense of what was due to so noble a family, and to its
"That is ... er ..." he muttered in supreme discomfort, swallowing great
gulps which rose to his throat at this rash and disrespectful speech
from the ex-actress. "Family feuds ... hem ... er ... very distressing
of a truth ... and ... that is ..."
"I fear me his lordship will be disappointed," she rejoined, quite
heedless of the little attorney's perturbation, "and that under these
circumstances Sir Marmaduke will surely succeed."
"I was about to remark," he rejoined, "that now, with my lord's
help--his wealth and influence ... now, that is, ... that he has
interested himself in the matter ... hem ... we might make fresh
inquiries ... that is ... er ..."
"It will be useless, master. I have done all that is humanly possible. I
loved my boys dearly--and it was because of my love for them that I
placed them under my mother's care.... I loved them, you understand, but
I was living in a gay world in London ... my husband was dead ... I
could do naught for their comfort.... I thought it would be best for
It was her turn now to speak humbly, almost apologetically, whilst her
eyes sought those of the simple little attorney, trying to read approval
in his glance, or at any rate an absence of reproof. He was shaking his
head, sighing with visible embarrassment the while. In his innermost
soul, he could find no excuse for the frivolous mother, anxious to avoid
the responsibilities which the Lord Himself had put upon her: anxious to
be rid of her children in order that she might pursue with greater
freedom and ease that life of enjoyment and thoughtlessness which she
"My mother was a strange woman," continued Mistress de Chavasse
earnestly and placing her small white hand on the black sleeve of the
attorney, "she cared little enough for me, and not at all for London
and for society. She did not understand the many duties that devolve on
a woman of fashion.... And I was that in those days! ... twenty years
"Ah! Truly! truly!" sighed Master Skyffington.
"Mayhap she acted according to her own lights.... After some years she
became a convert to that strange new faith ... of the people who call
themselves 'Friends' ... who salute no one with the hat, and who talk so
strangely, saying: 'thee' and 'thou' even when addressing their betters.
One George Fox had a great hold on her. He was quite a youth then, but
she thought him a saint. 'Tis he, methinks, poisoned her mind against
me, and caused her to curse me on her deathbed."
She gave a little shudder--of superstition, perhaps. The maternal
curse--she felt--was mayhap bearing fruit after all. Master
Skyffington's watery eyes expressed gentle sympathy. His calling had
taught him many of the hidden secrets of human nature and of Life: he
guessed that the time--if not already here--was nigh at hand, when this
unfortunate woman would realize the emptiness of her life, and would
begin to reap the bitter harvest of the barren seeds which she had sown.
"Aye! I lay it all at the door of these 'Friends' who turned a mother's
heart against her own daughter," continued Mistress de Chavasse
vehemently. "She never told me that she was sick, sent me neither letter
nor message; only after her death a curt note came to me, writ in her
hand, entrusted to one of her own co-worshipers, a canting, mouthing
creature, who grinned whilst I read the heartless message. My mother had
sent her grandchildren away, so she told me in the letter, when she felt
that the Lord was calling her to Him. She had placed my boys--my boys,
master!--in the care of a trusted 'friend' who would bring them up in
the fear of God, away from the influence of their mother. My boys,
master, remember! ... they were to be brought up in ignorance of their
name--of the very existence of their mother. The 'friend,' doubtless a
fellow Quaker--had agreed to this on my mother's deathbed."
"Hm! 'tis passing strange, and passing sad," said the attorney, with
real sympathy now, for there was a pathetic note of acute sorrow in
Mistress de Chavasse's voice, "but at the time ... hem ... and with
money and influence ... hem ... much might have been done."
"Ah! believe me, master, I did what I could. I was in London then.... I
flew to Canterbury where my mother lived.... I found her dead ... and
the boys gone ... none of the neighbors could tell me whither.... All
they knew was that a woman had been living with my mother of late and
had gone away, taking the boys with her.... My boys, master, and no one
could tell me whither they had gone! I spent what money I had, and Sir
Marmaduke nobly bore his share in the cost of a ceaseless search, as the
Earl of Northallerton would do nothing then to help me."
"Passing strange ... passing sad," murmured Master Skyffington, shaking
his head, "but methinks I recollect ... hem ... some six years ago ... a
quest which led to a clew ... er ... that is ... two young gentlemen
"Impostors, master," she rejoined, "aye! I have heard of many such since
then. At first I used to believe their stories ..."
"At first?" he ejaculated in amazement, "but surely ... hem ... the
faces ... your own sons, ma'am ..."
"Ah! the faces!" she said, whilst a blush of embarrassment, even of
shame, now suffused her pale cheeks. "I mean ... you understand ... I
... I had not seen my boys since they were babes in arms ... they were
ten years old when they were taken away ... but ... but it is nigh on
twenty-two years since I have set eyes on their faces. I would not know
them, if they passed me by."
Tears choked her voice. Shame had added its bitter sting to the agony of
her sorrow. Of a truth it was a terrible epilogue of misery, following
on a life-story of frivolity and of heartlessness which Mistress de
Chavasse had almost unconsciously related to the poor ignorant country
attorney. Desirous at all costs of retaining her freedom, she had parted
from her children with a light heart, glad enough that their
grandmother was willing to relieve her of all responsibility. Time
slipped by whilst she enjoyed herself, danced and flirted, gambled and
played her part in that world of sport and Fashion wherein a mother's
heart was an unnecessary commodity. Ten years are a long while in the
life of an old woman who lives in a remote country town, and sees Death
approaching with slow yet certain stride; but that same decade is but as
a fleeting hour to the woman who is young and who lives for the moment.
The boys had been forgotten long ere they disappeared! Forgotten?
perhaps not!--but their memory put away in a hidden cell of the mind
where other inconvenient thoughts were stored: only to be released and
gazed upon when other more agreeable ones had ceased to fill the brain.
She felt humbled before this simple-minded man, whom she knew she had
shocked by the recital of her callousness. With innate gentleness of
disposition he tried to hide his feelings and to set aside the subject
for the moment.
"Sir Marmaduke was very disinterested, when he aided you in the quest,"
he said meekly, glad to be able to praise one whom he felt it his duty
to respect, "for under present circumstances ... hem! ..."
"I will raise no difficulties in Sir Marmaduke's way," she rejoined,
"there is no doubt in my mind that my boys are dead, else I had had news
of them ere this."
He looked at her keenly--as keenly as he dared with his mild, blue
eyes. It was hard to keep in sympathy with her. Her moods seemed to
change as she spoke of her boys and then of Sir Marmaduke. Her last
remark seemed to argue that her callousness with regard to her sons had
not entirely yielded to softer emotions yet.
"In case of my Lord Northallerton's death," she continued lightly, "I
shall not put in a claim on behalf of any son of mine."
"Whereupon--hem Sir Marmaduke as next-of-kin, would have the enjoyment
of the revenues--and mayhap would have influence enough then to make
good his claim to the title before the House of Lords ..."
He checked himself: looked furtively round and added:
"Provided it please God and my Lord Protector that the House of Lords
come back to Westminster by that time."
"I thank you, master," said Mistress de Chavasse, rising from her chair,
intimating that this interview was now over, "you have told me all that
I wish to know. Let me assure you, that I will not prove ungrateful.
Your services will be amply repaid by whomever succeeds to the title and
revenues of Northallerton. Did you wish to see Sir Marmaduke?"
"I thank you, mistress, not to-day," replied Master Skyffington somewhat
dryly. The lady's promises had not roused his enthusiasm. He would have
preferred to see more definite reward for his labors, for he had worked
faithfully and was substantially out of pocket in this quest after the
two missing young men.
But he was imbued with that deep respect for the family he had served
all his life, which no conflict between privilege and people would ever
eradicate, and though Mistress de Chavasse's origin was of the humblest,
she was nevertheless herself now within the magic circle into which
Master Skyffington never gazed save with the deepest reverence.
He thought it quite natural that she should dismiss him with a curt and
condescending nod, and when she had swept majestically out of the room,
he made his way humbly across the hall, then by the garden door out
towards the tumble-down barn where he had tethered his old mare.
Master Courage helped him to mount, and he rode away in the direction of
the Dover Road, his head bent, his thoughts dwelling in puzzlement and
wonder on the strange doings of those whom he still reverently called
UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE ELMS
Her head full of romantic nonsense! Well! perhaps that was the true
keynote of Sue's character; perhaps, too, it was that same romantic
temperament which gave such peculiar charm to her personality. It was
not mere beauty--of which she had a plentiful share--nor yet altogether
her wealth which attracted so many courtiers to her feet. Men who knew
her in those days at Acol and subsequently at Court said that Lady Sue
She compelled attention, she commanded admiration, through that very
romanticism of hers which caused her eyes to glow at the recital of
valor, or sorrow, or talent, which caused her to see beauty of thought
and mind and character there where it lay most deeply hidden,
there--sometimes--where it scarce existed.
The dark figure of her guardian's secretary had attracted her attention
from the moment when she first saw him moving silently about the house
and park: the first words she spoke to him were words of sympathy. His
life-story--brief and simple as it had been--had interested her. He
seemed so different from these young and old country squires who
frequented Acol Court. He neither wooed nor flattered her, yet seemed
to find great joy in her company. His voice at times was harsh, his
manner abrupt and even rebellious, but at others it fell to infinite
gentleness when he talked to her of Nature and the stars, both of which
he had studied deeply.
He never spoke of religion. That subject which was on everybody's
tongue, together with the free use of the most sacred names, he
rigorously avoided, also politics, and my Lord Protector's government,
his dictatorship and ever-growing tyranny: but he knew the name of every
flower that grew in meadow or woodland, the note of every bird as it
trilled its song.
There is no doubt that but for the advent of that mysterious personality
into Acol village, the deep friendship which had grown in Sue's heart
for Richard Lambert would have warmed into a more passionate attachment.
But she was too young to reflect, too impulsive to analyze her feelings.
The mystery which surrounded the foreigner who lodged at the Quakeress's
cottage had made strong appeal to her idealism.
His first introduction to her notice, in the woods beyond the park gate
on that cold January evening, with the moon gleaming weirdly through the
branches of the elms, his solitary figure leaning against a tree, had
fired her imagination and set it wildly galloping after mad fantasies.
He had scarcely spoken on that first occasion, but his silence was
strangely impressive. She made up her mind that he was singularly
handsome, although she could not judge of that very clearly for he wore
a heavy mustache, and a shade over one eye; but he was tall, above the
average, and carried the elaborate habiliments which the Cavaliers still
affected, with consummate grace and ease. She thought, too, that the
thick perruque became him very well, and his muffled voice, when he
spoke, sounded singularly sweet.
Since then she had seen him constantly. At rare intervals at first, for
maidenly dignity forbade that she should seem eager to meet him. He was
ignorant of whom she was--oh! of that she felt quite quite sure: she
always wore a dark tippet round her shoulders, and a hood to cover her
head. He seemed pleased to see her, just to hear her voice. Obviously he
was lonely and in deep trouble.
Then one night--it was the first balmy evening after the winter
frosts--the moon was singularly bright, and the hood had fallen back
from her head, just as her face was tilted upwards and her eyes glowing
with enthusiasm. Then she knew that he had learnt to love her, not
through any words which he spoke, for he was silent; his face was in
shadow, and he did not even touch her; therefore it was not through any
of her natural senses that she guessed his love. Yet she knew it, and
her young heart was overfilled with happiness.
That evening when they parted he knelt at her feet and kissed the hem of
her kirtle. After which, when she was back again in her own little room
at Acol Court, she cried for very joy.
They did not meet very often. Once a week at most. He had vaguely
promised to tell her, some day, of his great work for the regeneration
of France, which he was carrying out in loneliness and exile here in
England, a work far greater and more comprehensive than that which had
secured for England religious and political liberty; this work it was
which made him a wanderer on the face of the earth and caused his
frequent and lengthy absences from the cottage in which he lodged.
She was quite content for the moment with these vague promises: in her
heart she was evolving enchanting plans for the future, when she would
be his helpmate in this great and mysterious work.
In the meanwhile she was satisfied to live in the present, to console
and comfort the noble exile, to lavish on him the treasures of her young
and innocent love, to endow him in her imagination with all those mental
and physical attributes which her romantic nature admired most.
The spring had come, clothing the weird branches of the elms with a
tender garb of green, the anemones in the woods yielded to the bluebells
and these to carpets of primroses and violets. The forests of Thanet
echoed with songs of linnets and white-throats. She was happy and she
was in love.
With the lengthened days came some petty sorrows. He was obviously
worried, sometimes even impatient. Their meetings became fewer and
shorter, for the evening hours were brief. She found it difficult to
wander out so late across the park, unperceived, and he would never
meet her by day-light.
This no doubt had caused him to fret. He loved her and desired her all
his own. Yet 'twere useless of a surety to ask Sir Marmaduke's consent
to her marriage with her French prince. He would never give it, and
until she came of age he had absolute power over her choice of a
She had explained this to him and he had sighed and murmured angry
words, then pressed her with increased passion to his heart.
To-night as she walked through the park, she was conscious--for the
first time perhaps--of a certain alloy mixed with her gladness. Yet she
loved him--oh, yes! just, just as much as ever. The halo of romance with
which she had framed in his mystic personality was in no way dimmed, but
in a sense she almost feared him, for at times his muffled voice sounded
singularly vehement, and his words betrayed the uncontrolled violence of
She had hoped to bring him some reassuring news anent Sir Marmaduke de
Chavasse's intentions with regard to herself, but the conversation round
the skittle-alley, her guardian's cruel allusions to "the foreign
adventurer," had shown her how futile were such hopes.
Yet, there were only three months longer of this weary waiting. Surely
he could curb his impatience until she was of age and mistress of her
own hand! Surely he trusted her!
She sighed as this thought crossed her mind, and nearly fell up against
a dark figure which detached itself from among the trees.
"Master Lambert!" she said, uttering a little cry of surprise, pressing
her hand against her heart which was palpitating with emotion. "I had no
thought of meeting you here."
"And I still less of seeing your ladyship," he rejoined coldly.
"How cross you are," she retorted with childish petulance, "what have I
done that you should be so unkind?"
"Aye! I had meant to speak to you of this ere now--but you always avoid
me ... you scarce will look at me ... and ... and I wished to ask you if
I had offended you?"
They were standing on a soft carpet of moss, overhead the gentle summer
breeze stirred the great branches of the elms, causing the crisp leaves
to mutter a long-drawn hush-sh-sh in the stillness of the night. From
far away came the appealing call of a blackbird chased by some marauding
owl, while on the ground close by, the creaking of tiny branches
betrayed the quick scurrying of a squirrel. From the remote and infinite
distance came the subdued roar of the sea.
The peace of the woodland, the sighing of the trees, the dark evening
sky above, filled his heart with an aching longing for her.
"Offended me?" he murmured, passing his hand across his forehead, for
his temples throbbed and his eyes were burning. "Nay! why should you
"You are so cold, so distant now," she said gently. "We were such good
friends when first I came here. Thanet is a strange country to me. It
seems weird and unkind--the woods are dark and lonely, that persistent
sound of the sea fills me with a strange kind of dread.... My home was
among the Surrey hills you know.... It is far from here.... I cannot
afford to lose a friend...."
She sighed, a quaint, wistful little sigh, curiously out of place, he
thought, in this exquisite mouth framed only for smiles.
"I have so few real friends," she added in a whisper, so low that he
thought she had not spoken, and that the elms had sighed that pathetic
phrase into his ear.
"Believe me, Lady Sue, I am neither cold nor distant," he said, almost
smiling now, for the situation appeared strange indeed, that this
beautiful young girl, rich, courted, surrounded by an army of
sycophants, should be appealing to a poor dependent for friendship. "I
am only a little dazed ... as any man would be who had been dreaming ...
and saw that dream vanish away...."
"Yes!--we all dream sometimes you know ... and a penniless man like
myself, without prospects or friends is, methinks, more prone to it than
"We all have dreams sometimes," she said, speaking very low, whilst her
eyes sought to pierce the darkness beyond the trees. "I too ..."
She paused abruptly, and was quite still for a moment, almost holding
her breath, he thought, as if she were listening. But not a sound came
to disturb the silence of the woods. Blackbird and owl had ceased their
fight for life, the squirrel had gone to rest: the evening air was
filled only by the great murmur of the distant sea.
"Tell me your dream," she said abruptly.
"Alas! it is too foolish! ... too mad! ... too impossible...."
"But you said once that you would be my friend and would try to cheer my
"So I will, with all my heart, an you will permit."
"Yet is there no friendship without confidence," she retorted. "Tell me
"What were the use? You would only laugh ... and justly too."
"I should never laugh at that which made you sad," she said gently.
"Sad?" he rejoined with a short laugh, which had something of his usual
bitterness in it. "Sad? Mayhap! Yet I hardly know. Think you that the
poor peasant lad would be sad because he had dreamed that the fairy
princess whom he had seen from afar in her radiance, was sweet and
gracious to him one midsummer's day? It was only a dream, remember: when
he woke she had vanished ... gone out of his sight ... hidden from him
by a barrier of gold.... In front of this barrier stood his pride ...
which perforce would have to be trampled down and crushed ere he could
reach the princess."
She did not reply, only bent her sweet head, lest he should perceive the
tears which had gathered in her eyes. All round them the wood seemed to
have grown darker and more dense, whilst from afar the weird voice of
that distant sea murmured of infinity and of the relentlessness of Fate.
They could not see one another very clearly, yet she knew that he was
gazing at her with an intensity of love and longing in his heart which
caused her own to ache with sympathy; and he knew that she was crying,
that there was something in that seemingly brilliant and happy young
life, which caused the exquisite head to droop as if under a load of
A broken sigh escaped her lips, or was it the sighing of the wind in the
He was smitten with remorse to think that he should have helped to make
"Sue--my little, beautiful Sue," he murmured, himself astonished at his
own temerity in thus daring to address her. It was her grief which had
brought her down to his level: the instinct of chivalry, of protection,
of friendship which had raised him up to hers.
"Will you ever forgive me?" he said, "I had no right to speak to you as
I have done.... And yet ..."
He paused and she repeated his last two words--gently, encouragingly.
"And yet ... good master?"
"Yet at times, when I see the crowd of young, empty-headed
fortune-seeking jackanapes, who dare to aspire to your ladyship's hand
... I have asked myself whether perchance I had the right to remain
silent, whilst they poured their farrago of nonsense into your ear. I
love you, Sue!"
"No! no! good master!" she ejaculated hurriedly, while a nameless,
inexplicable fear seemed suddenly to be holding her in its grip, as he
uttered those few very simple words which told the old, old tale.
But those words once uttered, Richard felt that he could not now draw
back. The jealously-guarded secret had escaped his lips, passion refused
to be held longer in check. A torrent of emotion overmastered him. He
forgot where he was, the darkness of the night, the lateness of the
hour, the melancholy murmur of the wind in the trees, he forgot that she
was rich and he a poor dependent, he only remembered that she was
exquisitely fair and that he--poor fool!--was mad enough to worship her.
It was very dark now, for a bank of clouds hid the glory of the evening
sky, and he could see only the mere outline of the woman whom he so
passionately loved, the small head with the fluttering curls fanned by
the wind, the graceful shoulders and arms folded primly across her
He put out his hand and found hers. Oh! the delight of raising it to his
"By the heaven above us, Sue, by all my hopes of salvation I swear to
you that my love is pure and selfless," he murmured tenderly, all the
while that her fragrant little hand was pressed against his lips. "But
for your fortune, I had come to you long ago and said to you 'Let me
work for you!--My love will help me to carve a fortune for you, which it
shall be my pride to place at your feet.'--Every nameless child, so 'tis
said, may be a king's son ... and I, who have no name that I can of
verity call mine own--no father--no kith or kindred--I would conquer a
kingdom, Sue, if you but loved me too."
His voice broke in a sob. Ashamed of his outburst he tried to hide his
confusion from her, by sinking on one knee on that soft carpet of moss.
From the little village of Acol beyond the wood, came the sound of the
church bell striking the hour of nine. Sue was silent and absorbed,
intensely sorrowful to see the grief of her friend. He was quite lost in
the shadows at her feet now, but she could hear the stern efforts which
he made to resume control over himself and his voice.
"Richard ... good Richard," she said soothingly, "believe me, I am very,
very sorry for this.... I ... I vow I did not know.... I had no
thought--how could I have? that you cared for me like ... like this....
You believe me, good master, do you not?" she entreated. "Say that you
believe me, when I say that I would not willingly have caused you such
"I believe that you are the most sweet and pure woman in all the
world," he murmured fervently, "and that you are as far beyond my reach
as are the stars."
"Nay, nay, good master, you must not talk like that.... Truly, truly I
am only a weak and foolish girl, and quite unworthy of your deep
devotion ... and you must try ... indeed, indeed you must ... to forget
what happened under these trees to-night."
"Of that I pray you have no fear," he replied more calmly, as he rose
and once more stood before her--a dark figure in the midst of the dark
wood--immovable, almost impassive, with head bent and arms folded across
his chest. "Nathless 'tis foolish for a nameless peasant even to talk of
his honor, yet 'tis mine honor, Lady Sue, which will ever help me to
remember that a mountain of gold and vast estates stand between me and
the realization of my dream."
"No, no," she rejoined earnestly, "it is not that only. You are my
friend, good Richard, and I do not wish to see you eating out your heart
in vain and foolish regrets. What you ... what you wish could
never--never be. Good master, if you were rich to-morrow and I
penniless, I could never be your wife."
"You mean that you could never love me?" he asked.
She was silent. A fierce wave of jealousy--mad, insane, elemental
jealousy seemed suddenly to sweep over him.
"You love someone else?" he demanded brusquely.
"What right have you to ask?"
"The right of a man who would gladly die to see you happy."
He spoke harshly, almost brutally. Jealousy had killed all humility in
him. Love--proud, passionate and defiant--stood up for its just claims,
for its existence, its right to dominate, its desire to conquer.
But even as he thus stood before her, almost frightening her now by the
violence of his speech, by the latent passion in him, which no longer
would bear to be held in check, the bank of clouds which up to now had
obscured the brilliance of the summer sky, finally swept away eastwards,
revealing the luminous firmament and the pale crescent moon which now
glimmered coldly through the branches of the trees.
A muffled sound as of someone treading cautiously the thick bed of moss,
and the creaking of tiny twigs caused Richard Lambert to look up
momentarily from the form of the girl whom he so dearly loved, and to
peer beyond her into the weirdly illumined density of the wood.
Not twenty yards from where they were, a low wall divided the park
itself from the wood beyond, which extended down to Acol village. At an
angle of the wall there was an iron gate, also the tumble-down pavilion,
ivy-grown and desolate, with stone steps leading up to it, through the
cracks of which weeds and moss sprouted up apace.
A man had just emerged from out the thicket and was standing now to the
farther side of the gate looking straight at Lambert and at Sue, who
stood in the full light of the moon. A broad-brimmed hat, such as
cavaliers affected, cast a dark shadow over his face.
It was a mere outline only vaguely defined against the background of
trees, but in that outline Lambert had already recognized the mysterious
stranger who lodged in his brother's cottage down in Acol.
The fixed intensity of the young man's gaze caused Sue to turn and to
look in the same direction. She saw the stranger, who encountering two
pairs of eyes fixed on him, raised his hat with a graceful flourish of
the arm: then, with a short ironical laugh, went his way, and was once
more lost in the gloom.
The girl instinctively made a movement as if to follow him, whilst a
quickly smothered cry--half of joy and half of fear--escaped her lips.
She checked the movement as well as the cry, but not before Richard
Lambert had perceived both.
With the perception came the awful, overwhelming certitude.
"That adventurer!" he exclaimed involuntarily. "Oh my God!"
But she looked him full in the face, and threw back her head with a
gesture of pride and of wrath.
"Master Lambert," she said haughtily, "methinks 'twere needless to
remind you that--since I inadvertently revealed my most cherished secret
to you--it were unworthy a man of honor to betray it to any one."
"My lady ... Sue," he said, feeling half-dazed, bruised and crushed by
the terrible moral blow, which he had just received, "I ... I do not
quite understand. Will you deign to explain?"
"There is naught to explain," she retorted coldly. "Prince Amede
d'Orleans loves me and I have plighted my troth to him."
"Nay! I entreat your ladyship," he said, feeling--knowing the while, how
useless it was to make an appeal against the infatuation of a hot-headed
and impulsive girl, yet speaking with the courage which ofttimes is born
of despair, "I beg of you, on my knees to listen. This foreign
"Silence!" she retorted proudly, and drawing back from him, for of a
truth he had sunk on his knees before her, "an you desire to be my
friend, you must not breathe one word of slander against the man I love.
Then, as he said nothing, realizing, indeed, how futile would be any
effort or word from him, she said, with growing enthusiasm, whilst her
glowing eyes fixed themselves upon the gloom which had enveloped the
mysterious apparition of her lover:
"Prince Amede d'Orleans is the grandest, most selfless patriot this
world hath ever known. For the sake of France, of tyrannized, oppressed
France, which he adores, he has sacrificed everything! his position, his
home, his wealth and vast estates: he is own kinsman to King Louis, yet
he is exiled from his country whilst a price is set upon his head,
because he cannot be mute whilst he sees tyranny and oppression grind
down the people of France. He could return to Paris to-day a rich and
free man, a prince among his kindred,--if he would but sacrifice that
for which he fights so bravely: the liberty of France!"
"Sue! my adored lady," he entreated, "in the name of Heaven listen to
me.... You do believe, do you not, that I am your friend? ... I would
give my life for you.... I swear to you that you have been deceived and
tricked by this adventurer, who, preying upon your romantic imagination
"Silence, master, an you value my friendship!" she commanded. "I will
not listen to another word. Nay! you should be thankful that I deal not
more harshly with you--that I make allowances for your miserable
jealousy.... Oh! why did you make me say that," she added with one of
those swift changes of mood, which were so characteristic of her, and
with sudden contrition, for an involuntary moan had escaped his lips.
"In the name of Heaven, go--go now I entreat ... leave me to myself ...
lest anger betray me into saying cruel things ... I am safe--quite safe
... I entreat you to let me return to the house alone."
Her voice sounded more and more broken as she spoke: sobs were evidently
rising in her throat. He pulled himself together, feeling that it were
unmanly to worry her now, when emotion was so obviously overmastering
"Forgive me, sweet lady," he said quite gently, as he rose from his
knees. "I said more than I had any right to say. I entreat you to
forgive the poor, presuming peasant who hath dared to raise his eyes to
the fairy princess of his dreams. I pray you to try and forget all that
hath happened to-night beneath the shadows of these elms--and only to
remember one thing: that my life--my lonely, humble, unimportant
life--is yours ... to serve or help you, to worship or comfort you if
need be ... and that there could be no greater happiness for me than to
give it for your sweet sake."
He bowed very low, until his hand could reach the hem of her kirtle,
which he then raised to his lips. She was infinitely sorry for him; all
her anger against him had vanished.
He was very reluctant to go, for this portion of the park was some
distance from the house. But she had commanded and he quite understood
that she wished to be alone: love such as that which he felt for his
sweet lady is ever watchful, yet ever discreet. Was it not natural that
she did not care to look on him after he had angered her so?
She seemed impatient too, and although her feelings towards him had
softened, she repeated somewhat nervously: "I pray you go! Good master,
I would be alone."
Lambert hesitated a while longer, he looked all round him as if
suspicious of any marauders that might be lurking about. The hour was
not very late, and had she not commanded him to go?
Nor would he seem to pry on her movements. Having once made up his mind
to obey, he did so without reserve. Having kissed the hem of her kirtle
he turned towards the house.
He meant to keep on the tiny footpath, which she would be bound to
traverse after him, when she returned. He felt sure that something would
warn him if she really needed his help.
The park and woodland were still: only the mournful hooting of an owl,
the sad sighing of the wind in the old elms broke the peaceful silence
of this summer's night.
THE STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES
Sue waited--expectant and still--until the last sound of the young man's
footsteps had died away in the direction of the house.
Then with quick impulsive movements she ran to the gate; her hands
sought impatiently in the dark for the primitive catch which held it to.
A large and rusty bolt! she pulled at it--clumsily, for her hands were
trembling. At last the gate flew open; she was out in the woods, peering
into the moonlit thicket, listening for that most welcome sound, the
footsteps of the man she loved.
"My prince!" she exclaimed, for already he was beside her--apparently he
had lain in wait for her, and now held her in his arms.
"My beautiful and gracious lady," he murmured in that curiously muffled
voice of his, which seemed to endow his strange personality with
"You heard? ... you saw just now? ..." she asked timidly, fearful of
encountering his jealous wrath, that vehement temper of his which she
had learned to dread.
Strangely enough he replied quite gently: "Yes ... I saw ... the young
man loves you, my beautiful Suzanne! ... and he will hate me now ..."
He had always called her Suzanne--and her name thus spoken by him, and
with that quaint foreign intonation of his had always sounded infinitely
"But I love you with all my heart," she said earnestly, tenderly, her
whole soul--young, ardent, full of romance, going out to him with all
the strength of its purity and passion. "What matter if all the world
were against you?"
As a rule when they met thus on the confines of the wood, they would
stand together by the gate, forming plans, talking of the future and of
their love. Then after a while they would stroll into the park, he
escorting her, as far as he might approach the house without being seen.
She had no thought that Richard Lambert would be on the watch. Nay! so