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The Nest of the Sparrowhawk by Baroness Orczy

Part 2 out of 6

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wholly absorbed was she in her love for this man, once she was in his
presence, that already--womanlike--she had forgotten the young student's
impassioned avowal, his jealousy, his very existence.

And she loved these evening strolls in the great, peaceful park, at
evening, when the birds were silent in their nests, and the great
shadows of ivy-covered elms enveloped her and her romance. From afar a
tiny light gleamed here and there in some of the windows of Acol Court.

She had hated the grim, bare house at first, so isolated in the midst of
the forests of Thanet, so like the eyrie of a bird of prey.

But now she loved the whole place; the bit of ill-kept tangled garden,
with its untidy lawn and weed-covered beds, in which a few standard
rose-trees strove to find a permanent home; she loved the dark and
mysterious park, the rusty gate, that wood with its rich carpet which
varied as each season came around.

To-night her lover was more gentle than had been his wont of late. They
walked cautiously through the park, for the moon was brilliant and
outlined every object with startling vividness. The trees here were
sparser. Close by was the sunk fence and the tiny rustic bridge--only a
plank or two--which spanned it.

Some thirty yards ahead of them they could see the dark figure of
Richard Lambert walking towards the house.

"One more stroll beneath the trees, _ma mie_," he said lightly, "you'll
not wish to encounter your ardent suitor again."

She loved him in this brighter mood, when he had thrown from him that
mantle of jealousy and mistrust which of late had sat on him so ill.

He seemed to have set himself the task of pleasing her to-night--of
making her forget, mayhap, the wooing of the several suitors who had
hung round her to-day. He talked to her--always in that mysterious,
muffled voice, with the quaint rolling of the r's and the foreign
intonation of the vowels--he talked to her of King Louis and his tyranny
over the people of France: of his own political aims to which he had
already sacrificed fortune, position, home. Of his own brilliant past at
the most luxurious court the world had ever known. He fired her
enthusiasm, delighted her imagination, enchained her soul to his: she
was literally swept off the prosy face of this earth and whirled into a
realm of romance, enchanting, intoxicating, mystic--almost divine.

She forgot fleeting time, and did not even hear the church bell over at
Acol village striking the hour of ten.

He had to bring her back to earth, and to guide her reluctant footsteps
again towards the house. But she was too happy to part from him so
easily. She forced him to escort her over the little bridge, under the
pretense of terror at the lateness of the hour. She vowed that he could
not be perceived from the house, since all the lights were out, and
everyone indeed must be abed. Her guardian's windows, moreover, gave on
the other side of the house; and he of a surety would not be moon or
star gazing at this hour of the night.

Her mood was somewhat reckless. The talk with which he had filled her
ears had gone to her brain like wine. She felt intoxicated with the
atmosphere of mystery, of selfless patriotism, of great and fallen
fortunes, with which he knew so well how to surround himself. Mayhap,
that in her innermost heart now there was a scarce conscious desire to
precipitate a crisis, to challenge discovery, to step boldly before her
guardian, avowing her love, demanding the right to satisfy it.

She refused to bid him adieu save at the garden door. Three steps led
up straight into the dining-room from the flagged pathway which skirted
the house. She ran up these steps, silently and swiftly as a little
mouse, and then turned her proud and happy face to him.

"Good-night, sweet prince," she whispered, extending her delicate hand
to him.

She stood in the full light of the moon dominating him from the top of
the steps, an exquisite vision of youth and beauty and romance.

He took off his broad-brimmed hat, but his face was still in shadow, for
the heavy perruque fell in thick dark curls covering both his cheeks. He
bent very low and kissed the tips of her fingers.

"When shall we meet again, my prince?" she asked.

"This day week, an it please you, my queen," he murmured.

And then he turned to go. She meant to stand there and watch him cross
the tangled lawn, and the little bridge, and to see him lose himself
amidst the great shadows of the park.

But he had scarce gone a couple of steps when a voice, issuing from the
doorway close behind her, caused her to turn in quick alarm.

"Sue! in the name of Heaven! what doth your ladyship here and at this

The crisis which the young girl had almost challenged, had indeed
arrived. Mistress de Chavasse--carrying a lighted and guttering candle,
was standing close behind her. At the sound of her voice and Sue's
little cry of astonishment rather than fear, Prince Amede d'Orleans too,
had paused, with a muttered curse on his lips, his foot angrily tapping
the flagstones.

But it were unworthy a gallant gentleman of the most chivalrous Court in
the world to beat a retreat when his mistress was in danger of an
unpleasant quarter of an hour.

Sue was more than a little inclined to be defiant.

"Mistress de Chavasse," she said quietly, "will you be good enough to
explain by what right you have spied on me to-night? Hath my guardian
perchance set you to dog my footsteps?"

"There was no thought in my mind of spying on your ladyship," rejoined
Mistress de Chavasse coldly. "I was troubled in my sleep and came
downstairs because I heard a noise, and feared those midnight marauders
of which we have heard so much of late. I myself had locked this door,
and was surprised to find it unlatched. I opened it and saw you standing

"Then we'll all to bed, fair mistress," rejoined Sue gayly. She was too
happy, too sure of herself and of her lover to view this sudden
discovery of her secret with either annoyance or alarm. She would be
free in three months, and he would be faithful to her. Love proverbially
laughs at bars and bolts, and even if her stern guardian, apprised of
her evening wanderings, prevented her from seeing her prince for the
next three months, pshaw! a hundred days at most, and nothing could keep
her from his side.

"Good-night, fair prince," she repeated tenderly, extending her hand
towards her lover once more, while throwing a look of proud defiance to
Mistress de Chavasse. He could not help but return to the foot of the
steps; any pusillanimity on his part at this juncture, any reluctance to
meet Editha face to face or to bear the brunt of her reproaches and of
her sneers, might jeopardize the romance of his personality in the eyes
of Sue. Therefore he boldly took her hand and kissed it with mute

She gave a happy little laugh and added pertly:

"Good-night, mistress ... I'll leave you to make your own adieux to
Monseigneur le Prince d'Orleans. I'll warrant that you and he--despite
the lateness of the hour--will have much to say to one another."

And without waiting to watch the issue of her suggestion, her eyes
dancing with mischief, she turned and ran singing and laughing into the



At first it seemed as if the stranger meant to beat a precipitate and
none too dignified retreat now that the adoring eyes of Lady Sue were no
longer upon him. But Mistress de Chavasse had no intention of allowing
him to extricate himself quite so easily from an unpleasant position.

"One moment, master," she said loudly and peremptorily. "Prince or
whatever you may wish to call yourself ... ere you show me a clean pair
of heels, I pray you to explain your presence here on Sir Marmaduke's
doorstep at ten o'clock at night, and in company with his ward."

For a moment--a second or two only--the stranger appeared to hesitate.
He paused with one foot still on the lowest of the stone steps, the
other on the flagged path, his head bent, his hand upraised in the act
of re-adjusting his broad-brimmed hat.

Then a sudden thought seemed to strike him, he threw back his head, gave
a short laugh as if he were pleased with this new thought, then turned,
meeting Mistress de Chavasse's stern gaze squarely and fully. He threw
his hat down upon the steps and crossed his arms over his chest.

"One moment, mistress?" he said with an ironical bow. "I do not need
one moment. I have already explained."

"Explained? how?" she retorted, "nay! I'll not be trifled with, master,
and methinks you will find that Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse will expect
some explanation--which will prove unpleasant to yourself--for your
unwarrantable impudence in daring to approach his ward."

He put up his hand in gentle deprecation.

"Impudence? Oh, mistress?" he said reproachfully.

"Let me assure you, master," she continued with relentless severity,
"that you were wise an you returned straightway to your lodgings now ...
packed your worldly goods and betook yourself and them to anywhere you

"Ah!" he sighed gently, "that is impossible."

"You would dare? ..." she retorted.

"I would dare remain there, where my humble presence is most
desired--beside the gracious lady who honors me with her love."

"You are insolent, master ... and Sir Marmaduke ..."

"Oh!" he rejoined lightly, "Sir Marmaduke doth not object."

"There, I fear me, you are in error, master! and in his name I now
forbid you ever to attempt to speak to Lady Susannah Aldmarshe again."

This command, accompanied by a look of withering scorn, seemed to afford
the stranger vast entertainment. He made the wrathful lady a low,
ironical bow, and clapped his hands together laughing and exclaiming:

"Brava! brava! of a truth but this is excellent! Pray, mistress, will
you deign to tell me if in this your bidding you have asked Sir
Marmaduke for his opinion?"

"I need not to ask him. I ask you to go."

"Go? Whither?" he asked blandly.

"Out of my sight and off these grounds at once, ere I rouse the servants
and have you whipped off like a dog!" she said, angered beyond measure
at his audacity, his irony, his manner, suggestive of insolent triumph.
His muffled voice with its curious foreign accent irritated her, as did
the shadow of his perruque over his brow, and the black silk shade which
he wore over one eye.

Even now in response to her violent outburst he broke into renewed

"Better and better! Ah, mistress," he said with a shake of the head, "of
a truth you are more blind than I thought."

"You are more insolent, master, than I had thought possible."

"Yet meseems, fair lady, that in the lonely and mysterious stranger you
might have remembered your humble and devoted servant," he said, drawing
his figure up towards her.

"You! an old friend!" she said contemptuously. "I have ne'er set eyes on
you in my life before."

"To think that the moon should be so treacherous," he rejoined
imperturbably. "Will you not look a little closer, fair mistress, the
shadows are somewhat dark, mayhap."

She felt his one eye fixed upon her with cold intentness, a strange
feeling of superstitious dread suddenly crept over her from head to
foot. Like a bird fascinated by a snake she came a little nearer, down
the steps, towards him, her eyes, too, riveted on his face, that curious
face of his, surrounded by the heavy perruque hiding ears and cheeks,
the mouth overshadowed by the dark mustache, one eye concealed beneath
the black silk shade.

He seemed amused at her terror and as she came nearer to him, he too,
advanced a little until their eyes met--his, mocking, amused, restless;
hers, intent and searching.

Thus they gazed at one another for a few seconds, whilst silence reigned
around and the moon peered down cold and chaste from above, illumining
the old house, the neglected garden, the vast park with its innumerable
dark secrets and the mysteries which it hid.

She was the first to step back, to recoil before the ironical intensity
of that fixed gaze. She felt as if she were in a dream, as if a
nightmare assailed her, which in her wakeful hours would be dissipated
by reason, by common sense, by sound and sober fact.

She even passed her hand across her eyes as if to sweep away from before
her vision, a certain image which fancy had conjured up.

His laugh--strident and mocking--roused her from this dreamlike state.

"I ... I ... do not understand," she murmured.

"Yet it is so simple," he replied, "did you not ask me awhile ago if
nothing could be done?"

"Who ... who are you?" she whispered, and then repeated once again: "Who
are you?"

"I am His Royal Highness, Prince Amede d'Orleans," said Sir Marmaduke de
Chavasse lightly, "the kinsman of His Majesty, King Louis of France, the
mysterious foreigner who works for the religious and political freedom
of his country, and on whose head _le roi soleil_ hath set a price ...
and who, moreover, hath enflamed the romantic imagination of a beautiful
young girl, thus winning her ardent love in the present and in the near
future together with her vast fortune and estates."

He made a movement as if to remove his perruque but she stopped him with
a gesture. She had understood. And in the brilliant moonlight a complete
revelation of his personality might prove dangerous. Lady Sue herself
might still--for aught they knew--be standing in the dark room
behind--unseen yet on the watch.

He seemed vastly amused at her terror, and boldly took the hand with
which she had arrested his act of total revelation.

"Nay! do you recognize your humble servant at last, fair Editha?" he
queried. "On my honor, madam, Lady Sue is deeply enamored of me. What
think you of my chances now?"

"You? You?" she repeated at intervals, mechanically, dazed still, lost
in a whirl of conflicting emotions wherein fear, amazement, and a
certain vein of superstitious horror fought a hard battle in her dizzy

"The risks," she murmured more coherently.


"If she discover you, before ... before ..."

"Before she is legally my wife? Pshaw! ... Then of a truth my scheme
will come to naught ... But will you not own, Editha, that 'tis worth
the risk?"

"Afterwards?" she asked, "afterwards?"

"Afterwards, mistress," he rejoined enigmatically, "afterwards sits on
the knees of the gods."

And with a flourish of his broad-brimmed hat he turned on his heel and
anon was lost in the shadows of the tall yew hedge.

How long she stood there watching that spot whereon he had been
standing, she could not say. Presently she shivered; the night had
turned cold. She heard the cry of some small bird attacked by a midnight
prowler; was it the sparrow-hawk after its prey?

From the other side of the house came the sound of slow and firm
footsteps, then the opening and shutting of a door.

Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had played his part for to-night: silently as
he had gone, so he returned to his room, whilst in another corner of the
sparrow-hawk's nest a young girl slept, dreaming dreams of patriots and
heroes, of causes nobly won, of poverty and obscurity gloriously

Mistress de Chavasse with a sigh half of regret, half of indifference,
finally turned her back on the moonlit garden and went within.



Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy was excessively perturbed. Matters at the
Court were taking a curious turn. That something of unusual moment had
happened within the last few days he was thoroughly convinced, and still
having it in his mind that he was especially qualified for the lucrative
appointments in my Lord Protector's secret service--he thought this an
excellent opportunity for perfecting himself in the art of
investigation, shrewdly conducted, which he understood to be most
essential for the due fulfillment of such appointments.

Thus we see him some few days later on a late afternoon, with back bent
nearly double, eyes fixed steadily on the ground and his face a perfect
mirror of thoughtful concentration within, slowly walking along the tiny
footpath which wound in and out the groups of majestic elms in the park.

Musing and meditating, at times uttering strange and enigmatical
exclamations, he reached the confines of the private grounds, the spot
where the surrounding wall gave place to a low iron gate, where the
disused pavilion stood out gray and forlorn-looking in the midst of the
soft green of the trees, and where through the woods beyond the gate,
could just be perceived the tiny light which issued from the
blacksmith's cottage, the most outlying one in the village of Acol.

Master Hymn-of-Praise leaned thoughtfully against the ivy-covered wall.
His eyes, roaming, searching, restless, pried all around him.

"Footprints!" he mused, "footprints which of a surety must mean that
human foot hath lately trod this moss. Footprints moreover, which lead
up the steps to the door of that pavilion, wherein to my certain
knowledge, no one hath had access of late."

Something, of course, was going on at Acol Court, that strange and
inexplicable something which he had tried to convey by covert suggestion
to Mistress Charity's female--therefore inferior--brain.

Sir Marmaduke's temper was more sour and ill even than of yore, and
there was still an unpleasant sensation in the lumbar regions of Master
Busy's spine, whenever he sat down, which recalled a somewhat vigorous
outburst of his master's ill-humor.

Mistress de Chavasse went about the house like a country wench
frightened by a ghost, and Mistress Charity averred that she seldom went
to bed now before midnight. Certain it is that Master Busy himself had
met the lady wandering about the house candle in hand at an hour when
all respectable folk should be abed, and when she almost fell up against
Hymn-of-Praise in the dark she gave a frightened scream as if she had
suddenly come face to face with the devil.

Then there was her young ladyship.

She was neither ill-tempered nor yet under the ban of fear, but Master
Busy vowed unto himself that she was suffering from ill-concealed
melancholy, from some hidden secret or wild romance. She seldom laughed,
she had spoken with discourtesy and impatience to Squire Pyncheon, who
rode over the other day on purpose to bring her a bunch of sweet
marjoram which grew in great profusion in his mother's garden: she
markedly avoided the company of her guardian, and wandered about the
park alone, at all hours of the day--a proceeding which in a young lady
of her rank was quite unseemly.

All these facts neatly docketed in Master Busy's orderly brain,
disturbed him not a little. He had not yet made up his mind as to the
nature of the mystery which was surrounding the Court and its inmates,
but vaguely he thought of abductions and elopements, which the presence
of the richest heiress in the South of England in the house of the
poorest squire in the whole country, more than foreshadowed.

This lonely, somewhat eerie corner of the park appeared to be the center
around which all the mysterious happenings revolved, and Master
Hymn-of-Praise had found his way hither on this fine July afternoon,
because he had distinct hopes of finding out something definite, certain
facts which he then could place before Squire Boatfield who was
major-general of the district, and who would then, doubtless, commend
him for his ability and shrewdness in forestalling what might prove to
be a terrible crime.

The days were getting shorter now; it was little more than eight
o'clock and already the shades of evening were drawing closely in: the
last rays of the setting sun had long disappeared in a glowing haze of
gold, and the fantastic branches of the old elms, intertwined with the
parasitic ivy looked grim and threatening, silhouetted against the lurid
after glow. Master Busy liked neither the solitude, nor yet the silence
of the woods; he had just caught sight of a bat circling over the
dilapidated roof of the pavilion, and he hated bats. Though he belonged
to a community which denied the angels and ignored the saints, he had a
firm belief in the existence of a tangible devil, and somehow he could
not dissociate his ideas of hell and of evil spirits from those which
related to the mysterious flutterings of bats.

Moreover he thought that his duties in connection with the science of
secret investigation, had been sufficiently fulfilled for the day, and
he prepared to wend his way back to the house, when the sound of voices,
once more aroused his somnolent attention.

"Someone," he murmured within himself, "the heiress and the abductor

This might prove the opportunity of his life, the chance which would
place him within the immediate notice of the major-general, perhaps of
His Highness the Protector himself. He felt that to vacate his post of
observation at this moment would be unworthy the moral discipline which
an incipient servant of the Commonwealth should impose upon himself.

Striving to smother a sense of terror, or to disguise it even to
himself under the mask of officiousness, he looked about for a
hiding-place--a post of observation as he called it.

A tree with invitingly forked branches seemed to be peculiarly adapted
to his needs. Hymn-of-Praise was neither very young nor very agile, but
dreams of coming notoriety lent nimbleness to his limbs.

By the time that the voices drew nearer, the sober butler of Acol Court
was installed astride an elm bough, hidden by the dense foliage and by
the leaf-laden strands of ivy, enfolded by the fast gathering shadows of
evening, supremely uncomfortable physically, none too secure on his
perch, yet proud and satisfied in the consciousness of fulfilled duty.

The next moment he caught sight of Mistress Charity--Mistress Charity so
please you, who had plighted her troth to him, walking arm in arm with
Master Courage Toogood, as impudent, insolent and debauched a young
jackanapes as ever defaced the forests of Thanet.

"Mistress, fair mistress," he was sighing, and murmuring in her ear,
"the most beautiful and gracious thing on God's earth, when I hold you
pressed thus against my beating heart ..."

Apparently his feelings were too deep to be expressed in the words of
his own vocabulary, for he paused a while, sighed audibly, and then
asked anxiously:

"You do hear my heart beating, mistress, do you not?"

She blushed, for she was naught but a female baggage, and though Master
Busy's impassioned protestations of less than half an hour ago, must be
still ringing in her ears, she declared emphatically that she could hear
the throbbing of that young vermin's heart.

Master Busy up aloft was quite sure that what she heard was a few sheep
and cattle of Sir Marmaduke's who were out to grass in a field close by,
and had been scared into a canter.

What went on for the next moment or two the saintly man on the elm tree
branch could not rightly perceive, but the next words from Mistress
Charity's lips sent a thrill of indignation through his heart.

"Oh! Master Courage," she said with a little cry, "you must not squeeze
me so! I vow you have taken the breath out of my body! The Lord love
you, child! think you I can stay here all this while and listen to your

"Just one minute longer, fair mistress," entreated the young reprobate,
"the moon is not yet up, the birds have gone to their nests for sleep,
will ye not tarry a while here with me? That old fool Busy will never

It is a fact that at this juncture the saintly man well-nigh fell off
his perch, and when Master Courage, amidst many coy shrieks from the
fickle female, managed to drag her down beside him, upon the carpet of
moss immediately beneath the very tree whereon Hymn-of-Praise was
holding watch, the unfortunate man had need of all his strength of mind
and of purpose not to jump down with both feet upon the lying face of
that young limb of Satan.

But he felt that the discovery of his somewhat undignified position by
these two evil-doers would not at this moment be quite opportune, so he
endeavored to maintain his equilibrium at the cost of supreme
discomfort, and the loud cracking of the branch on which he was perched.

Mistress Charity gave a cry of terror.

"What was that?"

"Nothing, nothing, mistress, I swear," rejoined Courage reassuringly,
"there are always noises in old elm trees, the ivy hangs heavy and ..."

"I have heard it said of late that the pavilion is haunted," she
murmured under her breath.

"No! not haunted, mistress! I vow 'tis but the crackling of loose
branches, and there is that which I would whisper in your ear ..."

But before Master Courage had the time to indulge in this, the desire of
his heart, something fell upon the top of his lean head which certainly
never grew on the elm tree overhead. Having struck his lanky hair the
object fell straight into his lap.

It was a button. An ordinary, brown, innocent enough looking button. But
still a button. Master Courage took it in his hand and examined it
carefully, turning it over once or twice. The little thing certainly
wore a familiar air. Master Courage of a truth had seen such an one

"That thing never grew up there, master," said Mistress Charity in an
agitated whisper.

"No!" he rejoined emphatically, "nor yet doth a button form part of the
habiliments of a ghost."

But not a sound came from above: and though Courage and Charity peered
upwards with ever-increasing anxiety, the fast gathering darkness
effectually hid the mystery which lurked within that elm.

"I vow that there's something up there, mistress," said the youth with
sudden determination.

"Could it be bats, master?" she queried with a shudder.

"Nay! but bats do not wear buttons," he replied sententiously. "Yet of a
surety, I mean to make an investigation of the affair as that old fool
Hymn-of-Praise would say."

Whereupon, heedless of Mistress Charity's ever-growing agitation, he ran
towards the boundary wall of the park, and vaulted the low gate with an
agile jump even as she uttered a pathetic appeal to him not to leave her
alone in the dark.

Fear had rooted the girl to the spot. She dared not move away, fearful
lest her running might entice that mysterious owner of the brown button
to hurry in her track. Yet she would have loved to follow Master
Courage, and to put at least a gate and wall between herself and those
terrible elms.

She was just contemplating a comprehensive and vigorous attack of
hysterics when she heard Master Courage's voice from the other side of
the gate.

"Hist! Hist, mistress! Quick!"

She gathered up what shreds of valor she possessed and ran blindly in
the direction whence came the welcome voice.

"I pray you take this," said the youth, who was holding a wooden bucket
out over the gate, "whilst I climb back to you."

"But what is it, master?" she asked, as--obeying him mechanically--she
took the bucket from him. It was heavy, for it was filled almost to the
brim with a liquid which seemed very evil-smelling.

The next moment Master Courage was standing beside her. He took the
bucket from her and then walked as rapidly as he could with it back
towards the elm tree.

"It will help me to dislodge the bats, mistress," he said enigmatically,
speaking over his shoulder as he walked.

She followed him--excited but timorous--until together they once more
reached the spot, where Master Courage's amorous declarations had been
so rudely interrupted. He put the bucket down beside him, and rubbed his
hands together whilst uttering certain sounds which betrayed his glee.

Then only did she notice that he was carrying under one arm a long
curious-looking instrument--round and made of tin, with a handle at one

She looked curiously into the bucket and at the instrument.

"'Tis the tar-water used for syringing the cattle," she whispered, "ye
must not touch it, master. Where did you find it?"

"Just by the wall," he rejoined. "I knew it was kept there. They wash
the sheep with it to destroy the vermin in them. This is the squirt for
it," he added calmly, placing the end of the instrument in the liquid,
"and I will mayhap destroy the vermin which is lodged in that elm tree."

A cry of terror issuing from above froze the very blood in Mistress
Charity's veins.

"Stop! stop! you young limb of Satan!" came from Master Busy's nearly
choking throat.

"It's evildoers or evil spirits, master," cried Mistress Charity in an
agony of fear.

"Whatever it be, mistress, this should destroy it!" said Master Courage
philosophically, as turning the syringe upwards he squirted the whole of
its contents straight into the fork of the ivy-covered branches.

There was a cry of rage, followed by a cry of terror, then Master
Hymn-of-Praise Busy with a terrific clatter of breaking boughs, fell in
a heap upon the soft carpet of moss.

Master Courage be it said to the eternal shame of venturesome youth,
took incontinently to his heels, leaving Mistress Charity to bear the
brunt of the irate saintly man's wrath.

Master Busy, we must admit had but little saintliness left in him now.
Let us assume that--as he explained afterwards--he was not immediately
aware of Mistress Charity's presence, and that his own sense of
propriety and of decorum had been drowned in a cataract of tar water.
Certain it is that a volley of oaths, which would have surprised Sir
Marmaduke himself, escaped his lips.

Had he not every excuse? He was dripping from head to foot, spluttering,
blinded, choked and bruised.

He shook himself like a wet spaniel. Then hearing the sound of a
smothered exclamation which did not seem altogether unlike a giggle, he
turned round savagely and perceived the dim outline of Mistress
Charity's dainty figure.

"The Lord love thee, Master Hymn-of-Praise," she began, somewhat
nervously, "but you have made yourself look a sight."

"And by G--d I'll make that young jackanapes look a sight ere I take my
hand off him," he retorted savagely.

"But what were you ... hem! what wert thou doing up in the elm tree,
friend Hymn-of-Praise?" she asked demurely.

"Thee me no thou!" he said with enigmatic pompousness, followed by a
distinctly vicious snarl, "Master Busy will be my name in future for a
saucy wench like thee."

He turned towards the house. Mistress Charity following meekly--somewhat
subdued, for Master Busy was her affianced husband, and she had no mind
to mar her future, through any of young Courage's dare-devil escapades.

"Thou wouldst wish to know what I was doing up in that forked tree?" he
asked her with calm dignity after a while, when the hedges of the flower
garden came in sight. "I was making a home for thee, according to the
commands of the Lord."

"Not in the elm trees of a surety, Master Busy?"

"I was making a home for thee," he repeated without heeding her flippant
observation, "by rendering myself illustrious. I told thee, wench, did I
not? that something was happening within the precincts of Acol Court,
and that it is my duty to lie in wait and to watch. The heiress is about
to be abducted, and it is my task to frustrate the evil designs of the
mysterious criminal."

She looked at him in speechless amazement. He certainly looked strangely
weird in the semi-darkness with his lanky hair plastered against his
cheeks, his collar half torn from round his neck, the dripping, oily
substance flowing in rivulets from his garments down upon the ground.

The girl had no longer any desire to laugh, and when Master Busy strode
majestically across the rustic bridge, then over the garden paths to the
kitchen quarter of the house, she followed him without a word, awed by
his extraordinary utterances, vaguely feeling that in his dripping
garments he somehow reminded her of Jonah and the whale.



The pavilion had been built some fifty years ago, by one of the Spantons
of Acol who had a taste for fanciful architecture.

It had been proudly held by several deceased representatives of the
family to be the reproduction of a Greek temple. It certainly had
columns supporting the portico, and steps leading thence to the ground.
It was also circular in shape and was innocent of windows, deriving its
sole light from the door, when it was open.

The late Sir Jeremy, I believe, had been very fond of the place. Being
of a somewhat morose and taciturn disposition, he liked the seclusion of
this lonely corner of the park. He had a chair or two put into the
pavilion and 'twas said that he indulged there in the smoking of that
fragrant weed which of late had been more generously imported into this

After Sir Jeremy's death, the pavilion fell into disuse. Sir Marmaduke
openly expressed his dislike of the forlorn hole, as he was wont to call
it. He caused the door to be locked, and since then no one had entered
the little building. The key, it was presumed, had been lost; the lock
certainly looked rusty. The roof, too, soon fell into disrepair, and no
doubt within, the place soon became the prey of damp and mildew, the
nest of homing birds, or the lair of timid beasts. Very soon the proud
copy of an archaic temple took on that miserable and forlorn look
peculiar to uninhabited spots.

From an air of abandonment to that of eeriness was but a step, and now
the building towered in splendid isolation, in this remote corner of the
park, at the confines of the wood, with a reputation for being the abode
of ghosts, of bats and witches, and other evil things.

When Master Busy sought for tracks of imaginary criminals bent on
abducting the heiress he naturally drifted to this lonely spot; when
Master Courage was bent on whispering sweet nothings into the ear of the
other man's betrothed, he enticed her to that corner of the park where
he was least like to meet the heavy-booted saint.

Thus it was that these three met on the one spot where as a rule at a
late hour of the evening Prince Amede d'Orleans was wont to commence his
wanderings, sure of being undisturbed, and with the final disappearance
of Master Busy and Mistress Charity the place was once more deserted.

The bats once more found delight in this loneliness and from all around
came that subdued murmur, that creaking of twigs, that silence so full
of subtle sounds, which betrays the presence of animal life on the

Anon there came the harsh noise of a key grating in a rusty lock. The
door of the pavilion was cautiously opened from within and the
mysterious French prince, bewigged, booted and hatted, emerged into the
open. The night had drawn a singularly dark mantle over the woods. Banks
of cloud obscured the sky; the tall elm trees with their ivy-covered
branches, and their impenetrable shadows beneath, formed a dense wall
which the sight of human creatures was not keen enough to pierce. Sir
Marmaduke de Chavasse, in spite of this darkness, which he hailed
gleefully, peered cautiously and intently round as he descended the

He had not met Lady Sue in the capacity of her romantic lover since that
evening a week ago, when his secret had been discovered by Mistress de
Chavasse. The last vision he had had of the young girl was one redolent
of joy and love and trust, sufficient to reassure him that all was well
with her, in regard to his schemes; but on that same evening a week ago
he had gazed upon another little scene, which had not filled him with
either joy or security.

He had seen Lady Sue standing beside a young man whose personality--to
say the least--was well-nigh as romantic as that of the exiled scion of
the house of Orleans. He had seen rather than heard a young and
passionate nature pouring into girlish ears the avowal of an unselfish
and ardent love which had the infinite merit of being real and true.

However well he himself might play his part of selfless hero and of
vehement lover, there always lurked the danger that the falseness of his
protestations would suddenly ring a warning note to the subtle sense of
the confiding girl. Were it not for the intense romanticism of her
disposition, which beautified and exalted everything with which it came
in contact, she would of a surety have detected the lie ere this. He had
acted his dual role with consummate skill, the contrast between the
surly Puritanical guardian, with his round cropped head and shaven face,
and the elegantly dressed cavalier, with a heavy mustache, an enormous
perruque and a shade over one eye, was so complete that even Mistress de
Chavasse--alert, suspicious, wholly unromantic, had been momentarily
deceived, and would have remained so but for his voluntary revelation of

But the watchful and disappointed young lover was the real danger: a
danger complicated by the fact that the Prince Amede d'Orleans actually
dwelt in the cottage owned by Lambert's brother, the blacksmith. The
mysterious prince had perforce to dwell somewhere; else, whenever spied
by a laborer or wench from the village, he would have excited still
further comment, and his movements mayhap would have been more
persistently dogged.

For this reason Sir Marmaduke had originally chosen Adam Lambert's
cottage to be his headquarters; it stood on the very outskirts of the
village and as he had only the wood to traverse between it and the
pavilion where he effected his change of personality, he ran thus but
few risks of meeting prying eyes. Moreover, Adam Lambert, the
blacksmith, and the old woman who kept house for him, both belonged to
the new religious sect which Judge Bennett had so pertinently dubbed the
Quakers, and they kept themselves very much aloof from gossip and the
rest of the village.

True, Richard Lambert oft visited his brother and the old woman, but did
so always in the daytime when Prince Amede d'Orleans carefully kept out
of the way. Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had all the true instincts of the
beast or bird of prey. He prowled about in the dark, and laid his snares
for the seizure of his victim under cover of the night.

This evening certain new schemes had found birth in his active mind; he
was impatient that the victim tarried, when his brain was alive with
thoughts of how to effect a more speedy capture. He leaned against the
wall, close by the gate as was his wont when awaiting Sue, smiling
grimly to himself at thought of the many little subterfuges she would
employ to steal out of the house, without encountering--as she
thought--her watchful guardian.

A voice close behind him--speaking none too kindly--broke in on his
meditations, causing him to start--almost to crouch like a frightened

The next moment he had recognized the gruff and nasal tones of Adam
Lambert. Apparently the blacksmith had just come from the wood through
the gate, and had almost stumbled in the dark against the rigid figure
of his mysterious lodger.

"Friend, what dost thou here?" he asked peremptorily. But already Sir
Marmaduke had recovered from that sudden sense of fear which had caused
him to start in alarm.

"I would ask the same question of you, my friend," he retorted airily,
speaking in the muffled voice and with the markedly foreign accent which
he had assumed for the role of the Prince, "might I inquire what you are
doing here?"

"I have to see a sick mare down Minster way," replied Lambert curtly,
"this is a short cut thither, and Sir Marmaduke hath granted me leave.
But he liketh not strangers loitering in his park."

"Then, friend," rejoined the other lightly, "when Sir Marmaduke doth
object to my strolling in his garden, he will doubtless apprise me of
the fact, without interference from you."

Adam Lambert, after his uncivil greeting of his lodger, had already
turned his back on him, loath to have further speech with a man whom he
hated and despised.

Like the majority of country folk these days, the blacksmith had a
wholesale contempt for every foreigner, and more particularly for those
who hailed from France: that country--in the estimation of all Puritans,
Dissenters and Republicans--being the happy abode of every kind of
immorality and debauchery.

Prince Amede d'Orleans--as he styled himself--with his fantastic
clothes, his airs and graces and long, curly hair was an object of
special aversion to the Quaker, even though the money which the
despised foreigner paid for his lodgings was passing welcome these hard

Adam resolutely avoided speech with the Prince, whenever possible, but
the latter's provocative and sarcastic speech roused his dormant hatred;
like a dog who has been worried, he now turned abruptly round and faced
Sir Marmaduke, stepping close up to him, his eyes glaring with
vindictive rage, a savage snarl rising in his throat.

"Take notice, friend," he said hoarsely, "that I'll not bear thine
impudence. Thou mayest go and bully the old woman at the cottage when I
am absent--Oh! I've heard thee!" he added with unbridled savagery,
"ordering her about as if she were thy serving wench ... but let me tell
thee that she is no servant of thine, nor I ... so have done, my fine
prince ... dost understand?"

"Prithee, friend, do not excite yourself," said Sir Marmaduke blandly,
drawing back against the wall as far as he could to avoid close
proximity with his antagonist. "I have never wished to imply that
Mistress Lambert was aught but my most obliging, most amiable
landlady--nor have I, to my certain knowledge, overstepped the
privileges of a lodger. I trust that your worthy aunt hath no cause for
complaint. Mistress Lambert is your aunt?" he added superciliously, "is
she not?"

"That is nothing to thee," muttered the other, "if she be my aunt or no,
as far as I can see."

"Surely not. I asked in a spirit of polite inquiry."

But apparently this subject was one which had more than any other the
power to rouse the blacksmith's savage temper. He fought with it for a
moment or two, for anger is the Lord's, and strict Quaker discipline
forbade such unseemly wrangling. But Adam was a man of violent
temperament which his strict religious training had not altogether
succeeded in holding in check: the sneers of the foreign prince, his
calm, supercilious attitude, broke the curb which religion had set upon
his passion.

"Aye! thou art mighty polite to me, my fine gentleman," he said
vehemently. "Thou knowest what I think of thy lazy foreign ways ... why
dost thou not do a bit of honest work, instead of hanging round her
ladyship's skirts? ... If I were to say a word to Sir Marmaduke, 'twould
be mightily unpleasant for thee, an I mistake not. Oh! I know what
thou'rt after, with thy fine ways, and thy romantic, lying talk of
liberty and patriotism! ... the heiress, eh, friend? That is thy
design.... I am not blind, I tell thee.... I have seen thee and her ..."

Sir Marmaduke laughed lightly, shrugging his shoulders in token of

"Quite so, quite so, good master," he said suavely, "do ye not waste
your breath in speaking thus loudly. I understand that your sentiments
towards me do not partake of that Christian charity of which ye and
yours do prate at times so loudly. But I'll not detain you. Doubtless
worthy Mistress Lambert will be awaiting you, or is it the sick mare
down Minster way that hath first claim on your amiability? I'll not
detain you."

He turned as if to go, but Adam's hard grip was on his shoulder in an

"Nay! thou'lt not detain me--'tis I am detaining thee!" said the
blacksmith hoarsely, "for I desired to tell thee that thy ugly French
face is abhorrent to me ... I do not hold with princes.... For a prince
is none better than another man nay, he is worse an he loafs and steals
after heiresses and their gold ... and will not do a bit of honest
work.... Work makes the man.... Work and prayer ... not your titles and
fine estates. This is a republic now ... understand? ... no king, no
House of Lords--please the Lord neither clergymen nor noblemen soon....
I work with my hands ... and am not ashamed. The Lord Saviour was a
carpenter and not a prince.... My brother is a student and a
gentleman--as good as any prince--understand? Ten thousand times as good
as thee."

He relaxed his grip which had been hard as steel on Sir Marmaduke's
shoulder. It was evident that he had been nursing hatred and loathing
against his lodger for some time, and that to-night the floodgates of
his pent-up wrath had been burst asunder through the mysterious prince's
taunts, and insinuations anent the cloud and secrecy which hung round
the Lamberts' parentage.

Though his shoulder was painful and bruised under the pressure of the
blacksmith's rough fingers, Sir Marmaduke did not wince. He looked his
avowed enemy boldly in the face, with no small measure of contempt for
the violence displayed.

His own enmity towards those who thwarted him was much more subtle,
silent and cautious. He would never storm and rage, show his enmity
openly and caution his antagonist through an outburst of rage. Adam
Lambert still glaring into his lodger's eye, encountered nothing therein
but irony and indulgent contempt.

Religion forbade him to swear. Yet was he sorely tempted, and we may
presume that he cursed inwardly, for his enemy refused to be drawn into
wordy warfare, and he himself had exhausted his vocabulary of sneering
abuse, even as he had exhausted his breath.

Perhaps in his innermost heart he was ashamed of his outburst. After
all, he had taken this man's money, and had broken bread with him. His
hand dropped to his side, and his head fell forward on his breast even
as with a pleasant laugh the prince carelessly turned away, and with an
affected gesture brushed his silken doublet, there where the
blacksmith's hard grip had marred the smoothness of the delicate fabric.

Had Adam Lambert possessed that subtle sixth sense, which hears and sees
that which goes on in the mind of others, he had perceived a thought in
his lodger's brain cells which might have caused him to still further
regret his avowal of open enmity.

For as the blacksmith finally turned away and walked off through the
park, skirting the boundary wall, Sir Marmaduke looked over his shoulder
at the ungainly figure which was soon lost in the gloom, and muttered a
round oath between his teeth.

"An exceedingly unpleasant person," he vowed within himself, "you will
have to be removed, good master, an you get too troublesome."



But this interview with the inimical Quaker had more than strengthened
Sir Marmaduke's design to carry his bold scheme more rapidly to its
successful issue.

The game which he had played with grave risks for over three months now
had begun to be dangerous. The mysterious patriot from France could not
afford to see prying enemies at his heels.

Anon when the graceful outline of Lady Sue's figure emerged from out the
surrounding gloom, Sir Marmaduke went forward to meet her, and clasped
her to him in a passionate embrace.

"My gracious lady ... my beautiful Sue ..." he murmured whilst he
covered her hands, her brow, her hair with ardent kisses, "you have come
so late--and I have been so weary of waiting ... waiting for you."

He led her through the gardens to where one gigantic elm, grander than
its fellows, had thrown out huge gnarled roots which protruded from out
the ground. One of these, moss-covered, green and soft, formed a perfect
resting place. He drew her down, begging her to sit. She obeyed, scared
somewhat as was her wont when she found him so unfettered and violent.

He stretched himself at full length at her feet, extravagant now in his
acts and gestures like a man who no longer can hold turbulent passion in
check. He kissed the edge of her kirtle, then her cloak and the tips of
her little shoes:

"It was cruel to keep me waiting ... gracious lady--it was cruel," he
murmured in the intervals between these ardent caresses.

"I am so sorry, Amede," she repeated, grieving to see him so sorrowful,
not a little frightened at his vehemence,--trying to withdraw her hands
from his grasp. "I was detained ..."

"Detained," he rejoined harshly, "detained by someone else ... someone
who had a greater claim on your time than the poor exile ..."

"Nay! 'tis unkind thus to grieve me," she said with tender reproach as
she felt the hot tears gather in her eyes. "You know--as I do--that I am
not my own mistress yet."

"Yes! yes! forgive me--my gracious, sweet, sweet lady.... I am mad when
you are not nigh me.... You do not know--how could you? ... what
torments I endure, when I think of you so beautiful, so exquisite, so
adorable, surrounded by other men who admire you ... desire you,
mayhap.... Oh! my God! ..."

"But you need have no fear," she protested gently, "you know that I gave
my whole heart willingly to you ... my prince ..."

"Nay, but you cannot know," he persisted violently, "sweet, gentle
creature that you are, you cannot guess the agonies which a strong man
endures when he is gnawed by ruthless insane jealousy ..."

She gave a cry of pain.

"Amede!" for she felt hurt, deeply wounded by his mistrust of her, when
she had so wholly, so fully trusted him.

"I know ... I know," he said with quick transition of tone, fearful that
he had offended her, striving to master his impatience, to find words
which best pleased her young, romantic temperament, "Nay! but you must
think me mad.... Mayhap you despise me," he added with a gentle note of
sadness. "Oh, God! ... mayhap you will turn from me now...."

"No! no!"

"Yet do I worship you ... my saint ... my divinity ... my Suzanne....
You are more beautiful, more adorable than any woman in the world ...
and I am so unworthy."

"You unworthy!" she retorted, laughing gayly through her tears. "You, my
prince, my king! ..."

"Say that once more, my Suzanne," he murmured with infinite gentleness,
"oh! the exquisite sweetness of your voice, which is like dream-music in
mine ears.... Oh! to hold you in my arms thus, for ever ... until death,
sweeter than life ... came to me in one long passionate kiss."

She allowed him to put his arms round her now, glad that the darkness
hid the blush on her cheeks; thus she loved him, thus she had first
learned to love him, ardent, oh, yes! but so gentle, so meek, yet so
great and exalted in his selfless patriotism.

"'Tis not of death you should speak, sweet prince," she said, ineffably
happy now that she felt him more subdued, more trusting and fond,
"rather should you speak of life ... with me, your own Suzanne ... of
happiness in the future, when you and I, hand in hand, will work
together for that great cause you hold so dear ... the freedom and
liberties of France."

"Ah, yes!" he sighed in utter dejection, "when that happy time comes ...
but ..."

"You do not trust me?" she asked reproachfully.

"With all my heart, my Suzanne," he replied, "but you are so beautiful,
so rich ... and other men ..."

"There are no other men for me," she retorted simply. "I love you."

"Will you prove it to me?"

"How can I?"

"Be mine ... mine absolutely," he urged eagerly with passion just
sufficiently subdued to make her pulses throb. "Be my wife ... my
princess ... let me feel that no one could come between us...."

"But my guardian would never consent," she protested.

"Surely your love for me can dispense with Sir Marmaduke's consent...."

"A secret marriage?" she asked, terrified at this strange vista which
his fiery imagination was conjuring up before her.

"You refuse? ..." he asked hoarsely.

"No! no! ... but ..."

"Then you do not love me, Suzanne."

The coolness in his tone struck a sudden chill to her heart. She felt
the clasp of his arms round her relax, she felt rather than saw that he
withdrew markedly from her.

"Ah! forgive me! forgive me!" she murmured, stretching her little hands
out to him in a pathetic and childlike appeal. "I have never deceived
anyone in my life before.... How could I live a lie? ... married to you,
yet seemingly a girl.... Whilst in three months...."

She paused in her eagerness, for he had jumped to his feet and was now
standing before her, a rigid, statuesque figure, with head bent and arms
hanging inert by his side.

"You do not love me, Suzanne," he said with an infinity of sadness,
which went straight to her own loving heart, "else you would not dream
of thus condemning me to three months of exquisite torture.... I have
had my answer.... Farewell, my gracious lady ... not mine, alas! but
another man's ... and may Heaven grant that he love you well ... not as
I do, for that were impossible...."

His voice had died away in a whisper, which obviously was half-choked
with tears. She, too, had risen while he spoke, all her hesitation
gone, her heart full of reproaches against herself, and of love for him.

"What do you mean?" she asked trembling.

"That I must go," he replied simply, "since you do not love me...."

Oh! how thankful she was that this merciful darkness enwrapped her so
tenderly. She was so young, so innocent and pure, that she felt half
ashamed of the expression of her own great love which went out to him in
a veritable wave of passion, when she began to fear that she was about
to lose him.

"No, no," she cried vehemently, "you shall not go ... you shall not."

Her hands sought his in the gloom, and found them, clung to them with
ever-growing ardor; she came quite close to him trying to peer into his
face and to let him read in hers all the pathetic story of her own deep
love for him.

"I love you," she murmured through her tears. And again she repeated: "I
love you. See," she added with sudden determination, "I will do e'en as
you wish.... I will follow you to the uttermost ends of the earth.... I
... I will marry you ... secretly ... an you wish."

Welcome darkness that hid her blushes! ... she was so young--so ignorant
of life and of the world--yet she felt that by her words, her promise,
her renunciation of her will, she was surrendering something to this
man, which she could never, never regain.

Did the first thought of fear, or misgiving cross her mind at this
moment? It were impossible to say. The darkness which to her was so
welcome was--had she but guessed it--infinitely cruel too, for it hid
the look of triumph, of rapacity, of satisfied ambition which at her
selfless surrender had involuntarily crept into Marmaduke's eyes.



It is difficult, perhaps, to analyze rightly the feelings and sensations
of a young girl, when she is literally being swept off her feet in a
whirlpool of passion and romance.

Some few years later when Lady Sue wrote those charming memoirs which
are such an interesting record of her early life, she tried to note with
faithful accuracy what was the exact state of her mind when three months
after her first meeting with Prince Amede d'Orleans, she plighted her
troth to him and promised to marry him in secret and in defiance of her
guardian's more than probable opposition.

Her sentiments with regard to her mysterious lover were somewhat
complex, and undoubtedly she was too young, too inexperienced then to
differentiate between enthusiastic interest in a romantic personality,
and real, lasting, passionate love for a man, as apart from any halo of
romance which might be attached to him.

When she was a few years older she averred that she could never have
really loved her prince, because she always feared him. Hers, therefore,
was not the perfect love that casteth out fear. She was afraid of him in
his ardent moods, almost as much as when he allowed his unbridled temper
free rein. Whenever she walked through the dark bosquets of the park,
on her way to a meeting with her lover, she was invariably conscious of
a certain trepidation of all her nerves, a wonderment as to what he
would say when she saw him, how he would act; whether chide, or rave, or
merely reproach.

It was the gentle and pathetic terror of a child before a stern yet
much-loved parent. Yet she never mistrusted him ... perhaps because she
had never really seen him--only in outline, half wrapped in shadows, or
merely silhouetted against a weirdly lighted background. His appearance
had no tangible reality for her. She was in love with an ideal, not with
a man ... he was merely the mouthpiece of an individuality which was of
her own creation.

Added to all this there was the sense of isolation. She had lost her
mother when she was a baby; her father fell at Naseby. She herself had
been an only child, left helplessly stranded when the civil war
dispersed her relations and friends, some into exile, others in splendid
revolt within the fastnesses of their own homes, impoverished by pillage
and sequestration, rebellious, surrounded by spies, watching that
opportunity for retaliation which was so slow in coming.

Tossed hither and thither by Fate in spite of--or perhaps because
of--her great wealth, she had found a refuge, though not a home, at Acol
Court; she had been of course too young at the time to understand
rightly the great conflict between the King's party and the Puritans,
but had naturally embraced the cause--for which her father's life had
been sacrificed--blindly, like a child of instinct, not like a woman of

Her guardian and Mistress de Chavasse stood for that faction of
Roundheads at which her father and all her relatives had sneered even
while they were being conquered and oppressed by them. She disliked them
both from the first; and chafed at the parsimonious habits of the house,
which stood in such glaring contrast to the easy lavishness of her own
luxurious home.

Fortunately for her, her guardian avoided rather than sought her
company. She met him at meals and scarcely more often than that, and
though she often heard his voice about the house, usually raised in
anger or impatience, he was invariably silent and taciturn when she was

The presence of Richard Lambert, his humble devotion, his whole-hearted
sympathy and the occasional moments of conversation which she had with
him were the only bright moments in her dull life at the Court: and
there is small doubt but that the friendship and trust which
characterized her feelings towards him would soon have ripened into more
passionate love, but for the advent into her life of the mysterious
hero, who by his personality, his strange, secretive ways, his talk of
patriotism and liberty, at once took complete possession of her girlish

She was perhaps just too young when she met Lambert; she had not yet
reached that dangerous threshold when girlhood looks from out obscure
ignorance into the glaring knowledge of womanhood. She was a child when
Lambert showed his love for her by a thousand little simple acts of
devotion and by the mute adoration expressed in his eyes. Lambert drew
her towards the threshold by his passionate love, and held her back
within the refuge of innocent girlhood by the sincerity and exaltation
of his worship.

With the first word of vehement, unreasoning passion, the mysterious
prince dragged the girl over that threshold into womanhood. He gave her
no time to think, no time to analyze her feelings; he rushed her into a
torrent of ardor and of excitement in which she never could pause in
order to draw breath.

To-night she had promised to marry him secretly--to surrender herself
body and soul to this man whom she hardly knew, whom she had never
really seen; she felt neither joy nor remorse, only a strange sense of
agitation, an unnatural and morbid impatience to see the end of the next
few days of suspense.

For the first time since she had come to Acol, and encountered the
kindly sympathy of Richard Lambert, she felt bitterly angered against
him when, having parted from the prince at the door of the pavilion, she
turned, to walk back towards the house and came face to face with the
young man.

A narrow path led through the trees, from the ha-ha to the gate, and
Richard Lambert was apparently walking along aimlessly, in the direction
of the pavilion.

"I came hoping to meet your ladyship and to escort you home. The night
seems very dark," he explained simply in answer to a sudden, haughty
stiffening of her young figure, which he could not help but notice.

"I was taking a stroll in the park," she rejoined coldly, "the evening
is sweet and balmy but ... I have no need of escort, Master Lambert ...
I thank you.... It is late and I would wish to go indoors alone."

"It is indeed late, gracious lady," he said gently, "and the park is
lonely at night ... will you not allow me to walk beside you as far as
the house?"

But somehow his insistence, his very gentleness struck a jarring note,
for which she herself could not have accounted. Was it the contrast
between two men, which unaccountably sent a thrill of disappointment,
almost of apprehension, through her heart?

She was angry with Lambert, bitterly angry because he was kind and
gentle and long-suffering, whilst the other was violent, even brutal at

"I must repeat, master, that I have no need of your escort," she said
haughtily, "I have no fear of marauders, nor yet of prowling beasts. And
for the future I should be grateful to you," she added, conscious of her
own cruelty, determined nevertheless to be remorselessly cruel, "if you
were to cease that system which you have adopted of late--that of
spying on my movements."


The word had struck him in the face like a blow. And she, womanlike,
with that strange, impulsive temperament of hers, was not at all sorry
that she had hurt him. Yet surely he had done her no wrong, save by
being so different from the other man, and by seeming to belittle that
other in her sight, against her will and his own.

"I am grieved, believe me," she said coldly, "if I seem unkind ... but
you must see for yourself, good master, that we cannot go on as we are
doing now.... Whenever I go out, you follow me ... when I return I find
you waiting for me.... I have endeavored to think kindly of your
actions, but if you value my friendship, as you say you do, you will let
me go my way in peace."

"Nay! I humbly beg your ladyship's gracious forgiveness," he said; "if I
have transgressed, it is because I am blind to all save your ladyship's
future happiness, and at times the thought of that adventurer is more
than I can bear."

"You do yourself no good, Master Lambert, by talking thus to me of the
man I love and honor beyond all things in this world. You are blind and
see not things as they are: blind to the merits of one who is as
infinitely above you as the stars. But nathless I waste my breath
again.... I have no power to convince you of the grievous error which
you commit. But if you cared for me, as you say you do ..."

"If I cared!" he murmured, with a pathetic emphasis on that little word

"As a friend I mean," she rejoined still cold, still cruel, still
womanlike in that strange, inexplicable desire to wound the man who
loved her. "If you care for me as a friend, you will not throw yourself
any more in the way of my happiness. Now you may escort me home, an you
wish. This is the last time that I shall speak to you as a friend, in
response to your petty attacks on the man whom I love. Henceforth you
must chose 'twixt his friendship and my enmity!"

And without vouchsafing him another word or look, she gathered her cloak
more closely about her, and walked rapidly away along the narrow path.

He followed with head bent, meditating, wondering! Wondering!



The triumph was complete. But of a truth the game was waxing dangerous.

Lady Sue Aldmarshe had promised to marry her prince. She would keep her
word, of that Sir Marmaduke was firmly convinced. But there would of
necessity be two or three days delay and every hour added to the
terrors, the certainty of discovery.

There was a watch-dog at Sue's heels, stern, alert, unyielding. Richard
Lambert was probing the secret of the mysterious prince, with the
unerring eye of the disappointed lover.

The meeting to-night had been terribly dangerous. Sir Marmaduke knew
that Lambert was lurking somewhere in the park.

At present even the remotest inkling of the truth must still be far from
the young man's mind. The whole scheme was so strange, so daring, so
foreign to the simple ideas of the Quaker-bred lad, that its very
boldness had defied suspicion. But the slightest mischance now, a
meeting at the door of the pavilion, an altercation--face to face, eye
to eye--and Richard Lambert would be on the alert. His hatred would not
be so blind, nor yet so clumsy, as that of his brother, the blacksmith.
There is no spy so keen in all the world as a jealous lover.

This had been the prince's first meeting with Sue, since that memorable
day when the secret of their clandestine love became known to Lambert.
Sir Marmaduke knew well that it had been fraught with danger; that every
future meeting would wax more and more perilous still, and that the
secret marriage itself, however carefully and secretively planned, would
hardly escape the prying eyes of the young man.

The unmasking of Prince Amede d'Orleans before Sue had become legally
his wife was a possibility which Sir Marmaduke dared not even think of,
lest the very thought should drive him mad. Once she was his wife! ...
well, let her look to herself.... The marriage tie would be a binding
one, he would see to that, and her fortune should be his, even though he
had won her by a lie.

He had staked his very existence on the success of his scheme. Lady
Sue's fortune was the one aim of his life, for it he had worked and
striven, and lied: he would not even contemplate a future without it,
now that his plans had brought him so near the goal.

He had one faithful ally, though not a powerful one, in Editha, who,
lured by some vague promises of his, desperate too, as regarded her own
future, had chosen to throw in her lot whole-heartedly with his.

He was closeted with her on the following day, in the tiny
withdrawing-room which leads out of the hall at Acol Court. When he had
stolen into the house in the small hours of the morning he had seen
Richard Lambert leaning out of one of the windows which gave upon the

It seemed as if the young man must have seen him when he skirted the
house, for though there was no moonlight, the summer's night was
singularly clear. That Lambert had been on the watch--spying, as Sir
Marmaduke said with a bitter oath of rage--was beyond a doubt.

Editha too was uneasy; she thought that Lambert had purposely avoided
her the whole morning.

"I lingered in the garden for as long as I could," she said to her
brother-in-law, watching with keen anxiety his restless movements to and
fro in the narrow room, "I thought Lambert would keep within doors if he
saw me about. He did not actually see you, Marmaduke, did he?" she
queried with ever-growing disquietude.

"No. Not face to face," he replied curtly. "I contrived to avoid him in
the park, and kept well within the shadows, when I saw him spying
through the window.

"Curse him!" he added with savage fury, "curse him, for a meddlesome,
spying cur!"

"The whole thing is becoming vastly dangerous," she sighed.

"Yet it must last for another few weeks at least...."

"I know ... and Lambert is a desperate enemy: he dogs Sue's footsteps,
he will come upon you one day when you are alone, or with her ... he
will provoke a quarrel...."

"I know--I know ..." he retorted impatiently, "'tis no use
recapitulating the many evil contingencies that might occur.... I know
that Lambert is dangerous ... damn him! ... Would to God I could be rid
of him ... somehow."

"You can dismiss him," she suggested, "pay him his wages and send him
about his business."

"What were the use? He would remain in the village--in his brother's
cottage mayhap ... with more time on his hands for his spying work....
He would dog the wench's steps more jealously than eve.... No! no!" he
added, whilst he cast a quick, furtive look at her--a look which somehow
caused her to shiver with apprehension more deadly than heretofore.

"That's not what I want," he said significantly.

"What's to be done?" she murmured, "what's to be done?"

"I must think," he rejoined harshly. "But we must get that love-sick
youth out of the way ... him and his airs of Providence in disguise....
Something must be done to part him from the wench effectually and
completely ... something that would force him to quit this neighborhood
... forever, if possible."

She did not reply immediately, but fixed her large, dark eyes upon him,
silently for a while, then she murmured:

"If I only knew!"

"Knew what?"

"If I could trust you, Marmaduke!"

He laughed, a harsh, cruel laugh which grated upon her ear.

"We know too much of one another, my dear Editha, not to trust each

"My whole future depends on you. I am penniless. If you marry Sue...."

"I can provide for you," he interrupted roughly. "What can I do now? My
penury is worse than yours. So, my dear, if you have a plan to propound
for the furtherance of my schemes, I pray you do not let your fear of
the future prevent you from lending me a helping hand."

"A thought crossed my mind," she said eagerly, "the thought of something
which would effectually force Richard Lambert to quit this neighborhood
for ever."

"What were that?"


"Disgrace?" he exclaimed. "Aye! you are right. Something mean ... paltry
... despicable ... something that would make her gracious ladyship turn
away from him in disgust ... and would force him to go away from here
... for ever."

He looked at her closely, scrutinizing her face, trying to read her

"A thought crossed your mind," he demanded peremptorily. "What is it?"

"The house in London," she murmured.

"You are not afraid?"

"Oh!" she said with a careless shrug of the shoulders.

"The Protector's spies are keen," he urged, eager to test her courage,
her desire to help him.

"They'll scarce remember me after two years."

"Hm! Their memory is keen ... and the new laws doubly severe."

"We'll be cautious."

"How can you let your usual clients know? They are dispersed."

"Oh, no! My Lord Walterton is as keen as ever and Sir James Overbury
would brave the devil for a night at hazard. A message to them and we'll
have a crowd every night."

"'Tis well thought on, Editha," he said approvingly. "But we must not
delay. Will you go to London to-morrow?"

"An you approve."

"Aye! you can take the Dover coach and be in town by nightfall. Then
write your letters to my Lord Walterton and Sir James Overbury. Get a
serving wench from Alverstone's in the Strand, and ask the gentlemen to
bring their own men, for the sake of greater safety. They'll not

"Refuse?" she said with a light laugh, "oh, no!"

"To-day being Tuesday, you should have your first evening entertainment
on Friday. Everything could be ready by then."

"Oh, yes!"

"Very well then, on Friday, I, too, will arrive in London, my dear
Editha, escorted by my secretary, Master Richard Lambert, and together
we will call and pay our respects at your charming house in Bath

"I will do my share. You must do yours, Marmaduke. Endicott will help
you: he is keen and clever. And if Lambert but takes a card in his hand

"Nay! he will take the cards, mine oath on that! Do you but arrange it
all with Endicott."

"And, Marmaduke, I entreat you," she urged now with sudden earnestness,
"I entreat you to beware of my Lord Protector's spies. Think of the
consequences for me!"

"Aye!" he said roughly, laughing that wicked, cruel laugh of his, which
damped her eagerness, and struck chill terror into her heart, "aye! the
whipping-post for you, fair Editha, for keeping a gaming-house. What? Of
a truth I need not urge you to be cautious."

Probably at this moment she would have given worlds--had she possessed
them--if she could but have dissociated herself from her
brother-in-law's future altogether. Though she was an empty-headed,
brainless kind of woman, she was not by nature a wicked one. Necessity
had driven her into linking her fortunes with those of Sir Marmaduke.
And he had been kind to her, when she was in deep distress: but for him
she would probably have starved, for her beauty had gone and her career
as an actress had been, for some inexplicable reason, quite suddenly cut
short, whilst a police raid on the gaming-house over which she presided
had very nearly landed her in a convict's cell.

She had escaped severe punishment then, chiefly because Cromwell's laws
against gambling were not so rigorous at the time as they had since
become, also because she was able to plead ignorance of them, and
because of the status of first offense.

Therefore she knew quite well what she risked through the scheme which
she had so boldly propounded to Sir Marmaduke. Dire disgrace and infamy,
if my Lord Protector's spies once more came upon the gamesters in her

Utter social ruin and worse! Yet she risked it all, in order to help
him. She did not love him, nor had she any hopes that he would of his
own free will do more than give her a bare pittance for her needs once
he had secured Lady Sue's fortune; but she was shrewd enough to reckon
that the more completely she was mixed up in his nefarious projects, the
more absolutely forced would he be to accede to her demands later on.
The word blackmail had not been invented in those days, but the deed
itself existed and what Editha had in her mind when she risked ostracism
for Sir Marmaduke's sake was something very akin to it.

But he, in the meanwhile, had thrown off his dejection. He was full of
eagerness, of anticipated triumph now.

The rough idea which was to help him in his schemes had originated in
Editha's brain, but already he had elaborated it; had seen in the plan a
means not only of attaining his own ends with regard to Sue, but also
of wreaking a pleasing vengeance on the man who was trying to frustrate

"I pray you, be of good cheer, fair Editha," he said quite gaily. "Your
plan is good and sound, and meseems as if the wench's fortune were
already within my grasp."

"Within our grasp, you mean, Marmaduke," she said significantly.

"Our grasp of course, gracious lady," he said with a marked sneer, which
she affected to ignore. "What is mine is yours. Am I not tied to the
strings of your kirtle by lasting bonds of infinite gratitude?"

"I will start to-morrow then. By chaise to Dover and thence by coach,"
she said coldly, taking no heed of his irony. "'Twere best you did not
assume your romantic role again until after your own voyage to London.
You can give me some money I presume. I can do nothing with an empty

"You shall have the whole contents of mine, gracious Editha," he said
blandly, "some ten pounds in all, until the happy day when I can place
half a million at your feet."




It stood about midway down an unusually narrow by-street off the Strand.

A tumble-down archway, leaning to one side like a lame hen, gave access
to a dark passage, dank with moisture, whereon the door of the house
gave some eighteen feet up on the left.

The unpaved street, undrained and unutterably filthy, was ankle-deep in
mud, even at the close of this hot August day. Down one side a long
blank wall, stone-built and green with mildew, presented an unbroken
frontage: on the other the row of houses with doors perpetually barred,
and windows whereon dust and grit had formed effectual curtains against
prying eyes, added to the sense of loneliness, of insecurity, of unknown
dangers lurking behind that crippled archway, or beneath the shadows of
the projecting eaves, whence the perpetual drip-drip of soot water came
as a note of melancholy desolation.

From all the houses the plaster was peeling off in many places, a prey
to the inclemencies of London winters; all presented gray facades, with
an air of eeriness about their few windows, flush with the outside
wall--at one time painted white, no doubt, but now of uniform dinginess
with the rest of the plaster work.

There was a grim hint about the whole street of secret meetings, and of
unavowable deeds done under cover of isolation and of darkness, whilst
the great crooked mouth of the archway disclosing the blackness and
gloom of the passage beyond, suggested the lair of human wild beasts who
only went about in the night.

As a rule but few passers-by availed themselves of this short and narrow
cut down to the river-side. Nathless, the unarmed citizen was scared by
these dank and dreary shadows, whilst the city watchman, mindful of his
own safety, was wont to pass the mean street by.

Only my Lord Protector's new police-patrol fresh to its onerous task,
solemnly marched down it once in twenty-four hours, keeping shoulder to
shoulder, looking neither to right nor left, thankful when either issue
was once more within sight.

But in this same evening in August, 1657, it seemed as if quite a number
of people had business in Bath Street off the Strand. At any rate this
was specially noticeable after St. Mary's had struck the hour of nine,
when several cloaked and hooded figures slipped, one after another, some
singly, others in groups of two or three, into the shadow of the narrow

They all walked in silence, and did not greet one another as they
passed; some cast from time to time furtive looks behind them; but
every one of these evening prowlers seemed to have the same objective,
for as soon as they reached the crippled archway, they disappeared
within the gloom of its yawning mouth.

Anon when the police-patrol had gone by and was lost in the gloom there
where Bath Street debouches on the river bank, two of these heavily
cloaked figures walked rapidly down from the Strand, and like the others
slipped quickly under the archway, and made straight for the narrow door
on the left of the passage.

This door was provided with a heavy bronze knocker, but strangely enough
the newcomers did not avail themselves of its use, but rapped on the
wooden panels with their knuckles, giving three successive raps at
regular intervals.

They were admitted almost immediately, the door seemingly opening of
itself, and they quickly stepped across the threshold.

Within the house was just as dark and gloomy as it was without, and as
the two visitors entered, a voice came from out the shadows, and said,
in a curious monotone and with strange irrelevance:

"The hour is late!"

"And 'twill be later still," replied one of the newcomers.

"Yet the cuckoo hath not called," retorted the voice.

"Nor is the ferret on the prowl," was the enigmatic reply. Whereupon
the voice speaking in more natural tones added sententiously:

"Two flights of steps, and 'ware the seventeenth step on the first
flight. Door on the left, two raps, then three."

"Thank you, friend," rejoined one of the newcomers, "'tis pleasant to
feel that so faithful a watch guards the entrance of this palace of

Thereupon the two visitors, who of a truth must have been guided either
by instinct or by intimate knowledge of the place, for not a gleam of
light illumined the entrance hall, groped their way to a flight of stone
stairs which led in a steep curve to the upper floors of the house.

A rickety banister which gave ominously under the slightest pressure
helped to guide the visitors in this utter darkness: but obviously the
warning uttered by that mysterious challenging voice below was not
superfluous, for having carefully counted sixteen steps in an upward
direction, the newcomers came to a halt, and feeling their way forward
now with uttermost caution, their feet met a yawning hole, which had
soon caused a serious accident to a stranger who had ventured thus far
in ignorance of pitfalls.

A grim laugh, echoed by a lighter one, showed that the visitors had
encountered only what they had expected, and after this brief episode
they continued their journey upwards with a firmer sense of security; a
smoky oil lamp on the first floor landing guided their footsteps by
casting a flickering light on the narrow stairway, whereon slime and
filth crept unchecked through the broken crevices between the stones.

But now as they advanced, the silence seemed more broken: a distinct hum
as of many voices was soon perceptible, and anon a shrill laugh,
followed by another more deep in tone, and echoed by others which
presently died away in the distance.

By the time the two men had reached the second floor landing these many
noises had become more accentuated, also more distinct; still muffled
and subdued as if proceeding from behind heavy doors, but nevertheless
obvious as the voices of men and women in lively converse.

The newcomers gave the distinctive raps prescribed by their first
mentor, on the thick panels of a solid oak door on their left.

The next moment the door itself was thrown open from within; a flood of
light burst forth upon the gloomy landing from the room beyond, the
babel of many voices became loud and clear, and as the two men stood for
a moment beneath the lintel a veritable chorus of many exclamations
greeted them from every side.

"Walterton! begad!"

"And Overbury, too!"

"How late ye come!"

"We thought ye'd fallen a victim to Noll's myrmidons!"

It was of a truth a gay and merry company that stood, and moved,
chatted and laughed, within the narrow confines of that small
second-floor room in the gloomy house in Bath Street.

The walls themselves were dingy and bare, washed down with some grayish
color, which had long since been defaced by the grime and dust of
London. Thick curtains of a nondescript hue fell in straight folds
before each window, and facing these there was another door--double
paneled--which apparently led to an inner room.

But the place itself was brilliantly illuminated with many wax candles
set in chandeliers. These stood on the several small tables which were
dotted about the room.

These tables--covered with green baize, and a number of chairs of
various shapes and doubtful solidity were the only furniture of the
room, but in an arched recess in the wall a plaster figure holding a
cornucopia, from whence fell in thick profusion the plaster presentments
of the fruits of this earth, stood on an elevated pedestal, which had
been draped with crimson velvet.

The goddess of Fortune, with a broken nose and a paucity of fingers,
dominated the brilliant assembly, from the height of her crimson throne.
Her head had been crowned with a tall peaked modish beaver hat, from
which a purple feather rakishly swept over the goddess's left ear. An
ardent devotee had deposited a copper coin in her extended, thumbless
hand, whilst another had fixed a row of candle stumps at her feet.

There was nothing visible in this brilliantly lighted room of the sober
modes to which the eye of late had become so accustomed. Silken doublets
of bright and even garish colors stood out in bold contrast against the
gray monotone of the walls and hangings. Fantastic buttons, tags and
laces, gorgeously embroidered cuffs and collars edged with priceless
Mechlin or d'Alencon, bunches of ribands at knee and wrists, full
periwigs and over-wide boot-hose tops were everywhere to be seen, whilst
the clink of swords against the wooden boards and frequent volleys of
loudly spoken French oaths, testified to the absence of those Puritanic
fashions and customs which had become the general rule even in London.

Some of the company sat in groups round the green-topped tables whereon
cards or dice and heaps of gold and smaller coins lay in profusion.
Others stood about watching the games or chatting to one another. Mostly
men they were, some old, some young--but there were women too, women in
showy kirtles, with bare shoulders showing well above the colverteen
kerchief and faces wherein every line had been obliterated by plentiful
daubs of cosmetics. They moved about the room from table to table,
laughing, talking, making comments on the games as these proceeded.

The men apparently were all intent--either as actual participants or
merely as spectators--upon a form of amusement which His Highness the
Lord Protector had condemned as wanton and contrary to law.

The newcomers soon divested themselves of their immense dark cloaks,
and they, too, appeared in showy apparel of silk and satin, with tiny
bows of ribands at the ends of the long curls which fell both sides of
their faces, and with enormous frills of lace inside the turned-over
tops of their boots.

Lord Walterton quite straddled in his gait, so wide were his boot tops,
and there was an extraordinary maze of tags and ribands round the edge
of Sir James Overbury's breeches.

"Make your game, gentlemen, make your game," said the latter as he
advanced further into the room. And his tired, sleepy eyes brightened at
sight of the several tables covered with cards and dice, the guttering
candles, the mountains of gold and small coin scattered on the green
baize tops.

"Par Dieu! but 'tis a sight worth seeing after the ugly sour faces one
meets in town these days!" he added, gleefully rubbing his beringed
hands one against the other.

"But where is our gracious hostess?" added Lord Walterton, a
melancholy-looking young man with pale-colored eyes and lashes, and a
narrow chest.

"You are thrice welcome, my lord!" said Editha de Chavasse, whose
elegant figure now detached itself from amongst her guests.

She looked very handsome in her silken kirtle of a brilliant greenish
hue, lace primer, and high-heeled shoes--relics of her theatrical days;
her head was adorned with the bunches of false curls which the modish
hairdressers were trying to introduce. The plentiful use of cosmetics
had obliterated the ravages of time and imparted a youthful appearance
to her face, whilst excitement not unmixed with apprehension lent a
bright glitter to her dark eyes.

Lord Walterton and Sir James Overbury lightly touched with their lips
the hand which she extended to them. Their bow, too, was slight, though
they tossed their curls as they bent their heads in the most approved
French fashion. But there was a distinct note of insolence, not
altogether unmixed with irony, in the freedom with which they had
greeted her.

"I met de Chavasse in town to-day," said Lord Walterton, over his
shoulder before he mixed with the crowd.

"Yes! he will be here to-night," she rejoined. Sir James Overbury also
made a casual remark, but it was evident that the intention and purpose
of these gay gentlemen was not the courteous entertainment of their
hostess. Like so many men of all times and all nations in this world,
they were ready enough to enjoy what she provided for them--the illicit
pastime which they could not get elsewhere--but they despised her for
giving it them, and cared naught for the heavy risks she ran in keeping
up this house for their pleasure.



At a table in the immediate center of the room a rotund gentleman in
doublet and breeches of cinnamon brown taffeta and voluminous lace cuffs
at the wrists was presiding over a game of Spanish primero.

A simple game enough, not difficult of comprehension, yet vastly
exciting, if one may form a judgment of its qualities through watching
the faces of the players.

The rotund gentleman dealt a card face downwards to each of his
opponents, who then looked at their cards and staked on them, by pushing
little piles of gold or silver forward.

Then the dealer turned up his own card, and gave the amount of the
respective stakes to those players whose cards were of higher value than
his own, whilst sweeping all other moneys to swell his own pile.

A simple means, forsooth, of getting rid of any superfluity of cash.

"Art winning, Endicott?" queried Lord Walterton as, he stood over the
other man, looking down on the game.

Endicott shrugged his fat shoulders, and gave an enigmatic chuckle.

"I pay King and Ace only," he called out imperturbably, as he turned up
a Queen.

Most of the stakes came to swell his own pile, but he passed a handful
of gold to a hollow-eyed youth who sat immediately opposite to him, and
who clutched at the money with an eager, trembling grasp.

"You have all the luck to-night, Segrave," he said with an oily smile
directed at the winner.

"Make your game, gentlemen," he added almost directly, as he once more
began to deal.

"I pay knave upwards!" he declared, turning up the ten of clubs.

"Mine is the ten of hearts," quoth one of the players.

"Ties pay the bank," quoth Endicott imperturbably.

"Mine is a queen," said Segrave in a hollow tone of voice.

Endicott with a comprehensive oath threw the entire pack of cards into a
distant corner of the room.

"A fresh pack, mistress!" he shouted peremptorily.

Then as an overdressed, florid woman, with high bullhead fringe and
old-fashioned Spanish farthingale, quickly obeyed his behests, he said
with a coarse laugh:

"Fresh cards may break Master Segrave's luck and improve yours, Sir

"Before this round begins," said Sir James Overbury who was standing
close behind Lord Walterton, also watching the game, "I will bet you,
Walterton, that Segrave wins again."

"Done with you," replied the other, "and I'll back mine own opinion by
taking a hand."

The florid woman brought him a chair, and he sat down at the table, as
Endicott once more began to deal.

"Five pounds that Segrave wins," said Overbury.

"A queen," said Endicott, turning up his card. "I pay king and ace

Everyone had to pay the bank, for all turned up low cards; Segrave alone
had not yet turned up his.

"Well! what is your card, Master Segrave?" queried Lord Walterton

"An ace!" said Segrave simply, displaying the ace of hearts.

"No good betting against the luck," said young Walterton lightly, as he
handed five sovereigns over to his friend, "moreover it spoils my

"Ye play primero on a system!" quoth Sir Michael Isherwood in deep

"Yes!" replied the young man. "I have played on it for years ... and it
is infallible, 'pon my honor."

In the meanwhile the doors leading to the second room had been thrown
open; serving men and women advanced carrying trays on which were
displayed glasses and bottles filled with Rhenish wine and Spanish
canary and muscadel, also buttered ale and mead and hypocras for the

Editha did not occupy herself with serving but the florid woman was
most attentive to the guests. She darted in and out between the tables,
managing her unwieldy farthingale with amazing skill. She poured out the
wines, and offered tarts and dishes of anchovies and of cheese, also
strange steaming beverages lately imported into England called coffee
and chocolate.

The women liked the latter, and supped it out of mugs, with many little
cries of astonishment and appreciation of its sugariness.

The men drank heavily, chiefly of the heady Spanish wines; they ate the
anchovies and cheese with their fingers, and continually called for more

Play was of necessity interrupted. Groups of people eating and drinking
congregated round the tables. The men mostly discussed various phases of
the game; there was so little else for idlers to talk about these days.
No comedies or other diversions, neither cock-fighting nor bear-baiting,
and abuse of my Lord Protector and his rigorous disciplinarian laws had
already become stale.

The women talked dress and coiffure, the new puffs, the fanciful

But at the center table Segrave still sat, refusing all refreshment,
waiting with obvious impatience for the ending of this unwelcome
interval. When first he found himself isolated in the crowd, he had
counted over with febrile eagerness the money which lay in a substantial
heap before him.

"Saved!" he muttered between his teeth, speaking to himself like one

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