Part 3 out of 6
who is dreaming, "saved! Thank God! ... Two hundred and fifty pounds ...
only another fifty and I'll never touch these cursed cards again ...
only another fifty...."
He buried his face in his hands; the moisture stood out in heavy drops
on his forehead. He looked all round him with ever-growing impatience.
"My God! why don't they come back! ... Another fifty pounds ... and I
can put the money back ... before it has been missed.... Oh! why don't
they come back!"
Quite a tragedy expressed in those few muttered words, in the trembling
hands, the damp forehead. Money taken from an unsuspecting parent,
guardian or master, which? What matter? A tragedy of ordinary occurrence
even in those days when social inequalities were being abolished by act
In the meanwhile Lord Walterton, halting of speech, insecure of
foothold, after his third bumper of heady sack, was explaining to Sir
Michael Isherwood the mysteries of his system for playing the noble game
"It is sure to break the bank in time," he said confidently, "I am for
going to Paris where play runs high, and need not be carried on in this
hole and corner fashion to suit cursed Puritanical ideas."
"Tell me your secret, Walterton," urged worthy Sir Michael, whose broad
Shropshire acres were heavily mortgaged, after the rapine and pillage
of civil war.
"Well! I can but tell you part, my friend," rejoined the other, "yet
'tis passing simple. You begin with one golden guinea ... and lose it
... then you put up two and lose again...."
"Passing simple," assented Sir Michael ironically.
"But after that you put up four guineas."
"And lose it."
"Yea! yea! mayhap you lose it ... but then you put up eight guineas ...
and win. Whereupon you are just as you were before."
And with a somewhat unsteady hand the young man raised a bumper to his
lips, whilst eying Sir Michael with the shifty and inquiring eye
peculiar to the intoxicated.
"Meseems that if you but abstain from playing altogether," quoth Sir
Michael impatiently, "the result would still be the same.... And suppose
you lose the eight guineas, what then?"
"Oh! 'tis vastly simple--you put up sixteen."
"But if you lose that?"
"Put up thirty-two...."
"But if you have not thirty-two guineas to put up?" urged Sir Michael,
who was obstinate.
"Nay! then, my friend," said Lord Walterton with a laugh which soon
broke into an ominous hiccough, "ye must not in that case play upon my
"Well said, my lord," here interposed Endicott, who had most moderately
partaken of a cup of hypocras, and whose eye and hand were as steady as
heretofore. "Well said, pardi! ... My old friend the Marquis of
Swarthmore used oft to say in the good old days of Goring's Club, that
'twas better to lose on a system, than to play on no system at all."
"A smart cavalier, old Swarthmore," assented Sir Michael gruffly, "and
nathless, a true friend to you, Endicott," he added significantly.
"Another deal, Master Endicott," said Segrave, who for the last quarter
of an hour had vainly tried to engage the bank-holder's attention.
Nor was Lord Walterton averse to this. The more the wine got into his
head, the more unsteady his hand became, the more strong was his desire
to woo the goddess whose broken-nosed image seemed to be luring him to
"You are right, Master Segrave," he said thickly, "we are wasting
valuable time. Who knows but what old Noll's police-patrol is lurking in
this cutthroat alley? ... Endicott, take the bank again.... I'll swear
I'll ruin ye ere the moon--which I do not see--disappears down the
horizon. Sir Michael, try my system.... Overbury, art a laggard? ... Let
us laugh and be merry--to-morrow is the Jewish Sabbath--and after that
Puritanic Sunday ... after which mayhap, we'll all go to hell, driven
thither by my Lord Protector. Wench, another bumper ... canary, sack or
muscadel ... no thin Rhenish wine shall e'er defile this throat!
Gentlemen, take your places.... Mistress Endicott, can none of these
wenches discourse sweet music whilst we do homage to the goddess of
Fortune? ... To the tables ... to the tables, gentlemen ... here's to
King Charles, whom may God protect ... and all in defiance of my Lord
In the hubbub which immediately followed Lord Walterton's tirade, Editha
de Chavasse beckoned to the florid woman--who seemed to be her
henchwoman--and drew her aside to a distant corner of the room, where
there were no tables nigh and where the now subdued hum of the voices,
mingling with the sound of music on virginal and stringed instruments,
made a murmuring noise which effectually drowned the talk between the
"Have you arranged everything, Mistress Endicott?" asked Editha,
speaking in a whisper.
"Everything, mistress," replied the other.
"Perfectly," said the woman, with perceptible hesitation, "but ..."
"What ails you, mistress?" asked Editha haughtily, noting the
hesitation, and frowning with impatience thereat.
"My husband thinks the game too dangerous."
"I was not aware," retorted Mistress de Chavasse dryly, "that I had
desired Master Endicott's opinion on the subject."
"Mayhap not," rejoined the other, equally dryly, "but you did desire his
help in the matter ... and he seems unmindful to give it."
"I have explained ... the game is too dangerous."
"Or the payment insufficient?" sneered Editha. "Which is it?"
"Both, mayhap," assented Mistress Endicott with a careless shrug of her
fat shoulders, "the risks are very great. To-night especially...."
"Why especially to-night?"
"Because ever since you have been away from it, this house--though we
did our best to make it seem deserted--hath been watched--of that I feel
very sure.... My Lord Protector's watchmen have a suspicion of our ...
our evening entertainments ... and I doubt not but that they desire to
see for themselves how our guests enjoy themselves these nights."
"Well?" rejoined Editha lightly. "What of that?"
"As you know, we did not play for nigh on twelve months now.... Endicott
thought it too dangerous ... and to-night ..."
She checked herself abruptly, for Editha had turned an angry face and
flashing eyes upon her.
"To-night?" said Mistress de Chavasse curtly, but peremptorily, "what of
to-night? ... I sent you orders from Thanet that I wished the house
opened to-night ... Lord Walterton, Sir James Overbury and as many of
our usual friends as were in the town, apprised that play would be in
full progress.... Meseems," she added, casting a searching look all
round the room, "that we have singularly few players."
"It was difficult," retorted the other with somewhat more diffidence in
her tone than had characterized her speech before now. "Young Squire
Delamere committed suicide ... you remember him? ... and Lord Cooke
killed Sir Humphrey Clinton in a duel after that fracas we had here,
when the police-patrol well-nigh seized upon your person.... Squire
Delamere's suicide and Sir Humphrey's death caused much unpleasant talk.
And old Mistress Delamere, the mother, hath I fear me, still a watchful
eye on us. She means to do us lasting mischief.... It had been wiser to
tarry yet awhile.... Twelve months is not sufficient for throwing the
dust of ages over us and our doings.... That is my husband's opinion and
also mine.... A scandal such as you propose to have to-night, will bring
the Protector's spies about our ears ... his police too, mayhap ... and
then Heaven help us all, mistress ... for you, in the country, cannot
conceive how rigorously are the laws enforced now against gambling,
betting, swearing or any other form of innocent amusement.... Why! two
wenches were whipped at the post by the public hangman only last week,
because forsooth they were betting on the winner amongst themselves,
whilst watching a bout of pell-mell.... And you know that John Howthill
stood in the pillory for two hours and had both his hands bored through
with a hot iron for allowing gambling inside his coffeehouse. ... And
so, mistress, you will perceive that I am speaking but in your own
Editha, who had listened to the long tirade with marked impatience, here
interrupted the voluble lady, with harsh command.
"I crave your pardon, mistress," she said peremptorily. "My interests
pre-eminently consist in being obeyed by those whom I pay for doing my
behests. Now you and your worthy husband live here rent free and derive
a benefit of ten pounds every time our guests assemble.... Well! in
return for that, I make use of you and your names, in case of any
unpleasantness with the vigilance patrol ... or in case of a scandal
which might reach my Lord Protector's ears.... Up to this time your
positions here have been a sinecure.... I even bore the brunt of the
last fracas whilst you remained practically scathless.... But to-night,
I own it, there may be some risks ... but of a truth you have been well
paid to take them."
"But if we refuse to take the risks," retorted the other.
"If you refuse, mistress," said Editha with a careless shrug of the
shoulders, "you and your worthy lord go back to the gutter where I
picked you up ... and within three months of that time, I should
doubtless have the satisfaction of seeing you both at the whipping-post,
for of a truth you would be driven to stealing or some other equally
unavowable means of livelihood."
"We could send _you_ there," said Mistress Endicott, striving to
suppress her own rising fury, "if we but said the word."
"Nay! you would not be believed, mistress ... but even so, I do not
perceive how my social ruin would benefit you."
"Since we are doomed anyhow ... after this night's work," said the woman
"Nay! but why should you take so gloomy a view of the situation? ... My
Lord Protector hath forgot our existence by now, believe me ... and of a
surety his patrol hath not yet knocked at our door.... And methinks,
mistress," added Editha significantly, "'tis not in _your_ interest to
quarrel with me."
"I have no wish to quarrel with you," quoth Mistress Endicott, who
apparently had come to the end of her resistance, and no doubt had known
all along that her fortunes were too much bound up with those of
Mistress de Chavasse to allow of a rupture between them.
"Then everything is vastly satisfactory," said Editha with forced
gayety. "I rely on you, mistress, and on Endicott's undoubted talents to
bring this last matter to a successful issue to-night. ... Remember,
mistress ... I rely on you."
Perhaps Mistress Endicott would have liked to prolong the argument. As a
matter of fact, neither she nor her husband counted the risks of a
midnight fracas of great moment to themselves: they had so very little
to lose. A precarious existence based on illicit deeds of all sorts had
rendered them hard and reckless.
All they wished was to be well paid for the risks they ran; neither of
them was wholly unacquainted with the pillory, and it held no great
terrors for them. There were so many unavowable pleasures these days,
which required a human cloak to cover the identity of the real
transgressor, that people like Master and Mistress Endicott prospered
The case of Mistress de Chavasse's London house wherein the ex-actress
had some few years ago established a gaming club, together with its
various emoluments attached thereunto, suited the Endicotts'
requirements to perfection: but the woman desired an increase of payment
for the special risk she would run to-night, and was sorely vexed that
she could not succeed in intimidating Editha with threats of
vigilance-patrol and whipping-posts.
Mistress de Chavasse knew full well that the Endicotts did not intend to
quarrel with her, and having threatened rupture unless her commands were
obeyed, she had no wish to argue the matter further with her henchwoman.
At that moment, too, there came the sound of significant and methodical
rappings at the door. Editha, who had persistently throughout her
discussion with Mistress Endicott, kept one ear open for that sound,
heard it even through the buzz of talk. She made a scarcely visible
gesture of the hand, bidding the other woman to follow her: that gesture
was quickly followed by a look of command.
Mistress Endicott presumably had finally made up her mind to obey. She
shrugged her fat shoulders and followed Mistress de Chavasse as far as
the center of the room.
"Remember that you are the hostess now," murmured Editha to her, as she
herself went to the door and opened it.
With an affected cry of surprise and pleasure she welcomed Sir Marmaduke
de Chavasse, who was standing on the threshold, prepared to enter and
escorted by his young secretary, Master Richard Lambert.
RUS IN URBE
One or two of the men looked up as de Chavasse entered, but no one took
much notice of him.
Most of those present remembered him from the past few years when still
with pockets well filled through having forestalled Lady Sue's
maintenance money, he was an habitual frequenter of some of the smart
secret clubs in town; but here, just the same as elsewhere, Sir
Marmaduke was not a popular man, and many there were who had unpleasant
recollections of his surly temper and uncouth ways, whenever fickle
Fortune happened not to favor him.
Even now, he looked sullen and disagreeable as, having exchanged a
significant glance with his sister-in-law, he gave a comprehensive nod
to the assembled guests, which had nothing in it either of cordiality or
of good-will. He touched Editha's finger tips with his lips, and then
advanced into the room.
Here he was met by Mistress Endicott, who had effectually thrown off the
last vestige of annoyance and of rebellion, for she greeted the newcomer
with marked good-humor and an encouraging smile.
"It is indeed a pleasure to see that Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse hath not
forgot old friends," she said pleasantly.
"It was passing kind, gracious mistress," he responded, forcing himself
to speak naturally and in agreeable tones, "to remember an insignificant
country bumpkin like myself ... and you see I have presumed on your
lavish hospitality and brought my young friend, Master Richard Lambert,
to whom you extended so gracious an invitation."
He turned to Lambert, who a little dazed to find himself in such
brilliant company, had somewhat timidly kept close to the heels of his
employer. He thought Mistress Endicott vulgar and overdressed the moment
he felt bold enough to raise his eyes to hers. But he chided himself
immediately for thus daring to criticize his betters.
His horizon so far had been very limited; only quite vaguely had he
heard of town and Court life. The little cottage where dwelt the old
Quakeress who had brought him and his brother up, and the tumble-down,
dilapidated house of Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse were the only habitations
in which he was intimate. The neighboring Kentish Squires, Sir Timothy
Harrison, Squire Pyncheon and Sir John Boatfield, were the only
presentations of "gentlemen" he had ever seen.
Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had somewhat curtly given him orders the day
before, that he was to accompany him to London, whither he himself had
to go to consult his lawyer. Lambert had naturally obeyed, without
murmur, but with vague trepidations at thought of this, his first
journey into the great town.
Sir Marmaduke had been very kind, had given him a new suit of grogram,
lined with flowered silk, which Lambert thought the richest garment he
had ever seen. He was very loyal in his thoughts to his employer,
bearing with the latter's violence and pandering to his fits of
ill-humor for the sake of the home which Sir Marmaduke had provided for
To Lambert's mind, Sir Marmaduke's kindness to him was wholly
gratuitous. His own position as secretary being but a sinecure, the
young man readily attributed de Chavasse's interest in himself to innate
goodness of heart, and desire to help the poor orphan lad.
This estimate of his employer's character Richard Lambert had not felt
any cause to modify. He continued to serve him faithfully, to look after
his interests in and around Acol Court to the best of his ability; above
all he continued to be whole-heartedly grateful. He was so absolutely
conscious of the impassable social barrier which existed between himself
and the rich daughter of the great Earl of Dover, that he never for a
moment resented Sir Marmaduke's sneers when they were directed against
his obvious, growing love for Sue.
Remember that he had no cause to suspect Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse of
any nefarious projects or of any evil intentions with regard to himself,
when he told him that together they would go this night to the house of
an old friend, Mrs. Endicott, where they would derive much pleasure and
They had spent the previous night at the Swan Inn in Fleet Street and
the day in visiting the beautiful sights of London, which caused the
young lad from the country to open wide eyes in astonishment and
Sir Marmaduke had been peculiarly gracious, even taking Richard with him
to the Frenchman's house in Queen's Head Alley, where that curious
beverage called coffee was dispensed and where several clever people met
and discussed politics in a manner which was vastly interesting to the
Then when the evening began to draw in, and Lambert thought it high time
to go to bed, for 'twas a pity to burn expensive candles longer than was
necessary, Sir Marmaduke had astonished his secretary by telling him
that he must now clean and tidy himself for they would proceed to the
house of a great lady named Mistress Endicott--a friend of the ex-Queen
Henrietta Maria and a lady of peculiar virtues and saintliness, who
would give them vast and pleasing entertainment.
Lambert was only too ready to obey. Enjoyment came naturally to him
beneath his Quaker bringing-up: his youth, good-health and pure,
naturally noble intellect, all craved companionship, with its attendant
pleasures and joys. He himself could not afterwards have said exactly
how he had pictured in his mind the saintly lady--friend of the unhappy
Queen--whom he was to meet this night.
Certainly Mistress Endicott, with her red face surmounted by masses of
curls that were obviously false, since they did not match the rest of
her hair, was not the ideal paragon of all the virtues, and when he was
first made to greet her, a strange, unreasoning instinct seemed to draw
him away from her, to warn him to fly from this noisy company, from the
sight of those many faces, all unnaturally flushed, and from the sounds
of those strange oaths which greeted his ears from every side.
A great wave of thankfulness came over him that, his gracious
lady--innocent, tender, beautiful Lady Sue, had not come to London with
her guardian. Whilst he gazed on the marvels of Westminster Hall and of
old Saint Paul's he had longed that she should be near him, so that he
might watch the brilliance of her eyes, and the glow of pleasure which,
of a surety would have mantled in her cheeks when she was shown the
beauties of the great city.
But now he was glad--very glad, that Sir Marmaduke had so sternly
ordained that she should remain these few days alone at Acol in charge
of Mistress Charity and of Master Busy. At the time he had chafed
bitterly at his own enforced silence: he would have given all he
possessed in the world for the right to warn Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse
that a wolf was prowling in the fold under cover of the night. He had
seen Lady Sue's eyes brighten at the dictum that she was to remain
behind--they told him in eloquent language the joy she felt to be free
for two days that she might meet her prince undisturbed.
But all these thoughts and fears had fled the moment Lambert found
himself in the midst of these people, whom he innocently believed to be
great ladies and noble gentlemen, friends of his employer Sir Marmaduke
de Chavasse. It seemed to him at once as if there was something here--in
this room--which he would not wish Lady Sue to see.
He was clumsy and _gauche_ in his movements as he took the hand which
Mistress Endicott extended to him, but he tried to imitate the salute
which he had seen his employer give on the flat--not very
clean--finger-tips of the lady.
She was exceedingly gracious to him, saying with great kindliness and a
"Ah! you come from the country, master? ... So delightful, of a
truth.... Milk for breakfast, eh? ... You get up at dawn and go to bed
at sunset? ... I know country life well--though alas! duty now keeps me
in town.... But 'tis small wonder that you look so young!"
He tried to talk to her of the country, for here she had touched on a
topic which was dear to him. He knew all about the birds and beasts, the
forests and the meadows, and being unused to the art of hypocritical
interest, he took for real sympathy the lady's vapid exclamations of
enthusiasm, with which she broke in now and again upon his flow of
Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, who was watching the young man with febrile
keenness, had the satisfaction to note that very soon Richard began to
throw off his bucolic timidity, his latent yet distinctly perceptible
disapproval of the company into which he had been brought. He sought out
his sister-in-law and drew her attention to Lambert in close
conversation with Mrs. Endicott.
"Is everything arranged?" he asked under his breath.
"Everything," she replied.
"No trouble with our henchmen?"
"A little ... but they are submissive now."
"What is the arrangement?"
"Persuade young Lambert to take a hand at primero ... Endicott will do
"Who is in the know?" he queried, after a slight pause, during which he
watched his unsuspecting victim with a deep frown of impatience and of
"Only the Endicotts," she explained. "But do you think that he will
play?" she added, casting an anxious look on her brother-in-law's face.
He nodded affirmatively.
"Yes!" he said curtly. "I can arrange that, as soon as you are ready."
She turned from him and walked to the center table. She watched the game
for a while, noting that young Segrave was still the winner, and that
Lord Walterton was very flushed and excited.
Then she caught Endicott's eye, and immediately lowered her lashes
twice in succession.
"Ventre-saint-gris!" swore Endicott with an unmistakable British accent
in the French expletive, "but I'll play no more.... The bank is broken
... and I have lost too much money. Mr. Segrave there has nearly cleaned
me out and still I cannot break his luck."
He rose abruptly from his chair, even as Mistress de Chavasse quietly
walked away from the table.
But Lord Walterton placed a detaining, though very trembling hand, on
the cinnamon-colored sleeve.
"Nay! parbleu! ye cannot go like this ... good Master Endicott ..." he
said, speaking very thickly, "I want another round or two ... 'pon my
honor I do ... I haven't lost nearly all I meant to lose."
"Ye cannot stop play so abruptly, master," said Segrave, whose eyes
shone with an unnatural glitter, and whose cheeks were covered with a
hectic flush, "ye cannot leave us all in the lurch."
"Nay, I doubt not, my young friend," quoth Endicott gruffly, "that you
would wish to play all night.... You have won all my money and Lord
"And most of mine," added Sir Michael Isherwood ruefully.
"Why should not Master Segrave take the bank," here came in shrill
accents from Mistress Endicott, who throughout her conversation with
Lambert had kept a constant eye on what went on around her husband's
table. "He seems the only moneyed man amongst you all," she added with a
laugh, which grated most unpleasantly on Richard's ear.
"I will gladly take the bank," said Segrave eagerly.
"Pardi! I care not who hath the bank," quoth Lord Walterton, with the
slow emphasis of the inebriated. "My system takes time to work.... And I
stand to lose a good deal unless ... hic ... unless I win!"
"You are not where you were, when you began," commented Sir Michael
"By Gad, no! ... hic ... but 'tis no matter.... Give me time!"
"Methought I saw Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse just now," said Endicott,
looking about him. "Ah! and here comes our worthy baronet," he added
cheerily as Sir Marmaduke's closely cropped head--very noticeable in the
crowd of periwigs--emerged from amidst the group that clustered round
Mistress Endicott. "A hand at primero, sir?"
"I thank you, no!" replied Sir Marmaduke, striving to master his
habitual ill-humor and to speak pleasantly. "My luck hath long since
deserted me, if it e'er visited me at all. A fact of which I grow daily
"But ventre-saint-gris!" ejaculated Lord Walterton, who showed an
inclination to become quarrelsome in his cups, "we must have someone to
take Endicott's place, I cannot work my system hic ... if so few
"Perhaps your young friend, Sir Marmaduke ..." suggested Mistress
Endicott, waving an embroidered handkerchief in the direction of Richard
"No doubt! no doubt!" rejoined Sir Marmaduke, turning with kindly
graciousness to his secretary. "Master Lambert, these gentlemen are
requiring another hand for their game ... I pray you join in with
"I would do so with pleasure, sir," replied Lambert, still unsuspecting,
"but I fear me I am a complete novice at cards.... What is the game?"
He was vaguely distrustful of cards, for he had oft heard this pastime
condemned as ungodly by those with whom he had held converse in his
early youth, nevertheless it did not occur to him that there might be
anything wrong in a game which was countenanced by Sir Marmaduke de
Chavasse, whom he knew to be an avowed Puritan, and by the saintly lady
who had been the friend of ex-Queen Henrietta Maria.
"'Tis a simple round game," said Sir Marmaduke lightly, "you would soon
"And ..." said Lambert diffidently questioning, and eying the gold and
silver which lay in profusion on the table, "there is no money at stake
... of course? ..."
"Oh! only a little," rejoined Mistress Endicott, "a paltry trifle ...
to add zest to the enjoyment of the game."
"However little it may be, Sir Marmaduke," said Lambert firmly, speaking
directly to his employer, "I humbly pray you to excuse me before these
The three players at the table, as well as the two Endicotts, had
listened to this colloquy with varying feelings. Segrave was burning
with impatience, Lord Walterton was getting more and more fractious,
whilst Sir Michael Isherwood viewed the young secretary with marked
hauteur. At the last words spoken by Lambert there came from all these
gentlemen sundry ejaculations, expressive of contempt or annoyance,
which caused an ugly frown to appear between de Chavasse's eyes, and a
deep blush to rise in the young man's pale cheek.
"What do you mean?" queried Sir Marmaduke harshly.
"There are other gentlemen here," said Lambert, speaking with more
firmness and decision now that he encountered inimical glances and felt
as if somehow he was on his trial before all these people, "and I am not
rich enough to afford the luxury of gambling."
"Nay! if that is your difficulty," rejoined Sir Marmaduke, "I pray you,
good master, to command my purse ... you are under my wing to-night ...
and I will gladly bear the burden of your losses."
"I thank you, Sir Marmaduke," said the young man, with quiet dignity,"
and I entreat you once again to excuse me.... I have never staked at
cards, either mine own money or that of others. I would prefer not to
"Meseems ... hic ... de Chavasse, that this ... this young friend of
yours is a hic ... damned Puritan ..." came in ever thickening accents
from Lord Walterton.
"I hope, Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse," here interposed Endicott with much
pompous dignity, "that your ... hem ... your young friend doth not
desire to bring insinuations doubts, mayhap, against the honor of my
house ... or of my friends!"
"Nay! nay! good Endicott," said Sir Marmaduke, speaking in tones that
were so conciliatory, so unlike his own quarrelsome temper, quick at
taking offense, that Richard Lambert could not help wondering what was
causing this change, "Master Lambert hath no such intention--'pon my
honor ... He is young ... and ... and he misunderstands.... You see, my
good Lambert," he added, once more turning to the young man, and still
speaking with unwonted kindness and patience, "you are covering yourself
with ridicule and placing me--who am your protector to-night--in a very
awkward position. Had I known you were such a gaby I should have left
you to go to bed alone."
"Nay! Sir Marmaduke," here came in decisive accents from portly
Mistress Endicott, "methinks 'tis you who misunderstand Master Lambert.
He is of a surety an honorable gentleman, and hath no desire to insult
me, who have ne'er done him wrong, nor yet my friends by refusing a
friendly game of cards in my house!"
She spoke very pointedly, causing her speech to seem like a menace, even
though the words betokened gentleness and friendship.
Lambert's scruples and his desire to please struggled hopelessly in his
mind. Mistress Endicott's eye held him silent even while it urged him to
speak. What could he say? Sir Marmaduke, toward whom he felt gratitude
and respect, surely would not urge what he thought would be wrong for
And if a chaste and pure woman did not disapprove of a game of primero
among friends, what right had he to set up his own standard of right or
wrong against hers? What right had he to condemn what she approved? To
offend his generous employer, and to bring opprobrium and ridicule on
himself which would of necessity redound against Sir Marmaduke also?
Vague instinct still entered a feeble protest, but reason and common
sense and a certain undetermined feeling of what was due to himself
socially--poor country bumpkin!--fought a hard battle too.
"I am right, am I not, good Master Lambert?" came in dulcet tones from
the virtuous hostess, "that you would not really refuse a quiet game of
cards with my friends, at my entreaty ... in my house?"
And Lambert, with a self-deprecatory sigh, and a shrug of the shoulders,
"I have no option, gracious mistress!"
Richard Lambert fortunately for his own peace of mind and the retention
of his dignity, was able to wave aside the hand full of gold and silver
coins which Sir Marmaduke extended towards him.
"I thank you, sir," he said calmly; "I am able to bear the cost of mine
own unavoidable weakness. I have money of mine own."
From out his doublet he took a tiny leather wallet containing a few gold
coins, his worldly all bequeathed to him the same as to his brother--so
the old friend who had brought the lads up had oft explained--by his
grandmother. The little satchel never left his person from the moment
that the old Quakeress had placed it in his hands. There were but five
guineas in all, to which he had added from time to time the few
shillings which Sir Marmaduke paid him as salary.
He chided his own weakness inwardly, when he felt the hot tears surging
to his eyes at thought of the unworthy use to which his little hoard was
about to be put.
But he walked to the table with a bold step; there was nothing now of
the country lout about him; on the contrary, he moved with remarkable
dignity, and bore himself so well that many a pair of feminine eyes
watched him kindly, as he took his seat at the baize-covered table.
"Will one of you gentlemen teach me the game?" he asked simply.
It was remarkable that no one sneered at him again, and in these days of
arrogance peculiar to the upper classes this was all the more
noticeable, as these secret clubs were thought to be very exclusive, the
resort pre-eminently of gentlemen and noblemen who were anti-Puritan,
anti-Republican, and very jealous of their ranks and privileges.
Yet when after those few unpleasant moments of hesitation Lambert boldly
accepted the situation and with much simple dignity took his seat at the
table, everyone immediately accepted him as an equal, nor did anyone
question his right to sit there on terms of equality with Lord Walterton
or Sir Michael Isherwood.
His own state of mind was very remarkable at the moment.
Of course he disapproved of what he did: he would not have been the
Puritanically trained, country-bred lad that he was, if he had accepted
with an easy conscience the idea of tossing about money from hand to
hand, money that he could in no sense afford to lose, or money that no
one was making any honest effort to win.
He knew--somewhat vaguely perhaps, yet with some degree of
certainty--that gambling was an illicit pastime, and that therefore
he--by sitting at this table with these gentlemen, was deliberately
contravening the laws of his country.
Against all that, it is necessary to note that Richard Lambert took two
matters very much in earnest: first, his position as a paid dependent;
second, his gratitude to Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse.
And both these all-pervading facts combined to force him against his
will into this anomalous position of gentlemanly gambler, which suited
neither his temperament nor his principles.
With it all Lambert's was one of those dispositions, often peculiar to
those who have led an isolated and introspective life, which never do
anything half-heartedly; and just as he took his somewhat empty
secretarial duties seriously, so did he look on this self-imposed task,
against which his better judgment rebelled, with earnestness and
He listened attentively to the preliminary explanations given him sotto
voce by Endicott. Segrave in the meanwhile had taken the latter's place
at the head of the table. He had put all his money in front of him, some
two hundred and sixty pounds all told, for his winnings during the last
half hour had not been as steady as heretofore, and he had not yet
succeeded altogether in making up that sum of money for which he yearned
with all the intensity of a disturbed conscience, eager to redeem one
miserable fault by another hardly more avowable.
He shuffled the cards and dealt just as Endicott had done.
"Now will you look at your card, young sir," said Endicott, who stood
behind Lambert's chair, whispering directions in his ear. "A splendid
card, begad! and one on which you must stake freely.... Nay! nay! that
is not enough," he added, hurriedly restraining the young man's hand,
who had timidly pushed a few silver coins forward. "'Tis thus you must
And before Lambert had time to protest the rotund man in the cinnamon
doublet and the wide lace cuffs, had emptied the contents of the little
leather wallet upon the table.
Five golden guineas rested on Lambert's card. Segrave turned up his own
"I pay queen and upwards!"
"A two, by gad!" said Lord Walterton, too confused in his feeble head
now to display any real fury. "Did anyone ever see such accursed luck?"
"And look at this nine," quoth Sir Michael, who had become very sullen;
"not a card to-night!"
"I have a king," said Lambert quietly.
"And as I had the pleasure to remark before, my dear young friend," said
Endicott blandly, "'tis a mighty good card to hold.... And see," he
continued, as Segrave without comment added five more golden guineas to
Lambert's little hoard, "see how wise it was to stake a goodly sum ...
That is the whole art of the game of primero ... to know just what to
stake on each card in accordance with its value and the law of
averages.... But you will learn in time, young man you will learn...."
"The game doth not appear to be vastly complicated," assented Lambert
"I have played primero on a system for years ..." quoth Lord Walterton
sententiously, "but to-night ... hic ... by Gad! ... I cannot make the
system work right ... hic!"
But already Segrave was dealing again. Lambert staked more coolly now.
In his mind he had already set aside the original five guineas which
came from his grandmother. With strange ease and through no merit of his
own, yet perfectly straightforwardly and honestly, he had become the
owner of another five; these he felt more justified in risking on the
hazard of the game.
But the goddess of Fortune smiling benignly on this country-bred lad,
had in a wayward mood apparently taken him under her special protection.
He staked and won again, and then again pleased at his success ... in
spite of himself feeling the subtle poison of excitement creeping into
his veins ... yet remaining perfectly calm outwardly the while.
Segrave, on the other hand, was losing in exact proportion to the
newcomer's winnings: already his pile of gold had perceptibly
diminished, whilst the hectic flush on his cheeks became more and more
accentuated, the glitter in his eyes more unnatural and feverish, his
hands as they shuffled and dealt the cards more trembling and febrile.
"'Pon my honor," quoth Sir Marmaduke, throwing a careless glance at the
table, "meseems you are in luck, my good Lambert. Doubtless, you are not
sorry now that you allowed yourself to be persuaded."
"'Tis not unpleasant to win," rejoined Lambert lightly, "but believe me,
sir, the game itself gives me no pleasure."
"I pay knave and upwards," declared Segrave in a dry and hollow voice,
and with burning eyes fixed upon his new and formidable opponent.
"My last sovereign, par Dieu!" swore Lord Walterton, throwing the money
across to Segrave with an unsteady hand.
"And one of my last," said Sir Michael, as he followed suit.
"And what is your stake, Master Lambert?" queried Segrave.
"Twenty pounds I see," replied the young man, as with a careless hand he
counted over the gold which lay pell-mell on his card; "I staked on the
king without counting."
Segrave in his turn pushed some gold towards him. The pile in front of
him was not half the size it had been before this stranger from the
country had sat down to play. He tried to remain master of himself, not
to show before these egotistical, careless cavaliers all the agony of
mind which he now endured and which had turned to positive physical
The ghost of stolen money, of exposure, of pillory and punishment which
had so perceptibly paled as he saw the chance of replacing by his
unexpected winnings that which he had purloined, once more rose to
confront him. Again he saw before him the irascible employer, pointing
with relentless finger at the deficiency in the accounts, again he saw
his weeping mother, his stern father,--the disgrace, the irretrievable
"You are not leaving off playing, Sir Michael?" he asked anxiously, as
the latter having handed him over a golden guinea, rose from the table
and without glancing at his late partners in the game, turned his back
on them all.
"Par Dieu!" he retorted, speaking roughly, and none too civilly over his
shoulder, "my pockets are empty.... Like Master Lambert here," he added
with an unmistakable sneer, "I find no pleasure in _this_ sort of game!"
"What do you mean?" queried Segrave hotly.
"Oh, nothing," rejoined the other dryly, "you need not heed my remark.
Are you not losing, too?"
"What does he mean?" said Lambert with a puzzled frown, instinctively
turning to his employer.
"Naught! naught! my good Lambert," replied Sir Marmaduke, dropping his
voice to a whisper. "Sir Michael Isherwood hath lost more than he can
afford and is somewhat choleric of temper, that is all."
"And in a little quiet game, my good young friend," added Endicott,
also in a whisper, "'tis wisest to take no heed of a loser's vapors."
"I pay ace only!" quoth Segrave triumphantly, who in the meanwhile had
continued the game.
Lord Walterton swore a loud and prolonged oath. He had staked five
guineas on a king and had lost.
"Ventre-saint-gris, and likewise par le sang-bleu!" he said, "the first
time I have had a king! Segrave, ye must leave me these few little
yellow toys, else I cannot pay for my lodgings to-night.... I'll give
you a bill ... but I've had enough of this, by Gad!"
And somewhat sobered, though still unsteady, he rose from the table.
"Surely, my lord, you are not leaving off, too?" asked Segrave.
"Nay! ... how can I continue?" He turned his breeches pockets
ostentatiously inside out. "Behold, friend, these two beautiful and
innocent little dears!"
"You can give me more bills ..." urged Segrave, "and you lose ... you
may not lose after this ... 'tis lucky to play on credit ... and ... and
your bills are always met, my lord ..."
He spoke with feverish volubility, though his throat was parched and
every word he uttered caused him pain. But he was determined that the
game should proceed.
He had won a little of his own back again the last few rounds.
Certainly his luck would turn once more. His luck _must_ turn once more,
or else ...
"Nay! nay! I've had enough," said Lord Walterton, nodding a heavy head
up and down, "there are too many of my bills about as it is.... I've had
"Methinks, of a truth," said Lambert decisively, "that the game has
indeed lasted long enough.... And if some other gentleman would but take
my place ..."
He made a movement as if to rise from the table, but was checked by a
harsh laugh and a peremptory word from Segrave.
"Impossible," said the latter, "you, Master Lambert, cannot leave off in
any case.... My lord ... another hand ..." he urged again.
"Nay! nay! my dear Segrave," replied Lord Walterton, shaking himself
like a sleepy dog, "the game hath ceased to have any pleasure for me, as
our young friend here hath remarked.... I wish you good luck ... and
Whereupon he turned on his heel and straddled away to another corner of
the room, away from the temptation of that green-covered table.
"We two then, Master Lambert," said Segrave with ever-growing
excitement, "what say you? Double or quits?"
And he pointed, with that same febrile movement of his, to the heap of
gold standing on the table beside Lambert.
"As you please," replied the latter quietly, as he pushed the entire
Segrave dealt, then turned up his card.
"Ten!" he said curtly.
"Mine is a knave," rejoined Lambert.
"How do we stand?" queried the other, as with a rapid gesture he passed
a trembling hand over his burning forehead.
"Methinks you owe me a hundred pounds," replied Richard, who seemed
strangely calm in the very midst of this inexplicable and volcanic
turmoil which he felt was seething all round him. He had won a hundred
pounds--a fortune in those days for a country lad like himself; but for
the moment the thought of what that hundred pounds would mean to him and
to his brother Adam, was lost in the whirl of excitement which had risen
to his head like wine.
He had steadily refused the glasses of muscadel or sack which Mistress
Endicott had insinuatingly and persistently been offering him, ever
since he began to play; yet he felt intoxicated, with strange currents
of fire which seemed to run through his veins.
The subtle poison had done its work. Any remorse which he may have felt
at first, for thus acting against his own will and better judgment, and
for yielding like a weakling to persuasion, which had no moral rectitude
for basis, was momentarily smothered by the almost childish delight of
winning, of seeing the pile of gold growing in front of him. He had
never handled money before; it was like a fascinating yet insidious toy
which he could not help but finger.
"Are you not playing rather high, gentlemen?" came in dulcet tones from
Mistress Endicott; "I do not allow high play in my house. Master
Lambert, I would fain ask you to cease."
"I am more than ready, madam," said Richard with alacrity.
"Nay! but I am not ready," interposed Segrave vehemently. "Nay! nay!" he
repeated with feverish insistence, "Master Lambert cannot cease playing
now. He is bound in honor to give me a chance for revenge.... Double or
quits, Master Lambert! ... Double or quits?"
"As you please," quoth Lambert imperturbably.
"Ye cannot cut to each other," here interposed Endicott didactically.
"The rules of primero moreover demand that if there are but two players,
a third and disinterested party shall deal the cards."
"Then will you cut and deal, Master Endicott," said Segrave impatiently;
"I care not so long as I can break Master Lambert's luck and redeem mine
own.... Double or quits, Master Lambert.... Double or quits.... I shall
either owe you two hundred pounds or not one penny.... In which case we
can make a fresh start...."
Lambert eyed him with curiosity, sympathetically too, for the young man
was in a state of terrible mental agitation, whilst he himself felt
cooler than before.
Endicott dealt each of the two opponents a card face downwards, but even
as he did so, the one which he had dealt to Lambert fluttered to the
He stooped and picked it up.
Segrave's eyes at the moment were fixed on his own card, Lambert's on
the face of his opponent. No one else in the room was paying any
attention to the play of the two young men, for everyone was busy with
his own affairs. Play was general, the hour late. The wines had been
heady, and all tempers were at fever pitch.
No one, therefore, was watching Endicott's movements at the moment when
he ostensibly stooped to pick up the fallen card.
"It is not faced," he said, "what shall we do?"
"Give it to Master Lambert forsooth," quoth Mistress Endicott, "'tis
unlucky to re-deal ... providing," she added artfully, "that Master
Segrave hath no objection."
"Nay! nay!" said the latter. "Begad! why should we stop the game for a
Then as Lambert took the card from Endicott and casually glanced at it,
"King!" retorted Lambert, with the same perfect calm. "King of diamonds
... that card has been persistently faithful to me to-night."
"The devil himself hath been faithful to you, Master Lambert ..." said
Segrave tonelessly, "you have the hell's own luck.... What do I pay you
"It was double or quits, Master Segrave," rejoined Lambert, "which
brings it up to two hundred pounds.... You will do me the justice to own
that I did not seek this game."
In his heart he had already resolved not to make use of his own
winnings. Somehow as in a flash of intuition he perceived the whole
tragedy of dishonor and of ruin which seemed to be writ on his
opponent's face. He understood that what he had regarded as a
toy--welcome no doubt, but treacherous for all that--was a matter of
life or death--nay! more mayhap to that pallid youth, with the hectic
flush, the unnaturally bright eyes and trembling hands.
There was silence for a while round the green-topped table, whilst
thoughts, feelings, presentiments of very varied kinds congregated
there. With Endicott and his wife, and also with Sir Marmaduke, it was
acute tension, the awful nerve strain of anticipation. The seconds for
them seemed an eternity, the obsession of waiting was like lead on their
During that moment of acute suspense Richard Lambert was quietly
co-ordinating his thoughts.
With that one mental flash-light which had shown up to him the hitherto
unsuspected tragedy, the latent excitement in him had vanished. He saw
his own weakness in its true light, despised himself for having yielded,
and looked upon the heap of gold before him as so much ill-gotten
wealth, which it would be a delight to restore to the hand from whence
He heartily pitied the young man before him, and was forming vague
projects of how best to make him understand in private and without
humiliation that the money which he had lost would be returned to him in
full. Strangely enough he was still holding in his hand that king of
diamonds which Endicott had dealt to him.
Segrave, too, had been silent, of course. In his mind there was neither
suspense nor calm. It was utter, dull and blank despair which assailed
him, the ruin of his fondest hopes, an awful abyss of disgrace, of
punishment, of death at best, which seemed to yawn before him from the
other side of the baize-covered table.
Instinct--that ever-present instinct of self-control peculiar to the
gently-bred race of mankind--caused him to make frantic efforts to keep
himself and his nerves in check. He would--even at this moment of
complete ruin--have given the last shreds of his worldly possessions to
be able to steady the febrile movements of his hand.
The pack of cards was on the table, just as Endicott had put it down,
after dealing, with the exception of the queen of hearts in front of
Segrave and the lucky king of diamonds on which Lambert was still
He was undoubtedly moved by the desire to hide the trembling of his
hands and the gathering tears in his eyes when he began idly to scatter
the pack upon the table, spreading out the cards, fingering them one by
one, setting his teeth the while lest that latent cry of misery should
force its way across his lips.
Suddenly he paused in this idle fingering of the cards. His eyes which
already were burning with hot tears, seemed to take on an almost savage
glitter. A hoarse cry escaped his parched lips.
"In the name of Heaven, Master Segrave, what ails you?" cried Endicott
with well-feigned concern.
Segrave's hand wandered mechanically to his own neck; he tugged at the
fastening of his lace collar, as if, in truth, he were choking.
"The king.... The king of diamonds," he murmured in a hollow voice. "Two
... two kings of diamonds...."
He laughed, a long, harsh laugh, the laugh of a maniac, or of a man
possessed, whilst one long thin finger pointed tremblingly to the card
still held by Richard Lambert, and then to its counterpart in the midst
of the scattered pack.
That laugh seemed to echo all round the room. Dames and cavaliers,
players and idlers, looked up to see whence that weird sound had come.
Instinctively the crowd drew nigh, dice and cards were pushed aside.
Some strange drama was being enacted between two young men, more
interesting even than the caprices of Fortune.
But already Endicott and also Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had followed the
beckonings of Segrave's feverish hand.
There could be no mistake in what they saw nor yet in the ominous
consequences which it foretold. There was a king of diamonds in the
scattered pack of cards upon the table, and yet the card which Lambert
held, in consequence of which he had just won two hundred pounds, was
also the king of diamonds.
"Two kings of diamonds ... by all that's damnable!" quoth Lord
Walterton, who had been the first to draw nigh.
"But in Heaven's name, what does it all mean?" exclaimed Lambert, gazing
at the two cards, hearing the comments round him, yet utterly unable to
Segrave jumped to his feet.
"It means, young man," he ejaculated in a wild state of frenzy, maddened
by his losses, his former crime, his present ruin, "it means that you
are a damned thief."
And with frantic, excited gesture he gathered up the cards and threw
them violently into Richard Lambert's face.
A curious sound went round the room--a gasp, hardly a cry--and all those
present held their breath, silent, appalled at the terrible tragedy
expressed by these two young men standing face to face on the brink of a
deathly and almost blasphemous conflict.
Mistress Endicott was the first to utter a cry.
"Silence! silence!" she shouted shrilly. "Master Segrave, I adjure you
to be silent.... I'll not permit you to insult my guest."
Already Lambert had made a quick movement to throw himself on Segrave.
The elemental instinct of self-defense, of avenging a terrible insult by
physical violence, rose within him, whispering of strength and power, of
the freedom, muscle-giving life of the country as against the
enervating, weakening influence of the town.
He knew that in a hand-to-hand struggle with the feverish, emaciated
townsman, he, the country-bred lad, the haunter of woods and cliffs, the
dweller of the Thanet smithy, would be more than a match for his
opponent. But even as his whole body stiffened for a spring, his muscles
tightened and his fists clenched, a dozen restraining hands held him
back from his purpose, whilst Mistress Endicott's shrill tones seemed to
bring him back to the realities of his own peril.
"Mistress Endicott," he said, turning a proud, yet imploring look to the
lady whose virtues had been so loudly proclaimed in his ears, "Madam, I
appeal to you ... I implore you to listen ... a frightful insult which
you have witnessed ... an awful accusation on which I scarce can trust
myself to dwell has been hurled at me.... I entreat you to allow me to
challenge these two gentlemen to explain."
And he pointed both to Segrave and to Endicott, The former, after his
mad outburst of ungovernable rage, had regained a certain measure of
calm. He stood, facing Lambert, with arms folded across his chest,
whilst a smile of insulting irony curled his thin lips.
Endicott's eyes seemed to be riveted on Lambert's breast.
At mention of his own name, he suddenly darted forward, and seemed to be
plunging his hand--the hand which almost disappeared within the ample
folds of the voluminous lace cuff--into the breast pocket of the young
His movements were so quick, so sure and so unexpected that no
one--least of all Lambert--could possibly guess what was his purpose.
The next moment--less than a second later--he had again withdrawn his
hand, but now everyone could see that he held a few cards in it. These
he dropped with an exclamation of loathing and contempt upon the table,
whilst those around, instinctively drew back a step or two as if fearful
of coming in contact with something impure and terrible.
Endicott's movements, his quick gestures, well aided by the wide lace
cuffs which fell over his hand, his exclamation of contempt, had all
contributed to make it seem before the spectators as if he had found a
few winning cards secreted inside the lining of Richard Lambert's
"Nay! young sir," he said with an evil sneer, "meseems that explanations
had best come from you. Here," he added, pointing significantly at the
cards which he had just dropped out of his own hand, "here is a vastly
pleasing collection ... aces and kings ... passing serviceable in a
quiet game of primero among friends."
Lambert had been momentarily dumfounded, for undoubtedly he had not
perceived Endicott's treacherous movements, and had absolutely no idea
whence had come those awful cards which somehow or other seemed to be
convicting him of lying and cheating: so conscious was he of his own
innocence, that never for a moment did the slightest fear cross his mind
that he could not immediately make clear his own position, and proclaim
his own integrity.
"This is an infamous plot," he said calmly, but very firmly. "Sir
Marmaduke de Chavasse," he added, turning to face his employer, who
still stood motionless and silent in the background, "in the name of
Heaven I beg of you to explain to these gentlemen that you have known me
from boyhood. Will you speak?" he added insistently, conscious of a
strange tightening of his heartstrings as the man on whom he relied,
remained impassive and made no movement to come to his help. "Will you
tell them, I pray you, sir, that you know me to be a man of honor,
incapable of such villainy as they suggest? ... You know that I did not
even wish to play ..."
"That reluctance of yours, my good Lambert, seems to have been a pretty
comedy forsooth," replied Sir Marmaduke lightly, "and you played to some
purpose, meseems, when you once began.... Nay! I pray you," he added
with unmitigated harshness, "do not drag me into your quarrels.... I
cannot of a truth champion your virtue."
Lambert's cheeks became deathly pale. The first inkling of the deadly
peril of his own situation had suddenly come to him with Sir Marmaduke's
callous words. It seemed to him as if the very universe must stand still
in the face of such treachery. The man whom he loved with all the fervor
of a grateful nature, the man who knew him and whom he had wholly
trusted, was proving his most bitter, most damning enemy.
After Sir Marmaduke's speech, his own employer's repudiation, he felt
that all his chances of clearing his character before these sneering
gentlemen had suddenly vanished.
"This is cruel, and infamous," he protested, conscious innocence within
him still striving to fight a hard battle against overwhelming odds.
"Gentlemen! ... as I am a man of honor, I swear that I do not know what
all this means!"
"It means, young man, that you are an accursed cheat ... a thief ... a
liar!" shouted Segrave, whose last vestige of self-control suddenly
vanished, whilst mad frenzy once more held him in its grip. "I swear by
God that you shall pay me for this!"
He threw himself with all the strength of a raving maniac upon Lambert,
who for the moment was taken unawares, and yielded to the suddenness of
the onslaught. But it was indeed a conflict 'twixt town and country,
the simple life against nightly dissipations, the forests and cliffs of
Thanet against the enervating atmosphere of the city.
After that first onrush, Lambert, with marvelous agility and quick
knowledge of a hand-to-hand fight, had shaken himself free of his
opponent's trembling grasp. It was his turn now to have the upper hand,
and in a trice he had, with a vigorous clutch, gripped his opponent by
In a sense, his calmness had not forsaken him, his mind was as quiet, as
clear as heretofore; it was only his muscle--his bodily energy in the
face of a violent and undeserved attack--which had ceased to be under
"Man! man!" he murmured, gazing steadily into the eyes of his
antagonist, "ye shall swallow those words--or by Heaven I will kill
The tumult which ensued drowned everything save itself ... everything,
even the sound of that slow and measured tramp, tramp, tramp, which was
wafted up from the street.
The women shouted, the men swore. Some ran like frightened sheep to the
distant corners of the room, fearful lest they be embroiled in this
unpleasant fracas ... others crowded round Segrave and Lambert, trying
to pacify them, to drag the strong youth away from his weaker
opponent--almost his victim now.
Some were for forcibly separating them, others for allowing them to
fight their own battles and loud-voiced arguments, subsidiary quarrels,
mingled with the shrill cries of terror and caused a din which grew in
deafening intensity, degenerating into a wild orgy as glasses were
knocked off the tables, cards strewn about, candles sent flying and
spluttering upon the ground.
And still that measured tramp down the street, growing louder, more
distinct, a muffled "Halt!" the sound of arms, of men moving about
beneath that yawning archway and along the dark and dismal passage with
its hermetically closed front door.
MY LORD PROTECTOR'S PATROL
Alone, Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had taken no part in the confused
turmoil which raged around the personalities of Segrave and Richard
Lambert. From the moment that he had--with studied callousness--turned
his back on his erstwhile protege he had held aloof from the crowd which
had congregated around the two young men.
He saw before him the complete success of his nefarious plan, which had
originated in the active brain of Editha, but had been perfected in his
own--of heaping dire and lasting disgrace on the man who had become
troublesome and interfering of late, who was a serious danger to his
more important schemes.
After the fracas of this night Richard Lambert forsooth could never show
his face within two hundred miles of London, the ugly story of his
having cheated at cards and been publicly branded as a liar and a thief
by a party of gentlemen would of a surety penetrate even within the
fastnesses of Thanet.
So far everything was for the best, nay, it might be better still, for
Segrave enraged and maddened at his losses, might succeed in getting
Lambert imprisoned for stealing, and cheating, even at the cost of his
own condemnation to a fine for gambling.
The Endicotts had done their part well. The man especially, with his
wide cuffs and his quick movements. No one there present could have the
slightest doubt but that Lambert was guilty. Satisfied, therefore, that
all had gone according to his own wishes, Sir Marmaduke withdrew from
further conflict or argument with the unfortunate young man, whom he had
so deliberately and so hopelessly ruined.
And because he thus kept aloof, his ears were not so completely filled
with the din, nor his mind so wholly engrossed by the hand-to-hand
struggle between the two young men, that he did not perceive that other
sound, which, in spite of barred windows and drawn curtains, came up
from the street below.
At first he had only listened carelessly to the measured tramp. But the
cry of "Halt!" issuing from immediately beneath the windows caused his
cheeks to blanch and his muscles to stiffen with a sudden sense of fear.
He cast a rapid glance all around. Segrave and Lambert--both flushed and
panting--were forcibly held apart. Sir Marmaduke noted with a grim smile
that the latter was obviously the center of a hostile group, whilst
Segrave was surrounded by a knot of sympathizers who were striving
outwardly to pacify him, whilst in reality urging him on through their
unbridled vituperations directed against the other man.
The noise of arguments, of shrill voices, of admonitions and violent
abuse had in no sense abated.
Over the sea of excited faces Sir Marmaduke caught the wide-open,
terrified eyes of Editha de Chavasse.
She too, had heard.
He beckoned to her across the room with a slight gesture of the hand,
and she obeyed the silent call as quickly as she dared, working her way
round to him, without arousing the attention of the crowd.
"Do not lose your head," he whispered as soon as she was near him and
seeing the wild terror expressed in every line of her face. "Slip into
the next room ... and leave the door ajar.... Do this as quietly as may
be ... now ... at once ... then wait there until I come."
Again she obeyed him silently and swiftly, for she knew what that cry of
"Halt!" meant, uttered at the door of her house. She had heard it, even
as Sir Marmaduke had done, and after it the peremptory knocks, the loud
call, the word of command, followed by the sound of an awed and
supplicating voice, entering a feeble protest.
She knew what all that meant, and she was afraid.
As soon as Sir Marmaduke saw that she had done just as he had ordered,
he deliberately joined the noisy groups which were congregated around
Segrave and Lambert.
He pushed his way forward and anon stood face to face with the young man
on whom he had just wreaked such an irreparable wrong. Not a thought of
compunction or remorse rose in his mind as he looked down at the
handsome flushed face--quite calm and set outwardly in spite of the
terrible agony raging within heart and mind.
"Lambert!" he said gruffly, "listen to me.... Your conduct hath been
most unseemly.... Mistress Endicott has for my sake, already shown you
much kindness and forbearance ... Had she acted as she had the right to
do, she would have had you kicked out of the house by her servants....
In your own interests now I should advise you to follow me quietly out
of the house...."
But this suggestion raised a hot protest on the part of all the
"He shall not go!" declared Segrave violently.
"Not without leaving behind him what he has deliberately stolen,"
commented Endicott, raising his oily voice above the din.
Lambert had waited patiently, whilst his employer spoke. The last
remnant of that original sense of deference and of gratitude caused him
to hold himself in check lest he should strike that treacherous coward
in the face. Sir Marmaduke's callousness in the face of his peril and
unmerited disgrace, had struck Lambert with an overwhelming feeling of
disappointment and loneliness. But his cruel insults now quashed despair
and roused dormant indignation to fever pitch. One look at Sir
Marmaduke's sneering face had told him not only that he could expect no
help from the man who--by all the laws of honor--should have stood by
him in his helplessness, but that he was the fount and source, the
instigator of the terrible wrong and injustice which was about to land
an innocent man in the veriest abyss of humiliation and irretrievable
"And so this was your doing, Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse," he said,
looking his triumphant enemy boldly in the face, even whilst compelling
silent attention from those who were heaping opprobrious epithets upon
him. "You enticed me here.... You persuaded me to play, ... Then you
tried to rob me of mine honor, of my good name, the only valuable assets
which I possess.... Hell and all its devils alone know why you did this
thing, but I swear before God that your hideous crime shall not remain
"Silence!" commanded Sir Marmaduke, who was the first to perceive the
strange, almost supernatural, effect produced on all those present, by
the young man's earnestness, his impressive calm. Segrave himself stood
silent and abashed, whilst everyone listened, unconsciously awed by that
unmistakable note of righteousness which somehow rang through Lambert's
"Nay! but I'll not be silent," quoth Richard unperturbed. "I have been
condemned ... and I have the right to speak.... You have disgraced me
... and I have the right to defend mine honor ... by protesting mine
innocence.... And now I will leave this house," he added loudly and
firmly, "for it is accursed and infamous ... but God is my witness that
I leave it without a stain upon my soul...."
He pointed to the fateful table whereon a pile of gold lay scattered in
an untidy heap, with the tiny leather wallet containing his five guineas
conspicuously in its midst.
"There lies the money," he said, speaking directly to Segrave, "take it,
sir, for I had never the intention to touch a penny of it.... This I
swear by all that I hold most sacred.... Take it without fear or
remorse--even though you thought such evil things of me ... and let him
who still thinks me a thief, repeat it now to my face--an he dare!"
Even as the last of his loudly uttered words resounded through the room,
there was a loud knock at the door, and a peremptory voice commanded:
"Open! in the name of His Highness, the Lord Protector of England!"
In the dead silence that followed, the buzz of a fly, the spluttering of
wax candles, could be distinctly heard.
In a moment with the sound of that peremptory call outside, tumultuous
passions seemed to sink to rest, every cheek paled, and masculine hands
instinctively sought the handles of swords whilst lace handkerchiefs
were hastily pressed to trembling lips, in order to smother the cry of
terror which had risen to feminine throats.
"Open! in the name of His Highness, the Lord Protector of England."
Mistress Endicott was the color of wax, her husband was gripping her
wrist with a clutch of steel, trying, through the administration of
physical pain, to keep alive her presence of mind.
And for the third time came the loud summons:
"Open! in the name of His Highness the Lord, Protector of England!"
Still that deathly silence in the room, broken only now by the firm step
of Endicott, who went to open the door.
Resistance had been worse than useless. The door would have yielded at
the first blow. There was a wailing, smothered cry from a dozen
terrified throats, and a general rush for the inner room. But this door
now was bolted and barred, Sir Marmaduke--unperceived--had slipped
quickly within, even whilst everyone held his breath in the first moment
of paralyzed terror.
Had there been time, there would doubtless have ensued a violent attack
against that locked door, but already a man in leather doublet and
wearing a steel cap and collar had peremptorily pushed Endicott aside,
who was making a futile effort to bar the way, after he had opened the
This man now advanced into the center of the room, whilst a couple of
soldierly-looking, stalwart fellows remained at attention on the
"Let no one attempt to leave this room," he commanded. "Here, Bradden,"
he added, turning back to his men, "take Pyott with you and search that
second room there ... then seize all those cards and dice and also that
It was not likely that these hot-headed cavaliers would submit thus
quietly to an arbitrary act of confiscation and of arrest. Hardly were
the last words out of the man's mouth than a dozen blades flashed out of
The women screamed, and like so many frightened hens, ran into the
corner of the room furthest out of reach of my Lord Protector's
police-patrol, the men immediately forming a bulwark in front of them.
The whole thing was not very heroic perhaps. A few idlers caught in an
illicit act and under threat of arrest. The consequences--of a
truth--would not be vastly severe for the frequenters of this secret
club; fines mayhap, which most of those present could ill afford to pay,
and at worst a night's detention in one of those horrible wooden
constructions which had lately been erected on the river bank for the
express purpose of causing sundry lordly offenders to pass an
These were days of forcible levelings: and my lord who had contravened
old Noll's laws against swearing and gambling, fared not one whit better
than the tramp who had purloined a leg of mutton from an eating-house.
Nay! in a measure my lord fared a good deal worse, for he looked upon
his own detention through the regicide usurper's orders, as an indignity
to himself; hence the reason why in this same house wherein a few idle
scions of noble houses indulged in their favorite pastime, when orders
rang out in the name of His Highness, swords jumped out of their
sheaths, and resistance was offered out of all proportion to the threat.
The man who seemed to be the captain of the patrol smiled somewhat
grimly when he saw himself confronted by this phalanx of gentlemanly
weapons. He was a tall, burly fellow, broad of shoulder and well-looking
in his uniform of red with yellow facings; his round bullet-shaped head,
covered by the round steel cap, was suggestive of obstinacy, even of
He eyed the flushed and excited throng with some amusement not wholly
unmixed with contempt. Oh! he knew some of the faces well enough by
sight--for he had originally served in the train-bands of London, and
had oft seen my Lord Walterton, for instance, conspicuous at every
entertainment--now pronounced illicit by His Highness, and Sir Anthony
Bridport, a constant frequenter at Exeter House, and young Lord
Naythmire the son of the Judge. He also had certainly seen young Segrave
before this, whose father had been a member of the Long Parliament; the
only face that was totally strange to him was that of the youngster in
the dark suit of grogram, who stood somewhat aloof from the irate crowd,
and seemed to be viewing the scene with astonishment rather than with
Lord Walterton, flushed with wine, more than with anger, constituted
himself the spokesman of the party:
"Who are you?" he asked somewhat unsteadily, "and what do you want?"
"My name is Gunning," replied the man curtly, "captain commanding His
Highness' police. What I want is that you gentlemen offer no resistance,
but come with me quietly to answer on the morrow before Judge Parry, a
charge of contravening the laws against betting and gambling."
A ribald and prolonged laugh greeted this brief announcement, and some
twenty pairs of gentlemanly shoulders were shrugged in token of
"Hark at the man!" quoth Sir James Overbury lightly, "methinks,
gentlemen, that our wisest course would be to put up our swords and to
throw the fellows downstairs, what say you?"
"Aye! aye!" came in cheerful accents from the defiant little group.
"Out with you fellow, we've no time to waste in bandying words with ye
..." said Walterton, with the tone of one accustomed to see the churl
ever cringe before the lord, "and let one of thy myrmidons touch a thing
in this room if he dare!"
The young cavalier was standing somewhat in advance of his friends,
having stepped forward in order to emphasize the peremptoriness of his
words. The women were still in the background well protected by a
phalanx of resolute defenders who, encouraged by the captain's silence
and Walterton's haughty attitude, were prepared to force the patrol of
police to beat a hasty retreat.
Endicott and his wife had seemed to think it prudent to keep well out of
sight: the former having yielded to Gunning's advance had discreetly
retired amongst the petticoats.
No one, least of all Walterton, who remained the acknowledged leader of
the little party of gamesters, had any idea of the numerical strength of
the patrol whose interference with gentlemanly pastimes was
unwarrantable and passing insolent. In the gloom on the landing beyond,
a knot of men could only be vaguely discerned. Captain Gunning and his
lieutenant, Bradden, had alone advanced into the room.
But now apparently Gunning gave some sign, which Bradden then
interpreted to the men outside. The sign itself must have been very
slight for none of the cavaliers perceived it--certainly no actual word
of command had been spoken, but the next moment--within thirty seconds
of Walterton's defiant speech, the room itself, the doorway and
apparently the landing and staircase too, were filled with men, each one
attired in scarlet and yellow, all wearing leather doublets and steel
caps, and all armed with musketoons which they were even now pointing
straight at the serried ranks of the surprised and wholly unprepared
"I would fain not give an order to fire," said Captain Gunning curtly,
"and if you, gentlemen, will follow me quietly, there need be no
It may be somewhat unromantic but it is certainly prudent, to listen at
times to the dictates of common sense, and one of wisdom's most cogent
axioms is undoubtedly that it is useless to stand up before a volley of
musketry at a range of less than twelve feet, unless a heroic death is
It was certainly very humiliating to be ordered about by a close-cropped
Puritan, who spoke in nasal tones, and whose father probably had mended
boots or killed pigs in his day, but the persuasion of twenty-four
musketoons, whose muzzles pointed collectively in one direction, was
bound--in the name of common sense--to prevail ultimately.
Of a truth, none of these gentlemen--who were now content to oppose a
comprehensive vocabulary of English and French oaths to the brand-new
weapons of my Lord Protector's police--were cowards in any sense of the
word. Less than a decade ago they had proved their mettle not only sword
in hand, but in the face of the many privations, sorrows and
humiliations consequent on the failure of their cause and the defeat,
and martyrdom of their king. There was, therefore, nothing mean or
pusillanimous in their attitude when having exhausted their vocabulary
of oaths and still seeing before them the muzzles of four-and-twenty
musketoons pointed straight at them, they one after another dropped
their sword points and turned to read in each other's faces uniform
desire to surrender to _force majeure_.
The Captain watched them--impassive and silent--until the moment when he
too, could discern in the sullen looks cast at him by some twenty pairs
of eyes, that these elegant gentlemen had conquered their impulse to
But the four-and-twenty musketoons were still leveled, nor did the
round-headed Captain give the order to lower the firearms.
"I can release most of you, gentlemen, on parole," he said, "an you'll
surrender your swords to me, you may go home this night, under promise
to attend the Court to-morrow morning."
Bradden in the meanwhile had gone to the inner door and finding it
locked had ordered his companion to break it open. It yielded to the
first blow dealt with a vigorous shoulder. The lieutenant went into the
room, but finding it empty, he returned and soon was busy in collecting
the various "_pieces de convictions_," which would go to substantiate
the charges of gambling and betting against these noble gentlemen. No
resistance now was offered, and after a slight moment of hesitation and
a brief consultation 'twixt the more prominent cavaliers there present,
Lord Walterton stepped forward and having unbuckled his sword, threw it
with no small measure of arrogance and disdain at the feet of Captain
His example was followed by all his friends, Gunning with arms folded
across his chest, watching the proceeding in silence. When Endicott
stood before him, however, he said curtly:
"Not you, I think. Meseems I know you too well, fine sir, to release you
on parole. Bradden," he added, turning to his lieutenant, "have this
man duly guarded and conveyed to Queen's Head Alley to-night."
Then as Endicott tried to protest, and Gunning gave a sharp order for
his immediate removal, Segrave pushed his way forward; he wore no sword,
and like Lambert, had stood aloof throughout this brief scene of
turbulent yet futile resistance, sullen, silent, and burning with a
desire for revenge against the man who had turned the current of his
luck, and brought him back to that abyss of despair, whence he now knew
there could be no release.
"Captain," he said firmly, "though I wear no sword I am at one with all
these gentlemen, and I accept my release on parole. To-morrow I will
answer for my offense of playing cards, which apparently, is an illicit
pastime. I am one of the pigeons who have been plucked in this house."
"By that gentleman?" queried Gunning with a grim smile and nodding over
his shoulder in the direction where Endicott was being led away by a
couple of armed men.
"No! not by him!" replied Segrave boldly.
With a somewhat theatrical gesture he pointed to Lambert, who, more of a
spectator than a participant in the scene, had been standing mutely by
outside the defiant group, absorbed in his own misery, wondering what
effect the present unforeseen juncture would have on his future chances
of rehabilitating himself.
He was also vaguely wondering what had become of Sir Marmaduke and
Mistress de Chavasse.
But now Segrave's voice was raised, and once more Lambert found himself
the cynosure of a number of hostile glances.
"There stands the man who has robbed us all," said Segrave wildly, "and
now he has heaped disgrace upon us, upon me and mine.... Curse him! ...
curse him, I say!" he continued, whilst all the pent-up fury, forcibly
kept in check all this while by the advent of the police, now once more
found vent in loud vituperation and almost maniacal expressions of rage.
"Liar ... cheat! ... Look at him, Captain! there stands the man who must
bear the full brunt of the punishment, for he is the decoy, he is the
thief! ... The pillory for him ... the pillory ... the lash ... the
brand! ... Curse him! ... Curse him! ... the thief! ..."
He was surrounded and forcibly silenced. The foam had risen to his lips,
impotent fury and agonized despair had momentarily clouded his brain.
Lambert tried to speak, but the Captain, unwilling to prolong a conflict
over which he was powerless to arbitrate, gave a sign to Bradden and
anon the two young men were led away in the wake of Endicott.
The others on giving their word that they would appear before the Court
on the morrow, and answer to the charge preferred against them, were
presently allowed to walk out of the room in single file between a
double row of soldiers whose musketoons were still unpleasantly
Thus they passed out one by one, across the passage and down the dark
staircase. The door below they found was also guarded; as well as the
passage and the archway giving on the street.
Here they were permitted to collect or disperse at will. The ladies,
however, had not been allowed to participate in the order for release.
Gunning knew most of them by sight,--they were worthy neither of
consideration nor respect,--paid satellites of Mistress Endicott's,
employed to keep up the good spirits of that lady's clientele.
The soldiers drove them all together before them, in a compact,
shrinking and screaming group. Then the word of command was given. The
soldiers stood at attention, turned and finally marched out of the room
with their prisoners, Gunning being the last to leave.
He locked the door behind him and in the wake of his men presently
wended his way down the tortuous staircase.
Once more the measured tramp was heard reverberating through the house,
the cry of "Attention!" of "Quick march!" echoed beneath the passage
and the tumble-down archway, and anon the last of these ominous sounds
died away down the dismal street in the direction of the river.
And in one of the attics at the top of the now silent and lonely house
in Bath Street--lately the scene of so much gayety and joy, of such
turmoil of passions and intensity of despair--two figures, a man and a
woman, crouched together in a dark corner, listening for the last dying
echo of that measured tramp.
IN THE MEANWHILE
The news of the police raid on a secret gambling club in London,
together with the fracas which it entailed, had of necessity reached
even as far as sea-girt Thanet. Squire Boatfield had been the first to
hear of it; he spread the news as fast as he could, for he was overfond
of gossip, and Dame Harrison over at St. Lawrence had lent him able
Sir Marmaduke had, of course, the fullest details concerning the affair,
for he himself owned to having been present in the very house where the
disturbance had occurred. He was not averse to his neighbors knowing
that he was a frequenter of those exclusive and smart gambling clubs,
which were avowedly the resort of the most elegant cavaliers of the day,
and his account of some of the events of that memorable night had been
as entertaining as it was highly-colored.
He avowed, however, that, disgusted at Richard Lambert's shameful
conduct, he had quitted the place early, some little while before my
Lord Protector's police had made a descent upon the gamblers. As for
Mistress de Chavasse, her name was never mentioned in connection with
the affair. She had been in London at the time certainly, staying with
a friend, who was helping her in the choice of a new gown for the coming
She returned to Acol Court with her brother-in-law, apparently as
horrified as he was at the disgrace which she vowed Richard Lambert had
heaped upon them all.
The story of the young man being caught in the very act of cheating at
cards lost nothing in the telling. He had been convicted before Judge
Parry of obtaining money by lying and other illicit means, had been
condemned to fine and imprisonment and as he refused to pay the
former--most obstinately declaring that he was penniless--he was made to
stand for two hours in the pillory, and was finally dragged through the
streets in a rickety cart in full sight of a jeering crowd, sitting with
his back to the nag in company of the public hangman, and attired in
shameful and humiliating clothes.
What happened to him after undergoing this wonderfully lenient
sentence--for many there were who thought he should have been publicly
whipped and branded as a cheat--nobody knew or cared.
They kept him in prison for over ten weeks, it seems, but Sir Marmaduke
did not know what had become of him since then.
The other gentlemen got off fairly lightly with fines and brief periods
of imprisonment. Young Segrave, so 'twas said, had been shipped to New
England by his father, but Master and Mistress Endicott had gone beyond
the seas at the expense of the State, and not for their own pleasure or
advancement. It appears that my Lord Protector's vigilance patrol had
kept a very sharp eye on these two people, who had more than once had to
answer for illicit acts before the Courts. They tried in a most shameful
manner it appears, to implicate Sir Marmaduke and Mistress de Chavasse
in their disgrace, but as the former very pertinently remarked, "How
could he, a simple Kentish squire have aught to do with a smart London
club? and people of such evil repute as the Endicotts could of a truth
never be believed."
All these rumors and accounts had, of course, also reached Sue's ears.
At first she took up an attitude of aggressive incredulity when her
former friend was accused: nothing but the plain facts as set forth in
the _Public Advertiser_ of August the 5th would convince her that
Richard Lambert could be so base and mean as Sir Marmaduke had averred.
Even then, in her innermost heart, a vague and indefinable instinct
called out to her in Lambert's name, not to believe all that was said of
him. She could not think of him as lying, and cheating at a game of
cards, when common sense itself told her that he was not sufficiently
conversant with its rules to turn them to his own advantage. Her
hot-headed partisanship of him gave way of necessity as the weeks sped
by, to a more passive disapproval of his condemnation, and this in its
turn to a kindly charity for what she thought must have been his
ignorance rather than his sin.
What worried her most was that he was not nigh her, now that her
sentimental romance was reaching its super-acute crisis. During her
guardian's temporary absence from Acol she had made earnest and resolute
efforts to see her mysterious lover. She thought that he must know that
Sir Marmaduke and Mistress de Chavasse were away and that she herself
was free momentarily from watchful eyes.
Yet though with pathetic persistence she haunted the park and the
woodlands around the Court, she never even once caught sight of the
broad-brimmed hat and drooping plume of her romantic prince. It seemed
as if the earth had swallowed him up.
Upset and vaguely terrified, she had on one occasion thrown prudence to
the winds and sought out the old Quakeress and Adam Lambert with whom he
lodged. But the old Quakeress was very deaf, and explanations with her
were laborious and unsatisfactory, whilst Adam seemed to entertain a
sullen and irresponsible dislike for the foreigner.
All she gathered from these two was that there was nothing unusual in
this sudden disappearance of their lodger. He came and went most
erratically, went no one knew whither, returned at most unexpected
moments, never slept more than an hour or two in his bed which he
quitted at amazingly early hours, strolling out of the cottage when all
decent folk were just beginning their night's rest, and wandering off
unseen, unheard, only to return as he had gone.
He paid his money for his room regularly, however, and this was vastly
acceptable these hard times.
But to Sue it was passing strange that her prince should be out of her
reach, just when Sir Marmaduke's and Mistress de Chavasse's absence had
made their meetings more easy and pleasant.
Yet with it all, she was equally conscious of an unaccountable feeling
of relief, and every evening, when at about eight o'clock she returned
homewards after having vainly awaited the prince, there was nothing of
the sadness and disappointment in her heart which a maiden should feel
when she has failed to see her lover.
She was just as much in love with him as ever!--oh! of that she felt
quite sure! she still thrilled at thought of his heroic martyrdom for
the cause which he had at heart, she still was conscious of a wonderful
feeling of elation when she was with him, and of pride when she saw this
remarkable hero, this selfless patriot at her feet, and heard his
impassioned declarations of love, even when these were alloyed with
frantic outbursts of jealousy. She still yearned for him when she did
not see him, even though she dreaded his ill-humor when he was nigh.
She had promised to be his wife, soon and in secret, for he had vowed
that she did not love him if she condemned him to three long months of
infinite torture from jealousy and suspense.
This promise she had given him freely and whole-heartedly more than a
fortnight ago. Since that memorable evening when she had thus plighted
her troth to him, when she had without a shadow of fear or a tremor of
compunction entrusted her entire future, her heart and soul to his
keeping, since then she had not seen him.
Sir Marmaduke had gone to London, also Mistress de Chavasse, and she had
not even caught sight of the weird silhouette of her French prince.
Lambert, too, had gone, put out of her way temporarily--or mayhap,
forever--through the irresistible force of a terrible disgrace. There
was no one to spy on her movements, no one to dog her footsteps, yet she
had not seen him.
When her guardian returned, he seemed so engrossed with Lambert's
misdeeds that he gave little thought to his ward. He and Mistress de
Chavasse were closeted together for hours in the small withdrawing-room,
whilst she was left to roam about the house and grounds unchallenged.
Then at last one evening--it was late August then--when despair had
begun to grip her heart, and she herself had become the prey of vague
fears, of terrors for his welfare, his life mayhap, on which he had oft
told her that the vengeful King of France had set a price--one evening
he came to greet her walking through the woods, treading the soft carpet
of moss with a light elastic step.
Oh! that had been a rapturous evening! one which she oft strove to
recall, now that sadness had once more overwhelmed her. He had been all
tenderness, all love, all passion! He vowed that he adored her as an
idolater would worship his divinity. Jealous? oh, yes! madly, insanely
jealous! for she was fair above all women and sweet and pure and
tempting to all men like some ripe and juicy fruit ready to fall into a
But his jealousy took on a note of melancholy and of humility. He
worshiped her so and wished to feel her all his own. She listened
entranced, forgetting her terrors, her disappointments, the vague ennui
which had assailed her of late. She yielded herself to the delights of
his caresses, to the joy of this hour of solitude and rapture. The night
was close and stormy; from afar, muffled peals of thunder echoed through
the gigantic elms, whilst vivid flashes of lightning weirdly lit up at
times the mysterious figure of this romantic lover, with his face
forever in shadow, one eye forever hidden behind a black band, his voice
But it was a tempestuous wooing, a renewal of that happy evening in the
spring--oh! so long ago it seemed now!--when first he had poured in her
ear the wild torrents of his love. The girl--so young, so inexperienced,
so romantic--was literally swept off her feet; she listened to his wild
words, yielded her lips to his kiss, and whilst she half feared the
impetuosity of his mood, she delighted in the very terrors it evoked.
A secret marriage? Why, of course! since he suffered so terribly through
not feeling her all his own. Soon!--at once!--at Dover before the
clergyman at All Souls, with whom he--her prince--had already spoken.
Yes! it would have to be at Dover, for the neighboring villages might
prove too dangerous. Sir Marmaduke might hear of it, mayhap. It would
rest with her to free herself for one day.
Then came that delicious period of scheming, of stage-managing
everything for the all-important day. He would arrange about a chaise,
and she should walk up to the Canterbury Road to meet it. He would await
her in the church at Dover, for 'twas best that they should not be seen
together until after the happy knot was tied, when he declared that he
would be ready to defy the universe.
It had been a long interview, despite the tempest that raged above and
around them. The great branches of the elms groaned and cracked under
fury of the wind, the thunder pealed overhead and then died away with
slow majesty out towards the sea. From afar could be heard the angry
billows dashing themselves against the cliffs.
They had to seek shelter under the colonnaded porch of the summerhouse,
and Sue had much ado to keep the heavy drops of rain from reaching her
shoes and the bottom of her kirtle.
But she was attune with the storm, she loved to hear the weird sh-sh-sh
of the leaves, the monotonous drip of the rain on the roof of the summer
house, and in the intervals of intense blackness to catch sight of her
lover's face, pale of hue, with one large eye glancing cyclops-like into
hers, as a vivid flash of lightning momentarily tore the darkness
asunder and revealed him still crouching at her feet.
Intense lassitude followed the wild mental turmoil of that night. She
had arranged to meet him again two days hence in order to repeat to him
what she had heard the while of Sir Marmaduke's movements, and when she
was like to be free to go to Dover. During those intervening two days
she tried hard to probe her own thoughts; her mind, her feelings: but
what she found buried in the innermost recesses of her heart frightened
her so, that she gave up thinking.
She lay awake most of the night, telling herself how much she loved her
prince; she spent half a day in the perusal of a strange book called
_The Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet_ by one William Shakespeare who had
lived not so long ago: and found herself pondering as to whether her own
sentiments with regard to her prince were akin to those so exquisitely
expressed by those two young people who had died because they loved one
another so dearly.
Then she heard that towards the end of the week Sir Marmaduke and
Mistress de Chavasse would be journeying together to Canterbury in order
to confer with Master Skyffington the lawyer, anent her own fortune,
which was to be handed to her in its entirety in less than three months,
when she would be of age.
BREAKING THE NEWS
Sir Marmaduke talked openly of this plan of going to Canterbury with
Editha de Chavasse, mentioning the following Friday as the most likely
date for his voyage.
Full of joy she brought the welcome news to her lover that same evening;
nor had she cause to regret then her ready acquiescence to his wishes.
He was full of tenderness then, of gentle discretion in his caresses,
showing the utmost respect to his future princess. He talked less of his
passion and more of his plans, in which now she would have her full
share. He confided some of his schemes to her: they were somewhat vague
and not easy to understand, but the manner in which he put them before
her, made them seem wonderfully noble and selfless.
In a measure this evening--so calm and peaceful in contrast to the
turbulence of the other night--marked one of the great crises in the
history of her love. Even when she heard that Fate itself was conspiring
to help on the clandestine marriage by causing Sir Marmaduke and
Mistress de Chavasse to absent themselves at a most opportune moment,
she had resolved to break the news to her lover of her own immense
Of this he was still in total ignorance. One or two innocent remarks
which he had let fall at different times convinced her of that. Nor was
this ignorance of his to be wondered at: he saw no one in or about the
village except the old Quakeress and Adam Lambert with whom he lodged.
The woman was deaf and uncommunicative, whilst there seemed to be some