Part 4 out of 6
sort of tacit enmity against the foreigner, latent in the mind of the
blacksmith. It was, therefore, quite natural that he should suppose her
no whit less poor than Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse or the other
neighboring Kentish squires whose impecuniousness was too blatant a fact
to be unknown even to a stranger in the land.
Sue, therefore, was eagerly looking forward to the happy moment when she
would explain to her prince that her share in the wonderful enterprise
which he always vaguely spoke of as his "great work" would not merely be
one of impassiveness. Where he could give the benefit of his
personality, his eloquence, his knowledge of men and things, she could
add the weight of her wealth.
Of course she was very, very young, but already from him she had
realized that it is impossible even to regenerate mankind and give it
political and religious freedom without the help of money.
Prince Amede d'Orleans himself was passing rich: the fact that he chose
to hide in a lonely English village and to live as a poor man would
live, was only a part of his schemes. For the moment, too, owing to that
ever-present vengefulness of the King of France, his estates and
revenues were under sequestration. All this Sue understood full well,
and it added quite considerably to her joy to think that soon she could
relieve the patriot and hero from penury, and that the news that she
could do so would be a glad surprise for him.
Nor must Lady Sue Aldmarshe on this account be condemned for an ignorant
or a vain fool. Though she was close on twenty-one years of age, she had
had absolutely no experience of the world or of mankind: all she knew of
either had been conceived in the imaginings of her own romantic brain.
Her entire childhood, her youth and maidenhood had gone by in silent and
fanciful dreamings, whilst one of the greatest conflicts the world had
ever known was raging between men of the same kith and the same blood.
The education of women--even of those of rank and wealth--was avowedly
upon a very simple plan. Most of the noble ladies of that time knew not
how to spell--most of them were content to let the world go by them,
without giving it thought or care, others had accomplished prodigies of
valor, of heroism, aye! and of determination to help their brothers,
husbands, fathers during the worst periods of the civil war.
But Sue had been too young when these same prodigies were being
accomplished, and her father died before she had reached the age when
she could take an active part in the great questions of the day. A
mother she had never known, she had no brothers and sisters. A brief
time under the care of an old aunt and a duenna in a remote Surrey
village, and her stay at Pegwell Court under Sir Marmaduke's
guardianship, was all that she had ever seen of life.
Prince Amede d'Orleans was the embodiment of all her dreams--or nearly
so! The real hero of her dreams had been handsomer, and also more gentle
and more trusting, but on the whole, he had not been one whit more
romantic in his personality and his doings.
The manner in which he received the news that unbeknown to him, he had
been wooing one of the richest brides in the land, was characteristic of
him. He seemed boundlessly disappointed.
It was a beautiful clear night and she could see his face quite
distinctly, and could note how its former happy expression was marred
suddenly by a look of sorrow. He owned to being disappointed. He had
loved the idea, so he explained, of taking her to him, just as she was,
beautiful beyond compare, but penniless--having only her exquisite self
Oh! the joy after that of coaxing him back to smiles! the pride of
proving herself his Egeria for the nonce, teaching him how to look upon
wealth merely as a means for attaining his great ends, for continuing
his great work.
It had been perhaps the happiest evening in her short life of love.
For that day at Dover now only seemed a dream. The hurried tramp to the
main road in a torrent of pouring rain: the long drive in the stuffy
chaise, the arrival just in time for the brief--very brief--ceremony in
the dark church, with the clergyman in a plain black gown muttering
unintelligible words, and the local verger and the church cleaner acting
as the witnesses to her marriage.
How differently had she conceived that great, that wonderful day, the
turning point of a maiden's life. Music, flowers, beautiful gowns and
sweet scents filling the air! the sunlight peeping gold, red, purple or
blue through the glass windows of some exquisite cathedral! The
bridegroom arrayed in white, full of joy and pride, she the bride with a
veil of filmy lace falling over her face to hide the happy blushes!
It was a beautiful dream, and the reality was so very, very different.
A dark little country church, with the plaster peeling off the walls!
the drone of a bewhiskered, bald-headed parson being the sole music
which greeted her ears. The rain beating against the broken
window-panes, through which icy cold draughts of damp air reached her
shoulders and caused her to shiver beneath her kerchief. She wore her
pretty dove-colored gown, but it was not new nor had she a veil over her
face, only a straw hat such as countrywomen wore, for though she was an
heiress and passing rich, her guardian did but ill provide her with
And the bridegroom?
He had been waiting for her inside the church, and seemed impatient
when she arrived. No one had helped her to alight from the rickety
chaise, and she had to run in the pouring rain, through the miserable
and deserted churchyard.
His face seemed to scowl as she finally stood up beside him, in front of
that black-gowned man, who was to tie between them the sacred and
irrevocable knot of matrimony. His hand had perceptibly trembled when he
slipped the ring on her finger, whilst she felt that her own was
irresponsive and icy cold.
She tried to speak the fateful "I will!" buoyantly and firmly, but
somehow--owing to the cold, mayhap--the two little words almost died
down in her throat.
Aye! it had all been very gloomy, and inexpressibly sad. The
ceremony--the dear, sweet, sacred ceremony which was to give her wholly
to him, him unreservedly to her--was mumbled and hurried through in less
than ten minutes.
Her bridegroom said not a word. Together they went into the tiny vestry
and she was told to sign her name in a big book, which the bald-headed
parson held open before her.
The prince also signed his name, and then kissed her on the forehead.
The clergyman also shook hands and it was all over.
She understood that she had been married by a special license, and that
she was now legally and irretrievably the wife of Amede Henri, Prince
d'Orleans, de Bourgogne and several other places and dependencies
She also understood from what the bald-headed clergyman had spoken when
he stood before them in the church and read the marriage service that
she as the wife owed obedience to her husband in all things, for she had
solemnly sworn so to do. She herself, body and soul and mind, her goods
and chattels, her wealth and all belongings were from henceforth the
property of her husband.
Yes, she had sworn to all that, willingly, and there was no going back
on that, now or ever!
But, oh! how she wished it had been different!
Afterwards, when in the privacy of her own little room at Acol Court,
she thought over the whole of that long and dismal day, she oft found
herself wondering what it was through it all that had seemed so
terrifying to her, so strange, so unreal.
Something had struck her as weird: something which she could not then
define; but she was quite sure that it was not merely the unusual
chilliness of that rainy summer's day, which had caused her to tremble
so, when--in the vestry--her husband had taken her hand and kissed her.
She had then looked into his face, which--though the vestry was but ill
lighted by a tiny very dusty window--she had never seen quite so clearly
before, and then it was that that amazing sense of something awful and
unreal had descended upon her like a clammy shroud.
He had very swiftly averted his own gaze from her, but she had seen
something in his face which she did not understand, over which she had
pondered ever since without coming to any solution of this terrible
She had pondered over it during that interminable journey back from
Dover to Acol. Her husband had not even suggested accompanying her on
her homeward way, nor did she ask him to do so. She did not even think
it strange that he gave her no explanation of the reason why he should
not return to his lodgings at Acol. She felt like a somnambulist, and
wondered how soon she would wake and find herself in her small and
uncomfortable bed at the Court.
The next day that feeling of unreality was still there; that sensation
of mystery, of something supernatural which persistently haunted her.
One thing was quite sure; that all joy had gone out of her life. It was
possible that love was still there--she did not know--she was too young
to understand the complex sensations which suddenly had made a woman of
her ... but it was a joyless love now: and all that she knew of a
certainty about her own feelings at the present was that she hoped she
would never have to gaze into her lover's face again ... and ... Heaven
help her! ... that he might never touch her again with his lips.
Obedient to his behests--hurriedly spoken as she stepped into the chaise
at Dover after the marriage ceremony--she had wandered out every
evening beyond the ha-ha into the park, on the chance of meeting him.
The evenings now were soft and balmy after the rain: the air carried a
pungent smell of dahlias and of oak-leaved geraniums to her nostrils,
which helped her to throw off that miserable feeling of mental lassitude
which had weighed her down ever since that fateful day at Dover. She
walked slowly along, treading the young tendrils of the moss, watching
with wistful eyes the fleecy clouds, as they appeared through the
branches of the elms, scurrying swiftly out towards the sea ... out
But evening after evening passed away, and she saw no sign of him. She
felt the futility, the humiliating uselessness of these nightly
peregrinations in search of a man who seemed to have a hundred more
desirable occupations than that of meeting his wife. But she had not the
power to drift out towards freedom now. She obeyed mechanically because
she must. She had sworn to obey and he had bidden her come and wait for
August yielded to September, the oak-leaved geraniums withered whilst
from tangled bosquets the melancholy eyes of the Michaelmas daisies
peeped out questioningly upon the coming autumn.
Then one evening his voice suddenly sounded close to her ear, causing
her to utter a quickly-smothered cry. It had been the one dull day
throughout this past glorious month, the night was dark and a warm
drizzle had soaked through to her shoulders and wetted the bottom of her
kirtle so that it hung heavy and dank round her ankles. He had come to
her as usual from out the gloom, just as she was about to cross the
little bridge which spanned the sunk fence.
She realized then, with one of those sudden quivers of her
sensibilities, to which, alas! she had become so accustomed of late,
that he had always met her thus in the gloom--always chosen nights when
she could scarce see him distinctly, and this recollection still further
enhanced that eerie feeling of terror which had assailed her since that
fateful moment in the vestry.
But she tried to be natural and even gay with him, though at the first
words of tender reproach with which she gently chided him for his
prolonged absence, he broke into one of those passionate accesses of
fury which had always frightened her, but now left her strangely cold
Was the subtle change in him as well as in her? She could not say.
Certain it is that, though his hands had sought hers in the darkness,
and pressed them vehemently, when first they met he had not attempted to
For this she was immeasurably grateful.
He was obviously constrained, and so was she, and when she opposed a
cold silence to his outburst of passion, he immediately, and seemingly
without any effort, changed his tone and talked more reasonably, even
glibly of his work, which he said was awaiting him now in France.
Everything was ready there, he explained, for the great political
propaganda which he had planned and which could be commenced
All that was needed now was the money. In what manner it would be needed
and for what definite purpose he did not condescend to explain, nor did
she care to ask. But she told him that she would be sole mistress of her
fortune on the 2d of November, the date of her twenty-first birthday.
After that he spoke no more of money, but promised to meet her at
regular intervals during the six weeks which would intervene until the
great day when she would be free to proclaim her marriage and place
herself unreservedly in the hands of her husband.
THE ABSENT FRIEND
The prince kept his word, and she was fairly free to see him at least
once a week, somewhere within the leafy thicknesses of the park or in
the woods, usually at the hour when dusk finally yields to the
overwhelming embrace of night.
Sir Marmaduke was away. In London or Canterbury, she could not say, but
she had scarcely seen him since that terrible time, when he came back
from town having left Richard Lambert languishing in disgrace and in
Oh! how she missed the silent and thoughtful friend who in those days of
pride and of joy had angered her so, because he seemed to stand for
conscience and for prudence, when she only thought of happiness and of
There was an almost humiliating isolation about her now. Nobody seemed
to care whither she went, nor when she came home. Mistress de Chavasse
talked from time to time about Sue's infatuation for the mysterious
foreign adventurer, but always as if this were a thing of the past, and
from which Sue herself had long since recovered.
Thus there was no one to say her nay, when she went out into the garden
after evening repast, and stayed there until the shades of night had
long since wrapped the old trees in gloom.
And strangely enough this sense of freedom struck her with a chill sense
of loneliness. She would have loved to suddenly catch sight of Lambert's
watchful figure, and to hear his somewhat harsh voice, warning her
against the foreigner.
This had been wont to irritate her twelve weeks ago. How mysteriously
everything had altered round her!
And yearning for her friend, she wondered what had become of him. The
last she had heard was toward the middle of October when Sir Marmaduke,
home from one of his frequent journeyings, one day said that Lambert had
been released after ten weeks spent in prison, but that he could not say
whither he had gone since then.
All Sue's questionings anent the young man only brought forth violent
vituperations from Sir Marmaduke, and cold words of condemnation from
Mistress de Chavasse; therefore, she soon desisted, storing up in her
heart pathetic memories of the one true friend she had in the world.
She saw without much excitement, and certainly without tremor, the rapid
advance of that date early in November when she would perforce have to
leave Acol Court in order to follow her husband whithersoever he chose
to command her.
The last time that they had met there had been a good deal of talk
between them, about her fortune and its future disposal. He declared
himself ready to administer it all himself, as he professed a distrust
of those who had watched over it so far--Master Skyffington, the lawyer,
and Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, both under the control of the Court of
She explained to him that the bulk of her wealth consisted of
obligations and shares in the Levant and Russian Companies, her mother
having been the only daughter and heiress of Peter Ford the great
Levantine and Oriental merchant; her marriage with the proud Earl of
Dover having caused no small measure of comment in Court circles in
There were also deeds of property owned in Holland, grants of monopolies
for trading given by Ivan the Terrible to her grandfather, and receipts
for moneys deposited in the great banks of Amsterdam and Vienna. Master
Skyffington had charge of all those papers now: they represented nearly
five hundred thousand pounds of money and she told her husband that they
would all be placed in her own keeping, the day she was of age.
He appeared to lend an inattentive ear to all these explanations, which
she gave in those timid tones, which had lately become habitual to her,
but once--when she made a slip, and talked about a share which she
possessed in the Russian Company being worth L50,000, he corrected her
and said it was a good deal more, and gave her some explanations as to
the real distribution of her capital, which astonished her by their
lucidity and left her vaguely wondering how it happened that he knew.
She had finally to promise to come to him at the cottage in Acol on the
2d of November--her twenty-first birthday--directly after her interview
with the lawyer and with her guardian, and having obtained possession of
all the share papers, the obligations, the grants of monopolies and the
receipts from the Amsterdam and Vienna banks, to forthwith bring them
over to the cottage and place them unreservedly in her husband's hands.
And she would in her simplicity and ignorance gladly have given every
scrap of paper--now in Master Skyffington's charge--in exchange for a
return of those happy illusions which had surrounded the early history
of her love with a halo of romance. She would have given this mysterious
prince, now her husband, all the money that he wanted for this wonderful
"great work" of his, if he would but give her back some of that
enthusiastic belief in him which had so mysteriously been killed within
her, that fateful moment in the vestry at Dover.
NOVEMBER THE 2D
A dreary day, with a leaden sky overhead and the monotonous patter of
incessant rain against the window panes.
Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had just come downstairs, and opening the door
which lead from the hall to the small withdrawing-room on the right, he
saw Mistress de Chavasse, half-sitting, half-crouching in one of the
stiff-backed chairs, which she had drawn close to the fire.
There was a cheerful blaze on the hearth, and the room itself--being
small--always looked cozier than any other at Acol Court.
Nevertheless, Editha's face was pallid and drawn, and she stared into
the fire with eyes which seemed aglow with anxiety and even with fear.
Her cloak was tied loosely about her shoulders, and at sight of Sir
Marmaduke she started, then rising hurriedly, she put her hood over her
head, and went towards the door.
"Ah! my dear Editha!" quoth her brother-in-law, lightly greeting her,
"up betimes like the lark I see.... Are you going without?" he added as
she made a rapid movement to brush past him and once more made for the
"Yes!" she replied dully, "I must fain move about ... tire myself out
if I can ... I am consumed with anxiety."
"Indeed?" he retorted blandly, "why should you be anxious? Everything is
going splendidly ... and to-night at the latest a fortune of nigh on
L500,000 will be placed in my hands by a fond and adoring woman."
He caught the glitter in her eyes, that suggestion of power and of
unspoken threats which she had adopted since the episode in the Bath
Street house. For an instant an ugly frown further disfigured his sour
face: but this frown was only momentary, it soon gave way to a suave
smile. He took her hand and lightly touched it with his lips.
"After which, my dear Editha," he said, "I shall be able to fulfill
those obligations, which my heart originally dictated."
She seemed satisfied at this assurance, for she now spoke in less
"Are you so sure of the girl, Marmaduke?" she asked.
"Absolutely," he replied, his thoughts reverting to a day spent at Dover
nearly three months ago, when a knot was tied of which fair Editha was
not aware, but which rendered Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse very sure of a
"Yet you have oft told me that Sue's love for her mysterious prince had
vastly cooled of late!" urged Editha still anxiously.
"Why yes! forsooth!" he retorted grimly, "Sue's sentimental fancy for
the romantic exile hath gone the way of all such unreasoning
attachments; but she has ventured too far to draw back.... And she will
not draw back," he concluded significantly.
"Have a care, Marmaduke! ... the girl is more willful than ye wot of....
You may strain at a cord until it snap."
"Pshaw!" he said, with a shrug of his wide shoulders, "you are suffering
from vapors, my dear Editha ... or you would grant me more knowledge of
how to conduct mine own affairs.... Do you remember, perchance, that the
bulk of Sue's fortune will be handed over to her this day?"
"Aye! I remember!"
"Begad, then to-night I'll have that bulk out of her hands. You may take
an oath on that!" he declared savagely.
"And afterwards?" she asked simply.
"Yes ... afterwards? ... when Sue has discovered how she has been
tricked? ... Are you not afraid of what she might do? ... Even though
her money may pass into your hands ... even though you may inveigle her
into a clandestine marriage ... she is still the daughter of the late
Earl of Dover ... she has landed estates, wealth, rich and powerful
relations.... There must be an 'afterwards,' remember! ..."
His ironical laugh grated on her nerves, as he replied lightly:
"Pshaw! my dear Editha! of a truth you are not your own calm self
to-day, else you had understood that forsooth! in the love affairs of
Prince Amede d'Orleans and Lady Susannah Aldmarshe there must and can be
"I don't understand you."
"Yet, 'tis simple enough. Sue is my wife."
"Your wife! ..." she exclaimed.
"Hush! An you want to scream, I pray you question me not, for what I say
is bound to startle you. Sue is my wife. I married her, having obtained
a special license to do so in the name of Prince Amede Henri d'Orleans,
and all the rest of the romantic paraphernalia. She is my wife, and
therefore, her money and fortune are mine, every penny of it, without
question or demur."
"She will appeal to the Court to have the marriage annulled ... she'll
rouse public indignation against you to such a pitch that you'll not be
able to look one of your kith and kin in the face.... The whole shameful
story of the mysterious French prince ... your tricks to win the hand of
your ward by lying, cheating and willful deceit will resound from one
end of the country to the other.... What is the use of a mint of money
if you have to herd with outcasts, and not an honest man will shake you
by the hand?"
"None, my dear Editha, none," he replied quietly, "and 'tis of still
less use for you to rack your nerves in order to place before me a
gruesome picture of the miserable social pariah which I should become,
if the story of my impersonation of a romantic exile for the purpose of
capturing the hand of my ward came to the ears of those in authority."
"Whither it doubtless would come!" she affirmed hotly.
"Whither it doubtless would come," he assented, "and therefore, my dear
Editha, once the money is safely in my hands I will leave her Royal
Highness the Princesse d'Orleans in full possession, not only of her
landed estates but of the freedom conferred on her by widowhood, for
Prince Amede, her husband, will vanish like the beautiful dream which he
"But how? ... how?" she reiterated, puzzled, anxious, scenting some
nefarious scheme more unavowable even than the last.
"Ah! time will show! ... But he will vanish, my dear Editha, take my
word on it. Shall we say that he will fly up into the clouds and her
Highness the Princess will know him no more?"
"Then why have married her?" she exclaimed: some womanly instinct within
her crying out against this outrage. "'Twas cruel and unnecessary."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Cruel perhaps! ... But surely no more than necessary. I doubt if she
would have entrusted her fortune to anyone but her husband."
"Had she ceased to trust her romantic prince then?"
"Perhaps. At any rate, I chose to make sure of the prize.... I have
worked hard to get it and would not fail for lack of a simple ceremony
... moreover ..."
"Moreover, my dear Editha, there is always the possibility ... remote,
no doubt ... but nevertheless tangible ... that at some time or other
... soon or late--who knows?--the little deception practiced on Lady Sue
may come to the light of day.... In that case, even if the marriage be
annulled on the ground of fraud ... which methinks is more than doubtful
... no one could deny my right as the heiress's ... hem ... shall we
say?--temporary husband--to dispose of her wealth as I thought fit. If I
am to become a pariah and an outcast, as you so eloquently suggested
just now ... I much prefer being a rich one.... With half a million in
the pocket of my doublet the whole world is open to me."
There was so much cool calculation, such callous contempt for the
feelings and thoughts of the unfortunate girl whom he had so terribly
wronged, in this expose of the situation, that Mistress de Chavasse
herself was conscious of a sense of repulsion from the man whom she had
She believed that she held him sufficiently in her power, through her
knowledge of his schemes and through the help which she was rendering
him, to extract a promise from him that he would share his ill-gotten
spoils in equal portions with her. At one time after the fracas in Bath
Street, he had even given her a vague promise of marriage; therefore, he
had kept secret from her the relation of that day spent at Dover. Now
she felt that even if he were free, she would never consent to link her
future irretrievably with his.
But her share of the money she meant to have. She was tired of poverty,
tired of planning and scheming, of debt and humiliation. She was tired
of her life of dependence at Acol Court, and felt a sufficiency of youth
and buoyancy in herself yet, to enjoy a final decade of luxury and
amusement in London.
Therefore, she closed her ears to every call of conscience, she shut her
heart against the lonely young girl who so sadly needed the counsels and
protection of a good woman, and she was quite ready to lend a helping
hand to Sir Marmaduke, at least until a goodly share of Lady Sue's
fortune was safely within her grasp.
One point occurred to her now, which caused her to ask anxiously:
"Have you not made your reckonings without Richard Lambert, Marmaduke?
He is back in these parts, you know?"
"Ah!" he ejaculated, with a quick scowl of impatience. "He has
"Yes! Charity was my informant. He looks very ill, so the wench says: he
has been down with fever, it appears, all the while that he was in
prison, and was only discharged because they feared that he would die.
He contrived to work or beg his way back here, and now he is staying in
the village.... I thought you would have heard."
"No! I never speak to the old woman ... and Adam Lambert avoids me as he
would the plague.... I see as little of them as I can.... I had to be
prudent these last, final days."
"Heaven grant he may do nothing fatal to-day!" she murmured.
"Nay! my dear Editha," he retorted with a harsh laugh, "'tis scarcely
Heaven's business to look after our schemes. But Lambert can do us very
little harm now! For his own sake, he will keep out of Sue's way."
"At what hour does Master Skyffington arrive?"
"In half an hour."
Then as he saw that she was putting into effect her former resolve of
going out, despite the rain, and was once more readjusting her hood for
that purpose, he opened the door for her, and whispered as he followed
"An you will allow me, my dear Editha, I'll accompany you on your walk
... we might push on down the Canterbury Road, and perchance meet Master
Skyffington.... I understand that Sue has been asking for me, and I
would prefer to meet her as seldom as possible just now.... This is my
last day," he concluded with a laugh, "and I must be doubly careful."
Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy was vastly perturbed. Try how he might, he
had been unable to make any discovery with regard to the mysterious
events, which he felt sure were occurring all round him, a discovery
which--had he but made it--would have enabled him to apply with more
chance of success, for one of the posts in my Lord Protector's secret
service, and moreover, would have covered his name with glory.
This last contingency was always uppermost in his mind. Not from any
feeling of personal pride, for of a truth vanity is a mortal sin, but
because Mistress Charity had of late cast uncommonly kind eyes on that
cringing worm, Master Courage Toogood, and the latter, emboldened by the
minx's favors, had been more than usually insolent to his betters.
To have the right to administer serious physical punishment to the
youth, and moral reproof to the wench, was part of Master Busy's
comprehensive scheme for his own advancement and the confusion of all
the miscreants who dwelt in Acol Court. For this he had glued both eye
and ear to draughty keyholes, had lain for hours under cover of prickly
thistles in the sunk fence which surrounded the flower garden. For this
he now emerged, on that morning of November 2, accompanied by a terrific
clatter and a volley of soot from out the depth of the monumental
chimney in the hall of Acol Court.
As soon as he had recovered sufficient breath, and shaken off some of
the soot from his hair and face, he looked solemnly about him, and was
confronted by two pairs of eyes round with astonishment and two mouths
agape with surprise and with fear.
Mistress Charity and Master Courage Toogood--interrupted in the midst of
their animated conversation--were now speechless with terror, at sight
of this black apparition, which, literally, had descended on them from
"Lud love ye, Master Busy!" ejaculated Mistress Charity, who was the
first to recognize in the sooty wraith the manly form of her betrothed,
"where have ye come from, pray?"
"Have you been scouring the chimney, good master?" queried Master
Courage, with some diffidence, for the saintly man looked somewhat out
"No!" replied Hymn-of-Praise solemnly, "I have not. But I tell ye both
that my hour hath come. I knew that something was happening in this
house, and I climbed up that chimney in order to find out what it was."
Pardonable curiosity caused Mistress Charity to venture a little nearer
to the soot-covered figure of her adorer.
"And did you hear anything, Master Busy?" she asked eagerly. "I did see
Sir Marmaduke and the mistress in close conversation here this
"So they thought," said Master Hymn-of-Praise with weird significance.
"Well? ... And what happened, good master?"
"Thou beest in too mighty an hurry, mistress," he retorted with quiet
dignity. "I am under no obligation to report matters to thee."
"Oh! but Master Busy," she rejoined coyly, "methought I was to be your
... hem ... thy partner in life ... and so ..."
"My partner? My partner, didst thou say, sweet Charity? ... Nay, then,
an thou'lt permit me to salute thee with a kiss, I'll tell thee all I
And in asking for that chaste salute we may assume that Master
Hymn-of-Praise was actuated with at least an equal desire to please
Mistress Charity, to gratify his own wishes, and to effectually annoy
But Mistress Charity was actuated by curiosity alone, and without
thought of her betrothed's grimy appearance, she presented her cheek to
him for the kiss.
The result caused Master Courage an uncontrollable fit of hilarity.
"Oh, mistress," he said, pointing to the black imprint left on her face
by her lover's kiss, "you should gaze into a mirror now."
But already Mistress Charity had guessed what had occurred, her good
humor vanished, and she began scouring her cheek with her pinner.
"I'll never forgive you, master," she said crossly. "You had no right to
... hem ... with your face in that condition.... And you have not yet
told us what happened."
"Aye! you promised to tell me if I allowed you to kiss me. 'Tis
"I well nigh broke my back," said Master Busy sententiously. "I hurt my
knee ... that is what happened.... I am well-nigh choked with soot....
Ugh! ... that is what happened."
"Lud love you, Master Busy," she retorted with a saucy toss of her head,
"I trust your life's partner will not need to hide herself in chimneys."
"Listen, wench, and I'll tell thee. No kind of servant of my Lord
Protector's should ever be called upon to hide in chimneys. They are not
comfortable and they are not clean."
"Bless the man!" she cried angrily, "are you ever going to tell us what
did happen whilst you were there?"
"I was about to come to that point," he said imperturbably, "hadst thou
not interrupted me. What with holding on so as not to fall, and the soot
falling in my ears...."
"Aye! aye! ..."
"I heard nothing," he concluded solemnly. "Master Courage," he added
with becoming severity, seeing that the youth was on the verge of
making a ribald remark, which of necessity had to be checked betimes,
"come into my room with me and help me to clean the traces of my
difficult task from off my person. Come!"
And with ominous significance, he approached the young scoffer, his hand
on an exact level with the latter's ear, his right foot raised to
indicate a possible means of enforcing obedience to his commands.
On the whole, Master Courage thought it wise to repress both his
hilarity and his pertinent remarks, and to follow the pompous, if
begrimed, butler to the latter's room upstairs.
It took Mistress Charity some little time to recover her breath.
She had thrown herself into a chair, with her pinner over her face, in
an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
When this outburst of hilarity had subsided, she sat up, and looked
round her with eyes still streaming with merry tears.
But the laughter suddenly died on her lips and the merriment out of her
eyes. A dull, tired voice had just said feebly:
"Is Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse within?"
Charity jumped up from the chair and stared stupidly at the speaker.
"The Lord love you, Master Richard Lambert," she murmured. "I thought
you were your ghost!"
"Forgive me, mistress, if I have frightened you," he said. "It is mine
own self, I give you assurance of that, and I, fain would have speech
with Sir Marmaduke."
Mistress Charity was visibly embarrassed. She began mechanically to rub
the black stain on her cheek.
"Sir Marmaduke is without just at present, Master Lambert," she
stammered shyly, "... and ..."
"Yes? ... and? ..." he asked, "what is it, wench? ... speak out? ..."
"Sir Marmaduke gave orders, Master Lambert," she began with obvious
reluctance, "that ..."
She paused, and he concluded the sentence for her:
"That I was not to be allowed inside his house.... Was that it?"
"Alas! yes, good master."
"Never mind, girl," he rejoined as he deliberately crossed the hall and
sat down in the chair which she had just vacated. "You have done your
duty: but you could not help admitting me, could you? since I walked in
of mine own accord ... and now that I am here I will remain until I have
seen Sir Marmaduke...."
"Well! of a truth, good master," she said with a smile, for 'twas but
natural that her feminine sympathies should be on the side of a young
and good-looking man, somewhat in her own sphere of life, as against the
ill-humored, parsimonious master whom she served, "an you sit there so
determinedly, I cannot prevent you, can I? ..."
Then as she perceived the look of misery on the young man's face, his
pale cheeks, his otherwise vigorous frame obviously attenuated by fear,
the motherly instinct present in every good woman's heart caused her to
go up to him and to address him timidly, offering such humble solace as
her simple heart could dictate:
"Lud preserve you, good master, I pray you do not take on so.... You
know Master Courage and I, now, never believed all those stories about
ye. Of a truth Master Busy, he had his own views, but then ... you see,
good master, he and I do not always agree, even though I own that he is
vastly clever with his discoveries and his clews; but Master Courage now
... Master Courage is a wonderful lad ... and he thinks that you are a
persecuted hero! ... and I am bound to say that I, too, hold that
"Thank you! ... thank you, kind mistress," said Lambert, smiling despite
his dejection, at the girl's impulsive efforts at consolation.
His head had sunk down on his breast, and he sat there in the
high-backed chair, one hand resting on each leather-covered arm, his
pale face showing almost ghostlike against the dark background, and with
the faint November light illumining the dark-circled eyes, the bloodless
lips, and deeply frowning brow.
Mistress Charity gazed down on him with mute and kindly compassion.
Then suddenly a slight rustling noise as of a kirtle sweeping the
polished oak of the stairs caused the girl to look up, then to pause a
brief while, as if what she had now seen had brought forth a new train
of thought; finally, she tiptoed silently out through the door of the
"Charity! Mistress Charity, I want you! ..." called Lady Sue from
We must presume, however, that the wench had closed the heavy door
behind her, for certainly she did not come in answer to the call. On the
other hand, Richard Lambert had heard it; he sprang to his feet and saw
Sue descending the stairs.
She saw him, too, and it seemed as if at sight of him she had turned and
meant to fly. But a word from him detained her.
Only once had he thus called her by her name before, that long ago night
in the woods, but now the cry came from out his heart, brought forth by
his misery and his sorrow, his sense of terrible injustice and of an
It never occurred to her to resent the familiarity. At sound of her name
thus spoken by him she had looked down from the stairs and seen his
pallid face turned up to her in such heartrending appeal for sympathy,
that all her womanly instincts of tenderness and pity were aroused, all
her old feeling of trustful friendship for him.
She, too, felt much of that loneliness which his yearning eyes expressed
so pathetically; she, too, was conscious of grave injustice and of an
irretrievable wrong, and her heart went out to him immediately in
kindness and in love.
"Don't go, for pity's sake," he added entreatingly, for he thought that
she meant to turn away from him; "surely you will not begrudge me a few
words of kindness. I have gone through a great deal since I saw
She descended a few steps, her delicate hand still resting on the
banisters, her silken kirtle making a soft swishing noise against the
polished oak of the stairs. It was a solace to him, even to watch her
now. The sight of his adored mistress was balm to his aching eyes. Yet
he was quick to note--with that sharp intuition peculiar to Love--that
her dear face had lost much of its brightness, of its youth, of its joy
of living. She was as exquisite to look on as ever, but she seemed
older, more gentle, and, alas! a trifle sad.
"I heard you had been ill," she said softly, "I was very sorry, believe
me, but ... Oh! do you not think," she added with sudden inexplicable
pathos, whilst she felt hot tears rising to her eyes and causing her
voice to quiver, "do you not think that an interview between us now can
only be painful to us both?"
He mistook the intention of her words, as was only natural, and whilst
she mistrusted her own feelings for him, fearing to betray that yearning
for his friendship and his consolation, which had so suddenly
overwhelmed her at sight of him, he thought that she feared the
interview because of her condemnation of him.
"Then you believed me guilty?" he said sadly. "They told you this
hideous tale of me, and you believed them, without giving the absent
one, who alas! could not speak in his own defense, the benefit of the
For one of those subtle reasons of which women alone possess the secret,
and which will forever remain inexplicable to the more logical sex, she
steeled her heart against him, even when her entire sensibilities went
out to him in passionate sympathy.
"I could not help but believe, good master," she said a little coldly.
"Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, who, with all his faults of temper, is a man
of honor, confirmed that horrible story which appeared in the newspaper
and of which everyone in Thanet hath been talking these weeks past."
"And am _I_ not a man of honor?" he retorted hotly. "Because I am poor
and must work in order to live, am _I_ to be condemned unheard? Is a
whole life's record of self-education and honest labor to be thus
obliterated by the word of my most bitter enemy?"
"Your bitter enemy? ..." she asked. "Sir Marmaduke? ..."
"Aye! Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse. It seems passing strange, does it not?"
he rejoined bitterly. "Yet somehow in my heart, I feel that Sir
Marmaduke hates me, with a violent and passionate hatred. Nay! I know
it, though I can explain neither its cause nor its ultimate aim...."
He drew nearer to the stairs whereon she still stood, her graceful
figure slightly leaning towards him; he now stood close to her, his head
just below the level of her own; his hand had he dared to raise it,
could have rested on hers.
"Sue! my beautiful and worshiped lady," he cried impassionedly, "I
entreat you to look into my eyes! ... Can you see in them the reflex of
those shameful deeds which have been imputed to me? Do I look like a
liar and a cheat? In the name of pity and of justice, for the sweet sake
of our first days of friendship, I beg of you not to condemn me
He lowered his head, and rested his aching brow against her cool, white
hand. She did not withdraw it, for a great joy had suddenly filled her
heart, mingling with its sadness, a sense of security and of bitter, yet
real, happiness pervaded her whole being: a happiness which she could
not--wished not--to explain, but which prompted her to stoop yet further
towards him, and to touch his hair with her lips.
Hot tears which he tried vainly to repress fell upon her fingers. He had
felt the kiss descending on him almost like a benediction. The exquisite
fragrance of her person filled his soul with a great delight which was
almost pain. Never had he loved her so ardently, so passionately, as at
this moment, when he felt that she too loved him, and yet was lost to
"Nay! but I will hear you, good master," she murmured with infinite
gentleness, "for the sake of that friendship, and because now that I
have seen you again I no longer believe any evil of you."
"God bless my dear lady," he replied fervently. "Heaven is my witness
that I am innocent of those abominable crimes imputed to me. Sir
Marmaduke took me to that house of evil, and a cruel plot was there
concocted to make me appear before all men as a liar and a cheat, and to
disgrace me before the world and before you. That the object of this
plot was to part me from you," added Richard Lambert more calmly and
firmly, "I am absolutely confident; what its deeper motive was I dare
not even think. It was known that I ... loved you, Sue ... that I would
give my life to save you from trouble ... I was your slave, your
watch-dog.... I was forcibly removed, torn from you, my name disgraced,
my health broken down.... But my life was not for them ... it belongs to
my lady alone.... Heaven would not allow it to be sacrificed to their
villainous schemes. I fought against sickness and death with all the
energy of despair.... It was a hand-to-hand fight, for discouragement,
and anon despair, ranged themselves among my foes.... And now I have
come back," he said with proud energy, "broken mayhap, yet still
standing ... a snapped oak yet full of vigor, yet ... I have come back,
and with God's help will be even with them yet."
He had straightened his young figure, and his strong, somewhat harsh
voice echoed through the oak-paneled hall. He cared not if all the world
heard him, if his enemies lurked about striving to spy upon him. His
profession of love and of service to his lady was the sole remaining
pride of his life, and now that he knew that she believed and trusted
him, he longed for every man to hear what he had to say.
"Nay! what you say, kind Richard, fills me with dread," said Sue after a
little pause. "I am glad ... glad that you have come back.... For some
weeks, nay, months past, I have had the presentiment of some coming
evil.... I have ... I have felt lonely and...."
"Not unhappy?" he asked with his usual earnestness. "I would not have my
lady unhappy for all the treasures of this world."
"No!" she replied meditatively, striving to be conscious of her own
feelings, "I do not think that I am unhappy ... only anxious ... and ...
a little lonely: that is all.... Sir Marmaduke is oft away: when he is
at home, I scarce ever see him, and he but rarely speaks to me ... and
methinks there is but scant sympathy 'twixt Mistress de Chavasse and me,
though she is kind at times in her way."
Then she turned her eyes, bright with unshed tears, down again to him.
"But all seems right again!" she said with a sweet, sad smile, "now that
you have come back, my dear ... dear friend!"
"God bless you for these words!"
"I grieved terribly when I heard ... about you ... at first ..." she
said almost gaily now, "yet somehow I could not believe it all ... and
"Yes? ... and now?" he asked.
"Now I believe in you," she replied simply. "I believe that you care for
me, and that you are my friend."
"Your friend, indeed, for I would give my life for you."
Once more he stooped, but now he kissed her hand. He was her friend, and
had the right to do this. He had gradually mastered his emotion, his
sense of wrong, and with that exquisite selflessness which real love
alone can kindle in a human heart, he had succeeded in putting aside all
thought of his own great misery, his helplessness and the hopelessness
of his position, and remembered only that she looked fragile, a little
older, sadder, and had need of his help.
"And now, sweet lady," he said, forcing himself to speak calmly of that
which always set his heart and senses into a turmoil of passionate
jealousy, "will you tell me something about him."
"The prince...." he suggested.
But she shook her head resolutely.
"No, kind Richard," she said gently, "I will not speak to you of the
prince. I know that you do not think well of him.... I wish to look upon
you as my friend, and I could not do that if you spoke ill of him,
She paused, for what she now had to tell him was very hard to say, and
she knew what a terrible blow she would be dealing to his heart, from
the wild beating of her own.
"Yes?" he asked. "Because? ..."
"Because he is my husband," she whispered.
Her head fell forward on her breast. She would not trust herself to look
at him now, for she knew that the sight of his grief was more than she
could bear. She was conscious that at her words he had drawn his hand
away from hers, but he spoke no word, nor did the faintest exclamation
escape his lips.
Thus they remained for a few moments longer side by side: she slightly
above him, with head bent, with hot tears falling slowly from her
downcast eyes, her heart well-nigh breaking with the consciousness of
the irreparable; he somewhat below, silent too, and rigid, all passion,
all emotion, love even, numbed momentarily by the violence, the
suddenness of this terrible blow.
Then without a word, without a sigh or look, he turned, and she heard
his footsteps echoing across the hall, then dying away on the threshold
of the door beyond. Anon the door itself closed to with a dull bang
which seemed to find an echo in her heart like the tolling of a passing
Then only did she raise her head, and look about her. The hall was
deserted and seemed infinitely lonely, silent, and grim. The young
girl-wife, who had just found a friend only to lose him again, called
out in mute appeal to this old house, the oak-covered walls, the very
stones themselves, for sympathy.
She was so infinitely, so immeasurably lonely, with that awful,
irretrievable day at Dover behind her, with all its dreariness, its
silent solemnity, its weird finish in the vestry, the ring upon her
finger, her troth plighted to a man whom she feared and no longer loved.
Oh! the pity of it all! the broken young life! the vanished dreams!
Sue bent her head down upon her hands, her lips touched her own fingers
there where her friend's had rested in gratitude and love, and she
cried, cried like a broken-hearted woman, cried for her lost illusions,
and the end of her brief romance!
LADY SUE'S FORTUNE
Less than an hour later four people were assembled in the small
withdrawing-room of Acol Court.
Master Skyffington sat behind a central table, a little pompous of
manner, clad in sober black with well-starched linen cuffs and collar,
his scanty hair closely cropped, his thin hands fingering with assurance
and perfect calm the various documents laid out before him. Near him Sir
Marmaduke de Chavasse, sitting with his back to the dim November light,
which vainly strove to penetrate the tiny glass panes of the casement
In a more remote corner of the room sat Editha de Chavasse, vainly
trying to conceal the agitation which her trembling hands, her quivering
face and restless eyes persistently betrayed. And beside the central
table, near Master Skyffington and facing Sir Marmaduke, was Lady
Susannah Aldmarshe, only daughter and heiress of the late Earl of Dover,
this day aged twenty-one years, and about to receive from the hands of
her legal guardians the vast fortune which her father had bequeathed to
her, and which was to become absolutely hers this day to dispose of as
"And now, my dear child," said Master Skyffington with due solemnity,
when he had disposed a number of documents and papers in methodical
order upon the table, "let me briefly explain to you the object ... hem
... of this momentous meeting here to-day."
"I am all attention, master," said Sue vaguely, and her eyes wide-open,
obviously absent, she gazed fixedly on the silhouette of Sir Marmaduke,
grimly outlined against the grayish window-panes.
"I must tell you, my dear child," resumed Master Skyffington after a
slight pause, during which he had studied with vague puzzledom the
inscrutable face of the young girl, "I must tell you that your late
father, the noble Earl of Dover, had married the heiress of Peter Ford,
the wealthiest merchant this country hath ever known. She was your own
lamented mother, and the whole of her fortune, passing through her
husband's hands, hath now devolved upon you. My much-esteemed patron--I
may venture to say friend--Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, having been
appointed your legal guardian by the Court of Chancery, and I myself
being thereupon named the repository of your securities, these have been
administered by me up to now.... You are listening to me, are you not,
my dear young lady?"
The question was indeed necessary, for even to Master Skyffington's
unobservant mind it was apparent that Sue's eyes had a look of aloofness
in them, of detachment from her surroundings, which was altogether
inexplicable to the worthy attorney's practical sense of the due fitness
At his query she made a sudden effort to bring her thoughts back from
the past to the present, to drag her heart and her aching brain away
from that half-hour spent in the hall, from that conversation with her
friend, from the recollection of that terribly cruel blow which she had
been forced to deal to the man who loved her best in all the world.
"Yes, yes, kind master," she said, "I am listening."
And she fixed her eyes resolutely on the attorney's solemn face, forcing
her mind to grasp what he was about to say.
"By the terms of your noble father's will," continued Master
Skyffington, as soon as he had satisfied himself that he at last held
the heiress's attention, "the securities, receipts and all other moneys
are to be given over absolutely and unconditionally into your own hands
on your twenty-first birthday."
"Which is to-day," said Sue simply.
"Which is to-day," assented the lawyer. "The securities, receipts and
other bonds, grants of monopolies and so forth lie before you on this
table.... They represent in value over half a million of English
money.... A very large sum indeed for so young a girl to have full
control of.... Nevertheless, it is yours absolutely and unconditionally,
according to the wishes of your late noble father ... and Sir Marmaduke
de Chavasse, your late guardian, and I myself, have met you here this
day for the express purpose of handing these securities, grants and
receipts over to you, and to obtain in exchange your own properly
attested signature in full discharge of any further obligation on our
Master Skyffington was earnestly gazing into the young girl's face,
whilst he thus literally dangled before her the golden treasures of
wealth, which were about to become absolutely her own. He thought, not
unnaturally, that a girl of her tender years, brought up in the
loneliness and seclusion of a not too luxurious home, would feel in a
measure dazzled and certainly overjoyed at the brilliant prospect which
such independent and enormous wealth opened out before her.
But the amiable attorney was vastly disappointed to see neither
pleasure, nor even interest, expressed in Lady Sue's face, which on this
joyous and momentous occasion looked unnaturally calm and pallid. Even
now when he paused expectant and eager, waiting for some comment or
exclamation of approval or joy from her, she was silent for a while, and
then said in a stolidly inquiring tone:
"Then after to-day ... I shall have full control of my money?"
"Absolute control, my dear young lady," he rejoined, feeling strangely
perturbed at this absence of emotion.
"And no one ... after to-day ... will have the right to inquire as to
the use I make of these securities, grants or whatever you, Master
Skyffington, have called them?" she continued with the same placidity.
"No one, of a surety, my dear Sue," here interposed Sir Marmaduke,
speaking in his usual harsh and dictatorial way, "but this is a strange
and somewhat peremptory question for a young maid to put at this
juncture. Master Skyffington and I myself had hoped that you would
listen to counsels of prudence, and would allow him, who hath already
administered your fortune in a vastly able manner, to continue so to do,
for a while at any rate."
"That question we can discuss later on, Sir Marmaduke," said Sue now,
with sudden hauteur. "Shall we proceed with our business, master?" she
added, turning deliberately to the lawyer, ignoring with calm disdain
the very presence of her late guardian.
The studied contempt of his ward's manner, however, seemed not to
disturb the serenity of Sir Marmaduke to any appreciable extent. Casting
a quick, inquisitorial glance at Sue, he shrugged his shoulders in token
of indifference and said no more.
"Certainly, certainly," responded Master Skyffington, somewhat
embarrassed, "my dear young lady ... hem ... as ... er ... as you wish
... but ..."
Then he turned deliberately to Sir Marmaduke, once more bringing him
into the proceedings, and tacitly condemning her ladyship's
extraordinary attitude towards his distinguished patron.
"Having now explained to Lady Sue Aldmarshe the terms of her noble
father's will," he said, "methinks that she is ready to receive the
moneys from our hands, good Sir Marmaduke, and thereupon to give us the
proper receipt prescribed by law, for the same ..."
He checked himself for a moment, and then made a respectful, if pointed,
"Mistress de Chavasse?" he said inquiringly.
"Mistress de Chavasse is a member of the family," replied Sir Marmaduke,
"the business can be transacted in her presence."
"Nothing therefore remains to be said, my dear young lady," rejoined
Master Skyffington, once more speaking directly to Sue and placing his
lean hands with fingers outstretched, over the bundles of papers lying
before him. "Here are your securities, your grants, moneys and receipts,
worth L500,000 of the present currency of this realm.... These I, in
mine own name and that of my honored friend and patron, Sir Marmaduke de
Chavasse, do hereby hand over to you. You will, I pray, verify and sign
the receipt in proper and due form."
He began sorting and overlooking the papers, muttering half audibly the
while, as he transferred each bundle from his own side of the table to
that beside which Lady Sue was sitting:
"The deeds of property in Holland ... hem.... Receipt of moneys
deposited at the bank of Amsterdam.... The same from the Bank of
Vienna.... Grant of monopoly for the hemp trade in Russia.... hem ..."
Thus he mumbled for some time, as these papers, representing a fortune,
passed out of his keeping into those of a young maid but recently out of
her teens. Sue watched him silently and placidly, just as she had done
throughout this momentous interview, which was, of a truth, the starting
point of her independent life.
Her face expressed neither joy nor excitement of any kind. She knew that
all the wealth which now lay before her, would only pass briefly through
her hands. She knew that the prince--her husband--was waiting for it
even now. Doubtless, he was counting the hours when his young wife's
vast fortune would come to him as the realization of all his dreams.
In spite of her present disbelief in his love, in spite of the bitter
knowledge that her own had waned, Sue had no misgivings as yet as to the
honor, the truth, the loyalty of the man whose name she now bore. Her
illusions were gone, her romance had become dull reality, but to one
thought she clung with all the tenacity of despair, and that was to the
illusion that Prince Amede d'Orleans was the selfless patriot, the
regenerator of downtrodden France, which he represented himself to be.
Because of that belief she welcomed the wealth, which she would this day
be able to place in his hands. Her own girlish dreams had vanished, but
her temperament was far too romantic and too poetic not to recreate
illusions, even when the old ones had been so ruthlessly shattered.
But this recreation would occur anon--not just now, not at the very
moment when her heart ached with an intolerable pain at thought of the
sorrow which she had caused to her one friend. Presently, no doubt, when
she met her husband, when his usual grandiloquent phrases had once more
succeeded in arousing her enthusiasm for the cause which he pleaded, she
would once more feel serene and happy at thought of the help which she,
with her great wealth, would be giving him; for the nonce the whole
transaction grated on her sense of romance; money passing from hand to
hand, a man waiting somewhere in the dark to receive wealth from a
Master Skyffington desired her to look over the papers, ere she signed
the formal receipt for them, but she waved them gently aside:
"Quite unnecessary, kind master," she said decisively, "since I receive
them at your hands."
She bent over the document which the lawyer now placed before her, and
took the pen from him.
"Where shall I sign?" she asked.
Sir Marmaduke and Editha de Chavasse watched her keenly, as with a bold
stroke of the pen she wrote her name across the receipt.
"Now the papers, please, master," said Lady Sue peremptorily.
But the prudent lawyer had still a word of protest to enter here.
"My dear young lady," he said tentatively, awed in spite of himself by
the self-possessed behavior of a maid whom up to now he had regarded as
a mere child, "let me, as a man of vast experience in such matters,
repeat to you the well-meant advice which Sir Marmaduke ..."
But she checked him decisively, though kindly.
"You said, Master Skyffington, did you not," she said, "that after
to-day no one had the slightest control over my actions or over my
"That is so, certainly," he rejoined, "but ..."
"Well, then, kind master, I pray you," she said authoritatively, "to
hand me over all those securities, grants and moneys, for which I have
just signed a receipt."
There was naught to do for a punctilious lawyer, as was Master
Skyffington, but to obey forthwith. This he did, without another word,
collecting the various bundles of paper and placing them one by one in
the brown leather wallet which he had brought for the purpose. Sue
watched him quietly, and when the last of the important documents had
been deposited in the wallet, she held out her hand for it.
With a grave bow, and an unconsciously pompous gesture, Master
Skyffington, attorney-at-law, handed over that wallet which now
contained a fortune to Lady Susannah Aldmarshe.
She took it, and graciously bowed her head to him in acknowledgment.
Then, after a slight, distinctly haughty nod to Sir Marmaduke and to
Editha, she turned and walked silently out of the room.
HUSBAND AND WIFE
Mistress Martha Lambert was a dignified old woman, on whose wrinkled
face stern virtues, sedulously practiced, had left their lasting
imprint. Among these virtues which she had thus somewhat ruthlessly
exercised throughout her long life, cleanliness and orderliness stood
out pre-eminently. They undoubtedly had brought some of the deepest
furrows round her eyes and mouth, as indeed they had done round those of
Adam Lambert, who having lived with her all his life, had had to suffer
from her passion of scrubbing and tidying more than anyone else.
But her cottage was resplendent: her chief virtues being apparent in
every nook and corner of the orderly little rooms which formed her home
and that of the two lads whom a dying friend had entrusted to her care.
The parlor below, with its highly polished bits of furniture, its
spotless wooden floor and whitewashed walls, was a miracle of
cleanliness. The table in the center was laid with a snowy white cloth,
on it the pewter candlesticks shone like antique silver. Two
straight-backed mahogany chairs were drawn cozily near to the hearth,
wherein burned a bright fire made up of ash logs. There was a quaint
circular mirror in a gilt frame over the hearth, a relic of former,
somewhat more prosperous times.
In one of the chairs lolled the mysterious lodger, whom a strange Fate
in a perverse mood seemed to have wafted to this isolated little cottage
on the outskirts of the loneliest village in Thanet.
Prince Amede d'Orleans was puffing at that strange weed which of late
had taken such marked hold of most men, tending to idleness in them, for
it caused them to sit staring at the smoke which they drew from pipes
made of clay; surely the Lord had never intended such strange doings,
and Mistress Martha would willingly have protested against the
unpleasant odor thus created by her lodger when he was puffing away,
only that she stood somewhat in awe of his ill-humor and of his violent
language, especially when Adam himself was from home.
On these occasions--such, for instance, as the present one--she had,
perforce, to be content with additional efforts at cleanliness, and, as
she was convinced that so much smoke must be conducive to soot and dirt,
she plied her dusting-cloth with redoubled vigor and energy. Whilst the
prince lolled and pulled at his clay pipe, she busied herself all round
the tiny room, polishing the backs of the old elm chairs, and the brass
handles of the chest of drawers.
"How much longer are you going to fuss about, my good woman?" quoth
Prince Amede d'Orleans impatiently after a while. "This shuffling round
me irritates my nerves."
Mistress Martha, however, suffered from deafness. She could see from the
quick, angry turn of the head that her lodger was addressing her, but
did not catch his words. She drew a little nearer, bending her ear to
"Eh? ... what?" she queried in that high-pitched voice peculiar to the
deaf. "I am somewhat hard of hearing just now. I did not hear thee."
But he pushed her roughly aside with a jerk of his elbow.
"Go away!" he said impatiently. "Do not worry me!"
"Ah! the little pigs?" she rejoined blithely. "I thank thee ... they be
doing nicely, thank the Lord ... six of them and ... eh? what? ... I'm a
bit hard of hearing these times."
He had some difficulty in keeping up even a semblance of calm. The
placidity of the old Quakeress irritated him beyond endurance. He
dreaded the return of Adam Lambert from his work, and worse still, he
feared the arrival of Richard. Fortunately he had gathered from Martha
that the young man had come home early in the day in a state of high
nervous tension, bordering on acute fever. He had neither eaten nor
drunk, but after tidying his clothes and reassuring her as to his future
movements, he had sallied out into the woods and had not returned since
Sir Marmaduke had quickly arrived at the conclusion that Richard Lambert
had seen and spoken to Lady Sue and had learned from her that she was
now irrevocably married to him, whom she always called her prince.
Doubtless, the young man was frenzied with grief, and in his weak state
of health after the terrible happenings of the past few weeks, would
mayhap, either go raving mad, or end his miserable existence over the
cliffs. Either eventuality would suit Sir Marmaduke admirably, and he
sighed with satisfaction at the thought that the knot between the
heiress and himself was indeed tied sufficiently firm now to ensure her
obedience to his will.
There was to be one more scene in the brief and cruel drama which he had
devised for the hoodwinking and final spoliation of a young and
inexperienced girl. She had earlier in the day been placed in possession
of all the negotiable part of her fortune. This, though by no means
representing the whole of her wealth, which also lay in landed estates,
was nevertheless of such magnitude that the thought of its possession
caused every fiber in Sir Marmaduke's body to thrill with the delight of
One more brief scene in the drama: the handing over of that vast
fortune, by the young girl-wife--blindly and obediently--to the man whom
she believed to be her husband. Once that scene enacted, the curtain
would fall on the love episode 'twixt a romantic and ignorant maid and
the most daring scoundrel that had ever committed crime to obtain a
In anticipation of that last and magnificent _denouement_, Sir Marmaduke
had once more donned the disguise of the exiled Orleans prince: the
elaborate clothes, the thick perruque, the black silk shade over the
left eye, which gave him such a sinister expression.
Now he was literally devoured with the burning desire to see Sue
arriving with that wallet in her hand, which contained securities and
grants to the value of L500,000. A brief interlude with her, a few words
of perfunctory affection, a few assurances of good faith, and he--as her
princely husband--would vanish from her ken forever.
He meant to go abroad immediately--this very night, if possible.
Prudence and caution could easily be thrown to the winds, once the
negotiable securities were actually in his hands. What he could convert
into money, he would do immediately, going to Amsterdam first, to
withdraw the sum standing at the bank there on deposit, and for which
anon, he would possess the receipt; after that the sale of the grant of
monopolies should be easy of accomplishment. Sir Marmaduke had boundless
faith in his own ability to carry through his own business. He might
stand to lose some of the money perhaps; prudence and caution might
necessitate the relinquishing of certain advantages, but even then he
would be rich and passing rich, and he knew that he ran but little risk
of detection. The girl was young, inexperienced and singularly
friendless: Sir Marmaduke felt convinced that none of the foreign
transactions could ever be directly traced to himself.
He would be prudent and Europe was wide, and he meant to leave English
grants and securities severely alone.
He had mused and pondered on his plans all day. The evening found him
half-exhausted with nerve-strain, febrile and almost sick with the agony
He had calculated that Sue would be free towards seven o'clock, as he
had given Editha strict injunctions to keep discreetly out of the way,
whilst at a previous meeting in the park, it had been arranged that the
young girl should come to the cottage with the money, on the evening of
her twenty-first birthday and there hand her fortune over to her
Now Sir Marmaduke cursed himself and his folly for having made this
arrangement. He had not known--when he made it--that Richard would be
back at Acol then. Adam the smith, never came home before eight o'clock
and the old Quakeress herself would not have been much in the way.
Even now she had shuffled back into her kitchen, leaving her ill-humored
lodger to puff away at the malodorous weed as he chose. But Richard
might return at any moment, and then ...
Sir Marmaduke had never thought of that possible contingency. If
Richard Lambert came face to face with him, he would of a surety pierce
the disguise of the prince, and recognize the man who had so deeply
wronged poor, unsuspecting Lady Sue. If only a kindly Fate had kept the
young man away another twenty-four hours! or better still, if it led the
despairing lover's footsteps to the extremest edge of the cliffs!
Sir Marmaduke now paced the narrow room up and down in an agony of
impatience. Nine o'clock had struck long ago, but Sue had not yet come.
The wildest imaginings run riot in the schemer's brain: every hour, nay!
every minute spent within was fraught with danger. He sought his
broad-brimmed hat, determined now to meet Sue in the park, to sally
forth at risk of missing her, at risk of her arriving here at the
cottage when he was absent, and of her meeting Richard Lambert perhaps,
before the irrevocable deed of gift had been accomplished.
But the suspense was intolerable.
With a violent oath Sir Marmaduke pressed the hat over his head, and
strode to the door.
His hand was on the latch, when he heard a faint sound from without: a
girl's footsteps, timorous yet swift, along the narrow flagged path
which led down the tiny garden gate.
The next moment he had thrown open the door and Sue stood before him.
Anyone but a bold and unscrupulous schemer would have been struck by the
pathos of the solitary figure which now appeared in the tiny doorway.
The penetrating November drizzle had soaked through the dark cloak and
hood which now hung heavy and dank round the young girl's shoulders.
Framed by the hood, her face appeared preternaturally pale, her lips
were quivering and her eyes, large and dilated, had almost a hunted look
Oh! the pity and sadness of it all! For in her small and trembling hands
she was clutching with pathetic tenacity a small, brown wallet which
contained a fortune worthy of a princess.
She looked eagerly into her husband's face, dreading the scowl, the
outburst of anger or jealousy mayhap with which of late, alas! he had so
oft greeted her arrival. But as was his wont, he stood with his back to
the lighted room, and she could not read the expression of that one
cyclops-like eye, which to-night appeared more sinister than ever
beneath the thick perruque and broad-brimmed hat.
"I am sorry to be so late," she said timidly, "the evening repast at the
Court was interminable and Mistress de Chavasse full of gossip."
"Yes, yes, I know," he replied, "am I not used to seeing that your
social duties oft make you forget your husband?"
"You are unjust, Amede," she rejoined.
She entered the little parlor and stood beside the table, making no
movement to divest herself of her dripping cloak, or to sit down, nor
indeed did her husband show the slightest inclination to ask her to do
either. He had closed the door behind her, and followed her to the
center of the room. Was it by accident or design that as he reached the
table he threw his broad-brimmed hat, down with such an unnecessary
flourish of the arm that he knocked over one of the heavy pewter
candlesticks, so that it rolled down upon the floor, causing the tallow
candle to sputter and die out with a weird and hissing sound?
Only one dim yellow light now illumined the room, it shone full into the
pallid face of the young wife standing some three paces from the table,
whilst Prince Amede d'Orleans' face between her and the light, was once
more in deep shadow.
"You are unjust," she repeated firmly. "Have I not run the gravest
possible risks for your sake, and those without murmur or complaint, for
the past six months? Did I not compromise my reputation for you by
meeting you alone ... of nights? ..."
"I was laboring under the idea, my wench, that you were doing all that
because you cared for me," he retorted with almost brutal curtness, "and
because you had the desire to become the Princess d'Orleans; that desire
is now gratified and ..."
He had not really meant to be unkind. There was of a truth no object to
be gained by being brutal to her now. But that wallet, which she held so
tightly clutched, acted as an irritant to his nerves. Never of very
equable temperament and holding all women in lofty scorn, he chafed
against all parleyings with his wife, now that the goal of his ambition
was so close at hand.
She winced at the insult, and the tears which she fain would have hidden
from him, rose involuntarily to her eyes.
"Ah!" she sighed, "if you only knew how little I care for that title of
princess! ... Did you perchance think that I cared? ... Nay! how gladly
would I give up all thought of ever bearing that proud appellation, in
exchange for a few more happy illusions such as I possessed three months
"Illusions are all very well for a school-girl, my dear Suzanne," he
remarked with a cool shrug of his massive shoulders. "Reality should be
more attractive to you now...."
He looked her up and down, realizing perhaps for the first time that she
was exquisitely beautiful; beautiful always, but more so now in the
pathos of her helplessness. Somewhat perfunctorily, because in his
ignorance of women he thought that it would please her, and also because
vaguely something human and elemental had suddenly roused his pulses, he
relinquished his nonchalant attitude, and came a step nearer to her.
"You are very beautiful, my Suzanne," he said half-ironically, and with
marked emphasis on the possessive.
Again he drew nearer, not choosing to note the instinctive stiffening of
her figure, the shrinking look in her eyes. He caught her arm and drew
her to him, laughing a low mocking laugh as he did so, for she had
turned her face away from him.
"Come," he said lightly, "will you not kiss me, my beautiful Suzanne?
... my wife, my princess."
She was silent, impassive, indifferent so he thought, although the arm
which he held trembled within his grip.
He stretched out his other hand, and taking her chin between his
fingers, he forcibly turned her face towards him. Something in her face,
in her attitude, now roused a certain rough passion in him. Mayhap the
weary wailing during the day, the agonizing impatience, or the golden
argosy so near to port, had strung up his nerves to fever pitch.
Irritation against her impassiveness, in such glaring contrast to her
glowing ardor of but a few weeks ago, mingled with that essentially male
desire to subdue and to conquer that which is inclined to resist, sent
the blood coursing wildly through his veins.
"Ah!" he said with a sigh half of desire, half of satisfaction, as he
looked into her upturned face, "the chaste blush of the bride is vastly
becoming to you, my Suzanne! ... it acts as fuel to the flames of my
love ... since I can well remember the passionate kisses you gave me so
willingly awhile ago."
The thought of that happy past, gave her sudden strength. Catching him
unawares she wrenched herself free from his hold.
"This is a mockery, prince," she said with vehemence, and meeting his
half-mocking glance with one of scorn. "Do you think that I have been
blind these last few weeks? ... Your love for me hath changed, if indeed
it ever existed, whilst I ..."
"Whilst you, my beautiful Suzanne," he rejoined lightly, "are mine ...
irrevocably, irretrievably mine ... mine because I love you, and because
you are my wife ... and owe me that obedience which you vowed to Heaven
that you would give me.... That is so, is it not?"
There was a moment's silence in the tiny cottage parlor now, whilst
he--gauging the full value of his words, knowing by instinct that he had
struck the right cord in that vibrating girlish heart, watched the
subtle change in her face from defiance and wrath to submission and
"Yes, Amede," she murmured after a while, "I owe you obedience, honor
and love, and you need not fear that I will fail in either. But you,"
she added with pathetic anxiety, "you do care for me still? do you not?"
"Of course I care for you," he remarked, "I worship you.... There! ...
will that satisfy you? ... And now?" he added peremptorily, "have you
brought the money?"
The short interlude of passion was over. His eye had accidentally rested
for one second on the leather wallet, which she still held tightly
clutched, and all thoughts of her beauty, of his power or his desires,
had flown out to the winds.
"Yes," she replied meekly, "it is all here, in the wallet."
She laid it down upon the table, feeling neither anxiety nor remorse. He
was her husband and had a right to her fortune, as he had to her person
and to her thoughts and heart an he wished. Nor did she care about the
money, as to the value of which she was, of course, ignorant.
Her wealth, up to now, had only had a meaning for her, as part of some
noble scheme for the regeneration of mankind. Now she hoped vaguely, as
she put that wallet down on the table, then pushed it towards her
husband, that she was purchasing her freedom with her wealth.
Certainly she realized that his thoughts had very quickly been diverted
from her beauty to the contents of the wallet. The mocking laugh died
down on his lips, giving place to a sigh of deep satisfaction.
"You were very prudent, my dear Suzanne, to place this portion of your
wealth in my charge," he said as he slipped the bulky papers into the
lining of his doublet. "Of course it is all yours, and I--your
husband--am but the repository and guardian of your fortune. And now
methinks 'twere prudent for you to return to the Court. Sir Marmaduke de
Chavasse will be missing you...."
It did not seem to strike her as strange that he should dismiss her thus
abruptly, and make no attempt to explain what his future plans might
be, nor indeed what his intentions were with regard to herself.
The intensity of her disappointment, the utter loneliness and
helplessness of her position had caused a veritable numbing of her
faculties and of her spirit and for the moment she was perhaps primarily
conscious of a sense of relief at her dismissal.
Like her wedding in the dismal little church, this day of her birthday,
of her independence, of her handing over her fortune to her husband for
the glorious purposes of his selfless schemes had been so very, very
different to what she had pictured to herself in her girlish and
The sordidness of it all had ruthlessly struck her; for the first time
in her intercourse with this man, she doubted the genuineness of his
motives. With the passing of her fortune from her hands to his, the last
vestige of belief in him died down with appalling suddenness.
It could not have been because of the expression in his eyes, as he
fingered the wallet, for this she could not see, since his face was
still in shadow. It must have been just instinct--that, and the mockery
of his attempt to make love to her. Had he ever loved her, he could not
have mocked ... not now, that she was helpless and entirely at his
Love once felt, is sacred to him who feels: mockery even of the ashes of
love is an impossible desecration, one beyond the power of any man.
Then, if he had never loved her, why had he pretended? Why have deceived
her with a semblance of passion?
And the icy whisper of reason blew into her mental ear, the ugly word:
He opened the door for her, and without another word, she passed out
into the dark night. Only when she reached the tiny gate at the end of
the flagged path, did she realize that he was walking with her.
"I can find my way alone through the woods," she said coldly. "I came
"It was earlier then," he rejoined blandly, "and I prefer to see you
safely as far as the park."
And they walked on side by side in silence. Overhead the melancholy drip
of moisture falling from leaf to leaf, and from leaf to the ground, was
the only sound that accompanied their footsteps. Sue shivered beneath
her damp cloak; but she walked as far away from him as the width of the
woodland path allowed. He seemed absorbed in his own thoughts and not to
notice how she shrank from the slightest contact with him.
At the park gate he paused, having opened it for her to pass through.
"I must bid you good-night here, Suzanne," he said lightly, "there may
be footpads about and I must place your securities away under lock and
key. I may be absent a few days for that purpose.... London, you know,"
he added vaguely.
Then as she made no comment:
"I will arrange for our next meeting," he said, "anon, there will be no
necessity to keep our marriage a secret, but until I give you permission
to speak of it, 'twere better that you remained silent on that score."
She contrived to murmur:
"As you will."
And presently, as he made no movement towards her, she said:
This time he had not even desired to kiss her.
The next moment she had disappeared in the gloom. She fled as fast as
she dared in the inky blackness of this November night. She could have
run for miles, or for hours, away! away from all this sordidness, this
avarice, this deceit and cruelty! Away! away from him!!
How glad she was that darkness enveloped her, for now she felt horribly
ashamed. Instinct, too, is cruel at times! Instinct had been silent so
long during the most critical juncture of her own folly. Now it spoke
loudly, warningly; now that it was too late.
Ashamed of her own stupidity and blindness! her vanity mayhap had alone
led her to believe the passionate protestations of a liar.
A liar! a mean, cowardly schemer, but her husband for all that! She owed
him love, honor and obedience; if he commanded, she must obey; if he
called she must fain go to him.
Oh! please God! that she had succeeded in purchasing her freedom from
him by placing L500,000 in his hands.
Shame! shame that this should be! that she should have mistaken vile
schemes for love, that a liar's kisses should have polluted her soul!
that she should be the wife, the bondswoman of a cheat!
The cry rang out in the night close to her, and arrested her fleeing
footsteps. She was close to the ha-ha, having run on blindly, madly,
guided by that unaccountable instinct which makes for the shelter of
In a moment she had recognized the voice. In a moment she was beside her
friend. Her passionate mood passed away, leaving her calm and almost at
peace. Shame still caused her cheeks to burn, but the night was dark and
doubtless he would not see.
But she could feel that he was near her, therefore, there was no fear in
her. What had guided her footsteps hither she did not know. Of course he
had guessed that she had been to meet her husband.
There were no exclamations or protestations between them. She merely
said quite simply:
"I am glad that you came to say 'good-bye!'"
The park was open here. The nearest trees were some fifty paces away,
and in the ghostly darkness they could just perceive one another's
silhouettes. The mist enveloped them as with a shroud, the damp cold air
caused them to shiver as under the embrace of death.
"It is good-bye," he rejoined calmly.
"Mayhap that I shall go abroad soon," she said.
"With that man?"
The cry broke out from the bitterness of his heart, but a cold little
hand was placed restrainingly on his.
"When I go ... if I go," she murmured, "I shall do so with my
husband.... You see, my friend, do you not, that there is naught else to
say but 'good-bye'?"
"And you will be happy, Sue?" he asked.
"I hope so!" she sighed wistfully.
"You will always remember, will you not, my dear lady, that wherever you
may be, there is always someone in remote Thanet, who is ready at any
time to give his life for you?"
"Yes! I will remember," she said simply.
"And you must promise me," he insisted, "promise me now, Sue, that if
... which Heaven forbid ... you are in any trouble or sorrow, and I can
do aught for you, that you will let me know and send for me ... and I
"Yes, Richard, I promise.... Good-bye."
And she was gone. The mist, the gloom hid her completely from view. He
waited by the little bridge, for the night was still and he would have
heard if she called.
He heard her light footsteps on the gravel, then on the flagged walk.
Anon came the sound of the opening and shutting of a door. After that,
silence: the silence of a winter's night, when not a breath of wind
stirs the dead branches of the trees, when woodland and field and park
are wrapped in the shroud of the mist.
Richard Lambert turned back towards the village.
Sue--married to another man--had passed out of his life forever.
ALL BECAUSE OF THE TINDER-BOX
How oft it is in life that Fate, leading a traveler in easy gradients
upwards along a road of triumph, suddenly assumes a madcap mood and with
wanton hand throws a tiny obstacle in his way; an obstacle at times
infinitesimal, scarce visible on that way towards success, yet powerful
enough to trip the unwary traveler and bring him down to earth with
sudden and woeful vigor.
With Sir Marmaduke so far everything had prospered according to his
wish. He had inveigled the heiress into a marriage which bound her to
his will, yet left him personally free; she had placed her fortune
unreservedly and unconditionally in his hands, and had, so far as he
knew, not even suspected the treachery practiced upon her by her
Not a soul had pierced his disguise, and the identity of Prince Amede
d'Orleans was unknown even to his girl-wife.
With the disappearance of that mysterious personage, Sir Marmaduke
having realized Lady Sue's fortune, could resume life as an independent
gentleman, with this difference, that henceforth he would be passing
rich, able to gratify his ambition, to cut a figure in the world as he
Fortune which had been his idol all his life, now was indeed his slave.
He had it, he possessed it. It lay snug and safe in a leather wallet
inside the lining of his doublet.
Sue had gone out of his sight, desirous apparently of turning her back
on him forever. He was free and rich. The game had been risky, daring
beyond belief, yet he had won in the end. He could afford to laugh now
at all the dangers, the subterfuges, the machinations which had all gone
to the making of that tragic comedy in which he had been the principal
The last scene in the drama had been successfully enacted. The curtain
had been finally lowered; and Sir Marmaduke swore that there should be
no epilogue to the play.
Then it was that Fate--so well-named the wanton jade--shook herself from
out the torpor in which she had wandered for so long beside this Kentish
squire. A spirit of mischief seized upon her and whispered that she had
held this man quite long enough by the hand and that it would be far
more amusing now to see him measure his length on the ground.
And all that Fate did, in order to satisfy this spirit of mischief, was
to cause Sir Marmaduke to forget his tinder-box in the front parlor of
Mistress Martha Lambert's cottage.
A tinder-box is a small matter! an object of infinitesimal importance
when the broad light of day illumines the interior of houses or the
bosquets of a park, but it becomes an object of paramount importance,
when the night is pitch dark, and when it is necessary to effect an
exchange of clothing within the four walls of a pavilion.
Sir Marmaduke had walked to the park gates with his wife, not so much
because he was anxious for her safety, but chiefly because he meant to
retire within the pavilion, there to cast aside forever the costume and
appurtenances of Prince Amede d'Orleans and to reassume the
sable-colored doublet and breeches of the Roundhead squire, which
proceeding he had for the past six months invariably accomplished in the
lonely little building on the outskirts of his own park.
As soon, therefore, as he realized that Sue had gone, he turned his
steps towards the pavilion. The night seemed additionally dark here
under the elms, and Sir Marmaduke searched in his pocket for his
It was not there. He had left it at the cottage, and quickly recollected
seeing it lying on the table at the very moment that Sue pushed the
leather wallet towards him.
He had mounted the few stone steps which led up to the building, but
even whilst he groped for the latch with an impatient hand, he realized
how impossible it would be for him anon, to change his clothes, in the
dark; not only to undress and dress again, but to collect the belongings
of the Prince d'Orleans subsequently, for the purpose of destroying them
at an early opportunity.
Groping about in inky blackness might mean the forgetting of some
article of apparel, which, if found later on, might lead to suspicion or
even detection of the fraud. Sir Marmaduke dared not risk it.
Light he needed, and light he ought to have. The tinder-box had become
of paramount importance, and it was sheer wantonness on the part of Fate
that she should have allowed that little article to rest forgotten on
the table in Mistress Lambert's cottage.
Sir Marmaduke remained pondering--in the darkness and the mist--for a
while. His own doublet and breeches, shoes and stockings were in the
pavilion: would he ever be able to get at them without a light? No,
certainly not! nor could he venture to go home to the Court in his
present disguise, and leave his usual clothes in this remote building.
Prying, suspicious eyes--such as those of Master Hymn-of-Praise Busy,
for instance, might prove exceedingly uncomfortable and even dangerous.
On the other hand, would it not be ten thousand times more dangerous to
go back to the cottage now and risk meeting Richard Lambert face to
And it was Richard whom Sir Marmaduke feared.
He had, therefore, almost decided to try his luck at dressing in the
dark, and was once more fumbling with the latch of the pavilion door,
when through the absolute silence of the air, there came to his ear
through the mist the sound of a young voice calling the name of "Sue!"
The voice was that of Richard Lambert.
The coast would be clear then. Richard had met Sue in the park: no
doubt he would hold her a few moments in conversation. The schemer cared
not what the two young people would or would not say to one another; all
that interested him now was the fact that Richard was not at the
cottage, and that, therefore, it would be safe to run back and fetch the
All this was a part of Fate's mischievous prank. Sir Marmaduke was not
afraid of meeting the old Quakeress, nor yet the surly smith; Richard
being out of the way, he had no misgivings in his mind when he retraced
his steps towards the cottage.
It was close on eight o'clock then, in fact the tiny bell in Acol church
struck the hour even as Sir Marmaduke lifted the latch of the little
The old woman was in the parlor, busy as usual with her dusting-cloth.
Without heeding her, Sir Marmaduke strode up to the table and pushing
the crockery, which now littered it, aside, he searched for his
It was not there. With an impatient oath, he turned to Mistress Martha,
and roughly demanded if she had seen it.
"Eh? ... What?" she queried, shuffling a little nearer to him, "I am
somewhat hard of hearing ... as thou knowest...."
"Have you seen my tinder-box?" he repeated with ever-growing irritation.
"Ah, yea, the fog!" she said blandly, "'tis damp too, of a truth, and
"Hold your confounded tongue!" he shouted wrathfully, "and try and hear
me. My tinder-box...."
"Thy what? I am a bit ..."
"Curse you for an old fool," swore Sir Marmaduke, who by now was in a
With a violent gesture he pushed the old woman aside and turning on her
in an uncontrolled access of fury, with both arms upraised, he shouted:
"If you don't hear me now, I'll break every bone in your ugly body....
Where is my ..."
It had all happened in a very few seconds: his entrance, his search for
the missing box, the growing irritation in him which had caused him to