Part 4 out of 5
"Why, marry, so am I in haste. My will is your horse, sir.
Oh, I'm no robber. I'll pay you for it, and handsomely. But
have it I must. 'Twill be no great discomfort for you to walk
to Norwich. You may do it in an hour."
"My horse, sir, is not for sale," was Kenneth's brief answer.
"Give you good night."
"Hold, man! Blood and hell, stop! If you'll not sell the
worthless beast to serve a gentleman, I'll shoot it under you.
Make your choice."
Kenneth caught the gleam of a pistol-barrel pointed at him from
the hedge, and he shivered. What was he to do? Every instant
was precious to him. As in a flash it came to him that
perchance Sir Crispin also rode to London, and that it was
expected of him to arrive there first if he were to be in time.
Swiftly he weighed the odds in his mind, and took the
determination to dash past Sir Crispin, risking his aim and
trusting to the dark to befriend him.
But even as he determined thus, what moon there was became
unveiled, and the light of it fell upon his face, which was
turned towards Galliard. An exclamation of surprise escaped
"'Slife, Master Stewart, I knew not your voice. Whither do you
"What is it to you? Have you not wrought enough of evil for
me? Am I never to be rid of you? Castle Marleigh," he added,
with well-feigned anger, "has closed its doors upon me. What
does it signify to you whither I ride? Suffer me leastways to
pass unmolested, and to leave you."
Kenneth's passionate reproaches cut Galliard keenly. He held
himself at that moment a very knave for having dragged this boy
into his work of vengeance, and thereby cast a blight upon his
life. He sought for words wherein to give expression to
something of what he felt, then realizing how futile and effete
all words must prove, he waved his hand in the direction of the
"Go, Master Stewart," he muttered. "Your way is clear."
And Kenneth, waiting for no second invitation, rode on and left
him. He rode with gratitude in his heart to the Providence
that had caused him so easily to overcome an obstacle that at
first he had held impassable. Stronger grew in his mind the
conviction that to fulfil the mission Joseph required of him,
he must reach London before Sir Crispin. The knowledge that he
was ahead of him, and that he must derive an ample start from
Galliard's mishap, warmed him like wine.
His mind thus relieved from its weight of anxiety, he little
recked fatigue, and such excellent use did he make of his horse
that he reached Newmarket on it an hour before the morrow's
An hour he rested there, and broke his fast. Then on a fresh
horse - a powerful and willing animal he set out once more.
By half-past two he was at Newport. But so hard had he ridden
that man and beast alike were in a lather of sweat, and whilst
he himself felt sick and tired, the horse was utterly unfit to
bear him farther. For half an hour he rested there, and made a
meal whose chief constituent was brandy. Then on a third horse
he started upon the last stage of his journey.
The wind was damp and penetrating; the roads veritable morasses
of mud, and overhead gloomy banks of dark, grey clouds moved
sluggishly, the light that was filtered through them giving the
landscape a bleak and dreary aspect. In his jaded condition
Kenneth soon became a prey to the depression of it. His
lightness of heart of some dozen hours ago was now all gone,
and not even the knowledge that his mission was well-nigh
accomplished sufficed to cheer him. To add to his discomfort a
fine rain set in towards four o'clock, and when a couple of
hours later he clattered along the road cut through a wooded
slope in the direction of Waltham, he was become a very limp
and lifeless individual.
He noticed not the horsemen moving cautiously among the
closely-set trees on either side of the road. It was growing
prematurely dark, and objects were none too distinct. And thus
it befell that when from the reverie of dejection into which he
had fallen he was suddenly aroused by the thud of hoofs, he
looked up to find two mounted men barring the road some ten
yards in front of him. Their attitude was unmistakable, and it
crossed poor Kenneth's mind that he was beset by robbers. But
a second glance showed him their red cloaks and military steel
caps, and he knew them for soldiers of the Commonwealth.
Hearing the beat of hoofs behind him, he looked over his
shoulder to see four other troopers closing rapidly down upon
him. Clearly he was the object of their attention. He had
been a fool not to have perceived this earlier, and his heart
misgave him, for all that had he paused to think he must have
realized that he had naught to fear, and that in this some
mistake must lie.
"Halt!" thundered the deep voice of the sergeant, who, with a
trooper, held the road in front.
Kenneth drew up within a yard of them, conscious that the man's
dark eyes were scanning him sharply from beneath his morion.
"Who are you, sir?" the bass voice demanded.
Alas for the vanity of poor human mites! Even Kenneth, who
never yet had achieved aught for the cause he served, grew of a
sudden chill to think that perchance this sergeant might
recognize his name for one that he had heard before associated
with deeds performed on the King's behalf.
For a second he hesitated; then:
"Blount," he stammered, "Jasper Blount."
He little thought how that fruit of his vanity was to prove his
"Verily," sneered the sergeant, "it almost seemed you had
forgotten it." And from that sneer Kenneth gathered with fresh
dread that the fellow mistrusted him.
"Whence are you, Master Blount?"
Again Kenneth hesitated. Then recalling Ashburn's high favour
with the Parliament, and seeing that it could but advance his
cause to state the true sum of his journey:
"From Castle Marleigh," he replied.
"Verily, sir, you seem yet in some doubt. Whither do you go?"
"On what errand?" The sergeant's questions fell swift as
"With letters for Colonel Pride."
The reply, delivered more boldly than Kenneth had spoken
hitherto, was not without its effect.
"From whom are these letters?"
"From Mr. Joseph Ashburn, of Castle Marleigh."
With trembling fingers Kenneth complied. This the sergeant
observed as he took the package.
"What ails you, man?" quoth he.
"Naught, sir 'tis the cold."
The sergeant scanned the package and its seal. In a measure it
was a passport, and he was forced to the conclusion that this
man was indeed the messenger he represented himself. Certainly
he had not the air nor the bearing of him for whom they waited,
nor did the sergeant think that their quarry would have armed
himself with a dummy package against such a strait. And yet
the sergeant was not master after all, and did he let this
fellow pursue his journey, he might reap trouble for it
hereafter; whilst likewise if he detained him, Colonel Pride,
he knew, was not an over-patient man. He was still debating
what course to take, and had turned to his companion with the
muttered question: "What think you, Peter?" when by his
precipitancy Kenneth ruined his slender chance of being
permitted to depart.
"I pray you, sir, now that you know my errand, suffer me to
There was an eager tremor in his voice that the sergeant
mistook for fear. He noted it, and remembering the boy's
hesitancy in answering his earlier questions, he decided upon
his course of action.
"We shall not delay your journey, sir," he answered, eyeing
Kenneth sharply, "and as your way must lie through Waltham, I
will but ask you to suffer us to ride with you thus far, so
that there you may answer any questions our captain may have to
ask ere you proceed."
"But, sir - "
"No more, master courier," snarled the sergeant. Then,
beckoning a trooper to his side, he whispered an order in his
As the man withdrew they wheeled their horses, and at a sharp
word of command Kenneth rode on towards Waltham between the
sergeant and a trooper.
THE CONVERTED HOGAN
Night black and impenetrable had set in ere Kenneth and his
escort clattered over the greasy stones of Waltham's High
Street, and drew up in front of the Crusader Inn.
The door stood wide and hospitable, and a warm shaft of light
fell from it and set a glitter upon the wet street. Avoiding
the common-room, the sergeant led Kenneth through the inn-yard,
and into the hostelry by a side entrance. He urged the youth
along a dimly-lighted passage. On a door at the end of this he
knocked, then, lifting the latch, he ushered Kenneth into a
roomy, oak-panelled chamber.
At the far end a huge fire burnt cheerfully, and with his back
to it, his feet planted wide apart upon the hearth, stood a
powerfully built man of medium height, whose youthful face and
uprightness of carriage assorted ill with the grey of his hair,
pronouncing that greyness premature. He seemed all clad in
leather, for where his jerkin stopped his boots began. A
cuirass and feathered headpiece lay in a corner, whilst on the
table Kenneth espied a broad-brimmed hat, a huge sword, and a
brace of pistols.
As the boy's eyes came back to the burly figure on the hearth,
he was puzzled by a familiar, intangible something in the
He was racking his mind to recall where last he had seen it,
when with slightly elevated eyebrows and a look of recognition
in his somewhat prominent blue eyes
"Soul of my body," exclaimed the man in surprise, "Master
Stewart, as I live."
"Stuart!" cried both sergeant and trooper in a gasp, starting
forward to scan their prisoner's face.
At that the burly captain broke into a laugh.
"Not the young man Charles Stuart," said he; "no, no. Your
captive is none so precious. It is only Master Kenneth
Stewart, of Bailienochy."
"Then it is not even our man," grumbled the soldier.
"But Stewart is not the name he gave," cried the sergeant.
"Jasper Blount he told me he was called. It seems that after
all we have captured a malignant, and that I was well advised
to bring him to you."
The captain made a gesture of disdain. In that moment Kenneth
recognized him. He was Harry Hogan - the man whose life
Galliard had saved in Penrith.
"Bah, a worthless capture, Beddoes," he said.
"I know not that," retorted the sergeant. "He carries papers
which he states are from Joseph Ashburn, of Castle Marleigh, to
Colonel Pride. Colonel Pride's name is on the package, but may
not that be a subterfuge? Why else did he say he was called
Hogan's brows were of a sudden knit.
"Faith, Beddoes, you are right. Remove his sword and search
Calmly Kenneth suffered them to carry out this order. Inwardly
he boiled at the delay, and cursed himself for having so
needlessly given the name of Blount. But for that, it was
likely Hogan would have straightway dismissed him. He cheered
himself with the thought that after all they would not long
detain him. Their search made, and finding nothing upon him
but Ashburn's letter, surely they would release him.
But their search was very thorough. They drew off his boots,
and well-nigh stripped him naked, submitting each article of
his apparel to a careful examination. At length it was over,
and Hogan held Ashburn's package, turning it over in his hands
with a thoughtful expression.
"Surely, sir, you will now allow me to proceed," cried Kenneth.
"I assure you the matter is of the greatest urgency, and unless
I am in London by midnight I shall be too late."
"Too late for what?" asked Hogan.
"I - I don't know."
"Oh?" The Irishman laughed unpleasantly. Colonel Pride and he
were on anything but the best of terms. The colonel knew him
for a godless soldier of fortune bound to the Parliament's
cause by no interest beyond that of gain; and, himself a
zealot, Colonel Pride had with distasteful frequency shown
Hogan the quality of his feelings towards him. That Hogan was
not afraid of him, was because it was not in Hogan's nature to
be afraid of anyone. But he realized at least that he had
cause to be, and at the present moment it occurred to him that
it would be passing sweet to find a flaw in the old Puritan's
armour. If the package were harmless his having opened it was
still a matter that the discharge of his duty would sanction.
Thus he reasoned; and he resolved to break the seal and make
himself master of the contents of that letter.
Hogan's unpleasant laugh startled Kenneth. It suggested to him
that perhaps, after all, his delay was by no means at an end;
that Hogan suspected him of something - he could not think of
Then in a flash an idea came to him.
"May I speak to you privately for a moment, Captain Hogan?" he
inquired in such a tone of importance - imperiousness, almost -
that the Irishman was impressed by it. He scented disclosure.
"Faith, you may if you have aught to tell me," and he signed to
Beddoes and his companion to withdraw.
"Now, Master Hogan," Kenneth began resolutely as soon as they
were alone, "I ask you to let me go my way unmolested. Too
long already has the stupidity of your followers detained me
here unjustly. That I reach London by midnight is to me a
matter of the gravest moment, and you shall let me."
"Soul of my body, Mr. Stewart, what a spirit you have acquired
since last we met."
"In your place I should leave our last meeting unmentioned,
The Irishman's eyebrows shot up.
"By the Mass, young cockerel, I mislike your tone - "
"You'll have cause to dislike it more if you detain me." He
was desperate now. "What would your saintly, crop-eared
friends say if they knew as much of your past history as I do?"
"Tis a matter for conjecture," said Hogan, humouring him.
"How think you would they welcome the story of the roystering
rake and debauchee who deserted the army of King Charles
because they were about to hang him for murder?"
"Ah! how, indeed?" sighed Hogan.
"What manner of reputation, think you, that for a captain of
the godly army of the Commonwealth?"
"A vile one, truly," murmured Hogan with humility.
"And now, Mr. Hogan," he wound up loftily, "you had best return
me that package, and be rid of me before I sow mischief enough
to bring you a crop of hemp."
Hogan stared at the lad's flushed face with a look of whimsical
astonishment, and for a brief spell there was silence between
them. Slowly then, with his eyes still fixed upon Kenneth's,
the captain unsheathed a dagger. The boy drew back, with a
sudden cry of alarm. Hogan vented a horse-laugh, and ran the
blade under the seal of Ashburn's letter.
"Be not afraid, my man of threats," he said pleasantly. "I
have no thought of hurting you - leastways, not yet." He
paused in the act of breaking the seal. "Lest you should
treasure uncomfortable delusions, dear Master Stewart, let me
remind you that I am an Irishman - not a fool. Do you conceive
my fame to be so narrow a thing that when I left the beggarly
army of King Charles for that of the Commonwealth, I did not
realize how at any moment I might come face to face with
someone who had heard of my old exploits, and would denounce
me? You do not find me masquerading under an assumed name. I
am here, sir, as Harry Hogan, a sometime dissolute follower of
the Egyptian Pharaoh, Charles Stuart; an erstwhile besotted,
blinded soldier in the army of the Amalekite, a whilom erring
malignant, but converted by a crowning mercy into a zealous,
faithful servant of Israel. There were vouchsafings and
upliftings, and the devil knows what else, when this stray lamb
was gathered to the fold."
He uttered the words with a nasal intonation, and a whimsical
look at Kenneth.
"Now, Mr. Stewart, tell them what you will, and they will tell
you yet more in return, to show you how signally the light of
grace hath been shed over me."
He laughed again, and broke the seal. Kenneth, crestfallen and
abashed, watched him, without attempting further interference.
Of what avail?
"You had been better advised, young sir, had you been less
hasty and anxious. It is a fatal fault of youth's, and one of
which nothing but time - if, indeed, you live - will cure you.
Your anxiety touching this package determines me to open it."
Kenneth sneered at the man's conclusions, and, shrugging his
shoulders, turned slightly aside.
"Perchance, master wiseacres, when you have read it, you will
appreciate how egotism may also lead men into fatal errors.
Haply, too, you will be able to afford Colonel Pride some
satisfactory reason for tampering with his correspondence."
But Hogan heard him not. He had unfolded the letter, and at
the first words he beheld, a frown contracted his brows. As he
read on the frown deepened, and when he had done, an oath broke
from his lips. "God's life!" he cried, then again was silent,
and so stood a moment with bent head. At last he raised his
eyes, and let them rest long and searchingly upon Kenneth, who
now observed him in alarm.
"What - what is it?" the lad asked, with hesitancy.
But Hogan never answered. He strode past him to the door, and
flung it wide.
"Beddoes!" he called. A step sounded in the passage, and the
sergeant appeared. "Have you a trooper there?"
"There is Peter, who rode with me."
"Let him look to this fellow. Tell him to set him under lock
and bolt here in the inn until I shall want him, and tell him
that he shall answer for him with his neck."
Kenneth drew back in alarm.
"Sir - Captain Hogan - will you explain "
"Marry, you shall have explanations to spare before morning,
else I'm a fool. But have no fear, for we intend you no hurt,"
he added more softly. "Take him away, Beddoes; then return to
When Beddoes came back from consigning Kenneth into the hands
of his trooper, he found Hogan seated in the leathern
arm-chair, with Ashburn's letter spread before him on the
"I was right in my suspicions, eh?" ventured Beddoes
"You were more than right, Beddoes, you were Heaven-inspired.
It is no State matter that you have chanced upon, but one that
touches a man in whom I am interested very nearly."
The sergeant's eyes were full of questions, but Hogan
enlightened him no further.
"You will ride back to your post at once, Beddoes," he
commanded. "Should Lord Oriel fall into your hands, as we
hope, you will send him to me. But you will continue to patrol
the road, and demand the business of all comers. I wish one
Crispin Galliard, who should pass this way ere long, detained,
and brought to me. He is a tall, lank man - "
"I know him, sir," Beddoes interrupted. "The Tavern Knight
they called him in the malignant army - a rakehelly, dissolute
brawler. I saw him in Worcester when he was taken after the
Hogan frowned. The righteous Beddoes knew overmuch. "That is
the man," he answered calmly. "Go now, and see that he does
not ride past you. I have great and urgent need of him."
Beddoes' eyes were opened in surprise.
"He is possessed of valuable information," Hogan explained.
"Away with you, man."
When alone, Harry Hogan turned his arm-chair sideways towards
the fire. Then, filling himself a pipe - for in his foreign
campaigning he had acquired the habit of tobacco-smoking - he
stretched his sinewy legs across a second chair, and composed
himself for meditation. An hour went by; the host looked in to
see if the captain required anything. Another hour sped on,
and the captain dozed.
He awoke with a start. The fire had burned low, and the hands
of the huge clock in the corner pointed to midnight. From the
passage came to him the sound of steps and angry voices.
Before Hogan could rise, the door was flung wide, and a tall,
gaunt man was hustled across the threshold by two soldiers.
His head was bare, and his hair wet and dishevelled. His
doublet was torn and his shoulder bleeding, whilst his empty
scabbard hung like a lambent tail behind him.
"We have brought him, captain," one of the men announced.
"Aye, you crop-eared, psalm-whining cuckolds, you've brought
me, d -n you," growled Sir Crispin, whose eyes rolled fiercely.
As his angry glance lighted upon Hogan's impressive face, he
abruptly stemmed the flow of invective that rushed to his lips.
The Irishman rose, and looked past him at the troopers. "Leave
us," he commanded shortly.
He remained standing by the hearth until the footsteps of his
men had died away, then he crossed the chamber, passed Crispin
without a word, and quietly locked the door. That done, he
turned a friendly smile on his tanned face - and holding out
"At last, Cris, it is mine to thank you and to repay you in
some measure for the service you rendered me that night at
THE MESSAGE KENNETH BORE
In bewilderment Crispin took the outstretched hand of his old
"Oddslife," he growled, "if to have me waylaid, dragged from my
horse and wounded by those sons of dogs, your myrmidons, be
your manner of expressing gratitude, I'd as lief you had let me
"And yet, Cris, I dare swear you'll thank me before another
hour is sped. Ough, man, how cold you are! There's a bottle
of strong waters yonder - "
Then, without completing his sentence, Hogan had seized the
black jack and poured half a glass of its contents, which he
"Drink, man," he said briefly, and Crispin, nothing loath,
Next Hogan drew the torn and sodden doublet from his guest's
back, pushed a chair over to the table, and bade him sit.
Again, nothing loath, Crispin did as he was bidden. He was
stiff from long riding, and so with a sigh of satisfaction he
settled himself down and stretched out his long legs.
Hogan slowly took the seat opposite to him, and coughed. He
was at a loss how to open the parlous subject, how to
communicate to Crispin the amazing news upon which he had
"Slife' Hogan," laughed Crispin dreamily, "I little thought it
was to you those crop-ears carried me with such violence. I
little thought, indeed, ever to see you again. But you have
prospered, you knave, since that night you left Penrith."
And he turned his head the better to survey the Irishman.
"Aye, I have prospered," Hogan assented. "My life is a sort of
parable of the fatted son and the prodigal calf. They tell me
there is greater joy in heaven over the repentance of a sinner
than - than - Plague on it! How does it go?"
"Than over the downfall of a saint?" suggested Crispin.
"I'll swear that's not the text, but any of my troopers could
quote it you; every man of them is an incarnate Church
militant." He paused, and Crispin laughed softly. Then
abruptly: "And so you were riding to London?" said he.
"How know you that?"
"Faith, I know more - much more. I can even tell you to what
house you rode, and on what errand. You were for the sign of
the Anchor in Thames Street, for news of your son, whom Joseph
Ashburn hath told you lives."
Crispin sat bolt upright, a look of mingled wonder and
suspicion on his face.
"You are well informed, you gentlemen of the Parliament," he
"On the matter of your errand," the Irishman returned quietly,
"I am much better informed than are you. Shall I tell you who
lives at the sign of the Anchor - not whom you have been told
lives there, but who really does occupy the house?" Hogan
paused a second as though awaiting some reply; then softly he
answered his own question: "Colonel Pride." And he sat back to
There were none. For the moment the name awoke no
recollections, conveyed no meaning to Crispin.
"Who may Colonel Pride be?" he asked, after a pause.
Hogan was visibly disappointed.
"A certain powerful and vindictive member of the Rump, whose
son you killed at Worcester."
This time the shaft went home. Galliard sprang out of the
chair, his brows darkening, and his cheeks pale beyond their
"Zounds, Hogan, do you mean that Joseph Ashburn was betraying
me into this man's hands?"
"You have said it."
"But - "
Crispin stopped short. The pallor of his face increased; it
became ashen, and his eyes glittered as though a fever consumed
him. He sank back into his chair, and setting both hands upon
the table before him, he looked straight at Hogan.
"But my son, Hogan, my son?" he pleaded, and his voice was
broken as no man had heard it yet. "Oh, God in heaven!" he
cried in a sudden frenzy. "What hell's work is this?"
Behind his blue lips his teeth were chattering now. His hands
shook as he held them, still clenched, before him. Then, in a
dull, concentrated voice:
"Hogan," he vowed, "I'll kill him for it. Fool, blind, pitiful
fool that I am."
Then - his face distorted by passion - he broke into a torrent
of imprecations that was at length stemmed by Hogan.
"Wait, Cris," said he, laying his hand upon the other's arm.
"It is not all false. Joseph Ashburn sought, it is true, to
betray you into the hands of Colonel Pride, sending you to the
sign of the Anchor with the assurance that there you should
have news of your son. That was false; yet not all false.
Your son does live, and at the sign of the Anchor it is likely
you would have had the news of him you sought. But that news
would have come when too late to have been of value to you."
Crispin tried to speak, but failed. Then, mastering himself by
an effort, and in a voice that was oddly shaken:
"Hogan," he cried, "you are torturing me! What is the sum of
At last the Irishman produced Ashburn's letter to Colonel
"My men," said he, "are patrolling the roads in wait for a
malignant that has incurred the Parliament's displeasure. We
have news that he is making for Harwich, where a vessel lies
waiting to carry him to France, and we expect that he will ride
this way. Three hours ago a young man unable clearly to
account for himself rode into our net, and was brought to me.
He was the bearer of a letter to Colonel Pride from Joseph
Ashburn. He had given my sergeant a wrong name, and betrayed
such anxiety to be gone that I deemed his errand a suspicious
one, and broke the seal of that letter. You may thank God,
Galliard, every night of your life that I did so."
"Was this youth Kenneth Stewart?" asked Crispin.
"You have guessed it."
"D -n the lad," he began furiously. Then repressing himself,
he sighed, and in an altered tone, "No, no," said he. "I have
grievously wronged him! have wrecked his life - or at least he
thinks so now. I can hardly blame him for seeking to be quits
"The lad," returned Hogan, "must be himself a dupe. He can
have had no suspicion of the message he carried. Let me read
it to you; it will make all clear."
Hogan drew a taper nearer, and spreading the paper upon the
table, he smoothed it out, and read:
The bearer of the present should, if he rides well, outstrip
another messenger I have dispatched to you upon a fool's
errand, with a letter addressed to one Mr. Lane at the sign of
the Anchor. The bearer of that is none other than the
notorious malignant, Sir Crispin Galliard, by whose hand your
son was slain under your very eyes at Worcester, whose capture
I know that you warmly desire and with whom I doubt not you
will know how to deal. To us he has been a source of no little
molestation; his liberty, in fact, is a perpetual menace to our
lives. For some eighteen years this Galliard has believed dead
a son that my cousin bore him. News of this son, whom I have
just informed him lives - as indeed he does - is the bait
wherewith I have lured him to your address. Forewarned by the
present, I make no doubt you will prepare to receive him
fittingly. But ere that justice he escaped at Worcester be
meted out to him at Tyburn or on Tower Hill, I would have you
give him that news touching his son which I am sending him to
you to receive. Inform him, sir, that his son, Jocelyn
Hogan paused, and shot a furtive glance at Galliard. The
knight was leaning forward now, his eyes strained, his forehead
beaded with perspiration, and his breathing heavy.
"Read on," he begged hoarsely.
His son, Jocelyn Marleigh, is the bearer of this letter, the
man whom he has injured and who detests him, the youth with
whom he has, by a curious chance, been in much close
association, and whom he has known as Kenneth Stewart.
"God!" gasped Crispin. Then with sudden vigour, "Oh, 'tis a
lie," he cried, "a fresh invention of that lying brain to
Hogan held up his hand.
"There is a little more," he said, and continued:
Should he doubt this, bid him look closely into the lad's face,
and ask him, after he has scrutinized it, what image it evokes.
Should he still doubt thereafter, thinking the likeness to
which he has been singularly blind to be no more than
accidental, bid them strip the lad's right foot. It bears a
mark that I think should convince him. For the rest, honoured
sir, I beg you to keep all information touching his parentage
from the boy himself, wherein I have weighty ends to serve.
Within a few days of your receipt of this letter, I look to
have the honour of waiting upon you. In the meanwhile,
honoured sir, believe that while I am, I am your obedient
Across the narrow table the two men's glances met - Hogan's
full of concern and pity, Crispin's charged with amazement and
horror. A little while they sat thus, then Crispin rose slowly
to his feet, and with steps uncertain as a drunkard's he
crossed to the window. He pushed it open, and let the icy wind
upon his face and head, unconscious of its sting. Moments
passed, during which the knight went over the last few months
of his turbulent life since his first meeting at Perth with
Kenneth Stewart. He recalled how strangely and unaccountably
he had been drawn to the boy when first he beheld him in the
castle yard, and how, owing to a feeling for which he could not
account, since the lad's character had little that might
commend him to such a man as Crispin, he had contrived that
Kenneth should serve in his company.
He recalled how at first - aye, and often afterwards even - he
had sought to win the boy's affection, despite the fact that
there was naught in the boy that he truly admired, and much
that he despised. Was it possible that these his feelings were
dictated by Nature to his unconscious mind? It must indeed be
so, and the written words of Joseph Ashburn to Colonel Pride
were true. Kenneth was indeed his son; the conviction was upon
him. He conjured up the lad's face, and a cry of discovery
escaped him. How blind he had been not to have seen before the
likeness of Alice - his poor, butchered girl-wife of eighteen
years ago. How dull never before to have realized that that
likeness it was had drawn him to the boy.
He was calm by now, and in his calm he sought to analyse his
thoughts, and he was shocked to find that they were not joyous.
He yearned - as he had yearned that night in Worcester - for
the lad's affection, and yet, for all his yearning, he realized
that with the conviction that Kenneth was his offspring came a
dull sense of disappointment. He was not such a son as the
rakehelly knight would have had him. Swiftly he put the
thought from him. The craven hands that had reared the lad had
warped his nature; he would guide it henceforth; he would
straighten it out into a nobler shape.
Then he smiled bitterly to himself. What manner of man was he
to train a youth to loftiness and honour? - he, a debauched
ruler with a nickname for which, had he any sense of shame, he
would have blushed! Again he remembered the lad's disposition
towards himself; but these, he thought, he hoped, he knew that
he would now be able to overcome.
He closed the window, and turned to face his companion. He was
himself again, and calm, for all that his face was haggard
beyond its wont.
"Hogan, where is the boy?"
"I have detained him in the inn. Will you see him now?"
"At once, Hogan. I am convinced."
The Irishman crossed the chamber, and opening the door he
called an order to the trooper waiting in the passage.
Some minutes they waited, standing, with no word uttered
between them. At last steps sounded in the corridor, and a
moment later Kenneth was rudely thrust into the room. Hogan
signed to the trooper, who closed the door and withdrew.
As Kenneth entered, Crispin advanced a step and paused, his
eyes devouring the lad and receiving in exchange a glance that
was full of malevolence.
"I might have known, sir, that you were not far away," he
exclaimed bitterly, forgetting for the moment how he had left
Crispin behind him on the previous night. "I might have
guessed that my detention was your work."
"Why so?" asked Crispin quietly, his eyes ever scanning the
lad's face with a pathetic look.
"Because it is your way, I know not why, to work my ruin in all
things. Not satisfied with involving me in that business at
Castle Marleigh, you must needs cross my path again when I am
about to make amends, and so blight my last chance. My God,
sir, am I never to be rid of you? What harm have I done you?"
A spasm of pain, like a ripple over water, crossed the knight's
"If you but consider, Kenneth," he said, speaking very quietly,
"you must see the injustice of your words. Since when has
Crispin Galliard served the Parliament, that Roundhead troopers
should do his bidding as you suggest? And touching that
business at Sheringham you are over-hard with me. It was a
compact you made, and but for which, you forget that you had
been carrion these three weeks."
"Would to Heaven that I had been," the boy burst out, "sooner
than pay such a price for keeping my life!"
"As for my presence here," Crispin continued, leaving the
outburst unheeded, "it has naught to do with your detention."
Hogan caught his breath with a sharp hiss, and a dead silence
followed. That silence struck terror into Kenneth's heart. He
encountered Crispin's eye bent upon him with a look he could
not fathom, and much would he now have given to recall the two
words that had burst from him in the heat of his rage. He
bethought him of the unscrupulous, deadly character attributed
to the man to whom he had addressed them, and in his coward's
fancy he saw already payment demanded. Already he pictured
himself lying cold and stark in the streets of Waltham with a
sword-wound through his middle. His face went grey and his
Then Galliard spoke at last, and the mildness of his tone
filled Kenneth with a new dread. In his experience of
Crispin's ways he had come to look upon mildness as the man's
most dangerous phase:
"You are mistaken," Crispin said. "I spoke the truth; it is a
habit of mine - haply the only gentlemanly habit left me. I
repeat, I have had naught to do with your detention. I arrived
here half an hour ago, as the captain will inform you, and I
was conducted hither by force, having been seized by his men,
even as you were seized. No," he added, with a sigh, "it was
not my hand that detained you; it was the hand of Fate." Then
suddenly changing his voice to a more vehement key, "Know you
on what errand you rode to London?" he demanded. "To betray
your father into the hands of his enemies; to deliver him up to
Kenneth's eyes grew wide; his mouth fell open, and a frown of
perplexity drew his brows together. Dully, uncomprehendingly
he met Sir Crispin's sad gaze.
"My father," he gasped at last. "'Sdeath, sir, what is it you
mean? My father has been dead these ten years. I scarce
Crispin's lips moved, but no word did he utter. Then with a
sudden gesture of despair he turned to Hogan, who stood apart,
a silent witness.
"My God, Hogan," he cried. "How shall I tell him?"
In answer to the appeal, the Irishman turned to Kenneth.
"You have been in error, sir, touching your parentage," quoth
he bluntly. "Alan Stewart, of Bailienochy, was not your
Kenneth looked from one to the other of them.
"Sirs, is this a jest?" he cried, reddening. Then, remarking
at length the solemnity of their countenances, he stopped
short. Crispin came close up to him, and placed a hand upon
his shoulder. The boy shrank visibly beneath the touch, and
again an expression of pain crossed the poor ruffler's face.
"Do you recall, Kenneth," he said slowly, almost sorrowfully,
"the story that I told you that night in Worcester, when we sat
waiting for dawn and the hangman?"
The lad nodded vacantly.
"Do you remember the details? Do you remember I told you how,
when I swooned beneath the stroke of Joseph Ashburn's sword,
the last words I heard were those in which he bade his brother
slit the throat of the babe in the cradle? You were, yourself,
present yesternight at Castle Marleigh when Joseph Ashburn told
me Gregory had been mercifully inclined; that my child had not
died; that if I gave him his life he would restore him to me.
Again Kenneth nodded. A vague, numbing fear was creeping round
his heart, and his blood seemed chilled by it and stagnant.
With fascinated eyes he watched the knight's face - drawn and
"It was a trap that Joseph Ashburn set for me. Yet he did not
altogether lie. The child Gregory had indeed spared, and it
seems from what I have learned within the last half-hour that
he had entrusted his rearing to Alan Stewart, of Bailienochy,
seeking afterwards - I take it - to wed him to his daughter, so
that should the King come to his own again, they should have
the protection of a Marleigh who had served his King."
"You mean," the lad almost whispered, and his accents were
unmistakably of horror, "you mean that I am your - Oh, God,
I'll not believe it!" he cried out, with such sudden loathing
and passion that Crispin recoiled as though he had been struck.
A dull flush crept into his cheeks to fade upon the instant and
give place to a pallor, if possible, intenser than before.
"I'll not believe it! I'll not believe it!" the boy repeated,
as if seeking by that reiteration to shut out a conviction by
which he was beset. "I'll not believe it!" he cried again; and
now his voice had lost its passionate vehemence, and was sunk
almost to a moan.
"I found it hard to believe myself," was Crispin's answer, and
his voice was not free from bitterness. "But I have a proof
here that seems incontestable, even had I not the proof of your
face to which I have been blind these months. Blind with the
eyes of my body, at least. The eyes of my soul saw and
recognized you when first they fell on you in Perth. The voice
of the blood ordered me then to your side, and though I heard
its call, I understood not what it meant. Read this letter,
boy - the letter that you were to have carried to Colonel
With his eyes still fixed in a gaze of stupefaction upon
Galliard's face, Kenneth took the paper. Then slowly,
involuntarily almost it seemed, he dropped his glance to it,
and read. He was long in reading, as though the writing
presented difficulties, and his two companions watched him the
while, and waited. At last he turned the paper over, and
examined seal and superscription as if suspicious that he held
But in some subtle, mysterious way - that voice of the blood
perchance to which Crispin had alluded - he felt conviction
stealing down upon his soul. Mechanically he moved across to
the table, and sat down. Without a word, and still holding the
crumpled letter in his clenched hand, he set his elbows on the
table, and, pressing his temples to his palms, he sat there
dumb. Within him a very volcano raged, and its fires were fed
with loathing - loathing for this man whom he had ever hated,
yet never as he hated him now, knowing him to be his father.
It seemed as if to all the wrongs which Crispin had done him
during the months of their acquaintanceship he had now added a
fresh and culminating wrong by discovering this parentage.
He sat and thought, and his soul grew sick. He probed for some
flaw, sought for some mistake that might have been made. And
yet the more he thought, the more he dwelt upon his youth in
Scotland, the more convinced was he that Crispin had told him
the truth. Pre-eminent argument of conviction to him was the
desire of the Ashburns that he should marry Cynthia. Oft he
had marvelled that they, wealthy, and even powerful, selfish
and ambitious, should have selected him, the scion of an
obscure and impoverished Scottish house, as a bridegroom for
their daughter. The news now before him made their motives
clear; indeed, no other motive could exist, no other
explanation could there be. He was the heir of Castle
Marleigh, and the usurpers sought to provide against the day
when another revolution might oust them and restore the
Some elation his shallow nature felt at realizing this, but
that elation was short-lived, and dashed by the thought that
this ruler, this debauchee, this drunken, swearing, roaring
tavern knight was his father; dashed by the knowledge that
meanwhile the Parliament was master, and that whilst matters
stood so, the Ashburns could defy - could even destroy him, did
they learn how much he knew; dashed by the memory that Cynthia,
whom in his selfish way - out of his love for himself - he
loved, vas lost to him for all time.
And here, swinging in a circle, his thoughts reverted to the
cause of this - Crispin Galliard, the man who had betrayed him
into yesternight's foul business and destroyed his every chance
of happiness; the man whom he hated, and whom, had he possessed
the courage as he was possessed by the desire, he had risen up
and slain; the man that now announced himself his father.
And thinking thus, he sat on in silent, resentful vexation. He
started to feel a hand upon his shoulder, and to hear the voice
of Galliard evidently addressing him, yet using a name that was
new to him.
"Jocelyn, my boy," the voice trembled. "You have thought, and
you have realized - is it not so? I too thought, and thought
brought me conviction that what that paper tells is true."
Vaguely then the boy remembered that Jocelyn was the name the
letter gave him. He rose abruptly, and brushed the caressing
hand from his shoulder. His voice was hard - possibly the
knowledge that he had gained told him that he had nothing to
fear from this man, and in that assurance his craven soul grew
brave and bold and arrogant.
"I have realized naught beyond the fact that I owe you nothing
but unhappiness and ruin. By a trick, by a low fraud, you
enlisted me into a service that has proved my undoing. Once a
cheat always a cheat. What credit in the face of that can I
give this paper?" he cried, talking wildly. "To me it is
incredible, nor do I wish to credit it, for though it were
true, what then? What then?" he repeated, raising his voice
into accents of defiance.
Grief and amazement were blended in Galliard's glance, and
also, maybe, some reproach.
Hogan, standing squarely upon the hearth, was beset by the
desire to kick Master Kenneth, or Master Jocelyn, into the
street. His lip curled into a sneer of ineffable contempt, for
his shrewd eyes read to the bottom of the lad's mean soul and
saw there clearly writ the confidence that emboldened him to
voice that insult to the man he must know for his father.
Standing there, he compared the two, marvelling deeply how they
came to be father and son. A likeness he saw now between them,
yet a likeness that seemed but to mark the difference. The one
harsh, resolute, and manly, for all his reckless living and his
misfortunes; the other mild, effeminate, hypocritical and
shifty. He read it not on their countenances alone, but in
every line of their figures as they stood, and in his heart he
cursed himself for having been the instrument to disclose the
relationship in which they stood.
The youth's insolent question was followed by a spell of
silence. Crispin could not believe that he had heard aright.
At last he stretched out his hands in a gesture of supplication
- he who throughout his thirty-eight years of life, and despite
the misfortunes that had been his, had never yet stooped to
plead from any man.
"Jocelyn," he cried, and the pain in his voice must have melted
a heart of steel, "you are hard. Have you forgotten the story
of my miserable life, the story that I told you in Worcester?
Can you not understand how suffering may destroy all that is
lofty in a man; how the forgetfulness of the winecup may come
to be his only consolation; the hope of vengeance his only
motive for living on, withholding him from self-destruction?
Can you not picture such a life, and can you not pity and
forgive much of the wreck that it may make of a man once
virtuous and honourable?"
Pleadingly he looked into the lad's face. It remained cold and
"I understand," he continued brokenly, "that I am not such a
man as any lad might welcome for a father. But you who know
what my life has been, Jocelyn, you can surely find it in your
heart to pity. I had naught that was good or wholesome to live
for, Jocelyn; naught to curb the evil moods that sent me along
evil ways to seek forgetfulness and reparation.
"But from to-night, Jocelyn, my life in you must find a new
interest, a new motive. I will abandon my old ways. For your
sake, Jocelyn, I will seek again to become what I was, and you
shall have no cause to blush for your father."
Still the lad stood silent.
"Jocelyn! My God, do I talk in vain?" cried the wretched man.
"Have you no heart, no pity, boy?"
At last the youth spoke. He was not moved. The agony of this
strong man, the broken pleading of one whom he had ever known
arrogant and strong had no power to touch his mean, selfish
mind, consumed as it was by the contemplation of his undoing -
magnified a hundredfold - which this man had wrought.
"You have ruined my life," was all he said.
"I will rebuild it, Jocelyn," cried Galliard eagerly. "I have
friends in France - friends high in power who lack neither the
means nor the will to aid me. You are a soldier, Jocelyn."
"As much a soldier as I'm a saint," sneered Hogan to himself.
"Together we will find service in the armies of Louis," Crispin
pursued. "I promise it. Service wherein you shall gain honour
and renown. There we will abide until this England shakes
herself out of her rebellious nightmare. Then, when the King
shall come to his own, Castle Marleigh will be ours again.
Trust in me, Jocelyn." Again his arms went out appealingly:
"Jocelyn my son!"
But the boy made no move to take the outstretched hands, gave
no sign of relenting. His mind nurtured its resentment -
cherished it indeed.
"And Cynthia?" he asked coldly.
Crispin's hands fell to his sides; they grew clenched, and his
eyes lighted of a sudden.
"Forgive me, Jocelyn. I had forgotten! I understand you now.
Yes, I dealt sorely with you there, and you are right to be
resentful. What, after all, am I to you what can I be to you
compared with her whose image fills your soul? What is aught
in the world to a man, compared with the woman on whom his
heart is set? Do I not know it? Have I not suffered for it?
"But mark me, Jocelyn" - and he straightened himself suddenly -
"even in this, that which I have done I will undo. As I have
robbed you of your mistress, so will I win her back for you. I
swear it. And when that is done, when thus every harm I have
caused you is repaired, then, Jocelyn, perhaps you will come to
look with less repugnance upon your father, and to feel less
resentment towards him."
"You promise much, sir," quoth the boy, with an illrepressed
sneer. "How will you accomplish it?"
Hogan grunted audibly. Crispin drew himself up, erect, lithe
and supple - a figure to inspire confidence in the most
despairing. He placed a hand, nervous, and strong as steel,
upon the boy's shoulder, and the clutch of his fingers made
"Low though your father be fallen," said he sternly, "he has
never yet broken his word. I have pledged you mine, and
to-morrow I shall set out to perform what I have promised. I
shall see you ere I start. You will sleep here, will you not?"
Jocelyn shrugged his shoulders.
"It signifies little where I lie."
Crispin smiled sadly, and sighed.
"You have no faith in me yet. But I shall earn it, or" - and
his voice fell suddenly - "or rid you of a loathsome parent.
Hogan, can you find him quarters?"
Hogan replied that there was the room he had already been
confined in, and that he could lie in it. And deeming that
there was nothing to be gained by waiting, he thereupon led the
youth from the room and down the passage. At the foot of the
stairs the Irishman paused in the act of descending, and raised
the taper aloft so that its light might fall full upon the face
of his companion.
"Were I your father," said he grimly, "I would kick you from
one end of Waltham to the other by way of teaching you filial
piety! And were you not his son, I would this night read you a
lesson you'd never live to practise. I would set you to sleep
a last long sleep in the kennels of Waltham streets. But since
you are - marvellous though it seem - his offspring, and since
I love him and may not therefore hurt you, I must rest content
with telling you that you are the vilest thing that breathes.
You despise him for a roysterer, for a man of loose ways. Let
me, who have seen something of men, and who read you to-night
to the very dregs of your contemptible soul, tell you that
compared with you he is a very god. Come, you white-livered
cur!" he ended abruptly. "I will light you to your chamber."
When presently Hogan returned to Crispin he found the Tavern
Knight - that man of iron in whom none had ever seen a trace of
fear or weakness seated with his arms before him on the table,
and his face buried in them, sobbing like a poor, weak woman.
SIR CRISPIN'S UNDERTAKING
Through the long October night Crispin and Hogan sat on, and
neither sought his bed. Crispin's quick wits his burst of
grief once over - had been swift to fasten on a plan to
accomplish that which he had undertaken.
One difficulty confronted him, and until he had mentioned it to
Hogan seemed unsurmountable he had need of a ship. But in this
the Irishman could assist him. He knew of a vessel then at
Greenwich, whose master was in his debt, which should suit the
purpose. Money, however, would be needed. But when Crispin
announced that he was master of some two hundred Caroluses,
Hogan, with a wave of the hand, declared the matter settled.
Less than half that sum would hire the man he knew of. That
determined, Crispin unfolded his project to Hogan, who laughed
at the simplicity of it, for all that inwardly he cursed the
risk Sir Crispin must run for the sake of one so unworthy.
"If the maid loves him, the thing is as good as done."
"The maid does not love him; leastways, I fear not."
Hogan was not surprised.
"Why, then it will be difficult, well-nigh impossible." And
the Irishman became grave.
But Crispin laughed unpleasantly. Years and misfortune had
made him cynical.
"What is the love of a maid?" quoth he derisively. "A caprice,
a fancy, a thing that may be guided, overcome or compelled as
the occasion shall demand. Opportunity is love's parent,
Hogan, and given that, any maid may love any man. Cynthia
shall love my son."
"But if she prove rebellious? If she say nay to your proposals
? There are such women."
"How then? Am I not the stronger? In such a case it shall be
mine to compel her, and as I find her, so shall I carry her
away. It will be none so poor a vengeance on the Ashburns
after all." His brow grew clouded. "But not what I had
dreamed of; what I should have taken had he not cheated me. To
forgo it now - after all these years of waiting - is another
sacrifice I make to Jocelyn. To serve him in this matter I
must proceed cautiously. Cynthia may fret and fume and stamp,
but willy-nilly I shall carry her away. Once she is in France,
friendless, alone, I make no doubt that she will see the
convenience of loving Jocelyn - leastways of wedding him and
thus shall I have more than repaired the injuries I have done
The Irishman's broad face was very grave; his reckless merry
eye fixed Galliard with a look of sorrow, and this grey-haired,
sinning soldier of fortune, who had never known a conscience,
"It is not a nice thing you contemplate, Cris."
Despite himself, Galliard winced, and his glance fell before
Hogan's. For a moment he saw the business in its true light,
and he wavered in his purpose. Then, with a short bark of
"Gadso, you are sentimental, Harry!" said he, to add, more
gravely: "There is my son, and in this lies the only way to his
Hogan stretched a hand across the table, and set it upon
"Is he worth such a stain upon your honour, Crispin?"
There was a pause.
"Is it not late in the day, Hogan, for you and me to prate of
honour?" asked Crispin bitterly, yet with averted gaze. "God
knows my honour is as like honour as a beggar's rags are like
unto a cloak of ermine. What signifies another splash, another
rent in that which is tattered beyond all semblance of its
"I asked you," the Irishman persisted, "whether your son was
worth the sacrifice that the vile deed you contemplate
Crispin shook his arm from the other's grip, and rose abruptly.
He crossed to the window, and drew back the curtain.
"Day is breaking," said he gruffly. Then turning, and facing
Hogan across the room, "I have pledged my word to Jocelyn," he
said. "The way I have chosen is the only one, and I shall
follow it. But if your conscience cries out against it, Hogan,
I give you back your promise of assistance, and I shall shift
alone. I have done so all my life."
Hogan shrugged his massive shoulders, and reached out for the
bottle of strong waters.
"If you are resolved, there is an end to it. My conscience
shall not trouble me, and upon what aid I have promised and
what more I can give, you may depend. I drink to the success
of your undertaking."
Thereafter they discussed the matter of the vessel that Crispin
would require, and it was arranged between them that Hogan
should send a message to the skipper, bidding him come to
Harwich, and there await and place himself at the command of
Sir Crispin Galliard. For fifty pounds Hogan thought that he
would undertake to land Sir Crispin in France. The messenger
might be dispatched forthwith, and the Lady Jane should be at
Harwich, two days later.
By the time they had determined upon this, the inmates of the
hostelry were astir, and from the innyard came to them the
noise of bustle and preparation for the day.
Presently they left the chamber where they had sat so long, and
at the yard pump the Tavern Knight performed a rude morning
toilet. Thereafter, on a simple fare of herrings and brown
ale, they broke their fast; and ere that meal was done,
Kenneth, pale and worn, with dark circles round his eyes,
entered the common room, and sat moodily apart. But when later
Hogan went to see to the dispatching of his messenger, Crispin
rose and approached the youth.
Kenneth watched him furtively, without pausing in his meal. He
had spent a very miserable night pondering over the future,
which looked gloomy enough, and debating whether - forgetting
and ignoring what had passed - he should return to the genteel
poverty of his Scottish home, or accept the proffered service
of this man who announced himself - and whom he now believed -
to be his father. He had thought, but he was far from having
chosen between Scotland and France, when Crispin now greeted
him, not without constraint.
"Jocelyn," he said, speaking slowly, almost humbly. "In an
hour's time I shall set out to return to Marleigh to fulfil my
last night's promise to you. How I shall accomplish it I
scarce know as yet; but accomplish it I shall. I have arranged
to have a vessel awaiting me, and within three days - or four
at the most - I look to cross to France, bearing your bride
He paused for some reply, but none came. The boy sat on with
an impassive face, his eyes glued to the table, but his mind
busy enough upon that which his father was pouring into his
ear. Presently Crispin continued:
"You cannot refuse to do as I suggest, Jocelyn. I shall make
you the fullest amends for the harm that I have done you, if
you but obey my directions. You must quit this place as soon
as possible, and proceed on your way to London. There you must
find a boat to carry you to France, and you will await me at
the Auberge du Soleil at Calais. You are agreed, Jocelyn?"
There was a slight pause, and Jocelyn took his resolution. Yet
there was still a sullen look in the eyes he lifted to his
"I have little choice, sir," he made answer, "and so I must
agree. If you accomplish what you promise, I own that you will
have made amends, and I shall crave your pardon for my
yesternight's want of faith. I shall await you at Calais."
Crispin sighed, and for a second his face hardened. It was not
the answer to which he held himself entitled, and for a moment
it rose to the lips of this man of fierce and sudden moods to
draw back and let the son, whom at the moment he began to
detest, go his own way, which assuredly would lead him to
perdition. But a second's thought sufficed to quell that mood
"I shall not fail you," he said coldly. "Have you money for
The boy flushed as he remembered that little was left of what
Joseph Ashburn had given him. Crispin saw the flush, and
reading aright its meaning, he drew from his pocket a purse
that he had been fingering, and placed it quietly upon the
table. "There are fifty Caroluses in that bag. That should
suffice to carry you to France. Fare you well until we meet at
And without giving the boy time to utter thanks that might be
unwilling, he quickly left the room.
Within the hour he was in the saddle, and his horse's head was
turned northwards once more.
He rode through Newport some three hours later without drawing
rein. By the door of the Raven Inn stood a travelling
carriage, upon which he did not so much as bestow a look.
By the merest thread hangs at times the whole of a man's future
life, the destinies even of men as yet unborn. So much may
depend indeed upon a glance, that had not Crispin kept his eyes
that morning upon the grey road before him, had he chanced to
look sideways as he passed the Raven Inn at Newport, and seen
the Ashburn arms displayed upon the panels of that coach, he
would of a certainty have paused. And had he done so, his
whole destiny would assuredly have shaped a different course
from that which he was unconsciously steering.
Joseph's journey to London was occasioned by his very natural
anxiety to assure himself that Crispin was caught in the toils
of the net he had so cunningly baited for him, and that at
Castle Marleigh he would trouble them no more. To this end he
quitted Sheringham on the day after Crispin's departure.
Not a little perplexed was Cynthia at the topsy-turvydom in
which that morning she had found her father's house. Kenneth
was gone; he had left in the dead of night, and seemingly in
haste and suddenness, since on the previous evening there had
been no talk of his departing. Her father was abed with a
wound that made him feverish. Their grooms were all sick, and
wandered in a dazed and witless fashion about the castle, their
faces deadly pale and their eyes lustreless. In the hall she
had found a chaotic disorder upon descending, and one of the
panels of the wainscot she saw was freshly cracked.
Slowly the idea forced itself upon her mind that there had been
brawling the night before, yet was she far from surmising the
motives that could have led to it. The conclusion she came to
in the end was that the men had drunk deep, that in their cups
they had waxed quarrelsome, and that swords had been drawn.
Of Joseph then she sought enlightenment, and Joseph lied right
handsomely, like the ready-witted knave he was. A wondrously
plausible story had he for her ear; a story that played
cunningly upon her knowledge of the compact that existed
between Kenneth and Sir Crispin.
"You may not know,' said he - full well aware that she did know
- "that when Galliard saved Kenneth's life at Worcester he
exacted from the lad the promise that in return Kenneth should
aid him in some vengeful business he had on hand."
Cynthia nodded that she understood or that she knew, and glibly
"Last night, when on the point of departing, Crispin, who had
drunk over-freely, as is his custom, reminded Kenneth of his
plighted word, and demanded of the boy that he should upon the
instant go forth with him. Kenneth replied that the hour was
overlate to be setting out upon a journey, and he requested
Galliard to wait until to-day, when he would be ready to fulfil
what he had promised. But Crispin retorted that Kenneth was
bound by his oath to go with him when he should require it, and
again he bade the boy make ready at once. Words ensued between
them, the boy insisting upon waiting until to-day, and Crispin
insisting upon his getting his boots and cloak and coming with
him there and then. More heated grew the argument, till in the
end Galliard, being put out of temper, snatched at his sword,
and would assuredly have spitted the boy had not your father
interposed, thereby getting himself wounded. Thereafter, in
his drunken lust Sir Crispin went the length of wantonly
cracking that panel with his sword by way of showing Kenneth
what he had to expect unless he obeyed him. At that I
intervened, and using my influence, I prevailed upon Kenneth to
go with Galliard as he demanded. To this, for all his
reluctance, Kenneth ended by consenting, and so they are gone."
By that most glib and specious explanation Cynthia was
convinced. True, she added a question touching the amazing
condition of the grooms, in reply to which Joseph afforded her
a part of the truth.
"Sir Crispin sent them some wine, and they drank to his
departure so heartily that they are not rightly sober yet."
Satisfied with this explanation Cynthia repaired to her father.
Now Gregory had not agreed with Joseph what narrative they were
to offer Cynthia, for it had never crossed his dull mind that
the disorder of the hall and the absence of Kenneth might cause
her astonishment. And so when she touched upon the matter of
his wound, like the blundering fool he was, he must needs let
his tongue wag upon a tale which, if no less imaginative than
Joseph's, was vastly its inferior in plausibility and had yet
the quality of differing from it totally in substance.
"Plague on that dog, your lover, Cynthia," he growled from the
mountain of pillows that propped him. "If he should come to
wed my daughter after pinning me to the wainscot of my own hall
may I be for ever damned."
"How?" quoth she. "Do you say that Kenneth did it?"
"Aye, did he. He ran at me ere I could draw, like the coward
he is, sink him, and had me through the shoulder in the
twinkling of an eye."
Here was something beyond her understanding. What were they
concealing from her? She set her wits to the discovery and
plied her father with another question.
"How came you to quarrel?"
"How? 'Twas - 'twas concerning you, child," replied Gregory at
random, and unable to think of a likelier motive.
"How, concerning me?"
"Leave me, Cynthia," he groaned in despair. "Go, child. I am
grievously wounded. I have the fever, girl. Go; let me
"But tell me, father, what passed."
"Unnatural child," whined Gregory feebly, "will you plague a
sick man with questions? Would you keep him from the sleep
that may mean recovery to him?"
"Father, dear," she murmured softly, "if I thought it was as
you say, I would leave you. But you know that you are but
attempting to conceal something from me something that I should
know, that I must know. Bethink you that it is of my lover
that you have spoken."
By a stupendous effort Gregory shaped a story that to him
"Well, then, since know you must," he answered, "this is what
befell: we had all drunk over-deep to our shame do I confess it
- and growing tenderhearted for you, and bethinking me of your
professed distaste to Kenneth's suit, I told him that for all
the results that were likely to attend his sojourn at Castle
Marleigh, he might as well bear Crispin company in his
departure. He flared up at that, and demanded of me that I
should read him my riddle. Faith, I did by telling him that we
were like to have snow on midsummer's day ere he 'became your
husband. That speech of mine so angered him, being as he was
all addled with wine and ripe for any madness, that he sprang
up and drew on me there and then. The others sought to get
between us, but he was over-quick, and before I could do more
than rise from the table his sword was through my shoulder and
into the wainscot at my back. After that it was clear he could
not remain here, and I demanded that he should leave upon the
instant. Himself he was nothing loath, for he realized his
folly, and he misliked the gleam of Joseph's eye - which can be
wondrous wicked upon occasion. Indeed, but for my intercession
Joseph had laid him stark."
That both her uncle and her father had lied to her - the one
cunningly, the other stupidly - she had never a doubt, and
vaguely uneasy was Cynthia to learn the truth. Later that day
the castle was busy with the bustle of Joseph's departure, and
this again was a matter that puzzled her.
"Whither do you journey, uncle?" she asked of him as he was in
the act of stepping out to enter the waiting carriage.
"To London, sweet cousin," was his brisk reply. "I am, it
seems, becoming a very vagrant in my old age. Have you
commands for me?"
"What is it you look to do in London?"
"There, child, let that be for the present. I will tell you
perhaps when I return. The door, Stephen."
She watched his departure with uneasy eyes and uneasy heart. A
fear pervaded her that in all that had befallen, in all that
was befalling still - what ever it might be - some evil was at
work, and an evil that had Crispin for its scope. She had
neither reason nor evidence from which to draw this inference.
It was no more than the instinct whose voice cries out to us at
times a presage of ill, and oftentimes compels our attention in
a degree far higher than any evidence could command.
The fear that was in her urged her to seek what information she
could on every hand, but without success. From none could she
cull the merest scrap of evidence to assist her.
But on the morrow she had information as prodigal as it was
unlooked-for, and from the unlikeliest of sources - her father
himself. Chafing at his inaction and lured into indiscretions
by the subsiding of the pain of his wound, Gregory quitted his
bed and came below that night to sup with his daughter. As his
wont had been for years, he drank freely. That done, alive to
the voice of his conscience, and seeking to drown its loud-
tongued cry, he drank more freely still, so that in the end his
henchman, Stephen, was forced to carry him to bed.
This Stephen had grown grey in the service of the Ashburns, and
amongst much valuable knowledge that he had amassed, was a
skill in dealing with wounds and a wide understanding of the
ways to go about healing them. This knowledge made him realize
how unwise at such a season was Gregory's debauch, and
sorrowfully did he wag his head over his master's condition of
Stephen had grave fears concerning him, and these fears were
realized when upon the morrow Gregory awoke on fire with the
fever. They summoned a leech from Sheringham, and this cunning
knave, with a view to adding importance to the cure he was come
to effect, and which in reality presented no alarming
difficulty, shook his head with ominous gravity, and whilst
promising to do "all that his skill permitted, he spoke of a
clergyman to help Gregory make his peace with God. For the
leech had no cause to suspect that the whole of the Sacred
College might have found the task beyond its powers.
A wild fear took Gregory in its grip. How could he die with
such a load as that which he now carried upon his soul? And
the leech, seeing how the matter preyed upon his patient's
mind, made shift - but too late - to tranquillize him with
assurances that he was not really like to die, and that he had
but mentioned a parson so that Gregory in any case should be
The storm once raised, however, was not so easily to be
allayed, and the conviction remained with Gregory that his
sands were well-nigh run, and that the end could be but a
matter of days in coming.
Realizing as he did how richly he had earned damnation, a
frantic terror was upon him, and all that day he tossed and
turned, now blaspheming, now praying, now weeping. His life
had been indeed one protracted course of wrong-doing, and many
had suffered by Gregory's evil ways - many a man and many a
woman. But as the stars pale and fade when the sun mounts the
sky, so too were the lesser wrongs that marked his earthly
pilgrimage of sin rendered pale or blotted into insignificance
by the greater wrong he had done Ronald Marleigh - a wrong
which was not ended yet, but whose completion Joseph was even
then working to effect. If only he could save Crispin even now
in the eleventh hour; if by some means he could warn him not to
repair to the sign of the Anchor in Thames Street. His
disordered mind took no account of the fact that in the time
that was sped since Galliard's departure, the knight should
already have reached London.
And so it came about that, consumed at once by the desire to
make confession to whomsoever it might be, and the wish to
attempt yet to avert the crowning evil of whose planning he was
partly guilty inasmuch as he had tacitly consented to Joseph's
schemes, Gregory called for his daughter. She came readily
enough, hoping for exactly that which was about to take place,
yet fearing sorely that her hopes would suffer frustration, and
that she would learn nothing from her father.
"Cynthia," he cried, in mingled dread and sorrow, "Cynthia, my
child, I am about to die."
She knew both from Stephen and from the leech that this was far
from being his condition. Nevertheless her filial piety was at
that moment a touching sight. She smoothed his pillows with a
gentle grace that was in itself a soothing caress, even as her
soft sympathetic voice was a caress. She took his hand, and
spoke to him endearingly, seeking to relieve the sombre mood
whose prey he was become, assuring him that the leech had told
her his danger was none so imminent, and that with quiet and a
little care he would be up and about again ere many days were
sped. But Gregory rejected hopelessly all efforts at
"I am on my death-bed, Cynthia," he insisted, "and when I am
gone I know not whom there may be to cheer and comfort your lot
in life. Your lover is away on an errand of Joseph's, and it
may well betide that he will never again cross the threshold of
Castle Marleigh. Unnatural though I may seem, sweetheart, my
dying wish is that this may be so."
She looked up in some surprise.
"Father, if that be all that grieves you, I can reassure you.
I do not love Kenneth."
"You apprehend me amiss," said he tartly. "Do you recall the
story of Sir Crispin Galliard's life that you had from Kenneth
on the night of Joseph's return?" His voice shook as he put
"Why, yes. I am not like to forget it, and nightly do I pray,"
she went on, her tongue outrunning discretion and betraying her
feelings for Galliard, "that God may punish those murderers who
wrecked his existence."
"Hush, girl," he whispered in a quavering voice. "You know not
what you say."
"Indeed I do; and as there is a just God my prayer shall be
"Cynthia," he wailed. His eyes were wild, and the hand that
rested in hers trembled violently. "Do you know that it is
against your father and your father's brother that you invoke
She had been kneeling at his bedside; but now, when he
pronounced those words, she rose slowly and stood silent for a
spell, her eyes seeking his with an awful look that he dared
not meet. At last:
"Oh, you rave," she protested, "it is the fever."
"Nay, child, my mind is clear, and what I have said is true."
"True?" she echoed, no louder than a whisper, and her eyes grew
round with horror. "True that you and my uncle are the
butchers who slew their cousin, this man's wife, and sought to
murder him as well - leaving him for dead? True that you are
the thieves who claiming kinship by virtue of that very
marriage have usurped his estates and this his castle during
all these years, whilst he himself went an outcast, homeless
and destitute? Is that what you ask me to believe?"
"Even so," he assented, with a feeble sob.
Her face was pale - white to the very lips, and her blue eyes
smouldered behind the shelter of her drooping lids. She put
her hand to her breast, then to her brow, pushing back the
brown hair by a mechanical gesture that was pathetic in the
tale of pain it told. For support she was leaning now against
the wall by the head of his couch. In silence she stood so
while you might count to twenty; then with a sudden vehemence
revealing the passion of anger and grief that swayed her:
"Why," she cried, "why in God's name do you tell me this?"
"Why?" His utterance was thick, and his eyes, that were grown
dull as a snake's, stared straight before him, daring not to
meet his daughter's glance. "I tell it you," he said, "because
I am a dying man." And he hoped that the consideration of that
momentous fact might melt her, and might by pity win her back
to him - that she was lost to him he realized.
"I tell you because I am a dying man," he repeated. "I tell it
you because in such an hour I fain would make confession and
repent, that God may have mercy upon my soul. I tell it you,
too, because the tragedy begun eighteen years ago is not yet
played out, and it may yet be mine to avert the end we had
prepared - Joseph and I. Thus perhaps a merciful God will
place it in my power to make some reparation. Listen, child.
It was against us, as you will have guessed, that Galliard
enlisted Kenneth's services, and here on the night of Joseph's
return he called upon the boy to fulfil him what he had sworn.
The lad had no choice but to obey; indeed, I forced him to it
by attacking him and compelling him to draw, which is how I
came by this wound.
"Crispin had of a certainty killed Joseph but that your uncle
bethought him of telling him that his son lived."
"He saved his life by a lie! That was worthy of him," said
"Nay, child, he spoke the truth, and when Joseph offered to
restore the boy to him, he had every intention of so doing.
But in the moment of writing the superscription to the letter
Crispin was to bear to those that had reared the child, Joseph
bethought him of a foul scheme for Galliard's final
destruction. And so he has sent him to London instead, to a
house in Thames Street, where dwells one Colonel Pride, who
bears Sir Crispin a heavy grudge, and into whose hands he will
be thus delivered. Can aught be done, Cynthia, to arrest this
- to save Sir Crispin from Joseph's snare?"
"As well might you seek to restore the breath to a dead man,"
she answered, and her voice was so oddly calm, so cold and bare
of expression, that Gregory shuddered to hear it.
"Do not delude yourself," she added. "Sir Crispin will have
reached London long ere this, and by now Joseph will be well on
his way to see that there is no mistake made, and that the life
you ruined hopelessly years ago is plucked at last from this
unfortunate man. Merciful God! am I truly your daughter?" she
cried. "Is my name indeed Ashburn, and have I been reared upon
the estates that by crime you gained possession of? Estates
that by crime you hold - for they are his; every stone, every
stick that goes to make the place belongs to him, and now he
has gone to his death by your contriving."
A moan escaped her, and she covered her face with her hands. A
moment she stood rocking there - a fair, lissom plant swept by
a gale of ineffable emotion. Then the breath seemed to go all
out of her in one great sigh, and Gregory, who dared not look
her way, heard the swish of her gown, followed by a thud as she
collapsed and lay swooning on the ground.
So disturbed at that was Gregory's spirit that, forgetting his
wound, his fever, and the death which he had believed
impending, he leapt from his couch, and throwing wide the door,
bellowed lustily for Stephen. In frightened haste came his
henchman to answer the petulant summons, and in obedience to
Gregory's commands he went off again as quickly in quest of
Catherine - Cynthia's woman.
Between them they bore the unconscious girl to her chamber,
leaving Gregory to curse himself for having been lured into a
confession that it now seemed to him had been unnecessary,
since in his newly found vitality he realized that death was
none so near a thing as that scoundrelly fool of a leech had
led him to believe.
THE WOOING OF CYNTHIA
Cynthia's swoon was after all but brief. Upon recovering
consciousness her first act was to dismiss her woman. She had
need to be alone - the need of the animal that is wounded to
creep into its lair and hide itself. And so alone with her
sorrow she sat through that long day.
That her father's condition was grievous she knew to be untrue,
so that concerning him there was not even that pity that she
might have felt had she believed - as he would have had her
believe that he was dying.
As she pondered the monstrous disclosure he had made, her heart
hardened against him, and even as she had asked him whether
indeed she was his daughter, so now she vowed to herself that
she would be his daughter no longer. She would leave Castle
Marleigh, never again to set eyes upon her father, and she
hoped that during the little time she must yet remain there - a
day, or two at most - she might be spared the ordeal of again
meeting a parent for whom respect was dead, and who inspired
her with just that feeling of horror she must have for any man
who confessed himself a murderer and a thief.
She resolved to repair to London to a sister of her mother's,
where for her dead mother's sake she would find a haven
At eventide she came at last from her chamber.
She had need of air, need of the balm that nature alone can
offer in solitude to poor wounded human souls.
It was a mild and sunny evening, worthy rather of August than
of October, and aimlessly Mistress Cynthia wandered towards the
cliffs overlooking Sheringham Hithe. There she sate herself in
sad dejection upon the grass, and gazed wistfully seaward, her
mind straying now from the sorry theme that had held dominion
in it, to the memories that very spot evoked.
It was there, sitting as she sat now, her eyes upon the
shimmering waste of sea, and the gulls circling overhead, that
she had awakened to the knowledge of her love for Crispin. And
so to him strayed now her thoughts, and to the fate her father
had sent him to; and thus back again to her father and the evil
he had wrought. It is matter for conjecture whether her
loathing for Gregory would have been as intense as it was, had
another than Crispin Galliard been his victim.
Her life seemed at an end as she sat that October evening on
the cliffs. No single interest linked her to existence;
nothing, it seemed, was left her to hope for till the end
should come - and no doubt it would be long in coming, for time
moves slowly when we wait.
Wistful she sat and thought, and every thought begat a sigh,
and then of a sudden - surely her ears had tricked her,
enslaved by her imagination - a crisp, metallic voice rang out
close behind her.
"Why are we pensive, Mistress Cynthia?"
There was a catch in her breath as she turned her head. Her
cheeks took fire, and for a second were aflame. Then they went
deadly white, and it seemed that time and life and the very
world had paused in its relentless progress towards eternity.
For there stood the object of her thoughts and sighs, sudden
and unexpected, as though the earth had cast him up on to her
His thin lips were parted in a smile that softened wondrously
the harshness of his face, and his eyes seemed then to her
alight with kindness. A moment's pause there was, during which
she sought her voice, and when she had found it, all that she
could falter was:
"Sir, how came you here? They told me that you rode to
"Why, so I did. But on the road I chanced to halt, and having
halted I discovered reason why I should return."
He had discovered a reason. She asked herself breathlessly
what might that reason be, and finding herself no answer to the
question, she put it next to him.
He drew near to her before replying. "May I sit with you
She moved aside to make room for him, as though the broad cliff
had been a narrow ledge, and with the sigh of a weary man
finding a resting-place at last, he sank down beside her.
There was a tenderness in his voice that set her pulses
stirring wildly. Did she guess aright the reason that had
caused him to break his journey and return? That he had done
so - no matter what the reason - she thanked God from her
inmost heart, as for a miracle that had saved him from the doom
awaiting him in London town.
"Am I presumptuous, child, to think that haply the meditation
in which I found you rapt was for one, unworthy though he be,
who went hence but some few days since?"
The ambiguous question drove every thought from her mind,
filling it to overflowing with the supreme good of his
presence, and the frantic hope that she had read aright the
reason of it.
"Have I conjectured rightly?" he asked, since she kept silence.
"Mayhap you have," she whispered in return, and then,
marvelling at her boldness, blushed. He glanced sharply at her
from narrowing eyes. It was not the answer he had looked to
As a father might have done he took the slender hand that
rested upon the grass beside him, and she, poor child,
mistaking the promptings of that action, suffered it to lie in
his strong grasp. With averted head she gazed upon the sea
below, until a mist of tears rose up to blot it out. The
breeze seemed full of melody and gladness. God was very good
to her, and sent her in her hour of need this great consolation
- a consolation indeed that must have served to efface whatever
sorrow could have beset her.
"Why then, sweet lady, is my task that I had feared to find all
fraught with difficulty, grown easy indeed."
And hearing him pause:
"What task is that, Sir Crispin?" she asked, intent on helping
He did not reply at once. He found it difficult to devise an
answer. To tell her brutally that he was come to bear her
away, willing or unwilling, on behalf of another, was not easy.
Indeed, it was impossible, and he was glad that inclinations in
her which he had little dreamt of, put the necessity aside.
"My task, Mistress Cynthia, is to bear you hence. To ask you
to resign this peaceful life, this quiet home in a little
corner of the world, and to go forth to bear life's hardships
with one who, whatever be his shortcomings, has the
all-redeeming virtue of loving you beyond aught else in life."
He gazed intently at her as he spoke, and her eyes fell before
his glance. He noted the warm, red blood suffusing her cheeks,
her brow, her very neck; and he could have laughed aloud for
joy at finding so simple that which he had feared would prove
so hard. Some pity, too, crept unaccountably into his stern
heart, fathered by the little faith which in his inmost soul he
reposed in Jocelyn. And where, had she resisted him, he would
have grown harsh and violent, her acquiescence struck the
weapons from his hands, and he caught himself well-nigh warning
her against accompanying him.
"It is much to ask," he said. "But love is selfish, and love
"No, no," she protested softly, "it is not much to ask. Rather
is it much to offer."
At that he was aghast. Yet he continued:
"Bethink you, Mistress Cynthia, I have ridden back to
Sheringham to ask you to come with me into France, where my son
He forgot for the moment that she was in ignorance of his
relationship to him he looked upon as her lover, whilst she
gave this mention of his son, of whose existence she had
already heard from her; father, little thought at that moment.
The hour was too full of other things that touched her more
"I ask you to abandon the ease and peace of Sheringham for a
life as a soldier's bride that may be rough and precarious for
a while, though, truth to tell, I have some influence at the
Luxembourg, and friends upon whose assistance I can safely
count, to find your husband honourable employment, and set him
on the road to more. And how, guided by so sweet a saint, can
he but mount to fame and honour?"
She spoke no word, but the hand resting in his entwined his
fingers in an answering pressure.
"Dare I then ask so much?" cried he. And as if the ambiguity
which had marked his speech were not enough, he must needs, as
he put this question, bend in his eagerness towards her until
her brown tresses touched his swart cheek. Was it then strange
that the eagerness wherewith he urged another's suit should
have been by her interpreted as her heart would have had it?
She set her hands upon his shoulders, and meeting his eager
gaze with the frank glance of the maid who, out of trust, is
fearless in her surrender:
"Throughout my life I shall thank God that you have dared it,"
she made answer softly.