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“What, Lambkin, if Lord Cedric should catch cold and die? ‘Twould kill thee, too; for remorse would give thee no rest.”

“I never so disliked him as I do now. I never want to see him again. How shall I look him in the face after confessing such things? I shall die of shame. That is all he wanted to hear me say, and–he heard it–and that is all the benefit he will get.” Again she fell to weeping, finding she could wring no sympathy from Janet, who sat coldly listening to her nursling’s plaints.

They reached Crandlemar late the second evening, tired and weary. The Duchess of Ellswold greeted them with a happy countenance, so pleased that she could make known to them that her lord was better and the physicians had given permission to remove him to his own county seat. Her greeting to Katherine in particular was evidently a forced one; she feeling sorely distressed at her capricious nature.

Never did the great old seat look so beautiful as it did in its midsummer glory. Mistress Penwick had arisen early and walked out upon the rich greensward. She wandered from place to place, enjoying the gorgeous fullness of leaf and bloom. She felt a strange disquiet, a longing for love and knowing not the meaning of her unrest vainly tried to find comfort in the beauty of the outer world, that only inclined her heart the more to its desire. She passed from flower to flower, endeavouring to ‘suage the uprisings of Cupid. Suddenly she heard the organ peal forth, and straightway she entered the library to hear those great, soothing chords the better. She, being shaken by love, fell upon her knees and tried to pray for comfort, for she felt at the moment she had not one to comfort her. Janet had been taciturn, showing not her affection as had been her wont heretofore. The tears came, and she wept aloud. Then the organ ceased and a moment later Sir Julian stood upon the landing of the stairway, looking down upon her. Without noise he descended and stood by her side. His voice, when he spoke, appeared shaken as if a storm of love wrought upon it.

“Katherine! It pains me to see thee thus. Can I not give thee some bit of comfort?”

“I am comforted already, Sir Julian; thy music did that.”

“Then why dost still remain with bowed head and thy sobs unassuaged?”

“I do not know. I must either laugh or cry and–’tis easier to do the latter.”

“Come! Mistress Penwick, what can I do for thee? Ask, I pray, anything, for thy happiness–Katherine–” and for the first time in his life he looked guiltily about him. But no one was near to hear him, and he continued lowly–“thou dost know, surely, that man cannot look on thee without loving?” and he raised her from her knees.

“I am unloved,” she answered, the social lie tinging her cheek to a brighter hue.

“Not so, for I love thee.”

“Thou, thou, Sir Julian, who art used to spurning woman’s heart?”

“Not spurn, nay! I have not found one yet I could do that to, and on the other hand I have found but one I could love, and–that is thine.”

“Ah, Sir Julian. I wonder if thou dost love me. ‘Tis a great thing to be loved by one who has fought in great battles.”

“And thou dost not know that the battle of hearts is much deadlier than that of arms?”

“I do not know; but thou seemest like a warrior of olden time. And for thee to love me!”

“Is it enough? Wilt thou give thyself to me?” There was a silence so long and unbroken Katherine was made to realize that her reply was not to be lightly uttered, so she answered with all the strength of a plaything of caprice,–

“If thou wilt have it so, Sir Julian, I will be thine.”

She had hardly finished, when he laid his lips, to her astonishment, coldly and with formal grace upon her forehead.

“I will not ask thee if thou lovest me, but will say instead dost think thou mayest?”

“But I think I love thee now–“

“Nay, sweet Mistress, thou dost not–” A look of fear came into her eyes. Had Lord Cedric told her confessions? Nay, nay! he would not, she knew.

“How dost come by so much knowledge?” she said, coquettishly.

“I have ascertained by subtleness, but–let it pass. Let us talk of thee now. When wilt thou marry me? If thou art kind, thou wilt say at once.”

“Nay, I shall not say that–but–whenever thou dost wish it.”

“Of a surety? When I name the hour, wilt thou not gainsay?”

“Nay, my lord. I will not gainsay.”

“Then–at eleven, Katherine.” She caught her breath quickly and cried forth,–

“This day, Sir Julian! Indeed, thou art in haste, I–I–“

“Thou hast given thy word. At eleven, Katherine.”

“By sands or dial?”

“Ah, sweet Katherine, both shall have a bridal favour. We will confer with each. When the golden sand runs out at the eleventh hour, the dial will be alone and in shadow; for if it please thee, we must be wed secretly and in haste. I noticed but awhile ago how beautiful the dial was. So the sands shall give us the hour, the dial the altar, and the nightingale the nuptial mass.”

“But the priest, Sir Julian–“

“He shall give us the blessing–“

“Nay, nay; where wilt thou find a priest?” This was not an unexpected question, and Sir Julian was ready for it.

“Lord Cedric’s Chaplain can wed us as securely as one of thy church, and as there is no one else, he will serve, will he not, Katherine?”

“Until we find a better.”

“Then, not to arouse suspicion, to-night at eleven thou wilt come to the sun-dial and I will meet thee at the foot of the stair that leads from thy chamber to the terrace, and then–’twill be soon over and thou, thou, Katherine, will be–wife. Wilt not regret it,–art sure?” he repeated as she shook her head negatively.

“But why do all men appear in such haste to wed? I would have time to at least think upon it.”

“Dost forget that at any moment may come a courier from the King to recall thee; and if so, thou wouldst be obliged to go and be separated from us, perhaps forever? Thou dost not know what may befall thee at any moment. Thou dost belong to France, and art hostage to England–thou wilt be ready at eleven?”

“Aye, at eleven.”

“We will be cautious and not speak above a whisper. The Chaplain will speak low, too; but he is a good soul and would make us fast wed whether we heard him or not.” Again he kissed her forehead; she turned rose-red and ran from him hastily. She thought not once of Cedric. Had she done so, ’tis possible she never would have gone to the dial that summer night. She flew to her chamber aflame with this new thing she thought was love. And felt relief that soon Sir Julian, the strong and brave, would take away all her discomfort. He would fight her battles for her, go with her to the King and stand by her side and his Majesty would not dare to offer her insult. It would be a sweet task to convert Sir Julian to her faith. He would became a great Catholic leader. Her breast fairly swelled with pride in anticipation.

CHAPTER XXI

THE ESPOUSAL

Night had come richly laden with the perfume of many flowers, that the darkness seemed to make more pungent, and more distinct to the ear the night sounds. There was no moon, and the thick foliage produced a deep, dark density, mysterious and sweet. The grand terraces about the castle were still, save for the buzz of summer insects and the low, sleepy twittering of birds. There was not a star to be seen and only the glow-worm lent an occasional lilliputian effulgence to the great, dark world. All within the castle appeared to have retired earlier than usual; perhaps for the purpose of an earlier awakening, as their Graces of Ellswold were to set out early on the morrow morning, aiming to make some great distance on their journey before the heat of midday. At a quarter after the hour of ten Janet had kissed her mistress, leaning over her pillow with even more affection than usual.

“Good-night, my Lambkin, my child, my precious maid–good-night and God bless thee!” then snuffed the candles and left her.

Katherine gave no thought to regret, indeed she went so far as to smile at Janet’s consternation, when she should find out that for once her “Lambkin” had fooled her. Quickly she leapt from her bed and dressed herself for the first time alone. Though her fingers were deft and skillful at the tapestry frame, and neat and clever at limning, they were slow and bungling when drawing together the laces of her girdle, indeed ’twas very insecurely done, and when she was dressed she had forgotten her stays, and but for the lateness of the hour would have disrobed and donned them. It seemed like an endless task to try and dress again by the poor light of the single candle, screened by her best sunshade in the far corner of the room. She had donned a pale, shimmering brocade. About her neck she twined her mother’s pearls, and took up the opal shoulder knot of Cedric’s mother’s and was about to fasten it when some subtle thought stole the desire from her, and she laid it back in the casket with a sigh. Instead, she placed a bunch of jasmine as her shoulder-brooch, and extinguishing the light went forth to meet her husband by the sun-dial.

She passed out by the door that led on to a small balcony and a-down the flight of outside stairs that were covered with vines in purple bloom. Although the darkness was almost impenetrable, she could distinguish a form waiting at the foot of the stair. For an instant she paused and whispered timourously,–

“Who art thou?”

“Julian,” came as softly back, and a white hand was stretched out to her. Down she flew, intrepid.

“Would I send another to meet thee; didst thou think to turn back, my Katherine?”

“Nay, I should not have turned back; but ’twas assuring to hear thy name. I am not afraid, yet–yet I tremble.”

“And ’tis sweet of thee so to do; ’tis maidenly that thou shouldst; ’tis the way of woman. Thou art not afraid, yet thou dost tremble; thou dost try to be brave, yet thou must be assured, and I am here by thy side to assure thee ever,” he whispered in her ear.

Down they swept across the upper terrace. Slowly they crossed the greensward, with fairy-like light of firefly to illumine the way; speaking as lovers will, with bated breath. The wind blew gently now and again, casting a shower of petals upon them as they passed. When the leaves shone white, the cavalier would say:

“We are so blessed, nature herself doth sprinkle the bridal path with flowers;”–or, when there fell a darksome shower, Katherine would press close to her lover’s side and say,–

“Indeed, Julian, these are petals from those blood-red roses that have hung in such profusion all summer. It may have some significance. I believe I must return; ’tis not too late to recede.”

Then the cavalier drew her closer than before, and so tenderly did plead with her, she forgot her fears. So step by step they neared the thicket where stood the ancient sun-dial that was well-nigh hid with bridal roses.

The Chaplain stood ready; his fragile, pale countenance, hid by the darkness. There was no faltering now. Katherine did not think to turn back; that her heart was not with Sir Julian, that she would ever regret this greatest moment in her life, but stood resolute.

The Chaplain began the ceremony at once, and so softly one could scarcely hear a yard away. Katherine was agitated with the thought that she was really being wedded, and hardly heeded when the Chaplain raised or lowered his voice; appearing almost like one in a dream, so blinded was she with the glamour of her new estate.

At last the Chaplain said the final words, pronouncing the twain as one, and gave his blessing in a somewhat stronger voice that carried in it a note of triumph, and was about to step down from the pedestal of the dial when there flew out from the darkness a young man with drawn sword, who dashed immediately upon the young husband. Barely had the cavalier time to draw aside his wife, and drawing his sword as he did so, when his _de trop_ guest made a fierce attack upon him. The young husband cried out as he met the thrust,–

“Nay, nay, nay, by God nay!” It appeared his antagonist was becalmed of speech, for he answered not but struggled to do so. Failing to find his voice, however, he gave a lunge, which was met by a parry that made him mad, and for a moment ground his teeth as fiercely as he wielded his sword. The young cavalier threw himself on guard in carte, which sent his opponent to giving such thrusts that quickly betrayed his lack of skill and also his deadly intentions. These were met by quick parries. Then the mad antagonist made a sweeping bend and thrust at the cavalier’s heart. This was met with a disengage. The mad youth, well spent with anger and want of breath, broke out pantingly,–

“Thou wouldst play the honourable as thou playest the part of Sir Ju–” His last word was cut short by a quick thrust of steel that felled him to the sward. Mistress Katherine stood as if frozen, her hands held tightly in those of the Chaplain, who whispered that it might cost her husband his life should she interfere. He also assured her, saying that the adversary was no swordsman, as she herself soon saw. Some one came running from the castle at the same time Katherine knelt beside the fallen man. But her husband whispered quickly,–

“Nay, nay; arise, Sweet; he is unworthy thy solicitude. Come with me. I gave him but a puny thrust. The Chaplain will look after him.” He put his arm about her and raised her up and drew her away, saying, much out of breath,–“I must not be seen, dost know?” She took fright, fearing her lord’s danger. Quickly they traversed the terrace and reached the stair leading to Katherine’s chamber. As she laid her hand upon the railing, she said timourously,–“I would hear how serious is the wound before I go inside!”

“But, Katherine,” he whispered, “’twas no more than the prick of a pin; beside, dost not thou have anxiety for thy lover’s freedom; hast forgotten our lord’s temper when he finds I have so disgraced his house by fighting ‘neath the very windows? And if the fellow can talk and tells of the marriage, why, I’m undone, and they will begin a search.” All the while he led her further up the stair, she unwitting, until they stood fairly inside the threshold and his foot struck against some obstacle.

“Sh-sh!” she enjoined, “Janet is within yonder room and will hear thee; she may already be awake and prying about to know what is astir upon the terrace!”

“Indeed, I think thou hadst better hide me!”

“Nay, I cannot; I know of no place. Dost thou not know of a safe hiding?”

“I am safest here in thy chamber, I am sure. I know of no other place. And if Janet come–which I hardly think possible–thou must fly to her lighted taper and blow it out, and tell some sweet fib,–say the light pains thine eyes.”

“A ruse holds not good with Janet. I cannot play upon her wit.”

“Then, Sweet, I will lock the door and–“

“Nay, nay, she will hear thee, and will come to see if I have been awakened.”

“Then I had best keep quiet and wait to see what will happen.”

“There is naught else for thee to do, for surely thou canst not go below, thou wouldst be seen, and–“

“–and, what, Sweet?”

“–and be taken prisoner.”

“And wouldst thou be pained, Sweet?” He drew her close, his dark curls swept her face as he bent his head. Nor did he wait for an answer, but plied her with another question that the moment and the closeness gave license to. “Wilt give, Sweet, the nuptial kiss–’tis my due?” She raised her head from his shoulder ever so slightly to answer him, but the words came not, for his lips were upon hers. She was thrilled with his tenderness; ’twas more than she ever could have thought. And as he held her close, she, not unwilling, declared separation would be instant death. She wondered how she ever could have withstood love so long. And he kissed her again and again, saying heaven could not offer greater favour. “Dost feel happy now, Sweet?”

She answered not, but stood, her head leant against the rare and scented lace of his steenkirk, held captive, trembling with an ecstasy too sweet to be accounted for.

“Thou dost tremble, Kate; has thy fear not left thee yet?”

“Nay,” came soft and breathless from her full red lips. “I am still afraid.”

“But what dost thou fear now, so close wrapped?”

“I know not; ’tis a strange fear. If thou shouldst be taken from me, I should die; ’tis this I fear most of all, and even for a separation–nay, nay, I could not live.”

“Oh, Sweet, ’tis excess of gladness that thou art wife–wife, the word alone fills me with rapturous exaltation. Wouldst be glad if we had never met thus, should separation come?”

“Nay, a thousand times, nay, these moments are worth more than all my life heretofore.”

“Hast forgotten, I must leave the castle before very long, and an _adieu_ must be said to thee?”

“I have not forgotten, but ’twill only be for a day. ‘Twould be hazardous for thee to go until everything is quiet about.”

“And until I have quieted thy fears; until I have told thee of a strong man’s love–my love for thy glorious, youthful beauty. Thy hair, Kate, is more precious than all the amber and bronze the world holds; ’tis rich, soft and heavy, with glorious waves. Thy face so filled with love’s blushes warms my breast where it doth lie. The glory of thy eyes that are ever submerging me in their azure depths. Thy slender, white neck and graceful sloping shoulders. Indeed, Sweet, thou art wonderfully made. There could not be a more perfect being. And thou art mine, Sweet; ’tis a wonder that rough man could be so blest. Thou dost often feign coldness, Kate, and now I wonder where thou didst find such condition. ‘Twas most unnatural, and how thou couldst so well assume it–but I have found thy true heart. Sweet Kate, thou hast at last fallen victim to Cupid’s darts, and fortune hath played me fair and put me in the way to receive such priceless gift, whose dividends are to be all my own.” His warm words came so fast and he was so passionate and tender that Katherine took fright and thought ’twas not like Sir Julian to be so, and yet to have him otherwise? nay, she loved him thus, and she remembered the moment he had pressed her hand as they rode through the forest; aye, he could be as loving and tender as–as–She did not finish the thought, for her lord’s jewelled fingers had caught her hand and his arm held her close, pressing her tenderly; his lips resting upon hers until she grew faint with his ardour.

At last night paled into dawn. The cocks began to crow lustily. About the edges of the great windows in the chamber the light began to peep as if loath to cast one disturbing glance athwart the room. There was a fluttering sigh from the folds of the maiden’s handkerchief as her lover bent over her, saying,–

“_Adieu_, Sweet, _adieu_ once more. Let me kiss thy eyelids close until they pent these tears that parting hath wrung from thee, and yet, were they not, I would be without weapon, void of panoply, equipped not–“

“But thy urgent tongue and tenderness doth armour thee for conquest!”

“Aye, ’tis love’s armour; but thy tears make me strong to enter strife with men. I know ’tis love drives thee, and when that love is for me, I can win all battles.”

“Thou must haste before dawn, or thou wilt be taken; for we do not know whether the young man still lives; and Lord Cedric will kill thee if he can.”

“There is no doubt but what he lives. His Grace’s physicians have no doubt healed the burden of his pain long ago. But do not thou think of him, think only of this sweet night and–dream of our meeting again. And if his lordship keeps thee prisoner, tell Janet thou art fast wed and she will help thee to our _rendezvous_ to-morrow. Pray, Sweet, that the day may be short, for now I see only cycles of time until the set of morrow’s sun.”

Dawn broke into a new day. Sunshine bathed old Earth in golden splendour. The day grew warm, as higher and higher leapt Phoebus, until he rested high and hot upon Zenith’s bosom, causing all mankind to pant by his excess.

Slowly Katherine raised her lazy eyelids until the shining blue beneath lay in quivering uncertainty. She smiled up at Janet, saying, sleepily,–

“I’ve a notion not to arise to-day. ‘Twill be long and wearisome, and hot. What is the use? There is nothing in the world to get up for!”

“Indeed there is a very great deal to get up for. ‘Tis a glorious day. The gardens are aglow with beauty and the air is fine, though warm.”

“I know, Janet, and ’tis thy desire that I arise, but the castle seems most empty. Their Graces have departed and–“

“Nay, not so. There has been a great change in the Duke, and the physicians will not allow his leaving his couch.”

“Ah, I’m sorry! What time did this change take place?” said Katherine with a feeling of subtleness that for once she had tricked Janet and knew of great things that had happened in the deep night, when her faithful nurse thought her in dreamland.

“Her Grace says there was a great change in him yesterday, that she noticed it as he ate his dinner.”

“And was there no change in the night?” said Katherine sagely.

“Speak out, Lambkin, that ’tis on thy mind–if thou dost mean, was he disturbed when the castle was aroused?–why, no, he was not.”

“But how didst thou know there was an arousal?”

“I did play the simpering bride’s maid, and stood for witness to thine espousal.”

“Ah! ah! ah! Janet, I can keep no secret from thee!” Quickly she sprang to the floor. Her foot struck her lover’s sword. She stooped and raised it, and there flashed forth from the jewel encrusted handle the noble armourial bearings, charged upon a gold escutcheon, of Lord Cedric’s house. Wonderingly, she examined it and swept her brow with the back of her slender hand. Slowly she spoke, and in a voice vibrant with portent, her eyes now wide open.

“This–this doth trend to set my brain a-whirl, and doth connive to part sense from understanding and mind from body. To be sure, ’twas dark,–and allowing that I was well-nigh intoxicated with love–my brain could truly swear ’twas Sir Julian; and yet this he flung aside doth confute reason, and I must either ponder upon the this and that in endeavouring to conjoin mental and physical forces to sweet amity or give over that reaching wife’s estate hath made of me a sordid fool, as hath it oft made woman heretofore. My senses up until I met one of two at the foot of the stair, I could make affidavit on. The mould of either could well trick the other, providing their heads were as muddled as mine, and in this matter I am also clear. ‘Twas meet to speak lowly and the voice was not betrayed. But–there was some restraint at first; for his words came slow and with much flaunting of French–indeed ’twas overdone.–And the duel–ah! ah!–’twas Cedric’s ‘Nay, nay, nay!–‘ with an oath that had no note of Sir Julian in it. And hard he strove not to fight, nor did he until the other cried out to him–I see it all plainly; ’twas Cedric, ’twas Cedric! If I could mistake all else, I could not mistake his passion; ’twas: ‘Kate’ this, and ‘Kate’ that. Sir Julian never called me else than Katherine. And his words were over plain, and in truth they became not so slow and studied, and there was a leaving off of French. ‘Twas he! Ah! and he was so sweet and gentle and near drowned me by his tenderness–’twas such sweet love–” Quickly she hid her blushing face in the pillow, for she forgot she was speaking aloud.

“Hast thou then married mind to body? If thou hast them well mated and art sure thou art through espousing, I will straightway wed thee to thy clothes, that thou mayest first pay thy respects to their Graces, then go out into the sunshine and walk thee up and down for the half of an hour, where, ’tis most like thou wilt find thy lord, who is too impatient to remain indoors.”

“Nay, I shall not see him!”

“Tut, Lambkin! thou wouldst not play the shrew to so noble a lord, that soon, no doubt, will be a great Duke?”

“He hath tricked and deceived me. I will punish him for it. Nay; I have no mind to see him. I could not bear it, Janet. ‘Twas this he meant, for I wondered when he said he had fought two duels and had been victor in both. Nay; he shall not see me nor I him.” And with these thoughts came others, and thus she fostered malice, promoting but a puny aversion that she cherished the more for its frailty.

“Art thou set upon affecting the manners of an orange girl?”

“Janet, I would not make feint at that I am not.”

“Neither would I, if ’twere me, make feint at that thou art. If thou hast the name of Lady, I would fit my demeanour to the word. And it should be an easy thing, for thou art born to the manner.”

“But bad nursing doth corrupt good blood!”

“And a froward child doth denote a spared rod!”

“And moral suasion is oft an ethical farce!”

“A votary of non-discipline is impregnable to ethics.”

“Oh, Janet, dear Janet, I am weary. How is the young man that was wounded?”

“The same as ever; save his ardour is somewhat cooled.”

“Thou dost speak as if thou hadst known him.”

“Indeed, any cock of the hackle is essentially commonplace.”

“But he carried the sword of a gentleman?”

“Thou dost mean he carried a gentleman’s sword.”

“Dost thou know who he is, Janet?”

“I have not inquired.”

“In other words, thou didst see him. And ’twas–I am sure–Adrian Cantemir.”

“‘Twas none other.”

“I will go down now and see their Graces.”

“Art sure thou wilt not see thy lord?”

“Aye, quite!”

“Then–here this is for thee.” She handed her a dainty billet, scented with bergamot. Katherine took it in trembling haste, her face rose-hued. It read: “To My Lady of Crandlemar. Greeting to my sweet wife, Kate. I await my reprimand and sword. When I am so honoured, I shall enlist to serve thee with my presence, which, until then, is held by thee in abeyance. Thou canst not rob me of my thoughts, which hold naught else but thee; nor yet that dainty girdle that did encompass thy fair and slender mould. I have it on my heart, close pressed; but it doth keep that it lieth on in turmoil by such proximity. I know thou dost love me, even though I tricked thee. Janet was to tell thee this morning who thy true lord is, for, Sweet, I would have no other image but mine in thy heart, for soon–soon–aye, in a very short time–I may be a prisoner in the Tower. Do not think, Sweet, this is a ruse–but should I be taken where I might not see thy face, ‘twould be sweet to know thou didst hold my image, dear. Forgive me, Sweet, and–_au revoir!_–Perhaps thy heart will relent before–before the nightingale sings.–Relent, sweetheart, wife.” Kate pressed the billet to her lips without thinking, then turned her back quickly to hide the action; but ’twas too late. Janet had been watching every movement and was satisfied.

“I wish I had not opened it; such letters are disturbing. Janet, go below and find if I may see her Grace without meeting any one.” When alone, she devoured again and again the billet, and as Janet returned, thrust it quickly within the bosom of her gown.

“His lordship has returned from the terrace and is in the picture gallery. Her Grace wishes to see thee and waits breakfast.”

For an hour Katherine was with the Duchess, who talked very plainly of the possible death of her husband and the duties of a great estate and noble name that would fall to Cedric and his wife to keep up. Nor did she let the young wife go without telling her into what an awful condition she might not only lead herself but Cedric, when she allowed her caprice to manage her better self. It did her ladyship much good, and she sauntered out upon the lawn and shyly sought the sun-dial and brought from it a nosegay of bridal-roses and fled, shamefaced, with them to her own chamber, there to seat herself by the open window to wait and watch for her young lord.

CHAPTER XXII

CEDRIC IN THE TOILS

In the French colony where lay the valuable lands of Sir John Penwick, there was a lively insurrection of the English. The Papist party, who had built and lived upon the property for the past ten years, was strong, having among the Protestants lively adherents who were Catholics at heart and wore the Protestant cloak that they might the better spy upon them. The English, being so much the weaker, had been lead by a few men who were bought by the Catholics. La Fosse had had to do with these few men only, when he had made a show of settling Sir John’s affairs. These men had heretofore held the secret of the hostage; but recent events had stirred them to strife and they had fallen at variance over the spoil. The secret had been let out. The English rose in arms when the French suggested that such a small colonial matter should be settled among themselves; ’twas a shame to bother the Crown.

Upon the sudden outburst, Sir John made his escape from prison. The French said he had been stolen by the English and immediate reparation must be made; his person or a ransom must be had. Or, if they would give up all claim to the property and child,–the latter being produced at once–the French were willing to call the matter settled. Indeed, this was all they wished, and if Sir John could be conveniently made away with forever, and it proven that the English had accomplished it, they would certainly be entitled to his hereditaments.

Buckingham held the key to the situation. He saw a way to pay a ransom for Sir John; also a way to gain enough gold from the enterprise to make himself independent for life. He found Sir John in London, but not until after Cantemir had gained the former’s confidence. Buckingham took alarm at Cantemir’s knowledge and insisted upon Sir John removing to a place of greater seclusion; it being feared that he would be murdered.

Sir John was fond of the Duke, and beside taking his advice, he laid bare his heart and told him of his great distress over Katherine. Cantemir had said that she was being held dishonourably by the old lord’s son, who was profligate and only sought her favour without marriage.

Buckingham assured him to the contrary, and made him acquainted with the true circumstances; not failing to tell him of Mistress Penwick’s unsettled disposition; her ambitions, and intractable nature; that she was refractory and vexatious; petulant and forever thwarting Lord Cedric’s advances.

The Duke concluded this friendly visit by insinuating strongly–that Sir John might infer–that the friendship which amounted to nothing less than love, between himself and Lord Cedric, would alone–barring the question of a beautiful daughter–suffice to bring the latter to a full appreciation of Sir John’s case. And if a ransom was decided upon, as being the surest means for his immediate safety, my Lord Cedric would pay and not feel its loss.

“And,” went on the Duke, “when chance or design brings thee together, if thou wouldst not be made to feel utterly unhappy, mention not the matter to him. He is eccentric like the old lord, and would fall into the spleen, which condition, when entered into by his lordship, becomes of the temperature of that nondescript bourne the other side of Paradise.”

Buckingham knew that two emissaries were upon the seas from the New World. They were coming to interest the King in behalf of Sir John. So far the Duke had kept everything from his Majesty and must also keep these “bumpkins” from tormenting him with importunities of so rustic a nature as “western lands.”

But the Duke had made provision,–should his designs be curtailed by laches–delegating himself to the post of intercessor, whereby he could fool both the King and the emissary. Serious injury would be done to no one, unless Cedric might feel poor for a short time. But what were the odds; the Duke of Ellswold would soon die and Cedric’s wealth would be unlimited. He would, with a handsome young wife, forget his finances ever were in depletion.

Buckingham had already disposed of some of Sir John’s jewels and rare laces, brought over by La Fosse and stored in the chest at the monastery. There was, however, in the great Duke a vein of compunction, and for its easement he had refrained from selling some rare and costly miniatures belonging to Sir John’s wife, evidently handed down through a long line of consanguinity. These he resolved in some way to return; perhaps he should find it convenient to present them to Mistress Penwick.

And so the thick, fierce clouds rolled up and gathered themselves together, hanging low, over the head of handsome, careless, rich, young Lord Cedric.

The village of Crandlemar was indignant that he had allowed to exist for so long a time the privilege of the monastery. And these exceptions, with a hint of some foul murder committed at the castle, reached the nobles roundabout and stirred up a general demur. Beside, it was whispered in the shire-moot that the woman about to be espoused by him was a rank Papist and had already placed popish pictures about the Chapel that was contiguous to the castle. This was all that possibly could be said against her, as she was known to be most gracious to the poor Protestants in and about Crandlemar; giving equally to both factions with a lavish hand. But these matters were all brought up to militate against his lordship.

Lord Cedric was already feeling the first thrusts of his enemy, Misfortune; for ’twas very evident that his Grace of Ellswold was near his death. Warming-pans were of no avail. He grew very cold; his extremities were as ice; while the attendants of his bed-chamber were as red as cooked lobsters from the natural heat of the midsummer’s day and the steaming flannels that were brought in at short intervals.

Her Grace walked back and forth outside his door continually, Lord Cedric joining her at times.

The Castle seemed inured to quiet by his Grace’s long illness; but now there fell a subtle silence that presaged the coming of an unwholesome visitant. In a room apart lay Adrian Cantemir, weak and sick, but cursing every breath he drew; excited at times to actual madness, and saying,–Why had he come a minute too late? Why had he not followed his own inclinations and broken away from the gambling table at the inn an hour earlier? such thoughts making him absolutely furious.

He had arrived some time after dark at Crandlemar village, and, putting up at the hostelry, he resolved to pay his visit to the castle early on the morrow. He was now beginning to feel that he was destined to gain his point, or why had he so far thwarted Lord Cedric, and why had he escaped the anger of the monks by a well worded and quickly manufactured tale, and even gained their help by it, when they found him bound in the passage, left so by Buckingham. So he had felt somewhat at ease, but love and ambition were strong and stirred him to leave wine and cards and ride out into the open; and, unwitting it may be, to the castle gates. He travelled without groom; so fastening his horse, he entered the avenue a-foot, soon reaching the dark pile of stone which appeared in absolute darkness. Aimlessly he left the avenue and sauntered across the terraces. He had heard a peculiar low murmuring of voices and drew near only to hear Katherine made the wife of another man; hardly understanding until the Chaplain gave the blessing. He knew what Katherine did not; that she was the wife of Lord Cedric and not Sir Julian. He flung himself with all his fury upon the bridegroom to no avail, as has been seen.

These inflammable thoughts, as Cantemir rehearsed them over and over, set his brain afire and before night he was in a fever. The kind and gentle Lady Bettie Payne, who had arrived late in the afternoon, had gathered nosegays and made bright his chamber, for she truly had compassion upon him. He called her Katherine, as she gave him cooling draughts with her own hand.

Lord Cedric was somewhat surprised the next evening to that of his wedding to see the Duke of Buckingham standing in the great hall of the castle. And when the Duke’s business was thrust upon him, there came also dark forebodings; a separation of indefinite length from his young wife, should he be taken to the Tower. Great was his surprise at the Duke’s first words, for they were that Katherine’s father was alive and well and in London. He gave quickly the whole story of Sir John’s escape, also the attempt to recapture him. Then came what his Lordship expected;–a request for a fortune. Of course, while Cedric thought the amounts asked would not be wholly a loss, yet he knew the amounts allowed of a great margin of perquisites, and to whom these perquisites would go, he could guess. However, without question or complaint, he agreed to give what the Duke asked for; indeed the matters were settled there and then.

“If Sir John’s life is in danger, I know of no better place of safety than here. He had better come with all haste–‘twould be my wife’s desire!”

“Wife, so soon?” And the great Duke raised his eyebrows–a small action, but with him it had a world of meaning in it. “I congratulate thee, my lord, but–if her ladyship knew the danger that would beset her father upon such a journey, I feel sure she would wait patiently a time that must of necessity be of some length. I beg my lord not to think of bringing Sir John hither. As I hinted before, if this matter is brought out and he is proven guiltless of those little matters hinted of, then he could meet her without this heaviness that so weights him. I am sure if such a thought as meeting his daughter were mentioned, he would heartily beg for its postponement and–especially now that she is my Lady of Crandlemar.” It stood Buckingham much in hand to keep Sir John and Lord Cedric from meeting, for he had, not only told truth, but had heartlessly impugned the former’s character to line his own pocket with the latter’s wealth. The truth of the matter was that he was tight caught in a network of financial and political intrigue, and this was the only means to disentangle himself.

After this first business was settled, a second affair was introduced and the Duke spoke of his lordship’s matters at Court. He said:

“The King is hard pressed by the nobles–or a portion of them. They insisted that thou wert aiding the Catholics in such a manner that the lives of Protestants in this vicinity were in danger. They even whisper that a plot is being formulated to murder Monmouth. The King felt it incumbent to send for thee, and as the courier was about to start forth, he received word that the messenger he had sent in pursuit of my Lady of Candlemar had been foully dealt with by no other hand than thine. This stirred the King into a frenzy and straightway he charged thee with treason and–one comes now to take thee to the Tower or wherever it pleases his Majesty to put thee. Indeed, he may have so far forgiven thee by the time thou dost see London, he will offer thee half his bed or–any unusual favour. So take heart. The King loves thee.” The illness of Ellswold precluded the Duke from paying any visits within the castle, and he hastened back to London.

Lord Cedric felt if he could only tell Katherine that her father was well and in London, it might bring a reconciliation, and his eyes wandered to the hour-glass, and as he noted the golden sands, he thought there was yet time for a lover’s quarrel and then a sweet making-up, which should have no limit of time; but, alas! such blissful moments would doubtless be cut short by the arrival of the King’s messenger. All of a sudden a wicked thought came, as he remembered how but a few moments before she had turned coldly from him as he met her in the gallery, and he resolved ‘twould be a good time to make her feel a little of how he had suffered. Separation from her was all he feared now, and she could not help that. She was fast tied to him, and he was satisfied; and now why not torment some of those Satanic whims out of her. “Aye, ’tis the thing to do!” Even as he thought of her, she had gone with Janet and Lady Bettie to Cantemir’s chamber, for the latter in a lucid moment begged Lady Bettie to bring her to him. He gave her the letter he bore from her father, requesting her to come to him at once. She was quite beside herself with joy; yet, such is human nature, she on a sudden was in no hurry to leave Lord Cedric. Then she thought he might go with her–but she never would ask him. So after much thinking and feverish deliberation, she sent the letter to him by Janet. Cedric compared the handwriting with the letter he still carried of Sir John’s. There was no doubt that the chirography was the same. He was again thwarted by the Russian. He was to gain his wife’s ear by this very news. But there were other ways, and he said,–

“I have but a few moments to spend with her ladyship; go to her and tell her so; say that a courier is now upon the highway and–will soon arrive to conduct me to Tyburn-tree by order of the King–“

“Good heavens, surely your Lordship is not serious!”

“I have been forewarned, Janet. Go, tell her the news. Do not mince the sorry tale. Let her have the weight of it–if weight it be for her pent affection. Indeed, make it strong, blandish it with no ‘ifs’ or ‘mayhaps’ or ‘possible chances of a change of mind with the King.’ Thou must make up quickly a whole catalogue of the horrors enacted at Tyburn. Go, go, hasten thyself, good nurse. I will wait for her here.”

Hardly had Janet disappeared when the door again was thrown open and the footman announced a gentleman upon the King’s errand. ‘Twas indeed his Majesty’s guardsman with his order, and Cedric listened with flushed face and beating heart, not to what he said, but for the sound of a silken rustle upon the great hall parquetry; and as he heard it, he raised his voice and said sternly to the courier,–

“And this means Tyburn-tree–a farewell forever to my friends–” There was at these last words a suspicious trembling in his tones that was not wholly natural,–“an _adieu_ to all this world that begun for me only–yesterday at the singing of the nightingale–” the sentence was left unfinished, for Katherine now fell at his feet and embraced his knees and said with blanched lips,–

“What is this horrible tale, my lord? Say ’tis not so!” Great unbroken sobs made her voice tremble, and there was such extreme misery in her face and attitude the guardsman was about to utter a protest, for the order had said nothing of Tyburn, and at such unwarranted display of grief at a summons–why he would put a stop to it; but his lordship put up his hand. “Say ’tis not so,” she repeated.

“Nay, I cannot say it, for I know not what lies before me.” Katherine was unable to control her grief, and as it broke out, the guardsman discreetly walked to the farther end of the room. Cedric had raised her from the floor and half-supported her as she poured out her grief in words of pleading and entreaty; but Cedric was as adamant, he would not bend to offer any hope. This unbending quality she could not understand, and took it as an omen of ill. In very truth she felt she was to lose for all time her heart’s idol. And when Cedric spoke to the guard and told him he was ready to go, she cried “Nay, nay, nay!” in such awful agony he came near relenting. She turned white and would have fallen, had not Cedric supported her. Janet had already entered the room and now came running to her mistress, whom she took in her arms. Cedric turned to the guardsman, saying,–

“My wife is ill. If thou wilt return to London, I will follow within a day or so!”

“In the name of the King I beg my Lord of Crandlemar–“

Janet broke in at this and said with a ringing voice,–

“Thy order is for the Lord of Crandlemar?”

“It is, madam.”

“Then I will tell thee, sir, Lord Cedric of Crandlemar is not here. This is the Duke of Ellswold.” She turned to his lordship as she spoke and saw his face grow white. He loved his uncle tenderly. There was a moment of palpable silence; the guardsman bowed to the floor, and the long plumes of his hat swept it in homage, as he raised his hand to his breast. Katherine had swooned and did not hear Janet’s assertion, nor did she hear the King’s other order for the Duke of Ellswold. The King was aroused and would allow of no mischance. Cedric must go before his Majesty at once.

After a few moments in the death chamber, Cedric started for London. Before they had reached the confines of the city, however, the news of the old Duke’s demise had reached the King, who was in high humour, and the result was, a courier had been sent to tell Cedric to return to his castle until after the funeral. So Cedric, accompanied by the King’s guard, rode on to the Seat of the Dukes of Ellswold, where in the old Abbey there was much pomp in the putting away of the late Duke.

It was a great disappointment to Cedric not to see Katherine, and he was grieved to learn she had not, after so many days, entirely recovered from her swoon. He was consoled, however, by his aunt’s assertion that her illness was not serious. He turned from Ellswold and hastened back London way, impatient to know why he was sent for, and to have matters settled satisfactorily for all time, that he might with an unburdened heart go to Crandlemar and claim his Duchess; who, he now knew, would be the sweet and loving wife she should. He was truly sad at the loss of his uncle, and for this cause alone he rode into London with downcast appearance. He feared not the evils of the Tower or Tyburn-tree or the menace of either Catholic or Protestant party; neither the importunities of Buckingham; had he not now a great fortune?–ah! but death had brought it him,–and the bitter was mixed with the sweet. There were other matters to menace his peace of mind that had not come until that very moment. What if the Crown should confiscate his property; what was he to do with his wife? There was his aunt, Sir Julian and Lady Bettie Payne, they would care for her. Then his thoughts wandered to Constance, and for a while he half believed he had forgiven her. Then he wondered if she had aught to do with his present condition.

The King in the meantime was not to be duped by Lady Constance. She prided herself upon being discreet, but she was not enough so for the King’s sharp eyes.

“Odd’s fish,” said he, “the boy is a woman!” And though he had a saturnine and harsh countenance, his disposition was both merry and lenient. He teased her unmercifully, threatening to promote so fine a lad to a gentleman of his bed-chamber. He bade a woman bring some clothing suitable for a female and gave the lady into the hands of female attendants.

The easy manner of the time gave the courtiers license to taunt her. This made her very uncomfortable. The queen’s ladies’ eyes were upon her. The King’s mistresses, not recognizing her as a rival, poked fun at her from behind their fans. But Lady Constance would bear a great deal for the sake of gaining her point. She had posted herself upon the King’s affairs with the Duke of Ellswold, and was in a state of great expectation when she heard that the latter was to be brought to the Tower immediately after his uncle’s funeral. His entire demesne was out of his hands, he was sadly impoverished; this she bought from Buckingham’s menials. It greatly delighted her, for she had more wealth than she knew what to do with, and Cedric, seeing her so pampered by his Majesty, would surely begin to see what a great lady she was, and perhaps would offer her some attention. She did not know that Katherine was already the Duchess of Ellswold. She heard from Monmouth that Mistress Penwick was to be brought to the palace at the same time Cedric was brought to London, and that ’twas not altogether sure whether his Grace of Ellswold would be taken to the Tower or be made a Royal guest, as the King was first cursing, then praising the new Duke. So Constance began to picture Cedric standing before her, his face flushed as she remembered it to be, his eyelids that he knew so well how to lower, then raise ever so slightly, sending forth from beneath an amorous glance that made her tremble with a sweet thrill of pleasure. Thus she lived from hour to hour, waiting for his Grace, little guessing the awful disappointment that awaited her. She fairly counted the moments.

To her great joy she saw him again. He was brought to the palace, instead of to the Tower. When the King saw the Duke, he forgot, or appeared to forget, that the Duke was a prisoner, and openly embraced him and had him placed near his own apartments. His Majesty was in high good humour, hearing from the Duke’s own lips that he had nothing to do with the hiding away of his messenger, and explaining sundry other matters to his satisfaction. “The Duchess,” for so the Duke spoke of Katherine for the first time before his Majesty, was unable to arise from her couch, and therefore could not as yet be brought to the palace. The King said he was pleased that so noble a Duke had gained his point, even though he had outwitted his King.

“Odd’s fish, and to be separated so soon! it must not be!”

Lady Constance was joyous when she saw Cedric arrive without Katherine, but at once it made her very curious to know why the “wench was left behind; for was it not the King’s order?” She sent a maid to inquire among the servants of the Duke. When the maid returned and told her that Katherine was the Duke’s wife, she fainted away. But after a few hours of awful depression and heart-sickness she again nerved herself to battle harder, if possible, than heretofore.

The Duke’s trial was begun, and nothing it seemed could be absolutely proven against him. It appeared the King shut his eyes and ears to anything that would incline against his Grace. Not so Constance, who worked secretly. She was determined, if possible, to see him go to the Tower, as the only immediate means of separating him from his wife, who was expected any week at the Royal abode. She informed some of the nobles that were against him that their principal witness, Adrian Cantemir, lay ill from a sword thrust at Crandlemar Castle. To be sure, they had almost forgotten the young man, who had been such a leader in the beginning. This held the case in suspension and the Duke still a prisoner; but the King gave him no time for thought; they rode, walked, drank, theatred and supped together. If ’twere not for the Duke’s love for his wife, and his mourning for his uncle, which cast so deep a shadow over his natural gaiety, ’twas possible he might have been drawn by his Majesty into intrigues of a feminine character.

Constance was ever throwing herself in his path, but he deigned not a glance her way. She appeared content to watch him, whether he paid her any attention or not. She was careful to learn of his fortunes, as the King to appease the Protestant nobles had confiscated the Ellswold estates and everything else that Buckingham had not taken. But this sort of thing was a matter of form with his Majesty. His mind was fully made up. He was not to be frighted or cajoled. He even went so far as to assure the Duke that as soon as his character was proven, giving the nobles no chance to gainsay, he should at once take possession of his estate. The Duke, however, had only his jewels to borrow on, and that was insufferable to his pride. He had a large retinue to support, servants that were aged; these he must look after. Thus matters stood for weeks and months.

Cantemir was at last able to be moved, and was brought to London, where he again tried to communicate with Sir John Penwick, but Buckingham intercepted all letters. There also came word from the new Lord of Crandlemar, that he was about to take up his abode in England. This made Ellswold uneasy and impatient; for he had not money sufficient to place his Duchess in his town house, had he been at liberty to do so, for the great place had not been kept in repair and it must be renovated according to her own ideas. If his trial could only be at once and he could go for her and take her to Ellswold! The King saw his unusual depression and gained from him a confession of his troubles, and without letting the Duke know, sent for the Duchess, who he said should remain at the palace until the Duke should be free to go. When his Majesty told the Duke–for he could not keep the secret–the latter was grateful and felt it was the only alternative, and was much comforted that soon he should see and be with his Duchess, who, he had learned had regained her colour and was in good spirit.

“The King, not caring for the pomp and state his predecessors had assumed, was fond of exiling the formality practiced by a sovereign and taking on the easy manners of a companion. He had lived, when in exile, upon a footing of equality with his banished nobles, and had partaken freely and promiscuously in the pleasures and frolics by which they had endeavoured to sweeten adversity. He was led in this way to let distinction and ceremony fall to the ground as useless and foppish, and could not even on premeditation, it is said, act for a moment the part of a King either at parliament or council, either in words or gesture. When he attended the House of Lords, he would descend from the throne and stand by the fire, drawing a crowd about him that broke up all regularity and order of the place.” In this free and unrestrained way he had put his arm through the Duke’s and said confidently,–

“The House of Ellswold shall be honoured in an unusual way; that at least should be a great comfort to thee; but I promise, no matter how the Council act in these matters of thine, thou shalt soon enjoy the comfort of thy new estate at Ellswold.”

CHAPTER XXIII

THE COCOANUTS OF THE KING’S CELLAR

Matters at Crandlemar were comparatively quiet. There was nothing unusual, unless indeed it was the assiduousness of the young Duchess, who from morning until night ceased not to offer hecatombs for the safety and freedom of her lord. She prayed, fasted and sacrificed for her every desire. She gave alms, offering condolence and sympathy. In her petitions she threw aside all contumely, calling the poorest, sister. She allowed not her thoughts to go astray, striving continually for a pure and meek heart, begging forgiveness for her untowardness toward her husband. Perhaps one of the most remarkable of her acts was the one performed at twilight–discovered by Janet, the wise.

The nurse went to seek her one evening, and found the young woman in a dense cloud of blue that emanated from a costly thurible, which she was swinging before the crucifix in the Chapel. Ascending with the sweet incense was a psalm of contrition uttered from a truly penitent heart. A tall candle burned, lighting up the white-robed figure, and the filmy incense that enveloped it to a saintly vision. Though Janet watched her mistress thus environed with sacredness, yet the deep impression was somewhat charged with a sense of humour; “for,” she opined to herself, “people are so much more ridiculous in mending a breach than they are in making it!” But Janet was not a Catholic, and beside, she made few mistakes and could condone an offence only when made by one she loved. Knowing Katherine as she did, she admired the outward show more than the spirit, and thought of the two the former was more stable. Katherine often prayed aloud, and Janet hearing her, caught the burden of her prayer, and there was actual pain in her voice when she cried out that Cedric might be forgiven for the murder of Christopher. Now Janet knew that the lad had only been slightly injured by Hiary and had fully recovered, and she determined to send for him, and at the Vesper service introduce him into the Chapel and thereby cause to cease her mistress’ plaints. And so it came about in the late autumn, when Crandlemar was about to receive its new master from Wales, and the plate and all belongings of the Duke had been sent to Ellswold, and Katherine herself was to set forth for London within a few days, she entered the Chapel for her customary devotions. As she prayed, she was aroused by the opening of the outer door. She looked up and saw Christopher before her. Janet was surprised at her calmness and was amazed when Katherine said to him that she had been expecting to see him all day, as she had heard the evening before that he was alive and had been seen near the castle grounds. Now it was impossible to make Katherine think it was a direct answer to prayer, though Janet did her best. But as it proved, a great weight had fallen from the Duchess’ heart, for she became perfectly joyous and positively neglected her devotions in the Chapel. She was delighted to set forth, for the moment had actually arrived, and within a few days she would see Cedric, and, she hoped, her father also; but the latter’s abode was unknown to her, save only that ’twas in London.

The night of her arrival at the Royal Palace had closed down dark and stormy. The King and Queen, with the ladies and gentlemen of the Court, had repaired to the Duke of York’s theatre to see played the “Black Prince,” written by the Earl of Orrery. The King had insisted upon the Duke of Ellswold accompanying them, but the latter declared the play would be a torture, when he should be thinking that perhaps his wife might arrive in his absence. Other thoughts also assailed him, of which he hinted not to the King; but he was confident Constance meant mischief, and he was unwilling to give her any chance to put the weight of her anger on the Duchess.

The great cream-hued chariot bearing Katherine rolled past the Mall and up to the palace. The sleet was falling rapidly and the wind blowing such a gale the sound of the coach was not heard by the Duke, as he paced his chamber. She was trembling and eager, and heard not the admonitions of Janet and Angel to mind the ice-clad step that was let down. She was expectant and eager to see her spouse; but she stood within her apartment and Janet was loosening her capes when the Duke came bounding to her side. He took her in his arms and gazed and gazed, and they minded not the presence of the two nurses, who on a sudden became busy unpacking her Grace’s chests. He kissed her until her face was rose-red, and she was drunken with love.

When Lady Constance heard that Katherine had arrived, she became very impatient to catch one glimpse of her. She had heard many things about the young wife, and she had her suspicions and upon them she formed a plan to throw a taunt upon her Grace, bringing both Monmouth and Cantemir into the case. She resolved to make Katherine as unhappy as possible. She scrupled at nothing. Now the fair Constance prided herself upon being a prisoner of the King; but she was not so certain of his favour that she dare make one single open move against Katherine. She must taunt her in secret; but how to do this was puzzling, for she kept her apartment, partly from fatigue after her long ride, and it may be from a disinclination to go abroad. So she bided her time and ungraciously as she saw the popularity of the noble woman grow and grow; she was fast becoming a great favourite. Indeed, she was constantly visited by the King and Queen, and the greatest ladies of the Court. The Queen had grown very fond of her, spending hours in her company and oftentimes taking her for a walk or ride. Before the Duchess had been within the Palace a month, she was imitated in every way. Great ladies became so familiar, they would take up her articles of the toilet and copy the manufacturer’s name. They in a short time were using the same concoction of rouge and perfumes. Their maids must learn what Janet did for her mistress in the way of baths, for “never was there such healthful and dainty complexion.” And when the Duke began buying cocoanuts by the wagon load at an enormous expense, and ’twas known that her Grace drank the milk of it by the quart, the King’s cellar became too small to hold the quantities that were brought to the ladies of the Court. And ’twas said many of the young fops also used the milk for their complexion. Constance had not yet ordered any of this fruit, but she ascertained where the Duke’s were kept and how it might be possible to obtain a few of them for an object that was at least original. Before, however, she resorted to the arts of chemistry, there was an opportunity to give the Duchess a thrust. Two great chests were being unbound in the corridor just outside of her Grace’s door. Constance knew they contained an elaborate and costly _layette_; so she hurried to her own apartment and wrote in a disguised hand a billet that threw out the worst of insinuations, and as a finale she added a _pasquinade_ copied hastily from some low and bitter lampoon. She returned through the corridor, and, unnoticed, thrust the paper into a crevice of one of the chests. But Katherine never saw the billet, she was not disturbed in the least, and her ladyship soon saw some one else had gotten hold of it, for there was not a shadow on her Grace’s face. This goaded Constance to a perfect fury, and she resolved upon extreme measures.

One very dark and stormy day she left the palace dressed as a servant, and drove in a public conveyance to an old chemist’s, who resided in a remote portion of the city. Here she procured materials that if properly handled and successively served would bring the youthful Duchess to her death. She resolved in this case to work slowly and cautiously, allowing of no mischance. It so happened the chemist did not have the articles she required, but promised for a liberal sum to procure them from a certain celebrated physician. This of course would take some time. But the physician was in France and would not return for at least a fortnight. So a fortnight went by and another and another, until Constance’ patience was exhausted, and as she went to the shop for the last time, vowing to wait no longer, if the chemist had not the things, lo! they were there; and after learning how simple it was to use them, she hastened to the palace, there to be met by the news that the Duchess had brought forth a son of rousing weight and strength. Constance fell into a fever, and was obliged to keep her bed for some weeks; then she arose and after being seen again among the ladies of the Court and appearing as unconcerned as possible, when speaking of the Ellswold heir, she found her way below stair and made siege upon the King’s cellar and looted a good dozen cocoanuts.

She had procured from the chemist a protrusile instrument for letting fluid through the hard outer covering, and in this manner intended to inoculate the milk of the nut with a slow poison. These, of course, after such treatment, would be returned to their fellows, and the death of Katherine with that of the young lord would be assured.

After a few trials she succeeded in obtaining a result that was entirely satisfactory, if the hole thus made could be effectually plugged. She filled the aperture with a viscous matter that would in a few moments harden if placed in the sun, and to this end she opened the window and laid the cocoanut in the sun’s rays upon the sill.

She was quite alone, yet she feared; indeed, so deadly was her intent, she jumped at every noise, and upon hearing some sound without, slipped on tip-toe from the window to the door and listened, then cautiously drew the bolt and looked without. The corridor seemed even more quiet than usual. Her fears were subdued and as she turned about to close the door, a suction of air caught the curtain and swelled it through the open window, thereupon sweeping the cocoanut to the ground, where it fell at the very feet of his Majesty. When Constance saw what the vile wantonness of the wind had done, she fell upon her knees in wild despair and tremblingly remained thus for an instant only, for a bit of hope sprang up. She arose and quickly ran to the window,–she hesitated, then, ever so slowly she peeped over the sill, and there stood the King with the nut in his hand. “Ah!” she said, drawing back quickly, for they were not looking up, and she felt relief that they did not see her, but unfortunately for her, a lackey was standing some little distance from his Majesty and saw everything.

Of course treason was suspected. It was thought the nut had been dropped to crush the King’s head; but upon examination ’twas found there oozed from a small opening curdled milk. The Royal chemist was summoned, and in a moment all knew that the fruit was poisoned. The lackey had already told the King from what window it fell. Constance was cold with fright. She forgot her love, ambition, revenge, her whole paraphernalia of desires, in this disaster.

Out she went into the corridor to ascertain, if possible, what was a-foot below stairs. “Would they be able,” she thought, “to find from whence the nut came?” At the very idea she fled back to her chamber and gazed about in agony, for there lay every condemning thing in the floor, and where was she to hide them, for a search would certainly be made in a few moments. A hiding-place must first be found for the nuts. She looked at the bed; surely that would be searched. She thought to sew them in the sleeves of her gowns, but that would look bulky and there was not time. She flew about in wild anxiety. She listened at the door to the sounds below, and, seeing a lackey, asked what the noise meant. He said a cocoanut had been dropped and they were going to search for the one who did it. Again her ladyship fled to her chamber and began to look behind chairs and screens and portable cabinets; but to no avail; she found no safe hiding. At last, the great, high, nodding tester caught the glance of her anxious eye. She hastily placed first a small table–the only one she was able to carry–then a chair upon the bed, and with the one upon the other was able to see the top of the tester. But alas! it was cone-shape. Invention, however, was not out of Constance’ line, and quickly she placed a box upon the pinnacle and in it five cocoanuts. There were yet at least a half-dozen more to hide, beside the poison and instrument. She thought to place these in one of her great hats and raise them to the tester also. As she was about to mount the improvised lift, she heard approaching footsteps. Hardly had she withdrawn the table and chair and placed the hat–well bent–beneath the low stool whereon she had been sitting, and arranged the folds of her heavy brocade like a valance about her, when the door was thrown open.

“My God!” said she, under her breath; “’tis the King himself!”

His Majesty accompanied by a number of gentlemen in waiting, entered the room. He appeared in high, good humour, and inclined to be facetious. He advanced straight to her. She, hardly rising from the stool, made a deep curtesy. It was well done, without disarranging the full folds of her stiff brocade, that inclined to stand whether she so honoured the King or not. He laid his hand familiarly upon her shoulder, bearing somewhat upon it, until she turned quite red, either from his intent or her own guilt.

“We are looking for secrets. Hast thou any, my little beauty?”

“Your Majesty doth honour me greatly; first by thy presence and secondly by thy thought that I might have a secret–as if woman could keep even the shade of one from her King!”

“But sometimes there is more happiness in the shade than in the substance.” His keen eyes did not leave her face. But hers were turned with an apprehensive stare upon the King’s gentlemen, who were looking and prying impudently here and there about the rooms and closets. Her gowns were even pressed here and there among their paddings. Tables and cabinets were opened; the bed was examined. They lifted the heavy valance and one got upon his knees and prodded beneath with his sword. As he withdrew with a very red face, some one shook the curtains with such vigour the tester miscarried and down rolled, one by one, the cocoanuts. The King fairly yelled with laughter, holding on to his sides, his gentlemen joining him with mirth restrained somewhat by the seriousness of the case.

“Indeed, the young Duchess hath turned all heads by her gorgeous beauty, and all would be like her, whether or no!” said the King between great bursts of laughter. Lady Constance’ mind was ready and caught quickly at his words, and she turned to him with a gay laugh that somewhat veiled her terrible fear and nervousness.

“Indeed, ’tis the fashion to use the cocoanut milk for drinking and ointment, and the silly wenches of maids doth steal it dreadfully and I was compelled to hide them.”

“But ’twill do thee no good, ’tis not thy nature to be round. Hast thou seen the young heir? He is a lusty fellow; and ’tis well worth a journey to the nursery to see him,” and he took her hand and raised her to her feet. “Come, we will go and call upon his lordship.”

There was an agonized expression on Constance’ face as she was compelled to move at the King’s bidding. Slowly she moved. It seemed every motion was full of painful effort. All eyes, for some unaccountable reason, appeared to turn to the train of her dress that rustled subtlely; even Constance turned to look back and down with bulging eyes on that silken train, and though she moved ever so cautiously the bristling folds caught upon the edge of the stool and turned it over, the cocoanuts, poison bottle and all falling a-sprawl. The King bent down and picked up the vial, then dropped it quickly, saying,–

“Odd’s fish, the female that did don man’s attire and flirt about with foppish airs is trying to play the hen and has made a nest and gone to setting on spoiled eggs that will hatch nothing but shades, and wraiths, and mandrakes!” And he lifted a cocoanut, from which the milk was oozing out slowly and in a curdled state.

“And who, mistress of the chemist’s shop, hath taught thee his art?”

“‘Tis a great and awful thing that hath happened; indeed, oh! King, I knew not the things were under the stool–“

“Then ’twas unfortunate thou shouldst remain seated before thy King; in this case ’twas condemning.” And he turned and cried,–

“Hi! hi! call the guard! Thou shalt go into durance until I have sifted this dairy business.” Before the unfortunate woman could open her mouth to plead further, the King was gone and two stalwart guards stood at either side of her, ready to conduct her behind bolts and bars.

Now the King was inclined to be easy with all his subjects, but when treason lay so open before him, he was quick to punish. Constance, being a cousin of the Duke of Ellswold, he put the case before him. On the instant, the Duke gave a solution to Constance’ aims, explaining everything to the King. He also–for he dreaded what the King might do–said ’twas possible she was not of sound mind. His Majesty saw the Duke’s drift and declared that death should not come upon her, but she should be imprisoned. This satisfied the Duke, for he was seriously afraid for the young heir and his wife.

Now Constance was utterly without hope. She was degraded at Court, nevermore to rise again, and of course this state of things would be known at every street corner. Even though she could make her escape, where could she go? Who would accept her as the noble Lady Constance again? She would wander up and down the world, friendless; while Katherine would have love, wealth and honour, all one could wish for, all there was in life to have.

“Nay, nay, nay!” she cried in her agony. “I shall have one more chance.” She threw out her arms to the air and ground her teeth and dragged herself from end to end of her bare and lonely cell. “One more chance,” she cried, “and ’twill be death to her; aye, death!”

CHAPTER XXIV

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE TOWER

Sir Julian had been striving for months to make peace with the young Duchess; but all effort appeared futile, until Providence suddenly stepped in and aided him. Cantemir had turned religious, owing to the taking hold upon him of a mortal disease; and though he had not been about to undo any of his schemes in Cedric’s case, yet he intended to do so as soon as he was able. He was not idle, however, as he wrote many letters and received visits from the ones who were foremost in the fight. Nor was he long in discovering that their feelings were already changed toward Ellswold, for they saw ’twas unpopular to be striving against the King’s desires, and against a nobleman who would be very powerful when he should regain his fortunes. The Count wrote to Pomphrey, saying he wished to speak face to face with him.

At this interview the Russian unburdened his heart of all malice and hatred, and gave vent to ill-gotten secrets, of which Buckingham’s schemes were foremost. So open and frank was the Count in his assertions there was no doubt in Sir Julian’s mind but what he had created an wholesome feeling with his conscience; and for himself, recognized the interview as nothing more nor less than the comely intervention of Providence.

Sir Julian determined upon an immediate _rendezvous_ with Sir John Penwick, to the end that a concerted movement might effectually bring the Duke to his senses. He loved Buckingham, but he loved the Duchess of Ellswold more, and for this cause of peace, intended to hedge the Duke about with an impenetrable wall.

Buckingham soon saw that the strings were closing about him, and that ’twas Sir Julian who held the taut ends. But the great Duke had still one more move, a move so venturesome, so involved with hazard, that when ’twas made, the King himself admired and paid homage to its projector.

The Duke knew that Sir Julian, with a whisper in the King’s ear, could send him to the Tower. So at the point of Sir Julian’s sword–metaphorically–he was forced to go to the King and straighten matters as best he could. This the great Duke did, with the most exquisite urbanity. He knew well the King’s humour, and the most propitious moment in it, and propinquity played him fair, and there vibrated in his Majesty’s ear the dulcet tones of George Villiers magnetic voice, saying,–

“Oh, King! may I tell thee of what foul issue fulsome Nature hath brought forth, and what travail I suffer for–“

“Odd’s fish! what hast thou been doing, George, what hast thou–“

“Oh, King!” and the Duke bowed upon his knee and touched with his lips the great ring upon his Majesty’s hand; “I did engender with a brain unwebbed by wine, a body ample of strength and health, my soul absolved, my heart palpitant with pure love and rich intention; but corruptible Nature hath adulterated and brought forth an oaf, to which I lay no claim–“

“Egad! Duke; we’ll wager a kilderkin of chaney oranges at four pence each and a dozen cordial juleps with pearls that thy conscience is about to bewray thee.”

“Your Royal Highness doth honour me by the assumption that such a kingly component is mine. I cannot gainsay thy assertion, but who but my King could touch to life the almost undefined limning of moral faculty that has been my poor possession heretofore–“

“And who but thy King would give to thy swart issue a, no doubt, condign interest; come, curtail loquacity!”

“Then, your Majesty, to be brief, I have raised for thee the subsidies thou were too modest to ask the House for–“

“Odd’s fish, and this is thine oaf; oaf, callest thou it, when it has brought unspeakable joy to thy King? Not so, ’tis an issue that outshines in weight, point of beauty and actual worth that bouncing youngster of Ellswold’s.”

“But, oh! King, I counted not upon the exigencies of thy love. I thought only of the pleasure ‘twould give thee to have subsidies without plea, and I have made two of thy favourites my victims. How should I know that the Duke and Duchess of Ellswold were to become nestlings in thy cradle of love?” The King’s face darkened, but for a moment only, as the sunshine of full coffers had penetrated the vista of his needs, and a cloud even though it bore the after-rain was not to darken his expectations. “I beg thine indulgence to allow me to presume upon fancy. Supposing Sir John Penwick was alive and had committed a crime that made it impossible for him to seek the aid of his beloved King; that the said Sir John has vast possessions in the New World that rightfully belonged to the English crown as hostage for his own life, that had been in the hands of the French; that these matters had been brought to the King’s ear, but his Royal Highness had been troubled with weightier affairs at home, and that one of his very lowly but loyal subjects had undertaken, without aid of Government, to secure these possessions for his King, calling to his aid the generosity of Ellswold, who was willing to give all without knowing why, save ’twas for his King and–“

“And Penwick has proven guiltless and comes to his King to claim his rightful possession;–and the subsidies–“

“Are still thine, and thou shalt have them within a fortnight, if thou wilt grant me one small request, oh! King.”

“Thou hast it. Be brief.”

“Of my appointment, a new keeper of the Tower.” The King started and half turned from the Duke, while through his mind ran hurriedly the names of “Chasel, Howard, Baumais” and “who hath he in mind.” Then like a flash came the thought of Lady Constance, and he turned about quickly and said with severity,–

“Thou hast our word,” and with a gesture gave the Duke his _conge_.

That very night just as the early moon began to whiten the Towers of old London, the key turned in the door of Lady Constance’ cell; but turned so lazily–either from indolence or an unaccustomed hand–that her ladyship looked up and saw to her surprise a new gaoler. He smiled, thereby giving to the heart of its object a great thrill of joy, for it meant kindliness and kindliness is often predicated of selfishness or a desire for things one has not.

“What is thy name, fool?”

“Just plain Fool,” and he gave her due obeisance.

“And why so?”

“Is it not enough to be so christened by so great a lady?”

“Then thou art not a subsidiary but chief factotum?”

“Aye, the other is ill and I have spent the afternoon in learning the–names.”

“Thou shouldst be well paid for so short a season.–Is he serious?”

“I hope so, good lady.”

“Oh! if thou wouldst make profit of thy time, begin by bringing hither for my supper good ale and wine, with sugar and spices; and I will brew thee such a horn as thou hast ne’er thought on before. And thou for each good turn shalt drink a wassail to thy buxom wench and shalt have money for the basset-table.”

It is needless to say that Buckingham knew his man, and Constance’ desires for one whom she could bribe. The latter’s first and only desire was for means of escape, and to this end tried to bribe the keeper for man’s attire. This was not the Duke’s aim, and Constance, being thwarted, struck quickly upon another means.

She succeeded in getting the promise of a visit from Cantemir, who was little able to be about, but he intended to see her of his own accord, that he might move her to a lively interest in the salvation of her soul.

In anticipation of his visit, Constance had obtained through the gaoler certain drugs of nondescript virtues. These she carefully hid and made her final preparations for a speedy flight.

Cantemir stopped for a moment, as he stepped from the chair, and looked up at the prison walls, that were made grey and indistinct by the clouded moon and falling rain. Religion had changed him even more than the ravages of disease. His true self had awakened, and the beauty of it had devoured the Satanic expression that was wont to lie upon his countenance. His face fairly beamed with a light that came from within, where his soul stirred now free from sin’s fetters.

He was conducted by the keeper through the windings of the sombre corridors to the cell of Constance, who greeted him with the words:

“Now, Adrian, we can excuse wantonness in the devil, but never slothfulness in religion. We have no shrines here as abroad; what has kept thee from thy captive cousin?”

“I am not late, Constance; thou art impatient, and as for shrines, I carry one in my heart all the time, and thou must have one, too–“

“Damn! We have no time to prate. I must get out of this vile hole.–Hast thou seen the devil Duchess lately?”

“Aye, yesterday I saw her riding out. She is very beautiful, but she has changed–“

“Changed–how?”

“She has grown fleshy–“

“Ah! say not ‘fleshy’ but fat! fat! Now what good fortune is this? The Duke will be getting a divorce, for he doth abominate a fat woman. Good, good! I must see her. I shall pay her a visit before I leave for France.”

“Thou wilt have far to journey, for they leave at once for Ellswold. The case will be settled within a few days at most.”

“A few days at most? Legal folderol, a mere shade of a trial. Aye; I must see her Grace. I have a message for her.”

“I will serve thee; Constance, I will take thy message–” Adrian was interrupted by the entrance of the gaoler, who brought in cordial juleps. Her ladyship made the fellow drink, before she would allow him to go. Then, as he left them again, she said,–

“Thou canst not; it is a message no one can deliver but me,” and as if to seal her words she poured down a good, round bumper.

“What dost mean, Constance? Thou art too subtle for me!”

“Too subtle? Hast thou lost the art of penetration? Then I’ll tell thee, thou–the ‘Ranter,’ as they call thee. Thou who hast become Bunyan’s squire. I am going to poison my lady or give her a dagger thrust. She must die.”

“Thou art the devil, Constance; but there is one who can outwit the devil, and he will do it, too.”

“What hast thou to say about it?”

“Thou shalt not do it.”

“What wilt thou do to prevent it?”

“I will put the house of Ellswold on their guard.”

“Thou wilt not help me to escape, and thou wilt run with tales to Ellswold. Thou wouldst keep me here, that I might soon die, so thou couldst have my estates. Poor, puny thing, that art upon death’s threshold now. Thou wouldst have me die, so thou couldst live luxuriously and use as much of my wealth as thou couldst, leaving behind a paltry residue for the Crown. Thou wouldst indeed!” said Constance, scornfully, as she fumbled in the folds of her dress for the small bottle hidden there.

“Constance,” said Cantemir, under his breath, as he lifted one of the mixtures before him, “thou must not kill. Let me awaken thy better nature–“

“Nay; she must die!”

“I will not remain longer with thee, if thou dost hold such foul intent. Take back thy words. I will give thee no rest until thou dost. There is a God who will sweeten thy ill feeling for Katherine–“

“Shut thy mouth, fool!” and she spoke with such fury Adrian’s heart sank within him, and his head fell upon his arms upon the table. “Thou wilt have a season of prayer, then; so be it. Maybe, if thou prayest with thy whole heart for sixty seconds, mine will change,” and as she said the words, she dropped some deadly thing into his glass.

The wine was not moved nor discoloured, and as Cantemir raised his head, took hold upon it, and lifted and drank it nearly half.

“I love thee, cousin, with a Christian spirit, and I cannot see thee lose thy–soul.” A shiver passed through his thin frame, and when he again began to speak, he drooled sick’ningly. “I say thou shalt not–kill her–and some one–else says it–I will watch thee in spirit–“

Constance wished him to die quickly, that she might not be obliged to look upon prolonged horrors. She could easily arrange his position, with his head upon the table, to look quite natural, as if in drunken sleep, and when the keeper came, she would give him a like portion, before he could make any discovery, and when they were both despatched, she would don Cantemir’s attire and take the keeper’s keys and be gone. She quickly poisoned another glass, then looked at Cantemir. So horrible was the glassy glare in his eye, she made as if to arise from the table, but he leant over and grasped her hand. Constance’ face was livid with fear, and beside, she heard the gaoler. As the keys were turned in the door, Cantemir’s head dropped back against the chair, and he sat upright, but dead; his hand fastened tight upon his cousin’s. She screamed and fell, half-fainting, across the table. The keeper sprung to her aid, and took hold of the full goblet of wine and pressed it to her lips. She tried to recover herself, seeming to know ’twas not the time to indulge in a fainting fit; but the strain was too much, her body was stronger than her mind, and she mechanically took the goblet and poured the contents down her throat. A thought must have come to her with the rapidity of lightning, for she jerked the goblet from her mouth, spilling the dark fluid over her. She glared at the empty cup with distended eyeballs, and screaming once wildly, fell heavily across the table.

It had turned out differently and better than Buckingham had thought; and after making a hasty trip into France, whence he was immediately recalled by his King–who was luxuriating in the easement of pecuniary difficulties–he journeyed to Ellswold to present to the young Duchess certain rare laces, gems and porcelains he had found–so he intimated–among the Russian Count’s possessions.

CHAPTER XXV

THE GARDEN OF YOUTH

The meeting of Katherine and her father was a joyous one. As Sir John pressed her to his heart, Janet knelt at his feet, kissing the hand he held out to her. And there stood by the Duke of Ellswold and Sir Julian, the latter having received at last the most gracious welcome from the Duchess.

But yet Pomphrey was not happy; his conscience troubled him beyond measure. So he set about to make himself right with the world. He argued that adoration should be given to God only, and when one was so selfish and thoughtless to give it to another being, it was time he looked to his soul. And for the correction of this serious fault, he left Ellswold and went into France, and in a short time became a devout _religieux_.

Lady Bettie Payne was so wrought upon by this great change in Sir Julian’s life, for a fortnight she remained within her chamber, trying to feel what ‘twould be like to live the life of a nun. But this season of devotion was suddenly interrupted by a visit from St. Mar, of whom she was very fond. He asked her hand in marriage and was accepted.

In course of time a family of three boys and two girls were born to the Duke and Duchess. A great christening party was in preparation. The Duchess was worried about the christening robe, that had not yet arrived, and she said to Janet,–

“Indeed, Janet, this delay reminds me of my anxiety over the chests that were to bring me my first finery–dost remember, at Crandlemar?”

“Aye. It does not take much of a memory to think back seven years!”

“Seven years! Why, Janet, thou art growing old!”

“Nay, sweet Mistress; but the two generations I now nurse are very young.”

“‘Tis true.–But what thinkest thou could detain the chest? Father Pomphrey cannot be kept waiting for a christening robe. And to think of Lady Ann being baptized in a common frock! ‘Twould make Bettie St. Mar laugh; she already feels quite jealous because we are the first to have Father Pomphrey. And methinks, Janet, now that she is in expectancy–she will so vibrate ‘twixt France and England,–fearing she will not be near Father Pomphrey for the christening–that little Julian and Francois will forget which is home.”

“She need not do that; he could go to France.”

“Nay, not so; for he leaves at once for Rome and will not return to England ere summer, meaning not to stop at all in France.”

“Ah! that makes me think of what I heard him say to Monsieur St. Mar in the nursery. ‘Twas something about a christening. Monsieur said: ‘Thou art expected at Crandlemar Castle?’ and Father Pomphrey answered: ‘Aye, sometime before next Michaelmas.'”

“Then Lady Bettie will remain in England mayhap.”

“‘Tis possible.”

“What did he say of the children, Janet?”

“Of my lord Duke’s and thine?”

“Aye.”

“He said not a word of them in particular, but fondled all alike, calling each by name, and now I think on’t, I wonder he could remember a dozen or so, when he has not yet been three days in the castle. ‘Twas ‘Lady Mary’ and ‘Sir Jasper’ and ‘Lady Jane’ and ‘Lady Kate’ and ‘Lord Ivor’; and for each he had a story. And Monsieur grew tired, and my lord Duke asked Sir Julian if the children did not tire him also, and he answered: ‘Duke, there is a peculiarly wholesome knowledge that we cannot obtain save through a child’s mind; and while in the companionship of children, we are surrounded by a field of flowers, whose glory fructifies the good germ within us, and Wisdom–that tallest flower, that knows no harvest–springs up at prime, blossoms forth at compline and grows a fragrant staff, upon which man leans in the night of life.’ Then they walked away, and I heard no more.”

“Dear Father Pomphrey–” Then for a moment the Duchess looked with a far-away expression out upon the snow-covered landscape, then, on a sudden, she said, almost pettishly,–“But, Janet, what keeps the chest?”

“Perhaps ’tis Providence.”

“What dost mean; how Providence?”

“Thou hast ordered the robe to be so perfect, so in accordance with the Royal mode, the child will be in torment. Indeed, I am afraid ’twill make the little lady ill to be so encased. Ah! but thou art great folk, and, as Dent hath said, such people ‘spend their time in tricking and trimming, pricking and pinning, pranking and pouncing, girding and lacing and braving up themselves in most exquisite manner;–these doubled and redoubled ruffles, these strouting fardingales, long locks and fore tufts;–it was never a good world since starching and steeling, buskes and whalebones, supporters and rebatoes, full moons and hobbyhorses came into use.’ I doubt not that Father Pomphrey himself will demur at such cruelty.”

But the chest came in time, and Katherine was satisfied.

The castle was filled with guests, and the nurseries full of bright young children waiting impatiently to be taken to the great picture-gallery, where, under the limned faces of many generations, the christening was to take place.

An altar had been raised; and upon it was the golden service, a little apart the font, and upon either side of the long gallery were flowers banked ‘neath specially honoured portraits.

At the appointed hour the children defiled down the long room, then came the other guests, and finally Sir Julian Pomphrey in his robe of office–Father Pomphrey, so elegant, loving, good; a princely priest. Then came Janet with little Lady Ann in her arms; the child appearing like an Egyptian mummy in white bands. The Duke and Duchess looked handsome and proud, And when the celebration was concluded, all form was dissipated, the children gathering about the youngster for a “peep,” then scampered to the flowers. And as the elder folk looked on, some one opined that the human nosegay was more gorgeous of apparel and glow of cheek than the Ayrshire rose or the twisted eglantine. Then suddenly the children gathered about a single portrait of remarkable rich colouring, and little Lady Margaret came running and saying with a lisp,–

“Come, see, Father; ’tis the prettiest picture here, and there are no flowers ‘neath it.”

“What, no flowers?” and Father Pomphrey looked down in feigned surprise.

“Why, here _is_ a flower!” and the child lifted a crushed immortelle from the parquetry and gave it to the priest, who quickly made the sign of the cross and said something almost inaudible about the flower being prophetic; and then he leant close to the child’s ear, saying,–

“Will Lady Margaret do something for Father Pomphrey?”

“Aye, anything–“

“Remember always to pray for the soul of Lady Constance Clarmot.” Then raising the flower, he said abstractedly,–“What gems of thought we find in the Garden of Youth!”