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The Lion's Skin
Rafael Sabatini



CONTENTS:


I.       THE FANATIC
II.      AT THE "ADAM AND EVE"
III.     THE WITNESS
IV.      Mr. GREEN
V.       MOONSHINE
VI.      HORTENSIA'S RETURN
VII.     FATHER AND SON
VIII.    TEMPTATION
IX.      THE CHAMPION
X.       SPURS TO THE RELUCTANT
XI.      THE ASSAULT-AT-ARMS
XII.     SUNSHINE AND SHADOW
XIII.    THE FORLORN HOPE
XIV.     LADY OSTERMORE
XV.      LOVE AND RAGE
XVI.     Mr. GREEN EXECUTES HIS WARRANT
XVII.    AMID THE GRAVES
XVIII.   THE GHOST OF THE PAST
XIX.     THE END OF LORD OSTERMORE
XX.      Mr. CARYLL'S IDENTITY
XXI.     THE LION'S SKIN
XXII.    THE HUNTERS
XXIII.   THE LION



* * * * *


CHAPTER I

THE FANATIC


Mr. Caryll, lately from Rome, stood by the window, looking out
over the rainswept, steaming quays to Notre Dame on the island
yonder.  Overhead rolled and crackled the artillery of an
April thunderstorm, and Mr. Caryll, looking out upon Paris in
her shroud of rain, under her pall of thundercloud, felt
himself at harmony with Nature.  Over his heart, too, the
gloom of storm was lowering, just as in his heart it was still
little more than April time.

Behind him, in that chamber furnished in dark oak and leather
of a reign or two ago, sat Sir Richard Everard at a vast
writing-table all a-litter with books and papers; and Sir
Richard watched his adoptive son with fierce, melancholy eyes,
watched him until he grew impatient of this pause.

"Well?" demanded the old baronet harshly.  "Will you undertake
it, Justin, now that the chance has come?"  And he added:
"You'll never hesitate if you are the man I have sought to
make you."

Mr. Caryll turned slowly.  "It is because I am the man that
you - that God and you - have made me that I do hesitate."

His voice was quiet and pleasantly modulated, and he spoke
English with the faintest slur - perceptible, perhaps, only to
the keenest ear - of a French accent.  To ears less keen it
would merely seem that he articulated with a precision so
singular as to verge on pedantry.

The light falling full upon his profile revealed the rather
singular countenance that was his own.  It was not in any
remarkable beauty that its distinction lay, for by the canons
of beauty that prevail it was not beautiful.  The features
were irregular and inclined to harshness, the nose was too
abruptly arched, the chin too long and square, the complexion
too pallid.  Yet a certain dignity haunted that youthful face,
of such a quality as to stamp it upon the memory of the merest
passer-by.  The mouth was difficult to read and full of
contradictions; the lips were full and red, and you would
declare them the lips of a sensualist but for the line of
stern, almost grim, determination in which they met; and yet,
somewhere behind that grimness, there appeared to lurk a
haunting whimsicality; a smile seemed ever to impend, but
whether sweet or bitter none could have told until it broke.
The eyes were as remarkable; wide-set and slow-moving, as
becomes the eyes of an observant man, they were of an almost
greenish color, and so level in their ordinary glance as to
seem imbued with an uncanny penetration.  His hair - he dared
to wear his own, and clubbed it in a broad ribbon of watered
silk - was almost of the hue of bronze, with here and there a
glint of gold, and as luxuriant as any wig.

For the rest, he was scarcely above the middle height, of an
almost frail but very graceful slenderness, and very graceful,
too, in all his movements.  In dress he was supremely elegant,
with the elegance of France, that in England would be
accounted foppishness.  He wore a suit of dark blue cloth,
with white satin linings that were revealed when he moved; it
was heavily laced with gold, and a ramiform pattern broidered
in gold thread ran up the sides of his silk stockings of a
paler blue.  Jewels gleamed in the Brussels at his throat, and
there were diamond buckles on his lacquered, red-heeled shoes.

Sir Richard considered him with anxiety and some chagrin.
"Justin!" he cried, a world of reproach in his voice.  "What
can you need to ponder?"

"Whatever it may be," said Mr. Caryll, "it will be better that
I ponder it now than after I have pledged myself."

"But what is it?  What?" demanded the baronet.

"I am marvelling, for one thing, that you should have waited
thirty years."

Sir Richard's fingers stirred the papers before him in an
idle, absent manner.  Into his brooding eyes there leapt the
glitter to be seen in the eyes of the fevered of body or of
mind.

"Vengeance," said he slowly, "is a dish best relished when
'tis eaten cold."  He paused an instant; then continued: "I
might have crossed to England at the time, and slain him.
Should that have satisfied me?  What is death but peace and
rest?"

"There is a hell, we are told," Mr. Caryll reminded him.

"Ay," was the answer, "we are told.  But I dursn't risk its
being false where Ostermore is concerned.  So I preferred to
wait until I could brew him such a cup of bitterness as no man
ever drank ere he was glad to die."  In a quieter,
retrospective voice he continued: "Had we prevailed in the
'15, I might have found a way to punish him that had been
worthy of the crime that calls for it.  We did not prevail.
Moreover, I was taken, and transported.

"What think you, Justin, gave me courage to endure the rigors
of the plantations, cunning and energy to escape after five
such years of it as had assuredly killed a stronger man less
strong of purpose?  What but the task that was awaiting me?
It imported that I should live and be free to call a reckoning
in full with my Lord Ostermore before I go to my own account.

"Opportunity has gone lame upon this journey.  But it has
arrived at last.  Unless - "  He paused, his voice sank from
the high note of exaltation to which it had soared; it became
charged with dread, as did the fierce eyes with which he raked
his companion's face.  "Unless you prove false to the duty
that awaits you.  And that I'll not believe!  You are your
mother's son, Justin."

"And my father's, too," answered Justin in a thick voice; "and
the Earl of Ostermore is that same father."

"The more sweetly shall your mother be avenged," cried the
other, and again his eyes blazed with that unhealthy,
fanatical light.  "What fitter than the hand of that poor
lady's son to pull your father down in ruins?"  He laughed
short and fiercely.  "It seldom chances in this world that
justice is done so nicely."

"You hate him very deeply," said Mr. Caryll pensively, and the
look in his eyes betrayed the trend of his thoughts; they were
of pity  -but of pity at the futility of such strong emotions.

"As deeply as I loved your mother, Justin."  The sharp, rugged
features of that seared old face seemed of a sudden
transfigured and softened.  The wild eyes lost some of their
glitter in a look of wistfulness, as he pondered a moment the
one sweet memory in a wasted life, a life wrecked over thirty
years ago - wrecked wantonly by that same Ostermore of whom
they spoke, who had been his friend.

A groan broke from his lips.  He took his head in his hands,
and, elbows on the table, he sat very still a moment,
reviewing as in a flash the events of thirty and more years
ago, when he and Viscount Rotherby - as Ostermore was then -
had been young men at the St. Germain's Court of James II.

It was on an excursion into Normandy that they had met
Mademoiselle de Maligny, the daughter of an impoverished
gentleman of the chetive noblesse of that province.  Both had
loved her.  She had preferred - as women will - the outward
handsomeness of Viscount Rotherby to the sounder heart and
brain that were Dick Everard's.  As bold and dominant as any
ruffler of them all where men and perils were concerned, young
Everard was timid, bashful and without assertiveness with
women.  He had withdrawn from the contest ere it was well
lost, leaving an easy victory to his friend.

And how had that friend used it?  Most foully, as you shall
learn.

Leaving Rotherby in Normandy, Everard had returned to Paris.
The affairs of his king gave him cause to cross at once to
Ireland.  For three years he abode there, working secretly in
his master's interest, to little purpose be it confessed.  At
the end of that time he returned to Paris.  Rotherby was gone.
It appeared that his father, Lord Ostermore, had prevailed
upon Bentinck to use his influence with William on the errant
youth's behalf.  Rotherby had been pardoned his loyalty to the
fallen dynasty.  A deserter in every sense, he had abandoned
the fortunes of King James - which in Everard's eyes was bad
enough - and he had abandoned the sweet lady he had fetched
out of Normandy six months before his going, of whom it seemed
that in his lordly way he was grown tired.

From the beginning it would appear they were ill-matched.  It
was her beauty had made appeal to him, even as his beauty had
enamoured her.  Elementals had brought about their union; and
when these elementals shrank with habit, as elementals will,
they found themselves without a tie of sympathy or common
interest to link them each to the other.  She was by nature
blythe; a thing of sunshine, flowers and music, who craved a
very poet for her lover; and by "a poet" I mean not your mere
rhymer.  He was downright stolid and stupid under his fine
exterior; the worst type of Briton, without the saving grace
of a Briton's honor.  And so she had wearied him, who saw in
her no more than a sweet loveliness that had cloyed him
presently.  And when the chance was offered him by Bentinck
and his father, he took it and went his ways, and this sweet
flower that he had plucked from its Normandy garden to adorn
him for a brief summer's day was left to wilt, discarded.

The tale that greeted Everard on his return from Ireland was
that, broken-hearted, she had died - crushed neath her load of
shame.  For it was said that there had been no marriage.

The rumor of her death had gone abroad, and it had been
carried to England and my Lord Rotherby by a cousin of hers -
the last living Maligny - who crossed the channel to demand of
that stolid gentleman satisfaction for the dishonor put upon
his house.  All the satisfaction the poor fellow got was a
foot or so of steel through the lungs, of which he died; and
there, may it have seemed to Rotherby, the matter ended.

But Everard remained - Everard, who had loved her with a great
and almost sacred love; Everard, who swore black ruin for my
Lord Rotherby - the rumor of which may also have been carried
to his lordship and stimulated his activities in having
Everard hunted down after the Braemar fiasco of 1715.

But before that came to pass Everard had discovered that the
rumor of her death was false - put about, no doubt, out of
fear of that same cousin who had made himself champion and
avenger of her honor.  Everard sought her out, and found her
perishing of want in an attic in the Cour des Miracles some
four months later - eight months after Rotherby's desertion.

In that sordid, wind-swept chamber of Paris' most abandoned
haunt, a son had been born to Antoinette de Maligny two days
before Everard had come upon her.  Both were dying; both had
assuredly died within the week but that he came so timely to
her aid.  And that aid he rendered like the noble-hearted
gentleman he was.  He had contrived to save his fortune from
the wreck of James' kingship, and this was safely invested in
France, in Holland and elsewhere abroad.  With a portion of it
he repurchased the chateau and estates of Maligny, which on
the death of Antoinette's father had been seized upon by
creditors.

Thither he sent her and her child - Rotherby's child - making
that noble domain a christening-gift to the boy, for whom he
had stood sponsor at the font.  And he did his work of love in
the background.  He was the god in the machine; no more.  No
single opportunity of thanking him did he afford her.  He
effaced himself that she might not see the sorrow she
occasioned him, lest it should increase her own.

For two years she dwelt at Maligny in such peace as the
broken-hearted may know, the little of life that was left her
irradiated by Everard's noble friendship.  He wrote to her
from time to time, now from Italy, now from Holland.  But he
never came to visit her.  A delicacy, which may or may not
have been false, restrained him.  And she, respecting what
instinctively she knew to be his feelings, never bade him come
to her.  In their letters they never spoke of Rotherby; not
once did his name pass between them; it was as if he had never
lived or never crossed their lives.  Meanwhile she weakened
and faded day by day, despite all the care with which she was
surrounded.  That winter of cold and want in the Cour des
Miracles had sown its seeds, and Death was sharpening his
scythe against the harvest.

When the end was come she sent urgently for Everard.  He came
at once in answer to her summons; but he came too late.  She
died the evening before he arrived.  But she had left a
letter, written days before, against the chance of his not
reaching her before the end.  That letter, in her fine French
hand, was before him now.

"I will not try to thank you, dearest friend," she wrote.
"For the thing that you have done, what payment is there in
poor thanks?  Oh, Everard, Everard!  Had it but pleased God to
have helped me to a wiser choice when it was mine to choose!"
she cried to him from that letter, and poor Everard deemed
that the thin ray of joy her words sent through his anguished
soul was payment more than enough for the little that he had
done.  "God's will be done!" she continued.  "It is His will.
He knows why it is best so, though we discern it not.  But
there is the boy; there is Justin.  I bequeath him to you who
already have done so much for him.  Love him a little for my
sake; cherish and rear him as your own, and make of him such a
gentleman as are you.  His father does not so much as know of
his existence.  That, too, is best so, for I would not have
him claim my boy.  Never let him learn that Justin exists,
unless it be to punish him by the knowledge for his cruel
desertion of me."

Choking, the writing blurred by tears that he accounted no
disgrace to his young manhood, Everard had sworn in that hour
that Justin should be as a son to him.  He would do her will,
and he set upon it a more definite meaning than she intended.
Rotherby should remain in ignorance of his son's existence
until such season as should make the knowledge a very anguish
to him.  He would rear Justin in bitter hatred of the foul
villain who had been his father; and with the boy's help, when
the time should be ripe, he would lay my Lord Rotherby in
ruins.  Thus should my lord's sin come to find him out.

This Everard had sworn, and this he had done.  He had told
Justin the story almost as soon as Justin was of an age to
understand it.  He had repeated it at very frequent intervals,
and as the lad grew, Everard watched in him - fostering it by
every means in his power - the growth of his execration for
the author of his days, and of his reverence for the sweet,
departed saint that had been his mother.

For the rest, he had lavished Justin nobly for his mother's
sake.  The repurchased estates of Maligny, with their handsome
rent roll, remained Justin's own, administered by Sir Richard
during the lad's minority and vastly enriched by the care of
that administration.  He had sent the lad to Oxford, and
afterwards - the more thoroughly to complete his education -
on a two years' tour of Europe; and on his return, a grown and
cultured man, he had attached him to the court in Rome of the
Pretender, whose agent he was himself in Paris.

He had done his duty by the boy as he understood his duty,
always with that grim purpose of revenge for his horizon.  And
the result had been a stranger compound than even Everard
knew, for all that he knew the lad exceedingly well.  For he
had scarcely reckoned sufficiently upon Justin's mixed
nationality and the circumstance that in soul and mind he was
entirely his mother's child, with nothing - or an
imperceptible little - of his father.  As his mother's nature
had been, so was Justin's - joyous.  But Everard's training of
him had suppressed all inborn vivacity.  The mirth and
diablerie that were his birthright had been overlaid with
British phlegm, until in their stead, and through the blend, a
certain sardonic humor had developed, an ironical attitude
toward all things whether sacred or profane.  This had been
helped on by culture, and - in a still greater measure - by
the odd training in worldliness which he had from Everard.
His illusions were shattered ere he had cut his wisdom teeth,
thanks to the tutelage of Sir Richard, who in giving him the
ugly story of his own existence, taught him the misanthropical
lesson that all men are knaves, all women fools.  He
developed, as a consequence, that sardonic outlook upon the
world.  He sought to take vos non vobis for his motto,
affected to a spectator in the theatre of Life, with the
obvious result that he became the greatest actor of them all.

So we find him even now, his main emotion pity for Sir
Richard, who sat silent for some moments, reviewing that
thirty-year dead past, until the tears scalded his old eyes.
The baronet made a queer noise in his throat, something
between a snarl and a sob, and he flung himself suddenly back
in his chair.

Justin sat down, a becoming gravity in his countenance.  "Tell
me all," he begged his adoptive father.  "Tell me how matters
stand precisely - how you propose to act."

"With all my heart," the baronet assented.  "Lord Ostermore,
having turned his coat once for profit, is ready now to turn
it again for the same end.  From the information that reaches
me from England, it would appear that in the rage of
speculation that has been toward in London, his lordship has
suffered heavily.  How heavily I am not prepared to say.  But
heavily enough, I dare swear, to have caused this offer to
return to his king; for he looks, no doubt, to sell his
services at a price that will help him mend the wreckage of
his fortunes.  A week ago a gentleman who goes between his
majesty's court at Rome and his friends here in Paris brought
me word from his majesty that Ostermore had signified to him
his willingness to rejoin the Stuart cause.

"Together with that information, this messenger brought me
letters from his majesty to several of his friends, which I
was to send to England by a safe hand at the first
opportunity.  Now, amongst these letters - delivered to me
unsealed - is one to my Lord Ostermore, making him certain
advantageous proposals which he is sure to accept if his
circumstances be as crippled as I am given to understand.
Atterbury and his friends, it seems, have already tampered
with my lord's loyalty to Dutch George to some purpose, and
there is little doubt but that this letter" - and he tapped a
document before him - "will do what else is to be done.

"But, since these letters were left with me, come you with his
majesty's fresh injunctions that I am to suppress them and
cross to England at once myself, to prevail upon Atterbury and
his associates to abandon the undertaking."

Mr. Caryll nodded.  "Because, as I have told you," said he,
"King James in Rome has received positive information that in
London the plot is already suspected, little though Atterbury
may dream it.  But what has this to do with my Lord
Ostermore?"

"This," said Everard slowly, leaning across toward Justin, and
laying a hand upon his sleeve.  "I am to counsel the Bishop to
stay his hand against a more favorable opportunity.  There is
no reason why you should not do the very opposite with
Ostermore."

Mr. Caryll knit his brows, his eyes intent upon the other's
face; but he said no word.

"It is," urged Everard, "an opportunity such as there may
never be another.  We destroy Ostermore.  By a turn of the
hand we bring him to the gallows."  He chuckled over the word
with a joy almost diabolical.

"But how - how do we destroy him?" quoth Justin, who suspected
yet dared not encourage his suspicions.

"How?  Do you ask how?  Is't not plain?" snapped Sir Richard,
and what he avoided putting into words, his eloquent glance
made clear to his companion.

Mr. Caryll rose a thought quickly, a faint flush stirring in
his cheeks, and he threw off Everard's grasp with a gesture
that was almost of repugnance.  "You mean that I am to enmesh
him . . . ."

Sir Richard smiled grimly.  "As his majesty's accredited
agent," he explained.  "I will equip you with papers.  Word
shall go ahead of you to Ostermore by a safe hand to bid him
look for the coming of a messenger bearing his own family
name.  No more than that; nothing that can betray us; yet
enough to whet his lordship's appetite.  You shall be the
ambassador to bear him the tempting offers from the king.  You
will obtain his answers - accepting.  Those you will deliver
to me, and I shall do the trifle that may still be needed to
set the rope about his neck."

A little while there was silence.  Outside, the rain, driven
by gusts, smote the window as with a scourge.  The thunder was
grumbling in the distance now.  Mr. Caryll resumed his chair.
He sat very thoughtful, but with no emotion showing in his
face.  British stolidity was in the ascendant with him then.
He felt that he had the need of it.

"It is . . . ugly," he said at last slowly.

"It is God's own will," was the hot answer, and Sir Richard
smote the table.

"Has God taken you into His confidence?" wondered Mr. Caryll.

"I know that God is justice."

"Yet is it not written that `vengeance is His own'?"

"Aye, but He needs human instruments to execute it.  Such
instruments are we.  Can you  - Oh, can you hesitate?"

Mr. Caryll clenched his hands hard.  "Do it," he answered
through set teeth.  "Do it!  I shall approve it when 'tis
done.  But find other hands for the work, Sir Richard.  He is
my father."

Sir Richard remained cool.  "That is the argument I employ for
insisting upon the task being yours," he replied.  Then, in a
blaze of passion, he - who had schooled his adoptive son so
ably in self-control - marshalled once more his arguments.
"It is your duty to your mother to forget that he is your
father.  Think of him only as the man who wronged your mother;
the man to whom her ruined life, her early death are due - her
murderer and worse.  Consider that.  Your father, you say!"
He mocked almost.  "Your father!  In what is he your father?
You have never seen him; he does not know that you exist, that
you ever existed.  Is that to be a father? Father, you say!  A
word, a name - no more than that; a name that gives rise to a
sentiment, and a sentiment is to stand between you and your
clear duty; a sentiment is to set a protecting shield over the
man who killed your mother!

"I think I shall despise you, Justin, if you fail me in this.
I have lived for it," he ran on tempestuously.  "I have reared
you for it, and you shall not fail me!"

Then his voice dropped again, and in quieter tones

"You hate the very name of John Caryll, Earl of Ostermore,"
said he, "as must every decent man who knows the truth of what
the life of that satyr holds.  If I have suffered you to bear
his name, it is to the end that it should remind you daily
that you have no right to it, that you have no right to any
name."

When he said that he thrust his finger consciously into a raw
wound.  He saw Justin wince, and with pitiless cunning he
continued to prod that tender place until he had aggravated
the smart of it into a very agony.

"That is what you owe your father; that is the full extent of
what lies between you - that you are of those at whom the
world is given to sneer and point scorn's ready finger."

"None has ever dared," said Mr. Caryll.

"Because none has ever known.  We have kept the secret well.
You display no coat of arms that no bar sinister may be
displayed.  But the time may come when the secret must out.
You might, for instance, think of marrying a lady of quality,
a lady of your own supposed station.  What shall you tell her
of yourself?  That you have no name to offer her; that the
name you bear is yours by assumption only?  Ah!  That brings
home your own wrongs to you, Justin!  Consider them; have them
ever present in your mind, together with your mother's
blighted life, that you may not shrink when the hour strikes
to punish the evildoer."

He flung himself back in his chair again, and watched the
younger man with brooding eye.  Mr. Caryll was plainly moved.
He had paled a little, and he sat now with brows contracted
and set teeth.

Sir Richard pushed back his chair and rose, recapitulating.
"He is your mother's destroyer," he said, with a sad
sternness.  "Is the ruin of that fair life to go unpunished?
Is it, Justin?"

Mr. Caryll's Gallic spirit burst abruptly through its British
glaze.  He crushed fist into palm, and swore: "No, by God!  It
shall not, Sir Richard!"

Sir Richard held out his hands, and there was a fierce joy in
his gloomy eyes at last.  "You'll cross to England with me,
Justin?"

But Mr. Caryll's soul fell once more into travail.  "Wait!" he
cried.  "Ah, wait!"  His level glance met Sir Richard's in
earnestness and entreaty.  "Answer me the truth upon your soul
and conscience: Do you in your heart believe that it is what
my mother would have had me do?"

There was an instant's pause.  Then Everard, the fanatic of
vengeance, the man whose mind upon that one subject was become
unsound with excess of brooding, answered with conviction: "As
I have a soul to be saved, Justin, I do believe it.  More - I
know it.  Here!"  Trembling hands took up the old letter from
the table and proffered it to Justin.  "Here is her own
message to you.  Read it again."

And what time the young man's eyes rested upon that fine,
pointed writing, Sir Richard recited aloud the words he knew
by heart, the words that had been ringing in his ears since
that day when he had seen her lowered to rest: "`Never let him
learn that Justin exists unless it be to punish him by the
knowledge for his cruel desertion of me.'  It is your mother's
voice speaking to you from the grave," the fanatic pursued,
and so infected Justin at last with something of his
fanaticism.

The green eyes flashed uncannily, the white young face grew
cruelly sardonic.  "You believe it?" he asked, and the
eagerness that now invested his voice showed how it really was
with him.

"As I have a soul to be saved," Sir Richard repeated.

"Then gladly will I set my hand to it."  Fire stirred through
Justin now, a fire of righteous passion.  "An idea - no more
than an idea - daunted me.  You have shown me that.  I cross
to England with you, Sir Richard, and let my Lord Ostermore
look to himself, for my name - I who have no right to any name
- my name is judgment!"

The exaltation fell from him as suddenly as it had mounted.
He dropped into a chair, thoughtful again and slightly ashamed
of his sudden outburst.

Sir Richard Everard watched with an eye of gloomy joy the man
whom he had been at such pains to school in self-control.

Overhead there was a sudden crackle of thunder, sharp and
staccato as a peal of demoniac laughter.




CHAPTER II

AT THE "ADAM AND EVE"


Mr. Caryll, alighted from his traveling chaise in the yard of
the "Adam and Eve," at Maidstone, on a sunny afternoon in May.
Landed at Dover the night before, he had parted company with
Sir Richard Everard that morning.  His adoptive father had
turned aside toward Rochester, to discharge his king's
business with plotting Bishop Atterbury, what time Justin was
to push on toward town as King James' ambassador to the Earl
of Ostermore, who, advised of his coming, was expecting him.

Here at Maidstone it was Mr. Caryll's intent to dine, resuming
his journey in the cool of the evening, when he hoped to get
at least as far as Farnborough ere he slept.

Landlady, chamberlain, ostler and a posse of underlings
hastened to give welcome to so fine a gentleman, and a private
room above-stairs was placed at his disposal.  Before
ascending, however, Mr. Caryll sauntered into the bar for a
whetting glass to give him an appetite, and further for the
purpose of bespeaking in detail his dinner with the hostess.
It was one of his traits that he gave the greatest attention
to detail, and held that the man who left the ordering of his
edibles to his servants was no better than an animal who saw
no more than nourishment in food.  Nor was the matter one to
be settled summarily; it asked thought and time.  So he sipped
his Hock, listening to the landlady's proposals, and amending
them where necessary with suggestions of his own, and what
time he was so engaged, there ambled into the inn yard a
sturdy cob bearing a sturdy little man in snuff-colored
clothes that had seen some wear.

The newcomer threw his reins to the stable-boy - a person of
all the importance necessary to receive so indifferent a
guest.  He got down nimbly from his horse, produced an
enormous handkerchief of many colors, and removed his
three-cornered hat that he might the better mop his brow and
youthful, almost cherubic face.  What time he did so, a pair
of bright little blue eyes were very busy with Mr. Caryll's
carriage, from which Leduc, Mr. Caryll's valet, was in the act
of removing a portmantle.  His mobile mouth fell into lines of
satisfaction.

Still mopping himself, he entered the inn, and, guided by the
drone of voices, sauntered into the bar.  At sight of Mr.
Caryll leaning there, his little eyes beamed an instant, as do
the eyes of one who espies a friend, or - apter figure - the
eyes of the hunter when they sight the quarry.

He advanced to the bar, bowing to Mr. Caryll with an air
almost apologetic, and to the landlady with an air scarcely
less so, as he asked for a nipperkin of ale to wash the dust
of the road from his throat.  The hostess called a drawer to
serve him, and departed herself upon the momentous business of
Mr. Caryll's dinner.

"A warm day, sir," said the chubby man.

Mr. Caryll agreed with him politely, and finished his glass,
the other sipping meanwhile at his ale.

"A fine brew, sir," said he.  "A prodigious fine brew!  With
all respect, sir, your honor should try a whet of our English
ale."

Mr. Caryll, setting down his glass, looked languidly at the
man.  "Why do you exclude me, sir, from the nation of this
beverage?" he inquired.

The chubby man's face expressed astonishment.  "Ye're English,
sir!  Ecod!  I had thought ye French!"

"It is an honor, sir, that you should have thought me
anything."

The other abased himself.  "'Twas an unwarrantable
presumption, Codso! which I hope your honor'll pardon."  Then
he smiled again, his little eyes twinkling humorously.  "An ye
would try the ale, I dare swear your honor would forgive me.
I know ale, ecod!  I am a brewer myself.  Green is my name,
sir - Tom Green - your very obedient servant, sir."  And he
drank as if pledging that same service he professed.

Mr. Caryll observed him calmly and a thought indifferently.
"Ye're determined to honor me," said he.  "I am your debtor
for your reflections upon whetting glasses; but ale, sir, is a
beverage I don't affect, nor shall while there are vines in
France."

"Ah!" sighed Mr. Green rapturously.  "'Tis a great country,
France; is it not, sir?"

"'Tis not the general opinion here at present.  But I make no
doubt that it deserves your praise."

"And Paris, now," persisted Mr. Green.  "They tell me 'tis a
great city; a marvel o' th' ages.  There be those, ecod! that
say London's but a kennel to't."

"Be there so?" quoth Mr. Caryll indifferently.

"Ye don't agree with them, belike?" asked Mr. Green, with
eagerness.

"Pooh!  Men will say anything," Mr. Caryll replied, and added
pointedly: "Men will talk, ye see."

"Not always," was the retort in a sly tone.  "I've known men
to be prodigious short when they had aught to hide."

"Have ye so?  Ye seem to have had a wide experience."  And Mr.
Caryll sauntered out, humming a French air through closed
lips.

Mr. Green looked after him with hardened eyes.  He turned to
the drawer who stood by.  "He's mighty close," said he.
"Mighty close!"

"Ye're not perhaps quite the company he cares for," the drawer
suggested candidly.

Mr. Green looked at him.  "Very like," he snapped.  "How long
does he stay here?"

"Ye lost a rare chance of finding out when ye let him go
without inquiring," said the drawer.

Mr. Green's face lost some of its chubbiness.  "When d'ye look
to marry the landlady?" was his next question.

The man stared.  "Cod!" said he.  "Marry the - Are ye daft?"

Mr. Green affected surprise.  "I'm mistook, it seems.  Ye
misled me by your pertness.  Get me another nipperkin."

Meanwhile Mr. Caryll had taken his way above stairs to the
room set apart for him.  He dined to his satisfaction, and
thereafter, his shapely, silk-clad legs thrown over a second
chair, his waistcoat all unbuttoned, for the day was of an
almost midsummer warmth - he sat mightily at his ease, a
decanter of sherry at his elbow, a pipe in one hand and a book
of Mr. Gay's poems in the other.  But the ease went no further
than the body, as witnessed the circumstances that his pipe
was cold, the decanter tolerably full, and Mr. Gay's pleasant
rhymes and quaint conceits of fancy all unheeded.  The light,
mercurial spirit which he had from nature and his unfortunate
mother, and which he had retained in spite of the stern
training he had received at his adoptive father's hands, was
heavy-fettered now.

The mild fatigue of his journey through the heat of the day
had led him to look forward to a voluptuous hour of indolence
following upon dinner, with pipe and book and glass.  The hour
was come, the elements were there, but since he could not
abandon himself to their dominion the voluptuousness was
wanting.  The task before him haunted him with anticipatory
remorse.  It hung upon his spirit like a sick man's dream.  It
obtruded itself upon his constant thought, and the more he
pondered it the more did he sicken at what lay before him.

Wrought upon by Everard's fanaticism that day in Paris some
three weeks ago, infected for the time being by something of
his adoptive father's fever, he had set his hands to the task
in a glow of passionate exaltation.  But with the hour, the
exaltation went, and reaction started in his soul.  And yet
draw back he dared not; too long and sedulously had Everard
trained his spirit to look upon the avenging of his mother as
a duty.  Believing that it was his duty, he thirsted on the
one hand to fulfill it, whilst, on the other, he recoiled in
horror at the thought that the man upon whom he was to wreak
that vengeance was his father - albeit a father whom he did
not know, who had never seen him, who was not so much as aware
of his existence.

He sought forgetfulness in Mr. Gay.  He had the
delicate-minded man's inherent taste for verse, a quick ear
for the melody of words, the aesthete's love of beauty in
phrase as of beauty in all else; and culture had quickened his
perceptions, developed his capacity for appreciation.  For the
tenth time he called Leduc to light his pipe; and, that done,
he set his eye to the page once more.  But it was like
harnessing a bullock to a cart; unmindful of the way it went
and over what it travelled, his eye ambled heavily along the
lines, and when he came to turn the page he realized with a
start that he had no impression of what he had read upon it.

In sheer disgust he tossed the book aside, and kicking away
the second chair, rose lythely.  He crossed to the window, and
stood there gazing out at nothing, nor conscious of the
incense that came to him from garden, from orchard, and from
meadow.

It needed a clatter of hoofs and a cloud of dust approaching
from the north to draw his mind from its obsessing thoughts.
He watched the yellow body of the coach as it came furiously
onward, its four horses stretched to the gallop, postillion
lusty of lungs and whip, and the great trail of dust left
behind it spreading to right and left over the flowering
hedge-rows to lose itself above the gold-flecked meadowland.
On it came, to draw up there, at the very entrance to
Maidstone, at the sign of the "Adam and Eve."

Mr. Caryll, leaning on the sill of his window, looked down
with interest to see what manner of travellers were these that
went at so red-hot a pace.  From the rumble a lackey swung
himself to the rough cobbles of the yard.  From within the inn
came again landlady and chamberlain, and from the stable
ostler and boy, obsequious all and of no interest to Mr.
Caryll.

Then the door of the coach was opened, the steps were let
down, and there emerged - his hand upon the shoulder of the
servant - a very ferret of a man in black, with a parson's
bands and neckcloth, a coal-black full-bottomed wig, and under
this a white face, rather drawn and haggard, and thin lips
perpetually agrin to flaunt two rows of yellow teeth
disproportionately large.  After him, and the more remarkable
by contrast, came a tall, black-faced fellow, very brave in
buff-colored cloth, with a fortune in lace at wrist and
throat, and a heavily powdered tie-wig.

Lackey, chamberlain and parson attended his alighting, and
then he joined their ranks to attend in his turn - hat under
arm - the last of these odd travellers.

The interest grew.  Mr. Caryll felt that the climax was about
to be presented, and he leaned farther forward that he might
obtain a better view of the awaited personage.  In the silence
he caught a rustle of silk.  A flowered petticoat appeared -
as much of it as may be seen from the knee downwards - and
from beneath this the daintiest foot conceivable was seen to
grope an instant for the step.  Another second and the rest of
her emerged.

Mr. Caryll observed - and be it known that he had the very
shrewdest eye for a woman, as became one of the race from
which on his mother's side he sprang - that she was middling
tall, chastely slender, having, as he judged from her high
waist, a fine, clean length of limb.  All this he observed and
approved, and prayed for a glimpse of the face which her
silken hood obscured and screened from his desiring gaze.  She
raised it at that moment - raised it in a timid, frightened
fashion, as one who looks fearfully about to see that she is
not remarked - and Mr. Caryll had a glimpse of an oval face,
pale with a warm pallor - like the pallor of the peach, he
thought, and touched, like the peach, with a faint hint of
pink in either cheek.  A pair of eyes, large, brown, and
gentle as a saint's, met his, and Mr. Caryll realized that she
was beautiful and that it might be good to look into those
eyes at closer quarters.

Seeing him, a faint exclamation escaped her, and she turned
away in sudden haste to enter the inn.  The fine gentleman
looked up and scowled; the parson looked up and trembled; the
ostler and his boy looked up and grinned.  Then all swept
forward and were screened by the porch from the wondering eyes
of Mr. Caryll.

He turned from the window with a sigh, and stepped back to the
table for the tinder-box, that for the eleventh time he might
relight his pipe.  He sat down, blew a cloud of smoke to the
ceiling, and considered.  His nature triumphed now over his
recent preoccupation; the matter of the moment, which
concerned him not at all, engrossed him beyond any other
matter of his life.  He was intrigued to know in what relation
one to the other stood the three so oddly assorted travellers
he had seen arrive.  He bethought him that, after all, the odd
assortment arose from the presence of the parson; and he
wondered what the plague should any Christian - and seemingly
a gentleman at that - be doing travelling with a parson.  Then
there was the wild speed at which they had come.

The matter absorbed and vexed him.  I fear he was inquisitive
by nature.  There came a moment when he went so far as to
consider making his way below to pursue his investigations in
situ.  It would have been at great cost to his dignity, and
this he was destined to be spared.

A knock fell upon his door, and the landlady came in.  She was
genial, buxom and apple-faced, as becomes a landlady.

"There is a gentleman below - " she was beginning, when Mr.
Caryll interrupted her.

"I would rather that you told me of the lady," said

"La, sir!" she cried, displaying ivory teeth, her eyes cast
upwards, hands upraised in gentle, mirthful protest.  "La,
sir!  But I come from the lady, too."

He looked at her.  "A good ambassador," said he, "should begin
with the best news; not add it as an afterthought.  But
proceed, I beg.  You give me hope, mistress."

"They send their compliments, and would be prodigiously
obliged if you was to give yourself the trouble of stepping
below."

"Of stepping below?" he inquired, head on one side, solemn
eyes upon the hostess.  "Would it be impertinent to inquire
what they may want with me?"

"I think they want you for a witness, sir."

"For a witness?  Am I to testify to the lady's perfection of
face and shape, to the heaven that sits in her eyes, to the
miracle she calls her ankle?  Are these and other things
besides of the same kind what I am required to witness?  If
so, they could not have sent for one more qualified.  I am an
expert, ma'am."

"Oh, sir, nay!" she laughed.  "'Tis a marriage they need you
for."

Mr. Caryll opened his queer eyes a little wider.  "Soho!" said
he.  "The parson is explained."  Then he fell thoughtful, his
tone lost its note of flippancy.  "This gentleman who sends
his compliments, does he send his name?"

"He does not, sir; but I overheard it."

"Confide in me," Mr. Caryll invited her.

"He is a great gentleman," she prepared him.

"No matter.  I love great gentlemen."

"They call him Lord Rotherby."

At that sudden and utterly unexpected mention of his
half-brother's name - his unknown half-brother - Mr. Caryll
came to his feet with an alacrity which a more shrewd observer
would have set down to some cause other than mere respect for
a viscount.  The hostess was shrewd, but not shrewd enough,
and if Mr. Caryll's expression changed for an instant, it
resumed its habitual half-scornful calm so swiftly that it
would have needed eyes of an exceptional quickness to have
read it.

"Enough!" he said.  "Who could deny his lordship?"

"Shall I tell them you are coming?" she inquired, her hand
already upon the door.

"A moment," he begged, detaining her.  "'Tis a runaway
marriage this, eh?"

Her full-hearted smile beamed on him again; she was a very
woman, with a taste for the romantic, loving love.  "What
else, sir?" she laughed.

"And why, mistress," he inquired, eying her, his fingers
plucking at his nether lip, "do they desire my testimony?"

"His lordship's own man will stand witness, for one; but
they'll need another," she explained, her voice reflecting
astonishment at his question.

"True.  But why do they need me?" he pressed her.  "Heard you
no reason given why they should prefer me to your chamberlain,
your ostler or your drawer?"

She knit her brows and shrugged impatient shoulders.  Here was
a deal of pother about a trifling affair.  "His lordship saw
you as he entered, sir, and inquired of me who you might be."

"His lordship flatters me by this interest.  My looks pleased
him, let us hope.  And you answered him - what?"

"That your honor is a gentleman newly crossed from France."

"You are well-informed, mistress," said Mr. Caryll, a thought
tartly, for if his speech was tainted with a French accent it
was in so slight a degree as surely to be imperceptible to the
vulgar.

"Your clothes, sir," the landlady explained, and he bethought
him, then, that the greater elegance and refinement of his
French apparel must indeed proclaim his origin to one who had
so many occasions of seeing travelers from Gaul.  That might
even account for Mr. Green's attempts to talk to him of
France.  His mind returned to the matter of the bridal pair
below.

"You told him that, eh?" said he.  "And what said his lordship
then?"

"He turned to the parson.  `The very man for us, Jenkins,'
says he."

"And the parson - this Jenkins - what answer did he make?"

"`Excellently thought,' he says, grinning."

"Hum!  And you yourself, mistress, what inference did you
draw?"

"Inference, sir?"

"Aye, inference, ma'am.  Did you not gather that this was not
only a runaway match, but a clandestine one?  My lord can
depend upon the discretion of his servant, no doubt; for other
witness he would prefer some passer-by, some stranger who will
go his ways to-morrow, and not be like to be heard of again."

"Lard, sir!" cried the landlady, her eyes wide with
astonishment.

Mr. Caryll smiled enigmatically.  "'Tis so, I assure ye,
ma'am.  My Lord Rotherby is of a family singularly cautious in
the unions it contracts.  In entering matrimony he prefers, no
doubt, to leave a back door open for quiet retreat should he
repent him later."

"Your honor has his lordship's acquaintance, then?" quoth the
landlady.

"It is a misfortune from which Heaven has hitherto preserved
me, but which the devil, it seems, now thrusts upon me.  It
will, nevertheless, interest me to see him at close quarters.
Come, ma'am."

As they were going out, Mr. Caryll checked suddenly.  "Why,
what's o'clock?" said he.

She stared, so abruptly came the question.  "Past four, sir,"
she answered.

He uttered a short laugh.  "Decidedly," said he, "his lordship
must be viewed at closer quarters."  And he led the way
downstairs.

In the passage he waited for her to come up with him.  "You
had best announce me by name," he suggested.  "It is Caryll."

She nodded, and, going forward, threw open a door, inviting
him to enter.

"Mr. Caryll," she announced, obedient to his injunction, and
as he went in she closed the door behind him.

From the group of three that had been sitting about the
polished walnut table, the tall gentleman in buff and silver
rose swiftly, and advanced to the newcomer; what time Mr.
Caryll made a rapid observation of this brother whom he was
meeting under circumstances so odd and by a chance so
peculiar.

He beheld a man of twenty-five, or perhaps a little more, tall
and well made, if already inclining to heaviness, with a
swarthy face, full-lipped, big-nosed, black-eyed, an obstinate
chin, and a deplorable brow.  At sight, by instinct, he
disliked his brother.  He wondered vaguely was Lord Rotherby
in appearance at all like their common father; but beyond that
he gave little thought to the tie that bound them.  Indeed, he
has placed it upon record that, saving in such moments of high
stress as followed in their later connection, he never could
remember that they were the sons of the same parent.

"I thought," was Rotherby's greeting, a note almost of
irritation in his voice, "that the woman said you were from
France."

It was an odd welcome, but its oddness at the moment went
unheeded.  His swift scrutiny of his brother over, Mr.
Caryll's glance passed on to become riveted upon the face of
the lady at the table's head.  In addition to the beauties
which from above he had descried, he now perceived that her
mouth was sensitive and kindly, her whole expression one of
gentle wistfulness, exceeding sweet to contemplate.  What did
she in this galley, he wondered; and he has confessed that
just as at sight he had disliked his brother, so from that
hour - from the very instant of his eyes' alighting on her
there - he loved the lady whom his brother was to wed, felt a
surpassing need of her, conceived that in the meeting of their
eyes their very souls had met, so that it was to him as if he
had known her since he had known anything.  Meanwhile there
was his lordship's question to be answered.  He answered it
mechanically, his eyes upon the lady, and she returning the
gaze of those queer, greenish eyes with a sweetness that gave
place to no confusion.

"I am from France, sir."

"But not French?" his lordship continued.

Mr. Caryll fetched his eyes from the lady's to meet Lord
Rotherby's.  "More than half French," he replied, the French
taint in his accent growing slightly more pronounced.  "It was
but an accident that my father was an Englishman."

Rotherby laughed softly, a thought contemptuously.  Foreigners
were things which in his untraveled, unlettered ignorance he
despised.  The difference between a Frenchman and a South Sea
Islander was a thing never quite appreciated by his lordship.
Some subtle difference he had no doubt existed; but for him it
was enough to know that both were foreigners; therefore, it
logically followed, both were kin.

"Your words, sir, might be oddly interpreted.  'Pon honor,
they might!" said he, and laughed softly again with singular
insolence.

"If they have amused your lordship I am happy," said Mr.
Caryll in such a tone that Rotherby looked to see whether he
was being roasted.  "You wanted me, I think.  I beg that
you'll not thank me for having descended.  It was an honor."

It occurred to Rotherby that this was a veiled reproof for the
ill manners of the omission.  Again he looked sharply at this
man who was scanning him with such interest, but he detected
in the calm, high-bred face nothing to suggest that any
mockery was intended.  Belatedly he fell to doing the very
thing that Mr. Caryll had begged him to leave undone: he fell
to thanking him.  As for Mr. Caryll himself, not even the
queer position into which he had been thrust could repress his
characteristics.  What time his lordship thanked him, he
looked about him at the other occupants of the room, and found
that, besides the parson, sitting pale and wide-eyed at the
table, there was present in the background his lordship's man
- a quiet fellow, quietly garbed in gray, with a shrewd face
and shrewd, shifty eyes.  Mr. Caryll saw, and registered, for
future use, the reflection that eyes that are overshrewd are
seldom wont to look out of honest heads.

"You are desired," his lordship informed him, "to be witness
to a marriage."

"So much the landlady had made known to me."

"It is not, I trust, a task that will occasion you any
scruples."

"None.  On the contrary, it is the absence of the marriage
might do that."  The smooth, easy tone so masked the inner
meaning of the answer that his lordship scarce attended to the
words.

"Then we had best get on.  We are in haste."

"'Tis the characteristic rashness of folk about to enter
wedlock," said Mr. Caryll, as he approached the table with his
lordship, his eyes as he spoke turning full upon the bride.

My lord laughed, musically enough, but overloud for a man of
brains or breeding.  "Marry in haste, eh?" quoth he.

"You are penetration itself," Mr. Caryll praised him.

"'Twill take a shrewd rogue to better me," his lordship
agreed.

"Yet an honest man might worst you.  One never knows.  But the
lady's patience is being taxed."

It was as well he added that, for his lordship had turned with
intent to ask him what he meant.

"Aye!  Come, Jenkins.  Get on with your patter.  Gaskell," he
called to his man, "stand forward here."  Then he took his
place beside the lady, who had risen, and stood pale, with
eyes cast down and - as Mr. Caryll alone saw - the faintest
quiver at the corners of her lips.  This served to increase
Mr. Caryll's already considerable cogitations.

The parson faced them, fumbling at his book, Mr. Caryll's eyes
watching him with that cold, level glance of theirs.  The
parson looked up, met that uncanny gaze, displayed his teeth
in a grin of terror, fell to trembling, and dropped the book
in his confusion.  Mr. Caryll, smiling sardonically, stooped
to restore it him.

There followed a fresh pause.  Mr. Jenkins, having lost his
place, seemed at some pains to find it again - amazing,
indeed, in one whose profession should have rendered him so
familiar with its pages.

Mr. Caryll continued to watch him, in silence, and - as an
observer might have thought, as, indeed, Gaskell did think,
though he said nothing at the time - with wicked relish.




CHAPTER III

THE WITNESS


At last the page was found again by Mr. Jenkins.  Having found
it, he hesitated still a moment, then cleared his throat, and
in the manner of one hurling himself forward upon a desperate
venture, he began to read.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God,"
he read, and on in a nasal, whining voice, which not only was
the very voice you would have expected from such a man, but in
accordance, too, with sound clerical convention.  The bridal
pair stood before him, the groom with a slight flush on his
cheeks and a bright glitter in his black eyes, which were not
nice to see; the bride with bowed head and bosom heaving as in
response to inward tumult.

The cleric came to the end of his exordium, paused a moment,
and whether because he gathered confidence, whether because he
realized the impressive character of the fresh matter upon
which he entered, he proceeded now in a firmer, more sonorous
voice: "I require and charge you both as ye will answer on the
dreadful day of judgment."

"Ye've forgot something," Mr. Caryll interrupted blandly.

His lordship swung round with an impatient gesture and an
impatient snort; the lady, too, looked up suddenly, whilst Mr.
Jenkins seemed to fall into an utter panic.

"Wha - what?" he stammered.  "What have I forgot?"

"To read the directions, I think."

His lordship scowled darkly upon Mr. Caryll, who heeded him
not at all, but watched the lady sideways.

Mr. Jenkins turned first scarlet, then paler than he had been
before, and bent his eyes to the book to read in a slightly
puzzled voice the italicized words above the period he had
embarked upon.  "And also speaking unto the persons that shall
be married, he shall say:" he read, and looked up inquiry, his
faintly-colored, prominent eyes endeavoring to sustain Mr.
Caryll's steady glance, but failing miserably.

"'Tis farther back," Mr. Caryll informed him in answer to that
mute question; and as the fellow moistened his thumb to turn
back the pages, Mr. Caryll saved him the trouble.  "It says, I
think, that the man should be on your right hand and the woman
on your left.  Ye seem to have reversed matters, Mr. Jenkins.
But perhaps ye're left-handed."

"Stab me!" was Mr. Jenkins' most uncanonical comment.  "I vow
I am over-flustered.  Your lordship is so impatient with me.
This gentleman is right.  But that I was so flustered.  Will
you not change places with his lordship, ma'am?"

They changed places, after the viscount had thanked Mr. Caryll
shortly and cursed the parson with circumstance and fervor.
It was well done on his lordship's part, but the lady did not
seem convinced by it.  Her face looked whiter, and her eyes
had an alarmed, half-suspicious expression.

"We must begin again," said Mr. Jenkins.  And he began again.

Mr. Caryll listened and watched, and he began to enjoy himself
exceedingly.  He had not reckoned upon so rich an
entertainment when he had consented to come down to witness
this odd ceremony.  His sense of humor conquered every other
consideration, and the circumstance that Lord Rotherby was his
brother, if remembered at all, served but to add a spice to
the situation.

Out of sheer deviltry he waited until Mr. Jenkins had labored
for a second time through the opening periods.  Again he
allowed him to get as far as "I charge and require you both
-," before again he interrupted him.

"There is something else ye've forgot," said he in that sweet,
quiet voice of his.

This was too much for Rotherby.  "Damn you!" he swore, turning
a livid face upon Mr. Caryll, and failed to observe that at
the sound of that harsh oath and at the sight of his furious
face, the lady recoiled from him, the suspicion lately in her
face turning first to conviction and then to absolute horror.

"I do not think you are civil," said Mr. Caryll critically.
"It was in your interests that I spoke."

"Then I'll thank you, in my interests, to hold your tongue!"
his lordship stormed.

"In that case," said Mr. Caryll, "I must still speak in the
interests of the lady.  Since you've desired me to be a
witness, I'll do my duty by you both and see you properly
wed."

"Now, what the devil may you mean by that?" demanded his
lordship, betraying himself more and more at every word.

Mr. Jenkins, in a spasm of terror, sought to pour oil upon
these waters.  "My lord," he bleated, teeth and eyeballs
protruding from his pallid face.  "My lord!  Perhaps the
gentleman is right.  Perhaps - Perhaps - " He gulped, and
turned to Mr. Caryll.  "What is't ye think we have forgot
now?" he asked.

"The time of day," Mr. Caryll replied, and watched the puzzled
look that came into both their faces.

"Do ye deal in riddles with us?" quoth his lordship.  "What
have we to do with the time of day?"

"Best ask the parson," suggested Mr. Caryll.

Rotherby swung round again to Jenkins.  Jenkins spread his
hands in mute bewilderment and distress.  Mr. Caryll laughed
silently.

"I'll not be married!  I'll not be married!"

It was the lady who spoke, and those odd words were the first
that Mr. Caryll heard from her lips.  They made an excellent
impression upon him, bearing witness to her good sense and
judgment - although belatedly aroused - and informing him,
although the pitch was strained just now; that the rich
contralto of her voice was full of music.  He was a judge of
voices, as of much else besides.

"Hoity-toity!" quoth his lordship, between petulance and
simulated amusement.  "What's all the pother?  Hortensia, dear
- "

"I'll not be married!" she repeated firmly, her wide brown
eyes meeting his in absolute defiance, head thrown back, face
pale but fearless.

"I don't believe," ventured Mr. Caryll, "that you could be if
you desired it.  Leastways not here and now and by this."  And
he jerked a contemptuous thumb sideways at Mr. Jenkins, toward
whom he had turned his shoulder.  "Perhaps you have realized
it for yourself."

A shudder ran through her; color flooded into her face and out
again, leaving it paler than before; yet she maintained a
brave front that moved Mr. Caryll profoundly to an even
greater admiration of her.

Rotherby, his great jaw set, his hands clenched and eyes
blazing, stood irresolute between her and Mr. Caryll.
Jenkins, in sheer terror, now sank limply to a chair, whilst
Gaskell looked on - a perfect servant - as immovable outwardly
and unconcerned as if he had been a piece of furniture.  Then
his lordship turned again to Caryll.

"You take a deal upon yourself, sir," said he menacingly.

"A deal of what?" wondered Mr. Caryll blandly.

The question nonplussed Rotherby.  He swore ferociously.  "By
God!" he fumed, "I'll have you make good your insinuations.
You shall disabuse this lady's mind.  You shall - damn you! -
or I'll compel you!"

Mr. Caryll smiled very engagingly.  The matter was speeding
excellently - a comedy the like of which he did not remember
to have played a part in since his student days at Oxford, ten
years and more ago.

"I had thought," said he, "that the woman who summoned me to
be a witness of this - this - ah wedding" - there was a whole
volume of criticism in his utterance of the word - "was the
landlady of the `Adam and Eve.'  I begin to think that she was
this lady's good angel; Fate, clothed, for once, matronly and
benign."  Then he dropped the easy, bantering manner with a
suddenness that was startling.  Gallic fire blazed up through
British training.  "Let us speak plainly, my Lord Rotherby.
This marriage is no marriage.  It is a mockery and a villainy.
And that scoundrel - worthy servant of his master - is no
parson; no, not so much as a hedge-parson is he.  Madame," he
proceeded, turning now to the frightened lady, "you have been
grossly abused by these villains."

"Sir!" blazed Rotherby at last, breaking in upon his
denunciation, hand clapped to sword.  "Do ye dare use such
words to me?"

Mr. Jenkins got to his feet, in a slow, foolish fashion.  He
put out a hand to stay his lordship.  The lady, in the
background, looked on with wide eyes, very breathless, one
hand to her bosom as if to control its heave.

Mr. Caryll proceeded, undismayed, to make good his accusation.
He had dropped back into his slightly listless air of thinly
veiled persiflage, and he appeared to address the lady, to
explain the situation to her, rather than to justify the
charge he had made.

"A blind man could have perceived, from the rustling of his
prayer book when he fumbled at it, that the contents were
strange to him.  And observe the volume," he continued,
picking it up and flaunting it aloft.  "Fire-new; not a
thumbmark anywhere; purchased expressly for this foul venture.
Is there aught else so clean and fresh about the scurvy
thief?"

"You shall moderate your tones, sir - " began his lordship in
a snarl.

"He sets you each on the wrong side of him," continued Mr.
Caryll, all imperturbable, "lacking even the sense to read the
directions which the book contains, and he has no thought for
the circumstance that the time of day is uncanonical.  Is more
needed, madame?"

"So much was not needed," said she, "though I am your debtor,
sir."

Her voice was marvelously steady, ice-cold with scorn, a royal
anger increasing the glory of her eyes.

Rotherby's hand fell away from his sword.  He realized that
bluster was not the most convenient weapon here.  He addressed
Mr. Caryll very haughtily.  "You are from France, sir, and
something may be excused you.  But not quite all.  You have
used expressions that are not to be offered to a person of my
quality.  I fear you scarcely apprehend it."

"As well, no doubt, as those who avoid you, sir," answered Mr.
Caryll, with cool contempt, his dislike of the man and of the
business in which he had found him engaged mounting above
every other consideration.

His lordship frowned inquiry.  "And who may those be?"

"Most decent folk, I should conceive, if this be an example of
your ways."

"By God, sir!  You are a thought too pert.  We'll mend that
presently.  I will first convince you of your error, and you,
Hortensia."

"It will be interesting," said Mr. Caryll, and meant it.

Rotherby turned from him, keeping a tight rein upon his anger;
and so much restraint in so tempestuous a man was little short
of wonderful.  "Hortensia," he said, "this is fool's talk.
What object could I seek to serve?"  She drew back another
step, contempt and loathing in her face.  "This man," he
continued, flinging a hand toward Jenkins, and checked upon
the word.  He swung round upon the fellow.  "Have you fooled
me, knave?" he bawled.  "Is it true what this man says of you
- that ye're no parson at all?"

Jenkins quailed and shriveled.  Here was a move for which he
was all unprepared, and knew not how to play to it.  On the
bridegroom's part it was excellently acted; yet it came too
late to be convincing.

"You'll have the license in your pocket, no doubt, my lord,"
put in Mr. Caryll.  "It will help to convince the lady of the
honesty of your intentions.  It will show her that ye were
abused by this thief for the sake of the guinea ye were to pay
him."

That was checkmate, and Lord Rotherby realized it.  There
remained him nothing but violence, and in violence he was
exceedingly at home - being a member of the Hell Fire Club and
having served in the Bold Bucks under his Grace of Wharton.

"You damned, infernal marplot!  You blasted meddler!" he
swore, and some other things besides, froth on his lips, the
veins of his brow congested.  "What affair was this of yours?"

"I thought you desired me for a witness," Mr. Caryll reminded
him.

"I did, let me perish!" said Rotherby.  "And I wish to the
devil I had bit my tongue out first."

"The loss to eloquence had been irreparable," sighed Mr.
Caryll, his eyes upon a beam of the ceiling.

Rotherby stared and choked.  "Is there no sense in you, you
gibbering parrot?" he inquired.  "What are you - an actor or a
fool?"

"A gentleman, I hope," said Mr. Caryll urbanely.  "What are
you?"

"I'll learn you," said his lordship, and plucked at his sword.

"I see," said Mr. Caryll in the same quiet voice that thinly
veiled his inward laughter - "a bully!"

With more oaths, my lord heaved himself forward.  Mr. Caryll
was without weapons.  He had left his sword above-stairs, not
deeming that he would be needing it at a wedding.  He never
moved hand or foot as Rotherby bore down upon him, but his
greenish eyes grew keen and very watchful.  He began to wonder
had he indulged his amusement overlong, and imperceptibly he
adjusted his balance for a spring.

Rotherby stretched out to lunge, murder in his inflamed eyes.
"I'll silence you, you - "

There was a swift rustle behind him.  His hand - drawn back to
thrust - was suddenly caught, and ere he realized it the sword
was wrenched from fingers that held it lightly, unprepared for
this.

"You dog!" said the lady's voice, strident now with anger and
disdain.  She had his sword.

He faced about with a horrible oath.  Mr. Caryll conceived
that he was becoming a thought disgusting.

Hoofs and wheels ground on the cobbles of the yard and came to
a halt outside, but went unheeded in the excitement of the
moment.  Rotherby stood facing her, she facing him, the sword
in her hand and a look in her eyes that promised she would use
it upon him did he urge her.

A moment thus - of utter, breathless silence.  Then, as if her
passion mounted and swept all aside, she raised the sword, and
using it as a whip, she lashed him with it until at the third
blow it rebounded to the table and was snapped.  Instinctively
his lordship had put up his hands to save his face, and across
one of them a red line grew and grew and oozed forth blood
which spread to envelop it.

Gaskell advanced with a sharp cry of concern.  But Rotherby
waved him back, and the gesture shook blood from his hand like
raindrops.  His face was livid; his eyes were upon the woman
he had gone so near betraying with a look that none might
read.  Jenkins swayed, sickly, against the table, whilst Mr.
Caryll observed all with a critical eye and came to the
conclusion that she must have loved this villain.

The hilt and stump of sword clattered in the fireplace,
whither she hurled it.  A moment she caught her face in her
hands, and a sob shook her almost fiercely.  Then she came
past his lordship, across the room to Mr. Caryll, Rotherby
making no shift to detain her.

"Take me away, sir!  Take me away," she begged him.

Mr. Caryll's gloomy face lightened suddenly.  "Your servant,
ma'am," said he, and made her a bow.  "I think you are very
well advised," he added cheerfully and offered her his arm.
She took it, and moved a step or two toward the door.  It
opened at that moment, and a burly, elderly man came in
heavily.

The lady halted, a cry escaped her - a cry of pain almost -
and she fell to weeping there and then.  Mr. Caryll was very
mystified.

The newcomer paused at the sight that met him, considered it
with a dull blue eye, and, for all that he looked stupid, it
seemed he had wit enough to take in the situation.

"So!" said he, with heavy mockery.  "I might have spared
myself the trouble of coming after you.  For it seems that she
has found you out in time, you villain!"

Rotherby turned sharply at that voice.  He fell back a step,
his brow seeming to grow blacker than it had been.  "Father!"
he exclaimed; but there was little that was filial in the
accent.

Mr. Caryll staggered and recovered himself.  It had been
indeed a staggering shock; for here, of course, was his own
father, too.




CHAPTER IV

Mr. GREEN


There was a quick patter of feet, the rustle of a hooped
petticoat, and the lady was in the arms of my Lord Ostermore.

"Forgive me, my lord!" she was crying.  "Oh, forgive me!  I
was a little fool, and I have been punished enough already!"

To Mr. Caryll this was a surprising development.  The earl,
whose arms seemed to have opened readily enough to receive
her, was patting her soothingly upon the shoulder.  "Pish!
What's this?  What's this?" he grumbled; yet his voice, Mr.
Caryll noticed, was if anything kindly; but it must be
confessed that it was a dull, gruff voice, seldom indicating
any shade of emotion, unless - as sometimes happened - it was
raised in anger.  He was frowning now upon his son over the
girl's head, his bushy, grizzled brows contracted.

Mr. Caryll observed - and with what interest you should well
imagine - that Lord Ostermore was still in a general way a
handsome man.  Of a good height, but slightly excessive bulk,
he had a face that still retained a fair shape. Short-necked,
florid and plethoric, he had the air of the man who seldom
makes a long illness at the end.  His eyes were very blue, and
the lids were puffed and heavy, whilst the mouth, Mr. Caryll
remarked in a critical, detached spirit, was stupid rather
than sensuous.  He made his survey swiftly, and the result
left him wondering.

Meanwhile the earl was addressing his son, whose hand was
being bandaged by Gaskell.  There was little variety in his
invective.  "You villain!" he bawled at him.  "You damned
villain!"  Then he patted the girl's head.  "You found the
scoundrel out before you married him," said he.  "I am glad
on't; glad on't!"

"'Tis such a reversing of the usual order of things that it
calls for wonder," said Mr. Caryll.

"Eh?" quoth his lordship.  "Who the devil are you?  One of his
friends?"

"Your lordship overwhelms me," said Mr. Caryll gravely, making
a bow.  He observed the bewilderment in Ostermore's eyes, and
began to realize at that early stage of their acquaintance
that to speak ironically to the Earl of Ostermore was not to
speak at all.

It was Hortensia - a very tearful Hortensia now who explained.
"This gentleman saved me, my lord," she said.

"Saved you?" quoth he dully.  "How did he come to save you?"

"He discovered the parson," she explained.

The earl looked more and more bewildered.  "Just so," said Mr.
Caryll.  "It was my privilege to discover that the parson is
no parson."

"The parson is no parson?" echoed his lordship, scowling more
and more.  "Then what the devil is the parson?"

Hortensia freed herself from his protecting arms.  "He is a
villain," she said, "who was hired by my Lord Rotherby to come
here and pretend to be a parson."  Her eyes flamed, her cheeks
were scarlet.  "God help me for a fool, my lord, to have put
my faith in that man!  Oh!" she choked.  "The shame - the
burning shame of it!  I would I had a brother to punish him!"

Lord Ostermore was crimson, too, with indignation.  Mr. Caryll
was relieved to see that he was capable of so much emotion.
"Did I not warn you against him, Hortensia?" said he.  "Could
you not have trusted that I knew him - I, his father, to my
everlasting shame?"  Then he swung upon Rotherby.  "You dog!"
he began, and there - being a man of little invention - words
failed him, and wrath alone remained, very intense, but
entirely inarticulate.

Rotherby moved forward till he reached the table, then stood
leaning upon it, scowling at the company from under his black
brows.  "'Tis your lordship alone is to blame for this," he
informed his father, with a vain pretence at composure.

"I am to blame!" gurgled his lordship, veins swelling at his
brow.  "I am to blame that you should have carried her off
thus?  And - by God! - had you meant to marry her honestly and
fittingly, I might find it in my heart to forgive you.  But to
practice such villainy!  To attempt to put this foul trick
upon the child!"

Mr. Caryll thought for an instant of another child whose child
he was, and a passion of angry mockery at the forgetfulness of
age welled up from the bitter soul of him.  Outwardly he
remained a very mirror for placidity.

"Your lordship had threatened to disinherit me if I married
her," said Rotherby.

"'Twas to save her from you," Ostermore explained, entirely
unnecessarily.  "And you thought to - to - By God! sir, I
marvel you have the courage to confront me.  I marvel!"

"Take me away, my lord," Hortensia begged him, touching his
arm.

"Aye, we were best away," said the earl, drawing her to him.
Then he flung a hand out at Rotherby in a gesture of
repudiation, of anathema.  "But 'tis not the end on't for you,
you knave!  What I threatened, I will perform.  I'll
disinherit you.  Not a penny of mine shall come to you.  Ye
shall starve for aught I care; starve, and - and - the world
be well rid of a villain.  I - I disown you.  Ye're no son of
mine.  I'll take oath ye're no son of mine!"

Mr. Caryll thought that, on the contrary, Rotherby was very
much his father's son, and he added to his observations upon
human nature the reflection that sinners are oddly blessed
with short memories.  He was entirely dispassionate again by
now.

As for Rotherby, he received his father's anger with a
scornful smile and a curling lip.  "You'll disinherit me?"
quoth he in mockery.  "And of what, pray?  If report speaks
true, you'll be needing to inherit something yourself to bear
you through your present straitness."  He shrugged and
produced his snuff-box with an offensive simulation of
nonchalance.  "Ye cannot cut the entail," he reminded his
almost apoplectic sire, and took snuff delicately, sauntering
windowwards.

"Cut the entail?  The entail?" cried the earl, and laughed in
a manner that seemed to bode no good.  "Have you ever troubled
to ascertain what it amounts to?  You fool, it wouldn't keep
you in - in - in snuff!"

Lord Rotherby halted in his stride, half-turned and looked at
his father over his shoulder.  The sneering mask was wiped
from his face, which became blank.  "My lord - " he began.

The earl waved a silencing hand, and turned with dignity to
Hortensia.

"Come, child," said he.  Then he remembered something.  "Gad!"
he exclaimed.  "I had forgot the parson.  I'll have him
gaoled!  I'll have him hanged if the law will help me.  Come
forth, man!"

Ignoring the invitation, Mr. Jenkins scuttled, ratlike, across
the room, mounted the window-seat, and was gone in a flash
through the open window.  He dropped plump upon Mr. Green, who
was crouching underneath.  The pair rolled over together in
the mould of a flowerbed; then Mr. Green clutched Mr. Jenkins,
and Mr. Jenkins squealed like a trapped rabbit.  Mr. Green
thrust his fist carefully into the mockparson's mouth.

"Sh!  You blubbering fool!" he snapped in his ear.  "My
business is not with you.  Lie still!"

Within the room all stood at gaze, following the sudden flight
of Mr. Jenkins.  Then Lord Ostermore made as if to approach
the winnow, but Hortensia restrained him.

"Let the wretch go," she said.  "The blame is not his.  What
is he but my lord's tool?"  And her eyes scorched Rotherby
with such a glance of scorn as must have killed any but a
shameless man.  Then turning to the demurely observant
gentleman who had done her such good service, "Mr. Caryll"
she said, "I want to thank you.  I want my lord, here, to
thank you."

Mr. Caryll bowed to her.  "I beg that you will not think of
it," said he.  "It is I who will remain in your debt."

"Is your name Caryll, sir?" quoth the earl.  He had a trick of
fastening upon the inconsequent, though that was scarcely the
case now.

"That, my lord, is my name.  I believe I have the honor of
sharing it with your lordship."

"Ye'll belong to some younger branch of the family," the earl
supposed.

"Like enough - some outlying branch," answered the
imperturbable Caryll - a jest which only himself could
appreciate, and that bitterly.

"And how came you into this?"

Rotherby sneered audibly - in self-mockery, no doubt, as he
came to reflect that it was he, himself, had had him fetched.

"They needed another witness," said Mr. Caryll, "and hearing
there was at the inn a gentleman newly crossed from France,
his lordship no doubt opined that a traveller, here to-day and
gone for good tomorrow, would be just the witness that he
needed for the business he proposed.  That circumstance
aroused my suspicions, and - "

But the earl, as usual, seemed to have fastened upon the minor
point, although again it was not so.  "You are newly crossed
from France?" said he.  "Ay, and your name is the same as
mine.  'Twas what I was advised."

Mr. Caryll flashed a sidelong glance at Rotherby, who had
turned to stare at his father, and in his heart he cursed the
stupidity of my Lord Ostermore.  If this proposed to be a
member of a conspiracy, Heaven help that same conspiracy!

"Were you, by any chance, going to seek me in town, Mr.
Caryll?"

Mr. Caryll suppressed a desire to laugh.  Here was a way to
deal with State secrets.  "I, my lord?" he inquired, with an
assumed air of surprise.

The earl looked at him, and from him to Rotherby, bethought
himself, and started so overtly that Rotherby's eyes grew
narrow, the lines of his mouth tightened.  "Nay, of course
not; of course not," he blustered clumsily.

But Rotherby laughed aloud.  "Now what a plague is all this
mystery?" he inquired.

"Mystery?" quoth my lord.  "What mystery should there be?"

"'Tis what I would fain be informed," he answered in a voice
that showed he meant to gain the information.  He sauntered
forward towards Caryll, his eye playing mockingly over this
gentleman from France.  "Now, sir," said he, "whose messenger
may you be, eh?  What's all this - "

"Rotherby!" the earl interrupted in a voice intended to be
compelling.  "Come away, Mr. Caryll," he added quickly.  "I'll
not have any gentleman who has shown himself a friend to my
ward, here, affronted by that rascal.  Come away, sir!"

"Not so fast!  Not so fast, ecod!"

It was another voice that broke in upon them.  Rotherby
started round.  Gaskell, in the shadows of the cowled
fireplace jumped in sheer alarm.  All stared at the window
whence the voice proceeded.

They beheld a plump, chubby-faced little man, astride the
sill, a pistol displayed with ostentation in his hand.

Mr. Caryll was the only one with the presence of mind to
welcome him.  "Ha!" said he, smiling engagingly.  "My little
friend, the brewer of ale."

"Let no one leave this room," said Mr. Green with a great
dignity.  Then, with rather less dignity, he whistled shrilly
through his fingers, and got down lightly into the room.

"Sir," blustered the earl, "this is an intrusion; an
impertinence.  What do you want?"

"The papers this gentleman carries," said Mr. Green,
indicating Caryll with the hand that held the pistol.  The
earl looked alarmed, which was foolish in him, thought Mr.
Caryll.  Rotherby covered his mouth with his hand, after the
fashion of one who masks a smile.

"Ye're rightly served for meddling," said he with relish.

"Out with them," the chubby man demanded.  "Ye'll gain nothing
by resistance.  So don't be obstinate, now."

"I could be nothing so discourteous," said Mr. Caryll.  "Would
it be prying on my part to inquire what may be your interest
in my papers?"

His serenity lessened the earl's anxieties, but bewildered
him; and it took the edge off the malicious pleasure which
Rotherby was beginning to experience.

"I am obeying the orders of my Lord Carteret, the Secretary of
State," said Mr. Green.  "I was to watch for a gentleman from
France with letters for my Lord Ostermore.  He had a messenger
a week ago to tell him to look for such a visitor.  He took
the messenger, if you must know, and - well, we induced him to
tell us what was the message he had carried.  There is so much
mystery in all this that my Lord Carteret desires more
knowledge on the subject.  I think you are the gentleman I am
looking for."

Mr. Caryll looked him over with an amused eye, and laughed.
"It distresses me," said he, "to see so much good thought
wasted."

Mr. Green was abashed a moment.  But he recovered quickly; no
doubt he had met the cool type before.  "Come, come!" said he.
"No blustering.  Out with your papers, my fine fellow."

The door opened, and a couple of men came in; over their
shoulders, ere the door closed again, Mr. Caryll had a glimpse
of the landlady's rosy face, alarm in her glance.  The
newcomers were dirty rogues; tipstaves, recognizable at a
glance.  One of them wore a ragged bob-wig - the cast-off, no
doubt, of some gentleman's gentleman, fished out of the
sixpenny tub in Rosemary Lane; it was ill-fitting, and wisps
of the fellow's own unkempt hair hung out in places.  The
other wore no wig at all; his yellow thatch fell in streaks
from under his shabby hat, which he had the ill-manners to
retain until Lord Ostermore knocked it from his head with a
blow of his cane.  Both were fierily bottle-nosed, and neither
appeared to have shaved for a week or so.

"Now," quoth Mr. Green, "will you hand them over of your own
accord, or must I have you searched?"  And a wave of the hand
towards the advancing myrmidons indicated the searchers.

"You go too far, sir," blustered the earl.

"Ay, surely," put in Mr. Caryll.  "You are mad to think a
gentleman is to submit to being searched by any knave that
comes to him with a cock-and-bull tale about the Secretary of
State."

Mr. Green leered again, and produced a paper.  "There," said
he, "is my Lord Carteret's warrant, signed and sealed."

Mr. Caryll glanced over it with a disdainful eye.  "It is in
blank," said he.

"Just so," agreed Mr. Green.  "Carte blanche, as you say over
the water.  If you insist," he offered obligingly, "I'll fill
in your name before we proceed."

Mr. Caryll shrugged his shoulders.  "It might be well," said
he, "if you are to search me at all."

Mr. Green advanced to the table.  The writing implements
provided for the wedding were still there.  He took up a pen,
scrawled a name across the blank, dusted it with sand, and
presented it again to Mr. Caryll.  The latter nodded.

"I'll not trouble you to search me," said he.  "I would as
soon not have these noblemen of yours for my valets."  He
thrust his hands into the pockets of his fine coat, and
brought forth several papers.  These he proffered to Mr.
Green, who took them between satisfaction and amazement.
Ostermore stared, too stricken for words at this meek
surrender; and well was it for Mr. Caryll that he was so
stricken, for had he spoken he had assuredly betrayed himself.

Hortensia, Mr. Caryll observed, watched his cowardly yielding
with an eye of stern contempt.  Rotherby looked on with a dark
face that betrayed nothing.

Meanwhile Mr. Green was running through the papers, and as
fast as he ran through them he permitted himself certain
comments that passed for humor with his followers.  There
could be no doubt that in his own social stratum Mr. Green
must have been accounted something of a wag.

"Ha!  What's this?  A bill!  A bill for snuff!  My Lord
Carteret'll snuff you, sir.  He'll tobacco you, ecod!  He'll
smoke you first, and snuff you afterwards."  He flung the bill
aside.  "Phew!" he whistled.  "Verses! `To Theocritus upon
sailing for Albion.'  That's mighty choice!  D'ye write
verses, sir?"

"Heyday!  'Tis an occupation to which I have succumbed in
moments of weakness.  I crave your indulgence, Mr. Green."

Mr. Green perceived that here was a weak attempt at irony, and
went on with his investigations.  He came to the last of the
papers Mr. Caryll had handed him, glanced at it, swore
coarsely, and dropped it.

"D'ye think ye can bubble me?'" he cried, red in the face.

Lord Ostermore heaved a sigh of relief; the hard look had
faded from Hortensia's eyes.

"What is't ye mean, giving me this rubbish?"

"I offer you my excuses for the contents of my pockets," said
Mr. Caryll.  "Ye see, I did not expect to be honored by your
inquisition.  Had I but known - "

Mr. Green struck an attitude.  "Now attend to me, sir! I am a
servant of His Majesty's Government."

"His Majesty's Government cannot be sufficiently
congratulated," said Mr. Caryll, the irrepressible.

Mr. Green banged the table.  "Are ye rallying me, ecod!"

"You have upset the ink," Mr. Caryll pointed out to him.

"Damn the ink!" swore the spy.  "And damn you for a Tom o'
Bedlam! I ask you again - what d'ye mean, giving me this
rubbish?"

"You asked me to turn out my pockets."

"I asked you for the letter ye have brought Lord Ostermore."

"I am sorry," said Mr. Caryll, and eyed the other
sympathetically.  "I am sorry to disappoint you.  But, then,
you assumed too much when you assumed that I had such a
letter.  I have obliged you to the fullest extent in my power.
I do not think you show a becoming gratitude."

Mr. Green eyed him blankly a moment; then exploded.  "Ecod,
sir!  You are cool."

"It is a condition we do not appear to share."

"D'ye say ye've brought his lordship no letter from France?"
thundered the spy.  "What else ha' ye come to England for?"

"To study manners, sir," said Mr. Caryll, bowing.

That was the last drop in the cup of Mr. Green's endurance.
He waved his men towards the gentleman from France.  "Find
it," he bade them shortly.

Mr. Caryll drew himself up with a great dignity, and waved the
bailiffs back, his white face set, an unpleasant glimmer in
his eyes.  "A moment!" he cried.  "You have no authority to go
to such extremes.  I make no objection to being searched; but
every objection to being soiled, and I'll not have the fingers
of these scavengers about my person."

"And you are right, egad!" cried Lord Ostermore, advancing.
"Harkee, you dirty spy, this is no way to deal with gentlemen.
Be off, now, and take your carrion-crows with you, or I'll
have my grooms in with their whips to you."

"To me?" roared Green.  "I represent the Secretary of State."

"Ye'll represent a side of raw venison if you tarry here," the
earl promised him.  "D'ye dare look me in the eye?  D'ye dare,
ye rogue?  D'ye know who I am?  And don't wag that pistol, my
fine fellow!  Be off, now!  Away with you!"

Mr. Green looked his name.  The rosiness was all departed from
his cheeks; he quivered with suppressed wrath.  "If I go -
giving way to constraint - what shall you say to my Lord
Carteret?" he asked.

"What concern may that be of yours, sirrah?''

"It will be some concern of yours, my lord."

Mr. Caryll interposed.  "The knave is right," said he.  "It
were to implicate your lordship.  It were to give color to his
silly suspicions.  Let him make his search.  But be so good as
to summon my valet.  He shall hand you my garments that you
may do your will upon them.  But unless you justify yourself
by finding the letter you are seeking, you shall have to
reckon with the consequences of discomposing a gentleman for
nothing.  Now, sir!  Is it a bargain?" Mr. Green looked him
over, and if he was shaken by the calm assurance of Mr.
Caryll's tone and manner, he concealed it very effectively.
"We'll make no bargains," said he.  "I have my duty to do."
He signed to one of the bailiffs.  "Fetch the gentleman's
servant," said he.

"So be it," said Mr. Caryll.  "But you take too much upon
yourself, sir.  Your duty, I think, would have been to arrest
me and carry me to Lord Carteret's, there to be searched if
his lordship considered it necessary."

"I have no cause to arrest you until I find it," Mr. Green
snapped impatiently.

"Your logic is faultless."

"I am following my Lord Carteret's orders to the letter.  I am
to effect no arrest until I have positive evidence."

"Yet you are detaining me.  What does this amount to but an
arrest?"

Mr. Green disdained to answer.  Leduc entered, and Mr. Caryll
turned to Lord Ostermore.

"There is no reason why I should detain your lordship," said
he, "and these operations -  The lady - "  He waved an
expressive hand, bent an expressive eye upon the earl.

Lord Ostermore seemed to waver.  He was not - he had never
been - a man to think for others.  But Hortensia cut in before
he could reply.

"We will wait," she said.  "Since you are travelling to town,
I am sure his lordship will be glad of your company, sir."

Mr. Caryll looked deep into those great brown eyes, and bowed
his thanks.  "If it will not discompose your lordship - "

"No, no," said Ostermore, gruff of voice and manner.  "We will
wait.  I shall be honored, sir, if you will journey with us
afterwards."

Mr. Caryll bowed again, and went to hold the door for them,
Mr. Green's eyes keenly alert for an attempt at evasion.  But
there was none.  When his lordship and his ward had departed,
Mr. Caryll turned to Rotherby, who had taken a chair, his man
Gaskell behind him.  He looked from the viscount to Mr. Green.

"Do we require this gentleman?" he asked the spy.

A smile broke over Rotherby's swam face.  "By your leave, sir,
I'll remain to see fair play.  You may find me useful, Mr.
Green.  I have no cause to wish this marplot well," he
explained.

Mr. Caryll turned his back upon him, took off his coat and
waistcoat.  He sat down while Mr. Green spread the garments
upon the table, emptied out the pockets, turned down the
cuffs, ripped up the satin linings.  He did it in a consummate
fashion, very thoroughly.  Yet, though he parted the linings
from the cloth, he did so in such a manner as to leave the
garments easily repairable.

Mr. Caryll watched him with interest and appreciation, and
what time he watched he was wondering might it not be better
straightway to place the spy in possession of the letter, and
thus destroy himself and Lord Ostermore, at the same time -
and have done with the task on which he was come to England.
It seemed almost an easy way out of the affair.  His betrayal
of the earl would be less ugly if he, himself, were to share
the consequences of that betrayal.

Then he checked his thoughts.  What manner of mood was this?
Besides, his inclination was all to become better acquainted
with this odd family upon which he had stumbled in so
extraordinary a manner.  Down in his heart of hearts he had a
feeling that the thing he was come to do would never be done -
leastways, not by him.  It was in vain that he might attempt
to steel himself to the task.  It repelled him.  It went not
with a nature such as his.

He thought of Everard, afire with the idea of vengence and to
such an extent that he had succeeded in infecting Justin
himself with a spark of it.  He thought of him with pity
almost; pity that a man should obsess his life by such a
phantasm as this same vengeance must have been to him.  Was it
worth while?  Was anything worth while, he wondered.

Lord Rotherby approached the table, and took up the garments
upon which Mr. Green had finished.  He turned them over and
supplemented Mr. Green's search.

"Ye're welcome to all that ye can find," sneered Mr. Green,
and turned to Mr. Caryll.  "Let us have your shoes, sir."

Mr. Caryll removed his shoes, in silence, and Mr. Green
proceeded to examine them in a manner that provoked Mr.
Caryll's profound admiration.  He separated the lining from
the Spanish leather, and probed slowly and carefully in the
space between.  He examined the heels very closely, going over
to the window for the purpose.  That done, he dropped them.

"Your breeches now," said he laconically.

Meanwhile Leduc had taken up the coat, and with a needle and
thread wherewith he had equipped himself he was industriously
restoring the stitches that Mr. Green had taken out.

Mr. Caryll surrendered his breeches.  His fine Holland shirt
went next, his stockings and what other trifles he wore, until
he stood as naked as Adam before the fall.  Yet all in vain.

His garments were restored to him, one by one, and one by one,
with Leduc's aid, he resumed them.  Mr. Green was looking
crestfallen.

"Are you satisfied?" inquired Mr. Caryll pleasantly, his good
temper inexhaustible.

The spy looked at him with a moody eye, plucking thoughtfully
at his lip with thumb and forefinger.  Then he brightened
suddenly.  "There's your man," said he, flashing a quick eye
upon Leduc, who looked up with a quiet smile.

"True," said Mr. Caryll, "and there's my portmantle
above-stairs, and my saddle on my horse in the stables.  It is
even possible, for aught you know, that there may be a hollow
tooth or two in my head.  Pray let your search be thorough."

Mr. Green considered him again.  "If you had it, it would be
upon your person."

"Yet consider," Mr. Caryll begged him, holding out his foot
that Leduc might put on his shoe again, "I might have supposed
that you would suppose that, and disposed accordingly.  You
had better investigate to the bitter end."

Mr. Green's small eyes continued to scrutinize Leduc at
intervals.  The valet was a silent, serious-faced fellow.
"I'll search your servant, leastways," the spy announced.

"By all means.  Leduc, I beg that you will place yourself at
this interesting gentleman's disposal."

What time Mr. Caryll, unaided now, completed the resumption of
his garments, Leduc, silent and expressionless, submitted to
being searched.

"You will observe, Leduc," said Mr. Caryll, "that we have not
come to this country in vain.  We are undergoing experiences
that would be interesting if they were not quite so dull,
amusing if they entailed less discomfort to ourselves.
Assuredly, it was worth while to cross to England to study
manners.  And there are sights for you that you will never see
in France.  You would not, for instance, had you not come
hither, have had an opportunity of observing a member of the
noblesse seconding and assisting a tipstaff in the discharge
of his duty.  And doing it just as a hog wallows in foulness -
for the love of it.

"The gentlemen in your country, Leduc, are too fastidious to
enjoy life as it should be enjoyed; they are too prone to
adhere to the amusements of their class.  You have here an
opportunity of perceiving how deeply they are mistaken, what
relish may lie in setting one's rank on one side, in
forgetting at times that by an accident - a sheer, incredible
accident, I assure you, Leduc - one may have been born to a
gentleman's estate."

Rotherby had drawn himself up, his dark face crimsoning.

"D'ye talk at me, sir?" he demanded.  "D'ye dare discuss me
with your lackey?"

"But why not, since you search me with my tipstaff!  If you
can perceive a difference, you are too subtle for me, sir."

Rotherby advanced a step; then checked.  He inherited mental
sluggishness from his father.  "You are insolent!" he charged
Caryll.  "You insult me."

"Indeed!  Ha!  I am working miracles."

Rotherby governed his anger by an effort.  "There was enough
between us without this," said he.

"There could not be too much between us - too much space, I
mean."

The viscount looked at him furiously.  "I shall discuss this
further with you," said he.  "The present is not the time nor
place.  But I shall know where to look for you."

"Leduc, I am sure, will always be pleased to see you.  He,
too, is studying manner's."

Rotherby ignored the insult.  "We shall see, then, whether you
can do anything more than talk."

"I hope that your lordship, too, is master of other
accomplishments.  As a talker, I do not find you very gifted.
But perhaps Leduc will be less exigent than I."

"Bah!" his lordship flung at him, and went out, cursing him
profusely, Gaskell following at his master's heels.




CHAPTER V

MOONSHINE

My Lord Ostermore, though puzzled, entertained no tormenting
anxiety on the score of the search to which Mr. Caryll was to
be submitted.  He assured himself from that gentleman's
confident, easy manner - being a man who always drew from
things the inference that was obvious - that either he carried
no such letter as my lord expected, or else he had so disposed
of it as to baffle search.

So, for the moment, he dismissed the subject from his mind.
With Hortensia he entered the parlor across the stone-flagged
passage, to which the landlady ushered them, and turned
whole-heartedly to the matter of his ward's elopement with his
son.

"Hortensia," said he, when they were alone.  "You have been
foolish; very foolish."  He had a trick of repeating himself,
conceiving, no doubt, that the commonplace achieves
distinction by repetition.

Hortensia sat in an arm-chair by the window, and sighed,
looking out over the downs.  "Do I not know it?" she cried,
and the eyes which were averted from his lordship were charred
with tears - tears of hot anger, shame and mortification.
"God help all women!" she added bitterly, after a moment, as
many another woman under similar and worse circumstances has
cried before and since.

A more feeling man might have conceived that this was a moment
in which to leave her to herself and her own thoughts, and in
that it is possible that a more feeling man had been mistaken.
Ostermore, stolid and unimaginative, but not altogether
without sympathy for his ward, of whom he was reasonably fond
- as fond, no doubt, as it was his capacity to be for any
other than himself - approached her and set a plump hand upon
the back of her chair.

"What was it drove you to this?"

She turned upon him almost fiercely.  "My Lady Ostermore," she
answered him.

His lordship frowned, and his eyes shifted uneasily from her
face.  In his heart he disliked his wife excessively, disliked
her because she was the one person in the world who governed
him, who rode rough-shod over his feelings and desires;
because, perhaps, she was the mother of his unfeeling,
detestable son.  She may not have been the only person living
to despise Lord Ostermore; but she was certainly the only one
with the courage to manifest her contempt, and that in no
circumscribed terms.  And yet, disliking her as he did,
returning with interest her contempt of him, he veiled it, and
was loyal to his termagant, never suffering himself to utter a
complaint of her to others, never suffering others to censure
her within his hearing.  This loyalty may have had its roots
in pride - indeed, no other soil can be assigned to them - a
pride that would allow no strangers to pry into the sore
places of his being.  He frowned now to hear Hortensia's angry
mention of her ladyship's name; and if his blue eyes moved
uneasily under his beetling brows, it was because the
situation irked him.  How should he stand as judge between
Mistress Winthrop - towards whom, as we have seen, he had a
kindness- and his wife, whom he hated, yet towards whom he
would not be disloyal?

He wished the subject dropped, since, did he ask the obvious
question - in what my Lady Ostermore could have been the cause
of Hortensia's flight - he would provoke, he knew, a storm of
censure from his wife.  Therefore he fell silent.

Hortensia, however, felt that she had said too much not to say
more.

"Her ladyship has never failed to make me feel my position -
my - my poverty," she pursued.  "There is no slight her
ladyship has not put upon me, until not even your servants use
me with the respect that is due to my father's daughter.  And
my father," she added, with a reproachful glance, "was your
friend, my lord."

He shifted uncomfortably on his feet, deploring now the
question with which he had fired the train of feminine
complaint.  "Pish, pish!" he deprecated, "'tis fancy, child -
pure fancy!"

"So her Ladyship would say, did you tax her with it.  Yet your
lordship knows I am not fanciful in other things.  Should I,
then, be fanciful in this?"

"But what has her ladyship ever done, child?" he demanded,
thinking thus to baffle her - since he was acquainted with the
subtlety of her ladyship's methods.

"A thousand things," replied Hortensia hotly, "and yet not one
upon which I may fasten.  'Tis thus she works: by words,
half-words, looks, sneers, shrugs, and sometimes foul abuse
entirely disproportionate to the little cause I may
unwittingly have given."

"Her ladyship is a little hot," the earl admitted, "but a good
heart; 'tis an excellent heart, Hortensia."

"For hating-ay, my lord."

"Nay, plague on't!  That's womanish in you.  'Pon honor it is!
Womanish!"

"What else would you have a woman?  Mannish and raffish, like
my Lady Ostermore?"

"I'll not listen to you," he said.  "Ye're not just,
Hortensia.  Ye're heated; heated!  I'll not listen to you.
Besides, when all is said, what reasons be these for the folly
ye've committed?"

"Reasons?" she echoed scornfully.  "Reasons and to spare!  Her
ladyship has made my life so hard, has so shamed and crushed
me, put such indignities upon me, that existence grew
unbearable under your roof.  It could not continue, my lord,"
she pursued, rising under the sway of her indignation.  "It
could not continue.  I am not of the stuff that goes to making
martyrs.  I am weak, and - and - as your lordship has said -
womanish."

"Indeed, you talk a deal," said his lordship peevishly.  But
she did not heed the sarcasm.

"Lord Rotherby," she continued, "offered me the means to
escape.  He urged me to elope with him.  His reason was that
you would never consent to our marriage; but that if we took
the matter into our hands, and were married first, we might
depend upon your sanction afterwards; that you had too great a
kindness for me to withhold your pardon.  I was weak, my lord
- womanish," (she threw the word at him again) "and it
happened - God help me for a fool!- that I thought I loved
Lord Rotherby.  And so - and so - "

She sat down again, weakly, miserably, averting her face that
she might hide her tears.  He was touched, and he even went so
far as to show something of his sympathy.  He approached her
again, and laid a benign hand lightly upon her shoulder.

"But - but - in that case - Oh, the damned villain! - why this
mock-parson?"

"Does your lordship not perceive?  Must I die of shame?  Do
you not see?"

"See?  No!"  He was thoughtful a second; then repeated, "No!"

"I understood," she informed him, a smile - a cruelly bitter
smile - lifting and steadying the corner of her lately
quivering lip, "when he alluded to your lordship's straitened
circumstances.  He has no disinheritance to fear because he
has no inheritance to look for beyond the entail, of which you
cannot disinherit him.  My Lord Rotherby sets a high value
upon himself.  He may - I do not know - he may have been in
love with me - though not as I know love, which is all
sacrifice, all self-denial.  But by his lights he may have
cared for me; he must have done, by his lights.  Had I been a
lady of fortune, not a doubt but he would have made me his
wife; as it was, he must aim at a more profitable marriage,
and meanwhile, to gratify his love for me - base as it was -
he would - he would - O God!  I cannot say it.  You
understand, my lord."

My lord swore strenuously.  "There is a punishment for such a
crime as this."

"Ay, my lord - and a way to avoid punishment for a gentleman
in your son's position, even did I flaunt my shame in some
vain endeavor to have justice - a thing he knew I never could
have done."

My lord swore again.  "He shall be punished," he declared
emphatically.

"No doubt.  God will see to that," she said, a world of faith
in her quivering voice.

My lord's eyes expressed his doubt of divine intervention.  He
preferred to speak for himself.  "I'll disown the dog.  He
shall not enter my house again.  You shall not be reminded of
what has happened here.  Gad!  You were shrewd to have smoked
his motives so!" he cried in a burst of admiration for her
insight.  "Gad, child!  Shouldst have been a lawyer!  A
lawyer!"

"If it had not been for Mr. Caryll - " she began, but to what
else she said he lent no ear, being suddenly brought back to
his fears at the mention of that gentleman's name.

"Mr. Caryll!  Save us! What is keeping him?" he cried.  "Can
they - can they - "

The door opened, and Mr. Caryll walked in, ushered by the
hostess.  Both turned to confront him, Hortensia's eyes
swollen from her weeping.

"Well?" quoth his lordship.  "Did they find nothing?"

Mr. Caryll advanced with the easy, graceful carriage that was
one of his main charms, his clothes so skilfully restored by
Leduc that none could have guessed the severity of the
examination they had undergone.

"Since I am here, and alone, your lordship may conclude such
to be the case.  Mr. Green is preparing for departure.  He is
very abject; very chap-fallen.  I am almost sorry for Mr.
Green.  I am by nature sympathetic.  I have promised to make
my complaint to my Lord Carteret.  And so, I trust there is an
end to a tiresome matter."

"But then, sir?" quoth his lordship.  "But then - are you the
bearer of no letter?"

Mr. Caryll shot a swift glance over his shoulder at the door.
He deliberately winked at the earl.  "Did your lordship expect
letters?" he inquired.  "That was scarcely reason enough to
suppose me a courier.  There is some mistake, I imagine."

Between the wink and the words his lordship was bewildered.

Mr. Caryll turned to the lady, bowing.  Then he waved a hand
over the downs.  "A fine view," said he airily, and she stared
at him.  "I shall treasure sweet memories of Maidstone."  Her
stare grew stonier.  Did he mean the landscape or some other
matter?  His tone was difficult to read - a feature peculiar
to his tone.

"Not so shall I, sir," she made answer.  "I shall never think
of it other than with burning cheeks - unless it be with
gratitude to your shrewdness which saved me."

"No more, I beg.  It is a matter painful to you to dwell on.
Let me exhort you to forget it.  I have already done so."

"That is a sweet courtesy in you."

"I am compounded of sweet courtesy," he informed her modestly.

His lordship spoke of departure, renewing his offer to carry
Mr. Caryll to town in his chaise.  Meanwhile, Mr. Caryll was
behaving curiously.  He was tiptoeing towards the door, along
the wall, where he was out of line with the keyhole.  He
reached it suddenly, and abruptly pulled it open.  There was a
squeal, and Mr. Green rolled forward into the room.  Mr.
Caryll kicked him out again before he could rise, and called
Leduc to throw him outside.  And that was the last they saw of
Mr. Green at Maidstone.

They set out soon afterwards, Mr. Caryll travelling in his
lordship's chaise, and Leduc following in his master's.

It was an hour or so after candle-lighting time when they
reached Croydon, the country lying all white under a full moon
that sailed in a clear, calm sky.  His lordship swore that he
would go no farther that night.  The travelling fatigued him;
indeed, for the last few miles of the journey he had been
dozing in his corner of the carriage, conversation having long
since been abandoned as too great an effort on so bad a road,
which shook and jolted them beyond endurance.  His lordship's
chaise was of an old-fashioned pattern, and the springs far
from what might have been desired or expected in a nobleman's
conveyance.

They alighted at the "Bells."  His lordship bespoke supper,
invited Mr. Caryll to join them, and, what time the meal was
preparing, went into a noisy doze in the parlor's best chair.

Mistress Winthrop sauntered out into the garden.  The calm and
fragrance of the night invited her.  Alone with her thoughts,
she paced the lawn a while, until her solitude was disturbed
by the advent of Mr. Caryll.  He, too, had need to think, and
he had come out into the peace of the night to indulge his
need.  Seeing her, he made as if to withdraw again; but she
perceived him, and called him to her side.  He went most
readily.  Yet when he stood before her in an attitude of
courteous deference, she was at a loss what she should say to
him, or, rather, what words she should employ.  At last, with
a half-laugh of nervousness, "I am by nature very inquisitive,
sir," she prefaced.

"I had already judged you to be an exceptional woman," Mr.
Caryll commented softly.

She mused an instant.  "Are you never serious?" she asked him.

"Is it worth while?" he counter-questioned, and, whether
intent or accident, he let her see something of himself.  "Is
it even amusing - to be serious?"

"Is there in life nothing but amusement?"

"Oh, yes - but nothing so vital.  I speak with knowledge.  The
gift of laughter has been my salvation."

"From what, sir?"

"Ah - who shall say that?  My history and my rearing have been
such that had I bowed before them, I had become the most
gloomy, melancholy man that steps this gloomy, melancholy
world.  By now I might have found existence insupportable, and
so - who knows?  I might have set a term to it.  But I had the
wisdom to prefer laughter.  Humanity is a delectable spectacle
if we but have the gift to observe it in a dispassionate
spirit.  Such a gift have I cultivated.  The squirming of the
human worm is interesting to observe, and the practice of
observing it has this advantage, that while we observe it we
forget to squirm ourselves."

"The bitterness of your words belies their purport."

He shrugged and smiled.  "But proves my contention.  That I
might explain myself, you made me for a moment serious, set me
squirming in my turn."

She moved a little, and he fell into step beside her.  A
little while there was silence.

Presently - "You find me, no doubt, as amusing as any other of
your human worms," said she.

"God forbid!" he answered soberly.

She laughed.  "You make an exception in my case, then.  That
is a subtle flattery!"

"Have I not said that I had judged you to be an exceptional
woman?"

"Exceptionally foolish, not a doubt."

"Exceptionally beautiful; exceptionally admirable," he
corrected.

"A clumsy compliment, devoid of wit!"

"When we grow truthful, it may be forgiven us if we fall short
of wit."

"That were an argument in favor of avoiding truth."

"Were it necessary," said he.  "For truth is seldom so
intrusive as to need avoiding.  But we are straying.  There
was a score upon which you were inquisitive, you said; from
which I take it that you sought knowledge at my hands.  Pray
seek it; I am a well, of knowledge."

"I desired to know - Nay, but I have asked you already.  I
desired to know did you deem me a very pitiful little fool?"

They had reached the privet hedge, and turned.  They paused
now before resuming their walk.  He paused, also, before
replying.  Then:

"I should judge you wise in most things," he answered slowly,
critically.  "But in the matter to which I owe the blessing of
having served you, I do not think you wise.  Did you - do you
love Lord Rotherby?"

"What if so?"

"After what you have learned, I should account you still less
wise."

"You are impertinent, sir," she reproved him.

"Nay, most pertinent.  Did you not ask me to sit in judgment
upon this matter?  And unless you confess to me, how am I to
absolve you?"

"I did not crave your absolution.  You take too much upon
yourself."

"So said Lord Rotherby.  You seem to have something in common
when all is said."

She bit her lip in chagrin.  They paced in silence to the
lawn's end, and turned again.  Then: "You treat me like a
fool," she reproved him.

"How is that possible, when, already I think I love you."

She started from him, and stared at him for a long moment.
"You insult me!" she cried angrily, conceiving that she
understood his mind.  "Do you think that because I may have
committed a folly I have forfeited all claim to be respected -
that I am a subject for insolent speeches?"

"You are illogical," said Mr. Caryll, the imperturbable.  "I
have told you that I love you.  Should I insult the woman I
have said I love?"

"You love me?"  She looked at him, her face very white in the
white moonlight, her lips parted, a kindling anger in her
eyes.  "Are you mad?"

"I a'n't sure.  There have been moments when I have almost
feared it.  This is not one of them."

"You wish me to think you serious?" She laughed a thought
stridently in her indignation.  "I have known you just four
hours," said she.

"Precisely the time I think I have loved you."

"You think?" she echoed scornfully.  "Oh, you make that
reservation!  You are not quite sure?"

"Can we be sure of anything?" he deprecated.

"Of some things," she answered icily.  "And I am sure of one -
that I am beginning to understand you."

"I envy you.  Since that is so, help me - of your charity! -
to understand myself."

"Then understand yourself for an impudent, fleering coxcomb,"
she flung at him, and turned to leave him.

"That is not explanation," said Mr. Caryll thoughtfully.  "It
is mere abuse."

"What else do you deserve?" she asked him over her shoulder.
"That you should have dared!" she withered him.

"To love you quite so suddenly?" he inquired, and misquoted:
"`Whoever loved at all, that loved not at first sight?'
Hortensia!"

"You have not the right to my name, sir."

"Yet I offer you the right to mine," he answered, with humble
reproach.

"You shall be punished," she promised him, and in high dudgeon
left him.

"Punished?  Oh, cruel!  Can you then be -

      "`Unsoft to him who's smooth to thee?
        Tigers and bears, I've heard some say,
        For proffered love will love repay."'

But she was gone.  He looked up at the moon, and took it into
his confidence to reproach it.  "'Twas your white face
beglamored me," he told it aloud.  "See, how execrable a
beginning I've made, and, therefore, how excellent!"  And he
laughed, but entirely without mirth.

He remained pacing in the moonlight, very thoughtful, and, for
once, it seemed, not at all amused.  His life appeared to be
tangling itself beyond unravelling, and his vaunted habit of
laughter scarce served at present to show him the way out.




CHAPTER VI

HORTENSIA'S RETURN


Mr. Caryll needs explaining as he walks there in the
moonlight; that is, if we are at all to understand him - a
matter by no means easy, considering that he has confessed he
did not understand himself.  Did ever man make a sincere
declaration of sudden passion as flippantly as he had done, or
in terms-better calculated to alienate the regard he sought to
win?  Did ever man choose his time with less discrimination,
or his words with less discretion?  Assuredly not.  To suppose
that Mr. Caryll was unaware of this, would be to suppose him a
fool, and that he most certainly was not.

His mood was extremely complex; its analysis, I fear, may
baffle us.  It must have seemed to you - as it certainly
seemed to Mistress Winthrop - that he made a mock of her; that
in truth he was the impudent, fleering coxcomb she pronounced
him, and nothing more.  Not so.  Mock he most certainly did;
but his mockery was all aimed to strike himself on the recoil
- himself and the sentiments which had sprung to being in his
soul, and to which - nameless as he was, pledged as he was to
a task that would most likely involve his ruin - he conceived
that he had no right.  He gave expression to his feelings, yet
chose for them the expression best calculated to render them
barren of all consequence where Mistress Winthrop was
concerned.  Where another would have hidden those emotions,
Mr. Caryll elected to flaunt them half-derisively, that
Hortensia might trample them under foot in sheer disgust.

It was, perhaps, the knowledge that did he wait, and come to
her as an honest, devout lover, he must in honesty tell her
all there was to know of his odd history and of his bastardy,
and thus set up between them a barrier insurmountable.
Better, he may have thought, to make from the outset a mockery
of a passion for which there could be no hope.  And so, under
that mocking, impertinent exterior, I hope you catch some
glimpse of the real, suffering man - the man who boasted that
he had the gift of laughter.

He continued a while to pace the dewy lawn after she had left
him, and a deep despondency descended upon the spirit of this
man who accounted seriousness a folly.  Hitherto his rancor
against his father had been a theoretical rancor, a thing
educated into him by Everard, and accepted by him as we accept
a proposition in Euclid that is proved to us.  In its way it
had been a make-believe rancor, a rancor on principle, for he
had been made to see that unless he was inflamed by it, he was
not worthy to be his mother's son.  Tonight had changed all
this.  No longer was his grievance sentimental, theoretical or
abstract.  It was suddenly become real and very bitter.  It
was no longer a question of the wrong done his mother thirty
years ago; it became the question of a wrong done himself in
casting him nameless upon the world, a thing of scorn to
cruel, unjust humanity.  Could Mistress Winthrop have guessed
the bitter self-derision with which he had, in apparent
levity, offered her his name, she might have felt some pity
for him who had no pity for himself.

And so, to-night he felt - as once for a moment Everard had
made him feel - that he had a very real wrong of his own to
avenge upon his father; and the task before him lost much of
the repugnance that it had held for him hitherto.

All this because four hours ago he had looked into the brown
depths of Mistress Winthrop's eyes.  He sighed, and declaimed
a line of Congreve's:

"`Woman is a fair image in a pool; who leaps at it is sunk.'"

The landlord came to bid him in to supper.  He excused
himself.  Sent his lordship word that he was over-tired, and
went off to bed.

They met at breakfast, at an early hour upon the morrow,
Mistress Winthrop cool and distant; his lordship grumpy and
mute; Mr. Caryll airy and talkative as was his habit.  They
set out soon afterwards.  But matters were nowise improved.
His lordship dozed in a corner of the carriage, while Mistress
Winthrop found more interest in the flowering hedgerows than
in Mr. Caryll, ignored him when he talked, and did not answer
him when he set questions; till, in the end, he, too, lapsed
into silence, and as a solatium for his soreness assured
himself by lengthy, wordless arguments that matters were best
so.

They entered the outlying parts of London some two hours
later, and it still wanted an hour or so to noon when the
chaise brought up inside the railings before the earl's house
in Lincoln's Inn Fields.

There came a rush of footmen, a bustle of service, amid which
they alighted and entered the splendid residence that was part
of the little that remained Lord Ostermore from the wreck his
fortunes had suffered on the shoals of the South Sea.

Mr. Caryll paused a moment to dismiss Leduc to the address in
Old Palace Yard where he had hired a lodging.  That done, he
followed his lordship and Hortensia within doors.

From the inner hall a footman ushered him across an
ante-chamber to a room on the right, which proved to be the
library, and was his lordship's habitual retreat.  It was a
spacious, pillared chamber, very richly panelled in damask
silk, and very richly furnished, having long French windows
that opened on a terrace above the garden.

As they entered there came a swift rustle of petticoats at
their heels, and Mr. Caryll stood aside, bowing, to give
passage to a tall lady who swept by with no more regard for
him than had he been one of the house's lackeys.  She was, he
observed, of middle-age, lean and aquiline-featured, with an
exaggerated chin, that ended squarely as boot.  Her sallow
cheeks were raddled to a hectic color, a monstrous head-dress
- like that of some horse in a lord mayor's show - coiffed
her, and her dress was a mixture of extravagance and
incongruity, the petticoat absurdly hooped.

She swept into the room like a battleship into action, and let
fly her first broadside at Mistress Winthrop from the
threshold.

"Codso!" she shrilled.  "You have come back!  And for what
have you come back?  Am I to live in the same house with you,
you shameless madam - that have no more thought for your
reputation than a slut in a smock-race?"

Hortensia raised indignant eyes from out of a face that was
very pale.  Her lips were tightly pressed - in resolution,
thought Mr. Caryll, who was very observant of her - not to
answer her ladyship; for Mr. Caryll had little doubt as to the
identity of this dragon.

"My love - my dear - " began his lordship, advancing a step,
his tone a very salve.  Then, seeking to create a diversion,
he waved a hand towards Mr. Caryll.  "Let me present - "

"Did I speak to you?" she turned to bombard him.  "Have you
not done harm enough?  Had you been aught but a fool - had you
respected me as a husband should - you had left well alone and
let her go her ways."

"There was my duty to her father, to say aught of - "

"And what of your duty to me?" she blazed, her eyes puckering
most malignantly.  She reminded Mr. Caryll of nothing so much
as a vulture.  "Had ye forgotten that?  Have ye no thought for
decency - no respect for your wife?"

Her strident voice was echoing through the house and drawing a
little crowd of gaping servants to the hall.  To spare
Mistress Winthrop, Mr. Caryll took it upon himself to close
the door.  The countess turned at the sound.

"Who is this?" she asked, measuring the elegant figure with an
evil eye.  And Mr. Caryll felt it in his bones that she had
done him the honor to dislike him at sight.

"It is a gentleman who - who -"  His lordship thought it
better, apparently, not to explain the exact circumstances
under which he had met the gentleman.  He shifted ground.  "I
was about to present him, my love.  It is Mr. Caryll - Mr.
Justin Caryll.  This, sir, is my Lady Ostermore."

Mr. Caryll made her a profound bow.  Her ladyship retorted
with a sniff.

"Is it a kinsman of yours, my lord?" and the contempt of the
question was laden with a suggestion that smote Mr. Caryll
hard.  What she implied in wanton offensive mockery was no
more than he alone present knew to be the exact and hideous
truth.

"Some remote kinsman, I make no doubt," the earl explained.
"Until yesterday I had not the honor of his acquaintance.  Mr.
Caryll is from France."

"Ye'll be a Jacobite, no doubt, then," were her first,
uncompromising words to the guest.

Mr. Caryll made her another bow.  "If I were, I should make no
secret of it with your ladyship," he answered with that
irritating suavity in which he clothed his most obvious
sarcasms.

Her ladyship opened her eyes a little wider.  Here was a tone
she was unused to.  "And what may your business with his
lordship be?"

"His lordship's business, I think," answered Mr. Caryll in a
tone of such exquisite politeness and deference that the words
seemed purged of all their rudeness.

"Will you answer me so, sir?" she demanded, nevertheless, her
voice quivering.

"My love!" interpolated his lordship hurriedly, his florid
face aflush.  "We are vastly indebted to Mr. Caryll, as you
shall learn.  It was he who saved Hortensia."

"Saved the drab, did he?  And from what, pray?"

"Madam!"  It was Hortensia who spoke.  She had risen, pale
with anger, and she made appeal now to her guardian.  "My
lord, I'll not remain to be so spoken of.  Suffer me to go.
That her ladyship should so speak of me to my face - and to a
stranger!"

"Stranger!" crowed her ladyship.  "Lard!  And what d'ye
suppose will happen?  Are you so nice about a stranger hearing
what I may have to say of you - you that will be the talk of
the whole lewd town for this fine escapade?  And what'll the
town say of you?"

"My love!" his lordship sought again to soothe her.  "Sylvia,
let me implore you!  A little moderation!  A little charity!
Hortensia has been foolish.  She confesses so much, herself.
Yet, when all is said, 'tis not she is to blame."

"Am I?"

"My love!  Was it suggested?"

"I marvel it was not.  Indeed, I marvel!  Oh, Hortensia is not
to blame, the sweet, pure dove!  What is she, then?"

"To be pitied, ma'am," said his lordship, stirred to sudden
anger, "that she should have lent an ear to your disreputable
son."

"My son?  My son?" cried her ladyship, her voice more and more
strident, her face flushing till the rouge upon it was put to
shame, revealed in all its unnatural hideousness.  "And is he
not your son, my lord?"

"There are moments," he answered hardily, "when I find it
difficult to believe."

It was much for him to say, and to her ladyship, of all
people.  It was pure mutiny.  She gasped for air; pumped her
brain for words.  Meantime, his lordship continued with an
eloquence entirely unusual in him and prompted entirely by his
strong feelings in the matter of his son.  "He is a disgrace
to his name!  He always has been.  When a boy, he was a liar
and a thief, and had he had his deserts he had been lodged in
Newgate long ago - or worse.  Now that he's a man, he's an
abandoned profligate, a brawler, a drunkard, a rakehell.  So
much I have long known him for; but to-day he has shown
himself for something even worse.  I had thought that my ward,
at least, had been sacred from his villainy.  That is the last
drop.  I'll not condone it.  Damn me!  I can't condone it.
I'll disown him.  He shall not set foot in house of mine
again.  Let him keep the company of his Grace of Wharton and
his other abandoned friends of the Hell Fire Club; he keeps
not mine.  He keeps not mine, I say!"

Her ladyship swallowed hard.  From red that she had been, she
was now ashen under her rouge.  "And, is this wanton baggage
to keep mine?  Is she to disgrace a household that has grown
too nice to contain your son?"

"My lord!  Oh, my lord, give me leave to go," Hortensia
entreated.

"Ay, go," sneered her ladyship.  "Go!  You had best go - back
to him.  What for did ye leave him?  Did ye dream there could
be aught to return to?"

Hortensia turned to her guardian again appealingly.  But her
ladyship bore down upon her, incensed by this ignoring; she
caught the girl's wrist in her claw-like hand.  "Answer me,
you drab!  What for did you return?  What is to be done with
you now that y' are soiled goods?  Where shall we find a
husband for you?"

"I do not want a husband, madam," answered Hortensia.

"Will ye lead apes in hell, then?  Bah!  'Tis not what ye
want, my fine madam; 'tis what we can get you; and where shall
we find you a husband now?"

Her eye fell upon Mr. Caryll, standing by one of the windows,
a look of profound disgust overplaying the usually immobile
face.  "Perhaps the gentleman from France - the gentleman who
saved you," she sneered, "will propose to take the office."

"With all my heart, ma'am," Mr. Caryll startled them and
himself by answering.  Then, perceiving that he had spoken too
much upon impulse - given utterance to what was passing in his
mind - "I but mention it to show your ladyship how mistaken
are your conclusions," he added.

The countess loosed her hold of Hortensia's wrist in her
amazement, and looked the gentleman from France up and down in
a mighty scornful manner.  "Codso!" she swore, "I may take it,
then, that your saving her - as ye call it - was no accident."

"Indeed it was, ma'am - and a most fortunate accident for your
son."

"For my son?  As how?"

"It saved him from hanging, ma'am," Mr. Caryll informed her,
and gave her something other than the baiting of Hortensia to
occupy her mind.

"Hang?" she gasped.  "Are you speaking of Lord Rotherby?"

"Ay, of Lord Rotherby - and not a word more than is true," put
in the earl.  "Do you know - but you do not - the extent of
your precious son's villainy?  At Maidstone, where I overtook
them - at the Adam and Eve - he had a make-believe parson, and
he was luring this poor child into a mock-marriage."

Her ladyship stared.  "Mock-marriage?" she echoed.  "Marriage?
La!"  And again she vented her unpleasant laugh.   "Did she
insist on that, the prude?  Y' amaze me!"

"Surely, my love, you do not apprehend.  Had Lord Rotherby's
parson not been detected and unmasked by Mr. Caryll, here - "

"Would you ha' me believe she did not know the fellow was no
parson?"

"Oh!" cried Hortensia.  "Your ladyship has a very wicked soul.
May God forgive you!"

"And who is to forgive you?" snapped the countess.

"I need no forgiveness, for I have done no wrong.  A folly, I
confess to.  I was mad to have heeded such a villain."

Her ladyship gathered forces for a fresh assault.  But Mr.
Caryll anticipated it.  It was no doubt a great impertinence
in him; but he saw Hortensia's urgent need, and he felt,
moreover, that not even Lord Ostermore would resent his
crossing swords a moment with her ladyship.

"You would do well, ma'am, to remember," said he, in his
singularly precise voice, "that Lord Rotherby even now - and
as things have fallen out - is by no means quit of all
danger."

She looked at this smooth gentleman, and his words burned
themselves into her brain.  She quivered with mingling fear
and anger.

"Wha' - what is't ye mean?" quoth she.

"That even at this hour, if the matter were put about, his
lordship might be brought to account for it, and it might fare
very ill with him.  The law of England deals heavily with an
offense such as Lord Rotherby's, and the attempt at a
mock-marriage, of which there is no lack of evidence, would so
aggravate the crime of abduction, if he were informed against,
that it might go very hard with him."

Her jaw fell.  She caught more than an admonition in his
words.  It almost seemed to her that he was threatening.

"Who - who is to inform?" she asked point-blank, her tone a
challenge; and yet the odd change in it from its recent
aggressiveness was almost ludicrous.

"Ah - who?" said Mr. Caryll, raising his eyes and fetching a
sigh.  "It would appear that a messenger from the Secretary of
State - on another matter - was at the Adam and Eve at the
time with two of his catchpolls, and he was a witness of the
whole affair.  Then again," and he waved a hand doorwards,
"servants are servants.  I make no doubt they are listening,
and your ladyship's voice has scarce been controlled.  You can
never say when a servant may cease to be a servant, and become
an active enemy."

"Damn the servants!" she swore, dismissing them from
consideration.  "Who is this messenger of the secretary's? Who
is he?"

"He was named Green.  'Tis all I know."

"And where may he be found?"

"I cannot say."

She turned to Lord Ostermore.  "Where is Rotherby?" she
inquired.  She was a thought breathless.

"I do not know," said he, in a voice that signified how little
he cared.

"He must be found.  This fellow's silence must be bought.
I'll not have my son disgraced, and gaoled, perhaps.  He must
be found."

Her alarm was very real now.  She moved towards the door, then
paused, and turned again.  "Meantime, let your lordship
consider what dispositions you are to make for this wretched
girt who is the cause of all this garboil."

And she swept out, slamming the door violently after her.




CHAPTER VII

FATHER AND SON


Mr. Caryll stayed to dine at Stretton House.  Although they
had journeyed but from Croydon that morning, he would have
preferred to have gone first to his lodging to have made -
fastidious as he was - a suitable change in his apparel.  But
the urgency that his task dictated caused him to waive the
point.

He had a half-hour or so to himself after the stormy scene
with her ladyship, in which he had played again - though in a
lesser degree - the part of savior to Mistress Winthrop, a
matter for which the lady had rewarded him, ere withdrawing,
with a friendly smile, which caused him to think her disposed
to forgive him his yesternight's folly.

In that half-hour he gave himself again very seriously to the
contemplation of his position.  He had no illusions on the
score of Lord Ostermore, and he rated his father no higher
than he deserved.  But he was just and shrewd in his judgment,
and he was forced to confess that he had found this father of
his vastly different from the man he had been led to expect.
He had looked to find a debauched old rake, a vile creature
steeped in vice and wickedness.  Instead, he found a weak,
easy-natured, commonplace fellow, whose worst sin seemed to be
the selfishness that is usually inseparable from those other
characteristics.  If Ostermore was not a man of the type that
inspires strong affection, neither was he of the type that
provokes strong dislike.  His colorless nature left one
indifferent to him.

Mr. Caryll, somewhat to his dismay, found himself inclined to
extend the man some sympathy; caught himself upon the verge of
pitying him for being burdened with so very unfilial a son and
so very cursed a wife.  It was one of his cherished beliefs
that the evil that men do has a trick of finding them out in
this life, and here, he believed, as shrew-ridden husband and
despised father, the Earl of Ostermore was being made to
expiate that sin of his early years.

Another of Mr. Caryll's philosophies was that, when all is
said, man is little of a free agent.  His viciousness or
sanctity is temperamental; and not the man, but his nature -
which is not self-imbued - must bear the responsibility of a
man's deeds, be they good or bad.

In the abstract such beliefs are well enough; they are
excellent standards by which to judge where other sufferers
than ourselves are concerned.  But when we ourselves are
touched, they are discounted by the measure in which a man's
deeds or misdeeds may affect us.  And although to an extent
this might be the case now with Mr. Caryll, yet, in spite of
it, he found himself excusing his father on the score of the
man's weakness and stupidity, until he caught himself up with
the reflection that this was a disloyalty to Everard, to his
training, and to his mother.  And yet - he reverted - in such
a man as Ostermore, sheer stupidity, a lack of imagination, of
insight into things as they really are, a lack of feeling that
would disable him from appreciating the extent of any wrong he
did, seemed to Mr. Caryll to be extenuating circumstances.

He conceived that he was amazingly dispassionate in his
judgment, and he wondered was he right or wrong so to be.
Then the thought of his task arose in his mind, and it bathed
him in a sweat of horror.  Over in France he had allowed
himself to be persuaded, and had pledged himself to do this
thing.  Everard, the relentless, unforgiving fanatic of
vengeance, had - as we have seen - trained him to believe that
the avenging of his mother's wrongs was the only thing that
could justify his own existence.  Besides, it had all seemed
remote then, and easy as remote things are apt to seem.  But
now - now that he had met in the flesh this man who was his
father - his hesitation was turned to very horror.  It was not
that he did not conceive, in spite of his odd ideas upon
temperament and its responsibilities, that his mother's'
wrongs cried out for vengeance, and that the avenging of them
would be a righteous, fitting deed; but it was that he
conceived that his own was not the hand to do the work of the
executioner upon one who - after all - was still his own
father.  It was hideously unnatural.

He sat in the library, awaiting his lordship and the
announcement of dinner.  There was a book before him; but his
eyes were upon the window, the smooth lawns beyond, all
drenched in summer sunshine, and his thoughts were
introspective.  He looked into his shuddering soul, and saw
that he could not - that he would not - do the thing which he
was come to do.  He would await the coming of Everard, to tell
him so.  There would be a storm to face, he knew.  But sooner
that than carry this vile thing through.  It was vile - most
damnably vile - he now opined.

The decision taken, he rose and crossed to the window.  His
mind had been in travail; his soul had known the pangs of
labor.  But now that this strong resolve had been brought
forth, an ease and peace were his that seemed to prove to him
how right he was, how wrong must aught else have been.

Lord Ostermore came in.  He announced that they would be
dining alone together.  "Her ladyship," he explained, "has
gone forth in person to seek Lord Rotherby.  She believes that
she knows where to find him - in some disreputable haunt, no
doubt, whither her ladyship would have been better advised to
have sent a servant.  But women are wayward cattle - wayward,
headstrong cattle!  Have you not found them so, Mr. Caryll?"

"I have found that the opinion is common to most husbands,"
said Mr. Caryll, then added a question touching Mistress
Winthrop, and wondered would she not be joining them at table.

"The poor child keeps her chamber," said the earl.  "She is
overwrought - overwrought!  I am afraid her ladyship - "  He
broke off abruptly, and coughed.  "She is overwrought," he
repeated in conclusion.  "So that we dine alone."

And alone they dined.  Ostermore, despite the havoc suffered
by his fortunes, kept an excellent table and a clever cook,
and Mr. Caryll was glad to discover in his sire this one
commendable trait.

The conversation was desultory throughout the repast; but when
the cloth was raised and the table cleared of all but the
dishes of fruit and the decanters of Oporto, Canary and
Madeira, there came a moment of expansion.

Mr. Caryll was leaning back in his chair, fingering the stem
of his wine-glass, watching the play of sunlight through the
ruddy amber of the wine, and considering the extraordinarily
odd position of a man sitting at table, by the merest chance,
almost, with a father who was not aware that he had begotten
him.  A question from his lordship came to stir him partially
from the reverie into which he was beginning to lapse.

"Do you look to make a long sojourn in England, Mr. Caryll?"

"It will depend," was the vague and half-unconscious answer,
"upon the success of the matter I am come to transact."

There ensued a brief pause, during which Mr. Caryll fell again
into his abstraction.

"Where do you dwell when in France, sir?" inquired my lord, as
if to make polite conversation.

Mr. Caryll lulled by his musings into carelessness, answered
truthfully, "At Maligny, in Normandy."

The next moment there was a tinkle of breaking glass, and Mr.
Caryll realized his indiscretion and turned cold.

Lord Ostermore, who had been in the act of raising his glass,
fetched it down again so suddenly that the stem broke in his
fingers, and the mahogany was flooded with the liquor.  A
servant hastened forward, and set a fresh glass for his
lordship.  That done, Ostermore signed to the man to withdraw.
The fellow went, closing the door, and leaving those two
alone.

The pause had been sufficient to enable Mr. Caryll to recover,
and for all that his pulses throbbed more quickly than their
habit, outwardly he maintained his lazily indifferent pose, as
if entirely unconscious that what he had said had occasioned
his father the least disturbance.

"You - you dwelt at Maligny?" said his lordship, the usual
high color all vanished from his face.  And again: "You dwelt
at Maligny, and - and - your name is Caryll."

Mr. Caryll looked up quickly, as if suddenly aware that his
lordship was expressing surprise.  "Why, yes," said he.  "What
is there odd in that?"

"How does it happen that you come to live there?  Are you at
all connected with the family of Maligny?  On your mother's
side, perhaps?"

Mr. Caryll took up his wine-glass.  "I take it," said he
easily, "that there was some such family at some time.  But it
is clear it must have fallen upon evil days."  He sipped at
his wine.  "There are none left now," he explained, as he set
down his glass.  "The last of them died, I believe, in
England."  His eyes turned full upon the earl, but their
glance seemed entirely idle.  "It was in consequence of that
that my father was enabled to purchase the estate."

Mr. Caryll accounted it no lie that he suppressed the fact
that the father to whom he referred was but his father by
adoption.

Relief spread instantly upon Lord Ostermore's countenance.
Clearly, he saw, here was pure coincidence, and nothing more.
Indeed, what else should there have been?  What was it that he
had feared?  He did not know.  Still he accounted it an odd
matter, and said so.

"What is odd?" inquired Mr. Caryll.  "Does it happen that your
lordship was acquainted at any time with that vanished
family?"

"I was, sir - slightly acquainted - at one time with one or
two of its members.  'Tis that that is odd.  You see, sir, my
name, too, happens to be Caryll."

"True - yet I see nothing so oddly coincident in the matter,
particularly if your acquaintance with these Malignys was but
slight."

"Indeed, you are right.  You are right.  There is no such
great coincidence, when all is said.  The name reminded me of
a - a folly of my youth.  'Twas that that made impression."

"A folly?" quoth Mr. Caryll, his eyebrows raised.

"Ay, a folly - a folly that went near undoing me, for had it
come to my father's ears, he had broke me without mercy.  He
was a hard man, my father; a puritan in his ideas."

"A greater than your lordship?" inquired Mr. Caryll blandly,
masking the rage that seethed in him.

His lordship laughed.  "Ye're a wag, Mr. Caryll - a damned
wag!"  Then reverting to the matter that was uppermost in his
mind.  "'Tis a fact, though - 'pon honor.  My father would ha'
broke me.  Luckily she died."

"Who died?" asked Mr. Caryll, with a show of interest.

"The girl.  Did I not tell you there was a girl?  'Twas she
was the folly - Antoinette de Maligny.  But she died - most
opportunely, egad! 'Twas a very damned mercy that she did.  It
- cut the - the - what d'ye call it - knot?"

"The Gordian knot?" suggested Mr. Caryll.

"Ay - the Gordian knot.  Had she lived and had my father
smoked the affair - Gad! he would ha' broke me; he would so!"
he repeated, and emptied his glass.

Mr. Caryll, white to the lips, sat very still a moment.  Then
he did a curious thing; did it with a curious suddenness.  He
took a knife from the table, and hacked off the lowest button
from his coat.  This he pushed across the board to his father.

"To turn to other matters," said he; "there is the letter you
were expecting from abroad."

"Eh? What?" Lord Ostermore took up the button.  It was of
silk, interwoven with gold thread.  He turned it over in his
fingers, looking at it with a heavy eye, and then at his
guest.  "Eh?  Letter?" he muttered, puzzled.

"If your lordship will cut that open, you will see what his
majesty has to propose."  He mentioned the king in a voice
charged with suggestion, so that no doubt could linger on the
score of the king he meant.

"Gad!" cried his lordship.  "Gad!  'Twas thus ye bubbled Mr.
Green?  Shrewd, on my soul.  And you are the messenger, then?"

"I am the messenger," answered Mr. Caryll coldly.

"And why did you not say so before?"

For the fraction of a second Mr. Caryll hesitated.  Then:
"Because I did not judge that the time was come," said he.




CHAPTER VIII

TEMPTATION


His lordship ripped away the silk covering of the button with
a penknife, and disembowelled it of a small packet, which
consisted of a sheet of fine and very closely-folded and
tightly-compressed paper.  This he spread, cast an eye over,
and then looked up at his companion, who was watching him with
simulated indolence.

His lordship had paled a little, and there was about the lines
of his mouth a look of preternatural gravity.  He looked
furtively towards the door, his heavy eyebrows lowering.

"I think," he said, "that we shall be more snug in the
library.  Will you bear me company, Mr. Caryll?"

Mr. Caryll rose instantly.  The earl folded the letter, and
turned to go.  His companion paused to pick up the fragments
of the button and slip them into his pocket.  He performed the
office with a smile on his lips that was half pity, half
contempt.  It did not seem to him that there would be the
least need to betray Lord Ostermore once his lordship was
wedded to the Stuart faction.  He would not fail to betray
himself through some act of thoughtless stupidity such as
this.

In the library - the door, and that of the ante-room beyond
it, carefully closed - his lordship unlocked a secretaire of
walnut, very handsomely inlaid, and, drawing up a chair, he
sat down to the perusal of the king's letter.  When he had
read it through, he remained lost in thought a while.  At
length he looked up and across towards Mr. Caryll, who was
standing by one of the windows.

"You are no doubt a confidential agent, sir," said he.  "And
you will be fully aware of the contents of this letter that
you have brought me."

"Fully, my lord," answered Mr. Caryll, "and I venture to hope
that his majesty's promises will overcome any hesitation that
you may feel."

"His majesty's promises?" said my lord thoughtfully.  "His
majesty may never have a chance of fulfilling them."

"Very true, sir.  But who gambles must set a stake upon the
board.  Your lordship has been something of a gamester
already, and - or so I gather - with little profit.  Here is a
chance to play another game that may mend the evil fortunes of
the last."

The earl scanned him in surprise.  "You are excellent well
informed," said he, between surprise and irony.

"My trade demands it.  Knowledge is my buckler."

His lordship nodded slowly, and fell very thoughtful, the
letter before him, his eyes wandering ever and anon to con
again some portion of it.  "It is a game in which I stake my
head," he muttered presently.

"Has your lordship anything else to stake?" inquired Mr.
Caryll.

The earl looked at him again with a gloomy eye, and sighed,
but said nothing.  Mr. Caryll resumed.  "It is for your
lordship to declare," he said quite coolly, "whether his
majesty has covered your stake.  If you think not, it is even
possible that he may be induced to improve his offer.  Though
if you think not, for my own part I consider that you set too
high a value on that same head of yours."

Touched in his vanity, Ostermore looked up at him with a
sudden frown.  "You take a bold tone, sir," said he, "a very
bold tone!"

"Boldness is the attribute next to knowledge most essential to
my calling," Mr. Caryll reminded him.

His lordship's eye fell before the other's cold glance, and
again he lapsed into thoughtfulness, his cheek now upon his
hand.  Suddenly he looked up again.  "Tell me," said he.  "Who
else is in this thing?  Men say that Atterbury is not above
suspicion.  Is it - "

Mr. Caryll bent forward to tap the king's letter with a rigid
forefinger.  "When your lordship tells me that you are ready
to concert upon embarking your fortunes in this bottom, you
shall find me disposed, perhaps, to answer questions
concerning others.  Meanwhile, our concern is with yourself."

"Dons and the devil!" swore his lordship angrily.  "Is this a
way to speak to me?"  He scowled at the agent.  "Tell me, my
fine fellow, what would happen if I were to lay this letter
you have brought me before the nearest justice?"

"I cannot say for sure," answered Mr. Caryll quietly, "but it
is very probable it would help your lordship to the gallows.
For if you will give yourself the trouble of reading it again
- and more carefully - you will see that it makes
acknowledgment of the offer of services you wrote his majesty
a month or so ago."

His lordship's eyes dropped to the letter again.  He caught
his breath in sudden fear.

"Were I your lordship, I should leave the nearest justice to
enjoy his dinner in peace," said Mr. Caryll, smiling.

His lordship laughed in a sickly manner.  He felt foolish - a
rare condition in him, as in most fools.  "Well, well," said
he gruffly.  "The matter needs reflection.  It needs
reflection."

Behind them the door opened noiselessly, and her ladyship
appeared in cloak and wimple.  She paused there, unperceived
by either, arrested by the words she had caught, and waiting
in the hope of hearing more.

"I must sleep on't, at least," his lordship was continuing.
"'Tis too grave a matter to be determined thus in haste."

A faint sound caught the keen ears of Mr. Caryll.  He turned
with a leisureliness that bore witness to his miraculous
self-control.  Perceiving the countess, he bowed, and casually
put his lordship on his guard.

"Ah!" said he.  "Here is her ladyship returned."

Lord Ostermore gasped audibly and swung round in an alarm than
which nothing could have betrayed him more effectively.  "My -
my love!" he cried, stammering, and by his wild haste to
conceal the letter that he held, drew her attention to it.

Mr. Caryll stepped between them, his back to his lordship,
that he might act as a screen under cover of which to dispose
safely of that dangerous document.  But he was too late.  Her
ladyship's quick eyes had flashed to it, and if the distance
precluded the possibility of her discovering anything that
might be written upon it, she, nevertheless, could see the
curious nature of the paper, which was of the flimsiest tissue
of a sort extremely uncommon.

"What is't ye hide?" said she, as she came forward.  "Why, we
are very close, surely!  What mischief is't ye hatch, my
lord?"'

"Mis - mischief, my love?"  He smiled propitiatingly - hating
her more than ever in that moment.  He had stuffed the letter
into an inner pocket of his coat, and but that she had another
matter to concern her at the moment she would not have allowed
the question she had asked to be so put aside.  But this other
matter upon her mind touched her very closely.

"Devil take it, whatever it may be!  Rotherby is here."

"Rotherby?" His demeanor changed; from conciliating it was of
a sudden transformed to indignant.  "What makes he here?" he
demanded.  "Did I not forbid him my house?"

"I brought him," she answered pregnantly.

But for once he was not to be put down.  "Then you may take
him hence again," said he.  "I'll not have him under my roof -
under the same roof with that poor child he used so
infamously.  I'll not suffer it!"

The Gorgon cannot have looked more coldly wicked than her
ladyship just then.  "Have a care, my lord!" she muttered
threateningly.  "Oh, have a care, I do beseech you.  I am not
so to be crossed!"

"Nor am I, ma'am," he rejoined, and then, before more could be
said, Mr. Caryll stepped forward to remind them of his
presence - which they seemed to stand in danger of forgetting.

"I fear that I intrude, my lord," said he, and bowed in
leave-taking.  "I shall wait upon your lordship later.  Your
most devoted.  Ma'am, your very humble servant."  And he bowed
himself out.

In the ante-room he came upon Lord Rotherby, striding to and
fro, his brow all furrowed with care.  At sight of Mr. Caryll,
the viscount's scowl grew blacker.  "Oons and the devil!" he
cried.  "What make you here?"

"That," said Mr. Caryll pleasantly, "is the very question your
father is asking her ladyship concerning yourself.  Your
servant, sir."  And airy, graceful, smiling that damnable
close smile of his, he was gone, leaving Rotherby very hot and
angry.

Outside Mr. Caryll hailed a chair, and had himself carried to
his lodging in Old Palace Yard, where Leduc awaited him.  As
his bearers swung briskly along, Mr. Caryll sat back and gave
himself up to thought.

Lord Ostermore interested him vastly.  For a moment that day
the earl had aroused his anger, as you may have judged from
the sudden resolve upon which he had acted when he delivered
him that letter, thus embarking at the eleventh hour upon a
task which he had already determined to abandon.  He knew not
now whether to rejoice or deplore that he had acted upon that
angry impulse.  He knew not, indeed, whether to pity or
despise this man who was swayed by no such high motives as
must have affected most of those who were faithful to the
exiled James.  Those motives - motives of chivalry and
romanticism in most cases - Lord Ostermore would have despised
if he could have understood them; for he was a man of the type
that despises all things that are not essentially practical,
whose results are not immediately obvious.  Being all but
ruined by his association with the South Sea Company, he was
willing for the sake of profit to turn traitor to the king de
facto, even as thirty years ago, actuated by similar motives,
he had turned traitor to the king de jure.

What was one to make of such a man, wondered Mr. Caryll.  If
he were equipped with wit enough to apprehend the baseness of
his conduct, he would be easily understood and it would be
easy to despise him.  But Mr. Caryll perceived that he was
dealing with one who never probed into the deeps of anything -
himself and his own conduct least of all - and that a
deplorable lack of perception, of understanding almost,
deprived his lordship of the power to feel as most men feel,
to judge as most men judge.  And hence was it that Mr. Caryll
thought him a subject for pity rather than contempt.  Even in
that other thirty-year-old matter that so closely touched Mr.
Caryll, the latter was sure that the same pitiful shortcomings
might be urged in the man's excuse.

Meanwhile, behind him at Stretton House, Mr. Caryll had left a
scene of strife between Lady Ostermore and her son on one side
and Lord Ostermore on the other.  Weak and vacillating as he
was in most things, it seemed that the earl could be strong in
his dislike of his son, and firm in his determination not to
condone the infamy of his behavior toward Hortensia Winthrop.

"The fault is yours," Rotherby sought to excuse himself again
- employing the old argument, and in an angry, contemptuous
tone that was entirely unfilial.  "I'd ha' married the girl in
earnest, but for your threats to disinherit me."

"You fool!" his father stormed at him, "did you suppose that
if I should disinherit you for marrying her, I should be
likely to do less for your luring her into a mock marriage?
I've done with you!  Go your ways for a damned profligate - a
scandal to the very name of gentleman.  I've done with you!"

And to that the earl adhered in spite of all that Rotherby and
his mother could urge.  He stamped out of the library with a
final command to his son to quit his house and never disgrace
it again by his presence.  Rotherby looked ruefully at his
mother.

"He means it,"' said he.  "He never loved me.  He was never a
father to me."

"Were you ever greatly a son to him?" asked her ladyship.

"As much as he would ha' me be," he answered, his black face
very sullen.  "Oh, 'sdeath!  I am damnably used by him."  He
paced the chamber, storming.  "All this garboil about
nothing!", he complained.  "Was he never young himself?  And
when all is said, there's no harm done.  The girl's been
fetched home again."

"Pshaw!  Ye're a fool, Rotherby - a fool, and there's an end
on't," said his mother.  "I sometimes wonder which is the
greater fool - you or your father.  And yet he can marvel that
you are his son.  What do ye think would have happened if you
had had your way with that bread-and-butter miss?  It had been
matter enough to hang you."

"Pooh!" said the viscount, dropping into a chair and staring
sullenly at the carpet.  Then sullenly he added: "His lordship
would have been glad on't - so some one would have been
pleased.  As it is - "

"As it is, ye'd better find the man Green who was at
Maidstone, and stop his mouth with guineas.  He is aware of
what passed."

"Bah!  Green was there on other business."  And he told her of
the suspicions the messenger entertained against Mr. Caryll.

It set her ladyship thinking.  "Why," she said presently,
"'twill be that!"

"'Twill be what, ma'am?" asked Rotherby, looking up.

"Why, this fellow Caryll must ha' bubbled the messenger in
spite of the search he may have made.  I found the popinjay
here with your father, the pair as thick as thieves - and your
father with a paper in his hand as fine as a cobweb.  'Sdeath!
I'll be sworn he's a damned Jacobite."

Rotherby was on his feet in an instant.  He remembered
suddenly all that he had overheard at Maidstone.  "Oho!" he
crowed.  "What cause have ye to think that?"

"Cause?  Why, what I have seen.  Besides, I feel it in my
bones.  My every instinct tells me 'tis so."

"If you should prove right!  Oh, if you should prove right!
Death!  I'd find a way to settle the score of that pert fellow
from France, and to dictate terms to his lordship at the same
time."

Her ladyship stared at him.  "Ye're an unnatural hound,
Rotherby.  Would ye betray your own father?"

"Betray him?  No!  But I'll set a term to his plotting.  Egad!
Has he not lost enough in the South Sea Bubble, without
sinking the little that is left in some wild-goose Jacobite
plot?"

"How shall it matter to you, since he's sworn to disinherit
you?"

"How, madam?" Rotherby laughed cunningly.  "I'll prevent the
one and the other - and pay off Mr. Caryll at the same time.
Three birds with one stone, let me perish!"  He reached for
his hat.  "I must find this fellow Green."

"What will you do?" she asked, a slight anxiety trembling in
her voice.

"Stir up his suspicions of Caryll.  He'll be ready enough to
act after his discomfiture at Maidstone.  I'll warrant he's
smarting under it.  If once we can find cause to lay Caryll by
the heels, the fear of the consequences should bring his
lordship to his senses.  'Twill be my turn then."

"But you'll do nothing that - that will hurt your father?" she
enjoined him, her hand upon his shoulder.

"Trust me," he laughed, and added cynically: "It would hardly
sort with my interests to involve him.  It will serve me best
to frighten him into reason and a sense of his paternal duty."




CHAPTER IX

THE CHAMPION


Mr. Caryll was well and handsomely housed, as became the man
of fashion, in the lodging he had taken in Old Palace Yard.
Knowing him from abroad, it was not impossible that the
government - fearful of sedition since the disturbance caused
by the South Sea distress, and aware of an undercurrent of
Jacobitism - might for a time, at least, keep an eye upon him.
It behooved him, therefore, to appear neither more nor less
than a lounger, a gentleman of pleasure who had come to London
in quest of diversion.  To support this appearance, Mr. Caryll
had sought out some friends of his in town.  There were
Stapleton and Collis, who had been at Oxford with him, and
with whom he had ever since maintained a correspondence and a
friendship.  He sought them out on the very evening of his
arrival - after his interview with Lord Ostermore.  He had the
satisfaction of being handsomely welcomed by them, and was
plunged under their guidance into the gaieties that the town
afforded liberally for people of quality.

Mr. Caryll was - as I hope you have gathered - an agreeable
fellow, very free, moreover, with the contents of his
well-equipped purse; and so you may conceive that the town
showed him a very friendly, cordial countenance.  He fell into
the habits of the men whose company he frequented; his days
were as idle as theirs, and spent at the parade, the Ring, the
play, the coffeehouse and the ordinary.

But under the gay exterior he affected he carried a spirit of
most vile unrest.  The anger which had prompted his impulse to
execute, after all, the business on which he was come, and to
deliver his father the letter that was to work his ruin, was
all spent.  He had cooled, and cool it was idle for him to
tell himself that Lord Ostermore, by his heartless allusion to
the crime of his early years, had proved himself worthy of
nothing but the pit Mr. Caryll had been sent to dig for him.
There were moments when he sought to compel himself so to
think, to steel himself against all other considerations.  But
it was idle.  The reflection that the task before him was
unnatural came ever to revolt him.  To gain ease, the most
that he could do - and he had the faculty of it developed in a
preternatural degree - was to put the business from him for
the time, endeavor to forget it.  And he had another matter to
consider and to plague him - the matter of Hortensia Winthrop.
He thought of her a great deal more than was good for his
peace of mind, for all that he pretended to a gladness that
things were as they were.  Each morning that he lounged at the
parade in St. James's Park, each evening that he visited the
Ring, it was in the hope of catching some glimpse of her among
the fashionable women that went abroad to see and to be seen.
And on the third morning after his arrival the thing he hoped
for came to pass.

It had happened that my lady had ordered her carriage that
morning, dressed herself with the habitual splendor, which but
set off the shortcomings of her lean and angular person,
egregiously coiffed, pulvilled and topknotted, and she had
sent a message amounting to a command to Mistress Winthrop
that she should drive in the park with her.

Poor Hortensia, whose one desire was to hide her face from the
town's uncharitable sight just then, fearing, indeed, that
Rumor's unscrupulous tongue would be as busy about her
reputation as her ladyship had represented, attempted to
assert herself by refusing to obey the command.  It was in
vain.  Her ladyship dispensed with ambassadors, and went in
person to convey her orders to her husband's ward, and to
enforce them.

"What's this I am told?" quoth she, as she sailed into
Hortensia's room.  "Do my wishes count for nothing, that you
send me pert answers by my woman?"

Hortensia rose.  She had been sitting by the window, a book in
her lap.  "Not so, indeed, madam.  Not pert, I trust.  I am
none so well, and I fear the sun."

"'Tis little wonder," laughed her ladyship; "and I'm glad
on't, for it shows ye have a conscience somewhere.  But 'tis
no matter for that.  I am tender for your reputation,
mistress, and I'll not have you shunning daylight like the
guilty thing ye know yourself to be."

"'Tis false, madam," said Hortensia, with indignation.  "Your
ladyship knows it to be false."

"Harkee, ninny, if you'd have the town believe it false,
you'll show yourself - show that ye have no cause for shame,
no cause to hide you from the eyes of honest folk.  Come,
girl; bid your woman get your hood and tippet.  The carriage
stays for us."

To Hortensia her ladyship's seemed, after all, a good
argument.  Did she hide, what must the town think but that it
confirmed the talk that she made no doubt was going round
already.  Better to go forth and brave it, and surely it
should disarm the backbiters if she showed herself in the park
with Lord Rotherby's own mother.

It never occurred to her that this seeming tenderness for her
reputation might be but wanton cruelty on her ladyship's part;
a gratifying of her spleen against the girl by setting her in
the pillory of public sight to the end that she should
experience the insult of supercilious glances and lips that
smile with an ostentation of furtiveness; a desire to put down
her pride and break the spirit which my lady accounted
insolent and stubborn.

Suspecting naught of this, she consented, and drove out with
her ladyship as she was desired to do.  But understanding of
her ladyship's cruel motives, and repentance of her own
acquiescence, were not long in following.  Soon - very soon -
she realized that anything would have been better than the
ordeal she was forced to undergo.

It was a warm, sunny morning, and the park was crowded with
fashionable loungers.  Lady Ostermore left her carriage at the
gates, and entered the enclosure on foot, accompanied by
Hortensia and followed at a respectful distance by a footman.
Her arrival proved something of a sensation.  Hats were swept
off to her ladyship, sly glances flashed at her companion, who
went pale, but apparently serene, eyes looking straight before
her; and there was an obvious concealing of smiles at first,
which later grew to be all unconcealed, and, later still,
became supplemented by remarks that all might hear, remarks
which did not escape - as they were meant not to escape - her
ladyship and Mistress Winthrop.

"Madam," murmured the girl, in her agony of shame, "we were
not well-advised to come.  Will not your ladyship turn back?"

Her ladyship displayed a vinegary smile, and looked at her
companion over the top of her slowly moving fan.  "Why?  Is't
not pleasant here?" quoth she.  "'Twill be more agreeable
under the trees yonder.  The sun will not reach you there,
child."

"'Tis not the sun I mind, madam," said Hortensia, but received
no answer.  Perforce she must pace on beside her ladyship.

Lord Rotherby came by, arm in arm with his friend, the Duke of
Wharton.  It was a one-sided friendship.  Lord Rotherby was
but one of the many of his type who furnished a court, a
valetaille, to the gay, dissolute, handsome, witty duke, who
might have been great had he not preferred his vices to his
worthier parts.

As they went by, Lord Rotherby bared his head and bowed, as
did his companion.  Her ladyship smiled upon him, but
Hortensia's eyes looked rigidly ahead, her face a stone.  She
heard his grace's insolent laugh as they passed on; she heard
his voice - nowise subdued, for he was a man who loved to let
the world hear what he might have to say.

"Gad!  Rotherby, the wind has changed!  Your Dulcinea flies
with you o' Wednesday, and has ne'er a glance for you o'
Saturday!  I' faith! ye deserve no better.  Art a clumsy
gallant to have been overtaken, and the maid's in the right
on't to resent your clumsiness."

Rotherby's reply was lost in a splutter of laughter from a
group of sycophants who had overheard his grace's criticism
and were but too ready to laugh at aught his grace might deign
to utter.  Her cheeks burned; it was by an effort that she
suppressed the tears that anger was forcing to her eyes.

The duke, 'twas plain, had set the fashion.  Emulators were
not wanting.  Stray words she caught; by instinct was she
conscious of the oglings, the fluttering of fans from the
women, the flashing of quizzing-glasses from the men.  And
everywhere was there a suppressed laugh, a stifled exclamation
of surprise at her appearance in public - yet not so stifled
but that it reached her, as it was intended that it should.

In the shadow of a great elm, around which there was a seat, a
little group had gathered, of which the centre was the
sometime toast of the town and queen of many Wells, the Lady
Mary Deller, still beautiful and still unwed - as is so often
the way of reigning toasts - but already past her pristine
freshness, already leaning upon the support of art to maintain
the endowments she had had from nature.  She was accounted
witty by the witless, and by some others.

Of the group that paid its court to her and her companions -
two giggling cousins in their first season were Mr. Caryll and
his friends, Sir Harry Collis and Mr. Edward Stapleton, the
former of whom - he was the lady's brother-in-law - had just
presented him.  Mr. Caryll was dressed with even more than his
ordinary magnificence.  He was in dove-colored cloth, his coat
very richly laced with gold, his waistcoat - of white brocade
with jeweled buttons, the flower-pattern outlined in finest
gold thread - descended midway to his knees, whilst the
ruffles at his wrists and the Steinkirk at his throat were of
the finest point.  He cut a figure of supremest elegance, as
he stood there, his chestnut head slightly bowed in deference
as my Lady Mary spoke, his hat tucked under his arm, his right
hand outstretched beside him to rest upon the gold head of his
clouded-amber cane.

To the general he was a stranger still in town, and of the
sort that draws the eye and provokes inquiry.  Lady Mary, the
only goal of whose shallow existence was the attention of the
sterner sex, who loved to break hearts as a child breaks toys,
for the fun of seeing how they look when broken - and who,
because of that, had succeeded in breaking far fewer than she
fondly imagined - looked up into his face with the "most
perditiously alluring" eyes in England - so Mr. Craske, the
poet, who stood at her elbow now, had described them in the
dedicatory sonnet of his last book of poems.  (Wherefore, in
parenthesis be it observed, she had rewarded him with twenty
guineas, as he had calculated that she would.)

There was a sudden stir in the group.  Mr. Craske had caught
sight of Lady Ostermore and Mistress Winthrop, and he fell to
giggling, a flimsy handkerchief to his painted lips.  "Oh,
'Sbud!" he bleated.  "Let me die!  The audaciousness of the
creature!  And behold me the port and glance of her!  Cold as
a vestal, let me perish!"

Lady Mary turned with the others to look in the direction he
was pointing - pointing openly, with no thought of
dissembling.

Mr. Caryll's eyes fell upon Mistress Winthrop, and his glance
was oddly perceptive.  He observed those matters of which Mr.
Craske had seemed to make sardonic comment: the erect
stiffness of her carriage, the eyes that looked neither to
right nor left, and the pallor of her face.  He observed, too,
the complacent air with which her ladyship advanced beside her
husband's ward, her fan moving languidly, her head nodding to
her acquaintance, as in supreme unconcern of the stir her
coming had effected.

Mr. Caryll had been dull indeed, knowing what he knew, had he
not understood to the full the humiliation to which Mistress
Hortensia was being of purpose set submitted.

And just then Rotherby, who had turned, with Wharton and
another now, came by them again.  This time he halted, and his
companions with him, for just a moment, to address his mother.
She turned; there was an exchange of greetings, in which
Mistress Hortensia standing rigid as stone - took no part.  A
silence fell about; quizzing-glasses went up; all eyes were
focussed upon the group.  Then Rotherby and his friends
resumed their way.

"The dog!" said Mr. Caryll, between his teeth, but went
unheard by any, for in that moment Dorothy Deller - the
younger of the Lady Mary's cousins - gave expression to the
generous and as yet unsullied little heart that was her own.

"Oh, 'tis shameful!" she cried.  "Will you not go speak with
her, Molly?"

The Lady Mary stiffened.  She looked at the company about her
with an apologetic smile.  "I beg that ye'll not heed the
child," said she.  "'Tis not that she is without morals - but
without knowledge.  An innocent little fool; no worse."

"'Tis bad enough, I vow," laughed an old beau, who sought fame
as a man of a cynical turn of humor.

"But fortunately rare," said Mr. Caryll dryly.  "Like charity,
almost unknown in this Babylon."

His tone was not quite nice, although perhaps the Lady Mary
was the only one to perceive the note of challenge in it.  But
Mr. Craske, the poet, diverted attention to himself by a
prolonged, malicious chuckle.  Rotherby was just moving away
from his mother at that moment.

"They've never a word for each other to-day!" he cried.  "Oh,
'Sbud! not so much as the mercy of a glance will the lady
afford him."  And he burst into the ballad of King Francis:

                "Souvent femme varie,
                 Bien, fol est qui s'y fie!"

and laughed his prodigious delight at the aptness of his
quotation.

Mr. Caryll put up his gold-rimmed quizzing-glass, and directed
through that powerful weapon of offence an eye of supreme
displeasure upon the singer.  He could not contain his rage,
yet from his languid tone none would have suspected it.
"Sir," said he, "ye've a singular unpleasant voice."

Mr. Craske, thrown out of countenance by so much directness,
could only stare; the same did the others, though some few
tittered, for Mr. Craske, when all was said, was held in no
great esteem by the discriminant.

Mr. Caryll lowered his glass.  "I've heard it said by the
uncharitable that ye were a lackey before ye became a
plagiarist.  'Tis a rumor I shall contradict in future; 'tis
plainly a lie, for your voice betrays you to have been a
chairman."

"Sir - sir - " spluttered the poetaster, crimson with anger
and mortification.  "Is this - is this - seemly - between
gentlemen?"

"Between gentlemen it would not be seemly," Mr. Caryll agreed.

Mr. Craske, quivering, yet controlling himself, bowed stiffly.
"I have too much respect for myself - " he gasped.

"Ye'll be singular in that, no doubt," said Mr. Caryll, and
turned his shoulder upon him.

Again Mr. Craske appeared to make an effort at self-control;
again he bowed.  "I know - I hope - what is due to the Lady
Mary Deller, to - to answer you as - as befits.  But you shall
hear from me, sir.  You shall hear from me."

He bowed a third time - a bow that took in the entire company
- and withdrew in high dudgeon and with a great show of
dignity.  A pause ensued, and then the Lady Mary reproved Mr.
Caryll.

"Oh, 'twas cruel in you, sir," she cried.  "Poor Mr. Craske!
And to dub him plagiarist! 'Twas the unkindest cut of all!"

"Truth, madam, is never kind."

"Oh, fie!  You make bad worse!" she cried.

"He'll put you in the pillory of his verse for this," laughed
Collis.  "Ye'll be most scurvily lampooned for't."

"Poor Mr. Craske!" sighed the Lady Mary again.

"Poor, indeed; but not in the sense to deserve pity.  An
upstart impostor such as that to soil a lady with his
criticism!"

Lady Mary's brows went up.  "You use a singular severity,
sir," she opined, "and I think it unwise in you to grow so hot
in the defence of a reputation whose owner has so little care
for it herself."

Mr. Caryll looked at her out of his level gray-green eyes; a
hot answer quivered on his tongue, an answer that had crushed
her venom for some time and had probably left him with a
quarrel on his hands.  Yet his smile, as he considered her,
was very sweet, so sweet that her ladyship, guessing nothing
of the bitterness it was used to cover, went as near a smirk
as it was possible for one so elegant.  He was, she judged,
another victim ripe for immolation on the altar of her
goddessship.  And Mr. Caryll, who had taken her measure very
thoroughly, seeing something of how her thoughts were running,
bethought him of a sweeter vengeance.

"Lady Mary," he cried, a soft reproach in his voice, "I have
been sore mistook in you if you are one to be guided by the
rabble."  And he waved a hand toward the modish throng.

She knit her fine brows, bewildered.

"Ah!" he cried, interpreting her glance to suit his ends,
"perish the thought, indeed!  I knew that I could not be
wrong.  I knew that one so peerless in all else must be
peerless, too, in her opinions; judging for herself, and
standing firm upon her judgment in disdain of meaner souls -
mere sheep to follow their bell-wether."

She opened her mouth to speak, but said nothing, being too
intrigued by this sudden and most sweet flattery.  Her mere
beauty had oft been praised, and in terms that glowed like
fire.  But what was that compared with this fine appreciation
of her less obvious mental parts - and that from one who had
seen the world?

Mr. Caryll was bending over her.  "What a chance is here," he
was murmuring, "to mark your lofty detachment - to show how
utter is your indifference to what the common herd may think."

"As - as how?" she asked, blinking up at him.

The others stood at gaze, scarce yet suspecting the drift of
so much talk.

"There is a poor lady yonder, of whose fair name a bubble is
being blown and pricked.  I dare swear there's not a woman
here durst speak to her.  Yet what a chance for one that
dared!  How fine a triumph would be hers!"  He sighed.
"Heigho!  I almost wish I were a woman, that I might make that
triumph mine and mark my superiority to these painted dolls
that have neither wit nor courage."

The Lady Mary rose, a faint color in her cheeks, a sparkle in
her fine eyes.  A great joy flashed into Mr. Caryll's in quick
response; a joy in her - she thought with ready vanity - and a
heightening admiration.

"Will you make it yours, as it should be - as it must ever be
- to lead and not to follow?" he cried, flattering
incredibility trembling in his voice.

"And why not, sir?" she demanded, now thoroughly aroused.

"Why not, indeed - since you are you?" quoth he.  "It is what
I had hoped in you, and yet - and yet what I had almost feared
to hope."

She frowned upon him now, so excellently had he done his work.
"Why should you have feared that?"

"Alas! I am a man of little faith - unworthy, indeed, your
good opinion since I entertained a doubt.  It was a
blasphemy."

She smiled again.  "You acknowledge your faults with such a
grace," said she, "that we must needs forgive them.  And now
to show you how much you need forgiveness.  Come, children,"
she bade her cousins - for whose innocence she had made
apology but a moment back.  "Your arm, Harry," she begged her
brother-in-law.

Sir Harry obeyed her readily, but without eagerness.  In his
heart he cursed his friend Caryll for having set her on to
this.

Mr. Caryll himself hung upon her other side, his eyes toward
Lady Ostermore and Hortensia, who, whilst being observed by
all, were being approached by few; and these few confined
themselves to an exchange of greetings with her ladyship,
which constituted a worse offence to Mistress Winthrop than
had they stayed away.

Suddenly, as if drawn by his ardent gaze, Hortensia's eyes
moved at last from their forward fixity.  Her glance met Mr.
Caryll's across the intervening space.  Instantly he swept off
his hat, and bowed profoundly.  The action drew attention to
himself.  All eyes were focussed upon him, and between many a
pair there was a frown for one who should dare thus to run
counter to the general attitude.

But there was more to follow.  The Lady Mary accepted Mr.
Caryll's salutation of Hortensia as a signal.  She led the way
promptly, and the little band swept forward, straight for its
goal, raked by the volleys from a thousand eyes, under which
the Lady Mary already began to giggle excitedly.

Thus they reached the countess, the countess standing very
rigid in her amazement, to receive them.

"I hope I see your ladyship well," said Lady Mary.

"I hope your ladyship does," answered the countess tartly.

Mistress Winthrop's eyes were lowered; her cheeks were
scarlet.  Her distress was plain, born of her doubt of the
Lady Mary's purpose, and suspense as to what might follow.

"I have not the honor of your ward's acquaintance, Lady
Ostermore," said Lady Mary, whilst the men were bowing, and
her cousins curtseying to the countess and her companion
collectively.

The countess gasped, recovered, and eyed the speaker without
any sign of affection.  "My husband's ward, ma'am," she
corrected, in a voice that seemed to discourage further
mention of Hortensia.

"'Tis but a distinction," put in Mr. Caryll suggestively.

"Indeed, yes.  Will not your ladyship present me?"  The
countess' malevolent eyes turned a moment upon Mr. Caryll,
smiling demurely at Lady Mary's elbow.  In his face - as well
as in the four words he had uttered - she saw that here was
work of his, and he gained nothing in her favor by it.
Meanwhile there were no grounds - other than such as must have
been wantonly offensive to the Lady Mary, and so not to be
dreamed of - upon which to refuse her request.  The countess
braced herself, and with an ill grace performed the brief
ceremony of presentation.

Mistress Winthrop looked up an instant, then down again; it
was a piteous, almost a pleading glance.

Lady Mary, leaving the countess to Sir Harry Stapleton, Caryll
and the others, moved to Hortensia's side for a moment she was
at loss what to say, and took refuge in a commonplace.

"I have long desired the pleasure of your acquaintance," said
she.

"I am honored, madam," replied Hortensia, with downcast eyes.
Then lifting them with almost disconcerting suddenness.  "Your
ladyship has chosen an odd season in which to gratify this
desire with which you honor me."

Lady Mary laughed, as much at the remark as for the benefit of
those whose eyes were upon her.  She knew there would not be
wanting many who would condemn her; but these should be far
outnumbered by those who would be lost in admiration of her
daring, that she could so fly in the face of public opinion;
and she was grateful to Mr. Caryll for having suggested to her
a course of such distinction.

"I could have chosen no better season," she replied, "to mark
my scorn of evil tongues and backbiters."

Color stained Hortensia's cheek again; gratitude glowed in her
eyes.  "You are very noble, madam," she answered with
flattering earnestness.

"La!" said the Lady Mary.  "Is nobility, then, so easily
achieved?"  And thereafter they talked of inconsequent
trifles, until Mr. Caryll moved towards them, and Lady Mary
turned aside to speak to the countess.

At Mr. Caryll's approach Hortensia's eyes had been lowered
again, and she made no offer to address him as he stood before
her now, hat under arm, leaning easily upon his amber cane.

"Oh, heart of stone!" said he at last.  "Am I not yet
forgiven?"

She misread his meaning - perhaps already the suspicion she
now voiced had been in her mind.  She looked up at him
sharply.  "Was it - was it you who fetched the Lady Mary to
me?" she inquired.

"Lo!"  said he.  "You have a voice!  Now Heaven be praised!  I
was fearing it was lost for me - that you had made some awful
vow never again to rejoice my ears with the music of it."

"You have not answered my question," she reminded him.

"Nor you mine," said he.  "I asked you am I not yet forgiven."

"Forgiven what?"

"For being born an impudent, fleering coxcomb - twas that you
called me, I think."

She flushed deeply.  "If you would win forgiveness, you should
not remind me of the offence," she answered low.

"Nay," he rejoined, "that is to confound forgiveness with
forgetfulness.  I want you to forgive and yet to remember."

"That were to condone."

"What else?  'Tis nothing less will satisfy me."

"You expect too much," she answered, with a touch that was
almost of sternness.

He shrugged and smiled whimsically.  "It is my way," he said
apologetically.  "Nature has made me expectant, and life,
whilst showing me the folly of it, has not yet cured me."

She looked at him, and repeated her earlier question.  "Was it
at your bidding that Lady Mary came to speak with me?"

"Fie!" he cried.  "What insinuations do you make against her?"

"Insinuations?"

"What else? That she should do things at my bidding!"

She smiled understanding.  "You have a talent, sir, for
crooked answers."

"'Tis to conceal the rectitude of my behavior."

"It fails of its object, then," said she, "for it deludes no
one."  She paused and laughed at his look of assumed
blankness.  "I am deeply beholden to you," she whispered
quickly, breathing at once gratitude and confusion.

"Though I don't descry the cause," said he, "'twill be
something to comfort me."

More he might have added then, for the mad mood was upon him,
awakened by those soft brown eyes of hers.  But in that moment
the others of that little party crowded upon them to take
their leave of Mistress Winthrop.

Mr. Caryll felt satisfied that enough had been done to curb
the slander concerning Hortensia.  But he was not long in
learning how profound was his mistake.  On every side he
continued to hear her discussed, and in such terms as made his
ears tingle and his hands itch to be at work in her defence;
for, with smirks and sneers and innuendoes, her escapade with
Lord Rotherby continued to furnish a topic for the town as her
ladyship had sworn it would.  Yet by what right could he
espouse her cause with any one of her defamers without
bringing her fair name into still more odious notoriety?

And meanwhile he knew that he was under strict surveillance
from Mr. Green; knew that he was watched wherever he went; and
nothing but his confidence that no evidence could be produced
against him allowed him to remain, as he did, all unconcerned
of this.

Leduc had more than once seen Mr. Green about Old Palace Yard,
besides a couple of his underlings, one or the other of whom
was never absent from the place, no doubt with intent to
observe who came and went at Mr. Caryll's.  Once, indeed,
during the absence of master and servant, Mr. Caryll's lodging
was broken into, and on Leduc's return he found a confusion
which told him how thoroughly the place had been ransacked.

If Mr. Caryll had had anything to hide, this would have given
him the hint to take his precautions; but as he had nothing
that was in the least degree in incriminating, he went his
ways in supremest unconcern of the vigilance exerted over him.
He used, however, a greater discretion in the resorts he
frequented.  And if upon occasion he visited such Tory
meeting-places as the Bell Tavern in King Street or the
Cocoa-Tree in Pall Mall, he was still more often to be found
at White's, that ultra-Whig resort.

It was at this latter house, one evening three or four days
after his meeting with Hortensia in the park, that the chance
was afforded him at last of vindicating her honor in a manner
that need not add to the scandal that was already abroad, nor
serve to couple his name with hers unduly.  And it was Lord
Rotherby himself who afforded him the opportunity.

The thing fell out in this wise: Mr. Caryll was at cards with
Harry Collis and Stapleton and Major Gascoigne, in a room
above-stairs.  There were at least a dozen others present,
some also at play, others merely lounging.  Of the latter was
his Grace of Wharton.  He was a slender, graceful gentleman,
whose face, if slightly effeminate and markedly dissipated,
was nevertheless of considerable beauty.  He was very splendid
in a suit of green camlett and silver lace, and he wore a
flaxen periwig without powder.

He was awaiting Rotherby, with whom - as he told the company -
he was for a frolic at Drury Lane, where a ridotto was
following the play.  He spoke, as usual, in a loud voice that
all might hear, and his talk was loose and heavily salted as
became the talk of a rake of his exalted rank.  It was chiefly
concerned with airing his bitter grievance against Mrs.
Girdlebank, of the Theatre Royal, of whom he announced himself
"devilishly enamoured."

He inveighed against her that she should have the gross
vulgarity to love her husband, and against her husband that he
should have the audacity to play the watchdog over her, and
bark and growl at the duke's approach.

"A plague on all husbands, say I," ended the worthy president
of the Bold Bucks.

"Nay, now, but I'm a husband myself, gad!" protested Mr.
Sidney, who was quite the most delicate, mincing man of
fashion about town, and one of that valetaille that hovered
about his Grace of Wharton's heels.

"'Tis no matter in your case," said the duke, with that
contempt he used towards his followers.  "Your wife's too ugly
to be looked at."  And Mr. Sidney's fresh protest was drowned
in the roar of laughter that went up to applaud that brutal
frankness.  Mr. Caryll turned to the fop, who happened to be
standing at his elbow.

"Never repine, man," said he.  "In the company you keep, such
a wife makes for peace of mind.  To have that is to have
much."

Wharton resumed his railings at the Girdlebanks, and was still
at them when Rotherby came in.

"At last, Charles!" the duke hailed him, rising.  "Another
minute, and I had gone without you."

But Rotherby scarce looked at him, and answered with unwonted
shortness.  His eyes had discovered Mr. Caryll.  It was the
first time he had run against him since that day, over a week
ago, at Stretton House, and at sight of him now all Rotherby's
spleen was moved.  He stood and stared, his dark eyes
narrowing, his cheeks flushing slightly under their tan.
Wharton, who had approached him, observing his sudden halt,
his sudden look of concentration, asked him shortly what might
ail him.

"I have seen someone I did not expect to find in a resort of
gentlemen," said Rotherby, his eyes ever on Mr. Caryll, who -
engrossed in his game - was all unconscious of his lordship's
advent.

Wharton followed the direction of his companion's gaze, and
giving now attention himself to Mr. Caryll, he fell to
appraising his genteel appearance, negligent of the
insinuation in what Rotherby had said.

"'Sdeath!" swore the duke.  "'Tis a man of taste - a travelled
gentleman by his air.  Behold me the grace of that
shoulder-knot, Charles, and the set of that most admirable
coat.  Fifty guineas wouldn't buy his Steinkirk.  Who is this
beau?"

"I'll present him to your grace," said Rotherby shortly.  He
had pretentions at being a beau himself; but his grace -
supreme arbiter in such matters - had never yet remarked it.

They moved across the room, greetings passing as they went.
At their approach, Mr. Caryll looked up.  Rotherby made him a
leg with an excessive show of deference, arguing irony.  "'Tis
an unlooked-for pleasure to meet you here, sir," said he in a
tone that drew the attention of all present.

"No pleasures are so sweet as the unexpected," answered Mr.
Caryll, with casual amiability, and since he perceived at once
the errand upon which Lord Rotherby was come to him, he went
half-way to meet him.  "Has your lordship been contracting any
marriages of late?" he inquired.

The viscount smiled icily.  "You have quick wits, sir," said
he, "which is as it should be in one who lives by them."

"Let your lordship be thankful that such is not your own
case," returned Mr. Caryll, with imperturbable good humor, and
sent a titter round the room.

"A hit!  A shrewd hit, 'pon honor!" cried Wharton, tapping his
snuff-box.  "I vow to Gad, Ye're undone, Charles.  Ye'd better
play at repartee with Gascoigne, there.  Ye're more of a
weight."

"Your grace," cried Rotherby, suppressing at great cost his
passion, "'tis not to be borne that a fellow of this condition
should sit among men of quality."  And with that he swung
round and addressed the company in general.  "Gentlemen, do
you know who this fellow is? He has the effrontery to take my
name, and call himself Caryll."

Mr. Caryll looked a moment at his brother in the silence that
followed.  Then, as in a flash, he saw his chance of
vindicating Mistress Winthrop, and he seized it.

"And do you know, gentlemen, who this fellow is?" he inquired,
with an air of sly amusement.  "He is - Nay, you shall judge
for yourselves.  You shall hear the story of how we met; it is
the story of his abduction of a lady whose name need not be
mentioned; the story of his dastardly attempt to cozen her
into a mock-marriage."

"Mock  -mock-marriage?" cried the duke and a dozen others with
him, some in surprise, but most in an unbelief that was
already faintly tinged with horror - which argued ill for my
Lord Rotherby when the story should be told.

"You damned rogue - " began his lordship, and would have flung
himself upon Caryll, but that Collis and Stapleton, and
Wharton himself, put forth hands to stay him by main force.

Others, too, had risen.  But Mr. Caryll sat quietly in his
chair, idly fingering the cards before him, and smiling
gently, between amusement and irony.  He was much mistaken if
he did not make Lord Rotherby bitterly regret the initiative
he had taken in their quarrel.

"Gently, my lord," the duke admonished the viscount.  "This -
this gentleman has said that which touches your honor.  He
shall say more.  He shall make good his words, or eat them.
But the matter cannot rest thus."

"It shall not, by God!" swore Rotherby, purple now.  "It shall
not.  I'll kill him like a dog for what he has said."

"But before I die, gentlemen," said Mr. Caryll, "it were well
that you should have the full story of that sorry adventure
from an eye-witness."

"An eye-witness?  Were ye present?" cried two or three in a
breath.

"I desire to lay before you all the story of how we met my
lord there and I.  It is so closely enmeshed with the story of
that abduction and mock-marriage that the one is scarce to be
distinguished from the other."

Rotherby writhed to shake off those who held him.

"Will ye listen to this fellow?" he roared.  "He's a spy, I
tell you - a Jacobite spy!"  He was beside himself with anger
and apprehension, and he never paused to weigh the words he
uttered.  It was with him a question of stopping his accuser's
mouth with whatever mud came under his hands.  "He has no
right here.  It is not to be borne.  I know not by what means
he has thrust himself among you, but - "

"That is a knowledge I can afford your lordship," came
Stapleton's steady voice to interrupt the speaker.  "Mr.
Caryll is here by my invitation."

"And by mine and Gascoigne's here," added Sir Harry Collis,
"and I will answer for his quality to any man who doubts it."

Rotherby glared at Mr. Caryll's sponsors, struck dumb by this
sudden and unexpected refutation of the charge he had leveled.

Wharton, who had stepped aside, knit his brows and flashed his
quizzing-glass - through sheer force of habit - upon Lord
Rotherby.  Then:

"You'll pardon me, Harry," said he, "but you'll see, I hope,
that the question is not impertinent; that I put it to the end
that we may clearly know with whom we have to deal and what
consideration to extend him, what credit to attach to the
communication he is to make us touching my lord here.  Under
what circumstances did you become acquainted with Mr. Caryll?"

"I have known him these twelve years," answered Collis
promptly; "so has Stapleton, so has Gascoigne, so have a dozen
other gentlemen who could be produced, and who, like
ourselves, were at Oxford with him.  For myself and Stapleton,
I can say that our acquaintance - indeed, I should say our
friendship - with Mr. Caryll has been continuous since then,
and that we have visited him on several occasions at his
estate of Maligny in Normandy.  That he habitually inhabits
the country of his birth is the reason why Mr. Caryll has not
hitherto had the advantage of your grace's acquaintance.  Need
I say more to efface the false statement made by my Lord
Rotherby?"

"False?  Do you dare give me the lie, sir?" roared Rotherby.

But the duke soothed him.  Under his profligate exterior his
Grace of Wharton concealed - indeed, wasted - a deal of
shrewdness, ability and inherent strength.  "One thing at a
time, my lord," said the president of the Bold Bucks.  "Let us
attend to the matter of Mr. Caryll."

"Dons and the devil!  Does your grace take sides with him?"

"I take no sides.  But I owe it to myself - we all owe it to
ourselves - that this matter should be cleared."

Rotherby leered at him, his lip trembling with anger.  "Does
the president of the Bold Bucks pretend to administrate a
court of honor?" he sneered heavily.

"Your lordship will gain little by this," Wharton admonished
him, so coldly that Rotherby belatedly came to some portion of
his senses again.  The duke turned to Caryll.  "Mr. Caryll,"
said he, "Sir Harry has given you very handsome credentials,
which would seem to prove you worthy the hospitality of
White's.  You have, however, permitted yourself certain
expressions concerning his lordship here, which we cannot
allow to remain where you have left them.  You must retract,
sir, or make them good."  His gravity, and the preciseness of
his diction now, sorted most oddly with his foppish airs.

Mr. Caryll closed his snuff-box with a snap.  A hush fell
instantly upon the company, which by now was all crowding
about the little table at which sat Mr. Caryll and his three
friends.  A footman who entered at the moment to snuff the
candles and see what the gentlemen might be requiring, was
dismissed the room.  When the door had closed, Mr. Caryll
began to speak.

One more attempt was made by Rotherby to interfere, but this
attempt was disposed of by Wharton, who had constituted
himself entirely master of the proceedings.

"If you will not allow Mr. Caryll to speak, we shall infer
that you fear what he may have to say; you will compel us to
hear him in your absence, and I cannot think that you would
prefer that, my lord."

My lord fell silent.  He was breathing heavily, and his face
was pale, his eyes angry beyond words, what time Mr. Caryll,
in amiable, musical voice, with its precise and at moments
slightly foreign enunciation, unfolded the shameful story of
the affair at the "Adam and Eve," at Maidstone.  He told a
plain, straightforward tale, making little attempt to
reproduce any of its color, giving his audience purely and
simply the facts that had taken place.  He told how he himself
had been chosen as a witness when my lord had heard that there
was a traveller from France in the house, and showed how that
slight circumstance had first awakened his suspicions of foul
play.  He provoked some amusement when he dealt with his
detection and exposure of the sham parson.  But in the main he
was heard with a stern and ominous attention - ominous for
Lord Rotherby.

Rakes these men admittedly were with but few exceptions.  No
ordinary tale of gallantry could have shocked them, or
provoked them to aught but a contemptuous mirth at the expense
of the victim, male or female.  They would have thought little
the worse of a man for running off with the wife, say, of one
of his acquaintance; they would have thought nothing of his
running off with a sister or a daughter - so long as it was
not of their own.  All these were fair game, and if the
husband, father or brother could not protect the wife, sister
or daughter that was his, the more shame to him.  But though
they might be fair game, the game had its rules - anomalous as
it may seem.  These rules Lord Rotherby - if the tale Mr.
Caryll told was true - had violated.  He had practiced a
cheat, the more dastardly because the poor lady who had so
narrowly escaped being his victim had nether father nor
brother to avenge her.  And in every eye that was upon him
Lord Rotherby might have read, had he had the wit to do so,
the very sternest condemnation.

"A pretty story, as I've a soul!" was his grace's comment,
when Mr. Caryll had done.  "A pretty story, my Lord Rotherby.
I have a stomach for strong meat myself.  But - odds my life!
- this is too nauseous!"

Rotherby glared at him.  "'Slife! your grace is grown very
nice on a sudden!" he sneered.  "The president of the Bold
Bucks, the master of the Hell Fire Club, is most oddly
squeamish where the diversions of another are concerned."

"Diversions?" said his grace, his eyebrows raised until they
all but vanished under the golden curls of his peruke.
"Diversions?  Ha!  I observe that you make no attempt to deny
the story.  You admit it, then?"

There was a stir in the group, a drawing back from his
lordship.  He observed it, trembling between chagrin and rage.
"What's here?" he cried, and laughed contemptuously.  "Oh, ah!
You'll follow where his grace leads you!  Ye've followed him
so long in lewdness that now yell follow him in conversion!
But as for you, sir," and he swung fiercely upon Caryll, "you
and your precious story - will you maintain it sword in hand?"

"I can do better," answered Mr. Caryll, "if any doubts my
word."

"As how?"

"I can prove it categorically, by witnesses."

"Well said, Caryll," Stapleton approved him.

"And if I say that you lie - you and your witnesses?"

"'T is you will be liar," said Mr. Caryll.

"Besides, it is a little late for that," cut in the duke.

"Your grace," cried Rotherby, "is this affair yours?"

"No, I thank Heaven!" said his grace, and sat down.

Rotherby scowled at the man who until ten minutes ago had been
his friend and boon companion, and there was more of contempt
than anger in his eyes.  He turned again to Mr. Caryll, who
was watching him with a gleam of amusement - that infernally
irritating amusement of his - in his gray-green eyes.

"Well?" he demanded foolishly, "have you naught to say?"

"I had thought," returned Mr. Caryll, "that I had said
enough."  And the duke laughed aloud.

Rotherby's lip was curled.  "Ha!  You don't think, now, that
you may have said too much?"

Mr. Caryll stifled a yawn.  "Do you?" he inquired blandly.

"Ay, by God!  Too much for a gentleman to leave unpunished."

"Possibly.  But what gentleman is concerned in this?"

"I am!" thundered Rotherby.

"I see.  And how do you conceive that you answer the
description?"

Rotherby swore at him with great choice and variety.  "You
shall learn," he promised him.  "My friends shall wait on you
to-night."

"I wonder who will carry his message?" ventured Collis to the
ceiling.  Rotherby turned on him, fierce as a rat.  "It is a
matter you may discover to your cost, Sir Harry," he snarled.

"I think," put in his grace very languidly, "that you are
troubling the harmony that is wont to reign here."

His lordship stood still a moment.  Then, quite suddenly, he
snatched up a candlestick to hurl at Mr. Caryll.  But he had
it wrenched from his hands ere he could launch it.

He stood a moment, discomfited, glowering upon his brother.
"My friends shall wait on you to-night," he repeated.

"You said so before," Mr. Caryll replied wearily.  "I shall
endeavor to make them welcome."

His lordship nodded stupidly, and strode to the door.  His
departure was observed in silence.  On every face he read his
sentence.  These men - rakes though they were, professedly -
would own him no more for their associate; and what these men
thought to-night not a gentleman in town but would be thinking
the same tomorrow.  He had the stupidity to lay it all to the
score of Mr. Caryll, not perceiving that he had brought it
upon himself by his own aggressiveness.  He paused, his hand
upon the doorknob, and turned to loose a last shaft at them.

"As for you others, that follow your bell-wether there," and
he indicated his grace, whose shoulder was towards him, "this
matter ends not here."

And with that general threat he passed out, and that snug room
at White's knew him no more.

Major Gascoigne was gathering up the cards that had been flung
down when first the storm arose.  Mr. Caryll bent to assist
him.  And the last voice Lord Rotherby heard as he departed
was Mr. Caryll's, and the words it uttered were: "Come, Ned;
the deal is with you."

His lordship swore through his teeth, and went downstairs
heavily.




CHAPTER X

SPURS TO THE RELUCTANT


Before Mr. Caryll left White's - which he did at a
comparatively early hour, that he might be at home to receive
Lord Rotherby's friends - not a man present but had offered
him his services in the affair he had upon his hands.
Wharton, indeed, was not to be denied for one; and for the
other Mr. Caryll desired Gascoigne to do him the honor of
representing him.

It was a fine, dry night, and feeling the need for exercise,
Mr. Caryll set out to walk the short distance from St.
James's Street to his lodging, with a link-boy, preceding him,
for only attendant.  Arrived home, he was met by Leduc with
the information that Sir Richard Everard was awaiting him.  He
went in, and the next moment he was in the arms of his
adoptive father.

Greetings and minor courtesies disposed of, Sir Richard came
straight to the affair which he had at heart.  "Well?  How
speeds the matter?"

Mr. Caryll's face became overcast.  He sat down, a thought
wearily.

"So far as Lord Ostermore is concerned, it speeds - as you
would wish it.  So far as I am concerned" - he paused and
sighed - "I would that it sped not at all, or that I was out
of it."

Sir Richard looked at him with searching eyes.  "How?" he
asked.  "What would you have me understand?"

"That in spite of all that has been said between us, in spite
of all the arguments you have employed, and with which once,
for a little while, you convinced me, this task is loathsome
to me in the last degree.  Ostermore is my father, and I can't
forget it."

"And your mother?" Sir Richard's tone was sad, rather than
indignant; it spoke of a bitter disappointment, not at the
events, but at this man whom he loved with all a father's
love.

"It were idle to go over it all again.  I know everything that
you would - that you could - say.  I have said it all to
myself again and again, in a vain endeavor to steel myself to
the business to which you plighted me.  Had Ostermore been
different, perhaps it had been easier.  I cannot say.  As it
is, I see in him a weakling, a man of inferior intellect, who
does not judge things as you and I judge them, whose life
cannot have been guided by the rules that serve for men of
stronger purpose."

"You find excuses for him?  For his deed?" cried Sir Richard,
and his voice was full of horror now; he stared askance at his
adoptive son.

"No, no!  Oh, I don't know.  On my soul and conscience, I
don't know!" cried Mr. Caryll, like one in pain.  He rose and
moved restlessly about the room.  "No," he pursued more
calmly, "I don't excuse him.  I blame him - more bitterly than
you can think; perhaps more bitterly even than do you, for I
have had a look into his mind and see the exact place held
there by my mother's memory.  I can judge and condemn him; but
I can't execute him; I can't betray him.  I don't think I
could do it even if he were not my father."

He paused, and leaning his hands upon the table at which Sir
Richard sat, he faced him, and spoke in a voice of earnest
pleading.  "Sir Richard, this was not the task to give me; or,
if you had planned to give it me, you should have reared me
differently; you should not have sought to make of me a
gentleman.  You have brought me up to principles of honor, and
you ask me now to outrage them, to cast them off, and to
become a very Judas.  Is't wonderful I should rebel?"

They were hurtful words to Sir Richard - the poor fanatic
whose mind was all unsound on this one point, who had lived in
contemplation of his vengeance as a fasting monk lives through
Lent in contemplation of the Easter plenty.  The lines of
sorrow deepened in his face.

"Justin," he said slowly, "you forget one thing.  Honor is to
be used with men of honor; but he who allows his honor to
stand a barrier between himself and the man who has wronged
him by dishonor, is no better than a fool.  You speak of
yourself; you think of yourself.  And what of me, Justin?  The
things you say of yourself apply in a like degree - nay, even
more - to me."

"Ah, but you are not his son.  Oh, believe me, I speak not
hastily or lightly.  I have been torn this way and that in
these past days, until at moments the burden has been heavier
than I could bear.  Once, for a little while, I thought I
could do all and more than you expect of me - the moment,
indeed, in which I took the first step, and delivered him the
letter.  But it was a moment of wild heat.  I cooled, and
reflection followed, and since then, because so much was done,
I have not known an instant's peace of mind; I have endeavored
to forget the position in which I am placed; but I have
failed.  I cannot.  And if I go through with this thing, I
shall not know another hour in life that is not poisoned by
remorse."

"Remorse?" echoed Sir Richard, between consternation and
anger.  "Remorse?" He laughed bitterly.  "What ails thee, boy?
Do you pretend that Lord Ostermore should go unpunished?  Do
you go so far as that?"

"Not so.  He has made others suffer, and it is just - as we
understand justice - that he should suffer in his turn.
Though, when all is said, he is but a poor egotist, too
dull-witted to understand the full vileness of his sin.  He is
suffering, as it is - cursed in his son; for `the father of a
fool hath no joy.'  He hates this son of his, and his son
despises him.  His wife is a shrew, a termagant, who embitters
every hour of his existence.  Thus he drags out his life,
unloving and unloved, a thing to evoke pity."

"Pity?" cried Sir Richard in a voice of thunder.  "Pity?  Ha!
As I've a soul, Justin, he shall be more pitiful yet ere I
have done with him."

"Be it so, then.  But - if you love me - find some other hand
to do the work."

"If I love you, Justin?" echoed the other, and his voice
softened, his eyes looked reproachfully upon his adoptive
child.  "Needs there an `if' to that?  Are you not all I have
- my son, indeed?"

He held out his hands, and Justin took them affectionately and
pressed them in his own.

"You'll put these weak notions from your mind, Justin, and
prove worthy the noble lady who was your mother?"

Mr. Caryll moved aside again, hanging his head, his face pale
and troubled.  Where Everard's arguments must fail, his own
affection for Everard was like to conquer him.  It was very
weak in him, he told himself; but then his love for Everard
was strong, and he would fain spare Everard the pain he knew
he must be occasioning him.  Still he did battle, his
repugnance up in arms.

"I would you could see the matter as I see it," he sighed.
"This man grown old, and reaping in his old age the fruits of
the egotism he has sown.  I do not believe that in all the
world there is a single soul would weep his lordship's death -
if we except, perhaps, Mistress Winthrop."

"And do you pity him for that?" quoth Sir Richard coldly.
"What right has he to expect aught else?  Who sows for
himself, reaps for himself.  I marvel, indeed, that there
should be even one to bewail him - to spare him a kind
thought."

"And even there," mused Mr. Caryll, "it is perhaps gratitude
rather than affection that inspires the kindness."

"Who is Mistress Winthrop?"

"His ward.  As sweet a lady, I think, as I have ever seen,"
said Mr. Caryll, incautious enthusiasm assailing him.  Sir
Richard's eyes narrowed.

"You have some acquaintance with her?" he suggested.

Very briefly Mr. Caryll sketched for the second time that
evening the circumstances of his first meeting with Rotherby.

Sir Richard nodded sardonically.  "Hum!  He is his father's
son, not a doubt of that.  'Twill be a most worthy successor
to my Lord Ostermore.  But the lady?  Tell me of the lady.
How comes she linked with them?"

"I scarce know, save from the scraps that I have heard.  Her
father, it would seem, was Ostermore's friend, and, dying, he
appointed Ostermore her guardian.  Her fortune, I take it, is
very slender.  Nevertheless, Ostermore, whatever he may have
done by other people, appears in this case to have discharged
his trust with zeal and with affection.  But, indeed, who
could have done other where that sweet lady was concerned? You
should see her, Sir Richard!"  He was pacing the room now as
he spoke, and as he spoke he warmed to his subject more and
more.  "She is middling tall, of a most dainty slenderness,
dark-haired, with a so sweet and saintly beauty of face that
it must be seen to be believed.  And eyes - Lord! the glory of
her eyes!  They are eyes that would lead a man into hell and
make him believe it heaven

         "'Love doth to her eyes repair
           To help him of his blindness.'"

Sir Richard watched him, displeasure growing in his face.
"So!" he said at last.  "Is that the reason?"

"The reason of what?" quoth Mr. Caryll, recalled from his
sweet rapture.

"The reason of these fresh qualms of yours.  The reason of all
this sympathy for Ostermore; this unwillingness to perform the
sacred duty that is yours."

"Nay - on my soul, you do me wrong!" cried Mr. Caryll
indignantly.  "If aught had been needed to spur me on, it had
been my meeting with this lady.  It needed that to make me
realize to the bitter full the wrong my Lord Ostermore has
done me in getting me; to make me realize that I am a man
without a name to offer any woman."

But Sir Richard, watching him intently, shook his head and
fetched a sigh of sorrow and disdain.  "Pshaw, Justin!  How we
befool ourselves!  You think it is not so; you try to think it
is not so; but to me it is very plain.  A woman has arisen in
your life, and this woman, seen but once or twice, unknown a
week or so ago, suffices to eclipse the memory of your mother
and turns your aim in life - the avenging of her bitter wrongs
- to water.  Oh, Justin, Justin!  I had thought you stronger."

"Your conclusions are all wrong.  I swear they are wrong!"

Sir Richard considered him sombrely.  "Are you sure - quite,
quite sure?"

Mr. Caryll's eyes fell, as the doubt now entered his mind for
the first time that it might be indeed as Sir Richard was
suggesting.  He was not quite sure.

"Prove it to me, Justin," Everard pleaded.  "Prove it by
abandoning this weakness where my Lord Ostermore is concerned.
Remember only the wrong he has done.  You are the incarnation
of that wrong, and by your hand must he be destroyed."  He
rose, and caught the younger man's hands again in his own,
forced Mr. Caryll to confront him.  "He shall know when the
time comes whose hand it was that pulled him down; he shall
know the Nemesis that has lain in wait for him these thirty
years to smite him at the end.  And he shall taste hell in
this world before he goes to it in the next.  It is God's own
justice, boy!  Will you be false to the duty that lies before
you?  Will you forget your mother and her sufferings because
you have looked into the eyes of this girl, who - "

"No, no!  Say no more!" cried Mr. Caryll, his voice trembling.

"You will do it," said Sir Richard, between question and
assertion.

"If Heaven lends me strength of purpose.  But it asks much,"
was the gloomy answer.  "I am to see Lord Ostermore to-morrow
to obtain his answer to King James' letter."

Sir Richard's eyes gleamed.  He released the other's hands,
and turned slowly to his chair again.  "It is well," he said
slowly.  "The thing asks dispatch, or else some of his
majesty's real friends may be involved."

He proceeded to explain his words.  "I have talked in vain
with Atterbury.  He will not abandon the enterprise even at
King James' commands.  He urges that his majesty can have no
conception of how the matter is advanced; that he has been
laboring like Hercules, and that the party is being swelled by
men of weight and substance every day; that it is too late to
go back, and that he will go forward with the king's consent
or without it.  Should he or his agents approach Ostermore, in
the meantime, it will be too late for us to take such measures
as we have concerted.  For to deliver up Ostermore then would
entail the betrayal of others, which is not to be dreamt of.
So you'll use dispatch."

"If I do the thing at all, it shall be done to-morrow,"
answered Mr. Caryll.

"If at all?" cried Sir Richard, frowning again.  "If at all?"

Caryll turned to him.  He crossed to the table, and leaning
across it, until his face was quite close to his adoptive
father's.  "Sir Richard," he begged, "let us say no more
to-night.  My will is all to do the thing.  It is my - my
instincts that rebel.  I think that the day will be carried by
my will.  I shall strive to that end, believe me.  But let us
say no more now."

Sir Richard, looking deep into Mr. Caryll's eyes, was touched
by something that he saw.  "My poor Justin!" he said gently.
Then, checking the sympathy as swiftly as it rose: "So be it,
then," he said briskly.  "You'll come to me to-morrow after
you have seen his lordship?"

"Will you not remain here?"

"You have not the room.  Besides, Sir Richard Everard - is too
well known for a Jacobite to be observed sharing your lodging.
I have no right at all in England, and there is always the
chance of my being discovered.  I would not pull you down with
me.  I am lodged at the corner of Maiden Lane, next door to
the sign of Golden Flitch.  Come to me there to-morrow after
you have seen Lord Ostermore."  He hesitated a moment.  He was
impelled to recapitulate his injunctions; but he forbore.  He
put out his hand abruptly.  "Good-night, Justin."

Justin took the hand and pressed it.  The door opened, and
Leduc entered.

"Captain Mainwaring and Mr. Falgate are here, sir, and would
speak with you," he announced.

Mr. Caryll knit his brows a moment.  His acquaintance with
both men was of the slightest, and it was only upon reflection
that he bethought him they would, no doubt, be come in the
matter of his affair with Rotherby, which in the stress of his
interview with Sir Richard had been quite forgotten.  He
nodded.

"Wait upon Sir Richard to the door, Leduc," he bade his man.
"Then introduce these gentlemen."

Sir Richard had drawn back a step.  "I trust neither of these
gentlemen knows me," he said.  "I would not be seen here by
any that did.  It might compromise you."

But Mr. Caryll belittled Sir Richard's fears.  "Pooh!  'Tis
very unlike," said he; whereupon Sir Richard, seeing no help
for it, went out quickly, Leduc in attendance.

Lord Rotherby's friends in the ante-room paid little heed to
him as he passed briskly through.  Surveillance came rather
from an entirely unsuspected quarter.  As he left the house
and crossed the square, a figure detached itself from the
shadow of the wall, and set out to follow.  It hung in his
rear through the filthy, labyrinthine streets which Sir
Richard took to Charing Cross, followed him along the Strand
and up Bedford Street, and took note of the house he entered
at the corner of Maiden Lane.


CHAPTER XI

THE ASSAULT-AT-ARMS

The meeting was appointed by my Lord Rotherby for seven
o'clock next morning in Lincoln's Inn Fields.  It is true that
Lincoln's Inn Fields at an early hour of the day was accounted
a convenient spot for the transaction of such business as
this; yet, considering that it was in the immediate
neighborhood of Stretton House, overlooked, indeed, by the
windows of that mansion, it is not easy to rid the mind of a
suspicion that Rotherby appointed that place of purpose set,
and with intent to mark his contempt and defiance of his
father, with whom he supposed Mr. Caryll to be in some league.

Accompanied by the Duke of Wharton and Major Gascoigne, Mr.
Caryll entered the enclosure promptly as seven was striking
from St. Clement Danes.  They had come in a coach, which they
had left in waiting at the corner of Portugal Row.

As they penetrated beyond the belt of trees they found that
they were the first in the field, and his grace proceeded with
the major to inspect the ground, so that time might be saved
against the coming of the other party.

Mr. Caryll stood apart, breathing the freshness of the sunlit
morning, but supremely indifferent to its glory.  He was
gloomy and preoccupied.  He had slept ill that night after his
interview with Sir Richard, tormented by the odious choice
that lay before him of either breaking with the adoptive
father to whom he owed obedience and affection, or betraying
his natural father whom he had every reason to hate, yet who
remained his father.  He had been able to arrive at no
solution.  Duty seemed to point one way; instinct the other.
Down in his heart he felt that when the moment came it would
be the behests of instinct that he would obey, and, in obeying
them, play false to Sir Richard and to the memory of his
mother.  It was the only course that went with honor; and yet
it was a course that must lead to a break with the one friend
he had in the world - the one man who stood to him for family
and kin.

And now, as if that were not enough to plague him, there was
this quarrel with Rotherby which he had upon his hands.  That,
too, he had been considering during the wakeful hours of that
summer night.  Had he reflected he must have seen that no
other result could have followed his narrative at White's last
night; and yet it was a case in which reflection would not
have stayed him.  Hortensia Winthrop's fair name was to be
cleansed of the smirch that had been cast upon it, and Justin
was the only man in whose power it had lain to do it.  More
than that - if more were needed - it was Rotherby himself, by
his aggressiveness, who had thrust Mr. Caryll into a position
which almost made it necessary for him to explain himself; and
that he could scarcely have done by any other than the means
which he had adopted.  Under ordinary circumstances the matter
would have troubled him not at all; this meeting with such a
man as Rotherby would not have robbed him of a moment's sleep.
But there came the reflection - belatedly - that Rotherby was
his brother, his father's son; and he experienced just the
same degree of repugnance at the prospect of crossing swords
with him as he did at the prospect of betraying Lord
Ostermore.  Sir Richard would force upon him a parricide's
task; Fate a fratricide's.  Truly, he thought, it was an
enviable position, his.

Pacing the turf, on which the dew still gleamed and sparkled
diamond-like, he pondered his course, and wondered now, at the
last moment, was there no way to avert this meeting.  Could
not the matter be arranged?  He was stirred out of his musings
by Gascoigne's voice, raised to curse the tardiness of Lord
Rotherby.

"'Slife!  Where does the fellow tarry?  Was he so drunk last
night that he's not yet slept himself sober?"

"The streets are astir," put in Wharton, helping himself to
snuff.  And, indeed, the cries of the morning hawkers reached
them now from the four sides of the square.  "If his lordship
does not come soon, I doubt if we may stay for him.  We shall
have half the town for spectators."

"Who are these?" quoth Gascoigne, stepping aside and craning
his neck to get a better view.  "Ah!  Here they come."  And he
indicated a group of three that had that moment passed the
palings.

Gascoigne and Wharton went to meet the newcomers.  Lord
Rotherby was attended by Mainwaring, a militia captain - a
great, burly, scarred bully of a man - and a Mr. Falgate, an
extravagant young buck of his acquaintance.  An odder pair of
sponsors he could not have found had he been at pains to
choose them so.

"Adso!" swore Mr. Falgate, in his shrill, affected voice.  "I
vow 'tis a most ungenteel hour, this, for men of quality to be
abroad.  I had my beauty sleep broke into to be here in time.
Lard!  I shall be dozing all day for't!"  He took off his hat
and delicately mopped his brow with a square of lace he called
a handkerchief.

"Shall we come to business, gentlemen?" quoth Mainwaring
gruffly.

"With all my heart," answered Wharton.  "It is growing late."

"Late!  La, my dears!" clucked Mr. Falgate in horror.  "Has
your grace not been to bed yet?"

"To save time," said Gascoigne, "we have made an inspection of
the ground, and we think that under the trees yonder is a spot
not to be bettered."

Mainwaring flashed a critical and experienced eye over the
place.  "The sun is - So?" he said, looking up.  "Yes; it
should serve well enough, I - "

"It will not serve at all," cried Rotherby, who stood a pace
or two apart.  "A little to the right, there, the turf is
better."

"But there is no protection," put in the duke.  "You will be
under observation from that side of the square, including
Stretton House."

"What odds?" quoth Rotherby.  "Do I care who overlooks us?"
And he laughed unpleasantly.  "Or is your grace ashamed of
being seen in your friend's company?"

Wharton looked him steadily in the face a moment, then turned
to his lordship's seconds.  "If Mr. Caryll is of the same mind
as his lordship, we had best get to work at once," he said;
and bowing to them, withdrew with Gascoigne.

"See to the swords, Mainwaring," said Rotherby shortly.
"Here, Fanny!"  This to Falgate, whose name was Francis, and
who delighted in the feminine diminutive which his intimates
used toward him.  "Come help me with my clothes."

"I vow to Gad," protested Mr. Falgate, advancing to the task.
"I make but an indifferent valet, my dear."

Mr. Caryll stood thoughtful a moment when Rotherby's wishes
had been made known to him.  The odd irony of the situation -
the key to which he was the only one to hold - was borne in
upon him.  He fetched a sigh of utter weariness.

"I have," said he, "the greatest repugnance to meeting his
lordship."

"'Tis little wonder," returned his grace contemptuously.  "But
since 'tis forced upon you, I hope you'll give him the lesson
in manners that he needs."

"Is it - is it unavoidable?" quoth Mr. Caryll.

"Unavoidable?" Wharton looked at him in stern wonder.

Gascoigne, too, swung round to stare.  "Unavoidable?  What can
you mean, Caryll?"

"I mean is the matter not to be arranged in any way?  Must the
duel take place?"

His Grace of Wharton stroked his chin contemplatively, his eye
ironical, his lip curling never so slightly.  "Why," said he,
at length, "you may beg my Lord Rotherby's pardon for having
given him the lie.  You may retract, and brand yourself a liar
and your version of the Maidstone affair a silly invention
which ye have not the courage to maintain.  You may do that,
Mr. Caryll.  For my own sake, let me add, I hope you will not
do it."

"I am not thinking of your grace at all," said Mr. Caryll,
slightly piqued by the tone the other took with him.  "But to
relieve your mind of such doubts as I see you entertain, I can
assure you that it is out of no motives of weakness that I
boggle at this combat.  Though I confess that I am no
ferrailleur, and that I abhor the duel as a means of settling
a difference just as I abhor all things that are stupid and
insensate, yet I am not the man to shirk an encounter where an
encounter is forced upon me.  But in this affair - " he
paused, then ended - "there is more than meets your grace's
eye, or, indeed, anyone's."

He was so calm, so master of himself, that Wharton perceived
how groundless must have been his first notion.  Whatever
might be Mr. Caryll's motives, it was plain from his most
perfect composure that they were not motives of fear.  His
grace's half-contemptuous smile was dissipated.

"This is mere trifling, Mr. Caryll," he reminded his
principal, "and time is speeding.  Your withdrawal now would
not only be damaging to yourself; it would be damaging to the
lady of whose fair name you have made yourself the champion.
You must see that it is too late for doubts on the score of
this meeting."

"Ay - by God!" swore Gascoigne hotly.  "What a pox ails you,
Caryll?"

Mr. Caryll took off his hat and flung it on the ground behind
him.  "We must go on, then," said he.  "Gascoigne, see to the
swords with his lordship's friend there."

With a relieved look, the major went forward to make the final
preparations, whilst Mr. Caryll, attended by Wharton, rapidly
divested himself of coat and waistcoat, then kicked off his
light shoes, and stood ready, a slight, lithe, graceful figure
in white Holland shirt and pearl-colored small clothes.

A moment later the adversaries were face to face - Rotherby,
divested of his wig and with a kerchief bound about his
close-cropped head, all a trembling eagerness; Mr. Caryll with
a reluctance lightly masked by a dangerous composure.

There was a perfunctory salute - a mere presenting of arms -
and the blades swept round in a half-circle to their first
meeting.  But Rotherby, without so much as allowing his steel
to touch his opponent's, as the laws of courtesy demanded,
swirled it away again into the higher lines and lunged.  It
was almost like a foul attempt to take his adversary unawares
and unprepared, and for a second it looked as if it must
succeed.  It must have succeeded but for the miraculous
quickness of Mr. Caryll.  Swinging round on the ball of his
right foot, lightly and gracefully as a dancing master, and
with no sign of haste or fear in his amazing speed, he let the
other's hard-driven blade glance past him, to meet nothing but
the empty air.

As a result, by the very force of the stroke, Rotherby found
himself over-reached and carried beyond his point of aim;
while Mr. Caryll's sideward movement brought him not only
nearer his opponent, but entirely within his guard.

It was seen by them all, and by none with such panic as
Rotherby himself, that, as a consequence of his quasi-foul
stroke, the viscount was thrown entirely at the mercy of his
opponent thus at the very outset of the encounter, before
their blades had so much as touched each other.  A
straightening of the arm on the part of Mr. Caryll, and the
engagement would have been at an end.

Mr. Caryll, however, did not straighten his arm.  He was
observed to smile as he broke ground and waited for his
lordship to recover.

Falgate turned pale.  Mainwaring swore softly under his
breath, in fear for his principal; Gascoigne did the same in
vexation at the opportunity Mr. Caryll had so wantonly wasted.
Wharton looked on with tight-pressed lips, and wondered.

Rotherby recovered, and for a moment the two men stood apart,
seeming to feel each other with their eyes before resuming.
Then his lordship renewed the attack with vigor.

Mr. Caryll parried lightly and closely, plying a beautiful
weapon in the best manner of the French school, and opposing
to the ponderous force of his antagonist a delicate
frustrating science.  Rotherby, a fine swordsman in his way,
soon saw that here was need for all his skill, and he exerted
it.  But the prodigious rapidity of his blade broke as upon a
cuirass against the other's light, impenetrable guard.

His lordship broke ground, breathed heavily, and sweated under
the glare of the morning sun, cursing this swordsman who, so
cool and deliberate, husbanded his strength and scarcely
seemed to move, yet by sheer skill and address more than
neutralized his lordship's advantages of greater strength and
length of reach.

"You cursed French dog!" swore the viscount presently, between
his teeth, and as he spoke he made a ringing parade, feinted,
beat the ground with his foot to draw off the other's
attention, and went in again with a full-length lunge.  "Parry
that, you damned maitre-d'armes" he roared.

Mr. Caryll answered nothing; he parried; parried again;
delivered a riposte whenever the opportunity offered, or
whenever his lordship grew too pressing, and it became
expedient to drive him back; but never once did he stretch out
to lunge in his turn.  The seconds were so lost in wonder at
the beauty of this close play of his that they paid no heed to
what was taking place in the square about them.  They never
observed the opening windows and the spectators gathering at
them - as Wharton had feared.  Amongst these, had either of
the combatants looked up, he would have seen his own father on
the balcony of Stretton House.  A moment the earl stood there,
Lady Ostermore at his side; then he vanished into the house
again, to reappear almost at once in the street, with a couple
of footmen hurrying after him.

Meanwhile the combat went on.  Once Lord Rotherby had
attempted to fall back for a respite, realizing that he was
winded.  But Mr. Caryll denied him this, attacking now for the
first time, and the rapidity of his play was such that
Rotherby opined - the end to be at hand, appreciated to the
full his peril.  In a last desperate effort, gathering up what
shreds of strength remained him, he repulsed Mr. Caryll by a
vigorous counter attack.  He saw an opening, feinted to
enlarge it, and drove in quickly, throwing his last ounce of
strength into the effort.  This time it could not be said to
have been parried.  Something else happened.  His blade,
coming foible on forte against Mr. Caryll's, was suddenly
enveloped.  It was as if a tentacle had been thrust out to
seize it.  For the barest fraction of a second was it held so
by Mr. Caryll's sword; then, easily but irresistibly, it was
lifted out of Rotherby's hand, and dropped on the turf a
half-yard or so from his lordship's stockinged feet.

A cold sweat of terror broke upon him.  He caught his breath
with a half-shuddering sob of fear, his eyes dilating wildly -
for Mr. Caryll's point was coming straight as an arrow at his
throat.  On it came and on, until it was within perhaps three
inches of the flesh.

There it was suddenly arrested, and for a long moment it was
held there poised, death itself, menacing and imminent.  And
Lord Rotherby, not daring to move, rooted where he stood,
looked with fascinated eyes along that shimmering blade into
two gleaming eyes behind it that seemed to watch him with a
solemnity that was grim to the point of mockery.

Time and the world stood still, or were annihilated in that
moment for the man who waited.

High in the blue overhead a lark was pouring out its song; but
his lordship heard it not.  He heard nothing, he was conscious
of nothing but that gleaming sword and those gleaming eyes
behind it.

Then a voice - the voice of his antagonist - broke the
silence.  "Is more needed?" it asked, and without waiting for
a reply, Mr. Caryll lowered his blade and drew himself
upright.  "Let this suffice," he said.  "To take your life
would be to deprive you of the means of profiting by this
lesson."

It seemed to Rotherby as if he were awaking from a trance.
The world resumed its way.  He breathed again, and
straightened himself, too, from the arrested attitude of his
last lunge.  Rage welled up from his black soul; a crimson
flood swept into his pallid cheeks; his eyes rolled and blazed
with the fury of the mad.

Mr. Caryll moved away.  In that quiet voice of his: "Take up
your sword," he said to the vanquished, over his shoulder.

Wharton and Gascoigne moved towards him, without words to
express the amazement that still held Rotherby glared an instant
longer without moving. Then, doing as Mr. Caryll had bidden him,
he stooped to recover his blade. A moment he held it, looking
after his departing adversary; then with swift, silent stealth
he sprang to follow. His fell intent was written on his face.

Falgate gasped - a helpless fool - while Mainwaring hurled
himself forward to prevent the thing he saw impended.  Too
late.  Even as he flung out his hands to grapple with his
lordship, Rotherby's arm drove straight before him and sent
his sword through the undefended back of Mr. Caryll.

All that Mr. Caryll realized at first was that he had been
struck a blow between the shoulder blades; and then, ere he
could turn to inquire into the cause, he was amazed to see
some three inches of steel come through his shirt in front.
The next instant an exquisite, burning, searing pain went
through and through him as the blade was being withdrawn.  He
coughed and swayed, then hurtled sideways into the arms of
Major Gascoigne.  His senses swam.  The turf heaved and rolled
as if an earthquake moved it; the houses fronting the square
and the trees immediately before him leaped and danced as if
suddenly launched into grotesque animation, while about him
swirled a wild, incoherent noise of voices, rising and
falling, now loud, now silent, and reaching him through a
murmuring hum that surged about his ears until it shut out all
else and consciousness deserted him.

Around him, meanwhile, a wild scene was toward.

His Grace of Wharton had wrenched away the sword from
Rotherby, and mastered by an effort his own impulse to use it
upon the murderer.  Captain Mainwaring - Rotherby's own
second, a man of quick, fierce passions - utterly unable to
control himself, fell upon his lordship and beat him to the
ground with his hands, cursing him and heaping abuse upon him
with every blow; whilst delicate Mr. Falgate, in the
background, sick to the point of faintness, stood dabbing his
lips with his handkerchief and swearing that he would rot
before he allowed himself again to be dragged into an affair
of honor.

"Ye damned cutthroat!" swore the militia captain, standing
over the man he had felled.  "D'ye know what'll be the fruits
of this?  Ye'll swing at Tyburn like the dirty thief y' are.
God help me!  I'd give a hundred guineas sooner than be mixed
in this filthy business."

"'Tis no matter for that now," said the duke, touching him on
the shoulder and drawing him away from his lordship.  "Get up,
Rotherby."

Heavily, mechanically, Rotherby got to his feet.  Now that the
fit of rage was over, he was himself all stricken at the thing
he had done.  He looked at the limp figure on the turf,
huddled against the knee of Major Gascoigne; looked at the
white face, the closed eyes and the stain of blood oozing
farther and farther across the Holland shirt, and, as white
himself as the stricken man, he shuddered and his mouth was
drawn wide with horror.

But pitiful though he looked, he inspired no pity in the Duke
of Wharton, who considered him with an eye of unspeakable
severity.  "If Mr. Caryll dies," said he coldly, "I shall see
to it that you hang, my lord.  I'll not rest until I bring you
to the gallows."

And then, before more could be said, there came a sound of
running steps and labored breathing, and his grace swore
softly to himself as he beheld no other than Lord Ostermore
advancing rapidly, all out of breath and apoplectic of face, a
couple of footmen pressing close upon his heels, and, behind
these, a score of sightseers who had followed them.

"What's here?" cried the earl, without glancing at his son.
"Is he dead?  Is he dead?"

Gascoigne, who was busily endeavoring to stanch the bleeding,
answered without looking up: "It is in God's hands.  I think
he is very like to die."

Ostermore swung round upon Rotherby.  He had paled suddenly,
and his mouth trembled.  He raised his clenched hand, and it
seemed that he was about to strike his son; then he let it
fall again.  "You villain!" he panted, breathless from running
and from rage.  "I saw it!  I saw it all.  It was murder, and,
as God's my life, if Mr. Caryll dies, I shall see to it that
you hang - I, your own father."

Thus assailed on every side, some of the cowering, shrinking
manner left the viscount.  His antagonism to his father
spurred him to a prouder carriage.  He shrugged indifferently.
"So be it," he said.  "I have been told that already.  I don't
greatly care."

Mainwaring, who had been stooping over Mr. Caryll, and who had
perhaps more knowledge of wounds than any present, shook his
head ominously.

"'Twould be dangerous to move him far," said he.  "'Twill
increase the hemorrhage."

"My men shall carry him across to Stretton House," said Lord
Ostermore.  "Lend a hand here, you gaping oafs."

The footmen advanced.  The crowd, which was growing rapidly
and was watching almost in silence, awed, pressed as close as
it dared upon these gentlemen.  Mainwaring procured a couple
of cloaks and improvised a stretcher with them.  Of this he
took one corner himself, Gascoigne another, and the footmen
the remaining two.  Thus, as gently as might be, they bore the
wounded man from the enclosure, through the crowd that had by
now assembled in the street, and over the threshold of
Stretton House.

A groom had been dispatched for a doctor, and his Grace of
Wharton had compelled Rotherby to accompany them into his
father's house, sternly threatening to hand him over to a
constable at once if he refused.

Within the cool hall of Stretton House they were met by her
ladyship and Mistress Winthrop, both pale, but the eyes of
each wearing a vastly different expression.

"What's this?" demanded her ladyship, as they trooped in.
"Why do you bring him here?"

"Because, madam," answered Ostermore in a voice as hard as
iron, "it imports to save his life; for if he dies, your son
dies as surely - and on the scaffold."

Her ladyship staggered and flung a hand to her breast.  But
her recovery was almost immediate.  "'Twas a duel - " she
began stoutly.

"'Twas murder," his lordship corrected, interrupting -
"murder, as any of these gentlemen can and will bear witness.
Rotherby ran Mr. Caryll through the back after Mr. Caryll had
spared his life."

"'Tis a lie!" screamed her ladyship, her lips ashen.  She
turned to Rotherby, who stood there in shirt and breeches and
shoeless, as he had fought.  "Why don't you say that it is a
lie?" she demanded.

Rotherby endeavored to master himself.  "Madam," he said,
"here is no place for you."

"But is it true?  Is it true what is being said?"

He half-turned from her, with a despairing movement, and
caught the sharp hiss of her indrawn breath.  Then she swept
past him to the side of the wounded man, who had been laid on
a settle.  "What is his hurt?" she inquired wildly, looking
about her.  But no one spoke.  Tragedy - more far than the
tragedy of that man's possible death - was in the air, and
struck them all silent.  "Will no one answer me?" she
insisted.  "Is it mortal?  Is it?"

His Grace of Wharton turned to her with an unusual gravity in
his blue eyes.  "We hope not, ma'am," he said.  "But it is as
God wills."

Her limbs seemed to fail her, and she sank down on her knees
beside the settle.  "We must save him," she muttered
fearfully.  "We must save his life.  Where is the doctor?  He
won't die!  Oh, he must not die!"

They stood grouped about, looking on in silence, Rotherby in
the background.  Behind him again, on the topmost of the three
steps that led up into the inner hall, stood Mistress
Winthrop, white of face, a wild horror in the eyes she riveted
upon the wounded and unconscious man.  She realized that he
was like to die.  There was an infinite pity in her soul -
and, maybe, something more.  Her impulse was to go to him; her
every instinct urged her.  But her reason held her back.

Then, as she looked, she saw with a feeling almost of terror
that his eyes were suddenly wide open.

"Wha - what?" came in feeble accents from his lips.

There was a stir about him.

"Never move, Justin," said Gascoigne, who stood by his head.
"You are hurt.  Lie still.  The doctor has been summoned."

"Ah!"  It was a sigh.  The wounded man closed his eyes a
moment, then re-opened them.  "I remember.  I remember," he
said feebly.  "It is - it is grave?" he inquired.  "It went
right through me.  I remember!"  He surveyed himself.
"There's been a deal of blood lost.  I am like to die, I take
it."

"Nay, sir, we hope not - we hope not!"  It was the countess
who spoke.

A wry smile twisted his lips.  "Your ladyship is very good,"
said he.  "I had not thought you quite so much my well-wisher.
I - I have done you a wrong, madam."  He paused for breath,
and it was not plain whether he spoke in sincerity or in
sarcasm.  Then with a startling suddenness he broke into a
soft laugh and to those risen, who could not think what had
occasioned it, it sounded more dreadful than any plaint he
could have uttered.

He had bethought him that there was no longer the need for him
to come to a decision in the matter that had brought him to
England, and his laugh was almost of relief.  The riddle he
could never have solved for himself in a manner that had not
shattered his future peace of mind, was solved and well solved
if this were death.

"Where - where is Rotherby?" he inquired presently.

There was a stir, and men drew back, leaving an open lane to
the place where Rotherby stood.  Mr. Caryll saw him, and
smiled, and his smile held no tinge of mockery.  "You are the
best friend I ever had, Rotherby," he startled all by saying.
"Let him approach," he begged.

Rotherby came forward like one who walks in his sleep.  "I am
sorry," he said thickly, "cursed sorry."

"There's scarce the need," said Mr. Caryll.  "Lift me up,
Tom," he begged Gascoigne.  "There's scarce the need.  You
have cleared up something that was plaguing me, my lord.  I am
your debtor for - for that.  It disposes of something I could
never have disposed of had I lived." He turned to the Duke of
Wharton.  "It was an accident," he said significantly.  "You
all saw that it was an accident."

A denial rang out.  "It was no accident!" cried Lord
Ostermore, and swore an oath.  "We all saw what it was."

"I'faith, then, your eyes deceived you.  It was an accident, I
say - and who should know better than I?"  He was smiling in
that whimsical enigmatic way of his.  Smiling still he sank
back into Gascoigne's arms.

"You are talking too much," said the Major.

"What odds?  I am not like to talk much longer."

The door opened to admit a gentleman in black, wearing a
grizzle wig and carrying a gold-headed cane.  Men moved aside
to allow him to approach Mr. Caryll.  The latter, not noticing
him, had met at last the gaze of Hortensia's eyes.  He
continued to smile, but his smile was now changed to
wistfulness under that pitiful regard of hers.

"It is better so," he was saying.  "Better so!"

His glance was upon her, and she understood what none other
there suspected - that those words were for her alone.

He closed his eyes and swooned again, as the doctor stooped to
remove the temporary bandages from his wound.

Hortensia, a sob beating in her throat, turned and fled to her
own room.




CHAPTER XII

SUNSHINE AND SHADOW

Mr. Caryll was almost happy.

He reclined on a long chair, supported by pillows cunningly
set for him by the deft hands of Leduc, and took his ease and
indulged his day-dreams in Lord Ostermore's garden.  He sat
within the cool, fragrant shade of a privet arbor, interlaced
with flowering lilac and laburnum, and he looked out upon the
long sweep of emerald lawn and the little patch of ornamental
water where the water-lilies gaped their ivory chalices to the
morning sun.

He looked thinner, paler and more frail than was his habit,
which is not wonderful, considering that he had been four
weeks abed while his wound was mending.  He was dressed, again
by the hands of the incomparable Leduc, in a deshabille of
some artistry.  A dark-blue dressing-gown of flowered satin
fell open at the waist; disclosing sky-blue breeches and
pearl-colored stockings, elegant shoes of Spanish leather with
red heels and diamond buckles.  His chestnut hair had been
dressed with as great care as though he were attending a
levee, and Leduc had insisted upon placing a small round patch
under his left eye, that it might - said Leduc - impart
vivacity to a countenance that looked over-wan from his long
confinement.

He reclined there, and, as I have said, was almost happy.

The creature of sunshine that was himself at heart, had broken
through the heavy clouds that had been obscuring him.  An
oppressive burden was lifted from his mind and conscience.
That sword-thrust through the back a month ago had been
guided, he opined, by the hand of a befriending Providence;
for although he had, as you see, survived it, it had none the
less solved for him that hateful problem he could never have
solved for himself, that problem whose solution,- no matter
which alternative he had adopted - must have brought him
untold misery afterwards.

As it was, during the weeks that he had lain helpless, his
life attached to him by but the merest thread, the chance of
betraying Lord Ostermore was gone, nor - the circumstances
being such as they were - could Sir Richard Everard blame him
that he had let it pass.

Thus he knew peace; knew it as only those know it who have
sustained unrest and can appreciate relief from it.

Nature had made him a voluptuary, and reclining there in an
ease which the languor born of his long illness rendered the
more delicious, inhaling the tepid summer air that came to him
laden with a most sweet attar from the flowering rose-garden,
he realized that with all its cares life may be sweet to live
in youth and in the month of June.

He sighed, and smiled pensively at the water-lilies; nor was
his happiness entirely and solely the essence of his material
ease.  This was his third morning out of doors, and on each of
the two mornings that were gone Hortensia had borne him
company, coming with the charitable intent of lightening his
tedium by reading to him, but remaining to talk instead.

The most perfect friendliness had prevailed between them; a
camaraderie which Mr. Caryll had been careful not to dispel by
any return to such speeches as those which had originally
offended but which seemed now mercifully forgotten.

He was awaiting her, and his expectancy heightened for him the
glory of the morning, increased the meed of happiness that was
his.  But there was more besides.  Leduc, who stood slightly
behind him, fussily, busy about a little table on which were
books and cordials, flowers and comfits, a pipe and a
tobacco-jar, had just informed him for the first time that
during the more dangerous period of his illness Mistress
Winthrop had watched by his bedside for many hours together
upon many occasions, and once - on the day after he had been
wounded, and while his fever was at its height - Leduc,
entering suddenly and quietly, had surprised her in tears.

All this was most sweet news to Mr. Caryll.  He found that
between himself and his half-brother there lay an even deeper
debt than he had at first supposed, and already acknowledged.
In the delicious contemplation of Hortensia in tears beside
him stricken all but to the point of death, he forgot entirely
his erstwhile scruples that being nameless he had no name to
offer her.  In imagination he conjured up the scene.  It made,
he found, a very pretty picture.  He would smoke upon it.

"Leduc, if you were to fill me a pipe of Spanish - "

"Monsieur has smoked one pipe already," Leduc reminded him.

"You are inconsequent, Leduc.  It is a sign of advancing age.
Repress it.  The pipe!"  And he flicked impatient fingers.

"Monsieur is forgetting that the doctor - "

"The devil take the doctor," said Mr. Caryll with finality.

"Parfaitement!" answered the smooth Leduc.  "Over the bridge
we laugh at the saint.  Now that we are cured, the devil take
the doctor by all means."

A ripple of laughter came to applaud Leduc's excursion into
irony.  The arbor had another, narrower entrance, on the left.
Hortensia had approached this, all unheard on the soft turf,
and stood there now, a heavenly apparition in white flimsy
garments, head slightly a-tilt, eyes mocking, lips laughing, a
heavy curl of her dark hair falling caressingly into the
hollow where white neck sprang from whiter shoulder.

"You make too rapid a recovery, sir," said she.

"It comes of learning how well I have been nursed," he
answered, making shift to rise, and he laughed inwardly to see
the red flush of confusion spread over the milk-white skin,
the reproachful shaft her eyes let loose upon Leduc.

She came forward swiftly to check his rising; but he was
already on his feet, proud of his return to strength, vain to
display it.  "Nay," she reproved him.  "If you are so
headstrong, I shall leave you."

"If you do, ma'am.  I vow here, as I am, I hope, a gentleman,
that I shall go home to-day, and on foot."

"You would kill yourself," she told him.

"I might kill myself for less, and yet be justified."

She looked her despair of him.  "What must I do to make you
reasonable?"

"Set me the example by being reasonable yourself, and let
there be no more of this wild talk of leaving me the very
moment you are come.  Leduc, a chair for Mistress Winthrop!"
he commanded, as though chairs abounded in a garden nook.  But
Leduc, the diplomat, had effaced himself.

She laughed at his grand air, and, herself, drew forward the
stool that had been Leduc's, and sat down.  Satisfied, Mr.
Caryll made her a bow, and seated himself sideways on his long
chair, so that he faced her.  She begged that he would dispose
himself more comfortably; but he scorned the very notion.

"Unaided I walked here from the house," he informed her with a
boastful air.  "I had need to begin to feel my feet again.
You are pampering me here, and to pamper an invalid is bad; it
keeps him an invalid.  Now I am an invalid no longer."

"But the doctor - " she began.

"The doctor, ma'am, is disposed of already," he assured her.
"Very definitely disposed of.  Ask Leduc.  He will tell you."

"Not a doubt of that," she answered.  "Leduc talks too much."

"You have a spite against him for the information he gave me
on the score of how and by whom I was nursed.  So have I.
Because he did not tell me before, and because when he told me
he would not tell me enough.  He has no eyes, this Leduc.  He
is a dolt, who only sees the half of what happens, and only
remembers the half of what he has seen."

"I am sure of it," said she.

He looked surprised an instant.  Then he laughed.  "I am glad
that we agree."

"But you have yet to learn the cause.  Had this Leduc used his
eyes or his ears to better purpose, he had been able to tell
you something of the extent to which I am in your debt."

"Ah?" said he, mystified.  Then: "The news will be none the
less welcome from your lips, ma'am," said he.  "Is it that you
are interested in the ravings of delirium, and welcomed the
opportunity of observing them at first hand?  I hope I raved
engagingly, if so be that I did rave.  Would it, perchance, be
of a lady that I talked in my fevered wanderings? - of a lady
pale as a lenten rose, with soft brown eyes, and lips that - "

"Your guesses are all wild," she checked him.  "My debt is of
a more real kind.  It concerns my - my reputation."

"Fan me, ye winds!" he ejaculated.

"Those fine ladies and gentlemen of the town had made my name
a by-word," she explained in a low, tense voice, her eyelids
lowered.  "My foolishness in running off with my Lord Rotherby
- that I might at all cost escape the tyranny of my Lady
Ostermore" (Mr. Caryll's eyelids flickered suddenly at that
explanation) - "had made me a butt and a jest and an object
for slander.  You remember, yourself, sir, the sneers and
oglings, the starings and simperings in the park that day when
you made your first attempt to champion my cause, inducing the
Lady Mary Deller to come and speak to me."

"Nay, nay - think of these things no more.  Gnats will sting;
'tis in their nature.  I admit 'tis very vexing at the time;
but it soon wears off if the flesh they have stung be healthy.
So think no more on't."

"But you do not know what follows.  Her ladyship insisted that
I should drive with her a week after your hurt, when the
doctor first proclaimed you out of danger, and while the town
was still all agog with the affair.  No doubt her ladyship
thought to put a fresh and greater humiliation upon me; you
would not be present to blunt the edge of the insult of those
creatures' glances.  She carried me to Vauxhall, where a
fuller scope might be given to the pursuit of my shame and
mortification.  Instead, what think you happened?"

"Her ladyship, I trust, was disappointed."

"The word is too poor to describe her condition.  She broke a
fan, beat her black boy and dismissed a footman, that she
might vent some of the spleen it moved in her.  Never was such
respect, never such homage shown to any woman as was shown to
me that evening.  We were all but mobbed by the very people
who had earlier slighted me.

"'Twas all so mysterious that I must seek the explanation of
it.  And I had it, at length, from his Grace of Wharton, who
was at my side for most of the time we walked in the gardens.
I asked him frankly to what was this change owing.  And he
told me, sir."

She looked at him as though no more need be said.  But his
brows were knit.  "He told you, ma'am?" he questioned.  "He
told you what?"

"What you had done at White's.  How to all present and to my
Lord Rotherby's own face you had related the true story of
what befell at Maidstone - how I had gone thither, an
innocent, foolish maid, to be married to a villain, whom, like
the silly child I was, I thought I loved; how that villain,
taking advantage of my innocence and ignorance, intended to
hoodwink me with a mock-marriage.

"That was the story that was on every lip; it had gone round
the town like fire; and it says much for the town that what
between that and the foul business of the duel, my Lord
Rotherby was receiving on every hand the condemnation he
deserves, while for me there was once more - and with heavy
interest for the lapse from it - the respect which my
indiscretion had forfeited, and which would have continued to
be denied me but for your noble championing of my cause.

"That, sir, is the extent to which.  I am in your debt.  Do
you think it small?  It is so great that I have no words in
which to attempt to express my thanks."

Mr. Caryll looked at her a moment with eyes that were very
bright.  Then he broke into a soft laugh that had a note of
slyness.

"In my time," said he, "I have seen many attempts to change an
inconvenient topic.  Some have been artful; others artless;
others utterly clumsy.  But this, I think, is the clumsiest of
them all.  Mistress Winthrop, 'tis not worthy in you."

She looked puzzled, intrigued by his mood.

"Mistress Winthrop," he resumed, with an entire change of
voice.  "To speak of this trifle is but a subterfuge of yours
to prevent me from expressing my deep gratitude for your care
of me."

"Indeed, no - " she began.

"Indeed, yes," said he.  "How can this compare with what you
have done for me?  For I have learnt how greatly it is to you,
yourself, that I owe my recovery - the saving of my life."

"Ah, but that is not true.  It - "

"Let me think so, whether it be true or not," he implored her,
eyes between tenderness and whimsicality intent upon her face.
"Let me believe it, for the belief has brought me happiness -
the greatest happiness, I think, that I have ever known.  I
can know but one greater, and that - "

He broke off suddenly, and she observed that the hand he had
stretched out trembled a moment ere it was abruptly lowered
again.  It was as a man who had reached forth to grasp
something that he craves, and checked his desire upon a sudden
thought.

She felt oddly stirred, despite herself, and oddly
constrained.  It may have been to disguise this that she half
turned to the table, saying: "You were about to smoke when I
came." And she took up his pipe and tobacco - jar to offer
them.

"Ah, but since you've come, I would not dream," he said.

She looked at him.  The complete change of topic permitted it.
"If I desired you so to do?" she inquired, and added: "I love
the fragrance of it."

He raised his brows.  "Fragrance?" quoth he.  "My Lady
Ostermore has another word for it."  He took the pipe and jar
from her.  "'Tis no humoring, this, of a man you imagine sick
- no silly chivalry of yours?" he questioned doubtfully.  "Did
I think that, I'd never smoke another pipe again."

She shook her head, and laughed at his solemnity.  "I love the
fragrance," she repeated.

"Ah! Why, then, I'll pleasure you," said he, with the air of
one conferring favors, and filled his pipe.  Presently he
spoke again in a musing tone.  "In a week or so, I shall be
well enough to travel."

"'Tis your intent to travel?" she inquired.

He set down the jar, and reached for the tinderbox.  "It is
time I was returning home," he explained.

"Ah, yes.  Your home is in France."

"At Maligny; the sweetest nook in Normandy.  'Twas my mother's
birthplace, and 'twas there she died."

"You have felt the loss of her, I make no doubt."

"That might have been the case if I had known her," answered
he.  "But as it is, I never did.  I was but two years old -
she, herself, but twenty - when she died."

He pulled at his pipe in silence a moment or two, his face
overcast and thoughtful.  A shallower woman would have broken
in with expressions of regret; Hortensia offered him the
nobler sympathy of silence.  Moreover, she had felt from his
tone that there was more to come; that what he had said was
but the preface to some story that he desired her to be
acquainted with.  And presently, as she expected, he continued.

"She died, Mistress Winthrop, of a broken heart.  My father
had abandoned her two years and more before she died.  In
those years of repining - ay, and worse, of actual want - her
health was broken so that, poor soul, she died."

"O pitiful!" cried Hortensia, pain in her face.

"Pitiful, indeed - the more pitiful that her death was a
source of some slight happiness to those who loved her; the
only happiness they could have in her was to know that she was
at rest."

"And - and your father?"

"I am coming to him.  My mother had a friend - a very noble,
lofty-minded gentleman who had loved her with a great and
honest love before the profligate who was my father came
forward as a suitor.  Recognizing in the latter - as he
thought in his honest heart - a man in better case to make her
happy, this gentleman I speak of went his ways.  He came upon
her afterwards, broken and abandoned, and he gathered up the
poor shards of her shattered life, and sought with tender but
unavailing hands to piece them together again.  And when she
died he vowed to stand my friend and to make up to me for the
want I had of parents.  'Tis by his bounty that to-day I am
lord of Maligny that was for generations the property of my
mother's people.  'Tis by his bounty and loving care that I am
what I am, and not what so easily I might have become had the
seed sown by my father been allowed to put out shoots."

He paused, as if bethinking himself, and looked at her with a
wistful, inquiring smile.  "But why plague you," he cried,
"with this poor tale of yesterday that will be forgot
to-morrow?"

"Nay - ah, nay," she begged, and put out a hand in impulsive
sympathy to touch his own, so transparent now in its
emaciation.  "Tell me; tell me!"

His smile softened.  He sighed gently and continued.  "This
gentleman who adopted me lived for one single purpose, with
one single aim in view - to avenge my mother, whom he had
loved, upon the man whom she had loved and who had so ill
repaid her.  He reared me for that purpose, as much, I think,
as out of any other feeling.  Thirty years have sped, and
still the hand of the avenger has not fallen upon my father.
It should have fallen a month ago; but I was weak; I
hesitated; and then this sword-thrust put me out of all case
of doing what I had crossed from France to do."

She looked at him with something of horror in her face.  "Were
you - were you to have been the instrument?" she inquired.
"Were you to have avenged this thing upon your own father?"

He nodded slowly.  "'Twas to that end that I was reared," he
answered, and put aside his pipe, which had gone out.  "The
spirit of revenge was educated into me until I came to look
upon revenge as the best and holiest of emotions; until I
believed that if I failed to wreak it I must be a craven and a
dastard.  All this seemed so until the moment came to set my
hand to the task.  And then - "  He shrugged.

"And then?" she questioned.

"I couldn't.  The full horror of it burst upon me.  I saw the
thing in its true and hideous proportions, and it revolted
me."

"It must have been so," she approved him.

"I told my foster-father; but I met with neither sympathy nor
understanding.  He renewed his old-time arguments, and again
he seemed to prove to me that did I fail I should be false to
my duty and to my mother's memory - a weakling, a thing of
shame."

"The monster!  Oh, the monster!  He is an evil man for all
that you have said of him."

"Not so.  There is no nobler gentleman in all the world.  I
who know him, know that.  It is through the very nobility of
it that this warp has come into his nature.  Sane in all
things else, he is - I see it now, I understand it at last -
insane on this one subject.  Much brooding has made him mad
upon this matter - a fanatic whose gospel is Vengeance, and,
like all fanatics, he is harsh and intolerant when resisted on
the point of his fanaticism.  This is something I have come to
realize in these past days, when I lay with naught else to do
but ponder.

"In all things else he sees as deep and clear as any man; in
this his vision is distorted.  He has looked at nothing else
for thirty years; can you wonder that his sight is blurred?"

"He is to be pitied then," she said, "deeply to be pitied."

"True.  And because I pitied him, because I valued his regard
-however mistaken he might be - above all else, I was
hesitating again - this time between my duty to myself and my
duty to him.  I was so hesitating - though I scarce can doubt
which had prevailed in the end - when came this sword-thrust
so very opportunely to put me out of case of doing one thing
or the other."

"But now that you are well again?" she asked.

"Now that I am well again - I thank Heaven that it will be too
late.  The opportunity that was ours is lost.  His - my father
should now be beyond our power."

There ensued a spell of silence.  He sat with eyes averted
from her face - those eyes which she had never known other
than whimsical and mocking, now full of gloom and pain -
riveted upon the glare of sunshine on the pond out yonder.  A
great sympathy welled up from her heart for this man whom she
was still far from understanding, and who, nevertheless -
because of it, perhaps, for there is much fascination in that
which puzzles - was already growing very dear to her.  The
story he had told her drew her infinitely closer to him,
softening her heart for him even more perhaps than it had
already been softened when she had seen him - as she had
thought - upon the point of dying.  A wonder flitted through
her mind as to why he had told her; then another question
surged.  She gave it tongue.

"You have told me so much, Mr. Caryll," she said, "that I am
emboldened to ask something more." His eyes invited her to put
her question.  "Your - your father?  Was he related to Lord
Ostermore?"

Not a muscle of his face moved.  "Why that?" he asked.

"Because your name is Caryll," said she.

"My name?" he laughed softly and bitterly.  "My name?" He
reached for an ebony cane that stood beside his chair.  "I had
thought you understood."  He heaved himself to his feet, and
she forgot to caution him against exertion.  "I have no right
to any name," he told her.  "My father was a man too full of
worldly affairs to think of trifles.  And so it befell that
before he went his ways he forgot to marry the poor lady who
was my mother.  I might take what name I chose.  I chose
Caryll.  But you will understand, Mistress Winthrop," and he
looked her fully in the face, attempting in vain to dissemble
the agony in his eyes - he who a little while ago had been
almost happy - "that if ever it should happen that I should
come to love a woman who is worthy of being loved, I who am
nameless have no name to offer her."

Revelation illumined her mind as in a flash.  She looked at
him.

"Was - was that what you meant, that day we thought you dying,
when you said to me - for it was to me you spoke, to me alone
- that it was better so?"

He inclined his head.  "That is what I meant," he answered.

Her lids drooped; her cheeks were very white, and he remarked
the swift, agitated surge of her bosom, the fingers that were
plucking at one another in her lap.  Without looking up, she
spoke again.  "If you had the love to offer, what would the
rest matter? What is a name that it should weigh so much?"

"Heyday!"  He sighed, and smiled very wistfully.  "You are
young, child.  In time you will understand what place the
world assigns to such men as I.  It is a place I could ask no
woman to share.  Such as I am, could I speak of love to any
woman?"

"Yet you spoke of love once to me," she reminded him, scarcely
above her breath, and stabbed him with the recollection.

"In an hour of moonshine, an hour of madness, when I was a
reckless fool that must give tongue to every impulse.  You
reproved me then in just the terms my case deserved.
Hortensia," he bent towards her, leaning on his cane, "'tis
very sweet and merciful in you to recall it without reproach.
Recall it no more, save to think with scorn of the fleering
coxcomb who was so lost to the respect that is due to so sweet
a lady.  I have told you so much of myself to-day that
you may."

"Decidedly," came a shrill, ironical voice from the arbor's
entrance, "I may congratulate you, sir, upon the prodigious
strides of your recovery."

Mr. Caryll straightened himself from his stooping posture,
turned and made Lady Ostermore a bow, his whole manner changed
again to that which was habitual to him.  "And no less
decidedly, my lady," said he with a tight-lipped smile, "may I
congratulate your ladyship's son upon that happy circumstance,
which is - as I have learned - so greatly due to the steps
your ladyship took - for which I shall be ever grateful - to
ensure that I should be made whole again."




CHAPTER XIII

THE FORLORN HOPE


Her ladyship stood a moment, leaning upon her cane, her head
thrown back, her thin lip curling, and her eyes playing over
Mr. Caryll with a look of dislike that she made no attempt to
dissemble.

Mr. Caryll found the situation redolent with comedy.  He had a
quick eye for such matters; so quick an eye that he deplored
on the present occasion her ladyship's entire lack of a sense
of humor.  But for that lamentable shortcoming, she might have
enjoyed with him the grotesqueness of her having - she, who
disliked him so exceedingly - toiled and anguished, robbed
herself of sleep, and hoped and prayed with more fervor,
perhaps, than she had ever yet hoped and prayed for anything,
that his life might be spared.

Her glance shifted presently from him to Hortensia, who had
risen and who stood in deep confusion at having been so found
by her ladyship, and in deep agitation still arising from the
things he had said and from those which he had been hindered
from adding by the coming of the countess.

The explanations that had been interrupted might never be
renewed; she felt they never would be; he would account that
he had said enough; since he was determined to ask for
nothing.  And unless the matter were broached again, what
chance had she of combatting his foolish scruples; for foolish
she accounted them; they were of no weight with her, unless,
indeed, to heighten the warm feeling that already she had
conceived for him.

Her ladyship moved forward a step or two, her fan going gently
to and fro, stirring the barbs of the white plume that formed
part of her tall head-dress.

"What were you doing here, child?" she inquired, very coldly.

Mistress Winthrop looked up - a sudden, almost scared glance
it was.

"I, madam?  Why - I was walking in the garden, and seeing Mr.
Caryll here, I came to ask him how he did; to offer to read to
him if he would have me."

"And the Maidstone matter not yet cold in its grave!"
commented her ladyship sourly.  "As I'm a woman, it is
monstrous I should be inflicted with the care of you that have
no care for yourself."

Hortensia bit her lip, controlling herself bravely, a spot of
red in either cheek.  Mr. Caryll came promptly to her rescue.

"Your ladyship must confess that Mistress Winthrop has
assisted nobly in the care of me, and so, has placed your
ladyship in her debt."

"In my debt?" shrilled the countess, eyebrows aloft,
head-dress nodding.  "And what of yours?"

"In my clumsy way, ma'am, I have already attempted to convey
my thanks to her.  It might be graceful in your ladyship to
follow my example."

Mentally Mr. Caryll observed that it is unwise to rouge so
heavily as did Lady Ostermore when prone to anger and to
paling under it.  The false color looks so very false on such
occasions.

Her ladyship struck the ground with her cane.  "For what have
I to thank her, sir?  Will you tell me that, you who seem so
very well informed."

"Why, for her part in saving your son's life, ma'am, if you
must have it.  Heaven knows," he continued in his
characteristic, half-bantering manner, under which it was so
difficult to catch a glimpse of his real feelings, "I am not
one to throw services done in the face of folk, but here have
Mistress Winthrop and I been doing our best for your son in
this matter; she by so diligently nursing me; I by responding
to her nursing - and your ladyship's - and so, recovering from
my wound.  I do not think that your ladyship shows us a
becoming gratitude.  It is but natural that we fellow-workers
in your ladyship's and Lord Rotherby's interests, should have
a word to say to each other on the score of those labors which
have made us colleagues."

Her ladyship measured him with a malignant eye.  "Are you
quite mad, sir?" she asked him.

He shrugged and smiled.  "It has been alleged against me on
occasion.  But I think it was pure spite."  Then he waved his
hand towards the long seat that stood at the back of the
arbor.  "Will your ladyship not sit?  You will forgive that I
urge it in my own interest.  They tell me that it is not good
for me to stand too long just yet."

It was his hope that she would depart.  Not so.  "I cry you
mercy!" said she acidly, and rustled to the bench.  "Be
seated, pray."  She continued to watch them with her baleful
glance.  "We have heard fine things from you, sir, of what you
have both done for my Lord Rotherby," she gibed, mocking him
with the spirit of his half-jest.  "Shall I tell you more
precisely what 'tis he owes you?"

"Can there be more?" quoth Mr. Caryll, smiling so amiably that
he must have disarmed a Gorgon.

Her ladyship ignored him.  "He owes it to you both that you
have estranged him from his father, set up a breach between
them that is never like to be healed.  'Tis what he owes you."

"Does he not owe it, rather, to his abandoned ways?" asked
Hortensia, in a calm, clear voice, bravely giving back her
ladyship look for look.

"Abandoned ways?" screamed the countess.  "Is't you that speak
of abandoned ways, ye shameless baggage?  Faith, ye may be
some judge of them.  Ye fooled him into running off with you.
'Twas that began all this.  Just as with your airs and
simpers, and prettily-played innocences you fooled this other,
here, into being your champion."

"Madam, you insult me!"  Hortensia was on her feet, eyes
flashing, cheeks aflame.

"I am witness to that," said Lord Ostermore, coming in through
the side-entrance.

Mr. Caryll was the only one who had seen him approach.  The
earl's face that had wont to be so florid, was now pale and
careworn, and he seemed to have lost flesh during the past
month.  He turned to her ladyship.

"Out on you!" he said testily, "to chide the poor child so!"

"Poor child!" sneered her ladyship, eyes raised to heaven to
invoke its testimony to this absurdity.  "Poor child."

"Let there be an end to it, madam," he said with attempted
sternness.  "It is unjust and unreasonable in you."

"If it were that - which it is not - it would be but following
the example that you set me.  What are you but unreasonable
and unjust - to treat your son as you are treating him?"

His lordship crimsoned.  On the subject of his son he could be
angry in earnest, even with her ladyship, as already we have
seen.

"I have no son," he declared, "there is a lewd, drunken,
bullying profligate who bears my name, and who will be Lord
Ostermore some day.  I can't strip him of that.  But I'll
strip him of all else that's mine, God helping me.  I beg, my
lady, that you'll let me hear no more of this, I beg it.  Lord
Rotherby leaves my house to-day - now that Mr. Caryll is
restored to health.  Indeed, he has stayed longer than was
necessary.  He leaves to-day.  He has my orders, and my
servants have orders to see that he obeys them.  I do not wish
to see him again - never.  Let him go, and let him be thankful
- and be your ladyship thankful, too, since it seems you must
have a kindness for him in spite of all he has done to
disgrace and discredit us - that he goes not by way of Holborn
Hill and Tyburn."

She looked at him, very white from suppressed fury.  "I do
believe you had been glad had it been so."

"Nay," he answered, "I had been sorry for Mr. Caryll's sake."

"And for his own?"

"Pshaw!"

"Are you a father?" she wondered contemptuously.

"To my eternal shame, ma'am!" he flung back at her.  He
seemed, indeed, a changed man in more than body since Mr.
Caryll's duel with Lord Rotherby.  "No more, ma'am - no more!"
he cried, seeming suddenly to remember the presence of Mr.
Caryll, who sat languidly drawing figures on the ground with
the ferrule of his cane.  He turned to ask the convalescent
how he did.  Her ladyship rose to withdraw, and at that moment
Leduc made his appearance with a salver, on which was a bowl
of soup, a flask of Hock, and a letter.  Setting this down in
such a manner that the letter was immediately under his
master's eyes, he further proceeded to draw Mr. Caryll's
attention to it.  It was addressed in Sir Richard Everard's
hand.  Mr. Caryll took it, and slipped it into his pocket.
Her ladyship's eyebrows went up.

"Will you not read your letter, Mr. Caryll?" she invited him,
with an amazingly sudden change to amiability.

"It will keep, ma'am, to while away an hour that is less
pleasantly engaged."  And he took the napkin Leduc was
proffering.

"You pay your correspondent a poor compliment," said she.

"My correspondent is not one to look for them or need them,"
he answered lightly, and dipped his spoon in the broth.

"Is she not?" quoth her ladyship.

Mr. Caryll laughed.  "So feminine!" said he.  "Ha, ha!  So
very feminine - to assume the sex so readily."

"'Tis an easy assumption when the superscription is writ in a
woman's hand."

Mr. Caryll, the picture of amiability, smiled between
spoonfuls.  "Your ladyship's eyes preserve not only their
beauty but a keenness beyond belief."

"How could you have seen it from that distance, Sylvia?"
inquired his practical lordship.

"Then again," said her ladyship, ignoring both remarks, "there
is the assiduity of this fair writer since Mr. Caryll has been
in case to receive letters.  Five billets in six days!  Deny
it if you can, Mr. Caryll."

Her playfulness, so ill-assumed, sat more awkwardly upon her
than her usual and more overt malice towards him.

"To what end should I deny it?" he replied, and added in his
most ingratiating manner another of his two-edged compliments.
"Your ladyship is the model chatelaine.  No happening in your
household can escape your knowledge.  His lordship is greatly
to be envied."

"Yet, you see," she cried, appealing to her husband, and even
to Hortensia, who sat apart, scarce heeding this trivial
matter of which so much was being made, "you see that he
evades the point, avoids a direct answer to the question that
is raised."

"Since your ladyship perceives it, it were more merciful to
spare my invention the labor of fashioning further
subterfuges.  I am a sick man still, and my wits are far from
brisk."  He took up the glass of wine Leduc had poured for
him.

The countess looked at him again through narrowing eyelids,
the playfulness all vanished.  "You do yourself injustice,
sir, as I am a woman.  Your wits want nothing more in
briskness."  She rose, and looked down upon him engrossed in
his broth.  "For a dissembler, sir," she pronounced upon him
acidly, "I think it would be difficult to meet your match."

He dropped his spoon into the bowl with a clatter.  He looked
up, the very picture of amazement and consternation.

"A dissembler, I?" quoth he in earnest protest; then laughed
and quoted, adapting

       "'Tis not my talent to conceal my thoughts
        Or carry smiles and sunshine in my face
        Should discontent sit heavy at my heart."

She looked him over, pursing her lips.  "I've often thought
you might have been a player," said she contemptuously.

"I'faith," he laughed, "I'd sooner play than toil."

"Ay; but you make a toil of play, sir."

"Compassionate me, ma'am," he implored in the best of humors.
"I am but a sick man.  Your ladyship's too keen for me."

She moved across to the exit without answering him.  "Come,
child," she said to Hortensia.  "We are tiring Mr. Caryll, I
fear.  Let us leave him to his letter, ere it sets his pocket
afire."

Hortensia rose.  Loath though she might be to depart, there
was no reason she could urge for lingering.

"Is not your lordship coming?" said she.

"Of course he is," her ladyship commanded.  "I need to speak
with you yet concerning Rotherby," she informed him.

"Hem!"  His lordship coughed.  Plainly he was not at his ease.
"I will follow soon.  Do not stay for me.  I have a word to
say to Mr. Caryll."

"Will it not keep?  What can you have to say to him that is so
pressing?"

"But a word - no more."

"Why, then, we'll stay for you," said her ladyship, and threw
him into confusion, hopeless dissembler that he was.

"Nay, nay! I beg that you will not."

Her ladyship's brows went up; her eyes narrowed again, and a
frown came between them.  "You are mighty mysterious," said
she, looking from one to the other of the men, and bethinking
her that it was not the first time she had found them so;
bethinking her, too - jumping, woman-like, to rash conclusions
- that in this mystery that linked them might lie the true
secret of her husband's aversion to his son and of his oath a
month ago to see that same son hang if Mr. Caryll succumbed to
the wound he had taken.  With some women, to suspect a thing
is to believe that thing.  Her ladyship was of these.  She set
too high value upon her acumen, upon the keenness of her
instincts.

And if aught were needed to cement her present suspicions, Mr.
Caryll himself afforded that cement, by seeming to betray the
same eagerness to be alone with his lordship that his lordship
was betraying to be alone with him; though, in truth, he no
more than desired to lend assistance to the earl out of
curiosity to learn what it was his lordship might have to say.

"Indeed," said he, "if you could give his lordship leave,
ma'am, for a few moments, I should myself be glad on't."

"Come, Hortensia," said her ladyship shortly, and swept out,
Mistress Winthrop following.

In silence they crossed the lawn together.  Once only ere they
reached the house, her ladyship looked back.  "I would I knew
what they are plotting," she said through her teeth.

"Plotting?" echoed Hortensia.

"Ay - plotting, simpleton.  I said plotting.  I mind me 'tis
not the first time I have seen them so mysterious together.
It began on the day that first Mr. Caryll set foot at Stretton
House.  There's a deal of mystery about that man - too much
for honesty.  And then these letters touching which he is so
close - one a day - and his French lackey always at hand to
pounce upon them the moment they arrive.  I wonder what's at
bottom on't!  I wonder!  And I'd give these ears to know," she
snapped in conclusion as they went indoors.

In the arbor, meanwhile, his lordship had taken the rustic
seat her ladyship had vacated.  He sat down heavily, like a
man who is weary in body and in mind, like a man who is
bearing a load too heavy for his shoulders.  Mr. Caryll,
watching him, observed all this.

"A glass of Hock?" he suggested, waving his hand towards the
flask.  "Let me play host to you out of the contents of your
own cellar."

His lordship's eye brightened at the suggestion, which
confirmed the impression Mr. Caryll had formed that all was
far from well with his lordship.  Leduc brimmed a glass, and
handed it to my lord, who emptied it at a draught.  Mr. Caryll
waved an impatient hand.  "Away with you, Leduc.  Go watch the
goldfish in the pond.  I'll call you if I need you."

After Leduc had departed a silence fell between them, and
endured some moments.  His lordship was leaning forward,
elbows on knees, his face in shadow.  At length he sat back,
and looked at his companion across the little intervening
space.

"I have hesitated to speak to you before, Mr. Caryll, upon the
matter that you know of, lest your recovery should not be so
far advanced that you might bear the strain and fatigue of
conversing upon serious topics.  I trust that that cause is
now so far removed that I may put aside my scruples."

"Assuredly - I am glad to say - thanks to the great care you
have had of me here at Stretton House."

"There is no debt between us on that score," answered his
lordship shortly, brusquely almost.  "Well, then - "  He
checked, and looked about him.  "We might be approached
without hearing any one," he said.

Mr. Caryll smiled, and shook his head.  "I am not wont to
neglect such details," he observed.  "The eyes of Argus were
not so vigilant as my Leduc's; and he understands that we are
private.  He will give us warning should any attempt to
approach.  Be assured of that, and believe, therefore, that we
are more snug here than we should be even in your lordship's
closet."

"That being so, sir - hem!  You are receiving letters daily.
Do they concern the business of King James?"

"In a measure; or, rather, they are from one concerned in it."

Ostermore's eyes were on the ground again.  There fell a
pause, Mr. Caryll frowning slightly and full of curiosity as
to what might be coming.

"How soon, think you," asked his lordship presently, "you will
be in case to travel?"

"In a week, I hope," was the reply.

"Good."  The earl nodded thoughtfully.  "That may be in time.
I pray it may be.  'Tis now the best that we can do.  You'll
bear a letter for me to the king?"

Mr. Caryll passed a hand across his chin, his face very grave.
"Your answer to the letter that I brought you?"

"My answer.  My acceptance of his majesty's proposals."

"Ha!"  Mr. Caryll seemed to be breathing hard.

"Your letters, sir - the letters that you have been receiving
will have told you, perhaps, something of how his majesty's
affairs are speeding here?"

"Very little; and from that little I fear that they speed none
too well.  I would counsel your lordship," he continued slowly
- he was thinking as he went - "to wait a while before you
burn your boats.  From what I gather, matters are in the air
just now."

The earl made a gesture, brusque and impatient.  "Your
information is very scant, then," said he.

Mr. Caryll looked askance at him.

"Pho, sir!  While you have been abed, I have been up and
doing; up and doing.  Matters are being pushed forward
rapidly.  I have seen Atterbury.  He knows my mind.  There
lately came an agent from the king, it seems, to enjoin the
bishop to abandon this conspiracy, telling him that the time
was not yet ripe.  Atterbury scorns to act upon that order.
He will work in the king's interests against the king's own
commands even."

"Then, 'tis possible he may work to his own undoing," said Mr.
Caryll, to whom this was, after all, no news.

"Nay, nay; you have been sick; you do not know how things have
sped in this past month.  Atterbury holds, and he is right, I
dare swear - he holds that never will there be such another
opportunity.  The finances of the country are still in chaos,
in spite of all Walpole's efforts and fine promises.  The
South Sea bubble has sapped the confidence in the government
of all men of weight.  The very Whigs themselves are shaken.
'Tis to King James, England begins to look for salvation from
this topsy-turveydom.  The tide runs strongly in our favor.
Strongly, sir!  If we stay for the ebb, we may stay for good;
for there may never be another flow within our lifetime."

"Your lordship is grown strangely hot upon this question,"
said Caryll, very full of wonder.

As he understood Ostermore, the earl was scarcely the
sentimentalist to give way to such a passion of loyalty for a
weaker side.  Yet his lordship had spoken, not with the cold
calm of the practical man who seeks advantage, but with all
the fervor of the enthusiast.

"Such is my interest," answered his lordship.  "Even as the
fortunes of the country are beggared by the South Sea Company,
so are my own; even as the country must look to King James for
its salvation, so must I.  At best 'tis but a forlorn hope, I
confess; yet 'tis the only hope I see."

Mr. Caryll looked at him, smiled to himself, and nodded.  So!
All this fire and enthusiasm was about the mending of his
personal fortunes - the grubbing of riches for himself.  Well,
well!  It was good matter wasted on a paltry cause.  But it
sorted excellently with what Mr. Caryll knew of the nature of
this father of his.  It never could transcend the practical;
there was no imagination to carry it beyond those narrow
sordid confines, and Mr. Caryll had been a fool to have
supposed that any other springs were pushing here.  Egotism,
egotism, egotism!  Its name, he thought, was surely Ostermore.
And again, as once before, under the like circumstances, he
found more pity than scorn awaking in his heart.  The whole
wasted, sterile life that lay behind this man; the unhappy,
loveless home that stood about him now in his declining years
were the fruits he had garnered from that consuming love of
self with which the gods had cursed him.

The only ray to illumine the black desert of Ostermore's
existence was the affection of his ward, Hortensia Winthrop,
because in that one instance he had sunk his egotism a little,
sparing a crumb of pity - for once in his life - for the
child's orphanhood.  Had Ostermore been other than the man he
was, his existence must have proved a burden beyond his
strength.  It was so barren of good deeds, so sterile of
affection.  Yet encrusted as he was in that egotism of his -
like the limpet in its shell - my lord perceived nothing of
this, suffered nothing of it, understanding nothing.  He was
all-sufficient to himself.  Giving nothing, he looked for
nothing, and sought his happiness - without knowing the quest
vain - in what he had.  The fear of losing this had now in his
declining years cast, at length, a shadow upon his existence.

Mr. Caryll looked at him almost sorrowfully.  Then he put by
his thoughts, and broke the silence.  "All this I had
understood when first I sought you out," said he.  "Yet your
lordship did not seem to realize it quite so keenly.  Is it
that Atterbury and his friends -?"

"No, no," Ostermore broke in.  "Look'ee!  I will be frank -
quite frank and open with you, Mr. Caryll.  Things were bad
when first you came to me.  Yet not so bad that I was driven
to a choice of evils.  I had lost heavily.  But enough
remained to bear me through my time, though Rotherby might
have found little enough left after I had gone.  While that
was so, I hesitated to take a risk.  I am an old man.  It had
been different had I been young with ambitions that craved
satisfying.  I am an old man; and I desired peace and my
comforts.  Deeming these assured, I paused ere I risked their
loss against the stake which in King James's name you set upon
the board.  But it happens to-day that these are assured no
longer," he ended, his voice breaking almost, his eyes
haggard.  "They are assured no longer."

"You mean?" inquired Caryll.

"I mean that I am confronted by the danger of beggary, ruin,
shame, and the sponging-house, at best."

Mr. Caryll was stirred out of his calm.  "My lord!" he cried.
"How is this possible?  What can have come to pass?"

The earl was silent for a long while.  It was as if he
pondered how he should answer, or whether he should answer at
all.  At last, in a low voice, a faint tinge reddening his
face, his eyes averted, he explained.  It shamed him so to do,
yet must he satisfy that craving of weak minds to unburden, to
seek relief in confession.  "Mine is the case of Craggs, the
secretary of state," he said.  "And Craggs, you'll remember,
shot himself."

"My God," said Mr. Caryll, and opened wide his eyes.  "Did you
-?"  He paused, not knowing what euphemism to supply for the
thing his lordship must have done.

His lordship looked up, sneering almost in self-derision.  "I
did," he answered.  "To tell you all - I accepted twenty
thousand pounds' worth of South Sea stock when the company was
first formed, for which I did not pay other than by lending
the scheme the support of my name at a time when such support
was needed.  I was of the ministry, then, you will remember."

Mr. Caryll considered him again, and wondered a moment at the
confession, till he understood by intuition that the matter
and its consequences were so deeply preying upon the man's
mind that he could not refrain from giving vent to his fears.
Presently

"And now you know," his lordship added, "why my hopes are all
in King James.  Ruin stares me in the face.  Ruin and shame.
This forlorn Stuart hope is the only hope remaining me.
Therefore, am I eager to embrace it.  I have made all plain to
you.  You should understand now."

"Yet not quite all.  You did this thing.  But the inspection
of the company's books is past.  The danger of discovery, at
least, is averted.  Or is it that your conscience compels you
to make restitution?"

His lordship stared and gaped.  "Do you suppose me mad?" he
inquired, quite seriously.  "Pho!  Others were overlooked at
the time.  We did not all go the way of Craggs and Aislabie
and their fellow-sufferers.  Stanhope was assailed afterward,
though he was innocent.  That filthy fellow, the Duke of
Wharton, from being an empty fop turned himself on a sudden
into a Crown attorney to prosecute the peculators.  It was an
easy road to fame for him, and the fool had a gift of
eloquence.  Stanhope's death is on his conscience - or would
be if he had one.  That was six months ago.  When he
discovered his error in the case of Stanhope and saw the fatal
consequences it had, he ceased his dirty lawyer's work.  But
he had good grounds upon which to suspect others as highly
placed as Stanhope, and had he followed his suspicions he
might have turned them into certainties and discovered
evidence.  As it was, he let the matter lie, content with the
execution he had done, and the esteem into which he had so
suddenly hoisted himself - the damned profligate!"

Mr. Caryll let pass, as typical, the ludicrous want of logic
in Ostermore's strictures of his Grace of Wharton, and the
application by him to the duke of opprobrious terms that were
no whit less applicable to himself.

"Then, that being so, what cause for these alarms some six
months later?"

"Because," answered his lordship in a sudden burst of passion
that brought him to his feet, empurpled his face and swelled
the veins of his forehead, "because I am cursed with the
filthiest fellow in England for my son."

He said it with the air of one who throws a flood of light
where darkness has been hitherto, who supplies the key that
must resolve at a turn a whole situation.  But Mr. Caryll
blinked foolishly.

"My wits are very dull, I fear," said he.  "I still cannot
understand."

"Then I'll make it all clear to you," said his lordship.

Leduc appeared at the arbor entrance.

"What now?" asked Mr. Caryll.

"Her ladyship is approaching, sir," answered Leduc the
vigilant.




CHAPTER XIV

LADY OSTERMORE


Lord Ostermore and Mr. Caryll looked across the lawn towards
the house, but failed to see any sign of her ladyship's
approach.

Mr. Caryll raised questioning eyes to his servant's stolid
face, and in that moment caught the faintest rustle of a gown
behind the arbor.  He half-turned to my lord, and nodded
slightly in the direction of the sound, a smile twisting his
lips.  With a gesture he dismissed Leduc, who returned to the
neighborhood of the pond.

His lordship frowned, angered by the interruption.  Then: "If
your ladyship will come inside," said he, "you will hear
better and with greater comfort."

"Not to speak of dignity," said Mr. Caryll.

The stiff gown rustled again, this time without stealth.  The
countess appeared, no whit abashed.  Mr. Caryll rose politely.

"You sit with spies to guard your approaches," said she.

"As a precaution against spies," was his lordship's curt
answer.

She measured him with a cool eye.  "What is't ye hide?" she
asked him.

"My shame," he answered readily.  Then after a moment's pause,
he rose and offered her his seat.  "Since you have thrust
yourself in where you were not bidden, you may hear and
welcome, ma'am," said he.  "It may help you to understand what
you term my injustice to my son."

"Are these matters wherewith to importune a stranger - a
guest?"

"I am proposing to say in your presence what I was about to
say in your absence," said he, without answering her question.
"Be seated, ma'am."

She sniffed, closed her fan with a clatter, and sat down.  Mr.
Caryll resumed his long chair, and his lordship took the
stool.

"I am told," the latter resumed presently, recapitulating in
part for her ladyship's better understanding, "that his Grace
of Wharton is intending to reopen the South Sea scandal, as
soon as he can find evidence that I was one of those who
profited by the company's charter."

"Profited?" she echoed, between scorn and bitter amusement.
"Profited, did ye say?  I think your dotage is surely upon you
- you that have sunk nigh all your fortune and all that you
had with me in this thieving venture - d'ye talk of profits?"

"At the commencement I did profit, as did many others.  Had I
been content with my gains, had I been less of a trusting
fool, it had been well.  I was dazzled, maybe, by the glare of
so much gold.  I needed more; and so I lost all.  That is evil
enough.  But there is worse.  I may be called upon to make
restitution of what I had from the company without
paying for it - I may give all that's left me and barely cover
the amount, and I may starve and be damned thereafter."

Her ladyship's face was ghastly.  Horror stared from her pale
eyes.  She had known, from the beginning, of that twenty
thousand pounds' worth of stock, and she had had - with his
lordship - her anxious moments when the disclosures were being
made six months ago that had brought the Craggses, Aislabie
and a half-dozen others to shame and ruin.

His lordship looked at her a moment.  "And if this shipwreck
comes, as it now threatens," he continued, "it is my son I
shall have to thank for't."

She found voice to ask: "How so?" courage to put the question
scornfully.  "Is it not rather Rotherby you have to thank that
the disclosures did not come six months ago?  What was it
saved you but the friendship his Grace of Wharton had for
Charles?"

"Why, then," stormed his lordship, "did he not see to't that
he preserved that friendship?  It but needed a behavior of as
much decency and honor as Wharton exacts in his associates -
and the Lord knows how much that is!" he sneered.  "As it is,
he has gone even lower than that abandoned scourer; so low
that even this rakehell duke must become his enemy for his own
credit's sake.  He attempts mock-marriages with ladies of
quality; and he attempts murder by stabbing through the back a
gentleman who has spared his worthless life.  Not even the
president of the Hell Fire Club can countenance these things,
strong stomach though he have for villainy.  It is something
to have contrived to come so low that even his Grace of
Wharton must turn upon him, and swear his ruin.  And so that
he may ruin him, his grace is determined to ruin me.  Now you
understand, madam - and you, Mr. Caryll."

Mr. Caryll understood.  He understood even more than his
lordship meant him to understand; more than his lordship
understood, himself.  So, too, did her ladyship, if we may
judge from the reply she made him.

"You fool," she railed.  "You vain, blind, selfish fool!  To
blame Rotherby for this.  Rather should Rotherby, blame you
that by your damned dishonesty have set a weapon against him
in his enemy's hands."

"Madam!" he roared, empurpling, and coming heavily to his
feet.  "Do you know who I am?"

"Ay - and what you are, which is something you will never
know.  God!  Was there ever so self-centered a fool?
Compassionate me, Heaven!"  She rose, too, and turned to Mr.
Caryll.  "You, sir," she said to him, "you have been dragged
into this, I know not why."

She broke off suddenly, looking at him, her eyes a pair of
gimlets now for penetration.  "Why have you been dragged into
it?" she demanded.  "What is here?  I demand to know.  What
help does my lord expect from you that he tells you this? Does
he - "  She paused an instant, a cunning smile breaking over
her wrinkled, painted face.  "Does he propose to sell himself
to the king over the water, and are you a secret agent come to
do the buying?  Is that the answer to this riddle?"

Mr. Caryll, imperturbable outwardly, but very ill at ease
within, smiled and waved the delicate hand that appeared
through the heavy ruffle at his wrist.  "Madam, indeed - ah -
your ladyship goes very fast.  You leap so at conclusions for
which no grounds can exist.  His lordship is so overwrought -
as well he may be, alas! - that he cares not before whom he
speaks.  Is it not plainly so?"

She smiled very sourly.  "You are a very master of evasion,
sir.  But your evasion gives me the answer that I lack - that
and his lordship's face.  I drew my bow at a venture; yet
look, sir, and tell me, has my quarrel missed its mark?"

And, indeed, the sudden fear and consternation written on my
lord's face was so plain that all might read it.  He was - as
Mr. Caryll had remarked on the first occasion that they met -
the worst dissembler that ever set hand to a conspiracy.  He
betrayed himself at every step, if not positively, by
incautious words, why then by the utter lack of control he had
upon his countenance.

He made now a wild attempt to bluster.  "Lies!  Lies!" he
protested.  "Your ladyship's a-dreaming.  Should I be making
bad worse by plotting at my time of life?  Should I?  What can
King James avail me, indeed?"

"'Tis what I will ask Rotherby to help me to discover," she
informed him.

"Rotherby?" he cried.  "Would you tell that villain what you
suspect?  Would you arm him with another weapon for my
undoing?"

"Ha!" said she.  "You admit so much, then?"  And she laughed
disdainfully.  Then with a sudden sternness, a sudden nobility
almost in the motherhood which she put forward - "Rotherby is
my son," she said, "and I'll not have my son the victim of
your follies as well as of your injustice.  We may curb the
one and the other yet, my lord."

And she swept out, fan going briskly in one hand, her long
ebony cane swinging as briskly in the other.

"O God!" groaned Ostermore, and sat down heavily.

Mr. Caryll helped himself copiously to snuff.  "I think," said
he, his voice so cool that it had an almost soothing
influence, "I think your lordship has now another reason why
you should go no further in this matter."

"But if I do not - what other hopes have I?  Damn me!  I'm a
ruined man either way."

"Nay, nay," Mr. Caryll reminded him.  "Assuming even that you
are correctly informed, and that his Grace of Wharton is
determined to move against you, it is not to be depended that
he will succeed in collecting such evidence as he must need.
At this date much of the evidence that may once have been
available will have been dissipated.  You are rash to despair
so soon."

"There is that," his lordship admitted thoughtfully, a little
hopefully, even; "there is that."  And with the resilience of
his nature - of men who form opinions on slight grounds, and,
therefore, are ready to change them upon grounds as slight -
"I' faith! I may have been running to meet my trouble.  'Tis
but a rumor, after all, that Wharton is for mischief, and - as
you say - as like as not there'll be no evidence by now.
There was little enough at the time.

"Still, I'll make doubly sure.  My letter to King James can do
no harm.  We'll talk of it again, when you are in case to
travel."

It passed through Mr. Caryll's mind at the moment that Lady
Ostermore and her son might between them brew such mischief as
might seriously hinder him from travelling, and he was very
near the truth.  For already her ladyship was closeted with
Rotherby in her boudoir.

The viscount was dressed for travelling, intent upon
withdrawing to the country, for he was well-informed already
of the feeling of the town concerning him, and had no mind to
brave the slights and cold-shoulderings that would await him
did he penetrate to any of the haunts of people of quality and
fashion.  He stood before his mother now, a tall, lank figure,
his black face very gloomy, his sensual lips thrust forward in
a sullen pout.  She, in a gilt arm-chair before her
toilet-table, was telling him the story of what had passed,
his father's fear of ruin and disgrace.  He swore between his
teeth when he heard that the danger threatened from the Duke
of Wharton.

"And your father's destitution means our destitution - yours
and mine; for his gambling schemes have consumed my portion
long since."

He laughed and shrugged.  "I marvel I should concern myself,"
said he.  "What can it avail me to save the rags that are left
him of his fortune?  He's sworn I shall never touch a penny
that he may die possessed of."

"But there's the entail," she reminded him.  "If restitution
is demanded, the Crown will not respect it.  'Twill be another
sop to throw the whining curs that were crippled by the
bubble, and who threaten to disturb the country if they are
not appeased.  If Wharton carries out this exposure, we're
beggars - utter beggars, that may ask an alms to quiet
hunger."

"'Tis Wharton's present hate of me," said he thoughtfully, and
swore.  "The damned puppy! He'd make a sacrifice of me upon
the altar of respectability, just as he made a sacrifice of
the South Sea bubblers.  What else was the stinking rakehell
seeking but to put himself right again in the eyes of a town
that was nauseated with him and his excesses?  The
self-seeking toad that makes virtue his profession - the
virtue of others - and profligacy his recreation!"  He smote
fist into palm.  "There's a way to silence him."

"Ah?" she looked up quickly, hopefully.

"A foot or so of steel," Rotherby explained, and struck the
hilt of his sword.  "I might pick a quarrel with him.  'Twould
not be difficult.  Come upon him unawares, say, and strike
him.  That should force a fight."

"Tusk, fool!  He's all empanoplied in virtue where you are
concerned.  He'd use the matter of your affair with Caryll as
a reason not to meet you, whatever you might do, and he'd set
his grooms to punish any indignity you might put upon him."

"He durst not."

"Pooh!  The town would all approve him in it since your
running Caryll through the back.  What a fool you were,
Charles."

He turned away, hanging his head, full conscious, and with no
little bitterness, of how great had been his folly.

"Salvation may lie for you in the same source that has brought
you to the present pass - this man Caryll," said the countess
presently.  "I suspect him more than ever of being a Jacobite
agent."

"I know him to be such."

"You know it?"

"All but; and Green is assured of it, too."  He proceeded to
tell her what he knew.  "Ever since Green met Caryll at
Maidstone has he suspected him, yet but that I kept him to the
task he would have abandoned it.  He's in my pay now as much
as in Lord Carteret's, and if he can run Caryll to earth he
receives his wages from both sides."

"Well - well?  What has he discovered?  Anything?"

"A little.  This Caryll frequented regularly the house of one
Everard, who came to town a week after Caryll's own arrival.
This Everard - Sir Richard Everard is known to be a Jacobite.
He is the Pretender's Paris agent.  They would have laid him
by the heels before, but that by precipitancy they feared to
ruin their chances of discovering the business that may have
brought him over.  They are giving him rope at present.
Meanwhile, by my cursed folly, Caryll's visits to him were
interrupted.  But there has been correspondence between them."

"I know," said her ladyship.  "A letter was delivered him just
now.  I tried to smoke him concerning it.  But he's too
astute."

"Astute or not," replied her son, "once he leaves Stretton
House it should not be long ere he betrays himself and gives
us cause to lay him by the heels.  But how will that help us?"

"Do you ask how?  Why, if there is a plot, and we can discover
it, we might make terms with the secretary of state to avoid
any disclosure Wharton may intend concerning the South Sea
matter."

"But that would be to discover my father for a Jacobite!  What
advantage should we derive from that?  'Twould be as bad as
t'other matter."

"Let me die, but ye're a slow-witted clod, Charles.  D'ye
think we can find no way to disclose the plot and Mr. Caryll -
and Everard, too, if you choose - without including your
father?  My lord is timidly cautious, and you may depend he'll
not have put himself in their hands to any extent just yet."

The viscount paced the chamber slowly in long strides, head
bent in thought, hands clasped behind him.  "It will need
consideration," said he.  "But it may serve, and I can count
upon Green.  He is satisfied that Caryll befooled him at
Maidstone, and that he kept the papers he carried despite the
thoroughness of Green's investigations.  Moreover, he was
handled with some roughness by Caryll.  For that and the other
matter he asks redress - thirsts for it.  He's a very willing
tool, as I have found."

"Then see that you use him adroitly to your work," said his
mother.  "Best not leave town at present, Charles."

"Why, no," said he.  "I'll find me a lodging somewhere at
hand, since my fond sire is determined I shall pollute no
longer the sacrosanctity of his dwelling.  Perhaps when I have
pulled him out of this quicksand, he will deign to mitigate
the bitterness of his feelings for me.  Though, faith, I find
life endurable without the affection he should have
consecrated to me."

"Ay," she said, looking up at him.  "You are his son; too much
his son, I fear.  'Tis why he dislikes you so intensely.  He
sees in you the faults to which he is blind in himself."

"Sweet mother!" said his lordship, bowing.

She scowled at him.  She could deal in irony herself - and
loved to - but she detested to have it dealt to her.

He bowed again; gained the door, and would have passed out but
that she detained him.

"'Tis a pity, on some scores, to dispose so utterly of this
Caryll," she said.  "The pestilent coxcomb has his uses, and
his uses, like adversity's, are sweet."

He paused to question her with his eyes.

"He might have made a husband for Hortensia, and rid me of the
company of that white-faced changeling."

"Might he so?" quoth the viscount, face and voice,
expressionless.

"They were made for each other," her ladyship opined.

"Were they so?"

"Ay - were they.  And faith they've discovered it.  I would
you had seen the turtles in the arbor an hour ago, when I
surprised them."

His lordship attempted a smile, but achieved nothing more than
a wry face and a change of color.  His mother's eyes,
observing these signs, grew on a sudden startled.

"Why, fool," quoth she, "do you hold there still?  Art not yet
cured of that folly?"

"What folly, ma'am?"

"This folly that already has cost you so much.  'Sdeath!  As
I'm a woman, if you'd so much feeling for the girl, I marvel
ye did not marry her honestly and in earnest when the chance
was yours."

The pallor of his face increased.  He clenched his hands.  "I
marvel myself that I did not," he answered passionately - and
went out, slamming the door after him, and leaving her
ladyship agape and angry.




CHAPTER XV

LOVE AND RAGE


Lord Rotherby, descending from that interview with his mother,
espied Hortensia crossing the hall below.  Forgetting his
dignity, he quickened his movements, and took the remainder of
the stairs two at a stride.  But, then, his lordship was
excited and angry, and considerations of dignity did not
obtain with him at the time.  For that matter, they seldom
did.

"Hortensia!  Hortensia!" he called to her, and at his call she
paused.

Not once during the month that was past - and during which he
had, for the most part, kept his room, to all intents a
prisoner - had she exchanged so much as a word with him.
Thus, not seeing him, she had been able, to an extent, to
exclude him from her thoughts, which, naturally enough, were
reluctant to entertain him for their guest.

Her calm, as she paused now in acquiescence to his bidding,
was such that it almost surprised herself.  She had loved him
once - or thought so, a little month ago - and at a single
blow he had slain that love.  Now love so slain has a trick of
resurrecting in the guise of hate; and so, she had thought at
first had been the case with her.  But this moment proved to
her now that her love was dead, indeed, since of her erstwhile
affection not even a recoil to hate remained.  Dislike she may
have felt; but it was that cold dislike that breeds a deadly
indifference, and seeks no active expression, asking no more
than the avoidance of its object.

Her calm, reflected in her face of a beauty almost spiritual,
in every steady line of her slight, graceful figure, gave him
pause a moment, and his hot glance fell abashed before the
chill indifference that met him from those brown eyes.

A man of deeper sensibilities, of keener perceptions, would
have bowed and gone his way.  But then a man of deeper
sensibilities would never have sought this interview that the
viscount was now seeking.  Therefore, it was but natural that
he should recover swiftly from his momentary halt, and step
aside to throw open the door of a little room on the right of
the hall.  Bowing slightly, he invited her to enter.

"Grant me a moment ere I go, Hortensia," he said `between
command and exhortation.

She stood cogitating him an instant, with no outward sign of
what might be passing in her mind; then she slightly inclined
her head, and went forward as he bade her.

It was a sunny room, gay with light color and dainty
furnishings, having long window-doors that opened to the
garden.  An Aubusson carpet of palest green, with a festoon
pattern of pink roses, covered two-thirds of the blocked,
polished floor.  The empanelled walls were white, with here a
gilt mirror, flanked on either side by a girandole in ormolu.
A spinet stood open in mid-chamber, and upon it were sheets of
music, a few books and a bowl of emerald-green ware, charged
now with roses, whose fragrance lay heavy on the air.  There
were two or three small tables of very dainty, fragile make,
and the chairs were in delicately-tinted tapestry illustrating
the fables of La Fontaine.

It was an apartment looked upon by Hortensia as her own
withdrawing-room, set apart for her own use, and as that the
household - her very ladyship included - had ever recognized
it.

His lordship closed the door with care.  Hortensia took her
seat upon the long stool that stood at the spinet, her back to
the instrument, and with hands idle in her lap - the same cold
reserve upon her countenance-she awaited his communication.

He advanced until he was close beside her, and stood leaning
an elbow on the corner of the spinet, a long and not
ungraceful figure, with the black curls of his full-bottomed
wig falling about his swarthy, big-featured face.

"I have but my farewells to make, Hortensia," said he.  "I am
leaving Stretton House, to-day, at last."

"I am glad," said she, in a formal, level voice, "that things
should have fallen out so as to leave you free to go your
ways."

"You are glad," he answered, frowning slightly, and leaning
farther towards her.  "Ay, and why are you glad?  Why?  You
are glad for Mr. Caryll's sake.  Do you deny it?"

She looked up at him quite calm and fearlessly.  "I am glad
for your own sake, too."

His dark brooding eyes looked deep into hers, which did not
falter under his insistent gaze.  "Am I to believe you?" he
inquired.

"Why not? I do not wish your death."

"Not my death - but my absence?" he sneered.  "You wish for
that, do you not?  You would prefer me gone?  My room is
better than my company just now? 'Tis what you think, eh?"

"I have not thought of it at all," she answered him with a
pitiless frankness.

He laughed, soft and wickedly.  "Is it so very hopeless, then?
You have not thought of it at all by which you mean that you
have not thought of me at all."

"Is't not best so? You have given me no cause to think of you
to your advantage.  I am therefore kind to exclude you from my
thoughts."

"Kind?" he mocked her.  "You think it kind to put me from your
mind - I who love you, Hortensia!"

She rose upon the instant, her cheeks warming faintly.  "My
lord," said she, "I think there is no more to be said between
us."

"Ah, but there is," he cried.  "A deal more yet."  And he left
his place by the spinet to come and stand immediately before
her, barring her passage to the door.  "Not only to say
farewell was it that I desired to speak with you alone here."
His voice softened amazingly.  "I want your pardon ere I go.
I want you to say that you forgive me the vile thing I would
have done, Hortensia."  Contrition quivered in his lowered
voice.  He bent a knee to her, and held out his hand.  "I will
not rise until you speak my pardon, child."

"Why, if that be all, I pardon you very readily," she
answered, still betraying no emotion.

He frowned.  "Too readily!" he cried.  "Too readily for
sincerity.  I will not take it so."

"Indeed, my lord, for a penitent, you are very difficult to
please.  I pardon you with all my heart."

"You are sincere?" he cried, and sought to take her hands; but
she whipped them away and behind her.  "You bear me no
ill-will?"

She considered him now with a calm, critical gaze, before
which he was forced to lower his bold eyes.  "Why should I
bear you an ill-will?" she asked him.

"For the thing I did - the thing I sought to do."

"I wonder do you know all that you did?" she asked him,
musingly.  "Shall I tell you, my lord?  You cured me of a
folly.  I had been blind, and you made me see.  I had
foolishly thought to escape one evil, and you made me realize
that I was rushing into a worse.  You saved me from myself.
You may have made me suffer then; but it was a healing hurt
you dealt me.  And should I bear you an ill-will for that?"

He had risen from his knee.  He stood apart, pondering her
from under bent brows with eyes that were full of angry fire.

"I do not think," she ended, "that there needs more between
us.  I have understood you, sir, since that day at Maidstone
- I think we were strangers until then; and perhaps now you
may begin to understand me.  Fare you well, my lord."

She made shift to go, but he barred her passage now in
earnest, his hands clenched beside him in witness of the
violence he did himself to keep them there.  "Not yet," he
said, in a deep, concentrated voice.  "Not yet.  I did you a
wrong, I know.  And what you say - cruel as it is - is no more
than I deserve.  But I desire to make amends.  I love you,
Hortensia, and desire to make amends."

She smiled wistfully.  "'Tis overlate to talk of that."

"Why?" he demanded fiercely, and caught her arms, holding her
there before him.  "Why is it overlate?"

"Suffer me to go," she commanded, rather than begged, and made
to free herself of his grasp.

"I want you to be my wife, Hortensia - my wedded wife."

She looked at him, and laughed; a cold laugh, disdainful, yet
not bitter.  "You wanted that before, my lord; yet you
neglected the opportunity my folly gave you.  I thank you -
you, after God - for that same neglect."

"Ah, do not say that!" he begged, a very suppliant again.  "Do
not say that!  Child, I love you.  Do you understand?"

"Who could fail to understand, after the abundant proof you
have afforded me of your sincerity and your devotion?"

"Do you rally me?" he demanded, letting through a flash of the
anger that was mounting in him.  "Am I so poor a thing that
you whet your little wit upon me?"

"My lord, you are paining me.  What can you look to gain by
this?  Suffer me to go."

A moment yet he stood, holding her wrists and looking down
into her eyes with a mixture of pleading and ferocity in his.
Then he made a sound in his throat, and caught her bodily to
him; his arms, laced about her, held her bound and crushed
against him.  His dark, flushed face hovered above her own.

Fear took her at last.  It mounted and grew to horror.  "Let
me go, my lord," she besought him, her voice trembling.  "Oh,
let me go!"

"I love you, Hortensia!  I need you!" he cried, as if wrung by
pain, and then hot upon her brow and cheeks and lips his
kisses fell, and shame turned her to fire from head to foot as
she fought helplessly within his crushing grasp.

"You dog!" she panted, and writhing harder, wrenched free a
hand and arm.  Blindly she beat upwards into that evil satyr's
face.  "You beast!  You toad!  You coward!"

They fell apart, each panting; she leaning faint against the
spinet, her bosom galloping; he muttering oaths decent and
other - for in the upward thrusting of her little hand one of
its fingers had prodded at an eye, and the pain of it - which
had caused him to relax his hold of her - stripped what little
veneer remained upon the man's true nature.

"Will you go?" she asked him furiously, outraged by the
vileness of his ravings.  "Will you go, or must I summon
help?"

He stood looking at her, straightening his wig, which had
become disarranged in the struggle, and forcing himself to an
outward calm.  "So," he said.  "You scorn me?  You will not
marry me?  You realise the chance, eh?  And why?  Why?"

"I suppose it is because I am blind to the honor of the
alliance," she controlled herself to answer him.  "Will you
go?"

He did not move.  "Yet you loved me once - "

"'Tis a lie!" she blazed.  "I thought I did - to my undying
shame.  No more than that, my lord - as I've a soul to be
saved."

"You loved Me," he insisted.  "And you would love me still but
for this damned Caryll - this French coxcomb, who has crawled
into your regard like the slimy, creeping thing he is."

"It sorts well with your ways, my lord, that you could say
these things behind his back.  You are practiced at stabbing
men behind."

The gibe, with all the hurtful, stinging quality that only
truth possesses, struck his anger from him, leaving him limp
and pale.  Then he recovered.

"Do you know who he is - what he is?" he asked.  "I will tell
you.  He's a spy - a damned Jacobite spy, whom a word from me
will hang."

Her eyes lashed him with her scorn.  "I were a fool did I
believe you," was her contemptuous answer.

"Ask him," he said, and laughed.  He turned and strode to the
door.  Paused there, sardonic, looking back.  "I shall be
quits with you, ma'am.  Quits!  I'll hang this pretty turtle
of yours at Tyburn.  Tell him so from me."

He wrenched the door open, and went out on that, leaving her
cold and sick with dread.

Was it but an idle threat to terrorize her?  Was it but that?
Her impulse was to seek Mr. Caryll upon the instant that she
might ask him and allay her fears.  But what right had she?
Upon what grounds could she set a question upon so secret a
matter?  She conceived him raising his brows in that
supercilious way of his, and looking her over from head to toe
as though seeking a clue to the nature of this quaint thing
that asked him questions.  She pictured his smile and the jest
with which he would set aside her inquiry.  She imagined,
indeed, just what she believed would happen did she ask him;
which was precisely what would not have happened.  Imagining
thus, she held her peace, and nursed her secret dread.  And on
the following day, his weakness so far overcome as to leave
him no excuse to linger at Stretton House, Mr. Caryll took his
departure and returned to his lodging in Old Palace Yard.

One more treasonable interview had he with Lord Ostermore in
the library ere he departed.  His lordship it was who reopened
again the question, to repeat much of what he had said in the
arbor on the previous day, and Mr. Caryll replied with much
the same arguments in favor of procrastination that he had
already employed.

"Wait, at least," he begged, "until I have been abroad a day
or two, and felt for myself how the wind Is setting."


"'Tis a prodigiously dangerous document," he declared.  "I
scarce see the need for so much detail."

"How can it set but one way?"

"'Tis a question I shall be in better case to answer when I
have had an opportunity of judging.  Meanwhile, be assured I
shall not sail for France without advising you.  Time enough
then to give me your letter should you still be of the same
mind."

"Be it so," said the earl.  "When all is said, the letter will
be safer here, meantime, than in your pocket."  And he tapped
the secretaire.  "But see what I have writ his majesty, and
tell me should I alter aught."

He took out a drawer on the right - took it out bodily - then
introduced his hand into the opening, running it along the
inner side of the desk until, no doubt, he touched a spring;
for suddenly a small trap was opened.  From this cavity he
fished out two documents - one the flimsy tissue on which King
James' later was penned; the other on heavier material Lord
Ostermore's reply.  He spread the latter before him, and
handed it to Mr. Caryll, who ran an eye over it.

It was indited with stupid, characteristic incaution;
concealment was never once resorted to; everywhere expressions
of the frankest were employed, and every line breathed the
full measure of his lordship's treason and betrays the
existence of a plot.

Mr. Caryll returned it.  His countenance was grave.


"I desire his majesty to know how whole-heartedly I belong to
him."

"'Twere best destroyed, I think.  You can write another when
the time comes to dispatch it."

But Ostermore was never one to take sensible advice.  "Pooh!
'Twill be safe in here.  'Tis a secret known to none."  He
dropped it, together with King James' letter, back into the
recess, snapped down the trap, and replaced the drawer.
Whereupon Mr. Caryll took his leave, promising to advise his
lordship of whatever he might glean, and so departed from
Stretton House.

My Lord Rotherby, meanwhile, was very diligent in the business
upon which he was intent.  He had received in his interview
with Hortensia an added spur to such action as might be
scatheful to Mr. Caryll.  His lordship was lodged in Portugal
Row, within a stone's throw of his father's house, and there,
on that same evening of his moving thither, he had Mr. Green
to see him, desiring news.

Mr. Green had little to impart, but strong hope of much to be
garnered presently.  His little eyes twinkling, his chubby
face suffused in smiles, as though it were an excellent jest
to be hunting knowledge that should hang a man, the spy
assured Lord Rotherby that there was little doubt Mr. Caryll
could be implicated as soon as he was about again.

"And that's the reason - after your lordship's own express
wishes - why so far I have let Sir Richard Everard be.  It may
come to trouble for me with my Lord Carteret should it be
smoked that I have been silent on the matters within my
knowledge.  But - "

"Oh, a plague on that!" said his lordship.  "You'll be well
paid for your services when you've rendered them.  And,
meanwhile, I understand that not another soul in London - that
is, on the side of the government - is aware of Sir Richard's
presence in town.  So where is your danger?"

"True," said Mr. Green, plump hand caressing plumper chin.
"Had it not been so, I should have been forced to apply to the
secretary for a warrant before this."

"Then you'll wait," said his lordship, "and you'll act as I
may direct you.  It will be to your credit in the end.  Wait
until Caryll has enmeshed himself by frequent visits to Sir
Richard's.  Then get your warrant - when I give the word - and
execute it one fine night when Caryll happens to be closeted
with Everard.  Whether we can get further evidence against him
or not, that circumstance of his being found with the
Pretender's agent should go some way towards hanging him.  The
rest we must supply."

Mr. Green smiled seraphically.  "Ecod!  I'd give my ears to
have the slippery fellow safe.  Codso!  I would.  He bubbled
me at Maidstone, and I limped a fortnight from the kick he
gave me."

"He shall do a little more kicking - with both feet," said his
lordship with unction.




CHAPTER XVI

MR. GREEN EXECUTES HIS WARRANT


Five days later, Mr. Caryll - whose recovery had so far
progressed that he might now be said to be his own man again -
came briskly up from Charing Cross one evening at dusk, to the
house at the corner of Maiden Lane where Sir Richard Everard
was lodged.  He observed three or four fellows lounging about
the corner of Chandos street and Bedford street, but it did
not occur to him that from that point they could command Sir
Richard's door - nor that such could be their object - until,
as he swung sharply round the corner, he hurtled violently
into a man who was moving in the opposite direction without
looking whither he was going.  The man stepped quickly aside
with a murmured word of apology, to give Mr. Caryll the wall
that he might pass on.  But Mr. Caryll paused.

"Ah, Mr. Green!" said he very pleasantly.  "How d'ye?  Have ye
been searching folk of late?"

Mr. Green endeavored to dissemble his startled expression in a
grin that revealed his white teeth.  "Ye can't forgive me that
blunder, Mr. Caryll," said he.

Mr. Caryll smiled fondly upon him.  "From your manner I take
it that on your side you practice a more Christian virtue.  It
is plain that you forgive me the sequel."

Mr. Green shrugged and spread his hands.  "You were in the
right, sir; you were in the right," he explained.  "Those are
the risks a man of my calling must run.  I must suffer for my
blunders."

Mr. Caryll continued to smile.  But that the light was
failing, the spy might have observed a certain hardening in
the lines of his mouth.  "Here is a very humble mood," said
he.  "It is like the crouch before the spring.  In whom do you
design to plant your claws? - yours and your friends yonder."
And he pointed with his cane across the street towards the
loungers he had observed.

"My friends?" quoth Mr. Green, in a voice of disgust.  "Nay,
your honor!  No friends of mine, ecod!  Indeed, no!"

"No?  I am at fault, then.  Yet they look as if they might be
bumbailiffs.  'Tis the kind ye herd with, is't not?  Give you
good-even, Mr. Green."  And he went on, cool and unconcerned,
and turned in through the narrow doorway by the glover's shop
to mount the stairs to Sir Richard's lodging.

Mr. Green stood still to watch him go.  Then he swore through
his teeth, and beckoned one of those whose acquaintance he had
disclaimed.

"'Tis like him, ecod! to have gone in in spite of seeing me
and you!  He's cool!  Damned cool!  But he'll be cooler yet,
codso!"  Then, briskly questioning his satellite: "Is Sir
Richard within, Jerry?"

"Ay," answered Jerry - a rough, heavily-built tatterdemalion.
"He's been there these two hours."

"'Tis our chance to nab 'em both, then-our last chance, maybe.
The game is up.  That fine gentleman has smoked it."  He was
angry beyond measure.  Their plans were far from ripe, and yet
to delay longer now that their vigilance was detected was,
perhaps, to allow Sir Richard to slip through their fingers,
as well as the other.  "Have ye your barkers?" he asked
harshly.

Jerry tapped a heavily bulging pocket, and winked.  Mr. Green
thrust his three-cornered hat a-cock over one eye, and with
his hands behind the tails of his coat, stood pondering.  "Ay,
pox on't!" he grumbled.  "It must be done to-night.  I dursn't
delay longer.  We'll give the gentlemen time to settle
comfortably; then up we go to make things merry for 'em."  And
he beckoned the others across.

Meanwhile Mr. Caryll had gone up with considerable misgivings.
The last letter he had received from Sir Richard - that day at
Stretton House - had been to apprise him that his adoptive
father was on the point of leaving town but that he would be
returned within the week.  The business that had taken him had
been again concerned with Atterbury the obstinate.  Upon
another vain endeavor to dissuade the bishop from a scheme his
king did not approve had Sir Richard journeyed to Rochester.
He had had his pains for nothing.  Atterbury had kept him
there, entertaining him, and seeking in his turn to engulf the
agent in the business that was toward - business which was
ultimately to suck down Atterbury and his associates.  Sir
Richard, however, was very firm.  And when at last he left
Rochester to return to town and his adoptive son, a coolness
marked the parting of those two adherents of the Stuart
dynasty.

Returned to London - whence his absence had been marked with
alarm by Mr. Green - Sir Richard had sent a message to Mr.
Caryll, and the latter made haste to answer it in person.

His adoptive father received him with open arms, and such a
joy in his face, such a light in his old eyes as should have
gladdened his visitor, yet only served sadden him the more.
He sighed as Sir Richard thrust him back that he might look at
him.

"Ye're pale, boy," he said, "and ye look thinner."  And with
that he fell to reviling the deed that was the cause of this,
Rotherby and the whole brood of Ostermore.

"Let be," said Mr. Caryll, as he dropped into a chair.
"Rotherby is undergoing his punishment.  The town looks on him
as a cut-throat who has narrowly escaped the gallows.  I
marvel that he tarries here.  An I were he, I think I'd travel
for a year or two."

"What weakness made you spare him when ye had him at the point
of your sword?"

"That which made me regret that I had him there; the
reflection that he is my brother."

Sir Richard looked at him in some surprise.  "I thought you of
sterner stuff, Justin," he said presently, and sighed, passing
a long white hand across his bony brow.  "I thought I had
reared you to a finer strength.  But there!  What of Ostermore
himself?"

"What of him?"

"Have you not talked again with him of the matter of going
over to King James?"

"To what end, since the chance is lost?  His betrayal now
would involve the betrayal of Atterbury and the others - for
he has been in touch with them."

"Has he though?  The bishop said naught of this."

"I have it from my lord himself - and I know the man.  Were he
taken they'd wring out of him whatever happened to be in him.
He has no discretion.  Indeed, he's but a clod, too stupid
even to be aware of his own stupidity."

"Then what is to be done?" inquired Sir Richard, frowning.

"We'd best get home to France again."

"And leave matters thus?"  He considered a moment, and shook
his head, smiling bitterly.  "Could that content you, Justin?
Could you go as you have come - taking no more than you
brought; leaving that man as you found him? Could you?"

Mr. Caryll looked at the baronet, and wondered for a moment
whether he should persevere in the rule of his life and deal
quite frankly with him, telling him precisely what he felt.
Then he realized that he would not be understood.  He could
not combat the fanaticism that was Sir Richard's in this
matter.  If he told him the truth; how he loathed the task;
how he rejoiced that circumstances had now put it beyond his
reach - all he would achieve would be to wound Sir Richard in
his tenderest place and to no purpose.

"It is not a matter of what I would," he answered slowly,
wearily almost.  "It is a matter of what I must.  Here in
England is no more to be done.  Moreover, there's danger for
you in lingering, or I'm much mistaken else."

"Danger of what?" asked Sir Richard, with indifference.

"You are being spied upon."

"Pho!  I am accustomed to it.  I have been spied upon all my
life."

"Like enough.  But this time the spies are messengers from the
secretary of state.  I caught a glimpse of them lurking about
your doorway - three or four at least - and as I entered I all
but fell over a Mr. Green - a most pertinacious gentleman with
whom I have already some acquaintance.  He is the very man who
searched me at Maidstone; he has kept his eye upon me ever
since, which has not troubled me.  But that he should keep an
eye on you means that your identity is suspected, and if that
be so - well, the sooner we are out of England the better for
your health."

Sir Richard shook his head calmly.  The fine-featured, lean
old face showed no sign of uneasiness.  "A fig for all that!"
said he.  "I go not thus - empty-handed as I came.  After all
these years of waiting."

A knock fell upon the door, and Sir Richard's man entered.
His face was white, his eyes startled.

"Sir Richard," he announced, his voice lowered portentously,
"there are some men here who insist upon seeing you."

Mr. Caryll wheeled in his chair.  "Surely they did not ask for
him by name?" he inquired in the same low key employed by the
valet.

The man nodded in silence.  Mr. Caryll swore through his
teeth.  Sir Richard rose.

"I am occupied at present," he said in a calm voice.  "I can
receive nobody.  Desire to know their business.  If it
imports, bid them come again to-morrow."

"It is over-urgent for that, Sir Richard Everard," came the
soft voice of Mr. Green, who thrust himself suddenly forward
past the servant.  Other figures were seen moving behind him
in the ante-room.

"Sir," cried Sir Richard angrily.  "This is a most insolent
intrusion.  Bentley, show this fellow the door."

Bentley set a hand on Mr. Green's shoulder.  Mr. Green nimbly
twisted out of it, and produced a paper.  "I have here a
warrant for your apprehension, Sir Richard, from my Lord
Carteret, the secretary of state."

Mr. Caryll advanced menacingly upon the tipstaff.  Mr. Green
stepped back, and fell into a defensive attitude, balancing a
short but formidable-looking life-preserver.

"Keep your distance, sir, or 'twill be the worse for you," he
threatened.  "Hi!" he called.  "Jerry!  Beattie!"

Jerry, Beattie, and two other ruffians crowded to the doorway,
but advanced little beyond the threshold.  Mr. Caryll turned
to Sir Richard.  But Mr. Green was the first to speak.

"Sir Richard," said he, "you'll see that we are but
instruments of the law.  It grieves me profoundly to have you
for our object.  But ye'll see that 'tis no affair of ours,
who have but to do the duty that we're ordered.  Ye'll not
give these poor fellows trouble, I trust.  Ye'll surrender
quietly."

Sir Richard's answer was to pull open a drawer in the
writing-table, by which he was standing, and whip out a
pistol.

What exactly he may have intended, he was never "allowed to
announce.  An explosion shook the room, coming from the
doorway, upon which Mr. Caryll had turned his shoulder; there
was a spurt of flame, and Sir Richard collapsed forward onto
the table, and slithered thence to the ground.

Jerry, taking fright at the sight of the pistol Sir Richard
had produced, had forestalled what he supposed to be the
baronet's intentions by firing instantly upon him, with this
disastrous result.

Confusion ensued.  Mr. Caryll, with no more thought for the
tipstaves than he had for the smoke in his eyes or the stench
of powder in his nostrils, sped to Sir Richard.  In a passion
of grief and anxiety, he raised his adoptive father, aided by
Bentley, what time Mr. Green was abusing Jerry, and Jerry was
urging in exculpation how he had acted purely in Mr. Green's
interest, fearing that Sir Richard might have been on the
point of shooting him.

The spy went forward to Mr. Caryll.  "I am most profoundly
sorry - " he began.

"Take your sorrow to hell," snarled Mr. Caryll, his face
livid, his eyes blazing uncannily.  "I believe ye've murdered
him."

"Ecod! the fool shall smart for't if Sir Richard dies,"
grumbled Mr. Green.

"What's that to me?  You may hang the muckworm, and what shall
that profit any one?  Will it restore me Sir Richard's life?
Send one of your ruffians for a doctor, man.  And bid him
hasten."

Mr. Green obeyed with alacrity.  Apart from his regrets at
this happening for its own sake, it would suit his interests
not at all that Sir Richard should perish thus.  Meanwhile,
with the help of the valet, who was blubbering like a child -
for he had been with Sir Richard for over ten years, and was
attached to him as a dog to its master - they opened the
wounded man's sodden waistcoat and shirt, and reached the
hurt, which was on the right side of the breast.

Between them they lifted him up gently.  Mr. Green would have
lent a hand, but a snarl from Mr. Caryll drove him back in
sheer terror, and alone those two bore the baronet into the
next room and laid him on his bed.  Here they did the little
that they could; propping him up and stemming the bleeding,
what time they waited through what seemed a century for the
doctor's coming, Mr. Caryll mad - stark mad for the time -
with grief and rage.

The physician arrived at last - a small, bird-like man under a
great gray periwig, with pointed features and little eyes that
beamed brightly behind horn-rimmed spectacles.

In the ante-room he was met by Mr. Green, who in in a few
words told him what had happened.  Then the doctor entered the
bedchamber alone, and deposing hat and cane, went forward to
make his examination.

Mr. Caryll and Bentley stood aside to give place to him.  He
stooped, felt the pulse, examined the lips of the wound,
estimating the locality and direction of the bullet, and his
mouth made a clucking sound as of deprecation.

"Very deplorable, very deplorable!" he muttered.  "So hale a
man, too, despite his years.  Very deplorable!"  He looked up.
"A Jacobite, ye say he is, sir?"

"Will he live?" inquired Mr. Caryll shortly, by way of
recalling the man of medicine to the fact that politics was
not the business on which he had been summoned.

The doctor pursed his lips, and looked at Mr. Caryll over the
top of his spectacles.  "He will live - ",

"Thank God!" breathed Mr. Caryll.

" - perhaps an hour," the doctor concluded, and never knew how
near was Mr. Caryll to striking him.  He turned again to his
patient, producing a probe.  "Very deplorable!" Mr. Caryll
heard him muttering, parrot-like.

A pause ensued, and a silence broken only by occasional
cluckings from the little doctor, and Mr. Caryll stood by, a
prey to an anguish more poignant than he had ever known.  At
last there was a groan from the wounded man.  Mr. Caryll
started forward.

Sir Richard's eyes were open, and he was looking about him at
the doctor, the valet, and, lastly, at his adopted son.  He
smiled faintly at the latter.  Then the doctor touched Mr.
Caryll's sleeve, and drew him aside.

"I cannot reach the bullet," he said.  "But 'tis no matter for
that."  He shook his head solemnly.  "The lung has been
pierced.  A little time now, and -  I can do nothing more."

Mr. Caryll nodded in silence, his face drawn with pain.  With
a gesture he dismissed the doctor, who went out with Bentley.

When the valet returned, Mr. Caryll was on his knees beside
the bed, Sir Richard's hand in his, and Sir Richard was
speaking in a feeble, hoarse voice - gasping and coughing at
intervals.

"Don't - don't grieve, Justin," he was saying.  "I am an old
man.  My time must have been very near.  I - I am glad that it
is thus.  It is much better than if they had taken me.  They'd
ha' shown me no mercy.  'Tis swifter thus, and - and easier."

Silently Justin wrung the hand he held.

"You'll miss me a little, Justin," the old man resumed
presently.  "We have been good friends, lad - good friends for
thirty years."

"Father!" Justin cried, a sob in his voice.

Sir Richard smiled.  "I would I were your father in more than
name, Justin.  Hast been a good son to me - no son could have
been more than you."

Bentley drew nigh with a long glass containing a cordial the
doctor had advised.  Sir Richard drank avidly, and sighed
content when he returned the glass.  "How long yet, Justin?"
he inquired.

"Not long, father," was the gloomy answer.

"It is well.  I am content.  I am happy, Justin.  Believe me,
I am happy.  What has my life been?  Dissipated in the pursuit
of a phantom."  He spoke musingly, critically calm, as one who
already upon the brink of dissolution takes already but an
impersonal interest in the course he has run in life.

Judging so, his judgment was clearer than it had yet been; it
grew sane, and was freed at last from the hackles of
fanaticism; and there was something that he saw in its true
proportions.  He sighed heavily.

"This is a judgment upon me," he said presently. He turned his
great eyes full upon Justin, and their dance was infinitely
wistful.  "Do you remember, Justin, that night at your lodging
- that first night on which we talked here in London of the
thing you were come to do - the thing to which I urged you?
Do you recall how you upbraided me for having set you a task
hat was unworthy and revolting?"

"I remember," answered Justin, with an inward shudder, fearful
of what might follow.

"Oh, you were right, Justin; right, and I was entirely wrong -
wickedly wrong.  I should have left vengeance to God.  He is
wreaking it.  Ostermore's whole life has been a punishment;
his end will be a punishment.  I understand it now.  We do no
wrong in life, Justin, for which in this same life payment is
not exacted.  Ostermore has been paying.  I should have been
content with that.  After all, he is your father in the flesh,
and it was not for you to raise your hand against him.  'Tis
what you have felt, and I am glad you should have felt it, for
it proves your worthiness.  Can you forgive me?"

"Nay, nay, father!  Speak not of forgiveness."

"I have sore need of it."

"Ah, but not from me; not from me!  What is there I should
forgive?  There is a debt between us I had hoped to repay some
day when you were grown truly old.  I had looked to tend you
in your old age, to be the comfort of it, and the support that
you were to my infancy."

"It had been sweet, Justin," sighed Sir Richard, smiling upon
his adopted son, and putting forth an unsteady hand to stroke
the white, drawn face.  "It had been sweet.  It is sweet to
hear that you so proposed."

A shudder convulsed him.  He sank back coughing, and there was
froth and blood on his lips.  Reverently Justin wiped them,
and signed for the cordial to Bentley, who stood, numbed, in
the background.

"It is the end," said Sir Richard feebly.  "God has been good
to me beyond my deserts, and this is a crowning mercy.
Consider, Justin, it might have been the gibbet and a crowd -
instead of this snug bed, and you and Bentley here - just two
good friends."

Bentley, losing all self-control at this mention of himself,
sank weeping to his knees.  Sir Richard put out a hand, and
touched his head.

"You will serve Mr. Caryll, Bentley.  You'll find him a good
master if you are as good a servant to him as you have been to
me."

Then suddenly he made the quick movement of one who bethinks
himself of something.  He waved Bentley away.

"There is a case in the drawer yonder," he said, when the
servant was beyond earshot.  "It contains papers that concern
you - certificates of your birth and of your mothers death.  I
brought them with me as proofs of your identity, against the
time when the hour of vengeance upon Ostermore should strike.
They twill serve no purpose now.  Burn them.  They are best
destroyed."

Mr. Caryll nodded understanding, and on Sir Richard's part
there followed another fight for breath, another attack of
coughing, during which Bentley instinctively approached again.

When the paroxysm was past, Sir Richard turned once more to
Justin, who was holding him in his arms, upright, to ease his
breathing.  "Be good to Bentley," he murmured, his voice very
faint and exhausted now.  "You are my heir, Justin.  All that
I have - I set all in order ere I left Paris.  It - it is
growing dark.  You have not snuffed the candles, Bentley.
They are burning very low."

Suddenly he started forward, held as he was in Justin's arms.
He half-raised his arms, holding out his hands toward the foot
of the bed.  His eyes dilated; the expression of his livid
face grew first surprised, then joyous - beatific.
"Antoinette!" he cried in a loud voice.  "Antoi - "

And thus, abruptly, but in great happiness, he passed.




CHAPTER XVII

AMID THE GRAVES


What time Sir Richard had been dying in the inner room, Mr.
Green and two of his acolytes had improved the occasion by
making a thorough search in Sir Richard's writing-table and a
thorough investigation of every scrap of paper found there.
From which you will understand how much Mr. Green was a
gentleman who set business above every other consideration.

The man who had shot Sir Richard had been ordered by Mr. Green
to take himself off, and had been urged to go down on his
knees, for once in a way, and pray Heaven that his rashness
might not bring him to the gallows as he so richly deserved.

His fourth myrmidon Mr. Green had dispatched with a note to my
Lord Rotherby, and it was entirely upon the answer he should
receive that it must depend whether he proceeded or not,
forthwith, to the apprehension of Mr. Caryll.  Meanwhile the
search went on amain, and was extended presently to the very
bedroom where the dead Sir Richard lay.  Every nook and cranny
was ransacked; the very mattress under the dead man was
removed, and investigated, and even Mr. Caryll and Bentley had
to submit to being searched.  But it all proved fruitless.
Not a line of treasonable matter was to be found anywhere.  To
the certificates upon Mr. Caryll the searcher made the mistake
of paying but little heed in view of their nature.

But if there were no proofs of plots and treasonable dealings,
there was, at least, abundant proof of Sir Richard's identity,
and Mr. Green appropriated these against any awkward inquiries
touching the manner in which the baronet had met his death.

Of such inquiries, however, there were none.  It was formally
sworn to Lord Carteret by Green and his men that the
secretary's messenger, Jerry - the fellow owned no surname -
had shot Sir Richard in self-defence, when Sir Richard had
produced firearms upon being arrested on a charge of high
treason, for which they held the secretary's own warrant.

At first Lord Carteret considered it a thousand pities that
they should not have contrived matters better so as to take
Sir Richard alive; but upon reflection he was careful not to
exaggerate to himself the loss occasioned by his death, for
Sir Richard, after all, was a notoriously stubborn man, not in
the least likely to have made any avowals worth having.  So
that his trial, whilst probably resulting sterile of such
results as the government could desire, would have given
publicity to the matter of a plot that was hatching; and such
publicity at a time of so much unrest was the last thing the
government desired.  Where Jacobitism was concerned, Lord
Carteret had the wise discretion to proceed with the extremest
caution.  Publicity might serve to fan the smouldering embers
into a blaze, whereas it was his cunning aim quietly to stifle
them as he came upon them.

So, upon the whole, he was by no means sure but that Jerry had
done the state the best possible service in disposing thus
summarily of that notorious Jacobite agent, Sir Richard
Everard.  And his lordship saw to it that there was no inquiry
and that nothing further was heard of the matter.

As for Lord Rotherby, had the affair transpired twenty-four
hours earlier, he would certainly have returned Mr. Green a
message to effect the arrest of Mr. Caryll upon suspicion.
But as it chanced, he had that very afternoon received a visit
from his mother, who came in great excitement to inform him
that she had forced from Lord Ostermore an acknowledgment that
he was plotting with Mr. Caryll to go over to King James.

So, before they could move further against Mr. Caryll, it
behooved them to ascertain precisely to what extent Lord
Ostermore might not be incriminated, as otherwise the arrest
of Caryll might lead to exposures that would ruin the earl
more thoroughly than could any South Sea bubble revelations.
Thus her ladyship to her son.  He turned upon her.

"Why, madam," said he, "these be the very arguments I used
t'other day when we talked of this; and all you answered me
then was to call me a dull-witted clod, for not seeing how the
thing might be done without involving my lord."

"Tcha!" snapped her ladyship, beating her knuckles impatiently
with her fan.  "A dull-witted clod did I call you?  'Twas
flattery - sheer flattery; for I think ye're something worse.
Fool, can ye not see the difference that lies betwixt your
disclosing a plot to the secretary of state, and causing this
Caryll to disclose it - as might happen if he were seized?
First discover the plot - find out in what it may consist, and
then go to Lord Carteret to make your terms."

He looked at her, out of temper by her rebuke.  "I may be as
dull as your ladyship says - but I do not see in what the
position now is different from what it was."

"It isn't different - but we thought it was different," she
explained impatiently.  "We assumed that your father would not
have betrayed himself, counting upon his characteristic
caution.  But it seems we are mistook.  He has betrayed
himself to Caryll.  And before we can move in this matter, we
must have proofs of a plot to lay before the secretary of
state."

Lord Rotherby understood, and accounted himself between Scylla
and Charybdis, and when that evening Green's messenger found
him, he gnashed his teeth in rage at having to allow this
chance to pass, at being forced to temporize until he should
be less parlously situated.  He returned Mr. Green an urgent
message to take no steps concerning Mr. Caryll until they
should have concerted together.

Mr. Green was relieved.  Mr. Caryll arrested might stir up
matters against the slayer of Sir Richard, and this was a
business which Mr. Green had prevision enough to see his
master, Lord Carteret, would prefer should not be stirred up.
He had a notion, for the rest, that if Mr. Caryll were left to
go his ways, he would not be likely to give trouble touching
that same matter.  And he was right in this.  Before his
overwhelming sense of loss, Mr. Caryll had few thoughts to
bestow upon the manner in which that loss had been sustained.
Moreover, if he had a quarrel with any one on that account, it
was with the government whose representative had issued the
warrant for Sir Richard's arrest, and no more with the
wretched tipstaff who had fired the pistol than with the
pistol itself.  Both alike were but instruments, of slightly
different degrees of insensibility.

For twenty-four hours Mr. Caryll's grief was overwhelming in
its poignancy.  His sense of solitude was awful.  Gone was the
only living man who had stood to him for kith and kin.  He was
left alone in the world; utterly alone.  That was the
selfishness of his sorrow - the consideration of Sir Richard's
death as it concerned himself.

Presently an alloy of consolation was supplied by the
reflection of Sir Richard's own case - as Sir Richard himself
had stated it upon his deathbed.  His life had not been happy;
it had been poisoned by a monomania, which, like a worm in the
bud, had consumed the sweetness of his existence.  Sir Richard
was at rest.  And since he had been discovered, that shot was,
indeed, the most merciful end that could have been measured
out to him.  The alternative might have been the gibbet and
the gaping crowd, and a moral torture to precede the end.
Better - a thousand times better - as it was.

So much did all this weigh with him that when on the following
Monday he accompanied the body to its grave, he found his
erstwhile passionate grief succeeded by an odd thankfulness
that things were as they were, although it must be confessed
that a pang of returning anguish smote him when he heard the
earth clattering down upon the wooden box that held all that
remained of the man who had been father, mother, brother and
all else to him.

He turned away at last, and was leaving the graveyard, when
some one touched him on the arm.  It was a timid touch.  He
turned sharply, and found himself looking into the sweet face
of Hortensia Winthrop, wondering how came she there.  She wore
a long, dark cloak and hood, but her veil was turned back.  A
chair was waiting not fifty paces from them along the
churchyard wall.

"I came but to tell you how much I feel for you in this great
loss," she said.

He looked at her in amazement.  "How did you know?" he asked
her.

"I guessed," said she.  "I heard that you were with him at the
end, and I caught stray words from her ladyship of what had
passed.  Lord Rotherby had the information from the tipstaff
who went to arrest Sir Richard Everard.  I guessed he was your
- your foster-father, as you called him; and I came to tell
you how deeply I sorrow for you in your sorrow."

He caught her hands in his and bore them to his lips, reckless
of who might see the act.  "Ah, this is sweet and kind in
you," said he.

She drew him back into the churchyard again.  Along the wall
there was an avenue of limes - a cool and pleasant walk
wherein idlers lounged on Sundays in summer after service.
Thither she drew him.  He went almost mechanically.  Her
sympathy stirred his sorrow again, as sympathy so often does.

"I have buried my heart yonder, I think," said he, with a wave
of his hand towards that spot amid the graves where the men
were toiling with their shovels.  "He was the only living
being that loved me."

"Ah, surely not," said she, sorrow rather than reproach in her
gentle voice.

"Indeed, yes.  Mine is a selfish grief.  It is for myself that
I sorrow, for myself and my own loneliness.  It is thus with
all of us.  When we argue that we weep the dead, it would be
more true to say that we bewail the living.  For him - it is
better as it is.  No doubt it is better so for most men, when
all is said, and we do wrong to weep their passing."

"Do not talk so," she said.  "It hurts."

"Ay - it is the way of truth to hurt, which is why, hating
pain, we shun truth so often."  He sighed.  "But, oh, it was
good in you to seek me, to bring me word with your own lips of
your sweet sympathy.  If aught could lighten the gloom of my
sorrow, surely it is that."

They stepped along in silence until they came to the end of
the avenue, and turned.  It was no idle silence: the silence
of two beings who have naught to say.  It was a grave,
portentous silence, occasioned by the unutterable much in the
mind of one, and by the other's apprehension of it.  At last
she spoke, to ask him what he meant to do.

"I shall return to France," he said.  "It had perhaps been
better had I never crossed to England."

"I cannot think so," she said, simply, frankly and with no
touch of a coquetry that had been harshly at discord with time
and place.

He shot her a swift, sidelong glance; then stopped, and
turned.  "I am glad on't," said he.  "'Twill make my going the
easier."

"I mean not that," she cried, and held out her hands to him.
"I meant not what you think - you know, you know what 'twas I
meant.  You know - you must - what impulse brought me to you
in this hour, when I knew you must need comfort.  And in
return how cruel, were you not - to tell me that yonder lay
buried the only living being that - that loved you?"

His fingers were clenched upon her arm.  "Don't - don't!" he
implored hoarsely, a strange fire in his eyes, a hectic flush
on either cheek.  "Don't!  Or I'll forget what I am, and take
advantage of this midsummer folly that is upon you."

"Is it no more than folly, Justin?" she asked him, brown eyes
looking up into gray-green.

"Ay, something more - stark madness.  All great emotions are.
It will pass, and you will be thankful that I was man enough -
strong enough - to allow it the chance of passing."

She hung her head, shaking it sorrowfully.  Then very softly:
"Is it no more than the matter of - of that, that stands
between us?" she inquired.

"No more than that," he answered, "and yet more than enough.
I have no name to offer any woman."

"A name?" she echoed scornfully.  "What store do you think I
lay by that?  When you talk so, you obey some foolish
prejudice; no more."

"Obedience to prejudices is the whole art of living," he
answered, sighing.

She made a gesture of impatience, and went on.  "Justin, you
said you loved me; and when you said so much, you gave me the
right - or so I understood it - to speak to you as I am doing
now.  You are alone in the world, without kith or kin.  The
only one you had - the one who represented all for you - lies
buried there.  Would you return thus, lonely and alone, to
France?"

"Ah, now I understand!" he cried.  "Now I understand.  Pity is
the impulse that has urged you - pity for my loneliness, is't
not, Hortensia?"

"I'll not deny that without the pity there might not have been
the courage.  Why should I - since it is a pity that gives you
no offense, a pity that is rooted firmly in - in love for you,
my Justin?"

He set his hands upon her shoulders, and with glowing eyes
regarded her.  "Ah, sweet!" said he, "you make me very, very
proud."

And then his arms dropped again limply to his sides.  He
sighed, and shook his head drearily.  "And yet - reflect.
When I come to beg your hand in marriage of your guardian,
what shall I answer him of the questions he will ask me of
myself - touching my family, my parentage and all the rest
that he will crave to know?"

She observed that he was very white again.  "Need you enter
into that?  A man is himself; not his father or his family."
And then she checked.  "You make me plead too much," she said,
a crimson flood in her fair cheeks.  "I'll say no more than I
have said.  Already have I said more than I intended.  And you
have wanted mercy that you could drive me to it.  You know my
mind - my - my inmost heart.  You know that I care nothing for
your namelessness.  It is yours to decide what you will do.
Come, now; my chair is staying for me."

He bowed; he sought again to convey some sense of his
appreciation of her great nobility; then led her through the
gate and to her waiting chair.

"Whatever I may decide, Hortensia" was the last thing he said
to her, "and I shall decide as I account best for you, rather
than for myself; and for myself there needs no thought or
hesitation - whatever I may decide, believe me when I say from
my soul that all my life shall be the sweeter for this hour."




CHAPTER XVIII

THE GHOST OF THE PAST


Temptation had seized Mr. Caryll in a throttling grip, and for
two whole days he kept the house, shunning all company and
wrestling with that same Temptation.  In the end he took a
whimsical resolve, entirely worthy of himself.

He would go to Lord Ostermore formally to ask in marriage the
hand of Mistress Winthrop, and he would be entirely frank with
the earl, stating his exact condition, but suppressing the
names of his parents.

He was greatly taken with the notion.  It would create a
situation ironical beyond any, grotesque beyond belief; and
its development should be stupendously interesting.  It
attracted him irresistibly.  That he should leave it to his
own father to say whether a man born as he was born might
aspire to marry his father's ward, had in it something that
savored of tragi-comedy.  It was a pretty problem, that once
set could not be left unsolved by a man of Mr. Caryll's
temperament.  And, indeed, no sooner was the idea conceived
than it quickened into a resolve upon which he set out to act.

He bade Leduc call a chair, and, dressed in mourning, but with
his habitual care, he had himself carried to Lincoln's Inn
Fields.

Engrossed as he was in his own thoughts, he paid little heed
to the hum of excitement about the threshold of Stretton
House.  Within the railed enclosure that fronted the mansion
two coaches were drawn up, and a little knot of idlers stood
by one of these in busy gossip.

Paying no attention to them, Mr. Caryll mounted the steps, nor
noticed the gravity of the porter's countenance as he passed
within.

In the hall he found a little flock of servants gathered
together, and muttering among themselves like conspirators in
a tragedy; and so engrossed that they paid no heed to him as
he advanced, nor until he had tapped one of them on the
shoulder with his cane - and tapped him a thought
peremptorily.

"How now?" said he.  "Does no one wait here?"

They fell apart a little, and stood at attention, with
something curious in their bearing, one and all.

"My service to his lordship, and say that I desire to speak
with him."

They looked at one another in hesitation for a moment; then
Humphries, the butler, came forward.  "Your honor'll not have
heard the news?" said he, a solemn gravity in face and tone.

"News?" quoth Mr. Caryll sharply, intrigued by so much show of
mystery.  "What news?"

"His lordship is very ill, sir.  He had a seizure this morning
when they came for him."

"A seizure?" said Mr. Caryll.  And then: "When they came for
him?" he echoed, struck by something odd in the man's
utterance of those five words.  "When who came for him?"

"The messengers, sir," replied the butler dejectedly.  "Has
your honor not heard?"  And seeing the blank look on Mr.
Caryll's face, he proceeded without waiting for an answer:
"His lordship was impeached yesterday by his Grace of Wharton
on a matter concerning the South Sea Company, and Lord
Carteret - the secretary of state, your honor - sent this
morning to arrest him."

"'Sdeath!" ejaculated Mr. Caryll in his surprise, a surprise
that was tempered with some dismay.  "And he had a seizure, ye
say?"

"An apoplexy, your honor.  The doctors are with him now; Sir
James, himself, is here.  They're cupping him - so I hear from
Mr. Tom, his lordship's man.  I'd ha' thought your honor would
ha' heard.  'Tis town talk, they say."

Mr. Caryll would have found it difficult to have said exactly
what impression this news made upon him.  In the main,
however, he feared it left him cold.

"'Tis very regrettable," said he.  He fell thoughtful a
moment.  Then: "Will you send word to Mistress Winthrop that I
am here, and would speak with her, Humphries?"

Humphries conducted Mr. Caryll to the little white and gold
withdrawing-room that was Hortensia's.  There, in the little
time that he waited, he revolved the situation as it now
stood, and the temptation that had been with him for the past
three days rose up now with a greater vigor.  Should Lord
Ostermore die, Temptation argued, he need no longer hesitate.
Hortensia would be as much alone in the world as he was;
worse, for life at Stretton House with her ladyship - from
which even in the earl's lifetime she had been led to attempt
to escape - must be a thing unbearable, and what alternative
could he suggest but that she should become his wife?

She came to him presently, white-faced and with startled eyes.
As she took his outstretched hands, she attempted a smile.
"It is kind in you to come to me at such a time," she said.

"You mistake," said he, "as is but natural.  I had not heard
what had befallen.  I came to ask your hand in marriage of his
lordship."

Some faint color tinged her cheeks.  "You had decided, then?"

"I had decided that his lordship must decide," he answered.

"And now?"

"And now it seems we must decide for ourselves if his lordship
dies."

Her mind swung to the graver matter.  "Sir James has every
hope," she said, and added miserably: "I know not which to
pray for, his recovery or his death."

"Why that?"

"Because if he survive it may be for worse.  The secretary's
agent is even now seeking evidence against him among his own
papers.  He is in the library at this moment, going through
his lordship's desk."

Mr. Caryll started.  That mention of Ostermore's desk brought
vividly before his mind the recollection of the secret drawer
wherein the earl had locked away the letter he had received
from King James and his own reply, all packed as it was, with
treason.  If that drawer were discovered, and those papers
found, then was Ostermore lost indeed, and did he survive this
apoplexy, it would be to surrender his head upon the scaffold.

A moment he considered this, dispassionately.  Then it broke
upon his mind that were this to happen, Ostermore's blood
would indirectly be upon his own head, since for the purpose
of betrayal had he sought him out with that letter from the
exiled Stuart - which, be it remembered, King James himself
had no longer wished delivered.

It turned him cold with horror.  He could not remain idle and
let matters run their course.  He must avert these discoveries
if it lay within his power to do so, or else he must submit to
a lifetime of remorse should Ostermore survive to be attainted
of treason.  He had made an end - a definite end - long since
of his intention of working Ostermore's ruin; he could not
stand by now and see that ruin wrought as a result of the
little that already he had done towards encompassing it.

"His papers must be saved," he said shortly.  "I'll go to the
library at once."

"But the secretary's agent is there already," she repeated.

"'Tis no matter for that," said he, moving towards the door.
"His desk contains that which will cost him his head if
discovered.  I know it," he assured her, and left her cold
with fear.

"But, then, you - you?" she cried.  "Is it true that you are a
Jacobite?"

"True enough," he answered.

"Lord Rotherby knows it," she informed him.  "He told me it
was so.  If - if you interfere in this, it - it may mean your
ruin."  She came to him swiftly, a great fear written or her
winsome face.

"Sh," said he.  "I am not concerned to think of that at
present.  If Lord Ostermore perishes through his connection
with the cause, it will mean worse than ruin for me - though
not the ruin that you are thinking of."

"But what can you do?"

"That I go to learn."

"I will come with you, then."

He hesitated a moment, looking at her; then he opened the
door, and held it for her, following after.  He led the way
across the hall to the library, and they went in together.

Lord Ostermore's secretaire stood open, and leaning over it,
his back towards them was a short, stiffly-built man in a
snuff-colored coat.  He turned at the sound of the closing
door, and revealed the pleasant, chubby face of Mr. Green.

"Ha!" said Mr. Caryll.  "Mr. Green again.  I declare, sir,
ye've the gift of ubiquity."

The spy stood up to regard him, and for all that his voice
inclined to sharpness when he spoke, the habitual grin sat
like a mask upon the mobile features.  "What d'ye seek here?"

"Tis what I was about to ask you - what you are seeking; for
that you seek is plain.  I thought perhaps I might assist
you."

"I nothing doubt you could," answered Mr. Green with a fresh
leer, that contained this time something ironic.  "I nothing
doubt it!  But by your leave, I'll pursue my quest without
your assistance."

Mr. Caryll continued, nevertheless, to advance towards him,
Mistress Hortensia remaining in the background, a quiet
spectator, betraying nothing of the anxieties by which she was
being racked.

"Ye're mighty curt this morning, Mr. Green," said Mr. Caryll,
very airy.  "Ye're mighty curt, and ye're entirely wrong so to
be.  You might find me a very useful friend."

"I've found you so before," said Mr. Green sourly.

"Ye've a nice sense of humor," said Mr. Caryll, head on one
side, contemplating the spy with admiration in his glance.

"And a nicer sense of a Jacobite," answered Mr. Green.

"He will have the last word, you perceive," said Mr. Caryll to
Hortensia.

"Harkee, Mr. Caryll," quoth Mr. Green, quite grimly now.  "I'd
ha' laid you by the heels a month or more ago, but for certain
friends o' mine who have other ends to serve."

"Sir, what you tell me shocks me.  It shakes the very
foundations of my faith in human nature.  I have esteemed you
an honest man, Mr. Green, and it seems - on your own
confessing - that ye're no better than a damned rogue who
neglects his duty to the state.  I've a mind to see Lord
Carteret, and tell him the truth of the matter."

"Ye shall have an opportunity before long, ecod!" said Mr.
Green.  "Good-morning to you!  I've work to do."  And he
turned back to the desk.

"'Tis wasted labor," said Mr. Caryll, producing his snuff-box,
and tapping it.  "You might seek from now till the crack of
doom, and not find what ye seek - not though you hack the desk
to pieces.  It has a secret, Mr. Green.  I'll make a bargain
with you for that secret."

Mr. Green turned again, and his shrewd, bright eyes scanned
more closely that lean face, whose keenness was all dissembled
now in an easy, languid smile.  "A bargain?" grumbled the spy.
"I' faith, then, the secret's worthless."

"Ye think that?  Pho!  'Tis not like your usual wit, Mr.
Green.  The letter that I carried into England, and that you
were at such splendid pains to find at Maidstone, is in here."
And he tapped the veneered top of the secretaire with his
forefinger.  "But ye'll not find it without my help.  It is
concealed as effectively - as effectively as it was upon my
person when ye searched me.  Now, sir, will ye treat with me?
It'll save you a world of labor."

Mr. Green still looked at him.  He licked his lips
thoughtfully, cat-like.  "What terms d'ye make?" he inquired,
but his tone was very cold.  His busy brain was endeavoring to
conjecture what exactly might be Mr. Caryll's object in this
frankness which Mr. Green was not fool enough to believe
sincere.

"Ah," said Mr. Caryll.  "That is more the man I know." He
tapped his snuff-box, and in that moment memory rather than
inspiration showed him the thing he needed.  "Did ye ever see
`The Constant Couple,' Mr. Green?" he inquired.

"`The Constant Couple'?" echoed Mr. Green, and though
mystified, he must air his little jest.  "I never saw any
couple that was constant - leastways, not for long."

"Ha!  Ye're a roguish wag!  But `The Constant Couple' I mean
is a play."

"Oh, a play!  Ay, I mind me I saw it some years ago, when
'twas first acted.  But what has that to do with - "

"Ye'll understand in a moment," said Mr. Caryll, with a smile
the spy did not relish.  "D'ye recall a ruse of Sir Harry
Wildairs to rid himself of the company of an intrusive old
fool who was not wanted?  D'ye remember what 'twas he did?"

Mr. Green, his head slightly on one side, was watching Mr.
Caryll very closely, and not without anxiety.  "I don't," said
he, and dropped a hand to the pocket where a pistol lay, that
he might be prepared for emergencies.  "What did he do?"

"I'll show you," said Mr. Caryll.  "He did this." And with a
swift upward movement, he emptied his snuff-box full into the
face of Mr. Green.

Mr. Green leapt back, with a scream of pain, hands to his
eyes, and quite unconsciously set himself to play to the life
the part of the intrusive old fellow in the comedy.  Dancing
wildly about the room, his eyes smarting and burning so that
he could not open them, he bellowed of hell-fire and other hot
things of which he was being so intensely reminded.

"'Twill pass," Mr. Caryll consoled him.  "A little water, and
all will be well with you."  He stepped to the door as he
spoke, and flung it open.  "Ho, there!  Who waits?" he called.

Two or three footmen sprang to answer him.  He took Mr. Green,
still blind and vociferous, by the shoulders, and thrust him
into their care.  "This gentleman has had a most unfortunate
accident.  Get him water to wash his eyes - warm water.  So!
Take him.  'Twill pass, Mr. Green.  'Twill soon pass, I assure
you."

He shut the door upon them, locked it, and turned to
Hortensia, smiling grimly.  Then he crossed quickly to the
desk, and Hortensia followed him.  He sat down, and pulled out
bodily the bottom drawer on the right inside of the upper part
of the desk, as he had seen Lord Ostermore do that day, a
little over a week ago.  He thrust his hand into the opening,
and felt along the sides for some moments in vain.  He went
over the ground again slowly, inch by inch, exerting constant
pressure, until he was suddenly rewarded by a click.  The
small trap disclosed itself.  He pulled it up, and took some
papers from the recess.  He spread them before him.  They were
the documents he sought - the king's letter to Ostermore, and
Ostermore's reply, signed and ready for dispatch.  "These must
be burnt," he said, "and burnt at once, for that fellow Green
may return, or he may send others.  Call Humphries.  Get a
taper from him."

She sped to the door, and did his bidding.  Then she returned.
She was plainly agitated.  "You must go at once," she said,
imploringly.  "You must return to France without an instant's
delay."

"Why, indeed, it would mean my ruin to remain now," he
admitted.  "And yet - "  He held out his hands to her.

"I will follow you," she promised him.  "I will follow you as
soon as his lordship is recovered, or - or at peace."

"You have well considered, sweetheart?" he asked her, holding
her to him, and looking down into her gentle eyes.

"There is no happiness for me apart from you."

Again his scruples took him.  "Tell Lord Ostermore - tell him
all," he begged her.  "Be guided by him.  His decision for you
will represent the decision of the world."

"What is the world to me?  You are the world to me," she
cried.

There was a rap upon the door.  He put her from him, and went
to open.  It was Humphries with a lighted taper.  He took it,
thanked the man with a word, and shut the door in his face,
ignoring the fact that the fellow was attempting to tell him
something.

He returned to the desk.  "Let us make quite sure that this is
all," he said, and held the taper so that the light shone into
the recess.  It seemed empty at first; then, as the light
penetrated farther, he saw something that showed white at the
back of the cachette.  He thrust in his hand, and drew out a
small package bound with a ribbon that once might have been
green but was faded now to yellow.  He set it on the desk, and
returned to his search.  There was nothing else.  The recess
was empty.  He closed the trap and replaced the drawer.  Then
he sat down again, the taper at his elbow, Mistress Winthrop
looking on, facing him across the top of the secretaire, and
he took up the package.

The ribbon came away easily, and some half-dozen sheets fell
out and scattered upon the desk.  They gave out a curious
perfume, half of age, half of some essence with which years
ago they had been imbued.  Something took Mr. Caryll in the
throat, and he could never explain whether it was that perfume
or some premonitory emotion, some prophetic apprehension of
what he was about to see.

He opened the first of those folded sheets, and found it to be
a letter written in French and in an ink that had paled to
yellow with the years that were gone since it had been penned.
The fine, pointed writing was curiously familiar to Mr.
Caryll.  He looked at the signature at the bottom of the page.
It swam before his eyes - ANTOINETTE-"Celle  qui l'adore,
Antoinette," he read, and the whole world seemed blotted out
for him; all consciousness, his whole being, his
every sense, seemed concentrated into his eyes as they gazed
upon that relic of a deluded woman's dream.

He did not read.  It was not for him to commit the sacrilege
of reading what that girl who had been his mother had written
thirty years ago to the man she loved - the man who had proved
false as hell.

He turned the other letters over; opened them one by one, to
make sure that they were of the same nature as the first, and
what time he did so he found himself speculating upon the
strangeness of Ostermore's having so treasured them.  Perhaps
he had thrust them into that secret recess, and there
forgotten them; 'twas an explanation that sorted better with
what Mr. Caryll knew of his father, than the supposition that
so dull and practical and self-centered a nature could have
been irradiated by a gleam of such tenderness as the hoarding
of those letters might have argued.

He continued to turn them over, half-mechanically, forgetful
of the urgent need to burn the treasonable documents he had
secured, forgetful of everything, even Hortensia's presence.
And meantime she watched him in silence, marvelling at this
delay, and still more at the gray look that had crept into his
face.

"What have you found?" she asked at last.

"A ghost," he answered, and his voice had a strained, metallic
ring.  He even vented an odd laugh.  "A bundle of old
love-letters."

"From her ladyship?"

"Her ladyship?"  He looked up, an expression on his face which
seemed to show that he could not at the moment think who her
ladyship might be.  Then as the picture of that bedaubed,
bedizened and harsh-featured Jezebel arose in his mind to
stand beside the sweet girl - image of his mother - as he knew
her from the portrait that hung at Maligny - he laughed again.
"No, not from her ladyship," said he.  "From a woman who loved
him years ago."  And he turned to the seventh and last of
those poor ghosts-the seventh, a fateful number.

He spread it before him; frowned down on it a moment with a
sharp hiss of indrawn breath.  Then he twisted oddly on his
chair, and sat bolt upright, staring straight before him with
unseeing eyes.  Presently he passed a hand across his brow,
and made a queer sound in his throat.

"What is it?" she asked.

But he did not answer; he was staring at the paper again.  A
while he sat thus; then with swift fevered fingers he took up
once more the other letters.  He unfolded one, and began to
read.  A few lines he read, and then - "O God!" he cried, and
flung out his arms under stress of 'his emotions.  One of them
caught the taper that stood upon the desk; and swept it,
extinguished, to the floor.  He never heeded it, never gave a
thought to the purpose for which it had been fetched, a
purpose not yet served.  He rose.  He was white as the dead
are white, and she observed that he was trembling.  He took up
the bundle of old letters, and thrust them into an inside
pocket of his coat.

"What are you doing?" she cried, seeking at last to arouse him
from the spell under which he appeared to have fallen.  "Those
letters - "

"I must see Lord Ostermore," he answered wildly, and made for
the door, reeling like a drunkard in his walk.




CHAPTER XIX

THE END OF LORD OSTERMORE

In the ante-room communicating with Lord Ostermore's bedroom
the countess was in consultation with Rotherby, who had been
summoned by his mother when my lord was stricken.

Her ladyship occupied the window-seat; Rotherby stood beside
her, leaning slightly against the frame of the open window.
Their conversation was earnest and conducted in a low key, and
one would naturally have conjectured that it had for subject
the dangerous condition of the earl.  And so it had - the
dangerous condition of the earl's political, if not physical,
affairs.  To her ladyship and her son, the matter of their own
future was of greater gravity than the matter of whether his
lordship lived or died - which, whatever it may be, is not
unreasonable.  Since the impeachment of my lord and the coming
of the messengers to arrest him, the danger of ruin and
beggary were become more imminent - indeed, they impended, and
measures must be concerted to avert these evils.  By
comparison with that, the earl's succumbing or surviving was a
trivial matter; and the concern they had manifested in Sir
James' news - when the important, well-nourished physician who
had bled his lordship came to inform them that there was hope
- was outward only, and assumed for pure decorum's sake.

"Whether he lives or dies," said the viscount pertinently,
after the doctor had departed to return to his patient, "the
measures to be taken are the same."  And he repeated the
substance of their earlier discussions upon this same topic.
"If we can but secure the evidence of his treason with
Caryll," he wound up, "I shall be able to make terms with Lord
Carteret to arrest the proceedings the government may intend,
and thus avert the restitution it would otherwise enforce."

"But if he were to die," said her ladyship, as coldly,
horribly calculating as though he were none of hers, "there
would be an end to this danger.  They could not demand
restitution of the dead, nor impose fines upon him."

Rotherby shook his head.  "Believe not that, madam," said he.
"They can demand restitution of his heirs and impose their
fines upon the estate.  'Twas done in the case of Chancellor
Craggs, though he shot himself."

She raised a haggard face to his.  "And do you dream that Lord
Carteret would make terms with you?"

"If I can show him - by actual proof - that a conspiracy does
exist, that the Stuart supporters are plotting a rising.
Proof of that should be of value to Lord Carteret, of
sufficient value to the government to warrant the payment of
the paltry price I ask - that the impeachment against my
father for his dealings with the South Sea Company shall not
be allowed.

"But it might involve the worse betrayal of your father,
Charles, and if he were to live - "

"'Sdeath, mother, why must you harp on that?  I a'n't the fool
you think me," he cried.  "I shall make it a further condition
that my father have immunity.  There will be no lack of
victims once the plot is disclosed; and they may begin upon
that coxcomb Caryll - the damned meddler who is at the bottom
of all this garboil."

She sat bemused, her eyes upon the sunlit gardens below, where
a faint breeze was stirring the shrub tops.

"There is," she said presently, "a secret drawer somewhere in
his desk.  If he has papers they will, no doubt, be there.
Had you not best be making search for them?"

He smiled darkly.  "I have seen to that already," he replied.

"How?" excitedly.  "You have got the papers?"

"No; but I have set an experienced hand to find them, and one,
moreover, who has the right by virtue of his warrant - the
messenger of the secretary of state."

She sat up, rigid.  "'Sdeath!  What is't ye mean?"

"No need for alarm," he reassured her.  "This fellow Green is
in my pay, as well as in the secretary's, and it will profit
him most to keep faith with me.  He's a self-seeking dog,
content to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, so that
there be profit in it, and he'd sacrifice his ears to bring
Mr. Caryll to the gallows.  I have promised him that and a
thousand pounds if we save the estates from confiscation."

She looked at him, between wonder and fear.  "Can ye trust
him?" she asked breathlessly.

He laughed softly and confidently.  "I can trust him to earn a
thousand pounds," he answered.  "When he heard of the
impeachment, he used such influence as he has to be entrusted
with the arrest of his lordship; and having obtained his
warrant, he came first to me to tell me of it.  A thousand
pounds is the price of him, body and soul.  I bade him seek
not only evidence of my lord's having received that plaguey
stock, but also papers relating to this Jacobite plot into
which his lordship has been drawn by our friend Caryll.  He is
at his work at present.  And I shall hear from him when it is
accomplished."

She nodded slowly, thoughtfully.  "You have very well
disposed, Charles," she approved him.  "If your father lives,
it should not be a difficult matter - "

She checked suddenly and turned, while Rotherby, too, looked
up and stepped quickly from the window-embrasure where he had
stood.

The door of the bedroom had been suddenly pulled open, and Sir
James came out, very pale and discomposed.

"Madam - your ladyship - my lord!" he gasped, his mouth
working, his hands waving foolishly.

The countess rose to confront him, tall, severe and harsh.
The viscount scowled a question.  Sir James quailed before
them, evidently in affliction.

"Madam - his lordship," he said, and by his eloquent gesture
of dejection announced what he had some difficulty in putting
into words.

She stepped forward, and took him by the wrist.  "Is he
dying?" she inquired.

"Have courage, madam," the doctor besought her.

The apparent irrelevancy of the request at such a moment,
angered her.  Her mood was dangerously testy.  And had the
doctor but known it, sympathy was a thing she had not borne
well these many years.

"I asked you was he dying," she reminded him, with a cold
sternness that beat aside all his attempts at subterfuge.

"Your ladyship - he is dead," he faltered, with lowered eyes.

"Dead?" she echoed dully, and her hand went to the region of
her heart, her face turned livid under its rouge.  "Dead?" she
said again, and behind her, Rotherby echoed the dread word in
a stupor almost equal to her own.  Her lips moved to speak,
but no words came.  She staggered where she stood, and put her
hand to her brow.  Her son's arms were quickly about her.  He
supported her to a chair, where she sank as if all her joints
were loosened.

Sir James flew for restoratives; bathed her brow with a
dampened handkerchief; held strong salts to her nostrils, and
murmured words of foolish, banal consolation, whilst Rotherby,
in a half-dreaming condition, stunned by the suddenness of the
blow, stood beside her, mechanically lending his assistance
and supporting her.

Gradually she mastered her agitation.  It was odd that she
should feel so much at losing what she valued so little.
Leastways, it would have been odd, had it been that.  It was
not - it was something more.  In the awful, august presence of
death, stepped so suddenly into their midst, she felt herself
appalled.

For nigh upon thirty years she had been bound by legal and
churchly ties in a loveless union with Lord Ostermore -
married for the handsome portion that had been hers, a portion
which he had gamed away and squandered until, for their
station, their circumstances were now absolutely straitened.
They had led a harsh, discordant life, and the coming of a
son, which should have bridged the loveless gulf between them,
seemed but to have served to dig it wider.  And the son had
been just the harsh, unfeeling offspring that might be looked
for from such a union.  Thirty years of slavery had been her
ladyship's, and in those thirty years her nature had been
soured and warped, and what inherent sweetness it may once
have known had long since been smothered and destroyed.  She
had no cause to love that man who had never loved her, never
loved aught of hers beyond her jointure.  And yet, there was
the habit of thirty years.  For thirty years they had been
yoke-fellows, however detestable the yoke.  But yesterday he
had been alive and strong, a stupid, querulous thing maybe,
but a living.  And now he was so much carrion that should be
given to the earth.  In some such channel ran her ladyship's
reflections during those few seconds in which she was
recovering.  For an instant she was softened.  The long-since
dried-up springs of tenderness seemed like to push anew under
the shock of this event.  She put out a hand to take her
son's.

"Charles!" she said, and surprised him by the tender note.

A moment thus; then she was herself again.  "How did he die?"
she asked the doctor; and the abruptness of the resumption of
her usual manner startled Sir James more than aught in his
experience of such scenes.

"It was most sudden, madam," answered he.  "I had the best
grounds for hope.  I was being persuaded we should save him.
And then, quite suddenly, without an instant's warning, he
succumbed.  He just heaved a sigh, and was gone.  I could
scarcely believe my senses, madam."

He would have added more particulars of his feelings and
emotions - for he was of those who believe that their own
impressions of a phenomenon are that phenomenon's most
interesting manifestations - but her ladyship waved him
peremptorily into silence.

He drew back, washing his hands in the air, an expression of
polite concern upon his face.  "Is there aught else I can do
to be of service to your ladyship?" he inquired, solicitous.

"What else?" she asked, with a fuller return to her old self.
"Ye've killed him.  What more is there you can do?"

"Oh, madam - nay, madam! I am most deeply grieved that my - my
- "

"His lordship will wait upon you to the door," said she,
designating her son.

The eminent physician effaced himself from her ladyship's
attention.  It was his boast that he could take a hint when
one was given him; and so he could, provided it were broad
enough, as in the present instance.

He gathered up his hat and gold-headed cane - the unfailing
insignia of his order - and was gone, swiftly and silently.

Rotherby closed the door after him, and returned slowly, head
bowed, to the window where his mother was still seated.  They
looked at each other gravely for a long moment.

"This makes matters easier for you," she said at length.

"Much easier.  It does not matter now how far his complicity
may be betrayed by his papers.  I am glad, madam, to see you
so far recovered from your weakness."

She shivered, as much perhaps at his tone as at the
recollections he evoked.  "You are very indifferent, Charles,"
said she.

He looked at her steadily, then slightly shrugged.  "What need
to wear a mask?  Bah!  Did he ever give me cause to feel for
him?" he asked.  "Mother, if one day I have a son of my own, I
shall see to it that he loves me."

"You will be hard put to it, with your nature, Charles," she
told him critically.  Then she rose.  "Will you go to him with
me?" she asked.

He made as if to acquiesce, then halted.  "No," he said, and
there was repugnance in his tone and face.  "Not - not now."

There came a knocking at the door, rapid, insistent.  Grateful
for the interruption, Rotherby went to open.

Mr. Green staggered forward with swollen eyes, his face
inflamed with rage, and with something else that was not quite
apparent to Rotherby.

"My lord!" he cried in a loud, angry voice.

Rotherby caught his wrist and checked him.  "Sh! sir," he said
gravely.  "Not here."  And he pushed him out again, her
ladyship following them.

It was in the gallery - above the hall, in which the servants
still stood idly about - that Mr. Green spattered out his
wrathful tale of what had befallen in the library.

Rotherby shook him as if he had been a rat.  "You cursed
fool!" he cried.  "You left him there - at the desk?"

"What help had I?" demanded Green with spirit.  "My eyes were
on fire.  I couldn't see, and the pain of them made me
helpless."

"Then why did ye not send word to me at once, you fool?"

"Because I was concerned only to stop my eyes from burning,"
answered Mr. Green, in a towering rage at finding reproof
where he had come in quest of sympathy.  "I have come to you
at the first moment, damn you!" he burst out, in full
rebellion.  "And you'll use me civilly now that I am come, or
- ecod! - it'll be the worse for your lordship."

Rotherby considered him through a faint mist that rage had set
before his eyes.  To be so spoken to - damned indeed! - by a
dirty spy!  Had he been alone with the man, there can be
little doubt but that he would have jeopardized his very
precarious future by kicking Mr. Green downstairs.  But his
mother saved him from that rashness.  It may be that she saw
something of his anger in his kindling eye, and thought it
well to intervene.

She set a hand on his sleeve.  "Charles!" she said to him in a
voice that was dead cold with warning.

He responded to it, and chose discretion.  He looked Green
over, nevertheless.  "I vow I'm very patient with you," said
he, and Green had the discretion on his side to hold his
tongue.  "Come, man, while we stand talking here that knave
may be destroying precious evidence."

And his lordship went quickly down the stairs, Mr. Green
following hard upon his heels, and her ladyship bringing up
the rear.

At the door of the library Rotherby came to a halt, and turned
the handle.  The door was locked.  He beckoned a couple of
footmen across the hall, and bade them break it open.




CHAPTER XX

Mr. CARYLL'S IDENTITY


"I must see Lord Ostermore!" had been Mr. Caryll's wild cry, as
he strode to the door.

From the other side of it there came a sound of steps and
voices.  Some one was turning the handle.

Hortensia caught Mr. Caryll by the sleeve.  "But the letters!"
she cried frantically, and pointed to the incriminating papers
which he had left, forgotten, upon the desk.

He stared at her a moment, and memory swept upon him in a
flood.  He mastered the wild agitation that had been swaying
him, thrust the paper that he was carrying into his pocket,
and turned to go back for the treasonable letters.

"The taper!" he exclaimed, and pointed to the extinguished
candle on the floor.  "What can we do?"

A sharp blow fell upon the lock of the door.  He stood still,
looking over his shoulder.

"Quick!  Make haste!" Hortensia admonished him in her
excitement.  "Get them!  Conceal them, at least!  Do the best
you can since we have not the means to burn them."

A second blow was struck, succeeded instantly by a third, and
something was heard to snap.  The door swung open, and Green
and Rotherby sprang into the room, a brace of footmen at their
heels.  They were followed more leisurely by the countess;
whilst a little flock of servants brought up the rear, but
checked upon the threshold, and hung there to witness events
that held out such promise of being unusual.

Mr. Caryll swore through set teeth, and made a dash for the
desk.  But he was too late to accomplish his object.  His hand
had scarcely closed upon the letters, when he was, himself,
seized.  Rotherby and Green, on either side of him, held him
in their grasp, each with one hand upon his shoulder and the
other at his wrist.  Thus stood he, powerless between them,
and, after the first shock of it, cool and making no effort to
disengage himself.  His right hand was tightly clenched upon
the letters.

Rotherby called a servant forward.  "Take those papers from
the thief's hand," he commanded.

"Stop!" cried Mr. Caryll.  "Lord Rotherby, may I speak with
you alone before you go further in a matter you will bitterly
regret?"

"Take those papers from him," Rotherby repeated, swearing; and
the servant bent to the task.  But Mr. Caryll suddenly
wrenched the hand away from the fellow and the wrist out of
Lord Rotherby's grip.

"A moment, my lord, as you value your honor and your
possessions!" he insisted.  "Let me speak with Lord Ostermore
first.  Take me before him."

"You are before him now," said Rotherby.  "Say on!"

"I demand to see Lord Ostermore."

"I am Lord Ostermore," said Rotherby.

"You?  Since when?" said Mr. Caryll, not even beginning to
understand.

"Since ten minutes ago," was the callous answer that first
gave that household the news of my lord's passing.

There was a movement, a muttering among the servants.  Old
Humphries broke through the group by the door, his heavy chops
white and trembling, and in that moment Hortensia turned,
awe-stricken, to ask her ladyship was this true.  Her ladyship
nodded in silence.  Hortensia cried out, and sank to a chair
as if beaten down by the news, whilst the old servant,
answered, too, withdrew, wringing his hands and making foolish
laments; and the tears of those were the only tears that
watered the grave of John Caryll, fifth Earl of Ostermore.

As for Mr. Caryll, the shock of that announcement seemed to
cast a spell upon him.  He stood still, limp and almost
numbed.  Oh, the never-ceasing irony of things!  That his
father should have died at such a moment.

"Dead?" quoth he.  "Dead?  Is my lord dead?  They told me he
was recovering."

"They told you false," answered Rotherby.  "So now - those
papers!"

Mr. Caryll relinquished them.  "Take them," he said.  "Since
that is so - take them."

Rotherby received them himself.  "Remove his sword," he bade a
footman.

Mr. Caryll looked sharply round at him.  "My sword?" quoth he.
"What do you mean by that?  What right?"

"We mean to keep you by us, sir," said Mr. Green on his other
side, "until you have explained what you were doing with those
papers - what is your interest in them."

Meanwhile a servant had done his lordship's bidding, and Mr.
Caryll stood weaponless amid his enemies.  He mastered himself
at once.  Here it was plain that he must walk with caution,
for the ground, he perceived, was of a sudden grown most
insecure and treacherous.  Rotherby and Green in league! It
gave him matter for much thought.

"There's not the need to hold me," said he quietly.  "I am not
likely to tire myself by violence.  There's scarcely necessity
for so much."

Rotherby looked up sharply.  The cool, self-possessed tone had
an intimidating note.  But Mr. Green laughed maliciously, as
he continued to mop his still watering eyes.  He was
acquainted with Mr. Caryll's methods, and knew that, probably,
the more at ease he seemed, the less at ease he was.

Rotherby spread the letters on the desk, and scanned them with
a glowing eye, Mr. Green at his elbow reading with him.  The
countess swept forward that she, too, might inspect this find.

"They'll serve their turn," said her son, and added to Caryll:
"And they'll help to hang you."

"No doubt you find me mentioned in them," said Mr. Caryll.

"Ay, sir," snapped Green, "if not by name, at least as the
messenger who is to explain that which the writers - the royal
writer and the other - have out of prudence seen fit to
exclude."

Hortensia looked up and across the room at that, a wild fear
clutching at her heart.  But Mr. Caryll laughed pleasantly,
eyebrows raised as if in mild surprise.  "The most excellent
relations appear to prevail between you," said he, looking
from Rotherby to Green.  "Are you, too, my lord, in the
secretary's pay."

His lordship flushed darkly.  "You'll clown it to the end," he
sneered.

"And that's none so far off," snarled Mr. Green, who since the
peppering of his eyes, had flung aside his usual cherubic air.
"Oh, you may sneer, sir," he mocked the prisoner.  "But we
have you fast.  This letter was brought hither by you, and
this one was to have been carried hence by you."

"The latter, sir, was a matter for the future, and you can
hardly prove what a man will do; so we'll let that pass.  As
for the former - the letter which you say I brought - you'll
remember that you searched me at Maidstone - "

"And I have your admission that the letter was upon you at the
time," roared the spy, interrupting him - "your admission in
the presence of that lady, as she can be made to witness."

Mistress Winthrop rose.  "'Tis a lie," she said firmly.  "I
can not be made to witness."

Mr. Caryll smiled, and nodded across to her.  "'Tis vastly
kind in you, Mistress Winthrop.  But the gentleman is
mistook."  He turned to Green.  "Harkee, sirrah did I admit
that I had carried that letter?"

Mr. Green shrugged.  "You admitted that you carried a letter.
What other letter should it have been but that?"

"Nay," smiled Mr. Caryll.  "'Tis not for you to ask me.
Rather is it for you to prove that the letter I admitted
having carried and that letter are one and the same.  'Twill
take a deal of proving, I dare swear."

"Ye'll be forsworn, then," put in her ladyship sourly.  "For I
can witness to the letter that you bore.  Not only did I see
it - a letter on that same fine paper - in my husband's hands
on the day you came here and during your visit, but I have his
lordship's own word for it that he was in the plot and that
you were the go-between."

"Ah!" chuckled Mr. Green.  "What now, sir?  What now?  By what
fresh piece of acrobatics will you get out of that?"

"Ye're a fool," said Mr. Caryll with calm contempt, and
fetched out his snuff-box.  "D'ye dream that one witness will
suffice to establish so grave a charge?  Pah!"  He opened his
snuff-box to find it empty, and viciously snapped down the lid
again.  "Pah!" he said again, "ye've cost me a whole boxfull
of Burgamot."

"Why did ye throw it in my face?" demanded Mr. Green.  "What
purpose did ye look to serve but one of treason?  Answer me
that!"

"I didn't like the way ye looked at me.  'Twas wanting
respect, and I bethought me I would lessen the impudence of
your expression.  Have ye any other foolish questions for me?"
And he looked again from Green to Rotherby, including both in
his inquiry.  "No?" He rose.  "In that case, if you'll give me
leave, and - "

"You do not leave this house," Rotherby informed him.

"I think you push hospitality too far.  Will you desire your
lackey to return me my sword?  I have affairs elsewhere."

"Mr. Caryll, I beg that you will understand," said his
lordship, with a calm that he was at some pains to maintain,
"that you do not leave this house save in the care of the
messengers from the secretary of state."

Mr. Caryll looked at him, and yawned in his face.  "Ye're
prodigiously tiresome," said he, "did ye but know how I detest
disturbances.  What shall the secretary of state require of
me?"

"He'll require you on a charge of high treason," said Mr.
Green.

"Have you a warrant to take me?"

"I have not, but - "

"Then how do you dare detain me, sir?" demanded Mr. Caryll
sharply.  "D'ye think I don't know the law?"

"I think you'll know a deal more of it shortly," countered Mr.
Green.

"Meanwhile, sirs, I depart.  Offer me violence at your peril."
He moved a step, and then, at a sign from Rotherby, the
lackey's hands fell on him again, and forced him back and down
into his chair.

"Away with you for the warrant," said Rotherby to Green.
"We'll keep him here till you return."

Mr. Green grinned at the prisoner, and was gone in great
haste.

Mr. Caryll lounged back in his chair, and threw one leg over
the other.  "I have always endeavored," said he, "to suffer
fools as gladly as a Christian should.  So since you insist,
I'll be patient until I have the ear of my Lord Carteret -
who, I take it, is a man of sense.  But if I were you, my
lord, and you, my lady, I should not insist.  Believe me,
you'll cut poor figures.  As for you, my lord, ye're in none
such good odor, as it is."

"Let that be," snarled his lordship.

"If I mention it at all, I but do so in your lordship's own
interests.  It will be remembered that ye attempted to murder
me once, and that will not be of any great help to such
accusations as you may bring against me.  Besides which, there
is the unfortunate circumstance that it's widely known ye're
not a man to be believed."

"Will you be silent?" roared his lordship, in a towering
passion.

"If I trouble myself to speak at all, it is out of concern for
your lordship," Mr. Caryll insisted sweetly.  "And in your own
interest, and your ladyship's, too, I'd counsel you to hear me
a moment without witnesses."

His tone was calculatedly grave.  Lord Rotherby looked at him,
sneering; not so her ladyship.  Less acquainted with his ways,
the absolute confidence and unconcern of his demeanor was
causing her uneasiness.  A man who was perilously entrammelled
would not bear himself so easily, she opined.  She rose, and
crossed to her son's side.

"What have you to say?" she asked Mr. Caryll.

"Nay, madam," he replied, "not before these."  And he
indicated the servants.

"'Tis but a pretext to have them out of the room," said
Rotherby.

Mr. Caryll laughed the notion to scorn.  "If you think that -
I give you my word of honor to attempt no violence, nor to
depart until you shall give me leave," said he.

Rotherby, judging Mr. Caryll by his knowledge of himself,
still hesitated.  But her ladyship realized, in spite of her
detestation of the man, that he was not of the temper of those
whose word is to be doubted.  She signed to the footmen.

"Go," she bade them.  "Wait within call."

They departed, and Mr. Caryll remained seated for all that her
ladyship was standing; it was as if by that he wished to show
how little he was minded to move.

Her ladyship's eye fell upon Hortensia.  "Do you go, too,
child," she bade her.

Instead, Hortensia came forward.  "I wish to remain, madam,"
she said.

"Did I ask you what you wished?" demanded the countess.

"My place is here," Hortensia explained.  "Unless Mr. Caryll
should, himself, desire me to depart."

"Nay, nay," he cried, and smiled upon her fondly - so fondly
that the countess's eyes grew wider.  "With all my heart, I
desire you to remain.  It is most fitting you should hear that
which I have to say."

"What does it mean?" demanded Rotherby, thrusting himself
forward, and scowling from one to the other of them.  "What
d'ye mean, Hortensia?"

"I am Mr. Caryll's betrothed wife," she answered quietly.

Rotherby's mouth fell open, but he made no sound.  Not so her
ladyship.  A peal of shrill laughter broke from her.  "La!
What did I tell you, Charles?"  Then to Hortensia: "I'm sorry
for you, ma'am," said she.  "I think ye've been a thought too
long in making up your mind."  And she laughed again.

"Lord Ostermore lies above stairs," Hortensia reminded her,
and her ladyship went white at the reminder, the indecency of
her laughter borne in upon her.

"Would ye lesson me, girl?" she cried, as much to cover her
confusion as to vent her anger at the cause of it.  "Ye've an
odd daring, by God!  Ye'll be well matched with his impudence,
there."

Rotherby, singularly self-contained, recalled her to the
occasion.

"Mr. Caryll is waiting," said he, a sneer in his voice.

"Ah, yes," she said, and flashing a last malignant glance upon
Hortensia, she sank to a chair beside her, but not too near
her.

Mr. Caryll sat back, his legs crossed, his elbows on his
chair-arms, his finger-tips together.  "The thing I have to
tell you is of some gravity," he announced by way of preface.

Rotherby took a seat by the desk, his hand upon the
treasonable letters.  "Proceed, sir," he said, importantly.
Mr. Caryll nodded, as in acknowledgment of the invitation.

"I will admit, before going further, that in spite of the
cheerful countenance I maintained before your lordship's
friend, the bumbailiff, and your lackeys, I recognize that you
have me in a very dangerous position."

"Ah!" from his lordship in a breath of satisfaction, and

"Ah!" from Hortensia in a gasp of apprehension.

Her ladyship retained a stony countenance, and a silence that
sorted excellently with it.

"There is," Mr. Caryll proceeded, marking off the points on
his fingers, "the incident at Maidstone; there is your
ladyship's evidence that I was the bearer of just such a
letter on the day that first I came here; there is the
dangerous circumstance - of which Mr. Green, I am sure, will
not fail to make a deal - of my intimacy with Sir Richard
Everard, and my constant visits to his lodging, where I was,
in fact, on the occasion when he met his death; there is the
fact that I committed upon Mr. Green an assault with my snuff
box for motives that, after all, admit of but one acceptable
explanation; and, lastly, there is the circumstance that,
apparently, if interrogated, I can show no good reason why I
should be in England at all, where no apparent interest has
called me or keeps me.

"Now, these matters are so trivial that taken separately they
have no value whatever; taken conjointly, their value is not
great; they do not contain evidence enough to justify the
hanging of a dog.  And yet, I realize that disturbed as the
times are, fearful of sedition as the government finds itself
in consequence of the mischief done to public credit by the
South Sea disaster, and ready as the ministry is to see plots
everywhere and to make examples, pour discourager les autres,
if the accusation you intend is laid against me, backed by
such evidence as this, it is not impossible - indeed, it is
not improbable - that it may - ah - tend to shorten my life."

"Sir," sneered Rotherby, "I declare you should have been a
lawyer.  We haven't a pleader of such parts and such lucidity
at the whole bar."

Mr. Caryll nodded his thanks.  "Your praise is very
flattering, my lord," said he, with a wry smile, and then
proceeded: "It is because I see my case to be so very nearly
desperate, that I venture to hope you will not persevere in
the course you are proposing to adopt."

Lord Rotherby laughed noiselessly.  "Can you urge me any
reasons why we should not?"

"If you could urge me any reasons why you should," said Mr.
Caryll, "no doubt I should be able to show you under what
misapprehensions you are laboring."  He shot a keen glance at
his lordship, whose face had suddenly gone blank.  Mr. Caryll
smiled quietly.  "There is in this something that I do not
understand," he resumed.  "It does not satisfy me to suppose,
as at first might seem, that you are acting out of sheer
malice against me.  You have scarcely cause to do that, my
lord; and you, my lady, have none.  That fool Green - patience
- he conceives that he has suffered at my hands.  But without
your assistance Mr. Green would be powerless to hurt me.
What, then, is it that is moving you?"

He paused, looking from one to the other of his declared
enemies.  They exchanged glances - Hortensia watching them,
breathless, her own mind working, too, upon this question that
Mr. Caryll had set, yet nowhere finding an answer.

"I had thought," said her ladyship at last, "that you promised
to tell us something that it was in our interest to hear.
Instead, you appear to be asking questions."

Mr. Caryll shifted in his chair.  One glance he gave the
countess, then smiled.  "I have sought at your hands the
reasons why you should desire my death," said he slowly.  "You
withhold them.  Be it so.  I take it that you are ashamed of
them; and so, their nature is not difficult to conjecture."

"Sir - " began Rotherby, hotly, half-starting from his seat.

"Nay, let him trundle on, Charles," said his mother.  "He'll
be the sooner done."

"Instead," proceeded Mr. Caryll, as if there had been no
interruption, "I will now urge you my reasons why you should
not so proceed."

"Ha!" snapped Rotherby.  "They will need to be valid."

Mr. Caryll twisted farther round, to face his lordship more
fully.  "They are as valid," said he very impressively - so
impressively and sternly that his hearers felt themselves
turning cold under his words, filled with some mysterious
apprehension.  "They are as valid as were my reasons for
holding my hand in the field out yonder, when I had you at the
mercy of my sword, my lord.  Neither more nor less.  From
that, you may judge them to be very valid."

"But ye don't name them," said her ladyship, attempting to
conquer her uneasiness.

"I shall do so," said he, and turned again to his lordship.
"I had no cause to love you that morning, nor at any time, my
lord; I had no cause to think - as even you in your heart must
realize, if so be that you have a heart, and the intelligence
to examine it - I had no cause to think, my lord, that I
should be doing other than a good deed by letting drive my
blade.  That such an opinion was well founded was proven by
the thing you did when I turned my back upon you after sparing
your useless life."

Rotherby broke in tempestuously, smiting the desk before him.
"If you think to move us to mercy by such - "

"Oh, not to mercy would I move you," said Mr. Caryll, his hand
raised to stay the other, "not to mercy, but to horror of the
thing you contemplate."  And then, in an oddly impressive
manner, he launched his thunderbolt.  "Know, then, that if
that morning I would not spill your blood, it was because I
should have been spilling the same blood that flows in my own
veins; it was because you are my brother; because your father
was my father.  No less than that was the reason that withheld
my hand."

He had announced his aim of moving them to horror; and it was
plain that he had not missed it, for in frozen horror sat they
all, their eyes upon him, their cheeks ashen, their mouths
agape - even Hortensia, who from what already Mr. Caryll had
told her, understood now more than any of them.

After a spell Rotherby spoke.  "You are my brother?" he said,
his voice colorless.  "My brother?  What are you saying?"

And then her ladyship found her voice.  "Who was your mother?"
she inquired, and her very tone was an insult, not to the man
who sat there so much as to the memory of poor Antoinette de
Maligny.  He flushed to the temples, then paled again.

"I'll not name her to your ladyship," said he at, last, in a
cold, imperious voice.

"I'm glad ye've so much decency," she countered.

"You mistake, I think," said he.  "'Tis respect for my mother
that inspires me."  And his green eyes flashed upon the
painted hag.  She rose up a very fury.

"What are you saying?" she shrilled.  "D'ye hear the filthy
fellow, Rotherby?  He'll not name the wanton in my presence
out of respect for her."

"For shame, madam!  You are speaking of his mother," cried
Hortensia, hot with indignation.

"Pshaw!  'Tis all an impudent lie - a pack of lies!" cried
Rotherby.  "He's crafty as all the imps of hell."

Mr. Caryll rose.  "Here in the sight of God and by all that I
hold most sacred, I swear that what I have said is true.  I
swear that Lord Ostermore - your father - was my father.  I
was born in France, in the year 1690, as I have papers upon me
that will prove, which you may see, Rotherby."

His lordship rose.  "Produce them," said he shortly.

Mr. Caryll drew from an inner pocket of his coat the small
leather case that Sir Richard Everard had given him.  From
this he took a paper which he unfolded.  It was a certificate
of baptism, copied from the register of the Church of St.
Antoine in Paris.

Rotherby held out his hand for it.  But Mr. Caryll shook his
head.  "Stand here beside me, and read it," said he.

Obeying him, Rotherby went and read that authenticated copy,
wherein it was declared that Sir Richard Everard had brought
to the Church of St. Antoine for baptism a male child, which
he had declared to be the son of John Caryll, Viscount
Rotherby, and Antoinette de Maligny, and which had received in
baptism the name of Justin.

Rotherby drew away again, his head sunk on his breast.  Her
ladyship was seated, her eyes upon her son, her fingers
drumming absently at the arms of her chair.  Then Rotherby
swung round again.

"How do I know that you are the person designated there - this
Justin Caryll?"

"You do not; but you may.  Cast your mind back to that night
at White's when you picked your quarrel with me, my lord.  Do
you remember how Stapleton and Collis spoke up for me,
declared that they had known me from boyhood at Oxford, and
had visited me at my chateau in France?  What was the name of
that chateau, my lord - do you remember?"

Rotherby looked at him, searching his memory.  But he did not
need to search far.  At first glance the name of Maligny had
seemed familiar to him.  "It was Maligny," he replied, "and
yet - "

"If more is needed to convince you, I can bring a hundred
witnesses from France, who have known me from infancy.  You
may take it that I can establish my identity beyond all
doubt."

"And what if you do?" demanded her ladyship suddenly.  "What
if you do establish your identity as my lord's bastard?  What
claim shall that be upon us?"

"That, ma'am," answered Mr. Caryll very gravely, "I wait to
learn from my brother here."




CHAPTER XXI

THE LION'S SKIN

For a spell there was utter silence in that spacious, pillared
chamber.  Mr. Caryll and her ladyship had both resumed their
chairs: the former spuriously calm; the latter making no
attempt to conceal her agitation.  Hortensia leant forward, an
eager spectator, watching the three actors in this
tragicomedy.

As for Rotherby, he stood with bent head and furrowed brow.
It was for him to speak, and yet he was utterly at a loss for
words.  He was not moved at the news he had received, so much
as dismayed.  It dictated a course that would interfere with
all his plans, and therefore a course unthinkable.  So he
remained puzzled how to act, how to deal with this unexpected
situation.

It was her ladyship who was the first to break the silence.
She had been considering Mr. Caryll through narrowing eyes,
the corners of her mouth drawn down.  She had caught the name
of Maligny when it was uttered, and out of the knowledge which
happened to be hers - though Mr. Caryll was ignorant of this -
it set her thinking.

"I do not believe that you are the son of Mademoiselle de
Maligny," she said at last.  "I never heard that my lord had a
son; I cannot believe there was so much between them."

Mr. Caryll stared, startled out of his habitual calm.
Rotherby turned to her with an exclamation of surprise.
"How?" he cried.  "You knew, then?  My father was - "

She laughed mirthlessly.  "Your father would have married her
had he dared," she informed them.  "'Twas to beg his father's
consent that he braved his banishment and came to England.
But his father was as headstrong as himself; held just such
views as he, himself, held later where you were concerned.  He
would not hear of the match.  I was to be had for the asking.
My father was a man who traded in his children, and he had
offered me, with a jointure that was a fortune, to the Earl of
Ostermore as a wife for his son."

Mr. Caryll was listening, all ears.  Some light was being shed
upon much that had lain in darkness.

"And so," she proceeded, "your grandfather constrained your
father to forget the woman he had left in France, and to marry
me.  I know not what sins I had committed that I should have
been visited with such a punishment.  But so it befell.  Your
father resisted, dallying with the matter for a whole year.
Then there was a duel fought.  A cousin of Mademoiselle de
Maligny's crossed to England, and forced a quarrel upon your
father.  They met, and M. de Maligny was killed.  Then a
change set in in my lord's bearing, and one day, a month or so
later, he gave way to his father's insistence, and we were
wed.  But I do not believe that my lord had left a son in
France - I do not believe that had he done so, I should not
have known it; I do not believe that under such circumstances,
unfeeling as he was, he would have abandoned Mademoiselle de
Maligny."

"You think, then," said Rotherby, "that this man has raked up
this story to - "

"Consider what you are saying," cut in Mr. Caryll, with a
flash of scorn.  "Should I have come prepared with documents
against such a happening as this?"

"Nay, but the documents might have been intended for some
other purpose had my lord lived - some purpose of extortion,"
suggested her ladyship.

"But consider again, madam, that I am wealthy - far wealthier
than was ever my Lord Ostermore, as my friends Collis,
Stapleton and many another can be called to prove.  What need,
then, had I to extort?"

"How came you by your means, being what you say you are?" she
asked him.

Briefly he told her how Sir Richard Everard had cared for him,
for his mother's sake; endowed him richly upon adopting him,
and since made him heir to all his wealth, which was
considerable.  "And for the rest, madam, and you, Rotherby,
set doubts on one side.  Your ladyship says that had my lord
had a son you must have heard of it.  But my lord, madam,
never knew he had a son.  Tell me - can you recall the date,
the month at least, in which my lord returned to England?"

"I can, sir.  It was at the end of April of '89.  What then?"

Mr. Caryll produced the certificate again.  He beckoned
Rotherby, and held the paper under his eyes.  "What date is
there - the date of birth?"

Rotherby read: "The third of January of 1690."

Mr. Caryll folded the paper again.  "That will help your
ladyship to understand how it might happen that my lord
remained in ignorance of my birth." He sighed as he replaced
the case in his pocket.  "I would he had known before he
died," said he, almost as if speaking to himself.

And now her ladyship lost her temper.  She saw Rotherby
wavering, and it angered her; and angered, she committed a
grave error.  Wisdom lay in maintaining the attitude of
repudiation; it would at least have afforded some excuse for
her and Rotherby.  Instead, she now recklessly flung off that
armor, and went naked down into the fray.

"A fig for't all!" she cried, and snapped her fingers.  She
had risen, and she towered there, a lean and malevolent
figure, her head-dress nodding foolishly.  "What does it
matter that you be what you claim to be?  Is it to weigh with
you, Rotherby?"

Rotherby turned grave eyes upon her.  He was, it seemed, not
quite rotten through and through; there was still in him - in
the depths of him - a core that was in a measure sound; and
that core was reached.  Most of all had the story weighed with
him because it afforded the only explanation of why Mr. Caryll
had spared his life that morning of the duel.  It was a matter
that had puzzled him, as it had puzzled all who had witnessed
the affront that led to the encounter.

Between that and the rest - to say nothing of the certificate
he had seen, which he could not suppose a forgery - he was
convinced that Mr. Caryll was the brother that he claimed to
be.  He gathered from his mother's sudden anger that she, too,
was convinced, in spite of herself, by the answers Mr. Caryll
had returned to all her arguments against the identity he
claimed.

He hated Mr. Caryll no whit less for what he had learnt; if
anything, he hated him more.  And yet a sense of decency
forbade him from persecuting him now, as he had intended, and
delivering to the hangman.  From ordinary murder, once in the
heat of passion - as we have seen - he had not shrunk.  But
fratricide appeared - such is the effect of education - a far,
far graver thing, even though it should be indirect fratricide
of the sort that he had contemplated before learning that this
man was his brother.

There seemed to be one of two only courses left him: to
provide Mr. Caryll with the means of escape, or else to
withhold such evidence as he intended to supply against him,
and to persuade - to compel, if necessary - his mother to do
the same.  When all was said, his interests need not suffer
very greatly.  His position would not be quite so strong,
perhaps, if he but betrayed a plot without delivering up any
of the plotters; still, he thought, it should be strong
enough.  His father dead, out of consideration of the signal
loyalty his act must manifest, he thought the government would
prove grateful and forbear from prosecuting a claim for
restitution against the Ostermore estates.

He had, then, all but resolved upon the cleaner course, when,
suddenly, something that in the stress of the moment he had
gone near to overlooking, was urged upon his attention.

Hortensia had risen and had started forward at her ladyship's
last words.  She stood before his lordship now with pleading
eyes, and hands held out.  "My lord," she cried, "you cannot
do this thing!  You cannot do it!"

But instead of moving him to generosity, by those very words
she steeled his heart against it, and proved to him that,
after all, his potentialities for evil were strong enough to
enable him to do the very thing she said he could not.  His
brow grew black as midnight; his dark eyes raked her face, and
saw the agony of apprehension for her lover written there.  He
drew breath, hissing and audible, glanced once at Caryll;
then: "A moment!" said he.

He strode to the door and called the footmen, then turned
again.

"Mr. Caryll," he said in a formal voice, "will you give
yourself the trouble of waiting in the ante-room?  I need to
consider upon this matter."

Mr. Caryll, conceiving that it was with his mother that
Rotherby intended to consider, rose instantly.  "I would
remind you, Rotherby, that time is pressing," said he.

"I shall not keep you long," was Rotherby's cold reply, and
Mr. Caryll went out.

"What now, Charles?" asked his mother.  "Is this child to
remain?"

"It is the child that is to remain," said his lordship.  "Will
your ladyship do me the honor, too, of waiting in the
ante-room?" and he held the door for her.

"What folly are you considering?" she asked.

"Your ladyship is wasting time, and time, as Mr. Caryll has
said, is pressing."

She crossed to the door, controlled almost despite herself by
the calm air of purpose that was investing him.  "You are not
thinking of - "

"You shall learn very soon of what I am thinking, ma'am.  I
beg that you will give us leave."

She paused almost upon the threshold.  "If you do a rashness,
here, remember that I can still act without you," she reminded
him.  "You may choose to believe that that man is your
brother, and so, out of that, and" - she added with a cruel
sneer at Hortensia - "other considerations, you may elect to
let him go.  But remember that you still have me to reckon
with.  Whether he prove of your blood or not, he cannot prove
himself of mine - thank God!"

His lordship bowed in silence, preserving an unmoved
countenance, whereupon she cursed him for a fool, and passed
out.  He closed the door, and turned the key, Hortensia
watching him in a sort of horror.  "Let me go!" she found
voice to cry at last, and advanced towards the door herself.
But Rotherby came to meet her, his face white, his eyes
glowing.  She fell away before his opening arms, and he stood
still, mastering himself.

"That man," he said, jerking a backward thumb at the closed
door, "lives or dies, goes free or hangs, as you shall decide,
Hortensia."

She looked at him, her face haggard, her heart beating high in
her throat as if to suffocate her.  "What do you mean?" she
asked.

"You love him!" he growled.  "Pah!  I see it in your eyes - in
your tremors - that you do.  It is for him that you are
afraid, is't not?"

"Why do you mock me with it?" she inquired with dignity.

"I do not mock you, Hortensia.  Answer me!  Is it true that
you love him?"

"It is true," she answered steadily.  "What is't to you?"

"Everything!" he answered hotly.  "Everything!  It is Heaven
and Hell to me.  Ten days ago, Hortensia, I asked you to marry
me - "

"No more," she begged him, an arm thrown out to stay him.

"But there is more," he answered, advancing again. "This time I
can make the offer more attractive. Marry me, and Caryll is not
only free to depart, but no evidence shall be laid against him.
I swear it! Refuse me, and he hangs as surely - as surely as you
and I talk together here this moment."

Cold eyes scathed him with contempt.  "God!" she cried.  "What
manner of monster are you, my lord?  To speak so - to speak of
marriage to me, and to speak of hanging a man who is son to
that same father of yours who lies above stairs, not yet
turned cold.  Are you human at all?"

"Ay - and in nothing so human as in my love for you,
Hortensia."

She put her hands to her face.  "Give me patience!" she
prayed.  "The insult of it after what has passed!  Let me go,
sir; open that door, and let me go."

He stood regarding her a moment, with lowering brows.  Then he
turned, and went slowly to the door.  "He dies, remember!"
said he, and the words, the sinister tone and the sinister
look that was stamped upon his face, shattered her spirit as
at a blow.

"No, no!" she faltered, and advanced a step or two.  "Oh, have
pity!"

"When you show me pity," he answered.

She was beaten.  "You - you swear to let him go - to see him
safely out of England - if - if I consent?"

His eyes blazed.  He came back swiftly, and she stood, a
frozen thing, passively awaiting him; a frozen thing, she let
him take her in his arms, yielding herself in horrific
surrender.

He held her close a moment, the blood surging to his face, and
glowing darkly through the swarthy skin.  "Have I conquered,
then?" he cried.  "You'll marry me, Hortensia?"

"At that price," she answered piteously, "at that price."

"Shalt find me a gentle, loving husband, ever.  I swear it
before Heaven!" he vowed, the ardor of his passion softening
his nature, as steel is softened in the fire.

"Then be it so," she said, and her tone was less cold, for she
began to glow, as it were, with the ardor of the sacrifice
that she was making - began to experience the exalted ecstasy
of martyrdom.  "Save him, and you shall find me ever a dutiful
wife to you, my lord - a dutiful wife."

"And loving?" he demanded greedily.

"Even that.  I promise it," she answered.

With a hoarse cry, he stooped to kiss her; then, with an
oath, he checked, and flung her from him so violently that she
hurtled to a chair and sank to it, overbalanced.  "No," he
roared, like a mad thing now.  "Hell and damnation - no!"

A wild frenzy of jealousy had swept aside his tenderness.  He
was sick and faint with the passion of it of this proof of how
deeply she must love that other man.  He strove to control his
violence.  He snarled at her, in his endeavors to subdue the
animal, the primitive creature that he was at heart.  "If you
can love him so much as that, he had better hang, I think."
He laughed on a high, fierce note.  "You have spoke his
sentence, girl!  D'ye think I'd take you so - at second hand?
Oh, s'death!  What d'ye deem me?"

He laughed again - in his throat now, a quivering; half-
sobbing laugh of anger - and crossed to the door, her eyes
following him, terrified; her mind understanding nothing of
this savage.  He turned the key, and flung wide the door with
a violent gesture.  "Bring him in!" he shouted.

They entered - Mr. Caryll with the footmen at his heels, a
frown between his brows, his eyes glancing quickly and
searchingly from Rotherby to Hortensia.  After him came her
ladyship, no less inquisitive of look.  Rotherby dismissed the
lackeys, and closed the door again.  He flung out an arm to
indicate Hortensia.

"This little fool," he said to Caryll, "would have married me
to save your life."

Mr. Caryll raised his brows.  The words relieved his fears.
"I am glad, sir, that you perceive she would have been a fool
to do so.  You, I take it, have been fool enough to refuse the
offer."

"Yes, you damned play-actor!  Yes!" he thundered.  "D'ye think
I want another man's cast-offs?"

"That is an overstatement," said Mr. Caryll.  "Mistress
Winthrop is no cast-off of mine."

"Enough said!" snapped Rotherby.  He had intended to say much,
to do some mighty ranting.  But before Mr. Caryll's cold
half-bantering reduction of facts to their true values, he
felt himself robbed of words.  "You hang!" he ended shortly.

"Ye're sure of that?" questioned Mr. Caryll.

"I would I were as sure of Heaven."

"I think you may be - just about as sure," Mr. Caryll
rejoined, entirely unperturbed, and he sauntered forward
towards Hortensia.  Rotherby and his mother watched him,
exchanging glances.

Then Rotherby shrugged and sneered.  "'Tis his bluster," said
he.  "He'll be a farceur to the end.  I doubt he's
half-witted."

Mr. Caryll never heeded him.  He was bending beside Hortensia.
He took her hand, and bore it to his lips.  "Sweet," he
murmured, "'twas a treason that you intended.  Have you, then,
no faith in me?  Courage, sweetheart, they cannot hurt me."

She clutched his hands, and looked up into his eyes.  "You but
say that to comfort me!" she cried.

"Not so," he answered gravely.  "I tell you no more than what
is true.  They think they hold me.  They will cheat, and lie
and swear falsely to the end that they may destroy me.  But
they shall have their pains for nothing."

"Ay - depend upon that," Rotherby mocked him.  "Depend upon it
- to the gallows."

Mr Caryll's curious eyes smiled upon his brother, but his lips
were contemptuous.  "I am of your own blood, Rotherby - your
brother," he said again, "and once already out of that
consideration I have spared your life - because I would not
have a brother's blood upon my hands."  He sighed, and
continued: "I had hoped that you had enough humanity to do the
same.  I deplore that you should lack it; but I deplore it for
your own sake, because, after all, you are my brother.  Apart
from that, it matters nothing to me."

"Will it matter nothing when you are proved a Jacobite spy?"
cried her ladyship, enraged beyond endurance by this calm
scorn of them.  "Will it matter nothing when it is proved that
you carried that letter, and would have carried that other -
that you were empowered to treat in your exiled master's name?
Will that matter nothing?"

He looked at her an instant, then, as if utterly disdaining to
answer her, he turned again to Rotherby.  "I were a fool and
blind, did I not see to the bottom of this turbid little
puddle upon which you think to float your argosies.  You are
selling me.  You are to make a bargain with the government to
forbear the confiscations your father has incurred out of
consideration of the service you can render by disclosing this
plot, and you would throw me in as something tangible - in
earnest of the others that may follow.  Have I sounded the
depths of your intent?"

"And if you have - what then?" demanded sullen Rotherby.

"This, my lord," answered Mr. Caryll, and he quoted: "`The man
that once did sell the lion's skin while the beast lived, was
killed with hunting him.  Remember that!"'

They looked at him, impressed by the ringing voice in which he
had spoken-a voice in which the ring was of mingled mockery
and exultation.  Then her ladyship shook off the impression,
and laughed.

"With what d'ye threaten us?" she asked contemptuously.

"I - threaten, ma'am?  Nay, I am incapable of threatening.  I
do not threaten.  I have reasoned with you, exhorted you,
shown you cause why, had you one spark of decency left, you
would allow me to depart and shield me from the law you have
invoked to ruin me.  I have hoped for your own sakes that you
would be moved so to do.  But since you will not - "  He
paused and shrugged.  "On your own heads be it."

"On our own heads be what?" demanded Rotherby.

But Mr. Caryll smiled, and shook his head.  "Did you know all,
it might indeed influence your decision; and I would not have
that happen.  You have chosen, have you not, Rotherby? You
will sell me; you will hang me - me, your father's son.  Poor
Rotherby!  From my soul I pity you!"

"Pity me?  Death!  You impudent rogue!  Keep your pity for
those that need it."

"That is why I offer it you, Rotherby," said Mr. Caryll,
almost sadly.  "In all my life, I have not met a man who stood
more sorely in need of it, nor am I ever like to meet
another."

There was a movement without, a tap at the door; and Humphries
entered to announce Mr. Green's return, accompanied by Mr.
Second Secretary Templeton, and without waiting for more, he
ushered them into the room.




CHAPTER XXII

THE HUNTERS


To the amazement of them all, there entered a tall gentleman
in a full-bottomed wig, with a long, pale face, a resolute
mouth, and a pair of eyes that were keen, yet kindly.  Close
upon the heels of the second secretary came Mr. Green.
Humphries withdrew, and closed the door.

Mr. Templeton made her ladyship a low bow.

"Madam," said he very gravely, "I offer your ladyship - and
you, my lord - my profoundest condolence in the bereavement
you have suffered, and my scarcely less profound excuses for
this intrusion upon your grief."

Mr. Templeton may or may not have reflected that the grief
upon which he deplored his intrusion was none so apparent.

"I had not ventured to do so," he continued, "but that your
lordship seemed to invite my presence."

"Invited it, sir?" questioned Rotherby with deference.  "I
should scarcely have presumed so far as to invite it."

"Not directly, perhaps," returned the second secretary.  His
was a deep, rich voice, and he spoke with great
deliberateness, as if considering well each word before
allowing it utterance.  "Not directly, perhaps; but in view of
your message to Lord Carteret, his lordship has desired me to
come in person to inquire into this matter for him, before
proceeding farther.  This fellow," indicating Green, "brought
information from you that a Jacobite - an agent of James
Stuart - is being detained here, and that your lordship has a
communication to make to the secretary of state."

Rotherby bowed his assent.  "All I desired that Mr. Green
should do meanwhile," said he, "was to procure a warrant for
this man's arrest.  My revelations would have followed that.
Has he the warrant?"

"Your lordship may not be aware," said Mr. Templeton, with an
increased precision of diction, "that of late so many plots
have been disclosed and have proved in the end to be no plots
at all, that his lordship has resolved to proceed now with the
extremest caution.  For it is not held desirable by his
majesty that publicity should be given to such matters until
there can be no doubt that they are susceptible to proof.
Talk of them is disturbing to the public quiet, and there is
already disturbance enough, as it unfortunately happens.
Therefore, it is deemed expedient that we should make quite
sure of our ground before proceeding to arrests."

"But this plot is no sham plot," cried Rotherby, with the
faintest show of heat, out of patience with the other's
deliberateness.  "It is a very real danger, as I can prove to
his lordship."

"It is for the purpose of ascertaining that fact," resumed the
second secretary, entirely unruffled, "for the purpose of
ascertaining it before taking any steps that would seem to
acknowledge it, that my Lord Carteret has desired me to wait
upon you - that you may place me in possession of the
circumstances that have come to your knowledge."

Rotherby's countenance betrayed his growing impatience.  "Why,
for that matter, it has come to my knowledge that a plot is
being hatched by the friends of the Stuart, and that a rising
is being prepared, the present moment being considered
auspicious, while the people's confidence in the government is
shaken by the late South Sea Company disaster."

Mr. Templeton wagged his head gently.  "That, sir - if you
will permit the observation - is the preface of all the
disclosures that have lately been made to us.  The
consolation, sir, for his majesty's friends, has been that in
no case did the subsequent matter make that preface good."

"It is in that particular, then, that my disclosures shall
differ from those others," said Rotherby, in a tone that
caused Mr. Templeton afterwards to describe him as "a damned
hot fellow."

"You have evidence?"

"Documentary evidence.  A letter from the Pretender himself
amongst it."

A becoming gravity overspread Mr. Templeton's clear-cut face.
"That would be indeed regrettable," said he.  It was plain
that whatever the second secretary might display when the plot
was disclosed to him, he would display none of that
satisfaction upon which Rotherby had counted.  "To whom, sir,
let me ask, is this letter indited?"

"To my late father," answered his lordship.

Mr. Templeton made an exclamation, whose significance was not
quite clear.

"I have discovered it since his death," continued Rotherby.
"I was but in time to wrest it from the hands of that spy of
the Pretender's, who was in the act of destroying it when I
caught him.  My devotion to his majesty made my course clear,
sir - and I desired Mr. Green to procure a warrant for this
traitor's arrest."

"Sir," said Mr. Templeton, regarding him with an eye in which
astonishment was blent with admiration, "this is very loyal in
you - very loyal under the - ah - peculiar circumstances of
the affair.  I do not think that his majesty's government,
considering to whom this letter was addressed, could have
censured you even had you suppressed it.  You have conducted
yourself, my lord - if I may venture upon a criticism of your
lordship's conduct - with a patriotism worthy of the best
models of ancient Rome.  And I am assured that his majesty's
government will not be remiss in signifying appreciation of
this very lofty loyalty of yours."

Lord Rotherby bowed low, in acknowledgment of the compliment.
Her ladyship concealed a cynical smile under cover of her fan.
Mr. Caryll - standing in the background beside Hortensia's
chair - smiled, too, and poor Hortensia, detecting his smile,
sought to take comfort in it.

"My son," interposed the countess, "is, I am sure, gratified
to hear you so commend his conduct."

Mr. Templeton bowed to her with a great politeness.  "I should
be a stone, ma'am, did I not signify my - ah - appreciation of
it."

"There is a little more to follow, sir," put in Mr. Caryll, in
that quiet manner of his.  "I think you will find it blunt the
edge of his lordship's lofty loyalty - cause it to savor less
like the patriotism of Rome, and more like that of Israel."

Mr. Templeton turned upon him a face of cold displeasure.  He
would have spoken, but that whilst he was seeking words of a
becoming gravity, Rotherby forestalled him.

"Sir," he exclaimed, "what I did, I did though my ruin must
have followed.  I know what this traitor has in mind.  He
imagines I have a bargain to make.  But you must see, sir,
that in no sense is it so, for, having already surrendered the
facts, it is too late now to attempt to sell them.  I am ready
to yield up the letters that I have found.  No consideration
could induce me to do other; and yet, sir, I venture to hope
that in return, the government will be pleased to see that I
have some claim upon my country's recognition for the signal
service I am rendering her - and in rendering which I make a
holocaust of my father's honor."

"Surely, surely, sir," murmured Mr. Templeton, but his
countenance told of a lessening enthusiasm in his lordship's
Roman patriotism.  "Lord Carteret, I am sure, would never
permit so much - ah - devotion to his majesty to go
unrewarded."

"I only ask, sir - and I ask it for the sake of my father's
name, which stands in unavoidable danger of being smirched -
that no further shame be heaped upon it than that which must
result from the horror with which the discovery of this plot
will inspire all right-thinking subjects."

Mr. Caryll smiled and nodded.  He judged in a detached spirit
- a mere spectator at a play - and he was forced to admit to
himself that it was subtly done of his brother, and showed an
astuteness in this thing, at least, of which he had never
supposed him capable.

"There is, sir," Rotherby proceeded, "the matter of my
father's dealings with the South Sea Company.  He is no longer
alive to defend himself from the accusations - from the
impeachment which has been levelled against him by our enemy,
the Duke of Wharton.  Therefore, it might be possible to make
it appear as if his dealings were - ah - not - ah - quite such
as should befit an upright gentleman.  There is that, and
there is this greater matter against him.  Between the two, I
should never again be able to look my fellow-countrymen in the
face.  Yet this is the more important since the safety of the
kingdom is involved; whilst the other is but a personal
affair, and trivial by comparison.

"I will beg, sir, that out of consideration for my disclosing
this dastardly conspiracy - which I cannot do without
disclosing my father's misguided share in it - I will implore,
sir, that out of that consideration, Lord Carteret will see
fit to dispose that the South Sea Company affair is allowed to
be forgotten.  It has already been paid for by my father with
his life."

Mr. Templeton looked at the young man before him with eyes of
real commiseration.  He was entirely duped, and in his heart
he regretted that for a moment he could have doubted
Rotherby's integrity of purpose.

"Sir," he said, "I offer you my sympathy - my profoundest
sympathy; and you, my lady.

"As for this South Sea Company affair, well - I am empowered
by Lord Carteret to treat only of the other matter, and to
issue or not a warrant for the apprehension of the person you
are detaining, after I have investigated the grounds upon
which his arrest is urged.  Nevertheless, sir, I think I can
say - indeed, I think I can promise - that in consideration of
your readiness to deliver up these letters, and provided their
nature is as serious as you represent, and also in
consideration of this, your most signal proof of loyalty, Lord
Carteret will not wish to increase the load which already you
have to bear."

"Oh, sir!" cried Rotherby in the deepest emotion, "I have no
words in which to express my thanks."

"Nor I," put in Mr. Caryll, "words in which to express my
admiration.  A most excellent performance, Rotherby.  I had
not credited you with so much ability."

Mr. Templeton frowned upon him again.  "Ye betray a singular
callousness, sir," said he.

"Nay, sir; not callousness.  Merely the ease that springs from
a tranquil conscience."

Her ladyship glanced across at him, and sneered audibly.  "You
hear the poisonous traitor, sir.  He glories in a tranquil
conscience, in spite of this murderous matter to which he
stood committed."

Rotherby turned aside to take the letters from the desk.  He
thrust them into Mr. Templeton's hands.  "Here, sir, is a
letter from King James to my father, and here is a letter from
my father to King James.  From their contents, you will gather
how far advanced are matters, what devilries are being hatched
here in his majesty's dominions."

Mr. Templeton received them, and crossed to the window that he
might examine them.  His countenance lengthened.  Rotherby
took his stand beside his mother's chair, both observing Mr.
Caryll, who, in his turn, was observing Mr. Templeton, a faint
smile playing round the corners of his mouth.  Once they saw
him stoop and whisper something in Hortensia's ear, and they
caught the upward glance of her eyes, half fear, half
question.

Mr. Green, by the door, stood turning his hat in his hands,
furtively watching everybody, whilst drawing no attention to
himself - a matter in which much practice had made him
perfect.

At last Templeton turned, folding the letters.  "This is very
grave, my lord," said he, "and my Lord Carteret will no doubt
desire to express in person his gratitude and his deep sense
of the service you have done him.  I think you may confidently
expect to find him as generous as you hope."

He pocketed the letters, and raised a hand to point at Mr.
Caryll.  "This man?" he inquired laconically.

"Is a spy of King James's.  He is the messenger who bore my
father that letter from the Pretender, and he would no doubt
have carried back the answer had my father lived."

Mr. Templeton drew a paper from his pocket, and crossed to the
desk.  He sat down, and took up a quill.  "You can prove this,
of course?" he said, testing the point of his quill upon his
thumb-nail.

"Abundantly," was the ready answer.  "My mother can bear
witness to the fact that 'twas he brought the Pretender's
letter, and there is no lack of corroboration.  Enough, I
think, would be afforded by the assault made by this rogue
upon Mr. Green, of which, no doubt, you are already informed,
sir.  His object - this proved object - was to possess himself
of those papers that he might destroy them.  I but caught him
in time, as my servants can bear witness, as they can also
bear witness to the circumstance that we were compelled to
force an entrance here, and to use force to him to obtain the
letters from him."

Mr. Templeton nodded.  "'Tis a clear case, then," said he, and
dipped his pen.

"And yet," put in Mr. Caryll, in an indolent, musing voice,
"it might be made to look as clear another way."

Mr. Templeton scowled at him.  "The opportunity shall be
afforded you," said he.  "Meanwhile - what is your name?"

Mr. Caryll looked whimsically at the secretary a moment; then
flung his bomb.  "I am Justin Caryll, Sixth Earl of Ostermore,
and your very humble servant, Mr. Secretary."

The effect was ludicrous - from Mr. Caryll's point of view -
and yet it was disappointing.  Five pairs of dilating eyes
confronted him, five gaping mouths.  Then her ladyship broke
into a laugh.

"The creature's mad - I've long suspected it."  And she meant
to be taken literally; his many whimsicalities were explained
to her at last.  He was, indeed, half-witted, as he now
proved.

Mr. Templeton, recovering, smote the table angrily.  He
thought he had good reason to lose his self-control on this
occasion, though it was a matter of pride with him that he
could always preserve an unruffled calm under the most trying
circumstances.  "What is your name, sir?" he demanded again.

"You are hard of hearing, sir, I think.  I am Lord Ostermore.
Set down that name in the warrant if you are determined to be
bubbled by that fellow there and made to look foolish
afterwards with my Lord Carteret."

Mr. Templeton sat back in his chair, frowning; but more from
utter bewilderment now than anger.

"Perhaps," said Mr. Caryll, "if I were to explain, it would
help you to see the imposture that is being practiced upon
you.  As for the allegations that have been made against me -
that I am a Jacobite spy and an agent of the Pretender's - "
He shrugged, and waved an airy hand.  "I scarce think there
will remain the need for me to deny them when you have heard
the rest."

Rotherby took a step forward, his face purple, his hands
clenched.  Her ladyship thrust out a bony claw, clutched at
his sleeve, and drew him back and into the chair beside her.
"Pho!  Charles," she said; "give the fool rope, and he'll hang
himself, never doubt it - the poor, witless creature."

Mr. Caryll sauntered over to the secretaire, and leaned an
elbow on the top of it, facing all in the room.

"I admit, Mr. Secretary," said he, "that I had occasion to
assault Mr. Green, to the end that I might possess myself of
the papers he was seeking in this desk."

"Why, then - " began Mr. Templeton.

"Patience, sir!  I admit so much, but I admit no more.  I do
not, for instance, admit that the object - the object itself -
of my search was such as has been represented."

"What then?  What else?" growled Rotherby.

"Ay, sir - what else?" quoth Mr. Templeton.

"Sir," said Mr. Caryll, with a sorrowful shake of, the head,
"I have already startled you, it seems, by one statement.  I
beg that you will prepare yourself to be startled by another."
Then he abruptly dropped his languor.  "I should think twice,
sir," he advised, "before signing that warrant, were I in your
place, to do so would be to render yourself the tool of those
who are plotting my ruin, and ready to bear false witness that
they may accomplish it.  I refer," and he waved a hand towards
the countess and his brother, "to the late Lord Ostermore's
mistress and his natural son, there."

In their utter stupefaction at the unexpectedness and seeming
wildness of the statement, neither mother nor son could find a
word to say.  No more could Mr. Templeton for a moment.  Then,
suddenly, wrathfully: "What are you saying, sir?" he roared.

"The truth, sir."

"The truth?" echoed the secretary.

"Ay, sir - the truth.  Have ye never heard of it?"

Mr. Templeton sat back again.  "I begin to think," said he,
surveying through narrowing eyes the slender graceful figure
before him, "that her ladyship is right that you are mad;
unless - unless you are mad of the same madness that beset
Ulysses.  You remember?"

"Let us have done," cried Rotherby in a burst of anger,
leaping to his feet.  "Let us have done, I say!  Are we to
waste the day upon this Tom o' Bedlam?  Write him down as
Caryll - Justin Caryll - 'tis the name he's known by; and let
Green see to the rest."

Mr. Templeton made an impatient sound, and poised his pen.

"Ye are not to suppose, sir," Mr. Caryll stayed him, "that I
cannot support my statements.  I have by me proofs -
irrefragable proofs of what I say."

"Proofs?" The word seemed to come from, every member of that
little assembly - if we except Mr. Green, whose face was
beginning to betray his uneasiness.  He was not so ready as
the others to believe, that Mr. Caryll was mad.  For him, the
situation asked some other explanation.

"Ay - proofs," said Mr. Caryll.  He had drawn the case from
his pocket again.  From this he took the birth-certificate,
and placed it before Mr. Templeton, "Will you glance at that,
sir - to begin, with? - "

Mr. Templeton complied.  His face became more and more grave.
He looked at Mr. Caryll; then at Rotherby, who was scowling,
and at her ladyship, who was breathing hard.  His glance
returned to Mr. Caryll.

"You are the person designated here?" he inquired.

"As I can abundantly prove," said Mr. Caryll.  "I have no lack
of friends in London who will bear witness to that much."

"Yet," said Mr. Templeton, frowning, perplexed, "this does not
make you what you claim to be.  Rather does it show you to be
his late lordship's - "

"There's more to come," said Mr. Caryll, and placed another
document before the secretary.  It was an extract from the
register of St. Etienne of Maligny, relating to his mother's
death.

"Do you know, sir, in what year this lady went through a
ceremony of marriage with my father - the late Lord Ostermore?
It was in 1690, I think, as the lady will no doubt confirm."

"To what purpose, this?" quoth Mr. Templeton.

"The purpose will be presently apparent.  Observe that date,"
said Mr. Caryll, and he pointed to the document in Mr.
Templeton's hand.

Mr. Templeton read the date aloud - "1692" - and then the name
of the deceased - "Antoinette de Beaulieu de Maligny.  What of
it?" he demanded.

"You will understand that when I show you the paper I took
from this desk, the paper that I obtained as a consequence of
my violence to Mr. Green.  I think you will consider, sir,
that if ever the end justified the means, it did so in this
case.  Here was something very different from the paltry
matter of treason that is alleged against me."

And he passed the secretary a third paper.

Over Mr. Templeton's shoulder, Rotherby and his mother, who -
drawn by the overpowering excitement that was mastering them -
had approached in silence, were examining the document with
wide-open, startled eyes, fearing by very instinct, without
yet apprehending the true nature of the revelation that was to
come.

"God!" shrieked her ladyship, who took in the meaning of this
thing before Rotherby had begun to suspect it.  "'Tis a
forgery!"

"That were idle, when the original entry in the register is to
be seen in, the Church of St. Antoine, madam," answered Mr.
Caryll.  "I rescued that document, together with some letters
which my mother wrote my father when first he returned to
England - and which are superfluous now - from a secret drawer
in that desk, an hour ago."

"But what is it?" inquired Rotherby huskily.  "What is it?"

"It is the certificate of the marriage of my father, the late
Lord Ostermore, and my mother, Antoinette de Maligny, at the
Church of St. Antoine in Paris, in the year 1689."  He turned
to Mr. Templeton.  "You apprehend the matter, sir?" he
demanded, and recapitulated.  "In 1689 they were married; in
1692 she died; yet in 1690 his lordship went through a form of
marriage with Mistress Sylvia Etheridge, there."

Mr. Templeton nodded very gravely, his eyes upon the document
before him, that they might avoid meeting at that moment the
eyes of the woman whom the world had always known as the
Countess of Ostermore.

"Fortunate is it for me," said Mr. Caryll, "that I should have
possessed myself of these proofs in time.  Does it need more
to show how urgent might be the need for my suppression - how
little faith can be attached to an accusation levelled against
me from such a quarter?"

"By God - " began Rotherby, but his mother clutched his wrist.

"Be still, fool!" she hissed in his ear.  She had need to keep
her wits about her, to think, to weigh each word that she
might utter.  An abyss had opened in her path; a false step,
and she and her son were irrevocably lost - sent headlong to
destruction.  Rotherby, already reduced to the last stage of
fear, was obedient as he had never been, and fell silent
instantly.

Mr. Templeton folded the papers, rose, and proffered them to
their owner.  "Have you any means of proving that this was the
document you sought?" he inquired.

"I can prove that it was the document he found."  It was
Hortensia who spoke; she had advanced to her lover's side, and
she controlled her amazement to bear witness for him.  "I was
present in this room when he went through that desk, as all in
the house know; and I can swear to his having found that paper
in it."

Mr. Templeton bowed.  "My lord," he said to Caryll, "your
contentions appear clear.  It is a matter in which I fear I
can go no further; nor do I now think that the secretary of
state would approve of my issuing a warrant upon such
testimony as we have received.  The matter is one for Lord
Carteret himself."

"I shall do myself the honor of waiting upon his lordship
within the hour," said the new Lord Ostermore.  "As for the
letter which it is alleged I brought from France - from the
Pretender," - he was smiling now, a regretful, deprecatory
smile, "it is a fortunate circumstance that, being suspected
by that very man Green, who stands yonder, I was subjected,
upon my arrival in England, to a thorough search at Maidstone
- a search, it goes without saying, that yielded nothing.  I
was angry at the time, at the indignity I was forced to
endure.  We little know what the future may hold.  And to-day
I am thankful to have that evidence to rebut this charge."

"Your lordship is indeed to be congratulated," Mr. Templeton
agreed.  "You are thus in a position to clear yourself of even
a shadow of suspicion."

"You fool!" cried she who until that hour had been Countess of
Ostermore, turning fiercely upon Mr. Templeton.  "You fool!"

"Madam, this is not seemly," cried the second secretary, with
awkward dignity.

"Seemly, idiot?" she stormed at him.  "I swear, as I've a soul
to be saved, that in spite of all this, I know that man to be
a traitor and a Jacobite - that it was the letter from the
king he sought, whatever he may pretend to have found."

Mr. Templeton looked at her in sorrow, for all that in her
overwrought condition she insulted him.  "Madam, you might
swear and swear, and yet no one would believe you in the face
of the facts that have come to light."

"Do you believe me?" she demanded angrily.

"My beliefs can matter nothing," he compromised, and made her
a valedictory bow.  "Your servant, ma'am," said he, from force
of habit.  He nodded to Rotherby, took up his hat and cane,
and strode to the door, which Mr. Green had made haste to open
for him.  From the threshold he bowed to Mr. Caryll.  "My
lord," said he, "I shall go straight to Lord Carteret.  He
will stay for you till you come."

"I shall not keep his lordship waiting," answered Caryll, and
bowed in his turn.

The second secretary went out.  Mr. Green hesitated a moment,
then abruptly followed him.  The game was ended here; it was
played and lost, he saw, and what should such as Mr. Green be
doing on the losing side?




CHAPTER XXIII

THE LION


The game was played and lost.  All realized it, and none so
keenly as Hortensia, who found it in her gentle heart to pity
the woman who had never shown her a kindness.

She set a hand upon her lover's arm.  "What will you do,
Justin?" she inquired in tones that seemed to plead for mercy
for those others; for she had not paused to think - as another
might have thought - that there was no mercy he could show
them.

Rotherby and his mother stood hand in hand; it was the woman
who had clutched at her son for comfort and support in this
bitter hour of retribution, this hour of the recoil upon
themselves of all the evil they had plotted.

Mr. Caryll considered them a moment, his face a mask, his mind
entirely detached.  They interested him profoundly.  This
subjugation of two natures that in themselves were arrogant
and cruel was a process very engrossing to observe.  He tried
to conjecture what they felt, what thoughts they might be
harboring.  And it seemed to him that a sort of paralysis had
fallen on their wits.  They were stunned under the shock of
the blow he had dealt them.  Anon there would be railings and
to spare  -against him, against themselves, against the dead
man above stairs, against Fate, and more besides.  For the
present there was this horrid, almost vacuous calm.

Presently the woman stirred.  Instinct - the instinct of the
stricken beast to creep to hiding - moved her, while reason
was still bound in lethargy.  She moved to step, drawing at
her son's hand.  "Come, Charles," she said, in a low, hoarse
voice.  "Come!"

The touch and the speech awakened him to life.  "No!" he cried
harshly, and shook his hand free of hers.  "It ends not thus."

He looked almost as he would fling himself upon his brother,
his figure erect now, defiant and menacing; his face ashen,
his eyes wild.  "It ends not thus!" he repeated, and his voice
rang sinister.

"No," Mr. Caryll agreed quietly.  "It ends not thus."

He looked sadly from son to mother.  "It had not even begun
thus, but that you would have it so.  You would have it.  I
sought to move you to mercy.  I reminded you, my brother, of
the tie that bound us, and I would have turned you from
fratricide, I would have saved you from the crime you
meditated - for it was a crime."

"Fratricide!" exclaimed Rotherby, and laughed angrily.
"Fratricide!"  It was as if he threatened it.

But Mr. Caryll continued to regard him sorrowfully.  From his
soul he pitied him; pitied them both - not because of their
condition, but because of the soullessness behind it all.  To
him it was truly tragic, tragic beyond anything that he had
ever known.

"You said some fine things, sir, to Mr. Templeton of your
regard for your father's memory," said Mr. Caryll.  "You
expressed some lofty sentiments of filial piety, which almost
sounded true - which sounded true, indeed, to Mr. Templeton.
It was out of interest for your father that you pleaded for
the suppression of his dealings with the South Sea Company;
not for a moment did you consider yourself or the profit you
should make from such suppression."

"Why this?" demanded the mother fiercely.  "Do you rally us?
Do you turn the sword in the wound now that you have us at
your mercy - now that we are fallen?"

"From what are you fallen?" Mr. Caryll inquired.  "Ah, but let
that pass.  I do not rally, madam.  Mockery is far indeed from
my intention."  He turned again to Rotherby.  "Lord Ostermore
was a father to you, which he never was to me - knew not that
he was.  The sentiments you so beautifully expressed to Mr.
Templeton are the sentiments that actuate me now, though I
shall make no attempt to express them.  It is not that my
heart stirs much where my Lord Ostermore is concerned.  And
yet, for the sake of the name that is mine now, I shall leave
England as I came - Mr. Justin Caryll, neither more nor less.

"In the eyes of the world there is no slur upon my mother's
name, because her history - her supposed history - was
unknown.  See that none ever falls on it, else shall you find
me pitiless indeed.  See that none ever falls on it, or I
shall return and drive home the lesson that, like Antinous,
you've learnt - that 'twixt the cup and lip much ill may grow'
- and turn you, naked upon a contemptuous world.  Needs more
be said?  You understand, I think."

Rotherby understood nothing.  But his mother's keener wits
began to perceive a glimmer of the truth.  "Do you mean that -
that we are to - to remain in the station that we believed our
own?"

"What else?"

She stared at him.  Here was a generosity so weak, it seemed
to her, as almost to provoke her scorn.  "You will leave your
brother in possession of the title and what else there may
be?"

"You think me generous, madam," said he.  "Do not misapprehend
me.  I am not.  I covet neither the title nor estates of
Ostermore.  Their possession would be a thorn in my flesh, a
thorn of bitter memory.  That is one reason why you should not
think me generous, though it is not the reason why I cede
them.  I would have you understand me on this, perhaps the
last time, that we may meet.

"Lord Ostermore, my father, married you, madam, in good
faith."

She interrupted harshly.  "What is't you say?" she almost
screamed, quivering with rage at the very thought of what her
dead lord had done.

"He married you in good faith," Mr. Caryll repeated quietly,
impressively.  "I will make it plain to you.  He married you
believing that the girl-wife he had left in France was dead.
For fear it should come to his father's knowledge, he kept
that marriage secret from all.  He durst not own his marriage
to his father."

"He was not - as you may have appreciated in the years you
lived with him - a man of any profound feeling for others.
For himself he had a prodigiously profound feeling, as you may
also have gathered.  That marriage in France was troublesome.
He had come to look upon it as one of his youth's follies - as
he, himself, described it to me in this house, little knowing
to whom he spoke.  When he received the false news of her
death - for he did receive such news from the very cousin who
crossed from France to avenge her, believing her dead himself
- he rejoiced at his near escape from the consequences of his
folly.  Nor was he ever disabused of his error.  For she had
ceased to write to him by then.  And so he married you, madam,
in good faith.  That is the argument I shall use with my Lord
Carteret to make him understand that respect for my father's
memory urges me to depart in silence - save for what I must
have said to escape the impeachment with which you threatened
me."

"Lord Carteret is a man of the world.  He will understand the
far-reaching disturbance that must result from the disclosure
of the truth of this affair.  He will pledge Mr. Templeton to
silence, and the truth, madam, will never be disclosed.  That,
I think, is all, madam."

"By God, sir," cried Rotherby, "that's damned handsome of
you!"

"You epitomize it beautifully," said Mr. Caryll, with a
reversion to his habitual manner.

His mother, however, had no words at all.  She advanced a step
towards Mr. Caryll, put out her hands, and then - portent of
portents! - two tears were seen to trickle down her cheeks,
playing havoc, ploughing furrows in the paint that overlaid
them.

Mr. Caryll stepped forward quickly.  The sight of those tears,
springing from that dried-up heart - withered by God alone
knew what blight - washing their way down those poor bedaubed
cheeks, moved him to a keener pity than anything he had ever
looked upon.  He took her hands, and pressed them a moment,
giving way for once to an impulse he could not master.

She would have kissed his own in the abasement and gratitude
of the moment.  But he restrained her.

"No more, your ladyship," said he, and by thus giving her once
more the title she had worn, he seemed to reinstate her in the
station from which in self-defence he had pulled her down.
"Promise that you'll bear no witness against me should so much
be needed, and I'll cry quits with you.  Without your
testimony, they cannot hurt me, even though they were disposed
to do so, which is scarcely likely."

"Sir - sir - " she faltered brokenly.  "Could you - could you
suppose - "

"Indeed, no.  So no more, ma'am.  You do but harass yourself.
Fare you well, my lady.  If I may trespass for a few moments
longer upon the hospitality of Stretton House, I'll be your
debtor."

"The house - and all - is yours, sir," she reminded him.

"There's but one thing in it that I'll carry off with me,"
said he.  He held the door for her.

She looked into his face a moment.  "God keep you!" said she,
with a surprising fervor in one not over-fluent at her
prayers.  "God reward you for showing this mercy to an old
woman - who does not deserve so much."

"Fare you well, madam," he said again, bowing gravely.  "And
fare you well, Lord Ostermore," he added to her son.

His brother looked at him a moment; seemed on the point of
speaking, and then - taking his cue, no doubt, from his
mother's attitude - he held out his hand.

Mr. Caryll took it, shook it, and let it go.  After all, he
bethought him, the man was his brother.  And if his bearing
was not altogether cordial, it was, at least, a clement
imitation of cordiality.

He closed the door upon them, and sighed supreme relief.  He
turned to face Hortensia, and a smile broke like sunshine upon
his face, and dispelled the serious gloom of his expression.
She sprang towards him.

"Come now, thou chattel, that I am resolved to carry with me
from my father's house," said he.

She checked in her approach.  "'Tis not in such words that
I'll be wooed," said she.

"A fig for words!" he cried.  "Art wooed and won.  Confess
it."

"You want nothing for self-esteem," she informed him gravely.

"One thing, Hortensia," he amended.  "One thing I want - I
lack - to esteem myself greater than any king that rules."

"I like that better," she laughed, and suddenly she was in
tears.  "Oh, why do you mock, and make-believe that your heart
is on your lips and nowhere else?" she asked him.  "Is it your
aim to be accounted trifling and shallow - you who can do such
things as you have done but now?  Oh, it was noble!  You made
me very proud."

"Proud?" he echoed.  "Ah!  Then it must be that you are
resolved to take this impudent, fleering coxcomb for a
husband," he said, rallying her with the words she had flung
at him that night in the moonlit Croydon garden.

"How I was mistook in you!" quoth she.

He made philosophy.  "'Tis ever those in whom we are mistook
that are best worth knowing," he informed her.  "The man or
woman whom you can read at sight, is read and done with."

"Yet you were not mistook in me," said she.

"I was," he answered, "for I deemed you woman."

"What other have you found me?" she inquired.

He flung wide his arms, and bade her into them.  "Here to my
heart," he cried, "and in your ear I'll whisper it."



THE END





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