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Title:      The Bright Pavilions (1940)
Author:     Hugh Walpole
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Language:   English
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Title:      The Bright Pavilions (1940)
Author:     Hugh Walpole



A Novel



FOR RONALD STORRS

IN FRIENDSHIP




A DEDICATORY LETTER


MY DEAR RONALD,

In dedicating to you this Elizabethan romance I feel that I am
doing myself much honour.  It is with great pleasure that I give
you something that has for two years absorbed my imagination.  I
would wish at the same time to warn all those critics or others who
detest long historical novels, and especially the Herries variety,
that this book is not for them.  I would wish also to apologize to
the friends of the 'Herries Chronicles' in that this volume has a
certain grimness.  Many of us, educated on boyish romances, have
looked back to the Elizabethan period as one of music, dancing,
colour, and the gallant rifling of Spanish treasure.  Gallant it
certainly was, but even as our present times are gallant--gallant
and grim.

For then, as now, the men and women of England were fighting a
desperate and tenacious enemy.  Then as now they were fighting for
their lives.  And, even as romantic novels go, I remember that
'Westward Ho!' painted the tortures of the Inquisition and that
'Kenilworth' is, with 'The Bride of Lammermoor,' the most sombre of
all Scott's novels.  The Elizabethan Age was ferocious, cruel,
superstitious, greedy and courageous.

Before I end my letter, I would like to acknowledge the great debt
I owe to 'The Tragedy of Fotheringay' by the Hon. Mrs. Maxwell-
Scott--a delightful and thrilling work.

Your affectionate friend,

HUGH WALPOLE




The hills tell each other, and the list'ning
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turned
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth
And let thy holy feet visit our clime!

To Spring
William Blake




CONTENTS


PART I--THE BROTHERS

An Enemy

The Bright Pavilions

Sylvia Masked

The Miners

In a House of Light and Danger

Bartholomew

Satan in Watendlath

Robin Herries loquitur: he loses his Lady


PART II--THE LOVERS AGAINST GOD

Journey to the Dark Tower

The Child into the Woman

The Fight by Hawkshead

The Three Priests

Peril in Essex

The Sin

London Glory

The Martyr


PART III--THE PRISONERS

Young Rosamund

The Burning

Nicholas encounters the Devil and defeats him

Chartley: the Queen enslaves him

Tixall Trap

The Christening

The Inn at Fotheringhay: the Staircase

The Last Days on Earth

The Crucifix


PART IV--THE ENEMY IN FLIGHT

Ashes of Letters

There shall be no Pain there

Nicholas in Armour

Flight from a Phantom

End in Storm

The Summer Wedding

The Queen was in her Parlour




PART I

THE BROTHERS



AN ENEMY


On the grey afternoon of December 22nd, 1569, Nicholas Herries sat
his lovely mare Juno on the moor inland from Silloth in Cumberland,
every nerve alert because of the event that any instant might
bring.

Nicholas, at this critical moment of his history, was twenty-five
years of age, the son of Sir Michael Herries of Court Mallory, near
Lewes in Sussex.  He was a large young man, six foot four inches in
height, of vast breadth of shoulder, a mighty chest, great thighs
and a round, rosy-cheeked, merry-eyed head and a thick neck.  He
was not as yet fat, although later he might be.  He was an
exceedingly cheerful young gentleman.

Save for his attendant servant, Jack Oates, who sat his horse,
obediently, at a distance, there was no other human body to be seen
in all the visible world.

Nicholas wore a hat of green leather that sat firm and close on his
head, round his thick neck a falling band, a green doublet close to
his body, his boots black, long and close to the leg and the
boothose some two inches higher than his boots and tied with
points.  The hilt of his sword was handsomely gilded.  His mare and
himself seemed like one.  Not an inch of him stirred, and his
servant, a little man with a cynical eye, was as still as he.

The scene was, at first glance, peaceful enough.  A thin line of
sea like a long attenuated skein of smoke was barely to be
distinguished from the grey of the monotonous sky.  The Scottish
hills were like vapours of breath.  In the bend of the moor close
at hand could be seen the roofs of some hamlet.  To the right like
a mark of astonishment was a peel-tower raised many years ago
against the Scots marauders.

Otherwise not a sound, not a sign, save a hawk quivering above
them, then suddenly plunging to its prey.  But Nicholas, who was no
fool for so big a young man, knew that there was more in the scene
than met the eye.  He was doubly engaged, for while he was so
passionately alert for what was happening at his side, his mind was
also introspectively moving around his own private personal world.
Although he did not know it he was pursuing two opposite activities
at one and the same time.

He was thinking first and foremost of his young brother, Robin,
whom he was that night to meet in the little town of Keswick.  His
young brother was his great duty to the world.  Ever since that day
when at the age of five he had been shown the white, thin face of
that helpless infant in its froth of lace and silk, he had sworn
that no harm should come to it.  The contrast between his own five-
year sturdy ruddiness and that fragility had struck deep to his
heart.  'Robin shall know no harm.'  THAT was his faith, and equal
with it was his worship of his Queen.  For a man so young he had
already a clear view of her as she was--whimsical in personal
fancy, parsimonious, often cruel, often coquetting from vanity,
often jealous, often absurd in her love of flattery--but always
with a passion for her country's greatness which, however it might
be confused with a passion for herself, was nevertheless a grand
inspiration to all young men who sought to do great deeds even as
Nicholas did.

To these two faiths he added a third, and that was for his own
immediate family.  The small junior branch of Herries to which he
belonged, although allied to the great family of Howard and, on
another side, to the Herries of Lowland Scotland, was the subject
of his simple and even spiritual worship.  He would not be a Duke
of Norfolk or Northumberland or Earl of Leicester.  He would not be
my Lord Herries although he followed what he could hear of that
bold Earl's doings with interest--but only Nicholas Herries, elder
son of Sir Michael Herries of Court Mallory, and faithful member of
that little group: his father's brother, Sir Martin Herries, whom
now he was going to visit; the Herries of Temple Guard near
Salisbury; and a stray or two like his old cousin Penelope Herries
of Dover; old Daniel Herries, a squire in Herefordshire; and his
numerous cousinhood.

Here were his three faiths and they were all that he had, save
only, the greatest of all, his faith in himself.

Now, at this present instant, all four faiths were concerned, for
during the last few weeks there had been stirring deeds in Northern
England.

Young Nicholas was no politician nor a religious man either.
Anything his Queen might choose to do was right in his eyes.  He
was nevertheless young enough, full-blooded enough, adventurous
enough, to be moved by the knowledge that Mary of Scotland was
prisoner in England; lovely, helpless and, in spite of her forced
resignation, a Queen.  Some who had seen her said that she was not
so lovely after all, others who knew her whispered that she was by
no means so helpless--but there it was: she was a Queen and a
prisoner.  Nicholas cared nothing for the Roman Catholic religion
nor very much for the Protestant either.  This present world with
its glories was sufficient for him.  But there were others who
thought differently, who had gone so far as to plan to marry the
Duke of Norfolk to Mary of Scotland.  The Duke of Northumberland
with old Richard Norton and his seven sons and a number more
hotheads with them had risen in the North, and on November 14th of
this very year had entered Durham Cathedral, thrown down the
Communion Table, torn up the Bible, raised two altars and restored
the Mass.  There were some thousand foot, ill-armed yokels for the
most part, and fifteen hundred horse.  For a brief while the North
was in their hand.  They marched towards Mary at Tutbury, and she,
poor thing, was at once hurried away to Coventry.  The rebels
turned north again, took Hartlepool and Barnard Castle.  By this
time levies had been raised against them from all over England, the
whole country standing loyal, they broke and fled, and on December
20th, only two days before this present, their leaders, riding for
their lives, crossed the Border into Scotland.

Of this final issue Nicholas did not yet know.  He had himself been
staying for several weeks with Sir Timothy Curtis, a young man much
of his own age, near Doncaster.

At the first news of the fighting his immediate impulse had been to
go and have a cut at the rebels, for it was always his disposition
to fight wherever fighting might be, but a certain sensible caution
that was mixed oddly in his nature with his impetuous activity
prompted him to remain where he was.  Two days ago he had ridden to
Carlisle to stay with a friend of his father's and now he was on
his way to join his brother and see, for the first time for ten
years, his old uncle outside Keswick.

This had been, in a small fashion, a northern pilgrimage for him:
he had never been north before.  He had felt at once, riding
through Penrith, towards Carlisle, the stir from the northern
strain in his blood rise within him.  This bare, smoke-grey country
widely open to the sky, with the fresh, wildly running streams, the
long horizons with only a lonely little tower here and there to
break them, the strong smell of the turf, the sturdy ugly sheep,
and, soon, the gently rising, unoccupied hills, all these things
belonged to him and he to them.

He was always happy when he was not angry, and so he was happy now,
singing something out of tune as he rode and calling on Jack Oates
for a chorus.  There had been no adventures save for his beating a
drunken hostler and rescuing a rather blowzy servant-maid from rape
in a country barn.

In Carlisle, however, all had at once been different.  His father's
friend, Thomas Berwick, had a small manor-house in the suburb of
the town, where, being now over seventy, he raised bees and a
handsome garden.  Berwick was a Protestant and a servant of his
Queen, and had as deep a hatred of the Scottish Mary as it was
possible for so gentle a nature to cherish.  The obvious failure of
the ill-judged insurrection rejoiced his heart, but already,
although the rebellion was scarcely over, hangings and burnings
were on the way, villages outside Carlisle were flaming and a
number of young, self-important officers of the Queen were out to
satisfy their own sadistic passions as a proof of their loyalty.

Nicholas was at once anxious for his brother, who was but twenty
years of age and had travelled up by himself from Oxford.  So, on
the third day, he left old Thomas Berwick, who had been in
perpetual astonishment at his size and vigour and appetite, and
rode for Keswick.

Here he was, sitting his horse, motionless on the grey moor,
listening for a certain sound to be repeated.  His head was erect,
his eyes searching, his hand on the hilt of his sword.  Oates was
as still as he, and Juno, the beautiful darling, as motionless as
the little jet-black cloud that hung exactly above their heads.

The sound that he had heard was of a man frantically breathing.  It
seemed impossible in such a place, for nowhere at hand was there
the smallest bush or tree.  Nevertheless Nicholas said at length
quietly:

'Come out and show yourself, whoever you are.'

There was no answer, but Nicholas, straining his gaze, saw come
from the distant tower two figures and stand there.  They were
wearing armour which shone and glittered even in that dim light.

Nicholas said again:

'Come out and show yourself.'

There emerged then right from between Juno's feet a head of tangled
hair, naked shoulders, the lean ragged body of a man.

'Stand up,' Nicholas said.

The man stood up and it was clear that he had come from a hole in
the ground, a hole covered with twigs and fragments of dried
bracken.

The man was indeed a wretched object.  Hanging to one shoulder was
a blood-stained torn shirt; his thin chest was covered with grey
matted hair, dank with sweat, and his bony hands were about his
middle, for he was naked there; long, stout hose still clung to his
legs, but he had no shoes.  His face with a week's growth of beard
had charm beneath the terror, and Nicholas studying it (for he was
even at his present age an excellent judge of men) caught the
bright blue eye, the well-modelled nostril, the high intelligent
forehead, under the dank hanging hair.

'Where are you from, and from whom are you hiding?'

The man pointed with a shaking hand to the two distant figures in
armour by the peel-tower.

'They'll be moving.  They'll be coming this way.'

'Well--what if they are?'

A shiver shook his body.

'They have dogs with them.'

Nicholas spoke contemptuously.

'You needn't fear.'

The man broke out passionately:

'By God I fear!'

'Where are you from?' Nicholas asked again.

'I was in the sack at Durham.  After, I escaped as far as Penrith.
Since then they've been hunting me and several more.'

Nicholas moved Juno a pace.

'Against the Queen.  I can do nothing for you.'

The man cried out with a shrillness like a hare caught in a trap.

'No--I swear not.  I am a bookseller.  I was travelling north to
Edinburgh.  I have no part in politics nor in religion neither.
I'm for the Queen and her service whatever it may be.  But the town
was in an uproar, and like a fool I must see with the rest.  I was
with the mob in the Cathedral and a prayer-book fell into my hand
marvellously illuminated.  I kept it, and two days later was found
with it at Barnard Castle.  By good fortune and a friend's aid I
got away and thought I was safe, but in Penrith was sworn against
by a soldier and with five others was hunted on to the moors.  I
have had nothing to eat or drink for two days.  I had been
searching for a mountain stream when I heard them out with the
dogs.  I found this hole and covered it.  I have been lying here
for twelve hours.  I am almost perished with the cold.'

Nicholas looked into the man's blue eyes and believed every word of
this that had poured out in a breathless gasping torrent, the man's
head turning again and again towards the two motionless figures by
the tower.

'They are watching the moor,' he said.  'I know one of them.
Philip Irvine.  He is in charge here and is a devil.'

'What is your name?'

'Peter Gascoigne.  Bookseller by St. Paul's Churchyard.'  The
fellow sank suddenly on his bare knees, clasping his bony hands
together.  'Save me from the dogs,' he whispered.  'Anything but
that.  Anything . . .'  Then, the words tumbling over one another:
'I have a friend in the village there.  I come north twice in the
year by Keswick.  Take me there under your protection and I can
manage the rest.'

'Get up behind me then,' Nicholas said.

The naked, trembling creature caught at the stirrup and swung
himself up, not without agility, and Juno moved forward.  Nicholas
could not tell whether the men at the tower had seen anything.
They did not stir.

As they moved towards the hamlet, Nicholas cursed himself for a
fool.  His man's ironical eye had told him.  Once again his
impetuous temper had betrayed him.  Although he could witness a
bear-baiting, a burning, a hanging and disembowelling, without a
twist of the heart, he was so made that he must help one in
distress if that one were weaker than he.  At least he must always
take action and often enough his common-sense caution came after
the deed.  He had especially determined that he would not be mixed
in this Northern business, and most certainly now he was about to
meet his little brother Robin.  And here he was, by one moment's
ill-advised action, already mixed in it!

There was another thing.  The name of Philip Irvine stirred
something in his memory.  He was in some fashion concerned with
that name, and not pleasantly.  He struggled to remember but caught
only the idiotic scent of a carnation.  A carnation.  A room.  A
mirror.  A monkey.  These ill-assorted articles would not arrange
themselves.  Irvine.  Irvine.  There was a Sir Humphrey Irvine
of Northumberland.  A place near Alnwick.  A carnation . . . a
mirror . . .

Nevertheless, so uncomfortable an uneasiness stirred in him that he
felt an impulse to turn in the saddle and tell the man to drop to
ground, he could do no more for him.  He must fend for himself.
Even as he thought this, thin, slow flakes of snow began to fall,
wetting his cheek, intermittent as though someone in the sky were
letting them slide from his hand, counting them as they fell.  At
the same time the armed figures by the tower moved.  Horses had
been brought.  They mounted and slowly started towards the hamlet.
There were three great dogs that ran before them.  He heard the
man's whisper:  'Oh, Christ! . . .  Oh, Jesu Mary, save me!'

Juno mended her pace.  Nicholas must be in the hamlet and rid of
the man before those others reached it.  The snow began to fall
more swiftly.

The hamlet was quickly reached.  Hamlet indeed it was.  Some half-
dozen cottages, made in the old style of wood posts and 'saddles'
covered with clay, mere 'wattle and daub,' and one place, better in
quality, with a chimney and one window of glass.  This had in front
of it a wall.  No human being was in sight.  A dog lay in the mud
scratching at fleas, not minding the snow that already was masking
his coat.

Nicholas reined his mare.

'Now down with you.  You must fend for yourself.'

The man slipped to the ground and stood there, looking up at
Nicholas.  Once again young Herries realized that this scarecrow
had about him an original charm: his gaze was pure, unclouded, and
he stood there as though he had some message to deliver.  But he
did not speak.

'I should waste no time,' Nicholas said kindly.

At that moment the two armoured horsemen were upon them.  They must
have ridden with great swiftness, Nicholas thought, from the tower.
They must have seen this fellow from the first.  The man stood
there, without moving.  He seemed to be crumpled with terror.  The
three dogs strayed behind the horses.

The foremost of the two riders and Nicholas then considered one
another--their first survey and, by all the designs of heaven, not
the last.  And yet NOT the first survey, for Nicholas recognized
him at once.  In the preceding year he had stayed for a night, with
his brother, at Sir Henry Sidney's, and, on his arrival, there had
been several visitors departing.  As they had passed out of the
great hall a girl had thrown a dark carnation to a young man who
had been teasing a monkey on a gilded pole.  He had caught the
flower, fastened it in his velvet hat, but not looked at her, only
with his head up as though he were king of the world, strode out to
the courtyard.  He had not even seen Nicholas, but he, alone
afterwards with his brother Robin, had asked whether he had noticed
him.

'I know him,' Robin had said.  'His name is Philip Irvine.'

Why did I notice him? Nicholas thought.  The dark carnation.  The
monkey chattering with rage.  The girl in a heavy crimson dress.
As he caught that flower I hated him.  He did not even see me.

But he saw him now.  He was a young man of great beauty.  His jack
or steel coat was, in its small overlying plates, of gilded metal;
his cuirass also of gilded metal, and his burgonet.  His body was
of perfect slimness and he sat his horse nobly.  His complexion was
dark and on his upper lip was a thin black moustache.  His eyes
were young, ardent, scornful.  He was a very proper youth, as
Nicholas at once acknowledged to himself.

He seemed at first glance surprised that Nicholas should be there
and that he did not move his horse.  Their mutual concentration
had, indeed, something especial about it.

About Irvine's mouth there was a scornful curve as he regarded
Nicholas' great body, contrasting undoubtedly his own slim
proportions.  But Nicholas was accustomed to jeers at his size.
Irvine's voice, however, was gently courteous.

'Sir,' he said, 'this is my prisoner.  I am acting under the
command of Her Majesty.'

Nicholas raised his hat.

'Mr. Irvine,' he said, 'although we are not acquainted we have
almost met.  I have seen you at Sir Henry Sidney's.'

Young Irvine bowed.

'My name,' Nicholas said, 'is Nicholas Herries.'

Irvine bowed again.

'This is a pleasant meeting, Mr. Herries,' he said.  'I fancy I
know your brother.'  Then, quite cheerfully, he went on:  'But I
fear time presses.  I have reason to be in Carlisle before dark.'

'I apologize for detaining you,' Nicholas said.  'But I am certain
that you would not wish an injustice to be done.'

'Most assuredly not.'

'I have had some talk with this fellow and he assures me that he is
an innocent bookseller from London who, travelling north on
business, found himself in Durham at the time of the present
rising, was involved there by no fault of his own, has been driven
by fear--'

Irvine interrupted.

'It is certain he does not look an innocent man,' he said, smiling
politely.

It was now intensely cold.  The moor behind them lay under a skin
of snow.  The dark was coming on, but the snowfall gave a moonshine
effect to land and sky.  But what Nicholas felt and was afterwards
to remember, was the peculiar silence.  In the hamlet not a soul
was visible.  The buildings were like dead buildings.  Their two
voices rose and fell as in a dead world.  The two servants, the
three dogs, were without movement.  Suddenly, and for no apparent
reason, Irvine's servant struck a flint and threw, with a careless
gesture, some lighted fragment on to the straw-covered floor of a
mean barn that was just beyond the wall of the house.  The flame
ran along the floor and very quickly caught the bare rafters.  A
great light sprang upon the scene, and the crackling of the flames,
as of peevish, quarrelling voices, broke the silence.  Irvine made
no motion.  It was as though he had neither seen nor heard.

'I must have that man,' he said.

Nicholas, whose anger was steadily rising, answered:

'I assure you that he is innocent.  He had been in no way concerned
against Her Majesty.'

'You have his bare word for it,' Irvine replied.  Then, more
impatiently, he went on:  'Come, sir, as I have said, time presses.
I have much to do.  Harrison, show Mr. Herries the warrant.'

The man was feeling in his breast, but Nicholas broke out:

'I assure you I would do nothing against the Queen.  Her Majesty
has no more faithful servant anywhere.  This man shall be examined
at Carlisle if you will, and perhaps you will permit me to
accompany you there.  I had only feared some injustice out of
hand.'  Then he smiled his boyish, confiding grin.  'The cold is
perishing and the fellow will die before our eyes, for as you see
he is naked.  You are right in this too, for this is certainly no
business of mine and I am due to meet my young brother in Keswick--
but somewhere the fellow's case has touched me.  If I seem to
interfere it is the last thing, I assure you, that I would wish.'

Young Irvine had listened to all this with that same intentness he
had observed from the beginning.  The lighted barn was now flaming
to the dun sky, scornful of the snow, and all the scene was
illuminated.  Irvine's face, armour, body, horse, were gilded with
fire.

He stayed for a moment as though to see whether Nicholas had more
to say, then sharply and now with no courtesy answered:

'Mr. Herries, I cannot see that this is any business of yours.
This man is a rebel and must be peremptorily dealt with.'

The man, who had not stirred, although his skin was purple with
cold, gave a cry, turned, and for an instant Nicholas thought that
he would leap into the fiery barn.  He must have seen, in that
illumined relentless face, no sign of hope.  Bent, his head down,
his rags fluttering, he sped past the barn, on to the moor.

Irvine called:  'Castor!  Caesar!'

Nicholas shouted:  'No.  No. . . .  By Christ's body, no!'

He thought that he had never seen a man run so fast.  The flames
showed an expanse of moor like a dirty cotton sheet.  The dogs,
baying, their heads down, were in pursuit.  There was nothing for
Nicholas to do, but he, who had already seen and even shared in so
much cruelty, now sickened at the heart; must stare because he
must, and yet would have put his horse to the run and galloped from
the place.

It seemed for a moment as though the man would outdistance the
dogs.  But indeed he had no chance.  Suddenly he turned, curved in
his step and then ran back towards the hamlet.  Maybe his notion
was that he would leap the wall of the house and beat on the door
there for safety, or it might be that he was so desperately
maddened by fear that he thought no longer clearly about anything.

Nicholas, almost as though it were himself that was being pursued,
cried out:

'Not back, man. . . .  Not back!  Out, out to the moor!'

As the wretch came into the full illumination of the fire again,
the frantic stare of his eyes could be seen, his head thrust
forward as though that would carry him the faster.  Then, almost as
he reached the flaming barn, the foremost dog was on him, leaping
at his back.  The man let out a great screech, then fell, the dog
on his back.  All the dogs were on him, as they would on a fox.
They growled, they gobbled.  Pieces of bleeding flesh were flung
into the air.

Irvine called them off and they obeyed with reluctance.  His man
climbed down from his horse and bent to look.

'He's dead,' he reported nonchalantly.  Then he picked up the
remains and threw them into the blazing barn.  Irvine dismounted
from his horse and went over to the barn as though to make sure
that his duty was completed.

Nicholas also dismounted.

'Before you go I must have a word with you,' he said.

They approached one another.  They were of no great age and it may
be that Irvine was truly astonished at the rage that Nicholas
Herries showed.  For he had, after all, but done his duty, and who
cared for the proper punishment of some wretched nothing?  A
nothing moreover that had been in undoubted rebellion against the
Queen.  Now that the insignificant nothing was disposed of, Irvine
wished to be on his way, back to Carlisle, for it was already dark
and fiercely cold.  So he was surprised at this huge irate young
man facing him, and it was more surprise than irritation that he
felt at first.  He half turned towards his horse.

'I wish you good evening, Mr. Herries,' he said.  'It is very cold.
I assure you that I have but obeyed my orders--although why,' he
added, smiling, 'I should have to defend myself to you I cannot
imagine.'

'Perhaps I can explain that,' Nicholas answered gravely.  'That
poor fellow had placed himself under my protection.  You offend me
in your disregard of that.'

'I fail to see the offence,' Irvine replied.  'It was in execution
of my duty.'

'Every man has a right to trial.'

'By God, man,' Irvine broke out.  'Where have you been?  Do you
know in what days we live, when the whole of the North is out
against Her Majesty?'

'I am perfectly aware of it,' Nicholas said, coming a little
closer.  'Nevertheless, it was the man's right to have trial.'

Irvine's temper was now up.  This silly, clumsy, interfering fool!

'I could arrest you, Mr. Herries, for interfering with the Queen's
justice.'

'Try it and see,' said Nicholas.

Irvine's hand moved to his short dagger beside his sword.  But he
spoke suavely.

'Now, Mr. Herries, I want no quarrel although it appears that you
want to force one on to me.  I have told you a number of times that
I am out on my proper duty.  The rebellion is not yet ended, and
even now the whole of the North may be up.  You say that you are a
faithful servant of Her Majesty and I have no reason to doubt it.
I will wish you a good night and we will both go about our several
duties.'

'I am afraid, Mr. Irvine,' Nicholas answered, drawing yet closer,
'that it cannot be so easily settled.  The man was in my care.  I
asked that I might go with you and him to Carlisle, much, I may
say, to my own inconvenience.  You refused me that courtesy.  I
request an apology.'

Irvine laughed.

'When you are more russet-pated, Mr. Herries, we will consider it.'

'It is sad,' Nicholas answered, 'for your excellent father to have
had such a coward for a son.'

On that word both daggers were out.  Irvine had his breast
armoured, but his neck and arms were bare.

Both men stepped back and an instant later had sword in one hand
and dagger in the other.  Both servants had dismounted and were
standing ready.

Nicholas, heavy although he was of body, was already an excellent
swordsman and loved any kind of sword-play as well as anything in
life.  The movement alone, in this bitter weather, was a hearty
pleasure, but also he had, unanalysed, a deep sense of shame that
he had allowed so helplessly the poor man to go to so wretched a
death.  Beyond this again he felt a hatred for Irvine that he must
watch lest it blind and confuse him.

He discovered at once that Irvine was no mean swordsman.  As they
felt their way, keeping sedulously their ward, their swords rasping
and quivering, but still distant from one another, their
personalities betrayed themselves.  They had the eagerness of the
young men they were and the wisdom of the long training they had
received.  The snow had made the ground slippery; the fire was
dying in the barn; after a minute or two it seemed to Nicholas as
though he were in a dream, as though he had been in this place and
situation before.  He wanted to finish it.  He tried the thrust,
the charging blow, with the right and reverse, with the edge, the
back, the flat.  Both men used the Italian play, forcing their
weapons, as they had been instructed, 'with two edges and one
point.'  They moved round in a circle, advancing and retreating,
both keeping their ward or guard with all proper elegance.

Then Irvine slipped and Nicholas pierced his arm.  Irvine's sword
dropped.  Nicholas with a bow handed it to him.

'Mr. Irvine,' he said, 'I am quite satisfied.'

Blood dripped from the arm on to the snow.  Irvine stared into
Herries' face as though committing his features to memory for ever.

'This is a private quarrel, Mr. Herries.  No question of my public
duty.'

He turned on the snow as though he would fall.  His man's hand was
on his shoulder.  He shook it off.

'Our next meeting'--he bit his lip--'shall be more fortunate.'

'As you will,' Nicholas said.

He mounted Juno and rode slowly away.



THE BRIGHT PAVILIONS


Chilled to the spleen, mired with the filth of the uneven track
under Skiddaw, Nicholas and his cynical man arrived late at the
Keswick inn.  The hour, the dark, the dripping melancholic snow
made no difference to the welcome.  The host was out in the yard,
servants were running; one took Juno, was for rubbing her, giving
her her feed.  But Nicholas, even before he saw his brother, must
be sure that Juno was well suited, and so there he was in the
stables, rubbing his stout snub nose on Juno's coat, murmuring in
her ear, and she, in the sharp light of the held-high stable
lantern, flashing her imperious, brilliant eye, her ears raised for
a sound, her nostrils distended, then quietening as she knew that
her friend and master was caring for her and would see that she
came to no ill.

And so, back in the inn again, Nicholas was calling:  'My brother,
Mr. Herries?  He has arrived?'

'Four hours ago, sir.  The room is ready, a fire burning, supper
prepared.'

He ran up the wide oak stair, the host and a bundle of servants
looking up after him in open-mouthed admiration of his size and
vigour.

He flung back the door.

'Robin!  Robin!  Where are you?  Come from your pent-house.  Where
are you hiding?'

Then, inside the door, he stood a moment lost childishly in the
pleasure and delight of seeing his little brother again.

Robin Herries was there, warming himself in front of the fire.  He
was dressed entirely in black, with a diamond at his neck and
diamond buckles to his shoes.  He wore white cuffs of delicate lace
turned back on the sleeve, his white ruff reaching up against his
deep dark-brown hair.  He bore no resemblance to his brother save
for the Herries sharp bone formation that gave a kind of horse-
strength to all Herries faces.

His features were almost delicate, saved from femininity by the
strength of the eye and the strong broadness of the forehead.  His
face had much beauty of seriousness and grace of breeding, the eyes
dark and lambent, the carriage of the head on the neck full of
unconscious dignity, the cheeks delicately smooth.  It was the face
of a boy in a certain ingenuousness and purity, but the face of a
man in its thoughtfulness and intelligence.  His body was perfectly
formed, slight and elegant but of a strong carriage and dignity.
The 'Portrait of a Gentleman' by Nicholas Hilliard has been
supposed by some to be a likeness of Robin Herries.

Now his face was illuminated with pleasure at the sight of his big,
joyful, bustling brother.  The love that there had always been
between them was indeed 'passing the love of woman.'  They were the
exact complement the one of the other, Robin's gentleness, passion
for the arts, mystical spirit, love of all beauty, mingling
perfectly with Nicholas' animality, out-of-doors eagerness,
excitement in worldly adventure.  Robin, like any other young
gentleman, could ride, fence, play tennis, dance, be a proper
courtier, but his heart and mind were already preoccupied with
other matters.  He gave himself with great difficulty to others
whereas Nicholas was anyone's friend or enemy.  He had not as yet
fallen in love and Nicholas had been in love a thousand times.
They shared a devotion to their home, their father and mother, but
even here Robin kept something in reserve.  Nicholas' patriotism
was simple: whatever the Queen did was right.  Robin, as Nicholas
had of late, with concern, noticed, was moving towards the Catholic
religion.  At home there had been a priest, Stephen Rodney,
frequently in his company.  His father and mother were of the
Queen's religion, Lutheran.  Sir Michael detested extremes whether
of Puritan, Calvinist or Catholic.  Nicholas' own spiritual
business was with this present enchanting world than which he
wanted none better.  There were many elements in his brother's
nature that he did not at all understand.  These were the very
things therefore that he must protect.  He felt often that Robin
was his child, ignorant of the world although so brilliant, weak
physically (but Robin wasn't weak).

Now he moved forward, caught him in his arms, held him to his great
chest, kissed him, hugged him, stood him back with his hands that
he might look at him, hugged him again.

'Robin!  Robin! . . .  I'm all of a muck, and you as elegant as
though you were going to Court.'

'I've been here since afternoon waiting for you,' Robin said.

Nicholas threw himself on to a stool, stretching out his legs.
Then he jumped up, opened the door, roared out into the passage for
someone to come, then threw himself down again.

'We'll have supper here.'

He got up again, bent in front of the fire, rubbing his hands.

'It's been a bitter ride.  And there's been another thing.  On the
moor I found a man, a fugitive.  He said he was a London
bookseller, wrongly suspected of a part in the rising.  He was in
Durham when they sacked the Cathedral.  Poor devil, he was naked
and eaten with fear.  And he had reason, for, after I'd taken him
on my horse, one Philip Irvine--you remember him at Henry Sidney's--
came up and demanded me to deliver him.  I tried what I could do,
but the poor devil ran and the dogs had him.  Then Irvine and I had
a word or two and I ran him through the arm.  Then I came on here.'

This was like Nicholas, who always must pour out all his own doings
before he enquired of anyone else's.  Directly after two servants
came in, pulled off his boots, brought in a wooden tub of hot
water.  Jack Oates appeared with luggage.  Nicholas stripped,
bathed, dressed in an elegant silver-grey doublet and hose, had all
cleared away and supper things laid before the fire.  Through all
of this he was talking, asking questions and not waiting for an
answer, swinging his arms, slapping his chest, then scenting
himself, combing his hair, fastening his points as delicately as a
woman.

The candles were lighted on the table, food and drink appeared,
Oates, with a friendly kick, was speeded down to the servants'
quarters, and the two brothers sat down to their meal, under a
delicate painting of Venus and Adonis.  The snow had turned to
sleet and now beat against the windows, which were of horn and so
gave a smart but not uncosy rattling response to the weather.

Robin's questions were all of the Rebellion.  How far had it gone?
There were stories in Keswick that the Northern Lords were defeated
and fled to Scotland.  Most of the better class in the North were
Catholic.  Moreover, in everyone's mind lay the thought of Mary of
Scotland, who, however wicked she may have been, was a prisoner in
England against Elizabeth's given word.  Moreover for these young
men the whole matter had an especial interest, for their own
distant cousin, Lord Herries, had crossed the border with Mary and
was intermediary between her and Elizabeth.  They felt almost as
though it were a family concern.

'I tell you what it is, Robin,' Nicholas said, taking a chicken
bone in his hands and eagerly gnawing it.  'Mary will be no light
trouble for our Queen.  What's to be done?  They can't send her
back to Scotland to the tender mercies of her brother.  France has
no wish for her.  To keep her here in England as prisoner is to
break the Queen's word and to rouse every Catholic in the country.
To execute her is to repeat the murder that she herself committed
on Darnley.'

'It is no certain thing,' Robin said, 'that she was privy to her
husband's death.'

'She not privy!' Nicholas exploded.  'Was she to forget the Italian
falling at her very feet, sixty daggers in his body.  Was not
Darnley doomed from that very instant?  Did she not marry Darnley's
murderer some bare months after his putting away?  Has she ever
wished to bring him to any justice?  She may be a queen and fair,
but she is no lady for my bedding.'

He laughed and, stretching out, took Robin's slight hand in his.

'There's a straight path and an easy, brother Robin.  We have a
Queen and we are her servants.  There's no other duty for us but
that.'

Then he told Robin some more of the things that he had heard in
Carlisle about the Rebellion: how at Raby the conspirators had been
all but scattered, forgoing their project, when Lady Westmorland,
Surrey's daughter, threw herself among them 'weeping bitterly' and
crying that 'they and their country were shamed for ever, and that
they would seek holes to creep into.'

How Mary of Scotland was moved from Tutbury but just in time; that
on November 23rd a courier dashed in from London with an order for
the Queen of Scots' instant removal, and that Shrewsbury and
Huntingdon then rode, with an escort of four hundred men, and
conveyed her to Coventry, which town they entered at night to avoid
the gaze of the people.  Had the Northern Lords secured her at
Tutbury the whole country might have risen.

It was here that Robin sighed.  Nicholas looked at him in
consternation.

'Robin . . . you don't mean--'

'It might be better for the country.  God may be angry with us that
this Roman religion--'

Nicholas jumped to his feet.

'Be quiet, Robin!  Think where you are!  Men suffer the rack for
less. . . .'

Robin looked up at him, smiling.

'What do I care for politics?  That is not my world nor ever will
be.  My imagination works perhaps.  That distraught Queen, hurried
by rough soldiers, conveyed into a town secretly by night--'

'Don't waste your pity.'  Nicholas sat down beside his brother,
putting his arm around him.  'She's as tough as the horn in that
window there.  She'll ride or shoot or curse or murder with any
horse-trooper in her company.  I'll swear that my Lord Bothwell,
now pirate in the Orkneys they say, was hided like a porcupine,
stank of drink like an ordure-barrel and tugged her hair in his
amorous ecstasy till the lady screamed again.  Didn't she wear
man's dress to bide with him, and scream from the windows of
Holyrood like a fishwife and dance while the powder blew up Kirk o'
Field.  Waste no pity, Robin.  She'd have her talons in our Queen's
throat or pour poison down her royal gullet had she her way.  Waste
no pity, Robin. . . .  Waste no pity.'

Robin, staring into the fire, said at last:

'Who knows the truth of it?  The letters they have in London are
forgeries, no question.  Moray, her own brother, hunts her to the
death.  I can only say that she is a sad, pursued Queen who, if she
loved wildly, loved truly, and had her destiny in a country of bare
stones and wild savages.'  Then, smiling again, he pressed his
brother's arm.  'Come, Nick.  You look like a boy whose porridge
has been taken from him.  We are together and what else matters?
This is a pleasant, happy little place, I was by the edge of the
Lake with the snow falling and a wan light on the opposite hills.
It's a kind of fairy place.'

Nicholas sighed, looking perplexed.

'I don't know what it is, Robin.  That man who asked me for
protection.  I think I shall never forget him.  There was something
noble about him although he was naked and blue with the cold.  He
asked me for protection and trusted me and I broke his trust.  I
feel as though there were evil in this meeting.  There's a sort of
foreboding in it.  At least,' and his face suddenly lightened--he
was happy and confident again--'there is Mr. Philip Irvine to have
a reckoning with.  There is an enemy most happily made, and here,'
he said, taking the flagon from the table, 'is to his merry and
utter destruction.'

They were not due at their uncle's house, which was only a few
miles from Keswick, until the following evening, so early in the
next afternoon they strolled about the town.  A lovely day, the sun
glittered down upon the thin scattering of snow, sparkling upon the
eaves and posts and wooden galleries, upon the colours and
movement, music and shouting, as if it loved the world that it must
illumine.  They walked first down to the Lake and looked across it,
with its dark studs of islands, to the hills beyond, now all
carpeted with snow and silver-sharp against the cloudless blue sky.

What Nicholas felt at once was that this was a little world apart.
Carlisle, and all the Border country, was alive with fear and
anger.  Raids and burnings and hangings were all in the day's work,
but this present Rebellion had strained nerves to hysteria, and now
that it looked to have failed who knew what vengeance might follow?

Here in the little country town there seemed to be none of this.
The Lake sparkled in the sun as though it were outside man's
foolish history.  The hills were so marked with quietude that only
when one cloud for a moment invaded the sun and a purple shadow
passed across the snow-flanks was there any change.

Nicholas drew in a breath of the sharp cold air.

'I love this place and always shall.  I shall come back here,
perhaps make my home here.  From the moment I entered the North
something happened to me.  My heart enlarged.'

'Why, you're a poet!' Robin said, laughing.

'That I'm not,' Nicholas answered indignantly.  'But I am certain
that there is sport here and the men hold their heads proudly and
everywhere there's a sound of running water.  If that's poetry then
I'm a poet.'

'As thus,' said Robin, and staring on to the glittering water and
beyond, he repeated, as though to himself:


    'What sweet relief the showers to thirsty plains we see,
     What dear delight the blooms to bees, my true love is to me!
     As fresh and lusty Ver foul winter doth exceed--
     As morning bright, with scarlet sky, doth pass the evening's
       weed--
     As mellow pears above the crabs esteemd be--
     So doth my love surmount them all, whom yet I hap to see.'


Nicholas was always unhappy when anyone repeated poetry, so he
turned his brother up into the town again.

'All the more,' he said, 'that you yourself have no love--poor fish-
veined brother that you are!  But I, now!  Before half an hour is
out in this blessd place I shall have a girl in my arms.'

It was a true prophecy and came about thus:

He was in a state of the highest animal spirits, with the sparkling
weather, his own good sleep, ale and toast at six-thirty, and at
midday a fine meal of venison and the best beef he'd ever eaten in
his life and a tart of apricots; moreover, he was greatly pleased
with the Keswick inn, which was superior to most country inns he
knew, for there was a big window of glass in the hall and some of
the rooms had matting rather than rushes, and even where the rushes
were they were fresh ones instead of stinking as they often did.
Also he had slept like the doomed, in the naked bed, his arm across
Robin's chest; slept in a sweetness of love and charity to all the
world, especially to his dear brother.

So he marched singing into the little Square and presently stood,
Robin quietly at his side, lost in pleasure at the sights he saw.
Charming was the place with the Town Hall with its whitewash and
black timber, the houses, snow glittering on the eaves, and the
fields and gardens leading down to the Lake, and the snow-crinkled
hills guarding all.

It was but a day or two before Christmas, and a body of rogues and
vagabonds had marched into town.  Not far from them a man was
fiddling and girls and boys dancing.  There was a puppet-show with
dolls showing the History of Charlemagne.  Boards were laid out on
trestles, and sweetmeats, trinkets, household goods, were for sale.
To the left, at the side of the meadows leading to the Lake, there
were games--football, wrestling and playing at the catch.

Nevertheless, besides all this noise and bustle and colour, common
to any country town at Christmas-time, there was, both for Nicholas
and Robin, something especial--the air and savour of a newly-opened
world, as you might gaze in the opening of a shell to find
glistening water and bright stirring colours.  Everywhere there was
the scent of the country.  Sheep moved up the street, the dog
barking at their heels; a bull was led past the boards and
trestles; serious, grave-faced men, in rough clothes but with most
unusual dignity and reserve, stood talking in groups.  Moreover,
not a soldier was to be seen, nor any burning buildings.  The bells
of Crosthwaite Church were ringing; there was the stir of voices,
laughter, the movements of the animals, the fresh breeze from the
mountains and the sun shining on the water.

On the other hand, the natives of Keswick had not let the brothers
go past without observation.  The thews and sinews of Nicholas
caused attention wherever he might be, and the delicacy and
breeding of Robin marked him out as someone not in the ordinary.
Even though Keswick might be aloof from the trouble on the Border,
it was alive enough to what was going on, and it eagerly speculated
as to the identity of these two gentlemen.  Some thought that they
might be Recorders sent up from London or Commissioners with orders
for investigation: but, no, they were little more than youths, and
the one who was a giant was clearly by his laughter and easy
friendliness there for his own enjoyment with no thought in his
mind of Northern Rebellion or the hunting down of fugitives.

Nicholas soon asked a stout farmer standing beside him with two
sheep-dogs how much liberty they gave the vagabonds in Keswick.
The farmer's brow wrinkled with disgust.

'Aye--'tis Christmas-time and there's no reason to be too hard on
them this day or two.  But we've the stocks handy, and out by
Druids' Circle there's two Clapperdogens hanging to an oak tree
that have been there these two months.  There was a man whipped
through Keswick for counterfeiting only last week.'

But by now Nicholas had noticed something else.  Moving in and out,
standing watching the puppet-show or the game of football in the
meadow were men, women and children of quite another breed from the
Cumbrians.  Nicholas had never, in fact, seen people of their like
before.  They were plainly foreigners, and even the roughest of
them--and some of the men were rough indeed--wore a quiet, almost
stern aloofness that marked them out.  Plain and ordinary though
their clothes were, there was often something--the set of a cap,
the workmanship of a silver clasp, the fur of the coat or gloves--
that set them apart.  Just then a man and woman of these people
passed by, and Nicholas, catching their guttural accent, asked his
friend as to their identity.

'They be Germans from Magdeburg and such towns.'

'What are they doing here?'

'Working in the mines up at Newlands and other places--silver and
lead--sent here by the Queen to work for her and make money for
her.'

'Are there many of them?' Nicholas asked.

'Plenty enough.  Foreigners is foreigners all the world over.'

'Do you Keswick people suit with them?'

'Well enough when they're quiet.  And for the most part they're
peaceful.  'Tis religion mostly causes the trouble, for they're
Lutheran and Protestant and there's plenty of Catholics hereabout.
There's times when something stirs in them and they're like a swarm
of bees, buzzing and whirring.  Last Whitsun feast there was a
fight down on the meadows there between a posse of they miners and
fifty or more of our own lads.  Five of them were killed and two of
them hung for murder.

'For the most part they're quiet enough.'  He spat and then
chuckled, deep in his throat.  'Their women are handsome time and
time and our men are lusty as young men should be, I reckon.'

'That's a strange thing,' Nicholas said.  'Are there none of your
own men can mine sufficiently well?'

'There's a trick in it, I reckon, and we men of Cumberland have
better things to do--above ground with the sun shining on you and
the rain in your face, walking the Tops gathering the sheep . . .'

He broke off.  He had been staring at Nicholas for a long time.

'Pardon me, sir, but you're the strongest-looking young gentleman
I've seen in a score of seasons.'

'I'm strong as men go,' Nicholas said, laughing.  He was not
boastful; he looked on his size and strength as pleasant
accompaniments to daily life, nothing to his credit, but useful and
amusing features.

His body often moved before his brain, so that now, without
thinking at all, he strode forward to the trunk of a tree that was
lying in front of one of the trestle-tables where goods were sold.
It lay there, waiting to be used on a new building near by.  He
bent down and without strain raised it in his arms, held it above
his head, then hurled it through space on to the edge of the meadow
beyond.

This feat attracted, of course, very general attention.  He was
suddenly aware that he might seem vainglorious, so, blushing like a
boy, he turned to a round, rosy country woman who, exactly in front
of him, was selling cakes and sweetmeats.  He adored sweet things,
and here were some of the best.  He stood eyeing them and grinning.

There was marchpane made of pounded almonds, pistachio nuts, sugar
and flour; sugar cake of rose water and oranges; and, best of all,
his dear Eringo which he had never hoped to see in a little country
town.  Eringo, Eringo, the candied root of sea-holly, whose sharp
tang, soaked in sugar with a flavour of burning, he had enjoyed on
summer nights at home, lying under the oak tree with a girl,
stuffing her mouth with it and then tasting the crisp sugar on her
lips.

He had been a great attraction to the rogues and vagabonds, who,
gathered in a group under the Town Hall wall, were doing a brisk
business in a diversity of ways.  They were an odd company, very
thick over England at this time because of the cessation of the
monasteries as places of hospitality.  The wars, too, had left a
whole army of vagrants.  Their headquarters was in London.  They
moved up and down England, their common purpose to live without
work, their common end the gallows.

In this group there was an old bearded man frothing at the mouth
and crying out.  Soap was his aid.  There were the one-legged and
the one-armed.  There was an Egyptian or two, with the dark visage,
the gilt earrings, the shabby crimson coat.  They were known as
Moon-Men, and one of them now was busy telling the fortune of a
mouth-open country boy.  But quite close to Nicholas were three of
the greatest rogues in all Christendom.  He knew at once what they
were about.  They had a table in front of them and about this a
small crowd was gathered.  There was first the Taker-Up or Setter.
This was a little man, like a weasel, in a torn, dirty doublet, a
feather in his hat, his impudent, small nose seeking out his
victim.  Standing beside the Setter was the Verser, in this case a
broad, stout fellow, dressed not too ill with gilt buttons to his
doublet.  It was he who, pretending not to know the Setter, was
suddenly interested in the cards laid out on the table and thought
that, in all innocence, he would have a try to discover the coin
under the card.  Discover the coin he invariably did, and so the
rest of the innocent world was encouraged to try too!  At the table
was the Barnard, this time a thin pockmarked man with a virtuous,
unctuous voice who cried:  'Come, friends all, and try your
fortune.  As honest as the lady moon!  See, this worthy gentleman
is to venture.  Why!  You are fortunate at the first choice, sir,
and have doubled your money!'

Nicholas was watching, with amused indifference, their simple
trickery that was as old as Ptolemy, when Fate suddenly had him by
his heart and liver, as in fact it was accustomed to do a dozen
times a day.  A girl, who had been standing in the little crowd,
seemed to decide that she would try her fortune.  She pushed her
way forward and, in a voice that had a slight foreign accent, said
softly:  'I've a fancy to venture.'  That would in the ordinary way
have been nothing to Nicholas, but here there WAS something!  She
was like a boy in build, with a boy's straight gaze from blue eyes,
her flaxen hair coiled about her head; she was laughing.  She was
as clean and strong and healthy as a young tree in the sun.  Her
hair shone, her eyes were full of light, her cheeks were rosy, her
gown was of thick common stuff but blue like the Lake.  She seemed
to him a radiant, flaming, joyful splendour, and her splendour
passed through him and set him on fire.

So, quite simply, he put one hand on the neck of the stout Verser
and the other on the bony throttle of the seated Barnard and lifted
them both in the air, kicking over the table with his foot.

The fat Verser he threw into the crowd, the Barnard he carried for
a way, the little man screaming like a chicken and kicking his thin
legs in their miserable hose.  Then contemptuously he flung him
into a huddle of sheep that were bleating up the street.

The crowd laughed and shouted, for anyone could do to a vagabond
what he was able.  They were anyone's game.  Nicholas turned and,
leading the bewildered girl behind the puppet-show, bowed, kissed
her on the forehead quite reverently and asked her her name.

'Catherine Hodstetter.'

'Well, Catherine, trust no one in future but myself.  I am the only
honest man in this hoodman company.  My name is Nicholas Herries.
Repeat it after me.'

'Nicholas Herries.'

'Good.  Remember it.  I will return.  I'll kiss you again that you
may remember it the better.'

He kissed her again, this time not so reverently.

She watched him, her hand up against the sun, striding off.  He
seemed to her doubtless a god among men, come down for a brief
visit from heaven.



An hour later, Nicholas and Robin were riding at the Lake side,
along into Borrowdale towards the hamlet of Rosthwaite where their
uncle's house was.

They had started none too early, for the winter day was all too
short and the sun was already sinking behind the hills that rested,
like couched animals, on the farther side of the Lake.  The Lake's
waters were molten gold, but already there sighed the trembling
foreboding of the grey evening.  The reeds and rushes at the
water's edge shuddered and a flight of wild duck slowly winged
towards the snow-darkening hills.

Peace was supreme, and, after the jolly noise of the town, the
world was consecrated to some deeper interest, revealing a business
that was not mortal.

Even Nicholas felt it.

'I shall ride this way again,' he said, 'and others of our line
after me.  Even they are riding beside me now.  I have never felt
that before in any other place.  In these last two days I have met
a man I failed, a man I hate and a girl I love.'

He looked longingly at the wild duck that were now like flecks of
dust in the last blaze of the sunlight.  He would have liked dearly
to have had a try at them.

If this evening's peace so wrought upon Nicholas, how much more
then upon Robin!  It was this very peace that he loved when,
without disturbance from the outer world, he could let his mind dig
into what was the REAL world, the world of the intellect and
spirit.  The gentleness, purity, sweetness, of his nature came
largely from the fact that the life of the bustling, material sort
was for him a kind of pageant, a play performed on a stage by
actors who were none of them what they seemed.  He was not himself
what he seemed and it appeared to him that it was a kind of law to
play a game with the rest; to eat, drink, love, fight, wear
clothes, sleep, so that, through all this, the REAL life might
pursue its secret, destined way unchecked.  Like all thinking young
men of his time he was fascinated by the new learning, the
Humanists, the discoverers and explorers, the scientists and
doctors.  The world was expanding under his very nose.  He could
not keep pace with it.

At this moment Robin was only thirty years before Edward Wright's
great map, the first ever to be drawn on Mercator's principles of
projection.  Fifty years before this December evening, Magellan had
sailed from Spain into the 'South Sea of Discovery' and the
Philippines.  Off Patagonia he had seen great men clad in llama-
skins and heard them bellow like bulls.  Fifty years were gone
since Spaniards or Portuguese had discovered all that part of
America lying south of the latitude of Europe, and the west coasts
of Africa and India.  In 1497 Cabot had discovered Newfoundland and
the neighbouring American continent.  Less than twenty years before
this December, Chancellor, in the Bonaventure, had been near to
where Archangel now is and had travelled overland to Moscow, and
the Muscovy Company had been formed in 1555.  The English merchants
had trafficked to the Canaries, Morocco and the Guinea Coast beyond
Cape Verde.  John Hawkins in 1562 had made West Africa half-way
house to the West Indies.  The battle for sea dominion was now
ocean-wide.  English captains plundered and Spanish officials
tortured, burnt and made galley-slaves.  Young men like Robin
Herries were hearing, every day of their lives, of wonders,
horrors, deeds of stupendous courage and sacrifice.  No wonder that
their hearts were fired within them!

In the Sciences too there were new wonders at every hour.  In 1543
Copernicus had sent out to the world from his death-bed his great
work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium and so laid the basis for
ever of the new system of astronomy.  There were the alchemists
struggling to turn base metal into gold; there were the doctors for
ever experimenting on the human body for the better comfort of poor
mankind.

But, best of all for Robin, there was the world of letters.  He
was, like most of his friends, a sufficient Latin and Greek
scholar, but it was in his own dear tongue that the new learning
was breeding and fostering a fresh and wonderful life.  Sir Thomas
More's Utopia was his own darling book and he was for ever
dreaming, as did that splendid creator, of how the filth and
disease and close darkness of his own towns and poor houses might
be transformed into the light and space and clarity of another
world.  He had Tottel's Miscellany of Songs and Sonnets, that had
first appeared twelve years ago, by heart.  Wyatt and Henry Howard
and Nicholas Grimald were his constant dear companions.  He was,
but secretly, a poet himself!  All this life of discovery and
science and letters was there chiefly to feed his inner, truer
life.

Ever since his babyhood he had been interested in religion.  As a
mewling and puking infant he had looked up into the stout and
worldly features of Mr. Hogben, the family Protestant chaplain, and
wondered why he pinched up his nose and talked in that sing-song
voice.  Robin had been born in the winter of 1549, the very year in
which Cranmer drew up the first English Prayer Book.  Tyndale had
been executed by the Spaniards in 1536, but before then had
published in full the English New Testament.  Coverdale followed
him, and the Great Bible was officially adopted in 1539 and placed
in all English churches by order of Henry VIII.  Robin Herries was
familiar with it from his earliest days--old Mr. Hogben was for
ever reading from it, and as soon as Robin could speak he was
reciting, in a shrill treble, passages out of it.  He soon knew,
too, Cranmer's First Book of Homilies and, later, most loved of
all, until he found the Utopia, were Latimer's magnificent Sermons.

Beneath and beyond this reading, however, was his own eager and
questioning mind.  Mr. Hogben was soon little but a wheezing joke
to both boys, but whereas Nicholas behaved as though the old
chaplain did not exist, Robin would wonder why Tyndale and Cranmer
and Latimer had suffered with such endurance and splendour for
something that, in the hands of the Reverend William Hogben, was an
empty farce.  Was there something real here or was there not?

Soon, from listening to the talk of his elders, he began to wonder
the more.  Then, himself being some six or seven years of age, he
realized that his father and mother were in great trouble.  There
came a night when they were all hurried away on horseback to an
old, dark house beside silent water, and there for nearly a week
were hidden in a small cupboard of a chamber.

Later again, men in armour came to their home and asked them
questions and his mother wept.  Finally came a day when Robin heard
the bells ringing and on enquiry found that it was for 'the new
Queen, God bless her'--and the Herries' troubles were over.

He discovered now that all these difficulties and distresses were
caused by religion, and that indeed religion was the great divider
of mankind, and that, because of religion, men burnt and hanged one
another and tore out one another's bowels and cut off the privy
members the one of the other.

This seemed to him very strange, for, as he understood it, 'God is
Love' and Christ Himself cared for all mankind, even the wine-
bibbers and the Magdalenes.  The state of the world was a great
mystery to him until, some years before the present, he met an
emaciated, star-eyed, fanatical priest, Stephen Rodney, who had
quickly won control over him.  Robin had visited Rodney in various
odd places--inns and barns and London hostelries.  Rodney had the
habit of suddenly appearing in most unexpected quarters.  Sir
Michael Herries himself, being a stout and determined Lutheran,
would not have tolerated him, but the active hunting of priests had
not yet begun and Elizabeth's own tactics of compromise and
toleration were still very generally practised.

Robin therefore had no difficulty in meeting Rodney, and his young
idealistic soul was soon won by the fiery intensity and ruthless
intelligence of this man.  One thing Rodney soon made clear to
Robin.  That the one and only Church burnt, disembowelled,
tortured, heretics only out of loving-kindness and solely for the
heretics' own good.  The actual sentences of death and torture were
indeed never passed by the Church.  Those were the business of the
State.  But, for the Church, the heretic's soul was the question.
In one way or another he must be saved from the punishment of
eternal fire.  What was a little momentary disembowelling compared
with everlasting flames and the eternal wrath of God?

Then, following on this, it became clear that politics and religion
were inextricably mixed, for how could the one and only Church rest
while there was a Protestant ruler on the throne of England?
Elizabeth had not married, in spite of a succession of world-public
flirtations, and Mary of Scotland--a Catholic, body and soul--was
her legal successor.  Was it not right to wish for a Queen of the
true religion, even though she HAD married her husband's murderer?

It happened then that, before Robin had taken this expedition
northwards, he was beginning to pass very completely beneath the
influence of Stephen Rodney.  One thing only prevented his entire
surrender, and that was Rodney's fierce and intolerant fanaticism.
There was no strain of cruelty in Robin Herries.  He was a thought
too gentle for the age in which he lived.  Rodney's wild
exultations over the torturings and burnings in Mary Tudor's time
found no echo in Robin's heart.

His mind loved to dwell on a loving, kindly, all-mankind-embracing
Jesus.  He was sure in his heart that Jesus would have spurned the
burnings and quarterings with furious anger.  He longed for the
coming of Christ as he longed for More's Utopia.  At this present
time he was given up greatly to dreams and imaginations of a
perfect world.

He was dreaming of this now as he rode beside his brother through
the evening grey, pushing aside the branches that struck against
his eyes, and, once and again, catching sight through a clearing of
a hill range against an ice-cold, faint-green sky; a hill, moth-
soft, the snow mantle faintly silver, as a moon, riding boat-wise,
sailed up into still and cloudless space.  An owl called.  Nicholas
was singing.


     I can believe it shall you grieve,
       And somewhat you distrain;
     But afterward, your pains hard
       Within a day or twain
     Shall soon aslake; and ye shall take
       Comfort to you again.
     Why should ye ought? for, to make thought,
       Your labour were in vain,
     And thus I do; and pray you to,
       As heartily as I can;
     For I must to the greenwood go,
       Alone, a banished man.


Dear Nicholas!  Here was the root of all Robin's human passion, and
(it would have astonished Nicholas greatly had he known it) his
burning love for his brother was protective quite as much as
grateful.  Nicholas had, physically, all their lives together, been
his protector, and with that protection was a loving and quite
unconscious patronage.  Nevertheless, Robin knew all Nicholas'
faults and weaknesses: how he spoke before he thought; how, in the
ardour of the moment, he would say more than he meant; how he was
generous but careless; how he forgot a girl as soon as he had
kissed her; how he lived on the surface of life and was
intellectually lazy; how he often seemed boastful and arrogant to
those who did not know him; how he could sulk like a woman; how he
was often selfish and indulgent: all these weaknesses Robin knew
and it was these weaknesses that he protected.  It was even partly
for these weaknesses that he loved him, and it was now as he saw
his great dark bulk in the thin tissue light of the little moon
that his heart went out to him and knew, with a sudden piercing
dart of illumination, that if Stephen Rodney sentenced Nicholas
Herries to the torture, he, Robin Herries, would hang Stephen
Rodney scaffold-high on the nearest tree!

'Here is the turn!' Nicholas cried.  'Before the church, over the
bridge and up the hill.'

To their left, ahead of them, they could see the bare ruined walls
of a destroyed church or chapel.  A river ran beside them and
across this was a bridge.  A few rough cottages stood in the now
strengthening moonlight.  Over the bridge and up the hill they
clattered.

'There!  There!' Nicholas cried, whooping.  'Our uncle's strong
castle!'

To the right, nestled comfortably into the hollow of the hill, was
the prettiest miniature manor-house you ever did find.

Seen, even thus, at the first sight in the moonshine, it was the
navest, most romantic of little dwelling-places.  It was built in
imitation of the grand houses of the time.  It had a gateway with
an arch of entrance, a small walled forecourt.  The house itself
was in the shape of the letter H, the hall occupying the cross-
stroke of the H and the other apartments in the vertical strokes of
the H.  The trim hedges of the garden, cut into the likeness of
peacocks, dogs and monkeys, were darkly outlined against the night
sky.  The walls in the pale light had the colour of faint lemon-
skin.  The windows shone their welcome, and there, standing in the
porch, was old Sir Martin Herries, waiting to greet his dear
nephews.  The two boys had not seen their uncle for some years and
it was difficult not to smile at the quaint figure that he
presented.  He was an exceedingly thin old man.  Down from his head
to his shoulders hung long, yellow, lank locks and within this
enclosure was an old bony face, the forehead seamed with a thousand
wrinkles.  On his head he was wearing a steeple-shaped high black
hat.  In spite of his age, his hair was still a pallid yellow.  On
his meagre chest was a heavy gold chain.

So soon as the brothers jumped from their horses a great barking of
dogs broke out and the old man was in the strongest agitation,
crying out:  'John!  Peter!  William! . . .  Peter!  William!
John!  Where are you, you rascals?  Can't you mind the horses?
Where are you, you malt-houses?  Come out, you mooncalves! . . .'
He was stamping with his feet and waving his arms.  An elegant
major-domo, carrying a staff and having a face with a great solemn
mouth, appeared and behind him a servitor.  Two hostlers bustled
forward.  The dogs ceased their clamour.

Sir Martin was at a moment quiet, caught both his nephews with his
hands, kissed them on both cheeks and led them trippingly into the
hall.

'Wait, Uncle.  I must look to Juno,' Nicholas said, and went
incontinently with the hostler to the stable.

Sir Martin stood staring after him.

'What a size!  What a bull of a young man!  What sinews!  Why,
Robin, he's like a giant at the fair.'

And when Nicholas returned, he must feel the muscles of his arms
and his calves and finger him in the chest.  But now he was all
delight and happiness as he led the young men up the dark staircase
to their bedroom.

'And how's all with you, lads?  How's my dear brother and sister?
How were the roses this summer at Mallory and the new Italian
fountain?  Dear lads!  Dear lads . . . this is but a little house
to my own fancy, but all that is in it is yours!'



Later, washed and scented, Nicholas in his silver-grey doublet,
Robin in black and rose, the two young men came down the stairs
into the hall where they were to dine.  An amusing sight met them,
for instead of one old man to greet them there were three!

Sir Martin, his lank yellow hair now brushed and sleek, had on one
side of him a stout old gentleman with a very red face and a
bulbous nose, and on the other a sweet, precious old boy with
silver-white hair and a face as pure and unravaged as a baby's.
Sir Martin introduced them.

'Mr. Forster of Henditch--Mr. Michael Armstrong of Donnerthwaite.
Friends of mine. . . .'  Then he turned to a square-set, extremely
pleasant-faced, rosy young man behind him, gravely dressed in black
with a white ruff, and said:  'Mr. Anthony Pierson.'

The two old gentlemen were so greatly astonished at Nicholas that
they stood with their mouths open, and there was something
exceedingly comic in these three old men, side by side, motionless
like images.

There were chairs, still great rarities, for Sir Martin who
presided and Nicholas and Robin.  Mr. Forster, Mr. Armstrong and
young Mr. Pierson sat on stools.  The hall itself was as clean and
beautiful a little place as the boys had ever seen.  Although the
stone floor was strewn with rushes they were sweet-smelling and
fresh.  On one wall was a tapestry in colours of dark gold and
vivid green and carnation showing Diana bathing.  The hall was lit
by candles in iron coronas suspended from the ceiling.  Against the
further wall was a splendid inlaid buffet of ebony mounted in
silver.  There was a cabinet inlaid with ivory and tortoiseshell.
The oak panels of the walls were painted red with a handsome design
in green.  All this colour under the subdued musky light of the
candles, springing into vividness on occasion with the leaping of
the fire, gave a beauty and a poetry to this house that moved Robin
most deeply.  It seemed to him that, after riding through the
sunset glow beside the still softly murmuring water, the hills
gathering their evening shadow, he had passed into some good place,
as it might be in his own loved Utopia, of another world.  The
charming faces of the three old men also delighted him.  While he
was feeling this, with a deep sense of happiness in his heart, he
raised his eyes and met the steady gaze of young Mr. Pierson.  They
exchanged a long look, as though they were seeing into one
another's very souls.  Robin felt that some great event occurred to
him at that moment.

After they had been eating for a while, four men quietly entered
and, seating themselves at the end of the hall, began to play on
their instruments and then to sing very softly.  They sang 'Winter
wakeneth all my care,' 'I sing of a maiden,' 'And wilt thou leave
me thus?' and others.  So gentle were their voices that they seemed
like the melody of running water.  Indeed Robin, when he had stood
by his horse in the courtyard before being welcomed by his uncle,
had heard the stream running on the hill most melodiously through
the evening.  The voices now seemed to carry on that harmony.

Nicholas, meanwhile, was more disturbed.  He had begun his meal
vigorously, as usual, with his hearty appetite, but when he had
tasted his eel-pie, pullets and grease-gammon and pease before
going on to further things, he looked about him and considered.  He
discovered that the three old gentlemen were talking, with
quivering excitement, of the Northern Rebellion and that he,
because he nodded with his mouth full, was apparently in agreement
with them.  This was the last thing that he wanted, for, by
listening a little, his big ears pricked up over his food, he
discovered that what the old gentlemen were talking, over the soft
gentle melody of the madrigals, was treason of the most dangerous
kind.

His Uncle Martin, waving his arms with a half-picked capon bone
between his fingers, was lamenting, tears in his eyes, groans in
his voice, that so many noble gentlemen had come to disaster and
must chase their heels into Scotland.  And why had they come to
disaster?  Because the beautiful Queen, the rightful ruler of
England, had been snatched out of their care and protection and
hurried into a new bondage by those who had sworn to cherish purely
her trust in them!

'But this is crazy treason,' thought Nicholas, looking anxiously
about him.  There seemed no cause for alarm.  The long, bony major-
domo with the large mouth was motioning with his staff to the two
men-servants and the pretty maid who were carrying the dishes.  The
four men at the room's end were quietly playing on their viols and
softly singing.  Three dogs lay snoring in front of the great log
fire.  On the tapestry the naked Diana, in her golden-coloured
skin, moved chastely to the purple stream, and as the tapestry rose
ever so gently in the air her knee and thigh stirred as though in
real truth she lived.  No cause for alarm here!  The old red-faced
boy was talking ardently of Westmorland and Cumberland, of their
sympathies with the rebels, how they would have risen as one man
had they but been given time. . . .

'They take it for surety,' Nicholas thought, 'that we are of their
own political party.'

Then with a flash of revelation he saw it all.  His uncle was a
Catholic and so were these old men too.  This was a Catholic house.
This square-shouldered, smiling, round-faced young man Pierson was,
in all probability, a Catholic priest.  It had not been so five
years ago.  Martin Herries had not been a Catholic then.  Or had he
been so and kept it from his brother?

In any case, whatever it had been then there was no doubt now.
Nicholas looked anxiously across the table at young Robin.  This
was the last thing that he would have wished, to bring young Robin
into a Catholic house, a nest of rebels against the Queen, his own
very uncle too.  He thought of rising and saying something in
protest.  But he stayed quiet.  Unlike his customary habit he did
nothing.  A great unease seized him.  An apprehension that had been
with him, it seemed to him now, ever since the man on the moor had
looked up at him with those pleading eyes.  The candles seemed to
shiver in their iron sockets, the fire to dim.  He was afraid.

Meanwhile the meal had joyfully proceeded, all three old gentlemen
were drunk, and Robin Herries was standing close to Anthony Pierson
in the window embrasure beyond the stairs.  Robin was aware now of
the dark depth in Anthony Pierson's eyes.  At first sight you would
say 'This is a stout, commonplace, cheerful young man.'  At a
closer view you would deny all those adjectives.  Although his
cheeks were round, his limbs were hard; although his smile was
amiable, his eyes were stern and penetrating; although outwardly he
smiled, behind his smile was a passionate purpose.

Robin, at first sight of him, had loved him.  This was the second
love of his life, his brother being the first.  There was to be a
third.

Pierson's voice was soft and melodious.

'Mr. Rodney sent me a message that you would be here, Mr. Herries.
I came especially to meet you.  I am a Jesuit priest from Douai, a
foundation recently instituted by Mr. Allen.  I wish to be of
service to you.'

Their eyes met once again in a concentrated gaze.

'I feel that already we are friends,' Robin said.  Then he went on
in a low voice:  'But I must tell you that I am not a Catholic.  My
parents are Lutheran and my brother here is of violent anti-
Catholic opinions.  He would say that he has no political or
religious opinions at all, but he is ardently for the Queen and
counts anyone his enemy who is against her.  We were neither of us
aware that our uncle had become a Catholic.  We would not have come
had we been aware.  We have not seen our uncle for five years--and
no rumour of this had reached our father.'

'And yourself?  What are YOUR opinions, Mr. Herries?' Pierson asked
him.

'I?  Oh, I am very young.  I am interested in the humanities.  I
am, I hope, a loyal servant of Her Majesty.'

'Have you given any thought to religion?'

'Of course I have thought of religion.  I have had many talks with
Stephen Rodney.  I am altogether at odds with him in his eagerness
for the persecution and burning of those who are not of his faith.
I believe that Christ Himself would have forbidden these burnings
and quarterings. . . .'  Robin stopped.  His voice was shaking with
his emotion.

Anthony Pierson laid his broad, square hand on his arm.

'I too,' he said, 'am for gentleness and love.  We will discuss
these matters again.  I feel that already we are friends.  And
also, if you will not think it impertinent, I am aware that you see
even now the bright pavilions on the horizon and have begun your
journey thither.'

'The bright pavilions?' asked Robin.

'The bright pavilions of God, the only resting-place for the bodies
and souls of blundering, weary travellers.'

He held out his hand.  Robin took it.

'I need a friend,' Pierson said.

'I also,' Robin answered.



SYLVIA MASKED


It was nearly a year before Nicholas met Philip Irvine again.  In
February 1570 he was fortunate enough to be a member of the
entourage of old Lord Rottingham of Seeby on a visit to Paris.  Old
Rottingham was an ancient friend of Sir Michael's and, seeing
Nicholas tilting with his young grandson on a frosty January
morning, was so greatly pleased with his size and strength that he
asked for the young man to accompany him.  He went to Paris on no
ordinary mission.  The fact is that he was an alchemist in a
private amateur way and, hearing about some very extraordinary
experiments in Paris, determined to see for himself.  What there
happened to him, the charlatans, cutpurses and fortune-hunters who
tried to inveigle him, the clever fashion in which, old as he was,
he escaped the plunderers (with the exception of his one crazy
fancy he was a shrewd old man), the strange back-quarters of Paris
into which he ventured, the smells and obscenities, witches'
Sabbaths, orgies and fairytales in which he was involved without
any personal surrender whatever, all this would make a grand story
of itself and may be told one day.  There is a Journal still
extant, kept by one of his secretaries, Peter Curling, filled with
most interesting and unusual matter.  Finally he stayed there for
more than six months and Nicholas stayed there with him, receiving
full board and lodging plus a number of delightful love affairs,
four duels, and plenty of admirable exercise.

Of the necromancy he saw nothing; he took not the slightest
interest therein.  He was introduced to the French King and thought
little of him.  He kissed the hand of the Queen Mother and likened
her, in his mind, to a queen of the Moon-Men he had seen in a fair
at Edmonton.  He admired her and fancied her capable of murder on a
really handsome scale, which, two years later, was to prove a true
prophecy.

He enjoyed Paris to the full, but thought poorly of Frenchmen.  He,
as was his rule, avoided politics, which was as well, for he was a
Protestant, and Protestants, whatever the outward seeming might be,
were none too popular at the French Court.

So he returned home in the autumn of the year, joyfully, healthily
and eager for the English food again.  When he saw his mother he
squeezed her in his arms until she screamed aloud: he kissed all
the maids of the household, exclaimed that Juno had proved herself
better than any mare in France, and made old Hogben, the chaplain,
drunk on the very first evening.

His first thought, however, as always, was for his brother.  It was
a grand moment when they met again after that long separation.
When he had embraced him, Nicholas held Robin away from him and
looked at him.  He was pleased at what he saw.  The boy was always
a miracle to Nicholas, who was often tired of his own hulking
health and size.  Robin's beauty was of heaven.  Here, for
Nicholas, if he ever considered it, which he seldom did, was
evidence of another, more spiritual world.  For a swift passing
instant he was ashamed of his Paris love-making, duelling and wine-
bibbing.

In any case the boy was in splendid state; his cheeks clear with
health, his eyes shining with a great brightness, and love for his
brother beaming from them.  What had he to tell?  Not very much
beyond the news of his letters.  He had been quietly at home, he
had visited at Sir Henry Sidney's, he had been to Court and kissed
the Queen's hand. . . .

Only one thing that he said disturbed Nicholas.  Robin mentioned
Anthony Pierson.

'Anthony Pierson?'

'Last Christmas.  Don't you remember?  At our uncle's in
Cumberland.'

'Oh yes, a stout, red-faced young man.  He was a priest?'

'Yes.  A Jesuit from Douai.'

'And so?'

'We were friends at that first meeting.  He has been in England on
several occasions.'

At sight of Nicholas' thundering brow Robin burst out laughing.

'I'm not a Catholic yet, Nick.'

'Priests are not liked and soon will be less so.'

'He is only my friend--not my religious adviser.'

'He would like to be, though.  I know them.  I hate all priests.'

'You should meet him,' Robin said.



Now it happened that Sir Michael had a brother Henry, a year
younger than himself.  This Henry was as unlike Michael as a
brother may be and still have the same father and mother.  He
represented, however, from babyhood, a persistent element in the
Herries' character, for, so soon as he could toddle, he was out to
make all the material profit he might from his fellow human beings.
Michael was always a gay, singing, merry kind of fellow, like his
son Nicholas-to-be, and an easy prey to brother Henry's commercial
mind.  He bought from Henry toys of no value at all at inordinate
prices; entered, mildly and innocently, into little commercial
arrangements always to his own disadvantage; and was involved in
small usuries that, being no mathematician, he never properly
understood.

Henry grew up into a world ripe and ready for active minds like
his.  After the dissolution of the monasteries, there was plenty of
land to be bought, by men in the right favour, for a song.  Henry
was always in the right favour where anyone important was
concerned, and balanced himself marvellously during the difficult
reigns of Edward and Mary; lending for handsome return, buying
sharply at exactly the right moment and achieving the name
everywhere of an excellent, trustworthy man of business.  In the
early years of Elizabeth he might, had he wished, have risen to a
high place at Court--Cecil had his eye upon him--but, like so many
Herries before and after him, he failed at the highest flights,
wishing always for safety.  He was twice married, first to Mary
Trowneer, who brought him an excellent dowry, two fair sons, and a
daughter, Barbara; and, secondly, after an interval, to Grace
Clyde, who bore him, when he was forty-four years of age, a
daughter, Sylvia.

He had a fine country place at Chelsea and a town house close to
the Temple Gardens, where a little later, in 1576, he was to be
greatly annoyed at the easy lease by Sir Christopher Hatton of the
garden and orchard for the rent of a red rose, ten loads of hay and
ten pounds per annum.  To miss a simple thing like this was really
an agony to him.

By now he was sixty years of age but still burly, rosy-faced and
vigorous.  He was outwardly a cheerful, welcoming companion, but
the habit of taking advantage of others had withered his impulses
and made him suspicious of even his own family.  His wife had
suffered for many years from stomach disorders, and any and every
quack was at her service.  His elder daughter, Barbara, now the
wife of Tobias Garland, he saw but seldom.  Of the boys, Edward was
now thirty-four and Sidney thirty.  Edward was as sharp and thrifty
as his father, but Sidney had an unfortunate liking for low
company, with whom he was jolly in a rather nervous and irritable
fashion.

Of Sylvia, Nicholas and Robin knew little.  They had not seen her
for four years and then she had been but twelve years of age and
quite uninteresting to growing young men.

For, sad to say, there had been a quarrel between the two families.
Money meaning so much to Henry, he quite naturally patronized a
brother who had managed to secure so little of it.  But Michael was
not an easy man to patronize, and one evening at the Chelsea manor
there had been so unfortunate a quarrel and such hard words had
been spoken that Michael had incontinently ordered his horses and
ridden, there and then, to London.  The quarrel between the
brothers had not been healed, largely because neither party wished
for the healing.  Henry was always afraid that Michael would ask
money of him, a thing that Michael never considered doing, and
Michael was weary of the chaffing, superior joking of his self-
satisfied brother.  Nor had the ladies cared for one another since
Nicholas' mother had told her sister-in-law to give up her quacks
and nostrums and see whether her health was not therefore the
better.

To Nicholas, his uncle, aunt and cousins were simply one great
joke.  He knew that Edward and Sidney were physically terrified of
him and he would have enjoyed terrifying them further.  He had not
the time to bother his head about them.

It happened, however, that after his return from Paris he heard, on
a number of occasions, of the beauty of his cousin Sylvia, now a
girl of sixteen.  He hoped that he might see her somewhere in town
or country, but his curiosity was not satisfied and grew therefore
the greater.  Then, early in December, he learned that his uncle
was giving a masked ball in his town house.  Nicholas decided to go
and he persuaded Robin to go with him.  They slept the night at the
'White Hart' in Southwark, and the next evening, cloaked and
shrouded, their masks close to hand, started on their adventure.

Distrusting their waterman's ability to shoot London Bridge, which
was dangerous not only from the breadth of the piers and narrowness
of the arches but also because of the corn-mills that had been
built in some of the openings, they insisted on being landed above
the bridge at the Old Swan stairs.

Many and many a time had Robin crossed the river at night and
always there was something miraculous in that journey.  The swift
flowing of the river, the clever handling of the boat by the
waterman, the craft that shot so gallantly past them, the freshness
of the breeze, the sense that he was now at the very heart of the
city that was surely the greatest in the whole world--all these
things elated and delighted him.  But on this night some spirit
stirred in him of wonder, of anticipation, that he had never known
before.  He did not especially care for this adventure.  He had
thought it, from the first, a foolish one and was sure that some
family crisis would come from it, for how could Nicholas, with his
great size, hope that his mask would disguise him?  He disliked his
uncle and two cousins as strongly as it was in his power to dislike
anybody and had no desire to be in communication with them again.
Nevertheless, as he sat there, his cloak lightly about him against
the cold, he was aware of an exulting happiness.

The night sky was thick with stars and against this radiance the
towers and roofs of the buildings on the other bank rose in a
delicacy of moth-silver chastity.  The icy air, the swift current
of the water that caught the stars and the path of a gold-plated
moon in its ripples, brought his beloved Utopian world straight
into his heart.  Here was purity, a world of silver sharpness,
space, and only the sounds that liberate stillness.

But there was more than that.  He seemed to be on the eve of a
great event.  He wished to say something to his brother who now,
like a little boy, was asking the waterman a lot of foolish
questions.  ('Aye, for a pin and a web there's nothing but cutting.
A friend of my mother's had it and was in darkness a twelvemonth.'
'The tide's high.  How deep is the water here?  I'd swim you to the
bank for a silver sixpence.  And your sixpences will be debased, I
warrant. . . .  Nay, not married?  You know a fine girl with the
naked Indians in Fleet Street?  How fine? . . .  If that's a
whitlow it must be cut. . . .  I can tell you a surgeon--he'll do
it for you for a passage or two across the river. . . .')

All men of their hands--watermen, draymen, farmers, hostlers,
wrestlers and bear-wardens--loved Nicholas.  First they were
flattered by his size, to think they were allowed to converse with
so prodigious a young man, and secondly Nicholas, although careful
enough of his dignity if it were improperly challenged, was friend
to all the world.

And so Robin did not disturb him but wondered why he had the sense
of excitement and whether he might not sail down the river, out to
the open seas, and discover for himself some of these countries of
gold trees and spices and miraculous birds of which everyone was
always talking.

They landed at the steps and Nicholas, by the light of the boat's
lantern, examined the young waterman's whitlow very seriously, paid
him the due and started up the dark miry pathway.

They were now at once in another world.  The thick overhanging
buildings almost touched above their heads.  There was no lighting
of any kind and both men had their hands on their rapiers, ready
for cut-throats and vagabond soldiers and any lazy fellow who, by a
sudden snatch, might obtain the price of a night's lodging.  They
had been going but a pace or two when an eerie cry broke the
night's silence.  It was a cry of agony but did not disturb them in
the slightest, for it might be a murder, or a man in his sleep, or
someone dying from the plague.

The plague indeed was never far away, nor was it difficult to
understand the reason, for the stinks and waves of recurrent
nastiness would have made them vomit were they not so used to the
conditions as never to give them a thought.  Proclamations were for
ever being issued by magistrates--'Where the infection is entered
to cause fires to be made in the streets every morning and evening,
wherein should be burnt frankincense, pitch or some other sweet
thing' or 'to command that all excrements and filthy things voided
from the infected places be not cast into streets or into sewers
that are daily used to make drink or dress meat' or 'No surgeons or
barbers that use to let blood should cast it into the street or
rivers.  Nor should vaults nor privies be emptied therein, for it
is a most dangerous thing.'

But no proclamations made the slightest difference, especially as
the plague was the Act of God and it was not for the human soul to
work against God's will.  So they splashed with their leather boots
through squash and squeak of filth and ordure, came on a dead dog
under a lantern, swollen to three times his size, and found an old
man in a doorway on the point of death from starvation.

Very heartily and in the most excellent spirits they pushed through
the gates into the forecourt of their uncle's house, which was the
scene of handsome bustle and confusion.  The music could be heard
coming from within the lighted house, horses were neighing, figures
laughing and chattering passed up the torch-illuminated steps.

'There is something strange with me tonight,' Robin thought.  'I
have known many scenes like this before, and yet the light and the
dark, the sound of the music, the soothing sound of the falling
fountain, these things are striking me newly as though I had been
born but an hour ago.'

The figures, passing up and down the steps, were like ghosts as
though they rose from the stone slabs of the court; the lighted
windows of the house were unsubstantial, as though made from air.
For a moment he stood and looked back.  The water of the fountain
hung suspended in glittering drops against the torchlight.  Then he
put on his mask and entered.

In a small withdrawing-room they pulled off their leather boots,
laid down their cloaks and appeared in their full splendour,
Nicholas with a ruff larger than the immediate fashion, a doublet
of rose and silver and silver hose, Robin in dark purple slashed
with white which marvellously suited his slim body.  A moment later
they were in the great hall that was hung with tapestries.  In the
gallery the musicians were already playing.  Henry Herries and his
wife stood on the dais below the gallery, and the guests, as they
arrived, moved to the dais, bowed low and then mingled with the
crowd that was already dancing.  The hall was lit by immense
candelabra that glittered with a thousand facets.  Servants
crowded, looking over the gallery's balustrade at the scene and
pointing out to one another the guests they recognised under the
masks.  Close beside Henry Herries was a long, lean, dough-faced
man with lank hair and unmasked.  This was Mr. Phineas Thatcher,
Henry's confidential secretary.  His long nose had once been pulled
by Nicholas, who scornfully detested him.  He belonged to the
extreme sect of Puritans whose party was fast growing in the
country.  He was extremely able and, like his master, balanced
nicely both his politics and his religion.  It was said, however,
that he was secretly an ardent fanatic.

When Nicholas and Robin advanced to the dais Nicholas was certain
that Thatcher at once recognized him.  He made no movement and
spoke no word.  The volte was in progress, a very difficult dance
at which Nicholas prided himself.  It consisted of a turn of the
body with two steps, a high spring, and a pause with feet close
together.  Nicholas, in spite of his big body, was an excellent
dancer, and as the French Court preferred, at this time, the volte
to any other dance, he had but just known six months of constant
practice in the most excellent company.  He prided himself
especially on his 'spring,' holding himself rigidly and alighting
'like a little bird,' as he said, 'delicately with no sound,' his
two feet rigidly together.

So now, facing a beautiful lady with hair so flaxen as to be almost
white, he gazed into her eyes so intently that her bosom heaved and
her hands fluttered.

'Sir, I am sure that I know you.'

He sprang magnificently, alighted delicately, then in the pause
that followed said:

'You are right.  I have come for what you promised me.'

'You have grown in the month since we met.'

'It is my doublet.'  They turned together, did their two steps,
leapt and once more faced one another.  'My new doublet,' he
repeated.  'I was not wearing it on the last time.'

She giggled a little.

'No.  Indeed you were not.  You were wearing . . .'

He smiled.  'Exactly.  These are clothes of courtesy.  Those . . .'

'You were not dancing.'

'I was at your feet.'

She smiled.

'Your chin was not so round.'

'You saw it from a different angle.'

The dance was over.  She took his arm.  They vanished into the
crowd.  He knew that he had never seen her before and wondered how,
without her mask, she would be.  Now, close to her, he was afraid
that her bosom was too massive.

Robin was not dancing.  He had gone quietly to a pillar at the end
of the hall and, leaning against it, in comparative obscurity,
watched the scene.  He could not rid himself of the sense that he
was taking part in a fantasy, a masque.  He was well-accustomed to
that experience of the soul when the material world seems only a
thin covering for the more real world beneath it.  This sense would
come upon him suddenly and he would even touch the stuff of his
clothes to be certain of his own bodily existence.  Music had
especially this spiritual power over him, and now the viols seemed
more human than the human voices and the sudden cry of the flute
had had a ghostly urgency.  The masked figures seemed to him so
unsubstantial that he felt that, if he cried out, they would
vanish, like trailing shimmering silk, into the air: the purple of
shadows, the bright green like a parrot's wing, the rich rose
brocade like a cloud of evening.  One cry and they would be gone.

With this unreality was still this real sense of urgent, expectant
happiness.  Something was about to happen to him: something of an
utter transcendent reality.

He moved, he eased his mask, raised his head, and saw, close to
him, almost touching him, a girl.

She stood, all by herself, watching the dancers.  She was no more
than a child.  She seemed indeed a baby behind her white silk mask,
her slim immature neck inside the enormous ruff.

She was magnificently dressed--over-dressed, Robin at once saw.
The first thing he felt about her--he was afterwards to smile
tenderly at his accurate perception--was a certain pathos.  She was
over-dressed and a sort of symbol of all the over-grandeur of this
ball.  Robin had realized this at once, even in the courtyard.  His
uncle, the New Rich, flaunting splendour without taste.  The
musicians, for example, wore a crimson slashed with gold that hurt
the eye.  The candelabra were too vast.  The colours of the
tapestries, blue and orange and violet, were too crude.

So was this child.  In the front of her lovely dark brown hair was
a jewelled ship.  The ship was of emerald and the sails of clear
sapphires.  Her farthingale was in a most extravagant style,
fantastically enlarged at the hips.  Her little breasts were
squeezed into the stiff-pointed bodice.  Her sleeves were cut and
slashed and crossed with small puffings.  The colour of the
brocaded farthingale was a faint, very lovely rose, studded with
pearls.  The bodice was silver and the slashings of the sleeves
were silver.  In this elaborate exaggerated dress the child stood,
staring at the dancers, her mouth open, as still as a little image.
Under the white silk mask her childish excited mouth was a living
protest against her anonymity.  Robin felt that if, at another
time, she were veiled from head to foot, and still he saw that
mouth he would know her.  The lips were beautiful, natural, healthy
red, her cheeks, too, rosy with health.  There was no sign on her
of paint and powder, becoming very popular with ladies.  Her
emerald ship, her ruff, the cut of her farthingale and sleeves, the
lavish scattering of the pearls about the rose brocade, these were
exaggerations, but within them she was radiant, untouched, Nature
herself.

She said aloud:  'After all the lessons he dances more oafishly
than ever.'

She was speaking to herself.  She made an effort over the word
'oafishly' and even stammered very slightly.  She saw Robin staring
at her and raised her head with a great assumption of haughtiness.
It was clear that she hated to have been heard speaking to herself.
She began to move away, her head so erect that it surely must have
hurt her.

Robin said:  'Please don't go away.'

'Why should I not?' she asked, and her voice was enchanting, a
child's voice assuming maturity, very clear and bell-like.

She looked at him and smiled, and Robin loved her for that smile.
It was quite clear that she considered him something worth staring
at.  In fact the two of them stood gazing at one another.

'So we meet again,' Robin said tenderly.  It was the official,
recognized opening at all masked balls.

'No.'  She shook her head very decisively.  'We have never met
before.'  She smiled once more.  'And that is not curious, for this
is my first ball.'

'It will, after to-night, be my first ball also,' Robin answered.

She came closer to him.  She was utterly sincere in her honest
gaze.

'I HAVE seen you before, I think.  And I know your voice.  But not
at a ball.  A long time ago.'

Robin himself thought that, in some way, she was familiar to him.
But not like this--and, yes, as she said, a long time ago.  But it
could not be so very long, for even now she was only a child.

'Why are you not dancing?' he asked her.

'The volte,' she answered very grandly, 'is not my sort of dancing.
I prefer the pavane.'

'Will you dance the pavane with me?'

'Yes,' she said, suddenly quite shy.  'If it is soon,' she added.
'I am not to stay very late.'

They continued to stare at one another.

'Will you not take your mask off for one moment?'

His hand, moving as it seemed of its own volition, touched her
sleeve.

'Perhaps we DO know one another.'

She laughed and shook her head until the ship rocked as though on a
stormy sea.

'No.  Not before the general unmasking.  They say it is unlucky.'

'You need not fear,' Robin said.  'Bad luck is not for you.'

She gave a sharp cry.

'Oh, you must not say that!'  She was shaking her head.  The little
ship, loosened, fell to the floor.  A tiny sapphire rolled to
Robin's feet.

He picked the ship up and gave it her.  She held it in her hand,
looking at it.

'It was my father's Christmas gift.  I don't know why.  I never
liked it.  It's gaudy.  I shall find Boniface to take it and put it
away.'

He had the tiny sapphire in his hand.

'Then I may keep this?'

'If you care to.  It's nothing.'  She turned twice round on her
high heels.  'Now--am I not better without the ship?'

'Very much better.'

The dancers were moving forward.  The musicians struck up.  It was
a pavane.

The whole company was now formed in a great procession and in this
Robin and the child took their places.  He watched her now,
delighting in her solemnity and gravity.  He saw that she was
widely recognized and was treated with ceremony.  Who could she be?
Why was it that he knew her and yet did not know her?  She could
not be the daughter of any high person at Court.  No one accustomed
to Court practices would so overdress her.  And yet what a little
lady she was!  How criminal to emphasize her childishness with that
exaggerated ruff!  Nevertheless, how she carried her head with its
lovely hair, so far lovelier now without the bejewelled ship.  And
with what a child's motion she sometimes raised her little hand to
ease the mask that pinched her nose!  With what perfect grace, too,
she moved, two simple steps and a double one forward, the same
number backwards.  Again he had the sense that this was a dream and
these dream-figures, the waves of mingled colours rising and
falling while the musicians blared with their hautboys and
trumpets.  How exquisite that pause, when the wave is frozen into
stillness, every figure carved from a jewelled form; a great
dignity and power seems to sweep through the air.  'We are the
kings and queens of this world, transmuted into power by our
terrible immobility!'  Then, quite suddenly, the last movement, the
galliard, come from the French Court to make the pavane less dull,
all lively briskness, although not as yet allowing that frivolous
kicking of the heels in the air, the capriole.

The music sang, the lights poured down, Robin had her hand in his.

'Soon, soon you shall unmask,' he whispered.

Two trumpets rang out.  The dancers stayed.  They moved back into a
serried rank.  The doors to the right of the dais opened and the
masquers entered.

First came four blackamoors in silver, then the 'pageant,' or stage
on wheels, moving with much clumsy creaking, and on it the captive
Queen of the Moon, a lovely lady in scales of silver, weeping
because she was captive.  Four giants held dominion over her.  The
'pageant' stayed in front of the dais and one of the giants spouted
verse, declaring his great powers, and summoning his men who
presently appeared, a band of wild men naked to the waist and
painted in horrible reds and greens.  After this a distant trumpet
sounded, a knight clad from head to feet in gold armour stated that
he would rescue the Lady of the Moon, was defied by the giants,
summoned his men who were likewise in gold armour.  The knight
challenged one of the giants to single combat, and a great battle
followed in which the giant was worsted, whereupon the giant's men
rushed upon the knight's men and there was a fine comic battle.
The giants were slain, the knight mounted the 'pageant' and claimed
the Queen of the Moon.

He stood forward and cried:  'We command you all--our true and
liege subjects--unmask!'

At that, with a common gesture, the whole company unmasked.
Trumpets blew a peal, the 'pageant,' rocking the Queen and knight
on its path, moved away, a small blackamoor, alone now in the
scene, stepped forward, declared that love, as always it must, had
won, that only one Queen in the known world might command such
devotion, and that now, to please her, they would drink and feast
in Her Honour!

The trumpets blared.  The company shouted.



At the unmasking Robin turned to his child.

'Sylvia!'

'Cousin Robin!'

'It is four years. . . .  You must forgive me.'

She looked at him with considering gravity.  'I know.  You have
been very wrong not to have visited us.'

'Nicholas and I . . .'

'I don't care for Nicholas.  He laughs at us.  Mr. Thatcher hates
him because once he pulled his nose.  But you, Robin, are quite
another thing.  You were always kind.  You read to me once out of a
book.  Do you remember?  Sir Thomas More's Utopia.  I can recall it
exactly.  It was in the Chelsea garden and we could hear the apples
fall on the grass.  You said you would read often and I believed
you.  I know now that men are always false. . . .'

She walked, her hand quite confidently in his, chattering as a
little bird sings.  They moved up the high staircase towards the
gallery where they were to eat.  Robin knew that he had been right
in his expectation of happiness.



Nicholas, on his side, had plenty to think about.  He had
recognized, immediately, that the knight in gold armour was Philip
Irvine.  His mind flew instantly back to their last meeting.  In a
sense, through the whole year, through all the gaieties and
adventures of Paris, his mind had never left it.  He was tied to
the event with a conviction of implacable hatred.  To see him now,
flaunting his beauty in his gold armour before this admiring world,
roused in Nicholas, who was not, by nature, at all jealous or
grudging, a sort of savage anger.  Irvine was in truth superb with
his perfect shape, his dark scorning face under the gold helmet.
His voice too was beautiful, low and ringing, understanding the
rhythm and colour of the poetry that he spoke, as Nicholas would
never understand them.  Nicholas felt his own clumsiness, the
uncouth size and height of his limbs.  He was always uncomfortable
in grand clothes such as he was wearing now.  Irvine wore his
glories to perfection.  Nicholas was best in shirt and hose,
wrestling or digging or fighting with his fists, or, in the country
at home, carrying a child on his shoulder, walking in from the
harvest, or shooting in the long garden between the clipped hedges
at a toy pigeon, or lifting the garden-barrel filled with weeds and
emptying it on to the bonfire that blazed in orange-gold to the
pigeon-cote beyond the lawn.

It was the old antithesis.  But WHY should he hate him so?  It was,
perhaps, because Irvine had made him, for the only time in his
life, betray a helpless man's trust.  The shame of that would never
leave him as long as he lived.  He had asked himself again and
again what he should have done for that blue-eyed man?  Should he
have jumped from his horse at the first and defied Irvine?  The
ignominy of it was that Irvine had only been doing his duty.  For
months after, such scenes, and worse scenes, had been repeated
again and again all over the North.  It was perhaps the only
occasion when Elizabeth showed what was not truly in her cautious,
considering, often generous character, real vindictive vengeance.
It left its mark for ever on those parts of England, that Northern
Rebellion!

Yes, but no matter the general case.  What should HE, Nicholas
Herries, have done?  He could see the dog leap now on Gascoigne's
back--and he was looking now into the handsome, vain eyes of
Irvine.  There was not a shadow of a space between them!  It was
early morning.  The candles guttered on the long table of the small
picture gallery where some of the young men had gathered for a last
joke and drink before going home.  There were perhaps a dozen of
them in silver and crimson and jade green, swinging their beautiful
legs from the table, most of them very drunk, all proclaiming their
pride in their Queen, their country, their future, themselves.

For, behind the noise and the drunkenness and the singing of ribald
songs and the heat and the long mirrors swaying as the servant-men
jogged them, carrying the liquor, and the pictures of past and
present Herries that Henry had had painted (most of them very bad),
and the splendid clock, with the silver moon and gold stars and old
man grinning in mother-of-pearl, that chimed tunes, and the bawdy
picture in needlework of Susanna and the Elders; behind all the
trash and traffic of the current world, there was a great fiery
spirit of new-born patriotism in the bosoms of these young men.
There were many, many thousands like them.  For their country had,
in the years before Elizabeth came to its throne, reached its
lowest ignominy.  There was little army, less navy.  Calais had
been lost.  A king of a foreign country, hated and hating, had
pushed his long nose contemptuously down the London streets.  There
had been burnings and quarterings at the order of foreign priests
and Englishmen sold to Spain.  Shame, shame on a conquered, mocked
country that had once been great!

And then God had sent a Jael, a Princess who redeemed them.  From
the moment that that red-haired, lantern-jawed, cold-lipped girl
had taken the government into her hand, her people had hoped again.
And now, within so short a while, again there was a navy, the
beginning of an army, money was being saved, debased coin was
called in--and more than that, Englishmen were going out once more
into the world taking all that they were strong enough to take.
Never mind if what they took belonged to someone else!  He who is
strongest seizes what he may.  The power of the mailed fist!  These
young men sat there, stood there, shouted there, crying their
Queen's name, with a great joy once more in their hearts, because
the future belonged to them.  God was with them, their leader was
God's servant, the world was at their feet for the capture.

So, three hundred and fifty years later, a great body of young
patriots of another country would once again feel the same
exultations!

Although there were not more than twenty there, they were
representative.  Edward Herries, very drunk, but his sharp little
eyes on the watch for an advantage.  A strange fellow, Falk
Herries, son of a small squire in Wiltshire, a thin man with a
slight hump of one shoulder; sardonic, able, believing in nothing
and nobody.  Kennet Herries, a big, stout young man, crimson-faced,
noisy and boastful.  Charles Lacey, a young elegant poet and dandy.
Tristram Cornwallis, a splendid young soldier, a great favourite at
Court; Robert Rockage, a serious young man and said to be a
Catholic, a recent friend of Robin's; and Philip Irvine himself.

Nicholas, drunk enough to be noisily gay, was so close to him that
the stiff edgings of their doublets touched.

'Mr. Irvine--after a year we meet again.'

Irvine, very handsome in black and silver, was cordial.

'Why, Mr. Herries, I was hoping for a meeting.  But you have been
in France, I hear.'

Nicholas nodded.

'Yes.  You have not been North?'

'No.  That was but a temporary duty.'

'Your arm is recovered?'

'It was but a scratch.  We must have another meeting.  Of course a
friendly one.  I bear no grudge.'

Nicholas smiled.  'At any time.  In any place I am at your
service.'

After that, for a while, he knew very little clearly.  His uncle
had spoken to him with an almost over-eager kindness, saying that
he was glad that his nephews had honoured his little entertainment,
that he hoped that now again he would see them constantly, that
relations in these difficult days must hold together.  Nicholas had
solemnly agreed to all these courtesies.  He was exceedingly
popular with the young men.  They made him perform feats of
strength; he stripped to his shirt and lifted a table.  He raised
young Rockage in one hand and Charles Lacey in the other.  He
drank, he sang choruses, he shouted again and again the health of
their Mistress. . . .  And then the scene was confused.  The
candles rushed like the wind across the table and burnt in one
glorious conflagration from which a spire of light ran rocking to
the naked cherubs painted on the ceiling.  But the most disturbing
thing was the mirrors that swayed backwards and forwards, redoubled
themselves so that heads of hair, noses and mouths, ruffs and
slashed doublets, multiplied, were connected and disconnected.  He
moved to a mirror to steady it and stood there, rocking on his
feet, seeing his own face, flushed and wavering.  He raised a hand,
and, stepping aside, saw the long, dark figure of Irvine, quite
still in the mirror watching him.  From Irvine's body all that
queer conglomeration of arms and thighs and heads ran in a stream
of colour into the candlelight, but Irvine himself was complete and
immaculate in the snowy ruff, his thin brown hand resting on the
gold hilt of his rapier.

A mad impulse to challenge him seized Nicholas.  He jerked round to
face the room, and then saw that Irvine was not there.  He stumbled
forward searching the room.  Irvine was gone.

He was sober enough to realise that something else was doing.
There had mounted on to the table, that was slippery with spilt
wine, two men, both stripped to the waist.  One was a big hulking
fellow, with heavy breasts, a thick neck, black hair on his chest,
that Nicholas recognized--a servant of Kennet Herries.  The other
he had never seen before: fair-haired, white-skinned, blue-eyed.
They were to wrestle, there on the table.  Bets were being laid.
The young men crowded about the table.  Nicholas, eagerly pushing
forward, wagered on the fair young man.  Then he held his breath.
The lights steadied and hung in a circle above the two men, who
advanced, hugged, strained, almost slipped, steadied themselves
again, stayed, tight in one another's arms.  Then the young man,
his head raised, jerked with his leg; the other staggered, tried to
hold himself, then crashed over the table-edge, falling into
Nicholas' arms.

He held the fellow for a moment, set him on his feet, where he
stood, shamefacedly apologizing to his irate master.

The young man jumped lightly from the table.

'You did that well,' Nicholas said.

'Of course.  There are two parts of England where they can wrestle--
Cornwall and Cumberland.  I come from one of them.'

'From Cornwall?'

'No.  From Cumberland, sir.'

Someone had thrown the young man his shirt and he was now quickly
and deftly buttoning it.

'From Cumberland,' Nicholas said eagerly.

'Yes, Mr. Herries.'

'You know me then?'

The young man grinned.

'I come from a place Rosthwaite, near Keswick.  I know your uncle.'

'My uncle?  I was there a year ago.'

'Yes, sir.  I saw you.'

'You saw me?'

'Riding away in the morning from your uncle's house.  It was nine
of the morning--a frosty, clear day.'

'You remember that?'

'You are not lightly forgotten, sir.'

'What is your name?'

'Gilbert Armstrong.'

'What are you doing in London?'

'Your uncle is interested in the Newlands mines.  I came down a
week ago with letters.  I return to-morrow.  I am in service with
Mr. Cowperthwaite in Keswick.  Mr. Cowperthwaite knows your uncle
well.'

Nicholas caught his arm.

'Do you know a girl--a German girl--in Keswick, called Catherine
Hodstetter?'

'No, sir.'

'Do you ride alone to-morrow?'

'Yes, sir.'

'I will go with you.  I will ride with you.'

He was sober now, longing with a passionate desire for that
freshness instead of this wine-stink; the moon rising above the
moth-grey hills rather than this candlelight. . . .

There was more than that.  Soon, in a month or so, he was to take
over the charge of his father's property.  His free young manhood
would be ended.  This should be his last gesture of freedom.

'By Jesu, I'll go with you.  When do you start?'

'I have some business with Mr. Herries in the morning.  I should be
ready by eleven forenoon.'

'I will meet you by Durham House, in the Strand.'

He clapped the man heartily on the shoulder and, now exceedingly
happy, his head quite clear, he turned away to find Robin.

He found him standing in the doorway.  The brothers smiled.

'Where were you, Robin?  I looked for you.'

'I was in Paradise,' Robin said, 'for a little.  And, having
discovered it, I mean shortly to return.'



THE MINERS


Nicholas Herries soon saw that, in this young Gilbert Armstrong, he
had found a companion after his own heart and mind.  During the
ride up North they had many opportunities of mutual discovery.  Now
Nicholas was a man who must see and feel a thing truly to believe
in it.  No good to tell him that something existed because someone
else had seen it.  True probably that men with three heads and two
fundaments lived on the other side of the sea, that pearls were as
common there as potatoes, and naked girls shining like brown
leather were your humble servants, but he must see first for
himself.  He would in fact have been off on a voyage of discovery
with Drake or Hawkins or Grenville long ago had it not been that
his father depended on him to take over the property and become
head man of the house.

And so with everything.  It was of no use talking to him of the
next world or a lump of coal that MIGHT become a lump of gold or
poems that told you about King Arthur or the Queen of the Amazons.
He must have reality.  So it was apparently with Armstrong, who was
as sensible a young man as you would find in England.  He showed
his common sense in the first place by an instant worship of
Nicholas.  When they had to share a bed at an inn, Gilbert was
never tired of admiration of Nicholas' thews and sinews.  He had
never before seen a man so great physically who at the same time
was so adroit, lithe in his movements, delicate in his footwork.
He taught Nicholas all that he knew of wrestling, and this was to
be useful later.  But it was not only, not chiefly, physical
prowess that began to bind the two men together.  In all incidents
and crises they seemed to think alike; Nicholas the master, Gilbert
the servant, but beneath that social difference the beginning of a
firm friendship.

Nothing very epochal occurred in their travels: there was a pedlar
who was surely a Roman priest and carried in his buttock-pocket a
Bull against the Queen, there were the vagrant soldiers who broke a
window in the hostelry at Newbury and were put in the stocks, there
was the thief hanging on the gibbet at the cross-roads by Doncaster
whose nose was being pecked by gigantic crows as they passed, there
were the two witches ducked to their death at the little village on
the moor towards York city, and, best of all, there was the
landlord of the scurvy inn below the Pennines who crept into
Nicholas' room at night to steal from his bag, was caught by him,
stripped as bare as the day he was born and tied to the pump in his
courtyard for the rest of the night until he was found there by the
maids in the morning purple with cold.

In these and all else Gilbert Armstrong showed admirable common
sense, anticipating Nicholas in his own ideas about everything.  He
thought, as all true Englishmen thought, that no foreigner was
worth a plate of pease, that everything the Queen did was right.
What pleased him about the Queen was that she took her people into
her confidence, that she talked to them as though she were their
own brother or sister.  He liked the way that she boxed the ears
and pulled the noses of her courtiers and bishops.  He liked her
for her tempers and meannesses and flirtations and sudden
generosities.  He liked her because she was always a Queen and yet
she was a common human being as well.  He neither knew nor cared
whether she was truly a virgin or no, whether she had been to bed
with Robert Dudley or no.  That always seemed to him a woman's own
business.  He asked Nicholas why it was that he and his brother had
not sought service at Court.  Surely no one in the realm would make
so splendid a Queen's Pensioner as Nicholas!  Gilbert always asked
questions directly, with no apologies for possible impertinences.
He spoke as man to man.

'The Court?' asked Nicholas.  'What would I do with the Court?  My
brother possibly.  Can you see ME twiddling my thumbs and bending
my buttocks, and remembering my Latin tags and telling the Queen,
with her black teeth and the rest, that I sigh my heart out to go
to bed with her?  God forgive me, I mean nothing against Her
Majesty, at whose nod I'd fight the whole of Spain if need be--but
I'm no courtier, Gilbert.  Fine clothes sit ill on my big body, my
tongue's too clumsy for compliments.  It's a game you must play,
the Court game, with smiles for your enemy, and down on your hams
to those you despise, and waiting in corridors and whispering for
advancement.

'What I like, Gilbert, is an adventure like this--riding Juno on a
fair road with all the world around you, three days and nights in
that strange little town where you live and then back home again.
I MUST be on the move, exercising my body and speaking to men I can
trust and being friendly with women.'

'What do you think of the Roman religion?' Gilbert asked.

'Why, I think very evilly of it because it conspires against the
Queen.'

'Do you think, Mr. Herries, there's another world besides this
one?'

'I don't bother my head about it.  Time enough when we get there.'
But he sighed.  He was thinking, as he always was, of Robin.

Gilbert interested Nicholas greatly with all that he had to say
about the country life as he had found it.  He spoke strongly and
rather scornfully of the 'new gentlemen' who were rising
everywhere.  Almost anyone now, by a little usury and cheating,
could bear the charges of a gentleman, could have a coat of arms,
and then be called 'master' with the title 'esquire.'  And with
them were the new 'yeomen' who were farmers of their own holdings
but also farmed the squire's land, kept servants and grew rich.
'The new rich' were in fact the subject of Gilbert's strong
disgust.  Nicholas thought of his Uncle Henry.  He mentioned him.

'You had come to town on his business?'

'Yes, he has purchased some interest in the Newlands mine.  Under
the Queen of course.  But then he's of a fine family.  That's
another matter.'

'There's none of our family ever been wealthy before,' Nicholas
said.

'I have no belief in money,' Gilbert said, 'nor in great
possessions.  I will have a little house and a good horse, and my
sons shall make their own way.'

'You will be married then?' Nicholas asked him.

'When the day comes.  But I will have my freedom first.'

He complained that everywhere in England now they must be building,
so that all the trees were cut down and the beautiful forests and
wild life disappearing.  He had no liking either for those new-
fangled chimneys that everyone must be putting up, and thought that
they gave men colds and rheumatism.  Smoke hardened both timbers
and men, keeping colds away.

But his principal and most vehement complaint was against the
bodgers and loaders.  The bodgers bought up all the stocks of corn
and then raised the price so that the poor man could not buy his
weekly needs.  Already the land was taken from the poor man who had
once, under the monasteries, in the good old days, enjoyed free use
of it.  And the bodgers were terrible men, he said, practising
every kind of deceit.  They kept the corn until it was musty, and
then the poor man was forced to buy it and died of the plague.
There were altogether too many dealers, and as there were no
standard weights and measures, these dealers bought by the larger
measure and sold by the smaller one.

In fact Gilbert did not like this new world that was springing up
about him.  England would soon be covered with houses and the
middleman would make all the profit and country life would be
spoilt.  These carriages and coaches that were just coming in would
make it so that you would have no peace any more and could not keep
yourself safe from strangers.  It was a noisy, cheap, common new
world, and money was the only thing that mattered.

As to himself, he told Nicholas that he was the only son of his
mother, a widow.  His father had been a Cumbrian farmer who had
been killed resisting Scottish raiders near Carlisle.  His mother
was of better birth, coming from a good Devon family--not that he
was ashamed of his father's family.  He was prouder of it than
anything.  His mother, an old lady of over sixty years, lived in a
little house outside Keswick.

Nicholas felt once again the strange elation that he had known
before as they rode over from Penrith.  It was midway through the
winter afternoon and the hills in the distance had a faint haze of
sun upon their tops.  Below them it was dark and the sky above them
was black.  Only this line of sunlight caught the heads of the
hills, which were without snow, but seemed to tremble between the
two darknesses as though showing their pleasure at the unexpected
light.

They pulled in their horses for the moment and looked down at the
Lake that was more faintly dark than the surrounding valley.  The
silence was so intense that they did not themselves speak.  Any
sound seemed like a desecration.

Nicholas slept at the inn, where he was greeted like an old friend.
He was determined not, on this occasion, to visit his uncle.  He
had but three days to spend and they should be all his own.

In the morning of the following day they rode over to Newlands.
When they had come down the little path and turned into the valley
they were almost surrounded by hills.  A thin rain was falling, a
caressing rather than an unpleasant rain.  With a breeze behind it
the texture of the rain was like a curtain, and the clouds seemed
to move with it so that there was constant stirring in the sky, and
the hills seemed to shift with the sky.  The bleating of sheep, the
running of a stream, filled this little enclosed world with sound
and with freshness.  Life was everywhere, and an important life.
Feeling that, you lost the strained insistence of your own
personality.  You were part of something larger than yourself.

As they rode slowly up the valley Nicholas saw that in the sky,
through the rain, a circumference of pale gold was forming.  Across
this, sweeps of vaporous grey cloud were driving, but the gold grew
ever more tensely powerful, and phantom sheets of light, as though
thrown by a sun infinitely distant, spread affectionately upon the
shoulders of the hills.  The rain still sheeted the air, but in the
valley there was a reflected glow as though from a conflagration
many miles away.  It was against this rain-driven iridescence that
he saw men standing, buildings behind them and a mountain peaked
like a horn (or so in that light it seemed) above them.

By some trick of light these men appeared gigantic: they were
inhuman guardians of some protected sacred territory.  Then,
closely approached, they diminished, and, at that same moment, the
sun broke through in the sky, a round disc of pale glowing white,
and on the fell-side there sprang forward a stretch of crying green
brighter than glass.

Nicholas stayed Juno, jumped off, let her nuzzle against his chest
and waited.

Two of the men started forward and Gilbert Armstrong went to meet
them.  They shook hands, and then stood, apparently gazing at
Nicholas.  They told him afterwards that he also appeared to them a
gigantic figure and, because of the rain and the shifting light,
seemed to move in the air.

They met and Armstrong introduced them.  One of them was called
Christian Beck; the other, Hans Opperer.  Beck was a tall wiry man
with a rugged skin and large rough hands.  He looked like the
branch of a tree.  Opperer was stout and jolly, very German in
appearance, with a heavy black beard.  They both spoke English but
with a strong accent.

They all stood there as though they were never going to move again.
There was something exceedingly solid about the two Germans, their
feet were planted deep into the soil.  They knew Armstrong well,
but Nicholas felt that they were suspicious of himself; they must
make quite sure of him before they moved back to the mine.  What
they seemed to be asking was: why was he there? what purpose had
he?

'I will wait here if you wish,' he said, 'until my friend has done
his business with you.'

'Nein, nein,' Opperer answered in a deep guttural voice.  But after
that he stood grinning, without, it seemed, any intention of
moving.

'My uncle in London,' Nicholas said, 'has some new business in the
mines here, but I myself am no man of business.  I came from London
with my friend here because I wanted fresh air and to be away from
London for some days.'

'That is a beautiful horse,' Beck said solemnly.

Nicholas was delighted.  He beamed like a boy.  'Come and see her.
She is the finest mare in England.'

Beck came to Juno and felt her quarters and looked at her mouth and
stroked her back in the way of a man who knew about horses, while
Juno submitted patiently, turning her beautiful eyes to her master,
as much as to say:  'You are here so this is permitted, but I would
prefer that too many do not touch me.'

Beck looked at Nicholas and smiled.  His voice had now quite a
different tone.

'Come,' he said simply.

When they reached the mines they were in a world of bustle and
noise.  Men were everywhere, moving like ghosts in the wet mist.
There was one long, stoutly-built house of one storey; there were a
number of smaller buildings.  A load of wood was being dragged on a
wheeled stretcher.  Everywhere there was the noise of creaking
ropes and pulleys.  Near by was a smelt-house and there was a
rhythmic, strong beat from a smithy at the brow of the hill.  Two
men, in a superior dress, were standing a little way off trying the
'streak' on the touchstone; a cart moved past them loaded with
lime, and in the further distance men were busy piling slate.

Everywhere movement and intense energy, as though this were a
little world all of its own, altogether unconscious of the outer
world, superior to it.

'Come in out of the rain, sir,' the stout Opperer said, and
Nicholas followed him into one of the smaller houses.

When he entered he was surprised by its comfort.  The roof was
lined with netting, and this, Opperer explained, was to keep out
the bats who could be a trouble at night-time.  The room was smoky
and close, but that was what Nicholas was accustomed to.  There was
a broad, strong table, a handsome carved settle, two chairs and
some stools.  On to one wall was pinned a highly coloured picture
of some foreign town.

Opperer motioned Nicholas to the chair and sat down with Armstrong
on the settle while Beck went to bring the wine.  They were silent
for a time.  Beck returned with Malvoisie, Muscatel and Rhenish and
a large half-consumed cold pie.

They drank one another's health.  Two other men came in and were
introduced; one, a little mousy man, was Hans Dieneck.  The other
was a big-chested rather self-important fellow in a rich brown
fustian suit with a thin gold chain round his neck.  This was the
foreman, Hans Hring.

Nicholas, who was intensely interested, asked innumerable
questions.

'Are you making a good thing of this?'

'A very good thing, Mr. Herries--or we shall do if we are given our
rights.'

The Queen's personality hung above them all; she interpenetrated
their daily lives as she interpenetrated the lives of every man,
woman and child in England.  You saw her standing in the doorway of
that room--her carroty hair, her pale bony face with the sharp
eyes, the intense, severe, but human mouth, the high ruff, the
jewels, the thin active fingers.

'If too many gentlemen in London haven't their fingers in our pie.'

'How long have you been here?'

'It started in '64.  A contract was made then between the Queen,
Thomas Thurland, and our master Daniel Hochstetter.  The Queen is
to have one-tenth of the gold and silver and a royalty on the other
metals.'

'Gold and silver?'  Nicholas leaned forward eagerly.  'Have you
found much of it?'

'No, sir.'  Opperer grinned through his beard.  'Very little.
Copper's the thing.'

'Under what system do you work it?  Is this a good mine here in
Newlands?'

'Gottesgab?  The best.  The best of them all.  There are three
sorts of miners--the Arbeiter, the day labourers, and the Geding,
bargain or contract workers, and the Lehrenschaften, men who choose
their own place, hew at their own pleasure and are paid a
percentage on the ore's value.'

'Have the people of the place been friendly?'

Opperer grinned again.

'There was some trouble at the beginning.  Not much though.  We are
peaceful folk and the Keswick men soon found that we meant no harm.
More than half of us have married Keswick women and they make good
wives.'

The foreman spoke for the first time.  He was a pompous man with
much humming and hawing.

'They see now that these mines mean much profit for them.  The life
of the whole district is changed.  They have more money to spend
than ever before.'

Beck broke in excitedly:

'And we have bought an island--Vicar's Island on the Lake.  It was
a ruin when we purchased it, one little tumbled house and the land
covered with growth.  We are clearing it now and we will build
there and settle.  There is to be a windmill and a brewery and we
shall make a garden.  We bought it for sixty pounds.'

Beck spoke of the island as though it were his own; his eyes shone
and his hands trembled.

'Do your wives and families not live with you?'

'Of course, sir.  We have our homes in and around Keswick.
Sometimes when there is much work at Gottesgab they come out to us
for the night.  This evening some of them are coming.'

Opperer, who seemed to have taken a liking to Nicholas, said:

'You should stay with us here to-night, Mr. Herries, and see how it
is.  We have music and dancing as we have at home.'

Nicholas slapped his knee.  'Indeed I will, if you wish me to.  I
like it here.  I could be a miner myself.'

The wine had warmed all their hearts and they soon began to talk
very sentimentally of their own homes in Germany, the bright houses
with the painted eaves, the running rivers, broad and strong, the
meadows in the winter flooded for skating, the festivals and, above
all, the music.  They were hungry here for music and for sun.

'Your English climate is good, but the sun never shines.  It comes
for a moment and then hides its head as though ashamed.'

But they liked the North of England people.  They had much in
common with themselves.  They were slow and cautious and waited to
see how a man was before they trusted him.  But they could
themselves be trusted.  They made good friends when you knew them.

Finally, first and last, there was the Queen.  They were eager to
know whether Nicholas had met and spoken with her, and when he said
that he had, and that he had seen her smack the cheek of a courtier
so that her rings cut his flesh, and seen her with tears in her
eyes because some old man had bent to kiss her hand and fainted
with the emotion of it, and seen her smile at the crowd as she left
her barge and take a child by the hand and stroke its hair, all
this delighted them.  She was the greatest woman in the world and,
'Almaynes' though they were, it was for her they were working
always.  Would she but send them a message one day!  Ah! that would
be something!  Perhaps Mr. Herries, when he returned to London,
could have a suggestion conveyed to her that she should write them
a letter.

Even the pompous Mr. Hring drank her health in the excellent
Rhenish.  They all stood up with him and shouted:

'Her Majesty the Queen!'

Later Opperer said:  'See where we sleep.'  He took Nicholas' arm
and they went into the long low building.  The early afternoon had
brought a pale thin wash of sun to all the valley.  The sunlight
was cold but tender.  Inside the building was a kind of dormitory
with some thirty stuffed couches and a deep-red figured curtain
drawn across one end.

'It's behind this the women sleep when they come.'

Some dozen naked men were sprawled asleep--night workers.

'Now I must go on my business,' Opperer said.  'I have much to do.
Soon if you watch you will see the women coming up the valley.  To-
night we will have songs and we'll dance.'

He looked at Nicholas, pulling his black beard, his eyes twinkling.
He laid his hand against Nicholas' neck.  His eyes were filled with
friendly kindliness.

'You are as proper a young man as I have ever seen.  Yes, even in
my own country.'  He held out his hand.  'If I am familiar, Mr.
Herries, tell me so.  I am not a man of fine manners.  But I am a
true Bavarian and such are worthy of any good man's friendship.'

Nicholas gripped his hand.

'Friends we are, Hans Opperer.'



Nicholas stood looking out across the valley.  Gilbert Armstrong
came to say farewell.  He must stay the night with his old mother
or there would be trouble.  He suggested that, on the following
morning, he should take Nicholas to see the island.  At a distance
he turned on his horse and waved his hand.

Nicholas standing, his legs straddling, thought:  'I've made two
friends.'  He was greatly pleased.  Friendship to men of his time
was as important as love and had in it often a romantic emotional
quality, something perhaps of the old Greek spirit of mutual love
and care growing up through common hardship and sacrifice.
Nicholas was young and liked definite relationships, as again was
the manner of his time.  Friends or enemies--there was some hot
stirring of the blood in all his doings: love, friendship, play,
work; love of women, love of friends, love of home and relations,
love of country, love of danger, love of new experience--it was all
ardour and fire for life.  He must live: every minute of the day he
must live.  He swallowed new experience as a dog swallows meat.

Now, once more, he felt this consciousness that new life was
pouring into his veins.  Something unusual was occurring to him so
that already this dying year seemed to him the most important he
had known.

'What is it?' he thought.  'What was it I felt first a year ago,
when I saw the man on the moor, and only now, the other night, in
my uncle's house, when I saw Irvine's face in the mirror?  What is
it?  Am I in love?  If so, with whom?  Am I sickening for the
plague perhaps?  Are spirits warning me of some great event?'

But he was never introspective.  He could never think a thing out.
He shook his great head and swung his great legs and knew that he
was happy with a fine fiery sense of living.  He knew that he loved
this North country, this valley, these miners; soon there would be
girls and women dancing.  But these men were real men, living a
hard life, their muscles taut, their arms straining; sleeping, when
the moment came, as he had seen them in there, drunk with
weariness, abandoning their strong bodies to the luxury of full
absolute emotions, as he abandoned his.

He stretched his arms, grunted, and found a man at his side.  This
man was perhaps thirty years of age, bare-headed, his hair very
flaxen, strong, thick-set, short.  He had a handsome, square,
strong-jawed face but his expression was surly.  They talked a
little and the man was as though he were challenging Nicholas for
his right to be there.  He sniffed at Nicholas as one dog sniffs at
another.  Nicholas explained how and why he was there.  The man
told him his name--Joris Fisher.  He was an Englishman working at
Gottesgab.  His work was finished for the day and he was now clean
and in a good dark green doublet and hose.  He was waiting, he
explained, for the women coming in from Keswick.

'It's not often,' he said at last, 'we have strangers around here.'

'Nor do you like them,' Nicholas said, laughing, 'when they do
come, Mr. Fisher.'

'That's as may be.  But you'll be returning to London?'

'Who knows?'  Nicholas went on teasing him.  'I shall see how these
girls may be.'

Joris Fisher's face flushed.

'A gentleman from London has an advantage.'

'Do you think so?  We shall see.'

And the time was not to be long, for now up the cool dusky valley
(the sun having sunk into a bank of watery cloud) horses could be
seen with women on them, and presently the women could be heard
laughing and one of them singing.

When they were near, two or three of them waved their hands and
several men ran towards them.  When they were close Nicholas saw
that one of them was the girl he had kissed a year ago in Keswick,
Catherine Hodstetter.

She was sitting on a little horse, her back straight, her yellow
hair coiled on top of her hatless head.  Her dress was the gold-
yellow of her hair, the stuff printed with little red and brown and
white flowers.  She saw Nicholas and of course at once recognized
him.  Who, having seen him, would ever forget him?  She gave him
one straight look with her bright blue eyes.

He saw then that Joris Fisher was already at her horse's head.  She
did not allow him to assist her but sprang to the ground.

'Ah, so that's the way it is,' Nicholas thought.  Now Opperer and
Beck had joined the party.  Their wives had come and were
introduced to Nicholas.  Catherine Hodstetter was introduced to
him.  He bowed and took her hand for an instant.  He was introduced
to Mistress Hodstetter, Catherine's mother.  Here was a strange
woman indeed!  She might have been Catherine's elder sister; she
was slim and tall with hair so pale as to be almost white.  She
wore a grey silk gown with a little cloak of red.  All this was
ordinary enough.  What was there then that was strange?  Her face
was long, thin, sharply pointed and very pale.  Her eyes were grey
and deep.  They looked into you, through you, beyond you.  She was
remote as though she were thinking of other things.  For a moment
the four were in a group together: Nicholas, Fisher, Catherine and
her mother.  Nicholas had an unpleasant feeling about Mistress
Hodstetter.  She made him wish to be safe and comfortable within
doors.



The table was laden with food and drink.  A great fire burnt on the
level hearth at the room end and the grey smoke went curling in
woolly curves about the room.  It was stifling and hot, but no one
cared because they were accustomed to it.  The table was cleared
away and they began to dance to the music of an old scruffy man,
hairy like a monkey, who played well on the violin, and a young man
with a flute.  There were perhaps thirty men and women.  They sang
as they danced in and out, round and round, stamping with their
feet.  They moved in a circle changing partners, and when the music
altered its tune they stopped and every man kissed the woman he was
with.

Nicholas danced with everyone except Catherine.  He liked Mistress
Beck, a jolly, apple-dumpling woman who kissed him with a great
smack of the lips.  She had a coarse and merry tongue and said that
any woman in his arms would be lost, not know where she was, he was
so large.

'I'd be her guide,' said Nicholas.

'Fancy a great London gentleman like you honouring us poor folks.'

'Mine's the honour,' said Nicholas.  'Hasn't it been strange to
marry a German?' he asked.

'Germans are made just like other men,' she said, laughing.

'Have you children?'

'One at present--a daughter, Urwyn--born last year.'

'And what will SHE be--a little German or a little Cumbrian?'

'I'm a Bewley,' she said, as though she'd said 'I'm a Howard'--'And
Bewleys are always Bewleys.'

'And are not Becks always Becks?'

'He is half a Bewley already.'

And at last Nicholas had the information he was seeking.  He sat
with Hans Opperer drinking on the settle near the fire and watched
the dancing.

'Now that's a fine girl,' he said to Opperer carelessly.

'Which girl?'

'The one with the yellow hair and the broad back--with the flowers
on her clothes.'

'Yes,' said Opperer, his beard deep in his drinking-mug.  He looked
up and wiped his black beard.  'That is Catherine--Catherine
Hodstetter.'

'Her father works in the mines?'

'She has no father.'

'That was her mother who came with her--standing now alone by the
door?'

Opperer grinned.  'Yes.  You seem to take notice of her, Mr.
Herries.'

Nicholas said:  'I notice every woman--and so do you, I wager.'

Opperer's gaze into the room was suddenly serious.

'Her situation is a sad one.  She came with her father and mother
here three years back.  Six months later, Hodstetter was found
drowned in the Lake by Portinskill--a little place outside
Keswick.'

'That was a misfortune, but--'

'Yes.  They say that her mother is a witch.'

'A witch?' Nicholas, horrified, repeated.

'They say so.  They say Mistress Hodstetter contrived her man's
death.  You know what country people are.  And I am not myself
certain.  Catherine's mother is not as other women.  She is learned
and goes into the country gathering herbs.  They say she can heal
any sickness.'  He dropped his voice.  'They say she has been seen
naked at night dancing at the Druids' Circle.  There is great fear
because of her.  This makes it a lonely life for Catherine, who is
a good girl.'

Nicholas said nothing.  He believed in witches and spells.  His
very soul trembled and, with that, he wished to rise and put his
arm around Catherine and protect her.  He watched her.  She
appeared happy enough.  She danced with a grace and lightness that
was remarkable in anyone of her strong vigorous frame, and when the
dancers paused and all together sang a chorus, she lifted up her
face, her eyes shining in a happy pleasure, and sang like a bird on
a tree.

Joris Fisher was clearly her courtier; he danced with her a number
of times and always his set, sulky face commanded hers.  He spoke
not at all, but when his arm was about her waist he held her as
though he possessed her against the world.

In a pause while everyone was drinking and cracking chicken bones
with their fingers and throwing marchpane into open grinning
mouths, and the old monkey-man dreamily fondling the strings of his
violin and the smoke turning faces into a ribald mist, Nicholas saw
that she stood alone by the door.  Then she slipped out.

He crossed the floor unnoticed and slipped out after her.  She was
alone, with the valley seethed in mist below her, while a moon,
gold, on its back, lay in a sky of frosted milk: soft, white, with
only this shred of gold, but the crisp of frost curling the breath,
stiffening the rough ragged soil at their feet.

It seemed that she had expected him, for she turned at sight of the
great shadow that he flung from the lighted door behind him and
said:

'I knew that one day you would come back.'

He did not touch her.

'You remembered it then?'

Her hands were folded behind her lifted head.  She was gazing at
the gold moon-slip.

'Oh, I remember many things.  You are larger than most men.'

He came nearer to her so that the stiff shoulder of his doublet
touched her sleeve.

'It's very cold.  Is there nowhere we can go?'

She gave him her hand, smiling.

'Of course.'

She led him a little way up the hill until the first brow where
there was the smithy.  They went in and closed the door behind
them.  Stumbling, he found some straw, very friendly with the smell
of horses.  He lay down in it and at once she was folded on to him,
in his arms.  There was a thick frothy moonlight from the window.
They kissed many times.  Her cheek lay against his.  Her hand on
his heart felt a tumultuous deep beating.  He laid his hand gently
on her breast and then began, with great delicacy, to undo the
buttons of her dress.

Herself as gently as he, she stayed his hand.

'I loved you from the first moment I saw you in Keswick.  But we
shall never be lovers--never, never, never.'

She said these last words with an infinity of sadness and, to his
great surprise, he found that she was crying.  Tears fell upon his
palm.  This roused him to a violent passion.  He would have
betrayed himself and her had it not been that she offered neither
resistance nor response.  His hand stayed on her uncovered breast.
He allowed her to rise and arrange herself, coiling up the hair
that had come uncoiled, fastening the buttons.  He saw her as a dim
aureoled shadow in the moonlight.

He sat up on the straw, staring at her.

'It is for longer then,' he said at last, 'than a moment.'

'For me it is for so long that it will never end.  But for you, I
am sure, only one girl more.'

She suddenly knelt down, catching his hand in hers.

'We must not stay here.  They will already wonder where you are.'

She put up her hand to his cheek.

'You must understand that I am separate from everyone.  My mother
and I are outside all happiness, all real friendliness, and I think
that our end will be very unfortunate.  You are a gentleman and to-
morrow you will go and never think of me again.  But you have
kissed me and held me in your arms, and that is as much good
fortune, I expect, as I shall ever have in my life.'

'How is this then?' Nicholas said quickly.  'How many hundreds of
girls I have kissed I don't know--kissed and forgotten.  A year ago
I kissed you for one moment and rode out of Keswick.  A year later
in a room with mirrors and candles I see a man of your country and
the first thing I ask him is, "Do you know Catherine Hodstetter?"
And the next day I ride North to find you.'

She caught him up.  'A long room with mirrors and candles and two
men are wrestling on a table.  You look in the mirrors for
someone's face--'  She seemed ashamed.  'I saw it all.  My mother
showed me . . . she has a power . . . she knew you would be here.'

'Then,' he cried eagerly, holding her once again tightly in his
arms, 'we are bound.  In some way we are bound.  Listen, I am here
to-morrow.  We will ride into the hills--'

She struggled a little and, once more to his own surprise, he
released her.

She kneeled towards him, placed her hand on his heart inside the
doublet.  With her other hand drew his head down, and kissed his
forehead, his eyes, his mouth.  Then she slipped out of the door.
When he followed her he saw only the mist stirring like water in
the valley and the thin moon like a boat in the sky.

When he went into the shouting, smoking, drunken room she was not
there, nor her mother.

Nor did he see her on the following day.



IN A HOUSE OF LIGHT AND DANGER


Robin Herries closed the heavy door behind him and knew, with
intense relief, that he had made no sound.  From the scented lawn
he could hear the boy's voice singing:


     Ah! my heart, ah!  What aileth thee
     To set so light my liberty,
     Making me bond when I was free?
     Ah! my heart, ah!  What aileth thee?

     When thou wert rid from all distress,
     Void of all pain and pensiveness,
     To choose again a new mistress,
     Ah! my heart, ah!  What aileth thee?

     When thou wert well, thou could not hold;
     To turn again, that were too bold.
     There's to renew my sorrows old,
     Ah! my heart, ah!  What aileth thee?


The voice was like a thin rapier of sharp and margined light
cutting across the green lower sky.  He could see this lower sky
through the open mullioned window that looked out from the passage
where he was standing.

They were all seated out there on the lawn to watch the sun sink
above the formal clipped hedges.  In his mind's eye he could see it
all, so close to him and so dangerous: the oak table with the wine
and fruit and comfits, his mother in the high carved chair, the
others standing or seated on cushions on the grass--Sir Michael and
Henry Herries, their old quarrel now composed, Nicholas, his aunt,
Philip Irvine, the scornful Falk, Charles Lacey, Robert Rockage,
Edward and Sidney Herries, the unpleasant Phineas, and--Sylvia.

The boy's voice came again, as though it had some personal message
for him:


     I hoped full well all had been done,
     But now my hope is ta'en and won,
     To my torment to yield so soon,
     Ah! my heart, ah!  What aileth thee?


The voice ceased.  There was applause, hand-clapping, laughter.

Robin moved softly to the outer door.  He was in the narrow rough-
stoned passage that led from the main hall to the buttery.  He knew
that the servants were busied in the dining-hall preparing for the
dancing that would follow when they were weary of sitting on the
lawn.  Nevertheless at any moment a servant might appear.  What was
he to do?

Ten minutes ago he had been standing a little back from the table
near one of the box-hedges, watching Sylvia Herries, amused by the
self-importance of his Uncle Henry, absorbing delightedly the
scents from the neighbouring hay-field and the stocks and the
pinks, hearing the plash from the fountain falling through the
summer air, itself a song, never for an instant losing the sight
and movement of his beloved child who sat, with so grave and
dignified an air, watching the singer--all this as though a moment
of his life had crystallized like a globe of diamond lustre hanging
against that perfect sunny evening sky--when he felt his arm
touched.

He turned, and there, behind the box-hedge, was a yokel, his
clothes soiled, his face grimed with dust and sweat, in a yokel's
large country hat.  This man had the countenance of Anthony
Pierson.  Robin whispered his name.  The other nodded and huskily
answered:  'We are in peril.  Open the back door for us--by the
yard.'

He had glanced at the group preoccupied by the singing, heard, as
though it were a farewell, the thin lute and the clear voice,
skirted the lawn, entered the house and slipped to the stone
passage.

Even then, before he opened the door into the yard, his hand
paused.  This was the first time ever that Anthony had asked his
help.  Anthony was his friend for whom he cared more than anyone in
the world save Sylvia and Nicholas.  But this was his own home, the
home of his father and mother, sacred soil.  To conceal Catholic
priests there would engage them all in the gravest of dangers.
They would be liable to the law as he would be.  The penalties were
fearful.  Nor was he himself a Catholic.

They could not have chosen a worse time for their coming.  The
house was filled with guests.  Irvine hated him and his brother;
Phineas Thatcher, a Puritan and his uncle's man, was as mean and
spying a creature as you could find.  And yet . . .  And yet . . .
Anthony was his friend and as noble a man as Robin had ever known.

Very, very softly he unlatched the door.  Two figures were standing
there.

'Come in,' Robin whispered.  'Quickly.  Quickly.'  They slipped
inside.



He had spent the better part of that afternoon away from the
others, not out of sight, ready for any duty, most agreeable and
friendly with his eager, rather shy smile, if anyone wanted him--
but yet apart.

He had found in himself, ever since that meeting with Sylvia at the
masked ball, an increased preoccupation with his own lovely world,
the world of Utopia, of the golden-sanded shore beyond the sea, the
world of the bright pavilions of God.  'They acknowledge God to be
the author and governor of the world, and the fountain of all the
good that they receive: for which they offer up their thanksgivings
to Him, and, in particular, they bless Him for His goodness in
ordering it so that they are born under a Government that is the
happiest in the world and are of a religion that they hope is the
truest of all others; but, if they are mistaken, and if there is
either a better government or a religion more acceptable to God,
they implore His goodness to let them know it, vowing that they
resolve to follow Him whithersoever He leads them. . . .'

So wrote his beloved Sir Thomas More of the Utopians . . . 'if
there is either a better government or a religion more acceptable
to God . . .'  Somewhere, Robin knew, there were both a better
government and a better religion--but where?  Could Anthony Pierson
show it him?  Or his young child friend Philip Sidney?  Did his
uncle and aunt with their complacent common-sense business air know
of it?  Did his father and mother know of it?  Did his beloved
Nicholas?

And he realized, as have so many of his kind, before him and after
him, that the majority of his fellow-men cared for none of these
things--but had enough to do to follow their daily business of
work, food and drink, copulation and fighting.

Of the minority who DID so care, the most were fanatics, demanding
the rack, the thumbscrew, the fire, for all who did not bow to the
altar, turn last or not, swear by transubstantiation as they
themselves did.

Robin was most certainly not as these.  He was a Middleman, a
Facing-both-ways in that he wanted a Utopia of friendly happy
people, free to worship God as they would, free of speech, free of
habit, tolerant and tolerating.

Yet this did not altogether go with the mystical spirit that would
never let him quiet.  When Anthony Pierson spoke to him with such
confidence and certainty, his eyes burning with delight that he
could surrender himself so completely to the rules of his Order and
be ready to be racked and burned if so commanded, then something
stirred in Robin, something fiercer than his longing for any
gentle, sweet Utopia.  There WAS a better world just beyond sight
and, when he found it, it might order him to a sterner, more
violent sacrifice.  He did not know.  He was increasingly at war
with himself.



To all this tapestry his sudden love for Sylvia Herries had only
added fresh blazing strands of colour.  He had seen her some half-
dozen times since that first meeting.  Although at seventeen girls
were mature and ready for marriage Sylvia was not.  She had been
kept quietly at home so that, when she did at last make her
appearance, all the world might wonder.  And so, in this year 1571,
all the world DID wonder!  It was the fashion to admire tall women
and Sylvia Herries was not tall.  Women must be learned and be able
to make fine Latin speeches like their Queen.  Sylvia was not
clever at books and had a very poor knowledge of Latin and Greek.
Young women of fashion must have conceits at their finger-ends, be
able to cap verses, at an instant's notice, with young men like
Rockage or Lacey.  Sylvia had no power at all for capping verses
and did not understand them when capped.  Young women of that day
to be popular must be coquettish, know everything about men, how to
capture them, how to tease them when captured, how to let them go,
how to call them back again.  Sylvia could not coquette, could not
tease, could not dissemble.  There was something childish and
tender and honest about her that would perhaps never be eradicated.

It was this very simplicity and childlikeness that won her favour.
It seemed so queer and unlikely a thing to come out of that money-
making sharp advantage-eyed family.  It appeared scarcely possible
that she was the child of Henry Herries and the half-sister of
Edward and Sidney.

'Mercury,' Charles Lacey said, 'having one day nothing better to do
picked a daisy to give, on his return to Olympus, to the wife of
Jupiter.  She is weary of ropes of pearls, thick bars of amethyst
and diamonds like hen's eggs.  But, seeing a swan in flight,
Mercury pursued it and dropped the daisy, which did not wither and
die, as nature intended, but took new life from the tender grasses
and the morning dew--so Sylvia was born.'

Very pretty.  He told it to Sylvia, who did not understand a word
of it.  She understood very quickly, however, that her cousin Robin
was in love with her.

She had understood it on that first night.

He did not know what she herself felt.  She was still such a child
that it seemed a wicked thing to press her to any acknowledgment.
He felt a perfect happy comradeship when he was with her and he
thought that she felt that too when she was with him.

He did not wish to touch her or even to speak to her.  There was
something in his nature that found things a little more perfect
while they were still a way off.  He was quite happy, as now, to be
lying his length on the grass, listening to the nonsense that
Arabella Lacey, Charles' sister, was saying to Rockage, to watch
amusedly Nicholas' extreme solemnity as the head gardener, a long
lanky creature with tow hair (but a marvellous gardener), came and
spoke to him (for was not Nicholas bull in his own paddock now?),
to listen to the reapers singing from the meadow, to stare,
bemusedly, as though all his life he had stared at the shapes of
the hedges, the ship, the peacocks, the old man with the beard, the
crowing cock.

Then Nicholas came and threw his gigantic bulk on the grass beside
him.

'Well, old lad, of what are you thinking this lovely day?'

'I was listening to Arabella's nonsense' (her shrill clear voice
broke across the air:  'But that is not enough.  If Leda preferred
a swan to all other fowl and Ganymede cried for a pricked finger,
why, I'll wager my shoes with the black pearls against your gold
chain, Robert, that Jupiter was so vexed at his negligence, that,
wearying of Leda, he baked comfits for Ganymede and . . .'), 'to
the pleasant reapers and admiring your own self-importance--'

'Nothing else?' Nicholas smiled.  'It's pleasant here, but--heigh-
ho!--shall I endure it while Grenville is finding pearls like grain
in a cornfield and bags of gold under every Spaniard's bed and--'

Robin broke in--to his own surprise quite hotly.  'Something is
happening to this country.  We are growing greedy for money.  All
these tales of treasure snatched from the Spaniards and cities in
America built of gold--our thoughts bite on nothing but these and
how much we can take that doesn't belong to us.  Why, the Queen
herself--'

Nicholas laid his big brown hand on his brother's thigh.

'Hist!  Take care of the creeping Thatcher.  He has a thousand ears
and he hates us.'  He drew nearer to his brother, laying his arm
about his neck.

'There is another thing, Robin.  I am in love.'

'Yes,' Robin said.  'Nor for the first time.'

'But this is different.  It is a girl I have seen twice, kissed
twice, been with but a quarter of an hour in all.'

'Had you been with her longer,' Robin said, 'you would not now be
in love with her.'

'Maybe,' Nicholas said.

In all these months he had told his brother nothing of his Northern
adventure.  He had spoken to no living soul of it.  He told Robin
now, his face almost in the grass, biting the cold blades between
his lips.  He did not know what had caught him.  He had known a
thousand girls.  He had ridden south, determining to put it
altogether from his mind.  She was only one like another.  And yet
he could not forget her.  Something within him was always urging
him to ride north and see her again.  Perhaps she had bewitched
him.  Her mother was a witch.  Or perhaps the North had bewitched
him.  There was something there that he could find nowhere else,
the stinging air, the moving clouds, the bare fells. . . .  He
sighed again.

'I can't rid my mind of her.'

Robin looked at him with concern.  This was unlike Nicholas, who
gave no thought to anything save what was happening at the moment.

Nicholas sat up.  'How I hate him!' he said.  'Oh, how I hate him!'

They both looked at Philip Irvine, who was bending over Sylvia and
teasing her with a wine-coloured carnation.

Robin considered.  'It is his vanity,' he said at last.  'I have
never known any man so vain.  His vanity is so deep that it is
seated in his spleen.  He does verily believe that for wisdom he
exceeds Burghley; for charm, our Philip Sidney; for bravery,
Hawkins; for audacity, Drake.  Touch his vanity and he stings like
a snake.  And you must touch it if you touch HIM, for he is all
vanity.'

'He is the only creature in all the world I hate,' Nicholas said,
'for he caused me to betray a naked man.  But it is earlier than
that.  It goes back and it stretches forward.  It stretches
forward, Robin.  Bad work will come of it one day.'

Robin smiled.  'You twist your old head too fiercely.  He is not
worth your hate, for he is not evil but only vain--and vanity is so
easily pricked.'

It was a little after this, when Nicholas left him, that he stood
by the hedge and the boy sang and Pierson touched his shoulder.



The two men slipped in.  The summer evening light was everywhere,
so Robin took them up three steps of the crooked round staircase
that they might stand in the shadow of the bend.  They stood close
to the wall.  The man with Pierson was a thin, burning-eyed man,
with a jutting, dirty chin.  They spoke in whispers.

'Mr. Anstey,' Pierson said.  Robin bowed.  Mr. Anstey raised a
bony, grimy hand in blessing.

'We are in peril of our lives for a bag that Burghley's men have
taken at Salisbury.  I have no time for the story now, but can you
keep us here till morning, Robin?  We rode hoping to be in London
by nightfall, but my horse stumbled and fell in the West Road and
at last we must take to our legs.  We have been disguised from
Salisbury and in the early morning we can get to a safe house in
Southwark.  We were frightened two miles from here at an alehouse
where Anstey recognized one of the Government men.'

He drew Robin for a moment close to him.  'I have always vowed not
to bring you into this, Robin, but we dare not go forward for
several hours.'

Robin said:  'What did they find?'

'Letters from France.  Since the Queen's excommunication everything
has been much harder . . .'  He broke off.  It seemed that he saw
in Robin's eyes some doubt.  He moved a step down.

'I understand, Robin.  You dare not--'

Robin pulled him up the stair again.

'No, no.  It is only that you could not have found a more unhappy
moment.  The house is filled with people and--'

He drew himself in close against the stone, pushing back Anthony
Pierson's stout body with his hand against the wall.  Mr. Anstey
silently climbed two more steps and stood above them in the shadow.

Someone was in the stone passage.  Robin heard the voice of Mellon,
the major-domo, an old, trusted and impertinent servant.

'Knaves!  Knaves and rascals, the lot of them.  As though the rats
had been at the mulberries. . . .'  With that mystical sentence he
began, to Robin's extreme horror, to climb the stair.  Faithful
servant he was and devoted to Robin in his own fashion, having
swaddled and bathed and slapped him, in the proper time, but he was
a chatterer and a gossip and, on his weak day, a wine-bibber.  He
was old now, a skeleton of a man with bent and cracking knees.  So
now he began to climb the stairs, singing sotto voce to himself in
a strangely whispering, whining, tuneless utterance:


    'Sometimes he would gasp
     When he saw a wasp;
     A fly or a gnat,
     He would fly at that;
     And prettily he would pant
     When he saw an ant;
     Lord, how he would pry
     After the butterfly! . . .'


He passed them and then, two steps above Mr. Anstey, paused,
blowing.

'The knaves--the careless bastardy knaves--and my poor knees and
all the company after sunset.  Ah, Crissy, Crissy, 'tis not here at
all but in the buttery. . . .  I put it there myself at noon. . . .'
He started down again, breaking once more into his funny croaking
wail:


    'And when I said "Phip!  Phip!"
     Then he would leap and skip,
     And take me by the lip--'


Then, most lugubriously:


    'When I saw my sparrow die!'


He stopped for a pause exactly opposite Robin, murmuring:  'Aye,
the buttery.  Right-hand second shelf in the buttery,' and so went
down to the stone passage, repeating as he went through the door:


    'When I saw my sparrow die!'


'Quick!  Follow me!' Robin whispered and dashed up to the stair-
head followed by the two priests.

He had the very place, although it increased his own personal
responsibility.  Off his own bedroom there was in the wall a small
closet, larger than a priest's hole, concealed by the wall-painting
of Troilus and Cressida that had hung there ever since he could
remember.  A bare little place and uncomfortable, but for the
occasion it would do.

At the top of the stair a long, narrow passage led to his room, and
inside this, at once he lifted the canvas wall-painting, slid the
panel and showed them the empty place.  Nothing was in it save a
large spider-web hanging from the door to the ceiling.

In a drawer he found some bedding.  'This must do.  And here is a
candle.  It is the most now I can find.'

Pierson kissed him on both cheeks.  Suddenly Anstey clutched the
door with his hand.

'Food,' Pierson whispered.  'If you could manage something.  We
have had nothing since last night.  We could not stay in the
alehouse.'

Robin slid back the panel, dropped the canvas and hurried from the
room.

They were coming into the house as Robin entered the buttery.  He
could see through the window how they formed a sort of procession.
They were singing:


    'Pastime with good company
     I love, and shall, until I die.'


They made a canon of it, Arabella Lacey and Sylvia leading; Charles
Lacey, Rockage and Irvine following; Nicholas lumbering along,
carrying a spade in his hand, and occasionally joining in.  The old
people, his mother, father, uncle and aunt, walked more soberly at
a little distance.  They made a beautiful picture, for the sun's
clear evening rays stroked gently the lawn; green light with motes
dancing in the gold-washed ladders between the hedges.  The colours
of the clothes shone as though freshly minted: Irvine's doublet of
mulberry purple slashed with silver, Rockage in flaming orange,
Arabella in stiff seeded gold and a high white ruff.  Even yet the
reapers could be heard singing, like the murmurs of a stream, from
a distant field.

Very pretty, but he had not time for prettiness.  And indeed he had
not.  For, even as he had in his hands a jug of beer, half a
venison pie, a bread loaf, old Mellon with his wand and chain of
office was standing in the doorway, staring at him.

'Why, Master Robin--'

Robin smiled.

'Mellon, it is for an old man and woman over by the stables.  I
came on them but now and the old woman has a palsy--she shakes till
her head rolls--and the old man but one hand. . . .  I'll bring
them some money from my room. . . .'

He brushed past Mellon and ran up the stone staircase, while the
old man looked about him muttering:  'But the venison--the parsley
venison.'

It could not be helped, and it was, on the moment, a stupid answer,
for the old man might send to the stables to see where the vagrants
had got to--the old fool was a garrulous talker and there was
always the long-eared, thin, bitter shadow of Phineas Thatcher
around the corner.  Still, he had not the time to consider.  He
slid the panel and looked in to find Anthony standing against the
wall and the priest Anstey lying on the bedding soaked in sleep.

Anthony eagerly took the food and drink from him, had a draught of
the beer, tore a hunch off the pie and the loaf, greedily ate and
drank.  While he did so he dragged Robin down on to the end of the
bedding and, his mouth full, put his arms round Robin's neck,
holding him tightly to him.  Then, clasping his hand, he began in a
hurried, excited whisper:

'Oh, forgive me, forgive me.  I had no right to come here nor to
bring him with me. . . .  Hist!  What was that?  Down!  Close--
against me!'  They stayed pressed together, scarcely breathing.
Someone had come into the room, steps moved, hesitated.  Then the
whining voice of old Mellon was heard:  'Master Robin!  Master
Robin! . . .'  Then the steps died away.

'Tiresome old fool!'

'Yes,' Anthony whispered.  'I must not keep you or they'll be up
here after you, all of them.  Only this, Robin.  I've longed for
you for months.  You are the only human thing I love any more.  Do
you understand that?  And you, even you, are against our Orders.
No human love, no tenderness, no longing for bodily contact--no
love, no love, no love--save of God, and He is our general not our
lover.  Do you understand that, Robin?  That you are a weakness to
me, a cause of surrender, something I'm afraid to confess.'

His hand was hot and damp, his eyes restless with some ardent
longing.

'I have gone far since our last meeting.  I have cast everything
and everyone away save you.  That I love you is a sin, but love you
I must, and one day you also will see as I see and we will be
martyred together.  You will see that your Queen is no Queen, for
she has been rejected by God and it is the duty of all who serve
God to work her destruction . . .  There is another Queen,
unfortunate, betrayed, imprisoned, God's servant . . .'

Robin nodded.  The rest of Anthony's talk had been mad and wild,
for he was hungry and crazy for lack of sleep.  But in this there
was something that Robin felt with all the passion of his longing
for the beautiful, the unattainable.  That lovely, betrayed
prisoner who had trusted in friend, brother, lover, sister-queen,
and been betrayed by them all.  There was something in this picture
that moved him to trembling.

'Yes, yes,' he said.  'Later in the night, when all are in bed.  I
must go down, Tony.  And you must sleep.  Wait.  Lie down--I'll
make it comfortable for you.'

Anthony's eyes were haggard for want of sleep: they had that
sightless searching stare of the sleepless man.  He lay down beside
Anstey, who through this time had not stirred.  Robin folded a
cloak around him and went.

In the hall they were eating and drinking.  The candles had not yet
been lit and the late sun was streaming through the deep crimsons
and dark blues of the high window opposite the gallery.

They all greeted Robin with a shout.  'Where have you been?  What
doing?  Traitor!  Deserter!'  He went over to his mother and,
leaning on the arm of her chair, bent forward and kissed her.

'There were two old vagrants near the stable, mother.  I took them
some food.'

His mother was a little woman with snow-white hair and a back as
straight as a board.  She had been born Cicely Goring and her
father had been a small impecunious Somerset squire.  One of those
squires with a few fields, two dogs, a horse, and the Bible in the
window-seat.  She was not yet sixty, but her hair had been white at
forty.  She was not beautiful, but her figure was so fine, her skin
so delicate that she resembled one of those glass coloured
ornaments just then so fashionable everywhere.  Her sons and
husband adored her.  She could always have anything she wanted, but
she wanted very little except her family, her garden, her
needlework, and a little visiting.  Robin thought as, leaning over,
his cheek almost touched hers, how royal she seemed, her head
crowned with its white hair set so regally in the stiff ruff,
beside his blowzy aunt who was covered with jewels.  'All women,'
he thought, 'when they marry Herries men become themselves Herries--
Herries of the one sort or the other.  For we are of two sorts,
spirit and flesh--and this conflict in our blood is never
resolved.'

He kissed his mother's cheek and then went to sit down beside
Arabella Lacey.  Everyone was in tremendous spirits: old Mellon
came in, followed by two servants, all bearing the silver
candlesticks which they set along the table.  The new crisping
sparkling flame gave an added lustre to the scene.  The wine was
passing.  Voices were rising, everyone was talking at once.

Robin's heart was beating with fright.  He thought that he had
never been truly frightened before.  At any moment the officers, in
pursuit of the priests, might arrive at the house and demand a
search.  He might himself at once be under suspicion, for it had
long been known that he was a friend of Pierson.  He would keep
them as long as he could from his own room, but his very effort to
hinder them would make them suspect him.  Old Mellon had seen him
with the food.  There might be somebody who, under interrogation,
would admit to having seen the priests in the yard.  His mind flew
then to the discovery--Pierson and Anstey dragged from their
hiding, the family exposed and charged. . . .  At that he looked at
his mother, his father with his white stiff beard, the kindly lines
about his eyes, the cordial hospitable smile, and then at Nicholas,
whom he loved so dearly, who at the moment was fixing an apple with
the end of his rapier and handing it, with a deep bow, to Sylvia,
Nicholas who hated the Catholics, who perhaps would never forgive
his brother. . . .  Oh, if there was a discovery this would be ruin
for all whom he loved.  How Uncle Henry would hate him for thus
injuring his social prospects, and if his uncle hated him what of
Sylvia?

Behind all these things lay a terror of physical pain.  Robin was
not of the unimaginative confident courage of Nicholas.  His more
spiritual visionary nature showed him horrors and distresses long
before they arrived.  He was very young and, as with every young
man of his day, the rack and thumbscrew and, worst of all, the
'peine forte et dure' were so close to everyday life as to be part
of it.  He saw everything: the capture, the cell, the grim
interrogation, the stripping, the ropes, the first turn of the
engine. . . .

'Robin,' Arabella was crying, 'you heard nothing of what I was
saying.  I shall punish you.  You are condemned'--she bent a little
closer, whispering--'to spend an evening ALONE with Mr. Thatcher a
hundred miles from anywhere.'

But there was the other side.  Anthony had spoken of Mary of Scots
and, at that, a wild unreasoned longing had leapt within him.  She
was imprisoned, desolate, cut off from her baby, her friends.  She
was brave, still royal, a woman, he was sure, whom he could serve
to any bitter end.

Why did he feel this about her?  What connection had he with her?
Why was she mixed in his mind with everything that was to him holy,
worshipful, beautiful?

He had risen: the servants were clearing the tables: they were
going to dance.  Should he slip up to his room and make sure that
all was safe?  It had been madly risky to leave them there, so that
any servant could push aside the panel and find them there.
Anthony would be sleeping now. . . .  But no one had slid that
panel for years and years.  The servants for the most part did not
know that there was a room at all.



Then he saw that Thatcher, standing alone in the window embrasure,
was watching him.  That man was for ever watching something.  It
was his penalty that, because he was Henry Herries' man, he must be
always doing things that he loathed: attending dancing that he
disliked, plays that he abhorred, chambering and wantoning at which
even his very soul was sick.  But is it ME that he is watching,
Robin wondered.  He hates Nicholas, but myself he has always
flattered.  Does he suspect anything?  Has he had private
information?  Is he one of Burghley's men?

To his enchanted delight he heard Sylvia speaking to him.

'Cousin Robin, I have something to say to you.'

He heard his aunt close to him talking with that mysterious,
wheezing, frog-like croaking that was so especially hers, about her
fear of the plague and a wonderful remedy that she had, something
to do with snake's spittle and the urine of a goat.  Something you
drank apparently.  'I'd rather have the plague,' he thought.

But he was walking down the pleached alley with Sylvia.  The sun
had sunk--there was no moon--and so over the garden there lay that
warm star-shine shadow of the summer evening.  So drowsy was the
air that when in the faint breeze the flowers wavered ever so
slightly it seemed that they nodded their heads in sleep.  From the
very heart of the splashing fountain--Neptune riding a whale--came
the carnation-thyme-dark corn scent as of crushed flowers drenched
with sun.  She leant over and stirred her hand in the fountain.
Then they moved on to where, between the posts of the hedges, they
could see the broad cornfield and the snakeskin-shadowed hill
beyond.

'You have paid me very little attention this evening,' Sylvia said.

The one thing he had determined was that he would not be drawn away
from the house.  What was happening while he was away?  Who knew
but that Phineas Thatcher was not that moment quietly opening
the door of his room?  Tony Pierson or Anstey might well be
snoring. . . .  Or, impatient of confinement or for some natural
reason, might slide the panel, slip into his room and find Thatcher
there waiting for them. . . .  Or, worst of all, they might think
it his step they heard and call out his name!  A thousand alarms
fired his blood while the carnation scent was in his nostril and a
late bird called in a broken drunken whirl across the corn.  So,
terrified, excited, loving, a child, a man, he drew Sylvia into his
arms and kissed her.

'Sylvia--Sylvia--I love you.'

'And I love you, Robin.'

'Oh, Sylvia!'

'Oh, Robin!'

'Don't move--don't speak.'

The bird called again and again.  The lights blazed from the house.
An owl hooted.  A little bird gave its death-cry.

'I will ask Uncle Henry this very night--'

She drew back and he saw that she was frightened.

'Oh no--no.  You must not say a word, Robin.'

She looked now a discovered nervous child who was to be punished
for some sin.

'But why--?'

'They want me to make a fine marriage.  My father says that
everything for him hangs on it.  Edward and Sidney are always
pressing me.  They say it must be someone fine and wealthy.'

'But I--'

'You are not wealthy, Robin, and you are just our cousin.  My
father wants something finer than our family.'

He felt a disgust.  If his uncle had been there he would have told
him . . .

'And you--?'

She stopped suddenly in the path and, with the sweetest, most
childlike gesture, stood on the toes of her silver shoes, put her
hands on his breast and kissed him.

'I loved you from that first night in our house--the moment I saw
you.  I always will.  But you must say nothing to anyone as yet.
Promise me.'

'Oh, I promise you.'  She was wearing the ridiculous little ship in
her hair.  He felt in his doublet and produced the tiny jewel that
had fallen from the ship on the night of the ball.

'I carry this always next to my heart.'

She started away from him.  Her eyes stared with fear.

'There is Mr. Thatcher,' she said.

He was standing in the doorway, the lights flaring behind him.

'Your mother is looking for you.'

She walked past him, her head in the air.  Mr. Thatcher said
nothing to Robin at all.



But now he felt bold enough to face all the Thatchers, the Queen's
officers, the secret judges in the world.  He showed himself for a
moment and watched the dancing.  He looked up at the gallery and
saw the second gardener, his father's manservant, and a young man,
Mellon's son, playing for their life on two fiddles and a flute,
and excellently they played.  He smiled because they were dressed
in green velvet and gilt buttons with the Herries crest on their
sleeve--the only little attempt at false grandeur his father ever
made.

Then he quietly left the hall and started for his room.  As he
reached the top of the winding staircase, someone mounted behind
him and caught his arm.  It was Philip Irvine.

Robin stopped at the stair-head and turned smiling with his
charming nervous boyish friendliness.

'Well--good night.'

Irvine looked at him, also smiling.

'You are early.'

'Yes.  I am gruesomely weary.'

He started towards his room, thinking to shake Irvine off, but down
the passage they went.

Robin, terrified, baffled, opened his door.  Irvine entered with
him.  Did he know, suspect?  Was he playing with him?  Irvine's
eyes went at once to the painted cloth of Troilus and Cressida.

'Cressida is no beauty there,' he said, pointing and laughing.
'Her nose is crooked.'

'That has been there ever since I can remember.'

'Does it conceal a door?'

Robin had taken off his doublet and unfastened his points.  He
stretched his arms now, yawning.  Irvine stood there, swaying a
little on his legs.  He was carrying in his hand a spice-ball at
which he sniffed once and again.  Round his neck hung a superb
chain of garnets.  His vanity was apparent in every breath and
movement, but there was something charming, even innocent as well.
Robin, sitting on the bed-edge, listening for every sound, trying
not to stare at Troilus and his fat golden-painted hound, with
desperation tried to catch Irvine's words, for they reached over a
kind of murmuring water-music that played in his ears.

'Your brother hates me.  He is quite foolish about it, for I bear
him no malice.  It was about some wretched fellow whom my dogs
destroyed in the Northern Rebellion.  I did but my duty. . . .  But
I do not like your brother.  He is a blundering oafish fellow.  I
say that to annoy you because I like to see you start and a flush
come from your heart.  Were I like Paulton or Havering, I would
make love to you, but I am not of that kind.  Woman was made for
me, arranged and perfected for proper intercourse.  Boys are
clumsy, sweating, ill-fashioned.  But I like you, Robin.  May I
call you so?  You are both gentle and intelligent--not at all like
your big clumsy brother, whom I will kill one day if he is not
careful. . . .'

Then he went into a long, extremely egotistic discourse about his
ambitions, disappointments, friends and enemies.  He sought for no
reply.  He saw only his own figure, as though repeated in mirror
after mirror into infinite distance.

'I am no madman.  I have no expectation beyond my deserts, but I
fancy that there is no injustice in my supposing that I am of
better birth, better mind, handsomer appearance than many.  I would
not say this to any, save an old friend like yourself.'  (His
egotism swallowed acquaintance and disgorged it as friendship
within a minute or two.)  'I flatter myself that I have a just view
of myself.  I am no Narcissus, although Narcissus himself had no
more reason to fear Echo than I have.  I am exactly the man of my
time and position for a place at Court.  I have asked Sir Francis
Etheredge--'

Then began a long detailed summary of all the intrigues and
plottings to keep him out of Court circles.  You would fancy, to
listen, that the London world of fashion had no business in life
except to keep Philip Irvine from Court.  And yet, if you listened
and were fair, you must admit to a certain pathos of ingenuous
youth in Irvine's own picture of himself.  He would always be one
of those egotists who can see no one right but themselves; who, in
later years, will slip behind the times and make themselves fools
because they do not know that time, weather, habit, philosophy and
religion have all changed while they were blustering.  For Irvine,
as with all vain men, had cruelty born of fear, and despotism born
of self-insecurity, in his nature.  He explained that he must
marry, and marry money.  He had already someone in his eye.  And
then with money, his position at Court . . .

He broke off.

'I swear that you have not listened to a syllable.'

'Of course.  Of course,' Robin said.

Irvine came over and tapped his cheek.  'Yes, if I were of another
mind I could make love to you,' he said affably.

Robin, mad, poor boy, with apprehension, yet a native resentment
rising in him, drew back.

'Have no fear,' Irvine said, laughing.  'Only when all women are
eliminated with the plague perhaps--'

He followed Robin's eyes.

'How you gaze at the picture!  I swear Cressida is your love, with
her swollen pink nose and a lip that a wasp must have stung.'  He
went over to it.

'You have some girl hidden behind it, I daresay.'  He raised it.
Robin did not speak.

'No. . . .  There is nothing.'  He came back and stood staring
almost sullenly into Robin's face.

'Why is it that I feel a kind of horror of you?  As though we are
mixed in some dreadful misfortune. . . .  And yet I like you.'

Robin stared up at him.  And, as the two men looked into one
another's face, to both of them came a choking almost suffocating
beating of the heart, as though a vial had been unstoppered and an
acrid grey smoke plugged their nostrils.

'Well'--Irvine swaggered to the door--'Robin, my pretty Adonis, I
shall be innocent at least of YOUR raping.  But your large,
swaggering brother--bid him beware.  Let him scowl once too often
and his liver shall be split.  Good night.'

Robin waited until the steps had quite died away.  Now he could
hear, only as the singing of a distant humming-top, the playing of
the music from the great hall.  He must not undress--yet he must
seem natural if by any chance someone should knock on his door.
Above all, he must not sleep.  He was infinitely weary.  The
agitations of the evening, Anthony Pierson and his love for him,
his far greater love for Sylvia (it was this, above all, that had
exhausted him.  She stood on her toes, reached up to him, placed
her hands on his breast . . .), and through all this, behind it and
belonging to it, the picture of the imprisoned Queen that Pierson
had stirred in his imagination.  Ah, what a tangle life was!  These
strands, so different, meeting to form his history, and influencing
through that history the lives of so many yet unborn!  It was as
though, in his own slender inexperienced being, he had the fates of
all the Herries yet to come.  And Irvine?  Why, as he looked into
his face, had he been aware of that sick foreboding?  And why had
he liked him better than he could ever have supposed?

His head was flaming.  He went to the window and threw it back and
looked over the dark garden to the quiet eternal line of the gentle
Downs!  How brief was man's life in comparison with that steady
permanence!  His sons would look on them, and his sons' sons when
he was long forgotten, as though he had never been.  Where then
were God's Bright Pavilions, and dare he, so insignificant and
brief a creature, ever hope to find them?  And yet there was no
passion, not even his love for Sylvia, that lay so deep within him.

He put on his bed-gown and lay down on his bed.  For a while
perhaps he slept.  At least he was in another world, travelling
with Anthony over mountains, and Anthony pointed, crying:  'They
are there!  I see them!  At last!  At last!'

He opened his eyes to find Pierson and the silent Anstey beside his
bed.  He realized, at the same moment, that the house was quiet,
there was no music.

'We must be on our way,' Anthony whispered.  He went with them to
the stair-head and listened.  In the dark yard Anthony kissed him.
Then, without a word, the two shadows slipped into the shadow.

Robin softly re-entered the house.  He stood listening, for he had
fancied that there was a step on the stair.  He moved forward and
listened again.  There was no one there.  The house was as silent
as death.



BARTHOLOMEW


Everything moves but Time, and Nicholas Herries, not given to
imaginative speculation, nevertheless felt himself one of those
horned animals moving frantically in a glass bottle that the
Indians showed in the Strand and offered to sell for a silver
sixpence.

Not that Nicholas himself was not free, but he had not known,
before he undertook it, the work that the overlordship of Mallory
would entail.  He had not expected for one thing that his father
would abandon his duties so utterly; but, from the instant that the
household was called together, addressed solemnly by Sir Michael
and then handed over, body and soul, to Nicholas, the old man sank
gleefully to his pleasant laziness.

He busied himself, it is true, with all kinds of excitements about
his house and garden.  With a gentle but eager smile behind his
stiff white beard, he would walk up and down the shady pleached
alleys; turn on the device of the fountain whereby Neptune would,
most unexpectedly, discharge water and damp the onlooker; admire
the topiary work of yews and privet (topiary work is a fine art);
study the herbs in the herb-garden, and the artichokes, cucumbers
and pompions in the vegetable garden.  In the house too, he would
constantly admire his Flemish tapestry, the carved chimney-
overmantels, the straw mattings and even rugs, now supplanting
filthy rushes, the gilt and silver plate set out on the oak
cupboard, especially a solid gold Spanish spice-dish.  He would
wander into the bedrooms and see that in the beds the straw was
well laid under the canvas and that the ermine rug was properly
unrolled; then he would sit on one after another of the gilded
Spanish-leather chairs and investigate the works of the great
Herries clock in which, through doors of graven copper, the sea
ebbed and flowed.  In the gallery he would study the family
portraits and flick the dust off them with his lace kerchief and
would go and play, clumsily and out of tune, on the little organ,
the virginals and the viol.

He took, in fact, an entirely new interest in his house and
property now that he no longer had to work for it.  Mallory was a
small house as country houses went.  Henry Herries' place in
Chelsea was already twice the size of it, but it was very lovely
with its white plaster and black beams, herb and flower gardens and
the Downs beyond protecting it.  These Herries loved every stone
and sod of it.

Nicholas did indeed, and was exceedingly happy.  This was the right
work for him, and his jokes and laughter with the men and women on
the place could be heard sometimes up the village street or away in
the centre of the cornfields.  They all loved him, yes, far more
than they had loved his father, who had been a little apart from
them, singing out of tune to himself as though they were not there,
and suddenly out of temper with them for no reason at all.
Nicholas would lose his temper and roar like a bull and pick a
carter up by the wide seat of his breeches and shake him like a
mouse.  Nicholas would be out of sorts and sulk like a child, and
sometimes he would kiss one of the house or farm girls more than
was safe or seemly, but always they could understand him.  They
knew WHY he did the things he did, and he would sing with them
while they were carting the hay, or dance with them or drink with
them.  And yet he was always a gentleman.  They never forgot it and
they never resented it.



So he, Nicholas, was very happy and the Mallory property
flourished.  Only, as the months went on, one thing distressed him--
his brother Robin.

Robin, whom he loved more than anyone alive, was not happy.  Ever
since the summer night when Uncle Henry, his children and his
friends had come, Robin had been unhappy.  Nicholas knew that it
dated from that day.  He suspected that it had to do with Sylvia
Herries.

So one evening he came into Robin's room and found him on his bed,
reading; so he pushed him to the wall, lay down beside him, taking
most of the bed, put his arm around him, drew him close and asked
him what the matter was.

Robin told him at once.  He was in a fiery passion for Sylvia
Herries and she too loved him.  But they could scarcely ever meet
and if they DID meet, someone was always there.  Worst of all
Sylvia herself was so strange, appearing to love him and at the
same time to be desperately afraid of her father.  Robin wished to
have it all clear and open, but she implored him to tell her father
nothing.  Why was this?  He had no idea.

And, thirdly, Philip Irvine was always about the place.  'The queer
thing, Nick, is that I don't dislike him as you do--but we both of
us have a sort of dim fear about us as though we saw into the
future.'

Seeing into the future was a joke to Nicholas, who found the
present quite enough for him, so, sucking a straw that he had
brought in from the stable, he pulled Robin's hair, told him not to
worry and that he should have his Sylvia.

Then, by himself, he puzzled much over this matter.  He knew that
Robin's nature was shy and delicate, that he never cared to push
his own interests, and that, when he felt deeply, he was the more
silent.  Nicholas loved his brother so dearly that he could not
bear that he should not have anything that he wanted.

And why should he not have Sylvia?  Theirs was the older branch of
the house and Robin was one of the finest, noblest and handsomest
young men in England.  So at least Nicholas considered.

At last Nicholas decided that he would go himself and speak to his
uncle on this very important matter.  Sylvia urged Robin to silence
only because she was a child and did not know what men were like.
Nicholas knew that his uncle, outwardly at least, flattered him.
He was always inviting him.  They should have a friendly talk
together and he would say nothing to Robin because Robin would
certainly try to dissuade him.  Nicholas was not in general good at
keeping secrets, but this time he spoke to nobody.

Before his visit there arrived dreadful news from France.  About
one o'clock on Sunday morning, August 24th, of this year 1572 there
began in Paris a most terrible bloody massacre of Huguenots.  It
was the more horrible because Paris was at that time filled with
thousands of gay unsuspecting Huguenots celebrating the marriage of
Henry of Navarre with Marguerite of Valois.  This wedding had been
intended to mark the end of the French religious troubles.

News came through but slowly.  It was known that the great Coligny
was brutally murdered and that Queen Elizabeth and the English
Court were horrified and revolted.  Every kind of story was
circulating through London, a collection of verified and unverified
horrors that angered even the hard-headed Englishman of the city,
who was well used to hangings and quarterings and burnings at the
stake.

However, on the morning Nicholas selected to visit his uncle London
seemed to have given her soul over to gaiety, noise and industry.
It was an early hour, for Nicholas had decided that he would join
in the general family meal that would begin about eleven o'clock.
He, attended by Jack Oates, who walked behind him, his nose in the
air and a despising expression on his countenance, had crossed the
river, and now took his time down the Strand, missing nothing that
was amusing, and attracting, because of his size and the
independent confidence of his carriage, a great deal of attention.

This was one of those mornings early in September when, even though
you may be in the heart of the city, a glittering frost seems but
just to have been dissipated by the sun, and the air is, you fancy,
filled with the whispers of golden-russet, wafer-thin leaves.

As a fact it was a glorious morning of sun, and hot.  The first
thing noticed by any stranger, new to that world, would have been
the multitude of stenches--stench of unwashed and sweating bodies,
lousy coats and jerkins, spilled filth from the windows, ordure of
beast and man, decaying fish in the gutters, animals' blood from
the butchers', dead cats, dead dogs, dead rats, dead pigeons, dead
babies now and again, and a murdered man with his throat cut, lying
two days now without discovery in the side lane running from Durham
House to the river.

No one cared for the smells, although one or two of the grander
kind carried spice-balls at which occasionally they sniffed.  And
after the smells the noise!

The whole street, from end to end, was one yell, scream and
whistle.  At the upper end of the Strand were the nobler houses
with their gardens and trees sloping to the river, but from Uncle
Henry's house to St. Paul's and beyond was the Fair of all Vanity
Fairs.  Nicholas had it in mind to buy for his mother one of those
French caps that had but newly come to town.

As he stepped across the road down the hill to Ludgate, the
splendid walls and tower of St. Paul's Church rising like a blessed
miracle on the hill in front of him, he was forced for a moment to
stop and gaze--even though he knew London so well.

It was a day of especial shining glitter and blaze of colour.  The
little clouds raced along the blue sky, but no one regarded them,
the waters ran, from one of the main conduits, gallantly, leapingly
in the gutters.  The bells of churches gambolled in the air.
Somewhere a cannon was firing and trumpets playing.

And human voices!  What a babble!

On the small cobbled street itself there were carts with creaking,
screaming wheels, horses with jangling harness, a grand coach
lumbering, jolting over mud and stone, hawkers' barrows, pedlars'
trays on wheels.  And everywhere human beings, most of whom seemed
to be shouting about one thing or another.

There were many soldiers, for it was only in the former June that
the Duke of Norfolk had been executed for his share in the Ridolfi
plot, soldiers just back from the foreign wars in cassocks of pale
blue Yorkshire cloth, a buckskin jerkin and a red cap; then there
were old disbanded soldiers, much shabbier than these, and after
them bands of the downright beggars.  Nicholas himself was jostled
against now by a company of as veritable rogues as could be found
in the city.  In rags of shreds and patches, one of them with a
black shade over one eye, one of them with his nostrils slit, and
one huge fat fellow winking at him indecently as much as to say:
'We're two fine big-built rascals together, we are.'

Even as he stood about looking around for a haberdasher's where he
might buy his French cap, a thin peak-bearded man bound on a hurdle
was being dragged along, accompanied by a whole company of merry
jesting-like boys, to be hanged and dismembered while still alive
at Tyburn, whose bar was already loaded with grinning bird-pecked
heads whitened with bird-droppings until they looked like speckled
cheeses.  From the shops that lined the street came the yells and
cries of the prentices who, on a fine morning like this, enjoyed
the sun, the gaiety and the general movement to the very full.  In
this part of the Strand they were hopefully on the look-out for a
fight, because the students of the Inns of Court were not far away
and might attempt a raid as quick as a bell's ringing.  Old people
remembered the Evil May Day of 1517 when the military had to be
called out to quiet them.

Thieves were everywhere in spite of the fact that death was the
penalty for the theft of goods worth more than two shillings.  It
was Jack Oates' principal office to walk behind Nicholas with his
eyes active to see that no one approached near enough to his master
to rob him.

And so, in the midst of all this babel of carts, and men shouting
for passage, and prentices crying out their masters' wares, and
beggars whining for gifts, and bells ringing and dogs barking and
wheels creaking, Nicholas stood looking about him under the lovely
sun seeking for a haberdasher's.

A moment later he had seen one and strode his way across.  This
shop was, as most shops still were, a single room on the street's
level, with a large unglazed window whose shutter let down to form
a counter.  In the doorway, sunning herself, the wife of the
proprietor sat, the prentice near by was bawling at the top of his
voice, while on the counter lay a selection of very pretty things
imported from France.  Nicholas, whose thighs and chest were
greatly admired by the proprietor's wife, who whispered in his ear
that she lived over the shop and her husband was often in Norwich,
soon found the prettiest cap of purple velvet and seed pearls,
dignified, handsome and very foreign.

As he turned away, bowing with elaborate irony to the smiling lady,
he was stopped by a crowd who were watching some soldiers on the
march and fancied that there was a whisper in his ear, 'Beware the
Catholics near at home.  You are in danger.'  He turned sharply,
his hand on his dagger, but saw no one watching him.  He asked
Oates:  'Did anyone speak to me?'

'Why, no, master.'

Entering his uncle's house, he felt, as he often did on an ordinary
day, that it was more of a business place than a home.  On a night
of entertainment it would be all candlelight and music, but that
was not its true life.  Here was the very soul of the merchandising,
business, profit-making Herries inhabiting.  Across the hall clerks
with pens behind their ears were hurrying.  Through an open door he
could see a room with a long table covered with papers, and small
tables at which dully-clad men were sitting.

Running up the grand staircase, two steps at a time, he found them
already seated at their meal in the room with the mirrors where
Gilbert Armstrong had wrestled.  He stood in the doorway grinning
and, while they were greeting him, perceived several things: one
that the food was mean and poor, as it always was, another that his
aunt had her physician beside her, a little pursy man with a wart
on his nose, another that Phineas Thatcher was yellow in the face
as though with jaundice, another that Sylvia was the only member of
the family glad to see him.

After he had sat down with them he quickly perceived that there was
something truly the matter and then learnt that Sidney Herries had
returned but the night before from France, that he had been in
Paris during the Bartholomew Massacre and was deeply wrought by his
experience as though he were altogether another creature.

Mistress Herries waved her hands, mopped her eyes and could not be
silent for an instant.  Queerly enough, Nicholas found himself, for
the first time in his life, sympathizing with his poor aunt.  He
might lack imagination, but his heart responded always and
instantly to any real distress.  This WAS real, the one real thing
in Grace Herries' nature, her love for, and adoration of, her
stepsons.  She forgot now even her ailments, pushing the physician
aside with an impatient blow in the stomach.

'You know, nephew, that it pleases us all to have you here and that
you are ever welcome in this house, but when you see the poor boy
you will not know him.  The physician has given him a draught and
he is sleeping, but he has not until now slept for a whole
fortnight.  When he entered this room last night I lifted my hands
and screamed.  It was a ghost and yet our own son--'

She snatched a little glass bottle from the physician's hands and
sniffed at it.

'I hope,' Nicholas said, 'that no bodily harm--'

'No,' his uncle answered.  'He has no bodily hurt, but he is
haunted by what he has seen.  You shall yourself hear later.  It is
a fearful story.'

'And your uncle would not suffer me to hear his story.  As though I
could bear not to know what it was that had changed him so!  He was
always so merry, a joke and a song with anyone--and last night he
stood there by the lighted candles, his face drawn and his eyes
astare and his poor throat moving but no word coming--'

She broke off and began to sob.  Uncle Henry stuttered impatiently:

'There . . . there . . . sweetheart!  Mompsen, see to her.  That
draught you had for my son may serve for her.  There!  There!  Go
with her to her room, Mompsen.  Go with Mompsen, sweetheart.'

So Aunt Grace wandered out with a kind of dog-whimper and giving
Nicholas a watery smile as she passed him.

'It is her heart,' Uncle Henry explained.  'Any agitation is bad
for it.  When she lies on her side at night her heart leaps within
her like a dog on a chain.'

'Too much fat about her heart,' Nicholas said laconically.  He
rose, pushing back his chair.  'I want some conversation with you,
Uncle Henry--and alone, to ourselves.'  As he said this he turned
and grinned at the lank-haired, yellow-faced Phineas.  When he
looked at him he could never forget the occasion when he had caught
Phineas mumbling round the bosom of one of the kitchen-maids at
Mallory--she a little country girl and screaming her life out at
him.  It was then that he had pulled Phineas' long, cold nose and,
after that, raised him and sat him up on the edge of the big water-
butt, where he had stayed, with his bony legs hanging over the
edge, until rescued with pompous surprise by old Mellon.  'Fie!
Fie!  Trying to rape a poor country girl, and you a Puritan, Mr.
Thatcher,' Nicholas had remarked.

Phineas hated him, of course, from that moment, with a dangerous
hatred.  Dangerous because Phineas WAS dangerous.  The world is
filled, not with good and bad people, but with the builders and the
destroyers, and the battle between them is eternal.  Phineas
Thatcher was a destroyer only because he wanted to build later on.
But the practice of destroying, denying, sneering at the builders
and generally having a good lachrymose time leads to self-flattery.
It is hard not to believe yourself a fine fellow when you are nobly
and loudly against the government.  So Phineas thought Nicholas a
ribald, lecherous, bullying lout and bided his revenge.

Nicholas and his uncle went to the leather-walled room where the
head of the house conducted his business.  Henry Herries had bought
the Spanish leather at a bargain, and very handsome it looked
fastened with big round brass nails.  Over the stone fireplace was
a coloured map of Europe, the seas liberal with dolphins, barques,
naked Neptunes and spouting whales.  On the table were papers in
neatly bound packets, a handsome gold inkhorn and huge red-leather
account-books.  Nicholas and his uncle had scarcely sat down when
young Sidney Herries came in.

Then indeed was Nicholas startled.  Sidney Herries was a changed
young man.  Unlike his elder brother Edward he had a round, stupid
but not unfriendly face and a sturdy body.  He had been always a
good deal of a fool and fond of low company.  He had given his
father a great deal of worry, especially since a low girl of an inn
near St. Paul's had come to him accusing Sidney of the paternity of
her child.

The man who stood now in the doorway, looking at them with a kind
of remote sternness, was no lecherous young fool.  His face was
drawn and pale; his hand was on his dagger-hilt as though he were
on his guard.  He came forward and shook Nicholas' hand.  'Good
day, Cousin Nicholas.'

He has been through something, Nicholas thought, that has shaken
his very soul, and he put his hand on Sidney's shoulder and felt
him lean, for a moment, against him.  He fancied even that Sidney
was delighted to see him, as though he would find new courage in
his great size and strength.

Uncle Henry, who as a rule had no understanding of anything save
business feelings, drew out a chair.

'Sit you down, Sidney.  I cannot say of course whether you would
care to tell Nicholas something--'

'I would!  I would!' Sidney said with a strange eagerness, and he
turned on his chair towards Nicholas; from beginning to end after
that he scarcely once looked away from Nicholas' face.  The only
sound in the room besides Sidney's voice was the heavy solemn
rhythm of the clock on the wall.

'I should wish to tell you, Cousin Nicholas,' Sidney said, 'because
I cannot lose the thing from my brain.  Perhaps if I release it, it
will stay with me less.  I will tell you everything.  It must go;
it must leave me or I shall be out of my wits.

'My father sent me to Paris to stay with M. de Roux, a banker
friend of his, and most fortunately, as it happened, a Catholic.
My father thought too that I should enjoy this special time in
Paris with the Navarre marriage and the festivities.

'He had a lodging in the Rue Quincampoix, which is not very distant
from the Rue St. Honor, as you are probably aware, Nicholas.  I am
sure that M. de Roux had no knowledge whatever of the coming event.
He had been like a father to me during the earlier weeks.  He is a
bachelor of some sixty years, jolly, stout, fond of company, but
thinking, I found, little of women, having a great deal of business
to consider.  He had many friends both Catholic and Protestant.  On
the Saturday afternoon he went to pay a visit at Coligny's hotel.
Coligny, as you know, had been wounded by an assassin, a little
while before.  I believe that many gentlemen were present to
express their regrets.  M. de Roux was one of the last to leave and
he heard Coligny's son-in-law, Tligny, enquire of the Admiral
whether he would like any of them to keep watch in his house during
the night, and the Admiral said it was more labour than needed and
thanked them with loving words.'

Sidney now drew his chair nearer to Nicholas, almost as though he
were seeking for protection.

'I'll tell you everything, cousin!  I'll leave nothing out!  Do you
see?  Nothing!  Nothing!'

Nicholas put out his broad hand and rested it on Sidney's shoulder.

'Well, then, M. de Roux returned--about six o'clock I think it was.
We were to spend a quiet evening together.  His old housekeeper had
prepared supper for us.  He had made a very famous collection of
missals, French and Italian, and for an hour or two we looked at
these together.  During these last weeks, Nicholas, he had won much
influence over me.  I had come to love him, for he is a good and
true man and he had shown me doctrines of life and ways of conduct
that no one had ever shown me before.  At last we embraced and I
went to my bed.  It was a warm parched night and I lay naked,
unable to sleep.  I fancy now that M. de Roux was himself made
uneasy by something he had heard at the Admiral's.  I remember that
I pushed the window open and looked out over the Paris roofs.
There was not a breath stirring and every sound came clearly, and
soon I was interested by the noise of men marching, and it seemed
to me that there was an unusual light of torches' reflected in the
sky.  All the same I thought little of it and went back to my bed,
leaving the window open, and even slept a little.'

Sidney stopped.  He looked wildly about the room.  Drawing still
closer to Nicholas he went on, the words coming faster and faster:

'I was wakened by a bell.  I can hear it in my ears now, a heavy
booming bell that went on and on.  At once through my open window
it was as though the roof of Paris had come off--bells were
ringing, shots were firing, the rushing of steps, cries and shouts.
I did not know what to do.  I stood there, naked, looking about me.
A moment later M. de Roux entered.  He was fully dressed with
rapier and dagger.  He seemed frantic.  He cried again and again,
seizing my bare shoulder and shaking me:  "Dress!  Dress!  For
Christ's sake, your clothes!" and himself helped me, kneeling down
and tying my points, never ceasing to cry out in a sort of
horrified whisper, "Nay!  Nay!  Christ help us!  Christ and Our
Lady!"  When I was clothed he tied a white sleeve on my arm, caught
up my hat that was on a chair and fastened a white linen cross in
the band.  I saw then that he also had a white sleeve and a white
cross in his hat that he had thrown on the bed.  Oh, Nicholas, what
should I have done?  Did I deny my religion?  Did I show myself a
coward?  But I was bewildered, you understand, and stared at him
and continued asking, "But what is it?  What is it?" for the noise
increased with every moment and there were frightful cries, screams
that turned my blood to water.  M. de Roux himself seemed out of
his mind, for his speech was all broken.  He said, "Remember you
are a Catholic--everywhere you are a Catholic.  I did not know that
this was what they intended.  You are a Catholic, a Catholic. . . ."

'He told me afterwards that had he been calm and thought wisely he
would never have stirred from that house, for he was safe where he
was and known to everyone for a sober and honest Catholic.  I
remember, father, you yourself told me that you would not have sent
me to him had he not been so good a man that his religion could
harm no one.  But in the sudden horror of the moment he thought it
safer that he and the housekeeper and myself should go but a few
streets away to the htel of a great Catholic friend of his, M. de
Vrillac.  It seemed to him, I suppose, a little distance and he
feared that they might fire the building where we were.  So we
hastened down the staircase and into the street. . . .

'The street . . . the street! . . .' he repeated to himself, his
eyes staring into a horrible distance.

Nicholas put his arm around him.  Then he went on:

'The street! . . .  Oh, Christ, the street!'  He caught Nicholas'
doublet with his hand and pushed with his knuckles into Nicholas'
chest.  'The tumult!  It was fearful.  At once, you must
understand, I was in a mad world, just stepping from that house
into the street.  Bells were clanging, doors crashing, musket-shots
firing, and worst of all a great yell, like animals--bears, wolves,
what you will--or, no, better, like the insane; a noise on one
note, as though it came from a crack in the sky. . . .  I was
knocked on to my knees by a rush of armed men and when I got to my
feet I was nearly knocked down again--by a butcher--by a butcher--
by a butcher . . .'

He began to repeat this in a sort of sing-song as though he did not
know what he was saying.  Nicholas took him, then, between his
thighs and held him against his chest and stroked his hair as
though he were a little child, saying:

'There!  Wait.  Rest awhile.  Tell us another day. . . .'  And very
tenderly he kissed his cheek.

Sidney looked into his broad boyish face with the short nose and
wide calm forehead, looked at him wonderingly as though he had
never seen him before, and then at his great body.  His own face
smoothed, his eyes lost their wildness; he turned, leaning against
Nicholas' thigh, and seemed to see his father for the first time.
He spoke in a normal steady voice and caught Nicholas' hand, going
back to his chair.

'No. . . .  It takes me at times as though I were there again.  All
will be well now.  I had best finish it.  This big man in a smock
with blood drying on his cheek, he was dragging a naked girl--but
upside-down, bumping her head on the stones.  She was quite naked
and screamed like a door creaking.  As he pushed past me he drove
his knife into her breast.  Her blood hit me like a whip.  And
then, Nicholas, I was mad too.  I walked steadily forward.  I had
forgotten M. de Roux and all else.  I saw things as though they
were things in a theatre.  I felt no pity, no horror, no sorrow.
Only I retched in my stomach as though I would be sick and could
not.  I heard myself making those retching noises.  I picked up a
head, Nicholas, by the long black hair and I threw it into the
gutter as you would a pompion.  My face and my hands were covered
with blood and I walked on in all that noise.  A house was burning
and crackling, muskets firing right in my ear, and that scream
always, a scream out of all tune.  But however fearful the noise
was I heard myself retching.  Tick-tick-tick--like a clock.  And
there was a smell--blood dry and blood wet and blood falling in
your eyes.  You have heard of some of the dreadful things: the
worst was when Henry of Navarre rose meaning to go to the King's
levee and demand justice for the Admiral.  At the foot of the
stairs he was arrested.  A list of his gentlemen had been prepared.
As each man answered to his name he stepped into the courtyard, and
had to make his way through a double line of Swiss mercenaries.
Sword, spear, halberd soon finished them.  They say that two
hundred of the best blood of France lay there in a heap under the
Palace wall while the King looked down from the window.

'The Swiss plundered them and they say that many ladies of Queen
Catherine came later to laugh at them and especially to examine M.
Soubise because his wife had sought divorce on grounds of nullity
of marriage. . . .'  Sidney turned, with grave, controlled
seriousness, to Nicholas.  'I tell you, Cousin Nicholas--because
you must remember.  Because it was the Catholics who did these
things.  The Catholics!  Never forget.  It will be like that here,
too, one day if we are not careful.  For myself I do not know where
I was for the rest of that morning.  But I know some of the things
I saw.  I saw the river water running with thick iridescent
stinking blood.  I saw the living, tied hand and foot, thrown off
the bridges.  I saw a man with two little children--pitifully
crying for their mother--in a creel, and he stood on the Louvre
bank and threw them into the river as you would blind kittens.  I
saw a baby, scarcely able to walk, dragged with a cord round its
neck, falling on its little knees, bleeding but too frightened to
cry, and children of nine and ten years were dragging it.  I saw a
woman clinging with her hands to the wooden piles of the bridge,
and men, laughing, stoning her, and at last the body floating away
and then her long hair being entangled with the woodwork.  I stood
and watched that, Nicholas.  I saw a big man with a beard carrying
a child, and the child smiled and played with his beard.  And the
man turned and grinned at me and said, "He loves me, no?" and he
stabbed the child in the neck and threw it into the Seine.  There
was one house, they say, where all the inhabitants were murdered
save a little girl who was dipped in the blood of her father and
mother.  The famous Protestant bookseller, Niquet, was burnt over a
slow fire made of his own books. . . .

'And I wandered on, wandered on, and at last I was by the river and
a man and a woman were on the bank, leant against the wall, dead in
one another's arms, and I snuggled into them and slept, the sun on
my face. . . .'

He stopped.  Not a word was spoken.  Nicholas felt in himself a
sick disgust, and with it, what was unusual for him, a speculation
about life.  This then was what life was: a filthiness, a stink, a
bestiality.  He had seen it in terms of sun, rain, crops, laughing
battle, love, bodily pleasures, love of his brother--and, with
that, through the brass nails in the leather, he saw, what was so
seldom out of his mind, the girl turning, looking down at him on
the straw, slipping through the door. . . .  Yes, he wanted to
live, however bestial life might be.  But the filthy Catholics.  He
had always distrusted them, against the Queen as they were, but now
he saw that they wanted watching.  They would bring in these
bastard foreigners and be tearing at good English throats. . . .
He had been staring at the wall: he turned round and saw that
Sidney was gone.

He raised his broad good-natured face, wrinkled now with a twisting
puzzle, to his uncle, who sat nervously tapping papers on the table
with his fingers.

'A bad affair, Uncle Henry.  Poor Sidney has had a hurt over it.'

Henry Herries smoothed his beard with his hand, and at once his
features that had been quite honestly paternal were business again.
He got on his feet.

'Well, well. . . .  The boy will recover.  But the laws against the
Catholics must be strengthened.  No doubt at all.  They must be
strengthened.'  He moved towards the door and Nicholas stopped him.

'Wait, Uncle Henry.  There's something I want to say.'

'Well, my boy?'

He turned round, beaming.  When he looked at his big nephew he
always imagined six thieves breaking through into his strong-room
and Nicholas cracking all their heads at one blow.  He put his hand
on Nicholas' arm.  It gave him pleasure to feel his muscle.

'It is this, uncle.  It is my brother Robin.'

His uncle said nothing, so Nicholas, smiling, continued:  'He loves
Sylvia.  Has done for a year.  She loves him also, I believe.'

Still Uncle Henry said nothing, but he had dropped his friendly
hand.

'He has a notion that he must not speak to you of this.  Sylvia has
begged him to be silent.  I love my brother more than anything or
anyone on this earth.  I think it a charming notion that they
should marry--and I have the fancy that you would not disapprove.'

He ceased because he was aware that he was being given no sort of
encouragement.  There was silence in the room save for the steady
solemn ticking of the clock.

Nicholas began again more truculently.  His temper was always
easily roused.

'It is surely a good plan, Uncle Henry.  Robin is a sweet lad,
noble-hearted, a poet, a wit, and loved by all the world.'

Henry Herries at last said slowly:  'No.  It is impossible--now or
ever.'

Nicholas, keeping his temper down for dear Robin's sake, said:
'Impossible!  But how?  Why?'

His uncle went to the door.

'I will tell you why.'

Nicholas, standing there bewildered and ready to be in a furious
temper of pride and disappointment for his dear Robin, heard his
uncle open the door of the next room and say something.  He
returned with Mr. Phineas Thatcher, who stood just inside the door
as though ready to escape.

'Mr. Thatcher.  I beg you.  Tell my nephew why his brother cannot
marry my daughter.'

Phineas said:  'Because he is a Catholic.'

Nicholas sprang forward.  'That is a lie.  A foul bastard lie!'

'Tell him further, Mr. Thatcher.'

Phineas, as though he were reciting a love poem, so unctuous was
his voice, went on:  'Summer last year Mr. Robin Herries concealed
two priests a night in Mallory.'

Nicholas with a strangle of rage was at his throat, but Uncle Henry
quietly held his arm and remarked:  'You must be fair, Nicholas.
Mr. Thatcher has his proof.'

Nicholas stayed where he was.  With a flash of certainty he knew
that this was true.

Phineas, who now was flat against the door, his hand on the bolt,
said:  'I myself saw him.  It was the summer night when we all--Mr.
Herries, Mistress Herries, Mr. Irvine and others were at Mallory.
We stayed on the lawn until evening.  I first saw your brother, Mr.
Nicholas, speak to a common fellow behind the hedge.  That aroused
my interest.  Afterwards your house-man, Mellon, told me that he
had interrupted your brother carrying food from the buttery.
Finally at two in the morning I saw them depart, your brother
guiding them into the court.  I knew who they were.  Pierson and
Anstey were their names, but I said nothing to the authorities
because of the honour of the family.'

Nicholas caught his throat this time.  'You damnable, cursed spy!
You filthy, loitering, creeping spy!'

He threw Thatcher on to his knees.

Then he went from the house without another word.



SATAN IN WATENDLATH


At Rosthwaite Nicholas Herries stood in the hall looking about him.
There was everything just as it had been when he had seen it last.
There was the beautiful tapestry, in carnation and green and gold,
of Diana bathing.  There, the inlaid buffet of ebony mounted in
silver, the red and green panels.  He could see them all seated at
the table: the three old men, the young priest, Robin.  He could
hear the voices of the men singing.  He could taste on his tongue
the tart seasoned flavour of the eel-pie.  And nevertheless how
different it all now was!

He stood there towering over little Mr. Forster of Henditch, the
old man with the silver hair and the baby face.  The old man in his
black suit with the white ruff, his pink unlined forehead and
cheek, his mild rather rheumy blue eyes that he raised, with
pleasant and courteous attention, to Nicholas' giant form--this
little old man seemed the only thing alive in the house.  Outside
in the courtyard Gilbert Armstrong was waiting.  There was no sound
but the crooning of pigeons in the pigeon-cote.  Through the open
window the thin warm spring sun poured in, striking lovely lights
in the tapestry.  But it was the house of the dead.

Nicholas had been nearly a week too late.  His uncle had in reality
been dead before he started from London.  Robin, to whom the house,
everything in it, the piece of land, had been left, was in the
Netherlands, travelling with Charles Lacey.  It had been Robin who
had been wanted, not Nicholas.

He knew, as he stood there, smiling at the gentle little man, that
he represented the enemy, and his sense of Robin's danger that had
been passionately active ever since he had listened to the
Bartholomew horrors in his uncle's house was vividly increased.
His uncle had left all that he had to Robin: his uncle had died a
Catholic and been buried in the vault at Henditch, Mr. Forster's
place, as a Catholic.

Since that French massacre of August '72--now nine months old--the
hostility to the Catholics, that had been quiet since Elizabeth's
accession, had flamed into life.  Nicholas felt it in himself.  He
hated the Catholics, as murderers of innocent women and children,
as enemies of the Queen.  And his own brother . . .

He had said no word to Robin of his visit to Uncle Henry.  His
attitude to Robin had been the same as before except that it had
been watchful and more tender.  He had said once:

'The Bartholomew massacre.  I can't get it out of my head, Robin.
If that Catholic horror should be repeated here.'

And Robin, steadily regarding him, had answered, 'I also hate that
cruelty.'

But the authorities?  They must have known that his uncle here was
a Catholic, they must have noted well that this house had been left
to Robin.  Even now, on this sunny spring morning, there must be
spies about the house. . . .

So, loudly and without pause, he said to Mr. Forster:

'I am sorry, Mr. Forster, that I did not see my uncle.  I am more
sorry still that he has left this place to my brother.'

'Why?' asked Mr. Forster.

'I am a Protestant, as is also my brother.  The authorities may
regard it strangely that my brother should inherit a Catholic
property.  It may place him under suspicion.'

Mr. Forster regarded him with mild surprise.

'Why, no, Mr. Herries.  The Catholics who plot against Her Majesty
MAY be under suspicion.  But everyone in this district loved your
uncle and knows that he was most loyal.'

'I have no doubt of his loyalty nor of yours, Mr. Forster, but
since the Bartholomew night things are changed.'  To his own
surprise he shuddered.  'There is a fear abroad that such things
might be attempted in England.'

Mr. Forster put his thin purple-veined hand on Nicholas' riding-
coat.

'Have no fears,' he said, as though he were speaking to a child.
'I am an old man and so it is perhaps little to say, but to-night
if it were necessary I would die for the Queen.  And so would your
uncle have done.'

Nicholas laughed.

'There is no question of dying, Mr. Forster.  I may remain here a
night or two?  There are some papers I must see, a little
business . . .'

'Why, of course!'  He bustled about, calling servants, sending for
the stable-man.

Nicholas joined Gilbert.

'I'll see to Juno.'  He looked about him.  'It's peaceful enough,
Gilbert,'--dropping his voice he said--'but I don't like it.
There's danger here.'

They stood close together, side by side; Gilbert with the ruddy-
brown complexion, the thick sturdiness of limb belonging to a man
who was always in the open air, Nicholas with that boyish sense of
springing vitality that went so remarkably with his great size.
Nevertheless Gilbert, who had not seen him for more than a year,
who, unknown even to himself, had longed for his return, realized
in Nicholas a new maturity.  Something had happened to him.  He was
no longer the young man of two years back.  It might be perhaps the
authority he had now in his father's place.

Thinking of that made Gilbert, on a quick impulse, determine to
speak, and even as he determined he realized what an odd
relationship there was between them--one of master and servant and
at the same time of equals, of friend and friend.

As Gilbert Armstrong spoke the words that were to alter his whole
life he took in, with his quick country eyes, the scene.  He would
never forget it again but carry it always with him as one does a
key, a knife, a little brass box.  Up the fell, the hills above
Watendlath were dead grey and a line of wood to the left was a dull
unstirring brown but lit by larch green and budding birch.  The
house itself was pearl-rose in the sunlight.  The sky was as pale
as a blue shadow on white water.  A great many birds were singing,
and from every side came the sound of the water of the swollen
becks.  The thin stretches of snow on the higher hills were now lit
with sun and truly were radiant with a blazing glow--but a thin
covering it was, so thin that it might lift at any instant and curl
into the blue baseless air like smoke.  He stood seeing and hearing
with an extra intentness, as though he knew that this was the most
important moment of his life.

He stood shoulder to shoulder with Nicholas Herries, not as serving-
man but as comrade and faithful helper for the remainder of their
two lives.

'I want to say something to you.'  His words had the rough warm
rhythm of the Cumbrian tongue, an accent that is made of honesty,
freedom and pigheadedness.

Nicholas, who had been lost in his own thoughts, turned and looked
at the stolid Gilbert and felt, like a touch on the arm, a
reassurance.

'What is it?'

'I have had a year to think of it.  I have thought of it very
often.'

'Thought? . . . of what?'

'Of yourself, Mr. Herries.  I wish to know whether I may come to
you and bide with you--'  He added deeply, firmly, as though he
were swearing an oath, 'Always.'

Nicholas stared at him.  This was a proper man and he loved him.

'Always?  That is a word without a tail--'

'I mean it every whit.  I think I belonged to you from the day when
I first saw you riding in the morning from this house.'

'Belong?'  Nicholas shook his head.  'That is not a word to use.
No man has any service save to the Queen.'

'To the Queen?  Yes, I pay that service.  But it is impersonal.  I
belong to the sky, this earth, and in especial this mile or two of
country--'  He stopped.  He raised his hand as though in a gesture
of farewell.  'I had not time to tell you yet.  My mother died six
weeks back.'

Nicholas put his hand on his shoulder.

'I am now a free man,' Gilbert said.

'And at once you would go into servitude again?'

'Not into servitude.  We are man to man.  But I have known no one
in my life yet whom I would follow as I would follow you.  When I
am not with you something is lacking.  I can do many things.'

Nicholas' hand tightened on his shoulder.

'You would leave this country you love so?'

'I would go anywhere with you.'

'And what about women?'

Gilbert laughed.

'I am like any other man about women.  But there are women in the
South as well as the North.'

'Jack Oates will hate you and maybe poison your porridge.'

'No one shall harm either of us while the two of us are one man.'

Nicholas laughed.  He was cheered again.  His regular mood had
returned--the sun was shining on the violet-grey of the pigeon's
wing and the larches burnt on the hill.

'That is a password that I will have written above my chimney-
piece.  No one shall harm either of us while the two of us are one
man.'

He took off his riding-glove and held out his hand.

'Very well then.  It is an oath.'

And they clasped hands while old Mr. Forster, looking from a
window, wondered what these two big men were pledging.

'Always . . .  Always . . .  Always . . .'

Gilbert had said it.  The pigeon, disturbed by a stamping of Juno's
hoof, had whirred in a tumbling symmetry to the air, echoing
'Always.'  The young larch trees burning on the hill had echoed it.

And now, two days later, Nicholas repeated it.  'Always.  Always,'
looking down at the swirling, kitten-like, fierce little eddies of
the Lake flooding-water.  'Always. . . .  Always . . .' but now it
was of a far greater seriousness, for he was saying it to a woman.
Men were good as companions, to jest with, to fight with, to trust
and defend and laugh with--but no man who ever lived could place
Nicholas in this strange turmoil under whose disturbing confusion
he now suffered.

He was on the Germans' island and a great curtain of dark velvet
cloud hung behind the hills on the Lake's farther side.  Straight
down through the heart of this curtain from an eye-dazzling, knife-
blade band of light, shafts of sun struck fan-shaped and shadowed
as though with dancing motes.  So on the grey-winged Lake, pools of
deep daffodil broke, and on the surface of these pools whirls of
water, because the Lake was flooded, curled like black snakes.

He was on the island that the German miners had now made their
home.  Hans Opperer and Beck had encountered him in Keswick.  Oh,
but how delighted they had been!  Opperer had at first been shy and
then, suddenly losing all restraint, had hugged and kissed him.

So the next day Nicholas must go and see what a wonderful place
they had made of the island.  As indeed they had!  Derwent Island
was near to the shore and a path ran down from the town to a little
rough landing-stage.  In the eleventh century it had been called
Horse Island and belonged to Fountains Abbey.  Then it was called
Vicar's Island and was thick with trees.  But now most of the trees
were gone; everything was trim and tidy with a proper German
tidiness.  Nicholas marvelled at the beauty and neatness of it.
There was a brewery with living-rooms adjoining it.  There was a
pigeon-house painted a bright green; a windmill painted crimson,
and this could be seen, with its wings beautifully turning, from
all parts of the Lake; there were pigsties with fine handsome pigs;
but best of all, an enchanting garden that had a smooth lawn
running to the Lake edge, box hedges and flowers--now all the
flowers of the spring--in lines and pools of colour under the open
sky.

Before this magical island swung and heaved, on this spring day,
the Lake of Derwent.  Dark shadows in the sky made dark shadows in
the Lake, but it was the spring rains that had caused the rise, so
that the Lake was like a cup filled to its very brim.  A breath on
the surface, and a shudder heaved the water to a running race so
that in ripples of pale silver and glassy heaving shoulders of
water the edge was over-topped, and up on to the thin grasses and
shining pebbles and satin-mackerel roots of the silver birch it
welled and sucked and clung.

From end to end of the Lake ran the ripples and sudden whips of
dark water and little mad scrambles of fret and foam like the
playing of puppies or children.  Then, after these, the long calm
parental roll, making all smooth again.  Beneath the frets and
eddies, constantly broken by them, lay the dead-brown reflected
hills with their slender caps of snow.

Nicholas, leaving Opperer at the brewery, had turned from the lawn
to the thicket at the Lake edge, and it had been no surprise at all
to see Catherine Hodstetter there, on her knees on the pebbly
strand, washing clothes.

Since he came this time to Rosthwaite her name had not passed his
lips.  He had not, in fact, spoken her name to any living soul
since he had last seen her in Newlands.  He never prayed at all,
either to God or man, but if he had made a prayer it would be that
he never might see her again.  Not one single day since the
Newlands visit had passed without his thinking of her.  He was sure
that if she had been his mistress he would, after a week of it,
have never thought of her again.  Or would that physical intimacy
have bound them together irrevocably?  What madness was it in his
brain?

Some six months ago, lying with a lady of the Court, a light friend
of Charles Lacey's, at an inn on the river near Twickenham, early
in the morning, as the faint glow stirred behind the window,
turning on his side and seeing her with her mouth open asleep, his
body had been of a sudden so passionately possessed with a longing
for this German girl that he had almost cried out aloud.  It was
then, at that early hour, when such thin vaporous fancies possess
us, that he had been suddenly certain that the girl, the daughter
of a witch, had bewitched him.  It could only be a spell.  He had
smacked his chest, crying out aloud, 'A witch!  A witch!  By Jesu,
a witch!'--and the Court lady had awakened and buried her head in
his arm-pit, and his boredom had been like a sickness.

'A witch!  A witch!' and there she was before the swirling water,
on her knees, washing the clothes.

She heard his step and turned her body towards him.  As in the
instance of their other meetings, so now.  It was an event so
natural and, for them both, so joyous that there was little to say.
She stood up, moving her strong arms to her yellow braided hair.
The little pebbled hollow where they met was bounded by the trees:
in front of them was the Lake.  He took her in his arms and they
stayed strained, body to body, mouth to mouth, while the water
whirled on to the grasses and the shafts of light from the dark
bands of cloud spread into a wide sweep of sun across the flanks of
the hills.

Then they stood, hand in hand, side by side, looking out to the sun-
stirred Lake.

'I intended to go without seeing you,' Nicholas said.

'I knew you were here.  I know when you are within distance of me.'

'What is to be done?' Nicholas asked.  'We must talk.  Sit here on
this stone.  I must resolve this for myself as well as for you.'

'What is there to resolve?'  She was so happy and her eyes shone
with so deep a look that he turned his head away from her.

'This must be resolved, Catherine.  It is three years since our
first meeting.  I have never been rid of you from then until now.'

'Nor I of you.'

'Well, what is it to be?  Will you come away with me?  We will ride
into Scotland, live in the hills for a time, know one another body
and soul.  Then I will go back to my father's house.  That way our
longing will be satisfied.  Then we will be friends the rest of our
days.  We stop now on the edge of satisfaction.'  He put his arm
round her.  'Feel my heart beating against your hand.  I am a man
like any other and it is getting so now that when another woman is
in my arms I think only of you.  Until that week when first I
failed to help a man who needed me and I kissed you in the Keswick
Square everything had been as it was.  I ate, I slept, I fought, I
loved, and all was as it seemed to be.  But since that day what is
not there has more power over me than what is.  A man's life, I
should imagine, is set on the ground, and there is a door to go out
from and a bed for him to sleep on and the sky is constant for him
and these are the things that he must do: fear no man, honour the
Queen, have his bodily needs and find every day sufficient for
itself.  But now'--he looked round to her, bewildered, his eyes
puckered--'there is nothing simple any more, loving is not a simple
loving and my enemy is seen in a mirror.'  He said, his hand
touching her breast, 'Have you bewitched me, Catherine?'

She shook her head.

'No, I have not bewitched you.  But let me tell you, once and for
ever.  When, a long time ago in Germany, I knew what my mother was
and that her blood ran through my own body, I swore on the altar of
our little church in Devingen that I would give that body to no
man, would bear no child, would die as I must live--alone.  Until I
saw you it was not difficult.  I had my longings like any other
girl, and when a man kissed me, sometimes my blood would beat in my
ears, but it became a habit, even a pride, to know that I was
apart, and it grew in my mind that I was meant for some great work
like the Maid in France.  When I stood alone in my room and looked
through the window at the trees standing so strongly by the river
and the clouds driving so fiercely across the sky, I thought I was
like them. . . .  After I loved you I knew that it was not so. . . .'

He gazed into her face, his hand held hers as though he would break
it.

'Tell me the truth, Catherine.  Your mother--what is she?'

'My mother is a very strange woman.  She is not evil, but--but--oh,
how can I tell you?  If you could have been with me!  Sometimes at
night when we two are alone in the house my mother is not my
mother.  She is possessed by a power that if she were not herself
good would lead her into terrible places.  In my room, alone, above
stairs, I can feel cold come into the house, and I have been to the
stair-head and looked down, and in the room there is light and no
light, and my mother sits straight in her chair and perhaps there
is something at her feet and perhaps there is not.  I have seen the
flames leap in the fire and a wind has shaken the hangings and
something has passed out through the door.  I have seen my mother,
naked, crouching on the floor, her hands cupped as though holding a
vessel--'

'There is nothing in this,' Nicholas said, whispering.

'But there is.  One day they will come and take her and burn her.
She loves me and has a great heart and much wisdom.  But she has
told me.  She cannot go back now.  Knowing so much, she must know
more.  There is a great bat flies in front of the moon.  I have
seen it often and it hangs by its feet to the tree, and the fire
inside the house leaps. . . .'

She came very close to him and cupped his face in her hands.

'Listen.  I believe now that perhaps we will never be separated.
And I know that we can never be together.  You must try, with all
the strength you have, to forget me.  You must be not only passive
as you have been, but you must fight.  You must cry when you pray:
"Mary, Mother of Jesus, deliver me!  Mary, Mother of Jesus, deliver
me!"  Perhaps there is a Mary, Mother of Jesus.  It may be that
there was never one on this earth, but if she is there as they say,
listening, she will hear and will save us both.  Because for me
there is one thing more terrible than my mother's end, which can be
only the one end: that worse thing is that I should ever harm you.'

She moved away from him.

'If there is a God, may He keep us apart--always.'



But he made a pledge; he was alone, for she had gone with the
basket of washed clothes while he stared beyond her into the water.

He said out aloud:  'I swear fidelity.'

To what would he be faithful?  He did not know as yet.  He was only
a young man growing.  He sat there a long time, wanting only her
body.  All this talk about witches, bats, the moon, was nonsense.
He had a wild idea of riding to her cottage and, with Gilbert's
aid, snatching her away, and, whether she liked it or no, carrying
her off to the Border country and loving her there until he was
tired.  Then he would let her return to her mother.  And he would
have a fight or two to keep his hand in, and some drinking spells.
After that he would return to Mallory and do his work like a good
young man.  He stood doubtfully.  He shook his big head and, with
his dagger, cut slices of bark off a tree.  What was happening to
his life that had formerly been so simple?  There was Robin nearly
a Catholic, and hatred of Irvine and love of a girl who was never
there. . . .  If it were not for his home duty he would go off with
Drake or Hawkins. . . .  That might be after all the best thing.
There was simple fighting there and comrades and gold. . . .  But
he shook his head again.  In some way that would be disloyal to
everything that he loved.  He had some task to perform.  But what?

'I swear fidelity.'  But to what?  To whom?

At least he was hungry and thirsty now.  THERE was a problem easily
resolved.



When he was back in the Rosthwaite house it was a delightful
pleasure to find Gilbert Armstrong settled in there.  Gilbert had
brought a leather bag with all his property in it: a suit of
clothes, shirts and hose, a sword with a carved hilt, a decorated
saddle, his mother's gold wedding ring, an illuminated Psalm book,
a volume of bawdy songs, and an ivory jack-in-the-box phallus that
a pedlar had sold him, and thirty pounds in gold--all his worldly
goods.  He moved a truckle-bed into an attic room and would abide
there for life if Nicholas wished him.  He had that gift, possessed
by simple, untroubled, unsubtle men, of settling anywhere, at an
instant's notice, with the greatest comfort and for ever if need
be.

Nicholas was surprised in himself to find what great pleasure,
comfort, reassurance, Gilbert's company gave him.  That alone
proved how greatly he, Nicholas, was changing.  A year or two back
he needed nobody; he could meet every trouble that came.  But now
there were some troubles that were not so simple.

On that very first night he fell into the habit that was to last
for ever afterwards.  In his furred crimson bed-gown he went up to
Gilbert's attic, found him in his naked bed snoring like a drunken
trumpeter with his mouth wide open.  Remorselessly he shook him
wide awake.  Sitting on the pallet which he bore down to the rush
floor with his weight, he told Gilbert everything about Catherine,
every single thing.

'If I could have her, Gilbert, there'd be an end--or would there?
But I cannot have her.  She says something and slips away.  Why
cannot I get her out of my mind?  Has she bewitched me, do you
think?  And, Gilbert, how much do I pay you now for your services?
We said nothing about it.'

Gilbert sat up, rubbed his bare chest, yawned, blinked his eyes.

'I was dreaming of a goat being milked by a girl with red hair.'
He grinned and drew the pelted covering up to his chin with a sort
of bashfulness.

'It's plaguy cold.  Pay me what you will.  You must buy me a horse
and I must have my own room.'

Nicholas went on telling him about Catherine.  'I should be afraid
of her.  She speaks with a foreign accent and I have never had
traffic with German girls.  She says her mother is a witch, or at
least she says that she sits on the floor and the fire leaps and
things pass in and out of the room and a big bat hangs with its
feet to a tree.  What do you think, Gilbert?  Does the Devil walk
abroad like a minister of the Church or fly like a bat?  Can old
women, as they say, fly through the window at night-time and suck
your blood?'

'I only believe what I see, Mr. Herries,' Gilbert said firmly.
'But to-morrow night there is a moon and if the sky's clear and you
will come with me to Watendlath--'

'What is Watendlath?' Nicholas asked.

'It is a little piece of dark water just above here, sunk in the
hills.  If we go up after midnight we may see a thing or two.  I
have been myself only once and I saw--I can't say what I saw--this
is a strange place--'

'How do you mean--this is a strange place?'

'It is like none other in England.  It has been so shut away for so
long that old deeds and old people--long, long forgotten things--
have remained shut up in it.  I am a Cumbrian man and am proud to
be one, and I know that Cumbrian men and women are the most sturdy
and the most heart-and-bone men and women in the world, believing
only what they see and saying naught--but they are double-world
also and have lived for so long so close to the same earth without
moving that things past are the same as things present, and they
can see the future if they care to bother their heads about it.
Mostly they bother their heads about nothing but the sheep and the
cows--'

Nicholas drew his bed-gown closer about him.

'There is more in this world than ever I thought when I was
younger.  Now tell me, Gilbert--what is said about this girl and
her mother by the people here?'

'The Keswick people know little about her, and her mother lives to
herself.  But the miners like the girl.  On all hands she is known
to be a strong woman of her word, honest and kindly, asking nothing
of anybody.  There are several who would marry her in spite of the
mother.  Of HER they are afraid, but she is splendid with herbs,
they say, and can cure a man of anything.'

'What do you yourself think of it?'

'I think, Mr. Herries, that what she told you is right--that is,
never to see her again nor think of her if you can help it.  One
day they will take her mother and burn her.  You come with me to-
morrow night over the hill, and maybe it will cure you.'

Nicholas got up.

'I think there is someone listening at the door,' he said.

He stole across the floor, flashed open the door.  There was no one
there, but they both fancied that they heard a creak on the stair.



When they started out on their adventure Nicholas felt as pleased
as a schoolboy and as agreeably frightened as one.

He did not believe in God, or at least had never seriously
considered Him, but he did believe in the Devil, who was an
adversary walking about the earth, seeking whom he might devour.
If a Devil there were, then witches, his servants, must also be
allowed.  He did not know quite what he was going to see, but
climbing the hill above Rosthwaite, he had his hand on his dagger-
hilt, and his face wore that open schoolboy expression of one who
is 'ready for anything' and hopes to have a tale to tell when he
'gets back to the other boys.'

This strange country, too, that seemed to have 'caught him by the
tail,' to be forcing him into those mysterious boundaries again and
again, was showing him an aspect that he had not seen before.
Washed in moonlight, these little hills were as gigantic as the
mountains of the world.  The sky was covered with a network of soft
fleecy clouds and through these the pale lambent moon seemed to
move as though sleep-walking.  The only sound was the rough
breaking of dry twigs by the two men, the relentless beautiful
monotony of the running streams, the owls' cry.

Nicholas was no poet, but when they reached the hill's ridge and he
looked back over Borrowdale valley he cried out.  Scafell and Gavel
hung black over the silver bowl that the moonlight made.  But it
was the stillness of the valley that brought tears to his eyes.  It
had a deep pathos as of something helpless, innocent and fated.  He
thought again, he did not know why, of his words, 'I swear
fidelity.'  Something good and true in him commanded for the moment
all his carelessness, his material triviality, his lasciviousness,
his lightmindedness.  It was as though, on his way to meet the
Devil, he said:  'I believe in God.'

'You are right,' he said to Gilbert.  'This is like no other place.
And myself and my sons and my sons' sons belong here.'

But Armstrong motioned him to be silent.

'We may meet one or two,' he said, in a voice as soft as the misty
light around them.

For a while they walked on the level top, their feet sinking into
squashy bog.  They could see, across the valley, Scafell and Gavel;
at the far end beyond the Lake, Skiddaw; at their side, Glaramara;
and the stream running madly at their right down to Rosthwaite had
in its voice both scorn and strength.  There were patches of snow,
like grey moss in the moonlight, in their path.

Five minutes later and Watendlath appeared.  It was a tarn, a small
lake, now quite black because the moonlight lay on the flank of the
farther bank and on the tower and broken walls of a small ruined
house.  The hill and the house were as white as leprosy and the
water jet.  Nothing, no bird or sheep, was visible in this forlorn
place.  There were some trees close to where they stood, gaunt
haggard trees with no leaves as yet.  As they had come over the
ridge and down a little way the sound of the stream was cut off.
This place was so still that Nicholas was afraid to move forward.
He did not know what cowardice meant but was well experienced in
fear.  This was the worst fear, the fear of the other world, for he
believed, as did all of his fellows, that any man had unfair odds
to face when Satan was in question.

So he crossed himself and repeated the Lord's Prayer rather as he
would take a bolus against the plague.

Gilbert started down the hill and he followed.  At the hill-foot
there was a group of trees and then a stretch of bog and reeds
leading to the tarn.

'Here,' Gilbert said.  'We will wait here.'  So they stood behind
the trees, close pressed together.

Silence and the passing of time can do much, most especially when
you are waiting for the Devil, and it seemed to Nicholas that,
after a while, the tarn's breast shuddered and the reeds began to
stir although there was no wind.  Also the fleecy fragments of
cloud passed into a spider-web thinness, veiling the sky; behind
this there was a cold light but now no visible moon.  To his
strained attention the tower and ruined house seemed to come nearer
so that he could see rafters and at the top of the tower a bell.
He was viciously cold.  Gilbert caught his arm, pinching it.

'Look, Mr. Herries!' he whispered.

He looked.  From the door of the ruined house a little crowd of men
and women emerged.  They were soundless, stood in a group, then
began to run scattering and spreading towards the tarn.  As they
ran they screeched.

The effect of that sound breaking on to the silence was very eerie.
The screeching was animal, not quite bird-like, not quite human.

Four women ran along the meadow on the other side of the tarn.
They were dressed, it seemed, in some grey material that flew above
their heads.  Nicholas could see that they were picking their
skirts up above their knees and kicking their legs.  One of them
ran round and round in circles screeching like a throat-cut pig.

Gilbert muttered:  'Oh Lord!  Mr. Herries, I can tell that one.
She is the wife of Abraham Schaaf, the Jew in Keswick who buys lead
from the miners.'

There was nothing in all this performance so far but silliness.
The women now joined hands, yelling and screaming, and as they grew
ever more excited they tore at their clothes.  Nicholas could see
quite clearly that one of them was almost naked, a girl with her
hair tumbling about her bare shoulders.  A horrid fear seized him
lest this should be Catherine.  He saw that the girl, followed by
an old woman, who was prancing about, now bending down on all
fours, now giving little leaps into the air, moved forward into the
tarn.  As she came striding through the cold dark water he saw that
she was stark, with big firm breasts and broad white shoulders.
She was not Catherine.  She tossed her head as though she were a
horse.

How cold it must be! he thought.  How fearfully cold!  She stood in
the water up to the chin.

She began to chant, waving her arms, and the women in a group on
the bank caught up the chant--all dreadfully out of tune and broken
with laughter and yells and cries like birds.

On the left of the black tarn there was a rock with a pointed
erected head.  The two groups joined and all moved towards the
stone.  Nicholas could see them very clearly now: three old women;
the girl, who was wearing a cloak over her shoulders and bound
about her waist; one tall commanding woman who stood apart from the
others; two men--one thin, young and dark; the other bent, old,
with a grey beard.

They gathered now about the stone, all bending inwards towards the
centre.  The silence was as deep and unstirred as it had been
before their arrival.  A thin column of smoke rose from the stone
and then a bright darting flame.  They began to chant again, one
male voice strong and resolute, the others cracked and uncertain.

A cry rose from inside the circle; a cry--piercing, agonizing,
high.

Gilbert caught Nicholas by the shoulders.  'It is a goat.  It's
nothing.  I've slit the throat of many a one.'

Nicholas said:  'I thought it was a child.  This is devilish. . . .'

'Foolish,' Gilbert answered.  'Don't move.  Stay where you are.  A
pack of old women.  The young man is the son of the baker, Morley.
They've said for a long time--'

He stopped.  Both men stayed, rigid, staring.  For Nicholas was
never to know if he saw anything or what he saw.  A pack of old
women, a column of smoke, the dark, unmoved water . . .

But the sky had thickened, the light dimmed.  The smoke rose above
the stone like a snake and, although there was no wind, it blew, in
tuggy gusts, leftwards to the Lake.  Did the sky break and the
clouds, thick like smoke, drive across the tarn?  What shadow of
cloud floated against the snow-flank of the hill?  And did he see,
or did he not see, figures flying through the air, the high reeds
blowing although there was no wind, and hear the bell in the ruined
house sounding a shrill note like a pencil scratching on a slate?
He strained his eyes upwards and saw a sickly moon, the colour of
yellow soap, break the mist, and something--was it a bird, a bat, a
cloud?--cross the moon's face.  One, and now another, and now a
third . . .

He looked down again.  No figure broke the landscape's silence.
Only, above the erected stone, a thin little waver of smoke.

He caught Gilbert's arm.

'What did I see?'

'Nothing,' Gilbert answered.  'Some old mad women who will be burnt
one day for their nonsense.'  Then, after a moment's hesitation, he
added:  'Mr. Herries--the tall woman--apart from the others--that
was Catherine Hodstetter's mother.'



ROBIN HERRIES LOQUITUR: HE LOSES HIS LADY


. . . And so, although you may hate him from your heart's very core
and therefore acknowledge in yourself a most unworthy prejudice,
the man may yet be of no kind of merit.  I will acknowledge that to
myself, for I have studied him these three years, and I think that
he has, for no very plain reason, put his best foot forward with
me, and I have seen any best there may be in him.  But there IS no
best.

I will consider you, Philip Irvine, fairly.  You are deeply,
bottomlessly proud and, although of fine family, appear always as
though you were newly great and were one of the new young men.
That salt of commonness I may detect all through your breeding.
With every gesture you proclaim your self-greatness, and if one
does not grasp it sufficiently you tell me and insist, by word of
mouth, that I shall know it.  When you come into fresh company, or
any company where you are uncertain, you look about you angrily,
and if you are not at once reassured by some sycophancy, your proud
anger increases, and you try to force it on your company that it is
by some rudeness of theirs (of which of course they are altogether
ignorant) that you are offended.  And so you hope to win the first
trick of the game before they are ready.  If you have an insult
easy to hand you will use it, as in forgetting someone's name
although you know it well enough.  And then by cold politeness
assuming a condescension and even a suffering patience with them
for intruding on you.

If you use a man, whether to take his money or receive an
introduction that you need, or any service, you will be short with
him if you dare and receive the favour as only part of what is
always due to you.  You have a charm which is true, but you are so
inordinately proud of it, and use it so openly to your advantage
that the trick of it is seen very quickly.

You are handsome but are so inordinately vain of this that many men
laugh at you for it.  But the most of women oddly prefer that you
should have this vanity and praise you for it.  Ambitious vulgar
men like Uncle Henry who have, since childhood, practised to be all
things to all men, admire you for your scornful haughtiness.  It is
to them a feat of arms that you should challenge so many poor
horsemen without being unseated.  Your courage, which is a true
courage, places the cowards, of whom there are many, cringing at
your shoes, but they give you no pleasure, for you are vain enough
to recognize them for the poor creatures they are.

Within your brain, a place of small and congested compass, there is
a constant wonder that you are not further in the world than you
are.  To be among the highest at Court, to have your ears pinched
by Majesty and Burghley's beard confidentially in your chin, seems
to you to be but your barest right, and yet you are not even within
the Court's outer boundaries.  Nor ever will be, whatever your old
savage of a mother may do for you.  And, when once more the
intrigue has failed, you post down to that grim Essex country, and
in that chill mansion of yours, with the rain beating the windows,
you crouch with her over the poor, starved fire, plotting anew.

Therefore, poor defeated creature, you have turned in your anger
and done this hateful thing. . . .  Oh God, God, God! . . .  Have
pity on me, have pity on her . . . save us both. . . .  Out of this
shame pluck for us some merit.  Out of this shame . . .



I am quiet again and can assemble every detail to trap this madness
and hold it bound in its dark corner with its long scratch-bearded
moping face turned to the plastered wall.

I am Robin Francis Herries, younger son of Sir Michael Herries of
Court Mallory in Sussex.  I am twenty-four years of age in this
Year of Grace 1573.  I returned but a month ago from travelling in
the Netherlands with my friend, Mr. Charles Lacey.

It is now by my clock twenty-seven minutes after three of the
morning of April the Fourth.  I am well in body but sick in mind.
I am at the sign of the Grapes in Southwark.  My hair is brushed,
my face is clean.  I am in my bed-gown of furred purple velvet.
The hangings of my bed are in green, yellow and red, figuring a
hawking match.  My taper burns steadily.  There is no wind.

Thus it was Philip Sidney's advice to pour my heart out and let it
break on paper, for that is the first prelude, he says, to mending
it again.  And so, my mouth grave and my mind set on the purpose, I
recover the event.

I had a foreboding before ever I set out for my cousin, Jennifer
Herries.  She lives--and I lay it on to the paper like a sort of
bitter offering, the name of the very heart of our meeting with its
small close garden of herbs, the lute of ivory, the stool that the
good Queen Katherine of Aragon embroidered, the white dog with the
clipped tail, and the two parrots of crimson and grass-green that
call, one, 'Marjorie . . . Marjorie . . .' and the other, 'Come for
your hair to be washed!'--she lives, with her sister Celia, these
two, beyond Chelsea, not distant from my Uncle Henry.

My dear Uncle Henry, my beloved Uncle Henry . . . who will spend
his sixpence with a great deal of flourishing and no man makes more
of a pint of wine than he!  So record it, my white paper and
darkened room, for the taper slides, head sideways, into a
lethargy.  There, I have spunked it again and the hawking of the
bed-tester is all flourishing in the new light with birds and the
red king on the white roan.

So my cousins, on the Northumberland side, Jennifer and Celia have
been--for two years now--our rendezvous-makers.

Ah, Sylvia, Sylvia, Sylvia, Sylvia, Sylvia. . . .  Now the page is
filled with your name, black-scrawled with it, and yet the word
'faithless' is not written.

How many a time have you kissed me there while the herbs scent the
air in the little garden and the dog with the clipped tail, his
legs spread, waits till the flea shall slumber.  You have kissed
me, as you did the first time, standing on your toes, your small
hand on my breast.  On my very heart--my heart naked like a pear
under the velvet.  While your nurse swills the ale in the buttery,
tickling, I don't doubt, Jennifer Herries' long lean serving-man in
his most tender places, for she is a bawdy heart and generous.  My
fair cousins, one with the heavy moustache, the other with the
three chins, bend in the herb-garden, seeking the eternal good of
others; for they, having no hopes of a lover and disbelieving a
God, turn most marvellously to the curing of their neighbours'
aches and mortalities.  The scent of their herbs goes God-wards
although they are blind to that destination, while you, Sylvia,
leaning upon me, your child-face stretched up to mine, my hand
cupping your neck, you repeat:  'I love you!  I love you!  I love
you!' the clock of your infidelities recording its eternally
forsworn oaths.

But forgive me, child.  Child, child, forgive me.

At this last meeting but the last one, when the snow was on the
ground, the herbs in silver burial, the logs leaping into such
amber glory that I caught you and lifted you and pressed my lips
against your little breasts and cried, 'When?  When?  When? . . .
Why may I not speak?'

And you said, your right breast against my cheek, 'Put me down,
Robin,' and I put you down and you said, terror in your eyes, 'I
have but now learnt.  Twice you have concealed priests at Mallory.
You are spied upon and watched.  You are a Catholic'

I stood, staring at the grass-green of the parrot, silent.  They
knew, then!  I might have guessed it long, long ago.

'Your father . . .'

She nodded.  Her eyes were as wide as saucers.

'Phineas Thatcher?'

She nodded again.  'The first time he saw you--at Mallory.'

I saw that she was quivering, so I took her in my arms and she
huddled in them, closer and closer, like any child.  She went on
again:  'My father told Nicholas many many months ago.'

'Nicholas!'  (My dear beloved Nick who would die for me--and I for
him.)

'He came to ask my father to permit our marriage.  It was then that
father told him.  But _I_ didn't know at that time.  I have only
now learnt--from my mother.'

(So Nick has known all these months and has said no word.  So, too,
one day I will serve him, God willing.)

'Your mother told you--she has other plans for you then?'

I felt her detach herself, as a bird from its shell.  It was an
unfolding, a withdrawal of the soul as well as of the body.  But
this was not the first withdrawal.  It had been coming for many
months.  During this last year she has been growing fast--and
towards gaiety.

She has been wanting pleasure, the lights and colours and senses of
the world.  Aye, the senses!  There have been hours of this
rendezvous when I have known that she was child no longer,
stirrings of the body, murmurings, placings of the hands--I think
with another her virginity would not have been safe, and it has
been hard, by the witness of Christ's own body, to be myself
withdrawn.  Loving her so, mouth to mouth, breast to breast . . .
and she has known the danger well and I have been ever graver with
the burden of it, and she, the fountain of Cupid's bare body
splashing its water above the herb-garden, has murmured to me:
'Closer, dear Robin.  Hold me, dear Robin--your hand, dear Robin.'
Her eyes have shone and her wet mouth smiled--but always, hiding,
frightened, unknowing, the child lost in this house of pleasure,
and I, knowing it was so, have not harmed her.  And she, loving me,
has turned even more from me because she has been bruised with
ignorant longing.

It was not unexpected when she said:  'And so, Robin, my dear, my
dear, we can never, never be married.'

'I am not a Catholic,' I said.

But she kissed me on my eyes and then, for a lifetime, on my lips,
and went away with her nurse.  And I knew well enough that they
were making some plans for her.

My little clock of silver and ebony strikes four and plays its tune
of 'Dorcas is willing' with the little hesitation on the last note
but two that gives it a personal familiarity with myself, as though
it said 'I am yours, Master.  Though all else may fail you.'



. . . And so, after she was gone, using, as I well knew, this
rendezvous never again, I kept silence.  For a long month I kept
it.

Will Nick ever know how dearly now I loved him?  Did he feel in the
touch of my hand my gratitude?  I know not, for Nicholas, my big
brother, is not given to these niceties, although he too is made by
the years something other, I fancy, from what he was, and thought
steals like a stranger into his brain, wondering at the empty room
and, in a while, bringing her own furniture.

I kept silence until that Eighth of May that is now only to-day.  I
fancy that we cheat ourselves over Time, which is assuredly not as
the clocks mark it; for by the clock, six of the evening is just
nine hours from three of this morning, but for myself, who am only
an item in Time, it is the gulf of experience from one life to
another.  And yet not altogether, for in the little goldsmith's
shop by West Cheap one Robin Herries was half out of the door and
another entering.

For a month then I heard nothing.  I bided at home and worked at my
translation of Suetonius, his History of the Twelve Caesars.  Ye
blind Caesars, without eyes or mouths, that, cheating me once by
your ghostly presence, promised me fame--and now another will be
before me to give Suetonius' history to the English world, for
Sylvia has slain your Twelve Emperors.  I threw Suetonius against
the wall and rode to London.

For a wild month, crowded with sun and rain and yet empty as Uncle
Henry's charity, I had waited.  No word.  No sign.  So I must know.
I must speak with her.

What mad fantasies I had in my brain as I rode over the bridge and
into the street.  I would carry her from them all, ride madly North
to Scotland, or to Southampton and take boat . . . but she herself
did not wish it and God does not wish it.  The very skies do not
wish it, for above my head the heavens lay like a lid on a pan.
Set in that grey heaviness was a dead sun, dead for May, when there
should be light and brightness.  You might, an you were Hercules,
stand on the roofs of this little stinking town and, raising your
great arm, lift that heavy lid.  Push with your hand against the
sky, brave fellow.  Thrust away, my hearty!  The sweat will run
down your beard and your eyes be blinded, your great heart hammer
your ribs, your throat be dry as matchwood, but strain and you will
have your reward.  For the sky will lift backwards like a chest-
cover.  All the men of the street and the fields will look up,
thinking that at last, after so many cheated chances, they will see
God.  And what will they see, O my Hercules?

Dead sun and dead sun and dead sun.  Thousands upon thousands like
maggoty cheeses spread on a dish-clout.  These suns will not stir
nor will they twinkle.  The light in them is sulphurous.  They burn
with the dying fires of cheated hopes and false love and abandoned
worship.  And so, my Hercules, drop the lid again.  You have
strained your muscle to no purpose.  You are once more among men
who have lost desire now for the unrevealed and hope for the
promised land, and, their daily business over, will lie down there
where they are and flicker no eyelid as old man Death, so humble in
his monotonous duty, approaches.



I entered the goldsmith's in West Cheap to purchase a treasure for
my beloved.  I had given her my heart, but that she must not wear,
and my more sensual parts are dangerous, so a gold chain or buttons
of diamonds, rubies and orient pearl.  The shop was dark and I was
an old customer of his: an Italian, Annibale Zanti.  The shop was
dark and Zanti's brown fingers laid out his treasures, while in
front of the shop the apprentice's shrill cry for customers was
interrupted by his howlings, for his duties were interrupted by
baitings from two other apprentices.  On Zanti's shelf was a bowl
of rose-coloured Italian design.  As I looked at it my old self
went out of the door, my new self--a stern lean-chapped stranger--
stared in.  Can a snake not slough its skin?  Why, young Prince,
your lady has left you, and you, stripping in your agony everything
from you, the purple doublet with buttons of pearl, the cambric
shirt, the crucifix against your warm flesh, and then the flesh
itself, as the Indians do when they catch Hawkins' men, hanging
their fleshly vestiture on the upas tree for the monkeys to water,
and so to the very bone.  Take it between your thumbs, for it must
be broken ere it is mended again.  Why, it is broken already!
Snapped in a neat sequence of quarters.  Who has done this!  Why,
the Fool himself--all because his lady turned him out of doors.
Well, then, mend the bone again.  See how quickly and neatly it
fits together again!  The rib!  The rib!  But on this occasion man
is fashioned from it, not woman.  We will fashion no more women.
We will have women no more in this fair city but only the eunuchs
and the pretty boys, the first for their wisdom and gratifying
impotency, the last for the excellent ways they have for the
pleasing of old men.  And so, in a generation or two, man will be
at an end.  No propagation from eunuchs and pretty boys, howsoever
earnestly you work at it!  The rib is productive.  The bones mend
and Mr. Herries stands up again, the skin falls gently on the bones
and the velvet falls on the skin, and the birds' droppings on the
velvet.  And so, bird-snouted but firm rejecter of women, he peers
in through Zanti's shop, while the old body, slain by false women,
and so a ghost in the city, passes out like the wind and is blown
like a leaf across the roof-tops.

There is a new Herries staring at the rose-coloured bowl and he has
asked Zanti the price of it, but when he drags it forward the rose
is out of the colour.  It is drab--glass only.

I left Zanti's shop, with my buttons of pearl and gold for my
little love.  And I was met by the Beggars.

There they came down West Cheap, a mass of them, some without ears,
some without lips, some without a nose, many blind, many without a
leg or so, some naked of all but a clout for decency, some in
ragged finery of faded velvet, soldiers wandering the country,
sailors rebellious from the fleet.  Women drunken and screaming,
some pushing a cart, others ringing bells, some carrying children
on their shoulders, women pregnant and limping--and the fierce
beggars, the audacious, cracking their whips, shouting abuse,
others snivelling for bread, whining for a coin, some mountebanking,
leaping from back to back, somersaulting as they would at a fair,
others with many improper gestures tempting the maids, one, crowned
with a paper hat, mocking the Pope of Rome, some wrestling and
fighting as they walk--all huddling, thumping, shouting, screaming,
making water, tearing at rotten bread with their black teeth,
spitting and mewing like cats, laughing, singing, hugging and
embracing, falling and jumping--the Beggars, once more, have come
to Town.

They come thus, like rats from the sewer, up into the air when the
plague is stealing upon them.  So it must be.  I could feel, as I
stood there, outside Zanti's shop, that faint, half-sweet, half-
rotten odour.  I could fancy--for my fancy now is sharp, having
with my new bones a new perception--that with my eyes I could see
curling around the cobble-stones the faint blue wisps of mist that
are the skirts of the plague.  The Beggars are come.  The plague is
come.  A fine new world for the new Robin!

So, under the eaves and the close-hanging boards and plaster, the
Beggars go.  The air is filled with their cries and their stench
and the pushing whack and thud of their sweating bodies.  But
overhead it is little better.  The dead sun still lies like a
cheese on the heavy table of the sky.  The Beggars gaze not
skywards, but an they did they would get no benefit of it.  For God
has closed the lid down on his earth and turned aside to more
profitable ventures.  Like lice on a corpse, the Beggars swarm and
curl and feed.

I was happy to see the blue vapours of the plague curl between the
stones.  For man has made of God's world a filthy sewer and the end
is better than the continuing.



And so I came to my uncle's house.  Here is sanity.  The songs of
the Beggars are cut off by the high gates.  The fountain plays in
the courtyard.  In the offices in my uncle's house men are busy
counting the gold.  You can hear the bags rustle and the coins
chink and the dog snuffle, in contented sleep, before the fire as
the cooks prepare for the feast and the musicians practise on the
lute and tabor.  As I mount the great staircase to greet my aunt,
who is 'better to-day, thank you,' there is the scent of spring
flowers in my nostrils.  'You will see Sylvia.  I know that you
have come to see Sylvia, nephew Robin.'

But first I see Irvine.

He stood at the top of the stairs, handsome in black and silver and
very friendly.  He greeted me as he might his own child--very
damnably condescending.  I had it in mind to say to him:  'I am
twenty-four years of age,' and my hand was on my dagger.

'Young Robin. . . .  Young Robin.'

He put his hand through my arm, drew me close to him and looked
into my eyes.

'Two years too late,' he said, kissed my left cheek and left me.

There was the room with the mirrors.  Uncle Henry and Sylvia stood
together, infinitely repeated, while through the open window (how
sultry the air was!) I heard a drum beat from the street.

Sylvia--she had on her breast a diamond that turned and flashed
against the white velvet; I had not seen the diamond before this--
looked past me.  In all the mirrors her face was turned away from
me.

Sylvia . . . Sylvia . . . Sylvia . . .

My uncle said, very grandly, as though he were announcing his new
governorship of Paradise:  'You have come on a good day.  Sylvia's
betrothal . . .'

I broke in, stiffly, 'He is very fortunate,' and then, most
foolishly, 'I am twenty-four years of age.  Tell him that.  Philip
Irvine is only twenty-nine, I think.'

I kissed Sylvia on the cheek.  For a moment she clung to me with
both hands but said nothing.  I felt the jewelled buttons in my
pocket against my thigh.

I walked out and down the stairs, as though I would walk down for
ever into the rottenness that lies under the stones. . . .



O our father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Let thy
kingdom come.  Thy will be fulfilled. . . .



END OF PART I




PART II

THE LOVERS AGAINST GOD



JOURNEY TO THE DARK TOWER


Dusk crept upon them very early.  Sylvia (now Sylvia Irvine, a
staid married woman of twenty years) drew her heavy blue cloak more
tightly about her and strengthened her clasp on her husband's
waist.  She was riding pillion and enjoyed the sensation of
physical closeness, so that if she raised her hand she could feel,
beneath the thin netted armour, the beating of his heart.

She liked this physical proximity, but last night at the inn where
they had slept she had been frightened of it.  She had claimed (as
so many young brides before and after her!) a nervous headache, and
he, giving her an intense look, without kissing her, had bowed and
withdrawn.

Only yesterday morning they had been married, and she, standing
beside him, had thought, 'Tonight, dear God, I shall be naked in
his arms!' and had smiled with pleasure at the thought.  And then,
when it had come to it, terror had seized her--one more night . . .
only one more night.  Better that it should be, the first time, in
their own place, the wonderful Castle that was now to be Sylvia's
home.  Safe in her own home, allowed to lie abed of the morning,
allowed to lie there while he bent over her and kissed her ere he
went off about his morning duties.

Her dear Philip!  How truly she loved him--and how little she knew
him!  She had loved poor Robin Herries too, and had known him,
after all, far better than she now knew Philip.  Yes, she had loved
him.  Her heart beat faster, her hand tightened at Philip's waist
as she thought of him.  How desperate he had been that last time in
the London house!  With what a set face he had walked from the
room!  How dearly he had loved her in that place where was Queen
Katherine's stool; she could hear the sharp shrill bark of the
white dog with the clipped tail, and her own voice, 'Hold me
closer, dear Robin . . . your hand, dear Robin . . .'; and last
night she had turned her husband from her room.

Poor Robin!  Pity that they thought him a Catholic, for he was so
sweet, so young and so ardent: he could be so learned and so merry
and so kind.  So kind, so kind. . . .  Her gloved fingers pressed
against Philip's thigh.  And Philip was in every way a better one
to marry.  He was a man, fierce, unafraid, someone who would defend
a wife against the world: while Robin was a brother, close to one,
dear to one, but subject to the same fears and perils as oneself.
No protection.  She had been often more frightened with him than
away from him.

But she was going to be frightened no more.  She had been a child.
Now she was a woman.  She had escaped from home where there had
been many things to frighten her.  Her father storming, her mother
crying, that loathsome Mr. Thatcher feeling her leg beneath her
clothes, Puritan though he was, Sidney drunken, and Edward lying
and hypocritical.

Throughout the wedding she had been thinking:  'I am going to
escape all this.  No more Nurse smacking my buttocks and Phineas
Thatcher eyeing me evilly, and my father whipping my shoulder-
blades, and being denied money, and made to sit straight on a chair
for silly Town visitors. . . .  No more.  No more.'  She thought of
the wedding, the trumpeters, the circle of rosebuds against her
forehead, her mother kissing her as she had never before, the bells
ringing, the old nurse crying, the two cousins who had given
shelter so often to Robin and herself regarding her with puzzled
dim eyes . . . but always, always Philip: Philip so splendid in his
rose-red dress, holding himself like a king, haughty, as she wished
him to be.

Philip, now her husband for ever and ever, her protector, her
lover. . . .  She was so happy that, pressed against him, she broke
into a torrent of words:  'And your mother . . . oh, I know how I
shall love her! for my own mother has not been easy to love.
Always with spasms or the megrim and the doctor examining her water
far too often, for, in my opinion, it makes one only think of
maladies one hasn't got to be for ever calling the doctor.

'But I will help your mother with the bed-things and the herbs and
seeing that the rushes are fresh, and I can cook, too, Philip--some
cakes straight from the Court in Paris that Mr. Lacey brought back
in a book that had them.  I will make your mother love me even
though I take you from her.'

She paused.  She thought that he would say something.  But he said
nothing.  She was too happy, too simply delighted at being married
and the sole care of her beloved, admired, so-handsome Philip, to
cease.  She continued, asking questions about the Castle, the
village where the Castle was, the villagers whom she would
befriend, when they would have her father and mother and brothers
to stay.  She stopped at last: Philip had not spoken.

The silence that followed was knit together by a little wailing
wind that, blowing across the long flats, seemed personally to
persuade them that a dreary evening was closing down on them.
Sylvia had never seen this kind of country before.  Her life had
been divided between the London house and the country house; in
both of these there had been constant activity.  For the first time
she was aware now of her surroundings, and this early afternoon was
not a happy choice for her first view of the Essex flats.  A space
of yellow in the darkening sky seemed to be reflected in the dreary
expanse, giving the effect here and there of dirty stagnant water.
Against the sky, clumps of reeds stood up like thin hungry fingers.
Once or twice they passed through villages where the houses were
hovels and life was dead; once, at a cross-road, a hanged man
creaked in the gibbet-chains.  Once an old bearded man, nearly
naked, ran beside them for a while crying for bread, and would have
persisted had not one of Irvine's men slashed at him with his whip.
Sylvia saw the old man fall and then rise, stand, looking after
them, raising his bleeding arm.

Two men on horses carried their luggage: one of these Sylvia
already knew, a fat smiling fellow with a cast in one eye and
always grinning; the other was a slim young man, haughty in feature
and absolutely silent.  The first was called Simon; the second,
Luke.  Philip called them his two Apostles.

At last she could not endure the silence and so again she asked
questions.

'Is it far now?'

'We are almost there.'

'I am tired and cold.  Is Essex always cold?'

She asked this last as a little joke and laughed, but Philip
answered her rather sternly:  'It will be a poor thing if you
dislike your home before you have seen it.'  Then he added more
pleasantly:  'It is always raining in England.'

She asked:  'Do you think your mother will like me?'

'My mother is a just woman about everyone.'

'Well, I shall make her like me.'

She fancied that it was because she had said that she had a
headache last night that he was stern with her, so now she
whispered softly:  'I will show you to-night that I love you,
Philip.'

He made no answer.

She reflected upon all that she had heard about husbands from her
friends.  She knew that they must be humoured, must be allowed
their sports and warlike pursuits as they professed them, that no
wife, if she is wise, expresses amazement at anything a husband may
say or do.  She was too happy now at her new freedom and dignity as
a married woman, at her love for Philip, at her excitement because
soon she would see her mother-in-law and her splendid new home, to
be distressed because Philip was not more talkative.  She recalled
the times during his courtship of her when he had been so charming,
had kissed her so tenderly, had been so careful of her comfort.
She had all her plans made, and the chief of them was that she
would praise him for everything that he did, for she had already
learnt that he was vain.  But it was proper for a man to be vain;
Robin had not been vain enough.

The dark was really now descending and the wind, blowing across
from the sea, cried about them and was bitterly cold.  It was a new
cold to Sylvia, for it had a salt tang in it and a hint of the
fields of ice many hundreds of miles away.  As it tweaked her nose
and her cheeks and her chin, she bent her head against Philip's
warm back.  There was nothing to be heard now but the clop-clop of
the horses' hooves and the cry of the wind.

They came to a village, and a man ran out from a door, holding a
rough torch that blew coarsely in the wind.  When he saw them he
bowed low.  Sylvia's heart beat swiftly.  'This is OUR village.  We
are arrived.'  She could see little of it in the dark: only the
tower of a church, and she heard water running.  But she thought:
'Here will be MY people and I will be so very good to them.  They
shall have everything I can give them.'

Then she saw a pile of buildings, black and strong.  There was a
gate which slowly opened for them.  They rode in over cobbles.  At
last they were at Drunning Place.

Philip dismounted and then helped Sylvia down.  As they stood there
in the driving wind the house seemed gigantic above them; part of
it she could see was like a fortress with a square tower, narrow
windows, and she fancied there was a moat.  On her right the
building was more recent and apparently of wood.  There were no
lights in the windows, and Philip, who had made the bell ring again
and again, now impatiently struck on the great door with his fist.
Suddenly the door opened and an old bent man stood, holding a
light.

Philip strode in.  The old man seemed all of a maze.

'We expected you to-morrow, Master Philip.  The mistress said to-
morrow.  It was tomorrow. . . .'

Philip did not answer him; there appeared at the end of the vast
hall a tall thin man in black and yellow, carrying a staff.

'Where is my mother?' Philip asked.

The man bowed as though he were moved by strings.  He spoke in a
shrill, rather absurd voice as though he were repeating words he
had learned by heart.

'The mistress is in her room.'

Philip strode forward and Sylvia followed.  As she went she had
time to notice that everything was of stone, and bare.  They went
through folding doors and into a long room so cold that it struck
Sylvia like a blow of the hand.

The room was Gothic with pointed stone windows.  There were Flemish
hangings on the walls, but they were faded and tattered.  In the
huge stone fireplace a little cold flame struggled, and close to
this, in an embroidered chair, her feet on a stool, sat an elderly
woman.  Beside her, on another stool, sat a plain woman reading
aloud.  The woman in the chair turned when she saw them and at once
rose, kicking the stool away with her foot.  Sylvia had never seen
such a woman.  She was some sixty years old and perfectly square in
build, set and sturdy like a rock.  She wore a great and not over-
cleanly ruff and a dress of shabby black.  Her face was as square
as her body, and in the light of the candles seemed yellow in
colour.  An expanse of yellow face, the eyes close together, and a
snub short nose.  She had an expression of tremendous dignity: her
body carried itself as though the mass of it were held together by
one single thought--that it was a precious, wonderful and immovable
body.

She was, however, delighted to see her son.  The little eyes
sparkled, the thick mouth smiled; she held out both her hands.

Philip moved to her with a wonderful dignity, and it was very
splendid to see their greeting, as of a king and queen encountering
before their subjects.  Philip kissed his mother on both cheeks.

'But we had not expected you until to-morrow.'  She had a deep
voice like a man's.

'The wedding was yesterday.  You were missed by everyone.'

'You know, Philip, that my heart prevents me . . .'

'You are well, mother?'

'As well as may be.  I never complain.'

It was now that she considered Sylvia.  She stood regarding her.
Sylvia came forward.

'This is my wife, mother.'

'Humph!  She is very small.  Come here, child.'

Sylvia came to her.  She had not yet taken off her blue cloak.

The old lady shook her head impatiently.

'Take off your travelling things and let me see you.'

Sylvia did so.  Perhaps she should embrace this block of
immobility.  She could not.

'Yes, you are small-boned, but you look healthy enough.  What can
you do?  Can you cook?'

'Yes--a little.'

'A little?  That is a poor answer.  Are you a housewife?  Can you
sew and mend?'

Sylvia thought that she would show spirit, so, smiling, she
answered:

'I will do my best to help in everything--to please Philip.'

'You will please Philip best,' the old lady answered, 'by giving
him a son.  The sooner you start about it the better.'  She uttered
a coarse rollicking laugh, like a countryman or sailor who had made
a bawdy joke.  Her eyes never left Sylvia, examining her in every
detail.  'You are weary, I suppose,' she said, rather scornfully.
'Food will be found for you, although it was to-morrow we were
expecting you.'  She looked as though she blamed Sylvia for this.

'Oh no, I am not weary.  Philip's horse is a fine one and the
journey was new to me.  I have been little away from London. . . .'

Philip cut this chatter short, motioning her to the door and
following her.  Before they were out of the room the serving-woman
had begun reading again.

They climbed a narrow stone stair, crossed a dark passage and came
into their room, the manservant, in black and yellow, walking in
front of them carrying his staff in one hand and a high silver
candlestick in the other and moving with great ceremony.

He placed the candlestick on a table and lit other candles.  He
turned and in his ridiculous voice called to someone to bring logs
for the fire.  A girl entered, curtsied and knelt down to lay the
fire.  A wind, as sharp as the one on the road, blew across the
floor and stirred the not over-clean rushes.  As with everything
else here, the room was vast but furnished meagrely, with a great
four-poster bed, a black oak chest, a large table, another smaller
one with a silver ewer and basin, and some stools.  The stone walls
were bare.

When the man and girl were gone, Philip said brusquely:

'You have no time to change your clothes.  I am as hungry as a
Dane.  Wash your face and we will go down.'

She would have liked to kiss him, for he looked so very splendid
and commanding, but she did not dare.

He stood watching her with a dumb stare.

'Come.  Hurry.  My mother hates to be kept.'

What a child! he thought.  I have married a baby!  She came, then,
impulsively, stood on her toes, as she had been used to do with
Robin Herries, and kissed him.

'I am your wife, Philip.  At last, after all the waiting.  Are you
not glad?'

'You were not my wife last night.'

'No.  I was weary with the excitement.  And it was an inn, and the
men teasing the bear in the courtyard. . . .  But now . . .'

'Yes--and now!'  His voice was suddenly shrill and excited with a
note of almost agony in it.  'Now--now . . . !  Are you not
watching everything and wondering at everything, and saying to
yourself--"Is not this poor?  Is not this mean?  What a bare empty
place!  I had not thought it would be like this.  How the rushes
stink and the hangings on the walls are tattered!  At my father's
it is not like this.  And how ugly his mother is and her gown is
faded!"  Are you not thinking this and other things to yourself?
You are!  You are!  You are!'

He held her with his hands at arms' length and was shaking her.

She cried out:  'No.  No, Philip.  No!'

'Yes--and you thought me so fine in London.  You did not know that
we live like rats down here and always shall live.  Because we have
enemies--do you hear?  You are married to a man who is persecuted
for no fault and harried with injustice.

'Let them do their worst, then, and keep my mother and myself at
bare-bones.  Let them pretend to grant us something and then bait
us.  Let them try to get our good name into their clutches.  The
rareness of this custom shall make us pitiless when at last it
comes.  And so I tell them.  And you can tell your big fat cousin
Nicholas the same--that I hate him and will one day have his guts--
and so for the lot of them. . . .'

He paused as if for breath, and stared about him as though
distracted.  Then he caught the look of her eyes, exactly those of
a frightened child, and he paused, was quite quickly once again the
proud, reserved, handsome young man.

With a little stammer Sylvia said:  'I want you to know, Philip,
that I love you and would never mock you and would defend you
always before the world.'

'Defend me?'  He stared at her fiercely.  'Who dares attack me?
They had better not.  Defend me?  What do you say--defend me?'

She tried to still her trembling, and then did a marvellously
courageous thing.  She put her hand in his.

'Let us go down.'

They supped in the great hall, which was a vast empty place with
swords and rapiers hanging on the wall, two tattered flags and a
gallery with the woodwork broken.  Besides Sylvia, Philip and his
mother there were two others at table.  One was Mr. Honey, the
Protestant parson, a meek sanctimonious man who had a snuffle in
his nose that reminded Sylvia of Phineas Thatcher when he was at
his prayers.  Mr. Honey was a dirty little man with traces of food
on his parson's bands, and finger-nails as black as mourning.  He
looked starved and eyed the food quite wolfishly.

The other was altogether his opposite--a big, broad, coarse fellow,
Captain Winterset by name.  Captain Winterset was of the sort that
Sylvia had seen at times in company with her brother Sidney; rough,
loud-oathed, obscene, drunken, roystering, interfering, noisy.  She
had always instantly avoided such a type and it frightened her that
now she would be forced, it seemed, to live under the same roof
with this man.  He wore tattered finery, soiled lace, dirty gold, a
jewelled button half off its fastening, and his face was of the
colour of raw beef.  He was firmly built with great square
shoulders and the chest of a Hercules.  She noticed that he had
beautiful slender hands.  He had also an impudent eye that was
already undressing her as she sat there opposite him.

It was not a pleasant meal; the cold was bitter, winds playing like
puppies about the stone floor.  The major-domo with the silly voice
marched about with his stick of office and ordered the two men-
servants, one of whom was Luke, Philip's bodyguard.  The food was
very wretched: a lukewarm pease soup, mutton half cooked, an ill-
smelling rabbit-pie, and a dish of unripe apples and pears.  There
was ale to drink; otherwise water.

Mistress Irvine sat rock-like without speaking.  Her broad face was
so utterly impassive that you could not believe it made of flesh
and blood.  For the first part conversation was a monologue from
Captain Winterset, who ate and drank like a famished animal and
talked all at the same time.

He had been with Sir Thomas Stukeley to Spain, one of the
adventurers who sailed with him from Waterford.  That in itself had
been a disgraceful affair, for Stukeley had broken his parole to
Henry Sidney to achieve it.  However, words of honour were nothing
to the worthy Captain, and he described, with much coarse humour
and vividness, how they had embarked as if for London, but made for
the open sea and finally landed in Galicia.  The King of Spain was
told of their arrival and sent for them to Madrid.  There Stukeley,
vouched for by the Duke of Feria, was received at Court, knighted,
and even given a palace to live in.

With a fierce and hearty derision Winterset described how cleverly
Stukeley filled King Philip's ears with tales of his great
influence in England, and persuaded him that there was no one
better in the world for helping a rising in Ireland against the
Queen.

Winterset was going on to an eloquent description of his lively
amours with the ladies in Madrid and a fearful account of the
horrors of the Inquisition, when the old lady stopped him.

'I seem to have heard all this before, Captain.'

The Captain smirked at Sylvia.

'We must entertain the young lady,' he said.  He bowed:  'At your
service any time.'

The cold angry voice of Philip cut the draughty air.

'That's sufficient, Carey.  I have told you before.  You go too
much on, hap what may.'

But Winterset had no fear of him.  His face flushed a deeper red.

'Come, Philip,' he said.  'I scorn no man so much as a surly
threatener.'  Then he smiled, his rugged face broadening most
villainously.  'We understand one another, lad--and I'll have some
more of the pie.'

Then they began to talk of Margaret, Countess of Lennox, mother of
the murdered Darnley, and how she had repudiated Mary of Scots; but
lately, believing that Elizabeth would soon die, had sent Mary a
paper acquitting her of all complicity in Darnley's murder, and
then secretly married her other son, Charles Stuart, Earl of
Lennox, to Elizabeth Cavendish, Lady Shrewsbury's daughter.  How
furious the Queen had been at this, sending Margaret Lennox to the
Tower and nearly executing Lady Shrewsbury.

But what interested them all, so that their heads came together
and, almost, food was forgotten, was the possibility of Elizabeth's
death and Mary's triumph.  In spite of their Protestantism, the old
lady and her son had a frantic, almost insane grudge at the Court
for its denying Philip preferment.  At the same time they detested
the Scottish woman and had many a gross and horrible tale to tell
of her, even affirming that she had seduced her guardian, old
Shrewsbury, and describing in detail the manner of it.  When the
parson left the table, which he did with many sighs and bowings and
wiping the grease off his chin with the back of his hand, they set
to with a vengeance, and, forgetting altogether the girl at the
table, the old lady and the Captain were as common and filthy as
scullions in the kitchen.

Sylvia's home had been, in many ways, stupid, tyrannous and mean,
but no one had ever before spoken like this in front of her.  Some
of it she did not understand, but she gathered enough to feel
rising in her a new fear and terror.

Quite suddenly it seemed to her that she was in a world of witches
and devils.  The cold walls down which were streaks of damp
glittering in the candlelight like snails' tracks, the vastness of
the hall so that it stretched away into a darkness indeterminate,
peopled, it might be, with mocking listeners, the loneliness so
that, for the first time, there was no one at all to whom she might
turn.  And then, over, through, part of all this, the two voices,
both deep and chuckling, spilling this filth, describing these stew-
affairs in crawling detail. . . .

Beneath the table she dug her nails into her hands.  She looked and
saw that Philip was, most curiously, watching her.  His gaze was
fixed on her as though he would not omit a moment of this
experience of hers.  As soon as she knew this her own pride rose.
For she was a Herries--not a very important family perhaps, but
scattered about England and Scotland, through centuries doing its
part and paying its way, having a certain spiritual history,
preferring its own birth and begetting to any other: she was a
Herries and she would stand her ground.

This place was altogether different from her expectation of it.
Philip himself was utterly changed from the man she had married--
was it only yesterday?  She must not, if she were to keep her
spirit, even begin to envisage this new world into which she had
travelled and where now she must stay: but on this first night at
least she would show no surrender.

So she smiled at Philip, and in a voice that trembled a very little
she asked for a small green apple as though it were the very fruit
of Heaven.

Afterwards, huddling for warmth near to the fire-place, his nose
purple, Mr. Honey read from Lydgate's Falls of Princes, an odd
contrast with the table-talk.  Philip and Winterset sat in a corner
and played with 'a pair of cards' at Primero.  Philip wore his
great-coat with the high fur collar.  Madame Irvine sat straight up
in her chair picking at her sallow teeth with a gold toothpick, the
only costly thing Sylvia had yet seen about her.

Sylvia sat, turning round and round her wedding-ring, her gimmal,
two hoops joined and each set with a turquoise.  A costly ring it
had been and it was remarkable that Philip had afforded it.  It
made Sylvia, for some deep ungrasped reason, think of the little
jewelled ship she had worn in her hair at the ball when Robin had
first seen her.  She sighed.  Poor Robin!

Poor Mr. Honey too, because, in spite of the fire, he could not
keep his eyes open.  He started and shook his head and blinked his
eyes and at last the book fell with a crash to the floor.

The old lady would have scolded him severely, but she was herself
fast asleep, snoring with her mouth open.  She tottered off like a
drunken woman to her bed.

At their door Philip said:  'Go and get to bed.  I will be with you
shortly.'

Standing close to the little fire, Sylvia, sleepily, let her
clothes drop to her feet, found a clean silk shift from the luggage
that lay about the room, and climbed into the great four-poster.
For the first time she had undressed without a maid, or rather it
had been her old nurse that had fussed about her, now coddling her,
now scolding her, chattering, telling tales, putting all to rights.
Well, doubtless there would be a maid in the morning, some country
maid who would tell her the gossip of the village.

She sat upright in the bed, feeling dreadfully alone.  It had come
at last--this knowing a man.  Her friends told her that it was a
marvel, but now she was not so sure.  Were Philip kind to her . . .
but to-night he had been most ungracious.  It would have been wiser
to have submitted in the inn.  Her refusal had provoked him.  But
once he were beside her and her arms around him all would be well.
With love all these things necessary to marriage were handsome;
without love . . .  In spite of herself she began to shiver and
shake.  It was pitilessly cold.  But it was not the cold that made
her tremble.  DID she love Philip?  Of a certain she loved the
grand fearless figure who had kissed her eyes and laid her hand
against his cheek.  But did she love this other Philip who had
stared at her during supper, watching her take the bawdy talk of
his mother?  THAT Philip was a stranger.  To lie in HIS arms would
be a fearful, cruel thing.

Her body shook and in spite of herself she began to cry.  She was a
child and terribly frightened.  She did not want to be married nor
to lie in the arms of any man.  This great room frightened her, and
the silly flickering candles.  Holding her hands together she tried
to pray:  'O Jesu, Son of God . . .'  But the words would not come.

The door opened and closed with a jesting creak and Philip stood
there, in his high-furred bed-gown, naked underneath it.  He had
heard her crying.

'Why are you crying?'

'I don't--don't know.'

'Get out of bed and come to me.'

She climbed down and went over to him, looking a very child in her
long hair and silk shift.

'Why are you crying?  Are you afraid?'

'Yes, I am.'  His breast, as smooth as the silk of her shift, was
bare and waxen-white between the thick dark fur of his gown.  He
looked to her gigantic.

'Were you afraid last night?'

'I was weary.'

'Are you weary now?'

'No.'

'Listen then.  Here you are and here you stay.  You do my bidding
in all things.  We may be poor, my mother and I, but we are proud.
Do you love me?'

'Yes, Philip.'

'Will you do in all things as I tell you?'

'Yes, Philip.'

'Nor laugh at our poverty or the bareness of this place?'

'No, Philip.'

'Come to me then.'

He caught her so fiercely and held her against him so roughly that
she cried out.  He picked her off the floor and crushed her to him,
fixing back her head, kissing her breasts.

She cried out, screaming with fear and terror.  Laughing, and
stuffing her mouth with the folds of her shift, he carried her to
the bed.



THE CHILD INTO THE WOMAN


Early in February 1575, four months after Sylvia's grand wedding,
Sidney Herries went down to Essex to see what had happened to her.
Not father nor mother nor brothers had set an eye on her since the
wedding day.  No one of them had received an invitation, as had
naturally been expected, to Drunning Place.  Philip Irvine had not,
it appeared, slipped into London, and, if he had, most certainly he
had paid no visit to his father-in-law.

At Christmas-time Sylvia had written them a letter wishing them all
the happiness of the season; a strangely stiff unnatural letter
they had thought it, almost as though it had been dictated to her
by her awful old mother-in-law.  In fact, from the moment of
reading that letter, Sylvia's mother had known no peace and given
her family no peace.  She might be hypochondriacal and set upon her
own misfortunes, but she was a mother after all.  In truth, all the
family discovered that they had loved Sylvia very dearly.  She had
been the baby of them all, and they remembered her gaiety and
sweetness and discovered in her a uniqueness of personality that
they had not sufficiently realized when she was with them.

Henry took his great mind for a moment off his business and wrote
to Philip, asking him whether he would not soon be in London.
Sylvia's mother wrote her passionate letters, telling her how
grievously they missed her and that her own maladies were
grievously increased by her constant anxiety.  Philip replied to
Henry with a brief letter saying that he was busied about the place
and that Sylvia was well and sent her love; he said nothing at all
about visiting London.

Edward and Sidney had always detested Philip, for he had patronized
and mocked them continually.  They had at the same time admired and
feared him.  But Edward had little heart and was busy in the work
of following his father, whose decease would be certainly a pity
but also an advantage.

Sidney was quite another.  He was now thirty-five years of age and
had wasted all his youth in riotous living and bad companions.  His
experiences of Bartholomew, however, had done something to him.
Following that experience he had developed an interest in
scientific discovery which had altogether steadied him, and
although he still had his moments of wildness and excited passions
for women (not easy to gratify this last, for he was a stout, pasty-
faced man with a certain nervous awkwardness), yet he was a serious
and decent member of society.  Other emotions that Bartholomew had
left with him were an almost insane hatred of Catholics and a love
and admiration for his big cousin Nicholas.  At the last resort it
was he rather than any other member of the family who cared in
truth for his step-sister.  He loved her and hated Philip.

So, in the early days of February, he determined to go down to
Essex and see for himself what was happening.  In good fortune this
visit was not difficult, for a bare twelve miles from Drunning
Place lived some Herries--Guy and Rosemary Herries.

Guy Herries was related to Henry distantly, both of them having the
same great-grandfather--old Roger Herries of very ill fame, who, in
the fifteenth century, had been a sort of freebooter in Norfolk.
Guy Herries was, of all peculiar things, a painter and as poor as a
wandering monk.  He painted portraits and landscapes, passionately
influenced by the Italian masters, having spent his youth with
ardour in Rome and Florence.  This was not the kind of man, of
course, that Henry Herries could at all respect, all the more that
Guy, a large, loose, blond man, was perfectly happy and despised
wealth, Courts, preferment, cities--all the properties that make
this life so truly worth living.  Guy and Henry in fact represented
those opposites in the Herries character that, again and again,
gave their family history a dramatic piquancy.  Guy and Rosemary
had one daughter--Rosamund--the darling of their lives.

So Sidney rode down into Essex and towards evening found himself on
the edge of a wood and, at the end of a path, saw a cottage of
white plaster and heavy oak beams, and, in the doorway of the
passage, the whole family--Guy, Rosemary and their daughter
Rosamund.  Guy was a broad, tall, loose-limbed fellow with curly
hair as faintly yellow as a young duckling's.  He had the Herries
long nose which had unfortunately been broken in some fight or
other, the Herries high cheekbones, and eyes as light blue as early
sun water.  He was a merry, careless, godless, lecherous kind of
fellow who anticipated, by a number of centuries, a descendant of
his to be called Benjamin, but in spite of his occasional tumblings
with pretty girls and drinking bouts at the 'Veiled Lady' in Dogget
village, he loved his wife dearly and she loved him.

She loved him because Rosemary Herries was a plump, full-breasted,
rosy, happy woman who never expected men to be other than they
were, who preferred life to be simple and straightforward, who
loved her husband and thought him a genius.

The only child of these two, Rosamund, was, Sidney thought before
his first evening was over, a very queer girl.  She was not quite
nine years of age at this time and Sidney had never seen her
before.  She was plain almost to ugliness, so long and stringy was
she and, apparently, none too easy in the command of her limbs.
She had good grey eyes that looked you full in the face, but her
complexion was sallow and freckled, her nose snub and her hair lank
and tow-coloured.

Sidney couldn't pretend that he liked her, for she had so very
sarcastic and rude a manner of speaking, saying just what she
thought and caring nothing for hurting other people's feelings.
This was natural perhaps, for she had lived very much alone with
her parents and they treated her as though she were a grown person
like themselves.  She moved about the cottage quite wildly,
suddenly jumping and skipping, laughing apparently without reason,
singing snatches of song and behaving absurdly with a sort of
mongrel spaniel whom she called the Earl of Leicester or, for
short, 'Mumps.'

She would be rude to Sidney at a moment, contradicting him quite
flatly, and then she would smile at him with a brightening
sweetness and her voice would be soft instead of harsh and
critical.  She had plenty of brains, and Sidney noticed that her
father enquired her opinion and considered seriously her answers.

During the evening poor Sidney was exceedingly happy--POOR Sidney
because, in his daily life, he was happy so seldom, being driven by
gusts of lecheries, desires, suspicions that he was mocked, longing
for more erudition.  For he knew that he was a plain unattractive
man whose youth had been evil.  No one cared for him--save his step-
mother.  And he himself cared for no one very much but Nicholas,
who had been so kind and tender to him over Bartholomew.

Here for the first time, in this very simple family, he was with
people who seemed honestly to like him, who looked into his pale
pasty face as though they accepted it without dismay, who listened
to his clumsy enthusiasms for the new science, his stumbling
account of John Feild's confirmation of Copernicus or the injustice
of Burghley's sending the alchemist de Lannoy to the Tower in '67
for 'attempting to convert metal into gold.'  Why should not metal
be converted into gold?  The man's sallow face began to flush and
his dull eyes to sparkle, while the child, her thin hands pressed
between her bare knees, watched him with absorption.

But also, on the other side, Sidney studied Guy's painting with the
greatest attention.  Knowing little about picture-making but deeply
admiring it, he thought Guy a genius, which Guy was not.

But Guy had learnt a good deal, had a passionate industry and a
lively fancy.  He fascinated Sidney with his account of his visit
to the Castle at Mantua to see the series of paintings of the
Trojan War there, made by the famous Giulio Romano.  He had himself
copied some of them, and as Sidney looked at their colours and the
boldness of their execution, his fingers trembled and his breath
came short.

Guy himself, it seemed, could do almost anything, executing
portraits in the favourite manner, that is, making a rather hasty
sketch of features and then elaborating in the greatest detail
stuffs and jewels and ornaments.  He also painted pictures of the
mythological school after the Italians, having an especially daring
and brilliant exposition of Venus and Adonis.  He had executed
miniatures of his wife and daughter, and had also shown his skill
in some fantastic 'perspectives' very much in the fashion of the
time.

With all this he showed not an atom of vanity, saying that creators
were the happiest of all men even though they failed in their aim,
and that it mattered little what happened to the work after you had
made it: the making of it was all.

It was late that evening before Sidney revealed to them what was
the real purpose of his visit.  He began rather nervously, his
hands gripping his stout knees.  The low, heavy-beamed chamber
seemed to him to sail on wave after wave of bright puce colour.
The wall-hangings had the freshness of new corn, or a wave as it
turns, or a star suddenly brilliant after a sunfall.  There were
pictures of Troy Town inspired by Giulio Romano.  There were rugs
on the floor, still a rarity in many houses.  There was a large
unfinished landscape on an easel, painted in brilliant purples,
olives and orange.  Alone on a stand by the fire was a sculpture of
a man throwing the discus, that Guy had brought with him from Rome.

The air smelt sweet and flowers scented the room although it was
February.  Sidney in his heavy stuffed doublet of dark crimson, his
stiff crinkling ruff, his silk hose that pricked his too-white, too-
sensitive legs, felt town-encumbered.  Looking back to the stinking
London streets, the darkness of his father's house, seeing himself
move, as he always moved in London, furtively as though someone
might stick a dagger between his shoulder-blades (this after
Bartholomew), he felt here that he was in a new-created world.

He pulled awkwardly at the heavy gold chain round his neck and said
with unusual impulse:  'I feel that I could take everything off.'

'Well, why not?' said Guy.  'No one would mind.  We go without
clothes here day after day in the summer.'

Sidney looked about him.  'It is this--the fresh colours, the smell
of flowers, that naked statue--everything, as it were, for the
first time.  I feel as though I had never breathed before.'  He
smiled with the customary suspicion out of his eyes.  'Metal made
into gold,' he said, as though to himself.  'It can be.'

He cleared his throat and went on, modestly, as though he would ask
their advice.

'You are but twelve miles or so from Drunning Place.'

'It is a comfortable morning's walk--two hours' ride.'

'You have seen my sister?'

This was a question it was clear they had been expecting.

Guy, his blue eyes as bright as though with fire, answered:  'No.
We have wished to.  But, to be honest, Cousin Sidney, the old lady
is no pleasant customer.  She is seen about in her own neighbourhood
in an old half-coach half-cart drawn by two old horses, their
halters tied with straw, an old man bent double in an aged green
coat driving them.  That is the only time she is seen.  Until his
marriage to your sister, Irvine, as you know, has been in most part
in London.'

'What have you heard of my sister?'

'We have heard nothing.'

There was a pause; then Rosemary Henries said softly:

'We have been to blame.  We have told one another again and again
to pay our visit, but Guy has a deep dislike of interference either
of himself with others, or of others here.  Then the old lady is
arrogant and can curse like a cast-off Low Countries soldier.  And
then we were afraid of suffering some impertinence.'

Sidney began to speak eagerly.

'You see, Sylvia was more of a child than is usual at her years.
We had kept her at home and she was as bright and merry as a little
bird.  But in the last years she formed some attachment to our
cousin, Robin Herries.  He is, it is said, a Catholic and has
sheltered priests at Mallory, and this made any question of him
impossible.  So when Philip Irvine loved her my father thought him
a good match, although my brother and I had never trusted him; he
has always beaten us off to a distance as though he thought us
altogether unworthy of him.  But it seemed that he loved our little
sister and she him and the match was made.

'When she departed with him after the wedding she was crowned with
happiness and we thought all was well.  But from that moment of her
departure until now, with the exception of one letter written by
her at Christmas-tide, we have seen and heard nothing.  I must see
her for myself, Philip Irvine or no Philip Irvine.  I love her very
dearly.  She was like a bird,' he repeated, 'always singing.  Her
silence. . . .  Her silence . . .'  His eyes were filled with tears
and he beat with his white hands on his knees.

The child Rosamund had been listening as though she were personally
engaged in the affair.

Guy Herries said:  'You would ride over and see for yourself?'

'Yes.  And without warning.  I must see things as they are.'  He
hesitated.  'Perhaps--you would come with me?'

Guy laughed.  'Yes.  All three of us.  We will pull the old lady's
beard.  They say there is a bird's-nest in every window-sill.'

Sidney got up and shook Guy's hand.

'You are kin-brother to my cousin Nicholas, who can lift two men
with one hand.'



As they pulled their horses up in front of the iron gateway, the
snow began to fall; fluttering moth-wing fragments, floating down
from a faintly orange sky.  Against this snow-mist the towers and
walls of Drunning were gigantic, the bare branches to the side of
it cutting the sky like spears.  The rough fellow who opened the
gate allowed their horses into the cobbled courtyard, and there
they stood before the black heavy door while the serving-man went
to find somebody.

At last the black door was pulled back and they were in the vast
hall with the broken minstrel gallery and the torn flags.  The domo
in black and yellow marched off to find his mistress.

'By Jesu, it's cold,' Guy muttered.

They saw the streaks of damp staining the walls.  From somewhere a
dog howled.  The thin man and his stick of office appeared in a far
distance.

'Will you please to follow me?'--piping like a eunuch and bowing
like a China model.

Guy strode forward as though he were taking the place by storm.
The others followed.

And there they all were, drawn up as though for their picture.  By
the snivelling fire the serving-maid was on the stool, a book on
her lap.  In the high-backed chair was the lady mother, her
shoulders as broad as a militiaman's and her black silk with a rent
in it.  Behind her, his head and peaked beard raised to neck-
breaking point, was the domo.  Standing in the middle of the floor,
quite by herself, in a dress of canary and silver, was Sylvia
Irvine.  Beside the leaded window were Philip and Carey Winterset.
It was exactly as though they had set themselves for their picture
on hearing the bell sound, and a picture it made Guy at once
conceive--a grim one, with that fat yellow-faced woman in the high
chair, her broad bosom bound in by the shabby silk and her thick
knees set like rocks against the flood; the tattered Flemish wall-
hangings with legs of horses and trumpeters slanting in mid-air and
the flames of a burning village torn with white patches; the
ceremony, the poverty, the neglect, the silence . . . and in the
middle of the huge, windy, cold room the woman he had never seen
before, in canary-silver, with a little pale face with the set
lifelessness of wax, turning the ring on her finger.

The Guy Herries branch of that English tribe was unaccustomed to
any abashment, so Rosemary Herries came forward and curtsied, while
old Madame Irvine stood up and nodded her head.

'I should have paid my visit a long time before this, but it will
be our excuse maybe if I say that it is the very first visit we
have ever paid.'

Her rich hearty laugh rang out as she turned and introduced her
long-legged coltish child, her robust husband and pasty-faced
Sidney.

The real drama was in Sidney's eyes because he could not take them
off his little sister.  There she stood in the middle of the floor,
staring and turning her ring.  Why, within six months it had been
that she would have run to him with a glad cry, been caught in his
arms, stood on her toes and kissed his mouth.  Now she did not
stir.  He fancied that at the moment his eyes met hers there was a
flash of communication, but, if there was, it was gone as soon as
arrived.

When, after his introduction to the old woman, he turned to her
again she was coming towards him.  She held out her hand: he took
it and kissed her cheek, which was cold as a shell.

'Sidney--I had never expected this!'

He drew her a little apart.

'Nor I this.  Quickly, while we have time, tell me, Sis--you have
not written since Christmas.  We have none of us had a sign.  Why
is it?  Why have you not written?'

He was gazing into her face so intently that he was able to see her
lips tremble.  He saw too that there was a second's movement of the
head as though she were looking to see who was listening.

'I am married, Sidney.'

'I know.  I know.'  His own hands were trembling.  'But we did not
think that you would cut yourself off from us. . . .'  He saw
terror in her eyes so he broke his sentence and said, with low
urgency:  'Tell me--for your mother's sake--only this thing--you
are happy?--you are content?'

She stiffened; her eyes went beyond her brother to the wall.
Philip Irvine was at Sidney's elbow.

'How fares everyone in London, brother Sidney?'

'You have not been to enquire?'

'No.  I am a bucolic.  I am become a plain country fellow.  My
conversation is entirely amongst beasts.'

Sidney felt his fear which, since Bartholomew, oppressed him
without warning and often, it seemed, without cause.  This time it
was not without cause, for his fear of Philip was an old matter;
moreover, he hated this ruined and tumbling house and, with every
moment in it, he wished the more strongly (and, as he knew, the
more vainly) to take his sister away from it.  But how was he to
have some private word with her, to reassure her that they all at
home loved her and were determined that she should come to no ill?

Philip went on, mocking Sidney:

'My habitation is a poor roof with loop-holes that let out the
smoke; it must seem wretched to you, brother, after your own town
house.  It is a wonder that Sylvia stays with me.  It can only be
love that makes her.'

Both men waited for her answer; there was an astonishing hurt
impertinence in Philip's voice as though inwardly he were raging
with some acute annoyance.

'His pride is hurt,' Sidney thought, and to his own surprise felt a
sudden almost tender pity for him.

Sylvia said quietly:  'Wives must be wives.  I am a married woman
now, Sidney.'

He realized with a start, which Philip's keen scornful glance
caught, that it was true.  In these months she had changed from a
child to a woman.  Before this she had never known control.  What
she felt, whether it were love or anger or desire, she must out
with.  In so short a time she had learnt control.  And what had
taught her?  Unhappiness.  Extreme, agonizing unhappiness.  There
had been some shock that, in a moment, had changed her.  He himself
knew how that could be.  She was in the house of her enemies.  He
looked about him.  Philip, his mother, the red-faced bully over
there.  At that instant the red-faced bully joined them.  Philip
introduced them.

'Captain Carey Winterset--my wife's brother, Mr. Sidney Herries.'

Both men bowed.  This was a very other matter from Philip--a
decayed gentleman, professional bully, in tarnished gold and lace,
his hand always on his rapier.  Philip went on:

'Captain Winterset is shortly leaving for Cumberland.  He has
business there that is also mine.  Have you not, Carey?'

Winterset grinned.  'Yes, boy.  Proper business.'

Philip continued:  'Cousin Robin has a place there now, I believe--
left to him by an old Catholic uncle.'

He waited for Sidney's confirmation.

'And his stout brother, my dear friend Nicholas, stays there, I
believe.  Carey, you may meet with him.'

'I should like nothing better,' Winterset said.

'I would go with you, but to me now the only vice is ill-husbandry.
If the land is cared for, nothing troubles me.  So I must stay and
leave bolder adventures to my friends.'

There was something behind all this.  Sidney felt the danger as
though the great bare room were at a secret pass, instantly filled
with armed figures.  And the centre of the danger was Sylvia.  But
she had neither moved nor spoken.

'What do you think?' Philip asked his wife.  'Will Cousin Robin and
Carey here be good friends?'

She looked at both men.  Then she smiled.

'That is for Robin to say,' she answered.  She looked at Winterset
with a scorn and disgust that she did not attempt to conceal:  'I
have heard,' she said, 'that the North Country is dangerous--it is
keen and the wind whips the throat.'

Winterset began to bluster, but they were interrupted, for they
were all to be shown the house.  To be shown it, as soon became
clear, to get rid of them.  Never were visitors less wanted.  No
food or drink had been offered them, and Madame Irvine, with a
dislike unhidden, begged that they would see the house and excuse
her accompanying them for her rheumatics and a cold that she had.

They set off under Philip's scornful guidance.  Sidney, angry,
distressed, not knowing what he must do, found himself following at
the end with the long-legged child.

'That is your sister?' she asked, with a broken girlish attempt at
a whisper.

'Of course.'

'Cousin Sidney, do you know what you must do?'

'What must I do?'

'When we are at the door by the horses you must fling your cloak
about her head, tumble her on to your horse and ride as though the
Devil were behind you.'

'The Devil?' he stammered, looking at her miserably, for he was a
most unhappy man.

'At present,' she continued, 'he is in front of you.  I will catch
him about the leg--while you seize your sister.'

'Seize my sister?  But she is a married woman--this is her home.'

'If, without knowing it, I have married the Devil my friends must
aid me.'  She looked at him with extreme irritation.  'But no--you
are not, I can see, that kind of man!'

How queer a girl!  He disliked her extremely.  But he scarcely
heard her, for he was straining all his wits as to how he could
have a private word with Sylvia.

Very peculiar was Philip's fashion of conducting them.  He walked
with his head in air as though he were a Prince of the Blood, and
all the time he spoke fiercely as though they had insulted him.

'Here you may see how bare it is!  This room has only crumbling
furniture.  See how these chairs are falling--worms--worms.  And
yet they are but from the Seventh Henry's time. . . .  These stairs
are irregular.  There are holes.  Be careful.  The rats have been
at them.  This was once a fine tapestry piece--"The Battle of
Agincourt"--but it is threadbare and will soon, I doubt not, fall
to dust. . . .  A noble room once.  Note the windows.  Now it has a
ghost for its company.  An erring Irvine lady strangled by her
loving husband.  Listen!  You can hear her thin dress sweep the
floor.'

It seemed that they COULD hear something.  The domo was holding
high the two silver candlesticks.  It was the snow brushing the
windows.

'And now you must see the dungeon.  Through this narrow door and
down the stone steps.  It is a fine dungeon and many have died
there.  An inch of water lies in it.'

It was now that Sidney was able to exchange a few words with
Sylvia.  She had waited at the top of the narrow winding staircase.
Sidney, seeing his opportunity, came back.  There was something
touching in the tenderness of his anxious heavy face.  She felt it.
She had her farthingale in one hand as though she were play-acting
in a dress too long for her, and for a moment she behaved like a
child, catching his arm.

'Oh, Sidney, you should not have come!'

She dropped his arm again immediately.

'Why not?' he said fiercely.

'They do not care for unexpected visitors.  They hate that
strangers should see this place.  They are ashamed of it and proud
of it too.'

They were in the grey dusk of the falling snow.

She added with a catch of the breath:  'Philip will never forgive
me for this!'

'Philip!  Are you on those terms then?'

'Those terms!  Any terms!'  She began to speak wildly.  'Tell my
mother. . . .  Tell her . . .'

'Yes,' Sidney said, putting his arm about her.

'We have only a moment.  They will be coming back.'

'You are trembling.'

She steadied herself.

'Tell her that all is well with me.  I cannot come to London at
present, I have my duties here.  But all is well with me.'

'All is NOT well,' he broke indignantly upon her.  'Something
terrible has happened.'

'Nothing terrible.  Only marriage. . . .  I did not know.  No one
advised . . .'

They were coming back.  Their voices climbed the stair.

'Tell them all--I am happy.  I love them.'  Then she caught his
arm, whispering:  'If you have the lucky chance--Robin.  Tell him
to be careful--in Cumberland--and Nicholas.'

Only one thing more occurred.  As they said farewell in the great
hall Rosamund Herries' eyes met Sylvia's.  They exchanged a long
glance.  This was only a gawky child, but there was something in
her serious, anxious, friendly gaze that warmed Sylvia's heart.
They both smiled.

Sylvia came to her, holding out her hand.

'I am glad you came,' she said.

Rosamund answered, staring into Sylvia's face:  'I will do
anything, anywhere.  Only tell me.'

There had been three Herries' vows, not lovers' vows, until now in
this chain of events.  Robin Herries to Anthony Pierson, Nicholas
Herries to Gilbert Armstrong, Rosamund Herries to Sylvia Irvine.
All these vows were kept.

They mounted their horses and rode away through the snow which now
was falling fast.



THE FIGHT BY HAWKSHEAD


That winter of 1574-5 and the long spring of 1575 was the happiest
period in Nicholas' happy life that he had yet known.

From October 1574 until 1575 he never left, for a single night, his
father's house.  He never on a single occasion visited London.  He
worked from early morning until dark fell; on the farm, in the
garden, about the house.  As he worked he sang.  In the evenings he
played chess with his father, talked to his mother, yawned,
stretched his legs, fenced with any friend who happened there,
wrestled with Gilbert Armstrong and joined in part-song when part-
song was going.  At times he 'stained his gentility with droppings
of ale.'  He tumbled into his bed and slept, his head on his hand,
like a baby.

His happiness came from two great things--his love of the right
work for the right man, and his pleasure in perfect company.  He
told his father that he had never begot him.  He accused his mother
of no sin, but his had been a miraculous birth, he begotten out of
the summer air when the sun shone hot on a cornfield.  For he was
no gentleman, he declared, but belonged to the English soil so
deeply that he could never pull his thick legs out of it.  He was
at the prime of his young manhood, although at thirty many of his
contemporaries were wise and learned men about the Court.  But he
had no desire for wisdom beyond the wisdom of husbandry and all
things of the open air.

But he was aware at this time, as many hundreds of thousands of
young men were also at this time aware, of a new pride in England.
He was no politician, and it mattered nothing to him that Quiroga
was, at the moment, warning his King Philip against Elizabeth's
mission in Spain, or that Alva was in a furious rage about the Low
Countries, or that his Queen was pursuing her usual policy of
facing both ways to the infinite ultimate profit of her country.

But it DID matter to him most deeply that he should find an eyrie
of hawks in his own ground or that a mare of a good strain should
successfully foal, or that he should himself invent a new mixing of
dung and white marl better than any he had tried before, or that
his oxen should be larger, taller, heavier than the oxen of his
neighbours.  The farms belonging to Mallory had during his father's
time fallen to comfortable sloth.  They were now paying handsomely
and a beautiful sight to behold for anyone who knew about farms.
And this was English soil.  As he helped with the ploughing, tended
with his own hands the sheep and cows, walked, shouting and cursing
and laughing, about his fields, it seemed to him that he was King
of England, or as good as any king.  He realized, although he would
never put it into words, that because of the wisdom and hardihood
of his great and glorious sovereign a new England WAS growing there
beneath his feet.  Her ships were abroad plundering the bastard
foreigner, her great captains were seizing lands that didn't belong
to them.  Everywhere the world was waking to a fearful awareness of
a new power that only thirty years back had scarcely breathed.
There COULD be no place in the Universe (of which he had but a
scanty notion) as sweet as England, breathing such delicious airs,
growing such trees and flowers, sheltering such noble animals.

As he lay on his broad back, in that last moment of dim
consciousness before sleep, he saw the whole expanse of England
covered with vast armies of lowing kine, white myriads of sheep,
woods with their ancient giant trees (although these, alas! were
being ignobly slaughtered), the blue sea running to the golden
sand, and the horizon crowded with the gleaming sails of English
ships.  When it rained it was a lovely English rain, and when the
mists gathered from the river they were kindly, protective, grass
and fruit producing.  His contempt for all foreigners and their
foreign snotty breeding-places was profound.  He knew no humility
about England or the Englishman.  Only if an Englishman were a
Catholic he sniffed him as he would a foreigner.  Everywhere this
pride in England was going up in songs and poems.  When he wrestled
with Gilbert Armstrong and was thrown by him, as his back bumped
the earth he felt that he was coming home.  He was part with the
grass that he lay upon, the streams that he bathed in, the rich
dung that he spread upon his fields.

And his second source of happiness was the loving, fatherly,
motherly care he felt for the men and women who worked with him.

Here, too, he was aware there was the rising of a new force in
England, although he could not of course see that this force would,
in a hundred years or two, govern and control his dear country.
Susan Hackett, whose posterior he pinched; James Forceaway, whose
giant shoulders bent down to lift the new posts for the new gates
on the Western Drive; Hob Greening, the cunning little bastard who
sang from the top of the haycart in his lovely sweet tenor Surrey's
'O Happy Dames that may embrace the fruit of your delight'--it was
more than he could ever imagine that Sue and James and Hob should
ever have power above their masters.

But they WERE new people.  The Eighth Henry, with his destruction
of the monasteries, had thrown these Susans and Hobs out into the
world of their own hopes and imaginations.  They were thinking for
themselves at last, and their Queen, by her glorious deeds, was
giving them a new ambition and a fresh, personal, individual pride.
He loved them all both as friend and master.  He would laugh with
them, sing with them, be at times drunk and lecherous with them:
but through it all they never forgot that he was Master.  Say what
he would, behave as he would, HE was Master, they were Man.  But he
grew, during that winter, to become a kind of legend in the
district.  His size and strength and good-nature they could not
exaggerate, but in the alehouses and cottages and on the village
greens, they attributed to him almost miraculous powers and spoke
as though he were of another flesh from ordinary man.  And they
said that a hundred urchins or more tumbling about goose-ponds or
chasing the cat were of his creation.  And in this last they were
altogether slanderous.

Finally, with all his comradeship in the field, when, dressed in
his finery, he walked with his father and mother to the little
church at the end of the Park on a Sunday, they stood and doffed
their hats and said that he was noble enough to be King of England
and that Leicester was nothing to him.

So all went very happily until a certain April night and a dream he
had.

He dreamt of Catherine Hodstetter as he had often dreamt before.
Catherine was a constant undercurrent flowing beneath his daily
happy life, and not Catherine only but the North Country to which
he belonged.  He thought of the North Country partly because of
Gilbert Armstrong.  Gilbert was now part of himself and, he often
thought, the better part, because Gilbert never did the shameful
things he did.  Gilbert never tumbled girls, never was drunken,
never lost his temper.  And yet Gilbert was no paragon; it was
simply that his character was as pure and direct as the stone, the
cloud, the running stream.  Gilbert never analysed, never
subtilized, never wondered at anything.  He would argue because he
loved arguing, but he would smile when Nicholas grew hot and angry,
and say:  'I kiss my hand and cry "Madame."  You have the last
word.'

The strange thing about him was that he was not homesick for the
North and yet carried it always about with him.  This was partly
because of a roughness in his accent but much more than that.  He
seemed to walk for ever on the springing turf of the Tops and in
his voice there was an echo of the fresh-running streams.  Whenever
Gilbert was with him Nicholas thought, often without knowing it, of
Catherine.  He never moved, although this also he did not know,
without carrying the North Country with him.

He dreamed of Catherine often and she was always, in these dreams,
at one remove from him.  The odd thing was that he did not expect
this to be other.  He had heard young Philip Sidney say once that
every man must have in his life a passion beyond his reach, that
the savours of this passion were sweeter than any other savours.
So he felt, with a certain magnanimity and pride in himself, about
Catherine.

She was the temptation that he had beaten--'Retro me, Sathanas.'
He did not acknowledge to himself that he had beaten it only
because she wished it.  He would have had her by now a hundred
times had she been willing.  But she was the 'strangeness' in his
life--she and the North Country.  A kind of dream, a sort of
vision, something like the Bright Pavilions of which Robin spoke.

But this night when he dreamt of her the dream was different from
any other that he had had.  There was a towering cloud of smoke
and, when it cleared, the Tarn of Watendlath black and unruffled.
Catherine was sinking in those cold dark waters, and as she sank
witches flew through the smoke above her like bats mocking her.
She did not cry out to him to help her, but her eyes were fixed on
him. . . .

Waking in the early morning he decided that he would go North.
Robin had been back in his house in Rosthwaite a month now.  He,
Nicholas, would go and see what was happening to the boy,
concerning whom indeed he was none too easy.  And he had been at
home for a long spell.

So he rode North with Gilbert Armstrong.



It was a pale primrose evening of mid-April when he greeted his
brother in the courtyard of the little Rosthwaite house, and he
knew instantly that something most serious had occurred.

He did not quite know how he was aware of it.  There was a hush
about the place and the country around.  The snow still lay in the
evening sun like rose-grey cloud on the fell-tops.  The spring was
backward here in the North and there was the chill of new hidden
primrose leaves and fresh water running over stones, but a bird
sang bravely and thin snow soiled against the lee of the gate was
pitted with the holes that the thaw had made.

Except for the bird there was not a sound to be heard when the
brothers embraced; only, Nicholas thought:  'I have ridden all
these days several steps into Robin's trouble.'

So that night as they sat alone together in front of the open fire,
Nicholas put his hand on Robin's arm and asked what the trouble
was:

'Are you become a secret Catholic?'

Vehemently Robin answered:  'No.  No!  Never!'

'Are they disturbing you because this is a Catholic house?'

'No one is disturbing me.'

'Have priests been here?'

Robin did not answer.  After a silence--Nicholas never could endure
silences--he thought he would unburden his mind.

'All our growing up,' he began, 'we were together so as to be one--
one heart, one mind (although yours was even then so much the
greater), one body (although there mine was the greater).'  Here he
chuckled.  'Was it not so?'

'Yes,' Robin said, smiling.

'And so it was, I think, until we were men.  Our trust was so that
we never needed to ask a question.  You had the learning and I had
the strength--not that you were not strong, nor that I could not
boast of a certain knowledge--dogs, horses, the crops, and a pass
with the rapier.  We were together.  We were one.'  He sighed
portentously and took a long draught from the jack beside him.
'Then there came a change.  It began, I think, at the time of the
Northern Rebellion when we met here at Keswick and I stuck Philip
Irvine through the arm for not minding my word.'  He chuckled and
drank again.  'And so then.  After that you fell in with the priest
Pierson and loved our cousin Sylvia.  Then came Bartholomew and now
Sylvia has wed Irvine--and so--and so--we are no longer together.
I know nothing of how you travel.  About me there is nothing to
know.  About you, everything.'

He drew Robin towards him.

'From the day you were born I have loved you, and so I will till I
die.  I am not a subtle man like your Philip Sidneys and Peaches
and Grevilles--but I am faithful.  I ask for no confidence.  I
shall love you always whether or no.  But it is true that we have
grown apart and I am unhappy because of it.  Moreover I feel that
there is a great peril ahead of you.  If you will tell me nothing I
will ask nothing.  But I would be more comfortable if I knew a
little.'

Robin rested his head a little closer against his brother's arm.
Then of a sudden he sat up and leant his elbows on his knees
towards the fire, looking into it.

'I suppose there is something to tell,' he said at last.  'And yet
I scarcely know what.  Since I have become a man two things have
happened to me: the one, meeting Pierson; the other, loving Sylvia--
whom I shall love until the end and beyond,' he added in a
whisper.

He turned and looked at his brother, his dark eyes burning in his
thin face, his high forehead white and strong in the firelight, his
body moved with a passionate energy.

'Oh, Nicholas, what can I tell you?  For to you these things that
possess me day and night are only straws to make an idle
controversy.  It is the form and figure of Christ Himself that
possesses me.  Not Pierson's Catholic way nor your Protestant way
neither.  No way but His own life and presence.  His presence that
is always with me, not reproaching me nor ordering me to another
way of life nor saying that I do ill nor insisting that I persecute
my brother men, but only pleading with me that He may come nearer
to me, that I will entertain Him as my guest and friend.

'The Catholics say that because He loves us we must upset
governments and bring on civil wars and suffer martyrdom.  I think
He wants no cruelty nor that men should suffer more than they
already do.  But I hear His voice and see His face.  Not torn and
bleeding, His body racked on the cross.  Not weak and like a woman
as the painters have made Him.  But only as a friend, loving me--
strong, laughing, wise, tender--and urging me without cease to do
something concerning this state of the world that is so crooked and
perverse.  There is a hell here now on this earth--a destiny that
must be divine is warped at every turn by man's cruelty to man.
Men starve, women are tortured, children cry.  There IS a way and
He knows it--but it is to ourselves He leaves it to straighten.  He
does us that honour and we are not worthy of it.  I love Him and
would serve Him and cannot tell how.  There ARE the Bright
Pavilions, as Pierson once said to me, but I know not how to reach
them.  The Catholic way is not MY way. . . .  I pray to Him and
feel His hand on my shoulder, but I cannot act.  I am held in a bog
of indecision.'

Nicholas waited.  'And then?' he said at last.

'Yes, there is something more.'  He began to speak fiercely and in
a torrent of words as though he would defy his brother to interrupt
him.

'You don't know, Nicholas, what constant company Pierson, Parsons,
Cumberlege have been keeping with me.  I have no notion why it is,
but it seems that they would sooner make me a Catholic than any man
in the country, work harder for it, I mean--I who am nobody,
nothing.  And it is not easy for me because of my love for Pierson.
We were together from the first moment of our meeting here in this
house.  There is another thing too.  The Queen of the Scots.'

'She is not Queen any longer,' Nicholas said.

'Ah, but she is!  They cannot dethrone her!  They may imprison her,
torture her, break their word to her, but she is Queen--and
rightfully of England too.'

('Here is treason,' Nicholas thought.  'And grave too.  But I
cannot be angry with him and I must not frighten him.  But I have
left him too long alone to the influence of these priests.')

'And then?' he said again.

'Why, then . . . why, then . . . how can everyone not see what is
right, what is wrong--how that God is on one side and the Devil on
the other?  They who see it are the Catholics and the Catholics
alone.  Everything they believe is right save the dogmas of their
religion.  How can the Pope be God's voice when there have been so
many wicked and vicious Popes?  They say that it is God acting
through man, that man is only the instrument--but would God then
permit the instrument to be so vile?  And there is Bartholomew--and
even now Parsons and Cumberlege are crazy for persecution and the
stake to be back again, and they ardently approve the Spanish
Inquisition.  But the Queen of the Scots is on another foot, and in
some way, in some place I must serve her, Nicholas . . .'

He stopped for breath.  He seemed almost at that moment a madman.

'You know, lad,' Nicholas said gently, 'this is treason.  That you
are speaking against your Queen, your country.  That if those words
were overheard there would be the torture-chamber, perhaps the
stake, bitter disgrace for your father and mother who love you.'

Robin's eyes sought Nicholas' broad kindly face.

'God knows I love you and my mother, my father.  But, Nicholas, if
you could see Parsons and Cumberlege--their courage and
steadfastness, their lack of all fear because they serve God.  And
if you could hear the truth about Queen Mary--how roughly she is
treated, how she is sick, how she is denied her friends--and that
after she was promised safe-conduct and protection by our Queen--'

Then, unexpectedly, his hand shot out and gripped his brother's
knee.

'There is yet another thing--that I have told no man and WILL tell
no man but you, Nicholas.  I am a coward.  I know the path I should
follow and dare not, because I am afraid.  I am afraid of pain, of
the rack and the screw.  I am afraid of the bloody drawing and
quartering, so that they snatch you down before you are yet dead
and cut open your belly and tumble out your entrails before your
living eyes. . . .  I am afraid, I am afraid.  I have dreamed many
times of a scene, myself hanging before a sea of faces, my body a
fiery torture and the sun blazing like an oven: I wake crying,
tears wet on my cheek.'

He hid his face in his hands.

Nicholas said sternly:  'Leave it, Robin.  Leave it all.  These
priests will make you a priest and a Catholic.  Leave it.  Come
home and become a poet like Sidney.  They'll find you a place at
Court easily enough.  Be with us--your father, your mother, myself,
who love you.  These priests are false and will betray you.'

He caught Robin in his arms and held him as though against the
world.  Robin withdrew at last, stirred the fire, then rose,
stretching his arms.

'There is yet one thing more,' he said, 'and then I am done.
Sylvia--'

'Sylvia?'

'I have been told that she is most desperately unhappy, that Irvine
already mistreats her.  Sidney Herries went to Essex to see for
himself because they had had no word from her.  He found her
changed, aged, unhappy like something caught in a trap.'

Nicholas also rose, stretching his arms and legs.

'Irvine,' he said.  'Yes--Irvine.'

And on that the brothers clasped hands.

Nicholas could not be sober-serious for long.  Robin's confession
had wonderfully cleared the air and now the two of them were never
apart, riding, fishing, visiting Newlands and Nicholas' old friends
Hans Opperer and Beck.  He asked also for Joris Fisher, Catherine's
old suitor, but was told that he had vanished a year back and that
no one knew where he was.

It was on a bright shining day when the little town sparkled like a
jewel that Nicholas, sitting his horse in the main street, listened
to the burly Opperer, also on HIS horse, complaining of his
misfortunes.  Things had not, in these last years, been going
well for the 'Almaynes.'  Nothing had been right for them since
the trial, back in 1568, between the Queen and the Earl of
Northumberland.  He had complained that it was HIS property the
miners were occupying, the Queen had answered haughtily, and then,
when it came to a trial, the majority of the judges and barons of
the Exchequer had decided that there was more gold and silver in
these mines than copper and lead and that therefore the Queen was
in her right.

'Saving Her Majesty,' said Opperer, 'a monstrous unfair decision,
for of gold and silver there is simply none at all.'  Then, after
every kind of labour and expense, when they had put copper on the
market there was no market to supply, not even a coinage.  And the
Queen, now she realized that her fairy gold was not to be found,
had lost interest.

'As to the people here, after our early disputes, they were
friendly enough when they found that there was something to be got
from us; and, for the last seven years, we have given a new life
and prosperity to this town that, before we came, was dead for half
the year.  But now that we don't prosper as we did they care for us
less, although our men have married their girls and have sought in
everything to be decent citizens.  But to the last we shall be
Almaynes to them--they are the snottiest, narrowest, stupidest,
most obstinate animals on the face of the known earth.  A foreigner
is to them a goblin or a fair-zany.'

Here Nicholas felt something guilty because of his own foreigner
prejudice.  Strange, when he thought of it, that these Germans were
the only foreigners he ever had liked.

'See here now,' Opperer said, turning his head and looking up the
street to where the town stocks were planted.  There was a man in
them now, a thick dirty fellow with a tousled head of hair and a
broken nose that looked twice as crooked in the sunlight.  He was
drunk and shouting and striving to kick with his legs, while some
boys and an old crazy man stood by teasing him.

'That's Hans Selzenstollen.  It's his own blame that he's there.
The town constable was right enough, for he threw a stone and broke
a window in Crosthwaite Church.  But he's married to a decent
Keswick girl, Christina, and has two children by her.  It does us
no good for him to be exposed to the town.  "Another Almayne," they
say, and are encouraging his Christina to return to her mother.'

Opperer sighed a mighty sigh and was about to unload some more of
his sorrows when Nicholas' attention was taken by a scattering of
small boys, a farmer and two cows, before a gentleman on horseback
who advanced up the street as though he commanded not only the
little town but the whole of England.  And yet he was a very shabby
hero, greatly over-decorated with a headpiece that had a dent in
it, a soiled doublet of tarnished gold and broken mesh, and a face
much the worse for wind, weather and wine.  He was attended by two
followers on very sorry horses but in countenance as truculent as
he.

'And who may this be?' Nicholas asked, laughing.

'I can tell you,' Opperer answered.  'He has been here a se'nnight
or more and three days back he rode to Gottesgab and was for asking
us a meddle of questions to which we gave short answers.  He said
he was a Captain Winterset, and while he has been here he has
swaggered and pestered the women and is as haughty as Satan.'

Then a remarkable thing happened, for while Nicholas was set
laughing, the horseman saw him, drew up his horse, stared as though
his eyes would fall out of his head and rode on, looking back at
Nicholas as he rode.

'And here is Catherine Hodstetter,' Opperer said.  'She is an old
acquaintance of yours, I think, Mr. Herries.'

So it had happened as simply as that!--as always when he did not
search her out but let destiny settle the meeting.  She stood there
as straight as a tree, her flaxen hair in coils beneath the blue
cap, her eyes shining with joy, one hand on her breast.

He moved on his horse a little away from Opperer, and she stood,
one hand on the saddle, looking up at him, the sun like fire in her
hair.

'I was not coming to you,' Nicholas said.  'I was determined not to
come.'

'It matters nothing.  We are always together.'

'Are you happy?  Is all well with you?'

She laughed.

'With ME, yes.  Nothing can touch me.  I run like the wind, smoke a
fox, climb a hill, and when I sleep, dream about you riding down
the lane on a hay-cart, singing while the rabbits run for their
lives in the evening sun.'

'Can I see you this time?' he asked, bending forward.  He was aware
that the whole town was watching.  'I ask you every time so I ask
you now.  Will you come away with me for a night and be alone with
me in some place?'

'No, I will not.  Once we possess one another we lose one another.
All the town is watching us so I can say it with safety.  I love
you with my soul first, with my body nearly as much.  But my soul
first--and I am a foreigner and the daughter of a forbidden woman.
I have told you all this before.'

'Yes.  We repeat the same words at every meeting and at every
meeting we are bound more closely together.  There never was
anyone,' Nicholas said, sighing, never removing his gaze for one
moment from her face, 'who took more simply what he wanted than I.
Here I take something in a more difficult way.'

He knew that their meeting was almost over.  There was no man in
England less a mystic or given to belief in things he could not see
nor hear nor touch, but at every meeting with Catherine Hodstetter
it had been the same: the moment had stood still like the obedient
sun with Joshua.  These moments were eternal and Time was
humbugged.

So now he saw the sun shining on the field and the line of hill
like a fish's back, a clump of blossoms in the paved garden near
the Guard House so hard and white that they were like petals of
glittering ice.  The man in the stocks had his tousled head
forward, tumbled now in sleep, and the hair of his head was
transmuted into crocodile-skin by the shadow of a near-by pent-
house roof.  The hilt of Gilbert Armstrong's rapier sparkled like a
bunch of jewels.  At the forge opposite, a horse was being shod and
the sparks flew up like fiery midges dancing, a life's instant, in
the air.  Gipsies had camped their coloured cart on the meadow
above the river and he could see the smoke rising in a grey-silver
spiral from their fire.  Doves, sunlight on their wings, flew, at
some alarm, in a cloud of white and purple from a dove-cote half
hidden by trees.  A beggar walked and then at sight of the grand
horsemen stood staring and scratching his chest.  There was a
purple feather waving in his torn cap.

All these fragments of light and colour stood still in Nicholas'
heart and mind for ever.  He would never forget the least of them
until he died.

Then he turned to Catherine again.  He absorbed into his very soul
her blue cap, her yellow hair, her eyes and mouth and chin, her
white neck and firm strong breasts, her waist, and the stiff blue
stuff of her simple dress, her brown shoes with brass buckles.
Then his eyes went back to her eyes again.  They smiled in perfect
confidence and trust and with no anxiety.

Her eyes left him.  She stared up the street and his eyes followed
hers.  A tall woman of fine carriage in a grey hat and cloak was
coming down the street.  She looked neither to right nor left.  As
she came everyone parted to keep her path clear.  A woman pulled
two children roughly away; a farmer shouted to his cow and whacked
it over the street.  The boys that had been about to rouse the man
in the stocks took to their heels and ran.  Women leaned out of
windows staring without a word.  The beggar hustled into a doorway.

Quite alone, the whole street clear for her, the woman walked.
Catherine, smiling, went to meet her and, joining her, put her hand
through her arm.  The two of them proceeded, mother and daughter.
At the street end they turned towards the river and disappeared.



A week later Nicholas and Armstrong rode off for a two days'
hunting or any other adventure that pleasant destiny might provide
for them.

It was Nicholas' plan and for two reasons.  One was that all day he
suffered from an urge to find out Catherine Hodstetter.  Well, why
should he not?  She must yield to him at the last.  She loved him.
Where was the woman who loved a man did not yield at the last?
Then came the oddest part of it.  That with all his soul he fought
with himself that she should not yield.  Yielding she was lost.
She would be like just another who had yielded to him.  And if she
did not yield he would be angry and, angry, would say cruel things
to her that, being said, would destroy the special quality of this
strange non-tangible relationship.  He must not see her save when
he MUST.

His other reason was that there was something in Robin's house from
which he wished to escape.  Not dear Robin himself: something in
the walls, the floors, the beams, something that had been placed
there perhaps by his old uncle--the odours and subtleties of
Catholics.  It was as though he could smell the incense and hear
the tinkling of the bell.

So he rode out with Gilbert Armstrong, and at once, as their horses
felt their way through the tangled paths and over the thick mud to
Keswick, he lifted his arms and shouted:  'Are you not happy now,
Gilbert?  Is it not a grand thing to be out of any house?'

'Yes, Mr. Herries.'

'I love my brother more than any man alive, but I think his house
stinks.  Tell me, Gilbert, how can you bear to be with me in the
South when there is this great windy unmade country that belongs to
you?'

'Because I am your man, Mr. Herries--and because anyone who is born
here carries it with him wherever he goes.'

'And some who are not born here, for I swear that now _I_ carry it
with me and am never free of it: but that maybe is because I love a
girl who will have none of me--the best way, Gilbert, because you
love her for ever.  What kind of girl do you love the best,
Gilbert?'

'The one that is most like a woman, Mr. Herries.  The one that is
soft of cheek and strong-breasted and melts away in your arms.'

'By Jesu, a poet's tongue--the poor country wench who melts like
her own butter.  But this is happiness, as I see it, Gilbert!  To
be free, to owe no man anything, to be afraid of no man, to have a
strong horse under you and a sword at your side, to feel the wind
on your face and your heart steady in your breast, to love one or
two faithfully and be ready to die at a moment without a grudge--
but first of them all, to be a free man!'

The first night they stayed at a meagre inn near Ambleside where
the food was bacon and cabbage vilely cooked, where they slept
together in their clothes because of the filthiness of the bedding.
But they were as fresh as a day's dawning when next morning they
rode into Hawkshead.

Here they did some sight-seeing, for it was as strange a little
place as they had ever seen, built as though a tearing giant had
thrown the houses together higgledy-piggledy, one house leaning on
another, doors high in air where the windows should be, steps to an
upper floor, gutters running sideways and sheep looking forth from
the bed-rooms.

The grammar-school was still ten years abuilding so that they could
not see it, but the Church was of interest because it was but newly
built on an old Norman foundation, and indeed, as an old sexton,
doubled with rheumatism and blind of one eye, informed them, much
older than Norman.

Then they rode on again up on to the fells beyond, where they had a
handsome view of Coniston Water and noticed for the first time that
a storm was brewing and black clouds sulkily piling above the grey
white-touched lake.

Here, on the fell, with nothing in sight but the sky and tufts of
grass tugging at the ground, they discovered an old tower.  It had
been built on a time for defence against invaders, and was still in
good repair, the lowest room piled with dank straw, a narrow little
stone stair and the upper room with some of the rough stones that
had fallen from the roofing lying about it.

Here they sat and munched some bread and cheese while their horses
cropped at the turf.  They were kings of the whole world, and
Nicholas felt such a blessed content that he wondered why it was
that he was not satisfied to be a simple farmer in this blessed
country and let all the noisy world go by.  He said so and
Armstrong answered:  'We are not alone.  There are horsemen on the
horizon.'

So there were, five of them.

First they were little cloud-marks, then they were puppets pulled
by strings, then they were dancing dolls.

'There are five of them,' Nicholas said.

'They are coming this way.'

The two men stood straining to see.  Because the clouds had massed
black, but the sun was set in the foreground, these five men
sparkled quartz-like.  Their horses surged and stopped.  One rider
was in front of the rest.

'They look as though they were hunting something,' Nicholas said.

'They are much in love with themselves,' Armstrong said, arguing
from a kind of cock of the head the leader had.  They moved forward
once more.

'Why!  It is my battered Captain!' Nicholas cried.  Then, turning
to Armstrong and laughing:  'What was it they called him?'

'Winterset.  Captain Winterset.'

'He has been wenching in Keswick most villainously and swaggers
like a Privy Councillor.'

The visitors arrived nearer; in fact they were well within speaking
distance.  The Captain wore light mail and a yellow feather stuck
in his helmet.  There was a rapier against his thigh and a dagger
at his hip.  Over his meshed gloves he wore a ring with a ruby.
His face was mottled and in decomposition.  But he looked, in spite
of all contrary efforts, a gentleman.

Winterset sat his horse, motionless, staring at Nicholas and
Armstrong, and behind him in a huddle his four attendants.  Two
were the men that Nicholas had seen follow him in Keswick.  Of
these two, one was long and thin with a ridiculous hook nose and
large black eyes that were never still, squinting, staring,
switching from side to side.  You would have said that strings
pulled them from within.  The other was fat and small, his shabby
armour enclosing him like a shell.  He sat his horse as though he
were asleep.

The other two were tall, broad, as like as two pins and with stupid
country faces.  They wore no armour, but leather jerkins and big
jackboots.  They carried swords.

This company, so motionless and staring and stupid, had about it
something remarkably comic, and after a moment Nicholas began to
laugh; and he laughed and laughed, and the sudden faint thunder in
the hills seemed to echo him.

His laughter did not embarrass Winterset, for he sat his horse,
staring scornfully, and pulling occasionally at his rein, the only
movement he made.

Nicholas came forward, thrusting down his laughter and looking with
a smile into Winterset's little eyes.

'Have you lost your way, sir?  Or you are uneasy about the coming
storm and seek shelter here?  There is room for all of us.'

Winterset stared at him with the greatest contempt, but the men,
Armstrong saw, were interested.  They had never before seen so
gigantic a gentleman.  Armstrong fancied that the tall thin fellow
half turned his horse as though he would ride it away.

'I seek no shelter,' Winterset answered.  'It is yourself I am
after, Mr. Nicholas Herries.  I have been seeking you all morning.'

'Ah, you know me.'

'I know you most excellently--for a swollen boasting sot and a
coward whom the apprehension of any danger loosens pitifully.'

Nicholas could not believe the evidence of his bodily senses.  He
opened wide his fine innocent eyes: his mouth also opened ever so
slightly.  He was not angry, but incredulous.

'WHAT did you venture?' he enquired.

'I named you a sot and a coward!'

The fellow had been sent, then, to insult him.  By whom?  Who would
use this broken-down shabby-suited gentleman?  But instinctively,
in a second of trained perception, he noted several things: first,
that this Winterset really WAS a gentleman; secondly, that he
greatly enjoyed the job (there was exultation in all his drink-
damaged features); thirdly, that however drunken he might be now
and again he was, at the moment, most perfectly sober; fourthly,
that a man of this sort would be, almost to certainty, a most
excellent swordsman; fifthly, that the numbers were five to two;
sixthly, that the sky was blackening, the light would be bad;
seventhly, that being outnumbered the tower would be the wisest
background for them; eighthly, that he did not know HOW
accomplished a swordsman Armstrong might be; ninthly and lastly, he
was longing for a fight and would have the greatest pleasure in
slicing a piece off Winterset's nose.

So he evinced no displeasure at all but grinned like a boy.

'Come, sir.  Many things may be said against me as against any man.
But sot am I not, and coward am I not.  What is your quarrel?'

Winterset leaned over his horse towards Nicholas and said quite
confidentially:  'You are a braggart the world wishes to be rid of.
And I have come to do the world that service.'

Now WHAT, Nicholas was thinking, was the reason of this?  This
thing was arranged and prepared.  It was doubtless for this reason
that Winterset was in Keswick.  Sent by whom?  And in a flash
Nicholas had it.  Irvine of course.  Irvine, Irvine, Irvine.  Busy
on his own affairs or for some reason important to himself wishing
not just now to venture, he had sent a deputy.  Irvine was no
coward but also he took no risks.  Winterset was his bravo, hired
out for a sum.  And Winterset liked it.  Such an encounter as this
was for Winterset as good as a debauch.

Yes, Winterset was pleased, and Nicholas, realizing this, looked
around him to see exactly how the land lay.  First he caught the
eye of his dear horse Juno who, perfectly aware that events were
toward, flashed a glance at her master which said:  'I am here
ready and prepared for an instant's command.  I am delighted that
there is to be some action again.  I have had a tame paddock-life
long enough.'

Then he included Armstrong who, his body solid and set, stood, his
hand on his sword-hilt, square-footed and quiet-eyed.

Then he surveyed the land and saw the hills trembling under the
weight of thunder and a pale light as of sword-play striking the
fell.  Yes, five to two.  The tower was their vantage-ground.

So he walked a step to the empty yawning stone door, and Gilbert
Armstrong, as though he was physically part of him, was at his
side.

'Now, Captain Winterset, at your service or good-day as you
please.'

Winterset called the lean man to him and they palavered.  Nicholas,
watching with an eye like his own sword, had already given the four
ruffians names.  He had long learnt that if there is a fight on,
nothing is more useful than a flashing summary of your adversary's
circumstances.  Nothing is unimportant.  The lean man with the
swivel eye he named Hungry, the round fat man Bacchus, and of the
two yokels one, distinguished by a yellow-red forelock, was
Matthew, the other Mark.  And he noted to himself that Hungry could
be caught at the ankles, Bacchus would be wheezy in the stomach,
Matthew had a thick stertorous neck, and Mark's thighs were too
heavy for quick movement.  The other thought in his head again and
again was--how good is Gilbert at this?  For he had never as yet
seen Gilbert in a real fight.

After the whispered discussion between Winterset and his man Hungry
they all dismounted.  Winterset drew his rapier with an over-
dramatic flourish.  Nicholas and Armstrong had theirs out at the
same instant.

'It is plain enough that you are a coward,' Winterset remarked.
'The sight of a naked blade drives you to the wall.'

'Not in the least,' Nicholas answered.  'I would have you observe,
Captain, that you are five to our two.  I would that you also
noticed my size.  My back is easily reached by those not too
readily guardian of their honour.  And you, Captain, although your
soiled feather blows bravely, are by general reputation none too
careful of that commodity.'

He was hitting in the dark but he went further:

'The very sort of Captain, in fact, whom Mr. Philip Irvine, always
ready that others should carry his more filthy burdens, would
select as deputy.'

('Blackguardly on Irvine,' he thought, 'who is filthy indeed but
brave with it.')

He saw that he had touched the shabby Captain, who was shabby no
longer, for he was in so great a rage that he was transformed into
some nobler category of men by it.

He advanced a pace or two, his head forward.

'This is no quarrel but my own.'

'Yours!' Nicholas cried.  'How can that be?  We have not met until
to-day.'

'You insulted me in the town market-place.'

'Insulted!  Inconceivable!'

'You commented on me coarsely to your companion.  And for that,'
Winterset said quietly, 'you shall surely die!'

At the word all five were upon them, three at Armstrong, Winterset
on Nicholas, and the yokel Mark seeking his chance to be in with
his uncivilized and most villainous-faced dagger at Nicholas' back.
The fight was set.



Nicholas realized, once more, a number of verities.  First, that
Winterset was as able a swordsman as he had hoped for; secondly,
that there was no sense of shame in this company and that no trick
would be too vile for them; thirdly, that Armstrong could not, in
the light of day and with no aid from either man or nature, hope to
deal with all three at one and the same time.

He beat Winterset's defence, slipped to one side, cried, 'In,
Gilbert!  In!' and felt Armstrong slip past him into the tower.  He
lunged with a furious rage at Winterset, who, for a second, stepped
back.  Nicholas slipped his great bulk into the tower after
Gilbert.

Now he was happy indeed, for he had what he loved--tactics at his
command.  A fight as a fight was something, but a fight in which he
could, because his brain in these things was quick, order events to
his liking: THAT was bread and wine to his constitution!

So, now, turning his head left and right, he considered the
conditions.  There was a moment's pause.  For one thing Winterset
and his men did not know what was inside the tower.  For all they
could tell there might be an army!  Next, the light was very
peculiar.  The storm lay like a snake-skin shadow across the
aperture that had been once a barred window, but the sun, before
final defeat, flung a white shine on the walls, the straw and a
broken bar of iron-nailed wood.  Nicholas saw that on the wall
there were three black rings.  He stood in the room's centre,
kicking the straw away from him.  He bent down and, with the
greatest ease, lifted the bar of wood high: then, knowing that it
was strong and the nails jagged, he laid it down again.  He whirled
his rapier about his head, pawing impatiently with his foot.

'Quick, Gilbert!  At my side!  A little to the rear!  They're in!'

Winterset stood in the doorway, bareheaded, his rapier moving in
his hand like a snake.  Bacchus and Mark were before him, Matthew
and Hungry behind.  As though the plan had been well concerted the
two men behind him attacked Armstrong; Winterset, Nicholas.

Now no man spoke; the feet could be heard rustling in the straw,
and there was a crack of thunder like a whip.  No man heard the
thunder.

There followed for Nicholas as exciting a bout as he could ever
remember.  He had, truly, to look to himself and could spare no
glance for Gilbert.  Winterset was of the Italian kind of
swordsman, as were all the better fighters of the time--that is, he
was like a cat on his feet and his arm had the motions of a snake,
stiffening with a hiss, bending back like a bow, wriggling in a
crawl and then flashing forward, up or down, as when a snake
strikes.  His blade played a tune, moving for a while in the rhythm
of a dance, then quivering as a high singer might on a scaling
note.  His rapier was alive as water is alive, water that is its
own master, that slides or falls or rises by its own power and
inner volition.  And with his rapier went his body.  You would have
thought to see him that dissipation had won him, that he would be
scant of breath and too fat about the heart, that his legs were too
thick and his loins too stiff.  But this was his life, the life for
which he had been born.  Scandalous in everything, faithless to man
and woman, intemperate and despairing partaker of filthy vices,
always from hand to mouth, cruel in perfidy and, at the last, true
not even to himself, yet as soon as he was fighting he was clear-
brained, single-souled, an artist, a master, living only for a
grand end.

Nicholas had not lived in a fighting world so little but that he
knew an artist in this kind.  His own heart rose greatly to the
challenge.  He was happy now as he had been happy singing home his
father's corn.  But this was another happiness, for he was an
artist too, and this was the best fight his life had yet known.

He saw at once that Winterset was quicker than he, but finally, if
the fight lasted, in less good condition.  But Winterset's attack
was now so buoyantly ferocious that, for the first minute, it
seemed to Nicholas that he was fighting a dozen men.  Winterset's
rapier was not part of Winterset, but alive by itself with a voice
and a hot breath and a body of its own.  He was forced on the
defence, and he cursed the straw behind him lest he should stumble.
Also, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the other two not
engaged with Armstrong creeping to the rear.  Armstrong could not
last at this, with two men in front of him, two men behind.  Also,
without Armstrong, do what he would he could not, in that open
room, alone be the master of five.

He lunged.  His rapier slid on Winterset's, the blades kissing.  He
stepped back, making as though he stumbled.  With a cry of triumph,
the first sound that he had made, Winterset was after him, but
Nicholas, moving his rapier in front of him, ceaselessly restless,
had slid sideways to the stone stair.

'The stair!  The stair!' he cried.

Then Armstrong did a grand thing, for he lowered his sword, took a
step to the left and drove his fist full into little Bacchus' face.
Bacchus dropped.  With a leap Armstrong was up the stair and
Nicholas on the lowest step.

Slowly, his sword in circles, in lines, flashing in the dark yellow
sombre shadow like a flame, Nicholas backed step by step.

The two men, panting, stood one behind the other at the stair-head.

Again there was a pause.  Nicholas, looking down at the four men
hesitating below him, felt an extraordinary exhilaration.  He heard
now for the first time the storm raging over his head, and noticed
the yellow sulphurous half-light in which figures were illuminated
but as unreal as ghosts.

He shouted to them, laughing:  'Come then!  You will not leave it
like this--four of you!  Shoot up your necks to your fortunes!
Here is a sorry sight for true Englishmen!  You, Mr. Hungry, let me
feed your stomach.  Now then, Matthew, Mark, apostles of true
valour, where are your country manners?  Having thrust yourselves
into gentle company you must stay for it.  You will expostulate, I
don't doubt, with your oxen very understandingly.  Well, then,
let's have a word or two.  On a piece of beef you are terrible
fasteners.  Here's a blade or two for you to fasten on.'

He must have seemed to them a devilish giant of a man, clothed in
sulphur, with his vastness and the voice and laugh of a boy and
good-humoured threatening terror, for his rapier, like the
lightning of the storm, was never still.

Nevertheless some kind of rage maddened them, and three of them--
Hungry, Matthew and Mark--flung themselves up the steps.  Then
things happened quickly, for Hungry met Nicholas' sword in the
neck, gave a shrill scream like a wrung hen and fell, his arms
flailing the air, backwards against the other two, rolled off them
and smashed to the bottom.  But before Nicholas had quite withdrawn
his sword Matthew and Mark had flung themselves at him, butted him
furiously in the stomach so that he fell backwards.  Armstrong
lugged his body back into the little room, and then, in the half
dark, fought with sword and body, arms and legs, the two Apostles,
who raged now in a frenzy, bellowing like bulls.  The rain was
coming down as from a broken-tin heaven and a flash of lightning
showed Nicholas on his feet.  Mark and Armstrong were at it, here,
there, up and down, weapon against weapon, and Matthew was against
the wall to get skilfully to the rear.  But Nicholas was upon him.
He had him in his arms, crushing him to him as he might love him to
madness.  He lifted him.  Matthew's legs kicked.  His neck was
pressed by Nicholas' great thumb.  His chest was bare, and the
shoulder cracked.  He screamed his last agony, and it came through
the air like a child's whistle.  Then, with a swing and his
buttocks bare, he rushed through the window like thistledown and
was caught by the thunder, dropped into silence.

The other Apostle, cut through the groin, fell at Armstrong's feet,
and Winterset, waiting, stood in the doorway.

'And now,' he said, 'it is our affair again.'

'Stand aside, Gilbert,' Nicholas cried, laughing.  'There can be no
foul play now.'

They bowed, they measured swords, stepped back.  Beyond the window
there was a broad tawny lion's mane of a gap between the black
thunder, and the light from it was faint, sickly, while the fresh
cold rain fell with the monotony of the beating of a giant hammer.

In this pale light they fought, but it was a good fight, although
it was a fight that could have but one ending.  After a passage of
attack and retreat, of blade upon blade and a scratch on Nicholas'
thigh, after a dreadful moment when Nicholas all but slipped in the
Apostle's blood, Winterset's breath began to fail.  His arm did not
move with the quickness that it had done in the lower room.  The
muscles of his legs were weary.  He backed to the wall, his eyes
staring as though they saw a horror.  The red veins on his swollen
cheeks stood out like wounds.  He lunged and missed.  His sword
flew into the air.

Nicholas picked it up.

'I keep this, Captain,' Nicholas said.  'And now ride away.  You
are the shadow of my enemy, not the substance.  It had been better
if you had not pressed these poor fellows to their death, but you
obeyed the orders of a less honourable man.  Good day, Captain.'

Winterset had stood against the wall, his hands at his side.

He said at last, hoarsely:  'You have spared my life, Mr. Herries.
That is not easy to forgive.'

He looked for a moment at the dead staring face of his hired
servant.  He turned his back, without fear, and descended.

Then Nicholas heard the storm crashing on to his uplifted head.



THE THREE PRIESTS


Robin was quite alone in the house except for old Mounsey and his
wife--Mounsey seventy-two and Henrietta sixty-eight, who cared for
him with the carefulness, the stealthy quiet, the bright-eyed
watchfulness of mice just out of the wainscot.

After Nicholas' departure he had felt a desperate unhappiness and
this had endured for many weeks.  There had been a day when
Nicholas had had an adventure, for he had returned in the evening
drenched with a thunderstorm and suffering from a flesh wound in
the thigh.  Robin had asked no questions.  This was an occasion, he
realized, when, to save HIS honesty before enquiring authorities,
Nicholas preferred that he should be truly ignorant.  All that he
and Keswick knew was that, on the morning following, a farmer found
three dead men laid out on the fell above Hawkshead, their bodies
devoutly arranged, their hands crossed on their breasts: one had
died from a sword-thrust in the neck, one from a sword-thrust in
the belly, one had his head dashed in from a fall.  The only other
thing that Keswick knew was that the scandalous Captain Winterset
was seen no more.

Robin found that, after this day, Nicholas was altogether at his
sweetest and most charming.  So gay and merry was he that even the
mouse-Mounseys giggled and chuckled at his behaviour.  His care for
Robin was stronger, more watchful, more devoted than ever before.
When he departed, after hugging him, he said:  'Come down to us,
lad, Mallory's your home.  We'll find you a place at Court or
whatever your heart desires.'  This made him think, perhaps, of
Sylvia Irvine, for he added:  'I will get news . . . maybe visit
her myself.  Irvine will be wanting to hear my account . . .'

'Of what?' asked Robin, laughing.

'Of the new way to pay old debts.'

Nevertheless Robin stayed on through the summer.  It was as though
he were waiting for a message.  It came.  A young farmer driving
his sheep up the road dropped a piece of paper through the gate.
He had seen Robin standing in the courtyard.  The paper said that
there would be a fine lot of pippins to be bought up at Green House
in Skiddaw Forest on the evening of September 28th.

Robin knew that Green House in Skiddaw Forest.  He had been there
before.  It was an empty, half-tumbled farm manor-house, slipping
to ruin.

As he read the paper he had again that awesome sense of destiny
moving behind the event, that came to him so often.  This did not
make him afraid, but strengthened his belief that he was travelling
on so definite a path that all he had personally to bring was
passivity.  How he acted in the events prepared for him--whether
well or ill, with cowardice or courage, ah, THAT was HIS affair!--
but not only he: Nicholas, Sylvia, Irvine; nay, all men alive had
the Tournament Ground waiting for them.  The trumpets would sound,
their names would be called. . . .  He shivered although the
September sun was warm.  He crumpled the piece of paper in his hand
and then went in and threw it in the kitchen fire.

Pierson would be there.  He would see Pierson!  Pierson and
Nicholas!  What opposites!  And yet how dearly he loved and admired
them both!  But, intellectually, he was all on Pierson's side!  He
hated Nicholas' boasting--not about himself, for there was never
anyone more personally modest--but about England's greatness and
her plundering and ravishing, and ordering everything by force.
What right had England to take what wasn't hers, simply because she
was the stronger?  What were Drake and Hawkins and the rest but
pirates, and Elizabeth as big a pirate as any?  If force ruled the
world, then farewell to all the beautiful qualities of man--loving-
kindness, equity, tolerance for the weak, justice for the
oppressed.  And he thought again of Mary of Scotland, ever filling
his mind and heart.  Oh! that this destiny of his would allow him
in some way to serve her!



On the appointed day he rode off alone to Skiddaw Forest.

He rode alone and when, under that darkening September sky, he
turned toward Skiddaw, no other human being in sight, only the
thick unhandsome Herdwick sheep cropping the turf, he felt with a
fierce illuminating pang his own loneliness.  He had, it seemed to
him, no friend close to him in all the world.  Nicholas, Pierson,
they were absorbed in their own affairs.  Sylvia was married to his
enemy.  All the men and women he knew held faiths or doctrines or
rules of life that were not his.  He could not believe other than
he did; he could not be false to himself.  It seemed to him too
that of late a new kind of shyness had crept over him, and that
this held him back from all contacts.  There was some secret in his
heart that he could yield to no one--and he did not know what this
secret was!  Yet, with this, his heart was aching with a love for
all humanity.  He longed to serve his fellow-men and help them in
their unhappiness and misfortune.  But he could not go to them and
they would not come to him.

This sense of his loneliness was so awful that it was like a
physical hurt, something that wounded his heart, and if he put his
hand against his naked breast he could feel his heart turning, as
though away from him.  The figure of Christ was turned from him
also, and he had, at that moment, a temptation to believe that
there WAS no Christ.  This was a myth, made by men for the cheating
of men.  Death would come, after a life of empty loneliness, and
that would be the end.  He saw Pierson and Campion and the others
as fanatics who had persuaded themselves to believe in a faded old-
fashioned story and to suffer for it in an apotheosis of self-
cheating, worthless suffering.

That day when he had heard of Sylvia's betrothal had struck him so
deep a blow that his whole nature had been changed by it.  His
longing to love and be loved moved in him now not as an active
happiness, but as a frustrated, defeated ambition, never to be
realized.  His loneliness was a darkness that clouded his eyes and
muffled his voice.

The late afternoon was warm.  He could see the berries reddening on
the rowans, smell the wild thyme and hear in the distance some
little invisible waterfall tumbling.  At one high point before he
crossed into the breach between Skiddaw and Blencathra he caught a
fragment of Derwentwater with the late sun shining on it, saw one
of the wooded islands like a green cap floating; the peaceful
serenity of the gold water brought no peace to his heart, but
rather the crags of Skiddaw, opposite him, a dark red with patches
of gilded green, this roughness and indifference told the truth
now:  'You are alone and life is a mask, one mask that gives place
to another, all these masks concealing--nothing.'

As he rode his horse up the Blencathra slope and then turned it
along the little wandering stony path under Skiddaw, the air was
dusky and birds flew without sound above his head.  A running
stream and his horse's hooves striking against the stones were the
only sounds.

The desolation of this place into which he was now entering made it
the subject of many local tales and superstitions.  No one, unless
he had business that compelled him to pass through to Uldale or one
of the hamlets in the valley beyond, would venture there after
dusk.  It was said that in the very old days, when the Northmen
held Welsh and English as their servants, there was held here, in
the Forest, a Thing or Assembly and that out of this a great
quarrel grew, and there was a fearful massacre of men, women and
children.  Keswick men said that at night they had heard the
screams of the children and seen wild figures outlined against the
sky.  There was a superstition, too, that under Skiddaw there was a
vast chamber where the spirits of all the old heroes dwelt and
feasted.  Men swore that they had heard, coming from the caverns of
the mountain, wassail songs, great choruses and the laughter of
giants.  It was most certainly true that no one who had ever tried
to make a living in the Forest had succeeded.  Now there remained
only the ruins of this same house to which Robin was riding.

He was not himself afraid.  Ghosts could not trouble him.  And yet
he started when he saw, standing to the right of the little stream,
a woman wearing a grey cloak.  As he came near to her he saw that
she was no ghost but very mortal.  A strong commanding woman with
piercing eyes and a noble friendly gaze.  He knew her.  Frau
Hodstetter of Keswick, reputed by most to be a witch.

He was not frightened by witches any more than by ghosts, so he
stopped his horse and said kindly:

'Is there anything I can do for you, Frau Hodstetter?'

'No, Mr. Herries, thank you.'

He saw that she was carrying an open basket, and that it was filled
with small earthy green plants.

'You have been finding herbs?'

'Yes.  This is a good hour, before the sun falls behind the
mountains.'

He looked and saw that the patch of sky between the two hills was a
fiery rose, that thousands of tiny fragments of cloud were floating
like the wings of birds, while the slopes of the hills grew smoky.
The last calm light lay down the valley.

He let his horse drink in the stream while he leant over, speaking
to her.

'Then you don't fear to be in this lonely place so late?'

'Why, Mr. Herries?  Why should I fear?'

'Someone might do you a hurt.'

'For lust?  I am too old.  For hatred?  One alone would not dare.
One day they will gather in numbers, and on that hillside'--she
pointed to Blencathra--'I shall burn.'

He looked at her with horror.

'You cannot tell . . .'

'I can tell.'

'Then if the future is settled . . .'

She knelt down and plucked a little green plant with its roots from
the stream.

'We grow into the future by our own behaviour--but the future is
there awaiting us.'

Robin stared at her.  She seemed to be part of the gathering dusk.

'Then it IS true.  There are prophets and prophetesses.  There are--
witches.'

'As they call me.  As they will call me when they burn me.  Men are
so ignorant and will be for many thousands of years to come.  There
are other worlds besides this one--many powers moving about this
world that men cannot see.  For a few the past, present and future
move as one time.  For a few the earth is a crust thinner.  I see
now, as I watch, men passing who are not yet born, and I see you,
Mr. Herries . . .'

'Yes?'

'There is a great hall and a sick woman with her wig awry.  There
is a silence and a little dog whimpers so that all hear him.  I see
you there . . .'

'Yes.'

'And I see you again.  You suffer and you are happy.  There is a
man with his chest bare.  He has a brown mole under his left
breast.'

'I suffer . . .'

'Yes.  You answer your question by suffering.  The question you are
always asking.'

There was a silence that seemed to be blessed because of the great
peace made by the sound of the little running river.

'Why,' Robin asked, 'if you know such dreadful things are going to
happen to you here, do you not go away?'

She placed her broad, firm, strong hand on his knee.  The touch of
it was comforting and reassuring.

'We cannot go away from the places where we are intended to be.  If
I went away I must come back.  Besides, wherever I might be the end
would be the same.  So with you.  Wherever you are, whatever you
do, the end will be the same.  You make your character but not the
place where you are.  Your friends and enemies are given to you.
You are free in behaviour but not in circumstance.

'When I was a child in Germany watching the soldiers march to the
wars, my hand in my mother's, I foresaw this meeting by the running
stream.  You are going to the Mass.  That is well because God is in
every honest prayer.  You will suffer for them but never be one of
them.'

'Whom do you mean?'

'The men with whom you will speak to-night.  Some of them will
suffer before you.  You have many years still.'

'How can you say that?  I may stab myself now with this dagger if I
will.  I have only to raise my hand.'

'No.  You cannot.  You will not.'

Smiling to show her that she was foolish he moved his hand towards
his dagger.  But he found that he did not wish to.  His hand fell
to his side.

'Why,' he suddenly cried out with passion, 'does God let this world
be so evil?'

'God has given man power to do what he wishes.  It is all in man's
power.'

'God has not made man strong enough.'

'God has made man so that he must fight.  Life would be nothing if
everything were easy.  The power of evil is a real power.  I could
show it you now if I wished.  It is behind my back.'

The light was so indistinct that he could be sure of nothing, and
his imagination was stirred and apprehensive.  So that it was not
true that he saw behind her the soiled, ribbed, ant-grey wings of a
large bat with a snout and jagged teeth.

She held his hand for a moment.

'I wish you well, Mr. Herries.  And it WILL be well.'

'For you also, Frau Hodstetter,' he said, and rode on his way.



Now as he rode it grew dark.  There was no moon; there were no
stars.  But the path was clear or at least the horse seemed to find
it so.

Robin bent his thoughts to his present adventure.  For it WAS an
adventure and a grave risk.  Although the penalties at present
imposed on the Catholics were light compared with those of two
years later they were even now, so soon as religion became
intermingled with politics, serious enough.  Through all history
religious persecution has been active because of political fear.
After Norfolk's execution and the Ridolfi plot, fear was alive up
and down the whole country.  Despots--and the Tudors were still
despots: it was not until James II threw the Great Seal into the
Thames that despotism was finished in England--persecute religious
sects because they are afraid for their own physical safety.
Elizabeth herself might not be afraid, but her servants were afraid--
for themselves as well as for her.

And in Robin it was this mixture of politics and religion that
caught him.  Had the Scottish Queen not been a prisoner in England
his interest in the Catholics might have died.  But indignation
against injustice was a fire in his breast.  Because the
authorities were unjust therefore they were against God, and when
they were against God they were against Christ.

As he rode on he prayed.  If that woman's words were true, then one
day he must suffer, and suffer most horribly.  Physically!
Physically!  It was his body that cried out.  Physical pain was
something that his intense awareness of life and the power of his
imagination made horrible to him as it was not horrible to the
strong and insensitive men around him.  Here, in this black place
between the hills, imagination worked more readily.  An old man
whom he had met in London had been racked in Henry VIII's day, and
he had described to Robin, then only a boy, the ghastly agony of
that torture.  The first wrench when iron pincers snatch at the
muscles and flood them with molten lead.  The second wrench, when
the dagger strikes straight to the heart, as it seems, and your own
torn ligaments cry out, like live things, to you for pity.  The
third wrench when, just before you fall, screaming, into a black
pit of horror, at that last instant Pain himself, black-visaged,
with iron nails sharp as needles, tears your flesh triumphantly
into shreds and your sweating brow is soaked in the cold heat of
blood.  Robin had never forgotten a word of it.  The old man had
enjoyed telling his story.

Behind this fear was the deeper one that, because of the torture,
he might commit some dreadful betrayal.  A friend, Pierson.  Even
his dear brother Nicholas.

'Oh, God, be with me!  Christ Jesu, Son of God, be at my side when
the day comes.  Take me in Thine arms, at the terrible moment, so
that I may have no fear.'

He was glad when he reached the place.  There was a strange
silence.  Men and women arrived with lanterns and only the lanterns
seemed alive.  Horses were tethered and cropping the grass.

The building was dark, but when Robin entered he found that sacking
had been hung over the open spaces.  A table had been dressed as an
altar and some thirty persons, men and women, were kneeling on the
stone floor.  As they knelt and prayed, at the same time their eyes
searched the company lest there should be any traitor there.  They
were of all classes and all were known to Robin, at least by sight.
There was Mr. Forster of Henditch with his wife and daughter, Mr.
Charles Gunter of Morris Hall, Mr. Harris of Dunbone with his wife.
There were farm men, farm girls, a few shopmen from Keswick.

He knelt down among them.  The candles blew in the air and their
waxy scent touched his nostrils.  The bareness and coolness and
simplicity of the room comforted him.  He began to pray.

Three priests in their vestments entered.  One was Pierson; one
Cumberlege--a very thin tall man with a tortured face and fiery
fanatical eyes.  But the third caused him great surprise.  He knew
him at once from Pierson's description.  Pierson had been with him
at Douai and worshipped him.  His name was Campion.  Robin was
surprised because, only in the preceding year, Campion had been
sent to Prague as Professor, and Pierson had said that there could
be no likelihood of his coming to England.

He was a man of no remarkable strength of body, but his mouth was
grave and kind, and his eyes lovely in their saintly tenderness and
illuminating power.

'Here truly,' Robin thought, 'is a man of God.'

The Mass followed.

Campion came forward to speak to them.

His voice was gentle but not weak.  His tone had a courtesy that
seemed to say:  'We are companions, guests, in a good house.  Let
us behave with gratitude and kindliness.'  There was a fine
culture, although his words were very simple.  Most marked of all
there was a deep underlying strength that gave a challenging
authority to every sentence.  This said:  'When you have
discovered, as I have, what reality is, everything that is not real
is unimportant.  And when you know that certain things are true all
other things are unimportant.  If I have courage it is because I
have no time to think whether I have courage or no.  If I have
patience it is because the goal for which I am striving is very far
distant.  If I am gentle it is because we are all going the same
hard road.  If I am tender it is because I love my fellow-men but
God more.  If I am happy it is because of the company my soul
keeps.'

In his sermon he said among other things:  'My children, do not
despise yourselves because you feel fear.  It is right to be
afraid.  When I think of the facts of the torture-chamber I also am
afraid, but when I think of damage done to my immortal soul I am
more afraid yet.  One of the conditions of human life is fear,
because God would not wish you to be too secure.  But, more than
that, these are times of great uncertainty because certain men
value material power above spiritual, and would destroy spiritual
things because they are dangerous to material things.  They
persecute us because we hold to God, and in the years that are
coming they will persecute us more savagely because they will fear
us more.  So be afraid and through your fear lose yourselves in God
who will uphold you, folding His arms about you, clasping you to
His breast, keeping you safe.'

In another place he said about Love:

'I would not have you be too celibate.  I myself love the things of
this world--the books that I have read and written, the pictures I
have seen painted, good food, all beauty that comes from God.
And,' he added, a lovely half-roguish smile illuminating his face,
'I am myself writing a play at this very time concerning Saul and
one day it may be played.  And I know well what love of another
human being is.  In the watches of the night I have been tempted as
all human beings are tempted, and I have loved my brother man with
more than a brother's love.  And I would say to you that no love is
wrong if God comes first in it.  For if God comes first He must
purify all that is evil in it and turn it to Himself.  Love
suffereth and is kind.  I have a dog,' he added, looking for a
moment boy-like, 'in Prague, very lovable.  And when I return he
will almost burst his heart with joy.  So he, in his own way,
knoweth God.'

At the end of his sermon his voice took a sterner note:

'Laziness is of the Devil.  For God never said:  "Lay all this upon
Me and I will see to it."  God never said:  "Put your trust in Me,
for I can do it."  Rather He said:  "I have made you a man with the
sinews of a man.  On yourself the responsibility lies.  I thought
that you would prefer it so."  And how it must grieve Him to see
our confusion when the way is so clear, to behold our choice so
evil when right and wrong are so plainly distinguished, to discover
our stupidities so far beyond belief when He Himself had given us
wisdom, to perceive our lust as of the monkey, our filthy
grovellings as of the pariah-dog, our cruelty, our lechery, our
lust of the flesh. . . .  Oh, Man!  Oh, Man!  What dost thou make
of thyself?  What ruin lies about thee, how fair are the palaces
thou hast destroyed, how loud is the sound of the weeping of thy
sons and thy daughters because of their own feebleness!'

He ended:

'I had no right to come to England.  I stole away and must at once
return.  But I shall think of you and pray God for you and love
you.  And one day it may be God's will that I return here and will
see you again.'



After it was all over, Robin waited until the people had gone out
into the darkness.  Then he climbed some crooked stairs into what
had once been a hayloft.  This room, smelling musty and timelessly
of straw, apples, mice, was lit by three candles.  Pierson and
Campion, stripped, were rubbing something on to their bodies.
Father Cumberlege, dressed as a cartman, in a country hat and a
smock, was pacing about muttering to himself.  The two naked men
made a contrast; for Pierson was now thick as a bull, hairy-
chested, hairy-legged; while Campion was pink-fleshed with not a
hair on his chest, delicate, his hands and feet small as a woman's,
his pale shoulders a little rounded.  Robin took a bottle from
Pierson's hand and began to rub his back.

'This is a marvellous ointment a lady at Canterbury gave us.'

'Shall I rub your legs?'

'Yes.  Even though it is not seen it gives you confidence. . . .'

'You are very strong now.'

'Yes, I am.  I am always on the move.'

'Your thighs are like iron.'

'I can walk thirty miles a day.'

Campion was pulling a rough country shirt over his head.  His eyes
emerged from the top of it, innocent, wise, with fire, but gentle.
He stood, his bare legs under his shirt, like a little boy.

Cumberlege, looking little like a carter, was walking fiercely
about.

'How long, O Lord, how long?  Is this land never to be free?  Are
Thy Saints to be racked and burned eternally?'

'Not eternally, Henry,' Campion said, laughing.  'After the rack--
Paradise.'

Cumberlege turned upon him.

'Prague has done something to you, Edmund.  It is not perhaps good
for your soul.  They listen to your lectures and your wonderful
prose and forget God.'

Campion, drawing on rough hose, shook his head, still smiling.

'You are too impatient, Henry.  You would have God blow his trumpet
and all His enemies be scattered.  God does not work in that way--
and He WISHES us to laugh.  Not every day perhaps.  On a Tuesday
and a Thursday.'

But Cumberlege answered:  'You are wrong, Edmund.  You are wrong.
How can we laugh when the sheep are ravened by the wolves, when a
heretic is on the throne, when we must creep, as we do now, from
hedge to hedge in a poor disguise . . .'  He broke off, his thin
body quivering.  'Hist!  What was that?'

All four turned.  Robin instinctively felt for his sword.  It was
the man in charge of the horses, who said that they must hasten.
It was not safe.  There had been a man in the congregation whom no
one had known . . .

Pierson, clothed, and looking like a ruffian soldier on the tramp,
took Robin over to Campion, who seemed now like an innocent simple
country fellow.

'Father, this is my dearest friend, Mr. Robin Herries.'

Campion laid his hands on Robin's shoulders, looking into his face
with great affection.

'I know.  I have heard of you, Mr. Herries.'

'I am not a Catholic, Father.'

'There is time, my lad.  There is time.  God chooses His own time.'

'But I would serve God.'

Campion looked at him with great affection.

'And so you shall.  And so you shall.'

They had drawn a little apart.  Cumberlege was calling out that
they must go.

'I wish that I could see you again, Father.'

'You must come to Prague.  I live and work there.'

Robin hesitated.  Some power that he had not expected drove him to
speak:

'I am in trouble, Father.  I am in danger of a great sin.  I love a
woman who is already married.  I cannot destroy my desire.  I loved
her before she was married.  I shall love her until I die.  I hate
her husband.'

'Kneel with me and we will pray to God.'

They knelt down close together and Campion said a prayer.

When they rose Cumberlege called again:  'We must be going.'

'Come to Prague,' Campion said again.  'Or in any case travel
abroad for awhile.  Leave England.  There must be work for you in
some other country.'

Robin knelt and received his blessing.

He had a last word with Pierson; the three priests vanished into
the darkness.

Now he was quite alone.  The candles were all blown out.  It was as
though no one had ever been there.  Only his horse moved
restlessly, and the wind blew the trees into a kind of night-
charged tune.



PERIL IN ESSEX


Robin Herries took Campion's advice and travelled abroad.  He was
travelling, studying, writing, observing, until the middle of 1578.
He visited Campion in Prague, the Pope in Rome, William of Orange
in the Low Countries (this last Elizabeth was leaving at this time
entirely alone to face his enemies), the Medici in Paris, and by
all these so different persons was considered an elegant cultured
gentleman, reserved, of charming manners, but, at the last, a
little dull.  Campion did not think this last of him, and there was
a week in Prague when Robin was within a short step of being
received into the Catholic Church.  Robin did not take that step.

In Paris he saw the Alenon marriage brewing.  In company with
Alenon he could not believe that his own great Queen would
consider this monkey seriously for a single moment.  To take him to
bed with her!  Incredible!  Nor would Alenon himself care for it,
as he was a notorious pervert, and was followed by a convoy of
pretty, twittering, painted boys.  He was hideously ugly, deformed,
and of a mincing effeminacy.  But he was amusing and Elizabeth
adored amusing company, let the morals be what they might.  He was,
in fact, amusing and agreeable, kind-hearted and generous,
unusually so for that cold and ferocious Court.  Robin became quite
attached to him after he had made it perfectly clear that he was
not conceivably to be won into Alenon's closer intimacies.

This meeting with Alenon had its effect on his developing history,
because it drove him yet further in the direction of his destiny.
What was he to think of a Queen who could consider, even for
political reasons, this deformed pervert as a husband?  He seemed
to see Elizabeth now as a monstrous horror--painted, bewigged,
stiff with jewels, her sharp fingers heavy with rings, her peaked
nose, her tempers and moods and lies and parsimonies, eaten with
foolish vanity at which the whole world laughed, her intriguing
soul empty of morality, truth, honour, affection.  And on the other
side, languishing, year after year, in most unjust imprisonment,
the good Scottish woman, so patient, regal, dignified under her
persecutions!  The time would come when he would serve her and
satisfy, at least in part, that constant longing in his soul for
the accomplishment of some service for God's sake.

And not for Sylvia Irvine's sake?  Here was the question that,
quite honestly (for he WAS honest with himself), he asked himself.
He could not rid himself of her.  Little things--a bejewelled
glove, a portrait on ivory, a windy day with the leaves blowing
into his face, a tune on the viol, the baying of a hound, the moon
above a Paris street--anything, nothing, and she came back to him,
sometimes as she had been when they walked as lovers in the secret
garden, sometimes as she had been when he had seen her, so long
ago, at her father's ball for the first time, or as Sidney Herries
had seen her, miserable, imprisoned, alone.

Oh! he could not rid himself of her.  He tried lechery but loathed
it.  He thrust himself into reading and also wrote a long poem
about the fairies which might have anticipated the 'Nymphidia' had
it not been so worthless that he destroyed it.  He occupied himself
with bodily exercises, made himself a most expert swordsman, quick
and adept at fives and tennis.  But he fought, he played with half
a heart.

Courts disgusted him.  The Medici seemed to him the wickedest old
horror he had ever encountered even in nightmares.  She was polite
to him.  She liked his ascetic face, his slender body.  She pawed
him with her yellow hands.  He hung his head and prayed to God.
But Sylvia Irvine persisted.  He returned to England a haunted man.

They all perceived it.  After the first delight at getting him back
was over they all at Mallory perceived it--his father, now a man of
sixty-nine, his mother, Nicholas, Gilbert Armstrong, the servants.
One change was that he was now a perfect, nay, a great man of the
world.  He was now someone to whom life at the Courts of Europe was
an accustomed thing.  He would speak of the Prince of Orange or
Alenon or Mendoza as though these great men were accustomed to
consider him of their company.  Yet there was no arrogance or
impatience in his manner, which was of an exquisite courtesy and
kindness.  He thought little enough of Courts, and when they
pressed him to take some position at the English Court which could
easily be found for him, he laughed and said he would rather be a
galley-slave.  'Herries,' he said, 'were never intended for high
positions.  They lodge in the middle of things and that is where
they will always be.'

It was a sad disappointment to his mother that she should have two
such splendid sons and that neither should seek advancement.  They
were growing: Nicholas was now thirty-four, Robin twenty-nine.  Of
Nicholas she had now given up all hope.  He was nothing but 'a
great brown farmer' and so would always be, but Robin, so handsome,
so clever, so perfectly at ease with all men and all women,
designed for a fine Court career, the very young man to capture the
Queen's fancy, as other young men were doing--it was a tragedy.
She did not know what he would be at.  He would not have a career;
he would not marry.  That 'child affair' with Sylvia his cousin
must now be over; she, poor child, was unhappy enough by all she
heard.

And so she wandered on to Nicholas and asked him whether she and
his father were to pass away without the joy of holding a
grandchild in their arms.  To which Nicholas, putting his arm
around her and laughing, answered that it was easy enough to make a
child or two but not always so happy a business after the child was
made.

The other change in Robin affected them all--his reserve.  He had
always been more secret than the rest of them, living in his own
thoughts and the world of his imagination, but that had been an
abstractedness of mind rather than--what it now was--a complete
shutting of himself away.

What Nicholas had feared had now come to pass: their communion was,
for the time at least, altogether broken.  Robin loved him still,
but would tell him nothing--nothing that mattered.  Of what was he
thinking?  Nicholas had no idea.  Was he still preoccupied with his
old life?  Nicholas did not know.  Had he become, in this interval,
a Catholic?  Nicholas feared it might be so but had no knowledge.
Nicholas had now a very considerable life in London and many
friends there.  But Robin, although he accompanied Nicholas to
London and even, on two occasions, to Court, and was thought by
everyone--by every lady at least--to be beautiful, sad and
charming, shared in nothing.

Then, in the summer of this year he went, quite without warning, on
a visit to his relations, Guy Herries and family.  He had never
seen them.  He said that they had invited him.

Before he went he had a quick word with his brother.

'Robin, I know why you are going.'

'Dear Nicholas--I have acquired a deep interest in picture-
painting,'

'No.  It is not that.  For Christ's true sake, Robin, have a care.'

'This is my business,' Robin said, growing a little pale.

'I know.  I know.  Since your return we have not been together--not
truly as we used to be.  I have asked no question and I will not.
But Irvine. . . .  He is not for your dealing.  They say he has
become most arrogant and quarrelsome.  And that she--'

'And she?'

'Is proud and silent.  Lady Herbert met her at some place on the
Border, not far from Carlisle, where they were visiting--she and
Irvine.'

'Yes?'

'She is changed, Robin--altogether changed.  She is beautiful and
haughty.  Not a child any more.  And--'

'Yes?'

'Oh, we are fools to be talking thus!  We who have told one another
everything since we were cradled!  But I ask you nothing.  Only
give Irvine no cause for quarrel.  He is mine--not yours, dear
Robin.'

Robin smiled gravely.

'I am to stay with our cousins.'

'Yes.  And they are but twelve miles from--'

'Be happy, Nicholas.  I am not set on making old wounds bleed.'

He rode down with one servant on a long July day.

It was wonderful to feel really hot in England; at midday he and
his man stopped at a stream in a wood, stripped, bathed, and then
ate pies and fruit at the stream's side.  The man was called
Cheveley and was a fat whey-faced man, frightened of the cold
running water, and stood in it all huddled up like a pale mis-
shapen piece of pastry, with his rough hands clasping his thighs,
and he looked so ridiculous that Robin laughed heartily for the
first time for months.

But Cheveley was not so bad a fellow, devoted to his master and
very honest.  His weakness was for women, especially stout ones.
See a stout, smiling, big-bosomed woman come along and Cheveley
flushed and all his fat body began to tremble.  But he had been
with Robin on his travels and picked up a thing or two.  He could
read and write and play the tabor and beat rhythmically a drum.
Even more than stout women he loved animals, and was much mocked at
for his indignation when they were tortured or killed.  This
tenderness was unusual in his time, but no amount of chaff turned
him from this.  Little birds would settle on his finger, dogs
follow him, horses do anything for him.  He had a scar now on the
back of his hand that came from a scratch a bear had given him when
he tried to rescue it from its baiting.  And yet he was as soft and
dough-faced a fellow as you could fancy running for his life on any
occasion.  But he did not.  He had a stout heart.

So they sat now side by side while the light dappled the leaves and
the stream laughed as it ran, and they ate venison pie and drank
Rhenish.  The deer came down, drank in the stream and were fed by
them.  Over the rough path a vast, lumbering, four-wheeled chariot
drawn by six horses came plunging, lurching along, making a most
terrible noise.

Robin read aloud from his poetry book:


    'My galley, chargd with forgetfulness,
     Thorough sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
     'Tween rock and rock; and eke mine enemy, alas!
     That is my Lord steereth with cruelness;
     And every oar a thought in readiness,
     As though that death were light in such a case.
     An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
     Of forcd sighs, and trusty fearfulness;
     A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
     Hath done the weard cords great hinderance,
     Wreathd with error and eke with ignorance.
     The stars be hid that led me to this pain.
     Drownd is reason that should me comfort,
     And I remain despairing of the port.'


'That is a melancholy poem,' Cheveley said, blinking his eyes, for
he was sleepy after the bathe, the food and the hot sun.

Robin put his book down and looked at the flashing stream.

'What do you make of this life, Cheveley?  When you were in that
stream but now, a hideous forked thing out of any reasonable shape.
Take no offence.  We are all hideous in our natural bodies save
when we are very young.  And yet love can so cheat us.  A high
fleshy bosom is sufficient to make you think of all the wonders of
God, the wheeling stars, the fires of the Borealis and the bitter
Polish ice.  And yet, once you have bedded her, instantly all the
glories of God are shrunk to a cinder and there is a chill in your
voice and you have a rheum.  Is it not all a cheat?'

Cheveley grinned.

'I think before it is a cheat it is a very passionate pleasure,' he
said.  'And if, after it were finished, desire still lingered, life
would be one long lechery, which would be bad for business.'

'Well argued,' said Robin.  'And so it would.  Now we'll on.'



He was greatly pleased with this branch of the Herries family when,
in the evening, he found them.  Like all Herries always, he had a
strong family feeling and it was pleasant to discover three
relations so worthy of their blood as these were.  He liked Guy
instantly for his honesty, his yellow Saxon colouring, his love for
his art, his unselfconscious enjoyment of life.  And he liked
Rosemary for her natural friendliness and passion for her husband
and child, and healthy out-of-doorness.  He found the child,
Rosamund, now twelve years of age, strange indeed.  She was not now
so ugly as she had been three years before when Sidney Herries had
first seen her, but she was still freckled and pasty-faced and tow-
haired and long, coltish-like, in the legs.  She was now, even more
than then, no respecter of persons and said exactly what she
pleased.  She had no manners at all and no control of her limbs,
for she still had the habit of dancing about, cracking her fingers,
waving her arms, singing out of tune, laughing wildly.  But Robin
knew enough of human beings to know well that here was somebody
real in the making.

At first he was shy of her.  His mind was deeply set on other
things.  Guy painted a portrait of him and he would sit,
motionless, looking out on to the sunlit wood, thinking, brooding,
preparing . . .

On the third day he found himself alone with Rosamund.  She said
abruptly:  'We went only once to Drunning--years ago when I was
nine.  Cousin Sidney was here.'

He started.  His grave eyes were fixed on her.  She talked to him,
standing stiffly in front of him, turning in her hands a small gilt
Italian plate.

'They didn't care for us.  The old lady hated us.  But Sylvia at
the last said we should be friends--she and I.  I have never seen
her again.'

Still he said nothing.

'She meant it then.  She is not allowed to be free.'

'Why do you tell me this?' he asked at length, hoarsely.

'Because you must go and see her.  You must help her.'

'Why?'

She stamped her foot.  'No one does anything.  Sidney has never
come again.  No one has come.  When I am grown I shall not allow
such unhappiness.'

She began to sway from the hips.

'Be still!  Be still!' he said angrily.

'Your brother Nicholas would have rescued her long ere this.'

She waited, but he was silent, looking at her with great distaste.

'I love Nicholas although I have never seen him.  Soon we are going
to London on a visit.'

A wonderful change came over her ugly face.  Her eyes could be
beautiful, he realized, and her mouth tender.

'I know nothing of the world as yet.  You have been in Courts and
are a man.  Why do you do nothing?'

She came forward and put her hand on his arm.

'What does it matter about danger?  My father says that we must not
meddle with what is not our affair, but I think we must.  In my
room there is a looking-glass and I look at myself and see how ugly
I am.  But when I am a grown woman I shall be more free for that.
Beautiful ladies have their beauty to consider and whether it lasts
and what they will suffer when it is gone.  But I shall have none
of those things to consider and no one will observe me.'

She looked intently in his eyes.

'Cousin Robin, you have come here for that, have you not?'

'For what?'

'To see her and help her.'

He nodded.

'I knew it and if I can help you . . .'

'No, my dear.  I must do it alone.'

She leaned up and kissed his cheek.

'Tell her when you see her that I have remembered what she said.
That I am twelve years old now and shall shortly be a woman.  That
I am near and at hand.'

She ran off out of the room.

That funny little conversation decided him.  Not that he had
doubted.  But he had wanted a sign.

On that same evening he told Guy that he would soon return and he
rode off.  It was a dusky evening with a dull gold light above the
ground and in the higher air a dark sense of thunder.  When he had
ridden his twelve miles the sky was molten lead and the heat
intense.  Not a bird sang.  Drunning Place was dark and clenched
together like a closed hand.  On the nearer side of the road that
ran past the Place was a wood, and here Robin stayed with his
horse.  He was quite undecided what he should do.  He had a
fantastic desire that she should walk past alone, and he thrust his
wishes upon God, praying that she should be given to him so simply.
But God does not satisfy man's weakness at the first trial.  He
gives a chance.

A few drops of rain fell like little bullets among the trees.  He
tied his horse to a tree in the heart of the wood and walked along
the wood's barrier where he could see the road and the Place.
Never was anything more dead.  It was a corpse of a house.  No
human being was to be seen, not a breath moved in the trees.  There
was only the sound of the slow, sullen, hesitating rain.

He came out into the road.  Defiance and a great hatred of Irvine
was in his oppressed heart.  He would like nothing better than for
that man to step into the road.  He might kill him, for he was now
a most accomplished swordsman.  But in his soul he knew that it was
not to end thus.  For how long now he had fought against this
surrender.  In what places, during these last years, he had prayed
to be rid of this torment--in close rooms above crowded streets,
watching sword-play, dancing in the French Palace, listening to
Campion's lectures, on his pallet at night in some country inn,
riding his horse furiously down the straight French road between
the poplars.  All, all had been in vain.  As he had ridden his
horse out of London six days back he was lost and he had known it.
It was as though, with one quick gesture, he had turned his back
upon God.

But now that he was near to her he cared for nothing else.

He walked down the road and at last saw a small green door in the
wall, and against the door a spade and some faggots.  This led him
to guess that someone was soon returning and that the little door
might be for the moment unlocked.  He pushed it with his hand and
it creaked wheezily back.  He slipped inside and found himself in a
walled garden of stunted fruit trees, vegetables and herbs.  But
what a neglected place!  It was as though the Curse of God lay upon
it, for the cabbages were half eaten, the apple trees decayed, the
herbs dried and withering.  The ground was parched and there were
spiders' webs on the brick walls.  He hurried across.  The door in
the farther wall was open and showed the way into what had once
been a fine ornamental garden.  There was a broad green path
scattered with statues.  The statues of Jupiter, Mercury, Juno, and
the rest of the mythology, suffered from broken noses, castration
and chipped buttocks.  Yew and privet had once been cut into
fantastic shapes of dogs and monkeys, ships and lions.  It must
once have been remarkable topiary, but long ere this the poor
things had grown unchecked and now showed an uncouth wildness.
There was a fountain that did not play, turfed seats with daisies
flaunting untidily on them, and a peaked garden-house with the roof
in tatters.

A moment later Robin saw Irvine.  Irvine, in a suit of crimson
velvet, stood, staring, motionless at the house-end of the path,
his hand on his rapier-hilt.

For a blind second Robin was certain that he himself had been seen.
He was standing beside a clipped yew that had once been an open-
mouthed roaring lion but was now overgrown into confusion.  He
could not tell, from where he stood, how far this yew covered him
from Irvine's vision, or whether it covered him at all.  So, his
heart beating high, he waited for the challenge.  He anticipated it
with joy.  A physical contact with his enemy would be a flood-gate
for these years of repressed emotions.  Were he killed--what
mattered it?  And if he killed Irvine--ah! what a release would be
there!  So eager was he that he had almost moved himself to
challenge.

But Irvine had not seen him.  The climax must wait, and again he
felt in his soul that it was not here or now, but in another place
and more distant.

He stayed behind the yew and watched Irvine walk down the path
towards him.  The rain had ceased, but the heat was damp and
sweating.  Irvine walked as though he had the world at his feet.
It seemed as though something pleased him, for he was smiling to
himself.  He had aged into a mature man since Robin had last seen
him, but his beauty was as great as ever--only it was now another
beauty, thickened, stiffened, the lines hard on his face and
contemptuous, his body lissom but broadened.  He moved like an
actor behaving for the benefit of one appreciative audience,
himself.  His darkness had a radiance in it as there is a handsome
sombre light in black steel.  His face was not evil, but of a
haughtiness so extreme that you might wonder that he would consent
to smile even for himself.  A lightly-clipped black moustache and a
small neatly-pointed black beard accentuated the paleness of his
cheek and brow.  His nostrils and mouth were sharply cut.  His
crimson suit was in excellent fashion and stamped with small carved
gold buttons.  His head was bare.

Robin marked every detail, for here was the new Philip Irvine with
whom, from now on, he must deal.  For he too, from the moment when
he had taken that step out of London, was a new Robin Herries.

Irvine walked so close by him as almost to fan Robin's cheek with
his breath.  Yes, he was pleased.  He was humming to himself as he
walked.  He passed on to the left and Robin heard the gate of the
other garden close behind him.

So he was out of the way!  A miraculous piece of fortune.  Robin
skirted the path, slipping from gelded Mercury to noseless Jupiter,
from Jupiter to one-breasted Minerva, for it would be no climax but
only a pitiful misfortune if a servant now should see him.  He was
by the wall of the house, and some broken stone steps led up to a
stone walk.  Here was an archway and beyond the archway an open
door.  He was inside the Place.  He stood against the wall, holding
his breath, but there was no sound anywhere.  He slipped up some
stairs, crossed a dark sad passage, pushed a door and was in a
little room lit with two candles and hung with faded tapestry.  The
two candles in old gold unpolished candlesticks stood on a table
that looked like an altar but was not one.  It was covered with a
Turkish cloth of purple and silver thread, and in the centre was a
stand with an illuminated Missal of the Hours open on it.  The old
tapestry was moth-eaten and torn, but it told a story from end to
end of the room, the story of a man murdered--for he lay on his bed
naked and the blood pouring from him, and men were riding furiously
through the forest, dogs chasing them, and there was a lady in a
coif on a tower wringing her hands and men feasting with a grisly
bearded head on a platter in front of them.  The candles flickered
and made the murdered man rise up and down on his bed.

The little room was stinkingly hot, with an odour as of some animal
dead beyond the wainscot.  The candlelight filled the small space
with shadows, and it was as though a hand advanced to turn a page
of the missal and then retreated again.

At last, feeling stifled, Robin tried the further door and found
that it opened.  He stepped forward into a bedroom hung with
painted cloths, water-staining on canvas of scenes from the life of
Moses.

The bed in the centre of the room was a very fine one made of
walnut, carved and inlaid with a panelled head.  The curtains were
of rose and grey needlework with magnificent basses interwoven with
gold.

But it was not the bed at which Robin looked.  Sylvia was kneeling
against it, with her back to him, in prayer.  He did not move; it
seemed to him that he did not breathe.  He saw her in her broad
panniered dress of white and gold, her head bent between her hands;
three candles on a table near her threw a light around her and a
circle of light on the ceiling above her.

She rose, sighed and turned round.  She said nothing when she saw
him.  She must have thought him a spirit, for she put out her hands
to ward him off.  Then, when he smiled, she ran to him and, just as
she had done in the old days, stood on the toes of her gold shoes
to kiss him.

They had no excuses to make, scarcely a question to ask, and for a
time she had even no thought of his danger.  They needed one
another so desperately: the years of their separation and the
circumstances of their lives had mounted their desires so
lamentably that he held her in his arms and then laid her on the
bed and sat with her head against his shoulder without any thought
but that at last she was with him and that she was as glad as he.
At this time any sensual feeling was lost in their souls' longing
for one another.

The imagination of both of them had been in the main spiritual,
although where the spiritual ends and the physical begins it is
always hard to say; if it had not been so, none of the later events
would have been as they were.

Their association now was filled with their first need--that they
should be together.

'I have waited five years.'

'I intended never to see you again.  But it has been too strong for
me.'

'Every night for five years when I have blown the candle I have
said a prayer for you.'

'Sylvia.'

'Robin.'

'Sylvia . . . Sylvia . . . Sylvia.'

'Robin.'

She lay with her hand against his cheek.

'I have travelled twice to the North with Philip.  I heard you had
a house there.  Once when we went hawking we rode as far as--as far
as--I forget the name, but I heard that you lived near.  Philip
told me.  He hates you and Nicholas more than any two men in the
world.'

Even then she did not appear to think at all of his danger.  She
was lost altogether in the spiritual ecstasy of being with him
again.  It WAS an ecstasy.  Her slight body trembled: as she
touched him her fingers trembled.  When she spoke her throat was
caught and words came out half strangled.  Her eyes stared into his
face as though they would bring him inside her own body so that he
would be with her for evermore.  The sound of his voice was such a
delight to her that she said:  'Say my name again.'

'Sylvia.'

'And again.'

'Sylvia.'

She fastened her hands about his throat, then undid the top buttons
of his doublet and kissed the hollow of his neck.

'I cannot have another of these five years like this last.'

'No.  My fight is finished.  I will carry you off from this
dungeon.'

'Not yet.'  She caught her throat with her hand.  'I am going to
bear a child.  At last.  His child.  He has desired it with a
frightful desire.  Now he knows that it is to be he is like a man
in a triumph.  And also this very week he is to have the important
place at Court he has wanted so long.  We shall be in London and I
shall see you.'

That woke her to present perils, for she caught him by the
shoulders.

'If he meets you he will kill you.'

'He has gone down through the garden.  I saw him go.'

'But he will return.  Or the servants--or my old witch of a mother-
in-law who has eyes in her yellow back.'

'I can die here and now.  There could be nothing finer.'

'No.  No.'  She began to be agonized.  She drew him from the bed
and stood pushing him with her hands towards the door.  'He hates
you so that he would have you racked in front of him if he could.
And there is Winterset here too.  Carey Winterset, whose men
Nicholas killed in Cumberland.  If they catch you they will. . . .
Oh, what they will . . .'

Robin, so happy that he could not speak, carried her off her feet
against his chest.  He held her in his arms, kissing her hair.

'You are a woman now--yes, and I am a man.  Love me.  Love me.
Love me.  Sylvia, love me.'

But now her terror was too strong for her.

'Listen.  We will not ruin everything now just when we have found
one another again.'  She struggled down to her feet.  'I can endure
now.  Nothing will be too long or too hard.  I can send word to you
through that child--she came here once.'

'Yes.  She told me to tell you that she was, now as then, ready to
do anything.'

At that moment they both saw the handle on the door turn.  He
slipped behind the bed.  He saw the door open and, standing there,
the most grotesque old woman, mountainous, with a broad fat yellow
face, huge breasts, leaning on a stick.

'You have been long coming.  And where is Philip?  Eh, these stairs
and my legs.'

'You should have sent for me.'

The old woman's eyes went greedily round the room.

'You shall not take that bed with you to London.'

'I have no wish to.'

'And I smell candles burning.  Not here.  Somewhere . . .'  She
sniffed and her head sank into her neck and her little eyes shot
about the room.  She stumped across, opened the farther door, saw
the two candles burning by the missal, blew them out, then turned
and stood, her thick legs widely planted, looking straight at the
bed.

Sylvia made no movement.

'No.  You shall not have the bed,' she repeated.  'Come down.  Help
me down the stairs.'

She went to the other door and into the passage.  In a flare of the
candle from the open door Robin had stepped across the room and
into the dark one beyond.  Sylvia went out.  She gave her arm to
her mother-in-law.  They began to descend the stone stair.  Robin
stood in the candle-smelling dark.  He was impressing upon himself
every detail: the little room with the tapestry of the murdered
man, the Turkish cloth, the old gold candlesticks and then the
walnut bed, the cloth paintings, Sylvia's gold and white dress, her
running to him and kissing him, her lying on the bed with her head
on his breast--all, all that he might never, as long as he lived,
forget.  She was a woman.  She loved him now as a woman.  Until now
he had no regrets, no thought of sin or mishap, only a great
happiness flooded him as though the sun shone within him,
irradiating all his body.

He could not move.  He was in such a bliss of happiness that it was
like a trance.  She was coming to London.  He would see her.
Somehow they would be together.  Neither death nor disgrace seemed,
at that moment, anything to him.

At last, with a deep sigh, he went across the passage, on to the
stone steps, down into the garden.

The storm had passed away.  There was a twilight and like a ghost
he passed through it.  He had a panic that the little outer door
might now be locked, but it was not.  The road was deserted.  Under
the trees a lighter dark lay upon the dark.  His horse was there
and rubbed its nose against his sleeve.



THE SIN


In the middle of the afternoon the sun broke for a brief while
through the mist, and the line of the Cumbrian hills stood out
blazing in rosy gold like guardians of a longed-for Paradise.

The village of Seascale consisted of a few cottages little more
than huts, 'The Huntsman's Horn' a neglected hostelry, the ruin of
a church destroyed in Henry VIII's time, and a long shining waste
of beach bounded by a grey still sea.  On the horizon, facing this
sudden flaunting of the sun, the Isle of Man sat like a humped
mole.

The sun shone also upon a flashing blade--old Captain Gadchick
practising with his rapier on the empty sands.  His head was bare
and his white locks fell over his crimson collar while his long
thin shanks in their crimson tight covering, and his long thin arms
in their puffed crimson sleeves, moved with a precision and agility
very wonderful in so aged a gentleman.  He and his insomnia figured
in the Herries family fortunes, although he would never know it.
For his insomnia made him on the following morning ride earlier
than his custom, towards Ravenglass, and, so riding, he saw two
others riding and observed them.  And what he observed he narrated
in London by chance a month later to some gentlemen at the 'Golden
Horn' in the Strand.  One of these gentlemen was Philip Irvine.
What the Captain had observed was a diamond jewel in a lady's hat.

All that he was doing now was flashing his rapier on the wide grey
sands while a trio of gulls, crying desolately, hovered and swooped
above his head, hoping that this mechanical figure might produce
some refuse for their scavenging interest.  He was practising the
Spanish attack--the pasada of twenty-four inches, the pasada simple
of thirty inches, the pasada doble, composed of the first two and
executed by the two feet alternately.

As he practised he hissed through his teeth like a hostler.  It was
a work of supererogation perhaps, for he was seventy-five years of
age and was not likely to fight a duel again this side of Heaven.
He had been a great duellist in his time, but now his fires had
died down, he was at peace with all the world, lodged at the
'Huntsman's Horn,' rode his nag and paid a yearly visit to London,
riding there by slow stages, and spending lavishly for a month or
two before returning to his solitude.  His rapier flashed in the
rays of the sun, his body moved, the gulls screamed.  Then he
paused and looked about him.  He turned back to the hills and
observed, as he had often done before, that they were like giants
resting, one leaning forward on his arms, another raising his head
in a kind of impertinent stare, a third couched in sleep.  He
breathed the air and sniffed the sea-stillness.

The gulls had flown out to the sea.  There was only the distant
rhythm of the tide to break the silence.  The sand was iridescent
in the sun's glow; then, as though a lantern were switched off, had
the grey gnarled surface of a cat's paw.  The sun was gone.  It was
very chill.  The old man sighed, fastened his rapier to his side,
picked up his velvet cap and walked, head up, back erect, towards
the inn above the sand-dunes.

A short half-mile from the hamlet, perched on the cliff above them,
was a stout little house of wood and stone.  The mist was now
driving in looping waves about the sand; the sea was blotted out
but sang, like a muffled kettle, at the mist's heart.  From the sea-
windows of the house you looked down beyond the world's end.  The
box hedge and the tiny garden showed myriads of drops of water: a
garden of cobwebs on the edge of nothing.

The road that led to Drigg was swept with a mist that wetted Robin
Herries through his cloak to his skin.  Yet he was burning with a
fire that dried his cheeks to parchment and burnt his throat.

He rode slowly, letting the horse take its way.  He was going to
the little stone house owned by Jacob Entwhistle and his wife Mary.
Jacob was a cousin of Robin's housekeeper at Rosthwaite, blind and
over seventy; his wife was, however, a vigorous sixty.

A week ago Philip and Sylvia Irvine had come, after a series of
visits, to stay with Sir Roger and Lady Blennerhasset, some ten
miles from Carlisle.  Robin was at Rosthwaite.  A few days back
Philip Irvine had been called to Newcastle on urgent business.
Alice Blennerhasset and Sylvia had ridden off to see something of
the country.  They had slept at Penrith and at Ravenglass.  Lady
Blennerhasset would stay yet one more night at Ravenglass.  It was
supposed that Sylvia Irvine was with her.  She was not.  She was
riding at that moment towards Seascale.  Sylvia and Robin would
stay that night at the small stone house as Mr. Forrester and his
wife.  Yes--on their way to Carlisle.  Thence to Edinburgh, where
Mr. Forrester had business. . . .

So, the moment, after years of waiting, had arrived.  Alice
Blennerhasset, who detested Philip and had had in her time many
lovers, was the only conspirator; Roger Blennerhasset, a stupid,
complaisant, and passionately hunting gentleman was glad that the
two ladies should, for a few days, amuse themselves away from him.
He was a bachelor at heart.

Robin Herries was only a name to him.  He was a man so greatly
pleased with himself, his position and his belongings, that he
never troubled himself with speculations.  His fancy, like an old
man's spectacles, made a great letter of a small print, and the
book that he read from was written by himself.  So that HE was no
danger.

There WAS no danger; Robin did not know that an old gentleman, in a
crimson suit, had, an hour earlier, been flashing his sword on the
sands while the sun was out.  But even HAD he known, he was past,
perhaps, all caring.  Had Philip himself advanced towards him out
of the mist, he might not have stayed him.  The barrier had been
spiritual, not physical.  That barrier had been flung down and he
was already committing the act.

He had stayed the night before at Morecambe, giving the name of
Forrester at the inn.  He had been alone at the inn and all day had
ridden slowly through sun and mist by the sea, or with the sea at
most a few fields distant.  He had ridden really like a haunted
man, as, indeed, we are all haunted when the barrier is at last
flung down.  Hooded ethereal figures had ridden at his side and not
one had whispered 'Go back!'  God, who for most of his life had
been present with him, although always unseen, had been quite
blotted out.  This was a fiery, dim world, altogether filled with
physical passion.  He was ALL body, a flaming leaping heart, a
tight constricted middle with a fierce pulse beating there, the
rest of his body a cloud, save his brain which was furiously
active, yet with only muddled thoughts.

If the Devil walks this world, then he was riding beside Robin now,
but it was not the Devil of the story-book, horned and hoofed, but
a gentle, friendly copy of Robin himself, whispering now and again,
'You will have your desire now.  At last your longing is to be
satisfied.  How wise you are!'

He found the house quite easily, for he had been given good
directions and been told that there would be a ship's figure-head
in the garden, a painted figure of a woman, leaning forward with a
faded gilt crown.  There she was, bedewed with a thousand drops of
water.  He knocked on the door, and a comfortable, full-breasted
woman opened it to him.

There was a living-room with the beams painted with a thin gilt, an
open fireplace, a long oak refectory table, a piece of a painted
cloth with bright red and blue colours, hanging loosely to the
plastered wall.  There were two green birds in a gilded cage, and
old blind Entwhistle beside the fire.  The blind man was playing on
a cithern, picking the wires with the quill.  The instrument seemed
alive in the firelight, for it had a grotesquely carved head of a
man mocking with an open mouth.  The old man did not stop his
playing as Robin stood in the open door, but finished his piece.
Then he looked up and, as though he saw with his pricked pointed
ear from which tufts of white hair sprang, said:  'Who is it,
Mary?'

'It is Mr. Forrester, Dad.  He is to bide the night with us.  Your
lady is not with you, sir?'

'She will be here presently.  May I see our room?'

'Of course, sir.  It is very simple.  We are only accustomed to our
own family, but our cousins asked us.  They are servants to Mr.
Robin Herries of Rosthwaite, and we have wished many a time to
visit there, but it is a far journey and Mr. Herries is a Catholic,
they say, and in these times--'  She stopped, putting her fingers
to her mouth.  'But there, I talk on and on--and this is the room,
sir.  There is a closet for the lady and on a fine day a handsome
view over the sea.'

It was simple enough, having a bed with faded canary hangings, a
broken mirror and a clay jug and basin.  There were rushes on the
floor.  There was a small closet in which a man could stand
upright, and on the wall opposite the door a bright blue figure of
a ship crudely painted.

Robin took off his cloak, pulled off his riding-boots and, from the
bag that he had brought with him, found silver brushes and comb, a
fresh ruff, a scent for his face and hands, and a ring with a
diamond and two pearls.  He had also in an ebony box a rose of gold
with its heart a single ruby, and this he fastened on the breast of
his black velvet suit.  He was in black from foot to head save for
the diamond buckles on the shoes that he now wore, silver bands to
his sleeves, and his fresh ruff.

He sat on the bed, straining his ears to listen.  He went to the
door and held it a little ajar so that he should know of her
arrival.  The thin, picked strain of the cithern came to his ears,
and the plod-plod of the woman as she moved about her cooking.

He went back to the bed.  He was wildly excited and, at the same
time, pervaded by an extraordinary hot weariness.  He touched his
cheek with his hand.  It was flaming.

Intolerably restless, he called down the stairs to the woman,
asking whether she had any ale.  When she brought it he asked her a
number of foolish, useless questions as to whether it rained here
often, he had heard that it did . . . how far was the Isle of Man?
Did they catch fish here?  Did the Scottish soldiers harass them
here?  He had heard that they had been as far as Morecambe.  What
would they have for their dinner?

They would have a lentil soup, a capon, a neat's tongue broiled, a
marchpane pudding.  The marchpane a sister had sent her from
Newcastle.  They would have the room to themselves to eat in, for
the old man went to his bed early because his limbs were always
aching--it was a kind of ague he had, which was why they had not
been over to visit their cousins at Rosthwaite, because the old man
could not sit a horse any longer, but they would willingly go and
they had heard that Mr. Herries was a good man and an honest.

Listening to this praise of himself but dimly, for he was straining
his ears for another sound, he heard, through the creeping cithern,
a knock on the outer door.  Or was it not so?

'I think I heard--'  He paused.  He fancied he heard it again.
'There--a second time.'

The woman regarded him owlishly.

'I heard nothing.'

He jumped up and shook her fat shoulder.

'She is at the door, I tell you.  She is waiting--waiting.'

A third time a knock came, this time clearly.

He stood, his feet planted in the centre of the room, a roaring in
his ears.  It was as though the sea, but hot now like molten lead,
had invaded the room.  Through the roar he heard a woman's voice
and Mrs. Entwhistle answering her.

'Mr. Forrester is upstairs,' he heard Mrs. Entwhistle say.

Someone mounted.  The stairs creaked.  The cithern continued.  His
gaze at the door was a lunatic's.

As Sylvia stepped in she took off her round black velvet cap with
the diamond in the front of it.  She closed the door behind her.
She was in his arms.

He was startled, even at that first moment of meeting, by the
ferocity with which she encountered him.  With the whole strength
of her little body she pressed herself against him, making him--
strong as he was--rock on his feet.  Her hands held his cheeks,
then his neck.  Their embrace was long and soundless and, when at
last he made a movement, her hands clung to his doublet, unfastened
it, flew to his breast and clung to his flesh as though they were
part of it.

He caught her arms, and she, swaying a little in his grasp, was
carried to the bed.  He sat down, gently detaching her hands, held
her tightly with his right arm, pressing her to his side, kissing
her hair and her eyes.

'I have been in a torment of fear that you would not come.'

'There was no difficulty.  Nothing--no man--nothing'--she caught
her breath, her hand at her throat--'could have stopped me.'

'You met no one on the way?'

'No one.  There was a sea-mist all the day.'

She sat a little apart from him and considered him.  He was now a
true man, spare, excellently handsome in the dark quiet eyes, the
moulding of cheek and nose and mouth, with a royal carriage of the
head and straight, proud balance of the shoulders.  His body was to
her, in every part of it, shining with a special light, as though
there had never been any other physical presence like it.  Their
fugitive snatched meetings over several years, and the denial of
absolute final contact, gave it that preciousness.

After that contact the human body is so often ridiculous or pitiful
or deformed that great wisdom and deep tenderness are demanded of
any lover.  But she saw now only an almost blinding radiance.

For neither of them just now was any world real but the fiery
enchanting one whose only inhabitants they were, as though, caught
together, they breathed inside a crystal globe filled with light
and heat: beyond the globe a dead world, grey, cold, ashen.

They spoke together, scarcely waiting for one another's answers.
They clung together and parted and clung again.  Then, abruptly, he
rose from the bed and moved to the window.

'Sylvia, we must be for a little quite ordinary staid persons.  As
though we had been married fifty years.  I am Mr. Forrester, an
English gentleman, passing on to Edinburgh for business.  You are
my wife, bravely accompanying me.'

She went across the room to pick up her hat.  The diamond was in
the shape of a star.  It flashed as she turned the star in her
hands.  He looked at it.

'Was that wise?  Philip knows it so well.  If someone saw . . .'

She laughed.  She was so happy that you could feel the movements of
her spirits dancing in her body.

'I will pluck it out.  Throw it into the sea.  But my father gave
it me once, when he had made a good profit with a Spaniard.'

'No.  The sea-mist, God be thanked, hides everything.  Everything.
Only within it we are bound to one another. . . .'

He went downstairs and fetched what she had brought with her, then
left her to arrange herself.  He went out to the shed at the back
of the house and saw that the two horses were fed and comfortable.
When he returned the meal was ready, the table lit with candles in
old pewter candlesticks.

The old man, he supposed, was gone to bed, but he fancied, all
through the meal, that he heard the thin watery strain of the
cithern.  They were neither of them hungry, but Mrs. Entwhistle,
who waited on them most friendlily, was proud of her cooking, and
so they did what they could.

She broke in at times with questions and interjections as:  'What
do they say in London?  That the Queen will make this French
marriage? . . .  I do not believe myself in foreigners or
Catholics.  The country is better without them. . . .  My man is a
good old man.  Some things are follies to him now that were wisdom
to him when he was young and could see, but blindness made the
world a new country for him.'

After the meal, while she cleared the table and put apples and
oranges on it, the two sat side by side on stools in front of the
open fire, not speaking.  They heard the birds move and twitter
beneath the green cloth that had been put over the cage; at times
they could hear the sea, for the tide was now in.

At last, with a curtsied good-night, she was gone.  Slowly, as
though they would charge every moment with a fuller richness, they
moved upstairs.

Inside the room Sylvia flung her clothes off, almost tearing them
from her, letting them lie in a heap on the rushes.  Then she went
across to him, and, standing on her toes, kissed him.

In the canopied bed they lay, as it seemed for an eternity, lip
upon lip, but without moving.

Behind the physical rapture Robin had a deeper consciousness with
eyes that saw and ears that heard.  He was outside his preoccupied
body, or rather above it, and he whispered to his other self:
'This is perfection.  Make this moment your eternity, for by MY
reckoning, which has not yet begun, this eternity is but a moment.'

The love ecstasy followed.  His head in the hollow of her shoulder,
his hand cupped around her little breast, he found himself crying.
He had not cried since he was a child.  She thought the tears on
her shoulder were sweat from his body.

He had raised his knees and she was folded between his knees and
his breast, curled up as the child is curled in the womb.  She was
curled on her side, her arm around his neck, her hair against his
chin.  She was very heavy but he felt no pain or weariness, and
they talked softly, like very old friends, which indeed they were.

'We shall meet now often in London--every week if we care to.'

'I know a place, near the village of Chelsea . . . a woman keeps a
house . . .'

'Or, for an hour, in Westminster.  The old sempstress my father
had . . .'

She shivered a little, against his skin: his hand was damp against
her dry flesh.

'Why do you tremble--my love, my darling, my sweetness, my
darling?'  He shifted her weight, slipping her thigh from his, so
that it rested on the bed.  His other self, now more active,
whispered:  'And this flesh--bones, muscle, veins.  Cut, like a
butcher, a slab of it.  Beauty, tenderness, the ecstasy of
completion lie not in this. . . .  Oh God, oh God, where is Thy
Temple? . . . not here . . . not here. . . .'

She answered:  'Philip has spies.  I am not sure that we were not
seen meeting in Essex.'

He raised her in his arms, laid her gently on the pillow and began,
rhythmically, to stroke her strands of soft thick hair.  He asked
her the foolish question that has never any true answer.

'Do you love me for ever?  For ever and ever?'

She replied at once with passionate confidence.

'For ever and ever.'

He saw, with a blinding flash of prevision, that that was true.  It
COULD be true of a woman, an unmixed devotion, but never of a man,
whose fidelity might indeed be true but never unmixed.  His could
not be unmixed because God would not let it be.  'The Bright
Pavilions . . . the Bright Pavilions'--but Sylvia never gave a
thought to God, had never done.  HER bright pavilions were here and
now, with their planting in Robin's body, even now as her lips
sought his again and her body twisted into his and once more they
were lost in a crying, shouting defiance--as the many-starred
rocket explodes against the true stars, that are fixed and
unchanged long after the dry stick has hurtled to the ground.

After a while they slept, her cheek against his side, his hand
against her breast.  But it was not of her that he dreamt.  At
first his dreams were wild and unconnected--his youth, his mother
and father, the rooms at home, figures flying through the trim
hedges, Anthony Pierson, the hideous grin of Phineas Thatcher,
figures whose faces he could not discern, a tempest roaring through
the trees, a fountain blowing wildly against the rain, above and
through everything the thin wail of the cithern . . .

The wind fell, the waters of the fountain stiffened to ice.  He was
struggling to hide his face from icy cold.  To the horizon
stretched a vast ribbed plain of snow.  Immediately in front of him
was a deep black tarn, bounded by ice-sloped hills, and in the tarn
struggled a magnificent white horse.  He watched, longing to help,
unable to move.  The great horse, with a tossing white mane, fought
to escape from the tarn.  Its hooves struck the ice but could not
hold; with a great heave, as it seemed in his dream, of all the
strength there was in the world, it struck and struck again, almost
fell back, but caught firmer hold and was up and away, white
against white, lost in the snow.

Robin cried out and woke to find himself sitting up, his body stung
with an agony of anxiety.  'He is out!  He is out!  He is away!  He
is away!'

He turned to find Sylvia also wakened.  He caught her in his arms,
kissing her pitifully, half lost still in his dreams.

'Never fear.  Never fear.  We will escape.  No one shall find us.
We will run, we will out-speed them.  Keep by me.  There, there!
There is no cause for terror. . . .  We have done wrong but they
shall not know.  It is only ourselves we have harmed, and that is
God's business.  The horse is safe--God saw to it. . . .'

He did not know what he was murmuring.  He slept again and she lay
in his arms, not sleeping, fearing Philip.

Very early, in a grey drizzle, they rode next morning away.  They
were silent and absorbed in their own thoughts.  They never saw an
old man in a faded red jerkin ride past them.



LONDON GLORY


A great wave of joy and brightness swept over England.

The failure of the Catholic rebellions in Ireland and Scotland (the
former connected with most frightful atrocities), the increasing
Protestantism throughout the country and the enlarged alarm felt at
the movements of Jesuit priests led in January '81 to an 'Act to
Restrain Her Majesty's subjects in their due Allegiance' and this
Act made it 'High Treason to reconcile any to the Church of Rome,
or to aid or conceal those who were so doing.'

This Act greatly pleased the majority of people, because the
English were as they always had been and always will be, slow to
make their minds up, lazy and muddled in their thinking, but all
for action at a moment which seems to observers far too late but,
in the nick of time, wins the occasion.

Queen Elizabeth was now forty-eight years of age, and her presence,
her spirit, her person dominated not only her own country from end
to end but a large portion of the habitable globe as well.

When she had come to the throne England had neither army nor navy;
its coffers were empty; religious quarrel divided it from one end
to the other.

Whatever her weaknesses, cruelties, indecisions, she had bred in
her people a great pride and a new defiance.  The tragic results of
the dissolution of the monasteries were already settling into some
kind of order.  There was still much discontent, much hardship,
dire perils threatened from abroad.  Mary of Scots was a constant
danger at home.  The Queen was often incalculable, as in the
question of the French marriage.  Both army and navy were still far
from what they ought to be.  Both Ireland and Scotland might grow
into dangers again at any sudden flick of Time's finger.  There
were dirt and poverty and plague and misery as always.  But the
Queen would see that they came to no harm; the Queen was the match
of any proud ambitious foreigner; the Queen knew what she was about
even though her ministers did not; the Queen might be miserly, but
that was because the resources of the country must be treasured and
strengthened; the Queen would spend money, though, when she came
among her people; the Queen enjoyed dancing and singing and music
even as they did; the Queen covered her person with jewels not for
her own vanity (or but a little for that), rather because she would
have them all splendid and arrayed as a great people should be; the
Queen had a temper like any man, and could curse and swear like a
common soldier; the Queen was alive and variable, so that her
favourites could not guess whether it would be a kiss or a blow;
the Queen was learned and could recite Latin like a Professor; the
Queen, whether herself a virgin or no, believed in the pleasure of
the physical senses and wished a propagating people; the Queen
loved herself as every woman should, but more than herself she
loved her country and would sacrifice herself to it; the Queen
thought always that an Englishman came first of all men, as all
good Englishmen should think; the Queen believed in God but was not
afraid of Him.

This wave of patriotic pride and joy expressed itself everywhere in
dances and games and masques and festivals.  Life was hard, food
difficult to get, Death always round the corner, but meanwhile this
threatened existence was illuminated with the happiness of the
moment.  The new consciousness of patriotism, this fresh reanimated
pride in England warmed the very soil on which the thousands of
feet were dancing.

And nowhere more than in London.  And in no family more than in the
Herries family.

It was, in sober fact, somewhere about this time that the Herries
family first found itself as a definite entity.  This happened
partly because of the new patriotism that was drawing all
Englishmen together, partly because, in 1579, old Sir Michael
Herries died and Nicholas Herries became recognized family head,
partly because trade and commerce were advancing, and these
Herries, as distinct from their grander Norfolk cousins or their
proud Scottish relations, were always good English middle-class,
sometimes a little above trade; ultimately, as later Family
Chronicles show, squires, owners of land, country landed gentry,
but never higher than that, and never wishing to be.

They had had a poor sense of belonging to one another before this
time.  It was undoubtedly Nicholas who gave them a better one.  Old
Geoffrey Herries, born at the end of the fourteenth century, had
been the first notable member of this branch, and notorious is a
better word for him perhaps.  It is of him the story is told of his
building two of his daughters into his castle wall (he had a
stronghold near the Welsh border) to die of suffocation because
they refused to marry two of his favourite ruffians.  After him his
son Roger was no better, and then quite suddenly, at the end of the
fifteenth century, the family became very respectable.  One of
Roger's sons, Gilbert, married Alice Walpole, also related to the
Howards, and she had all the Walpole traits of English obstinacy,
self-satisfaction and lack of imagination.  So she, on her side,
helped the strain of British middle-class attention to the
practical things that really matter, while, at the other end,
another of Roger's sons, Humphrey, married Margaret Wade, an
admirable woman who made two pennies spring from where one had been
before.  Humphrey himself was a 'freak'--one of those freaks for
ever appearing in the Herries family.  He liked illuminating on
parchment and believed in witches and kept white mice in a cage and
taught them to speak like humans.

It is from his loins all the same (and Margaret's practical common-
sense womb) that the true centre of this Herries family sprang.
Humphrey--the grandfather of Nicholas and Robin--had three sons
whom already we know, Henry, Michael and Martin.  Henry was the
commercial man; Michael, the gentleman; Martin, something of the
recluse, and away a little in the distance was the Gilbert branch
with its Walpole mingling of sense and arrogance and good sturdy
independence.  The present representatives were Thomas, rather an
oaf of a man who, just about this time, bought a place in the North
near Kirkby Lonsdale, and Lucy, a handsome ambitious woman who
married Sir James Courthope.  Between these branches came the
descendant of old Roger's second son--Guy the artist, father of
young, freckle-faced Rosamund.

See then the confused and distant strains that an ordinary English
family can bring into its body politic within a generation or two!
The sub-savage brutalities of a robber chief, old Geoffrey, the
business ambitions of Gilbert, the magic and necromancy of
Humphrey, the steady bourgeoisie of Alice Walpole, the snobbery of
Lucy Courthope, the artistic soul of Guy, the strength and vitality
of Nicholas, the dreams and longings of Robin. . . .

Nicholas, who was now, in '81, thirty-seven years of age, became,
at his father's death, king of the family.  He had, in the last ten
years, developed a very passion for the Herries stock.  First, when
he took office from his father, it had been the immediate ground of
Mallory that he had loved.  It had been as though he had said to
himself, 'I have here a square of English soil to do with as I
wish.  I love everything concerning it.  I will make it as
fruitful, as rich, as perfect as is in my power.'  His very soul
got embedded in the place.  Every blade of corn, every foal born on
the farm, every trim cut hedge, every deep-red rose, even the worms
that crawled, after rain, their lengths across the lawn--all these
had a dedicated life, because they were Herries, because they were
English.

But after the good old man his father nodded in his chair one
evening over a game of chess and passed away, a new sense came to
Nicholas.  He was already the father of his house.  He would now be
the friend and brother of all his family.

He invited the Courthopes to visit him at Mallory, and a royal time
they had there.  He flattered Lucy's snobberies and listened to Sir
James, who was a bore, on military tactics.  He sent a letter to
Guy inviting him also, with HIS family, but Guy friendlily refused,
saying he was no good in grand places.  Edward now was married to a
pinch-faced woman with money named Agatha, and he had two little
girls, Janet and Martha.  They also came to Mallory, and there was
Thomas, Lucy Courthope's brother, a fine stout old bachelor of
sixty or so who rode over from Dulwich, where he sometimes lived
and went drunken to bed many nights, time and time again, and loved
Nicholas like a brother.

With all this Nicholas, now in his middle years, had become a man
of real importance and wisdom.  Not important in his own estimate,
for there was never a creature more modest, nor wise in book-
learning, but important because he was influencing the world in
honesty and valour, and wise because he was learning much about
life that was true and understanding and far-seeing.  He was in no
sort of way a perfect man.  He could be choleric, was at times
lecherous, was--about very many things--ignorant, and too often
obstinate in the things he did not know, but he had a warm, loving
heart, gave his word and kept it, and loved to be alive with all
his active soul.

He had only one grief in the world, but this was persistent and not
to be healed--his separation from Robin.  That separation had begun
long ago.  Time kaleidoscoped things and it seemed to him, looking
back through the years, that it had begun on that day in the North
of his first meeting with Irvine.  It had not in fact been so.  It
had begun perhaps on that day in his Uncle Henry's house when he
had been told that Robin was a Catholic.  Or it had begun . . .
nay, how could one tell?  These divisions of spirit from spirit
were subtle mysteries, a mesh of tiny links.

There had come, however, a worse day.  He recalled it exactly.  He
was washing his hands, grimy from the garden, in a basin.  He
thought that he would wash more thoroughly and pulled his shirt
over his head.  He stood, staring into a little silver mirror that
hung over the basin, rubbing his chest, feeling health and vigour
pour over him.  He saw Robin's face in the mirror.  He had thought
he was in the North, was madly delighted at his unexpected return,
would have turned wildly to greet him, but he saw the mirrored face
again.

It was a mask, not a face.  From that moment he had never seen
Robin's living face.

Something had happened in the North.  Robin had now a desperate, a
mortal secret.  Nicholas was not the kind of man to penetrate
anyone's secret.  Give him a confidence and he would respect it
until his death, but he was clumsy at inviting one.  He had a
feminine delicacy about a direct demand.  He was not subtle about
another's nature; he could not understand fine shades.  So, for the
time at least, he lost Robin and suffered accordingly.  He suffered
horribly because he did not know what danger he might be in.  He
tried to watch over him, but Robin was now constantly in London.
Most odd of all he was, it seemed, a friend of Irvine's, and when
Nicholas thought of that he had again his old sense that he was
playing his part blindly in some drama that had opened on that day
in the North.

His love for his brother only deepened.  He was a fantastically
faithful man.  When he loved, as he did his mother, Robin,
Armstrong, the girl in the North whom he never saw, would never
possess, but carried inside his skin, he loved really for ever
more.  He was too simple-minded to admit all the mouse-like
creepings of doubts and suspicions that beset cleverer lovers.

The London gaiety of that summer of 1581 had a kind of madness in
it.  Certainly the French, who were just now very numerous in the
town, gave an additional spirit to it.  They, above all other
people, knew how to deck the passing moment with ingenuity, colour,
malice and an amoral wisdom.

In July of this year the Duchess of Newbury gave a great ball in
the new banqueting-house in Westminster for the French Ambassador.
These banqueting-houses were a fresh fashion, temporary houses set
up to give ampler room for the needs of the more elaborate masques
and dances that were now in vogue.  The finest as yet ever seen was
this one in Westminster, and Holinshed's very words are the best
description of it.


'A banketting house was begun at Westminster, on the south-west
side of her majestie's palace of White hall, made in maner and
forme of a long square, three hundred thirtie and two feet in
measure about; thirtie principals made of great masts, being fortie
foot in length a peece, standing upright; betweene every one of
these masts ten foot asunder and more.  The walles of this house
were closed with canvas, and painted all the outsides of the same
most artificiallie with a work called rustike, much like to stone.
This house had two hundred and ninetie and two lights of glasse.
The sides within the same house was made with ten heights of
degrees for people to stand upon; and in the top of this house was
wrought most cunninglie upon canvas, works of ivie and hollie, with
pendents made of wicker rods, and garnished with baie, rue and all
matter of strange flowers garnished with spangles of gold, as also
beautified with hanging toseaus made of hollie and ivie, with all
maner of strange fruits, as pomegranate, orenges, pompions,
cucumbers, grapes, carnets, with such other like, spangled with
gold, and most richlie hanged.  Betwixt these works of baies and
ivie, were great spaces of canvas, which was most cunninglie
painted, the clouds with starres, the sunne and sunne beams, with
divers other cotes of sundrie sorts belonging to the queen's
majestie, most richlie garnished with gold.  There were all manner
of persons working on this house, to the number of three hundred
seventie and five; two men had mischances, the one brakeing his
leg, and so did the other.  This house was made in three weeks and
three daies, and was ended the eighteenth daie of Aprill; and cost
one thousand seven hundred fortie and four pounds, nineteene
shillings and od monie; as I was crediblie informed by the
worshipfull master Thomas Grave surveyor unto her majestie's
workers, who served and gave orders for the same, as appeareth by
record?


This 'house,' constructed though it was of such flimsy materials,
lasted 'with much propping' until 1607, and was then replaced by
King James with one of brick and stone.  The Queen herself most
graciously gave permission to the Duchess to hold her ball there;
it was the first great ball there since its building, and the Queen
herself was to be present at it.  On the very day before the ball
the Queen had a malady of the stomach and was forced to her bed.

Now it happened by a curious chance that this great ball, for which
invitations were like golden gifts from heaven, was the sign and
seal of the first true coming together of the Herries family in
England.  None of the guests at the ball were aware of this, of
course, or would have cared if they HAD known; no Herries was
actively aware of it.

It happened, however, that the Duchess of Newbury had an
exceptional liking for Nicholas.  Their common interest was of all
things farming, for the Duchess, an Amazonian kind of woman, had
estates not far distant from Mallory.  She was at this time about
forty years of age and made friends with Nicholas, the first time,
in a hay-cart.  That they made afterwards an even closer friendship
in bed together was locally gossiped.  No one knew or would ever
know.

They were excellent friends and Nicholas taught the Duchess one or
two wrestling falls and some excellent passes with the rapier.  The
Duke, who was a scholar, a friend of young Gabriel Harvey, whom he
had helped towards a Fellowship at Pembroke, had assisted John
Sadler of Corpus Christi to translate a treatise on the art of war
by Vegetius.  This was published in 1572 and the Duke was as proud
as though he had begot a boy of the Duchess, which alas he was
never able to do.

So the Duchess was very fond indeed of Nicholas and was always
pressing him to come to Court.  She told the Queen of him, and the
Queen, hearing of his size and sinews, expressed an interest in
him, but Nicholas would not budge.  He could have married, it was
thought, the Duchess' daughter Penthesilea, but she was a 'wambley'
kind of girl, and in any case Nicholas, having known the mother so
well, could scarcely in decency marry the daughter.

So Nicholas was not only himself invited to the ball, but bidden to
bring any of his relations with him.  So Robin and Nicholas, Edward
and Agatha, Sidney, Guy and Rosemary and Rosamund, Thomas Herries
the old bachelor from Kirkby Lonsdale, Lucy Courthope and her
husband, were all at this memorable, famous ball--the first ball in
the Herries chronicles, and certainly not the last.

Nicholas, not given to raptures about beauty, was blinded by the
splendour of the scene when he entered the banqueting-house.  He
stood there, his legs straddled, gazing.  The dress that he wore
that night is still in the records:*  'Doublet and trunk of
vertical bands of dark green velvet embroidered in scarlet, white
and gold.  Sleeves of embroidered white satin.  A small plain
circular ruff, black velvet belts, white silk hosen, and golden
satin shoes with gold lace roses.'


* J. Congreve, Notes from the Daily Life of an Elizabethan
Gentleman.  Bucks and Winter, 1896.


Beside it on the margin is written:  'Newbury Masque, July 20, 1581--
washing and starching of ruff, one shilling.'  And there is a very
crude drawing of a donkey's head and a meaningless entry:  'Truss
of hay.  Two moons.'

Nicholas had started out from Mallory obsessed with his own
clothes.  He had never in his life seen anything so fine as he was,
nor had his mother, who, old lady though she was, clapped her hands
and danced at the sight.  He was in love with his golden satin
shoes, with the gold lace roses, especially as he was always afraid
of his big clumsy feet.  But now he forgot himself and just stared
with his mouth open.  First he could think of nothing but the
illumination, 'the two hundred and ninetie and two lights of
glasse.'  These were in the form of vast candelabra with glass
drops concealing candles.  The light radiated in a great sheen of
mingled glass and colour.  As the candles, guarded though they
were, blew a little in the breeze, a trembling passed through the
hall almost as though there had been a whispered blowing of
trumpets.

This great sea of sparkling starry light illuminated the
marvellous, never-before-equalled, unsurpassable ceiling.  It was
at this that Nicholas especially stared, his head back, his huge
body in its coloured splendours scarcely balanced as he gazed.

A very great artist must have designed this ceiling, for so many
incongruous matters met in so perfect a harmony.  The ivy, holly
and other branches painted on the canvas dropped pendants of leaves
and flowers illuminated with 'spangles of gold,' and these pendants
swung a little so that the gold, the crimsons, the bright marbled
greens, the pigeon-violet of the grapes, seemed alive and active in
some high heavenly garden.  The fruits--the pompions and oranges
and pomegranates--were in thick clusters and the colour of them so
skilfully arranged that purple led to purple and saffron to amber
and icy white to pearl grey.  All these colours, moving very gently
in the glittering blaze, were so actual that you could all but
smell the flowers and taste the fruits.  And all was just enough
carried into heaven to make it an unattainable dream of Paradise.

When he turned his eyes to survey the general scene his gaze was
yet more dazzled.  The imitation stone walls had ranged against
them on either side ten tiers of steps and these tiers were painted
a dull gold.  It was on these that, during the Masque, the
gathering would sit.  At the far end long buffets were arranged and
these were piled with food of every sort, great vases of gold and
innumerable gold plates and goblets of crystal.

At the time of his arrival the guests were passing before the Duke
and Duchess, the French Ambassador and numerous Court officials;
this long procession was a river of brilliant colours, and above
the river rose a shrill hubbub of voices.  The musicians, who were
placed in a gallery at the hall-end, played soft music.

Nicholas saw at once many persons whom he knew, but joined himself
to old Tom Herries, for whom he had a real affection.  This old
boy, stout and red-faced, with white hair and beard, had dressed
himself in an elaborate affair of crimson and gold, but was most
uncomfortable in it, as he quickly confided to Nicholas.  He had,
however, held, some ten years earlier, a position at Court--only
for some six months, because he could not endure town life, but he
was happy pointing out Court officials from the Lord Chamberlain
the Earl of Sussex, Sir Christopher Hatton Vice-Chamberlain, the
Earl of Leicester Master of the Horse, the Treasurer of the
Household, Grooms of the Outer Chamber, Maids of Honour, down to
various small fry who had been fortunate to secure invitations.

Nicholas knew many of these people personally, although few of them
intimately, and it was amusing to old Tom, whose business was
entirely with their private vices and none too agreeable habits:
how this fair lady 'stank' so strongly that all her lovers
complained publicly of it; how Sussex's men had played privately a
very coarse drama concerning Leicester's men, accusing them of
various foul diseases; how a certain French nobleman betrayed most
publicly that he possessed the same odd tastes as his master
Alenon, and so on.

But the old man, with all his scandal, was a good old man.  His
mind was constantly occupied with his place at Kirkby Lonsdale,
where he was looked on as a common father.  He preferred, as was
natural, the old times to the present, and the country above all
else.  Here he had common ground with Nicholas, and even as they
were moving slowly to make their obeisance he was talking of his
oxen as though they were humans and of what makes a fat pasture,
and a long story about the burning of a stack of corn.

When they arrived and made a bow, the Duchess, magnificent in cloth
of gold, gave Nicholas a sign of recognition.  And that is all he
saw of THAT ceremony.

The order of the night would be the dancing, the Masque, the
supper.  Hundreds of the guests were gathering in front of the
supper-tables to wait for the Duchess and the French Ambassador to
start the dancing--and here, moving into the thick of the crowd,
Nicholas of a sudden was body to body with Philip Irvine, Sylvia
and Robin.

So here was his enemy!  Since the fight with Winterset six years
back, Nicholas had not once set eyes on Irvine.  Irvine, he heard,
was busy with his new position at Court and was now a member of the
Board of Green Cloth: Nicholas had heard that he was not popular at
Court and this partly for his own pride, partly that his wife was
considered cold and unfriendly (it was said that Irvine was much
chagrined by this), and partly that he had not enough means to
carry his position properly.

To-night he was one of the most handsome men in the hall.  His body
had slimmed and tautened until he had the air of a blade-sheath,
and his dark complexion, the proud, insolent, but beautiful eyes,
the sharp hard curve of his lip, these properties, as brilliant and
perfected as steel, gave him attention everywhere.  Tonight he was
dressed in his favourite black and silver, and Nicholas at once
felt, as he always did beside him, clumsy and gaudy and bucolic.

All those years had passed since their fight on the moor, but time
was nothing to Irvine.  Nicholas was instantly aware of it.  The
duel between them had scarcely begun.

Robin was at one arm of Irvine's and Nicholas at the other, and
Nicholas had the instant's thought, as though someone had whispered
it:  'If Robin and I, now, on this minute, take this fellow and
stick a dagger in his guts, here on this shining floor under the
lights and gold, before the whole Court, we will have done an
excellent deed and saved great future unhappiness.'

It was so exactly as though someone had whispered this in his ear
that he half turned.  But no one had spoken to him.

Only Irvine gave him a most friendly greeting.  He pressed his hand
so that the heavy rings dug Nicholas' flesh, and Nicholas returned
the pressure with his own great fist, and Irvine's eyes darkened
and a little crooked frown appeared for a moment above the
eyebrows.  Nicholas had not seen his brother for a week and, as he
kissed him on the cheek, Robin's eyes caught Nicholas' as though
they said:  'There is no change.  We are as we have always been.
Believe in my love and help me.'

There WAS an appeal, but how was Nicholas to help him when he knew
nothing? and why had he, who was not given to impressions,
nevertheless this sense that Irvine was drawing them both in,
pursuing some old slowly maturing plan that would involve both of
them in disaster?

It was not like him to think of disaster, especially on such a
night as this, and who was Irvine but a proud, poor-purse fool?
But he thought:  'He has tried the duelling way; he sent men to
murder me.  Such simple plans are ended.  We have moved into a new
stage, darker, more difficult, longer to develop. . . .'

And he thought too:  'Why do I hate this man so bitterly?  Yes,
every inch of him from the black hairs on his head to the silver
roses on his shoes?  It is not my fashion to hate.  I hate the very
principle of Irvine.  I hate all men like him who care nothing for
the good of other men, nor want the happiness of other men, who
have no wish to make this world more free and more fair.'

All the time that he was thinking these things he was garrulously
chattering to the three of them, about Mallory and the crops and
the new aviary that had been made for his mother's pleasure and a
stream that he had formed to run beside the lawns . . . his great
shoulders shaking with merriment and Robin saying:  'Why, Nick,
those are the handsomest shoes in the whole company!'  Even, in his
fellowship, his hand rested for a moment on Irvine's slim silver
shoulder, while within himself he was saying:  'This man is my
enemy until one of us is dead, and perhaps after that.'

He also, in his own simple way, considered Sylvia.  He discerned no
signs between herself and Robin.  She was wearing a plain white
satin dress with long pointed stomacher over the bolster
farthingale.  The front of the skirt was decorated with red and
gold enamel ornaments.  Nicholas was not given to noticing what
ladies wore, but he noticed this one because it did not suit
Sylvia's small pale stiff face and her child's body.  It was as
though she had been made to wear it by somebody's order.  She was
unhappy, he decided, and like Robin wore a mask.

The Duchess and the French Ambassador came forward and the dancing
began.  It was of course a pavane and the Duchess danced it
magnificently, her tall handsome body as straight as a tree, her
dark colouring contrasting finely with her gold dress.  Everyone
now joined in, the dancers facing one another and forming a kind of
wheel, the arm rounded beneath the cape, the hand resting on the
sword-hilt and so causing the point to raise the cloak like a
peacock's tail.  Nicholas took out Edward's wife, Agatha--not
because he wished but because he thought it his duty as head of the
family to invite the least favoured member of it.  For poor Agatha
was as plain as a distaff and sought to cover her plainness by an
over-eagerness in her dancing.  'What a pair!' Nicholas thought;
contrasting in his mind Edward's rounded fat body and face, and
this scarecrow who was wearing crimson, the last colour in the
world to suit her yellow, ill-favoured face.

And then he forgot his partner and the Herries family and
everything except the exquisite pleasure of the dance itself.  Like
many big heavy men, Nicholas danced with great lightness and
rhythm.  Year by year the lively galliard was creeping in on the
stately formal pavane, and the contrast of the two gave an added
lustre to both.

At the beginning the world was a dream--a dream of ANOTHER world
now lost, a world where movement was so rigidly ordered that death
was postponed eternally and life nearly slumbered.  In such a world
the colours of this pattern were constantly on the edge of a
resolved form--ALMOST the planet stayed its course.  These figures
of gold, purple and white hung as though gravely meditating on the
pattern that was to be.  Then a thin cry from the viols and the
wheel was broken and the lights glittered down on to a slow-moving
stream of new colours--orange and jet and the most brilliant rose.
But when the galliard broke in on this, with its kick in front and
its kick behind, it was as though the secret places of the world,
so still and sacred, were broken in upon by a rout of revellers.
Those innumerable faces that had been carven in thin alabaster
were, at a moment, transformed with all the hearty sensualities of
daily living.  Faces broke into smiles, blood coursed through a
thousand veins, hands were hotly pressed.  The dance now was
intricate, for there were the tourdion, the ruade, and even, at the
last, the capriole.

Many were seated on the tiers watching, not wishing to expose their
ignorance of the steps, and long before the dance was over Nicholas
was wishing that he had chosen any partner but Agatha, who, flushed
and her eyes screwed up in agonized bewilderment, bounded about and
kicked and clapped her heels together like a donkey frisking in a
paddock.

The moment the dance was ended Nicholas said:  'Who is that child
standing there with Edward?'

'Why!  You don't know!' Agatha cried in that shrill whistly voice
especially given by God to foolish women.

'Had I known I wouldn't have asked,' Nicholas said, wishing to
smack her.

'Of course . . . indeed . . . that is Guy's child, Rosamund.'

'Is Guy actually here then?'

'No, indeed.  Rosamund is staying with ourselves at Bucking.  It is
the child's first grand party.'

It clearly was, for Nicholas thought that he had never seen such a
brightness of eye and such an ecstasy of enjoyment.  The child was
plain and badly dressed.  Her nose was snub, her forehead freckled,
but she was as alive as a parakeet.

'I must know her,' Nicholas said, and he went with Agatha to join
them.

He took her little hand in his big one and smiled at her kindly.
Rosamund stared at him with eyes of absolute adoration.

'You are Nicholas,' she said.  She drew a deep breath.  'At last!'

'Why at last?' he asked her.

'Because I have loved you all my life, although I have never seen
you before.'

They all laughed, but Agatha corrected her.  'A pretty thing . . .
I am for ever telling you to think first . . .'

Rosamund paid her no attention.  Her eyes were fixed on Nicholas'
face.

'All my life!' he said mockingly.  'That is not very long.'

'I am over fifteen years of age and that is something.'

'This is your first ball.'

'And this is the best moment of it.'

There was some great quality about the child; he knew what it was.
It was her honesty.  He was himself very honest and so at once they
had a bond.

Robin danced in the first pavane with Sylvia.  Irvine, with a smile
and a friendly pressure on Robin's arm, urged them to make part of
the middle group next to the Court group.  He would not dance now,
but later if he had a mind.

They had not met for a month and, as was now always the case, so
soon as they were together they were possessed with one another and
yet must pay one another no more than ordinary attention.

During the last year, driven by the impossibility of their being
ever alone, they had resorted, on several occasions, to a desperate
expedient, meeting at the house of a Mary Rolles in Southwark.
This woman, a widow, had been once maid to Sylvia's mother and, so
far as they knew, was devoted and trustworthy.  They practised this
only when Philip was for certain away from London.  He had, for
some time past, been entrusted with business concerning Mary of
Scots, visiting her confinement to make reports.  He was away for a
week or more at one time.

But the risk, as they knew, was a fearful one.  Worse than this was
the effect on them both of the plotting, the secrecy, the hurried
passionate hours, the distress of their parting.  And with every
meeting, because of its very half-fulfilment and danger, their
mutual passion grew more intense.

Now, as always, their words were fragmentary and concealed.  As, in
the movements of the dance, they encountered and separated, they
whispered, their lips not moving.  They were unaware of the lights,
the colours, and performed the figures mechanically, not knowing
what they did.

'I could not send a message . . .  I had intended . . .'

'I think he goes North ten days from now . . .  Alice can meet your
Thomas a week tomorrow.  We go to my father's . . .'

'I love you--always.  Now--your hand . . .'

They were together.  His body was erect, one hand on his sword-
hilt.  He took her hand and his heart leapt into it, to be enfolded
by hers.

'He has said nothing?'

'Only for the first time to-night he asked about my diamond star.
Why I did not wear it now.'

'He is watching us--he is smiling.'

'He hates me--more every day.'

The dance was changing.  The movements were faster.  Men and women
were laughing.  The heat was intense.

As he had done again and again, even as he sprang towards her and
back, he whispered:

'Come away.  Come away.  We will go to the Netherlands. . . .'

'He would find you wherever you were and kill you.  He has some
plan.'  Her last word, as the livelier capriole began, was like the
cry of a child.

'I am so very unhappy.'

This was the last word that he had with her or with Philip that
night.

He danced again and again.  Women considered him mysterious.  It
was said that he was very clever and wrote poetry, although no one
had seen his poetry.  It was said that he was a Catholic plotter.
It was said that the Government used him as a spy among the
Catholics.  It was said that he did not care about women and was
discovering the Philosopher's Stone.  It was said that at
Rosthwaite he was writing a History of the World.

But, strangely enough, no one as yet said that he was the lover of
Irvine's wife, the pitiful little thing who was a gowk at home and
beaten by her husband.

It was time for the Masque.  Six trumpeters, magnificent in crimson
and gold, advanced together and blew on their trumpets.  The hall
was cleared, the Duchess, the Ambassador and the attendant great
ones--Leicester, Sussex and their ladies--seated themselves.  After
that, with much scrambling and laughing and flirting and jokes,
everyone climbed up the tiers and settled down.  At the end near
the great door, there were some wooden stairs, leading through an
opening on to a wide outside balcony that overlooked the town.
Through this opening came in the warm night summer air, and Robin,
because he was frantically hot, sat, eight rows up, near this night
freshness.

So it happened that the Masque, at the far distance, had a misted
bewildered look and came to him, through the lights and the long
embroidered banks of seated people, as something more real than
reality, while the actual life close about him was insubstantial;
the coloured clothes of paper, the eager faces inhuman--and
himself, alone, tortured with desire, sick at heart and in some way
indignant with life, as though he had been forced into circumstances
against his will.

This Masque was the most splendid that London had yet seen and, as
he watched it, he thought of that other little Masque in his Uncle
Henry's house, many years ago, when he had met Sylvia for the first
time.  The ship balancing in the child's hair, the child at her
first ball!

Masques were ever growing more elaborate and this present one was
to be remembered for many years, and James himself would one day
say, 'I would have it as fine as the Masque presented to the French
Ambassador at Westminster in '81--the one of the Shepherds and the
Centaurs.'

The Shepherds had invaded the world.  Green hills of paint and
pasteboard were dragged on by lions whose heads were ferocious and
back legs acrobats.  Then came the Shepherds, brown of body and
bare save for decency, piping and dancing and leading six acrobatic
sheep that baaed most truthfully.

This was comedy, but anon there was dragged on by the same lions
and two huge giants with clubs a Castle.  Here, imprisoned by the
Giant Impertinence, was a lovely Princess who looked out of a
window and wrung her hands in despair.  The Shepherds tried to
rescue her, but were defeated by the Giants.  Then came the
Centaurs, whisking their tails, clumping their hooves, and with the
beautiful bodies of some of the most vigorous young men in London.
To the blast of the trumpets they pulled down the Castle, rescued
the Princess, killed the Giant, liberated the prisoners.  When the
Castle fell, these prisoners, led by their Princess, raised their
hands to heaven in gratitude, and a lovely silver fountain sprang
up where the Castle had been.  Then, all together, Shepherds and
Giants and Centaurs and prisoners danced in triumph while showers
of gold leaves fell from the ceiling, the fountain's water
glittered, a choir sang, and a body of French noblemen and ladies,
most magnificently attired, did a special dance in front of their
Ambassador.

'Mr. Herries,' a voice said in Robin's ear.  'Mr. Herries.'

Robin turned.  Beside him, as though he had been conjured out of
the air, was a young man, Francis de Lacey.  De Lacey was a
youthful Catholic whom Robin had met twice with Pierson.  He came
of a Northumbrian family, was a good deal of a fanatic, foolish in
some things, hysterical a little, but devoted to his faith and
undoubtedly, besides this, a political conspirator.  Robin, who
detested the political side of the Catholic cause, distrusted him
and in his heart admired and even envied his determined single-
mindedness.

The boy was in a great agitation.  His body trembled, his eyes
shone as he stared in front of him, seeing nothing but one scene.

'Mr. Herries,' he whispered.  'Campion is taken.'

Robin's first impulse was to look around him.  There was no one
immediately near them.  Robin felt the summer air on his neck and a
sick choked feeling at his heart.  They talked, not looking at one
another, scarcely moving their lips.

'When?'

'Daybreak on the morning of Monday the seventeenth.'

'Where?'

'Lyford Grange.'

'How was it?'

'He was to preach at Oxford and was persuaded to stay the end of
the week at Lyford.  A big house with moat and drawbridge.  Mr.
Yate was confined in London, but Mrs. Yate with eight nuns was
there.  Meanwhile of course the expected sermon was all the talk at
Oxford.  Oh, the folly!  The hideous folly of it.'

The boy was staring at the Masque where the masked Centaurs, their
horse-bodies covered with silver nets, pranced and caracoled.

'Friday and Saturday passed in safety.  All the Catholics in the
neighbourhood flocked to see him.  The whole world knew of it.  On
Sunday morning arrived George Eliot and Jenkins, two Government
rats, to see whether there was a Mass.  Mrs. Yate's cook let them
in and took them up to the Mass, which they appeared reverently to
attend.  Eliot took of the holy bread from Campion's own hand.
Then Campion preached a most passionate sermon.  Afterwards the two
Government men galloped off to the Justice.  While the others were
at dinner in the evening the house was completely surrounded by
soldiers.  Campion, they say, wished to surrender that they might
perhaps spare the others, but no one would allow it and the three
priests were hidden in a hiding-place.  Later Eliot and the
magistrate, Fettiplace, entered and demanded the men.  The whole
assembly was accused of celebrating the Mass.  They denied it and
Fettiplace was in confusion because he had only the word of a
common informer, but he permitted Eliot and Jenkins to make a raid.
All day they searched, found some secret places but no priests.
The priests were hidden in a crossbow-maker's workshop, very small
with a shelf for tools.  Mrs. Yate had her bed made up outside it
and during the night Campion came and addressed the household.

'At daybreak the search began again; Eliot was all but defeated.
He thought that after all Campion might have escaped.  But suddenly
he noticed a space of light in the well over the stairs.  With a
crowbar he broke the back of the cell and there the priests were,
close together upon a bed.

'Jenkins called out loudly, "I have found the traitors!"'

The boy had recited this as though it were a lesson; it was likely
enough that he would tell it in just these words many times.

Robin stared at the Masque.  The Castle fell.  The waters of the
fountain leaped up.  The golden leaves showered from the ceiling.
The whole company 'in colours of a summer garden' advanced while
the trumpets blew.  All were masked: a masked world of shepherds,
giants, and centaurs.

Robin remembered Campion, like a boy, with his bare legs under his
shirt, and his laugh as he said when Cumberlege had cried:

'Are Thy Saints to be racked and burned eternally?'

'Not eternally, Henry.  After the rack--Paradise.'

For himself he knew that this moment was one more stage on his
personal soul's journey.  Which way, fighting soul?  Which way?

He cast one more look on the wild dancing masked figures, then,
unable to endure his own thoughts, got up and slipped out of the
hall into the silence of the early summer morning.



THE MARTYR


It had been rainy, off and on, for many days and the roads of the
City were thick and deep with foul mud on this Friday, December
1st.  Robin, wrapped in a thick cloak of Irish frieze, stood in
Holborn pressed with the crowd.

It was a large crowd and excited, which was curious, for there had
been many of these sights: it was no new thing to see condemned men
dragged on the hurdles through the streets.  But Campion had roused
interest.  There were many stories: how, under the rack, he had
screamed and screamed, crying out that he denied God.  Others said
that when he had been first stripped the executioners had said:
'The flesh is as soft as a woman's.'  They said that his limbs had
been twisted so that he could not stand, and that, whether he had
recanted or no, he was now firm and resolute and as ardent a
Catholic as ever he'd been.  Men had argued these weeks as to
whether he were rightly punished or no, for it was clear that he
had been himself no politician even though he had been mixed up
with those who were.  It was right enough, of course, that those
who plotted against the Queen should be punished; but should not a
man have permission to serve his own faith?  There were those who
said that you could not be a Catholic without being a traitor, but
for the most part there was a sympathy for Campion and a liking for
him.  But this sympathy was mixed with a sadistic desire to see him
suffer, to see anybody suffer, to hear anybody cry out, to see the
waxen paralysed face and the sudden spirt of blood.  Londoners, for
many years now, had been encouraged to see these sights and hear
these sounds.  Blood ran through the City, blood and mud, rain and
plague, lice and rats, foul water and dead stinking dogs and cats.
Old women were tortured for their private hoards, old men had their
teeth plucked out and their finger-nails, small children were
debauched, and the bull-baitings, bear-baitings, cock-fights, dog-
fights, rat-fights were filled with this stink of stale blood and
with the muttered whispers of half-exhausted lechers.

But on a day when the sun shone and the flags hung out and the
bands played through the streets and the train-bands marched and
the apprentices shouted, all was light and colour and song.  London
was as clean as a whistle and bright as a new-painted toy.  The
fresh water gurgled through the gutters, and the jewels and dagger-
hilts and mirrors and shoe-buckles glittered in the shops, and the
crowd pressed the barriers, and wine flowed like water.

Not to-day though.  The morning was bitterly cold, the wind wild,
the rain stung like whips, and from underfoot the mud oozed up over
shoes and ankles like a live thing.  When London was cold it was an
agony, for the cracks and crevices of the buildings caught the cold
and blew it out into the street in icy gusts.  The rain did not
only rain: it soaked the very skin.  You believed on such a day as
this that London was truly built on marshes, and that, let the rain
go on long enough, these same marshes would rise and swallow the
town, engulfing it, so that where Paul's was you would see only a
spread of water, a lonely bittern crying above it.

Certainly on such a morning London lost all her splendour and
seemed a gimcrack wooden-painted place with boards creaking and
chimneys (what there were) rocking, and the shop-signs crashing
against the wind.  Yet even on such a day the crowds were thick,
pressing together good-humouredly, some for love and some for
warmth and some for thieving and some for human nature.

Robin, who had not slept at all the night before, here in Holborn,
waited in a kind of trance.  His lack of sleep made his head all
fiery although his hands, in spite of the long gloves that covered
them, were icy cold.  His fiery head and his burning eyes made the
scene a nightmare beyond what it really was.  Nothing was quite
real; every figure something of a phantom.

He marked everything minutely as though someone stood at his elbow
whispering:  'Note this well.  You will remember every detail of
this day until you die.'  Moreover he himself intended to remember.
He stood there weighted with a conviction of sin.  It was not only
the adultery but also the hatred.  He knew, deep in his innermost
consciousness, that if there were a chance of killing Irvine
secretly without fear of discovery, he would do it.  Mixed with
hatred was fear.  He was sure that Irvine on HIS side was planning
his death, and he did not know which way it would be attempted.
Mixed with the fear was lust.

The more he enjoyed intercourse with Sylvia the more he longed for
it.  This was contrary to the usual, when physical intimacy often
repeated kills lust.  But it might be the furtiveness, secrecy,
fear of discovery, that increased their mutual passion.  They loved
one another now as tortured pursued beings.

But mixed with the lust, the fear, the hatred, the furtiveness, was
a deep unceasing consciousness of God.  Since he had committed evil
against God, God was far more WITH him than He had been before.
Not an angry and avenging God but a loving.  That was the strange
thing.  He had never realized God's love for him before as he now
did.  God's love and God's company.  His sense of sin, which had
always been very active in him so that, in his childhood, little
misdemeanours had seemed terrible to him, while Nicholas,
committing the same, had not even been aware of them, was now
constant.  And he loved his sin.  He loved God and he loved the sin
against God.

When he had heard of Campion's arrest it was at once as though his
own history had taken a step nearer to him.

'I am to be caught in the end.  This brings me a step nearer.'  He
had seen Campion so little and yet he had loved him.  He would
never forget him, standing like a boy in his shirt; nor would he
forget the enchanting friendly smile, nor the gentle voice.  All
through these last months he had suffered with him, knowing what it
must be to one of Campion's sensitive body to be subject to the
rack and screw.  His own personal horror of physical pain came in
here, and his imagination took him into the very heart of that foul
underground chamber with the dripping water, the fire, the dank
smell, the naked exposure, and the sudden pang of unutterable
agony, a savage animal clawing at your heart.  But Campion had his
faith to believe in.  How far, under torture, Campion had recanted
Robin did not know.  It seemed to him unimportant how much you
might recant under torture.  You were not yourself then; you were a
physical animal without a soul.

So it seemed to him that this morning he would be with Campion on
his hurdle, almost BE him.  And yet he was himself, himself whom he
despised.  He stood waiting and taking everything in for ever.
Although there were the crowds to see the sight, yet all the
regular bustle of the early morning in the street was beginning.
Opposite him apprentices were taking down the shutters from a
horologer's shop.  The beggars were out already and a man without
legs was dragging himself past the crowd, holding out his dirty
cap.

The criers were already busy, for Holborn was a great place for
them and the knowledge that crowds would be there brought them
early.  'Whiting, maids, whiting!'  'Rock Samphire . . . Rock
Samphire!'  'Buy a mat!  Buy a mat!' and (most appropriate to the
day) 'Small coals!  Small coals!'  They passed up and down, caring
nothing for the mud and rain.  Coaches, with every month more
numerous and a cursing disastrous prophecy for the watermen, were
already, early though it was, lumbering their way and throwing up
great spumes of mud as they went.  They made a terrific clatter on
the cobbles and altogether the noise was so great that you must
shout if you would be heard.

Robin caught and held for evermore certain fragments: a gilt
weather-vane on a roof, two tiny children playing in the water of
the gutter, a slob of mud on the face of a merchant who was nailing
something to his shop's boards, a stout pursy fellow quite
unconscious of his disfigurement, a shabby fellow with one arm
making water against the wall of a church to the right of him, a
woman in a crimson nightcap leaning out of a window, a small cart
piled with odd boots that a crier was pushing, the raindrops
jumping on to the eaves and running down on to the hat of a man
below.  All and nothing.  Nothing and all.  Where he was standing
the crowd was thick.  A stout fellow with an ugly merry face,
yellow-haired, snub-nosed, dressed in an old leather jacket and
soiled yellow hose, pressed against him and, after a while, rested
his rough red hand on Robin's shoulder, grinning like a friendly
dog as he did so.  On his other side was a little thin man with a
long nose wearing a gold chain round his neck.  The little man
pursed his lips and wheezed as though he had an asthma.

As may happen on such occasions, standing and waiting, Robin began
to feel as though the stout man and the little man were known to
him, had been his acquaintances for a long while.  As everything
was slightly unreal to him, so were these two larger than reality
and more intimate with him than his friends.  Because this was so
special an event, so were they special too.  It was as though they
had been given to him for some definite purpose.

'Do you mind, master,' the stout fellow said, 'that I press you
close?  There's a woman pinching me to the right of me, and I'll
have the skin off you'--he, suddenly fierce, turned abruptly on a
tall thin man with a yellow pointed beard--'if your hand wanders to
my purse again.'

The thin man edged away.

'But I like you, master.'  He dropped his voice.  'If you are a
Catholic, master, and will follow me to Tyburn I can bring you
where you will be close to the scaffold and can speak with the holy
father. . . .'

He was pressing Robin so closely that his breath was in Robin's
mouth, and Robin, who was fastidious, was surprised to discover
that he did not resent it.  The big merry-eyed fellow seemed a
comfort against the filth and the cold and the rain.

'I am not a Catholic,' Robin said.  'But I have known Campion.'

He wondered then whether he had been an especial fool.  This might
well be some spy of Irvine's put there to catch him.  But somehow
he did not think so.  This yellow-haired fellow was not an enemy
and had never been.  Had never been?  Robin was indeed fever-headed
to-day, for he had never seen the man before.

Nor had he seen the little coughing creature with the long nose on
his other side, and yet he did not seem new to him.  He was very
restless, always straining on his toes to see better, coughing and
choking, and when he all but overbalanced he would clutch at
Robin's arm.

'They say he called out against God under pressure.  I am myself
something of a wild Christian, but I would not blaspheme.'

'Under pressure you would do anything,' Robin said contemptuously.

'Maybe. . . .  Maybe.  It is certainly most bitter cold.  What I
say and have many times said is that he that is not for the State
is against it.  It is a State newly blessed and freshly strong, and
the Queen in her mercy knoweth who shall be punished and who shall
not be punished.'

But the stout fellow on the other side was continuing:  'If you
have known Campion, master, at any time, it will be a comfort for
him to see your face at the last.  He will be in need of his
friends.  And I can arrange it--'

'And your fee?' Robin asked, moving a little away.

'No fee.  I do it for love of you, master, and because there is
great distress in your face and you are young.  I am myself a
warder in the Tower.  They call me Michael Strongback.  My proper
name is Roland.  But I can bend an iron bar double and carry a cart
on my stiffened belly.  I can kill a man with my fist, and have
done, and I could carry you in my arms, master, as gentle as I were
a woman.'

He said all this with the very greatest simplicity, his hand
against Robin's shoulder.

'So you were in the Tower.  You saw Father Campion there?'

'No, but I heard how it went with him.  And it is not true that he
confessed anything.  There was one day they took him delirious from
the rack and it may be that he said something--not knowing what he
said.  They had him on the rack three times.  They say that the
second was the worst, for his knees were dragged out of their
sockets.  They tried to catch him in every way they might.  I would
give all the stretched-out women in the world for such a faith.
But I have nothing in this world but my strength, my family, and
what I do for my daily bread.'

'Are you kind to your prisoners?' Robin asked him.

'On a Monday--and then on a Wednesday I snarl.  You know how it is,
master, we are slaves of our bodies, and when we have been drunken,
next day we are not fair men.'

There was a swaying of the crowd.  The little man leaped on his
feet, giving a kind of screech.  The yellow-haired man's great arm
went round Robin's waist and held him firm.  For they were coming.
A moment later they were there.  Some officers on horses, someone
beating a drum, a rabble of boys and men, and then the two horses,
each dragging a hurdle.

The other priests, Briant and Sherwin, were on one hurdle, Campion
by himself on the other.  The horses plodded along, throwing up mud
with their hooves.

But Robin had eyes only for Campion.  Clad in a gown of Irish
frieze, he was bound with thick rope to the hurdle; his face, with
a splash of mud on one cheek, was raised to the sky, and the rain
poured down on it.  The edges of his rough gown blew up and down in
the wind.

Yes, and this was verily the same man as Robin had seen in
Cumberland.  Under the ropes and the gown the limbs seemed to be
strangely twisted--but that might be Robin's imagination.  The face
was white and strained, but even now, as the lips moved, there was
still that same sweetness in the mouth and eyes.  An Anglican who
had argued on Justification by Faith in one of the Conferences
walked through the mud beside the hurdle, still arguing.  But
Campion did not seem to hear Mr. Charke at all and answered none of
his reiterated questions.  Robin caught the shrill nagging voice
and saw Charke striding along, his body writhed with irritation.  A
number of little boys ran through the mud, laughing and singing
something out.  One of them stumbled in the mud and fell; Campion
turned his head and Robin saw him smile with compassion.

'We must move with them,' his friend Michael said, 'if we are to be
close at the end.  Trust yourself to me.'

They detached themselves from the crowd and went forward, and the
little man with the gold chain ran skipping and jumping beside
them.  It was not hard to keep pace with the hurdles, for the
soldiers in front had often difficulty in clearing the way.  The
hurdles bumped over the cobbles, and the mud that the horses cast
up splashed the clothes and faces of the condemned.  Robin ran at a
kind of jog-trot and Michael Roland strode beside him clearing the
way for them.  Robin found that his intentness on Campion was a
kind of hallucination.  It was as though he himself lay on the
hurdle, his arms around Campion protecting him.  Robin's lips moved
and, in his soul, he seemed to be whispering to Campion with the
uttermost urgency:  'I cannot believe as you believe, but, before
you go, in spite of my disbelief, bless me, ask God to forgive me
and strengthen me and set me on the right path.'

And it seemed to him that Campion turned to him with great
gentleness and said:  'Do you abandon your sin?'

And Robin in deep wretchedness answered:  'I cannot.'

'You must fight!  You must fight!  I have known worse battles than
yours, and now, thanks be to Jesus, it is over.  So it will be one
day with you.'

And Robin answered:  'How you are to be envied!'

And Campion, smiling, said:  'I have never known so happy a day as
this!'

In reality the little procession was stopped by a coach that had
caught one wheel in a rut.  The horses were plunging and the hurdle
rocking.  More mud fell on Campion's cheek.  Some in the crowd
laughed.  Robin was very close to him and taking his handkerchief
he leant forward and wiped the mud away.  Campion's eyes met his
and Campion smiled, but, of course, he did not recognize him.  As
the fingers of Robin's glove touched the cheek it seemed to him
that an icy cold struck through to his finger-bone.  Campion's face
was dirty, the beard tangled, but it had a wonderful illuminated
clarity as light shines through a thin shell.  There was a faint
odour about his body as of corruption, and his boots were thick
with mud into which straw was sticking.  Rain-drops hung about his
mouth and nose.

When Robin made his gesture one of the guards turned to him
roughly.  They feared perhaps a rescue.  But Michael Roland knew
him.

'Hey, Boniface! . . .  This is a muddy business.'

Boniface, who looked a stupid oafish fellow, made no answer but
nodded his head in recognition.

They moved forward again.  The rain was coming down now in torrents
as they neared Tyburn.  The fields and bending, whining trees were
soaked in rain.

Michael was talking as though to divert Robin's mind.

There was an odd thing once--in 1447 it was--when five gentlemen
were to be executed for having to do with the death of "good Duke
Humphrey."  They were all stripped for their dismembering when a
pardon arrived, but the hangman, being rightfully entitled to their
clothes, for he had hanged them although they were cut down alive,
clung to his rights and refused to give up the clothes.  So the
five gentlemen, when they were recovered sufficiently, walked their
way home as naked as they were born and with the marks of their
quarterings yet on their bodies.'

'Yes,' coughed the little man with the long nose, 'and I'll swear
the good folk were mad at their missing the dismemberment.  It is a
rare thing and one to be remembered--a good dismemberment is a rare
thing.'

Now, as they approached Tyburn and could even see the gallows in
the distance against the rushing muddy clouds, they were separated
from the hurdles by the greatly increased crowd.  The rain and wind
had not stopped the good people of London from coming to enjoy the
sight, and here they were all pushing and scrabbling together with
mud on their faces and eating stinking sausage and gesturing with
their hands in the air, against the wild wind, as though they were
lunatics.

There were temporary booths set up as though it were a fair, and
they were selling portraits of the priests and their histories
together with sweetmeats and pies and coloured birds in cages and
lop-eared trembling rabbits.

To Robin, as he pressed forward behind Michael, the scene was like
something out of Hell.  The rain and wind were suddenly abating and
even the grey sky was breaking a little with thin bands, behind the
clouds, of promised light.

He perceived now that there were many Catholics in the crowd, men
and women praying without disguise, their hands raised, and he saw
one fellow knock the hat off a certain devout man.  Whether it were
by physical force or by some especial influence that he had,
Michael drove his way forward and soon they were not far from the
scaffold itself.  The little man with the long nose managed to keep
with them.  Then they were stopped by a thick concourse of people
who were shouting and laughing and clapping their hands.  It was
now especially that Robin seemed to be in Hell, for all the faces
around him were evil, caricatures with swollen noses and tremendous
chins and crooked eyes.  There seemed to him a great stench, which
well might be from all the rain drying on clothes and the pressing
together of so many bodies.  He was now near enough to see what it
was that the crowd was applauding.  It was a thick-set fellow with
no arms and no legs.  He danced a horrible fantastic dance on the
stumps that remained of his legs, his round rather childish face
grinning and his blue eyes staring.  His arms were gone to above
the elbow, but with what remained to him he very miraculously
tossed a cup in the air, dancing as he did so, and while he danced
he sang verses that Robin soon heard to be fitting.

He did not look himself to be evil, but rather simple and
childlike.  A woman sat on an upturned drum, waiting patiently
until she should go round and collect money in the cup.  The crowd
here were filled with a blood-lust.  They had come on this
miserable morning, rising early, travelling from far, to see the
hangings and the quarterings.  There was nothing of a noble England
here, no men were here fit to rule a new world, but animals in a
pressing thronging mass waiting for the kill.

Another thing that Robin realized was that, in some fashion, he was
in Michael Roland's power.  His nerves were so wrought, his
imagination was heightened so unnaturally by his sleeplessness,
that it was as though he saw visions, a time beyond this present
moment, when again he would be helplessly in Roland's power, when
he would be closer to Campion than on this day he could ever be.

It was almost as in a dream that he followed that proud back.  He
had the sense that one has in dreams of moving forward without
walking and of people dividing in front of him as though by some
magic.

In any case he very shortly found that they were close beside the
scaffold and that they had passed through the cordon of soldiers.
He looked about him and saw officials of the Court, magistrates and
some whom he knew--Lord Howard, Sir Henry Lee and Sir Francis
Knollys among others.

Quite close to him he recognized a thin dark-faced young man, Henry
Walpole, a very distant cousin of his own through the Gilbert
Herries who had, in the last century, married Alice Walpole.  He
knew Mr. Henry Walpole as a young Cambridge wit and minor poet.

He spoke to no one, however, but drew his frieze coat closer about
him.  He heard Henry Lee's high-pitched voice arguing quite
fiercely about the motion of the sun, that it was natural and
obeyed inevitable laws, and he caught Francis Knollys' scornful and
elegant laugh.

They broke off their discussion, for at that moment Campion was
climbing clumsily into the cart below the gallows.  No one had eyes
for the other two priests.  All thought only of Campion.  Indeed he
was a pitiful sight, muddy-faced, sadly cold with his Irish coat
taken from him.  Also, because of his tortures, his legs would not
obey him.  One knee stuck out unnaturally.  He tried three times to
climb the cart and fell back, so that one of the men assisting the
hangman had to help him.  He turned, smiling sweetly, and thanked
him.  The horrible instruments of the quartering were on the
scaffold, the irons and knives and the cauldron.

Campion reached the cart, stood there awkwardly and faced the
people.

At once there was a great outcry, shrieks and shouts and laughter
until all individual sounds were drowned in a roar.  But it was his
face that was beautiful.  Although he stood clumsily, barely
clothed, one leg half bent beneath him, his face had, for Robin, a
kind of illuminated glory.

Strangely enough, at this moment the sunlight, pale and watery and
struggling, emerged for the first time through the clouds, and the
gallows, the scaffold, and all the prisoners on it were washed with
a thin cleansing light.

The hangman threw the noose over Campion's head.  Campion began to
speak, but the noise of the crowd was too great for any but those
close to the scaffold to gather his words.  Robin heard everything
distinctly.

Campion, still with that hidden smile behind his lips, began
loudly:

'Spectaculum facti sumus Deo, angelis et hominibus . . .'  He went
on:  'These words spake St. Paul, and in English, "We are made a
spectacle unto God, unto His angels and unto men."'  (At the word
'angels' he raised his voice and looked upwards as though indeed he
saw them there.)  'These words are made true this day in me, who am
here a witness unto my Lord God, His angels and you men.  I--'

But before he could continue, the shrill high voice of Francis
Knollys broke in:

'Confess your treason, man!  Confess your treason, man!' he
shouted.

Robin turned, raising his fists at the interruption, and it was
then that, even in his own absorption, he was able to notice Henry
Walpole.  He had thought this young man always a light-weighted
companion, gentle-minded and amusing, but worth no more than the
flick of a coin.  He saw that now his face was transformed, his
eyes burning above his dark cheeks, his lips moving as though in
prayer.

Campion, turning and looking at Knollys and the group beside him,
said:  'As to the treasons which have been laid to my charge and
for which I am come here to suffer, I desire you all to bear
witness with me that I am thereof altogether innocent.'

It was clear that this question of treason was of root importance--
the relation between religious belief and plotting against the
State--and voices called out everywhere:  'Treason!  Treason!'  And
'No Treason!  No Treason!'--and these cries were, on this grey
weeping morning, perhaps the first expression of the new battle for
the freedom of the people that was, almost at once, to be fully
joined.

A thick heavily-befurred man near Knollys, a member of the Council,
cried out:  ''Tis too late.  Treason was proved in the Court.'

Some man in the crowd called out:  'Nay!  Nay! . . .  Not proven!
Not proven!'

Then Campion's voice, with its patience and sweetness, again was
heard:

'Well, my Lord, I am a Catholic man and a priest; in that faith I
have lived and in that faith I intend to die.  If you esteem my
religion treason, then am I guilty; as for other treason I never
committed any, God is my judge.  But you have now what you desire.
I beseech you to have patience and suffer me to speak a word or two
for discharge of my conscience.'

There then began a fearful time of agitation.  It was as though the
nerves of everyone about the scaffold were excited to madness.  The
gentlemen--Knollys and Lee and the rest--began shouting furiously
all together, shaking their fists, especially Knollys, like madmen.
Henry Walpole and Robin were drawn close together until they almost
touched.  They stood, leaning forward, their young bodies strung as
though they would leap in the air, their eyes deep in Campion's
body.

The great crowd beyond was now lusting for blood.  It was roaring
for the execution to proceed that it might come to the quarterings.
Campion's voice could now only faintly be heard.  He asked
forgiveness of anyone whom, during his examination, he might have
compromised, and he forgave the jury that had condemned him.  He
turned especially to Knollys, who seemed to be suddenly quiet and
sombre, and asked him to spare one Richardson, who had never
possessed, as Campion was himself aware, a book that was said to
have been found in his luggage.

Knollys, frowning, stared at him and said no word.  It was as
though he had been apprised of some serious news concerning himself
that had taken his thoughts away.

A schoolmaster named Hearne stood forward on the scaffold and read
to the crowd a proclamation in the Queen's name, shouting out that
this execution was for treason not religion, upon which the crowd
broke into every sort of reply.  Some of the Council, Lee and
others, were still bawling questions up to Campion about the Bull
of Excommunication and other points in the trial, but Campion heard
them no longer.  His face was raised to heaven.  He was lost in
prayer.  The pale sun shone on him a little and on the coarse rope
of the noose.

A thin fanatic-looking Anglican clergyman stepped to the very edge
of the scaffold and cried out to him that he might direct his
prayers.

Campion looked at him and very gently shook his head.

'Sir,' he said (and now all the crowd was quiet and every word came
clearly), 'you and I are not one in religion, wherefore I pray you
content yourself.  I bar none of prayer; but I only desire them
that are of the household of faith to pray with me, and in my agony
to say one creed.'

Someone called out to him to pray in English, but he answered,
smiling:  'I will pray God in a language which you and I both well
understand.'

There were shouts again and the befurred Councillor called out in a
thick pompous voice that he should ask the Queen's forgiveness.

Campion said:  'Wherein have I offended the Queen?  In this I am
surely innocent.  This is my last speech.  In this give me at least
credit--I have and do pray for her.'

But Lord Howard cried:  'Which Queen?  Which Queen do you pray
for?'

And Campion answered in a firm strong voice:  'Yea, for Elizabeth,
your Queen and my Queen, unto whom I wish a long quiet reign with
all prosperity.'

At that same instant the executioner gave a sign and the cart was
driven forward from under him.  The body jerked, and almost at once
seemed to be lifeless, the neck broken.  But it was the law for the
executioner to cut the body down while there was still life in it.
One of the twisted legs jerked.  The man commenced to climb the
ladder.

Then unexpectedly the officer in charge called out:  'Not till the
body be dead.  I have directions.'  There was an awful pause while
the body swayed lightly to and fro.  There was a complete silence
everywhere, save that someone could be heard sobbing.  The pause
seemed endless: time stood still.

The officer gave the sign.  The body was cut down and instantly
stripped.  It lay there, white and clean, the eyes staring, the
head on one side.

The executioner took his knife and began to mark for the
quartering.  At the first stroke blood spirted.  Robin felt
something wet on his cheek and he saw Henry Walpole raise his
handkerchief, touch his face and then hold the handkerchief, blood-
stained, looking at it.

Robin, not knowing what he said nor to whom he spoke, cried out:

'But the body is nothing! . . .  The pains of the body are no
matter!'

He turned, his head bent, and pushed his way, as it seemed, through
darkness.


END OF PART II




PART III

THE PRISONERS



YOUNG ROSAMUND


Rosamund Herries was born in May 1566 and was therefore over
eighteen years of age in the early autumn of this year 1584.  She
had been living now for a whole year as companion to Sylvia Irvine
in the little house that the Irvines had near Charing Cross.

THAT had happened most unexpectedly.  As she came in one fine
morning from exercising her dogs, her mother had said to her:

'A horseman has left this letter for you.'

'A letter--for ME?' she had answered, incredulous.

But there it was.  It was from Sylvia Herries.


MY DEAR ROSAMUND--For so I may call you, may I not?  Many many
years ago (as it seems) you told me on our very first meeting that
at any time you would serve me.  And later, you sent a message by a
friend promising the same.

I am now much alone, for my husband is busy much of the time with
Mary of Scotland's business.  London is none too merry in one's own
company and I have had the thought that you might care to keep me
company for awhile in this town.  There are things that you might
do for me.  I need a friend.  Ask your father and your mother and
tell me how they find this.--Your friend and well-wisher

                                              SYLVIA IRVINE.


Rosamund sat looking at this, lost in a dream.  So the call had
come!  She had always known that it would.  She had been aware at
the first moment of seeing her in that dreadful house that they
were in some way bound together.

She told her mother.  This family--Guy, Rosemary and Rosamund--was
quite unlike other Elizabethan families.  At that time, and for
long after, the family discipline was brutal.  Children were beaten
for the slightest error, girls tied to bedposts, boys fastened to
the stable door.  All this was, in the strange fashion of English
habit and thought, mingled with kindliness, indulgence, laughter,
song, dance, and a great deal of eating and drinking: much fine
education in Latin, Greek, mathematics, music, sewing, housewifery,
outdoor exercise also.  But there was a deep gulf fixed between
parents and children.

But Guy was an artist.  He was of the Bohemian Herries variety and
so his wife and child were part of himself.  Rosamund's education
had been lop-sided, but she had picked up a deal of useful learning
both outdoors and in.

Her mother and father said at once:

'They say it is a very unhappy house.'

'I heard of it at Bucking from Agatha,' Rosamund said.

'Poor thing!' Rosemary sighed.  She was so happy in her own married
life that it seemed to her most unjust that everyone else should
not be so.

But the issue was settled from the first moment, for if Rosamund
wished to go she should go, and of course Rosamund wished to go.
Then, at seventeen, she was still coltish and still plain.  Her
hair, do what she would, was colourless and lacklustre; her nose
would be for ever snub, and her complexion, although no longer
pasty, was that of a girl who lived for ever out of doors--brown
and without paint or powder.  One evening she had dressed herself
in an old Court dress of her mother's, rouged her cheeks and put on
a patch in the fashion that Anne Boleyn started.  She had come in
to where her father was painting and her mother embroidering, and
curtsied and flounced about and danced with her long legs.  How
they had laughed!  There was something exquisitely absurd in this
long-legged, brown-faced, snub-nosed girl acting the Court lady.
And Rosamund had laughed too.  Then suddenly she had burst into
tears, knelt down, hid her face in her mother's lap.  It was so
very rare to see her cry that they had been greatly upset.

She had wiped her eyes, blown her nose, grinned at them, blinked
her wet eyelashes.

'I shall never be a Court lady.  No man will ever love me.  I shall
die an old mottled milkmaid.'

Her mother looking fondly at her had thought:  'Her eyes.  She has
beautiful eyes.  But why SHOULD she be so plain?  Neither her
father nor I--'  And then she had gone up to her, and, as though
asking her forgiveness for some unexpected infidelity, had caught
her in her arms and held her--'My darling, my darling'--and
Rosamund had shaken herself free, for demonstrations made her feel
awkward, and had laughed and wrinkled her nose in a way that she
had, and had done a very clever imitation of a snobbish Court lady
saying to Rosemary:  'I fear no young man will venture for your
daughter--she has so plain a nose.'  And Rosemary proudly
answering:  'Such noses are the only thing at Court.  All Frenchmen
wear them.'

It was in fact very seldom that Rosamund was unhappy.  She had not
the temperament for unhappiness.

It seemed to have little to do with reason or event whether she
were happy or no.  On the most disastrous occasions her happiness
remained untouched by circumstance.  There had been the awful
evening when, crossing Hopleet Moor, she had been stopped by a
large man with a sword who had tried to rape her.  She WOULD have
been raped--he had turned her on her back in the grass and torn
most of her clothes off her--had the old Witch of Mailing not come
up, out of the dusk, her head crowned with daisies, and stuck the
man in the groin with her knife and raised such a screeching that
the ruffian had limped away in desperate panic.

Five minutes after that horrible adventure Rosamund had laughed
because she remembered the terrific scratching she had given the
man with her nails.

But then she was fearless.  She really did not know where fear lay.
(She would of course one day know.)  Her father, who adored her,
said that she had four great qualities: courage, fearlessness,
humour, kindliness.

Nevertheless her mother and father and one or two villagers--the
Witch of Mailing included--were her only admirers.  She did not
attract people, and that not only because she was plain.  Very much
because she said so exactly what was in her mind.

As she grew older she visited London.  She also stayed with Agatha
and Edward Herries.  Agatha told her very frankly that it simply
did not do to say what you thought.

'You must learn to be complimental,' Agatha Herries instructed her.
'You must lie kindly and for good fashion's sake.  You must have
fine phrases set together which shall serve equally for all men.
You must encourage a man so he shall make proffers to you and say
that he will do anything for you.  Of course he will not, but at
least you must give him the pleasant chance to say so.  You must
never exact the performance of his promises afterwards, for that he
will think ill-breeding.  You must remember that a gentleman wishes
to be kind at the first even though you know him for nothing
afterward.  You must give him his fair opportunity.'

But poor Rosamund was quite out in all this.  If a fine young
London man was euphemistically exaggerated to her she could not
help but laugh, especially if he praised her looks, of which she
knew she had none.  She did not want lovers because her heart had
been faithful for so many years to Nicholas that it could not now
change.  But, although she did not want lovers, she would not have
minded if she were beautiful.

Her common sense was always getting in her way.  Her heart was
readily moved by distress but never by humbug.  And, as she grew,
she found there was a great deal of humbug in the world.  Thinking
her mother and father perfect gave her a severe testing-mark for
other human beings, and she found them often wanting.

She had no conceit of herself at all, and when one or another told
her her faults she considered the charge good-humouredly, and often
acknowledged it.  She had a hasty temper, but her fiery quality was
never sulky.  This fire sprang up in everything--fire of admiration
and love and loyalty, fire of indignation, fire of love of beauty,
fire of physical energy.  She often spoke too quickly so that she
offended, and moved too quickly so that she was ungainly and found
herself in a ludicrous situation.

She had read a great deal, knew both Greek and Latin well,
something of mathematics, something of philosophy.  She liked to
talk with someone speculatively--her father often--and had caught a
good deal of his free-thinking amoral mind.  She passionately loved
her country, thought that it could never be in the wrong, and
detested all foreigners who plotted, or were suspected of plotting,
against it.

With all this, her happiness, her vitality, her eagerness and
interest in everything and everybody, she was, in her deepest
heart, aware of a constant loneliness.  This was, in part, because
she loved a man who never gave her a thought, whom, indeed, she
scarcely ever saw.  But it was more than that.  Save for her mother
and father she had no real friend in all the world.

It was therefore with all the eagerness of her heart, the vitality
of her body, the happiness of her nature that she took up this
invitation from Sylvia Irvine.  It was the precise thing that her
situation needed.



And then what a change!  From the sunlit, open, free, loving life
of her own home she moved into this silent, mysterious house.  The
house itself was neither dark nor silent.  Philip Irvine had more
wealth now and had left his horrible old mother behind him in the
country, showing a callous selfishness to that old woman's
melancholy loneliness.

The house was bright with curtains and wall-paintings and handsome
pieces of furniture.  It was bright--and modern and dead.  At once
Rosamund detested two persons in the house: one was Captain
Winterset, whom she remembered from her old visit; the other was
Phineas Thatcher, whom Philip had engaged after Henry Herries'
death.  (Henry Herries had died two years before this.)  Winterset
was falling into the corruption that drink and women and all bad
habits produce in a man after middle age.  He had a flourish once
and again of his earlier, more gallant brigandage.  He was haunted
now by a real obsession about Nicholas Herries, whom he constantly,
in and out of his cups, abused.  'He had once,' he told Rosamund,
'three good men of mine ambushed and falsely slain.'

She looked at him with disgust:  'Nicholas was never false in any
act or deed.'

'Well, you ask Philip.  It was in the North.'

Winterset never resented her behaviour to him.  He admired her.
She gave some life to the cursed place, he said.  He was so often
besotted now that Philip would not take him on his expeditions
away; so he hung about the house, sleeping, cursing, calling to the
dogs, trying to tickle the maids.  He cried sometimes for self-
pity.

Phineas Thatcher saw to the accounts and the running of the house.
He was also, as Rosamund very quickly found, a spy for Philip.
Perversely enough this mean, bitter, slippered, secret-moving
Puritan also liked Rosamund.  He liked her because she was plain
and, yet more perversely, because she was honest.  It was perhaps a
rest and refreshment for him to find a human being in that house
who was precisely the same as appearance.  There was another thing.
Rosamund was not afraid of him.  Everyone else in that house--even
Philip--was.  It was a relief to him not to be feared although to
BE feared was his constant aim and preoccupation.

However, there were only two people in the house for Rosamund--
Sylvia and Philip.  Philip was away during her first month there
and on the second day Robin Herries paid a visit.  Within five
minutes of his arrival Rosamund had caught a look between the pair.
Before the night was out Sylvia had told her everything: how they
had been lovers for years now, how they hated the secrecy, the
furtiveness, the falsehood, but how their mutual love did not die
but ever increased; how they had once planned to run away together,
but how the plan had been stopped, first because Sylvia thought
that she was going to have a child (and did not), afterwards
because (this was in 1581) they had tried to part, Robin had gone
abroad, but the effort had been in vain . . . they COULD not
part . . . now a kind of paralysis seemed to hold them together.

Did Philip know?  Of course he knew, had known since the very first
act of infidelity.  He had been aware of that at once--Sylvia was
sure because he had alluded to a certain jewel she had worn in her
hat.  Someone must have seen her at the time and told him.

Why had Philip during all this time done nothing?  Because he hated
herself and Robin, loved to feel his power over them both,
prolonged his vengeance, and was waiting patiently for the time
when he would kill them both.  When once he had satisfied his
vengeance, why, then his power would be over too.  Sylvia clung to
Rosamund, crying that she, Rosamund, had no idea of Philip's subtle
devilish wickedness.  Philip WAS the Devil; he was in league with
the Devil, and so on and so on. . . .

At first, after all this, Rosamund felt nothing but contempt for
both Sylvia and Robin.  With her own outright nature she could not
understand this secrecy and cowardice.  But soon she saw that Robin
was not to be despised.  There were only two ways out for him: to
carry Sylvia away before the world, to challenge Philip.  Both,
quite certainly, would lead to Sylvia's death, and to a death in
some shameful, horrible fashion.

Sylvia was safe only so long as the situation was not exposed.  But
Robin's nature was deteriorating under the secrecy and subterfuge.
He was a most unhappy man.

Then, when Philip did return, Rosamund was surprised to discover
that he was no monster after all.  He was a crude, ill-brought-up,
vain, frustrated egoist.  He was eaten up with pride--pride of
himself and his looks, pride of his family, pride of his position,
pride of everything that was his.  He was even proud in a kind of
way of Sylvia although he hated her, and proud of his apparent
friendship with Robin Herries who knew the Court wits and wrote
poetry and was considered 'interesting' and 'mysterious.'  He was
proud of Sylvia and Robin and of his power over them, and he hated
them.  But he did not mind their going to bed together so long as
it was not spoken of publicly.  Oddly, it was NOT spoken of
publicly.

He liked Rosamund as everyone else in the house did.  He poured out
to her his confidences.  She listened to him with great amusement.
It was clear that this was something quite new to him.  He expected
fear, reverence, admiration--but amusement!

He had become by now, at the age of forty, a very definite
'character.'  He was extremely thin and held himself erect with
almost unnatural precision.  His very black hair and dark cheeks
made him like a posturing Spaniard.  He dressed always in black or
silver, with high stiff ruffs, one or two fine jewels, and a jewel-
hilted poniard.  He liked to stand, very straight and stiff, his
face a stern mask, only his eyes alive in it; his hand on his
dagger.  If someone then approached him he would answer in a grave
low monosyllable--so low that some people never heard what he said
and complained of it.  He considered himself marvellous in
everything that he did--dancing, fencing, riding, tilting; he never
entered into learned discussions about the arts, the philosophies,
religion.  He pretended to a deep knowledge that he did not wish to
expose, but in reality he knew that such kingdoms were not his to
command.

Nevertheless he was not at all a fool, as Rosamund soon discovered.
He commanded respect from those who served under him, and his
vanity gave him an added quickness in those things that assisted
it.  When his pride was offended he could wait long and patiently
for his revenge.  It was really true that he could not forgive an
injury, and like all very vain persons he found it quite impossible
to understand that there should be anyone blind to his merits.  The
principal reason (among many) why he hated Nicholas Herries was
that he knew that Nicholas despised him.  He hated Robin but felt
it easy and even pleasant to be in his company because he was sure
that Robin feared him, if not for his own sake then certainly for
Sylvia's.

So into his sombre and proud self-centredness there came this
unusual girl who was always moving and laughing, who was learned
and could discuss Latin poets and even herself write poetry, who
was afraid of nobody.  He liked her because he was able to
patronize her; he patronized her because she seemed to him so
plain, even ugly, and he was quite amazed when Winterset muttered
one day:  'Her eyes are fires and her shape most inviting.'

He posed to her as a weary, deep-bottomed man of affairs, lonely,
but trusted with the kingdom's secrets.  He stood, his thin legs
close together, pulling at his little peaked black beard, while
Rosamund sat at a table trying to write to her father.

'I interrupt you?'

'You do.'

'Then I will go away.'  But he didn't move; only stood looking at
her.  'You are writing to your father?'

'I am.'

'You seem to be for ever busied.  I go away for three weeks,
leaving you busied, and return and find you still busied.'

She put down her pen and looked up at him, brushing what she
angrily called her 'tallow hair' back from her forehead.  She was
smiling at him as though she mocked him.

'What age are you?'

'Eighteen.'

'And I am forty--and yet you laugh at me.'

'I laugh at myself also.'

'Ah, that is because you are but eighteen.  If someone else laughed
at me I should be very angry.  Why am I not angry with you?'

'Because you know that it would make no difference to me whether
you were angry or not.'

'Yes.  You are not afraid of me.  So many are.'  He sighed.  His
sigh was ridiculous, and yet, at that precise moment, she was aware
of how evil and how dangerous he might be.

'I am unfortunate,' he went on, almost as though he were reciting a
lesson.  'I am very lonely man.  Whether I am here in my own house
or about the affairs of the Court it is the same.  I have a wife
who does not love me and no friend in the world.'

This was the first time that he had spoken of Sylvia to Rosamund.
She said quickly:  'You pay Sylvia no attention.  She also is very
lonely.'

To her surprise he answered quietly:  'It could have been otherwise--
had we a child.'  He went on:  'I am a tenacious man of what I
have.  And that is right.  I am worthy of what I hold.  I have done
everything for myself.  I am now one of Her Majesty's most trusted
servants in the matter of Mary of Scotland.  And who has made this?
I, myself.  No one has assisted me in anything.  I am not vain.  I
claim only what is right.  I know my enemies.  I can wait.  I am
content to be by myself.  I am a man on my own legs. . . .'  And
then he added, almost beseechingly:  'And yet you mock me.'

How strange a human being, she thought, so dangerous and so
childlike both together!

'I think you take yourself too gravely,' she answered.  'I say that
for your own sake.  I find that if one regards oneself in a serious
looking-glass the solemn picture is a little absurd.'

'I am misunderstood,' he said, sighing again.

'So am I.  So is everyone,' she said, getting up from the table.
She went close up to him.  'Look at me!  Am I not plain?'

He stared at her very solemnly.  Yes, she WAS plain: there were two
freckles on her right cheek; her nose was short and rather
humorous.  But what woman wanted a humorous nose?  She had the
complexion of a horse-boy and did nothing to improve it.  Her eyes
were fine, as Winterset had said--bright as fire, sparkling, both
deep and laughing . . . and her shape was comely, her breasts small
and firm.  He touched her breasts.  She moved back, and her eyes
that he had admired were, for a moment, angry and threatening.  She
was virginal.  She was not to be touched.  Or by one man alone.  In
that withdrawal she insulted his pride and he hated her.  But not
for long.  He sought her company again.  She was the only one in
that dreary house who was not afraid of him.  Even Winterset and
Thatcher were never sure of what he might do to them.  He was not
sure himself.

It was a strange house for a young girl fresh from the country.
Nothing was stranger than the girl's relation with Sylvia.
Rosamund's father and mother had been, above all things, healthy
and normal.  Sylvia was, by now, neither healthy nor normal.  That
first night at Drunning had given her a shock from which she would
never recover.  Her love for Robin was noble in so far as it was
whole-hearted, self-sacrificing, but it had a quality of madness in
it.

The madness came from her fear.  Just as Robin was afraid of what
Philip might do to Sylvia, so Sylvia was afraid of what Philip
might do to Robin.  She was afraid too lest Robin might suddenly
leave her, for Robin was religious.  Sylvia understood nothing
about religion at all.  She was a complete pagan.  If there was a
God He would not have allowed her to marry Philip.  He would not
have allowed most of the horrors and cruelties that she saw in the
world and that followed her in her dreams at night.

There was no God, but Robin believed that there was.  After
Campion's execution Robin had come to her and said that he must
never see her again.  They had parted and he had gone abroad.
Sylvia had thought that she would kill herself or Philip or both.
She had done nothing.  Robin had returned and they had come
together as inevitably as the key to the magnet.  But this God-
nonsense had not left Robin alone.  One day it would be too strong
for her.  So between the Devil which was Philip and the Devil which
was Robin's God she lived in perpetual fear.

Rosamund had never had closely to do with a haunted nerve-jangled
woman who had, nevertheless, sweetness enough to force you to love
her.  Here her deep-seated maternal instinct helped her.  Sylvia
became Rosamund's child although Sylvia was twelve years older than
Rosamund.

Sylvia poured everything out.  There were no sexual reticences.
All the horrors of that first night were laid bare; these and other
later incidents soon showed Rosamund that Philip was not merely a
posing egoist.  That was one reason why she had started away from
him at his touch.  Girls at eighteen then were often no virgins.
They were mothers at fifteen often enough.  Rosamund was not
shocked by the things that Sylvia told her.  Only a great
tenderness and solicitude developed in her--a tenderness that was
never to die.  It extended also to Robin.

It extended also to herself.  Shut up in this house with all this
sexual smoke making the rooms and stairs murky and heavy-laden, she
longed for the other kind of life--the life that was really hers--
free, brilliantly clear, strong-winged, with all things open and
manifest.  Nicholas Herries stood to her for the whole of that.
She saw him very seldom.  He came, of course, never to Philip's
house.  She met him with Edward and Agatha.  They had two children,
Janet aged eight and Martha six, solemn little girls with whom he
delighted to be.  She went, with Sylvia, on one memorable day to
Mallory and saw how he was king of the place.

They sat on the lawn, drank syllabub and sang madrigals while the
moon like a stamped gold plate rose over the clipped hedges, and
the nightingale sang.  Even Sylvia was gay and happy that summer
evening.  But Rosamund had no word alone with Nicholas; he joked
with her once or twice, and once he looked at her, laughing, while
he stood with Edward's little girls on his shoulders, a giant
against the moon.  But she saw that he did not regard her
separately from the rest.

She was quite content if she could but see him.  She did not expect
anything apart from that.



Then a miracle occurred.

It happened on a day in summer that a Lady Ferris, a Court friend
of Sylvia's, made up a party to go to the village of Islington.
This was a place for fashionable people to visit, not only because
the gravel soil made it healthy nor because the village was itself
pleasantly rustic and picturesque, but because the brick-kilns
there attracted for their labour rascals and vagabonds who were
sometimes sufficiently tiresome to make the expedition adventurous.
On this occasion there were no adventures of that kind, although
some wild men with their women did gather and ask for food, but
there WAS an adventure for Rosamund.  Nicholas was there.

He was of course unmistakable at once, towering above everyone on
his horse, and his laugh could be heard from one end of the village
to the other.

They picnicked on the edge of a little wood, some dozen of them.
There was the usual noise and three men sang madrigals, and
afterwards, for the gentlemen, a dog-fight was arranged.

For Rosamund there was only Nicholas.  She was sitting a little
apart, staring before her at the sun-misted scene; she was sleepy,
for they had ridden a long way and had been up early.

She heard Nicholas' voice as in a dream.  He had sat down beside
her.  His hand was on her arm.

She turned, looked at him, took in every detail of him and was
never afterwards to forget the smallest thing.  He was dressed
grandly, for he had ridden out with Sir Christopher Hatton and some
Court ladies.

Rosamund looked at his peascod doublet of white silk banded with
gold.  He wore a turned-down white collar in place of a ruff.  His
Venetians were of grey and gold brocade and set off his thighs most
handsomely.  He had white openwork stockings, a short surcoat of
black velvet lined with sable.  His hat was black velvet with an
osprey and a jewel.

Such grand clothes must look awkward on so big a man, and
effeminate against the ruddy brown of his cheeks and hands.  They
were fancy, easily soiled gaieties for a country outing, but she
noticed at once that they suited him as though they were born with
him, and, although he lay on the grass beside her, he was careful
to spread his dark cloak to protect him.

'I am dressed like a zany,' he said ruefully, 'but, to tell you
truth, I bought these things but last week and was eager to see how
they looked.  What do you say, cousin?'

'I think of you always in a hay-cart with your arms bare and your
neck open.  I saw you once at a ball.  You were very grand then.'

She knew that he was looking at her curiously.  He was the one man
in the world who could make her confused.  She too was dressed with
elegance, and fine clothes never suited her--only she liked her
hat, which had a curled brim like a man's, a row of small pearls
about the bottom of the crown and a panache of ostrich feathers set
at the back.

But his curiosity went further than her clothes.

'Why is it that we do not meet more often?' he asked.

'You are at Mallory.  I must be with Sylvia.'

'Ah, Sylvia. . . .'  He looked across to Sylvia, who was sitting
with Christopher Hatton.  'Poor Sylvia. . . .'

'Why do you say that?'

'Is she not?  Married to the meanest man in Christendom.'

'He hates you too,' she said quickly.  She had an odd desire to
defend Philip: she could not imagine why.

'Of course.  We are centuries-old enemies.  He sent five men to
murder me once in the North.'

'I have heard of that.  Winterset said that you ambushed him.'

Nicholas laughed.  He heaved his great body up and stretched his
arms.  'These clothes pinch me.  I dare not stretch my legs for
fear of splitting the Venetians.  Winterset--' he repeated
reflectively, 'so he speaks of me.'

'Yes.  He is always thinking of you.  And not with love.'

They both laughed.  She wondered how much he knew of Sylvia and
Robin.  Everything, she supposed.

'We waste our time,' he said.

He sighed, a terrific sigh.

'I am always wasting my time.  And yet once I did not think so.
What age do you think I am?'

She could not help herself.  She stared into his face, which had
always seemed to her the most beautiful face in the world.  It was
not beautiful, of course, at all, only frank, sun-tanned and, even
now, like a boy's.

'I know.  You are forty.'

'How do you know?'

'I have always known.  I know your birthday and once I thought I
would send you a present for it.'

'A present?'

'Yes, I had a puppy.  A wolf-hound.  I thought it would be the very
thing for you.'

'And so it would.  Why did you not send it?'

'I wanted it for myself.'

He laughed at that.  It was not the answer he had expected.

'I like you, cousin.  We shall be friends.'

'I would be very glad.  I have not so very many.'

'Nor I.  Not in reality.  I am forty and have done nothing.'

She said nothing.

'Well--why do you not tell me that I have done everything?  Most
women would.  I have made Mallory into the finest estate in the
county.  I have two farms, the best cattle.'  He stopped.  'Oh,
Lord!  You are right.  I have done nothing.'

'I did not say so.'

He laughed.  'Your silences are most eloquent.  Do you never say
what you don't mean?'

She laughed too.  'I try to.  But I am discovered.  Agatha is
always telling me that I have no good fortune with strangers
because I am not false enough.'

'Does it matter to you?'

'No.  Except that I am lonely one time and another.'  She
considered that he might think her self-pitying,' so she went on:
'I have my own pleasures.'  She said this so primly and like a
little girl that he laughed again.

'Tell me what your life is.'

She considered; then looked away from him out into the sunny air.

'I have two lives--as I suppose everyone must.  One works on
strings and pulleys and golden wires.  You can see it working.
That is the life of getting up in the morning, washing, putting on
your clothes; seeing how Sylvia may be, walking with her or riding,
talking, laughing, eating again, touching things, hard, soft,
seeing colours, feeling your body that it aches, that blood is
always moving, that the heart beats, jumps, beats again, that the
end of the third finger is numb, that you want to have your waist
pressed, that this seat is hard, that your hair is heavy on your
head--and so you eat again and take off your clothes, and lie on
this side, then on that, and sleep.

'But the other life--it is something very different.  It has no
material boundary, nothing is hard or soft, there is no time there
and space is without limit.  You change as you live.  You grow and
you retract.  You have a history under direction, and yet you are
free also.  You are only conscious of your body as, beyond the wall
of your room, you are conscious of the weather, the rain, the sun.

'Sometimes you use your body as a pulley, as time uses the
mechanism of a watch to make itself clear.  You have there mind but
no brain.  You are in embryo but a distinct figure.  You are You
but also timeless and personless--as a fly is in amber, only you
are free.  As a bird is in a cage, only you also fly in the light.
There are two lives.  One is eternal. . . .'

She had lost all consciousness of him as she spoke, looking out
into a faint blue sky that was the more limitless because of the
gold haze that fretted it.  She spoke only the result of her
childish philosophy after all she had read and thought and talked
with her father.  She had never, as yet, in all her life, met a
first-rate intellect.

Nicholas didn't understand a word of it.  He thought she was very
clever and in general he greatly disliked clever women because as
soon as they showed their cleverness he was sure that they despised
him.  But this girl was different.  She had no bodily attraction
for him at all, but already he delighted in her frankness and
honesty and directness.  She did not know that she was being
clever.

HE tried now to be clever.

'Of those two selves--'  But he stopped, grinning.  'I am only one
self and a big coarse one at that.  I have no thought except that
here I am at forty and am not satisfied.  No, by Jesu, I am most
DIS-satisfied!  What have I done but use my body?'  He took off his
beautiful hat.  'Here am I in black and white, but naked I am
nothing except for procreation, and even that I cannot do between
legitimate sheets.'

She looked at him with great seriousness.

'You must marry for Mallory's sake.'

'Whom shall I marry?'

'Someone most lovely, with a body like Leda's and the charity and
sweetness of Psyche, but not the foolish inquisitiveness, the
regality of Juno, lovelier than Venus.'

'You exaggerate my worth,' he said.  Then he went quickly on:  'I
am going to tell you something I never speak of and no one knows
save my brother and my man Armstrong.  For year upon year now I
have loved someone I shall never have.  I have not seen her for a
very long time--I do not know whether she is alive or dead.  She is
the daughter of a witch!'

'A witch?'

Rosamund's lips parted and she stared at him with wide eyes,
looking a wondering half-frightened child.

'A German witch.  She lives in Cumberland in North England where
the lakes and mountains are.  I think she has herself bewitched me.
Such things can be, you know, for I have been a man always to take
what I want.  But I have not taken her.  I have scarcely kissed
her.  Many a time I will be working in the fields or half sleeping
by the fire or kissing another woman and I will see her as though
she were at my side.  Sometimes I am driven North and I see her,
but all to no purpose.'

'And she?'

'She loves me too, but she says that she will marry no man because
there is so much evil in her inheritance.  It is certain that her
mother is a witch.  I have seen her fly through the air . . . or
have I?  What have I seen?  It is hard to say.'

Rosamund had an absolute belief in witches like anyone else of her
time, and the thought that her beloved Nicholas could be so close
to a witch's daughter appalled her.  She even put her hand on his
handsome surcoat and drew him a little closer.

'Perhaps she will do some evil to you.'

He felt her alarm and touched her cheek as he would a younger
sister's.

'Never.  Never.  She is as good as God's Bread.  I think that one
day she will save me instead of hurt me.'

Rosamund was aware of a new sensation in her veins--jealousy.  She
had never been jealous of anyone before.  She hated this witch's
daughter.

'When they throw spells they make you believe them.  She feels
herself that she is evil.  She told you so.'

He put his arm round her waist and drew her close to him.  She
could feel his heart thump against her breast.

'Rest quiet, little cousin.  If you knew her you would see her as I
do.'

Rosamund pulled herself away.  She was so angry that she could have
smacked his face.  She wished to get up and run away.  She wished
to cry.  She wished . . .  Then she looked at him and loved him so
dearly and so truly that she could only suddenly kiss his brown
cheek, turn, spring to her feet and walk, with great dignity, she
hoped, across the green turf to Sylvia.



THE BURNING


Gilbert Armstrong showed at times a sudden restlessness which
Nicholas, by now, because he knew him so well, instantly perceived.

Gilbert loved Mallory and, now that it was a really grand place
with two big farms, cattle famous all over the South of England,
wonderful orchards and dairies, he had plenty to do as Nicholas'
overseer.  Nicholas' overseer?  He was part of Nicholas.  He too
was growing to middle-aged girth and rotundity.  His brown face was
as Nicholas', his voice had the depth but not the chuckle of
Nicholas' voice.  He looked, beside Nicholas, a short stubby man,
but he was, in reality, six foot in height.  He was broad of
shoulder and back and thigh, and as strong as any man within fifty
miles, but Nicholas could still pick him up and hold him in mid-air
with one huge hand.  He was easy-tempered as a rule but given to
sudden flashes of quite furious temper.  He liked women and they
liked him, but he showed no tendency to marriage.  When, with his
blue eye and friendly smile, he looked at a woman she was in his
arms in no long time.  There were three children in the village he
was said to be the father of.  But these things were incidental.
He was Nicholas' man.  No one really existed for him but Nicholas.
He was like a one-master dog.  Anything that Nicholas suggested to
him to do he would do, however criminal.  By good fortune Nicholas
had no very evil suggestions.

Sometimes, when he was lying in his bed early of a morning, with
his arms stretched behind his head, he wondered at this subjection.
Until he met Nicholas he had been a very independent man, owning no
real master and thinking that he would never own one.  It was not
that he did not see Nicholas clearly--he knew his faults of
immaturity and hasty decisions and lechery (only now that was dying
in him) and occasional vainglory.  These things were small.  To
Gilbert Armstrong, Nicholas Herries was simply the king of men.  He
was perhaps what Gilbert, as a small lad, had dreamed of as the
perfect, strong, conquering master of men.  But it went deeper than
this.  Gilbert Armstrong belonged to Nicholas Herries as though he
were the beat of his heart inside the jerkin, as though he were the
rough hair on his chest.

When they were separated Gilbert was incomplete.  His actions were
at half-vigour.  In his movements there was a kind of blindness.
And of course this developed with the years.  No two human beings
can live for so long together in perfect harmony, trust and
friendship without becoming part of one another.  Nicholas was
kindly to everyone, generous-hearted, incautious, trusting, happy-
spirited--all the things that Armstrong loved in a man.  But
Nicholas was often deceived, and sometimes helpless in a bargain
and foolish with money so that he needed someone to protect him.
And this Gilbert Armstrong, who was in many ways older than
Nicholas and wiser, loved to do.  Armstrong felt like Nicholas'
friend, his brother and his father, never his servant.

Yet, with all this, there came times when Gilbert was restless and
longed for the North.  Although he liked the life at Mallory, and
enjoyed trips to London, yet the South Country was always foreign
to him.  The South was for him like something a little artificial,
but the North was clean and fresh; no one had done anything to the
North.  The mountain streams ran as though they were running for
the first time.  The turf on the Tops was like soil that God had
made only that very forenoon; even the Herdwick sheep were sheep so
real that they had never worried to look handsome or clean their
fleece.  They had no purpose but to be faithful to the ground where
they belonged.

Gilbert would wake of a morning at Mallory and see the red bed-
hangings and the pewter jug and basin and the view beyond the
window of the herb-garden beyond the lawn.  It was all as neat and
tidy as a doll's garden.  He would smell peat and sheep-dung and
see the silver break of stream-water over washed stone.  He would
see a buzzard beating its great wings over Derwentwater.  He would
watch its track from Upper Eskdale to Grasmere--through the gap
between Bowfell and Crinkle Crags, or from Tilberthwaite to Fell
Foot, then north towards the Langdale Pikes, by Blea Tarn to the
head of Langdale.  Then for Grasmere by Stickle Tarn, over Pavey
Ark, descending by Easedale Tarn.  He would say these names,
strengthened by hundreds of years of use, aloud, and suddenly he
would spring out of bed and splash his body with water and, clothed
but not in his right mind, walk off he knew not where.  When such a
fit came on him Nicholas sent him up to Keswick.

For Keswick itself Gilbert had a passion.  He had always thought of
the little town as a person, a living being in whose effort to grow
and be a power he had a loving interest.  He knew something of its
history, a wise old harness-maker, now dead, having talked to him
when he was a boy.  Old Kittlecrop had hunted up little scraps of
history about 'Kesewic,' which meant 'cheese dairy,' and how in
1276 it was granted a right to hold a weekly market and how angry
the men of Cockermouth were.  How also he himself had found remains
of an Ancient British village near Crosthwaite Church and how the
Normans had set that church near the same British village.  There
were the Druids' Stones, and Roman coins to be found in Borrowdale,
where the village of Grange was so ancient that old priests of
fearful religions still haunted the tumbling stream.  He liked to
sit above that stream with young Gilbert and show him how every
civilization in turn had passed over that rough strong little
bridge.

'The heart of all civilization is here--here in Keswick.  This is
the centre of the whole world and there is no place anywhere that
is more congregated by ghosts and devils and the haunting shadows
of great men gone.'

Much nonsense, of course, but all the same Gilbert could never
return to that little grey stone town and stand in the Square
(always making one think, in some way, of a foreign Continental
place) without feeling that, from the surrounding dark mountains--
Skiddaw purple and Blencathra ebony; Keswick, struck by sunlight,
glittering against the dark; and the rushing crystal-clear streams--
strange presences and web-grey shadow-forms and huge oak-like bead-
hung chieftains thickened the air.

But now there was a more practical question.  Was Keswick, at last,
after being for so many centuries nothing but a small market town,
to become a place of great importance?  The potentiality of growth
and power had always been there.  Its geographical position made it
the ideal centre of three main routes: from Penrith, from the South
from Kendal through the Dunmail Raise, and from the western
lowlands by Bassenthwaite.  It had everything needed to make it an
important town--fine corn-land, magnificent woodland, river and
lake.  Of these last, too much, for the annual floods were the
infuriation of the farmers and, although Keswick itself was on
higher ground, the peril of many a cottager.

The potentialities were there, but, until the coming of the German
miners, never the instrument.  Now already 'little poor market-town
Keswick' was a mining centre.  There were some ten Lake valleys
utilized now by the miners.  Money had flowed into the town from
Augsburg, and the Morlan Leather Fair and other activities like it
were known now far beyond the North of England.

On the people of Keswick themselves this had all had a great
effect.  Germans were as common as Cumbrians.  It was no rare thing
at all to see grand ladies and gentlemen from London.  But
strangely enough the town itself scarcely grew at all, and the
dalesmen, the men and women in the valleys, were but little
affected.

In the heart of the little town the whole world--rich and poor, Jew
and Gentile, native and foreign--seemed to meet, but the influence
was sharp and narrow--very intense on the people of Keswick
themselves but dying as soon as it touched the true country.  In
fact the real Cumbrian spirit that had remained, with strong and
steady obstinacy, unchanged through the centuries, in the valleys
far away from any outside traffic, could not be contaminated.

But on the Keswick people themselves it may be said that for that
century, from 1560 to 1660, great damage was done.  Slow-moving,
cautious, distrusting all strangers, living an enclosed community,
for themselves, this invasion of German blood and German money had
bewildered and disturbed them.  They were divided violently among
themselves.  Some said that this mining adventure was a temporary
affair, that it would never gain any true grip on the place, that
it would disappear as it had come--in the dark of a night.

Others, the more ambitious and enterprising, said that it was only
the beginning of the transformation of a small country town into
the most important city in the North.  They made every kind of
prophecy and saw Keswick stretching, a wilderness of grey-green
stone, from Grange-in-Borrowdale bridge to Cockermouth, joining up
indeed with that town and submerging it.  They saw every hill--
Skiddaw, Blencathra, Robinson, the Gavel, Glaramara, Scafell,
little Catbells even--emptied and scoured like a hen's carcass, and
great volumes of smoke rising to heaven, and iron clanging upon
iron, and gold falling in a cloud while silver and copper and tin
rose in thundering swirl after swirl from the bowels of the earth.

Meanwhile by this spring of 1586 when Gilbert Armstrong paid this
visit that was to be the turning-point of his life, there was the
very anxious question of the Germans themselves.

When they had first come to Keswick their significance had not been
thoroughly realized.  They were regarded as foreigners and disliked
accordingly.  There had been quarrels and fights and even a death
or two.  It had been found, after a while, that they were quiet and
friendly; the Cumbrian is a just man and, after caution, generous.
Then it was seen that they brought money and trade; Keswick and
its neighbourhood was wealthy as never before; there were
intermarriages; the Germans had a kind of song-making festive
sense; it was thought that they were fitting in very well.

But now, after twenty years and more, there were beginning, as
Gilbert found, suspicions that the mining affair was not going to
succeed after all.  The Queen had deserted the enterprise; the
Augsburg money was less constant; some of the Germans behaved as
though they owned the town; a few of them were riotous; all of them
had that insensibility to feelings not their own that marks their
race.

Gilbert lodged this time with one Mr. Pottinger and his lady.
Pottinger was a little thin bespectacled man, a student of forestry
and botany, serious and silent but good-hearted.  Pottinger didn't
like the Germans, and his wife, a stout garrulous lady, never
ceased abusing them.  They were coarse heavy monsters who cheated
the Cumbrians and were always boasting of their own country.  The
mixed marriages had not turned out well.  True, they had brought
some money to the place at first, but now they were in debt here,
there and everywhere.  She hadn't a good word for them.

On the other hand he encountered some of his old German friends--
Hochstetter, Selzenstollen who had married a Cumberland girl, Hans
Loner.

They were gloomy and shook their heads.  They longed to be back in
their own country.  They complained, on their side, that they were
cheated and that the climate gave them rheumatism.

There was a further element over which old Pottinger shook his
skull-like head.  It seemed that unruly fellows from the Coast had
been attracted to Keswick by stories of the wealth there,
foreigners some of them, disbanded soldiers others.  They were for
ever drinking, thieving and raping.

'Keswick has become godless and turbulent.  I fear there will be
ill work one of these days.' He added something that made Gilbert
start.  'There's much trouble about a German witch-woman.  Her name
is Hodstetter.  They threaten to burn her.  They say she kills the
cows with her spells, and flies by night on a broomstick.'

He asked Loner about this.  Loner said yes: that there were a lot
of women in the town who were urging the men on to do away with
Frau Hodstetter.  They talked of drowning her in the Lake or even
of burning her and he thought that action against her might be
taken because she was a German.

At first Gilbert was too happy to be back in his beloved country to
think deeply of these things.  He shot, he fished, he climbed.
Often he was alone, sunk in a deep consciousness of happiness,
wanting no one, not even Nicholas, and touching, in this separate
silence, depths in his soul that gave him a deep content and a long
wide vision of what life really was.  For he was, at heart, a very
serious man.

There was one day when, alone in his boat on Derwentwater, he
caught from nature, as it seemed to him, a perfect reassurance
about life and its mysteries.  The Lake was swept with a wind so
delicate as scarcely to move his boat, but enough to act as a
voice, a whisper of intimate companionship.  It was spring and on
the distant woods the green of the larches was misted like breath
on a glass.  The hills floated like clouds.  Everything was moving
and yet everything was still.  As the sun sank, a light like an
expanding flower, as though the whole world were slowly, with a
secret joy, opening to disclose a fresh beauty never seen before,
drew himself and his boat and the surface of the Lake into itself,
and on his cheek he felt a touch of warmth like an embrace.  He
stared at the hills now washed with the palest violet, and saw
brilliant stars against the ashen-rose sky.  Then the little breeze
of which he had been so conscious died and then was a silence of
pleasure satisfied and happiness consummated.  The stars now rushed
out in multitude above a vanishing world.  The oars of his boat, as
he rowed homewards, confirmed the great silence.

On the following day he met Catherine Hodstetter by Crosthwaite
Church.  She had grown now into a magnificent woman of fine
carriage, full-breasted and long-limbed.  But he didn't like her.
Even as he had his brief talk with her he wondered why.  Was it a
deep unreasoned jealousy?  Perhaps.

'I am glad to see you home again, Mr. Armstrong.'

He fancied that she also did not care for him.  He detected a
strong reserve in her.

'Mr. Herries said that if I saw you I was to greet you from him.'

And at that word her colour flamed.  He saw joy shoot through her
like the strength of spring.  For a moment she was radiant like a
woman unexpectedly freed.  'Poor thing,' he thought.  'To love so
long and so vainly.'

'Tell him--'  The radiance died.  'Tell him I am well and have not
forgotten him.'

'I will.  Thank you.'

He doffed his hat and rode on.  He didn't like her.  He hoped that
Nicholas would never see her again.



Within two days' after this he was so uncomfortable and out of
sorts that he had half a mind to ride south again.  A multitude of
small things contributed to his discomfort.  His hostess, Mrs.
Pottinger, seemed to be changed from the kindly good-tempered woman
she had been.  She was obsessed with her dislike of these Germans
and especially she tiraded against the 'witch-woman.'  She believed
apparently a fantastic story that related how Frau Hodstetter tried
to turn two small children into frogs: how neighbours had seen the
children hopping across the floor, how they had rushed in to rescue
them and there had been in the room only a great brindled cat.  The
cat's foot dripped blood from a cut and next day Frau Hodstetter
was seen to be limping.

'At least,' Gilbert said, 'her daughter is a fine woman having
nothing to do with this nonsense.'

'Ah, but who knows?  Catherine Hodstetter SEEMS well enough, but,
after all, does she not live with her mother and must she not
therefore see and hear many a forbidden sight and sound?  She's no
better if all were known.'

He had an unpleasant little encounter with Joris Fisher.  That
erstwhile courtier of Catherine Hodstetter stopped him in a narrow
place-way of the town and touched him on the arm.  Fisher was bent
a little in the shoulder and his white wrinkled forehead hung
forward like a lifted vizor.  He was trembling as he touched
Gilbert, whether with ague, fear, rage, Gilbert could not say.

'Tell her to get away--to go south and carry her mother with her.'

'Tell whom?'

'Ah, you know well enough.  Your master has sent you spying.  He
hasn't the courage to come of himself because he was nigh murdered
here one time and can be QUITE murdered the next.'

Gilbert put his two brown hands round Joris Fisher's white thin-
skinned neck and with the greatest pleasure he wrung it.  He had
been wanting these last days some physical expression of his
spiritual uneasiness.  He shook Mr. Fisher until all his odds-and-
ends were in a palsy.  Fisher grunted and groaned, then, as Gilbert
released his hands, felt cautiously his stomach, his spine-bone and
his knees to see that he was still all together.  He drew a deep
breath, and then quite suddenly smiled, a pale quivering smile.

'You shall shake in your own good time, Mr. Gilbert Armstrong,' he
said and hurried away, putting his hand to his neck, straightening
his velvet cap and coughing.

On that same evening Gilbert caught two fellows pressing a girl
against a wall.  They were intending a quick and very forcible rape
but instead received a drubbing from Gilbert that caused them to
make off limping into the lanes that ran to the Lake.  This
disturbed him.  The old Keswick would never have permitted such
easy rogue's violence.  It seemed to Gilbert that a bad lot of
rogues and vagabonds were in charge of the place.  He spoke to Mr.
James Mossop, the principal councillor just then, and he was
exceedingly indignant.

'Do you tell me, young Gilbert' (for Mossop had known Gilbert since
he had been a bare-breeched urchin), 'that we would not apprehend a
drunkard for not standing in the Queen's name?  Aye, and for much
less than that.  Have we not the Bridewell-man and the Beadle?  Are
we not rising a fair town with a goodly commerce and likely to be
the first town in the North?  Does not our tin penetrate the dark
forests of the Indies, and is not our silver finer than the cups
and saucers of the Shah in Persia?'

Mr. Mossop had always talked like that, long before he held a high
office, so all that Gilbert briefly said was:  'The town is not the
sweet place it was.  There are too many disorderly fellows abroad
in it.'  He was not given to vain imaginations, being a plain
practical man, but it was to him now as though a spell had been
thrown over the place.  One witch?  Why, there seemed to him
witches everywhere.  He had never in any place seen so many women
with crooked eyes and double chins and black moles on their cheeks
and stiff ruffs like threats and yellow crooked fingers.  From
every window someone seemed to be watching.  He would turn a corner
and see a cobbled yard with a head spying round the corner of it.
There would be a hush in the market square itself, not a soul to be
seen, and yet he would swear that a hundred souls were listening.
Even the hills, that hung over the little town, seemed too
inquisitively alive and the peak in Skiddaw between its two summits
was a black finger raised in warning.

He laughed at himself, took a draught to clear himself, busied
himself in Pottinger's dried flowers--all to no good.  He was a
haunted man.  And with justice.  On the night of April 14th, 1586,
the horror of a dreadful crime lit up the darkness and mystery of
all these preceding weeks.



As with so many of the events that mark a life, this came with the
slightest sound, an almost imperceptible movement.  Gilbert was
standing in the door of the Pottinger house, taking a last look
before going in to bed.  There was a moon, very pale--almost green
like a melon-rind--but there was light as there often is in the
North--unaccountable light--and the hills were as insubstantial as
ash heaped before a grey wood-pile when the fire is dead.  The fire
of the world was dead: no breeze even to stir the ghosts of
daffodils that were so pale in this dusk.  In the stillness
Crosthwaite Church struck the hour.  An owl called.

He had turned away from the door when he heard the steps of a man
running from Portinskill.

He wondered why the man should run and he stepped forward to the
garden wicket.  The man stopped.  It was Loner.  He was elderly and
out of breath.  He clung to the wooden gate with both his hands.

'Have you--Gilbert--have you a horse?'

'Yes--in the shed nearby.'

'Take me with you--to Blencathra--they are burning Frau
Hodstetter.'

He stood back, his hand on his heart.

Gilbert said not a word.  He ran to the shed.  Old Pottinger came
to the door.

'What is it?'

Loner moved forward.

'On Blencathra.  They are burning the Hodstetter woman for a
witch.'

'Who are?'

'I don't know.  It may be an attack also on my men.  Gilbert will
take me on his horse.'

Gilbert had found his horse in the shed at the back of the house
and at once he was off with Loner behind him, Loner's hands clasped
round his body.

They exchanged not a word.  They were both silent cautious men.
Gilbert's thoughts were wild and confused.  He had known for many
days that trouble was coming.  You could feel it in this strange
country where all that happened behind actual event was more surely
felt than the event itself.

It was not of itself, to a man of his time accustomed to pain and
torture and the brutality of ordinary good men, a dreadful thing
that a witch should be burnt.  Witches were in league with Satan
and so deserved a horrible death.  But this was the mother of the
woman whom his master loved more than any other woman on earth.  He
could not himself understand that, but Nicholas was everything in
the world to him.  It was of Nicholas that he was thinking during
their short quick ride.  Were Nicholas here he would drive into the
middle of them, come what may, and in all probability kill a few of
them.  That was not Gilbert's habit.  He would always wait first to
see how things were--unless of course Nicholas himself were there,
when he would do exactly what Nicholas himself ordered.

They had arrived now, on the lower flank of the mountain, as far as
they could ride.  The mountain's thin ridge--the Saddleback--stood
sharp and clear against the faint green sky in which the pared moon
was struggling against wispy clouds.  There was an unbroken
silence: not a voice or a sound.

'You are sure?' he asked Loner.

The fat pursy German nodded.

'I am certain.  Look.  There is a light!' and above the sparse
brushwood immediately in front of them a pale rosy light hung
against the sky, rising and falling as though blown by a bellows.

They pushed forward, climbing through the stubble of roots and
branches.  They came out on to the clearing and stopped at what
they saw.

A thick cloud of men and women lay like a black shadow against the
side of the hill, and from the middle of the cloud a great gush of
smoke and tongues of flame curled and leapt.

Moving forward again they saw that the people and the fire were on
a plateau half-way up the hillside.  The crowd was as silent and
motionless as though it were dead.  It was indeed an odd thing and
never again to be forgotten: the moon in the still sky and the
stillness of the mountain and the stillness of the crowd.

When they came to the crowd's outskirts they found that the men and
women were all listening.  Someone was speaking.  They caught the
voice before they saw the man.  Gilbert knew it at once.  This was
Mr. Stephen Horner, a fanatical Protestant clergyman who preached
sometimes in the Keswick streets and had a sort of tabernacle of
his own in the wilds of Borrowdale.

Gilbert pushed his way, caring not whom he hurt, to the front of
the throng.  There was a great fire piled high with logs, bushes,
tree-trunks.  It was leaping and jumping into the air.  To the left
of the fire was Frau Hodstetter, her head bare, clothed in a long
white gown and bound with strong rope.  Beside her, also bound, was
Catherine Hodstetter in a grey bodice and kirtle, her glorious hair
shining in the light of the fire.  On either side of them stood men
with pikes.  Gilbert knew the men--two farm hands, a drunken
ruffian called Katts and a Lake boatman.  Opposite them, in a kind
of frenzy, pointing a shaking arm and screaming, was Mr. Horner
with his long peaked face, huge mouth and skeleton body.  Grouped
behind him were a number of women.

It seemed that there were no Germans there.  Joris Fisher standing
a little apart, like a white bone in the moonlight, he saw.

But his whole attention was drawn to the two bound women.  What
could he do?  What SHOULD he do?  Little for Catherine's mother:
but for Catherine herself?  He must save her if he had to call down
the mountains to fall on them all to do it.

'. . . And as the Scriptures have ordered us we shall not soil our
hands or our mouths or any part of us by touching the Evil Thing
and when the Evil Thing is here in our midst we are to destroy it.
Mrs. Martha Eager, step forward.'

A stout elderly woman came out of the crowd into the light of the
fire.

Horner pointed at Frau Hodstetter.

'Did this woman not come into your house Tuesday a fortnight back?'

'She did.'

'And did she not bend over the cradle where your child was lying?'

'She did.'

'And did she not breathe in its face?'

'She did.'

'And did not the child from that moment sicken?'

'It did.'

'And by the end of the week it was dead?'

The woman began to wail and cry and this seemed to rouse the crowd
to a frenzy, for the women rushed forward, shaking their fists and
shouting: they had to be beaten back by the men, and Gilbert found
himself running forward and crying:  'Let her be asked!  Let her
give her witness!'

From this moment it had the nightmare quality of helpless
imprisonment inside fear.  A number of men, holding pikes and
sickles, formed a guard around the two women so that they should
not be torn and killed.  Neither woman moved nor spoke.  Gilbert
saw Frau Hodstetter's face set like a carving, but her body swayed
a little from left to right and right to left like a pendulum.

But Catherine made no movement at all.  It seemed to Gilbert almost
as though she were glad.  They were the only two now who had not
lost control.  There had been a good deal of drinking and men and
women were dancing round the fire.

Loner had rushed forward and was speaking vehemently, but no one
paid attention to him.  Horner, now like a lunatic animal, was
shouting at the two women, waving his arms and dancing.

The crowd surged forward and Gilbert was, for a moment, slung to
the side so that the razor-edge of the mountain seemed to catch the
moon-rind on its tip and the fire tilted in an extravagance of
flame towards him.

Just as he righted himself a group of men, looking huge in the fire-
glare, drove back the crowd, and two men, one with bare arms, the
other with a black beard, seized Frau Hodstetter.  At their touch
she began to struggle with desperate silence.  Her arms were bound,
and with a sudden movement they caught her up, holding her like a
mummy.  For a horrible moment Gilbert saw her face as though it
were his own, the staring eyes, the mouth wide open, and what was
most terrible, tears staining her cheeks.  Her body heaved upwards
in the men's arms.  She was straining against her ropes.  Still she
uttered no sound, but for a moment she seemed in the exaggerated
painting of the flames to stand up on the men's shoulders.

Then, with a backward pull of their arms, they tossed her.  She
fell into the heart of the fire.  There was a drawing of breath in
the crowd and then a complete stillness.

They saw her rise, her arms stretched out, the flames licking her
body.  She threw back her head as though to escape them and gave
out one dreadful, fearful, inhuman scream of agony.  Then she
crashed down into the fire.

The crowd stared as though it saw its own reflection in the fire.
The flames had now complete mastery and were roaring to heaven.
Where the woman had fallen was a lambent jewelled heart of fire.

Some were creeping away and turning down the hill: a consciousness
of horror as though some dreadful spirit were looking at them all
out of the fire had seized them.  But not all.  Some drunken women
rushed at Catherine Hodstetter and began to beat her with their
fists, and the heavy fellow with the black beard cried out:
'Daughter like mother.  She must burn. . . .  They must all burn--
burn! burn! burn!'  The women pulled at her and she nearly fell
down, and Horner--who seemed to be seized with a kind of convulsive
mania--screeched in a broken treble:

'They shall all perish, saith the Lord!  Root and branch!  Root and
branch!'

The crowd, afraid of what they had already done, seized on this as
a respite from their own fear of themselves.

'Burn her!  Burn her!  We will be rid of them all!  Find the
witches!  Hunt the witches!'

The persecution hysteria was rising from the ground like a plague-
mist and it was lucky enough for one or two old women there, who,
in order to save themselves, had been crying their loudest, that
events suddenly swung in another direction.

For Gilbert had fallen on the women who were dragging at Catherine,
cleared a space round him and then turned on the mob.

'Have you not enough?  You know you will pay for what you have done
as it is!  Go to your homes.  What ill has this woman ever done?
You have known her for many years and myself too.  Let her alone
lest you regret your life long--and the justices have something to
say, as they will.'

He was interrupted by Joris Fisher, who ran up to him and cried:
'Aye, we know you, Gilbert Armstrong, and why you do what you do.
For you are keeping her for your own master, who has been here many
a time sniffing after her like a dog. . . .'

And the others, scarcely having heard a syllable of it but longing
to do some foul hurt to someone (although to-morrow they would be
decent kindly citizens), cried out that it was true (but what was
true they hadn't any idea) and what had Gilbert Armstrong to do
with it and the girl must burn because she was the daughter of her
mother.

Mr. Horner raised his arms as though he were invoking the Deity,
and cried out:  'What have you to do with her, Gilbert Armstrong?
Prove your right.'

Gilbert moved to her, drew her close to him with his arm, and,
driven by a desire to serve his master, and by a raging hatred
against the lot of them, but mostly by something incoherent that
came from that dreadful scream in the fire and his own loathing
that his dear country should be so foully shamed, cried, as though
he were announcing it to the whole of England:  'She is affianced
to me.  Catherine Hodstetter is to be my wife.  She is mine and I
am hers.  Burn her and you must burn me--me, Gilbert Armstrong, who
have lived among you and am friend to you all.  Destroy her and you
must destroy me too, and I will fight dearly for my safety.'

There was a pause.  Someone laughed.  Two or three more.  Then
another and another.  A shout rose, a roar.  This was farce.  This
was what they wanted to heal their sense of sin.  The fire now was
foul to them.  They wanted to run from it and from the ghost inside
it.  They wanted to run, pell-mell, down the mountainside, and
away, away to safety, to the hour before the burning when they had
still been innocent.  They knew Gilbert Armstrong and thought well
of him.  He was affianced to the girl.  He should marry her.  He
should marry her now, this very night.

They cried out:  'A marriage!  A wedding!  Crosthwaite.  It shall
be in the church, the Crosthwaite church.'

They rushed down the hillside carrying Catherine and Gilbert with
them.  At the turn where the path began there were three horses
tethered.  They piled Catherine and Gilbert on to one of them.  She
was now unbound and sat behind him.  They had caught brands burning
from the fire: they were singing, shouting, triumphing, for they
were running for their safety away from that awful witch who, now
that her body was burned, was sitting in her white gown, astride of
the fire, shaking her arms at them--and soon she would be up and
after them.

But now they would be safe, for there would be a wedding at
Crosthwaite and the church would protect them.

They ran, singing, singing, waving their flaming brands, shrieking
drunkenly, beside the bridal pair.  Gilbert spoke once only.

'I had to do it--to save you.'

She made no answer.  She stared with her eyes wide-open as in a
sleep-walking.  She was seeing perhaps--and would always see--her
mother burning.

They arrived at the lych-gate and tumbled, some falling over the
graves and shrieking with laughter, to the church door.

It was locked.  This was no time for ceremony so they broke it
down.  They rushed up the aisle with torches and crowded round the
altar steps and shouted for Mr. Horner.

They sang, they laughed, they shrieked like devils, and in the
middle of the uproar Mr. Horner quickly married Gilbert and
Catherine.  He did not hear whether Catherine spoke: once she bowed
her head.  Although no banns had been called they were married well
enough.



Early on the following morning he rode with her southwards.



NICHOLAS ENCOUNTERS THE DEVIL AND DEFEATS HIM


At Mallory Nicholas was sitting in his workroom doing his accounts.

It was a fine April evening, so warm that the window in front of
him was half open.  He sat there, his body sprawled over the table,
singing to himself a trifle out of tune, scratching his head with
the end of his pen and smelling, with subconscious delight, the
scents from the garden, and hearing, as though in rhythm with his
song, the pleasant splashing of the fountain.

He was making some kind of an inventory of his cattle:


   Six keen: Lucy, black with a white star in the forehead.
   Red with a white back.
   One other red with a chinned face.
   One white with a brown face.
   Black ambling mare with a white star in the forehead.
   Five hog of one sort being about two years old at Michaelmas
     last. . . .
   Twelve ewes, twelve lambs. . . .


And then:


To be bought:
     One pillow coat.
     Two best brass pots.
     One quilt.
     A good knyfe.


He scratched his head some more, then pushed the papers aside and
began a letter.  He made a serious face at this and ceased his
singing.  He wrote slowly with a good deal of looking out of
window, up to the ceiling and across to the fireplace where three
dogs were lying.


MY DEAREST ROSAMUND--There is nothing so strong as the force of
love, and to prove it here I am that have all my accounts to do and
pots and pans to order.  Moreover the evening is as fair as this
year has known and, as you are well aware by now, I would always
rather be outside a house than in it--so the dogs also, for their
eyes are melting out of their heads, beseeching me to give them a
little hunting before the sun is gone.

But, dearest cousin, you are, ere this, my good sister and better
friend and all the day I have been stopping at my better purposes
and looking up to heaven and asking how you fare at Chartley and
your impression of the Queen (if one may so call her) and how you
are in your personal comfort.

It hits even so thick a head as mine that any letter that enters
Chartley may be read by whosoever pleases and so you will have no
politics from me--only a most cordial greeting to Philip and his
lady my cousin, and the first of these will, I am assured, rejoice
to know that I am in grand health of body and mind and my spiritual
state progresses.

I am alone, for brother Robin is, I believe, in London and Gilbert
is in Cumberland whither I despatched him because his soul was
there already and I thought his body might most expediently follow
it.

The news here is slight enough.  Our dairymaid has a child by the
Lord knows whom and the new steward is mighty learned and reads
Ovid for his delectation of an evening when he might be kissing the
pantry-girl.  Last Sunday I went to church and was given two pots
of marmalade of quince by the old woman who pulls the church bell
of a week-day.  I have purchased five new keen and a bull.
Marjorie, the bitch you fondled, has six pups and you shall have
one--although I suppose they are not welcome at Chartley.

But this is to beg of you your news.  Show your letter to Philip
before you send it but nevertheless and in spite of it tell me all
that I wish to know.  Is the Queen a proper Queen?  Does she talk
openly before her women?  What women has she?  Remember me, if you
will and it is fitting, to my dear Sir Amyas Paulet who, visiting
my father, once gave me a clout on the head for an uncivil noise I
made.  Do they keep you strict prisoners or may you ride?  What do
you of an evening?  What room have you for sleeping and are you
alone there?  All this, and many things more I charge you to tell
to--Your loving cousin

                                             NICHOLAS HERRIES.

Pray, do not forget a special greeting from me to Philip.


He grinned as he finished this and dusted it.  He grinned as he
fastened it.

Then he sighed.  The evening was of an exquisite beauty, and now,
he did not know how it was, but beauty in nature gave him a sort of
melancholy, a sense of loneliness and mal-adjustment.  So lovely
was nature and here he was, a solitary man in a solitary house,
forty-two years of age and with neither wife nor children.  Well
enough he knew why.  Leaning forward on his elbows he stared
forward into the garden.  Everything was romantic-sentimental for
the occasion.  Pale gold washed the lawns and hedges: the last low
fingers of the sun caressed the marble pyramid-fountain with the
carved birds from whose bills the water cascaded in a flood of
crystal.  From the narrow beds in purple shadow came the scents of
thyme and marjoram.  From the pantry-room the pantry-boy (who was a
nice lad with a sweet treble) was singing:


      'Lavender is for lovers true,
     Which evermore be fain,
     Desiring always for to have
     Some pleasure for their pain;
     And when that they obtaind have
       The love that they require,
     Then have they all their perfect joy,
       And quenchd is the fire.'


He thought to stop the boy.  He got up to stride about the room,
and the three dogs, with manifestations of delirious joy, as though
they had been in prison for months and had not tasted sun or air in
a lifetime (although but an hour ago they had been out with him),
rose and rushed to the door and stood staring at the panelling and
turning their heads to him and staring at the door again.

He opened the door and they all rushed ahead of him.

He walked up and down the pleated lawn while bird called to bird in
question and answer and the boy's voice more faintly came to him:


    'And when that they obtaind have
       The love that they require,
     Then have they all their perfect joy,
       And quenchd is the fire.'


Ah! but he had never obtained it!  He had never obtained it!  That
was why the fire was not quenched--no, rather, although the years
passed and distance from the original meeting grew wider and wider,
that fire burnt only the fiercer!

If he had had all that he wanted would it have died down?  Maybe
not.  It might be that it was for him, that of all human
experiences the rarest, a love so deep that the very recesses of
the spirit are filled.  For him of all men!  Good-natured, light,
let come, let go!  That to him should come this experience!  If
only he could see her now!  If only he could be where Gilbert now
was!

He knew that someone was behind him.  He saw the dogs running.  It
was Robin.  As always with him what he felt he showed to the
fullest of his capacity.  He was overjoyed.

'Robin!  Robin! . . . Oh, Robin!  What good fortune!  I have been
wanting you many a day!'

He caught him in his great arms, kissed him on both cheeks, then
held him away from him to look at him and felt at once again, as
now he always did, the separation, the barrier.  Robin was in
riding-dress.  He held a riding-whip.

Nicholas, still grinning with pleasure, let him go.

'Ah, Robin, but I'm glad!  Gilbert Armstrong is in Cumberland.
I've been alone here these three weeks.  I was growing melancholic.
I will into the house and tell them about a meal and to prepare a
room--'

Robin put out a hand.

'No, Nick. . . .  I mustn't stay.'

Nicholas' face fell.

'You cannot stay?  Oh, but you must!  It's a month since I've seen
you.  You've neglected me shamefully.'

He saw that a deep excitement was holding his brother.

'No, no.  Be patient with me.  I must ride back to London at once.
But I had to tell you.'

'To tell me?  To tell me what?'

'They have asked me to go to Chartley.'

'To Chartley?'  Nicholas stared.

'Yes.'  Robin took his arm.  'Walk up this path with me.  I have
had a letter from Paulet asking whether I would care to carry out
some service for him at Chartley--'

'Chartley! . . .  You!'

'Yes. . . .  The Queen!  At last!  At last!  Oh, Nick, the Queen!
The thing that I have been waiting for all my life long!  My life's
desire!  To be with her.  To serve her!  At last. . . .'

He could scarcely speak for his agitation.  Tears were in his eyes.
Nicholas felt how all his body trembled.  But Nicholas turned and
held his brother in a fierce grip.

'Robin!  You know why?  You know who has arranged this?'

'Paulet.  Paulet sent for me!'

'Paulet!  You cheat yourself.  You are lying both to yourself and
me.  'Tis Irvine who has arranged this and you know it.  I've heard
already that Irvine has Paulet's ear.  Someone was needed and
Irvine suggested you. . . .'  He stared into Robin's eyes, speaking
sternly.  'Is it the Queen you wish to see, brother--or Sylvia?'

Robin said hotly:  'I will not discuss that with you.  I have told
you that all my life long I have wished--'

Nicholas' temper was also up.

'Aye, I know.  All your life long.  But for the last ten years it
has been someone else--the wife of our bitterest enemy.'

Robin wheeled round.

'Very well then.  I am off.  I have known a long time that I have
no brother any more.'

Nicholas caught him round the neck.

'Fool!  Fool!  What a fool you are, Robin!  Do you think that a
love like ours that comes from our mother's womb can ever break,
and do you think that I am a man, alone in the world as I am, to
let you go?  And what do I care if you love my cousin or if you
love a thousand for that matter and go to hell for it so long as
you are happy there?  I would fight for you and pimp for you and
beg for you--although by my nature I am no beggar--and lie for you
and die for you, but for your good, Robin, for your happiness, not
for your ruin.  Do you suppose that Irvine has not been waiting for
just this?  And long he has waited.  He has tried me with bolder
means--with cards in London, with his servants' insults at a
tavern, with five ragamuffins in Cumberland--but with yourself and
his wife whom he also hates there must be something prettier than
cards or assassination.  And here he has it to perfection.  Here he
will have you both shut up together in one house--nay, in one
prison.  You will be under his orders and at the service of his
spies.  He will turn his wife into your arms and will devise some
scandalous revenge that will torture not only you but her as
well. . . .  Ah, do not go, Robin!  Robin, Robin, for Jesu's sake
do not go!'

Robin laid his hand on Nicholas' shoulder.

'Forgive me!  I knew that you would say this--all of it, every
word.  It may be that you are right.  It looks likely.  But I am
not to be stayed.  And truly it is not Sylvia.  As it is we have
been seeing one another often enough. . . .  It is the Queen.
Indeed, indeed it is the Queen.  I have longed, I have prayed for
this chance to come.  I had given up all hope. . . .  Now nothing,
no one, could stop me.'

He embraced Nicholas, smiled into his eyes, turned and almost ran
down the path.  A moment later Nicholas heard the click of the
horse's hooves on the cobbles of the yard.



Nicholas stood there long after the sound of the hooves had died
away.  Robin's visit had been so sudden and so short that it had
risen like an apparition--a shadow seen in transparency against the
gold-green of the evening and the crystal light of the fountain-
shower.  No, it had been real enough.  He still felt the trembling
of his brother's body under his hand, and in the consciousness of
that trembling was aware too of the actuality of the danger.

He took some steps towards the house and said aloud:  'He must
not . . . it is ruin'--then stayed because he knew that he could
do nothing to prevent it.  It seemed to him at that moment in the
dusky garden when the hedge-topiary--the ship and the peacock and
the wigged nobleman--stood out like ebony against the faint yellow
streak in the darkening sky, that he had never in all his life
loved his brother so dearly as now.

'It has all led to this. . . .  From the very beginning it was to
come to this.'  From that moment when, on the moor, he had pricked
Irvine's arm with his sword--and the great reason of all for his
love of Robin came welling up in him, his sense of Robin's
weakness, his rarity of spirit that made him so easily a prey to
men like Irvine, his need for someone like Nicholas, robust,
forthright, fearless, to protect him. . . .

'By God, I will go after him. . . .  I must be near him. . . .
I'll stop that devil. . . .'

By a coincidence, in the village of Wayning, five miles from
Chartley, there was an inn, 'The Hawbuck,' where he had stayed
twice, breaking journeys.  He remembered the place because the
landlord had two pretty daughters, twins, one dark and one fair,
and he had come, in a very quick time, to know the dark one
considerably well.

'When Robin goes to Chartley we'll go to Wayning and see how the
land lies.  And I know Sir Amyas, old cross-grained faggot.  It
will be hard but I can watch over Robin a little.'

Remembering Wayning cheered him considerably, and there was the
realization too that he would then be seeing young Rosamund, whom
(although he was not in the slightest in love with her) he now
delighted in for her wisdom, humour, courage and honesty.  'And I
hope a good man will love her one day, but with that nose and that
complexion . . .'

He was very much more cheerful now that he had decided on action;
he was unhappy only when he was undecided or had nothing to do.  So
he strode into the buttery asking for his dinner, which should have
been at five and it was long past the hour and Mr. Minniples, the
educated Ovidean domo, rebuked him in his high melancholy voice
'for it had been ready this half hour but Mr. Nicholas was with his
brother,' and Nicholas longed, as so often he did, to kick
Minniples' virtuous unshapely buttocks, and instead only made faces
at him like a boy and ordered the food to be set before him and
then sat on the dais with a book of merry tales propped up in front
of him and started on the broth with the hunger of a man a week
starving.

In the middle of his meal he stretched his arms, yawning.  He was
weary.  It was those accounts that always fatigued him; he would
read a merry tale or two more, take a walk round the farms and see
how the new calf was faring and then to bed so that he might be out
freshly in the morning.  For the events of this fine day were done.

They were not.  The door at the hall-end was open for the food to
be brought.  Minniples' foolish face appeared in it and, before he
could speak, Gilbert Armstrong stood beside him.  Nicholas, for the
second time that evening, was extravagantly happy.  He jumped to
his feet, knocking the book of tales to the floor.

'Gilbert!  Gilbert! . . .  Welcome!  Only now I was wondering--!'

He stopped.  The two men stared at one another across the hall.
For someone was standing behind Gilbert and that someone was
Catherine Hodstetter.

Nicholas said not a word.  The colour flooded his brown cheeks.
Gilbert Armstrong came up the hall, leading Catherine Hodstetter by
the hand.  She was wearing a hood and a dark riding-cloak.  She
looked at Nicholas gravely, without any emotion at all.  She did
not smile or frown, nor did she turn her head.

Gilbert stood by the dais and said at once:

'Mr. Herries, we are married.  This is my wife.'

Nicholas leaned on his hands as they gripped the table and stared
at the other man.

'What did you say?'

'We are married.'

'When?'

'Five days ago.'

'Where?'

'Crosthwaite Church.'

A long pause followed.

Nicholas said:  'Take her to a room where she can change after the
journey.  Then return here.'

Gilbert turned on his heel, nodded to Catherine, walked forward,
she following.  They were gone.

Minniples appeared followed by two men bearing food and dishes.
When they reached the dais they began to place the dishes, but
Nicholas with a wide sweep of the hand crashed everything to the
floor and roared like one of his own bulls.  The men hastened to
disappear.  Minniples bravely stayed there.

'Would you wish--?'

Nicholas in a voice quiet but trembling:  'I will whip you into
very small pieces--'

Minniples, who was always dignified, bowed and marched away.

Nicholas never moved, but still leant his whole weight on the oak
table.  The gravy of the game pie was streaming down the steps of
the dais.  Gilbert and Catherine married?  Gilbert had married
Catherine and had dared to return?  Catherine, who had refused him
time and again; Catherine, who had told him that she was for no
man; Catherine on the sly had married his servant!  And, after it
was done, they had BOTH dared to return.

His anger was rising from his belly in a hot surging flood.  He
could feel it welling in him, through his veins, flooding his
heart, choking his lungs, his throat.  He put his hand to his neck
and tore the top button off his shirt.  He lifted his chest that he
might breathe better.  Behind his anger was an agony which he could
feel as one recognizes a pain that will soon be a torment but is
not yet acute.

He heard steps and saw that Gilbert Armstrong had returned.  He
mounted the dais so that they stood close together.

Nicholas turned and looked into his face.

'You were my friend, were you not?'

'I was and I am.'

'You have married her rightfully and in church?'

'I do not know about rightfully, but most certainly in church.'

In spite of his anger and although his eyes were misted, Nicholas
recognized that look of determined stubborn obstinacy with which
Gilbert Armstrong always met every crisis.

'Take care.  You are stepping on a dish.'

Gilbert moved a little aside.

'You say you are still my friend?'

'I most assuredly am.'

'And my faithful servant?'

'I most assuredly am.'

'And you betray me in the deadliest way of betrayal?'

'I have not betrayed you.'

'You knew how for years there has been only--'  To his own chagrin
his voice failed.

'I have known very well.'

'Secretly you yourself loved her and when I was not there you
persuaded her--'

'I do not love her.'

'You lie.'

'I do not lie.  I never lie to a friend.'

'She loves you?  She is passionate for you?  She persuaded you--'

'She did not persuade me.'

'You have lain together maybe for years, cheating me, deceiving me,
my friend whom I trusted more than any man on this earth.'

'We have never lain together--and will not.'

There was a noise like a drum in Nicholas' ears.  He did not hear
Gilbert's answers.  Like any man in a great rage he was preoccupied
with catching his own anger.

'Do you know what you are?'

'I know well what I am.'

'You are a liar, a cheat; your soul is bawd to your body.  You will
spoil the best things for your own glory.  You are unchaste with
your tongue and with every other part of your person.  You are
false and unfaithful.'  Nicholas sought Gilbert's face with a
puzzled bewildered stare.  'And yet never did I believe in any man
as I did in you.  I loved you more than any being on this earth
save my brother and--and--this woman.

'You have betrayed my honour in its tenderest part.'  Now his rage
altogether overbore him.  'And you have the loutish impertinence to
return to this very house. . . .  But by God's grace,' he shouted,
'this very night you shall walk out of it again--the pair of you.'

He raised his hand and struck Gilbert across the face.  The man
never moved.  A little trickle of blood began to stain his lower
lip.

'I would have taken that from no other man in the whole world,' he
said at last.  And still he did not move or seek to wipe the blood
from his chin.

Nicholas stared at him pitifully, then dropped down into the chair
behind him.

'Oh, Gilbert, Gilbert--why did you do this thing?'

Armstrong, who had still on his face the same look of stubborn
obstinacy, said:  'And now you had better hear the story.'

Nicholas said nothing.  Gilbert told him everything: of his
standing at the gate and Loner calling him and their riding to
Blencathra, of the crowd and the fire and the parson, of the two
women bound, of the elder Hodstetter's dreadful death, of the
danger to Catherine and his saving her, of the ride to Crosthwaite
and their marriage, of their coming south.

'I do not love her nor does she love me,' he ended.  'It was the
only thing to be done.'

Nicholas' head was bowed in his hands.  This was horrible--the deed
itself.  His own action.  The two seemed to be linked as one.

He looked up at last, felt for his handkerchief and proffered it to
Gilbert.

'I am sorry.'

Gilbert wiped his lip and chin, laid the handkerchief on the table.
His face was yet hard and obstinate.

'You misjudged me.  After many years.'

Nicholas got up and laid his hands on Gilbert's shoulders.  'You
should know ere now that I never reason when I am angry.'  His
voice dropped.  'I was not angry so much as unhappy.  I never even
heard what you said.  There was a singing in my ears.'

'You mistrusted me,' Gilbert said again.

Nicholas shook him, pressed him for a moment to his breast.  Then,
with his favourite gesture to those he loved, holding him off from
him and looking into his face, he said:

'Once again I am in your debt.  You know well by now that I am
quickly fired and quickly laid down again.  You are a nobler man in
every quality.  You have proved it over and over and will yet a
thousand times.  You must forgive and forgive.'

He looked him full in the eyes.  'I have never struck you before
and now I swear, by Jesu's blood and the agony on the Holy Cross,
that I will never again, do what you will.'

He turned away and sat down again.

'You have done most nobly, but we are in a pickle of a mess,
Gilbert--not now only but for long to come.  The Lord knows how I
love her and only her!'

Gilbert said stiffly:  'If I lost the notion of you that I have I
would lose my faith with it.'

Nicholas looked up.

'You shall not lose it.'

The two men clasped hands and Gilbert went away.



Later that night Nicholas, pacing his room in his furred bed-gown,
had conversation with the Devil.

In Nicholas' time and day the Devil was Somebody, not an abstract
principle in which no living man any longer believed.  Nicholas,
who was simple-minded, considered that in very fact the Devil
walked among men.  Not in horns and tail as the Miracle Plays had
it.  The Devil was too clever for that.  But in the likeness of a
very handsome gentleman with black hair and an olive-brown face--
like any sly Spaniard--or even Philip Irvine himself.

But to-night here in front of the wall-paintings in rose and violet--
the story of Cupid and Psyche painted for Nicholas by a clever
young London man--there crept at his side a bent crook-backed
little man, washing his hands and bowing.  He was clothed in the
long velvet sleeves and porringer hat of an older time and was in
fact (although Nicholas was not aware of it) the exact replica of a
portrait of Louis XI of France that Nicholas had seen in his
childhood and been frightened by.

The little Devil, with his mouth smiling, his bent shoulders
suppliant, his long hands rubbing together like flies' legs, his
velvet sleeves swinging, said in his voice soft and honeyed:

'You know that she has a room to herself?'

'Yes, I know it.'

'That she is in bed by now?'

'Maybe.'

'But not asleep?'

'I cannot tell.'

'Oh no!  Not asleep, I assure you.'

'Well?'

'You may go and wake her.'

'I will not.'

'Ah, why not?  Poor thing!  She is distracted, wretched in heart.
She will not repulse you this time.'

'Why should she not?'

'Her mother's horrible death which she witnessed has wrought in her
a shock that has altered her.  You saw yourself how she was
altered.  She is laid low, humiliated.  If you are good to her she
will give you what you will.'

'I cannot take advantage of her helplessness.'

'But at some time or another you must do so.  Remember that Gilbert
and she are to live with you now for ever.  Every day, every hour
of every day you will be with her--or could be if you so wished.
She loves you.  You love her.  How can you stay apart?  It is more
than poor human flesh can ever endure.'

'He is my great friend.'

'Yes, but he does not love her nor does she love him.  He did this
only to please you.  He will serve you in any way.'

A long silence.  Then the Devil said:

'She is very beautiful.

'She has come now to her full maturity.

'She lies there in her bed hoping that you will come to her.

'Having her at last in your arms you will satisfy the ache of many
years.

'Her body has always been intended for yours.  You belong to one
another.

'You have not been so very chaste all these years that you should
be a Puritan now.

'If you do not go to her to-night, some time you will go.  It is
quite certain.

'Your mind is already with her.  You have pictured waking her,
climbing the bed, taking her hair in your hands, drawing her head
toward yours . . .'

Nicholas' hand was on the handle of his door.

He saw Gilbert's mouth when he had struck him.  He took the Devil
in his arms and flung him into the stone fireplace, where he became
instantly a scrap of feathery dust.

Then he threw off his gown, climbed into bed and at once slept like
the seven men of Ephesus.



CHARTLEY: THE QUEEN ENSLAVES HIM


Robin was now but ten miles from Chartley, and his heart was
beating so thickly that the close heavy summer world was dim before
his eyes.  He knew this part of England, for he had stayed here on
two occasions with the Giffords.  Gilbert Gifford, whose father's
property adjoined the Chartley property (Chartley Manor belonged to
the Earl of Essex), was a sort of friend of Robin's--no close one
because Robin did not trust him, but Gilbert was one of the more
intelligent Catholics, beautiful to look upon, with the face of an
angelic boy.

Robin did not trust him and scarcely knew why, but as soon as he
heard that the Scottish Queen had been moved from Tutbury to
Chartley he thought of Gilbert Gifford.  John Gifford, the father,
was a devout Catholic beyond all suspicion, but young Gilbert was
known to Walsingham, had already a great reputation for falsehood
with women, and had told Robin himself a lie or two.

Worst of all, Gilbert Gifford was a friend of Philip Irvine's.
Young Gifford was as vain as a peacock of his beauty and, although
an ardent pursuer of women, had something of a reputation on the
other side.

Then, only a week or two ago, some gentleman in a tavern had told
Robin a story that Walsingham was out to trick Queen Mary into a
betrayal of herself, that the Queen was in touch with Morgan in
Paris and that Walsingham was 'tapping' all her letters, that some
young men (he named Anthony Babington, a foolish braggart called
Ballard, and one or two more) were plotting Elizabeth's murder and
that Walsingham knew all about this also.  According to this
gentleman traps were laid now for Mary at Chartley, and into these
traps she was incontinently falling.  Everyone knew Walsingham's
cunning.  These foolish Catholic boys were silly mice to his trap--
but the real victim would be the Scottish Queen.

It was one of those heavy August afternoons when thunder lies
packed on the hill.  He had ridden a distance that day and his
horse was very weary.  The foliage was of summer fullness and was
almost black against the white sky.  The cows lay panting under the
tree shelter, for although you could not see the sun its heat was
like red-hot bars against the forehead.

As Robin rode, his servant with his luggage on another horse behind
him, his thoughts were of nothing but the Queen of Scots.  At last
the desire of all his life was to be granted: he remembered how, as
a boy, he had heard his father speak of her wickedness because she
had married her husband's murderer, and how at once he had been
'up' in her defence.  She had NOT murdered her husband, and in any
case Darnley was a wretched creature and had himself murdered her
friend and servant.

Nothing that she could do was wrong for Robin, and he saw her
shining with a brilliant beauty, his Bright Pavilions around her:
he lived so often in visions that he must have some woman as part
of them.  His passion for Sylvia even had driven him only to a
greater love of the Queen in its very contrast.  The Queen was
unrealizable as a human creature; here was his earthly love and
here his heavenly.  For Sylvia and the Queen.  One had no happiness
in it and must end in ruin; the other was a selfless service and
had, in that way, no end.  One was sensual like a padlock on his
wrist; the other set him free whenever he thought of it.

He neither knew nor cared whether this was Irvine's plan to catch
him.  It would be a relief perhaps if he WERE caught.  Irvine had
watched them, teased them, hated them for so long.  Whatever came
of it he would be now with the Queen.

In spite of his physical weariness he was conscious of an almost
mystical exaltation.  The trouble with his life until now had been
that he had been able to bring nothing to consummation: not his
intelligence, because he had done nothing at all with it; not his
love, because he had only disappointed Nicholas and ruined Sylvia;
not his religion, because he had believed in God but not followed
Him.  He had betrayed everything and everyone, and yet he had only
love in his heart--love of God, love of mankind, love of beauty,
love of his country.

He had too much love.  He was soft.  He was indecisive, moving
first that way and then this.  After witnessing Campion's death he
had thought that everything was clear for him, as it had been from
that moment for Henry Walpole who had stood beside him.  But it had
not been clear.  His weakness had dragged him back to Sylvia.  He
was wretched when he was away from her, miserable when he was with
her.  He had degenerated.  He was almost lost.  But now perhaps he
could serve this unhappy, deserted, betrayed Queen and so recover
some of his true self again.  He would not serve her against his
own Queen, but short of that, would lose his life for her.  It
seemed to him now, as he rode along, a small thing to lose his
physical life.  His Bright Pavilions would not be less bright for
that.  He was in a sort of dream, or hallucination of life.  He
straightened his back and saw on the low hills the clouds clamped
down in purple blackness.  There was steel rigidity in the air.
The leaves hung from the trees like metal.

Against the hill and the sky Chartley Manor stood out in pale
saffron relief.  Even as he looked there was a faint rumble of
thunder.  Chartley looked pleasant enough and dead.  Water ran all
round it and there was a drawbridge.  A flag, quite motionless,
stayed painted on the sky above the tower.  He saw three swans come
sailing majestically round the bend of the moat.  They were as
haughty as queens.

He rode over the moat with a clatter and rang the heavy bell.  It
echoed and someone looked out of a window.  A soldier presented
himself.  Robin gave his name and said Sir Amyas Paulet was
expecting him.  The soldier disappeared, but soon returned with
another and asked Robin to follow him.  Inside the hall an officer
of rank met him and said that he would take him straight to Sir
Amyas.

In a room with buff leather walls and leather furniture and two
green birds in a cage by the window, Sir Amyas was seated at a
table writing.  He looked at Robin gravely.  He was in appearance
the perfect regimented official.  His eyes were cold but his face
not unkindly.

'Ah . . . Mr. Herries.  This is Irvine's business.'

He said to the officer, who was leaving the room:

'Kindly ask them to send Mr. Irvine here.  Tell him his friend, Mr.
Herries, is arrived. . . .  Sit down, Mr. Herries.'

Robin did so.

'This matter has been less pressing than it seemed when I wrote to
you in April, but now Mr. Irvine would welcome your assistance.
His particular business is the safeguarding of this place at night.
He wished for someone he could trust.  He suggested yourself:
cousin, I believe, to his wife, who is with the Queen's ladies.  We
give her rights and titles, by the way, while she is under our
charge--a small affair, a small affair.  Whom he may trust--Yes, a
hard matter.  Trust!  Trust!  A changeful word! . . .  You will be
at his bidding.  You are old friends.'

He looked across the table at Robin with a worried, almost
appealing expression.  Robin smiled.

'You are very young,' Paulet said.

'Thirty-seven.'

'You appear younger.  This is, I need not tell you, a place of
desperate responsibility.  You are expected, if you hear anything
or see anything to the detriment of Her Sacred Majesty Queen
Elizabeth, to acquaint me immediately with it.'

('A spy!' Robin thought.  'That is what I am here for--a spy!')

'You are to be betrayed into no sympathy whether for or against the
lady in question.  You are here performing a duty for Her Sacred
Majesty.'

'I understand,' Robin said.  Then, after a pause, he added, 'My
brother wished that he should be remembered to you.'

An unexpected, thin, and rather pathetic little smile broke on
Paulet's face.  With it his eyes were less cold.

'Ah!  The giant! . . .  How does he grow?'

'He is as large a size as ever,' Robin answered, laughing.

The door opened and Irvine came in.  He went to Robin with hands
outstretched.  He kissed him lightly on either cheek.

'Welcome, dear Robin. . . .  Welcome indeed.'

'I have told him that he is at your charge.'

'Indeed, yes.  He will lighten every burden I have.'

He put his arm through Robin's and drew him towards the door.  But
Robin intercepted in the heavy gold mirror opposite the door a
sharp comprehending look between the two men, and he heard Paulet
say, 'The Honest Man will be needed no more.'

Irvine made no answer, but took Robin with him into the passage.
Outside Robin said:  'The Honest Man--who is that?'  He spoke
rather to rid himself of that first awkwardness that he always felt
with Irvine than from any curiosity.

Irvine laughed.

'You have sharp ears, cousin.  But I have known that a long time.
You must be weary and in this thunder weather very thirsty.  Do you
drink ale?'

'But of course.'

Philip laughed.  'We have a very special kind of ale here and a
very special kind or brewer.'

Robin stared.  'I don't understand.'

'No.  Why should you?'

Philip, his lean body drawn up to a height as though he were
standing on his toes, looked deep into Robin's eyes.  They stood
close together there in the passage.

'I wonder how much you DO understand. . . .  You must have heard
something in London.'

'I heard--'

Philip stopped him, his finger on his lips.  'Not here.  These
walls are all ears.  Another time.  At least though I can ask you--
Do you know young Anthony Babington?'

'A slight acquaintance.'

'John Charnock?  Edward Windsor?  Edward Abingdon?  One John
Savage?'

'Yes.  Charnock and Abingdon slightly.  Why?'

'You will soon hear.  Close your mouth.  Open your eyes and ears.
I sent for you--'

'Yes,' Robin said sharply.  'Why did you send for me?'

'Because I wanted someone I could trust.'

'And you can trust me?'

'In this--yes.'

'One thing remember--I will betray neither my own Queen nor this
poor lady here.'

'You are asked to betray no one.  Only, if either the Queen or her
charge is in danger you are to tell me of it.  There is peril here
to both.'

Irvine had conducted this dialogue with the cold self-satisfied
arrogance that Robin detested.  Now at an instant he was genial
again.

'They shall bring food and drink to your room.  Change your clothes
and presently the Queen will send for you.'

An hour later he was sent for.  He had dressed himself in his best
suit of purple and silver, which set him off very handsomely.  He
had still very much of the look of the boy about him in spite of
his years; his eyes were a boy's and his sensitive mouth asked for
affection and trust as a boy might do before his maturer
disillusionment.  His figure was now at its most excellent, broad
at the shoulder, slim at the hips, and his legs so straight and
shapely that even in a Court of handsome men they had been much
remarked upon.  But it was finally the modesty of his approach that
won women, a modesty that had in it dignity and quiet and
kindliness.  What he had not was humour.  He could not be light
either about his own or the world's destiny.

Now he stood at the end of a long room, saw a cluster of ladies at
the far end and certain gentlemen standing.  It was a pleasant room
with large glass bowls filled with roses, long gilt mirrors,
screens of velvet and a spinet; upon this last as he came in
someone was playing.  The player stopped abruptly as Philip Irvine
led him forward.  He saw for an instant Rosamund's smiling face
and, not far from her, Sylvia.  There were some eight women in all.
Then he dropped on his knee before a lady in black whose auburn
hair was covered with a black raised cap.

He heard Irvine say:  'This is Mr. Robin Herries, Madame.  He has
come to do you service.'

He saw a hand, half covered with a black mitten, stretched towards
him and he heard a quiet and gentle but very dignified voice say:
'I have heard of Mr. Herries.  And good reports too.  It is kind of
you to join us, Mr. Herries, for we are not very gay here.'

He raised his eyes and his heart stood still in his breast.  He saw
seated in front of him an elderly woman, wearing a red wig of hair,
with drawn pale cheeks, one eye a little cast, a painted mouth.
The fingers of her hands beyond the mittens were swollen and red
with rheumatism.  This was the woman of whom all his life he had
dreamed, whose picture he had cherished, the Queen of supreme
beauty for whom all men--singers and soldiers and kings and robbers--
had died because of love, the enchantress, the divine . . .

His heart began to beat again.  She was looking into his eyes.
Aye, but what a look!  He was caught and held.  Her eyes were sad
and oddly humble, as though she were pleading with him.  But they
were the opposite of humble, because they were royal.  They were
eyes that had commanded armies.  Her eyes were asking his
friendship as any woman in distress to any man she liked at first
sight.  They were also away beyond him, because they were the eyes
of a Queen, because they had witnessed so much horror and had
shrunk from none of it, because they had expressed so much love.

Those same eyes had seen the grey wet mist clinging about Leith on
that first coming to Scotland, had dared Knox in argument, had
watched Rizzio murdered, had stared at Darnley as he lay in bed at
Kirk o' Field, had half closed in lust as she sank beneath
Bothwell's power, had glared like a mad-woman's from Holyrood's
windows at the screaming crowd, had watched her soldiers in their
armour gathering around her, had seen Bothwell ride his way from
her for the last time, and before that had smiled down at her child
in her lap, and now for nineteen years had stared at the grey walls
of her imprisoning castles.

Yes, her eyes had seen many things--but it seemed now that they saw
only Robin Herries.

They seemed to say to him:  'I am no longer young--all my beauty is
gone.  I have been hunted and scorned for twenty years.  My own son
has deserted me.  They are plotting to kill me.  More than ever
before, now and here I need a friend.  I ask you not to betray your
trust or break your word.  Only to like me and be a little sorry
for me.'

'In any way that I can serve Your Majesty,' he said, 'I will be
most urgent.'  (He fancied that there was a quick smoky stir in her
eyes when he called her 'Your Majesty.'  He wondered whether that
were forbidden.  Irvine had said 'Madame.')  At least he was sure
that her upper lip, on which the rouge had dried a little,
trembled.

'If I have been unlucky in life,' she said almost to herself, 'I
have been lucky at least in the men who have served me.'

Suddenly he detected the play-actress.  Had it become second nature
to her?  Was she acting always?  For self-protection perhaps?  He
was a man of deep and penetrating imagination and he saw, even in
that very minute as he knelt and was conscious that the wooden
floor pressed uncomfortably his knee, that she had been, her whole
life long, since her babyhood, in grave peril--always in peril,
surrounded from the very beginning by men and women who hated her.

'In my End is my Beginning'--that was her motto.  'In my end are my
enemies.  From my beginning they were there.'

Never more so than now.  Of course she must act to keep them at
bay.  Irvine who at this moment stood over him was her enemy.  And
Paulet was her enemy.  And that Frenchman, her secretary, Nau, whom
Robin could see out of the corner of his eye, a sleek over-dressed
fellow, he was, perhaps, her enemy.

And SHE on her side was Elizabeth's enemy and would fight to be
Queen again with every weapon in her power.  So she was Queen, Play-
Actress, Woman.  Three in one.  All quite just personalities but
all three to be reckoned with, and because one was found to be
there it did not mean that the others were not there also.  He must
remember that.  He must always reckon with the three of them.

She had made a motion with her hand that he might rise to his feet
again, and as he did so he saw that the knuckle of the thumb of her
left hand was blue in colour and that the thumb was hideously
swollen with rheumatism.  He also caught the flash of the diamonds
in the crucifix that swung ever so slightly above her breast.

He stood in front of her and they talked.  It was as though they
talked in a room alone.  He became altogether unaware of the
others.

She leaned back, picked up a small square of tapestry that she was
working in purple and green colours, and began to labour at it with
her stiff awkward fingers.  Her voice was low and pleasing and he
thought to himself that she must, throughout her life, have done
much of her charming with her voice.

'Tell me, Mr. Herries--you are a bachelor, I understand.'

'I am a bachelor.'

'It is not strange to me that men should remain bachelors.  It is
we poor women who must marry or burn--and sometimes we burn even
though we are married.'

'I have a brother,' he said, rather lamely, 'who also is a
bachelor.'

'You are a poet, I have heard,' she went on.

'Oh no,' he said.  'A poet by desire but not by accomplishment.'

She nodded her head, smiling.

'We must test that.'  She lowered her voice and, although her body
did not move, she seemed to come nearer to him.  'Long captivity
makes music and poetry--yes, and flowers--treasures from God
Himself.'  Her voice was sharper.  Her fingers ceased to move on
the tapestry.

'Why have you come here, Mr. Herries?'

'I have come because I understood that I could serve--Your
Majesty.'

'No Majesty.  No Majesty.  Not now--later perhaps when I am in my
own Scotland again.'  She was almost mumbling the words so that he
could scarcely hear.  'Or is it my Scotland?  And is my son my son?
And my friends, are they my friends?  I live in a dark world now
where I can scarcely see or hear.'  She seemed to have forgotten
him.  But she looked up and realized him again.

'I do not know your age, Mr. Herries, but my ladies I know will
tell you that you are handsome.  And that pleases me too.  And
there is a cousin of yours here, of your name.  Rosamund Herries.
We are good friends, she and I.'

She beckoned with her stiff fingers.  Robin saw Rosamund come over
to them.

'Well, Robin,' she said.

He kissed her.  Mary looked at them both approvingly.

'I was telling Mr. Herries that we are good friends already,
Rosamund, ma mie.'

Rosamund made a little curtsey.

'She is the happiest person in this place, Mr. Herries.  She cannot
help but be happy even in such a place as this.  That is how I
would have been.  It was always my intention to be happy.  In
France I was so, and I was so at the beginning in Scotland.  When I
see Rosamund I can believe in happiness again.'  She was suddenly
the Queen.  'If you are to remain with us, Mr. Herries, I must
introduce you.'

She summoned people to her:  M. Nau, Mr. Curle, Mr. Melville;
Bourgoing, her physician, a man whom Robin liked at sight for the
honest clearness of his eye and his strong fearless carriage;
Gervais, her surgeon.  Then some of her women:  Barbara Mowbray,
now Curle's wife, Elizabeth Pierpoint, Jane Kennedy, one or two
more.

Sylvia came with the others.  The Queen gave her a sharp look and
Robin was at once certain that she did not trust her.

'Mistress Irvine, whom you know well.'

Robin kissed her lightly on her cheek.  He felt her tremble.

Then something happened.  The door at the far end of the room
opened and someone stood there.  Robin saw that it was Phineas
Thatcher.

The Queen no sooner saw him than she cried out:  'That man . . . I
said that he should not come into my presence.  It was promised me--'

Irvine hurried forward and bowing said something about 'a message.'

She was in a rage.  Her whole body was alive with activity.  Her
voice rang out as though she were ordering everyone in the room to
imprisonment.

'Message!  Message!  Aye, we know his messages!  Mr. Irvine, you
should not have allowed this.  It is one more--'

She stopped, for the man had disappeared as quickly as he had come.
She looked at all of them, hating them, even her own women.

'That is enough.  I will go to my room.'

She half rose.  Her mouth twitched with pain.  She leaned forward
to Rosamund and Barbara Curle.  She rose very stiffly, stood for a
moment between the two women, then, freeing herself from both of
them, walked with great dignity to a side door and disappeared.

On the way to his room afterwards Robin was lost, and at the
meeting of two passages he found Sylvia Irvine.

They greeted one another and at once he knew that all physical
desire was gone.  For the first time!  For the first time!  Oh,
blessed, blessed relief!  He recognized further that desire was
gone because she also did not feel it.  They had passed to that
further stage of their relationship for which he had so constantly
longed.  It might be because they were here present at a greater
tragedy than their own.  It might be because they were both now
doomed, because the last act of their play had begun.  But at last
it was truly there--the quiet, the peace, the kindliness.

They stood together, he holding her hand, she smiling at him in the
dusk, ghost-like because she was so small and so fragile and her
face was so white above her black dress.  They both realized that
they had very little time, and their sentences were swift, breath-
caught.  At times he could scarcely hear what she was saying.

'Robin, why did you come?'

'I had to.  I had no choice.'

'It is Philip's plan to have you here.  He intends us both harm.'

'For years he has intended us harm.  There are deeper, more
desperate things here than Philip.'

She put her small hand on the silver of his coat.

'Be careful.  Be careful.  Every word here is overheard, every
movement overlooked.'

'Yes,' he said, catching her hand in his.  'But the Queen--what
must I do about the Queen?'

'Take trouble for her.  Help her.  She mistrusts me because I am
Philip's wife.  She knows that Philip is her enemy.  But because of
Rosamund she may have faith in you.  I could see that she liked
you.  She loves Rosamund and trusts her more than anyone save
Bourgoing and Curle, Pierpoint and Kennedy. . . .  No one else.
She knows that enemies are all around her.'

'What does she hope for?'

'For release.  For Elizabeth's death.  For a rising in Scotland.
And there is more.  These last months she has been of a different
hoping spirit.  Nau and Curle and herself--they have been engaged
in some plan.  I am frightened for her.  I know she has written
secret letters, and I fear for what she may have written.  Philip
knows.  The Queen has been receiving letters from France in some
secret fashion.  She believes that her deliverance is quite near,
but I think they have been laying a trap for her--'

'Yes,' Robin said.  'I heard something of it in London.  Walsingham
has spies in every place.'

'Keep away from it--you, Robin--my dear, my dear.  That is Philip's
plan, I think, to catch you.  He will have you either spy for him
or be yourself spied upon.  Thatcher is everywhere, and God in His
gracious mercy give it into my hands one day before I die to see
that man suffer. . . .'

The words choked her.  She looked up at him, speechless, then
raised herself on her toes as she used to do and kissed him very
gently.

'Listen, Robin, while you are here think nothing of me.  I know
that I am going to die very soon and I am glad of it.  I have been
afraid in the morning and afraid in the evening for year upon year,
and now I am no more afraid.  Only for you.  Philip can have had
you here only for evil, but you can make something of it if you can
serve the Queen.  She is in deadliest peril.  Think of that and
that only.'

'Yes.  For ourselves,' he said gravely, 'it is a little matter.'

She moved a little way down the passage.  She looked at him and her
voice was thin, ghostly, as she said:  'I love you in a better way
than ever before, Robin.  And it is not a sin now.  It would be a
fine thing if we could do some good before we die.'

Her retreating steps made no sound.  He stood there listening, but
there was a dark silence.  He might have been already dead.



TIXALL TRAP


'This is perhaps the moment.  This . . . the moment!'

He tried to be reasonable, for in the past so often the moment had
not arrived.  But now, at last, within an hour his whole life, what
he had learnt from it, what, after all, he had gained from it,
might be put to the test.

It was the bright warm shining morning of August 16th.  Robin had
been up early, for soon after six he had met Nicholas two miles
away.  When he saw his brother, his brother warned him.  Nicholas
was watching over him like a mother over her young, gathering every
piece of news that he could, trying as well as he could from that
distance to shadow Irvine, taking all that Robin had to tell him
and transmuting it into his own cool common sense and so handing it
back to Robin again.

For Robin's imagination was on fire now with all that he could do
for the Queen.  It was as though his whole wasted life could be
redeemed by some great sacrificial act.  He was hampered always,
though, by: first, the fact that Mary's inner party in Chartley did
not as yet trust him, knowing that he had been Irvine's choice;
second, that Irvine kept a constant watch on him; and third, his
own rooted determination that he would do nothing against
Elizabeth.  He would not be disloyal to the one Queen, but he would
gladly die for the other.

During this last week he had told himself over and over that some
wonderful deliverance was at hand for Mary.  He noticed how the
Queen herself and Nau and Curle, Bourgoing and Melville, Rosamund
and Barbara, all the Queen's intimates, had in these last days
carried a certain new confidence in their hearts.  Their faces,
their words betrayed it.  The Queen had grown marvellously better
of her rheumatism in this last fortnight.  She had been gay, had
sung her old songs, and had charmed himself, Robin, with a
wonderful girl-like simplicity and kindness and tenderness.

'Something, Nick, that you don't know is on foot.  I tell you it IS
so.'

'And I tell you, Robin, that all their plots have failed.  They
have been betrayed by Gifford and by a brewer here, who are working
for Walsingham.'

Robin remembered something that Sylvia had told him on his first
evening there.  He had been afraid then, but now he was confident.

'Nick, I tell you it can't be so--Men like Nau and Bourgoing would
not be so sure--'

'Nau--Bah!  I don't trust him a step.  Curle even may be betraying
her.  And Irvine--do you not think him clever enough for anything?
Why is he there with Thatcher but to trap her?  She has always been
a fool in that.  She has plotted and plotted her life long and
always badly because of her impetuous will and her sensual body--'

Robin broke in fiercely, but Nicholas held him.

'No, no, Robin.  I must speak what I know.  Why am I here at this
wretched inn but to watch for you and guard you?  What do I care
for any Queen, or indeed for any woman for that?  All women are
false and treacherous and betraying.  I wish your plotting Queen no
harm so long as she does our country no ill, but she may go to the
stake and be burnt ten times over before I will have you hurt.  You
are a romantic poet, Robin, and have lived all your years in the
air like a skylark, and have handed yourself over to a black hawk
as well.  Hist, I must be gone.  This same place and time to-morrow
morning.'

But Robin, if he had known it, would not see his big brother for
another fortnight.

As he sat his horse there in the Chartley courtyard with the
others, waiting for the order to be off, his heart beat with a
fierce joy and pride.  Dear old Nick, he was always cautious and
warning and sensible.  What could he know, living those miles away
and depending on the gossip of the district and his acquaintance
with a man or two in the village who did odd services at the manor?

But the Queen knew and Bourgoing and Curle.  He could see their
faces now, bright and hopeful in the sunshine.  Last evening while
they had been sitting together listening to Curle's reading from
Skelton's poetry, Paulet had appeared and, awkward and stiff as
ever, had suggested that to-morrow, if the weather were fair, they
should ride over to Sir Walter Aston's Park at Tixall and hunt the
buck.  It was a distance from Chartley only of nine miles, not too
far for the Queen, and in any case her rheumatics were so much the
better now.  The Queen was like a young girl: she clapped her hands
that were now unmittened and less sadly swollen.  Any pleasure was
fresh and exciting to her even after nineteen years of imprisonment.

So here they were, in the glittering sunshine, all on horseback--
Paulet, Irvine, Sylvia, Curle, Nau, Rosamund, Robin, Melville,
Bourgoing, Bastien Pages, Annibal her archer, Lawrence who held her
reins, Elizabeth Pierpoint.

The Queen was in a green riding-dress with a feather in her hat and
sitting her horse as though she had never known the name of
rheumatism.

They started and when they had ridden a little way the Queen half
turned in her saddle and, smiling at Robin, showed him that she
wished to speak to him.  He rode up to her and then they went on,
side by side, for a while, a little apart from the rest.

He was astonished to see her.  Her face was young again.  She had
never been, perhaps, in the strictest sense handsome, but he could
see to-day for the first time what it was that had made her, for so
many men, so bewitching.  She was alive with very life itself; and
this sparkling fire of vitality gave her eyes and mouth a shape and
form that they did not have when she was weary or sad.

She was older now, but still even yet there was that appeal of her
throwing herself on your kindness, on you and only you, of a gentle
surrendering tenderness, though behind the sweetness there was a
fierce assertion of independence so that you might say to yourself:
'I can see that with many she might be a tigress, but with me she
is an understanding friend.'

She turned her laughing face to him.

'I am gay, Robin, I am gay, for the first time for weeks.'  (She
had not called him Robin before.)

She lowered her voice.  Irvine, as stiff as an ebony rod on his
horse, was not far away.

'Are you to be trusted?  They have told me not.  They say you are
Irvine's friend, but I have watched you.  I am no ill judge of
character, although, by Jesu, I have been, once and once again, in
error.  But you have a good face and a kindly.  You said on that
first evening you had come to serve me.'

Robin answered passionately:  'So, by Christ's body, I have.'

She spoke quickly, her bosom panting, her eyes playing on his face
like fire.

'If now, if in half an hour, it is suddenly a question as to whose
side you are on, you will be with ME?'

'In anything--in everything--if it is not against Queen Elizabeth.'

'No.  No.  How could it be?  Why are they for ever taunting me with
that?  What do I want but my freedom?  Oh, Robin, I have had year
upon year of prison and when I gave myself to her she promised me
my freedom.  And yet I bear her no ill.  If they allow me I will go
to her and at last face to face she will know how all my enemies
have wronged me.'

('In half an hour,' he thought.  'What is she expecting in half an
hour?'  He thought, too, 'She hates Elizabeth.  Under her voice
there is another voice.  Too deep for her to prevent its echo.')

'I will trust you,' she said softly.  'Now.  Always.  I know that I
have made a true friend.'

He had noticed during this fortnight that her eyes were everywhere.
She was always on the watch for her enemies and now she had seen
Irvine draw closer to them, so she spurred her horse on a little
and rode alone, but as she quickened her pace, Paulet and Irvine
did likewise.

Instead of the Queen, Rosamund was at his side.  He had not liked
the girl overmuch and even now, after this time with her at
Chartley, he did not altogether like her.  He felt that she laughed
at him.  He was solemn and serious, he knew, and Rosamund mocked
him as she mocked everyone.  But this morning she was serious
enough.  Her horse was very close to his.

'Robin--has Philip said anything to you?'

'No.  Why?'

'I am uneasy.  The Queen is too confident.  Paulet has something in
that narrow wooden head of his and Philip is like a black snake.'

'What do you fear?'

'I can't tell.  I have been afraid for weeks. . . .'  She grinned
at him like a boy.  'No matter.  I have been shut up too long.  Did
you see Nicholas this morning?'

'Yes.'

'How did he look?'

'Oh, as fat as ever.'

'He would do better to see me than you.  I could tell him more.'

'He asks for you--nearly every day.'

'It is a week since I have seen him.'

But to-day her mind was not set even on her dear Nicholas.  She was
looking ahead, watching the bend of the road, her sensible honest
face wrinkled a little against the sun.  She rode beautifully, like
a man.

They must have gone some eight miles and been not far distant from
Tixall when quite suddenly a group of horsemen appeared, waiting
motionless at the end of the road.

That moment would be bitten into Robin's mind while life lasted.
His instant thought was:  'These are Babington and some of his
friends.'  He knew enough to be aware that it was just such an
occasion for which the Queen was prepared.  He turned instantly
towards her and saw her erect on her horse, her face illuminated
with joy.  He thought:  'There look to be fifty of them at least.
How dared Paulet come out into the country with so few?'

His imagination did not carry him forward to consider what would be
done after the Queen's rescue.  He had been practically shut in
Chartley for more than a week, and it might be that in this time
all the Catholic gentlemen of England had risen.

Their own party had ridden a little forward and now paused, the sun
shining down on them.  A lark was singing in the sky, sealing that
perfect silence.  They could smell the faint hot odour of the corn,
poppies stained the fields, and from some other road came the lazy
rumble of cartwheels.

No one spoke.  Then they saw from the farther group a horseman
detach himself and ride towards them.  As he approached, Robin
heard Curle, not far from him, murmur:  'God's pity, it is Sir
Thomas Gorges.'

Robin's eyes were still on the Queen, and in that awful moment he
saw her face change, a look of horror narrowing her eyes, her mouth
drawing into a thin tight line.  He fancied that he saw her shiver.

Every detail then was marked for Robin as though against the blue
cloudless sky.

Sir Thomas Gorges, a man of about fifty, dressed in green serge
ornamented with gold, came quite near to the Queen, dismounted from
his horse, bowed politely, and in a voice so clear that every word
came sharply across the rustling corn, said:

'Madame, the Queen, my mistress, finds it very strange that you,
contrary to the pact and engagement made between you, should have
conspired against her and her State, a thing which she could not
have believed had she not seen proofs of it with her own eyes and
known it for certain.  And because she knows that some of your
servants are guilty, and charged with this, you will not take it
ill if they are separated from you.  Sir Amyas will tell you the
rest.'

There was a dreadful moment of silence.  Robin heard a new voice,
shrill, furious, a cry of anger.

'It is a lie.  I have in no way conspired against the Queen.'

The soldiers behind Gorges had meanwhile drawn closer.

Sir Thomas bowed again.

'I am but the Queen's servant.  I do as I am ordered.'

The Queen looked down at him as he stood there, his gold-
embroidered cuff gleaming against the hand on his horse's rein, as
though she would ride her horse at him.

She cried:  'I know no order.  There can be no order.  I am
innocent of any charge.'

Robin saw a wonderful effort at control discipline her whole body.
She swayed a little; in a cold sharp voice, regal, as though she
were commanding in her Holyrood Palace, she said:  'I would have
you know, and all the world know, that I have never thought of such
things.  Had I wished to undertake them it would have been easy to
do so.  Your Queen has received information from a lying quarter.
She has been bitterly misled.  I have always shown myself her good
sister and friend.'

Gorges regarded her but said no more.  He mounted his horse again,
then rode slowly, his face impenetrably grave, to Nau, to Curle, to
Melville, who were all drawn in a group together behind the Queen.
He spoke to the three of them.

'I regret extremely, gentlemen, that by Her Majesty's orders you
are not to continue in this party but to follow my officers.'

At that all the Queen's servants broke out into cries and bitter
exclamations.

The Queen, frenzied, turned her horse back and shouted, waving her
arms:

'To me, my friends!  To me!  Draw your swords, for it is now or
never again.  These are our enemies declared and open!  For your
Queen's safety and protection.  Your swords!  Your swords!'

But it could not be.  Bourgoing rode to her, leaning over, putting
his hand on her arm, whispering to her as to a child.  Her hat was
on one side, pulling her wig a little with it.

Nau, Curle, Melville, said no word.  Two officers had detached
themselves from the soldiers and started down the road.  The two
secretaries and Melville followed.  They did not look at the Queen.
The two secretaries were never to see her again.

Paulet had taken no part in any of this, and now when the party
moved forward again he was riding slowly ahead.  At a group of
trees he turned to the left.

Bourgoing said loudly to the Queen, 'We are going a new way.  We
are not returning to Chartley.'

The Queen pushed her horse forward to Paulet, driving it a little
across his own horse.

'Sir Amyas--where are we going?  Is this a short road to Chartley?'

Robin had noticed from the first that whenever the Queen was angry
Paulet was afraid.  After all, his responsibilities were frightful.
No one, even now, knew how affairs might ultimately turn, and his
duty to his own Queen, loyal and faithful though he was, warned him
that he might have, any day, duties to a quite different Queen if
things went oddly.  There was something in Mary, too, when she was
angry, that was inhuman--there was none of the Juno about her, but
something not altogether mortal, something of the witch who knows
spells.

His eyes sought hers now, and then shifted.

'Madame, we are not returning to Chartley.'

'Where do we go then?'

He stammered a little.

'To a good place--a fine place--finer than Chartley--finer than my
own.  I fear, Madame, it is impossible for you to return--it is
forbidden--I have my command--'

She dismounted.  She stood there on the rough path between the
ranks of sugar-burnt corn.

'I go no farther.  I can see that my end is determined on.  I would
as well die here under God's sky as in a stinking dungeon.'

Some of the irritation that creeps into all men at sight of an
obstinate woman stole now into Paulet's beard.

'I am sorry.  We must proceed.  I shall be compelled to send for
your coach, Madame, and have you conveyed. . . .'

Mary had moved to a flat white stone placed like a seat under the
deep shadow of an oak tree.  She sat down on it like any other
abandoned helpless woman, her hands clasped so tightly that the
knuckles shone, staring before her, over the corn, into the summer-
misted dove-blue of the morning.  Bourgoing had jumped from his
horse and now ran to her.  He knelt in the dust beside her, taking
her hands in his own.  The women, Elizabeth Pierpoint and another,
were crying.  Rosamund also had dismounted and stood, her face
unstained with tears but her mouth set as though, at the first word
from her mistress, she would leap at Paulet's throat.  The soldiers
had pushed their horses back out of earshot, but to the others the
words came clearly enough.

Bourgoing in his soft tender French, looking into her face,
cherishing her hands, made Robin love Frenchmen from that moment to
the end.

'My lady!  My lady!  Take heart.  Your friends are here.  We are
with you.'

'It is the end, Bourgoing.  They are going to kill me.'

'No.  No.  It may be other--'  His voice dropped.  'It may be that
Elizabeth is dead and your friends choose this way to save you.'

Her eyes sought his face.  How old, how old, Robin thought, she
seemed!

'No.  It's my murder they intend.  But I will die here.  They shall
kill me here with the skylark singing.  Better this than more of
prison.'

Bourgoing put his broad arm around her.  'Ah, Madame, how we love
you!  How we love you!  Do you think that we will not see justice
done?  Are we not proud of you and should you not show them that
you are not afraid?  Go on.  Go on.  They will not dare to touch
you.  Up with your head, my lady, and let them see your high
courage.'

She turned to him, unexpectedly smiling.  She laid, for an instant,
the back of her hand against his forehead.

'It will be off with my head, not up with it, my poor friend.'  She
stood up.  'Very well, we will go.  They shall not say that I fear
them, hurt me though they may.  But first, under His own sky, I
will pray to God, for who can tell when I will see this sky again?'

Then, beside the stone, under the oak tree, she knelt down and
prayed.

'O God, the Father of Jesus Christ, I pray Thee to have tenderness
on all these my people who so faithfully have remained with me
through every adversity.  I pray Thee also to pardon all my faults,
which indeed are heavy and grievous.  I merit chastisement and Thou
wilt give me endurance to bear it, under Thy commanding mercy.
Remember, O God, Thy servant David whom Thou didst deliver from his
enemies when it had seemed that they were too many for him, and, in
like manner, extend Thy pity to me who am the least of Thy
servants.  But do with me as Thou wilt, for I desire no longer
anything, neither goods, honours, power, nor worldly sovereignty,
but only the honour of Thy holy name and Thy glory, the liberty of
Thy Church and of all Christian people.  And so I offer Thee my
heart and Thou well knowest what are my desires and what is my
intention.'

It was her recognition before God and the world that her soul knew
well that at last she was given over to her enemies.

There was no sound but the sobbing of the two women.  She rose from
her knees, and, assisted by Bourgoing, remounted her horse.

She turned her head, and, in a voice perfectly calm and controlled,
said to Paulet, 'And now, sir, you may take me where you will.'



THE CHRISTENING


Sylvia, her small face puckered like that of a naughty child,
slipped back through the long avenue, now closing darkly together
as the summer night fell; the church from the village struck ten,
there was a sleepy bird twittering and the splash of the fountain
with the two Cupids on the west terrace.  Did she but reach the
Cupids she was safe.  She had stayed longer than she had intended,
but no one, she fancied, had seen her.

She had spent a whole hour with Nicholas in the barn near the
London road, and oh! what a comfort he had been to her.  Nicholas
was always a comfort, showing at every crisis that things were not
so bad as they might be, kindly, reassuring, and so strong, not
only of body but also of spirit.

She regarded him as an inferior creature.  He could not understand
the joys and miseries of subtly-tuned natures like hers and
Robin's.  Had he ever known what love really was?  She could not
believe it.  In his huge arms he had crushed this woman or that,
but with the same immediate necessity and vigour with which he
enjoyed his food and drink.  She looked down upon him, but in such
a dreadful crisis as this present he was the very friend she
needed.  And then he hated Philip.  She loved him for that.

He had consoled and comforted her, but that had not been his
purpose in meeting her.  All he was interested to know was of
Robin, and of Robin he knew no more than she did.  For he had
skirted round Tixall, a miserable place, he told her, compared with
Chartley, but had never won a sight of his brother.  Robin,
Rosamund and two others--Bourgoing for one night only--had remained
with the Queen.  They had been at Tixall now for a fortnight.

At Chartley it had been truly terrible.  First Barbara Curle, in an
agony of distress for the Queen, had given premature birth to a
child, and if that were not bad enough, Barbara was in terror also
for her husband, who, with Nau, had been conveyed to London.

At Chartley gentlemen had arrived from London and, with Paulet and
Philip, had turned the place into a 'mop-fair' by going through all
the Queen's papers, upsetting drawers, taking up boards from the
floor, and putting Sylvia, Pierpoint, Bourgoing, Annibal through
monstrous questionings.

Philip had been truly in his grand place and had grown, with every
minute, more self-pleased and commanding.  Sylvia told Nicholas
that she thought that he was another two feet in height since a
fortnight.

She shook with terror on her side when Nicholas informed her that
Babington, Charnock, Ballard and others were caught and held to
torture in London, that a dreadful plot had been discovered for the
murder of Elizabeth by gentlemen of the Court, and that it was said
that Queen Mary was implicated in this.

'If it is proved,' Nicholas said, 'it means her death.'

She reached her room in safety, lit with trembling hand the two
tall candles by the bed, and she saw Philip sitting there in the
crimson velvet chair, his long black legs stretching out in front
of him.

She gave a cry and put her hand to her mouth like a little girl.

'And what did Cousin Nicholas tell you?' was his first question.

She did not lie to him.  She never could.  When he had her cornered
as she was now, her terror of him was so great that she was emptied
of all subterfuges and conceits.

She rested her small hand on the bed that he should not see how she
was trembling.

'How did you know?'

'Thatcher is aware of all that big bully's movements.'

'He wished to know about Robin.'

'Of whom you also wish to know.'

Deep in the heart of Chartley a bell struck the hour.  Irvine
raised his hand as if to have silence until the strokes were ended.
Then, looking at her with sombre meditative eyes, he said quietly:
'It is finished.'

'What is?'

She moved closer to the bed and grasped the hangings.  She had
never been so deeply terrified of him in all their life together as
now.

'Mary.  And you.  It is the end at last for both of you.'  His
voice went on in quiet satisfaction:  'It has been a long game.
Mary is caught past redemption.  We have found papers in this
fortnight that even our own good merciful Queen will not be able to
resist.  The end now is certain.  I have myself played a good part
in this.  The brewer, that honest man, was my notion.  You have not
heard perhaps.  They placed their letters in the ale-barrel, the
brewer gave them to Gifford, who sent decoded copies to Walsingham.
Then the letters were sent forward to Mary's friends, who most
handsomely replied in the same manner.  That honest man, the
brewer, was paid by both sides--young Gifford too.'

He recited these facts, not as though it interested him to tell his
wife anything, but as though his exalted self bent over the chair
and patted the back of his other exalted self sitting in it.  He
suddenly raised himself and leant forward as though he would force
her better attention.

'Nevertheless the once-so-proud Scottish Queen is not my interest
now.  Nor yours.'  He said gently, 'It is ended, Sylvia.  It is
ended.'

'What is ended?' she asked again.

'You will never share a bed with young Robin any more.  Never,
never again.  The first time was in Cumberland, was it not?  You
never thought, either of you, as you rode away the next morning, of
the little gentleman you passed who noticed the jewel in your hat.
It was incautious, that jewel--and when he told me accidentally in
London of that little episode I knew where I was--and where you had
been and what you had been doing--'

She sat on the edge of the bed.  Her knees would not hold her.

'Why--?' she said.  'Why--?'  But she could not go on.

'Why have I not ended it before?  Because I was kindly intent on
giving you an opportunity.  An opportunity for what?  For realizing
the remarkable quality of the husband you had married.  You were of
no value in bed to me, having neither the arts nor the semblance of
good manners.  You could not even pretend to care for my body,
which is as handsome and strong as any other man's.  When I saw
that you were blind to my body I thought that your eyes might
become open to my soul.  For I have the character of no ordinary
man, Sylvia.  I am a man in a thousand, nay, in a million, and I
will rise yet to the top of the world when you--Well, I will not
say where you will long have been by that time.'

Her teeth chattering against her will, she said:  'What will you
do?'

'What will I do?  Nay, first I was telling you what I HAVE done.
Your cousins, priest Robin and bumpkin Nicholas, I have hated, and
do hate, as I hate no other living men.  Years gone booby Nicholas
interfered with my duty, stabbed me treacherously in the arm and
named me with insults.  I am so remarkable a man that once I set my
hold on a thing or a man I never let go.  Nicholas, his time and
place will come.  But it was like you, being the stupid slut that
you are, to choose Nicholas' saintly brother to bed with. . . .'

'I knew him before you--I knew him before you!'

'Aye--knew him and loved him, I don't doubt, but it was myself that
you married.  On the first night we were at Drunning, as certainly
you remember, you refused my embraces and even scratched my thigh
with your nails.  For years you have been unfaithful to me,
choosing a lecherous bed rather than a virtuous one, and I have
waited with a Christian patience.  I have said to myself:  "Let her
but recognise me for the man I am and I will forgive her
everything."  But you did not choose it so.  You could not, for you
have neither brains nor taste nor eye nor wisdom nor knowledge.  As
the years have gone I have learned to hate your miserable white
face, your "Yes, Philip," "No, Philip," "Please, Philip," so that
there is no pain I would not have you suffer.  Your Robin also.
And he SHALL suffer--even as Babington and Charnock will suffer,
who will be hung on the gallows for a breathing second, their
bodies cut down and marked for their quartering, their privities
cut off, their bowels--'

She broke in with a throttled cry:  'You shall not touch him!  He
has done nothing!  It was I--'

'Your sufferings shall be shorter.  So brief that you will scarce
mark them--But soon.  The end shall be soon.'

He looked at her mockingly.  With a light laugh he said as he rose:
'Oh, Sylvia, had you but known and confessed the rare man you
married, all, all would have been forgiven you.'

He stood looking at her, and she knew that her doom was fixed.
Yet, even at that moment, she realized with an acute perception
that it was not his wickedness but his vanity that was speaking.
No son of man is wicked, for if he boasts of his evil, he is blind,
and if he is sorry for it, there is mercy.

'What will you do?' she asked again.

Before he could answer there was a loud knocking on the door and
his name was called.  He went to it and opened it.

A man stood there and cried, 'The Queen--the Queen has arrived.
Sir Amyas is calling for you.'

Philip hastened down and Sylvia followed him.

In the hall there was a wild scene.  The great door was open and
torches were flaring at its entrance.  In the hall itself Paulet,
Bourgoing, some men and some women were gathered peering from the
dim candlelight into the torches.

In the doorway stood Queen Mary, a little in front of Robin,
Rosamund, and one or two more.  She was wearing the green riding-
dress and hat with which she had set out.  Her clothes were
dishevelled and disordered, and her face, in that wild light, as
white as a bleached bone.  She carried a riding-whip and looked a
fury.

She cried out to Paulet:  'So you have allowed me to return!  After
the filth and neglect of a dirty fortnight you have shuffled me
back to my old prison, Sir Amyas.  And now whither, pray?'

Paulet very quietly answered that he was sorry if Tixall had not
been at its best.  The time had been short, accommodation lacking,
but for his part--

'For your part,' she broke in on him, 'Sir Amyas, you lack the
courtesies of a common gentleman.  But I excuse you.  Men cannot be
what they are not bred to be.'

She swept forward into the hall, her face working with rage, that
strange rage that carried beneath it a running power so strong and
so vital that it shook her own spirit.  Then she saw Bourgoing, and
her weariness and anger turned to a smile.

'Oh, my friend, my friend.  How is it with you?  How I have needed
your kindness and understanding.'

Holding his hand in both of hers she went on, the words pouring
from her, as though no one else were present but they two.

'Why did they not let you stay?  And after you had gone that first
morning I stood on those dirty stairs and saw the beetles crossing
the floor and the wind shook the cracks in the wall.  I thought
"They have taken him as they take all my friends and I shall see
him again only in heaven."  But it is not heaven for us yet, my
friend . . .  And you are well? . . . that pain in your shoulder--
Oh, but I must tell you--Our friend here, Mr. Herries'--she turned
back and stretched a hand out towards Robin--'Rosamund and he--what
should I have done without them?  We must be good to them while we
may.  Rosamund has a slight ague--that place--ugh--it is fortunate
for us it was summer. . . .'

Her eyes passed over his shoulder and caught Sylvia.  The sweetness
with which she had greeted Bourgoing did not leave her.  Sylvia had
come to her, curtsied, and the two women looked into one another's
eyes.

'I am glad that they have allowed you to remain with us.  I wish--'

A curiously intimate gaze was exchanged between them.  It was as
though they knew, both of them, that sentence had been passed and
in that knowledge was born a new relationship.

Sylvia said softly:  'While I may there is no service that I will
not render, Madame.'

The Queen moved to her and surprisingly touched her cheek.

'I believe it.  Poor child--you also have suffered.  I had not
known it when I was here before.'

She turned and cried out to Bourgoing.

'But Barbara?  My poor Barbara--why is she not here?  Has she had
news of him from London?  Why is she not here to tell me?'

Bourgoing hesitated, then, lowering his voice, said:  'My lady--the
sudden shock of your leaving, her fears for you. . . .  She was ill
on the evening of that day.  A child was born to her that night
before its right time.  She is weak and must keep her room, but the
child is healthy.'

The Queen was instantly in a trembling agitation.

'My Barbara?  A child? . . .'  She cried out in French and started
for the stairs, running.

She ran up them, still crying out.  Paulet followed her,
expostulating.  After them Bourgoing and Rosamund.

The Queen at the stair-head turned to the right, ran forward
crying, 'Barbara!  Barbara!  My poor Barbara!'

Paulet followed, calling out, 'Madame!  Madame!  She is not well.
To-morrow--I beg you--'

Before she opened the bedroom door she turned on him, as he hurried
down the passage, like a virago.

'Christ's body and blood, Sir Amyas, but if you stop me I will call
down God's justice on your head!  You have caught me, you and your
spies, and trapped me and held me, but the end is not yet, nor has
the time come when Mary of Scotland can cry false to those who love
her.  Aye, and who have served her with a loyalty and devotion that
your spirit cannot conceive of.  This is not your place, Sir Amyas.
Go back to your papers and your documents and your spider-spinning.
'Fore God, but I will shame you before every woman in this country
if you prevent me.'

She threw open the door, ran forward, crying 'Barbara!  Barbara!'
saw the loved, familiar face against the pillows, fell on her knees
beside the bed, throwing her riding-hat to the ground.  She forgot
in that moment her rheumatics, her ceremony, her watchfulness for
her own safety, and spoke, tears filling her eyes, her hand
stroking Barbara Curle's hair.

'My dear--and I was not here.  You have suffered and I was not here--
See!  I have come back.  They have not killed me yet, nor you.  We
are two strong women together.  The child--where is the child?  It
is a girl.  I know that it is a girl.'

Barbara, raising herself against the pillow, smiling, whispered,
for she was very weak:  'Yes, it is a girl, Madame.  If you allow,
it is to be called Mary.  And we have waited for the christening
until you came.'

The Queen had risen and was bending over the cot beside the bed.
The baby was not frightened, but smiled and raised its tiny hand,
doubling it into a fist.  The Queen caught it up, took it from the
cot and stood there, looking at it, murmuring to it, embracing it.

She turned, laughing, towards the bed.  'See, Barbara!  The bonny
bairn!  The bonny bairn!  And it has Curle's eyes, I swear but it
has.  No other man fathered you, my bonny--you were made in
legitimate sheets.'

She held the child aloft, then very carefully replaced it in the
cot.

'But you, ma mie, yourself.  How is your bodily strength?  Was it
fear for me that hastened the birth?  Ah--that touches me, and if I
had my way it would touch THEM also to the heart--if they HAD
hearts.'

She turned from the bed and saw the doorway crowded with people.
She stamped with her foot.

'Is this a lady's private chamber or is it not?  This at least, Sir
Amyas, is a common courtesy.  They would see us naked, us poor
women, nursing our babes in our shifts--'

She caught the eye of the unlucky secretary of Paulet, Gervase
Ellis, and, fixing him with a furious eye, she went on:

'Pray, Mr. Ellis, come forward.  Come forward.  Examine the bed
lest there are red Catholics hidden in it.  Never mind Mistress
Curle--for duty is duty--'

Paulet ordered briefly everyone to leave the room.  The Queen asked
for Rosamund, Bourgoing, Robin to remain.  When they only were
there and the door closed, Philip Irvine was standing at Paulet's
elbow.

'And Mr. Irvine?' the Queen said.  'Has he no urgent affairs
elsewhere?'

(She hated Irvine above everyone in all this business.)

'I need him,' Sir Amyas said shortly.

'Ah, yes, you need him,' she retorted on him fiercely.  'It is such
as he and such servants as the vile Thatcher who best serve your
purpose here.'

She gave Philip a look so furious that his brown dark face flushed,
but he had great powers of control, his vanity helping him, and he
said nothing.

The Queen behaved then for a little as though there were no one in
the room but herself and Barbara Curle.  She pulled back the dark
orange bed-curtain and sat near the pillow.

'Now, Barbara.  Tell me.  You have heard from Curle?'

'Not a word--Oh, Madame, not a word!'

'Aye, but you will.'  She began to stroke Barbara's long brown
hair.  'You shall, you shall.  He is waiting doubtless until he can
get word of some certain news to you.  I will myself discover--'

She stopped, raised her hand and let it drop, smiled whimsically.

'I?  What can I do now?  They do not respect even your birth-
chamber, ma mie.'

Barbara caught her hand.

'Madame, what will they do?  What CAN they do?  I am afraid.  The
Tower.  The rack.  He has always been so kindly, loving the world
and his horse Caesar and all children.  He has only served you,
Madame, as a faithful servant.  He intended no harm to any living
person.  But now there has been a fortnight's silence and no word--'

Mary drew her towards her.

'There, there. . . .  I know what it must be for you.  I too have
suffered . . . years . . . years. . . .  When Bothwell rode for the
last time--'

She could not go on.  She was sobbing convulsively.  Weariness, the
fears of the last fortnight, the rough treatment at Tixall, the
pains of her body, her own secret knowledge of what they might have
found, all these causes at this moment roused in her a fever of
excited emotion and hysteria.

She checked her sobbing.  She caught Barbara's hand in hers and
fondled it.

'I swear to you, Barbara, that all Curle I take upon myself--aye,
the whole of him.  They cannot charge him with anything that is not
my fault.  If anyone is guilty in any case it is I.'  She stroked
Barbara's hand.  'There!  There!  Dry your tears.  There are men
here who joy to see us weep!'

She stood up, staring at the cradle.

'But the child.  It has not been christened, you say?'

'They took Father du Prau that day a fortnight ago.'

She glared at Paulet again.

'So I have no priest now?  Even my own priest I am not permitted.'

Paulet, who clearly detested this whole scene, bowed.  His voice
had a high rather breaking note that was sometimes absurd.  It
broke now.

'Madame, I had no alternative.'

'Well, God be thanked WE have one,' the Queen answered briskly.
'What of your own chaplain, Sir Amyas?  Against him you have
nothing, for he hates me as though I were the Scarlet Woman
herself.  Nevertheless he can christen like another.  Summon him at
once.  The child shall not be without God's grace a moment longer.'

Paulet still hesitated.

'Well, sir?'

'It is, Madame, that I understand that the child is to be
christened Mary and after yourself.'

'Well?'

'In that case'--he hesitated again, then straightened his shoulders--
'I fear that my chaplain cannot perform the office.  It is
condoning--'

'Condoning!  Condoning!  Condoning what?'

'Condoning--' he ended foolishly.  'I cannot ask my chaplain to
perform it.'

'You cannot? . . .  You will not?  Well, then, I will be a priest
as good as another for this poor neglected child.  God listens from
His heaven and hears the desperate prayers of his persecuted
children.  This He shall hear and perceive and will not reject.'

She again lifted the child from the cot, moved to where there were
a silver ewer and basin, tipped some water into her hand and,
sprinkling the child's forehead, murmured most reverently:

'Mary, I baptize thee in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost.'

She held the child for the mother to kiss it, then herself embraced
it, and laid it back in the cot again.

She bent over Barbara.

'Be patient.  I will get news of him.'

She straightened herself and walked through the room.  At the door
she summoned Rosamund and Bourgoing, then she turned down the
passage.  Paulet and Philip Irvine followed them.

She pushed open the door of her own room and stood there rooted,
staring.

The room was in the greatest possible disorder.  Drawers of her
cabinet, her wardrobe, of a table near her bed, were pulled open,
letters and papers hanging from them like dead tongues.  Papers
were scattered on the floor, there were ashes of papers in the
fireplace.

She moved without a word quickly about the room.  She looked into
every drawer.  She found her crimson writing-case that had her
crest in gold on it and the gold lock burst.  A small toy spaniel,
adored by her, ran from the basket near the fireplace and began to
yelp and spring on its hind legs, but she neither saw nor heard it.

She looked for a long time at the drawer in the table by the bed
and at the papers still remaining in her writing-case.

At last she turned and spoke to Paulet, who waited near the door.
Her voice was very quiet and courteous.

'So THIS is why I was taken to Tixall?'

At once, at the tone of those words, Rosamund knew that the Queen
was aware of the truth--that, unless one of God's miracles
occurred, her fate was sealed.  With that absolute knowledge she
passed into another world of experience.  At that instant when she
looked into her writing-case and saw that certain letters had been
taken she crossed the narrow bridge and walked into the valley of
Death.

All was not yet over.  She could still fight and she intended to do
so, for with her follies, her blindness, her impetuous falsities,
her crude plottings, her trusting to her charms, her spells, her
wizardry, she had, to the very end, as great a heart as beat
anywhere in the world.  Just as her hated sister Queen with her
vanities, meannesses, disloyalties, falsehoods, had as brave a
heart also.

But Rosamund saw death in her eyes as though a thin veil had been
drawn across her face, which was, at this moment, almost that of a
wizened old woman.

'What have the robbers done with my papers?'

'Certain documents have been taken for the perusal of Her Majesty
in London.'

'Ah--so that is why Nau--'

She checked herself.

'Is not this a criminal thing--to rape my body under a lie to
Tixall and to steal, like any common thief, what is mine and mine
only?'

'The State comes before all.'

'Yes.  It has been a pretty plot.  For months you have been at it.'

She took some steps towards him.

'Sir Amyas, Sir Amyas, a day will come when your cheeks will be hot
with shame of this.'

But he answered her bravely:  'Never, Madame--except at disloyalty
to my own Sovereign.'

'Nevertheless,' she answered him, 'some of you' (and she looked at
Irvine, who would remember that look) 'will one day be sorry for
this.'  And most solemnly she went on:  'Two things you cannot take
from me, however you may wish--my royal blood and the Catholic
religion, which both I will keep until my death.'

At that last word she gave a little start and stared beyond them
all as though she saw visions.

She ended quietly:  'Now leave me.'

All at once left the room save Rosamund and Bourgoing.

When the door was shut she swayed as though she would fall.
Bourgoing moved to catch her.

She lay back against his breast, closing her eyes as though she
were infinitely weary.



THE INN AT FOTHERINGHAY: THE STAIRCASE


Fotheringhay Castle sat humped like a black and brooding beast on
the lowly floor of the sparse winter country.  There were witches,
seers, prophetesses enough in the England of that day, and it might
be that, as night fell, a tattered creature with a skinny finger
rose from the stubble and before the yellow-grey horizon darkened
shook that finger and muttered her curse:  'For the many evil deeds
that your walls have seen, for the tears that have been shed, the
cries of agony that have beaten against those thick damp walls, be
you accursd, be you for ever accursd.  The day will come when men
shall search for you and find you not.  A hump of undistinguished
ground shall be all your pride and the lonely blowing thistle your
banner.'

Within the Castle on the afternoon of November 19th, 1586,
everything was grim enough.  Even among the kitchen servants and
the men-at-arms no one sang with out-of-tune laziness--no dog
barked.  Words were little more than a whisper.  Suspense was in
every heart, even in the most hostile.  Even in the Queen's
although, deep, deep in her spirit, she had known ever since that
night of her return to Chartley what the end must be.

She had known it yet more surely on the day of her arrival at
Fotheringhay.  Fotheringhay was of ill omen to all prisoners, royal
or common.  Katherine of Aragon had refused to be imprisoned there,
declaring that 'to Fotheringhay she would not go unless bound with
cart-rope and dragged thither.'  A grim dreadful place with a
double moat, a great gateway like the entrance to Hell, a keep dark
and thick-set and a vast courtyard that seemed of itself a prison
to the inner building where the apartments were.

Sylvia also knew how dreadful it was.  As they approached it she
would have uttered a cry had not Philip been at her side.  For she
had dreamed of it.  Twice at least she had seen it floating in air
above a black stagnant water, thick with green weed, filled with
snakes, toads and slimy worms.  In her dreams she had been clinging
to the battlements as they swung in mid-air.  She hung desperately
with her hands to the stone.  Philip leaned over, laughing,
loosened her hands, and she fell screaming into the moat.

She knew every detail of it and said to herself, as they passed
under the huge gateway:  'Here in the courtyard there is a stone
well, and to the left a horse-block and on the wall by the door a
heavy black bell.'  These were all there.

There followed the days of the trial when the Castle was filled
with gentlemen from London and a great coming and going.

At the trial Mary bore herself like a great Queen, but they all--
her friends and supporters--knew that there was no hope.  Barbara
Curle, Jane Kennedy, Rosamund Herries, Bourgoing--no word passed
their lips, but they all knew that among her letters were some so
indiscreet that they must destroy her.

After the trial the gentlemen went away and the Castle was horribly
quiet.

It was in these days that Sylvia discovered an entirely new
relationship with the Queen.  She herself was now concentrating all
her thoughts on Robin.  Whenever he was out of her sight--and he
was so during most of the day--she was wondering whether Philip had
got him.  Philip or one of his men.  It would not be Phineas
Thatcher who would do the deed--strangling or stabbing or drowning
or riding down--but he would be behind it: the arrangements would
be his.  From the very beginning he had hated Robin and Nicholas as
deeply as did Philip.

She suffered a torture that was entirely selfless unless her love
for Robin could be called selfish.  That torture was increased now
because they loved one another at last happily, with a deep
unphysical passion that would have been perfect companionship and
utter contentment in normal life.

But life now was not normal.  For Sylvia life had been crazy since
that moment when Philip had picked her up and carried her into that
horrible bed at Drunning.  Soon that crazy life would have a crazy
end, and seen in that colour this Fotheringhay was crazy, with its
black bell and its dungeons where words were scrawled with a bloody
finger on the wall, and its high hall that in spite of its space
stank of close air, and the many little stone staircases such as
you see in squirrels' cages.

Everything around Fotheringhay was crazy--the double moat where two
swans swam, the fields of stubble, the village where ragged
children played in the mud, and the inn called 'The Cock and
Rabbit.'  This last was of all inns the blackest, meanest, most
deserted.  You could step into it and call 'Landlord' for an hour
and nothing would come but the wheezing, half-starved hens.  From
its mis-shapen door you could see the dark Castle squatting on the
landscape and smell stale oats, rotten cabbage, stagnant water.
Here was a place for the plague.  There was a host of the inn, a
stout stomachy fellow who often in the coldest weather had his
chest bare with the thick black hair clustered between his breasts;
his chin was black with bristles, his eyes small under black
eyebrows, his fist covered with black hair.  He was dirty and
drunken and a villain.  Half the children in the village were
fathered by him.  Sylvia, when she was in the village, thought he
watched her with especial attention.

She told Nicholas about him as now she told him everything.  For
Nicholas, when the Queen moved on to Fotheringhay, moved there too--
not because of the Queen but for his young brother's sake.  He
watched over him like a mother, Sylvia thought, and what an
infinite help and comfort to her that was.

Nicholas said very little.  Quite openly he had hired little
Chilcote Manor, two miles from the Castle, and stayed there,
shooting, hunting, fishing with his man Gilbert Armstrong and his
man's wife Catherine.  He paid his duties to Paulet, to Gorges, to
others known to him.  Rosamund and Barbara took dinner with him;
Gorges went shooting with him; and ceaselessly, without resting,
without, it seemed to Sylvia, closing an eyelid, he watched over
Robin.

This was one of Sylvia's comforts.  The other was the new relation
that she had with the Queen.

The Queen had not at first liked her, had distrusted her because
she was Philip's wife.  Then while she was at Tixall the Queen had
heard something about Sylvia that had altered her view of her.  Had
Robin told her some story?  Or Rosamund?  Sylvia did not know.  But
at Fotheringhay the Queen's attitude was altogether changed, and at
length, one day, just before the trial began, the Queen said to
her:

'Come here, my child.'

Sylvia came to her.  They were alone.  Sylvia had been reading
aloud.  Sylvia stood by the Queen's chair.  The Queen put up her
hands and cupped Sylvia's chin.

'You are dreadfully unhappy.'

'Yes, Madame.'

'Because you have been--how shall I say?--ungratefully married?'

'Yes.'

'It is a thing I know by my own experience.  To have a man whom you
hate--not only his body but his soul--come and lie close to you,
take you in his arms, it drives women to madness--worse than
madness.  The world never blames the man.  Women, it says, are
intended for such things--as though they had no nerves.  No nerves!
No nerves!  God--they are all nerves, a skein of them, and the man
puts his hands in and tears them as you tear webs.

'And the other--true love--is a just and lovely harmony.  Those
same nerves are on fire with longing, desire.  And then when the
body is satisfied there is a perfect peace, riding on your lover's
breast. . . .  I am an ageing woman and I have the rheumatics and I
wear a wig--once I had most beautiful hair--I am an old Queen whom
everyone has deserted, whom her own son--her own son . . .'

She broke down, sobbing into her sleeve like a child.  Sylvia,
staring up at her, thought:  'I can't be sorry for her.  I don't
know how much she is acting, even now, and in any case where is
Robin?  Is he safe, shall I see him this evening?'

In spite of herself she was, a moment later, touched and moved, for
the Queen, tears dry on her cheeks, stroked Sylvia's forehead and
said very quietly:  'I have been drawn to you these last weeks
because I feel that we are joined by the same fate.  Only you in
all this Castle.  We are sisters in trouble, and we must be brave
together.'

She thrust up her head and cried scornfully:  'I shall show them,
the whole pack and their old painted virgin, how it becomes a Queen
to behave.  It shall never be forgotten.'  She suddenly chuckled
like an old woman who remembers a bawdy story.  'Which is a great
comfort, my dear, if you HAVE to die.  For a Queen to die with the
drums beating before the whole world, that is something.  I have
always had fear they would strangle me in a dark ditch.  I know now
there will be drums.'

From the time of that conversation there seemed to be a special
relation between the two.  They lived in that dark grim place as
though they shared a secret between them.  The Queen was a help to
Sylvia because of her audacity.  She moved and behaved as though
she were only at the beginning of life instead of nearing the end
of it.  In the damp unhealthiness of Fotheringhay, and encouraged,
it might be, by her own forebodings when she was alone, the
rheumatism returned, and especially in her legs.  She was forced to
stay in bed for days together.  But she was a woman now whose mind
was made up.  She was gentle and even kindly with Paulet; to Philip
she was as haughty and sarcastic as ever, but idly, lightly, as
though she knew that nothing could penetrate his vanity.  She was
right; nothing could.

Sylvia's feeling for her grew to something like worship.  She spoke
of her to Robin.  She saw very little of Robin, for he was on duty
every night and slept in the day, but they met without disguise, as
though everything were settled at last between them for ever.

Robin sought to serve the Queen in every way that he could; he
performed offices for her in a thousand indirect ways, brought
flowers and fruit to her, read to her (for he had a very beautiful
voice), and she told Rosamund that he was nearer to the men of her
youth than anyone she had seen for a long time.  'He is beautiful
and a poet.  He is unhappy and he is reticent.  He is spiritual and
he has a most tender heart.  He longs for some country he sees
dimly and may one day reach.  He will be satisfied with nothing on
this earth.  He serves me, but he does not worship me now as for so
many years he did.  It is better so.  Men who have worshipped me
have come to dreadful ends.  I am not fit to be worshipped.  But
how happy I was in those other days when they did so!'

No, he did not worship her any longer, for she had lied to him.
She HAD plotted against Elizabeth, steadily, persistently and
foolishly.  These weeks in Fotheringhay were a kind of waiting
endurance.  Sylvia was near to him.  Nicholas was not far.  He held
himself taut, performing his duty, waiting for the event.  And the
event came--that dreadful day of the Twentieth of November.

On the evening of November 19th, Lord Buckhurst arrived from London
at the Castle.

As Sylvia was climbing the staircase to her room for bed someone
(she could not see his face) started from the shadow of the stair
and pushed into her hand a paper.  In the candlelight of the room
she read it.  The letters were in printed style.  The message was:


I must see you on a matter of most urgent import to us both.  No
one must know of it and I have arranged to be alone to-morrow from
six of the clock at the 'Cock and Rabbit.'  Tell no one.

                                                      ROBIN.


She could not tell, of course, whether it was in his hand.  She
stood for a long while examining it under the candle and listening
too for any sound that might mean Philip's approach.  Robin had
never once since their arrival asked for a secret interview.  They
had been meeting always in the most open fashion, for there was no
longer any physical relation between them.  Philip knew all and
there was nothing to hide from him.  Moreover their love for one
another was so great--so very much greater than it had ever been--
that they needed no secret meetings.  They were always together now
in spirit.  And yet it might easily be that Robin had something
very important and secret to tell her.  Their common fear of Philip
was not for themselves but for one another, and it might be
necessary for them both to know of some move that Philip had made,
of some words that he had spoken, against which they must guard.

Sylvia had not seen Robin at all during the last three days.  Two
nights ago Sylvia had woken to see Philip, half undressed, standing
over her bed.  All he had said was:  'Did you mark Beale's
attention to me this evening?'

She had said yes.

'He said that he had heard me well spoken of at Court in this last
week.'

She said that she was glad.  He stretched himself, raising his
brown arms, pushing out his strong lean chest.  He looked at her so
strangely that for a moment she thought that at last the time had
come.  He would kill her now, as she lay unresisting in the bed.
She felt little fear--almost a kind of relief.  She hoped that it
would be speedy.  She saw, more distinctly than ever before, how
restlessly his vanity hated her.  But he only said:  'I wonder--do
you ever look at the calendar?'

'No,' she said.  'One day is like another.'

'Nevertheless you should count every day.'

When he lay down beside her he drew a deep breath of self-
satisfaction and in a moment was asleep.

She wanted to tell Robin of this.  Whether this message was from
Robin or no she must give it the chance.  The thought of seeing him
to-morrow, and alone, delighted her heart.



The morning of the Twentieth of November was dark and sombre.  Rain
fell with a dull obstinacy as though it had been falling for
centuries and was infinitely bored with the necessity.  The moats
were covered with raindrops as though pitted with disease.  A rat
ran across the floor of the great hall.  The soldiers on guard
gathered in groups and told bawdy stories.  The rain hissed down
into the courtyard.  A prisoner in one of the dungeons--a soldier
caught in bestiality and condemned to a beating and a month's
imprisonment--climbed a way up the wall and put his hand through
the grid of his little window to feel the rain on his palm.

After dinner, about six o'clock, Lord Buckhurst, Sir Amyas, Sir
Drue Drury and Beale were granted an audience by Queen Mary.

Dressed entirely in black, the diamond crucifix her only ornament,
she was seated in a high gold and crimson chair near the stone
fireplace, in which a log fire was rather feebly burning.  She was
attended by Rosamund, Elizabeth Pierpoint and Bourgoing.  The
gentlemen stood in the doorway.  Lord Buckhurst was a handsome
fresh-coloured gentleman with a voice a little too carefully
modulated.  He had a habit of raising his right hand and studying a
fine emerald ring on his finger.

He stepped forward now from the other gentlemen and said that he
regretted it greatly, but what they had to say was for her ear and
hers alone.

Mary inclined her head.  A thin sarcastic smile played about her
lips that were brightly red in contrast with the pallor of her
cheeks.

'Go, Bourgoing, my friend. . . .  You, too.  I am safe with these
gentlemen.'

Bourgoing kissed her hand.  He and the two women retired by a side
door.

Mary was quite alone on her side.  She seemed to realize it, for
she rose a little in her chair, re-seated herself, and with a back
absolutely erect and a defiant carriage of her head she waited for
their move.

They came forward, Buckhurst in front of the rest.  They said
nothing and the whirring of a gilt and enamel clock on the table
filled the room.

At last Buckhurst spoke in his soft, gentle, too-courtly voice.

'I am an envoy, Madame, from my Sovereign Queen Elizabeth, and I
beg leave to deliver a message from Her Majesty to yourself.'

Mary's hand tightened on the crimson arm of her chair.  She said
nothing, only bowed her head.  Her dog that had been hidden under
her skirt came out and growled at the gentlemen.  She bent down and
took him up on to her lap, stroking his silky ears with one hand.

Buckhurst, with a little ahem, spoke of the trial.  Mary's eyes
never left his face.

'Her Majesty has known the deepest sorrow of her life at finding
beyond peradventure that you, Madame, whom she thought her dear
sister, were not only consenting to the horrible fact of rebellion
in the country against her person and State, but were also the
author and inventor of it.'

Mary, her body stiff as though frozen by the determination of her
will, said:  'I have repeated again and again, before my trial, at
my trial, after my trial, that I have plotted nothing against the
safety and happiness of Queen Elizabeth.'

'Letters in your own hand, Madame, have persuaded Parliament to the
contrary.  Therefore Parliament has sent me hither to acquaint you
with the fact that it has pronounced sentence of death against
you.'

There was no stir, no noise, no voice in the room--only the whirr
of the clock and the rain beating against the window.  But the word
'death' in its starkness created nevertheless its own movement, a
movement in the hearts and minds of those present.  Paulet, whose
duties were nearly over, who, a martinet by spirit and training,
had faithfully served his Queen, nevertheless was not untouched,
during all these months, by something grand and strong in this
other Queen who could be false, foolish, vain, but was, at the
last, a greater woman than any he had ever known, save only her
rival.  At Buckhurst's sentence he dropped his head as though in
prayer.  But he was not in prayer; he was only uncomfortable, as
though someone had committed a social indecency.

Buckhurst, looking at his ring, and then fixedly at the Queen,
continued:  'My mistress has not yet given her consent to this
measure, but urged as she is by Parliament it is impossible that
she shall not yield.'

Still Mary said nothing.  Her eyes looked at Buckhurst gravely and
a little scornfully, as though he were performing a poor duty and
knew it.

Buckhurst continued.  'The person of the Queen, the State, and
religion are no longer safe.  It is impossible for you both to live
and therefore one must die.  For this end, then, in order that you
should not be taken by surprise, Mr. Beale and I have been sent to
warn you to prepare for death, and we will send you the Dean of
Peterborough or the Dean of Lichfield for your consolation: they
are both men of learning and understanding.'

Buckhurst spoke as though he were delivering a learned lesson.  He
was the complete cultured, polished official.  It was as though,
too, he were aware that he was in the presence of Mr. Beale, who
was noting every word, watching for anything wrongfully omitted or
carelessly spoken.

Mr. Beale was a spare modest-looking man in a simple suit of black,
and he stood carefully behind Paulet near the door.  Nevertheless
it was he, and not Buckhurst, who dominated the room, and it was as
though he had now stuck a pin in the backside of Lord Buckhurst,
for that nobleman moved forward a little and raised his voice.

'Take thought of your conscience,' he said, with considerable
unctuousness, 'and acknowledge your fault, repent and make
satisfaction before God and man.  If you know anything concerning
this conspiracy further than what has already come to light, you
are bound in Christian charity to unburden your conscience, being,
as you yourself say, nearly related to the Queen, to whom also you
are indebted for many favours.  And if you know of any other
persons who have had a part in this undertaking, it is your duty to
declare it before your death.'

Mary turned her body round in the chair towards the door and, as
though she knew by perfect long-trained intuition who was her real
interlocutor, she looked over Buckhurst's head to the modest but
very attentive Mr. Beale.

Mary began her reply in a quiet low voice, so that those by the
door could scarcely hear, but as she continued her voice became
stronger and more fervent.

'I expected only this,' she said.  'This is the way in which you
generally proceed with regard to persons of my quality, those
nearly related to the Crown, so that none may live who aspire to
it.

'For many, many years now I have known that this would be the end
and have expected it.  I have loved the Queen and the country, and
have done all in my power for the safety of both.  The offers which
I have made are the proofs of this, as Mr. Beale' (she raised her
eyes and stared directly at him) 'can bear me witness.'

She coughed a little, looked down at the dog, stroking his silken
ears as though she were thinking deeply, then looked up sharply
again.

'I do not fear death and shall suffer it with a good heart.  I have
looked forward to it for many a year.  I have never been the author
of any conspiracy to injure the Queen--'

'The author--no,' Beale broke in with a sharp, high querulous
voice, 'but the abettor--the aider and abettor.'

She paid him no attention, but went on:  'I have several times been
offered my freedom, and have been blamed for refusing my consent.
My partisans have abandoned me and troubled themselves no further
with my affairs.  I am quite alone save for these my few friends.'

She paused and waved her hands as though Bourgoing and the others
were there with her.

'To prevent this I have attempted to obtain my deliverance by
gentle means, to my great disadvantage, till at last, being
repulsed on the one side and pressed on the other, I placed myself
in the hands of my friends, and have taken part with Christian and
Catholic princes, not, as I have before declared, and as the
English themselves can bear witness by the papers which they have
in their possession, through ambition nor the desire of a greater
position: but I have done it for the honour of God and His Church,
and for my deliverance from the state of captivity and misery in
which I was placed.'

She looked up to the ceiling.  Then, turning back to them, her face
was proud and her voice exultant.

'I am a Catholic--of a different religion from yourselves; it is
for this reason you will take care not to let me live.  I am
grieved, however, that my death cannot be of as much benefit to the
kingdom as I fear it will do harm; and this I say not from any ill-
feeling or from any desire to live.

'For my part, I will tell you frankly, I am weary of being in this
world; nor do I, or anyone else, profit by my being here.  But I
look forward to a better life, and I thank God' (her voice gathered
into it almost a note of ecstasy) 'for giving me this grace of
dying in His quarrel.  No greater good can come to me in this
world; it is what I have most begged of God and most wished for, as
being the thing most honourable for myself, and most profitable for
the salvation of my soul.'

She was now on ground where she was happiest.  All defiance was
gone from her voice.  She spoke quietly again but with a happy
assured confidence.  The Queen was gone, the actress was gone.  She
was never in all her turbulent life more honest than now or more
perfectly at peace.  All in the room felt this.

'I have never had the intention of changing my religion for any
earthly kingdom, or grandeur, or good whatever, nor of denying
Jesus Christ, or His name, nor will I now.  You may feel well
assured that I shall die in this entire faith and with my good
will, and as happy in doing so as I was ever for anything that has
come to me in my life.  I pray God to have mercy on the poor
Catholics of this kingdom, who are persecuted and oppressed for
their religion.  The only thing I regret is that it has not pleased
God to give me before I die the grace to see them able to live in
full liberty of conscience in the Faith of their parents, in the
Catholic Church, and serving God as they desire to do.  I am not
ignorant that for long certain persons have been plotting
against me.  But I have spoken sufficiently of this before the
Commissioners.'

She seemed to have said all that she had to say, and sat back in
her chair with a little sigh.  She pressed the dog against her with
her hand.  The absurd lively face as of a lost child looked up into
hers.  The feathery tail wagged.

Mr. Beale broke in with his high voice.  He talked for a long time,
conceitedly, about treaties and conferences, saying he knew of what
he was talking because he had been employed as envoy between his
mistress and Queen Mary.

Mary looked at him sharply.  'We know you, Mr. Beale.  Have no
fear.'

Beale went on so hurriedly that the words tripped over one another.
He said that when Queen Mary had been in danger from her own
subjects she had fled to his mistress for protection, and his
mistress had arranged for her to retire to Carlisle to be in
greater safety.

Mary, her eyes flashing, answered:  'I was taken there by force and
against my will, and well you know it.'

'It was for your good, for your good,' Beale answered fiercely.

It seemed as though there would be a sharp and very unseemly
altercation between the two of them, but Mary suddenly held up her
hand.

'Hush. . . .  Did you not hear?  A cry!'

They all listened.

'There!  A woman crying for help!'

There was another silence and then Paulet said:  'The wind--the
wind in the chimney.'

But Mary was still listening, her head set towards the window.  She
turned at last and bowed as Lord Buckhurst and Mr. Beale left the
room.



Sylvia, protected from the rain by a rough cloak, hurried from the
side door of the right wing of the apartments, slipped through the
bare sodden gardens, showed herself with a timid smile to the guard
at the western gate, who at once allowed her to pass into the road.
It was very dark now and the rain had shredded into a thin drizzle,
but the wind was blowing furiously and made the only sound on the
surface of the earth.

She was happy: she was thinking of nothing but that she would see
Robin alone again.  For weeks they had not been alone.  She did not
care who knew of their meeting, but it was like enough that no one
would know.  Neither she nor Robin was watched.  She because she
was Philip's wife, Robin because his loyalty and sense of duty had
been thoroughly tested during this time.

She wondered a little what it was that he wanted to tell her.  On
her side all her mind and endurance now were given to the business
of reassuring and comforting him.  She had a dim but gradually
strengthening hope that when this business was ended and they were
back in London again, Philip would allow her to go away somewhere
by herself, and so, gradually, they would separate for ever.  After
all, he hated her, the very sight of her exasperated him.  He would
have been rid of her long ago were it not that his vanity was
afraid of any public scandal.  But this separation might be managed
very quietly.  If he did her any physical hurt, that would be a
very much greater scandal.

Only to be away from him, to be by herself, to be free of this
constant fear that pursued her into her very dreams and was making
her a cowed, nervous, speechless creature, only half a human being.
At this she thought of the Queen, who had been so very good to her
during these last weeks.  Poor lady!  The coming of Lord Buckhurst
and Mr. Beale to the Castle could mean no good.  Oh, poor lady!
poor lady!  How eagerly Sylvia would do something for her if there
were an opportunity!  By that she might recover a little of her own
self-respect: the loss of it, the contempt she felt for herself,
the knowledge of the wastage and wreck of her life, all this was,
after her fears for Robin, the worst of all her burdens.  One
glorious deed, one act of noble self-sacrifice, one THING that
would prove to herself and to the world that she was not the poor
defeated failure that she seemed!

She sighed; she wiped the drizzle from her face with the edge of
her cloak.  The village street was deserted.  It was so dark that
she stumbled among the pools and pitfalls of the road.  She saw one
dull misted yellow lamp.  That was the 'Cock and Rabbit' and, at
the same moment, the church clock struck six.

She had never been inside the inn and she wondered what she would
do if the central room were crowded with rough and drunken men,
farmers, soldiers from the Castle.  But Robin would be there,
waiting for her.

She was surprised to find the door ajar.  She pushed it back and
entering found herself in a passage with rooms to the right and the
left.  There was a dank smell of rotting matter and she could hear
the noise of the rain like a whisper.  From the passage there rose
a twisting black staircase that led to an upper passage, and on the
top of the stair there was set a horn lantern in which a candle was
burning.

There was no sound or sign of any living being.  She looked up the
staircase half expecting to see Robin at the head of it, and as she
looked she shivered.  She did not know why.  The rain had wetted
her and the dank smell of the place was alive as though there were
rotten straw about in which animals were crawling.

At last she called 'Robin!  Robin!' very softly.  There was no
answer.

Very fearful, she turned the handle of the door on the left and saw
faintly that she was looking into a room quite empty, with a wooden
bedstead and a table.  She opened the door on her right and saw
that it was the customers' room; there were shelves filled with
bottles, a glass upset on a table, stools and a bench.  Seated on a
stool, his head fallen on the table, a guttering candle beside him,
fast asleep and snoring gruntily, was the landlord, whom she knew
by sight; an unpleasant picture, for his chest was bare, his hair
wildly disordered and his fist clenched.

Very, very quietly she closed the door and wondered what she should
do.  She called 'Robin! Robin!' once more, this time more loudly.
The fact that there was no answer made the silence more insistent.
She dared not call more loudly still lest she should rouse the man
in the room.  She knew well that he was an abandoned brute with
women, especially when he was in drink.

At last she began to climb the stairs and, with every step, her
fears increased.  She hated this staircase.  She felt that she had
seen it before and been frightened of it before.  Half-way she
called again:  'Robin!  I am here!  Where are you?'

At the stair-head beside the lantern her fears grew so that she
began to shake and quiver.  Why was Robin not here?  What if the
message had been a trap either for herself or him?  She had
accepted it without a question and yet she had no ground for
believing it.  Her eagerness to see Robin alone had over-ridden all
her caution.  After all why should he choose such a place as this?
And if he had chosen it he would have taken care to be here before
her.

In a panic she moved about the passage.  She opened one of the
doors and saw that it was an empty stinking bedroom.  The smell of
the place gained on her and it was as though the walls were closing
in on her.

She must go.  It WAS a trap.  She had been a fool to call Robin's
name.  Someone had heard her.  At first she had thought that it did
not matter, their meeting anywhere before the whole world, but now,
in her alarm, it seemed to her that calling his name aloud had
betrayed him.

She turned to hurry down the stairs, when a sound paralysed her.
Someone was there.  She caught the balustrade of the stair.

'Who is there?' she cried out.

She heard the movement again, and at once, as in a most horrible
nightmare, hands were laid on her shoulders.

She did not turn or struggle.  In a flash of the bitterest, most
agonizing realization, as though a voice had whispered in her ear,
she knew that this was death.

For some strange reason she thought of the Queen.  She was caught
up and lifted and, as her heart turned and was constricted, she
uttered one wry, trembling scream.

'Oh God, have mercy--this is death!'

One vast overwhelming fear, again as many times before in her
dreams, seized her brain and killed it as with a shot from a gun.

She saw, her last sight on earth, the lantern toppling over.  She
crashed, in absolute darkness, on to the stone floor.



THE LAST DAYS ON EARTH


On the evening of the 7th of February, Rosamund Herries stood
waiting in a room so small as to be almost a powder-closet off the
big salon.  This small room was framed in red leather, stamped with
gold studs, and Rosamund, standing rigid, listening, counted the
gold studs over and over, and the grey stripes in the dress of the
Madonna in the little Italian picture over the fireplace.

She knew what the Lords Kent and Shrewsbury had come to say.  How
long would it be before the dreadful climax to these months of
agonized waiting?  They would surely give her time for preparation,
the poor lady.  Rosamund might doubt many things now, after these
months, about the Queen, but she never doubted her religion.

She, Rosamund, was full of warmth of heart but had no sentiment.
She saw everything always in the clearest light--even the things
that hurt the most, as that Nicholas did not love her, that no man
had ever desired her, that all men and women were false again and
again (false of action, not necessarily false of soul).

She thought that she knew now this woman, Mary of Scots, through
and through.  She knew her insatiate vanity, the lusts that even
now were active in retrospect, the charm that was put forward like
a piece of acting in a theatre, the sudden malice, the lurking
cruelty.  She was a woman who had been brought up in the Medici
Paris, a woman who, from birth, had had to fight for her life.
Those two facts said everything.

Rosamund knew every turn and twist in that woman's soul.  Mary had
said to her once:  'Rosamund Herries, no man or woman has ever seen
me as clearly as you do.'  And yet Rosamund loved her, loved her
more every day that she was with her.  She asked herself now, as
she stood there waiting, the game almost ended, why she loved her
so much.  She loved her because she WAS so easy to understand,
because her faults were all as clear as early summer morning.  Her
virtues too.  She was like a woman whose fair flesh was glass.  Her
bravery, her pugnacious defiance, her single-track persistence, her
very lusts that had led her to such public humiliation, her
contempt for a fool or a coward but her generous warmth of heart so
that she could protect a Chastelard or champion a Rizzio, her
childlikeness so that to hear her laugh at a game or sing a song or
dance on a happy evening was a joy for anyone, her sense of humour
suddenly jumping out, her courage in physical pain, her deep
unswerving devotion to God, her caprices, her wonderful regality
when she chose to put it on, her womanly sisterliness at a private
hour--for all these things Rosamund dearly loved her.

Rosamund was as honest about herself as about anyone else, and now,
looking at the studs that swam before her eyes in the red leather,
she murmured half aloud:  'As grand as she has been these last
months--I could not . . .'

Could she not?  For her father, mother, Nicholas, anyone she loved,
she could endure everything, but for oneself, as lonely as the
Queen was, hemmed close in by her enemies, betrayed by her very
closest such as Nau and, possibly, Curle--no, no.  Rosamund would
have shrunk in this case into a trembling, thin, white-lipped woman
waiting for death.

But the Queen, ever since November, in spite of rheumatism, the
shock of Tixall, Sylvia Irvine's death, the realization that Nau
had been one of her betrayers, the awful death of Babington and his
boy conspirators, the full realization that she brought ruin on to
all who tried to help her--in spite of all these things and the
dank chills of Fotheringhay she had grown grander and grander.

It was as though now when she knew that she had lost the game she
was determined to win it.  'In my End is my Beginning . . .'
Nevertheless how loathsome Fotheringhay was, and Paulet and his
merry men, including Irvine. . . .

Rosamund's face darkened.  Philip had not murdered Sylvia, but
someone sent by him had.  Poor child, poor doomed helpless child!
And poor Robin, in whom something now was hopelessly broken, so
that he walked like a ghost.

Rosamund was no necromancer.  She was as normal a woman as ever was
born--but it did seem like a wizard's spell to find, at that very
moment, as she turned towards the door, the long, skeleton-grey,
bone-dry figure of Phineas Thatcher standing behind the cedar-wood
writing-table across the wall of the little room.  He had been
there all the time watching her, without moving or speaking, and
she had not turned sufficiently to find him there.  Unlike all the
others round the Queen she did not hate Thatcher.  She knew what he
was, a selfless bitter fanatic, and, more far-seeing than the
others, she foresaw that it would not be very long before men like
Thatcher were powerfully strong in England.

Full of pleasure in physical delights herself, she yet understood
the sensual temptations of total abstinence, the tremendous force
that such abstinence gave you.  Puritans were not foreign to her:
in any case she liked them better than humbugs; she did not, of
course, foresee that it would be this very humbug hypocrisy that
would in the end destroy them.

She was always greatly interested in Thatcher: he was a kind of
prophet to her, cold, remorseless, who, had he the power, would
come down like Moses from the Mount and condemn the people to awful
torments because they worshipped the golden calf.

'If men like him,' she had sometimes reflected, 'ever have control
of England . . .'

She thought it might be so.  She understood so well why to him a
woman like Mary of Scots must seem a horror in God's sight.  Why
she and Sylvia Irvine and Barbara Curle and Nicholas and Robin must
stink so in his thin, red-lined, distended nostrils.

This evening, nevertheless, perhaps because of the tension to which
her nerves were strung, she appeared to have double-sight.  She
knew, quite certainly, staring at his bony hands close to his black-
clothed sides, that it was he who had thrown Sylvia down the
stairs.  She knew so certainly that she said, staring at him with a
kind of fascination:  'Why did you do it?'

Thatcher liked her the best of the Queen's women.  For one thing
she was plain.  He knew instinctively that she had no sensual lure
for men.  But she HAD (so curious is human passion) some sensual
lure for him.  Her honest fearless gaze, the absence of all
coquetry, her strong body--his half-crazy, whirling, nervous brain
could understand the cool, restful relief of lying in the arms of
that unagitated strength.  He had thought sometimes vaguely that he
would talk to her about himself, for he was very lonely and had mad
dreams and had done things that haunted him at night.  Most
especially he was afraid that God might one day punish him for the
imaginations of his mind that, lying alone on his bed, he often
could not prevent.  He was sometimes afraid that he was crazy and
sometimes proud that he was.

He made her no answer.  Still staring, Rosamund said again:

'Why did you do it? . . .  Why did you throw her down the stairs at
the inn?'

He did not attempt to deny it.

'She was an adulteress.'

Rosamund felt tears sting her eyes.  She had not yet cried for
Sylvia, although the death had been months ago.  Now a tear fell
and she put up her hand against her cheek.

'To murder anyone so helpless . . .'

Her voice caught.  Thatcher, without moving, said coldly:  'Some
things are right.  God commands them.'

(He saw her with her body pressed against his hard ribs and his
chill lips on her warm ones.)

She would have answered that, but the door opened widely and she
saw Bourgoing beckoning her.

'We are to come. . . .  It is time.'

They were to go to the Queen's bedroom.  Bourgoing told her that
Kent and Shrewsbury had desired to speak with the Queen, that she
had answered that she was in bed and begged for a little time to
dress herself.  They replied that they must see her immediately.

When Rosamund reached the Queen's room she found that she was
seated in her chair at the foot of her bed, and quietly dressed in
black with a lace cap on her head.  Her women--Kennedy, Barbara
Curle--were with her, and several others.  When Rosamund came in,
Shrewsbury was saying to her that she must prepare herself to hear
her sentence read.

The Queen sat there, her head raised, very dignified, her hands on
her lap.  Every now and again she rubbed the thumb that was so
especially swollen with rheumatism.  Beale (whom Rosamund detested)
began to read a document from which the Great Seal of England in
yellow wax swung to and fro.

Rosamund listened intently and yet for some reason of agitation
could hear little.  She understood that Shrewsbury disliked his
office and was making an attempt now, at the long desperate last,
to offer some show of courtesy.  Rosamund heard him say at last:
'I would have greatly desired that another than I should announce
to you such sad intelligence as that which I now bring on the part
of the Queen of England, but he and I being both faithful servants
I could but obey the commandment she gave me.  It is to admonish
you to prepare yourself to undergo the sentence of death pronounced
against you!'

At that word something seemed to happen to Rosamund as though a
great wind had blown through the door and the candle-flame had
leapt in the air.  She had, but now, been studying this Queen
dispassionately.  When Shrewsbury, ashamed a little, spoke the
words 'sentence of death pronounced against you,' Rosamund had to
dig her nails into her palms and hold her arms rigidly against her
sides that she did not rush forward, fling her arms around the
Queen, call to all of them that they touched her at their peril.
Looking steadfastly at that woman with her wig, her mouth drawn
with physical pain, her swollen hands, she loved her as, for the
moment it seemed to her, she had loved no one else.  She would, at
that instant, have sacrificed Nicholas to her.  The Queen's quiet
dignified reply called her back to control.

The Queen, looking at Shrewsbury a little sarcastically, said:  'I
thank you for such welcome news.  I am very glad to go from this
world.  I am quite ready and very happy to die, and to shed my
blood for Almighty God, my Saviour and my Creator, and for the
Catholic Church, and to maintain its rights in this country, for
the welfare of which I have always done everything that has been
possible, loving the Queen, my good sister, and this island as
dearly as myself, as I have often shown.  I have constantly offered
to arrange matters peacefully and to bring things to a happy issue,
but have always been rejected and put aside.  I have been held a
prisoner without having merited it, for I came into this country of
my own free will in hope of succour, according to the promise of
the Queen.  We should have agreed very well, and would together
have arranged matters so well as to satisfy everyone if I had at
once been permitted to speak to her.'

After this she suddenly drew herself up, looked at them all with
the utmost solemnity, and drawing a Bible on the table near to her,
laid her hand on it.

'I swear by God,' she cried, as though she were challenging the
whole world, 'that I have never either desired the death of the
Queen or endeavoured to bring it about, or that of any other
person.'

Kent stepped forward, crying out:  'Madame, that is a Catholic
Bible, the Pope's false version of it.  Your oath is then
meaningless.'

Mary gave a little sigh as though she were truly sick unto death of
the subterfuges, the twists and turns, the manoeuvrings, in all of
which she had truly had her own share.  It seemed to Rosamund that,
at the moment she had heard her sentence of death, everything,
every lie, every plotting trick had fallen from her.  She had a
lightness, almost a gaiety.

'My Lord of Kent, this is the translation approved by the Church
and if I swear on the book which I believe to be the true version,
will not your lordship believe my oath more than if I were to swear
on a translation in which I do not believe?'

Kent, whose eyes and mouth were tender towards her so that she
could see that he wished fervently to help her, had nevertheless
now to urge her to think of her soul and prepare herself for death
which was so near.

'It is the Queen's wish that you should be comforted in this time
of stress by a divine.  We are charged once more to offer you the
services of the Dean of Peterborough.  He is one of the most
learned of God's ministers and from him you may learn much of the
true religion.'

On this Mary started up from her chair so sharply that she was
caught by her rheumatism and bit her lip against the pain.  Then
she cried out 'No.  No. . . .  My Faith . . .' and sat down again,
bending forward a little and holding out her hand as though for
strength.  Rosamund caught her hand and pressed it.

The Queen withdrew it and, now altogether mistress of herself, she
answered:  'I have been for long sufficiently instructed in my
religion.  I know well what I ought to know of it.  When I came to
this country, being in the house of my Lord of Shrewsbury, in order
to satisfy everyone and to show that I acted only by conscience, I
listened to the most able Protestant preachers for nearly the whole
of one Lent, but at the end, finding no edification, I withdrew.'

She paused, looking at both Kent and Shrewsbury almost with
supplication.  Then she half rose, resting her hands on the chair
arms, and her voice was exultant as she cried:  'Having lived till
now in the true Faith, this is not the time to change, but on the
contrary it is the very moment when it is most needful that I
should remain firm and constant, as I intend to do.  Rather than be
unfaithful to it I would wish to lose ten thousand lives, if I had
as many, and, if it were possible, shed all my blood several times
over, and endure all the most cruel torments you could threaten me
with.'

She dominated Kent and Shrewsbury as though there were something in
her divine.

'No.  No.  No. . . .'  She softened her voice into petition.  'For
my consolation I beg you to let me see my own priest, so that he
may help me to prepare the better for death.  I wish for no other.'

Shrewsbury answered hastily:  'It is our duty always to prevent
such abominations which offend God.  We beg you, Madame, to see the
Dean of Peterborough.'

The Queen cried out so that the whole room echoed with it:  'No, I
will do no such thing.  I have nothing to do with him and I neither
wish to see him nor to listen to him.'

She quieted then, and bent her head again as though in prayer.  No
one moved.  No one spoke.  The small wood fire had died down and
the room was very cold.

She raised her head and asked Shrewsbury whether the other Powers
had interceded for her.  Shrewsbury said yes, they had done so but
had shown no sufficient reason why she should not be executed.

Her voice broke and faltered:  'My son . . . he has not . . . he
has not as a loving son . . .'

Kent answered softly:  'He did all that was in his power, Madame.
You must die in charity.'

She said softly, as though to herself:  'I forgive every one and
accuse no one.'  Then quite fiercely, like someone at bay against
her foes, she continued:  'At least like King David I may pray God
to confound and punish His enemies and the enemies of His divinity
and religion.'

She asked sharply:  'What has become of Nau and Curle?'

Shrewsbury answered:  'We do not know.'

'Is Nau dead?' she asked.

'No.'  Drury, speaking for the first time, added:  'He has not
escaped.  He still drags his fetters.'

She murmured almost to herself:  'He has accused me so that I die.'

Then, as the Commissioners turned to the door, she asked very
calmly:  'When am I to die?'

Shrewsbury, bowing his head, said very compassionately:  'To-morrow
morning at eight o'clock.'

At that there was a terrible scene.  Barbara, Jane Kennedy,
Rosamund, broke into cries.  Barbara Curle even ran forward and
caught Shrewsbury by the arm.  The Queen tried to restrain them,
rising clumsily, but their cries were more vehement.  'No.  No.  It
is too soon. . . .  It is cruel. . . .  Time to prepare . . .'
Barbara Curle, who was very hysterical from the premature birth of
her child and the uncertainty about her husband (her worst fear
that he might, under torture, have betrayed the Queen), hung on to
Shrewsbury's sleeve, screaming.  Bourgoing, dreadfully disturbed,
came to Shrewsbury and in the greatest agitation said:  'My lord--
remember that I cared for your lordship.  I would not remind you,
but when you were ill I took every care--'

The scene was horrible.  Barbara was on her knees; everyone was
talking and crying together.  The Queen herself, staring in front
of her, repeated 'Eight o'clock. . . .  Eight o'clock.'

Shrewsbury, finding it hateful, could only shake his head to
Bourgoing.  He could not move, for Barbara Curle was clasping his
ankles and crying:  'No.  No.  It is cruelty--So soon.'

Bourgoing pressed him.

'You have shown much compassion on other occasions, my lord.  You
cannot be condemned for a little common mercy now.'

But Shrewsbury had had enough.  He moved abruptly, almost kicking
Barbara Curle from him, and shouted:  'I have no power to grant the
smallest delay.  I have no power, I tell you.'

He motioned to Kent and Beale.  There was some confusion near the
door but they broke through and the door was banged sharply behind
them.

After the door closed the others all crowded round her, kneeling at
her feet.  She put her hand on the soft hair of Jane Kennedy.

'There, Jane Kennedy.  What did I tell you?  I knew they would
never allow me to live.  I was greatly in the way of their
religion.  Now, now, no weeping.  Tell them to hasten supper.
You should rejoice, for I am now on a good road.  I am of no good
in this world any more, but by dying I may do good to our dear
Church. . . .  I return thanks to God and thank Him with a very
good heart that it has pleased Him to call me at this hour.'

After a while she asked the men to leave the room.  They brought in
supper--a cold pigeon-pie, marzipan tartlets, cheese and apples.
The Queen helped with the laying of the table.  The four of them
sat to it--the Queen, Jane, Barbara, Rosamund.  They tried to eat
to please her.

The Queen was suddenly malicious.  'I would see Nau have a piece of
this pie with poison in it.'

Bourgoing had remained behind when the other men had left and now
was acting as steward, handing the plates with a trembling hand.

'My last supper,' the Queen said.  'Strange.  Strange.  So many
suppers in so many places, and this my last.'

She caught Bourgoing by the arm, drew him close to her.  'Did you
remark, Bourgoing, what Lord Kent said to me?  He said that my life
would have been the death of their religion, and that my death will
be its life.  How happy that makes me!  What a glorious end that is
only a beginning!  I would not change, even at this moment, with
any life in the world for this one thought.'

She released him and pushed at the tablecloth with her hand.

'Call in my servants.  All of them.'

They came, including Robin Herries, who stood, his face like a
mask, his body stiff as though no blood flowed in it.

The Queen looked on them all very kindlily as they stood sobbing
and crying about her.  She spoke with great sweetness, telling them
that she was to die at eight in the morning and bidding them live
at peace with one another and surrender, for her sake at least, all
bitterness and quarrelling.  She told them that she was herself
perfectly at peace and was dying for her religion.

When she had dismissed them again and only her maids and Bourgoing
remained, she leaned her elbows on the table among the bread-crusts
and the apple-skins and, raising her glass, drank to them all in
turn.

'Jane--dear Jane Kennedy, whose heart is too tender for a prison.

'Barbara--who shall be the mother of a child more worthy than mine.

'Rosamund--of steel and fire, England as she is truly, never as she
is falsely.

'Bourgoing--(here her voice broke)--my friend . . . my friend.'

She raised her glass.

'I drink to the health of all of you.  Drink now to mine.'

They raised their glasses and drank.

She went back from the supper-table to her chair and, taking the
spaniel on her lap, said in a warm, cosy, chuckling voice:  'Gather
round now.  Jane and Rosamund, go to that wardrobe and the chest
beside it.'

The girls went.

'Bring the chest.  Bourgoing, help them. . . .  The things in the
wardrobe too.'

They piled up on the floor beside her, hats and kerchiefs, dresses
and jewelry, portraits, miniatures, silver daggers.  The spaniel
grew excited and barked shrilly.

'Now, Bourgoing, I charge you.  Certain things that I will show you
are for the King and Queen of France, the King of Spain, my cousins
of Lorraine.  I charge you with these.  And for yourself (he was
kneeling on the floor and she bent forward and touched his cheek)
'these rings--that is a favourite of mine--these lutes and my music-
book bound in silver, for I know what love you have for music.  No,
no. . . .  Stay, my good friend.  You must not weep.  You know how
I love you and love also to give you anything.'

She seemed now quite miraculously happy.  She was as gay as a
little girl.

'These pearls for you, Jane; and Barbara, the diamond pendant.
This tablet, Barbara, with the portraits of myself, the King of
France--my son--my son.'  She took the gold and enamelled tablet in
her hand and gazed at it.  After sighing she put it into Barbara's
hand.

She looked up at Rosamund who stood above her.  'And you, most
faithful of all women.  This miniature of me and the ring with the
red stone and--and--this gold chain for your son to play with.'
She laughed.  'Nay.  Do not shake your head, for I am "fey" to-
night and you will marry and bear a son.  Round his fat neck hang
you this chain and look back, with your steady eyes, to this hour
and know that all is well with me.'



The night was wearing on.  It was intolerably cold.  The Queen
asked for her fur cloak.  With this huddled about her shoulders she
sat at a little table near the embered fire and wrote to her
chaplain:


                          To Prau

I have been attacked to-day concerning my religion, and urged to
receive consolation from the heretics.  You will hear from
Bourgoing and the others that I at least faithfully made
protestation for my Faith, in which I wish to die.  I requested to
have you with me in order that I might make my confession and
receive my Sacrament, which was cruelly refused me, as well as
leave for my body to be removed, and the power of making a free
will or writing anything except what shall pass through their hands
and be subject to the good pleasure of their mistress.  In default
of that, I confess in general the gravity of my sins, as I had
intended to do to you in particular, begging you in the name of God
to pray and watch with me this night in satisfaction for my sins,
and to send me your Absolution, and pardon for the things in which
I have offended you.  I shall try to see you in their presence, as
they have allowed me to see the steward, and if I am allowed I
shall ask the blessing on my knees before all.  Advise me as to the
most appropriate prayers for this night and to-morrow morning, as
the time is short and I have no leisure to write; but I will
recommend you, as well as the others, and especially your Benefices
shall be spared to you, and I will recommend you to the King.  I
have no more time.  Tell me in writing of all that you shall think
best for the good of my soul.  I shall send you a last little
token.


Very briskly she fastened and sealed it and motioned to Bourgoing,
who came over to her.

'Go, my dear friend, find Prau, deliver him this; have an answer
if you can.'

He kissed her hand and went with it.

She started then about her will and wrote for a time, and then
suddenly began to cry.  She continued to write, blinded by the
tears that fell on the paper.

Rosamund ran across to her, knelt beside her, looking up into her
face.

The Queen was sobbing wildly.  She was incoherent.

'The last . . . alone . . . if I am not brave all history will hear
of it. . . .  The last night . . .'

Two hours rang from the hall bell.

'Never that hour again . . .'

She caught Rosamund's hands, looking into her face.

'Your eyes are brave.  So steady.  I shall be free, with God, let
them say what they will.'  She lowered her voice to a whisper.
'Would you be frightened?'

'Yes,' Rosamund said.  'But no one must see it.'

The Queen sat back, nodding her head.

'What I do now will be remembered for ever.'  And then, still
nodding her head, to herself:  'Many have loved me.  How much more
must Christ then, who is all tenderness, and knows my weakness!'

She was quite firm again, finished her will with a steady hand,
then wrote to her brother-in-law:


                To Henry III, King of France

MONSIEUR, MY BROTHER-IN-LAW--It is now almost twenty years since I--
by God's permission, and for my sins, as I think--came to throw
myself upon the mercy of this Queen, my cousin, where I have had
many trials; and now at last I am condemned to death by her and her
Government.  I have asked for my papers--which were taken by them--
in order to make my will, but I have obtained nothing that can be
of use to me, nor have I permission to make another will; and they
have even refused the desire I expressed that my body should, after
my death, be removed to your kingdom where I, your sister and
former ally, had the honour to be Queen.

To-day after dinner it was announced to me that to-morrow, without
fail, I must die like a criminal, at eight o'clock of the morning.

I have not had leisure to write a long account of all that took
place, but if you will please to believe my Physician and those
others my sorrowful servants, you will know the truth and that,
thanks be to God, I despise death, and faithfully protest that I
suffer it innocent of all crime, even were I their subject, which I
can never be.

The Catholic Faith and the maintenance of the right which God has
given me to this throne, these are the two points of my
condemnation; and yet they will not allow me to say that I die for
the Catholic Faith, but say that I die because I am dangerous to
their religion, and the proof of this is that they have taken my
chaplain from me.  Although he is in the house, I cannot obtain
leave for him to hear my confession, nor give me Holy Communion at
the hour of my death; but they made great efforts that I should
receive consolation and religious instruction from their minister
brought here for the purpose.

The bearer of this and his companions--chiefly subjects of yours--
will testify to you of my deportment at this the last scene of my
life.  It remains only for me to implore you, as Most Christian
King, my brother-in-law, friend and ally, who have done me so much
honour as to love me and protest of your affection, that under this
blow you should show proof of your virtue in these matters by
charitably aiding me in that which it is impossible for me to do
without your assistance, namely, to reward my desolate attendants
by giving them their salaries, and by having prayer made to God for
a Queen who has been called Very-Christian, and who dies a Catholic
and destitute of all means.

Regarding my son, I commend him to you inasmuch as he shall merit
it, as I cannot answer for him; for my servants I beg your help
with clasped hands.  I venture to send you two rare stones,
valuable for health, the which I desire you to have in perfection,
as also I wish you a long and happy life.  You will receive them as
from your very affectionate sister-in-law, who in dying desires to
show her affection for you.  I will again recommend my servants to
you in a memoranda, and you will command, if you please, that my
soul shall benefit by a portion of that which you owe me, in honour
of Jesus Christ, to whom I will pray for you to-morrow at my death.
I beg you to grant sufficient to found an Obit, and to make the
desired Alms.

This Wednesday, at two hours after midnight.--Your very
affectionate good sister,

                                                        MARIE.


She sat for a long while staring in front of her across the little
table.

Bourgoing had not returned.  Jane Kennedy was reading, Barbara
Curle sewing some child's garment: only Rosamund sat staring into
the embers of the fire.

'Thus it is,' she thought, 'to be dead in four hours, to KNOW that
I will be dead. . . .  This is reality.'  She felt a compassion
almost overpowering so that she must hold her hands hard not to go
to the Queen.  'Life is so short.  The Queen is alive, her blood in
her veins, her heart beating; hunger, thirst, weariness, cold--she
is conscious of them all.  In four hours all that reality will be
gone.  Another reality perhaps.  So, at any moment, it may be with
myself.  The only thing that matters is that I make something of my
life.  Make something I will.  For the Queen's sake.  For the
Queen's sake.  I love her as dearly, but in another fashion, as I
love Nicholas, and I swear to God that after this night I will lead
a true life before God, be compassionate to all and remember always
how fleeting this life is.'

She repeated the Lord's Prayer to herself and even as she finished
it the Queen got up and came over to them.

She looked at them and realized that while she had been writing
they had gone and dressed in mourning garments.  She asked Jane
Kennedy to fetch the silver bowl and wash her feet, which Jane
Kennedy did.  Then saying that she was tired she lay down on her
bed.  Jane Kennedy always read to her at night and the Queen asked
her to read now.

'Read of some saint who had once been a great sinner.'

Jane Kennedy read of the repentant thief.  The Queen said that he
was indeed a great sinner but not so great as she had been.  Then
she remembered that a handkerchief would be needed to bind her eyes
and they found a beautiful one with gold embroidery.

After that there was complete silence.  Barbara and Jane fell
asleep.  Rosamund sat on, feeling herself drawn into the very soul
of the Queen.  It was as though she herself were to suffer and she
had no fear.  She knew by that that the Queen had no fear.

Five o'clock sounded from the hall and the Queen sat up and
beckoned to Rosamund.

Rosamund came over and sat on the bed-edge.  The spaniel was curled
up against the Queen's thigh and was fast asleep.  The Queen spoke
very softly, almost in a whisper.

'Rosamund, I have been thinking of that poor child Sylvia Irvine.
I fear she was done foully to her death.  It is a strange thing,
but a while ago I was suddenly aware that we were, the two of us,
doomed and at the same time.  Poor child . . . poor child!  So
young.  So hopeless.  Her death has broken Mr. Herries' heart, has
it not?'

Rosamund said:  'He has suffered for it most deeply.  He thinks he
should have prevented it.'

'That is not yet the end of that story,' the Queen said.  'Help him
as you are able, Rosamund.'

Her eyes were half closed.

'How we may cheat ourselves!  I think that I see God on His throne
waiting for me, and Jesus Christ at His side, and Mary the Mother
of Jesus. . . .  Of one thing above all in my life I repent myself.
But I was very young.  He tried me hardly.  And now, in Purgatory
I shall suffer as I indeed deserve . . .  O Mary, Mother of
Jesus! . . .  O Mary, Mother of Jesus . . .'

She turned a little on her side, taking care not to disturb the
dog.

'These rheumatics--I see now why I was charged with them--for with
their twists and cramps they make death a pleasanter, more
desirable thing.'

She stayed in great peace, her lips moving in prayer.

Quite suddenly there came into the silence of the room the noise of
hammering.  Then the heavy tramp of soldiers.  The hammering grew
louder and more insistent.

The Queen's hand moved, sought Rosamund's and held it tightly.



THE CRUCIFIX


Robin Herries, guarding the door of the Queen's room, heard six
o'clock strike, then half-past six.  The deep gong-like note had
scarcely died away when the door opened and Bourgoing, his face
pale and lined like a map, summoned him.

He stood exactly inside the door.  The Queen faced him, her women
behind her; Bourgoing, Jacque Gervais, Pierre Gorion, Didier,
ranged on either side of her.

She was superb, the Queen of all Queens.  She was dressed as a
Queen-Dowager.  The skirt and bodice of black satin were worn over
a petticoat of russet-brown velvet; while the long regal mantle,
also of black satin, embroidered with gold and trimmed with fur,
had hanging sleeves and a train.  The Queen's head-dress was of
white crpe, from which fell a veil of the same delicate material,
edged with lace.  Round her neck she wore a chain of scented beads
with a cross, and at her waist a golden rosary.

Before Bourgoing had opened the door he had read the Queen's will
aloud, after which she had signed it and given it to him to deliver
to the Duke of Guise.  She had then distributed little purses of
money; she took farewell of her friends, embracing the women and
giving her hand to the men to kiss.

She looked now at Robin, and suddenly out of her dignity smiled at
him, a little childishly.

'I pray you, Mr. Herries,' she said.  'Excuse me a moment in the
Oratory that I may make my last prayers.'

He bowed his head, then followed her and her company into the ante-
chamber that had been arranged as an Oratory.  The bedroom door was
closed and even locked.

She knelt before the altar and her people knelt about her.  They
all began to weep and to implore God in passionate tones.  Mary's
pale face was raised upwards to the ivory crucifix on the altar.
Her lips moved and now and again her body trembled.  She must have
been in pain from her rheumatics, kneeling there so long in that
position.

Robin stood between the ante-chamber and the bedroom.  He was a
slain man.  Nothing could touch him any more.  Not physically
slain.  His bodily functions continued; even at supper last night,
with Paulet, Irvine, Beale and others (yes, at supper, much
drinking, bawdy talk, only Beale, Paulet and Irvine were grave and
steady-eyed, while, upstairs, the Queen had HER supper also,
pushing, with her swollen hand, the apple-rind, the bread-crusts
away, as she prepared to write her last letters on earth)--even at
supper Robin had called out 'Excellent tender tongue.  More
mustard.'  That was the dead man crying as ghosts cry from the
graves in the church-yard.  'I was there.  I saw her fall.  Her
husband murdered her.  Excellent tongue.  More mustard.'

But not her husband, not that brown black man, picking his teeth
with his dagger-end, Philip Irvine . . . Philip Irvine. . . .  For
he was here when she fell, here in this dark, dangerous Castle
where men die and no one knows that they are dead.  Here, in Castle
Perilous, Philip was alive, for even (we think; we cannot be sure
of the time: only one man knows) as she fell he was playing at
chess with another officer, who trapped his queen and beat him in
ten moves.  (And now the Queen writes her letter and the tears fall
on it and stain it.  A pain shoots up her arm as she writes.)

Robin woke every morning (for he was sleeping mightily well) to the
same emptiness of air and water in which for many weeks he had been
moving.  After the chess Irvine had been speaking to Robin at that
very moment on the staircase, speaking to him friendlily as he
always did, and Robin replying friendlily although he hated him so
deeply that he could see how his thin finger (for Robin's fingers
were very slender) would lengthen like a gimlet, would pierce the
silver-trimmed doublet, the coat of mail, the silk vest, the brown
smooth skin, the pulpy fat, the bone and sinew, would turn and turn
in the breast until the blood, black like his traitor's heart . . .

'It must have been weary for you, Robin, this night-watching for so
many weeks, but it will soon be over, I understand.'  Philip's
smooth, self-satisfied, ambition-devoured voice.

And then the man running up the stairs to them, pausing half-way.

'Sir. . . .  Sir . . . your lady . . .'

And Philip's sharp:  'What?  What?  What about my lady?'

'They have found her, sir. . . .  At the inn.  She is . . .'

Robin had known at once that it was Philip's deed, yes, even though
Philip had run down a step or two, caught the soldier by the arm
and shaken him.

'WHAT do you say?  At the inn?  My wife . . .'

Robin had stood in the shadow against the wall, straight up as
though he were being crucified.  He had remained there for a long,
long time, so long that he was there, staring down into the hall,
when they brought her, illuminated with torches, lying, her face
covered, on a plank which four men carried.  They laid the plank
down on the floor of the hall, and someone brought candles.  They
blew out the torches, and the wind through the still-open door was
bitterly sharp and cold.  He felt the wind and was inclined to call
out to them to close the door.  His body shivered as though with an
ague.



He could see into the Oratory and the bedroom also.  From under the
chair near the fire crept the spaniel.  It stood there, greatly
dejected, shivering a little, raising up to him large brown
melancholy eyes.  It was as though it asked permission of him.  It
seemed to realize that he was a dead man, for it went past him into
the Oratory and lay down beside its kneeling mistress.

Robin saw her face and its extreme pallor.  Bourgoing saw this too,
for he went to her, whispered, turned back into the bedroom, where
on the table by the bed there was some red wine; also a plate with
some thin slices of white bread.

He poured out a little wine and took a piece of the bread, returned
into the Oratory, helped her to rise and offered her the food and
wine.

She rested a little against him, and Robin heard her say:  'Thank
you. . . .  You bring me my last repast.'

She knelt again, but at once there was a loud knocking on the
bedroom door and a high-pitched voice crying:  'The Lords are
waiting. . . .  The Lords are waiting.'

Mary, from the altar steps, half-turning her head, said very low:
'Mr. Herries--pray request them for a few moments more only that I
may finish my prayers.'

Robin went to the door and said:  'A few moments only.'

As she spoke eight o'clock had sounded from the hall below.  There
was a slight pause, then the voice called more roughly:  'The door
must be broken if it is not opened.  Eight o'clock was the latest
hour permitted.'

The Queen, turning, nodded to Robin, who opened the door, and when
the messenger stood inside the bedroom, the Queen was waiting for
him.

He was a very young man with red hair and a pale face, and he
seemed confused by the great majesty of the Queen and the weeping
women.  He stammered and said it was the order of the Lords.  She
was standing in the opening to the Oratory.  She turned to
Bourgoing with a smile and said:  'Yes.  Let us go.'  He turned
back to the altar and removed from it the ivory crucifix there.
She took it gladly, kissed it with eagerness and gave it to her
groom of the chamber, Annibal Stuart, to carry for her.

At the door of the bedroom, Bourgoing, bowing, his voice broken
with emotion so that it was hard to distinguish his words, said:
'Madame, neither I nor any of your servants can bear to offer our
arm to deliver you to your executioner. . . .  But we will follow
you to our last breath.'

The Queen, whose left knee plainly hurt her because she had been
kneeling for a long while in the Oratory, said:  'You are right, my
friend.'

She spoke to the sheriff, who was preceding her, a tall stately man
with a grey beard, and said:  'My servants do not wish to lead me
to death.  I cannot walk without help; pray let me be a little
assisted.'

Two soldiers came and, with great reverence and even tenderness,
assisted her, one on either side.

They had walked a little way down the passage when they were met by
Philip Irvine, who, dressed entirely in black, seemed of a great
height and exceedingly handsome.  Robin perceived how supremely
delighted he was with his importance on this historic morning.  In
a cold clear voice he said:  'Madame, I regret, but none of your
servants must attend you.'

At that they all broke into desperate cries.  Rosamund opposed
Philip, her body almost touching his, and with passionate, angry
words said that they could not take the Queen away alone, that
princesses even must be always attended, that she had always, even
for the last nineteen years, had someone to assist her, that her
rheumatics made her movements difficult for her, that she must not
be shamed before all the world, that it was right that some of her
servants should be present to see that all should be properly done.
She caught his arm and cried:  'Philip!  Philip!  You cannot do
this.'

He made no answer at all, but moved his hand, and two soldiers with
pikes came forward and began to drive the men and women back into
the bedroom.  But it was a piteous scene, for they clung about
their mistress, knowing that this was the last time they would ever
see her on this earth, holding her hands, her dress, her arm.

She was deeply tender with them, murmuring words of love, but she
gently detached them, only saying one word to Philip Irvine, whom
of everyone in the Castle she most detested:  'You do wrong, Mr.
Irvine, in preventing my servants from assisting at my death.'

She walked on alone, Irvine and the sheriff in front, Robin and
some soldiers behind.  They could hear the sobbing and crying from
the bedroom.

Before she left them she took from Annibal the ivory crucifix and
from Jane Kennedy the gold-embroidered handkerchief that she had
prepared on the previous night.

'Yes,' Robin thought.  'This is the perfection of Majesty.'  His
dead self remembered how his living self had asked at the very
beginning:  'Queen.  Play-actress.  Woman--all three together?'
Now (for he did not care any more: he cared for nothing at all) she
was acting a part on a stage before all the world, but behind the
actress was the Queen who was dying for her Faith, and behind the
Queen was a simple woman whose rheumatics pained her, whose heart
was lonely, whom no man would love in physical fashion ever again.

Strangest of all she was a Martyr, and it is quite possible that in
a literal sense she saw Heaven opening, angels in glistening array
waiting to carry her to the Mother of God.  For she had not slept
and had eaten very little.  In and out between these things moved
the frightened question:  'Will it hurt?'

She descended the great stairs slowly, supported by Paulet's
guards, and her left knee hurting her more than it had ever done
before.  Perhaps at a sharp twinge she thought almost with relief:
'Within an hour I shall not feel this.'

Kent and Shrewsbury were on the first landing waiting for her, and
although they had not intended it they bowed low, so superb was her
majesty and so calm and tranquil her expression.

Then at the bottom of the staircase her beloved Melville, her
devoted master of the household, who had been kept apart from her
for three weeks, was waiting.  This for a while quite unmanned her.
She spoke to Melville 'Thou,' which she never did to any of her
servants.  He knelt on the stone floor.  She rested her hand on his
shoulder.  His voice was broken.  'After having been so long
separated . . . to meet now . . . to endure . . .'

'Thou hast always been a good and faithful servant to me.  So I beg
thee to continue towards my son.  He shall recompense thee as I
alas am unable to do.  Tell him to keep me in memory.  As I pardon
all in Scotland who have offended me so would I wish that they
would pardon me.  May God enlighten my son, and send him His Holy
Spirit.'

Melville, sobbing, his voice choked, raised his head as though to
speak more clearly, caught his ruff with his hand, pulling it a
little.

'Madame, never shall I bear a more sorrowful message than this when
I report my Queen and Mistress is dead.'  He repeated the words.
'My Queen. . . .  My Queen.'

But the Queen, patting his shoulder, then letting her hand rest for
a moment on his head, said that he was not to grieve, for to-day he
would see 'the end of Mary Stuart's miseries.'  She raised her
voice and gazed out in front of her as though she were speaking to
the whole world:  'My good Melville.  Be the bearer of this news,
that I die a Catholic, firm in my religion, a faithful Scotswoman
and a true Frenchwoman.'  She said again:  'Commend me to the King
my son.  Take him my blessing.'  At this she made the sign of the
cross as if to bless her son.

One of the Commissioners, a wizen-faced, pock-marked little man,
had been growing impatient through all of this, and pushing past
Shrewsbury he said roughly:  'The hour has struck.'

The Queen bent forward and kissed Melville on his forehead.  She
had great difficulty in speaking but looked at the pock-marked
Commissioner who had interrupted with a wandering smile, as though
she did not see him.

'Adieu, good Melville,' she said, 'till we meet in the next world--
and pray to God for me.'

She was about to move forward, having recovered all her dignity,
when William Fitzwilliam, the Castellan of Fotheringhay, advanced,
knelt down and kissed her hand.

The Queen smiled almost a gay smile, for Fitzwilliam had been her
friend, showing her courtesy and deference in everything.  He had
been often at words with Paulet over her and had been regarded by
the Government with grave suspicion.  All that he was, however, was
a large-hearted, tender-natured man.  He was a great friend of
Nicholas Herries'.  The Queen had remembered him on the previous
night, leaving him a gift.

It may have been this meeting with Fitzwilliam that caused the
Queen to feel that this would be a right moment to make her
requests.

She looked with great sweetness at Kent and Shrewsbury.

'My lords, I have two requests.'

Shrewsbury bowed.

'The first is that you will intercede with Queen Elizabeth for the
safety of my secretary Curle, who indeed was a man of the guileless
sort, like a child, and could plot against no one.  There are also
certain moneys due to him.'

The two lords made no reply.

The Queen went on:  'The other, my lords, is that you will permit
my servants to assist at my death that they may bear witness that I
persevere in my Faith to my last breath.'

At this Kent and Shrewsbury stood aside and Beale joined them.
They consulted together for a brief while and then Shrewsbury said:
'Which of your people would you wish to be with you?  It must not
be more than five or six.'

The Queen seemed surprised at this courtesy and said eagerly:
'Messieurs Melville, Bourgoing, Pierre Gorion, Jacque Gervais,
Didier; two of my women, Barbara Curle and Jane Kennedy.'

They were now at the entrance to the hall.  Shrewsbury, speaking
with great courtesy, said that the men would be permitted but not
the women, for they would create disturbance with their cries.

'Alas, poor souls,' said the Queen.  'I give you my promise, my
lord, that they shall not cry out.  Your Queen, who is a maiden
Queen, cannot have given this cruel order to refuse to the women of
another Queen the consolation of assistance at her death.'  She
became greatly agitated.  'She cannot. . . .  She cannot. . . .  To
be alone without anyone of my sex . . .'  She put one hand to her
face, the other holding the crucifix, to hide the tears that began
to fall.  She seemed in danger of absolute collapse, her knees
trembling, and the soldiers had to hold her between them more
firmly.  She saw that Kent and Shrewsbury were hesitating, so,
checking her tears, she recovered her dignity and proudly asked:
'Do you then forget, my lords, that I am cousin to your Queen, that
I am of the blood royal of Henry VII, that I am Queen-Dowager of
France, and anointed Queen of Scotland?'

Shrewsbury said in a low voice that the two women would be
permitted and they all waited while they were sent for.

They came, poor things, expecting that the Queen was already dead,
and when they saw her, they ran to her, and then, perceiving the
great hall entirely hung with black, the raised platform, the block
and the executioner, they cried out piteously.

The Queen said gently, as though speaking to her own children:
'Now!  Now!  You must not.  I have passed my word to these lords
that you shall be quiet and not offend them.'

At once the two women were quiet and gravely composed.



So the procession entered the hall: the Queen, holding the crucifix
raised up, walking as though she were in command of the whole
world, Melville carrying her train.

At the upper end of the hall--near the large Gothic fireplace in
which a great fire was burning--stood the scaffold, raised two feet
above the ground.  This was twelve foot square and covered in black
serge, as were the stool and cushion prepared for the Queen, and
was made low enough to allow the spectators to see all that passed.
At the side towards the end of the hall, the scaffold was
approached by two steps.  The block, made of oak, and covered also
with black, was placed near the chimney-piece.  By it stood the
executioner and his assistant, both in long black velvet gowns,
with white aprons, and both wearing black masks.  The executioner
carried a large axe mounted with a short handle.

In front of the block, chairs were placed for Kent and Shrewsbury.
Two other chairs, placed higher up the room, outside the scaffold,
were for Paulet and Drury.  Round the scaffold was a guard of
halberdiers, the men of Huntingdon.  Three hundred spectators were
allowed in the hall.

Robin Herries was near the fire, not far from the scaffold, but
standing closely pressed with men whom he did not know, servants
possibly of Kent and Shrewsbury.  He stood as though his body were
one long bone upon which heat was burning.  He gazed into
blackness.  Everywhere was blackness except the red leaping light
of the fire.  He noticed little things as a man in a trance may yet
notice, although he cannot move, the sun-shadow on the wall, the
blowing of a spray against the window.  He had seen, as they came
down the staircase, the spaniel keeping its place close to its
mistress, and he saw it now, as the Queen mounted the scaffold,
moving beside her.  Why had no one prevented it?  Only he had
realized it, and he had a crazy impulse to step forward, catch it
in his arms, fondle it, and turn its head close to his breast when
the dreadful moment came.  But it was a dream impulse, when you
wish to leap, to run, to fly, and are held by a vice.

He heard above him a twittering and a fluttering and, looking up,
saw above the beams in the far distance of the ceiling, a bird that
flew, uttering little cries, from corner to corner.  It could not
get out and its sound was like a beseeching whisper in his ear
urging him to wake.

The man next him was stout and wheezed between every breath.  His
eyes were bulbous and stared at the scaffold as though they would
never have enough.

All these trifles meant nothing to Robin--only far, far away he
seemed to hear his own voice saying:  'Once, long ago, I prayed
that I might serve this Queen.  It was my dearest wish.  I have
been given a handsome opportunity and have done nothing, nothing at
all.  Somewhere--at some time--some other cried to me to save her.
She fell and her neck was broken.  There too I did nothing.'

But a man who is dead does not care for broken vows.  That is the
blessing of being dead.

He could hear all that was said.  The Queen was approaching the
scaffold.  She had raised the crucifix in front of her and moved
with the greatest dignity.  But at the moment before mounting the
scaffold she paused, as though listening.

Everyone in the hall could hear the cries and shouts, many of them
insulting, from the courtyard, but more insulting were the strains
of music, for musicians placed in the courtyard were playing a
mournful dirge which was frequently played at the execution of
witches.

The Queen must have known this well, but she gave no sign, climbed
the steps and seated herself on the black stool.  Kent and
Shrewsbury stood on each side of her and at once she begged them
that she might have her own chaplain.  This was refused her.  Beale
then ascended the scaffold and read aloud to everyone the royal
commission for the execution.  At the end of this everyone shouted
'God Save the Queen!'

Shrewsbury turned to her and said:  'Madame, you know what we are
commanded to do.'

The Queen answered:  'Do your duty.'

She moved on her stool, looked about her, up into the roof where
perhaps she saw the constant flight of the bird, then in a clear
quiet voice that everyone could hear, said:

'My lords, I was born a Queen, a sovereign princess, not subject to
laws, a near relative of the Queen of England, and her legitimate
heir.  After having been long and wrongfully imprisoned in this
country, where I have endured many pains and evils, no one having
any right or power over me, I am now, through force, and being in
men's power, about to close my life.

'I die a Catholic.  As to the crime which they have fixed upon me--
the death of the Queen--I never suggested it, nor consented to it,
nor to anything against her person.  I have always loved her and
the country also.  I forgive each one, whoever he may be, who may
have offended me, or done me harm, as I beg all to be so good as to
forgive me.  I accuse no one any more than I have done previously;
my tongue shall do harm to no one.'

The air was absolutely still and clear.  Someone had closed a door;
and no sound, whether of music or voices, came from the courtyard.
So still was it that a log falling in the fire startled everyone.
All held their breath.  Only, as she ended, the wheezy man next to
Robin muttered:  'Poor lady! . . .  Oh, the poor lady!'

Out of the stillness something stirred in the soul of Robin
Herries, the first life in him since Sylvia died.  Life--very dim,
only half conscious, came to him from the face--the high forehead,
the eyes, the mouth--of the Queen.

She seemed, sitting there with so straight a back on that stool,
holding the ivory crucifix in front of her, to be in an ecstasy of
exaltation.  Far, far away Robin heard the incoming of a fresh tide
of consciousness across the dry sterile plains of his spiritual
experience.

Now all saw the Dean of Peterborough, Dr. Fletcher, come and place
himself, very self-importantly, in front of the Queen.  He bowed
and said that, by his mistress' command, he had come to prepare her
for death.

The Queen sighed as though she wished for all this to be over, then
very gently said:  'Peace, Mr. Dean; I have nothing to do with you.
I do not wish to hear you.  You can be silent if you please and go
from hence.'

He continued to speak, raising his voice, but Mary, raising hers,
cried out:  'You gain nothing; I will not listen to you; be silent,
please,' and she turned right round on the stool so that her back
was to him.  But the Dean was urgent.  He even laid his hand on her
arm, telling her to think of her crimes, but at this Shrewsbury was
shocked and told him to stop.

Then Kent, out of nervousness and the strain of this dreadful
business, seeing that she made the sign of the cross with the
crucifix, cried out:  'Madame, what does it avail you to hold in
your hands this vain image of Christ if you do not bear Him in your
heart?'

And the Queen answered sharply:  'How is it possible to have such
an image in one's hands without the heart being deeply moved by
it?'

Everyone in the hall was now feeling a nervous uneasy excitement,
as though the scene were being drawn out beyond endurance.  A young
soldier in full armour near the fire fainted with the heat and was
pushed to the outskirts of the pressing crowd, where, propped up
against the wall, he uttered little muttering groans.

Shrewsbury cried out:  'Madame, if you will not listen to the Dean
we must all pray in common.'

To which Mary answered:  'Pray if you wish.  I will pray also.'

So Fletcher began to pray loudly in English and the Queen in Latin,
repeating some of the penitential psalms--'Miserere' and 'In te
Domine speravi'--and as she did so she beat her breast with the
crucifix and kissed it.

Then she began in English and it was strange how her voice, which
she did not appear to raise, was clear above the hubbub, for now
they were all praying--Shrewsbury, Kent, the Dean, men crying out
in the hall, some women (neither Kennedy nor Curle) weeping
hysterically, men moving and pushing against one another.  It
seemed, if this suspense continued very long, that there would be
some dreadful outbreak of violence.

The Queen prayed:  'Send me your Holy Spirit, Lord, that at the
hour of my death He may enlighten me and enable me to understand
the mystery of your Passion. . . .'

She prayed for peace between Christian Princes, the conversion of
England to the true Faith, for the Pope, for her enemies, for Queen
Elizabeth, and for her son's conversion to the Catholic Faith.

When her prayer was finished there was a sudden extraordinary
silence.  All men looked at her.  Raising the crucifix high she
passionately kissed it and exclaimed:  'As Thy arms, my God, were
extended on a cross, so receive me into the arms of Thy mercy.
Extend to me Thy mercy and pardon me all my sins.'

She turned to her servants and embraced them, rose and reseated
herself.

A man's voice from the back of the hall cried out:  'Have done!
Have done! . . .  Put an end . . .'

Kent and Shrewsbury approached her and asked her whether she had
any secret matter to reveal to them, but, clasping the crucifix to
her bosom, she answered:  'I have said all.'

She looked about her, and then, with a shy smile as though she were
timid about entering into new company, she rose and began to
prepare herself for death, for she saw that the actual moment had
at last come.

She laid the crucifix upon the stool.  Bull, the London
executioner, approached and offered to remove her outer dress, but
the Queen, smiling, shook her head:  'Let me do this.  I understand
this business better than you.  I never had such a Groom of the
Chamber.'

Then she took the pins out of her head-dress, but her fingers were
sore and swollen, so she called softly to Jane Kennedy and Barbara
Curle, who were on their knees praying.

They came to her and began to assist her to disrobe, but they were
both sobbing and crying now like frightened children.  The Queen
bent forward and kissed Jane Kennedy's wet cheek.

'Do not weep any more or I shall think that I should have had
Rosamund Herries with me for this.  I am very happy to go from this
world; you should be happy to see me die in so good a quarrel.  Are
you not ashamed to cry?  If you weep any more I will send you away,
as I promised for you.'

She looked at Jane Kennedy with great intensity, then she took the
gold cross from her neck and was about to give it to the girl when
Bull pushed his way in, saying, 'This is mine,' and he roughly took
the chain from her.

'My friend,' the Queen said, 'you cannot make use of this.  As my
last request I pray you leave it to this lady.  She will give you
good value for it, for it is worth to her very much more than
money.'

But Bull shook his head, muttering, 'It is my right,' and dropped
it into his shoe.

The Queen, quite joyfully, with eagerness, had helped in her own
disrobing and now stood in a brown velvet skirt and black satin
bodice with long sleeves.

It was a stormy wild morning.  The rain was beating against the
windows and the hall was smokily dark.  The great fire in the stone
fireplace near the scaffold was leaping wildly and illuminated the
Queen with a crimson light so that some thought that her
undergarment was crimson.

Once more, and always smiling, she bade farewell to her men-
servants, Melville and the rest, then embraced and blessed the two
women, making the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

She said in French:  'Adieu, for the last time.  Adieu.  Au
revoir.'

Jane Kennedy fastened the handkerchief with the gold embroidery
over her eyes.  The Queen moved her own hands up to it and adjusted
it.  She asked the two women to go down from the scaffold.

The executioners fell on their knees asking her pardon, and the
Queen, moving with her hands a little as a player does in blind-
man's-buff, said:  'I forgive you with all my heart.'

She was seated on her stool again, holding the crucifix, and it
seemed that she thought she was to be executed then, for she
stretched out her neck.  She thought that she would be beheaded
with a sword as was the privilege of royal personages in France.
But the executioners came over to her, helped her to rise (she
stumbled in her blindness, caught Bull by the arm and smiled at him
as though in apology), and then conducted her to the block as
though they were leading a little child who was learning to walk.

The drums began to roll.  The executioners made her kneel down by
the block, and as she knelt upright, still thinking she was to be
beheaded with the sword, they made her lie flat, Bull pushing her
in the small of her back, with her head on the block.

As the Queen repeated the words 'In te Domine speravi,' Shrewsbury
raised his wand to give the signal.

The drums rolled.

Bull raised his axe high, but stopped, for his assistant showed him
that the Queen, in order to enable herself to breathe, had placed
her hands under her chin.  The assistant bent down and held her
hands behind her back.

The drums had ceased.  There was a deep, fathomless silence in the
hall made vocal only by the twittering of the bird in the rafters.
Mary's voice came out loud and very clear, 'In manus tuas Domine
commendo--'  They were her last words on this earth.

Bull struck, but with an ill aim.  He wounded the Queen on the side
of the neck but she neither moved nor spoke.  He struck again and
the head was severed.  He raised the head, holding it by the grey
hair, for the red wig had tumbled, and cried in a coarse rough
voice:  'God Save the Queen.'

A low 'Amen' sounded through the hall.

Kent came to the front and shouted 'Amen!  Amen!  May it please God
that all the Queen's enemies be brought into the like condition!'

The headless body lay there stretched out.  From beside the skirt
the spaniel, its golden coat stained with blood, stole out, its
whole body trembling, its large eyes pitifully looking for someone,
but it uttered no sound.

The drums rolled until, with the wild leaping of the fire, their
sound filled the hall.


END OF PART III




PART IV

THE ENEMY IN FLIGHT



ASHES OF LETTERS


Cheveley, Robin Herries' fat, dough-faced servant, paused on the
bridge beside Rosthwaite before mounting the hill to his master's
house.  He was not a great lover of nature, but it did strike him
on this October day that the hills were on fire.  He raised his
large gooseberry eyes, and then, with his distended nostrils,
sniffed the blackberry-chrysanthemum sky-flavour as though he were
embalming his nose with an immortality of crystal-scented air.
Very good!  Oh, very good!  And he walked up the hill with that
extra stride and that added straightening of the shoulders that had
come to Englishmen since the defeat of the Armada.

It had not as yet, however, he reflected, come to his master.  And
then he saw him, like a thin ghost in ebony, standing quite
motionless in front of the courtyard, the gate being open and the
autumn sun sparkling on the weather-vane as though the Bird of Fire
were perched there.

So his master was a ghost and had been ever since that awful time
at Fotheringhay.  Cheveley had not been with him there.  He had
left him before that to marry a baker's daughter in Islington.  And
THAT had turned out most unfortunately, the baker's daughter
deserting him for a soldier from the Low Countries.  So Cheveley
had returned to Robin in the summer of 1590 and was with him now
for life.

Robin had a power over Cheveley that he had never had before.
Cheveley had never really approved of Robin's illicit pursuit of
Irvine's wife.  He had been at times a letter-carrier, a go-
between, and this had distressed his morality, for, in spite of his
occasional somewhat doughy debaucheries, Cheveley was a Puritan at
heart.  Then Robin had been, in those days before Fotheringhay,
moody, unhappy, restless.  Now he was as quiet, and restful as a
ticking clock.  And his courtesy!  He spoke to you as though you
were Leicester himself and was considerate about everything.  He
was a grown man now in his self-control, his dignity, and he was
like a dead man in his passivity.

This was the kind of post that Cheveley enjoyed: an easy life with
a good master, no women to order you, good wages, not too much
heavy labour, and plenty to eat.  A sort of love for his master had
crept into his slow-beating heart.  Cheveley was distressed when
others demanded emotion of him, which was, perhaps, why the baker's
daughter left him for the Low Countries soldier.  But this remote,
still, controlled English gentleman asked nothing of him but
service.  It was as though Mr. Herries were waiting for some call,
Cheveley thought, as he looked up the road and saw him standing at
the gate.  He was always like that, as though he were listening.

Robin was staring, as he often did, at the scene before him and
seeing it as a vision.  The ridges of the hills were hard and sharp
against a pale green sky.  The afternoon was closing in.  Already
the shadows were gathering over the valley and the white mist lay
like ruffles of lawn over Borrowdale.  Above the mist were the
flaming bastions of rock and fell, a dim sparkling gold with a
movement in it, as when someone, very gently, shakes a cloth.
Little valley sounds came up to him as though cows and dogs and
sheep were rejoicing in the loveliness of the evening.  A blind
man, belonging to the valley, who had been at Watendlath, came down
the path past Robin.  He was ringing a little bell.  He wore a high-
peaked shabby white hat and had a red muffler round his skinny
neck.  His dog, a big sheep-dog, walked behind him.  Robin knew
him.  He stopped, scenting that someone was there.

'Good night, William.'

'Good night to you, Mr. Herries.  A fine night.'

'Yes, a fine night, William.'

Cheveley came up and they both went indoors.



This was the hour that Robin always dreaded, the hour before he
could settle into his work.  He tried to defeat his fear sometimes
by starting to work at once, and so he did now, drawing the high-
backed chair in to the table, kicking out his long legs and feeling
the last rays of the October sun hot upon his head.

He was translating the elegies of Propertius, and now, leaning
forward, gazing at the open book, he repeated to himself the famous
lines of the twenty-sixth elegy of the Second Book:


     'Vidi te in somnis fracta, mea vita, carina
       Ionio lassas ducere rore manus,
     et quaecunque in me fueras mentita fateri,
       nec iam umore graves tollere posse comas,
     qualem purpureis agitatam fluctibus Hellen,
       aurea quam molli tergore vexit ovis.'


Smiling ever so slightly, he repeated over to himself the lovely,
smooth, marmoreal words:


     'qualem purpureis agitatam fluctibus Hellen,
       aurea quam molli tergore vexit ovis.'


He began, quite eagerly, to consider how he would begin the
translation of this verse, giving the very quality of Propertius,
so different from the light humorous play of Catullus whom also he
loved.

These lines are part of a description of a dream wherein the poet
sees his beloved drowning in the sea, her hair sinking with the
weight of the brine, crying to him to help her. . . .

To help her.  To help her.  Robin suddenly began to tremble through
all his body.  For more than four years now these trembling fits
had constantly seized him.  All his limbs shook and his heart
hammered and his eyes filled with tears.  There seemed to be no
reason behind them, but because of them and because he could not
sleep he had come to live, alone except for Cheveley and an old
woman, in his little house at Rosthwaite.  He did not wish anyone
else, not even Nicholas, to see his helplessness.  And while he
trembled, deep down in his very reins a voice seemed to say to him:
'Traitor!  Traitor!  Traitor!'

The country round Rosthwaite slowly comforted him.  Its wildness
and remoteness, with its woods, the sudden clearings where cattle
were, the unexpected streams, and more than all, the unchanging
friendly hills.  All these alone in the world seemed not to accuse
him, to understand his failure to save his Queen and his lady.

At one moment only he had seemed to spring to life: the night on
the Seascale sands when he had seen the reflection of the Armada
fires.  Until the Armada it had appeared to him that the country
was sinking into absolute ruin.  His hatred of Elizabeth had grown
so frenzied that if, during those months between Fotheringhay and
the Armada, he had been tempted by the Catholics he might have
joined in some hidden plotting.

More and more he had loathed her meanness and parsimony.  Her
meanness towards the States of the Netherlands and her plotting
with the man she knew to be her enemy, Philip of Spain, against
them, her lies and subterfuges, and then, when the danger from
Spain was clear to all, her parsimony to Drake and Hawkins so that
Hawkins must pay his men out of his own pocket, her refusal to
provide ships, her constant going back on her word, her supplying
such filthy provisions that half the men died of dysentery from the
foul beer and bad peas and beans--yes, right up to the moment of
the Armada itself.

And then at that instant when, the sea murmuring in his ear, his
thoughts miserably set on that little house where he had spent the
night with Sylvia, he had seen the sky redden with the fire from
Skiddaw, his heart had suddenly leapt up.  He knew that he had a
passion for his dear country.

Afterwards he had realized that he was living in a new country.
Three hundred and fifty years later Englishmen were to go to war
once again with a great lifting of doubt at their country's courage
from their hearts and souls.  So now Robin felt.  Almost his life
long he had watched the uncertain policies of England's statesmen.
Was England to sink into a lower place among the nations of the
world?  Were the days of her greatness over?  He had not shared in
the congratulations over the piracies of Drake and the others.  He
had wanted something quite different for England.  And now he had
it.  God, in spite of her sins, had been after all on England's
side.  He had raised His great winds and the enemy had been
scattered.

Robin had even come to see that there might after all have been
some wisdom in Elizabeth's caution and parsimony.  Men like Philip
Sidney had not died altogether in vain.

He loved his country in a new way:  'aurea quam molli tergore vexit
ovis.'

He raised his head and listened.  This was a trick that took him
often.  It was as though he were expecting some signal.  He
listened.  The dusk was quickly falling.  There was the twittering
of a bird.  Yes, and there was a hurried tap on the window.

He turned on his elbow and stared.  Even as he looked the golden
light seemed to vanish from the sky and a grey dusk sweep to the
walls of the house.  Against the grey was a darker shape.  Robin
knew at once that it was Anthony Pierson.  He undid the clasp and
threw back the casement.  Pierson was over the sill and, without
looking at Robin, gasped:

'There must be a fire lit . . . somewhere . . . not here . . . deep
in the house . . .'  He caught at the high back of the chair for
support.  He was dressed as a farm-hand in a smock and leather
breeches.  As he talked he began to throw off his clothes.

'I have half an hour at most.  Can you get me some of your serving-
man's things?  And I'll do my hair. . . .'

He bent down, kicking off the breeches.  He stood up again, his
chest heaving, the cords in his thick neck swelling.  He was still
breathing like a running man.

'Quick.  Quick, Robin.  Cheveley will have something, stout though
he is.  Don't tell him the wherefore though.  I know he's faithful
but better not.  And see that a fire's lit.  They mustn't get the
papers though they get me.'

He was recovering himself.  He stood there, his arms folded across
his broad chest.  He suddenly laughed.

'Oh, Robin, it's good to see you--even in this flutter.'

But Robin was gone.  Pierson watched the window.  He passed his
hands up and down his thighs, stroked himself friendlily.

Robin was back in a few minutes, carrying some clothes.  He laid
them on a table, vanished and returned again in a moment or two
with a flagon, bread, a meat pie, some fruit.

Pierson had clothed himself in the plain doublet and hose that were
too big for him but could serve.  He was trussing his hose.
Suddenly he stopped, went over to Robin and embraced him.

'I may be bringing great trouble on you for this.'

Robin, whose eyes were shining with happiness and pleasure,
answered:

'Tony, I haven't seen you for a year.  Nay, it's more.  The
afternoon at Baddicombe was the last.  But what is it?  Why are you
here?  Who's pursuing?'

Pierson went quickly to the window.  The curtains had been pulled
across it and he drew an edge and looked out into the dusk.  Robin
had brought silver candlesticks and now the candlelight shone on
the table.  Pierson sat down close beside Robin and began to eat
and drink.

'It's Irvine.'

'Irvine!' Robin cried out.

'Yes, Philip Irvine.  He has a man Thatcher who has been up here
some months nosing out Catholics.  He had Chamberlain at Lasting
Manor and Forster at Breeding as you heard.  I have been in the Low
Countries, but I came over a month ago, bringing letters to--well,
never mind who.  It's better for you if they question you that you
shouldn't know.  I have them with me now and we must burn them
before I go. . . .'

He stopped, caught Robin's arm and gazed into his face.

'Robin, it's dangerous for you.  Very dangerous.  If they come and
question you and find that you have burnt papers--and Irvine hates
you, doesn't he?'

Robin was staring at the wall opposite him in a sort of exaltation.
It was as though he had not heard his friend.  But he had, for he
turned back to him.

'Perhaps my chance has come at last, Tony.  I have been waiting a
long time.  I had failed in everything through a kind of inanition,
an indecision.  I knew what I should do but I could not.  Now in
this last ten minutes everything has cleared.  I am happy as I have
not been for years.'

Pierson put his arm round his friend's neck and drew him closer to
him.

'Yes, but, Robin, this is truly dangerous.  You know what they do
to anyone concealing or helping a proscribed Catholic priest.  But
just now I was desperate.  They have been after me for two days and
nights.  I had got to the Isle of Man where I had business.  Then,
two days ago, I landed on the shore between Seascale and
Whitehaven.  I should have gone straight to Lancashire, but I
caught at the chance of seeing you. . . .  I hadn't, you know, for
over a year.  You are the only human being left in my life, Robin.
I--I--But no matter.  I came to Keswick.  I lodged last night with
a man and woman--good folk who knew me.  This morning I started off
to walk to Rosthwaite, and there, outside the inn, I saw Irvine
sitting his horse.  Thatcher came out of the inn and spoke to him.
And Thatcher saw me.  He knows me well and is longing to have me by
the tail.  He saw me and knew me.  I was away across the bridge to
Portinskill and then along the path to Manesty.  I was safe in the
woods there, I thought, but early in the afternoon there they were
riding the path on the Catbells slope above me.  I slipped by the
Lake and over the bridge and so along the valley here.  But I fancy
they sniffed me.  But I came here, Robin, because I thought Irvine
and Thatcher would find it the most unlikely place, just because it
was so likely.  And--because--I had to see you.  I HAD to.  But it
was wrong.  I have brought you into this. . . .'

'It was right, Tony,' Robin cried, jumping up, 'the rightest thing
you ever did.  I have been expecting, waiting for something like
this--something that would take some of my shame away.

'I loved a woman and deserted her, Tony.  I had longed for all my
life to serve a Queen and when I came to serve her did nothing.  I
love you more than anyone else alive now save Nick, and I can serve
you--at last I can serve you!'

He seemed in a frenzy of happiness.

'Come, I have lit a fire myself.  In Nick's room.  I call it that
because he sleeps there.'

'How is your brother?'

'Nicholas?  Well enough.  Not so happy as he was.  There is a queer
business with a German woman who has married his man.  The three of
them together are at odds--I don't know how or why.  He has grown
up, my brother.'

Pierson stood looking at Robin.  'I have never had anyone to love
me like that.  I am a priest and must not permit myself such
indulgences.'  His voice was unexpectedly bitter.  'Suppose if,
after all, God is not there--only vacancy--clouds and behind clouds
space--a Nothingness.  And my body--all the happy lasciviousness
that I have not known--prayers to Our Lady who perhaps is not
there.  This strength of body, these parts, this heart.  I was
meant by nature to know love.  Is nature God?  Can God hear?  I
tell you, Robin, for more than twenty years now I have sweated in
disguise, lain in hedgerows and ditches, starved and shivered, run
day by day the risks of the torture as even now I run them.  My
body has been virgin, my seed sterile.  Most of all I have held
myself from YOU.  Why?  If there should be nothing, and the Christ
an idle tale.'

He was trembling and, Robin thought, on the edge of tears.

Robin said:  'Remember Campion.  I saw him die.  He too was afraid,
he too was lonely, and yet I would rather have been Campion than
Drake or Leicester or Burghley.  As he rode on his hurdle there was
a vision before him that for him was a certainty.  The Bright
Pavilions of which you were the first to tell me, Tony.  That was
REAL that Campion saw.  And if we have been kept apart, at least we
have not lost one another, which, if we had come closer, we might
have done.  We love one another as greatly as on the first day we
met.

'I believe, Tony, that all the real things are the things we
possess with our souls but not with our bodies.  The weakness of my
bodily courage has kept me out of the world where I would be.
Perhaps I may do something for you that may bring me there.'

They went quietly into the other room, which was a small place hung
with red and gold paper, a design of flowers and birds.  There was
a trestle bed, a fireplace and a cupboard.  Pierson had with him a
wallet, and kneeling down he took out a bundle of papers and burned
them in a wood fire.

They both watched them burn to ashes.

'And now I must be off.'

He embraced Robin and held him so long in his arms that at last
Robin, freeing himself, said, laughing:  'You are more of a bear
than ever, Tony.  It is as though you will never see me again.'

'I think that I shall not,' he said, climbed the window-sill and
was lost in the darkness.

Robin sat thinking.  So Irvine was in Keswick.  Irvine . . .
Sylvia . . . Fotheringhay.  The moment on the stairs when they
had stood together and the servant had come saying:  'Sir, your
lady . . .'

Phineas Thatcher had done that.  He had confessed to Rosamund.  And
Thatcher also was in Keswick.  Robin summoned Cheveley.

'You have seen no one here either coming or going?'

'No, master.'

'You had no suit of clothes that I borrowed from you?'

'No, master.'

'How many suits have you?'

Cheveley paused, his heavy white face expressionless.

'Three.  The black, the brown with silver . . .'

'Good.  You have the same number as you had before?'

'Yes, master.'

'And you have seen no one this evening either coming or going?'

'No, master.'

Robin pointed to the plates and flagon.

'I have had my supper early this evening.  You may take them away.'

'Yes, master.'

He took them away.

Robin brought out his Propertius again, but although he stared at
it he could not attend to it.  His whole condition of life seemed
to have been changed now that he had served Pierson.  His long
passivity was over.  It would have been almost better had he done a
service for someone he did not love--even for an enemy like Irvine.
Now that he was passive no longer the activity must continue.  He
would not work for the Catholics because he was less a Catholic
than ever and he would not act against the Queen.  But there were
other things that he could do.  He would go down and stay with
Nicholas.  He might help him in this queer business about this
woman he loved who had married his man Armstrong.  There were those
in London he could help: the poor, the crippled, the prisoners.  He
rose, stretching his arms.  Yes, his passivity was over.  It was as
though he had wakened out of a long, horrible sleep.

He started.  He heard voices.  The door was flung open.  He saw
Cheveley's frightened face; behind him Irvine, and behind Irvine,
Thatcher and soldiers.

Irvine looked at him as though he had never seen him before.  He
took a step forward and the soldiers closed in at the door.

'In the Queen's name--' he said.

Robin had risen and, smiling, answered:  'How can I serve you?'

'I regret--this house must be searched and all inside it.  My
soldiers are at the gate.  No one may leave.'

'May I ask why?'

'You know well enough.  A recusant priest, Anthony Pierson,
carrying treasonous papers has been here within the hour.'

Robin said:  'No one has been here within my knowledge.'

Irvine turned to Thatcher.

'See that they search the house--everything, everywhere.  Every
cupboard, every hole.  And all the servants.'

Robin laughed.

'There are only Cheveley and one old woman.  The hostler, gardener,
what you care to call him, left for his home in Rosthwaite two
hours back.'

'How long have you yourself been here?'

'The whole day.  I have not left the house save to walk to the gate
an hour back.'

'You have been entertaining that beggar priest--an old friend of
yours.'

'I have seen no one all day save Cheveley here, Martha the cook and
Hoggs the gardener.  I saw a blind man go down the path an hour
back.'

'You are lying.  You gave the priest a meal here.'

'I had my own meal here half an hour agone.'  Lightly he pushed his
book across the table.  'I have been translating Propertius,' he
said.

Irvine stared at him, frowning still as though he did not recognize
him.  He turned to the two soldiers who were still beside him (one
of them had his hand on Cheveley's fat shoulder) and said:  'Take
that lout until I can examine him.  Leave me.'

So soon as they were alone Irvine's expression changed.  He drew a
chair and sat down at the table opposite Robin.

'So at last, Robin, I have caught you.'

'Caught me, dear Philip?'

'Oh, I could have done it often enough before.  Love, politics--you
have often been sufficiently careless.  But with you, as with your
hobbledehoy brother, it has been pleasant to suspend.  An act such
as this has a finality.  For indeed, Robin, you are ended.  There
is pain ahead of you--much pain of the body--and then your release.
You have been in my hand--for how long?--ten--twenty years--and
now, at last, I close it.'

He suited the action to speech, opening his thin brown palm,
closing his thin brown fingers upon it.

Robin said easily:  'I am not aware that I have been in your hand.
You flatter your power, but indeed you are the most vain and
dissatisfied man I have ever met.'

Irvine drew a little breath.

Robin had not seen him for over a year (the last time had been at
the Court in London) and, within these twelve months, he had grown
most amazingly thin--not only thin, but behind the dry brown skin
there was almost a transparency as though you could see the veins
and the pulses of the body at work.  His large dark eyes stood out
in his bone-dry face as though with an almost frantic urgency.
When Robin looked at his eyes he fancied that Irvine had in the
last years become a little crazy.

His next words emphasized this.  He spoke with hurried gravity.

'It was our Sylvia's fault,' he said softly, 'that she could not
recognize the man who was her husband--his great qualities, I mean,
and exceptional virtue.  If I have a vanity it is of the highest
order.  And it was yourself murdered my poor wife.'

Robin said:  'Ah, no.  That, Philip, is, and will always be, your
own companion.'

Irvine leaned forward, the knuckles of his right hand so thinly
fleshed that the bone shone in the candlelight.

'Who told you of that?  How do you know?  If she is with me it is
not by my wish.  I never saw her fall and if she cried it was not I
that heard her.  And so I tell her, but she has a fashion now of
not hearing.  She can look but she cannot hear, and her right arm
is broken--at the elbow.  She is very still and quiet and younger
than she was.  And I think, when you are dead, Robin, she will be
more quiet.'

He changed his tone; he leaned back, folding his arms.

'Come then, Robin.  The priest was here.  We followed him all day.
Where have you hidden him?  We will pull the house down to find
him.'

'I have seen no one.  I have been here since the afternoon with my
books.'

Irvine went on:  'You know what it will mean?  I have seen others
suffer--many times.  You saw what they did to Campion before they
executed him.'

A very slight trembling ran through Robin's body.  It was as though
he saw, in an instant's vision, the things that lay ahead of him.

He discovered, to his own intense joy, that he was not in the least
afraid.

Thatcher was in the doorway.  Robin looked at him steadily,
remembering so many things.  Those hands had killed Sylvia.
Thatcher was greatly aged, bent a little, and his lean face deeply
furrowed.  He looked as though he were made of a tough, ugly,
shabby grained wood.  He came forward and spoke privately to
Irvine, who jumped to his feet.

He spoke to Robin sharply, now quite without any personal contact.

'It seems that some papers have been burned.  The ashes are yet
warm.  Would you come with me?'

Robin followed him into Nicholas' room.  The little place was
filled with soldiers.  Cheveley, his hands bound behind him, was
held near the bed.  From the ash-heap they had recovered fragments
of a letter with writing.

Robin thought:  'We were fools.  Thinking of ourselves and being
together.'

Irvine examined them, and with a smile, triumphant, but at the same
time morose, he said to Robin:  'This is important.  You were not
thorough enough.  Now will you say that no one has been here?'

'I have seen no one, heard no one.'

'What is the use?  Your man has confessed to everything.'

Cheveley called out with surprising anger:  'I have not, master, I
have not.'

One of the soldiers kicked him in the groin.  He bent forward,
groaning.

'I am afraid, Mr. Herries,' Irvine said, 'that you are under
arrest.  Make your arrangements as quickly as may be.  You must go
with us.'

Irvine permitted Robin to ride unbound.  As they crossed the little
bridge and turned right, through the woods, towards Keswick, Robin
saw all the tree-tops frosted with the light of an infant moon that
seemed to gambol like a lamb of silver in the brilliant sky.  In
daylight these trees just now were of radiant colours--crimson,
saffron, amber, orange, gold.  Now, under a night breeze, they
stirred like white-shadowed waters.  Robin looked around him.  He
knew that he would never see this valley, which he loved with all
his heart, again.  But he remembered what Nicholas had said on that
day long ago when they had ridden to visit their uncle--namely,
that his descendants would ride here, and that this place would be
their home.

He waved his hand, bidding farewell, and then they were swallowed
up in the woods.



THERE SHALL BE NO PAIN THERE


The room was more pleasant than he had expected.  He was alone for
the first time for more than a week, and this loneliness was
inexpressibly pleasant.  Yes! beyond expression!  He could say
nothing--and, blessedly, there was no one to whom he should say
anything.

He sat on his plank bed.  He was still in the same black suit of
clothes he had been wearing when they caught him at Rosthwaite.
After they had stripped him (a soldier had done it, alone with him
in Nicholas' room, and had apologized most friendlily) they had
allowed him to resume all his clothes, seeing that no pistol or
dagger remained with him.  They had taken his translation of
Propertius with them to search it for secret writing.

He had succeeded during the ride south in persuading them to
release Cheveley's bonds.  Cheveley was his one overwhelming
anxiety--not for anything that he might reveal under torture, but
that he should be tortured at all.

This room in the Tower was small and exceedingly bare.  There was a
grated window high up and, if he stood on the plank bed, he could
see through the window and watch the clouds race through the sky or
catch threads of gold at sunset.  Beside the plank bed there was a
stool and there was a bucket.

He found that he could eat the food they gave him, that he could
sleep.  As he sat there or lay there he thought continuously,
uninterruptedly, of three people.  Sylvia, the Scottish Queen,
Nicholas.  He did not think of himself at all.  It was as though he
were disembodied.  But now for the first time for a long while he
could think of these three persons with happiness.  He was not
ashamed to be in their company any longer.

On the fourth morning he woke abruptly to find the sun pouring into
the little room and a new gaoler standing beside his bed.  He knew
him immediately.  It was the big man with the yellow hair who had
been with him at Campion's execution.  The man was looking down at
him, had been, maybe, while he slept.

'Do you know me?' Robin asked, looking up and smiling.

'Yes, I know you, sir,' he answered.  'I have never forgotten you.
I knew that you would come here.'

'How did you know?'

The man was very quiet, not moving his big body.

'I cannot tell how I knew.  But when I touched you that raining day
I knew.'

And then, quite suddenly, Robin's heart seemed to stop its beating
for an instant.  He felt the constriction in his throat and put his
hand there.  His eyes could not meet Roland's eyes, for the man was
looking at him with a tender pity.  This man knew terrible things.

'See, master, they haven't asked me.  I do it from no order.  But I
know the case.  By telling them all you can, master, you will spare
yourself--the questioning--your life, it may be . . .'

He spoke in broken sentences.

Robin could look at him now and he did so.  He thought that he was
honest.  Was he?  Who could say in this world of lying and spies
and torturing?

'My man--Cheveley--do you know anything of him?  See--tell me--I
have forgotten your name.'

'Michael Roland.'

'Ah, yes--Michael.  We were friends that day of Campion's death.
You placed your arm around me and protected me.  Tell me--my man.
Where is he?  Here in the Tower?  Have they tortured him?'

'They say,' Roland answered slowly, 'that he has confessed
everything.  So you see, master, it's of no use.  Tell them what
you know.  The priest has safely escaped--is in France or Holland
by now, I shouldn't wonder.'

Robin broke out joyfully:  'God be thanked!  There is news.'  But
he looked at Roland suspiciously again.  'Is it really so?  Are you
instructed--?'

The two men stared at one another.  Roland shook his head.

'They have not instructed me.  They may at a later time.  I would
spare you the suffering.  Do you know it, master?  You have not
seen it as I have--the rack, the boot, the glove.'

He bent forward and put his large hand on Robin's shoulder.

'Tell them all you can.  If you speak to them they will spare you
the torture.'

He went, very quietly, from the room.

Robin lay down, his arms behind his head.  So it had come at last.
All paths led at last to THIS path; even that act, so many years
ago, when Nicholas had heard on that northern moor the unseen man
breathing at his feet, had led to this.  And, in the confused
metaphysical world that his mind at this moment inhabited, it did
not seem that Irvine was a man with blood, bones, passions, but
rather the Hostile Spirit that every man must challenge, encounter,
defeat, if he is to touch experience and see reality.  He saw so
many pictures as he lay there: Sylvia at that first ball with the
little ship in her hair, Sylvia coquetting with him at Mallory,
Sylvia as he watched her praying by that dreadful bed in that
dreadful house, and then Sylvia sleeping on his breast in the
Seascale room, his ears soothed and charmed by the murmur of the
sea, Sylvia giving little sharp cries of ecstasy, sobbing cheek
against his cheek, dressing in the early dawn, silent and unhappy,
joyful at the first sight of him, loving him always, loving him,
loving him . . .  Her place was taken by the Queen, and always the
Queen in those final hours, kneeling for the last time in the
Oratory; walking, like all the Queens who had ever sat on thrones,
down the broad stairs; kneeling, the executioner moving her hands
from under her chin. . . .

How odd it was!  He could think of them now without shame, as
though he saw them standing near him, waiting with confidence for
his Test.

His Test!  At that the tender commiserating look in Michael
Roland's eyes came back to him, and it was as though a door swung
back and a draught of hot dry air struck his face.  Reality!
Reality!  The reality of the stripping, the damp air on his flesh,
the ropes of the rack, the . . .

He was amazed.  He felt no fear.  His heart was not beating faster,
there was no sweat on his brow.  He smiled.  He turned on his side
and fell asleep.

He woke and found Nicholas standing there.  He cried aloud with joy
and threw himself into his arms, and Nicholas folded him round and
held him close to him, his great body defending him against the
world.  Robin sat on the bed, looking up at him, laughing.

'Brother, you are as vast as ever.'

But Nicholas didn't laugh.  He sat down on the pallet beside Robin,
and looked at him with so much love and agitation that Robin said
hurriedly:  'Now see you, Nick.  There's nothing to grieve for.
We'll come out of this to safety.  Do not grieve.  Do not grieve.'

'Tell me the truth of it.'

Robin told him the truth of it.

'I said always that that fellow Pierson would be no friend.  No.
No.  I would not hurt you, but if you had kept from him there would
be none of this.'

'Except for Irvine.'

'Yes.'  Nicholas' eyes narrowed.  'And Sylvia.  You had betrayed
Irvine, remember, Robin.  It does not make him the less my enemy,
but it gives him a kind of justice.'

Nicholas hurried on to tell Robin of all that he had been doing to
help him.  He had been even to the Queen.  He had seen the Queen
three times and she had liked him.  She had loved his size and
strength.  She had even pinched his arm.  She had promised him this
and that, or half promised him.  You could not tell where you were
with her.  She would not give a clear answer.  Everyone had been
kind to him, but, he must confess, he had not obtained very
definite help from anyone.

Irvine seemed to have his power and it was known that this was his
case.  It was also known that Robin had been his wife's lover.  It
was said even that Irvine had strangled his wife, finding her in
bed with Robin.  Moreover, Pierson was an old thorn in the
Government's side.  For many many years he had carried treasonable
letters from abroad.  Once again he had escaped them (Robin gave a
little cry of joy at hearing this confirmed), and by Robin's aid.

Nicholas poured all this out, thinking to disguise none of it.  It
was never his way to disguise anything.  Nor did Robin wish that he
should.

'I have failed with them all, brother.  Edward and Sidney have also
tried.  They have been good beyond my expectation.  I am going now
to Richmond where the Queen is.'

Robin laid his hand on Nicholas' huge thigh.  'Do not take this
trouble, Nick.  I know that there is nothing can be done.  I know
it as though I foresaw every movement of the next days.  And what
is more than that, I am not sorry.  All my life long I have failed
to be a man of action.  I think both ways and so never move.  But
now at last I think only one way and know just where I must go.  It
is right, too, that Irvine should have some reward.  I wronged him,
and although I would do it again, still--I wronged him.'

Nicholas sprang to his feet.

'You shall be out of this.  Within twenty-four hours--you shall be
free.  Wait.  Wait.  The Queen SHALL listen . . .'  And he hurried
from the room.

But Robin was NOT out of it.

On the following day at about ten in the morning Roland and another
man came to fetch him.

He had made himself as presentable as he could and he walked, with
his head handsomely up, ahead of the two gaolers and behind a pike-
man, along a narrow worn passage, down stone stairs, along a
further passage, down more stairs (they were damper now.  He saw
snail-slime on the wall), and through a heavy door that creaked as
it was pushed.

He was now in a high wide room with bare stone walls.  There was a
door in the end wall; no windows.  Braziers in tall iron stands
both lit and warmed the room.  Behind a black table six men were
seated, and one of them was Philip Irvine.  He did not look at
Robin, but bent forward busily writing.  Robin looked at his judges
and recognized Sir Humphrey Casselet, an officer about the Court,
elderly, stout and paunchy, plethoric.  The man in the high chair,
the principal seat, he did not know at all.  He was thin and
exceedingly handsome, with a delicate almost feminine face and
kindly grey eyes.  Robin noticed his hands as they stayed folded on
the table; beautiful, long-fingered, exquisite hands, and on the
little finger of one a large turquoise ring.

Most of the questioning came from this man, and he was most gentle
and even tenderly friendly.  He told Robin that he had nothing to
fear if he would inform them of the truth.  There were penalties,
of course, for shielding and abetting a Catholic priest, and they
were severe ones, but Robin had powerful friends and he thought
that, in his case, the penalties might not be harsh.

He was bound to say that in this instance the affair was more
grievous because the priest in question, one Anthony Pierson, was a
notorious rogue, and would have been taken by the heels this time
had not Robin succoured him.

Robin broke in here demanding to know by what court he was being
judged, to which the gentleman with the turquoise ring answered him
with gentle politeness that he might be quite sure that they were
acting under the Queen's orders and according to her wishes.

Irvine then rose and gave his evidence: that he had heard that this
priest, Anthony Pierson, was in the neighbourhood of Keswick,
Cumberland, and was carrying papers dangerous to the State; that
all the time they had him shadowed; that at last they were directly
on his track; that he took refuge in the house of Mr. Robin
Herries; that they arrived, owing to some miscalculation, an hour
too late, found Mr. Herries working at his books, denying
altogether that he had seen anyone; that they searched the house,
found burnt ashes of paper in the fireplace, recovered certain
pieces not burned and sufficiently incriminating.  He continued
that Mr. Herries was then arrested and brought with his servant to
London; that the servant had confessed everything.

Irvine then sat down; once he flickered a swift passionate glance
at Robin.

Robin was then asked what he had to say to such evidence.  Robin
replied firmly that it was true that he had been sitting at his
books on that day in his house, but that he had, from first to
last, seen nothing.

'Your servant has confessed to everything.'

'I shall not believe that until I hear it from his own lips.'

'Bring in the man.'

The door in the far wall instantly opened and Cheveley was led in.
Robin had much ado not to cry out.  Cheveley's face was grey like a
snake-skin; his mouth hung loosely.  One hand was bandaged.  One
foot seemed to turn the wrong way.

At sight of Robin he burst into tears.  He sobbed:  'Master . . .
master . . .'

Robin went across to him and Cheveley leant his head on Robin's
breast, crying like a child.

Robin consoled him, patting his cheek.

'You have done me no harm, and it is another of the wrongs that I
must cure to have brought you into this.'

Cheveley, still bitterly crying, was led away.

'You see, Mr. Herries.'

'I count nothing as evidence that is taken from a man under
torture.'

The handsome gentleman said nothing to this, but began most
delicately to persuade him.

'I would wish you to understand, Mr. Herries, that there is no
unkind feeling towards you here.  Her Majesty, who has been placed
in full acquaintance with this affair, has especially charged us
that we are to deal with you tenderly--that is, of course, if you
answer the questions put to you with a full heart and mind.'

Old Casselet broke in here, puffing and blowing out his mouth:  'By
Jesu, that is the truth.'

Robin noticed the fine lawn cuffs to the sleeves of the
interlocutor.  Under the light from the braziers they were of a
sparkling whiteness.

'Nor can it serve any purpose, Mr. Herries, that you should refuse
answers to our questions.  We KNOW that the priest, Anthony
Pierson, an old acquaintance of your own, visited you, ate and
drank with you, and burned important and incriminating documents in
your house.  All this is known to us beyond a peradventure.  You
are not, Mr. Herries, yourself a Catholic.  If you refuse our
questions it must be only because you would defend this priest.  He
is, for all we can tell, now beyond the seas.  You are therefore
serving no purpose at all in obstinacy.'

(Was Pierson safe?  Robin, with a quick look at the interlocutor,
believed that he was not.)

'If,' the interlocutor went gently on, 'you refuse our questions,
Mr. Herries, I fear that in spite of Her Majesty's care and our own
desire, pressure must be put upon you.'

There was a silence.  Robin said nothing.

The interlocutor asked:  'Did you, Mr. Herries, on such a day
receive in your house at Rosthwaite in Cumberland a disguised
priest named Anthony Pierson?'

'I did not.'

'Did he not remain with you, telling you that he was in flight from
the Government officials?'

'No such person was in my house at Rosthwaite.'

'Did he not eat and drink with you?'

'No person ate or drank with me on that day.'

'Did you not go with him while he burned documents in the fire?'

'No documents were burned in my house on that day.'

There was again a silence.  Then the interlocutor said:  'I beseech
you, Mr. Herries, to reconsider the matter.  You do no good to
anyone by your obstinacy.'

(Robin knew that Pierson was somewhere in hiding in London, and not
far away.  It was as though he heard him whispering in his ear:
'Robin!  Robin!')

He started and stood with his head a little on one side as though
listening.  For a space he did not hear the interlocutor's remarks.
He saw the Queen kneeling at her little altar and himself on guard.
Then he caught the soft gentle voice again.

'For the last time, Mr. Herries . . .'

He broke out quite passionately:  'I know nothing.  I had no priest
to visit me.  I saw no papers.'



He was walking through the door in the far wall, the two gaolers
one on either side.  The door closed behind him.  It was much
darker here.  They must go down steps and he caught at Roland's
arm.  He heard the man's hoarse whisper:  'Ah, for the sake of
Christ's virtue, tell them what they ask.  Return and tell them.'

At the bottom of the steps they passed a door and entered a long
broad room.  Braziers were burning here also.  He saw at once two
men stripped to the waist, and under the breast of the stouter
there was a large brown mole.  In a stone fireplace a fire was
burning.  He saw the instruments of torture: the rack, the
thumbscrews, the boot, the gloves, the spider.  He saw that the
interlocutor and Irvine were present.  The two gaolers were close
beside him.

He stood still, not knowing what he should do.  He heard, as though
from a great distance, the voice of the interlocutor:  'There is
yet time.  Give me only a sign, utter one word, and you shall leave
this place, never, I trust, to return to it.'

Robin was surprised at the firmness with which his voice answered:
'I have nothing to say.'

In the half-light he saw that Irvine's eyes were fixed steadily
upon him.

The interlocutor raised his hand.  Roland came to him and very
gently began to undo the ties of his doublet.  Robin assisted him.
He found that he was to be quite naked, but he had always
understood that even here the privacies were respected.  Words of a
protest came to him, but he thought:  'Of what matter is it?'

He saw the two men who were stripped to the waist roll the rack a
little forward.  He felt quite suddenly an insufferable heat.  His
body was burning and when they laid him down and stretched him out
their rough hands were cold.

He felt his feet brought together and attached to an iron hook
fixed at the rack end.  They then pulled his arms outwards, and
this was their first piece of roughness, for they jerked them
fiercely.  He realized, coming out of them, the beginning of their
lust for their business.  It seemed as though in the sharpness of
this crisis he was given an extra acuteness.  He turned his head
and saw the stout fellow with the brown mole fastening his arm to a
hook fixed in a roller at the opposite end.  His eyes were screwed
up.  His belly was already shining with a glistening sweat.  But
perhaps the most terrible thing about him was his practised air.
He hissed a little between his teeth, as when you groom a horse.
He paused in his business for a moment to scratch his breast.  He
was quite impersonal, so many hundreds of times had he performed
this same office, and yet he had pleasure in it too.

He stayed and stood up, straightening himself.  He stood, his hands
on his big strong buttocks, looking down, approving his work.

The voice of the interlocutor came again:  'There is even now time.
It is our urgent wish that you should be spared.'

Robin said nothing.  His whole being now was strung to meet the
first onslaught of pain.  All his life it was this that he had
dreaded; his dreams had been haunted by it and even on the softest
summer afternoon at Mallory he would see the face of the Tiger
between the trimmed hedges.  The Tiger was waiting to spring.  It
was in truth, in the lurid smoky light with the musty smell as of
caged animals (the stout executioner as he stood over him smelled
of sweat, of dung, of straw), exactly that--as though from the
darkness a tiger were about to spring and fasten its claws . . .

He stared upward, praying that he might not fail.  He heard the
turning wheezily of cogs in a wheel, and instantaneously with that
came an agonizing pain that belonged to no particular part but ran
like fire through his body.  The impulse was, as it would have been
had he been struck by a stone or a fist, to cry out, but only a
little 'Oh!  Oh!' came from his lips.

As the general fiery flood receded he was conscious of acute
sorrowful pain at the shoulders, the wrists, the ankles.  Yes,
'sorrowful' was the true word, for he could have burst out sobbing
at the wrongs done to his body which he loved and had cared for so
long, the body that had done no one any harm.  It was a great
commiserating pity that he felt for himself and his body, for his
wrists and his ankles that were crying out to him to help them.
Silly, loose tears rolled out of his eyes and down his cheeks.

He heard the voice of the interlocutor:  'Confess only that the
priest was with you . . .'

A dreadful civil war began then in his body.  All his members were
meeting round his heart, some were crying out for mercy, some were
angry rude fellows protesting against this treatment, some were
wailing sufferers from pain, simply crying out 'It hurts!  It
hurts!' some were beseeching that they should not suffer more, and,
beneath all this, with a steady deep refrain, was a voice telling
him to endure and that in this battle he would win a great victory.

Then quite suddenly there was nothing but fear--sharp-fanged,
biting fear--for, close to his brain, he heard the wheezy turning
of the cogs.  This time he screamed indeed, for the pain swung like
a bell up through his body and rang in a high shrill note at his
lips.  It was not he who cried, but the very figure of pain itself,
a sad screaming creature, all teeth and eyes.

The distended torture of his torn muscles shot, in regular beats,
darts of fire into his heart.  'One.  Two.  Three.  Four.'

If the ropes could be removed and the body allowed to tumble into a
heap.  The extremity had been reached.  His dry tongue moved
between his lips.  He would confess anything, true or false.  But
he did not speak, for still there was that voice saying, 'Be of
good cheer. . . .  Be of good cheer. . . .'

Now once again he heard the cogs turn; a wave of sunlit fire smote
him in the face and he fell comfortably, with a happy ease, into
cool darkness.

He sank, rose, sank again, not attempting to battle against the
soft stirring sea that enclosed him.  Whether he moved or was
quiescent, pain was constant, and any active mind that he had was
given to the prevention of movement.  If, against all his will,
there WAS movement, the animal floating beside him bit into his
flesh, and with that stab of agony he rose to full consciousness,
saw the bare walls of his own little room and the bar of light
where the window was.

No one must touch him and he would murmur:  'Spare me. . . .
Prythee . . .'  But Michael Roland could move him, most gently, as
a mother her child, and would change the linen bandages and perform
the humblest offices, holding him up a little against his breast,
taking the cup to his lips, caring passionately not to disturb his
shoulders, his wrists, his ankles, which were all dislocated.

He had, for some days, a violent fever, and saw always Sylvia
eluding him, and the Queen bending her head on the block.  She
would bend it, then raise her head and smile at him, then bend it
again.

Behind the dreams, the pain, the floating in the clogging water,
were intervals of absolute consciousness.  Then he would lie on his
pallet bed, and a curious happiness, such as he had never known in
all his life, would pervade his whole being.  He thought that he
had never in all his life been happy before.

He was happy because he had kept his word.  His mind returned to
the scene of the torture.  He avoided that.  But he knew that he
had, at last, overridden the two fears of all his life--one the
fear of physical pain; the other, that he would never be resolute
enough to take definite action.

It was as though his whole personality had been cleared of poisons
that clogged it.  Aside from the physical pain and not part of it
his thought and mind and purpose were free and light.  He rose
above his body, and new horizons of whose splendour he had never
before been aware seemed to invite him.

For many days he saw no one at all but Michael Roland.  The agony
in his body began to pass, the torn flesh set about its healing,
the fever left him.  Nevertheless the dream of the water and the
fierce waiting animal floating at his side sometimes returned, and
it was from one such dream that he woke with a cry one day and saw
Nicholas kneeling on the floor beside his bed.  His first impulse,
still clouded, was to cry:  'Do not touch me!'; then he saw that
Nicholas' broad brown face was drawn with such anxiety and distress
that he loved him more, perhaps, than he had ever done before.  He
had also now a stronger capacity for love.

'Nick!  Oh, Nick!  How glad I am!'

Nicholas smiled.  'I have been twice before, brother, but you were
in fever and did not know me.  Why, this is most handsome!  We
shall soon have you from here!'

His pleasure in seeing his brother made Robin very weak, and he
said faintly:  'I fear they will never let me from here, Nicholas.
They wish me to speak, but I have nothing to tell them.'

Then Nicholas began, with all his heart and soul, to implore him to
speak and have done.

'What harm is there?  Pierson is abroad long since.  They have all
the information.  They need only your submission.  It is their WISH
to let you go.  The Queen herself has said that, once you have made
your submission, there is to be no more of this.'

'Are you assured that he is out of the country?'

'I am assured,' Nicholas answered, but Robin, who knew him so well,
looking into his eyes, was sure that he had no certainty.

'No,' Robin said.  'He is not abroad.  He is hiding in London and
it is because they think I know more and could lead them to him
that they keep me and will question me again.'

Then Robin saw what he had never seen, Nicholas standing with the
tears pouring down his face.  He could not stop them, but
blubbered, choking to stop his sobs, turning at last to the window
with his back to the bed.

When he returned he said again:  'Submit!  Submit!  This man is
nothing to this . . . to this . . .'

'Dear Nick,' Robin said.  'It seems to you more of a torture than
to myself.  It is a great thing to me to discover that I can endure
these things, for I had always the fear that I could not.  That
fear is killed now: it is the greater of the two fears.  Moreover,
even if I would I cannot guide them to Anthony Pierson, for I know
nothing.  All I know they already know. . . .  And I think, too,
that Irvine will see to it that I do not leave this place.'

Then Nicholas, standing there, now dry-eyed, swore that, from this
time on, he would pursue Irvine wherever he might be, and would not
rest day or night until he had killed him.  'By the precious blood
of Jesus Christ, this shall be so.'

But Robin, suddenly weary, turning his head against the bolster,
said:  'I feel no bitterness against Philip, for I betrayed him as
you yourself have said.  Nor against any man.  Only I live in a
great peace and happiness.'

The weeks passed, Nicholas came and went.  The wounds healed.  The
torn flesh was restored by Nature; only, one leg was permanently
twisted so that Robin would limp for the remainder of his days and
he would never write with his writing hand again.  Spring passed
into summer.  Robin was allowed books and worked once more at his
Propertius.

During this time Roland served him with a fidelity, a humour, and a
gracious perfection of manners that made Robin wonder.

'Where do you come from, Michael?' he asked him one day.  'And why
do you love me?'

'I am Norman William who won the Battle of Hastings,' Roland said,
pulling his flaxen hair.  'I am resurrected and can eat a calf
whole as well as any man.  That's what they did in those days.  And
as to loving you, master, love something or someone I must because
of the maggoty wife I have at home and two daughters as evil.
She's French extraction,' he added as though that summed up
everything.  'When the Queen, God save her, was after marrying that
French monkey with a honey-taste for boys I tried to beat the
French blood out of my wife's body, but the more I beat her the
more the Duke pranced it at Court, so I abandoned the beatings and
now she pulls my hair.'

During this time Nicholas had no end or aim but to get Robin out of
the Tower.  He had influence of the highest, sometimes the ear of
the Queen herself, but he moved in a fog.  Something or someone
always stopped him.

Nevertheless as the summer waxed hotter they began to hope.  Soon
Robin would be forgotten enough for it not to be difficult to slip
him away.  And it was said that Pierson had died of fever in
Antwerp.  Then quite suddenly on a July afternoon Nicholas heard
that Pierson had been seen in London again.  Two days later he was
told that he must be prevented from seeing his brother.



On that late hot July afternoon Robin, his foot resting on a
pillow, was sitting, looking up at the white-blue sky, hot and
limpid, that hung like a flag across the window.  Yes, like a flag,
for the summer heat dazzling it seemed to make it quiver as a flag
stirs in a breeze.  A bird, like a gold ball, was thrown across it
and was gone.  The door opened and he turned.  A new gaoler, a man
whom he had never seen before, thin and black, with a heavy bunch
of keys at his girdle, stood there.

'You are summoned to attend . . .'

Then Robin's cheek did indeed contract as though a hand had pinched
it.  It had come, then?  And so suddenly, when he had thought that
he was almost safe.  Again. . . .  Again. . . .  The torture
again. . . .  His body was shivering all against his will.  But he
COULD not endure it again.  He COULD not, he COULD not.  He would
not. He would tell them anything.  But he had nothing to tell them.
His news was old news, old, old, stale news.  He could not
endure . . .

He raised his head and looked at the sun-white sky.

'Where is Roland?' he asked.

The man did not answer.  He seemed a very surly fellow.  He moved
into the room and was followed by two halberdiers.

It was then that Robin felt, like an icy wind, his loneliness, his
utter abandoned loneliness, wrap him round.  There was no one--no
one.  Not Nicholas.  Not Roland.  Only the space of sun-white sky.

He put the book down on the table and followed them out.



He was in the same room as before.  The interlocutor was there with
his turquoise ring and his white gleaming cuffs.  Only three others
were with him and Casselet and Irvine were not among them.

It was the same business as before.  The interlocutor asked him to
tell them what Pierson had said to him about his future movements,
what names he had given of his friends, what were his purposes in
England.

Robin replied over and over that he knew nothing.  At the last the
interlocutor spoke to him like a loving father.

'Mr. Herries, I told you on the last occasion and I tell you again
that no one wishes at all that you should suffer.  You bring this
upon yourself.  You have but to tell us in a few brief words the
things that we would know, and you leave this place within half an
hour to return to your friends and your home.'

He was looking at Robin very attentively, and perhaps the look of
suffering in the thin drawn face, the twisted leg stuck forward
(for they had allowed Robin to sit), touched his heart.  He spoke
very gently indeed.

'We do urge you to save yourself.  We urge you . . .'

Robin only steadfastly replied:  'I know nothing.'

When he stood once again naked, resting on his right foot so that
he might spare the twisted left, and looked about him he saw again
the stout fellow with the brown mole, and he smelt again the musty
warm air as of an animal's cage.  He heard again the interlocutor's
soft voice, and then to his surprise found his hose put on him
again.  He had a wild desperate notion that he was after all to be
spared.

He was asked once more:  'Will you inform us? . . .'  And, with a
clear strong voice, replied:  'I have nothing to say.'

He was led forward, his hands were raised and his thumbs placed
within two iron slots.  He heard the iron bar being screwed on to
the slots.  His body murmured:  'I cannot . . . I cannot.'

His soul answered:  'You can. . . .  You are able!'

A great triumph rose in him.  'I am able!  I am able!'

He heard the screw turn in the iron bar, and the agony was such, as
his thumbs crushed like fiery water, that he cried out, but oddly
his scream was:  'I can!  I can!'  His whole life was in that cry.
His heart, already overstrained with the sad pressure of the last
months, fought frantically in his body.  The screw turned again,
but now he felt no pain, for he was away, away, and the Bright
Pavilions were in sight at last, standing in the sun-white sky.
All was light, air, and a vast endless space of freedom.

His head dropped.  The executioner swore an oath and quickly
unscrewed the bolt.  He caught Robin's body in his arm.

'He is gone, masters,' he said sulkily, for this had happened
against the plan.



NICHOLAS IN ARMOUR


Someone brought Nicholas the dirty piece of paper as Rosamund
Herries had risen up to go.

He read it, then turned it in his fingers, thinking.  The scrap was
thus:


I am dying and have something to say to you before I go.  You will
find me at the Mulberry Tree in Cutting Lane.

                                                  P. THATCHER.


He put it in his pocket and said to Rosamund:  'Stay another
quarter-hour.  I wish to ask you a question.'

She had ridden from a house ten miles away and was in a riding-suit
that was a good fashion, as anything was for her that meant a
definite purpose and not a mere lolling around.  She was no doll.
As she sat on the settle by the fire, her back straight, and her
good strong legs swinging, her honest kindly face contented (for
she loved above everything to be with Nicholas), she looked what
she was, a fine friend for any man.

Nicholas, holding a whip in his hand, was wearing a kind of country
smock and was still flushed with his work.  He had been ditching
with his men.

He said gravely:  'Rosamund, you will call it nonsense, but
yesterday there were some gipsies in the Long Field.  I gave them
settlement for the night, and an old woman with a beard like a man
told me my fortune.  She said I should marry and have a son, but
that not until my great-grandson would there be a descendant of
mine of my own kidney, and that he would be a rogue and a rascal
with every man's hand against him.  What say you to that?'

'Why,' she answered lightly, 'that it is a pity you will not care
for your own son.'

'Yes, but--but . . .'  He bent his head.  'There is only one I love
with sickness and longing or would ever have loved, and her--I
cannot.'  He came over to her, close to her.  He towered above her,
almost, as it seemed to her, enveloping her.  'And now I will say
what will offend you, maybe, for ever.  Will YOU marry me,
Rosamund?'

She looked at him, smiled, shook her head.

'No, Nicholas.  I am not a woman to marry.'

He went on urgently.  'But listen, there is so much merit in it.
For my part, since Robin's death I have known a terrible
loneliness.  I am growing into a hard man and shall be one shortly.
I have a purpose to fulfil, and only one in my life.  Before I set
out on it it would make me happy to have you for wife, for indeed I
love you dearly as my best friend, my constant counsellor, my merry
companion, the most wise and pleasantest-hearted woman alive.  So
much for myself.  This house needs a mistress, has needed one
sorely for many years.  It needs a son of mine, too, that it may go
on with the family.  And on your side I know you care for me, that
I am the best friend you have.  I know, too, that you are lonely,
that you are never so happy as when we are together.  And I know
that you, too, would have a son and that it should be mine.  If I
am arrogant in this--'

'No, no.'  She put out a hand.  'Dear Nick!  Of course I have loved
you all my life.  But we could not.  YOU do not love ME; could I
live here and she in the house?'

'She could leave me,' he said thickly.  'Armstrong should take her
back to the North.'

'And I?  Divide you from Gilbert Armstrong who is, I think, half of
yourself?'

He stared at her, his brows knitted, the old, old problem in his
mind again.

'It is beyond belief. . . .  No one would believe. . . .  For all
these years I who have never minded what I did and have taken, I
fear, so many women. . . .  And now, all this time we have lived in
the same place, scarcely speaking.  And she is still a torture to
me as ever she was, perhaps because I have not had her.  But for
Gilbert's sweetness, his fidelity, his generosity, how would I have
fared?'

He had for a moment forgotten her, staring in front of her, his
right hand clenching and unclenching.

She kissed him lightly on the cheek and went away, but as he stood
with his hand on the neck of her horse he said very earnestly:
'You ARE my best friend, Rosamund, and so--if you hear within these
next days news of me, remember that I thought of you and cried your
name.'

'Where are you going?' she asked.

'North,' he answered and went indoors.



Catherine Armstrong that had been Hodstetter knelt arranging logs
on the hissing fire and was aware that he was standing close behind
her.  She turned and rose, her face flushed with the fire, her
flaxen hair lit with it.  She was now a magnificent woman, broad-
shouldered, deep-breasted.  She had the face, he sometimes thought,
of a woman royally born.

'Stay a moment,' he said.  'I have to speak to you.'

She sat down on the stool near him, her legs set wide apart under
her dress of dark blue.  Her breasts heaved partly because of the
logs that she had been carrying, partly because she loved with
heart, soul and body this man who in the rough country smock stood
looking at her.

'Listen, Catherine.  You have lived all these years in this house
and I have never kissed you.'

'No,' she said.

'And now I will.'

He knelt down beside her, took her in his arms, and they kissed as
though they were one soul, which perhaps they were.  She put her
hand up and stroked his hair.  He cupped her right breast with his
hand.  Then, as though by mutual unspoken agreement, they parted.

'Well, then--' he said, breathing a little hard, 'this is the first
kiss for a long while.  Have I been fair to you these years here?
And to Gilbert?'

'Yes.  You have been very fair,' she answered, smiling.

'The first night you were in the house was the hardest, but it has
been all the time difficult, and would have been impossible
altogether had I not known always two things.  One, and the most
important, that if I once climbed into your bed and had you there I
lost you for ever.  Two, that Gilbert Armstrong your husband is the
noblest, most honest friend that any man has ever had.'

'Yes,' she said, 'that is true about Gilbert.  How good and kind he
has been only I can say, for he does not love me at all and never
has.  In his third and deepest heart I think he hates me.'

She slowly rose and stood, her hand in her hair, turning her body
first this way and then that.

'Have you been unhappy here?'

'Not unhappy.'  Now she looked truly a Queen, he thought.

'If you wish I will tell you.  You do not know--how should you?--
what it is all your life to see two worlds.  Always two worlds, one
a looking-glass for the other.  When I was very, very small I knew
that if I closed my eyes and walked with my hand out it would touch
something warm and furry, and that when I opened my eyes there
would be nothing to see.  As a babe I knew that.  They burned my
mother, but she was a witch truly enough.  She could not help
herself.  I have seen her stir milk in the bowl and the flame leap
up and a cat burning in the flame.  I have heard one talk to her
with a voice like the screech of a mouse and have heard the evil
things he has said and there has been nothing and no one to
see. . . .  But she was good too, mother was, and would heal the
sick and give money to the poor.  But they would not allow her.
They burned her.  But that is not why I tell you.  It is because
this thing has been always close to me, to my ears, to my eyes, to
my breath.  I have not wanted it, but it was there with me from
birth.  I have known always that I need only take one step, say one
word, look with one glance, and I would be THERE as my mother was.
That is why I must be always apart, by myself, with NO ONE, and in
especial not with you, Mr. Nicholas Herries.

'Once, when I was a girl I told you.  Now I am a woman whose mother
was burned for a witch, and you and Gilbert have taken me here and
sheltered me so that no word has ever gone out against me, and I
have had rest.  It is as though I have been asleep.  I shall wake
very soon, do one thing for you, dear Nicholas, and then cross the
Border where there is no Border.'

She seemed to move but not to move.  In the dancing firelight it
was as though she rose upwards into the air from the floor.  But it
was not so, for he caught her hand and they stood there close
together like two great friends.

'No woman in all the world's history,' she said, 'has loved a man
more than I love you.'

She laughed as she picked up a wicker basket loaded with apples.

'I will take these to the loft. . . .'

Half-way down the hall she looked back at him.

'So we are riding North, you and I and Gilbert.'  A little farther
away she said:  'I shall see Keswick once again, and for the last
time.'



When Nicholas rode with Gilbert Armstrong it was a clean sun-swept
late October day.

'Do you know why I am happy again?' Nicholas asked.

'Because we are away from women.'

'Does that make YOU happy then?'

'I am weary of women.  The only way to be with them is to be with
them in the light of a candle, have them quickly and go to your own
place before they can stay you.'

'Well, it is not for that reason that I am happy to-day.'

'Why then?' Gilbert asked.

'Before I tell you I will ask you something more?  I trust you more
than any man alive to tell me the truth.  Have I seemed to you
changed in the last years?'

'Yes,' Armstrong said.  'Since your brother died.'

Nicholas nodded.  'Since then--and before that too.  In what way
have I changed?'

'What was young in you--'  Armstrong paused.  He was not clever at
analysis.  'That has died.  You were always before more like a boy
than any grown man I have been with.  I have seen you,' he went on,
'mowing in the fields with other men and the scythe has moved as
though it were alive, and you have been tireless, laughing without
knowing you laughed, and you have flung off your clothes and sprung
into the stream at the Long Field end before the men, calling to
them that the sun would be down, while they wiped their scythes on
the wet grass, and you have come back into the field, the water
dripping from your body, and have caught the flagon from one of
them, flung your head back and drunk as though you would never have
done, and the sun has fallen until the scythes blinded your eyes.
You will never mow the fields like that again, master, nor sing as
you did then.  You will never sing again so without care.'

This was eloquence for Gilbert, but the sort of scene where his
heart was.

'When we have ridden to the North, Gilbert, finished a long quarrel
and ridden back again, I shall sing once more.'

'We go North?'  There was great joy in his voice.

'Yes.  You, I, Catherine.'

'What has Catherine to do with this?'

Nicholas had never in all these years asked Gilbert Armstrong one
question about his wife.  Now he guided his horse closer, put his
hand out and let it rest on Gilbert's bridle.

'Would you be free of her?'

Gilbert looked ahead of him.

'I would be free of everyone but you, master.  I was not meant to
be anything but free.  She is a good woman, but I have never come
near to her.  She is a woman all alone, by herself.  I have slept,
as you know, for all these years in the pallet bed in the same room
with her, and I have heard her cry in the night as though her heart
would break, and I have seen her walk, when she thought me
sleeping, beating her breast, and I have heard her cry out as
though someone were persuading her and she would not listen. . . .
She is the most alone woman in all the world, I think.  I am sorry
for all created things and for her more than any other perhaps, but
I have never loved her, and without love I cannot comfort her.'

'It has been a marred life for all three of us all these years,'
Nicholas said.

'It has been a wrong life, master, and I was never born for such a
life.  How was I born?  For a direct word and to be a man's friend
and ride a horse and love a woman, and one day to have a wife of my
own and children at my own table.  And yet,' he went on, 'I suppose
I could not have found, had I travelled the world with Drake and
his men, as I think I was made to do, such a friend and a master as
you have been and are.'  His voice rose.  He cried out:  'Ah, that
should have been the life for you and me, away across the sea with
the cities of gold and the Indians and the giant serpents and the
Spanish ships heavy with treasure.  We were not intended, you and
I, to be tied to a woman who is a witch's daughter, poor thing, and
cries in the dark.  Love, to my thinking, is a foolishness if you
want it and cannot have it, and a foolishness if you get it too
easily, and a foolishness if you marry it.'

'But you said,' Nicholas answered, 'that you wished for a home and
a wife, and children at your knee.'

'So every man dreams when he is single,' Gilbert answered, 'but I
suppose there is no perfect state in the world.  God arranges it
thus that we may be surprised with delight when we come to
Paradise.'

Nicholas stopped his horse.

'Listen, Gilbert, I am happy because Irvine is in the North and at
last--at long, long last--I go to kill him.'

Gilbert nodded gravely.  'That should have been done long ago.'

'In London,' Nicholas continued, 'Phineas Thatcher is dying.  He
has sent to see me, and I shall get from him something about Irvine
that I must know--how nearly he was concerned in my brother's
death.  After that we will go and finish it.'

'You have hated him a long while,' Gilbert said reflectively.

'Because I have hated him so deeply and for so long, I have waited.
For I would not kill him unjustly, and my brother did him a wrong.
But now it is ended--at last it is ended--and my mind will be
healthy again.'

As Nicholas and Armstrong threaded their way through the narrow
little streets around Paul's Church, Nicholas reflected that maybe,
after all, success had done England some harm.

He had visited this quarter of London but little in the last few
years and there seemed to him to be a new spirit of noisy, bullying
ruffianism unfelt by him before.  In his youth the London Strand
had been a place of uneven cobbles, spouting water-pipes, stinks
and crying, bawling voices.  But there had been few coaches, and
walking along the middle of the street had been chiefly a matter of
elbowing and cursing with your hand on your sword-hilt.

But now the hill up to Paul's Church was crowded with coaches
lurching through the mud, and carts and hand-barrows.  Even to his
steady and tolerant ears the noise was a frenzy and a babel.  He
saw too here a new phase of gentleman: effeminates with extravagant
hair, jewels on their gloves, and roses behind their ears, and
boots so ridiculous that they could scarcely walk with them.

The bullies also were of a new fashion.  There had always been
bullies, but, in the old days, they were out-of-work, half-starved
soldiers, and servants of the wealthier houses Westminster way.

Now there were bullies in little bands, stout fellows and almost
gentlemen, who, moving four or five together, pinched young women,
pricked stout merchants in the thighs, swearing, singing and
roystering and taking always the middle of the street.  And what
contrasts!

Outside Ludgate Gaol little boys and hungry gaunt women were
screaming, 'Bread and meat, for the tender mercy of God, for the
poor prisoners of New Gate,' holding baskets into which passers-by
dropped stale husks of bread and meat-bones, while from the windows
of the prison itself fearful faces looked out and you could hear
cries from within 'as of the damned.'  Then, as they turned towards
Cutting Lane, the cry was suddenly raised of 'Clubs!  Clubs!' a
woman running and men with truncheons striking at one another and a
man with a bleeding face leaping on another man and cracking his
head with a wooden stump.

The back streets were so filthy and of such a stench that Nicholas
must hold his nose, and he could not but think of the Court, the
flowers, the jewels, the gardens at Richmond and the Queen herself,
old and yellow, but her gown stiff with jewels.  Here were two
worlds, and he who, in the simplicity of his heart, wanted every
man and woman in the world (save Irvine) to be happy, felt dimly
that something was very wrong with all of this and thought of
Gilbert's description of the mowing and the sun shining on the
field and his own body glistening with the fresh water of the
stream.

Since the Armada England had become great, but was this greatness,
this huddled body with the naked arm stiff and dead lying in the
gutter, the children on the doorstep like little animals picking at
one another's hair, and the drunken woman clinging to the wooden
posts of the horologer's shop, her breasts bare and grimed with
filth?  'There are others wiser than I,' he thought, 'that should
attend to these evils.'  But he could not think of anyone who did
so attend, no divine or grand lady of the Court, or philanthropic
gentleman.  He thought with a sigh of his friend, Philip Sidney,
and wished he had not died at Zutphen.

They found the 'Mulberry Tree,' and a mean enough hostelry it was.
Inside the low-raftered drinking-room Nicholas all but touched the
ceiling, and the landlord, who had but one eye, could only stare at
him with it as though he were a phenomenon out of a fair.

But Nicholas had a way of commanding anyone he wished to command,
and the one-eyed beer-barrel fellow was soon guiding him up some
dark and stinking stairs and showing him and Gilbert into a dark
and stinking room.  When their eyes became accustomed to the dim
grey-smoked thickness they found the wretched Thatcher, his body
emaciated to a skeleton, restlessly dozing on a straw bed.

Nicholas had last seen this fellow at Fotheringhay, had hated him
there as he had hated him everywhere.  But now he was dying and in
extreme neglect, so the two strong men busied themselves with
straightening the straw and folding Gilbert's cloak under the thin-
haired skull and bringing him a draught of water.

Thatcher, however, showed a surprising energy.  When he saw that it
was indeed Nicholas he stared, wiped his eyes with the back of his
hand, and stared again.  He nodded his head as though satisfied.

'Before the morning I shall be standing by the throne of the
Heavenly Grace.  The Lord is my Shepherd and He will lead me.  You
wish to know where he is.  In Keswick, Cumberland, with four of his
ruffians.  He turned me off with a kick and a blow, but his brain
is broken like a clock with the key lost.  You must find him,
Nicholas Herries, and send his soul to the Devil where it belongs.'

His voice had a crachitty whistling note and he laid his hand to
his bare breast where his ribs were like the bent staves of a
barrel.

'How did he turn you off?' asked Nicholas, bending close to him and
catching the nauseating sweet smell of his breath.  'You have
served him long enough.'

'I have served him as the Devil's own hireling, but only that God
may, through me, have His own way on His evil servants.  God's
Triumph is at hand, Mr. Herries--make no error--and God's Saints,
his Puritan children, will rule this land--'

'Yes, yes,' Nicholas interrupted impatiently, for although the man
was dying he still hated him.  'But I would know something.  My
brother--when he was in the Tower--was it Irvine's responsibility
that they took him that second time?  Would they have let him free,
after the first time, had it not been for Irvine?'

But Thatcher's mind now was wandering.  He started up and, waving
his skinny arms, was like a scarecrow in the wind.

'I saw her ere she saw me.  How she screamed when she felt me
behind her, my hands on her throat!  She called out, I remember,
and then I threw her, tumbling her head against the middle stair
and breaking her bones to a jelly.  She was a little pitiful thing
and it was an evil thing that I did, but she went whoring with the
young man whom afterwards they racked in the Tower.  Irvine saw
that and will be haunted by it until he has that sword between
his ribs.  That sword the Almighty is even now sharpening against
him. . . .  Aye, she screamed, and she fell and her head struck the
floor so that her brains were dashed out.'

It seemed that he could not escape from Sylvia's light childish
spirit, for he twisted his fingers and drew back his head in the
straw telling her to keep from him.  He opened his eyes as though
he woke from a sleep, stared at Nicholas, sighed and rubbed his
bony forehead.

'The Saints of God are the Chosen of the Lord and this land shall
be in God's hands under their guidance.'  He shook his head,
looking at Nicholas with great solemnity.

'You go North, Mr. Herries, and you will find him.  He is a lost
man, for ever since he saw your brother racked he has been a
ghosted fugitive flying from God's wrath.  And he has the Sons of
Belial with him, as evil as himself.'

Nicholas put out his great hand and held the bone-jutting, sweating
shoulder of the dying man.

'Now tell me, Thatcher.  There is only one thing I would know.  Did
Irvine persuade them that my brother must be tortured the second
time?'

He motioned to Gilbert, who went over and fetched water from the
ewer.  The man drank savagely.  He pushed against Nicholas' hand
impatiently, but his voice now was clear and low and he was in all
his senses.

'You are not to hold me, Mr. Herries.  You cannot keep my soul from
its Maker in that fashion.  But because I am the Lord's messenger
and His instrument for punishment I will answer your question.
That evil man did, of his own will and determination, go even to
the Queen herself and persuade her against her true will, which was
to give your brother his liberty and to release him from a second
torture.  But he had a Devil and, besides, your brother had lain
with his wife.  So he was persuaded to do him a hurt to the very
last crushing of the finger-bones.  And under that your brother
died, even while the thumb-screws were on him.'

Nicholas straightened himself, drawing a deep breath.

'Ah,' he said, 'that is sufficient.'

He looked down at Thatcher as though he would be tender with him,
but he could not.  He hated him dying as well as living.  He turned
on his heel and with Gilbert behind him strode swiftly down Ludgate--
swiftly because a great purpose was now in front of him.



FLIGHT FROM A PHANTOM


Philip Irvine, on that dark, dim, sky-waterlogged morning in that
early November day, as he looked out of the dirty window of the
Ulpha inn, allowed to pass unnoticed three things.  The first thing
that he did not notice was dark little fingers of cloud driven by
the wind from Ulpha Fell; the second thing was the ill-temper of
one of his henchmen, Harry Steelshaft.  And the third and most
important thing was a woman riding in on to the grass-cobbled
forepiece to the hostelry.

Because he missed these things he would miss more before that day
was ended.  The black-fingered clouds portended snow: the ill-
temper of Steelshaft meant rebellion: and the woman, walking now
towards the inn door and knocking on it with the butt of her whip,
meant destiny.  She was so finely made, regal in her carriage, and
had, under her green-feathered hat, so rich a crop of gold-spun
hair that Irvine's other attendants--Roger Bones and Wilfred Portal--
turned their heads on the bench where they were sitting and stared
as one man.

But Irvine had seen neither the sky nor the lady.  He saw at that
moment nothing.  His business was that he and his men should get
their horses and ride by the coast to Whitehaven, where he had, he
fancied, some Government business.  Or did he now invent that for
himself?

For many months he had been wandering with these few rapscallions
in Scotland and Northern England, doing he knew not what, going he
knew not whither.  For his trouble was he could not stay in one
place more than a day.  So soon as he stayed he dreamed evil
dreams.  To prevent the dreams he drank, but it was one of the
strange elements of his personality that he was deeply fastidious:
it did not please his humour to be a sot, and it offended his pride
in himself.

What he wished to cure was his loneliness.  He had fled from London
with Winterset (who at this moment entered the inn parlour) and
some rascals for company.  For he had never in all his life been so
lonely as he now was in London.  He had neither mother nor wife.
Nor had he friends, for he was so inordinately proud that he could
not endure correction or mockery.

In former days he had not minded a certain loneliness, for after
all he was a unique creature, and unique creatures must be alone.
Now his dreams made his loneliness dangerous.  He would keep
Winterset and Steelshaft gambling with him late into the night
because he must not dream.  And it was the worse for him because he
dreamed as evilly waking as when he slept.  Pictures formed, passed
before his eyes like smoke held down on a still day, drifted and
vanished.

With an irritable nervous movement of his whole body--he was thin
now as a black skeleton--he turned from the window to see Winterset
entering the parlour.  Winterset was fat as an over-ripe pumpkin
and everywhere seedy, his nose swollen but at the flat tip dead-
white, his cheeks blotched and his eyes rheumy.  He was an old
ruffian swollen with evil living, no good for anything any more, no
good at wenching, at fighting--not even at sleeping, for like an
old sick dog he snapped in his sleep at his pursuing enemies.

Irvine beside him looked as clean and delicate as an ebony cane,
lissom, dark-shadowed, with an angry, haughty discontent in the
eyes and mouth.  But the gold buttons on his black sleeves sparkled
even on this smoky day as though they were alive.

Winterset said that a fine, handsome woman had just ridden off away
across the moor, after alighting here for a bare three minutes.
What did she want to take all the trouble of dismounting and then
mounting again for, without even a word to the landlord?

'I could have tumbled her.'

'You--' Irvine began, but his contempt was so sharp that it was not
worth the while to finish the sentence.  Winterset fingered his
shabby wrists and tried to draw himself up straight in indignation.
But he could not.  He had forgotten the way.

Irvine had no time to waste.  Calling out of the window to
Steelshaft, the most intelligent of his ruffians, he summoned him
into the room.

Steelshaft was broad of shoulder, thick of thigh, and had a brown
neck as corded and dull as grained wood.  His head was round as a
bullet with little peepy blood-shot eyes.  He was the true animal
of the party, for his passions were altogether animal.  He killed
without reflection either before or after.

Irvine laid out a map drawn in red and black on the table.

'Here we are,' he said, pointing to Ulpha, and we can sleep to-
night at Muncaster where I have a friend.  I have talked with the
landlord, and from here by Holehouse Gill we can take our horses.
It is wooded then to Woodend.  After that there is a small lake,
Devoke Water.  Thence across the Esk to Muncaster.  The landlord
tells me there is a path there.'

Steelshaft looked through the window at the sky.

'There's a storm coming and a cold wind blowing up.'

'What of it?  Have you never been cold before?'

'They say here that there may be snow.'

'It's early for snow--or snow of consequence.  Besides, what of
it?'

'You can be lost in this cursed moorland.  Many a time men have
been lost for days and died where they fell.'

Irvine was remarkably patient.  He had a strong opinion of
Steelshaft's instincts, for he, being an animal, could sniff
weather, and danger too, earlier than a man could.

'Why are they lost?  Because they are alone.  There are five of
us.'

But Steelshaft persisted.

'I mislike this country.  It has a life of its own, hostile to us.
We had better take the road to the sea and then ride on a good
foundation to Whitehaven.'

But Irvine felt in himself a strong disposition to cross the moor.
It would be quicker and at Muncaster was a good warm house where he
could be with gentlemen again for a night or two--gentlemen to whom
he could boast of his powers at Court, his great work for the
Queen.  And so he might sleep afterwards in a soft bed without
dreaming.  He called his troop together and they set out.

But he felt, in the first few yards, a strangeness in this country.
In the first place the great ebon hump of Black Combe hung over
them against the grey skyline and seemed to follow them as though
it were alive.  When they were on the open moorland Black Combe
began to stride forward, shaking its dark head.  It had about its
top, but not obscuring it, a wreath of pale grey cloud like a
helmet.

They did not know it, but the land around them was filled with
history.  This country is in many ways the most curious in all
England, being timeless and scornful of mankind.  At Swinside there
is a great circle of stones, how ancient no one knows; at Standing
Stones is the Giant's Grave of Kirkstanton, and nearby the Giant's
Chair.  In many places are the foundations of small dwellings,
garths enclosed by dykes, very similar to the old type of Icelandic
farm, and there are remains of many Roman settlements.

All this country suggests a no-man's-land where for century upon
century the outlaws and fugitives from society have found refuge.
The soil is almost vocal with the shouts and cries of hunted men,
outlaws, sea-rovers, refugees and Vikings.  At Barnscar there have
been found the remains of what many think was a Danish city,
although it may well have been a Bronze Age settlement.  Time is
not here, and individual man is of no account.  The ragged, rather
nondescript little cavalcade rode slowly forward.  It was no easy
going for the horses: there was a path of a kind, scattered with
stones, but the sward on either side of this was boggy, with
patches of bright and dangerous green.

They were a silent company, being in any case churlish and ill-
tempered because they hated these waste places where there was no
drink nor fat wenches nor any fighting.  They could not conceive
why they followed Irvine thus about the country except that he paid
them regularly their wages.  Perhaps also they caught something of
his own gloom and melancholy and, from the first, on this ride felt
something foreboding and dangerous.  The hills against the skyline
were soft, grey, mouse-coloured, and the land itself was tawny,
brown, suddenly green, and a real no-man's-land in its suggestion
of endless waste, in its sudden revealing of cold swift-running
streams, in its silence which nevertheless was vocal with little
sounds of a rustling plant, of a rising bird, of running water, of
a melancholy cold whisper, of a wind that threatened storm.

They were not beauties at all.  Roger Bones was fat and lumpy with
a scar silvering his right cheek, and arms like hams.  Wilfred
Portal was a thin, gaunt man with eyes opened in perpetual surprise
and a mouth with a broken lip.  Steelshaft rode, his thick body set
purposefully as though longing to kill.

Irvine, riding in the rear, felt growing in him a strong impulse to
return to the inn.  He did not know why he felt this, because it
had been his own impulse that had started them on this path; but it
was as though there were an enemy behind him.  He was no coward,
but for a long time now his dreams had mingled so closely with his
actual life that he could often not distinguish between them.  He
seemed often to be in some other place than where he really was.

One dream especially haunted him, and that was of Robin Herries on
the rack.  He could not understand why this should be so, because
he had seen so many men on the rack, and their groans, cries,
agonies, had meant nothing to him.  But the sight of Robin's long
white body stretched, the sound of the turning screw, the faint
crack of the yielding muscles, the red blotches that stole into the
white skin, and, above all, that strained intense face, the eyes
staring into the smoky roof, the sweat gathering on the forehead
and pouring down into the eyes, these were always present with him.

It was not that he felt any conscience in the matter, for Robin
Herries had lain with his wife, and that for any man was
justification enough.  It was rather that these two men, Nicholas
and Robin Herries, seemed his life long to have been in his way,
and were in his way yet, although one of them was dead.  He hated
them with a hatred that made him shiver, but this hatred did not
comfort him because he could not satisfy it with vengeance.  They
for ever eluded him.

As he rode he felt for himself an intense, almost dreadful pity.
He was a man above all ordinary men, of great beauty, exceptional
talent, daring courage.  Many men of far slighter gifts had come to
the greatest glory, but he, by some ill pursuing fate, had come to
this, that he was riding, on a bitter morning, with rapscallions
across a lonely moor with no friend in the world.  He might search
and search but could find no blame in himself.  He had been, when
he thought of himself, always alone--with his mother, his wife, the
men and women at the Court--and that loneliness came from his great
superiority, his uniqueness; he had been too proud to explain this
to anyone.

He looked behind him hastily.  It seemed to him that someone was at
his shoulder: but there was nobody.

The sky grew darker.  To the right of them was Ulpha Fell, black
now under a white, smoky patch of sky.  Beyond Esk Force was the
valley bounded by Scafell, the Pikes, Great End, not to be seen now
in detail, but, when they came to a rise, dimly, like mysterious
unattached shadows moving, it seemed, because the dark clouds above
them moved.

The men themselves already felt that they were lost.  There was no
determination, no boundary in this great waste of tufted, turfed,
inhuman land and the wind was rising while the black-fingered
clouds gathered into fists of darkness.

After some hours of slow stumbling riding they saw a little bunch
of trees and a farm-house beside them.  Steelshaft said grumpily
that it must be Birker Moor they were on, and this must be the farm
of Crosbythwaite that the man at the Ulpha inn had told them of.

Here they drew up their horses and looked at the gloomy scene.  An
altercation began.  Irvine, for some reason, wanted to push on.  He
felt within him that a great danger threatened.  Although it was an
ordinary farm enough and peaceful he hated the sight of it.  He
felt like a fly in the web and with every struggle of his body his
feet stuck faster.  He might have cried to his men:  'I will not
enter that farm.  There is danger for all of us,' had it not been
so foolish and reasonless.  But unexpectedly old Winterset was
determined to stop.  When Irvine cried, 'What are you staring for?
It is only midday.  We shall be at Muncaster by dusk,' Winterset
deliberately urged his horse down the slope towards the farm and
cried out over his shoulder:  'Warm drink and a fire, come what
may.'

Irvine would have gladly shot him in the back, and he moved his
heavy gilded pistol in his holster, but the other men were
following Winterset and he suddenly knew, as though he expected now
that every move in the game would be against him, that he had no
power over these rascals any more.  It was as though they realized
that he was doomed.

So they all moved on to the farm, led their horses into the court
and dismounted.  They pushed open the farm door and looked in,
crowding together.  A stout elderly woman, dressed in home-made
hodden grey, was busy at the fire stirring 'crowdy,' the soup made
from the liquor of beef and oatmeal.  The smell of the 'crowdy' was
exceedingly good, and the whole kitchen was clean swept and the
brass and copper brightly shining.  It was warm and comfortable
after the cold moor.

It must have been frightening to the woman to see that parcel of
ruffians in their shabby bits of armour, swords and pistols,
crowding about her door, but she asked quite calmly what they
wanted.  A splendid sheep-dog that had been lying stretched in
front of the fire, his nose on his paws, rose, growling, on his
haunches.  She told him to be quiet, naming him Ranter, and asked
them again what they wanted.

Irvine advanced, bowing courteously, and the others pushed in
behind him, looking curiously around them and sniffing the
'crowdy.'  Irvine must have seemed a strange figure to her with his
great thinness and darkness, but she could see of course that he
was a gentleman.

'We wish,' he said, 'that you would be so kindly as to allow us to
rest here for a while.  The wind is rising and there is a storm
coming that will blow across the moor and then will be gone again.'

It was plain that she suffered from great uneasiness, and they
guessed that she was alone in the house.  With the black-white sky
beyond the window the room-light was dark and also lurid from the
fire, and against this the brutal Steelshaft, the fat and loose
Roger Bones with the silver scar on his cheek, the gaunt, broken-
lipped Wilfred, the ancient, evil Winterset, were no reassuring
figures.  Wilfred was already fingering the shining pewter flagons,
and Steelshaft sharpening his dagger on the edge of the oak table.
So she said that they could remain, turned her back to them and
continued to stir the 'crowdy.'  Ranter, the dog, rose on his four
feet and, with hair bristling, walked about sniffing at the legs of
the men.

Steelshaft approached the woman.

'That's good broth you have there.'

'Aye,' said the woman, bending lower over the pot.

''Tis for your own dinner?'

She straightened herself and looked at him bravely.

'My man will be home and the others with him.'  She turned and, her
arms on her hips, looked at them all.  Then she spoke to Irvine.

'He'll want the room and his own company,' she said.

The longing to be gone was growing with Irvine at every moment.
'We'll ride on,' he said to the rest of them, and moved to the
door.  But the men never stirred.  They were all staring at the
woman and the pot.

'Come, we'll be going,' Irvine said again.

Winterset turned and made a step or two towards him.  Out of his
blurred eyes he looked at Irvine with an almost crying hatred.

'You are my master no longer,' he said.  The others stood and
stared.  Irvine, drawn up to his full height against the moon-faced
clock on the farm wall, stared at his tumble-down henchman as
though he were too proud to see him.

Winterset spoke thickly, drunkenly.  'I have no fear of you any
more, and I am free of you.  For year upon year you have mocked me
and spat on me.  What have you had round you always but rotting
medlars like myself and these here?  And why?  Because you were too
proud to endure your own kind who could answer you and show you in
your own velvet-backed mirror.  You sent me once to this very
country to strike a man better than you, but he stuck his big back
to the wall and beat you.  You have made me crawl like a dog and
stand in the dark with a sword while your fine Puritan threw your
wife down the stairs and broke her neck.  You forced me to spy on a
Queen who died nobly.  You have stripped me and beaten me, and fed
my lechery and stolen from me any pride I had.  I am free this very
day in this place and I will not go with you--no, not now--never,
never, never!'

His voice rose into a scream and it appeared as though he were
demented, for, drawing his sword, he ran at Irvine who was straight
against the wall.  Irvine made one movement to his side, raised his
gold-mounted pistol and shot Winterset square in the body.

The man half turned: his face, swollen and surprised, stared
amazement, then he coughed, a froth of blood rose bubbling in his
mouth, and he fell on his face, his legs kicking and twitching like
a hen's scratching.

The woman gave a cry and rushed to the window.  The men looked at
Winterset and then at Irvine.  Steelshaft knelt down, turned
Winterset over, tore open his doublet and pushed his hand against
his heart.  He looked up at Irvine.

Irvine, still not moving, said:  'He had been provoking this.  What
was he but a drunken sot?'  Then he stepped forward convulsively
and they all drew back.

'NOW,' he shouted at them, 'will you come from this cursed place?'

He strode up to the table and said to the woman:  'It will be
better for you to keep quiet about this.  Better for you, do you
hear?  You do not know how he came by his death, do you hear?'

'But I DO know,' she said, staring at the body and the pooling
blood.  'I DO know.'

'You are NOT to know,' Irvine repeated.  'I am the Queen's servant
on the Queen's business, and what I did I did because I must.  But
you saw nothing.  You were above in the upper room--in the upper
room, do you hear?'

She looked at him with terrified eyes and could not speak.  This
irritated Steelshaft, who came up to her and caught her arm: as he
did so Ranter, the sheep-dog, was at his back and tore his hose,
showing his bare flesh.  Steelshaft, cursing, drew his dagger, but
there was a man's voice at the door telling the dog to come to him.

A broad-shouldered, stout, bearded farmer stood there--a fine man
with a dear brown forehead and strong grey eyes.  It must have been
for him an odd enough home-coming, with his wife trembling in the
window, Irvine with his pistol still in his hand, and the murdered
man crumpled in his pool of blood on the floor.  He went straight
to Irvine.

'What are you doing here?  Who killed this man?'

'He was my servant, and I shot him for disobedience,' Irvine
answered quietly.  'I am the Queen's minister on the Queen's
business.'

'How do I know that?' the man asked.  His big body was trembling
with anger, for he had seen Steelshaft's hand on his wife's arm.

'You know it because I tell you that it is so.  This shall be
reported in the proper place.'

He strode to the door: the others began to follow him.  But the
farmer caught Steelshaft by the neck.  It was he who had touched
his wife.

'Wait,' he said.  'There is more to be said.  This matter--'

But the touch of the man's hand on his neck brought Steelshaft to a
frenzy.  The sight of Winterset's blood was like hot smoke in his
nostrils.  He flung himself free, the farmer raised his arm, but
Steelshaft was under his guard and had plunged his dagger into the
man's belly before he could move again.

As he tottered and then fell with a crash the woman screamed, and
at the same moment Irvine cried, 'Out!  Out!  The horses!' and they
all bundled through the door, mounted and galloped on to the fell.
They could hear the woman screeching from the door and men
shouting.

Irvine's horse was pushing along the fell-path beside Steelshaft's
and he cried:  'You fool!  Fool!  Dummerer!  We'll have the whole
country up.  This is a public trouble.'

Steelshaft, who was never a man of words, said nothing, but licked
his lips with his tongue.  He was turning over in his hot brain the
moment when his knife squirted the tight belly, and it was good--
the dagger like a live thing, hesitating a moment at the stuff of
the jerkin and the shirt, then, at the touch of the skin, gathering
energy and flighting onwards through the skin, the fat, the muscle
like a happy bird.

So he said nothing, but he felt something wet on his face and he
put up his iron-gloved hand.  It was snow.  Although it was only
the middle of the day the sky was dark like an inverted saucepan
and a cold mean wind carried snow in its arms and flung the flakes,
scattering them like food to chickens.

Steelshaft pushed his face near Irvine and gruffed at him:  'He was
swag-bellied.  The knife was as gay as though it were but cup-
shotten.'

But Irvine felt nothing but a frantic and crazy disgust.  What had
happened to him since he had risen that morning?  This day left him
unguarded, as though at ordinary times you were protected by a
screen of safety, intangible but felt and sometimes almost touched.

Every man knows this quick apprehension that comes from the
suspicion that the screen is withdrawn.  'To-day I am helpless.'
Well, that was what he knew, and Winterset had known it, too.  Why
had he killed him?  The poor devil had been with him for so long.
And now this fool stabbing the farmer. . . .  He half handled his
pistol, thinking that he might kill Steelshaft and then wait with
his body until the pursuers came up, declare himself a minister of
Her Majesty's peace and urge that he had done this in his own
justice.  But no. . . .  He could not tell what the others would
do; they had a kind of admiration for Steelshaft.

They had stopped.  Roger Bones was on a little height above the
others and he was listening.  They all listened.  Quite clearly
they heard the calls, disembodied, high in air, of the pursuers.

They rode on again, and through the driving snow, thicker now, they
saw the round dark shield of a little water, or tarn as the name
was.  It was very black under the grey snow-thickened sky.

'Devoke Water,' Irvine said.  He looked across at it as though he
had seen it before.  Then he heard the high, shrill voice of Bones:
'They're after us.  There's a world of them.'

So in the mist behind them it seemed, for shadow was crested on
shadow, and when the horses were for a moment pulled up they
appeared to be of a gigantic size.

'To the level ground!' Irvine cried and pricked his horse towards
the tarn.  The others followed him, and, at the sight of them
moving, the farm-hands and others who had come after them gave wild
halloos and spurred their horses on.

By the tarn the ground was marshy and the horses clogged.  So the
four of them--Irvine, Bones, Wilfred, Steelshaft--left the horses
and ran back to a clump of three trees, waiting with sword and
pistol.

It was a strange enough scene, for the snowstorm swirled like mad
and a little hiss and froth struck the Devoke Water so that it was
as though it were alive.

The pursuers came riding and running along the flat, shouting and
waving clubs and sticks.  Steelshaft, with quiet relish, took aim,
fired, and a boy running with the rest gave a cry like a bird and
fell.

After that there were ten of them at least pressing the four.
Steelshaft's head was beaten into pulp; Wilfred had his neck half
severed with a butcher's knife; Roger Bones had a knife in his
side.

Irvine, after firing wildly into the wind, his eyes blinded with
snow, turned and ran.  He reached a hillock, looked down, but quite
suddenly seemed to be shut off from all sight and sound.

He was alone in an icy, breathless, top-spinning world.

He ran on into the heart of it.



END IN STORM


Nicholas Herries had reached Keswick with Catherine and Gilbert
Armstrong in a thoroughly poor temper.  The North Country in
November did not seduce him.

In this year, 1592, he was forty-eight years of age and, although
he felt himself as strong as ever, there were times when he was
weary and other times when he was simply out of temper.

All the journey he was hard to please, but as Catherine spoke but
seldom, and it mattered nothing to Gilbert what Nicholas' mood
might be, there was no harm done.

In Doncaster, coming home to his inn on a night as dark as black
velvet, three robbers set upon him.  He killed two and wounded the
third, but this meant that he must stay there an extra day.  The
little fight, however, pleased him, and he was not in the sulks
again until they came to Penrith, where his horse, Snowdrift, so
called because of her perfect whiteness, went lame.

He was not cheerful again until he heard in Keswick that Irvine had
been seen at Cockermouth.  At that news he was as merry as a
fighting schoolboy.

He knew well in himself why it was that he had been sulky: he could
not get Robin from his mind.  His love for Robin was even stronger
now that he was dead.  He forgot now, as we all do with the dead
whom we love, the little irritations.  He did not care any more
that Robin had been a dreamer and a poet, or that he had loved
Sylvia and companioned Papist priests.  He saw him, either slender,
on guard at Fotheringhay, or on that last time when, limping to the
door of his Tower room, he had bidden him gaily farewell, laughing
and telling him that soon he would be free and back at Mallory with
him again.

And so he would have been, but for Irvine!  But for Irvine!  But
for Irvine!  This murderer, this dark enemy who had been, his life
long, in fight with himself and Robin . . .

He knew that Robin, who accompanied him always on that ride North,
did not care whether he put an end to Irvine or no.  Robin had been
set on another task, had another vision.  But for his own selfish
peace Nicholas would know no comfort or quiet until he had paid his
enemy full quittance for that long quarrel.  There had been always
something in himself that was lacking.  He had lived actively and
well; he had known physical pleasure to the full, but that was not
sufficient: to live for oneself was not enough.

As they reached the North, and the dark hills with the tawny
shadows of amber still lying about their flanks closed them in, he
remembered that old fight with Winterset and his shabby men.
Always Irvine had been in the background, never meeting him face to
face.  Now at last it would come to a true encounter for Robin's
sake.

There was another irritation too on that night, namely, that he had
never loved Catherine with such savage desire as now.  Her nearness
to him was a torture, the remoteness an agony.  He was fierce with
her, abusing her that he might bring her nearer, but he could not
touch her because she loved him so deeply.  When they slept at the
inns he withdrew himself altogether from Catherine and Gilbert, and
lay awake by himself cursing the slow hours.

But when he knew that Irvine was not far away, then all was well.

He became infected with a kind of berserk joy.  There is a portrait
of him in Norris's Anatomie of Politeness (1598) which must have
been written almost exactly at this time:


'Nor must I omit Mr. Nicholas Herries of Mallory Court in Sussex
who was, by all odds, the largest gentleman I ever set eyes on and
yet no monstrositie.  He must have been, at the time I knew him,
some forty-six or seven years of age.  He stands taller on his own
bottom than any man I ever did see, being more than six foot and
four inches, but his breadth of shoulder and width of his limbs
makes his height unnoticeable.  You would say by his countenance,
which when I knew him was ruddy but brown in shading rather than
red, that he was a man quickly fired, but not so, for an English
gentleman more amiable of spirit there never was in all the Queen's
time.  His hair brown and curling has retreated from his high
forehead.  His eyes are bright and staring, so bright that they
resemble a dogs seeing his prey a mile off, but then suddenly
neighbourly and of immediate friendliness with wrinkles at the
corner of them.  His mouth, too, although large and filled with
white teeth (many of our gentlemen and ladies too suffering from
teeth of a most wretched and stinking badness), but he is for ever
laughing unless he is angry, and then he will puff and blow and
shake his shoulders and frowns will gather in his forehead like
waves in a storm at sea.  When he shakes your hand you must be
careful of your fingers, and he can lift an ox over the nearmost
hedge.  They say he can wrestle three men of good size and can
carry a cart on his belly.  But with all this he is beloved through
all the southern parts of England for his generosity, practical
wisdom and courage.  We may say that Fortune, a fickle jade, may
kill him but not deject him--for he is altogether above the world
and its drudgery.'


He was most certainly above the world and its drudgery now that he
was assured that Philip Irvine was in his neighbourhood.

Gilbert Armstrong soon had him supplied with Irvine's movements:
how he had been in Cockermouth on some business, then to Carlisle,
then to Kendal, then Coniston Water, and now was somewhere in
Eskdale; and that he was attended by several ruffians who made
themselves most unpopular wherever they went by their bad
behaviour.

Nicholas was now joyful, ebullient, singing, chucking the Keswick
girls under the chin, and impatient to be gone.

Before he went he saw Catherine and told her that she must remain
in Keswick until his return.  She, standing against the door of his
room in the inn, looked at him with a curious, loving humour.

'I am back in my own country again.  No one is my master here.'

He was polishing his sword and hissing like a hostler.

'It is no question of master.'

He was in his shirt and she watched, from the door, the muscles of
his back moving gigantically beneath the silk.

'No,' she said.  'I have no master.  I have never had one.  If I
ride into Eskdale it is the business of no man.  Where you go, I go
also.  But it may be that you will not see me.'

She went up to him, put her hands on his shoulders, turned him
round towards her, laid her hands on his warm breast beneath the
cool silk and kissed him on the mouth.

'Look at me.'

He was already looking at her.  He had never seen her more
beautiful, in a long dark riding-suit, with breeches like a Turk, a
sword at her thigh, her bosom tightly bound by her dark-shadowed
velvet tunic, her hair of so brilliant a gold under the little
square riding-hat that it dazzled his eyes.

She had the bright, bright blue eyes, the fair soft cheeks, the
full mouth of a German woman, but he saw her now, staring at her,
as the incarnation of splendour from no earthly country.  Himself,
he was wearing only his silk shirt and hosen fitting as tightly to
his person as a second skin.

She looked at him and saw his love for her.  She pressed against
him, pushing her hands against his breast as though she would drive
him backwards.  She raised herself and folded her arms around him,
and they became for a great moment of time, mouth to mouth, breast
to breast, thigh to thigh, one flesh.

Then, while he sighed and his knees trembled and his spine was
cold, she was gone.  He heard no movement--only stared, shuddering,
at an empty room.

He did not, however, shudder long, and that same day, by the
evening, was with Gilbert Armstrong at Boot in Eskdale.  That
night, before he went to bed, he stood in the courtyard of the inn
snuffing the wind.

'To-morrow there will be snow,' he said.

Next morning they rode into Ulpha half an hour after Irvine left
it.



When Irvine ran up the fell from the Water he was lost at once.  He
could see in front of him, around him, behind him, but this free
space was for ever changing.  A clear line of fell, lit with a
strange light that was thin and yet dense like opaque milk,
stretched into distance, but even as he ran forward into it a web
of driving mist and snow swept around him as the wind drove it.
Then, quite suddenly, everything was clear.  He saw the fell
stretch on every side of him, and even a line of hill beyond it,
but it was ground of a gaunt ugly darkness, surfaced with knobs and
globules of humps of earth and piles of rough stone.  Against one
of these stone-heaps, as the snow-mist closed in again, he struck
his ankle and stumbled to his knees, spreading his hands against
wet cold soil that seemed to stick to him and hold him.

He stayed there for a moment, trying to clear his brain, staring in
front of him into the whirling snow that was alive and personal,
flicking his eyes, his mouth, his chin, with soft melting dabs of
wetness.  He could hear no voices: he was utterly alone in the
whole world.  He had no sense of direction, but he hoped that, in a
little while, the storm would clear.  But his brain refused to
concentrate on any future.  If the storm DID clear how should he
find Muncaster?  Or would it be wiser if he moved downwards to the
sea?  Was all the countryside out after him?  And Nicholas. . . .
He must escape Nicholas. . . .  He repeated the name over again,
almost sobbing with a sort of wild terror.  Terror was alien to
him.  He was not a coward and had never been one, but he did not
want to fight Nicholas Herries on this disgusting moor in this
chilling storm, where a man could not see, where he might imagine
that others, who could not be here because they were dead, kept
pace with him, standing even now over his kneeling figure--Robin
Herries, Sylvia, his old mother, even the Queen at Fotheringhay.

With a great effort he pulled himself up, felt for his sword and
dagger, shook himself, brushed the teasing snowflakes from his
eyes.  As he walked forward he realized something here that he had
never known in any place before.  The hillside was alive.  It was
not the stream whose fall he could hear, nor the stinging activity
of the storm, but the actual soil itself that moved with him as he
moved.  So lost was this land, so deeply pressed with the bodies of
lost and wandering men who had walked on it, that a great current
of eternal never-dying life ran through its veins.  These stones,
these tussocks of rough grass, sudden splashes of marshy clogging
mire, hard surfaces of pebble, unexpected hillocks that he could
not see, quick blind descents, climbs that fought him at every
step, all these seemed to be the movements of a breathing, hostile
creature that felt him an encumbrance as a man will feel a fly on
his eyelid.

He might, as he had heard men lost in a storm often did, be walking
in a circle, and the wind seemed to whistle in his ear:  'You
cannot escape from this!  You will be held here until the pursuers
find you.  They are gaining on you with every whistle of my dance.'

He stayed dead still, listening.  He could see a little way now
behind him and he was not sure that there were not figures there, a
group of men, silent and still as he was.  He called out:  'Who is
there?' but to his terror could not hear his own voice.

'If anyone is there I am waiting.'

He thought that he saw a white horse and seated on it a great
rider, but the storm wrapt aside its veil and there was a heap of
stones there, and voices that he thought he heard were the echoes
of a leaping stream.

He was soaked now and water ran down from his chin under his
clothes against his thin breast.  He began to run, quite madly,
leaping along, half tumbling, jumping, calling out.  He was going
uphill and splashing through some kind of swamp.  He stood with his
back to the storm, recovering his breath.  A kind of despair seized
him.  He would die here, a miserable, soaked, buffeted death,
alone, not even in the fighting company of his enemy.  Tears welled
up in his eyes for sorrow at himself, that so great and remarkable
a man should die all alone, storm-choked, snow-battered, on a
desolate moor.

The storm, in the beating of a second, lifted.  The wet mist
shrivelled as into a clenched hand.  He could see the moor
everywhere a wasted dreariness.  Close to him, only a yard or two
away, was a thatched hut with an open door.

What a relief and a comfort was the roof over his head!  He sat
down on a pile of straw against the rough stone wall, clapping his
hands to warm them, huddling his body together against the wet cold
that had soaked into the very marrow of his bones.

After all, things were not so bad!  If need be he could remain here
for the night and in the early morning find his way over to
Muncaster, secure protection there and frighten local authorities
with Her Majesty's vengeance for his murdered men.  Not that he
cared for their deaths.  It was even a relief to him, and
especially that that old doddering wine-soaker Winterset had sopped
the dust!  He had been tired of Winterset for many a day.  He had
been chained by men and circumstances, but now, on returning to
London, he would associate himself with Essex or some new
favourite, work his way to the Queen's very footstool.  She was
ageing--he could work on her--work on her!  And so, with the straw
warming his legs and the stone at his back, he stared into the wild
grey waste beyond the hut door and envisioned his own fine spirit,
bare as a bodkin, in black velvet and silver, a man alone, but
gazed at by the whole Court, a man of deep sorrows but of a
remarkable unique being, so that the Queen herself . . .

He stared and saw a woman standing in the doorway.  She was tall
and dressed in a man's riding-habit of black velvet and she had
deep gold hair piled beneath her hat.  There was a sword at her
side.  She stepped inside the hut and bowed.  He climbed clumsily
to his feet and bowed also.  He saw that she was an exceedingly
fine, opulent woman, and was immediately amorous.

'You take shelter from the storm, madam?'

She shook her head and answered, 'No!'

There was something peculiar about her and he did not know what it
was.  But, as he stared, he thought that there would be nothing
better, in this cold and dismal weather, than to take this rich and
opulent woman in his arms and so secure a radiant, rewarding heat.
Did she prefer storms, then, that she would rather stay out in
them?

No, not that.  Her horse was tied to the wall.  She had expected to
find someone in the barn.

To find someone?  He was surprised.  On such a day to find someone?
And then a thought struck him.  Of course, of course, it had been
she whom his men had seen in Ulpha that morning.  Yes.  She nodded
her head.  It had been she.

The storm was dying.  Outside the barn-opening only a little wind
sighed and whispered.  He could see a broken bar of pale silver
light above the dark fell-line.  He felt a profound and self-
pitying melancholy.  There would now be nothing more consoling
than to lie in the straw with so handsome a lady, to stroke those
cheeks, to unbind that golden hair, to unpin that deep dark
velvet. . . .

He asked her to share the straw in his company:  'For it is cold
and we will warm one another. . . .'

But she did not move, only looked at him with an odd intensity.

He moved towards her, holding out his hand.

'Come.  I would be warm.'

And then, as she did not stir, he added:  'I am a gentleman of Her
Majesty's Court whose fellows have had some trouble with a farmer
down the hill.  I was lost in the storm.  After we have warmed
ourselves we will go down--'

'I know you,' she said quietly.

He felt a small, wondering terror, like a little arrow, touch his
heart.  It was there and was gone.  Who was she?  Why was she there
so motionless and regarding him with such fixity?  He suddenly did
not desire her any longer, but only that he might be gone.  He
found that he disliked her company.  So with a quick, new
haughtiness, he drew himself together, feeling, however, that he
was a shabby sight with his lank hair and soaked clothes.

'I will wish you good-day then.  I will find my way alone.'

She stepped into the doorway.

'No,' she said.  'You must wait here.  That is why I came.  Someone
will join us.'

She seemed to him then no real woman.  He could not see her shape
clearly as he had done before.  He wanted nothing now so much as to
get out of this place and be free again.

He stared at her as a man whose sight is dazed stares to clear the
blurred outlines.  The light was ghostly, the air most bitterly
cold, and snowflakes fell now behind the barn in slow heavy
fragments, white against grey, white against tawny brown.

'Who are you?  I have nothing to do with you.'

She made no answer but only stood in the doorway.  He drew his
dagger, but she did not move.

'Let me pass.  I have no dealings with women.'

Then he heard a voice calling, quite clearly through the now
freezing air:  'Catherine!  Catherine!'  He was trapped.  They had
sent that absurd woman to hold him.  He caught her arm.  She eluded
him, drew her sword.

He saw the sword, her neck white and warm above the black velvet,
her eyes, blue and hard, driving him back with more than human
force.  But he would not be driven back and, more than anything
else in this filthy world, he must be free of this place.  He saw
her against the storm-light.  He snatched his dagger and stabbed
her deep to the heart.  Then he pushed at her as she fell, and ran
out on to the moor.

On the height of a little knoll he stopped, turned, looked back.
The light was clear.  The hut was outlined and emphasized.  In the
open doorway he saw Nicholas Herries stand, move forward, return
with the woman in his arms.

The great figure remained there motionless, holding the woman as he
would a child.  He looked across the space and upwards.  The two
men stared at one another, then Nicholas bent forward, kissed the
woman's cheek, stood motionless again; at last, after what seemed
an infinite time, moved back into the hut.

Irvine waited.

Nicholas returned, now alone.  Once more the two men regarded one
another but without speaking.

Irvine started running.  It was not fear now.  He knew that the
encounter was inevitable.  He was not in the least afraid of it.
He felt rather a great relief as though, at last, after a lifetime
of waiting, this issue would be settled.

He must find a good vantage-place, and very soon he found it, a
rise of ground, two torn and twisted trees behind him, and to his
right a precipitous decline that ran to a little valley where there
was a noisy, chattering stream.  He looked all around him, studying
the ground.  He could see clearly now to a great range of hills.

He did not know that those watching, waiting mountains were
Scafell, the Pikes, and, just emerging, Great End.  He did not care
what they were, but he regarded them curiously, feeling how alive
they were in that cold, grey light.  The land seemed vast, unending
fell, rising and falling with a rhythm that, in the stillness, he
could hear.  But it was perhaps only the voice of the stream in the
valley.

He was, it might be, a little crazy, for he never ceased talking
aloud, while he drew his sword and his dagger, feeling their sharp
edges.  'You will not fail me.  It has come at last.  But he cannot
touch me.  How was I to know that it was HIS woman?  How bright her
hair was!  I have never seen such bright hair in a woman. . . .'

He saw Nicholas approaching.  When he was close it seemed to Irvine
that this was a man he had never seen before.  He had always
regarded Nicholas as a clumsy, overgrown clown, laughing, witless,
a fool.  Here now was a man whose face was so sorrowful that Irvine
might have pitied him had he been able to pity any but himself.

When he was at the foot of the slope Nicholas, his sword drawn,
stopped.

'This also you must do,' he said.  After a pause he added very
gently:  'Why must you kill her?  She never did you any harm.'

'I wished her none.  She would not let me go.'

'THAT was not the quarrel between us.  Had she been there or not
been there we must have met.'  He said, as though to himself:
'Robin, Catherine--'

Irvine cried out in his shrill, angry scream:  'Get back, you fool!
Get back to your woman.'  And in a rage that came from some intense
exasperation and the bitter cold and a deep loneliness, he jumped
from the little rise and hurled himself on Nicholas.

Nicholas moved sideways.  Their swords rasped.  Irvine had almost
fallen, but the touch of the other sword transformed him, at an
instant, into the skilled, cool fighter that he really was.  He
steadied himself, held himself on guard, recovering his breath,
ordering, by old practised command, his whole body, from head to
heel, into a disciplined, pliant weapon.  Only, with a quick
gesture, he pushed his wet black hair back from his eyes.

When their swords met again, the joy of skilful fighting overcame
all other feeling.  The ground upon which they stood was here marsh
and here pebble, not an easy foothold, and the small icy wind blew
against their faces, swinging the sky with it like a torn scarf.

At first it was as though they were practising in a friendly
fencing match.  Their swords kept guard, one against the other,
like living things, running up the blades, meeting as though by
some joyful arrangement.  Then, with a little cry, Irvine passed
Nicholas' guard but only touched the neck.  And at that they both
paused for a moment, stepping back and regarding one another.

Irvine was worried now by the light.  Great bastions of heavy cloud
were coming up over the hills and the wind was once more rising.
He was standing with his back to the paler, whiter sky.  He turned,
faced round and swept his sword through the air, dancing and giving
little cries like a man maddened by excitement.  His sword-hand was
now towards Nicholas' thigh, but Nicholas, keeping guard with his
blade, turned towards him, leaning forward ever so slightly on his
toes, and digging his heels for a moment into the higher ground.
His great height and length of arm gave him now an advantage and,
as the wind was rising, his bulk of body strengthened him against
it while Irvine was buffeted across open moor.

Irvine was now more cautious, stealthy, agile in his attack.  His
onslaught was so furious that Nicholas could do nothing but defend.
Irvine's brilliance as a fighter had come always from three things:
his quick intelligence, his knowledge of the art of fence, and the
litheness of his body.  He was angry now with the rage of a vastly
proud man who had expected to win in the first moment, and his
brain was cold and hard.  He was moved to a fury also by the set,
angry gloom of Nicholas' round boyish face.  This was a new man
born within the last half-hour, and there was something so deeply
purposed and of so large a size in him that Irvine, beset with
ghosts, felt that if he killed one Herries there would be another
in his place, monumental, grieving, oafish but impregnable, as this
foul moor and those sulky, watching hills were impregnable.

His disgust and his anger together drove him into a passionate,
flashing attack.  His sword responded to his brain; again and again
it beat Nicholas' guard and he saved himself only by miracles of
adroitness that his heaviness should have forbidden.  Now Irvine's
blade ran up the other's like a leaping tongue, now it darted and,
as Nicholas' sword was up to meet it, flashed down and was an
eyelash only from his belly; now it was straight and hard,
independent of Irvine's body as though it were launched from
heaven, now it spat again and again and yet again like a serpent's
tongue, now it was languid, almost asleep, lazily creeping towards
Nicholas' sword-arm, now it was moving with the swaying litheness
of Irvine's body, and Irvine stood tiptoe, was back on his left
foot, straightening and bending his arm.

Nicholas, in all his long life of swordsmanship, had known nothing
like this.  Irvine was so thin and so active that it seemed there
were a dozen of him there, all spitting hatred as though Nicholas
had stepped upon a nest of vipers.  Also, he himself was heavy with
the shock of Catherine's death.  It did but make him the more
implacable, but it closed a sort of grip about his heart so that
his fire, his vigour, his passions, were fastened in a cold
chamber.  He felt his breath come drily.  His eyes began to be
blinded with the swiftness of Irvine's blade.  It was almost as
though the weaving of its pattern cast some spell upon him.

Irvine moved forward.  Nicholas retreated.  Fiercely he beat down
Irvine's blade, but he struck only the edge of it, and a second
later knew a sharp bite in his left side.  Irvine had struck home.
But it was just that bite that was needed.  He turned half-sides,
swept his sword round, caught Irvine's hand and pierced it;
Irvine's sword dropped, but the swiftness of Nicholas' own
movement, and the dullness of the bitter cold, had loosened his
hold, and his sword flew high, circling into the air, and swerved
down to the turf ten paces away, and stuck there quivering.

It was Irvine's left hand that had been cut, but his right had his
dagger and was at Nicholas' throat.  They were almost breath to
breath.

At the same moment, as though with a shrug of impatience because it
had waited long enough, the storm swirled down upon them.  The snow
fell now in great moving webs of choking fragments.  The wind rose
from the ground as though it would tear the rough grass from the
soil.

Blinded, deafened, the two men swayed together.  Irvine had his
thin, long, bleeding hand on Nicholas' throat while his right
curved, trying to be free for the dagger-blow.  But Nicholas' hand
was on that right wrist, his other hand round Irvine's waist.  They
were clutched like lovers, meeting at last after these many, many
years, as it were in a lovers' embrace.

Relentlessly Nicholas' iron hand tightened on Irvine's wrist.  The
dagger quavered and fell.  Then Nicholas' dagger rose.  Irvine
flung his face back, his eyes staring upward.  He cried once.
Nicholas struck deep into Irvine's throat.  The blood spurted into
Nicholas' eyes as water from a released spout.  But, as Irvine fell
back, Nicholas caught him, gathered him to his breast, raised him
high, and with a great cry flung him down, over the hill, into the
stream below.

He could not see, for the storm was boiling above the valley.  But
he stood with his arms raised, as though acclaiming heaven, and he
shouted:  'Hulloa!  Hulloa!  Hulloa!'

The hills, the whole waste of fell, the spirits of all the lost men
wandering there, repeated, echoing:  'Hulloa!  Hulloa!  Hulloa!'



THE SUMMER WEDDING


Rosamund Herries was thirty-three years of age on the fifth of May
in that year 1599.  She spent the three days around her birthday at
Mallory Court with Nicholas.  This was altogether by chance.  He
did not know it was her birthday and she told no one--only her
father and mother knew.

To be thirty-three and still unmarried was not a thing to tell the
town-crier of.  Rosamund did not mind in the least that she was
unmarried.  She had loved Nicholas since she was a baby--the sound
of him, what she was told of him--and would love him until she
died.  After that?  Who could say?  She had heard her father say
once:  'Every man is immortal until his task is ended.'  Loving
Nicholas had never been a task, but her father had explained to her
then that the word 'task' must be used in the sense of an 'art'--
'something created.'  Her love of Nicholas was 'something created,'
something that grew, year after year, under her hands.  And would
it ever be done?  Love was a growing thing, and sometimes in this
life you saw only the beginning of it.  Was it so absurd to fancy
that it continued?  But--without the body?  Why not?  Rosamund had
longed for many years to lie in Nicholas' arms, longed often
enough, crying on her bed with longing.  But it was not his body
that she loved.  Cover him with sores, give him a split nose and a
cleft lip, and she would love him just the same.  Once, perhaps, it
would not have been so, but, in true love, you work slowly beyond
the body, until at last you are interwoven with the spirit.  For a
woman this contact with the spirit of anyone she loves is her
constant pursuit, whereas a man is busy about too many things to
search so determinedly.  When a woman reaches the spirit of her
lover and finds that the man knows not that he even HAS a spirit,
the woman is so deeply exasperated that she would kill him if she
did not console herself by remembering that he is a child.

Rosamund had been often thus exasperated by Nicholas, or would have
been exasperated but for her sense of the comic.  As she sat, on
this May afternoon, in the Mallory garden near the fountain, she
was thinking about Nicholas and what a ridiculous man he was.

Her sense of the comic was always saving her from bitterness.  If
you find YOURSELF comic you really cannot object when others find
you so.  She lived, she considered, in an exceedingly comic period.
England was a most comic country.  Elizabeth a most comic queen.
She had lived for so long in and out of the Court that she had seen
enough comic characters close at hand to fill a country town.  Her
mother and father also were comic, but she loved them so dearly
that she could never laugh at them, only with them.  And that she
couldn't do with her mother, who had no sense of humour.  Her
father and she laughed at themselves incontinently.

She saw through everyone, including herself.  These ridiculous,
posturing men in their gold braid and diamond buckles, turning
their calves, twisting their necks, driving their swords into
another's stomach for a trifle, at Court intriguing for the Queen's
smile as though they did not know that she was a black-toothed, ill-
smelling old woman, furious at her barrenness.  Not that Rosamund
did not admire the Queen--she thought her simply the greatest
tyrant the world had ever seen, the saviour and maker of her
country.  But Elizabeth's greatness did not make the men's
servility the less absurd.  They thought of only two things in the
world: advancement and lechery.

Rosamund, although she had never been a beauty, had still received
offers, but she was yet a virgin and would remain so unless
Nicholas proposed otherwise.  Beneath her raillery, her sharp-
sightedness, her realism, she had a heart that bothered her far too
often.  When she loved she loved for ever, which everyone knows is
as foolish a thing as you can do.

In the sunlight now she was thinking of Nicholas.  No one (save
possibly Gilbert Armstrong) had known what occurred in that
November in the North.  Philip Irvine had been last seen alive,
moving, with his men, out of a farm on a stormy morning on a
Cumberland moor.  Two months later the snowdrifts had melted from a
valley a mile or so from Devoke Water and his body had been found,
his neck and legs broken and a dagger-wound through his neck.  No
one had cared very much.

Long before that Nicholas had returned south and resumed his life
at Mallory again.  Only it was known that the German woman, Gilbert
Armstrong's wife, had died in the North.

Rosamund had seen at once that the death of that woman had killed
something in Nicholas: he was another man; the days of his
adventurous life were over.  When she had heard of Catherine
Armstrong's death a wicked joy had leapt in her heart.  She knew
that it was wicked and cherished it.  For what good had this witch-
woman ever done with her golden hair, her foreign remoteness, her
unhappy silence?  But, afterwards, when she saw that part of
Nicholas was dead now, Rosamund almost wished her back again:
anything that Nicholas might be his old, happy, careless self
again.  But that he could never be any more; Robin and Catherine
were dead.

In her own rather dry, practical fashion she did all for him that
she could.  They were companions now as they had never been, were
constantly together, having jokes, riding together, sharing
'sights' in London.  She had, at least, the satisfaction of knowing
that she and Gilbert Armstrong were everything to him.

He liked to talk constantly of Robin, of his brilliance, of how he
might have been a great poet, of his sweetness of nature, of his
gentleness, of something he had that Nicholas would never have, of
how his eyes were always staring into a world that he, Nicholas,
would never have a sight of.  Nor she, Rosamund, either.  There
were two sorts of mortals: one plain, the other coloured.  She and
Nicholas were of the 'plain' kind.

But even in the 'plain' world all was not well with Nicholas.  He
was fifty-five years of age and growing 'over-heavy.'  He was not
proud of his appearance as once he had been.  He wore his old
clothes too long.  A man of his size must take especial care of his
person.  There was no woman at Mallory to see to that.  The
servants were old and presumed on his kindness and laziness as once
they would not have dared to do.  He would sit for long hours
before the fire, his great legs stretched out in front of him, his
hands folded on his belly, or pulling the ears of his dog, thinking
of nothing.  There was yet time for him to be saved, for his body
was as strong, his eyes as bright, his smile as contagious; and
there was always Gilbert to care for him, and insist on his
exercise and to see that the servants did their work.

She sighed and saw Nicholas sitting on the garden seat beside her.
He put his arm around her and drew her close to him.

'And of what are you thinking?'

'I was thinking how aged I am.  I am thirty-three years this very
day.'

He sprang up.

'I will go into the house and fetch you a gift.'

She pulled him down again.

'I want nothing but to be here with you.'  He looked at her, his
blue eyes speculative; the colour slowly flushed his cheeks.  He
stammered, stuttering, until she wondered what was the matter with
him.  He took her hand.

'As it is your birthday you shall give ME a gift.'

'Anything, Nicholas.'

'That is a promise.  You shall marry me.'

She said at once:  'Yes.  Of course.'

He held her tightly in his arms, kissing her even passionately,
which surprised her.  This hour, for which so many years she had
longed, had come at last.  She was so wildly happy, but wished so
ardently that he should think her calm, practical, wise, that she
allowed him to talk.

'I have wished it again and again.  But I am twenty-two years the
older.  I have waited for you to have some other man, younger, more
handsome.  But I fear you will grow an old maid, and it is
lamentable to me that you should die a virgin.

'Moreover, I think that I will live to a long old age, and when I
am seventy and you fifty there will be nothing between us.  I have
loved you for many, many years--not with that strange, mad love
that I had for Catherine.  I asked you once before and you would
not because she stood between us.  And she did.  She stood between
me and all other men and women in the world.  But now I love you,
and you alone.  We are the best company there could be, I think.
And I would have a son and heir by you to carry on our family.'

She laughed, she clapped her hands like a child.

'I have wished for this moment my whole life long.'

'And there shall be other better moments,' he said with glee.



There seemed to be no reason for waiting.  The very months for
wedding were April and November, but April was over and November
was a long time away.

Rosamund Herries was married to Nicholas Herries of Mallory Court,
Sussex, in the church of St. Mary Breding in the village of Mallory
on the 8th of June 1599.

From the old yellow-paged family book kept first by Nicholas and
Rosamund, and after by their son Robert and his wife, Margaret
Blaikie, and after that again by THEIR son Matthew and HIS wife
Frances, members of the family present at this joyous wedding were:


     Edward Herries.
     Agatha, his wife.
     Janet and Martha Herries, their daughters.
     Sidney Herries.
     Very old Lady Courthope.
     Guy and Rosemary Herries, father and mother of the bride.
     Barbara and Tobias Garland.
     Rashleigh, Lucy, Peter, their children.
     Carey and Somerset, sons of James and Constance Herries.
     And Alicia Turner with her sons Matthew and Paul.


It was, it seems, the most radiant of June days.  There are several
accounts of the affair from contemporary Journals and Diaries, and
all agree that it was a glorious, happy occasion, without a shadow
in any sky.

A great, great affair it was for the whole countryside, for
Nicholas had lived at Mallory all his life and was the most popular
Englishman in the whole of Sussex.  From the hour of dawning
country people poured in, coming from miles distant, walking or
riding.  The whole of Mallory grounds was thrown open.  On the Long
Field and away through the meadows to the stream tents were set up
and there was every sort of jollity and feasting.

But that was all for later.  The immediate business was to get the
bride and bridegroom to church.

When Rosamund appeared in the doorway of Mallory, before the
flagged path that led through the garden, across the meadow, by the
wicket gate to the church, an 'Oh!' of admiration went up from the
crowd of villagers and sightseers.  Janet Herries, who had caught a
grudging nature from her mother, murmured to her sister Martha,
'Anyone would look something on such a day.'  And, indeed, the
lawns and hedges glittered under the June sun, the roses and pinks
savoured the air with their scent, the church bells were ringing
like crazy bells, the sky was blue without a cloud.

But it was her character and her happiness that gave Rosamund her
beauty that morning.  She would never, perhaps, look so beautiful
again until she was an old woman.

Her dress was of white (white or russet were the wedding colours)
and on to the sleeves and body and skirt were stitched the coloured
favours.  These were ribbons tied as true-lovers' knots, and after
the ceremony they would be fought for by the young men of the
party.  Rosamund wore her hair down about her shoulders, and on her
head was a wreath of fresh flowers.  Her hair was combed, and the
favours stitched to her dress were of every colour--flame-colour,
peach, blue, orange, red, tawny, but not of gold, for that
signified avarice, nor flesh-colour which was lasciviousness, nor
green which was wantonness.

Before her was carried, with a great deal of pomposity, by fat Tom
Boulter the steward, a bride-cup of gilt and silver, and sticking
out from it a fine branch of rosemary gilded and hung with silk
ribbons of all colours.

Rosamund walked between two 'sweet-boys' very gaily dressed with
bride-laces and rosemary tied to their silk sleeves.  These two
'sweet-boys' were Carey and Somerset, the sons of James and
Constance.

In front of her went the village musicians, playing for all they
were worth and somewhat discordantly.  Behind her came the
bridesmaids: Janet and Martha, wild, dark little Lucy, and
daughters of neighbouring gentlemen friendly to Nicholas.  They
carried bridecakes and gilded garlands of leaves.

Beside her and very close to her, as though he could not bear to
lose her, walked her father, very handsome in plum-colour and
silver.

The path all the way was strewn with flowers and rushes, and the
clanging of the bells, the huzza-ing of the people, the discordance
of the musicians, made a noise that could be heard almost as far as
the town of Lewes.

Everyone said, as everyone always has and everyone always will, how
very beautiful the bride looked, but it was only her happiness and
goodness that made Rosamund beautiful--and they were quite
sufficient for the occasion.

The crowd about the church door was so pressing that the musicians
had to push with their trumpets, and Tom Boulter, very self-
important, handing the bride-cup to one of the household, went
about with his stave pulling people back and telling them that
'they must be ashamed of themselves.'

The little church was, of course, crowded to a hot agony, people
standing on the boards of the font and hanging over the gallery to
their desperate danger, and even two bad boys perching themselves
on the portly stomach of the effigy of Sir Bertram Fanshawe, a
Crusader of local fame because his ghost was said to walk.

Near the altar Nicholas was standing resplendent, his black velvet
jerkin edged with strands of gold bullion, his sleeves of rose-
coloured satin, slops of the same colour, his hosen and the feather
to the cap which he carried in his hand of the same colour.  This
black and rose suited him admirably, and he looked, in the opinion
of everyone, twenty years less than his real age, although his face
had the grave concerned look of a boy before his elders, and he was
for ever moving his hand towards his sword as though he feared an
attack.  Nevertheless when he saw Rosamund appearing up the church
his broad face broke into a full grin and he nodded at Gilbert
Armstrong, just behind him, as though to say:  'All is well.  She
is here.  And now I care for nothing.'

The ring was of two hands in gold clasping a heart that was a fine
ruby, and when he placed it on Rosamund's thumb they exchanged a
look of such perfect happiness that it astonished old Lucy
Courthope, who, a bent and wrinkled misanthropist, nevertheless was
in the front row and bent forward so as not to miss a thing.

After old Mr. Martindale, the clergyman, had pronounced them man
and wife, Rosamund knew a moment of miraculous vision.  All time
for her was rolled into that one moment.  She saw herself as a
small, ugly girl in the country, watching her father as he painted,
and hearing for the first time of this giant cousin who could carry
a cart on his belly and yet was so gentle with his dogs and horses.
She had loved him, she fancied, from that first moment of hearing.
But there had been so many, many years when she must put away from
her altogether any hope.  She had learned to love him as an
'unattainable.'  But there had come that moment at the great London
ball when she had spoken to him, the party in the country when they
had had their first real talk together, the strange, dangerous
years when she had lived with Irvine and Sylvia in London, and at
last, those months at Fotheringhay, when, under the shadow of that
tragic history, under the horror of poor Sylvia's death, they had
grown into true friends.

After that had come the obstacle of the German woman: it was then
that Rosamund, although she did not realize it, had developed true
character, wanting nothing for herself, caring for him, making him
happy when she could, reconciling herself to the truth that she
would never be nearer to him than she was.

All this seemed to present itself to her in one flash of burning
joy.  She turned the ring on her thumb.  She placed her hand on his
arm.  She was Nicholas' wife.

Before they left the church a great cup of muscadel with sops in it
was presented.  First the bride must drink in it, then the
bridegroom, then the reverend clergyman, then the father and mother
of the bride, and, after that, as many of the company as could get
to it, for it meant the greatest good luck to have a taste of it.
It was the old custom that everyone stood in the church there where
he or she might be and the cup was passed from hand to hand.

After this the musicians struck up again outside the church, and
down the churchyard path went the bridal pair.  Nicholas towering
over everyone and grinning on this country friend and that,
shouting a word here and a word there, struck in the face by
flowers and not minding it at all.  Catching Rosamund's hand in
his, then, as they turned into the meadow towards the house,
putting his arm around her waist, looking for a long moment across
the fields, sniffing the summer grasses, thinking how good life
was, and how lucky he, at so advanced an age, to secure so perfect
a bride.

When they were returned to the house they sat on a raised dais in
the great hall and received the congratulations of everybody.  This
was a long, long business and Nicholas, sitting stiff, upright,
with a studied smile on his face and saying again and again, 'I
thank you.  We thank you.  I thank you.  We thank you,' caught
wistfully through the high open windows the merriment and gaiety
from the tents on the meadow.  Indeed, outside the house there was
a concatenation of disharmonies!  Women screaming with laughter,
men shouting, cows lowing, miniature guns popping, trumpets and
whistles and flutes, dogs barking--above all, everyone singing.
The whole world singing.  Already, thus early in the afternoon,
dancing had begun.

At last, God be thanked, these stiff ceremonies were over and the
married pair might retire to wash their hands and faces, attend to
nature, and breathe for a space by a cool-aired window.  Even now
they could not be alone.  The bride-maidens must be with the bride,
the young men with the bridegroom.  Nicholas did all the same take
advantage of the one moment when he could claim reason for solitude
to have his arm round Gilbert Armstrong's neck, pull his ear and
chaff him about his grand clothes of white and orange.

'You are glad of this, Gilbert?'

'This is the happiest day of my life, master.'

'Why--when you think marriage a disaster!'

'Not thus.  You need a steady woman.'  He stretched his arms.  'And
now, too, I can go away for a time--hunting my own game--and know
that you are in safe charge.'

'Have I imprisoned you all this while then?'

'No, but I had no life of my own any more.  Now I shall have it
again.  And we are old friends, your wife and I.  I say what I
please to her.  Only, master, watch--'

'Yes?' asked Nicholas.

'--that in a year's time you are not altogether at her command.
She has that character. . . .'  And he hurried, chuckling, from the
room.

Later, at the feast in the same hall, Nicholas and Rosamund were
once again side by side on the dais.

As the customary hour for the meal of the day was between eleven
and twelve, now that it was near mid-afternoon all were ravenous.
And there was food enough for a village: vast sides of beef,
mutton, veal, flavoured with the oddest sauces of musk, ambergris,
saffron; oysters, wild-fowl, geese, deer in pasties, barley and rye
brown bread.  And, to wash it all down, beer, ale, sack, muscadine,
Rhenish, alicant and charneco.  But most of all had they a sweet
tooth (which was partly why the teeth of so many of them were so
sadly decayed), and none more than Nicholas himself.  There was
that most delicious of all sweetmeats ever invented by man,
marchpane, made of pounded almonds, pistachio nuts, sugar and
flour.  There were sugar-sops, Eringo, kissing-comfits.  And at
last, set in front of bride and bridegroom, was a magnificent
construction in green and white and gold sugar of the Long Field
itself, with the stream and three fine cows whose bellies were full
of sweetmeats--all standing on a cake of sweetened and spiced bread--
powdered sugar with the juices of oranges was used to flavour it.

But, of course, by now the sack and alicant and charneco had risen
into people's heads and everyone was merry indeed.  Only Nicholas
and Rosamund kept themselves sober, for they longed for the time
when this might be over and they, the bed-curtains drawn, lying in
one another's arms.  They were both weary, for they had been up
with the dawn.

Nevertheless Nicholas was awake enough to cast his eyes over his
guests and speculate over one or two of them.  Time moved so
swiftly that those who, only a minute ago, were howling in their
cradles were already here howling in their drink!  He had not for
many a day seen so many of the Herries family gathered together,
and he, as head of that family, must study them with considerable
interest.

Old Lucy, Lady Courthope, was already fast asleep, her peaked chin
sunk into her plate of marchpane.  The best of them all was his own
father-in-law, Guy Herries, who even now had the most flaxen hair,
the bluest eyes, the straightest back of any of them.  Here was a
man of sixty-three who had, it would seem, a whole life of vigour
and goodness yet in front of him.

For Edward and Sidney, both now portly and heavy-eyed, he had a
feeling of kindliness.  But what about the people who died long
before physical death took them?  Was it our arrogance that made us
think so?  Well, they did not KNOW that they were dead, so no
suffering could ever come to them.

Close to their passivity was someone so vital that she constantly
caught his eye: the strange child, Lucy Garland, daughter of
Barbara and Tobias, niece of Edward and Sidney.  This child could
not yet be ten years of age: she was a little thing, as thin as a
wisp of cord, dark, gipsy-faced, with eager sparkling eyes.  Now
and again he caught her excited voice, shrill, piercing.  She was
dressed in ill-judged finery with a large ridiculous feather in her
hair.  Poor Barbara, her mother, had never had any taste.  What
made Nicholas single this child from all the rest of the company?
He felt in her some element of tragedy, something in common with
Robin, with Robin's Sylvia.  Looking at the plain, matter-of-fact
faces of Janet and Martha, the daughters of Edward and Agatha, he
thought to himself that it was strange that the same family should
hold such opposites.  But had not he and Robin been examples of it?
Fact and poetry--the two strains in the family, blending to cover
the whole round of life.  Had not, years ago, Philip Sidney been of
one sort, was not Burghley's son of the other?  Had not Leicester
been the one, was not Essex the other?

And his gaze passed kindly to the boys of the family: Carey and
Somerset, grandsons of old, blinking, blear-eyed Lucy Courthope,
fine and handsome boys, representing the new self-confident,
arrogant, courageous England that was everywhere developing. . . .
Matthew and Paul Turner, also grandsons of old Lucy, but of quite
another kind from Carey and Somerset, already grave in spite of
their childishness, middle-class business running in their veins.
He was glad that Turner himself had not come, for he did not like
him with his narrow-lidded eyes and his intention never to allow a
bargain to slip.

Here in front of him was a growing, conscious, composite English
family.  To what would it come?  What service might it render
England?

He looked at Rosamund and thought of the gipsy's prophecy--that the
first of his body resembling himself was to be his great-grandson
and that he would be held by all the world to be a rogue and a
vagabond.  Well, no matter.  There would BE an heir--that was the
principal thing.

Afterwards real weariness confused him to the end.  After all, he
was fifty-five years of age!  All he wanted now was to be alone
with Rosamund, not first to make love, but rather to feel her close
to him, to know that she was to be his companion until life should
end, to feel that wonderful security in her loyalty, her
friendship, her humour and good-nature.  To be alone with her!  To
be alone with her!

The hall had been cleared for dancing; the musicians played from
the gallery.  Nicholas did his proper duty and danced with Agatha
and Janet and Martha and Barbara and little Lucy and Alicia Turner.
And how his legs ached and his back, and how very hot he was, and
how absurd that, on this night of his own wedding, he should
scarcely have a glance of Rosamund!

But at last the moment came.  To the shouts of the whole company he
was conveyed to his room by all the men--Gilbert, Edward, Sidney
and Tobias--and Rosamund was taken to hers by the ladies.

He was undressed and teased and jested with while the night-rail
was thrown over his head.  Then, with singing and the lights of
candles, he was taken to Rosamund's room, and there, with the women
around her bed, she sat up in the big four-poster with the brown
and red hangings waiting for him.

He climbed in beside her and they both sat up against the pillows
while the last cup was drunk, improper jests were made, the final
Marriage Song sung.  All the candles were blown out but one.  With
this at their head the company moved to the door.

This candle also was blown out.



As they lay in one another's arms, Nicholas suddenly said:
'Gilbert has it that, in a year's time, you will have the say in
all things.'

Rosamund answered sleepily:  'In a year's time I shall not be
thinking of you at all--but only of our son.'



THE QUEEN WAS IN HER PARLOUR


Robert Philip Herries, eldest son of Nicholas and Rosamund Herries,
was born at Mallory Court in Sussex at five o'clock in the morning
of April 10th, 1600.

On the morning of January 21st, 1603, when Robert Philip was two
and a half years of age, the Court moved to Richmond.  The weather
was bad, extremely cold, a foul north-east wind.

Elizabeth, who had now entered on her seventieth year and had been
more than forty-four years a queen, protested in the icy winds at
Richmond that 'furs could not withstand winter cold,' so wore none,
and suffered.  Then her cousin, and closest friend, the Countess of
Nottingham died, and grief of spirit, cold of body, brought her
low.  At the beginning of March she had a fever and could not
sleep.  She refused both to eat and to speak.  She sat silent,
thinking on her extraordinary reign, on Leicester perhaps, on Essex
most certainly, on her loneliness, her grandeur, the misery of her
body, her longing for death, her pride in England.

Her coronation ring had to be sawn off because it had grown into
her flesh, and this distressed her greatly because she had a
superstition about it.

A year before, at least, Robert Cecil and others had entered into
communication with James in Scotland and assured him of his
succession.  Already history had passed over the great Queen's head
and left her behind.  She sat, looking into the air, wondering at
her loneliness, angry and silent, baffled by approaching death.

Nicholas and Rosamund had, by now, a little house close to the old
Banqueting House in Whitehall, and there they lived until the
Banqueting House was burned down in 1619.  Near there were the old
Hall of Westminster and the ancient buildings of the Exchequer, and
near these again, the Star Chamber of such evil memory.  They were,
in fact, at the very hub of the universe.

Not that this, of course, was their real home--Mallory Court would
always be that--but Nicholas now had a considerable amount of
business on his hands.  Old Lucy Courthope had died in the
preceding year and left him as her man of affairs.  Then Turner was
for ever trying to drag him into this business and that.  Rosamund
also liked London, had many friends, enjoyed a dinner, a play, a
ball, as much as any one.  They enjoyed almost anything when they
were together, and, indeed, hated to be apart.

There was a truth, though, in what Rosamund had once said, for she
adored her baby to madness and would perhaps have neglected
Nicholas had it not seemed to her that he was her child as well.

Nicholas, too, was dreadfully proud of Robert Philip, and the baby
would have been spoiled to destruction had it not been that he
proved to be a child entirely without imagination.  He was good,
solid and full of chuckles.  Anything that he saw exactly in front
of him he could grasp, and grasp it he did, but it never occurred
to him that anything existed that he did not see with his own eyes.
He already realized his father and mother thoroughly, and once he
had seen them he would remember them, but ask him to credit a horse
that he had NOT seen, even though it stood in an adjoining stable
and you had just come from it, and he would look at you with mild
blue-eyed scorn.

He was sturdy of build and most equable of nature.  When his nurse,
Mrs. Margit, told him about Robin Goodfellow he roared with happy,
mocking laughter.  Fairies!  Pixies!  The very idea!



On a day early in March Nicholas was going over his accounts with
Gilbert Armstrong in his London house, when the servant came to the
door and said that Sir Hubert Chichester was in the outer room and
must speak to him.

Nicholas sprang to his feet.

'Chichester!  From Richmond!  What can he want?'

He hurried into the outer room, where he found a grave, black-
bearded gentleman, very much younger than himself.

'You are to come at once to Richmond, Mr. Herries, if you will--and
I fear even if you will NOT.  It is the Queen's request.'

'The Queen?'

'It seems that last night when Her Majesty could not sleep she
suddenly remembered "a man like a giant--a man who had come one
time about his younger brother who was in the Tower."  At first no
one could recollect, and then Lady Bracy recalled that you had been--
in the year--what was it?--no matter--on a number of occasions to
the Court to get Her Majesty's interest for your brother.

'It must be you, of course, that she intended.  So I was sent off
in the morning hour, and beg you to return with me.  I am certain
that it will not be to detain you--a half-hour at the most.  It may
be that by your arrival there she will already have forgotten.
Nevertheless, we must do what we can for her.'

As they rode, through Chelsea village and the woods beyond, and at
last the fine free Common and Park, they had a pleasant
conversation.

Chichester, although grave and a little consequential, had a wise
knowledge of the world and showed a very decent respect to
Nicholas.  He talked frankly about the state of the country.

'It is all settled for James' succession.  It will be a strange
business, after all these years, to be under another monarch, and
there are many odd stories about him.  I would have feared for the
country at one time, but I fancy that it is too settled now for any
change in the Crown to affect it.'

Nicholas asked about the Queen.  Did she realize her approaching
end?

'We cannot tell what she realizes.  She will not speak or eat.  I
think first the tragic business of Essex and now the other day the
death of the Countess of Nottingham have broken her.'

He asked Nicholas something about his own life, and said that, when
he was a young man, he had heard often of Nicholas' feats of
strength.

Nicholas laughed.  'I am all but sixty years of age and it is not
for an old man to boast.  But I have had a happy life, never seeing
more than was under my nose, which is, I think, the easiest way to
be happy.'

Chichester, after some hesitation, spoke about his brother:  'He
died, I think, in the Tower?'

Nicholas turned towards him.

'You must pardon me in all courteousness, but I would prefer not to
speak of that.  I loved my brother as I have loved only one other
creature on this earth.  His death was the work of a villain, and,
having revenged it, I have buried it in my heart.'

Chichester hesitated again.  At last he said:  'You will think me,
I fear, impertinent, but I have a message to you that I must
deliver.  I offered myself indeed to come to fetch you to-day so
that I might deliver it.'

He went on again:  'Last summer I was in Antwerp, and one evening I
was asked by the landlord of my inn if I would visit for a moment
an Englishman who was there and was dying.  He could not die in
peace, he had said, without seeing me.  Wondering what this could
be I went into the room where he was.  There was a man in a bed
dying.  He had all his sense about him and spoke clearly.  He asked
me whether I knew a Mr. Nicholas Herries.  I said that I did not,
but that I could easily communicate with him.  He said that this
illness had come suddenly upon him and that he would never be in
England again.  He said that his name was Pierson, that he was a
Catholic priest, and that it was because of him that your brother
had been tortured in the Tower and that he had died there.  He
wanted me to tell you that he would have saved him by giving
himself up to the authorities, but that he had been prevented by
the orders of his Church that must be obeyed absolutely, but that
he wished me to convey to you that your brother must have welcomed
such a death as affording him a victory that would wipe out his
other defeats.  That he wished to tell you this so that you should
not in any way grieve.  He added that he had loved your brother
more than any other man or woman on this earth, and that it had
been his chief temptation that he should put your brother before
his God.  That he could not help it, but that now, in dying, it was
his first thought that soon he would be with your brother again.

'I left him, and early in the following morning he died.  I thought
to write this to you but considered it better to speak to you when
the opportunity occurred.  I made this opportunity to-day.'

Chichester spoke as though he were reciting something that he had
repeated to himself very often that he might not forget it.

Nicholas did not speak for a little while.  At last he thanked him
for his considerate courtesy, but said no more, and they rode
through the wild, wintry morning in silence.

Nicholas, as he thought over it, was very happy that he had been
told this.  It was true, as he had always known, that Robin had won
some victory at the end and had been happy.  He realized now how,
all his life through, he had looked up to Robin and adored him as
being of some much finer spirit than himself.

He heaved his big body up on his horse as though he would shake it
off into space.  But it would not leave him yet.  And feeling the
sharp wind on his cheek and hunger in his belly, for eleven was the
hour when he dined, and realizing that it was his body that had
created young Robert, he thought that after all it was well enough
and had done him much service in its time.  But he shook his head
over Pierson.  He was glad that at last he was dead.

At Richmond he found the whole paraphernalia of Court life and
ceremony (which had, before now, seemed sufficiently absurd) in
operation.  In the presence-chamber there was a gathering of
gentlemen, ladies, the Bishop of London, and Archbishop Whitgift
whom the Queen called her 'black husband.'  Everyone stood about
and whispered while the green and gold tapestry shook and rustled
in the wind.

At the door was a gentleman in velvet with a gold chain.

While Nicholas was standing there alone (Chichester had left him to
go and see about an audience) a door behind him opened.  He stepped
back, lest he should be in the way, and found himself in the dining-
hall.

While he looked, two gentlemen, one with a rod, the other with a
tablecloth, entered, knelt three times, spread the tablecloth and
retired.  Then two more came in, one with the rod again, the other
with a salt-cellar, a plate and bread.  These also knelt three
times, placed the things on the table and retired.  Then came an
unmarried lady and a married lady, the latter bearing a tasting-
knife.  The married lady approached the table and rubbed the plates
with bread and salt.

After a moment the Yeomen of the Guard entered, bare-headed and
clothed in scarlet with a gold rose on the back of the scarlet.
These brought twenty-four dishes, most of them gilt; these were
placed on the table by a gentleman in black velvet and then the
lady-taster gave to each of the Guard a mouthful of the particular
dish he had brought.  This was to guard against poison.

Now this ceremony was not new to Nicholas, and would have in no way
attracted his attention had it not been for an incident.  All the
entries, the laying of the table, the tasting of the food, had been
carried out in absolute silence; even the voices of the talkers in
the presence-room were in whispers.

Quite suddenly a small page, who had been following the two ladies
and carrying a gold plate with a fork on it, burst into loud
crying.  The effect of this upon the silent careful atmosphere was
extraordinary.  He was a very small boy, not more than ten years of
age perhaps, and he simply stood there crying his heart out, while
the Yeomen of the Guard, big grim-looking men, stood in a line and
had much to do not to burst out crying also.  For it was like the
lamentation of the whole of England.  All in the presence-chamber
were transfixed by it, and especially some, perhaps, who were
already considering in their minds that there was a new King in
Israel and they must take advantage of it.

The small boy stood there and would not be comforted.  The ceremony
around the dining-table seemed almost insultingly hollow.  One of
the ladies put her arm around the little boy and carried him out.

Almost immediately after, Chichester touched Nicholas on the
shoulder.

'You are to come,' he said.

All eyes followed the huge, dignified man, with his grey curly hair
and brown cheeks, as he crossed the big room.  Everyone knew that
he was going to the Queen.

Chichester led him down passages, through an empty hall on whose
surface their feet most dismally sounded, past a yeoman usher, and
so into the privy chamber itself.

Nicholas stood just inside the door and saw a strange sight.  He
had been before to Richmond to see the Queen, and once, in this
very room, he had pleaded for Robin's safety.  He remembered how it
had been then: the Queen, loaded with jewels, on her dais, the room
blazing with lights, filled with ladies and gentlemen, the
musicians playing dance music.

Now there was so thin a light that he must accustom his eyes to the
dimness.  Against the far wall two musicians were standing, and
nearer the centre of the room a gentleman and two ladies.  There
was the dais, but no one was sitting on it.  On a pile of cushions,
her back against the lowest step of the dais, was an old woman.  He
could only tell it was the Queen by the yet fierce brightness of
her eyes.

As his eyes became more accustomed he saw that she was wearing a
dress of white taffeta.  On her wig was perched a little crown
bristling with jewels, but both wig and crown were awry.  Her
cheeks were yellow and drawn, her teeth discoloured, her lips thin
and violently red with paint.  Her bosom was half bare, and around
her bony scraggy neck were three heavy ropes of pearls.  She sat,
all huddled up, clasping and unclasping her hands.

Nicholas did not know what to do.  Chichester went forward and
spoke to the Queen.  She paid no attention.  He spoke again.

She raised her head sharply.  'Where is he?' she asked.

Chichester came and brought him forward.  He knelt and she gave him
her hand to kiss.  A heavy decaying odour was in the air and the
heat from the fire was great.  But she shivered.

'I cannot be warm,' she said.  'I cannot be warm.'

Someone brought a heavy cloak of dark red velvet trimmed with
ermine.  She huddled in this, her haggard yellow face with the
brilliant eyes sticking out from it like a monkey's.  He saw that
she was in her perfect senses.

She said:  'Mr. Herries . . . Mr. Herries.'  Then called out
sharply:  'Bring a chair.'  Then she motioned them to lift her on
to the dais, and there she sat, twisting and untwisting her
jewelled fingers against the crimson gown.

She ordered Nicholas to sit close to her, which he did.  She wiped
her dry, cracked lips with a handkerchief.  She spoke, with
perfect, quiet, ordered dignity:  'Mr. Herries, you came, I
remember, once or twice about your brother.  I hope that he is
well.'

'He is dead, Your Majesty.'

'Ah.'  And then, as though to herself:  'They are all dead.  They
are all dead.'

She looked at him curiously.  She even smiled a very little.

'Once I had a liking for a fine man.  I can recollect one or more.
There was something about you that I have never forgotten.'

She stayed.  She looked steadfastly at a ring on her finger.

'I am sure,' she said, 'that you would serve me in any fashion--'

'With my life.'

She shook her head so that the little sparkling crown rolled on her
wig.

'Ah, but now there is no more need.  It is all ended. . . .  I am
very ill.'

He was touched most deeply.  He did not think of her as a Queen but
only as a sick, ailing, very unhappy woman.  Most of all he felt
her unhappiness.  He hated this room with its hot fire, its waiting
people, this wretched sitting on the floor, the stale smell.  Had
it been his mother or some other relation he would have carried her
in his arms to a bed where the air was fresh, where she might rest.

He ventured:  'Were Your Majesty in a cool bed--'

She darted a fierce look at him.  For a moment he thought that she
would, even now, break into one of her famous rages.  But all that
was over.

She murmured, like any sick old woman:  'I cannot sleep.  I cannot
eat.  I am very ill.'

She sighed.  She looked at the ring on her finger.  'Nay, I am not
well--not well.'

She remembered her dignity.  She spoke like a Queen:  'We have been
happy to see you, Mr. Herries, and we wish you good fortune
wherever you may be.'

She held out her hand, and as he bent to kiss it he looked for a
moment into her face.  What sadness he saw there!  What deep, deep
unhappiness!  Not only the unhappiness of her consciousness of
approaching death, of her loneliness and weakness, but an
unhappiness far more deeply rooted, that came from some old, long-
lived-with sorrow.  As he kissed her hand he thought of that other
Queen whose execution he had seen in the hall at Fotheringhay: of
her majestic proud entry into that hall, of her happy consciousness
that she was dying, before all men, as a true Queen, of her deep
enjoyment of that consciousness.

As he bowed his way out he saw Elizabeth huddle down among the
cushions again, and the little crown fall on to her lap.



Later he sat in his parlour, in front of his fire, in great
content.  Rosamund, his wife, sat near him, working at tapestry.
On the floor his son and heir, Robert Philip (whose bedtime it
was), played with a Fool who had silver bells, a red cap and a long
hooked nose.

Nicholas felt a great comfort.  His visit to the Queen, the ride
home through the cold air, the crackling fire, cast him into a mood
of half-sleepy reminiscence.

He saw all his life as a happy thing.  How young he had been at
that first encounter with Irvine on the moor, how jolly afterwards
had been the meeting with Robin at the Keswick inn!  It did not
seem to be long ago.  How proud he had been on that day when his
father had told him that he would be overseer in charge of Mallory!
Dear Mallory, with its old dark rooms, its scent of honeyed wood
and beeswax and dried flowers.  How he had cared for every inch of
it: the garden, the lawns, the hedges, the flowerbeds, the meadows,
the stream, the farms, the horses and cattle, the men and women
under him.  He stretched his arms and yawned contentedly, for next
week, God willing, he would be there again.

He became more tenderly reminiscent.  That first meeting with
Catherine at the fair in the Keswick street, the later evening out
at the mines when she had so nearly been his . . . a strange
business, a strange business.  That evening when he had first seen
Gilbert Armstrong, wrestling on the table with all the lights and
the mirrors askew.

And Robin, Robin, Robin!  How he had loved him, and loved him
still!  Robin, who saw a kingdom that he would never see.  Robin,
who was so weak and so strong, and always to be loved.  Robin had
told him once that there were bright pavilions in the sky and that
they must be found or life had no meaning.  He, Nicholas, knew
nothing of bright pavilions, but if dear Robin desired them he
prayed to God that he had found them at the last.

From Robin his thoughts passed to England.  His life had been
parallel with England's greatness.  He had seen her grow from a
weak, undefended country to a rich and mighty Power, and that poor,
sick old woman he had been with to-day had been the engine of her
greatness.

He thought of her quiet and rich and deep loveliness that he had
learned to worship because he, himself, had worked on her soil,
digging and planting, sowing and reaping, bathing in her streams,
climbing her hills.  He thought of the South, his own Sussex with
the rolling downs and the sea on the horizon, and he thought of the
North which he also loved, with the rich changing skies, the
streams of pure cold water, the hills guarding the valleys, the
springing deep turf so strong beneath your feet.

So many various beauties in so small a space!  He was no poet as
Robin had been, but the English sky, the English fields, the
English hills, were part of his very blood.

He was almost asleep.  He jerked himself awake, murmuring, as
though someone had challenged him:  'England is a lovely place.  I
would have no other.'

His wife heard him, looked across at him and smiled.  It was time
for his son to be in bed.  He stretched out his arms.

'Come, Robert,' he said.  'Come!'

Robert Herries looked up, staggered to his feet and, chuckling,
started across the floor towards his father.


THE END


MALVERN, August 4, 1938.
BRACKENBURN, October 24, 1939.



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The Bright Pavilions by Hugh Walpole





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